September 7, 2014

Small Progress Is Still Progress

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

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

I'm going to love using these cabinets!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2, 2014

CHI Week -6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 24, 2014

Minor Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 20, 2014

How To Get Hired

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

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

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

It’s not sexy.   

It’s not about networking.  

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

Be serious about the job you are entrusted with.  

Be responsive.  

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

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

August 17, 2014

Chicago Week -7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our current "kitchen"

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

August 9, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run happy!

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

August 5, 2014

90 Years Is a Long Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was totally worth it.

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

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

July 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27, 2014

Any Healthy Strong Finish Is a Good Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I let go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run Happy.

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...