February 23, 2015

Very Busy Week

Last Monday was a holiday in the United States *and* Canada. This meant a few things:

1. It was "family day" at the mall attached to our Ottawa hotel and the crowds were crazy.  Later, after researching the issue, I learned that this is actually the name of the Canadian holiday:  family day.

2. Most of my clients do not take all of the US Federal holidays.  A typical startup has anywhere from 8-10 officially observed non-work holidays, and many companies include non-federally observed time off for things like New Year's Eve, Christmas Eve, etc in this total.  This means that MLK day, Indigenous Peoples' day (or as the Feds call it, Columbus day), Presidents' day (or as the Feds call it Washington's birthday), etc. often don't make the startup cut.  So, it was safe to assume that most of my clients would have offices that were open and could need legal support.

3. Despite #2, many of my clients employ adults that have children who attend schools that do take the Federal holidays, so I can usually count on a *slower* day, and if I want to try to truly take the day off, Federal holidays are always a good option.

For the Canada trip, I'd taken a "holiday wish" approach.  I'd set my "out of office" auto-responder on our departure and hoped that nothing big would come up, but I was prepared to work if I needed to, since we didn't really have much scheduled that would prohibit me from working.

On Saturday (Valentine's day), I ended up taking a 2 hour conference call and doing mark-ups afterwards, but thankfully, E needed to work as well, so he didn't mind.

This put me in a frame of mind on Monday, for Presidents' day, where I was sincerely hoping I could take some portion or all of the day off.  And life agreed.

So, I woke, worked a few hours 'til my inbox was clear, worked out in the hotel gym, and took myself out to a 2 hour French Brasserie lunch (mmmm... Croque Monsieur, wine, salad, and coffee!) while reading my book.  Then, I worked a couple more hours and headed back to the gym for a second work out.  Now that's my idea of a pseudo-holiday.  E and I returned to the same restaurant for dinner and we were thrilled with the rich delicious French food and service.

Tuesday, after half a normal day, we headed to the airport for the long trek of working while traveling back to California.  On the drive to the airport, we followed the canal, which at this time of year is frozen, and people skate to work and to do their errands -- is this the most Canadian thing you've ever heard of, or what?

Zoom in, there are people skating on that frozen canal!

Upon landing in SF (after 8-9 hours of travel), we hopped in the car and drove to Santa Rosa, because E had to speak at a conference there on Wednesday.

Night time Golden Gate Bridge Crossing
Thursday was onsite at a client, and Friday, I finally fit in a decent mid-week medium run (7 miles) before taking the train to SF and speaking on two panels at an IP law event.

Look Mom, I'm actually dressed professionally!
Saturday, I spent 3+ hours driving to and working on bookkeeping issues with my bookkeeper (and added in another couple of hours of social fun including a 6 mile easy run, which was so great).

Sunday was the first true off day of work in a couple of weeks and I spent it driving 1.5 hours up to a law school colleague's baby shower, attending the shower and driving home.  I'd planned to do my long run after I got home, but yeah... that totally didn't happen.  Read my book and drank wine on the couch like a boss.  That's what actually happened.

So, total mileage for the week? 19.54.  Considering there was no long run, Monday's workout was a pure gym no run workout, and I'd hoped for 10 or more on my long run, this is actually not bad at all.  See what I did there?  I'm like the opposite of the running bloggers who get down on themselves.  When it comes to my running, I'm like pollyanna (which is also hilarious, because NO ONE who knows me would EVER accuse me of being pollyanna).     

February 17, 2015


E had a conference in Ottawa, so we headed out to Montreal for a romantic Valentine's day get away the weekend before.  I was very happy to speak French and enjoy the food and sights in Montreal (my first visit).

Montreal-style poutine, not just cheese curds and gravy, but meat, too!
It was COLD!  We could only walk outside for about 15 minutes at a time, max.
The view of the symphony and arts center from our hotel.
Montreal Musee de l'Art Contemporain.

First Exhibit?  Straight back to the hometown.

On Sunday it stopped snowing (which, oddly, meant it was *colder*) so we walked down to the old city, visiting the Basilique de Notre Dame and Rue St. Paul before having a 2 hour lunch at a brasserie.  We had a wonderful time just relaxing in the heat behind the windows and watching all the people walk by in their practical footwear and warm clothing.  Neither our clothing nor our footwear was up to par, although my zip-up full calf-length leather boots coupled with full calf wool toe-socks were much better for the task than E's go-to Simples.

