wine, cheese, running

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I love hill repeats. And you know what makes them even better?

A post-run wine-and-cheese party with the training group.

One of the guys in our group is part of local cheese-making family, so he brought several different kinds of goat cheese for us to try. My favorite was the Crottin.

Guess who brought the wine?

10th half marathon, done

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I love that my race shirt and medal both say Chesebro Half Marathon, when that race just didn't exist yesterday. I will forever look at this stuff and think: "Chesebro 2011, the race that never was!" (And if you're wondering why Mari is wearing my race goodies, it's because today is her birthday -- my little cat is 5 years old!)

So instead of splashing through mud, I hit the asphalt yesterday in the Pacific Half Marathon. Because this was a last-minute change, I didn't have difficult goals -- I knew there was no way I was going to PR. Mainly, I just wanted to finish in one piece (no injuries or near-death experiences) and possibly hit the 2:15 mark. (This course is fairly hilly, and most runners finish about five minutes slower than their average half marathon times.)

The race was a point-to-point course that began at Paramount Ranch, with an Old West movie set for the starting line.

I thought this photo was funny, since I definitely wasn't a mud bug yesterday!

The good part about the start: Real bathrooms. With running water. And flushing toilets! The bad part: Adding 1,300 trail runners to a road race (and the trail runners outnumbered the road runners -- there were significantly more green Chesebro bibs out there than blue Pacific ones) caused some logistical issues. The race was supposed to start at 7:30, but it didn't start until almost 8 a.m.! And it was ridiculously cold, so I was pretty much stiff and numb when the gun finally went off.

The start was a bit of a bottleneck as we took off up the gravel road out of Western Town. When we finally got onto asphalt, we were immediately greeted with rolling hills. I was so cold that the first two miles were brutal. I felt awful, totally disconnected from my legs, and I thought about dropping out and calling my parents to come get me. Not surprisingly, my first mile split was 11:03. Hardly a strong start.

I didn't feel good until I got to the Mile 3 marker and began the biggest climb of the entire race. This was the hill I had heard everyone whispering about at the starting line -- it was supposed to be nothing short of mean.

Oddly, I loved every single second of that climb. I loved the rhythm of it: Leaning into the incline, shortening my stride, increasing my turnover, staying on my toes, pumping my arms. I loved breathing. I cruised up that hill, passing quite a few people. I thought to myself: "If I do nothing else in this race, if I drop out on the other side, if I decide to walk the rest of the course, at least I can say I ran this hill."

The climb was only about half a mile. And at the top of the hill was what looked like an antique tugboat in the middle of a field, with no water anywhere near it. Random.

The descent was fine -- no problems with my knee, thank goodness. I cruised through the next few miles, just enjoying my surroundings. My parents moved to Agoura Hills after I left home, so I don't know the area at all -- running that race was a really wonderful way to get a tour. The hills were so green. There were horses. Ranches. A winery. A special lake for very rich people.

And there were a lot of stopped cars. Cops were at every intersection, holding vehicles back. At one point I overheard a driver yell: "They should've spaced them out better! There are thousands of them!" Apparently, the Great Race of Agoura is also the Great Traffic Jam of Agoura.

And of course, I found my nemesis. I swear, there is always one in every race. I started to notice this guy after the Mile 6 marker, when I heard an unmistakable rattling sound getting closer and closer. Yes, this man was running with a bottle of pills in his pocket, and it was annoying as hell. I tried to get away from him because the sound was making me insane, but he stayed right behind me. Luckily, there was another good climb at 7.5 miles to take my mind off him. (Seriously, I really like hills.)

At the Mile 8 marker, I walked through an aid station, so I could drink my water without spilling it on myself and eat some Honey Stingers. The pill guy passed me and called out: "You're doing great! I know you can do it!" I really wanted to yell back: "No shit, Sherlock. I've done this before. And I'm not bonking -- this is called fueling and hydrating!" And that was when this guy officially became my target.

I caught up with him at the next aid station because he had stopped right smack in the middle of the course to hug people he knew. Have I mentioned how annoying this guy was? Another runner yelled at him to pull over to the side. I passed him and his groupies and started yet another small climb.

