December 19, 2018

Time to Regroup

The cold virus that took me out last week was no joke.  I had a physical this week and while I was recovered enough to see the doctor, she noticed my residual symptoms and asked, "Oh dear -- did you get that terrible virus that's going around where it starts with a super sore throat and you can barely swallow, then the mucus builds like crazy and you lose your voice?"  Um, yes.  I did.  Apparently, my 7 days of serious symptoms followed by 7 days of minor symptoms are on the light side of what this virus has done to her practice -- take care of yourselves, friends!

From Aruba
Given the residual infection, I tried to reign in my running efforts in hopes of an aggressive taper, improving health, and eventually being able to race my last target race of the year.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  The morning of the race, I still had a stuffy nose and mild sinus pressure and it was scheduled to be pouring down rain during the race.  I went back and forth on what to do (should I be smart?  I did cough quite a bit after waking up... but then the coughs stopped.  Am I wimping out?  I am more fit than I've been in ages and I think I can definitely set a decade PR, even with the rain... and on, and on).

Finally, I decided not to do a hard effort in the cold rain while still recovering from the worst virus I'd had in at least 3-4 years, mainly for the sake of my brother and mother's husband, both of whom are severely immunocompromised.  I was really looking forward to Christmas with the family, and the reality is, if I relapsed to how sick I had been, I would have to avoid the big family gatherings altogether.

So, Sunday, instead of racing, I hung out inside and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle with my visiting cousin.  Monday, I spent 2 hours gardening, mainly removing all of the remaining tomato plants that finally died, but also raking leaves and being shocked at how winded I got from it, although, in fairness, raking is a full body workout that recruits many muscles I don't usually use for aerobic work.

E with his standard "I hate selfies" look.
Tuesday, I finally headed out for an easy jog, running *very easy* to and from the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  My Rx wasn't ready, so I took the 10 minutes they needed to prepare it to jog around behind the store and do some unplanned 8X15s strides with jogging recovery.  Woot!  First "workout" in a couple of weeks, with some actual speed work, even if *very* light. 2.5 miles + 1 hour gardening (still removing the plants).

When I couldn't do the 5K last weekend, I had to reset. My original end of year goals were:

1. At least 1 lesson of Spanish study every day between December 1 and the end of the year to prepare for our New Year's trip to CDMX.

2. 5K decade PR.  When it became clear that I wasn't going to run a 5K, I was sad, but fairly certain I could hit this goal in 2019.

3. *Very Good* on the Cooper Test.

I'd been doing well enough on the first goal that I'd started to have some Spanish dream snippits, so that was good.  But the 5K... After the failure on Sunday in San Jose, I knew I'd have to let this one go.  And, realistically speaking on the Cooper Test... I wasn't there yet.  I wanted to be.  Certainly.  But I just was not close enough to that fit.

A goal that seemed super doable, however, was a sub 9 minute mile.  I hadn't had one of those on my log in well over 2.5 years.

And that's what I did today.  Y'all, I managed 8:52 for a mile, and I'm happy.  May you all have great outcomes in 2019.

December 9, 2018


In connection with last weekend's CIM fun I spent some quality time with 5 children (3 nieces and nephews and 2 god-children).  You know, single-digit-aged-humans, otherwise known as virus probes?

Random but true:  The Little Shamrock is a *real* pub 
and also a major scene/character in the John Lescroart Dismas Hardy books.

Yeah, although I enjoyed my train ride back, it was clear that I'd came down with a nasty cold by Sunday night, and it just kept escalating.

Instead of the Parkrun, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers
I took Monday off from running, but headed out Tuesday in hopes of an easy run, despite the sniffles.  After 1.35 miles @ 10:56, it was very clear to me that I was not in good shape.  Less than 1.5 miles at just under 11 minutes per mile should not have been that hard.  I acknowledged that I was sick and cut myself infinite slack -- jog/walking my way home through the rest of the scheduled 4+ miler, finishing the last 3.02 miles at an average pace of 15:43.  And then I went to bed super early.

And the SF Botanical Gardens
And then, for the next 3 days, I didn't even think about running due to a sore throat, headaches, sinus pressure, ears that couldn't clear and more.

