August 24, 2014

Minor Progress

The remodel continues to move a few steps forward and then a few steps back.  The major efforts this week involved all sorts of electrical work that we hadn't counted on doing.  Creative do-it-yourselfers... you really do make the gift that keeps on giving to the future owners of your projects...

As a result of the electrical stuff, we've lost the majority of the outdoor kitchen, so we're really relying on the kindness of strangers for things like laundry and cooking.  The good news is, once we pass the next permit inspection this week everything is supposed to move very quickly.  The bad news is, I haven't quite gotten around to ordering the sinks, faucets, hardware for the cabinets, countertops, or tiles.  So, I've got a big week ahead of me to try to get ahead of all of this supposed "quick-moving" construction (I'll believe it when I see it).  Thankfully, they still have to sheetrock and install the cabinets, which I figure has to include at least one more unforseen delay if history is any guide. 

On the running front, I did not hit all of my workouts this week.  But I did manage 38.5 miles, including 4 X 1 mile intervals at sub 9:50 and today's 15.1 including 1150 feet of climbing and descent (was supposed to be 17, but I was shot after the hills and slow pace resulting in almost 4 hours on my feet).  I also managed an additional 152 minutes of easy cardio (recumbant biking & elliptical) in the gym while reading on several days, which felt great and helped my confidence regarding my overall fitness.

Overall, I'm good, but tired.  I've been giving away tomatoes almost every day due to lack of canning and drying facilities, which has been very rewarding.  I've also started needing extra sleep, which is typical for me when I get closer to a marathon, but it requires more time, which is something I'm a bit short on.

What I'm not feeling (yet) is burnt out on running.  Given that I'm burnt out on work, the overhead of the construction/home life, and travel, I'm considering it a win that I'm managing to train and avoid burn-out so far in the midst of all that stuff.

Yes, this comfort I have with dialing back my workouts may result in a much slower than historic marathon for me.  I've made my peace with this and actually look forward to just enjoying Chicago to best of my ability.  Bonus, today I found out that another friend of mine is also going to be in Chicago.  So I'll have yet another person to bond with in Chicago, which should be awesome.

Also, Saturday, I attended the get-to-know you get-together for the Napa Ragnar team that was nice enough to include me.  I'm excited to do it -- it's definitely going to be outside of my comfort zone to hang out with a bunch of folks while running/driving/eating/sleeping for 36 hours, but I think it's going to be a great experience over all.  The party was a hit, our team captain is the bomb, and all the folks on my team seem like a fun group (plus my tomato salad was appreciated and I successfully gave away some tomatoes!).

I'm looking forward to my oh-so-not-standard last long run weekend before taper as a member of this relay team.  I'll be doing somewhere between 23 and 25 miles in 3 legs in 36 hours, which is nobody's ideal last long run before taper, but this is me.  And right now, when it comes to running, I'm all about *close enough*.

August 20, 2014

How To Get Hired

“He strikes me as a serious guy.  He called me back immediately.  He knew what he was talking about.  I think you’re fine.”

This is what a friend told me about a service provider in his industry when I asked him to do some double checking.

This is what I think is missing from much of the discussion around success these days.   

It’s not sexy.   

It’s not about networking.  

It’s about doing a good job.  The old-fashioned way.  

Be serious about the job you are entrusted with.  

Be responsive.  

Know what you are talking about (and own it when you don’t or can’t due to time constraints, but do the research to follow-up in either case).

Do this enough, and you will build a solid reputation that you can leverage into whatever version of success you want for yourself.

August 17, 2014

Chicago Week -7

A very decadent Tuesday afternoon.
This week, I'm supremely proud of myself for completing 90% of my assigned mileage for week -7 of the Chicago Marathon.  I know I'm in the sweet spot of training where if I let my not-so-competitive running side win, I'll end up with a much more painful experience in Chicago than I want.

So I found a way almost every day to do something close to the assigned work-out.  This is despite the remodel, work, and travel.

