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.

July 26, 2014

Things Get Serious Starting Tomorrow

I'm running the SFHM2 tomorrow for a total weekend mileage of 15ish and total weekly mileage around 33.

After that, the marathon schedule feels like *really* begins.  It calls for 10 weeks of rapidly increasing volume where the weekend total mileage builds and steps back every other week: 16, 20, 18, 23, 18, 25, 18, 26, 18, 14, race.

More importantly, the mid-week mileage starts to really grow as well.  By the end, in addition to the weekend stuff, I should be fitting in 3 medium length days and a weekly 10 mile tempo at target race pace on a work day (that should be exciting to juggle around).  Compared to what I have been doing, those numbers seem a bit impossible. 

So, I'm just going to focus on tomorrow, which is a bit of a crap shoot.  Training has been meh - 8 weeks since my last half with total mileage between 28-35 mpw, with the obvious outlier of 16 miles the week I dislocated my shoulder.  It sounds better than it is, though, because I've been letting myself walk whenever I've felt like it, and I've felt like it quite often.  Then, this week, I got a bit of a stomach bug and had to avoid training for 2 days while making sure my temperature didn't get too high and also making sure to replace fluids regularly. 

Every time I'm nauseated (which isn't that often), I always think of my poor Dad during chemo.  Going about your daily life without nausea is such a huge and wonderful blessing.  I seem to be recovered and I've been enjoying the bliss of an appetite and keeping good food down for almost 2 days now, so I'm hopeful there won't be any ill effects tomorrow, but you never know.    

My A goal is 2:10 (any 2:10:XX on the watch will make me very happy).  I think this is potentially doable but everything has to go just right. 

My B goal is to run my fastest half so far this year, so to beat 2:14:39.

My C goal is to finish strong and put in a performance I'm proud of.

My D goal, as always, is just to finish.

I know lots of folks who will be running tomorrow, and the coach of my running club is coming to pace me on miles 6.5 - 9.5, which should be a huge help.  I'm looking forward to a fun social day.


July 20, 2014

A Big Goodbye and A Busy Week

Today was the memorial service for a family friend.

I didn't know L well.  He was the oldest son of one of my dad's hunting buddies, approximately 15 years older than me, so when I met him as a kid, he was a pseudo-adult, even if Dad and his buddies treated him a bit like someone in-between childhood and adulthood.

He was a real honest-to-goodness cowboy.  My strongest visual memory of him is one I saw play out many a weekend early morning -- skinny legs in Levis tucked in cowboy boots vaulting into a Ford truckbed, being tasked by the older men with loading all the hunting supplies, working quickly and quietly between the excited dogs whose tails wagged incessantly.  His face was always partially hidden under his Stetson, but I can still see his grin. 

He died doing what he loved -- in an accident herding cattle on a ranch out in the Nevada desert.

E and I drove into my hometown the day before the memorial and I was shocked to be recognized on sight by a high school friend I hadn't seen in 20 years.  As the manager at the restaurant where we chose to have dinner, she totally hooked us up.

It threw me for a bit of a loop.  I don't feel like I belong in my childhood hometown anymore.  And yet, if you spent a long period of time somewhere, particularly your childhood, there are pieces of your history just lying in wait to snare you and remind you that you *do* belong there, somewhat.  It doesn't matter how long you've been gone.  Viscerally, I know this and had prepared myself to deal with it at the memorial.  But to have it happen at dinner, and to have such a strongly welcomed return to my childhood hometown from someone I hadn't seen in so long surprised me.  What surprised me more was how grateful I was.  I doubt A will ever know how much I appreciated her recognizing me and treating us with such warmth and kindness.

It rained on our drive to the memorial, which was held in what Dad would have thought was just about the best thing ever -- a fancy barn-themed outdoor event venue in the glorious wild nature of the California Sierra foothills.  I have no memories of rain in July in my hometown.  E, a southerner, was unfazed, but I couldn't help but assume that Dad, Papa, Gran, and L were pulling weather for us to keep it cool (either that or global warming was cooling my hometown's summers but increasing its humidity).

It was a bit of a family reunion as Brother went (with K).  And, Aunt B, Dad's youngest sister went too (alone).

Brother had hunted and spent time with L growing up and in his early adulthood, so he would have gone anyways.  But Aunt B and I (and by extension E) were really there as proxies for Dad.  L's dad, G, was one of Dad's best friends, and G's wife S is like a grandmother to the entire community that Dad lived in, so really, the event was a bit of a Dad's folks reunion.

I received many bear hugs as BigD's daughter -- again, a bigger homecoming than expected. 

I was rarely involved in the details of their relationship, but I know that G (L's dad) and BigD hunted and fished and shot the shit and drank beer in cans and complained about their difficult children and passed time together in a gorgeous brotherly love that makes me so happy to know BigD had such good, fulfilling friendships.  At the end, G drove BigD to untold numbers of chemotherapy and doctor appointments when BigD really shouldn't have been driving himself.  Between the two of them, there was no discussion, no ask for help, no accusation or admittance of weakness.  One day, G just said, "I'm going to drive you to all these appointments."  And that was that (and our family breathed a sigh of relief to be saved from the awkward, hard conversations that could have been).

As if that wasn't enough, L's younger brother T was somewhat of a surrogate older brother to Brother and due to the odd age split between generations also thought of Dad as his own surrogate older brother.  He'd been a rock to me when Dad had passed, and it was important to me to be there today to let him know that I didn't know exactly what he was going through, but that I supported him and cared about him and was there for him just as he had been for me.

And, of course, when there's an accidental death, they always need a lawyer.  So, as promised, my personal appearance made it clear that as Dad would have wanted and as I'd promised over the phone, my (limited PI) skills are on call for the family, should they need them, when dealing with the insurance madness.

After all of those heartfelt details, the reality of my week seems so mundane.

I ran (or walked, but mainly ran) 30.23 miles.  I did 9 long on Saturday and 6 in the heat on Sunday in my hometown and I'm ready for next weekend's half marathon (albeit slow).

Work was fairly crazy.  Notably, I closed a fairly big deal after 4+ hours of final in-person negotiation on Tuesday (1.5 hrs scheduled, but 4+ hours in a too-hot conference room where I sweated...).  After the fact, I received a picture of my client signing the deal and me in the background, looking on, shiny.  Thankfully, they were very happy with their outcome and I felt great for having helped them get there, even if I looked like I'd covered my face in olive oil before the photo.  

In an effort to be more balanced, I'd managed to talk E2 into joining me for a friends of the SF symphony concert and we enjoyed a Mozart piano quartet and Arensky piano trio on Wednesday before taking advantage of a friend's condo since it's high conference season and there's not a hotel room to be had in SF on short notice.  Both were unique arrangements, but more importantly, both confirmed that I love me some chamber music (and piano).

Our weekly BBQ was super small, maxing out at 5 or 6 attendees, including E & me.

Friday night, I babysat a friend's 4-yr-old and E showed up with the Wii for 30 minutes of (parent approved) videogame time before his bedtime.  Yeah, that's right.  We're the best, favorite babysitters ever.

While this week was typically busy, the biggest change in my life this last year is literary.  I'm now committed to reading and listening to audiobooks much more than I used to be (when it was simply a hobby) because I've realized they give my life meaning and purpose.  I feel more alive when I commit to books.  This week is no different.  In addition to my ordinary audiobook and book club fare, I ripped through Gone Feral, which, in hindsight, was a great preparation to the memorial service today.  Modern day cowboys or men who choose to try to live off the land today are *very* *very* complex.

