July 16, 2018

Tomatoes: The Work Pays Off

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

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

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

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

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

Have I mentioned this is my favorite time of year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2018

Peachtree 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2018

Heat Training (Peachtree Week -1.5)

Gorgeous Views from Coyote Hills Park
First, TMI, but seriously, artichokes apparently have enough soluble fiber as well as other natural digestive properties that they should come with a gastric warning.  I do not recommend them as a treat for dinner the night before a long run in the heat (Even if they are in season and look delicious at the farmer's market!).  If you do make this mistake, I hope you are lucky like me, and there are many bathrooms and patient friends with you on your long run...

The plan was 10 miles.  The actuality was 1 mile, then a bathroom stop, 3 more miles to the next bathroom, then some walking in the opposite direction while your running buddy keeps running, then more running, then (unfortunately) another bathroom stop, eventually 8 miles total with 6 running and 2 walking.  Not the planned for 10 miles long running -- 2 miles short, including an extra 2 miles walked, not run. Not the workout I'd hoped for.  But possibly the same time in the heat on my feet as I'd originally planned, and at a minimum a very decent heat workout to prep for Peachtree, particularly given the gastric details.

After the run Jen and I went for delicious spicy beef noodle soup and it was amazing!

I ate as much as I could for lunch.
I had leftovers for E & me to 
have noodle soup dinner with a vegetable side the next night!

The week was great -- 20ish miles.  Plus also another 30 minutes of insane jumprope 1:30/1:30 calisthenics workout and 4+ gardening hours in 90F+ heat.

Leftover sausage and ribeye makes amazing Bolognese...

Also, I sincerely enjoyed cooking healthy meals at home.

Fergola salad with homemade hummus and spicy sauce.
I took a solid walking photo break in Fremont on my long-run when I was wrecked. And it was gorgeous.

Back-side of the Fremont loop...gorgeous.
And finally, Rotelle -- you know, the wheel pasta, adults (and children) can enjoy it, and it's delicious!

Rotelle with Bolognese.

June 18, 2018

Peachtree Week -2.5

The garden is in great shape and I'm excited for the first ripe tomatoes, which I assume will arrive in a couple of weeks.

I'd been going with a week-based countdown for Peachtree.  But, July 4 is on a Wednesday.  Which means, my Monday start of the week leaves me with less than half a week for the final one.  So, I'll call this check-in Week -2.5.

Also, it just feels like we're getting closer to the 4th of July at a faster rate than I can describe and I think that's because the seasonal change makes everything Summer feel much more imminent.

I had a great week.  23.87 miles of walking/hiking/running with 67% running including a nice solid 9 miler at 11:56, some speedwork in the 8s & 9s, and 2 strength mile intervals between biking to the trail and back with E in the mid 10s.  The hiking was unplanned, but a friend texted me the night before and asked if I wanted to go hike the Stanford Dish the next morning while she was unexpectedly in town.   YES!  I love combining my workouts with catching up with friends.

Cross-training is an area of improvement -- I'm making the time and effort to do some stretching and rolling to try to avoid returning to my left leg hamstring/glute insertion issue.  I also ramped up to a very hardcore (for me) 30 minutes of 1:30/1:30 jumprope with calisthenics (pushups, scissor kicks/crunches, side lunges, knee thrust planks, dips, front & back lunge leg extensions, side plank leglifts, deep squats/cross knee to elbow, jab-jab-cross; pelvic bridge) -- my goodness does this workout kill me.  Plus, I fit in a bonus 12 miles of random biking (I owe E for this one, he prefers to bike as his transit and so I opted in a few times when we were going somewhere together).

On the food side of things, last week was the second week in a row where we slept at home all week.  This means I can cook dinner every night and do bulk food prep for freezing, which is something I love to do.  I absolutely love having frozen pinto beans, hummus, and other healthy home-made treats available for defrosted use.

Yellow squash noodles
Saturday night, we had a typical "let's eat the random stuff left in the fridge" before we go to the Farmer's market meal.  The ingredient that needed to be used before it went bad?  Yellow summer squash.  Examining our other ingredients, I decided to go with a carbonara-inspired dish that wasn't really carbonara at all.

