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After narrowly escaping being vomited on at a holiday party last night (note to self: when 40-year-old men decide to relive their glory days and bring out the beer bong, run away immediately), I thought it best to abandon society and hole up behind my laptop. (Also, it is raining so hard right now that Noah's Ark is back in style.)

The inactivity is a welcome break. Lately, I've been traveling like a crazy person. NYC for the Set Decorators Society of America's holiday event. Los Angeles to pour for the crew and writers of "CSI:NY" (and yes, you read that correctly -- the New York show is filmed in L.A. -- it's the magic of Hollywood, folks). And later this week, Utah for a spa getaway and Texas for the Armed Forces Bowl.

It feels good to be home and sit with a purring cat in my lap.


... days since my last post. So I'll give you 15 really random things:

One: I was there when Shaya lost her virginity -- her racing virginity, that is. (Yes, it's a dumb joke. So yes, I had to.) She joined us a few weekends ago for the Awesome '80s Run, an excellent choice for a first 10K. What better way to soothe the nerves than by drinking the night before and dressing like a fool? Shaya did a fantastic job -- proud of her and looking forward to running with her in Austin in February, when she surrenders her 13.1 V-card.

Two: I don't care if it's 2012. I really like leg warmers. And those leg warmers in the photo above? Not just a costume, folks. (Should I be admitting this?)

Three: I will need to learn German. Why? I'm Berlin-bound next September. (Since we're surrendering V-cards left and right here, might as well do my first international race, yes?) The funny part: Race fees for Berlin are $100 cheaper than New York. Even funnier: I still don't know what's going on with my New York status. Funniest ever: NYRR's definition of communication.

Four: For Thanksgiving, I tested my parents' love for me by convincing them to do a turkey trot. They're good sports. My mom actually used a port-a-potty. And I set a new 5K PR (26:16).

Five: Speaking of L.A., have you ever gone to a Koreatown spa? The kind where all the spa-goers are totally nude and you get scrubbed down with a Brillo pad by a don't-mess-with-me woman in nothing but a bra and panties? So that was my other Thanksgiving activity. My skin is still ridiculously soft from the scouring.

Six: Over the past few days, I've ingested the equivalent of an entire can of Spam. Before you judge, realize that Spam is like comfort food -- I grew up eating it with fried eggs and garlic rice for breakfast (freaking awesome). My parents know this is my weak spot (topped only by Del Taco, which is almost always the first stop after the airport when I'm in L.A. -- seriously, do not judge), so whenever I'm in town, they have Spam. This time, they even sent me home with two cans. Thankfully, airport security did not ask questions.

Seven: My friend gave me an autographed Scott Jurek poster that says: "Michaela, dig deep!" Oh, Scott Jurek: I'll dig however you want me to dig.

Eight: P.S. Scott Jurek, I finished your book. It got a little emo at the end, but I still love you. Don't worry -- you'll never be Dean Karnazes.

Nine: After taking a month off from swimming to focus on the marathon, I'm back in the pool again. I'm also trying to learn more strokes besides freestyle and (a very crooked) backstroke. I'll be excited when the breaststroke doesn't make me feel like a frog stuck in mud. (I'll also be excited when I can say breaststroke without giggling. Maturity at its finest.)

Ten: I know this will come as a surprise, but I ate ramen. This is the tonkotsu black bowl from Robata Jinya:

Eleven: See that egg in the photo above? My chickens have yet to create anything remotely like it. All they do is eat and poo and fly over the fence and make me have to chase them around. At least they are nice to look at. And they give me a reason to drive around with stuff like this in the back of my car (I'm officially from Sonoma County now):

Twelve: My new favorite kitchen appliance is the slow cooker. Throwing a bunch of things into a pot and turning the dial to "on" before I leave for work is pretty much the best thing ever. In fact, I am so in love with the slow cooker (are you jealous, Scott Jurek?) that the next food party my friends and I are planning to throw will have a crockpot theme. (And yes, Scott Jurek, you are invited. Let me guess -- you'll be bringing the vegan dish, correct?)

Thirteen: I found heaven. OK, so it was a farm in Napa with 25 feral cats. Apparently, people have been dumping cats on this couples' property, and they're now trying to find homes for the animals. If you're interested, let me know. Many of the cats are already spayed and neutered.

Fourteen: I brought a kitten home yesterday! She's not one of the ferals from the farm above (I was worried I wouldn't be home enough to be able to properly socialize a feral). But she is a rescue from a high-kill shelter in Fresno. Her name is Mandy, and she has the loudest purr I've ever heard. Isn't she adorable?

Fifteen: And yes, I've been counting down throughout this post to announce that news. New baby! So exciting!

run anyway

Yes, I was one of the New York folks who helped the Santa Barbara International Marathon yesterday swell to its largest-ever field of about 2,000 runners. (New York has almost 50,000 participants.) Yes, the race started 15 minutes late because we outnumbered the shuttle buses.

