October 26, 2014

A Glorious Week At Home

You're the Wine That I Want!

So. thanks to some seriously impressive organizational skills on the part of the captain of my van for our Ragnar Napa team, most of us met up today in Oakland, legs recovered, ready for some deliciously awesome wine-tasting.  Despite the destination of our relay, there was very little (van 1) to no wine (van 2, my van) actually tasted on the relay weekend, so we were on a mission.

A Sunday full of local winetasting was the perfect way to cap off a week at home with lots of general home todo stuff (laundry, bills, voting, etc.), prep for upcoming travel and the holidays (the rest of the year is ridiculous), a trip out to the impressive Gallo Center for the Arts to see (and more importantly listen to) Joshua Bell, and dealing with the final punch-lists for the kitchen (almost done!).

Final Inspection (fingers crossed) is Monday.
Overall, the week was low-drama.  Lots of work, laundry, easy miles, etc.  Following the World Series (Go Giants!) including being guests at Giants-fan-friends who sent us home with 3 nights worth of microwaveable lasagna leftovers (HUGE THANKS! -- also, there appears to be a correlation with the wins, more lasagna is clearly needed).

On the running front, it was a fine week.  My knees are completely recovered from Chicago.  I managed 30.55 miles total including *much* walking. Today, I woke early, and, since we were staying the night in the East Bay near the trail, headed for an out and back along the new span of the Bay Bridge for 9+ miles of one last long run before NYC.  It was cool, beautiful, and overall, a great way to spend the morning:

View of the Oakland Port Cranes (AT-ATs) under the old bay bridge span.

Good side-by-side showing the new pedestrian portion and bike path vs. the old bridge span.

What remains of the old Treasure Island touchdown (from the new pedestrian trail).

The gap of the removed old span from the current pedestrian turn-around point.
In other news, thanks to the YTWTIW East Bay Wine excursion, we learned all about the East Bay Vinters Alliance, which is so cool.  Who knew there were so many wine tasting venues you could visit in the greater Oakland metropolitan region?   Makes perfect sense, really.  There are way more people in the actual bay area than up in NorCal wine country, why not source the grapes, make the wine, and have a tasting room and wine experience close to the people, instead of requiring them to get themselves all the way up to where some subset of the grapes are grown.

We visited two wineries -- Urban Legend (AT-AT logo alert!), where the owners were so welcoming and willing to chat about anything and everything related to their wine business; and Cerruti Cellars who blew us away with the phenomenal space and huge back table/room that they gave to our group solely in exchange for the tasting fee (which was waived w/purchase).

All-in-all, it was a great bay area week.  We even held our own in the World Series and got some (minimal) rain! Now all we need is for the Giants to kick some booty in Kansas City...

October 18, 2014

Love NYC

In one of my alternate lives, I definitely lived for quite some time in New York.  I fit there.

I *really* liked my visit to Chicago -- in discussions with E, F&P, I even compared it favorably to New York, referring to it as cleaner, more planned, and more civilized.  I sincerely believed these things when I said them.

And yet, despite the identified "betterness" of Chicago against the big apple, per the usual, upon arrival and every day of my visit, something (or many things) about Manhattan struck a chord of pure joy with me.

There's so much humanity.  So many people.  With so many very different lives.  I can't help but notice the obvious variety and differences between the individuals in the masses, and as such, as my own particular brand of weirdo in the walking crowds, I feel less alone.

We're all so different.  But together, in the same physical space and doing the same basic breathing, eating, walking, ducking to avoid the rain -- I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself, with so much energy.  And it's wonderful.

Our hotel for this stay was on 36th street, just outside of Korea Town.  So, after checking in, we went to dinner and started the meal with a table full of delicious Banchan.

This is my favorite thing about Korean food!  Mmmm... pickled and delicious side dishes.
 E had Bibimbop and I had delicious Soondooboo jiggae.

So Delicious!
The rest of the trip was a welcome combo of work, food, and socializing.  Day 1, I worked from the hotel until Nish arrived, and we headed out for a short mid-day run in Central Park.  So iconic.  After we cleaned up, and worked some more, we headed to Kura for one of the best omakase sushi meals I've ever had.

