January 19, 2019

Crissy Field Parkrun Progress

I had client meetings in SF and E had work, so we did our first home-away-from-home SF night of the year, enjoying a delicious sushi date night before an early bed-bound movie and Saturday morning Parkrun.

A beautiful view, perfect running weather, friendly Brits, what's not to love?
As they petitioned for volunteers because they were short, I realized I've taken advantage of this wonderful event enough times that I really do need to pay it forward.  So, one of these weekends, I'll likely volunteer instead of run.  If I time it for a night where we've stayed in the city, I may just run there, volunteer and run back to the hotel for a broken up high mileage (for this 5K-focused runner) day.

My running so far in 2019 had been minimal in volume (15ish miles per week average), but, in less than 3 weeks, despite the travel, I'd gotten in 3 solid speed/strength workouts (including last week's cooper test), plus 2 sets of strap/stretching/rehab and 3 core/yoga workouts.  So, I was feeling optimistic.

My A goal was to finish sub 9:30 min/mile.  My B goal was to beat my decade PR 5K pace (anything sub 9:34/mile average).  My C goal was a course PR (anything sub 29:56).

I headed out for the first mile with the group and had to rein myself in, mentally repeating "easy, full of joy" while letting lots of folks (including a girl who must have been younger than 10) pass me.  Even with the effort to avoid the early excitement, E & I hit the 1 mile mark at 9:11.  I felt good, so tried to ignore the concerned internal voice that worried I may have gone out too fast (spoiler -- I probably did).

About halfway through mile 2, it started to feel harder, but not too hard to keep it at 9:30/mile (which had been my goal pace for the whole race) so I just kept checking in with my watch every few minutes and did my best to keep that mile's pace on track.  This portion of the race had significant puddles and mud which slowed everyone down, but I managed to speed up once we were back on pavement and crossed mile 2 with a 9:31 split.

I definitely struggled through mile 3, and several people passed me.  About halfway through the mile, I looked down to see a pace of 9:55/mile and, despite my perceived effort being high, did my best to push for a while, only to look down and see 9:50 -- clearly, I was not making up the time nearly fast enough.  I hit mile 3 with a 9:48 split.

I found a little extra energy to push for 9:21/mile pace for the last tenth of a mile, but I must have been passed by 5 people in that time.

I finished, high-fived E (who'd ditched me around the halfway point per his usual), and turned to congratulate D, who'd surprised me by being so close to my finish, as she'd estimated finishing 3+ minutes slower.

I looked at my watch and learned that I'd missed my A goal, but met my B goal.  JUST BARELY.  My average pace was 9:33/mile.  1 second per mile improvement.  I was happy.  But also, just barely.

Once back at the hotel, I uploaded my garmin data and realized I'd hit the lap button at the finish and then the stop button about 9 seconds later.


29:31.  Good enough for 9:29/mile.  Oh my goodness!  I was so much happier once I realized my error.  What a difference 9 seconds can make.  Of course, my actual performance hadn't changed at all.  Just my perception of it.  I knew I'd pushed hard.  I should have been proud, regardless.  And yet, that verifiable data of positive improvement and reaching my goal made all the difference in the world.

I was rewarded with burnt-off fog for a gorgeous celebratory brunch on the embarcadero.

January 13, 2019

One point eight percent

It was a light week, running wise.  Total mileage (including walking) was almost 18, so nothing impressive on that front.

But hey, I got in a cooper test on Saturday and dropped my pace to 9:06 minutes/mile.  Progress! (A 1.8% improvement over my previous best "this-decade" pace of 9:16.)

2124 meters.  Just 176 meters to go to "VERY GOOD."

January 9, 2019

2019: Goals

Last year, I didn't have many explicit year-long goals.

