Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I go to PT, again.

I was super happy that UCSF was able to book me with the therapist I was seeing back when I had all my hip problems in 2013. He's the head of the department so sees fewer patients & is harder to schedule, but he also happens to be the guy that knows about running, so my doctor wanted me to see him specifically.

We started out as usual with all the basic mobility assessments where he watched me walk, run, squat, balance/hop on one leg, etc., then did some strength testing where he pushed and pulled on my legs in various ways while I tried to resist. The good news is that he said overall my strength is good and my movement/mobility is improved from 2013.

The bad news is that basically my entire left side is clearly significantly weaker than the right--hamstrings, hips, glutes, and wrapping around to my right lats. (Apparently it's kind of like how the left side of your brain controls the right eye & vice versa--the upper body muscles that help stabilize the pelvis/upper leg are on the opposite side. Like if you push off & back with your left leg, it's your right lats/upper core that resists the rotation & helps you balance.) Sometimes those imbalance things are a little tricky to tease out and determine, but this was just so immediately obvious in every strength test he did, even to me.

Before we started I told him about my theory regarding my left foot & how striking wrong & not engaging my arch might be causing all sorts of other problems up and down the line, and the article from AT, and how taping my left foot seemed to work magic, which he acknowledged was not entire ridiculous. (I call that a victory.) After doing all the strength testing & determining my left leg was clearly weaker, he explained how it it could be that weakness further up that's making it hard for me to use my left foot properly. So step 1 is definitely to do some targeted strength work on that left side for a couple of months & see if that helps.

In a way, this is the kind of bad news that's actually good news, in a way--He found a clear, unambiguous problem that *could* realistically be connected to the injuries I've had in my lower left and upper right legs over the last couple of years. It's when I see a medical professional and they just kind of look at me and shrug and say I'm perfectly normal as far as they can tell that it gets frustrating.

As it tends to go with PT, the exercises he gave me for my left hamstring and hip muscles are pretty simple but also incredibly difficult (which is a good sign I need to do them). He also recommended that I go back to doing some single-leg eccentric glute stuff, which I've been neglecting lately. Finally, he suggested that because my left heel and arch are definitely visibly collapsing a bit, even just when I walk, I should stick a Superfeet insert in my left shoe as a short-term solution while we work on strengthening the muscles. So hopefully that will give me some immediate relief.

On the plus side, he did not do this to me again:

I found this picture the other day and it was so cringe-inducing that I felt like it was worth sharing again. You're welcome. :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Eugene Week 3 of 17: allllllllll the cross training (oh & some running)

This week wasn't everything it could have been, but I feel like I probably did reasonably okay under the circumstances. I'm trying to gradually up my actual running miles each week while still doing the rest of my workouts on the elliptical; last week I ran 17 actual miles with ~1.5 more hours on the elliptical, and this week I'd planned on 20 miles with ~2:10ish on the elliptical. Alas, sometimes one's body just has other plans. (Spoiler: Everything is fine now.)


Some Numbers:

    * 18 miles running (okay)
    * 44:00 elliptical (boo)
    * 2:00:00 strength work (woohoo!)
    * 30:00 stretch & roll (meh)

Monday: Rest / rock climbing. Holiday. :) I could have gotten up early & gone to the gym to lift like it was a normal weekday, but for the last two weeks I'd been going to bed more or less on time every night and gotten to the gym for strength work every single Monday, Wednesday, & Friday without fail, so I really felt like I'd earned sleeping in on a holiday.

Also, rock climbing is definitely its own kind of strength workout. I still haven't managed to get all the way up a 5.10a, but I've gone from being able to climb most 5.9s to pretty much any of them. Something that's especially hard for me (due to lack of upper body strength) is climbing routes that are overhung, and on Monday I got all the way up a slightly overhung 5.9 that's been particularly challenging for me for the first time.

It's back there in the corner somewhere

It was so, so hard and I seriously almost quit three times. In fact I may have actually yelled down to Don that "Seriously, I'm done now" on three separate occasions, but every time I'd look up at what was left and think, "Just see if you can go ONE move farther; then you can quit." And then at a certain point I was so close that in spite of the fact that my arms were shaking and my hands felt like Jello, quitting just seemed ridiculous.