Yellow squash noodles with a carbonara-inspired preparation 
of ground turkey, garlic, eggs, milk, and pepperjack cheese 
topped with fresh-grated SarVecchio (parmigiana-style hard cheese from Wisconsin) 

Like many of my food experiments, it was... good.  Not great.  Definitely not carbonara.  But a good meal that used up the ingredients we had lying around in a warm and yummy way.  It had been a while since I'd cooked with squash noodles and I'd forgotten that even if you salt them and let them drain, they do continue to give off more water when heated.  Perhaps next time I'll bake them before tossing them in the saucepan.

June 11, 2018

Peachtree week -4

It's getting hotter.

And I'm not slowing down!  Woot!

Last week was 19.6 miles including an 8 mile long run in the low 12s, 3 miles tempo at 10:28, and 4X800; 3X400 (9:02 or faster; and mid 8s).

I also finally got back to my jumprope cross-training routine.

Jumping rope is SO HARD.  But I do love how quickly it kicks my butt and how easy it is to construct a very demanding cross-training workout of 1:30 rope/1:30 calisthenics (For starters, I went with 5 exercises and 15 total minutes -- pushups, scissor kicks, plank knee drives to elbows (cross and exterior), dips, side lunges).

I followed this up with an easy mile jog followed by a walking cooldown and was pleased with the quality of the workout as well as how little time it took.  I was sore for 2 days, which is simultaneously encouraging (yay! getting stronger) and depressing (seriously? 5 exercises plus jumping rope can make me that sore?).

With 3.5 weeks left, I am hopeful that I can continue to improve fitness and finish the Peachtree Road Race comfortably.  In terms of time goals, I'm going to have to wait to see the weather.  The heat and humidity can be brutal and I'm very susceptible to both.

The racing schedule is starting to shape up nicely for the rest of the year (and E's actually on board for quite a few of the events as well, which is a nice benefit due to the shorter races):

7/4/2018 Peachtree Road Race (10K) (With E)
7/28/2018 Crissy Field Parkrun (5K) -- (With E) Happy to make post-race brunch plans!
August -- looking for bay area suggestions if you have them
9/2/2018 Race To The End Of Summer (5K) -- (With E) Happy to host or make post-race brunch! (Thanks to Angela for the discount code)
9/9/2018 SF Giants' Race (10K) -- Happy to make post-race brunch plans!
October/Early November - evaluating options but considering Folsom Blues Half (or 5K) and Run The Parkway Half
Thanksgiving:  Atlanta Track Club Half Marathon (E may do the 5K)
12/2/2018 CIM relay (one or more legs)

June 4, 2018

Summer is Almost Here (Peachtree Week -5)

E and I visited my hometown last weekend and built rockets with the kids at my mom's party. The next day, we set them off.

The kids are almost out of school.

BBQ season has started.

The tomatoes are growing like crazy and have officially overtaken the kale as the tallest plants in the garden.

My todo list for this week includes planting cucumbers, squash, eggplants & peppers.

I am happy, happy, happy.  I love everything about Summer *except* running in the heat.

And, running is definitely getting harder for this high-heat-generating human as the bay area temperatures start to rise.  Being near Sacramento just made it even more difficult.

Last week's hardest effort by far was 2 miles @ 10:52/mile pace, uphill back home from the rocket launch with my (much) younger sister in the 90F heat of my hometown.

Weekly mileage was less than 20, but I fit in a 7 miler followed by some decent strides as well as 2 other easy runs at paces that used to be a little harder, so I'm feeling pretty good.

I'm very much enjoying the scheduled workouts for the 10Ks.  They are easier to fit in, and I'm focused more on improving my speed than I have been in several years, which is a nice change.  Fitness comes in many forms, but being able to hold faster paces is a type of fitness I'd let go over the last few years.  My mantra had become "just get the miles done" because I found that if I had the added stress of a distance and a pace, if I didn't hit both I didn't get the feeling of satisfaction that I craved from my running hobby.

Being able to focus on racing 6.2 miles means more speed and strength work, and all of the results that come from that.  I'd been struggling with whether I was better off registering for the half or the 10K for RNR San Jose, but when I started plotting what the training cycle would look like I did not like the idea of double digit long runs in August or September, so I'll be doing the 10K and decided to pick one or more half-marathons later in the fall.

May 27, 2018

Parkrun PR (Brave Like Gabe)

E and I decided to spend a couple of nights in the city for Memorial Day weekend.

