April 23, 2018

Fancy New Track

Look what my city installed 0.5 miles from my front door!
Just as I'm slowly getting back into running, I got the best gift from my city: a brand new track.

I pulled off a pretty good week.  Lots of home-cooked deliciousness.  Several days of shoulder weights -- every day that it gets stronger and feels more stable I feel more comfortable running.  This week included 5 days of running totaling 21.8 miles including a short solo effort at the new track to break it in.

Sunday AM, I jogged over to the new track where I did some drills and then busted out a 9:10 mile followed by 7X100 (26, 25, 24, 24, 24, 24, 24). 

The 9:10 mile was the reality check I needed.  Close to my sub 9 goal in the heat, but making it super obvious that my fitness still needs lots of work if I'm going to hit my 2018 running goal of Very Good on the Cooper Test

But those 24 second 100s (several actually in the 23s, just rounded up)? 

Oh, those were the positive inspiration my Des-winning-Boston-is-the-best-thing soul desired -- they signal my future fitness if I stay on the right track.  I haven't run that fast in a long time, and certainly haven't felt safe running that hard with my shoulder until very recently.  I floated on my cooldown and enjoyed the rest of the day with hopes of improved fitness.  The only race goal I currently have is the Peachtree Road Race, which is unfortunate in its heat and hills and humidity, but a good goal to train for, nonetheless, as finishing requires fitness that will translate well into a good fall effort when I can benefit from cooler temperatures.

It's time to start removing the winter greens and make room for the tomatoes. 
There are approximately 30 beets and at least 3 afternoons of blanching and freezing greens in my future.
In other news, Spring is officially on the hot slide into Summer and the winter greens are bolting.  I froze quite a bit this weekend and will likely put the tomatoes in the ground sometime this week.

I've never seen a cilantro bush before...

April 16, 2018

Sneaking Back Into a Running Regime (and an ode to Des)

I spent my morning watching the Boston Marathon, clapping, cheering, and crying from the time Des started pulling up into second until she crossed the finish line.

Pulling into second place.

Leading in first.  And her lead just kept growing for the rest of the race.
So inspiring.  I've been a huge Des fan ever since 2011.  In fact, I've returned to this picture many times:
This is from the 2011 race where she followed her own race plan and almost
won, taking 2nd by 2 seconds.
I adore what this picture symbolizes.  Follow your own plan.  Even if it means you're trailing the leaders all alone.  Not just relevant to running.

My shoulder is stabilizing (L loaned me her 2 lb and 5 lb hand weights so I don't have to do my PT with canned food or books for weights -- thanks, L!)

It wasn't sexy, but I finally worked my way back to more than 20 miles for the week.

M: 3 easy @ 12:19; 0.37 walk; shoulder weights.

T: 1 w/u @ 12:01; 15X 1min medium/1 min walk; total distance 4.49

W: 1 @ 12; 1 walk; shoulder weights; pushups, dips, etc.

Th: Shoulder weights, stabilization.

F: 6 @ 12:14; 0.21 walk

Sa: 3 @ 11:13; 0.27 walk

Su: 2X(800; 200 jog; 200); 800; 2X100 -- 800s sub 9/mile; 100s mid 7s.  Shoulder weights; core.

And there you have it.  Something to build from on the physical side and a HUGE emotional and spiritual high to take out on my feet from Des's win.

April 14, 2018

Books, YTD

As expected, now that I'm not traveling full time, my book consumption is on the rise.  So far this year, I've physically read 6 books, and listened to a whopping 29! If I keep it up at this rate, I'll get to triple digits for the audiobooks, which will definitely be a first.

Physical books:

Title
Author
Review
Pachinko (A+)
Min Jin Lee
This book has it all.  A multi-generational story rooted in the historical details of Korean immigrants living in Japan from the late 1800s until the 1980s.  At times, I felt like I was sitting in on a history, cultural, and geography lesson due to all of the things I didn't know that I was learning.  And yet, the characters are all so rich and detailed that it was only after the fact that it felt like school.  While reading, it didn't feel like anything other than an impressive character study (with slightly more page time for strong female characters than the interesting men and boys in their lives) which kept me drawn in even during periods of simple life without an obvious plotline to pull me through.  But finally, at the end, I realized that there were multiple lines of story action lying dormant at various points, but all growing and moving interestingly, some ending in tragedy, some in joy, most in that beautiful real-life mixture of the two.  If you have any interest in the history of Japan, the history of Korean immigrants (both in Japan and in general), Japanese culture, Korean culture, or just plain old great storytelling, then I highly recommend this book to you.
Cat's Eye (B+)
Margaret Atwood
Her first book after The Handmaid's Tale.  A portait of time in the feminist experience unlike any I've ever read.  The tale of an artist. A female artist, who ages less than perfectly gracefully.  Who had tumultuous female (and male) relationships.  Exceedingly honest and well done.  Highly recommended. 
The Brass City (B+)
S.A. Chakraborty
Impressive fantasy tale from a first-time author.  Rooted in the djinn mythology and supported by marids (water people), peri (air people), and earth people, it's a gorgeous tale of intermingling cultures and powers, court intrigue, and the associated drama.  One of the best new fantasy books I've read in years. It was written as the first book in a trilogy, which I didn't know when I started it, so the ending was not as satisfying as I'd otherwise want it to be.
Little Fires Everywhere (A+)
Celeste Ng
This book blew me away. I hadn't loved the reviews of her first book, and probably wouldn't have picked this one up on my own, but book club did.  And I was so glad.  Such a gorgeous and nuanced look at high schoolers while I was in high school coupled with mothers dealing with the feminism of that time, not to mention the cultural/racial realities that she deftly dropped into the narrative.  I highly recommend this book to all.  My Mother-In-Law read one chapter in my physical book before I flew out and ordered the kindle version for herself.  It's that addictive, and for good reason.
South and West (B)
Joan Didion
Notes from Joan Didion's travels in the south when she was 19 years old.  Observative almost to a fault.  Surprisingly relevant regional observations that inform cultural regional differences today.  Very enjoyable.
Kingdom of Speech (B)
Tom Wolfe
A find from the Telluride bookstore "Between the Covers" -- this book is recommended to every wannabe linguist.  It follows the history of "Darwanism" as well as the evolutionary conception of  language development and "Chomskyism."  One of the better nonfiction books I've read.  If you care about these things, Mr. Wolfe's dry humor and assessment of the realities of what we know today about the development of language will not disappoint. 

Audiobooks:

Title
Author
Review
The Entire Harry Bosch Series:
(B average)
Michael Connelly
I'm a sucker for good mysteries.  I also like to return to known characters and styles from authors that I like again and again via a series.  I've already consumed the entire Lincoln Lawyer series (Mickey Haller) and I knew I liked Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books as light entertaining LA mystery fodder, so I gave the Black Echo a try to see if I wanted to do the whole series. The rest is history -- I put everything I could find in the series on hold in Libby and slowly made my way through them in whatever order they became available, with occasional supplements purchased from Audible where they weren't available on Libby. I've now finished the entire series except City of Bones, which is oddly super popular, so I’m just waiting ‘til it frees up.

The bonus that I didn’t expect when I started this romp is that Bosch is just now starting its 4th season on Amazon and it’s free for Prime members. The TV series is good too. So I’m making my way through season 1, enjoying the clever ways that these stories have been updated to the modern day. This is particularly good, because the last episode of the Magicians for this season just came out and I was needing a new streaming TV show to fill the void while I wait for the latest season of Criminal Minds to be released on Netflix.

The Black Echo (1992)
The Black Ice (1993)
The Concrete Blonde (1994)
The Last Coyote (1995)
Trunk Music (1997)
Angels Flight (1999)
A Darkness More Than Night (2001)
City Of Bones (2002) – holding (10/19 for the single copy, I registered the hold on 1/20 – no idea why this one is so popular)
Lost Light (2003)
The Narrows (2004) (sequel to The Poet)
The Closers (2005)
Echo Park (2006)
The Overlook  (2007)
Nine Dragons (2009) (also featuring Mickey Haller)
The Drop (2011)
The Black Box (2012)
The Burning Room (2014)
The Crossing (2015) (also featuring Mickey Haller)
The Wrong Side Of Goodbye (2016) (also featuring Mickey Haller) – read on paper in 2017
Two Kinds Of Truth (2017) (also featuring Mickey Haller)


The Poet (His first book, prequel to The Narrows, pre-Harry Bosch)

The Late Show (Renee Ballard) (B)
Michael Connelly
Having almost finished everything in the Harry Bosch series, I decided to give his new detective a try.  Harry Bosch is a flawed, complex, and fascinating male character, but Michael has typically done a great job of writing female characters that interact with him, so I was interested to see how he'd portray a female main character.  Renee is fun, impulsive, and very interesting.  Her stubborness and commitment to the job are believable.  And, of course, in classic mystery style, she eventually figures out who is at fault and takes down the big evil.  Much like the Bosch series, Los Angeles is both the backdrop and a character.  Very enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the next Ballard book, due in October.
The Hate U Give (A+)
Angie Thomas
This was possibly the best YA book I've read, ever.  Star, a 16-year-old African American girl, is so believably thoughtful, smart, and raging with teenage emotions that I couldn't help but fall in love with her, find her maturity and actions inspiring *and also* find her ridiculously immature and annoying at times.  The descriptions of inner city living, racial tensions, racial violence, code-switching, and more, were all excellent treatments of these extremely difficult topics.  First, and foremost, star is a human teenager, and then the layers of race, privilege, educational identity, sexual identity, and more are laid out in a riveting story of love, violence, and activism.
Running With Scissors (B-)
Augusten Bouroughs
A ridiculously crazy over-the-top tale of failed parenting, failed mental illness care, and a boy who somehow manages to surf the chaos.  I wouldn't call it entertaining.  Fascinating, perhaps.  But in a guilty "I shouldn't be watching this" sort of way.  It got a ton of attention when it came out in 2002, but I am doubtful it would garner the same level of praise today. 
Storm Front (The Dresden Files)
(C)
 Jim Butcher
Fun adult male wizard fantasy tale (Harry Dresden, professional wizard).  He makes a living as a consultant to help people find lost objects, solve crimes that involve magic, etc.  Perfectly acceptable pulp to recover from Running with Scissors.
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files)
(C)
 Jim Butcher
Continuation of the easy wizardous pulp.  But with werewolves.  I learned the terms loups-garous and lycanthropes, and the French origination of the werewolf, which was interesting, and then oddly relevant in my next book…
It (A+)
Stephen King
Several authors and other people I admire had referred to this book as one of their favorites.  But, I’m not one for horror, generally.  So, while I’d wanted to read it, I’d also been putting it off.  After 2 fluffy fantasy wizard tales, I decided I could give it a try. 