And yes, two of the aid stations were out of water by the time I got to them. But I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the race organizers, who gave 300 NYCM runners an $80 discount code, which brought the entry fee down to just $50. (Compare that to the $255 NYCM registration.)

The road to the finish line -- and the new PR I managed to eke out -- was not even remotely what I thought it would be. Santa Barbara wasn't on my radar at all until the storm hit and I realized I might need a backup plan. (In case you're wondering, I was also considering Seattle on Nov. 25, and I tried to get into CIM, but they were already at capacity.)

Santa Barbara was affordable, I could drive there and the race organizers were nice. I knew nothing about the course. I signed up.


My feelings about New York: I'm glad they cancelled it -- it was absolutely the right thing to do, especially when so much of the city was suffering. But Bloomberg and the Road Runners should have made that decision the day after the storm, not less than 48 hours before the race, after so many people already arrived.

I found out in the cab. We had run into Matt (port-a-potty Matt, not whale poo Matt, just to be clear) and his girlfriend in the taxi line at the airport. They were also headed to the Upper West Side. It made sense to ride together. On the drive there, we saw downed trees. A crushed car. Long lines for gas. And just as we pulled up to Matt's hotel, he looked at his phone and said: "The race is cancelled."

And I said: "Well, I guess I'm drinking tonight."

We ended up at the Runner's World VIP party, which had an open bar. I met Bart Yasso and went on and on about how much I love Yasso 800s -- I think he felt embarrassed for me. I also met this guy and vaguely remember taking a shirtless photo with him. (Him, not me. He's the one with the washboard.)

"We're in New York," I said. "We may not be running, but we can still be in New York."


When you think of Santa Barbara, you think of ocean. When you think of a marathon in Santa Barbara, you think of running 26.2 miles next to that ocean. With its accompanying fog and cool weather.

What you don't think of: 24.2 miles spent running past the UCSB campus, neighborhoods full of houses you can't afford and a construction site. And only the random gusts of cold air that blow dirt into your eyes and make it feel like you are running in place keep it from being too hot under a cloudless sky. And then two miles of ocean.

What you also don't realize: Santa Barbara is hilly. And the biggest hill is at Mile 23. Maybe those race organizers aren't such nice people after all.


I was in New York for three nights. One night, I ate four dinners. I found a halal cart that was so good I ate there two nights in a row. I ate Japanese hot dogs and went to three David Chang restaurants and tried caviar cream cheese and bought foie gras to sneak back to California and met Wylie Dufresne.

I was about as intelligent with him as I was with Bart Yasso.


At Mile 15, I saw a volunteer sleeping on the sidewalk. And a runner behind me said: "Why are we doing this?"

I wanted to yell: "You tell me. I'm the one who drove seven hours just so I could run 26.2 miles and then get in the car and drive seven hours back."

Instead I ran faster. Passed a lot of people between Miles 15 and 18. Played leap frog with a woman who became my new friend. Best race signs out there: "Pain is temporary, online is forever." "Go, go, Gadget legs!" And my favorite: A pair of wings and the words "Tap here for power." Not a single runner skipped that sign.

I finished in 4:42:50 -- an eight-minute PR. It wasn't easy. My splits were all over the place. I stopped once to use the port-a-potty. I walked up that hill at Mile 23.

Afterward, the woman I met said this would likely be her last marathon. She had run 35. She was done.

I said: "I still want to run New York."


They held an unofficial marathon in Central Park, part of the "Run Anyway" movement. I ran seven miles that day. There were makeshift aid stations and cheering crowds. There was a woman with a singlet that said: "50th birthday, 1st marathon." There was a soldier running in full combat gear. I caught a quick glimpse of Mr. Flip Flop, and yes, he was indeed shirtless. 

News reports estimate hundreds, if not thousands, of runners in the park. I still find it incredible that something as simple as the desire to run can bring so many people together from all over the world.

New York: One day I'll cross your finish line. Runners are a stubborn lot.

the show goes on

Flights are landing at JFK, the subway is partially open and apparently, the New York City Marathon will happen Sunday. (No one knows exactly how the runners will get to the starting line yet, though.)

If you've been following the story in the news or looking at the NYCM Facebook page, you know how controversial the race has become. Some people feel it should go on, that it will be a metaphor of the city's resilience, that New York needs the tourist dollars. Others feel it's selfish -- the race requires too much manpower, and the police, emergency crews and volunteers should be helping with post-Sandy cleanup, not looking after tens of thousands of marathoners.

I see both sides, and part of me does wish the race was cancelled -- it really does seem like such a silly, frivolous event in the grand scheme of things. Also, the New York Road Runners' maybe-it-will-maybe-it-won't stance the past few days has been really frustrating. (How many times do I have to check the website and see the same message about this being a "very challenging time" and please check back later for more "details"?) As someone who works in communications, I feel the NYRR's strategy (or lack thereof) has been absolutely atrocious. Their social media posts were calendared ahead of time, so while there was a raging storm outside, their Facebook page was telling people to "get excited" for race day. They didn't address the weather concerns until the storm was actually happening, even though the media had been talking about it for days. They also still haven't confirmed online that the race is indeed taking place, even though it's been in the news. And the deferment deadlines and race week schedule are all still outdated on the site.

