May 23, 2015

Vancouver

Vancouver is a breathtakingly beautiful city.

We spent a week there while E attended and spoke at a conference and I worked remotely.  My clients were mellow -- so, I could get out and about to enjoy the city at least a couple of hours each day.  In addition to last weekend's hike, I walked and jogged along the sea wall and through Stanley Park almost every day.

I caught the last day of the Cezanne exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
 
Totem Pole in Stanley Park.

View of Downtown from Stanley Park.

Lions Gate bridge from Stanley Park.
Beaver Creek Lake in Stanley Park.
 
Baby Ducklings!

Seriously, Baby Ducklings.

Dorkiest hat competition in front of the lighthouse.
After watching the sea planes every day, we decided to take a tour on our last full day.  It was awesome.

Creative use of the GPS watch.

The conference center -- E spent a week trapped, but with amazing views.

Sulfur processing plant.

Lions Gate Bridge from the top.

Gorgeous Views North through the Howe Sound.

Vancouver from the South.
Aerial view of Stanley Park, Downtown, the Harbor, and the Burrard Inlet.
Update: Quick weekly workout summary to keep me honest -

1. total mileage 34.58, quite a bit walking (63%) due (i) getting lost; (ii) battling congestion and a cold that kept threatening to turn into something more serious; (iii) needing to recover from intervals by walking due to (ii); and (iv) choosing to hike with E over scheduled workouts.

2. Total tabatas 3/6  (now 4 behind, gonna need to double up a few more times)

3. Very little core/yoga other than tabatas, but did do some light stretching

4.  Today's long run just wasn't happening.  So I called it at an easy 2 miles, gardened, and did chores and pushed to tomorrow.  Another day.

May 17, 2015

Over 40

Not my age.  Yet.  But trust me, it's looming.  I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.  For now, this number celebrates the first time this year where I managed to get my weekly mileage over 40.  Woo hoo!

A big reason why I managed to get it up there was that E agreed to go on a hike with me today to close out the week.  We're in Vancouver for some work stuff, so this AM we headed out to the Capilano Pacific Trail for a good multi-hour trek.

It starts at the beach in West Vancouver.

English Bay

So Arty.
After a couple of miles that are relatively flat, you start to climb through the woods.

No real drought danger in Vancouver.
At one point, you cross under a road where the overpass, creek, and graffiti make for quite a pretty view.


The trail stops at Keith Road and you have to walk along the road (to the right) until the trail restarts.  E and I failed to read the map correctly and added a nice 0.5 mile detour through the hills of a fancy neighborhood before we figured it out.

Finally, at the top of the climb, you cross the Cleveland Dam.  The views of the reservoir and mountains are gorgeous, but the chain link fence and reflected glare made taking pictures with my phone impossible.



On the other side of the dam, the downspout and river (which runs along the side of the majority of the trail) are also gorgeous, and easier to photograph.



Google promised that there was a Chinese restaurant, a Sushi restaurant, a grocery store and a pizza joint near the dam.  The Chinese restaurant was closed.  The Sushi restaurant was closed.  The grocery store was more of a convenience store.  So, we threw away the dietary restrictions and shared a pizza after 5 plus miles of climbing for our late lunch.  As E's mom suggested, there may need to be an intermittent 48-state geographic limitation on dietary good behavior (Also BC oysters!  There's just no way to say no).

The week was great, workout wise. 41.68 miles including 36% walking/hiking and 14% sub 9:30/mile.  Long run was 9 miles in the mid 11s.  3 mile tempo averaged 9:27/mile - sad, but true that I hadn't strung 3 miles together to average sub 9:30 in a long time, so I was happy with that.  Speedwork was 8X3 minutes in the high 8s and low 9s with walk/jog recovery.  I hit the yoga studio again for another 75 minute heated core and asana class. (Again, I was sore for a few days afterward - it's shocking how many muscles yoga uses that I apparently don't use otherwise.)  And, we fit in 4/6 tabata, so I'll have a couple of make-ups to do this week.

The bar is high with this one, so I'm not sure I'll be able to top it this coming week, but I'll do my best to try, at least on a couple of axes.

May 10, 2015

Keeping House, Housekeeping

This week was remarkable for its peaceful banal normality.  Another 7 days at home without travel.

For the first week in a long time, I don't recall feeling chaotically rushed at any specific point.  I had enough time to think ahead.  To plan.  To get ready.  And, if I'm honest, as a result, I was more present and effective than I ordinarily am in the active moments. 

There was work, of course.  And plenty, but not so much as to overtake the basics of each day's motions and prep for the next day.

The extremely healthy food/drink pattern continued with home-cooked dinners M-Th.  Then, we were the annoying people limiting restaurant choices for Friday and Saturday with very tolerant friends.  Saturday AM, we drove to SF for brunch with folks who flew in from out of town, and both E and I exercised impressive restraint (if I do say so myself) in resisting the delicious smells of chorizo, carnitas, carne asada and other Mexican defiance of modern nutritional abstinence teachings.

We easily fit the stuff that we often scramble to do: Shopping. Gardening. Dishes. Laundry. The second load of laundry revealed a plumbing problem: gurgling toilets, backflowed dirt into bathtubs, standing water in one bathroom.  And of course, there was more laundry to be done as a result of cleaning up.