Also, after today, I'm feeling very mortal.  I get this way, occasionally.  More often than most, but I think it's healthy.  Today I saw friends of Dad, who've survived him, I saw Brother, who, as always continues to inspire me with his amazing outlook on life post-injury, I saw contemporaries of mine from grade-school who've visibly aged so much it made me realize that I too must have aged that much, and I saw friends of Dad's who are obviously ailing, headed his way, as much as it hurts to admit that reality.  I saw life, raw, and wonderful, full of love for a lost member of the tribe.  And I was honored to be there.

And towards that end, I think if I'm honest with myself, just training for and finishing the Chicago and New York Marathons is an accomplishment in and of itself.  One worth celebrating.  I've spent a few years chasing times and PRs and I've had some success, but lately, I've been struggling with the high effort that PRs and impressive (for me) performances require. I've gained weight.  My life has not allowed for ideal training.  And yet, I've kept on.  I think, after today, that's the thing about myself I'm most proud of.  I keep plodding on in the direction of the things I believe in, regardless of the pace.  And I intend to continue to do so.  Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, I'm going to finish 2 of the major world marathons this year!  If I'm lucky enough to be healthy enough and in a situation where I can train hard and perform well, that would be wonderful.  But truly, just being able to run (or walk) on any day is such a blessing, and I want to be sure to enjoy it to its fullest.

July 13, 2014

I Want To Go Everywhere

And, it would seem I have a huge bit of work to do, even if we limit it to Earth:

If the random Interweb-based image creator is to be believed, I've visited 31 states (13.7%) (Not sure why I'm getting no credit for Canada, although by area, I really haven't seen most of it outside of Vancouver)

In other news, I had a decent running week.  Nothing awesome unless of course you take into account that consistent decent running when you're pushing the beginning of your 4th decade is awesome, regardless of how slow...

In fact, last week I picked up a new client where there was someone who wanted to bond over running, but apparently he'd been in contention for the US olympic team in his youth... I felt horrid, because truly, I have nothing to add or relate to on that topic.  I could not really bond with him at his level if he wanted to chat pushing the line on running.  As he surmised from my blog, I run, or as he probably thinks of it, I jog.  But I'm honest - I'm a true recreational runner. I've never been an elite and I'm guessing that my aged, heavy, super-short body isn't going to magically become something that allows me to relate on the topic of elite running as an individual.  But, if you want to chat stats and talk about impressive performances of Americans on the track or road?  Oh, yeah, I've become a Nerds' nerd on these topics.  (In other news, did I mention how much I love that the World Cup coverage published running total distance numbers for each sub? Yes!).

So, the decent running week:  35.29 total miles.  Many walking.  Not much worth writing home about but a decent 12-miler today -- first 6 miles averaging low 10s, then the remainder, just to get it done for a final average/mile of 11:47.  Happy.  If a bit scared for what the marathon will turn out to be.

Have a great week, friends!

July 12, 2014

More Than Half

I've been meaning to do this for a long time...

It never really reached any true level of importance, but I'm on a strict no work Saturday regime and I left E at a party a couple of hours ago.  Which means I've been piddling my time away on the Internet however I please.  And here I am.

I wasn't sure if I'd actually been to more than half of the US states, but, after compiling a list, it looks like I've just squeaked by. Unsurprisingly, my west coast bias is strong.  Also, you can pretty much blame E for almost the entire south.

visited 27 states (54%)

I'm not in any hurry, but one day, I would like to cross off all 50 states.

July 6, 2014

Sometimes, You Are Not In Charge

Actually, the fact that you (as in me, you, her, him, etc.) are not in charge is true almost all the time (if my friends, family, literature, and history are to be believed).

But me, I'm a rebel. I still like to do what I can to pretend like I'm in charge of my life.

This week, I ran the Peachtree Road Race for the second time. I hoped to see famous people like Des Linden or Lauren Fleshman at the elites' tent after the race or perhaps see Meb as he passed the masses. But, nope -- the elites were done before I was even at cardiac hill and Meb didn't start 'til I was  almost done.

But I still had a great race (so much fun to take part in one of the largest American road races on 4th of July) and it was the most temperate, pleasant Peachtree that's happened in a long time, so that was super cool (as was hard-to-argue-with cool that my husband ran with his dad, who ran by multiple friends along the course who've been there over the years in his 1984 commemorative shirt.  Someone offered to buy it off him at any price, but he said, "There's no price...")

Not sufficient to show scale of number of partipants, piedmont park at the finish, etc.  So great!

After the race, we got on the road to head up to E's family's lake house, where they host an awesome party to enjoy the fireworks display over the lake every year.

Several times a year, we go to visit my in-laws, and it turns out, my husband's mother suffers from a similar malady as me vis-a-vis wanting to be in control.  YIKES!  She *really* likes to be in charge when it comes to social details like schedules, food, sleeping arrangements, etc.  And, since we're often on her home turf, by default, she just wins.  This is regularly difficult for me.   It's not even like she and I are competing for being in charge (which I wouldn't want to do).  It's just very clear that the order of decision making in the house when we are visiting goes from Grandma to PopPop to the grand-daughter (our niece), to my sister in law, to a messy amalgation of me, E and the brother-in-law, should any of us feel the need to assert ourselves.  Now mind you, this is the South.  They are such perfect hosts that the need to assert yourself rarely arises.  Also, they completely respect and understand that I often need to excuse myself at odd hours to work, work-out, or do anything else I may indicate.  Essentially, I won the in-law lottery, but it's still hard to be on someone else's schedule.

So, imagine my surprise this trip when, for the second time in my life after having reconstructive shoulder surgery, I dislocated my shoulder.  If there is something that makes you feel completely *not* in control and out of your element, even an in-law element, it is sudden lack of control of your body (especially after trash-talking the other poor-performing flippers...).  And there I was, experiencing it.  For the second time.  On my husband's family's home turf.  Thanks Universe.  I get it.  I'm not in charge.  Message received.

So, yeah, there was a lower mileage week than planned.  (Turns out, even if your sister-in-law relocates your shoulder in less than a minute, you will still need to rest and ice for several days.)

Total miles:  16.4.  Total percentage miles faster than 10 min/mile:  46% (target 20%).  Essentially, other than the 10K, I did very little.  I fit in a treadmill workout with a warm-up, cool down, and 10X1 min @ 8:30, and a couple of shorter easy runs to acclimatize to the heat before the race.  But nothing impressive.  And at least 20% of the blame lies with my treachorous shoulder.

So, this week's take home is to remember that I'm not in charge.  I live my life as if this is not true.  But I do know it.  Fundamentally.  At my core.  So, I guess the big question is whether this knowledge matters, and if so, what I should do about it...

June 29, 2014

Almost Serious

I'm hiding from work.  I have barely opened my email all weekend, and now, I'm in a hotel (post late-night waffle house!), avoiding it still.  

Tomorrow is the close of the quarter, which should bring some relief one way or another (either the deals will close or they won't...).

Then, I should be able to stop blaming work for getting in the way of running for a little while.

This week, between work, my niece, and a trip up to my mom's and back in one day (6 hours of driving), several of my scheduled workouts took a hit.

But, it wasn't that bad.  I still hit 28.44 miles total with 13% sub 10 min/mile.

Yesterday, I did a speedy 2 miles with E at approximate half marathon target pace, and followed it up with another 5+ run-walking in the heat.

Today's workout was definitely the best one of the week.  I drove out to meet the local running club only to realize that I'd only brought *1* of the car keys (the one I drove).  Since I'd decided to support F on 6 miles of her 16, I really needed both keys -- not just the one to drive the car to the start, but *also* the one that would start the car at the place I'd left it to peel off and drive home.

