October 18, 2014

Love NYC

In one of my alternate lives, I definitely lived for quite some time in New York.  I fit there.

I *really* liked my visit to Chicago -- in discussions with E, F&P, I even compared it favorably to New York, referring to it as cleaner, more planned, and more civilized.  I sincerely believed these things when I said them.

And yet, despite the identified "betterness" of Chicago against the big apple, per the usual, upon arrival and every day of my visit, something (or many things) about Manhattan struck a chord of pure joy with me.

There's so much humanity.  So many people.  With so many very different lives.  I can't help but notice the obvious variety and differences between the individuals in the masses, and as such, as my own particular brand of weirdo in the walking crowds, I feel less alone.

We're all so different.  But together, in the same physical space and doing the same basic breathing, eating, walking, ducking to avoid the rain -- I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself, with so much energy.  And it's wonderful.

Our hotel for this stay was on 36th street, just outside of Korea Town.  So, after checking in, we went to dinner and started the meal with a table full of delicious Banchan.

This is my favorite thing about Korean food!  Mmmm... pickled and delicious side dishes.
 E had Bibimbop and I had delicious Soondooboo jiggae.

So Delicious!
The rest of the trip was a welcome combo of work, food, and socializing.  Day 1, I worked from the hotel until Nish arrived, and we headed out for a short mid-day run in Central Park.  So iconic.  After we cleaned up, and worked some more, we headed to Kura for one of the best omakase sushi meals I've ever had.

Day 2, I woke early, worked 3-4 hours, and then Nish and I did a quick fast 5K each at the hotel gym (we're doing the NYC marathon together, and one benefit of dropping out of Chicago is that I was in decent shape to join her on some runs this week).  From there, we headed to a spa for massages, lunch at Babbo with her hubby & babe (yeah, that's right, their not quite 2 year old was well behaved enough to join us for a fancy lunch at Babbo. He's a rock star.)

On our way back to the spa to take advantage of the hot tubs, sauna, etc., we walked through Washington Square.  The rain from the AM had completely burnt off and it was gloriously beautiful for an indulgent half day off work with an old friend.

After our water treatments, we walked most of the way back to our hotel, worked, and then walked together to my evening obligations in Times Square.  Because of this, in less than 30 hours, a good friend and I jointly visited Central Park, Washington Square, Union Square, Madison Square Garden, Bryant Park, and Times Square (the last one was more of a hassle, whereas the previous ones were each a pleasure) -- How cool is that?

Lego Statue of Liberty in Madison Square Garden

Day 3, I worked, headed to a lunch with a professional colleague with whom I've worked for almost a year and had not yet met.  We had a fun chatty lunch at Taralluci e Vino in the Flatiron district.  I walked to and from the lunch, worked before and after it, and E&I met up with D at Inakaya -- they did a good job of transporting the concept we loved from Tokyo into midtown Manhattan and we had a very enjoyable meal and experience.

Day 4, E&I woke, packed and headed to the airport.

And now, finally, after 8 packed days away, I am thrilled to be home.

Bonus -- since I didn't actually do a marathon in Chicago and my knee seems to have recovered after a few easy days and some icing, I'm excited to get up early and fit in a long run tomorrow. 

October 13, 2014

Chicago Marathon DNF weekend (Complete with Snarky MD Commentary)

The title says all you need to know about the short version. But the long version is that this weekend was super enjoyable, despite the disappointment.

The "Bean" -- so cool.
I came into the race very confident that I could meet my goals, which were relatively simple:  Finish healthy in a time that shows that I've rebuilt my fitness.

I'd gotten over my cold.  The data showed that I'd done a total of 592.97 miles in 18 weeks for an average weekly mileage of 33.2.  Some of those miles were slow jogs, some were run walks, and some, especially early on, were walks.  But I I'd given myself permission to do whatever I needed to do to get the mileage done during the 18 week cycle.  When I looked at the volume I had completed despite my work, travel, and life obstacles, it was clear that my plan had worked.  So, I felt confident that I had done a good job of getting myself at least halfway back to where I'd historically been and I knew the marathon was going to be fun since I didn't have the pressure of a time goal.

Riverwalk across the river from the race hotel.

Friday, I flew, worked, dealt with ORD delays (the ATC fire is still wreaking havoc), and ate room service/worked/slept at an airport hotel.  Saturday, I woke, cabbed into town through the massive traffic jam of arriving folks, and checked in to my race hotel.
Gigantic Expo at the McCormick Place
From there, the remainder of the day was dedicated to pre-marathon logistics.  This may be (simultaneously) one of my favorite and least-favorite things about huge races.  It took an entire day to catch the shuttles to and from the expo, pick up the necessary stuff at the expo, wait in line for lunch near the hotels where all the runners were staying, walk to the start from the hotel for reference so I'd know how to get there, relax in bed and take the blissful indulgent pre-race nap, eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, greet E at his arrival and finally turn out the lights and fall asleep.  On one hand -- a total waste of a day.  On the other hand, such a luxurious letting go and just going with the oh-so-slow-flow that is 45,000 people trying to prepare for any big event in the same location.  I think the day before a marathon is one of the only times when I feel justified in just doing almost nothing for a full day.

