cookie zen

Friday, December 31, 2010

What can be more amazing than gingerbread men practicing yoga? Todd's cousins gave me this fantastic cookie cutter set for Christmas, so I spent yesterday baking the cookies and this morning frosting them. We'll be bringing them to a New Year's Eve party tonight.

Plow pose is my favorite:

Confession: Not all of the cookies turned out this cute. Decorating these guys was tricky as hell. There were a lot of cyclops gingerbread men, and one guy looked like he needed a bikini wax. Oops.

And then there was this guy, who seems to have been in a bar fight:

And this totally failed attempt -- this poor guy has a hunchback and only one leg and one arm!

another gift

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seen during last Sunday's post-Christmas brunch with the in-laws: A woman parallel-parking her horse and cart.

pop up, chow down and sin

Monday, December 27, 2010

We went to the Hapa Ramen pop-up tonight at Bar Tartine.

As a result, I am in a partial food coma and am having trouble doing things like buttoning my pants all the way and expressing myself in a manner that doesn't involve small burps and sighs. So please forgive me if this post wanders all over the place.

Before I launch into a description of the meal, I want to say this: Pop-ups are really cool. This was the first one I've ever experienced, and it was great. Bar Tartine is normally closed Mondays, making tonight the perfect time for Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano and crew to transform the restaurant into noodle central. They had their own reservation line, they brought in their own bowls and chopsticks, and even the servers said, "Welcome to Hapa Ramen!" when you walked through the door. So cool that Bar Tartine was so generous with their space!

We started with the pig face. Yes, that's right. A piece of pig head cut out and served with salad, pickled apples and mustard seeds.

Clearly, this is not vegetarian. I justified it by telling myself that if pigs had to die to make the pork in the ramen, then we should probably eat as much of those pigs as possible and not let any of that meat go to waste, thereby honoring the pigs for their death. The pig face was good -- fatty, but good. (Although I will admit to feeling extreme guilt after about two bites. I kept remembering these guys, and then I kind of wanted to weep. And then I started thinking about how if pig faces are fatty, they must age better than humans and this is why people need Botox, so maybe we should take a cue from pigs and have fatter faces. In short, Todd had to eat most of the pig face.)

We also had fried brussels sprouts. I don't know what kind of dressing was on these babies, but they were out-of-control good. (Also, no one's face was involved.)

And then there was the ramen. Hapa Ramen is the only restaurant (or food purveyor or ramen provider or whatever you want to call this pop-up experience) I've come across so far in my ramen quest that actually has a genuine, 100 percent vegetarian ramen on their menu -- no meat in the broth, no meat in the bowl, no meat anywhere. And the veggie ramen option changes -- tonight's broth was pumpkin (and the server said last week's pop-up had celery root).

I went for it.

It had tons of veggies -- seaweed, spinach, winter squash, more brussels sprouts -- to the point where it almost felt stew-like. And I really wanted to love it because it honestly was good, but I found myself staring across the table at Todd's bowl. He ordered the "Big Daddy" -- a giant bowl full of meaty broth with pork belly, shredded pork, fried chicken and a soft, melty egg. He said it was even fattier and more decadent than the ramen he had at Daikokuya.

And I was jealous. The veggie ramen just couldn't compare.

So now I find myself in a conundrum. Is there no way to love ramen and be vegetarian? Am I always going to be at odds with myself?

(Also, the cold I came down with last week has morphed into a hacking cough, which has totally derailed my running plans. So now I am a sinful, fat, failed vegetarian who barely managed to run a mile today. But perhaps that is another story for another time. Now pardon me while I slip into some elastic-waist pajama bottoms.)

a christmas miracle

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I was typing and blowing my nose and blowing my nose again (yes, somehow I've managed to come down with a cold in the past 24 hours), when I heard footsteps on the front porch.

And behold! A woman wearing a black peacoat handed me a pie! And not just any pie, a pie from Petaluma Pie, my current favorite place ever!

She said: "This is from your friend Kate and her husband, but I forgot to write down his name."

So thank you to Kate. (And to whoever her husband is.) It is nothing short of Absolutely Awesome to receive hand-delivered pie at home.

in the off-season

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

As illustrated by this giant tray full of desserts, I've been indulging a little. (In fact, this mountain of postprandial goodness followed a feast at the Lazy Ox Canteen on Saturday. Apparently dinner -- which involved a cheese plate, seven different types of tapas, Roussanne and seasonal holiday beers -- wasn't enough, so we went to the Nickel Diner and ate more.)

So it's no surprise that easing my way back into running has been challenging, to say the least. I took some time off after CIM to allow myself to recover -- my sad hips and sore knee needed a break. Since raceday, I've only run three times, for a whopping total of nine miles -- most of which were slow and characterized by feet that felt like led and very heavy breathing. (Although I will say I had a pretty decent tempo run today at lunch. Granted, it was only three miles, but I got negative splits, and the last mile was under a 9-minute pace. And this was with a headwind almost the entire time. Yeah!)

Even though I do have a race coming up in February, I'm trying not to think so much about mileage and training. Instead, I'm focusing on what I can do to strengthen my body so I don't have the aches and pains that have plagued me during the past few months. I know my injuries stem largely from a weak core, which is making my hips overcompensate, which results in really tight hip flexors and also ends up affecting my knees. And then I bonk at Mile 23 and want to lie down on the side of the road and cry.

So I've signed up for Pilates. (Dear self: Merry Christmas.) I had my first reformer/apparatus session tonight. (Yes, folks, double workout! Running on my lunch break! Pilates in the evening!) It was not easy. I felt like my instructor was pointing out weak spot after weak spot after weak spot. And then she said I really need to work on my walking before I can improve my running.


But I guess this is what it means to build a base, right?

taking photos of the moon

Monday, December 20, 2010

I am trying to stay awake long enough to see history.

(Will it have a soundtrack?)

eating l.a.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I left L.A. before I was old enough to explore it. I turned 18, went away to college and pretty much never looked back. Except for the occasional weekend spent visiting family, going to weddings or attending an event for work, I am hardly ever in Southern California.

As a result, I know basically nothing about the food scene there. (Unless you count food trucks. I can tell you about food trucks.)

I spent the weekend trying to remedy this. (And also celebrating an early holiday with my parents. But let's get back to the food.)

First target: Ramen at Daikokuya. (Of course, right?)

Everything I'd heard was intriguing: How there is almost always a wait, no matter the time of day; how it is the only ramen place in L.A. worth considering; how -- if you are really looking to go over the top -- you can ask them to add pork back fat to your broth.

Todd and I met Shaya there for an early lunch yesterday. It was drizzly and grey and basically perfect ramen weather. (Another plus: When it rains, people in L.A. freak out and don't go outside. Which means we didn't have to wait for a table. Yes!)

