September 27, 2015

Lunar Eclipse

How cool is this?
Lunar Eclipse from our yard.

It was overcast at the start but cleared up towards the end.  So cool

Today's 10K? Meh.

Today, I ran the Rock 'n Roll San Jose 10K.

It was fine.  Not great.  But I finished.  Any time you finish a race, I think you have to acknowledge that it's a good thing.  So Yay! 

I took the first mile by effort and finished in 9:24.  Things Looked good.  It wasn't actually as hot as I'd worried it would be.  I figured I'd slow a bit over the miles, but hoped to cross the finish line with a sub-10 min/mile average pace.

Mile 2 was 10:04.  Not great, but I wasn't pushing it or even looking at my Garmin except at the mile splits, so I wasn't too concerned.  I figured I just needed to increase my effort level.

Mile 3 I walked through the water station, and afterwards, I started looking at my Garmin, trying to pick up the pace to compensate for the break.  While I did get the pace to decrease over the course of the mile, I failed to get it below 10 minutes. (10:28 including the water walk break). 

At this point, I figured anything sub-10 min/mile average was the goal where I should focus.


Except, my belly was not on board with this plan.  I needed a porta-john, and there weren't any at any point in Mile 4 (10:46).

The situation was getting dire, and I was very uncomfortable.  After the Mile 4 marker, I did 0.22 painful miles at a struggling pace of 11:29/mile until I finally saw a porta-john.

I stopped, and stood in a line of about 10 people who I assume were all wondering (like me) what the HELL happened with the lack of toilets on Mile 4.

5 minutes and 44 seconds later, my heart rate had slowed, my legs had cooled down, and I was back on the course, trying to rally.

I had visions of busting out 2 hard miles at full effort.  Instead, I put up a 10:15 mile followed by a 10:41 mile. 

Thanks to the long stop, there was no one running near me for those last 2 miles that was anything close to my pace.  And, I just couldn't motivate to go any faster.  I was passing people consistently the entire time (and was being passed by the leaders of the half marathon blazing in the lane to my right on their final mile), but I couldn't seem to find a way to pass the folks in my lane *faster*.

Oh well.  It was a solid run (AVG 10:18/mile for the running portions says the Garmin).  Certainly a good workout. 

Total mileage for the week was a good 33.4 (including some hiking and trail running with local bay area runners at a park on Saturday followed by a delicious brunch).  I'm looking forward to my next 10K, which is a trail run.     

September 24, 2015

2015 Books Read, Part II

Books 1-14 for the year are here.  The next 15 are below.

