January 28, 2018

Running Update: The Kaiser Half Marathon is a Go

This week's running went very well.  Very little pain and the first 30+ mile week since last November.  I easily beat the assigned paces at track group on Wednesday without any pain, which was such a gift to my confidence.

Today's "long" run of 8 miles went just fine.  8 @ 11:59/mile average pace.  My goal was sub 12.  So, I'll take it.  I also fit in an additional mile of walking with 9 X 30s strides with 90s recovery walking on my way home.  That bonus mile without pain definitely helped me feel confident that odds were in my favor for successfully finishing the half next weekend. 

Now, the only question is how to pick my target pace -- I've got a nice easy taper week in the calendar with lots of good healthy food and sleep planned.  I'm hopeful I can get in one ART session with my therapist and then, ideally, I'll have a good day on Sunday.

The current weather prediction is for fog, which I love.  Today's effort was in full sun, which usually slows me down quite a bit, even if the highs were only in the low 70s. 

McMillan seems to think a 2:30 half is a decent goal for me at this fitness level, so that's my A plan.

I'll shoot to get up early, have my latte, drive up and park to take the bus to the start, be ready to take several gus (I've been running all long runs without any fuel) and head out for 11:27 miles, trying to hold on as long as I can at that pace.  If I'm too fast, I'll take walk breaks at each mile or aid station to get the pace back on track until the last few miles, at which point, I'll just make decisions based on how I'm feeling.

My B plan is just to finish.

Wish me luck!

January 27, 2018

Professional Navel-Gazing

Since returning from the sabbatical, I've kept my law practice relatively slow.  And I've enjoyed it.  I've avoided marketing or going on a blitz to increase my workload, and instead, I've been doing lots of cooking, reading, gardening, and ramping up my workouts, and plenty of adulting like medical/dental/family stuff, filing/culling, finances/taxes, etc. that I'd completely ignored on the sabbatical (and typically only handled when it was on fire back when my practice was more busy).

I finally made it to the local Din Tai Fung.  
Delicious & only a 15 minute wait for lunch at 1:30 on a Friday!
Because I'm not super busy, I'm not earning as much money as I usually do.  This means that options that historically haven't been attractive to me because they'd require a pay cut are actually worth thinking about.

I wouldn't have realized this, except a local company reached out and tried to hire me for an in-house position.  And I was actually interested.  I prepared a resume for the first time in 12 years.  It felt good to look at a list of all that I've accomplished professionally since I last tried to get hired.  Ultimately, the job was not a good fit -- the job description was a little aspirational -- describing what the hiring manager would love for the role to evolve into at some point in the future rather than a true description of what the job actually would be on day 1.  There were a couple of other issues that made it not a great option for me as well, but it was fun to get a sense of how desirable my skill set is in a corporate environment after 8 years of being on my own.

First time I've been able to put in a winter garden in years!
That same week, a law firm reached out to see if I'd like to consider joining them as a partner.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  It has typically happened once or twice a year since I've been on my own.  I usually do the math and it doesn't make sense and we part on good terms.  But, as I mentioned, I'm in a unique spot right now, so I'm talking to them next week.

After agreeing to speak with the law firm, I realized I should probably explore my options more fully if that's what I'm doing.  So, I spoke with a recruiter who I put on hold 'til next week and reached out to a firm I'd turned down in the past but really liked to set up a chat with them.

Time to research recipes led me to brown rice straciatella -- so good! 
This is going to be a regular in the soup rotation.
I'm not really sure where, if anywhere, any of this is going.  But I'm meeting new people and exploring possibilities and in doing so reminding myself of some of the things I love about how my life is currently structured that I'd lose if I chose to ramp up my practice to a more busy situation or chose a different path.

January 21, 2018

Food, Food, Food (and some miles)

This week was super chill.  Lots of healthy food at home, 2 book club events (Pachinko A+, Bonfire B) and some decent runs.

Two of my favorite healthy dishes for dinner:
Brown rice tabbouleh-ish salad
Arugula/Spinach Saag
Total mileage: 21.83.  Much lower than hoped for.  BUT, very little pain and several runs that were local high water marks in terms of the amount of time spent at various paces.  Slowly but surely, it feels like I'm making progress.  And the current plan is still to drive up day of and do my best at the Kaiser half.

