Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tips for training while traveling....

I was on the road last week for work, which is always a bit of a challenge when I'm in the midst of some kind of training jiggery-pokery. I think I did a pretty decent job this time, so I thought since I don't have much else to post about right now I'd write about it. I'm sure there are a billion posts like this out there on the internet, but as the Marines say, "There are many like it; this one is mine." As always, your mileage may vary (hahahaha), but maybe someone out there in blog-land might find it helpful one day.

1) I plan ahead. This is non-negotiable for me. If I go on a trip without an actual plan for getting the miles in, almost guaranteed it's not going to happen (or at least not to the extent that it should). This week of travel has been on my calendar for a year and I knew more or less what the schedule would be, so I was able to do some strategizing ahead of time. This meant I didn't have to figure out when, where, & how much I would run on the fly.

For this trip, I knew that I would have a reliable chunk of time each day between 4:00 and 6:30. Monday was my post-long run rest day and Friday I'd be on a plane, so I planned an afternoon run for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Inland SoCal in July tends to be triple digits for a lot of the day, so I planned for treadmill runs. (Thankfully I was staying in the same familiar hotel at always, so I knew the 'mill situation was reliable.)

This was not the hottest day.

2) I set reasonable expectations. Yes, there are trips where it's possible for me to get in exactly what I would have done at home, but they're rare. Over the years I've learned that instead of vowing that I will get up early, research nearby trails, find a public track to drive to, and/or somehow carve out 3-4 free hours for a long run & then beating myself up for not making it happen, I focus on being realistic with my expectations--what I can I absolutely, definitely do without too much extra effort? What can I probably do with a little extra effort?

This past week, I knew my 4-6:30 window was good for a nice chunk of running, but also that it would be following what tend to be intense, draining days, and that I'd also need to have the energy for 6:30-8:00ish dinner meetings afterward. Since I'd just had three 40+ weeks in a row, the timing was right for a cut-back week anyway, so I decided that I could easily run 5 miles in that window, with plenty of time leftover for decompressing/catching up on email before and showering/getting ready for dinner afterwards. With a 6/14 weekend scheduled for when I got home, three 5-mile runs on the road was a) perfect, mileage-wise and b) completely doable.

3) I put on running clothes at the first opportunity. This week I've been getting back to my hotel around 3:45 each day & immediately changing into running clothes before I sit down for 30-45 minutes of catching up on email/other work/general internet decompressing. Then when I'm done, all I have to do is walk out the door. It's an easy thing that makes a big difference at a time of day when I'm not always feeling super high energy.

We meet again, old friend.

4) I tell people ahead of time. I mean. I don't tell them apropos of nothing; just, if people are discussing plans, when we'll be available for various things, etc., I'll just put it out there that "Hey, I'm planning to do my run between ___ and ___, so I can definitely do/check on/deal with [x] before or after if that works." This means that I'm not tempted to interrupt my run or cut it short because I'm stressing about getting back to my computer to check email/do work thing because someone might be waiting for me to do something.

(Note: When I was younger/newer in my career, this kind of boundary-setting was SUPER uncomfortable and scary, but as I've gotten older, more experienced, and just better at boundary-setting in general, it's no big deal. Though jobs are different and I get not everyone will have this luxury. It's also a great tactic for social trips as well, though)

And, I think maybe that's it? Almost always that's enough for a successful travel/training adventure for me. Other tricks I've occasionally employed when necessary include:

  • Getting up early (uuuugggghhhh).
  • Staying up late (UUUUUGGGGHHHH).
  • Sleeping in running clothes when I know I need to get up for a repulsively early run. (Yes, I've done it. Don't judge me.)
  • Shoe-horning in short doubles when the schedule doesn't permit much else (ie, 3-4 miles in the a.m. & 3-4 more in the evening). Not ideal, but better than nothing.
  • Bailing on social-type work events that are not strictly required (again there's "required" and required and jobs work differently so YMMV).
  • Doing an easy run of equal mileage if the treadmill/road/trail situation makes a speed/tempo workout kind of sketchy.
  • In the event of a weekend trip, moving my long run to another day (ie, Friday), and/or running a bunch of days in a row so that I can take said weekend as two back-to-back rest days.
  • Trying to run big weeks before & after & just accept the fact that it's going to be a rest/massive cut-back week & it's not the end of the world.

People have also suggested to me finding a short local race nearby to motivate you on at least one day, or contacting a local running group to see if they have any group runs you could join, but I've never successfully done either of these because a) it seems like a lot of extra work/travel when I'm probably already pressed for time and b) I don't really like people. (Kidding. Sort of. #introvert.)

Have you tried any of these? Any other travel/running tips out there? I am always looking to build my repertoire!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Update, I like running again.

For about three weeks after we came back from Ireland, every run felt awful--just a slow, unpleasant, walrus-with-emphysema slog. Which, yes, I knew I was coming off of two weeks of near zero physical activity and only a little bit of running in the weeks before that. But still. (I am sure it had *nothing at all* to do with the quantity of bread, butter, meat, & booze I consumed on the Emerald Isle.)

Let's just call this symbolic of the whole trip.

Then a couple of weeks ago (thankfully!), I finally felt like I turned a corner. I started seeing lower numbers on the watch (both pace and HR), and occasionally caught myself thinking, "Hey, this actually feels NOT like the 9th circle of hell!" Weirdest of all, I sometimes came home from work on rest days with crazy ants in my pants, kind of desperate for some physical activity. "I'll just sneak a quick 4 miler in before karate, no one will ever know..." I gave myself July 4 completely off as a luxurious present and wound up running 10 miles because I couldn't stand the inactivity. Saturdays have also generally been rest days but last week, screw it, I wanted to go do a free 5K somewhere novel with my friends. (Also I woke up full of energy so I went early and ran ANOTHER 5K before the 5K because WHY THE HECK NOT??)

I've been loosely shooting for right around 40 miles/week but hadn't been keeping super close track of the numbers, so it was a little startling to total things up & find that I ran 45 miles this week, 43 last week, and 46 (!) the week before that. Also I've done my 3 hours of lifting/strength work/PT every single week since we got back, plus karate & some rock climbing. And...I feel kind of great.

Even when I haven't necessarily felt great, running has felt like the path of least resistance. Like, no energy to work, cook, clean, run errands, catch up on misc. tasks, read, play dumb clicky video games, or even follow the plot of some Netflix show? Eh, I'll just go run. While running 13 miles last Sunday, I bumped into some friends & we chatted for a minute about the weekend. They asked what I was up to & my response was basically "Yesterday was busy & we were up late & today I feel kind of blah so I'm pretty much going to chill & relax & do nothing."

"By running 13 miles."

"Oh, that doesn't count as doing a thing, that's just running."

"We have very different ideas about what is relaxing."

I'm trying to keep tabs on my body so that I don't accidentally do something *really* stupid and end up with an injury before CIM training even starts, but honestly, everything feels really good. And the upside of really enjoying running & trying to err on the side of NOT doing too much means I don't have any weird anxiety or guilt or hand wringing about taking a rest day if I feel like I need one. Eg, last Wednesday I hadn't slept well the night before, got slammed at work, felt generally crappy, & had no interest in doing anything but eating chocolate for dinner and going to bed at 7. But even then, by Thursday afternoon my legs were itching to go again and I felt like I hadn't run in FOREVER; ten easy miles that afternoon felt like three.

Even on days that have felt a little tougher, I kind of don't mind? Like, academically, I can register that I feel tired or my legs feel heavier or whatever, but my reaction is, "Yeah; this is a thing that happens and it's cool," and "Yep, I'm pretty awesome at running strong through this, actually; good job, me!"

I'm traveling (and working pretty long days) this next week, and after three straight weeks in the 40s, I think a bit of a cut-back week will probably be good for my legs. I'm planning to just kiss 50 miles in the weeks after I come back, leaving me about three weeks to cut back a little as I start speed work & get ready to run a 10K on Sept. 4.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Race Report: Crissy Field parkrun 5K

I'm super, super excited for my running buddy bt and her husband Mr. bt who are taking a year sabbatical to relax, travel, & generally go have tons of fun in Places that are Else. (Ok, also a little bit jealous. Ok maybe a lot jealous.) To see her off, some of us met up at Crissy Field on Saturday for the weekly parkrun 5K that happens there.

I first learned about parkruns from Cathryn's blog. They started in the UK and are wildly popular there. From the website:

    "parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all."

In the last couple of years, parkruns have started popping up in the U.S., and we've now got one here in San Francisco up at Crissy Field, literally in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Crissy Field

Now, this is more of a casual timed run than a real race (there are sponsors to handle the few costs involved), so you shouldn't expect anything like medals or shirts or timing chips or anything like that, and the course probably isn't perfect. But anybody can show up and run, and if you want a time result you just have to register at the website (you only have to do it once) & print out the bar code they send you so that it can be scanned at the finish.

Jen & Layla & I showed up around 8:30 to get a few extra miles in before the race, then met bt at the start a little before 9:00. The volunteers in charge for the day welcomed everyone, gave a little background on parkruns, explained the course, then directed us all to the start area. bt wanted to go all-out, but the rest of us just used the race as an excuse to get in three more easy, scenic miles.


Karl [the San Francisco fog] eating the Bridge again...

Post-race coffee & donuts!

Such a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning & see a friend off on a year of adventures!

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

Location: Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA

Date: Every Saturday at 9:00am


Deadlines/sellout factor: No cap.

Field Size: I dunno, 50? I heard that the week before was their biggest turnout ever with 65 finishers. (The week we ran was Crissy Field parkrun #78 as I recall.)

The Course:

The start is basically right in front of The Beach Hut Cafe at 1199 East Beach St. The course runs along the Bay Trail for a little over a mile, then makes a sharp left, does a little triangle-shaped lollipop, and retraces its steps back to the parking area. A lot of the Bay Trail is gravel, but it's pancake flat.

It's completely exposed, but since Crissy Field is foggy & cold 95% of the time, sun is almost never an issue. (On the other hand, it can get REALLY windy. We had an insane headwind for the first outbound stretch, but the tailwind was nice on the way back.) No aid stations but there are water fountains here & there all over Crissy Field if you get really desperate.


Basically, everyone just kind of gathered at the parking area by The Beach Hut. Pretty informal, since they do this every week & it's free. No bibs/shirts/etc. to pick up so obviously that's not an issue. Crissy Field is a popular recreation area so trying to park in the middle of the day can sometimes get dicey, but there is nobody there at 8:30 in the morning so it was easy to park right in front of The Beach Hut.


It's free, you guys! What you get is a time result emailed to you, if you want it. They also post finisher pics on their facebook page (see above) so that was nice too.

If you decide to run:

Just remember, parkruns are free and run completely run by volunteers, so manage your expectations accordingly. Also know that a lot of the course is gravel and it can be windy.

Overall Assessment:

I had fun hanging out with friends and seeing what parkruns are all about! It was great to get out of my neighborhood and run somewhere different for a change, and it was a really fun, friendly atmosphere.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Kind of a plan, kinda sorta maybe

I only have one really big goal for the rest of the year & that's to run a kick-ass race at CIM on Dec. 4. Now that I'm starting to put some miles back on my legs, a kinda-sorta plan is maybe kinda-sorta beginning to vaguely take shape. Ish.

Baby Marathoner Angela losing her marathon virginity at CIM '11. Memories!

Now - Aug. 14: Base Train, Base Train, Base Train. I have run races without base training, and I have run races after ONLY base training, but this year I'd kinda like to see what happens if I actually do both, the way that God & nature intended.

I am only on ~day 23 of this cycle & this plan will give me 60 days by Aug. 14. Back in fall 2014/winter 2015 I base trained for 80 days & it made a pretty remarkable difference in my running economy, and although I'm only a few weeks in, what's happening now does seem to track pretty well with what happened then.

Perhaps slightly better, even? Time will tell.

So that's encouraging (which, to be honest, I need. Seriously, all runs feel incredibly slow & sloggy right now).

Aug. 15 - Sept. 4: Add in speed, prep for Race to the End of Summer 10K.

It will only be 3 weeks of speed work, so I don't actually expect it to make THAT much difference in the 10K, but starting speed/tempo work in mid-August gives me 16 weeks of real marathon training, which is really as little as I want to do.

Really, I just want to use the 10K as a time trial/fitness gauge in order to be sure all my training paces are in the right place. I'm not *super* excited about the fact that this race is in San Jose in early September, but at least it's flat, paved, has only one real turn, & starts at 7:50am, so maybe it will not be awful.

Sept. 5 - Oct. 22: Slog away at marathon training, run a sick half on 10/23.

That is, I'm *hoping* I'm still capable of running a sick non-goal half in the midst of marathon training. I've done this twice before and run sub-1:40s, but then again I tried it earlier this year & ran the second slowest half of my life. So.

Here's hoping the fact that it's late October & thus NOT likely to be 80F will make some sort of difference.

Oct. 24 - Dec. 4: Eyes on the prize.

I will probably spend these last six weeks or so mostly praying to the injury gods.

St. Pio, patron saint of pain & suffering.
Stay with me, man.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Books: 2016 Quarter 2

As you probably already know, I've been reading a classic a month for the last two years. It started as a one-year project in 2014, but I've enjoyed it enough to keep going with it & will probably continue until it starts to feel like a chore.

Here's my second set of classics of 2016:

April: Ulysses, by James Joyce (1904, 810 pages). I'm not going to rate this one because in two and a half years of the whole classic-a-month thing, this is the first book I've ever abandoned. Not because it was bad or I didn't like it, but because I was trying to listen to it as an audio book I and just don't think Ulysses lends itself particularly well to that medium. There's a lot of stream-of-consciousness and a lot of word play and a lot of "I bet there's something deeper there I'm missing, I should read that part again and/or look it up in the Cliff's Notes" or whatever, and you can't really do that when you're driving or out running. So, I'd still really like to read this, but I'm putting it off until I'm feeling up to attacking this beast in hard copy (probably with a pencil, highlighter, & Cliff's Notes in hand. It's just that kind of book).

May: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arhur Golden (1997, 434 pages). 4 stars. The story follows the life of a young Japanese girl in the early-to-mid 20th century who is sold by her desperate parents to a man who in turn sells her and her sister to a tea house to potentially be trained as geishas. For all that the details of the geisha's lives are not perfect, I still learned a lot about the general history of how the whole geisha/tea house system and how it functioned, even up through the 40s and 50s and 60s. I enjoyed this book & was glad I read it, but I have to admit my enjoyment was tainted a bit when I learned that it was not biographical and in fact not even terribly accurate (though it was loosely based on conversations Golden had with a real Geisha. Who later sued him for writing this.

June: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (1955, 378 pages). 5 stars. I think a lot of people will probably be put off by the subject matter (there's just no getting around the fact that it's about a forty-something dude banging a 12/13 year old), but it is worth noting that it's not an explicit or graphic book, and there's only a couple of scenes early-on that you actually "see" as a reader that are kind of gross (though they're described in very poetic, metaphorical terms). The rest of the book is more about the impact that Humbert's & Lolita's relationship has on both of them as they rove about the country together. I can definitely see why people have described it as one of the most breathtaking novels ever composed in English. Don't avoid it because you think you'll be puking the whole way. It's not like that


Here were my favorite reads for April through June:

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart. (2014, 242 pages) 5 stars. Cadence Sinclair Eastman is a 17 year old member of the Boston Sinclairs, "old money Democrats" who spend every summer on a private Massachusetts island with her grandfather, the family patriarch. Smart, pretty, athletic Cadence led pretty much a charmed life until her 15th summer on the island when she apparently went swimming alone and suffered some kind of traumatic head injury. Back at the island two years later, most of her memories of that summer are gone, including the accident. Her family refuses to talk about the accident or anything else that happened that summer, insisting that it's better if she remember on her own. One of THE most brilliantly written YA books I've ever read; as soon as I finished it I immediately flipped back to the beginning & started over again. Avoid spoilers *at all costs*.

