April 26, 2015

Kickin' Back

Friday, mid-afternoon, E and I snuck out for a weekend combo of date night, family catch-up, and the SLO half marathon.

The views from Highway 101/1 near Pismo are gorgeous.

We took the drive (ugghh, Friday bay area traffic) to catch up, relax, and start to reconnect.  I read us some articles from Vanity Fair to add to the entertainment, including a hilarious exposé on Dinesh D'Souza -- always interesting to get some insight into the crazy of your country that you don't really know.

After checking in to our date night hotel, we headed to the bar patio for a glass of wine (which meant we could stare at the ocean and continue to unwind).  One glass turned into 2, and we decided we couldn't be bothered to go anywhere else for dinner.  So we sat and chatted, and ate, and sipped, while watching the beautiful sunset.

Seriously. California.
We went back to the room with plans of putting on bathing suits and heading out to the hot-tub.  But much like walking somewhere else for dinner, it just seemed like too much trouble.  So we spent the rest of the evening lounging in the hotel room and went to bed.

Saturday AM, I really didn't want to get up when my alarm went off.  But I had my standard day-before a race routine to do, so I was conflicted.  Except it was raining!  And I wasn't that conflicted.  Boom, extra rest day.

And boy did we rest.  No work at all.  I visited a friend and caught up, E&I had lunch with views of a different beach (the rain stopped by noon), we went to the expo, we checked into our near-the-start motel, and we lounged in bed and read before meeting my Aunt for a delicious dinner of Japanese food.

Going into the race, I wasn't exactly in a great place.  I hadn't really done much in the way of hill training or quality efforts and my weekly volume since Oakland has been an average of 23.08 miles with quite a bit of walking (thanks work!).  The weather called for an oh-so-awesome 18 mph headwind on the second half of the race, and the elevation profile is a doozy.

So, after doing some research (holy moly Gallowalking is more controversial than I can comprehend), I decided that this race was a perfect opportunity to try Gallowalking.  I knew I could finish the race, but I really didn't want to blow up (like I did at Kaiser), so I figured forcing myself to take some walk breaks earlier than normal was probably a good idea.

Despite putting in earplugs at 11 PM or so, sleep was fitful and full of nightmares of missing the start, which is always super annoying.  How many times do I need to wake up and check again that my phone is actually set to get me up at 5:45?

After waking one last time at 5:30 AM (hello, runners, not *everyone* is leaving the motel to go the race at the same time as you, do you really need to *slam* your door?), I fell asleep one last time to be woken at 5:45 by my phone (see, it did work).

I walked about 0.75 miles to the start via the portajohns, taking coffee from the hotel room and then stopping for another coffee at a cafe on the walk.  It was in the mid 40sF and I was in a short sleeve shirt and capris, but I run hot, so I figured mo' coffee, mo' better, and no complaints about the cold.

We started on time and I ran the first mile, blind, knowing I was going to stop to walk a minute, so if I went out a bit too hard due to the downhills, no big deal.

M1 running: 8:55/mile

Hmmm...that's actually bordering on a big deal at my current fitness with all of the hills and the wind.  So I took a nice solid 1 minute walk break and headed out for a more reasonable 2nd mile.

M2 running:  10:00/mile

Perfect.  Except, unfortunately, I needed a pit-stop.  So, approximately 3 minutes later, after walking through the aid station and waiting in line for the bathroom, I was back on the course.

S3 (segment) running:  0.75 @ 10:20/mile

If you look at the elevation profile, you can probably see why it seemed like a good idea to drop in a walk break here.  So I did, for less than a minute.

S4 running: 0.31 @ 12:22/mile

I think this is very interesting.  Even with the walk break, I was *really* struggling to get to the top of the hill.  Given everything I'd read, I decided to drop in one more walk break to the apex, this one, only 43 seconds (but man were they gloriously pleasant).

S5 running: 0.6 @ 10:43/mile

This is the minor drop after mile 3.5ish and back up the hill 'til I felt my heartrate climb again.  When it felt smart to do so, I opted into 1:30 walking uphill to the apex so I could start running well on the downhill.