The travel is probably net even in terms of quality of life.  The upside is new experiences with people I love and/or working from hotels, which is more comfortable than working from the home office during the construction.  There's no cleaning required and there's no worrying about avoiding the construction and making do with the outdoor pseudo-kitchen, we just eat out.

But, it requires clean clothes, thinking ahead and packing, and more time for logistics (particularly transportation and running route planning), each of which require that more basic life stuff gets dropped in their favor.  Also, it requires much more money and planning than staying at home, even with the outdoor camp kitchen.

Late last week, E asked if I'd like to go to Las Vegas on Monday.  He'd been put on a panel at a conference, and I agreed that a date night in Vegas sounded great.  We'd never been there together and I hadn't been in many years.  I used to love Vegas but the last several trips had been difficult (for me) big group trips, so I was hopeful I could regain my love of Vegas on a trip with E.

Then my mom let us know she'd be in Vegas at the same time with her husband.  It was also close to her birthday.

Quickly, I added them to the reservations and date night turned into mom's birthday night.  It was wonderful.  We had dinner at Milos (Best Saganaki Ever!) and saw Mystere.  We took pictures on the strip like tourists that I will treasure.  The next day, I set my out of office, took a day off, and enjoyed the hotel gym for a solid 2 hour workout followed by a much needed massage.  E and I had a late lunch and then E patiently watched while I turned $50 into almost $0 and then back into $400 and eventually $250 before we left the craps table.

From there, we headed to the High Roller, the supposed largest observation wheel in the world (we're suckers for infrastructure, heights, and things that rotate...)

We went for the "happy hour" where you get 30 minutes to rotate and enjoy the view while ordering from the portable bar they wheel into your pod.  It was a great value for Vegas at $24.95 -- we each had 2 drinks and marveled at the skyline.

Earlier, I'd waited for E to get back for lunch at the pool and it sprinkled rained on me -- strange weather

When the Paris was built, it was the tallest and had the best views... no longer

The blue roofs to the right are the dilapidated Imperial Palace -- the last time I'd walked the strip, it was functional.

Wednesday, I wrote off the interval workout and spent first half the day recovering from my day off.  It took me until 12:00 PM to clear my inbox and deal with the construction, even with E2 covering some of the other details I couldn't handle (in other words, without E2, the day off would have destroyed my week).

Thursday, I woke early, worked, made up the intervals (or rather 3 of 4 of them -- 3X1200 done sub 9/mile), dealt with construction, and then put in a *very* long day until BBQ.  After several pleasant hours with friends, I left E to close out BBQ at 10:40 or so, and he managed to keep the party going until 1 AM.  Go E.

Friday, I woke and did the 8 miler that was on the schedule.  This, for me, is the turning point.  When I start fitting in 8+ miles on work days, I know I'm committed.  I had a good run, closed out a few work items, dealt with some additional unexpected construction chaos, and then, E came home and we drove to Napa for a weekend with E's sister, her husband and two of their friends.

Much food, wine, socializing, and beautiful views were enjoyed.

I also managed to hit a local high mileage maximum for 3 days -- 26+ miles.  8+ on Friday. 10+ on Saturday (including 2.2 miles of hiking in elevation at 97F). 8+ today.

In case anyone is wondering, the napa valley river trail, heading south from 3rd street in Napa is very nice.  First 1.5ish miles gravel, then paved all the way down to a park with several loops.  Also, AM fog is a very generous gift in Napa.  Use it.  the difference between an 8 AM start and an 8:30 AM start is *very* noticeable. 

Overall, this week was well done and I hit 36+ miles with the majority running and 10% sub 9/mile, likely close to 20% sub 10/mile.  It was a huge collection of social events, fun, splurging, disciplined workouts, and work.  Here's to hoping I can string together several more good weeks like this before Chicago. 

