Monday, April 30, 2012

Week in Review: Apr 23 - 29

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

1 Week To M-A Big Bear Run 5K

3 Weeks To Windsor Green Half Marathon

Grand Total: 29.22 miles

* 18.22 easy
* 6 HM pace
* 5 speed/intervals

This was going to be a SUPER impressive 48-50 mile "peak" week (insofar as I ever really have peak weeks). But then it wasn't, thanks largely to yet another PACKED weekend socially & quite a lot of real, actual income-generating work towards the end of last week. What I CAN say is that I gave it a solid effort, and the two runs I missed were truly, honestly due to just not having the time (and sort of expecting ahead of time that I wouldn't) and not to being lazy or wussing out or anything. This weekend was Don's birthday, so we had a ton of fun celebrating with friends in various ways, and Saturday was yet another obligatory wine tasting trip. (Don't you love that we *have* to go drink crazy/fancy wine like every weekend? It's a rough life sometimes.)

Monday: Karate + 8 easy. I stayed up too late Sunday night & was sooooo tired that I almost skipped out on this run. And karate. Then I kept going back & forth on doing one but not the other. In the end I did my run, then went to karate 20 minutes late.

Tuesday: 2 wu + (3:00 @ 10K pace + 1:00 jog) x 12 = 8.22. I dare you to throw this workout into your 10K or HM plan. I just. Freaking. DARE YOU. Potentially the toughest speed workout I'm doing these days.

Wednesday: Karate + strength work + 4 easy. Recovery day. Exciting, because my glutes and hips were hella sore from that bitch of a track session. Also, dailymile, when are you going to learn how proportionality works? Does the scaling here make sense to anyone? #mathteacher

Thursday: 2 wu + 6 @ HM pace + 1 cd = 9 Deal with effing life. Sorry, running.

Friday: 14 easy 2 wu + 6 @ HM pace + 1 cd = 9. Um. Yeah. Best run of 2012 so far? I think so.

Saturday: OMG MOAR WINE TASTING!?!?!? Afraid so. Back in March, we headed down to Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino for the First Assemblage tasting of the '11 Montebello blend. I have recommended Ridge before as a must-do in both Sonoma and the South Bay / Santa Cruz Mountains area & I'll recommend them again -- if you're in either place & doing some wine tasting, hit them up. They have some truly amazing things on offer. Although it's some of the best American wine I've had, I would not bother with the Montebello unless you are into shelling out major bucks; we only get to go to the tastings because Don's parents are in the Montebello club & get it at a discount because they are in the industry. But they have a ton of other very tasty, very reasonably priced wine that's worth checking out.

Saturday was the Final Assemblage tasting, so we drove down, tasted a bunch of Montebello (including a '77, which I think is the oldest wine I've ever had!), tried a bunch of other stuff they had open, then drove back & started shopping/prepping/cleaning for Don's birthday BBQ on Sunday.

Ridge Montebello tasting room

View from the ridge

'77 Montebello. Have some sediment.

Up on the ridge

Sunday: 6 easy Party hardy. The BBQ was tons of fun. (I made homemade ice cream, which was pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself!) At this point the 14 miler was a lost cause, but I thought I might have a little time in the morning to sneak in an easy six. No such luck as we ended up having too much last minute cleaning & prep work to do

So, not perfect, but as Not-So-Average A was just saying, sometimes spending time with friends & loved ones is worth missing a few runs. As you can see by the dailymile widget on the sidebar there, getting to 2000 miles for the year is becoming a trickier & trickier prospect (we are 33% of the way through the year and I am only 27% of the way to my goal), but sometimes one just has to prioritize, and it would be hard to be unhappy with the choices I made this week. :)

Next Sunday I'm racing my first 5K in two years down on the peninsula -- Menlo-Atherton Big Bear Run 5K. I really have no idea what to expect; my schedule just called for a 5K time trial two weeks before racing the half, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Believe, Part 2

On Friday I had the most magical of runs.

The day before, I had 9 miles scheduled: 2 warm up, 6 x HM pace, 1 cool down. Unfortunately life/work/the universe got in the way of that and no running happened. But Friday I was determined to get it in, so after a long week and an exhausting day down at The Farm, I headed back up to SF, changed into my running clothes and headed out the door before my body had a chance to develop too much inertia and perhaps sink into a couch somewhere, never to emerge.

For reasons I've mentioned before, these HM pace runs make me nervous. The rational part of my brain knows that I can run sub-8's, even 7:45s & 7:40s, for a good while. The more animalistic, neurotic, emotional part worries that I can't (or won't be able to). If the target pace is 7:40, for example, that part wants to compensate out of fear. It has no problem with me working too hard to run ten seconds under pace but has an absolute freak out if I'm ten seconds over at any point. This is the part I have to control and contain and channel appropriately in training runs and races alike. It's fantastic at pushing me through that last agonizing 10-20% of a race but can cause real trouble if it's not kept in check early-on.

Having averaged right around 7:50/mile in Oakland with no problem, I've now raised the bar a bit when I run HM miles and started pushing myself to average 7:40 as much as possible, as long as the effort level feels right. That's actually probably been the biggest benefit of doing progressively longer and longer HM runs -- I've gotten WAAAAAY better at knowing what that effort level should feel like, which has slowly but surely begun to free me from the tyranny of Mr. Garmin.

My last HM run was four miles, which went fine, but it felt like a big jump to six. I used this same seven-week program training for Oakland, but coming off a month of no running, I hadn't really been in shape to do every workout exactly as written. I'd run 2 x 2 miles at HM pace instead of 4 in a row, then 2 x 2.5 instead of 5, then 3 x 2 instead of six, then eventually 2 x 3. (Which is not to say I couldn't run six miles at 7:40 pace; I just couldn't do it at HM effort level.) Post-Oakland, I'm definitely in better shape, so I figured I'd just go as far as I could at ~7:40 until it started to take more than HM effort, and if I needed to take a little breather before finishing up, so be it.

