Looking Back: September

For the past two Septembers, I have taken advantage of the fact that I get Labor day off, that the weather is still nice, and that the flights are a bit cheaper, and I have gone on my annual vacation. This year was no different In my line of work, I am actually required by law to take 10 business days off in a row. Fortunately, this has never been too much of a problem!

Since I was on vacation, I am going to switch this up and put the travel category first....

Travel: This year, my travels took me back to Europe, as I could not pass on the cheap Euro and the great deals on flights. I had my eye on heading back to Nepal to finally finish my Himalaya trek, but when I saw a great deal on United to Frankfurt, I knew that Nepal could wait another year. I flew to Germany, then did some hiking in the Stubai region of the Tyrolean Alps (Austria), the Dolomites (Italy) and the Bavarian Alps (Germany). In addition to lots and lots of hiking, I drank way too much wine and ate way too much good (read: carb loaded) foods!

Running: I ran about 180 miles, about 100 of which were mostly hiking in the Alps. Other than that, I did a couple of runs in Frankfurt and around the fields of the Bavarian Alps as well as some short runs while I was home.

Reading: In September, I read 5 books. Surprisingly, it was not more, as I traveled a lot. However, I also watched 5 movies on the plane ride home, so I didn't get a lot of reading done then. In addition, I ended up reading magazines, news and other items, so did not get as much book reading in as I normally would. The best book was Winter of the World, which is the Ken Follet Century trilogy. The first book was about WWI, this one was about WWII and there is a third, which I believe is about Vietnam, the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis. None of these books were mine; nor were they part of the BR Read Harder Challenge.

Lab Girl (3 stars)
The Kings Curse (4 stars)
A God in Ruins (3 stars)
Winter of the World (5 stars)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven (3 stars)

All in all, September was a great month. Now I just need to start planning my next vacation!

What was the highlight of your month of September? Where did you go for vacation this year?


Looking Back: July & August

I wrote the July portion of this post over a month ago and then it just sat in my drafts folder until today, when I was going to start an August post and....voila and oops, there it was!  SO this is going to be a combined belated effort! 

JulyJuly is one of those months that always flies by. It is usually full of summer outings, camping, family and fun. You just can't sit inside in July; in fact I can't even get any chores done, as there is so much fun stuff to do! Needless to say, my garden is a bramble and my fridge looks like a cross between Siberia and the Amazon (empty but tangled?) as I have not been home enough to care for it!

Running: In July, I ran about 240 miles. This was the month with the ramp up and the taper for my 100 mile race at the beginning of August. The first couple of weeks were 70 - 80 miles and the last couple of weeks were very little miles (40ish). In addition I had a week off where I went running almost every day, with the highest day being 40 miles, which was the Rae Lakes loop (beautiful).

Reading: Not surprisingly, this was not a good reading month for me. I read 4 books, but it was hard, as I was traveling with other people a lot, as well as training for my race. (Books are starred for RHC, bolded for my own).

Fangirl (3 stars)
Death of a Salesman (2 stars)*
City on Fire (3 stars)
Blanche on the Lam (2 stars)*

Travel: I had a great time in July! I went to Tahoe a couple of times, to Yosemite once and up to my parents neck of the woods for a family gathering. My favorite part was...everything!

August: August is usually full of birthdays and outings and trips, and this year was no exception!

Running: I attempted to run another 100 mile race, this time in Colorado, but once again, I did not finish. Due to this, I ran about 156 miles. This included 50 miles of Silverheels for myself and a pacing stint in Leadville, which was about 20 miles.

Reading: I only read three books and they were:

1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think (2 stars)*
The Doubters Almanac (3 stars)
A Darker Shade of Magic (5 stars)

Travel: I went to Colorado twice in August; as stated above, once for my own race and once to pace a friend in Leadville. I am not a huge fan of the Denver airport (or highway 70) but I became very familiar with it in August. In addition, I had one weekend where I stayed home (blissful) and one weekend where I went to visit my parents.

So there you have it, my summer in a nutshell. It is a bit late, but I think that just shows that it was fun!!

How was your summer? Are you ready for Fall? What was the favorite part of your summer?


Looking Back: June

Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/june.html
Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/june.html
Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January. Hal Borland
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/june.html
"Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January." -  Hal Borland

Running: June was a pretty good running month with a one week setback where I was sick so I laid off the miles during that week. However, I still managed to get three weeks with mileage around 60 miles, bringing my month's total to 235 miles with a total elevation gain of about 45,000 feet. I did no hiking and my cycling miles were puny = 1.7 miles. My Garmin has been on the fritz, so I am not totally tracking all of my data but so far my elevation gain for the year somewhere near 210,000 ft, which is well over my target for this time of the year. My mileage is also over target, but I do expect to have a slower and milder 2nd half of the year, running-wise.

Reading: In June, I read 6 books. None of them were really very good! I gave all of them 2 stars on Goodreads except for the last two, which I gave three. As before, starred books below are for the RHC and bolded ones are "owned" books. Total RHC books read so far = 12/24 ; total owned books read = 3/12.

In the Unlikely Event
Reminiscence of a Stock Operator
Holy the Firm*
The Disappeared
The Beautiful Mystery
After You

Travel: I actually stayed local two weekends this month, as plans fell through one of the weekends and I was sick on the other. However, the other two weekends were spent up in Tahoe: one in the north and one in the south. Both were beautiful, although running up there still involves a lot of snow scrambling, slipping and sliding and route finding, so runs are a lot more work than normal. One of the days we went on a 26 mile run/slog which ended up taking almost 10 hours, although only about 7 and a half of it was "moving" time. The rest of the time was spent route finding, map gawking and head scratching! However, the scenery was stunning, as you can see from the  Lake Aloha photos below.

Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha

My brother and I met up on one of the "local" weekends and did an anniversary Mt. Diablo hike. Three years ago, on almost the same day, we did a 14 mile run/hike and it was probably about 100 degrees that day. It was during the drought and some of the water fountains were turned off. We remember it as being hot and dry and dusty and unpleasant!! So, the other day I got this photo from Google:


So we decided to try it again! We went for a 12 mile hike and once again, El Diablo lived up to its name. It was hot and dry and dusty and we were so thirsty! How's that for two suckers! The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Fool me twice, shame on me!


How have you been spending your long summer June days? It's mid-year: how are you doing on your yearly goals so far?


Looking Back: May

My favorite month of the year is over! I always like May, as it is springlike and jolly, plus it includes Mother's Day and my birthday! It also is the real kickoff of trail racing season, although here in the Bay Area things don't really slow down too much, even in the winter months.

Running: In May my totals were 215.6 miles running / 40,000 ft climbing, 6.6 miles hiking, and 5.36 miles cycling. So far, I am on track for my running mileage and climbing goals but I need to step up my cycling goal. The month of May involved two races, a 100k and a 50 mile race, which makes it easier to keep the mileage numbers up. However, soon I will need to ramp up even more in order to conquer the dreaded 100 mile race in August.

Silverstate 50M -- bit o' snow this year.

Reading: In May I read 6 books, which are listed below. None of them really wowed me, but my favorite of all of them was Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed, which was a bunch of different people's takes on why they decided not to have children. I think I would have read a lot more, but The Terror was almost 800 pages long! I also knocked 3 books off for the RHC and read two books from my own library (books I own in bold, star next to the ones that satisfy the Read Harder Challenge). So far my totals are 11/24 for RHC and 2/12 for reading my own books.

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed (4/5)
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others (3/5)
The Measure of a Lady (3/5)
Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage and Obsession* (3/5)
Tender Points* (3/5)
The Terror* (3/5)

Travel: This month involved a few local trips. I went to Reno for a race, which ended up being a 9 hour drive due to snow conditions (on May 21!!). I also had a great time in Tahoe with friends, doing some snow running/hiking, swimming in Donner lake and eating our weight in hamburgers. Other than that, the only other travel has been near the Bay Area for race spectating and participating.

My friend KH -- snow running near Castle Peak.

Do you have a reading or running goal this year? What is your favorite place for a weekend getaway near you?


Quicksilver 100k

Last year I ran the Quicksilver (QS) 100k right in the middle of buying a house and therefore I just realized I never recapped the race. However, the short and dirty of it is: I ran, it was hot, I ended up getting a total time of 13:11.

This year, I decided to tackle the beast again. On my birthday. Happy birthday to me. My goal was to at least beat my time from last year, but I really wanted to try to break the 13 hour mark. Either way, if I made my goal, I would have a 100k PR. This race is a Western States qualifier and to qualify, you have to finish within 16 hours. Therefore my C goal was to just finish within 16 hours.

The good thing about 100k is that basically whatever pace per minute you are running will be the number of hours it will take you to finish. For example, if you want to finish in 13 hours, you have to run a 13 minute mile or faster. 

One of the things I have been doing in my training is to attempt to run the hills that I can run. There is a regular loop that I do with a friend and we have been trying to get faster and faster at the loop each time we do it. It's hard to pace yourself though; knowing when to run the ups and still have enough energy for the downs or the later miles is a bit of an experiment.

Mile 1 - 10: The race starts, of course, with an uphill, which whether good or bad in this case, was runnable as per the new training plan. It is a loop course with a series of out and backs. The first four miles is about a 1,100 ft. gain and I ran it at about an 11 minute pace, which was plenty ahead of my goal. The next few miles are rollers and then around mile 8 comes the long out and back (uphill) to Bald mountain. This out and back is great because you get to see everyone else. I noticed at this point that there was only one woman ahead of me and maybe about 15 other runners in total! My average pace at this point was about a 10:49/mi.

Mile 11 - 20:  11:19/mi average. As you can see above, this portion has a long downhill! But first, you have to do the Bald Mountain out and back. Afterward, you have a steep uphill to the Kennedy aid station and then it's the 6 mile long steep downhill. I still felt good up until about the second half of the long downhill, when my knees started to ache a little.

Mile 21 - 30: 13:35/mi average. The main part of this section is a long 6 mile uphill back to Kennedy aid station. One of the parts of the climb is called "dog meat" which is exactly how you feel when you reach that point. It was also getting hot and there is no tree cover, so this section is hot, plus I ran out of water before the top because I was so thirsty!

Mile 31 - 40: 11:42/mi average. This section is the final part of the first loop. It goes from Kennedy back down to the start line at Hacienda. It is a long but less steep downhill. This part was also bothering my knees and I was dreading the final downhills later in the race. When I got back down to the start line I had to do some blister control, I had a bite to eat and I was on my way again.

Mile 41 - 50: 14:40/mi average. From Hacienda there is a 3 mile section to get to the finish line, which is also the 42 mile mark. It is really hard to leave the aid station since there are already people done and they are sitting around eating and drinking beers and it is so tempting to stay. However, I headed back out after filling up with ice water and fruit. This section has a lot of windy single track, which is both uphill and down, neither of which were really that great. Also, it was hot. The only saving grace was the aid station that had popsicles, which I ate while I ran (running with popsicle?). However, my stomach was starting to get that feeling where you don't feel like eating, even though you know that you should.

Mile 51 - finish: 14:53/mi average. This section goes up, down, up, down, up and then there is a 3 mile downhill to the finish. The first up was slow but then you get to aid, where I ate some turkey sandwich and a bunch of grapes. The next up seemed like a long slog, but really wasn't too bad. However in the middle of this one, they make you do an out and back down a hill where you punch your bracelet and head back up before doing the last climb of the race. Then it's the popsicle aid station, where I did not stop for long before heading out and down to the finish. Right at the very end a friend of mine passed me and he ended up beating me by about 30 seconds. Darn it.

Total time: 12:55
Total elevation: 12,714 ft

Moving time: 12:30 (this means I spent about 25 minutes total at 12 aid stations, an average of about 2 minutes each)

The verdict? This is my second time doing this race and I will probably do it again. It is a great training race, as it has a lot of elevation gain, some very steep climbs and descents and it is usually hot. However, this is exactly why when I am running this race I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking when I signed up.

Where could I improve? I went out too fast. However, it's hard to go slow in the morning, when you are feeling fresh and it's not too hot, especially when you know it's going to be hot and you are going to be tired later no matter what. Time in the bank is good, but you don't want to end up slogging through the final miles like I did. The other thing I need to work on is a good hydration/nutrition plan, since I generally have no appetite, even though I know I need to eat and am sometimes even hungry (if that even makes sense). I also need to eat "early and often", which I do sometimes forget.

What races (or other fun outdoor activities) do you have on your schedule this summer? What's your favorite kind of Popsicle or other cool treat?


Looking Back: April

What's the saying about April? It it the one who goes in like a lion and out like a lamb? Or is it that April showers bring May flowers? The latter is probably more fitting, as it did rain a bit in April and now the days are sunny and bright and the tomatoes are starting to grow!

Running: April was a good month for running! I ended up doing a couple of really long weekend runs with some wicked elevation (one on Mt. Diablo was 25 miles with over 6,000 ft of gain) which helped achieve a total of 223.2 miles of running with 37,500 ft. of climbing. In addition, a couple of commutes plus riding around Brooklyn got me 39.6 miles of cycling with 1,300 ft of climbing. I also clocked one hike, which was 8.1 miles.

Reading: I feel like April was not a good reading month, probably due to the fact that I was often with people. However, once I checked I realized that I actually read 5 books, which is more than my goal of one per week! Here they are (starred ones are for the Read Harder Challenge):

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee -- 3 stars
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel -- 3 stars
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick* -- 3 stars
Spinster by Kate Bolick* -- 3 stars
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline* -- 4 stars

Travel: I actually did not travel that much in April, but I did have events each and every weekend. The first weekend I did some canning with a friend and some trail maintenance volunteer work in Pacifica. The weekend after that, I volunteered at a race, had dinner with my brother and friends in Santa Rosa, and then my parents came to visit and we had a nice dinner and a catch up. The weekend after that, I had breakfast with my grandma in Mill Valley and went to pace/cheer on a friend at a San Francisco race. Then I hosted Lisa and Phil and we had a great time gadding about the city, hiking, walking, going to a Giants game and just hanging out and chatting.

Marshall's Beach

View from Green Point

For the last part of the month I flew to New York and spent a couple of days in the office before heading over to Brooklyn to spend some time with friends. We rode bikes around the borough, drank beer, ran in the park and had lots of fun reliving the "good old days" when we were all traveling around Africa.

How was April for you? Did you travel? What book are you reading now?


Looking Back: March

March is the month of madness! I finally did my taxes (mostly), got a lot of stuff done in the yard/around the house and spent a lot of time with friends who I had not seen in a while. I am feeling like I need to schedule a couple of down days in April before the summer comes along and things get too crazy.

Running: This month I got back on the horse and logged about 215 miles of running with about 43,000 feet of climbing. In addition, I hiked 11 miles with an additional 2,700 ft of climbing. My strength training has been pitiful, and this month I logged none. However, I did do one day of plumbing work (digging and crawling and lifting) and two very physical days of gardening (moving rocks, digging, carrying dirt) and one less physical day of gardening (raking, pulling weeds, mowing with a push mower). I am calling this strength training, and in that case, I did it roughly once a week! On top of that, I cycled a little over 15 miles, which is about 4 round trip commutes.

Reading: This suffered a lot in March due to the fact that I was outside gardening or fixing plumbing or running. By the time that was all done, there was no brain power or time left over for reading! I ended up reading 4 books and setting two down that I could just not get into. The ones I read were as follows (stars on those that satisfy the RHC).

Between the World and Me
A Manual for Cleaning Women*
Prisoner of Tehran*
Orhan's Inheritance (would satisfy, but category already filled!)

Travel: Over Easter weekend, I was supposed to go to Ouray, CO and do some fun winter activities, but the day of my flight there was a huge snowstorm in CO and all flights were cancelled. So I took a camping trip to Yosemite instead! I also traveled up to see my brother and his girlfriend, and I helped them weed their garden, which was another day of strength training!

Mirror Lake

Tenaya Canyon

What was your favorite thing about March? What book are you reading this month? What everyday activities do you use as your strength training?