I realize they likely have family and other more important things to take care of, but you'd think that an organization that holds 50 events each year and receives almost $300 per entry for the marathon would have a crisis communications plan in place and a team to execute it. Just my two cents from a PR perspective.

That said, I'm going to run. I was still planning to go to New York even if the race had been cancelled (I have family and friends there), and now that it's officially happening, I'm just going to do it. Yes, I feel guilty, but in some ways, I also feel like it's my job. I signed up to do this, so I should do it. And I should support the local economy while I'm at it.

Also, I don't want to give the NYRR any more money. If you defer, you don't get your entry fee back, plus you have to pay again to run next year. (And if you count my deferment from last year, a 2013 marathon would cost me $900 in entry fees. That's more than a full Ironman!)

So yeah, I guess this will be me come Sunday.

(Come on, you have to admit it's kind of funny. OK, never mind. I'm an asshole. Throw rotting vegetables at me.)

still grounded

My flight was cancelled. Again. So now I'm attempting to leave for New York on Friday. And even if I do manage to get to the East Coast, I'm not even sure the race will happen.

The upside to this: There is Halloween at home. I stocked up on a ridiculous amount of candy tonight. And now I'm working on putting a costume together.

And I do have a backup plan in case I need to look for another race. I'm not letting those 20-mile training runs go to waste!


I'm sure you've heard about Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a. the "superstorm" or the "frankenstorm." (Is it just me, or when you hear the term "frankenstorm," do you picture a bunch of little sausages raining down from the heavens? OK, maybe it's just me. Although imagine that for a moment: What would be worse -- floods of water or floods of sausage? I mean, how would you clean up that much sausage, especially before it started to go bad?)

Bet you can't guess what I ate for dinner tonight.

It really is laughable, though: I've been waiting so long for this race -- dreams of Momofuku started well over a year ago. And I finally make it through training and am down to the homestretch and -- boom -- Mother Nature throws a wiener in my face.

The good news: I was able to reschedule my flight (and at no charge, always a bonus) and will now attempt to fly east Wednesday. And so far, the marathon is still on as planned. (Man, I don't envy those race organizers one bit.)

Fingers crossed.

(One final note: "Superstorm" could also easily describe the SF Giants kicking Detroit's ass. Sweep! That is all.)

without fail

I'm starting to feel like there are two universal laws.

One: Whenever I'm about to go on vacation (in this case, New York for the big race), work turns into crazyville and I somehow find myself with an endless list of items that need to be completed before I get on that plane.

Two: Whenever I take out my laptop to blog, my cat tries to sit on my face.


This was the view from the parking lot at work this morning.

It kind of made me want to shake my fist and yell: "Damn you, tourists, and your morning spent floating around and drinking bubbly while I go to yet another meeting!"


In other semi-work-related news, last night I went to a single malt tasting in San Francisco. The entire event was free, and it included one taste each of four kinds of Scotch. To attend, all you had to do was RSVP online (thus sharing all of your personal information with the lovely marketing team of said Scotch producer).

Which made me wonder: How on earth did they pull off this event? The beverage industry is so regulated. For example, at work, we aren't allowed to give anything away that's worth more than a dollar -- it's against the [very antiquated, Prohibition-era] law. So how did a single malt company manage to give away free Scotch (plus hors d'oeuvres) to hundreds of people?

My guess is the education clause. Calling it an educational seminar (which it was -- the program included a video presentation about where the casks came from, etc.) may have made it legal. Either that, or because an RSVP was required, it qualified as a private event and was therefore OK.

Whatever the case: I wish I had thought of it first. Because it was a pretty cool marketing coupe.


In other news, it was 90 degrees today. And I still ran. (Had no choice but to run on my lunch break, largely due to the aforementioned Scotch event, which resulted in a late evening, which meant I didn't wake up in time to run in cooler morning temperatures.) And I was so spent afterward that I actually had to take a quick five-minute power nap in the car before heading to -- you guessed it! -- another meeting.

Thankfully, the meeting was a tasting of Napa Valley wines priced at $25 or less.

(Now it's your turn to feel the envy. Ha.)

what not to do. ever.

This is what the start of a really good 20-mile run looks like.

I honestly never thought “really good” and “20-mile run” belonged in the same sentence. Because I have never, ever completed a run of that length that didn’t involve wanting to die (a) at some point during the run, typically at Mile 17 or 18 or (b) afterward, when I can only walk down stairs backwards and can’t fathom wearing anything but compression socks and shoes with arch support.

