August 27, 2017

Post Eclipse -- First Real Week Back Home (SJRNR week -6)

I will never forget Monday's eclipse viewing.  I teared up.  Surrounded by 10,000 people including E's extended family, I reached out and held E's hand while we watched the shadow of the moon black out the sun.  I took pictures that did absolutely no justice to the beauty observed by my eyes (much like the video above).

Everything in my own daily world seemed a little less serious and important after the eclipse. And, I enjoyed the change in perspective.

Tuesday AM, I got up and headed out for a solo repeat of the hilly mountain loop: 3.14 miles @ 15:14/mile pace with >500ft of climb -- BUT, I was stopped by a local landowner on whose trails I was running for a few minutes of solar eclipse discussion, so the pace was actually much better than this.

We flew home and the bay area weather was GLORIOUS after the heat and humidity of the South.  Work is slowly ramping up, but not too quickly, which is nice, as I've also been focused on clearing family issues, home/yard stuff, and just generally crossing things off the todo list that I'd pretended didn't exist during the Sabbatical.  The week's work consisted of bringing on a few new clients, some meetings, some calls, and a few heads down legal projects.

Wednesday, I joined the track club for a nice workout in the overcast easy Californian weather: 
2 X (2X300/100 RI; 800) @ 8:04; 8:59; 9:12; 8:22; 8:54; 9:29 per mile paces.  Total mileage: 3.2.  This workout was perfect -- I was tired, but I could muster up 3.2 miles with local friends at the track, and I felt it the next day in a good way.

Thursday, 1.38 walk.  We hosted a BBQ and enjoyed hanging out with 20+ friends for the evening.  I should have gone out for an easy run, but couldn't motivate myself.

Friday, I woke up early and headed out for 6 easy solo at 12:15/mile.  Then, I packed up and went to SF for a day of client meetings, followed by some work at home and dinner at a friends' home 'til 10 PM.  I am slowly getting reintegrated into my old life, and fully-packed days like this are a perfect reminder of how wonderful it is.  

Saturday, I did a strength interval workout. 1 jog w/u; 3X 0.5 miles/3min R/I (Paces - 9:34; 9:49; 9:57); 1X0.27miles (10:52); 1 jog c/d.  I'd thought I could string 4 of the half miles together with the 3 minute walking recovery, but I was clearly wrong, so I called the last interval short.

Saturday was an awesome day of nothing planned.  It was probably the first day where we really felt like we were truly settled at home.  Enough of the must-do stuff has been handled that we were able to go out to a leisurely post-run brunch in perfect weather and just people watch.  Then I did an afternoon of 2016 tax cleanup.  I could have put it off 'til Sunday or sometime next week, but I poured myself some bribery wine and dug in.  I got most of the income entered and *HURRAH* it looks like I was overly conservative on my estimated tax payments, so we should be getting a refund.  After patting myself on the back for doing the tax work, I rewarded myself by cooking one of our favorite dinners.

Home-cooked Saturday night dinner outside -- gazpacho and mushroom risotto.
Sunday: 3.26 @ 11:50, stop at the restrooms; 3.31 back with a friend and her son, run-walking @ 16:49, including 4X30+ second sprints at sub 8/mile pace.

A solid week:  27.9 miles.  6 weeks left 'til RNR SJ, and I'm happy with where I am.  I'm looking forward to next weekend's 10K race to kick me in the butt and give me a better idea of my racing fitness.

August 20, 2017

Wreck Diving on South Carolina's Coast (RNR San Jose Week -7)

Monday is a rest day on my current "training" plan.  Which was good, because E and I had a long day of flying from Montreal to LaGuardia, a layover, then a flight to Charleston, and finally a 2 hour drive to North Myrtle Beach before an early bed time.

North Myrtle Beach Coast
The plan for this week was to pray for good weather and hopefully get in some wreck diving off the coast in the mornings, followed by work in the afternoons.  Then, Saturday, we would drive to North Georgia where we'd been enlisted to volunteer at the Rabun County, Georgia total eclipse event.

Our weather/sea prayers were answered and we did 3 consecutive days of wonderful wreck diving.  The only downside was that we had to get up very early to be on the boat by 6:30 AM each day.  By the time we returned from our dives, we were completely physically exhausted, but we were able to fit in some work before early bedtimes each day.

