May 23, 2016

Miles and Miles

Our SoCal Road Trip
Whenever we go to Southern California, we drive so, so much.  We have many friends, family and work obligations in the area and we want to fit in as many as possible whenever we're down there.  This is, of course, suboptimal, since driving in Southern California always comes with tons of traffic.  For example, the estimated 7 hours that Google thinks this trip should have taken, in reality had us in our trusty rental car for at least 11 hours (split over many days).

It was a great week.  I'm continuing to scale my practice down, and working at about 50% capacity while traveling is *so* much better than working full time.

While we were in the area, in addition to work meetings for both of us during the week, we were social animals of the first degree: 1 weekend birthday celebration, 1 baby shower, 2 nights with one friend (including an authentic imported products Italian dinner cooked by me to say thank you), 1 dinner out at Republique with a college roommate and her husband, 2 nights with another set of friends, a drive through Irvine to Carlsbad to stay at the lovely Park Hyatt Aviara (booked on points *and* got upgraded to a suite... I LOVE HYATT), a wonderful wedding on the beach in Carlsbad, and a visit to see two of my cousins and my new baby 1st cousin once removed.

The running wasn't too bad.  I fit in the slow 10 on Monday, followed by a super-slow hilly 2.8 mile loop on Tuesday.  Wednesday I made up 3 Tabata workouts and then headed to the gym treadmill for an agressive strength workout of 1600, 1000, 800, 800 at decreasing paces with walking recovery, all at 1% incline -- this was definitely the best workout of the week and I was sore for 2+ days afterward.  Thursday, I ran from our friends' place down to Marina Del Rey to check out the Endeavor Tank for an easy 3 miler plus some walking mileage.  Friday was a write off due to some bizarre stomach issues -- 1.25 jogging and 0.05 walk.  Saturday still had some residual stomach issues, but I managed 2.81 jogging with 2.89 walking back.  Sunday I ran 3.2 miles from our hotel to get the car that we'd left at the wedding reception and discovered a wonderful trail paralleling the train tracks -- I love it when I discover somewhere new by running whatever route is defined for me by the Internet.

Total mileage for the week: 32.67.  Not bad, although, as predicted, the long run didn't happen over the weekend, so I'll have to fit it in early this week.

Yup.  That's a big tank.

May 17, 2016

Desert Thoughts

The desert scenery dares you not to be thoughtful.
One of my childhood best friends, R, invited me, E, another childhood best friend K, and her husband D, plus another good friend of R, B to go hang out in the desert to celebrate R's 40th Birthday.  I'd never been to Joshua Tree and R correctly predicted that I would love it.  The quality of the desert light is hard to explain, but it's harsh and yet clear and bright in a manner I couldn't help but feel awed by.  And the sounds -- so mild and subtle -- scratchy footsteps on sand, quiet wind, still quiet between them, all in a volume my sensitive ears just loved.

Getting there was a bit of a fiasco and we almost missed our flight but thankfully all flights to Palm Springs were delayed by at least 50 minutes, so we arrived to the 100F heat before they shut the airport down for the day.

Joshu Trees in Joshua Tree National Park
It was so nice to enjoy the desert scenery and solitude (no cell service!), multiple meals and late nights of too much indulgence.  Truly, I felt so very lucky to spend time with friends I've had for close to 3 decades.
The beautiful cholla cactus.
We are firmly in middle age at this point -- each of us women within spitting distance of the exact half-way point of the 81-year average US female life expectancy.  And yet, many of our best moments are full of childish comedy and laughter.  We've known each other for so long that we can ask after each other's family -- in fact, they reminded me that I hadn't caught up with my sister in a long time, so I made sure to do that yesterday.
Cholla, as far as the eye can see.
I'd packed clothes to run over the weekend, but didn't.  Not at all.  The heat was certainly a factor, and the day we spent in the national park we did little more than walk a mile and half in the direct sun.  On Friday, I'd hoped to fit in 10 miles before we flew out, but as I mentioned, the day did not go well and our departure was a catastrophe (mis-packing, misidentified departure airports, and Lyft/Uber/Cab ridiculousness to name a few problems).

Essentially, for the weekend, I just overate and overindulged on a few other consumption axes while enjoying time with friends.  I woke early each morning and read in the garden wind, listening to the chimes while waiting for others to wake -- it felt so decadent, calming, and correct. 

However, I did sign up for the See Jane Run Half Marathon before we left, so I do have some shuffling to do to ensure I can finish comfortably.  Last week's running started well, with a slow easy 10 miler on Monday, and a 4 mile walk with a friend on Tuesday.  Wednesday, I did a very solid track ladder of 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, 600, 400, 200, 100 where I actually hit some paces in the 6 min/mile pace, which hasn't happened in a long time and has *never* happened at this weight.  There was another 4 mile walk Wednesday afternoon (I was *sore* from those intervals), and 3 easy slow miles on Thursday with several hours of gardening.  Friday AM, I had to finish the water situation in the garden before we left or all of my work would just die in our absence, and then the weekend was a write-off, mileage-wise.

Monday of this week after a lazy weekend of desert heat and friends, much like Monday of last week after a lazy weekend of rain and family time, I got back on the horse, and fit in a slow easy 10 miler to try to ensure I get in at least one long run each week before the half marathon.  I'm hopeful I can stick to a more reasonable running schedule this week, but we've got family to visit and a wedding next weekend, so if I find myself trading quality emotional time for running yet again, perhaps I'll just slate next Monday for my long run, yet again.

May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

E&I packed up pillows, blankets, clothes, and headed out in the rainstorm to brave the Friday traffic from the Bay Area to Northern California's Gold Country, where Mom and Stepdad are staying. (Friday AM's run didn't happen because while I don't mind running in the drizzle, it was actually truly raining, so I decided to call it a lazy rest day.)
Cozy Cabin at the RV Resort
We had a raucous night, alternating games of pool and ping pong.  My stepdad used to hustle for cash in his youth, so when he gets his game back on the pool table, watch out... My Mom plays in a ping pong league, and E confirmed that while his shoulder is doing well, it's definitely not 100% yet -- aka, she beat us all.  After the high effort games, we started a 500 piece puzzle and did about half of it before leaving it unfinished on the communal games table in the resort adult rec room.

