December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's!

So, in case you were wondering, the inter-tubes from Australia to the rest of the civilized world are very small.  Or crowded.  Or something.  If you look at the comments from E a few posts back, he pasted ping times, and for those of you who know how the Internet works, this should help explain the situation.

Essentially, even though we're back in AUS from NZ and at a hotel with dedicated Internet, this post is still short by necessity, because it would take forever to upload all the photos I'd like to share about our trip and I've got a flight tomorrow.  Oh, and tomorrow, the day, is somehow going to stretch out forever (as in, I'll board my flight, and land in California 16 hours later or something, but 2 hours before I left -- *and* despite having already rung in the new year a while ago, New Year's Eve will be occurring throughout the flight as we cross various time zones, it's enough to make my head hurt).

In other news, the decision that E&I should join the Sydney Royal Botanical Garden Foundation paid off:

Ticketed Event at the Botanical Gardens.  Controlled Access.  No crowding.  Amazing.
The short version of the year's wrap up post is this:

Total Miles (running, walking, hiking, and occasionally other aerobic activities like elliptical or recumbant biking, but never yoga, because that would be crazy): 1311 (better recap to come).

Total Books Read: 21 (missing summaries to come).

Total Audiobooks: 38 (missing summaries to come).

General 2013 Goals: Well, as I noted back in September, things just generally didn't totally go according to plan this year... Even so.  It's been better than good -- our families are healthy, we are healthy, and I definitely didn't expect to hit 7 countries this year (Bermuda, Netherlands, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand) when I made my initial plans.  Given all of the above and the fact that I do love me some international travel and cultural experiences, I'm pleased and feel exceedingly lucky.

Lucky.  That's the take-home I have from 2013.  I am so lucky.  And I want to be appropriately grateful and worthy of receiving such luck -- Here's to hoping I take 2014 by the horns and do a good job of that.

Happy New Year!

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Today, amongst other adventures, we walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and back.

On our way back, despite having spent yesterday afternoon by the pool (Where you'd assume we would figure it out), from high above, we realized our hotel had a hot tub on the roof at pool level (see the bottom right quadrant).

Don't fret.

We took this information in and put it to good use.  We were the only people post early-dinner at the hotel in the hot tub at this amazing location on Christmas Eve.

This is a complete win.

In other news, walking and running every day means I'm on track for my highest mileage week in years... True vacation is amazing.

December 23, 2013

Then vs. Now

Back when we were kids, E and I went to Sydney for the end of 2004 and New Year's 2005.  A few days into that new year, E proposed on Bondi Beach and I said yes.  We had a wonderful time.

This year, our families were dispersed such that for the first time since we've been together, it made sense for us to go off and do Christmas and New Year's by ourselves.  We decided to go back to Sydney (and fit in a trip to New Zealand to boot).  Many things have changed in the intervening 9 years.  And yet, many things are the same.

Major things that are the same:
1. The Aussies' own brand of absolute relaxation.  Think Italy, but functional -- so amazing.
2. Our address.
3. My car.
4. Our general dislike of shopping (relevant because the airline temporarily lost one of our bags and we decided to tough it out rather than maximize the reimbursement policy).
5. Our general appreciation of the type of stuff we like to enjoy while we travel (the same stuff we liked last time, we like this time, too):  The beachfront Greek restaurant in Bondi we'd loved, we were thrilled to find, is still open.  And, the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is still a Circular Quay institution of happiness that we had to enjoy again.

But, of course, things are different, too.  It's much warmer and oddly overcast while hot and humid this trip.  So far, there's been no need for fleeces or jackets, for sure.  Last time, we bargain shopped for hotels, while this time, we went for the ultimate bargain of free and just stayed at the Park Hyatt on points (and, damn, what a perfect location -- at the base of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, one entrance just off George St. in the Rocks and the other on the water in Circular Quay):

While the bar at Hotel Bondi where we'd had sparkling wine to celebrate our engagement with some random Italians is still there and operational and was a fun place to stop for a beer, the hotel where we stayed in Bondi is completely under construction -- and when completed, it will be, in keeping with the theme we see in the bay area -- luxury condos.