But that changed last Saturday. I had a great, easy-paced long run, during which I practiced my nutrition strategy and worked on not starting too quickly. I didn't have any GI troubles. Or any feelings of desperation and/or woe, even though I ran the entire distance alone. (And no, folks, I don’t listen to music while I run. Because I am a paranoid weirdo who believes there are murderers everywhere, therefore I must remain alert!) And I actually had some steam left for a nice kick at the end.

The real problem was my recovery.

Because I basically did everything absolutely wrong. Pretty much as wrong as you can possibly imagine. Dear fellow runners, athletes and human beings: Do not ever, ever follow what I am about to describe.

My demise was due largely to macaroni and cheese. I was co-hosting a Mac Off (and yes, of course a guy came up with that name) in which 20 of us gathered to compete for the title of Best Mac. And since my co-host had to work Saturday, it was up to me to clean the house, make our entry, throw together two salads (to help alleviate any guilt from said mac), come up with stupid prizes, devise a voting system and otherwise prep for the party.

So instead of eating a lot of protein and drinking a lot of water, I proceeded to run errands that involved confetti, tablecloths and fake gold medals. In the hours following my 20-miler, I ate one small bowl of cornflakes with almond milk and a slice of pizza. And I drank maybe two glasses of water. Maybe.

And then party time came around, and I began the evening with very ripe, very big, somewhat high-alcohol Russian River Pinot. On the second sip, I actually said: “Wow, I already feel drunk!” As you can imagine, it only got worse. I believe I didn’t drink a single glass of water the entire night. And all I ate was one plate of mac because when I host parties, I get stressed out and can’t eat.

Let’s just say that I don’t want to see mac and cheese (or red wine) for a very, very long time.

As a result of my complete failure to recover properly from my long run, I was totally incapacitated on Sunday (and didn’t get to ride my new bike, which made me really sad), the entire right side of my body is bruised, I’ve been experiencing lingering vertigo and I feel compelled to apologize to everyone I know for things I can’t remember.

I haven’t felt this shitty since that time after graduation, when I thought it was a good idea to drink jug Sangria.

The moral of the story: Treat your post-run activities with as much attention and care as you treat your pre-run choices or you will really hate yourself, trust me.

Oh, and despite all of this, I still won the Mac Off. Go figure.

new york, nom nom

I know New York is getting close because I've set all kinds of alarms on my calendar to remind me to call restaurants for reservations. Apparently, a lot of the fancy-pants restaurants in Manhattan won't take reservations any earlier than 28-30 days in advance. And then to actually make the reservation, it's like calling for concert tickets -- you call as soon as the reservation line opens and keep hitting redial until someone picks up the phone. If you're lucky, you'll get through and there will still be tables available.

So where exactly do I plan to eat during this trip?

The pre-marathon dining will be a little tricky, since I'll be cutting out gluten. Thankfully, I stumbled across this article, which lists a number of great places sans wheat. I've also consulted my semi-hipster Manhattanite cousin, who is also gluten-free.

Since Risotteria doesn't take reservations and usually has a ridiculously long wait, my pre-race meal will be at Bistango. (I didn't want to risk eating too late and having digestive issues in the morning.) I'm pretty excited about the menu -- they have gluten-free stuffed pastas! I will actually be able to eat ravioli if I do so desire!

I'm also planning to check out Lilli and Loo. I've never had gluten-free Chinese food -- really curious about the menu options and what everything will taste like.

Of course, once I've crossed the finish line, I plan to completely let loose. And by that, I mean I want to go all-out, no-holds-barred, we're-celebrating-this-mofo, so-stuff-my-face-please. My plan: wd~50 and a little molecular gastronomy action. (Guess what I'll be doing at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning? That's right -- hello, redial button.) If that doesn't work, Annisa is a back-up option. And I've also thought about Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern (a little more traditional). And folks: If you have other suggestions for the Celebratory Meal to End All Celebratory Meals, please share!

Other restaurants on the list: Anything in the Momofuku group, Dassara (ramen with matzo balls!), Balthazar (largely because I'm sick of people telling me to eat there after they learn what my last name is) and Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles.

I'd also love to return to Ippudo. Here's a little flashback from my last trip there:

Sometimes I think the marathon is really just an excuse to go out there and eat a ridiculous amount of food.

the plan

Most of the time, I feel like my training plan is more of a journal than an actual plan. There are so many blank spots, and I'm constantly making changes.

hello, october

Where has all the time gone?

I guess my expression says it all -- less than five weeks left before New York. And I didn't run this weekend thanks to Gran Fondo. Did the 65-mile Medio route with -- surprise, surprise -- zero training. Hadn't ridden at all since Ukiah. And even though we took it easy (so easy, in fact, that Arvan and I sang showtunes and Carly Rae Jepson throughout most of the ride, much to the dismay of anyone around us), I still got my ass handed to me.

Dear Coleman Valley Road: You are one steep bitch. I was fine until this point. Stormed up the hills in Occidental and Bodega Bay, no problem. But Coleman did me in. Had to get off the bike and do the walk of shame. (And even walking was tough -- the incline was so steep that my Achilles tendons hurt.)

And it got worse. What goes up eventually comes down, and the descent was absolutely terrifying. Switchbacks in the shade, so I couldn't see any potholes or oncoming traffic, and then my sunglasses fogged up, and then my left contact lens fogged up, and basically I was clinging to Bibi and praying for dear life.

After that, I was so shaken up and exhausted that I had to walk the next hill. (And I had a mini meltdown right before getting off the bike -- my legs were so tired that I couldn't clip out, and I started to panic and imagine that I was stuck in my pedals and had to keep cycling forever and ever and ever ... Oh, the places a tired mind goes. Not pretty.)

But it wasn't all bad. I'd say 85 percent of the ride was honest-to-goodness fun. (How can it not be, when you and your good friend are singing the entire score from "The Sound of Music"?) And I think if I'd been in better shape, I would've enjoyed it more. (Which means that I'll probably sign up again next year because I'm a crazy masochist.)

And the views were sweet.

And even though Coleman was a bitch, the top was a nice place to be.

ukiah race weekend

Ukiah tri this past weekend -- in other words, my official one-year triathlon anniversary.

Remember Lake Mendocino and how much it scared me a year ago? It's nice to come back and not think about drowning. Asthma, however, was another story. The smoke in the photo was from a fire in Lake County. It's burned more than 4,000 acres since Friday and is 50 percent contained, last I checked.

But race organizers said there was no smoke in the valley, so the tri took place as planned. And I soon discovered Ukiah is either (a) people's very first tri ever, or (b) a wind-down, end-of-the-season race for everyone else. If you're in the latter category, Ukiah then becomes a competition to see who has trained the least. Conversations typically go something like this: "I haven't [swam / biked / ran] at all since Vineman!"

And because of this mutual lack of training, it is completely OK to spend the night before the race at a winery blending party with fellow triathletes, doing things such as:



I won that hat in the raffle. Hey, I may not see a podium, but who cares when you can get a free hat, right? Ha!

Perhaps not surprisingly, even though I stayed at a motel literally five minutes from the starting line, I barely made it to the water in time for my wave the next morning. And upon entering the water, I discovered my swim cap was sealed shut, and when I tried to rip it open, I tore the entire back of the cap. And since there was no time to ask for a replacement, I had to strap it to my head with my goggles and try really hard to ignore the fact that it was awkwardly flapping open.

The water was choppier than normal. And the sun was blinding. And since I missed the pre-race meeting, I had no idea which direction I was supposed to swim. I tried to follow the group, but bright pink swimcaps look remarkably similar to bright orange buoys, especially when you're squinting through drops of water. But before I knew it, the swim was over, and I was stripping off the wetsuit and getting on my bike.

As usual, a million people passed me. And the first person I passed (in fact, one of a grand total of five) was a 15-year-old girl on a pink beach cruiser. (Hey, at least I passed her.) I played leapfrog with a guy from Texas who used Texas as an excuse for hating hills. I saw monks in flowing mustard-colored robes walking along the side of the road. I cheered for people I knew, most of whom were -- of course -- already on their way back while I was still headed to the turnaround. (Note to self: Work on cycling.)

As I left T2, a friend started pacing me, but I was too confused to recognize her at first and spent several minutes wondering: Who the hell is this woman running with me and why does she keep talking to me? She asked me how I was feeling. I said: "Like there's something stuck up my butt."

Her response: "Well, whatever it is, now is not the time to let it out."

After the race, we hugged and I thanked her. I also ran into my swim coach, whom I later discovered was the top overall female finisher. And then I saw this guy:

He was sitting on the ground in T2, bellowing like a donkey because his left calf was cramping so badly. Meanwhile, his friends were laughing hysterically and trying to convince me to film him with my phone. I'm only semi-horrible and took a photo. (I did wait until the bellowing stopped.)

Of course, what's a race without the celebratory post-finish meal? After I packed up, I went to Jyun Kang, a vegan restaurant in the City of 10,000 Buddhas, home to a Chinese Zen Buddhist temple.

And after the meal, which was absolutely delicious, I found myself in the middle of a fang sheng ceremony, with monks releasing pheasants.

Nice way to spend an anniversary, no?

And the race results weren't half-bad, either.

Ukiah 2012
Swim: 22:04
T1: 3:17 (with a wetsuit)
Bike: 1:26:53
T2: 1:39
Run: 24:17
Total: 2:18:12

Ukiah 2011
Swim: 32:28
T1: 2:36 (no wetsuit)
Bike: 1:33:33
T2: 1:14 (no shoe change)
Run: 26:45
Total: 2:36:36

swim breakthrough

For the first time ever, something a swim coach said about technique actually made sense. In the past, I've struggled with conflicting philosophies on how I should be swimming, and I never knew who to listen to or what to follow. One person wanted me to swim with shorter but quicker strokes. Another wanted me to swim long. Someone else suggested shallower strokes. I tried it all, and nothing felt quite right. I just became more and more confused.