Thankfully, after they headed out, I had enough time to drive home, get the key, and drive back out to a different part of the trail, where I me up with F (just before L turned around to leave her, conveniently) and managed to add in some of her out and back at the end for a very pleasant and good 6 miles at an average pace of 10:25.  A bit slower than I was hoping for, but a solid steady effort is always something to appreciate.

This coming week is guaranteed to be a mix of non-standard efforts in heat, hills, and humidity due to travel obligations in the south.  So, I'm hopeful that it's fair to say that week -13 (week after next) is when I will likely actually get serious about the Chicago Marathon.

This is a good thing, as I just re-realized that I have a half marathon four weeks from today...

Wish me luck...

June 22, 2014

Niece Week

Every year, E and I host my niece for a week in the summer.

Rockets on the launch pad for Niece's second launch.
Last year, in addition to some pure family time with us, she was also a commuter at a local soccer camp.  She informed me that she wanted to come back this year and stay in the dorms.  Apparently, staying with your aunt who's even older than your father is violently uncool compared to staying on a college campus where the adult supervision is college kids and 20-something professional athletes and coaches.

So, this means that she was only actually with us for 3-4 days, and now she's on her own in the dorms, with a roommate who shares her initials, her new best friend for the week.  I commute to watch her games at the end of each day if I can fit it in and, if I'm lucky, I get to say hello.

She's such a pleasure to be around these days.  She cracks hilarious and stunning adult-level humor jokes, but she's simultaneously childlike in ways that I find refreshing and, at times, educational.  I'm sad that she wasn't able to spend more time with us, but I also understand how fun and important it is for her to go and do things outside the protective cocoon of the family with other kids her age.

On the running front, this week was good in terms of increased distance.  I put in a total of 34.02 miles on my feet.  But... because Niece was here, I substituted a couple of the runs for walking together.  Friday, I opted out of my run, but we walked to and from a client meeting at a local Starbucks and we walked downtown to meet E for her selected dinner of Sushi.

Thursday, while I worked, she sorted all my leftover foreign currency from the year's travels.  What?  I needed to keep her busy while I worked, so I gave her Chinese, Japanese, and Hong Kong currency (the harder stuff) as well as New Zealand, Australian, and some Euros -- she did a great job looking through all the currency and grouping them accordingly, matching up the various monies to the countries (impressively getting 100% matching the bills and coins to characters I wrote for her to designate China and Japan).   When she was done, we looked up conversion rates and then I sent her off to do the calculations into USD. (Again, people, I needed to work.)  Finally, we walked downtown to the bank and back (where she was thrilled to exchange it all for her own funky bluish-tinged brand new $100 bill with all sorts of wacky additional color security features).  FYI, it took a $3 infusion from me to cover the roughly 3% difference between online currency conversion and the local branch conversion rates, but I felt it was only fair.  In the end, I gave up my run for a walk, but she's $100 richer *and* it was obvious that we were the most fun that bank teller had all day.  Bonus, I feel like I didn't fail completely on the auntie entertainment scale, and now E and I don't have to deal with the pile of small bills of foreign currency.  Everybody wins! (Well, almost everybody.  They didn't take the coins...)

Started circulation in October 2013 (http://www.newmoney.gov/)

New back of the Benjamin.

Due to swapping walks for runs, the percentage mileage under 10:00/mile was only 4%.  But, today was a nice lead-in to the season of increasing long runs with good solid easy 5 solo, followed by a walk to stay warm until I could start the 3X10:00 easy w/2:00 RI with G -- Total: 8.44 miles, slightly more than what my training plan required for the long run this week.

This is definitely the least work-focused weekend I've spent in a *long* time.  Since Niece is here, she took up most of my weekend attention, so my working hours and work focus took a huge hit (this is not necessarily a bad thing).  Friday night, after walking downtown, a dinner of sushi, and laundry to prep for her camp, we headed next door for a Karaoke party hosted by neighbors, where I confirmed that she's her father's and grandmother's daughter with quite a fabulous voice.  Saturday, I woke to make her breakfast, fit in a short run while she showered, went to a rocket launch where she had 2 successful launches, enjoyed a big ramen lunch with friends, then supervised packing and took her to camp and got her settled.  A couple of hours later, I returned to watch her first soccer game, followed by a late appearance at a second local (but different people) Karaoke party.  Today, I did the aforementioned long run, enjoyed an Italian lunch with E, and then headed to the east bay for joint college roommate and husband drinks at the awesomely hip Grand Tavern followed by a rooftop beers and burgers party overlooking the lake where we watched the exciting see-saw of the US-Portugal world cup game.

Did you notice that *nothing* in the previous paragraph was about work?  I can't remember the last time I was this relaxed about work on a Sunday.  Niece week is such a great gift.

June 15, 2014


So, a week or two ago, I finally admitted that we weren't getting any more lettuce from our spring garden:

The most bolted lettuce I've ever had in the garden

When the lettuce is exposed to too much heat and sun, it grows tall and bitter in its efforts to send up seed pods.  I can tell you from personal experience that you don't want to eat any of the leaves after this happens.  It's a sure-fire way to turn someone who is on the fence about leafy greens into dead-set opposition, they (both the leaves and the skeptical greens-eater) truly do become quite bitter.

Despite my Summer blog post, I'm actually very well aware of the current seasonal limbo.  We keep going from days of extreme heat back down to highs in the reasonable 70s like today, where we met up with friends for a run at 10 AM (something that would have been crazy 2 weeks ago when the highs were over 90F).

For me, the epitome of Summer is tomato harvest.

And right now, while we've got a good start, there's quite a ways to go (note the complete and utter lack of any color other than green on the tomato plants).

Same story with my running.  I'm aware that I'm actually training for and running two fall marathons.  But, truly, it's so far away, that nothing feels real yet.  I've got 17 weeks 'til Chicago.  In the meantime, I've got a visit from my niece and brother, a trip to Raleigh and 10K in ATL, a trip to NYC for family, a trip to Napa with family, a getaway weekend in Half Moon Bay, and a Ragnar Relay from SF to Napa.  There will be many long, long runs in there.  But right now after today's 6+ mile long run, it seems so unreal.  4 (Four!) X as long as today?  Really?  Best not to think about it.

This week, I made my way through 28.82+ miles on my feet, with much walking.  But, I hit a localized low point on the scale, which was a nice development (as I really do need to drop several pounds to have pleasant marathon experiences).

June is a rough month for work due to the end of the traditional fiscal quarter, so I haven't made it back to track club since before my last half marathon.  Instead, I did some tempo interval work and managed to fit in 14% of my miles this week sub 10 min/mile, including at least a mile total somewhere in the 8s, which feels good.

Today's run felt like a turning point, in terms of effort.  I started with 3.72 easy on my own, running in high 10s/mile on super low effort, and then I joined our recent every-weekend run and brunch group (E, C, G and me) and pulled off 2.9 miles of harder intervals 4:00/1:00 walking R/I with G, running the last one solo at a reasonable approximation of target marathon pace.  Nothing huge in terms of distance or speed, but a solid effort and one that left me hungry for next week, and curious about where my fitness actually is, which is a good sign.

In personal literary news, I ordered entirely too many books from the local independent bookstore and left with a very heavy bag on Saturday.  I think I have to cut myself off.  I haven't really counted, but between Harry Potter book I'm co-reading with my niece, Arvay's last shipment, E2's recent donations, a book or two from E, the required books for next book club (Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles) and my recent additions from the support-your-local-bookstore binge, I probably have 15 physical books in my current queue, not to mention the audio books in my wishlist.

