August 31, 2015

Trying to speed it up

As my last post mentioned, I'm trying to focus on speed as I've got a 10K in 4 weeks (with a 4.9K tempo the week before).

Last week was a decent collection of some hot cross-training in the garden (I'm not kidding, 1.5 hour efforts of weeding, pruning, and harvesting in the sun are a total body workout), walking, a bit of jogging, and at least 20% hard effort, with the return to the track being the star of the show. 

Garden basil and tomatoes, E's grilled eggplant & burrata.

The day after track I went out for a 3 mile recovery run with a new friend from my local running group and was shocked to be reminded just how hard 11:30 pace can feel the day after speedwork.  Saturday's run turned into an hour walking on the phone with a good friend, followed by 3 miles walking to and from Brunch.  Sunday, I continued with the lazy weekend at home, waking up to plant myself on the couch, missing the local running group long run and finishing my book.  I'm not gonna lie:  it felt wonderful.

Unfortunately, I totally played myself as it had gotten much too hot by the time I finally set out.  My goal of at least 6 miles medium-easy quickly became 4.5 miles total of medium effort miles interspersed with some walking.   The weekly mileage total was 26.97 -- not great, but I would like to try to clear 30 for the next 3 weeks, so I'll need to find a way to step it up.

Despite the lack of serious running effort over the weekend, I had no guilt and easily enjoyed our date night out on Sunday night.

One of the best moriawase meals we've had in ages.
And now it's one of my favorite weeks of the year -- BURNING MAN.  When half of my clients and half of the people on the other sides of my deals are completely off work (which means I get a psuedo-vacation for free)!  My goal is to take advantage of this slow work week and get in a good easy effort medium/long run mid-week as well as a couple of speedier efforts and recovery runs.

August 26, 2015

Quick Running Update

Just because my once every 9 weeks yoga program has been working so well for me, I decided to head back to the track group after 28 weeks away.

It was a reverse ladder of 1200; 1000; 800; 400, 200 and 100.  I took it relatively easy because I knew there would be hell to pay, but I got a bit too excited on the 200 and 100, where I hit paces in the 6+ min/mile and 5+ min/mile range for the first time in, oh, probably at least 6 months.

My ass is so grumpy at me that it actually hurts to sit and work.

This update is now over.

August 25, 2015

Morning Memories of Prague

View of Prague from its mini-Eiffel tower.

I don't use an alarm clock, I just usually wake up at about the same time every day, and if I have an important morning commitment, I'll set an alarm, but I must store it in my subconscious while I sleep because in those cases, I typically wake up several times in the morning before the alarm.

I suspect this is why jet lag affects me much more strongly than E.  My body is fairly tightly tied to temporal patterns -- in fact, my internal clock is pretty damn good.  Most of the time, I can guess the time to within 5 minutes.

We got home on Sunday PM after 23 traveling hours.  I'd napped a bit on the plane, but was fairly tired, so I got almost a full night's sleep and woke for Monday's work day just a little groggy.  This morning, however, after going to bed around 10 PM, I woke at 3:30 AM and really couldn't get back to sleep.  I finally just got up at 4:30 AM and started taking advantage of the quiet time to be productive.

My plan is to head outside with my coffee and watch the sunrise.  In the meantime, let me tell you all about our weekend trip to the beautiful city of Prague.

Friday AM we got off to a bit of a rocky start, as I had some trouble finding the car rental location and for the first time in Germany, the English of the folks I asked for help wasn't good enough to get the job done.  I did my best to remind myself that travel always includes unplanned frustrations and logistical challenges, and eventually, after walking back to the hotel and getting a taxi to take us to the rental place, we were on the road.  Several hours of driving and sitting in traffic later, we crossed the border into the Czech Republic.  Immediately, all of the signs were completely indecipherable. 

The drive was gorgeous.  Tall spindly trees densely packed in woods where we imagined all the Grimm's tales taking place.
We checked into our hotel in time to enjoy dinner on its roof garden while watching the sun set.

Dinner View.
Later dinner view -- note the min-Eiffel tower.
The next day, we woke, enjoyed some cappuccinos and headed out for one of the best sight-seeing dates ever.  First we walked around the town near our hotel, visiting the Czech Senate courtyard and observing the craziness on the Charles Bridge from afar.

The protagonist in my most recent audiobook had raved about visiting the world's largest metronome in Prague and I was intrigued.  So we hiked up a hill and climbed many flights of stairs into a park and found it, as described.
That's a big metronome.

Ticking away in front of a skate park.
After enjoying the absurdity of the metronome, we wandered around the park a bit and found our way to a restaurant on the side of the hill with breathtaking views of the Vltava and Prague's many bridges near the old town.

