Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017: The Classics

Yes, yes, I know....it's March already. I'm behind. On everything. Without further ado....

BEHOLD! The classic novels I'll be reading in 2017:

JANUARY: The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. "The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant thousand-year conflict; to perform his duties without rancor and even rise up through military ranks. He's willing to do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But 'home' may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries." I like to do one true sci fi classic each year & this one got a lot of votes.

FEBRUARY: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. "Voodoo. Decadent socialites packing Lugars. Cotillions. With towns like Savannah, Georgia, who needs Fellini? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes two narrative strands--each worthy of its own book--and weaves them together to make a single fascinating tale. The first is author John Berendt's loving depiction of the characters and rascals that prowled Savannah in the eight years it was his home-away-from-home. Then, on May 2, 1981, the book's second story line commences, when Jim Williams, a wealthy antique dealer and Savannah's host with the most, kills his "friend" Danny Hansford. (If those quotes make you suspect something, you should.) Was it self-defense, as Williams claimed--or murder? The book sketches four separate trials, during which the dark side of this genteel party town is well and truly plumbed."

MARCH (Women's History Month): The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. "The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure. The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished."

APRIL: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. "In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro's dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change."

MAY (Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month): The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. "In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined."

JUNE (Russian Heritage Month): The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. "The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia."

JULY: Atonement, by Ian McEwan. "Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece."

AUGUST: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. " 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the 'most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,' and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as 'irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.' "

SEPTEMBER (Banned Books Week): Lady Chatterly's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence. "Lawrence's frank portrayal of an extramarital affair and the explicit sexual explorations of the central characters caused this controversial book, now considered a masterpiece, to be banned as pornography until 1960."

OCTOBER: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. "When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in." I dunno, I want to read an old detective novel.

NOVEMBER: Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. (Leftover from 2016, womp womp) "Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community." Overflow from last year that I didn't get to since I was busy re-reading the entire Lightbringer series. A lot of people have recommended this and I have never read Thomas Hardy.

DECEMBER: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. (Again, leftover from 2016. :-/ )"Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence." Ditto. I haven't read Steinbeck since high school, so it's only fair to give him another shot.

Thanks for all your suggestions! :)

Other Books I'm Planning to Read this Year...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Here Comes The Sun!

*Of course*, the week I decided to nix my erstwhile goal race & not worry about weekly mileage for a while, I would end up running my first 40+ week in two months (and, in fact if I'm not mistaken, my highest mileage week thus far this year).

    Monday 3/6: Karate

    Tuesday 3/7: 8 easy

    Wednesday 3/8: 8 easy

    Thursday 3/9: 8 easy

    Friday 3/10: 4 easy (planned 8, but had plans to meet friends for happy hour & just ran out of time)

    Saturday 3/11: Rest/mad tile shopping

    Sunday 3/12: 13.1 easy. This was the day I was supposed to run Shamrock'n, so since I was feeling pretty good, I decided to pay a little homage to the-race-that-wasn't & do my own super easy half marathon in Golden Gate Park (no driving involved). It was also my first double-digit run in *quite* some time, so I was relieve that it went well.

    Total: 41.1 easy miles


Also, I don't know if it's just taking all the race/training pressure off or what, but this week my easy runs have been FAST! (Y'know, for me, for easy runs.) Most of the time when I shoot for keeping my heart rate around 140-145, my easy runs average somewhere in the 10:10-10:15/mile range; this week I was regularly ticking off miles in the 9:30-45 range at that same heart rate, sometimes even 9:15! The change seems too sudden (and my training lately too sparse) to really attribute it to an improvement in fitness, so I wonder if it had to do in part with me suddenly not being super stressed about racing a half marathon.

In other news, SPRING IS BACK!

I'm not usually someone that deals with Seasonal Affective stuff or gets too bummed about winter (partly due to the fact that we only really have a kind of "winter-lite", probably) but I suspect that that has played a nonzero role in my general lack of excitement about running. Sure, when I'm training hard for something and super committed, I'll run in just about whatever conditions exist without a second thought--wind, rain, darkness, cold, whatever. Enjoyment is not the primary goal. But when I'm not feeling super invested in training for something, I'm mostly running when I feel like it, in order to enjoy it and feel good. Running in the dark and cold and wind and rain most of the time? Not conducive to that.