There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere, but at the time I was too tired to find it and now I don't care anymore.

Tuesday: 2.5 easy to gym, 8 x (3:30 hard / 2:00 easy) elliptical, 1.5 easy home + 10:00 stretch & roll. (I meant to do 20:00 but got sidetracked by other things.)

I'm really nervous about taking my speed/tempo work back out on the roads/track. I keep thinking back to how I ran that 5K in December and then a few days later feeling 100% certain I had another stress fracture. Something I've been thinking about doing is splitting a speed workout between the treadmill and elliptical so that I can tap out & go back to low-impact at any time if it's making my legs unhappy. We'll see how brave I get and when.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate.

Thursday: 6 easy + 20:00 stretch & roll. This run felt awesome except for two things: 1) The part where apparently I had a splinter in my foot and it waited until I was 3.5 miles in to show up & put me in agonizing pain every time my right foot touched the ground thereafter. And 2), later in the evening I started to have some shin splints/MTSS pain in my left leg, which is something I've had on & off for, oh, 20+ years.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 2.5 easy to gym, 3 x (7:45 @ HM effort / 1:00 easy) elliptical, 1.5 home The MTSS stuff in my left leg was bothering me all day, even just walking around, but it started feeling a little better toward the afternoon, so I decided to give running a shot. Alas, I only made it about a third of a mile before it was aching pretty badly. My mantra these days is to be super-conservative about anything going on in my lower leg bones, so I just walked back home & tried not to feel too bad about it. (Another thing I'm working on...)

Saturday: Skiing! If we hadn't spent the day in Tahoe, I probably would have given Friday's tempo workout another shot, but at least I got some form of cardio in (and also had a lot of fun). I neglected to take any pictures this time, but I DID take an actual lesson for the first time ever, and at the end of the day, they sent me this:

LEVEL 6!!!! I have no idea what that means so I'm just going to assume it means I'm *amazing*.

If you really need a picture, here's one from a previous trip.

It was pretty much like that except WAY colder and actually snowing.

Sunday: 7 easy. My schedule called for another 12-14 mile long run, so I had plans to once again do an hour of running plus an hour of elliptical. But after skiing all day Saturday & getting home at 12:30 in the morning, I slept for 10 hours AND THEN woke up feeling really, really terrible. (Like, I couldn't eat & kept thinking I was about to throw up.) Thankfully it finally wore off, but since we had plans to meet friends at 4, I ended up without much time for running/elliptical. On the plus side, 1) this is the farthest I've run post-sfx, and 2) my leg/shin splints felt totally fine. Woohoo!

Next week hoping to get maybe 20-22 miles, & maybe (maybe?) try some faster intervals on the treadmill & see how it feels. Also I think skiing the whole weekend, though, so I may have to get a little creative with my scheduling...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Eugene Week 2 of 17: The new strength plan...

Lots of miles on the RunShields this week!

Love these things! They really do work amazingly well.

(It's a little hard to tell but this is rain absolutely pouring outside our door last night.)

Back in the day I used to hate running in the rain. And the dark, and the heat, and you get the idea. Basically if it didn't look like a Disney movie outside I'd park myself on the treadmill and that was that. These days, though, I'd much rather be outside no matter what it's doing, and I've even gotten to where I kind of enjoy a nice, damp run from time to time.

Drenched but happy :)

The Wide Wide World of Strength Work

I had this plan to get back to working with the strength trainer I was seeing last year once the holidays were over, but then I found out I had to go back to physical therapy for my foot, which pretty much put the kebash on that financially.

Something I have learned about myself over the years is that I can get myself to a place/do a thing consistently as long as I have a plan, which is what I liked best about the time during which I was working with the trainer. We would meet once a month, and she would spell out for me what exercises to, how many, how often, how much weight, etc. I didn't have to think at all and it was BRILLIANT.

In the last few months I've tried to mimic the workouts I was doing on her instructions, which was sort of 60/40 okay, but I'd get stuck on things like, "Is it time to switch things up? Should I add more weight? More reps? Eh?" Which too many times led straight to Screw It town, wherein I would skip workouts and not try that hard when I did go because I was obviously just making shit up and why even bother.

