December 31, 2011

The year according to my feet

I pledged to get back into running shape this year.

I did it the only way I know how -- I commited to a bunch of races. Over the course of 2011, I registered for and completed 2 marathons, 6 half marathons, and 4 10Ks.

I trained with the highest overall mileage I've ever done for both marathons, which pushed me to my highest mileage year, by far: 1,659.73.

In other words, I averaged 31.9 miles per week.

And, if I'm honest, I'm a little burnt out from all those miles. While elite runners may put in 100+ mile weeks, this year's mileage wiped me out, motivation wise.

Yes, I'm still recovering from CIM, so no doubt that's contributing a bit to my funk.

But, physically, I'm pretty much recovered (although I'm much tighter than I've ever been and I need to focus more on my flexibility and yoga in 2012). Psychologically, though, well, let's just say I'm definitely loafing these days.

We have an out of town visitor, so I had awesome company for the last run of the year today. Even so, after a slow 5 miles, I asked if we could stop and walk the last 2 because I just wasn't feeling like running.

Now that I've done the long slog to get back into decent running shape, I'm looking forward to focusing more on the quality of my runs and less on the quantity in 2012.

So far, I only have 3 definite races on tap for 2012: a 5K with my mom (her first) in January, The Kaiser Half, and the 50th anniversary of the Equinox Marathon (with Arvay! Yay!).

I'm sure I'll add a few more events as the year goes on, but I'm really hoping that I can maintain the aerobic fitness I've built up while focusing on building up my speed, all while returning to a more balanced, but regular, running schedule.

Happy Running in 2012!

December 27, 2011

Christmas with the family

Family -- Mom, MomHubby, Sis, SisHubby, BabyA, Brother, Niece, E, and I all gathered for a few days. It was great to see everyone and catch up.

Fun -- We laughed and played games galore: Wii, Settlers of Catan, Poker (tournament at the casino for me, brother, and MomHubby).

Food -- Beef Wellington -- a longstanding family tradition (Sis, Mom, and I shared the duties and it turned out perfectly):

Friends -- we had surprise visits from several folks we hadn't seen in ages.

And, my Christmas surprise from mom? My wedding dress, made into pillows for our guest bedroom. How awesome is that?

Happy winter holidays to all, and Happy Almost New Year!

December 23, 2011

It feels like I did *something* right

I received a shipment of books from Arvay a day or so ago.

I can't wait to finish them. They were a very welcome receipt.

Tonight, E2 and J came to stay the night and we enjoyed delicious healthy food (which the guys prepared while E2 and I did accounting, the guys grumbling the entire cooktime about the lack of steak). How lucky am I that I have a good friend (with a background in econ!) willing to help with my books?

Dinner was delicious, and the homemade biscotti dessert that E2 and J brought reminded me of the biscotti E2 would make with angst in Berkeley. Ahhh.. to be young roommates, again.

Looking back on college, how could I not feel lucky?

I was ridiculously lucky to meet Arvay as a young student and, also, our shared friend K, who to this day swears I insulted her for blocking my view of the board. Me? I'd like to say that the deep sigh and the slammed books and moved desks and statement about her tall persona blocking my short view was not intended as an insult. But, intent doesn't really matter, now does it? So, it's possible I did insult her. I mean, let's be honest... I probably did respond inappropriately. {{Sigh.}}

Back to feeling lucky -- I feel lucky to have known E2 since 3rd grade (or maybe earlier?) and to have shared tons of familial chaos with her. My grandma, who is entering dementia via the doors of old age, Parkinson's, and more, recently asked me about E2 when I visited in person (for E2 and I have visited her in person at least once per year for at least the last decade). My gran asks about E2 despite her declining awareness and E2s mom made homemade soup and noodles for my recent Pre-Marathon meal. How wonderful and adorable is that? E2 and I are clearly close friends!

Tonight, E2 and her husband are passing through our place on their way to the East Coast. The world is big. (5 AM wake-up for a flight out of SJC big -- blech).

And yet small.

I am lucky.

And grateful that I'll be driving to the CA foothills and back and not much else this holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all!

December 19, 2011

San Francisco Weekend

A long time ago (a decade ago, in fact), E and I moved down the peninsula and told ourselves that we'd take a hotel room when we were missing out on stuff in San Francisco. That was how we justified the loss of a true culturally diverse city in exchange for our plot with a garden and good, sunny weather, and a shorter commute.

We haven't taken ourselves up on our promise to return and stay in hotels as much as we should have. But we've done it more than most. In fact, we do it at least once a year thanks to my first post-college-employer, who invites us to their holiday party every year.

This year, we crammed as much as possible into the weekend. I started with Friday business meetings and lunch with a law school friend at Claudine followed by tea with another lawyer at the Ferry Building and late afternoon work at Ritual. We swung by Aldea Niños to buy a baby gift on our way to our friends before they drove us to dinner at A47 (in an unplanned coincidence, each of us had driven the route in France within the last 6 months, which was pretty cool -- the map on the menu made sense to all of us and we discussed our favorite stops).

So, really, could I have a more stereotypical SF Friday?

Why, no. And how grand was that?

Wonderous. Like driving down Lombard Street.

Which, for some reason, I also did this weekend. As a passenger. Damn, that's cool...

We stayed at the Embarcadero and enjoyed views of the holiday ice skaters (the majority were ice wobblers, actually), Christmas lights, and holiday shoppers.

We attended the holiday party at Alexander's Steakhouse and we had brunch twice with friends, once at Kingdom of Dumpling (how can you argue with that name?) and once at Just For You Cafe.

Overall, it was a whirlwind of social activities with some work squeezed in between. But the weather was perfect, the views were amazing, and we were reminded, once again, why San Francisco really is one of the greatest cities.

P.S. Sometimes, San Francisco looks like Tron:

December 5, 2011

Run Your Own Race

Desiree Davila solo at the 15K, well behind the lead pack at the 2011 Boston Marathon. As you may know, she eventually fought an exciting multi-surge sprint-to-the-finish battle to a 2 second loss for 2nd place. (And if you don't know, you should watch it, this is history in the making, and a great race. American women are slowly climbing the ladder to be able to compete with the African Women in distance running.)

She put in the best American woman's Boston Marathon performance in at least 16 years.

And, consequently, this picture is one of my favorite sport photos of all time.

If you miss the confidence in her gait, you might think she's falling off the pack.

But, I know how it ends. I woke my husband that AM with my PST shouting, cheering, and crying as she almost became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 in the waning EST morning of 2011.

This picture demonstrates the point. Look at her. All alone. Trailing. Alone. Confident that she's doing what makes sense for her and not following the crowd just to be part of the group. When interviewed pre-race about tactics, she's often quoted as saying, "I'm just going to run my own race."

And she did. Boy, did she.

I am inspired to be so focused. First, I want to have the confidence to actually do the research and have the faith in knowing what my own race is (no denial, honesty about my own abilities and how I'm likely to do best). And second, I want to have the courage to run my own race, regardless of what everyone else is doing.

At the risk of being annoyingly obvious -- I'm not just talking about running.
California International Marathon (take two)

Quick Summary:

-Perfect weather (gorgeous clear day, below 40F at the start high 50s at the finish) and a fast, rolling, downhill course (8 U.S. Men and 25 U.S. Women ran the Olympic Marathon Qualifying Standard!)

-Great 4 Hour pace team leaders (Karyn Hoffman, 10 days after completing the Cozumel IronMan; and Bill Finkbeiner, 27-time Leadville finisher)

-Awesome hydration and fueling. The best I've ever had for a marathon. Thanks to JB, E2's mom, & the SRA!

-My 2nd fastest marathon to date: 4:09:26 (5 minutes short of the PR I was hoping to break)

My training was probably the best I've ever done for a marathon. 721.59 miles in 18 weeks. An average of 40.3 miles per week. Weekly speed work or strength work. Weekly tempo runs (if I'm honest, this is where I cut the most corners. My running buddy didn't. She ran a 3:49!). Sure, I didn't hit all of the workouts perfectly, but I definitely hit more than I ever had in the past.

Nutrition and hydration-wise, I was thrilled. I really messed these up at CDA, so I was very happy that I've figured out what to do.

A huge thanks to JB for the Powerbar products, they aided me through the entire training segment and on race day I easily put away a breakfast of coffee with milk and chocolate syrup, 2 Irongirl bars, and 1 Simply Energy bar -- 500 calories and it felt like nothing in my stomach. No cramping. No GI issues. Perfect.

E2's mom made her mother's chinese noodles for pre-race dinner -- boiled chinese wheat noodles topped with hard boiled eggs, chives, pulled chicken, soy sauce, and homemade chicken stock (you know your friend's mom loves you when she makes homemade stock the night before you visit because they live 0.5 miles from the start and she wants you to have a good pre-race meal!). E and I added rooster sauce to the mix. Delicious. Easy to digest. High in carbs, light proteins, and sodium to pre-load my electrolytes.

I'll avoid the detailed report, but by the time I was leaving the house for the race, I was comfortable from the evidence that I was headed to the start with the perfect balance of water, electrolytes, and a light, relatively empty GI tract.