In a typical week in our life, there would not have been space for this wrinkle.  The ripple effects would have been far and wide.  Instead, we just called the plumber, stayed home and waited for him this afternoon.  Booked travel for several upcoming trips.  Paid bills.  Sorted some of the guest room's detritus into piles to go to Goodwill, the used bookstore, recycling and the trash.  I even fit in Japanese lessons most days in prep for this Fall's trip to Japan.

Perhaps the best part of this week was reading in bed next to E every night before sleep.  This is always on my top ten list of favorite things, but depending on the day, it's a serious contender for first place.  So that was pretty cool.


On the workout front, this feeling like I had "just enough" time treated me quite well.  E and I completed all 6 of the week's tabata workouts in the mornings before we headed out.  My total mileage was a respectable 34.6, for my 2nd highest mileage week this year.

The volume was nice, but I was more pleased that 9% of my mileage was sub 9:30/mile and only 14% was walking.  Yes, these numbers still need some work, but they are better than anything I've posted so far this year, so I'll take them.  If I could hold those percentages and get to 40+ miles/week, I'd be more than thrilled.  The biggest reason why I am happy about the week, fitness wise, is that in addition to the ridiculously healthy eating, I pulled off all three of my target running workouts (in addition to several easy runs):

1.  1 mile w/u; 1 mile @ target half marathon effort (9:28/mile); 1+ mile c/d
2.  8X2:00 @ sub 9/mile (AVG pace 8:52/mile) with 2 minute jogging recovery plus w/u & c/d
3.  10 mile long run (in the heat today)

I even made it  back to the yoga studio for a 75 minute heated asana and core class.  (Yeah, I was sore.)

Nothing miraculous.  Nothing amazing.  But this week was solid.  And I am happy about it.

I hope to continue with this workout pattern, slowly increasing my mileage and improving the quality of my workouts over the next couple of months.  Also, ideally, I'll keep a bit of this calm and relaxed readiness that I've cultivated this week, and be able to take it into busier times in the coming weeks.

May 7, 2015

Dietary Good (Nay Awesome) Behavior

Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese (we just can't shake the cheese habit), and sauteed dandelion greens with shallots and garlic.

This is a typical dinner for us these days.  By the end of this 6 week commitment, I fully expect to have obtained super-human powers of some sort.

May 5, 2015

The Little Things

So (crossing fingers) at the moment we've got a very rare 19 consecutive days at home on the calendar, and we enjoyed seven of them last week.

Gorgeous Flowers from a Colleague
Since we were home, I was able to walk through the door every day and enjoy the beautiful bouquet that was sent to me by a very thoughtful colleague to celebrate the 5th anniversary of my law firm.

E and I started 6 weeks of *very* particular healthy eating (lots of Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids with a goal of 25-35% of calories from fat, essentially no alcohol, very limited animal fats and dairy, seafood every other day or so, heavy on the low glycemic index veggies and legumes, with a goal of no more than 35% of calories from carbs, and a general preference for foods that are low on the inflammatory response spectrum).  As of tonight, we'll be one week down with 5 to go.

The hardest thing to give up?  Cheese.  Hands down.  We're still eating small amounts of it, but nothing compared to the approximately 4-8 oz. per day we used to eat.

The best part?  Researching and trying new recipes.  Last night I made a crowd-pleasing dinner of scallops with sauteed leek strips topped with pesto over quinoa for guests.  They didn't even know that they were being fed a super-healthy meal.  Huzzah!

In garden news, the beds are weeded, amended, and the tomatoes are in, as is the watering system (we had to order new parts, patch leaks, add emitters where needed, etc.).  I still need to program the watering system timer and put in eggplants, squash, cucumbers, and any other non-tomato plants, but I should be able to finish that this week.  Then it's my favorite part of the year.  Just waiting, adding supports, and pruning until first fruit.

At the beginning of the season despite all the work, the garden never really looks like much.
When tomatoes drop rotten fruit, the seeds ferment, stay in the soil, and after the rain in the spring, they sprout.  This year, in one particular bed, I had at least 10 volunteers back in March.  I culled and selected the 3 healthiest and now I have 3 tomatoes that are well over a month ahead of the rest of the transplants.  Should be fun to see what varieties they actually are.

Volunteers!
Last weekend, I had a friend in town, so in addition to going to the movies and a party, we wore our Cal hats on a walk around the Stanfurd Dish.  It was a great way to get in some hilly miles and catch up.  We even got a Stanfurd professor to document our Cal gear.


We'd hoped for an awesome Pacquiao v. Mayweather fight, but despite the very loud cheering and enthusiasm of the crowd, afterward, we all agreed that it was sadly, a very over-hyped and past-due non-event.  Oh well.  We still got to hang out at a friend's party.

In running/workout news, a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the suggestion of a friend who's an athletic trainer, I started an 8 week Tabata program.  So, 5-6 days a week, E and I get up and, post coffee, we do the 4 minutes of intervals (8 X 20 seconds on 10 seconds off) together before we start our days.  It's been a nice addition to the workout regime to shake things up a bit.  Last week I took an easy recovery week. So, in addition to Tabata, I fit in 17.69 miles, all but one set of 10X1 minute speedwork very easy, including 10ish miles of walking and hiking.

Next Running goal?  Pace a friend at the Seattle Rock 'n Roll Half in 6 weeks.  After that, ideally, I'd like to actually race a half marathon or 10K sometime in June or July.  I'm definitely open to suggestions if any local folks are already registered for races and would like some company.   

April 26, 2015

Kickin' Back

Friday, mid-afternoon, E and I snuck out for a weekend combo of date night, family catch-up, and the SLO half marathon.