And, on the linguistic front,  DuoLingo owns me.  I am fully engaged in their "game-oriented" learning approach.  I did sit down to work on the *real* textbook this weekend (as promised).  But, I've been a bit shocked to realize just how much effort I will make to play the silly games.  Given that it's just improving my grammar, vocabulary, and formal Spanish knowledge, I'm not complaining at all.

So there you have it, garden, running, reading, and language.  Add that E2 and I are doing well, I seem to be keeping the practice of law confined to 55-65 hours per week, we had some fun nights out with friends last week, BBQ season is in full swing, and we're looking forward to hosting the niece this week and that's my current life in a nutshell.  

June 8, 2014

Confessions Of a Pattern Matcher: Spanish

It looks like, yet again, my life is being arranged such that I may be able to speak some Spanish in a native speaker environment before the end of the year.

Every time I go to a Spanish-speaking country, I tell myself, "One Day.  One Day I will *actually* speak this language."

But, other than one semester of conversational Spanish that E and I took back in 2005 and making my way from beginning pimsleur Spanish through intermediate/advanced, I've never formally studied the language.

I formally studied French and Italian, so I get many of the Spanish complexities for free, but really,  I'm a big cheater, and it shows when I speak with fluent adults.

Essentially, I can pattern-match my way through any and all necessary Spanish conversations, and I do so.  Ideally, I would buckle down and lock in a proper understanding of the language so I'm not mimicking every Hispanophone I encounter in my desire to be understood.  But, I've never been disciplined enough to do the heavy grammar lifting.  Pimsleur is *amazing* for advancing your spoken language and comprehension in day-to-day interactions and I highly recommend it if your goal is to be able to communicate.  But my Spanish has been at the point where I can communicate and understand what's going on just fine for far too long, so Pimsleur isn't going to help me.


My Spanish accent and patterns of speech are a BT-unique disaster.

I started with a subtle French and Italian lilt even when speaking Spanish words (and I don't hesitate to try bastardized versions of the French or Italian word if I find I don't know the Spanish one).

While I spent some time in Mexico (Mazatlan) in 2000 and probably picked up a few bad habits there, I didn't get serious about my own personal version of Spanish until I studied conversational Spanish at our local community college in 2005 with E.

After this class, we headed to Puerto Rico for vacation, where they speak a form of Spanish that is all their own due to the melting pot of history and trade.  At times, it was closer to French as sometimes they swallow many of their consonants.  At other times, it was like learning a new language (or, as my brain likes to think of it, *extending* my Spanish), so I learned the local dialect words that aren't used in other Spanish speaking environments (but I don't let that stop me from adding them to my internal "Spanish" dictionary and deploying them when I think they may be useful).

I boldly and loudly took my odd Franco-Italo-Boricua version of Spanish to Mexico twice in 2006, once in 2007, and again in 2008 and added some Mexican influences.  Yet, still, I was regularly asked, "Where are you from? Are you Argentinian?"

Not to run the risk of undoing the damage, in 2010, we spent two weeks in Argentina and Uruguay and I picked up the habit of using the "Vos" (not properly, I assure you) and strengthened my so-called Argentinian accent (to my brain, Argentinian Spanish has much more of the Italian-style sing-song than other Spanishes, and it's easier for me to follow and speak).

In 2011, we did a long trip through Spain where I regularly encountered confused stares in response to my use of the "Vos".  I didn't get completely rid of the vos, but I did leave Madrid with a Madrilleño lisp (in fairness, I did manage to drop the "ll/y" --> "zh/j" patterns from Argentina almost immediately).

On the same trip, we finished up in Barcelona where I learned I could actually understand and passably speak Catalan.  The only problem?  I thought it was Spanish.  My lack of formal training in the language means that I survive on the basis of minute-to-minute pattern matching and word roots.  When you have studied Latin, speak French and Italian and can sometimes understand Portuguese but don't have any real serious formal training in Spanish, your Spanish turns into Catalan quick-fast, I promise.

Then, in 2013, we returned to Barcelona, and by the end of the trip I was regularly being *complimented* on how refreshing it was that a foreigner spoke Catalan (all the while, my brain thought I was speaking "Spanish").

In other news, I'm on the fence about whether to join OpenLanguage for my new commitment to formal Spanish studies -- I took their placement exam and they claim I'm B1 on the CEF.  I'm sure their lessons would be very helpful, but given my historic preference for linguistic cheating, I'm wondering if I'd be better off focusing elsewhere, at least until I can test into a C-level CEF proficiency.

All of this is the lead-up to say that I'm committed to actually completing the full Spanish textbook and workbook I have (18 chapters), as well as daily lessons every day on DuoLingo this year before we go somewhere where Spanish is spoken natively.  I think this level of commitment is likely to push me over the edge and *finally* I *WILL* actually speak Spanish.

Here's to hoping...      

A Very Slow Start (But a Start Nonetheless)

So, technically, this week was the first week of my Hanson's training plan for the Chicago Marathon.  18 weeks from today, if all goes according to plan, I will be lining up in Chicago and setting out to run 26.2 miles.  (This seems ridiculous right now.)

But, this week was also doing double duty as a good recovery week from the Windermere Half, and, if I'm being totally honest, a big "welcome to the glorious decadence of Summer -- enjoy it while you can" week.

So, I was very social.  In lieu of a scheduled run, if there was an opportunity to talk on the phone and walk, I did so.  There were two opportunities to run-walk with friends and chat, and I took advantage of both, opting to count total mileage and not worry about total time running.    Friends of mine who are moms had time to go out to dinner now that their kids' school schedules had changed and I took advantage of that too (I didn't get home 'til 11:45 PM!).  And, this Thursday, in a surprise after last week's soft opening BBQ, we hosted a *huge* barbeque full of perhaps the most eclectic cross-section of our friends that has ever graced our home and I didn't get to bed 'til 12:30 AM.

I walked every day this week.  But, I didn't run very much.  And I didn't run faster than 10 min/mile at all.

However, I managed 32.62 miles total, approximately 10 miles of actually running, and I feel ready to head into next week's running mileage.

My favorite run, by far, was today's 4.2 miles of run-walking with E2 in the early morning calm of Santa Cruz fog and surf.  Years ago, E2 was my go-to run buddy.  But she's been battling injuries and stress-related pain for several years.  Recently, she's gotten her pain under better control and has started running a bit, so today, after they graciously hosted us for a Saturday night evening, we left their home and headed out for a beautiful fog-covered run along the harbor, out to the lighthouse, along the beach, through neighborhoods and back to their home as the fog burned off in a wonderfully awesome return to something I've missed so very much.  There are few things better than a good run and chat with a good friend.  Oh, unless that's followed up by some much needed rolling and stretching and a perfect bloody mary and brunch overlooking the harbor under the bright blue sky.

June 1, 2014

Spokane -- Windermere Half Marathon

This weekend, E and I headed to Spokane to have a family meet up with my sis, her husband, my adorable nephew and niece, and my mom and step-dad.  Yay, family weekend!

Saturday, we spent the day celebrating the nephew's birthday at a local kids' science play museum, which was oddly exhasuting.  After walking there, half an hour of set up, 2 hours of toddler wrangling (including at least an hour of infant niece holding -- she's still at the age where she does best if she's in someone's arms, and bonus, my voice is so similar to my sister's that I don't completely register as a stranger even though I haven't seen her for the last 50% of her life or so), a half hour of take down, another half hour of just getting all the gear and stuff loaded in the appropriate vehicles, and then another half hour of picking up our race bibs at the expo, I was exhausted and needed a nap.  So, for the second race in a row, I took a pre-race nap the afternoon before.  I think the day-before race nap is going into my bag of required tricks for an ideal race.  (Mom and sis simultaneously napped too, so I feel good about that, like we were doing family bonding on the sleep plane.)

