Friday, December 27, 2013

Brief overload

Without getting TOO involved in what I do for a living, let's just put out there, as I already have done on my "About Me" page, disclose that I work for a major . . . government, the HQ of which is in Washington DC.

No, I don't work HERE exactly, but they're damned interested in what I do.
Anyway, on a day-to-day basis, I write legal briefs, which is basically a term paper, except with more statements like, "Id." and "See id., supra, at blah blah blah."  It might seem all high/mighty, but there are days where it's a matter of full *headdesk* mode as I am required to explain to a Court that yes, water is actually wet, and provide citations what water is wet, and then explain why my opponent's arguments that while water might be wet MOST of the time, and despite his client's water being, you know, IN A POOL at the time, it might NOT have been wet that time and OMG WHAT A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE.

No, but seriously, you're going to make me write the whole brief out?
 So, I have to spend a LOT of time writing out extensive legal arguments to what-should-be-obvious legal points, because I'm not allowed to say this in response:

May it please the Court:  This.  Love, Tai Fung.  kthxbye







Don't get me wrong.  Some of the work is HARD.  It requires major thought, and I have to spend significant time trying to explain complex points in a logical fashion, all the while explaining to a Court why my opponent's points are wrong.  That's quite difficult sometimes, and I think I do a decent job at it.

Set phasers to "Winning."

But, that's why I'm proud of my job, and get so annoyed when I have to STOP doing that stuff to explain things that should be obvious.  It's not such a simple task.  I can't just do this:


My briefs just got way shorter!

According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, all briefs filed in the Federal Courts of Appeal must contain:

1.  A statement of jurisdiction (meaning, a page or two on why the Court can look at the case at all)

2.  A statement of issues (wherein the briefing party writes some SERIOUSLY ONE-SIDED questions, the answers to which are obvious).  Stuff like, "Whether the Court should throw this case into a landfill, where the other side is a smiling, talking bag of poo, and so are their arguments."

3.  A statement of the case and of the relevant facts ("Court, I'm going to tell you JUST what you need to know, and which you could read yourself, but here are the Cliff Notes version, after which you'll just read the actual record of proceedings anyway to see if I'm telling you the truth)

4.  A summary of the argument (I'm about to argue stuff to you, but here it is in a page, but SERIOUSLY PLEASE READ MY WHOLE BRIEF!)

5.  A statement explaining the standard of review (Courts can only judge cases depending on the standard, which changes depending on the type of case and a myriad of other factors, all of which you don't give two emoji poops about).

6.  Argument (look!  Where's finally here!  I've JUST started really advocating and I'm alreazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snores*)

Anyway, by this point, you can probably tell that writing an appellate brief in US Courts of Appeal isn't the easiest of tasks. 


See you in two weeks!

Each appellate brief I write takes, on average, two weeks to get done.  Some can be shorter, some can be longer, but 2 weeks per brief is about average.
So.  About a week ago, I finally hit my breaking point.

I was hit with brief after brief, and was juggling them as best I could.  But every time I was given ANOTHER brief, it was sandwiched in between two OTHER briefs I was already writing.  Imagine having a term paper due on the 1st of the month, and one due on the 16th.  Then, you go back to class, and learn that there's ANOTHER term paper due, but this one is due on the 7th.  Have fun!  The problem is, if you MISS a deadline, you're in deep, deep, (deep!) trouble:


Well, fuck.
So yeah, that's a problem.  

And that's where I am nowadays.  Unhappy, stressed, and feeling woefully unappreciated.

But still running.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Same distance, different race

You win some, and you lose some.  This morning, I wasn't able to join my friends and rejoice at being selected in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler lottery.  #SadTrombone  I've written extensively about Cherry Blossom in the past, and have run it 5 times over the last 8 years.  I just love that race.  But, it's not to be this year.  However, I'm treating it as an opportunity.  I've heard a great deal about the GW Parkway Classic 10-miler, which is one week after Cherry Blossom.

Adam at Lesser Is More did a race report from his run back in 2010, and my office is littered with folks who've run it, and swear by it.  The only significant negative to doing the Parkway Classic over Cherry Blossom (I have friends with volunteer codes, so I could still get in that way if I wanted) is getting to the start of the race:

The "getting there" issue:
 
The GW Parkway Classic is a point-to-point race.  Usually, that means you leave your stuff at/near the finish, you're bussed to the start, and you run back to the finish again.  At least, that's how most P2P races are.

For Cherry Blossom, I could roll out of bed, walk to my (very!) close metro station, and be there in a snap.  No bags to check, just stand out there in the dark and wait for sunrise and the starting gun.  It's such a short trip that it's one of, if not THE most convenient race I do each year.

But, it's not like it's IMPOSSIBLE for me to get out of bed early, and I'll just bring an old blanket or sweatshirt if the race is cold this year.  I'd rather it be cold than warm, so I'll live. Maybe even one of you out there wants to carpool?  *bats eyelashes*  Anyway, grumbling about not wanting to show up early is no reason to not do a race.

The cost:

Cherry Blossom is cheap to register and run.  It's $40.  However, finisher medals come with an added cost, as do long sleeve tech shirts (you get a short sleeve cotton one with registration).

GWPC 10 is a little pricier.  It's $75.  But, this year, for the 30th Anniversary of the GWPC, they are giving finishers medals to all runners!  Plus, all runners get a tech tee.  So the cost is virtually equal.

The course:

I love the Cherry Blossom race.  It's flat and fast.  It's also packed, unless you can get yourself right up to the front of your assigned corral.  Strangely enough, I used to use CB10 as my PR race, but this year, the Army 10-miler was my PR, finishing it in about 83.5 minutes.  So it's not like I'm incapable of having a fast race on a non-flat course.  Army is only SLIGHTLY hilly, though . . . .

Compared to CB10 and Army, the GW Parkway Classic features more rolling hills, but is an overall net drop.  Moreover, it's alongside my beloved Mount Vernon Trail, where I do almost all of my long runs.  I wrote a runner's guide to the Mount Vernon Trail here, and this portion of the race will be near the "South" part as I described it, finishing towards the "Middle."  I know that terrain.  I know the homes alongside the course.  I know every nook and cranny of the trail, and have watched cars drive by (where we'll be running) as I slagged through my long runs.  This course map is like a trip down memory lane of many long runs in 2013:


The GW Parkway Classic 10-miler course.  Start at Mount Vernon, end in Old Town Alexandria.

So there we are.  My first race of 2014 has been chosen, and I still haven't settled on what my focus for racing will even BE in 2014.  But, as of less than 30 minutes ago, I did this:


Change can be good, right?

Finally:  Why not just run both races?

I suppose I could.  But last year, my first true year back, I made a point to cut the amount of racing that I used to do.  When I first started running, it seemed like I was doing a race weekly, certainly monthly.  I think there's such a thing as over-racing.  I know some running coaches and gurus preach against it.  For me, it's all about staying healthy, and having a few focused goal races to strive for.  Plus, I really don't want to use a "back door" to get into Cherry Blossom.  So it's settled.  I will push my comfort zone and do something different this year -- even though I'll be racing in completely familiar territory.

P.S.  My friend Holly at Race It Live It Love It just highlighted a race I hadn't heard of, but which looks good.  The Cherry Pit 10-Miler.  It's the same weekend as Cherry Blossom.  Perhaps they used that name as a hat tip to people who didn't make it into CB10?  And what if you do BOTH Cherry Races in one weekend?  You should get a cherry pie or something if you do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Year End Gear Endorsement

Let me say at the outset before I plug various companies and gear --- I have not received an iota of compensation from ANY of these manufacturers.  NOBODY sends me a single thing for "free evaluation" or for review.  I'm not anyone's "ambassador," or "runbassador," or whatever the hell the cool kids have named themselves.  I'm "fitfluential" in the sense that I'm a walking "before" picture for most runners or triathletes, so I guess I "influence" them to start getting fit before they look like me.  Anyway, companies don't give me a thing.  This is all just my own view -- I won't even alert any company that I've plugged their product, because I'm not going to use traceable links.

Ok, with that said, here's the gear I've been using in 2013, and will continue to use for a foreseeable future, because I'm happy with these products:

Let's go from the bottom up (yes, yes, I know . . . TWSS) --

Shoes:  I have zero brand loyalty. I believe in wearing what fits, and what works.  That's it.  Having said that, I shifted from ASICS in 2011 to Saucony in 2012, and stuck with them.  I was a slight pronator, but now I am a neutral runner as I lost weight and got both healthier and faster.  So I wear Saucony Ride 6s, (instead of the Saucony Guide series) and they are the flame-reddest shoes you've ever fucking seen.  I'm buying another pair soon, because the Red Shoes of Doom will not be denied.

These shoes will chase you down and take ALL YOUR LUNCH MONEY!

Socks:  I wear Feetures socks.  If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would end up preferring "no-show" socks, I would have thought you crazy.  But I love that kind the most. Now, anything coming up even near my ankle isn't going to cut it for running.  Years ago, in gym class, guys were teased at the idea of wearing "footies" socks.  Well, fuck that, asshole jocks who've lost all their hair and gained 100 pounds.  I wear footies, and I'm proud.

Underwear:  Commando.  Ok, I'm kidding, I just wanted to see if you were still reading.  I wear Under Armor compression shorts, and they are fucking TIGHT.  Sheesh.  Ladies, I will be right there beside you when the time comes for Spanx-burning.  And while I know most running shorts have an underwear-like liner in there, it isn't . . . constraining enough (blush).  So I have to cut the liners out, and then I wear the compression shorts underneath the running shorts.

Shorts: A completely unscientific test of shorts seems to show that Brooks Running shorts often have a couple of small but deep pockets on each hip, allowing you to keep at least 2 gel packs in there on each side.  You can even fit a sleeve of Clif Shots, or a pack of Gu Chomps in there.  So the pockets are deep, but have velcro to keep them closed while you run.  Really, the shorts are perfect for anything over 12-14 miles (barring really hot conditions, I don't even hydrate for anything 10 or less).

Wrist:  Based on a recommendation from the must-read-all-the-time DCRainmaker, I went with a Garmin 610 a couple of years ago.  It's my everyday watch.  I wear it to Court, and leave it on for races.  I've gotten quite adept at charging it at night, so I never worry about having a paperweight on my wrist.  The 610 is an epic watch.  I don't use a bunch of the bells/whistles it has, so I probably could have gotten away with a Garmin 210, but the touchscreen of the 610, wireless data transfer, and everyday wearability of it makes it a real must-have for me.

Shirt:  I'm a huge baseball fan.  Therefore, while I don't shy away from wearing race shirts when I run (and this year's Marine Corps Marathon technical mock was great), I tend to just wear one of several Washington Nationals curly W shirts.  That's NATIONALS, people, not WALGREENS.

There's a difference, dammit!  An actual difference!  There's . . . aw, fuck it.  They are pretty close.

Sunglasses:  I actually broke down a few years ago and bought Oakley running sunglasses from Potomac River Running in Reston.  They weren't cheap, but they really do a nice job during training runs and races.  You can actually see your Garmin readout through them, which is new for me, because I used to wear a pair of polarized fly fishing sunglasses, and actually had to lift them up every time I wanted to see my Garmin.  Plus, you know, I look all Terminator-like.


Hasta La Vista, ankle socks.

Hat:  Apparently, some people wear hats when they run on hot days.  I should get on that.

Nutrition:  I have a few things that worked well for me during a long year of (1) getting back to who I used to be, and (2) training for two marathons 20 days apart.  The first was good ol' Gu Gel packs.  I know some people aren't huge fans of sucking down a fluid (heh heh), but I'm not discerning during a race or training.  I have also found that Gu Chomps (watermelon FTW) provide surprisingly potent energy, despite the hassle of having to chew.  I think they're really great to eat in the car on your way to a long run, they're rather candy-like.  Finally, turned on to them by my friend Jennifer, I tried Tailwind Nutrition as an additive to water.  It had good results, much better than taking Powerade for those days when I broke down and wore a fuel belt.  Jen has a more in-depth review at her blog if you're interested.  Tailwind won't do for me when it comes to races, because I refuse to carry water then.  That's what those wonderful volunteers are for!  But, in terms of long runs, or days where I was sweating to death doing Yasso 800s in 90+ degree heat, yeah, it's a nice boost.

Safety:  This list starts and ends with one company:  RoadID.  There is no substitute.  If you have ANYONE in your life who is important to you, or anyone who might be remotely sad if you were gone, you owe it to them to do the right thing.  It will cost under 20 bucks, and potentially save your life.

Running Stores:  The bad news is, I have no endorsement.  The good news is, that's because each of the three running stores I've frequented are outstanding, with enthusiastic and knowledgeable runners to help me out.  Those stores were:  Pacers in Pentagon City, Potomac River Running in Reston, and Road Runner Sports in Falls Church.  Basically, you can't go wrong with these shops.

Ok, so from toe to head, that's the list of gear I use/wear, and will continue to use/wear.  Once again, nobody paid me or comped me to endorse their product.  These are just the things I like.  I didn't include my tri bike, bike trainer, or any swim gear because I'm just getting my bearings back in those sports, but I anticipate having more to say about them next year.

If you have a product you swear by, and think I ought to try, leave it in the comments! 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

2014 Racing Plans

I find myself really flummoxed by what I should do for my 2014 racing schedule.  Roughly speaking, I see 3 "routes" that 2014 could take.  Each have their pros and cons:

A) Ironman Timberman 70.3

Pros:

I'd really love to get back into Tris now that I seem to be fully recovered --and have surpassed-- my prior running self.  An Oly distance isn't that difficult, since I only do Tris to finish, and could not care less where I place.

Cons:

This would be an EXPENSIVE trip to New Hampshire.  Travel, lodging, the race itself is over $200, and I would pretty much do no other races during the year. Maybe a Spring 10-miler, but that would be about it.

If my race plans were ice cream flavors, this one would akin to eating the "Ziggy Pig" from Bill/Ted's Excellent Adventure:





B)  Nation's Tri plus a smaller-field marathon:

Pros:

This option allows me the luxury of a local Triathlon, even if it's "only" an Olympic-distance. Of course, an Oly is the farthest I've ever gone prior to getting hurt, so maybe this is a good thing?  I could then do a smaller marathon (I'm thinking Wineglass, reviewed so lovingly by Holly at Race It, Live It, Love It).  I could actually do a LOT of races, and train for the Oly on the side, as a supplement to run training.

Cons:

Forget the Potomac, which is the cleanest it's been in 50 years.  I'm not a fan of the Nation's Tri bike course.  You have numerous hairpin turns, meaning you have to slow down a lot, and then get your speed back.  Biking is the one Tri sport I fear the most (no, not swimming).  I will say, it seems like they've tried to change the course compared to when I did it, so I could be jumping to conclusions. 

This is almost the most "vanilla" of my 2014 plans:


All of the boring, none of the "Super."

  
C)  Ultras:  North Face 50K, fall marathon, then possibly JFK 50 Miler:

Pros:

Um, I really want to do an Ultra. And not just any ultra. I've got an eye on the JFK 50 Miler. If I really want to give it a shot, then this isn't a bad way to do it.  My boss is an avid trail/ultra runner, and she's a great resource.  She did a series of trail and road marathons leading up to her Stone Bridge 50 Miler.  I'm intrigued by this challenge.  It would probably mean more trail runs, which would just annoy the hell outta me, because those would almost certainly devolve into "longish hikes with almost no running," but I do know that trail running is far easier on the body, punishment-wise.

Cons:

I'm also a complete weenie.  I ran ONE trail course when I was in Florida visiting my mom.  I might as well have worn a petticoat, so I could have raised it up and said, "Eek!  Eek!  NATURE!"  I never fell, but there were puddles messing up my nice shoes, fucking bugs EVERYWHERE, and holyfuckdidIpassthattreealready?!  I'M GOING IN CIRCLES!  BLAIR WITCH!  AAAAAH!  Also, I read all the time about people slipping, sliding, and even jumping over streams like a fucking deer.  I know ultra runners are laid back, and I would CERTAINLY just do any/all ultras to finish, but wow.  Sliding down a rocky hill on your ass, then fording a stream, while, what, a fucking bear eats the person behind you?

If this one were an ice cream flavor? You guessed it . . . Rocky Road.

And let's face it.  With my "love" of the outdoors, there's almost no chance I don't end up lost and looking like this guy by the end of the race:



So.

What do I do?