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wishful thinking

If I eat summer food, will it make summer get here faster?

Tonight: A salad of fava beans, corn and sundried tomatoes, topped with the amazing Cyprus black lava salt we got from the Spice Station in Santa Monica, during our last trip to L.A.

at the noodle bar

At last: Friday.

And the end of a ramen dry spell. (Can you believe it's been more than a month since my last bowl?)

A few co-workers and I went to Shimo today for lunch. This relatively new restaurant got its start as a high-end steakhouse that only served ramen at the bar, but the steak didn't do so well while the ramen grew in popularity. Now Shimo is all noodles, all the time -- with just a touch of steak.

The Shimo menu is pretty simple: Choose your noodles (ramen or soba), choose your broth (shoyu, miso, shiso ginger dashi or vegetarian) and then add any extra toppings you may want.

There are also a few appetizer options. We ordered the okonomiyaki, a Japanese mountain yam pancake topped with bonito flakes. (Note the sake in the background. What can I say? It's been a stressful week.)

It was pretty amazingly awesome.

Then the noodles came. My co-workers all went with the shiso ginger dashi, but I wanted to get back to basics. I chose shoyu ramen with a slow-cooked egg and pickled ramps.

Fat noodles!

The verdict? OK. Not earth-shattering. I like Katana-ya and even Suzu better. But I'm pretty happy that at least I can get ramen in Sonoma County now. Added plus: The service at Shimo was fantastic. And bowls start at just $8.

what next?

Yesterday: Glowy and happy and huggy at the finish line with my co-workers. (By the way, it's pretty cool that so many people I work with love running. Wine and runners? Now that's a perfect pairing!)

Today: Sort of confused about what I'm supposed to do next. I feel lost without a goal. Good thing I have this to look forward to.

Dear New York: May you finally be the one marathon where I don't feel like dying at Mile 20.

Also: Momofuku, here I come.

at last, sub-2

This is Matt.

Today we had an adventure. And that adventure involved him pacing me to a sub-2 half marathon.

It began when I showed up and immediately started listing all the reasons I was probably going to crash and burn: My left hamstring feels weird. The weather is too sunny. I am wearing old shoes. I went to the port-a-potty and looked in the bowl and it was horrific and all I could think of was I am peeing on someone's poo and then the thought of that plus the smell made me start gagging and then I almost puked. Oh, and by the way, I think I may have to pee again.

I am surprised he ran with me at all.

But he did, and I ran faster and harder than I ever have before.

Matt, Arvan and I started off running together. We passed hot air balloons lifting off. They sounded like whales surfacing. And we talked a lot about "The Vampire Diaries" because Matt is also obsessed.

Mile 1: 8:55
Mile 2: 8:42
Mile 3: 8:47

At some point, Arvan said he felt heavy. And this turned into a discussion about poo. Of course. Because if you're around me, everything eventually becomes a conversation about poo.

Mile 4: 8:57
Mile 5: 8:57

Then we started the gradual climb to Eastside Road. I was heating up. (I don't care if it sounds like I'm whining -- it really was too sunny out there.) I began taking two cups from the aid stations – one to drink, and one to dump on my head.

Mile 6: 9:40

We ran into -- of all people –- Maniacal Laughter Guy! And he remembered us from the Santa Rosa Half! And he had his headphones in and was listening to podcasts again! But unfortunately, no laughter this time. Although his compression calf sleeves and bright orange shoes still sort of made him look devilish. He told us he was chasing sub-2 also. The four of us ran together for awhile.

Mile 7: 8:50
Mile 8: 8:55

Arvan dropped back. I immediately missed him. I had been hoping we'd sub-2 together. Also, I realized I was hurting, too -- my butt and hamstrings began to ache. And I found myself wishing for downhills -- anything so I could build momentum and take the work out of my legs.

Mile 9: 9:22
Mile 10: 9:42

Matt announced we had to run at least 9:30-pace miles to hit our target. I was fading fast -- my legs hurt, and my mind was slipping into thoughts of woe: That grass looks comfortable. That curb looks nice. Gee, I wish I could just walk or maybe lie down or perhaps just call someone to come get me. Matt began making some kind of animal noise, just to distract me.

Mile 11: 9:30

Matt kept asking me if I had any kick left. I said no. He said: "I know how to make you run faster." I said: "How?" He said: "I just ripped a big one." Somehow, I found some kick.

Mile 12: 9:26

If your pacer threatens to chase you, you discover you can do anything for one more mile. Even if you feel like you are breaking and could potentially projectile vomit.

Mile 13: 9:16
.12 miles at 7:14 pace

Official: 13.1 miles at 1:59:54 / Garmin: 13.11 miles at 1:59:55

I just barely squeaked in under the 2-hour mark (and almost took out four walkers who were finishing the 5K while I was at it). I wanted to cry and laugh and collapse all at the same time. There were sweaty hugs for all.