Obligatory Tourist experience?  Us and several hundred other runners?  Check.

It was almost a 2 hour wait for this bad boy.  But it was worth it.
Sunday AM went well.  I woke 5 minutes before my alarms, turned them off so as to not wake E, had my coffee & athletic-food-bar, got dressed, and all went according to plan (which is a blessing my runner peeps will understand).  I was out the door into high 40s F weather with plenty of time to spare, but encountered some unpleasantness when the gates started closing earlier than the scheduled times.  There was no communication between the volunteers, so gates were closing in very unpredictable ways.  For example, Gate 2 closed before 7:30 AM, and those of us in wave 2 were told to run to Gate 3 (note, running before a marathon in an unplanned manner is not exactly my favorite thing on marathon morning).  We did.  Gate 3 let us through, but then the G corral was closed in front of us as we arrived (all of the Gate 2 folks were F corral), and they told us to run *back* out Gate 3 and back in Gate 4 for H or I *or* we could wait 'til after all of the corrals in wave 2 had left and then they'd let us in.

Such a gorgeous day for a marathon through the beautiful Chicago Skyline.
At this point, I opened my Gatorade, started my late-stage hydrating, and walked forward, locked out of the corrals, but headed towards the actual start gate.  I figured at some point after Wave 2 started they would open the side gates and I'd rather be as close to the start as possible when they did so.  I arrived at the F corral to find the gates completely open (as in the Gate 2 closure was not coupled to the F corral closure) so I flashed my bib and calmly walked in.  10 minutes later, the body heat of the crowd was warm enough that I ditched my long sleeve shirt and my mittens about 4 minutes before the Wave 2 start.  And then we were off (with me crossing the start line approximately 3 minutes after the official wave 2 start horn).

Somewhere in the middle of the race, below the "El" train.

The weather was cool.  Shade was abundant (thank you architectural high rises!).  The crowd support was unlike anything I've ever encountered.  It was so inspiring that I never even considered putting in my headphones.  I just ran, occasionally checking my Garmin to ensure I wasn't going faster than I could handle.  Despite my best efforts, I clocked 3 miles in the 9:50 range (and my goal was 10:15 - 10:40 with an assumption that 10:40 was closer to appropriate).  What I did well, however, is that I walked through all the aid stations.  I took in Water, Gatorade, and Gus as scheduled.  My original plan had been to head out with the 4:40 pace group but I couldn't find then.  I did, however, cross the half at 2:19:38 and felt the best I've ever felt at a half on a marathon course.  Until, a few hundred meters later, as I slowed a bit after the half timing mat, I didn't.  I realized that my left knee was *very* cranky.

Underneath the bean.

I pushed on a few more miles, but the pain was increasing.  I pulled off at an aid station around mile 15.  I saw an MD.  We had a hilarious exchange:

Me: Hi. Ummm... my knee hurts and I'm wondering if I'm going to do any serious damage if I continue.

Doctor: Hard to say. Probably you already have. Have you injured this knee before?

 Me: Yes.

Doctor: Do you want to injure it again?
Me: Ummm...No. (Making a bit of a face, as in Seriously???)

Him: Did you take anything for the pain today?

Me: I thought taking NSAIDS before long distance running was bad for your liver.

Him: It is.  Did you?

Me: No.  It didn't hurt before.

Him:  But it hurts when I do this?  (Doing the annoying thing he'd done earlier to establish some likelihood of injury.)

Me: Yes.  (We already established this!)

Him:  Well, you've got 11 more miles.  Probably not a good idea.  But, I guess we could give you some tylenol and ice and you could head out in half an hour.

Me:  What?  I'm not a professional runner.  If I'm icing, doesn't that mean I'm pretty much done, as an amateur?  Why would I take 30 minutes off in the middle of a marathon?

Him:  You make a good point.  You probably should be done.  (Obviously not impressed with the average runner's response to his feedback.)
Me:  Okay.  So, if I drop out.   What happens?

Him:  We have vans.  Ours isn't here right now.  But it will come back and take you to the finish.  I guess you could try to walk it off to the next medical aid station, it's only 3/4 of a mile.  They have more vans...

Me:  Okay, I'm gonna take that as a sign. [He shrugged.] (This is where I jogged slowly to the next medical aid station, which did have the benefit of getting me across the 25K mat, which was a nice consolation prize.)

In addition to the doctor's feedback (which confirmed for me that most runners are not very protective of their own bodies vis-a-vis running), I had a couple of additional thought-provoking moments.