The only fitness goal I openly stated was that I wanted to try to improve my fitness to the point where I could run "very good" on the Cooper Test. I didn't even come close (it requires running 8:23/mile for 12 minutes).  My first cooper test of the year was at a 9:34/mile pace.  Over the course of the year, I dropped it down to a 9:16/mile pace.  But, I also decreased my 5K pace over the year down to 9:34 (so my 12 minute best became my almost 30 minute best pace) and I ran an 8:52 minute mile at the end of the year.  Both of these made me happy, as my fitness obviously improved.  Any year where you end the year better than where you started is a good one!

I bought myself Lauren Fleshman's Believe
Training Journal for Christmas
This year, I decided to set some concrete running goals:

1. A sub 1 hour 10K (looking for a good late fall option as the target race, with a few races over the course of the year to inch towards that time)

2. A sub 29 minute 5K (I'm hopeful I can do this sometime this Spring)

3. A sub 8 minute mile (this one is a stretch, so in the meantime I'll be happy with sub 8:30 as a stepping stone by June)

4. Very Good on the Cooper Test (probably not doable unless I can get close to the sub 8 minute mile, but I'll chip away at it)

I'm still scheduling my workout and target race schedule for the first few months of the year, and I'm looking forward to having a few racing opportunities to ratchet down towards these goals and hopefully also see and catch up with some of my running friends.

Example weeks from my food log
(can you spot the two weeks with travel & visitors?)
Another thing I did last year was I labeled my days as red (ate red meat), beige (ate poultry), blue (ate fish/seafood), or white (ate ovo-lacto vegetarian).  If I ate two of the categories, I used the color that was higher in the unhealthy/environmentally damaging order.

Due to the negative health associations and negative environmental impact of red meat, I started last year with a goal of keeping my red days below 1/3 of the total and just observing the other days. About halfway through the year, I realized that achieving this goal would be harder than I assumed.

The story I tell myself is that I eat vegetarian about 75% of the time.  And, when left to my own devices (E & I, eating alone, at home), I definitely did eat vegetarian about 75% of the time, with about 5% of my meals containing poultry and approximately 10% containing red meat, while 10% contained fish.

But, any time we have visitors, or we travel, I end up splurging.  Because I don't really enjoy most poultry, splurging for me generally results in red meat.  It was very easy to see the weeks where we had visitors, or were traveling simply by looking at the color patterns on the spreadsheet.

All in all, I finished out the year with 40% of my days being red (145 days), 8% beige (28 days), 15% blue (54 days), and 36% white (133 days). I definitely eat red meat more often than I thought I did.

Logging by day instead of meal does not give me a great insight into the actual percentage of my meals that contain the various protein sources.  I was insistent on logging any day where I had a piece of bacon or 2 ounces of charcuterie as red, for the sake of honesty.  Also, occasionally, I'd opt for a second serving of red meat on a day when I knew it was already marked red -- the day was blown, so why not indulge even more?  So, this year, I'll continue with the color coding for the frequency imagery, but I'm going to do the actual logging by servings (4 oz), with a half serving for small things like a piece of bacon.

In the interest of my health and the environment, my 2019 food goals are: less than 100 servings of red meat & at least 100 servings of fish/seafood (with a focus on sustainable sources) while maintaining my relatively low poultry intake (and thus getting a majority of my protein and other nutrients from plants, dairy, and eggs).  And, of course, I'll continue to try to eat locally sourced and produced food wherever possible (with the *most* local source, of course, being my garden).

Winter lettuces and veggies -- ready to go into the garden.
If you are interested in learning more about the environmental impacts of food production, I highly recommend this fascinating study.


January 5, 2019

Mexico City New Year

I'm a sucker for airline miles manipulation, and this year, they got me.  After our trip to Aruba and our flight back to California, I was shocked to see that I hadn't flown enough on actual paid trips this year to maintain our Delta flight status.