The views from Highway 101/1 near Pismo are gorgeous.

California.
We took the drive (ugghh, Friday bay area traffic) to catch up, relax, and start to reconnect.  I read us some articles from Vanity Fair to add to the entertainment, including a hilarious exposé on Dinesh D'Souza -- always interesting to get some insight into the crazy of your country that you don't really know.

After checking in to our date night hotel, we headed to the bar patio for a glass of wine (which meant we could stare at the ocean and continue to unwind).  One glass turned into 2, and we decided we couldn't be bothered to go anywhere else for dinner.  So we sat and chatted, and ate, and sipped, while watching the beautiful sunset.

Seriously. California.
We went back to the room with plans of putting on bathing suits and heading out to the hot-tub.  But much like walking somewhere else for dinner, it just seemed like too much trouble.  So we spent the rest of the evening lounging in the hotel room and went to bed.

Saturday AM, I really didn't want to get up when my alarm went off.  But I had my standard day-before a race routine to do, so I was conflicted.  Except it was raining!  And I wasn't that conflicted.  Boom, extra rest day.

And boy did we rest.  No work at all.  I visited a friend and caught up, E&I had lunch with views of a different beach (the rain stopped by noon), we went to the expo, we checked into our near-the-start motel, and we lounged in bed and read before meeting my Aunt for a delicious dinner of Japanese food.

Going into the race, I wasn't exactly in a great place.  I hadn't really done much in the way of hill training or quality efforts and my weekly volume since Oakland has been an average of 23.08 miles with quite a bit of walking (thanks work!).  The weather called for an oh-so-awesome 18 mph headwind on the second half of the race, and the elevation profile is a doozy.


So, after doing some research (holy moly Gallowalking is more controversial than I can comprehend), I decided that this race was a perfect opportunity to try Gallowalking.  I knew I could finish the race, but I really didn't want to blow up (like I did at Kaiser), so I figured forcing myself to take some walk breaks earlier than normal was probably a good idea.

Despite putting in earplugs at 11 PM or so, sleep was fitful and full of nightmares of missing the start, which is always super annoying.  How many times do I need to wake up and check again that my phone is actually set to get me up at 5:45?

After waking one last time at 5:30 AM (hello, runners, not *everyone* is leaving the motel to go the race at the same time as you, do you really need to *slam* your door?), I fell asleep one last time to be woken at 5:45 by my phone (see, it did work).

I walked about 0.75 miles to the start via the portajohns, taking coffee from the hotel room and then stopping for another coffee at a cafe on the walk.  It was in the mid 40sF and I was in a short sleeve shirt and capris, but I run hot, so I figured mo' coffee, mo' better, and no complaints about the cold.

We started on time and I ran the first mile, blind, knowing I was going to stop to walk a minute, so if I went out a bit too hard due to the downhills, no big deal.

M1 running: 8:55/mile

Hmmm...that's actually bordering on a big deal at my current fitness with all of the hills and the wind.  So I took a nice solid 1 minute walk break and headed out for a more reasonable 2nd mile.

M2 running:  10:00/mile

Perfect.  Except, unfortunately, I needed a pit-stop.  So, approximately 3 minutes later, after walking through the aid station and waiting in line for the bathroom, I was back on the course.

S3 (segment) running:  0.75 @ 10:20/mile

If you look at the elevation profile, you can probably see why it seemed like a good idea to drop in a walk break here.  So I did, for less than a minute.

S4 running: 0.31 @ 12:22/mile

I think this is very interesting.  Even with the walk break, I was *really* struggling to get to the top of the hill.  Given everything I'd read, I decided to drop in one more walk break to the apex, this one, only 43 seconds (but man were they gloriously pleasant).

S5 running: 0.6 @ 10:43/mile

This is the minor drop after mile 3.5ish and back up the hill 'til I felt my heartrate climb again.  When it felt smart to do so, I opted into 1:30 walking uphill to the apex so I could start running well on the downhill.

The rest of the run is more or less a give and take between walking when I felt my heart-rate/effort skyrocket; taking in fuel; and doing my best to push on the downhills and flats.  One of the more interesting side-effects of this approach is that while I felt like I made an even effort throughout, due to the course profile, I actually finished the last 6.9 miles almost 12 minutes faster than the first 6.2 (some of this can be attributed to the pit-stop, but at most only 3 minutes).

Oh, one other bonus?  The headwind of 18 mph after the turn-around.  That was an unwelcome surprise!

IntervalTime of DayChip TimeChip PaceGun TimeGun Pace

10K Split8:06:10AM01:20:3412:58 min/mi01:20:5913:02 min/mi
Finish9:14:55AM02:29:1911:24 min/mi02:29:4411:26 min/mi

(Garmin: 13.24 @ 2:29:22 ~11:17min/mi)
 
So, I guess the big take-home is, yes, if you walk early and often, you will be able to save energy and finish strong (my last 0.37 miles was at 8:57/mile pace).  But, really, let's be honest.  I totally took it easy here and just wanted to fit in a good long run.  I hadn't trained to race, so I wanted a good run, but I didn't want it to hurt too much.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out (9:57 AVG for the last 6.9 miles?  That's just fine, thank you.).  Effort-wise, it felt relatively comparable to Oakland, but in Oakland, I didn't have to be smart, I just got lucky with the course and weather, hence why, despite roughly the same lackluster training, it was 7 minutes faster (although not a negative split at all).  In SLO, I was approaching smart, but I'm sure I could have done some things better.