After lunch, we headed out to the centre de sciences pier and stared down at the snow-covered river and harbor.  It just looked like a field of snow except for buoys that barely poked up to mark the covered slips (we presumed).  We took a few photos and briskly walked back to the hotel.  By the time we got there, the outer layer of skin on my upper thighs was numb!  I had multiple layers on just about every other part of my body, but my jacket had slits to allow me to walk, and the single layer of corduroy was *not* sufficient.  Seriously.  Numb thighs!  That was a first.

We'd reserved tickets on a train from Montreal to Ottawa, and we hoped to avoid the madness we experienced on our last French-language train debacle.  So, we arrived at the train station with plenty of time, and confirmed that the Canadian Via Rail system is sane.  Our printed reservations were all we needed, they had the scan code for the conductors on them.  Unfortunately, as we waited to board, I realized my purse was a bit light.  I'd never put the camera back into the travel bag in my purse.  I must have removed it from my shoulder in the cab on the way to the train station.  Bummer.  The pics of us in old Montreal and the snow and the river are lost to the ages.  Thankfully, I'd downloaded everything else to my computer the night before, so the big loss was the camera itself.  It was a gift from E for Christmas 2010.

Given how bad I am with losing things in my hands, it's actually fairly impressive that I hadn't lost it before.  I posted a claim with the cab company, but I haven't heard back, so we're fairly certain it's just gone.  Oh, well, it had a good life: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, Spain, France, England, Cambodia, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Bermuda, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Swizterland, Belgium, Costa Rica and several US family gatherings and other destinations including 5 US national parks: Denali, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain.

Phone camera photo of the train journey.

Our timing was impeccable, as we arrived in Ottawa to celebrate that it was the coldest national capital on the planet this weekend.  (A bit arbitrary, since the distinction is limited to capital cities, but seriously, it was *noticeably* colder than Montreal upon arriving.)

On the running front, despite the travel, I hit a weekly mileage high for the year at 25.45.  I managed to drag myself out for 9 slow (and surprisingly warm) miles on Thursday before flying out on Friday, but as you might imagine, mileage in Canada was not exactly impressive.  I'm hopeful that this week will be yet another weekly high for the year in my just-increase-the-volume, no-pace-goal pseudo-training program for Oakland -- if nothing else, I'm going to enjoy the bay area weather on my runs this week!

February 8, 2015

A Typical Week In My Life

The beginning of my week was spent closing a big deal for one of my clients -- it feels like they've been negotiating against this very large company for at least 4 or 5 months.  It was such a relief to approve the final version for execution.  I am FREE!!! (of this deal at least).

The deal was worldwide, so it involved many international folks, meaning conference calls were late, early, and whenever everyone could attend (sleep is not an acceptable excuse in my line of work).  This, amped up to close the deal, and coupled with recovery from Kaiser, ensured that M/T were free of any workout, and the week, in general, was light on exercise.  So much for being inspired to jump into training for Oakland.  C'est la vie.

I did make it back to track day on Wednesday (only 2 weeks off), and was shocked to see sub 7/mile paces on my Garmin for a couple of the segments.  It's been a long time since I ran in the 6's, even if just for 200s.

Due to The Deal plus general end of the month work nonsense that comes from running my own law firm, Th/Fri were similar to M/T on the workout front although I did manage to fit in 3.5 miles walking and 30 minutes of elliptical.  Sometimes, I just have to take what I can get.

One weeknight, we finally defrosted the ranch-raised steak that had been gifted to us from a Texan friend.  We invited another Texan and his wife to enjoy the spoils.  It was delicious.

Happy Guests

Fun With Dry Ice (upon delivery)

E perfectly grilled both the rib-eye and the flatiron.  I made mushrooms and squash.

Saturday, E wanted to run, which is always fun.  So I headed out in the 100% humidity break from the rain for 1.5 with him (~10/mile), and then tacked on a bit on my own to total just above 4.

Saturday evening, we hosted a young couple from the middle of Amercia who just moved to the bay area for dinner.  It's always refreshing to spend time with folks who aren't in your cohort.  They are in their early 20s and still adjusting to the changes from their locality to ours. Their observations were eye-opening.  

