May 27, 2018

Parkrun PR (Brave Like Gabe)

E and I decided to spend a couple of nights in the city for Memorial Day weekend.

Low light sunset over piers 1.5 - 3.
Friday night, I met an attorney-friend for celebratory drinks because our GDPR nightmare was now just ongoing and not a deadline.  After that, E and I enjoyed a delicious early date night dinner of grilled octopus, burrata salad, and mussels with homemade saffron fettuccine.  We were back in the hotel lounge for a nightcap by 8 and in bed, watching the adorable Lady Bird by 9, pounding sparkling water and water to hydrate for the next day's Crissy Field Parkrun. (Also, my honorary Brave Like Gabe 5K -- when I tried to register, they weren't accepting virtual registrations anymore, so I just made a donation to the organization in general and mentally made a note to run hard to push for people who are sick.)

I love how golden Oakland looks at sunset.

We fell asleep before 11:30 and slept peacefully until the hotel phone randomly woke us up with loud ringing at 3:52 AM.  No one was on the line.  It was bizarre.  Unfortunately, both of us had a difficult time getting back to sleep.

When my alarm went off at 7:05, I reset it for 7:20 and actually fell back asleep and started dreaming before the 7:20 alarm woke me up.  Groggy, we finally got up, did the vitamin taking, teethbrushing, and dressing required before heading up to the lounge for cappuccinos and a light pre-race breakfast.

Love Crissy Field Parkrun!
As I've been slowly increasing my fitness, my goal was to run sub 30.  I lined up towards the back of the pack and fidgeted with my headphones and phone, not quite working everything out by the time I heard "1-2-3 Go!"  So, we were off, and after a couple of minutes, noting that I was averaging 9:22/mile when my goal was 9:39 for the first mile, I decided to try to make the music work.  Eventually, after rebooting my phone, I got my Bluetooth headphones connected, saw 9:46 as the average pace for the lap on my garmin and picked it up.  E stayed with me and matched his pace to mine for that first mile, which was very helpful.

Magritte's Scheherazade
The Magritte exhibit at SF MoMA is one of
my favorite museum exhibits I've ever seen.
I hit the mile at 0.2 seconds faster than my target pace -- a little too close for comfort.  So I tried to pick it up just a little bit and E stayed with me.  Somewhere around 1.5 miles, he waved goodbye and took off (finishing 2m4s ahead of me).  I kept checking my watch, pushing and occasionally passing folks, hitting mile 2 with a 9:36.5 split.

Magritte's Personal Values
Okay.  At this point, I was working hard, but happy with where I was. I felt comfortable that I could probably keep it under 9:39 average and finish sub 30 to meet my goal.  It was a beautiful cool foggy day with views of the Golden Gate bridge and I was consciously practicing gratitude.

One of my favorites.

Except all of a sudden, it became apparent that many of the people I'd passed were using me as a pacer.  The first woman I'd previously passed, passed me and started clipping people off as she headed down the last 3/4 mile to the finish, much stronger than I was.  I'm not gonna lie.  I found it very difficult to be grateful about THAT.

Possibly my absolute favorite.
Honestly, I hadn't raced in such a long time I'd forgotten it was a thing.  I was so used to comparing myself against only myself that I found it shocking that I actually cared what the people around me were doing.

The next woman who tried to pass caused me to dig in and match her, staying just in front of her shoulder for a minute or so, until eventually, she stopped pushing me and I saw that I was close to a guy I'd been trailing for most of the race.  I pushed to pass him and he really didn't like that option.  He tried to surge past me, so I matched.  He dropped back for a few seconds.  He tried to surge again, I matched again.  He dropped back again.  This pattern played out a few more times until the last 10th of a mile where I never saw him again.

Meanwhile, about 4 of the women I'd passed earlier in the race took the opportunity to cleanly and strongly pass me while I was battling with surging dude.  I tried to push as hard as I could, but I couldn't stay with any of them.  My chest was hurting in that "this is uncomfortable, but I can probably keep this up 'til the finish" kind of way.  My legs felt like they probably had more to give, but my cardiovascular system did not.

