September 18, 2018

Baby Steps

I seem to be (fingers crossed) continuing in the right direction with my running goals.  Last week, I managed 21.47 miles on my feet, including a couple of workouts that made me grin.

The first workout that made me smile? I pulled off a solo 9 mile long run that was nice and slow and easy effort, right in the middle of my recommended easy pace (11:57/mile) and it didn't destroy me.  I did end up taking a 30 minute nap in the afternoon after lunch between client calls -- but I consider that smart recovery, not an indicator that I pushed it too hard.

Second, I pulled together a great strength workout.  I decided to join a friend who's training for the NYC marathon and hang on as long as I could during her long run.  I biked to the trail as a warm-up and she showed up at the predicted time ON. THE. DOT.  When L decides to hit a pace, she hits it!

This time, my ability to hang lasted only 2 miles (my hope had been 4...) but they were at 10:12/mile and we were talking for much of it.  So, since this is a solid tempo pace for me these days, I'll take it.  After I dropped to walk and recover, I added 2 X 0.5 miles at the same pace and then 7 X (1 min hard/1:30 walk) in the high 8s and low 9s.  Finally, I met back up with her and joined for the last 0.78 miles at 10:07.  I biked home and grinned at how great it was to spend time with a friend and get in a great workout.

I made it back to the yoga studio for an hour of heated yoga.  I fit in my 36 minute jumprope/calisthenics workout.  And I did some easy runs, bike rides and walks as well as my shoulder stabilization and leg stretching.

Overall, it was probably the most evenly balanced workout week I've had in 2018.  And (knock on wood), my left leg seems to be cooperating with this plan.  I'm cautiously hopeful for an improvement in my 10K time this weekend.    

September 9, 2018

A Little Victory

I've been wanting (and working) to creep back into a slightly more "runner" level of fitness as opposed to just the general level of "I'm a healthy, happy, grateful human" level of fitness I'd been maintaining over our year of travel and our year of return to home-life.

I registered for the Giants Race to join a friend -- it seemed a bit gimmicky, but why not?
I have disabled young relatives. I have friends and relatives that have died much earlier than the average age in my country.  When facing that reality, sometimes, at least for me, it feels very selfish to have sports-performance-related goals in your 5th decade.  Because, obviously, I'm just grateful to be alive and healthy.

An early morning 10K with a finish on the field?  It's pretty awesome.
And yet.  Today, I ran a 10K with a strong negative split.  And I am a happy lady.

The last mile and 0.31 at paces that were faster than last week's 5K?  Yeah, that felt good!
Overall, I was a bit shocked at how awesome this race was.

The Schwag was hard-core!
Also, the course looked to be quite boring on the map.

I've run this route many times (or so I thought).
But it turns out, they close the Embarcadero for the race!  It is so nice to run so fast on a course that I've only run in the past while on the (certainly broad) sidewalk, dodging pedestrians, pedicabs, unicyclists, cruise-tourists-with-luggage, etc.

The 5K is HUGE!  It starts at 10:50 AM, 3h50 minutes after the 10K/half start, 
or, otherwise known as you can watch it while you brunch!
Here's to creeping back to some semblance of runner fitness.  I'm very much looking forward to the next 2 weeks of training 'til my next 10K.  Healthy food.  Good workouts. All sorts of good goals.  Here's to hoping I can improve on today's performance and slowly inch towards a decent half marathon effort on Thanksgiving.

September 2, 2018

Hamstring/Glute Insertion Runner Issues -- Anecdotal Overview

I've always had a bit of a struggle with my left leg, running-wise.  I wear my left shoes out long before my right.  My left hip is always more annoyed at me than my right when I'm working hard.  At times, I've joked that my left knee is my "health scale" and if it starts to hurt, I probably need to lose some weight.  Also, my left shins and calf muscles occasionally just freak out as well.  When I'm on it, I do the work to keep these imbalances in check (ART, Yoga, stretching, and functional strength).

Late last year, it got a bit out of control and I really started to struggle with a recurrent left leg issue that was possibly hamstring tendonosis, glute insertion inflammation, and/or SI joint inflammation.  During this flare-up, I was slow, in more pain than I'd like, and I definitely took longer to seek solutions than I should have.  

First -- ART.  It works so well for me.  I highly recommend trying it out.

The downside?  It's a temporary solution.  It fixes me, but it doesn't fix me long term.  My ART professional is super knowledgeable, so he recommended lots of strength, rolling, and stretching exercises that I obviously needed.  But I still found it hard to make the time and effort to do the stuff that was prescribed.  And so, I was going back when things flared back up.  It was a maintenance solution with a little bit of slow improvement, but not a magic bullet, for sure.

Second -- Yoga.  I finally started to get back into a semi-regular practice and once I got a few workouts on the books, I noticed that my leg started to be better. (This compounded with the ART to get me into a better spot.)