Shaya and I had their house Daikoku ramen, while Todd upped the ante and went for the back fat. All of us also got a side of tempura (mine was vegetable).

Of all the ramen places I've tried so far (and remember, there really haven't been that many, since I am but in the early stages of my ramen investigation/obsession), Daikokuya is the richest. Their chashu looks like straight-up strips of bacon -- which is probably no surprise since it is kurobuta pork belly. The broth is hearty as hell, with an awesome marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots and lots of green onion. And it doesn't stop there -- there are condiments! In addition to the usual soy sauce and chili flakes, there are also containers of garlic and pickled pink ginger (yum).

Good rainy day fare.

happy cakes

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I just scrolled through some of my recent posts, and it seems my definition of post-race recovery involves eating extraordinary quantities of food. Instead of marathons, I've been indulging in eat-a-thons.

And honestly, can you really blame me when there are cupcakes like these around?

We discovered Cynically Delicious at Bazaar Bizarre last weekend.

Their red velvet cupcakes, complete with hipster mustache, were a huge hit. (Although it seemed like anything with a mustache was the trend at the craft show -- everybody had something with a mustache on it -- T-shirts, tote bags, magnets. There was even a giant plush mustache as large as my torso.)

But the best cupcakes -- the ones I absolutely could not resist -- were the Crapcakes. That's right -- a rich, luscious chocolate cupcake decorated like poo, complete with marzipan fly.

Mmmm. Poo.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Yesterday we stumbled across perhaps the most exciting thing that's ever happened in Chickenland: A brand-new restaurant that serves nothing but pie.

It's called -- appropriately -- the Petaluma Pie Company and offers both sweet and savory options.

I cannot even begin to explain how thrilled I am about the availability of savory hand pies. They're not easy to find. Since discovering them and falling completely in love with them in Australia several years ago, I've only had them twice -- once when we were in Portland and again at a pub in Santa Rosa.

Neither of those experiences compares to the goodness that comes from the Petaluma Pie Company. Yesterday we ate the wild mushroom pie, and I swear, I almost swooned. Tonight we had the cheese and onion (above), and I was once again delighted.

These pies are absolutely heavenly. I don't know what's in the crust (maybe crack?), but it is flaky and oh-so-light. It's so hard to make a hand pie like this! The problem with a lot of the pub pies is that they tend to be dense. Also, I think most of them are frozen and reheated instead of made fresh on site. But the pies from Petaluma Pies are so airy that they're almost dangerous -- I could probably easily scarf down five in one sitting.

We're looking forward to trying the sweet pies next time.

chairman bao

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Part of what makes the food truck phenomenon so exciting is the thrill of the hunt. I follow my favorite trucks -- as well as the ones I want to try -- on Twitter, read their Facebook updates and try to memorize routes.

Street-eatz comes to our office park every Tuesday at lunch, and lately, it seems like their seasonal special is vegetable soup (which is delicious, especially when you get a piece of crusty grilled bread to go with it, put the bread at the bottom of a bowl and pour the hot soup on top of it -- yum). The Napa trucks (and yes, I'm still jealous that Napa has more trucks than we do here in Sonoma County) seem to meet once a month at Oxbow for Food Truck Friday. And Fork is at Dutton-Goldfield quite a bit -- I've been dying to get my hands on one of their quinoa burgers.

One truck I've had my eye on for awhile is Chairman Bao, pictured above. I finally got to sample the goods in person at Saturday's Bazaar Bizarre craft fair in San Francisco. The Chairman -- along with Kung Fu Tacos, Twirl and Dip and Onigilly -- were all out front.

Even though we had just finished a mini-feast at Greens, Todd and I got in line. We both got steamed buns -- I went with the crispy garlic tofu with miso greens, and he ordered the pork belly with pickled daikon. (His first choice had been the duck confit with mango salad, but alas, they ran out.)

The buns were like open-faced sandwiches that you fold up and eat like a taco. They were delicious -- so much flavor! We were tempted to get back in line and order seconds.

the 'it' bag

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here is an excerpt of a recent e-mail exchange among my training group friends.

Me: [Forwards message about volunteering at the Napa Valley Marathon.] Is anyone interested? I did it last year -- helped with bag check. I will probably do it again this year.

A: Is anyone thinking about running it? I like the tote bag.

Coach: You are going to run a marathon because of a tote bag?

R: It is the same reason he supports NPR every year.

M: This is a beautiful conversation. That tote bag better do my dishes and fold laundry.

D: I think there is a way to help with checking bags and acquire that great tote at the same time ...

A: Here is a picture of the bag. Very nice. [Attaches photo below.]

M: Wow, that is a nice bag! Not sure if I'd run 26.2 for it, though. I'd need to see inside the pockets.

R: Here is a picture of what is inside the front pocket. I guess the top pocket is even nicer, but I couldn't find a pic. [Attaches photo below.]

shoyu goodness

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Perhaps the reason I powered through Sunday's really tough race -- when I really, really wanted to quit -- was the promise of ramen at the finish line.

Oh, Akebono: This is why I run.

in recovery

Monday, December 06, 2010

The thing about the marathon: You work so hard for so many months, and then after a few hours, it's all over.

I had to go to Shollenberger -- the place where I started running -- today to take a long walk (and get rid of some of the lactic acid build-up in my legs) and clear my head.

I'll admit it: I feel a little off -- sort of weepy -- lots of pent-up post-race frustration as well as the usual dramatic emotions that marathons stir up in me.

I was convinced yesterday was going to be My Race. I was ready for it. I wanted the PR, the big marathon breakthrough. And everything seemed to be aligned: The weather behaved, my close friends were with me (I don't know how we did it, but our training group managed to wade through thousands of people and find each other at the starting line, coach included) and I even had a really good pre-race poo (if you run, you know how important this is).

But I'm discovering the marathon has a mind of its own. No matter how perfect conditions seems to be, no matter how prepared you are, you just can't control what happens out there.

I started off well and was on target for a 4:40-4:45 PR. My mind was focused, my body was in rhythm and those first few miles actually felt easy.

And then I had to pee.

I got stuck in a port-a-potty line at Mile 14. And while I was using said port-a-potty (which was an absolute disaster area, by the way -- clearly other runners were having issues), the 4:45 pace group passed me. And things only got worse. At Mile 17, my hips started to really, really hurt. And the aid station ran out of water cups. Pain and thirst are not a good combination. I wanted to drop out. I actually envisioned it. And there was a SAG wagon driving slowly alongside the runners like a vulture, waiting for one of us to give up. It was so tempting.

Luckily, I saw my coach's wife in the crowd. The sight of a familiar face does wonders, especially when you're like me and don't want to drop out in front of someone you know. So I pushed on. Thankfully, the next aid station did have cups -- granted, they were giant plastic ones that were tough to drink out of without spilling, but I was grateful.

