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.
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.
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!)
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Last long(ish) run before race day! Neveia and I met this morning for a 9-mile loop through rural Windsor. This is one of our favorite routes, and it seemed appropriate since the last time we did it was back in July, when we were just starting training.
Part of the reason we love this loop so much is the scenery. Today we saw pumpkin patches and rows of corn, black cows grazing, vineyards (some already harvested, some not) and lots and lots of goats.
Friday, October 01, 2010
Sad news: Laura is out with a pretty serious IT band injury, so it looks like Neveia and I are going to Portland without her. I feel bad -- she was really looking forward to her first 26.2. And she was doing so well during training. When the three of us ran together at Duncans Mills (in the photo above, that's Laura and me in the foreground, Neveia in the back), she kicked some serious ass.
I'll be thinking about her when I'm running next weekend (next weekend already -- wow!). I know it's going to get tough after Mile 18, and I'll be dedicating each of those final miles to the special people in my life. She's definitely one of them.
This just goes to show that part of the challenge of the marathon is just making it to the starting line.