After the nap, we hung out with sis & bro-in-law and the niece and nephew for a bit and then met with grandma (aka my mom) and grandpa and walked along the river, looked at the falls, walked across several footbridges and just enjoyed being outdoors in gorgeous nature and weather with family.

It was very strange for these Californians to see so much water.
To close out the day, we carb-loaded with a leisurely family dinner overlooking the river, walked back to the cars, and headed to the hotel.  Upon arriving home, I realized I'd been out and about, on my feet from 5 PM - 8:30 PM -- not exactly my ideal pre-race routine, but then again, I'd rather hang out with my family than race a minute or two faster on a just-enjoy-it race.

Sunday AM, my sis and her husband picked me up at our hotel and we drove to the start of the half while mom & step-dad hung out at their house to watch the kids (How adorable are they to get up at 5 AM to drive to sister's house to do kid duty so sis & her hubby could race?).

We arrived at the race at 6:20, which was good, because upon arriving, I realized I'd forgotten to pin on my bib (in other words, it was back at the hotel).  Seriously?  This was, according to my records, my 41st half marathon, and more than my 60th race since 2005.  I *forgot* my bib?  I've never done this before.  WTF? 

Thankfully, this is a small town in the pacific northwest and the race organizers laughed at me, mock threatened, "No.  You can't run!" and then gave me a new bib and promised it would be corrected in the system before I finished.  Awesome! 

You know that cold temperature PR I was looking for?  Yeah, Spokane was in the middle of celebrating unseasonably hot (but beautiful) weather...It hit 70+ before the finish and most of the race was in full sun.  Oh, well, at least I'd trained in the heat.

Despite the heat, it was a gorgeous, fun course, and very well run after the start (we didn't get under way until 30 minutes after the scheduled start...).  Impressively, there were about 10 aid stations on the half.  Almost all had sports drink *and* water, plus there were two gel stations, and, bonus--many of the stations had little mini cups of gummi bears, plus all aid stations had 2 potajohns.  This race is definitely in contention for one of the best aid supported runs I've ever ran.

The first seven miles ticked along exactly as I'd planned, roughly 9:55 pace average, faster on the downhills, slower on the uphills, walking through the aid stations, but maintaining nice and easy effort and breath.

Mile 8, unfortunately, did not go so well...mid 10s were a bit of a struggle and it became clear that I had GI issues... Annoying!

I pushed through the last long(ish) uphill in Mile 9 for a mile split of 10:25, watching my time goal of 2:10 slip away.  But, the one good thing about the GI pain is that I didn't have much brain space to be disappointed about my decreasing speed.  The joy of seeing the aid station with portajohns at mile 9.23 almost made up for the decreased pace. (Almost)

1 minute and 42 seconds later, my belly felt much better.  But my legs had tightened up...And, the rest of the race was a slog.

0.7 miles at a frustratingly high effort 10:27/mile pace.
1 mile @ 10:50.
0.34 miles @ 11:06/mile pace. (???)
14 seconds walking through an aid station
0.59 miles @ 10:51/mile pace
1 mile @ 10:27
0.14 miles @ 9:19/mile pace to the finish.

So, I finished.  But it wasn't pretty.  Around mile 10 or so, I decided that my much modified goal would be to finish faster than SLO if I subtracted the portajohn stop.  Mind you, my original A goal had been to finish at 2:10 or below, and I (mistakenly) had thought it was a very conservative goal due to the cool temps (that didn't materialize) and the net downhill course.  Today's reality said otherwise...(2:15:53 says the Garmin).

Somewhere in those last miles, I slowly did (and redid with late stage race brain that has trouble) the math and figured that 1:42 + SLO's 2:14:XX meant that I should try to shoot for 2:16 or lower on the clock when I crossed the line.  I did what I thought I needed to do to make that happen.  Finally, I turned on to the Howard Street bridge and saw the finishing clock reading 2:18:XX -- WHAT??? I was supremely disappointed and the sadness definitely killed my ability to finish strong.  I smiled at E when I saw him waiting there, but there was no last minute push.  It was only after I crossed the finish line and pushed stop on my watch that I realized the clock was set for the marathoners, who had started a few minutes before the half.  So, technically, I actually met my late stage make-up goal, but barely.

Overall, I felt *meh* about the race, but *YAY* about the weekend.  Anytime you're healthy enough to finish a half marathon, it's good.  But I had been looking forward to seeing some obvious fitness improvements, and it didn't happen.  However, my sis ran sub 1:50 to PR by quite a bit (not surprising given some of her recent stroller running exploits) and my bro-in-law ran a healthy sub 1:28, so it was a good day in the family for running, and any day you can go run a race with family, finish healthy, and enjoy a hearty breakfast afterwards with your parents, niece and nephew, everything is awesome.

Weekly total mileage: 28.31.  Below 10/mile: 33%.  And, just like that, I'm officially in my first week of training for the Chicago Marathon.  Wish me luck!

May 25, 2014


I am aware that *technically* Summer in the Northern Hemisphere does not arrive until the Summer Solstice (this year on June 21st).

However, for me, spiritually, Summer always begins on Memorial Day weekend.  By now, the lettuce have bolted, and the broccoli and cauliflower have all been harvested (all brassicas, really), and the summer garden is in full swing.  It is hot.  The days are long.  My Summer is here.

What's left of the "Spring Garden" -- bolted lettuce and broccolli leaves with no heads.

For the first time in a long time, we are home, with no pre-scheduled plans for Memorial Day, and we both plan to take the majority of the Monday holiday off of work.  3 days!  No work!  Home!

Today, after my first trip to our local farmers' market in well over a year (California produce is *so* glorious at this time of year), a short run, and a long laid-back lunch while people watching with E, I decided I'd just like to take the day to read a book straight through. It had been so long since I'd indulged like this.  Typically, this is something I am only able to do on vacation, by a pool, on a chaise lounge (and I have to agree that the oh-so-precious vacation day that could be spent sight-seeing or hiking or whatever will be spent there, by the pool, doing nothing other than reading, swimming to cool off, and, ideally, drinking drinks with umbrellas in them).  According to my calendar, the last time we took a trip where this was even possible (and I'm not sure I dedicated the necessary time to make it happen) was October of 2012.

Today, when I turned the last page of my book, the pleasure reminded me of something from my childhood:  on Summer vacations, I often competed in the local library reading contests, and easily put away a book a day.

Today's cover-to-cover indulgence.

(This book was classic Murakami: cats, nighttime, darkness, duality of worlds, loneliness, Japanese culture, outsiders, Jazz, and some of the best writing and symbolism available from a modern author today.) 

I told E I was going to lay on the couch until the book was done.  I had a *goal*.  I cheated, about halfway through, and moved to the guest room carpet floor, substituting the mild couch yoga hip twists I'd been doing for real stretching and rolling while reading.  My legs were so thankful!  I may be able to justify the 1-day book more often now that I know how loose and wonderful I feel.

In other news, on the running front, this was a good week.

33.4 miles total.  25% sub 10 minutes/mile.  Quite a bit of walking and easy run-walking.