Boys In The Boat
Daniel James Brown
Book club book.  Very interesting insight into the reality of the dust bowl and the Depression as it affected those in the pacific northwest.  A feel-good tale of hard work and perserverence.  Excellent way to learn a bit about rowing, crew, the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and the propaganda machine of Hitler.  If you like real-life feel-good sports stories, this one is a great member of the cannon.
Grimm — Children's and Household Tales
Lucy Crane Translation from the Original German with Walter Crane illustrations
First required reading for the online Sci-Fi and Fantasy course I deluded myself into thinking I had time to complete.  A bit repetitive, but overall, fun to see the origins of many of the tales that Americans learn in their kinder-gentler versions.
The Human Division
John Scalzi
An impressive serial novel.  If you care about the complexities of building coherent characters and worlds, this will impress you.  If you aren't a Scalzi fan before you read this and this doesn't convert you into one, you should probably call it a day with him, as I feel this book is a collection of some of his greatest tricks, which for me, was very fun and entertaining.  If it wasn't for you, you probably just don't really enjoy this guy’s writing, and that's fine too.
The Atrocity Archives
Charles Stross
Sequel to the Jennifer Morgue, in the Laundry Files.  Similar in style -- fast, geeky, otherworldly, fun, and a bit hard to follow at times, but in a stretch-your-imagination kind of way.
Daisy Miller
Henry James
A 58-page novella, much discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I read it to help round out the books discussed in RLIT.  Historically, it's an interesting piece of writing, putting the difference between the individuality of America vs. the conformity to society of Europe at the time in sharp contrast.  As promised, the sentences were long and convoluted, but they worked.  This one is an example of a book I read for book club that makes me feel more educated and well read, primarily because it has great historical context and I doubt I would have picked it up on my own.
Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
If you know Cory Doctorow's philosophy, this story will fit neatly into your understanding of his position on the world.  Book club book.  Enjoyable.
Charles Stross
A fascinating, but very difficult to follow thought experiment with many forks.  Uploaded consciousness, humanity, space travel, and post-human consciousness.  Very enjoyable for me, but it would not be something I'd recommend to folks who are on the fence about sci-fi.  I think I'll likely re-visit in a year or two.  I really enjoyed it, it was just very difficult work to maintain connection to anything that was happening... it's running quickly and confusingly and you're just along for the ride.
Off To Be The Wizard
Scott Meyer
This was a gift from my sister-in-law and she knows me well.  It was a fun concept.  Essentially, a programmer finds the master file that governs all human life and manipulates it to his own benefit until law enforcement catches up with him.  He then banishes himself into medieval England and lives as a wizard.  Adventures ensue.  Simplicistic writing -- at times it felt like it had to be a Young Adult book, but it's well executed and great light brain candy.  FWIW, E found the writing annoying enough that he had no interest in finishing the series, so I moved to audiobooks for the last 2.
Find the Good
Heather Lende
Sappy?  Yes.  A bit.  But still worth it for the wonderful life lessons and glass-half-full perspective of a small-town Alaskan obituary writer.  A gift from a friend that I will re-gift soon.
The Peace War
Vernor Vinge
Unmistakenly Vinge.  Time travel.  Political power and intrigue built around fundamental humanity/singularity/consciousness conflicts that make you think hard about what it means to be alive and human.  Linguistic head nods to Chinese and Spanish that call out his time in California in a way that make this multi-generational Californian smile with recognition.  Unlike many hard sci-fi writers of his era, his writing is so impressively inclusive, strong characters appear in both genders, multiple sexual orientations, every racial identity (although that concept is stretched imaginatively), and more.  Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the concept of "bobbling" and the thought experiment it allowed in his book as well as the one it forced me to engage in.  If you love hard sci-fi, this book is a must-read for you.  If you like the idea of hard sci-fi, but struggle with the history of the overtly alpha white male perspective voice, this book is a great option to show that just because the author is a white male born in the 40s doesn't mean he can't imagine and write great characters and plot lines well outside of his experience (which, frankly, is the whole point of speculative fiction, and so I don't really get the whole Puppy drama at this year's Hugo Awards, but that's neither here not there).
The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
3nd in the Laundry Series -- fast paced bond-like, other worldly, math = interstellar magic-science fun.  Very enjoyable and a perfect beach read.
Flash Boys
Michael Lewis
I love me some Michael Lewis.  He can simultaneously educate and entertain like no other.  Suffice it to say that Wall Street is Fucked Up.  And there was a brief time in the last decade before some honest brave folks stepped up where it was even *more* fucked up.  Of course, the fact that it's openly discussed likely means that the current reality is much worse, but even so, this should be required reading for anyone who espouses that "the efficient markets will take care of it."  Turns out, fairness and efficiency aren't in the best interests of those who can exploit inefficiencies.  They'll "take care" of it all right...
Marooned in Realtime
Vernor Vinge
Sequel to the Peace War.  Very well done and enjoyable.  Predictably thought provoking about how to manage society in  a future where technology is so different and yet survival and human political and personal needs are still so very much the same.
Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.  I put it in the "good like vitamins" category of reading that we select for book club: Something that will be good for me, expand my horizons, make me better educated, etc.  But it's a *good* story.  It moves well.  It entertains.  Interestingly, while I didn't love the character of Mr. Rochester, I found myself deeply disliking Mr. St. John.  It would appear that I am willing to forgive quite a bit for romantic love, and not so much for a harsh and unfeeling religious conviction.
Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
The story of "Bertha" -- one of the major plot devices in Jane Eyre.  A completely different writing style, a totally different backdrop, and a very different portrayal of Mr. Rochester than Jane Eyre.  Fun to read and discuss with book club in connection with Jane Eyre.

September 19, 2015

An Actual Race Report!

Today, E and I ran the 49ers Rush, a 4.9K race.

The night before, we went out for Mexican food and margaritas.  Our favorite local Mexican restaurant is closing (moving, but closing the location where its been for 24 years, down the street from our house and regularly visited by us for 12 years).  Going and visiting one last time (or perhaps the 2nd to the last time -- we'll see how this week goes) was too important to let pre-race nutrition get in the way.

So, we woke sort-of prepared at 7 AM on Saturday, enjoyed some coffee, and drove to the new Levi Stadium.  Neither of us had seen it before, so that made the day a bit more fun as well.

I was hopeful that the speed intervals and heat training in LA would put me in a decent spot, but honestly, I didn't totally know what to expect, fitness-wise, as it's been a very long time since I actually *raced* a race.

The last several races I've participated in, I've just done them to get them done.  I haven't really pushed myself to the edge of my fitness since The Oakland Half Marathon, but pacing well through a half is very different than pushing on a shorter race.

Based on my speed intervals in Venice and what I perceived to be my general fitness, I decided I should shoot for sub-30 as a very doable goal (even with the crowds, stairs into the stadium, ridiculous numbers of turns, and walkers and unpredictable families/groups).  I told E I'd be thrilled with anything sub-28.

There were 3 start waves, but no enforcement, and by the time we went to line up, wave 1 was packed elbow-to-elbow with many folks who looked like they'd probably be walking a least a little bit.

We opted into wave 2, and watched wave 1 head out.  About 10 minutes later, they started wave 2.

Or rather, they tried to start wave 2.