At the Mile 10 marker, I began to feel tired. And my left hip hurt. Annoying Pill Guy caught up to me and then told me he had been using me to pace himself. And when I didn't respond, he said: "Your name must be Ann Aerobic because you can't talk! Get it? Anaerobic?" And then he pulled ahead, laughing the whole time. I vowed revenge.

When I hit the Mile 11 marker, I decided it was finally time to bring it home. I had run fairly conservatively throughout the race, and now I just had to pass people and finish it. I picked up the pace and pushed. And just before I got to the Mile 12 marker, I saw Annoying Pill Guy, passed his rattling ass and kept going. I never saw him -- or heard his stupid bottle -- again.

The course went through a sticky, muddy section, and I spotted Todd. He took this photo. (That's me behind the patriotic-looking guy in the red shorts, white shirt and blue hat.)

I waved at Todd and yelled: "I really just want ramen! I am so hungry!" And then I was off to the finish.

The finish chute was weird -- you had to run down a street and then jump a curb and run across some slippery, muddy grass to the line, which was in Chumash Park. My final time was 2:14:28 -- 26 seconds faster than my Nike time. It would've been nice to have been faster, but considering the circumstances, I was happy. Other than the first two miles, I felt pretty strong and present throughout the race -- no feelings of woe.

The best part: My dad did the 5K and finished in 41:20, which is a PR for him. Of course, we took a photo together with our medals. So proud of my dad! And so excited we were able to share the Great Race experience!

My mom got her race rewards too. She is all about the free stuff -- I think she goes to races largely for the samples at the expo and the finish line. (At one race, I actually caught her eating the hot food that was supposed to be for the runners.) Look at how much loot she picked up yesterday!

Overall, the Pacific Half was a good race. I had fun. I saw lots of weird footwear -- everything from a guy running in gladiator sandals to a woman in Skecher Shape Ups (they looked like boats). I overheard one runner tell another runner: "That's great! You've reached the point in the race where you're talking to yourself!"

And I learned I really love hills. Who would've thought?

unexpected change of plans

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Several thoughts come to mind.

One: Southern Californians are wimps. (And I can say this because I grew up in L.A., and yes, for a very long time, dirt scared me too.) It's a trail run! It will be wet! It will be muddy! And it won't be a big deal! If I ran through and survived this ridiculousness, how much worse can the Cheeseboro Canyon trails be?

Two: On second thought, maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Dear ankle: Are you secretly grateful?

Three: Crap. I've been focusing on nothing but trails. I haven't run more than seven miles on asphalt since January. Also, this means I have to re-plan my entire race outfit.

things I like about work

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The winery cat. This is Jack. He was dumped at one of our tasting rooms. We took him in, and now he is fat and happy and has the run of the property. When he isn't eating, posing for photos or exploring the gardens, he curls up in a little bed inside the tasting room -- right next to the fireplace, of course.

The food. I've sung the praises of our in-house culinary team before. Their food kicks ass, and their hospitality is amazing. They will go out of their way to accommodate dietary restrictions -- not just for me, but for anyone who comes through the door. This is the food-and-wine pairing we typically offer, only adjusted so it's gluten-free and vegetarian. And guess what? It's delicious.

The education. Today I took media to see some beehives on one of our properties. I loved learning about the apiary (yes, I even picked up a new word!) and watching our beekeeper at work. Some fun trivia: At her peak, a queen bee can lay 2,000 eggs a day. (Thinking about this kind of makes my insides hurt.) If she starts to lose productivity, the other bees make a new queen. (And I thought humans were cutthroat!)

The outfits. Like this fabulous hat I got to wear today.

Am I styling or what?

reliving it

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As much as I love the written word, sometimes photos tell the story a bit better. Case in point: Sunday's absolutely insane trail run.

This is the first WTF moment, when we realized we were going to have to cross that stream (which to my city girl eyes, looks a whole lot like raging rapids).

Here I am running uphill on a trail that has been transformed into a small creek. (I am trying to look brave, but really I am uncomfortable and worried I'm going to trip on a rock and demolish my ankle again.)

This is pretty much what the landscape looked like that day. Beautiful but wet.

Here's our coach about to fly through a small lake. (Yes, this is still the trail.)

Another awesome thing about the rain: It brings out the newts. My running buddy Mariko made friends with this guy. (Notice Lisa's face in the background -- hilarious!)

