November 28, 2013


I give thanks for my multitude of family and friends today.  Especially my in-laws.

I woke at 6:50 AM EST for the 5K, and E's dad insisted on driving me.  He also insisted on bringing a heavy North Face windbreaker that was easily 5 sizes too big because the weather was much colder than normal (24F at the time).  I left the jacket in the car that he drove as close as he could to the start (mmm... car seat warmers) at 7:30 and started to walk to the corrals, slowly freezing, as it was likely 26F by then.  I arrived at my corral at 7:32.  28 minutes to go.  Uh-oh.  I had miscalculated...

I started pacing. kicking. skipping.  And then I saw N Sr (E's dad), walking toward me with the jacket with that awesomely omnipotent knowing dad's look... Oh wow.  I've missed that look.  And, also, duh, I was cold.  I took the jacket he offered.  We chatted and observed and conversed with others 'til about 5 min. before the scheduled start when I headed out for a warm-up, expecting to discard the jacket immediately, as I was *warmed up*.  I returned to E's dad and we walked to the corrals, where he talked me out of discarding my donated jacket no less than 3 times.  "No, let me stay here 'til the *actual* start (*what's the point of warming up if you cool back down?*) then you can give me your jacket and we'll be in good shape" he promised.  And he made good.  I stayed, warm, comfortable, amongst the teeth-chatterers 'til the last possible moment after the start had been announced...

I headed out with the fast folks in my corral and hit mile 1 at 8:42.  Then, holy crap, hills!  Mile 2, 9:40.  Mile 3, a nice respectable 9:08, and the last 0.1 @ 7:35/mile pace.  Overall, 28:25.  Nothing to brag about.  At all.

But overall, given my complete lack of training, the cold temps, and the segment times I hit, yeah, there's something there in terms of awesomeness.  So, I'm going to enjoy it...

And, I did.

I came back to E's folks, enjoyed breakfast, took a 2.5 hour nap (that run and early EST wake-up took it out of me), and then ate and drank and laughed my way through a delicious Thanksgiving.

Let's all be thankful and appreciative for our lives, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

November 24, 2013

New Shoes

Last week, I managed 18.28 miles running and walking  (including 3 miles sub 9 min/mile and a great 6.5 miler with F on her second to last long run before CIM) and another 60 minutes on the recumbant bike.  I know I should go back to Bikram, but now the class card has expired.  So, other than the health benefits I know I will receive, I have no incentive.  It's so hot, uncomfortable, and looking at myself in the mirror with very little clothing on while sweating profusely and contorting isn't exactly a cherry on top of that already less than appetizing sunday....

This week, I was a slacker on the workout front.  Work is *insane* right now and I'm struggling to stay afloat.  I'm having nightmares again, which is a good indicator of the stress needle getting much too high.  When that happens, something's got to give.  In the short term, getting time in exchange for giving up a workout is a great choice.  But, in the long term, my stress levels increase unless I get my mileage or other workout minutes up in parallel with the pressures I am under, so it's not a sustainable one.  C'est la vie.

In perfect evidence of my lack of commitment to my workouts in the short term, after a walking workout with a couple of short sprints to get the heart rate up on the treadmill to finish my book club book on Monday, I took Tuesday and Wednesday completely off.  Thursday, I unpacked my bag at the hotel, excited to get in my first real run of the week after my workday, only to realize I'd packed everything *except* running shoes.  So, instead, I managed 30 minutes easy on the recumbant bike (in my socks) and 2 miles walking in San Francisco (with a stop at Lady FootLocker to buy a new pair of Brooks Ghosts).

Friday, finally shod, I did a decent 4.4 mile fartlek along the Embarcadero with a brief stop to listen to the lapping water and touch the sea.  I'd hoped to fit in a run to Hopper's Hands, but I didn't have enough time, so it will have to wait for another time.  I did, however, get in some time in the mid 8's/mile, so I was pleased.