So, since I can't go to PT *and* pay $90 a pop for a real-life trainer, I got The New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women. Several people I know have raved about the plans and flipping through the online version it seemed pretty legit, so I decided to give it a shot while I train for Eugene.

I am not particularly concerned with looking like a goddess & have more than
enough nutritional advice to be getting on with, but sign me up for the rest!

It's not running-specific, but a lot of the exercises are the same or similar to what I was doing with AT (deadlifts, squats, weighted lunges & push-ups, plenty of ab stuff), so there's only a few other things I know I need to throw in occasionally (clam shells & some eccentric one-legged stuff mostly). It's not periodized for distance running, obviously, so I'll probably need to do some adjusting during the weeks when I'm racing, but whatever.

The main things I like about it are 1) written by a dude that knows what he's talking about, and 2) there are actual plans, both short- and long-term, that are pretty detailed so I'm not left guessing about things & making them up. I'm only two weeks in at this point, and WOW, I'd forgotten how hard real, actual strength workouts are when you're not just making them up as you go. But I've gone from 107 lbs lean tissue to 110 in that time, so I'm not complaining.

What Else Is Going On

  • WE PICKED A KITCHEN COUNTER! Oh my god. Holy Jesus. I can't tell you what a relief this is.

    This is our current kitchen floor which is going away, but the cabinets
    will be a similar color. (If you hate it maybe just don't tell me.)

  • WE CHOSE A DOUBLE OVEN! I am not joking when I say I'd become 90% certain that there was not a decent, reliable double oven anywhere on planet Earth and in place of the ovens we were just going to have a giant gaping hole with a scribbled note that said "Sorry, ovens were too hard, use the microwave."
  • Still no holes in our house but I am told the engineering should be done any day now, after which we should be able to start getting bids from contractors. I am hoping the fact that it is pouring rain lately will somehow guarantee the holes will start appearing soon. (Phhhbbbbtt an El Niño winter is a GREAT time to start construction, I don't know what you are talking about.)


Some Numbers:

    * 20 miles running (woohoo!)
    * 1:24:45 elliptical (fine)
    * 2:45:00 strength work (woohoo!)
    * 0:30:00 stretch & roll (boo, I suck)

Monday: a.m. 45:00 strength / p.m. karate. I can tell I'm doing real, actual strength work again because I left the gym feeling pretty much like jello in every muscle. I was BARTing to Oakland this week for work, & going down the steps into the station adventure.

Tuesday: a.m. 30:00 stretch & roll / p.m. elliptical speed work. This is when the soreness really hit. Given that I could barely walk, any type of running-like motion was *completely* out of the question. Even rolling was pretty miserable.

Wednesday: afternoon 1.5 easy to the gym + 1:00 strength + 1.5 easy home / p.m. karate. I wanted to do strength in the morning again, but my Oakland gig had a hard 8:00 start, which would have meant getting up at 5am and that was just NOT happening. Luckily we finished early that day, so I had time to get it done in SF before karate.

Thursday: 5 easy. I worked late Thursday so didn't actually start this run until about 7pm. Still kind of sore in the quads, but once I started, running actually felt really good, so I went with it. I'd kind of toyed with swinging by the gym for 20-30 additional minutes on the elliptical, but it was so late and I was so not feeling it. I was really enjoying running what felt like an *actual* real distance for the first time in forever, and I really didn't want to ruin it with the stench of sweaty bro & cleaning fluid. (The official plan only called for 5-6, though, so I don't feel that bad about it.) I did not stretch or roll, though.

Friday: 1.5 easy to the gym, 17:00 marathon effort + 7:45 HM effort on the elliptical, 1:00 strength work, 1.5 easy home. I have a feeling this is maybe not how you should do these things, but it's just how the day worked out. A little light stretching but not nearly enough.

Saturday: 3 easy. Just an easy recovery jaunt because I felt like it.

Sunday: 6 easy + 1:00 easy elliptical = more or less equivalent to a 13-14 mile long run. This was my longest run post-sfx, and it felt just amazing. Even the part where I was running home in hammering rain was kind of fun in its own way! But mainly, just being able to complete what feels like a real distance on my usual route & feel completely 100% pain-free (even if my muscles & connective tissues are still adjusting).

Friends, I am putting this one solidly in the win column. Only 15 more to go. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Running Your First Ultra with Krissy Moehl!