So yes, I get that everyone hates Daylight Saving Time and it's an invention of the devil and all, but I cannot tell you how I excited I was to get an extra hour of daylight on Sunday. Being an afternoon/evening running, it's a huge relief to not feel the pressure of having to get a long run done by 5pm because I don't want to run in the dark.

Also, Sunday was just the most beautiful day imaginable in SF--75-80° and sunny, with just enough of a breeze for running to be pleasant.


All these people agree

It's looking like we might get a whole week without rain, so we'll see if this high (for admittedly quite low values of "high") mileage trend continues!

(And if you're reading this from the east coast....sorry. :-/ )

Friday, March 10, 2017

Time to Step Back (and some pictures, because, pictures)

You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't had much to say here lately, and that's kind of a combination of a bunch of factors. 1) I've been stretched super thin with precious free time for rambling on the internet (ie, it's taken me like two weeks working in fits and starts to scrape this post together), 2) the same thin-stretching has, sadly, resulted in less actual/interesting running to write *about*, and, well, 3) running has kind of just sucked lately.


Things I've been doing instead of running: I was supposed to race a 10K this weekend but said ehhhhh screw it & we went skiing instead.


View from our hotel room.


This place is pretty hard to beat.


There were poke cones for dinner, and good wine.

I mentioned this in my Victory 10K race report a bit, how from the start of the year even just lacing up my shoes has been a struggle, how everything hurts, how sometimes I get home from work and running is just about the absolute last thing I feel like doing, which is just really weird after six months of "WEEEEE RUN ALLLLL THE MILES & FEEL (mostly) GREAT!!!11!1" I had this goal of taking my post-CIM marathon fitness, which was no question the best it's ever been in my life, and stacking 10 weeks of half marathon-specific training on top of that with the hopes of running if not a PR at Shamrock'n Half at least my first sub-1:40 in 4.5 years.


OTHER NON-RUNNING STUFF: That time I put on non-running clothes for Valentine's Day.

But it's like the universe is just completely dead set against it. First I was sick. Then running sucked. Then I was super busy with work and renovations and traveling all the time. Then I started having asthma problems from all the dust. Then I pulled a hamstring last week. (It was getting better, then this week I tripped & re-pulled it.) Then I got food poisoning this past weekend. So instead revving up for a super sick half, I've spent most of 2017 with my Shamrock training feeling like the BBQ piglet from season 7 of The Simpsons.


"It's just a little malaise! It's still good! It's still good!" "It's just a little undertraining! It's still good! It's still good!" "It's just a little hypoxia! It's still good! It's still good!"

Then this weekend happened and when I was finally not feeling like I was going to puke every half hour or so, I looked down the barrel of the work that's left to be done for our renovations, much of which must be done very soon and can be done only on weekends, and finally had to admit, "Nope; nope, it's gone."

What our downstairs looked like a month ago:


What it looks like now:


If the race was here in town and I didn't have to drive 2 hours there and back and pay for a hotel and give up half my Saturday as well as half my Sunday, I'd probably still run it since I've paid for, but even then I don't think I'd try to race. My workouts have been few and far between, I haven't run double digits since January, and I've only run the full race distance or more once this year. I don't know, maybe I could still coast my way on all that marathon training to a pretty decent half, but the truth is I just AM.NOT.FEELING IT. (And I'm definitely not feeling like giving up so much of one of my only free weekends between now and May and paying for a hotel room.)


Before the food poisoning, hanging out with my mom & sisters in Ft. Worth. (I randomly happened to be there for a conference this past weekend.)


Me & my tall sisters.

So, Wednesday morning I finally emailed my RunCoach coaches and ask them to suspend my account for a couple of months. They both agreed that there was nothing wrong with taking a bit of a break after CIM, especially during a busy time and especially when my motivation for real "training" is completely MIA. I can't tell you what a relief it was to finally, officially make that decision (which I think is how you know it's the right one).


There is decent running in Ft. Worth! Trinity Park (30+ miles of paved & dirt trails) is just two miles outsie of downtown.


Running across the Trinity River towards the park, then along the river for 4 miles out & back. (I don't know the area well enough to do loops, but one could, in theory.)