And the wet weather isn't over. It's raining again as I type this. Thankfully, the forecast for Chesebro looks good: So far, no rain Saturday.

of wild cats and water

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm all for mountain lions in controlled, educational environments like the presentation put on today in Napa by the Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund, but I really hope I never see one of these beautiful beasts on any of my trail runs. (And yes, mountain lions do make appearances in Annadel every so often.)

Thankfully, today was not one of those days.

Instead, I saw water. Lots and lots of water -- gushing, dripping, trickling, pooling, you name it. We had a howling, rain-slapping-sideways, objects-being-tossed-around-in-the-wind kind of storm last night, and it took its toll on the trails.

Instead of paths, there were rushing streams. Instead of running, there was creek-walking upstream, sloshing through puddles the size of small brown lakes and yes, even fording what seemed like a miniature (yet very forceful) river, with icy cold water that came up to my thighs. And there were the fallen twigs, branches and tree trunks. At one point, the downed trees were impassable, so we had to turn around and run all the way back the way we came (which meant fording the river a second time). My eight-mile taper run became a 10-mile run/hike/wade/survive.

And it wasn't really fun. To be honest, I was actually pretty close to miserable out there. I was frustrated that I couldn't just flat-out run, because every few feet there would be a deep puddle that I couldn't see the bottom of or a tree trunk across the trail or a descent that had turned into a partial waterfall. (And with my ankle the way it is and a race in six days, I am absolutely terrified of re-injury.) And I was plagued by that awful this-trail-is-never-going-to-end, I'm-going-to-be-stuck-on-a-hillside-in-the-rain-forever feeling.

I found myself really questioning my sanity.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

I ate this for lunch. And some sushi. Thus simultaneously breaking both the vegetarian and gluten-free codes.

And now I'm suffering. I don't know if lunch is to blame or if it's the fact that one of my co-workers came to work yesterday with the stomach flu and sat next to me in a meeting. (Seriously, WTF: Why the hell would you come to work with the stomach flu? Nothing can possibly be that important!)

The cramping started early this evening, just as I was meeting the group for some hill repeats. Somehow, I powered through (even though it was brutal and my stomach cramped up at the bottom of every hill and I wanted to curl up in fetal position on the sidewalk). Miraculously, I didn't barf or crap my pants.

Let's hope this awful feeling passes soon.

the mac

Monday, March 14, 2011

As you know, I'm kind of obsessed with Mark Bittman. Tonight I made his macaroni and cheese recipe from the February issue of Runner's World. (The fact that Bittman is a runner just makes me love him more.)

The secret ingredient in this recipe: Cauliflower. That's right -- the sauce is actually pureed cauliflower with just a little bit of cheese, so it's creamy without feeling heavy. And I used quinoa pasta for the noodles, making this dish gluten-free.

While my mac didn't come out as pretty as the one in the magazine, it was good. Really good. It tasted a lot fattier than it actually was.

I can't wait to eat my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

chesebro, here I come

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eleven-plus miles at China Camp this morning with Neveia. This may be my new favorite trail spot -- loved the views of San Pablo Bay, the egrets picking through the marsh, the hillsides dotted with wild irises and golden poppies. I want to go back and do it again.

After our run, we had brunch at Theresa & Johnny's. (They have a paint-by-number Last Supper picture next to the sink in the bathroom. Awesome.) I got the So-Cal Benedict -- cheddar corn biscuits (I know, clearly not gluten-free) topped with avocado, grilled tomato, poached eggs and hollandaise -- and a side of tater tots.

I don't know what felt better -- finally getting into double-digit mileage or wolfing down this plate.

hooray for csa day

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We recently joined the community supported agriculture (CSA) program at Tierra Vegetables. For those of you who aren't familiar with a CSA, it's like having a subscription to a farm. Every other Friday, I head over to Tierra and pick up a bag of pre-selected produce. The selection changes every time, which is part of the fun -- we don't know what we're going to get until the morning of pick-up day, when the farm owners send out an e-mail listing all of the items, ways to cook them and a recipe or two.

Yesterday was pick-up day, so I headed over to Tierra, which is just up the road from my office and has a cute litte farm stand out front.

Unlike some CSA's, which package everything for you in a crate, Tierra makes you do a little work. You go into an area at the back of the farm stand, read the chalkboards that list how much of each item you are supposed to get this week and then measure everything out using scales.

I love it. Really, really love it. I swear, it makes me feel like it's Food Christmas or something.

