February 26, 2013

Commas -- they matter

As the 2nd amendment debate seems rage around me, I am reminded that, yes, comma placement matters.

My father was a hunter.  His father was a hunter.  I'm guessing this is true all the way up the lineage.  My brother is a hunter.  My mother's father was a gunsmith.  As is befitting my pedigree, I have actually gone hunting and shot both handguns and shotguns.  When my father died, I, as his executor, inherited his mail, including the NRA stuff.

So, unlike many of my bay area friends and acquaintances, I know many people on both sides of the gun violence debate, and I regularly see both sides.

Today, I saw yet another fervent reference to the 2nd amendment and I had to look to the actual text of the amendment to get my bearings -- it made me cringe:  

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Clearly, the strong proponents of the 2nd amendment "Right to Bear Arms" believe that the last comma is not there.

The folks in favor of gun control seem to believe that either (i) the last two commas function to place the right to bear arms clause in an "ergo, in this limited situation" qualifier, or (ii) both comma delimited clauses between the subject and the verb predicate are descriptive, but not limiting.

Unfortunately, all interpretations are reasonable.

The Drafters were some worldly gentlemen.  There is no doubt the majority of them thought a local well-ordered and organized militia was important and should be protected.

But given the ambiguous language, I'm guessing there wasn't complete and utter majority on the "everyone should have a right to a gun" interpretation that is favored as the original intent today.

I say this easily, even though I'm not a scholar, because I know they definitely didn't come to a majority consensus to mean women should have a right to guns, and they certainly didn't think black people or Indians should have a right to guns.

I'm fairly certain that a subset of the Founders felt that Militias were important but that individual gun rights (even for property-owning white dudes) were not.  I doubt it was a majority of the signers, but I think it's why we have the comma wackiness and vagueness that leads to all the confusion we have today.

In the lens of the modern world, all I can think is that "kicking the can down the road" is obviously a time-honored tradition in the US government's legal history.

February 25, 2013

LA Marathon Week -3

Finally!  I feel comfortable that I am good to go for running a marathon in LA 3 weeks from now.  I may or may not meet my original goals, but, barring ridiculous life intervention, I will be able to finish in a manner of which I am quite proud.

This week, I didn't execute my training schedule perfectly, but I did a pretty good job.  Rather than stress about trying to figure out what makes sense for the race, I think I'm going to wait 'til after next weekend's fast finish long run (set with a warm-up and final miles to be picked up to race pace in a local low-key half-marathon), to send an email to my training program authors and ask for a predicted best race pace for the marathon.  Essentially, I've decided that it's out of my hands and I'll let my training speak for itself.

And this week was not bad at all.

M: Afternoon Bikram.  Kick-ass class.  Did all the poses, didn't struggle too much with the heat, and left in that awesome Bikram euphoria, which, sadly, does not occur for me at every class.   But when it does...Oh Man.  Hoping for more of this tomorrow.

T:  Treadmill.  41:14 minutes for 4.26 miles @ ~9:41 w/ 1% incline.  Started at 10:00/mile and just stepped it down every mile by 0.1 mph 'til the last wee bit at 9:22/mile.  Easy, pleasant. Gross weather outside, but a simple and fun workout inside with some of the final chapters of my Rolling Stones AudioBook (Wow -- that's some pop/crazy/extreme culture right there)

W:  Super easy watch free recovery run.  33 minutes. 3.2 miles or so.  Still pushing through the last of the audiobook, enjoying it fiercely.

Th: Attempt the scheduled 12 mile run of 3 miles w/u; 6 @ race pace; 3 miles c/d.  Actual:  3 miles w/u;  2 @ 9:08; 1:08 walk; 2 @ 9:18; 1:04 walk; 2:00 jog; 1 @ 9:38; 3 c/d; 0.73 compensatory finish @ 9:27.  Total:  12 miles @ 1:59:54 (okay 12.13 with the walking c/d).  Not bad for a workout with 6 scheduled easy miles and some unscheduled walking recovery.  Of course, it wasn't anything close to the 6 straight at race pace, either.  I did this entire bit to the last bits of the aforementioned audiobook.  I found most of the words inspirational.