A little past mile 7, I ran through some intense cheering into a silent zone.  Cops were parting traffic and someone was doing chest compressions on a runner on the ground.  Two runners near me as we ran by were obviously medical professionals as I heard them say, "Oh shit.  Cardiac."  And, "Should we stop?"  And finally, "Looks like it's under control."

I was very pleased to later learn that he came to and was communicative at the hospital.

The second scare I had was being part of the medical tent and van of the wounded after I dropped out.  Oh wow.  In the second tent (which was a larger aid transfer station) most of those folks were in *horrid* shape.  Pale.  Complaining of heart palpitations.  Puking.  Shaking. Being evaluated for hospital transfers.  (And it wasn't even that hot.).  Me, I'd played it relatively safe.  I was running very evenly and felt very confident that I could have finished somewhat on pace at the medium-hard, but not-super-hard pace I'd been keeping, which included walking fuel breaks every time there was an aid station.
So, overall, I'd like to say that despite DNFing, my Chicago weekend was a complete success.  I was reminded that marathon running is my hobby.  And that's it.  It takes back seat to so many things in my life, and I'm totally okay with that.

The Little Goat Diner

Little Goat

But, it's still a great hobby even when I DNF, because I get to go to and learn about beautiful places, cheer on friends who also run, spend time with E, and eat some GREAT FOOD (huge thanks to F&P who did the behind the scenes efforts to get us food/reservations at Giordano's, Takashi & The Little Goat.) It's good to have diligent food-oriented friends!

F&P are foodies.

Apparently Takashi Yagihashi is a big deal.

They found a Groupon (Chicago--Holla!) for Takashi.

So we did the 9 course omakase.

The fried course alone was worth it.

Embarrasingly, even post marathon, I couldn't finish the 7th course of pork belly.

(In my defense, I'd splurged on a post DNF cheeseburger and fries, but I could still put down this salmon.)

But, not this Udon dish.  It was delicious, but too much for me.

Dessert was amazing in that I thought I was completely unable to eat anymore, but I was wrong 1+ bite of each, and it was worth it.


October 5, 2014

CHI week -1

Let's be clear.  This week sucked on the running front.

I got a nasty (NASTY) cold from our trip to Colorado.  It may have been the infection that was making the rounds at all of my clients that I'd avoided (Which E had for 10 days of serious infectious-disease-security in our home where I didn't get it).  Or, perhaps it was something from the flight, exascerbated by the dry air and altitude, or perhaps the wedding with tons of little children and hand-shaking and hugging and whiskey tasting (but shouldn't the whiskey kill it?).

Regardless of the source of infection, I spent the week a snotty mess. Coughing all night (no good sleep).  Clearing all mucus and coughing in the AM and throughout the day, trying not to disgust clients (duh-- runs had to be modified).

In short, I'm still a bit sick and questioning what this means for Chicago.  But, I know that I'm in the home stretch, so I'm trying to be positive.

Obviously, I cut short several runs this week, but still managed 33.01 miles including 3 at my psuedo-target marathon pace (I'm thinking 10:15-10:45???), plus some low 9ish intervals and lots of long slow miles in the heat (did I mention that we had a heat wave this week?  yeah, today's 10 miles with the head cold in the 80+ gave me permission to just get it done -- 12:49 AVG (including walking with lemonade purchase and sipping breaks)).

All in all, I'm very happy to be healthy enough to hit the start line at Chicago next weekend.  I know I'll be able to finish and I'm looking forward to the experience.  I think I'll start with the 4:40 pace group (assuming they are in my corral) and hang with them 'til I know if I'm whipped or (hopefully) have way more to give).

Other than that, I have nothing to report, except, of course, that a running headlamp is hugely beneficial when doing a kitchen remodel and unable to cook dinner at night.  When you can't cook, making sandwiches or other composed meals to be picked up by hand is very handy.  To do so, at a minimum, you require ingredients and light.

Sometimes, our hobbies do serious double duty.

September 28, 2014

Altitude Training

Week -2 before Chicago was very eventful.  A big busy work week (end of the quarter), tons of chaos in the house remodel (extra bathroom remodel?  Sure, why not?), and a quick trip out to Rocky Mountain National Park for a wedding.

We flew in to Denver Thursday night, spent the night in an airport hotel and woke Friday AM to work and work out before hitting the road.  I was pleased to find that the Mile High City didn't seem to negatively affect my strength intervals (which I did on a treadmill).

After we'd cleared our email inboxes as much as possible, we set our out of offices and headed to lunch.  We officially started our Colorado adventure with lunch at Ted's Montana Grill (neither of us had ever had the pleasure):

Open-Faced Chili Buffalo Burger (Swiss Mushroom Buffalo Burger in the background) -- 'MERICA!
  From there, we enjoyed a gorgeous 1.5 hour drive out to Estes Park, Colorado.

The Rockies are beautiful.

We checked in to our "haunted floor" at the historic Stanley Hotel (which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining).

There was a "Shining" channel, which played the movie on a loop.

