June 25, 2016

Inching Towards Freedom

Very close.
The typical reliability of a potential renter is somewhere around 50%.  As in, flip a coin and I might show up for the scheduled showing.  Flip a coin and I might fill out the application.  Flip a coin and I may be telling the truth about whether I have enough roommates lined up to actually be able to afford renting your house.

So, there's been lots of in person tours and virtual tours given.  Many people who seemed like great fits.  We're comfortable that we're at the right price point given the interest we're getting.  But boy is it difficult to pin these people down.  I just want to get this process finished!

Many people have asked us why we don't use a rental management company.  And at the end of this month-long process, I can say that they definitely bring a service that has value by insulating you from the ridiculousness that we've been dealing with.

But, also, one of the main reasons to use a rental management company is for the legal stuff.  They are not cheap.  And guess what?  I can handle that.  Today, at brunch, I was amused when a close friend asked, "What are you going to do about the lease?"  I explained that it was on my Saturday todo list and that I had some Nolo residential forms, plus I'd reviewed about 100 commercial leases in the course of my career, all of which were available to me in my files, so I felt reasonably comfortable that I could pull something together that would cover what we needed without being ridiculous.  He looked at me with a bit of surprise -- apparently, engineers who think you specialize in IP transactions are surprised to learn that "real property" transactions are not that different from patent, copyright, or trade secret "leases" (aka licenses).

In other news, the week was a bit of a write-off, work-out wise. I skipped all Tabatas but made up 2 today.  Mileage was super low due to work and managing the rental applications plus driving to my home town, picking up my niece, driving back home, checking her into soccer camp, etc.

But at least we're gonna finish the puzzle before we head out for our Summer vacation with E's family.

June 20, 2016

Getting Ready to Go

Our planned departure date from the bay area is fast approaching.

I will miss the gorgeous views from the bay trail system and runs with my favorite bay area runner peeps when we are gone.
The biggest task we have to manage is getting the renters signed up to a lease, and packing and storing all of our belongings so that they can move in.  This is a huge undertaking -- the local rental market is quickly shifting, and being seen as an attractive option without being underpriced, while also being responsive to all of the various inquiries, is quite time intensive.  We've toyed with the asking price quite a bit, and after 3 weeks of relatively little interest and declining listing prices, I think (hope) we've hit the right number as we gave tours to 4 potential rental groups this weekend and received inquiries from another 4 out-of-town folks who are visiting this week and will be stopping by.

I've been taking the approach that I only want to interact with people online and in person (mainly because I pretty much hate the phone).  This seems to be working reasonably well, although there is a subset of potential renters who respond to the ads with very terse messages along the lines of, "Call me."  I don't call, right now, responding via email to let them know that they can ask whatever they'd like online, or set up an appointment to visit, and they typically don't respond again, or if they do, they still say, "Call me at your convenience, please."  Filtering for good clients in my law practice has taught me that as a general rule, people who want something from you but demand that you reach out to them on their terms (rather than asking how they can make themselves available to suit your needs) are difficult to deal with and generally bad clients.  I assume the same is true for renters and I'd really like to avoid difficult renters if at all possible.  However, I have to acknowledge that if we still don't have a signed lease and deposit near the move-out date, I may have to change my response policy.

Every day, we do something on all of the million little tasks that have to get done.  Last week I found a buyer for my car, and I'm so excited it's going to a good next life (don't worry, good old electron blue has been loyal and wonderful for 16+ years, it'll get its own blog post).  We continue to eat random meals to draw down the pantry as much as possible.  Identify potential storage options.  Sort through yet another area of the house.  Think about getting rid of all running medals except those from marathons and memorable events.  Shut down wine clubs.  Figure out who will take the wine fridge and keep it plugged in.  Discuss husband's collection of books and T-shirts.  Evaluate electronics that are likely too old to even be interesting to anyone but the oddest of collectors.  Set up mail redirection to a remote mail scanning/forwarding provider.  Take donations to GoodWill yet again.  Pre-fill prescriptions for long periods of time.  Get all bills/statements set up electronically.  Research travel/international health care, trip insurance, etc.  Evaluate COBRA vs. California Covered (Surprise! Through Covered CA, supposedly we can opt into an even higher risk plan HDHP than what we've already got and defer health spending even more, saving close to $5,000 if our health issues remain constant -- and potentially exposing ourselves to an increased total risk of $1-2K after we spend the saved $5,000 depending on exactly where we land with the higher deductible and out of pocket maximum.  Of course, the CA Covered website is broken for us right now due to fraud protection on our credit profile that won't let them verify us easily, so we'll see how that dream actually plays out.) 

This week was short on mileage due to travel and business (both winding down my practice gracefully, and keeping my current clients happy) while preparing for the move. But, it was very good on heat acclimatization.  Total mileage was only 16.85, but most of it was running in the heat, including 2 trips around the Palo Alto Airport 6 mile loop, once by myself to scout, and then on sunny but enjoyable version with Jen and Angela on Saturday.

Other than running, completely skipping all of my assigned Tabata workouts, and preparing for our departure and work, the other big (supremely enjoyable) time suck in my life right now is the latest puzzle.

It's been almost a month, but we are getting SO CLOSE!
I'm hopeful we can finish it before the end of the week.

June 14, 2016

Taking It Easy, Wine Country Edition

Russian River Valley Views

I was fairly proud of myself for sucking it up and busting out the See Jane Run Half.  Good thing, too, because my left foot's blister was aggravated by the effort and I needed two full days to recover with no running.  On Tuesday, I did all of the tabatas in my tabata bootcamp that I'd missed in one big chunk.  The whole point of the Tabata protocol is 4ish minutes of ultra high effort once a day, 6 days a week.  Let's just say that when you skip them on busy days and then string 5 of them together on a single day, it's a bit of a disaster, in terms of ability to maintain maximum effort as well as post-workout soreness.  But, I did it.  So that counts for something.

Wednesday, I pulled off a fairly pedestrian 4X400 @ 8:30/mile on the TM at 1% with walking recovery for a total of 3 miles.  But hey, haven't you heard? some effort is better than nothing.  I'm just generally relaxing more and more now that my practice is approaching the full-time sabbatical.  Less and less clients to deal with and more time to focus on chores and trip prep.  Thursday and Friday, I was pressed for time, so my runs took a hit and both were squished down to 2 miles with 0.5ish miles walking.  But, again, I'm a believer that something is better than nothing.

Speaking of relaxing...
Garden and Insectiary at Dry Creek Vineyards
E's best man and his wife came into town for their 10th anniversary and we joined them on a wonderful trip up to Sonoma.  It's the most relaxed I've been there in ages, possibly ever.  It's a bit sad to realize how many times I've been unable to truly relax on previous trips to this region due to the work that's been lurking in the background, silently pushing on my shoulders.  Always reminding me that it's not getting done for every minute that I'm choosing not to do it.

Even though it hasn't fully started, this sabbatical year is already teaching me things.  I do love the practice of law, but being the service provider that is meeting such an extreme need (or what is perceived as an extreme need by my clients) is very, very, emotionally exhausting.  I've been carrying much more stress around with me for the last 10 years than I realized (possibly because if I admitted it, I might have to do something about it).

Some seriously unique and delicious dishes at Meadowood.
Super relaxed, we enjoyed a perfect itinerary (arranged entirely by our friends, which was awesome) of Friday night dinner at Meadowood, 3 wineries on Saturday (with a picnic lunch), a party in Healdsburg hosted by a high-school classmate of E & E's best man, dinner at Shed, 3 wineries on Sunday (another picnic lunch), dinner at Madrona Manor, 2 wineries on Monday AM, and lunch at Bravas before heading back to reality.

More at Dry Creek Vineyards

On both Saturday and Sunday, S and I rolled out of bed, took in the gorgeous views from the Healdsburg home we'd rented and ran 3 beautiful miles before starting each day's debauchery.

Total wine purchased: 2.5 cases.  Total mileage for the week: 15. Total weight change over the 3 days in wine country: I lost 2 pounds! (Most likely residual benefits from the last 2 higher mileage weeks and healthy eating before the half marathon, but hey, I'll pretend it's just that wine country indulgence is good for me.  That's totally possible, right?  That I just need to indulge more?)

June 5, 2016

See Jane Run Half (SF/Alameda)

I signed up for this race when I realized I wouldn't make my goal 10K last weekend and I couldn't find a replacement 10K in the next couple of weeks.  My options were, live with the Chrissy field 5K as the only race for this training cycle, or suck it up and pay for and run a half marathon.  I knew I needed to increase my mileage for fitness reasons and, let's be honest, I probably wouldn't do it without a goal race.  But, I'm not going to lie, the thing that tipped the scale is that the race was in Alameda and one of my dearest friends and college roommates lives there.  I figured if I ran a race while she was teaching exercise classes at the gym ('cause that's what Ms. badass does on her weekend mornings) I could make a good case for a big indulgent post-workout afternoon lunch of food and wine.  And, it worked.  So, that's the real victory here.
View of the City in the Distance on the end of the Bay Farm Island loop

I'd been doing fairly well on the 10K training when I made the switch, so I just kept at the strength and speed work while adding in some long runs where they fit.  In the last 4 weeks, I fit in an 8 miler and two 10-milers plus a hard 5K followed by a blister-laden 5.6 miles (failed 8 miler) the next day last weekend.  Not awesome, but enough to know I could get through a half without keeling over.

The night before the race I checked the weather, and was pleased to see that despite Thursday's local highs of 100F, Sunday's Alameda prediction was a start temp of 58F partly cloudy, and an end temp of 64F and sunny.

After looking at my training and being very honest with myself, I set the following goals:

A+/Stretch/Everything is Magic Goal -- 2:18 - 10:35/mile

B Goal -- 2:22 - 10:50/mile, fastest 1/2 marathon in 19 months (2:19 half on my way to DNF the Chicago Marathon 2014).

C Goal -- sub 2:24 -- less than 11:00/mile, fastest 1/2 since ORF 2015 (2:22:09)

D Goal -- Finish sub 2:29 -- 11:23/mile, fastest since SLO 2015 (which is a much more demanding course, elevation-wise, so not a great comparison, but I had to work with what I had)

E Goal -- Finish healthy

The course promised 7 aid stations with no gu.  I gave myself permission to walk through and drink plus dump water on my head at each one.  I also packed 4 gus, stuffing the back pocket of my shorts into a ridiculous lump, planning to take one of them at (or before) aid stations 2, 4, 5, and 6/7.

The AM worked out perfectly, I woke on my own at 5:59, turning off my alarm and saving E from the 6:00 AM buzz.  I dressed, and was out the door by 6:20, got my Skinny Vanilla Latte with an extra shot at Starbucks and drove to Crown Memorial State Beach.  When I finished the latte I started in on the large Gatorade.  Parking was $5, and there was plenty still available at 7:15.  Bonus, there were physical bathrooms near the parking that had no line, so I took advantage of that opportunity before walking the 1/2 mile to the start line. 

The starting area was chaos.  But good, friendly, pink, fun, lady-positive chaos.

Like 80s style aerobic warm-up chaos.
 I'd read some negative reviews about staging, but they had wave starts this year and it was super simple to slip away after the first group started, finish my large Gatorade and throw out the bottle, hit the port-a-potties with no lines, and return back in time to join the coral with the 2:15 pacer before they headed out.

The race weather was dreamy.  A little humid for the bay area, but it stayed blissfully overcast until after I finished.  I headed out and just repeated "nice, easy, sustainable pace" to myself for several miles.  It worked.  Early splits as follows:

1: 10:16
2: 10:38
3: 11:07 (includes walking through the water stop and taking a gu)
4: 10:31
5: 10:50
6: 10:28

At this point, I realized, I was almost dead on my target A+ goal pace.  I checked watch screen #3, and the average pace for the total was 10:37.  WOW!  Also, yeah.  This was not going to continue.  I could tell already that I didn't have it in me to continue at this pace through the end.  And that was just fine.

I walked through the aid station at 6.11 miles on my Garmin and took a Gu, sucking down water, hitting the 10K at 1:06:45 -- or 10:45/mile.  I knew I wasn't making up those 10 seconds per mile.

In fact, I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep it below 11 minutes per mile by the end, but I decided that was the fight I was going to pick.

Later splits:

7: 11:18 (gu and water station)
8: 11:19 (turn on music at 7.01, water station mid-mile)
9: 10:35
10: 10:57 (no excuse, just starting to lag)
11: 11:57 (gu and water station, definitely the hardest mile of the race)
12: 11:38 (one foot in front of the other to the music)
13: 10:43 (includes a water walking break, just goes to show how much of this is mental)
13.18: 9:42/mile (what did I say about mental?)

Final outcome by Garmin: 13.18 miles @ 2:24:01.  10:56/mile average pace.

It's humbling to take this as a win.  But it is one.  I'm 2 seconds off my C goal, and I ran to the best of my abilities today (plus the weather was on my side).  Overall, I'm very happy I signed up for the half, it definitely forced me to do more training and push myself on race day than I would have otherwise done.

Next up?  Chrissy Field 5K in July.  I'm hoping to drop some more time off my Chrissy Field PR.  Wish me luck.

