the time of year

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

... to run a 12K trail race called Hark the Herald Angels (a fitting name, since the race was on Angel Island, which meant divine views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz).

... to wear hideous sweatshirts (confession: not just once, but twice) in public.

... to eat way too much food. (Kimchee pancakes from Biergarten, anyone?)

... to find yourself at Toys R Us, face to face with this ridiculousness:

... to continue to unclip with your left foot and lean the opposite direction, no matter how much you tell yourself not to do this. (Dear bike: I'm starting to think this is abuse. Every time I think I'm getting good, you put me down. Literally. As in, I am lying on the ground beneath you.)

... to make new friends.

... and to spend time with your loved ones (and sport silly manicures while you're at it).

cynthia's cim

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hello, CIM.

This time, you didn't eat me alive. This time, the circumstances were different.

This time, it wasn't about me (and my typically pathetic attempt at running a full marathon). It was about Cynthia and getting her across the line of her first 26.2.

Her husband, Aaron, signed up for the CIM relay so we could pace her in. He ran the first two legs, his brother Chris ran the third and I had the honor of running Cyn into the finish (5.7 miles). (And yes, we all wore shirts with the silhouette of Will Ferrell's naked body, as seen above. Anything to make Cynthia laugh out there!)

From the start, she looked strong. I caught a glimpse of her and Aaron at Mile 11, and they looked great -- on target for a 4:30 finish time. She and I gave each other a giant hug, and then she kept on running and I was off to my relay exchange.

This is what waiting for Chris at the exchange (which was about 20.5 miles in) looked like.

Don't ask me what the person in the white shorts was doing. I really don't know.

I waited and waited, hoping for the announcer to call my number so I knew Chris was coming in. The 4:25 pace group went by, and not too long afterward, there was Cynthia. She looked strong, she was smiling, she waved -- and then she said Chris was "somewhere back there."

Yup, Cyn outran her pacer.

And so I kept waiting. To the point where Aaron (who was spectating now) almost had me go on ahead without the timing chip. What seemed like an eternity went by before Chris appeared. I ran over to him, asked him if he was OK, took the timing chip off of his ankle and then shot out of the relay exchange, sprinting as fast as I could to catch Cyn.

I felt a little guilty having fresh legs while the runners in the final miles of their full marathon soldiered on to the finish line. I wove around, passing people, all the time looking for Cynthia and her blue tank top. I have no idea how fast I was going because I forgot my Garmin, but I was definitely hauling. All I could think about was: If I can't find her, I will have failed as a pacer.

Odd things I heard while running: A spectator announcing, "I have a little girl and I'm already working on match-making!" (I hoped she was talking about a dog.) Two separate conversations about Selena Gomez. One runner singing (badly) at the top of her lungs. (At least this meant she could breathe, right?)

I also saw a fireman running in full gear, a sign that said "Will you marry me?" and a whole lot of people in tutus.

I passed the 4:40 pace group (and memories of last year's craptacular race came flooding back -- yikes) and thought, So this is what it feels like to feel good in the final miles of a marathon. And at about Mile 23 or 24 -- coincidentally, right at Del Taco, one of my favorite CIM landmarks -- I spotted Cynthia.

I picked up speed to catch her, and another full marathoner started keeping pace with me -- almost racing me. I told him he looked awesome, we high-fived and ran together. As we were turning onto L Street, he asked me if I would run him into the finish, but I had to tell him no since by then, we had caught up with Cynthia. I cheered him on, and then settled in next to Cyn, who still looked fabulous, even though she said her back was hurting.

We kept a steady pace the rest of the way. I told her she deserved a massage and a very expensive new purse when she was done with the race. And every time I saw a crowd of people, I'd tell them this was Cyn's first marathon and get them to cheer for her. It was so much fun!

As we got closer to the finish line, we spotted this guy, who had my favorite sign of the day:

Cyn's family was about half a mile from the finish line, and they were all cheering like crazy when we ran past. And she was able to kick at the finish -- we ran in strong, side by side. She finished in 4:36:06 -- a really fantastic performance.