I am a terrible person. The amazingly awesome Krissy Moehl had a book release on Thursday at SF Running Company in Mill Valley, and I was supposed to write a blog post about it so my millions and millions of Bay Area readers (lololol) would know about it and go. They even sent me a copy of the book, Running Your First Ultra: Customizable Training Plans for Your First 50K to 100-Mile Race so I could read it and tell you how awesome it is.

But I got the week wrong.

So here I am, two days after the book event, having just cracked the book itself for the first time.

I suck.

BUT. You know who does NOT suck? Crazy-insane-baddass Krissy Moehl. Lest you have doubts, you can check out her very very long list of ultra races in which she has won/placed/set crazy-insane records. The woman has run like over 100 ultras & won 55 of them.

Question: Will I ever be even remotely that baddass?

Answer: No.

But if one wanted to, maybe, try getting just a *tiny bit* closer to Krissy Moehl levels of baddassery, reading her new book is maybe not the worst place one could start.

First, I have to just say that this is a *gorgeous* book. Like, even if you don't run ultras, it's packed with beautiful full-color photographs of Krissy & others running in breath-taking locations.

The beginning of the book is designed to get a would-be first-time ultrarunner thinking about the reasons behind their interest in the sport as well as the practical considerations involved. (What is your current fitness level/running experience? How much free time do you have? What kind of terrain do you have access to? What's your financial situation?) Based on the answers to these questions, Moehl makes some recommendations about where you might start (with a 50K, 100K, etc.).

Next are sections on choosing the right goal event given your answers to the questions in the beginning, "tricks of the trade," and the mental side of ultrarunning. I particularly liked the section titled "On Doubts," where she listed a bunch of pairs of "Your Doubt" and "My Advice". I may not be an ultrarunner but the doubts were certainly familiar ones!

(It also amused me that there was a section called "Preventing Issues." TELL ME, KRISSY! I would buy a whole book just on that.)

Only after laying all of this groundwork do we get to training plans for 50K, 50M, 100K, & 100M. I don't run ultras, but I have heard several friends mention while preparing for their first that reputable, high-quality training plans (beyond, "Just run a lot, duh") were kind of difficult to find, so perhaps this is a much-needed resource. For each, there is a month-by-month overview, as well as detailed, color-coded instructions for each week. The last sections are on topics like finding & prepping your race crew, selecting gear, how to prep the week/day/night before your ultra, how to keep a training log, etc.

I have to say, this book seems hard to beat as a starter pack for an aspiring ultrarunner, regardless of their background or experience. If this book was about running shorter distances & I had a friend who was like, "Hey I am thinking of running my first 10K, what should I know?" I would totally just hand them this book, because it's all in there--the groundwork, safety stuff, logistics, the mental stuff, support, training plans, etc. And I mentioned it's gorgeous, right?

The ultra bug is not one by which I have been bitten, so literally everything I know about ultrarunning, I've learned from reading blogs and chatting with friends who've done it. So for me, flipping through this book was interesting and quite educational. (I did say also gorgeous, right?) Nice to know that if I ever do get the hankering for ALLLLLLLL the miles, I'll already have this resource on my shelf. (Also if anyone is ever like, "Tell me everything you know about running ultras." BOOM. Done.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Eugene Week 1 of 17: On Bullets & Dodging Them

So I had this plan that by the end of 2015 I'd be done with the post-sfx elliptical drama & back to running at least 8 happy, comfortable miles in a row. This was mostly based on the fact that I was up to four in early December & I figured I'd just keep adding one mile per week, race my 5K on 12/20, take a few days off after while we traveled to Don's parents' in Spokane, then pick it back up after Christmas & get a few easy runs in in Washington.

The mighty Guinness in his natural habitat.

Alas, I kept getting spoiled by stupid work and stupid travel and okay, also sometimes feeling a little afraid that I would be cruising along in mile 5 or 6 or 7 & suddenly the pain in my leg would come back without any warning. (Hey, it happened in October.) But I did race (and win) my 5K, which felt great even though it wasn't particularly fast, and thanks to a bunch of travel delays, taking days off after that was pretty easy.

If I fits, I sits.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve & Day, but a couple of times around then I started getting these weird twinges in my RIGHT tibia (ie, the one I have never had any problem with, ever). At first I figured this was just post-race crankiness (after all, I hadn't run hard on concrete in five months) & ignored it.

Then, the day after Christmas, Don & I made our usual Boxing Day sojourn to Spokane Macy's. The twinge reappeared, then became an ache, and after a couple of hours the pain was so bad I almost couldn't put weight on my right leg. The pain felt like bone and the experience was strikingly similar to how the bone stress injury in my left leg came on this past August, so, naturally, I pretty much freaked out & had a total melt down on the way home, certain I now had ANOTHER stress fracture in a yet ANOTHER bone where up until the past day or so I had never had even the faintest hint of pain.

So, instead of ramping up my post-Christmas running, my strategy became to sit on the couch as much as possible and make people bring me stuff. The one bright spot was that I couldn't really find a single spot on my left tibia that was particularly painful, which is very unlike a stress fracture/bone stress injury.

Honestly, though, by then it was utterly vomiting snow in Spokane, & thanks to a few days of cycling between just above freezing & then dropping back into the teens and twenties, there was a lot of ice on the roads too. People who lived there were spinning out & sliding down hills in all-weather tires, so trying to run it probably would have been a lost cause anyway. (Like, if I was two months out from some super-important race AND I had YakTrax, *maybe* I would have risked it. Four months out & debatably broken? Nuh-uh.)

Fear not, though! Basically I just took my entire two-week holiday vacation off and tried to pay close attention to that leg during normal activity. I felt a little twinge here & there, but thankfully, it went back to normal pretty quickly and I haven't felt any pain there since. Honestly, I don't know what to think about that whole episode, except maybe I yanked on something (shin splints? Bone membrane?) a little too much in the 5K & it took a few days to show up. Gift horses, and all that.

The night we burned the old toilet seat. No, there is nothing you are missing.

Staying off my feet over New Year's was easy as we rented a house in Sonoma with a bunch of fellow foodies for our friend's Jan. 3 birthday. There was much hot tubbing, eating of delicious home-cooked food, drinking of excellent wine, and very very little temptation to test my leg out.

Tenderloin on New Year's Eve

Grilled rack of lamb & cassoulet from the night Don & I cooked

Opera cake for dessert
(Not pictured: Some amazing Paso Robles port)

Definitely not drunk & belting "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a bunny onesie. Definitely, definitely not.

Also, it goes without saying that we watched Stanford kick some Hawkeye patooty.

#gameface. Photobombing by my friend G who cooked the gorgeous tenderloin above.

I mean, I *guess* you can call that a football game, in that there was a football present.

In other news, I guess I'm counting now?


Some Numbers:

    * 14 miles running
    * 3:00:00 elliptical
    * 2:15:00 strength work
    * 00:50:00 stretch & roll

Monday: a.m. 45:00 strength / p.m. 20:00 easy treadmill run + 20:00 easy elliptical. After winning that 5K on Dec. 21, I was basically sedentary for two weeks (if you don't count running through airports & a few hours of shopping), which had left me feeling kind of blah & gross. Usually I keep Monday a rest day because Sunday is my long run day, but since there are no long runs happening right now, I decided to get a short, easy workout in just to get the blood pumping & check in with my dodgy shins. (Also, wow. Goblet squats. I was so sore.)

Tuesday: a.m. 30:00 stretch & roll / p.m. 1.5 easy run to the gym, 5 x (5:00 @ 10K effort / 3:00 easy) on the elliptical, 1.5 easy run home.

Wednesday: a.m. 45:00 strength. We didn't go to karate because all of our students were out for some reason. Instead we tried to go rock climbing, but ended up bailing because the place was packed (guessing because it was pouring rain).

Thursday: a.m. 4 miles easy / p.m. 20:00 stretch & roll. I wanted to run 2 miles, do ~30:00 elliptical at the gym, then run 2 miles back home, but I was flying & had a bunch of work to do before that so it didn't work out. My schedule only called for 4-5 miles easy, so it was okay, I guess.

Friday: 1.5 easy treadmill run, 2 x (10:00 @ HM effort / 1:15 easy), 1.5 easy treadmill run Work work work get delayed in the airport for 3.5 hours fly fly fly pass out. :-/

Saturday: 1.5 easy treadmill run, 2 x (10:00 @ HM effort / 1:15 easy), 1.5 easy treadmill run

Sunday: 2.5 easy to gym, 60:00 easy elliptical, 1.5 easy home. More or less equivalent to a 10-11 mile run (at least time & effort wise).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Race Plans

2016 is kind of an interesting year for me because I move into a new age group. Not that I was utterly killing it or anything in the 25-29 range, but when I moved into the 30-34 group, my A/G finish places definitely took a hit, even as my PRs were improving. Those 30-34s are speedy! So, it will be interesting to see what happens as I leave it behind and join the 35-39 crowd in February. (Not that AG placement is the biggest deal on earth to me right now; at this point I'm just excited to get to a finish line. ANY finish line.)

Figuring out running plans for this year has felt a little more straightforward than in the past. I already have two deferrals on the calendar: the Jungle Run Half in July (cancelled in 2015 due to construction/permitting issues), and CIM in December (deferred due to injury). Body willing, I also wanted to try (again) for a solid marathon before June, so that the year would be split into three "seasons": two marathon training cycles to pepper with tune-up and just-for-fun races, and the summer in between to focus on recovery & base training.

There are some good spring marathons in northern CA, including Napa Valley, Oakland, River City, Modesto, SLO, and Big Sur, but given that I knew I wouldn't really be ready for any real training until January, most of them come up a bit soon. On the other hand, I didn't want to wait too long and risk hot weather, either. Between those two constraints, early May kind of seemed like my best bet.

Alas, that didn't leave a ton of local options that weren't either a) at least kinda-sorta trail races, or b) historically on the uncomfortably warm side. Really, it only left SLO, which from all reports is a good race and I've thought about running in the past, but to be honest I just couldn't get that excited about it, and I kind of need something exciting to look forward to running-wise. So, I widened my net a bit and let myself dream a little about what races I'd really be excited to run, and that's when I stumbled across the Eugene Marathon, which is May 1.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like that might be the perfect choice. It's kind of an iconic race but still not super huge, reasonably priced, flat, shaded, and not too far of a trip. I've only heard good things from friends who have run it and always hoped I might get a chance.

The other thing that makes it perfect is the fact that Don has a big birthday coming up at the end of April and I've been trying to think of something a little out of the ordinary we could do to celebrate. There was a brief period of time when it looked like we might have been taking a trip to Scotland then, but given that we'll (hopefully) be deep into construction on our house at that point, it didn't seem like the greatest time to spend a bunch of extra money or be out of the country for multiple weeks. But we could totally go up to Eugene the week before the race and spend a few days conquering the south end of the Willamette Valley, since on our Portland trip in September we only made it to the north end.

(It would also assuage the fear I always have about races that involve plane trips. If you sign up for a local race or even one where you drive and get a hotel room and something catastrophic happens, you're only out the race fee. This way, the plane tickets would still be usable. Not that I'm actively PLANNING for anymore marathon DNS catastrophes, but it's hard not to at least consider these things.)

Lining up local tune-up races in the spring is never very hard around here. I knew I wanted to do a half 4-5 weeks out from Eugene, which made Oakland Running Festival on March 20 a perfect fit. While it's gotten a bit warm toward the end on occasion in the past, I know & like the course fairly well (I PR'd in 2012 and ran a sub-1:40 on a warm day in 2013), and I know I can count on ORF for a well-done race. (A discount code from race ambassador Jen didn't hurt, either!)

Oakland Running Festival 2012 with Bay Area bloggers of yore

Oakland Running Festival 2013 with Catherine and Jen

I also wanted to run something else in February & had narrowed it down to either Kaiser Permanente Half on Feb. 14 or Brazen Bay Breeze 10K on Feb. 13. After talking to Coach Ashley about it, we decided that if I actually wanted to race (which I do), a 10K was a safer bet for that early in my training cycle.

Bay Breeze 2012. 2012 was a good year.

I have always had good luck at Bay Breeze / Summer Breeze (the August race on the same course) & it's the course I ran my 10K PR on in August 2012 (god, that's depressing to type), so while I don't expect to PR, I'm looking forward to at least having a good race & getting a clear idea of where my fitness is after six weeks or so of training.

The CIM cycle is far enough off that I haven't committed to any tune-up races yet, but after a preliminary investigation of the myriad half marathon options available in late October, I'm thinking that the Folsom Blues Breakout Half (formerly Lake Natoma 4 Bridges) in Folsom on Oct. 23 is probably the likeliest option. (Healdsburg Half up in wine country is another, though it's two weeks earlier, which doesn't fit quite as nicely.)

So there you go--my 2016 race schedule as it currently stands:

Spring Racing:

  • Feb. 13 - Bay Breeze 10K (San Leandro, CA)
  • Mar. 20 - Oakland Half Marathon (Oakland, CA)
  • **May 1 - Eugene Marathon (Eugene, OR)**

Summer Base Building:

  • ???
  • July 17 - Jungle Run Half Marathon (Los Gatos, CA)

Fall Racing:

  • ???
  • Oct. 23 - Folsom Blues Breakout Half (Folsom, CA)
  • **Dec. 4 - Cal International Marathon (Sacramento, CA)**

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016: The Classics

BEHOLD! The classic novels I'll be reading in 2016:

JANUARY: Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. "Aging writer Kilgore Trout finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth." I like to start with something on the lighter side & I actually don't think I've read any Vonnegut since high school.

FEBRUARY (Black History Month): The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. "Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture." I have to admit, I'm not looking forward to the violence in this one.

MARCH (Women's History Month): To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. "Made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of one family living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and it greatest triumph--the human capacity for change. A portrait in miniature of family life, it also has universal implications, giving language to the silent space that separates people and the space that they transgress to reach each other." Extremely vague, but I don't think I've ever read Woolf & I should probably just start somewhere.

APRIL: Ulysses, by James Joyce. "Ulysses chronicles the peripatetic appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day. Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's epic poem Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between its characters and events and those of the poem." What the heck, let's give it a shot.

MAY (Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month): Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. "We enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction--at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful--and completely unforgettable." Enough people have talked up this book that I'm intrigued.

JUNE (Russian Heritage Month): Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. "Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust." Again, there's so much discussion around this one that I'm intrigued.

JULY: Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs. "The book is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes (which Burroughs called "routines") are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs." People seem so polarized on this book that it's been on my list as a must-read for a while now. Interested to see where I fall.

AUGUST: Middlemarch, by George Eliot. "'We believe in her as in a woman we might providentially meet some fine day when we should find ourselves doubting of the immortality of the soul' wrote Henry James of Dorothea Brooke, who shares with the young doctor Tertius Lydgate not only a central role in Middlemarch but also a fervent conviction that life should be heroic. Vast and crowded, rich in narrative irony and suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character, in its sense of how individual destinies are shaped by and shape the community, and in the great art that enlarges the reader's sympathy and imagination." Parlor book? Not a parlor book? WE SHALL SEE.

SEPTEMBER (Banned Books Week): Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. "Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love." Gotta throw something lighter in there (relatively speaking).

OCTOBER: All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. "More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the onetime Louisiana strongman/governor, begins as a genuine tribune of the people and ends as a murderous populist demagogue. Jack Burden is his press agent, who carries out the boss’s orders, first without objection, then in the face of his own increasingly troubled conscience." Seems like a good read as we approach election day.

NOVEMBER: Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. "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." I dunno, a lot of people have recommended this and I have never read Thomas Hardy.

DECEMBER: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. "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." 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, January 5, 2016

Some Race Discount Codes

Behold, it is the time of year when race promo codes start making their way around the internet.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Knuckling Down

I would like to say that I've set a bunch of lofty, audacious goals for 2016 because #thinkbig #dreamswithdeadlines #etcetc (#vomit). Something I've learned over the last few years, though, is that with something like running, that's tough to do honestly because there are so many stars that have to align in order to accomplish things like PRs and mileage goals, and an individual person can only control so many of them.

The previous organization I worked for was really big on goal-setting. We did a lot of exploration and professional learning around effective and ineffective goal-setting and what kind of goals are actually productive vs. those that mostly just set you up for disappointment, and the professional goals each of us set on our yearly Personal Learning Plans typically went through a couple of different drafts for that reason.