Warming up, I felt great. Some days I'm surprised at how fast that nice, comfortable warm-up pace actually is, but today was not one of those days. These were respectable but nothing remarkable. As I mentioned last time, my first non-warm-up mile usually takes me west through the Panhandle towards Golden Gate Park, which is deceptively but decidedly uphill. There's always a danger of the emotional runner brain taking over here and attempting to run it by numbers instead of effort. I was a bit erratic, ratcheting back and forth between 7:30 and 8:15, but ultimately when that first mile clicked off I was pleased to see that I'd averaged 7:53. Perfect.

Getting into the park, I wanted to try to run by effort as much as possible rather than stalking my watch. I think of HM pace as brisk but manageable, as pushing just about two notches beyond what is really comfortable, so when I felt like I was hitting that I tried to just settle into the pace and stay there.

The weird thing was, I kept seeing mid to low 7:30s on my watch, and occasionally high 7:20s. That in & of itself was not totally shocking; sometimes it takes a few miles before HM pace really starts to feel like work, so every time I saw numbers that low I forced myself to take a deep breath and let my pace drift back up to the 7:40 range. The second mile clicked off in 7:39. Number-wise, it was right on target, but I couldn't get over how effortless it had felt. Ah, just wait for it, I reminded myself, thinking back to how it had really taken until my 4th 7:45-50ish mile in Oakland to start feeling the burn.

The third mile passed in more or less the same way -- me floating along at what felt like the perfect pace, spotting 7:2x on my watch and forcing myself to ease up. Cruise along. Check watch. See 7:2x. Ease up. Wash / rinse / repeat. Mile three done in 7:35, and me feeling like I was barely working.

This part must be more downhill than I remember, I thought. It'll probably balance out on the way back. Plus the last three miles will definitely be tougher.

In my last half mile westward, there was a notable hill. I kept bracing for the burn, reminding myself not to try to charge up it. Then I noticed I was halfway up said hill and had barely felt a thing.

Halfway through mile four was my turnaround. I must be heading uphill now, I thought. These last miles will surely balance out these silly 7:3x's. But mile four felt much like the last, except faster. Cruise along, feeling great. Check watch. See 7:2x. Ease up. Cruise. Check watch. 7:1x (!). Ease up. Wash / rinse / repeat. Mile 4 = 7:24. My reaction: "Whose body is this, and how did I get into it?"

Mile 5 was mostly the Panhandle in reverse, a just-noticeable downhill. Now this, you can REALLY just cruise, I reminded myself. I still felt great, so my only real goal was to keep up the same level of brisk-but-totally-manageable effort and not let myself get out of control.

Cruise. Check watch. See 7:1x. Ease up. Cruise. Check watch. 7:0x (!). Ease up. Feel completely baffled regarding the level of effort this is NOT taking. Mile 5 = 7:18. (I mean, yes, it's downhill. But it's not THAT downhill.)

I totally could've sprinted the last mile and been none worse for the wear, but the point was to practice HM effort level so I tried to stick to that. At that point, I really did feel like I could've run at that pace forever. It was just unthinkable to me how I was already nearly 8 miles into my 9 mile run and I had no idea where the time or the miles had gone. Before I knew it mile six clicked off in 7:28.

7:33 average. Minimal effort. And again with the body-swapping theories.

I ran the last mile "easy," or what felt easy, including taking the hillier, steeper route back to my house (because I still felt as if I'd barely had a workout), and even that was at quite a good clip. (This was mostly because I really needed to pee.) If I'd had to, I could've run that mile at the same pace as the previous one, no problem.

I wish I could explain to you what sort of magic I did, physically or mentally, before this run. That I had some magical lunch, or happened upon God's foam roller, or did the Dynamic Stretches of Destiny. If I knew, I would do it before every single run and every single race. I would start a business. I would monetize the hell out of that shit. But I have no freaking clue. I just went by feel, and those were the numbers that just sort of happened. I just kept running, completely in awe of what my body was letting me do. I thought back to all those HM pace runs I did last fall while training for Clarksburg, how I had to fight so hard for those 7:40s and how so completely not confident I was (in spite of vociferous assertions to the contrary) that I'd actually be able to pull it off. I kept waiting for these miles to feel at least a little hard, but they never did. Or, more accurately, it was sort of hard, but a completely tolerable level of hard that I felt like I could have handled for a good long while.

If I can handle it for seven more miles, even five seconds slower per mile, I'll get my 1:39:xx.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week in Review: Apr 16 - 22

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

2 Weeks To M-A Big Bear Run 5K

4 Weeks To Windsor Green Half Marathon

Grand Total: 40 miles

* 33.5 easy
* 3.5 LT pace
* 3 speed

No (real) complaints here. I got my 40 miles in (for whatever reason this number is in my head as the bare minimum acceptable), didn't aggravate any of my recent aches/pains, and also avoided generating new ones. Lately that makes it a good week!

Other things that make for a good week are amazing weather and good wine. On Saturday, I got to spend 8am - 5pm indoors at a conference (*grumblegrumblegrumble*), but on Sunday we did our twice-yearly Williams Selyem pick-up in Sonoma, where the weather was lovely (as opposed to fog & drizzle in much of SF).

Pics or it didn't happen:

Selyem vines near the parking area

From the balcony area above the tasting room

Our two favorites of the day (though almost everything was spectacular) -- '10 Unoaked Chard & '09 Westside Road Neighbors Pinot

But before the wine tasting....

