July 30, 2018

Almost, But Not Quite

I'd stacked 3 decent weeks of easy training after the heat slogfest that was the Peachtree Road Race.  It was 60+ miles including 3 strength track workouts, plus 3 jumprope/calisthenics workouts of 36 minutes each, and 2 yoga studio sessions. Also, there's quite a bit of additional light functional fitness with the resistance bands I've added to stabilize my shoulders as well as the hours in the garden these days.

Sunday's harvest!
Given my paces on the workouts in those weeks, I assumed I had a course PR just waiting for me last Saturday at Crissy Field Parkrun.  So, E and I headed up to the city for a celebratory weekend of running and food.  When we arrived on Friday, it was cold!  The forecast called for evening lows in the high 40s!  Such a difference from the peninsula.  We executed our standard Friday-night pre-Parkrun date ritual -- a pre-dinner drink at the club, enjoying the views, followed by an early light delicious dinner (Italian this time) somewhere close to the hotel followed by a movie and stretching in the hotel room before an early bedtime.

Sure enough, Saturday AM was still nice and chilly (and foggy, of course)
No golden gate bridge to see here...
We rolled up to the Parkrun just as they were completing the briefing and the group was huge -- the results say there were 162 finishers.  Typically, when we've joined it's been more like 50 or 60.  We hopped into the group photo, walked to the start, and we were off.  

To beat my course PR, I had to average under 9:35/mile if I ran the tangents.  I hit mile 1 at 9:27, but I was already starting to question my ability to maintain the pace.  I was working a little too hard, too early, even though it was gloriously cool.  E was trying to drag me a bit faster, but I couldn't catch up, so he took off shortly after the 1 mile mark (and ran a 20 second PR). Sure enough, despite my effort, Mile 2 was 9:42.  Annnnnnddddd, Mile 3 came in at 10:03.  I ran the last 0.1 at 9:30 pace and missed a course PR by 21 seconds. I was a bit disappointed because I honestly believed the 8 weeks since the PR had been full of good fitness work that should have made it easy to run faster.

But, I had been struggling with my left hamstring insertion, and it wasn't remotely sore after the race, so I just had to buck up and appreciate a healthy, fun hard effort with E in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  We followed it up with delicious tapas for lunch, the hilarious Sorry To Bother You at the theater, and then one of the best sushi meals either of us have ever enjoyed.

Pre-sushi balcony selfie.
Sunday, I slept in, busted out 35 minutes on the recumbent bike (my left leg wasn't grumpy at me, but even so, I figured a day off running couldn't hurt, and there was a full gym at the hotel, so why not?) and then we headed back home.

I arrived to lots of ripe tomatoes, ready for harvest.
Kentucky Beefsteak on the left, Caspian Pink to the right.
So, I harvested and gifted some produce to the neighbors.  Then I made sauce.

And slow-roasted tomatoes.

And dinner using the garden cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh sauce.

Even without the PR, this was pretty much a perfect weekend for me.

July 23, 2018

Happy Californian Summer Week

We're having a mild Summer.
Look at all that green fruit!  
Typically, at this point in the Summer, at least 1/3 of it would be ripe (red, yellow, purple/brown, orange, etc.).
While the cool temps have slowed down the tomato development, it is wonderful for my running.  Most days, after I have my coffee and clear my email, it's only in the low 70s when I head out the door.  If I really wanted to optimize, I could get out in the mid to high 60s early in the morning, but because I am heat sensitive, I do like to train in some heat during the Summer so that I can enjoy the performance boost I get from the cooler temperatures of Fall races.

It was an A- workout week, which was wonderful: 1 day off, 2 track days of 3400 total speed each (including a 9:04 mile -- so close to the sub 9 goal, but not quite there), 1 easy 6 miler, my 36 minute jump-rope calisthenics insanity, a bike/yoga day, and one workout of 5 minutes jog; 20 X 1 min hard/1 min walk; 5 minutes jog.  There were also several hours of gardening, yardwork, and late night resistance tube/stretching work -- I'm quite glad that these things are making it back into my routine, and hopeful that they will contribute to me avoiding re-aggravating my picky left leg.