Finally, I crossed the line and stopped my watch, very happy to see 29:39. My 3rd mile split was 9:29 with the last bit of the 5K at 9:10/mile pace.  All in all, a very well executed negative split race.

Post race dinner splurge.

This is nowhere in contention for the fastest 5K I've ever run.  In fact, it's about 29 seconds per mile slower than my PR marathon pace.  But, I haven't broken 30 in a 5K since I'd done so at Memorial Day Parkrun 2 years ago, and this time is faster than that one, setting a Parkrun course PR for me.

It's the highest percentage age grade race (50.99%) I've posted in about 3 years.  My age grade best is 60.30%, so I feel comfortable that I'm headed in the right direction fitness wise, AND, if I stay on it, I've got plenty of room for improvement within my historic norms.  I just need to continue putting up consistent basic good healthy habits and training.  And, I'm excited to get after it.

May 21, 2018

A Down Week with Paso Robles Wine Tasting

View of Justin Winery from the balcony of our room
E's parents came into town for a few days and I gladly traded miles for time with family.  They spent 2 nights in town, where we squeezed in dinners and lunches between work.  Then, on Thursday, we drove down to Paso Robles to spend two nights in wine country before they continued south to LA and we returned home.
Look closely, the flower buds are just starting for the grape bunches.  So cute!
Mileage for the week was 18.43, but I feel great about it, nonetheless.  I'd been pushing myself for a few weeks and the down week felt right.  Plus, I did manage to squeeze in the best track workout I've done this year (have I mentioned how much I love having the track 0.5 miles from my house!):

4X800/3minRest; 2X400/90sR (9:00; 8:51; 9:01; 9:06; 8:33; 8:53)

E and I are not as hardcore as some folks when it comes to wine-tasting.  It turns out, we're on roughly the same speed as his folks, which was a pleasant surprise.  We've done trips with people who want to hit 15 wineries -- it's just so exhausting and, honestly, not fun for us after the first few.  This trip was gloriously mellow and perfect.

Thursday we toured Justin and did a seated tasting in their special members' only lounge (that you get access to with the tour, even if you aren't a member).  1 winery, dinner out in town, and some post-dinner wine was perfect for us.

Friday, we had a leisurely morning (okay, some were more leisurely than others, I had some client commitments, so I worked while E and his dad hiked), and then we headed out for an olive oil farm tasting.

Kiler Ridge Olive Oil Tasting -- Highly Recommended.
If you've never done olive oil tasting, I highly recommend it.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil doesn't have a legal meaning in the US.  But the folks that take it seriously observe the European rules, and boy can you tell the difference between the Bertolli they start you with and all of the other artisanal options.

From there we quickly snacked on nuts and cheese to fortify ourselves and then toured and tasted at Tablas Creek (also highly recommended) before closing out the day at Brecon Estate (where there are picnic tables and the tasting servers will come to you with your next pour instead of requiring you to stand at the tasting bar).  For dinner we did the 5+ course meal at Justin and all of us agreed that it was amazing.  There are only 6 tables in the restaurant.  The night that we ate there, they only served 3 tables, each seated 30 minutes apart.  There was one server.  One head chef. One sous chef.  It was by far the most intimate meal out I'd ever experienced.

View of the Paso Robles hills from Kiler Ridge.
Overall, it was such a peaceful, lovely experience.  Low-key with lots of time to enjoy conversation with E's folks.  Very different than the last few times we'd gone winetasting.  We were definitely ensconced in the westside of Paso, a good thirty minutes from the town (cell service was very spotty, but the property had wifi), but that meant that the mornings were absolutely nothing but bucolic silence (until the hardcore folks showed up to start their tasting days at 10 AM).