As for the new plan, here's what I've got:

  • Keep running as much as I'm able and feel up to. So, I dunno, maybe ~30 mpw or so, but I'm not planning to set any real number goals. I just don't want to be dreading it all day.
  • Forget about workouts for the next two months. Getting to the track adds a solid 30-40 minutes to my run, plus it's that much harder to muster the mental focus for fast running when you feel crappy and also guilty about all the other stuff you should be doing instead. (Besides, a good chunk of easy base training never hurts!)
  • Finish building my damn house. Or, y'know, making final decisions about tile and engineered wood and appliances so the wonderful wonderful guys we're paying can finish building our damn house. I didn't realize how much I'd been stressed out by thoughts like "How am I going to visit the tile store AND get in my run?" and "How am I going to go look at fridges all morning plus all the usual weekend chores AND get in my run?" until I said, "Fuck it, the house has to be the top priority right now" and it was such a weight off my chest.
  • Go to Hawaii in May. Because I need a damn vacation. (I have completely forgotten what it feels like to get on a plane out of something other than a sense of obligation.)
  • Train for PrideRun 5K on June 24. In the best of worlds, I will get in lots and lots of good base training, six weeks of solid speed work, and crush it; in more mediocre ones, I will do almost nothing and pay $30 to jog three comfortable miles for charity 20 minutes from my house, which will also be fine. Most likely it will be something in between, and that's fine too. :)


Ft. Worth also has cool water gardens. (Yes, the water recirculates.)



So, there you go. That's what I've been up to. What's new with you?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Race Report: Victory 10K

Alternative title: There's Always Room for More Navel Gazing!

This post will be mostly about Victory 10K but, full disclosure, it's also a lot of me having an existential running crisis, because these are the times we live in & it's semi-semi-semi-relevant. You've been warned.



(Also: Apparently there were no photos taken of me running so please enjoy the many, many incredibly thoughtful animated gifs with which I have accented this post. #yourewelcome)

(UPDATE: Turns out you get one real photo. Enjoy!)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Victory races are a fairly new addition to Brazen Racing’s portfolio, just in their second year, I think. Brazen is well known in the Bay Area for fun, reasonably affordable, and extremely well-organized events; most of them are trail races (including some real doozies!), but they host a few flat, paved events as well (including Hellyer in the South Bay and the Bay Breeze/Summer Breeze races at the San Leandro Marina).

Back in the fall when I was plotting my post-CIM exploits, I had this idea that I would take the month of December more or less off, then spend the first part of 2017 working on speed to see what else I could do with the monster aerobic base that I’d built up during marathon training. I signed up for Shamrock’n Half on March 12 and figured I’d run a nice, flat 10K sometime in February to get a sense of where I was.

Alas, in terms of running, 2017 didn’t get off to the start I’d had in mind. I was sick for the first week or so of the year, but even once I got over that, I never really stopped feeling tired and lazy. Running felt like a chore, something I had to force myself to do almost every day. Every little niggle I’ve ever had related to running (most of which had remained blessedly silent during CIM training) suddenly decided to rear its ugly head. And to be fair to myself, I've also been swamped with work and renovation stuff, which means just that many more days when I legitimately don't have time for more than a handful of miles (unless I'm going to cut into my 7-8 hours of shut-eye, which is where I try super hard to draw the line).

The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt like part of my trouble was that I don't have any super inspiring goals right now. I mean. Obviously, I will take a PR any day. But the times when I've been really fired up and motivated to work extra hard have always been in pursuit of something specific, like a sub-1:40 half or a BQ. After CIM, I just didn't have anything like that revving my engines.

Originally I'd wanted to run a February 10K to check my progress, but as January came to an end I just could not bring myself to care. In fact I got so sour on lacing up that I decided to just take a full week off and do literally anything else. I felt a lot better when I went back to running on Valentine's Day, but still not particularly inspired. I'd skipped Bay Breeze 10K on 2/11 to go skiing, so my other option was Victory on 2/25. And oh man, was there a lot of waffling.

  • "Eh, you should just do it to see where you are."
  • "But why, when I basically haven't trained?"
  • "It can't hurt! If nothing else you'll get a solid workout in."
  • "But also, getting up at the butt crack of before dawn & paying the late registration fee."
  • "Eh, you like racing. You should just do it for fun!"
  • "Sometimes we have really different ideas about fun."

In the end I decided to do it, not because I felt like I was in incredible shape to destroy a 10K, but because maybe it would be a kick in the pants & whatever happened, good or bad, would finally light a fire under me and get me off the couch and back on the roads more than 30 miles a week.