F: I claimed 1.5 miles of walking as this was a scheduled down/cross/easy day.  I took a 1.4 mile walk and talked on the phone.  E and I also had a date night and I probably walked another mile there, but I'm not claiming it.  See that?  Restraint where I could have mapped the walk and collected additional data and recorded it.  Wonders never cease.

Sa: Easy/Recovery Run.  4.34 miles in 42:53 ~9:53/mile.  First 1+ with E, last few with my new audiobook (Do you think I have a problem?)

Su: The Long Long Run.  21 miles.  3:43:35.  Not a single walk break (but some pauses at water fountains, a bathroom, and a couple of stoplights).  ~10:39/mile.  Solo.  Okay, not solo at all -- I totally relied upon my latest audiobook (thanks, Rachel!).  But still, it was a nice, believable, confidence building improvement from 2 weeks ago (where I averaged 10:56 over 19.5 miles).

Also, thankfully, there was time leftover, so I finished the audiobook over lunch, (which I was eating alone, because E stayed longer than expected at the launch of rocket gliders with his friends and I could not wait).  Yup.  Rachel didn't just ease the run.  She also eased the solo meal.  E owes her a thank you.

And that, my friends, is 46.58 miles for the week (including some walking).

High water mark for the year.

And encouraging.

February 23, 2013

2013 Goals Update

I never really got around to solidifying any of my goals for this year for some reason.

I recorded my running goals at the beginning of the year, but that's kind of cheating, as races and training take enough time to plan that most of that work and commitment was done long before the new year.

Last year, I hit 3 out of 5 of my resolutions, and along the way, I ran some great races (including the Fairbanks Equinox Marathon with Arvay -- such fun!), learned quite a bit of Mandarin, made new friends around Mandarin language and Chinese culture, and read some great books.  I feel that my goals treated me quite well last year.

This year, for the first month-plus, I checked out of any and all potential goals except running (and work, of course, constant work, the place where I always meet the goals/deadlines).

Things slowed down a bit this week and I realized, oh, crap, I need to formally record some goals for 2013.

So, in a very late gesture, I'm recording my 2013 goals/resolutions:

1.  Running:  I'm reaffirming my commitment to this year's running goals -- so long as I am healthy enough to run, I hope I set and keep at least one running goal each year.

2.  Health: I've been eating quite healthy, taking vitamins every day, and paying more attention to my stress levels .  I've also been doing *very* well on the sleep side of things, which I think is more important than I've realized.  So, I'd like to continue in this trend during the year, keep my red meat consumption relatively low, have lots of vegetarian meals, and do what I can to have low glycemic index meals.  I want to be sure to actually use all the classes on my current Bikram yoga card (8 to go by the first week in May).  And, oh, yes, of course I want to be sure to make time to have a great garden year -- all the effort required is good for my stress levels and health and all of the harvests result in good food!  

3.  Books: Given my current consumption, 12 audiobooks should be easy, so I'm just throwing it out there as something that I'll enjoy if I execute on it.  On the actual silent reading side of things, I'll set the goal at a pedestrian 24.  2 per month seems like something I should be able to manage even though I appear to prefer audiobooks over reading these days.

4. Language: Starting today, I'm committing to 1 mandarin lesson per day (Chinesepod, Pimsleur through Audible, whatever) 'til we depart.  This is the type of goal-setting that causes results.  I can control this one.  Actually, I've decided to try to complete 100 lessons between now and when we leave.  Yeah.  That's the A goal.  (Of course, Settling for the B goal of just one per day, would be totally consistent with my style. And while we're at it, let's admit that I'll most likely miss days in a row and then cram 5 lessons into one day once or twice a month to hit that B goal -- so it's not like I've got balance. Moving on...)

5. Travel: Planning and executing on the China Trip.  Historically, I wouldn't have considered this as a goal/resolution for which I deserved credit if it was actually accomplished.  My time is at a premium now (if anything ever functioned to remind you of your mortality it is this -- I used to think my time was free, valueless, without limit, and all of the economic logical requirements for a truly free resource.  And now, at the ripe old age of almost 40, I'm viscerally aware that this is not true.)  Something has changed, and I now want to give myself credit for taking all the time I need to plan this complex international travel and learning all I can about the culture and language.  I feel I should point to my travels as a goal I strive towards achieving, because, well, because I do.