Sunset on our way to Mexico City.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Super ridiculous privileged first world problems, but if we're going to be honest about privilege and first world stuff, then we need to talk about financial literacy.  It's very important in terms of people's ability to transition from parents who are "poor, first in their family to go to college" to children who are "Bay Area hyper-educated normal." My family was *not* upper class, my parents were both the 1st to go to college in their families, and my 2nd generation college-groomed privilege was that I found finance interesting and I could subscribe to magazines about investing and business and my parents let that happen (they were all essentially free due to some weird sweepstakes magazine thing)...

Tacos from El Rey De Suaderno -- Delicious!
All of this (understanding the scarcity model plus a desire to maximize profits) contributes to my ability to realize that if I didn't get at least Silver Medallion status on Delta for 2019, I was losing quite a bit of value (as I had several reserve MQMs that wouldn't roll-over unless I was at least Silver, not to mention upgrade opportunities, free drinks/food, etc.).

Zocalo, the 3rd largest public square in the world.
E called it when I saw my status on the Delta App on our flight home from Aruba/Atlanta, "You're totally going to book a New Year's Trip that gets you status to protect our 2019 travel, aren't you?"

consomm√© -- one of the best things about  CDMX taquerias
Well, yes.  I tried to brush off his suggestion initially, but of course he knows me better than I know myself and 1 week later, we'd booked a New Year's trip to Mexico City.

The ruins in downtown CDMX right off the Zocalo.
We have several friends who've gone in the last few years, and they've all had wonderful things to say, particularly about the food.

Aztec Sun Stone
I knew we'd have a wonderful time -- it's the largest city in North America -- of course we could find things we'd adore.

Stereotypical touristic stuff at a ridiculously charming outpost near Teotihuacan.
But, folks, it totally exceeded our expectations.

Pyramid of the Sun -- the largest pyramid in the world you can hike up (3rd largest overall)
It was awe-inspiring.

View from the pyramid of the moon.
The teotihuacan pyramids are, frankly, almost as impressive as Machu Pichu, but with less crowds, and much easier to get to, so net, possibly a better experience.

The food was, as promised, excellent.

We decided on a light Portuguese lunch
(Jamon Iberico, Pan Tomate y Mejillones y Pulpo)
The museum of Anthropology was one of the best museums I've ever been to, which is saying a ton, as I tend to prefer my museums on the modern, arty, side.

We originally went with hopes of out of control Mexican fireworks (for which they are known), but, one of the few downsides of modern day Mexico City is the air quality (abysmal).  As such, fireworks had been more or less outlawed (as had tire fires and trash fires), so we found ourselves on Paseo de la Reforma with a cheery, happy group of folks with nothing more than a band, lights, and *HUGE* sparklers.  It was wholesome and wonderful and one of the more enjoyable ways I've crossed the new year's threshold.

Overall, it was a wonderful way to transition into the new year and I'm a bit shocked that it isn't held out as more of an international destination for Americans who want to travel.  It is the largest city in North America, very tourist friendly, but clearly its own Latin American destination where English will work, but not remotely as well as Spanish (so if you have some, use it -- they will appreciate your efforts!), and it has tons of culture.  Why it is not on the default list of easy places for American families who want to raise world traveling children is shocking to me -- the pyramids alone are worth a trip.

Also, the food.  Did I mention the food?

Chapulines -- look closely, those are baby grasshopper tacos (delicious!)
We'll probably go back as our friends stayed an extra day and did stuff we didn't do that sounded wonderful, plus there were neighborhoods we didn't visit and food we didn't try.

We fit in all sorts of fun cultural stuff including a great night of Lucha Libre!
If you're looking for a short international trip that has tons of culture, you should consider Mexico City.

