November 17, 2017

Female Physical Strength Privilege

(Alternatively titled: Another Reason Why Girls' Sports and Female Physical Fitness Matters)

I currently have and at various points in my life have enjoyed all sorts of privilege.  And, I'm not sure if the Female Physical Strength Privilege I want to write about here matters or is helpful if you haven't had the same privileges I have.  I'd love for folks who have opinions on this to weigh in and educate me.

I, like many women, have been reeling and processing all of these public revelations about sexual harassment (which, duh, I have experienced) and sexual assault (which I've clearly experienced at least twice in the form of an unwanted and uninvited touching of my boobs through my clothes by strangers in elevators in completely non-sexual environments). 

So, I've had it pretty damn easy compared to most of my female counterparts.

I read so many of the #MeToo women's accounts and my heart aches for all of them, but in particular, the very real physical fear many of them obviously felt.  And I feel a little guilty, because I very rarely felt that fear as a young woman, (although, as I age, I must admit I am starting to feel it more often, not in a gendered way, just in a straight up I am not as strong or able to protect myself as I once was, way).

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of the very early lessons from my mother and father (and eventually deployed against my brother when we physically fought) that said, "If someone grabs you, you bite; you pinch; you hit the groin, the neck; you scratch, you elbow; you kick; and YELL, YELL, YELL!"  I was not taught to be fearful, I was taught to be egregiously strong and a serious problem for someone who tried to take advantage of me.

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of a practice soccer game against the boys' team who shared our practice field in my tweens where I aggressively shoulder checked a boy my age and knocked him off balance (just as I would have as if he was a girl on the opposing team) before stealing the ball and passing to my forward who scored.  It was talked about at school for a few days as a big deal and I realized everyone thought it was cool that I could do that, whereas I thought it was weird that they thought it was special.  We were 12.  Boys were the same size as the girls, for the most part...why wouldn't I shoulder check him?

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of my new stepbrother at the time, who had been admitted to the Navy Seals, pounding on the bathroom door while I was taking a shower when I was 16, demanding to be let in, threatening to break down the door.  I left the shower running, put my workout clothes back on, left through the side door out to the yard from the bathroom, scaled our back fence and surprised our neighbor by asking her to call 911 and then my mother.  I never feared for anything because I knew I could get away long before he ever got in (perhaps this was not a correct assessment of the risks, but it was the one I made).  I never had to see him again.  I did, however, cut off my long hair and rock a serious short "don't fuck with me" haircut that year.

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of the high school math teacher who handed the guy who sat behind me a magic marker and told him to put a dot on my forehead as punishment for falling asleep, and Robert (I was told) said, "Are you kidding?  I'm in PE with her, she will wake up and kick my ass!  Do you know how many pushups and pull-ups she can do? No way.  You do it."  (I slept without interruption 'til the end of class, and heard the story after the bell.)

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of the looks and occasional compliments I got from the male athletes in the collegiate weight room -- my strength to weight ratio was apparently impressive.  From this feedback, I *knew* I could use my body in a way that demanded respect.

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I often wonder how awesome it must be to be *really* fast as a runner (I am not).  I have, however, outrun a few dogs and other situations, which was wonderful, and I can only imagine how safe you must feel in your own body if you are Desi, or Shalane, or Kara, or Lauren -- my "come at me mother fucker, I'll kick you!" has nothing on their, "come at me mother fucker, you can't catch me."

When I think of female fear of physical violence from men, I think of realizing that I *loved* to work with the speedbag, punch and kick the heavy bag, and eventually spar when I took up Tae Kwon Do.  I realized that I *loved* to throw hard punches and kicks and occasionally land them against opponents who were much more skilled than me -- the blows they landed usually didn't carry as much force as mine did, and the sucked in breathe and surprise at a punch or kick that fierce from a short female orange belt made me feel powerful.  It was oddly addictive.

When I think of the stories of women dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, I think of the time my boss in my early 20s made a very suggestive and inappropriate comment about my body at an after-work party and I kicked him in the chest with my knee high boots, using the Tae Kwon Do to throw him back in surprise.  I reined it in so as not to really hurt him.  But there were hoots and hollers and claps, and all the men (and most of the women) in attendance made it clear they respected me for standing up for myself.  For a long time, I felt like I was an equal.  And then at some point I realized how fucked up it was that the only reason they respected me was because I had made it clear that I was the rare women in the situation who could and would kick my boss's ass if he kept up the bad behavior.  If I was a dude, I'd probably have been fired for what I did.

In hindsight, when I think of women fearing violence from men, I think of all the times I waited alone at busstops in sketchy neighborhoods.  Or the time I was followed in Bordeaux after getting in on a 1 AM train and was asked if I wanted to be in "un film" as I walked home, but I just walked quickly away, down a one way street the wrong way and then another, heart racing, ready to sprint, but comfortable that I would be okay.  In all of these situations, I felt that worst case scenario, I could hit, punch, kick, run, etc.  It wasn't my first choice.  In fact, usually I felt quite stupid for taking unnecessary risks, but I always felt physically safe in my body.  I knew how to use it.  I could make it a weapon if necessary. I'd been playing sports and pushing my body for years, and I knew those dudes who saw me simply as a 5 foot tall woman had another thing coming.  Of course this sense of safety is ridiculous, a gun or other weapon or large human trained to fight obviously would have prevailed.

But, I do think that part of the reason I haven't had as tough of a time of it as many of my female counterparts is that I was raised to believe and have sought out activities that confirm that I am STRONG.  To this day, I know that if confronted, I can make efforts that will physically defend myself and will do so more than most people expect.  I have been told that the physical confidence I have speaks volumes and makes me seem much larger than I actually am.

To be clear, none of the situations I am describing involve career pressures (except the boss I kicked in the chest, but I *knew* that I would be buying myself serious mad credibility in the patriarchy of my workplace before I kicked... it was *good* for my career to take him down a notch and call out his inappropriateness in the pre-established professional framework of corporate folks and salespeople where physical strength and aggression was something to be respected.)

I am not positing that if only women were "physically stronger" or "more physically aggressive" we'd avoid the abuse of power by men against women.  Obviously, the structural power norms where men have more power on average than women exist in many realms, including the physical.