6. Stay at home weekends: As I've mentioned, I have a goal of 26 weekends at home for 2013.  I'm on the fence about whether we count weekends where we stay in hotels in the bay area as travel or home.  So far we're at 4/8 completely at home and 1/8 with an overnight an hour away.

February 20, 2013

Sparkling Water

In an effort to control as much market share as possible, Coke extended its aggressive marketing to especially poor or vulnerable areas of the U.S., like New Orleans — where people were drinking wice as much Coke as the national average — or Rome, Ga., where the per capita intake was nearly three Cokes a day. In Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta, the biggest consumers were referred to as “heavy sers.” “The other model we use was called ‘drinks and drinkers,’ ” Dunn said. “How many drinkers do I have? And how many drinks do they drink? If you lost one of those heavy users, if somebody just decided to stop drinking Coke, how many drinkers would you have to get, at low velocity, to make up for that heavy user? The answer is a lot. It’s more efficient to get my existing users to drink more.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all)

That was me.

I easily drank 6-8 diet cokes a day while studying for the bar exam.

This was not that far off my normal consumption from age 13 - 30.  Maybe only 2 cans a day less than average.


And, oddly, I have the country of Argentina and their commitment to sparkling water to thank for my easy replacement of diet coke with water and sparkling water.  It was there I learned I really only cared about the bubbles and the liquid.


February 18, 2013

LA Marathon Week -4

Oh wow.  3 long runs left in training 'til the race.  I'm not gonna lie.  I don't feel ready to run a marathon just yet.

But. I also know I'm in better shape than I've been in for a long, long time. This week's workouts were so great for my confidence.

Now that I see the mileage total, I can see that this was a high intensity but low mileage week.  So, it's not surprising that I was able to execute better than I had in a long time on certain workouts.  Even so, it's a good feeling.

Monday: day after the long run over the Dumbarton bridge and back and then some. Super easy cross training.  16 minutes of rowing and 20 minutes of recumbent bike.  Did I mention easy?

Tuesday: 30 minute Recovery Run (3.13 in 30:09; @ 9:38 avg; decreasing splits of 10:06; 9:32; 9:19) 0.27 walk c/d.

Wednesday: Yassos.  They were as hard as I'd recalled.  I haven't done this workout in a very long time.  H and I tried the local high school track at 4:30 PM, but February is a bad month to share the track with high school athletes -- all the lanes were taken.  So we loaded up and drove to the local middle school and cut the warm up and cool down short but finished as the sun set.  The workout was 7.25 miles total. First, 10 min w/u jog @ 10:03. Then 8 X 800 at Yasso pace w/ 400 jogging recovery (perhaps with a wee bit of immediate walking post rep if needed): Splits: 4:00; 4:01; 4:00; 3:59; 3:57; 4:00; 4:02; 4:00.  Finally, 7 min c/d jog. Hardest workout I've completed in recent memory.

Thursday: 2.14 @ 10:17; 1.57 walk and talk on the phone to R, who's had a child and can't get away to chat very often.  It was the first time we've caught up in weeks and I was more than willing to sacrifice the remainder of the recovery run when I realized who had called.

Friday: OFF.  Just straight lazy.  Bikram thoughts faded away and E and I opted into a sushi date night.

Saturday:  The original plan had been the scheduled 14 miler with a fast finish, but after 2 miles, I decided to reschedule.  I was struggling to keep a good pace, and I had shopping and laundry and packing and all sorts of tasks to fit in after the run before heading out of town for a friend's birthday.  The next day I had more than enough time to fit in a run along the east bay trail before our afternoon social engagement.  So, I bailed.  Instead, I bought a great outfit (for which I received many compliments), got my hair done, removed chipped nail polish and just generally tended to stuff I never normally take the time to do.  I felt good about it, in a very weird way (I ordinarily eschew these pleasures as the type of things that extract more than they reward).  4 easy in 39:51; Avg: 9:57. 0.36 miles walking c/d.

