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.