January 3, 2019

2018: Closing Out the Books

For the last installation of 2018 book blogging, I present my total of visually read books for 2018 as the lowest number it's been in years.  Possibly since middle school:


Final commentary on Gravity's Rainbow plus the last three books below:

Gravity's Rainbow (C+, finally finished)

Worth the effort, but boy did this book take up a huge portion of my reading effort for the year.  I was very happy to be done.
The Importance of Being Earnest (B+)
Oscar Wilde
A classic for a reason, of course.  Frivolous.  Fun.  Entertaining. 
Less (A-)
Andrew Sean Greer
I loved. Loved.  LOVED this book. The story of a 50 year old gay male author whose former partner is getting married, so he accepts all manner of invitations all over the world to concoct an excuse not to attend.  The writing is so subtly good that I found myself going back a few lines to double check that I'd fully appreciated the jokes. I don't believe I've ever read a book where the protagonist was a middle-aged gay male, and I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to get into that headspace. A friend said that this book reminded her of the Elegance of the Hedgehog (one of my favorite books of all time), and I agree.  There's almost nothing in common between the books in terms of characters or plot, but there's something about the slyly hilarious humor of the language and the honest and wistful characters and their desires that is a shared experience between them.
Rust & Stardust (B)
T. Greenwood
In 1948, young Sally Horner was kidnapped by Frank La Salle, a 50 year old mechanic, who posed as an FBI agent after observing her shoplift and used this ruse to convince her to come with him.  He kept her captive for 2 years as they traveled from Camden, New Jersey to Baltimore, Dallas, and eventually San Jose, California.  I learned from this book, that the news of this real-life story inspired Nabokov to write Lolita.  I don't usually like real-life crime novels that are not detective stories with a clean ending.  Crime as experienced by the victim is not the type of literature I like to consume. I got nightmares from criminal law class in law school.  But, this was a gifted loan from a friend, so I gave it a read.  Much like Lolita, it is a gorgeous collection of words.  It's a beautiful book.  It tells the tale from the perspective of the victim, rather than the perpetrator, which is, from the yuck-perspective, an improvement over Lolita.  It was a good, compelling read.  But, I raced to finish it as quickly as possible -- I just wanted the terrible story to end.  When it did, I was sad to be done with the writing. I would read this author's work again. 

In audiobook news, I continue to rip through them at a ridiculous pace, with 45 in this post for a yearly total of 98.  Thank goodness for Libby (the Overdrive app that let's you check out audiobooks from your local library), or else, the price of my audiobook habit would dwarf most people's cable/Internet bill!

