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 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. 

Remodel Update (What I've Been Doing In My Spare Time)

Back in December of last year, a pyrex dish full of beets exploded when I placed it in the sink at 400F and it came into contact with room temperature water.  This led to a vigorous FB discussion where I learned that Your Grandma's Pyrex (and mine) was way cooler than what we get today.   Unfortunately, the shards killed our garbage disposal as E and I argued about the best approach (run it 'til it stops or stop before it explodes...).

So, after 11 years in our home, rather than replace the garbage disposal, we finally decided to use the momentum to suck it up and remodel the kitchen.

We've had many exciting issues with our house over the last few years, including massive termite damage requiring a year-long bathroom remodel, a roof replacement (we went from tar and gravel to an industrial foam covered with reflective white vinyl and it decreased the average high summer temperature of our non-air-conditioned home 10-15 degrees F on hot days!), and, last by not least, last year's excavation and replacement of the 64 years of "creative" patio, deck, and exterior wall construction:

Oh, just a few tons of layers of concrete, brick, linoleum, aggregate

Realizing that replacing only the lower portion of the stucco isn't going to work.

Since we were opening up the walls, we might as well replace the windows and add insulation in the bays where it had been skipped...

Siding requires that the house be shored with plywood, which should make it less likely to shift in the future.

Siding on, new patio of pavers in, and the new trellis up

Final painting scheme.
After 7 months of back and forth with multiple contractors, cabinet builders, designers, a structural engineer, and more, we're finally in the thick of the kitchen remodel.

Our house is split in two.  There is a plastic sheet separating us from the majority of the chaos.  It's somewhat effective for dust, but horrid for noise.

For the record, this is what our kitchen looked like after E2 and P came to help pack it up the night before demo started:

And, this is what our guest room looks like (also known as how much space your kitchen plus half the living room minus furniture takes when packed):

Every day, I wake to noise as the contractors get to work at 7 AM on the dot.  I don't blame them.  They commute to avoid the traffic and the weather.  But, man, does it throw a wrench (buh-dum-ching) in my daily routine.  Every AM, by the time I've had my coffee and I'm mid-way through my initial email clear-out, there is, inevitably, a call to me through the plastic, "BT!  We found something we need to talk to you about!"

I trudge over to their door and we talk.  This week I finally admitted to myself that even though I'm not *doing* the remodel in any real sense, the day-to-day decisions, conversations, check-ins, change orders, check writing, plan confirmation, etc. take at least 30 minutes every day and sometimes close to an hour, typically in the AM when I'm trying to get out the door, but sometimes unscheduled calls to my phone when I'm onsite with clients.

The bad remodel surprises are many so far.  Nothing is up to code.  In keeping with other parts of the house, it's a 64 year old house that was thrown up for cheap, and the previous do-it-yourself owner did most of his stuff impressively wrong. Big ticket discoveries so far?

** A gas leak requiring entirely new gas to be plumbed throughout the house.  Although, in fairness, this vindicated 10 years of me intermittently claiming I smelled gas and E gaslighting me.  Literally.  This one might be worth the monetary cost.

**Impressively unsafe and illegal electrical from the last remodel that requires the entire house to be re-wired.

**Supposedly unrelated but suspicious -- the electric dryer decided to die in solidarity to the its kitchen appliance brethren who were being decommissioned.  We are now using the local laundrymat until we can get the construction finished and figure out whether the dryer needs to be replaced or if we can repair it once the electrical ridiculousness calms down.

**Exposing the structural beam that used to dip into the kitchen and threaten to injure tall guests showed it to be something other than the beam we thought it was:

In fairness the backside is a structural beam, but the front side is an impressively ghetto combination of random 2X4s all willy-nilly...

I finally hired a trusted friend to help with some of the clean-up details and that's been a huge help, but it's still a bit overwhelming when coupled with my normal life, if I'm honest.

In the end, this remodel will likely end up being approximately double the original estimated cost.  Thankfully, my brother and dad were both in construction, so I assumed the worst and came up with 2-2.5X as a potentially likely outcome.  I'm not thrilled that it's happening, but at least we were prepared.