Half spicy, half original broth
As expected, the long run was the wildcard this week, and it didn't work out.  12 miles was the plan.  I headed out on Saturday AM in gloriously perfect weather and cruised through 5 miles at sub 12 min/mile pace before realizing that (TMI warning) I was having serious sports bra chafing issues.  It was clear to me that I could finish the full run, but that if I did so, I'd need several days of non-sweaty non-sports-bra recovery to get myself healed up enough to run afterwards.  I made the conservative call and decided to take the next detour off the trail and do 15X30s high effort strides with 1 min walking recovery home for a total workout of 8.5 miles.  Not quite 12 miles, but it included 7.5 minutes at speed with very little leg pain at all.  It was so much better of a cardiovascular performance than last week's difficult 10 miler that I just couldn't be too upset even though I had to bail on the full length. 

Post "long" run hot pot goodies:
Enoki mushrooms, pickled cabbage, 
baby octopus, shrimp balls,
house noodles.
We'll be going back!
So, now, after today's rest day of driving up to the city, brunching with friends celebrating their newly adopted infant, driving back, picking out the winter garden, and some lazy yardwork and puzzle time, the plan is to do the 12 either tomorrow or Tuesday.  Fingers crossed.

I opted for pickles, mac and cheese, and collards

In other news, a local company has targeted me for a position in-house that is interesting enough that I'm actually seriously considering shutting down my law firm and taking it. 

Updated Tabbouleh-ish salad w/feta
served alongside one of my favorites -- red lentil soup.
We're still in early discussions, but I pulled together a resume for the first time in several years, and they scheduled an interview for next week. It's very fascinating to consider all of the aspects of changing my professional life from the situation I've had for the last 8 years as my own boss (read: working remotely from anywhere in the world only requires my own approval) into one where I have only one (internal) client, a boss that is not me and probably wants my butt in a seat in a specific physical location most of the time, plus all of the benefits and drawbacks of working for a major corporation (yay: free gym and on-site food and drinks, boo: AM status meetings and probably lots of other stuff I've forgotten about since I left the corporate work force).  

January 14, 2018


 We spent the majority of the week at home with a quick one-night trip up to the city.

The sunset views from our home-away-from-home SF hotel are breathtaking.
It was a pedestrian week of home-based comforts.  It's my favorite time of year -- SOUP SEASON!  So, I made cauliflower leek bisque from the leftovers of a cauliflower, garlic, potato, cheese bake. For a few days, we hosted an out of town friend (who clearly didn't love the healthy soup as much as I did -- he took us out to dinner the next night).

Kale chips and mushroom quinotto.
The next healthy meal effort was a huge hit: Mushroom quinotto with a side of kale chips equals one happy husband.  We've got the last of the quinotto on tap for dinner tonight and we're both looking forward to it.  Thankfully, it only took about 10 days and we've both returned back (more-or-less) to the pre-holiday weights we'd established and then lost in our trip to Mexico and the South.

Last night, in celebration of soup season, I made one of my favorites:  Vegetarian Minestrone!

Seriously, I love minestrone in all forms, but it's so satisfying that it's an easy vegetarian option -why add meat when it's so delicious without it?  We'll be eating off these leftovers all week.

In running news, I tried to run slightly more miles than last week and keep up the exercises that seem to be the reason my leg is holding up.  I succeeded.  27.58 miles.  Most of them running, most of which before or after stabilization exercises.  Bonus--I ran the full workout with the track group and hit the McMillan paces for my target (albeit slow) half marathon pace.

The long run of the week is, and will likely continue to be the big question mark.  This week, I headed out on Friday AM in San Francisco in the true chill of the fog with a goal of 10 miles out and back along the Embarcadero and Chrissy Field.  It was not to be.  At 2.5 miles, I had to admit that my hip/butt was not happy with me, and another 7.5 miles just didn't seem like a good idea.  I stopped to walk and stretch and then ran 30s strides with 1 minute of walking recovery back to the hotel.  It was a decent 5 mile workout, just not the one I'd planned on.  I was sore enough that I feared I may need to cut off my half marathon training.  Gamely, I stretched and rolled, and hoped for the best.

