January 30, 2013

Latest Home Fun

Working from home in your work-out clothes is a good way to convince the contractors that you have nothing better to do than to chat with them about the work whenever they feel like it. 

Today, one sub rang the doorbell repeatedly and when finally I answered the door with my headset on mute, I said "I'm really sorry, but I'm working right now."   He appeared shocked.

Granted, I, a girl, rather, a childless stay-at-home woman, was still in what he probably thought were my pajamas (there are minute distinctions between my day-time pre-workout clothes and my pajamas, but he can be forgiven for not paying attention -- it's all stretchy and soft and comfy).  But really.  I actually do work.  Even if I don't look like it, and even if it doesn't require nearly as many muscles or actions as yours.

Anyways, where was I?

Oh yes.  In addition to the patio-madness for pavers trade, our original plan was to remove the stucco from the bottom of the house (demo is loud), add a weep screed, power wash the remaining paint and clean off the surface and add a new layer of stucco on top.

We got half-way:

Note the gorgeous re-papered (with black) sections and the cuts to allow for the pristine new weep screed.  Note also the peeling paint from the stucco on the prior horrid "don't, don't, don't DIY kids!" job -- we had no fewer than 4 contractors express surprise and confusion at what was done here (before we bought) when we realized there was a problem and probably needed to fix it.

Turns out, the original stucco was cracked.  Probably a long time ago.  Imagine that.  No rebar in the slab on clay over a chopped down orchard laid down quick fast in 1950 for post-war vets.  Who could imagine any sort of swelling or contraction of the area where the footings were in contrast to dead wood roots that may cause issues for the house's structural integrity?

Painting over it with the wacky DIY solution solved it for enough time for us to buy and pretend it wasn't getting worse.  But, as you can see, at some point, we had to own up to reality.

So here we are.  The cracks are at every stud, vertically through the stucco.  Thankfully, the make-shift paint/texture job held reasonably well and we only discovered one major area of dry-rot due to the cracking.

Other house modifications we've since done have convinced us that the majority of the settling is done, but not all.  We have cracks that open and close with the seasons due to the swelling of the clay upon which our house sits and they aren't going anywhere unless we re-lay the footings.

Other fun details of this process are (i) the mounds of rocks and gravel and sand that change each day in our driveway as they await their final resting places below the pavers; and, more importantly (ii) the mounds of detritus that often sit for 1-2 weeks.  No one has called to get us cited for being a nuisance, and I consider this a major life accomplishment.  Because clearly, our house is an eyesore, at the moment.  All I can say to the neighbors is, "Don't worry, I know it looks terrible but when all is said and done, it will be matched and gorgeous."

Just a month or so more of this madness to go...

January 28, 2013

LA week -7

This first week of my McMillan training plan for the LA marathon looked fairly reasonable.  All of the workouts, on paper, appeared to be things I could do.  The total mileage looked roughly in line with what I'd been doing prior to the Phoenix Rock 'n Roll.  I wasn't particularly concerned.

Uh huh.  Well, looks can be deceiving and this week kicked my ass.

Monday was a scheduled rest day and I did a couple of miles of light walking at elevation at the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday called for a 30-40 minute recovery run.  I opted for 31:31 to close out 3.01 miles at an average pace of 10:29.  For some reason, anything less than 3 miles just doesn't feel like a run to me.

Wednesday, I moved the scheduled workouts around because my life started to get in the way.   For my second non-running day of the week, I opted into some super easy cross-training with a quick trip to the gym before date night:  11 minutes rowing, 10 minutes recumbant bike.  Yes, you read that correctly: 21 full minutes of cross-training.  All I can say is that without the schedule forcing me to do it, I wouldn't have fit anything in.  So while 21 minutes is pretty lame, it's not quite as lame as zero.  In hindsight, leaving the non-running cross day in its original spot on Friday might have been a good idea. 

Thursday, I did my weekly afternoon run with a friend who's a mentor for TNT.   She has an obligation to "host" a run each week, and I join her.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), none of the TNT folks usually show up.  So it's typically just us.  This week, we did 5.61 miles in 53:06, for an average pace of 9:29.  My schedule originally called for 40-50 minutes, but I figured the extra 3 minutes couldn't really matter too much.