This book is a tome.  The audiobook is 44h55m!  And it held my attention for the entire time.  It’s fantastical in the most gripping sense and truly horrific in terms of creating a sense of fear and foreboding in the reader.  It’s also such a truly American story.  Set in Maine (King’s home state) during multiple time periods with the main characters spending much of the narrative in the late 50s as children and then in the mid-80s as adults, it’s a complex woven masterpiece of imagined evil incarnate that honestly portrays the casual sexism and racism of the various periods it describes in the background.  I’m very glad I ventured outside my comfort zone with this one, but I was also very glad when I finished it.
I Can’t Make This Up, Life Lessons (B-)
Kevin Hart
Autobiographical stories from the funny man.  He hustles like no one’s business and deserves all the fame he has achieved.  Realistic, funny, and heartwarming.
The Last Black Unicorn (A+)
Tiffany Hadish
Like the rest of America, I’ve fallen completely in love with Tiffany Hadish. This book is full of real honest accounts of her *very* difficult childhood and early adulthood including time in the foster care system, and an abusive marriage.  Throughout it all, she has maintained a love of comedy and a side-splitting sense of humor that is so authentically unique.  I tweeted to her (first time I’ve ever tweeted at an author) that I think this book should be required reading as part of any American Studies program as she gives voice to experiences that are common in our country, but not usually discussed openly.  Plus, she reads the book out loud and it is nothing short of inspirational (and hilarious).    
How to American
(B)
Jimmy O. Yang
Best known now as Jian-Yang on Silicon Valley, Jimmy O. Yang wrote (and read) a very funny account of his experience as an immigrant from Hong Kong who moved to Los Angeles when he was 10, and then his experiences in Beverly Hills, Univeristy of San Diego, Hollywood, and the entertainment industry.
New York 2140
(A)
Kim Stanley Robinson
KSR is the author of the brilliant Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars – all of which I adored.  This book is the story of New York after two large “pulses” of ice melting, which have flooded Manhattan and left a Venice-like infrastructure of skyscrapers maintained via scuba repair at the bottom with habitable areas above the water.  The story is a story of finance, kidnapping, actual governance in the face of civil unrest, ephemeral power, tidal fluctuations, legal issues (well researched), children who are treasure hunters, NYC police, and a conservation-oriented streaming star with a blimp named “The Assisted Migration” who broadcasts her adventures in helping to migrate wildlife in the fact of climate change.  KSR is *so* smart.  Reading his science fiction is a fun education as he hides lectures on topics that interest him in fascinating plots.  Very though-provoking on how society may have to change in the face of inevitable higher sea levels.








April 5, 2018

Fairbanks, revisited

The winter garden has been amazing this year. I haven't had to buy lettuce, chives, or dark leafy greens in months.


The week was mellow with an easy workload on the client side, so I gardened, cooked in, did laundry and got ready to head to Alaska. Friday, the night before we flew out, I realized we had gift guanciale (GIFT GUANCIALE, people -- you know you've made good life decisions when you have someone in your life who gifts you home-cured guanciale just because they love you):

Guanciale sautéed with garlic and onions.
In addition to the gift guanciale, I realized I had all the other ingredients for a perfect black lentil salad (fresh greens, garlic, onions, capers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, & black lentils) and I was so excited because normally I would have to put this on the meal plan and shop for at least one of the ingredients in order to enjoy it.  It was a thing of beauty:


We headed to Alaska for the first time in 2.5 years so I could lecture at the University, and so we could visit Arvay and D who live in a dry cabin.  In fairness, it's no longer fully dry, they have  a pump that can push purchased water to the sink, but it's limited with respect to pressure, and the only running water in the cabin goes to the sink, so there's an outhouse and showering and laundry have to be done in town (see the comments to this post for more info).  We stayed in a hotel in town, so we didn't get the full rural dry cabin experience except when we were dinner guests.

One of many perfect views from our snow hikes.
Visiting Fairbanks is always a great way to get a new perspective.  Weather (snow and ice in April!) and permafrost and lack of first world infrastructure make for a very different and much more planned and thoughtful way of day-to-day life.