The rest of the run is more or less a give and take between walking when I felt my heart-rate/effort skyrocket; taking in fuel; and doing my best to push on the downhills and flats.  One of the more interesting side-effects of this approach is that while I felt like I made an even effort throughout, due to the course profile, I actually finished the last 6.9 miles almost 12 minutes faster than the first 6.2 (some of this can be attributed to the pit-stop, but at most only 3 minutes).

Oh, one other bonus?  The headwind of 18 mph after the turn-around.  That was an unwelcome surprise!

IntervalTime of DayChip TimeChip PaceGun TimeGun Pace

10K Split8:06:10AM01:20:3412:58 min/mi01:20:5913:02 min/mi
Finish9:14:55AM02:29:1911:24 min/mi02:29:4411:26 min/mi

(Garmin: 13.24 @ 2:29:22 ~11:17min/mi)
So, I guess the big take-home is, yes, if you walk early and often, you will be able to save energy and finish strong (my last 0.37 miles was at 8:57/mile pace).  But, really, let's be honest.  I totally took it easy here and just wanted to fit in a good long run.  I hadn't trained to race, so I wanted a good run, but I didn't want it to hurt too much.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out (9:57 AVG for the last 6.9 miles?  That's just fine, thank you.).  Effort-wise, it felt relatively comparable to Oakland, but in Oakland, I didn't have to be smart, I just got lucky with the course and weather, hence why, despite roughly the same lackluster training, it was 7 minutes faster (although not a negative split at all).  In SLO, I was approaching smart, but I'm sure I could have done some things better.

C'est La Vie.

Wishing you a lovely, relaxing, mellow, kick-back week.

April 19, 2015

Best Prescription Ever

I adore my medical doctor. She's awesome.
A few years ago, she gave me a prescription to take 24 consecutive hours off of work every week. How great is that? She made an excellent case for the fact that for my overall health this was, in her professional opinion, the most important medical advice she could give me. I haven't followed it religiously, but I have tried. And it's given me permission to pull back or make great work-life decisions when I otherwise might not have done so.

I've been very impressed with her knowledge of me as a person and her ability to give me "medical" advice that helps me justify making smart decisions to manage my stress levels.

After saying hello and settling in to my annual appointment last week, the first thing she asked me was, "What do you do for exercise?" I explained that over the last few years I've settled into a situation where I am committed to 20ish miles minimum per week. I don't care about the pace, but I get them done. I fit in yoga, core, etc. where I can, but the miles are my baseline. (And yes, I need to get back in the studio, on the mat, and generally more balanced, but it hasn't been happening lately, if I'm honest.  I'm working on it.)

She smiled and explained to me that my pulse and bloodwork made it very obvious that I worked out regularly. More importantly, the last few years of bloodwork make it I appear that I have some genetically pre-disposed indicators of potential problems, but the bad data is so minimized by the good data generated by my athleticism, that she gave me the best prescription I've ever received from a doctor:

"So, you *have* to keep up your mileage. It is absolutely protecting you. Today, your risk is significantly lower than average despite what appears to be a genetic pre-disposition towards some risks."

How great is that? My doctor just gave me permission to blow off work for a workout. Or commit to train harder. Or draw good work-life boundaries. Whatever you want to call it.

My doctor rocks.

In other news, this week was mellow. Lots of work. 30.6 miles including quite a bit of walking plus 3 miles in SF with my husband today, on dead legs after a slow sub-12 8 miles on Saturday, wearing my Desi-autographed T-shirt from the NY Mini 10K, much faster than I would have otherwise done. Thanks Rabbit (and I'm hopeful that's a good omen for Desi)!

This coming week brings the BOSTON MARATHON (yeah, I'll be getting up early tomorrow to cheer on Desi, and all the others) book club (Readling Lolita in Tehran), lots of healthy meals, and the SLO half. My latest plan for the half is to take it easy, run the whole thing, but do it nice and easy and enjoy it. 

April 12, 2015

My Love Affair

My husband and I ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then in Washington, DC in the last week.  This was due to work.

We’ve learned to deal with work demands relatively well.  We don’t get real weekends in the labor movement sense (see last weekend, or this Saturday, when other than chatting on the phone with one of my best friends in the AM and a lunch people watching with E, the rest of the day today was *all* work (or taxes)).   

We've traded the majority of those free weekends people seem to have as I drive by on my way to do what it is I do (or fly far away) for a different path.

Last week, on a Wednesday, E & I found ourselves in Washington, DC, with the cherry blossoms popped a week early.  How cool!   