And now I am trying really, really hard not to think about how much I'd like a 1:55 next time.

because you've been waiting

I guess I should tell you about the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half, which took place way back on May 7.

First of all, the race wasn't actually in Santa Barbara proper. It started off in Santa Ynez, went through Los Olivos (right past one of the tasting rooms I represent, in fact) and then ended in Solvang.

Ah, Solvang. California's "Danish town," where tourists take pictures of windmills and eat a lot of aebleskivers, which are like pancake balls.

But I digress. As I was saying before I was interrupted by spherical food covered in powdered sugar, the Santa Barbara race started in Santa Ynez. The weather was perfect -- 50s, overcast. And I had zero expectations because I had spent the week before riding camels and shaking red sand out of my shoes. I felt underprepared, and my goal was simply to enjoy a weekend trip with my running friends and not humiliate myself in public.

I started off slowly, running with Neveia and Sammy. There were a few small rollers as we left Santa Ynez. Sammy eventually dropped back, and I let Neveia go –- she seemed to be picking up speed, and I was worried about starting too fast.

Mile 1 10:09

As the course headed out of town, past Arabian horse ranches and meadows, something totally unexpected happened: It was like my legs just turned on and found their rhythm and I just stopped thinking about them. And before I knew it, I had upped the pace. The rolling hills felt great -- I tried to use gravity and momentum from each downhill to pull me up the uphills.

Mile 2 9:37
Mile 3 9:19

When I saw my Mile 3 split, I started worrying I was going too fast and was going to crash later on, so I slowed slightly.

Mile 4 9:39

Around this point I think I passed Neveia, but I’m not entirely sure where it happened. She said she saw me, but I didn’t see her. Anyway, I kept going. I felt good and suddenly it hit me: I might be able to PR.

I also realized this race was exceptionally quiet -- not a lot of spectators, and barely any talking among the runners. I actually kind of liked it -- it was nice not to have to listen to other people's conversations. I also really enjoyed the view -- this course was the absolute prettiest I've ever run: Green hills with terraced vineyards, yellow mustard flowers, an antique car here and there. It was like postcard after postcard.

Mile 5 9:12
Mile 6 9:19

I left Los Olivos and hit Corkscrew Hill. This is one of those hills where you look up and see runners zig-zagging to the top and wonder: Really? I’m really going to run up there?

And then somehow, you just do it. And you don’t stop. I passed Arvan on the way up. He had just run Avenue of the Giants the weekend before, so he was feeling tired. I tried to him to keep going, but he waved me on.

Mile 7 9:57

On the way down, I passed Lee Anne, who said she was having problems with her calves. I also saw some buffalo and longhorn cattle.

Mile 8 8:46
Mile 9 8:19

And so I started to pick people off. I knew I had a shot at sub-2, and I wanted it. First, there was the girl in the red sports bra and white shorts (I nicknamed her Marathon Barbie). Then there was the woman in a blue shirt and blue shorts (a.k.a. She Looks Kind of Like Someone I Know, But She's Not). And then the guy in the black T-shirt (who was yelling when everyone else was quiet). I targeted them all and ran them down.

Mile 10 8:25
Mile 11 8:31

Everything was going well until I hit a long gradual climb in the Chalk Hill neighborhood outside Solvang. I suddenly felt tired, and I had to will myself to get up the hill and keep going. I think if you had been running next to me, you would have heard me talking to myself. And possibly almost grunting.

Mile 12 9:21

Another short uphill through a neighborhood before a downhill to the finish in the heart of Solvang. I knew I was close, so I was giving it my all at this point.

Mile 13 8:27

And then there was the fake finish line. The race was using the Jaguar timing system, which meant chips were tagged by running through arches instead of over mats. There was an arch maybe 100 or 200 yards away from the actual finish line, and I thought it was the finish. I sprinted toward it and then slowed down and actually turned off my watch, only to realize the real finish line was still in front of me!

.21 miles 7:52 pace

Official: 13.1 miles at 2:00:28 / Garmin: 13.21 miles at 2:00:41

While I was happy and very surprised by how well I ran, I felt a little heartbroken at the same time. I was so close to a sub-2 finish. So close.

Anyway, we spent the rest of the weekend playing tourist and eating.


I drove the Windsor Green course on my lunch break today. I know I've run this race before, and rural Windsor is one of my favorite road-running routes, but I still felt compelled to do some recon and mark every hill firmly in my mind. (Also, work has been so stressful lately that I just needed to get out and focus on something else besides budgeting for the next fiscal year.)

This is the elevation I'll be dealing with:

Not too bad. One gradual climb at Mile 5. Some smallish rollers throughout. And a flat finish. (Which will be nice because the two hills at the end of the Santa Barbara Wine Country race are what I think killed my sub-2 finish there.)