Our unplanned lunch view.
I actually teared up a bit at lunch -- I couldn't completely believe that this was actually my life.  I was just so happy to be in such a wonderfully beautiful place, surrounded by various European languages, eating delicious food, and enjoying it all with E, who I love so very, very much.

Fortified with food, we walked to the old town and braved the crowds.  We were so glad we'd visited the metronome and restaurant first, as they had been calm and relatively uncrowded, whereas the old town and the Charles Bridge were a madhouse.

Old town square.

The oldest working astronomical clock in the world (since 1410).
We couldn't handle the crowds for too long, so we escaped back to the river and rented a paddleboat to paddle around and go under the Charles Bridge.

Paddle boats are surprisingly tiring. 

It really is a gorgeous bridge.
The paddleboat rental shop was also a bar, so after returning our boat, we relaxed at a table on the deck and sipped on big frothy mugs of czech beer to prepare us for crossing the Charles Bridge.  We made it.  Holding hands, single file through the crowds, with me leading because I will push people out of the way if necessary and E will not.

The second absurd sight I wanted to see was the Proudy (streams) mechanical statue by David Černý.  E indulged me.  Like the metronome, it was as described -- 2 men, with hips and penises that are articulated and peeing into a map of the czech republic.  Supposedly their piss streams write quotes from notable Prague residents.  Truly bizarre.  Fitting that it is in the courtyard of the Kafka museum.

After a short rest at the hotel, we headed out for our last big sight-seeing event of the day.  We hiked up yet another hill to the mini-Eiffel tower of Prague (The Petrin Lookout Tower).  Cleverly, the citizens of Prague decided they, too, could have a great view of their beautiful city from the top of a tower, like Paris.  But Prague has some large hills.  So, by placing the tower at the top of one of them, the lookout is very high, but the tower itself is relatively small (only 299 stairs to the top).

At the end of this awesome day full of sight-seeing and hiking (9 miles, including lots of stairs), we headed to an authentic czech food restaurant and enjoyed Pilsner Urquell with some wacky treats including pickled sausage and pickled camembert.  And finally, sadly, after a goodbye glass of wine enjoying the corner view, it was time to go to bed so we could start the long trip home.

Bonus -- Thanks to sightseeing runs and walks in Germany and Prague my weekly mileage was 38+.

August 22, 2015

Well Played, Heidelberg

View of the Old Bridge over the Neckar and some of the Old town from the funicular above the Castle.  So picturesque.
I was excited for our trip to Europe.  But, truth be told, the long flight with connections, the jet lag, and the reality that I'd be stuck in a hotel working while E was away at the conference all day during the work week meant that while I'd rather take the trip with E than stay home without him, Germany (where I don't love the food nor speak the language) didn't have me as beside myself as the last couple of Europe work trips.  I mean, no offense to Germany, but the last couple of Europe trips hadn't exactly stacked the deck fairly with Paris/Switzerland and Amsterdam/Barcelona.


Shows what I know.

The food was full of pleasant surprises.
German Cordon Blue.  Guy who ordered this is Southern.  He was in heaven.
Schweinebraten mit Semmelknodel und rotkraut.  You know, a light meal.  Not breaded and fried.
Spinatknodel (aka spinach and cheese dumplings -- umm, why didn't anyone tell me there were amazing German vegetarian delicious treats?)
In case you were worried that the stereotype of sausage everywhere wasn't true, I've added E's Currywurst lunch at a highway restaurant between Heidelberg and Prague.  Not pictured:  my lovely roast-vegetable and cheese open-faced sandwich.
Thanks to the slower work week, I was able to fit in several sight-seeing trips, including a half day of touristy fun with E.

Just an average sunset walk back to the hotel in this beautiful city.

View of the city from far above at the top of the funicular chain. 

Headed back down to town.
For lunch on our site-seeing day, we sat and enjoyed stereotypical German treats from the inside of a renaissance castle.

Heidelberg Castle

Just a delicious lunch of pretzels, kasespaetzle (German Mac&Cheese), bratwurst, and salad.  Mit Bier und Wein.
The gorgeous running trail along the Neckar with views of the Old Bridge.
 I fit in runs almost every day.  The street art was varied and impressive, although more often than not, in baffling English.
Seen on a run.

More adorable sights from a run.

Sunset from a roof garden restaurant.

So, first, I'd like to send a huge thank you to all of my clients who have been relatively quiet and calm this month of August.  I have no idea what's going on in the economy, but I sincerely appreciate the lack of pressure while traveling.  I found it very easy to complete all of my obligations in a couple of hours in the AM and another 2 or 3 hours in the evening.  The rest of my time was blissfully mine.

Next, I'd like to say that I had unfairly formed opinions of German food because I'd never really tried to find things that would cater more to my palette.  Turns out, in addition to deliciously fresh and authentic Italian and Greek and Middle Eastern food, Germany also offers some fabulous German foods I'd never given the time of day.  And I was wrong.