Track workout was great (I cut off the 200s on the back end and substituted 2X800 since I've got the half marathon coming up and I thought I'd fare better from some longer efforts): (5X200/30; 3X800/400 jog: 46, 47, 55, 54, 49; 8:13/mile; 8:46/mile; 8:41/mile).

Long workout hit a bit of a snag,  I did 4.3ish to a local 5K, only to learn that it was on grass and consisted of 10 oddly shaped laps in a single direction.  My inside foot also happened to be the foot I rolled, *and* a foot that has a mild bunion that has never seriously bothered me until this week, while recovering from the 4th/5th metatarsal sprain.  By the end of the first mile, I could tell I'd need to modify my plan, so I did.  I opted for mile intervals with walking recovery instead of a constant 5K, and I let the paces slide as much as I needed to when it became clear that my bunion was *not* happy with the setup.  I finished, but slowly.  And then I called E and asked him to come pick me up rather than running the way back home.  So, my last long run before my half marathon with my sis was shy of 8 miles instead of 11ish.  I'm not too concerned about the decrease in mileage.  I was able to do 2 miles with E today (1 @ 9:34 in the heat, followed by an easy mile) with no pain, so I think I made the right call.

And, now, I'm so excited to enjoy Monday as a true holiday!  It's been a long time since I've decided to take a holiday that many in the start-up world don't take.  But, you know what?  I'm slowly getting better at drawing the boundaries I need (and, it doesn't hurt that this memorial day is still 6 days before the end of the month (before the final month of the financial quarter rush) so there's not as much pressure to close deals as normal).

I hope you all have a great holiday!  Happy Summer! (Enjoy gratuitous turtle/tortoise preserve photos!)

Beautiful Burmese Star Tortoises

Grown-up Yellowfoot tortoise (what Guito will look like when he's 30)

A very small subset of the 100+ acquatic turtles

The Russian Tortoise breeding program has been *very* successful.

Beh-Beh Tortoises!  Hatchlings, less than one-week old, note the hand for size)

Ginormous Aldabra Tortoises hiding from the wind behind their house.

May 22, 2014

Atlanta: Food Town

Look closely... yes, that is a donut bacon cheeseburger
The first time I went to Atlanta, way back in the Fall of 2000, when all of the world had comforted ourselves with the fact that we'd survived the Y2K fall-out, and it was apparent that the 2000 tech bubble was going to result in some alternate fall-out, I attended the Atlanta Linux Showcase for work.

Memorably, I was told by a potential customer/prospect, "You're too attractive to be in tech" -- Oh, great, a fully-voiced version of the classic demeaning compliment-insult that many women experience when trying to break into technology.

For me, frankly, it was the first time I'd really encountered this perspective and I was a bit confused.  At the time, I had a purple streak in my hair and I wore doc martins.  I certainly wasn't going for "attractive" as a visual goal.  In the bay area, my apparel and hair choices made this clear and I didn't have to deal with sexist bullshit.  But in Atlanta, apparently, my boobs and butt meant that I was still obviously female and people were going to try to schmooze me along standard gender norms (BLECH!).

At the time, the frothy tech-bubble was big enough that the conference was full of all sorts of ridiculousness like booth-babes who were scantily clad by professional standards but strippers in their other lives, so super comfortable in what seemed like not enough clothes to me, and many folks who had paid full price to attend the conference and yet were just there to see the booth babes and talk with whomever with no command of technology at all (in case you've forgotten, this was the year of the Pets.com epic puppet commercial at the Superbowl).

For some reason, at the end of my trip, my flights got messed up and I ended up staying the last night of the trip at the parents of one of my co-workers.  Full disclosure:  that co-worker was E.  And E's dad basically decided we were dating and said, "Us L men need strong women, I'm happy E has obviously found himself one."  You might think this would be awkward, and truly, it should have been, but it just sort of helped me feel comfortable with the reality that E was my soulmate and I did want to be dating him, even though we hadn't really discussed dating or anything else along those lines.

My memories of this first trip regarding food are that outside of E's mom's awesome cooking, there wasn't much other than Waffle House, Chick Fil A, and Cracker Barrel, plus other less memorable options at the conference food court.  Certainly no-one tried to make the case that Atlanta was a food destination at the time.

After E and I admitted we were dating, I started coming to Atlanta on a regular basis.  Initially, foodwise, it felt very stereotypically American and Southern.  I was treated to great barbeque (Georgian and South Carolinan Style).  I was introduced to the awesome options of fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and fried pickles.  And I had *many* great home-cooked meals including bacon and grits, greens and black-eyed peas, succatoush, brunswick stew and more.

Back then, it felt like a big cultural trip -- there was a huge disparity between California and Georgia. But, over the years, that's changed when it comes to food.
Salad course at Tomo

This visit, I had the best Japanese meal I've had this year (omakase at Tomo), despite having spent a week in Japan in February.  And, I joined E's mom, dad, and sister for an amazing high-end Mother's day lunch present (it's good to be the plus-one!) at a fancy seafood restaurant.

Atlanta has emerged as a serious food city, which means it's become more international and experimental.    Watch any reality-tv chef competition and there's guaranteed to be a contender from ATL

This trip, we were there while E's sister was the managing director of a food-based benefit for the local children's hospital.  Local restaurants all set up booths and competed with food and drink entries so the attendees could vote (the donut bacon cheeseburger won).  There were too many delicious options of all types of cuisine and I couldn't even eat a bite of everything.

It's only been 14 years, but Atlanta's food scene has changed dramatically in that time.  You can still get great barbeque and southern food, but if you tire of that, you can also get just about anything else your heart desires.        

May 19, 2014

Last Week

We spent last week in ATL, for work, and also visiting family.

It was a great time.  At one of the tech parties, we had our caricatures done, which was fun:

The downside was that I rolled my ankle on my run on Wednesday.  After the caricature party, we arrived home and I found myself the owner of a stiff, painful foot that hurt to walk.  I iced.  And I was scared.

I woke the next AM to similar stiffness and inability to walk.  I iced again.

By Thursday PM (after E's mom bought me an elastic ace bandage which ended up being way more helpful than expected), it was clear that I would make it through, and quickly.  E's father took advantage of my convalescence to get me to commit to driving his 1985 Porsche 911 to the detailer's (no one else in the family is comfortable driving a mechanical stick shift).  I have to admit, Friday's diversion of detailing, plus coffee at the nearby cafe and reading CAFC's Oracle v. Google Ruling, followed by post-lunch high speed road driving and donuts in local parking lots?  Well, it was a fabulous way to spend half of Friday not working.

Overall, the running was not as impressive as it otherwise would have been, thanks to the concerns about the rolled ankle:  19.33 miles total with only 5% at high intensity.  In fairness, I can only blame Thursday and Friday on the ankle.  The big failure was Sunday -- ridiculous weather with torrential rain kept me off my feet.  But, overall, I'm just happy to be healthy.

I celebrated the new week with book club.  The meeting to discuss A Study in Scarlet was educational and enjoyable.  If nothing else, we were all in agreement that Book 2 was a crazy surprise, and not necessarily a welcome one.

Looking forward to a good run tomorrow!

May 11, 2014


Today, I found myself alone, carrying my portable office (always heavy full of books, laptop, papers, etc), my purse (always heavy because I'm one of those stereotypical ladies with a purse that has everything but the kitchen sink), and a huge rolling garment bag (46 lbs, according to the airline) down a staircase.

I did it.

But it wasn't pretty.

The garment bag hit the stairs with every step because I am too short to hold it high enough to avoid the scrape when I drop to the lower stair.  The purse and the portable office bag weren't close to 46 lbs on my opposite arm, so I was off-kilter.  In the interests of safety, I took the stairs with baby steps, putting both feet on each step.