Third -- Functional Strength: Side lunges. Front & back lunges with leg extensions. Clamshells. Squat-cross. Burpees. Jump rope. Skips. Leg Swings. Reasonable speed work that doesn't hurt.  Making time for this stuff other than the speed is difficult for me.

Fourth -- TV/Movie Stretching.  I think this is the biggest reason why I've been managing my leg so much better this Summer than I have since when I really messed it up last Fall.  Frankly, it's part of the stretching that my ART professional recommended.  I'd just neglected what I should be doing until I found a way to incorporate it into my night-time media consumption.

Thanks to my shoulder dislocation, I did not have a choice re: adding some quality time with shoulder/arm workouts.  I experimented with weights, but after getting strong enough to max out my rotator cuff with 2.5 and 5 lb weights and my larger arm stuff with 10 lbs, I decided I didn't want to buy heavier weights.  Instead, I ordered a set of resistance bands and started a habit of doing my shoulder/arm workouts to stabilize my shoulder at least 2X per week at night (although in a perfect world, 4X would be wonderful).  This had a bonus of allowing me to justify some media consumption that I otherwise might have felt guilty about.

STRETCHING WITH THE RESISTANCE BANDS IS AMAZING!  I hadn't planned this at all when I ordered the bands, but now, every night when I finish the shoulder/arm stuff (and some nights when I'm too lazy to do it), I add in some great stretching that the bands enable.  The big ones I've been doing almost every night include seated twists seeking a bind on either side and standing bow-pose (or dancer's pose), but with a switch between which hand(s)/arm(s) holds/pulls/anchors the leg. The end result has been *much* looser hip flexors, loosening of my transverse hip movement, and very surprisingly to me, much better hamstrings & glutes, which has translated to decreased pain and a slowly increasing ability to get faster without pain.

So, there you go.  My anecdotal evidence is that the foregoing makes *my* hip/hamstring/glute issues much more manageable.  And this early 40s lady has been able to get faster and improve her running fitness by doing the stuff above.

Race To the End Of Summer

Technically, there are 3 more weekends before Summer is over.  But, RTTEOS is usually on Labor Day weekend, and this year was more of the same.

The cameraman at the finish was INSISTENT, so I celebrated!
PC: Jen
This year's new course starts in the park and is an out-and-back on the trail (which could use slightly better marking), so there's no more slogging it out on closed roads.  Overall, the tradeoff is for rolling hills on a trail in lieu of flatter stuff on closed vehicle roads.

Sunrise over Moffett Field on the way to the start.
I think I like the new course better, even though, I do think it's probably a little harder.  Last year's race had been hot, and humid, and just all-over not super pleasant (did *NOT* feel like the end of Summer).  This year, however, was *wonderfully* cool and fun and totally felt like the end of Summer with temps in the 60s.  Also, although we didn't realize it, it appears that they now offer day-of-race packet pick-up at registration, which is amazing, and coupled with the reasonable price point and the potential for a cool day, if you're willing to gamble on the heat, this is a great option for heading into the Fall racing season.

If you are curious about how the temperature swings can matter, I think the post-race photo above has all of Angela, Jen, and myself looking *much* better than we did in our *pre-race* photos last year -- This race is a crapshoot -- it can be muggy and miserable.  But, when you get lucky like today, it's lovely. (Plus, Angela took 2nd female in the 10K, Jen took 3rd AG in the 5K, so this is also a very celebratory photo!)

Given the AM temps, I went in with hopes of a decade PR (e.g. best for myself in this decade of age).  NOPE.  But I ran a very hard effort on a rolling course (hard enough to require a 30 second walk break around mile 2.8 - kind of embarrassing, but it happened, so there you go).  I finished in 31:09, 1:26 off the goal, but good enough for 6th in my age group, which was fun -- small races are wonderful.

And then, we had a delicious post-race brunch at our place.

Summer at its finest: Dips & cheese & grilled veggies & tomatoes in olive oil & deviled eggs & fruit & sausage & crackers & bread & mimosas + sparling rosé
After this wonderful experience, I'm very much looking forward to my fall plans of lots of weekend races and solid workout weeks to get me into shape for my target race of the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving.

So far, here's the current tentative race schedule for the rest of the year:

9/9/2018 -- Giants 10K (registered)
9/22/2018 -- Break Free 10K
10/7/2018 -- Rock 'n Roll San Jose 10K (registered)
10/28/2018 -- rc.ocktoberun 5K
11/22/2018 -- Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon (registered, assuming I finish, it will be my first half marathon in 2.5 years!  Fingers crossed!  This will be my training cycle goal race.)
12/2/2018 -- CIM relay (registered, I'll likely run one leg of roughly 6-7 miles)
12/16/2018 -- Silicon Valley Santa Run 5K
Christmas/New Year's -- something in the bay or sac area??