The 78F Atlantic coastal water feels quite warm, but even with a wetsuit, you expend a ton of energy keeping your body at 98.6F while under the water.  It's actually quite bizarre -- if you are having a good dive and relaxed with good buoyancy, your breathing is very slow and you don't feel like you are doing anything remotely physically demanding.  And yet, by the time we were back on land each day, after pre-departure gear prep, 2.5+ hours of boat time (including heavy gear management), and 1 hour+ underwater over 2 dives, we were completely shot.  The boat time contributes to exhaustion because your brain actually has to work fairly hard to keep you from getting sea sick when out at sea.  Also, it was insanely hot and humid most days, with a heat index around 100F, which also contributed to the tiredness.

This was my first time scuba diving without a dive guide and I was fairly apprehensive.  It was going to be just me and E as buddies, and we hadn't been at any of these sites before -- I asked him to manage the dive computer and act as the lead diver as I knew he was much more comfortable than I was with scuba. 

Fried Vegetable Plate -- back in the South!
My first dive was actually pretty terrible.  About 1 minute before my roll-off, someone on the crew noted that my BCD had an integrated weight system, and they just ripped off my weight belt, removed the weights and threw them in to the integrated weight system.  I'd never used one of those before and I was trying to process how it all worked while they shuffled me to the side of the boat and had me roll in backwards over the side.  Once in the water, it became clear that my regulator made a scary groaning noise with each exhale, and it felt difficult to exhale through it while above water. 

Finally, I calmed down enough to try to descend only to realize that I was too underweighted to descend properly and had to ask the boat crew to swim more weight out to me.  Then, after E and I successfully descended down the down line to the anchor line, my mask didn't fit properly.  I tried to clear it several times as we followed the anchor line to the wreck, but it wasn't working.  Eventually, once we were at the wreck, I freaked out a bit, ripped off my mask completely, repositioned it and tried to clear it completely, but only got it halfway clear.  E was a saint, and motioned a slow calm easy clear of his mask with proper hand placement and I mimicked him to finally get it clear.  I spent the rest of the dive breathing hard from stress and clearing my mask constantly, *but* we stayed together, executed the dive according to plan, saw lots of cool fish and enjoyed the historical wreck of the Sherman

Myrtle Beach Strand

We ascended together, did a surreal safety stop surrounded by huge curious barracudas just hanging out and watching us from about 3 feet away.  We reboarded the boat, did our surface interval, I swapped out my mask for a different one that worked, and returned to the water for a much more relaxed second dive on the same site (my air consumption is still *super* variable -- when stressed out like on the first dive, I probably consume at 1.5X E's rate, but on the second dive, I ascended with 20% more air left in my tank than E). 

The remaining 4 dives of the trip were easy and fun (2 at Barracuda Alley and 2 at the Charleston Tug).  On the last dive, E and I penetrated the wreck and swam around various compartments several times -- if you had told me that by the end of our South Carolina diving I'd be comfortable enough on unguided dives to do wreck penetration, I would have laughed.  And yet, here I am.  It's a huge increase in my diving confidence to have 6 unguided ocean dives in my dive log.

Unfortunately, running didn't happen on any of the dive days.  Between the physical exhaustion and the afternoon heat, it didn't seem like a good idea.  Even without any running, we were having trouble staying awake past 9:30 PM.

Mornings were clear for diving, but afternoons were often thunderstorms.

On Friday, our fist non-diving day, I headed out with a goal of doing 6 easy miles.  Nope.  At 8 AM it was 86F and 95% humidity and after 2 slow miles (AVG 12:12/mile), I had to stop to walk to avoid overheating.  I turned around and did 30s hard (AVG 9:00ish/mile), 90s walk intervals back for a total of 4 miles, followed by a lovely ocean wading cooldown.

Saturday, I woke at 6:20 to head out earlier with the goal of 3 easy miles in the South Carolina heat and humdity.  Success.  Even if slow (AVG 12:26/mile).