Saturday AM, I was surprised to find that my leg felt "Okay."  So, I headed out and forced myself to finish 10 miles @ 13:01/mile pace.  I "ran" almost the whole thing, but the last 2 miles really hurt.  I returned home to tell E that I was almost certain I couldn't do the half.

And then, I rolled and stretched and found that sitting in a chair at lunch didn't hurt as much as I expected.  I rolled off and on all day, and then as we watched a movie that night.  And today, I woke with a reasonably-not-super-tight leg.  So, I headed out for a short easy run and after 1 mile, decided to call it quits due to an instinct that said working hard for sub 12/mile was not smart, even if it didn't hurt.  So I walked home. 

Oddly, I feel better about my prospects for the half than I have in several weeks.  And, of course, either way, I've got lots of delicious homemade soup in my week's future.

January 7, 2018

First Week of 2018

Happy New Year!

Toasting to the TV, New York Ball Drop on NYE with friends.
Starting with the first day of 2018, I had 5 full weeks until the Kaiser Half Marathon.  My left leg rehab had been going reasonably well, so the story I told myself was that if I could do a 20+ mile week including an 8 mile run this week without an increase in pain or decrease in mobility, then I could continue to train for the next few weeks with a goal of completing the half.

Monday, the first of the year, I took the day off.  I'd run on the last day of 2017, and then we'd been up partying pretty late, plus, when I woke, there were snow flurries.  It was going to be a very cold day, so instead of running, E and I enjoyed the first meal of the year at Waffle House, and I did some rolling and stretching and lots of football watching while working on a puzzle.

Tuesday, I did side lunges, glute bridges, and 5 miles in the hills @ 12:39/mile followed by 3 sets of strides with walking recovery in the mid 8 min/mile pace range.  I rolled and stretched afterwards.

Wednesday, my track group back home was doing the Cooper Test, so I figured I would join in, remotely.  My father-in-law drove me to the active oval in Piedmont Park, and he and I jogged for half a mile or so to warm up.  I stopped to do some drills and dynamic stretching while he kept running.

The active oval is a nice wide 0.5 mile gravel loop around four sporting fields with two bisecting paths through the oval. 
The perfect place for a self-run cooper test.
I set my running music list to shuffle and off I went, chasing his 0.25 mile lead and shrinking it down but never quite catching him.  12 minutes later, I'd run 1.26 miles at a 9:34/mile pace, but best of all, my leg had held up.  It was a 5% improvement from the last time I'd run the test, and after a few down weeks due to my leg, so I was pleased, if a bit bummed that I hadn't done better. I do like how broad the performance categories are for the Cooper test.  For my age, my fitness is simply "Good" and will continue to be so, even if I increase my performance by 5% for several more iterations.

And, in the course of writing this, I realized I have a New Year's Goal -- to achieve "Very Good" on the Cooper Test this year.  In order to do that, I'll need to be able to run 8:23/mile for 12 minutes.  Wish me luck!

Thursday was a rest/travel day.  Friday, I had 3 mile intervals on my schedule but work was a bit crazy, so I settled on walking my downtown errands for 1.18 miles, and then a single 2 mile strength interval at 10:24/mile, followed by 0.18 walking cooldown.  Again, my leg held up, and I rolled and stretched afterwards.

Saturday, I had the 8 miler on the calendar.  I headed out late in the morning, but it was clear by mile 2 that it was not to be.  I stopped at a water fountain for 3 miles @ 12:00/mile, lapped up the water while trying to figure out how to deal with the situation.   I decided I'd go for 8 the next day, and tacked on a solid 15 sets of 30 second strides to get home (mainly 8 min/mile pace, with a couple high 7s and low 9s, 1 minute walking recovery intervals between for an additional 1.5 miles).  Of course, I spent some quality time rolling my left leg and hip while watching TV that night.

Today, Sunday, was make-or-break-it day.  I knew that if I couldn't at least get an 8 miler done this week there would be no way I could do 13.1 miles in 4 weeks.  I headed out after 9 AM in the overcast weather for my second attempt.  It wasn't pretty, but I slogged it out, and aided by my audiobook, I finished 8 miles @ 12:55/mile.

