October 23, 2017

Life is Short

When I was 6 years old, I broke down in a horrific crying fit in the shower, absolutely devastated with the realization that I was going to die one day.  I don't remember what triggered it.

Hadn't been to the Palace of Fine Arts in years -
Saturday's Post Parkrun Brunch walk put us there.  With Friends.  How great!
I do remember that my parents were out and the poor baby sitter had to try to manage me until they returned.  Even when they did return, both my mom and my dad were obviously a bit flummoxed on how to deal with me.

Eventually, I just learned that my preoccupation with death, and the likelihood/proximity of it for myself and everyone I knew was not, like many of the ways I viewed the world, "normal."  But, it does motivate many of the choices I make.

Doing our sabbatical year while we were both young and healthy was very important to me.  My *life-is-short* concept is always pushing me to do the things I want to do while I can.  I'm so grateful we were able to take the time off and enjoy visiting all of the friends, family, and foreign places we enjoyed.

The beaches of Portugal -- one of many sabbatical experiences I cherish.
Similarly, my *life-is-short* mentality puts me in a frame of mind where being able to run (or hike or even walk) at all is such a blessing.  I can't help but view my daily physical efforts against the specter of potential diseases or injuries (hello car accidents, friend's husband who died of a heart attack at 37, my quadriplegic Brother, and every other person I've known in any way who's ever died younger than 70). 

Often, this means I just don't have the same level of drive to outperform myself or PR than I otherwise would.  After last week's fiery smoking down week, I had big plans to run from Emeryville out to Yerba Buena Island on the bay bridge and back on Monday.  But, when I went outside, the smell of smoke and limited view of the Oakland hills quickly changed my plans.  Instead I walked easily for 4 miles in the poor air quality and then tacked some hard short speedwork on the TM interspersed with free weights and calisthenics in the hotel gym.  Life is much too short to struggle through a run in nasty air quality that will likely negatively affect me more than missing a workout.

Liquor store in North Beach, SF
Tuesday, I returned to the yoga studio.  I'm doing a decent job of getting in once a week (4 times in the last 5 weeks with an off week for SJRNR), and that's likely where it will stay for a while because it appears to take me 3-4 days to recover from yoga these days.  I am seriously out of yoga shape!  The soreness!

Wednesday, I had a big work day, so I just worked and took a rest day (and let the soreness from the yoga keep me from too much physical activity).  My new desk treadmill arrived, so I now have a fully functional sit/stand/treadmill desk configuration (minus the swiveling monitor).  It's so nice to have an ergonomically awesome home office situation -- my old set up was a desk I bought 15+ years ago when my only criteria was cheapness, a broken office chair purchased from a startup I worked at that went out of business, and whatever else I cobbled together over the years.  It all went the way of Goodwill, the dump, or curbside free pick-up when we packed up.  And now, thanks to E doing all the research and acquiring most of the components (other than the treadmill) I'm excited to have a fancy functional workspace that will allow me to walk while doing non-seriously demanding work/life tasks.

I almost never splurge on *stuff* - the new office set up is a BIG DEAL for me.
Thursday, I wasn't feeling it, so I headed out for whatever I could muster with no judgment.  What I could muster was 2.73 easy miles @ 12:51 plus 1.74 walk/jog home.  This was one of those days when the reality of how privileged I am to move without pain weighs in and changes my perspective from one of disappointment at how I didn't come close to hitting the assigned workout to one of gratitude that I can move at all.  I understand that this perspective may be limiting my physical performance by giving me permission to make less effort than what I could probably do.  But, I can only assume that going out for some effort without stress is best for my overall quality of life and joy.  Also, I got some bad news about a family member's health that day that only solidified my choice of perspective.

Friday, I was in a hotel for work and fit in a super short 0.5 mile interval workout with weights and medicine ball efforts between ladders from 10mpm down to 9:19 mpm at 1% incline.  It was less than half an hour, but better than nothing.

One of the most beautiful finishes for a run. 
Also, what a flattering picture -- do I look excited to stop my watch or what?
Saturday I did the Crissy Field parkrun with E and a friend from Seattle, C.  I love C, she's the closest friend (other than E) that I had when we lived in Seattle and I only get to see her once or twice a year now.  I also love the Crissy Field parkrun.  It's such a beautiful location, the people who run the group are so kind, and it's a great way to start the day by running a 5K with views of the Golden Gate Bridge alongside people from all around the world.  I managed a 10:24/mile average pace, which included a stop for C to retie her shoes. I had hoped for a faster showing, but it wasn't available for me that day.

Sunday was a gloriously lazy day.  I did 4 very easy miles @ 12:27, followed by 15X30 seconds hard with 90 seconds walking recovery for 6.4 total miles.  E and I had lunch downtown, I went grocery shopping for the week, and a friend visiting from Texas came over to grill rib-eyes for dinner.  Lazy easy Sundays at home are definitely one of the best things about being back in our regular life.  And life is definitely too short not to take advantage of them and appreciate them when they are available.

