Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oak-Ness Monster

Last night I went to happy hour with my old co-workers at the Lake Chalet on Lake Merritt. We were out on the dock talking, when all of a sudden bubbles started appearing in the water. Eventually what appeared to be a dragon head arose, as well as some bodily humps. We all turned and stared for it, and after a few moments, it bubbled back down under the lake.

I don't actually believe that a monster exists, as the head looked very much like a flat sheet of plywood or steel, while the body looked very much like tires. But I'm so intrigued. Who created this monster? How do they make it rise and sink? Does it move around the lake?

I tried to do some internet research, and there is very little out there, although it appears to date back until 2006. But no one has claimed it as their own. And there seem to be even older tall tales about actual monsters or mermaids in the lake.

As I said - intriguing.

My favorite part was that we told one of our coworkers who came late that we had seen a monster in the lake, and she said, completely non-skeptically, "Oh wow." Later I went home and told Matt, and he also said something to the effect of, "Huh," and started doing internet research. I really thought no one would believe me - I hardly believe myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Running Oakland

I'm cross posting today's training log entry on this blog because I had such a unique experience today:

This was a big one - 18 miles! The longest I have ever run (again, not counting that time I ran-walked somewhere between 18 and 19 miles). I had been planning to head out to the canal paths in Walnut Creek (where I worried I would die of boredom), but then I discovered that the Oakland Marathon was in town - and it went right by our house! So after battling a fierce case of Catholic Guilt, I decided to jump in. I joined slightly before mile 5, the closest point to our house, and followed the course to mile 23.

I loved it! Oakland came out in force to support the runners. There were so many different people in so many different communities. I saw so many parts of Oakland I had never seen before - didn't even know there was a Hispanic section. There was no shortage of volunteers, and they were all super friendly. People hung out in the towns, in their front yards, at the corners. Some communities were less involved than others. In one, some young men on the street asked, "Is this for breast cancer or something?" The lady in front of me responded, "No, it's for Oakland." This made their day, I think: "Fuck yeah, for Oakland!" they repeated a few times. It was great to see the community pride.

I of course continued to feel guilty the whole run as policeman stopped traffic for me and the residents cheered me on. So to return the favor that Oakland paid me, I decided I would make a donation to one of the race charities. I figured there would only be one, but it turns out that besides TNT and DetermiNATION, there are EIGHT local charities that all had fundraising programs and came out to volunteer at the race. Talk about community support! Now I have to figure out where I want to put my money.

I also ran into the TNT cheering squad at my mile 14.5 or so, and they were fantastic as always. They gave me so much encouragement and showed me to the food table where I suddenly discovered how hungry I was and devoured a chocolate chip cookie. I'm so honored to be part of the TNT family, where they don't forget you no matter how long you've been away!

After that I plowed on through my last 3 miles and ended my run along a familiar stretch of Lake Merritt, by my old employer. 18 miles down! It certainly wasn't easy, but I made it through. And I learned that I need to eat more on these long runs to keep my stomach happy. Only one more long run (that is, more than 13 miles) until the Marathon. I realized again that perhaps I erred in choosing a marathon where there won't really be spectators and community support, but hopefully the scenery will make up for it.

Anyway, my NikePlus tracked 17.5 miles, but I trust the race, and figured I hit about 18.2 in 3 hours! Whoops - that is much faster than my training pace goal of 10'22". I blame my NikePlus which was showing me slow times since it didn't think I had run as far. Oh well. I could barely walk after I stopped running, and my right foot has developed a mysterious pain, but all in all, it could be much worse.

Thank you Oakland!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Being a Nicer Person

This evening Matt and I were in downtown San Francisco waiting for a BART train. Several homeless people had walked by asking for money, and has become my custom, I said "Sorry." In my younger days I used to dig in my pocket for change, but it seems lately I either don't have cash or my wallet is buried in my purse and I am reluctant to go digging for it. Both really just terrible excuses.

Today as one of the men moved past us to the next waiting passenger, she said, "Let me see if I have any change." And proceeded to dig through her purse. While doing so, she struck up a conversation: "How long have you been homeless?" "What have you been doing in terms of looking for shelter and a job?" "That's good, you've got to keep trying. Don't give up. That's very important." And then she handed him the money she'd found and he moved on.

I immediately felt like a terrible person. Although I give limited money to charities working with the homeless or people in danger of becoming so, it's a tiny part of my income, and well less than the money I give to other causes like cancer and the environment. And then I choose not to give money to people on the streets. So heartless. I was so impressed with this woman.

Then we got on the train, and an elderly lady with a dog asked if she could sit next to this same woman, who of course agreed. She proceeded to carry on a conversation with this woman the whole ride (while her dog yapped behind them and was entertained by other passengers), then helped her get off the train at her station - heading out to tell the conductor to wait, and was walking slowly with this woman through the BART station the last we could see.

I hope this woman knows how amazing she is. I will make an effort to be kinder to both strangers on the street as well as people I know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dear Southwest

You may have just lost a customer. I have always loved flying you, even back in the day when you had to camp out in line to get a good seat. Now I am a master of the 24 hour check-in, so that is not a problem. Although you usually have the cheapest tickets where I'm going - PHX, LAX, DEN, SAN, etc., I have also been willing to pay a little more because your Rapid Rewards program was awesome. So simple to use. Fly 16 one-way trips or 8 round-trips, get a free flight. Fabulous.

Now you have gone and screwed everything up. I had 13 credits in the old program before you switched to the new program. Since you have decided that 1 credit = 1200 points in the new system, I have to earn 3600 points to get my free flight. Already flew one round-trip to PHX, which under the old system would have gotten me 2/3 of the way there. But in the new system, this earned me a whopping 587 points, less than 1/6 of the way to my free flight. I would have to fly six round trips to earn what I could have gotten in 1.5 round trips under the old system. Ridiculous.

Apparently the new system is based not only on distance, as I believe most frequent flyer programs are, but also how much you pay for your flight. So if you get a flight deal as we did on our PHX trip, you earn few credits. If you take the last flight of the day with terrible hours so that you can get a cheaper ticket, you also earn fewer credits. This is crap. You are supposed to be the airline of the masses. Suddenly you are the airline of the elite, the person who can pay an egregious amount to fly at prime time. And you're trying to justify it all with the whole no black out dates thing. I never had an issue using my credits before. But now I will, since I'll virtually never earn any!

See you later, Southwest. It was nice knowing you.

The Running Black Hole

So I haven't been here in awhile. I'd like to blame something. First there is my job, which prohibits me from surfing the internet all day and following twitter, thus digging up some juicy little tidbits on which to comment. Then, there's been all this moving business, with weekends spent looking for houses, packing, moving, unpacking, and arranging the house.

And also there's the running. I don't spend that much of my time running, actually, but now all my blogging efforts have been concentrated here, and that's not even up-to-date. Nevertheless, this marathon training thing has been sucking up a lot of my time. I am currently in Week 12 of my 18 week marathon training program, and I really started before that, because my half marathon training program started several weeks earlier. So basically I've been following a training program for four straight months. And I don't miss runs. I might miss cross training and strength training (and often do), but I make sure to get all my runs in one way or another. After all, I only run 3 times a week.

I selected the Big Sur Marathon to be my first, as one of my very favorite things about running happens to be beautiful scenery, and I figured Big Sur would offer it up in plenty. Then there would be the 2 mile climb up to Hurricane Point, with the tuxedoed piano player at the grand piano by the Bixby Bridge at mile 13.1 - halfway. The last half of the marathon would be slightly less hilly, slightly downhill, and ending in Carmel. I would train lots of hills to prepare for this tough race because I wanted the epic beauty.

And then the Pacific Coast Highway had to go and collapse this week, turning the marathon into an out and back course that ends north of the Bixby Bridge. So only half as much gorgeous scenery, no epic climb up to Hurricane Point, no viewing of the iconic Bixby Bridge. Totally not what I'd envisions for my first marathon. And yet, I've sunk a couple hundred dollars into it, so it would be silly to change plans now. And I'm sure it will still be better than the Avenue of the Giants Marathon, what with its two out and back courses and essentially the same view the whole time. (I actually quite enjoyed the half, but wouldn't want to double it.)

So I guess I'm a little depressed. I've sunk 12+ weeks into this thing already, and now my main event won't live up to my expectations. And the last week has been ridiculously rainy. Two of my three runs were completed in downpours for at least part of the miles. That means clothes soaked at all layers. And cold hands as it turns out - so cold I could barely eat my sport beans. While the 6 mile run was tolerable, by the end of my 13.1 mile run today, I was extremely cold and sad. That's right, I ran a half marathon - at 2:10, faster than 3 of my previous races.

So anyway, that's my life right now. I'm seriously thinking of traveling somewhere warm next weekend so I can run my 18 miles in the sun. I'm that desperate.