Cheers to cooling temperatures and best wishes for a great Fall to all!

August 28, 2018

2018 Books, Part II

I've been steadily ripping through audiobooks and slowly making my way through visual books since my last books post.

Visually read books include:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (C) Mark Manson Extremely fast read -- finished the book in less than 2 hours.  Very enjoyable with a few amusing anecdotes about personal fullfilment from odd places like Pete Best (drummer kicked out of the Beatles), founding musician of Megadeath, and Hiroo Onoda (Japanes WWII soldier who kept fighting in the Phillipines until 1972!).  Good message, particularly about the difference between responsibility and fault.  At times in our lives we will all bear responsibility for things that are not our fault.  That's just life.  
Brave New World (A) Aldous Huxley I'd never read this classic dystopian novel, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The "everyone's body is for everyone's pleasure" bit is creepy when viewed in light of the discourse around whether humans have a "right to sex" that is popular with the incel nutjob crowd.  Very thought provoking on many fronts, but the biggest one for me, was thinking about Huxley's focus on the very human need for pain/struggle versus the losses we've had to despressive suicide with people who in one light could appear to have "perfect" lives without struggle.  I suspect I'll go back and re-read this one in a few years as it definitely felt like there was more there for me to discover and think about.
Left Hand of Darkness (B-) Ursula K LeGuin Given how much history this one has and how many SF authors consider it an important piece in the SF/Fantasy canon, I had to read it.  My book club agreed.  Overall, it hasn't aged as well as one might think.  At the time it was published it pushed the gender discourse.  But today, the gender binary seems extremely dated, even while the main characters other than Genry (the ambassador-like character from Terra/Earth) are all hermaphroditic and spend 5/6 of their time in a supposed non-gendered state when not mating or bearing children.  I'm very glad I read it, but it didn't inspire the same level of awe or appreciation for me, today, than it appears to have done in 1969.
Gravity's Rainbow (C+, in process) Thomas PynchonSo many things…This book is *work*.  The closest reading experience I can compare it to is the Illuminatus Trilogy.  But with more military references, less explicit sexual experimentation, and perhaps less linear plot cohesiveness.  At times the poetic construction is breathtaking -- often when I'm not totally sure what is being described, but the juxtaposed words and ideas are so fascinating that it's worth pushing through. I've been oscillating between behind the group, ahead of it, and right on track, but knowing that there are folks I like reading in parallel, I do think I'm more likely to finish this project than I would if I had started it on my own. More cohesive review to come when I actually finish it.
Inherit The Wind (B-) Jerome Lawrence & Robert E Lee We read this one for book club.  It's SHORT.  And easy to get through.  I checked out the book from the library and read it in a couple of nights before bed.  I also searched around the Internet and read some cliff's notes-like analysis prior to hosting book club where we watched the Academy Award winning movie.  At some point in my reading, I internalized one of the more poignant scenes in the movie as having occurred in the book.  But it did not.  One of our book club members read an online PDF version that had changes to modernize it such that the Journalist (Hornbeck) was a woman, which she said vastly improved the story.  Overall, the play is simplistic.  Reading it and watching the movie were a bit depressing, as it is clear that both the play and the movie thought that we'd be over silly conflicts over whether or not you can teach evolution in public schools by the 50s or 60s.  And yet... here we are.  

Audiobooks are my companion while I garden, run, walk, and do chores in my homebound life.  The latest have included the following:

Aurora (A) Kim Stanley Robinson This book was epic in the poetic sense.  It starts with a multi-generational starship journey from earth to a potentially habitable planet in a star system light years away.  That portion alone could have been the whole book.  But no, one of the main characters dies.  The story continues, they miraculously arrive at their target and start to colonize.  Chaos ensues.  New choices are made.  More people die.  AI evolves, learns to love.  And eventually we are left with one of the strongest characters who has been through so much dealing with true human-scale (i.e. horrific) fear and trauma in her new surroundings.  So thoughtful, experimental, and wonderfully full of hope in the face of humans at their worst.  Another wonderful KSR offering.
Cutting For Stone (A) Abraham Vergese Such a multi-layered tender story of love, medicine, surgery, treatment and all of life's horrors, wrapped up in a gorgeous familial drama set primarily in Ethiopia where almost all of the major characters are immigrants.  Highly recommended.
Les Miserables (A+) Victor Hugo 66+ hours of listening at normal speed.  Not for the faint of heart.  I adored this one and I'm so glad I put in the effort even if I did have to call a long run short due to a very long diversion into the history and facts of the Paris sewers, which completely failed to inspire the fast feet.  Hugo's portrayal of the poor and downtrodden with such humanity is absolutely gorgeous (and no doubt was shockingly subversive in its time).
Foundation and Empire (B) Isaac Asimov This was on sale on Audible and the Foundation trilogy had been on my list for a while.  The series is generally regarded as a masterpiece, and even out of order, it delivered.  It was not difficult to start with the 2nd book in the series and find the characters/plots/worlds interesting, although I'll probably go back and listen to the the 1st one before going on to the third.  Like many classics, I don't think I have much to say about this that hasn't been said.  If you like space operas, this is a good one.    
The Scarecrow (B) Michael Connelly A solid enjoyable serial-killer thriller with a journalist as the main character.  I love Michael Connelly and I loved this book.  It was well done and I felt bad for Rachel (FBI agent who took professional hits due to her relationship with Jack MacKavoy (main character)).  Not as good as the Poet, but still fun. 
Hunger (A-) Roxane Gay Oh boy.  Buoooooyyyyy.  This was loaded.  This book hit all of my body awareness and care and WTF points.  I could relate so strongly to the medical professional interactions -- women are often discounted in the medical context, even by well-trained, well-meaning professionals.  Obviously obesity results in even more medical dismissal.  Roxane's book is an honest and unflinching look at her own expreience as a very obese human & woman of color and how her life is affected by it.  It was thought-provoking and difficult.  I recommend it.
Endurance (B+) Alex Hutchinson An excellent compilation and summary of all of the various studies that have been done about the various ways to measure human endurance whether about running, cycling, strength, heat exhaustion, feuling, etc.  Interestingly, many of these studies have been done on Canadians, because their conscientious objector status required able bodied males of draft age to serve in other ways, like subjecting themselves to electric shocks to measure muscle contraction...I think my favorite thing about this book is how comprehensive it is and how non-authoritarian it was in the analysis.  It's so *real* and *normal* -- like, "here's some interesting shit, but really, we're not sure we know much of anything."  So, if you really enjoy learning a ton of new things and walking away feeling like you still don't know anything concrete because that would be too simple, and not real, then you will enjoy this book. 
Dismas Hardy (books 1-11) (Solid B average across the series) John Lescroat I've found a new murder mystery series.  Dismas Hardy is a vet, ex-cop, ex-DA, divorced dude who's dropped out of life in favor of bartending, drinking, and darts.  But, when a friend is killed, he agrees to do some investigation to try to figure out whodunnit.  The first book was set in San Francisco, written in 1989, and it's full of all sorts of local knowledge and SF nostalgia.  I'm hooked on the series and have been making my way through them sequentially.  Book 11 gets us all the way up to 2008, and I'm still loving them. 
The Hunger Games Trilogy (A-,B-,C) Suzanne Collins I never saw the movies nor read the books and Libby (my free library app) had these available so I took the plunge.  I'd heard that the first book was by far the best, and I definitely agree, although I didn’t detest the 2nd and 3rd books as much as some folks -- I still enjoyed the plot-driven fun.  My favorite thing about them, by far, was the ambiguity of the love stories and the obvious emotional immaturity of the teenage main characters.
Let Your Mind Run (A+) Deena Kastor Absolutely wonderful and personal memoir of the excellent runner and human, Deena Kastor.  The idea that you should always be practicing gratitude and joy, and that doing so will make you perform better in all areas of your life is expressed extremely well in this book.  I found it uplifting, inspiring, and just generally fun.  If you are  a running nerd, you will enjoy the running nerdery, but even if you aren't, this is one of the better sports memoirs I've ever read.
The Mother of All Questions (B) Rebecca Solnit I just finished listening to this collection of essays and my first feeling is relief. So many of the facts and realities that Ms. Solnit writes about are painful, depressing, and infuriating.  It's a long slog to consume all of these essays in a row, and in hindsight, I think this is one of those books where reading, rather than listening, may be the best way to consume it.  At least for me, I would have liked to be able to read an essay a day or so over a longer period rather than being consistently bombarded with the important but hard issues she writes about in my "audiobook hours" over just a few days.  If you are familiar with Ms. Solnit's work, this is more of the same.  If you are not, I would recommend that you read her 2008 Essay: Men Explain Things To Me.  If it makes you laugh or think or challenges you then this book will likely do the same.

August 22, 2018

Summer Friends and Family Fun

The last two weeks have been focused on family and friends and garden and work.  Last in the priority scheme has been working out.  We visited my hometown, celebrated all the family summer birthdays, and then my niece came for a 5 days visit full of bay area fun.

Yet another outdoor summer dinner:
Deviled eggs and quinoa bacon tomato salad
Workouts have still been happening, but only between the other stuff, in a functional, maintain basic fitness, kind-of way.

