Friday, July 31, 2009

Pinot Noir

I've been pretty lucky so far with the Pinot Noir choies so far. Yesterday, while at Trader Joe's in Cupertino, I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. The pinots were plentiful and well priced. I picked up a 2007 California Red Truck pinot from Sonoma. Loved it. Tonight, I'm sampling the 2006 Mission Point Pinot Noir from Santa Maria. Another winner. Austin needs a Trader Joe's.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I interrupt this vacation to make a point about wayfinding. Over the last five days I've been able to find my way throughout Central California by feel, or probably more accurately, by way of very well designed wayfinding measures that are unknown to me. I've driven, criss-crossing well over 1,000 square vacation miles without getting lost. I found Sausalito, Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf and Apple's HQ without a map. Haight-Ashbury was easy. You find a psychedelic store front or mural with people wearing tie-dye and then try to determine in which direction it becomes more concentrated. You have to keep in mind that smoke shops and images of Bob Marley count as well.

Wayfinding and good design is like that. It doesn't get in the way but feels right, looks right, gets the job done. San Francisco is north, Santa Cruz is south and all the other Sans and Santas are in between. Almost. Santa Cruz is my mental southern boundary. Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, etc. don't exist at least on this trip.
Wayfinding encompasses all of the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.

Wayfinding is often used to refer to traditional navigation methods used by indigenous peoples. In more modern times, wayfinding is used in the context of architecture to refer to the user experience of orientation and choosing a path within the built environment, and it also refers to the set of architectural and/or design elements that aid orientation.
My first encounter with problematic wayfinding techniques happened on the second day here when I entered the ice rink for the first time.  Kayla was to get some ice time to rehearse her routine for the competition the following morning. Kayla said she was on the yellow rink. Looking to my right, the rafters overhead were painted yellow and the trim at the top of the barrier was yellow as were the baseboards. No brainer I thought. The YELLOW rink was right in front of us. Wrong. That was the red rink. The yellow rink was in the back.

Stopping one of the San Jose Sharks hockey players I asked where the yellow rink was. "Yellow rink," he said. "All I know are the north, south, east and west rinks. No colors." Even directional navigation only works if you know which way is one direction, in relation to north. I'm sure the person that came up with the color coded method of navigation was confused with the NSEW method and decided to substitute their own for the figure skating competition. Yeah, the colors fixed e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Over the course of the next day I heard a lot of, "You're over there! Or is it over there?" I also noticed there are a lot of skaters and coaches screaming, cussing and running through the hallways. By the way, all of the rinks had yellow rafters and yellow trim.

I encountered the second wayfinding example this morning. A simple hotel map or so it should have been. Locate the gym on the map (see below & click on the map to enlarge) and see if you think it's on the second floor or the Lobby floor, which I suppose is the first floor. Hint, the gym is on the right of the rectangular shape in the upper center of the map. The image you see there rotates with two ads for restaurants in the hotel. So if you were looking at the actual map, you would have 10 seconds to find where you are before a photo of a big steak took it's place. Good Luck!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bye to Los Gatos and Hello San Jose

There weren't this many people on the Los Gatos track this morning but it started to feel like it was getting close. I started on the track with only three men doing 400-meter repeats. By the time I finished running some sprints on the football field there were at least three boot camps set up around the field.

Do barefoot sprints on the manicured grass was a treat. In Austin, there are usually signs stating to keep off the grass. Not so in Los Gatos and the grass was in much, much better shape. You almost felt like you had to go through a workout with such great grass and conditions. The dew and cold made the feet go numb rather quickly. I'm going to miss that track for the remainder of the trip as we change hotels to San Jose this afternoon. Given my quads are now thoroughly trashed and sore from yesterday's hill run and today's sprints, I may stay in the hotel gym tomorrow.

I tasted the best Mahi Mahi 've ever had down at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco yesterday. Fantastic food. A little too crowded in the city for my taste. Maybe I've been in the burbs too long. Too much congestion gets my anxiety going.

I'm a big lover of Tex-Mex so it was interesting eating in a Cal-Mex restaurant today. The Aqui Restaurant treated us to some fantastic organic Cal-Mex which was similar to organic, up-scale Tex Mex. The salmon taco was exceptional, dressed with some cabbage and nuts and a variety of salsas. The margarita swirled with sangria quenched my thirst, although it's difficult to build up a thirst when the temperature varies from 57 degrees to a high of 77.

Kayla beat out six other ice skaters in her first solo competition this morning, winning second place. This was the last time she skated to the theme song from the Titanic. She'll select a new routine and outfit for next year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Missed It By _______ Much!

In search of fish tacos yesterday, I missed them by ____ much. they were just next door to the Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill. I discounted the dive next door to the Bar & Grill. It's ok as the food at Whale City was good, the Corona Lights were cold and the view of the Pacific Ocean was spectacular.

The day was spent winding our way to San Francisco by way of Route 1. Lots of beach stops. Lots of fog banks. Lots of fun.

Driving through San Francisco was interesting. We went over the Golden Gate Bridge twice. Once, to get to Muir Woods and it was clear and sunny. Going back it was foggy. It was amazing to see people on July 27 wearing coats. I couldn't believe it was that cool. In fact, watching the Weather Channel last night it looked like San Francisco was the coolest spot in the nation, except for maybe Alaska.

Muir Woods was an amazing experience. I don't know if I was more fascinated with the size of the giant redwoods or how clean the air was. It definitely had it's own unique scent. The winding drive up the mountain almost had Kayla blowing dumplings in the back seat.

I decided for this morning's run I'd play it by ear and not go back to the track. My gut said to do a neighborhood run easy for an hour. The easy neighborhood run turned into a tough hill workout as I climbed to 1200 feet at the top of 16448 Eugenia Way. I started at 500 feet so a net gain of 700 feet of running uphill made for a great workout. So although I missed the fish tacos, I found just the right running trail for the day. Off to San Francisco for more exploring.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Los Gatos

This was the first time in as long as I can remember that I didn't get sick after getting off the plane. Maybe it was the extra water I drank, the extra helping of Emergen-C powders. Who knows. No lie. As soon as I turned on the radio in the rental SUV Jeep they were playing Hotel California by the Eagles. Maybe it was a sign of things to come and that I won't be able to leave. Want to hear something even more strange? The next song played was the theme song from Titanic, which is what Kayla is skating to in two days.

I hadn't found a trail for my running workouts. Everything looked too urban or too far to get to by foot so I left that part of the trip planning alone until I got to Los Gatos. Los Gatos is a small community of 24,000 outside of San Jose. Once I got to the lodge the workouts were already taken care of. Next to the lodge was the high school track and enormous baseball field next to the track.

I got in some speedwork this morning and finished up on the track as the local bootcampers made their way onto the field. I then went over to the baseball field and did some sprints on the cool grass barefoot. My feet were numb, as it was that cold on the ground. The temperature was in the low 60s and the humidity was around 81%.  

When I first got to the track, there was heavy fog in the hills nearby. It reminded me of Hawaii. All that was missing was the rich smells of Kauai.

In terms of wine tasting, I tried the Bogle chardonay while at Opa's Greek restaurant and it was good. Later I bought a bottle of Castoro Cellars 2006, Pinot Noir from Whole Foods Market and it was sensational.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Atmospheric Dishwasher Has Arrived

Good rain coming down right now in Austin. I'd go run in it but there is quite a bit of lightning associated with the storm. The pollution levels are dropping so everything should be scrubbed clean for a morning run. I have scheduled a stationary bike tomorrow evening but I have to get out in the clean air. It's all about being a reed in the wind. Right? Even the pool will be cooler with the rainwater. Loving it.

This is as Far as I Can Bend

My friend Fish says often that he's bending like a reed in the wind. While various translations can be found including Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, Fish uses the quote from the movie Dune.
"I will bend like a reed in the wind"
- Paul Atreides (Dune)
This is usually when things aren't going his way and there's no way to have it go any other way. My theory is everyone can listen and watch and get hints of the rest of the day that will go south from the very beginning of the morning. This morning I heard repeated sirens in the neighborhood an hour before I was to get up and then looked at the pollution readings before my 5:30 am run. As Austin hasn't had rain for 21 days but has had plenty of high pressure, it was already fixed for the pollution tarot cards to be dim. Sure enough, the pollution was at high enough levels so I needed to go to the gym across town and get on the treadmill to run in some clean air. I felt I was bending a little at that point to get a workout in.

I got to the gym and soon met my archnemesis's sidekick; ADD Boy. Unlike Golf Channel Watching Recumbent-Bike Dude who only wants one of the TVs on and it tuned to the Golf Channel or Fox News, ADD Boy wanted them all on and tuned to the three channels of his choosing. His workout routine was equally inept. He went from free weights to machines to cables to cardio, really not knowing which muscle group he wanted to work for the day. Maybe it had been so long since his last workout, he wanted to hit them all with one set. ADD Boy had to look at the weather forecast for Austin at least four times before it found it's way past his ears and settled in his noodle, as each time he shot the bird at the weatherman, as it was his fault rain was not falling.

Most of the time you hear talk about the "night people." Well, at the gym it's the early morning people that scare the hell out of me.

I'm having illusions of a home gym with a treadmill and a stationary bike and three flat screens of my own, none of which will be able to be tuned to the Golf Channel or Fox Noise. I just saw rain on the radar within the city limits. Hold that thought.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Link Friday

I haven't accumulated too many links this week. Here's one that's good though.

To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes - A WIRED Magazine article that continues the controversy. Barefoot running anyone?

Thursday, July 16, 2009


My summer reading is going strong on the iPod Touch with the Amazon Kindle software. As I mentioned the other day I downloaded and started 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! by Dean Karnazes. It's been slow going at first, much like Born to Run was. I am the point of Dean's eighth marathon in eight days. I thought I would have learned more juicy tips by now but most of what has been said in countless runner-oriented articles in magazines. Dean doesn't have the time for ice baths after each marathon and has no room on the bus for massages. It sounds like he regularly prescribes himself an ice bath and massage, it just didn't happen for the 50-marathon event. One juicy tip Dean shared was for the blister that formed on his foot fairly quickly into the grueling schedule. His asstistant used duck tape and sterile gauze to patch Dean up.

The second tip I found interesting was Dean's approach to training. "I train by feel. I run as fast as my body tells me to each day, though I do try to do at least two very long runs per week. Those base-building long runs are critically important to me."

My reading of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is not progressing as well. After seeing how it takes most folks three tries to get the jest of the story I've not stuck to the suggested number of pages per week.

Dr. Andrew Weil's book, Healthy Aging is being read when I'm sick of reading about running and when I don't want to make my brain hurt with the heavy reading of Infinite Jest. I would suggest everyone read as much of Dr. Weil and Dr. Oz as they can get their eyes on.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I may be overreacting about the knees but quite a few good runners I know are having knee problems and have just had surgery or are putting it off while they run like 13 miles on Saturdays uphill. Go figure. Or maybe it's because I read this.
Being overweight or obese can cause rapid deterioration of the cartilage in the knee, leading to osteoarthritis, researchers report.


I'm trying to wrap my head around the concept of plateauing. Not two weeks into the marathon plan and I'm tearing up the plan. Training plans don't take into account the multiple variables in each person's life or the rate that people adapt to the level of intensity, duration or frequency. When you look at a marathon plan it doesn't state, "For people age 18 - 24." It doesn't state, "For people who have exercised intensely in the last five years or for that matter sat in front of a computer screen playing World of Warcraft for 18 hours a day." Continuing the thought for... diagnosed diabetic, overweight by X pounds, for Y pounds, obese by X and Y, asthmatic, ad infinitum of possible variables. In most cases there's JUST ONE training schedule published for all wishing to aspire to the marathon/half marathon, insert distance here. On chance occasssions there may be a trainer who publishes three plans; a beginner plan, intermediate plan and an advanced plan. Basically, the same plan but with more mileage as it advances. Mileage plans are incomplete. Number of week plans are incomplete. Amount of time plans are incomplete. Too many variables period.

This morning the pollution in Austin was a little less as was the temp and the humidity. I've been adding intensity and duration for the last three weeks, based on one of "The Plans", and found a point where Star Trek's Scotty would say, "It's becoming critical, Captain. We can't handle it." As there are quite a few variables when attempting a rigorous exercise program, one of which is weight, I decided this morning to pause or plateau for awhile. If I drop another ten pounds what will the knees feel like at this load? What about staying the same weight but keeping the same intensity, duration and frequency until the tissues have adapted? Maybe the answer is a little of both.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Keep Calm and Carry On

At 5:30 am this morning I grabbed the iPod Touch as I do every morning and saw most of Texas, east of IH35 was experiencing moderate levels of 2.5 particulate matter pollution (27). I really wanted to run this morning as my Achille's tendon finally released after Saturday's long run. I think it was so tense after a long ride on Friday night and a long run on Saturday morning. It was just too much at this point in my training so I'll have to separate the two days with some low impact recovery pool running.

The Tour de France had an off day so I spent 45 minutes on the recumbent bike watching HLN and reading Runner's World Magazine, while playing tug of war with Travis. I'll get my 10K worth of running on the treadmill tonight. While it looks like the 2.5 pollution is dropping, the ozone pollution is rising and so is the heat. Treadmill time.

I just ordered and downloaded 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! by Dean Karnazes. I need to order a couple more books for the Touch before I get to San Jose for a much needed vacation. If this book is as good as Born to Run, I'll have much more to share here in the next couple of weeks.

I don't know if it's the meatless diet or the added mileage or both but the winter weight is starting to come off fairly fast. Last year I never really lost the other ten pounds I should have to have good races. This year, I'm losing the 10 pounds or just not racing until I do.

One last note. It appears Governor Perry vetoed a bill that would've given more protection for cyclists. From the Austin American Statesman article.

"Anger in the bicycle-riding community does not appear to have evaporated much since Gov. Rick Perry vetoed Senate Bill 488, legislation that would have created a safe-passing distance of at least three feet for vehicles trying to pass cyclists and other so-called vulnerable road users."
I can understand the veto if a car is passing two cyclists riding side-by-side in a thin bike lane as I saw quite a few times this past weekend. This law would've put me in the other lane to pass and risked everyone, cars and bikes alike. For a single cyclist or peloton of cyclists this bill, if passed, would've added greater needed protection. It may be better to establish a mandatory bike lane width along with a law that states two or three cyclists can't ride side-by-side.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Link Friday

Ultramarathoner Jenn Shelton - Jenn was featured in the book I just finished, Born to Run. She's one crazy chic!

Changing Speeds to Go the Distance - Sara Hall demonstrates some of the drills she performs to change her form plus, she talks about the difference between a warm bath and a cold one and when to use each. She's trying to land farther back and not on her toes while I'm trying to land more forward, after being on my heels. Her mileage is 85-90 while her husband Ryan is 140+ miles run per week. She also advocates ice baths for faster recovery. Barton Springs works great for my long runs. I need to find a way to cool the legs on other days when away from the springs.

How to Fix Bad Ankles - this article has some great info about strengthening the ankle with balance exercises.

Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week? - this NYTimes article touches on a point of debate for the last few years in the running community. Namely, can one get fit running intervals (faster) for a shorter amount of time compared to the long runs.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Indoors Today

The moderate levels of particulate matter pollution in Austin and throughout Texas had me indoors for today's workout. At 6:00 am, the MP 2.5 level was 27. I was irritated, but it was for the better. It got me to the gym where the treadmill and elliptical were probably better as a recovery day anyway.

Waking up to bad news just started the day off wrong. And the day became so wrong in just a couple of hours. I then found the lost four-foot snake T and the neighbors were looking at the other day. Sure enough, four feet! It wasn't a Boa as previously thought. It was a harmless rat snake. Harmless, that is unless you're a frog or mouse. That's three snakes in one week. Anyway, the big one is now in the neighbor's tree.

I then forgot to lock the doors to the house. This is why I shouldn't be a pilot folks. "Landing gear, what landing gear?" And then there's the part about walking around all morning with unzipped pants. It's a wonder I even made it to work. But, as T and K often say, I have a bevy of guardian angels watching out for me. The gym workout was great, the snake non-poisonous, the house ok and I wore an untucked shirt which covered the zipper.

To change the open fly subject, I found out this morning my boss saw Food, Inc., the movie and is now buying all of her beef as grass-fed and the chickens as free-range. So far so good with my lacto-ovo-pescatarian lifestyle. I haven't had any cravings for meat or chicken yet. I need to check into what one of my coworkers is doing. She gets a box of vegetables from the Johnson Backyard Garden, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, located in Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Metronome Running

I came across an article on using a metronome during a run to set your foot strike cadence. The article is by Dr.Romanov, the creator of the Pose Method, which is similar to Chi Running and the Evolution Running method. Each try to get your feet underneath your hips and cadence up, thus creating less force on the bones and using more of the body's natural rubber bands.

The Evolution Method was mentioned in the book I just finished, Born to Run which describes how we've removed ourselves from a natural form of running and allowed the cushioning of the running shoe to absorb the weight-bearing stress which has resulted in 60 - 80% of runners being injured each year.

I downloaded three free iPhone metronomes and each were able to change the number of beats to 180 or 182. I strapped on the iPhone and earphones and it was relatively easy to set the pace according to the metronome.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Connection Between the Two?

Last week, NPR published two stories within days of each other. One story, Air Toxics Raise Cancer Risk In U.S. Neighborhoods points to several communities in the US that are so polluted, the risk of cancer goes up. A week after that story ran, another story dealing with cancer ran on NPR, Non-Smokers Suffer Lung Cancer Stigma. In the audio you can hear the disgust in the women's voices of how they're often seen by their peers as having lung cancer but are "never smokers." One of the women is a marathon runner and the other is a rower at UC/Berkeley which means they spend long intervals of time outdoors training, breathing air deep into their lungs.

"But breathing very polluted air long-term can raise the risk of lung cancer as much as breathing second-hand smoke," said study co-author C. Arden Pope III, PhD, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.." The study, Air Pollution Linked to Deaths From Lung Cancer clearly points out, "The risk comes when gases from auto exhaust and smokestacks combine with oxygen in the air to form very small particles that are breathed in."

"By the late 1980s and 1990s studies were showing that even at very low levels, air pollution was causing damage to health, the authors noted."

I'm still amazed at the number of convertibles I see sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway. I wonder how many of the non-convertibles have the ventilation pulling air from the outside, rather than recirculating the air within the car's cabin? I remember always having to change my Mom's ventilation setting in her car. I still wonder if this contributed to her getting cancer or whether it was one of the many other lifestyle aspects?