Once at the curb, I couldn't help but feel like the picture I'd created on the staircase was such a visual metaphor for my life these days.  (Let's not even examine the extension of the metaphor whereby there is actually a different way down with a fully functional escalator that I didn't take...)

Lately, I've been trying to cut myself more slack.  When I feel overwhelmed, I've been trying to tell myself that it's okay not to work 15 hours in a day just because my clients have needs.

In short, I've been trying to prioritize my own needs, and I suck at it.  I take all the bags and load myself up and make it down to where I need to be in one trip without aid from many of the people I'm traveling with.  Why?  Well, because I can and they are doing other things.  I just max myself out.  That's what I typically do.

As I've evolved as a blogger, more and more of the blog has been focused on running.  I think this is due to two things:

1) It's an area where I don't owe anyone anything.  It's me, doing stuff for me, and for some reason, unlike the rest of my life where I make an effort, I'm perfectly comfortable being average.  The posts may read as boring and technical and fact-filled, but make no mistake, they are *highly personal* and even though I almost always let my professional obligations run my life, I do know that doing stuff for myself is important.  Even though I don't do as good of a job about it as I could do, I'm proud that I do make time to regularly run and try to stay relatively fit.

2) As I've aged and opted not to have children, I've reconciled myself to the reality that I have less and less in common with the majority of my cohort.  Running is this great social binder that doesn't care about the differences between people and only cares if you care about running.

The last few weeks, I've been suffering from some major professional burnout.  This is normal in my line of work.  What's not normal for me is that I've actually been scaling back work commitments and scheduling more me time in response (which translates to more gardening, Internet piddling, running, walking, and reading).  In doing so, I've read more about running, run more, and watched more running videos than normal.  Finally, headed into next week, I'm feeling a bit recovered and I'm amused that running has become such a large part of my life that it's the place I turn when feeling overwhelmed.

Did i say amused?  Oh, I meant that, but really, I'm grateful.  I'm so grateful.

**Weekly Running Recap?  27.97 miles, 3 rest days (2 garden, 1 travel, but a 12 mile long run and 15% high effort miles sub-10.  Best workout of the week?  18X200 100 R/I w/track club averaging  54-55s -- felt so great and strong after this workout and very much enjoyed the camaraderie of the group.) 

May 4, 2014

And we're walking, walking, walking...

This week, to recover from SLO, I cut myself all kinds of slack.

And yet, much to my surprise, I still hit 25.24 total miles, including 12% of that volume at sub-10 min/mile.  This % of miles at sub 10 is a new metric you'll see me touting going forward this year.

I read this post on the application of the so-called 80/20 rule to running and it resonated with me.  (It also tightly correlated with the pace goals for the Hansons running plans I've followed in the past and had great success with.)

I definitely feel like I benefit when I increase my overall volume and don't focus too much on quality over quantity in terms of mileage.  I know I am lucky in that I don't tend to get injured (knock on wood) when I increase my volume, but, frankly, I also tend to increase it at paces that many folks would consider to be ridiculously slow.  I count walking miles.  I count super slow jogging miles.  I count run/walking miles.  I just want to increase the total mileage, which, truly, is just a proxy for increasing my overall aerobic load.  In fact, I could probably substitute cross-training for most of my running volume, and just run the minimal hard stuff I do and end up roughly in the same spot.  But, I digress -- I won't be doing that (unless injury requires it). 

Anyways, this year is a big running year for me.  I've got a half marathon coming up in 4 weeks where I hope to show some serious fitness gains.  Then, I've got the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta, where all I can do is make a strong effort to show that I did my best to handle the hills, heat, and humidity.  After that, it's a long high volume slog as I'm signed up for and hoping to do well at the Chicago Marathon and then, I'm looking forward to joining my college roommate for a fun and photo-heavy New York Marathon.

All along the way, I'm hoping to increase mileage with very little focus on pace.  I assume it will just naturally come down, like it always has when I've been honest about increasing volume.  I am not a high pressure runner (other than on race days, when, occasionally, I can put myself under a bit of pressure) and I have no plans to become one.

I was gratified to read the 80/20 rule post because it gave me a high-quality goal that I can focus on, but that I think I can actually hit quite easily.  And I look forward to doing so over the rest of the year.

Run happy friends!


May 3, 2014

Sub-5 Minute Beer Mile

Go California Runners!

April 30, 2014

Power Outage Date Night

Every time the power goes out, E & I play scrabble by candlelight.

Last night, I won by one point.

Current running game count since 2009:  BT: 3. E: 5.

Looks like I only need the power to go out 2 more times to tie it up...

April 27, 2014

SLO Half Marathon Weekend

Well, this race weekend was an unqualified success.

E and I drove down on Friday afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful and delicious date night on the ocean.  Saturday was race expo and carb loading with family plus a visit to a turtle and tortoise preserve. (Yes, you read that correctly.  That's our idea of fun.)

For the race, I had data from last year to help me calibrate my goals, and I was very proud to nail #1, which was the most important one -- I didn't blow up.  I ran a strong, smart race.

I also hit #2, which felt great!  First 6.55 miles: 1:08:08; Second 6.55 miles: 1:06:33.  Negative split!!

I hit #3 relatively easily, comfortable at the 10 mile marker that I would easily beat 2:20, and in the final miles, I kept gaining on the 2:15 pacers, to pass them in the final 0.25 miles and secure goal #4 (2:14:39 by my Garmin, AVG 10:11/mile).

Goal #5 was always a bit pie-in-the sky, and frankly, after the first 2-3 miles, I knew I needed to let it go or I’d risk missing my most important goal, #1.  So, I re-assessed, conserved energy, and even walked for a minute and finished the Gatorade from my aunt on the last bit of the final big brutal uphill before the 7+ mile turn-around point.

The second half of the race felt better than the first, which has been a long time coming.  I've overestimated my fitness on almost all of the half marathons I've done in the last 2 years, so the last half has typically been very painful.  For today's wonderful gift, I owe thanks to the sincere evaluation of reality I did the night before the race to make sure I had reasonable goals, as well as several *very* important things:

1. The elevation profile (the 2nd half was more downhill, and if I'm not dying, dowhills are my strength).  I took it easy on the uphills and passed folks on the downhills.  Interestingly, I was regularly passed on the downhills between miles 6-11 by a woman who was taking consistent 2-3 minute walk breaks on the uphills -- she had a similar downhill style to me, but after her walk breaks could jam down the hills faster than I could.  I took note, wondering if I may actually prefer this approach on a very hilly course.  Something to consider for the future...

2.  Carb Loading, for reals. I'd been knowingly negatively affecting my ability to run over the last couple of months by decreasing my carbs because I need to lose some weight, and for me, this is a strategy that is helpful.  This meant my long training runs, in particular, we typically brutal.  But, in prep for the race, I threw caution to the wind starting two Fridays ago.  If we were at a restaurant and there was bread, I ate as much as I wanted.  Two Fridays ago, on date night, I laid into such an epic serving of vegetarian pasta with olives, red pepper flakes and cheese that the server complimented me on finishing it, claiming, "I've never actually seen a lady finish this dish."  This Thursday, before a hike with E2, I did the same for lunch, finishing a large serving of seafood pasta and some bread.  Saturday, with my aunt and uncle for a pre-race meal, I had yet another pasta dish -- a delicious homemade garganelli with sausage, brocolli rabe, and peppers *with a side of polenta* (that E finished).  The interesting (to me) side effect of a week of choices like this (interspersed with more standard healthy light fare) was that it stopped the slow weight decline I'd been experiencing, but I could feel my energy levels going up on a daily basis and I started sleeping better.  For someone who loves pasta but almost never eats it, this week was a big splurge and I'm happy there were some obvious energy benefits.  The difference between my energy levels after an hour on almost all of my long runs in 2014 and today's race was like night and day.