Sunday:  Oh my, goodness.  Brilliant procrastination.  13.99 @ 2:26:25 (aka, 7+ minutes faster than this same workout 2 weeks ago!  Avg = 10:28/mile, including 11:26 minutes of walking in the calculation -- serious improvement)

We went to a G's birthday party Saturday night.  I was the designated driver.  So, while I did have a margarita and some light beer, I also had much water and a coffee.  I also had late night leftover garlic fries and a cupcake around 11:45 PM.  I think the late night carbs are a training secret as the first mile was a ridiculously easy 9:28 - this was after I saw 8:55 pace at 0.5 miles and realized I was feeling entirely too energetic.  The goal is to do the first 10 at a reasonably easy pace and the last 4-6 miles at target race pace.

I did my version of the run:  First 10 miles at a decent clip (a few in the mid nines, and then slowing for an average pace of 10:30 including 2m45 walking to deal with a hair disaster). Then I met up with E at Ceasar Chavez park, and we did the fast bit in mile intervals while enjoying the gorgeous views of the bay and the bridges.  Splits: 8:53; 0.15 walk recovery; 9:09; 0.15 walk recovery; 9:10; 0.10 walk recovery; 0.60 jog to the car.

Yes, the long run schedule called for a minimum of 4 miles consistently run at target race pace at the end of the run.  I did my best, but I felt I could only manage 3 mile intervals with some walking recovery.  Not quite the target, but so much better than the last time I attempted this workout.  Most importantly, I got the time on my tired legs at race pace and I *know* I can dig deep to run that fast even when I'm tired.

Overall?  32.71 miles and a Great Running Week!

February 13, 2013

Sausage: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My aunt and uncle gave us a gift certificate to (a small, local-to-my-dad's-childhood, purveyor of preserved meat products) Cattaneo Brothers as a Christmas present.

We opted into the Sausage Variety Pack.

And, it has been the holiday gift that has continued to give the most enjoyment of all the gifts we received.

We don't regularly cook with non-cheese animal protein other than what's in the fridge due to recent gifts or recipe purchases.  So, since the start of 2013, we haven't bought any eggs or animal/fish meat of any kind.  Instead, every time we've been craving protein in a home-cooked meal, we've dug into the sausage stash that showed up after we placed our order and composed a solution:

So far, this year we've had (and served guests):

1. Leftover cheesy tomato millet risotto, revived by quickly tossing with sauteed, steamed and sliced Cattaneo Brothers Italian Sausage (no guests, but wife of the week award on turning a "not my favorite vegetarian meal" into "you are the best", right here!)

2. Baked brussels sprouts, topped with slices of steamed/sauteed Cattaneo Brothers swiss sausage (plus all the goodness from deglazing the sausage cooking pan with white wine), and broiled to perfection. (Hit with the guest!)

3. Baked broccoli, onions, garlic, and 3 links of caballero sausage slices.  Regularly tossed during the cooking process, and eventually broiled prior to serving.

4. One link of caballero sausage, sliced and wok-sauteed with onions and garlic 'til cooked through, then tossed with sliced red swiss chard, leftovers of #3, and covered to steam for tonight's dinner.  Delicious!

And we still have one link of Caballero plus an entire package of Linguica to go.

In short -- small, local, artisanal preserved meat product producers can bring much joy when their products are given as gifts.

That is all.

February 12, 2013


I regularly have very vivid, complex dreams.  Often, I'm able to wake and recall them with quite a bit of clarity.

When I'm too stressed, unfortunately, these dreams are usually nightmares. But last night, it would seem that I wasn't very stressed.

I had a long dream about seeing Willie Nelson at a party and going over to chat with him.  He was very nice and we became friends.

Hi Brain -- Thanks for mixing it up.  Just when I think I can predict exactly how precise and annoying my work-stress nightmares will be, you up and give me a Willie Nelson Monday Night.


February 10, 2013

LA Marathon Week -5

Time is FLYING!  6 weeks into 2013 already.  3/6 weekends at home, which is on track for my new year's resolution to spend at least 26 weekends at home this year.

Here I am 5 weeks 'til the LA Marathon and I really don't recall much of what happened since last week's summary.