At about Mile 19, I realized I had drifted into the 5:00 pace group. While I knew there was no chance for a PR, I still wanted to come in under the five-hour mark. So I pushed again, picked up speed and started passing people. I actually began to feel strong again and wondered if I could somehow manage at least 4:50.

And then the knee pain started around Mile 23. And it was bad. I was making faces. And complaining about my discomfort to other runners. I probably would've dropped out if I didn't have just a few miles left. I ran until the pain became overwhelming, then I'd take a walk break, pick a point in the distance to walk to and then run again when I reached that point. I did this over and over until I got to the final stretch of the race down L Street. It was sheer force of will.

That's when I met the lady from Nebraska. We didn't exchange names, just hometowns. She chatted about her husband, and I told her about my knee. She kept me going when all I really wanted to do was cry.

As we moved into the last few hundred meters, I saw Margie from my training group. I grabbed her hand, and she started running me in to the finish line. (At this point, I was yelling "Fuck!" every time my left leg hit the ground -- my knee hurt so much.) Then we spotted Derrick, and he began running on my other side. And then Neveia, who was yelling like crazy, joined us. And then Sammy jumped in as we rounded the corner. I was practically in tears, but I felt like the luckiest person in the world to have such amazing friends.

They sent me down the chute, and I finished in 4:56:28. I wandered around looking for water (once again, they were out), had my photo taken with a finisher banner and then went to the medi tent for ice. (So not fun to finish a race and end up in the medical tent, surrounded by the bruised and battered. I saw a woman bawl her eyes out and then barf. Yikes.)

And the story doesn't stop there: As soon as I came out of the tent, I spotted Todd. He was holding a bag of Del Taco nacho fries. This is why I married this man.

It was a rough race, and I feel pretty beat up both mentally and physically. But I am so grateful for that finish. My knees may hurt and the marathon may be my ultimate nemesis, but it feels really good to be loved.

(Excuse me while I cry again.)

three days and counting

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I was doing just fine until I got this e-mail.

And then I started wondering: Am I really ready for Sunday?


The forecast says 40 percent chance of showers.

The upside: Rain is better than heat or extreme cold. And I have done this before.

The downside: Must I do it again?


As always, the No. 1 goal is no crapping my pants, followed by no dying and no puking.

But I also want a new PR, perhaps more than I'd like to admit. For some reason, putting my time goal in writing makes me feel like I'm going to jinx myself.


Seen on Twitter: "If found lying on ground, please drag over Finish Line."

a harvest tradition

Monday, November 29, 2010

Let us take a short break from the pre-CIM freakout (six days and counting!) to turn our attention to harvest.

Yes, this post is, oh, about four weeks late. But that is not important.

All that matters is the Tale of the Harvest Beard.

Every year when harvest starts, Todd stops shaving and the beard takes root. As the grapes come in, the beard grows. More grapes, more beard. The beard keeps on going until the grapes stop.

And then Todd shaves it into some kind of weird mustache.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A weekend for which to be thankful:

There was the gathering with family in a cabin blanketed with snow. Everyone brought a bottle or two or three of wine, and a parade of pies graced the table. We sat with full bellies next to the fireplace. We played cards and unpuzzled puzzles and read. We went back for seconds and thirds and then took naps in the recliner.

There was also time spent catching up with friends: A birthday party at the bowling alley with pitchers of beer and bowls of popcorn and plenty of happy dances whenever anyone bowled a strike. An afternoon of warm potato-and-parsnip soup, followed by trying on '60s frocks at the vintage store and locket bracelets at the craft fair. I came home with a handful of antique cat-shaped buttons and holiday presents for my friends' children; she found a lamp and a cocktail apron.

And of course, there was this morning's run: Nine miles on the Kortum Trail just north of Bodega Bay. We ran along the bluffs overlooking the ocean, sloshed through mud, climbed steep hills and galloped down the beach. We saw hawks making circles in the air and jellyfish washed up on the sand. And I thought: This is how you run with joy.

san francisco morning

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meet training group friends at Golden Gate Park to cheer for your coach -- and the rest of Sonoma County's Empire Runners team -- at the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships. Realize you actually know quite a few people at the race -- both your physical therapist and your chiropractor are running, as well as another running buddy from your Tuesday morning track group.

Make friends with a runner named Steve. Ask Steve how long he has been running. Discover he has been running for as long as you have been alive. Wow!

Watch the women's race in awe. Marvel at their barely-there booty shorts and sports bras in the misty, 40-degree weather. Marvel at their six-packs. Marvel at how so many of them run so hard that by the time they finish, they are drooling and look like they might vomit. Pray that if they do vomit, it will not be of the projectile variety. Pray that if it is of the projectile variety, it will not be aimed at you.

Wonder if maybe the reason you are not fast is because you don't like vomit or being pushed to the brink of vomit. Also, you do not have a six-pack.

Watch the master's men's race. Hold up signs for your coach and cheer. Try not to be embarrassed by the fact that you and your friends are the only people at the entire race with signs. Ask yourself: Are signs not cool for cross country?

High-five your coach at the end of the race. Take pictures. Hug your running buddies. Depart.

And promptly go to Japantown. Aim for -- what else? -- ramen.

for a good cause

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Did my final 18-miler of this training cycle, and I'm happy to report this run was not the GI nightmare that my last 18-miler was. Thank goodness!

In fact, this run was pretty fun because I threw in a 5K Turkey Trot as part of the mileage. My co-worker Lisa had signed up, only to realize she couldn't make it, so I took her entry. (I kind of feel guilty about this because I have never run as anyone else but myself before -- for some reason, I consider it "breaking the rules." Also, I ran that 5K at marathon pace, so Lisa now has a personal worst on her race record.)

The race itself was inspiring since it marked the end of the season for Girls on the Run, a non-profit group that works with third- through sixth-grade girls to help them build a positive self-image through running and exercise. (I can't tell you how much I wish I had been part of something like GOTR at that age. I remember feeling so weak and ridiculous when it came to sports. And don't even get me started about self-image. Let's just say junior high was a painful time.) The vast majority of the runners this morning were young girls and their "running buddies" -- the women mentoring and encouraging them throughout the race.

It was amazing to see so many kids so excited about running! As we waited at the starting line, a lot of them kept saying: "Is it time? When can we go? I just want to run!"

Also, their teeny-tiny Nikes and Asics were pretty damn cute.

Anyway, my total mileage for today consisted of running across town to the race start, running the race, running a few more miles around the race, running back across town and then finishing the workout with strides at the track.

I am so ready to taper!

no boogers

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I wonder if cats get as self-conscious as people do when it comes to really close-up photos.

I hope not.

thoughts on training plans

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snapped this photo yesterday when I was driving the route for this morning's run: Almost 13 crazy-hilly miles with my friend Russ, whom I met through the training group.

We did an out-and-back, running up and over Helen Putnam and then out into rural Chickenland -- very similar to the insane 22-miler I did with Neveia almost exactly a year ago. We saw wild turkeys, deer, Scottish cows and tourists pulled over on the side of road taking pictures with the Scottish cows. It was pretty damn beautiful out there -- and totally worth the fact that my calves and my butt are now burning.

During our run, Russ and I talked a lot about training. Like me, he's CIM-bound (three weeks left until race day!) while simultaneously recovering from an Oct. 10 marathon. (He ran the Wine Country 26.2, and temperatures that day soared to 90-plus degrees. He said he actually passed out at one point -- literally lying on the side of the road. But he still went on to finish -- although not at the time he was hoping for at all, which is why he is trying again at CIM.)

Our training plans for CIM are very similar -- since we know we can do 26.2, we've been focusing a lot more on quality vs. quantity (similar to what Hal Higdon talks about in his multiple marathon training plans). We want to maintain our fitness level, but we don't want to overdo it and get injured. So instead of thinking only about mileage, we've been trying to give each of our runs a purpose: Speed, hills or endurance. In fact, I don't think either of us is even going to do a 20-miler before race day. Eighteen will be the max for us.

We also won't start our taper until after next Sunday's run. I know this week was peak week mileage-wise for quite a few people training for CIM, but we just wanted to get a really strong hill run done. (I guess we defined "peak" another way -- as in a running a route that had 436 feet of elevation change!) Next week, when we do our last 18-miler, we'll focus on the mental toughness (and perhaps in my case, GI strength) needed for going long.

All of this sounds good when I discuss it with Russ or review it on my own, but sometimes it's a little tough not to let everyone else's training plans become a distraction. Am I going to fail because I'm not running five days a week and didn't run 22 miles this morning? If I start to compare myself, I can easily feel inadequate.

But the truth is, everyone's bodies and schedules are different. Not all of us have the time to devote five days to running. And not all of us can physically handle that. (I know I can't -- when I tried several months ago, I got injured.) So much of running is a process of self-discovery, learning what works for you and what doesn't. The trick is finding the exact formula that puts you at your best when you set foot at the starting line.

Here's hoping I've got it down. This is, after all, a big experiment: The first time I'm attempting two marathons so close together!

big bowl of guilt?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spent the day in San Francisco.

Of course, this meant I ate a bowl of ramen. Today's order was the green onion ramen in soy sauce broth from Katana-Ya. And it was lovely. A big bowl of comfort.

(Side note: Did you know that Samuel Wanjiru, the Kenyan elite who won gold in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, was first in the Chicago Marathon in both 2009 and 2010 -- the most recent while recovering from stomach flu -- and was highlighted in one of my favorite running movies ever ate there too? His autograph is on the wall. But I digress.)

However, as you can see from this photo, there is a piece of pork in this ramen. And while I didn't eat the pork, this whole dish represents a dilemma. If I am not eating meat mainly because I don't want to contribute to the demand that results in inhumane treatment of animals, then I really shouldn't have ordered the ramen in the first place because the act of ordering it was demand itself. (In fact, for the most part, ramen broth is made with meat-based stock -- typically chicken or pork, sometimes beef or fish. There is no escaping the meat/demand issue here.)

So by not eating the meat today, did I actually commit a worse act because I am wasting food and/or not respecting the animal that was killed for this meal?

I really shouldn't have ordered it, but I just love it so much.

viva las vegas

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I am in Vegas for work.

I think maybe I am this city's worst nightmare: I go to bed early, I don't like to gamble and I hate strange men grinding on me. In other words, I'm not exactly a Sin City sinner.

Except when it comes to food. Oh, man. Food. My "big night out on the town" consisted of dinner at Wynn's newly-opened Lakeside Grill. (And when I say new, I mean new -- this baby opened its doors Nov. 4!)

All I have to say is this: Pace yourself throughout the meal so you have room for the dessert cart, which is chock-full of creative little bite-sized treats, like these mini caramel apple lollipops. There is also an incredible tropical fruit tart (a must if you are like me and love coconut) and a trio of truffles, one of which has actual Pop Rocks on it and literally explodes in your mouth. And perhaps the most exciting thing: A housemade bacon chocolate bar. (I didn't eat this because I am trying really hard to be good and vegetarian, but the restaurant gave me a sample to take home, and I'm saving it for Todd.)

And now I am so full and so exhausted (I honestly can't remember the last time I stayed up this late). Pardon me while I lapse into a food coma.

afraid of the dark

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The headlamp signals the end of one season, the beginning of the next.

I thought this -- coupled with my fashionable reflective vest -- would be all I needed to tackle the dark.

But apparently other things lurk out there that high-visibility gear can't protect you from.

Last week, a woman running on I Street at 5:45 in the morning was attacked. Her attacker clearly wasn't trying to rob her -- runners don't carry much cash, if any at all -- which could only mean he meant to take something worse than money. Luckily, she was able to fight him off and escape.

The incident has affected the Chickenland running community profoundly. It was all we could talk about at the track workout this morning. Our coaches are being extra-careful about making sure everyone is escorted to and from the track and that no one is left alone.

I can't explain how much this scares me. I Street is a fairly regular route for me. Granted, I've never run it in the dark and never that early in the morning, but I've been up and down that street numerous times. The Heart & Sole training group even included it on one of our training runs. It's a staple for runners -- and cyclists too.

I keep thinking: What if it was me? Would I have been able to fight the way she did? Would I have been able to escape? It's downright frightening. Until the police catch this guy, I don't want to run alone. My plan now is to meet running buddies for after-work runs, use my lunch break to get workouts in or join the fun runs held during the week by local running stores.

Anyway, tomorrow a number of Petaluma runners are meeting at 5:30 in the morning for a run/walk to show support for the woman who was attacked. I plan to be there.

I want in

Monday, November 08, 2010

Yesterday I woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the New York Marathon.

And I was blown away. The elites were absolutely amazing -- they made it look effortless. And I loved the drama of the race, watching it all unfold: How the elite men all seemed to be holding back, waiting for Haile Gebrselassie -- who holds the world record for the marathon in 2:03:59 (do you realize this is faster than my average half marathon time?) -- to make his move, only to have him drop out after injuring his knee. (And then he announced he is retiring -- super sad.) How Shalane Flanagan -- who had never, ever run a marathon before -- finished in second place for the women, between two Kenyans. (Nice -- I wish I could be so gifted!) How Emmanuel Mutai, second for the men, totally barfed at the finish line while wrapped in his country's flag. Apparently, he has a reputation for vomiting and pukes in races all the time.

And of course, there was the Chilean miner who ran, too -- he said he had trained while stuck underground. He had a rough time -- had to stop in the medical tent halfway through. But he finished -- 5:40:51.

And then there were the thousands of other runners -- the normal runners, the ones like me, who will never run 5-minute miles or be sponsored by Nike or have people in the crowd rush out to grab their discarded glove or hat. (Yup, I believe this is what happened to men's winner Gebre Gebremariam's discarded clothing.) They run because they never in their life thought they could, because the very act of running is joyful and painful at the same time, because they can't help but love it. It was amazing to watch these people wave their arms in front of the cameras, cheer and whoop and holler, and run on.

So this morning I signed up for the New York lottery. (Did the Marathon Monday Mania early entry scavenger hunt on Facebook and posed with my little blue box.)

Entry No. 647856. Choose me.

learning the hard way

Saturday, November 06, 2010

You know how your running buddies, coach and pretty much every article ever written about running advises you never to try anything new, different or experimental the day before a race or an important training run?

There's a reason for it.

I stupidly chose yesterday -- the day before my planned 18-20 miler -- to check out Santa Rosa's only Ethiopian restaurant. It made sense at the time: The restaurant is a few doors down from the running store, and I needed to pick up Honey Stingers for my run. Why not have lunch in the neighborhood? After all, I love Ethiopian food, and it would be nice to get my injera fix without having to drive all the way to San Francisco.

The food was good. (And so pretty! Doesn't it look like an artist's palette?) It wasn't too spicy (which I was actually really happy about), but it still had a lot of flavor. I was glad I went. The rest of the afternoon and evening passed without incident.

And then I woke up this morning.

Apparently, it really is possible to spend an hour in the bathroom doing something other than blow-drying your hair and putting on makeup. Every time I thought I was done, nope, there was more yet to come. Let me tell you, it was not fun.

After that experience, I thought about postponing the run, but the forecast said rain all day tomorrow. I was left with no choice: Do it now, or risk failing to get out the door later because of pouring rain. I had to get it done.

I was worried I was already dehydrated, so I tried to eat salt tabs and drink lots of water. This worked at first. I was tired, but everything seemed to be functioning OK -- maybe moving a little slower than normal, but otherwise OK. I ran across town to Shollenberger (I have such a soft spot for this place since it was where I first started running seriously), did a few loops out there, watched the bird people ogle the ducks through their tripod telescopes and started running back.

Just before Mile 14, the stomach cramps began. At this point, I wasn't far from home, so I just kept going. I figured if worse came to worse, at least I was near a bathroom. The cramps eventually went away, so I refilled my water bottle, ate a Honey Stinger waffle (now I'm wondering if this was a mistake too -- again with the trying new things) and went on.

At this point, I only had 3.5 miles left before I hit 18. I kept telling myself, That's nothing. You run more than that all the time. You can do 3.5 miles in your sleep.

I barely managed those last few miles. I crawled along -- yup, survival shuffle in full effect, folks -- until Mile 16.5 or so, and then I had to take a walk break because my stomach hurt so badly, like I had a sideache on both sides of my body at the same time. Desperate just to finish the workout, I tried to run around the track -- which I usually find comforting because the distances are measured and I know exactly how much I have left to go -- but the pain got worse. I felt like I could barely breathe -- like someone hit me in the stomach with a crowbar. For awhile, I actually thought I was going to vomit.

I ended up walking most of the last mile. It was pathetic. I felt like a loser. And I really should've known better. I mean, come on -- I know this. What was I thinking?

So lesson learned. From now on, I'm sticking to to my pre-run pasta. Nothing but pasta.

peas in a pod

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The perfect cupcake for a baby shower: Double chocolate chip with a dollop of vanilla buttercream frosting and a pea-in-a-pod edible topper. Wish I could say I'm the genius behind these beauties, but the credit goes to Allyson, the office cupcake maven. She made these for Keely's mom-to-be celebration this afternoon, and they were almost -- almost -- too cute to eat.

I miss baking cupcakes. Haven't made any in about a year. The oven here at the new(ish) place is temperamental -- it burns the bottoms of everything I try to bake. (And I've even put a thermometer in there to make sure the temperature is correct. Doesn't help. Bottoms still burn.)

I hope to resolve this problem soon. I just volunteered to make a dessert for Todd's family's Thanksgiving gathering, and I don't want to serve up a blackened mess!

avert your eyes

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

There is no such thing as TMI when it comes to running. We share it all: Poo stories, group pees behind trees, snot rockets, the occasional escaped fart. I never thought I could be this disgusting and still be socially accepted.

Therefore, I give you The Blister.

This baby has plagued me since Portland. I pop it, and it comes back. I pop it again, and surprise -- it suddenly reappears! It's like the Jesus of blisters -- rise and keep on rising.

(Cue angry comments from very religious people in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... )


Monday, November 01, 2010

Two things I have never done until recently:

Cheered out loud at my TV. By myself. In pajamas. While eating Chinese takeout. But this is exactly what I did tonight while watching the Giants game. Renteria -- power! And the Beard. Seriously, how can you not love the Beard? He's just so wonderfully weird!

Trained for two marathons this close together. I still can't believe I'm going to attempt CIM in December -- less than two months after Portland. Even crazier: I want to try to PR. And not a teeny-tiny 22-second PR like last time -- I want to shave off minutes. Balancing post-race recovery while training for another race has been tough, though. Yesterday's 16-miler pretty much worked me. Those previously mentioned pajamas? Let's just say there's a reason I'm ready for bed before 8 p.m.

fear the beard

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apparently, Meep is a Giants fan.

photo finish

Monday, October 25, 2010

This is my favorite picture from Portland. Look how sweaty I am. Look how rainy it was. My shirt is so soaked it's sagging off of my body.

And look how happy we are to be done.


I don't usually order race photos. But I bought them immediately after Todd and I ran Avenue of the Giants together. The picture of us running is on my bookshelf at work.


I have yet to get any of our wedding pictures printed. And it's been more than a year since the wedding.


happy cup

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I could use a big bowl of this right now. But unfortunately, Chickenland is sans ramen shop, so I'm settling for sighing over the photos I took when I was in L.A. on Wednesday and grabbed a quick lunch from Happy Cup, which claims to be L.A.'s first and only ramen truck.

I knew nothing about Happy Cup when I spotted it on the street. I was just walking down Wilshire, looking at the long line of food trucks and trying to pick one that offered something different from what we'd be having for dinner that night. Ramen fit the bill.

Happy Cup is no-frills -- a Spanish name painted near the front tire indicated the truck had probably once served tacos and burritos in a former life. But now it is all about ramen.

I ordered the shoyu ramen (above) for my co-worker Robin and got the shio for myself, thinking I'd like it better since I am such a salt fiend. (It actually ended up being a little too salty for me.) We sat in our rental car in the rain and slurped on noodles and broth.

special delivery

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We told our landlord to help herself to the padron peppers we are growing in pots near the front door. In exchange, she leaves yellow summer squash in our mailbox.

Apparently, she really likes our peppers because the squash keeps coming. In fact, I'm starting to think of the squash the way I think of my magazine subscriptions: I just can't keep up!

Thankfully, though, unlike last month's Vogue, squash can be thrown into the crock pot.

Today I took a tip from a blog I read regularly and made some vegetable stew. The recipe I followed was adapted from this one, which I like a lot because it can be customized to use whatever is available in the kitchen, be it barley or brown rice, lentils or garbanzos, acorn squash or yellow summer squash delivered to your mailbox. (In addition to the squash, I also made a quick trip to Green String and picked up some chard, potatoes and heirloom tomatoes.)

Instead of cooking everything on the stove like the original recipe suggests, I mixed up the gravy base and added it, plus the vegetable stock, veggies, grains (for me, brown rice) and beans (I went with lentils and split peas) in the crock pot for about seven hours.

The result? Not bad. I have to admit that some of the squash was probably a little past its prime (there were a few pieces that had really large, tough seeds that I had missed when I was prepping), but other than that, the stew itself was really good -- perfect for the cold, wet weather we're currently experiencing. (I swear, the rain keeps following me everywhere!)

when wine meets food truck

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's a good feeling when the event you've been working on for months and months comes to fruition. Who would've thought the casual question -- "Wouldn't it be cool if we could do something with wine and food trucks?" -- posed almost a year ago in December 2009 could become reality?

I actually got a little emotional when Nom Nom, the first truck to arrive at last night's event, rolled up in their lime-and-yellow nosh-mobile. They were followed almost immediately by Green Truck (and Chef Ross -- that's him in the photo -- invited me to come aboard for a bit, which made me absolutely giddy). Then Cool Haus and Kogi pulled in. The lineup was rounded out by the ladies from Drip Bar, with their awesome Blue Bottle coffee, which is hard to find in L.A.

The energy was amazing. As soon as the trucks parked and set up, all the owners and chefs greeted each other and started swapping food. Everyone was just so fantastic -- so excited to be there, meet the guests and share their stories. And those stories -- wow! Green Truck talked about how they created their business because they wanted to show people that organic food can be accessible to anyone. Cool Haus is planning to launch another truck in New York. And Jennifer from Nom Nom started her truck just a few years after graduating from college!

The guests seemed to have a great time -- but I guess that's a given when the menu included the freshest, fluffiest falafel I've ever had served with a splash of Chardonnay, grilled pork bánh mì paired with Riesling (killer combo, by the way), Korean short rib tacos with Cab, and an ice cream sandwich duo -- one was sea salt caramel and the other was balsamic fig and mascarpone -- with dessert wine. (And yes, I was bad and ate meat for the first time in months last night. I just couldn't say no. I love street food so much.)

My favorite item of the evening, though, was a small taste of Cool Haus's black truffle pistachio ice cream served before everyone sat down for dinner. Man, I thought I was going to collapse on the floor in sheer ecstasy. Truffles and pistachios are two of my favorite things, and when combined -- total knockout.

Truly an unforgettable night. And so, so glad the planning is all over!

rain, rain, go away

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't be surprised if I look like this in 24 hours.

Only perhaps soggier and more bedraggled.

Because tomorrow is the big day: Showtime for the event I've been planning for work for months now.

I will fly down to L.A. at 6:30 a.m. I will spend the whole day setting up. I will tell people where to put the rentals. I will polish glasses and carry chairs. I will stuff goodie bags.

And I will probably get soaked.

Because my event is outside in a parking lot. And according to the weather forecast, there's a 50 percent chance of rain tomorrow. And not just any rain, thundershowers. (Seriously, what is it with me and precipitation lately? It's like I have a permanent cloud over my head.)

We are tenting everything, but I'm still nervous. This is L.A. -- people freak out when it rains. They forget how to drive. They decide not to leave the house. They don't show up.

Oh crap, let it clear up by tomorrow evening!

for a little blue box

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apparently, I will go through a lot for a necklace from Tiffany.

Ran the Nike Women's Half this morning. Official results aren't posted yet (I'll get to that later), but my watch said I crossed the finish line at 2:14 -- better than SF, and given the fact that this was a hillier race and I'd run a full marathon the week before, I'm pretty happy with that. Also, my knee didn't act up. And yes, the necklace at the end was really cool -- you know what I'll be wearing to work tomorrow!

But that's not to say this race didn't have its challenges. To be perfectly honest, with the exception of the finish area, which was extremely organized, Nike was one big clusterfuck. I'm glad this race was a training/recovery run for me and not my main focus. I think I would've been really stressed out, angry and frustrated if I had been going for a time goal. Nike was like a really long fun run -- something I'd love to do with my mom (if I could ever get her out there), but not something I'd want to do as a serious runner.

Here's why:

Tons of people and no direction. I had a feeling after the expo (and I went on the "slow" day -- Jessa went yesterday, and it took her more than an hour to pick up her bib) that this race was going to be packed. I should've also known from how they distributed the bibs -- no assigned corrals based on previous race times or estimated finish -- that the starting line would be insane. Basically, you picked where you wanted to line up -- whether or not that pace was actually your true pace. (You'd think that in a race with 20,000 people, assigning people to corrals would make sense, but maybe that's just me.) So there were walkers way up at the front in the 6:30 minute/mile group (WTF?). People were colliding, throwing elbows and tripping over each other when the race started. I have never been cut off so many times during a race -- it was like an obstacle course out there! And some of these walkers seemed to appear out of nowhere -- how the hell did they get to Mile 12 before me by just walking? It was like they were dropped from the sky! I suspect a lot of people jumped into the race here and there and walked portions of it.

Similarly, the bag check at the start was insane. Once again, because no one was assigned to a corral or specific start time, it was a free-for-all at the drop bag buses. They weren't organized alphabetically, by bib number, nothing. You had to fight your way through a huge crowd, wait for a bewildered volunteer to put a sticker on your bib identifying which bus, bus window and box your bag would be in, and then hold your bag up to another overwhelmed volunteer reaching through the window. Talk about inefficient. (And imagine trying to find that bus at the finish -- not easy, either.)

Totally impractical aid stations. They served water out of plastic cups. Plastic! WTF! You can't pinch a plastic cup and drink it while running! The cup either won't budge or will splinter and almost cut you (which is what happened to Jessa). In order to drink anything, I had to slow down to a crawl and carefully sip my water. And imagine the course littered with these cups -- you can't just stomp them down like you do with paper. Wet plastic is more dangerous! And not to mention horrible for the environment! How can a race that made a point of lecturing participants about throwing their gel packets away in trash cans instead of on the course use plastic cups? So hypocritical.

And then there were the aid stations with no actual water. One of the stations just handed out white cloth towels and Kleenex purse packs. Again: WTF. Why the hell do you need a towel? And what are you going to do with it afterward? There were trashcans full of used towels, and towels all along the course. Again, an incredible waste. And Kleenex purse packs? Runners don't use Kleenex! They blow snot rockets! And even if they did use Kleenex, what on earth would you do with a purse pack? Where would you put it? It's not like we were carrying purses out there!

Worst race Web site ever. I am still looking for my race results. Look at the Nike page. Does it even make sense? Do I have to wait for a Nike "blog post" to find out what my official time was? Seriously. Compare it to this site and this site. Which one would you rather spend time on, especially if you needed immediate information?

That said, I still am glad I did Nike. I think it's one of those "bucket list" races -- you have to try it at least once. And like I said, the necklace is a definite plus. Every runner girl should have one!

And I actually really liked the course -- if I weren't in recovery mode right now, I would've enjoyed storming up those hills (instead, I walked a lot of them). A lot of people say the SF course is better because it takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge, but I loved how this one went by the Legion of Honor and down the Great Highway past the Sutro Baths (one of my favorite spots in the city), Cliff House and Camera Obscura.

And seeing Ocean Beach just sprawled out before your feet, all glistening sand and silver waves and rays of sunlight cutting through the clouds -- man, absolutely worth it.

shoulder to shoulder

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Headed down to San Francisco after work today for the Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon "expotique." Race organizers described tonight as the night to attend and promised "cocktails, appetizers, smoothies, special raffle prizes and appearances by Nike athletes."

I found nothing but lines. A huge line down the block just to get in to the expo (which was in a fluorescent pink and neon yellow tent in Union Square -- good location and cute set-up, but the tent was way too small). A huge line for the cocktails and appetizers (which I for some reason thought were going to be passed by hot men in tuxedos or something, not set up at a table -- I guess maybe I've been spoiled by too many wine events). A huge line for pace bands. A huge line for Facebook updates (if you sign up, Nike will automatically update your status with where you are in the race -- cool idea, but not really worth standing around for). A huge line for sports bra fitting. A huge line outside Niketown, where all the runners' names were posted on the wall in hot pink letters.

After awhile, I gave up, sat on a bench and started eating my way through my race bag. (Mmmm -- Luna Bars and Ghirardelli chocolate squares.)

I can only imagine how crowded Sunday's race will be.

can't f-ing wait to go back

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I flew down to L.A. for the day yesterday with my co-worker Robin to wrap up the final details on an event we are hosting next week. (Yes, back in a plane less than 24 hours after coming home from Portland. The fun never ends.)

While in La La Land, we met up with Shaya and had lunch at Starry Kitchen.

The owner greeted us by explaining that the menu constantly changes and items don't come back for months at a time, so if we see something we like, we should order it immediately before it's -- and I quote -- "fucking gone." And then when Robin asked about the eggrolls, the owner said: "These aren't the bullshit eggrolls you'll find at Panda Express."

Thankfully, this man was not just talk. The fucking food lived up to the fucking hype. I ordered the sake tofu with coconut rice, Asian slaw and garlic noodles. Robin got the nom nom pork in a banh mi sandwich with the no-bullshit eggrolls on the side.

We were so fucking happy that we bought fucking souvenir T-shirts. No shit.

26.2 miles in rain? check.

Monday, October 11, 2010

At first, I attempted to stay dry. I wore a trash bag. As we walked from the hotel to the start, I dodged puddles.

But within minutes of getting to my corral, I stepped in a small lake (a.k.a. pothole) and completely soaked my left shoe. Seconds after our wave crossed the starting line, I splashed through another large puddle and soaked the other shoe. After about half a mile, I got rid of the trash bag and surrendered: You can't run from rain; you can only run in it.

Neveia and I tried to stay together. Our goal was to stick with the 4:45 pace group because they were wearing pink tutus and knee socks with black cats, and you know how much we love tutus and cats. But when we got to the first aid station -- just barely past the first mile marker -- she veered off for water and we lost each other. And then at the next aid station -- right before Mile 3 -- I ended up losing the pace group.

So I ran most of the race alone. (OK, maybe not totally alone, since there were thousands of people there. But it's not like I knew any of them.) I kept the pace slow and even. My plan was to run conservatively until I was well over Mile 18 -- which was where I hit the wall at CIM last year -- and then start picking it up and turning it on. I wanted to keep my mind in the moment -- not think about the next mile or a PR or what was at the finish line. My goal was to stay alert and present.

So I watched people: The woman with the weird arm swing like a windshield wiper across her body (did this keep the rain out?), a man in a huge poncho that made him look like a bat, race walkers and their swaying asses and short-shorts. I also eavesdropped: Lots of "Go, team!" from the Team in Training people. Two guys making fun of the Liquid Gold name -- I guess the more accurate "Gooey Poo" doesn't quite sell product. And a daughter seeing her mother on the out-and-back section of the course -- they ran toward each other and hugged.

Still, the doldrums got me. That out-and-back section -- Miles 7 through 11 -- was torture. My feet made squishing sounds. I visualized a blister forming on my right big toe and wondered if rain could cause athlete's foot. Meanwhile, water ran off the brim of my hat like someone had turned a faucet on above my head. And my surroundings were flat and depressing, with warehouses on one side and train tracks on the other. And there was a religious band playing Christian music that made me very uncomfortable. And I was looking for Neveia and couldn't find her.

I got so low at Mile 10 that I thought about stopping. (Apparently, it's completely possible to hit the wall that early mentally.)

Thankfully, I didn't give in, and the only stopping I did was to use the port-a-potty at Mile 11. (Bravo to the race organizers for using port-a-potties with hand sanitizer dispensers.) Miles 12 and 13 wove through the Northwest District, and I let the neighborhood -- with its bike shops and trees changing color and cozy, bungalow-type homes -- distract me: If I lived here, would this be my local cafe? Would this be my regular running route? Would these people be my neighbors? Dear Portland, please adopt me! I still love you even in this weather!

This daydream was interrupted by a runner on the side of the road yelling at her husband as he tried to help her change into dry shoes: "The timing chip! You're forgetting the timing chip!" Then I caught up to another woman who had totally given up on shoes and was attempting to run barefoot. Meanwhile, water was still pouring off of my hat. And I began to wonder: What if my forehead chafes and I end up with a huge red line above my eyebrows? Thankfully, I saw a billboard with a cat and a little girl on it that said: "End petlessness! Help Oregonians find their furry best friend!" And then I felt better.

I reached the climb to St. John's Bridge, which started just before Mile 16. I was prepared for this hill. I had read about it. I had studied the elevation. I knew this was where people often injured themselves mid-race. So I walked it. I ate a Honey Stinger and chatted with a runner from Japan. He said: "Nice pace!" as we power-walked up the incline.

What a treat when we got to the top: The bridge, with its pale green Gothic towers, was gorgeous and the view of the Willamette was incredible. I felt energized and grateful. Even better: I realized I was very close to Mile 18 and wasn't bonking! I began to pick up the pace. I stayed strong through Miles 19 and 20, weaving through a neighborhood with lots of cheering families and more music.

Then the emotions hit. Seeing the spectators with their signs for other runners suddenly made me feel like I was really far away from home. I began to focus on my family and friends and how much I care about them. I was so overcome that I started to cry. Crying while running is not easy. In fact, apparently, crying makes it really hard to breathe and almost causes an asthma attack. I forced myself to gain control and calm down.

At Mile 21, I saw Neveia. She had run up the hill to St. John's Bridge and burned out her legs, so she was struggling. It soon became clear that her brain was a little, shall we say, "off" as well. She started screeching in a nails-on-chalkboard voice at every mile marker: "Miiiiiiiooooooooole twenty-tooooooo! Miiiiioooooole twenteeeee-threeee!" People stared at us. And when any spectators said, "Keep going! You're there! You've got this!" Neveia yowled back: "We're not there until we cross the finish line!" I didn't quite know what to do at this point. What do you say when your running buddy starts to lose her mind? I wanted to support her, but I didn't want to absorb her crazy energy.

I pulled her a little, which I think helped her. We managed to pick up the pace, but unfortunately, this didn't last long. Even though my lungs felt fine, my mind was solid and I could accelerate easily, my left knee started acting up on a descent. (Damn you, Runner's Knee! You always screw up my final kick!) I ended up doing some sprint-walking in the final miles. Not ideal, but at least I didn't aggravate the injury. (I passed another runner who wasn't so lucky. She was limping, and when I asked if she was OK, she said: "I blew out my knee.")

As we hit the final 600 meters, Neveia and I began to run all out. We pounded down the finish chute as she yelled: "Where the fuck is it?! Where is the fucking finish line?!" I had never heard her use that word before in my life. It was awesome.

We finished three seconds apart -- she did 4:50:33, and I did 4:50:36. Believe it or not, with the rain and the injuries and only doing an 18-miler as my longest training run, I somehow set a new PR by 22 seconds. And I felt great after. I drank some orange juice and some Muscle Milk (granted, I had to ask someone to open it for me because I couldn't figure out how to open it myself) and ate some string cheese. And as a finisher, I got a finisher's tee, a medal, a rose (for the Rose City) and a Douglas Fir seedling (which I love so much).

And then we celebrated. There was a room service lunch of steaming hot heirloom tomato soup from Nel Centro, which we consumed while wearing plush bathrobes (so incredible after running in the rain). And then we went to DragonTree for 90-minute Muscle Melt massages. I believe I actually fell asleep on the table.

And then there was the dinner. Oh, I shiver with joy just remembering it! We went to Clyde Common and feasted on all of my favorite things: Truffled popcorn, beet salad with pistachios, housemade cavatelli with chanterelles and corn, beer ice cream. And washed it all down with the gin-based White Lady cocktail.

Dear Portland: Thank you. That was one sloppy wet kiss, but I'll take it.

can you run in wellies?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

According to the Portland Marathon site, it has rained only twice on race day in the last 28 years.

Well, apparently we're about to make history.

It rained all day today.

It will rain all day tomorrow.


When we were walking around town today, watching the race organizers block off the course and put up signs, I overheard a man say: "Oh! The Portland Marathon is tomorrow!"

To which his wife -- who was hiding under an umbrella -- responded: "You've got to be kidding me."


I can do this. Really I can. Better rain than heat, right?

less than 48 hours

Friday, October 08, 2010

Someone thinks she is going to Portland with me. (How amazing would it be if I bought a jogging stroller for the cats and then became known as The Running Cat Lady? OK, maybe I am the only person who thinks this would be cool. Even the cats -- who hate any sort of change ever -- would find this to be the worst idea in the world. I bet you'd hear the yowling and cries of despair from miles away.)


My yoga teacher last night said there will be a surge of power hitting the earth Sunday (the triple-digit date is apparently very significant) at 10:10 a.m. Arkansas time. I guess the Natural State -- yes, that's really the state nickname -- is home to a "crystal vortex," which attracts a lot of energy. My teacher recommended meditating at 8:10 a.m. our time to absorb as much of this power as possible.

Before you mock, realize this: I will be at about Mile 6 at that point, with 20.2 miles to go. I will take any surge of energy anyone can give me. Bring it, crystal power!


Fitting a foam roller in a suitcase is not easy.

cue nerves now

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Been so busy with work that I haven't had time to freak out over Portland. (Flew to Santa Maria again this past Sunday for more hot media action, then spent most of Monday driving back up, then went to the Food & Wine's American Wine Awards at Farm on Tuesday.)

But now I have a moment to sit and think about this weekend, and the following has occurred to me:

  • What if I didn't get a long enough long run in? Can I really finish a marathon with just an 18-miler as my peak run? (My coach says I can. And so does my physical therapist and chiropractor. But all three of them are really accomplished runners who have been running pretty much all their lives. They're not newbies like me.)
  • What if it rains -- a lot? I just checked the forecast, and there's a 60 percent chance of showers Sunday. I like running in the rain, but I live in California. Maybe Portland rain is crazier. What if my shoes get soaked? What if I have to run with blisters for 26.2 miles?
  • What if my stupid leg starts acting up again? Or what if the Runner's Knee comes back? Or what if I develop a completely new and bizarre injury? Will I be brave enough to drop out of the race? (Sometimes, I think you have to be really brave to quit.)
  • What if I come down with a cold because I have been working and traveling a lot lately and have been kind of stressed out?
  • What if I get food poisoning the night before? Or worse: What if I get food poisoning during the race? (Dear Honey Stingers: Please do not fail me.)

But then again:

  • What if an 18-miler is actually the key to my training and I end up with a new PR out of nowhere? (I did do a short tempo run tonight, and one of my splits was 8:56 -- haven't run that fast in ages.)
  • What if this weekend turns out to be the most fun we've had during a race? And Neveia and I just talk and laugh through the whole thing. And neither of us is sore after. And we realize running a marathon is really not a big deal at all. And then we decide we want to start running ultras next. Or seriously think about Boston.
  • What if I never hit the wall?
  • What if the entire Portland experience is so fantastic that I tell Todd to pack himself and the cats up and hurry up and move because I am just not coming back?
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