That changed tonight when Coach Karen pulled me aside during masters and told me I've been over-reaching with my stroke and crossing over diagonally. She said: "Imagine you're on a paddleboard and you want to reach out in front of you. And then imagine that while you're doing this, you're trying to reach over a barrel."

And I understood what she was telling me.

And suddenly I was swimming faster and more efficiently -- enough so that I kept touching the toes of the person swimming in front of me. And I actually led a set tonight, too, which never happens since I am usually the slowest person in the class.

I ended up swimming 2,650 yards, or a little more than 1.5 miles. I practiced breathing out of both sides. And I didn't struggle or feel desperate. It was absolutely awesome.

Of course, I was ravenous afterward.

I guess that's what happens when you swim farther and faster!

707 shoutout, on motivation

This is completely wine-geeky. Yet awesomely hilarious. "If you have a small wiener, drink Grüner Veltliner!" Seriously. Genius.


In other news, I'm officially in marathon mode. It took awhile, but I'm finally running regularly again -- and enjoying it. And my last long run wasn't half bad -- 16 miles on Sunday at a 10:09 average pace. Yes, I realize this is ridiculously slow compared to all those speedsters out there (clearly, I'm nowhere near qualifying for Boston at this point in time), but considering I averaged an 11-minute-plus pace in my last three marathons, 10:09 is kind of a miracle.

So what helped me get motivated?

  • Running with friends. Not only does this make you accountable (no flaking!), but when you're running with friends, you tend to run better because you don't want to look like a big, lazy (and in my case this past weekend, slightly hungover) wimp. Also, the conversation makes the miles go by faster.
  • A training plan. I realize I've been anti-plan so far this year -- just kind of made things up as I went along for Vineman and didn't train at all for Water to Wine (huge mistake). For New York, I felt I had to create a real plan. Yes, it's malleable, and the weekday workouts tend to change due to work and other commitments. But I've scheduled all of my weekend long runs with target mileage, and I've noted where and when I want to start increasing intensity. It's not a strict plan, but it's a pretty good set of guidelines.
  • Fall weather. Yes, the days are getting shorter. But I absolutely love the cool mornings. Fifty degrees, overcast and slightly misty? Perfect running weather in my book. 
  • Reading about running. This is extremely dorky, but going through the copies of Runner's World I've let pile up in the bedroom has helped. (Also, why spend the money to subscribe to Runner's World if you're not actually going to run?) Plus I picked up Chrissie Wellington's book from the library, and I'm on the waitlist for Scott Jurek's.
  • Cross-training. After taking two weeks off from the pool, I went back to masters swim on Tuesday. It was brutal. (Um, kickboard for 10 minutes straight at the end of class? My legs were burning!) But I love mixing up my workouts -- keeps things interesting, helps me avoid injury and makes me feel like I do other things besides just run all the time.

Got any other tips for motivation? Share them in the comments! (There, does that make me sound like a "real" blogger? Ha!)


And one final exciting update: I'm getting a new bike. It's a Cervélo S5, and it's currently on backorder (largely due to the fact that no bike store ever has my size, which is pretty much midget-size). The new baby should be here in a few weeks. I'll be sure to post some proud mommy photos when she arrives.

poor bob

Remember the chickies? They're teenagers now. And even though I ordered pullets from the hatchery, one of them has turned out to be a boy. A cockerel, if you will. (Now say that with a straight face. I swear, my maturity kills me.)

This is Bob. He's a sweetheart -- not aggressive at all, likes to eat out of your hand, always lets the ladies go first. The only problem: He's really loud and will crow for a good 15 minutes straight at 6 a.m. every single day.

And my landlord hates this.

So I am desperately trying to find Bob a new home -- and sadly discovering no one wants a cock. (I'm sorry. I had to. Like I said: Maturity.) I tried placing him at one of my wineries, but there are already two roosters in the flock and they don't want any more. I went to the feed store, and they'll take a rooster, but the birds sit in small cages until someone buys them, which breaks my heart since Bob spends his days running around in the grass with the ladies. My friend Scott, who has chickens and goats and lots of land, won't take him because his kids were attacked by a rooster once and now they're afraid of them.

I've asked co-workers and my Pilates teacher and basically anyone I run into if they can help. And now I'm asking anyone who reads this (yeah, all five of you -- ha): Does anyone know anyone who lives on acreage and wants a very nice rooster who looks like he's wearing pants?

The final resort, of course, is to eat Bob. I am prepared to do this if I have to -- I'd rather be the one to eat him than send him to the feed store, where he'll sit in a cage for awhile and then a stranger will eat him. But I'd like to avoid making chicken soup if I can.

Any ideas?

I just met you

... and this is crazy, but here's a deer head -- let's stuff it maybe.

