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? 


One Man's Trash

I am always trying to get rid of things. I probably go through my closets once every month or two months and throw things away. When I moved into the new home and moved my old stuff out of storage last May, I tried to ge through each box as I unpacked it and to get rid of what I could then. I probably gave away a half a dozen bags full of stuff then. I definitely tried on all my clothes and threw away anything with holes, that was too small/big or that was completely not even close to my style anymore (huge Rage Against the Machine t-shirt....okay, actually I kept that to sleep in but I did give away the Nirvana shirt).

However, I somehow still have a ton of stuff and much of it is things that I have not worn for months or years, is expired or that was given to me by someone and just isn't something I would use (or that I need). So I decided to join Lisa in the February Purge Project. Her goal was to get rid of as many things each day as the number of the day that it was. For example, on the 1st, you give away one thing. On the 19th, you give away 19 things. And so on. That ends up adding up to 425 items. While you may think that there is no possible way you could get rid of 425 items, it is surprisingly easier than you would think!

So many old t-shirts!

I did not get it all done in February. I also did not really finish my sorting and purging (I still have the garage to go through! Ack!) However, I did get about halfway through, and in total so far, I have given away or thrown away 333 items. The majority of the things, unfortunately, are smaller things. For example, my biggest category was office supplies. Next biggest category was accessories. Here's the breakdown.

125 Office
73 Accessories
52 Home
43 Clothing
22 Books
18 Toiletries

I have to admit, I still have a lot of boxes from my move that I have not thoroughly gone through. When I began this purge, I started with a couple of them and either threw things away or put them in the Goodwill pile anything if I had not used in years or in many cases, if they no longer worked. For instance, I had so many old pens!

I will not read these again.

Doing this kind of thing takes time, especially when you are talking about some of the things that carry memories, as they are hard to give away. However, over the years I have become better about throwing or giving away things that I am not using or looking at or enjoying and probably never will. As much as I cherish that tchotchke that my grandmother gave me, I really don't need it and it will either sit in a box in my garage or it will just be another thing to dust on the shelves in my house.

I try to think about three things: Does it work/fit? Have I used it in the last 6 months (or year for certain items)? Is it worth passing on to someone at some point? The first two are easy, as they are quantitative. The last is not as easy and is where I often run into snags. The tchotchke is worthless to everyone but me, who associates it with a memory or a person. However, it sitting in a box is worthless as well. So why not enjoy it or give it to someone who may, whether they are a faceless Goodwill customer or a friend. So that is what I am trying to do.

Next up: the garage. I will have an update on that later!

Do you do a yearly or monthly purge? What strategies do you employ? How many dried out or non-functioning pens do you have? 


Friday Fun Day

Happy Friday everyone! I am glad this one has rolled around, as I feel as if this week has been a bit of a whirlwind. Here's to a calm Friday and a great weekend to boot!

The high of my week was installing a ceiling fan in my bedroom without electrocuting myself! I pretty much did it by myself with the help of a friend for the "brawn" portion of the task. I could not have held it up and installed it at the same time.

The low of my week was when tub decided to not drain. This has not been fixed yet and taking a shower has become of the ship variety (as short as possible!) as I try to avoid flooding the bathroom.

The past week's workouts consisted of two rainy 12 mile runs in the Marin headlands, one great long run in Point Reyes and a wet and wild and dark street run last night at the last minute (one that I wanted to flake out on). All my runs last week were with someone else, which is a new thing for me, and is one that is keeping me honest!

This week I am reading A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. It satisfies my "collection of essays" category for the Read Harder challenge. I am not a huge fan of short stories and/or essay collections, but it is entertaining. However, I am getting through it a lot slower than I normally do.

This week I am listening to this Freakonomics podcast about what it would be like if restaurants went to the "no tipping" policy. They have actually implemented this in some San Francisco restaurants already.

The best money I spent was on a beer and a meal out on Tuesday night. If you have never tried this beer, you should, and if you are ever in Santa Rosa, you should check out the brewery too! They make excellent IPAs and sours!

Plans for the weekend include fixing my tub draining issue, working in the backyard to get everything ready for planting, spending time with my family (I have dragged them into the yard work duties), running and probably making a nice meal to celebrate the fact that the tub has been fixed (biggggg fingers crossed here).

How do you feel about the No Tipping policy? What are your weekend plans? What was the high of your week? 


Looking Back: February

This month felt shorter than normal! Ha. That was a joke... Really though, February did go by fast, but that is what happens when you are working on the weekdays and are active on the weekends!

Sunrise over lake Tahoe

Running: I felt like I did a lot of running in February, but I ended up with 84 miles of trail running, 50.5 miles of road running (including Jed Smith) and 4 miles on the treadmill for a total of 138.5 miles. I also had 9 miles of cycling, 20 miles of snowshoeing and 20 miles of skiing. This is not keeping in track with my yearly goals for either running or cycling, so I need to pick up the pace!

Reading: This month I only ended up reading three books, but all of them satisfied a category on the Read Harder Challenge.

The Taming of the Queen by Phillipa Gregory (4 stars)
Euphoria by Lily King (3 stars)
The Lake House by Kate Morton (4 stars)

Travel: In February, I went to Tahoe twice; the first time was with the family, where we went skiing and snowshoeing on the TRT and we watched the sun rise over the lake in the morning. The second time was with a group of running friends, where we trekked up a steep mountain the first day (to 10,000 ft) and over a frozen lake the next. Both trips were really cool and it was fun to get some winter cross training in at the same time!

Going down Round Top Mountain

In addition to all of the above, I also spent a lot of time digging in the yard. I am trying to get the backyard ready for spring and my to do list for that is quite long. I built a wall out of cinder block so that I can have a place to plant more stuff and now I need to set up the drip system and possibly build more raised beds. Each thing takes longer than expected, so of course, the going is slow.

The new wall. This corner is a work in progress! 

How was February for you!? Did it seem short to you? Have you started any spring projects yet? 


Jed Smith 50k

In 2014, I ran my first Jed Smith. This is what I had to say about it: I don't know that I would do this race again. I am not a huge fan of the multi loop course. However, I never say never, because you can get into trouble that way! Maybe next time I will just sit at the finish line and watch everyone else run by 6 times while I drink beer in the sun.

In 2015, I ran it again. Here is what I said afterwards: So, another Jed Smith in the books. Will I run it again? I want to say no, but the answer is probably yes.

This year, as I sat on my couch in my PJs in the cold of winter and clicked the "register" button once again, I knew that I was going to regret it, but I didn't care, because I was warm and cozy and February seemed like so far away, and I had already forgotten how much I disliked running this race. 

It's hard NOT to do this race. It's the first race of the year; I know practically everyone running it; it's usually sunny and on the drive back we always stop at Pedricks for apples and wasabi peas. Who doesn't love all of that? However, every year, somewhere on the 3rd of 4th loop, I ask myself why the heck I signed up for this race yet again. 

The course is a small out and back to make up the miles and then six 4.9 mile identical loops, on the hard pavement of the American River bike path. My goal was to attempt an 8 minute mile for as long as possible, with the final goal to be under 9 minutes per mile. I also wanted my "marathon time" (through lap 5) to be under 3:45. 

Out and Back / Loop 1: 55:28 (8:07/mi) I felt pretty good on this lap. It was sunny; the wind was in my face and I ran with a new friend and it was fun getting to know each other through the miles. She stopped at the aid station at the start/finish and I pressed on. 

Loop 2: 39:06 (8:03/mi) I was still feeling good, although my feet were beginning to hurt a bit. I had worn new shoes, but had an extra pair at the start just in case. Otherwise, things were going well. I put my tunes on and kept on trucking. I was having a bit of breathing trouble, but I attributed it to the fact that I was testing out a new hydration pack. 

Loop 3: 40:24 (8:19/mi) At the beginning of the loop, I realized that I should have changed my shoes the last time I passed the start. However, I had already gotten far enough that I decided to press on instead. I lapped my first friend and got lapped by the leaders of the pack. For some reason I could NOT get a deep breath. I had to stop and walk and loosen up my pack, but it was still not really working. 

Loop 4: 44:33 (9:10/mi) I stopped to change my shoes and grab a bite to eat, as I was starting to feel a bit nauseous. I was also fiercely thirsty. I kept having to stop to drink because I couldn't breath and run and drink at the same time. I also lapped another friend and used the excuse to walk with her for a few minutes. 

Loop 5: 45:36 (9:23/mi) This lap was a lot of walking. I was really feeling crummy and I tried to eat but it was not helping. My strategy was to walk and eat and then run once I was done. I was really, really wishing that this was the last lap. About halfway through this lap, two of my friends (who are in my age group!) passed me, one of them saying that she had been trying to catch me forever. I just waved at her and tried not to vomit. I passed the "marathon mark" at 3:45:05. 

Loop 6: 45:20 (9:20/mi) Ah....the feeling that comes when you pass the start line the last time and know that this is your final loop. As I always do, I tried to calculate how long it would take me if I just walked the rest of this lap. And, as always, I decided that to get this thing over with as fast as possible, I better run. However, my legs were getting a bit tired and I was still SO THIRSTY, but I told myself I could walk through the aid stations. I did a bit of walk/run and finally was on my last two miles. By my math, I had 16 minutes to get to the finish line before the 4:30 mark. I really wanted to break 4:30, so I pushed it as hard as I could but it wasn't hard enough, because my finish time was.... 

TOTAL: 4:30:30 (8:41/mi)
Overall: 24/83
GP: 8
AP: 4/12

Overall, although I would have liked to (a) get under that 4:30 mark and (b) place higher in my age group, I am pretty happy about this time. It is a one minute PR from my fastest Jed Smith, as well as a 50k PR, which is a win in my book. In addition, I beat this girl who was my "nemesis" in my age group last year, although I think I may have three new nemesis this year! 

I guess I have some work to do before next year's race, huh? 

Are you a glutton for punishment? Do you do some things over and over even though you don't really like them that much? If so, WHY? 


Looking Back: January

Well here we are, starting another month again. I know February is going to fly by, even though it's a leap year this year! January was also quite quick, even though I had a couple of relaxing days at home. Of course, those also go by fast as well! Let's see what happened this month.

Running: In January I ended up running 173 miles and climbing 24,000 ft. This is my highest mileage month since May of last year, when I had two ultra races and one trip to Yosemite. This means that so far I am on track to make my goal of 2000 miles and 250,000 feet. In addition to that, I had 35 biking miles, which is approximately two and a half times per week of bike commuting (which goes along with my 2016 goal).  I also had 6.5 miles of hiking  and no strength workouts (which is a fail on my once per week goal).

Reading: I guess that instead of doing my strength workouts, I read! This month I read 8 books. The best five were probably the following:

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alere Saenz
The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercranz

Travel: I actually had a month of weekends close to home with lots of local activities this month! It was a good month of family and friends and lots of running. I even had one weekend where I tweaked my back and stayed home and relaxed / did nothing all weekend. Other than that, I have been getting some small things done around the house, working on my yearly purge and trying to enjoy this time while I can. I am glad to have this chance to relax, as activities each month start to ramp up soon! My February weekends are already all booked up.

What did you do in January? Which months are the calmest/busiest for you? 


What I Learned: Getting Financing

Last year was very hectic for me. The reason for this is that in addition to working and running a few races, I was in the market for a home. There are a lot of moving pieces involved when buying a home, especially when you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the hottest places to live (and the most expensive) in the country.

I thought I would break down my search into a few posts, starting with the beginning, which was financing. Oh the joys of getting a loan. Now, I have no idea what the right or wrong way to go about this is, but I will talk about the way that I did it, and what seemed to work for me.

First, I pulled my credit report. I have heard, and I am not sure if this is true, that it is better to pull it 6 times in one month than 6 times over the course of a year. So I pulled it, knowing that the lenders would also pull it. Luckily, it was in good shape.

The next thing I wanted was a pre-approval letter. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for, but I did know that a pre-approval letter was better than a pre-qualify. With a pre-approval, the lender gets mostly all of your paperwork and then they use that to figure out how much they will be willing to lend you. This is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is hard to figure out how much you can afford. I spent a lot of time on the internet plugging in numbers, but until the lender actually used my actual hard data to get an amount, I was just guessing (with the help of Google).

The second reason that it's important is that it helps to submit the pre-approval letter with your offer. This can help convince the seller that you are serious about the offer, and it will make them more comfortable that your agreement is not going to fall through due to lack of financing. In the Bay Area, your offer will most likely not get accepted without a pre-approval letter.

To get a pre-approval letter, you have to figure out who you want to try to get a letter and/or a loan from. How do you figure this out? Good question! Once again, I turned to Google (and Zillow) to find out who could give me the best rate. In addition, I asked several people who they had used and how their experience had been. I got a lot of different answers. Zillow named two internet banks and Bank of America as having the best rates. Two of my friends used Quicken (internet bank) and Bank of America.

So, I contacted one internet bank, Bank of America (who happens to be where I have had my accounts since I was a teenager) and Citibank. What happened next was this:

The internet bank asked me to fill out a form with my financial info and send it back to them. The lady was very nice and the operation seemed legitimate. I filled out the form and sent it back and got a pre-approval letter the next day.

Bank of America connected me to Texas. I finally got routed to a local agent, who barely spoke English (sorry!) and tried to talk me into getting a 5/1 arm (adjustable rate) instead of the 30 year fixed that I asked her for. She then asked me to send in about 400 different kinds of paperwork, including all of my Bank of America  bank statements. I sent them all to her and did not hear back from her for three weeks (when I called her, her message said she was on vacation).

Citibank sent me an unprofessional email with no signature or logo that looked like a 12 year old had sent it, asking for 400 different kinds of paperwork. I told them I would feel more comfortable seeing a real person and giving my documents to them and the guy blew me off.

Since the Citibank guy seemed unprofessional, I contacted a third option, a local broker, and I sent him all my 400 different kinds of paperwork. He was very helpful and even helped me run a few different scenarios, depending on my down payment and/or desired purchase price. The guy was easy to reach on the phone and answered any (dumb) questions I had throughout the entire process.

The verdict: The amount I could qualify for was less than I wanted, since they could not count bonuses or overtime unless you could show two full years and proof that it would be ongoing. Bummer. So that meant the amount I thought I could spend was not the actual amount... in addition, I found it very strange that they ask you how much you want to spend. Can't they just crunch all the numbers and then tell you what the absolute max is?

My advice: Try a bunch of different lenders. You have no commitment to them. Once you have all of your 400 documents in pdf form, you may as well send them to as many lenders as you can!

In addition, my realtor told me a few tips. (1) the big banks (BofA etc) take forever to get you an answer, sometimes meaning you lose the house because you can't get financing in time. I know this as well because I work for a big bank and I see some of the frustration over how long thing take. (2) The internet banks will give anybody a pre-approval letter and will often give you the number YOU want, rather than what you can really afford. This causes problems later when it comes to getting the actual loan. Due to this, often times sellers will not accept offers if the letter is from an internet bank.

So, there we have it, my new understanding of financing in a nutshell.

Have you gotten a home loan? What advice or tips do you have for others regarding the situation? 

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional. Any opinions I give are my own and you should do your own research before making any rash decisions. :)