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santa maria

My first impression was not exactly positive.

I was a pre-pubescent, extremely self-conscious, buck-toothed kid trapped on a "family getaway" that involved standing on the side of the freeway in front of a chain-link fence decorated with a giant wooden rosary while large vehicles barreled past. Apparently, someone in Santa Maria claimed they had seen the Virgin Mary, so my very Catholic parents had to make a pilgrimage. (Growing up, nearly all of our family trips involved going to uncomfortable places in the middle of nowhere because someone had a vision. Don't even get me started about the time we went to a farm in rural Georgia and prayed in a field for hours and it was hot and the only bathroom was a port-a-potty.)

Naturally, I tried not to return to Santa Maria ever again. And I didn't -- until after college, when I was living in San Luis Obispo. This time, the pilgrimages were all about going to Del Taco. Many prayers of gratitude were uttered for those nacho fries (which aren't on the menu, so you have to ask for them specially and now you know). Hallelujah, praise the Del Classic Chicken Burrito!

It's funny how Santa Maria keeps sneaking back in there.

I flew down yesterday for a media dinner at one of our wineries. I turned my rental car east, past ag silos and row after row of thick, leafy green crops, and ended up in rolling hills and a patchwork of vineyards. I saw deer. And hawks. And a tarantula crossing the road. (Seriously, it is kind of disturbing when a spider is so large that you can identify it as a spider from the vantage point of the driver's seat.)

The dinner itself was a miracle: About an hour before the event was scheduled to start, the winery lost power and water. Which meant the 20 health-and-fitness journalists -- who had just finished a two-and-half-hour bus ride -- were greeted with toilets that wouldn't flush. And the caterer providing the meal was trying to cook with bottled water. And our poor winemaker -- up since 5 a.m. and caught in the throes of harvest -- had wine stuck mid-pump and looked like she wanted to pull her hair out.

But thankfully, just as we were about to sit down and do our best, the power came back. The toilets flushed. The food was served (a pistachio-themed menu -- really incredible). And the winemaker gave a wonderful introduction to the advantages -- and occasional challenges -- of growing grapes on the benchlands of Santa Maria.

And you know what she said?

"This is God's country."

I should've guessed.

marathon of eating

I can't stop looking up food options for Portland.

In fact, at this very moment, I have not one, but two reservations for our pre-race dinner. I couldn't decide between Nostrana (a Chowhound favorite and all-around foodie mecca) and Ristorante Roma (much more casual and not as high-profile, but seems to have bigger portions -- a plus for carbo-loading -- and more vegetarian options), so I booked both. At this point, I'm leaning toward Roma. It doesn't seem as interesting as Nostrana, but to be honest, experimentation and rich foods aren't exactly the best choice on the eve of 26.2 miles. My primary marathon goal remains the tried-and-true "Do not crap in pants." (Followed closely by "Do not barf." Also "Do not die.")

Other spots that look exciting: Clyde Common (dear god, the photos on their site are like food porn -- I'm thinking this is the place to go for an all-out post-race fancy dinner -- presuming we actually all cross the finish line in one piece and can walk afterward), Pok Pok and its neighboring Whiskey Soda Lounge, Food Fight Grocery (all vegan!), Tasty n Sons (this place has brunch written all over it), Whole Bowl (though I worry it won't be open while we're in town -- looks like more of a weekday spot) and Beaker & Flask.

And of course, there are the places I went to last time that I'd love to revisit. Horse Brass was awesome -- so jealous that it's someone else's neighborhood pub. (Dear Portland: Can you adopt me?) And even though it's kitschy and touristy, I want to take Laura to Voodoo Doughnut (where the skeleton in my photo, above, resides) for a maple bacon bar. (Does this make me hypocritical as a vegetarian? I won't eat the bacon, but I'll readily take someone else to go eat it. Hmmm.)

So many options! Seriously, I wish I had a million stomachs and more time in the City of Roses.

the countdown starts

No Sunday is complete without a photo of my post-run meal. Today's feast was a housemade veggie burger and fries from Station House Cafe.