This week's bag included leeks, potatoes, winter squash, escarole, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, celeraic (also known as celery root) and cardoon.

You are probably wondering what the hell cardoon is. It's a member of the artichoke family, and the plants actually look very similar to artichoke plants. However, with cardoon, you eat the stem. We haven't tried it yet -- planning to cook it for dinner tonight -- but we hear it's supposed to taste like a cross of artichokes and celery.

While I'm at Tierra, I also like to see what else they have available that wasn't included in my subscription -- I like to supplement things, if you will. Last time, I bought some purple heirloom popcorn. I'm also very tempted by the bean selection, which is extensive.

I always end up buying eggs. I feel pretty strongly about where my eggs come from and can't stand the thought of antibiotic-infused chickens crammed into crates stacked floor-to-ceiling indoors in artificial lighting. So I splurge on the organic eggs from chickens I know are treated well and have access -- real access, not fake marketing-speak access -- to the outside world. Also, the organic eggs from happy chickens taste so much better.

And then I put the eggs on everything. Like this pizza (which was made with Udi's gluten-free crust and topped with CSA leeks) that I just devoured.

Seriously, Food Christmas!

I've got mail

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My mailman left me a note today.

Clearly, he's noticed my license plate frame (which says "Runner Girl / I run like a girl"), the issues of Runner's World that arrive every month and the postcards advertising upcoming races. (Now that I think about it, it's kind of scary how much postal workers must know about people from their mail.)


Hill repeats tonight. Don't tell anyone, but I think I love climbing.


Which is kind of a good thing, since apparently the Chesebro Half is insanely hilly. I studied the elevation map today (I know, I know -- I probably should've done this when I was registering instead of two weeks before race day), and there's a slight but steady climb from Mile 3 to 6 and then a very steep grade from Mile 6 to 8.

Even scarier: I read reviews of the race on Racevine, and the comments included "This was a VERY CHALLANGING HALF" and "The course is tougher than I thought it would be, but very scenic -- just be sure to include hills in your training."

I know I've been running a lot of hills recently, but I'm still scared!

back on the track

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Despite my fears, I didn't die during speedwork this morning.

In fact, I actually kind of did well -- for me, at least. I finished my first 1500 in 8:04, an 8:48 mile pace, and I only got passed by one person. I slowed down a little for the 1800 -- finished in 9:55, about an 8:51 mile pace, and three people passed me. But I picked it up for the final 1500 -- finished in 7:47 (when have I ever seen this number?), an 8:28 mile pace, and I actually passed someone! (Granted, this person was also recovering from major surgery, but it was still a small victory for me. When you're a turtle, you'll take what you can get.)

The best part: I left the track feeling confident. Hopeful even. I haven't felt this way in ages -- quite possibly since last summer, prior to all of my injuries. Maybe I can start thinking again about training for a sub-2 half marathon. (Not Chesebro, of course -- not enough time for that, plus it's a trail run. But maybe a road race in May or June.)

Also, I think I may really like my new shoes.

After finding out that my left foot supinates while my right foot slightly overpronates, I've been looking to transition to more neutral shoes. I recently got a pair of Brooks Ravennas, which are a step down from stability but not quite neutral yet, and so far, I'm pretty stoked on them. On the track, they felt much lighter and less "slappy" than my LunarGlides. (I think the wider toebox on my LunarGlides makes them a little clumsy for speedwork.)

Also great: The post-track workout breakfast. Because I get up so early on speed days, I have more time to cook breakfast. This morning I made scrambled eggs with green onions, cheese and a little truffle salt.

This turtle deserved it!

group think

Monday, March 07, 2011

Can you figure out which one is me? (Answer: Dark purple top. Blue hat. Waving dorkily.) This photo is from yesterday's run -- before I got completely lost in the woods.

Anyway, since I seem to be easing my way back into the group thing, I am now trying to decide if it's time to haul my butt out of bed tomorrow morning and head to the track. I haven't run with the track group since Jan. 11, when we did fartleks, and my best mile was a mediocre 9:21 -- and that was with healthy ankles.

I can only imagine how humiliating tomorrow morning will be. The workout is 1 x 1500 at 10K pace, 1 x 1800 at 10K pace, and 1 x 1500 at 5K pace. So pretty much I am going to die a miserable, embarrassing death, and I predict I will get lapped numerous times by at least two people.