But I am saying that one of the big privileges I've enjoyed in my life is that of being a physically strong female.  I'm grateful for the insulation it's given me from many fears my fellow women have experienced.  And, I would argue that it's a dang good reason to put young girls in sports and let them get to know how to use their bodies with fierceness and force, if necessary.  

I don't think it's the only solution, and I certainly don't think it's the best solution, but I do think there are a bunch of people who would think twice before touching a woman inappropriately if they knew that the likely outcome was that she was going to quickly reverse punch back into the crowd and connect with a groin when they stuck their hand up her skirt (Confession -- I did this at least twice in my 20s in crowded clubs.  The guys moved their hands off my ass very quickly.)

And this is where it gets very real for me.  Because as much as I've felt safe and protected by my physical strength, as much as I have physically protected myself and taken comfort in it -- those aforementioned boob grabs in elevators? The two times I'd say I was openly sexually assaulted in a completely non-sexual environment?  I didn't do anything. 

One, because I was in Egypt and I'd already been subject to enough cultural WTF since my arrival that it had been made very clear to me that this society considered me property of the male I was traveling with, and after having been surrounded on the metro and hissed at by a bunch of men, I somehow lost my physical sense of power.  Without it, I couldn't do the math and realize that I could totally have taken that skeevy Saudi* dude in the hotel elevator who, after greeting me in English and trying to make me feel comfortable with English chit-chat in the foreign environment, subsequently grinned and grabbed my boob with a "what are you going to do about it?" look.  I did nothing.

Two, because I was at a conference to get certified for a professional skill I really needed and I was so shocked that a fellow professional would reach over, in my own country, in my own culture and grab one of my boobs with the shrugging "it's not my fault" look accompanied by him saying, as if he was actually sorry, "I just had to know if they felt as good as they looked."  It happened so fast.  He did it right before we got to his floor.  I'd like to think that with more time alone in the elevator I would have done something, anything, to assert control over my body.  But the truth is, I didn't.  It wasn't fear.  It was shock.  And a desire not to make a scene at the professional event where I was getting certified.

So, I guess the take home I have from all of this navel gazing is that sports and physicality are very good for girls and women because:

- it makes them feel physically empowered, which makes them look like less of a desirable victim, and actually makes them less likely to *be* a victim

- it makes them feel very comfortable making a scene in anything that feels like a physical contest, because they have lots of practice in physical contests, and frankly, real physical danger is a physical contest

But, after much reflection, the sad honest conclusion I've had to come to in my own personal experience, is that the Female Physical Strength Privilege, while awesome, is not strong enough to overcome the professional pressure not to make a scene unless you've already decided that the scene will earn you professional credibility or at least won't harm you.

*I reference the Saudi nationality of the dude in the elevator because I think it's important to note that while I had a very difficult time with gender roles in Egypt, when it comes to actual aggression, I was only hissed at and yelled at by Egyptian males.  While I felt like the property of the friend I was traveling with, I was *never* touched by Egyptian men, there was some sexist safety in being my male companion's property that the Egyptian males respected.  Perhaps if I was in an elevator alone with both Saudi men and Egyptian men and none of them knew I was traveling with a male companion I could run a double blind study, but Egyptian men never got on the elevator except when I had my travel companion with me, so I only have my one skeevy Saudi dude who proudly self-identified as Saudi before grabbing my boob as a data point.

November 12, 2017

I Have a Right to Do Better Tomorrow

Every time I get a chance to run here, I feel so very alive and blessed.
This was a tough couple of weeks, but they were good.

This week's Crissy Filed ParkRun crowd.  Such a great community event, 
and a comforting way to start the morning of a family memorial service.
We had the big memorial for the unexpected death in the family.  All of my cousins on one side came, as did all of their children.  It was the first time we'd all been in the same place since the last three additions to the family had been born and it was wonderful. 

The Niece and Nephew *LOVE* Guito.
Of course the reason we were all gathered was sad.  But it was still so lovely to be together and share the sadness of our loss while smiling and laughing with one another and the next generation.

Check out that handsome man and his sub 9 min/mile PR!
Workout wise, I'd needed to dial it back a bit in the face of the emotional demands of the family stuff.  There were many days where I headed out for X miles and at X/2 just started walking, teared up, and tried to decide whether to turn back or stay out for some run-walking to get some additional mileage done.  Even so, over the last two weeks, I still managed to pull together 2 yoga studio sessions that left me sore and suffering for days afterwards, 2 decent track workouts thanks to the running group, one pseudo long run of 5 miles, and a few of the pre-described weird failures of the planned workouts that still resulted in some semblance of decent stuff totaling 31 miles for one week and 20ish miles this week (Note: I count a bunch of walking -- each yoga day involves 3 miles round trip walking to the studio on top of the torture time in the studio, and I also have my fancy walking treadmill at my desk).

Yet another entrant in the series titled: 
"Awkward Finishing Photos in Front of Gorgeous Views" 
Saturday, E and I returned to our beloved Parkrun.  I thought I'd forgotten my Garmin (I hadn't, but didn't realize it 'til we got back to the hotel), so we went out by effort and after about 1 mile E took off to pick people off and PR by 1 minute.  I did my best and was pleased to cross the line 1m24s faster than 2 weeks ago. 

Finally, a decent run in my log that has a single digit minute per mile time.  Sure it's only 9:55/mile, but progress is progress and I'll take it.

Thursday's roasted butternut squash and potatoes in prep for gnocchi.
Some of this improvement is definitely due to C's shoestring incident during last Parkrun, but most of it is due to increased fitness and digging deeper at the end as I passed a woman with 1/3 of a mile to go and I could hear her breathing and footfalls behind me for most of that last bit -- amazing how motivating the human competition factor can be.  It hurt to push at the end, but I was willing to hurt to avoid being repassed -- totally arbitrary, but good and fun, nonetheless.

Gnocchi dough, all peeled roasted starches kneeded with an egg and flour.

Sunday's recovery run was a non-starter.  I've been nursing a tight glute/hamstring insertion for a couple of weeks and Saturday's race followed by lots of car-sitting meant that the planned long slow run turned into 1 mile of run-walking and lots of rolling and stretching before cooking E's birthday dinner.  I hadn't made gnocchi in years.  But it was his request, so that's what I was doing.

First layer of gnocchi for the fridge, 3+ layers later at 1 AM, I called it.
Due to weekend travel obligations, I roasted the butternut squash and potatoes on Thursday and made the gnocchi that night after a networking event (I was up 'til almost 1 AM rolling and cutting).  They kept in the fridge 'til Sunday, when I finally boiled them and served them under a homemade 3-meat bolognese with a side of Brussel sprouts.

