March 27, 2016

A Pause

Sunset over the Hudson River -- Such a beautiful visual goodbye
We spent last Sunday after the race making last minute travel plans to go to E's grandpa's memorial services.

Monday, we fit in a normal work day, and then Tuesday afternoon we were on a plane.  Wednesday it was a day full of driving with family and attending the wake (where we were comforted with this absolutely gorgeous sunset).  Thursday was a chapel service, another long drive, and the internment service.

I was raised in a Christian environment, was confirmed Lutheran (which means 3 years of reasonably diligent Bible study classes) and have only ever attended Christian funerals.  Today, while I think of myself as a spiritual person, I don't self-identify as belonging to any religion.  But damn if funerals don't remind me that there are some very good reasons why religions exist.

I said the Lord's Prayer 3 times in 2 days.  I bowed my head and joined in group prayers too many times to count.  I crossed myself after saying my final goodbyes to such a sweet grandfather figure.  I listened, and was comforted yet again by Psalm 23.  These rituals, the only ones I know for death, are sad and almost immediately bring me emotionally to all of the other losses I've experienced.  But they are also calming, comforting, and very helpful to remind me that the grief of death is a thing that is a part of life.  And we, the living, will continue forward.

As you might imagine, running was almost non-existent this week in terms of importance given all the logistical needs and family emotional obligations.  Monday, I rested.  Tuesday I returned to the jump-rope interval/core workout to give my legs another day of recovery from the race and I spent the next 4 days with very sore arms, shoulders and core.  Wednesday AM, I fit in a quick 3.5 miles on the treadmill and was very pleasantly surprised at the paces I could maintain for some harder long intervals.  Thursday and Friday were much too busy to fit in any runs (although the path along the Hudson looked very enticing and I would have loved to find a way to make it happen).  Saturday, I did an easy 2 miler, and today I slogged through a slow 10 miler.

Total mileage for the week:  18.06, which is fine with me.  I figure it's enough for maintenance of whatever minimal fitness gains I've made in 2016, and given everything else that was going on, I'm calling that a victory.

March 21, 2016

Oakland Half -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Fire Arch at the Crucible.
I really had no idea what to expect at ORF.  My "training" had been all over the place.  The speedwork since Kaiser had shown me that I'd definitely improved my short distance fitness, but since I hadn't really pushed through any real long runs since Kaiser, I wasn't sure how it would translate into distance performance.

The night before the race was a bit non-standard.  I opted out of a party that E was attending and closed out a bunch of work and housekeeping items while waiting for him to get home.  His mom called to inform us of a death in the family but asked me not to interrupt him at the party.  So, after poking around the Internet to investigate pre-race meals, I decided dinner of leftovers (carrot soup and turkish salad) should be fine.

I kept working and waiting for E until it was apparent that he was having too much fun and I should try to go to sleep.  I was a bit wound up, so I had a glass of wine to help me fall asleep (I don't normally have wine the night before a race, but I don't really think this one glass made any difference at all, I'd been hydrating like crazy all day and definitely didn't feel any wine-related negative effects).  He ended up not making it back to the house 'til after 11 PM, and I woke to tell him the bad news.  We chatted and then I fell back asleep.

The day of the race, I'll report in the style of The Classic Spaghetti Western:

The Good

I finished a half marathon healthy and happy.  I saw Cat before the start -- she'd gotten her 5K PR!  I enjoyed a delicious post-race bruch with Jen (who got her 5K PR *and* ran the half afterwards), Angela, and Clare (who also PR'd).

Jen could *not* wait for the pre-brunch doughnuts!

Mmmmm... Malfatti.  Delicious!
The Bad

I got up and out the door on time, stopped at Starbucks, ordered my standard pre-race latte, and hit the road, letting my phone guide me to the parking garage.  Except, I'd forgotten about road closures, so once I was in Oakland, I was blocked by the 5K that Cat and Jen were in the middle of running.  I had to do some creative driving, including a few miles on the coned-off half course down Mandela Parkway until I found a pay parking lot that was within jogging distance of the start.  Every other time I've run this race, I've *easily* parked in the lot across the street from Snow Park (the location of the start/finish/celebration).  So, this was definitely not ideal.

I started at an effort I thought I might be able to maintain, and then about 0.87 miles in, we hit a gated area around a construction site.  The crowd funneled to a walk.  Someone started a "let's go Oakland" cheer.  We had nothing better to do while we walked, so most of us joined in.  45 seconds later, we were able to start running again.  Not exactly an ideal first mile.

I hit the first aid station around 2.4 miles and walked a minute to take a gu and gatorade and water as planned.  I started back up for a 10:23 mile and realized I'd probably started too fast.  I knew this was a possibility, and I wasn't too concerned.  But it didn't bode well nonetheless.

Somewhere in this area Jen caught up to me, we said hi, and then I let her go as I started to slow.  I knew my A goal of 10:50/mile (assuming I ran 13.1, which is a big assumption on this case) was going to be tough.  I hit the 10K (by my watch) at an average pace of 10:51 and figured I'd keep an eye out for Clare.  She was doing 5 min run/ 1 min walk intervals and should be shooting for something in roughly that pace overall.  Sure enough, I found her, and we stuck together for a while.  The running segments felt good, but her walking recovery was *fast* and perhaps even more difficult for me than just running an even pace.  It was nice to have company though, so I enjoyed a few miles with her.  

The Ugly

At around mile 8 it became very apparent that carrot soup and turkish salad had *way* more fiber than I realized and I would be needing an on-course porta-john soon. (Why had I deviated from my go-to standard spicy noodle soup option?).  At the 8.5 mile aid station, they had portapotties, thankfully, so I told Clare to go on and waited.  In an uncomfortable state.  4+ minutes later, I was back on the course.

I knew I wouldn't meet my A goal, so I settled for my B goal of trying to beat my Kaiser time of 2:32ish.  It was a long slow slog, but I kept on, walking through the aid stations, but otherwise just trying to get done, finally crossing the finish at 2:34:36.  I didn't even beat my Kaiser time!  The only small improvement I can claim here is that my average *moving* time decreased from 11:22/mile at Kaiser to 11:09/mile at Oakland.

I'm definitely looking forward to training for a 10K next.  I want to enjoy some of those speedwork benefits.

March 13, 2016

Best Training Ever

So, E and I are celebrating a big anniversary in Mexico.

The view from our hotel room does not suck.
As you might imagine, since we've arrived, restraint on the food and alcohol side of things has not been very forthcoming.

This week's workouts were okay, if sparse.  The most notable workout was 7.25 miles -- 2 easy jog to and from the track each way plus 3+ miles of intervals at much faster than McMillan recommended paces for my target race time (I just could not slow down any more... my effort level felt much too easy, so I just went with the faster paces). Yesterday, I had a luxurious yoga session followed by a decent speed workout on the treadmill where I hit the McMillan paces exactly.  So now I've got today's workout to figure out to close out the week.

I know I should try to do something approximating a medium length run as my last opportunity for a long run before the race, but I'm guessing it's not gonna happen on the treadmill in the heat and humidity.  Instead, I'll likely do something short and speedy to get over the 20 mile mark for the week.

I think I've convinced myself that vacation is a great way to start a long taper.  I figure I'll clean up my diet next week, fit in some easy race-week runs, and see how that plan works out for me on race day!

March 8, 2016

Rainy Bay Area Bookish Fun

North Beach on a Rainy Night
Last week was full of rain, which is great for the drought, but a bit difficult for running.  Total mileage for the week was 25.89, with 9 miles of walking (more than normal), so the increase in mileage is almost entirely walking with running staying the same.  I'll take it.

I was jostling my workout schedule around work craziness, so I fit in whatever I could (which was no yoga or cross-training) and 3 separate runs of 3 miles each at about target race pace.  My "long" run was relegated to the treadmill on Saturday due to the rain, but after 4.25 miles in the humid garage, I decided I was just as wet with sweat as I would be if I ran outside, so I headed out for another 2 miles in the cool rain followed by 0.25 mile walking cool down.  6.5 mile "long run", huh?  Guess that means I'll have to fit in an *actual* long run before Thursday (the magical 10 day cut off before Oakland running festival).

Saturday night, E & I attended a birthday party at a speakeasy in SF in North Beach.  I hadn't been out in North Beach on a Saturday night in forever (possibly since my 20s?).  The speakeasy was across the street from the historic City Lights Bookstore, which I hadn't been to in a very long time.  I was so excited to poke around amongst the quiet patrons and the smell of books.  I bought next month's book club book as well as a collection of Ferlinghetti poetry and a collection of Spanish short stories with English on the opposite page to take to Mexico. 


Sunday AM, I co-hosted a book exchange brunch.  Like last year I took notes while guests spoke about one or more of the books they'd brought.  So, without further ado, here's the list of books the guests recommended:

JL -- A Visit from the Good Squad

CM -- Storming Heaven and Travels with Charley

KC -- God's Chinese Son (This one sounds fascinating.  I had no idea there was a guy in China during the 1800s who honestly believed he was Jesus Christ's little brother -- and he had followers!)

HG -- By Nightfall

CD -- Many books she really couldn't get into.  Several folks in the group agreed with her about The Poisonwood Bible (which I loved, but I do agree that it's a bit preachy).

CT -- Blink and David & Goliath.  With a thoughtful discourse on how Gladwell plays fast and loose with statistics and that she would encourage readers to pull the actual studies to see if they agree with how Gladwell chooses to characterize and use them.

KT -- Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Coupled with some thoughts about living in San Francisco for the last 13+ years and how these issues have always existed but are *very* obvious in the San Francisco of today.

CP -- The Midwife's Confession and Icy Sparks

CP2 -- The Emperor of Ocean Park

BT -- The Story of My Teeth, My Brilliant Friend, and Winter's Bone

E2 -- Purity 

March 3, 2016

A Modern Love Tale With IT (When you have a niece)

Niece was calling ‘cause her phone didn’t work.  And, all sensitivities aside, everything she said was a super polite investigation into how the bill probably wasn’t paid (‘cause I pay her phone bill).

This hurt me.  Not me personally, but rather, understanding where she was coming from.  She comes from a world where her assumption about managing the feelings of the people who may have missed the bill is a strong and smart survival skill.  But I am the one who answered her call.  On the same Verizon account she’s worried about with the bill (e.g. if I hadn't paid, I couldn't answer).  So I didn’t miss the bill.  I autopay.  On credit.
Explaining this to her was hard.  Mainly because she didn’t believe me.  She comes from a world where adults can’t be trusted when they say the bills are paid.  And I get it, sort of, I know I come from a place close to where she comes from, but I've been away for a long time.

Eventually, she trusted me to do tech support about her phone via online chat.  We did a bunch of back and forth.  I did what I could.  I chatted with Verizon tech support and sat on the phone (her other Auntie’s) for so long, coaching her through reboots, and SIM card removals, and finally (thankfully) network setting resets.

All of a sudden, after she followed the last set of ridiculous instructions I conveyed (copied from the online chat support) her phone worked again.

And she thanked me.  

I confirmed that the thanks was warranted via text to her supposedly working phone.   

When she replied, I told her to call her dad, who’s in the hospital.  (Not that she needed my encouragement but more as a, "hey, I fixed your phone, use it for the best stuff" type message.)

And in response she sent me “I love you” emoji.

So, in short, I guess everything is wonderful.