Saturday, December 9, 2017

Some Shoe Talk

I don't know if you know this already but I have a lot of running shoes.

Shoes I wear frequently...

For-special shoes for things like trails or track work or crazy rain...

Shoes I bought once upon a time but that never felt quite right...

And stashes of favorites I bought on clearance here & there, because I love a good deal and what if I hate all future versions.

One of my favorite work horse shoes for a while now has been the Saucony Kinvara. It's had a few subtle variations here and there over the years (the 5's and 7's were my favorites; the 6's were an unwearable disaster) but for five years now, Kinvara has been my go-to shoe for 15+ mile runs and marathons. There's enough cushion there to take 3+ hours of pounding, but it's still flexible and responsive enough that it doesn't weigh my feet down and lets me comfortably bust out mile after mile at 8:00 if I want. I still don't get why some people insist on referring to it as a "minimalist" or "stripped-down" shoe (at 6.5 ounces for a women's size 7.5-8 and with a solid inch of foam and rubber underfoot, it's pretty darn built up for a neutral trainer), but it's what's worked for me for the long stuff.

Almost a year ago exactly I ran my BQ marathon in this pair of Kinvara 7's, so it felt sort of fitting that this past weekend I finally retired them after 412 miles.

Memories! CIM 4 eva.

What's so magical about 412, you might ask? Well, since you asked, a whole lotta nothin'.

Sometimes new-to-running or less-obsessive-about-running friends have asked me how you can tell it's time for new shoes and honestly I don't have a super concrete answer. Ten years ago I used to give Ye Olde Running Folke Lore answer of "300-500 miles, YMMV, something-something efficiency/terrain/weight/shrug." Then I was convinced that only the special running store people knew how to tap and twist and fold your old shoes just right to show you, "See? See how the midsole is all corroded?" (For the record, I never understood that. Then again when I first started upping my mileage substantially & having hip pain the special running store people also told me "You probably just need more/new/better/different shoes" when the real answer turned out to be "You have the glute/hip/core strength of a wee baby bunny." So, y'know. Not a lot of trust there.)

These days, all I can really say about retiring shoes is that at some point they start to feel "off." I start to finish the occasional run in them with achey or beat-up feeling feet or legs when there is no other explanation and runs in other pairs have felt fine. Once or twice, maybe it's just an off day, but after that, fare thee well and thank you for your service.

I don't think there's any magic number to watch out for; I've talked to enough different runners about shoes to know folks who wear a variety of different brands into 1,000 mile+ territory and others whose shoes routinely feel like crap after 200. For others it varies tremendously according to brand or how the shoe is made.

I don't think it's absolutely 100% necessary, but personally, I do track my mileage on different pairs of shoes for a few reasons.

  • I like to be able to tell whether a shoe is a good buy or not. 400-500+ miles and feels good? Would probably buy again. Biting the dust after less than 200? Probably not, unless I absolutely love it & it's proportionally cheaper.
  • I like to keep a newer pair special for long runs, and a lot of times they aren't as good for this after the first 200 miles or so. If they start to feel a little "off" for 15+ milers, I like to be able to check and go, "Right, we're past 200 miles now, into the short run bin you go" (as opposed to "this shoe just sucks").
  • If they start to feel "off" during shorter runs, again, I like to be able to tell whether it's because it's just old (400-500 miles but felt good up until then? You're probably done but I'd likely buy you again) or because it's not a very durable shoe and/or just not right for me at that particular point in time.

What I'm Wearing These Days:

  • Saucony Kinvaras - Like I said, my go-to long run shoes. These routinely get me to 400-500+ miles, though I wore my first pair (version 3) to the ripe old age of 600 something, and still have a pair of K3s that are going strong (though I don't wear them much anymore since over the years I've developed a taste for a wider toe box). I don't usually do long runs in them after 200 miles, but they're still totally fine for up to 12-14 miles. I replaced the pink/purple 7's above with my last pair of 5's & have a few other pairs that I still do short runs in but that probably also are not long for this world.

  • Saucony Fastwitch - For me this shoe is a great halfway point between Kinvaras and a racing flat. They're lighter and have a thinner sole, but still built more or less like a traditional shoe and are stiff and responsive enough for racing a 10K or half in. (I wore them for RNR San Jose.)

  • Saucony A4 - My current racing flat/track shoe. Like the Fastwitch, but even less so. I love them for racing & speed work but don't find them super comfortable for slow, easy runs on concrete.

  • Brooks Pure Drift, v2 - Talk about a blast from the past! I bought these shoes back when they first came out because friends had raved about them, but at the time they were just too light and floppy for me to run in comfortably. These days I am absolutely loving them and have been using them on both concrete and dirt/trails for up to 10 miles.

  • New Balance 1400v2 - These shoes are sooooo comfortable! They remind me of the Fastwitch, except less stiff & with more ground feel. I like them for just about any kind of run up to 10 miles. (After that & I start to feel the concrete a bit too much through the sole, which is actually a good bit thinner than all that pink foam might lead you to believe.)

  • Brooks Launch - Man, these things last forever, which is maybe less surprising, given that these are the most built-up, bulky shoes I own. I have one of the original maroon pairs with 1000+ miles on them (I ran CIM 2012 and M2BM 2013 in them) & they have not yet reached the feeling-like-crap phase. Since they're a 10mm offset (vs. 0mm, 2mm, or 4mm for everything else I run in) they're good if I've got a whiny Achilles or calf muscle. (I ran Eugene 2015 in them because I was getting over a calf strain.)

So there you go. A (reasonably) short, cognitively un-demanding blog post.

  • What are you running in lately?
  • What do you like or hate about it?
  • How long do your shoes tend to last and how do you know when it's time to move on?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Race Talk: You Have A Right to Your Disappointment

This past weekend was the Cal International Marathon in Sacramento, which when it comes to marathons, we all know is 100% the best in the west. Any number of my good friends were out there, as well as a number of other bloggers or visible social media-type people that I follow, and I've spent the last couple days liking/heart-ing/favoriting my little heart out of dozens of pictures, tweets, and various other types of social media posts.

Far & away one of my favorite parts of big race weekends, whether I'm racing or not, is celebrating the hard-fought victories of friends and others, and last weekend was no exception. From all accounts, the weather was perfect, the temperature was lovely, and PRs, BQs, and OTQs were racked up by the barrel full.

There are always other stories, though. Stories of giving it everything you had and still coming up short of a long-held goal. Of being foiled by some dumb injury. Of training that didn't go as planned, of DNFs and DNSs. Of working and working and working to get back to a certain time and coming nowhere close. Whether you had an amazing day or an abysmal one, it's hard to know what to say sometimes when others around you are in a different place.

As I imagine most of us have, I've been on both sides of this feeling. I've PR'd or accomplished some other long-worked-for goal on the same day that others have had awful races, and I've crashed & burned or sat in a hotel room with an injury while friends had the race of their lives. We have lots of things we say to ourselves and each other when we don't have the race we'd hoped for--It's just running; It happens to the best of us; You'll get 'em next time; You gave it your best; There are always new lessons to learn; etc. etc. But if we're really honest, the bottom line is that having a bad race just sucks and the only thing that really makes it feel any better is time.

Another common response to having a bad race or not running the time you'd trained or hoped for is the suggestion that you should for some reason be pleased with this outcome. We tell someone, or someone tells us, or we tell ourself:

    "You should be proud of that time! So many people would do anything to run (xx:xx)."

    "Lots of people can't even run ONE mile, you should be happy that you can run (xx)!"

    "Hey, it's not the time you wanted, but you really CAN'T be disappointed with (xx:xx)."

    "Think of all that hard work you put in. Who cares about the time, you should just be proud of your effort!"

    "Forget about the time you wanted to run. You should be thankful for being able to run (a particular time, a particular distance). Some people can't run at all."

I understand when friends say these things to you after a bad or disappointing race. I do. People care about your and it's hard to see your friends feeling sad and we all want to say something to lift their spirits and remind them that they're still great. Almost always when people say these things (or when we say them to ourselves), they do it with the best of intentions.

Also, they contain some real truths. We should be grateful that we get to run at all, and we should be proud of all the time and hard work we've devoted to becoming strong enough and tough enough to run xx miles and/or accomplish this in a certain amount of time. No argument there.

But I also think that often an important piece gets left out.

You have a right to your disappointment.

Really. The idea that you can't or shouldn't feel sad or disappointed or frustrated with a certain time just because there are other people in the world who would be over the moon to run that time is just wrong.

  • If an Olympic Marathon qualifier runs a 2:55 marathon, she gets to be disappointed. What anyone else would feel having run a 2:55 is completely irrelevant to her experience.

  • If a mid-packer's tune-up race results all point to a 4:30ish marathon and he runs 5:15, he gets to be disappointed. It doesn't matter if everyone else he knows struggles to finish a 5K.

  • If someone has BQ'd seven times and has to drop out because of an injury, they get to be disappointed. This is still true even if their training training partners have been trying in vain to BQ for years.

The idea that you don't have a right to your feelings because of someone else's situation is just insanity.

Feelings are gonna do what feelings are gonna do, and nothing is accomplished by telling ourselves that our feelings are somehow not valid or the "wrong" feelings to be having. If you've worked hard for something and didn't quite manage to pull it off for whatever reason, it makes sense to be disappointed. It's okay. Go on; embrace your disappointment. Own your sadness. Give yourself a little grace to say, "You know, this sucks and I am just going to sit here & let myself feel sad about it for a while." It's a-okay.

What's more, it's kind of necessary. There have been so many times in my life when I've been disappointed or upset about something that I perceived as some sort of failure, but instead of letting myself acknowledge the feeling, really feel it, and then deal with it, I tried to explain it away. "This is stupid, I CAN'T be upset about this / I CAN'T be disappointed / I SHOULDN'T let this bother me." Except newsflash! I was and it did! Take it from an expert--brushing off feelings and pretending you don't have them never ends well. Feel your feelings. It's okay. It's healthy.

Now, I'm not talking about wallowing for weeks and months on end or just never getting over it Miss Havisham-style. At some point we have to be able to let the past be the past and move on to our fabulous futures. Still, some people say that pain is how you know you're really alive, and I say that disappointment--even crushing devastation at times--is how you know you really care about something.

So, yeah. Just a quick note to all you CIM runners out there that you have a right to feel proud of all the work you put in and whatever you accomplished this weekend, and at the same time, you have a right to your feelings of sadness or disappointment if it wasn't what you'd hoped to accomplish. The pain is how you know you're alive.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Catching Up: Life Since RNR San Jose...

Okay, you get ONE full length post. I started it about a month ago, but everything in it is still true, so...


The weather here in San Francisco has suddenly gone quite autumnal lately. Up until a couple of weeks ago things were warm and bright and summery; then the time changed and suddenly everything got dark and rainy and cold.

The view two blocks away. SF looking moody & brooding

My early evening runs are not done 100% in darkness yet, but enough to warrant breaking out the reflective vest.

On the other hand, running in the dark does have its perks. I finally got a chance to see the fancy lights on the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park:

Conservatory of Flowers

As is seasonally appropriate, I made butternut squash soup, and my friend K slaved diligently for 48 hours to bring us homemade ramen.

The week after the race was pretty horrific, with all the Napa fires & terrible news coming out daily about the damages & various directional changes of the fire. We had friends and winery acquaintances in Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Rosa, and other friends closer to home with family in the path of the fires, and a few beloved wineries were destroyed. The winds were insane which was a big part of what caused the fire to get so out of control so quickly.

The winds also wreaked havoc with our air in San Francisco & elsewhere in the Bay. For several days breathing outside was downright uncomfortable, sort of like standing next to a campfire, and our evening skies became weirdly red for a while (though of course these were very minor inconveniences compared to the tragedy people were dealing with in the valleys).

We are still living in our (extremely generous & wonderful) friends' condo that they are not currently using while our renovations continue, so in many ways we are extremely fortunate & every single day of my life I am grateful for a) owning a house in SF that b) we are able to do massive renovations on while c) staying in a very very nice condo just a few blocks from our house.

Still, it's a little disheartening to be out of your own space for an extended period of time, and the amount of time I've spent working and traveling and whatever else hasn't left me much bandwidth for doing all the nice little things that make you feel at home somewhere.

Witness the running clothes coming right out of the laundry & going straight into a pile in a cardboard box because who has time to fold things that are just going to get sweated on:

Photobombed by: The eternally half-packed suitcase.

Speaking of suitcases, I was excited to be invited back to speak at the California Math Council SoCal conference in Palm Springs again this year (twice!). It's a little cheesy but I have to admit that I kind of love Palm Springs.

Nothing like a sunrise run in the desert

Speaking of NON-work travel, in late October Don & I made our fall visit to Paso Robles to taste some delicious wine:

Buy all wine from Herman Story immediately.

L'Aventure, arguably the best French-style wine being made in the US today.