Remodel Update (What I've Been Doing In My Spare Time)

Back in December of last year, a pyrex dish full of beets exploded when I placed it in the sink at 400F and it came into contact with room temperature water.  This led to a vigorous FB discussion where I learned that Your Grandma's Pyrex (and mine) was way cooler than what we get today.   Unfortunately, the shards killed our garbage disposal as E and I argued about the best approach (run it 'til it stops or stop before it explodes...).

So, after 11 years in our home, rather than replace the garbage disposal, we finally decided to use the momentum to suck it up and remodel the kitchen.

We've had many exciting issues with our house over the last few years, including massive termite damage requiring a year-long bathroom remodel, a roof replacement (we went from tar and gravel to an industrial foam covered with reflective white vinyl and it decreased the average high summer temperature of our non-air-conditioned home 10-15 degrees F on hot days!), and, last by not least, last year's excavation and replacement of the 64 years of "creative" patio, deck, and exterior wall construction:

Oh, just a few tons of layers of concrete, brick, linoleum, aggregate

Realizing that replacing only the lower portion of the stucco isn't going to work.

Since we were opening up the walls, we might as well replace the windows and add insulation in the bays where it had been skipped...

Siding requires that the house be shored with plywood, which should make it less likely to shift in the future.

Siding on, new patio of pavers in, and the new trellis up

Final painting scheme.
After 7 months of back and forth with multiple contractors, cabinet builders, designers, a structural engineer, and more, we're finally in the thick of the kitchen remodel.

Our house is split in two.  There is a plastic sheet separating us from the majority of the chaos.  It's somewhat effective for dust, but horrid for noise.

For the record, this is what our kitchen looked like after E2 and P came to help pack it up the night before demo started:

And, this is what our guest room looks like (also known as how much space your kitchen plus half the living room minus furniture takes when packed):

Every day, I wake to noise as the contractors get to work at 7 AM on the dot.  I don't blame them.  They commute to avoid the traffic and the weather.  But, man, does it throw a wrench (buh-dum-ching) in my daily routine.  Every AM, by the time I've had my coffee and I'm mid-way through my initial email clear-out, there is, inevitably, a call to me through the plastic, "BT!  We found something we need to talk to you about!"

I trudge over to their door and we talk.  This week I finally admitted to myself that even though I'm not *doing* the remodel in any real sense, the day-to-day decisions, conversations, check-ins, change orders, check writing, plan confirmation, etc. take at least 30 minutes every day and sometimes close to an hour, typically in the AM when I'm trying to get out the door, but sometimes unscheduled calls to my phone when I'm onsite with clients.

The bad remodel surprises are many so far.  Nothing is up to code.  In keeping with other parts of the house, it's a 64 year old house that was thrown up for cheap, and the previous do-it-yourself owner did most of his stuff impressively wrong. Big ticket discoveries so far?

** A gas leak requiring entirely new gas to be plumbed throughout the house.  Although, in fairness, this vindicated 10 years of me intermittently claiming I smelled gas and E gaslighting me.  Literally.  This one might be worth the monetary cost.

**Impressively unsafe and illegal electrical from the last remodel that requires the entire house to be re-wired.

**Supposedly unrelated but suspicious -- the electric dryer decided to die in solidarity to the its kitchen appliance brethren who were being decommissioned.  We are now using the local laundrymat until we can get the construction finished and figure out whether the dryer needs to be replaced or if we can repair it once the electrical ridiculousness calms down.

**Exposing the structural beam that used to dip into the kitchen and threaten to injure tall guests showed it to be something other than the beam we thought it was:

In fairness the backside is a structural beam, but the front side is an impressively ghetto combination of random 2X4s all willy-nilly...

I finally hired a trusted friend to help with some of the clean-up details and that's been a huge help, but it's still a bit overwhelming when coupled with my normal life, if I'm honest.

In the end, this remodel will likely end up being approximately double the original estimated cost.  Thankfully, my brother and dad were both in construction, so I assumed the worst and came up with 2-2.5X as a potentially likely outcome.  I'm not thrilled that it's happening, but at least we were prepared.

But, there has been one very good discovery.  The old kitchen had an ugly dropped ceiling, that was much lower than normal due to the low roof, the "structural beam" extending the house, and pitch they used back in 1950:

It, like almost every supposedly flat surface in our house was not level (and the walls it connected with are/were not plumb).  It lost almost an inch and half in 8 feet.  Fun.

When they removed a portion of the ceiling (to the left in the picture above), we saw that the original ceiling was stained wood that vaulted with the roofline.  It was in surprisingly great condition.  So, we made a decision for yet another deviation from the original plan, and now, when we are done, we will have gorgeous old wood as our new kitchen ceiling, which is pretty damn cool.

They've dremeled off all the roof screws that penetrated and it should be great when it's done.
In the meantime, when we aren't traveling, we're living the Californian outdoor lifestyle with a psuedo kitchen out of our outside laundry area.

Our current "kitchen"

Oh, and our garage door motor also decided to die in solidarity to electrical appliance friends this week.  No big deal.   It's not like the kitchen cabinets are crammed into the garage and need to be extracted for installation in a week or so. (Kidding, actually, it is a very big deal and part of my daily discussion with the contractors tomorrow will be around what to do/how to deal with this mess -- no major deviation from the baseline level of budget fear I'm maintaining...)

August 9, 2014


I'm finally edging back into the foreign territory of true high-volume (for me) weeks.

Trail Running with E2 - took a spill, but no real damage.

After tomorrow, I will have run 6 days with week, including 25 miles in the last 3 days: 5 yesterday, 15ish today, and 5 tomorrow (postscript -- it happened, achievement unlocked!).  The total weekly mileage is still a bit low, but 25 in 3 days is definitely a milestone for me -- this is the obvious transition to stacked workouts that I only do for marathons.  And it's been a while (I haven't done a marathon since April of 2013).

Today's long run (the first over the half marathon threshhold in a very long while) went relatively well.  I was solo and it was hotter than expected, but I brought money and bought a cold water and a gatorade about half-way through, so I was in somewhat decent shape despite the challenge of sun and heat.  I ran the last 1.5 miles to a G's house hard, which I was proud of.  Of course, then I found I couldn't really rally very well for the last 3 miles with her.  We did 2 1-mile intervals quite slowly and walked the rest, but she was kind enough to stay with me despite my flagging pace.  Total mileage: 14.33.  Close enough.

After my shower (which I had to take at G's house thanks to the gas leak caused by our kitchen remodel -- no hot water 'til it's fixed, fun!), E & I and G & C headed to brunch.

We went to one of our local favorites.  I'd felt a little weak and woozy since the run's end, which I was slowly remembering from previous high-volume hot runs as an unfortunate side effect of marathon training.

Our drinks came, and I asked E if I could have the pickle from his bloody mary.

OH MY GOODNESS!  With the first bite I had this primordial awakening of satisfaction.  Literally -- whereas before I'd been weak and a bit unsure of what I needed, all of a sudden my body jolted upright full of energy -- it was so clear.  MORE OF THE PICKLES!  It was such a sensation of pleasure and need.   I had forgotten just how amazing pickles can be (and this one was slightly spicy, which made it even better).  I'm a very salty sweater, and, the pickle reminded me of one of those high-volume lessons I'd forgotten -- when I'm woozy post long run, it's often 'cause I need salt.  So, I ordered a side of the pickles, and they were some of the most amazing things I've eaten.  Ever.

Then came the house made salted soft pretzels.  With mustard.  Mmmm... carbs and salt and radish flavors and salt...some of the most flavorful foods to have ever passed my lips.

My water with lemon was too delicious to be something as simple as ice water with a wedge of lemon and my beer tasted like pure heaven.

In 15 minutes, I'd transformed from a post-run zombie to a Life-Is-Beautiful caricature.