C'est La Vie.

Wishing you a lovely, relaxing, mellow, kick-back week.

April 19, 2015

Best Prescription Ever

I adore my medical doctor. She's awesome.
 
A few years ago, she gave me a prescription to take 24 consecutive hours off of work every week. How great is that? She made an excellent case for the fact that for my overall health this was, in her professional opinion, the most important medical advice she could give me. I haven't followed it religiously, but I have tried. And it's given me permission to pull back or make great work-life decisions when I otherwise might not have done so.

I've been very impressed with her knowledge of me as a person and her ability to give me "medical" advice that helps me justify making smart decisions to manage my stress levels.

After saying hello and settling in to my annual appointment last week, the first thing she asked me was, "What do you do for exercise?" I explained that over the last few years I've settled into a situation where I am committed to 20ish miles minimum per week. I don't care about the pace, but I get them done. I fit in yoga, core, etc. where I can, but the miles are my baseline. (And yes, I need to get back in the studio, on the mat, and generally more balanced, but it hasn't been happening lately, if I'm honest.  I'm working on it.)

She smiled and explained to me that my pulse and bloodwork made it very obvious that I worked out regularly. More importantly, the last few years of bloodwork make it I appear that I have some genetically pre-disposed indicators of potential problems, but the bad data is so minimized by the good data generated by my athleticism, that she gave me the best prescription I've ever received from a doctor:

"So, you *have* to keep up your mileage. It is absolutely protecting you. Today, your risk is significantly lower than average despite what appears to be a genetic pre-disposition towards some risks."

How great is that? My doctor just gave me permission to blow off work for a workout. Or commit to train harder. Or draw good work-life boundaries. Whatever you want to call it.

My doctor rocks.

In other news, this week was mellow. Lots of work. 30.6 miles including quite a bit of walking plus 3 miles in SF with my husband today, on dead legs after a slow sub-12 8 miles on Saturday, wearing my Desi-autographed T-shirt from the NY Mini 10K, much faster than I would have otherwise done. Thanks Rabbit (and I'm hopeful that's a good omen for Desi)!

This coming week brings the BOSTON MARATHON (yeah, I'll be getting up early tomorrow to cheer on Desi, and all the others) book club (Readling Lolita in Tehran), lots of healthy meals, and the SLO half. My latest plan for the half is to take it easy, run the whole thing, but do it nice and easy and enjoy it. 

April 12, 2015

My Love Affair

My husband and I ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then in Washington, DC in the last week.  This was due to work.

We’ve learned to deal with work demands relatively well.  We don’t get real weekends in the labor movement sense (see last weekend, or this Saturday, when other than chatting on the phone with one of my best friends in the AM and a lunch people watching with E, the rest of the day today was *all* work (or taxes)).   

We've traded the majority of those free weekends people seem to have as I drive by on my way to do what it is I do (or fly far away) for a different path.

Last week, on a Wednesday, E & I found ourselves in Washington, DC, with the cherry blossoms popped a week early.  How cool!   

These blossoms are absolutely gorgeous!

We both agreed to take several hours off in the middle of our work days to enjoy the spectacle together.  We took the metro to the Smithsonian station.  We walked along the national mall, laughing at how all the lawns were being industrially modified with plastic coverings and tractors and digging and gravel for the upcoming cherry blossom festival.  Also, almost all the viewing pools were empty (Lincoln memorial reflecting pools -- full of nothing but orange safety cones).  Even so, our walk to the Washington Memorial, then to the WWII memorial, and finally to and around the Lincoln memorial and back along the Patomac with all of the gorgeous tress was so enjoyable.

And this is something we can do because we *can* work on the weekends.  We both pushed several hours of work out of our way so we could enjoy the walk and views.  We'll pay for it later (and we did, this weekend, in fact), but the flexibility was appreciated.

But do you want to know what the best part of this experience was?

E reached out and took my hand on our way up the steps to the Lincoln memorial.  No discussion.  Nothing verbal.  This was a big deal.  Silently.  We each had our own reasons.  At the top of the stairs, slightly winded, we let go of our hands just as the couple who’d climbed the steps in front of us, a blonde woman and African-American man, stopped and stared.  

Lincoln Memorial

They were both obviously emotionally moved at the beautiful monument to equality.  He pulled out his phone to take many photos of the thin granite sky-lights, the huge statue, the stairs up, and the national mall in the distance.  She re-assuringly held his left shoulder while he did so. 
 
It was beautiful, and I felt a little too voyeuristic in how much pleasure I took from observing their moment.

Yet, at that moment, I was consciously so very proud to be an American and deep, deep down, I knew that’s why E grabbed my hand on the way up the stairs.  We are both of this place.  And it is a grand, wonderous country.  It is one of many excellent things we are lucky enough to share.

And, this, my friends, is one of the millions of reasons why I am desperately, madly, and fully in love with my husband.  I feel very, very lucky to be in love with and committed to someone who knows me, loves me, and shares so many of my values, appreciations and, yes, my country's culture and heritage, diverse and complex as it can be.

On the running front, this week was nothing to brag about.  Mostly walks instead of runs due to work and travel obligations.  But movement is movement and the total mileage still hit 17 or 18 miles.  Not ideal 2 weeks out from a half marathon, of course, but sometimes, you just have to take what you can get.