That's right -- we ran trails in Point Reyes this morning -- the Earthquake Trail (a paved loop run in the darkness of early morning, and my hands were so cold I had to tuck them inside my sleeves), Rift Zone Trail (imagine meadow after meadow of grazing cows and their calves, followed by a winding path through ferns and over wooden bridges) and Bear Valley Trail (which took us out to Arch Rock and a view of fog rising over the ocean).

I did a total of 18 miles. While this wasn't the 20 or 22 the rest of the group did (and which I had originally planned on before the injury), I'm very happy. I had thought I'd only be able to reach 16 prior to race day, so 18 is an accomplishment. For the most part, it was a strong run (slow and steady), though my left knee did start acting up a little bit toward the end (probably traces of the Runner's Knee debacle I dealt with earlier in the training cycle). But the right leg was fine -- no pain!

Other positives: I don't feel beat up the way I did after other 18-milers. And I think I may have finally figured out a nutrition plan that works for me: Honey Stingers in Gold flavor (tastes just like straight honey -- so much better than the fake-sweet GU gels and doesn't make my stomach cramp or make me want to gag) every four miles and Endurolyte electrolyte capsules every six, with a bite of a granola bar thrown in there to keep the hunger down. I actually felt energetic throughout the whole run, didn't have hunger pangs halfway through, didn't feel like I was going to crap my pants or barf and didn't experience any leg cramping. Yes!

After the run, our group celebrated with mimosas, cupcakes and cookies (yes, all of this while stretching and wiping the trail dust off of our legs). This was our last long run before tapering starts. I've really grown to love this group, and I know I'll be thinking about them when I'm in Portland.

Can't believe it's only two weeks away!


Found in the breakroom today: A chocolate chip cupcake with chocolate-peanut butter frosting. Yum.

these little piggies

Sunday's 15-miler took Neveia and me past these little guys. We just had to stop and visit with them. They were amazing -- when their curious snouts sniffed my hand, I felt like they were reading everything about me.

The pigs are part of Quivira Winery's biodiverse farming program. They're Gloucestshire Old Spots, a rare breed that in the '90s, dwindled down to only four animals in North America. And even though these cute little piggies will probably end up on the table at Healdsburg's annual Pigs & Pinot event (I'm trying really hard not to think about this), it's nice to see them running around and playing outside. And it's wonderful that Quivira -- which also farms its vineyards biodynamically, has a beautiful raised-bed vegetable garden and is home to honeybees and many types of chickens -- is helping to bring back a heritage breed.

crooked no more

I saw my physical therapist this morning. After listening to me explain how the pain in my right leg has been moving from place to place and isn't entirely concentrated in my adductor, she began to rethink the tendinitis diagnosis.

She did a few tests, and it turned out that the muscles on the left side of my pelvis were not engaging the way they should, so my right leg was trying to compensate for it, causing plenty of pain. She straightened things out, and I ran five miles tonight at a 10:33 average pace -- an improvement from the 11-minute miles I've been running recently.

And the best part: I feel better than I've felt in a very long time!

Hopefully this means I'm back on track. I can't let Neveia and Laura go to Portland without me!

herding cats

Overcome by sudden urge to buy Ikea furniture.

les oeufs

Spent so much time discussing proper pronunciation of les oeufs vs. un oeuf in French class tonight that when I came home, all I wanted was an egg.

Thankfully, Todd picked up these lovelies the other day from Green String, a local farm whose chickens roam the fields and aren't cooped up by the thousands in nasty, artificially-lit egg-laying factories. (Seriously, don't get me started.)

As you can see, these eggs are a little small compared to what people are used to finding in the grocery store (in fact, the darker egg on the bottom right came from Whole Foods -- I threw it in there for comparison's sake), but what they lack in size, they make up for in taste! Plus, I just love the color palette -- the hints of blue and green, peach and pink. It's amazing how we grow up thinking there are only two colors of eggs, when so much more variety exists.