My aunt's memorial service was full of tales of her feeding and otherwise nourishing people, and it felt very right to feed E's friends to celebrate his birthday after we celebrated her life. 

Pork, Veal, Beef Bolognese cooked down for 3+ hours.
Also, both of my cousins who were her children gave amazing speeches at her memorial.  Several of the things they said stuck with me (like supermommery involving treats for sports teams magically delivered to trunks of cars in high school parking lots, or how the last thing Cousin D's mom taught him was how to die like a BADASS).  But, the one thing that stuck with me the most was when my cousin D said, "And once, after she did something that disappointed herself, she said emphatically, 'I have a RIGHT to do better tomorrow, your dad taught me that.'"

So, in honor of my aunt (and my uncle and cousins and all of us who lost her), I'm going to take that one to heart and try to remember it whenever I have a day where I don't do as well as I could (every day?). In my relationships. In my mental and physical health.  In running. In everything.

Onward. To walking and stretching and rolling today and hopefully running better tomorrow.

November 4, 2017

2017 Books, part 2

In the last 6 months, I've visually read just 5 books:

 Cryptonomicon  Neal Stephenson I started this in early 2017 -- the parts that take place in Manila were interesting to read while we were there.  It took me quite a while to get through it all, but eventually I did.  It was poppy and fun and entertaining.  Typical Stephenson.  
 Sicily: An Island at the     Crossroads of History  John Julius Norwich Sicily is the island that looks like a triangle that is about to be kicked by the boot of Italy into Northeast Africa. It's been a naval stronghold and strategically interesting target throughout history.  This book was wonderful in helping to understand just how complex its history has been.  The author is a delightul gentleman who wrote the book in his 80s after a lifetime of classical and modern history study.  At points, he'd break in and say things like, "Now, I'm sure you all know your Roman history, but just for a quick refresh, here's a quick ten page summary of all of the things that happened in Roman History that are relevant to Sicily."  Only with better words and more adorably British.  And, as he probably knows, most of us don't know our Roman, Greek, Carthigian, Ottoman, European, etc. history remotely as well as he does, but it's all relevant to this fascinating island that has been conquered and ruled by almost every powerful regime within several thousand miles of it, so he gamefully summarizes the relevant stuff and tells the sad tales of plunder, neglect, and survival of the Sicilians.
 Quicksilver  Neal Stephenson I'd read this one a decade or so ago.  I started it again after Cryptonomicon in the hopes that this time I'd like it more and possibly want to finish the whole Baroque cycle trilogy.  It immediately reduced me to averaging less than a page a day.  Still working my way through it.  Like Cryptonomicon, it's entertaining, has fun historical references, and is generally a good time.  But it's not the type of book that pulls me in and makes me read instead of doing other things I should be doing.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.
 The Almost Sisters  Joshilyn Jackson I read this in South Carolina.  I enjoyed it and thought it was a well-done story set in the South about facing normal problems (unexpected pregnancies, divorce, unruly teenagers) in the daily soup of raciscm.  I liked it more than all of the other people in my book club, most of whom felt that the treatment of the race issues was too light (I thought this was absolutely to be expected for a story set in the south) and that several of the fundamental plot points were too unbelievable to hang together.
 Homegoing  Yaa Gyasi This collection of vignettes tells the tales of two bloodlines originating on the Gold Coast of Africa (Ghana, today).  It starts with tribal warfare, kidnapping and enslavement of the captured and moves through the institutionalization of the slavery trade by the British and the Dutch with the support of various tribes.  One man walks away from a lucrative family business in slavery to become a "man with no name" in a village far away.  His life is very hard, with starvation, poverty, mental illness and loss that is experienced by many of his descendants as well.  Another bloodline follows the slaves sold to Americans and their trials and tribulations through slavery, living as freemen, being imprisoned after the war and working in the mines, and more.  This is not an easy to read book, but I'm very glad I read it.  It was very educational, but also real and quite depressing.  As one of the members of my book club said, these characters are all very flawed humans in very shitty circumstances.  You don't want to be friends with any of them.  And of course you don't.  Because flawed humans in shitty circumstances do shitty things.

In the same time period, I've listened to 18 audiobooks.