Red lentil soup, garden zucchini tzatziki salad and rosé -- Summer heaven.
Tonight's dinner is gazpacho, with 80% garden ingredients, which is likely to go into the weekly rotation for the forseeable future.

Garden gazpacho!
In other news, one of the many guest room visitors we regularly entertain took us out to dinner at a local ramen joint.  The portions were huge, so I took home 2/3 of my noodles/veggies/meat as well as my dipping sauce.  Last night, I made zoodles, tossed 'em in with the leftovers, added the dipping sauce and some water, brought it to a boil and then had the genius idea to portion the boiling soup into our bowls, and crack an egg in each, cover with a lid, and let the egg poach.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! That was not the expected outcome!  Thankfully, the broth was hot enough to cook the eggs once we broke them up.

July 16, 2018

Tomatoes: The Work Pays Off

The garden is out of control this time of year!
My first "real" tomato harvest of the season was this weekend, and it was almost entirely cherries (with one blossom end-rot thessoloniki).

Oh, happy day!
I sliced those cherries and we enjoyed caprese for dinner -- the first one of tomato season, but definitely not the last.

Isn't this just such a gorgeous sight?
I had purchased soft mozzarella to keep in the fridge so we could be sure to enjoy caprese the day of the first harvest big enough to feed us both.  It was wonderful, although now that the waterfall of ripening has started, I can switch to buying fresh mozzarella in water (and, I really should calendar a date to make it from scratch before the end of tomato season).

First tomato harvest caprese -- Sunday night dinner.
Today, a little more than 24 hours after the first harvest, I harvested again.

First ripe plum tomatoes and full-size medium thessoloniki.
From here on out, every few days, I'm going to be going out and pruning like crazy and harvesting.  This will likely be the last week where we only have enough for us.  Starting next week (or the week after that), I'll begin gifting tomatoes (and cukes and all sorts of squash), and probably, the first weekend in August, I will get to spend a long weekend day canning (and saving seeds for my seed bank).

Have I mentioned this is my favorite time of year?

I save the seeds in the Summer and then freeze them.  I start the seedlings in January or February.  I water them and put them under grow lights and hit them with a fan in the garage (still planning to build a hothouse...) until late spring when I can bring them outside.  I transfer them in and out of the sun until it is warm enough to leave them outside overnight.  I plant them in late spring once the danger of frost has passed.  And then I water and prune and put the cages out and weed until now, when they finally bear fruit.  Tomato harvest season is a reward for 6 months of effort and I enjoy it so very much!

Running is similar in ways.  It often takes months of sacrifice and effort before you see the benefits.  There are things out of your control (weather, pests, birds, squirrels, viruses), but you just do your best to control the controllables.

Right now, I'm in a dedicated running effort period that's a new one for me.  I'm focused much more on getting in a few fast hard workouts or races a week and letting the rest of the workouts just balance with my life as makes sense.  If I get in 2 hard running workouts in a week, I call it a success.  This is partially because  I'm starting to focus more on total body fitness as opposed to just running fitness, and this means that my running mileage has taken a hit in favor of more total body workouts.

I finally made it back to the yoga studio for the first time since December last Friday.  I'm hopeful I can get back into a once a week yoga-studio pattern again, as once I'm in the habit, it's much easier to keep it up.  I've also been pretty good about keeping up a once a week jumprope/calisthenics workout.  I'd love to bump this one up to twice per week, but realistically speaking, once is great and I want to reward myself for the good stuff I'm doing rather than set goals that are unrealistic and be bummed when I don't hit them.  So, an A+ week for me these days would be 1 yoga class, 1 jumprope/calisthenics session, 2 hard running workouts, and 3 easy runs with relatively healthy food.  I get an A- if it's just 2 easy runs, which, since I took a rest day today, is the best I can do this week -- wish me luck.

Peachtree week's mileage was 20 including twice around the 3.4 loop in the North Georgia mountains with 500+ feet of climb post race.  I consider that workout a success if I average sub 15 minutes per mile, and I did on both, so yay!

Last week's mileage was 25 including 3.5 miles of hills in the Atlanta heat, 4X800 at the track, a good run/walk workout of 0.5 w/u; 10 X 1min hard, 1 min walk; 0.5 c/d and quite a bit of walking during the week to round it out.

My left leg is still a bit spotty, but I've been trying to stretch and strengthen -- I've taken to doing shoulder rehab exercises as well as stretching and strength at night while I watch my latest obsession: Bosch.

And there you have it.  Tomatoes are coming in.  Running is coming along nicely.  Summer is here.  All is well.

July 4, 2018

Peachtree 2018

Walking with our corral to the start.
I think the woman who finished just behind me said it best, "It's not really a race...But it's an awesome event!"

Sure, the elites who start at 6:50 (women) and 7:00 (men) and are done after 29-35ish minutes of running can race it.  But us mere mortals?  Particularly mortals who aren't humidity trained?  It's a fitness test, for sure, but I really wouldn't call it a race.  Or at least not one where you're competing against the clock on a scale comparable to other events I think of as races. Which is fine.

Watching Steph Bruce win the USA 10K championships on the big screen while waiting for my corral start
was the highlight of the day!  She's been trying to get a national title for 10 years!
(And then she replied to my congratulatory tweet!)

It's a patriotic celebration of the 4th of July with a very loud and impressive flyover by an F-35 (I think?) after the national anthem.  It's one of the largest 10Ks in the world (54,672 finishers this year).  It's extremely well run with plenty of portapotties, water stations, and great volunteer support.  They seed corrals by qualifying time, they enforce bib letters for access but allow you to hop in even just before the corral start if your bib is acceptable.  The start corrals go off every 5 minutes, on the dot, so you can plan your morning very precisely.

U is the last corral, typically walkers, who can handle starting in the later
heat a little better.
This year was the 49th running of the race, and it's one of the reasons why Atlanta won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic Trials (which I am so excited to go spectate).  The Atlanta Track Club will be hosting the Atlanta Marathon the day after the trials, and, assuming they offer a half marathon option, I believe that will be my goal race for spring 2020.  Anyone care to join?

Me, E, and E's dad lined up for the tradition this year.
Overall, I would say I was pleased with how today went.  I ran 1:12:40 chip time, or 11:42 per mile.  The Garmin gave it 1:12:42 for 6.34 miles at 11:28/mile, which is fairly typical for most of the times I've run it.  Because the streets are so wide and the crowds are big, it's almost impossible to run perfect tangents.

Despite it being 86F at 11 PM the night before (thankfully, there were some thunderstorms to cool it down), the predictions had been for slightly cooler and less humid than last year's slog.  Unfortunately, at the last minute, even with moving the start 30 minutes earlier, they changed the danger rating to "red/severe." I suspect it was just as hot and humid as last year, if not worse.  To the bank with the thermometer reading 77F at mile 2: I probably could have lived without that information, as I knew it was supposed to climb 5 degrees over the next hour.

We may have shown up a tad early...
My goal was to go out and shoot for steady 10:30 mile pace (averaged to be faster on the downhills and slower on the uphills).  I hit it easily with the 5K at 32:38 or 10:31 pace (although this included a walk break from the 3 mile water station to the 5K marker -- I was sub 10 minutes/mile at mile 3, so a little faster than I probably should have been).

I didn't actually think I'd made a mistake as miles 2 and 3 were downhill.  So, I was happy with the 5K (versus >36 minutes last year), and I felt strong and solid while running it and then walking to get back to my target average pace, happy to be pushing, but fit.