June 4, 2016

Mid-Year Book Check-In

This year has been light on visual reading.

Audiobooks have definitely taken over as my preferred method of consuming literature.

It's not that I don't enjoy visual reading, but it's *much* harder to multitask and time is a limited resource.  Stuff I can do while listening to an audiobook that I can't do while visually reading includes: driving, running, walking outside, doing dishes, doing laundry, and gardening.  In other words, there's stuff in almost every day that allows me to enjoy an audiobook while I do it, whereas with visual reading, I have to find the time.  These days, visual reading (unless I'm on the treadmill or a plane) feels like an unearned indulgence.  

Given that we're culling our physical belongings in preparation for the Sabbatical year, I've cut myself off from buying any more physical books.

At this point, I'm just doing my best to get through the pile by my bed which is primarily the books that E has finished and I want to read as well as a few others I either bought for myself or received as gifts.

E and I both bought Kindles with the assumption that we'll want to visually read while traveling (you guys, my reading wishlist for the year is already MUCH too long!), and we won't want to lug paper books.

I've only read one Kindle book so far (The Sellout, see review below).  I suspect visually reading a paper book (and possibly taking notes in the margins) will always be my preferred method of enjoying literature.  But, I have to consider the tradeoffs.  As I noted above re: time and audiobooks, I'll take more literature in exchange for an audio format.  Similarly, I'll take the electronic visual format in exchange for loss of weight while traveling.  The one major improvement in the digital visual xperience for me was the ability to tap a word or phrase and immediately get a definition or historical explanation -- the future is cool!

So, without further adieu, here's the visual reading list with reviews for the year so far:

The Story of My Teeth
Valeria Luiselli
A very unique book.  Histerically laugh out loud Fiction.  Surrealism.  An installation art project.  A translator who added a section of the book with a timeline explaining all the pop and historical latin american and hispanic cultural references.  A very clever work of art that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Blue Mars
Kim Stanley Robinson
I *could* not get through this book in any reasonable time frame.  It dragged on, and on.  The last book in a very enjoyable trilogy -- in other words, I had to find a way.  So I did.  But this is definitely the weakest of the 3 books and a bit all over the place.  As a stand-alone book, I don't think I'd recommend it, but I'm a sucker for finishing series, so in that light, when considered as part of a whole, it's still worth it.
My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante
This book completely blew me away.  The language was sparse and descriptive and powerful and so evocative of the Italian it came from in a manner I've never really encountered.  The story of Elena and Lila is a very honest portrayal of young female emotions -- raw jealousy, love, competitiveness, hope, concern and more.  I immediately ordered the next book in the series for my Audiobook fun. 
Rule 34
Charles Stross
Typical Stross -- fast, smart, clever, confusing, futuristic fun.  True to the name, this one was a little dirtier and darker than most of his stuff.
Saturn's Children
Charles Stross
Extremely fun.  Sex-robots built to please humans in a post-human futuristic world.  Transferable soul chips, space travel, intrigue and betrayal. 
Neptune's Brood
Charles Stross
A more clever exploration of the world established in Saturn's Children with a decreased focus on sex and an increased focus on what it means to have soul chips and similar bodylines plus time travel, slow sleep, and monetary transactions between planetary systems.  Very thought provoking and enjoyable.
Singularity Sky
Charles Stross
Classic space opera with spying, interplanetary turmoil, futuristic maker-machines, and general goodness.
The Sellout
Paul Beatty
I came into this book blind, it was a book club assignment, so I read it as my first Kindle book.  It's weird.  Like really weird.  But also, it is one of the most beautifully linguistic and hilarious things I've ever read.  And, even while you're ogling the gorgeous language (Beatty is also a poet) and laughing out loud, in the back of your head, you realize this stuff is going to stick with you and make you think real real hard.  I regularly found myself reading snippets to E, just so he too could enjoy the the satire that interwove the painful and uncomfortable with truly Californian reality and very odd imaginative shit from Mr. Beatty's head.  I tried to explain the book to a friend at a party and my explanation was something like, "Well, it's a hilarious book about 'post-racial' america where the main character is a young black man on trial for keeping a slave, who turns out to be one of the original Little Rascals actors.  And, oh, did I mention he lives on a farm and rides a horse in a name-removed farming ghetto in the middle of Los Angeles?  There's a bus ride party with a post-party segregation movement.  Oh, he smokes weed in the Supreme Court of the US while waiting for his hearing.  It's so good.  No. Really."