One of my favorite Mission Murals we saw on the 
niece's chosen site-seeing trip in SF
I did 25 miles over 2 weeks (so half my normal mileage) including 4.5 miles of run-walking with a bestie in Norcal in the heat and under the smoke that was just short of dangerous, 2 small but not lame track workouts (7X400 @ sub 9/mile pace in one and 5X0.25 at 8:41 and 0.5% treadmill incline in the other). My niece was nice enough to join me on a Sunday AM 75 minute hot yoga class that *KICKED* *MY* ASS*.

The beautiful beaches of Half Moon Bay.
The longest continuous effort I made was 7 miles run (11:46/mile) before packing up my bags to go to Philadelphia for a wedding where I hid from the humidity and walked about 3 miles total over 3 days, including a quick indoor gym workout where I did random core interspersed with TM speedwork.

Tomatoes, cheese & bread.  Heavenly.
The wedding was for a close friend of our family with whom we'd lost most contact in the last few years.  It was awesome to be there and reconnect with the groom, meet the bride, and see the extended family.  We're so glad we went and are hopeful this will lead to a sustained reconnection.

The harvest we came home to!
The garden has actually been taking quite a bit of time between trimming, harvesting, watering, weeding, and preserving/gifting food -- it's not really a work-out, but it is one of my favorite hobbies (plus it pays food-related dividends), so I'm happy to trade time spent running for time spent with the plants.

Pimientos de padron y tomates! Sabroso!
The only "race-like" effort I put in over the last 2 weeks was a late-for-the-plane sprint through the airport for a few minutes.  I felt fast and strong (if a bit ridiculous), despite the huge purse and backpack I had to manage.  I arrived at the gate to E (who'd gone ahead while I checked the bag) motioning that I could stop and I kind of wanted to keep going.  But, I was also happy to see how quickly my breathing recovered -- yay interval training!

I love dahlias and it was peak season at the Golden Gate Park
Dahlia Garden during our site-seeing tour.
The next 3 weeks have me homebound, gardening, working, and hopefully getting in some good workouts, with a 5K on labor day weekend and a 10K the weekend after that.

August 7, 2018

You Might Think I'd Get Tired of Tomatoes

It's peak harvest time for our garden right now.

My weeks involve hours of harvesting and trimming back the plants to keep them healthy.

And, since 80% of our garden is tomato plants right now, that means lots of tomato-based meals, as well as canning and roasting and gifting.

This tomato (an heirloom varietal called Coustralee) probably weighed over 3 pounds.
Even with the efforts at tomato management, sometimes we just get to enjoy ridiculousness.

This is that Coustralee tomato, sliced.

One of my favorite meals in the world is sliced high-acid garden tomatoes with fleur de sel and a robust extra virgin olive oil

Wok-fried padrones, eggplant (with cheese & chili flakes) & garden tomato salad -- Californian Summer Dinner at its finest.
 I probably have it about 2 out of every 3 days when we're at home during peak tomato season.  And it never gets old.

Gazpacho (Californian-style instead of Adalusian-style) & Padrones 
-- another perfect Californian garden dinner

Essentially, I'm barely keeping my EVERYONE-IS-TRAVELING-IN-AUGUST travel envy at bay with the garden and delicious meals I can make from it (hence all the photos).  

In running news, I'm taking a couple of easier running weeks due to social obligations.  Last week was 19+ miles, most of it running, all of the running in the 11 min/mile or faster range, which was nice to see.  The goal for this summer has been to drop my paces, and Parkrun 5k PR failure notwithstanding, it appears to be working, generally, in my training log.  Here's to hoping the 3ish easier down weeks will just be good recovery/maintenance and if I can fit in a couple of solid workouts each day ideally it will set me up nicely for my September 5K and 10K.

Enjoy your August! 

July 30, 2018

Almost, But Not Quite

I'd stacked 3 decent weeks of easy training after the heat slogfest that was the Peachtree Road Race.  It was 60+ miles including 3 strength track workouts, plus 3 jumprope/calisthenics workouts of 36 minutes each, and 2 yoga studio sessions. Also, there's quite a bit of additional light functional fitness with the resistance bands I've added to stabilize my shoulders as well as the hours in the garden these days.

Sunday's harvest!
Given my paces on the workouts in those weeks, I assumed I had a course PR just waiting for me last Saturday at Crissy Field Parkrun.  So, E and I headed up to the city for a celebratory weekend of running and food.  When we arrived on Friday, it was cold!  The forecast called for evening lows in the high 40s!  Such a difference from the peninsula.  We executed our standard Friday-night pre-Parkrun date ritual -- a pre-dinner drink at the club, enjoying the views, followed by an early light delicious dinner (Italian this time) somewhere close to the hotel followed by a movie and stretching in the hotel room before an early bedtime.

Sure enough, Saturday AM was still nice and chilly (and foggy, of course)
No golden gate bridge to see here...
We rolled up to the Parkrun just as they were completing the briefing and the group was huge -- the results say there were 162 finishers.  Typically, when we've joined it's been more like 50 or 60.  We hopped into the group photo, walked to the start, and we were off.  

