Making Some Changes

As followers of this feed know, Marc and I have been going to CrossFit for almost 8 years. It seems hard to believe that it has been that long, but it has. Over those years, we have had the opportunity to make new friends, challenge ourselves and have much fun. When I was burnt out during endurance training for half-marathons and marathons, CrossFit was a welcome respite. And who knew minions could do box jumps!?!

Honestly, CrossFit was the first place I ever worked out in that had a positive and an inclusive atmosphere. No gym I ever went to prior had anything remotely close to that. I love how it is normal in every local to cheer on the last person finishing the workout. Keep in mind that each location is individually owned so no mandate exists to adhere to a "code".

It was awesome that we would travel to so many places and do a workout, and walk out with a bunch of local recos on how to spend our time in that region. Our family and friends tagged us as part of the "cult", yet a number of them soon followed and become even more "devoted members of the cult". That was entertaining, but it was also fun seeing them challenge themselves to do things they didn't think were possible for themselves. The phenomenon known as 'Harvelicious' is still the stuff of legend.

Over those same years, Marc and I have had some events happen plus, you know, we're getting older. So we recently decided that we needed to change things. Our interests have changed over that time. Marc still swims, but I run less and we do more hiking together. I definitely still run on occasion plus I practice yoga, but little things kind of kept creeping in making us wonder if we needed to change other aspects of our training to meet our goals.

Enter the 'Delaying Decrepitude' room. The 'No Excuses' room is still around, but is definitely used for more stretching, rolling, etc. But the "D Squared" room has some pretty cool things that will allow us to take our high intensity and strength training to the next level that is more inline with our individual goals. Marc has his goals and I have mine, and some of them do not overlap.

We are excited for this next phase and what it will bring. Obviously no change comes without risk. But you can't grow if you're not willing to adapt and adjust. It will require some adjustments to our routine and more planning on our end, but overall we think this will help us achieve our goals. I have no doubt that we will continue to drop in at local CrossFits when we travel, but for now, it's time to focus on 'Delaying Decrepitude'. Stay tuned.

Walk of a Lifetime...

About 2 years ago, I had heard about an area called 'The Enchantments' in central Washington. As we started to hike more and more last year, I became more intrigued with the 20+ mile "thru hike" as I learned more about it. I'm not a camper so I didn't have any concerns about winning the lottery, but figuring out how to day hike different parts of it became an interest of mine.

We wanted to hike to Colchuck Lake for my birthday last year, but unfortunately forest fires engulfed the area so that didn't happen. A couple of weeks after, Marc and I hiked 8 of the 20+ mile trail, and turned around at Upper Snow Lake. The hike was a grind with a ton of switchbacks and not very picturesque until you get to Nada Lake, which is almost 5 miles in. Lower and Upper Snow Lakes followed soon after. 

Then about a month later, some unseasonably warm and sunny weather were on tap. So Marc and I decided to do a day trip to Leavenworth and hike to Colchuck Lake. It lived up to the hype in terms of beauty and views. It was about 5 miles of the 20+ mile trail. It was a steady climb up but lots of nice things to look at along the way. We had such a great day but it was a long day with the 5 hours of driving to go along with the hike. I saw Aasgard Pass from the base of Colchuck and said to Marc that we have to try that next year.

I convinced Marc to do Aasgard Pass as a goal for 2018. Then I talked to one of the coaches at our CrossFit who said that we shouldn't just do Aasgard Pass, see a few of the lakes at the top in the 'Core Enchantments', and then turnaround, which was my plan. The 'thru hike' is a legendary hike here in WA state and if we're fit enough to get up Aasgard, we could and should do the whole thing. Plus Aasgard is supposedly hell to descend. So we did the 1st 5 miles and the last 8 miles of the 'thru hike'. Now we just had to throw in the middle 7'ish miles.

Easy, right? Well I figured we needed some level of training, which involved a fair amount of hiking to get us set with our gear, fitness, etc. Then I figured lots of leg work would be helpful. That same coach came up with a training plan for me, which involved lots of leg cranks (and swearing at this same coach). Yoga helped a great deal. We did some great hikes when we could, while managing avalanche risks throughout the shoulder season. My favorite was getting up to Hurricane Ridge, which is in Olympic National Park and can see from our house. We lucked out with an epic weather day when we decided to head up there.

I was doing a fair amount of stalking of reported trail conditions on the WTA site. Trying to find the optimal week to do this required triangulating amount of daylight, how much snow was on the trail, and decent weather. We also were concerned about the risk of forest fires shutting down the trail, which is a constant threat for this time of year. I booked a few different sets of rooms over July and August so we had options if the snow pack wasn't melting as quickly as expected, etc. But we were hoping to do July to take advantage of as much daylight as possible. 

Things started to align for doing this in the 1st half of July, and we somehow managed to convince one of our friends to come along, which eliminated that whole "how are we going to get the car at the start" problem since it's a point-to-point hike. To say it was great having this person join us is an understatement as Marc and I relied on him quite a bit during the actual hike. 

We had a plan, well because we are planners. Timeline, what to bring, what to wear, maps, etc. I told Marc that we should treat this as I treated race week for when I ran long'ish distances - focus on sleep the week before, hydrate, a little extra salt with meals, etc. The day finally arrived and we started before 4am so we could be on the trail hiking by 5am. It was light enough where we didn't need headlamps. It was pretty warm also for being at a bit of altitude so we were in short sleeves to start. 

Made it to Colchuck on schedule, ate some more, saw some goats who like to hang around humans before we started the climb up Aasgard. So I've been talking about Aasgard without saying why it is such a beast. You go up 1900 feet in about a mile. That is one freaking steep grade to make your way up. We had done some training hikes that would somewhat mimic that, but until you see the real thing.... we knew Aasgard had a couple of false fronts, so we had to keep focused and not get demoralized when we thought we were at the top and were not. 

Aasgard was hard - no doubt about it. It wasn't so much the ascent but the terrain. Loose dirt and loose rocks, which made it hard to get your footing. I kept my poles on my pack so I could use my hands on the boulders. It's a push on whether you should use poles or not. We saw another couple using poles and they were cranking. Others were using their hands. After 2+ hours, we made it to the top and fortunately were able to avoid the sun beating down on us for 80% of the climb, which was a bonus.

We made it to the top and the views were as advertised. Not many people, snow capped mountains, glacial lakes slowly melting, more mountain goats, and blue skies. We had a clear view of Mount Baker in the distance, which was a treat. When you looked down at Colchuck, it was definitely a sense of accomplishment in terms of how far we had climbed. 

It was surprisingly warm once you moved out of the breeze. More bugs than we were expecting up in the "Upper Enchantments". I was a bit wobbly towards the end of the climb so I needed to get some calories in me ASAP. We filled up water bottles in one of the lakes and just soaked in the beauty as we walked through. 

We did have a schedule to keep to because even though we hit the highest point of the hike elevation-wise, we still had 14 miles to go. So we needed to keep moving along. But we were enjoying the views of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks, as well as Isolation and Tranquil Lakes. It sounds so cliche, but you really did feel isolated from everyone and tranquility was definitely something I was feeling.

My sports medicine doctor had advised of a couple of possible side treks to take but we didn't have a ton of time so we opted to stay on the main trail as much as possible. It still had snow fields to traverse in various places, but the whole time up there, you just knew it was special in the best way possible. We saw the various lakes and the well known Little Annapurna as the trail started to gradually descend. Lots of pics being snapped because it was JUST. SO. DARNED. GORGEOUS. 

We made our way to the 'Middle Enchantments' and saw Inspiration and Perfection Lakes. Plus we had a close-up of Prusik Peak. Sprite Lake was breathtaking. More awesomeness. t was bittersweet because it was so amazing up there, yet I knew our time was limited before we had to head down. Plus the likelihood of doing this hike again is slim.

The descent started to get a bit steeper as we hit the 'Lower Enchantments'. Leprechaun Lake, McClellan Peak and Viviane Lake continued to impress with their beauty. The trail was definitely more muddy at this stage so unlike wiping out in the snow, wiping out here would be less fun. We definitely had some "wet crossings" over rivers to cross that were also unstable for footing. My feet definitely went in the water a few times but it was so warm that my boots and socks dried quickly. 

Oh yes, the weather. The few campers we did see were in tanks and shorts (the Parks Department has a very strict limit on the number of people allowed to camp in the park at any one time and slots are awarded by lottery every year). It was easily 70+ degrees, which is very warm for this elevation (7000-8000 feet) and you were completely exposed in the sun. So we were drinking lots of water and using water filtration tablets/pumps to get fresh water from the lakes along the way. 

The last lake in the 'Lower Enchantments' was Lake Viviane. Somehow we lost the trail as we came upon that lake. That cost us a bit of time and was the start of me using my rear end to get down some pretty steep areas. Side note: Being short is not helpful when hiking and longer legs/arms would be helpful traversing boulders, carrying gear, etc. I was carrying about 25 lbs worth of gear on my frame while Marc who is a foot taller than me had about 35 lbs worth of gear. We made it to the Viviane crossing, which marked the end of being in the 'Core Enchantments' and the start of the true descent down to Upper Snow Lake. Filled up on more water and had about 10 miles to go. 

These next two miles were the ones I was worried about. Not a ton of documentation existed on how you got down from Viviane to Upper Snow, plus going downhill is not my favorite thing due to gravity, having short arms/legs, etc. We had maps, GPS, etc., but in any event, we lost the trail again. These things happen on hikes and fortunately we prepared for this. I have to admit though that I was not in a great place mentally when I heard we had to climb back up some really steep rocks in the blazing sun mid-afternoon and make it across some dicey gaps (thanks, KvT, for saving me on multiple occasions). But I also resolved that when I looked back on this day that I was going to focus on the beauty that we had in the 1st half of the day.

We got back on the trail and I started to think about how similar the roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing were to the ones I had when running half-marathons and marathons. So I channeled that experience and got back to the task at hand since we had about 10 miles to go (if you're a marathon runner, you know about 'the wall' which can strike at any time after mile 16). The descent was as challenging mentally as the Aasgard ascent was physically. It was getting later so then it was just about can we get back before dark. Upper Snow Lake was starting to get closer and closer and we eventually hit the south end of the lake. YAY!

Since we had done that hike previously, we knew that it was a gentle decline to the trailhead except for a boulder field to traverse. Marc and I also knew it was a very boring slog from Upper Snow Lake to the trailhead. After we crossed Upper Snow Lake, Marc changed shoes and the three of us just kept on trekking. The trail had changed since we had been on it with the boulder field, which made it "quicker" but more challenging for me, so I wasn't psyched to say the least. Then we started cranking again. 

With about 4 miles left, I noticed Marc slowing down. He informed me that he rolled his ankle and that he was just battling to to keep walking. His knees hurt from the gradual downhill and his hips were not happy. Ugh. Not good. We just kept moving trying to stay in good spirits as daylight was fading. He was a trooper. We hit the final set of switchbacks (25, in case you are wondering) when some light was still out there. About halfway down, we had to get out our headlamps - thanks, REI, for the "10 Essentials List". We were hoping not to have to use them, but that's why you have those items in your pack.

We finally made it to the trailhead - 17 hours after we started. We were happy and exhausted. Probably more of the latter. It took about 2-3 hours longer than expected. Oh - and we had to go get the other car at the start. YAY! Another 30 minutes. BUT.... as I said earlier, I knew that once we got some sleep, iced Marc's ankle, and ate, that we would look at this day as an epic one. We're not back at full strength, but we're both looking back at the hike as one of our best in terms of pure beauty. I've only attached a small sample of pics from the day. They don't do it justice. Look at more here.

The celebratory dinner may have been delayed, but it is happening this week. Serious food and wine will be had. 

Trust The Plan.

Every year, I set goals for myself - both personal and professional. It generally requires putting together a plan on how I am going to achieve these goals with some interim milestones so I can stay on track. 

One of the goals I set for myself was to be able to execute some basic movements that I have eluded me at CrossFit and at yoga for some time. And while I do have rheumatoid arthritis, which puts some physical limitations on me, I have always tried to figure out a modification for a movement I cannot do. But sometimes that obfuscates other issues. 

As I started thinking about goals for 2018, I wanted to re-visit some of the struggles that I have at CrossFit and not worked through. Then make them goals for 2018. One of those things is around safely executing overhead squats. I can get my rear below parallel on front squats with a decent amount of weight but nada for the overhead ones. Another challenge I have is around my wrists and hands, and being able to stay in plank or 'downward dog' for awhile during yoga practice. 

I went to Dr. Paul Molina and Geneva Bender at Kinetic Sports Rehab in mid-December and told them that I wanted to build towards overhead squats and being able to stay in certain yoga poses for an extended period of time. We started on the latter and I have been doing the assigned exercises for 2+ months on my own focusing on my fingers, wrists, forearms, lats, thoracic spine, and shoulders.

I was getting frustrated because I could not notice any meaningful progress based on one of the exercises I was doing. Truthfully, it's hard to see progress when you are doing it every day. I felt a couple of things getting easier at yoga. I did PR a couple of movements at CrossFit this past month (105# clean and push press and 30# dumbbell snatches), but I was focused on those darned wrist rockers. But c'mon Jill, trust the work you have done!

I went in to see Dr. Paul for a check-in. He performed some quick tests on my hands/wrists and informed me that my extension passive range of motion increased around 25 to 35 degrees and my active range of motion increased by 10 degrees. WOW! I was pretty shocked but very happy that the work I was putting in to this was paying off. Dr. Paul also told me not to use the wrist rockers as a litmus test for my progress as it is just something that is hard for many people even without the issues I have. 

Point taken. I should have just trusted the plan I had in place for doing my exercises and had faith that the work I was doing would pay off. I need to come up with more helpful milestones that truly indicate where I am at. So now we are working on the mobility and flexibility issues related to overhead squats and I hope to progress on that as well. Making progress on that front should help my running and my hiking too. Stay tuned as I continue to work on achieving these goals. 

And I'll start trusting the plans I have in place for other aspects of my life.

[Side note: For my 2013 broken hand rehab from the Australian Walkabout, I found a physical therapist named Andrea Bulat. She spent a fair amount of time educating me on what my range of motion should be and to focus on it during my workouts. Andrea was an immense help to Team Beck on a number of fronts, and we were sorry to see her move to Portland. I made so much progress in understanding how I could be a stronger athlete for the long-term thanks to her. I probably never would have had the awareness to set these goals without her help. Same with our friend, Zack Finer, who moved to Boulder - uh oh, is there a trend here? Hmmmm.]

On The Road Again....

Mixed marriage time:
Broncos vs. Giants in Denver
Well, gosh. It has been awhile. I mean, really. Much has happened. Since the last post, I took a job at a healthcare technology company called Change Healthcare, and have been on the road quite a bit. It is not an exaggeration between work and personal travel to say that I have travelled 150,000+ miles in the past year alone (mostly for work, but a couple of trips to Europe interspersed in there). Pro tip: Once you hit 40,000 miles on Alaska Airlines, they give you free chocolate. Who knew? 

So what else is new? Well I am anxiously awaiting Game 7 of the ALCS tonight where my Yankees are taking on the Astros. Really hoping CC Sabathia brings it along with the offense. We went to Denver last weekend to see Marc's Broncos take on my Giants, and the completely opposite outcome happened that we were expecting (Giants won). Speaking of Marc, I'm doing my best to make him a Yanks fan for this fall.
Yanks visit Seattle
Let's Go Yankees!

I said farewell to Facebook on Thanksgiving, 2016 as I felt it was way too toxic for me from a political perspective. I felt all sides were too vitriolic for me and the time spent on the platform just left me feeling negative and pissed off. You can find me on Instagram though where I get to look at pictures of beautiful places, funny people doing great things and whatever else my peeps like posting - although anything political gets an unfollow. 

The business travel has been a lot. I know, many of you know me from when I used to do that a lot, but I was much younger. Plus I really like being home, spending time with Marc and keeping to a routine. It is really hard to eat well and keep working out at a regular cadence when on the road. I put some pretty hard rules in place for my business trips when I started the role around exercise in to mitigate the impact of eating out all of the time. Yay for being a runner and for doing CrossFit! Lots of #viewfrommyrun pics posted on Instagram.
On top of Mt. Si. with Rainier
in background

Last summer was fairly insane with travel from Seattle to Augusta, Maine every other week, so this summer, I decided to wrestle some control back. This has led to Marc and I getting in some hikes in a number of gorgeous places. Some were pretty technical and on one of them, I was just dreading going down because of how treacherous the trail was [spoiler alert: I survived but it took longer to get down than to go up].

In other news, I continue to brush up on skills around R, Python and SQL because it falls into that whole 'trying to suck less and challenge myself more' thing? While I have no intention of becoming a software engineer, I find taking the time to focus on this kind of thing helps me as both a Product Manager and a Program Manager. I'm reading a book on Submarine Design because someone told me it would be a great way to understand multivariate design as a whole. I'll let you know how that works out but this might fall into 'you can't make this stuff up'.
Top of Lone Cone in Tofino, BC

Marc and I decided to dust off our golf clubs, and the best thing about that from my perspective is that I didn't kill anyone at the range.... yet. 

We will see how long it will be before I post again, but in the meantime, thanks for tuning in and GO YANKEES!

You Just Never Know.

[NOTE: Originally authored for Modo Yoga Seattle's blog. They were gracious enough to ask me to write about my experience with the recent 30-day challenge.]

If you would have told me 15 months ago that I would be practicing yoga regularly, let alone completing two 30-day challenges, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here I am, and I’m better for it.

Some background. I am a Type A person who has the MO of “getting stuff done”. Make a ToDo list, complete it and create the next one. Repeat cycle. Before yoga, I ran and did CrossFit. I still do those and I enjoy all 3 activities for different reasons. [Sidebar: Yes, you can do CrossFit and practice yoga, and not spontaneously self-combust.]

I figured I would do the 30-day challenge in March because I was in between jobs and I had some extra time. Why not, right? My focus during this challenge was to ‘believe in myself’ after I transitioned out of a company I co-founded. I also wanted to continue to ‘be present’ and not multitask, which was a goal I set earlier in the year.

What I learned in the challenge was that “every day is a different day”. Your body works differently at 6am than it does at 5:30pm. Having the same expectation of your body’s capabilities for every practice is unrealistic. Just like life, right?

That 30-day endeavor inadvertently ended up preparing me for the most challenging period of my life. My husband, Marc, ended up having emergency brain surgery in mid-April and the recovery was stressful for obvious reasons. One person that I became friends with during the challenge helped out in a major way on surgery day with a small and simple act of kindness.

The lesson here is that you just never know where help is going to come from when you need it.

We had some other significant “bumps in the road” surface in that timeframe. Our friends encouraged me to keep exercising and set time for myself while all of this was taking place. So I kept going to yoga as much as I could while mixing in running with friends.

We certainly had our share of things that we couldn’t control, but you can control certain things and ‘gratitude’ was one of those I focused on. Someone always has it worse than you and setting that intention in class was huge in helping me remain focused and composed. Marc’s recovery was progressing in a positive direction, so the regular reminder during a tumultuous period was good.

Rose, one of our beloved instructors, had a great quote in a practice that said, “Don’t think about how far you have to go. Think about how far you have come.” We were at a pretty tenuous phase in Marc’s recovery at that point so those words really resonated with me and they still do many months later.

I also learned to just ‘accept’ what I could and couldn’t do on a given day, whether it was at a practice or in some other facet in life. Lying down and chilling for half of the class was surprisingly liberating and I picked that up doing the bingo in the 30-day challenge. Did I mention I like to get stuff done yet?

The quiet in the room added calm when everything outside felt pretty chaotic. It allowed me to prioritize keeping things simple as much as possible so I could take care of both Marc and myself. I still say to people that yoga was definitely a form of therapy as I was simultaneously dealing with multiple crises.

Fast forward to the 2nd challenge in October, which had a backstory about some “unfinished business” for me (click here). In one of the workshops led by Kylie, she said something to the effect of “if you’re not willing to inspect, you can’t expect”. Another gem of a quote.

In between the 2 challenges, I had done a fair amount of introspection about a number of things going on in my life. I had made some changes, which were starting to yield results on a number of fronts.

By mid-October, Marc was participating in yoga practices 3x/week thanks to Brandon’s help. He had his modifications and the atmosphere at MYS made us feel very comfortable to just do the best we could.

Marc’s determination to stretch, sweat and recover from his multiple surgeries motivated me on days that I didn’t feel like getting out of bed at 5:30am to complete the challenge. But I did. My fellow challengers also motivated me when I was on the fence so we would make a plan to hit a class together. Marc practiced next to me as I finished day 42, which was my goal. 42 sessions in 42 days.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself from when I first walked into MYS in late October, 2014. Participating in the 30-day challenge not knowing what to expect gave me more than I bargained for. I absolutely recommend it and advise going in with an open mind. It’s different for everyone. And jeez, two 30+ day yoga challenges in under a year. Never would have thought that would have been me! But you just never know.

If You're Not Willing To Inspect, You Can't Expect

I heard the quote at a yoga workshop I took today. Sometimes I will hear quotes and truthfully, they won't resonate with me too much. It's probably more of a slight against me than about the quote. This one did strike a chord with me.

Yeah, it can seem hokey to the many cynics in my life but if you think about it - when have you been able to proactively make impactful changes to your life without taking a hard look in the proverbial mirror? 

The past 12 months have been challenging for me on every front. Personally, professionally and everything in between. It's required me to take some time to look within and see how I can be better. Better as a wife, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a professional and any other role that I have. Getting focused on what matters. Yoga and running have helped quite a bit. Our friends have been awesome. Family members have stepped up. But I found another ally in the aim to be more introspective - reading books.

I find that reading books helps with those kinds of efforts because it requires a focus that reading current events, social media, etc. does not. And I am a current events junkie so it takes a fair amount of restraint to not check to see the latest and the greatest happenings locally, domestically and abroad. That said, the events of the past year have required me to focus and look within more than I can ever remember. It wasn't easy and most of it was not fun or enjoyable.

One of the first things I decided as part of this new chapter is that I was going to significantly reduce multitasking. I started this around 11 months ago after an overwhelming amount of evidence started coming out that multitasking actually makes you LESS productive. The focus on reading books more recently has reminded me that I do have the ability to focus and to concentrate on the critical things in my life that need to be done. 

As I was trying to assess what my next professional move was going to be (outside of consulting for small businesses), I was recommended to read Steve Blank's "The Four Steps to Epiphany". Given that I have been a co-founder 2x and have consulted on and off for a number of years, I was stunned that I hadn't read this sooner. I don't know if it made me feel better but it reinforced why certain decisions were flawed from the start in both endeavors. Let's just say that it was a HUGE EYE OPENER for me and if you're thinking about starting your own business, you should read it. 

On a similar theme, I follow a number of entrepreneurs on Twitter including Ben Horowitz of a16z, a venture capital firm in the Bay Area. I enjoy his tweets and blog posts. When I found out he recently wrote a book called "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", I knew I needed to read it. He wrote very candidly about some of his biggest lessons learned and all of the warning signals he missed as he was making critical decisions. And this past year has been about making hard decisions and yes, some collateral damage resulted which is unfortunate.

A recent read included "On The Edge" by Alison Levine, which recounts her experiences climbing Mount Everest and ties in some leadership lessons. It helped that I had read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer a number of years ago and then saw the recent movie "Everest" which was based on the same events of 1996 but from a different perspective. As far as quick reads go, "Into Thin Air" was one of them but it was good to get a different perspective of events by Beck Weathers, who was with Krakauer on that ill-fated expedition. 

Another fast paced read included "Orange Is The New Black". OK, I am probably one of the last people in the world to read this book but it was enjoyable and more so because a great friend gifted it to me when I broke my hand a couple of years ago and needed some reading material. I am only sorry that it took me so long to get to it. No, I don't watch the TV show and nor do I plan to. But I did find the book entertaining.

Awhile back, one of my running buddies asked if I had read "The Boys In The Boat" by Daniel James Brown. I mistakenly said yes thinking that they were talking about "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam, which I had read 2 or 3 years ago. Both were about rowing and competing for the US Olympic team but in different eras. 

Halberstam's book was very good. His books were very high quality. I particularly enjoyed "The Teammates", which discussed the friendship of 4 teammates from the Boston Red Sox (yes, this New York Yankees fan just wrote that) - Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams, who remained close for 60+ years. I'm fairly confident you wouldn't see professional sports players roadtripping today as these boys did, which is what was documented in the book. 

Speaking of the Red Sox, a couple of years ago I read Terry Francona's "Francona: The Red Sox Years", which he wrote with Dan Shaughnessy of 'The Boston Globe. Why did I read a book on the manager of the Red Sox team that crushed me in 2004? I like Francona and can't believe the amount of BS he put up with when managing those teams. He always seemed gracious and thankful that in spite of the crap that he thought he was the luckiest guy around.

I finally got around to reading the book by Brown while we were in Santa Barbara last weekend. Absolutely loved it. It made me sad following the story of the main character and his upbringing. It made me happy how much he was determined to overcome the many challenges he faced. Pick it up, download it to your e-reader or borrow it from your library when you have time. The research done for "The Boys In The Boat" was impeccable and was hard not to appreciate as the story unfolded in the book.

In different ways, all of these books have reinforced what I heard in my yoga workshop today about basically looking within before having any expectations - whether of myself or of others. Taking the time to bring life's insanity "down a few pips" by reading helps me get more calm and focus on the goals I have set for myself. I know that being a bit more introspective has helped me achieve some of those goals and am hoping that it will continue to be rewarding for me on all fronts.

1 Mar: Cerro Aconcagua (ARG).

We woke up to very blue skies and no clouds to be seen, which seemed to be a good omen for our day trip to see Cerro Aconcagua. Aconcagua is one of the 'Seven Summits' and is the highest mountain outside of Asia at almost 23,000 feet. Marc and I actually summited one of these peaks in Australia known locally as Mt. Kozi.

The road we took connects the Atlantic (Buenos Aires) with the Pacific (Valparaiso, Chile) so it is actually well paved (a luxury in Argentina) and heavily traveled by tourists, truckers, etc. We stopped off at Puente del Inca, which is a natural arch that forms a bridge over a local river. The rock formations have some really interesting color combinations and we heard some legends associated with the arch.

Side note: CrossFit always talks about functional fitness. Well on this trip, it has been quite functional when using banos (aka toilets) on the road. The movement I am referring to is the squat, which requires you to shove your rear end back and not push your knees forward. Using some of these "facilities" has required me to really leverage those squatting skills picked up at CrossFit. I know many of our friends are competing in the CrossFit Open, but I have my own competition going on the road....

OK, back to the tour. The Andes in Argentina have 3 sections and they all have different elevations, characteristics, etc. The clear skies made it ideal to appreciate the differences. After 3 hours, we arrived at the Aconcagua Provincial Park at just over 11,000 feet. The skies were still very clear and the mountain had snow on it. It was a gorgeous backdrop.

We did a relatively easy 2 mile circuit, saw some horses bringing supplies down from one of the base camps, and really enjoyed the views. Definitely lucky on the weather. And yes, 2 miles at 11,000 feet is very different than at sea level or even half of that elevation.

After our walk and snapping some photos, we headed back to Mendoza, had more meat (because that's what they do in Argentina) and laughed about the playlist from the driver's CD collection that focused on 80s love songs. Think Peter Cetera, Debbie Gibson, Billy Joel, Spandau Ballet, Michael Bolton, Christopher Cross and Air Supply. I started to get disappointed that I didn't hear any Barry Manilow. We also spent part of the ride back monitoring how our 5 friends (and running buds) were faring in the Napa Marathon. Gotta love technology.

We walked around Mendoza after our tour and it was pretty quiet. The 4th largest city in Argentina pretty much shuts down on Sundays. Marc and I then had dinner at a restaurant called Nadia O.F. within a few blocks of our hotel. For whatever reason, we were the only people there and we left after 11pm. The food was great, the courtyard was pretty and the service was excellent. Our server was able to tell us more about Mendoza and the wine scene, so bonus for us.

Dessert came and Marc spotted a liquer that he was keen on trying with his chocolate, which seemed similar to one of his faves, Nocello. Marc enjoyed the wine to the point where we are going to be throwing out some clothes so we can fit these 3 bottles in our respective backpacks for the trip back home. I stuck with my new favorite "faux dessert wine" - Torrontés.

Wait, Jill Is Doing Yoga And Liking It?

Over the summer, I noticed a couple of my friends trying out the new yoga studio in the neighborhood. Now these friends are people that I workout with at CrossFit so I was intrigued. Yoga and CrossFit? Running too?

As a runner, I have always known that yoga could help me because I may be the most inflexible (hey now, I was talking physically!) person on the planet. But the one time I tried it in 2003 just made me feel like a loser with no hope of making progress due to my rheumatoid arthritis.

Last October, I asked my friend, Lissa, about it and stressed that "I wasn't into the whole kumbaya thing. I just wanted to stretch and stuff." As good friends typically do, she agreed to meet me at the studio one morning and she showed me the ropes.

The instructor that morning was one of the owners and was briefed on my very novice status. He was gracious and helpful, but made it easy for me to understand in a full room of participants. I sweated in class. I looked like I went swimming in my workout clothes. Rookie mistake was not bringing a change of clothes because it's hot yoga. But I was intrigued.

What if? What if I gave it a fair shake and tried to use it to get warmed up before a lifting session across the street at CrossFit? What would happen?

Well I started enjoying that I had to totally focus when executing poses. I liked that the instructors would come over & subtly give me a modification to help me get more out of a pose. I am still adjusting to the non-verbal interaction in the practice (aka class) so I need to remember questions to ask afterwards.

Oh, I started to lift more weight. I crushed 6 previous PRs at CrossFit that I had trouble working through in 2014.

And then some of the yoga instructors would talk trash before/after class even though they are Canadian (that's for you, CP).

I never thought I would be a person who would look forward to the silence & focus of yoga, but here I am. I'm one of those people. But I still love running with my friends and I still love lifting weights. It's fitting it all in that is the problem!!!

Next week, Marc and I are off on another adventure. It won't be as long as the Australian Walkabout but we're hoping it will be just as fun! We're fortunate enough to do these things every once in awhile. It's also the reason for dusting off the blog. I'm trying a new tool for blogging from the iPad.

Go try something new & test yourself. You may not love it. That's fine. At least you could say you tried it. Then again, you never know what you can get out of it if you give it a go.



"Trying to Get That Feeling Again"....

Yes, yes. I am talking about the Barry Manilow song released almost 40 years ago. Barry creeped back into my head after I heard that at my 25 year high school reunion, some of my former classmates were doing some karaoke to one or two of this songs. Where was Lola? Was she a showgirl?

I couldn't make the timing work to attend the reunion back on Long Island, but fortunately Facebook has provided me with some laughs at the goofiness and good-natured fun that seems to have taken place over the 2 day event. 

As the regulars of this blog know, I have been running regularly since 2008 (started in late 2004). Going back to the 1st quarter of 2014, I was still working with my awesome running coach, Teresa, but I was struggling with getting my workouts in. The Upower launch and everything associated with that was getting in the way of following a regimented training plan. And yes, Upower is going really, really well thanks to the commitment and the passion of our great team.

Teresa was understanding about "life getting in the way" but ultimately I just kept feeling worse about not hitting my plan on any level. So I dropped coaching back in April, which was a tough but necessary realization. Teresa couldn't have been more gracious. But I did "break up" with running and training for races.

I thought of the song in today's blog post title because I participated in Ragnar NW Passage this past weekend. It had been a couple of years since running it with my friends and last year I needed to take off after not being able to train because of the "unexpected broken hand" thing, etc.

Lissa, our good friend, always runs a great team and I knew the gang had been short because of an injury. I finally volunteered a month ago with the disclaimer that I wasn't doing much on the running front as opposed to '11 and '12. [Translation: SLOW] She didn't care and the gang accepted me back with open arms. 

I knew that I needed to give myself a chance not to get injured by building up on the mileage front. My regular friends and running buds were happy to have me back on their weekend runs. I was happy to be back with Tricia, PNak, Caryn and Molly. So I threw in some regular runs over the past month with the hope I wouldn't embarrass myself on the course.

I had about 16 miles between my 3 legs. I'd say that the 1st 2 were pretty easy. I wasn't overly concerned other than the timing of the 2nd one and limited van support for that leg. The 3rd one had some hills and of course had the extra "lack of sleep and completely exhausted" factor thrown in. Oy. 

I ran my 1st leg exactly as I wanted to. Used the downhill to recover and not go crazy, and then kept things steady in other parts of the run. I knew I had 2 legs to go, so I needed to save myself. Mission accomplished. 8:20 pace for 6 miles. Very happy with that. Felt good about sticking to my plan and still giving a strong effort.

I ran my 2nd leg like a sprint, which was sort of my plan. I just didn't feel safe running at night with a few random people walking around at night. Part of the leg didn't have van support and we were the 7th team in, so I didn't have other runners around me. 8:41 pace for 2.8 miles. My time wasn't "fast", but I ran as fast as could without causing myself to puke after. And I made it safely to hand-off. Success.

As with every Ragnar, you can't expect to sleep any meaningful amount overnight (unless you are a doctor who is used to cat naps). Our van slowly got ourselves together around 5:30am to wait for our other 6 teammates to come in. I felt exhausted. Legs, brain, you name it. And I still had my toughest leg ahead. 

My original plan had me just taking it easy on the uphills, recover on the downhills, and then see how it all went. I was targeting a 9:15 pace for the 6.8 miles. Paps, one of my teammates and probably the strongest runner out of all of us, came flying in and handed the wristband off to me. I was off and slightly nervous.

Everyone in the van and on the team as a whole had been running well. Darn. What if I had to walk because I just wasn't trained up enough? Anyway, I trudged up the first hill at a steady pace. Everything felt hard and I was hitting my pace. Started telling myself to "just get up the hill, Jill." Knee hurt, plantar hurt. 

I knew the boys (my 5 van mates were all guys) would be waiting for me at 2.5 miles in and they already came by with the cowbell. Just told myself to get to them and sort it out there. I made it to the top of the hill at mile 2 and then I saw something better than my guys. 

I saw another runner ahead. Hmmm. Hello "roadkill" possibility. :-) I had to then remind myself to not get ahead of myself and speed up. I had much more work to do, including more hill work. So I followed their pace to see if I was getting closer even at my reduced pace. I was. I know Teresa is smiling reading this.

I stuck to my plan and things got easier. Not easy, but easier. At mile 4 exactly, I got my roadkill. I was pumped. I continued to stay with my plan. I came in at a 9:12 pace. I was absolutely elated! The guys were psyched and I knew I ran well. It was my slowest run of the bunch, but I was proud of pushing through doubts/aches, getting a little fired up and sticking to my overall strategy for Ragnar, however misguided.

Not sure where I am with my running and my training, but I know that I am in a better place than I was 72 hours ago. And that's a good step. But hopefully we're closer to getting back that feeling again.

The other awesome thing that happened is that our team agreed to wear Upower shirts to help us get the word out about our "soon-to-be" running program. It was a wonderful gesture from the team and even better when they announced us as "Team Clif Bar and Upower" as we crossed the finish together.

Bringing 2013 To A Close (Oh, and Becks Are Now Employed).

It is amazing that 2013 is almost done. Fortunately for Marc and I, it was mostly a pretty phenomenal year and we are incredibly grateful for that.

We had the Australian Walkabout for 3+ months, which was an awesome experience and way more worthwhile than we ever could have hoped for.

We watched our parents get healthier and defy their respective ages. We also made our brother-in-law a CrossFit convert after he resisted for so long. :-)

We hosted another successful "Open That Bottle Night" (after we did one in Australia!!!) and JDRF dinner, and we had "Beck The Halls" storm back into our lives with a vengeance! Our families and our friends continue to make us chuckle and to be supportive of our endeavors.

We had visitors from all over, including 4 of our nephews and nieces. We got to spend Thanksgiving in NY and Christmas in SoCal, both of which were so much fun.

We mostly remained injury-free to pursue our fitness activities around swimming, running and CrossFit.

The decision to close Purple Teeth Cellars. Yes, this is a positive thing because we were able to close the business down on our terms so we can focus on other projects going forward.

We both found jobs that we are excited about (more below). It was worth taking the time off and then taking our time to find opportunities that we are passionate about.

And most importantly, we are both healthy and very thankful for that.

Some of the "not so great" things in 2013 include:

The broken hand and recovery with the "purple claw".

3 of our close friends being diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. Fortunately they all seem on the road to recovery. But HUGE dislike here.

The Yankees and the New York Giants 2013 campaigns (ok, this only negatively impacts one of us for this one and truthfully - not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things).

So in reality, it was a very good year for the Becks.

I'll let Marc decide if he wants to talk about his role, but he is happy and excited which is all that matters to me.

About 3+ months ago, I asked a close friend if she wanted to move forward on an idea that we had only talked about in passing. She said yes pretty quickly, which was pretty exciting but a little scary.

Reason it was a little scary was that this is a completely new space for me. We have created a non-profit called "uPower" that will focus on getting underprivileged kids in Seattle to after-school fitness activities. My role is "Executive Director" - aka the "GSD" person. The initial emphasis will be working with local CrossFits here in Seattle and pairing up with local schools.

It's been a busy few months trying to get this off of the ground, but we have made a ton of progress. You won't find a website yet as that is still in development, but behind-the-scenes... trust me, I have been busy working with my co-founder on building the best infrastructure we can so we are hopefully in a position to scale this concept properly. 

I am fortunate to have an awesome Board of Directors to help me out so we can move this concept forward. We are lucky to have a network of people who can connect us with experts as we get more educated on a myriad of topics. And yes, it's a whole new subject matter for me but I am embracing the challenges ahead.

So with that, onward to next year. Hoping for all of you to have a wonderful 2014!

"Green" by R.E.M. is 25 Years Old.... Wha????

Yes, that awesome album/CD/tape (whatever format you had when it came out) is now 25 years old. How the heck did THAT happen? Wow. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right? Of course I will age myself some more and indicate that this brings me back to the years of Massapequa High School... Oy!

Many of our regular readers are baseball fans. And almost every baseball fan complains about how absurd the scheduling is for their respective team. Great little "30 for 30" on the husband and wife team who did the scheduling by hand.

I wouldn't say that I am a huge NBA fan. I lost interest in the Knicks thanks to the idiocy of James Dolan and his blind loyalty to Isiah Thomas. I know some of the players, particularly the ones on the marquee teams, like the Miami Heat. I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article by Chris Bosh in WIRED about the virtues of being able to write code. He also mentioned an interesting non-profit called '', which has some really interesting ideas about incorporating programming into education. Check it out.

Remember the adage "don't run 1/2 marathons on back-to-back weekends"? You don't? That's probably because most people do not need someone to tell them that. They just are smart enough not to do it! Unlike moi. Yep, ran the Snohomish River Run the week after the Nike 1/2 Marathon and let's just say it was a fight the whole way. Legs had no mojo and missed my PR by ~40 seconds. A bit disappointing, but given that I was sick for most of October and the hard 13.1 the previous week (even though it wasn't race pace), I can't complain too much.

Final races for the year seem to be a 5K in about a week and a 4-miler about a week later. Then I think I will be good. I look forward to spending some time building up at CrossFit and working on a project that has been in the works for a few weeks.

We have been doing some fun things on the home cooking front. Picked up a new cookbook from "Gramercy Tavern", a long time favorite of mine in New York. Then I do some experimenting with a cookbook from a wonderful place in Sydney that we ate at called "Quay". 

One of the birthday gifts that Marc picked up for me was "Modernist Cuisine At Home". Interesting take on cooking because it is written as if cooking is more about the science as opposed to some of the art involved. I like a little bit of both. We actually went to an exhibit currently showing at the Pacific Science Center showcasing some of the photography used in the book. Definitely unique.

Even with all of the science, I have been able to use the cookbook on a few recipes over the past couple of months and look forward to using it for a dish in celebration of a close friend's birthday. Lucky me!

Nike San Francisco Race Report.

Considering the "Australian Walkabout" and the subsequent "broken hand incident and recovery", my expectations for racing this year were pretty low. A friend asked me when I came back if I wanted to throw our names in the lottery for the Nike 1/2 in San Fran and for some reason, I said "sure, why not?" 

Yes, you get a Tiffany necklace at the end instead of a finisher's medal, and it is handed to you by a very handsome member of the SF Fire Department. BUT there are hills. And they are steep. Oh, the course is congested because 30,000+ people get accepted into this race. I thought that we are never getting in. Until. of course, we did in late June. OK, time to get real about training.

Training was going pretty well thanks to TN until late September when a cold/sore throat came and still hasn't completely left. This impacted some of my training so Coach and I made a call to make Nike SF a "training run" and use a local race the following week as my "A" race.

Thank goodness I met up with one friend running the race the day before as she informed me that the race started at 6:30am, not 7am. OK, now that would have sucked. But yeah, early start. Got up at 5am so I could chow a Kind bar and drink a bit of water. Always helpful being a 1/3 of a mile from the start. Easy walk over. Bit cool and dark since race started at 630am. Took a gel 5 mins before go time, sipped some water, etc. Had 2 water bottles with me, and the plan was to meet Marc at mile 7 for 2 more bottles. Had 3 more gels with me.

I've never not raced a race (double negative, I know) before, so I was curious to see how I would rise to this challenge. The goal was to run it, stay in z2 and work on some fueling, tactics, etc. Be conservative in those 1st 7 miles, recover on the downhills and don't skimp on the fueling. As a side note, when people asked me my goal, I said that if I got in under 1:55 that I would be ecstatic but 2 hours would be a solid effort. This is not a PR course by any stretch so getting that expectation out of my head was helpful.

CP and I started slow. It's a mob scene with 30000 other runners and the whole Team in Training thing makes things worse since they let slower runners go first. But we tried to stay conservative and not weave in/out. I made a conscious decision to go on feel, so I did not check my HR. 1st 4 miles were pretty easy. A couple of spurts here and there based on little climbs, etc. My splits seemed reasonable.

At the end of mile 4, CP slowed down as she had a plantar issue and I pressed on. Mile 5 was a bit quick since there was some subtle downhill, but I didn't feel like I pushed harder. Just tried to maintain effort. Popped in a gel a 30 minutes to prep for the hill.

At mile 5.84, the big climb started. Yes, I took note because I knew it was a mile of straight uphill. With about a 1/2 mile left of the climb, I started to walk a little. Popped in a gel. I tried not to pay attention to pace on the hill. CP caught me and I dropped her off with Marc, got 2 more bottles and went on. BTW it was foggy and the weather was really perfect for racing.

I got over the hill and saw my split was 9:55. I was pretty happy about that. To get through that with a walk break under 10 minutes was pretty darned good. I saw plenty of people going crazy on the downhill and thought "suckers".... they are going to get crushed in about 10 minutes. Yep, passed them later on. That advice about using the downhill to recover just like we practiced in track really paid off. I used the down time to start doing the math on getting in under 2 hours. Before I knew it, it was time to climb again through the rollers in a gorgeous neighborhood known as Sea Cliff. 

I kept pushing and again, on the final big hill, I took a walk break and popped in my final gel. Again back to the downhill, more steep, but I kept it under control. A tiny bit faster than the last one since the next uphill wasn't too bad, etc.  Sub 2 was definitely doable if I pushed a little on the next uphill. I knew I could pick off people in miles 11-12 as people were going to be tired, displeased about a subtle yet annoying hill and their legs were going to be pissed off from going nuts on the downhill. The last mile is mostly downhill, and I went in seeing if I could get in at 1:57. Ultimately, my calves cramped up at 12.5 so I just tried to remain steady and finish strong. I did that. I felt good from a cardio perspective in the last 3 miles, which I imagine was a result of the conservative 1st half and not being stupid on the downhills.

Official time: 1:58:19 -- a 14+ minute improvement from when I did this same race (same course) in 2008. Not bad for a tune-up race. And I placed pretty well. Hit 5% in my age group and 7% overall. Not bad, Beck.

And now I get to do it all over again in 6 days. Stretching will be my mantra this week.

Keeping Busy In San Francisco.

We just came back from a pretty busy weekend in San Francisco, which was filled with great times with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a half marathon, which we will cover in a separate post.

The plane ride and some recovery time after the race allowed me to read Wheelman: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever. Not sure I would recommend it because it just confirmed what I already thought of Lance Armstrong. That's not a knock on the authors from the WSJ, as it was meticulously researched, but it just provided more insight as to what a diabolical and selfish person he is. If you're interested in how pervasive the drug culture was in cycling and the extent to which Armstrong wanted to protect his legacy, read the book.

Our time in SF had us hitting some excellent restaurants. Coqueta, which focuses on Spanish cuisine, was the standout. We went to Frances to celebrate the 1/2 marathon finish, which was also excellent. Great service too. Rich Table had so much hype, so it was slightly disappointing that it didn't knock your socks off. That said, it was very good and even better to catch up with some of the SF cousins.

We went and visited with a former neighbor of mine from Massapequa, who is now a paramedic with the SFFD. It was really fun catching up with him, and he told us of a museum we never heard of called 'The Disney Museum'. It's historical artifacts from the Disney family about how Walt Disney & Co. became the massive entertainment company that it is today. Not really for kids, but for those of you who grew up with Disney as they grew up, you'll appreciate it.

Marc is a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and it just so happened that the Cartoon Art Museum is showcasing an exhibit on some of the drawings used in 'The Sandman' series. It was interesting, but unfortunately they had some other kind of festival going on that made things very loud and chaotic in there, which took away from wanting to read more about the drawings.

It wasn't what we would call an awesome sports weekend by Beck standards. The Broncos lost and the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. The New York Giants are about to kick off for MNF, so no news on if they will put their 2014 1st draft pick status in jeopardy.

And yeah, Congress and Obama finally got their act together.... until we get to do this again in January-February, 2014. Good job, elected officials! Idiots - all of them. But props to Chris Christie for giving up the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey - progress for my friends who live there!

All in all, a fun and a busy weekend in SF catching up with a bunch of people. Now back in Seattle to face reality and the Giants playing on Monday Night Football.

Interesting Reads, Cooking Adventures, Etc.

It's been a busy month, thus far. Running, cooking, CrossFit, friends, quick trip to Whistler, getting ready for the JDRF dinner and helping Harvalicious with his "Barbells for Boobs" fundraiser. 

I never get around to reading as much as I would like, but found a few articles over the past 3-4 weeks that have been interesting:

I had NO IDEA that if you declare bankruptcy that pretty much every debt will be forgiven, except for student loan debt. I am not sure which "genius" decided on that, but it has the potential to stifle innovation and risk taking in America. I am all for paying your debts but this is absurd. You try and get a new start, and your student loans will always be with you (but not your credit card debt). Not good.

Fascinating read on the sequence of events that took place after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Good job, Esquire.

What a cool story about a "sommelier on wheels". Shows that you can always pursue your dream if you really are passionate about it. It would be interesting to understand what was involved in the service portion of the Master Sommelier exam. 

I am convinced that Gianni Agnelli was "The Most Interesting Man In The World" before Dos Equis came up with the moniker for their very hilarious ad campaign.

It's not looking good for the Yanks to make the playoffs. I am pretty much "anyone but Boston" at this stage, but I think it would be pretty cool if the Indians and Pirates made it to the Fall Classic. The Giants are off to a horrific start. No O-Line and a leaky defense. Not sure how Kevin Gilbride still has a job and how much more of a pounding Eli Manning can take.

Running is going well mostly. Some aches and pains, but getting through the workouts and improving efficiency.... hopefully.

Spent the long Labor Day weekend in Whistler, BC. Hung out with a good friend, golfed for the 1st time since getting the broken hand fixed and cooked some lasagne. Good times.

On the home cooking front, Marc picked up for me "Modernist Cuisine At Home" as a gift and I have been busy trying things out like "Sous Vide Pork Belly" for an upcoming dinner party challenge, omelettes, pressure cooked vegetable soup, amongst other things. It's definitely educational and I look forward to seeing how I can "up my game". Other recipes I have worked on include an heirloom tomato salad from "Down Home: Downtown", which was great, and Chocolate Pudding Souffles with Almond Butter Ganache, which was adapted from "Michael Mina: The Cookbook". Yes, you read that right - Jill baked.

We are still fundraising for JDRF (will be through mid-November) and have our big dinner on Saturday. The dinner is sold out, which is awesome. Hovering around $18,000. Thanks to all who have donated to date! Harvalicious (aka Dad) is also fundraising to provide mammograms for those who can't afford them. You can donate here! Harv is going to do a special CrossFit workout with his "box" on October 5th for the cause! More to come on this.

Trying to Keep Pace

Not much to report on the running front. I finally graduated to mile repeats at track, which is progress and I did a trail run with my friends that had some hills over the weekend, so we keep moving forward. Time is ticking and I feel like I need more and more hill work, but I have to trust the plan that Coach 'T' has laid out, which I have followed for the most part. But if you thought that the title of this blog entry had to do with keeping up with my friends on the run, you're wrong. :-)

Last night, we had the pleasure of hosting some close friends over for dinner who also happen to be foodies and love their wine. These dinners tend to have themes and definitely bring out some friendly competition amongst the gang. Most of the people in the group are classically trained chefs or have worked in professional kitchens. The others just merely "like to cook". Marc and I tend to "hope to keep up" with the talent surrounding us, and then try to keep things classic, simple and with a bit of a twist.

In honor of one of our friend's receiving some really positive news, we let her pick out the theme for the evening. Given her roots, she chose 'Italian'. I knew I didn't want to slave over fresh pasta so I quickly claimed a course of 'protein and veg'. And no, you can't do Ronzoni with this crew. Heh. Marc and our Italian friend partnered on dessert, which ended up being mind-blowing. Translation: non-dessert eaters had seconds. Well played, Marc and Danielle.

I went through some of our Italian oriented cookbooks from places like SPQR, Babbo, Union Square Cafe (plenty of Italian inspired dishes), and Tra Vigne. Plus we also have Molto Mario. I had to find something that wasn't too heavy, wasn't too big and would appease the palates of the gang. I settled on a dish from Mario Batali's 'The Babbo Cookbook', which we use quite a bit - most notably for their awesomely easy and fabulous "Dry-Aged Ribeye For Two" recipe.

So on I went with "Duck Braciole with Fava Beans and Pecorino Toscano". This recipe wasn't too complex but it was going to involve me de-boning a bunch of duck legs/thighs, which I have never done before. I allowed a bunch of time to complete the task and did a couple of extra ones so I could test drive the recipe over lunch. The instructions weren't that helpful in the cookbook so I just kind of improvised and hoped I wouldn't cut off a finger. Mission accomplished.

I substituted the stuffing that had bread crumbs with crumbled up almonds. The rest of the stuffing had fresh Italian parsley, chopped garlic and orange zest. That was pretty straightforward to assemble. Then you basically just put the stuffing in the middle of the duck leg and tied it up so it kept its shape while it baked in the oven. While it baked in the oven, one could say that the depiction of a "duck fat jacuzzi" was taking place. BTW when I used that term with Marc after reading Gastoblog's attempt at the recipe, Marc almost spit up his coffee.

After baking in the oven, Marc and I tasted. It wasn't bad but we both thought it was odd that the recipe didn't have me 'scoring the duck', which helps render the fat out. The upside is that you get some nice duck fat to use for something else. So I decided that I would make a change to the recipe. Score the skins and brown the duck legs skin side down. Then remove, add the stuffing, tie up and bake. AND.... I would use the duck fat to saute the fava beans.

Let's talk about those fava beans, which were procured by Marc. When Marc's family was in town, they went to Pike Place Market and I asked him to get enough for 10 people. Well Marc came back with 18 (eighteen) pounds of fava beans for $10. You couldn't make this up if you tried. OK. If you haven't cooked with fresh fava beans, you should know that they are a complete pain in the ***. They have to be shucked and then peeled before you cook them. 

The recipe called for them to be served raw. I opted to blanch them for a minute and then saute them in the aforementioned duck fat once our guests arrived. 

All I can say is that it came off really well. The kitchen twine really did a great job of holding the shape together and the favas were awesome. Before I had a chance to announce the dish (a tradition of the group), a couple of people were wondering what was "in" the fava beans. Well, that's duck fat for you!

The dish, as a whole, really worked, especially once I topped it with some freshly shaved pecorino toscano. I really didn't know how it would come together as sometimes things don't retain their shape throughout the cooking process and also changing some of the recipe. I guess when you are asked for the recipe, you must have done something right.

But as usual, the rest of the crew pulled off some amazing dishes. You can see the rest of the photos here.

“When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join a circus. With the Yankees I’ve accomplished both."

Who said that? Quick, quick....

Well, it was apt at the time it was said (~35 years ago) and it seems really appropriate now. The quote was made by Graig Nettles, while playing for the Yankees in the late 70s. Sportswriters, followers and players referred to the chaos surrounding the team as the 'Bronx Zoo'.

Now we have what one writer called the 'Bronx Zoo 2.0'. I don't appreciate cheaters, but I dislike NOT following 'due process' even more. The situation with A-Rod has just devolved into such absurdity that no one knows what to believe. But what if the A-Rod situation (replacing Reggie Jackson) was happening with George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin alive, and reprising their roles in the 70s, except with Twitter accounts? Now that would be awesome.

Numerous baseball players have complained that A-Rod gets to play while he appeals an unprecedented suspension. But they seem to forget that THEY voted on the collective bargaining agreement that grants players to RIGHT to play during an appeals process. So if they really want this to stop, they can call upon their union leadership to open up the CBA and change the process. Until then, they are sore losers since, somehow, the Yankees have started hitting again.

Last night's game was beyond awesome after Dumpster decided to be the moral arbiter of MLB and plunk A-Rod. BTW, it only took him 4 tries. Maybe Dumpster (funny how autocorrect was working last night on my phone and iPad) can ask David Ortiz about his failed PED test that he promised to get to the bottom of if he is so outraged. Anyway when A-Rod clubbed a home run to deep center, I was pleased. After Dumpster loaded the bases soon after, got pulled, then received a standing ovation walking off of the mound, I jumped for joy when Brett Gardner knocked in 3 runs on a triple.

BTW those runs got charged to that pitcher who had just received the standing ovation. Nice job, Boston fans. Yanks ended up winning and Dumpster got the loss. Golly, hope that loss doesn't affect playoff placement for the Red Sox. ;-)

We also had some more VIPs visit in the name of Marc's parents along with our nephew and niece from SoCal. They stopped in for a couple of days en route to Alaska, so it was good to see them. Marc got to play tour guide and show the kids the local, fun places. And I got to showcase some healthy cooking ideas for Dee & Bruce in between some meetings. 

In other news, my runs are progressing. I had a solid track workout and will be able to move on to mile repeats tomorrow. Never thought I would be excited about that, but that's what happens when you're injured for a bit. I did some hill work on both Saturday and Sunday with mixed results on my times, but helpful from a mental perspective as I got to work out some frustration from earlier in the week. The workouts have increased in intensity for both Marc and I in swimming (MB), running (JB) and Crossfit (both) over the past few weeks, so by Sunday afternoon at an engagement party for close friends, we were gassed and made an unfortunate early departure.

Good times on many fronts. That said, when I recommended to Marc to take a 'recovery week' like Coach T prescribed for me this week, he jumped at the suggestion and said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." So there you have it. An easier week on the workout front for Marc and I this week. Thankfully.

Uh, When Is My Rest Day?

Well the good news is that I am getting to the point in my training where we have enough volume that I am looking forward to my rest days. That means I am making progress on some level as 3 months ago, I couldn't run much without pain a couple of miles in. The good news is that the same pain isn't showing up until mile 8 in my runs. So the stretching and PT must be working.

My former coach, Kim, once told me that 1/3 of your workouts are going to be awesome, 1/3 of your workouts are going to be "so-so", and 1/3 of your workouts are going to be garbage. In my mind, this references more in terms of how you feel you performed in the workout. This week, Kim's advice rang true. I had one of each with respect to my running workouts during the past 7 days.

My track workout was disrupted by a nasty headache that wouldn't go away. Unfortunately it got worse as I started the workout, so I stopped after 2 sets (was supposed to go 5). Needless to say, I wasn't pleased. It wasn't a hard workout relatively speaking and I missed track last week because of our VIPs in town, so I was keen to get this one in. So I took myself out of the workout after chatting with Teresa and walked home. Grrr.

In the meantime, I managed to RX another workout after deciding to see where I was with burpees. I hadn't really attempted a burpee since early February's fall with my hand/wrist. I somehow did 88 burpees in the workout, and it's safe to say that they were probably some of the ugliest ever completed in the history of Crossfit. I was the last one done but I didn't stop and kept at it no matter how slow going it was on the 11 burpees per round. So that was positive.

On Saturday, I finally got to do some hills in my run. I found a hill close to my house that is similar to one of the ones in my upcoming 1/2 marathon. While it wasn't a long workout, I had the chance to see how I was faring fitness wise and I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my splits later that morning. Is this progress? Perhaps?

Today I did a z2 effort for 90'ish minutes and since I was a bit sore from yesterday, I opted to keep it non-hilly. That was a smart move. I am typing this as I am icing my hip and my knee. But I did get in 10 miles in 90 minutes and I kept it consistently within z2 (easy). That said, it was a bit of a slog at the end and I didn't stay as sharp on my form as I needed to when I started to get fatigued. So that's the "so-so" run of the week. 

I think things will be fine. I just need to be proactive about when to ice and when to apply heat, and to KEEP STRETCHING! I have about 2+ months until my race so I will continue to build, get stronger and try to make smart decisions.

"Life" Getting In The Way of Jill Being An Idiot -- Hooray!

It's been an eventful two weeks here at Chez Beck, with this past week being most notable. 

Our 1st set of VIPs visited from New York and definitely created lots of fun and entertaining moments. Marc and I brought out our "A" games on the cooking and baking fronts (yes, I actually baked). We'll cover the food/beverage insanity in a separate post.

Lisa, Jarrett, Jeffrey and Mollie came in for a trip, and they covered a ton of ground. It also helped that we had some friends who loaned us things that made the trip easier with 2 young kids. They hit the Aquarium, Space Needle, Woodland Park Zoo, Pike Place Market, Leschi (to look at the boats) and Madison Park (to swim at a friend's house). Jeffrey LOVED the donut peaches in season at the market and devoured more fruit than anyone thought was humanly possible during the past week.

Of course, no visit to Seattle would be complete without a visit to CrossFit. Both Lisa and Jarrett were keen to see what exactly was the 'tour de force' behind Harv's very improved fitness level. We took them on separate days as one parent had to watch the kids, and I think they understood why hiring a personal trainer is a bit different than going to Crossfit. Both of them worked hard in their respective workouts and gave their best, which is all that matters.

Back home in NY, Jeffrey has some friends who have attended "Kids Crossfit" with their parents. So when I asked him if he wanted to try it, he JUMPED at the chance. For a youngster like Jeffrey, the WOD (workout of the day) was no small feat. He ended up running a mile, and yes, he ran the 4-400m runs without walking. Then he did a bunch of push presses and lunges with 2 5-lb. dumbbells. He didn't complain and really wanted to finish strong. Coach Jean Anne and some of the other "Kids Crossfit" participants provided great encouragement! Uncle Marc and Aunt Jill couldn't have been more proud of his effort.

I am sure all 3 of them are excited to chat with Harv about how hard it is and how proud they are of the progress he has made. Once Mollie gets old enough, she'll be next to try it out! :-)

As for my training, I hit a couple of milestones last week. I PR'ed my deadlift to 152 lbs., which is a 30 lb. improvement from last year. The right wrist is still a bit stiff for power cleans and related lifts, so I can't do as much weight as I would like. It'll get there. I just need to be patient. I also ran 8 miles for the 1st time in a LONG time at a consistent and easy (z2) pace. I was pleased for sure. The hip was a bit achy at the end, but it would have been manageable if I had to go 10 miles. Progress.

I missed my 1st workout since my resumption of coaching with TN last week. I tried to figure out when I could "double up" on another day to jam it in, but I then decided to just not get it done. The time had passed and doing a double might cause me to get injured. I thought I might get dinged for not doing the workout, but as it turns out, Teresa said: 

"I give you credit for NOT trying to cram it in.....that was the best decision!"

So I guess there is something to be said for backing off and not beating yourself up for "life getting in the way". In this case, "life" was a wonderful time with Marc, our VIPs and some friends who joined in the fun. 

Phil the Thrill.

I wouldn't say I am a huge golf fan, compared to say baseball or football (US), but after taking up the game once I moved to Seattle, I definitely started to appreciate it more. I never was a fan of Tiger Woods. He just always seemed to be arrogant and a poor sport, especially given how much success he had playing golf and how much money he made as a result. The events in late 2009 only cemented my disdain for him. His conduct on the course has finally become a topic for discussion, which was well overdue since it seemed like sportscasters just kissed his rear for fear of angering Tiger. Oooh.

My beloved grandmother, Mollie, was a Phil Mickelson fan. I remember watching the US Open with her in 2002 on Father's Day when it was played just down the road from us at Bethpage Black. I somehow became a Phil fan on that Sunday afternoon even though he lost to Tiger. He just always seemed like he knew that he had it really good and knew his role was to golf and entertain the fans. And he played to win, and not just collect a paycheck.

Phil can be maddeningly frustrating to watch. Winged Foot. Merion. But when he pulls something out of nowhere, you get just as rewarded. His win yesterday at the Open Championship was a shock and thoroughly enjoyable. And he has done something Tiger hasn't - Phil knows how to win majors from behind

I have no idea what Phil is like in private, but I know that he realizes his job is to be with the fans and thank them for supporting the game, in addition to golfing. I like that. I LOVE that he doesn't slam his club down when he hits a poor shot, swear incessantly after a mishit, and doesn't treat interviewers like garbage when he has a bad round.  So congrats, Phil, and I know Mollie had a celebratory G&T "upstairs" in your honor.

Of course we have the other side of the spectrum in bad behavior in Ryan Braun, who finally admitted to taking PEDs. I hope the sample collector who Braun demonized and caused to lose his job sues the pants off of him. Braun was so adamant about the collection process being flawed and blaming this person that one can hope that karma comes back to Braun's checkbook. Speaking of reformed cheaters, I always wonder if Lance Armstrong ever apologized to Emma O'Reilly after making her life miserable?  

Moving back to being positive, I had a good week on the running front. I actually hit my assigned paces/HR zones on my runs this past week, so I am incredibly pleased. The work is paying off, but we have so much more work to do to get me where I need to be for my race. My stretching program is helping and more routine, so that is good. I definitely got inspired watching my former coach race and place 2nd in her age group in yesterday's Lake Stevens 70.3 Ironman.

Moving on to food, we were able to hit Crush for dinner -- one of Marc's faves. We chatted with Jason (chef and owner) about his new restaurant, our visit to Quay in Sydney and the awesomeness of the Big Green Egg. Really great restaurant with the food and service, plus we opted to sit at the bar so we saw some of the interesting prep they do in the kitchen.

I signed us up for a Gluten-Free Doughs class (focused on pasta) at the Pantry at Delancey. It wasn't Paleo-oriented but it was good to learn a few more tricks when working with non-traditional flours when making pasta/dumplings from scratch. We only wished that the class started at 5:30pm instead of 6:30pm because we didn't eat until 9:15pm, which is a tad late for us. I don't think we're at the "early bird special" stage yet, but still... we're not in NYC either. That said, I am somewhat inspired to experiment some more on this front with Paleo "doughs". Stay tuned for more in this space after last year's sweet potato gnocchi (success after FIVE attempts!)

I also attempted some other dishes in the kitchen last week. Two of them are Paleo versions of existing recipes from 'Avec Eric' by Eric Ripert and 'Simply Ming One Pot Recipes' by Ming Tsai. A third night consisted of a meal from 'Practical Paleo' by Diane Sanfilippo so obviously no versioning required to make it Paleo.

What's The Right Sequence, Eh?

View from Jill's run: Mt. Rainier
from Lake Washington Blvd.
Just over 2 weeks into being committed to a 1/2 marathon and I am still trying to figure some things out. Since I am doing PT for my hip/knee, plus doing cross-training in addition to running, I am trying to assess the most optimal sequence. And I need to figure in rest days into the equation because they need to happen.

As it turns out, PT takes a lot out of me and leaves some lingering effects for a day after. Mind you, it has been incredibly effective but I need to schedule it the day before a rest day. Then my body can recover from runs, Crossfit and PT on that off day. So that needs to get fixed pronto.

"Barely Cooked" Scallops (Marinated in Ceviche) With Corn
and Scallion Relish (adapted from "Michael Mina")
In spite of the sequence not working this week, it was not a bad training week by any stretch. I did do my long run yesterday, which took away my 2nd rest day (lesson learned). The run went fairly well as I pretty much followed instructions to keep my heart rate in zone 2 (easy), so I can't complain too much. The view of Mt. Rainier was pretty special too (see above).

And hey - I even got closer to following Coach T's instructions at track as well. Progress. 

The other modification I have made to training has been at Crossfit. Instead of doing the flat out/back runs we are randomly assigned for 200m and 400m, I am taking a different path which has some incline on it. Just more of incorporating uphills and downhills into my regular routine while my body is pretty fatigued. We will see if it pays dividends as I get into longer runs with real hills thrown in. 
Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast with
Spaghetti Squash "Carbonara"
(adapted by Jeff Mall of 'Zin')

The other positive news is that my hand and wrist are getting stronger, so I can cook more regularly and give +Marc a break. Marc ate scallops (used a recipe from 'Michael Mina') and went back for seconds... it took me awhile to get myself up off of the floor. So yes, miracles can happen. Then I "Paleo-ized" a dish from 'Down Home Downtown', which is a cookbook from one of the restaurants we frequent when we are in Healdsburg. 

It's a great time of year to cook in the Pacific NW since so many things are coming into season. I can't do heavy amounts of chopping, but I am grateful for what I can do in the kitchen. Since we have VIPs (+Lisa+Jarrett, Jeffrey & Mollie!!) coming to visit at the end of the month, Marc and I are working furiously on menu options. Expect lots of 'home cooking' pics posted that week!