Saturday, we slept in (waking to the sound of glorious rain -- so welcome in NorCal drought country) and sipped coffee.  Then we lunched with Mom and Stepdad at the awesome Christopher's Deli in downtown Grass Valley.  After lunch, E & I worked for a few hours at a local cafe before heading back to the rec room for more ping pong, pool, and puzzle work.  When we left for dinner, we had maybe 50 pieces left to complete the puzzle.

After dinner, we came straight back, elated to place all of the final pieces... almost.

Notice anything missing in the white lilies?
We searched the floor, the cabinet of lost puzzle pieces, and everywhere else in the rec room, but alas.  We were one piece short.  Oh well, it was a fun 2-day joint effort and a good memory, nonetheless. 

Sunday AM, it had finally stopped raining, so I headed up the hill with the goal of 3ish miles.  Elevation plus hills is no joke.  I found myself run-walking in less than a third of a mile.

But then I found the trail!
Just about when I was starting to get seriously frustrated with the incline, I hit the top of the ridge and found the trail.  It was absolutely beautiful, and thanks to the nature of the soil and forest, despite the 3-day rain storm, the trail was solid and easy to run.  I fit in a quick short one, but throughout it was one of those running experiences when I was just grinning the entire time.  How beautiful the world is!  How lucky I am to have a wonderful Mother, who lives, somewhere nearby, that happens to be so gorgeous.  Each of these blessings is so wonderful.

In terms of mileage, the week was all over the place, totaling 32.02 miles, with 2/3 or so jogging/running.  2 true rest days (if you don't count ping pong and pool).  1 day over 10 miles run/walking, but with the last 2 miles with E & a friend of his, both sub 10 min/mile (so *sore* the next day).  A decent track day (200; 2X400; 800; 2X400; 200) with jogging there and back to total over 7 miles. 1 pure walk day, 2 short runs with additional walking.  And no core to speak of.  I'm still on the fence about the half marathon in June but how the planned long runs go this week will make the decision for me.

May 3, 2016

A Tasty Mileage High Point

Under the MoPac bridge over Lady Bird Lake.
I enjoyed our week in Austin so much.  However, it was *humid* and I found it very difficult to string miles together to run without stopping to walk and recover.  Thanks to a slowing law practice, I could spend plenty of time walking and enjoying the outdoors, and I did so every day.  The end result was a week of 60.63 total miles (including the long run with a friend back in California after our return).  I haven't put that many miles on my feet in a single week in years.  It felt great.

Unfortunately, I really am a heat and humidity wuss, so I ran only about 25% of the mileage.  I didn't hit my 2 runs over 6 miles (many days of 10ish miles, but never 6 miles running straight), and I didn't get in any solid speed work.  I did, however, fit in tons of core.  There are workout stations interspersed throughout the  Butler Trail.  And I put them to use, doing pushups, dips, step up lunges, squats, ab work, and more on most days.  By the fourth day, my core and arms were very sore and wondering what exactly was going on.

Austin is a big food city.  I had an average of one meal focused on meat (not counting fish) every day, which is *way* more than usual for me.

Texas BBQ platter at one of the events we attended.

Amazing pork buns from Odd Duck.

Terry Black's BBQ -- Delicious! (Texas state bird)


Last night, after 1 day back in California full of veggies and fish, we had guests from Georgia who wanted to break out the BBQ for the first time this season.  So, we obliged.  I was overloaded on meat, so I stuck mainly with the veggies, but even so, the first hosted outdoor meal of the season is always a cause for celebration.

California BBQ -- a little more color than the Texas variety
In running news, I can't seem to find a good 10K to replace the Danville 10K, so I'm toying with a half marathon in June.  Given how much I suck at running in the heat, this is a bold move, but it is likely to keep my motivated and keep my mileage up...

April 25, 2016

Progress and Loss

Hello from beautiful Austin.

Essentially the view from our hotel (but from a nearby bridge)

Why Hello!

View back toward downtown from the dam end of ladybird lake.

One of many picturesque bridges on the trails around the lake.
Last week was a solid execution of the super easy 10K training plan I devised (even if the 10K is now officially on hold).  Total mileage of 31.64.  Quite a bit of walking, but two separate speed workouts (10X400 and 5X400), and two runs longer than 6 miles as well as some shorter efforts.

For core, I walked to the yoga studio on Thursday, and was shocked and saddened to learn of Prince's death from the yoga instructor before class.  Like many folks my age, Prince's music was a major influence in my life.  Purple Rain was my every day workout album for my first season as a college gymnast, and  I've probably spent more time running to Prince songs than those from any other musician.  Like many, I can't really believe it's true.   

Now that I've gone to yoga 3 times in 4 weeks, I'm starting to feel like my body is remembering how to (sort of) be a yogi.  I'm definitely looking forward to continuing on this path and focusing more on yoga over the next few weeks and our sabbatical year. 

April 18, 2016

Patriots' Day, Quick Running Check-in

I watched the tail end of the Boston Marathon today, and while watching the women's winner come back from a 37 second deficit to win was inspiring, I found it interesting that no one talked about how slow the winning times were versus historical norms.  I do know it was supposed to be hot, so perhaps that's why.

Last week, I missed the goal of at least 2 days of >6 miles, but otherwise, I hit the rest of them.  Total mileage was light, due to a 2 day conference, but I still hit 24.3, which isn't bad.

For core, I couldn't fit in a 3rd consecutive week return to the yoga studio, but I did fit in 9 X (1 minute jump rope; 10 seconds rest; 30 seconds alternating pushups, dips, abs; 10 seconds rest).  Every time I do this workout I'm shocked at how badly it kicks my ass.  It's 16 minutes and 30 seconds of serious intensity.

For speed, I pulled off a treadmill workout with 8 X 400 @ 8:49/mile and 1% incline.

Saturday, I participated in the Spring Forward 10K.  The last time I'd done this race it was in Mountain View, but they moved it to a new location in Milpitas.  I finished in 1:02, which was my goal for a good tempo run.  Unfortunately, like last time, the course was short (this time it was 5.83 miles according to my garmin).  It's an out and back, and included some steep short uphills and downhills to go under freeways.  There was a mud pit under one of the overpasses within the first mile that slowed everyone down.  Other than that, I have no complaints.  I got in a good solid workout, averaging 10:42/mile including walking through the water stations and stopping for the mud pit, so my moving average was likely 10:30ish.

The one wrinkle in my plans is that E and his friend and his friend's wife and another friend are all committing to doing the 5K at Park Run in SF on 5/28.  That's the date and time of my goal race of the Danville 10K, where several of my running buddies will be running.  E and I are leaving the bay area in July for a year, so it's probably one of the last opportunities I'll have to see both groups of folks for a long time.  I'm torn.  It may come down to economics -- I'm not already registered for Danville, which costs $45, while Park Run is free...

Either way, I do want to pick a 10K to complete at the end of this training cycle, so if it's not Danville, it'll have to be something else.  Any suggestions?


April 16, 2016

Making Space for Adventure

A friend of mine knows that I love to try foods I've never tried before.  She's Mexican, and recently, she brought me an unripe mamey that she'd purchased for me as a gift at her local open air market.
Mamey, peeled.
She'd instructed me to wrap it in newspaper and put it on a shelf in the kitchen.  Today, I checked and it was ready.  I peeled it and E and I both enjoyed some of the delicious, very unique tasting, sweet fruit.  (Turns out Guito *loved* it, too.)

This whole experience (receiving the very hard brown skinned fuzzy fruit, wrapping it to let it ripen, then peeling, cutting, and tasting it once it was soft) was a new one for me.

And I *love* new culinary experiences. I also love new linguistic experiences, and (most of the time) I love new cultural experiences as well. I do my best to seek them all whenever I can.

BUT, life often requires that you stay within your well-known box.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a routine you enjoy and sticking to it -- it's very efficient.  In fact, all of the times when I've been in peak physical shape have come after a period where I committed to a well-known routine, pushed the physical aspect to my own limits, and then enjoyed the benefits. 

Today's mamey reminded me that you can always have an adventurer's mindset, regardless of where you are.  You can recruit others to help you have adventures that are their normal, but are foreign to you.

This lesson was a big one for me, because E & I are in the preparation phase of embarking on a sabbatical year.

After 10 years of constant career hustling as my number 1 priority, I'm excited to go on sabbatical and focus instead on enjoying far-away friends and family in person, food, languages, travel, local foreign culture, reading and more. (I'm also hoping that with work on hold, I can focus on getting more fit as well, but I understand that this may cause a conflict and in the event that it does, the sabbatical's joys other than working out are going to take precedence.) 

I'm even excited at the preparation.  I've got 14ish weeks to plan all the dependencies -- and I *love* planning complex tasks.  One of my favorite things I've found to do so far is figuring out the creative meals I can make to most efficiently use up the pantry and freezer contents before we leave.  Since we will be packing up the entire house to prepare for renters, we can actually evaluate our *stuff* and finally get rid of things that we've just kept around because we haven't moved in 13+ years -- so, every week, I've been enjoying throwing yet another ton of things into the Goodwill pile.  We even splurged on his and hers kindles to avoid the weight of physical books -- so I'm anxiously waiting for those to arrive so I can take advantage of the lessons from my first kindle book as we prepare:  The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up.

In short, I'm looking forward to remembering the lesson of the mamey (adventure can be anywhere) as we embark on this next journey.
This is how large the mamey pit is!  Huge.

April 10, 2016

Sweet Exhaustion

35.57 miles this week. Closed it out today with 8 easy chatting miles at 11:31/mile average with E2 -- such a pleasure to return to long runs with my long lost running buddy.

Also included was the 2nd visit to the yoga studio in 2 weeks (yup, still sore for days afterwards) and a decent track workout (2X800; 400; 800; 400).

The rest was easy running and walking.

I didn't *quite* get in 2 runs longer than 6 miles, but the full mileage for track day was 5.58, which is almost close enough.

And now, I'm enjoying that awesome slightly sore, creaky, late Sunday post long-run and brunch satisfaction of a week well run. (Pun intended.)

Next week, I'm going to do my best to see if I can actually hit up my 3rd yoga class in 3 weeks (which would be a record for the last several years).  Other than that, I've got typical work ridiculousness, 3 days to finish the book club book (which I haven't started), a 2-day conference that will interfere with running, and a local 10K on the weekend to test my fitness level.   

April 5, 2016

Slipping By

Last week was a blur.  Nothing special, just lots of work to close the quarter and daily stuff at home, so time sped by me and before I realized it the week and weekend were over.

I walked a little on Monday to recover from the Sunday's 12 miler, and then, in keeping with recent trends, on Tuesday I walked to yoga, completed a class for the first time in 6 weeks, walked home and proceeded to be sore throughout my arms, core, and abs for the rest of the week.

Wednesday I eased into speedwork in prep for the Danville 10K.  1 mile w/u. 6X400 (w 1X300) @ McMillan target paces.  Some walking cooldown.  I was supposed to do 8X400 but nature called. 

It's probably for the best that I cut Wednesday's speed short, as Thursday was quite the struggle.  I gave up after 0.71 super slow jogged miles and just walked the rest of my "easy" 4 miler.

Friday I did 3 easy and 0.25 walk.

Saturday, I was supposed to go join some local bay area runners for a loop around Lake Chabot.  I was very much looking forward to this run as these ladies are all more fit than I am and I figured I could really push myself to keep up with them as long as I could.  Unfortunately, my plan had a flaw. E got his Oculus Rift on Friday and invited several of his friends over to try it out.  By 10:30 PM the gaming rig was still open and under modification and the Rift had not yet been deployed.  They were having a great time, but they were loud.  There was no way I was going to be able to go to sleep until they left and it appeared like it was going to be a long night.  I wasn't wrong.  I got to play with the Rift, which was super fun, but I was also one of the early ones to bed at 1 AM.  This is the long explanation (plus some unexpected belly issues on Saturday AM) for why Saturday's run went from the planned 8.5 mile loop with elevation to 0.75 miles of jogging filed by 0.45 miles of walking.

Sunday, I fit in 8.16 every easy slow miles (4.5ish by myself plus another 3.6 with a friend who is ramping back up with run walk intervals after giving birth) plus another 1.42 walking miles in the afternoon while talking with a friend.

The good things here are that I finally started speedwork, I got back in the yoga studio, and I got my total mileage up to 28.51.  The bad thing (obviously) is that I walked way more of the miles than I would like for 10K training.

I've got 9 weeks 'til Danville, and we've got a few trips in that time, so realistically speaking, I think the big goals for me for Danville will be for me to move things around to ensure the following:

1. Get in one speed day per week (or make it up to average a total of 9)
2. Get in at least one core day per week (jump-rope calisthenics, yoga, etc.)
3. Get in at least two 6+ mile runs per week (this is going to be the toughest one, scheduling wise, but I do think it'll result in the best improvement)
4. Get the weekly mileage over 30 and keep it there.

If I can do that, I'll be completely happy with whatever performance I can pull off in Danville (and any local 5 or 10Ks I may throw into the schedule for fitness testing).  It's been so long since I've actually raced a 10K and my fitness is so much lower than historical levels that I want to just focus on getting in a good training cycle, increasing my mileage, and enjoying the goal race.

March 27, 2016

A Pause

Sunset over the Hudson River -- Such a beautiful visual goodbye
We spent last Sunday after the race making last minute travel plans to go to E's grandpa's memorial services.

Monday, we fit in a normal work day, and then Tuesday afternoon we were on a plane.  Wednesday it was a day full of driving with family and attending the wake (where we were comforted with this absolutely gorgeous sunset).  Thursday was a chapel service, another long drive, and the internment service.

I was raised in a Christian environment, was confirmed Lutheran (which means 3 years of reasonably diligent Bible study classes) and have only ever attended Christian funerals.  Today, while I think of myself as a spiritual person, I don't self-identify as belonging to any religion.  But damn if funerals don't remind me that there are some very good reasons why religions exist.

I said the Lord's Prayer 3 times in 2 days.  I bowed my head and joined in group prayers too many times to count.  I crossed myself after saying my final goodbyes to such a sweet grandfather figure.  I listened, and was comforted yet again by Psalm 23.  These rituals, the only ones I know for death, are sad and almost immediately bring me emotionally to all of the other losses I've experienced.  But they are also calming, comforting, and very helpful to remind me that the grief of death is a thing that is a part of life.  And we, the living, will continue forward.

As you might imagine, running was almost non-existent this week in terms of importance given all the logistical needs and family emotional obligations.  Monday, I rested.  Tuesday I returned to the jump-rope interval/core workout to give my legs another day of recovery from the race and I spent the next 4 days with very sore arms, shoulders and core.  Wednesday AM, I fit in a quick 3.5 miles on the treadmill and was very pleasantly surprised at the paces I could maintain for some harder long intervals.  Thursday and Friday were much too busy to fit in any runs (although the path along the Hudson looked very enticing and I would have loved to find a way to make it happen).  Saturday, I did an easy 2 miler, and today I slogged through a slow 10 miler.

Total mileage for the week:  18.06, which is fine with me.  I figure it's enough for maintenance of whatever minimal fitness gains I've made in 2016, and given everything else that was going on, I'm calling that a victory.

March 21, 2016

Oakland Half -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Fire Arch at the Crucible.
I really had no idea what to expect at ORF.  My "training" had been all over the place.  The speedwork since Kaiser had shown me that I'd definitely improved my short distance fitness, but since I hadn't really pushed through any real long runs since Kaiser, I wasn't sure how it would translate into distance performance.

The night before the race was a bit non-standard.  I opted out of a party that E was attending and closed out a bunch of work and housekeeping items while waiting for him to get home.  His mom called to inform us of a death in the family but asked me not to interrupt him at the party.  So, after poking around the Internet to investigate pre-race meals, I decided dinner of leftovers (carrot soup and turkish salad) should be fine.

I kept working and waiting for E until it was apparent that he was having too much fun and I should try to go to sleep.  I was a bit wound up, so I had a glass of wine to help me fall asleep (I don't normally have wine the night before a race, but I don't really think this one glass made any difference at all, I'd been hydrating like crazy all day and definitely didn't feel any wine-related negative effects).  He ended up not making it back to the house 'til after 11 PM, and I woke to tell him the bad news.  We chatted and then I fell back asleep.

The day of the race, I'll report in the style of The Classic Spaghetti Western:

The Good

I finished a half marathon healthy and happy.  I saw Cat before the start -- she'd gotten her 5K PR!  I enjoyed a delicious post-race bruch with Jen (who got her 5K PR *and* ran the half afterwards), Angela, and Clare (who also PR'd).

Jen could *not* wait for the pre-brunch doughnuts!

Mmmmm... Malfatti.  Delicious!
The Bad

I got up and out the door on time, stopped at Starbucks, ordered my standard pre-race latte, and hit the road, letting my phone guide me to the parking garage.  Except, I'd forgotten about road closures, so once I was in Oakland, I was blocked by the 5K that Cat and Jen were in the middle of running.  I had to do some creative driving, including a few miles on the coned-off half course down Mandela Parkway until I found a pay parking lot that was within jogging distance of the start.  Every other time I've run this race, I've *easily* parked in the lot across the street from Snow Park (the location of the start/finish/celebration).  So, this was definitely not ideal.

I started at an effort I thought I might be able to maintain, and then about 0.87 miles in, we hit a gated area around a construction site.  The crowd funneled to a walk.  Someone started a "let's go Oakland" cheer.  We had nothing better to do while we walked, so most of us joined in.  45 seconds later, we were able to start running again.  Not exactly an ideal first mile.

I hit the first aid station around 2.4 miles and walked a minute to take a gu and gatorade and water as planned.  I started back up for a 10:23 mile and realized I'd probably started too fast.  I knew this was a possibility, and I wasn't too concerned.  But it didn't bode well nonetheless.

Somewhere in this area Jen caught up to me, we said hi, and then I let her go as I started to slow.  I knew my A goal of 10:50/mile (assuming I ran 13.1, which is a big assumption on this case) was going to be tough.  I hit the 10K (by my watch) at an average pace of 10:51 and figured I'd keep an eye out for Clare.  She was doing 5 min run/ 1 min walk intervals and should be shooting for something in roughly that pace overall.  Sure enough, I found her, and we stuck together for a while.  The running segments felt good, but her walking recovery was *fast* and perhaps even more difficult for me than just running an even pace.  It was nice to have company though, so I enjoyed a few miles with her.  

The Ugly

At around mile 8 it became very apparent that carrot soup and turkish salad had *way* more fiber than I realized and I would be needing an on-course porta-john soon. (Why had I deviated from my go-to standard spicy noodle soup option?).  At the 8.5 mile aid station, they had portapotties, thankfully, so I told Clare to go on and waited.  In an uncomfortable state.  4+ minutes later, I was back on the course.

I knew I wouldn't meet my A goal, so I settled for my B goal of trying to beat my Kaiser time of 2:32ish.  It was a long slow slog, but I kept on, walking through the aid stations, but otherwise just trying to get done, finally crossing the finish at 2:34:36.  I didn't even beat my Kaiser time!  The only small improvement I can claim here is that my average *moving* time decreased from 11:22/mile at Kaiser to 11:09/mile at Oakland.

I'm definitely looking forward to training for a 10K next.  I want to enjoy some of those speedwork benefits.

March 13, 2016

Best Training Ever

So, E and I are celebrating a big anniversary in Mexico.

The view from our hotel room does not suck.
As you might imagine, since we've arrived, restraint on the food and alcohol side of things has not been very forthcoming.

This week's workouts were okay, if sparse.  The most notable workout was 7.25 miles -- 2 easy jog to and from the track each way plus 3+ miles of intervals at much faster than McMillan recommended paces for my target race time (I just could not slow down any more... my effort level felt much too easy, so I just went with the faster paces). Yesterday, I had a luxurious yoga session followed by a decent speed workout on the treadmill where I hit the McMillan paces exactly.  So now I've got today's workout to figure out to close out the week.

I know I should try to do something approximating a medium length run as my last opportunity for a long run before the race, but I'm guessing it's not gonna happen on the treadmill in the heat and humidity.  Instead, I'll likely do something short and speedy to get over the 20 mile mark for the week.

I think I've convinced myself that vacation is a great way to start a long taper.  I figure I'll clean up my diet next week, fit in some easy race-week runs, and see how that plan works out for me on race day!

March 8, 2016

Rainy Bay Area Bookish Fun

North Beach on a Rainy Night
Last week was full of rain, which is great for the drought, but a bit difficult for running.  Total mileage for the week was 25.89, with 9 miles of walking (more than normal), so the increase in mileage is almost entirely walking with running staying the same.  I'll take it.

I was jostling my workout schedule around work craziness, so I fit in whatever I could (which was no yoga or cross-training) and 3 separate runs of 3 miles each at about target race pace.  My "long" run was relegated to the treadmill on Saturday due to the rain, but after 4.25 miles in the humid garage, I decided I was just as wet with sweat as I would be if I ran outside, so I headed out for another 2 miles in the cool rain followed by 0.25 mile walking cool down.  6.5 mile "long run", huh?  Guess that means I'll have to fit in an *actual* long run before Thursday (the magical 10 day cut off before Oakland running festival).

Saturday night, E & I attended a birthday party at a speakeasy in SF in North Beach.  I hadn't been out in North Beach on a Saturday night in forever (possibly since my 20s?).  The speakeasy was across the street from the historic City Lights Bookstore, which I hadn't been to in a very long time.  I was so excited to poke around amongst the quiet patrons and the smell of books.  I bought next month's book club book as well as a collection of Ferlinghetti poetry and a collection of Spanish short stories with English on the opposite page to take to Mexico. 


Sunday AM, I co-hosted a book exchange brunch.  Like last year I took notes while guests spoke about one or more of the books they'd brought.  So, without further ado, here's the list of books the guests recommended:

JL -- A Visit from the Good Squad

CM -- Storming Heaven and Travels with Charley

KC -- God's Chinese Son (This one sounds fascinating.  I had no idea there was a guy in China during the 1800s who honestly believed he was Jesus Christ's little brother -- and he had followers!)

HG -- By Nightfall

CD -- Many books she really couldn't get into.  Several folks in the group agreed with her about The Poisonwood Bible (which I loved, but I do agree that it's a bit preachy).

CT -- Blink and David & Goliath.  With a thoughtful discourse on how Gladwell plays fast and loose with statistics and that she would encourage readers to pull the actual studies to see if they agree with how Gladwell chooses to characterize and use them.

KT -- Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Coupled with some thoughts about living in San Francisco for the last 13+ years and how these issues have always existed but are *very* obvious in the San Francisco of today.

CP -- The Midwife's Confession and Icy Sparks

CP2 -- The Emperor of Ocean Park

BT -- The Story of My Teeth, My Brilliant Friend, and Winter's Bone

E2 -- Purity 

March 3, 2016

A Modern Love Tale With IT (When you have a niece)

Niece was calling ‘cause her phone didn’t work.  And, all sensitivities aside, everything she said was a super polite investigation into how the bill probably wasn’t paid (‘cause I pay her phone bill).

This hurt me.  Not me personally, but rather, understanding where she was coming from.  She comes from a world where her assumption about managing the feelings of the people who may have missed the bill is a strong and smart survival skill.  But I am the one who answered her call.  On the same Verizon account she’s worried about with the bill (e.g. if I hadn't paid, I couldn't answer).  So I didn’t miss the bill.  I autopay.  On credit.
Explaining this to her was hard.  Mainly because she didn’t believe me.  She comes from a world where adults can’t be trusted when they say the bills are paid.  And I get it, sort of, I know I come from a place close to where she comes from, but I've been away for a long time.

Eventually, she trusted me to do tech support about her phone via online chat.  We did a bunch of back and forth.  I did what I could.  I chatted with Verizon tech support and sat on the phone (her other Auntie’s) for so long, coaching her through reboots, and SIM card removals, and finally (thankfully) network setting resets.

All of a sudden, after she followed the last set of ridiculous instructions I conveyed (copied from the online chat support) her phone worked again.

And she thanked me.  

I confirmed that the thanks was warranted via text to her supposedly working phone.   

When she replied, I told her to call her dad, who’s in the hospital.  (Not that she needed my encouragement but more as a, "hey, I fixed your phone, use it for the best stuff" type message.)

And in response she sent me “I love you” emoji.

So, in short, I guess everything is wonderful.

February 28, 2016

Elevation Training

Recovery from the Kaiser SF half was more difficult than I expected.

Probably because after completing the first half marathon I'd done in 7ish months, the next day E & I hiked up to Coit tower, which, while cool, was perhaps not the most advisable recovery activity.

Coit Tower is on Telegraph Hill (an actual nontrivial hill).  The hike up from sea level involves lots of stairs.  Enjoy!
The rest of the week was a bit of a sad showing.  My left shin was in pain and my body was just generally beat up.  So I took it very easy in prep for our ski vacation, throwing in:

1. some weightlifting and recumbant bike
2. a full rest day
3. a 3 mile treadmill workout of  1 mile ladder (5.0 to 6.1 min. each) followed by 2X5 minute ladders from 6.1 mph to 6.5 mph workout (with walking recovery) totaling 3 miles in 35:52
4. 3 miles @ 10:51 with some walking cooldown
5. 3 miles @ 11ish/mile with Sis at 4,000ft+ elevation
6. Sunday - first downhill ski day in 2 years at 6,570ft+ elevation.

Who needs a purse?  I can stuff the pockets of a running jacket over a fleece over long underwear like no-one's business.
 The next week was more of the same:

1. Monday ski half-day due to whiteout.
2. Tuesday perfect ski day, 10AM-3PM with a short lunch break and multiple sessions of 5 minute intervals down steep blues followed by 5 minute recovery up the chairlift.

FYI -- I opted out of black diamonds this trip.  I am fine.  E broke his arm (which may or may not be related to his black diamond escapades).  Regardless, I feel that I made the correct choice for me.


 Wednesday AM I ran a short 2 mile interval workout on the treadmill (1% incline, 400s at 6.0 mph was enough to spike my heart rate, yay elevation!).  I did this at the spa before a dip in the jacuzzi and sauna time followed by a decadent spa day (gift from my father-in-law) with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law.  Then we flew home and managed luggage with a one-armed travel party member.  Good times.

Thursday was yet another full rest day (holy return-to-work-craziness!).

Friday, I headed out with visions of elevation benefits, but hit 1.5 miles at 11:51 and called it to walk the remaining 0.46 miles home.  I was shot.  Exhausted from the travel, the time change, and just generally not in it.

Thankfully, Saturday, I busted out 6 miles at an easy effort average pace of 11:48 with the last mile at 10:06.  And today, I did a slowly increasing time every mile no-fuel 9 miler at an average pace of 12:23.  I don't really know how to measure the mileage for the last two weeks with the skiing, but what I can say is that I feel good about doing 15 running miles (plus another 2+ walking) this weekend.  It's been a while since I've had such a solid running weekend (outside of a race), so that's encouraging.  Makes me feel like I'm still headed in the right direction for Oakland.  So wish me luck.

February 16, 2016

SF Kaiser Half Race Report (with Bonus Olympic Trials Reporting)

Happy Valentine's Day SF Embarcadero Arrow!
Saturday AM, I watched the US Olympic trials with Jen and Cat because somehow, despite being overworked and egregiously tired, Jen saw my tweet asking if anyone wanted company to watch the trials and confirmed that I could invite myself over she could host us if we were willing to come to her.

Little known fact about BT -- I *love* watching sports.  I am a dedicated sports spectator and I don't really care what the sport is.  The Olympics *destroy* my productivity.  Same for the World Cup.  UFC.  Weightlifting.  Martial Arts.  Boxing.  Track and Field.  American Football.  Baseball.  Basketball.  Gymnastics & Diving (duh!).  Same for just about any physically demanding sporting event.  I just love watching the human body do cool things (and all the drama and dedication and whatnot that I know goes into it just makes it that much better for me).

So, watching the US marathon trials with fellow running lovers and cheering on the hard work (and crying, hopefully discreetly, at powerful finishes) was a great way to spend the Saturday AM before my first half marathon in 7 months.   Also, I think I'm going to go try to watch in person next time.  I was super jealous of the folks who were there.

Take home points:

1. Desi is the best pacer ever.  She is a metronome and smart and disciplined and remains my run-your-own race idol.

2. Amy and Shalane have a strong friendship and watching their emotional bond and Shalane's competitiveness visibly overcome the physicality of heat exhaustion to get Shalane over the finish line and make the Olympic team was inspirational teamwork at its best.

3. Kara Goucher is back!  That performance was nothing short of awesome, particularly admitting that she pretty much knew she wasn't likely to make the team from mile 22 on and yet she kept pushing to do her absolute best.  Gutsy and brave showing.  I'm so excited to see what she does in the 10K.  I have a good feeling!  (And, I was so sad for her, too.) 

4. Meb is the epitome of what the sport and humanity has to offer.

5. Galen Rupp's bouncing necklace would drive me nuts!

After the trials, E & I and a bunch of friends contributed to the Deadpool box office route, then I made lentil soup and drank lots of tea before bed. Sunday AM everything went according to plan.  I got up on time, drove to my usual Kaiser SF parking spot, took the bus to the start, used the portajohns, and started back a minute or so.

They call it the Sunset District for a reason...Dinner with Friends on Monday.
 I'd set some modest goals, and I showed up ready to do my best.  Jen had reminded me that the course has some nice downhills and that I should be ready to take advantage of them, because they are fun, so I did.

Miles 1-3: Average pace 10:53/mile.  I was happy with this as I tried to run by effort and every time in the first 2 miles I looked down at my watch, I saw 10:0X.  Yikes.  I knew I couldn't do a half at that pace, but I also knew the first couple of miles were relatively downhill, so I cut myself some slack, slowed down but finished the first miles in high 10s and then naturally slowed down for the 3rd uphill mile in 11:27.

Mile 4: Took a liberal Gu walking water/fuel break around mile 3.4, left my watch running, picked the pace back up and hit the mile marker at 11:04.

Mile 5: 11:05 on the nose including another walking water break.

Mile 6: 10:25 for a net elevation loss of 105 ft.

Mile 7: 10:59 including a Gu walking water/fuel break at the 10K and a net elevation loss of 92 ft.

Mile 8: 11:23.  Woo-Hoo!  After passing the 8 mile marker, I get music! 

Mile 9: 12:19.  The first song was a gift, my cadence naturally increased and I started slowly passing people.  I felt so strong and energetic.  And then... my phone muted the sound at the end of the song.  I stopped to walk and trouble shoot.  Rebooted my phone.  Walked through the water station and fueled with my 3rd Gu.  Started running again.  Started a new song.  It gave me tons of energy.  It then also muted at the end.  WTF?  I stopped to walk and troubleshoot again, frustrated.  No, not frustrated, fucking angry.  WHY WON'T MY MUSIC WORK?  I crossed the 9 mile marker and realized I was averaging 11:07/mile at that point.

Wow.  I took a minute to congratulate myself a bit.  I had more or less hit my A pace goals on point by mile 9 and I still felt fairly good.  This was already a victory.  

Except, frankly, at this point, I was more interested in fighting with my phone, listening to music, and just finishing easily than trying to push it.  So that's what I did.

I fought with the audio features (pulling the volume bar up to hear music and then watch it slide back down to mute of its own accord is particularly frustrating at mile 10) for another 3 miles before finally solving the mystery.  My headset has been dying and its death results in a signal of disconnection which results in a mute because no one wants to hear you blasting whatever it was you previously had in headphones.  AH-HAH!

Mile 10:  11:53 -- phone/music struggles, running easily when music worked
Mile 11:  12:13 -- more of the same
Mile 12:  13:08 -- lots of walking through water stations, electrolyte liquid stations, finally understanding why music that won't play at volume.  Decided to skip the last Gu station.  I wasn't pushing my blood sugar performance limits at all.  I knew I had enough gas in the tank to finish.
Mile 13:  11:33 -- Now that I'd figured out the music issue, I ignored the hot spot on my right foot and ran the last 1.5 miles or so straight to the finish.
Last 0.28:  12:04/mile pace with 26 feet of elevation gain in the short distance.

The final story is simple.  I was very happy with the performance. (Garmin: 13.28 miles @ 11:28 AVG; Chip: 13.1 @ 11:37 AVG)  I did worse than McMillan predicted (of course, he didn't predict my music woes) but better than last year.  I was very happy to take that as a good solid step in the right direction towards regained fitness and a good performance in Oakland.

Sunday night Valentine's day date dinner was deliciously decadent multi-course Italian.  The next day, E & I slept in, relaxed with coffee on the balcony, worked a bit, and then walked to and climbed the stairs up to Coit tower before viewing the line of tourists and deciding we'd come back on a less popular day.  We hiked back down, had a brunch of oysters at Waterbar, relaxed and pseudo-worked on the holiday afternoon and went to dinner at friends' in the Sunset for home-cooked Korean food (YUMM!!! Korean shrimp vegetable pancakes, where have you been my whole life?).

Today, my calves are super tight (perhaps the post-first-half-in-7-months shouldn't be followed with stairs up to and down from Coit tower?) and my left shin has some indications of anterior tibialis pain.  (Lame.  But not surprising given the multiple left ankle sprains in the late fall.)  Today I took it easy and did recumbant bike and weight lifting to help my legs recover.

Next up?  Downhill Skiing for the first time in 2 years... I'll do my best to turn it into some form of useful cross-training for Oakland.  

Wish me luck!

February 12, 2016

Kaiser Half Marathon Pre-Race Check-In

Going into my first half marathon since June, after a late fall full of injuries, I've got some very modest goals.

A:  Keep it at an average of 11:05/mile, allowing for some slightly faster/slower segments for the hills and finish around 2:25.  This is actually an interesting goal for me to set.  I don't want to push it faster than this goal, which is something I've never ever thought before a race  (who goes into a race with a "not-to-exceed" performance mindset?).  But this performance is what I think is the absolute best possible performance I could do without destroying my desire to continue to build up for the Oakland Running festival.  If I hit mile 8 and I'm just chomping at the bit to speed up maybe I'll re-evalute, but if history is any guide, I'm much more likely to head out and string some mid-low 10s together before I start to slow with each mile and eventually hit a huge wall of suck.  I'd like to avoid that.   

B:  Finish faster than McMillan's predicted performance based off the Chrissy Field 5K:  2:27:56 (11:18 pace)

C:  Finish faster than last year's relatively chill performance: 2:35 (sub 12).  This would be roughly the pace of the (no fuel) 15K 4 weeks ago, but 4 more miles, so still an obvious increase in performance to be happy about.

D:  Just finish 13.1 miles for the first time in 7 months healthy and happy to have a body that can do so, and note that it's a solid long run in prep for Oakland.

I've got two big variables currently working against me.  First, I'm even heavier than I was at last year's Kaiser Half.  I'm working on it and things are trending in the right direction, but with 5 days to go, it's apparent where I'll end up.  Second, the predicted high is 72F -- and I'm very sensitive to direct sun and heat.  It's quite a bummer because several of my runs these last few weeks have been so enjoyable in the blissfully perfect (to me) 40s-50s.  Oh well... I can still hope for a cold day in Oakland.

I do have a few things working for me.

First, I'm at the point in my fitness build up where I'm building strength easily and my legs are visibly more solid than they were several weeks ago -- I've got the body type that gains strength in response to loading, and I tend to do so before I lose weight, even when focusing on decreased calories and increased caloric expenditures like running and other cardio-heavy workouts.

Second, looking at my training log from last year, I'm much more prepared to tackle 13 miles than I was then.  I'd essentially phoned it in after the NY Marathon in November, burnt out and busy with travel and work.  So, last year, I kind of just showed up and let F do the volunteer awesome pacer friend work of pulling me through a long run that wasn't very pretty.  I feel much more qualified to get myself through the race on my own motivation this time, which is a good feeling. 

Third, I think I'm actually going to run with music.  I almost never do this because if I've got friends I'd rather race with a focus on chatting with them.  But this time, since I'm solo, I think the music bribe and motivation is a good call.

Fourth, I haven't done a long run with any fueling in ages.  I'm crossing my fingers that my pre-race latte, and during the race gatorade and gu will definitely make for a more pleasant experience.

Wish me luck.

February 7, 2016

33+ Miles

This week, I put 33.77+ miles on my feet.  I walked less than 8 of those, including all walking warm-ups, cooldowns, and interval recovery.

In other words.  I had a real, serious, running week.


Doritos For the Super Bold -- Skywriting visible from my Super Bowl Sunday Run
Monday I rested.

Tuesday, I had good intentions, but work was insane.  I ran 0.5 on the treadmill but had to stop for a call.  Finally, I just fit in a walk and intended to have a solid long run with local group track day in the middle on Wednesday.

Wednesday, I slept in too much to run to track day.  I could have driven there, but I would have missed out on the mileage. So, I mapped out a long run and actually did 8.2 miles solo plus 0.8+walking.

Thursday, I did a mid-level effort 3 miler @ 10:44 average pace.   (I'm calling this a tempo at this fitness level.)

Friday, I decided to go hard.  I started with 11 minutes of jump rope and calisthenics intervals (6 X (1 min jump; 10 s rest: 30 sec (alternating pushups, dips, abs); 10 seconds rest)).  I recovered from that over a 30 minute client call and then opted for speed intervals on the road -- 9X400 w/0.1 mile walking R/I, averaging in the low 8s/mile for the speed.  It had been so long since I had done a demanding workout of this caliber.  I pretty much floated on endorphins for the rest of the day.

Saturday, I ran to friends so we could do brunch.  5.67 miles on a route I don't normally do, starting slow, but speeding up to a last tempo mile.

Today, I headed out for a super slow 8+ miles as my last long run before Kaiser.  I saw the skywriters (see above).  I slowed significantly towards the end, but I really didn't care, I just wanted to get it done in a comfortable aerobic state.  And I did.  8.21 miles in the highest of 12s (or even into the 13s if you believe my garmin since I forgot to shut it off while I fumbled with my phone and struggled to decipher the sky-writers). 

Why yes, this is what I consider a delicious post longish-run meal.
Upon arriving home, E & I snacked on lots of delicious salty, fatty snacks with a beer in prep for the super bowl party decadence (at which we were both surprisingly well behaved).

In short, I got in a temp. speedwork, and 2 long runs.  Best running week in a very long time.  Very much looking forward to Kaiser next weekend.

February 4, 2016

A Real Running Update

My running philosophy hasn't changed much over the years.  I set some minor race-based training and performance goals, and I try to hit them.  I miss them, most of the time, but in the process, I get some mileage in and keep myself relatively healthy.

I rarely set running goals that require me to modify my life.  Even the more difficult commitments I make to running are almost always behind work in terms of priority, which means they often get destroyed when work is a monster.

While I love how easy it is to relate to my running friends, my running goals are very different than most of theirs.  I enjoy a PR or good race performance as much as the next person, but I'm unwilling to make most of the sacrifices required to make them a regular occurrence.

And I'm totally okay with that.

I think that's the thing I've noticed about my running philosophy that's different from most of my running friends -- I just don't really get too disappointed in my running.  If I need (or hell, just want) to skip a workout or dial it down, I do so and I enjoy myself.  If I need to drop out of a race, I rarely beat myself up.  I'm aware that I probably *could* be pushing out better running performances, but most of the time, I don't.  And that's just who I am as a runner these last several years -- not very performance focused.

The first quarter of this year, however, I've combined my running goals with some general health goals, and that has made them slightly more important and harder to blow off.

The end result is I'm slowly improving my speed, strength, and stamina each week, while very slowly decreasing my mass.

This week, Monday I rested as planned.  Tuesday, work killed my scheduled workout.  Wednesday, my plan was to run to track, do the track workout and run home, to get myself to a psuedo long-run as well as some speed.  But, I slept in.  I surprised myself by mapping out a long run and heading out for 8.21 miles at a super-easy slow pace of high 12s/mile (McMillan recommended long run pace), followed by 0.83 miles walking cool down. 

So far in 2016, I've done:
- interval speedwork once a week every week
-long runs of at least 6 miles (and up to 9.3) each week
-an average of 22.5 miles/week with 5-10% increased mileage each week (counting walking) but slowly replacing much of the walking with running
-a few tempo runs  (last week's Chrissy Field 5K was a 10:17/mile effort -- one of the slowest 5Ks I've ever done, but it felt good to string some medium-high effort miles together regardless of the pace)

Essentially, I've got 4 decent and obviously improving consecutive running weeks for the first time in a long time.  Yesterday's mid-week long run was the first time I've made an effort to put running in front of work during the work week since September.

I've got 10 days 'til the Kaiser Half, which is a tune-up race for the Oakland Running Festival Half 5 weeks after that.  My goal is to stick to the current level of commitment, weekly speedwork, a long run, and increasing mileage each week until the ORF taper.  I'm actually a little excited to see how things pan out. 

Wish me luck.

February 1, 2016

Precarious Life

There are so many reasons you shouldn’t still be alive.  You could have been the ill-fated 15-year-old (a runaway), 23 year old (no family support), 35 year old (depressed), 67 year old (how do we even label you, survivor?).

And yet, you are not here on this list.

And we are.  We still live in this world.

That shit is heavy.  Heavy like the weight of books written by those who supposedly made it, but then chose not to make it all the way.  Heavy like the weight of Silvia Plath’s oven.

Fuckin’ heavy, man.

There are many contests in life.  Most of ‘em don’t matter.  But if I”ve learned one thing, it’s this.   

Teach your kids (biological, students, nieces, nephews, neighborhood kids) and know that you yourself are entitled to *survive* every contest as are they.  Be smart, but understand that survival privilege is real.  

 Let’s make it a thing we all acknowledge (and yes, it is likely harder to deliver this message to an audience who doesn’t have traditional privilege, but it doesn’t make it any less valid).

-Peace and love to Michael Feeney, you are one of many angels gone too soon.