Sunset views of Coit Tower on our Lyft back from the park.

Man, I hate being sick.

Did I mention that the original plan had been to run the Crissy Field Parkrun and try to get a decade PR?  I'd put in some decent weeks of prep, and last week, I'd run an 85% effort Cooper test at 9:16/mile for 12 minutes as an easy workout before CIM, which made me think I could shoot for a 5K at 9:20ish pace and set yet another 40s PR.

Those flesh-colored bits are swimmers.  In the bay.  In December.

Yeah.  That totally didn't happen.  I couldn't really swallow for half the week without wincing.  I was coughing up gross stuff.

Ft. Mason -- one of many gorgeous views from our run.

The friend I'd invited to join me at the Parkrun was wonderfully understanding when I explained the situation.  E, unfortunately came down with the virus on Friday (it had looked like he was successfully avoiding it until then), so he bailed completely on Parkrun, and I opted for a 10 AM meetup with lightly jogging and some walk breaks for 3.8 miles @ 16:18 average pace (the jogging was in the 12ish/mile range, but every hint of hill plus some feelings of exhaustion towards the end resulted in walking).

A beautifully clear day at Fort Mason!
Last night, we went to an annual holiday party in SF and suffered the abuse of calling it *early* at 11:30 PM (my completely gravely voice was helpful here, as I claimed sickness as part of the reason we needed to leave before the white elephant exchange was over).

Tosca Cafe's back room -- full of theatre, dance, and film insider geekery.
Today, I woke for the first time in 6 days without a sore throat.  It was amazing.  I went to the hotel gym and busted out a treadmill workout that wasn't terrible. A full set of drills, 3 X 0.5 miles @ 9:13/mile and 0.5% incline with 0.1 walking recovery, plus 2 X 0.25 miles @ 8:00/mile and 0.5% incline.  I followed it up with 10 X 20 lb medicine ball kettle squat/swings and 20 X 20 lb bicep curls.  I headed upstairs feeling pretty darn great.  And then I almost passed out in the shower.

The Mark Hopkins in all of its Holiday glory.
Apparently, I'm not quite 100% yet. But, I'm no longer in pain from the virus.  I can breathe through both nostrils (which is more than I can say for when I hoofed it over Taylor street from Fisherman's Wharf to Sutter Street).

I now have minimal coughing.  And I'm excited for the last fast 5K of my fall buildup.

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't get another virus, please!  I'd very much like to cap off the fall of my minor (but valid) increases in fitness with a 5K decade PR.

Wish me luck!

December 3, 2018

CIM relay 2018

I love CIM.  I ran my marathon PR of 4:04 there over a decade ago, as well as a come-back marathon of 4:09 4 years later.  In 2012, I ran my last marathon there for a monsoon PR of 4:39.

These days, I'm more of a relay marathoner, and I love that CIM offers one.  Last year's first leg of the relay was my longest race effort run of 2017, and I had a great time running with friends.

This year, I was scheduled to run the relay with my sis & bestie, D.  It was a classic perfect CIM day: start in the high 30s, finish in the high 40s, clear and calm and beautiful.

Sis is fast.  She ran the first two legs and got to the 13.5ish mile relay handoff at about an 8 minute/mile pace.  Then it was my turn.

I spent the next 7 miles running as hard as I comfortably could, watching the various pace groups swallow me up every mile or so.  First it was the 3:40 group.  Then 3:45.  Then 3:50.  3:55.  Finally, about a mile before I finished, the 4 hour pace group arrived.  I tried to go with them, but given that I didn't have a 9:09 mile in me at the start, it wasn't surprising that I didn't have one in me at the end either.

After a little bit of chaos, I handed off the relay chip to D, who picked up the pace and ran to the finish.  Then we ate delicious Mexican food and I took the train home.  A beautiful day, time with people I love, and a good run?  There's a reason I keep coming back to this race.

Sis & Bestie kept our average pace nice and low!

My goals were:

A) average sub 10 minutes/mile -- I wasn't sure if I was in good enough shape yet to hit this one, but I felt close enough that I wanted to give it a try.

B) average sub 10:30 and get my decade PR for the 10K on my Garmin, since the 1:02 I ran in September measured a short course.