April 6, 2015

Choices

I don’t really have any female friends or colleagues who have anything close to my life.  If you accept that gender norms/roles/experiences are a non-trivial thing, then, by definition, I also don't have any other friends who have anything close to my life. 

Take Easter Sunday, for example. 

Many of my female Facebook friends were busily posting pictures of their children’s Easter basket or bunny experiences, Passover fun, family hikes in Yosemite or enjoying the surprise snow in Tahoe.   

I, on the other hand, had set an alarm to get up early and run 6 miles before cleaning up and closing the luggage to head out for a multi-day business trip with E.

I woke, made and drank coffee, and checked the flights – 30 minute delay on the first one, actually ideal, giving me a bit more in my AM.  I headed out, finished the run, returned home, showered, dressed, wrote checks to pay bills, left a note for the housekeeper re: plants and pets, and we headed out.  I called our airline for the 4th time in 4 days because our flights and mileage upgrade just didn’t seem to be snaking its way through the system properly.

Upon arriving at the airport, we spent another 15 minutes at the check-in counter, and then another 15 minutes at the gate, each time patiently explaining the mileage upgrade situation that seemed to not be going our way.

Eventually, the gate agent assured me she’d done everything she could, I thanked her, and we headed to the restaurant, to order take-out for the cross-country flight.

As we waited for our orders, E said, “So, this mileage upgrade treated us *worse* than if we’d just tried to upgrade on status.” Calmly, I said, “You don’t know that – I have no idea where we ended up on the actual upgrade list.  The gate agent fixed it, so we could end up still getting upgraded.”  

 E, disbelieving, pulled out his phone, updated the list on his app and laughed – we were listed as #2 and #3 of 3 open seats in business class.  

On things like this, he and I are so different.  I just assumed I’d done what I could and the rest was in the hands of the service professionals, I was certain the gate agent had done her best.  If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and I was cool with that.  E, on the other hand, was grumpy, suspicious, and constantly updating the app, certain we would get bumped from the upgrade we’d already spent the miles on after we’d finally managed to make it manifest.  He wasn't wrong.  They did appear to have done everything they could to have made this experience fail for us up to this point.

Ignoring E’s suspicion, I canceled our lunch order with the server, but not the wine, and as it was delivered, we smiled, toasting our hopefully good, if high effort, fortune.  

And then, we actually were upgraded at the gate, we got on the plane and I enjoyed the free food and booze in business class while clearing my non-emergency email from the week and finalizing my timesheets for all clients for March.  Because that is what has to happen at the end of every month if you run your own business, and if you have more business than you can handle, the things that get pushed to the weekend are the things for your own business, not your clients'.  

After an airport layover dinner, we landed in the town we're visiting for business, and arrived at our hotel around midnight just in time to hit the sack.  In other words, my “glamorous” Sunday was anything but.

I regularly think about perspective when perusing social media.  I could have snapped a photo of a business class meal and wine, a gorgeous view from a plane window, and just posted those two snapshots to Facebook.  And that would tell a certain story of my life.

But I’m not living just the moments those photos would have shown – I’m living everything in my life, just like everyone.  I’m living the life where I had to call the airline every day for the last 4 days before departure to get that upgrade, even though we'd supposedly purchased it with miles.  I'm living the life where at 8 PM one night this month, despite promising to make dinner, I looked up from my computer and snappily demanded that E order pizza because I wasn’t yet done with work and I couldn't see when I would be done and I JUST needed a break.  I’m living the life where I spend time scheduling laundry like no-one’s business (seriously, we discuss when laundry will be done as a very serious item on the todo list *every* week) even though we have no children because when you travel and work out regularly, clean clothes are much more complex than if you are predictably home – in fact, I bought E an additional 12 pairs of underwear this month just to extend our ability to go between laundry loads so that we wouldn’t have to cancel our attendance at some social obligations in San Francisco later in the month.  

I’m living a life where we get on a plane and I realize we never booked the rental car we need at our destination (since this trip was thrown together out of need at the last minute), so we log on the in-plane wi-fi and make that happen.  Yay, plane wi-fi.  But boo, needing it to be functional.  The plane is just another remote office these days.  

Most noticeably to me, I’m living a life with absolutely no children other than the occasional friend’s kid or niece/nephew.  If social media is to be believed, this means I’m missing out on all of the most important moments that almost everyone else in my cohort is currently experiencing.  On the other hand, I spend very few nights away from my husband, despite the fact that he and I both have to regularly travel for work.  

My life, like most, is messy and complex and tiring and, when viewed from a certain rose-colored lens, VERY cool.  I get lots of great meals, adult time, a reasonable amount of workout time, mentally challenging work, travel to cool places, and uninterrupted time with my best friend and partner.  But it comes at the expense of all sorts of other stuff that I’m missing out on, not the least of which is motherhood, which is regularly referred to as "the most important thing a woman can do."  I don't believe this (or I would have done my best to make this experience part of my life), but I do wonder about the pressure on those who have decided to go down that road.  As an outside observer, I can't help but wonder if the pressure to make it "the most important thing" you can do as a woman may actually make the whole experience a bit more bittersweet and less enjoyable.  As an extra-outside observer, I think it's very telling that I don't feel internal urges to have a child, but I do occasionally feel jealousy of the shared experience -- the fact that I *don't* have a child is just yet another detail about me that separates and differentiates me from so many of the women I encounter.  I am mildly sad that I have less in common with my cohort than they have with each other -- it's lonely.  But it's fine.