To beat my course PR, I had to average under 9:35/mile if I ran the tangents.  I hit mile 1 at 9:27, but I was already starting to question my ability to maintain the pace.  I was working a little too hard, too early, even though it was gloriously cool.  E was trying to drag me a bit faster, but I couldn't catch up, so he took off shortly after the 1 mile mark (and ran a 20 second PR). Sure enough, despite my effort, Mile 2 was 9:42.  Annnnnnddddd, Mile 3 came in at 10:03.  I ran the last 0.1 at 9:30 pace and missed a course PR by 21 seconds. I was a bit disappointed because I honestly believed the 8 weeks since the PR had been full of good fitness work that should have made it easy to run faster.

But, I had been struggling with my left hamstring insertion, and it wasn't remotely sore after the race, so I just had to buck up and appreciate a healthy, fun hard effort with E in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  We followed it up with delicious tapas for lunch, the hilarious Sorry To Bother You at the theater, and then one of the best sushi meals either of us have ever enjoyed.

Pre-sushi balcony selfie.
Sunday, I slept in, busted out 35 minutes on the recumbent bike (my left leg wasn't grumpy at me, but even so, I figured a day off running couldn't hurt, and there was a full gym at the hotel, so why not?) and then we headed back home.

I arrived to lots of ripe tomatoes, ready for harvest.
Kentucky Beefsteak on the left, Caspian Pink to the right.
So, I harvested and gifted some produce to the neighbors.  Then I made sauce.

And slow-roasted tomatoes.

And dinner using the garden cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh sauce.

Even without the PR, this was pretty much a perfect weekend for me.

July 23, 2018

Happy Californian Summer Week

We're having a mild Summer.
Look at all that green fruit!  
Typically, at this point in the Summer, at least 1/3 of it would be ripe (red, yellow, purple/brown, orange, etc.).
While the cool temps have slowed down the tomato development, it is wonderful for my running.  Most days, after I have my coffee and clear my email, it's only in the low 70s when I head out the door.  If I really wanted to optimize, I could get out in the mid to high 60s early in the morning, but because I am heat sensitive, I do like to train in some heat during the Summer so that I can enjoy the performance boost I get from the cooler temperatures of Fall races.

It was an A- workout week, which was wonderful: 1 day off, 2 track days of 3400 total speed each (including a 9:04 mile -- so close to the sub 9 goal, but not quite there), 1 easy 6 miler, my 36 minute jump-rope calisthenics insanity, a bike/yoga day, and one workout of 5 minutes jog; 20 X 1 min hard/1 min walk; 5 minutes jog.  There were also several hours of gardening, yardwork, and late night resistance tube/stretching work -- I'm quite glad that these things are making it back into my routine, and hopeful that they will contribute to me avoiding re-aggravating my picky left leg.

Red lentil soup, garden zucchini tzatziki salad and rosé -- Summer heaven.
Tonight's dinner is gazpacho, with 80% garden ingredients, which is likely to go into the weekly rotation for the forseeable future.

Garden gazpacho!
In other news, one of the many guest room visitors we regularly entertain took us out to dinner at a local ramen joint.  The portions were huge, so I took home 2/3 of my noodles/veggies/meat as well as my dipping sauce.  Last night, I made zoodles, tossed 'em in with the leftovers, added the dipping sauce and some water, brought it to a boil and then had the genius idea to portion the boiling soup into our bowls, and crack an egg in each, cover with a lid, and let the egg poach.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! That was not the expected outcome!  Thankfully, the broth was hot enough to cook the eggs once we broke them up.

July 16, 2018

Tomatoes: The Work Pays Off

The garden is out of control this time of year!
My first "real" tomato harvest of the season was this weekend, and it was almost entirely cherries (with one blossom end-rot thessoloniki).

Oh, happy day!
I sliced those cherries and we enjoyed caprese for dinner -- the first one of tomato season, but definitely not the last.

Isn't this just such a gorgeous sight?
I had purchased soft mozzarella to keep in the fridge so we could be sure to enjoy caprese the day of the first harvest big enough to feed us both.  It was wonderful, although now that the waterfall of ripening has started, I can switch to buying fresh mozzarella in water (and, I really should calendar a date to make it from scratch before the end of tomato season).

First tomato harvest caprese -- Sunday night dinner.
Today, a little more than 24 hours after the first harvest, I harvested again.

First ripe plum tomatoes and full-size medium thessoloniki.
From here on out, every few days, I'm going to be going out and pruning like crazy and harvesting.  This will likely be the last week where we only have enough for us.  Starting next week (or the week after that), I'll begin gifting tomatoes (and cukes and all sorts of squash), and probably, the first weekend in August, I will get to spend a long weekend day canning (and saving seeds for my seed bank).

