• Category Archives Goals
  • 2016 in books

    To my pleasant surprise, I finished 36 books in 2016. (The number nerd in me liked this, and promptly decided 2017 should have 37 books, but we shall see.) Goodreads tracks this info via a website and a phone app, and while I’m not thrilled with countless time-sucking semi-social sites, I think the site has encouraged me to read more and to stay a bit more organized. The payoff: their year-end “My Year in Books” summary.

    Look, geeky numbers!
    Look, geeky numbers!

     

    Full disclosure: The site doesn’t differentiate between physical, electronic and audio books — and I plowed through a number of audio books in 2016. Am I cheating by including audio books? I’m not sure, but my conscience rests easily if I say I “finished” the books, rather than saying I “read” them. Regardless, I did consume the entirety of each book (including the lengthy end notes in a couple of them).

    Of these 36 books, I only gave a full five-star rating to three. Coincidentally, they were either set in the Pacific Northwest or about WWII, which really isn’t much of a surprise.

    1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, a well-researched account of poor, hard-working young men from the Pacific Northwest who set out to beat the Ivy League crew teams and then take on the Nazis. I have a life-long fascination with WWII, I didn’t know much about the 1936 Olympics, and I could picture the area.
    2. Burying Water, by K.A. Tucker, about a woman who was left for dead but survived — with no memory of what happened to her. It wasn’t quite the typical “girl suffers amnesia, falls in love, lives happily ever after” type of plot. The characters pulled me in, and I just wanted the story to keep going.
    3. The Lost Wife, by Alyson Richman, a story of a young couple who are separated by WWII. The novel switches between his and her perspective, present and past, and somehow it works without confusion.
    I'm not sure if 3.6 stars is a good or a bad average.
    I’m not sure if 3.6 stars is a good or a bad average.

     

    In no particular order, the four-star books:

    1. The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney. Two separate crimes and two separate characters are woven together. I really wanted the story to keep going!
    2. Happiness For Beginners, by Katherine Center. A light-hearted, funny tale of a newly single woman who has no business signing up for a rugged wilderness survival course.
    3. Black-Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin. A suspense story of the sole survivor of a serial killer, successfully told in both present day and 20 years earlier.
    4. The Spy’s Son, by Bryan Denson. Subtitle: “The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia.” I came close to giving this one five stars.
    5. The Lake House, by Kate Morton. A tale about a missing person. This was a toss-up between three and four stars, but I liked the writing.
    6. An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor. Cute little tale set in the Irish countryside: I was biased because I’ve been there and could picture it, and this was an audio book with a fantastic accent.
    7. One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes. Good blend of humor, non-cheesy romance and funny characters. Bonus: They’re on a road trip.
    8. Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson. One of my favorite non-fiction authors, Larson brought a 1900 hurricane to life. This was closer to five stars.
    9. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. A young woman takes a job caring for a grumpy man in a wheelchair. Her character is hilarious.
    10. After You, by Jojo Moyes. Sequel to the above, I continue to like the character.  (It helps that she is delightfully British.)
    11. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve read this book at least once before, but it’s been about 20 years. This was the folding pages version; I am a bad blogger who hasn’t taken a photo of it, but you can buy it here.
    12. The Diplomat’s Wife, by Pam Jenoff. A WWII story of love and heartbreak, with a plot turn that is a little too far-fetched but made it a good airplane read.
    13. I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. The story of the remarkable teenager who stood up to the Taliban — subtitle: “The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”
    14. The Short Drop, by Matthew FitzSimmons. Another mystery of a long-missing person. Strangely, I read this in July and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I barely remember it.
    15. Anonymous Sources, by Mary Louise Kelly. When a former NPR reporter writes a crime novel about a reporter, of course I will read it.
    16. Split Second, by David Baldacci. Two former Secret Service agents team up on a crime case. This is my guilty pleasure reading at its finest.

    Moving along to the three-star books:

    1. Hell’s Guest, by Glenn Frazier. First-hand account from a survivor of the Bataan Death March in WWII, which I finished just before running the marathon that honors the victims. I wanted to love this, but the writing was mediocre and it was a little too preachy. The passion was genuine, though.
    2. Killing Floor, by Lee Child. Bad writing made tolerable by the audio book factor and the “fun action story with a cool main star so you can suspend all deep thought and just enjoy the ride” notion.
    3. Seabiscuit, by Lauren Hillenbrand. A well-written, well-researched book about the legendary race horse, which took me a very long time to read because I’m just really not a horse person. (I loved her book “Unbroken,” though.)
    4. The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes. More Jojo Moyes fiction, this time set in WWII. This was more of a 2.5-star book.
    5. Hour Game, by David Baldacci. The second book in the “King & Maxwell” series about the former Secret Service members turned private investigators.
    6. Simple Genius, by David Baldacci. The third book in the series. This one’s plot was kind of ridiculous, but I just really get a kick out of the two main characters.
    7. First Family, by David Baldacci. Fourth book in the series. I often run without music, but when it’s a three-hour run that will get tough, this kind of audio escape is the best.
    8. The Sixth Man, by David Baldacci. Book number five. More guilty pleasure fun.
    9. King and Maxwell, by David Baldacci. The sixth, and apparently last, book in the series. Wait, that’s it? No more PI capers?
    10. The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly. Crime novels by a former LA Times crime reporter: Books I will explore. Harry Bosch, the gritty detective, is my kind of character.
    11. Black Ice, by Michael Connelly. This one took Detective Bosch into Mexico. I was a bit generous with my stars.
    12. The Concrete Blonde, by Michael Connelly.I started plowing through these Harry Bosch books because I discovered the Amazon TV series that’s taken from the books. The show is fantastic, but I wanted to read the books before seeing the episodes.
    13. The Last Coyote, by Michael Connelly. This one explores more of Bosch’s history.
    14. Trunk Music, by Michael Connelly. I polished off the second season of Amazon’s show, which ended with this book. I have a feeling I’ll binge both when the third season comes out this year.

    And then we have the two-star books. Like the five-star ones, I only gave this lower honor to three titles:

    1. The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand. I’ve read a couple of her books in the past and remember liking them, but this one was just too fluffy with zero substance.
    2. The Heist, by Janet Evanovich. Her books can be fast-read fun romps, but this one was ridiculous to the point of being absurd.
    3. The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth van Arnim. I really wanted to like this one because it was recommended as an antidote to a book that was miserable. But it was just so slow and seemed to have no point. A guy on an airplane was impressed that I was reading it, so maybe I am just not sophisticated enough for fine literature.

    And that last book leads to the one book I abandoned this year. I didn’t give one one star to any books, and I’m really not one to abandon books because it bothers me to leave pages unread, but I finally decided that I simply could not waste my brain cells on a book I hated. The book that gets this rare honor: Alibi, by Joseph Kanon. Another novel set in WWII, this one brings up moral questions that could be good things to think about but instead made me not want to read at all. I’ll be donating this book, which is also rare for me, though I just got the idea to leave it in my unused fireplace for the next tenant who moves in.

    And that’s a wrap for 2016 in books. What else should I read, aside from/in addition to the books on this never-ending list?

     

    2016books3
    Other things? Hmm, definitely not crocheting or cooking or quadratic equations.

  • 28,000 days

    This 4-inch circle of stiff paper has been floating around my work desk since mid-August, when I picked it up for free at a clothing store in Vancouver, British Columbia:

    28000days

    “Life is short; live it” has been a mantra of mine for years now. It’s a phrase that wormed its way into my head after seeing someone nearly be murdered in 2009 and then witnessing a double-fatality car wreck three months later. I’ve also phrased it “life should be lived, and dreams should come true” when thinking about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing victims. And a friend who died of cancer in 2012 inspired me to write that “life needs to be lived, and that it’s worth fighting for as long as possible.”

    To say that the past year has been hard is an understatement. My immediate family has been dealt the cards of injury, death, ongoing sorrow and stage 4 cancer. Through it all, my first instinct has been to LIVE. Each new blow has made me more determined than the last: If this is how life will be, I need to make the most of it NOW rather than wait until the unknown future. I need to chase dreams and sign up for races and see friends and visit new places NOW.

    In response to the above 28,000 days thought, my friend Desiree pointed me to this video. I’m not always a video person (reading is faster!) but this was an instance where the visual representation really shines through:


  • Biking, take two

    Last fall, I was planning to attempt a century (100-mile) bike ride. It was a way of distracting myself from all the unhappiness in my life: I’d been unable to run pain-free for a year, I’d had my heart broken, I’d failed at multiple things, and I was just generally feeling that life was a bummer. Two weeks before that planned century ride, I wrote here about a demoralizing “last long ride” and how much doubt I had. I got a lot of encouraging responses (many of them on Facebook, unfortunately, so they’re not preserved on that post).

    Well, I never wrote a follow-up post, but I didn’t do the century ride. I couldn’t face the idea of failing yet another thing. I know that sounds so negative, and it is, but when the day of the ride came and I wasn’t out there, I felt fine with my decision. Yes, I probably would have finished the ride through sheer determination. But if I hadn’t been able to finish, nobody would have been there to pick me up off the ground and tell me it was OK. I’ve only ever dropped out of one running race, which was the right decision but I hated it so much and was so very upset at myself. Fortunately, I had my friend Katie there to pick me up off the ground. This time, I didn’t know anybody at the century ride, and it wasn’t near where any friends live.

    So, yeah, I didn’t do the ride. But wait! This is not actually a negative blog post! Since I have a million photos, here are a few to hint at what’s to come (if you don’t already know, which you probably already do, since my readership is not exactly vast).

    Let's make some tweaks.
    Skinny road tires.
    Many hills await...

    You see, I did keep bicycling — certainly less than when I was trying to cram for a century ride on a hybrid bike, but I didn’t stop riding. Somewhere along the way, I’d discovered that I could eventually reach that mind-calming feeling I get when I run. Granted, it takes 30 miles on wheels instead of a few miles on foot, but it’s such a relief when I do reach that point.

    Last fall, I’d also been road bike shopping but hadn’t found a bike in my price range that made me want to hand over my precious dollars. Meanwhile, do you have any idea how much there is to learn about bikes?! I knew more than the average bike newbie because I am surrounded by triathletes, and because I have ridden for fun since childhood, but I didn’t know how to shift gears on road handlebars. (I’m still not entirely sure that a “cassette” is anything more than the device by which I used to listen to Amy Grant. Oh wait, the device in this example would be the Sony Walkman, so the cassette would be, hmmm, yeah, I’ll stop there.) I remember being intimidated by running stores when I first took up running, but let me tell you, they are NOTHING compared to bike shops. Also, the shoes are funnier looking.

    I won’t go into detail about all the shops I went to between September and December, or all the web articles I read more than once because they didn’t make sense until I started test riding bikes. Craig’s List and I became close pals, as I checked several times a week for bikes in my size. (If you’re bike shopping, factor in the cost of a tune-up and maybe having to replace tires, etc.) I reached a point where I was tired of shopping, and I concluded that I wouldn’t get everything I wanted in a bike. I wanted good components but I also wanted carbon, and the ideal combo was out of my price range.

    Then the new year arrived. I did my taxes and saw that I’d be getting money back, and learned that I’d get a bonus, and I had gotten some money for Christmas and my birthday. I was thinking about the things I wanted out of the year, and bigger bicycle adventures were still on my wish list. So I went back to the bike stores and the internet research, looking a bit beyond my price range. If a few additional hundred dollars could make the difference, I knew it would be the smart choice. Like a car, once you buy a bike, you won’t be able to resell it for the same price, so it’s best to get something you’ll be happy with for a while. I went back to one bike shop and began thinking seriously about a bike in the higher price range, even though it wasn’t a women’s bike so the reach was kind of long. And then, while pondering, I went to another shop.

    At that shop, I found The Bike.

    The funny and possibly absurd thing is that I’m pretty sure I test rode that same bike last summer, in my second outing to a bike store. I vaguely remember them putting me on a couple bikes to test and then, “just to see the difference,” they put me on this full carbon bike with mostly Ultegra components. The ride was so smooth, and the shifting was so much better, and the angle of the hoods (the handlebar-things) fit my hands so much better. And it was out of my price range. So, if my memory is correct and it’s the same bike, those sneaky salespeople and this very bike are responsible for making me find fault with every other bike I tested for the next umpteen months.

    Before the new helmet, new cages and new saddlebag. And when everything was still green.

    Maybe because it’s not fully Ultegra components (brakes are Shimano 105, which is actually what I had decided to settle on for the whole bike), the bike dropped in price from last summer. It’s also a 2013 model, so by January 2015, the shop owners really needed to get that bike off the sales floor. The price drop plus my increased price range combined to make it within range. They dropped the price a bit more, I got them to put new handlebar tape on it, and we had a deal.

    On February 20, my new bike came home. It was my most expensive purchase since I bought my car nearly 11 years ago, but I’m very glad I waited until I could increase my budget a little bit to get (almost) everything I wanted. I’ve since put almost 400 miles on the bike, I’ve gotten matching bottle cages, I bought a very-overdue new (yes, matching) helmet, and I finally bought new sunglasses that have lighter lenses (my $17 4-year-old ones were fine in bright sunlight, but they were downright risky in lower light because I couldn’t see — hooray for REI dividends and coupons).

    I’ve also had my first-ever flat tire, despite putting 2,100 miles on my other bike’s original tires and tubes. I was by myself, at mile 48, five miles from home in a bad cell phone area where I couldn’t google “how to change a bike tube.” Remarkably, a failed tire-changing lesson from three years ago apparently sank into my subconsciousness, and I successfully changed my own tube without help. That was quite empowering, I must say.

    Cruising around my old college campus on a visit. That building is where I spent most of my waking (and sleeping) hours. Ah, journalism life.
    Sadly, I never biked when I was at school there.

    This last weekend, six months after the ride I talked about at the beginning of this long-winded blog post, I rode 76.5 miles. Once again, I was gearing up for an attempt at a century ride. The ride got long, the weather got hot, and at one point I felt pretty low. But I was able to rally, and I finished the ride with a feeling of “I did that!” rather than “I don’t know if I can do it.”

    The century ride is in 10 days and is harder than the one I’d planned to do last October. But I’ll have friends there. I’ll have a bike that weighs 17ish pounds instead of 28 pounds (though I have not lost the weight I was supposed to lose, so that kind of negates it). Since January 1, I’ve cycled 944 miles and I’ll cross the 1,000-mile point before the century ride. It’s not much compared to all the triathletes I know and I won’t be setting any speed records, but it’s more than I’ve ever done.

    Plus, I want to go out and face scary things, which is a much different mental place than I was in last fall. That is probably the biggest difference, bike included.

    The next time I mention my bike here, I hope it’s because we rode 100 miles in one day.


  • Three dozen things

    In early fall 2014, I was looking at my “goals” for the year and lamenting the fact that I would fail to meet most of them. I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I put some attainable/bucket list things on the list, like seeing more sites near where I live or taking an adult swimming lesson?” Something made me think of my friend Jen, who had done a bunch of “30 before 30″ things leading up to her 30th birthday. She got a tattoo, pierced her nose, etc — things that were attainable. My 2014 goal list had included things like “run 1,500 miles,” which I couldn’t do because I was injured.

    So I opened the notes app on my phone and typed, “See Alcatraz at night.” Then: “Invest in the stock market.” And the third one was: “Take a swimming lesson.” They’re things I can actually do, and things I want to do (well, I dread the swimming one a bit, but it would be good for me). Then I got the idea to start this adventure in February, and I named the note “Three Dozen Things.”

    Over the next few months, I kept adding to the list. I deleted and edited lines — “make kale chips” became “try three dozen new recipes,” which I later limited to “dinner recipes.” As weeks and months rolled by, my list lingered around 20 items and I began to think I was being too ambitious and should just scrap the whole thing. Then I came across a pre-Christmas sale that just so happened to be part of an item on my list: “Subscribe to Outside magazine and read every issue for a year.” The first issue would arrive right around the time my list would officially start. One minute and $10 later, I had committed to it.

    And so, for the first time since I unlinked and revamped most of my website more than four years ago, I made a change. The new section, 36 Things, is right there in plain sight for all to see. Every line is waiting to see if I can accomplish it.

    Because it’s always fun to look back and see how ridiculous I was, here are a few predictions as of February 2015. I suspect the hardest item on the list will be “Kick my snooze button habit.” I think “Try three dozen new dinner recipes” will make me curse when I realize an egg scramble and stir fry don’t count (since they’re not new), and “Cook a turkey” may involve the fire department. Either the turkey or “Eat in a nice restaurant by myself” will be the most awkward. “Knit a scarf” will probably invoke memories of childhood frustration. At some point, I’ll probably have to spend a chunk of time reading several back issues of Outside magazine all at once in order to catch up. The same will hopefully not be true with losing 15 pounds, or else I’ll be on a water-only diet next January. The century bike ride will hopefully be a little redemption from all of 2014’s unfinished business, the piano song memorization will probably be a struggle, and blood donation may ultimately wind up being the most meaningful — and 14 years overdue.

    At any rate, here goes the adventure. As friends said last weekend when I told them about it, I might very well be insane.


  • 2014 goals reviewed

    In January 2014, I posted 13 goals for the year. There was nothing special about the number — I just made the list and stopped when I was done. I posted recaps of the months, and watched as many of those goals went out the window. That’s OK, though some were definitely dream-shattering. I never got around to posting November and December’s summaries, I think because I hated the repetitive “nope, didn’t meet that goal” updates. I’m doing things differently this year, and that post will come next week. But for now, I decided to at least wrap up 2014.

    1-3, and 5: Running-related goals that included meeting my marathon time, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, beating my half-marathon time and running 1,500 miles in the year. None of these things happened. For the first time since 2007, I did not log my running miles — because there was nothing to log. The IT band in my right leg (and apparently everything attached to it) gave up, and after it wouldn’t get better, I set out to try living my life without running. After all, I was never supposed to be able to run in the first place and I’ve had one injury after another, so I had always feared the day when I would no longer be able to run and clear my head. Well, it was a pretty miserable year, and I alienated people in the process. So, yeah, four goals unmet right there out of the gate. I did do some hiking and walking, though.

    Hidden waterfall
    Trail blazing on a cliffside
    Hello, Golden Gate Bridge
    Quack quack

    4: Do a century bike ride: No, though I got up to 75 miles in one ride on my hybrid bike, so that’s not bad. Until this year, my longest ride had been 47 miles.

    Seen on my ride

    5: Bike at least 700 1,500 miles (increased the goal since I met it in July): Finally! A goal I met! I rode 177.57 miles in November and 158.62 in December. The grand total for the year was 2,128.23 miles. THAT makes me hopeful.

    Also seen on my ride

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Nope, this didn’t happen. I went 11 times in November and eight times in December. The year’s total was 87. That comes out to about $5 per visit, which is much higher than I want it to be. I think it was definitely worth it for one spin teacher, but he is moving away so now I have to make it worth it on my own.

    8. Read at least one book a month: I think I met this goal, but I’m a little fuzzy on the memories, unfortunately. This year I plan to use Goodreads.com more faithfully — and I only just learned that the app will scan the ISBN of the book so I can find the right version.

    9. Cook dinner more often: I did meet this goal, though quantifying “more often” is rather difficult. In November I tried cooking several kinds of squash, and that was a success. I need to find more spaghetti squash ideas, because I really liked it — I’m not a fan of pasta on its own so this was a welcome change.

    Tacos are easy -- and delicious
    I did NOT make this burger that had ramen as a bun, but it needed to be included for posterity. I ate it in Phoenix with friends I first met online in 2000. Yay Internet!

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: This was a success. If you have an iPhone, I highly recommend using the “do not disturb” mode; mine goes into effect at 9:30 p.m. and was very helpful. Over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I woke up on my own at 3:40 a.m. two days in a row. One of those days I had been so productive while waiting for the sun to come up that I got out the vacuum — and then realized it was 5:30 a.m. on a holiday weekend, and I don’t really want to anger my polite neighbors.

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I unintentionally did that in July. But then I gained the pounds back, so this was a failure. I have a couple ways to try making this happen (and stick) in 2015.

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope. And I’m not apologizing for it, because this is my website and I’m not paid for it.

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: Haha, nope. This was actually in the works in 2014, but that didn’t happen. For now, I’m trying to just cut costs where possible. (Cable is one of those costs I want to eliminate. I could do it and use Netflix/Hulu/Amazon instead, but I want a way to see sporting events live.) I do live in a pretty place, I must say…

    Sunrise
    Sunset

    So, that’s it for 2014. I met four of 13 goals, which is a 30.8 percent success rate. Good gracious, that’s terrible! Here’s to 2015 with more successes!

    I’ll close with some other random photos, just to make this post a bit more cheerful.

    Merry Christmas
    Bridge love
    Hair chop on December 31
    Milestone for my car
    Friends are good for the soul.

  • 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
    Tacos
    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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 2014 goal check-in: July

    Well. July, for lack of better words, was terrible. But that’s not the point of this blog post, so let’s move along and see how those goals for the year are going.

    1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. You can’t really meet lofty goals if you’ve spent the year injured.

    4: Do a century bike ride: I had figured this goal was also elusive, but biking no longer hurts my leg so this may actually happen. I did my first 50-mile bike ride in July, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. (It probably helps that the plan was 40 miles, so I didn’t have the daunting “new longest distance” thing hanging over my head until I missed a turn and decided to go for it.) I’d like to go road bike shopping, but my hybrid works, so I might just save my pennies for now. Thoughts? Here’s my current bike, which is certainly the best bike I’ve ever had so I don’t really know what I’m missing…

    6. Bike at least 700 miles: I met this goal on July 19. Hooray, one goal out of 13! I think, since one of my other goals was to run 1,500 miles this year, I’m going to see if I can get to 1,500 biking miles instead. July’s total cycling mileage was 146, putting me at 820.18 miles for the year.

    I took no bicycling photos, but here is one with Michaela who took 43 minutes off her previous best half-Ironman time.

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Um, yeah. I still have 94 gym trips remaining this year to meet that goal, which would mean 19 times per month. It’s a lot nicer outside…

    8. Read at least one book a month: I escaped into two books in July. I really enjoyed “A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer, and it was a perfect book I could crawl into and temporarily hide from my unpleasant world. Set in WWII, it’s a fictionalized account of the discovery of penicillin, and it involves some romance, some drama and some history. It’s also a good reminder that we live in times where medicine exists to cure us — less than 100 years ago, that wasn’t the case. I also plowed through a John Grisham book I hadn’t read, “The Litigators.” I always like a good Grisham novel or movie, but this one was just meh. The characters were only so-so, and the plot was the same old “underdog lawyer fights to survive” thing.

    9. Cook dinner more often: I didn’t do a lot of cooking in July, partly because I didn’t do a lot of eating in July. But I did attempt to make pizza for the first time. Conclusions: Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough makes a LOT of pizza, and it’s super sticky so maybe I should try rolling it out with oil instead of flour next time, as a Twitter friend suggested. The dough was kind of thick, but recipe was unique: Taco pizza. Nope, you didn’t misread that.

    Terrible picture of actually tasty taco pizza. The "sauce" is refried-bean-based.

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this at least 25 of the 31 days. I discovered that if you can’t eat, your body hibernates. (It also gets really cold, which saved me some air conditioning costs.)

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Related to number 10, by mid-July I was back down to my pre-injury weight, and this was proven both by my own “off by several pounds” scale as well as at the doctor’s office last week. Now to keep those pounds off and shed a bit more weight, and I’ll be at “goal race weight” (whenever I can race again).

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Haha, it’s pretty clear that this won’t happen in 2014. I’m okay with that, because I’d rather have a few posts that get a lot of great public and private feedback (like this one from July) than a bunch of “I wrote this to meet a quota” posts.

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: I actually thought I had this figured out, but that plan was pulled out from under me. I need a new plan, but in the meantime I’m thinking of canceling my expensive cable and getting a Netflix membership. However, there goes live TV, including sports. Any thoughts on that, as well?

    And, since this post is a bit mundane, here’s a lesson from July: No matter what happens, the sun will keep rising and setting.


  • How to chase dreams and fight the fear of failure

    I’ve been doing a lot — and, boy, do I mean a lot — of self-analysis lately. Who am I, where am I going, where do I want to be going, and why am I not there yet? Additionally, when did I start becoming more cynical, more narrow-minded, and less determined but at the same time more rigid?

    I don’t have all the answers yet, but I do know that at least I’m making a little progress by asking them and confronting myself. I also know that it’s been almost four years since I upended my life because I was stuck in a rut that I did not like. I was stuck in an increasingly unhappy job with no opportunities to move up, I was stuck in a relationship that was destroying my self-esteem, and then I suffered a stress fracture that dashed all running dreams for the next several months. So I set out to find myself.

    Four years later, I’ve both succeeded and failed. For a while, I was much happier. I traveled more (Alaska, Ireland, Colorado, New York, Chicago, Hawaii). I ran more (an ultra-marathon, faster times). I explored my new town. I began to dream again.

    But somewhere along the way, I got lost again. Some of it started last October, when another injury sidelined all of my running goals, which had gotten bigger and bolder (qualify for Boston). Some of it started this year, when I tried to follow another dream and was repeatedly shot down, sending my self-esteem plummeting. However, I suspect most of it is because I have lifelong dreams that have gone unfulfilled. They eat at me until I’m convinced I’m not good enough, and that if I try to reach them, I’ll fail.

    Some of those dreams I cannot reach on my own, but some of them are all up to me. So, how do I make myself pursue them? Yesterday evening, instead of googling for inspirational quotes, I turned instead to Facebook and asked: “What mantras, quotes, rules or experiences do you use to try to better yourself and chase away the ‘I’m afraid I’ll fail’ demons?” As an example, I gave this quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to become who you might have been.” I knew that many of my Facebook friends wouldn’t see the post, due to timing and algorithms that limit which posts people see. But in the 10 hours since, I’ve received a number of great quotes.

    A good friend texted her response: “Jump and the net will appear.”

    Another friend messaged his response, which he’d seen on a poster that same day: “To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month or even one year – but for a lifetime.” The quote was from legendary runner and author Bill Rodgers, and my friend pointed out that it doesn’t just apply to running. This is so true: It’s the big picture of life. If I’ve got these life dreams, each day should prepare me for them, because they won’t suddenly happen immediately.

    “Life’s battles don’t always go to the bigger or faster man…but sooner or later, the fellow who wins, is the man who thinks he can.” This was offered by a friend and former colleague, Rick, who is deaf and has faced more than his share of battles. The key there is to think I can do it.

    Another former journalist-turned-runner (turned Ironman, which is a whole other level, if you ask me), Theresa, offered this line from a sports journalism professor of hers: “The only way out is through.” Yes, if I want to reach the goals, I have to push through everything standing between me and them.

    “I like to tell myself that I’ll definitely fail if I don’t try,” said another writer. I really admire her, because she has worked hard to get to a career she wanted. If she hadn’t tried, she never would have gotten there.

    Then there is this Wayne Gretzky quote, offered by an old friend, Dave: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

    Audrey pointed out that, even if you don’t make that shot, you learn along the way. As another saying goes, practice makes perfect. Similarly, Pam offered this advice: “My dad always has told me that if you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Never give up until you succeed.”

    And from another Ironman, Stuart: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” This resonated, because often I ask myself, when trying to make a decision or do something that’s hard, which option I would regret more. Would I regret trying and not making it, or would I regret never trying at all? That answer is obvious.

    Similarly, Brandon offered a line from a Shinedown song: “Long live the day that I decided to fly.” It’s a decision, and I have to truly make that decision before I can go anywhere.

    My friend Marc turned it around back at me, with the advice I gave him the day before he ran his first marathon: “One that sticks with me is something a really great friend told me on January 11 of this year. She said there will be a point where I will realize “this is the farthest I’ve ever gone.” And that’s true for everything. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” He’s right (which I guess means that I was right). I still remember the point when I passed mile 22 of the Tucscon Marathon in December 2008. There, on an Arizona highway, I realized that was the farthest I had even run — and at the same time I realized I was actually going to run a marathon. I did finish that marathon, and then I kept on going to more goals and milestones. The journey continued, and it was a good journey.

    And then there was this, from Linda: “Shan’t I be good to thee self, I shan’t be good to another.” She didn’t know it, but that one hit home more than all the rest. I love people, I love helping them and making them happy, and some of my biggest dreams require other people. But I can’t be good for them and help them unless I also do that for myself. That’s actually a realization I reached last week, so Linda’s timing was perfect. I have to be strong enough to stand on my own.

    Where does all of this advice go? How do I actually retain it, rather than dumping it all into a blog post and then moving on? Well, one way is through sheer determination, which I’m already working on. I don’t like the way I give up on things I want, just because they’re hard or there are huge obstacles in the way. I fear that I’ll fail, so I stop trying — and that’s no way to live my life.

    So I’m going to keep re-reading the quotes offered from friends who have clearly had the strength to keep fighting, and who also took the time to give me some advice. I’m going to try to stand up tall and keep fighting my doubts and insecurity. I’m going to try to be a better, stronger, supportive person to those I care about. And I’m going to tell myself over and over again that I AM good enough to chase my dreams.

    After all, as Darleen advised, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” I want more, so I have to do more.