But, there has been one very good discovery.  The old kitchen had an ugly dropped ceiling, that was much lower than normal due to the low roof, the "structural beam" extending the house, and pitch they used back in 1950:

It, like almost every supposedly flat surface in our house was not level (and the walls it connected with are/were not plumb).  It lost almost an inch and half in 8 feet.  Fun.

When they removed a portion of the ceiling (to the left in the picture above), we saw that the original ceiling was stained wood that vaulted with the roofline.  It was in surprisingly great condition.  So, we made a decision for yet another deviation from the original plan, and now, when we are done, we will have gorgeous old wood as our new kitchen ceiling, which is pretty damn cool.

They've dremeled off all the roof screws that penetrated and it should be great when it's done.
In the meantime, when we aren't traveling, we're living the Californian outdoor lifestyle with a psuedo kitchen out of our outside laundry area.

Our current "kitchen"

Oh, and our garage door motor also decided to die in solidarity to electrical appliance friends this week.  No big deal.   It's not like the kitchen cabinets are crammed into the garage and need to be extracted for installation in a week or so. (Kidding, actually, it is a very big deal and part of my daily discussion with the contractors tomorrow will be around what to do/how to deal with this mess -- no major deviation from the baseline level of budget fear I'm maintaining...)

August 9, 2014


I'm finally edging back into the foreign territory of true high-volume (for me) weeks.

Trail Running with E2 - took a spill, but no real damage.

After tomorrow, I will have run 6 days with week, including 25 miles in the last 3 days: 5 yesterday, 15ish today, and 5 tomorrow (postscript -- it happened, achievement unlocked!).  The total weekly mileage is still a bit low, but 25 in 3 days is definitely a milestone for me -- this is the obvious transition to stacked workouts that I only do for marathons.  And it's been a while (I haven't done a marathon since April of 2013).

Today's long run (the first over the half marathon threshhold in a very long while) went relatively well.  I was solo and it was hotter than expected, but I brought money and bought a cold water and a gatorade about half-way through, so I was in somewhat decent shape despite the challenge of sun and heat.  I ran the last 1.5 miles to a G's house hard, which I was proud of.  Of course, then I found I couldn't really rally very well for the last 3 miles with her.  We did 2 1-mile intervals quite slowly and walked the rest, but she was kind enough to stay with me despite my flagging pace.  Total mileage: 14.33.  Close enough.

After my shower (which I had to take at G's house thanks to the gas leak caused by our kitchen remodel -- no hot water 'til it's fixed, fun!), E & I and G & C headed to brunch.

We went to one of our local favorites.  I'd felt a little weak and woozy since the run's end, which I was slowly remembering from previous high-volume hot runs as an unfortunate side effect of marathon training.

Our drinks came, and I asked E if I could have the pickle from his bloody mary.

OH MY GOODNESS!  With the first bite I had this primordial awakening of satisfaction.  Literally -- whereas before I'd been weak and a bit unsure of what I needed, all of a sudden my body jolted upright full of energy -- it was so clear.  MORE OF THE PICKLES!  It was such a sensation of pleasure and need.   I had forgotten just how amazing pickles can be (and this one was slightly spicy, which made it even better).  I'm a very salty sweater, and, the pickle reminded me of one of those high-volume lessons I'd forgotten -- when I'm woozy post long run, it's often 'cause I need salt.  So, I ordered a side of the pickles, and they were some of the most amazing things I've eaten.  Ever.

Then came the house made salted soft pretzels.  With mustard.  Mmmm... carbs and salt and radish flavors and salt...some of the most flavorful foods to have ever passed my lips.

My water with lemon was too delicious to be something as simple as ice water with a wedge of lemon and my beer tasted like pure heaven.

In 15 minutes, I'd transformed from a post-run zombie to a Life-Is-Beautiful caricature.

By the time my entree came, I'd completely remembered the amazing upside of high-volume training.  My first bite of the burger and truffle fries confirmed it -- Pure ecstasy of fat and carbs and salt and pepper and oh-my-goodness-why-does-this-taste-so-amazing?