Climbing the stairs to our 4th floor room, I could feel the elevation.  Denver didn't really affect me, but Estes Park had me winded.  It had been a while since I'd been in air this thin:

The rehearsal dinner and wedding were both at this beautiful venue, and the weather could not have been more cooperative.

View from the ranch house, where the extended family stayed.

The ceremony was here.

Saturday AM, after a night of well-behaved designated driver activities and typically fitful first-night-at-elevation sleep, I headed out for a "long" run with trepidation.  My scheduled called for 8 miles and my plan was to do at least 80 minutes of cardio, hopefully closer to 100 minutes, and to run/walk as much as necessary to make that happen, without worrying too much about the distance.  I was pleased to find that I could run without walking and it felt reasonably okay in the low 11s/mile, I did 3.2 on my own and then doubled back for 4 with MS around Lake Estes, which truly could not have been more picturesque.

Reward for the big climb.

Seriously.  This.

Just out for my Saturday AM run in Estes Park, it's kinda pretty.

Sunday, after the wedding, I woke with great intentions to do 10 miles, but found I had developed a cold!  Annoying.   So, I started out slow and settled for 5.  Also, I marveled at the difference a day could make in the weather.  The lucky couple obviously had people pulling weather for them:

Sunday: Overcast.  Not ugly.  But nothing like Saturday.

Overall, it was a great week.  I cut my scheduled mileage quite a bit due to life constraints, but when all axes are evaluated, it was wonderful.  Friends enjoyed, life milestones celebrated, much work and house stuff accomplished, beautiful nature of this wonderful country enjoyed, and 31.5 miles, including several high effort speed and/or elevation workouts.

Just 2 weeks to go to CHI, wish me luck!

September 21, 2014

Ragnar Napa -- Success!

All photo credits go to my teammates.  My one photo attempt over the weekend killed my phone battery.

I follow a bunch of running bloggers who've posted all sorts of pictures and race recaps about relays.  They look so fun that when some local running bloggers asked if anyone was interested in joining their Ragnar Napa team (Golden Gate park to Calistoga via Sonoma), I did.

And in doing so this weekend, I earned so-called "eternal glory" (or at least a headband proclaiming the same) for running the longest leg as my final performance.

I ran 11.4 miles and climbed 500 ft in the Napa Afternoon Heat for this headband!
First of all, I'd like to thank all the awesome folks who were on our team (You're the Wine That I Want -- voted into the top 25 team names by Ragnar!).  11 semi-random people plus a driver and yet no drama or assholery despite sleep deprivation, runger, and serious human and agricultural funk (stink-y!).  If you're looking for cool running folks to follow online, I highly recommend @milfrunner @just_plodding @CathrynTheBrit @RunOnWaffles @dine_and_dash and wonderjess (DailyMile).  These folks are nice, competent, organized, friendly, funny, and just generally great.

Second of all, I'd like to say that there were definitely routes on this relay that I'd *never* run on my own if I didn't have a team counting on me.  My first leg was scary -- on a curving two-lane road with lots of traffic including RVs and essentially no shoulder except weeds, ditches, and occasionally blackberries.  Also, I started at 4:11 PM in the afternoon heat and attacked this fun elevation profile:

But, for the sake of the team, I did it and each time I felt that I had to jump into a ditch to avoid danger, I chalked it up to an adventure.  I was totally proud of my 11:15 average pace -- I felt like I made a huge effort but was also smart re: safety.  Finally, at the exchange, as Jess requested, I arrived ready to slap that slap bracelet like no-one's business:

Note the sweat on my hat, I was *hot* on every leg of this relay

My night leg was relatively uneventful, although I took off with the mistaken impression that it would be flat (the 1,000 foot y-axis in the leg map misled me) and colder than it was (61F, approximately 100% humidity):

8.3 miles of climbing (462 ft says garmin) after 3ish hours of interrupted sleep in the dark at 10:45/mile pace was all I could manage, but I was happy as it was a solid effort.  The strangest part was the fog -- wearing a headlamp and running in the fog in the dark means that you see individual water droplets suspended in the air in the illuminated circle for the entire run!

I told myself not to think about leg 34 during the earlier parts of the race, so I didn't.  Unfortunately for me (but good for the team) we made up quite a bit of time, so I ended up heading out at 2:53 PM in the height of the heat and direct sun for 11.4 miles and 501 ft. of climbing (says Garmin).

At the exchange to take off for my last leg, JL told me to take it easy (slapping the slap bracelet after her 9 miler in the early afternoon heat and speaking from experience), and I really tried.  I hit mile 5 at a 12:00/mile average pace and felt proud of myself for being reasonably conservative.  But, shortly after that, the direct sun and heat combined to undo me.  I stopped to use a porta-john at the second water station and realized that despite the 1-2 minute break my heart rate hadn't dropped much at all.  I was very concerned about heat sickness and didn't want to ruin my marathon training, so I slowed to run/walk intervals, initially trying to keep them below 14 min/mile and then, finally, texting the team to let them know that I would be late and settling on 15 min/mile.