The biggest differences we are noticing are technological.  This time, we have wifi in our hotel, laptops, and cell phones that automatically do international roaming thanks to all of this year's international travel (btw, how the hell did people manage delayed/lost luggage before cell phones?).  Last time, we had no phones that worked in any sense of the word, and we didn't even manage to get to an Internet Cafe (remember those?) to send the email announcing our engagement for 2 full days after its occurrence.

Overall, we're very much enjoying our re-visit and we've made a commitment to come back in 9 more years (or less) to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge walk and to revisit all of our favorite gems that happen to still exist at that time.

Best wishes to all for happy winter holidays (Happy Solstice -- days are now getting longer in the northern hemisphere!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Belated Hanukkah! Joy to those of you who eschew specific holidays!) and a Happy New Year as well.

December 15, 2013

Jingle Bell Hell

Well, I said I was gonna do it, but I'm traveling on the IRL race day, so I committed to a *virtual* Jingle Bell Hell.

My plan was, I'd go out today from our SF hotel and do *at least* 8 miles up and down the Embarcadero, *and* I had to run all of the uphills.  Everything else was undefined.  I could walk as much as my ego would let me.

Why should this be hell?

8 miles is a relatively short distance for someone who ran 5 half marathons and a full marathon in 2013, right?

You might think so, but for me, you'd be: WRONG.  Wrong. Wrong.

After I DNF'd the SJ RNR half, I wasn't really feeling like running much, so I didn't and I haven't much.  Also, since SJ RNR, there was tons of travel on the calendar to regions with delicious food, where I felt like eating, so I did (and I stand by my decision).

Fast forward 2.5 months.  Add approximately 1.5 pounds per month on my already heavy DNFing frame and, well, today's 8 miles felt like an eternity (possibly because my body has never actually been this massive, so moving it long distances is more work, in the physics sense?).

Also I did it alone.  I started at 9:30 AM after a weekend of holiday parties full of food and too much alcohol (extra hell points?).  I did succumb to my audiobook for company, but Wild Swans isn't exactly light and cheery or inspirational with its detailed gory tales of the beatings and horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Amazing story though... HIGHLY recommended).

In the winter cold of San Francisco (which means I couldn't even blame much slowness on the pedestrians on the Embarcadero because most stayed indoors), I forced myself to attack minute chunks in succession.  A mile here.  A quarter mile at sub 9 there.  A third of a mile at 9:10 there.  And, of course, in classic BT-just-increase-the-overall-mileage-style, lots of walking.

All told, 8 miles in a blazing 1:41:10 for an average pace of 12:39 (although nothing was near this pace).  Slow.  Stopping and starting.  Exhausting.  And, the first time I've done 8 miles since late September, as my last long run before the SJ DNF.

Overall, it was unpleasant, and I'm frustratingly tired, but in fairness, I'm actually also pleased.  Looks like I'm heading in the right direction despite taking the easy way out and walking whenever I felt like it between miles and shorter duration segments.

I fully expect to take sub 50% place in the Jingle Bell Hell.  But I'm thankful it was out there to get me on my shoes, nonetheless.

Thanks to the lovely blogger behind Taking It On for the push.

Bittersweet Aging

I think the hardest part of aging as a healthy person firmly in your "middle age" is when you realize that even if you are blessed with currently good health, time *is* *still* actually passing you by.

This Holiday season, we've attended several parties where it seems like it's only been a few months or possibly even weeks since we've interacted in person with the attendees... but no.  When we discuss it, it turns out, we actually haven't seen each other in at least 12 months.  In other words, Time Is Flying!