Friday, I met H at our usual spot and we busted out the scheduled fartlek.  Holy crap, this workout was much harder than it looked on paper.  15-20 minute jogging w/u; 5-6 X 3 min @ 8:15/mile w/1:30 jogging recovery; 15 minute c/d.  Looked difficult, but doable.  In truth, I'm not sure I could have done it.  We settled on 5, not 6, and added some extra recovery for a bathroom break and a longer jogging interval after one of the speed segments.  Even with those modifications, one of the 3 minute segments just didn't want to go faster than 8:30.  This is definitely one of the harder workouts I've done in a long time and yet it totaled 5.66 miles in 58:18 -- an average pace of 10:18.  So deceiving.  It was at least twice as hard as those numbers would make it seem.

Saturday, the schedule called for a 30-40 minute recovery run.  I waited 'til the evening and ran with E.  3.08 in 30:00.58 @ 9:45.  Yeah, I hit it, but *nothing* more.  I was tired.

Sunday, the schedule called for 16-20 miles.  Yikes!  I hadn't done anything that long since CIM.  H agreed to join me and we decided to do a very easy 16.  I planned a loop that had almost no climb to speak of, just a few small rolling hills and an easy rolling 200 ft climb from miles 8 - 12.5 and then back down for the final 3.5 miles.  The weather was nice and cool, and I thought I should be able to keep an average pace of 10:00/mile without too much trouble.  After last weekend's race at 9:10 and the prior weekend's easy 10 miler at 9:39, I figured 10ish was a good target pace.


Saturday's fatigue should have clued me in a bit.  H and I started out by effort and were both surprised to see miles 1-3 click by on the flat bay trail in a descending pace despite even effort: 10:12, 10:28, 10:34.

Okay, fine.  I reassessed.  Humbling, but I guess I'd have to try pretty hard just to keep it below 10:40.  So that's what I tried to do.

We managed to do so for the next 3 miles, but with a ridiculous amount of effort.  How could 10:40 be so difficult when just last week I'd managed 9:10?  H and I discussed that Friday's fartlek must have *really* taken it out of us.  I decided that this new training schedule plus recovering from the race is no joke.  I also realized that perhaps moving the workouts around and the 3 extra minutes above and beyond the high end of the scheduled range on Thursday may have been a bad plan.

On mile 8, there are a few bridges with reasonable sharp climbs and drops, and sure enough, we clocked in even slower with a 10:47.  For mile 9, the steepest part of the climb, we slowed to 11:00.  I was very surprised.  The weather was wonderfully cool.  I was hydrated, had gu, didn't have any stomach issues, and yet, despite putting in quite a bit of effort, I just couldn't seem to pick up the pace.

Finally, I made a deal with myself, I'd keep it below 11:00/mile 'til the end of the climb to the water fountain at mile 11, then I could stop and fill my bottle and recover a bit before doing my best to finish the climb and the descent as best I could.  I managed, but barely.

On the descent, I picked up the pace as best I could and finished the final mile in 9:56.

In the end, I finished 16.01 in 2:49:19 for an average pace of 10:35.  Nothing close to what I thought I'd be able to do, but I'm proud of it nonetheless.  This effort was huge on the mental side and I kept pushing for the entire run.  I didn't stop to walk once (not even when taking my gus) and only stopped to fill my water bottle at the fountains and for a couple of stoplights.  

Total mileage for the week: 36.95.  Highest for the year and it's only going up from here.

Here's to hoping next weekend's long run is *much* *much* easier since I won't be moving the workouts around.         

January 23, 2013

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

When picking up our rental car, the guy at the airport asked if we were in town for the marathon. He didn't seem the least bit surprised when we said we were. He tried to convince us to upgrade from our economy car, especially when we explained we were driving the Grand Canyon before heading home ("You'll have to cross 7,000 ft. I'm not even sure our economy cars can handle that...").

But, in the end, all was well. We paid for economy and were given an upgrade to the mid-size of our choice as there was not an economy car to be seen in the garage.  Our 2012 rental Jetta was a dream and made it from Phoenix to Grand Canyon and back without any trouble  I love it when things work out like that.

Leaving Phoenix, the Saguaros are in full effect.

