October 15, 2017


The California wildfires last week were shocking.  I have family in the area.  Thankfully, their home and they were not affected by the fires.  But they easily could have been.

I took Monday as an easy day post race and walked 1 mile.  Tuesday, I was surprised to realize my legs felt tighter than expected from the race and I decided to take a second down day, walking 4 miles to and from downtown in lieu of a real workout.

Wednesday, track club was canceled to allow for recovery (almost all members had raced on the weekend).  I woke to the news of the fires and relief at the updates confirming that my family was safe.  For lunch, most of the members of my track club and I went to a local winery and then to lunch to celebrate 2 birthdays and several successful races.  On the drive back into town, I was amazed at how smoky it was.  I immediately had flashbacks to our smoggy visit to Shanghai.

I remembered how crappy I felt after a day of sightseeing in the smog and I vowed not to run until the air quality had returned to the gloriously awesome levels that we regularly enjoy in the bay area.
Tomato gifts went into pico de gallo for halibut tacos (also a gift from our fisherman friend)
So yeah, no running Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.   The poor air quality each day brought home the reality of the suffering of those experiencing the fires in a way that was very uncomfortably real.  I've always known that fires were common in California, and terrible, but not being able to see to the end of the streets in our neighborhood was overwhelming and depressing.  I can't imagine how those who lost their homes must feel.

Friday, I did motivate enough to go do a yoga class (my yoga studio has some heated classes and in connection with the heat, they have a filtration system), which kicked my butt in a good way.  In hindsight I should have gone on all of the days I couldn't run, but I'm still in a love/hate relationship with yoga right now, so once a week is acceptable progress.

Saturday AM, I woke to blue skies and joyfully headed out for 6 easy miles.  It's so nice to have returned to a level of fitness where I can just go out and do 6 miles.  Sure, they were relatively slow (11:52/mile), but it wasn't a struggle at all and didn't require much mental effort to push myself through it without stopping (except for water fountains).

Sunday, in contrast, was a workout failure.  I jogged to the trailhead as my planned warmup of a little over 1 mile.  Then, I attempted to do 2 intervals at 9:39/mile for 1.3 miles each with E.  We started out a bit fast, but at around 0.5 miles there is a bridge over the train tracks.  The elevation change slowed my average pace quite a bit and by the time I crested the apex, I needed to recover a full minute from my average pace to hit the target time.  I was breathing hard and it was clear to me that I couldn't recover that time and sustain the required pace for 1.3 miles (which was super disappointing, but what can you do?).  So, I yelled ahead to E to let him know I'd changed the plan and would only be doing 0.75 mile intervals.  They were consistent -- 9:58/mile and 9:57/mile with 4ish minutes of walking recovery between them.  From there I jog-walked home.  By effort it was a very solid workout.  But, in terms of performance, it was not.

Sunday afternoon, I met up with 2 awesome local runners at the hippest bar I've been to in ages.  It was fun to chat and catch up and hang out with people who normally only see me at my sweatiest.  From there, E and I met for dinner with dear friends in Oakland that we hadn't seen in at least a 15 months.

And just like that, another week has passed.  Certainly, time seems to fly much faster now than it did during the sabbatical.  Work and taxes and general life overhead doesn't stand out or make the time stretch the way that new and unique experiences do (often with frustration).  On the other hand, I have successfully strung a few months of good workout consistency and healthy food at home, which I definitely didn't do during the sabbatical, so that's an obvious upside.

October 8, 2017

The Frustrating (Awesome?) Tyranny of Race Calculators (RNRSJ Race Report)

So, I went for it.

Black lentils with turkey kielbasa and spinach--
one of many awesome "training" meals this week

After a difficult 10:28 mile on my easy pre-race shake-out on Saturday, I told myself I'd do the first mile at 10:40 or slower and reassess from there. 

This week's pimientos de padrones were so spicy I couldn't eat more than 3
in any sitting.  E was very happy with the leftovers.
But then, after being locked in the corrals, and slowly walking towards the start for 20+ minutes, I was antsy to get moving and my friend M asked to stop for a walk break after 5 minutes of actual running (she then went and kicked my butt by 4 minutes for the whole race!).  I checked in on effort and it felt so easy on the flats in the shade, that I decided to let myself go, but, I promised myself, not over 10:27.  I hit mile 1 at 10:26  Sweet!

Monday's dish hike's epic views...
Mile 2 was 10:25.  I walked through the aid station just after mile 2 and hit mile 3 at 10:32 -- not bad for stopping to walk and drink some water and dump the rest on my head.  I was feeling very good about the 10:27/mile goal.

And then, I wasn't.

As you can see, I hit the 5K mark at an average pace of 10:30 (already losing serious seconds from miles 1-3).  And then, it was a huge struggle the rest of the way to try to keep it below 11 minutes per mile.  I'm proud of how much effort I put in.  I'm proud of the fact that I didn't do any walking except through the aid stations.  I'm generally super happy with today's outcome.

Awesome runners who come to eat and hang out post-run? 
One of the best things about being back from the sabbatical
But, I'm also *super* annoyed at the McMillan run calculator for being able to calculate my performance perfectly on the basis of the mile I ran the week before the race.  I'm even more annoyed at myself for not heeding the science and making myself go out at the scientifically calculated 10:47 for 3 or 4 miles.  No doubt I would have had a faster final finishing time if I hadn't pushed it early on...

C'est la vie.

Also, when people you adore come to you to socialize and eat good food and they bring people you've never met who show up with pumpkin muffins, your life is pretty damn charmed.

Leaves and acorns and nuts formed pumpkin muffins -- make no mistake, it's gloriously celebratorialy Fall.
So, all in all, I'm happy.  6 weeks 'til the turkey trot 10K.  We'll see if I shoot for 1 hour or something a bit more reasonable, given today.

October 4, 2017

San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K -- Ready or Not

It's been a slow but steady 10 weeks of training (and eating primarily healthy home-cooked meals) in my run-up to the San Jose Rock 'n Roll 10K.

My goals, in order, have been:

1. Increase aerobic fitness (I have definitely been doing this and it feels good.  I went on a hike on Monday and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep my breathing and effort low, even during the climbs.)

2. Decrease my mass (the trend is in the correct direction -- I tend to think of my weight as a 5 lb range and my average weight is 1/4 of a pound or so away from clearing to the next 5 lb range down, which I haven't been in for at least a year and a half)

3. Increase my average weekly mileage running (slowly but surely, this has been happening, although it's probably an area where I need to increase my efforts to hit goal #4)

4. Run a sub-1-hour 10K (I've still got quite a bit to go before I can get here -- 9:39 minute miles are currently doable but very high effort and need recovery)

Back in July, in the heat, I returned to "racing" with a 1h18 10K at The Peachtree Road Race. (12:30/mile average pace).  A few weeks later, on an overcast day, I ran the 6 mile Wharf 2 Wharf race at an average pace of 11:36/mile.

A month later, in muggy heat, I ran the Race to the End of Summer  in 1h10 (11:24/mile).  I was a bit surprised (and bummed) that I couldn't get the pace below 11 minutes per mile, but heat and humidity are not my gig and I know that my fitness improvement often comes in spikes, so I just did my best to soldier on.

