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Quick race report: Color Half

September 27, 2015

Had a good run today. 
I still set multiple, staged goals for myself for races. Because, you know, progress and all. For this half marathon I wanted to keep an overall pace of 11:30; and/or, finish in 2 hours 30 minutes or less. 

I had a great pace for the first 8 miles, and then not tired. Change socks, eat more gel, recover and keep going. That’s about the time it was getting pretty hot. 

The last 2 miles were a bit rough. I was tired, and I had not managed my salt intake well. I have to get into the habit of that, especially in longer races. 

But I finished happy. I missed my overall time (not pace) by one minute eight seconds, with an official time of 2:31:08. 11:32 pace average overall. But that’s damn close, and still a personal record! 

Got my medal, cooled down, recovered. Feeling pretty good about it all. 


On Eating Well – Part 1, Truths

September 14, 2015

almonds_unsplashEating well: I mean eating yummy, and healthy, and happy, and right, and – in my case – eating to get down to a goal weight. And I think I’ve finally got it nailed. The final element really and truly sunk in at last. Here’s what I’ve got.

(Standard caveat: This is my personal experience. I’m not a nutritionist or a doc. This is all subjective, but then, we all listen to friends and try things out. So why not press on…)


I’ve received a ton of mixed messages, half truths, marketing lies, and inherited hangups in my lifetime, and it’s taken me this long to sort through them and arrive at this: there really are some basic, essential truths to eating well.

1) Whole foods are best. Nearly whole foods are good. Processed food is almost universally crap.

  • “Whole foods” are foods as they are grown or cut, without additions or cooking or anything. Go to a store, buy fruits and vegetables and oats and nuts and chicken or steak, take them home and cook them. That’s whole foods.
  • I say “nearly whole foods”, meaning things that are minimally processed; I consider certain kinds of whole grain pasta, no-crap spaghetti sauces, cheese, shredded wheat cereal without sugar, and the like to be “nearly whole foods”.
  • Processed foods…oh, you know. Stuff with added sugar and salt and malodextrin and guantacillin and moxyfatennacid powder, or what the hell ever. Cookies, cereals, chips, crackers, “cheese food products”, margarine, ice cream…almost anything sold in the center of a grocery store (and not on the perimiter) are processed foods, and they’ll make you fat even if they’re low fat, natural, organic, no high fructose corn syrup, gluten free marvels. They’re still highly processed crap.

2) Eat a variety of foods. If you’re picky, work on expanding your tastes. It’s very, very hard to lose weight if you only like two types of fruit, 1 vegetable, and burgers and pizzas. Similarly, it’s hard to eat well if you’re drinking half a gallon of milk every day. There is a huge and delicious world of great stuff out there, and there are some fairly grossout-free methods for getting used to them.

3) Addictions jack you up. You’ve got to fix your addiction to sugar, carbs, snacking, salt, fat, soda…whatever your addiction is, it’s one major thing that gets in the way of you eating well. My things were snacking, cereal, and soda. I’d try to diet, and then lose it and eat 3 bowls of cereal for dinner, or drink soda throughout the day (it makes me snacky as hell) and then eat 8 cups of popcorn with cheese and chocolate. And then I’d feel like hell. Yeah, addictions jack you up.

4) Eat food from home, most of the time. Man, you’re just not going to eat well, eating restaurant food.  Even simple, low- or no-cook foods from home are way better than most of what you get at a restaurant, especially if we’re talking about fast food. Why? Restaurant food is processed; stuffed full of sugar and salt and fat to make it tasty; usually made with the cheapest stuff they can buy; and is served in ridiculously huge and/or dense portions, while they upsell you to buy the bigger drink and side and dessert. Any common meal at any given restaurant makes 800-1,000+ calories, easy. And of course, veg and fruit are very few and far between.

5) Everyday nutrition shouldn’t be much more complex than “roughly 50/25/25”. There’s a TON of conflicting messages about nutrition. Better and worse types of protein, being sure to eat avocado, Adkins diet, paleo, fish oil, “new trick that doctors hate!”, etc etc. While a some of that might be useful, in general we need to ditch all that shit and aim for roughly 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fat. (Use an app to track what you eat; MyFitnessPal tells you your macronutrient percentages.) Once we master these basic truths, we can explore exactly how much farm raised tilapia we should really be eating, if we feel like it.

6) Modern portion sizes are stupid. See #4 above. Most of a restaurant’s costs go into the facility, the people they hire, and advertising. A stupidly small proportion of spending goes to the food (remember? cheap ingredients!) and so it really pays to “give customers their money’s worth” by making portion sizes absolutely ridiculous. Hey look, a 1/2# burger with double bacon for $3.99! And 960 calories without fries or a drink!! What a bargain!!  If you’re an average person, then on average you want between 1700-2200 calories a day. So, does a 1500 calorie meal that’s almost pure carbs and fat, fit well in there? Yeah, no.

8) Water, water, water. They were actually right about this one. Coffee’s okay, and tea’s good, but generally we need to drink water. It helps digestion, helps activity, helps you feel like a person, etc. I go by the pee test: if my pee’s light yellow to clear, I’m good. If it’s medium yellow or darker, I go down a glass of water.

8) You do not “deserve” to binge or eat badly. You deserve to eat well, feel good, and be healthy.

9) It’s a bad idea to cut out all the foods you love now. Yes, even processed foods. Any life eating strategy must account for the fact that we’re human, and we love the things we love. I still eat fast food crap…occasionally. Chocolate is part of my life. So’s dessert, and on and on. It’s just different now. I eat smaller portions, I wait til I’m hungry to eat, I pay attention to how much I’m eating vs how much I’m expending.  But by god, I’m not going the rest of my life without a Five Guys burger and fries. I just have one every month or two, instead of every week.

10) Exercising does NOT mean you can eat whatever you want. I’ve been running steadily for over 2 years now, and I often get “Oh, you’re training for a marathon! How nice that you can eat whatever you want!” Yeah, no I can’t. The running helps me not get fatter faster, and it does a lot psychologically, but running 5 miles expends just 500 calories. And of course, it puts no fruit or veg into my mouth on its own. Remember that 960cal burger from before? Eating like there’s no tomorrow truly does not balance out. I say again though: running makes me want to eat better. I want to feel good, and run faster, so, yeah.

11) It takes time to change. Oh yes, it does. I’ve been actively working on bettering my eating habits for 18 years now, no joke. It would have gone quite a bit faster if I’d had fewer hangups, gotten into running earlier, and had this particular blog post to aid me. But even so: real, permanent change is going to take time. And that’s fine.

12) To lose weight: Use more calories than you eat. Eat fewer calories than you use. Strangely, this is the core, universally known guide to losing weight. And it really did take this long to sink fully into my head. Why? Because I had to get over a 1-2 dozen biases, assumptions, and mixed messages. We’ll talk about those in the next section. But barring actual medical issues, you lose weight when you eat less than you use. (For those of you shouting “What about when your body goes into starvation mode?!?”, well, adjust for that. Hit a plateau, eat more. Then get back on eating fewer calories than you use.)

All of these apply to losing weight, but only that last point is solely targeted at weight loss. The rest are about eating well overall. And all of these sound easy – everything about eating right sounds easy – but it’s the hangups – the lies and mixed messages about food – that really mess you up.


Eating well is simple. You really can just take those 11 points, and eat well the rest of your life. Feel good, be healthy, even lose weight if that’s your goal. But eating well isn’t easy.

Take another example: Climbing up a climbing wall is simple. You just place your hands and feet on the holds, and pull yourself up until you’re at the top! Very simple! Not remotely easy. There are other factors, like strength, strategy, experience, equipment, support, and so on.  Same with eating well. Simple, yes; easy, no.

This post got really long really fast. So, I’ll continue in parts. next time we’ll get to Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing – where I’ll talk about the bullshit we hear and inherit, day in and day out – and the time after that we’ll get to “Getting There” – where I’ll talk about strategies and such.




Running shoe issue

September 11, 2015

So, my beloved Clifton Hoka One Ones, which I bought in June, seem to have gone from beautiful, fluffy-cloud-foot-landing to a kind of ow-ow-ow-rock-hard-freaking-ow landing. That’s not good, that’s less than 3 months of sub-20 mile weeks. And no, I don’t wear them other than for running.

So I talked to REI, and then exchanged them at REI. The suspicion is maybe I happened to get one out of a bad batch or something, but I wonder. This will be the test of whether it’s ME, or the SHOES.

So here’s the deal though. I’m at the end of a training cycle for a half marathon, and I have my final long run this weekend. 17 miles. In a brand new pair of shoes. Oy vey.  There’s nothing to do about it, though. Mile 17 or bust…

Best kids books

September 5, 2015

For the record, here are some of the books that I’m going to have a very hard time convincing myself to get rid of, because I so enjoyed them with my kids when they were little.

How math works in the adult world

August 25, 2015

This is for my kids, your kids, everyone’s kids, teens and 20somethings. And anyone else who needs it.

Guys: Math gets weird in the adult world. Here’s how you think it works, and how I thought it worked (as an example):

  • Work a job, 40 hours/week at minimum wage ($7.25). That’s $290 income / week, or $15,080 / year.
  • Pay cheap rent, utilities included, maybe $500/mo, or $6,000 / year.
  • Groceries, maybe $100 a month; $1,200 / year.
  • Gas and insurance and spending, another $200/month; $2,400 / year.
  • Conclusion: That leaves $5,480 a year, or a little over $450 per month! Awesome savings, or vacation, or Christmas or whatever! I can make it on my own!

And here’s how it actually, for realz works:

  • Work a job, but they fart around and cut hours and you end up with maybe 24 hours/week at minimum wage ($7.25). You try for a second job, but that’s harder than you think. Also wind up somehow not working 4 weeks out of the year, for vacations, sick leave, and random schedule screwups. End up making an average of $217 income / week, or $10,416 / year. Edit: And we didn’t even talk about income tax and social security, which takes a bite out of your paycheck, but we’ll pretend that doesn’t exist right now; at your income level, it’ll be a small bite anyway.
  • They raise the rent after your 6 months is up, and cable wasn’t included, so you’ve got $550/mo, or $6,600 / year.
  • Groceries turn out to be more like $150 a month so you’re not stuck on a ramen diet, and it’s hard to turn down your favorite soda; plus how much can it hurt to eat out or order pizza once a week? $2,520 / year.
  • Gas and insurance are mostly constant, but it’s hard not to get yourself stuff; shoes and jeans wear out, the job uniform needs replacing, the iPhone breaks… $350/month; $4,200 / year.
  • We didn’t even talk about cel phone plans (oops), insurance, health emergencies, the food and vet bills for the kitty cat that was SOOO cute at the shelter but then got worms, got a tumor, and got diahhrea in the course of 8 months. Let’s just round that off to a conservative $2,000 a year.
  • And, hellfire, the 6 year old car you inherited from your parents as a college car needs a new goddamn transmission. There’s another $1,200 gone.
  • Conclusion: That leaves you $6,104 in debt, or a little over $500 in the hole per month! No savings, no vacation, no Christmas. And that’s just one year.

This is what I truly, seriously didn’t get as a teen and young adult: You simply cannot account for everything that will go wrong in a year. What’s more, you cannot be a perfect angel of a penny pincher.  It jacks up your finances. It stresses you the hell out.

I had the best intentions, a great & above-minimum-wage job, and a husband (and therefore another income) throughout college – and oh man, we haven’t even talked about college! – and we got jacked up in the financial department. We didn’t figure out the hidden costs of a cat, the clear as day costs of a new car, and the ridiculous cost of a house (no not kidding) until way late in the game.

I’m not trying to bum you out. I’m trying to show you the way. Save save save where you can. Work where you can. Be conservative in your spending, where you can. Parents letting you live with them through college? Take it. Still in high school with a summer job? Save that shit. Have to get a place? Get roommates, or a super cheap place. Dirt poor? Suck it up and hit a food bank, get welfare. That’s what it’s there for.

You can make it. You will make it. I just want you to know going in that it’s not going to be easy.



Edit: Here’s a nice essay on the non-necessity of owning a dog (or a cat), and the potential costs, from Mr. Money Mustache.

Black Lives Matter, Too

July 20, 2015

Taken from Reddit. “ELI5” means “explain it like I’m 5”, and TL;DR means “too long; didn’t read” (a summary of a long post).


ExplainedELI5: Why is it so controversial when someone says “All Lives Matter” instead of “Black Lives Matter”? -submitted 22 hours ago by Bigred2989

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work the way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.

TL;DR: The phrase “Black lives matter” carries an implicit “too” at the end; it’s saying that black lives should also matter. Saying “all lives matter” is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to.


Mini race report: Wildfire Half marathon

July 19, 2015

I’m in the middle of training for a half marathon, but I did the Wildfire Half last year. I wanted to go again for fun.

Differences this year:

  • Not really going for speed; the aim was to finish without hurting my training schedule.
  • Bit of a breeze this year. Nice.
  • I didn’t have my Camelback or my regular handheld bottle. Both of them need cleaning. The ~20 ounce bottle I bought along worked out mostly OK.
  • Focused on salt intake, which helped a LOT. I feel pretty good, thanks to the judicious use of 4-5 Nuun tablets. Handed out a couple of tablets to two women I’d been sort of playing tag with most of the race…they were grateful. (They had matching shirts that said, “Unicorns are awesome. I am awesome. Therefore, I am a unicorn.” Go Team Unicorn!)
  • The medal came with this cute little mini medal, like a charm for a bracelet. I like it.

So yes. Big fun. Oh, and this time I brought a whole change of clothes for after, and damn, does that help!

Update: Results: Wildfire Half Marathon, July 19, 2015

  • Chip time 2:52:34 (last year, 2:40:07)
  • Pace 13:10/mile (last year, 12:17/mile
  • Overall 202/296 (last year, 264/436)
  • Gender 102/165 (last year, 124/244)

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