Day 2, I woke early, worked 3-4 hours, and then Nish and I did a quick fast 5K each at the hotel gym (we're doing the NYC marathon together, and one benefit of dropping out of Chicago is that I was in decent shape to join her on some runs this week).  From there, we headed to a spa for massages, lunch at Babbo with her hubby & babe (yeah, that's right, their not quite 2 year old was well behaved enough to join us for a fancy lunch at Babbo. He's a rock star.)

On our way back to the spa to take advantage of the hot tubs, sauna, etc., we walked through Washington Square.  The rain from the AM had completely burnt off and it was gloriously beautiful for an indulgent half day off work with an old friend.

After our water treatments, we walked most of the way back to our hotel, worked, and then walked together to my evening obligations in Times Square.  Because of this, in less than 30 hours, a good friend and I jointly visited Central Park, Washington Square, Union Square, Madison Square Garden, Bryant Park, and Times Square (the last one was more of a hassle, whereas the previous ones were each a pleasure) -- How cool is that?

Lego Statue of Liberty in Madison Square Garden

Day 3, I worked, headed to a lunch with a professional colleague with whom I've worked for almost a year and had not yet met.  We had a fun chatty lunch at Taralluci e Vino in the Flatiron district.  I walked to and from the lunch, worked before and after it, and E&I met up with D at Inakaya -- they did a good job of transporting the concept we loved from Tokyo into midtown Manhattan and we had a very enjoyable meal and experience.

Day 4, E&I woke, packed and headed to the airport.

And now, finally, after 8 packed days away, I am thrilled to be home.

Bonus -- since I didn't actually do a marathon in Chicago and my knee seems to have recovered after a few easy days and some icing, I'm excited to get up early and fit in a long run tomorrow. 

October 13, 2014

Chicago Marathon DNF weekend (Complete with Snarky MD Commentary)

The title says all you need to know about the short version. But the long version is that this weekend was super enjoyable, despite the disappointment.

The "Bean" -- so cool.
I came into the race very confident that I could meet my goals, which were relatively simple:  Finish healthy in a time that shows that I've rebuilt my fitness.

I'd gotten over my cold.  The data showed that I'd done a total of 592.97 miles in 18 weeks for an average weekly mileage of 33.2.  Some of those miles were slow jogs, some were run walks, and some, especially early on, were walks.  But I I'd given myself permission to do whatever I needed to do to get the mileage done during the 18 week cycle.  When I looked at the volume I had completed despite my work, travel, and life obstacles, it was clear that my plan had worked.  So, I felt confident that I had done a good job of getting myself at least halfway back to where I'd historically been and I knew the marathon was going to be fun since I didn't have the pressure of a time goal.

Riverwalk across the river from the race hotel.

Friday, I flew, worked, dealt with ORD delays (the ATC fire is still wreaking havoc), and ate room service/worked/slept at an airport hotel.  Saturday, I woke, cabbed into town through the massive traffic jam of arriving folks, and checked in to my race hotel.
Gigantic Expo at the McCormick Place
From there, the remainder of the day was dedicated to pre-marathon logistics.  This may be (simultaneously) one of my favorite and least-favorite things about huge races.  It took an entire day to catch the shuttles to and from the expo, pick up the necessary stuff at the expo, wait in line for lunch near the hotels where all the runners were staying, walk to the start from the hotel for reference so I'd know how to get there, relax in bed and take the blissful indulgent pre-race nap, eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, greet E at his arrival and finally turn out the lights and fall asleep.  On one hand -- a total waste of a day.  On the other hand, such a luxurious letting go and just going with the oh-so-slow-flow that is 45,000 people trying to prepare for any big event in the same location.  I think the day before a marathon is one of the only times when I feel justified in just doing almost nothing for a full day.

Obligatory Tourist experience?  Us and several hundred other runners?  Check.