And yet I know that if I don't get out there and do the workout -- even if it's a pathetic attempt -- I'm not going to get any faster. And the longer I put off going to the track, the harder it's going to be to get back into the speedwork routine.

Well, I guess there's nothing like an extra-large slice of humble pie to start the day.

like hansel and gretel. kind of.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

So my return to the trails with the training group was not exactly spectacular.

First of all, weather conditions were hardly encouraging -- it alternated between light showers and straight-up rain. Then we got lost driving to the trailhead at the Pan Toll ranger station in Muir Woods. And the road was so winding that by the time we got there, I was ready to barf. I felt so sick and so off that I was dead last during our 14-minute warm-up run along a fire road. I have never been dead last with this group before. (With my track group, yes, I am regularly horrible. But with this group, I am usually a solid mid-packer.)

And then we headed out onto the trail. There was a slippery, root-ridden downhill, and I was extra-paranoid about falling because of my ankle, so I walked this and ended up -- once again -- dead last. (It actually got to the point where I was so frustrated that I started to re-think my plan to run the Chesebro Half in three weeks.) Thankfully, Neveia and Lisa weren't too far ahead, so I just kept following them and eventually caught up.

We were supposed to be running this route.

I don't know what the hell happened, but somehow we missed the turn to the TCC Trail and ended up on the Deer Park Fire Road instead. And then suddenly we were no longer on the trails but on the highway -- as in, with cars.

We were totally and completely lost. And we had no clue how to get back to where we should have been.

Luckily, we saw two other runners -- Tonie and Drue -- from our group up ahead, and they were in the same predicament, so the five of us joined forces. We asked a mountain biker for help, and he pointed us in the right direction, which meant running through Muir Woods National Monument. That's right -- running on a wooden boardwalk and dodging tourists with umbrellas and cameras. Eventually we made our way to the Bootjack Trail and decided to take it back to where we started.

At first it was great. Lush green ferns. Small waterfalls tumbling into a creek. A ravine full of mist. Fallen logs. Moss. (If I could've had anything right then, it would've been my camera -- it was gorgeous.) And we were running uphill, which was such a wonderful change from all the slippery downhill. I started to feel like myself at last, picked up the pace and ended up leading the group. It was easy to pretend I was some kind of woodland creature, hopping over stones and roots and trotting along. Or that I was part of an expedition, and I needed to lead us out of the wilderness and into safety.

But that got old when I realized the uphill was never going to end. Up, up, up. And there were so many stairs! Dear god, it was like the this trail was one giant staircase! Eventually I couldn't run anymore, and all I could do was hike up steps. It was like we were stuck in a twisted fairytale, where the characters wander on and on down a path (or climb up and up a staircase), and no matter how far they go, they can never escape the woods.

Just when I was getting really frustrated and somewhat angry, we ran into others from our group. The good: We followed them, the run from hell ended and we found our way out. The bad: Instead of the planned 10 miles, our adventure yielded only 7.5. The ugly: Yes, I got a good butt workout on those stairs, but I'm anxious -- I have a race in three weeks, and my mileage just isn't where it should be!

At least there was food. We went to the Dipsea Cafe afterward, and a soy chai latte covered in nutmeg put me in a better mood.

And this made me feel even better.

I have to say, though I may be a mediocre runner with a shitty ankle and an unnatural fear of falling thanks to said ankle, when it comes to eating, I can claim elite status.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Back on the West Coast. And things are crazy. Today was my first day back in the office, and I had to attend four meetings, finalize a communications plan for the next fiscal year and prepare for a media visit. And while I was on vacation, they moved my office to another building, so I was doing all of this while surrounded by a sea of boxes, which I didn't have time to unpack.

I can't even begin to explain how good it felt to leave work and run hill repeats with the training group. (And so freaking fantastic just to be with the training group again! It's been six weeks since the sprain, and I've missed my running friends so much!) We went up and down those hills. Over and over. Legs pumping. Arms pumping. Focusing only on the rhythm of it: Breath and footsteps. Sweet, sweet exhaustion.

And then I came home to Todd, who had made the most gorgeous salad I have ever seen: Red lettuce, celery stalk, blood oranges, candied ginger and toasted seasoned sunflower seeds.

Bye-bye, stress!
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