In short, my life is just a life, full of beauty and bullshit and choices like any other. I worked and hustled my way through Easter Sunday with my ass in hard-earned business class (as opposed to bought), so that I can share more experiences and time with my husband and best friend while running my own business. My current reality is the life that I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to actively work to instantiate over many years, and while, of course, it's not perfect, I'm supremely grateful for it.

On the running front, this week was super low-mileage due to work (big surprise) and recovering from last weekend's half: 24.21 miles, probably 25% walking, and none of it fast.  I did, however, return to the yoga studio for a 1 hour unheated power yoga class (and was sore for 2.5 days afterwards) -- wow, I have lost a *ton* of yoga fitness.  Here's to hoping I get back in the studio sooner rather than later...  

March 29, 2015

You Better Work!





I've been in an introspective mood this month.  My most current audiobook has been nicely provoking me further in that direction.

I expected tales of heart-opening Empathy.  Love.  Compassion.  And Sugar is full of these.  I even hoped for (and received) a refresher on kindly setting boundaries, because I am usually great at boundaries, but not so good at Kind. 

I'm not even done with the book and it has given me so much to think about that I can't help but be supremely grateful. 

What's surprised me most is how Sugar is so refreshingly honest about how much WORK living your own true life can be.

She's gently brutal to the mother who had a miscarriage and on other topics of true losses like death and relationships with rejection --  Yes, you deserve compassion and unconditional support.  But, it's *not* going to go away.  It's *not* going to get better.  You, and only you, have to do the work of taking each breath, taking each step, and slowly getting back to the business of living your life the way you want it lived.  You have to carry your own water.

She's lovingly frank with the transgendered adult who'd rightly cut off contact with his parents, but now they have apologized and want to have a relationship with him -- You *have* to at least meet with them and try to forgive them. Not for them, but for yourself.  Being a good person is hard, sweetpea, but you owe it to yourself to let the Universe try to have good things in store for you.

In each encounter, she speaks the hard honest truth (which is one of my strengths), but she does it so sensitively and lovingly that I can't help but be awed.  She must be some sort of emotional intelligence genius.

The theme I wasn't expecting and that I am thrilled to find, is that she's open and forthright about how being an emotionally mature, ethical, true-to-yourself person is very hard.  It's not just hard, but if you want to do it, you have to WORK at it.  Every day.  We have to WORK to have confidence in what we believe we should be doing in the face of strangers, bullies, and worst of all, our own insecurities.  We have to WORK to try to keep our bodies healthy.  We have to WORK to have good relationships with people, and this requires compromise while NEVER compromising our core true self, which is a needle that is almost impossibly difficult to thread, and yet, we have to try.  All of this WORK often means choosing short term unpleasantness over the pleasant -- it's not easy.  It's hard.

She is also very clear that surviving is the first step to living your own best true life.  I once knew this inherently. But as I've aged and the risks I face have gotten more and more abstract, I've lost contact with this very universal truth.  The how of survival can be ugly, but the reality of it is a beautiful wonderful thing.  And, of course, survival takes work, too.  As does getting over and forgiving yourself for the ugly things you may have had to do to survive.

I've often been frustrated with my own work ethic.  It's very high.  My father's family were farmers.  Farmers work every day, and if they don't, animals or plants die.  Also they have a culture of not complaining -- work is just what you do.  My mother's family were poor, but *very* hard working.  Compensated work was a privilege to them. 

Essentially, I was taught that work was required as part of life. Compensated work (plus higher education) was its own reward, but also the only true way out of poverty.  While I never really experienced anything bordering on true poverty as far as the world is concerned, I did experience relative poverty in my childhood.  That, plus stories of my parents' poverty was enough to ensure that I internalized the "work = survival" message very well.

Today, I have worked and saved and invested my way into a socio-economic situation that means I don't need to worry about working for money every day in order to survive. And yet, I still regularly work for money or just to do things that are good for my "career" at the expense of leading a more "balanced" life.  Typically, I see this as a weakness.

Sugar reminded me that focusing first on survival is actually a fundamental reality of staying alive.  This was so freeing -- I can work on being more balanced while also being very grateful that I was raised in a family that taught me not just how to survive, but that I was entitled to do so, and that I should work, fight, struggle, and hustle my way to survival, if necessary.  In hindsight, there are few messages you can internalize as a child that are more important than this one -- I am worth surviving whatever it is I encounter. 

At times like this I really miss my Dad.  I wish I could call him up and, in very few words, wholeheartedly thank him in our family's non-emotional-speech speech for yet another lesson I just realized that he helped teach me.  He would be quiet, but would use his soft voice to thank me for thanking him, perhaps crack a joke about me being slow (given that I'm almost in middle age and I just now had this realization) and then he would move to his normally big voice to ask about E, and talk about the weather, the garden, my car, whether I had enough emergency cash in my wallet, his dogs, the latest hunting gossip, and all the other Dad things.  That would be so awesome.

But it is not going to happen.  So, I cried while writing this bit.  And I haven't cried over Dad's death in a while, so this serious tears business where I actually experience and acknowledge the true sorrow and loss of my Dad, as it is important to do now and again, is yet another gift from Sugar.