October 15, 2017


The California wildfires last week were shocking.  I have family in the area.  Thankfully, their home and they were not affected by the fires.  But they easily could have been.

I took Monday as an easy day post race and walked 1 mile.  Tuesday, I was surprised to realize my legs felt tighter than expected from the race and I decided to take a second down day, walking 4 miles to and from downtown in lieu of a real workout.

Wednesday, track club was canceled to allow for recovery (almost all members had raced on the weekend).  I woke to the news of the fires and relief at the updates confirming that my family was safe.  For lunch, most of the members of my track club and I went to a local winery and then to lunch to celebrate 2 birthdays and several successful races.  On the drive back into town, I was amazed at how smoky it was.  I immediately had flashbacks to our smoggy visit to Shanghai.

I remembered how crappy I felt after a day of sightseeing in the smog and I vowed not to run until the air quality had returned to the gloriously awesome levels that we regularly enjoy in the bay area.
Tomato gifts went into pico de gallo for halibut tacos (also a gift from our fisherman friend)
So yeah, no running Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.   The poor air quality each day brought home the reality of the suffering of those experiencing the fires in a way that was very uncomfortably real.  I've always known that fires were common in California, and terrible, but not being able to see to the end of the streets in our neighborhood was overwhelming and depressing.  I can't imagine how those who lost their homes must feel.

Friday, I did motivate enough to go do a yoga class (my yoga studio has some heated classes and in connection with the heat, they have a filtration system), which kicked my butt in a good way.  In hindsight I should have gone on all of the days I couldn't run, but I'm still in a love/hate relationship with yoga right now, so once a week is acceptable progress.

Saturday AM, I woke to blue skies and joyfully headed out for 6 easy miles.  It's so nice to have returned to a level of fitness where I can just go out and do 6 miles.  Sure, they were relatively slow (11:52/mile), but it wasn't a struggle at all and didn't require much mental effort to push myself through it without stopping (except for water fountains).

Sunday, in contrast, was a workout failure.  I jogged to the trailhead as my planned warmup of a little over 1 mile.  Then, I attempted to do 2 intervals at 9:39/mile for 1.3 miles each with E.  We started out a bit fast, but at around 0.5 miles there is a bridge over the train tracks.  The elevation change slowed my average pace quite a bit and by the time I crested the apex, I needed to recover a full minute from my average pace to hit the target time.  I was breathing hard and it was clear to me that I couldn't recover that time and sustain the required pace for 1.3 miles (which was super disappointing, but what can you do?).  So, I yelled ahead to E to let him know I'd changed the plan and would only be doing 0.75 mile intervals.  They were consistent -- 9:58/mile and 9:57/mile with 4ish minutes of walking recovery between them.  From there I jog-walked home.  By effort it was a very solid workout.  But, in terms of performance, it was not.

Sunday afternoon, I met up with 2 awesome local runners at the hippest bar I've been to in ages.  It was fun to chat and catch up and hang out with people who normally only see me at my sweatiest.  From there, E and I met for dinner with dear friends in Oakland that we hadn't seen in at least a 15 months.

And just like that, another week has passed.  Certainly, time seems to fly much faster now than it did during the sabbatical.  Work and taxes and general life overhead doesn't stand out or make the time stretch the way that new and unique experiences do (often with frustration).  On the other hand, I have successfully strung a few months of good workout consistency and healthy food at home, which I definitely didn't do during the sabbatical, so that's an obvious upside.

October 8, 2017

The Frustrating (Awesome?) Tyranny of Race Calculators (RNRSJ Race Report)

So, I went for it.

Black lentils with turkey kielbasa and spinach--
one of many awesome "training" meals this week

After a difficult 10:28 mile on my easy pre-race shake-out on Saturday, I told myself I'd do the first mile at 10:40 or slower and reassess from there. 

This week's pimientos de padrones were so spicy I couldn't eat more than 3
in any sitting.  E was very happy with the leftovers.
But then, after being locked in the corrals, and slowly walking towards the start for 20+ minutes, I was antsy to get moving and my friend M asked to stop for a walk break after 5 minutes of actual running (she then went and kicked my butt by 4 minutes for the whole race!).  I checked in on effort and it felt so easy on the flats in the shade, that I decided to let myself go, but, I promised myself, not over 10:27.  I hit mile 1 at 10:26  Sweet!

Monday's dish hike's epic views...
Mile 2 was 10:25.  I walked through the aid station just after mile 2 and hit mile 3 at 10:32 -- not bad for stopping to walk and drink some water and dump the rest on my head.  I was feeling very good about the 10:27/mile goal.

And then, I wasn't.