I cooked up a pale beige egg sunny-side up and put it on top of a pile of chickpeas, artichoke hearts, squash and tomatoes. I know not everyone likes a runny yolk, but I have to say I'm a total fan.

J'aime les oeufs!

back in the saddle. maybe.

Today's post-run breakfast: Redwood Cafe's Vegetarian Joe -- scrambled eggs with tempeh, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and spinach, with sourdough toast and potatoes on the side.

That's right. I said post-run.

Met up with the training group today and managed to do 7.59 miles at the super-turtle pace of 11:19 per mile. Even though this is a far cry from the 20-miler I had originally scheduled for today (and I got shocked by an electric fence when I tried to pet some horses on the side of the road, but perhaps that is another story for another time), I felt so thankful just to be running again and to be back with the group.

Lots of sweaty hugs for everyone.

Except the horses.

one mile

I am remembering the beginning.

When one mile was a big deal, a major accomplishment. When one mile meant being sore for several days afterward. When one mile was It, and the thought of going beyond that was just plain crazy.

I feel like I'm there all over again. Tonight, I ran one mile. And it felt strange, like my legs weren't mine. It's like learning to run all over again.

It seems so weird to me that I was the girl in this picture just a little over a week ago.

forecast: gloomy

Just tried to go for a short, easy run, and I couldn't even make it half a mile without pain.

If this keeps up, I'll be going to Portland as a spectator.

Cue big, fat, weepy sobs now. And the sound of an entry fee being flushed down the toilet.

what money can buy

I would do it.

If I were rich.

And could wield a samurai sword. Because you never know.

ms. brightside

Having adductor tendonitis is not so bad. True, I haven't run in a week. And I cried last Friday morning because I was in so much pain that I could barely walk (also, I was bloated and PMS-ing and I felt like every pair of pants I put on made me look like I had a muffin top). And my physical therapist said I should only be wearing my running shoes, and although I love my LunarGlides so very, very much, they aren't exactly work-appropriate.

And while all of this is sort of demoralizing, I swear there is an upside. For instance, because I did not go on the 18-mile training run that was scheduled for this weekend, I was able to:
  • Drink. Yes, that's right. I haven't had more than one drink with dinner in who knows how long. And on Saturday, we went to a barbecue and I had two Bellinis (with fresh peaches, which was even more awesome) and a glass of zin. Also, I just now opened up the bottle of Roederer L'Ermitage 2000 Brut I've had in the wine fridge for more than two years now.
  • Stay up past 9 p.m. We had date night last night! We painted still-lifes of food! (Mine was really bad, but that's another story.) We watched a movie! We ate pierogies! We drank Pinotage! And I didn't have to wake up at 5 a.m. this morning to run!
  • Shamelessly bake cookies that contain almost two sticks of butter. (And let me add that I did this at 10 p.m.)
  • Work on strengthening my upper body. I went swimming twice. And loved it. I'm not great at it, but every time I do it, I feel more comfortable. (Yes, folks, there could be a triathlon in my future.) I also took two vinyasa classes and did a lot of chaturangas. (This morning's class was extra-awesome. My teacher is also a runner, and when I told her about my injury, she geared a pretty large portion of the class toward inner thigh work. It felt wonderful.)
Hopefully I will be running again soon (I'm feeling better and better -- the yoga has helped tremendously), but in the meantime, this is actually not too bad of a break.

I just have to remind myself not to eat all of the cookies.

when it hurts

Note to self: Do not run a race while injured. Because while you may feel like you are flying at the time, you will feel like someone has taken your leg and wrung it out like a wet towel afterward. And then you will find yourself online for hours, looking up really awful things like tendonitis (or tendinitis or however you choose to spell it because apparently both ways are acceptable, kind of like doughnut and donut, only not as happy) or -- even worse -- stress fractures.

Dear god, just the thought of that last one makes me shudder.

I am headed back to physical therapy in the morning to get some answers.

In the meantime, I am trying to think positive thoughts and focus on things that make me happy.

Like cats.

Singing cats.

In costume.