The best thing that happened to me on this leg was around mile 7 -- I tried to start running once I crested the hill, but I was just too heat exhausted.  So I returned to a walk, dejectedly.  A car on the other side of the Silverado Trail screeched a u-turn and stopped on the side of the road in front of me.  As I approached, he popped his trunk, dunked a sponge into a cooler full of ice water and handed it to me.  AMAZING!  He also let a woman who was gaining on me (and passed me) take advantage.  As we thanked him, he simply said, "you're lucky -- you're roughly my wife's pace."  I took two full sponge squeezes and was able to use the coolness to run at least 3/4 of a mile without a break -- the farthest I'd go without a walk break for the remainder of the leg.  Mental note -- the next time I go to support runners at a hot race, I'm definitely taking a cooler full of ice water and a sponge -- it's like magic.

Also, his actions confirmed to me what our team had suspected -- the prohibition on runner support on some legs (all of my legs) due to traffic issues was definitely not being enforced.  Because of the lackadaisical rule enforcement, I felt a bit penalized for being on a team that followed the rules, as those who didn't were obviously at an advantage.  But, then again, I *really* enjoyed the folks on my team.  In fact, I was probably one of the biggest rule-breakers on it (which, if you know me, should give you some perspective, these were some *rule* *observant* *folks*). 

This AM, I had 6 miles on the schedule.  I woke, slightly tight, but really, feeling pretty darn good after 26.49 miles in the last 25h20.  But... I had a blister from my last leg.  I'd soaked and wrapped and put on compression socks last night, but it had only half absorbed.  So I took it as a sign to move my off day this week to today, slept in, aggressively treated the blister, and just generally had a wonderfully lazy day (including an unexpected visit from @CathrynTheBrit and her family, which was so fun).

Total mileage for the week: 42.91.  Total below 10/mile -- 15-20%.  Last "long run" for marathon training done on a relay experiment?  I think it worked well for me.  I feel very confident that between the sleep deprivation, climbing, and heat I got just as much out of the relay as I would have on a long last solo long run weekend.  And, OBVIOUSLY, I had way more fun.

We were not the best photographers, but we had so much fun!

September 15, 2014


I headed to my childhood hometown this weekend for yet another memorial service.  The frequency of memorial services in my life as of late is something with which I'm struggling.

This one was a family cousin, who was in the Autumn of his life and had lived a big, full life working full-time 'til 82 years old -- living at home 'til just six weeks before his death at 85. It was sad, but also joyful.  My mother couldn't come, so I acted as the family ambassador and interacted with many relatives I hadn't seen in 5 or 10 years.  I felt so welcome and loved.

I felt so alive.  (I also interacted with members of my mother's family in a way that made me question much of the family lore I've been fed, but that's a thought for another discussion...)

Upon sitting at the ceremony, I realized that I hadn't been to a church service in the Lutheran Church in a very long time.  Catholic?  Yes.  Similar, but not the same.  And for the Lutherans, it's actually been so long that they'd changed the text of some of the prayers I'd had to memorize to be confirmed.  CRAZY.

I went up to the pastor after the service and asked him what had happened to the text, and, well, I'm pretty sure he was thrilled.  I think I made his year. 

Apparently, if you are a Lutheran pastor, it's a rare event when you officiate a funeral and someone comes up after the fact and wants to talk about the translations from the original Latin into American English and why it used to be "X" and now is "Y".  He was *extra* thrilled to learn that I was family of the deceased, raised in a not-too-far away Lutheran church that he was familiar with.  Interestingly, he didn't ask any questions or push when I self-identified as having been "raised Lutheran, but haven't been to church in at least a decade."  He just asked where I lived now without mentioning anything about the local Lutheran options and thanked me for coming to pay my respects, confirming that my cousin Sam is the bee's knees.

The whole service, the return to the Church of my childhood, the reciting of prayers and singing of hymns (which I did in honor of the deceased) and, of course, the soul-quieting incantation of Psalm 23, all combined to make me feel that all was right in the world.  Even in the midst of death.

Recently, I learned through facebook that a high school acquaintance of mine had overdosed unexpectedly.  I hadn't spoken with her since graduation, but apparently, the news was a shock to everyone.

And, due to the memorial in my hometown, I ended up near where I was raised at the same time as another best friend from childhood (R) as she came into town to mourn her grandfather.  A third best friend (D) lives there and hosted me for a much-needed girls' night dinner on Friday and then all three of us for a get-together with their kids on Saturday AM.  It was the first time we've all been together since R's wedding, 3+ years ago.  Magical.

So, yeah.  I'm feeling very alive.  Nothing like the presence of death to highlight your lack of it.

