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if I could stop time

Even though the weekend was three days long, it still went much too quickly. There were glasses of Aglianico with Jessa, ramen with Brian, homemade tortillas with Julie, sweet potato fries with Adam, pupusas with Todd.

I don't want it to end!

joyeux anniversaire

Happy anniversary to the wonderful, amazing Todd, the man who sees me to the starting line, cheers along the way and picks me up at the finish.

post-PR omelet

Yup, that's right -- set a brand-spanking new half marathon PR today. Official results haven't been posted yet, but my Garmin said 2:00:22, and the clock at the finish line said 2:00:20-ish too, so we're looking at probably having cut eight minutes off of my last PR. Eight minutes and almost -- almost -- a sub-2! Huge! Honestly, I never even thought this would be physically possible! Anyway, once the results are in, I'll do a full race report.

In the meantime, this is the omelet with which I celebrated -- mushroom, spinach and this wonderful cheesiness called rarebit sauce. Nick -- who ran the 10K, his first race ever, in under an hour -- and I chowed down at Omelette Express and then went to the pub for Bloody Marys. A seriously wonderful morning.

7.46 miles, in a tutu

This is what running in a tutu looks like. That's me next to the woman in the white shirt, crossing the finish line (and simultaneously stopping my watch) at Bay to Breakers on Sunday.

Believe it or not, the tutu was surprisingly comfortable -- no chafing, no riding up. It stayed put and actually kept me warm -- and man, San Francisco was chilly that morning. I think I'll wear the tutu again at some point. Maybe I'll get really silly and run 13.1 in it one day, just for the hell of it.

Anyway, Bay to Breakers was a lot of fun. I ran with Neveia (my CIM running buddy), who was in a pink tutu, and my friend Sunny, who was sans costume. (Let me emphasize that though he was not in a tutu like Neveia and me, he did have clothes on, unlike quite a few other runners in the race. You can't have an event in San Francisco without bringing out the nudists. At one point on Saturday, Neveia checked out a naked runner and announced: "I think he's wearing a cock ring!" I will never, ever forget this moment.)

We got some great people-watching in before the race started -- saw "Avatar" creatures carrying cans of Bud Light, runners dressed as British redcoats who had forgotten their pants, and a group of guys in pastel suits and sunglasses à la "Miami Vice," pushing a speedboat down Market Street. Seriously, it was awesome.

The race itself was tough to run, though -- not because of the course, but because of the sheer volume of people. The starting line and first few miles were pretty much one big clusterfuck. Tortillas were flying (I'm still not sure what the significance of this is, but apparently, it's tradition to throw tortillas at the beginning of the race), people were in the wrong corrals, and I felt like I was trying to avoid collisions with walkers and tourists who would randomly stop in the middle of the road to turn around and take photos. I had to dodge spectators too -- huge groups of drunk people in costume (my favorite was the group dressed as strips of bacon) lined the course, and they didn't always stay on the sidewalk. As a result, the first three miles of the race were slow-going.

The crowd situation got a little better at Hayes Street Hill, although I still had to do a lot of weaving (dodged a guy dressed as a giant carrot). But man, it felt awesome to pass tons of people on that hill: See this tutu flying past you? Yeah, that's right. Someone's done her hill work. Honestly, one of the best parts of the race for me was realizing that I had no reason to fear Hayes Street because I was totally prepared for it.

Anyway, after that, the race was smooth sailing. It was fun running down the Panhandle and seeing all the house parties -- made me nostalgic for my old SF life. The crowd of runners thinned out quite a bit through Golden Gate Park (although I almost got run over by a jogging stroller), and Sunny, Neveia and I were able to pick up some speed. We finished strong, sprinting down the Great Highway to the finish line. Sunny crossed first, then me (1:17:39) and then Neveia (who actually had to backtrack a bit because she had dropped her bib on the course).

Afterward, we met up with a few more friends and had brunch and beers at Park Chalet. I devoured a dungeness crab benedict like no one's business.

And yes, I wore the tutu the entire time.

a san francisco tradition

May 2005: We woke up early, put on our favorite wigs and capes, spiked our coffee with Bailey's and headed to Alamo Square to cheer the elites as they led the Bay to Breakers pack. They were fast -- seemed like they whooshed right past us in the blink of an eye.

Or maybe that was just the Bailey's.

Tomorrow is the 99th annual B2B -- and the very first time I'll be running the race. Funny to think that in five years, I've gone from drunk spectator to semi-serious participant. (I can't say dead-serious because I'm only in Corral B and I plan to run in a tutu. But I won't be drinking, and I won't be walking. Although the Hayes Street Hill may make me question that decision. The hamstrings quiver just thinking about it.)

a good pain

Ran into my personal trainer friend at the gym tonight and told him my left IT band felt a bit buggy.

He brought out The Stick and proceeded to roll out my leg.

I almost cried.

But now my IT band feels amazing.

older, more mature

I have a habit of shutting down if I am out in public near someone who is having a really loud, really obnoxious conversation. I think, God, I hope I don't sound like that. And then I stop talking because I don't want to be like the annoying, half-yelling person who is subjecting the entire world to his or her opinions, whether we want to hear them or not.

This happened last night. Todd took me to Scopa (one of the restaurants on my must-eat list) for my birthday. This place is literally the size of a shoebox, and our table was about an inch away from the couple dining next to us. (In fact, when we arrived for our reservation, this couple had to scramble to gather up all their belongings off of our seats and replace our candle, which they had taken and put on their own table to help them read their menus. Apparently their own candle wasn't good enough, and they had to use ours too. I should've viewed this as a sign of what was to come. Hindsight is always 20-20.)

Our dinner was immediately hijacked by our neighbors' conversation, which of course, was nothing short of extremely annoying. First of all, the woman barely spoke because her husband talked non-stop and wouldn't let her get a word in. He instructed her on how to eat her food and even gave her pointers on exactly how she should hold her bread to properly mop up her leftover pasta sauce. He then told the server that he makes linguine and clams at home "all the time" and lectured her on how his recipe differs from Scopa's. (Which makes me wonder: Why the hell would you go out to a nice restaurant and order something you make at home "all the time," especially if you feel compelled to tell the restaurant how to make the dish? Shouldn't you branch out?)

And then the man said: "We are living the lifestyle, aren't we? We go to Healdsburg and Europe. We travel to all of these nice places. What a lifestyle!"

This was the final straw.

It was my birthday, goddammit. I didn't want to eat in silence because the Dining Partner from Hell had to brag out loud to the universe about his amazing jet-setting lifestyle.

So I said: "Have you ever known anyone who's had tapeworm?"

This prompted Todd to tell a story about one of his teachers in high school who described having tapeworm as "a noodle sticking out of his butt." He then wiggled his index finger to further illustrate said worm.

Scopa is an Italian restaurant, and our neighbors had just eaten two large bowls of linguine and clams.

The look on Mr. Lifestyle's face was truly priceless.

We then proceeded to discuss hookworm and ringworm. And underarm boils. ("A boil!" Todd exclaimed, like he had just won the lottery.)

It was a lovely evening. And the food was good, too.

a PR sort of day

I set a new 10K PR at Saturday's Human Race! Official time was 56:09 (and that's counting the time it took to cross the starting line), and my Garmin (which I started at the starting line) clocked 55:46. This means I was running a roughly 9-minute mile (9:03 if you go by the official time, or 8:58 if you go by the Garmin), which is the fastest pace I've ever held for this distance ever, even in training.

I went into the race with no expectations -- just wanted to see my friends (Laura and Thai ran it too) and get a good workout in. I had planned to run with my friend Matt, who is one of the winemakers at work. He told me he usually runs about an 8:30 pace, which scared me a little because I have never sustained that pace for any sort of distance, but I figured I would try to keep up -- maybe he would pull me for a bit and get me out of my comfort zone, and then I would let him go on without me.

The first mile of the race was nothing short of chaotic. People had lined up in the wrong order -- walkers in front of runners, etc. -- resulting in a huge traffic jam. At one point, I got stuck behind a centipede and couldn't get around them. Matt and I tried our best to weave and dodge our way through the crowd without wasting all of our energy by sprinting. Things didn't really thin out until the 3K runners/walkers branched off and the 10K group began climbing hills.

We kept a pretty steady pace throughout, although I don't think we ever actually hit Matt's 8:30 until maybe the last mile or so. The course took us through Howarth and Spring Lake parks. There were some hills, but nothing insanely huge like my last 10K. The toughest part was the narrow trails -- there were a lot of bottlenecks, and we had to be careful not to cut people off or accidentally kick someone in the heels. The course also had quite a few twists and turns (including a very sharp 180), and those forced us to put the brakes on a little, too.

We picked up the pace during the last two miles and really pushed it in the final mile. It was kind of crazy because I ended up pulling Matt, and I thought he was the one who was going to have to do that for me. We finished four seconds apart. (And I was so excited by my time that I actually stood in someone's vomit and celebrated without realizing where my feet were until Matt pointed it out. And I'm still so excited about my time that remembering this vomit and the fact that my adorable Lunarglides were in it doesn't sick me out. Those of you who know me and my vomit phobia know this is very significant.)

Anyway, great race. I know a 9-minute mile in a 10K race is still a long way from Boston, but I'm happy because I'm starting to see all of my hard work paying off.

a 10K for my cat

Yes, that's right: On Saturday I will be running a 10K in honor of Mari, the most beautiful cat princess in Chickenland.

I signed up for the Human Race (which one of my work's wineries sponsors every year). This event is a fun run and a major fundraiser for non-profit organizations in Sonoma County. I chose the Milo Foundation as my beneficiary because they're the ones who rescued my Little Miss Cat and brought her into my life.

I know all of a whopping three people read this blog regularly, but if anyone out there (hello, world?) is interested in learning more about the Milo Foundation, hearing Mari's story and supporting my fundraising efforts, you can click here for more details. So far, I've raised $375 and am so grateful to those of you who've helped out, especially since money is tight for everyone right now.

(And yes, for those of you who are wondering, it is perhaps slightly insane that I am running another race a week after Avenue of the Giants, but May is maniacal for me. I have a race four weekends in a row. Don't worry -- I have been planning this for awhile now and have a strategy in place. But I'll get into all of that in a future post. For now, let's just focus on Mari and Milo and what we can do to help abandoned animals find homes.)

we earned this bling

Perhaps there is something in the Humboldt air that makes you completely trip out, even if you are nowhere near a bong or magic pills or flashing lights.

Because the only way I can describe my Avenue of the Giants race experience is this: Mind Game.

And I wasn't alone with my brain teaser. Todd felt the same way.

The night before the race we reviewed the course elevation map very carefully. We confirmed what we had trained for: We'd be doing what looked like a fairly steady uphill climb with only a few breaks for the first 6.5 miles before the turnaround point, and then the race would be pretty much be downhill with a some small hills to the finish.

So we braced ourselves for hills. But when the race started, it just didn't seem hilly. In fact, we felt like we were running downhill. Naturally, we started to freak out.

"I think we read the map backwards," Todd said.

"Crap," I said.

For the entire first half of the race, we were pretty much filled with dread. My legs felt ridiculously heavy -- we had gone for a short hike at Patrick's Point the day before, and all I could think about was how tired my quads were and how I shouldn't have gone hiking. Also, I had a sideache.

Meanwhile, Todd was worried because he had never run farther than nine miles without experiencing a lot of pain -- foot problems, IT band issues, you name it. He had to take almost two weeks off of training because of this, and as a result, was slightly undertrained. The thought of having to run farther than he had ever run before and doing this uphill on tired legs was not pleasant.

Our mood got progressively bleaker after we passed the Five Mile mark and were no longer under the cover of the trees. We were hot and tired, and all we could think about was how we were going to have to run back to the finish. In fact, it got so bad that I started saying things like "It's all uphill from here!" to other runners. They looked at me like I was crazy.

Anyway, after what seemed like years of running downhill, we finally got to the turnaround point. And then suddenly the course got easier. And we realized we had read the map correctly after all, and the rest of the course was, indeed, downhill with a few small climbs. I don't know how on earth we got so confused at first and thought uphill was downhill -- maybe it was the angle of the trees or the slant of the road (which was very uneven and full of potholes) or just being in a completely new environment -- but I'm glad we eventually figured it out!

My mood improved dramatically, and I started to pick up speed. Todd's legs began to hurt at Mile Eight, but he gutted it out and kept going. I tried to distract him by pointing out how beautiful the trees were (a fact that we totally failed to notice on the way out because we had been so miserable). Really, this was a gorgeous course -- tall, stately redwoods and lush green ferns. And I was surprised by how clean everything was. In all the other races I've run (and this was my fifth half, if you can believe that), there was always trash strewn on the ground -- abandoned GU packets, empty water cups, etc. But for this race, nothing. Everything was absolutely pristine. People used the trashcans, and the volunteers were on top of any stray litter.

But I digress.

When we reached Mile 12, I looked at my watch and realized I had a chance to PR. This hadn't been my goal at all originally (all I wanted to do was run Todd to the finish line for his first half), but the thought of a PR was too tempting. I began to really push, and Todd and I started passing people. It was a late surge, yes, but it was still a surge.

We sprinted to the finish line (I was kind of an asshole and outran him instead of crossing together -- I still feel really bad about this, but the possibility of a PR was just too much for me). My final time was 2:09:04 -- just 20 seconds short of PR! Argh! Todd finished in 2:09:05 -- so awesome for his first half!

We grabbed some water and ice for Todd's knee and then lay down on the grass near the Eel River and stretched. (Again, amazing. Where else can you just lie down in a meadow next to a river after a long run?) After a few minutes, we went back to the finish line. We saw my friend Derrick finish the marathon and got to cheer him down the chute. (He PR'd!) We also saw Marcos and Julie finish. (And I felt guilty because they stuck together and crossed the line side-by-side. Ugh -- I'm such an asshole!)

All of us exchanged race stories, and then Todd, Marcos, Julie and I waded into the river for a natural ice bath. Despite the mind games, we had so much fun over race weekend that we are thinking about the next half we can run together.

Funny how racing is addicting that way. Maybe it is a drug after all.

back from the trees

Back from race weekend in Humboldt County! I'm a little too tired right now to write a full report, but I'll try to do it tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a photo from the staging area. This was a gorgeous course, and we had an absolutely amazing weekend.