Monday: Karate + strength work + 8 easy. This was one of those days when I was really excited to go run, having only gotten out once in the last five days thanks to injury & then being out of town. Just an easy jaunt down to Kezar Stadium & back -- no hamstring issues, & everything felt great. I even went orthotics-free! :)

Tuesday: 2 wu + 3.5 @ LT pace + 2.5 easy 4 easy, at 9:00+ pace, and I was glad to have it. For whatever reason I felt completely out of gas from the very beginning. My first mile was 9:40, which is a number I haven't seen on my watch since taking a month off in December. Then around 1.5 miles I started having sharp, shooting pains in one of the bones in the top of my left foot. Running on it was painful enough that if I'd been on a treadmill I would've stopped right away. In retrospect I wonder if maybe going 8 miles orthotic-less was too much too soon. All things considered, I decided it was smarter to swap the longer, LT run with Wednesday's easy 4.

Wednesday: 4 easy 3.5 easy + 3.5 @ LT pace + 1 easy = 8 total. The advantage of switching this run to Wednesday was that I got to do it down at Stanford, which is always nice. The downside was that it was HOT (by SF standards) and the Campus Loop is a little bit rolly polly, so I figured I'd probably end up running the LT miles more by effort than actually numbers. On a track in cool weather I shoot for 7:22-24, so I was actually pretty excited to finish with a 7:30 average. (7:40, 7:29, 7:24, 3:40/7:20 pace) Top of my foot was still a little bit sore (still no idea why) but it didn't hurt while I was running, so bonus. :)

Thursday: 2 wu + 6 x 800 @ 5K pace + 3 easy = 8 total. This run got its own post because it was so dang amusing.

Friday: 7 easy (AM) + 5 easy (PM) = 12 easy. I knew this would be a busy weekend & I most likely wouldn't have time for a double-digit run start to finish, but I did find two chunks of time where I might be able to split it up. This is my first-ever double in my life (excepting relays, where I guess you could argue that two of three legs do fall within the same 24 hour period), and I was glad to find that I felt pretty good going into my PM run, with none of the dead/heavy legs or general exhaustion that I kind of half-expected.

Saturday/Sunday: Work, dinner party, wine pick, shopping. I'd tentatively scheduled six HM pace miles this weekend on the off chance that I magically found the time, but realistically I didn't think it would happen since I/we were pretty heavily booked all weekend. Which it didn't. Ah well. You do what you can.

Here's to two 40+ weeks in a row! I think that would be a first this year....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I Don't Teach Middle School.

Alright, so technically I don't teach anything right now. And I have taught 7th/8th grade summer school a couple of times, and will be again this coming summer. But every now & then I get it into my head that it might be fun to teach middle school full time. Luckily something always happens to remind me why I stick to the big kids.

Today I had 800m repeats on the agenda, so I headed out to the track. I started my warm-up miles in relative peace & quiet; then I noticed small groups of kids in school tank tops and T-shirts trickling into the Stadium. Some of them made camp in the stands; others started walking or jogging around the track in clusters.

At first I thought this was just another school track practice like any number of others that I've run through. But they just kept coming! By the time I started my 800s, they'd packed the stands, and the track was becoming harder and harder to navigate.

But then I noticed something different about these kids: there were several different school shirts floating around the stadium. Also a bunch of them were doing short little sprints or practicing baton handoffs. Ah! it dawned on me as I wove in & out of them. There is an actual track meet about to go down here!

Soon enough I was informed that the track would be closing in a few minutes, and for once I wasn't bitter about it -- I really have no problem with them closing the track for something that actually involves using the track, and if it involves kids being active, all the better. I grabbed my stuff & moved up onto the upper concrete track. (We've had our rough days, me & the upper track, but we're all good now.)

But what I will never be able to get on board with in terms of middle schoolers is the cat herding aspect of the whole thing. From the upper track I watched teachers and coaches try repeatedly & in vain to get the kids off the track and into the stands, and the kids repeatedly jump back down onto the track for a rousing game of tag and some random shrieking. No sooner would they get one group back up there before another would leap down and begin an impromptu game of soccer (on the track! While kids are running on it!). It was like some bizarre game of whack-a-mole. Or whack-a-teen.

Generally, running on the upper track meant a lot less dodging & weaving. The only trouble was that it passed directly between the bleachers and the bathrooms, which, if you've ever been around middle schoolers, is kind of a problem because for middle schoolers the bathroom area is the equivalent of a singles bar. You go there to be & be seen, catch up on gossip, & embarrass yourself in front of cute strangers. For reasons I don't understand, in middle school this often involves a lot of shrieking & scampering & shoving people into other people. (I say I don't understand because I pretty much wasn't aware that boys existed or were a thing one might care about until halfway through high school. Suddenly sooooooo many things made sense....) So every time I rounded that particular corner I found myself faced with a gauntlet of wee humanity trying OMG SO HARD to look & sound as cool/hot as humanly possible. Or as cool/hot as one can look in a "Presidio Middle School" T-shirt two sizes too big.

Also, a trivia question. 7th grade boys racing the 100 meters warm up by....?

Yep, you guessed it. Spontaneously racing kids from other schools 100 meters right before the meet. You know. To get a feel for the competition.

What was I talking about?

Ah. Right. 800s.

I don't run 800s very often, so every time I see them on the schedule, I'm always like, "Oh, 800s are easy! I'll just whip these out & be on my merry way." I mean yes, you run them fast, but they're over so quickly that it's almost like they didn't happen. And the first ones usually are pretty easy. But by the 5th or 6th, inevitably, I start to feel them. Plus today was actually rather on the warm side in SF (maybe 75ish?) so I was feeling them more than usual.

On the schedule I think these were supposed to be at 5K pace. I don't run at 5K pace all that often (maybe once a month?), so it's an effort level I sometimes have a hard time dialing in to. Plus, I haven't raced a 5K in nearly 2 years, so I'm really guessing about my 5K pace anyway. Mostly I just tried to go by what "felt" right, knowing I was going to run six 800s, and this happened:

When I got home I checked with Coach McMillen, who says my 800 speed intervals should be in the 3:18-3:27 range. So win. :)

I also threw in another 3 easy miles to make it an even 8 for the day. (I don't know why 8 feels more even than 5, 6, or 7, but I decided it did.) Much as with the 800s, sometimes I'm like, "Oh, after I finish my speed workout, I'll just thrown in a few easy miles. NBD." WRONG. There's really no such thing as easy miles after speed work. Slow miles, maybe. But not really easy ones. On the other hand, it was kind of encouraging to see that when I felt like I was plodding along in that last mile thinking DEAR GOD LET IT END, I was actually running an 8:16 pace. Uphill. Not sure what's up with that but I'll take it.