On the course, I took electrolytes at all aid stations where I didn't have Gu and water where I did. I had GU/water at 7 miles, 13 miles, 14.5 miles, 20 miles, and 23 miles. I've never had that many GUs in a race and I'd heard stories about folks having serious GI issues, so I was pleased to learn that I could handle it just fine. Now that I know I can handle it, I think on my next marathon I'll try to do GU every 25-30 minutes starting at 1 hour.

So, what went wrong? First, I came down with a cold 2 days before the race. I took every over-the-counter remedy I could find, and rested, and hydrated as best I could to get the major symptoms under control. But, I was still producing more mucus than normal at the start, I had some post-nasal drip, some coughing, etc.

I'd done some research, and it appears that the majority takes the position that if your symptoms are entirely above your neck (and you have no fever), a cold shouldn't get in the way of your run. For me, after 2 races with colds, I can say this isn't true. I don't think running with a cold harms me, but I do think it affects my performance. At this year's US Half I was disappointed with my performance (and beat it by 8.5 minutes 3 weeks later, when not sick). On the course at CIM, I began to cough up mucus at about mile 14. After the finish, there were 30 minutes where I coughed deeply and almost without pause until I'd cleared a bunch of crud from my lungs.

Other than the cold, I think I can attribute my failure to beat my PR on 2 things: 1) I seriously considered dropping out and having E come to pick me up at mile 20. This decreased commitment, between coughs, resulted in a decreased pace until I decided I'd just tough it out. 2) Now that I've finished the Hanson's training program with its higher overall mileage but shorter long runs -- I think I personally need at least one 20 mile (or longer) long run during my training cycle so I've practiced the mental toughness to push to the finish. This was the first time I'd trained for a marathon without completing at least one 20-miler and I found myself nervous and doubtful before the race, which was compounded by the cold, and resulted in a significant lack of commitment and slow-down during the 17-20 mile segment because I was very suspicious of how I'd hold up.

I owe the fact that I finished to my 9-yr-old niece and mom. They'd run the 2.62 fun run and were waiting for me at the finish. I knew E and E2 would completely understand if I decided to drop out, treat it as a training run, and enter a replacement marathon in 8 weeks or so, but I also knew my niece wouldn't understand at all.

The truth was, if I dropped out, she's see it as an example saying it's okay to quit. And sometimes it is. This time, if I wanted to save the energy and go for the PR at the Surf City Marathon it totally would have been. But she wouldn't have understood why. She wasn't going to be at the finish line at Surf City. She was as the finish line at CIM. So, I pushed past the 20 mile marker and after the 21 mile marker confirmed that I really didn't have that much to go, I started to speed up again.

By the end, I was back to faster than my goal pace, pushed along by the specter of the closing 4:10 pace group that I wasn't about to let pass me. It was so great to see my niece at the finish, high-pitched screeching with my mom, holding a sign with my name. She told me all about her 2.62 mile run, being filmed by the TV crews, and watching the winners and the qualifiers for the Olympic Trials. I gave her my medal -- and I told her she was the reason I finished. She told me I was stinky.

When all was said and done, it was not the performance I was hoping for, but it was great, nonetheless. I ran the whole thing and didn't stop except to walk through the aid stations (vs. CDA where I took a walk break on Mile 26). I made a 3:46 improvement over Coeur D'alene and ran my second fastest marathon. More importantly, I ran a much smarter race than Coeur D'alene, without hydration and fuel issues and with a smarter, slower start and a 4:59 improvement on the back half, despite my 3-4 mile lack of commitment and slowdown.

So, while I'm disappointed, I'm excited to think about how close to that PR I am if I can avoid a cold and stay committed through the late teens and early 20s miles of the race. I'll get that last 4:59 somewhere, someday.

For the short term, I'm going to give myself a few days off and think about what my next goal might be. I really liked the idea of going for the PR in Huntington Beach, but after completing the full 26.2, I'm hobbling around and not sure I have enough time to recover and get back into marathon shape by early Feb. Perhaps it's time to do some shorter distances...

November 28, 2011

Turkey Week

E and I headed to the land of his people (aka, the deep fat fried South) for Thanksgiving.

(Lake Burton, GA)

(Flood control drops the lake well below the dock)

So far, it's been full of family (new niece!), fun, and opportunities for Southern delicacies such as:

-duck fat fried pickles (delicious!)
-deliciously greasy crispy brussel sprouts
-deep fried Thanksgiving Turkey (with a second smoked option, just in case)
-several types of dressing including E's mom's famous sausage, bacon, chestnut offering
-truffled mac and cheese
-more pickles; and
-snack bacon (you know, just 2 lbs of cooked bacon, in the fridge, in case you get hungry)

The first few days, I was relatively well behaved due to my desire to put in a reasonable performance at the Atlanta Half Marathon.

While I didn't stay with the 1:50 pace group as I'd hoped, I still came in at a respectable 1:58:03 despite the hills, which was helpful for establishing a good goal pace for my marathon. I did the last quarter mile at a 7:47 pace, so I definitely had some energy left, which is a good feeling since I have to do 26.2 miles next Sunday.

I also confirmed my favorite night-before-race meal: Broth-based asian soups with noodles or dumplings. Low fiber, medium protein, good for electrolyte loading and carbohydrates, filling but not so heavy as to cause stomach upset pre-race.

Pre-race, I had coffee, a couple of handfulls of cheerios, a half a banana, and immediately before the start, I chomped down a package of Power Bar Energy Blasts. During, I walked through the aid stations and opted for water at 2 and 4 miles and Powerade at 6, 8, and 10 miles. Overall, I feel pretty good about the race. I correctly recognized that 8:24 was going to take too much out of me (and would likely destroy my marathon), so I slowed, but pushed myself to maintain a sub-9:00 pace, and was pleased to find that it wasn't too difficult to do so.

Even better, the next day, my legs weren't sore at all.

I'm in full-on taper mode, now.

First, because that's what's on the schedule. But, even more so because I fell and bruised my ribs going down slippery hard wood stairs in socks on Thanksgiving evening (read: I've had to take post-Thanksgiving runs even easier than I otherwise would thanks to the pain associated with taking deep breaths).

It is raining cats and dogs today, so I think I'll just take the day even easier than scheduled and either take it off or do a simple treadmill workout with a few pick-ups to remind my legs of the pace they are supposed to keep on Sunday.

And with that, it's back to a full-length regular work week (half on EST and half on PST), hopes for fully healed ribs, and then the Marathon.

November 12, 2011

Random Short Books

Back in October, I realized I needed to take drastic action if I were to meet the 30 books by the end of the year goal I'd set for myself.

So, I did.

I ripped through all these, each short, and in their own way, awesomely enjoyable, and not necessarily something I'd read if it weren't for the need for brevity:

20. An artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro. An elderly Japanese painter walks us through his current life after the war, trying to arrange a marriage match for his 26-year-old daughter in the absence of his wife, who died in a raid, and his son, who died in action. Interspersed with his memories from his early training, merrymaking in the pleasure-districts, and a commitment to nationalism that the author slowly admits resulted in unnecessary deaths.

21. Kabul Beauty School, Deborah Rodriguez. Gritty real-world tale of trying to establish a beauty school in post-taliban Kabul. Culture shock at its most extreme layered over a desire to help the Afghani women and an unlikely marriage to an Afghan man with another wife and family.

22. Mudbound, Hilary Jordan. A tragedy filled with racism, the after-effects of war, love and marriage, and death and revenge. You know it's going to end badly and it still surprises you with how.

23. Running For The Hansons, Sage Canaday. First-person account of the day-to-day life of a member of the Hansons Brooks team. Very detailed information on training plans, gastrointestinal setbacks, internal group competition and more. Timely insights into the current day stars of U.S. long distance running prior to the 2012 Olympics.

24. Notes from My Travels, Angelina Jolie. Dense, difficult, and detailed accounts of missions with the UNHCR with refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan and Ecuador. The reality of the plight of refugees is very difficult to understand and accept. I had nightmares.

25. Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, Heather Lende. A true Alaskan memoir. Poignant tales of community, survival, death, hunting, music, faith, friendship, love, and forgiveness told by a woman who successfully recovered from being hit by a truck and broken to pieces.

26. 90-Day Geisha, Chelsea Haywood. Brightly lit and depressingly awesome and addictively over-the-top tale of Japanese perversion, ridiculousness, and a young beautiful woman trying to make her way in life in the Japanese Hostess Culture. Fascinating. I started and finished it in less than 48 hours (during the work week).

27. Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro. My second book by Mr. Ishiguro and I'm impressed -- a poignant, Booker Prize winning life story of a British butler. Ishiguro's understanding of the British and their sense of honor and duty (not to mention linguistic nuances) lead me to believe I was reading a blue-blood Britain's words. But Mr. Ishiguro is an immigrant to Englad, he arrived, with his Japanese family, at the age of 6. This makes both this book, and the last book of his I read (An Artist of the Floating World) even more amazing. He manages to render a believable tale from the viewpoint of a born and rasied british butler. Similarly, in Artist, he rendered a tender and believable tale of Japanese cultural modification after the war as if he had lived it himself. In each case, he did not. And his ability to bring you into a world he never actually inhabited is fascinating.

28. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffengger. My college roommate's favorite book. I finally read it on vacation and found myself shocked to be crying on a hammock in Kauai. V claimed she didn't like sad books! Liar. Even so, it's a gorgeous painful tale of true love and hurt and pain and loss and longing and death and the tricks that time plays. Highly recommended.

And now? Nothing but 2 to go 'til December 31, 2011.

Easy, Peasy.

November 6, 2011

The Sacrifices We Make

So it's the 4th week of training left before my next scheduled marathon.

52.18 miles on the feet. Tired, but not exhausted. The NY marathon inspired me, with friends who did well, and, the always amusing and awesome Lauren Fleshman's pre-race insight was awesome too.

I sincerely enjoyed a powerbar and skinny vanilla latte before today's dismal half-marathon performance (2:06:27) -- but, honestly, I'm not too upset. They re-routed the course and added an extra half mile up the marin headlands around mile 7. I walked. You know, don't lose the energy in the beginning, save it for the end.

Jen Ran.

She met our goal time. Less than 1:55. Also, she has been in better shape than me on our latest tempo runs, so this is not remotely surprising.

What was surprising (to me) was that by following the ("Save Energy For When You Need It") standard advice, I hit ridiculous traffic of people trying to cross each other on the bridge due the the 1X1 cross-traffic between miles 7.5 and 9.5 or so.

Ouch. 1 person per lane and thousands waiting to cross.


My favorite bay area race, definitely not in its best form for the 10th anniversary.

In hindsight, I should have ran the entirety of their additional hill up. I totally ran downhill (that's how I roll), but the 2 minutes of walking where I only lost about 30 seconds of running time? Yeah, that was probably 50 people who passed me, and then stood there in front of me at the 1X1 intersection no the bridge...

Tick, tick, tick went the race clock.

But, whatever. I am continuing my streak. I've started the US half in November every year since 2005. I love this race, and unless I have a good reason not to be in town (NYM would be a good reason, in my book, but we'll see), I plan to run it every year.

2005: 1:57:06
2006: 1:58:54
2007: 1:58:35
2008: 1:55:54
2009: 2:19:38
2010: DNF
2011: 2:06:37

Also, this year, I suspect there will be many complaints about how poorly the race was organized and run due to the construction re-routes and runner delays due to back-ups on the bridge.

But man, we got a gorgeous November clear sky day in San Francisco. Rain was on the schedule, but not a drop. There are few things more glorious in the world than this course on a beautiful day.

Sure, some stuff could have been done better, but at the end of the day, this race is small, wonderful, and infinitely more pleasant and cool than many of the other SF races with which it doesn't even compete.

And, the last 3 miles are flat, flat, flat. I'd love to say I picked it up and killed it on them. But I didn't. I reserved enough to pass several people on the last hill in Fort Mason at the end, but truly, I should have killed the entirety of the 3 miles, the last mile's cardiovascular performance made it clear that I had it in me. But, either the cold or just general laziness kicked in and I didn't do it.

Overall, I'm thrilled with the weekend (pre-race dinner at Scoma's was delicious!) but I'm disappointed with myself. I'd hoped for a better showing. But given the cold, the course changes, and the fact that I smoked at least 15 people on the final hills into the finish in fort mason, I'm still feeling pretty good about my training.

I can't help it, I'm a bit of an optimist.

Sure, it's scary to finish a 1/2 marathon 4 weeks before the full at 1 minute per mile slower than full target pace. (yikes!) For comparison, my last marathon, where I bonked was at today's pace.

Holy crappy half marathon pace today.

But, I'm just going to regroup. Get over this cold. and I've got the ATL half marathon in my sights now. Healthy to the start line and a good race to help me pick an appropriate goal pace for CIM. That's the goal.

Wish me luck. Onward.

November 2, 2011

Why I Run

Arvay's most recent post How I Run started me thinking about WHY I run.

Unlike Arvay, I do not run purely for joy. On occasion, it's joyful. And those episodes are wonderful. They definitely hold a special place in my heart and form some of the motivation for heading out the door.

But often, especially now, when I'm pushing the limits of my fitness, running is not joyful at all for me. Instead it's difficult, challenging, and makes me question whether I want to do it at all.

Take last night's strength intervals, for example. The schedule called for 4X2400 at 10 seconds faster than race pace. When I showed up at the track, my legs were tight. I was tired and my running buddy was tired too. We pushed through the first two at 8:13/mile and 8:17/mile, but I couldn't motivate to do the last two. I was fairly certain they would take more out of me than I would get back in terms of fitness (my hamstrings were extra tight and my gait just felt wrong). So, we just just jogged the last 3 miles and called it a day.

If I ran purely for joy, I'm not sure I would have ran at all yesterday. I'm certain I wouldn't have finished the last 3 miles. But, I run for so many other reasons beside joy, too.

I run for discipline. Setting a goal and working towards it in a predictable step-wise fashion reminds me on a daily basis that I can do anything I choose, it's just a matter of follow-through. It also reminds me to be mindful about what I choose, because the follow-through can be time consuming, exhausting, painful, and take time away from other passions in my life.

I run to stay (or get) in shape. I love feeling like I'm taking care of my body. And, I like the way I look and clothes fit when I'm in better shape, too.

I run to stay sane. This is probably the biggest reason I run. I don't have to be on a training plan to run, but one of the biggest benefits of a training plan is that a good one demands enough of me physically that my emotional responses are damped. I have found that I am less prone to anxiety, anger, frustration, and other negative emotional responses when I run. This makes me happier, and a better wife and friend.

Essentially, I run because I feel it makes me a better person.

October 30, 2011

CIM week -5

The hardest thing about trying to train on a semi-serious training schedule for a marathon?


I'm hungry. All the time. I'm dropping about 0.5 lbs per week, which is by design. But occasionally, my body revolts against this plan. Yesterday, when we unexpectedly ran into a friend and his younger almost-brother-in-law for brunch after my super-easy recovery run, I was excited to realize I could order an entire extra pizza after everyone was done. Of course the college kid would agree to help me eat it. Sweet college kids. Love their metabolism. Such a metaphor for just how alive they are at that point in their lives.

Not me, though. I'm tired. I just need more sleep. And more breaks. Wah. Wah.

Why? Because I'm overworked, which is good, financially. But I have no one to blame except my boss and it's severe enough these days that it keeps me up with frantic racing thoughts, so it's bad, with respect to insomnia, and how heavy I feel I sit on the good wife/friend/sister/daughter scale.

We're in the middle of some crazy stuff at our house with respect to E's business, our investments, our long term planning (termites? remodel? travel? move?), and you know, just general life stuff.

What was I saying?

Oh, yes. Life. Ain't it grand? Aren't we lucky to have it?

I'm loving my reading challenge and the randomness it's brought to my life. I'm loving my attempt at the most difficult running training schedule I've ever done, even if it does inspire occasional thoughts regarding my own (and my running buddy's) insanity.

Yeah, I cut a few of the shorter runs this week a little short (but adding walking where I could), and, today?

Well, today, I had to be honest. 13 out and back up a mountain with 2275 of elevation change is almost the same as 16 flat. Too bad we didn't schedule it flat since we had 16 on the training calendar.

Overall, my running buddy and I may have called it short (I felt naseous), but we were honest and while running kept the long run at a decent pace (thanks Powerbar Energy Blasts) despite the climbs and descents (which were worse than the Kirkland half, and it's supposed to be a training for next weekend's half...).

So, let's see -- A simple summary.

Isomnia? Annoying. At least last night was just simple insomnia. No anxiety. Just straight up awake at 3 AM. What you gonna do? Nothing but breathe and try to relax. Bad.

Fitness? Clearly Improving. Good.

Long run? Shorter than planned, but impressive elevation performance and credit for not pushing it when no benefits from the training were available. Neutral.

Weekly Mileage: 51.84. Largest weekly volume in my running life. Good.

Reading? Random and more than normal. Good.

Halloween? E's and my 11th dating anniversary. Excellent.

Social and Family life? We've got time scheduled with many folks we care about in the next several weeks/months. It feels good.

Work? Crazy for both of us. But we're career-focused folks in our early to mid 30s. If it wasn't crazy, we'd probably be doing something wrong.

So, overall, not bad at all.

October 29, 2011


People who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Angelina Jolie. I think she's intelligent, beautiful, human, and a *very* powerful woman.

I am always shocked at how much hatred people who have never met her feel towards her. Particularly since I feel a natural affinity and inclination to like her. Recently a friend responded to my surprise at the loathe that many feel towards her with a simple statement, "But isn't that how it always is with powerful women who make it fairly clear that they don't care what people think about them?" A very interesting perspective.

Because of my short book kick, I purchased her book Notes from My Travels (all proceeds go to the UNHCR).