C) Keep it below 10:47 to beat my Rock 'n Roll 10K time.


1- 9:33
2- 10:22
3- 10:22 (I abandoned the sub 10 minute/mile goal and focused on trying to keep it sub 10:30 here)
4- 10:54 (walked through the water stop, probably could have skipped fluids entirely, but I wasn't sure how that would play out, so I played it safe)
5- 10:39
6- 10:56 (I was bummed to see this number as I thought I'd picked up the pace after mile 5)
10K - 1:05:00 (10:28/mile)
7- 10:37

Total Garmin: 7.02 @ 10:29/mile

The views and relaxation of Amtrak vs. driving to SAC
make the comparison *no* contest.
Overall, I'm very pleased with how I ran and the race itself.  I definitely didn't push myself to the edge of my fitness, but I hit my best sustained pace for 7 miles in a few years, which felt great.

Sunset over the bay on the way into Richmond on the train.
Plus, now that I've got the half marathon and the 7 mile race out of the way, I can enjoy the two 5Ks that are coming up.  As I noted earlier -- the 5K is absolutely my favorite race distance right now and I'm excited to see if I can improve on my decade PR in both of them.

November 23, 2018

The Atlanta Half Marathon (my 50th!)

It had been 900 days since my last half marathon.  That's 2 years, 5 months, and 17 days in case you were wondering (like me), just how long it had been since I had run over 10 miles in one consistent effort.  Spoiler alert -- I finished!  I now have 50 half marathon races in my log, which, frankly, I can't really believe.

Obligatory start selfie.
My "training" had been minimal, so I put any finish as my D goal.  My C goal was sub 12 minutes per mile.  My B goal was Sub 2:30.  My A goal was Sub 11 minutes per mile to beat my last half marathon time.

Met the C goal.
While I had a lack of training working against me, I had quite a few things on my side:

1. The weather was absolutely perfect, with a start in crisp clean 37F and a finish in the mid 40s.  The course was partially shaded, and there was no wind.

2. Since I was coming from a vacation in the Atlantic Time Zone, I was, for once, 1 hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, so getting up early and racing in Atlanta was not going to be difficult.

3. S, my Atlanta running buddy, had decided to register for the race, and when I went to pick up my bib from her, she informed me that she was going to do the race with me instead of at her own pace (which is probably 2 minutes faster per mile than me).

Me and S -- we were going to have fun,
no matter what!

My father-in-law drove me to the start, and I was surprised to realize this race was much bigger than I remembered (5,781 in the half, 3,439 in the 5K).  They started the 5K at roughly 7:30 and were supposed to move through the wave start of the 5K and then the half in order to get to our corral by 7:57, but something must have slowed them down, for though I was at the front of my corral, I didn't cross the start line until 8:04:03.  This was very unlike the Atlanta Track Club, as every race I've run with them has been extremely precise.

They slated me for corral E, so S and I
spent the whole race passing people.

The course starts near the Olympic Torch and rings from the 1996 (100th) Summer Olympics, and runs near and around a bunch of Atlanta sights including Centennial Park, Atlantic Station, Piedmont Park, the State Capitol, and includes a finish in Georgia State Stadium.  At least half of the course was shaded, so even if it had been slightly warmer, it still would have been very pleasant for me.  Also, Atlanta Track Club knows how to keep folks hydrated, so there were tons of aid stations, *and* since Atlanta is Coca Cola town, Powerade, with delicious real calories, was offered at every aid station.

Atlanta is *hilly*.  And while I was generally undertrained, I was severely under-hill-trained.  I'm a natural downhill runner, which made parts of this course quite fun.  But, I also struggle with uphills.  I'd done a few hill repeats at the Stanford Dish in my lead-up, and one very hilly workout in Atlanta.  I also pushed myself on one hilly treadmill workout in Aruba that oscillated between 0 and 4% incline on a random algorithm.  Those 3 workouts weren't a ton, but I was *very* glad I'd done them, especially the 2 workouts in the "taper" weeks before the race.  Leaning forward and pumping your arms and knees to charge up hills to keep running is a very different type of running than what I'm used to, and I could feel my body changing form to mimic the way those workouts felt during the uphills.