My strategy for Sunday (assuming, of course, the world doesn't end): Run with people who will challenge me. I'm meeting my friend Matt, who runs about an 8:40 pace, and our plan is to try to stick together the entire time. I've never run with him before, so I have no idea what this will be like, but he says he's a talker and will keep me entertained for all 13.1 miles.

Based on my splits from Santa Barbara (and yes, I realize I still haven't written my race report or posted photos of aebleskivers), I think I'll be able to keep up with him. I just need to make sure I'm warmed up properly first and that everything is in working order -- good diet, rested legs, etc.

And so the countdown continues.

apocalypse now

By now, you've probably heard the world is going to end Saturday. (Here in Chickenland, I am reminded nearly every day.)

And while I don't believe the apocalypse is upon us, I can't stop thinking about it. If I am four days away from being crushed in a "global earthquake" (and yes, that is a direct quote), this means I will never get to eat ramen in Tokyo or run a sub-2 half marathon (in fact, I will apparently die a sad sinner's death just hours before my next PR attempt). I will never own a house or a Chanel purse. I will never finish watching "Lawrence of Arabia" (every time we try, Todd falls asleep) or taste the wine we've been aging (all those Cabs going to waste!).

And this makes me more determined to live, as much as I possibly can.

Also, I would really like to see the May 21st-ers in a showdown with the 2012-ers. Bets, anyone?

return of the tutu

I think I kind of love Bay to Breakers. The tortilla frisbees at the startline. The salmon. Hauling up Hayes Street Hill. The totally inappropriate-yet-impossible-to-look-away nudity.

And the company. Had a great time with the Turtles. There were mimosas on the bus on the way down and beer on the way back. And everyone wore tutus.

(That's me in the black tutu -- I did the devil thing this year with fishnets and horns.)

An added plus: Somehow I finished in 1:14:58 -- almost three minutes faster than last year. And I was in a slower corral. And I wasn't actually trying.


in pajamas

I'm blogging from bed -- even though it's still light out -- because tomorrow is Bay to Breakers. The start time has been moved to 7 a.m. this year, so the bus I'm taking from Santa Rosa is leaving at the painful hour of 4:45 a.m., which means I'll probably have to wake up around 3 a.m. to get ready. Ouch.

As far as costumes go, mine will probably be similar to last year. (Sorry for the repeat, but I have a feeling I won't want to get creative that early in the morning. Also, the tutu was surprisingly comfortable.)

And as for strategy, I just want to have a good time. I want to get the mileage in, but I don't want to race. It's going to be too packed out there to run hard, and with Windsor coming up next weekend, I'm just trying to rest up and maintain so I can be ready to try again for a sub-2.


In other news, recently I received this e-mail.

Hilarious that the race that kicked my ass is just so thoughtful.

sweet finish

Back from the Central Coast! Saturday's race exceeded all expectations in every possible way, from my performance (missed a PR by a mere 10 seconds and came very close to a sub-2 finish), to the course (hands down the most beautiful race I've ever run, with lots of rollers to keep things interesting), to the medal (which as you can see, is ridiculously cute). And as always, the company was fantastic -- I love my Turtles!

However, I am exhausted right now (had an early morning at one of our Central Coast wineries today and then made the six-hour drive back to Chickenland), so the race report (and accompanying photos of pre- and post-race food) will have to wait.

from sand to santa barbara

This is what I've been doing with my running shoes lately. (Yes, they're under there, buried in the sand of Wadi Rum.)

In other words, I haven't run much since Annadel.

Which is why I am completely freaked out over tomorrow's Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon.

First of all, I only ran once in Jordan. (Women don't really seem to run outside there, so my workout was on a hotel treadmill, which was in kilometers, which made me so confused that I think I only ended up running about 2.5 miles.) I feel incredibly out of shape.

Second, my body is completely off from the almost 24 hours of traveling to get back to the U.S. My knees still hurt from sitting for so long.

And finally: The weather. It's heating up here in Chickenland -- 70 degrees at 6 p.m. -- yuck! And I can't imagine it will be any cooler in down south. And running in the heat is no fun.

Tomorrow will definitely be interesting. At least Neveia and a few other Turtles are running too (we're all staying in a condo together), so the trip itself will be fun. The race, however, may be another story.


It's how you say "thank you" in Arabic.

And it's what I said often last week when we were in Jordan. (Which, by the way, is why I haven't written in awhile.)

Shukran for the impromptu after-hours tour ...

... the marriage of lemon and mint ...

... and the generosity of an Arabic breakfast.

Shukran for spectacular sunsets ...

... and the call to prayer.

Shukran for the furry ones ...

... the hungry ones ...

... and the ancient ones who carved these walls.