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks. (1988, 293 pages) 5 stars. This book made me glad I didn't give up on the Culture series after Consider Phlebas. 'The Player of Games' refers to this one dude in the Culture, Gurgeh, who's, well, really good at playing games. Which, how convenient, given that the Culture has encountered a new, rather primitive civilization whose entire society and system of government is based on this insanely complex game. Every six years there is a great tournament where a player's performance determines their role in society, and circumstances conspire such that Gurgeh ends up on a ship bound for this civilization to play the great game. Brilliantly written, and cleverly devised from the first page. Not only accessible but actually COOL AND INTERESTING for a non-sci fi geek (which I couldn't say about Consider Phlebas.)

Work Clean: The life-changing power of mise-en-place to organize your life, work, and mind, by Dan Charnas. (2016, 304 pages) 5 stars. This book really spoke to me, probably because it jives simultaneously with a lot of my life philosophies & neuroses. Basically, it takes the principles of mise-en-place used by professional chefs & looks at how non-chefs can maybe become more productive/happier by employing them. Some are more applicable than others and I'm not saying I immediately implemented every strategy in the book, but I did spend half a day stripping down my office & getting rid of the stacks of papers & books that tend to accumulate, another half day cleaning out my work & personal email inboxes (not quite at zero, but close), & have gotten super rigorous about using time efficiently, working harder at not wasting things (especially food), & constantly cleaning up after myself. I have a feeling that if you enjoyed Marie Kondo, you'll probably like this one.

Us, by David Nicholls (2014, 400 pages). 4 stars. Middle-aged (boring, uptight, plain vanilla) husband & father Douglas Petersen is about to take his wife Connie & son Alfie on a European tour before Alfie leaves for college. Between his already-strained relationship with Alfie & Connie's sudden admission that she is considering leaving him, Doug spends the trip feeling as if his life is crumbling around him. The book flashes back and forth between the precarious Petersens' misadventures in Europe and Doug & Connie's entire history together as Doug reflects on his life and relationships. Not life-changing or super deep but cute & really well written.

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi (2007, 362 pages). 4 stars. Definitely, like, 9 stars for unique/interesting premise: in the not-that-distant future, at age 65 people can register for the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) & then officially go enlist any time after that, which basically means becoming legally dead on earth & flying out into space to go defend human space colonies/fight in space wars/etc. (the details of which are all kept strictly secret from normal earth people). Why would you want to do this at age 65+, and why would anyone be recruiting old folks for soldiers? Because by some mysterious process, everyone knows that the CDF turns recruits young and hearty again. It's kind of a mind-blowing premise and Scalzi explores it thoroughly. A quick, fun, & entertaining read.

Disapperance at Devil's Rock, by Paul Tremblay. (2016, 327 pages) 4 stars. Paul Tremblay is an amaaaaaaaazing writer and I 100% plan on gobbling up everything he writes as quickly as it appears; also this book was right up my alley--dark and creepy and all about mysterious happenings that are all the creepier for the fact that the weirdness is subtle and ambiguous and plunked right down in the middle of normal, everyday people's normal everyday lives. For the first 80% of the book, I could not put it down because OMG WTF is going on?!?!?!11!? Alas, I was a bit disappointed in the last bit for reasons that I don't think I can explain without spoilers. It was all built up so incredibly skillfully and with such perfect tension and crazy expectations that there was just no way any real, actual ending could have lived up to it. (Also I'm not sure anything could have lived up to A Head Full of Ghosts.) That said, I still enjoyed reading it & Tremblay is still for sure one of my new faves.

* * *

Currently Reading:
House of Secrets
, by Brad Meltzer

Currently Listening To:
The Marriage Plot
, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Up Next:

And who knows, whatever else tickles my fancy. (Taking future suggestions as always!)