So that was my afternoon. How was yours? :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April UNresolutions

Do you ever have ideas that seem really good and smart at the time, and then later you look back and go, "WHAT was I THINKING??"

I do. In fact I'd say that's my sentiment regarding most of middle school & high school. (I'd link some photos, but thankfully that was before the days of digital photography & all the evidence is probably in a shoe box at the bottom of a closet at my mom's place or something.) It happens less often now, but it does still happen. And recently it occurs to me that it happened at the beginning of this month, right before I wrote this post.

Essentially, I'd noticed a pattern where I spend the morning doing important but not urgent work or running errands, & then sometimes when the afternoon comes, I realize that I have other work or errands unfinished that have to be done that day that I've forgotten about, and then end up not running because I have to take care of it. So my resolution was to get my runs in before noon as often as possible so that I wouldn't have to worry for the rest of the day when I was going to get it in.

I've been an unmitigated failure at this. I think I ran before noon all of twice this month.

Also this month, I finally read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. I've been reading her blog for years now, but never read the book until the lovely Jana lent it to me during Oakland Running Festival weekend. I won't blame you if you think the basic premise sounds sort of cheesy & Pollyanna-ish -- I did too, until I started reading Gretchen's blog. I've learned so much from it and highly recommend it to anyone. It really is about the deep-seated, long-term stuff.

One of the central features of Gretchen's own personal happiness project is her list of twelve commandments, the first of which is "Be Gretchen." For her, essentially, "Be Gretchen" is a reminder to accept her own nature without trying to be something or someone she's not. Now, "Be Gretchen" is not carte blanche to avoid working on her flaws and shortcomings. (We've all met people with some -serious- work to do on themselves who declare, "That's just who I am!") It's more about neutral aspects of her personality. "I love the idea of playing Chess, going to a lecture on international markets, doing crossword puzzles, getting a pedicure, eating dinner at a hot new restaurant, or having a subscription to the opera or season tickets to the Knicks," she writes in one section. "I can see exactly why other people enjoy these activities. I wish I enjoyed them. But I don't." She described how she used to push herself to try these things and do them with friends who really enjoyed them because they just seemed like things people should enjoy. But finally, she accepted that, no matter how much other people might enjoy those things, she didn't. She preferred writing, and children's literature groups, and collecting scents. She described what a relief it was to just "Be Gretchen" in her extracurriculars, instead of putting pressure on herself to do things that she felt she was "supposed" to enjoy but didn't.

So it occurred to me a few days ago, whilst flagellating myself for failing at my resolution, that this whole running-in-the-morning thing could be something like that. Yes, I could make myself run in the mornings if I absolutely had to, if that was the only time I had (and on days when it has been, I usually have). But I really, really don't like it. The very idea exhausts me before I even start. I really do prefer to run in the afternoons, either around 1 or 2 as a break from work, or 4 or 5 as a treat or chance to decompress before the evening, which I really like to protect as fun/relaxing/social time.

So why not accept that and just "Be Angela"?

As for my original problem (finding myself blindsided by urgent work/errands later in the day), I think I just need to plan better. I have a feeling that getting better at that is going to be a whole lot easier than trying to change my basic nature. Instead of just jumping into whatever I feel like doing in the morning, I need to get in the habit of reviewing what I have on tap -- what I can get done, what I should get done, and what absolutely has to get done -- and plan appropriately.

Truly. This is not rocket science. I have three degrees. I can do this.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week in Review: Apr 9 - 15

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

3 Weeks To M-A Big Bear Run 5K

5 Weeks To Windsor Green Half Marathon

Grand Total: 15 miles

* 11 easy
* 4 half marathon pace

This week has been a tough one. Knowing we'd be spending the weekend in Paso Robles where I wouldn't be running, I'd planned to try to get in some extra week day miles so as not to fall too far behind. Unfortunately, I strained my left hamstring pretty badly at karate Monday, and although I did get a few easy miles in on Tuesday, it was so sore & tight Wednesday morning that I could barely put weight on it. So between the two days I was too hurt to run & spending the weekend out of town, this ended up being my lowest mileage week of 2012 thus far. So you know. Not ideal, but what can you do. We did have a really fantastic weekend, though, which I needed, even if it meant running less this week.

Monday: Karate + strength work + hamstring strain while doing lunges. This always happesn to me -- I should really know by now to do 5 on each side & call it good. (While I no longer have super wussy hamstrings, I still don't have particularly strong ones.) For the rest of the night I couldn't raise my knee above waist-level and it just felt really tight and unhappy. It was even worse the next day, and the soreness/tightness went all the way up into my glutes. I had some shooting pains in the left side of my back with walking or running too, but I'm not sure whether that was related or just kind of random.

Tuesday: 2 wu + 4 x 10:00 @ 10K pace + ?? easy = 8 total 8 easy. I knew 10K pace intervals on a dysfunctional hamstring was a Bad Idea, but I thought I could probably get some easy ones in. Get them in, I did, but "easy" is not really the right word. The hamstring bugged me on & off the whole time, as did the weird shooting back pains. Plus I was having asthma problems. Plus I just felt totally and inexplicably exhausted. Like so many as of late, this was a run I was just glad to put behind me.

Wednesday: Karate + strength work.

Thursday: Rest/don't get more hurt

Friday: 2 wu + 4 @ HM pace + 1 cd = 7 total. By Friday morning I felt almost fully recovered so I headed to the track for some pace miles. It was incredibly windy, but even so, these really are just getting easier and easier, which is encouraging. 7:44, 7:42, 7:41, 7:35. I'd planned 2 cd miles, but the hamstring started to ache a little as I got close to finishing the first one, so I decided to play it safe.