Decorative gourd season was clearly in full swing!

Escoffier dinner at Lone Madrone #centerpiecegoals

For Halloween, Don had a brain wave & dressed up as the Fourth Doctor. I was expecting to be out of town & so didn't bother coming up with a costume, but then unexpectedly I WAS there, so Halloween became a game of "What is in my house right now that I can turn into a costume in 20 minutes?"

Wednesday Addams it was.

Trying so hard not to smile...

November's been a bit of a blur but one of the best parts of being home for Thanksgiving was getting to hang out with my newly six-year-old nephew at his birthday party, and also having my entire immediate biological family in the same room for the first time since, geez, I can't even remember when. (My parents have been divorced for a very very long time & don't generally hang out together.)

Me & Middle Sister


Auntie cajoles the birthday boy into a selfie

Also I figured you could use more pictures of my childhood treasures.

You guys my head hasn't grown since I played T-ball in 2nd grade.

Those sponsors tho. Nothing says "I support Youth T-Ball" like quality meats.

My first 10K! My best friend & I ran(-walked) it together & I think it took us about 2 hours. We ate an entire box of strawberry Nutri-grain Bars after.

My activities during marching band may have been questionable.

So. That's what I've been up to lately, along with a moderate amount of running. How 'bout you all??

Monday, November 27, 2017


Seriously, guys. I've started about 10 posts since my last one and just never can seem to find the time to finish even one of them. I'll think, "Well this will just be a short catch-up post..." and then 20 paragraphs later I feel like I've barely scratched the surface.

So. While I'm scraping the bottom of the free-time bucket, I'm going to try micro-blogging, wherein I sit down and complete a post & hit 'Publish' in 10 minutes or less. HERE WE GO!!

1) Running sucks lately. As of November 11, I was up to a solid ~50ish easy miles per week, feeling just fine. I ran 15 miles that day & felt great; on Monday I went out for an easy 8 & by 5 miles my calf muscles were a wreck. I definitely strained one of them pretty badly & limped most of the way home, then didn't run for a week. On Nov. 19, both legs felt fine, but when I went out for another easy 8, the same thing happened and I walked home the last 3 miles. I didn't run again until the Saturday after Thanksgiving, just 4 easy miles on a treadmill, and though I got through it, my calf muscles felt like I'd run 20 miles without training for it. They've been spasming & cramping during the night and honest to god I cannot figure out WHY. I had a massage, but that doesn't seem to have helped. Not the ideal way to kick off Boston training.

2) I spent this weekend in North Texas where my family lives, a good chunk of it going through boxes and boxes and boxes of treasures junk stuff that's been in my mom's out-building for years. Some of it since I left for college in 1999, some of it since I came back from college & left for grad school in California in 2004. Honestly, I can be the most sentimental of pack rats so I am pretty proud of myself for designating 9.5 of the 10 boxes for donation, recycling, or tossing altogether.

Ah, the pre-cell phone era....Some 4-6 years of notes passed in middle & high school.

That time I made Texas All-State Choir!

Baby Angela's first year running track!

Speaking of which, heyyyy I found some track medals! (Oh, and a gymnastic medal, apparently.) These are for the 400m & mile relay, I think. Back then 400m-800m was my jam.

10 minutes up.

What's new with you????

Monday, October 30, 2017

Books 2017: Quarter 3

Friends, it is fall. And fall is definitely the best time for talking about books.

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. You can find my past reviews by clicking on the "books" tag at the end of this post, or be my friend on Goodreads. (You can also just go to the site & hunt down my review feed without being my friend, if that's more your speed.)

ICYMI, the classics I selected to read in 2017 are here.

On to the reviews!

Monday, October 16, 2017

What to Do with the Medals

Don't worry, this isn't a rant-y post about "always earned never given" or why we should or should not give grown-ass adults participation trophies. Take the medal. Don't take the medal. Wear it. Don't wear it. Put it a trophy case or a trash can or wherever makes your little heart the happiest. (File under: internet arguments I have no energy for.)

Emergy for a snarky gif, though? Always.

Personally, I kind of like medals, but I like them the way I like neat little memorabilia from cool stuff I've done. I don't see them as awards or prizes so much as souvenirs, just a little something to run across from time to time and be, "Oh, right, that time I did x cool event! Good times."