The Phoenix Botanical Garden educated me enough to recognize that the Saguaros are like the Californian Redwoods.  Old.  Ancient beings.  Just hanging out and surviving and growing very slowly.  There's something so majestic and impressive about an organism that does that as its basic survival.

But, at some point, on the drive to the Grand Canyon, Arizona becomes surprisingly (to me) high in altitude and decidedly non-deserty.  It was almost alpine:

 After processing that Arizona is apparently not just one big dessert for a couple of hours, we arrived at the junction for the Canyon with time to spare for sunset.

So we drove the rest of the way and arrived in time to get out of our car and see this amazing sight:

 After laughter and pinching each other over the crazy reality of what we were seeing and how different it was from the whole drive, we checked in to the historic El Tovar Hotel and headed back out to watch the shadows climb and the light change in otherworldly ways.

Did I mention it was cold?  Part of the canyon was still covered in snow.

The next morning, we woke early and went out for a walk.  The Rim trail was covered in ice and snow, so it was slow going.  But we were some of the only people out.  It was silent and peaceful in a way that the path and the signs made us certain it would not have been during high season.

 Along the Rim Trail, we saw many amazing views.

And on our way back, we encountered deer and caribou (no good pictures of them, but just understand that the ears on these deer are not interested in us -- they are very concerned about the 3-4 caribou on the other side of the trail behind us).

Overall, we were *very* pleased with how this trip worked out.  3 days of reasonably little work on both of our parts, and a great race for me plus a visit to an awe inspiring national park neither of us had ever seen.  We're now inspired to try to plan a hiking trip -- to come when the North Rim is open and to hike down to the valley and back up... 

January 21, 2013

Rock 'n Roll AZ: Half Marathon Recap

Biggest plus:  A huge, fun, well run race in gorgeous weather (highs of 80F!) when the rest of the US is in the middle of the winter worst.

E & I headed out for an easy exploratory run on Saturday to get our bearings before the race. That quick 2 miles running and 1.5 walking showed me that it was *dry* (duh) so I spent the rest of the day shoving as much liquid as I could fit between my lips.  Thankfully, the start and finish (and Kids Run that briefly made me fear I'd miscalculated race day) were not hard to find from the hotel, just an easy 1.5 miles from the door. 

After a lunch downtown, we made our way to the expo (big, well organized) and weeded our way between the jr. cheerleader competitors in all of their semi-naked sequined glory.  There is nothing quite like oversexed 9 year-olds to make you feel very, very strange (and glad that you don't have children).

After a visit to the botanical gardens (pictures in the next post), we had a great pre-race dinner of *amazing* green pozole from Mucho Gusto -- highly recommended.  E enjoyed his margarita as well, but I was a water drinking fool.

The Hyatt Place Tempe (near the airport) was exactly like all other Hyatt Places in the world (because that's their thing, and I'm not going to lie, it's somewhat comforting to know exactly where everything is and how it all works).  They have minimal bar service, great 24-hour starbucks service, immediate service food from the deli case, free Numi tea upon request (I put away 3 "calm" tea bags and about 8 cups of tea on Saturday night), hot food on order, and free breakfast with a full coffee bar.

Sure, the hotel's promised "sign up for a shuttle departing at the time you'd like" business was was more of an "every runner for themselves" experience. But, whatever. We all got to the start on time. Who's complaining? Oh, all the other runners at the hotel.  Right.  I had some fun watching overly stressed runners try to force the front desk folks "enforce" the shuttle rules.  It was clear that they were not paid nearly enough to even consider worrying about this issue.  Sometimes runners at races take things a bit too seriously, no? 

The race was awesome.  Honestly.  It was in the high 30s when we loaded into the shuttle van, but by the start, it was easily in the 40s.  When I finished, it was high 60s and climbing.  If that's not an incentive to run fast and get done as quickly as possible, I don't know what is. 

I started too fast with the front-runners in my corral (the wave start was done very well -- I was in corral 5 and we started at 7:56, 6 minutes after the published start time).  But, some folks in my corral wanted to close the gap with the corral before ours ASAP.  I reigned it in once I realized what was going on, but even after I did so, the Mile 1 marker came quickly.  At 1.5 miles my fingers started to thaw, so in I tossed my long sleeve shirt and enjoyed the cool air on my exposed arms.  Miles 2-4 were right on target and flat.