Sunday AM, I woke in the mountains of North Georgia to glorious cool temperatures in the 70s and very low humidity.  I enjoyed a solid 3.14 mile loop (AVG 14:22/mile) through the steep mountain hills (elevation gain: 467ft) with S, chatting away, happy to run in such lovely conditions with a friend.

Weekly mileage: 10.14 running.  Another 5ish walking.  Very much a down week, but based on historical efforts on the mountain loop vs today, it feels like my fitness is heading in the right direction, nonetheless.

August 19, 2017

Sabbatical Data Part 2: Lodging Costs and Travel Tricks

If you are taking a year off work to travel, one of your biggest issues is likely minimizing costs.  And, one of the biggest costs of life (regardless of location) is the price of lodging.  So, I did everything I could to minimize these costs (while occasionally splurging because it was, after all, our big Sabbatical year, and some opportunities may never present themselves again).

Hard data:  we paid an average of $68.12 per night for lodging for the year.  That's a total of $25,477.26 for two people for the year+ (374 nights), spread over 25 countries of varying socioeconomic situations.

If we eliminate the 7 night live-aboard boat trip in the Galapagos, our average nightly cost for the year is $56.78.  The Galapagos was, no doubt, our biggest splurge, but there were a few others, and I'm confident that we could have subbed out one or two locations to replace some of the more expensive lodging with more reasonably priced options to get the average nightly lodging cost down below $50/night for 2 people ($18,250 for 2 for the year).

If you wanted to, you could push this number *much* lower. When not staying with friends or family for free, we always opted for a private room with its own bathroom (except in Iceland, where in-room bathrooms were too expensive).  There are many places in the world where you could spend significantly less than $68.12 per night for very safe and comfortable lodging for 2 with an in-room bathroom (we visited many of them).  And, of course, if you are willing to stay in rooms with shared bathrooms, or dormitory style shared sleeping areas with beds, you could definitely spend less.

So, how did we get to these numbers?

1. Stayed with Friends and Family. We intended to do this as much as possible, and we did.  In total, we spent 107 nights of the year with friends and family who offered to put us up for free (or dinner, or whatever).  Essentially, if you were our friend or family and had let us know you had a place for us to sleep, we did our best to route our travels near you to take advantage.  This came with all sorts of benefits we weren't expecting.  First, we went to a bunch of places we wouldn't have otherwise gone.  Second, you get to know people (and their children) on a level that is unique when you are in their living space.  So many of our friends and family welcomed us into their homes and as a result we became so much closer with them by observing, in situ, their realities.  The flexibility required by unplanned travel is *ideal* for staying with friends and family.  We were so not our typical American working selves -- no real expectations or needs around timing, just a general sense that maybe something like food or laundry or a shower should happen in the next 12 hours or so.  This made us very easy to insert into all sorts of friends' and family's lives and focus on what we could do to have fun with them in a manner that didn't disrupt their daily routines.  It was awesome.

2. Hyatt Points.  For several years prior to the Sabbatical year, I'd been playing the hotel, airline, credit card points/miles game -- I enjoy it the way people enjoy gambling -- I like to play against the house.  For the year of travel, I'd saved up and we maximized like crazy. 

First, I have a Hyatt credit card for my business.  For many years, I charged as many of my business expenses as possible on it, earning Hyatt points for each purchase.  Also, whenever I have to travel for work, I try to stay in Hyatts.  And, finally, when traveling for personal reasons, I also try to stay in Hyatts. 

So, the Sabbatical year, we spent quite a few nights at Hyatts, spending points and earning points to try to maintain my Diamond/Globalist status (which comes with several perks like late checkout up to 4 PM and free access to Hyatt Clubs on properties that have them - where you can eat dinner and breakfast for free, plus enjoy free non-alcoholic drinks all day, and free/discounted alcoholic drinks during a happy hour in the evenings).  All told, we spent 56 nights in Hyatts this year and we paid an average price per night of $79.29, which is much less than the average price we spent per night for non-friend&family lodging of $95.42.  Plus, our Hyatt nights tended to be luxurious breaks from more adventurous budget travel as they typically had amenities like free bottled water, fancy in-room coffee, a full gym, pool, hot tub, and, of course, the higher end properties had amazing views, locations, and Hyatt Clubs that we full utilized.