3. Rest.   I left my last client of the day on Friday at 2 PM and set my out of office.  I took a call while E drove from 3 - 3:30 PM, and that was it.  I checked my email maybe one or two times over the weekend, but, for the most part, I didn't do any real work from 3:30 PM Friday until now.  Add to this that Friday night I was in bed, post hot tub, and healthy dinner by 10 PM, and that I took a nap on Saturday afternoon.  Oh, and miracle of miracles, somehow, despite the rock bands, with my earplugs, I was able to fall asleep in downtown SLO and sleep (albeit interrupted every few hours) from 10 PM to 5:45 AM.  I hadn't been this well rested in a long time.

All three of these variables combined (I might add, almost all of them existing due to the awesome support of my husband) with the good stuff I had coming in to outweigh the bad stuff I had coming in and enabled me to have a great race.

In fact, in a very common end of race story for me, yet again, the last 0.14 miles were all out.  In testament to just how well fueled I was, I did this bit at a 7:02/mile pace. A youngster at least 15 years younger than me (or so I told myself) came out of nowhere and decided to try to sprint past me in the final 0.1 mile.  I made her work for it, digging deep into the reserves I’d built up from all of the track sessions (and laughing at the ridiculousness of my pace for a 2:15ish half finish) but she managed to intelligently line up to pass the other folks in the chute, so I let her go rather than run over a couple in front of me.  Unlike other historic last minute sprints, this one didn’t bother me so much, she hadn’t been anywhere near me for any part of the race – I’m guessing she either started late or started *very* easy and just kept picking it up to the end.

Other beneficial race details?

As promised, my Aunt met me on course, with a sign, after the worst uphill, and she handed me the small Gatorade bottle I'd given her.  This meant I could hold it, run, and drink sports drink when I felt like it and keep a nice easy pace without worrying about aid stations until the top of the hill at Mile 7 (where I took a Mocha cliff shot… mmmm… caffeine).

The Gatorade plus 2 mocha cliff shots and water and sports drink on the course coupled with the carb loading meant that I felt the best I’ve felt at the finish of this race than I’ve felt in a long, long time at a finish.  I actually think I could have run another 5 miles at a good solid pace after the finish, but if you'd asked me whether I could do 17 at hard effort yesterday, I would have said, "NO WAY!"

Bonus, I just confirmed that I actually have 5 weeks ‘til my next race, a half with my sister, not 3, so I’m in perfect shape to capitalize on this run and make a strong effort to make additional fitness gains so I can enjoy a great race with her.  I haven't been this excited about running in a long time.

As for the race weekend, E, my aunt, uncle, and I solidified many details to make this race much more doable this year, including locking down the hotels to ensure comfort and luxury on Friday night date night and moving to a budget motel for walking distance to the start for Saturday, as well as driving plans for in-town family to aovid the road closures, and the go-to post-race brunch location (with awesome bloody mary’s).

My aunt was so adorably supportive this weekend.  She came with me to the expo and cracked up the cliff shot dude by telling him she wanted to put cliff shots on ice cream.  She was so obviously excited about being involved in the race weekend for the second year in a row and kept saying things prefaced with, “Next year, I’ll...” In her mind, there is no question.  This is an annual family tradition.

After today, with perfect weather, a great race, and beautiful views of the San Luis Obispo hills, I tend to agree with her.

Here's to next year!

April 26, 2014

SLO half marathon pre-race check-in

E and I drove down to Pismo/Shell beach on Friday.  It rained the whole drive, while we visited a local friend at her gymnastics gym, throughout dinner, and while we lounged in the hot tub after dinner.

And then, magically, just before we headed up, the weather cleared so we could enjoy a beautiful sunset overlooking the ocean from our hotel balcony.

We were in bed, asleep by 10 PM or so.  Oh, how an ideal date night has changed over the years...

This morning, I headed out for a quick 2 mile shakeout.  I did drills, 1/2 mile easy, a mile at target race pace (which felt good, effort wise), and a 1/2 mile cool down easy.  This ritual has worked for me in the past -- to help myself lock in to target pace the day before, and to ensure my legs don't feel sluggish at the start.

After the run, E and I hit up the hotel breakfast (I downed a liter of pelligrino), I went to the expo with my aunt (her first, she's a fan of Cliff Mocha shots), bought some good gear at 50% off, enjoyed a delicious cafe brunch, and took a tour of a tortoise and turtle preserve.  (Photos later).

We booked a hotel near the start downtown for tonight, so we checked in and I read and took a nap
(an auspicious sign, since I typically don't sleep that well the night before a race, having a good 9 hours last night plus a nap today is great!).

We enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner with my aunt and uncle, and now I'm trying to set reasonable goals for tomorrow so that I can execute on a smart race.

Turns out, it's a bit complicated to guess how tomorrow will (or should) play out.

The good:
-I've strung together 10 weeks averaging 29.5 miles/week since my last half marathon.
-I've lost 5-6 pounds since my last half marathon.
-The weather is supposed to be almost perfect for me --  48F at the start, 53F max at the finish.  Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of showers, 5-6 mph NNW wind (meaning crosswinds with a net minimal headwind on the way out and a minimal net tailwind on the way back)
-my 10K effort indicated I was in decent shape three weeks ago, and according to McMillan should translate to a 2:10 half marathon without too much trouble.
-taking half of Friday and all of Saturday to relax and prepare for the race is a luxury I rarely get to indulge in, and one that I assume will pay benefits in the race
-my aunt is going to be somewhere between miles 4 and 6 at the top of the hardest climb, waiting with a sign, Gatorade, and able to take my jacket (which I typically just tie around my waist once I warm up on a cold day)
-I carb-loaded fairly well all week, doing much better to pay attention to simpler carbs than I normally do

The bad:
-I haven't really had a good long run at anything close to what I'd like to target as race pace in this whole build-up.  The closest I can get is a 12 miler at 11:23 w/F, but that was on a *very* flat course.
-The hills on this course are insane. Last time, they killed me.
-My last long run was 9 miles with Jen and F, and the climb and descent were extremely difficult for me, resulting in a high-effort 11:14 pace.  I will be encountering more climb and descent than we did on that run in the first 4 miles of this course and it keeps going from there.
-Even with the lost weight, I'm still not back in my ideal 10 lb range, which means I'm still carrying more weight than I am used to racing with.
-I thought I had a reasonable A goal, but when I looked back to last year while running the full, I missed it by 4 minutes and I was much more fit back then.  Granted, it was a full, and it was very windy, but still, I didn't realize the goal was so ambitious.

So, after a bit of additional thought, here are my goals in order of attainability:

1.  To finish a good effort solid half marathon and *not* completely blow up at the end.  The main goal here is to ensure that tomorrow's run is a building block for the 1/2 marathon I'm running in Spokane in 3 weeks with my sister (which is relatively flat and net downhill).  I will re-assess my approach around mile 4 and slow down as much as I think is required to be sure I hit this one.   

2.  To negative split.

3.  To beat my Kaiser time of 2:20ish. (10:41/mile pace)

4.  To beat 2:15. (10:18/mile pace)

5.  To hit 2:10. (9:55/mile pace)

And now, to hydrate and read until I fall asleep...

Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow!