In the Bay Area for 48 Hours

Things I always have to do when back in Marin for the weekend:

  • Play with Tupac the Cat (who I made a website for in one of my coding classes, but it never got put on a server, so you are, unfortunately, going to miss out on that)
  • Ride in West Marin
  • Eat a burrito at Sonoma Taco Shop
  • Play with Tupac
  • Run on the trails
  • Oh man, the trails!
  • Chocolate-covered Oreos from Scotty’s Market
  • Bother Tupac some more
  • Have dinner at Bel Campo (possibly my favorite restaurant, but they just opened one in downtown LA, which I’m going to have to check out too!)

A Few Things

1. Tuesday, I talked to this guy who is starting a Recovery Lounge in Marin, with ice baths and massage people and NormaTec boots and stuff. He had all these market research questions, including ‘Why do you workout? For exercise and health or something else?’ Which we all know is one of the most annoying questions. I think I said: ‘If I did it just for my health that would be pretty stupid, since the optimal level of exercise for health is way way lower.’ He also asked ‘How important is improvement to you?’ And I was like man, shit, you better hope improvement is important to lots of people because that’s who will pay to come to your recovery center. Hopefully, they figure things out, because that kind of place would be cool.

2. It rained yesterday, despite this whole drought thing. I had to commute around on my bike and got so wet that I actually took my boots off when I got where I was going, turned them upside down and water poured out.

3. When I finally got home last night after all that and was trying to pack, I went to get the bike box out of the garage. Tupac the Cat wanted to come too, so I was holding him in one arm and the box in the other. The only problem is the bike box is kind of big and bangs on the steps, which scared him and then he tried to jump. But, instead, he got a claw stuck in my face. Actually stuck. It was caught under the skin on the inside of my eye. So, we’re standing there on the steps and he’s trying to pull his claw out of my face and I’m trying to pull it out and hold onto him and the bike box and yelling. I think this might be why the neighbors hate me. That is also why I will be showing up in Arizona with a swollen and possibly bruised eye.

4. I am on my way to Arizona.

Tupac the Cat Strikes Again

This is what Tupac did to my wrist last night:


He and a friend’s dog were sniffing each other and I made the mistake of picking Tupac up so they could leave. I’m pretty sure he thought I was trying to feed him to the dog.

Or else he figured the thing I’m really missing right now is people thinking I tried to cut myself.

Winter in California

Saturday, when I re-joined the gym, it was sunny and fairly warm, you know, for December. At the pool there were people sunbathing. It basically looked like this:

Yep, obviously, that is me.
Yep, obviously, that is me.

Which, I mean, it was nice, but I don’t know that it was that nice. Still, after the cold weather last week (and, yes, it was cold, so there), everyone is going a little nuts with the sun and mid-60s. If it stays this nice until New Year’s, it’s going to get hella annoying with all the people and their short-lived resolution to lose the holiday weight. Of course, rain sucks too. Guess we’ll just have to decide which is worse: hypothermia or crowds.

Everyone keeps Instagramming photos of Christmas lights and trees and holiday spirit, which evidently looks a lot like a sepia filter of cookies. We actually don’t have any of those things at our house because our LED fake tree finally started to kill brain cells from the lead paint and Tupac the Cat would almost definitely eat the needles of a real tree, which apparently can puncture his stomach. Also, the lights on our porch are half out. So.

Guess we’ll just trade that for trail running in shorts and swimming outside or something.

Merry Christmas from (Northern) California.


A Day in the Life: How to Do An Off-Season

I am in off-season right now. That’s sort of weird, since I was basically not really “in-season” for a large part of the middle of the year. But, I still think it’s important to take at least a week or two to really chill out after getting through something hard — even if it was just hard, not fast.

The thing that’s really weird about this week, though, is that the lack of training has coincided with a lack of other stuff to do as well. Steve is really busy and gone most of this week and next. I always work from home, but usually I have meetings and interviews to do; I typically work out of different offices and places most days. But, this week, I got nothing. High school cross-country practices are over too. So, I’m really chilling out. This has really made for an incredibly low-key/boring week. My biggest problem is that if you leave the TV on court shows all day, DISH keeps asking if you’re really still watching??

I think it’s good, though. I think I’m going hit rock-bottom soon and be ready to bounce back. I’m already making plans and getting fidgety. Not that I’m actually doing anything about those plans yet, but it’s a start.

If you want to do off-season right, here is basically what I did yesterday:

6:45: Steve’s alarm goes off, because he has to head to Sacramento. Tupac the Cat is very excited about being up earlier than 8 a.m. and jumps on my head. I yell at him, kick him out of the room and go back to sleep.

9:15: Tupac’s banging on the bedroom door finally becomes impossible to ignore. We sit in bed and check the internet. Or, one of us checks the internet and the other bites a lot. Not telling you who did which.

9:45: Eat breakfast, browse internet for story ideas, send emails, etc.

10: Pull together a short “This Day in History” post for Yahoo! Travel for Thursday. End up opting for the first motel opening on Dec. 12, 1925 in San Luis Obispo. Read up, write.

10:55: Waste some time on the internet.

11:10: Realize if I want to shower before my 11:30 call I should do that. Shower, put on actual clothes for the first time in days — jeans + t-shirt.

11:20: Get a text message from a friend telling me there was a bank robbery at the bank down the street. I am such a terrible news reporter that I had no idea. The TV says the robber was shot by police and all the streets are closed. Guess I’m not going to the mall afterall.

11:30: Call with founder and editorial manager to talk about RootsRated, for which I’m supplying San Francisco Bay Area coverage. It’s live now, but there’s still little kinks to work out and plans to make for January.

12 to 1: Not totally sure what I do for an hour. In theory, I work on a story about food technology. Really, I do stuff. Lots of reading online and sending emails and Googling. Write a blog post. I become convinced that I don’t have a firm enough grasp on the of-the-moment internet and must create a more complete daily news round-up of things to read. HOW AM I EVER GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL IF I CAN’T DO THE INTERNET!

Realize the 4 p.m. yoga class down the block that I wanted to take is cancelled. Decide this means I should definitely go get sushi in the evening instead.

Decide I don’t care about the internet.

1: Aw, shit, I really do have to write that post for Bay Area Bites about food delivery technologies. Write. Get massively sidetracked looking up apps that will deliver food from restaurants for you, so that I could just have sushi delivered to me and never have to leave the house. But, stupid apps don’t cover Marin County very well.

3:15: Send piece to editor. Get email about motel story going on homepage, but they need more photos. Look for public domain photos, which is very, very challenging.

3:50: Bundle up and deck out my bike with the two working bike lights we have. Bike over the hill.

4:20: Talk to the owner of Marin Running Co for a bit.

4:30: Hang out at the San Anselmo Library. Pick up Beautiful Creatures. Read.

5:15: Sushi!! (I don’t care if everyone thinks Sushi Ran is so much more prestigious and fancy, Sushi 69 is the best. THE BEST.)

6: Bike home. It is so cold. So cold. My fingers hurt.

6:30: Oh shit, how did I get this cold. It’s not even that cold out and I’m wearing so many clothes. How am I ever going to train on my bike over the winter? This is ridiculous. No person could ever bike in 40 degrees. It is not possible. Bundle up and drape myself in a Snuggie to sit on the couch and read.

7 to 10: Read, read some more. Watch some TV, eat the last of my cookies and play with Tupac.

10: Talk to Steve for a bit, who is still in Sac. Do a bit more work, send emails, make a list of numbers I need to call in the morning, put away some laundry. Browse the Competitor issue I picked up at the running store. They profiled Marin County as a running destination! Sweet. How did I miss this. Of course they told people to go to Sol Food, of course. EVERYONE goes to Sol Food. I am over Sol Food. Think about this for a bit.

11:15: Decide to get ready for bed.

11:30: Tupac shits all over the bathroom. Clean it up. Decide it can not be cleaned up to my satisfaction; throw the mat away.

11:50: Get in bed. Read some more.

12:30: Turn out the light.

As you can see, it was a super busy day.*

*Caveat: This is not typically how life is. And, yes, I do have bigger projects I could work on, but I’m ON A BREAK.

The Real Problems with a Taper

So many athletes complain about tapering before a race, that they get all antsy and can’t sit still and MUST. GYM. GO. This makes no sense. Do you people not own a TV? Or a computer? Or a library card? Come on, learn to lounge like a professional.

The real problem with the taper is that you can only screw it up.

The last week or two before a race, there’s no workout you can do that’s going to win it, there’s no fitness you can really gain, nothing magic that’s going to happen. The work is done. All you can do in the last week or two before a race is screw it all up. You can only get hurt or sick or not sleep enough or not eat enough. You can’t win the race in the taper, but you can definitely lose it.

Welcome to my super cheerful thought process and why I generally try not to think too hard.

CIM is on Sunday. At this point, I probably haven’t screwed it up. (Ahh, jinx, jinx!) But, I’m also not 100% sure about that. My goal is under 3:10, which is like sub-7:10 pace, which feels significantly not easy in workouts. Two months ago I would have said my goal was more like 3:04, but then my stupid toe started hurting and I had to not run for a week and the world ended. On the other hand, I’m still in significantly better shape than I was at Chicago last year when I ran a 3:17 off of like two tempo runs that whole training cycle. So, as long as my toe/bone spur/messed-up foot stays in in the dull ache category and doesn’t move into the sharp knives kind of pain, I should run somewhere between a 3:04 and 3:17. Maybe.

And, in the vein of ‘things you should be doing during your taper,’ yesterday when I was looking for the gif I wanted of a kid failing at swimming, instead I found lots and lots of gifs of animals swimming — because what do I have to do besides spend an hour looking at cat gifs. I’m pretty sure I can teach Tupac the Cat how to do this, right after I teach him to stop running out the door and into the bushes every time someone comes home:

Tiburon Half-Marathon: Why Does a Race Go Badly?

I look sort of like I'm running fast. But I'm not.
I look sort of like I’m running fast. But I’m not.

How do you know a race is going to go badly? When do you know? What is the difference between the good days and the bad ones? Yesterday, I could barely choke down my oatmeal and wanted to throw up all morning, but that’s pretty much how I feel before nearly every race. I started to doze off driving down to Tiburon, but that’s happened before some of my best races. I felt slow-ish during my warm-up, but not out of the ordinary. And, yet, it was a miserable day, a total battle for 10.5 of the 13 miles. Why?

My original goal for the Tiburon Half was to aim for 1:26. When I realized on Friday that the course might be kind of hilly, I revised that to 1:28/29. If I had really known how hilly the course was I might have gone in with the expectation of a 1:30/1:31. That’s definitely one part of a shitty race: misguided expectations and no knowledge of what you’re getting into. I ran a 1:35:15.

I intended to run 6:30s on the flats, try to hold it as best as possible through the hills, make up speed on the downhills, and then hang on for the last three miles to the finish. Running 6:30s means running some 6:18s and some 6:41s and not worrying about it. So, my 6:16 first mile didn’t concern me, especially because it felt so good. The 6:31 second mile that felt terrible did concern me. The way the race sorted out meant Devon Yanko was about 15-20″ ahead of me (at first, then she was much much farther ahead) with some men and I was all by myself. I was running completely alone, into the wind on a bike path, and feeling bad for myself. That’s definitely another part of a tough day: a race that just feels like a hard, miserable tempo run on your own.

By mile three I knew it was not my day. I ran a 6:38 or something, but it was too hard, so hard. Too hard for mile three. My legs were heavy and slow. I was nauseous and throwing up in the back of my throat. It was a battle. I wanted to drop out. Mentally cashing it in was probably the biggest part of what made it a bad race. Maybe it was only not my day after I decided it was not my day. There are some options when a day is not your day: you can either throw in the towel or tough it out. I had no interest in toughing it out. My goals for this race were to run a fast half-marathon and get a good practice race in before CIM. My goal was not to tough it out through a shitty 13 miles.

The problem with dropping out, though, was that my high school kids were basically manning every aid station. What was I going to tell them? I just was having a shitty race and didn’t want to do it anymore? And, I was the second woman. There are times when you’re in the front and it’s ok to drop out to save your effort for another day. This was not one of those times and it would just make me sort of a douche. I decided I would just run until I threw up; that had to come soon. And, then, once I threw up, I’d have a reason to drop out.

I kept running, but not well. I knew Andrew was behind me and would catch me, so I told myself when he did I’d stay with him. He caught me around mile four. I stayed with him for a half-mile. And, then there were hills — hills I thought didn’t started until mile six and were small. I was wrong. They were long and stupid steep and constantly up or down for five or six miles. Even the parts that seemed flat were really up; they were just less up. On the ups, I would get very dropped. My legs were dead; they had no strength. On the downs, my feet were hurting so much I would lean back and brake, taking them not too fast. This was partially because of the Zoots I was wearing (I dunno why they hurt me on the downhills), but mostly it was just because my toe and my heel and my feet have been killing me. Injuries that ache and make you second-guess everything are a key part of a bad day.

I got passed a lot. Sometimes, I made an effort to stay with the person. Sometimes, I didn’t. Around mile eight, another girl passed me and we were along the water briefly and I felt ok (terrible, but ok), so I went with her. I was fighting for it, battling, but hanging on, and I looked down at my watch. We were running 7:03s. My goal marathon pace. And it was killing me. Eventually, she dropped me at that pace.

Yes, apparently. my foot falls in during my pull-through. No, no idea why.
Yes, apparently. my foot falls in like that during my pull-through. No, no idea why.

From mile three until just past mile 10 I wanted to quit. Constantly, every step, I wanted to drop out. No part of me was enjoying the running and it was hard, very hard, and slow and I didn’t know why. I never decided not to quit, I just never had a good opportunity to. I never threw up. At one point, I realized if I quit, I’d probably have to walk back, so. Every mile ticked by infinitely slowly, but I went on. The constant droning whine in my ears of “This is terrible, quit, this is terrible, just quit” was part of what made it rough.

Eventually, I finished. And, it was slow and I was the fifth woman. And, the last 2.5 miles on the bike path, I really felt like I was pushing hard, I was trying, I was running my fastest. I looked at my watch: 7:35s. WHAT THE HELL???

I was pretty disheartened afterwards. Yes, on the upside, I finished, though I don’t know how and I had to force it for 10.5 miles. Still, that’s something. On the downside, what just happened? I intend/hope to run a faster pace than a 1:35:15 half-marathon for my full marathon at CIM.

In retrospect, part of the slowness was the course. Devon, the first woman, who’s very fast, ran a 1:26, so my expectation of running a 1:26 was probably totally off-base. Partly, yes, I had a bad day, which maybe isn’t as mysterious as it seems given how beaten up and tired and overbooked I’ve been. But, the last part, that was definitely all in my head. My best run maybe would have been a 1:29/30. A bad day and I still probably could have pulled off a 1:32/33. The 1:35 was (in part) what happens when you dig yourself a little hole and have to climb back out before you can keep running.

I’m still wallowing in my hole a little.

Then, Tupac and I did this:

tupac sleeping

Meet Biggie the Cat

Instead of working out today, which I probably wasn’t going to do anyway after yesterday’s wreck of a race, or doing any work, I got Tupac a new kitten friend from the Pet Fair.

Biggie the Cat is not very big.
Biggie the Cat is also very hard to photograph.

Biggie the Cat (yes, grandma it’s a hip-hop thing) is three months old and very cute and playful. I thought they’d get along. Apparently I did not think about this at all.

I’ve basically created a turf fight. Tupac is not happy about some other guy in his room, which is where we had to put him because we don’t have very many rooms with doors, and is making sure we all know that. Biggie seems unfazed, but has to stay in his room because he is small and I don’t want Tupac to kill him.

It’s made for a stressful day. And not a particularly restful rest day.

Tupac is pissed with me.