Saturday, I fit in a slow, easy 3+ mile loop around AT&T Park. I've been stressed, did I mention that? So, today, Sunday, finally home again, I set no alarm and was shocked to sleep 'til 9:45 AM, which killed my run plans, and turned them into a lame 1+ mile jog with a dead garmin. When the MP3 player died in sympathy, I called it, and walked home.  Instead we biked to and from brunch with E, F&P, plus the always adorable honorary nephew R and F's mom.

Total mileage on the shoes for this week?  A whopping 14.5.  But some decent close to 8 min/mile segments and 30 minutes recumbant bike + 20 minutes actual biking with inclines over the train tracks both ways.  And, more importantly, despite not having a race on the calendar (other than a turkey trot) I'm committed enough to running these days that I went to go get new shoes when I forgot to pack them for a 2 day out of town stay.

As I read all the running blogs I read, I find that, much like other areas of my life, I am odd.  I'm serious enough about running to do things like track my mileage, have a garmin, know pace information, and maintain a decent mileage base such that I'm guaranteed to clear 900+ miles plus for 9th year in a row, despite family health emergencies, work, drama, and life in general (and including 1,000+ for 7 of the same including a max of 1,660 in 2011).  But, I'm not fast.  I'm not a classically dedicated runner.   I don't give up social or work obligations that I *know* will impinge my training (but I will make sacrifices for races).

When I've got a race on the calendar, I feel I share more in common with my fellow running bloggers.  But these last few months?  I'm feeling like I'm in my more typical state of outlier.  Either way, I enjoyed my 14+ miles this week and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can pull off at ATL turkey trot despite the complete lack of training.

I mean, at the end of the day, if you're healthy enough to do a 5K, life is great!

November 17, 2013

Lazy Saturday at Home

For the first time in a long time, E and I had a lazy Saturday at home.  It was fabulous.

I woke, had my coffee and made some juice, piddled around the Internet, and met up with F for the last 6+ miles of her last long run before CIM.  It was the longest run I'd done since my last long run (back in September!) before dropping out of SJ RNR, and it felt good to finally get in something more than 6 miles in one effort (although I took the stairs up and down the bridge while she ran the ramps, and I had to make an emergency restroom break, so, technically, I got a few short rests, which were very helpful).

She is so ready, I'm very excited to go cheer her on in a few weeks at CIM (anyone else need me to keep an eye out and/or be waiting with a sign, fuel, liquid?  Just say the word.)

After I cleaned up, E and I headed downtown for a lazy mediterranean lunch in the direct sun on the main street -- the temperatures are cool enough now that the sun felt absolutely wonderful on my face and hands.  The sky was blue, the leaves were orange and red and yellow -- it was a perfect Fall day.  We smiled and laughed and passed the time people watching while sipping wine and picking our way through too much food.  We took home leftovers with a plan of eating them for dinner with salad.

The late afternoon was a collection of some work for both of us.  Nothing that absolutely had to be done, but we each tended to things that felt good to get out of the way before the deadlines loomed.  Some phone calls.  An hour or two of drafting for me.  We visited E's new lab and the new office where the company will be moving in a bit -- Both looked great.  It felt so great to get ahead of things without the frenetic pressure to finish on time.

For the evening's entertainment, I was struck with inspiration.  Instead of leftovers and salad, we agreed we would order a pizza and watch The Hunt For the Red October (Alec Baldwin is such a young man in this movie!).

Apparently, the last pizza we'd ordered had been back in September of 2012 (no wonder I was so excited about this plan).  Unfortunately, our goto pizza joint had closed.  E seemed to remember that he'd managed to find their replacement, owned by the same folks last time, so we spent quite some time confirming that, sadly, yes, it had closed completely and there was no verifiable successor.

The next hour was evaluating all of our alternate options and trying to order pizzas on horribly ineffectual web interfaces.  For example, one option took 3 attempts to get the order expensive enough to qualify for delivery (at least 15 minutes because you couldn't edit an order to move a pizza from small to medium, you actually had to start over, pick medium and then pick all of your toppings), and then, after three attempts, when we finally had the order at the correct price point, we were informed that they don't deliver Pizza on the weekends.  Who doesn't deliver pizza on the weekends?  Why do I think this joint is going to go out of business soon (if they haven't already)?

Finally, we stumbled upon Mountain Mike's web interface -- you can select toppings by each half!  Done.

We started the movie.  The pizza was delivered and was delicious in the way that only guilty pleasure food can be.  And, predictably, I fell asleep halfway through the movie.

I slept 12 hours.

That, my friends, is an awesomely lazy day.   

November 16, 2013

A Tale of a Tram and Many Metros

One afternoon, E played hooky from the conference and we took the tram up Victoria Peak.  The line was quite long and they section the crowd into groups so that only a group of folks who will fit are allowed to advance at one time.  When it was our turn to board, a South American man shielded his girlfriend from behind, grabbed the railings and they got on.  Then, a group of Danish people boarded.  They were partially in front of me and partially behind me but they funneled their group to enter as one.  Behind them (and originally behind me and E) was a couple from Hong Kong (I assume).  I stepped forward to enter just as the man from Hong Kong did.

He tried to muscle me out of his way.

You can probably guess where this is going.

We basically wrestled our way through the door, entering the car at roughly the same time.  At the last minute I gave up when I realized I was actually stronger than this poor dude, and probably had an unfair weight advantage to boot.  I was struggling out of frustration at his rudeness and the fact that he thought I'd be an easy mark -- he sure as heck didn't try to cut in front of the Danes.  But, I realized he was probably struggling with his own manhood.  He said to me after we entered, "You're terrible."  I replied with the ever witty, "No. You're terrible.  I was in front of you and you're extremely rude."

The best part was that after this, the wife looked at E at the door and he graciously motioned with his hand and said, "After You."  She glared at her husband as she sat down.   

Finally inside the tram.

Views of the tracks from inside the station at the top.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great so the views weren't at their best.  But we still enjoyed it.

On the next peak over, there was a big house (?) with a bright red piano.  Very striking.

On Saturday after the conference, we took the daytrip E had been dreaming of (an early birthday celebration of sorts).  First, we took a taxi to Hung Hom station, where we ate a Chinese style breakfast from the cafeteria.

Then we took a metro to the Chinese border.  Then through Hong Kong exit immigration, Chinese immigration and customs, and onto another metro to get to the electronics markets district in Shenzhen.

It was a chaotic mess of components, and E was in heaven.  The ground floor of the biggest market we went to was individual stalls for each component type, each stall run by a different family.  There were children running around everywhere in the middle of multi-story boxes and reels and whatnot.

Anyone need an IP camera?   They're all looking at me...
After a couple of hours of gawking, we did the multi-metro and immigration madness to get back into Hong Kong.  Then, we went to dinner at the restaurant on the highest floor in the world on the 119th floor of the Ritz Carlton Tower.

The food and wine was good, but the views were definitely the best part.

And the next day, it was time to go home.

November 15, 2013

The Big Buddha

One of the days in Hong Kong, I managed to finish my work in time to head over to the Tian Tan Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery.

My original hope had been to hike from Tung Chung up to Ngong Ping, but after doing a bunch of online reading, I realized I was woefully underprepared to take on that challenge.  It was more like a full day commitment, not something I could start in on at 3:30 PM unless I wanted to be on a challenging hike in the dark in a foreign land by myself (not so much).

A portion of the hike.  The Internet did not lie -- it would have been a big commitment.

So, I rode the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.  Thanks to GK, I knew to splurge on the Crystal Palace car so I wouldn't have to wait for hours to get back down (which is the true benefit of the expensive ticket), but this meant I also had a glass-bottomed ride.

Bright blue shoes --> many compliments from Chinese and Hong Kong strangers.

You can see the big Buddha far far away in this shot

Once in Ngong Ping, I visited the Po Lin Monastery and was very happy that hadn't been my only reason for the visit.  As it, like many things in Hong Kong, was under construction.

From there, I headed out for the jauntily named "Ngong Ping Fun Walk."  Which was a wonderful hike.  It was a 2.5K loop with about 300 feet of gain that I had entirely to myself until I reached the so-called Wisdom Path.  Despite its engaging name, and hundreds of tourists in Ngong Ping, I appeared to be the only person who wanted to go on the fun walk.  They were missing out.  It was fun.

Gate to Lantau Peak Trail at the entrance to the Wisdom Path

Wisdom Path

I don't think I'd ever seen a Tea Tree before...
At the end of the loop, I could see the Big Buddha through the trees.

Just below the view above was this one:

To close out my day, I hiked up the 240 steps to the base of the Big Buddha.

He was very big.

I added a few more stairs by visiting all the different levels, made an offering, and hoofed it back down and through Ngong Ping where, as promised, I was able to skip the normal car line and go straight to the front to wait for my Crystal Palace gondola to take me back in time for dinner with E.

November 13, 2013

Hong Kong Was a Trip: The Beginning

We arrived via plane and took the airport express train 5 minutes to the Asia World Expo, which was connected to the conference hotel.

The tiny part of Hong Kong known known as Asia World Expo is hermetically sealed from the rest of the city and sits on the same chunk of landfill that the airport is on, which has been annexed onto one of the outer islands known as Lantau. Poor E spent most of his week on this chunk of landfill as he was attending and presenting at a conference.

I fared slightly better. Most days I would wake up, go to the gym, shower, work for several hours, and then head out for some sightseeing.

The first day, I headed out with a goal of walking to the Bird Market.  My goal for the trip was at least a 5K a day.  I could do it walking, hiking, or running at the gym, but I wanted to hit the mark each day.  I did fairly well, and went much further on many days. However, this plan to walk from the Kowloon MTR station all the way to the Bird Market, was crazy, as I was later informed (and as I learned along the way). But, you never know you are a fool until you know, right?

So, here’s the thing about Hong Kong – all walkways end in malls. If you look up walking directions, they will likely be in some form of “Walk on the raised walkway to the ITR mall, then follow signs to the Grand Mall of Audaciousness, from there, go towards the mall that contains the next MTR station, exit on the east side and take the raised walkway towards Citic Center, exit on the ground floor and your destination will be on the right."

Oh, and there’s one other thing about Hong Kong – much of it is not designed to be walked at all. Many of the thoroughfares are only accessible to cars, motorcycles, and trucks.

And one other thing – there is construction everywhere.

Small construction projects with bamboo scaffolding are on every city block.  But there are also giant huge squares of construction for skyscrapers (no doubt with malls) that are too big to comprehend the scale until you find yourself walking around them.

With all of these obstacles, the reality of my mapped walk was twice as long, and included awed gaping by me at massive construction projects as well as several unexpected lost hours in malls.

When I was on the street or raised sidewalks and able to walk outdoors on Kowloon, I sincerely enjoyed the scenery:

In hindsight, my plan was a great way to spend the day getting to know the city. But, it was a terrible way to get to the Bird Market, and when I finally arrived, I was very disappointed to find it closed -- just an empty alley with a forlorn bird mural.

The Bird Garden was still open, but there weren't many people around and I wasn't feeling too safe going in there all alone in the dark, so I skipped it as well.

As I tried to shake off my frustration, I mistakenly paid for a MTR ticket at East Mong Kok station when I needed plain-old Mong Kok station.  The only way out was to put my ticket into the exit machine and eat the loss.  If you read the map below, my error will be clear (I was getting tired and hungry).

Finally, after a visit to yet another mall, I got on an MTR line that connected with another line that could get me to Kowloon station. E was at a party at the W hotel  (which, conveniently was attached to the mall for the station), so I figured I’d grab some dinner (in the mall, of course) and see if we could meet up for the train back to the Asia World Expo/hotel.

I picked the Chinese restaurant that looked the most interesting to me and enjoyed the best spicy beef noodle soup I’ve ever had.

Seriously.  I will be dreaming of this soup for a long time.  It was absolutely perfectly tasty and hot with great beef and wonderfully dense chewy noodles.  When I was done, I was too exhausted to wait for E's party to get out, so I went back to the landfill of Asia World Expo alone on the train, legs tired, lips burning, and extremely content.