Saturday AM, I took advantage of our location to run 2.25 miles in the vineyards under the fog from the Pacific, fitting in hill repeats on the tractor trails and paved sections wherever I found a good hill on the property (which I had to myself).  I did this workout without any music or phone, just me, the early morning vineyard noise and the fog.  I only had 30 minutes, but I made the most of it, enjoying one of the more satisfying workouts I've done in a long time.

Venus next to the moon on our drive back from town on Thursday after dinner.

Overall, I'd say my biggest emotion about last week was gratitude.  I was so grateful to be healthy and run when I could but not feel any pressure to do more than made sense.  I was even more grateful that E's parents came to us to spend time with us.  And, of course, I was grateful, as always, at just how gorgeous California is, and how lucky I am to be able to live here (and to visit the part of the state where some of my family is from).

May 13, 2018

Just Trying to be My Healthy Self (Peachtree Week -8)

I'm doing all (or most of) the right stuff, running-wise.  This feels great.  Good food.  Lots of sleep.  Reasonable increase in workouts.  Very slow decrease in body mass without too much hunger, but generally trending in the right direction.

It's also slow but steady progress on the fitness increase, which is the higher order goal.  I'm pushing myself pretty hard on pacing on the shorter stuff and I'm seeing some improvement.  But this leaves me wanting more!  This week's mileage was 26.08, with notable workouts including 1.75 miles w/E @ 9:50 pace; 6 medium effort with Jen on Saturday @ 11:27 (including 30 second walk breaks every mile); and 8X400 with 90s rest with the track group, all sub 9 min/mile except 1 @ 9:02 pace, which caused me to take a longer break so I could do the last 3 in the high 8s (last one was 8:29).  I also joined a friend at Cyclebar for a 60 minute ride one day, which was a fascinating experience -- first time I've ever worked out with earplugs.

This is what happens when tatsoi and mustard greens go to seed.
In terms of races -- I've now got 3 on the calendar.  Crissy Field parkrun May 26.  Peachtree Road Race July 4 in ATL in the heat and humidity (much more of a comparison against previous performances than a PR effort).  Pacing a friend at the Giant Race 10K in San Francisco on September 9.  So this leaves me with a choice.  Pick a Fall half and have just that as my one hard effort on the books, or try to find something shorter somewhere in there where I can do a strong effort... suggestions welcome!

Meanwhile, life is proceeding apace, as it does.  Guita keeps growing (she's getting huge!).  The tomatoes in the ground are thriving and the winter garden has completely bolted at this point (except the oh so lovely speckled romaine).  The tomato seedlings are so big that I need to transplant them so they can continue to thrive if I plan on delivering them through early June (which I do).

I am in love with the speckled romaine!  Delicious.  Beautiful.  Continually productive. Heat tolerant (hasn't bolted yet!)
In other news, one of the interesting side effects of quitting Facebook is that I'm reaching out and interacting via text, meals, IRL meetups, runs, etc. with more people than I used to do.  The human need to connect is still there, and I can't satisfy it with an easy FB answer now.  I think, overall, this is definitely one of the biggest improvements in my life since quitting FB.  I've been having text conversations, phone calls, and IRL interactions with folks I care about on a much higher frequency than I did before I opted out.  Of course, I've lost the light interactions with a larger group in exchange and I do miss that sense of knowing what's going on, but I think the decreased processing of those folks and their life is a net positive, even when weighed against the loss of knowledge of what they're up to.

May 6, 2018

Actually Back to Training (Peachtree week -9)

Friends with chickens are the BEST!
I finally hit a 25 mile week for the first time since January.  Even being at home, cooking good meals, and not being too busy with work, it's still been very difficult to safely get the mileage up to a respectable number without injuring myself (which I'm obviously very cautious about given the left leg issues in late '17 and early '18 and right shoulder dislocation in March).  But I finally did it!  And, as always, once you start to get into better shape, being in better shape and working hard felt great.