It was almost a 2 hour wait for this bad boy.  But it was worth it.
Sunday AM went well.  I woke 5 minutes before my alarms, turned them off so as to not wake E, had my coffee & athletic-food-bar, got dressed, and all went according to plan (which is a blessing my runner peeps will understand).  I was out the door into high 40s F weather with plenty of time to spare, but encountered some unpleasantness when the gates started closing earlier than the scheduled times.  There was no communication between the volunteers, so gates were closing in very unpredictable ways.  For example, Gate 2 closed before 7:30 AM, and those of us in wave 2 were told to run to Gate 3 (note, running before a marathon in an unplanned manner is not exactly my favorite thing on marathon morning).  We did.  Gate 3 let us through, but then the G corral was closed in front of us as we arrived (all of the Gate 2 folks were F corral), and they told us to run *back* out Gate 3 and back in Gate 4 for H or I *or* we could wait 'til after all of the corrals in wave 2 had left and then they'd let us in.

Such a gorgeous day for a marathon through the beautiful Chicago Skyline.
At this point, I opened my Gatorade, started my late-stage hydrating, and walked forward, locked out of the corrals, but headed towards the actual start gate.  I figured at some point after Wave 2 started they would open the side gates and I'd rather be as close to the start as possible when they did so.  I arrived at the F corral to find the gates completely open (as in the Gate 2 closure was not coupled to the F corral closure) so I flashed my bib and calmly walked in.  10 minutes later, the body heat of the crowd was warm enough that I ditched my long sleeve shirt and my mittens about 4 minutes before the Wave 2 start.  And then we were off (with me crossing the start line approximately 3 minutes after the official wave 2 start horn).

Somewhere in the middle of the race, below the "El" train.

The weather was cool.  Shade was abundant (thank you architectural high rises!).  The crowd support was unlike anything I've ever encountered.  It was so inspiring that I never even considered putting in my headphones.  I just ran, occasionally checking my Garmin to ensure I wasn't going faster than I could handle.  Despite my best efforts, I clocked 3 miles in the 9:50 range (and my goal was 10:15 - 10:40 with an assumption that 10:40 was closer to appropriate).  What I did well, however, is that I walked through all the aid stations.  I took in Water, Gatorade, and Gus as scheduled.  My original plan had been to head out with the 4:40 pace group but I couldn't find then.  I did, however, cross the half at 2:19:38 and felt the best I've ever felt at a half on a marathon course.  Until, a few hundred meters later, as I slowed a bit after the half timing mat, I didn't.  I realized that my left knee was *very* cranky.

Underneath the bean.

I pushed on a few more miles, but the pain was increasing.  I pulled off at an aid station around mile 15.  I saw an MD.  We had a hilarious exchange:

Me: Hi. Ummm... my knee hurts and I'm wondering if I'm going to do any serious damage if I continue.

Doctor: Hard to say. Probably you already have. Have you injured this knee before?

 Me: Yes.

Doctor: Do you want to injure it again?
Me: Ummm...No. (Making a bit of a face, as in Seriously???)

Him: Did you take anything for the pain today?

Me: I thought taking NSAIDS before long distance running was bad for your liver.

Him: It is.  Did you?

Me: No.  It didn't hurt before.

Him:  But it hurts when I do this?  (Doing the annoying thing he'd done earlier to establish some likelihood of injury.)

Me: Yes.  (We already established this!)

Him:  Well, you've got 11 more miles.  Probably not a good idea.  But, I guess we could give you some tylenol and ice and you could head out in half an hour.

Me:  What?  I'm not a professional runner.  If I'm icing, doesn't that mean I'm pretty much done, as an amateur?  Why would I take 30 minutes off in the middle of a marathon?

Him:  You make a good point.  You probably should be done.  (Obviously not impressed with the average runner's response to his feedback.)
Me:  Okay.  So, if I drop out.   What happens?

Him:  We have vans.  Ours isn't here right now.  But it will come back and take you to the finish.  I guess you could try to walk it off to the next medical aid station, it's only 3/4 of a mile.  They have more vans...

Me:  Okay, I'm gonna take that as a sign. [He shrugged.] (This is where I jogged slowly to the next medical aid station, which did have the benefit of getting me across the 25K mat, which was a nice consolation prize.)

In addition to the doctor's feedback (which confirmed for me that most runners are not very protective of their own bodies vis-a-vis running), I had a couple of additional thought-provoking moments.

A little past mile 7, I ran through some intense cheering into a silent zone.  Cops were parting traffic and someone was doing chest compressions on a runner on the ground.  Two runners near me as we ran by were obviously medical professionals as I heard them say, "Oh shit.  Cardiac."  And, "Should we stop?"  And finally, "Looks like it's under control."

I was very pleased to later learn that he came to and was communicative at the hospital.

The second scare I had was being part of the medical tent and van of the wounded after I dropped out.  Oh wow.  In the second tent (which was a larger aid transfer station) most of those folks were in *horrid* shape.  Pale.  Complaining of heart palpitations.  Puking.  Shaking. Being evaluated for hospital transfers.  (And it wasn't even that hot.).  Me, I'd played it relatively safe.  I was running very evenly and felt very confident that I could have finished somewhat on pace at the medium-hard, but not-super-hard pace I'd been keeping, which included walking fuel breaks every time there was an aid station.
So, overall, I'd like to say that despite DNFing, my Chicago weekend was a complete success.  I was reminded that marathon running is my hobby.  And that's it.  It takes back seat to so many things in my life, and I'm totally okay with that.

The Little Goat Diner

Little Goat

But, it's still a great hobby even when I DNF, because I get to go to and learn about beautiful places, cheer on friends who also run, spend time with E, and eat some GREAT FOOD (huge thanks to F&P who did the behind the scenes efforts to get us food/reservations at Giordano's, Takashi & The Little Goat.) It's good to have diligent food-oriented friends!

F&P are foodies.

Apparently Takashi Yagihashi is a big deal.

They found a Groupon (Chicago--Holla!) for Takashi.

So we did the 9 course omakase.

The fried course alone was worth it.

Embarrasingly, even post marathon, I couldn't finish the 7th course of pork belly.

(In my defense, I'd splurged on a post DNF cheeseburger and fries, but I could still put down this salmon.)

But, not this Udon dish.  It was delicious, but too much for me.

Dessert was amazing in that I thought I was completely unable to eat anymore, but I was wrong 1+ bite of each, and it was worth it.


October 5, 2014

CHI week -1

Let's be clear.  This week sucked on the running front.

I got a nasty (NASTY) cold from our trip to Colorado.  It may have been the infection that was making the rounds at all of my clients that I'd avoided (Which E had for 10 days of serious infectious-disease-security in our home where I didn't get it).  Or, perhaps it was something from the flight, exascerbated by the dry air and altitude, or perhaps the wedding with tons of little children and hand-shaking and hugging and whiskey tasting (but shouldn't the whiskey kill it?).

Regardless of the source of infection, I spent the week a snotty mess. Coughing all night (no good sleep).  Clearing all mucus and coughing in the AM and throughout the day, trying not to disgust clients (duh-- runs had to be modified).

In short, I'm still a bit sick and questioning what this means for Chicago.  But, I know that I'm in the home stretch, so I'm trying to be positive.

Obviously, I cut short several runs this week, but still managed 33.01 miles including 3 at my psuedo-target marathon pace (I'm thinking 10:15-10:45???), plus some low 9ish intervals and lots of long slow miles in the heat (did I mention that we had a heat wave this week?  yeah, today's 10 miles with the head cold in the 80+ gave me permission to just get it done -- 12:49 AVG (including walking with lemonade purchase and sipping breaks)).

All in all, I'm very happy to be healthy enough to hit the start line at Chicago next weekend.  I know I'll be able to finish and I'm looking forward to the experience.  I think I'll start with the 4:40 pace group (assuming they are in my corral) and hang with them 'til I know if I'm whipped or (hopefully) have way more to give).

Other than that, I have nothing to report, except, of course, that a running headlamp is hugely beneficial when doing a kitchen remodel and unable to cook dinner at night.  When you can't cook, making sandwiches or other composed meals to be picked up by hand is very handy.  To do so, at a minimum, you require ingredients and light.

Sometimes, our hobbies do serious double duty.