Today, at track club, the assigned speedwork was a single mile (most of the group is doing a half marathon this weekend, so the goal was to keep them off their legs for their taper).  I went out by effort and was pleased to see that keeping 9:30 pace felt fairly reasonable.  I hit the first 400 (ish, there are sport lights on the track and high school kids to avoid, so the laps tend to be slightly long) at 2:24 and figured I could just try to cut the pace slightly with each lap.  800 -- 4:44.  1200 -- 7:05.  My watch beeped the mile at 9:18. I didn't want to run it hard enough to do any damage for Sunday's race, but I also wanted to try to get an idea of my fitness.  According to McMillan, the race conversion pace from this time to a 10K is 10:47/mile.

So, my goals for Sunday, in order, are:

A:  Run a sub 1h05 10K (10:27 pace).  I don't think it's remotely intelligent to attempt to run a sub 1 hour 10K just yet, but I think this is a potentially achievable goal and if I hit it, I'll be very pleased.

B:  Run sub 10:47/mile -- needed an arbitrary goal between 10:27 and 10:59, so I went with McMillan.

C:  Run sub 11/mile.

D:  Finish as best I can, with the only walking being through the aid stations.

Wish me luck!

October 1, 2017

SJRNR week -1

It's been a long time since I've actually trained for 9 weeks continuously.  Even if the training has been mild, it's felt good to consistently increase the effort and see gains in terms of pacing and ease of completing various distances.  The slow and steady mass decrease and speed increase is gratifying, if super, super miniscule on a weekly basis.

Spinach salad with Dijon dressing and potato, oyster mushroom emmentaler bake.

This week totaled 26.97 (mainly running, a little walking, not counting 8 miles of biking).

Slow roasted tomatoes -- another much-appreciated
tomato gift from a fellow local gardener.

I kept up with the general recommended training schedule and added in an hour of yoga with weighted balls on Friday in a heated room (still sore...).

Oktoberfest!  Corn-meal battered German sausage?  
Best corn-dog EVER!
Today's last long run before the race was 3.12 @ 10:46/mile; followed by a bathroom break and 2.08 @ 12:54 easy jog cooldown, then 1.14 walk to the start and then another mile or so downtown for Oktoberfest.

September 24, 2017

Falafel Fail (SJRNR week -2)

Last week I was moderately successful with a baba ganoush experiment (I modified the recipe to make it too garlicky -- but it was still delicious).  So, I decided to try the falafel recipe from the same site.

You only soak the garbanzo beans, you don't cook them!
Falafel is one of my favorite foods.  I try not to have them more often than once every couple of weeks because they are fried.  But the comments on this recipe indicated that some people had successfully baked these falafel and they were delicious.  I took the advice from one of the commenters and added some eggs so that they would stick together without the deep-frying and decided to give it a go.

Falafel mix, ready to cook.
I'd hoped I could just put them onto the cookie sheet but the texture, even with the eggs, made me suspect they would fall apart without some additional structure in place, so I decided to try using muffin tins.  Once I'd packed the tins, I poured a drip of canola oil over the top of each falafel to see if I could get just a slight hint of oven-fried deliciousness.

Not the perfect browned results I was hoping for.
Turns out, while the tops were cooked perfectly with this approach (400F 'til starting to brown, followed by 90 seconds of broiling), the bottoms stuck to the muffin tin, so I extracted a bunch of partially destroyed falafel at the end of the cooking cycle.

Hah!  I had a brilliant idea.  I'd put all of the leftover bits that stuck to the tins *back* into the oven and make a couple of twice baked falafel.

Did you know that Silicone bake-ware can catch fire?
(Note the oil spatter)
I put the muffin tin (not really a tin, as it was silicone, in a metal supporting rack) into the oven and started plating our dinner. 

2 minutes later, I smelled fire.

E knows the drill (I set a kitchen fire on a not infrequent basis), so he immediately opened the kitchen door and turned the hood on high while I grabbed the on-fire muffin tin with silicone hand protectors and walked it outside.  We're a well-oiled kitchen fire extinguishing machine at this point, thankfully.

See, I'd forgotten that I'd put the oven on broil for the last few seconds of the full set of falafel.  It had stayed on while I'd removed them all and re-constructed my brilliant twice-baked plan.  AND, all the small drizzles of oil were left on the muffin tin, both in the cups and on the top surface.  I'm not sure exactly how hot it got, but the flash point of canola oil is 600F.  Also, I've since learned that apparently silicone cookware should not go under the broiler.  Either way, there was a full on fire that took several minutes to burn itself out -- leaving behind white ash that clearly came from the silicone.  We did not eat any of the twice baked (and then charred in a chemical fire) falafel.

Dinner was good, though.
I think I'm going to leave falafel to the professionals.  After all this, it still didn't taste as good as when it's fried.  I have some frozen falafel leftovers, and if they hold up and reheat well, I *may* reconsider trying again (with pre-greased metal muffin tins), but it may be a while before I work up the gumption.

In running/fitness news, it was a good week.  I slept longer than usual and was hungrier than normal for much of the week, which is typically an indicator that I've got some big fitness gains around the corner (fingers crossed).

M: Finally made it back to the yoga studio.  It destroyed me.  I walked 1.5 miles there, did the 1 hour plus warm yoga high effort class, and left a sweaty, shaking mess, whereafter I walked the 1.5 miles home in shock at just how difficult yoga can be.  I bruised my arm doing crow pose, so I've been walking around with a nice blue mark that's still with me today.  Bonus, the core work was enough that I woke myself in the night on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday by simply rolling over and recruiting muscles like upper abs and obliques that were taxed beyond anything they are remotely used to.

T:  0.06 walk;
4 @ 11:56;
10 X 30s/90s paces (9:06; 8:50; 8:33; 9:17; 9:31; 9:47; 8:07; 8:41; 7:31; 8:08);
0.65 jog @ 12:42;
0.69 walk home from lunch

W: One of the best track workouts I've had in the last several years. Not because of the pacing (still very slow).  But just because it felt so good to run hard and beat the recommended BAA paces easily on every interval.
1.01 w/u @ 12:17;
0.4 drills w/u lap (9:22; 8:04: 7:13);
2 X 600; 600; 800 (t/p: 3:18/9:01; 3:20/9:04; 4:35/9:19; 3:23/9:05; 3:23/9:08; 4:35/9:16);
0.96 jog & walk c/d

Th: 3 @ 12:04;
1.66 walk

F: Exhausted.  Rest Day.

Sa: 1.52 jog @ 12:37;
1 mile @ 9:58;
5:10 walk R/I;
0.27 @ 10:17;
4+ min jog;
13 X 30s/90s (Paces: 8:31; 8:40; 8:19; 8:40; 9:07; 9:31; 7:59; 8:09; 8:06; 8:17; 8:42; 9:22; 8:31)

Su: 7 miles "long" @ 12:07 (including water fountain stops and a walk break to turn on headphones/audiobook)
0.15 walk c/d

Weekly Mileage: 31.86.  Most of it running.  Average paces, targeted high effort paces, and mass all still slowly decreasing.  Definitely feeling like it's been several weeks of consistent effort and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can manage to do at SJRNR.