3 Nights - Calgary Hyatt Regency - $76 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Chicago Hyatt Regency - $100 + points (discounted points+cash rate, plus a free suite upgrade).
3 Nights - Cleveland Hyatt Regency - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night  -  Pittsburg Hyatt House - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Toronto Hyatt Regency - $84.80 + points for 1 points+cash night.  1 free night on points.
1 Night  -  Portland Old Port Hyatt Place - $81.75 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Raleigh Hyatt Place - $50 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Park Hyatt Mendoza - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night  - Hyatt Regency San Francisco - $269 full rate.
1 Night  - Hyatt Place San Jose - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Grand Hyatt Seoul - $181 full rate.
1 Night  - Park Hyatt Busan - $97 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Park Hyatt Taipei - $118 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Manila City of Dreams - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Singapore Grand Hyatt - $143.46 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Kuala Lumpur Grand Hyatt - $94.16 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
4 Nights - Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort - $50 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Ho Chi Min Park Hyatt - $100 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Osaka Hyatt Regency - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Fukuoka Hyatt Regency - $110 average per night (1 full rate, one discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Hyatt Regency Tokyo - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Hyatt Place Memphis - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night   - Nashville Hyatt Place - $177.65 full rate.
2 Nights - Hyatt Centric NOLA - $157.44 full rate.
1 Night - Hyatt House Dallas - $56 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night - Hyatt Place Santa Fe - Free, entirely on points
1 Night - Tamaya Resort Hyatt Regency, New Mexico - Free, entirely on points
1 Night - Hyatt Pinon Point, Sedona, Arizon - $226.45 full rate.
1 Night - Luxor, Las Vegas (MGM and Hyatt are partners) - $106.47 full rate

3. Chase Points.  The year prior to the Sabbatical, I'd been watching credit card incentive offers to try to find a travel card that would be a good main card to use for most of our Sabbatical spending.  When Chase released the Sapphire Reserve Card, it was the most successful incentive credit card release in the history of the field.  The benefits were beyond anything I'd ever seen before and I joined as soon as I could.  After spending some initial amount on the card, I received 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points, plus I was earning points on every purchase we made with the card.  Chase Ultimate reward points are redeemable for flights (which I did a few times) as well as car rental (also took advantage) and hotel reservations.  All told, we enjoyed 14 nights of free lodging thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and Chase Ultimate Reward Points.

2 Nights - San Sebastien Legazpi Doce - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Eurostars Palermo, Sicily - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  NH Catania, Sicily - Free, entirely on points.
5 Nights - Maritim Antonine, Malta - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Hotel Alexandra, Copenhagen - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Baymont Inn & Suites Amarillo, TX - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  The Big Chile Inn, Las Cruces, NM - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Wyndham Green Valley Canoa Ranch Resort - Free, entirely on points.

4. Starwood Points.  I have a Starwood Amex for my business as well.  I use it to stay at Starwood properties for business travel when Hyatts aren't available.  I had a few points left from the sign-up bonus, plus some others built up from travel and partnerships Starwood has with folks like Delta and Hertz before we left.  So, when our travels put us in locations where it made sense to use the points and/or pay for Starwood properties to earn points and maintain status, we did so.  Overall, the Starwood card and rewards program provided a huge value of 18 nights at the bargain average price of $29.51 per night.

1 Night   - Bogota Starwood Airport Aloft - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Bogota 4 Points Sheraton - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night   - Medellin 4 Points Sheraton - Free, entirely on points.
3 Nights - Panama Aloft - $35 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
2 Nights - Cordoba Sheraton, Argentina - $42.35 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
3 Nights - Salta Sheraton, Argentina - $66.55 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
1 Night  - Starwood 4 points Emeryville - $100
1 Night  - Starwood 4 points LAX - $100
2 Nights - Sheraton 4 Points Huntsville Airport - $32.37 average (1 free night, 1 points+ cash)
2 Nights - Starwood boutique, Dijon - $154.89 full rate.

5. The Rest -- Common Sense.  For the remainder of the lodging, we usually did cost comparison online and went with one of the cheapest options.  If we were going to be somewhere for more than 2 nights, we'd price out AirBNB vs other options.  For 2 people with an ensuite bathroom, AirBNB was hit or miss vs. budget hotels in most of the places we visited.  But, when my mother came to join us and we needed 2 rooms, or when we wanted a kitchen, AirBNB was usually a clear winner. 