Have I mentioned this is my favorite time of year?

I save the seeds in the Summer and then freeze them.  I start the seedlings in January or February.  I water them and put them under grow lights and hit them with a fan in the garage (still planning to build a hothouse...) until late spring when I can bring them outside.  I transfer them in and out of the sun until it is warm enough to leave them outside overnight.  I plant them in late spring once the danger of frost has passed.  And then I water and prune and put the cages out and weed until now, when they finally bear fruit.  Tomato harvest season is a reward for 6 months of effort and I enjoy it so very much!

Running is similar in ways.  It often takes months of sacrifice and effort before you see the benefits.  There are things out of your control (weather, pests, birds, squirrels, viruses), but you just do your best to control the controllables.

Right now, I'm in a dedicated running effort period that's a new one for me.  I'm focused much more on getting in a few fast hard workouts or races a week and letting the rest of the workouts just balance with my life as makes sense.  If I get in 2 hard running workouts in a week, I call it a success.  This is partially because  I'm starting to focus more on total body fitness as opposed to just running fitness, and this means that my running mileage has taken a hit in favor of more total body workouts.

I finally made it back to the yoga studio for the first time since December last Friday.  I'm hopeful I can get back into a once a week yoga-studio pattern again, as once I'm in the habit, it's much easier to keep it up.  I've also been pretty good about keeping up a once a week jumprope/calisthenics workout.  I'd love to bump this one up to twice per week, but realistically speaking, once is great and I want to reward myself for the good stuff I'm doing rather than set goals that are unrealistic and be bummed when I don't hit them.  So, an A+ week for me these days would be 1 yoga class, 1 jumprope/calisthenics session, 2 hard running workouts, and 3 easy runs with relatively healthy food.  I get an A- if it's just 2 easy runs, which, since I took a rest day today, is the best I can do this week -- wish me luck.

Peachtree week's mileage was 20 including twice around the 3.4 loop in the North Georgia mountains with 500+ feet of climb post race.  I consider that workout a success if I average sub 15 minutes per mile, and I did on both, so yay!

Last week's mileage was 25 including 3.5 miles of hills in the Atlanta heat, 4X800 at the track, a good run/walk workout of 0.5 w/u; 10 X 1min hard, 1 min walk; 0.5 c/d and quite a bit of walking during the week to round it out.

My left leg is still a bit spotty, but I've been trying to stretch and strengthen -- I've taken to doing shoulder rehab exercises as well as stretching and strength at night while I watch my latest obsession: Bosch.

And there you have it.  Tomatoes are coming in.  Running is coming along nicely.  Summer is here.  All is well.

July 4, 2018

Peachtree 2018

Walking with our corral to the start.
I think the woman who finished just behind me said it best, "It's not really a race...But it's an awesome event!"

Sure, the elites who start at 6:50 (women) and 7:00 (men) and are done after 29-35ish minutes of running can race it.  But us mere mortals?  Particularly mortals who aren't humidity trained?  It's a fitness test, for sure, but I really wouldn't call it a race.  Or at least not one where you're competing against the clock on a scale comparable to other events I think of as races. Which is fine.

Watching Steph Bruce win the USA 10K championships on the big screen while waiting for my corral start
was the highlight of the day!  She's been trying to get a national title for 10 years!
(And then she replied to my congratulatory tweet!)

It's a patriotic celebration of the 4th of July with a very loud and impressive flyover by an F-35 (I think?) after the national anthem.  It's one of the largest 10Ks in the world (54,672 finishers this year).  It's extremely well run with plenty of portapotties, water stations, and great volunteer support.  They seed corrals by qualifying time, they enforce bib letters for access but allow you to hop in even just before the corral start if your bib is acceptable.  The start corrals go off every 5 minutes, on the dot, so you can plan your morning very precisely.

U is the last corral, typically walkers, who can handle starting in the later
heat a little better.
This year was the 49th running of the race, and it's one of the reasons why Atlanta won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic Trials (which I am so excited to go spectate).  The Atlanta Track Club will be hosting the Atlanta Marathon the day after the trials, and, assuming they offer a half marathon option, I believe that will be my goal race for spring 2020.  Anyone care to join?

Me, E, and E's dad lined up for the tradition this year.
Overall, I would say I was pleased with how today went.  I ran 1:12:40 chip time, or 11:42 per mile.  The Garmin gave it 1:12:42 for 6.34 miles at 11:28/mile, which is fairly typical for most of the times I've run it.  Because the streets are so wide and the crowds are big, it's almost impossible to run perfect tangents.