Finally, I'd like to thank the beautiful city of Heidelberg.  So walkable (note the jaunty walking man at the signals).  And so epically runnable along the river.
Love the jaunty little "time to walk" man.
Thanks, Heidelberg -- you did your job well.  Germany is now included in the multi-month European tour of my dreams.

August 17, 2015

And We're Off

The week was full of staying at home and doing things like laundry, stopping mail, and giving away most of the garden harvest in preparation for upcoming travel.  Turns out, when I'm singularly focused on minimizing the upcoming chaos and eliminating it entirely from the days before we leave, I have plenty of time to dedicate to walking and running.

Without any perceived effort, my mileage was over 30 for only the 10th time this year (30.53).  I also managed to get back into the yoga studio, which resulted in 3 days of ridiculous soreness.  Perhaps I'll be able to get back on the mat in less than 9 weeks next time and recovery won't be so painful. (A girl can dream...) 

Thanks to the local running club, I was introduced to a new running buddy and we put in a good low 10 min/mile getting-to-know-each-other 3 miler followed by some hill repeats Thursday AM -- this is *much* better than what I would have lazed my way through solo.  I'm looking forward to joining her for more runs whenever I'm home in the coming months.

Friday, after a short 2 miler, E and I took off for Europe.  We landed Saturday AM and somehow managed to push through until after 9 PM local time before heading to bed.

Pulling into Frankfurt main train station from the airport train
Our hotel -- The Steigenberger Frankfurter (Hbf)
I'd been to Frankfurt years ago to visit a friend who lived here, but I'd never really been as a tourist.  It's a very walkable and cool town.

That being said, between the foreign stuff and the jet lag, we had a bit of a surreal day.  Our hotel room wasn't ready when we checked in, so we walked around a bit, accidentally making our way through an apfelwein festival (which, in our punch-drunk state struck us as just about the most stereotypically German thing imaginable).

We opted out of the various apple and pork-tastic treats, opting instead for a pilsner and some people watching from outside the festival followed by a much needed late afternoon snack for E (I'd had breakfast on the plane) and coffee for both of us.

Apfelwein festival
From there, we walked around town a bit, puzzled by an explained parade, eventually ending up at an outdoor pub for a relaxing pint while watching soccer in German.  We stood in line for the tower, but the line wasn't moving and we were exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel, printed our tickets for the next day's train and headed out for an early dinner.

Unexplained parade

With Goethe, in Goetheplatz
The recommended restaurant wasn't open at 6, so we stopped for a glass of wine and were treated to a surprise musical performance.  Apparently, we were in town the same night as one-night bar hopping music party that was quite popular with bachelorette parties (where all the women dressed identically except for the bride), so that made for some extra fun and different people watching.  We lamented that we'd likely be asleep when the good stuff happened, but we agreed it wasn't worth it to try to stay up.

Random 6 piece band with vocalist and german rapper.
The dinner recommendation was totally worth waiting for -- I may not crave German food, but you know what Germany is close to?  Several countries whose food I love.  Like, Italy!

So, for our first meal out in Europe this trip, E and I enjoyed a deliciously authentic dinner of Northern Italian food, including the best octopus dish either of us have ever eaten, and wonderfully tender and perfectly sauced homemade pasta.  The servers and owner and I were all equally thrilled that when it was obvious that we didn't speak German, everyone agreed that we'd prefer Italian instead of English.

They even comped each of us an extra glass of wine when I explained that the only reason we weren't having espresso after our meal was that we really needed to go back to the hotel and sleep, as we'd only just arrived that morning.

Unfortunately, even with the wine, neither of us slept particularly well, and I woke Sunday AM with a horrid headache.  Gamely, I headed to the gym around 9 AM to try to shock my body into waking up, but eventually after a fairly lame workout, I had to admit that either I'd forgotten just how much jet lag sucks, or getting older *really* sucks, and my jet lag is getting worse with age.

At noon or so, E and I boarded our train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg and, because we love us some European train travel, we were amused to find that the German version was slightly different from our French/Swiss train adventure.  There was no ticket drama, as the tickets could be printed from the website with a scan code that just worked on the train.  The barcar payment system also had no problems, and, in keeping with stereotypes, it had several beers on tap as well as revelers clinking their glasses with "Proust" in their VfB Stuttgart scarves on their way to a game.  Unfortunately, unlike the French train, we'd miscalculated as this train was out of food -- oh well, you can't win them all.

We arrived in Heidelberg to check in to yet another hotel where our room wasn't ready, so we did some walking in the rain to a delicious late lunch of Indian food. 

That's a mountain with foggy clouds and rain.  Happy August!

One of E's speaking engagements was at 5 PM on Sunday, so we walked through the stereotypical German modern industrial city to the youth hostel that was hosting the conference.