By the time my entree came, I'd completely remembered the amazing upside of high-volume training.  My first bite of the burger and truffle fries confirmed it -- Pure ecstasy of fat and carbs and salt and pepper and oh-my-goodness-why-does-this-taste-so-amazing?

Food doesn't seem like it should be able to taste as good as it tastes when you are high-volume running hungry.  But it does!

Run happy!

(Postscript - today's trail run with E2 was awesome.  We ran to the "Top of the World" under the Santa Cruz Fog and back down, plus a little bit more to hit the required 5 miles.  She set the pace and I dragged -- it was the longest run she'd done in over 3 years, which is so great.  I love getting my running buddy back after such a long hiatus.  As the picture at the top shows, I took a spill.  But truly, it was fine.  I've been very bad about stretching for at least the last year.  I've only been to yoga a few times and haven't done much on my own.  Saturday, post long run, and then again on Sunday AM before our run, I actually did some legitimate stretching.  Good thing, too!  Those scabs are the result of a trip and an attempted recovery that resulted in my water going over the edge and my front leg sliding forward while my knee slid backwards and I landed in a right leg split.  Hurray for recent stretching!  I jumped up.  E recovered my sunglasses and we finished the run.  No harm, no foul.)

August 5, 2014

90 Years Is a Long Time

We finally started harvesting from the garden!  It's been a strange Summer and everything has been a bit delayed, but the delicious times are finally here.

The biggest and most important thing I did last week was travel to upstate New York for E's grandma's 90th birthday party.

It was so wonderful to see her enjoy her day with all of the people who drove and flew in from all over the country -- her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, a couple of cousins, several nieces and nephews, and many grand-niece and grand-nephews.  Impressively, E's grandpa is still truckin' at 97, and he was there, too.  We spent the day surrounded by Brooklyn accents, Italian-American immigrant descendants and their spouses and kids, great food, wine, and tons of family stories (with lots of gesticulation).

It was a special day and I was very glad we made the effort.

But what an effort it was!  To get there, we spent an hour in a car on the way to the airport, followed by more than 8 hours in airports and planes, only arrive in time to fall asleep at the hotel.  The next AM, we hit traffic and construction on our drive upstate, so that meant more than 2 hours in the car (during which I took a couple of naps, because my husband is a saint).  After the party and the next day's brunch, we spent another hour driving to local airport and then a total of 10 hours in airports and planes on the way home, plus 30 minutes in the taxi.

In other words, we spent at least 22.5 hours in transit, plus approximately 20+ hours of hotel time so we could enjoy 14ish hours of family time during a 56 hour trip.

And it was totally worth it.

In running news, last week sucked.  I woke on Monday with a sore throat and a fever.  Apparently, despite my conservative racing, I still got sick.  I spent the rest of the week nursing what appeared to be a summer cold (with a fever, so something else mixed in?), trying to minimize my likelihood of developing something worse.  Essentially, I walked a ton and ran very little.  The longest string of "running" without a walk break I managed before leaving for NY was 2 miles jogging at 12 min/mile on Thursday.  Saturday, I was able to wake early enough to hit the treadmill on EDT (very impressed with myself).  I felt well enough to do some intervals at slightly faster than race pace and closed the workout with a whopping total of 4.25 miles.  Sunday, I woke with a sore throat again and a deep-chest cough, so I wrote the long run off entirely.  Total mileage: 18.34, most of it walking.  Total mileage sub 10/mile? 2.  Yup. 2.

But, after watching E's grandma's joy at her party and all of the cool interactions with people from various walks of life, I didn't care about my lame running week at all.  I'm usually fairly chill when it comes to running, but right now, I'm even moreso.  It's strange.  I wonder if I'll ever get back to the place where I actually care about pacing and racing the way I used to.  Part of me thinks I may not.  And, in the grand scheme of things, I think that's just fine.  There are many, many more important things to me than running.  So, if indeed I've actually turned into a purely recreational runner who doesn't care about performance, so be it.  I do have to wonder how that will play out over my two fall marathons, though...