Virtually untouched trails after a couple of inches of snow.
We spent Easter and the day after snow hiking on the trail system that is adjacent to their property.  And while they may not have all of the modern creature comforts, they do have an abundance of natural riches next door whenever they want to access it.

Does it get any more Alaskan than this?

One day we went to the local feed store just to check out the baby fuzzy ducklings, chickens, and turkeys.  OH! MY! GOODNESS!  I want baby fuzzies!

Beh-Beh Duckies!!!

I've been very fortunate on the book side of things lately, which means Arvay got a good pile from my luggage (we normally ship books back and forth). 

Arvay got a good book score!
I'll compose a full books post soon, but if any of these have been on your maybe list, all of them were great and I recommend them.

March 28, 2018

Bits of This and That

Last week, we stayed home, ate healthy home-cooked meals in, worked, and just sort of had an uneventful life.  (So uneventful that I have no photos to post.)

I'm doing strength, stabilization, and PT exercises and my shoulder seems to be holding up okay.  There are some new clicks and its obviously more loose, but it's not an emergency.  I can do pushups and dips and have full range of motion with very little pain.  I eased back in to running and got in 12 miles for the week.  I'm comfortable that I can build back up to my previous mileage without too much trouble.

I looked at a local highly regarded sports medicine orthopedic surgical practice to find someone who specializes in dislocated shoulders and was shocked to recognize the name of my original surgeon from 20 years ago.

I had assumed he must have retired by now because I remember him being firmly in middle age.  Turns out, 20 years ago, I thought someone in their mid 30s was older than they were.  20 years later, the surgeon is only in his mid fifties and still practicing.

Unfortunately, their clinic doesn't accept my current insurance.  But, as the intake nurse made clear, I'm nowhere near as bad as I could be.  She asked how often I was dislocating my shoulder, was it *every* *day*?  YIKES. [Clarifying comment -- Eegads, no.  Just the one time this year.]  So, I'm still in pretty decent shape as these things go.

The current plan is to strengthen the arm back up, keep running, aim to get back into yoga and reach back out when I get an opportunity to change insurance.  If I have to use a different surgeon, I will.  But, ideally (fingers crossed and a quick prayer) nothing will force me to have surgery in the short term and the original artist will get another crack at his work.

Other than that, I finally deactivated my Facebook account.  I downloaded all my data and confirmed that my browser isolation policy had kept me fairly clean on the unintended data collection side, but when I reviewed everything they had (52.7 MB, small by FB standards, but still a ton of data), I had a very strong sense that there is absolutely no reason a third party should have that much detailed data about my life. 

A while back I'd considered terminating, but after evaluating it, I'd been staying on for 2 running groups, a tortoise club, and a book club, but with my shoulder issue turning me purely into an easy flat surface runner for the forseeable future, I figured the running groups were less likely to be useful, I confirmed with my book club that they'd keep me in the loop via email, and I decided I could just use YouTube for my tortoise fix.

My original thought was that I'd give it a month of deactivation and assuming nothing serious on the regrets side came up I'd formally delete my account.  But, after a few days, I feel such a sense of relief.  When I'd done the inventory of my own personal cost/benefit of using Facebook, I hadn't realized that it also made me feel an odd sense of obligation -- now that I'm free, I'm realizing that I felt like I *had* to look at and process a bunch of posts whenever I logged on.  Subconsciously, I'm sure this is part of why I'd slowly been decreasing my FB logins over the last year or so (and I was never a super-frequent poster).   I'm not sure where that feeling came from or what it was all about, but not having it feels great.

March 17, 2018

The Shoulder

This was my situation for over an hour and a half of awesome fire-first-responders,
paramedics/ambulance folks, nurses, etc, who couldn't put it back in, and it hurt.
 I have a bunch of things to process so I can plan the rest of our year vis-à-vis life/professional obligations/medical care, but after some basic research, it appears there are 3 main approaches to my situation (what they call an "unstable shoulder" post previous surgery):

1. Aggressive physical therapy, because you probably weren't maintaining the level of physical stability pre-injury that you could have been, if you'd been doing the exercises you'd been told you'd need to do for the rest of your life (true, I had not been doing those things) -- not sure I trust that I can get strong enough not to dislocate just from falling while tripping and running, but, maybe... my doc said it looked like a bad fall from the other bruising and scrapes and thought that perhaps I would have fractured a wrist if I hadn't dislocated, so maybe this is more of an option than I think...

2. Surgical intervention, because we told you that it was necessary 10 years after your last surgery and why the hell didn't you listen to us instead of keeping on dislocating your shoulder for another decade, just go ahead and schedule it?

3. #1, followed by or consecutive with at least 2 opinions from well regarded surgeons, which is likely to take 3-6 months just to get on their calendars...

This relocation was slow, controlled by me, and resulted in immediate pain reduction. 
I'm sending a fruit arrangement thankyou to the ER this week to show my appreciation.
I'm probably going to go with #3.  Which means this year is now spoken for.  Any and all running is now purely bonus points.  But I already registered for the Peach Tree Road Race post-injury. I'm optimistic.