September 17, 2017

Home Cooked Goodness (SJRNR week -3)

One of the best things about being back in our home is being back in our kitchen.  We missed so many of our favorite home-cooked meals while we were nomads.  And since we've been back, I've made several of them.

First, and in constant rotation, of course, are all things tomato (gazpacho, greek/turkish salads, caprese, tomato-olive-oil-salt salads, salmorejo, and more).

One of many gazpachos.
A second common entrant is cheese and crackers with a side salad.  Roasted/pan-fried shishitos or pimientos de padron have been on offer every time I've found them at the grocery store or the farmer's market.

Have I mentioned I love tomatoes
(and garden buddies who give them as gifts even more!)

When I've been feeling like something more complex that requires heat, I've made a few risottos, saag paneer, red lentil soup, squash noodle puttanesca, baba ganoush, and a couple of black lentil salads.

Black lentil salad and squash puttanesca
Turns out, almost all of my favorite things to cook are vegetarian.  And quite healthy.  Which is a wonderful benefit - without feeling deprived, I've been losing about 3/4 of a pound a week.

So, apparently 1/2 a full head of roasted garlic
is too much for a 3 eggplant baba ghanoush
On the running front, this week was okay: 2 runs over 6 miles, some strength intervals, and speed work (albeit super slow).

M: Rest

T: 1.76 @ 12:31; 1.73 walk

W: Track Club
0.43 miles jog w/u and drills;
2.65 total: 1200, 800, 600, 400, 200
(time/pace 7:07/9:41; 4:43/9:32; 3:30/9:22; 2:16/9:02; 57.4/7:33);
0.66 jog c/d;
1.37 walk to and from lunch;
1.5 walk to dinner

Th: 6.01 @ 12:21 (1.75 @ 10:30 with E; rest EASY);
0.39 walk c/d;
2 miles walking between client apts

F: work all day, rest

Sa: 3 easy @ 12:02;
10 X 30s hard/90s walk (1.26 total)
(paces: 8:28; 8:44; 9:21; 9:52; 9:11; 9:24; 9:20; 9:49; 9:37; 8:18);
0.5 jog c/d @ 12:38;
0.42 walk;
1.84 walk to lunch

Su: 6.21 @ 11:48; 0.44 walk

Here's to hoping I can continue with 3 more weeks of decent running and eating.  The fitness progress is slow, but it's obviously happening.

September 10, 2017

Swimming Along (SJRNR week -4)

I'm hiding from my professional life.  I haven't made any effort to market or solicit work.  A bit has come up since some folks know I'm back and available, but I'm comfortably hovering at around 20% utilization and I'm loving it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Jellyfish
This has left me time to deal with the annoying family and personal dramas that I'd really rather pretend don't exist.  But they do.  Multiple (okay, 2) lawsuits have been filed.  I don't like litigation... but, when I have to do it, I guess I do.  And, it's legal stuff that takes up legal time, so I'm happy to keep my actual paid legal practice on low-key level right now, because I don't want the stress of trying to balance paying clients against personal obligations.

Gorgeous Big Jellyfish exhibit

In other news, I'm making some fitness gains, and I'm very happy about it -- this was a solid week.

M: Rest

T: 1.52 @ 12:25; 9X30sprint/90sRI (1.5 @ 16ish AVG, with typical 30 sec @ low 8/mile); 1 @ 12:15; 0.44 walk

W: Track Club: 1.29 @ 12:41; 0.4 w/u drills; Cooper Test: 1.21 miles @ 9:55/mile; 0.11 walk; 0.57 jog c/d @ 12:26; 0.22 walk TOTAL: 3.8 miles

Th: 4.36 @ 11:30; 0.26 walk

F: 0.62 @ 12:30; 3.58 walk -- terrible showing, but sometimes you just have to give yourself credit for heading out.  I had a bunch of talking/ranting about family drama to manage, which I did while walking.  Something is better than nothing.

Sa: 4.43 @ 13:39 pace AVG.  jog 1.5 miles @ 12:22; strength intervals 2X0.75 (7:12; 7:23) Then 0.11 @ 9:55; walk and talk to mom; 0.16 @ 9:29; 0.27 jog; 0.55 walk home -- I was very happy about the 2 strength intervals.

Su: 8 miles long with E2 in Monterey (0.64 walk; 8 @ 12:39 including walk and water breaks; 0.72 walk) -- this is the best long run I've done in at least 14 months.  I was super happy and proud of this (not the least because if was the morning after a night of partying at the Aquarium).

Leopard Shark in the Kelp Forest

Thursday's run was one of those great medium efforts where I felt strong.  And Saturday's strength intervals were awesome.  But of course, Sunday's long run with E2 was the best - she definitely pulled me along to go faster than I would have without her.

I love turtles!

Progress feels so great: 30.36 mile week, and most of it running.  Onward.

September 3, 2017

Heat Wave (SJRNR week -5)

We rarely see triple digit temperatures.  But this week was quite the exception.  It hit over 100F at least 4 days, including Friday's and Saturday's highs of 111F under the eaves.  These temperatures are unprecedented in our town, and yes, it's outlier data, but it does make the "global warming is real and you need to prepare for it" arguments seem pragmatic, at a minimum.

Black out curtains coupled with modern building materials from the remodels 
(insulation under the fiber cement siding, reflective vinyl over high R foam roof, double paned windows)
keeps much of the crazy heat out.
Spending a week in South Carolina and Georgia during their August heat wave did help make the bay area version much more palatable -- humidity is *the worst* and dry air with large temperature swings downwards in the evenings mean it's tolerable (but not pleasant) to wait out a heat wave without air conditioning.  Even on the night where we had the highest low, we still had a 39 degree drop overnight from the day's highest high.

This week was the first full week at home where I could focus on running in 4 weeks.  I did a decent job, but nothing spectacular.

M: rest.

T: 4 @ 11:42; 0.45 walk c/d. 1.37 PM walk.

W: Track Club
0.3 jog; 0.37 drills/wu;
2.98 total speed and recovery
4X200; 3X400; 4X200; 2X100
(54, 57, 56, 58; 2:08, 2:14, 2:12; 57, 57, 62, 63; 22, 20);
0.3 jog c/d

Th: 1.01 easy @ 12:26.  1.5 walk.  1.1 pm walk.  I didn't get out early and let the heat tell me I was better off taking the day easy and getting up early on Friday.

F: 5.29 miles with M, who does 5 min run/1 min walk intervals.   We were out early and it was only 80F by the time we got back.  A nice easy workout at 13:55 avg min/mile pace.

Sa: Given the heat, I really wanted to bail on the workout entirely -- it's just a pre-race shakeout and only 2 miles total.  Except I forgot that I needed to try out my new shoes before Sunday's race, so I finally got myself out the door just before noon for 0.5 jog; 1 mile @ 10:17; 0.5 jog/walk recovery.  It was 98F when I left and 100F when I got back.  I was surprised that I could do a mile at 10:17 without too much effort in that heat, but given how hot and sweaty the jog/walk recovery was, I'm guessing if I'd tried to keep running I would have started to slow very quickly.