It turns out there IS an upside of racing at the last minute, and that's the lack of stakes. At CIM I had several goals that I cared about a lot and had 18 weeks of my life invested in, so I raced pretty conservatively--basically just hard enough to be 100% certain I met them all. There was just no way I was going to risk those things on the off chance that I might be fit enough to blow the whole thing out of the water. This weekend? No such qualms!


LIGHT 'ER UP BITCHES

In 10Ks, my usual pattern is to go out at a fast-but-comfortable pace, try to pick it up in the middle miles, & run the last 1.5 miles or so as fast as I can manage, & I think that's pretty much how I've run my fastest 10K's (ie, 44:20-44:40ish). In the grand scheme of things I don't think this is a bad strategy, but a lot of times it's resulted in running my last mile 20-30 seconds faster than the first, which in a race that short probably indicates going out a bit too conservatively. Since I had nothing to lose this time, I decided to try to break that pattern by running the first miles pretty close to my PR pace of 7:09, then see how hard it felt to hold onto that.

For a warm-up, I jogged the first 1.5 miles of the course and back, and I was glad I did as there were a few spots that weren't totally clear and it also gave me a chance to think about the tangents. A couple parts of the course were also on boardwalk rather than pavement, and since it had rained recently, the footing was a bit slippery, which was good to know. After that I hit the port-a-potties one more time, dropped off my jacket and phone, & headed back to the starting area for some quick drills while the half marathon was getting started. Then it was into the corral and we were off!

Several women leapt ahead at a pace that I was certainly not going to try to match, but after a few minutes I settled in with a small group of men who seemed to be running at about my pace, about 7:08-7:12 according to my watch. I felt like I was working and definitely running harder than I usually like to early in a 10K, but since that was part of today's goal, I tried to just relax into it. Imagine my shock when we hit the first mile marker in 6:58!

Friends, that is an end-of-10K split for me, NOT a mile 1 split! In a goal race I might have panicked a bit (also, WTF, GPS?), but since there were no stakes here and I didn't feel awful yet, I kind of took it as permission to back off just a touch if I felt like. Mostly I just tried to keep up the same effort level & stay in pretty close contact with the couple of dudes in front of me. Any time it started to feel hard I tried to tell myself, "Imagine you're training to run a half at this pace. TOTALLY DOABLE, RIGHT?" #traininglies

Mile 2 ticked off in 7:05. Slightly less scary than sub-7, but still a faster pace than I have ever run a 10K before in my life, even when I was training specifically for 10Ks. Of course when you're in the midst of racing you aren't always at your most logical and there was definitely a part of me going "THIS IS FINE BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY SOME KIND OF MAGIC HAS HAPPENED AND I AM TOTALLY GOING TO RUN A PR 10K AFTER FOUR MONTHS OF MARATHON TRAINING AND THREE MONTHS OF DICKING AROUND BECAUSE THAT 100% MAKES SENSE."

After that I basically hitched my wagon to the dude in front of me &, for better or worse, used him as a rabbit.

Things started to feel hard as we approached the halfway point. Mile three was 7:13, which meant my rabbit was definitely slowing down--a good thing for me. At this point I also started trying to remember how I usually feel halfway through a 10K & if it's supposed to feel this hard. Just don't chicken out and slow down just because it's getting harder, I thought. I could have sworn in mile 4 that we were slowing down significantly, but that mile was 7:13 as well, so apparently not.

The last two miles were HARD. It was then that I really started to experience the cost of having gone out so fast (for the record, 15-20 seconds faster than usual) and I wanted so badly to say "Ehhh fine, we tried that and it sucked" and ease up and phone it in, so every time the thought occurred to me I started repeating to myself "Don't be a weenie, don't be a weenie, don't be a weenie," and tried instead to speed up juuuust a touch. (And failed, obviously, as my watch showed me 7:16 for the 5th split.)

However, my rabbit was starting to fade too at this point, and somewhere around then I pulled even with him (or, more accurately, he dropped back to me), and I passed him. With one mile to go I tried to muster every ounce of resolve I had and ratchet down the pace; I really could have sworn I was doing it, too, as I started passing quite a few people and my legs were on fire. Unfortunately my watch did not agree and I blanched a little when I hit mile 6 in 7:27. (For the record, that may be the slowest mile I've EVER run in a 10K. UPDATE No it's not, I checked & I ran a 7:40 mile a year ago at Bay Breeze 2016.) Not sure what happened there but I did manage to crank out the last .2(5?) in 1:44, so 6:58-7:10 pace, depending on whether you trust GPS or the course measurements more.