And, it was a step-back week, running-wise.  I drank too much, had a cigarette in solidarity, and ate skirt steak over marinated artichokes and cream on Friday night while catching up with D.  But, I still managed 35.87 miles total, and most of my assigned workouts.  Marathons will be happening.  So, here I am, feeling, very grateful to be so alive (if not very fast).

September 7, 2014

Small Progress Is Still Progress

Every time I think *my* part of the work on the remodel is done, something new comes up.  This experience is sort of like a treadmill, actually.  You do quite a bit of work, but you don't actually go anywhere.  It takes faith to believe that the effort on the treadmill will actually pay off in the real world. 

But, finally, we have some visible progress in the real world.  We have the rough electrical done, the drywall is up, and most of the cabinets are installed.  Ta-Dah!

I'm going to love using these cabinets!

This week's surprises involved a cabinet that was made incorrectly, an accidentally dropped hammer that chipped the top of one of the cabinet doors (they offered to replace it, but the effort to order a new door and wait to get it installed may not be worth it), and the complexity of our city's odd lighting requirements (much more than is required by Title 24, but if we want to pass inspection, it's what's required).

A big part of what I've had to do for the remodel is shopping.  I realize many people would not complain about this.  Many people love shopping.  But, I do not.  I actually hate it.  So, I try to do it as quickly and rarely as possible.  Only, when doing a kitchen remodel there are a million variables and details associated with each purchase and if you get a purchase wrong it won't work.  (Yes, I'm aware that there are remodel consultants who will manage much of this for you, but at the end of the day, we've still got to make the final decision, which means we need to feel comfortable with the information, which means a consultant wouldn't save us all that much time, and definitely would cost more money...)

I'd already spent quite a bit of time researching and purchasing countertops, tiles, appliances and cabinets.  Last week, between work and running commitments, I did still more shopping after learning more than I wanted to know about countertop polishing and installation on-site services, sinks, faucets, and water heaters.  The last step in the process is the fun of actually placing orders, and trying to devine how reliable the delivery estimates are, as well as how likely it is that yet another surprise will cause the schedule to slip -- essentially it's a big guessing game about how much extra time I needed to purchase.  If stuff arrives early, it's in the way.  If it's late, work can't happen until it arrives.  This, my friends, is a large part of why everyone complains that construction schedules are impossible -- there are *so* many dependencies, and very little is parallelizable!

The shopper-hater in me is happy to report that there is only one last detail that remains to be researched and purchased (until the next surprise, of course):  kitchen cabinet hardware.  Once they are picked out, I should be relieved of the shopping duties and will be solely left to managing the logistics of moving deliveries and timing of stays out of the home to match the ever changing schedule.

On the running front, this week was a big one.  I hit 43.72 miles for the week -- a volume high for the year.  In doing so, I fit in 15% sub 10 minute miles, and, my 3-day high (F-Sa-Sun) hit 31 miles this week.  I'm particularly proud of the weekend, which included 7 miles at target pace (low 10s/mile) with a friend on Saturday and 19 long slow miles of hills today (1249 ft total ascent, 1100 descent) in 4h10min.

And just like that, I've crossed the psychological threshhold.  I know I can run the entire marathon in my current state of fitness and health, if extremely slowly.

I've learned over the years that this long run mental barrier is a big one for me.  I've had decent success with the Hanson's Brooks training plans in terms of fitness, but my one complaint about them is that I need at least one 19-20 miler to test my ability to continue running for the larger part of a marathon.  If I don't get that, somewhere around mile 17, I start to fall apart.  Knowing that there are 9 more miles and that I haven't run anything close to the total distance in training just destroys me.

So, I've modified my personal training plans to always include at least one run of that length.  Once I've confirmed that I can actually sustain the physical and mental effort of running for multiple hours, I'm in a much better mental place for the remainder of the training cycle.  And that's where I am today.  Excited about the possibility of how much I can improve between now and race day.  Which is pretty cool. 

September 2, 2014

CHI Week -6

A beautiful day for enjoying the views of the bridge, the bay, and the city.

We had a whirlwind week -- for the work-week we stayed in SF at a condo of our friends while our kitchen and house were destroyed even further.  Thursday, E flew out to Portland and I lived solo in SF 'til Friday night, when we spent one night at home before heading back north through the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge (in mad traffic) to Sausilito for a weekend getaway for a friend's wedding.

This arrangement meant that for every meal from last Sunday AM through Labor Day lunch, we ate out (except for the one blessed home-cooked Indian food dinner our friends made for us in SF).  Did I mention I miss our kitchen? 

Despite the social and work chaos of living in SF and trying to deliver tomatoes to and cram in visits with everyone we can't see when we're down on the peninsula, I still managed to hit 36.62 miles (including 8 miles of city walking) plus an additional 92 minutes of gym cardio, *and* my scale informs me I was net neutral for the week.  This, my friends, is what successful marathon training looks like for me at this point.  It ain't pretty, but it's something. 

