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ramen monster

First there was Monday.

This is the miso ramen from Hotei, a Japanese noodle house in the Inner Sunset. It was enormous -- more like a bathtub than a bowl. I made a valiant attempt, but I didn't even get halfway through. (And just for the record, bigger isn't always better: This bowl was fine, but not my favorite. The egg wasn't slow-cooked, the chashu was a little tough and the broth was just OK. But I think my recent journey to San Jose may have clouded my judgment a little!)

And since once is never enough, we celebrated Todd's birthday tonight with an amazing dinner at Hana in Rohnert Park. That's right -- we finally found really delicious ramen here in Sonoma County!

Hana usually only serves ramen at lunch, but we asked our server if there was any left, and she made it happen for us: A steaming bowl of shoyu broth with that magical slow-cooked egg that I love so much (I don't know why this isn't standard at other places) and the fattiest chashu I've had yet -- like a straight-up meat sponge of fattiness. (It was actually so fatty that I couldn't eat it. Texture thing.) Delish! We will definitely be back for more.

And the rest of the Hana menu is fantastic too: We tried the maitake mushroom tempura, grilled asparagus with creamy black sesame sauce and the "egg paradise" -- a poached egg with two kinds of fish roe and sea urchin. (Seriously, normally I am not a sea urchin fan -- again, a texture thing -- but this was incredible. Weird at first, yes, but worth the pay-off.)

double digits

This morning's 10-miler is the farthest I've run since Windsor.

And just in case we need to remember Windsor, this is what a sub-2 half marathon finish looks like:

After that race, I gave myself a little break and cut my weekly mileage by about 50 percent. Work also got really hectic, and then we went out of town two weekends in a row. As a result, my runs were three- and four-milers, squeezed in whenever and wherever I could. (The good part: Todd has started running again, so we've been doing most of these shorter runs together, and it's been a lot of fun.)

But I'm back now -- ran with the Turtles and did much better than I expected. When I woke up this morning, I wasn't sure if I'd run 10 -- especially since my longest run in a month was the six-miler I did Thursday -- but when I got out there, I felt great.

I ended up running those 10 miles at a 9:32 average pace. This is pretty much an entire minute faster than what I was aiming for. According to my training plan for SF (which I created using Runner's World's SmartCoach tool, because I'm too lazy to write one up myself and also because I wanted to experiment with having a target pace for each run), I was supposed to run at 10:30. But like I said, I felt good today, so I just went with it. Not sure what it means for training, though.

my shame

We went to the fair tonight.

I saw this sign.

I succumbed.

And now I feel really, really disgusting. Fried gluten is not a smart idea.

Note to self: Just because they're vegetables, that doesn't mean they're healthy.


Our big work event is three days away. A national gardening magazine has even flown out to wine country to cover it. (In fact, I just got back from meeting them for dinner.)

But the flowers aren't blooming. They don't even look like they're close. And how on earth can you have a lavender festival without the lavender?


Tonight: A series of e-mails back and forth between different members of my track group, looking for carpools to the Double Dipsea and wishing each other good luck at the Western States 100 (yes, as in 100 miles of running) this weekend.

Way to make me feel like a winner, folks. I'll be lucky if I get a 9-miler in any time soon.

weekend of ramen, part 2

To continue this tale of gluttony ...

On Sunday on our way back from Watsonville, we pulled out our ramen list ...

... and decided to stop at Kahoo, whose shoyu soup has been called "quite possibly the best ramen ... outside of Japan" by this blogger.

I was all set to order the shoyu until I started perusing the menu ...

... and the kotteri miso -- a thicker, heartier, garlicky broth -- caught my eye. So despite the sweltering heatwave (seriously, I really hate the weather we're having right now), I went big.

Nothing about this bowl was shy. If it were a wine, it would definitely be Napa Valley Cab. I felt completely indulgent slurping this down, especially when I got to the chashu -- man, talk about fatty, melty goodness! (Yes, I am a bad vegetarian, but only when it comes to ramen. All exceptions are made for ramen. I live by interesting rules, I know.)

Anyway, I'm now recovering from my ramen bender. I hit the gym last night with Cara -- we're trying to meet once a week to lift. (By the way, I am so sore today that it hurts to laugh.) And I ran this morning and went to Pilates tonight (don't you love double days? I do). And I've finally put my training plan together for the SF Half (less than six weeks left to prepare -- yikes).

Ramen = Why I run.

weekend of ramen, part 1

Yes, it's Monday, but I'm still dreaming of the weekend.

That would be Todd's shoyu ramen from Ramen Halu in San Jose.

We drove south to Watsonville for the weekend, and since the Bay Area's best ramen is in the South Bay, we thought we'd stop for a bowl on the way down and another on the way up.

Halu tops quite a few ramen lists, so we chose it for our first stop.

It was hot out, so I went the tsuke-men route. Dipping noodles in broth seemed more appealing than slurping a big bowl of hot soup.