Expedia was a very helpful tool -- they have a 10% points plan where you can use points earned on previous stays as payments against future stays.  They have loyalty status as well, and once you've stayed 10 stays booked through them, you get elevated support including them working with the properties to help you manage errors.  In two cases where the property and rental car company were horrible to deal with in a foreign country, Expedia gave me a credit voucher as an apology for the lack of professionalism on the part of the 3rd party business.  Interestingly, I found that the Expedia pricing was usually (but not always) best when going through the US-based Expedia site and not the localized in-country version of Expedia.

On the road trip in rural Argentina, we often weren't able to reserve in advance and just showed up and negotiated for rooms on the spot.  The average price of those rooms tended to be below $40/night, but this value did come with a little bit of concern regarding what we would do if they didn't have any availability in the town where we'd planned to stay (since the next town was likely very far away).  I got the sense from the backpackers we spoke with in almost every destination we visited that if you are willing to take the risk that a room may not be available and invest the time to negotiate in person, you could get your nightly pricing much lower than ours was, as we typically paid the requested rate for private rooms with a bathroom and the comfort of knowing we had a reservation before we showed up.

August 14, 2017

Montreal: An Almost 50 mile week

The sabbatical year of travel was a joint project, but I was definitely the one responsible for the international travel bits. E always claims that if left to his own devices, he'd never leave the US.

So, I had a good laugh when a few weeks before we flew back to the US, E realized that there was a conference he wanted to attend in Montreal.  3 weeks after we got back to our house.  We booked the tickets -- we were leaving the country 3 weeks after our return home, and it was all E's choice.

View of the city from Chalet Mont Royal
Montreal in the summer is the best.  It's an amazing food town.  The weather is perfect.  And, just about everyone you interact with is bilingual in French and English.

We arrived and I realized that I can switch effortlessly between French and English for the first time in my life.  I didn't even realize when it happened, I'd just respond in whatever language made sense, as would all of the people we interacted with, and E would laugh at the back and forth, when he realized I couldn't tell him what language(s) had been spoken. 

Post-run Xiao Long Bao in Montreal's Chinatown (twice!)
Historically, I've had a huge linguistic wall between the foreign language I'm *trying* to speak and English.  If you are still in language acquisition mode, or if you are in a location with non-fluent English speakers, the wall is very useful.  But my French is (joyously, for me!) pretty decent right now, and most of Montreal that we interacted with is perfectly bilingual.  So, it was a very nice thing to be able to let down the wall and experience first-hand that effortless comprehension and response regardless of language that I'd seen fluent bilingual speakers do.  Right now, I am one of them! (Sadly, my French will likely degrade from disuse and I'll revert, but for this one week, I had a glorious time being one of those people.)

Much like Montreal, where it happened, week -8 of San Jose Rock 'n Roll training was wonderful.  49.36 recorded miles.  MUCH hiking and walking.  And overall, a strong, strong week on the return to some semblance of running fitness.

Hand-pulled noodles and Hunan Dumpling dinner
M: easy day, 6.15 miles of walking in old town Montreal and to and from meals.

T: 1 mile walk to the park.  3.11 super slow miles up Mont Royal (541 ft elevation gain) @ 15:12; 3 miles down at 13:32; 1.05 mile c/d plus 1.5 walk to lunch and dinner.

W: 3.99 miles walking sightseeing (including the botanical gardens); 2.45 walk to dinner and back.

Th: 1.57 jog w/u @ 13:35; 4X0.2mi @ 10K target pace with walking recovery; 1.32 jog/walk c/d; 1.15 walk to lunch/dinner

F: 1 walk to park; 2 miles up Mont Royal & 1 mile down @ 13:24 AVG; 1 easy jog down @ 13:37; 2.43 walk in town.