In preparation for their arrival, I made bolognese for the first time in years.  Friday, after discussing our potential meal options, E bought half a pound of ground beef, half a pound of ground turkey, and I re-purposed some prosciutto and spicy coppa (how amazing are cured meats?) leftover from the book exchange.  The final sauce was a 3-animal, 4-meat concoction, worthy of the bolognese name.  Mid-afternoon, I found myself smiling broadly, slowly making the sauce over the stove hours before our guests arrived.  It had been so long since I'd taken the time to make such time-heavy effort of food-love.  We served it over orechiette, with a salad.  It was delicious home-made comfort food, and I was so happy to serve it.  Bonus, E and the guests appeared to be happy to enjoy it as well.

Sunday, I woke to rain.  I gamely went out, hoping I could do 10 miles before buckling down to get some work done (as I'm still in the hole from the big deal).  Nope.

I turned around and arrived home at mile 1.15, not quite drenched, but unwilling to commit to the full 10 in the intermittent rainstorm.  So, I took the audiobook and headed to the gym.  I made a simple deal with myself.  I would do an hour of aerobic work on the treadmill at 1% incline.  I managed 5.23 miles, primarily running at 10:56, with the occasional walk break, and the last 8 minutes being a ladder that finished with a minute at 9:31/mile.

Total mileage for the week: 19.78.  Week -6 for Oakland?  Not great.  But, then again, I did some soul-searching and decided that I'd rather focus on getting my mass down for Oakland than speed.  So, I'm not going to worry about pace.  For the next 5 weeks I'm going to focus on mileage, total aerobic load, getting in as many track days as I can, and opting for lighter, healthier food.  I plan to do this despite 2 trips -- one to Montreal and Ottawa and another to Hawaii.  It's a tall order.  

In keeping with the healthier food theme, E and I had a very light brunch after my run today, and I exercised supreme discipline by ignoring my growling stomach and avoiding the popcorn station before watching Breakfast At Tiffany's on the big screen with Cat (interesting to watch a movie where the cat is named Cat while sitting next to your friend Cat), Jen, and several other cool ladies.  Of course, upon arriving home I demanded that we split the last remaining pizza slice in half and have it as a pizza snack before dinner.  So, there's that...

February 2, 2015

Kaiser -- How Not To Race (AKA a nice relaxing training run with a serious positive split)

Thanks to F's watch, and the time stats from Kaiser (plus my recollection of the time at mile 2), I can share the oh-so-awesome result from my brilliant plan of no-watch-race run-by-feel:

Miles 1 & 2 -- Average pace of 9:56.  (Definitely too ambitious, even with the lovely downhill.  I thought 10:30 was the fastest pace I could possibly maintain.  This average pace also includes 2 phone calls where I necessarily slowed down.)

0.20 miles retracing my steps through the panhandle -- no idea, but probably fairly slow due to the grass.

Miles 3 - 12 (thanks to F's watch):


Mile 13 & 13.1 -- not totally clear, but likely low 11's.

My chip time was 2:35:09. 

So, my average pace for 13.1 including the bathroom stop and all walk breaks for time, but not counting the 0.2 mile detour and likely failed tangents for distance?  11:51.

Given that I'd decided to treat it like a long training run, I'm actually very happy with the result.  Sub 12, baby!

Looking forward to training for my next half and actually racing it (even if more slowly than I have in the past).

February 1, 2015

Kaiser -- Complacent Completion

I'd lost the desire to run hard for long distances after the New York Marathon.  I was burnt out. 

But, I was already registered for Kaiser before I came to terms with this reality.  So, I mostly didn't train and figured I'd deal with it on the day of.

I'd lost a few pounds from the winter holidays and did enough physical activity over the holidays and throughout January to be somewhat in-shape, but a half-marathon training program of any respectable sort, I did not do.

Fast-forward to this morning, with my longest few long runs in the last 8 weeks being 8ish miles (although, in fairness, some in the hills).  I jogged from my cab drop-off near the start to the awesomely efficient self-serve clothes bag drop (0.4ish miles from the start) and then walked back (probably 0.75 w/u total -- ideal, actual).  Despite the crowds and chaos, my trajectory easily intersected with Jen, Jess, Cat, et. al., and we all said hi before separating for our target start times.

On the sideline of the start, where I found my friends.

Finally, after dropping into the crowd from the side and crossing the start line, I started jogging in the tightly packed crowd (sans watch) at what I perceived to be a "don't get stampeded or fall into the zig-zag death" aka "comfortable" pace.  I'd determined that 10:30/mile was the fastest possible outcome I could sustain throughout the whole race, but since I had no watch, I just tried to do what felt right.  I figured that once I was joined by my pacer, I should ask her to weigh in and let me know if I went below 11 min/mile.