The main high quality miles of the week were in Sausalito, where I started at sea level and encountered steep climbs no matter which direction I ran (note the golden brown grass of California -- this is where the term "golden gate" comes from -- the mountains that make up the coastline that breaks for the San Francisco bay where the Golden Gate Bridge crosses are the traditional "golden hills of California").  

The balcony on the lobby at Cavallo Point Lodge -- not a bad place for a glass of wine.
Former Fort Baker viewed from the balcony at the Cavallo Point Lodge -- note the steep hills to the base of the bridge.
It was gratifying to do 10 miles on Sunday from Fort Baker out to the Sausilito harbor and back -- it was a slog to be in full sun on the hills the day after a wedding, but it was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous and it was *only* 10 miles.  I love it when I get to the point in marathon training where 10 miles seems short.  Monday, I planned to do my 6 miler on the treadmill, but the resort had different plans for me -- the fire alarm went off after the first mile and I had to evacuate.  Not about to stop the workout, I headed up the steep hill to the Golden Gate Lookout point -- I didn't stop.  I ran the whole climb.  Without a Garmin or sunglasses.  Then I ran back to the gym, and thankfully, the fire alarm fiasco had been sorted and I could finish my run on the mill. 

Both days, I was rewarded with the satisfaction of passing cyclists who had to stop and walk on the climbs.  On the way back down to the hotel on Sunday, I was actually a bit shocked to realize just how long the descent was -- I didn't remember the climb being that brutal, and yet, there I was, just cruising down, down, down, enjoying the benefit I'd forgotten I'd earned.  On the way out, I'd run the whole thing without stopping, and, other than a few cyclists I passed who were cursing, it hadn't seemed that bad.

So, I guess there's that.  I may not be in the shape I'd love to be in for a marathon.  But, I am in decent climbing shape.  Which, frankly, at 6 weeks out, makes me feel pretty darn good.

In other news, the trail access from the touchdown point at the north end of the Golden Gate is insane.  If only I was an ultra runner with a desire to run all day in the exposed trails...my Sunday could have been so different...

August 24, 2014

Minor Progress

The remodel continues to move a few steps forward and then a few steps back.  The major efforts this week involved all sorts of electrical work that we hadn't counted on doing.  Creative do-it-yourselfers... you really do make the gift that keeps on giving to the future owners of your projects...

As a result of the electrical stuff, we've lost the majority of the outdoor kitchen, so we're really relying on the kindness of strangers for things like laundry and cooking.  The good news is, once we pass the next permit inspection this week everything is supposed to move very quickly.  The bad news is, I haven't quite gotten around to ordering the sinks, faucets, hardware for the cabinets, countertops, or tiles.  So, I've got a big week ahead of me to try to get ahead of all of this supposed "quick-moving" construction (I'll believe it when I see it).  Thankfully, they still have to sheetrock and install the cabinets, which I figure has to include at least one more unforseen delay if history is any guide. 

On the running front, I did not hit all of my workouts this week.  But I did manage 38.5 miles, including 4 X 1 mile intervals at sub 9:50 and today's 15.1 including 1150 feet of climbing and descent (was supposed to be 17, but I was shot after the hills and slow pace resulting in almost 4 hours on my feet).  I also managed an additional 152 minutes of easy cardio (recumbant biking & elliptical) in the gym while reading on several days, which felt great and helped my confidence regarding my overall fitness.

Overall, I'm good, but tired.  I've been giving away tomatoes almost every day due to lack of canning and drying facilities, which has been very rewarding.  I've also started needing extra sleep, which is typical for me when I get closer to a marathon, but it requires more time, which is something I'm a bit short on.

What I'm not feeling (yet) is burnt out on running.  Given that I'm burnt out on work, the overhead of the construction/home life, and travel, I'm considering it a win that I'm managing to train and avoid burn-out so far in the midst of all that stuff.

Yes, this comfort I have with dialing back my workouts may result in a much slower than historic marathon for me.  I've made my peace with this and actually look forward to just enjoying Chicago to best of my ability.  Bonus, today I found out that another friend of mine is also going to be in Chicago.  So I'll have yet another person to bond with in Chicago, which should be awesome.

Also, Saturday, I attended the get-to-know you get-together for the Napa Ragnar team that was nice enough to include me.  I'm excited to do it -- it's definitely going to be outside of my comfort zone to hang out with a bunch of folks while running/driving/eating/sleeping for 36 hours, but I think it's going to be a great experience over all.  The party was a hit, our team captain is the bomb, and all the folks on my team seem like a fun group (plus my tomato salad was appreciated and I successfully gave away some tomatoes!).

I'm looking forward to my oh-so-not-standard last long run weekend before taper as a member of this relay team.  I'll be doing somewhere between 23 and 25 miles in 3 legs in 36 hours, which is nobody's ideal last long run before taper, but this is me.  And right now, when it comes to running, I'm all about *close enough*.