As you can see, recent work adventures included a day in Anderson Valley, where it seems like everyone hunts and it's apparently completely acceptable to arrive at a barbecue with a head in a cooler. (Confession: I showed the hunters a photo of Mr. Buck. Their reaction? "Stay nice and big for me, baby." Mr. Buck: Consider yourself warned. Stop eating the tomatoes before we go Hunger Games on your furry behind.)

In all seriousness, though, Anderson Valley is pretty amazing. Imagine grapevines clinging to hillsides at 2,000 feet above sea level, just seven miles from the ocean:

Pretty, no? And the Zinfandel that comes from this vineyard is just as amazing as the view.

My job also brought me to Napa Valley for two days of tasting library wines.

(What were you doing in the '80s? I was wearing skeggings and listening to a lot of Debbie Gibson. Out of the blue, baby.)

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I haven't been good about training lately, and I'd like to blame work, but really, I think I'm just feeling lazy and lacking motivation. Ukiah is in two weeks, and I've ridden my bike twice since Vineman. (And last week's ride doesn't count -- basically just rode to Spring Lake, had a beer and then rode home. Clearly this is why my bike skills are what they are.)

And marathon training has been so tough to get into. Yes, I did my 14-miler this weekend, but it was slow-going. These guys may have been moving faster than I was:

(Don't worry. I didn't behead any of them.)

tired legs

I think I am finally done being sore from Sunday's race. The past few days have been interesting, full of awkward shuffling, avoiding stairs and going to bed with an ice pack. Note to self: Next time, train.

Other than the ridiculous post-finish line pain, the Water to Wine half was fine. I ran with Matt for the first seven miles, during which we entertained other runners with intellectual conversation about topics such as what whale poo looks like (this has long been a burning question of mine, and Matt actually knew the answer: Reddish and liquidy), how we want our corpses disposed of (he wanted to be weighted down and thrown in the ocean, thus potentially ending up inside a whale -- he apparently really likes whales) and the most recent season of "The Vampire Diaries" (it is so nice to know someone who shares this guilty pleasure).

Matt eventually took off and finished in 1:53:03, and I plodded on, as any undertrained, injury-paranoid yet completion-driven runner would. My goal was to use the race to gauge my fitness and what I need to work on for New York. The results:

  • Downhill running. Even these smallish rolling hills made my quads unhappy.
  • Glute strength. Hamstring strength. Core work. Basically, anything to support good form.
  • Not starting too fast.
  • Not letting my right foot turn out when I start to get tired. (Bad habits die hard.)

I finished in 2:06:48. Not my best time, but not my worst. (Thank you to the woman who pulled me along -- when I was flagging, she ran up behind me and yelled: "Come on, girl! Don't drop the pace!" We ended up sprinting to the finish together and hugging. Aren't runners the nicest people?)

And then I stretched in the grass and ate a bowl of rice and beans.

friday things

Started sorting through the drawer full of business cards I've amassed over the last seven or so years spent working in wine.

Included in that pile: Two "Top Chef" contestants (pre-fame), two writers who are no longer alive, a number of now-defunct restaurants (remember Mosaic in Forestville?) and a woman who bummed a ride off of me after a documentary shoot at my previous winery and subsequently taught me the meaning of "cougar." (She was part of the crew, so I felt like as the PR girl, I had to say yes. I ended up driving her into San Francisco and dropping her off at her boyfriend's house. When he came outside to greet her, I learned he was a college kid and a good 15 years younger. The whole situation was really, really weird. Also, she was kind of batshit crazy.)


I'm over the whole deer-so-cute-and-friendly thing.

Why? My tomato plants are missing limbs, thanks to this guy:

I've caught him in my yard three times now. Yesterday, when I came home from masters swim, we stared at each other. And then he made the most graceful, effortless leap over the fence, looked at me one more time and took a giant shit.

I see how it is, Mr. Buck. This is war.


Recent exchange with Matt about Sunday's half marathon (which I am totally not prepared for, by the way):

Me: Are you going to fart on me again while we're running?

Him: Definitely.

The problem: This time around, I don't have enough kick to pass him, so I'll be stuck in a cloud of fart. Great.

blackberry muffins

What do you do when your backyard is surrounded by blackberry bushes heavy with dark, ripe fruit?

You invite your San Francisco friends to drive up to the "country" and pick them. (This makes city people really happy, by the way.)

What do you do when those friends fill bags and bags full of berries but they've barely made a dent in the crop?

You bake muffins -- big, fat, glorious muffins with berries so ripe it's like you've stuffed those muffins with jam.

And you make the recipe gluten-free so you can eat the entire batch without stomach issues.


Gluten-free Blackberry Muffins
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Makes 12 muffins

Note: I love Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour. This blend of garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour and fava flour can be substituted cup-for-cup for the regular all-purpose flour in a recipe. However, you will need to add some xanthan gum to help thicken and bind the batter -- xanthan gum basically does what gluten would normally do.

For the topping

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs. gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

For the muffins

  • 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I actually didn't have buttermilk, so I made my own by adding 1 Tbs. of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes -- this really works!)
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups.