My garmin totaled 507 feet of climb and 565 feet of descent, including a screaming 135 feet of descent over the last 1.17 miles.  If they finish the Olympic Trials down this hill and into the stadium, that could result in some crazy finishing sprints!  Unfortunately, after 10 miles, I hit a pretty significant wall, and had to declare defeat and take some uphill walk breaks to catch my breath.

Stopping for a picture of the skyline at the top
of the steep climb at Mile 10

My splits tell a tale of undertrained bonking:
1 - 10:26
2 - 10:43
3 - 11:06
4 - 10:37
5 - 11:23
6 - 11:19
10K - 1:09:15 (11:09 pace)
6 to 6.37 - @11:46
6.37 - 6.42 walk/3:22 bathroom break in Piedmont park
7.42 - 11:22
8.42 - 12:25 (includes cliff shot walk break)
9.42 - 11:21
9.42 to 9.69 - @10:51
9.69 to 9.76 - walk
10.76 - 12:04
10.76 to 11.18 - @11:45
11.18 to 11.26 - walk
11.26 to 11.72 - @12:20
11.72 to 11.77 - walk
11.77 to 12.09 - @12:09
12.09 to 12.15 - walk
13.15 - 10:55
13.15 to 13.35 - @10:39

Garmin total: 13.35 @ 11:41

Average pace with the bathroom break subtracted: 11:28

Atlanta Track Club has good schwag!

I am very happy with the fun day spent with S and the C goal finish and I'm definitely looking forward to the shorter stuff I have on the calendar for the rest of 2018.  Also, I'm very excited to come back to spectate (and possibly race one of the companion races of) the US Olympic Team Marathon Trials!

November 21, 2018

First Half Marathon in 2+ years -- the "training" (with bonus Aruba photos)

I'd strung together ten weeks of 20+ miles, gamefully increasing my weekly long run, decreasing my average pace, and fitting in a bit of strength and speed work here and there.

I'd registered for a half marathon on Thanksgiving, and, while I'd done a lackluster 10 miler 3 weeks prior to the race, I really wanted to get in a solid 11-12 mile run beforehand.

The Antilla Wreck was the largest wreck we've ever dived!
Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans for me.  I woke to the smell of camping in our house 13 days before the race, as the Camp Fire smoke had been blown into the bay area.  I opted to bike to yoga instead of the planned for long run, and even though I took it super easy and it's just a little over a mile, I returned sneezing, coughing and crying from the smoke in my eyes.

It's so cool how coral takes over shipwrecks and turns them into reefs!
The smoke was really bad.  And super depressing.  California fires have been a staple in my life since birth, but the last two years have been shocking with their increased size and ferocity.

Aptly named.
Saturday was more of the same, with the air registering firmly in the "unhealthy" range, so I skipped the run, sent good fire-fighting thoughts up north, and hoped that it would clear up soon.  The government recommendations were to stay inside with the windows closed, and when we went to brunch it certainly appeared that people were doing just that -- downtown was a smoky ghost town.

If you are in Aruba, you *must* go to the Butterfly Farm!
Sunday morning, the air quality dipped down into the "moderate" range, so I did a super easy 1 mile near target race pace with another mile of stride/jog intervals, but it didn't feel great on my chest and throat, and I wasn't sure whether I was doing more good or more harm with the effort.

One entrance ticket ($15) is good for unlimited visits during your stay.  
I returned at 7 AM to watch butterflies emerge from the chrysalises -- Amazing!
Monday, I woke and dressed with the intention of trying to fit in the 11-12 mile long run, hopeful that the trend toward better air would continue from Sunday, but no.  The air was back in the red "Unhealthy" range.

We flew to Atlanta on Monday afternoon and arrived to constant rain, but gloriously easy to breathe air.  Tuesday afternoon, I headed out with good intentions for the long run, but it started to really pour on me at mile 2, which turned the typically dodgy Atlanta roads and sidewalks into an obstacle course of puddles and random slippery bits.  So, I made the conservative call yet again, turned around and comforted myself with a cold/wet 4 miler including 8X30 second uphill surges.  I felt fit on this run -- it was easy, athletically, even on some of the hills that have historically taxed me.