I haven't read a book this difficult to read in a very long time.

The lives of refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan and Ecuador are unbelievably difficult and painful. War, death, disease, hunger, heat, cold, insects, land mines, lost loved ones, and still smiles and laughter between the tears.

This book describes her missions with the UNHCR to visit with and learn more about refugees. At 25, she took her first mission and put herself directly in a danger zone where aid workers often die. She writes honestly about how difficult it was to see the plight of the refugees, how she couldn't help but feel that she has wasted many of the first world gifts and opportunities she's been given, and how she really knows so little of what truly matters in the world.

I am inspired by Angelina's efforts to make us more aware of the plight of the 20 million refugees in the world. And, I am sad that I was definitely less aware of the reality than I should have been, despite how ugly it is.

Refugees will definitely be on my list of charitable causes going forward.

October 24, 2011

Sonoma Gluttony and Week -6

I was 1 lb away from high race weight before we left for Sonoma. (woot!)

And yet, just a simple trip to Sonoma later, here I am, 2.8 lbs back from the goal... (le sigh)

It was worth it.

You see that picture? That's what happens when you are lucky enough to be born in the right place and the right time to have the former sous-chef of a Michelin star restaurant (who was there when they were awarded the star) as a childhood friend (best friend's little brother and very good friend of my little brother).

Okay, so you have to be lucky enough to have all of these things happen, and then you have to come visit the hotel attached to his restaurant, and he has to arrange for an "employee-favor" rate/room, and, the next thing you know, the head of front desk guest operations is leaving a hand-written card next to this ridiculous cheese-board.

Just in case you weren't in enough awe, when you show up for dinner with the former sous-chef, at said restaurant, you will be privy to the best treatment and service at a meal you've ever your life. And the discount on the bill will make you cringe because, honestly, you've never left a tip that was 200% of the bill. But, in this case, anything less should be insulting.

Basically, our trip to Sonoma was perfect. Slept in the car while E drove (yay!). Lots of reading (double yay!). No computer or work for at least 30 hours. That's a record for the last 4-5 months. I'm going to try to break it soon. I do love arbitrary goals.

And, in running news, I hit 47.53 miles for the week. Approximately 15 miles more than I did this week last cycle. It includes 5.6 unscheduled extra miles of walking. I dialed a couple of the workouts back, but I actually added unexpected walks in SF, Infineon raceway (hills!), and after the short-cut tempo run such that my overall mileage was higher than expected.

Overall, I'm amused to be high on mileage despite my inability to do 9 miles at race pace. I did 7. Painful Miles. On a treadmill. While trying to watch TV on 6 different channels at the gym. But everything was horrid. When I called it a day, I guiltily walked an extra mile to cool down. It was a strong effort, but nothing close to what was on the schedule.

I'm very interested to see how this all plays out. Part of me thinks this training schedule is insane for any adult with a truly demanding job or family (and gasp, what if you have both?). This part thinks that even my paltry efforts at sort of sticking to it are crazy.

The other part of me knows that while this schedule probably doesn't make sense, I've done more mileage per week than ever before in my life. I'm more fit than I've been in at least 3.5 years. I'm being reasonable about cutting myself slack on the recovery days and just trying to hit quality workouts in a reasonable fashion (even if I have to drop 2 miles from a tempo run).

Did I mention the post-Sonoma gluttony long run was cut from 10 to 6? Yeah. That happened. But it was a non-quality workout, and my hips hurt in the car, so it seemed like I made the right call.

I still hit 47+ for the week.

Wish me well for 51 miles on schedule for this week. I'm definitely in the thick of things, now.

October 19, 2011

Imposed Structure

So, back in January, suffering from a fit of motivation overload, I picked an actual number for my books goal this year: 30.

A few weeks ago I realized there were only 12 weeks left in the year and I still had 10 books to go.

I did what any goal-oriented lawyer would do -- I figured out how to technically comply with the rules in a way that made the most sense.

First, I went through my pile of books to be read soon and pulled the smaller books to the top. Just like that, all of the big books were pushed to 2012.

Then, I went on Amazon and ordered a bunch of smaller, shorter books that had been on my wish list for a while but I hadn't had the momentum to order.

Finally, I mentioned to Arvay I was looking for books and she promptly sent me a nice bite-sized gem that I'm looking forward to starting tonight.

I get a weird sense of accomplishment out of moving things around to reach arbitrary goals. In some sense, I know that reaching an arbitrary goal is, well, arbitrary.

And, I know that I don't have time to follow my normal patterns and just go through my books-to-be-read pile in order *and* meet my 30 books goal.

I even know that the movement is likely to be zero sum -- next year, I will likely read a lower number of books as a direct result of pushing the big books forward.

Even so, I'm getting a kick out of the idea that I'll be reading a few extra minutes each day and a bunch of stuff that I otherwise wouldn't have gotten to this year (if at all).

I think, often, that's the real value of goals. They help you change. Even if the change is quite small and may not matter at all in the long term. It's very good to remind ourselves that not only are we free to do things differently, we can and will.

October 16, 2011

CIM, week -7

44.11 miles.

As hoped, I finally did the full 10X800 Yassos. Holy crap that was one of the hardest workouts I've ever done. I'd hoped for 3:45s, but I averaged 3:51s. Supposedly, this is a good high-end estimate of the fastest marathon I could run right now. I'd be *thrilled* with a 3:51. I'm not sure I'm ready to try to hit that, but I'm pleased with the idea that it's an option.

Of course, despite my 44, the training schedule called for 51.

Yesterday I *had* to finish our taxes as it was the last day to send them in after filing for an extension. Unfortunately, due to ridiculousness with E's company's 1065 that I discovered last weekend, what should have been a simple fill-in-one-remaining-blank on our 1040 exercise took me from 8 AM to 12 PM.

Next year, we are committed to hiring a CPA. I sacrificed at least 4 weekend days to our taxes for 2010. Historically, I've hesitated spending the money to have someone else do our taxes. It isn't rocket science, it's just arcane and takes a ton of time. Generally, I hate to pay people to do things I know I can do -- especially if it's a good thing for me to have a very solid understanding of what's being done.

But, given that I haven't had a weekend where I didn't have to work for my business or E's business in at least 4 months, at this point, E and I agreed, we need to actively offload the least profitable weekend work I've been doing because it gets in the way of things I want to do.

Back to the run -- come noon yesterday, no way could I head out in the heat and do 8 miles without food. I could snack and head out, but then I'd miss my only opportunity for weekend brunch with E (which is one of my favorite events of the week). So, while I enjoyed Hwe Dup Bob and E noshed Sushi, I struggled to find a way to fit my 8 miles in the afternoon, after digesting, but before an early dinner with friends.

Finally, I admitted that I had enough work, gardening, running, and social obligations for the day that something was going to have to take the hit. Winner? The run. Plus, I wanted to join E for some delicious sake with lunch. I did. It was lovely. And gardening in the sun post-sake felt great.

That's the main lesson I've learned this training cycle. Between traveling, work, social obligations, family, and general life, my running often takes a hit. I've modified at least one run per week for the last 7 weeks, and I've flat out skipped 6 workouts in the last 7 weeks. Several of them I've replaced with walking miles, which is better than nothing, but in terms of strictly following a training plan, I suck.

This lack of discipline in running is not new for me. I wrote about it back in 2008, a few weeks before I set my still-standing PR for a 10K and a few months before setting my annual mileage record of 1391.38 miles in one year.

This year, despite blowing off and rescheduling workouts on a weekly basis, I'm still on track to kill the annual mileage record. I'm currently at 1304, so as long as I stay healthy and actually complete CIM, this year will be a new high-water mark. I'm hoping that the increased mileage and pseudo-committed training will bear some PR fruit as well, but only time will tell.

Finally, after the rest day, today's 16 was great. I got a late 10 AM start (2 cups of coffee and an old-fashioned powerbar pre-race), but headed up the foothills to a local junior college, and made myself do a mile on the track at goal race pace, before running down the hills home.

With 3 miles to go, my Amphipod was empty. So I ducked into the CVS to fill it with cold Gatorade.

I'm not going to lie, I really wanted to stay in front of the fridge (yeah, I steamed up the door, just standing there). But, the looks I was getting from the other patrons made me realize I was very stinky. Ooops. It was hot today (83F when I got home). And I'm a sweaty, stinky runner after 13 miles in the sun.

The checker was not thrilled with the sopping wet $20 bill I pulled from my Amphipod pocket and he was very careful not to touch *anything* I handed to him, scanning the Gatorade bottle from as far away as possible with his light gun, and going so far as to grab the garbage can and bring it up to eye level so I could throw out my Powerbar Energy Blast trash.

Take home?

I'm hard-core enough to be disgustingly gross to the CVS staff and patrons, but not remotely hard-core enough to strictly follow the high-end of the Hanson Brooks Marathon Training Plan (for non-elites).

October 11, 2011

Good To See You!

My dad showed up in my dreams last night.

It was so nice to hang out with him and Nolan.