These blossoms are absolutely gorgeous!

We both agreed to take several hours off in the middle of our work days to enjoy the spectacle together.  We took the metro to the Smithsonian station.  We walked along the national mall, laughing at how all the lawns were being industrially modified with plastic coverings and tractors and digging and gravel for the upcoming cherry blossom festival.  Also, almost all the viewing pools were empty (Lincoln memorial reflecting pools -- full of nothing but orange safety cones).  Even so, our walk to the Washington Memorial, then to the WWII memorial, and finally to and around the Lincoln memorial and back along the Patomac with all of the gorgeous tress was so enjoyable.

And this is something we can do because we *can* work on the weekends.  We both pushed several hours of work out of our way so we could enjoy the walk and views.  We'll pay for it later (and we did, this weekend, in fact), but the flexibility was appreciated.

But do you want to know what the best part of this experience was?

E reached out and took my hand on our way up the steps to the Lincoln memorial.  No discussion.  Nothing verbal.  This was a big deal.  Silently.  We each had our own reasons.  At the top of the stairs, slightly winded, we let go of our hands just as the couple who’d climbed the steps in front of us, a blonde woman and African-American man, stopped and stared.  

Lincoln Memorial

They were both obviously emotionally moved at the beautiful monument to equality.  He pulled out his phone to take many photos of the thin granite sky-lights, the huge statue, the stairs up, and the national mall in the distance.  She re-assuringly held his left shoulder while he did so. 
It was beautiful, and I felt a little too voyeuristic in how much pleasure I took from observing their moment.

Yet, at that moment, I was consciously so very proud to be an American and deep, deep down, I knew that’s why E grabbed my hand on the way up the stairs.  We are both of this place.  And it is a grand, wonderous country.  It is one of many excellent things we are lucky enough to share.

And, this, my friends, is one of the millions of reasons why I am desperately, madly, and fully in love with my husband.  I feel very, very lucky to be in love with and committed to someone who knows me, loves me, and shares so many of my values, appreciations and, yes, my country's culture and heritage, diverse and complex as it can be.

On the running front, this week was nothing to brag about.  Mostly walks instead of runs due to work and travel obligations.  But movement is movement and the total mileage still hit 17 or 18 miles.  Not ideal 2 weeks out from a half marathon, of course, but sometimes, you just have to take what you can get.

April 6, 2015


I don’t really have any female friends or colleagues who have anything close to my life.  If you accept that gender norms/roles/experiences are a non-trivial thing, then, by definition, I also don't have any other friends who have anything close to my life. 

Take Easter Sunday, for example. 

Many of my female Facebook friends were busily posting pictures of their children’s Easter basket or bunny experiences, Passover fun, family hikes in Yosemite or enjoying the surprise snow in Tahoe.   

I, on the other hand, had set an alarm to get up early and run 6 miles before cleaning up and closing the luggage to head out for a multi-day business trip with E.

I woke, made and drank coffee, and checked the flights – 30 minute delay on the first one, actually ideal, giving me a bit more in my AM.  I headed out, finished the run, returned home, showered, dressed, wrote checks to pay bills, left a note for the housekeeper re: plants and pets, and we headed out.  I called our airline for the 4th time in 4 days because our flights and mileage upgrade just didn’t seem to be snaking its way through the system properly.

Upon arriving at the airport, we spent another 15 minutes at the check-in counter, and then another 15 minutes at the gate, each time patiently explaining the mileage upgrade situation that seemed to not be going our way.

Eventually, the gate agent assured me she’d done everything she could, I thanked her, and we headed to the restaurant, to order take-out for the cross-country flight.

As we waited for our orders, E said, “So, this mileage upgrade treated us *worse* than if we’d just tried to upgrade on status.” Calmly, I said, “You don’t know that – I have no idea where we ended up on the actual upgrade list.  The gate agent fixed it, so we could end up still getting upgraded.”  

 E, disbelieving, pulled out his phone, updated the list on his app and laughed – we were listed as #2 and #3 of 3 open seats in business class.  

On things like this, he and I are so different.  I just assumed I’d done what I could and the rest was in the hands of the service professionals, I was certain the gate agent had done her best.  If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and I was cool with that.  E, on the other hand, was grumpy, suspicious, and constantly updating the app, certain we would get bumped from the upgrade we’d already spent the miles on after we’d finally managed to make it manifest.  He wasn't wrong.  They did appear to have done everything they could to have made this experience fail for us up to this point.