E2 stayed with me 'til mile 3 and then 
dropped me by *8* minutes by the end.
Su: Race to the End of Summer.  I'd hoped I could do something sub 11 min/mile, but it was not to be.  I averaged 11:24/mile according to my Garmin, which is 13 seconds per mile faster than Wharf 2 Wharf.  Only it was 57F at the start of Wharf to Wharf and 84F today.  So, that's obvious fitness progress, and I'll take it.

It was *hot* (and oddly humid) but we did it.
The best part of the week, hands down, was hanging out with my fellow runners and having brunch post-race.  I adore my running friends -- in addition to sharing a passion for running, they are all so smart, thoughtful, and interesting, plus they just get me.  These ladies were one of the things I missed the most about our year away, and I'm so very happy to be able to hang out and run and chat and eat with them today.

Mimosas and salmorejo and bacon and cheese and meats and fruit and more...
Mileage total for the week: 27.72.  But my ratio of walking to running is going down and my average running pace is as well.  Oh, and so is my body mass.  Consistent training plus eating out of our own fridge means that it is much easier to be calorically deficient than while on the road.  I'm hopeful I can keep the trends continuing in positive directions on all fronts from now 'til SJRNR.

September 1, 2017

It Was Bound To Happen

I learned some shocking (to me) news this week about someone I thought I knew (or at least sort of understood).  Turns out, their life changed in totally unpredictable ways while we were away, and in connection with those changes, their behavior changed drastically as well.

It's like I never even knew them at all. (In fairness, there appear to be many people who feel this way.)

When I've brought this up with friends, many of them have mentioned similar surprising evolutions on the part of their parents or other close family or friends in recent years.  The term "mid-life crisis" has come up more than I'd like to admit (Because really?  I don't want to think about the definition of mid-life, okay?).  Regardless of what you call it, it's just odd and challenging to have to recalibrate your relationships with people when they decide (or are forced) to reboot their lives in a way that is very foreign to your idea of who they are.

At one of our BBQs, a long lost friend reappeared.  She'd decided a few years ago to put some distance between us because we were close friends with her ex.  But then, out of the blue, she showed up. With a baby! (I'd heard she'd gotten married, but a baby? Wow!)  Apparently, enough has changed for her, that she no longer feels any need for distance or avoidance of the ex, which is wonderful for us, as we'd missed her.

In the face of all of these surprising developments, despite my hopes to the contrary, one of my family members continued to behave in annoyingly predictable ways and after 5 years, it was too much.  I finally had to double down and legally engage with serious drama that I'd really hoped I could avoid.  I suspect this family member viewed this move on my part as a serious change, whereas I simply saw it as the necessary last escalation that I'd been trying so hard to manoeuver around.

People are full of surprises, except when they aren't.

Either way, it's weird to be slowly reintegrating back to our home-based lives and observing the evolutions that happened (or didn't) in our absence.  We experienced many things that changed us on our sabbatical year, but it turns out, some of the folks we didn't see in the year (or longer) went through larger transformations.

August 27, 2017

Post Eclipse -- First Real Week Back Home (SJRNR week -6)

I will never forget Monday's eclipse viewing.  I teared up.  Surrounded by 10,000 people including E's extended family, I reached out and held E's hand while we watched the shadow of the moon black out the sun.  I took pictures that did absolutely no justice to the beauty observed by my eyes (much like the video above).

Everything in my own daily world seemed a little less serious and important after the eclipse. And, I enjoyed the change in perspective.

Tuesday AM, I got up and headed out for a solo repeat of the hilly mountain loop: 3.14 miles @ 15:14/mile pace with >500ft of climb -- BUT, I was stopped by a local landowner on whose trails I was running for a few minutes of solar eclipse discussion, so the pace was actually much better than this.

We flew home and the bay area weather was GLORIOUS after the heat and humidity of the South.  Work is slowly ramping up, but not too quickly, which is nice, as I've also been focused on clearing family issues, home/yard stuff, and just generally crossing things off the todo list that I'd pretended didn't exist during the Sabbatical.  The week's work consisted of bringing on a few new clients, some meetings, some calls, and a few heads down legal projects.

Wednesday, I joined the track club for a nice workout in the overcast easy Californian weather: 
2 X (2X300/100 RI; 800) @ 8:04; 8:59; 9:12; 8:22; 8:54; 9:29 per mile paces.  Total mileage: 3.2.  This workout was perfect -- I was tired, but I could muster up 3.2 miles with local friends at the track, and I felt it the next day in a good way.

Thursday, 1.38 walk.  We hosted a BBQ and enjoyed hanging out with 20+ friends for the evening.  I should have gone out for an easy run, but couldn't motivate myself.

Friday, I woke up early and headed out for 6 easy solo at 12:15/mile.  Then, I packed up and went to SF for a day of client meetings, followed by some work at home and dinner at a friends' home 'til 10 PM.  I am slowly getting reintegrated into my old life, and fully-packed days like this are a perfect reminder of how wonderful it is.  

Saturday, I did a strength interval workout. 1 jog w/u; 3X 0.5 miles/3min R/I (Paces - 9:34; 9:49; 9:57); 1X0.27miles (10:52); 1 jog c/d.  I'd thought I could string 4 of the half miles together with the 3 minute walking recovery, but I was clearly wrong, so I called the last interval short.

Saturday was an awesome day of nothing planned.  It was probably the first day where we really felt like we were truly settled at home.  Enough of the must-do stuff has been handled that we were able to go out to a leisurely post-run brunch in perfect weather and just people watch.  Then I did an afternoon of 2016 tax cleanup.  I could have put it off 'til Sunday or sometime next week, but I poured myself some bribery wine and dug in.  I got most of the income entered and *HURRAH* it looks like I was overly conservative on my estimated tax payments, so we should be getting a refund.  After patting myself on the back for doing the tax work, I rewarded myself by cooking one of our favorite dinners.

Home-cooked Saturday night dinner outside -- gazpacho and mushroom risotto.
Sunday: 3.26 @ 11:50, stop at the restrooms; 3.31 back with a friend and her son, run-walking @ 16:49, including 4X30+ second sprints at sub 8/mile pace.

A solid week:  27.9 miles.  6 weeks left 'til RNR SJ, and I'm happy with where I am.  I'm looking forward to next weekend's 10K race to kick me in the butt and give me a better idea of my racing fitness.

August 20, 2017

Wreck Diving on South Carolina's Coast (RNR San Jose Week -7)

Monday is a rest day on my current "training" plan.  Which was good, because E and I had a long day of flying from Montreal to LaGuardia, a layover, then a flight to Charleston, and finally a 2 hour drive to North Myrtle Beach before an early bed time.

North Myrtle Beach Coast
The plan for this week was to pray for good weather and hopefully get in some wreck diving off the coast in the mornings, followed by work in the afternoons.  Then, Saturday, we would drive to North Georgia where we'd been enlisted to volunteer at the Rabun County, Georgia total eclipse event.

Our weather/sea prayers were answered and we did 3 consecutive days of wonderful wreck diving.  The only downside was that we had to get up very early to be on the boat by 6:30 AM each day.  By the time we returned from our dives, we were completely physically exhausted, but we were able to fit in some work before early bedtimes each day.