Maisie Dobbs books 2 -13 Jacqueline Winspear With each additional book, I came to appreciate the characters in this series more and more.  Set during WWI, afterwards, during the Spanish Civil War and briefly during WWII, I appreciated all of the historical details behind and around the fiction.  The mysteries in each book are not formulaic -- they are each quite different, with Maisie playing differing roles ("pyschologist & investigator, British Intelligence officer, intrepid traveler searching for meaning") in each one.  The character of Maisie always remains somewhat humanly unfinished.  Each new event in her life sparks additional changes that make her even more relatable.  She's good, but never perfect, and I would love to be her friend.  My goal was to find another series I could immerse myself into, like the Gamache series, and I succeeded.  In many ways, this series is more expansive than the Gamache series given the breadth of time and various locations that it covers.  Obviously, I enjoyed them all, as I devoured them and now I must wait until the next one is released next year...
Glass Houses (Gamache book 13) Louise Penny One of my favorite books in this series so far.  The concept of the Spanish Cobrador (shame-based debt collector who just follows people around in a costume) is a perfect anchor for a mystery. Gamache takes actions that are questionably off character for him and everyone moves slightly off their historical character norms as a result.  The entirety of the Quebequois surete is at risk more than it's ever been, but, per the usual, it's all wrapped up and finished neatly in the end.  (Sigh, no predicted date for the next book...)  
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Trevor Noah Definitely one of those books where an audiobook adds extra dimension because of the various foreign languages and accents that I could not hear in my head if I visually read.  Trevor Noah's life is extraordinary, and these stories are funny, but also terrifying when considering how humans have treated other humans in South Africa during our lifetime.  I also definitely learned quite a bit about South Africa and South African history from this, which was a wonderful benefit. And, obviously, this book is hilarious, which is impressive given the dark content of many of the stories.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future Ashley Vance We've been fans of Ashley Vance's journalism for a long time.  And we have several friends who work for Elon's companies.  Elon is a bit of a character, and this book did not disappoint.  He's over-the-top.  Delusional at times.  Obviously on the autism spectrum.  But also, very driven.  And a big dreamer.  I found myself liking my idea of Elon more after this book, which was a big surprise -- I kind of assumed I'd learn more and like him less.  Also, oddly the second book on our US road trip about a person from South Africa, so some additional South African historical lessons were learned and others were reinforced or shared from a different perspective.
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo Amy Schumer I felt like I knew Amy Schumer from her very open comedic performances.  But this tender, thoughtful, honest book of stories showed me that I definitely didn't understand her even remotely well.  The comedian's performances are a caricature, but the real human comes through in this book, and she is much, much more likeable, in my opinion.  If you already like Amy's humor, I'll bet you'll love this book.  But even if you don't, you may find that her perspectives on feminism, living a good life, family relations, sexuality, body image, gun control, and money and class issues in America are very intelligent and interesting.
The Cuban Affair Nelson Demille I'd read The Gold Coast, by Nelson Demille, years ago, on the recommendation of my father in law -- I'd laughed out loud on multiple occasions.  I'd also enjoyed the General's Daughter in the mid 1990s. So when I saw that there was a new Nelson Demille book on the NYT bestseller list, I figured I'd give it a try. If you like thrillers woven with research about history and international norms, this book is guaranteed to make you happy.  Mr. Demille went on a cultural trip to Cuba to research this book and wrote a curmudgeonly version of himself into the story -- gotta love the self-deprecating humor.  His explorations of the tensions between the Cuban-Americans and the Castro regime are informative and fascinating.  His very prescient assumption that *something* would likely happen to stop the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba because it was in the best interest of too many powerful organizations to maintain the status quo is eery.  And, of course, as you'd expect, it's a fun, light, fast-moving thriller with lots of action, a little sex, and just good old fashioned espionage and intrique.
The Bourne Identity Robert Ludlum I'd read all of the Bourne books in high school and I'd adored them.  E hadn't ever read them, so he did so during our Sabbatical year, and he laughed.  He laughed because I love literature, but I also love adventure and thrillers and I'll put up with less than eloquent language for a good plot.  The Bourne books confirmed this for him.  He recommended that I should go back and re-read them, and when I learned that the same voice actor who read The Cuban Affair had read The Bourne Identity audiobook, I decided to go for it (also Audible was offering the first two Bourne books as 2 for 1).  It's been an enjoyable walk down memory lane.  So much was changed for the screenplay that in many ways, the movie isn't even remotely the same story as the original book, which was published in 1980. At a minimum, think more smoking and less technology.  Interestingly, Marie is a much more fully-fleshed out character in the book, with unique skillsets that are crucial to Bourne's survival, vs. the damsel in distress they created for the movie character.  And, of course, I'd forgotten just how francophile the books are, which, no doubt, is part of the reason I fell in love with them in the first place.  Listening to the audiobooks and hearing the French dialogue (which is usually pronounced quite well by the narrator) is a bonus I enjoy every time it happens.

November 2, 2017

No Guarantees

I'm dealing with an unexpected death in the family.  Last week, I almost got hit by someone running a red light while I was crossing the street in a cross walk with a walk sign illuminated.  The riskiest thing most of us do is go on the roads (on foot, bike, or in the car), which most of us do everyday.

There are no guarantees.  And it is so sad.  But, we are alive.  So I've been trying to do my best to do a good job of doing that while I can.

Running has been tough.  I've wanted to go out and hammer, but a couple of times, I just couldn't.  I find that randomly, I am depressed, possibly even teary, and I have to stop, and walk, and let myself mourn in an easier less demanding space/pace.

So, I've been giving myself the freedom to do that for a couple weeks.

And yet, I ran some intervals at track this week in the sub 7 min/mile pace for the first time in 2ish years.  Sure, they were 200s, but still... PROGRESS!

I've got 3 weeks 'til a 10K turkey trot, then a good 10 week cycle 'til the Kaiser Half Marathon, which will be my 50th half marathon, but my first one in 20 months.  The distance seems a bit daunting since I haven't done anything longer than 8 miles in the last few months, but I'm looking forward to changing that.

October 23, 2017

Life is Short

When I was 6 years old, I broke down in a horrific crying fit in the shower, absolutely devastated with the realization that I was going to die one day.  I don't remember what triggered it.

Hadn't been to the Palace of Fine Arts in years -
Saturday's Post Parkrun Brunch walk put us there.  With Friends.  How great!
I do remember that my parents were out and the poor baby sitter had to try to manage me until they returned.  Even when they did return, both my mom and my dad were obviously a bit flummoxed on how to deal with me.

Eventually, I just learned that my preoccupation with death, and the likelihood/proximity of it for myself and everyone I knew was not, like many of the ways I viewed the world, "normal."  But, it does motivate many of the choices I make.

Doing our sabbatical year while we were both young and healthy was very important to me.  My *life-is-short* concept is always pushing me to do the things I want to do while I can.  I'm so grateful we were able to take the time off and enjoy visiting all of the friends, family, and foreign places we enjoyed.

The beaches of Portugal -- one of many sabbatical experiences I cherish.
Similarly, my *life-is-short* mentality puts me in a frame of mind where being able to run (or hike or even walk) at all is such a blessing.  I can't help but view my daily physical efforts against the specter of potential diseases or injuries (hello car accidents, friend's husband who died of a heart attack at 37, my quadriplegic Brother, and every other person I've known in any way who's ever died younger than 70). 

Often, this means I just don't have the same level of drive to outperform myself or PR than I otherwise would.  After last week's fiery smoking down week, I had big plans to run from Emeryville out to Yerba Buena Island on the bay bridge and back on Monday.  But, when I went outside, the smell of smoke and limited view of the Oakland hills quickly changed my plans.  Instead I walked easily for 4 miles in the poor air quality and then tacked some hard short speedwork on the TM interspersed with free weights and calisthenics in the hotel gym.  Life is much too short to struggle through a run in nasty air quality that will likely negatively affect me more than missing a workout.

Liquor store in North Beach, SF
Tuesday, I returned to the yoga studio.  I'm doing a decent job of getting in once a week (4 times in the last 5 weeks with an off week for SJRNR), and that's likely where it will stay for a while because it appears to take me 3-4 days to recover from yoga these days.  I am seriously out of yoga shape!  The soreness!