He was his smiling, happy self. He had on a dark blue polo shirt that looked great, and when I woke I smiled because I don't think he ever had that shirt in real life. My brain (or whatever else controls my dreams) essentially created a *new* memory of my dad for me in my sleep.

How cool is that?

October 9, 2011

CIM, Week -8

I'm about to go lie down and try to take a nap. This week, I skipped 2 workouts, and then, decided to try to make up for lost mileage by going hard on the weekend.

Overall, I think it worked out pretty well. But, predictably, I'm exhausted.

Yesterday, I did 9 miles in the San Jose foothills, including a total of at least 2,000 ft. of elevation gain and loss. It was slow, but a *very* difficult workout. It was all I could do to hold out 'til 8:30 PM before leaving a friend's birthday party (but showed up at 5 and helped cook, so that counts for something, right?).

Today, I woke refreshed from the full night's sleep, jogged to the start of a local 10K, and started with the super small crowd and managed to finish as the first female in something around 54 minutes (I took a wrong turn, so hard to be certain of what my actual finishing time should have been), and then jogged my way home. The day's total was a fun 10 miles, and the 10K portion was faster than my current guess at what makes sense for a target marathon pace (8:55?). Since it was the day after a major hill workout, I was quite happy -- this tells me I'm on the right track in terms of my goal pacing and fitness.

For comparison, I did a 10K in Bellevue last training cycle at week -6. It was (a) a minute slower, although much more hilly; (b) part of a week with almost the same mileage as this one; and (c) with 4 easy flat miles instead of 9 hard hill/trails miles the day before the race. I'm telling myself this means I'm much more fit this time around than last time. [And I'm hoping it's true :)]

Next week, I'm doing my best to do all scheduled workouts, including a full set of 10 Yasso 800s. So far, my best has been 8. But I've never given myself the full recovery interval (an equal amount of time walking/jogging to the time spent running), so I'm going to hope that with that modification, I can do all 10. Wish me luck.

[In other news, work is crazy busy, and E's business is even more crazy with fundraising and product madness. We're very happy to be home so we can attack the crazy from our comfort zone. Yes, we've got more nights and weekends booked with work-related stuff than we'd like, but at least we're home.]

October 4, 2011

Week -9

E and I went to New York this week.

Tuesday night, I had to bail on intervals with my running buddy. I had way too much work and still hadn't packed for our departure on Wednesday.

I would have loved to make up the miles on Wednesday (a scheduled rest day), but I had to work onsite at a client until E picked me up and we boarded. We didn't check-in to our hotel until 1 AM EDT. So, if I wanted to get on local time, there was no workout for me that day.

Thursday AM, I did 5.5 of strength intervals on the treadmill at an 8:20 pace. It was sort of a hybrid of the missed speed intervals (which would have been shorter, but at a 7:30 pace) and the tempo run I had scheduled (where I probably would have targeted 8:45 - 8:55).

Friday AM, my body revolted and demanded sleep. I thought I could fit in my workout later in the day, but alas, it was the last day of the quarter and additional work sprung up.

Saturday, I did a very slow 8 miles in Central Park. I enjoyed it immensely. Running in Central Park is such a stereotypical runner activity, and now I've joined the hordes of people and dogs who have done it.

Sunday, I woke early, picked up Nish and headed to the start of a half marathon in Long Island. I did a nice 1.3 mile warm-up at a 9:09 pace. Then we did the half in a very impressive 2:17 debut for Nish. Something tells me she's going to be much faster in her next attempt -- we sped up for each of the final miles until we were going at an 8:37 pace for the final 0.1 miles. After crossing the finish line, she offered to run the remaining 0.5 miles with me so I could hit my 15 total. Yeah, she definitely had some more gas in the tank.

Overall, I completely missed 2 workouts, Tuesday's speed and Friday's 6. My mileage for the week totaled 39.85, including the walking in New York. That's 11 miles short for the week's planned mileage, but still 13 more miles than the same week last time around.

I'm definitely looking forward to being home without major travel for the next 7 weeks. Even with the workouts I've dropped, I think I'm on track for a good showing at CIM, but I'm hopeful that if I get a little closer to my stated training goals, I'll be able to enjoy some additional fitness and speed increases before the race.

October 3, 2011


Today, I posted this to Facebook:

This AM, the welcome home household shopping survey found 1/4 roll of TP (shared between 2 bathrooms) and 1/8 pint of milk, poured in the coffee before I discovered it was spoiled. Thank goodness we have 7 weeks straight without any flights... Here's to home cooked meals from a full fridge, garden harvests, and no packed bags!

(Talk about giving up all semblances of anonymity!)

Our NY trip was wonderful. But it was jam-packed. Grandparents, legal work, friend visits, and a half marathon all in less than 5 days? Sure, why not?

But, if I am honest, the speed of things has been increasing for us. So, there may be a reason why the trip might not have made sense. E's business is even more crazy now than it was a month ago. My business just keeps getting busier.

Ostensibly, these are great things.

But, every once in a while, I think, "Huh. Should I be slowing down? Are there roses I should be smelling?"

Last night, after midnight, catching up on email and getting responses from clients after 1 AM was one of those times. Jet Lag was not in my favor. I'd been up since 3:00 AM PST, and there it was after 1 AM, still working.

I'm trying. I really am. The reason the homefront is so neglected (see the Facebook post above) is that I've fit in visits to my sister, nephew and brother-in-law, plus the New York trip -- both trips are focused first and foremost on family and friends. But, somehow, the commitment to friends and family ended up in the last 3 weeks of the quarter (you know, when my clients freak out and want all of my attention)...

Overall, I think I'm in a very introspective phase at the moment. I just finished my 20th book, Ringworld. And, I enjoyed it. But prior to that, I was on a clip of more than 2 books per month.

Starting in August, that books completed rate fell to something more like 1 or less books per month. This makes me sad. Reading for a living with nothing else to do actually sounds boring to me. I'd admire someone with a tiger who had the guts not to sell tiger stuff. I think I'd have trouble passing it up.

With that in mind, I'll simply say that this week's running took some hits from life. But at the end of the week, the half marathon with Nish was awesome, and, surprisingly unaffected by the prior day's 8 in central park or 6 the next day on our trail in MV.

Okay, back to the grind (work, and for balance, harvesting when the sun comes out, only 10 books to go 'til the year's total of 30, and running and trying to hit my weight loss goal before the marathon and holidays).

September 25, 2011


Fall had already arrived, but she went into hiding for my glorious 5 day visit to Spokane. Nothing but sunshine, trees, views of the river and valley, and wonderful outdoor runs and meals.

My sister and B are the most chill parents I know. The dearth of baby stuff was refreshing. The baby is a point on the triangle of their family, rather than the center of their orbit. They seem to believe that little A will be just fine with their attention, and he is. More than fine. He's perfect.

In the mall, when A spit up on himself as I held him, I told my sister, who was busy paying for parking. "Oh, just rub it into his clothes. That's why he wears them."

Right. Love the low stress parenting. It was so fun to hang out with their family.

In running, while alone, I made nothing but wrong turns. One day my run ended up with 400 ft down the back of the ridge (their dog pulled me back up). Another day, I mistakenly ran 400 ft down the front of the ridge (I had to pull the dog back up that time). And finally, on the day I made it onto the trails along the ridgeline, I was repeatedly stung by a wasp who took the unfortunate resting place between my sock and shoe. Ouch.

Despite the suboptimal training, I raced a scenic 10K with sis along the Spokane River, and the clock showed a PR of 49:05. Unfortunately, I knew from my effort level that the course had to be short. I'd forgotten my GPS watch, but I asked two of the women who beat us and they reported 5.85 and 5.84 miles. So, not quite PR pace, but a respectable showing of 8:23's nonetheless. A great training run. And super fun to do it with my sister.

This week is threatening chaos. Close of the quarter. A trip to New York. So, while I want nothing more than a lazy Sunday of nothing, I'm going to try to buckle down and do a ton of stuff today.

September 18, 2011

Rest Day

I've had too much, lately.

Too much work. Too much running. Too much to do to keep my life on track (garden chores, replacing the totaled car, thank yous, bills, taxes, managing investments, eating well). I've got two weeks of travel coming up, as well, and, while I'm looking forward to both trips, I know they are going to put even more on my plate.

In hindsight, I should have run the full 14 yesterday if my legs could take it, and then I should have planned to take today off. Instead, I raced the 4 and totaled 8 and over 1,000 feet of elevation climb and pushed the 14 to today, where I could do it flat.

But, Life had other plans for me.

I woke on time, nice and early, with 30 minutes to drink some coffee, eat some fuel, and get an audiobook onto my Sanza Mini-Cruzer to entertain me through the run. I had a fight with and lost. 30 minutes later, I did not have the audiobook I'd hoped to run to, but I'd paid for and committed to a recurring subscription of audiobooks that didn't work with my device. Couldn't even cancel, had to wait 'til Monday to speak with a human.

Then, I got an email from my visiting childhood friend, informing me she'd be early, so I wouldn't have time to do the last 30-60 minutes of my run. I should have cut my run short, but instead, I decided I'd bust through some of my todo list and try to do it in the evening.

While I did get quite a bit of work and life stuff done, I also needed to take an hour nap before she arrived. By the time she got here, it was in the 80s and climbing, and despite the nap, I was still tired. That evening run was looking less and less attractive.

At lunch, I admitted defeat. I was yawning, starving, and generally overwhelmed with how much I needed to get done before getting on a plane on Tuesday.

So, I took today off running entirely. This means I'm doing the cardinal sin of skipping the long run during marathon training. Frankly, once I decided to do it, I'm not the least bit concerned. Even without the long run, week -11 totaled out at 35.7 miles. This includes a brutal speed session, 8 miles in the hills (nay, Mountains) on Saturday, and almost all of the miles under a 10 minute pace. Week -11 for CDA was 21.84 miles. I'm over 107 miles ahead of where I was at this point for CDA.

A missed long run isn't going to kill me. In fact, given that I came home after lunch and took a second nap of almost 2 hours, I think my body just really needed to rest and recover from the demands I've been placing on it.

And, I only have two more contracts to finish before I can go into Monday without any backlogged work for the first time in at least 2 months. Yay!

September 17, 2011


After yesterday's realization that I'd like to actually complete my 50 mile week and be functional for next week's schedule, I decided the Mt. Diablo 4-miler was the best plan. 400 ft up, 400 ft down. I could do it as many times as made sense.

I ran the race hard. Harder than I expected, actually. I took it easy up, but I love me some downhills, and I really enjoy passing people. So, 11's on the way up and low 8's on the way down. I finished dripping with sweat and beat the female course record (although several women finished before me, so they also beat it before I got to the line).

I checked in with my mom, who'd driven with me (she got up at 5:30 AM with me to go, how sweet is that?) and had set up her water colors for a morning of painting in the mountain light. She was all set up with pigments and brushes and paper and wished me well. She also introduced me to the 71-year-old who took 1st in his age group that I *barely* passed to beat on the downhill (e.g. he kicked my ass on the uphill).

After some snacking, I headed out again for another 4, but halfway through the uphill realized I had intestinal issues. Fun. So that loop was only 1 out and back for a total of 2. After a pit stop and checking in on the progress of mom's paintings (she's doing 3 different tigers and it is super cool to watch them evolve as she paints the various layers), I headed out for the remaining 8, with a plan for two consecutive 4 mile out and backs.

At around 0.5 miles up the hill, I realized my hips were starting to get sore. I started to do some math and realized that if I completed my plan, even without the crazy elevation change, I'd be on my feet about an hour longer than if I'd done the 14 on flat ground. I thought about the last time I ran hills and how long it took me to recover. So, I decided to make it one more 2 mile out and back for a total of 8.

And, there, easy as pie, I'm all signed up for 14 tomorrow AM. Nice and flat. Around the bay. Sea level. Followed by dim sum with an old childhood friend who's driving through town.

In fact, I think she may be the friend I've known the longest. It's possible I may have known her longer than E2.

It's good to have memories of gymnastics with a friend you still speak to in the back of your 4th grade teacher's class room. Plus, she had her picture taken with Kerri Strug today (which is national gymnastics day). How cool is that?

September 16, 2011

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Tomorrow, I'm registered for the Mt. Diablo half marathon.

3,240 feet of elevation up and back down. I figured it would make a great strength run.

Now, I'm re-evaluating whether it might make sense to do the 10 Miler and the 4 Miler to eliminate 1,000 or so on both sides.

Either way, I'm going to be quite sore, methinks.

Off to go hit the foam roller and stretch before the self-inflicted ridiculousness.

September 11, 2011

Week -12

45.67 miles for this step-back week.

It actually felt like I was giving my body a break (of course, I did take Monday off and only walked the 6 make-up miles, so I didn't run as much as I was supposed to).

For CDA this mileage was the second highest volume week I ran. This cycle, I'm facing another 10 consecutive weeks with mileage over 46 before the taper week of 38ish.

It's interesting how quickly my perspective has changed. A 45 mile week used to be a big deal. I'd only done 3 in my life before starting this training program. And yet, here I am, more than comfortable after a 45 mile step-back week to recover from last week's 51.

Here's to hoping this program results in speed benefits in addition to the obvious endurance benefits.

September 10, 2011

Healthy Discoveries

So, the healthy streak of no alcohol and low-glycemic index ovo-lacto vegetarian food was going swimmingly. The original plan was 10 days straight commencing the day we returned from our travels.

But, on night 3, E2 & J asked if they could come spend the night on their way up north. We were super excited to hang out with them, and, truly, both E and I were more than happy to take a quick break from the streak for a little wine with friends. So, we all sat around the dinner table, sipping wine and eating garden gazpacho, sliced garden veggies dipped in homemade hummus, brown rice tomato risotto (with oyster mushrooms for E) and J added some chicken sausages to his meal as he could not quite go full veggie after doing physical labor all day.

In exchange for the night off, E and I agreed that we should tack 2 full days to the remainder of the streak. We'll do this for every day we don't completely meet the goal (e.g. yesterday, I did a veggie juice fast for lunch, and the dinner meal was entirely on target...except the wine, but we've decided that any slip = 2 more full days). The current count is 9 days left, but we have plans on that 9th day with friends at a winery. So right now, it looks like the best we could do is 2 on, 1 off, 7 on, 1 off, 3 on. It should be interesting to see how long it takes us to get through the full streak and how many days we do in total before returning to our more ordinary reasonably healthy (but not super healthy) lifestyle. I have high hopes...

This morning, E2 and I headed out for a wonderful 4 mile walk (the last 4 I had to make up from the 6 I missed on Monday AM after the wedding). We hit up Starbucks and I opted for my favorite pre-workout drink -- a skinny vanilla latte (although sometimes I go Hazelnut). 9g protein. 14g carbs. 125mg Sodium. 75mg Caffeine. 90 Calories. What's not to like? We alternated talking and ended with a long-overdue fully-caught-up hug. I've missed my weekend long runs with E2, but a walk is almost as good.

After an hour of walking, my Garmin needed charging, so I stretched a bit and ate a Harvest Energy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bar. Mmmm... this tastes like a treat and at 250Cal with 9g fat, I wouldn't ordinarily want to indulge. But, I knew I had 8 solo miles to run and it was getting warm, so I erred on the side of extra fuel and electrolytes (140mg Na; 200mg K) , especially since I didn't have any sports drinks available to take with me.

And, what do you know? Between the latte and the bar, I made it through a 4 mile walking warm-up and a fairly difficult out and back 8 miler that ended in 84F heat (1200 ft total ascent, 300 ft net climb out and drop back) with nothing but water. I kept the run under 10 minute miles, including the stops for water walking, so my average pace without the stops was somewhere in the 9:40 range. Given that it seemed difficult, but not terrible, even with the heat and hills, I was quite pleased. Even better, when I got home, I wasn't totally useless. I wasted some time at the computer, took a good shower and prepared lunch without any of the post-workout fall-out I often experience if I don't tend to my energy/fuel needs.

The biggest healthy-related discovery of the week, however, was how delicious the St. Pauli N.A. tasted with lunch after my workout. I've never been a big fan of beer after runs. Some people swear by it, but the smell of the alcohol nauseates me after a hard work-out. It usually takes me at least an hour post-workout before a beer (or any alcohol) even starts to sound good. But, now, I've found the solution. Non-alcoholic beer! What a brilliant idea.

I thought I was being quite clever with my discovery. However, a German brewery already thought of this and ran a scientific study around the Munich Marathon (scientific abstract here). They concluded that non-alcoholic beer is an excellent long distance recovery beverage -- it's got all the great carbs you need plus it's got additional goodies that boost the immune system and help control inflammation, both of which are negative side effects of long distance high volume training and racing.

The moral of the story? Sometimes it's actually *good* to miss your goals and adjust.

1. If I hadn't missed my Monday run, I'm not sure I would have done the 4 mile walk with E2 *and* the 8 mile run this AM. The time with E2 was one of the best parts of my week, while the run was harder (aka better training) than it would have been in the cooler AM.

2. If we hadn't asked J and E2 to show up with wine last night, we would have drank the St. Pauli Girl N.A.s, and I wouldn't have learned the beauty of non-alcoholic beer as a training aid. 96Cals, 23g Carbs plus all the B vitamins and other random goodness you get from the brewing process without the stink of alcohol? I'm a fan. Besides, it tastes better than any other recovery drink I've tried.

September 8, 2011

Week -13

It's actually halfway through week -12 by now, and as the delay would indicate, last week was quite busy.

The last BBQ of the season was a blast and an unexpected reunion of several folks from one of E's long ago employers. My clients are all gearing back up and keeping me ridiculously busy. E's business is in one of those wacky start-up cycles where everything seems to be happening at the same time (financing, customers, hardware deliveries, and more). R & B's awesome wedding (How cool is a quick thunderstorm and double rainbow on your special day in Pasadena on Labor Day? Talk about an auspicious sign of good fortune!).

On the running front, I actually did more miles than the schedule required thanks to extra walking in Pasadena. 51+ miles including 400 intervals at a much faster than expected pace (including one at 6:47!), and a 12 mile loop that heads up into the mountains and back down (i.e. Lots of hillwork). No wonder I'm exhausted. But in a good way.

Monday, the day after the wedding (technically week -12), I skipped my run. Too much fun with nothing left for the body. Tuesday's intervals on the strand in Santa Monica to Marina del Rey and back were gorgeous, but slower than expected. Oh well, c'est la vie.

So, here I am, headed into the back half of the week, finally starting to catch up on work and the garden. Last night was 8 cans of tomato sauce and I'll be canning, roasting and pickling (I've got a bumper crop of cucumbers as well) every night this week.

E and I just started our traditional post-BBQ healthy vegetarian, yoga-full, alcohol-free stint last night. I woke this morning slightly more rested and definitely convinced that changing gears on the consumption is a good idea. I look forward to seeing how this treats my running. And, it is my hope that by the end of the 10 days, I should be ready for the next social onslaught.

August 31, 2011

The Ebb and Flow

After a relatively mellow August, my clients are all of a sudden exploding with emergency work for me to do.

I just compiled my to-do list after an AM of conference calls and realized that I owe 10 contract mark-ups to various clients, all due today!

Good thing E has a business dinner meeting -- when I'm only fending for myself I can live off uncooked veggies that take no time at all to prepare.

In other news, the early AM 7 miler today was a piece of cake. The effort felt like 4 or 5 felt a few months ago. This despite the fact that it's my 8th day straight of running without a day off. Yay! I love getting in better shape -- it's so fun.

August 28, 2011

Week -14

Well, that went fast. It's been a week and 44.04 miles on my feet since I last posted and, it's good to summarize, because if I don't, I'm not sure I'd know where the time went.

In addition to work, life, and the running miles, I fit in a mid-week visit to a friend I hadn't seen in 10 years and a day trip to Tomales Bay as a final Californian hurrah with a friend who's moving to the East Coast.

Tuesday, H (running buddy) and I headed out to join Palo Alto Run Club for speed intervals, but they decided to do hill repeats at the the Dish instead.

Ouch. It took almost 3 full days to recover to the point where I didn't have hip soreness.

Yesterday, I headed out for 8 miles with Metamatt. He's so much faster than me that I knew it was going to be a difficult run. The Giants ballpark dinner as a pre-run meal wasn't helping much, either. Thankfully, he slowed it down but kept me at a solid 9:04 average pace. We shared a Pure Energy Bar and a Powerbar endurance bar beforehand and we snacked on energy chews during the run. Ocean Beach and Golden Gate park were predictably cold and foggy, but the day cleared up by mid afternoon and we enjoyed sunny blue skies in M's backyard before our drive home.

After a delicious brunch at Beretta (carbonara pizza? Oh, hell yes.), I needed a 1.5 hour nap before I could even try to accomplish anything else in my day. And, to be honest, I didn't really accomplish much.

This morning, I had 10 miles on tap with H. I expected it to be difficult given the mileage step up week and the hard run the day before.

But, we shared a Pure Energy Bar over coffee and easily warmed up to a much faster pace than I expected. My watch battery died, so I can't be sure, but I think we did the whole 10 at an average pace of 9:30 or so, which is a marked improvement from last week's slow and steady 10 miler.

And there you have it. One more week down. One week closer to the race. Lots of running. Gorgeous California late summer weather. Busy social life. Busy work life. And not much else to report.

August 22, 2011

Week -15

I'm following a training plan based on the Hanson Brooks Marathon Training Plan.

It's different than any plan I've ever followed. The biggest difference? The longest run I'm going to do is 18.2 miles (which is actually longer than they recommend, but I found a trail run that looks too fun to miss). In exchange for the lost long runs of 18-20 miles, I'm running 6 days per week including speed and strength workouts and other than speed days, I don't have a single run shorter than 6 miles 'til the week of the race.

This week, I substituted 3 miles of walking with a friend for the easy 6 on Monday, but I did everything else as prescribed. 37 miles and change. For CDA, I didn't hit that mileage 'til Week -8. My overall mileage is going to be much larger this time around.

Saturday's 6 miler was very difficult, and I was exhausted afterwards, so I was very apprehensive about Sunday's 10. But, the 10 was actually much more pleasant than the 6.

I chomped down a Power Bar Pure and Simple Energy Bar (roasted peanut butter... this may be my favorite energy bar I've ever tried! Yum!) on the drive out, and then my running buddy and I shared a package of the Cola flavored Energy Blasts on the run. The conversation, caffeine, and available sugars combined to make the last 10 of a 37 mile week much less difficult than I expected. Sure, we were slow, but that was fine. We are supposed to run the long run on tired legs -- that's the point, the long runs are supposed to feel like the last miles of the marathon.

Given how much better I felt than planned when I got back to the house, I decided not to push my luck. Rather than the planned lunch of gazpacho, I told E I needed something more substantial, so we agreed on sushi for lunch and gazpacho for dinner.

Before my shower, I drank 2 cups of vegetable juice from the juicer (Kale, apricot, carrot, celery, cucumber, tomato). Considering that I was starving, the juice did an admirable job of keeping me upright and functional through my tomato harvest and visit to the farmer's market until E and I sat for sushi.

By 2 PM, I felt renewed and easily finished my gardening todo list.

There were several variables between Saturday's 6 and Sunday's 10. But, at least one of them was that I intentionally ate to run/recover as opposed to just running. I like to think I can do 6 miles in just about any condition, and I probably can. But it's interesting to see that an intentional 10 can feel better (and leave me less trashed) than an un-thoughtfully executed 6.

August 18, 2011

The Powerbar Trial

As you may recall, I totally bonked on my Memorial Day Marathon in Coeur d'Alene.

R's fiancé works for Powerbar.

He read that I showed up without my own race fuel and likely hit the wall due to the poor electrolyte and carbohydrate quality of the race's provided fuel and immediately set out to make certain I would not suffer the same fate again.

So, a wonderful care package arrived on my birthday:

Just in time, too. (Thanks B!)

This week is week -15 on my training for the California International Marathon. My goal is to run a Personal Record (which means I need to beat my previous CIM time of 4:04). Ideally, I'd like to break 4 hours and I'd love to break 3:50 or even 3:40, but I need to see how my long runs are looking closer to the race before I can determine if those are reasonable goals or not.

I do, however, feel pretty damn good about the prospect of a PR this race as I have several things on my side:

1. The Powerbar products. Up until this training cycle, I've always been fairly haphazard about fueling during training because I often prefer to take the performance hit and run slower without fuel for the weight management benefits. For CDA, I only used fuel on the longest run of the week and races -- I performed much better on those runs. This time around, I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to use fuel on every run over 10 miles and work to push myself on speed and performance instead of worrying about the calories. I'm hopeful that using fuel to improve the quality of my training will improve the quality of my race performance as well.

2. I'm already in decent running shape. If I had to, I could run a reasonable half marathon today (as opposed to when I started training for CDA and I still needed to put in 5 weeks before I could comfortably run a half marathon at a 9 minute pace.)

3. More Mileage. I'm committed to the most aggressive training schedule I've ever attempted for a marathon. For CDA, I did an average of 31 miles per week over the 17 week training cycle (which was the most I'd ever done). This time around, I'm shooting for an average of 43 miles per week. I'm pleased to see that even though I'm finishing up the first few not-so-serious weeks of training, I'm already more than 20 miles ahead of where I was for CDA with 15 weeks to go.

4. I have a running buddy. I haven't ever trained for a time-goal marathon with a friend. This time around, H, the friend who flew up to Washington to join me for the Kirkland Half Marathon, is committed to a similar training schedule for CIM. We've got plans for two runs together during the week, and weekends as well, if we're both in town. It's so much easier to motivate for those medium long runs when I have a training buddy. Thanks, H!

With all of those benefits, I'm feeling very well positioned to get into shape and run a great race on a fast, downhill course. Onward!

August 17, 2011

Egypt, Le Fin

The last entry from my last hand-written travel journal


We’re at the airport. To be honest, it felt as if our journey home began last night the second that we set foot in the Sheraton Heliopolis.

But, I’m getting ahead.

We took a very short cab ride from the train station and paid 30 EGP for it. Neither of us minded because the driver was so animated and earnest. He stopped to ask several people if they spoke English to determine where we wanted to go, but it turns out that “Museum” is not a common word in their vocabulary of learned English words. Odd. They seem to have a fabulous command of most other tourist-centric language. Finally, he dropped us at “Masree” which as near as we could tell was the Arabic word for the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. We sent our bags through the X-ray, checked them, bought our tickets and ambled around the museum for quite a while.

At one point, R realized he was hungry. I might have been but it was difficult to tell with my stomach pain. We left the museum and went to the adjacent museum cafĂ© to eat. From the window, we had views of spare Egyptian monuments erected in the courtyard as if to say, “Why Not? We have so many!”

