CIM 2014 thoughts

Every single person who finishes a race has a story.

A few weeks ago, I saw thousands of stories at Ironman Arizona (another post is coming about one person in particular). Early yesterday morning, I had coffee with a friend who finished her first 5k. Then I went and worked at the California International Marathon finish line, where the 15-year-old women’s course record was broken by two minutes and the men’s winner shaved half a minute off his personal best time.

But the winners are just two people; I can promise that every one of the 9,000 runners who signed up for CIM had a reason they were trying to cross the finish line. I wish I could capture every single one of them — as well as the stories of those who cheered and waited outside on a December weekend morning. Even now, less than 24 hours after the race, I’m forgetting the stories of friends and strangers. But here are a few, in incomplete sentences, because that’s how the day felt as each person moved in and out of my life.

The man who finished in the 2:20s (that’s under six minutes per mile) and shouted for joy, followed by a man crying for “10 seconds, just 10!” The man who waited a minute for his friend to cross the finish line, held out his arms so his friend could jump into them, and then both collapsed because neither had enough blood in their heads to realize an exhausted runner could not catch another exhausted runner — but they laughed and were fine.

Nicole, the girl I know on Twitter and from her blog, who was seconds away from qualifying for the Boston Marathon when she collapsed mere yards from the finish line. I had seen her husband enter the finish area (he had run it so he gained entrance) and had a medal ready for her, but then she fell and could not get up. The crowds could see the clock, and they realized what it meant to run 26.2 miles and have only a few steps left. She kept fighting to get up, but she could not. Her husband ran back across the finish line, a race official followed, and they helped her across the line as a wheelchair arrived. She missed Boston by 27 seconds.

Michael Wardian, who ran the North Face 50-miler the previous day in crazy mud and hills, then ran CIM in 2:33. He crossed the finish line, greeted some race officials with a grin, then waited for a man who proceeded to break the master’s record. Then when the still-grinning Wardian finally reached us volunteers with the medals, he graciously put up with my “You’re awesome! I saw you break the treadmill half marathon in Pittsburgh!” babbling while I put a medal around his neck and got a sweaty high-five in return. (Only high-five of the day — it caught me off guard, actually.) I later saw on Twitter that he went hiking after the race.

My friend Tricia, who had never seen a race in her entire life but was working and had an all-access pass. She was a few steps away from the winners. She saw all the people in the medical tent. She was amazed and speechless.

One of the pacers who just finished Ironman Cozumel the previous weekend, third in her age group, and still ran a perfect race at CIM.

Jana, my friend who’s had so many ups and downs but finished the race just after a brief stop to hug her 1-year-old miracle of a baby.

Alisa, the friend of a friend who’s now my friend, because of the marvels of social media. She beat her time by more than an hour.

Chris, who set a new personal best five weeks ago, but then did it again yesterday by another five minutes — and qualifyied for Boston.

Leslie and Janet, who run race after race, as “Team Ish,” even when one of them isn’t there.

The man who had a massive banner made reading, “Crystal, will you marry me?” and attached it to PVC pipe so it towered over his head. He coordinated ahead of time with race officials and was allowed into the finish area when his girlfriend’s last update said she had crossed the 20-mile mark. He waited for her with what I can only describe as adorable hope and excitement as other finishers passed by him. One woman said, “Good luck!” Finally, his girlfriend appeared in the finish chute. She crossed the finish line — and didn’t see her boyfriend or his massive sign. Friends stopped her, she turned and shouted, “OH!” And we all laughed so hard at her complete shock. Her boyfriend got down on one knee, and she most definitely said yes.

The girl who did a cartwheel at the finish line.

The woman who collapsed but crawled across the finish line.

The ones who were so excited about qualifying for Boston. And the devastated ones who just missed it. (The thing is, I know they’ll try again. And again. Until they make it. And the victory will be that much sweeter.)

The blind runners who placed their trust in guides to lead them over the 26.2-mile course. The girl with a prosthetic leg who finished before thousands of other two-legged runners, as well as millions of other people who have never tried to run at all.

The fellow volunteer who just did her first Ironman in Arizona, so maybe we saw each other and didn’t know it. CIM was her first marathon in the 1990s. Twenty years older, her Ironman marathon time was faster than her stand-alone marathon time. She raised $15,000 for lymphoma research last year in honor of a family member, and she finds out this month if she gets a charity slot to the Ironman Kona World Championship. To get there, she’d have to raise $75,000 — “Oh, I can do that. It means that much to me,” she said.

And my friend Norman, who’s checked in on me countless times in recent months to make sure I’m OK. He’s also proven to be pretty consistent at thinking he’s going to run slower than he actually does. “I’m not trained; I had the race entry, so I might as well use it,” he kept saying. A PR (personal record) was not in his plan, so he was thinking sub-2:50. But stranger things have happened to all of us… At mile 20, I got his last alert, did the quick math, and said to my volunteer friend, “Um, yeah, he’s on PR pace.” At that point, I calculated around a 2:42 pace. But the big question: Would he slow down like he did in a marathon earlier this year (even though he won the race outright)? No, he did not — he sped up. He appeared as the clock hit 2:40, and my fellow volunteers moved over a bit as I started hollering. Yeah, that “not a PR” became a five-minute PR, qualifying him for the All-Army Marathon Team in the process. Sometimes amazing things happen when you just run.

There are so many more stories. I’ll want to come back and include them — and I may. But for now, I will just click the “Publish” button, because I wanted to write this while the images were fresh in my mind. I wanted to capture the bits of memories and emotions and feelings. I want to run.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Amazing quartet

Today’s time-waster is this fun video. If you can’t use the volume (after all, these posts are always at 11:11 a.m. PST, when we’re all at work), you’ll still get the idea. I suggest that you come back and watch it with volume, though.

This quartet, called Salut Salon, is based in Germany (Hamburg, to be exact, which stood out to me because I know someone who lives there). But they tour the world and have been to the U.S., so now they’ve been added to my never-ending unwritten bucket list.

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2014 goal check-in: October

October was uneventful and unsuccessful. I already know I’m only going to meet a couple of my goals for the year, so maybe I’m just already moving on to new things? I am actually cooking up something different for next year, and it will have its own section on this little website. That’s a few months away, though, so I hope to successfully update some things behind the scenes first. But here’s one part: I’m going to change the 4-year-old header up there. Okay, enough rambling about vague things; time to move on to the month’s goal progress.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. I’ve climbed back onto on yet ANOTHER IT band rehab wagon. And when my deductible resets in January, I’m going to try a different medical professional. There was, however, a fun hike with some girlfriends including Kristen and her baby girl:

Ramage Park (though one sign spelled it "Rampage," which sounds like a fun place to trail run)

4: Do a century bike ride: Nope. I had a confidence-killer of a ride. And I had some medication issues that made me fatigued. So the ride didn’t happen.

I did ride to the top of a hill.

5: Bike at least 700 1,500 miles (increased the goal since I met it in July): I only biked 99.72 miles in October. The year’s total: 1,792.04 miles.

"I'm scared to touch this bike that isn't mine and which retails for close to $10,000."

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Oh wow, I went to the gym once in October?! That means I’ve only gone 68 times all year. Oooops.

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham, which actually got back to the “good” Grisham genre (unlike “The Litigators” and some of his recent books). It helped that this book returned to the “A Time to Kill” setting, and focused again on small town lawyer Jake Brigance. It was fun to read a sequel, and this also meant that the characters were more developed than Grisham’s recent ones.

9. Cook dinner more often: There were a few more meals in here. I don’t think “throw random stuff into an omelette” counts, but hey, at least I cooked that stuff occasionally. Here are a few times that I remembered to take pictures:

Enchilada pasta stuff


Beer bread

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I did this most of the time. Hooray for medication fatigue? Well, except that I still couldn’t wake up early enough the next morning to go to the gym… (November spoiler alert: That situation has gotten better.)

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Nope. I blame the trick-or-treaters who didn’t come to my door so I’ve had to eat all the Halloween candy I bought for them. Where did the kids go?!

12. Blog an average of twice a week: No. But that’s OK.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: No, and I’m not going to bother linking to the “a one-bedroom apartment costs $3,000 in San Francisco” articles I had considered.

That’s it, but now let’s have an unrelated random photo: the backpack this guy wore to a San Francisco Giants playoff game. (Did I mention that the Giants won the World Series?! YES THEY DID!! Hooray SPORTS!)

Turtle power?!

Oh, and one more…

The Bay Bridge

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Tuesday Time-Waster: MadBum and the Giants

Baseball playoffs have been in full swing (see what I did there?), and the San Francisco Giants are one win away from winning the World Series! To say that tonight’s game will be exciting is a bit of an understatement.

Today’s fun thing is this piece in the New Yorker about star pitcher Madison Bumgarner and his Giants. Bumgarner earned two World Series rings by the age of 23 and now, at age 25, he’s trying for his third. He’s pitched amazingly well this post-season, and on Sunday night he shut out the Kansas City Royals.

But here’s the interesting footnote: That link is not a glowing story from a San Francisco writer who’s reveling in his local team’s third World Series appearance in five years. No, it’s written by a guy who’s been contributing to the New Yorker since 1944 — as in, 70 years! The Giants won the World Series in 1954, when they were in New York. This writer, Roger Angell, had already been contributing to the magazine for 10 years at that point. And then another 56 years went by until the Giants won the World Series again, in 2010. Angell has seen it all. And he loves it. That says a lot.

And, since I was able to go to my first-ever playoff games this season, here are a few photos from post-season at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Beautiful pre-game ceremony

Play ball!


Winning is fun

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Untrained and unsure

Last weekend, I set out on a bike ride. The weather at that point was lovely, and I even wore arm warmers in the crisp early fall air. I felt good, I took in the various scenery, and the miles rolled by. I had planned out an 85-mile route, which would beat my previous longest distance of 75 miles. I had planned to ride a couple new-to-me roads, see new things, and complete the final ride before I attempted a century (100 mile) ride.

I even started writing a blog post in my head. It would have gone something like this: “I haven’t mentioned it a lot, but in two weeks I will attempt to do a century ride. I don’t have a road bike and I’m nervous about riding with a lot of people, but today I rode 86 miles. I crawled up big hills and careened back down them. I passed windmills and cows and uptight drivers. I burnt a bunch of calories, tried not to get sunburnt, and barely conquered my stairs when I got home.”

That blog post vanished at mile 41, when I reached the top of a hill (which wasn’t even the beginning of a five-mile climb). I managed to unclip, stop, plant both feet on the ground and get my head down before everything went completely dark. I knew what was happening, because I’d had it happen to me in races a couple years ago: my heart rate got so high that the blood just didn’t get to my head anymore. It happens when I push harder than I’m trained, and dehydration is a contributing factor (something I battle a lot).

According to my text message timestamps, I spent 19 minutes on the side of the road. My mental repetitions of “don’t pass out, don’t pass out” worked, as did hanging upside down while holding onto my bike for dear life. From my upside-down viewpoint, I could see down the hill when other cyclists were approaching, so I was able to lift my head up in time and say, “Yep!” when they asked if I was okay (as cyclists always ask any rider who is stopped).

But my 86-mile day was done. At that point, I was 26 miles from home and the day was warming up quickly. I consulted my phone for the shortest way home, and then had to keep stopping every few miles because my brain couldn’t remember anything. At one point, a guy asked me for directions to the train station, and I realized later that my wrong directions mean he is probably still lost…

Anyway, I made it home, crawled up the stairs in what was by then 91-degree weather, and collapsed inside my front door. I peeled off clothes right there on the tile floor, not caring about the sweat like I normally do. I was defeated.

Today, the last weekend before that century ride, was another “blah” ride. I’ve had a week to sit myself down and clean up my diet, but I have not. I’d had a week to do a bunch of solid cardio workouts, but I did, um, one. While I do suspect a different medical issue is affecting me a little, it’s not enough to be a valid excuse. Simply put, I’ve failed to train properly.

So now I sit here on my couch on a Sunday evening while the San Francisco Giants give everything they have in the National League Championship Series. I’m struggling with whether I should attempt the century ride, because I do not have the strength to deal with yet another failure right now. Exactly one year ago today, my IT band gave out. Since then, my life has been a string of one failure after another, one bad decision after another. I trusted my leg, I trusted people, and I trusted my gut — and they all rejected me fully and completely.  I still want to do the century ride, but I know that’s probably my gut talking, which also means that I should probably make the opposite decision.

I went back and read this post full of good advice about facing the fear of failure. One line jumped out at me: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” That makes me want to do the century ride, and I know I will probably attempt it next weekend. But I can’t stop thinking: “If I hadn’t run those races on my injured leg, maybe I could run now. If I hadn’t followed what I mistakenly thought was happiness, maybe I wouldn’t feel so unhappy now.” So I wonder: Should I NOT do this century ride, so I don’t risk failure? I don’t know, but I guess I’ll have an answer by Saturday morning.

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2014 goal check-in: September

September came and went, but it was 97 degrees yesterday. In October. San Francisco, where homes don’t have air conditioning, was 90 — and people there wear tank tops when it reaches 65 degrees… Anyway, here’s how September shaped up in the year’s goals department.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. My IT band was behaving. And then it was not. I did log 31.91 miles on foot in September.

4: Do a century bike ride: I’m registered for one. More on that later.

6. Bike at least 700 1,500 miles (increased the goal since I met it in July): I rode 488.09 miles in September, which beat my previous monthly record (384) by 104 miles! Wow! That puts me at 1,692.32 miles of cycling for the year, so that goal is definitely met.

The best ride of the month was when I took a day off work and hung out in Sacramento with Michaela, who was in town to visit her family. We rode 50 miles (flattest route I’ve ridden in four years), and it was so nice to have company. It was an out-and-back route so there was no way to get lost, right? Wrong! After all, this is Layla we are talking about. Mile 47 found us in a sketchy part of the city that Michaela summed up best as the “crack parade.” We survived, of course. Good times.

Good view on a Friday

We are great at selfies.

Near the end of the month, I rode 75 miles, which was another big milestone.  I ate this afterward, because I am that awesome.

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went to the gym 12 times in September, which puts me at 67 trips to go for the year. Yeah, that won’t happen in the next three months.

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “The Lazarus Project” by Aleksandar Hemon, and it was just “OK.” It’s been sitting on my bookshelves for awhile; I found it on sale somewhere around the time the movie came out, so I figured I would read it first. Well, it turns out that the movie has nothing to do with the book — and I never did see the movie. The book had a cool plot idea, about an immigrant in the early 1900s who is shot by the Chicago police chief, and decades later a writer sets out to find out what really happened. I slogged through it and at the end thought, “Um, nothing happened.”

9. Cook dinner more often: I tried a recipe that involved a cheese sauce and avocado, so it should be amazing, right? Well, I can’t for the life of me make a cheese sauce and had to throw out the entire gloppy mess. That was extremely frustrating and demoralizing. At the end of the month, though, I decided to try “real” stir fry with a sauce, rather than my years-old method of just just cooking everything and adding soy sauce at the end. I used corn starch, and it actually dissolved and thickened (though the beef was slightly overcooked, though that has nothing to do with the sauce)!! So, why can’t I just use corn starch in cheese sauce, since I can never get it to work with flour? I assume there is a reason, and I don’t feel like wasting more cheese and TWO avocados on such an experiment.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I did this most of the time, but I’ve had some sleep issues lately. I toss and turn, get up and walk around, get back in bed, and then I can’t get up the next morning. And then I don’t go to the gym before work, which I like doing. Argh, bad cycle.

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I’m still down overall, but not to where I need to be. More argh.

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope!

13. Find a cheaper place to live: Nope! Honestly, I don’t see this one happening. Here’s a fun/sad article about San Francisco rent compared to elsewhere, told in terms of food.

And, just for fun, here’s a photo taken in the Oakland hills. Not surprisingly, Berkeley is nearby.

Volvo overshadowing a Smart Car

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Tuesday Time-Waster: What not to say to people battling depression

This doesn’t fit the “time-waster” category, since you never know if it could save someone. Rather, it’s something more than worth a few minutes of your time on a Tuesday morning.

After Robin Williams died, suicide was all the talk on the news and in social media. As always happens, the talk has faded while the fact remains — the depression battle continues for many thousands of people. For those of us fortunate enough to not battle depression, it’s sometimes hard to know what to say or do. How, we ask, can we help if we don’t truly understand what it’s like? We don’t know how to avoid sounding like a hypocrite, so we often just say nothing. But we all know people who battle depression, so we should at least try to help, or let them know that we don’t think any less of them because they have this battle.

With that said, this article was posted by a friend of mine who DOES battle depression. I figured that if she agreed with it, that would be a good place to start. Here’s what you shouldn’t say — and alternatives that will make you understand a bit more. It’s a lot to take in, so I’ve read it a couple times in the past month. I think it’s the least we can do for our friends and loved ones.

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2014 goal check-in: August

It’s September?! How did that happen?? Well, September 1 was 95 degrees, so the summer certainly isn’t gone. Okay, let’s move along to a progress report on the year’s goals.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. Someday, my IT band will behave.

4: Do a century bike ride: I went on some ridiculous rides in August, so this goal might be doable. First there was the 42-miler that had more than 2,500 feet of climbing, much to my surprise — I had NO idea that was going to happen! One week later, I rode 56 miles. And one week after that, I rode 62 miles to meet the 100k milestone — that was a big confidence boost toward the “ride 100 miles” goal. I finished off August with a 57-mile ride that had 3,280 feet of climbing, which is about the same elevation gain as the century ride I’m considering. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.

On the technical side, the opinion of most people is that I should not attempt a century ride on my hybrid bike, though random cyclists actually compliment me on my hill-climbing “on that bike” EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m out riding. (Determination is a funny thing, I guess.) However, there’s the cost factor. I’ve test-ridden some road bikes and determined that, because my current bike is quite good, there is no point in buying anything less than a carbon bike. They’re expensive, and of course my small hands require better/more expensive shifters. (Shimano Tiagras sent me zipping back to the bike store, cutting the test ride short because they actually hurt — of course the more expensive Shimano Ultegras were just fine…) So, I’m kind of inclined to just keep riding my hybrid, though of course now it needs $100 of maintenance within the next month. Sigh.

In addition to griping about the price of bikes, I wear 3-year-old $17 non-cycling sunglasses from Target.

6. Bike at least 700 miles: Last month I met and thus increased this goal to 1,500 miles. I rode 384.05 miles in August, which is definitely a new record for me! That puts me at 1,204.23 miles for the year.

I've been riding these brown, aka "golden," hills of California. (Great riding, actually. Few cars or stoplights.)

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went 15 times in August, which would put me way over my goal if I did that every month. Alas, I did not. I need 79 more gym trips to meet the goal, and that won’t happen, especially with trying to get outside miles on the bike. But at least I’m trending the right direction!

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” which was a fun book with a creative plot. It’s about a guy in San Francisco (which helped me picture the setting) who gets a job at a very strange bookstore, and he sets out to find out why it’s full of strange books that are only borrowed by strange people. Bonus fun thing: The blurb on the inside back jacket says the author “splits his time between San Francisco and the internet.” I would love to describe myself that way on a book jacket!

9. Cook dinner more often: I mostly failed at this one.

Stir-fry with instant quinoa.

But can I show you a couple other food pictures instead? Michaela, Himanshu and I had the full tasting paired with beer meal, and the next day we had original Irish coffees. If you want to find food, Michaela is your girl.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this most nights. I also managed to get to the gym before 5 a.m. sometimes. Note: The weight machine crowds at 5 a.m. are non-existent; the 5 p.m. crowds are definitely alive and well.

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I gained back one of the pounds I lost in July, which really isn’t much at all, percentage-wise. But that took me a pound in the opposite direction of goal weight (she says while eating pretzel M&Ms…)

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope. But I’ve already decided I’m fine with missing this goal.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: No progress at all. I’m still completely lost. Just for oh-so-much-cheer, here’s an August article about the median cost of homes in the Bay Area. I didn’t renew my Pandora subscription, thus saving $36 for the year, so now I hear occasional ads. They recently had one for homes in my area “starting in the low $800′s!” and I just laughed and thought, “If I won’t pay $36 to get rid of ads for a year, what makes you think I have $800,000 for a home?!”

I guess the trick is to just keep looking for the rays of light.

No Instagram filters needed for this sunrise.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Weird state traditions

Did you know that there’s an upside-down White House in Wisconsin?

Or that Iowa has a hobo convention?

And that, somehow, Kentucky has more barrels of bourbon than people?!

These state oddities, and others, are all in this fun article. Happy Tuesday!

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Tuesday Time-Waster: A hermit’s 27-year tale

Today’s “time-waster” will actually take some time if you read the whole article. But it’s a really fascinating account of a man who lived alone in New England woods for 27 years. The “hermit,” spent his time reading, stealing food and propane from homes when the residents were gone and listening to music (he didn’t like Bach, which got him a point in my book because I never liked playing Bach on the piano — too boring for me, or “pristine,” as the hermit said). The story came about because of a writer who decided to contact the man in jail, and did so via handwritten mail; on that level, the story is fascinating from the writer’s view, too.

While the story is intriguing, it’s also sad to know that this man lived from age 20 to age 47 without anybody to care for him or without having anybody to care for. I’ve been realizing lately that most of us are better, kinder, nicer people if we have other people to care for and let other people care for us. Like this hermit, I’ve lost some perspective of the world because I’m so independent and distrusting. It’s definitely something for all of us to think about.

(Hat tip for this article goes to my friend Sam.)

Oh, and a postscript of sorts about the hermit’s punishment for committing more than 1,000 burglaries over the years: The man is out of jail but must check in weekly with a judge.

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