In the end I juuuust managed to squeak in under the 45:00 mark with an official time of 44:59 (7:15 pace), 39 seconds off my PR. Also I found it kind of hilarious that after running a near-perfect negative split marathon in December, I'd managed to run near-perfect positive 10K splits (6:58, 7:05, 7:13, 7:13, 7:16, 7:27).

#achievementunlocked

BOTTOM LINE:

    Overall: 18/330
    Women: 8/194
    A/G: 2/24


Podiums & medals are fun & all, but I really did not go into this race expecting any and honestly I didn't feel especially excited about how I ran. A 45:00 10K for me is not terrible and not great, so really more or less what you'd probably expect having gotten into pretty good marathon shape but then kind of doing only the bare minimum in terms of real 10K prep over the last 7-8 weeks. When I got home, I plugged in my CIM time into a few race time predictor calculators out of curiosity, & they basically all predicted 10K times of around 46 minutes, so I guess I can't be too bothered by a (barely) sub-45. If nothing else, it was a good refresher on what it feels like to actually race hard.

Other Random Thoughts During & After the Race:

  • You only think a 10K is a "short" race when you're not in the middle of running one. 40-50 minutes is a LONG ASS TIME to run hard! ("OMG there's no way I can do this for another mile." Better figure out, then, 'cause there's three more left!)
  • WOW, it's been a long time since I ran a 10K in flats. My calf muscles were hamburger meat for a solid two days.
  • I'm getting pretty tired of looking at 10K finish times that start with '44' so maybe we can do something about that in the near future. New exciting non-process goal???


Heyyyyy look I found one! ca. mile 1 so not feeling awful yet.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA

Date: Late February (2/25 this year)

Price: For 5K/10K/Half:

  • Until 1/07: $44/$51/$67
  • Until 2/04: $49/$56/$72
  • After 2/04: $54/$61/$77

Deadline / Sellout Factor: I believe there was race day registration at all distances this year. Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, but since this is one of their newer races I suspect it's not as popular yet.

Parking: Volunteers were directing traffic to two different parking lots, both free & within easy walking distance of the start/finish.

Staging:

The start/finish was set up right at the end of the road, with a row of race logistic/sponsor tents along one side and a row of port-a-potties (of which there were plenty) a little further down past the farther of the two parking lots.

As with the other Brazen races, you have the option of local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday or race morning pick up. As always, the pick-up & t-shirt tables were well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. I was able to do race day registration by credit card, which I appreciated. Free sweat check close to the start, though I parked close enough that I didn't need it. These days they just set the sample bags out for runners to take if they want instead of handing them out with the T-shirts, which seems less wasteful to me.

Volunteer photographers are stationed along the course & upload their pics for runners to download for free (love), not to mention awesome, enthusiastic, & hard-working volunteers all around.

The Course

All three courses were *sort of* out-and-back, mostly along the water in Richmond, which I have to admit was pretty gorgeous.

The 10K was a kind of lollypop with a dogleg:

I think it's fair to call at least the 5K and 10K courses flat and fast, & paved with the exception of the short boardwalk sections I mentioned earlier. I can't speak for the rest of the half marathon course, which covered the 10K course but kept going past the 10K dogleg turnaround. The stretches of boardwalk were mostly fine for me, though I was glad I got out there and warmed up on it because it was a bit wet and potentially slippery. (I didn't have any trouble with it during the race.)

Schwag

  • I think if you signed up online you got your choice of a cotton T for no extra charge or a logo T for a few extra dollars. Since I signed up on race morning I got the cotton shirt, which I actually DID take for once because it was kind of cool-looking:

    As with other Brazen races, there was an option to take a few dollars off your registration & go sans-shirt if you registered early.

  • Hefty finisher medals for all distances; age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies)
  • Bags of free samples
  • Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc.)

All in all, if you're looking for something flat, fast, well-organized, & not outrageously expensive (if you register early), Victory is definitely a solid option.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Something is wrong & I don't know what it is.