There were drummers and cheerleaders and the announcer worked up the crowd, letting us know we would be starting soon, shouting 5-4-3-2-1, and then blowing his referee's whistle into the microphone (just like what he'd done for wave 1).

For some reason *all* of the people lined up on the front of the start line didn't go on the whistle.  The rest of the crowd leaned forward yelling, "Go!!!!" and finally, they went and we were off.

I'd angled for a position near the start, and I took off faster than I otherwise would with a goal of maneuvering through the folks who'd lined up at the start but were likely going to jog or walk rather than run.  After about 200 meters, E and I were in the first 20 folks or so of our wave and we hung on to that position for the first mile.  It was quite fun to look at hundreds of folks stretched out behind us as we headed back towards the stadium.  I'd never been that close to the "leaders" in a big race, ever.

E asked me for our pace at around 0.8 miles and I found myself surprised to report that we were on track for an 8:44 mile.  My effort was where I wanted it for a 5K, but I'd expected to be closer to 9:20/mile or so.  This was good stuff.

Did I mention it was cool this AM?  Thank you LA heat training!

We hit the Mile 1 marker at 0.95 miles on my Garmin and I assumed the course would likely be short.  Mile 2 slowed us down significantly as we starting needing to weave through the walkers from wave one (also, I was fairly certain there wasn't really any way I could sustain the 8:44/mile pace my Garmin claimed we hit for mile 1).

I told E I wanted to walk up the stairs into the stadium rather than run them, and he slowed to stay with me.  At the top, we passed the Mile 2 marker but my Garmin said it was 1.85 miles.  At this point, we entered the covered main concourse, so my Garmin wasn't super useful -- after a few minutes under the cover, it claimed we hit mile 2 at 18:45, which seems a little slow, but possibly correct.

For the last "mile", E paced a few steps in front of me until we turned the last corner into the stadium after the switchback down ramps.  He took off like crazy towards the finish and I kicked up my effort a bit, but not so much as to pass an adorable little girl of 6 or so, whose father encouraged, "See the Finish Line?  Give it all you've got!"  She was sped up to a speedy pace, passing folks on her way in, and while I could have (probably?) passed her, it seemed like a silly thing to try to do.

I crossed the finish line and my Garmin claims it was 2.61 miles in 25:59.30 (9:58/mile pace).  If the course was a true 4.9K, that would be an 8:33/mile average pace, which would be awesome, but I'm not buying it.

So, I blew by my sub-28 minute goal.  But, based on the mile marker placement at 1 and 2, I'm assuming the course was short.  I don't think it was *as* short at my Garmin said due to the covered portion, but I do think I slowed a bit after that blazing (for me) first mile.  So, I'm going to split the difference and assume the course was around 2.8 miles, which puts me at a 9:17/mile average pace.

Overall, I'm very happy (particularly because E enjoyed himself so much that on the way home he said, "We should try to run more local 5Ks."). 

It was fun to remember how good it feels to actually race, to see the new stadium, to finish on this year's Super Bowl field, and to spend the morning running with E.  Also, I'm very pleased to learn that I actually did make some fitness gains in the last few weeks, despite all of the travel.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how things play out in next week's 10K.

September 14, 2015

A Real Running Week!

Oh, such a happy post.

Last week, E and I were working from Venice, California.

Every morning except two, I woke and headed out to run on this gorgeous beach path.

Unsurprisingly, the venue did wonders for my running motivation.  The weekly mileage total? 28.7.  But more impressive, most of the workouts were quality in one form or another.  Unlike many of my previous weeks, very little of the mileage was walking.

Instead, I did 5 miles sub 10 min/mile, plus two workouts with intervals totaling 13X2:00hard/2:00recover intervals with the fast bits in the 9s or 8s/mile.

I also did the slowest 7 miler *ever* averaging 12:32/mile, but in my defense, I had to stop at every public beach bathroom and take a drink from the water fountain and use the shower to get some water on my head.  LA was in a heat wave, and I was in direct sun with no shade at 90F by 9:30 AM, which I hadn't intended.

I took today off my feet, opting to cycle on a recumbent bike whilst reading Jane Eyre to try to finish it before the book club.  I suspect my running may be on hiatus until book club on Wednesday.  Even so, I'm excited about last week's efforts and the likely benefits of the speed and heat training.

September 8, 2015

California Dreaming

Last week was split 4 days in San Francisco, 1 day at home, and a weekend in Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is HUGE
Thanks primarily to the client meetings in San Francisco, where I walked miles every day in addition to my scheduled runs, I had my biggest mileage week of the year -- 44.73 miles!  Running mileage totaled 20ish, including some speed intervals and a 5 miler with a good friend along the Venice beach path.  

Other than work being mellow and allowing me to very enjoyably split my time between two of the most beautiful cities in California, I have very little to report.  We had a great time hanging out with our SoCal friends this weekend and we ate wonderful food both in SF and in Venice.

Part of the spread at the SoCal BBQ.
My goal for this week is simple -- do my best to keep the mileage numbers somewhat in the same range as last week.