Confession: Before this, I had never had tsuke-men before. And I soon discovered it requires skill. In fact, I was downright confused when my order arrived, since Halu's tsuke-men comes with two broths: a rich, intense, red-hued broth and a clear, almost flavorless broth served in what looks like a tea mug. I had no idea what to do with the latter. (I realize now that I was supposed to cut the richer broth with the clear broth after I finished my noodles and toppings so I could then drink the rest of the broth. Next time, I'll have to try this!)

My next mistake: I ordered corn as an additional topping. With a regular bowl, this would've been no problem. With tsuke-men, it was next to impossible to eat. The corn kept falling off my chopsticks or drowning in the broth.

I ended up dumping all of these kernels into the dipping broth and then using Todd's spoon (the tsuke-men didn't come with one), to scoop the corn back out. (And yes, the broth on its own was extremely rich -- no wonder you're supposed to use the clear broth to cut it!)

Despite my fumbling, unsophisticated tsuke-men eating technique, I loved Ramen Halu. It reminded me a lot of Shoki -- subtle flavors, unpretentious food and just downright delicious. I definitely want to go back and try the tsuke-men again and a regular bowl as well!

sometimes we need a hug

I know we've all seen it. But the cuteness drives me to watch it over and over and over again.

exhale, then inhale your food

To recover from the work insanity, we headed south to San Diego. What can be more calming than an afternoon at the beach?

It's all about finding a good work-life balance, right?

Or perhaps -- and more importantly -- it's about finding Japanese food heaven. Our discovery: Mitsuwa Marketplace. I had to try really hard to keep from squealing with delight.

When we walked into the store, we were greeted by an okonomiyaki stand. I just love these Japanese pancakes! (Side note: I am mad for Kewpie mayonnaise.)

The store itself is massive. There is an entire section devoted to nothing but pickled food. (I really wanted to buy the pickled umeboshi plums, but alas, I wasn't traveling with a cooler and couldn't keep them refrigerated.) And I just about died for the Japanese makeup, too -- I came home with some sparkly nailpolish!

But the best part -- the absolute best part -- was the ramen. Yes, folks, Mitsuwa has a ramen stand called Santouka.

I ordered a bowl of their miso ramen with some rice and an egg on the side.

So, so incredibly good.

the jib

Today: Eleven hours spent with the jib crew, shooting B-roll with a camera attached to an 18-foot pole.

Honestly, I find it miraculous that nothing was broken and no one was accidentally hit over the head.

We shot tasting rooms and bottles and cellars.

And gardens.

And we took a very tasty lunch break. (Because if you're going to work in wine, you might as well enjoy the perks, right?)

Oh, spring vegetable risotto! Favas, how I love you!

But the best part was the barrel room. Imagine 300,000 square feet of cellar filled with 65,000 barrels. And all of the lights are on a motion sensor system. And it is after-hours, so the only people there are two camera operators and little old me.

Guess who got to sprint up and down row after row of barrels to keep the lights from turning off?

Man, it was fun -- probably one of my most memorable runs!

working for the weekend

Contrary to what you may think, I have not run away to live with the semi-feral cats that inhabit the Lagunitas parking lot.

Rather, my silence is due to the TV crew that is currently absorbing all of my attention, prompting me to work eight days in a row (and yesterday was an 11-hour day that began at 6:30 a.m.), wake up at 4:40 a.m. due to early morning dear-god-have-I-forgotten-something panic attacks and lose my appetite to the point where the only thing I want to ingest is green juice.

And this madness will continue for another 48 hours.

A few things I have learned throughout this process:

There is no time to wash dishes or throw anything in the trash. Collecting empty beverage containers on your desk is much easier.

What a jib is.

It is completely possible to have your cell phone, desk phone and text messaging all go off at the same time, while you are already on a phone call.

It is also completely possible to be expected to simultaneously write a draft, look for a logo, pick up bottles of wine, order a banner, call three people, plan an event and hunt down wardrobe items.

Camera crews look like they just rolled out of bed for a reason. With each day of filming, my fashion has become progressively worse. By Thursday I will likely be wearing pajama pants, a sweatshirt, clogs and a fanny pack.


Hills. It's hard to tell in this picture, but I am actually second (teal shirt). That's right: Second. This has never happened before -- I'm usually toward the back of the pack, maybe mid-pack if it's a good day. But apparently last Sunday's hill repeats were just my style. Let's hope I can keep it up. My next two races will be climbers: I'm planning to run Kenwood and San Francisco again.

Pilates. I can't say enough about my Pilates teacher. I feel like I show up in her studio each week with all of my weird tweaks and aches from running, and she fixes me. Also, it is an amazing thing to start the day with a 6 a.m. reformer workout.

This song. It makes me feel like I'm in high school again, only in a good way. As in the let's-ditch-class-and-go-to-the-beach-because-we're-skinny-bitches-who-live-in-SoCal-and-wear-flip-flops way. (I know, right? I can't believe I just typed that, either. Maybe I'm having a mid-life crisis. Can you have a mid-life crisis in your 30s?)

Instagram. Because it's just so much fun to take photos that look like this.

And this.

And this.