Wednesday, I had a big work day, so I just worked and took a rest day (and let the soreness from the yoga keep me from too much physical activity).  My new desk treadmill arrived, so I now have a fully functional sit/stand/treadmill desk configuration (minus the swiveling monitor).  It's so nice to have an ergonomically awesome home office situation -- my old set up was a desk I bought 15+ years ago when my only criteria was cheapness, a broken office chair purchased from a startup I worked at that went out of business, and whatever else I cobbled together over the years.  It all went the way of Goodwill, the dump, or curbside free pick-up when we packed up.  And now, thanks to E doing all the research and acquiring most of the components (other than the treadmill) I'm excited to have a fancy functional workspace that will allow me to walk while doing non-seriously demanding work/life tasks.

I almost never splurge on *stuff* - the new office set up is a BIG DEAL for me.
Thursday, I wasn't feeling it, so I headed out for whatever I could muster with no judgment.  What I could muster was 2.73 easy miles @ 12:51 plus 1.74 walk/jog home.  This was one of those days when the reality of how privileged I am to move without pain weighs in and changes my perspective from one of disappointment at how I didn't come close to hitting the assigned workout to one of gratitude that I can move at all.  I understand that this perspective may be limiting my physical performance by giving me permission to make less effort than what I could probably do.  But, I can only assume that going out for some effort without stress is best for my overall quality of life and joy.  Also, I got some bad news about a family member's health that day that only solidified my choice of perspective.

Friday, I was in a hotel for work and fit in a super short 0.5 mile interval workout with weights and medicine ball efforts between ladders from 10mpm down to 9:19 mpm at 1% incline.  It was less than half an hour, but better than nothing.

One of the most beautiful finishes for a run. 
Also, what a flattering picture -- do I look excited to stop my watch or what?
Saturday I did the Crissy Field parkrun with E and a friend from Seattle, C.  I love C, she's the closest friend (other than E) that I had when we lived in Seattle and I only get to see her once or twice a year now.  I also love the Crissy Field parkrun.  It's such a beautiful location, the people who run the group are so kind, and it's a great way to start the day by running a 5K with views of the Golden Gate Bridge alongside people from all around the world.  I managed a 10:24/mile average pace, which included a stop for C to retie her shoes. I had hoped for a faster showing, but it wasn't available for me that day.

Sunday was a gloriously lazy day.  I did 4 very easy miles @ 12:27, followed by 15X30 seconds hard with 90 seconds walking recovery for 6.4 total miles.  E and I had lunch downtown, I went grocery shopping for the week, and a friend visiting from Texas came over to grill rib-eyes for dinner.  Lazy easy Sundays at home are definitely one of the best things about being back in our regular life.  And life is definitely too short not to take advantage of them and appreciate them when they are available.

October 15, 2017


The California wildfires last week were shocking.  I have family in the area.  Thankfully, their home and they were not affected by the fires.  But they easily could have been.

I took Monday as an easy day post race and walked 1 mile.  Tuesday, I was surprised to realize my legs felt tighter than expected from the race and I decided to take a second down day, walking 4 miles to and from downtown in lieu of a real workout.

Wednesday, track club was canceled to allow for recovery (almost all members had raced on the weekend).  I woke to the news of the fires and relief at the updates confirming that my family was safe.  For lunch, most of the members of my track club and I went to a local winery and then to lunch to celebrate 2 birthdays and several successful races.  On the drive back into town, I was amazed at how smoky it was.  I immediately had flashbacks to our smoggy visit to Shanghai.

I remembered how crappy I felt after a day of sightseeing in the smog and I vowed not to run until the air quality had returned to the gloriously awesome levels that we regularly enjoy in the bay area.
Tomato gifts went into pico de gallo for halibut tacos (also a gift from our fisherman friend)
So yeah, no running Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.   The poor air quality each day brought home the reality of the suffering of those experiencing the fires in a way that was very uncomfortably real.  I've always known that fires were common in California, and terrible, but not being able to see to the end of the streets in our neighborhood was overwhelming and depressing.  I can't imagine how those who lost their homes must feel.

Friday, I did motivate enough to go do a yoga class (my yoga studio has some heated classes and in connection with the heat, they have a filtration system), which kicked my butt in a good way.  In hindsight I should have gone on all of the days I couldn't run, but I'm still in a love/hate relationship with yoga right now, so once a week is acceptable progress.

Saturday AM, I woke to blue skies and joyfully headed out for 6 easy miles.  It's so nice to have returned to a level of fitness where I can just go out and do 6 miles.  Sure, they were relatively slow (11:52/mile), but it wasn't a struggle at all and didn't require much mental effort to push myself through it without stopping (except for water fountains).

Sunday, in contrast, was a workout failure.  I jogged to the trailhead as my planned warmup of a little over 1 mile.  Then, I attempted to do 2 intervals at 9:39/mile for 1.3 miles each with E.  We started out a bit fast, but at around 0.5 miles there is a bridge over the train tracks.  The elevation change slowed my average pace quite a bit and by the time I crested the apex, I needed to recover a full minute from my average pace to hit the target time.  I was breathing hard and it was clear to me that I couldn't recover that time and sustain the required pace for 1.3 miles (which was super disappointing, but what can you do?).  So, I yelled ahead to E to let him know I'd changed the plan and would only be doing 0.75 mile intervals.  They were consistent -- 9:58/mile and 9:57/mile with 4ish minutes of walking recovery between them.  From there I jog-walked home.  By effort it was a very solid workout.  But, in terms of performance, it was not.

Sunday afternoon, I met up with 2 awesome local runners at the hippest bar I've been to in ages.  It was fun to chat and catch up and hang out with people who normally only see me at my sweatiest.  From there, E and I met for dinner with dear friends in Oakland that we hadn't seen in at least a 15 months.

And just like that, another week has passed.  Certainly, time seems to fly much faster now than it did during the sabbatical.  Work and taxes and general life overhead doesn't stand out or make the time stretch the way that new and unique experiences do (often with frustration).  On the other hand, I have successfully strung a few months of good workout consistency and healthy food at home, which I definitely didn't do during the sabbatical, so that's an obvious upside.

October 8, 2017

The Frustrating (Awesome?) Tyranny of Race Calculators (RNRSJ Race Report)

So, I went for it.

Black lentils with turkey kielbasa and spinach--
one of many awesome "training" meals this week

After a difficult 10:28 mile on my easy pre-race shake-out on Saturday, I told myself I'd do the first mile at 10:40 or slower and reassess from there. 