Let's see, what sticks in my head from this speedy week:

1. The Superbowl, with *many* more hyper-sexualized ads than I remember from the last time I watched it (at least 10 years ago).  We went to a party.  We had stereotypical American fun.

2. A reasonable week of running, more below.

3. As is my usual refrain, more work than I'd like, but that's better than the alternative.

4. Friday night, we went to the o'S family's new home and enjoyed a dinner party with the L's.  I like showing up and weighing in with a little help here and there while we hang out with our friends and their kids.  It makes me feel like I'm part of the important cycle of life without having to do the heavy lifting.  Also, who knew you could inflate a bouncy-house indoors to entertain the children? Irish uncle for the win!

5. Saturday night, we joined a party of 10 for a Chinese New Year's banquet at a local restaurant.  I was thrilled when my Mandarin was sufficient to help me understand the questions being asked of the Chinese family about their son's "Zhong(1)wen(3) Ming(2)zi" and various other polite interchanges.  Time to return to lessons!

As for running, this week's training schedule was aggressive, but, happily, somewhat doable.  Monday, I finally returned to my local Bikram studio after an absence since 12/14 (technically, the last Bikram class I'd taken was on 12/24 in Atlanta).

Yup.  Bikram is still hard for me.  After this much time off, I confirmed that I have a love-hate relationship with it.  It loosens all the parts that running makes tight.  I love how great I feel afterwards and how well I sleep the nights I do it.  I hate (HATE HATE) the struggle against the heat the last 45 minutes of class.  But, I stayed in the room.  I won.  Success. (Barely.) 

Tuesday was an easy recovery run, and Wednesday's easy run was 52 minutes on the treadmill at a pace of 10 min/mile or faster (I allowed myself to choose anything in that range) for an average pace of 9:35/mile (with a quick bathroom break at minute 26).

Thursday, I had tempo intervals on the schedule.  Frankly, I was a bit suspicious they were entirely too ambitions.  15 minutes w/u, 2 X 2 miles @ tempo with 3 minutes recovery and 15 minutes c/d was the minimum I could get away with if I was to meet the training schedule's goals.  I met with my TNT group running friend after my warm-up and given the pace of the group, decided to bail on the tempo.  But then, the group decided to bail on us.  So, she and I did one 2 mile segment with mile 1 @ 8:36 into the wind and mile 2 @ 8:39 with our backs to the wind.  Weird. The assigned tempo was actually achieveable.  In fact, it felt like I might have been able to do the second one if I hadn't already wasted too much distance with the group at an easier pace.  Oh well.  Distance-wise, I did the whole 7 miles, and the easier miles (including the w/u and c/d) were all sub 10.  Overall, despite being very far from what was prescribed, this ended up being a great work-out that very much helped my confidence.

Friday -- Off.  Work. Work. Work.  I had a bike to lunch with a friend plan.  It was sacrificed for work -- I drove.  I also had a bike to dinner plan.  It was also sacrificed for work and E picked me up.  C'est la vie.

Saturday, 41.57 minute recovery run @ 10:30 (4.0 miles on the dot).  Easy and fun.  First 2.0 with E.  Last 2, slightly slower, by myself, with an audiobook.  Additional 0.7 walk home with audiobook entertaining me -- if I was worried about time, I could have picked a shorter route.  But I wasn't.

And today, Sunday?  The Doozy.  The schedule called for 18 - 22 miles Long Run.  I set my sights on 20 as a reasonable, but ambitious goal.

H and I met at Bayfront Park and set out for 16 out and back across the Dumbarton Bridge.  This time of year, this run is amazing.  You would think that the Dumbarton Bridge would be busy and full of traffic and stressful, but it's actually quite a peaceful run.  Yes, there are two miles on the bridge with traffic (in each direction) where you are separated by a waist-high concrete barrier and you have to deal with other pedestrians and bikers (of which there are very few), but the rest is on frontage roads or trails.

We left the park at 8:15 AM or so and encountered runners only on the surface trails in Menlo Park.  Once we headed to the actual bridge, we only saw a few slow mountain bikers and no runners for the entire time - none on the trails leading to the bridge, none on the bridge, and none on the Fremont side of the bridge until we reached  Coyote Hills Park.