Well. I mean. Obviously **A LOT** of things are wrong right now and I am pretty darn clear on what many of them are (though I am sure there are plenty of other dumpster fires going on that I remain blissfully unaware of for the time being!). The something I'm talking about is, thankfully, a lot less consequential to the global community, but still kind of making my life suck.

Friends, I have lost my mojo lately. Yes, I'm still faithfully getting the workouts in (though not always as planned, and not always on the right days), but there's not much joy in it. Pretty much from last June through CIM, all I wanted to do was run. I wanted to run extra miles and extra days for the fun of it. Like, I didn't even worry about days when I didn't feel like running, because they almost never happened. I think I could count on one hand all the days that I came home thinking, "Wow, I kiiiinda think I'd rather just chill on the couch with Netflix & a glass of wine."


I'm about this excited about running lately.

But man, thus far 2017 has kind of been the year of "F#@$ this shit." I almost never want to do the runs. Lately I'd much rather work, or cook, or clean my house, or do any one of the billion renovation tasks on my plate, or torture myself reading about national politics on the internet, or, yes, chill on the couch with Netflix & a glass of wine. There have been so, so many days when it would have been so easy to say "Eh, who really wants to do a tempo run anyway" & go do literally anything else.

Also, I just don't feel very good physically. I have shin splints lately, a lot. I get twinges in my funky right knee sometimes, and also the right hip flexor (it of the Great Hip Flexor Debacle of 2013). My feet hurt. My back hurts. Sure, there are days where running is happy and magical but for whatever reason they are significantly fewer and much farther between.

I have my guesses about the reasons for this.

  • Stress. As I've read in more books & more websites than I can count, bodies don't differentiate between mental & physical stress. In the grand scheme of things, my stressors are mostly extremely first world in nature, but that doesn't make them non-existent. For one thing, work has been kicking my ass lately. For another, we're getting to the point with our remodel that a lot of shit we've been putting off has to be done like NOW, and then of course there is the ever-present raging shit storm that is the current national situation. (**Bonus**: I've been listening to The New Jim Crow on audio books this week during my commute & running, and while it is an amazing book and I highly highly recommend it to any American citizen worth their salt, it hasn't made me feel a lot better about the world or the human race.)
  • Winter sucks. Sorry but it does, even in a place that doesn't have real winter. I am so, so tired of running in the dark, and tired of being cold all the time. I hate hate hate running in tights (for chafing reasons that we don't really need to get into) & my reflective vest has a particular spot where it cuts into my neck a bit sometimes & ends up looking like some kind of hickey love bite that causes people to give me strange looks.
  • I just can't muster the same level of excitement about Shamrock'n Half that I had for CIM. I don't know if it really works this way, but I feel like I might have used up all my enthusiasm in those 18 weeks, and a month of dicking around/doing next to nothing afterward wasn't quite enough to replenish the well.

The obvious solution is to forget about all-out racing Shamrock & take a little more time off from real training until I'm feeling excited about it again. The thing is, though, I feel like I have a level of fitness right now that I haven't had in a really, really long time, and as I roll closer and closer to the days when lifetime PRs are no longer possible, it feels like a waste to run a five minute marathon PR and then not build on it and see what I can do in a half marathon.

So, I'm going to keep for-real training and plan on racing Shamrock hard, but I don't think I'm going to press on the mileage much for a while. I might not PR or run a sub-1:40 like I'd hoped, but that's okay. Right now running weeks in the low 40s is taking all the motivation I have, so that's probably going to have to be good enough.

* * *

Grand Total: 38.9 miles + 2 hours strength

* 32 easy
* 3.6 speed
* 3.3 tempo/threshold

Monday 1/23: a.m. strength / p.m. karate

Tuesday 1/24: 2 warm up, 1 @ LT pace/2:00 jog, 2 x (800m @ 5k pace / 2:00 jog), 1 @ LT pace/2:00 jog, 2 cool down 2 warm up, 3 x (1600m @ HM pace / .1 jog), 2 cool down

    Got late too home for going to the track to be plausible and I find doing speed work on sidewalks/roads terrifying & useless with all the pedestrians, traffic lights, etc. So instead I did Friday's threshold workout. I can tell I'm still out of practice at this pace because I was aiming for ~7:35 & did all three sub-7:30, which, no, is not a humble brag; it just means I suck at pacing right now.