Low light sunset over piers 1.5 - 3.
Friday night, I met an attorney-friend for celebratory drinks because our GDPR nightmare was now just ongoing and not a deadline.  After that, E and I enjoyed a delicious early date night dinner of grilled octopus, burrata salad, and mussels with homemade saffron fettuccine.  We were back in the hotel lounge for a nightcap by 8 and in bed, watching the adorable Lady Bird by 9, pounding sparkling water and water to hydrate for the next day's Crissy Field Parkrun. (Also, my honorary Brave Like Gabe 5K -- when I tried to register, they weren't accepting virtual registrations anymore, so I just made a donation to the organization in general and mentally made a note to run hard to push for people who are sick.)

I love how golden Oakland looks at sunset.

We fell asleep before 11:30 and slept peacefully until the hotel phone randomly woke us up with loud ringing at 3:52 AM.  No one was on the line.  It was bizarre.  Unfortunately, both of us had a difficult time getting back to sleep.

When my alarm went off at 7:05, I reset it for 7:20 and actually fell back asleep and started dreaming before the 7:20 alarm woke me up.  Groggy, we finally got up, did the vitamin taking, teethbrushing, and dressing required before heading up to the lounge for cappuccinos and a light pre-race breakfast.

Love Crissy Field Parkrun!
As I've been slowly increasing my fitness, my goal was to run sub 30.  I lined up towards the back of the pack and fidgeted with my headphones and phone, not quite working everything out by the time I heard "1-2-3 Go!"  So, we were off, and after a couple of minutes, noting that I was averaging 9:22/mile when my goal was 9:39 for the first mile, I decided to try to make the music work.  Eventually, after rebooting my phone, I got my Bluetooth headphones connected, saw 9:46 as the average pace for the lap on my garmin and picked it up.  E stayed with me and matched his pace to mine for that first mile, which was very helpful.

Magritte's Scheherazade
The Magritte exhibit at SF MoMA is one of
my favorite museum exhibits I've ever seen.
I hit the mile at 0.2 seconds faster than my target pace -- a little too close for comfort.  So I tried to pick it up just a little bit and E stayed with me.  Somewhere around 1.5 miles, he waved goodbye and took off (finishing 2m4s ahead of me).  I kept checking my watch, pushing and occasionally passing folks, hitting mile 2 with a 9:36.5 split.

Magritte's Personal Values
Okay.  At this point, I was working hard, but happy with where I was. I felt comfortable that I could probably keep it under 9:39 average and finish sub 30 to meet my goal.  It was a beautiful cool foggy day with views of the Golden Gate bridge and I was consciously practicing gratitude.

One of my favorites.

Except all of a sudden, it became apparent that many of the people I'd passed were using me as a pacer.  The first woman I'd previously passed, passed me and started clipping people off as she headed down the last 3/4 mile to the finish, much stronger than I was.  I'm not gonna lie.  I found it very difficult to be grateful about THAT.

Possibly my absolute favorite.
Honestly, I hadn't raced in such a long time I'd forgotten it was a thing.  I was so used to comparing myself against only myself that I found it shocking that I actually cared what the people around me were doing.

The next woman who tried to pass caused me to dig in and match her, staying just in front of her shoulder for a minute or so, until eventually, she stopped pushing me and I saw that I was close to a guy I'd been trailing for most of the race.  I pushed to pass him and he really didn't like that option.  He tried to surge past me, so I matched.  He dropped back for a few seconds.  He tried to surge again, I matched again.  He dropped back again.  This pattern played out a few more times until the last 10th of a mile where I never saw him again.

Meanwhile, about 4 of the women I'd passed earlier in the race took the opportunity to cleanly and strongly pass me while I was battling with surging dude.  I tried to push as hard as I could, but I couldn't stay with any of them.  My chest was hurting in that "this is uncomfortable, but I can probably keep this up 'til the finish" kind of way.  My legs felt like they probably had more to give, but my cardiovascular system did not.

Finally, I crossed the line and stopped my watch, very happy to see 29:39. My 3rd mile split was 9:29 with the last bit of the 5K at 9:10/mile pace.  All in all, a very well executed negative split race.

Post race dinner splurge.

This is nowhere in contention for the fastest 5K I've ever run.  In fact, it's about 29 seconds per mile slower than my PR marathon pace.  But, I haven't broken 30 in a 5K since I'd done so at Memorial Day Parkrun 2 years ago, and this time is faster than that one, setting a Parkrun course PR for me.

It's the highest percentage age grade race (50.99%) I've posted in about 3 years.  My age grade best is 60.30%, so I feel comfortable that I'm headed in the right direction fitness wise, AND, if I stay on it, I've got plenty of room for improvement within my historic norms.  I just need to continue putting up consistent basic good healthy habits and training.  And, I'm excited to get after it.

May 21, 2018

A Down Week with Paso Robles Wine Tasting

View of Justin Winery from the balcony of our room
E's parents came into town for a few days and I gladly traded miles for time with family.  They spent 2 nights in town, where we squeezed in dinners and lunches between work.  Then, on Thursday, we drove down to Paso Robles to spend two nights in wine country before they continued south to LA and we returned home.
Look closely, the flower buds are just starting for the grape bunches.  So cute!
Mileage for the week was 18.43, but I feel great about it, nonetheless.  I'd been pushing myself for a few weeks and the down week felt right.  Plus, I did manage to squeeze in the best track workout I've done this year (have I mentioned how much I love having the track 0.5 miles from my house!):

4X800/3minRest; 2X400/90sR (9:00; 8:51; 9:01; 9:06; 8:33; 8:53)

E and I are not as hardcore as some folks when it comes to wine-tasting.  It turns out, we're on roughly the same speed as his folks, which was a pleasant surprise.  We've done trips with people who want to hit 15 wineries -- it's just so exhausting and, honestly, not fun for us after the first few.  This trip was gloriously mellow and perfect.

Thursday we toured Justin and did a seated tasting in their special members' only lounge (that you get access to with the tour, even if you aren't a member).  1 winery, dinner out in town, and some post-dinner wine was perfect for us.

Friday, we had a leisurely morning (okay, some were more leisurely than others, I had some client commitments, so I worked while E and his dad hiked), and then we headed out for an olive oil farm tasting.

Kiler Ridge Olive Oil Tasting -- Highly Recommended.
If you've never done olive oil tasting, I highly recommend it.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil doesn't have a legal meaning in the US.  But the folks that take it seriously observe the European rules, and boy can you tell the difference between the Bertolli they start you with and all of the other artisanal options.

From there we quickly snacked on nuts and cheese to fortify ourselves and then toured and tasted at Tablas Creek (also highly recommended) before closing out the day at Brecon Estate (where there are picnic tables and the tasting servers will come to you with your next pour instead of requiring you to stand at the tasting bar).  For dinner we did the 5+ course meal at Justin and all of us agreed that it was amazing.  There are only 6 tables in the restaurant.  The night that we ate there, they only served 3 tables, each seated 30 minutes apart.  There was one server.  One head chef. One sous chef.  It was by far the most intimate meal out I'd ever experienced.

View of the Paso Robles hills from Kiler Ridge.
Overall, it was such a peaceful, lovely experience.  Low-key with lots of time to enjoy conversation with E's folks.  Very different than the last few times we'd gone winetasting.  We were definitely ensconced in the westside of Paso, a good thirty minutes from the town (cell service was very spotty, but the property had wifi), but that meant that the mornings were absolutely nothing but bucolic silence (until the hardcore folks showed up to start their tasting days at 10 AM).

Saturday AM, I took advantage of our location to run 2.25 miles in the vineyards under the fog from the Pacific, fitting in hill repeats on the tractor trails and paved sections wherever I found a good hill on the property (which I had to myself).  I did this workout without any music or phone, just me, the early morning vineyard noise and the fog.  I only had 30 minutes, but I made the most of it, enjoying one of the more satisfying workouts I've done in a long time.

Venus next to the moon on our drive back from town on Thursday after dinner.

Overall, I'd say my biggest emotion about last week was gratitude.  I was so grateful to be healthy and run when I could but not feel any pressure to do more than made sense.  I was even more grateful that E's parents came to us to spend time with us.  And, of course, I was grateful, as always, at just how gorgeous California is, and how lucky I am to be able to live here (and to visit the part of the state where some of my family is from).

May 13, 2018

Just Trying to be My Healthy Self (Peachtree Week -8)

I'm doing all (or most of) the right stuff, running-wise.  This feels great.  Good food.  Lots of sleep.  Reasonable increase in workouts.  Very slow decrease in body mass without too much hunger, but generally trending in the right direction.