Ignoring E’s suspicion, I canceled our lunch order with the server, but not the wine, and as it was delivered, we smiled, toasting our hopefully good, if high effort, fortune.  

And then, we actually were upgraded at the gate, we got on the plane and I enjoyed the free food and booze in business class while clearing my non-emergency email from the week and finalizing my timesheets for all clients for March.  Because that is what has to happen at the end of every month if you run your own business, and if you have more business than you can handle, the things that get pushed to the weekend are the things for your own business, not your clients'.  

After an airport layover dinner, we landed in the town we're visiting for business, and arrived at our hotel around midnight just in time to hit the sack.  In other words, my “glamorous” Sunday was anything but.

I regularly think about perspective when perusing social media.  I could have snapped a photo of a business class meal and wine, a gorgeous view from a plane window, and just posted those two snapshots to Facebook.  And that would tell a certain story of my life.

But I’m not living just the moments those photos would have shown – I’m living everything in my life, just like everyone.  I’m living the life where I had to call the airline every day for the last 4 days before departure to get that upgrade, even though we'd supposedly purchased it with miles.  I'm living the life where at 8 PM one night this month, despite promising to make dinner, I looked up from my computer and snappily demanded that E order pizza because I wasn’t yet done with work and I couldn't see when I would be done and I JUST needed a break.  I’m living the life where I spend time scheduling laundry like no-one’s business (seriously, we discuss when laundry will be done as a very serious item on the todo list *every* week) even though we have no children because when you travel and work out regularly, clean clothes are much more complex than if you are predictably home – in fact, I bought E an additional 12 pairs of underwear this month just to extend our ability to go between laundry loads so that we wouldn’t have to cancel our attendance at some social obligations in San Francisco later in the month.  

I’m living a life where we get on a plane and I realize we never booked the rental car we need at our destination (since this trip was thrown together out of need at the last minute), so we log on the in-plane wi-fi and make that happen.  Yay, plane wi-fi.  But boo, needing it to be functional.  The plane is just another remote office these days.  

Most noticeably to me, I’m living a life with absolutely no children other than the occasional friend’s kid or niece/nephew.  If social media is to be believed, this means I’m missing out on all of the most important moments that almost everyone else in my cohort is currently experiencing.  On the other hand, I spend very few nights away from my husband, despite the fact that he and I both have to regularly travel for work.  

My life, like most, is messy and complex and tiring and, when viewed from a certain rose-colored lens, VERY cool.  I get lots of great meals, adult time, a reasonable amount of workout time, mentally challenging work, travel to cool places, and uninterrupted time with my best friend and partner.  But it comes at the expense of all sorts of other stuff that I’m missing out on, not the least of which is motherhood, which is regularly referred to as "the most important thing a woman can do."  I don't believe this (or I would have done my best to make this experience part of my life), but I do wonder about the pressure on those who have decided to go down that road.  As an outside observer, I can't help but wonder if the pressure to make it "the most important thing" you can do as a woman may actually make the whole experience a bit more bittersweet and less enjoyable.  As an extra-outside observer, I think it's very telling that I don't feel internal urges to have a child, but I do occasionally feel jealousy of the shared experience -- the fact that I *don't* have a child is just yet another detail about me that separates and differentiates me from so many of the women I encounter.  I am mildly sad that I have less in common with my cohort than they have with each other -- it's lonely.  But it's fine.

In short, my life is just a life, full of beauty and bullshit and choices like any other. I worked and hustled my way through Easter Sunday with my ass in hard-earned business class (as opposed to bought), so that I can share more experiences and time with my husband and best friend while running my own business. My current reality is the life that I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to actively work to instantiate over many years, and while, of course, it's not perfect, I'm supremely grateful for it.

On the running front, this week was super low-mileage due to work (big surprise) and recovering from last weekend's half: 24.21 miles, probably 25% walking, and none of it fast.  I did, however, return to the yoga studio for a 1 hour unheated power yoga class (and was sore for 2.5 days afterwards) -- wow, I have lost a *ton* of yoga fitness.  Here's to hoping I get back in the studio sooner rather than later...