This week's pimientos de padrones were so spicy I couldn't eat more than 3
in any sitting.  E was very happy with the leftovers.
But then, after being locked in the corrals, and slowly walking towards the start for 20+ minutes, I was antsy to get moving and my friend M asked to stop for a walk break after 5 minutes of actual running (she then went and kicked my butt by 4 minutes for the whole race!).  I checked in on effort and it felt so easy on the flats in the shade, that I decided to let myself go, but, I promised myself, not over 10:27.  I hit mile 1 at 10:26  Sweet!

Monday's dish hike's epic views...
Mile 2 was 10:25.  I walked through the aid station just after mile 2 and hit mile 3 at 10:32 -- not bad for stopping to walk and drink some water and dump the rest on my head.  I was feeling very good about the 10:27/mile goal.

And then, I wasn't.

As you can see, I hit the 5K mark at an average pace of 10:30 (already losing serious seconds from miles 1-3).  And then, it was a huge struggle the rest of the way to try to keep it below 11 minutes per mile.  I'm proud of how much effort I put in.  I'm proud of the fact that I didn't do any walking except through the aid stations.  I'm generally super happy with today's outcome.

Awesome runners who come to eat and hang out post-run? 
One of the best things about being back from the sabbatical
But, I'm also *super* annoyed at the McMillan run calculator for being able to calculate my performance perfectly on the basis of the mile I ran the week before the race.  I'm even more annoyed at myself for not heeding the science and making myself go out at the scientifically calculated 10:47 for 3 or 4 miles.  No doubt I would have had a faster final finishing time if I hadn't pushed it early on...

C'est la vie.

Also, when people you adore come to you to socialize and eat good food and they bring people you've never met who show up with pumpkin muffins, your life is pretty damn charmed.

Leaves and acorns and nuts formed pumpkin muffins -- make no mistake, it's gloriously celebratorialy Fall.
So, all in all, I'm happy.  6 weeks 'til the turkey trot 10K.  We'll see if I shoot for 1 hour or something a bit more reasonable, given today.

October 4, 2017

San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K -- Ready or Not

It's been a slow but steady 10 weeks of training (and eating primarily healthy home-cooked meals) in my run-up to the San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K.

My goals, in order, have been:

1. Increase aerobic fitness (I have definitely been doing this and it feels good.  I went on a hike on Monday and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep my breathing and effort low, even during the climbs.)

2. Decrease my mass (the trend is in the correct direction -- I tend to think of my weight as a 5 lb range and my average weight is 1/4 of a pound or so away from clearing to the next 5 lb range down, which I haven't been in for at least a year and a half)

3. Increase my average weekly mileage running (slowly but surely, this has been happening, although it's probably an area where I need to increase my efforts to hit goal #4)

4. Run a sub-1-hour 10K (I've still got quite a bit to go before I can get here -- 9:39 minute miles are currently doable but very high effort and need recovery)

Back in July, in the heat, I returned to "racing" with a 1h18 10K at The Peachtree Road Race. (12:30/mile average pace).  A few weeks later, on an overcast day, I ran the 6 mile Wharf 2 Wharf race at an average pace of 11:36/mile.

A month later, in muggy heat, I ran the Race to the End of Summer  in 1h10 (11:24/mile).  I was a bit surprised (and bummed) that I couldn't get the pace below 11 minutes per mile, but heat and humidity are not my gig and I know that my fitness improvement often comes in spikes, so I just did my best to soldier on.

Today, at track club, the assigned speedwork was a single mile (most of the group is doing a half marathon this weekend, so the goal was to keep them off their legs for their taper).  I went out by effort and was pleased to see that keeping 9:30 pace felt fairly reasonable.  I hit the first 400 (ish, there are sport lights on the track and high school kids to avoid, so the laps tend to be slightly long) at 2:24 and figured I could just try to cut the pace slightly with each lap.  800 -- 4:44.  1200 -- 7:05.  My watch beeped the mile at 9:18. I didn't want to run it hard enough to do any damage for Sunday's race, but I also wanted to try to get an idea of my fitness.  According to McMillan, the race conversion pace from this time to a 10K is 10:47/mile.

So, my goals for Sunday, in order, are:

A:  Run a sub 1h05 10K (10:27 pace).  I don't think it's remotely intelligent to attempt to run a sub 1 hour 10K just yet, but I think this is a potentially achievable goal and if I hit it, I'll be very pleased.

B:  Run sub 10:47/mile -- needed an arbitrary goal between 10:27 and 10:59, so I went with McMillan.

C:  Run sub 11/mile.

D:  Finish as best I can, with the only walking being through the aid stations.

Wish me luck!

October 1, 2017

SJRNR week -1

It's been a long time since I've actually trained for 9 weeks continuously.  Even if the training has been mild, it's felt good to consistently increase the effort and see gains in terms of pacing and ease of completing various distances.  The slow and steady mass decrease and speed increase is gratifying, if super, super miniscule on a weekly basis.

Spinach salad with Dijon dressing and potato, oyster mushroom emmentaler bake.

This week totaled 26.97 (mainly running, a little walking, not counting 8 miles of biking).

Slow roasted tomatoes -- another much-appreciated
tomato gift from a fellow local gardener.

I kept up with the general recommended training schedule and added in an hour of yoga with weighted balls on Friday in a heated room (still sore...).

Oktoberfest!  Corn-meal battered German sausage?  
Best corn-dog EVER!
Today's last long run before the race was 3.12 @ 10:46/mile; followed by a bathroom break and 2.08 @ 12:54 easy jog cooldown, then 1.14 walk to the start and then another mile or so downtown for Oktoberfest.

September 24, 2017

Falafel Fail (SJRNR week -2)

Last week I was moderately successful with a baba ganoush experiment (I modified the recipe to make it too garlicky -- but it was still delicious).  So, I decided to try the falafel recipe from the same site.

You only soak the garbanzo beans, you don't cook them!
Falafel is one of my favorite foods.  I try not to have them more often than once every couple of weeks because they are fried.  But the comments on this recipe indicated that some people had successfully baked these falafel and they were delicious.  I took the advice from one of the commenters and added some eggs so that they would stick together without the deep-frying and decided to give it a go.

