what we bring to the party

Thursday, December 31, 2009

For New Year's Eve: A box of Divine Delights petits fours, from the retail outlet right here in Chickenland. (And thus successfully making it to eight of the 10 foodie spots on this year's "where to eat" list.)

Good-bye, 2009!

a sign

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This morning, after I finished my first class (Ashtanga, I love you) at my newly found yoga studio, I came across this truck and just couldn't resist taking a photo.

happy merry christmas

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas was just what it was meant to be: Several days of feasting with family.

Our big contribution was Christmas Eve dinner (although we did cook on Christmas Day also). We planned a comfort food-themed meal for my parents, who made the trek up to Chickenland for a few days. Our goal was simple but good -- a meal that hit the spot but didn't require an entire day spent toiling in the kitchen.

This was the menu (paired with Merry Edwards 2007 Olivet Lane Pinot Noir and served on the nice green plates we got for our wedding):

Pot roast
Sweet potato, okra, spinach and red potato salad with capers
Rainbow chard
Macaroni and cheese in a béchamel sauce

For dessert, I made butterscotch pudding topped with whipped cream, which we paired with one of my favorite dessert wines from work.

Ah, full belly.

and thus sayeth daft punk

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last night I dreamed the San Francisco Marathon was being run through my parents' house (which is strange since my parents actually live in Agoura Hills), and we had to move all of the furniture to make way for the Kenyans.

Clearly, I am obsessed.

Yes, despite the fact that I am back to eating burritos and drinking wine (right now, there's an 08 Wachica Los Carneros Chardonnay in my glass -- if you've never heard of it, that's because the Wachica label doesn't really exist yet -- job perks, baby, job perks), all I can think about is running.

Part of this is because I am not satisfied with my 4:50 marathon time. I know I sound like a brat, but I want to go faster. This desire for speed seems to be the fate of any runner. It's like that Daft Punk song -- harder, better, faster, stronger.

It's also sort of like crack. (Or like the 08 Wachica Los Carneros Chardonnay, which I can't seem to put down.)

So I research races: Portland, Eugene, Marine Corps, Vegas. And I think about what 2010 may hold. I haven't made a decision about my next 26.2 yet, but this is what I have lined up so far:

January: No racing, just training. And lots of it. With a focus on speedwork.

February: Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday. I have a soft spot for this race -- it was my first ever this year, and it changed my life (cheesy, but so true). I'm hoping to go back and PR.

March: Big Sur Mud Run with my lovely runner girls! Gonna get down and dirty with Jessa, Ashley, Cynthia and Larissa.

April: Who knows? Still up in the air at this point.

May: Avenue of the Giants with Marcos and Julie. And -- wait for it -- possibly Todd. (Seriously, if Todd starts running with me, I will be so excited.) Haven't decided yet if I will do the half or the full, though I'm leaning toward the half. Also, Bay to Breakers -- I was deathly ill this year and missed it -- don't want to let that happen again.

June: Again, who knows? Haven't ruled out the San Diego 26.2.

July: Definitely doing the SF Half. Tugs at my heartstrings, this one does. Oh, SF, how I love you! (Even though your hills will kick my ass.)

no remorse

Monday, December 21, 2009

It is completely normal to stop at a Mexican market at 10 a.m. and order a gigantic burrito, especially if said burrito is supposed to be one of the best in the Napa Valley and has been on your list of items to ingest for some time now.

the feline version

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If I had all the time in the world -- and actually knew how to edit video -- I would make one of these for Meep and Mari. Only their version would have an "A-Team" theme, and Meep would be wearing gold chains and Mari would be wearing camouflage.

(Thanks to Kate for sharing this amazing example of catness.)

pdx, I love you

Monday, December 14, 2009

Took a break from running, from writing and from California and went to Portland for a long weekend.

The night we arrived, we had salt cod, pâté and cocktails at the hotel. The next morning, a spam, egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich from the BrunchBox food cart, followed by a maple bacon bar from Voodoo Doughnut and a cup of Stumptown coffee.

We stopped at music stores and The Big Book Store (we are tourists, after all) and the Saturday Market. I bought a notebook with cats on it for myself, "white lightning" catnip for the cats. There was Hefeweizen at Deschutes, Bloody Marys and wild salmon hash at Mother's, oyster omelettes at Bijou.

We wandered around in the rain, wearing heavy coats and furry gloves. We walked for blocks, waited at bus stops, rode trains. We went to a craft fair and a pub (imagine coming in from the rain for a pint and a hot beef-and-mushroom pie) and a beer shop stuffed with imports, microbrews and Cadbury. We did the chef's tasting menu at Toro Bravo and swooned over the "French kisses" -- prunes stuffed with foie gras. I drank Txakolina. He had a Sazerac.

And time passed far, far too quickly.

at the finish

Monday, December 07, 2009

Apparently, I looked like a karate-chopping smurf while sprinting toward the finish line yesterday.

But the important fact is that I finished -- 4:50:58. And now I can say I'm a marathoner, which is funny since I've never thought of myself as an athlete.

From beginning to end, the race was an experience. I could barely sleep Saturday night, and when I did doze off, I had bizarre dreams, all of them running-related. I woke up at 3:15 to eat bananas and chocolate soy milk and go to the bathroom a million times. Then I met my running buddy Neveia in the lobby at 5, and we got on the shuttle to the starting line.

The ride was torture. We were on that damn bus for what seemed like an eternity, and all I could think about was, Where are they taking us? Why is it so far away? And how the hell do they expect me to run back? And it was cold. Really ridiculously, unbelievably cold. The bus went past a car dealership, and every car in the lot was covered in a thick layer of frost.

When we finally got to the start near Folsom Dam, Neveia and I immediately headed for the port-a-potty line -- along with the entire field of 7,000 runners. The line took forever, but the wait gave us a chance to chat with our fellow mashochists, and we met a British guy who cracked us up by timing how long people were in the outhouses.

We lined up with the 4:30 pace group. The race started promptly at 7, and even with the large number of runners, it only took us about 5 minutes to cross the starting line. The first mile was an easy downhill, and as people began to warm up, they shed layers of clothing. We had to dodge a couple of trashbags, mittens and sweatshirts that other runners had abandoned in the road.

Neveia and I had a good clip going and passed the 4:30 group. We stayed well ahead of the group for half of the race. (My half marathon split was 2:11.) I started to get my hopes up for a 4:20 finish. But then at Mile 18, I slowed down at an aid station, lost Neveia (who finished in 4:32) and saw the 4:30 pace group go by.

I couldn't catch up. My lungs and breathing were fine, but my left hamstring was screaming, and my right ankle was sore too. My stride got shorter, and I had to take some walk breaks.

I kept running as much as possible, but it was tough. Small things helped. Between the Mile 24 and 25 markers, there was a Del Taco, which made me laugh, and right as I approached it, someone was blasting Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," which made me think of Christina and I ran for her. I also found myself chanting the names of the people I love over and over. And I almost started crying when I recognized my co-worker Carol watching the race as I entered the last mile -- I actually ran off of the course to give her a hug -- it was so awesome to have her support.

Todd, my parents and my friends Marcos and Julie were on the last stretch up L Street, and by then, I was gutting it out -- ignoring the pain and just going for it. I had been passed by the 4:45 pace group, and I wanted to finish under 5 at all costs, so I gave it everything I had. I passed a few people and did an all-out sprint toward the finish.

And then I was done. And it was weird and sort of anti-climatic. Someone handed me a disposable blanket and a bottled water. Someone else took my photo in front of a banner that said "Finisher." And then I wandered around for a long time and couldn't find anyone I knew. And it was so cold, and all I had was the stupid disposable blanket. I ended up hobbling into a pizza place and asking one of the cooks if I could use his cell phone to call my family to come get me.

And now, I kind of don't know what to do with myself. All the training is over. I called in sick today (because I'm so sore I can barely walk) and have been hanging out in pajamas and reading the last Harry Potter book, and I feel oddly like something is missing.

Is it too soon to start thinking about the next race?

and away we go

Friday, December 04, 2009

I am in a hotel room in Sacramento, wearing my favorite yummy sushi pajamas, which happen to be very appropriate since I just went out for Japanese food. Bring on the rice because the carbo-loading has begun! (By the way, I ate a pizza topped with spaghetti for lunch today.)

I can't believe this weekend is finally here. I feel like I have been training forever, and now it's all come down to Sunday. I'm excited and scared and emotional. Started crying yesterday during my last training run. Watched this video about Rick and Dick Hoyt and bawled. Had to blink back tears again today when a good luck bouquet arrived from Shara and Kristian. Strange how 26.2 makes you think about everyone in your life and how lucky you are.

So here I go. Tomorrow, I'll head to the expo and pick up my race packet and maybe take a look at the finish line.

And then ...

CIM countdown: 31 hours.

I am not a cool cat

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Unlike Mari, who is perfectly happy to play in the reusable grocery bag and doesn't worry about things like race day weather or GI distress or blisters.

Yes, I am once again relying on cats to offer a pre-race distraction. (Aren't cats wonderful? Don't you just love them? Isn't it entirely obvious why the ancient Egyptians thought they were little gods?)

Unfortunately, the jitters are tougher this time around because I have no idea what 26.2 will be like. And I keep remembering how absolutely brutal my 22-mile training run was and wondering if I am going to experience the same excruciating pain. People keep telling me I'll be in a different mindset on race day -- "game face" and adrenaline and all that -- so I shouldn't worry. Plus I know I can't really change anything now. Marathon training is like studying for a huge exam -- and I'm at the point where if I haven't done the work already, I can't cram it in at the last second.

So all I can do is soldier on toward Sunday. I went to Goodwill tonight and picked up a light jacket (just $3.19!) that I can wear for the first mile or so and then ditch after I've warmed up. I bought my bananas and my chocolate soy milk (which is an awesome recovery drink, by the way) and my pretzels (which work better for my belly than GU). I've confirmed the hotel reservations and double-checked my bib number (rocking the 422!). I've made plans for my pre-race pasta feed -- which actually resulted in a shout-out in a Sacramento Bee blog post and made me feel semi-famous for all of two seconds.

Tomorrow is my last training run. I'm planning to do an easy 30-minute workout and just focus on how good running feels and how much I love it.

CIM countdown: Four days.

behind the door

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When I run, I often see places I'd like to stop at -- buildings I'd like to enter, community gardens I'd like to explore, bizarre lawn art I'd like to photograph. But I'm always on the clock, which means no lingering for me, and these places and all their allure are forced to wait.

Tonnellerie Radoux is one such spot. My lunchtime runs take me past this cooperage, which makes French, American and Eastern European oak barrels, as well as staves, chips and oak inserts -- basically all types of wood "seasonings" that can be used in the winemaking process.

I finally got to check Radoux out this morning when my department toured the facility. They make the barrels on site, and we watched the process from start to finish. It was absolutely fascinating to see the coopers shape the seemingly stiff, rigid planks of wood into wine barrels. The act was almost like sculpting, with fire, hammers and metal hoops to guide the wood into the right form.

And the aroma -- wow. Toasted vanilla wafting through an entire warehouse. Someone needs to make this an aftershave.

CIM countdown: Five days. (And yes, the nerves are getting to me. Thank god for the distraction of wine barrels!)
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