1: 8:47
2: 9:04
3: 8:57
4: 9:06 

Even though I was in a tank top and shorts, I started to feel hot and ready for the water stations by mile 3, so after that point, I took water or gatorade at all of them and dumped an extra cup of water over my head at each one.  Unfortunately, Mile 5 started to make it clear that I was not going to be able to make it to the end of the race without a portapotty stop.  I was annoyed, but the discomfort was slowing me down, so finally I stopped when I saw the opportunity.

 4-4.45: 9:26 pace
1m05s Stop
4.45-5: 8:53 pace

Miles 6 and 7 made me think it was possible to make up the lost time and still finish under 2 hours (9:09/mile pace), as I knew the climb was subtle 'til mile 10 and then it was all downhill 'til the end.

6: 9:04
7: 9:03

Mile 8 was probably the hardest for me, in terms of actual effort.  There was a bigger hill than most of the other parts of the course (not much of one at all), and I had to stop to tie my shoe.  I tried to recover the lost time, but just as we crested the hill, I saw the gu station.  I can't recall if the gu station was in mile 8 or 9, but I was definitely needing it, and slowing.
8: 9:25

After the gu and water, I started to speed up, and still thought I might be able to break 2 hours as I felt pretty good.  Then, my Garmin watch band broke.  Exploded really.  The pin has been spontaneously working its way out on runs for the last month or so, but this time, I hadn't caught it in time.  In trying to fix it, I jogged slowly, accidentally hit the stop button, the start, the lap, and then, finally realizing it was futile, I decided to just hold it in my hands for the rest of the race.  My watch measured 1.02 miles over a few lap restarts and stops, but I hit a new lap at the 9 mile marker to get back on track, so we'll just call this whole section mile 9 and add up all the time in the various laps.

9: 10:01

In my watch antics, the 2 hour pace group passed me.  I spent the rest of the race chasing them.  I never caught up, so either their strategy was to run a negative split given the course profile, or they just planned to finish well under 2 hours, as they started far enough behind me that I couldn't find them at the start.

10: 9:06
11: 8:49
12: 9:05
13: 8:50

last 0.15 (watch): 1:11 @ 7:52 pace

Thanks to dumping water over myself every chance I got and liquid-loading the day before I never felt overheated, or deprived.  Huzzah!  My hair and scalp, however, were dry at the end of the race, despite at least 8 cups of water I'd dumped on it.  Turns out, my observation on Saturday's run was correct -- the desert is dry, especially in the direct sun, which most of this course was.

As for my performance, I'd been hoping to break 2 hours for the first time in a long while.  Unfortunately, my official chip time was 2:01:06.  So, I missed my goal.

But, really, I'm quite pleased with my performance.  I ran hard, but never too fast, kept pushing the whole time and never gave up.  The Garmin claims it was 13.21 total at an average pace of 9:10/mile (I had to do a bit of weaving to get to side with the watch and portapotty issues and to pass folks at times).  A good strong run and the fastest half marathon I've done since the first half of CIM 2011.

I'll just claim a PR for my weight.  I dropped some weight over the holidays and was feeling a little too easy on myself once it felt good to eat again.  Unfortunately, this resulted in at least 5 nacho meals in 2 weeks.  Nachos are my downfall.  So, while I now need to drop some mass, I am still the most cardiovascularly fit that I've been in the last 13 months.  This is a great place to be, particularly since I start my 8 week LA marathon program tomorrow. I finally decided to enlist some professionals, so I paid McMillan Running to create a personalized training plan for me. I'm excited to commit to training and eating healthy for the race for the next 8 weeks and to see how it all works out.

Overall, this was a great first race to what I hope will be a great year of running.

January 14, 2013

2 weeks of 2013, down

Seriously?  How did that happen already?

Since the New Year started, I've been working, running, and busy with all sorts of social and family obligations.

In addition to normal life stuff, we're renovating the outside of our house, so it's a crazy rubble zone.  Turns out, in the 63 years since the house was built, no fewer than 5 different patio-like ground coverings were put in place.  You know, concrete, sandstone, brick, linoleum(!), and exposed aggregate.  All interlayered and poured on top of one another.  The layers were so thick that I'm told we will have to add a step at each door to get into the house when the pavers are done.