I love pacing people to their goals. It's the ultimate honor to have someone trust you with something so important. Congrats, Cyn!

ramen thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for ramen chefs.

Because making ramen from scratch is really freaking hard.

We followed the recipes as best as we could.

And at first, everything seemed great. Look at this pork belly. Awesome, right?

The noodles, sadly, were a different story. This was the first time we'd ever made any kind of pasta from scratch, and we had some issues with the noodles sticking together.

I also think we let them sit around too long after cutting them, which made them even stickier, and when we did cook them, they turned into one big doughy clump that sort of resembled a lumpy brain.

I chose not to take a photo of this.

So we went into survival mode and substituted with instant noodles. (Thank god we had a few extra packages in the pantry!)

Despite the noodle disaster, I was still very excited to watch our bowl of ramen come together.

The end result:

It was good (and I think we deserve bonus points for being brave enough to attempt this), but we definitely need more practice, especially when it comes to noodle-making!

noodle me this

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clearly, I am ramen-obsessed. (Duh.)

I'm the girl who goes to Hana for dinner and asks if there is any ramen left from lunch service. (It's only on the menu at lunch.)

I love it when I get lucky.

I've also been known to order takeout from Shimo in times of desperation.

Unfortunately, takeout ramen doesn't really translate so well, especially when you're attempting to assemble it in a parking lot and eat it in a car. Also unfortunate: Shimo is no longer around. (I have my thoughts on this, but I'll save those for another time.)

And I can't wait to check out Ken Ken Ramen's new permanent spot -- I liked their pop-up, and I've heard they're expanding the menu to include a tonkotsu broth. (The more I eat ramen, the more it seems the thick, creamy tonkotsu is my favorite.)

And I look forward to CIM weekend (I'm not running the full -- I'm doing the relay this year to pace Cynthia through her first 26.2) largely because that means I get to visit Shoki. Yes.

So imagine how absolutely thrilled I am about our Thanksgiving plans. Yes, folks, we've decided to screw the turkey (which I never really liked very much in the first place -- it's always too dry) and are doing something Much More Interesting: Ramen from scratch. This includes the broth, the noodles and all of the toppings (hello, runny egg cooking lesson).

Fingers crossed it all works out!

not running in monterey

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This weekend: The Big Sur Half Marathon.

No, those drinks aren't alcoholic. (Although we did end up with pints in hand shortly after this photo was taken. And we also went through three bottles of wine at dinner. But we were with a large group. And dinner was at Passionfish, where the wine list is at retail instead of restaurant prices, and all of the seafood on the menu is sustainable -- no tuna! Yes, you should go. Immediately.)

Anyway, as I was saying: Half marathon.

Guess what? I didn't run it. I've been sick with a bad cold and cough for the past week (yes, hacking up a whole lot of disgusting-ness), and even though I brought all of my race gear and the weather conditions were absolutely perfect and the course was fairly flat and would've been ideal for a PR attempt, I resisted. That's right: I said no to pneumonia.

This is huge for me. I normally try to tough it out, even if the pain is excruciating (SF Half, anyone?). But my goal is to practice more self-control and be smarter about knowing when I need to sit one out: Rest now, run stronger later. (And trust me, 2012 is going to be absolutely insane event-wise, and I'll need all the strength I can muster. But that's for a future post.)

So this was what it looked like from the sidelines this morning:

And this was the view from the finish line, as I waited for my friends to come across:

Side note: I wanted to strangle the announcer when he asked if there were any runners spectating this morning and then said: "Isn't it tough not to be out there with the rest of them?" Thanks, man. Way to make a girl feel good.

Despite the DNS, the weekend was fun. And of course, there was a stop at Kahoo for a bowl of kotteri miso ramen on the way home.

And when we drove through San Francisco, we were greeted by this:

I took it as an omen of good things to come.

ups, downs, in-betweens

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where does all the time go?

Once again, work is the culprit.

Random thoughts on film shoots: This time of year, it's tough finding a vineyard that still has a decent amount of leaves that aren't brown or about to turn brown. Also, filming pretty much never runs on time. Ever. But it sure beats sitting at a desk all day.


In other news, this is what my side looked like a week ago:

The bruise is fading now. However, the embarrassment over my clumsiness lingers. Grove Street in Healdsburg will forever be remembered as The Place Where I Fell Into a Planter. I need a redemption ride, and soon.


Yesterday I went for an eight-mile trail run at Lake Sonoma. Only I didn't actually run eight miles.

Three miles in, my stupid psoas started screaming at me, and I had to stop running and hike back out. I got lost and ended up -- wait for it -- pressed against a hillside in the middle of a mountain bike race, hoping I wouldn't get run over.


On a more positive note, I had ramen twice this past week.

First, there was Ramen Dojo, where sesame oil and fried garlic took the spicy tonkotsu broth to a whole new level of slurptacular (yes, I'm making that a word):

Then, there was a shoyu bowl at Hana, a.k.a. the source of the best ramen in Sonoma County:

I feel slightly less bitter about New York now.


Also, it's truffle season.

You can't complain when someone shaves a fresh white truffle onto your plate.

in the wee hours

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thanks to the time change and two hungry, yelling cats, I woke up at 5 this morning. (One of said cats insists on sitting in my lap right now, making it very difficult to type this.)

The upside to not sleeping in: I can watch the New York City Marathon. (Sending good thoughts to Layla and Lee Anne! Enjoy every second, ladies!)

Yes, this is slightly painful. I know deferring was the right choice, but it still hasn't been easy. Both my mom and my friends texted me photos from Ippudo this week.

Mom: "I had this for lunch!"

Ulysses (who's in NYC for work): "Ippudo! I love you!"

Thanks, folks -- way to rub it in let me live vicariously through you.

To try to take my mind off of the DNS and the ramen I am not eating, I went for a 32-mile ride in Healdsburg yesterday.

Pretty, right?

Of course, in classic Michaela fashion, shortly after I took this photo, I had a clipless pedal incident and tipped over. (Seriously, how many times must I lean the wrong way before I finally learn?) And then two miles down the road, I had yet another spill at a stop sign and ended up in a planter in front of a whole bunch of people. The fall was so dramatic and stupid that a man in a large truck actually pulled over to ask if I was OK. Yup, I'm a winner.

At least my cat loves me no matter what.

what could've been

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I am trying not to think about this.

You know what is even more frustrating? My mom is there right now. This very second. Unlike me, she didn't cancel her plane ticket when I deferred my marathon entry. And my dad didn't cancel his, either — he flies out to join her Saturday. I am imagining them hanging out with David Chang and getting orchestra seats to "The Book of Mormon" and catching a throwaway glove when a Kenyan decides he is warm enough.

Damn it.

Dear NYC 2012: I'm coming. This deferral crap won't happen again.

zombie runners

Monday, October 31, 2011

Some thoughts on running a half marathon as a zombie prom queen:

As evidenced above, only those who are certifiably nuts will wake up at 3:30 a.m. to voluntarily plaster their faces with a thick green paste called "Rotting Flesh" to take their running group's team theme to a whole new level. Everyone else will just wear a crown.

Standing on the side of the road pre-race, simultaneously squirting and smearing your running buddy (a.k.a. the zombie prom king) with fake blood is strangely satisfying.

It is possible to be too bloody to wear your Garmin. This is OK; as a zombie prom queen, you are already wearing a gut-spattered corsage on your wrist anyway. Just remind yourself to quit checking it -- fake roses don't keep track of splits.

Doing shots of Johnny Walker Black out of an Ironman-branded gel holder at the starting line (yes, before the sun even comes up) really warms you up for a race.

Chasing your non-zombie running friends while yelling "Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiins!" makes for a good show. And there's nothing like getting other people to laugh in the middle of a half marathon.

Johnny Walker Black will result in a pit-stop. Be grateful that said race is in wine country during harvest, so port-a-potties for vineyard workers are abundant. Be even more grateful when, by sheer luck, you find one that has just been cleaned and has no line outside.

A tiara is tough to wear while running, but is surprisingly light and easy to carry by hand -- sort of like a relay baton, only with more bling. And maybe also a few drops of blood.

Despite the fact that you did not train for this race, you are wearing a ridiculous outfit, your rotting nose is sweating off, you have a good buzz for the first four miles and you have to make two bathroom stops (one for yourself, one for the king), it is still possible to finish in a respectable 2:06:04.

The only bummer: We didn't win the costume contest. That went to the crazies who ran as Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat.

the return to running

Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm feeling a little beat up today ...

Don't worry –- this wasn't a clipless pedal accident. It's Halloween here in the office, and the PR department went with a medical theme. I'm a patient.

And the special effects makeup doesn't stop there. Tomorrow I'm running the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon in full costume. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but let's just say a lot of liquid latex is involved. Fingers crossed my face stays on for all 13.1 miles.

Speaking of races, remember the other Healdsburg half a few weeks ago? And remember how I wasn't even sure I was going to do it?

Somehow I ended up with this:

This finisher's medal means the Healdsburg Half was my 15th half marathon.

And I had thought it was going to be a DNS. That changed about 10 minutes before the start. I was wearing my running clothes and I picked up my bib, so I figured I'd go for it because I needed a workout anyway. My plan was to run seven miles and then drop out.

Mile 1 9:43
Mile 2 9:09

My hip flexor was slightly achey at first, but as I kept moving, the pain faded. And the more I ran, the more it hit me: It just feels so freaking good to be running again.

Mile 3 9:03
Mile 4 9:17

I was running with my friend and neither of us were taking the race very seriously. We were chatting, complimenting people on their socks (pink argyles!) and basically just having fun.

Mile 5 9:25

And then my friend announced he had to make a pit-stop. ASAP.

Mile 6 13:26

Nice split, huh? Clearly this was port-a-potty time. While I was waiting for my friend, I saw a few other people I knew. Their comments: "Hey, we thought you weren't going to be running today!" My response: "Oh, I'm just going to drop out after one more mile."

Mile 7 9:15

And I was going to stop. I swear. But there was nowhere to go –- no aid station, nothing. So I just kept walking. I figured I would walk until I found a suitable place to wait for someone to pick me up. But my friend stuck with me, and we just kept chatting away that before we knew it, three miles had gone by.

Mile 8 14:47
Mile 9 16:31
Mile 10 15:27

At this point my friend finally took off to run in. And even though I hadn't planned it, I started running too, because I didn't want to get left out on the course, walking and walking forever. I felt a little bad because I started passing a lot of people who looked like they were struggling, while I shockingly felt just fine.

Mile 11 9:27
Mile 12 9:16
Mile 13 9:41 (slowed down to eat pretzels at an aid station)
.25 mi at 8:01 pace

And the finish! Notice how I'm laughing and moving toward the sideline because the race announcer –- also a friend of mine –- cracked me up with a little aside as I crossed the line. (Also notice the horrible time on the clock –- new personal worst!)

Official/chip: 13.1 miles at 2:26:23 (three minutes slower than my worst time – not bad, considering how much I was walking) / Garmin: 13.25 miles at 2:26:25

So yes, with that impromptu half marathon, I am running again. And I'm really excited about tomorrow's race, which I'm pretty much just considering a long fun run. With fake blood. Hint, hint.

the love affair continues

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Remember this?

Spring Hill Road has always been a favorite for CIM training (perhaps more painfully at first, more lovingly later).

And now it's a great spot for riding. I got a small group of friends together yesterday and did a 30-mile loop through Chileno Valley and back along Spring Hill. (And yes, the hills are just as bad -- if not slightly worse -- on a bike. At one point, I really wanted to get off and walk, but I was worried that if I stopped, I'd topple over into the road and get hit by a car. So I just kept pedaling. And grunting. And pedaling.)

This was my first ride with the new pedals. I'd been practicing clipping in and out in a doorway ...

... and falling into the doorjamb due to a bad habit of clipping out with one foot and leaning the opposite direction.

So naturally, I was extremely nervous to tackle 30 "intermediate level" miles.

Surprisingly, it went really well. The most challenging thing was clipping in. I had no problem with the first foot, but when it came to clipping in the other, it took me forever to position the pedal the right way, and I'd end up pedaling with one foot and fumbling around with the other. Thankfully, I eventually got the hang of it.

I didn't fall at any stops, but I did have an awkward moment when I made a U-turn, freaked out for some reason, forgot I was clipped in on the right side and tipped over. I unclipped in time, so I didn't actually hit the ground, but I bruised my left shin up pretty badly with my pedal.

Ah, well! Note to self: Next time, don't freak out!

Anyway, it was a fun ride, and as always, I love any time I get to spend with my bike. Can't wait until our next date.

harvesting, cycling

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spent the morning in the vineyards sampling Cabernet grapes with one of our winemakers.

Afterward, we went back to the winery and tasted the fermenting juice -- a little Cab, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Viognier and ...

... Chardonnay.

I love this time of year.


On another note, a hot little bike got an upgrade today.

Clip-in pedals!

Now all I have to do is learn how to ride with them.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I was reading this post about having a DNS -- do not start -- day. It's one thing to have one DNS, but another to have multiple.

And this year has been the Year of the DNS for me.

First, there was the sprained ankle, which resulted in a DNS at Kaiser, a race I had hoped would be a PR attempt.

The plus side to this: I discovered I am a really good spectator.

Then: New York. My heart still hurts thinking about it. I had high hopes for this marathon. Everything was lined up: The hotel was booked, I was on the VIP bus to the starting line, the ramen research was done, I had made plans to meet up with friends. But then my stupid hip had to protest. (Of course, my physical therapist thinks the hip injury may stem from the ankle sprain throwing everything out of alignment and causing my muscles to fire wrong. Curse you, left leg.)

Ultimately, deferring was the right decision. Only 10 percent of all lottery entrants actually get into the race, and since I'm not fast enough to enter with a qualifying time, this one entry is probably the only shot at New York I'll ever have. So rather than stumble through a once-in-a-lifetime experience in pain and risk a DNF (perhaps even worse than a DNS), I backed out. Hopefully next year I'll be 100 percent and can experience New York at its fullest.

But wait. The DNS action doesn't stop there.

I am actually debating yet another DNS this weekend. I'm signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon on Sunday, and there's absolutely no way I can run 13.1 miles. The farthest I've run recently has been a little more than 5 miles. My options: (a) Start the race, only run 7-8 miles and then call someone to come get me from wherever I drop out (my first DNF!), (b) Bring my bike to the race, ride the course and cheer for my friends who are running it or (c) Scrap the whole thing altogether and do something completely different, like maybe hot yoga or a long ride (have I mentioned I'm obsessed with my bike?) or even swimming.

Overall, this year hasn't turned out at all as planned.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Headed south for a quick trip to Lala land this weekend. The visit started with my mom's first-ever attempt at ramen.

She made a chicken-based broth and used Filipino noodles. Not exactly authentic, but still really comforting -- and much, much better than anything I've ever tried to do myself. (Um, package of Top Ramen, anyone?)

Then I went to the beach.

If there's one thing I miss about Southern California, it's the ocean.

I lay on the sand, watched people fly kites (there was a pirate ship-shaped kite!) and read my dorky book.

And then I went to Jinya for -- you guessed it -- more ramen.

I ordered the Hakata-style bowl. I know I've had it before, and maybe I should've tried something different, but the super-thick porky broth was just too good to resist.

My parents also got ramen.

I think this must be what happily ever after looks like!
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