Falafel mix, ready to cook.
I'd hoped I could just put them onto the cookie sheet but the texture, even with the eggs, made me suspect they would fall apart without some additional structure in place, so I decided to try using muffin tins.  Once I'd packed the tins, I poured a drip of canola oil over the top of each falafel to see if I could get just a slight hint of oven-fried deliciousness.

Not the perfect browned results I was hoping for.
Turns out, while the tops were cooked perfectly with this approach (400F 'til starting to brown, followed by 90 seconds of broiling), the bottoms stuck to the muffin tin, so I extracted a bunch of partially destroyed falafel at the end of the cooking cycle.

Hah!  I had a brilliant idea.  I'd put all of the leftover bits that stuck to the tins *back* into the oven and make a couple of twice baked falafel.

Did you know that Silicone bake-ware can catch fire?
(Note the oil spatter)
I put the muffin tin (not really a tin, as it was silicone, in a metal supporting rack) into the oven and started plating our dinner. 

2 minutes later, I smelled fire.

E knows the drill (I set a kitchen fire on a not infrequent basis), so he immediately opened the kitchen door and turned the hood on high while I grabbed the on-fire muffin tin with silicone hand protectors and walked it outside.  We're a well-oiled kitchen fire extinguishing machine at this point, thankfully.

See, I'd forgotten that I'd put the oven on broil for the last few seconds of the full set of falafel.  It had stayed on while I'd removed them all and re-constructed my brilliant twice-baked plan.  AND, all the small drizzles of oil were left on the muffin tin, both in the cups and on the top surface.  I'm not sure exactly how hot it got, but the flash point of canola oil is 600F.  Also, I've since learned that apparently silicone cookware should not go under the broiler.  Either way, there was a full on fire that took several minutes to burn itself out -- leaving behind white ash that clearly came from the silicone.  We did not eat any of the twice baked (and then charred in a chemical fire) falafel.

Dinner was good, though.
I think I'm going to leave falafel to the professionals.  After all this, it still didn't taste as good as when it's fried.  I have some frozen falafel leftovers, and if they hold up and reheat well, I *may* reconsider trying again (with pre-greased metal muffin tins), but it may be a while before I work up the gumption.

In running/fitness news, it was a good week.  I slept longer than usual and was hungrier than normal for much of the week, which is typically an indicator that I've got some big fitness gains around the corner (fingers crossed).

M: Finally made it back to the yoga studio.  It destroyed me.  I walked 1.5 miles there, did the 1 hour plus warm yoga high effort class, and left a sweaty, shaking mess, whereafter I walked the 1.5 miles home in shock at just how difficult yoga can be.  I bruised my arm doing crow pose, so I've been walking around with a nice blue mark that's still with me today.  Bonus, the core work was enough that I woke myself in the night on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday by simply rolling over and recruiting muscles like upper abs and obliques that were taxed beyond anything they are remotely used to.

T:  0.06 walk;
4 @ 11:56;
10 X 30s/90s paces (9:06; 8:50; 8:33; 9:17; 9:31; 9:47; 8:07; 8:41; 7:31; 8:08);
0.65 jog @ 12:42;
0.69 walk home from lunch

W: One of the best track workouts I've had in the last several years. Not because of the pacing (still very slow).  But just because it felt so good to run hard and beat the recommended BAA paces easily on every interval.
1.01 w/u @ 12:17;
0.4 drills w/u lap (9:22; 8:04: 7:13);
2 X 600; 600; 800 (t/p: 3:18/9:01; 3:20/9:04; 4:35/9:19; 3:23/9:05; 3:23/9:08; 4:35/9:16);
0.96 jog & walk c/d

Th: 3 @ 12:04;
1.66 walk

F: Exhausted.  Rest Day.

Sa: 1.52 jog @ 12:37;
1 mile @ 9:58;
5:10 walk R/I;
0.27 @ 10:17;
4+ min jog;
13 X 30s/90s (Paces: 8:31; 8:40; 8:19; 8:40; 9:07; 9:31; 7:59; 8:09; 8:06; 8:17; 8:42; 9:22; 8:31)

Su: 7 miles "long" @ 12:07 (including water fountain stops and a walk break to turn on headphones/audiobook)
0.15 walk c/d

Weekly Mileage: 31.86.  Most of it running.  Average paces, targeted high effort paces, and mass all still slowly decreasing.  Definitely feeling like it's been several weeks of consistent effort and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can manage to do at SJRNR.

September 17, 2017

Home Cooked Goodness (SJRNR week -3)

One of the best things about being back in our home is being back in our kitchen.  We missed so many of our favorite home-cooked meals while we were nomads.  And since we've been back, I've made several of them.

First, and in constant rotation, of course, are all things tomato (gazpacho, greek/turkish salads, caprese, tomato-olive-oil-salt salads, salmorejo, and more).

One of many gazpachos.
A second common entrant is cheese and crackers with a side salad.  Roasted/pan-fried shishitos or pimientos de padron have been on offer every time I've found them at the grocery store or the farmer's market.

Have I mentioned I love tomatoes
(and garden buddies who give them as gifts even more!)

When I've been feeling like something more complex that requires heat, I've made a few risottos, saag paneer, red lentil soup, squash noodle puttanesca, baba ganoush, and a couple of black lentil salads.

Black lentil salad and squash puttanesca
Turns out, almost all of my favorite things to cook are vegetarian.  And quite healthy.  Which is a wonderful benefit - without feeling deprived, I've been losing about 3/4 of a pound a week.

So, apparently 1/2 a full head of roasted garlic
is too much for a 3 eggplant baba ghanoush
On the running front, this week was okay: 2 runs over 6 miles, some strength intervals, and speed work (albeit super slow).

M: Rest

T: 1.76 @ 12:31; 1.73 walk

W: Track Club
0.43 miles jog w/u and drills;
2.65 total: 1200, 800, 600, 400, 200
(time/pace 7:07/9:41; 4:43/9:32; 3:30/9:22; 2:16/9:02; 57.4/7:33);
0.66 jog c/d;
1.37 walk to and from lunch;
1.5 walk to dinner

Th: 6.01 @ 12:21 (1.75 @ 10:30 with E; rest EASY);
0.39 walk c/d;
2 miles walking between client apts

F: work all day, rest

Sa: 3 easy @ 12:02;
10 X 30s hard/90s walk (1.26 total)
(paces: 8:28; 8:44; 9:21; 9:52; 9:11; 9:24; 9:20; 9:49; 9:37; 8:18);
0.5 jog c/d @ 12:38;
0.42 walk;
1.84 walk to lunch

Su: 6.21 @ 11:48; 0.44 walk

Here's to hoping I can continue with 3 more weeks of decent running and eating.  The fitness progress is slow, but it's obviously happening.