And, those of us who actually experience this shock?  We're the lucky ones.  We are still here.  The last few years, I've personally known a few people my own age who have died of natural causes.  Like all losses, the pain will never completely fade -- it will mellow, but won't completely go away.  But, the reality that I am old enough that a non-trivial percentage of my cohort is starting to die of natural causes is a separate but difficult thing, which, conveniently, my brain has decided to try to process during the Holidays.  Fun!  (Not.)

Then there are the kids -- Every time I see them, unless they are local or family I see regularly, children seem to be shockingly 1 year, 2 years, or 7 years older than the last time I saw them.   It's the kids that really get me.  Make no mistake -- Seeing a child you haven't seen in 8 years will floor you.  And then, there is nothing you can do but admit that you are old.  Much older than you've been telling yourself.

I rebelled against the pressures of time for so long.  I insisted on maintaining close relationships with friends who lived far away.  We had the phone.  We had time. We could be the exception to the rule that says all of your most important emotional interactions come from those that are physically and psychologically close to you due to shared experience.

But then, along came my close friends' and families' children, not to mention the pick-up of my career, E's career, the careers of all of those who stayed on the traditional career ladder, and the need to travel if E & I wanted to spend time together as a couple rather than apart. All of a sudden, the rule was right for me, too.

Those I sincerely care about from afar, and lately even those who live close by (and no doubt me for them) belong to the same category as my monthly wine club -- I could swear I make the effort to pick it up every month, and yet, every time I go, I have 4 to 6 months worth of deliveries to sign for.

Oh, Time.  You devil.  Despite your deleterious effects -- how thankful I am to be here, still enjoying your annoyances...  This shall make for some interesting New Year's Resolutions, methinks.

Enjoy your Holidays!

December 8, 2013

Spectating CIM -- a beautiful day!

This AM, bright and early (and colder than a witch's teat), Jen graciously picked me up at 6:05 AM at our hotel for the night (the dual hotel-home life for work continues, but we're slowly learning how to manage it...).

The plan?  Go pick up K, hit Starbucks, drive to CIM, cheer at mile 11, drive to mile 20, cheer, and then drive to the finish and cheer.  Then brunch with Jen, K & F on the Delta King. And then drive F and myself home in F's car since her legs probably wouldn't be working very well.

Execution? Not bad.  At mile 11, we cheered hard, where Jen's sign proclaiming "Run Now, Beer Later" was quite the hit.  We met up with Milf Runner and shared cheering duties for various folks.  It was COLD!

I was happy to see Paulette at mile 11, and was amused when she responded to the "How's your run going?" with a very humble "Decent..." on her way to a HUGE PR (on a recently sprained ankle!). Classy lady!

One of the most fun parts was watching the mood and the mental space for reading signs and interacting with the supporters increase as the seriousness of the running speed decreased.  In all honesty, the folks behind the 4H pace group look like they are having *way* more fun than the speedsters.

F went out fast and we missed her in the 3:40 pace group, but the runner reporting was wonderful, so we knew she'd hit the half at a half PR (not bad!) and could adjust our plans accordingly.  

We missed mile 20 due to some driving snafus, but K & Jen saw many friends at mile 11, so we were comfortable heading to 26ish to cheer on the finishers.  Once there, it was so inspirational -- we saw everyone from before the 3:10 group 'til 3:45+.  Nothing makes me want to run CIM like cheering at the CIM finish!  Perhaps next year... we'll see.

F passed us somewhere around the same time as the 3:45 pace group and as she headed for the loop to the finish, I hot-footed it in my wool knee-length coat, scarf, jeans, compression socks, long sleeve shirt, and big-ass-purse while Heisman-blocking the crowd to try to catch her at the finish.  I missed her at the finish line, but got there in time to capture the triumphant 3:45 PR post-finish energy in this awesome pic:

Overall, it was an awesome way to spend a day.  What a great race Sacramento puts on (home town pride!!!), and how fun it was to watch and support all the runners.  And, dragging my bay area peeps to Old Town Sac for some proper river steamboat restaurant post-race lunch was a perfect way to end the day!