For example, our admissions director had originally set a goal to get x number of applications to our school for next year. But, our ED pointed out that although that would be a fantastic outcome, it was a function of a huge number of variables, many of which were out of her control. She could have done everything in her job 120% perfectly and *still* fallen short, which makes it not very useful as a goal.

So instead, our admissions director changed her goals to be things that she could actually control that supported getting more applications. For example, "Make x number of admissions presentations each month," "Make y new connections with area middle schools," "Carry out z analysis on past application data/acceptances in order to make x changes to our recruitment strategy." etc. etc.

Basically, the number one thing I learned about goal-setting in my last job was that desired outcomes don't make very effective goals. You might achieve it or you might not, but just stating a particular outcome as a goal doesn't make it significantly more likely to happen.

Instead, the most effective goals focus on behaviors that support those desired outcomes--things you can actually control on a day-to-day basis.

What I learned in that job has changed how I think about all kinds of goals, including those related to running, especially what types of goals I set and why. In particular,

  • Setting yearly mileage goals (eg: Run 2016 miles in 2016!!) is not useful to me because it incentivizes doing dumb things like running through suspicious yellow-flag feelings, running longer than planned, or skipping rest days in order to bank miles "just in case."
  • Setting PR goals is not useful to me because, as mentioned above, a PR is the culmination of a huge number of variables (doing your workouts honestly & consistently, choosing the right race, tapering smart, handling nutrition/fueling well, lucking out weather-wise, not getting sick or injured, sleeping well, nailing the mental game, etc.) and you only have control over some of them.
  • Goals like "run x times per week" or "don't skip workouts" or whatever is also useless to me because generally I have a training plan that tells me how many times per week to run and skipping workouts is not a problem I have, short of injury or illness.

Instead, these days my goals are focused on particular behaviors that I can actually do something about on a day-to-day basis. For most of fall, I've just been trying to get my stress fracture healed and not fall into an epic black hole of un-fitness. I really, really hope that I will be and stay healthy as we go into 2016, and that I will be able to train for real & race hard & nail some solid times. That would rock. But, that's going to take a lot of pieces falling into place, only so many of which I can actually do anything about.

So, my goals for the year are really just that: Consistently doing the things that a) support the outcomes I want, and b) I can actually control. Which includes...

#1) Sleep more.
Mainly, going to bed on time. This is absolutely the thing that I am worst at in life in terms of things that support my running. I need to be in bed by 10 on Sundays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays & by 11 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and that is soooooo far from a thing that happens reliably, for no other reason except INTERNETS or TV or UGHHHH TOO TIRED TO GET OFF COUCH. Sleep deprivation is bad for everyone but it's about a billion times worse for athletes, particular those who are injury prone, so really, this should be my highest priority. :-/

The real problem, though, is that I don't have an actual plan for how to solve this problem. It's something I've been working on for like three years and it turns out that, as with most things in life, "just try harder" is not an effective strategy. As my momma taught me, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got," so if you have any tips or tricks for getting yourself to bed on time besides "just try harder," I would love to hear them.

#2) Get back to consistent strength & mobility work.
Basically, all of this stuff sort of dwindled over the last couple of months of crazy work travel, holidays, etc. until I essentially gave up completely & just decided to start over in the new year, and believe me, I am definitely feeling it. (I even brought a lacrosse ball with me over the holidays and have touched it precisely zero times.) In addition to making me a better, faster runner because it makes me physically stronger, I know this will also be one of the most important factors in preventing any further injuries. (Also doing whatever they tell me in PT, which I am re-starting on Jan. 12). Ideally I'd be in the gym doing strength work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings & then doing about half an hour of mobility/stretching on Tuesdays & Thursdays. (FWIW, the number one obstacle to this happening consistently is #1 above.)

(Getting back in the gym consistently should also go a long way toward getting my body composition back to normal, as the pants are feeling a bit snug after said work travel/holidays/precious little running/strength work. The last time I checked I had about 107 lbs of lean mass & I'm usually at my best when I'm upwards of 110-112.)

And that's it.

Obviously, I want to get back to a normal running schedule, race hard, and put up some times I'm proud of. But that all depends on staying healthy, and in terms of what I can control, I think the two things above are kind of the best I can do. (And also, let's be real, plenty to be getting on with.) So that's where I want to focus my energy for at least the next few months.