The golden hills of California are gorgeously green during this brief period of spring. The AM temperatures start at 32F and raise to 60+ in the clear sun by 1 PM.  The bay is a calm mirror in any direction you look and the wind is non-existent.  I hadn't done this run since E's birthday weekend in 2007 just before my CIM PR.  Overall, I was thrilled to enjoy such a beautiful bad-ass run with H.  If possible, it was better this time -- slower, no doubt, as I'm older.  But the weather was better, the views were better, and I had company.  Life is good.

We slowed for miles 14-16 at H's request, 'til she was done, hips tight (mine too!).

So, I had the last few miles on my own.  I turned on my audiobook and just tried to relax.  I continued to slow.  And, finally, close to my car, I realized, I'd hit a 12:15/mile pace at mile 19.5.  No need to struggle through the last 0.5 miles at that pace.  I wasn't going to receive any benefit.  I called it a day and headed home for a shower and late lunch of mediterranean food.

Average pace for the 19.5 mile long run: 10:56.  I'm actually quite pleased.  There are no walk breaks built into this trail and we didn't take any.  Very few stop lights and quite a bit of climbing over the bridges and at the parks on either end (if you are willing to go up to their summits).

Overall, I feel great about this week.  Total mileage: 40.49.


February 4, 2013

LA week -6

This training schedule is hard and this week was full of workouts where I failed to hit the goal workouts.  Should be interesting to see where I end up at the end.

Mon - rest and a small walk.

Tue - 33 minute recovery run (was supposed to be the speed work I tried to do on Wed, but I couldn't hack it)

Wed - ran to the track as a warm-up, finished 2.5 of the assigned 1000m speed intervals at the assigned pace, felt like I was going to puke, called it early and ran home as a cooldown.

Thur - 50 minute easy run (avg 10ish).  An additional 3.5 walking.

Fri - off, walk 1.5 hilly miles in SF carrying my virtual office in a bag.

Sat - 30 minutes easy -- 3.11 @ 9:39

Sun - 14 with H.  This was supposed be a fast finish run, 8 miles easy followed by 6 at target race pace.  We did the 8 easy, no problem.  Then 1.68 at 9:10; a water stop and 2 minutes of walking; 1.05 @ 9:30 and I had to admit defeat.  I could not muster up anything fast, so we just jogged the remainder at an 11:00 pace and included a short walk break.

Essentially, I fell apart on this run.  Rather than inspiring me to feel like I could work hard at race pace when I was tired, it made me feel like race pace was going to be impossible to maintain.

After the fact, I did some analysis comparing last weekend's run (which had been hard, but I'd been able to maintain an even effort and push a bit at the end) with yesterday's.

Both had an easy run the day before with E.  Both had a banana and coffee before the run.

Last weekend, I had a couple of glasses of wine on Saturday night and just followed up with lots of water.  This weekend, I had no alcohol and hydrated like crazy.  As much as I'd like to say that the wine must be the performance-enhancing variable, I think that's probably not the case.

Both Saturdays I'd eaten vegetarian.  But last weekend, I had vegetable and fruit juice for lunch and made cheesy tomato millet for dinner and ate a healthy serving.  This weekend I had a cheesy buttery croissant (I left the ham and turkey filling for E) for breakfast/lunch and then beet salad over cabbage with feta for dinner.  Okay, so maybe I didn't carb load as well as I should have.

I took gatorade and 3 gus on the 16 miler.  Somehow, yesterday, even though I brought them, I never got around to taking more than just one gu.  Okay, so maybe I should have taken another gu when I felt like I had to walk before I could start running again. 

And then there was the 2 hours of insomnia from midnight to 2 AM this Sunday AM.  I still got 6 hours of sleep and didn't feel exhausted, but perhaps those hours really matter?

I'm not sure I am willing to chalk up my inability to hit Sunday's long run with a fast finish entirely on a weak night of sleep and lack of carbs the night before and fuel during the run.  But, I guess I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I unintentionally got in a good 30 minutes of carb-depleted training in at the end. 

Oh well, 37.28 blah miles total for the week.  I can't really believe I'm going to run a marathon in 6 weeks, but I suspect next weekend's 20-miler will make that reality much more clear to me.