Here's to a better, injury-free week coming up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Consolation Baking / Drinking

It's been a rather not-so-fun week around here. On Monday I strained my hamstring at karate. At first I was like, "Oh, maybe it's not so bad." (This in spite of the fact that after it happened I couldn't put weight on my left leg or lift my knee higher than my waist without significant pain, and that every muscle on the left side of my body from my hamstring up through my shoulder hurt to move.) I had ten minute 10K pace intervals scheduled for Tuesday, but while I may not always be the smartest runner, I'm rarely a complete and total moron, so I just did some easy miles instead.

Ugh. Talk about misery. In addition to just feeling plain exhausted, the tightness and shooting pain up from my hamstring into my back made this run just a whole lot of not very fun at all. It still kind of hurts to walk. I've tried stretching, just to try to loosen up the left side of my body, but it's so painful (or maybe I am just enough of a wuss) that I haven't been able to get very far. Then I did my my taxes Tuesday evening and discovered I will have the pleasure of writing the tax man a big, fat check this year. Oh, the joys of being an independent contractor where they don't take your taxes out ahead of time.

I am coping, as per usual, with wine & baking. Baking seems to be where I put the energy I can't put into running when I'm hurt. As for the wine, well, we have a certain philosophy around here...

Specifically, I opened a lovely '06 Pipestone Syrah. Pipestone is this lovely little carbon-netrual, biodynamic winery in Paso Robles we discovered a few years back. They make a lot of good stuff at very reasonable prices (I feel like mostly in the $20s?), but in particular I'm a fan of their mourvedre (big, fruity, peppery) & viognier (crisp, floral, & with hints of tropical fruit). Alas all I had left & easily accessible was the syrah & the grenache. If you ever get down that way, I highly recommend taking a spin up their way. He isn't RIGHT next to anyone I would super highly recommend, but he's far enough out (Niderer Rd) that you'll have to pass any number of respectable places to get there. (I recommend stops at Lone Madrone & Kenneth Volk, in particular.)

As for the baking, I've had a craving lately for coconut. It's one of my favorite flavors, but in the last few years it’s become one of those things that I almost never eat anymore, the way you kind of mostly stop eating something you’re not out-of-this-world obsessed with when your live-in significant other doesn’t really care for it. Not that he really dislikes coconut; he’s just not really that into it, so it's not something we use much when we’re cooking for the two of us.

Lately I've been excited about coconut milk, particularly about putting it in a cookie. Googling recipes was kind of a disappointment. Most called either for coconut extract and that’s it, or a billion tons of sugar and a bunch of that nasty fake sugary shredded coconut, which I find unholy and revolting.

Then, I found this recipe. The description: “The key to the rich coconut taste in this sugar cookie dough comes from layering flavors. Coconut milk, coconut extract and dried grated coconut are all used to make an aromatic, buttery cookie that can be the foundation for a number of variations.” So I decided to give it a shot, with a few tweaks.


  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups finely grated dried coconut (not sweetened) (originally ¼ cup)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ sticks (¾ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup coconut milk (originally ¼ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract (originally 1 tsp each of vanilla & coconut extract, but we were out of vanilla, so I just used 2 tsp of coconut)

The original recipe also called for rolling the cookies in the sugary sweetened shit before baking, which I skipped.


  • 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • 2) Whisk together flour, dried coconut and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  • 3) Cream the butter and sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy. Add the egg, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extract and beat until well combined, about 45 seconds.
  • 4) Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring well after each addition.
  • 5) Wrap in plastic wrap & chill for at least 1 hour or until firm.
  • 6) Arrange the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. (Recipe called for 14, but mine were still underdone & pale, so I cooked them for 5 extra minutes, which resulted in a slight, pale gold color. I cooked the rest for 20 full minutes straight & got a little bit of nice browning.) Remove & cool.

They turned out very rich & coconutty & not too sweet, which is what I was looking for. The texture is a lot like a plain sugar cookie. If I were to make them again, I would use fresh grated coconut instead of dry, real coconut extract instead of imitation, & probably less sugar, more coconut milk, & more extract.

Also, for a tasty beverage, I highly recommend mixing equal parts coconut water & coconut milk! It's fabulous! I have most of a quart of coconut milk leftover from the cookies, so I'm coming up with all sorts of creative uses for it. Mixing with coconut water, adding to smoothies (AWESOME), potentially some Thai curry at some point...the list goes on.

Today my hammy is feeling *slightly* less horrible, so I'm going to try a short, easy run later just to see how it holds up. Who knows, I may even try throwing in a couple of HM miles. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shoe Review: Saucony ProGrid Mirage

So back in February, in addition to a new pair of Adrenalines, I got a super-discounted pair of Saucony ProGrid Mirages. The Mirage is the stability version of the Kinvara, advertised as a light, minimalist training shoe for mild overpronators. I got them because I was looking for a shoe that was lighter and more flexible than my Adrenalines that would be good for shorter, faster runs & possibly racing half marathons. I'd heard a lot of people rave about the Kinvaras, but didn't want to give up stability just yet.

Some basic info about the shoe:

  • The midsole uses a lightweight grade of EVA called High Abrasion EVA, which is supposed to both add more cushioning and make the shoe more durable & longer lasting.
  • Something called Memory Foam Heel Pods, which is supposed to give you a snug fit in the heel.
  • The outsole uses both blown and carbon rubber (as opposed to the Kinvara, which uses very little carbon rubber) to increase traction and cushioning & decrease wear and tear.
  • The uppers are pretty light & minimalist (thin synthetic leather and mesh).
  • A light stability post, which you can see if you look at the bottom of the shoe (a half-oval-shaped piece of plastic)

So it's April now, & I've put about 45 miles on the Mirages (rotating them with two pairs of Adrenalines & the Mizunos I wear on the track). The verdict?