I hit the 2 mile marker while the announcer called out 22:12 (they call out mile times via megaphones at all mile markers at Kaiser, it's seriously one of the most efficiently runner-oriented races in Northern California).  Since I had no watch, I had no idea when I'd started, but I felt I'd had at least a minute or so delay, so I figured I was in a reasonably decent spot given my goals.

Unfortunately, I'd missed my pacer (F).  She'd called around mile 1.6 or so and I answered (much to the annoyance of several runners around me).  We'd had a location mis-hap, she was at 1.5 miles, but I didn't realize it and had assured her I'd get to her soon.  I'd realized it too late (around 1.8) and called her back.  She hadn't answered.  So, I smiled after crossing the 2 mile mark feeling good and ran back across the panhandle, assuming I'd have to find her in person where she'd told me she was since her phone wasn't working.  Ahhh... there she was, actually, she was calling me, her phone did sort of work, just not when I called.  Also, we got cat-called by homeless folks -- they knew we weren't running the normal path, but I had a number.  Who knew that the 8:20 AM panhandle homeless had such strong feelings about race rule compliance???  Despite the yells, we ran back across the pan-handle, over the wet grass, and dropped back into the pack.

This experience finalized my laissez-faire attitude about my race time for the day.

In short, at this point, I knew I was just going to finish, and treat it as a good training run.  I'd already left my watch at home and had opted to run by feel.  F asked me a couple of times what my goal was and commented that I was, "easily beating it," but I kept on.  I felt good, but I was conservative and walked through water stations.  At one point, I stopped for a real bathroom with flush toilets (no line when I stopped, but when I exited, there were 5 ladies!! I got lucky!).  Essentially, I ran with a solid effort but enjoyed all the benefits of not being pressured by a time goal.

And then, around mile 8 or so, I hit a serious wall.  I needed to slow to take walk breaks.  F was a trooper and gently tried to speed up to keep me going and sub 11/mile as requested, but I told her I'd decided I didn't care.  We had some heartfelt chats about why we run and whether pushing ourselves is actually important.  And, truthfully, while I may have been waxing poetic about maybe never racing hard again, I will be forever grateful to F for joining me from 2ish to 12ish on this race, as without her I would have made a much less intense effort.

In the course of discussing why we run, we agreed that views and exposure to the location where we are (particularly if traveling) are a couple of the reasons.  Also, it was a beautiful day on the great highway.   So, I stopped to take a photo.  (So many surfers -- I always forget how many surfers actually surf on Ocean Beach!).

A beautiful beach day on Ocean Beach (from a water station)
The last few miles were tough. Having F there to pull me through was key.  As we discussed, once I know I'm nowhere near a respectable (to me) time goal, I tend to lose much of the incentive to push through the pain.  I'd rather be happy, healthy, and not struggling... finishing a slow half marathon on a beautiful day in a gorgeous city. 

Finally, after a very slow finish, but pleased with the overall result of 14+ miles of reasonable effort in a beautiful environment, I walked through the finish vendor chute and saw the discount for the Oakland Running Festival.  $15 off the half marathon?  Yeah, I'm registered.

So, I guess, Kaiser gets the credit for returning me to the place where I'm actually inspired to train. 7 weeks 'til Oakland and for the first time in a long time, I want to make a big effort over the next 7 weeks.  So, while it may appear that today was not a big deal, Kaiser (and F who stewarded me along) does get credit for this.

Also, brunch afterwards with running friends was so wonderful.  I feel so lucky to have found and bonded with all of the awesome local running blogger/twitter folks I've met over the last few years.  One of the ladies is moving to Oklahoma for family reasons in the coming year, and I am so sad to lose her -- she's not gone yet and I already feel the loss.

Running is a fascinating thing.  Today it allowed me to have almost 2 hours to catch up with a good friend who filled me in on many things in her life while she paced me (and slowed down when I hit the wall).  We know more about each other and we are closer than we would have been if today hadn't happened.  Today also allowed me to have a delicious high-end fancy-schmancy Richmond brunch with several folks including a couple I never would have otherwise met.

And, of course, today's running adventures allowed me to revisit my life, to remind myself that I am someone who loves to move and despite pushing 40 is healthy enough to finish 13.1 miles without significant debilitating pain, which is, of course, the ultimate privilege.

I am thankful.