The 78F Atlantic coastal water feels quite warm, but even with a wetsuit, you expend a ton of energy keeping your body at 98.6F while under the water.  It's actually quite bizarre -- if you are having a good dive and relaxed with good buoyancy, your breathing is very slow and you don't feel like you are doing anything remotely physically demanding.  And yet, by the time we were back on land each day, after pre-departure gear prep, 2.5+ hours of boat time (including heavy gear management), and 1 hour+ underwater over 2 dives, we were completely shot.  The boat time contributes to exhaustion because your brain actually has to work fairly hard to keep you from getting sea sick when out at sea.  Also, it was insanely hot and humid most days, with a heat index around 100F, which also contributed to the tiredness.

This was my first time scuba diving without a dive guide and I was fairly apprehensive.  It was going to be just me and E as buddies, and we hadn't been at any of these sites before -- I asked him to manage the dive computer and act as the lead diver as I knew he was much more comfortable than I was with scuba. 

Fried Vegetable Plate -- back in the South!
My first dive was actually pretty terrible.  About 1 minute before my roll-off, someone on the crew noted that my BCD had an integrated weight system, and they just ripped off my weight belt, removed the weights and threw them in to the integrated weight system.  I'd never used one of those before and I was trying to process how it all worked while they shuffled me to the side of the boat and had me roll in backwards over the side.  Once in the water, it became clear that my regulator made a scary groaning noise with each exhale, and it felt difficult to exhale through it while above water. 

Finally, I calmed down enough to try to descend only to realize that I was too underweighted to descend properly and had to ask the boat crew to swim more weight out to me.  Then, after E and I successfully descended down the down line to the anchor line, my mask didn't fit properly.  I tried to clear it several times as we followed the anchor line to the wreck, but it wasn't working.  Eventually, once we were at the wreck, I freaked out a bit, ripped off my mask completely, repositioned it and tried to clear it completely, but only got it halfway clear.  E was a saint, and motioned a slow calm easy clear of his mask with proper hand placement and I mimicked him to finally get it clear.  I spent the rest of the dive breathing hard from stress and clearing my mask constantly, *but* we stayed together, executed the dive according to plan, saw lots of cool fish and enjoyed the historical wreck of the Sherman

Myrtle Beach Strand

We ascended together, did a surreal safety stop surrounded by huge curious barracudas just hanging out and watching us from about 3 feet away.  We reboarded the boat, did our surface interval, I swapped out my mask for a different one that worked, and returned to the water for a much more relaxed second dive on the same site (my air consumption is still *super* variable -- when stressed out like on the first dive, I probably consume at 1.5X E's rate, but on the second dive, I ascended with 20% more air left in my tank than E). 

The remaining 4 dives of the trip were easy and fun (2 at Barracuda Alley and 2 at the Charleston Tug).  On the last dive, E and I penetrated the wreck and swam around various compartments several times -- if you had told me that by the end of our South Carolina diving I'd be comfortable enough on unguided dives to do wreck penetration, I would have laughed.  And yet, here I am.  It's a huge increase in my diving confidence to have 6 unguided ocean dives in my dive log.

Unfortunately, running didn't happen on any of the dive days.  Between the physical exhaustion and the afternoon heat, it didn't seem like a good idea.  Even without any running, we were having trouble staying awake past 9:30 PM.

Mornings were clear for diving, but afternoons were often thunderstorms.

On Friday, our fist non-diving day, I headed out with a goal of doing 6 easy miles.  Nope.  At 8 AM it was 86F and 95% humidity and after 2 slow miles (AVG 12:12/mile), I had to stop to walk to avoid overheating.  I turned around and did 30s hard (AVG 9:00ish/mile), 90s walk intervals back for a total of 4 miles, followed by a lovely ocean wading cooldown.

Saturday, I woke at 6:20 to head out earlier with the goal of 3 easy miles in the South Carolina heat and humdity.  Success.  Even if slow (AVG 12:26/mile).

Sunday AM, I woke in the mountains of North Georgia to glorious cool temperatures in the 70s and very low humidity.  I enjoyed a solid 3.14 mile loop (AVG 14:22/mile) through the steep mountain hills (elevation gain: 467ft) with S, chatting away, happy to run in such lovely conditions with a friend.

Weekly mileage: 10.14 running.  Another 5ish walking.  Very much a down week, but based on historical efforts on the mountain loop vs today, it feels like my fitness is heading in the right direction, nonetheless.

August 19, 2017

Sabbatical Data Part 2: Lodging Costs and Travel Tricks

If you are taking a year off work to travel, one of your biggest issues is likely minimizing costs.  And, one of the biggest costs of life (regardless of location) is the price of lodging.  So, I did everything I could to minimize these costs (while occasionally splurging because it was, after all, our big Sabbatical year, and some opportunities may never present themselves again).

Hard data:  we paid an average of $68.12 per night for lodging for the year.  That's a total of $25,477.26 for two people for the year+ (374 nights), spread over 25 countries of varying socioeconomic situations.

If we eliminate the 7 night live-aboard boat trip in the Galapagos, our average nightly cost for the year is $56.78.  The Galapagos was, no doubt, our biggest splurge, but there were a few others, and I'm confident that we could have subbed out one or two locations to replace some of the more expensive lodging with more reasonably priced options to get the average nightly lodging cost down below $50/night for 2 people ($18,250 for 2 for the year).

If you wanted to, you could push this number *much* lower. When not staying with friends or family for free, we always opted for a private room with its own bathroom (except in Iceland, where in-room bathrooms were too expensive).  There are many places in the world where you could spend significantly less than $68.12 per night for very safe and comfortable lodging for 2 with an in-room bathroom (we visited many of them).  And, of course, if you are willing to stay in rooms with shared bathrooms, or dormitory style shared sleeping areas with beds, you could definitely spend less.

So, how did we get to these numbers?

1. Stayed with Friends and Family. We intended to do this as much as possible, and we did.  In total, we spent 107 nights of the year with friends and family who offered to put us up for free (or dinner, or whatever).  Essentially, if you were our friend or family and had let us know you had a place for us to sleep, we did our best to route our travels near you to take advantage.  This came with all sorts of benefits we weren't expecting.  First, we went to a bunch of places we wouldn't have otherwise gone.  Second, you get to know people (and their children) on a level that is unique when you are in their living space.  So many of our friends and family welcomed us into their homes and as a result we became so much closer with them by observing, in situ, their realities.  The flexibility required by unplanned travel is *ideal* for staying with friends and family.  We were so not our typical American working selves -- no real expectations or needs around timing, just a general sense that maybe something like food or laundry or a shower should happen in the next 12 hours or so.  This made us very easy to insert into all sorts of friends' and family's lives and focus on what we could do to have fun with them in a manner that didn't disrupt their daily routines.  It was awesome.

2. Hyatt Points.  For several years prior to the Sabbatical year, I'd been playing the hotel, airline, credit card points/miles game -- I enjoy it the way people enjoy gambling -- I like to play against the house.  For the year of travel, I'd saved up and we maximized like crazy. 

First, I have a Hyatt credit card for my business.  For many years, I charged as many of my business expenses as possible on it, earning Hyatt points for each purchase.  Also, whenever I have to travel for work, I try to stay in Hyatts.  And, finally, when traveling for personal reasons, I also try to stay in Hyatts. 

So, the Sabbatical year, we spent quite a few nights at Hyatts, spending points and earning points to try to maintain my Diamond/Globalist status (which comes with several perks like late checkout up to 4 PM and free access to Hyatt Clubs on properties that have them - where you can eat dinner and breakfast for free, plus enjoy free non-alcoholic drinks all day, and free/discounted alcoholic drinks during a happy hour in the evenings).  All told, we spent 56 nights in Hyatts this year and we paid an average price per night of $79.29, which is much less than the average price we spent per night for non-friend&family lodging of $95.42.  Plus, our Hyatt nights tended to be luxurious breaks from more adventurous budget travel as they typically had amenities like free bottled water, fancy in-room coffee, a full gym, pool, hot tub, and, of course, the higher end properties had amazing views, locations, and Hyatt Clubs that we full utilized.

3 Nights - Calgary Hyatt Regency - $76 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Chicago Hyatt Regency - $100 + points (discounted points+cash rate, plus a free suite upgrade).
3 Nights - Cleveland Hyatt Regency - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night  -  Pittsburg Hyatt House - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Toronto Hyatt Regency - $84.80 + points for 1 points+cash night.  1 free night on points.
1 Night  -  Portland Old Port Hyatt Place - $81.75 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Raleigh Hyatt Place - $50 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Park Hyatt Mendoza - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night  - Hyatt Regency San Francisco - $269 full rate.
1 Night  - Hyatt Place San Jose - $55 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Grand Hyatt Seoul - $181 full rate.
1 Night  - Park Hyatt Busan - $97 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Park Hyatt Taipei - $118 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Manila City of Dreams - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Singapore Grand Hyatt - $143.46 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Kuala Lumpur Grand Hyatt - $94.16 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
4 Nights - Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort - $50 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
3 Nights - Ho Chi Min Park Hyatt - $100 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Osaka Hyatt Regency - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Fukuoka Hyatt Regency - $110 average per night (1 full rate, one discounted points+cash rate).
2 Nights - Hyatt Regency Tokyo - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Hyatt Place Memphis - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night   - Nashville Hyatt Place - $177.65 full rate.
2 Nights - Hyatt Centric NOLA - $157.44 full rate.
1 Night - Hyatt House Dallas - $56 + points (discounted points+cash rate).
1 Night - Hyatt Place Santa Fe - Free, entirely on points
1 Night - Tamaya Resort Hyatt Regency, New Mexico - Free, entirely on points
1 Night - Hyatt Pinon Point, Sedona, Arizon - $226.45 full rate.
1 Night - Luxor, Las Vegas (MGM and Hyatt are partners) - $106.47 full rate

3. Chase Points.  The year prior to the Sabbatical, I'd been watching credit card incentive offers to try to find a travel card that would be a good main card to use for most of our Sabbatical spending.  When Chase released the Sapphire Reserve Card, it was the most successful incentive credit card release in the history of the field.  The benefits were beyond anything I'd ever seen before and I joined as soon as I could.  After spending some initial amount on the card, I received 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points, plus I was earning points on every purchase we made with the card.  Chase Ultimate reward points are redeemable for flights (which I did a few times) as well as car rental (also took advantage) and hotel reservations.  All told, we enjoyed 14 nights of free lodging thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and Chase Ultimate Reward Points.

2 Nights - San Sebastien Legazpi Doce - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Eurostars Palermo, Sicily - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  NH Catania, Sicily - Free, entirely on points.
5 Nights - Maritim Antonine, Malta - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Hotel Alexandra, Copenhagen - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Baymont Inn & Suites Amarillo, TX - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  The Big Chile Inn, Las Cruces, NM - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night  -  Wyndham Green Valley Canoa Ranch Resort - Free, entirely on points.

4. Starwood Points.  I have a Starwood Amex for my business as well.  I use it to stay at Starwood properties for business travel when Hyatts aren't available.  I had a few points left from the sign-up bonus, plus some others built up from travel and partnerships Starwood has with folks like Delta and Hertz before we left.  So, when our travels put us in locations where it made sense to use the points and/or pay for Starwood properties to earn points and maintain status, we did so.  Overall, the Starwood card and rewards program provided a huge value of 18 nights at the bargain average price of $29.51 per night.

1 Night   - Bogota Starwood Airport Aloft - Free, entirely on points.
2 Nights - Bogota 4 Points Sheraton - Free, entirely on points.
1 Night   - Medellin 4 Points Sheraton - Free, entirely on points.
3 Nights - Panama Aloft - $35 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
2 Nights - Cordoba Sheraton, Argentina - $42.35 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
3 Nights - Salta Sheraton, Argentina - $66.55 plus points (discount points+ cash rate).
1 Night  - Starwood 4 points Emeryville - $100
1 Night  - Starwood 4 points LAX - $100
2 Nights - Sheraton 4 Points Huntsville Airport - $32.37 average (1 free night, 1 points+ cash)
2 Nights - Starwood boutique, Dijon - $154.89 full rate.

5. The Rest -- Common Sense.  For the remainder of the lodging, we usually did cost comparison online and went with one of the cheapest options.  If we were going to be somewhere for more than 2 nights, we'd price out AirBNB vs other options.  For 2 people with an ensuite bathroom, AirBNB was hit or miss vs. budget hotels in most of the places we visited.  But, when my mother came to join us and we needed 2 rooms, or when we wanted a kitchen, AirBNB was usually a clear winner. 

Expedia was a very helpful tool -- they have a 10% points plan where you can use points earned on previous stays as payments against future stays.  They have loyalty status as well, and once you've stayed 10 stays booked through them, you get elevated support including them working with the properties to help you manage errors.  In two cases where the property and rental car company were horrible to deal with in a foreign country, Expedia gave me a credit voucher as an apology for the lack of professionalism on the part of the 3rd party business.  Interestingly, I found that the Expedia pricing was usually (but not always) best when going through the US-based Expedia site and not the localized in-country version of Expedia.

On the road trip in rural Argentina, we often weren't able to reserve in advance and just showed up and negotiated for rooms on the spot.  The average price of those rooms tended to be below $40/night, but this value did come with a little bit of concern regarding what we would do if they didn't have any availability in the town where we'd planned to stay (since the next town was likely very far away).  I got the sense from the backpackers we spoke with in almost every destination we visited that if you are willing to take the risk that a room may not be available and invest the time to negotiate in person, you could get your nightly pricing much lower than ours was, as we typically paid the requested rate for private rooms with a bathroom and the comfort of knowing we had a reservation before we showed up.

August 14, 2017

Montreal: An Almost 50 mile week

The sabbatical year of travel was a joint project, but I was definitely the one responsible for the international travel bits. E always claims that if left to his own devices, he'd never leave the US.

So, I had a good laugh when a few weeks before we flew back to the US, E realized that there was a conference he wanted to attend in Montreal.  3 weeks after we got back to our house.  We booked the tickets -- we were leaving the country 3 weeks after our return home, and it was all E's choice.

View of the city from Chalet Mont Royal
Montreal in the summer is the best.  It's an amazing food town.  The weather is perfect.  And, just about everyone you interact with is bilingual in French and English.

We arrived and I realized that I can switch effortlessly between French and English for the first time in my life.  I didn't even realize when it happened, I'd just respond in whatever language made sense, as would all of the people we interacted with, and E would laugh at the back and forth, when he realized I couldn't tell him what language(s) had been spoken. 

Post-run Xiao Long Bao in Montreal's Chinatown (twice!)
Historically, I've had a huge linguistic wall between the foreign language I'm *trying* to speak and English.  If you are still in language acquisition mode, or if you are in a location with non-fluent English speakers, the wall is very useful.  But my French is (joyously, for me!) pretty decent right now, and most of Montreal that we interacted with is perfectly bilingual.  So, it was a very nice thing to be able to let down the wall and experience first-hand that effortless comprehension and response regardless of language that I'd seen fluent bilingual speakers do.  Right now, I am one of them! (Sadly, my French will likely degrade from disuse and I'll revert, but for this one week, I had a glorious time being one of those people.)

Much like Montreal, where it happened, week -8 of San Jose Rock 'n Roll training was wonderful.  49.36 recorded miles.  MUCH hiking and walking.  And overall, a strong, strong week on the return to some semblance of running fitness.

Hand-pulled noodles and Hunan Dumpling dinner
M: easy day, 6.15 miles of walking in old town Montreal and to and from meals.

T: 1 mile walk to the park.  3.11 super slow miles up Mont Royal (541 ft elevation gain) @ 15:12; 3 miles down at 13:32; 1.05 mile c/d plus 1.5 walk to lunch and dinner.

W: 3.99 miles walking sightseeing (including the botanical gardens); 2.45 walk to dinner and back.

Th: 1.57 jog w/u @ 13:35; 4X0.2mi @ 10K target pace with walking recovery; 1.32 jog/walk c/d; 1.15 walk to lunch/dinner

F: 1 walk to park; 2 miles up Mont Royal & 1 mile down @ 13:24 AVG; 1 easy jog down @ 13:37; 2.43 walk in town.

Sa: Gym workout. Treadmill intervals at 1%: 1 km @9kph; 25 bicep curls; 20 tricep extensions 10lbs; 1 km ladder 9kph-9.6kph 6+ minutes; 25 curls; 20 tce 10lbs; 1 km ladder 9kph-9.6kph 6+ min; 10 lb medicine ball abs 20 crunches; 25 reverse crunches; 25 side to side.  Total TM: 3.37km/2mi. Walk to lunch: 2.01 miles; hike up Mont Royal and back w/E and a friend the steep way, lots of stairs: 4 miles; 1.25 walk back to hotel

Sun: 0.81 walk to old port; 2.0 miles at the old port @ 10:27/mile w/E; 1.47 walk back; 2 miles walk to lunch and back in Little Italy.

Classic Montreal -- on our walk back
from the Italian Cultural Festival in Little Italy
Like last week -- nothing amazing in terms of running training, but 17 miles of actual running and 33ish miles of walking/hiking.  Progress.

And now, we're back in the US and looking forward to increasing the workout load in the coming weeks.

August 6, 2017

An Almost 30 mile week (SJ RNR week -9)

At this point in training (9 weeks before the first *actually* truly trained for race in over a year), I am very generous with myself.

Okay.  Let's be honest. I'm always very generous with my running self.  I like to cut her slack, encourage her, reward her, and do whatever I can to keep her going as long as possible.

For this segment, I looked up the 11 week, level 3,10K BAA training plan, and then modified it a bit to turn it into a 9 week program and put it in a spreadsheet to pretend for a day or two that I would do it all before I admitted that I wouldn't be able to hit anything close to what they recommended.

But it never hurts to have big goals.

So, here I am, coming off a year of lots of hiking and not so much running, with a couple slow 6ish mile pseudo-race efforts under my belt.  Finally starting to buckle down, and this week was humbling and great. 

My "big" goals resulted in this awesome basic return to running fitness week (note how I count the walking.)

Monday: 1.38 walk (lazy)

Tuesday: 4.01 easy run @ 12:07 min/mile (BAA recommended pace for my pie in the sky goal of a 1 hour 10k), followed by 0.73 walk cooldown; 1.57 walk to lunch.

Wed: Track Club (taking it easy and trying to hit the BAA recommended paces, which were slower than I'd usually go for):
   4X100 (25, 25, 27, 27);
   3X200 (56, 58, 62);
   2X400 (2:05; 2:09);
   1X800 (4:35)
3.27 miles total with drills, speedwork, jogging, walking recovery; Followed by an evening 1.5m walk to dinner

Thur: 1 @ 11:54;
      then walk/run intervals of 11X30s in the mid 8:00s/mile; with a few longer slower jaunts as well. 
      Total = 4.46m @ 17:37 AVG.

Fri:  1.7 walk in the afternoon;
      and 2.4 walk to dinner.

Sat:  5.03 "long" run & chat w/a friend on 5:00 run/1:00 walk intervals @ 13:10/mile average overall;
      0.19 walk c/d;
      1.27 walk afternoon.

Sun:  2.09 total in 24:31; AVG 11:43/mile;
      5 min jog @ 12:21;
      0.5 mile @ 9:42/mile pace;
      4:46 min jog @13:55;
      0.5 mile @ 9:47/mile pace;
      4:45 jog @ 14:38 and done! -- such a great workout!

You may wonder why I'm so enthusiastic about Sunday's efforts.  On paper, I might be too.  But in real life, I set an alarm, woke up early, and fit the workout in before 11+ hours of travel despite a crappy night's sleep.  Sometimes you just really need to pat yourself on the back for doing something you didn't feel like doing.

Also, this workout took just enough out of me that it felt super hard (no walking recovery, you have to keep moving in a semi-running motion on the jogging sections), and yet, when I was done, I was on a runner's high and happy and proud that I'd headed out instead of sleeping in an extra half hour before leaving for the airport.  It's kind of amazing how much joy you can get from such a simple thing as a solid basic super short race-pace interval workout.

August 2, 2017


When we bought our house (let's just round up and say 15 years ago), the carpets were pretty gross.  The prior owners had young boys and they'd done what young boys do.  E and I did a number on them over the years as well, and then, when my brother was living with us, he drove his wheelchair outside and then inside, bringing the outside in on his wheels every day.

So, before we moved back in, we figured we'd take the opportunity to replace the carpets since the house would be empty and none of the furniture would be in the carpeted rooms.  We moved everything to the house from storage, but the earliest the carpet installers can come is the end of the month.

This means, we are in a very slow mode of unpacking.  We found everything labeled for the kitchen and it is mostly all in its place (but, oddly, we still haven't found the silverware, so we're using disposable cutlery).  Everything else stays mainly in boxes and in the living room.

Note the walking path through the stuff on the tile...

It's so much stuff.

After a year of the same 7 days worth of clothes and very little else, it's shocking to realize just how much *stuff* we have when we live our lives based from home.  I have a medium sized moving box full of fabric bags (race bags, beach bags, gift bags, wine bags, etc.) that we primarily used as packing material.  I'll be taking it, along with another box full of T-shirts that we also used as packing material, and several other random things to Good Will. 

