October 29, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We're home for a brief stop.  Friends visiting from DC.  A surprise birthday party for an old friend.  Laundry and gardening, work, and general home-town life.  Also, it is fall.  It is cooler, the morning is dark when I wake, and the leaves have all fallen on our street.

Last week, despite a complete lack of effort to hit any mileage goal on my part, I managed to put 19.6 miles-ish on my feet (including 3.5 miles of biking and an hour of gardening, which I counted as 1 mile Running Equivalent).  Other than the track workout, there was nothing to write home about other than a Bikram class, which put me at 5/10 classes on this 10 class card.  If I try really hard, I *may* actually use all of the classes on this card before it expires... that would be a new experience.

I have no races on the calendar, but, thanks to laziness and the awesomeness that is Spanish food, quite a few pounds on the scale that need to disappear.  So, for the first time in a long time, I find myself actually being much more disciplined about my diet than my mileage.

In the 9 days since we've been state-side I've lost 6 pounds -- turns out, diet discipline is way more important than work-out discipline when it comes to managing weight.  I'm a natural born eater.  I can eat an extra 1,000 calories without blinking, *and* if you ask me to do a workout that burns 1,000 calories, you can guarantee I'd come home from it hungry and ready to replace the loss.

I'd love to say I'm just going to stay this disciplined food course 'til I hit the illusory goal I keep in the back of my brain as the "ideal to start training for a BQ" weight, but of course, that's crazy.  There's just life in general with all of its awesome food, plus the trip to China, where I plan to eat anything and everything delicious that crosses my path, plus all of the holiday travel and parties.  So, instead, I'll be honest with myself -- now that I'm back below my personal red line and within striking distance of reasonable, I'll probably trend back up towards the red line and will be resuming the disciplined approach in early January, along with the rest of the first world.

Today, I hit up the Bikram room again.  As always, it was a struggle and I desperately wanted to go outside for some cool fresh air for every single minute from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.  I am a heat wuss.  Bikram is such a mental workout for me.  Yes, it's a great physical workout.  But, truly, the mental struggle to stay in that hot room is a new and difficult battle I wage with myself in every class.  Today, it was close, but I stayed in the room.  Next time... who knows.

For much of this year, E and I have been spending one night a week in SF when we're in town.  His company has an office here he needs to make appearances at, and I have more clients here than down the peninsula these days.  The best part of these weekly visits is the date night dinners and the views from the hotels (see above and below).

Tonight, we got to take an old friend out for his birthday dinner at Fringale.  Oh, man.  This is a perfect example of why San Francisco's restaurant scene is so amazing.  It reminded me of so many bistros in France.  No reservations.  We showed up around 7 and were seated to enjoy a delicious 2.5 hour meal with amazing service and overly delicious food, wine, coffee, and cheese.  (As you can see, my meal discipline is not even strong enough to deal with SF, much less the true international temptations, although, in all honesty, French food is much easier to enjoy in moderation than many other options...)

Going forward, without a race on the calendar, I'm completely free to alternate Bikram, walking, hiking, running, biking, and any other activities that make sense for me.  For example, I'm running in SF along a street with many stoplights to a breakfast meeting tomorrow.  I'll give myself 45 minutes to go 3 miles.  I'll call it a fartlek or intervals and I'll push it on the non-trivial hills.  I love that I have the freedom to do this -- that I don't have an assigned workout -- that all I have to do tomorrow is transport myself between meetings and do my best to be disciplined and healthy.  At the end of the day, after running to breakfast and walking between my other meetings, I'll likely hit 5+ miles.  It will be a great day and I feel privileged to have it on my agenda.

It's good to be home.

October 23, 2013

Running Update

Last week, I managed 23 miles and a Bikram class while traveling.

Most of the mileage was walking in Barcelona.

But I did fit in a run to, through, and from Park Guell. Note to runners: the park is at the top of a big hill. Once you've ran up the hill through the old walled city, you will find that the top entrance to the park is actually at the top of a very large staircase that no one will be taking except you, crazy runner. Instead, all the tourists will ride the escalator in lieu of 100+ stairs and will stare as you oh-so-slowly pass them, one at a time.

Once stateside, I fit in an expected run with E's dad.  We chatted while doing a leisurely 3 mile loop, and on the run, he informed me it was his first run since July, so I felt happy to be part of the reason he got back in his shoes.

