Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miles to go...

60 miles in the past 30 days, according to my crappy pedometer. I am using my iPhone and an app called Pedometer Pro. It is pretty good for .99. I know that the devise missed a few runs, either because of lack of GPS signal, or human (me) error. So I know for sure 60 in 30 so far, plus a few extra miles here and there.

Ran 2 races in Novmber. November 6 was the US Half Marathon. Went pretty well. Beautiful coarse over the Golden Gate Bridge. The second was November 27, a 10K in Golden Gate Park. The time on the Half was 1:44, slow, but there were issues, such as a bottleneck at the base of the bridge, where we came to a full stop and had to stand around to cross the bridge. The 1oK time was respectable - 1:04.

Monday, November 14, 2011

First day jitters

Today is the first day of my marathon training schedule, and all my pre-run actions are now feeling ritulized. I eat a small amount of protein and coffee. I put on my knee brace on my gimpy left knee. I check the weather. I put on 2 sports bras and Toms of Maine deoderant (that does not have anti-persperant, so no gross white chunks.) I choose Nike capri tights, with a hidden key pocket on the butt. I choose my grey, broken-in New Balance Minimus trainers, that have held up for over 100 miles already and are kind of stinky. I double knot - I do not use any fancy tight tying techniques - those give me blisters. I never run in Nikes - they give me shin splints. I brush my teeth and hair. I put on Banana Boat sun screen. I pick out a shirt - today it is a red long sleeve tech shirt. I pack up my cell phone, that also acts as my pedometer, into a very tight and small fanny pack. I do not run with water - it is too bulky. I don't need it unless I am running over 10 miles. I think briefly about how many miles I plan on doing and pick out a tried and true trail. All my trails are near roads, in case of an emergency such as a leg cramp or twisted ankle or dog attack. Well, I will do a trail run once a week. I will contact Hugh for those, and give him an itenerary, in case of an emergency. I will not become the guy from 127 Hours.

Training for the marathon

I signed up for my first marathon - the San Francisco July 29, 2012 full marathon. I have been training and running half marathons for the last 6 months; now I am modifying my running plan to achieve the full 26.2 next year. Today is day one of this modified plan. And today is an easy 3 mile day. (Plus kung fu class.) Since I just did a good half marathon 7 days ago, an easy day is fine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Falling down a mountain

My family loves to go hiking. My brother John has a tendency to get ahead of the group by magic. The group appears to be ahead of him, but then he shows up at the bottom of the mountain with first beer and covered in poison oak.

There is a term for my brother's hiking technique - glissade. This term "glissade" is the act of descending a steep slope by a controlled slide, either sitting or on foot. In other words, skipping the switchback and just sliding straight down the mountain through the poison oak!

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East Bay Hashers pt 1

My sister suggested that I look into running with a local Hasher club. I had never heard of Hashing, even though I run and drink beer. She told me that Hashers are people who run from pub to pub. Sounds like a great idea, but that's all she told me. I had no idea I was walking into a historic, worldwide social club...

I started by a google search on hashing, and this lead me to a group in the East Bay called the East Bay Hash House Harriers. The web presence was minimal, a site that contained a running schedule and a few facts. To find out more I had to just dive right in a join a run.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I showed up at a trailhead 30 minutes before a posted run. I was obviously early, doing recon. A grey bearded guy in a 3 tiger tee-shirt, (in the spirit of the 3 wolves), dirty shorts, and a hiking hat was sitting at a picnic table. He came over to me and introduced himself as E=MCFucked and asked if I wanted a warm beer. Sure! So I asked him some easy questions about the running club. He was happy to fill me in on a chaotic history of hashing, while keeping his eye open to say hello to other runners who were gradually showing up.

In the next 30 minutes about 25 runners showed up, all ages, sexes, and running abilities. There were 2 runners who looked pretty elite, and more than a few that looked more like myself: middle-aged, a little overweight, and casual. All were seasoned Hashers; I was the only virgin hasher. Many had hashing tee-shirts from other clubs, including one from a Singapore 4th of July Anniversary hash run.

An unmarked delivery truck pulled up; this was the keg for the post hash run. Another hasher had a clipboard and took roll call of the runners and collected beer money. As a virgin, I did not have to chip in for the beer, just leave a name and e-mail address. And roll call was all handles - no one used their real names - all had acquired a hash name somewhere in their running history. (I never learned anyone's real name).

Mostly for my sake, before the run we got a prep talk. E=MCFucked had constructed 7 symbols on the ground with flour, and explained that he had laid out a trail a day ahead of time using these symbols. There may be false trails to trick us, so part of the run is to be observant of the symbols. People have gotten lost in the woods on these runs, I was told. My sister did not warn me that this was a scavenger hunt; this is going to be even better than I expected. (apparently E=MCFucked is what is called a "Hare", someone who lays out the trail, either live right before the run, or earlier. With this difficult trail run it had to be a day ahead of time, to make sure no one goes off a cliff.)

And then we started running... The beginning was easy, just follow the flour dots. I was a middle of the pack runner. I made small talk with other middle pack runners, but then we were going up a mountain, and I had to walk. It was getting hot, the California Central Valley sun bearing down on the dusty trail. At my running/walking pace a seasoned runner in a red baseball cap fell in next to me and started pointing out all the poison oak along the trail.

Then the run got weird... We had been running an obvious fire trail, but now the flour blobs pointed us to go off the path and take a deer run. Red Hat confirms that this is correct, and the pack ahead of us took the deer tracks. The track is not made for running, it is narrow and steep, and one could tumble down the wooded hill. But very obvious man-made flour blobs are dusted on tree roots, and down a steep gully. I run down the steep gully, my thigh all scratched up, and a bruise forming on my right leg.

At the base of the gully Red Hat informs me that I slid down a patch of poison oak. Red Hat is very chatty and points out all the other flora and fauna around and respectfully paces us into a two-man group. Not too slow, not too fast. He is from Conneticut originally and knows much on plants. He has been a Hasher since the 1980's, and has run with the East Bay Hashers for over 12 years.

to be continued...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Martinez, CA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Backyard beer brewing

Have you ever spent a whole afternoon watching water boil? For Science?!? If you are testing out a home brewers rig, you have.

This is Carl. This are his 3 brew kettles, out for their first functioning test, using just hot water. It has taken Carl 2 years to create this particular rig, from buying the kettles, wielding the connections, constructing the plate heat exchanger, and rewiring, per California code, the whole garage. This rig is electrical, not your typical propane rig, which has its own set of issues, such as electricity in a very wet environment.

The first tank is a Hot Liquid Tank. It boils water. The hot water in this tank is used to regulate the water temperature in the second, middle tank. The yellow electrical cable connects to a large heating coil in the first tank. The water enters and returns to and from tank 1 to tank 2 via tubing connected to the copper coils poking out of the top. Carl is futsing with the pump.

The second tank is the Mash Tun.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Hot Water!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Albany, CA

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have gotten into the habit of having hot soup for breakfast. In China we had congee for breakfast everyday, and this makes a lot of sense. It does not upset the stomach, and it hydrates you after 8 hours of sleep. Soup is super healthy, and the warmth acts like tea or coffee - a pleasant way to start the day. It is a very pro-running breakfast.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Albany, California

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay to Play

So last night I went out for pizza and beer. It's the baseball playoffs, so it had to be done, Tigers v. Rangers. I totally carbed up on deep dish feta, spinach, onion and mushroom pizza. oh and garlic bread. So this morning I went out for a 10 mile run. I did my regular long route along the Berkeley waterfront, starting in Richmond CA, Then passing through Albany, Berkeley and doing a turnaround in Emeryville. On mile 7 I hit the wall, and walked a mile. I ran all of mile 8, and walk/run the last 2 miles. You got to pay to play, when your talking pizza.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Albany, California

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rain Dogs

Fall has come to NorCal; the winter rains have arrived. Which means wet feet - rain dogs. And like any dog, they get stinky when wet.

Today I got in a nice, fast, 3 mile run in on a path along the Berkeley marina. I have always loved a good rain run. The smell of ozone, the mix of sweat with the rain, puddles, the recognition by other rain runners. It is a club you join if you are out on the trails.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Berkeley, California

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This is my last week at work. My plan after this week is to prep for Costa Rica and Panama, I.e. Study my Spanish, and run. I am signed up for another half marathon! Fun times, fun times...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Oakland, California

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tres Cenotes

As a result of the chixelub asteroid/metior, there is unique geographical feature in the Yucatan, including limestone caves and sinkholes known as cenotes. Another unique feature of the Yucatan is that there are no rivers. The area is dry and low lying desert so wTer is at a premium. These sinkholes act as natures cisterns, collecting

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Temple of Uxmal

It sounds like a Rush song - the Temple of Uxmal, we are. Yesterday we took an organized tour booked through Jan, the owner of the hostel to the ruins of Uxmal. After another fantastic home cooked breakfast (omlets), the tour bus picked us up at our door. The drive Juan was bilingual and was very knowledgeable. Hugh and I were the only English speakers; the 7 others on the tour we're a family from Mexico city on the last day of their 5 day vacation.

Our tour rambled through a few local villages; one was being prepared for a festival and bull fight, old school, with a makeshift bull ring of material similar to bamboo; another had a great street fruit market and irate police (who only make about 80 pesos a day; I would be irate too).

The lay of the land is flat and hot with scrubby trees. The ground is made of red adobe, which the mayans used in hut making. It keeps the 100+ humidity out. But, as Juan said, it is now out of fashion.

Uxmal was great - Wikipedia can say it better than I can - go look it up.

We also hit a second ruin, that of Kabah. This was great since we were unaware that we we going to see 2. Kabah had no oth tourists but ours and another, soq. Got that ruin to ourselves. Smaller, but different and still being dug by the scientists. We could see science in action! science!

last, we had a ycatan lunch at a restaurant on the way home. Traditional lime and chicken soup, and chi en made with habenero paste - they did give us the mild version.

The family joining us consisted of Mom ( grandma), her son and daughter, their spouses, and 2 family friends. One of the doused was macho and ate a whole habenero straight - fun was had! The son tried to practice his English with me. He is a taxi driver in Mexico city, and the driving there is insane. His pregnant wife ws very cute, but she dripped soup on her white shirt- she never noticed and I did not have the heart to tell her.

We were going to go take a trip to the cents today, but my feet are swollen from the ruins, so instead we are going to tour Merida museums where there is air conditioning.

Tomorrow we will treck to pro RSI for the beach!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Merida, MX

Jon made us a fantastic breakfast of corn pockets stuffed with potatoes and beans, onion, and hot salsa, and coffee this morning. Fidel still needs a haircut - his poodle stylings are overgrown since his Mom (Jon's wife of 5 years) is in Belgium visiting her 2 adult children by her first marriage. She is to return in two days: Fidel will be so happy!

Today we took it slow: we did one of those double decker tour buses that take a circle around the city, and you can jump off and on. We only exited fir one attraction - the archeology museum. We studied Mayan culture etc, but the real interest was the early 20 century photo display of the Mexican Revolution, displayed on the second floor. Zapatista and fotos.

Aferward we walked back to our barrio, but on the way we stopped at a cafe, where I ordered a chelada - a homemade chelada, not the weird vomit thing by budweiser. It was delicious! Limon salt and beer on ice, very nice on a 100 degree day walk.

We also bought a couple guayaberas - i love Hugh in a light blue shirt. Then it was all pools and beer and ham the rest of the day. Tomorrow is pyramids!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Merida Mexico

It's Monday May 9, 2011, and we are taking a siesta at Casa Chalia, our perfect little hostel. Our host, Jon, is originally from Belfium. He fell in love with a Mexican national and now has been living here for the past 5 years, managing rental properties, with the help of a cute grey poodle named Fidel, named after Cuba's leader, after being left behind by Cuban visitors at one of the properties.

On our first day, after checking in and having a beer with Jon, we walked all over the Centro area, stopping for lunch and taking photos. In the centro square, a local man struck up a conversation about the best things to see in Merida. Great info, but... 2 blocks later we saw him again, and I am sure he had business in getting us into a friend's Panama hat shop. Another block later another guy struck up a conversation, to practice his English, and told us about the same great hat shop. And then two blocks later another guy ran up from behind me and got in front of us and pointed the way into the hat shop.

The store was not busy - it was siesta time in the off season - only a couple of guys washing the floor. We were guided up to the second floor, where there were walls of pottery and blankets. In a further room were shirs and hats. We went through the sales pitch, thismis a straw hat, thisnis a polyester hat, this, now thismis a real panama hat, you can roll it up and put it in your pocket , it wil not loose it's shape, yes girls can wear them too ( I have never seen a girl wear one).

We bought two hats - way over priced, but it was a great store.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Trip - Mexico!

It has been 2 months since my interview with the U.S. State Department and the subsequent rejection. It was, in fact, my second attempt at a State Dept. position. Some may say three times the charm, but right now I just feel the sting of rejection.

In the process of getting my bearings, I scheduled a trip for both Hugh and I to the Yucatan. We will be flying to Merida, Mexico in May. Why Merida? Well, Merida is the capital of the Yucatan, with a rich Spanish colonial history, and a jump point into visiting the Mayan temples. But the real reason is even better than temples: the Chicxulub crater!

So, you have never heard of the Chicxulub crater? I have, because of Hugh's space study hobbie. According to Wikipedia, the Chicxulub crater is an ancient impact crater. (What is an impact crater? I had the same question, and the answers are long and detailed. I interperate these answers into this: where the earth got hit by a gigantic space rock and left a dent.) And the Chicxulub crater is the impact zone of the dinosaur extinction causation. The diameter of the impact zone is over 6 miles (10K).

So, is there anything to actually see and visit in regards to this crater? So far, it appears that for non-geologists there are hundreds of sinkholes to explore. Sinkholes, also known as cenotes, are holes or caves in the ground with exposed rocky edges containing groundwater. This section of the Yucatan Penninsula has more cenotes than anywhere else on earth (not fact checked). Sinkholes are scary places where serface people like you and me could encounter morlocks, or other strange mutants. Or maybe a journey to the center of the earth? They are connected to intricate caves that can go on for miles and miles underground that can be scuba dived and explored. Or just breifly explored with a swim.

I anticipate that the biggest draw to the area are the Mayan temples, and as we all know from the movies that the Mayan calendar ends December 21, 2012, which is closing in around us RIGHT NOW!!!

Lastly, there are flamingos. (I suspect this will be my favorice part of the trip. You get to take a boat into the Gulf of Mexico and see flocks of hot pink birds.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Testing the iPad

This is a test. This is not just a test of the iPad, but a test of my patience and my editing on a non-keyboard keyboard. also, this gives me a chance to explain that when I was blogging in Eastern Europe I was using Cyrillic keyboards. Next time I travel it would be ideal to bring a computer of some sort. The iPad seems like it could be a great travel companion, if I can blog and book hostels on hostel.com with it. Since we are going to Mexico in 2 months I can bring it for a test drive, even though I plan on booking everything ahead of time. So far the keyboard seems ok.

So on to other topics of interest. Wearing socks - something I avoid doing. the husband always is telling me to put on socks because my feet are cold. But I don't like wearing socks, no sir. I am wearing them rig now, since it is cold outside , but I don't like it.

If you wear sock in the bathroom or kitchen you are risking having wet sock feet, which is icky and slimy. And wearing socks ruins them.the heels wear out veery fast. Also, I don't get blisters, and my feet don't sweat. So what is the point.