March 30, 2014

SLO Half week -4

Total Mileage:  35.03 including several easier runs, a little walking, and 3 Key Workouts.

Solo speed intervals: (couldn't join the track group, but did their workout on my own around my neighborhood).  1 mile TM 1% easy w/u at 11ish/mile pace; 4.05 miles of intervals 2X(600, 400, 200, 400 2:00 R/I) 3:00 R/I; walk c/d  Paces:  8:32; 8:59; 8:16; 8:24; 8:40; 8:36; 8:51; 9:03;

This speed workout was much slower than the paces I hit when I join the track group, but I was proud of myself for getting out there and making the effort (even if slower) rather than bailing completely in favor of an easy mid-length run.

Strength intervals:  Mile 1: 8:15 (Yes!  I knew the elevation and skiing was going to benefit me).  Of course, the point of the strength intervals is to spend considerable time at close to race pace, and 8:15/mile isn't a reasonable race pace for me right now.  So, I opted for a longer interval for #2 -- 2 miles at 17:57.

Long run with F (including D and K for the first couple of miles as well).  12.21 miles at an average pace of 11:23.  This doesn't sound that impressive, but I'm actually quite proud of it.  I only stopped for one quick walk break towards the end for 0.05 miles.  Otherwise, I ran (slowly) for the entire 2h18m with no fuel other than the pre-run coffee and juice.  This is exactly the type of long run (consistent effort and time on my feet) that I know improves my fitness.  The last two miles were a mental struggle and I slowed considerably.  I was *very* grateful for F's company.

Overall, I'm pleased with my progress (and tired today, post-long-run) and looking forward to next weekend's 10K to get a good fitness assessment.

March 29, 2014

A Little Variety

Last weekend, on our walk to Sunday night date night dinner, E & I stopped to chat with a neighbor who has some very nice plants (both edible and decorative).  I'd admired from afar what they'd done with the front yard ever since they'd moved in (you put chard in newly added soil along your sidewalk?  we will be friends).  So I was happy to see her out watering and to introduce myself.

As you may know, I love to garden.

And this is how I made my new friend, J, who is awesome.  She's the most foul-mouthed person I've encountered in a long time.  She's also a dedicated gardener, hippy, bee-keeper, greenhouse maintainer, and full-time mom of 2 (5 and 7).  Her spoken vernacular reminds me so much of many of my brother's friends from our hometown, which is a nice spice of variety that I rarely encounter in the bay area.  She's also super opinionated and open with her views (quite often very much in opposition to the norm in the bay area), which, frankly, is a bit refreshing.  I may or may not agree with her, but it's nice to be challenged to think and/or realize that others in the world see things from a different perspective.

Today, at 10:30 AM, our doorbell rang.  We ignored it.  I was working in my robe, trying to get enough done to justify heading out for an easy run before brunch/lunch and a much-deserved bloody mary.  E was working/puttering around the interwebs in his pajamas.  It was Saturday, we had no plans, and we certainly expected no visitors.

We heard voices and assumed it was a solicitor.  But, after a few minutes, there was another knock.  They were insistent!  I opened the curtains to peer out and saw J -- Holding a seedling in her hands.

Oh!  That's right.  I'd told her to stop by this weekend and I'd give her some tomato seedlings.

I love that she remembered and came on over.  I loved even more that she brought me a plant, too!  I yelled, "Just a minute!"  Threw on some real clothes and opened the door.

We proceeded to talk for at least 45 minutes about the sunflower seedling gift she'd brought (supposed to grow taller than me!), plus gardening and nature and the weather and cops and crime and her views on the law and contracts and construction and bees and praying mantises and ladybugs and greenhouses and her gift with seeds and, of course, guito and our mutual love of reptiles. 

All of this was peppered with her *extremely* colorful language.  Those of you who know me in the meat-world know that I can have quite a sailor's mouth.  I try to moderate it around children, but often I fail.  Even so, J puts me at my most unfiltered to shame.  Every 3rd or 4th word out of her mouth is a hearty invective. 

The funniest part of this whole exchange to me was realizing that I must have physically flinched every time she used the word "bitch".  I hate that word.  I am generally tolerant and unfazed by just about any type of curse words (other than racial or other minority-demeaning epithets, which she didn't use). 

But "bitch" just really upsets me.  In fact, I once almost left E at a party when we first started dating (and I'd driven him to the party and he had no car and we were at least 20 miles from his apartment) because he used the word "bitch" for the first time in front of me. 

Perhaps it's because I was raised in a family where this word was actually used in it's technically correct sense (my father had hunting dogs, and the term "bitch in heat" is actually a medically important condition that needs to be controlled for...).  Perhaps it's because every time I hear it, I think, "what's the male equivalent?" and when I can't figure it out my head explodes.  Frankly, I don't know why.  I just know that I viscerally hate it.

So, at the end of her visit, just before she left, she shared yet another story about her landlord, who she'd regularly referred to as "that bitch" or "such a bitch" and she said, "so I told the plumber... 'oh-no! You call that b...woman back.  You make her pay you for the work you did!'"

And I realized... wow!  She just self-censored.  It must be very obvious that I *really* don't like that word.  I'm not even sure I want to be the reason people self-censor.  I'd rather have a thoughtful conversation about the term and discuss whether she wants to use it after we consider why it bothers me so much and also why it clearly doesn't bother her.

But no, we didn't get there.  She made a huge linguistic effort on my behalf, so now I'm an even bigger fan of J than I already was.  We share so many common interests that are relatively uncommon, *and* she paid enough attention to my reactions (that I didn't even know I was having) to modify her language.

Sometimes life gives us such great unexpected gifts.  And today, I am consciously grateful.

March 23, 2014

Ski Week (aka SLO half marathon week -5)

E and I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to spend half the week skiing with his family (who went for the full week).

His family tries to go on a full-fledged proper ski-week vacation every year.  I understand this.  I was raised in a family that sent kids up the hill in ski-bus-clubs every weekend during ski season.  There was a time when I was quite a good downhill skier.  Unfortunately, that time has passed.

My gymnastics coach insisted that I couldn't do ski club after age 15 if I wanted to continue with being on the competitive gymnastics team.  My soccer coach took the same position.  Given that this was essentially the *only* point they ever agreed on (that's not fair, they both also agreed that I should do agressive physical therapy and strengthen my medial quads after my first patellar subluxation), I listened to them.  When I quit ski-club, I was a hot-dogging jumping, mogul-racing animal.

And now?  Now, I am an intermediate skier of middle age.  In fact, it's worse than that.  Because I know I'm heavier than I've been in almost a decade, so I'm *extra* concerned about laterally loading my knees.  I don't exactly have an active lateral knee-loading lifestyle... not a ton of soccer, basketball, side-to-side sprints in my day-to-day existence, but boy do I have a history of blowing out my knees when laterally loaded.  Essentially, I'm slow, cautious, only willing to do jumps on terrain parks at minimal speed, avoiding moguls, and very concerned about doing serious harm. 

So, c'est la vie...  Given that background, you'd think I'd be the most hesitant person on the family ski trip, but alas, sadly, no... E's dad, before we even arrived (note to those of you thinking of joining older parents on ski trips.... GO FOR THE FIRST HALF!), took a nasty fall and managed to royally crack his clavicle into two parts that are very far apart from one another at this point (aka... surgery town...).  So, by the time we arrived, he wasn't even skiing at all, and both E and I felt horrid that we'd been too busy with work to even join him for skiing for 3 years.  VACATION WITH YOUR FAMILY WHEN THEY INVITE YOU!

On the running front, holy crap... downhill skiing when there are no lines and heavy snow at altitude is like track intervals.  I'm looking forward to reaping the benefits of this.

This week was chill:

Monday Core at the hotel in SF.

Tuesday 4ish easy around AT&T park.

Wed HIIT 3ish 4X1 min w/4 min jogging plus w/u cooldown.

Th-Sa skiing/elevation.

Sunday -- 25 minutes running at 6,000 feet -- roughly 13:00/mile, but nice and easy.

Overall, it was nice step-back week.  According to various calculations, it is roughly 21.78 miles running equivalent.  It felt like more than that in terms of time on my feet, but I like the timing and the strength/effort will pay off.  Overall, in addition to an awesome work and family/social week, I feel good about the progress I'm making towards SLO.  Also, I'm super excited for all of my friends who had such a great day at the Oakland Running Festival today.

March 16, 2014


So, for any of you who've became fit after not being fit, you know how exciting it is to make every little breakthrough.  For me, this week was so fun.  After several weeks of gradual build up, and three weeks of relatively intelligent concerted effort, this week I finally saw and felt some obvious fitness improvements.

Before we get to that, though, I'd like to point out that my favorite runner, Des Linden (formerly d'Avila) ran a 1:11:37 half at the New York Half Marathon today, on the tail end of 120 mile week:


Back in 2011, I woke early and watched the full race via internet streaming on, and woke up E crying and clapping when Desi battled to her epic 2nd place finish.

I was so proud of her for any number of ridiculous self-identifying reasons (she's short, a Californian, a former soccer player, a ridiculously hard worker, supremely self-confident but also shy and/or awkward in a way I recognize, etc., etc.).  So, I did a bunch of research about Brooks-Hansen, was impressed with what they were doing for distance running in the U.S. and I switched to Brooks shoes.  I read the Hansons Marathon Method and implemented it, resulting in a ton of self-learning about who I am as a runner and both of my best long running efforts in the last few years (Coeur d'Alene, and CIM in 2011).

Returning to me, in much less dramatically fun running news, this week is the 4th week in a row I've hit 3(ish) key workouts/goals.

First thing I'm proud of -- total weekly mileage of 38.74.  I know myself and I know I need to get above 40mpw to start seeing actual impressive physical benefits.  I'm so happy that I've made the necessary commitments to get (almost) there.  I can feel the breakthroughs coming.  Mind you, this week's mileage includes at *least* 10 miles of walking, but for me, just committing to getting out on my feet is the important thing, and I know that.  Once I'm out there for the volume consistently, I tend to quickly decrease the total percentage of walking volume.

Track Day:  I sincerely owe my nascient local running club the Silicon Valley Striders for this one. There is no way I'd be increasing in my fitness as much as I have been these last few weeks, if I hadn't been joining SVS for both weekly track days and long run days. This Wednesday's track day was a struggle, but I did my best:

- 1.14 miles jogging warm-up (this is all me, the club usually shows up just for drills to warm up, but I'm old, and I have a hard time running fast without some easy time on the feet, plus, given that it decreases the pain of the track intervals it's kind of a freebie in terms of mileage).

- 0.35 miles drills & warm-up lap;

- 3.42 miles intervals
--(4X200 (:30 R/I): 49, 50, 53, 53)
--(400 jogging R/I)
--(2X(600; 200 walk R/I; 400; 1:00 R/I; 400)): 600@8:27 pace; 400@7:52; 400@7:55; 600@7:59; 400@8:09; 400@8:41)
--3X100 (:30 R/I) @ 6:30ish pace

Sadly, I had to leave immediately and did the dreaded driving cooldown... C'est La Vie.

Increased Long Run Effort:  Again, I owe SVS, first, I ran 3ish miles to join the SVS group at the park for the scheduled Sunday run.  But, I decided to take a new route and I got lost.  I had to pick up the pace.  Then, I hit the wrong button on my watch.  The end result is that I believe I did approximately 3.25 miles or so at 9:45/mile pace.  My goal had been 2.89 miles at 10/mile pace -- so we'll call this a win.

Then, I did 7 miles with K for her final long run before her first race (a half marathon! How cool is that?).   She kicked ass.  She started out so fast during the first mile that I tattled on her to the running club leader and made her slow down.  We completed the full 7 miles at an average pace of 11:43 after forced longer walk breaks and the pacers getting in front of her and slowing her down, compared to previous averages of 11:59ish.  I'm excited to see how she does at her first half marathon (the  Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon).

Then, F was sweet enough to pace me on my final effort mile in the park after the long easy effort.  I was somewhat suspicious that I didn't have the fitness to meet my goal, but no, I drafted for 1.5 loops and hit a mile at 8:59 after 10 miles medium and easy.  I can't even tell you how much this milestone meant to me.  I started this re-integration into fitness process about 20 pounds heavier than I should be.  But knowing I am headed in the right direction starting from such a disadvantage has me super excited about what I may be able to accomplish if I drop the weight.  I am stronger than I realized right now, which, in all honesty, is one of the cooler realizations you can make about yourself.

In other news, K, F & I all have significant others who don't really run (E is probably the biggest runner of all of them, and he often joins me for 1.5 miles hard in the low 9's or high 8's before a walking cooldown).  Today, at a party, K's SO and E agreed to sell out F's SO -- they agreed they will run a 5K so long as F's SO runs it as well.  I love mens' competitive willingness to sell each other out.  I am hopeful we can make this happen (and even more hopeful we could create a healthy fun habit we could all share).

March 9, 2014

Back on the Horse

So, my efforts to regain some semblance of racing fitness before the SLO half went quite well this week. I fit in a 5 mile hike, another 4 miles of walking, and 25 miles of running for a total weekly mileage of 35.87 miles (a high water mark for the year).

Every runner has their own approach as to how they regain fitness best, but for me, I like to focus on increasing my total mileage by not caring about the pace on the slow/easy days (or walks), but make sure I fit in a few key workouts at target paces.

This week, I fit in three hard running workouts, which feels like quite the accomplishment.

Hard Workout #1 (speed):  Track Day (total mileage: 4.98) 

-1.37 miles jogging warm-up. 0.30 walking/stretching. 0.36 drills & build-up lap.

-The meat of the workout: Intervals including 2 split 1200s (800 @ 80%; 200 jog; 200 @ 90%) with a 3 minute jogging recovery interval; Followed immediately by a last 800 @ 80%.  Actual paces: 800@8:19/mile; 200@6:33/mile; 800@8:41/mile; 200@7:03/mile; 800@8:12/mile.

-Final effort: 3X100 strides (avg 7:00) w/100 RI

I'd never done these split 1200s before and they are *tough* but in a good way -- digging deep into that final 200 is mentally difficult, but physically not as impossible as it seems like it should be.  I may try to fit in another session or two of these before the race.

Hard Workout #2 (strength):  4 Mile Intervals w/H (total mileage: 5.45)

-0.53 jogging warm-up (11:40/mile).
-1st mile at 8:51.  3 min walk R/I.
-2nd mile at 8:57. 5 min walk R/I.
-3rd mile at 8:56. 4 min walk R/I.
-4th mile @ 8:59 (slightly short due to a watch snafu). 5 min walk R/I

After we finished the last interval, and while we were walking back to the cars, I realized my key had fallen out of my zipper pocket.  We'd run a large loop, and my key could have fallen out anywhere along the way.  We did some cursory searching near the bathrooms by the cars as I'd used them before the last interval, but we didn't find it, and the reality of the terrain we'd been on and the distance we'd covered meant that I just didn't have the time to search carefully everywhere it might be.

So, I borrowed H's phone, called E, and asked him to bring me my spare key.  Then, I walked around some more to cool down, and I did some pushups, dips, abs, and stretching.  Finally, I headed back to the gravel by the cars and idly scanned the ground... and then I saw something SHINY!  It was my key.  Immediately I looked up at the sky and said a quick thanks.  I could feel my Dad with me so clearly at that moment.  I managed to get E on the phone before he got on the freeway.  Disaster Averted! 

Hard Workout #3 (distance):  10 Miles w/G (total mileage: 10.2) 

I've been doing weekend long runs with a good friend of mine, G, who is training for the Oakland Half.  This was her longest run ever, and she did a great job.  We typically average somewhere just sub 12:00/mile including walk and water breaks.  Today was no different.  Around mile 3, I needed to peel off to use the restrooms.  These restrooms are about 0.15 miles off the trail, so I bid G adieu, and picked up the pace, running hard to the restrooms and back to the trail.  G had put some distance between us in that time period, and I ended up running 2 (unexpected on my distance day) good solid miles catching back up to her (9:49 and 9:58).

All in all, this is the best running week I've had in a long time.  So that feels great!  Here's to hoping I can string several of these together over the next few weeks.