Food doesn't seem like it should be able to taste as good as it tastes when you are high-volume running hungry.  But it does!

Run happy!

(Postscript - today's trail run with E2 was awesome.  We ran to the "Top of the World" under the Santa Cruz Fog and back down, plus a little bit more to hit the required 5 miles.  She set the pace and I dragged -- it was the longest run she'd done in over 3 years, which is so great.  I love getting my running buddy back after such a long hiatus.  As the picture at the top shows, I took a spill.  But truly, it was fine.  I've been very bad about stretching for at least the last year.  I've only been to yoga a few times and haven't done much on my own.  Saturday, post long run, and then again on Sunday AM before our run, I actually did some legitimate stretching.  Good thing, too!  Those scabs are the result of a trip and an attempted recovery that resulted in my water going over the edge and my front leg sliding forward while my knee slid backwards and I landed in a right leg split.  Hurray for recent stretching!  I jumped up.  E recovered my sunglasses and we finished the run.  No harm, no foul.)

August 5, 2014

90 Years Is a Long Time

We finally started harvesting from the garden!  It's been a strange Summer and everything has been a bit delayed, but the delicious times are finally here.

The biggest and most important thing I did last week was travel to upstate New York for E's grandma's 90th birthday party.

It was so wonderful to see her enjoy her day with all of the people who drove and flew in from all over the country -- her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, a couple of cousins, several nieces and nephews, and many grand-niece and grand-nephews.  Impressively, E's grandpa is still truckin' at 97, and he was there, too.  We spent the day surrounded by Brooklyn accents, Italian-American immigrant descendants and their spouses and kids, great food, wine, and tons of family stories (with lots of gesticulation).

It was a special day and I was very glad we made the effort.

But what an effort it was!  To get there, we spent an hour in a car on the way to the airport, followed by more than 8 hours in airports and planes, only arrive in time to fall asleep at the hotel.  The next AM, we hit traffic and construction on our drive upstate, so that meant more than 2 hours in the car (during which I took a couple of naps, because my husband is a saint).  After the party and the next day's brunch, we spent another hour driving to local airport and then a total of 10 hours in airports and planes on the way home, plus 30 minutes in the taxi.

In other words, we spent at least 22.5 hours in transit, plus approximately 20+ hours of hotel time so we could enjoy 14ish hours of family time during a 56 hour trip.

And it was totally worth it.

In running news, last week sucked.  I woke on Monday with a sore throat and a fever.  Apparently, despite my conservative racing, I still got sick.  I spent the rest of the week nursing what appeared to be a summer cold (with a fever, so something else mixed in?), trying to minimize my likelihood of developing something worse.  Essentially, I walked a ton and ran very little.  The longest string of "running" without a walk break I managed before leaving for NY was 2 miles jogging at 12 min/mile on Thursday.  Saturday, I was able to wake early enough to hit the treadmill on EDT (very impressed with myself).  I felt well enough to do some intervals at slightly faster than race pace and closed the workout with a whopping total of 4.25 miles.  Sunday, I woke with a sore throat again and a deep-chest cough, so I wrote the long run off entirely.  Total mileage: 18.34, most of it walking.  Total mileage sub 10/mile? 2.  Yup. 2.

But, after watching E's grandma's joy at her party and all of the cool interactions with people from various walks of life, I didn't care about my lame running week at all.  I'm usually fairly chill when it comes to running, but right now, I'm even moreso.  It's strange.  I wonder if I'll ever get back to the place where I actually care about pacing and racing the way I used to.  Part of me thinks I may not.  And, in the grand scheme of things, I think that's just fine.  There are many, many more important things to me than running.  So, if indeed I've actually turned into a purely recreational runner who doesn't care about performance, so be it.  I do have to wonder how that will play out over my two fall marathons, though...  

July 28, 2014


Yesterday, on a lark, mom offered to drive my niece up to San Francisco to join me for lunch today if I could fit it in my schedule.  What a treat!  (They live 3 hours away.)