So, there it is.  One week into 2018 and I'm still targeting a February half marathon after a 24.22 mile week, and I have a 2018 fitness goal.

January 4, 2018

2017, The Year In Books

2017 was a low volume book year, totaling just 16 visual books and 23 audiobooks.  This is even less than 2016's 22 visual books and 32 audiobooks, and way down from 2015's 29 visual books and 48 audiobooks.

I'm now done with full-time traveling, and a member in 2 book clubs, so I'm hopeful that alone will increase the reading in 2018.  Also, I'm hopeful my body will let me keep increasing my running mileage, and soon it will be gardening season.  Since I tend to rip through audiobooks while running and gardening, there's also that to look forward to.

Without further adieu, here's the write-up of the final books I read and listened to this year (see part 1 and part 2 for the earlier stuff).

Visually Read Books:

Anonymous (C)
Analee Newitz
A dystopian future where robots are indentured servants until they earn their way to freedom (which rarely happens), and humans born into bad socio-economic situations are as well.  Our heroes are reverse engineering anti-patent folks (although the patent law in this book is *super* way off reality's basis).  The most heart-warming characters are a robot who was raised by humans and appears to have some level of agency as well as a human illegal drug-runner who traffics commercially developed therapies that are artificially inflated as to price and unavailable to the masses.  Worth a read, but not worth the hype in the press.
The Hundred Secret Senses (A+)
Amy Tan
My favorite Amy Tan book so far.  I felt so taken in by the characters and dialogue and references to places that I know, it was as if I'd known these people in my past.  The magical realism of Kwan's view of the world juxtaposed against Olivia's attempts at pure rationality are wonderfully lovely.  The story comes together on both planes slowly, but inevitably, and the ending feels so satisfying and obvious even though I couldn't have guessed where it would go 30 pages earlier.  Highly recommended.
In the Name of Salome (A+)
Julia Alvarez
This book was gifted to me by a good friend years ago.  I finally found time to read it on our trip to Mexico and was so glad that I did so.  The history of the Cubans, the Dominicans, the Puerto Ricans, the other Spanish-conquered and American colonized areas in this part of the world (including Mexico) and all of their US American immigrants is so intertwined and complex.  The exceedingly well-researched but fictional telling of the 19th century stories of Salome Enrique Unrena, a real-life poet and girls' education pioneer in the Dominican Republic is epic.  Sad, defiant, and full of love of life in a way I can't explain but often recognize in good Latin American literature -- I loved this book so much that I packed it back up and brought it back to the U.S. to gift to a good friend rather than leave the copy at the hotel as a gift to a stranger, as I typically do. 
The Wrong Side of Goodbye (B)
Michael Connelly
I bought this at a CVS across the street from the hospital and it was everything I was looking for in a book at the time.  I like Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer books, but I've read them all as he doesn't produce them at the rate he produces his detective Harry Bosch books.  I'd listened to The Crossing, the Harry Bosch book prior to this one, and I'd enjoyed his transition into private investigator practice, so I was hopeful this one would be good as well, and it was.  Fast paced, excellent portrayal of Los Angeles as the setting and also almost a character, and, of course, an solid murder mystery that keeps you guessing but is neatly wrapped up by the end.