First time he's given a presentation at a youth hostel.
Footbridge across the Neckar River (E's commute)
Exhausted, we went out to dinner with some other folks from E's company in the old town.  Again delicious Italian, but this time in the Tuscan style.

Castle in the background, as seen from an old town square.  Lovely to walk around and enjoy the views.
We took a taxi to dinner but in our jet lagged state couldn't really manage to find one to get back.  We also moved too slowly to catch the bus, comedically noting its approach while looking at the map at the stop, yet somehow none of us was assertive enough to flag it down.  So we walked along the river for about 2 miles back to the hotel before finally collapsing into a deep and wonderous jet-lag killing sleep.

Today, I woke bright-eyed and headache free.  I'm looking forward to getting in some good runs, walks, and hikes this week!

August 10, 2015

Family Fun

Yet Another Delicious Tomato-heavy Summer Dinner
Sister came to visit with my niece and nephew last week.  They are so adorable.  I would post a picture to show you just how adorable they are, but she is very careful about rarely publishing her children's photos online and asking friends and family to do the same, so I can't.

For work, so far, this August is *slow*.  Like crazy slow.  Since the beginning of the month, I've been getting roughly the same amount of emails in a full workday that I received in each day's busiest work hour in June (last month of the quarter).  

I'm not complaining.  It's been several years of full throttle work and it's nice to have an unexpected break.  It's not even the week before Labor Day yet! (A large percentage of my clients or opposing folks on deals go to Burning Man, so I can always count on a slow week prior to Labor Day.)

On the running front, this week was nothing impressive.  I continue to struggle to find time to fit it in and/or be motivated, but I cleared the doctor-approved minimum of 20 miles for a total of 24.74 miles, with much walking.  In terms of high-effort, there wasn't much, but I did huff and puff my way through a 3 miler with Sister while she pushed her 40 lb 4 year-old and 20 lb toddler in the double jogging stroller.  She ditched me on her way up one of the hills for an extra effort -- I'm blaming it on the fact that she's 6 years younger...  When I caught up, I offered to let her go ahead to finish at a faster clip, but she said, "No way!  How often do I get to run with my sister?  I'm sticking with you."  Sister is right -- time with family when you live far away is *way* more important that having the best workout you could on any given day.  

In that theme, I traded in my planned Sunday AM 9 miler out to the cemetery to visit Dad for a 1.84 mile walk around the neighborhood with Mom.

E and I went back to my home town on Saturday to have a celebratory birthday dinner with Mom and Brother.  We went to Peruvian food and it was delicious -- Mmmmmm... ceviche.  On our drive home, a childhood friend and her husband waved us down on the street (literally, an arm hanging out of the window while they passed us honking).  So they came over to Brother's and we all caught up.  It was such an unexpected and wonderful surprise -- I see them a couple times a year, but it had been 9 years since Mom had seen them and at least 2 or 3 years since Brother had seen them.  After the late night, I slept in and opted to walk and talk with Mom instead of going for a run -- It was definitely the right decision.

Overall, it was a great Summer week.  It's been a long time since I've seen Brother, Mother, and Sister in the same week.  Actually, it had been a year since last year's Summer celebratory dinner (where we were all together as opposed to this year, when it was in the same week, but not all together).  I wish we all lived closer.  

August 3, 2015

The first week

I had a birthday last week.  It was a fairly important one.

It put me in a pensive mode.

I've been thinking about aging, and life, and my goals, and whether I'm happy with where I am.  The first week of a new year in my life.  Firmly in or on the cusp of what they call "middle age."  In general, I've decided I'm actually quite happy.  Happier than I have any right to be.  When I think about the millions of potential lives I could have been born into and lived, I feel very, very grateful for this one.

E made dinner for my birthday -- Caprese from our garden with truffle oil and caviar.

My Junior Attorney took me out for Persian food lunch.  So delicious!

The almost blue moon view from our Thursday night gathering of friends who come to us and BBQ was gorgeous.

A college girlfriend invited myself and another college girlfriend over for deviled eggs and farm fun.  It had been 17 years since the three of us had last seen each other.

The host has gorgeous chickens.

Her egg storage had over 300 eggs.  We barely made a dent.

Baby Goats are the cutest things!
In my pensive state, I didn't do much high effort running last week.  Total mileage for the week was 26.38, most of it walking, although I did fit in a 2 mile run with E, which is always a bit more high effort than I expect since his legs are so much longer than mine.  I did a bit of gardening and quite a bit of enjoying healthy food at home.  The lack of running effort is about to change, as my spreadsheet informs me that it's now 7 weeks to my target 10K -- so, there will be *some* quality workouts in the coming weeks, if only out of necessity.

And with that, 1 week of a new year of my life is done.  Voila.