I accepted immediately and rescheduled my client commitments for the day.  I wanted to pick something that would be a fun memory for everyone, so I opted for McCormick and Kuleto's, with its excellent views of aquatic park and Alcatraz from Ghiradelli square.  I hadn't been there in 10 years or so, but the views from GS are always great and I'm a big fan of McCormick and Schmicks, so I knew the food would be good.

I arrived on time, but mom texted that she and niece were running a little bit late. (Not a huge surprise, if you know my mom.  Obviously, an unscheduled costco stop was in order on the drive.)

I was starving, and certain their estimated delay was not correct, so I ordered an appetizer and a beer at the bar.  I was very happy that they were making the majority of the effort to come to me, so I didn't want to be grumpy when they arrived.  My appetizer and beer did the trick.  An hour later, they walked in, hugged me, and the bartender (with whom I'd bonded over the last 60 minutes) demanded, "What took you so long?"

Mom, not to be stalled by anyone, animated in a way that I'm regularly shocked she can continue to maintain at this point in her life, demanded "This used to be Señor Pico, didn't it? I came here for my 21st birthday with my parents.  We sat at that table (pointing).  No wait, that one (pointing elsewhere).  Quite a bit has changed, but the windows are the same and these railings were there back then.  They had a drink that they were famous for, the potted parrot.  It was so ridiculous.  Your drink came with a ceramic parrot in it.  Do you know the history of this building???"

He just looked at me, amazed at the energy of my mother and smiled, "Enjoy your lunch."

I was so pleased to have picked a restaurant that had a memory for my mom.  Her parents both died relatively young, as did her brother, so there hasn't been much joint reminiscing at family gatherings like there is for my father's family, which is huge, mainly still alive, and very close.  I'd never heard this story.  I didn't know anything about her 21st birthday.  I loved hearing about what she'd done the night she'd legally turned 21 in her college town as well as the weekend afterwards with her parents.  Also, I love learning bits of Californian history.  I'm a multi-generational Californian and over the years, in the bay area, interacting with so many transplants, it's become quite a point of pride for me.  I love my state and I love to be knowledgeable about its geography and history, so this was yet another data point to file for future use.  In short, it was the perfect gift a mom could give her daughter. 

Mom, of course, proceeded to tell every worker at the restaurant we interacted with about her memory.  None of them knew the history of the building.  Until our server, that is.

Our server was *so* great.  He knew the Señor Pico past, and even knew about the potted parrot but he hadn't met anyone who'd ever had one (much less on their 21st birthday!).  He and mom traded excitement, which was so cool.  He was so honestly happy to meet someone who had actually had the kitschy drink, parrot and all.  She was just excited to interact with someone who knew what she was talking about.  Also, he knew that Señor Pico was owned by Trader Vic's at one point and volunteered that history as well, which, the Californian data nerd in me found very cool.

He also happily took our photo, advising on lighting and taking not one, not two, but four photos, with the last one being the best -- he obviously knows how to keep the tourists happy!

My niece commented that 4 generations of women in my mom's line had all dined in this building as of today -- such a cool observation, and it definitely made the day more special.

In short, today was one of the cooler gifts my mom has ever given me as an adult.  I'm very thankful.

July 27, 2014

Any Healthy Strong Finish Is a Good Finish

I didn't meet goal A or B today, but I heartily met goals C and D.

After I'd decided I was overheating and needed water, after the coach of our local running club ran ahead and bought me water at a Shell station around mile 8 in the full sun, and after I'd decided to succumb to as many 5 minute run intervals with as much walking as I needed to feel comfortable to finish for the last 3 miles, I found myself in the finish chute, at the end of the last 1.4 miles ran slowly, without a break, just happy to be finishing healthy.

Suddenly, a couple of hundred meters from the finish, the woman in front of me slowly splayed her arms, dropped her head back and started to dance.  But not in a good way.  She did a bit of an awkward grapevine, an uncomfortable almost drugged out airplane to each side, and was obviously loosing control of her gait.

Did I mention the direct sun in the Mission was much hotter than usual for this time of year in SF and I'd been seriously concerned about overheating due to my previous fever?