Sa: Gym workout. Treadmill intervals at 1%: 1 km @9kph; 25 bicep curls; 20 tricep extensions 10lbs; 1 km ladder 9kph-9.6kph 6+ minutes; 25 curls; 20 tce 10lbs; 1 km ladder 9kph-9.6kph 6+ min; 10 lb medicine ball abs 20 crunches; 25 reverse crunches; 25 side to side.  Total TM: 3.37km/2mi. Walk to lunch: 2.01 miles; hike up Mont Royal and back w/E and a friend the steep way, lots of stairs: 4 miles; 1.25 walk back to hotel

Sun: 0.81 walk to old port; 2.0 miles at the old port @ 10:27/mile w/E; 1.47 walk back; 2 miles walk to lunch and back in Little Italy.

Classic Montreal -- on our walk back
from the Italian Cultural Festival in Little Italy
Like last week -- nothing amazing in terms of running training, but 17 miles of actual running and 33ish miles of walking/hiking.  Progress.

And now, we're back in the US and looking forward to increasing the workout load in the coming weeks.

August 6, 2017

An Almost 30 mile week (SJ RNR week -9)

At this point in training (9 weeks before the first *actually* truly trained for race in over a year), I am very generous with myself.

Okay.  Let's be honest. I'm always very generous with my running self.  I like to cut her slack, encourage her, reward her, and do whatever I can to keep her going as long as possible.

For this segment, I looked up the 11 week, level 3,10K BAA training plan, and then modified it a bit to turn it into a 9 week program and put it in a spreadsheet to pretend for a day or two that I would do it all before I admitted that I wouldn't be able to hit anything close to what they recommended.

But it never hurts to have big goals.

So, here I am, coming off a year of lots of hiking and not so much running, with a couple slow 6ish mile pseudo-race efforts under my belt.  Finally starting to buckle down, and this week was humbling and great. 

My "big" goals resulted in this awesome basic return to running fitness week (note how I count the walking.)

Monday: 1.38 walk (lazy)

Tuesday: 4.01 easy run @ 12:07 min/mile (BAA recommended pace for my pie in the sky goal of a 1 hour 10k), followed by 0.73 walk cooldown; 1.57 walk to lunch.

Wed: Track Club (taking it easy and trying to hit the BAA recommended paces, which were slower than I'd usually go for):
   4X100 (25, 25, 27, 27);
   3X200 (56, 58, 62);
   2X400 (2:05; 2:09);
   1X800 (4:35)
3.27 miles total with drills, speedwork, jogging, walking recovery; Followed by an evening 1.5m walk to dinner

Thur: 1 @ 11:54;
      then walk/run intervals of 11X30s in the mid 8:00s/mile; with a few longer slower jaunts as well. 
      Total = 4.46m @ 17:37 AVG.

Fri:  1.7 walk in the afternoon;
      and 2.4 walk to dinner.

Sat:  5.03 "long" run & chat w/a friend on 5:00 run/1:00 walk intervals @ 13:10/mile average overall;
      0.19 walk c/d;
      1.27 walk afternoon.

Sun:  2.09 total in 24:31; AVG 11:43/mile;
      5 min jog @ 12:21;
      0.5 mile @ 9:42/mile pace;
      4:46 min jog @13:55;
      0.5 mile @ 9:47/mile pace;
      4:45 jog @ 14:38 and done! -- such a great workout!

You may wonder why I'm so enthusiastic about Sunday's efforts.  On paper, I might be too.  But in real life, I set an alarm, woke up early, and fit the workout in before 11+ hours of travel despite a crappy night's sleep.  Sometimes you just really need to pat yourself on the back for doing something you didn't feel like doing.

Also, this workout took just enough out of me that it felt super hard (no walking recovery, you have to keep moving in a semi-running motion on the jogging sections), and yet, when I was done, I was on a runner's high and happy and proud that I'd headed out instead of sleeping in an extra half hour before leaving for the airport.  It's kind of amazing how much joy you can get from such a simple thing as a solid basic super short race-pace interval workout.

August 2, 2017


When we bought our house (let's just round up and say 15 years ago), the carpets were pretty gross.  The prior owners had young boys and they'd done what young boys do.  E and I did a number on them over the years as well, and then, when my brother was living with us, he drove his wheelchair outside and then inside, bringing the outside in on his wheels every day.

So, before we moved back in, we figured we'd take the opportunity to replace the carpets since the house would be empty and none of the furniture would be in the carpeted rooms.  We moved everything to the house from storage, but the earliest the carpet installers can come is the end of the month.