On the other hand, my Mom is still available for a call.  So I did that.  I called and we caught up and then I called her husband's phone so I could send her the audiobook and walk her through signing up for Audible and getting the audiobook working on her phone.  I heard the first few words to confirm it worked.  I sent her this audiobook because I know it will resonate with her.  Also, she's recovering from surgery.  She can walk, but not do much else right now, so she's going stir-crazy.  I suspect that audiobooks will be a huge improvement to her quality of life, as they have been for me.  I imagine tomorrow AM, when she will leave the house for her walk, and turn on this audiobook, which will affirm so much of the impressive work she's done in her own life on many very hard fronts.  She is a poster-girl for Sugar's message.  She just keeps surviving, and working, and doing her best to be her own best self.  And she keeps getting better, as a person.  I aspire to do the same.

*You Better Work Video -- Enjoy!

March 22, 2015

You Gotta Be Ready For Magic

I didn't have high hopes for the Oakland Running Festival.

After the Kaiser SF half, I figured I needed to re-assess my fitness and be realistic for Oakland.

I fit in 6 weeks averaging 28.05 miles per week. This sounds reasonable.  Until you realize it includes quite a bit of walking.  When I can't fit in a run and a shower, I'll opt for a just-below super-sweat-paced walk, figuring 20-30 minutes walking between clients or even on the phone with them if I don't need access to documents (slower and rare, but appreciated) is better than nothing.  So, if I'm honest, close to 25% of my mileage and possibly more has been walking.

These six weeks also included a trip to the Canadian Tundra where work was demanding and the only running availability was on treadmills.  Plus, at the end of the "training cycle" there were three strenuous day-hikes and 10-12 miles very easy jogging with some strength intervals in the heat and humidity of Hawaii.  I wasn't sure how to treat that mileage, as the heat and humidity (and climbing on the hikes) made everything harder than normal.  I just tried to go by effort, count the mileage, and did my best not to cringe at the slow paces.

In terms of long runs, between work, travel, and the occasional effort at having a social life, I struggled to fit them in at all.  So, I made the classic BT compromise of "just get it done" -- the collection of long "runs" wasn't pretty:

Week -6: 7 miles (11ish/mile avg)
Week -5: 9 miles (13:18/mile avg -- but in town, including stoplights, water stops, and on a Wednesday AM carved out from all client demands, so despite the horrid pace, I was proud I found a way to fit it in before the week's travel, where I knew it wouldn't happen).
Week -4: 6.4 miles (12:51/mile avg)
Week -3: 8.1 miles (12:51/mile avg)
Week -2: 7.68 (14:14/mile avg)
Week -1: 10 (12:28/mile avg)

During this time, I ran some intervals in the 8s and 9s and maybe 10 percent of my miles in the 10s, but the rest was slow.  In short, this training cycle was mainly both low volume and low-quality.

And yet, somehow, magic happened.

Saturday around noon, I headed out for my standard day-before-race test run:  0.5 mile w/u.  1 mile at the pace I think I can sustain for the race (paying close attention to my breathing and heart rate -- if you're struggling at mile 1, it's *too* fast for a half).  0.5 mile c/d.  Much to my surprise, the 1 mile was comfortable at 9:55/mile in 78 degrees F and direct sun.

I figured Hawaii was partially to blame for this (thanks heat/humidity acclimatization!).  But I also started to do some last-minute re-thinking of my plan for Oakland.  Originally, I'd decided just to try to better Kaiser (2:35ish) and have 2:30 as a high end goal.

Walking home from that run, I remembered an interview I'd seen with Lauren Fleshman about being open to luck and possibilities and being your best own true authentic self that has inspired me every time I've watched it.  I decided to be open to the race day.  I know I'm not as fit as I could be.  I know I'm not genetically built to be fast.  And I know my life lately has put running onto a serious back-burner.  In fact, I wasn't really ready for a true "race" in the traditional sense at all.  But, I've got a good long-term aerobic base and things just seemed to be working out in a way that it seemed silly for me *not* to be optimistic and open to the best the Universe may have in store for me.

Much to our joy, friends who are getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (the *entire* PCT! that's 35 support boxes of food that have to be mailed and roughly 6 months of hiking an average of 20 miles a day!) were able to pull away from support box packing to come join us for pre-race noodle soup dinner at Kim Huong - the only Pho Joint in Oakland open past 7 PM.  We listened to their tales of planning and preparation and logistics and fit in many last this-is-a-big-deal hugs before they leave.  Their trek is so impressive and guaranteed to be full of adventure that I was even more inspired for race day heading to bed.  Talk about being open to luck and possibilities!

I slept fitfully, primarily because I was so well hydrated, but also because I'd had a wacky eye allergic reaction that freaked me out a bit. (Seriously, swollen eyeballs are gross.  If you aren't allergic to everything, be thankful.)  In keeping with the luck theme, my eye was merely acceptably red when I woke and my breakfast of coffee/juice plus AM detail execution went completely according to plan.  And then, it was 60F at the 9:15 AM start (this is one of the big risks of Oakland, with the late start, you can end up with direct sun and high temps on the half marathon).  I'd opted into a tank top and shorts and I was a little cold.  This was a good sign!  (I am *very* heat sensitive.)

The crowd was great (as always) and I headed out mid-pack by effort, hitting mile 1 at 9:56 and wondering briefly if I was going to blow up again.  I decided to enjoy the overcast skies and cool air as long as possible, but also to be smart.  I'd brought a large long hand-held gatorade to the start and I sipped it before and during the first 7 miles.  This helped me avoid the aid station slow-downs.