Apparently, if you are a healthy late thirties dude,
you can run a decent 10K in the heat and humidity
off 3ish miles running/week (so long as you bike 15+), 
 but it doesn't feel great afterwards...
I didn't recover as quickly as I'd hoped from the water/walk break, and I realized I was overheating.  Just in time for a famous segment on the route called "Cardiac Hill" from 3.1 to 3.85 miles or so that climbs at a 3.8% grade.  Not a great combination.  But, a wonderful family was on the side with a sign that said, "Free EZ-pops!" I guessed/hoped that these are what I know of in California as Otter Pops.  And they were!  Tremendously grateful, I took the half pop, and held it in my hand while walking (thanks for the tip, Jen!) and tried to get as much of the grape sugary ice down into my belly before it melted in my mouth (thanks to the cooling science I learned from Alex Hutchinson's Endure).
Eventually, I started running again and caught back up to E and his dad.  I stayed with them off and on by run/walking to manage my heat until mile 5, when, I was met with the reality of needing a bathroom stop.  Did I mention that we flew out the day before the race?  And E's mom made a delicious dinner?  And we woke at 6 AM local time, so 3 AM at home?  Well, the pre-race restroom plans didn't pan out, so I just started and hoped for the best. I almost made it, but at mile 5, finally, I realized I had to stop and take care of business.  It was a 2:47 stop.  No doubt, some of that time is a delay I can subtract from my performance time.  But, some of it was also cooling down, so I'm just going to note it, but not claim that I could have run sub 70 minutes without it, because I'm not sure I could have.

In other news, I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I totally won the in-law lottery:

Our Brother-in-law is quite the chef and hosted the whole family for 4th of July caprese 
followed by sous-vide octopus finished on the grill with salsa verde 
and pancetta chips over cauliflower steaks for dinner.
Now that's a post-race feast!

July 2, 2018

Making the Most of West Coast Summer (aka Peachtree week -0.5)

We went to Portland for a conference.  The weather was literally perfect.  SO PERFECT!  Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s.  No air quality issues.

Sunset walk along the river.
And while we were there, walking around, lyfting when we couldn't walk, we saw that the bikes reign supreme.

Now THAT'S a bike lane!
And of course, I visited Powell's (on the suggestion of a friend), one of the biggest and oldest independent bookstores in the US.

Oh, and I fit in a run with a former bay area run-friend?  Yeah, it was pretty much perfect.

The Portland sign from across the river.
Also, the conference was very educational and useful.

From there, we came home, worked, gardened, and I spent a weekend night up in the Santa Cruz mountains with one of my best friends while E spent some time with one of his best friends for a guys' night sans kids.

A hike in the redwoods!
The running was good for a total of 10ish miles at decent paces plus 4 miles walking in Portland and 4 miles hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains.  I also fit in an extension of my 1:30/1:30 jumprope calisthenics workout to 36 minutes, which *completely* kicked my butt -- I'm seriously loving this workout and thinking of moving to jumping rope twice weekly.

Hiking in the shade of the redwood canopy is so peaceful.

Should be interesting to see what type of performance I can pull off at Peachtree -- the weather prediction is scattered thunderstorms with a low of 71, a high of 88, and 68% humidity.  They pushed the start to be 30 minutes earlier this year, which is appreciated, but even if we started at the absolute lowest temperature of the day, it's still going to be uncomfortable.

Seeing all the elite runners who will be competing tweet about heading there for the USA 10K road championships is making me a little sad that I'm not going to get to spectate the frontrunners at the finish.

I think it's reasonable to assume that I can beat last year's time of 1h18 (12:30 miles) as I was coming off a year of travel and didn't have much running fitness at all.  At my current fitness level, I know I could do a sub 11 min/mile 10K in our local conditions if I got out early when it was cool, potentially even pushing it close to 10 min/mile.  But I really have no idea what that level of fitness translates to for me in the heat and humidity. I guess we'll see!