March 14, 2018

Speaking of Reality Getting in the Way of Training

Despite the travel, I started last week quite well, cooking vegetarian meals at home before our departure, and getting in just under 5 easy miles over the first 3 days.

Brown rice mushroom risotto, Turkish salad, broiled broccoli rabe.
Thursday, I headed out for hill repeats, as we were staying with friends who live on a serious hill.

I was quite proud of this workout.
Friday, I took the day off, as I was speaking in two sessions at the conference.  But Saturday AM, I headed out for what I'd hoped would be a nice solid 6 miles.  Instead, around 1.5 miles, I tripped on a curb cut and flew forward.  When I tried to catch myself with my right hand, I felt and heard the terrible noise of my shoulder dislocating.

Unfortunately, I couldn't put it back in and I couldn't get ahold of E to come help me because he was in the shower.  So, a kind passerby stopped to call 911 and I begged with the fire and paramedics to relocate my shoulder... nope.  I rode to the hospital with it out, and then spent time being checked in, evaluated, x-rayed to confirm that yes, it actually was out (and nothing was broken).  After over an hour and a half, the doctor finally helped me to relocate the shoulder.

Santa Monica Sunsets never get old.
Folks, even if you have a loose shoulder with some of the supporting structures damaged, it REALLY hurts to have your shoulder dislocated.  Every extra minute that it is out is quite painful.  Thankfully, once it was back in, I could manage the pain with ibuprofen.  E and I got out of the hospital in time for him to give his talk at the conference and then we spent a nice day in Santa Monica before flying to the annual E family ski trip.

Telluride is beautiful, even if you can't ski.
Needless to say, I'm not skiing this ski trip.  I'm bruised and a little sore, but the real danger is just that I don't want it to dislocate again.  Today, I'm going to head out and try some easy miles on a very flat path that I saw on the drive in -- I'm hopeful I can still complete the 12K I'd been training for, but only time will tell if that's a good plan or not.  Long term, I likely have some shoulder surgery in my future, which is not going to be fun, as it'll likely include 8 weeks of aggressive recovery, with much of it in a sling (no real running).

March 6, 2018

Heading Into Spring

My 7 week plan to prep for a 12K seems very simple:

3 harder running workouts per week: 1 long (6 or more); 1 speed session (track group or solo); and one of either tempo/strength intervals/hill repeats.  2-3 additional days of easy runs, walking, biking, or yoga.  Continue to maximize consumption of healthy home-cooked meals.

But, like anything, reality is more complicated than making a plan.

A beautiful Simpson's cloud day -- perfect day to show off the farmer's market to a visitor.
The week after the Austin 5K (week -6) started off wonderfully.  I hit a 75 minute Vinyasa class with a friend in Austin on Monday and spent the next two days enjoying the random muscle soreness of all the parts that were surprised by sudden attention.  The rest of the week was meh.  I got out every day and did something, but I returned home with a virus (because the friends we were visiting have children and I pretty much always get sick after we visit friends with young children).

On Saturday, feeling like I might be recovered, I cobbled together a very slow 12:38/mile 4.75 miles and finished it off with 30s/60s of medium effort run/walk intervals for a total of 5.95 miles, which I called the week's long run.  The next day, I did 2X1.5 mile strength intervals at 11:43 and 10:42 and looked back on the week as a whole with a little disappointment, but happy to hit (barely) all 3 of the target workouts.

Carrot, celery, lime, pickle, olive, jalapeno,
giant caper bloody mary -- another
splurge with our visitor. 
Last week didn't start out much better.  Monday's and Tuesday's workouts were both shortened and I couldn't join Wednesday's track group.  When I tried to do the track workout by myself on the treadmill, in the afternoon, I could not hit the paces prescribed by McMillan for my target 12K, so I opted to do as much of the workout as I could at the prescribed paces instead of slowing down.  I know I can run 12K without stopping.  What I need to increase is my speed, so in the interests of doing so, I'm going to try to hit the assigned paces as best I can on the speed and strength intervals, even if it means cutting the distances short a little bit -- this approach is very different from my normal approach of "do whatever you need to do to get the assigned distance done" so I'm hopeful I'll see some benefits, if only because it's a change in the type of loading I typically take on.

It was pouring buckets of rain on Thursday, so instead of the planned for 6 miles, I made a deal with myself and did side lunges, push-ups, dips, abs and 0.5 easy warm-up, followed by a solid 9 X 400 at 10K pace at 1% incline and walking recovery plus a nice easy 0.5 mile walking cool-down.

Nothing like touring your own area with a visitor to remind 
you just how amazing it is.
This ocean view is just 45 minutes from our house.  NBD.
Friday I took a rest day to tour local towns with our visitor (she may move *to* the bay area, which would be a welcome change from all of our friends who have left). Saturday was an easy 3.5 with our visitor and Sunday was another rest day.  So, week -5 was not a success on the 3 workout minimal plan -- I only hit 1 of the 3 target workouts.  But, we hosted a visitor and executed on some big life stuff that we'd been wanting to do for a long time, which took quite a bit of time, so I'm going to cut myself some slack.