The second time into the museum I had to buy another 20 EGP ticket because I couldn’t find my other one. Typical. Thankfully, the King Tut exhibit was worth the second price of admission.

We easily hailed a cab that agreed to take us to Sheraton Heliopolis for 40 EGP. I was shocked to watch the guards search under the taxi for bombs before they let us approach. That had not happened anywhere else we had stayed in Egypt. It definitely made me appreciative that we’d opted out of the traditional western tourist experience.

After we bid our driver adieu, we stepped into the opulence and realized we were basically home. Service, Luxory, English – whatever you needed or wanted. I was amazed to think this is what some people see and think of as “Egypt.” The Heliopolis Sheraton was by far the most extravagant hotel we stayed in, but it was creepy, too. R and I were definitely the only people our age walking around.
Dinner at the Lebanese restaurant was the most expensive meal of the trip at 160 EGP, or roughly 28 USD for two with egyptian white wine (dry, uninteresting chenin gris) for me. We stayed for the belly dancing and wished we hadn’t. She wasn’t very good, although the musicians were amazing. The way that her dress showed off her breasts instead of her stomach was odd and her pandering to the lecherous older men was a bit much to watch.

So, we asked for the check and went back to the room and up to bed.

I finished Palace Walk in my last night in Egypt. It was a good book and a great thing to read while there.

So, here we are, at the airport, but really, having left the Egypt we came to visit last night. It’s been a wonderful, difficult, educational, and interesting trip.

They are calling for boarding.

August 16, 2011

Egypt, 1/11/04

The 8th journal entry from my trip to Egypt in 2004.

The 9th was not so much fun -- I was sick all day and did little more than nap in our room, eat a couple of bananas, and finally one last amazing Siwan outing.

We walked to the hill of the dead and looked at the beautiful sights. We saw some Japanese tourists and finally, the group of Italian tourists from the goat dinner came down the hill as well. They raved about the locked tombs, which we wouldn't have seen without their prompt.

They asked if we knew any of the history of the hill, so I attempted to translate the guidebook's explanation for them. Boy has my Italian deteriorated. It's sad. One of the women finally took the book from me and translated the last bits for their group. Watching her, I remembered how much easier it is to translate *into* your native language instead of *out of* it. In hindsight I should have just given them the book and let them ask me about words they didn't know.

After speaking with them, we went to the key-keeper and he took us to each of the locked tombs: one with pictures of Amon, two with mummies and skeletons and one with a picture of crocodiles. R was right when he said it twas too much to get your head around.

The history was ridiculous. The tombs and mummies were ptolemaic and 26th dynasty, the Romans had reused it, and when the Siwans had escaped to the hill during bombings in 1940, they discovered the tombs and lived there for 3 years. Italian Solders excavated many of the paintings for cheap payments to the Siwans after the bombings, and now, in 2004, we were here as tourists.

As we entered, we were invited to tea by another man, Muhammed, who by the looks of it, lived at the hill. The process was slow and careful. First, a fire was stoked in an old blackened half of a radiator. Then, the tea-maker, a blackened metal cup with a twisted wire handle was filled with tea leaves and water and placed on the fire. As it heated, serving glasses (roughly glass shot glasses) and the serving tea pot were washed with water. Muhammed ladled sugar into the serving pot, and added the tea when it boiled over the metal cup. Then, Muhammed poured the tea from the serving pot into one of the glasses in a high, long stream of liquid. The cup of tea was poured back into the pot and this process was repeated several times. Finally, when the tea was cool enough to drink, we were given our cups.

So, there we were, in an excavated tomb, on top of the hill of the dead, overlooking the sunset and enjoying the silence over tea with two men. It was peaceful and wonderful. They offered us food as well, and we tried to say no, but our refusals were ignored. R took a banana and a tangerine. I took a tangerine. They also offered us cigarettes. Unfortunately, the strong tea and acidic tangerine were too much for my stomach, so I had to leave. R followed later after paying baksheesh to both men of 10 EGP each ($1.60 USD, generous by local standards).

Apparently, the men had tried to invite R back for Siwan whiskey after the cop was gone (there was a cop observing our entire visit to the hill of the dead). He laughed and said no.

After the hill of the dead, I slept until it was time to catch the bus. We ended up on a street in the dark with no other bus-riders. Confused, we asked a shopkeeper if the bus came here. He answered yes and a few minutes later brought chairs outside for us to sit on to wait for the bus. We experienced several acts of kindness like this one in Siwa -- they were absolutely charming.

The bus ride was as expected. 9 hours, cold, and uncomfortable. But, the good news is that with the help of Immodium and rest stops, I was able to make the trip successfully.

We arrived at Sidi Gaber in Alexandria around 6 AM. We waded through a million taxi offers to get our bags from the luggage compartment. We trudged through sludge, mud and the people of Alexandria who are in the street at 6 AM (much like the street people of the night in other major cities, they were hungry, huddled, and not interested in us).

We bought our train tickets to Cairo and set out to catch a cab, which in an ironic twist after the throngs of offers earlier was very difficult. Several cabs drove by, but none of them stopped. We guessed it had something to do with the cop in the street, but who knows? Finally, a cab pulled up and nervously stopped, yelling at us to get in on the passenger side. This was the first time we'd seen a cab driver in Egypt concerned about any rules, so we assumed our cop theory was correct.

We checked into the Cecil Hotel for $120 USD (a good rate for us, as the book claimed rates ranged from $130-207). They asked our budget and we said we'd like to spend $120 USD, which they liked. In fact, they upgraded us to an executive suite and we found ourselves in a lovely, well-maintained, European-style room with an oh-so-welcoming western bathroom.

R hadn't slept on the bus, so he immediately went to bed. I showered, took a bubble bath and fell into a restful sleep. We woke around 1 pm and walked to the library. We were informed that it was open at 3 PM, so we went back to the cafe we visited last time and I calmed my stomach with sprite and bread.

While R ate, we made the acquaintance of a Quebecoise pianist who was performing classical music at the library's concert hall the next night. She was adorable and I was sorry that were weren't free to stay for another night to go to her performance.

We bid her farewell and entered the library, checking our bags at the ticket counter. The first thing we saw in the great library of Alexandria was the poster announcing her performance.

The library's greatest asset, to my mind, is the architecture. The stairs mount from the bottom to the top in a series of connected slopes, evocative of a pyramid. The supporting structures and ceiling are a modern blend of curves and angles. The book collection is small for such a large space, but I imagine that in time it will be impressive. The computer terminals were available for free to anyone with tickets, but was blocked. After an hour or so, we left.

Lazily, we walked back toward our hotel. We stopped in an Internet cafe where we used demo copies of Windows XP to check and send email, read the news, etc. Our total visit came to 3 EGP ($0.50).

We continued our walk until we saw a modern cafe where (gasp) women and men were sitting together in both pairs and groups. We entered and they all looked up, but it was not shocked looks we've gotten used to receiving. Instead, they realized we were foreigners and quickly returned to their conversations.

I had another sprite while R snacked on another croissant. He claimed he's over turkish coffee and ordered a capuccino. We briefly returned to the Sanctuary of our room and rested -- R found Italian TV and we laughed at it.

At 8 PM, we followed Lonely Planet's advice and walk to Havanna, "the Best Bar in Egypt" which also served food. It was closed.

So we set out the find Cap D'or, but were not successful. A gentlemen who was following us asked if he could help, saying that he had been in Canada 23 years ago. We followed him for a while, but I became uneasy and when a second gentlemen stepped behind us, I told R. It was probably nothing, but regardless, we thanked him and turned in the opposite direction.

We found our way back to the Corniche and a gorgeous lighted gate supported by pillars was our reward. We took a picture and then walked back toward our hotel with our sights set on another dinner for R at Denis. On the way, we saw a fancy greek-style fish restaurant and decided to go there instead. We were the only patrons seated in the gorgeous room and the service was *superb.* The food was exquisite. R ordered Meyas (which I suspect was Makerel, but I'm not certain), hummous, a greek salad and Heineken (brewed locally). The bread was actually leavened (!) and topped with sesame seeds. I was so excited to see proper bread, especially because I could eat a little bit of it. They brought us babaganoush even though we didn't order it and I made a dinner of my roll with hummous and babaganoush and a beer and a half. I actually felt okay.

We had two servers all to ourselves and they were dedicated, whisking in and out with plates, matches, ashtrays, cups, napkins, drinks, whatever you could possibly want. A camera-touting gentleman took our photo at the table and returned with it in a paper frame 10 minutes later. R bought it for his mother.

We returned to the hotel and I took *another* luxurious bubble bath and slept.

This morning, I woke to my stomach slightly upset, but nothing terrible. Definitely the best I've been feeling since I became ill. I started this entry from our balcony and enjoyed a diet coke while writing it. Also, my fingernails are clean! It's a wonderful thing.

We showered, packed, and took a taxi to the train station where we caught the train to Cairo without too much difficulty. And now, we're speeding towards our last Egyptian adventure -- the Cairo Museum and our last night in Heliopolis.