I'd noted Angela's recent success with "run low race high" and I figured, why not?  I'd run all those super slow long "runs" essentially fuel free.  Why not take advantage of the fact that my family can consume and keep down calories like nobody's business?  So, in addition to the large Gatorade, I took a walking Gu break at the water station at 4.2 miles, the water station somewhere after mile 8, and again at the aid station around 11.5 miles or so.

The weather, the fuel, the noodles, and life conspired to give me a much better day than I thought possible.

I hit mile 3 at 30:28.  I felt good.  Easy.  Like the effort wasn't that high.  So I just kept on that pace, more or less except for walk breaks (and except for the last few miles when the cloud cover burnt off and I let myself slow down to keep it in the medium-easy zone).  

I finished in 2:22:08, medium-solid effort and *very* pleased with the outcome.  Garmin claims it was 13.39 miles for an average pace of 10:39/mile (which includes all the walking gu breaks) -- I believe this is true because I suck at tangents and the Oakland course is full of right angles.

And what do you know?  Despite my doubt about how non-standard my training was, those six weeks actually *did* result in some serious fitness improvements.

Magic!  (Oh, and you know what else is magical?  Post-race TrueBurger.  True.)

The Magic is -- I never hurt.  Never felt like I was pushing too hard.  Just felt so happy to be running, consistently, in a fun race.

I also had a blast meeting up with Jen, Cat, Jess, KP, and Paulette and sincerely enjoyed cheering on all the youngsters running for Run For A Better Oakland -- Jen had volunteered with them a few years ago and helped train a young high school student and mentored him.  He's now in college and thanks her openly for her input on her Big Basin RBO Fundraising Page.  So, if you are looking for a good cause, I really couldn't recommend this one more.  I saw those kids out there today, and it's clear that this charity is helping middle-schoolers and high-schoolers in the Oakland community run farther and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

March 18, 2015

Unread Books

Back in 2008 I participated in a book meme -- the top 106 books marked as *unread* at Library Thing were pushed around the internet with instructions.

Those of us engaging in the meme republished the list, but bolded the books we'd read  (underlined those we read for school -- I skipped this step) and italicized those we'd started but hadn't finished.

I stumbled upon this old meme when reviewing the timing of some reading I'd done in my blog posts, and thought it would be interesting to revisit.  Unsurprisingly, the top 106 books marked as "unread" in the Library Project had changed a bit since 2008.

In addition to the original old bold/italics rules, I've also added yellow dark blue highlighting to indicate new books that took the place of other books that were in the top 106 on the 2008 list.  At least half of the movement onto the current list is older books that cannot claim that they were only recently published as the reason they made the cut -- fascinating!  Also interesting (to me), there's not much movement off the list in the last 7 years over the current top third of the list -- it looks relatively static. But the middle 3rd has about 1/3 new entrants, and the last 3rd of the list is made up of roughly 50% new entrants in the last 7 years, so quite dynamic.

Here's my updated list (which, conveniently, serves as a nice list of potential books to add to my reading or audiobook wish list):


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (262 times)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (254 times)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (227 times)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (222 times)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (193 times)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (190 times)
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien (183 times)
Ulysses by James Joyce (181 times)
War and Peace by Léon Tolstoï (178 times)
The Brothers Karamazov by Fedor Mikhaïlovitch Dostoïevski (173 times)
The Odyssey by Homer (168 times)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (162 times)
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (159 times)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (157 times)
The Iliad by Homer (157 times)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (154 times) – in high school, very little memory
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (147 times)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (146 times)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (146 times) – In French
Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (145 times)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (143 times)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (136 times)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (135 times)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (133 times)
Emma by Jane Austen (133 times)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (129 times)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (129 times)
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (126 times)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (126 times)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (125 times) -- revisit
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (125 times)
The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (125 times)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (121 times)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (121 times)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (121 times) – in high school, very little memory
Middlemarch by George Eliot (120 times)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (120 times)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (120 times)
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (120 times)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (119 times)
Dune by Frank Herbert (118 times)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (118 times) – started as an audiobook and couldn’t finish it.  So. Many. Details.  No Plot.
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (117 times)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (117 times)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (117 times) – revisit
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (116 times)
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (115 times)
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (115 times) – this month’s book club selection, plan to finish
Atonement by Ian McEwan (115 times)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (114 times)
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (114 times) – revisit
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (113 times)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (112 times)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (112 times) – revisit
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (112 times) – revisit
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (111 times)
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (111 times)
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (110 times)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (109 times)
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (109 times)
The Once and Future King by T. H. White (109 times)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (107 times)
The Aeneid by Virgil (107 times)
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (106 times) – audiobook
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (105 times)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (105 times)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (105 times)
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (105 times)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (105 times)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (105 times)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (105 times)
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare (104 times) – also, who does this?  The COMPLETE WORKS? Pick some works!
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (104 times) – revisit
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (103 times)
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (102 times)
Dubliners by James Joyce (102 times)
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (101 times)
Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (101 times)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (101 times)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (99 times)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (99 times)
The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (98 times)
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (98 times)
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (98 times)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (98 times)
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (98 times)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (97 times)
Possession by A. S. Byatt (97 times)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (96 times)
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (95 times)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (95 times)
Watership Down by Richard Adams (95 times)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (95 times)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (93 times)
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (93 times)
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (93 times)
The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien (92 times)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (92 times) – on my bedside table, to be read soon
Underworld by Don DeLillo (92 times)
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (92 times)
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (91 times)
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père (90 times)
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (90 times)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (89 times)
The Idiot by Fedor Mikhaïlovitch Dostoïevski (89 times)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (89 times)