So, anyway. Before we moved I had a men's tie rack on my bedroom wall where I'd used the tie hangers to hang up all my podium medals & the shelf above it for some non-medal awards (which I thought looked reasonably attractive), & the rest were in a shoebox under the bed because I had no idea what else to do with them.

Then when we moved into the new house, I didn't bother putting them up because we were just going to start tearing most of the place down, so then they all went into a shoe box in the unpermitted storage area downstairs.

Now, here's the thing about unpermitted things. Generally 'unpermitted' usually means 'done by someone who is shall we say less than a pro at this' who is maybe not so great at things like 'installing proper drainage' and 'sealing walls and such against moisture,' so one of the key characteristics of the downstairs storage area was a faint whif of mold and/or mildew. Which is why any textiles that went down there were sealed in plastic bags and/or large plastic tupperware.

I didn't really think about this when I threw the medal shoebox down there, but man did I think about it last February when we had to clean the place out before construction started! I opened the box and was promptly punched in the face with a giant whif of wet dog smell. Plus the medals themselves were covered in a thin film of I don't even want to know what. I didn't really have time to do anything about it then, so off they went into another giant tupperware and into storage.

Very soon, though, the construction at our house will be kinda-sorta done-ish, and all of this business will be coming out of storage and back home to live with us again. Of course, the medals will all need to be washed first, which is not a thing I thought I would ever say, and maybe I'll put my same old podium medal display up somewhere. I'm not really sure what to do with the others, though. I definitely want to keep them, but I definitely do NOT have the space or personality for the kind of thing you get when you google "race medal display".

And no, I will not be turning them into Christmas tree ornaments or some other kind of questionable art project. I just want them to have some kind of real place, nothing too public or audacious, but also not the shoe box under my bed.

Internet: Hit me with all your best ideas.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Because Boston's Not Enough.....

Sure, everyone's so obsessed with That One Marathon in April, but it turns out that there are a few others. Pretty highly regarded ones, even. One of them is just down the road from here, along Highway 1.

I have lots of friends who have run this race (multiple times, even!) and absolutely raved about it. You also can't really argue with it being on the short list for marathons with the best views. So I've definitely been a bit Big Sur-curious for a few years now, but never pulled the trigger.

There are some good reasons for this. The main one is that my focus as a runner tends to mostly be on speed and working hard to have the fastest race I possibly can, and Big Sur does not really lend itself particularly well to that. It's not the Pike's Peak Marathon or anything, but there is 2,000+ ft of elevation gain (as opposed to, say, 200+ in the Eugene Marathon, 300+ in the Napa Valley Marathon, and 400-500+ in CIM) and there is the potential for heinous wind. Sure, I'm up for running the occasional casual race for the experience, but marathons suck up so much time and energy--to say nothing of the money involved when it's a destination race--that I've mostly limited that stuff to shorter races where I don't feel like I'm giving up 6 months of training for something I know isn't going to be a fast race.

Another reason is its insane popularity. I am super super turned off by races that sell out in minutes or hours or where you have to send your credit card info off into the void, cross your fingers, and hope you're randomly selected by the running gods. I just could not get that excited about the uncertainty of it all.

But then at some point last year I remembered the existence of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, wherein anyone registered for Boston can sign up to also run Big Sur 6 or 13 days later (depending on the year) and also get a bunch of nice perks as well. Since I was already committing six months to for-real marathon training and wouldn't ever be betting on Big Sur for a fast race anyway, I decided, what the heck? Let's see how these old legs handle two marathons in less than two weeks. (Thankfully, 2018 is a 13-day gap year; I don't know if I'm quite crazy enough to try this in a 6-day gap year!)

Since I have a conference to present at in DC in during those two weeks, however, things will be a bit shall we say interesting next April travel-wise.

Le Plan:

    Friday, April 13: Fly to Boston, do fun Boston-ish things

    Monday, April 16: ***Boston Marathon***

    Tuesday, April 17: Train to NYC, do fun NYC-ish things

    Saturday, April 21: Train to DC, do fun DC-ish things

    Monday, April 23: Speak at conference

    Wednesday, April 25: Fly to SF

    Thursday, April 26: Drive down to Big Sur, do fun Big Sur-ish things

    Sunday, April 29: ***Big Sur Marathon***

The plus side is that thanks to my conference, work will cover my flights; the downside is that there may not be as much rest & recovery during those 13 days as one might ideally hope for.

Eh, I suppose it's not called a challenge for nothing....