Wednesday 1/25: a.m. strength / p.m. karate

Thursday 1/26: 8 easy

    OMG. Worst run in so, so long. Exhausted & everything hurt, especially the shin splints, which has not reared its ugly head in quite sometime.

Friday 1/27: 3.5 warm up, 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog, 2 x (800m @ 8k pace / 2:00 jog), 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog, 3.5 cool down

    It's been a long time since I was this unmotivated for a run. God, I came so close to just forgetting about it all together in favor of cleaning my house & getting more work done. I did not want to drive to the track and have to deal with re-parking my car, but the alternative was running there & back (meaning a double digit day), and I suppose the *real* issue is that I did not not NOT want to run 7:15 miles after it was so hard to run 7:25-7:30 miles on Tuesday.

    But, I sucked it up and just ran there and back. Getting there sucked. Every mile was in the 10:45 range & my shin splints were flaring up with a vengeance and every muscle in my body felt exhausted. Even once at the track I spent an inordinate amount of time avoiding that first fast mile. But weirdly, once I started, it felt...not that hard. In fact I ended up running the two miles in 7:04 & 7:05 instead of 7:15 (again, because my pacing sucks right now) and it was really fairly easy. I think the 800ms were in the 3:25 range instead of 3:30, so that was okay too.

    Alas, the jog home, much like the jog there, sucked. At least I know I can still run fast even when I feel like poop.

Saturday 1/28: Rest

Sunday 1/29: 12-14 easy 10 easy.

    And, I was lucky to get the 10. I actually think this day might have eclipsed the previous Thursday in terms of "worst run in recent memory." I was in so much pain. And exhausted. And less than two miles in I had not at all ruled out hitting that two mile mark & turning right back around. I hit three miles and thought, "I can make it to 12." By mile 6 the thought that I was only halfway done kind of made me want to cry. I started having those horrible horrible thoughts you have sometimes during horrible workouts where you're like, "Seriously, this is an utter shit show & I think it's much smarter if I call it good at x," and your jerkbrain is all like, "WHAT KIND OF WEAK ASS PUSSY ARE YOU????" and then you're like, "I'm sorry, I'll try harder!" but you still know you're going to call it good at x but will just feel shittier about it.

    Every time those thoughts popped up I countered with the classic "You would never say those things to another runner having a hard day, so stop saying them to yourself," which helped a little. I still felt shitty about the run but at least I could be honest with myself that it was physical pain & discomfort, legit yellow flags, and not being lazy due to boredom or normal running fatigue or a case of just feeling vaguely blah (all things I think I've gotten pretty good at pushing through).

I'd like to tell you this week has gotten off to a better start, but....I can't, really. I don't feel like I'm about to injure myself or anything, but it is about time for a cut-back week (which feels a little to say when you've barely broken 40 mpw lately), and I feel like my body (for whatever reason) will probably thank me for it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Resisting, & trying to stay dry.


What it's been like around here lately

***{RESISTANCE TALK}***

If you're reading this, then the world hasn't ended yet (yet), so YAY! BRIGHT SIDE AMIRITE.

If you marched on Saturday, you are my hero. If you're looking for concrete actions to take next, might I suggest locating your closest swing district that's on the 2018 ballot & considering getting involved with their campaign. Mine is CA-10 and you can bet I am already making plans.

***{END RESISTANCE TALK}***

It's been a wet one around these parts lately. We had a gorgeous weekend, but after the holiday it's as if the weather kind of went, "Eh, that's enough joy for you people, here have a thunderstorm or three." (Kind of bizarre since we never have thunderstorms here.)

In terms of running, week three was SUPER RUDE in that things at my job kept just catching on fire (metaphorically, not literally) for NO GOOD REASON AT ALL. Sure, I work the occasional long-ish day, particular when I travel, because that's how most jobs work, but this week it's been one damn crisis after another and GUYS GET IT TOGETHER I HAVE RUNNING TO DO.

(Seriously, most of time, I do love my job, and I know how lucky I am to have found meaningful work, great coworkers, and a reasonable amount of flexibility all in one place. Which I've been reminding myself of over and over again this week.)

* * *

Grand Total: 40.4 miles + 2 hours strength

* 24.7 easy
* 1.7 speed
* 14 long

Monday 1/16: Rest.

    This was a scheduled rest day, but if I'd known what Tuesday and Wednesday held in store, I would have totally thrown a few easy miles in anyway.