The original plan was to taper in Aruba, while scuba diving, but thanks to fires and weather, I pretty much tapered the week before we arrived.  I toyed with trying to get in something slightly longer than normal taper stuff, but the running from our hotel really made it difficult to get anything longer than 2 miles done without just running back and forth along the same path with tons of pedestrians.

I got in one good workout day by combining 2 miles on the treadmill with 1.5 miles of stride/walk intervals outside.  All the rest were pretty lame 1-2 miles slow due to the terrain and crowds plus some additional walking.

We'll see if scuba is a good taper activity or not!
So, here I am.  24 hours 'til my first half marathon in 2+ years and my longest run was 10 super slow miles more than 3 weeks ago (not ideal).  But, the air is clear, I'm *very* tapered, nothing hurts, and the weather looks perfect for me with the start supposedly at 37F and the finish around 44F.

Wish me luck!

November 13, 2018

New York Marathon Spectating Weekend

A good friend of mine, A, left California and moved to Rochester, New York a while back.  We hung out earlier this year and realized we needed to schedule some quality time together.  So, we decided to go spectate the New York Marathon, just us.

It was a wonderful weekend.

If I had it to do again, I would register for the Abbott 5K on the Saturday before the marathon, which is an impressive event that shuts down Sixth Avenue.  We spectated it as well, and it was fun to see all the fast folks zoom by.

The reservoir in Central park -- such a great run!
I walked and ran more than a marathon's distance over the 3 days in town.  I fueled with Peruvian food, Columbian street cart food in Central Park, Pizza (Napoletana) in Brooklyn, Soup dumplings & other Chinese food, Vietnamese won ton soup, and Per Se!

One of many Central Park Views

My friend, F, was running the NY Marathon and somehow managed to get me added to her reservation at Per Se, so I ended up with an unexpected 3-star Michelin meal to boot.  It was, as you'd expect from Thomas Keller, divine.

Look at that form!

Running in Central Park hours before the marathon participants would arrive was very cool.  It was just me and all the cyclists and roller bladers who take advantage of the closed course and do a 26.2 mile ride or blade that finishes before the race events start. At the end of my run, I encountered the youth runners, all lined up and ready to race in Central Park.

All the youth, lined up for their race.
It was a very motivating weekend, running-wise.

Watching Shalane pull into 3rd place on the big screen while sitting in the grandstand seating at the finish was the highlight, but it was also wonderful to watch the Americans roll in and chat with Allie Kieffer's friends and family (all sporting flat Allie on popsicle sticks) and cheer her on as she moved from 11th to finish 7th.

Lots of discussion in the grandstands about tree-trimming 
that could have made things better...
Overall, it was a wonderful weekend.  Catching up with A was so good.  New York is a place I will always love to visit -- it is so alive and I adore it every time I come.  I've lost count, but I believe the current total visit count is 10ish, making it one of the cities outside of California where I've spent the most time.  Nothing's changed -- I still want to go back.

October 30, 2018

I May Be Falling In Love With the 5K

Guess What?

Early start means you get to see the beautiful sunrise.
On Sunday I ran a 5K PR for my 40s (actually faster than any 5K I'd raced since 2013)!  Average pace of 9:32, beating my previous average 40s PR pace of 9:35, and good enough for 51.49% on the age graded performance scale.  And, there were some non-trivial hills and forced walking on the narrow turns since I started too far in the back of the pack (as in, I could have probably run faster!).  My garmin recorded 3.05 miles, but given the hairpin turns, I think it probably was the full distance.

I have so much love for all of these ladies!
It feels so good to be getting back into faster running shape for the first time in several years.  I may try to get a nice flat 5K into the schedule just for the fun of dropping the current PR a little further.  Also, I love it when I get to run with my local running friends!

If we're being honest, I'm fairly certain I *could* have run much faster than Sunday's time in 2014 and 2015, as I was regularly doing halfs and fulls at decent paces that I probably couldn't do right now during those years, but I didn't really race any 5Ks, so I'll just claim the 5 year PR.

Garden eggplant parmesan with squash is apparently great pre-race fuel!
In a fit of inspiration, I signed up for a Thanksgiving Half Marathon for my first half marathon in over 2.5 years.  I've been regretting this decision as I've failed to properly execute on several of my planned long runs and my sense of dread has been increasing.  But, hope springs eternal...especially after a fun, fast (for me) race.

Last week was a decent week of running, if not spectacular:

M: 5.18 easy with a friend, chatting @ 12:02/mile, 1.9 walking in the city

T: 2.44 biking to and from the trail; 3.01 tempo with F, slowing her down to 10:39/mile; 0.38 jog back to the bike.


Th: 1.37 jog/walk; 2 hours gardening

F: 6.01 @ 12:34; 1.53 walk w/8X30s strides and walking recovery in the mid 9s/mile

Sa: 0.87 jog to track; 5 minutes of drills; Cooper test (12 minutes running as far as possible) but targeting a pace I thought I could sustain for Sunday's 5K: 1.27 miles @ 9:27 -- best cooper test I'd done in a few years.  I already felt like this week was a win.  Even if I had a bad race, I had something to smile about. 0.5 jog + 0.17 walk c/d.

Su: 0.83 jog pre-race to and from the car to drop stuff when they announced a delayed start of 7:45 instead of the 7:30 that was advertised.  We cut it very close for 7:30, but we had plenty of time to get our bibs, run our stuff back to the car, and use the porta potties with the 15 minute delay. 5K race; 0.75 miles walk to the car and brunch and back.

The rc.oktober run was small, but well run, early, but with post-race breakfast options in walking range, and the sunrise was beautiful.  E, who is *not* an early morning person, said he would do it again.  Which probably means that I will too.  


October 22, 2018

A Half Marathon?

A while back, I put together a race schedule for the remainder of 2018.

Why not include more pictures of vacation in this post?
Korean Sashimi and Poke 
with Hawaiian Banchan including Macaroni Salad

At the time, I figured building up to a half marathon on Thanksgiving was a reasonable plan.  I'm beginning to question this.  Last week I got my mileage on my feet up to 35.6, which was a high for the year (thanks hiking in Hawaii!).  But the planned for 9-10 mile long run did *not* remotely happen.

The made-to-order menu at Iyasume Café
We definitely had 2 meals of musubi from here.
I headed out for it on Thursday only to rethink the plan for a run/walk of 5.32 miles.  Okay, no stress. I rescheduled the long run to Saturday, but then could only to do 6.04 miles at 12:41 followed by 2 run/walk and a short bike outing.  Yikes!  I pretty much cheated my way to 8+ miles.

Plane musubi and Onigiri
All of a sudden I find myself 4 weeks out from a half marathon and very concerned about my ability to comfortably even complete it!  Thankfully Sunday's short tempo with E was easier than expected as was today's conversational 5 miler with a friend, so I'm hopeful I may have just been in a post-vacation funk...fingers crossed.

October 18, 2018

Hawaii Just Keeps Getting Better

For my 10th visit to Hawaii, I added scuba diving to the list of fun.

Almost There!

Oh. My. Goodness.

Views of Koko Head Crater and ridge
from an AM sunrise Diamond Head Hike

Every time I come here, I love it more, and this trip I discovered that scuba is yet another way that this place is so amazing.

We had 3 meals in the Japanese Food Hall.

We saw 9 sea turtles. Nine!

View from Diamond Head.
And 2 octopi.

How does one not fall in love with this place?

And 2 white-tipped sharks. Plus 5+ eels. And so many fish. We hiked twice. I got in 4 runs.

The Hanauma Bay Hike.

And the food.



Uni Chorizo Tagliatelle (The Pig & the Lady)

Duck Pho! (The Pig & the Lady)

Truffle Corn Agnolotti with cilantro and lime 
(The Pig & the Lady)
Did I mention the food?

Cold Udon with Ikura and Shaved Radish at the Yokocho, 

I didn't even get to go to all of the restaurants on my list.  We'll just have to go back so I can hit up the hilariously named Piggy Smalls for their PhoStrami Sandwich (if ever a meal had my number, pho and pastrami is it).  Also, we didn't make it to Inaba for Soba, so that'll have to happen next time, too.