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court (B)
Mark Twain
Funny, like only Twain can be. A tale of a man transported from the 1800s to King Arthur's Court where he becomes a magician and exploits technology to modify the court.  Gunpowder, bicycles, baseball, etc. all play major parts, as you'd expect. 
Head On (B+)
John Scalzi
The sequel to Lock In.  Chris continues in the gender non-specified form from the original book and you can listen to it read by Amber Bensen or Will Wheaten.
Dismas Hardy (Books 7 - 17) (B)
John Lescroart
More goodness.  Caught up to modern day where Hardy's daughter is an associate at his firm.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions (B-)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Short and sweet, this letter from the always thoughtful author to a friend who has a newborn girl talks through her (pre-motherhood) ideas of how best to raise a daughter.  Nothing out of the ordinary, but wonderful, nonetheless.
Something In the Water (A-)
Catherine Steadman
I adored this thriller, although I had roughly figured out the "surprise" plot with about 20% left to go.  It's not ideal when you are pretty sure you know who the bad guy is and the main characters still haven't figured it out.  Even with that complaint, however, this was very enjoyable.  Also, the author is an actress, and she did her own reading -- her acting ability translated very nicely into voice acting and definitely added to the experience.  If you're looking for a comparison, this felt very similar to Girl on the Train, in terms of pacing, language, and theme.
Insurgent (B)
Allegiant (B-)
Veronica Roth
2nd & 3rd book in the Divergent Series.  The tone and pacing were similar to Divergent -- obviously young adult with obviously under-developed emotional maturity, but with that reality worked well into the fast-moving plot.  Very enjoyable and full of surprises.  
Eat, Pray, Love (B)
Elizabeth Gilbert
I needed something uplifting in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, and I remembered enjoying this book when I'd read it over 10 years ago.  I knew that Ms. Gilbert had evolved quite a bit since writing this book, and so had I, as well as the world.  I was interested to see how the book held up.  I am happy to report that it did hold up relatively well.
Educated (A+) 
Tara Westover
Such a raw and brave and extremely American story.  Conservative mormonism.  Preppers. Physical abuse. A hard, honest, telling of a young woman's self-education from conspiracy theory-laden origins without a birth certificate with essentially no formal home-schooling, through BYU, Oxford, Harvard, and beyond.
The Alphabet Mysteries:  A is for Alibi; B is for Burglar; C is for Corpse (B- average) -- up to H at this point
Sue Grafton
I had been looking for another mystery series I could dive into and this 3 book collection was offered by Amazon for 1 credit, so I dived in.  It's a solid offering that entertains and distracts.  Kinnsey Millhone (the main character) is a fun strong female character.  The early books are set in the 80s, and it's kind of fun to realize how different professional work was before email and cell phones.  I have been making my way through the series as they become available via my local library.
Sourdough (A)
Robin Sloan
A book club member recommended this book and WOW!  Highly recommended.  A very unique and imaginative modern day tale of an old migrant people, culture, technology, startups, San Francisco in all of its excess and the complex biology of bread starter.  Surprisingly enjoyable and insightful.
The Magician's Assistant (B+)
Ann Patchett
I knew that Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert were close friends, and this book made it clear how that friendship could have been an easy one.  This book's take on life, mysteries, relationships that don't work according to society's or our own expectations but are still treasures to be cherished all felt like something Ms. Gilbert would endorse.  Poignant, full of loss, but also full of love.
The Mrs. Pollifax Series (books 1-11) (B average)
Dorothy Gilman
So refreshing!  This adorable series is centered on a 60-something widow who, suffering from a fit of depression, decides to volunteer at the CIA to be of service in lieu of suicide.  Her general instincts about people as well as her unassuming countenance serve her well and she always saves the day.  The stories are adorable, and oddly educational since they were written in the 70s and 80s and cover bits of international conflict set in that time period that never really escalated to the point of making it into modern version of history that I'd learned  (a low bar, as I'm not remotely a history nerd).
Committed (B)
Elizabeth Gilbert
A deep historical and personal exploration of the institution of marriage.  Fascinating and educational.  I will likely be recommending this to people who struggle with the concept of marriage, as I myself, once did, before capitulating for the sake of grandparents, family, and the reality that it's much easier to be legally married to your most important person than not.
Sapiens (A-)
Yuval Noah Harari
This was a big heart-heavy look at humans and how we've co-evolved with planet earth.  Turns out, we've been wreaking havoc on the planet and causing extinctions for ages.  We exterminated the majority of the large land mammals long before we even experienced the agrarian revolution.  On one level, this book was depressing.  On the other, it was comforting -- things are *not* getting worse, we've always been an all-consumptive species that took what we wanted at the expense of everything (and everyone) else.  If you are interested in the history of humanity, warts and all, I highly recommend this book.  But fair warning, parts of it aren't pretty at all.
Magpie Murders (B+)
Anthony Horowitz
Super clever book within in a book escapade, except it's a detective mystery series within a book.  And extremely well executed.  If you like murder mysteries, I guarantee you will love this book -- so much homage to the greats, in many ways, it's a love story to the genre.
Just the Funny Parts: …And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys' Club (B)
Nell Scovell
Excellent memoire from the television and magazine writer who ended up collaborating with Sheryl Sandberg on Lean In.  Honest tales of what it took to succeed in her career in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and current decade.  She's got a wry sense of humor and a great story to tell.  Very enjoyable.
Sounds like America (C+)
Free on Audible.  Great takes on regional differences/uniqueness in the US.  We probably ripped through 5 of the available episodes and enjoyed them all on a road trip over the holidays.  Perfectly consumable free content for car rides.