This means, we are in a very slow mode of unpacking.  We found everything labeled for the kitchen and it is mostly all in its place (but, oddly, we still haven't found the silverware, so we're using disposable cutlery).  Everything else stays mainly in boxes and in the living room.

Note the walking path through the stuff on the tile...

It's so much stuff.

After a year of the same 7 days worth of clothes and very little else, it's shocking to realize just how much *stuff* we have when we live our lives based from home.  I have a medium sized moving box full of fabric bags (race bags, beach bags, gift bags, wine bags, etc.) that we primarily used as packing material.  I'll be taking it, along with another box full of T-shirts that we also used as packing material, and several other random things to Good Will. 

The reality is, we don't need most of what we have.  We did a bunch of purging as we packed up, and as we slowly unpack, we're doing more each day.

I've always had a compulsion to minimize my belongings.  But now, opening boxes to see a huge collection of stuff I haven't used or needed in a year, such as photos, shoes, or jewelry, actually weighs me down.  I left thinking I'd scan the photos when I got back.  Now, I'm seriously considering going through them once, limiting myself to 100 or so that I'll keep, and pitching the rest. 

Interestingly, because we'd remodeled the kitchen recently, very little in the kitchen feels like a burden.  The kitchen is probably the room in the house where I own the most physical objects (other than books) and yet, it feels like I will use almost each and every object that I unpacked in the next year.  For the most part I welcomed the unpacking of the kitchen -- I'd missed it!  I did find a set of bowls and a spice jar I added to the Good Will pile, but I also found a gorgeous wedding gift of a fancy Laguoile cheese knife set complete with gift card that neither of us remembered ever seeing before (11+ years ago -- I wonder if we sent a thank you?), so I think it evens out to zero.

It's not just the physical stuff I'm unpacking, of course.  I returned home to many tasks that I'd put off over the year.  Taxes, financial planning/management, administrative stuff for my law practice, a couple of family dramas that really need some focused attention, plus just general life management stuff -- they all have to be dealt with and addressed.  Preferably ASAP.  It feels like I'm reluctantly pulling a bunch of my life out of a dark corner where I hid it all year.  Most of it is stuff I'm not happy to see.  I loved the illusion that I didn't have it to deal with it that I was able to maintain.  Perhaps some of it is possible to outsource or ignore more than I have traditionally.  I will likely spend some time investigating that.

And then, of course, there are the habits.  I've completely forgotten how much work consumes me and distracts me.  How when I'm fully consumed by work, I have to keep lists for everything or it won't get done.  How I need to plan my day the night before so I can do all non-emergent detail management before bed. I'm slowly returning to the processes that keep me sane and on track when I'm working.  Again, perhaps I won't return to all of them, but many of them are actually necessary when I'm working, and I'm starting to realize that I was only able to shed them because I wasn't working.

And finally, there are the people.  If it's possible, I became even more of a true introvert this year.  This year confirmed that E is my favorite person and I love spending time talking (and not talking) with him.  My other close friends and family with whom I've reconnected since our return are the same -- I enjoy our long discussions and I feel safe if I need to be quiet. 

Socially interacting with groups of people I actually know and have relationships with is exhausting in a way I'd forgotten.  The second night in our home we attended a wedding and it was so great to see so many people we hadn't seen in so long.   But it was also so demanding.  Strangers with a foreign language?  I can talk to them with joy and exuberance -- fueled by the fun of learning more language.  Strangers who know my friends?  There's so much to think about and process and worry about when meeting and speaking with them -- I don't want to say the wrong thing or offend.  My close friends know that I often say things in a way that others wouldn't say them.  They know that harsh words from me may not actually be intended as harsh -- it may just be how my weird way of thinking works.  In a foreign language, these mistakes are forgiven as *language* errors.  But in English, at home, with acquaintances, they are nothing except impolite, insensitive, or awkward, so I have to work *really* hard to avoid them.

In a way, I'm glad we're stuck in this pseudo-unpacked physical state for a month.  It's giving me time and physical space to be thoughtful about how my old life was and how I'd like my new life to be after the lessons learned on the road.