Tuesday 1/17: a.m. strength / 3 warm up, 2 x (3 x 300m / 300m jog)/300m jog, 3 cool down.

    Two Tuesday zeros in a row??? WTF?

    Like I said, work caught on fire & I ended up needing to work all evening. Boo.

Wednesday 1/18: a.m. 6 easy / p.m. 4 easy

    I was supposed to do strength work Wednesday morning but I was super pissed about missing my run Tuesday so instead figured I'd try to make up some mileage by shoehorning in a few miles in the morning and a few more later that evening. Half of that plan worked out; the other half was foiled by more work craziness.

Thursday 1/19: 10 easy

    Ah, those magical, blissfully easy runs that only happen after multiple days off (& one other short easy run). More of this, please.

Friday 1/20: a.m. strength / 3 warm up, 2 x (3 x 300m / 300m jog)/300m jog, 3 cool down

    Not gonna lie, my first three strength workouts of the year were kind of a slog. Thankfully, on Friday, my body finally went, "Oh right! THIS is how this works." 65 lb. deadlifts, you guys! #ripped #justkidding #likereallyreallykidding

    Actually, things really felt way easier than they should have Friday, which is a good thing in a way, but also means it's probably time to slide a little more weight on next time.

    As teensy as it was, I wanted to get that speed workout done after work, and since I needed to tack on a bunch of easy miles anyway, I just ran from home to the track as a warm up (~3.5-ish miles), did the 300m's, then ran home. Though apparently somewhere in there I miscalculated & ended up with 10.4 miles instead of 10. Ah well.


Not nearly as nice a day today out at the track as last week. Even the weather is protesting.

Saturday 1/21: 4 easy Rest

    I think I may have underestimated my ability to bounce back from back-to-back double digit days this early in training, just because I was doing it occasionally during CIM training with no problem. I was mentally ready to get a few recovery miles in on Saturday but as soon as I got up my body was giving me some of those serious yellow flag feelings that you ignore at your peril. I might have done it anyway if I didn't have 14 on the schedule for the next day, but I knew I'd be kicking myself if I tweaked something & had to skip or shorten it. So, I did the smart thing & just took a rest day, which is fine for now.

Sunday 1/22: 14 easy.

    WOW, was it pouring on Sunday! It was drizzling just a bit when I headed out, but I'd gone less than a mile before it was legit raining, and by 3-4 miles it was utterly pouring. I was wearing my RunShield water resistant shoes & my most hardcore waterproof jacket, by the halfway point I was utterly soaked anyway, and water resistant shoes don't help much when you're surrounded by deep, wide miniature lakes that are pretty much impossible to leap over or dodge around. Also I really really underestimated the temperature--it was 40s, maybe, which would not be so bad except for the pouring rain. It took me about half an hour to fully regain feeling in my hands. Egads.


    Please enjoy this stock photo of my RunShields because I just cannot be bothered.

    Weather aside, this run still didn't feel great. My right hip and knee were both bugging me a little (BAD), as was the old stress fracture spot in my left tibia (DOUBLE BAD). I finished feeling okay, but the next morning I felt sore and beat up in a way that I haven't in a really, really long time (even after multiple 50+ weeks). So I'm just trying to dutifully keep up the strength work & hope that whatever fairy dust got me through the highest mileage 18 weeks of my life this past fall will kick back in at some point.

Two consecutive weeks in the 40-45 range, though, so still officially on track!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On the subject of books: The Contenders

Please excuse the minimalist blog post, but I would very much like your votes for this year's monthly classics.

Here are the contenders*:

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
  • Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • The Black Sheep, by Honoré De Balzac
  • The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks
  • The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
  • The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  • An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  • The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass
  • The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Rainbow, by D. H. Lawrence
  • Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
  • Atonement, by Ian McEwan
  • Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
  • American Pastoral, by Philip Roth
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

*Though if you really really love something that's not on the list, please feel free to suggest it! I've particularly been trying to seek out more classics by women and non-white people, but it's hard, since who gets put in the "classic literature" bucket has kind of a long history involving a lot of '-isms.'

Since I've been doing for a few years now, here's all the ones I've read in past years:

2014:

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  • The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

2015:

  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin.
  • The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy.
  • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.
  • The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

2016:

  • Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  • All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren