Friday, January 22, 2016


Yesterday morning on my run, somehow we ended up talking about girls (particularly young ones) participating in organized dance.  The general consensus was that it wasn't a good thing.  They were required to wear their warm-ups at all times at competition if they weren't performing because their outfits were essentially inappropriate.  My friend was talking about how he pulled his daughter out when one of their routines (at age 8) essentially involved twerking.  I'm sure there are different programs in different parts of the country (and likely even in Dallas) that are perfectly appropriate, but from my running buddy's perspective as it related to his daughter, this was not. 

I'll also say for the record that at my last job, my coworker's daughter was super into dance (and then drill team) and somehow I got talked into going to one of her daughter's weekend competitions and I dragged my husband along.  His comment to me afterward was that he was concerned he'd been placed on some pervert watchlist for even being there.  He found the whole thing hyper-sexualized and inappropriate and he said if I went to another one, he was absolutely not joining me. 

But I actually wasn't writing about dance.  (I should add as a final point re: dance that I wished more than anything as a child that I'd gotten to take fun dance classes and wear make-up.  A few years of ballet in my early childhood weren't even close to enough to compensate for my awkwardness, and ballet wasn't "fun" or "cool."  When I got older, junior high and high school, I so wished I could have been on a drill team or something like that with all the cool and pretty girls, for which years of dance competitions was essentially a prerequisite.)

Anyway, my friend was saying that his daughter didn't really care that he pulled her out of dance.  She bounced into soccer and then gymnastics.  He said he guessed she wouldn't be in gymnastics long term because she just won't have the build to do well.  We discussed whether he'd try to get her to run and/or do cross-country or track at some point.  He said that really, it's all about what her friends were doing.  She's content as long as she's with them.  They're all doing gymnastics together now and she loves it at least as much as she loved the dancing. 

At that point in the conversation, I thought (and likely said) that I feel like I'm not that different from his 8 year old daughter -- the main reason I'm up and running in the horrendous cold (well, by my standards), in the dark, and at 5:15 in the morning, is because my friends are there.  And the main reason I go to boot camp with such regularity is because my friends will be there. 

I remember all those times my mom said something along the lines of, "well, if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?"  Ha, mom, maybe.  Especially if jumping off the cliff is something like bungee jumping.  Bottom line is that I feel very lucky right now to have an awesome running group and boot camp crew that keep me getting out there on cold mornings when all I want to do is stay in bed.  They take the place of the need for internal motivation AND they bring all those good things into my life that come with a strong network of friends from all different walks of life.  Feeling lucky.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cardiac Drift

Cardiac drift is basically when your heart rate increases during exercise with little to no increase in workload.  It's normal:  even over 30 minutes of easy running, your heart rate may go up 10-20 beats.  So heart rate rises while pace stays constant, and there is no harder effort, no heavier breathing, and notably no higher calorie burn. 

According to wiki:

Cardiovascular drift is the phenomenon where some cardiovascular responses begin a time dependent change, or "drift" after around 10 minutes of exercise in a warm or neutral environment without an increase in workload. It is characterized by decreases in mean arterial pressure and stroke volume and a parallel increase in heart rate. It has been shown that a reduction in stroke volume due to dehydration is almost always due to the increase in internal temperature. It is influenced by many factors, most notably the ambient temperature, internal temperature, hydration and the amount of muscle tissue activated during exercise. To promote cooling, blood flow to the skin is increased, resulting in a shift in fluids from blood plasma to the skin tissue. This results in a decrease in pulmonary arterial pressure and reduced stroke volume in the heart. To maintain cardiac output at reduced pressure, the heart rate must be increased.
Effects of cardiovascular drift are mainly focused around a higher RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort); that is, a person will feel like they are expending more energy when they are not. This creates a mental block that can inhibit performance greatly.
Prevention or minimization of cardiovascular drift includes consistently replacing fluids and maintaining electrolyte imbalance during exercise, acclimatization to the environment in which one is performing, and weight training[citation needed] to supplement cardiovascular efforts.
Cardiac drift is not a new concept to me.  I've trained by heart rate for at least half the year pretty much since the first year I was training for Boston. 

And I've had cardiac drift set in on long runs, and particularly on long runs with pace work, and 100% of the time when racing a marathon or even a half-marathon.

But yesterday I might have experienced something new...

Cardiac drift on a weekday?  On a short-ish weekday no less???

Is that even possible???

(At the outset, I'm ruling out dehydration or warm temps.  As I mentioned, I recently finished reading Megan's book, so I've been hyper-vigilant about hydration, and uh, it's insanely cold here right now.)

As I mentioned, I feel like my running is slooooowly coming back.  I ran a 5k a couple weekends ago and I managed to keep all my miles within a tidy little 5 second spread.  It was disheartening to realize that that little spread was slower than my half marathon PR pace (now just over 2 years old), and only a tad faster than my marathon dream goal pace (a pace I have never actually attained, but I still regard as goal MP). 

My running would certainly come back faster if I could lose some weight, but even staying right where I am (about 5 pounds over the top end of my "acceptable" range, and about 10 pounds over where I usually am, and where I prefer to be), my paces are starting to steady out and get a bit faster.  It has certainly been a long road back from my ankle injury (I actually still have 2 months left of wearing a brace for boot camp).  But I 100% feel like I'm improving, and I love seeing the progress.  Definitely feeling optimistic about the state of my running at present. 

So anyway, yesterday's workout was a taste of my least favorite kind of run -- progressive tempo.  Just a taste though.  Instead of a true PT run (which I really hate, and usually on my schedule is 4 progressive miles, plus 2-4 warm-up/cool-down miles), it was just 2 miles warm-up, 2 miles marathon pace (well, it's heart rate training, so not actually marathon pace, but the heart rate zone where you'd usually run your marathon), 1 mile in the next higher zone (equating roughly to half marathon pace), then 1 mile cool-down.

Written out, yesterday's schedule was:
2 mile warm-up
2 miles zone 3
1 mile zone 4
1 mile cool-down

How did my run go?  I basically started the pace work 1 mile early just to delay getting dropped. 

1 mile warm-up
2 miles zone 3 (first mile was just staying with my friends as they finished their warm-up, but it was pace for me, so I counted it)
1 mile zone 4
1 mile zone 5 (very bottom of it, zone 5A as it is defined on our schedule)
1 mile zone 4 (by chance, would have walked for a minute to bring down the heart rate and get back to zone 2, but as I slowed, a friend I hadn't run with since November caught up to me, so he and I ran most of the last mile in together; kept the pace easy, but the HR never really came down)

So on paper, that looks okay.  Not great since I have no business being in zone 5, but it does look progressive and it looks like I worked very hard.  (Pat on the back?  Not so fast.)

But when I look at the paces I actually ran yesterday, it's a different story:
1 mile easy
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 30 seconds (zone 3, in theory, marathon pace)
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 15 seconds (zone 3 still, in theory, marathon pace) (but I did stop for water in this mile, so it lowered my HR at least a bit, without water, I may have snuck into zone 4 already)
1 mile goal marathon pace (in zone 4 though, so in theory, should have been half marathon pace)
1 mile goal marathon pace plus 30 seconds (zone 5A, yow, zone 5A should be around 5k pace, not slower than marathon pace!)
1 mile easy pace, but heart rate still zone 4

See that bold mile?  Um, that's not good.  I mean, I shouldn't be running in zone 5A at all, but if I do, gosh darn it, that pace better be significantly faster than 10k pace, and likely faster than 5k pace.  And uh, yeah, this was not.  Not even close. 

So is it possible that cardiac drift set in to this extent after only 3 "tough" miles????  I didn't think it was even possible for that to occur in a significant way in far less than an hour.  Is there a chance I was essentially sweating plasma?  I wasn't even that sweaty.  I warmed up a lot (unzipped my half-zip top and took down my ear band), but I just don't know how much my core temperature could have really increased in the cold weather we're having.  I drank water once during the run (at about mile 2.1). 

But as I write this post, the answer stands out in my mind, clear as day now:  I need more lactate threshold endurance work. 

Sigh.  Just have to keep at it I guess...

Monday, January 18, 2016


How would you feel if an employee gave you the employee discount at a local business that you regularly patronize but where you don't work?

Like if you fly regularly, and at the place where you always grab a coffee in the airport, an employee you regularly encounter gave you his or her discount?

Does it change your answer if the person is the opposite sex?

This happened to me last week and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

For the record, same sex, so nothing too fishy going on.

My penny-pinching personal self of course thinks it's great, but the business/law part of my mind isn't very comfortable with it.  Does the employer know this is happening?  Is it happening regularly and therefore cutting into profits?  Is the employee trying to screw the employer?  (This is particularly possible because I know there has been some management turnover and morale isn't super high right now.) 

I'm torn, but the purchase is made (with discount), and of course I'll keep going there, but I'm not sure how I feel about that.  If she rings me up again and says something like "that's $146, wait, let me see what I can do, okay, that's $98," I might just say, "aw, thanks, I'm okay with the $146." 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review: Start Here

Quick plug for a friend's book, but I promise, I wouldn't do this if it wasn't worth sharing. 

After I'd been reading her blog for at least a year, Megan Lyons became perhaps the first blog person I met in real life.  I invited her to boot camp with me one day, and years later, we still see each other at 5:30 a.m. a few days per week.  As frequently happens with someone you talk to consistently in such a vulnerable state (early, no makeup, sweating), it was easy to connect and she quickly became a friend.  Anyway, she has her first book going on sale today! 

Here are two links where it is available:

I've gotten to read it already.  My thoughts:

It's a good book that distills a lot of research and theories about health into concise and practical tips.  It's well-researched, but reads conversationally and in a straight-forward manner.  It's clearly targeted toward people who are starting a journey toward getting healthier, but I feel like I've been on the "healthier" path for nearly a decade, and I felt like there were a lot of points I was able to take away from the book as well.  Suddenly, I'm looking at sugar grams on labels now.  And I'm standing at work more frequently.  These were things I certainly knew were smart before, but the book has inspired me to actually DO them.  I'm thinking more about vegetable variety.  I've been great about getting more than my share of veggies every day, but at the same time, every single day I think I eat beets, spinach, kale, peas and carrots.  This book reminded me that I'd benefit from subbing those out for different veggies, giving me different nutrients (and the magical things she calls phytonutrients), at least on occasion, even if those 5 veggies stay in pretty regular rotation.  Husband and I have been doing a "grateful list" of 3 things each before bed for some time, but I'm making a point to think about it more during the day now.  I feel like there are lots of aspects of the book that resonated with me.  As with most blogs I read and most healthy people I know, Megan advocates a healthy lifestyle over any type of "diet."  So the suggestions she makes have a goal of being simple and sustainable habits.  I would say it's a quick read, but at the same time, I'm certain I will continue to re-read parts of it. 

Highly recommended, so if you're interested, please check it out.  There's a kindle version available (I don't actually have a kindle, but I was able to read the kindle version on my computer), and of course a paperback version.  Plus, of course if you buy it, I expect that there's some good karma for supporting a good person who deserves success! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Small Things

Figured I'd share a few small things that really have made me happy in the last week.

First, as part of my new year "straightening out" phase, I accomplished a major thing:  a clear(ish) desk at work!

(Just ignore that massive stack in the upper right hand corner, which is my paper in-box.  For a "paperless" company, there are still a ton of paper records that I end up receiving, and unfortunately, all of those pages need to be reviewed and summarized...)

Previously, I had papers from about 5 matters spread across the top, and even though I rarely referred to them, they took up a lot of space and I wanted them accessible.  I went ahead and just stacked them up in alternating directions, and now my desk surface is totally clear except for that stack!  (Well, clear except for that stack and the in-box, details, details...). 

But my desk didn't stay clear long.  Happily!  One blog I read all the time, Running on Lentils, posts frequent running clothing reviews.  My running wardrobe is OLD.  I'm one of those "if it ain't broke" people (and generally as cheap as $hit unless it comes to travel money), and aside from making the move to tech fabrics in about 2006 when it became all the rage, I've basically just continued to wear a lot of the same stuff, with some additions over the years from Christmas gifts, race shirts, and the occasional purchase.  But I think some of Jenn's blog is rubbing off on me -- I sometimes read one of her reviews about how much she likes quality pieces and why, and I think, gee, I'd love to have a pocket for a key in my running capris!  So sometimes she convinces me to look at a Lulu item on sale and if it's in my size, it's on my desk before long. 

Of course, step 2 is that I should purge an old pair of running pants from my current collection to make room for these, but I'm actually low on pants, so I probably won't (plus the whole "hoarder" thing...).

My other big office thing... finally fixing my water bottle.  I've had this water bottle from The Lyons' Share that I use a lot of the time (the other bottle is a generic Aladdin one from Target that I use when I'm washing my regular one). 

Well, a while back, I dropped the lid when I was refilling it, and the cap to close it actually broke off, so I've been using it like this: 

The second picture shows it better, but that's basically nothing between water and my laptop and my work papers if I tip the bottle over.  After I broke the lid, there was no way to close it (but, not a wide opening, so less fatal that it could be I guess). 

Well, at boot camp last week, I finally told Megan that my cap was broken, and she replaced it! 

Isn't it lovely?!  Honestly, makes a big difference in my days though -- I can keep the bottle closer now since it's spill-safe, so I drink more!  And that nagging worry that I'd knock it over is gone (along with any nagging fear a co-worker thought my broken topped bottle was ghetto...). 

All three of those things have made me very happy.  Sometimes it's just the little things, right? 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Getting it done

I'm a big believer in the Christmas season, rather than treating it as just one day.  So for me, the Christmas season finally ended yesterday, when the 12 Days of Christmas were over. 

Tree is still up, but now unplugged, and will come down this weekend. 

And with the end of that season, and of course the start of the new year, I'm trying to do some clearing out and organizing.  In addition to a few little things, I've also been tackling some things that have been on my list for waaaaay too long.  Among other things:

1.  I attacked one messy case at work that has needed attention desperately for over two months.  It only took two dedicated days, but I felt so good when it was done.  Well, technically, I felt so good after the second day working on it -- it was totally done assuming the one remaining question I'd posed via email and VM was answered the way I expected it would be (otherwise, I was going to be back at square 1).  The next morning, I got the answer I expected and shipped that correspondence off my desk and onto my boss's desk!  That leaves only one "stale and urgent" priority project on my desk -- and as soon as that one is done (which is going to take more like 40 hours), my backlog will officially be less than 2 months! 

2.  I finally called the airline we flew to and from Europe this fall to try to sort out while the miles hadn't posted to our accounts yet.  I'd sent email requests, and responded to the airline's request for more information -- and I'd even resent copies of those boarding passes and ticket receipts 3 more times.  But the "should post within 30 days" window had closed repeatedly.  So frustrating!  So I actually called, dealt with all the touch menus, the talking menus, the holding, and got a person (goodness, I'm glad I have status and get to call the priority number, I can't even begin to imagine how much more painful it would have been otherwise!).  It took him about 20 minutes, but he was able to sort it all out, and by the time we go to sleep tonight, we should have the miles posted.  I was so pleased with myself for getting this done, and so pleased with the service rep I got for resolving it, that I went the extra "mile" (oh, I slay me!) and filled in all my info on the airline website to post a compliment about the customer service rep doing such a good job!

3.  I've made plans.  Registered for two races before New Orleans (just a local 10k and a local half), made dinner or "other" plans with friends for upcoming weekends, picked this weekend's recipes, made to do lists, etc.

4.  We've made more progress on our guest room.  We picked out the new dresser we want (planning to call to buy it today), made arrangements to borrow a friend's truck to pick it up this weekend, spent about 30 hours longer than anyone would guess trying to find a new desk chair that had to meet very particular size requirements (specifically, regarding the height of the chair base, which seems to be information never included in any product specs), and will hopefully have the whole room done in the next week or two (though we may have to get outside help to figure out how to connect the new TV...). 
5.  I'm finally back to running regularly and am now up to over 6 miles without any ankle pain.  And I am finally starting to see some progress in terms of paces.  The last couple weeks have been a struggle, falling behind my friends, heartrate that made me think I'd die before I finished, etc.  And while I'm still struggling and falling behind, I am able to hang for the warm-up, and today I even managed to do the two pace miles on the schedule!  Of course, my effort level was higher than it should have been for those miles, and as a result, my cool-down miles were crazy slow and exhausting, but it's progress, and I'll gladly take it! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

5 years later

Back in December 2010, one of the bloggers I've read the longest, Bella, got me into doing a series of prompts in December that were on such interesting topics. 

One of the prompts in December 2010 was to write a letter to yourself going into 2011 from the year 2015.  And I did it!  And now, 5 years later, I'm still blogging, and it's going to be 2016 soon.

Here's my original post (and here was Bella's), I thought it would be fun to see where things stand now.

The prompt was awkwardly phrased, telling you to imagine yourself 5 years from now (in Dec. 2010) and give advice to your current self for the year ahead.  I kind of blew that off, saying that I didn't really see any big changes in 2011 (other than knowing my 2 youngest brothers were getting married that year), and I was kind of hoping my life would be basically the same at the end of 2011 as it was at the end of 2010.  The biggest struggle for me at the end of 2010 was that I didn't really like my job, but the rest of my life was pretty much just as I wanted it. 

I chose to look at the question based on the main categories of how I define myself set out on my About Me page. 

Runner.  In late 2010 (almost 3 months after my first BQ), I figured that by late 2015, "I hopefully will have run Boston and requalified several times" and I'd have run several other marathons that were of interest, as well as a trail race and an ultra.  And I'd still run with the same crew, and hoped 2 friends who had left our crew would be back. 
Status:  Well, I've run Boston and I have requalified on more than one occasion, but I'm not presently qualified, and I'm a long way from it!  But running Boston and having the option to do so again was the real goal in 2010 looking toward 2015, and I've accomplished that.  As to the other aspects of my 2010 running goals/predictions for 2015, I've made some progress.  I have done a couple of the other marathons on my list, as well as a bunch of other marathons.  But I didn't really run a trail race or an ultra -- I did a marathon that was partially on trails (the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon) and in training for that, I did 27 miles of walking while wearing the extra 40 pounds I carried on my back for that marathon.  But neither of those are really what I envisioned 5 years ago as "doing a trail race" and "running an ultra."  But as predicted in 2010, I still run with the same group of people.  But sadly, my 2010 dream was that two of my favorite running buddies who both moved to Cali would move back to Dallas, and neither of them has (but I'm still in touch with both, just visited the So-Cal one (and his wife and son) this past summer!).  But I've met some new running friends over the last half decade and those have been great experiences too.

Wife.  In late 2010, I wanted 2015 to have us as a settled and secure married couple, who know each other well and think of each other first.  I knew that would be tough (not just because I'd been unmarried for the first 30+ years of life), but I wanted to always think before speaking, to make more of an effort to let the little things go and to have the word "squadra" (Italian theme for our goal marriage) at the forefront of my actions. 
Status:  Going stronger than ever!  Feel very secure and settled, but there are definitely times we each think of ourselves first, and less like a team.  But I'm better about not sweating the small stuff, and we work on being a "squadra." 

Vegetarian.  Five years ago, it was easy to predict that I'd still be a vegetarian. I also predicted that I'd have even gone vegan on many days.  In 2015, I wanted to be an adventurous cook, always trying new recipes and relying more frequently on homemade leftovers for lunch instead of frozen meals or restaurants. 
Status:  Definitely still a vegetarian.  More vegan days since November 1, 2015 than probably in the last 5 years combined, but still far from being a real vegan.  I'd say I'm a pretty adventurous cook, but I still don't cook enough.  I work a lot and we go to bed usually not too long after I get home from work, so almost all weeknights it's something in the microwave (usually something from the in-store prepared meals section from the grocery).  And it's leftovers for lunch maaaaybe once a month.  When I cook on the weekend, there are usually leftovers, but I use those for other dinners and still eat Amy's frozen meals for lunch most days (though now vegan meals more often). 

Dallas-dweller.  In 2010, I wasn't certain where we'd be living today.  I knew it was most likely the same place we lived in 2010, but there were thoughts of moving back near my parents or near my in-laws, or maybe even to near my husband's family in Italy.  In 2010, my husband had said he really didn't want to move until 2016 or ideally after 2020.  In 2010, my immediate hope was to make progress hammering down the mortgage in 2011.
Status:  Same, same!  Happily living in the same condo and no plans to move on the horizon.  Earlier this year, I had a strong bug to move to San Fran, and I'd still love to do that, but my husband still isn't ready to change jobs and it's not really on the radar anymore.  I did refinance the mortgage at least once, maybe even twice, and I'm working on paying it off ahead of schedule. 

Attorney.  In 2010, I expected that right now I'd still be a a practicing attorney and that I'd love my job.  In late 2010, I knew the 2015 plan was likely going to require change from where I was in 2010, either by making some changes to how my 2010 job worked, or changing jobs.  I also expected that in 2015 I'd be a zealous advocate for a pro bono cause dear to my heart, and doing what I can to help children who encounter worse circumstances in their living arrangement than most people can imagine or would ever want to consider. 
Status:  Success!  Crazily enough, I changed jobs within about 3 months of writing out these predictions in 2010 and I'm still at that job.  Up until a few weeks ago, I loved it more than I thought it was possible to love a job.  The last couple months have been exceptionally stressful and yielded an unmanageable caseload, but that is presently slowly resolving.  The last few weeks have also added some very stressful salary negotiations, but as of last week (a call with the president of the sub for which I work, after multiple conversations with my boss, and with the president of my division), it seems like the negotiations are going well and I'm optimistic it will get worked out within the next couple weeks.  If it doesn't that will leave me in an awkward spot -- I don't want to change jobs, but I also don't want to be paid less than I believe (and apparently my boss, the president of my division, and the president of our sub) I deserve, it's just a matter of working out when and how that will happen.  If they don't make it happen, I don't want to leave, but I might try to make myself look.  It would all just be so much easier if they could just give me what I ask for immediately, sigh! 

Traveler.  In 2010, I was hoping that in 2015 I'd still go overseas every year, and roughly every other one of those trips would include Italy.  I wanted to get better at speaking Italian and even learn some dialect.  I planned on speaking Italian at home more and going back to an Italian conversation group, but adding some actual studying outside of class.  I hoped that by 2015, I'd have "been to Egypt, India and/or China."  I wanted to manage my work schedule and finances as needed to allow for an overseas trip each year, knowing that big trips overseas tend to strengthen our marriage, my perspective, and my sanity. 
Status:  I'd say success!  We have gone overseas every year for the last five years (including trips to many places I've long dreamed of going), and there's nothing like planning a wedding in an isolated non-touristy part of Italy where you pretty much can't find a wedding planner to force your Italian language skills to improve!  Unfortunately, even though I was able to communicate pretty easily a couple months ago in Italy, I don't work on my Italian as much as I should.  I really would like to use it more at home (though prioritizing open and clear communication is certainly more important), I really should go back to conversation group (my husband still goes weekly), and I really should study on my own.  I'd say I've met my actual travel goal -- I've been to India AND China (and I would have gone to Egypt, but for that political stuff...).  And, to excuse my lack of Italian studying, in my defense, I've taken Chinese class for a pretty long time (though you wouldn't really know that to hear me speak).  Honestly though, "learning" is something I should put more effort into going forward.  Italian, Chinese, French or something new, I should just buckle down and spend at least an hour a week on it.  I usually like trying to unplug on the weekends, but it's turned into lazily watching TV lately instead of even just pulling out a language book and working on it.  Guess now's the perfect time to make some kind of resolution...

There was also a bonus question in December 2010, looking back at where I was 10 years earlier (December 2000) and thinking what advice I wished I'd had then.  In December 2000, I had just found out I passed the bar and was settling into my first few months of work.  The main thing lacking from my life then was work-life balance, and there were lots of dinners at work that were bad for my social life and my waistline.  But in December 2010, I recognized that I was quite content, and everything in December 2000 worked out just right to lead me to where I was in December 2010. 
I feel that same way now, looking back at December 2010.  It all worked out just right.  There were lots of changes between December 2000 and December 2010 (job change, starting running, dating, meeting and marrying my husband, etc.), but there have been very few changes between December 2010 and today (the primary one being my job), and I don't really expect much to change in the next 5 years.  I'm actually hoping very little will change -- I'd be very content to still be running the same mileage, still traveling, still at the same job and in the same condo with the same guy, going to visit the same relatives...

If I get motivated, maybe I should now try to look ahead to December 2020...  But that would be three posts within a week, and yow, that's just unsustainable these days!