Grilling.  In March. The Chi-town visitor was happy.
This week and next week are full of travel, so it'll be interesting to see what, if anything, I manage to pull off in the running realm...

February 23, 2018

Austin 5K

Since the Kaiser Half Marathon DNF, I'd been cooking and eating super healthy, but not doing much that was too impressive on the running front.  Instead, I've been trying to increase my flexibility and work on avoiding re-injuring my left hip/leg by adding in things like calisthenics, yoga, biking, etc.

7:30 AM CT start for the Austin 5k? 
I think we look pretty damn bright eyed!
Essentially, from a pure running perspective, I pulled together two 17 mile weeks, which is not too great.  But, despite the low mileage, most of the running was on the higher effort side, and resulted in faster paces than I'd seen in a while.  Also, I did quite a bit of stretching and my flexibility improved.  My upper body, on the other hand, was wondering what the hell these things called pushups, dips, and crunches were, and why they were back in the mix.

This was a great fun race, even if it did start at 5:30 AM our local time.
I was looking forward to the Austin 5K after our improvised Golden Gate 5K.  The day before the race, a friend informed us that the race was essentially 1.56 miles uphill, and then the same route downhill back.  Well, that was good to know.  I reassessed my pace goals and just decided to do the first half by effort and then see where I was.

Slightly rolling, but essentially a 200 ft climb out
and 200 ft descent back.

I had such a great time on this race.  I hadn't had a *fun* race in a long time, and it was fabulous to remember what they felt like.  E & his buddy passed me on the downhill and I knew I could have kept up with them, but I let them go.  It was a day for joyful running, not pushing to pain.  I needed to just have a great fun race.  And I did.  My low-key goal had been to beat my last Chrissy Field 5K average pace of 9:55/mile, but that was before I knew about the hill.  Official results have me at 10:03/mile and I'm happy to take it.

Next race?  A 12K in April close to where I grew up with friends.  My current goal is to string together 7 decent weeks of healthy food and good fitness despite hosting a visitor in early March, followed by a trip to Pasadena for a conference where both E and I are speakers, then vacation in Colorado to ski with family, and finally a trip to lecture at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in early April.  I'm hopeful I can put together some good weeks despite the life chaos and improve my fitness.

February 14, 2018

Black Rice Navy Bean Turkey Chili

Part of the low-key homebound lifestyle I've been living is getting back into the swing of regularly cooking delicious meals from scratch with a focus on how I can make traditional staples healthier without negatively affecting the deliciousness.

Leftovers for tomorrow!
One of the things I've been doing quite a bit of is cooking in bulk and taking advantage of the freezer.  I'm regularly making a full pound of dried beans or rice when I only need 1/2 or 1/4 pound for the recipe and then just freezing the rest.  I'm also likely to double or quadruple things like soups and sauces and freeze the remainder.  I've also been experimenting with adding additional vegetables to traditional legume and grain preparations.

So, we've been eating very well out of the freezer. E's requested Butternut Squash Gnocchi Bolognese resulted in a fresh-made hosted dinner for 7 plus 3 more defrosted meals over the next 4 months (feeding 3, 2, and 2).  Then there's been lentil soup, vegetarian minestrone, excess broccoli, and more, that at various points, I've reached in, defrosted, and used to make a delicious meal.

Tonight, I had quite a bit of black rice in the fridge.  Plus I had frozen navy beans from the last time I made a navy bean soup.  And, I had some ground turkey.  I put them all together for a great Chili-esque stew.  Making this stew in one night would be quite the undertaking, but I'd done it over a couple of weeks.  All told, it was awesome.

1. Black Rice:

4-6 stems celery
1 large white or yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
3 carrots
1 lb black rice
2 Tbsp salt
olive oil

Mince celery, onion, garlic & carrots.  Sautee in olive oil for 2+ minutes.   Add black rice and sautee.  Add 5 Cups water and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Stir occasionally.  Add water if too dry.  Cook until water is all gone and rice is al dente.  45 minutes is likely good.  Turn off heat and stir in pot as it cools down to allow excess water vapor to evaporate.  Take 1/4 to 1/2 of rice and put into Tupperware in fridge.  Spoon remaining rice into ziplock bags, push flat to 1 inch wide, label them with the date, and freeze.

Very good for adding to salad bowls.

2. Navy beans

1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 celery stem
1-4 cloves garlic
5 sprigs rosemary leaves removed from stems
salt to taste
1 lb beans

Optional: Soak beans in warm water for 1 hour+.  Toss water and rinse.

Place all ingredients in large pot, cover with 8 Cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Cook until beans are al dente (30-60 minutes depending on soaking, bean age, etc.)

Remove beans from cooking liquid with sieve.

Immediately use some of the freshly cooked beans for something like Creamy Broccoli White Bean Soup, substituting for canned beans.  Blend the carrot, onion, and celery into the soup's base as well, combining with water or bean cooking liquid in lieu of vegetable stock.

Put remaining unused cooked beans into ziplock bags of 1 inch layer, air removed, labeled with the freezing date for future use.