August 20, 2014

How To Get Hired

“He strikes me as a serious guy.  He called me back immediately.  He knew what he was talking about.  I think you’re fine.”

This is what a friend told me about a service provider in his industry when I asked him to do some double checking.

This is what I think is missing from much of the discussion around success these days.   

It’s not sexy.   

It’s not about networking.  

It’s about doing a good job.  The old-fashioned way.  

Be serious about the job you are entrusted with.  

Be responsive.  

Know what you are talking about (and own it when you don’t or can’t due to time constraints, but do the research to follow-up in either case).

Do this enough, and you will build a solid reputation that you can leverage into whatever version of success you want for yourself.

August 17, 2014

Chicago Week -7

A very decadent Tuesday afternoon.
This week, I'm supremely proud of myself for completing 90% of my assigned mileage for week -7 of the Chicago Marathon.  I know I'm in the sweet spot of training where if I let my not-so-competitive running side win, I'll end up with a much more painful experience in Chicago than I want.

So I found a way almost every day to do something close to the assigned work-out.  This is despite the remodel, work, and travel.

The travel is probably net even in terms of quality of life.  The upside is new experiences with people I love and/or working from hotels, which is more comfortable than working from the home office during the construction.  There's no cleaning required and there's no worrying about avoiding the construction and making do with the outdoor pseudo-kitchen, we just eat out.

But, it requires clean clothes, thinking ahead and packing, and more time for logistics (particularly transportation and running route planning), each of which require that more basic life stuff gets dropped in their favor.  Also, it requires much more money and planning than staying at home, even with the outdoor camp kitchen.

Late last week, E asked if I'd like to go to Las Vegas on Monday.  He'd been put on a panel at a conference, and I agreed that a date night in Vegas sounded great.  We'd never been there together and I hadn't been in many years.  I used to love Vegas but the last several trips had been difficult (for me) big group trips, so I was hopeful I could regain my love of Vegas on a trip with E.

Then my mom let us know she'd be in Vegas at the same time with her husband.  It was also close to her birthday.

Quickly, I added them to the reservations and date night turned into mom's birthday night.  It was wonderful.  We had dinner at Milos (Best Saganaki Ever!) and saw Mystere.  We took pictures on the strip like tourists that I will treasure.  The next day, I set my out of office, took a day off, and enjoyed the hotel gym for a solid 2 hour workout followed by a much needed massage.  E and I had a late lunch and then E patiently watched while I turned $50 into almost $0 and then back into $400 and eventually $250 before we left the craps table.

From there, we headed to the High Roller, the supposed largest observation wheel in the world (we're suckers for infrastructure, heights, and things that rotate...)

We went for the "happy hour" where you get 30 minutes to rotate and enjoy the view while ordering from the portable bar they wheel into your pod.  It was a great value for Vegas at $24.95 -- we each had 2 drinks and marveled at the skyline.

Earlier, I'd waited for E to get back for lunch at the pool and it sprinkled rained on me -- strange weather

When the Paris was built, it was the tallest and had the best views... no longer

The blue roofs to the right are the dilapidated Imperial Palace -- the last time I'd walked the strip, it was functional.

Wednesday, I wrote off the interval workout and spent first half the day recovering from my day off.  It took me until 12:00 PM to clear my inbox and deal with the construction, even with E2 covering some of the other details I couldn't handle (in other words, without E2, the day off would have destroyed my week).

Thursday, I woke early, worked, made up the intervals (or rather 3 of 4 of them -- 3X1200 done sub 9/mile), dealt with construction, and then put in a *very* long day until BBQ.  After several pleasant hours with friends, I left E to close out BBQ at 10:40 or so, and he managed to keep the party going until 1 AM.  Go E.

Friday, I woke and did the 8 miler that was on the schedule.  This, for me, is the turning point.  When I start fitting in 8+ miles on work days, I know I'm committed.  I had a good run, closed out a few work items, dealt with some additional unexpected construction chaos, and then, E came home and we drove to Napa for a weekend with E's sister, her husband and two of their friends.

Much food, wine, socializing, and beautiful views were enjoyed.

I also managed to hit a local high mileage maximum for 3 days -- 26+ miles.  8+ on Friday. 10+ on Saturday (including 2.2 miles of hiking in elevation at 97F). 8+ today.

In case anyone is wondering, the napa valley river trail, heading south from 3rd street in Napa is very nice.  First 1.5ish miles gravel, then paved all the way down to a park with several loops.  Also, AM fog is a very generous gift in Napa.  Use it.  the difference between an 8 AM start and an 8:30 AM start is *very* noticeable. 

Overall, this week was well done and I hit 36+ miles with the majority running and 10% sub 9/mile, likely close to 20% sub 10/mile.  It was a huge collection of social events, fun, splurging, disciplined workouts, and work.  Here's to hoping I can string together several more good weeks like this before Chicago.