  • Comfortable foot bed -- no complaints there.
  • Plenty of cushioning (which I'm appreciating quite a bit since I've been having all this sesamoid pain).
  • Definitely more flexible than the Adrenalines, even with the stability post, which I like.
  • Although I bought the shoe a half-size up as I do most of my running shoes, the toe box seems weirdly narrow to me -- it starts curving in strangely early on the pinkie toe side, giving the toe area a kind of weird pointed shape. When the shoes were new, this caused my pinkie toe to rub up against the toe box uncomfortably, but as I broke them in, this problem seemed to disappear.
  • Funnily, all the mesh on the top can result in chilly toes on a windy day! I imagine I'll really appreciate it when it gets hot, but there have been a few cool, breezy days when I've found myself wishing I'd worn thicker socks.


Given that it's advertised as a minimalist shoe that could be a good transition to barefoot running, I was surprised at how bulky the shoe actually felt in the sole -- to be honest, in that sense, they don't really feel that different from my Adrenalines (other than the flexibility). For all that I've been appreciating the cushioning lately, I was actually hoping for something with less and that would give me a better feel for the ground than the Adrenalines.


  • Like I said, bulkier than I had hoped. Supposedly the heel drop is 5-6mm (as opposed to the traditional 8-10mm), but I didn't really notice much of a difference. My Mizunos have a 4mm heel drop, which you definitely notice; the Mirages felt closer to the Adrenalines in that respect. The soles also just look chunky.
  • On Saucony's site, the Mirages are listed as 7.9 ounces. Already a good bit heavier than the Kinvara's 6.7 ounces, but that's what a stability post costs you, I suppose. Alas, my particular pair (size 8, which, I'm told is what they use for the "official" weight) weighed in at 8.6 ounces. Yes, lighter than my 9.7-ounce Adrenalines, but I was really looking for something that would skim off more than an ounce per shoe.

So. Overall? A good shoe. A solid, comfortable shoe that's worked well for easy runs up to & including a 12-miler, and would probably actually be fine for longer distances or speed work as well. I'll definitely keep them in the rotation. BUT, I can't say they really fit the bill in terms of what I was actually looking for.



More to come on that front another time. ;)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week in Review: Apr 2 - 8

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

4 Weeks To M-A Big Bear Run 5K

6 Weeks To Windsor Green Half Marathon know that whole resolution thing I mentioned last week?

Yyyyyeah. So about that.

I may have forgotten to mention that I suck at resolutions. :P

Grand Total: 41 miles

*33.8 easy
*3 half marathon pace
*4.2 speed/intervals

Monday: karate + strength work

Tuesday: 2 wu + 3 x 10:00 @ 10K pace + 1.8 easy = 8 total. Of course, the first day you resolve to get your running done in the morning is the day you go to the track at 10:00 am & there are about 19 track teams there practicing on a random Tuesday morning for some reason. So I left and went back at 2:00 pm when it was much emptier. Hey, I tried!

7:12, 7:10, & 7:08 pace respectively. The last time I did these (late Jan / early Feb, I guess), they were REALLY hard. Even though it was warmish today, they seemed much easier. Even towards the end pushing the pace a little, it felt completely manageable & not all "OMG-are-we-done-yet-FML" like the last time. Also in the past 5K / 10K pace intervals have had a tendency to irritate my shin splints, & none of that today, so bonus. :)

Wednesday: karate + strength work + 6 easy. Ugh. So I stuck to my resolution of getting the run in as soon after breakfast as possible. I don't know whether my body was just rebelling against that idea or was just still worn out from my track workout less than 24 hours earlier or whatever, but I felt exhausted the whole way. Like seriously. I was more ready to be done with this run at mile 2 than I was at mile 24 of CIM. It made me actually kind of glad that after 15 minutes (!) of waiting for my Garmin to pick up satellites, I'd abandoned it & just decided to run a known route & not worry about pace. Because I'm pretty sure my pace was ass. By the end, it was actually kind of comical.

Thursday: 2 wu + 3 @ HM pace (7:41, 7:37, 7:30) + 2 cd = 7. Oy. This run was a comedy of errors, which began with me going, "Ehhhhhh, I'd really rather get some WORK done this morning than run." But at least the run did happen that afternoon, and my HM miles were (sort of) good! You can read all about it here if you haven't (and care a lot).

Friday: 8 easy. Not before noon. Sigh. My cave-like house fooled me into thinking it was cold and breezy outside, when in fact it was quite sunny and warm and breezy. My black tights made me sad and my legs felt like bricks about halfway through. Yet another run I was just glad to be done with.

Sunday: 12 easy. Continuing the week's theme of BLECCCHHHH, just GET IT DONE, I woke up at noon feeling pretty shitty, which may or may not have been the result of, um, overindulging just a bit the previous afternoon, evening, and night and also eating very little food and drinking no water. (What? You don't fuel your long runs with mind-boggling quantities of mimosa & red wine?) So running was really about the last thing on earth I was excited about doing. But you do what you gotta do.

I did cut it 2 miles short (Will I *never* run 14 miles again? It seems unclear at this point.), but I found that driving to GG Park and making nice 3.5 mile loops (Stanyan, Kezar, MLK, Transverse, JFK, repeat) with my car as home base worked really well logistically. I could re-BodyGlide after every loop & didn't have to carry my citrus-flavored Clif Shot (which, by the way, YUM!! Loved.), and though I didn't end up changing, I was uncertain about the weather & it was nice to know I had tights and a longsleeves in the car should I want them. It seems the loops actually worked out to more like ~3.66 each; three full circuits put me at 11 miles, & I made one more tiny baby loop off a shorter trail to get to 12. This is a route/logistical structure I may have to make use of more often in the future.

Next weekend we will be Paso Robles, which means I won't be running Saturday or Sunday. Which means a METRIC SHIT-TON of running needs to happen Tuesday through Friday this week. Oh and also my taxes have to get done. And some amount of, y'know, income-generating work as well would be good. Pssshhh.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just Believe.

Sometimes when I run, I feel like I am two people.

The first is a logical, rational person that makes decisions based on concrete evidence. She believes in data. She trusts math & science.

The other is the "runner brain," which I've mentioned before. The runner brain has some magnificent qualities -- competitiveness, determination, resilience, an obscenely high pain tolerance. But she also has all the worst qualities of a toddler, a cartoon mobster, and a 900 pound gorilla -- emotional, impatient, aggressive beyond all logic, desiring instant gratification, unable to be reasoned with.

At the Oakland Half Marathon, my goal had been to run sub-8:00 miles the whole way. The logical me truly, honestly believed that this wouldn't be a problem as long as I didn't have any minor catastrophes along the way. She trusted our training and the strong 10K we'd run only few weeks after taking a full month off.

The runner brain was not so sure. To her, sub-8:00 still sounded really fast, faster than she had run anything farther than a 10K in at least 10 years. She recalled how hard those HM pace runs back in September and October while she was training for Clarksburg had been. In an effort to placate her a little, the logical brain decided to start pushing the pace a little on regular training runs, to try to convince her that the 7:50s were just really not all that big a deal in an effort to build her confidence.

This seemed to have the desired effect, in that, when the logical brain set the cruise control at around 7:50/mile during the first few miles of Oakland, the runner brain didn't protest. She remembered those 8-9 mile training runs & how they hadn't felt all that bad. (And in case you hadn't heard, we did it, running 13.1 or 13.26 or 13.34 miles at a 7:45 or 7:50 or 7:53 pace, depending on who you ask.) That race was a huge confidence-builder. Instead of dreading the half marathon pace runs on my schedule, I started thinking of them as no big whoop. I averaged 7:50/mile for 13+ miles and it didn't even get really hard until 11ish; doing 7:40s for 3-5 miles should be totally fine.

But then Thursday came. Which was the first day since the race that I'd had HMP miles scheduled. And once again the runner brain was dreading them.

I wish I could give you a reason why, but as I've already said, she's not logical. She can't be reasoned with. She feels the way she feels and that's all there is to it.

Her confidence was not boosted by the 20 mph headwind we encountered almost as soon as we set foot outside.

* * *

When I do HM pace runs, I have two options. Option 1 is to drive (or jog, if I'm feeling like tacking on a bunch of easy miles) to the track; option 2 is to just to take one of the flatter neighborhood routes. The advantages of the track include a more forgiving surface, smooth, flat terrain, & no lights or pedestrians, all of which make it physically easier. The main disadvantage is the monotony of running in circles, which makes it mentally harder. Like, a lot harder. To the extent that I am sometimes tricked into mistaking the mental discomfort for physical. I think I've mentioned the trouble I've been having in the sesamoid area of my left foot for the last couple of months; running on concrete can aggravate it pretty fast, so sometimes I just force myself to run on the track, particularly if it's been bothering me more than usual.

On Thursday, though, I didn't want to bother with driving so I just headed out the door on the flattest of my neighborhood routes, which after about 2.5 miles spits me out at the east end of the Panhandle. From here I can make just about as small or large a loop as I like, depending on whether or how far I go into Golden Gate Park. (Running to the Panhandle/GG Park is the most efficient way for me to get street miles in because there are fewer lights.) I don't like running really fast on sidewalks, but HM pace is doable, and the changing scenery and actual forward process does a good job of preventing me from fixating on how far I have left to go.

The one real problem with doing a pace run along this route is that pace and effort don't really sync up. Even though it's relatively flat, I live in kind of a sinkhole so that on just about any out-and-back run, the "out" half will be slightly uphill, and the "back" half will be slightly downhill. For this run, I'd finish my two warm up miles about half a mile from the panhandle, run 1.5 miles at HM pace through the Panhandle & slightly into the park (uphill), turn around and run 1.5 back (downhill), then jog my last 2 easy miles home.

I always remind myself about the uphill grade when I'm about to start pace miles there. "Now remember, goal pace is 7:35-7:40, but for the first mile, 7:50-8:00 is probably equivalent effort wise," I warned the runner brain. "Start slow. Don't worry too much about the number."

But like I said, she still thinks of even paces in the 7:50s as fast, and if you're running fast, you should feel like you're working. So not even into the Panhandle yet, I glance down at my watch and see I am running at a 6:50 pace.

Eye roll. "Jesus Christ, girl."

Runner brain: "RAAAAAAWWWRRRR!!!!"

I forced her to slow down a little as we entered the Panhandle, but every time she sees those numbers creep up above 8:00, she has a tiny little freak out, speeds up, overcompensates, and suddenly we are roaring uphill at a 7:18 pace.

"Stop that!!"


"Or you could listen to what I said before about running this part by effort instead of numbers."


Eye roll.

I finished that first uphill mile in 7:41, which I knew had been too fast & was probably more representative of 15K effort than HM effort. This became even more obvious when I hit the flat stretch at the Park entrance. At the same or a slightly easier level of effort, I found myself running 7:20s. I put the break on a little, letting the pace settle into the 7:30s, which suddenly felt effortless. (Well; not really effortless, but very manageable, compared to that first mile.)

"See?" I said to the runner brain. "This is what it's supposed to feel like. This is the feeling we're supposed to be training for."


Eye roll. "Dude. Chill."

The second flat mile was a perfect 7:37. I gave her another little reminder as we approached the Panhandle again, this time in the downhill direction. "Remember, the numbers will be a little lower this direction, which is fine. Just stick to the same effort. Don't get going too fast."


Eye roll.

Things were fine for the first few yards; I stayed in the low 7:30s, which is about right when you consider the grade. Then this dude swung onto the path behind me, matching my pace almost exactly. It irritates me when strangers stick close to me on a run, and it irritated the runner brain too.

"Hey boss. You want that I should drop dis d-bag?"

"No, I want that you should keep running this same pace and--"


Suddenly we were cruising along at 7:05 pace and the sticky dude was quickly falling farther & farther behind.

*facepalm* "Really?"


After that I wrested control back from her and finished that third mile in 7:30, which wasn't too overly fast, considering the grade.

As I jogged the easy miles back home, I reflected on a few things.

One: I have GOT to get that runner brain under control. She's good at certain things, but when she gets overstimulated & out of control, it's a real problem.

Two: 7:35-7:40 is not as fast as I sometimes still think it is. Yes, it takes work and effort to maintain, but most of the time I don't really start to feel that until after a few miles. I really can run at that pace for a few miles and have it feel relatively easy. I need to get over that whole Gee-this-really-doesn't-feel-hard-enough-better-speed-up feeling. That's when I get into trouble. Rationally, I know that for me it's better to err on the too-slow side & gradually speed up than the other way around, but sometimes it's really hard to execute.

Seriously, runner brain. You can do this. Without it feeling stupid painful. Why can't you believe me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Resolutions

Up until about two years ago, I taught high school math full time. Because of the nature of the school, it was not unusual for me to work upwards of sixty hours a week. In addition to a ten-hour day on campus, I usually took another hour or two of work home with me and averaged another two to four hours on the weekends as well. Add to all of this a sixty-mile round trip commute every day, and you can see how getting any running done at all could be a real challenge. Even if I did technically have the time on a given day, I usually didn't have many options, and if my precious hour or two of free time arrived and I felt exhausted or cross or lazy or whatever, tough titty. It was go then or not at all.

Since leaving that job two years ago, I've stuck with public education stuff, but mostly do part-time contract work for local school districts and teacher training programs. I usually have a few scheduled meetings or observations each week where I have to be somewhere at a specific time, but a lot of my work is flexible stuff that I can do at home on my own schedule.

Obviously, there are lots of advantages to this. Instead of getting up at six a.m. every morning and stumbling around in the dark like a zombie, I can get up whenever Don gets up for work (usually a MUCH more reasonable hour) and have breakfast with him. I can have lunch whenever I want, and if I'm feeling like something specific, I can go get it. I can have two smaller lunches instead of one big one if I feel like it. I can run errands during the day when places are less busy and traffic is not so bad. And most importantly, I can run whenever it suits me.

It's unlikely that I'll be in this position indefinitely, so I really do try to appreciate all of these things and remind myself often to be grateful for them. (Usually it's pretty easy -- all I have to do is think back to my previous job.) But, if I can be very honest with you for a moment, this can sometimes be one of those too-much-of-a-good-thing situations when it comes to running.

Most of the time if I don't have anywhere to be, I'll spend the morning sipping tea & working in the kitchen or living room at my laptop, have some lunch at some point, do a little more work or run some errands, then get my run in sometime in the afternoon. But sometimes I get lazy and procrastinate -- "I'll go run just as soon as I finish this thing." "I really should go do this errand before I get all sweaty. THEN I'll go running." Or whatever. But some days, what ends up happening is that I procrastinate, and then I get slammed by a bunch of work, or I'll remember something I really needed to get done before dinner or karate time. And then suddenly my running / strength training time is gone. This is probably the most common explanation for my skipped runs.

I really don't want to do this anymore. Yes, those tranquil morning sipping tea and leisurely working away at my laptop are nice, but I HATE running out of time for a run in the afternoon and knowing I could've gotten it done earlier. I also hate having it hanging over my head. On the rare occasions when I do go in the mornings for whatever reason, I feel so much better.

So, for April, my resolution is to run first thing in the morning every week day. Well, actually not FIRST thing in the morning, but within an hour of breakfast. So like second or third thing I guess. To be honest I am not excited about this, but I really do think it will help me do a better job of getting all the miles in and thusly make me happier in the long term. I also want to go back to doing my ab exercises every day. (On this front, I've just gotten lazy.) I think the hip/glute/hamstring stuff is fine 2-3 days a week, but the ab stuff is so quick and easy (maybe 10 minutes total) that there's really no excuse not to just do it.

So....I'm going to try. Part of the reason I even have a blog is to hold myself accountable for things I've committed to (making a commitment in my head = basically not committing to anything), so hopefully including this stuff on my training journal will do some good. And if you have any tips for making yourself run in the morning and just get it done, I'd love to hear them!

Alright -- it's been about 40 minutes since I finished breakfast, so if you'll excuse me....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week in Review: Mar 26 - Apr 1

Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

5 Weeks To M-A Big Bear Run 5K

7 Weeks To Windsor Green Half Marathon

Grand Total: 40 (all easy)

This was a pretty mellow week, being a post-race week and all. I took it pretty easy & mostly just focused on getting solid miles in.

Tuesday: 4 easy. Just a short post-race recovery run through the neighborhood. Quads were still pretty sore (especially the right, which is where most of the trouble has been lately), but everything else felt fine.

Wednesday: 6 easy. My usual loop around the Panhandle. Feeling almost normal again, except for some tightness in the right quad (grr...) and some achey-ness in the left hamstring/glute area, which is new.

Thursday: 8 easy. Out to Kezar, a few laps around the track, & home.

Saturday: 10 easy. This was a busy, busy day and I'd almost resigned myself to not having time for a run. Then I did some quick math & figured I might have around an hour and a half. This ended up being one of those run-out-until-you're-halfway-through-the-available-time-then-turn-around runs, and magically I got the full 10 in. :)

Sunday: 12 easy. I was out late at a dinner party Saturday, didn't sleep well, & got up early Sunday, so the absolute LAST thing I felt like doing was running. This was one of those days when the only way I got it done was by telling myself that I had to do SOME amount of running, even if it was only two or three miles. As I'm sure you know, the hardest part is always putting running clothes on & getting out the door. Once I was out, though, 12 didn't really seem that much worse than 2.

Next week starts another seven-week cycle through this bad boy!