December 1, 2013

Baby Steps

Welcome back from the Holiday, Y'all.  In a wonderfully surprising development, despite 6 days in the delicious land of pork, lard, and fried, I only brought 1 lb. of the South back with me.  The previous record low has to be at the lowest 4 lbs -- so this is a PR.  It may be my only fitness related PR this year, so I'll take it.

Given that I indulged as much as I did, this is kind of amazing.  I mean, we had a HUGE Thanksgiving afternoon of food and wine (*AND* the first bloody mary I've ever actually enjoyed -- my Dad was a big bloody man, so I was pleased to finally understand.  Apparently, for me, it just needs to be *ridiculously* spicy and it has to have a pickle, then I'll love it and sip it with care much longer than everyone else in the room, which is a great side benefit of its own).  The other notable indulgences on the short trip included all of E's family/Southern food awesomeness including E's Mom's meaty spaghetti, E's mom's ground beef and risotto stuffed peppers, a lunch of a meat sandwich and potato chips (seriously -- no vegetables at all), spanakopita/pimento cheese/salmon mouse tartlette/etc. hors d'ouevres with wine or champagne before various meals, gratuitous bacon (of course), sausages (for dinner), japanese everything at a deliciously authentic ramen++ lunch out with the family, a true Southern "vegetable plate" laden with fried okra, fried sunchokes, broiled broccoli, mac and cheese, and collard greens cooked with ham, a fancy burger bar joint lunch with friends and fried pickles (Seriously -- I LOVE me some fried pickles), a true Southern breakfast of egg-in-a-hole with roasted tomato preserves and a side of cheese grits (in a sacrilegious but much appreciated deviation, they offered sauteed kale as an option in lieu of a biscuit or potatoes -- but the biscuit is apparently the best in ATL, so choose at your own peril), plus lots of delicious wine, beer, and, in a late night jet-lag hunger random kitchen raid, half a bag of Inca Corn Nuts.

You see what I'm saying?  This PR is a veritable miracle.  Go me.

After the eating orgy and the hard, hilly, and cold (but slow) effort at the ATL Thanksgiving 5K, I was inspired to try to pull together my end of year and early 2014 running/fitness goals.

Turns out, they are fairly simple.  Today, I did a very easy 5.5 miles at 10:35/mile, another 0.5 mile walking cooldown and closed out a week of 16 miles total.

If I increase that "long run" by approximately 1 mile/week (on average), I'll be ready for the Foster City 10 mile race in January. So I think I'll go ahead and sign up for it.  This should keep me honest in my running workouts over the holidays, which I need -- particularly since our Christmas/New Year's travel involves hiking, and without a running goal, I'd run the risk of writing off entirely too much time without a run at all.

After that, I'm thinking I'll do the Kaiser Half and the Oakland Half Marathon (which claims to have coupon codes for Cyber Monday -- so check it out if you're thinking of joining the fun).

My big fitness focus for the next three months is going to be on my diet/overall caloric balance, flexibility, and building up my average mileage per week without getting injured.  This likely means that my paces may take the hit or at least may not drop, but I'm hopeful that this means I'll build a decent mileage base without injury and lose some weight before trying to push on pacing (as, when I try to run hard and I'm on the heavier side, I'm more likely to pull something -- see my SJ RNR dnf).  I am happy to note that both the Foster City run and the Kaiser half have much less elevation change than the ATL 5K, so at least I can comfort myself that if nothing else, I'm already prepared for the hills...this is an anomaly for me, but one that is much appreciated.   

Other than that, I'm looking forward to spectating at CIM for inspiration next weekend and getting back in the Bikram studio and working towards multiple sessions per week while I'm in town over the next few months.  Ideally I'll get in tomorrow, but, realistically, it's the first true day back after the holiday, so if work doesn't allow it, then definitely sometime this week.  There, I said it.  Now it has to happen.