Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tiny Pleasures

Facebook lets you change your home language to Pirate. And it's endlessly clever when you do.

I just love stuff like that.

Also, although I have five whole articles and a Biostats chapter to read tomorrow and a long run to run, I have nothing else on the calendar (except dinner with Mom, which doesn't count as a Thing on the Calendar, because it's a nice thing). The house is clean, laundry done, groceries purchased.

And finally, I got to talk to my favorite sister for an hour on the phone today.

Life is good.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bits 'n Pieces

I adore school. Love it like candy. I went to a lecture Wednesday (and this was in my LEAST favorite class) by Malcolm Potts. It was easily worth the semester's tuition all by itself. Brilliant man with huge ideas and clever witticisms. I think I could actually feel my brain growing over the two hours.

So, yeah. It's great. No regrets. It's just that I have twice this week fallen asleep inappropriately in public. Once on my boss' office sofa while waiting for her. That sort of thing doesn't look good. Plus, I drool when I sleep. No, not good. I need to work on time management.

I *know* training has nothing to do with that little problem, so count this as a non sequitur: this was a tough running week (Week 4 of 8). Following the race I took one day off, then ran 4.5 miles, a 4.25 speed workout, then 4. Yesterday afternoon was tough, I felt like I'd been shaken very hard by a giant. With today off and 9 hours of zzzzz's last night, I am already feeling much better and pretty pleased with myself. Tomorrow is an hour of cross-training (biking is my current favorite) and then a 6 mile on Sunday, with another uppage in miles next week.

I can already see improvements as I hit the half way (4 week) mark this weekend. Even though I felt like I was running through pudding yesterday morning, I was right at my old "regular" run pace. And my HR stayed below 180 during my whole speed workout Wednesday, which was a first.

Yay, body. Way to go!

Tonight is the first Ultimate game for Annie. Photos likely to follow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Addendum: Official Results

Official results are, for once, better than my unofficial! My chip time was 26:44 (15 seconds off my previous official PR), and I was 18th out of 87 in my AG. So no complaints at all.

Three cheers for iron supplements!

Komen 5K Race Report

I won!

Well, OK, no. Not really.

I did PR, but just by 4 seconds. Still. Better'n a poke in the eye. And, as with every race, I learned some new things about my body and what it can do.

The short story, for those who don't care about the rest: 26:52 (my last 5K, July 4, was 26:56), no injuries or nuttiness, well-organized for the most part, with tasty snacks at the end. BART turns out to be such a spiffy way to get to races that I'm thinking of running the 7K distance of the Bridge to Bridge run in two weeks as a non-race run.

The longer story is that I can run faster for longer than I thought. I ran a 7:48 pace half mile at the start to try to make up for the incredibly slow first quarter mile (seriously - people? There was an untimed race, too...why not run that if you're going to stroll?!!). And several long stretches between 8:00 and 8:20. In the end, though, my lack of long runs over the past several months was my downfall. The last mile was at just under 9:00, which was sad. I was hoping to never go slower than 8:40.

Other than not finishing in, oh, 20:18 or something like that, my major complaint was traffic control at the start and finish of the race. The crowds were stupid slow for the first quarter mile and also at the tiny turnaround (and yep, I *was* near the front). Then runners had to come to a dead stop, DEAD STOP, immediately after crossing the mat to have their chips removed.

As someone with a hair-trigger puke urge that flairs up when I sprint, I'm just sayin'. You really don't want to be removing my chip when my HR is 194, OK? It's dangerous. Give me 100 yards or so to bring it down. (This was my first chip-timed race. Next time I will probably just pocket the thing or pin it to my hat. Now I know.)

That's it. Off tomorrow, back on the training wagon Tuesday, with increased mileage. Goal race is the Livermore Grape Stomp 10K on 10/26.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tick Tock

Sixteen hours until start time.

Two weeks ago, I did not give a fig about this race. In fact, really, two days ago I didn't think much about it. It's a training race, I'm running it a week early, out of sequence (there weren't any do-able 5Ks next weekend), I'm coming off two plus months of non-training, I have no expectations. Heck, I thought, maybe I'll even just make it a fun run.

This thing happens to me before races, though. Butterflies and constant nutty calculations in my head (if I run at 8:32 vs. 8:30, what does that get me? What if I run the first mile all out at 8:10, then drop to a 9:00 pace, hm?) and vague and fleeting pain to make me think I have a new injury. It's crazy. It's not like I'm even fast or in a competitive range.

I just want to be faster than I *was*, damn it. Whatever I was last time, I need to beat it.

It's a sickness.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gratitude and Education, All Rolled Into One

The only small class I have is our Epidemiology/Biostat seminar. It's a mandatory class for everyone in our program, all 24 of us. The first couple of weeks it just annoyed me, to be honest.

For one, I have always loathed group work in the service of education. I know it's *good* for me, but I hate working with people who are sloppy, lazy, slower than me, faster than me, less (or more) creative than me. In short, I like to work with my best friend, me, and we're a tight couple. For another, there were no papers or tests (things at which I excel), but instead an ill-defined "project." Done, of course, with the aforementioned group.

We were, on the first day, divided into groups and then sub-groups. My sub-group is Thomas and me. Thomas is nothing like me. He is slightly more than half my age, extremely single and unencumbered, never forgets to bring things like the paperwork or the tape measure to the field assignment, and doesn't drive. Thomas, of course, annoyed me for the first couple of trips we had to make, and I know I annoyed him terribly. But I think we've grown on each other. We spent 2 hours together Thursday evening, and I honestly enjoyed myself, and learned a lot about him and his life. He found out some things about my life, and acted generally interested. He even helped me step up our pace so I could go pick Joe up from guitar, even though we both acknowledged that Joe could walk home (no, Thomas and Joe have never met).

What were we doing? Well, there's the truly amazing thing. We were working on the annoying project. Except that now, I adore this project.

We are working for the city of Berkeley's public health department (one of only two non-county level PH departments in the state) to help them figure out two things: one is the "walkability" of their neighborhoods relative to each other, and the other is augmenting their understanding of the disparity in low birth weight rates across neighborhoods. It's a huge disparity, one of the biggest in the nation, and to date it has not been explained despite numerous studies and interventions.

Today we looked at and photographed two middle class Berkeley neighborhoods. One on one end of the middle class spectrum, the other on the other. And we learned that these neighborhoods had more in common than they had differences. Both with mostly single family homes, some retail, a school. Both with a mix of niced-up houses and run down houses. Both with people out on the streets at dinner time. And yet in one I felt totally comfortable walking around even on very quiet streets, and in the other I had my guard up and a hand on my camera at all times. You may perhaps be able to guess which one has the high rate of low birth weight.

So I'm thinking a lot about what it's like to live someplace a little scary, and stress, and population density and its effect on people, and what it's like to hear gun fire at night up close, instead of in the distance. And I'm really grateful that I got the winning ticket in that lottery.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Ramblings of the In(s)ane

I try to keep my head in biostatistics, I really do. But then I go to a two hour epidemiology seminar like I did today and get all jazzed up about tracing salmonella epidemics, and my vow to follow the money and security with my job choices goes out the window.

You can read about what we spent the day going over in minute detail here. It was, as the teenage girls say, SO MUCH FUN. OMG.

But stats are fun, too. Really. They're just sort of the homely cousin, the one who grows up to be a lawyer.

I was delighted when I woke up early (4:45am) this morning because it meant I could just stay in bed for a while. Right? Snuggle under the covers. I did that for about five minutes, and then, slowly, a realization dawned.

It was a tempo run day.

The last one didn't go so well, and I've come to see that running in the dark means running slowly, if I'm to survive, so I'd already determined that speedwork and tempos would be gym workouts until spring.

So I needed to get up NOW, unfortunately, and get myself to the gym.

But I outdid my expectations again, twice in a row for speed days, which was really nice. My top tempo pace was 8:00, held for a half mile, with 8:22 half miles on either side of it, plus all the other dross at the beginning and end.

I run the Komen 5K on Sunday, with no expectations. I am faster than I should be only three weeks into training, but on the other hand I have no idea of my endurance level or anything relative to a real race. I'm guessing not a PW, but that's about all I can say.

Oh, and this week my topic cloud "Running" category passed my "Sewing" category. Both of which far outstrip the stuff I'm supposed to care about - the sentient creatures in my life. I was thinking of re-naming my blog something clever about running (I could take Julie's old Runs Like a Girl, but that would be cheating and also confusing for her fans), but maybe I'll just go with All About Me and the Wonderfulness of Me and What I Like to Do.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Good Stuff, Some Bad Stuff

I don't think I have it in me, given my current schedule, to train 6 days a week. I'm throwing in the towel. I was never successful my last round of training, either, and I wasn't getting up so early, then. Higdon even says some people need two days off, and I think he means old, over scheduled people. Me.

So I'm moving to Mondays and Fridays off, although I ran today (with leaden legs and a hurting knee) so will take tomorrow off.

I made a fool of myself in Biostats today. That pretty much sucked. I followed up on someone else's question with a question so dumb, that when I realized the idiocy of it about five minutes later, I wanted to hide from the other 200 people in the room. "Hey, check that out...must be early dementia." I am resolved to shut up in large lecture classes, now. Nothing like a life lesson.

Good things, a la Lori A.: Annie is making dinner right now; Joe got his homework done without being nagged; Rob walked the dog even though it's my night; I'm caught up, finally, on reading for the week. I have my health.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I do go on.

So this is the first week I feel a little, or maybe a lot, like I'm drowning. It may have quite a bit to do with the almost constant headache and general crummy feeling from this cold, it may have to do with the stress of shifting jobs at work, or it may have to do with the incredible amount of reading I'm trying to get through. Or the difference between permutations and combinations, which is Chapter 2 in Biostats, and which I will never ever ever understand.

One thing I know: it has nothing to do with training, OK? So don't go there.

One of the nice things about being a grown-up student is that I can be fine about drowning. I know a lot of things I didn't last time I was in school. I know that I will not die if I don't get an A in every class, and I know that showing up and doing the reading will guarantee me at least a passing grade. I know that the stress at work will lessen, and that the cold will go away.

But the best thing I know? I know that permutations and combinations don't matter. I'm almost done with the chapter, and no one will ever ask me about them after the next test. Ever again, not once, in my whole life (and no fair, those of you who may be at my deathbed, throwing it at me then). Nothing in any form of data analysis hinges on understanding the difference, it's just a trick thrown at us to see if we blink and run away.

Ha. I'm so smart.

So now I have to go cross-train for an hour (whilst listening to a podcasted lecture I missed - multi-tasking!) and then get back to treading scholastic water. Tomorrow is Long Run Sunday, the fog is in for perfect running weather, and now I know how to use the waffle maker. It'll be a great day.

Friday Nights

I remember when Friday night was THE night. All those urges pent up during the week - letting loose, staying up late, fill in the blanks here - Friday was the time to put caution aside and have some fun.

Now? The biggest urge I have all week is for more sleep, and Friday is the night to indulge. Last night I turned down a very nice offer of dinner and a movie with my Mom and Auntie, and instead read an epi textbook until 9, then fell asleep in my clothes. After jammying up, I slept until, get this, 8:00am. I can't remember the last time I went on a sleep bender like that.

The lack of sleep is due to my insistence on not running in the evenings more than anything else. I could. Lots of people do, I know I could. I just really hate exercising in the evenings. I'd rather focus on dinner, settling down, paperwork and reading. What we call "hunkering". The opposite of sweating through four miles.

Yesterday I had my first career counseling meeting (a mandatory part of the masters program), and it was very gratifying. The counselor steered me toward a particular set of upcoming career events and said she basically wasn't going to worry about me, despite my age (my worry). She felt my "skill set" and background, along with being one of the few in the program to focus on biostats rather than epidemiology, would guarantee me an array of jobs to pick from. Hope so.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feet First

I seem to be obsessed with running right now. Maybe I'll lose the 15 subscribers I have, but I can't help myself. When you're waking up between 4:45 and 5:15am to run in the dark, it really needs to be a big deal.

Fortunately, my body is rewarding me for all the hard work by getting faster and not hurting. Yay, body! Yesterday I went to the gym to run 8 400s at a 5K pace, as Mr. Higdon told me to do. But I was running late, so I thought I'd sub in 4 800s, although I knew it would be a push. My 5K pace is really 8:34, but I was going to try 8:22.

Check it out. I ran 4x800's at 8:00! With a 2:30 lap in between each one (OK, I walked a little between #3 and #4). I was so excited! My heart rate didn't even get high until #4, either, I probably could have gone one more notch up on speed.

And I'm only on my second of eight weeks of the training. This *is* exciting.

I also treated myself to the most absurdly expensive shoes imaginable. I didn't realize they cost $135 until I went to pay for them, but after trying on six other pairs, I fell madly in love with them. They have all kinds of neatness: memory foam at the top, stability where I need it, plus a heavy cool factor. I threw in a pair of running tights for the coming winter and a fleece jacket (that was on super discount) as birthday gifts from my parents (thanks for the checks, Mom and Dad!) and I look like a Real Runner.

Plus the nice sales lady is convinced my IT band problems are due to my wonky left leg, which she claims pronates, although my right does not. She said bumping up to "stability" shoes from "neutral" should do it. Whether by placebo effect or virtue, right on cue, my left leg feels perfect, and not even a tiny twinge of knee pain in either knee since switching shoes.

Now, on to other business. I have children - did you know? I seem to forget in all the excitement about myself.

So they started back to school (last week, ahem), and here is the best of the photos. My over-achieving firstborn junior is taking AP English, Honors Physics, TAing World History and is probably in Elementary Brain Surgery...I've lost track. She will have a GPA of 7.9 by graduation, I'm convinced. She has jumped into a leadership role within the Leadership class, and along with a friend, is planning a three day sleep-away field trip with the new sixth graders next month.

Joe has moved up to pre-Algebra, all the regular 7th grade stuff, plus Art and Martial Arts as electives. He has some tough teachers this year, it will be an adventure. But he is really enjoying being the not-youngest on campus, and we're all amazed at how small the incoming sixth graders look compared to the ginormous 7th graders.

And we're back in the tumult of the school year, just like that. Friends, frolic, tests, projects, great books, scientific calculators (2 this year!), picture day, trips, dances, another prom, another graduation. In the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Loping Along

A late summer cold has us all a little off this week. I believe, with all my heart, that viral illness is completely out of the question from May 15 through October 15, so these things always take me by surprise. Fighting it and a new IT band problem (this time on my left side, and, er...once again probably due to shoes gone bad) gave me reason to stay in bed this morning instead of run.

My regular run paces are making a slow but very steady decline - yesterday I looked back over the past few months, before the anemia set in, during, and now. I think the increased walking and biking as part of commuting are probably making something of a difference, but I'd bet it's mostly just better oxygen delivery. Very nice. We'll have to wait and see how this translates to actual race times, but I'm excited about the prospect.

In week #3 of school, I continue to be shiny happy every day. It's just geek heaven. I went to a party on Sunday filled with other socially inept but passably interesting people, and we had a lovely time dissing the other public health departments (airy fairy public freakin' policy, what's THAT about?) while eating waffles. And I love love love my homework. Hours of crude death rates vs. expected death rates, probability tables, indices of pedestrian features on Berkeley streets. Truly fun.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Happy, Happy Day

Tomorrow's planned long run is only four miles on my training plan. Given the absurdity of our local weather, this makes me extremely happy.

Many people whose running/biking/other forms of insanity I follow are racing tomorrow. I wish them all luck, and am SO glad I can send good thoughts while I stand in the shade. My turn comes in 2 weeks, when I run the Komen 5K for the Cure. Fingers crossed for saner temps.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Oh, Good God

It wasn't so much a tempo run as a parody of someone running past a series of angry beehives. Spurts of flailing speed punctuated by loud gasping swearing walking bits. All in the dark. With a headlamp.

I'd sort of forgotten that I hadn't done a speed workout of any type since late June. And I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, the hottest day of the year was not the day to kick back into high gear.

But at least I tried, I'll give myself that. And I must have run at least 100 yards or so at a 7:48 pace at one point, and had a mile in there at well under 9:00. There was just a lot of walking to go with it. And I still managed to stay under 10:00 per mile for the whole thing, so it wasn't a loss.

My lovely family purchased for me my heart's desire for my birthday: A DDR (Dance Dance Revolution, for those not similarly obsessed) kit for the Wii. This is for cross-training Saturdays. It is a blast. Videos soon.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cripes, It's Hot

97 today, predicted hotter tomorrow. We on The Northern Coast don't *do* air conditioning, so there's not really any getting out of the heat. Well, except for work. Work felt good today.

I overslept yesterday and so did not do the planned tempo, just zipped out three quick miles before school, instead. Today it was clear I needed to bump my rest day up one to deal with the intensified schedule combined with the heat. I was dragging just getting out of bed. Tomorrow I will probably run the tempo at the gym, with the fans on me...

I was snapped up by another department at work, which was nice, and will be working on some new projects starting October. The best was my chat with my new boss (who was also my new boss last time I was laid off, but then became my ex-boss when I was re-hired...sort of like Days of Our Lives meets The Apprentice). I told her I was hesitant about taking on something new because I might, maybe, possibly, be leaving in May for an internship (a 12 week internship is required as part of the master's). I was also thinking about just using my current job as the internship, which would be convenient and low-stress.

Her response was that if I came to work for her she would cut my funding off May 30, 2009 to assure that I *couldn't* keep working. She gave me a long speech about why I needed to go find a perfect internship and a better job, and all of her points made so much sense that I didn't even have to ponder it all. She's right, and I gave 8 months notice to her on the spot. Then I made an appointment with the internship counselor at school, and will take her advice closely to heart.

I need to post first day of school pix like a good mom...but I also need to make Caesar salad for 50 people for tomorrow's homemade school lunch.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tired of Being Fired

I need to get this degree done so I can get a decent job. I've been officially laid off once since the start of the year, threatened with it a second time, and again today. And the department in which I work is completely dysfunctional, so it's always a ridiculous charade - them trying to keep me as long as possible by throwing washcloths over the elephant in my office. Something has come through at the last minute each time, but it's extremely stressful.

The short story: Today I found out that the one project I have that wasn't going to be ending soon is now being pulled by the NIH. (I found out from the NIH, not from my bosses, who presumably have known for weeks.) By the end of the day, as with each one of these crises, I was lucky enough to find people and projects who are interested in hiring me away. So I can't complain, really...not at all. I would just like a little less work-related drama in my life. And I don't really want to change jobs in the middle of the semester, especially since I was hoping to leave next summer for an internship/long-term job.

But I need those bennies. I really need them. We've got braces and shots and school physicals and broken bones to pay for.

In running news, I've been running a little quicker each day for the past few weeks, just 'cause it feels good. This morning as I was one mile into a three miler, I realized I have to run my first tempo run of the training schedule tomorrow, and I hadn't really given myself a lot of room, pace-wise, to run a tempo. Hmmmm. I'll either be zooming tomorrow morning or I'll be logging something called a temp-faux.