The reality is, we don't need most of what we have.  We did a bunch of purging as we packed up, and as we slowly unpack, we're doing more each day.

I've always had a compulsion to minimize my belongings.  But now, opening boxes to see a huge collection of stuff I haven't used or needed in a year, such as photos, shoes, or jewelry, actually weighs me down.  I left thinking I'd scan the photos when I got back.  Now, I'm seriously considering going through them once, limiting myself to 100 or so that I'll keep, and pitching the rest. 

Interestingly, because we'd remodeled the kitchen recently, very little in the kitchen feels like a burden.  The kitchen is probably the room in the house where I own the most physical objects (other than books) and yet, it feels like I will use almost each and every object that I unpacked in the next year.  For the most part I welcomed the unpacking of the kitchen -- I'd missed it!  I did find a set of bowls and a spice jar I added to the Good Will pile, but I also found a gorgeous wedding gift of a fancy Laguoile cheese knife set complete with gift card that neither of us remembered ever seeing before (11+ years ago -- I wonder if we sent a thank you?), so I think it evens out to zero.

It's not just the physical stuff I'm unpacking, of course.  I returned home to many tasks that I'd put off over the year.  Taxes, financial planning/management, administrative stuff for my law practice, a couple of family dramas that really need some focused attention, plus just general life management stuff -- they all have to be dealt with and addressed.  Preferably ASAP.  It feels like I'm reluctantly pulling a bunch of my life out of a dark corner where I hid it all year.  Most of it is stuff I'm not happy to see.  I loved the illusion that I didn't have it to deal with it that I was able to maintain.  Perhaps some of it is possible to outsource or ignore more than I have traditionally.  I will likely spend some time investigating that.

And then, of course, there are the habits.  I've completely forgotten how much work consumes me and distracts me.  How when I'm fully consumed by work, I have to keep lists for everything or it won't get done.  How I need to plan my day the night before so I can do all non-emergent detail management before bed. I'm slowly returning to the processes that keep me sane and on track when I'm working.  Again, perhaps I won't return to all of them, but many of them are actually necessary when I'm working, and I'm starting to realize that I was only able to shed them because I wasn't working.

And finally, there are the people.  If it's possible, I became even more of a true introvert this year.  This year confirmed that E is my favorite person and I love spending time talking (and not talking) with him.  My other close friends and family with whom I've reconnected since our return are the same -- I enjoy our long discussions and I feel safe if I need to be quiet. 

Socially interacting with groups of people I actually know and have relationships with is exhausting in a way I'd forgotten.  The second night in our home we attended a wedding and it was so great to see so many people we hadn't seen in so long.   But it was also so demanding.  Strangers with a foreign language?  I can talk to them with joy and exuberance -- fueled by the fun of learning more language.  Strangers who know my friends?  There's so much to think about and process and worry about when meeting and speaking with them -- I don't want to say the wrong thing or offend.  My close friends know that I often say things in a way that others wouldn't say them.  They know that harsh words from me may not actually be intended as harsh -- it may just be how my weird way of thinking works.  In a foreign language, these mistakes are forgiven as *language* errors.  But in English, at home, with acquaintances, they are nothing except impolite, insensitive, or awkward, so I have to work *really* hard to avoid them.

In a way, I'm glad we're stuck in this pseudo-unpacked physical state for a month.  It's giving me time and physical space to be thoughtful about how my old life was and how I'd like my new life to be after the lessons learned on the road.

July 24, 2017

The Missile/Dam/National Park Tour Home -- and the road forward

We hit all the big missile related sites in the Southwest on our route home.

Los Alamos Bradley Science Museum.

V-2 Rocket, restored, White Sands Missile Museum

The White Sands Missile Museum.

The outdoor rocket field at White Sands Missile Museum.

The Titan Missile Museum
Giant Titan Rocket (never feuled, no warhead) 
inside the Titan Missile Silo at
the Museum.

Launch control for the Titan Missile Silo.

We also visited the Biosphere and Hoover Dam, which neither of us had seen before.  We took a 2 hour very educational Biosphere tour, but unfortunately, the damn tours were not being offered on the day we arrived.  So we did a self-tour in the 109F heat, and got back into the air-conditioned car for our drive to Vegas.

The ocean inside Biosphere 2.

I used to love Vegas, but now it doesn't really do much for me.  We had a nice quick visit with a delicious greek seafood dinner at Estiatorio Milos, followed by an hour or so of craps play by me, a good night's sleep, a quick run in the gym, and the long drive to Lee Vining, California.

The scale of the dam is hard to comprehend -- it's HUGE!
The next day, we used our National Park pass for the 5th time at the East entrance to Yosemite, finally getting over the purchase price in entrance fees for a net saving of $30.  It's valid through August 2017, but we doubt we'll have the chance to hit up another U.S. National Park next month.

Smoky view of half dome from Columbia Rock
For our last night of the sabbatical, we splurged and stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  I'd always wanted to stay here ever since I was a little kid, and despite all of our visits to the park, I'd never done so.   After checking in to the hotel, we braved the smoke from the Mariposa fires and hiked the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail to Columbia Rock and further to the first view of the falls.  Despite the cool temps (the smoke limited the heat from the sun), and breeze, it was a solid 3 mile round-trip hike with 1,000 ft plus of elevation gain starting around 4,000 feet.

The dining room at the Ahwahnee.

From Yosemite, we drove to the storage unit, picked up the aerobed and a few other items, and drove home to unlock the door for the first time in over a year and start our re-assimilation back to our home-based life.

Lower Yosemite Falls -- gushing due to this year's snowpack.

After a Saturday of chores, we attended a lovely wedding, and then slept in Santa Cruz so that I could run Wharf to Wharf with E2.  It's a bigger race than I realized, with a sold out registration of 16,000, of which, several thousand registrations are limited to locals.  E2 got into the local lottery registration, so she encouraged me to try the general registration lottery and I got in too.

Smoky view of Yosemite Valley from the Upper Yosemite Falls trail.
My "training" consisted of intermittent running and hiking whenever I could fit it in the last several months.  I had a (slow) baseline from my Peachtree Road Race, and I'd tried to fit in slow aerobic efforts mixed with some speedwork as we drove westward.  Thankfully, the day of the race was blissfully overcast with a starting temperature of 57F.  As expected E2 was more fit than me, but she needed a couple of portapotty stops that helped me recover.  I did need to ask for one walk break after the top of the last major hill, but overall, I was pleased with how it went -- final Garmin data claimed 6.09 miles at 11:36 avg pace including all of the stops.  When running, we averaged 11:21 minutes per mile, with the last 1.1 miles averaging 10:47.

Oh look! Stop and Go traffic on 880 North at 3 PM.  Yup, we're back.

I've registered for the Rock 'n Roll San Jose 10K on October 8th as a goal race to actually regain some of the year's lost running fitness and complete a 10K at a (hopefully) decent pace, followed by the Kaiser Permanente SF Half on February 4th, as the goal race to return me to half marathon shape.

The final road trip was great, but it's very nice to be home, putting our home-based life back together, including scheduling local races and (at some point) a training plan with local runs.