A guy ahead of me sweeped in and grabbed her right elbow.  Her ELBOW!  The rest of her body fell to the left, reaching for the barrier to keep her upright.  I sped up and dropped my arms under her armpits as she started to fall.

The guy looked at me and said, "Oh good" and ran off.  To give him the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to assume he thought I knew her.

I did not.

I wrapped her right arm around my neck and put my left arm under her left armpit.  She was jelly.

I asked her if she could take a deep breath.  She vaguely looked at me and then her eyes rolled back.  She was very pretty, but right now her lips were scary pink-white.  Someone in the crowd on the other side of the barrier asked her if she wanted water.  She opened her eyes and nodded.  The woman handed her the water bottle and she tried to drink.

The cap was on the bottle -- obviously, no water came out.  I realized I had a bottle (thanks to run coach), but I'd need to move my hands to open it, which would result in dropping her unless I could pull off some complicated maneuver my run-stupid brain couldn't figure out at the moment.

At this point, thankfully, a man behind the barrier yelled at me, "She needs to lay down."

Duh.  He was obviously right.  My runner instinct was to hold her up and hope she could recover.  I was coming in on a super slow race where I'd been very conservative, so I really didn't care about my time, but for some reason, I thought this woman might really care about crossing the finish line, and it was only 200m away.  With his words, I finally understood the seriousness of the situation.  I said, "I'm going to let you down to the ground now..."

She turned her pale white lips to me, and spoke emphatically for the first time, "No!"

I looked around.  My first thought was that if there was another runner willing to help we could help her over the finish line and she could get help there.  It was so close.

But no one else was coming near us.   Uhhhh.....The folks at the barrier motioned for help, and I recognized the intelligence of this option and waived my hands for help, too, struggling with the reality and trying to walk her a few steps forward at the same time.  I mean, I could see the dude with the microphone announcing all the finishing folks and he could see us.  It was SO CLOSE.

But, the microphone dude did not call for runner's aid from fellow runners, and finally, a woman in a yellow safety vest came over and walked behind us, placing both arms behind the jelly-lady's armpits as I had done when she was initially falling.  I looked at the woman, "You got her?"


I let go.

Then, I ran towards the finish line, seeing a wheelchair being rushed opposite me on the left towards my former charge.

Later, I learned that a friend was cheering loudly for me having seen me heading into the finish a few meters later.  But I didn't notice her at all.  She chalked it up to headphones, but I'd actually silenced them for the finish chute, I was just generally oblivious at this point.

I wasn't paying attention to the cheering of friends (but I did get to meet up with Jen afterwards for a very enjoyable catch-up session). 

For those 200m, I was thinking about how lucky I am.  How strong I was at the finish because of my support system, general luck, and my desire to live a balanced life.  How, when I caught her, I didn't have any concerns about how long I could hold her up -- I was just worried about her, nothing else.  Also, I was so stable.  And yet, I had been sick, with a fever before the race.  I had been worried about myself at the start and various points during, but I was still racing, albeit slowly/smartly.  I thought about the freakish need to use a port-a-loo to go pee (as opposed to dealing with GI issues) for the first time *ever* during a race because for once I was actually overhydrated.  I thought about asking my run coach to walk with me during her supposed pacing miles, admitting my overheating (the water support was terrible on today's race), and how she ran to the nearest Shell station and bought me water.  I thought about the decision to do 5 minute run intervals with as much walking as I needed after my local run coach left me on my last 3+ miles of the race today -- to finish strong, but smart.

And I couldn't help that all of this meant that I was in the right place at the right time.  I very much hope my catchee is okay.

I may not have met my A&B goals, but I feel *very* alive.  I am consistently impressed with the lessons that running teaches me.

I finished, strong.  In hindsight, my conservative goals meant that I was strong enough to catch a falling runner and hold her up for an indeterminate amount of time.  Goal C for the big human win!

In fact, I have a new Goal C.  If I'm honest, I'm not regularly in a place in my life or sports performance where it makes sense for me to be the falling runner.  In general, I want to finish strong enough to catch. 

Run Happy.