Freeze leftover cooking liquid for future use as vegetarian stock.

Pre-cooked beans are great for salad bowls and soups.

3.  Black Rice Navy Bean Turkey Chili

1/2 large white onion, diced.
5 cloves garlic, minced.
Olive Oil
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 C pre-cooked black rice (see above)
1.5 C frozen pre-cooked white beans (see above)
1 - 28 Oz. Can of tomato pulp (I'd prefer to use canned garden tomatoes, but I don't have any since I didn't have a garden last year).
cumin
paprika
chili powder
red pepper flakes
salt
1-4 Cups water

-Sautee first 3 ingredients together until onions are translucent.
-Add turkey and sautee until fully white (no longer pink).
-Add all additional ingredients and bring to a simmer.
-Cook under cover for 20 minutes, adding water as necessary to keep the consistency appropriate.

Enjoy immediately with minced chives and shredded cheese on top.  Serves 4-6.

February 11, 2018

San Francisco Fun

This week was an easy low-mileage week with a goal of getting to the start line of the Crissy Field parkrun and being able to finish it, ideally, at least 1 second/mile faster than the last time I'd run it (9:55/mile).

Cable car turn-around at Aquatic Park
Early in the week, I substituted pushups, dips, and core work for several of what ordinarily would have been running minutes and in reward, my arms and chest spent several days wondering what the hell I'd done.  But my leg was happy.  Tuesday, after 2 days of super easy running, I felt like I could go to track group the next morning, and I was excited to do so.  Except, the calendar informed me that that I had a dentist appointment.  Seriously?  Forgotten dentist appointment scheduled 6 months prior is never something to get excited about, but when it means you can't join in your favorite workout?  I was disappointed to say the least. 

SF Date night oysters
After the dentist appointment and work day, I did motivate and took myself to a local track solo before the sunset to try to do some semblance of drills and speedwork with the knowledge that track is definitely one of the most important workouts for fitness for a 5K for me.  It was a solid workout, pace-wise, in fact, I surprised myself with my speed, but I still cut the distance short in an effort to preserve my leg (total speedwork = 1.3 miles, 3+ miles total with jogging w/u, recovery & drills).  

I took a rest/stretch day on Thursday and did one more easy short run Friday AM before Saturday's planned for 5K.  My alarm went off, E jumped out of bed, and I saw that I had a text message and missed call.  My sister was sick.  She would not be coming with her kids to the Exploratorium, which was our scheduled activity for the day (the reason we'd stayed in the city and also the reason we needed to get the run done early before a day of niece/nephew management, hence Parkrun).  I told E we could skip the Parkrun and sleep in if he agreed to do a 5K with me later in the day and he hopped back into bed and was asleep within 30 seconds, happy with the run later plan.  We slept another hour and half and then headed out for our own VERY STEREOTYPICAL San Francisco 5K across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.

One of the best runs I've done in years.
Perfect weather. Gorgeous views.
With E. Over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Couldn't ask for anything more.
It was wonderful.  I stopped for a 1 minute 37 second walk break at the turn around point to get my earbuds in and music turned on while E ditched me on his way back.  From there, I pushed myself without looking at my watch to finish the 5K at an average pace of 10:23, which equals an average pace of 9:54 for the running if you pull out the walk break.  I was elated.  The bridge has a decent hill in the middle, and I was working hard, but nowhere near racing 5K effort (there was a bit of pedestrian weaving as well, of course). I'd hit my original racing goal (minus the walk break) and I had a runner's high for the rest of the day.

Parked by the headlands and walked under the
bridge to get to the start of our run.
We took advantage of our hotel location to enjoy Fisherman's Wharf touristy people watching and entirely too much SF sourdough bread for lunch.

Sourdough breadbowl tomato lobster bisque?
(with a side of bread?)
Don't mind if I do!
We spent the afternoon reading at Aquatic park and enjoying the egregiously gorgeous weather.

Look closely, you can see the swimmers...
E2 and J came and joined us and we enjoyed some local culture from the car clubs that showed off their hydraulics and classic restored American cars.

Check out the cars in the background!
From there, we got cleaned up, went to Franciscan Crab for dinner (highly recommended!) and then the Symphony for the Emperor's Concerto.  

Grand Piano vs. the Orchestra:
The Emperor's Concerto is an awesome back and forth
Sunday, I woke and met E2 in the gym, opting to stretch instead of trying to push my left leg.  I felt great. I'd had a wonderful run and a great weekend.  I wanted more of the same, and I was willing to be a responsible adult (who didn't get back on the treadmill for junk miles) in order to get it.

Sunday dinner was a lovely dinner at our friends' place including visiting parents we hadn't seen since our year abroad where we visited them in Singapore.  And now, with no pain, content and thrilled with such a wonderful weekend, I am looking forward to a pedestrian healthy, home-cooked, lower calorie, higher mileage pain-free week.

Wish me luck!

February 4, 2018

A good spicy food week and Kaiser DNF

Last week was a good taper week, which, in theory, means lots of healthy food and sleep, very little running, lots of stretching, rolling, a visit to my ART specialist and getting myself into the best state possible to run an awesome half marathon.

