Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tour de Canada

 (Landing in Toronto - CN tower visible in the background)

Sunday, January 11:
Flew to Toronto, got a ride to London, Ontario.  Hit the gym after dinner and got 5.0 in 40:55, 8:11 pace, at 2 degrees of incline.   It was after a big dinner (almond butter & chocolate & cinnamon wrap, plus salmon, beer, and pretty much a head's worth of broccoli), but I felt surprisingly ready to run at 10pm.  I probably didn't go as long as I could have because my body was using energy to digest all of that food, but at least it wasn't an uncomfortable run.

Monday, January 12:  My birthday!  Didn't run.  Just had a celebratory dinner.

Tuesday, January 13:
Got in a quick run before work – 4.0 in 34:17, 8:34 average, 3 degrees of incline, breathing through my nose for cardio stimulation.  My legs had felt asleep and without proper blood flow, and my nerves weren’t activated, but I still got the run in.

Had a froyo the size of my head... CAD$15 worth of Menchies.

Wednesday, January 14:
60 minute hotel room strength session in the morning.  Hit some records in rep counts for some of the exercises.  There's no particular reason why, that I can think of.  Drove to Toronto, then flew to Montreal that night.

Thursday, January 15:
Got in a morning run, since we'd probably be going out for dinner that night... we do it every night, but Montreal would be special, because of all the French influence on the cuisine, and the prospects of seeing a bit of the city.  I don't recall how French food tasted when I visited in 2000, but based on this trip's experience, if Quebec's food is any indication, it is all that they say it is.  I tried veal for the first time - very tender, and a hazelnut layer cake which was great.  I normally don't have real desserts, so you know it was special.  Oh yeah, I had also had a dessert on my birthday - incredible mocha ice cream pie with almonds... worth it.

Friday, January 16: Walked around the downtown area a bit.  Went to a museum about the history of Montreal.  The politics there are pretty intense, regarding Quebec’s status.  It’s always interesting to me how cities originally form and grow.  Amsterdam was cool for that, too, although it was even cooler there because the structure of the canal system in Amsterdam is a lasting artifact of how the city grew in stages.  For lunch, we went to a quaint cafĂ© on the waterfront, connected to a general store, which had a rustic feeling with the wooden beams and exposed brick.

I kept walking until it was dark, hitting various spots that were highlighted by my Frommer’s Day-by-Day guidebook.  At around sunset, I feared that I had minor frostbite in my toes.  I was wearing trail running shoes meant to provide ventilation.  When I went inside a store, all of the nerves in my toes were in extreme pain for about 20 minutes, even after they had fully warmed up. 

Fortunately, it ended up being ok.  I also walked quite a bit through the maze of “the underground city”, which is a neat solution for the brutal cold.  It’s really a tunnel that connects various malls and subway stops.  It took me a while to figure out how to navigate through it.  That reminds me… real life can be like a computer game or video game, where you have to explore, pick up skills, etc.  Pretty cool.  I considered biking or something at the gym at night, but I wanted to save my energy for cross-country skiing the next day.

Saturday, January 17: Went to Mont Royal, a park on a mountain, similar to Central Park, originally designed by Olmstead, who designed Central Park, too.  It’s right in the middle of downtown, and they have lots of things to do and see there.  I’ve always wanted to try cross-country skiing (I did actually try it informally once, at Princeton, on the golf course) on real tracks.  It ended up being harder and slower than I imagined.  I felt like I was somewhat just walking but by sliding a little bit at a time, most of the time.  I came across some cool sites, like the Steel Cross, and an overlook that had amazing views of the city and the St. Lawrence river below.  Towards the end of the 3-hr rental period, I feel like I started doing better, when I remembered back on a ski trip from long ago, and hearing someone on cross-country skis do a lunging move.  I tried to replicate it, and it seemed to help me slide a lot further with each stride.  Well… my verdict… as cool as it looks on TV, and as similar it is to running, it’s probably not something I’ll get into any time soon. 

That night, I signed up for a snow-shoe tour of the park.  The English ones were offered on the previous day, and this night was a French night.  I went for it anyway.  I had some time to kill before then, so I did a driving tour of the cemetery (too big and too cold to walk it) and hung out in a beautiful chalet.  I wanted to watch the city skyline as it night fell.  I’d alternate between warming up by the radiators, and going out into the cold to take pictures. 

When the tour time rolled around, I probably understood about 40% of what was said.  The guide was really nice about translating again into English for me, for the other 60%.  Immersion is the best way to learn.  And doing it during a fun sports-related tour is even more awesome.  Snow-shoeing is definitely more my thing.  The teeth on the shoes give awesome grip that helps tremendously on uphills as well as downhills, and deep snow is less of an issue.  Even going at a walking pace, I was able to generate enough heat to stay warm.  It was a lot of fun.  We heard some stories along the way, saw the Steel Cross again at night, and had a hot chocolate pit stop.  It was only about an hour long, but it was perfect. 

The park didn’t close until midnight, so I decided to take advantage of being there and do my third sport of the day – running.  I re-visited the cross, which was a cool spot to say some prayers, and the overlook of the city.  The run wasn’t too long… I estimate 1.5 miles or something, but it was fun to see the park in a few different ways, and different times of day, on different trails.

Sunday, January 18: Flew home.  I was supposed to do 14 miles today… but I was too hungry immediately after landing, so I only managed to get in 6.8 in 1:02:08, 9:08 at the park before it got too dark.  Oh well… next week is supposed to be a rest week with just 3x6 milers, so maybe I can just swap weeks and do the 14 next week, although that means a 16+18+20 progression right after the 14, in successive weeks, instead of getting a little break first. 

My re-introduction to Canada (since some time in the 1990s) has been awesome, though.  This may be the only time I visit Montreal, but I feel like I soaked in as much as I could during the time that I had.  It must be a very different city in the summer, though, with other kinds of activities available, and much warmer weather.  What was striking to me was that I never once heard anyone even comment about how cold it was… to them, it’s just another weekend.  Canadians are tough!  I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold before. 

(The container of water that I had kept in my car during the day had frozen.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chicago & Wisconsin, and Boston Training Weeks 1-2

Training for Boston started on Jan 29th.  Since I was at my parents’ house through Jan 2, I thought I’d get in all this training, with high volume, easy runs on the grass.  It ended up not happening.  I got 2x6.6 mi runs in during week 1, and that left me with a 10 miler as the long run.  There are 2 versions of the training plan that I like to use – a “hopeful” one with 4 runs per week, and a more realistic one with 3 runs per week.  Week 1 would be a 3-run week.

After driving from Charleston to Greenville on Saturday, Jan 2, I flew out to Chicago early the next morning (waking at 3am Eastern /  2am Central).  I was going in for a business trip early, to visit my old college roomie and her family.  Even though it’s been 5 years, it’s like we were never apart.  We played with their adorable 1-year-old, played board games (Dominion – a cool card game with options for variations in each game; Pandemic – a twist on board games, where all of the players work together to beat the game, vs. beat each other; and Princeton Carcassonne), had a luxurious nap, broke out a bottle of Malbec, and caught up.  The next day, church, a run, and more games and catching up.

It was snowing out, but I had 10 miles on the schedule, and it was a prime location for a great run.  They live really close to the Lake, which has green space running all the way down to downtown Chicago, which was about 8.5 miles away.  My welcome to the shore was the sight of tall waves crashing up against a snowy beach.  There wasn’t much visibility with the snow, so you couldn’t see too far out into the water.  Especially with Divergent, I was excited about the prospects of making it downtown, to see The Bean and the Hancock building.  

At first, I trudged along on the snow as much as I could, to avoid the impact of pavement.  I had bought the Salomon Mission trail shoes a while back when I first got into trail running, but I haven’t run much on trails since.  They were perfect for my trips up North, for getting traction on ice and giving me some un-muddy casual shoes for getting around during business trips.  It’s the Northern trip version of the minimalist Saucony Hattoris, which I ended up not using for running, but which made a great, light shoe for getting around Brazil.  

Since I’d be out for a while, and who knew what I’d need, I took the conservative route and over-dressed.  I had a fleece over a long-sleeve tech tee, a buff for my neck, long warmup pants, soccer socks, mitten-gloves, and a Salomon cap with a cape-like thing around the back meant to keep the sun off your neck.  I figured the cape thing would be equally good for keeping snow off my neck.  It’s also something that I had rarely used in the past (save during a trip to the West last year), which will come in handy now.

I went along on the grass for a few miles.  As it got warm, I took off my fleece, buff, and cap.  After going through the Nature Preserve section, the wind started beating pellet-y snow sideways.  It was getting colder, and the snow was stinging my eyes.  At this point, I got a bit demoralized.  I put my cap and clothes back on, though, and felt better immediately.  I was going by Google Maps on my phone to track my progress.  At two points, though, it shut off from being too cold, so I stuck it in my bra, and later, my fleece pocket, to warm it back up.  I took pictures and video along the way.  It was actually hard to get my mouth to cooperate in forming words, and  my hands to cooperate in pushing buttons.  I guess when it’s cold, its blood flow is reduced.  


I started going along the paved bike path, since it made for much faster progress than the deep snow.  With the weather, it was comforting to see that there were other crazy fellow runners out there, getting their runs in.  I passed some marinas, then a shore where there were big ice pebbles.  Having grown up close to the beach in Charleston, it was crazy-looking to me.  As I got closer to downtown, the city skyline came into view through the poor-visibility snowy air.  It was exciting to see it come closer and closer.  Chicago is like a condensed cluster of skyscrapers, with the shore on one side, and much smaller buildings all around on the other side, so it’s pretty striking.  

Finally, I got downtown.  I saw the Ferris wheel that Tris climbed, from a distance.  Chicago was a bustling place, with lots of people walking around despite the slosh.  I finally made it to The Bean, and I took some pictures and videos.  I had probably visited it once before, like 15 years ago, during a family vacation, although I’m not positive.  At that time, they had “Cows on Parade” statues scattered around, each one designed a different way, so that was the part that I had remembered most.  It was getting close to sunset, so I rode the metro back… I only remember just now that they did that in Divergent, too, with the raised platform and everything.   The metro ride warmed me back up nicely.  8.5 miles in 1:37:36, 11:29 average.

Back at home base, a nice dinner, more games, and talking.  I got to keep reading more of Sherlock Holmes volume 2, since they had the same book… nearly finished!  It was a nice weekend.  Even though I was travelling away from home, it felt in a way like returning home, seeing old friends again.
The next morning, I was supposed to pick up 2 fellow travelers at the airport, but they got delayed, so I drove out to Watertown, Wisconsin, by myself.  I had a productive few days there.  I didn’t run on Monday night, since all parts of my legs were moderately sore from the different muscles that got used while running through snow, and because I was too tired after dinner.  The soreness by itself would’ve been fine, but one foot felt a bit bruised, too.

Tuesday morning, I went to the hotel fitness room to run, but the treadmill was taken.  I should’ve gone out at 5:30am like I had originally planned, instead of sleeping in and waiting until 6am.  Maybe it was for the best, though, to let the bruisy ball of my foot to recover.  I did the stair stepper instead, for 35 min, breathing through my nose after the first three minutes.  It was a decent, low-impact alternative to running.  If I had had the time, I felt good enough to do a short run after that, but I had to get on with getting ready for work.

Wednesday night, finally got in a run again.  In the past week, I had only done the one 8.5 miler, so this 6.0 in 49:05, 8:11 average, was long overdue.  I was in Racine, Wisconsin, then, where the hotel has a very very warm gym.  It was a good run… not too hard, got in the miles.
Thursday morning, while I was running to my car, I slipped on the ice, haha.  I fell on my side, so it was only a short distance to the ground.  I felt nothing at the time, although my right bursa-area seemed to be a bit bruised.  It might’ve been just a flare-up of my bursa, but I think it was probably the fall.  I prefer that it be fall-related, as opposed to the more chronic flare-up.  

Friday morning, I did a strength session.  For the past few weeks, I had been feeling like my kinetic chain wasn’t as strong as it used to be, particularly compared to how it was when I was training for Obstacle Course Races.  What I mean is that the muscle groups aren’t in balance, so some muscles have to make up for others… like my back and butt don’t feel as strong.  Burpees would remedy that, though.  Whenever my muscles feel out-of-balance, with some over-used and some under-used, the strength session does a good job of re-setting everything.  Friday night, flew back to Greenville, which brings us to another story…

I landed at 11:30pm, and it seems like there was something wrong with the baggage claim, because flights kept coming in, and no conveyor belts were going.  We waited for 1.5 hours, until one finally started going.  My suitcase was the 4th one, jackpot – so I got it and headed home.  I had only like 36 hours at home, so I had to get laundry going for the following week’s trip to Canada.  When I opened up my suitcase, though, I discovered that it wasn’t mine!  My suitcase model has been appearing in various stores in the past year.  It looks unique, but apparently, many people have it.  Fortunately, I live close.  I felt terrible about not checking, like the announcements often ask you to do.  I had been so excited to get my luggage.  I dropped it off, then left my contact info so that when mine got returned, I could pick it up.  

That night, I decided on another new year’s resolution: Everything in its place (putting stuff away as I go along, instead of living in a tornado disaster area), so that I don’t have to hunt for stuff as much.  In the past, I’ve kept stuff out for quick and easy access.  But sometimes, it means hunting.  At the plants that I’ve visited for work, I’ve seen how they put outlines of tools in the spots where they belong, so that stuff goes back to where they should go.  I won’t go as far as putting in outlines, but the general idea is there.  Another cool concept I learned at work, is that of “interleaving”, where instead of going to pick up something, putting it away, going to the next item, and putting it away, such that you’re only carrying stuff one-way, you can carry stuff both directions, and put stuff away with almost half the time.  I’m not sure whether or not I was already doing this naturally, when cleaning my apartment, but I certainly do it very intentionally now.

Anyway, I had to fly out to Canada on Sunday morning, so that left one day to get my luggage back.  I was dependent on the person with my suitcase figuring it out and driving back to the airport in time for me to make my flight.  On Saturday morning, therefore, I started packing as if I wasn’t going to get my luggage back in time.  I decided on another optimization strategy.  Instead of packing and unpacking my one set of supplies repeatedly, I decided that even if I did get my luggage back, it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and buy replacements of stuff like a comb and other toiletries.  I could just keep that stuff in a bag, just to be used for travel, while keeping my existing set at home.  I ended up getting my luggage back at noon, having gotten the call just as I was driving home after the shopping trips.  So… there was a bit of drama, but my irresponsibility in not checking the luggage has prompted some changes that should help me save time in the future!  And it’s cool when stuff from work/school is applicable in the real world.

I got in my long run on Saturday evening.  12 miles were on the schedule, and I managed 12.8 in 1:54:59, 8:59 average.  Temps were chilly.  Right before the run, I had an almond butter + peanut butter + cinnamon wrap, plus a mini bag of chips, just seconds before, because I craved the calories and salt.  Didn’t need any fuel or water during the run, though. 

The next morning, flew out to Canada…

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Year-In-Review

- 2014 was a year of lots of travel to Argentina and Brazil.  I was abroad for about 1/3 of the year. 
- 2014 was the year of Obstacle Course racing, from my first, with my sister and her friend at the Atlanta Spartan Sprint in March, to the Battlefrog Carolinas in June, to the Spartan Carolinas Beast + Super Double in October.
- 2014 was the year that I registered and made it to Boston, by a mere 15 seconds.
- My year as a manager at work - learned a lot.  It was a fun challenge, with a different skill set required.  I'll be on a different team this year, though.

 Mileage - it was a pretty low year with mileage - 850.5 total = 2.33 miles per day, on average.  I ran a total of 5 days, 7 hours, 17 minutes, 11 seconds, for an average of 20 min and 55 seconds per day.  That's an average pace of 8:58.  Seems a bit slow... maybe it's from the obstacle course races mixed in.

 I did 2 days, 9 hours, and 35 min of body weight strength exercises and biking, which is about 9.5 minutes per day.

In terms of workout types, it was 12% long runs, vs. 16% from last year, since I wasn't training for any marathons this year.  4% was intervals this year, vs. 7% last year... again, not too much serious training... I was happy to get in any kind of workout while traveling.  More base mileage (75% vs. 58%) this year.

The status of my shoes... haven't purchased new shoes in a while.  I have a supply of them already, when I want to pull out new ones, though.  My legs start to feel it when I run in high-mileage shoes, so I'll likely need to pull out new ones once training starts for Boston.

Goal Review:
I wanted to read 12 non-running books in 12 months.  I finished Oliver Twist, which I had started in 2013.  I got through most of Volume 2/2 of Sherlock Holmes (still need to go back and read Vol 1).  I got through 1 chapter of a Tale of 2 Cities.  I read/finished/started a few running-related books.  This is far from getting 12 books done, though, haha...

2015 goals... hmmm....
- Not getting injured for Boston, so that I can run it.
- Continue traveling
Who knows what the year will bring, so I'll keep it at that for now.

Disney & Charleston : Dec 21-Jan 1

After driving to Charleston where I met my parents and sister, we drove down to Orlando.  The next day, we did a ton of walking from 8am to 10pm, visiting Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom.  My dad estimated that it was about 13 miles, with his pedometer.  I felt kind of depleted by the end.  It was fun, though!

 (Buzz Lightyear shooting game ride @ Magic Kingdom)

(Shake It, Move It Street Parade)

(Log flume ride)

(Mission: Space - surprisingly fun for the family!)

(Shuttle Boat from Hollywood Studios to Epcot)

(Street performance in "France" at Epcot)

(Epcot ball)

 (Giant smoked turkey leg @ Magic Kingdom - our favorite)

(A very cool night show that turns the Castle into a bunch of different things by projecting onto it)

 (Main Street USA)

The next day, we went to Busch Gardens.  Legs woke up tired, but once we got walking, they got back to normal.

(Cheetah Run roller coaster - pretty sweet!  The main part of it looks like a tree, and the back end races through some animal reserves and winds back and forth like a cheetah)

(This thing takes you way up, then turns you 90 degrees so that you're face-down looking at the ground, then drops you - quite a thrill!  Probably the scariest ride I've been on, because there's not much keeping you from falling... just the two bars.)

(Cheetah run)

(My favorite - feeding kangaroos!  It was cool just to watch them move/jump/eat/interact)

Tuesday, December 23:
 4.4 in 35:44, 8:10 average.  Got in only 2 laps around my neighborhood before it started raining hard, and it got too dark to make footing easy.  Oh well, least I got in something.

Wednesday, December 24:
Pyramid workout at the track!  5.7 in 42:57, 7:32 average.  800 warmup in 4:30, 4x100 with 100 jog, 3x200 with 200 jog, 2x400 with 400 jog, 800 with 400 jog, and back down.  Harder than it was last time over Thanksgiving break... got through it mentally by thinking "this is the last time I have to do a rep for this distance".  

For Christmas, got my parents some pretty rocks from Brazil...

Played lots of home-made "Princeton Carcassonne"...

Saturday, December 27:
8.8 in 1:12:08, 8:12 average.  After drinking decaf and eating a biscotti.  2.25 mi splits. 19:06, 18:11, 17:51, 16:59.  My dad biked next to me as I went.

Sunday, December 28:
55 min Body weight strength session.

Visit from a dog friend:
Monday, December 29:
60 min recumbent bike session, followed by some arm weights.

Tuesday, December 30:
6.6 in 1:02:01, 9:24 average.  My hammies were sore from doing squats 2 nights ago, I think.  Definitely a recovery run.  Took it easy, although I did feel back to normal by the third and last 2.25 mi lap.  Splits> 22:11, 20:45, 19:05.

Wednesday, December 31:
Needed to get in some runs before traveling again at the end of the week, so I did 6.6 in 57:35, 8:43 average.  Ran on tired legs... don't know why they're so worn.  Last lap got iffy.

At night, the annual New Year's party at a friend's house.
(I'm on the lower right corner)

On New Year's day, we went to Folly Beach to look for shark teeth, and we came back with some great finds!

 (Can you see it?





It's 1/4 of the way from the top, kind of in the middle.)