To make the topping, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and lemon zest. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

To make the muffins, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, mix the egg, melted butter and buttermilk. Stir until fully combined. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Sprinkle with the blackberries and gently fold in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Try not to break up the fruit (and if this happens a little bit, it's OK).

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup. Top each muffin with the topping, dividing it evenly. (The sugar will melt and produce a glaze effect.)

Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins.

These muffins are extra-awesome when they're warm and covered in butter! (Or randomly posed on my patio ledge overlooking the artichoke plant. Whatever.)

... and I'm back.

And finally ready to tell you all about Vineman.

Perhaps the delay is fitting -- I've discovered my body is still recovering from the race. Been dealing with a cranky left hamstring -- pain and tenderness at the attachment to the glute. Ick.

As a result, I haven't run farther than six miles since the big race, which is sort of interesting since I'm supposed to be starting my New York training (that deserves a post of its own) and I'm registered for the Water to Wine half, which is, oh, this Sunday.

But whatever. It will all work out. Now on to the important stuff: I finished Vineman. And it was awesome and fun, and I can't freaking wait to do it again. Yes, there were moments when I was deliriously talking to myself (ahem, the bike leg). But overall, it was fantastic, and I felt great and well-prepared throughout. And the weirdest part: Zero nerves. I just went out there and did it.

Pre-race: As you know, I watched my diet like crazy in the final weeks -- no gluten (OK, maybe a little ramen slipped by once or twice), and 24 hours prior to race day, I cut out dairy too. I also drank a lot of water the week before the race and made sure I got at least eight hours of sleep every night. As a result, I was well-rested, and my nutrition was spot on. Hence, I did not shit my pants, which is always a win in my book.

(Cattaneo's -- which has gluten-free pasta and no corkage fee -- was the pre-race dinner venue of choice for our group of yellow wristbanders.)

The swim: My wave started at 8:22 -- third-to-last out of 18, so pretty much everyone had peed in the water by then. Thankfully, it was still cold enough for wetsuits. Home court advantage helped immensely -- I knew exactly what to expect from that river. The shallow parts were no surprise, and I ended up dolphining through them and passing people. But I have to admit that I still got a little confused on the course and actually tried to turn around early (and got yelled at by the race officials -- embarrassing). Things also got more physical than they have in previous races -- lots of limbs and body contact, especially from the fast male swimmers from the two waves behind mine. But I coped.

The funny part was that I had no idea how I did. I swam hard, got out, tried not to topple over (going from water to land still makes me dizzy), stripped off the wetsuit and got on my bike. About a mile into the ride, I looked at my Garmin and realized it was only 9:20. Which meant: "Holy shit, did I really swim that fast?" (And you have to remember: Just four months prior, I could barely swim in open water without a complete freakout.)

The bike: Consequently, I spent a good portion of the bike mumbling to myself: "Holy shit, I killed the swim. Holy shit." And any time anyone in my wave passed me, I thought: "Ha, I swam faster than you!" And I thought this often because, oh, everyone and their mother (and grandmother and unborn children) passed me on the bike.

The bike was really, really slow. And I had to stop and pretty much have a picnic on the side of the road any time I needed to re-fuel or hydrate. (To the many people who asked me if I was OK or needed anything: Thank you.) I didn't pass a single person until Chalk Hill -- and even that was so ridiculously slow that I actually had a conversation with a dad who was riding his hybrid bike up the hill while pulling his daughter in a trailer behind him. (WTF, right?) That is one tough dad -- and I am one slow-ass, snail-paced cyclist. But I powered through.

The run: All I could think was: "Thank god, I am not on that stupid bike anymore!" And I took off. This was by far my strongest leg -- I felt good immediately, and that feeling continued. I passed a lot of people and not one single person passed me. (And yes, my co-workers played my power song. And it brought me to tears because never in my life did I ever think I'd be doing a half Ironman.) Still, I played it pretty conservatively -- stopped at nearly all of the aid stations for cola and ice, and walked up the hills.

It was on one of these hills that the best conversation of the entire race occurred. I was walking with a 29-and-under age-grouper, and he started telling me about his injury. "I think I sat on my bike seat wrong," he said. I asked him if he was badly chafed. He said: "Worse. One of them is swollen." And then we proceeded to discuss his testicles.

I managed that for a few minutes, until we saw his dad on the course and the conversation got too strange, even for me. Nothing like a stranger's balls to make you run faster to the finish line!

So I did it. And I loved it. And yes, you'll see me out there again soon, hopefully with a better bike split! (Side note: Don't you hate it when race photogs take photos of the clock time, not the chip time, and then you look really, really slow?)

Final results:

Swim: 49:00 (!!!)
T1: 6:12
Bike: 4:11:21 (due in part to the picnic stops and one port-a-potty break)
T2: 5:24
Run: 2:20:48
Overall: 7:32:45 (not a bad showing, but there's plenty of room for improvement -- bike split, here I come)