The Bourne Supremacy (B-)
Robert Ludlum
Glad I went back to re-enjoy this one, as it was so very different than what the movie made the story out to be.  Set in Hong Kong and China.  Marie is kidnapped but not killed at the beginning and her life in danger is a major plot point. 
Tough Sh-t: Life Advice From a Fat Lazy Slob Who Did Good (B)
Kevin Smith
I'd had a bit of overload with the doom and gloom I encounter on twitter and the news (and the dark side of the Jason Bourne stories didn't help), so I sought this one out for solace.  I've always been a big fan of Kevin Smith.  It was fascinating to listen to this book, now, after all the Harvey Weinstein revelations, as Kevin Smith is very open about worshipping Harvey in his early career and owing his entire film success to the early chances that Harvey took on him.  Over the years, their relationship soured and Kevin's outlook matured to the point of realizing that when he thought he was just so "Indy" he'd really been a "Miramouseketeer" and "credibility clown" whenever Harvey asked him to do some press to ensure that bad rumors about Miramax or the Weinsteins would be squashed.  I was curious to see what his take on the revelations was, and when I researched it was pleased to see that he was clearly upset and is donating all of his residuals from all of the films he made with Harvey Weinstein to a non-profit that helps female filmmakers.  This book is, as you'd expect, funny, profane, and lovably honest.  The key message is that life is short and you should live your dreams, which frankly, is a message that needs much more airtime than it gets.  Exactly what the doctor ordered to cheer me up a bit.
Bourne Ultimatum (B-)
Robert Ludlum
I wanted to finish the full series, and I was glad I did.  At this point, the plot is so far off from where the movies went that it's not remotely the same story at all. David Webb is married to Marie, they have kids, and they are living in a protective program in the Northeast US.  Someone has revived the mythical Jason Bourne as an assassin in Asia and some US intelligence operatives decide to kidnap Marie to blackmail David into returning to the role (as a 50 year old) to catch the imposter.  The plot is obviously ridiculous, but it's still a fun romp and a final showdown between the Jackal and Jason Bourne.
Turtles All the Way Down (C+)
John Greene
This book was enjoyable YA, as you'd expect from John Greene.  The main character has mental health issues and much of her inner monologue makes up the prose, which means, as a reader, you are subject to obsessive thought cycles, and detailed descriptions of compulsive behavior among other things.  There's young love (of course) and youth struggles with loving, but flawed parents (of course).  All told, it was a light and easy treatment of some difficult topics. 
The Power (A-)
Naomi Alderman
A very clever exploration of physical power and gender set in a science fiction/fantasy future where women develop electrical impulse control and society evolves accordingly.  My only complaint about this book is that at times I felt the analogies were too forced.  I get it, in this society, men are the more sensitive, emotionally nurturing gender, and they are subject to the spectrum of treatment from women in power that goes along with that.  I couldn't help but feel that a book set in today's society with that much of a focus on gender discrimination would seem fake and preachy.  The lack of random interspersal of decent treatment with the discriminatory treatment was the part that pulled this down from a true A/A+ for me. 
Manhattan Beach (A)
Jennifer Egan
Well researched tale of a female scuba welder working for the Navy during world war II interspersed with timely drama related to immigrants, unions, the Irish and Italian mobs, and the choices that were available to those of lesser means at the time.  Engaging and believable. 
Bonfire (B)
Krysten Ritter
A good debut novel by a multi-talented actress, author, and musician.  The portrayal of small town America was mercilessly dead on, and the main character was fascinatingly flawed while being believably semi-aware of it -- these two aspects were the things that most impressed me with the book.  As far as thrillers go, it was good, but not great.  Occasionally, a turn of phrase would catch me off guard with its insightfulness, but most of the time I didn't notice the writing (which is typical for thrillers I enjoy).  Overall, it was intriguing, light, and easy to process.  The voice acting was good, although I was a little surprised that Krysten didn't do it herself given her voice performance background.  If I have one complaint, it would be that it seemed to me to have too much stereotypically "20-something feminine drama" for my taste and a habit of dropping important plot points in half-explained sidebars.  Worth a read.
Murder on the Orient Express (A)
Agatha Christie
The new theatrical release of the film based on this book inspired me.  I adore Agatha Christie novels and had read most of them in my teens.  However, as I'd discovered when I'd re-read 10 Little Indians for the first time since teenagerhood, for Murder on the Orient Express, I had also completely forgotten the characters and plot.  This Audiobook production was excellent, with a team of voice actors doing all of the various characters such that it was more like listening to a play reading than a typical audiobook.  Almost the entire text is made up of the investigation by the famous detective Hercule Poirot after the death of one of the passengers is discovered while the train is stopped in a snow drift.  It's impressive how much plot Ms. Christie created in the words that are simply dialog between Poirot and the other passengers regarding their behaviors and belongings.  The tightness of the language and her ability to contain an engaging and full story within such strict constraints made me appreciate just how talented Ms. Christie was.