Also, I'm a content fiend, lately.  Reading, watching movies, and listening to audiobooks every spare minute I can find. I'm not really sure where this comes from, except that I do know that when I need to recover from life, I often hide with books.  It would appear that lately, my desire to consume content written by other folks extends to audio and visual content as well.

This weekend, we made a quick trip to gorgeous San Luis Obispo and Pismo/Shell beach.  E is a wonderful husband and drove both trips.  On the way there, I stayed awake and regaled him with the New Yorker's piece on Kid Rock (highly recommended).  But, on the way back, I just slept.  The reason behind the trip was sad -- my gran's memorial.  But she had a great life, which we celebrated.  The opportunity to see my brother and sister and niece and nephew, not to mention most of my cousins and all of my aunts and uncles was awesome.  And, of course, the run along the ocean was perfect.

Yesterday, despite going to a holiday party the night before, I had one of the best runs I've had in a while.  A nice solo 10 miler at an average pace of 9:46, followed by 0.75 miles jog/walking cool down and, later, a 2 mile walk with E2.  Total mileage for the week was 31.1, but more importantly, less than 10 of those miles were a 10 minute pace or slower, and 5 were faster than 9:09 (target half pace).  Finally.  I seem to be getting some speed back.

January 10, 2013

Key West

E and I went to Key West for a few days after Christmas.

Our hotel had turtles.  I was in heaven.

On the way there, we drove from Miami to Key West, which was as beautiful as all of the postcards make you believe.  We stopped for a dinner at Lorelei on Islamorada and enjoyed a stereotypical Florida Keys sunset.

It was awesome.  80 degree days (except for the last day when it was windy and cool) and a view of the ocean from our hotel room balcony.

The vibe is *so* relaxed.  There's a fairly serious party crowd, but they tend to stay near Duval Street.  E and I went there for about 10 minutes, but it wasn't really our scene.  Instead, we fit in a couple of easy runs, and just hung out by the ocean, by the pool, and walked around every day, fitting in lazy visits to the harbor, the turtle museum, and the Hemingway Home.

The turtle museum was really a museum about the old turtle cannery and how the sea turtles were essentially fished to extinction in Key West.  As a turtle lover, it wasn't exactly what I'd hoped for, but I did learn a bit about the conservation and revival efforts that made the visit a little less depressing than it otherwise would have been.

The Hemingway home was very interesting.  On the plane home I watched Hemingway and Gellhorn, which I sincerely enjoyed after seeing his Key West home and the bars he hung out in, in person. Of course, as promised, at the Hemingway Home we saw tons of 6-toed cats.

Sunsets, ocean, turtles, 6-toed cats, E and me?  What more could we ask for. It was a perfect vacation. 

January 5, 2013

Chrystal Springs Trail Run

Today's Chrystal Springs Trail Run was great.   Such a great local trail run up and down a (small) mountain.  Well run.  Good weather.  At the finish I was greeted by a former work colleague.  She'd set the women's half marathon course record.  She is fast!

Overall, my AM run was perfect except for one thing.

I completely forgot how steep the uphill was on this course.  At the first aid station (after about 5.5 miles and 2000 ft of incline), I spent several minutes eating, drinking, and looking at my watch, recognizing that it was possible that I'd miss my afternoon flight if I slowed down any further.  So, I cut off the 2.4 miles from the top of the course (the 1.2 out and back) and started running back down.

Only a few minutes later, I realized that the downhill would be *much* faster than the uphill (duh).

So I probably wasn't actually in any danger, timewise, but at this point, I was more than happy to finish a 17K instead of a half and call it a day.

The downhill portions of this run are such a great reward -- so fun to just fly.

2:13 read the clock at the finish -- in terms of length of time running a long run while training for a flatter half marathon?  Just about perfect.  I explained that I'd cut the course short and they offered to bump me down to the 5 mile.

Here's to the slowest 5 mile time I've ever recorded!

January 3, 2013


I start this year with the realization that I have a decent understanding of social media (both from a legal standpoint, for professional reasons, and just generally, because I like to think I stay on top of trends that matter).

And yet, the idea that generally public messages should be massaged or paused or delivered in a different audience is something from my past.  I know this.  My younger clients have no understanding of this idea.  It is foreign to them.  Until they get something at the absolute *wrong* time.

It's something from my ancient history. And I never really respected it. Until recently.