September 10, 2017

Swimming Along (SJRNR week -4)

I'm hiding from my professional life.  I haven't made any effort to market or solicit work.  A bit has come up since some folks know I'm back and available, but I'm comfortably hovering at around 20% utilization and I'm loving it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Jellyfish
This has left me time to deal with the annoying family and personal dramas that I'd really rather pretend don't exist.  But they do.  Multiple (okay, 2) lawsuits have been filed.  I don't like litigation... but, when I have to do it, I guess I do.  And, it's legal stuff that takes up legal time, so I'm happy to keep my actual paid legal practice on low-key level right now, because I don't want the stress of trying to balance paying clients against personal obligations.

Gorgeous Big Jellyfish exhibit

In other news, I'm making some fitness gains, and I'm very happy about it -- this was a solid week.

M: Rest

T: 1.52 @ 12:25; 9X30sprint/90sRI (1.5 @ 16ish AVG, with typical 30 sec @ low 8/mile); 1 @ 12:15; 0.44 walk

W: Track Club: 1.29 @ 12:41; 0.4 w/u drills; Cooper Test: 1.21 miles @ 9:55/mile; 0.11 walk; 0.57 jog c/d @ 12:26; 0.22 walk TOTAL: 3.8 miles

Th: 4.36 @ 11:30; 0.26 walk

F: 0.62 @ 12:30; 3.58 walk -- terrible showing, but sometimes you just have to give yourself credit for heading out.  I had a bunch of talking/ranting about family drama to manage, which I did while walking.  Something is better than nothing.

Sa: 4.43 @ 13:39 pace AVG.  jog 1.5 miles @ 12:22; strength intervals 2X0.75 (7:12; 7:23) Then 0.11 @ 9:55; walk and talk to mom; 0.16 @ 9:29; 0.27 jog; 0.55 walk home -- I was very happy about the 2 strength intervals.

Su: 8 miles long with E2 in Monterey (0.64 walk; 8 @ 12:39 including walk and water breaks; 0.72 walk) -- this is the best long run I've done in at least 14 months.  I was super happy and proud of this (not the least because if was the morning after a night of partying at the Aquarium).

Leopard Shark in the Kelp Forest

Thursday's run was one of those great medium efforts where I felt strong.  And Saturday's strength intervals were awesome.  But of course, Sunday's long run with E2 was the best - she definitely pulled me along to go faster than I would have without her.

I love turtles!

Progress feels so great: 30.36 mile week, and most of it running.  Onward.

September 3, 2017

Heat Wave (SJRNR week -5)

We rarely see triple digit temperatures.  But this week was quite the exception.  It hit over 100F at least 4 days, including Friday's and Saturday's highs of 111F under the eaves.  These temperatures are unprecedented in our town, and yes, it's outlier data, but it does make the "global warming is real and you need to prepare for it" arguments seem pragmatic, at a minimum.

Black out curtains coupled with modern building materials from the remodels 
(insulation under the fiber cement siding, reflective vinyl over high R foam roof, double paned windows)
keeps much of the crazy heat out.
Spending a week in South Carolina and Georgia during their August heat wave did help make the bay area version much more palatable -- humidity is *the worst* and dry air with large temperature swings downwards in the evenings mean it's tolerable (but not pleasant) to wait out a heat wave without air conditioning.  Even on the night where we had the highest low, we still had a 39 degree drop overnight from the day's highest high.

This week was the first full week at home where I could focus on running in 4 weeks.  I did a decent job, but nothing spectacular.

M: rest.

T: 4 @ 11:42; 0.45 walk c/d. 1.37 PM walk.

W: Track Club
0.3 jog; 0.37 drills/wu;
2.98 total speed and recovery
4X200; 3X400; 4X200; 2X100
(54, 57, 56, 58; 2:08, 2:14, 2:12; 57, 57, 62, 63; 22, 20);
0.3 jog c/d

Th: 1.01 easy @ 12:26.  1.5 walk.  1.1 pm walk.  I didn't get out early and let the heat tell me I was better off taking the day easy and getting up early on Friday.

F: 5.29 miles with M, who does 5 min run/1 min walk intervals.   We were out early and it was only 80F by the time we got back.  A nice easy workout at 13:55 avg min/mile pace.

Sa: Given the heat, I really wanted to bail on the workout entirely -- it's just a pre-race shakeout and only 2 miles total.  Except I forgot that I needed to try out my new shoes before Sunday's race, so I finally got myself out the door just before noon for 0.5 jog; 1 mile @ 10:17; 0.5 jog/walk recovery.  It was 98F when I left and 100F when I got back.  I was surprised that I could do a mile at 10:17 without too much effort in that heat, but given how hot and sweaty the jog/walk recovery was, I'm guessing if I'd tried to keep running I would have started to slow very quickly.

E2 stayed with me 'til mile 3 and then 
dropped me by *8* minutes by the end.
Su: Race to the End of Summer.  I'd hoped I could do something sub 11 min/mile, but it was not to be.  I averaged 11:24/mile according to my Garmin, which is 13 seconds per mile faster than Wharf 2 Wharf.  Only it was 57F at the start of Wharf to Wharf and 84F today.  So, that's obvious fitness progress, and I'll take it.

It was *hot* (and oddly humid) but we did it.
The best part of the week, hands down, was hanging out with my fellow runners and having brunch post-race.  I adore my running friends -- in addition to sharing a passion for running, they are all so smart, thoughtful, and interesting, plus they just get me.  These ladies were one of the things I missed the most about our year away, and I'm so very happy to be able to hang out and run and chat and eat with them today.

Mimosas and salmorejo and bacon and cheese and meats and fruit and more...
Mileage total for the week: 27.72.  But my ratio of walking to running is going down and my average running pace is as well.  Oh, and so is my body mass.  Consistent training plus eating out of our own fridge means that it is much easier to be calorically deficient than while on the road.  I'm hopeful I can keep the trends continuing in positive directions on all fronts from now 'til SJRNR.