This week, home, and I'm trying to eat healthy to compensate for the face stuffing of Spain and to get in a good workout week.  Monday I did a nice easy 3.5 miles with another 0.5 walking cooldown.  Yesterday, I suffered through a brutal Bikram class.

To prove to myself that I was committed to getting back in shape, I sucked it up and bought a new Garmin.  Went for the 310XT this time.

Today, I was able to re-join my track group for the first time in a long time.  The workout was 6-8 X 800, so I picked a very easy pace of 8:45 and agreed to go, assuming I'd struggle through 6 and call it a good workout. 

But, as often happens with workout partners, my plans changed.  F was running 3:57 - 3:50 800s and D decided to do 400s, pacing her on the first lap and then recovering 'til F started the next 800.  I decided to come along with D for the fun, and what do you know? 1.75 miles @ approximately 8:00/mile pace, plus a 200 and 100 (starting and ending F's last 800) at a sub 7:00/mile pace.

Fast running!  It's been so long.  I'm so thankful for the track group.  There's no way I would have pushed myself this hard on my own.  6 miles including almost 2 miles of *hard* work.  I expect to be *very* sore tomorrow.

October 21, 2013

RNR Recovery and Amsterdam

I've been super lazy on the workout front ever since I bailed on the San Jose Rock 'n Roll Half.

How Lazy?  Well, let's just say I did Bikram the day after, and then didn't do a single workout until arriving in Amsterdam the AM of 10/12, whereupon I commenced my standard travel cross-training regimen of personal physical transit coupled with all the good local beer, wine, and food that my belly can handle.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city full of canals and bikes.  (Also, it is a direct flight from SFO and a good, fun weekend layover city if you're headed to Barcelona). 

It's such a bike-friendly city that our hotel had bikes for free use.  We took full advantage and it was awesome.  I did much walking, biking, and sight-seeing, but no running in Amsterdam.  So, despite several miles of non-running self-propelled transport, and some bikram, I completed my first run-free week in quite some time.  (Also, I was ridiculously relaxed.  I'm hoping these two facts are unrelated.)

Typical Intersection with bike and walk lights


One of too many canals to name

Gorgeous street night view. 

Night bike and canal view.

Royal Palace

One of many ridiculous red light district views.

Red light district part 2.

Transitioning out of the red light district...

A fashion alley to make @Arvay proud...

October 17, 2013

Barcelona: A Short Story

On our last full day in Barcelona, after an awesome Bikram Class, I went in search of delicious goodies to take with us on our next travel leg. Since it treated us so well last time, I originally planned to go to to the Boqueria, or Mercat St. Josep:

The Entrance to the Boqueria on La Rambla

One of the many awesome preserved meat vendors.
Escargots (en Catalan) -- one of the examples of how Catalan sometimes makes more sense than Spanish to me.  I do *not* know the word for snail off the top of my head in Spanish, but I do in French, and it's pretty close to the Catalan.

So many delicious olives!

And while I love food markets in general, my real goal was to re-create the scene below, only with me doing the selection of meat instead of E.

Because we'd already seen the Boqueria, and there are so many markets in Barcelona, I decided to walk to one that was well-reviewed, less touristy, and closer to our hotel:  The Mercat de Sant Antoni.

It was a lovely walk.

Tortoise Sculpture Under Naked Children
Typical intersection -- love the trees, ironwork, architecture and pedestrian and bike-friendliness of this city.

Unfortunately, despite checking the website and concluding I should be able to get there during operating hours, my plan had a flaw:

Not what I wanted to see...

Looks like a gorgeous market that will be even better when the reconstruction is finished.

Even with the disappointment, this story has a happy ending.  The supermarket near our hotel had several displays like the one below, plus aisles upon aisles of preserved awesomeness and a bakery and a butcher ready to slice anything and everything I might desire.  Did I mention I love this country?  

In keeping with tradition, we will have amazing sandwiches on our travel leg out of Spain.

The End.

October 8, 2013

SJ RNR 6 miler

Yeah, you read that correctly.  6 miler.

Yes, I had registered for and half-assedly trained for the half.  But it was not to be.

I decided the night before that the weather was not on my side, so I'd just take it easy and do a nice easy half.  Given the Zoom Point Pinole half time of 2:09, I'd previously thought I could target an attempt to beat last year's time of 2:06:25. It's a fast course, whereas Zoom Point Pinole had some hills and gravel, so I figured it was possible.  But, after a long week of work, a predicted high in the 80s, and the knowledge that no matter what I wasn't in close to PR shape, I decided to just start a corral behind my assigned location and go for an easy long run.

The last 2 weeks before the race were pretty lame on the training front. My last long run was supposed to be 10-12 miles, but I settled for 8 with F at a 10:30 pace on Friday before a weekend off in Santa Cruz.  The last week was simply 8 miles total, all easy jogging or walking except 10X1 min fartlek in one run and 3 miles containing 1.75 miles of speed/strength work at 8:49; 8:34; and 8:06/mile paces.  I took the last 2 days completely off before the race due to work and a quick visit to my hometown to see my mom, a friend, and to go to dinner with my bro and niece and to watch her soccer game.

In other words, I was *very* tapered.

Saturday -- I just made it back to San Jose in time to pick up my bib.  I was supremely annoyed with myself because I'd gone to family court in downtown San Jose on Friday before I'd left town, but I'd completely forgotten about the expo that was one block away from the court.

Obviously, if you forget about the expo and bib pick up, you're not exactly excited to race.  And I wasn't.  But I'd paid the registration fee and trained without a GPS watch, so I was committed.

On Sunday, I got up, parked in my usual spot, used the bathrooms in the convention center (so much better than the porta-potties), and walked to the corrals.  It wasn't as hot as I expected, and I headed out at a nice easy effort.

I was shocked to hit the one-mile marker at 9:12 -- due to my broken watch I had no idea what pace I was running, but it *felt* like a 10ish pace.  No complaints here.

I kept my effort nice and easy and hit the 5K at 29:24 and re-assessed.  Perhaps I *could* beat my time from last year.  That would be nice.

At some point right around this time, I saw Paulette up ahead in her Oiselle tank, so I sped up a bit to chat with her.  I lost her at the aid station, but that was fine.  I walked through nice and slow taking in gatorade and water and got back into my easy groove.

Somehow, I missed the 4 mile marker, but hit mile 5 at an average pace of 9:35.  Thanks to walking through the aid stations, I was slowing, slightly, but, I was surprised at how great I felt and still thought that it was very possible I may be able to dig deep and just squeak past last year's time. 

My favorite part of this course is the out and back where you get to see the leaders.  As soon as they started to approach us, I checked out and cheered and ran, inspired, during this portion.  Fast runners are so cool to see.

Unfortunately, something happened while I was checked out.  I'm not really sure what it was, but when I hit the 6 mile marker, I hit the lap button on my watch (9:56/mile -- apparently cheering slows me down) and realized that I had a sharp pain in my left quad and hip flexor with every step.  This had happened at the end of the SLO marathon and Point Pinole as well -- in both races I'd had searing pain the last couple of miles and had obviously pulled my hip flexor and quad.  But in those races it had set in at mile 10 and mile 22 respectively.  Here, it was setting in at mile 6.  And I was running away from the start line.  There was no way this was going to end well if I continued.

Could I have finished?  Absolutely.  Did I want to?  Nope. Not if it meant I would injure myself or be in pain for the next 7.1 miles.

So, I decided to throw in the towel.  I stepped across the opposing traffic of speedy folks and hit the sidewalk for a nice 2 mile cooldown walk back to the start.  I stretched later in the day and met up with a friend I hadn't seen in years for brunch after her 2:01 finish.

The next day my leg was slightly sore, but obviously just fine.  So, I'll take the 6.1ish miles at 9:40ish pace as a good solid effort.  My only regret is that I didn't realize there was a 10K mat.  It would have been nice to have an *unofficial* time for the distance, but since they seem to have erased all evidence of my participation in the race due to my DNF, it really would have only been for my own short-term enjoyment on Sunday when my 5K result was briefly available with a "Runner may have stopped running?" qualifier.

Take home on running without a GPS watch?  Meh.  There are some benefits.  I slowed down more than I realized on my long runs and it didn't seem to negatively affect my race paces too much, so perhaps that's the benefit I'll take away.  Easy runs should be crazy easy.  I can do that.

Even so, I'll likely buy a replacement GPS watch this week.  I just like data too much...