As you can see, I hit the 5K mark at an average pace of 10:30 (already losing serious seconds from miles 1-3).  And then, it was a huge struggle the rest of the way to try to keep it below 11 minutes per mile.  I'm proud of how much effort I put in.  I'm proud of the fact that I didn't do any walking except through the aid stations.  I'm generally super happy with today's outcome.

Awesome runners who come to eat and hang out post-run? 
One of the best things about being back from the sabbatical
But, I'm also *super* annoyed at the McMillan run calculator for being able to calculate my performance perfectly on the basis of the mile I ran the week before the race.  I'm even more annoyed at myself for not heeding the science and making myself go out at the scientifically calculated 10:47 for 3 or 4 miles.  No doubt I would have had a faster final finishing time if I hadn't pushed it early on...

C'est la vie.

Also, when people you adore come to you to socialize and eat good food and they bring people you've never met who show up with pumpkin muffins, your life is pretty damn charmed.

Leaves and acorns and nuts formed pumpkin muffins -- make no mistake, it's gloriously celebratorialy Fall.
So, all in all, I'm happy.  6 weeks 'til the turkey trot 10K.  We'll see if I shoot for 1 hour or something a bit more reasonable, given today.

October 4, 2017

San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K -- Ready or Not

It's been a slow but steady 10 weeks of training (and eating primarily healthy home-cooked meals) in my run-up to the San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K.

My goals, in order, have been:

1. Increase aerobic fitness (I have definitely been doing this and it feels good.  I went on a hike on Monday and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep my breathing and effort low, even during the climbs.)

2. Decrease my mass (the trend is in the correct direction -- I tend to think of my weight as a 5 lb range and my average weight is 1/4 of a pound or so away from clearing to the next 5 lb range down, which I haven't been in for at least a year and a half)

3. Increase my average weekly mileage running (slowly but surely, this has been happening, although it's probably an area where I need to increase my efforts to hit goal #4)

4. Run a sub-1-hour 10K (I've still got quite a bit to go before I can get here -- 9:39 minute miles are currently doable but very high effort and need recovery)

Back in July, in the heat, I returned to "racing" with a 1h18 10K at The Peachtree Road Race. (12:30/mile average pace).  A few weeks later, on an overcast day, I ran the 6 mile Wharf 2 Wharf race at an average pace of 11:36/mile.

A month later, in muggy heat, I ran the Race to the End of Summer  in 1h10 (11:24/mile).  I was a bit surprised (and bummed) that I couldn't get the pace below 11 minutes per mile, but heat and humidity are not my gig and I know that my fitness improvement often comes in spikes, so I just did my best to soldier on.

Today, at track club, the assigned speedwork was a single mile (most of the group is doing a half marathon this weekend, so the goal was to keep them off their legs for their taper).  I went out by effort and was pleased to see that keeping 9:30 pace felt fairly reasonable.  I hit the first 400 (ish, there are sport lights on the track and high school kids to avoid, so the laps tend to be slightly long) at 2:24 and figured I could just try to cut the pace slightly with each lap.  800 -- 4:44.  1200 -- 7:05.  My watch beeped the mile at 9:18. I didn't want to run it hard enough to do any damage for Sunday's race, but I also wanted to try to get an idea of my fitness.  According to McMillan, the race conversion pace from this time to a 10K is 10:47/mile.

So, my goals for Sunday, in order, are:

A:  Run a sub 1h05 10K (10:27 pace).  I don't think it's remotely intelligent to attempt to run a sub 1 hour 10K just yet, but I think this is a potentially achievable goal and if I hit it, I'll be very pleased.

B:  Run sub 10:47/mile -- needed an arbitrary goal between 10:27 and 10:59, so I went with McMillan.

C:  Run sub 11/mile.

D:  Finish as best I can, with the only walking being through the aid stations.

Wish me luck!

October 1, 2017

SJRNR week -1

It's been a long time since I've actually trained for 9 weeks continuously.  Even if the training has been mild, it's felt good to consistently increase the effort and see gains in terms of pacing and ease of completing various distances.  The slow and steady mass decrease and speed increase is gratifying, if super, super miniscule on a weekly basis.

Spinach salad with Dijon dressing and potato, oyster mushroom emmentaler bake.

This week totaled 26.97 (mainly running, a little walking, not counting 8 miles of biking).

Slow roasted tomatoes -- another much-appreciated
tomato gift from a fellow local gardener.

I kept up with the general recommended training schedule and added in an hour of yoga with weighted balls on Friday in a heated room (still sore...).

Oktoberfest!  Corn-meal battered German sausage?  
Best corn-dog EVER!
Today's last long run before the race was 3.12 @ 10:46/mile; followed by a bathroom break and 2.08 @ 12:54 easy jog cooldown, then 1.14 walk to the start and then another mile or so downtown for Oktoberfest.