I'm oddly between the "old folks" that are actually my age (or older) and the next generation who embraced a different ethos that I thought made sense.  The young kids (now pushing 30!) are fond of awkward as an acceptable outcome.

And now, I'm curious how this all will play out and hopeful that common human decency will become an important and respected and valued skill in the world I live in.  Only time will tell.

(Also, after reading this again, I feel I should add, "Get Off My Lawn!")

January 2, 2013

2012 Running Recap & 2013 Running Goals

1,224.09 miles and 10,167 since I started keeping track (mid-2004).  Less than 2011, more than 2009 or 2010.  Average, really.

2 5Ks.  One, a fun run at 27:00 flat on a nice flat course in Santa Clara.  Another, a Christmas run in Atlanta, complete with Santa hat.  E's first race, and he did great, running the entire thing, getting beaten by his 67 year old father, and surprising himself at how much warmer you can become in the sub-freezing weather with the help of some hills.  I stayed with S, and her baby stroller, and thanks to the hills, the 29:01 we completed felt like 27, in terms of effort. 

4 10Ks, but mainly for the events and not for racing.  Fastest was a fairly pedestrian (for me) 57:16 at the Fast Earthquakes Challenge. Slowest was the the Los Altos Hills Pathways 10K -- this hilly race is a killer. I've done it twice now, and both days were sunny and hot -- just finishing without walking was tough. I think I'm going to try to make this one a regular in the rotation. It's great for testing and pushing fitness in that bridge between spring and summer.

5 half marathons:
-slowest?  2:50ish at The Dirt Inspires Half in Aptos.
-fastest? 2:06:25 at the  San Jose Rock 'n Roll half marathon.

I was moping a bit, thinking it was the first year I hadn't run a half sub-2.  Turns out, my memory was playing tricks on me.  Thanks to my ridiculous data collection, I've confirmed that I've run one or more sub-2 halfs in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011, but not 2009, 2010, or 2012 (and not for lack of trying in any of those years).  So, 2012 is in good company, and, thanks to 2011, I have proof that I can improve after some time in the slower zone!

2 marathons: (The Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks and CIM in all of its crazy weather glory.)

Overall, I'd call this a good running year.  Not amazingly great.  But definitely good.  I stayed healthy and made some new running friends.  I didn't quite meet my training or performance goals, but I didn't suffer any catastrophic misses either.  Overall, it was a good background theme to a great year in other areas, and for that, I'm supremely grateful.

For 2013, my running goals are not fully formed.  But, at the moment, I've got the following:

1. Get over this stupid sinus infection and complete the Phoenix Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon to the best of my abilities.  Shoot for a sub-2, but if it's clear that I'm just not healthy/fit enough for that to be possible, dial back and don't do anything stupid.

2.  Complete my 8 week training plan from McMillan Running for the LA Marathon.  (I'm *super* excited to do this bit.  A little bit like a kid, actually.  It's so nice to feel like someone else is in charge and I just have to follow directions).

3.  Complete the LA marathon as best I can.  I'm actually really excited to see what this looks like if I take 8 weeks to be dedicated to my training as recommended by an actual coach.

4.  Run the  SLO Half Marathon to support a) a friend of mine who is heading up her own TNT group to raise money in support of her good friend who died of Hodgkins Lymphoma; and b) (unexpectedly) to celebrate life in honor of my Gran, who died in SLO, just 4 days ago.  I'd very much hoped I could have visited Gran on the SLO half marathon trip, but it was not meant to be.  I will enjoy running in her honor and will smile at the fact that one of the last things she ever asked me was whether I'd "had a good run this morning -- the weather was just so gorgeous."  The dementia took much of her memories, which became more and more apparent with each visit, but somehow the fact that I liked to run (and always did in the AMs and described the runs and the weather each time I visited) stuck with her and was something that made it through on my last visit with her.  I'll cherish that memory of her clear request about my run, confirming that she knew who I was and cared about me and my life at the very end of her life forever.

5.  Run the  Great Wall Half Marathon.  No time goals here.  Just the experience.

6.  Coerce my husband into registering with me for (and hopefully winning spots in) the Peachtree Road Race. This is probably the most ambitious of all of my running goals for the year.  Wish me luck.  At least I've got his dad on my side...