Well, 5/6 ain't bad.

First, I'm a sucker for Sichuan numbing hot spicy flavors (Mala and all of the other related variants).  I've been trying to figure out where I can acquire the taste close to home and just last week finally found a couple of places that make prepared dishes with it, which was awesome.  But then, I went to Din Tai Fung with a colleague, L, whose wife is from Sichuan.  We ordered spicy noodles and I lamented how difficult it is to get Sichuan numbing spice.  L mentioned that her wife ships spices to the US in bulk because apparently our Californian imports do not meet L's wife standards.  Through some miracle of making my desire known to the universe, within one week of seriously starting my quest to acquire Sichuan spice sources, I was offered some of the imported stash from L's wife for home use.  JACKPOT!

Green = numbing Sichuan peppercorn;
Red = ridiculously spicy pepper flakes. 
Mortar and pestle for scale. 
This is easily a 3 year supply.  Thank you L!
So, on the delicious food front, I hit up 99 Ranch to stock our house with delicious Asian dried, canned, preserved, and fresh goods and we ate off of them for at least half of our meals this week.

Rice stick noodle bok choy stir fry with peanuts, spicy shirataki noodle soup (made it twice -- better with a poached egg), and spicy veggie soba ramen-style pre-race soup were all delicious.  After this many meals, E has requested that I rein in the numbing spice, both in frequency and in amount per serving.  Apparently, there can be too much of a good thing.

Not gonna lie -- this spicy mushroom miso veggie soba pre-race dinner was amazing.
So, #1, food?  Check.

#2, sleep?  Yeah.  I did lots of that.

#3, very little running?  Check.  Total weekly mileage before the start line on Sunday AM was 10 miles, almost all of it at target race pace or faster.  I felt fast, strong, and pleased with my lack of pain.

#4, lots of stretching, rolling and a visit to the ART specialist?  I did these as well.  The beastie balls make rolling while indulging in screentime very easy, and I found time to stretch a couple times in the week in an effort to avoid major issues.  The ART visit was wonderful on Thursday and I left thinking that a half finish was easily doable.

#5, an awesome half marathon?  Nope.  Not even close.  My AM went perfectly.  I slept fitfully (typical pre-race stuff for me), woke at my 6:20 alarm,  did the obligatory AM rituals, got out the door, to the Starbucks for the latte and juice and back on the road by 6:45 AM.  I made it to my parking spot before 7:30 AM, and I thought of my friend Cat while waiting for the buses.

This race's shuttles used to be yellow US school buses, but now, in peak SF tech something or other,
they are the tech company buses put to good use on the weekends.
I made it to the start with plenty of time to wait at the porta-johns, finish my juice, do my business, and get to the start, ready to go.  I missed all the cool kids near the start 'cause I don't have FB on my phone and they were all communicating with it. C'est la vie.

4th SF Kaiser half start.  1st DNF.

I headed out for a fast first downhill mile and, it was easy and fast, so as planned, I built in walking breaks and hit the 5K right about on target pace, even though the last mile in the first 5K is significantly uphill.  I felt good.

It was warmer than expected, but not too warm.  Similarly, it was more humid than I'm used to, but not egregious.  I mean, I was sweating like crazy, but that's my gig. If it's over 60, regardless of the humidity, if I'm working at a decent effort level, I'm losing water like no one's business.

I took a Gu at the water station after the 5K and then I picked the pace back up.  I tried to keep the target pace but I was falling behind despite what felt like appropriate half marathon effort for how early in the race it was.  This was, of course, frustrating, as I'd picked a relatively "easy" target pace.  At the 10K mark I was seriously considering stopping.  In addition to the lackluster pacing (which killed any desire to push through for a nice time), my left hip was starting to tighten up and I was concerned that I'd lose all the (minimal) fitness gains I'd made if I pushed it too far.  I have a tentative crissy field 5K next weekend as a training race and a real 5K in Austin the week after.  I knew I wouldn't be able to do a good job at either of them if I pushed today too far.

At mile 7.52 I stepped off the course and walked back to my car --
I had brunch to console myself with a bunch of awesome runners and amazing food, 
hosted by the awesome http://sfroadwarrior.blogspot.com/
Part of me is disappointed, of course.  I was looking forward to completing a half marathon for the first time in over 18 months.  But the other part of me is happy that I made the call I did.  As AK eloquently put it -- it's a risk/reward equation.  The risk was you were going to continue to tighten up your leg and undo the good work you'd done and mess up your upcoming 5Ks.  The reward was you could finish the very annoying 2nd half of Kaiser out and back on Ocean Blvd in the direct sun and humidity.  And when you put it like that, I'm very happy with my decision.  Thanks, AK!

Cheers.  Here's a blurry sweat-covered phone lens photo of fresh fruit in sparkling wine
(who needs juice for mimosas?)
and the first runner to show up to bRUNch
who actually finished the half (https://jensrunningblog.wordpress.com/).
Let's just call it art.