2 hours to make deviled eggs from scratch
(including homemade aioli)
15 minutes for them to be devoured at a party
Monday and Tuesday I had a visitor in town from New York (one of the string of many who grace our guest room and make us less sad about all the folks who've left the bay area).  She's a faster runner than me, but graciously slowed down and joined me for 2 miles in the mid 11s as her cooldown one day and 3 miles at 11:03 as an easy run for her and an almost medium effort run for me.

Wednesday, I headed out to meet my local running club on the trail.  They've moved things around and the long run is now on Wednesday AM, which is difficult for me, work-wise, driving 20 minutes to do a long run and then driving 20 minutes back afterwards makes the long run *much* longer than doing something on my own.  So, I decided I'd just drive to the closest entrance to the trail they run and jump in when they get there, around mile 2 for them.  My plan was to join the first runner and try to hang on as long as I can, then drop back and hang for at least 1.5 miles, before finally running back to the entrance on the trail solo.  It worked wonderfully.  I did drills and calisthenics 'til the first runner arrived and then I hung on for dear life for a mile in the low-mid 8 minutes/mile.  Yeah, I haven't done that in a while!  I slowed for a recovery mile and then did 10 X 1 min hard/1 min jog for a total workout of 3.27 miles plus 6 targeted calisthenics exercises.

Only about 30 garden beets left to harvest and eat or gift!
They are delicious.
Wednesday PM, Jen was in my neck of the woods for work and I convinced her to come visit instead of sitting in traffic during rush hour.  We headed back out to the trail and did a nice easy chatty 3 miles @ 11:31/mile (much like A, the previous visitor, she also slowed down for me, and I appreciated it).  Another milestone!  I don't think I've done a double workout in any form in years, and *certainly* I haven't done a double day of runs in at least 5 years.

Friday night dinner: camembert risotto and leftover beets and beetgreens.
Thursday afternoon, after a non-stop stressful day of work, I jogged to my new local track and busted out 5X800 with 3 minutes walking recovery (paces: 9:00; 9:12; 9:10; 9:28; 9:18).  I had such mixed feelings about this one.  It was so hard.  And the paces were so slow compared to my historical pacing.  But it felt so good.  It felt fast (because I haven't run fast in so long).  Did I mention it was hard?  Also, the training plan called for 6, but after the 5th interval, I decided I'd pushed myself harder than I had in a long time and I really didn't want to re-injure myself.  Coupled with Wednesday's double, I decided to take it easy.  So I jogged home and logged a total of 4.33 miles.

Good call, too, because my left knee was all twingy that evening while I just walked around the kitchen and cooked.  Clearly, I'd pushed it right to the edge.  I took Friday off completely.

Saturday, I'd hoped to run 9.  My last long run of 7 had been a decent effort in the low 12:00s about 10 days prior and I figured I should be able to do 9 without too much trouble.  Ummm... no.  My left knee was better, but still a little twingy, and, uh, running by effort meant that easy was 13:07/mile average pace.  So, yeah, I modified the plan, did a loop of 3 super slow miles and pushed the long run to Sunday.

And then, today, what do you think happened?  I headed out, feeling pretty good, but a little apprehensive about the knee.  I hit mile 2 at a sub 13/mile pace and started to think seriously about how I was feeling and whether I wanted to be out for that long.  I did a quick mental mileage total and realized I'd be jumping from two weeks of sub 20 to 29+ miles if I executed on my plan.  Also, it was sunny and, per the norm, we've got another guest at the house that I was neglecting.

So, I settled for 3.12 easy @ 12:12, followed by 10 X 30s hard/60s walk; and then a jogging cooldown for a total of 4.81 miles for the day and 25.57 miles for the week.

If I can keep this level of effort up for the full 9 weeks between now and Peachtree, I'll be thrilled.  I don't expect my pacing to improve egregiously, given that it's just going to keep getting hotter.  But, I do hope that if I put in a good late Spring and Summer block, I'll be in decent shape to race a half in the Fall once it cools off, which would be wonderful.