It's also slow but steady progress on the fitness increase, which is the higher order goal.  I'm pushing myself pretty hard on pacing on the shorter stuff and I'm seeing some improvement.  But this leaves me wanting more!  This week's mileage was 26.08, with notable workouts including 1.75 miles w/E @ 9:50 pace; 6 medium effort with Jen on Saturday @ 11:27 (including 30 second walk breaks every mile); and 8X400 with 90s rest with the track group, all sub 9 min/mile except 1 @ 9:02 pace, which caused me to take a longer break so I could do the last 3 in the high 8s (last one was 8:29).  I also joined a friend at Cyclebar for a 60 minute ride one day, which was a fascinating experience -- first time I've ever worked out with earplugs.

This is what happens when tatsoi and mustard greens go to seed.
In terms of races -- I've now got 3 on the calendar.  Crissy Field parkrun May 26.  Peachtree Road Race July 4 in ATL in the heat and humidity (much more of a comparison against previous performances than a PR effort).  Pacing a friend at the Giant Race 10K in San Francisco on September 9.  So this leaves me with a choice.  Pick a Fall half and have just that as my one hard effort on the books, or try to find something shorter somewhere in there where I can do a strong effort... suggestions welcome!

Meanwhile, life is proceeding apace, as it does.  Guita keeps growing (she's getting huge!).  The tomatoes in the ground are thriving and the winter garden has completely bolted at this point (except the oh so lovely speckled romaine).  The tomato seedlings are so big that I need to transplant them so they can continue to thrive if I plan on delivering them through early June (which I do).

I am in love with the speckled romaine!  Delicious.  Beautiful.  Continually productive. Heat tolerant (hasn't bolted yet!)
In other news, one of the interesting side effects of quitting Facebook is that I'm reaching out and interacting via text, meals, IRL meetups, runs, etc. with more people than I used to do.  The human need to connect is still there, and I can't satisfy it with an easy FB answer now.  I think, overall, this is definitely one of the biggest improvements in my life since quitting FB.  I've been having text conversations, phone calls, and IRL interactions with folks I care about on a much higher frequency than I did before I opted out.  Of course, I've lost the light interactions with a larger group in exchange and I do miss that sense of knowing what's going on, but I think the decreased processing of those folks and their life is a net positive, even when weighed against the loss of knowledge of what they're up to.

May 6, 2018

Actually Back to Training (Peachtree week -9)

Friends with chickens are the BEST!
I finally hit a 25 mile week for the first time since January.  Even being at home, cooking good meals, and not being too busy with work, it's still been very difficult to safely get the mileage up to a respectable number without injuring myself (which I'm obviously very cautious about given the left leg issues in late '17 and early '18 and right shoulder dislocation in March).  But I finally did it!  And, as always, once you start to get into better shape, being in better shape and working hard felt great.

2 hours to make deviled eggs from scratch
(including homemade aioli)
15 minutes for them to be devoured at a party
Monday and Tuesday I had a visitor in town from New York (one of the string of many who grace our guest room and make us less sad about all the folks who've left the bay area).  She's a faster runner than me, but graciously slowed down and joined me for 2 miles in the mid 11s as her cooldown one day and 3 miles at 11:03 as an easy run for her and an almost medium effort run for me.

Wednesday, I headed out to meet my local running club on the trail.  They've moved things around and the long run is now on Wednesday AM, which is difficult for me, work-wise, driving 20 minutes to do a long run and then driving 20 minutes back afterwards makes the long run *much* longer than doing something on my own.  So, I decided I'd just drive to the closest entrance to the trail they run and jump in when they get there, around mile 2 for them.  My plan was to join the first runner and try to hang on as long as I can, then drop back and hang for at least 1.5 miles, before finally running back to the entrance on the trail solo.  It worked wonderfully.  I did drills and calisthenics 'til the first runner arrived and then I hung on for dear life for a mile in the low-mid 8 minutes/mile.  Yeah, I haven't done that in a while!  I slowed for a recovery mile and then did 10 X 1 min hard/1 min jog for a total workout of 3.27 miles plus 6 targeted calisthenics exercises.

Only about 30 garden beets left to harvest and eat or gift!
They are delicious.
Wednesday PM, Jen was in my neck of the woods for work and I convinced her to come visit instead of sitting in traffic during rush hour.  We headed back out to the trail and did a nice easy chatty 3 miles @ 11:31/mile (much like A, the previous visitor, she also slowed down for me, and I appreciated it).  Another milestone!  I don't think I've done a double workout in any form in years, and *certainly* I haven't done a double day of runs in at least 5 years.

Friday night dinner: camembert risotto and leftover beets and beetgreens.
Thursday afternoon, after a non-stop stressful day of work, I jogged to my new local track and busted out 5X800 with 3 minutes walking recovery (paces: 9:00; 9:12; 9:10; 9:28; 9:18).  I had such mixed feelings about this one.  It was so hard.  And the paces were so slow compared to my historical pacing.  But it felt so good.  It felt fast (because I haven't run fast in so long).  Did I mention it was hard?  Also, the training plan called for 6, but after the 5th interval, I decided I'd pushed myself harder than I had in a long time and I really didn't want to re-injure myself.  Coupled with Wednesday's double, I decided to take it easy.  So I jogged home and logged a total of 4.33 miles.

Good call, too, because my left knee was all twingy that evening while I just walked around the kitchen and cooked.  Clearly, I'd pushed it right to the edge.  I took Friday off completely.

Saturday, I'd hoped to run 9.  My last long run of 7 had been a decent effort in the low 12:00s about 10 days prior and I figured I should be able to do 9 without too much trouble.  Ummm... no.  My left knee was better, but still a little twingy, and, uh, running by effort meant that easy was 13:07/mile average pace.  So, yeah, I modified the plan, did a loop of 3 super slow miles and pushed the long run to Sunday.

And then, today, what do you think happened?  I headed out, feeling pretty good, but a little apprehensive about the knee.  I hit mile 2 at a sub 13/mile pace and started to think seriously about how I was feeling and whether I wanted to be out for that long.  I did a quick mental mileage total and realized I'd be jumping from two weeks of sub 20 to 29+ miles if I executed on my plan.  Also, it was sunny and, per the norm, we've got another guest at the house that I was neglecting.

So, I settled for 3.12 easy @ 12:12, followed by 10 X 30s hard/60s walk; and then a jogging cooldown for a total of 4.81 miles for the day and 25.57 miles for the week.

If I can keep this level of effort up for the full 9 weeks between now and Peachtree, I'll be thrilled.  I don't expect my pacing to improve egregiously, given that it's just going to keep getting hotter.  But, I do hope that if I put in a good late Spring and Summer block, I'll be in decent shape to race a half in the Fall once it cools off, which would be wonderful.

April 27, 2018

Spring Garden Mung Bean Salad

My garden is full of overproducing greens.

The tatsoi has bolted.
After pulling most of the butter lettuce, pulling outer leaves from the red lettuce and speckled romaine daily, freezing all of the remaining spinach, as well as the outer leaves of the mustard, kale & tatsoi, and tossing the brussel sprout plants that grew like crazy but never budded up, I still have an egregious amount of fresh greens to preserve or use before it gets too hot and they die.

Tonight, I looked in the pantry and realized I had some dried mung beans, which as they tend to be on the starchier side for pulses, I decided they would be a good base for a salad made of stuff we had in the garden and in the kitchen.  It was delicious.

The finished product (although E & I both added grated romano on top)
Serves 2:

1/3 lb dried mung beans (I boiled the whole pound, and just refrigerated the remainder of the beans for later use in the week)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
5 large kale leaves, destemmed (save & chop the stems), with kale sliced into 1/2 cm ribbons perpendicular to the stems
1 gigantic stalk of celery from the garden (likely 2 or 3 grocery store stems), chopped
1 tomato, chopped
black pepper
dried ground cumin
3 T butter
2 T lemon juice

1. Cover mung beans with 2X volume of water, add a dash of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes and immediately remove from heat, rinse in cold water, and drain. Re-rinse with more cold water if they are still steaming to stop them from overcooking.

2. Place butter, 1/2 minced garlic, 1/2 minced shallot, chopped kale stems and celery into a pan (I re-used the mung bean cooking pot).  Heat to medium and sautee until celery and stems start to soften.  Turn off heat and add salt, black pepper, and lemon juice to taste and stir while cooling.

3. In a mixing bowl, place cooled mung beans, chopped kale, tomatoes, the other half of the minced garlic and shallots.

4. Mix the hot butter/kale/celery/garlic/shallot dressing into the mixing bowl and toss.  Add cumin to taste and adjust salt/pepper accordingly.

5. Serve in bowls with forks.  Feel free to grate a dried hard cheese over the top for more fat and protein.