Despite it being 86F at 11 PM the night before (thankfully, there were some thunderstorms to cool it down), the predictions had been for slightly cooler and less humid than last year's slog.  Unfortunately, at the last minute, even with moving the start 30 minutes earlier, they changed the danger rating to "red/severe." I suspect it was just as hot and humid as last year, if not worse.  To the bank with the thermometer reading 77F at mile 2: I probably could have lived without that information, as I knew it was supposed to climb 5 degrees over the next hour.

We may have shown up a tad early...
My goal was to go out and shoot for steady 10:30 mile pace (averaged to be faster on the downhills and slower on the uphills).  I hit it easily with the 5K at 32:38 or 10:31 pace (although this included a walk break from the 3 mile water station to the 5K marker -- I was sub 10 minutes/mile at mile 3, so a little faster than I probably should have been).

I didn't actually think I'd made a mistake as miles 2 and 3 were downhill.  So, I was happy with the 5K (versus >36 minutes last year), and I felt strong and solid while running it and then walking to get back to my target average pace, happy to be pushing, but fit.

Apparently, if you are a healthy late thirties dude,
you can run a decent 10K in the heat and humidity
off 3ish miles running/week (so long as you bike 15+), 
 but it doesn't feel great afterwards...
I didn't recover as quickly as I'd hoped from the water/walk break, and I realized I was overheating.  Just in time for a famous segment on the route called "Cardiac Hill" from 3.1 to 3.85 miles or so that climbs at a 3.8% grade.  Not a great combination.  But, a wonderful family was on the side with a sign that said, "Free EZ-pops!" I guessed/hoped that these are what I know of in California as Otter Pops.  And they were!  Tremendously grateful, I took the half pop, and held it in my hand while walking (thanks for the tip, Jen!) and tried to get as much of the grape sugary ice down into my belly before it melted in my mouth (thanks to the cooling science I learned from Alex Hutchinson's Endure).
Eventually, I started running again and caught back up to E and his dad.  I stayed with them off and on by run/walking to manage my heat until mile 5, when, I was met with the reality of needing a bathroom stop.  Did I mention that we flew out the day before the race?  And E's mom made a delicious dinner?  And we woke at 6 AM local time, so 3 AM at home?  Well, the pre-race restroom plans didn't pan out, so I just started and hoped for the best. I almost made it, but at mile 5, finally, I realized I had to stop and take care of business.  It was a 2:47 stop.  No doubt, some of that time is a delay I can subtract from my performance time.  But, some of it was also cooling down, so I'm just going to note it, but not claim that I could have run sub 70 minutes without it, because I'm not sure I could have.

In other news, I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I totally won the in-law lottery:

Our Brother-in-law is quite the chef and hosted the whole family for 4th of July caprese 
followed by sous-vide octopus finished on the grill with salsa verde 
and pancetta chips over cauliflower steaks for dinner.
Now that's a post-race feast!

July 2, 2018

Making the Most of West Coast Summer (aka Peachtree week -0.5)

We went to Portland for a conference.  The weather was literally perfect.  SO PERFECT!  Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s.  No air quality issues.

Sunset walk along the river.
And while we were there, walking around, lyfting when we couldn't walk, we saw that the bikes reign supreme.

Now THAT'S a bike lane!
And of course, I visited Powell's (on the suggestion of a friend), one of the biggest and oldest independent bookstores in the US.

Oh, and I fit in a run with a former bay area run-friend?  Yeah, it was pretty much perfect.

The Portland sign from across the river.
Also, the conference was very educational and useful.

From there, we came home, worked, gardened, and I spent a weekend night up in the Santa Cruz mountains with one of my best friends while E spent some time with one of his best friends for a guys' night sans kids.

A hike in the redwoods!
The running was good for a total of 10ish miles at decent paces plus 4 miles walking in Portland and 4 miles hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains.  I also fit in an extension of my 1:30/1:30 jumprope calisthenics workout to 36 minutes, which *completely* kicked my butt -- I'm seriously loving this workout and thinking of moving to jumping rope twice weekly.

Hiking in the shade of the redwood canopy is so peaceful.

Should be interesting to see what type of performance I can pull off at Peachtree -- the weather prediction is scattered thunderstorms with a low of 71, a high of 88, and 68% humidity.  They pushed the start to be 30 minutes earlier this year, which is appreciated, but even if we started at the absolute lowest temperature of the day, it's still going to be uncomfortable.

Seeing all the elite runners who will be competing tweet about heading there for the USA 10K road championships is making me a little sad that I'm not going to get to spectate the frontrunners at the finish.

I think it's reasonable to assume that I can beat last year's time of 1h18 (12:30 miles) as I was coming off a year of travel and didn't have much running fitness at all.  At my current fitness level, I know I could do a sub 11 min/mile 10K in our local conditions if I got out early when it was cool, potentially even pushing it close to 10 min/mile.  But I really have no idea what that level of fitness translates to for me in the heat and humidity. I guess we'll see!