December 31, 2009

Top Tres of 2009

About this time last year I was sitting around a table in Chicago with Pete and a couple of his friends, Rooster and Tuna.  Rooster asked us to tell our "top 3 of the year."

As everyone started reflecting on their accomplishments and adventures over the past 365 days, I was sitting there thoughtless.  Moving from person to person, I was hearing crazy stories about traveling to Africa and summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, running ridiculous ultra marathon distances that were unimaginable to me, and finishing some sort of seemingly freakish adventure race.  I was no longer thoughtless - I was thinking, "I guess I am  4-5 years younger than all these people, but is my life really that lame?!"  Still being half-way through my last year of college, the sort of "accomplishments" that started to run through my head were how I won 10 games in a row of beer pong, didn't fall off any bleachers and break a leg while "jumping around," and did such a great job cramming for finals (in between the parties) that I pulled off an awesome GPA.  When it came down to it, I think I said my top 3 were running a race with my dad, and summiting Mt. Baldy and San Gorgonio Mountain - decent accomplishments for someone who had been almost completely inactive for 3 years, if you ask me.  But I still felt like a total lame-o in comparison.

This year, my top 3 (and more) came to me right away, and they're way less lame!  Watch out, Pete Posse, I'm almost as cool as you :)  Drum roll please...

Graduating from College
Although going to college seems like something almost everyone does these days, I'm proud of myself.  I worked hard to get into a great school, and worked even harder to graduate with great grades, make (and keep) great friends, and gain great experiences.

The four years I spent in Madison were some of the best I've had.  I was definitely sad to leave, but it makes me happy to be able to reflect on all I've accomplished and all of the memories I've made.

Half Marathons
As I've said before, I ran my first two half marathons this year after ending my 3 year hiatus towards the end of 2008.  I'm definitely not fast (yet!), but slowly getting into running again this year has allowed me to meet some great new people, accomplish running distances I never had before, set goals I never thought I'd be setting a year ago, and obviously stay healthy!  I felt accomplished after running 13.1 miles twice this year, the longest distance I've gone...but can't wait to go further in '010!

Becoming a Biker Babe
With plans to get rid of my car and do lots of bike commuting once I moved to California, I received a brand new Surly LHT from my mom and dad for a graduation present.  I had never done much biking before - just an occasional, leisurely ride on a bike trail, around the lake near my house, or back and forth to classes on an old bike similar to what you'd find at Target.  I was excited to start biking around, but it was definitely unfamiliar territory.  I remember asking Pete to explain the correct way to shift and how fast or slow I should be pedaling.  And, I had to have my step-dad show me how to step into and get out of my pedals without crashing.  Then there was buying a rear rack, fenders, water bottle cages, a seat, lights, a helmet, shorts, jerseys, panniers...umm, yeah sure, that one looks good!  Total n00b, but hey, it turned out pretty sweet!

By July, I was biking to work and taking the bus back a few days a week - 12 miles in the morning was enough to tire me out, and trying to bike 12 miles home again into the wind was too difficult.  Soon, I found myself biking to an Angels game, the grocery store, Newport, etc., and was able to start making the commute to AND from work.  Come October, I managed to ride both ways for an entire week and I was actually starting to really enjoy biking.  Then in November, I completed my first bike tour with Pete!  Something I did not expect to accomplish as soon as I did.

Since I got my bike in June, I've come a really long way and I'm really proud of what I've been able to do and where I've been able to go through biking.

So, there you have it - my top 3 of 2009.  I've had an incredible year, and thanks to some great people, I was able to accomplish some very un-lame things (and, it was hard to pick just 3!) - be on the lookout 2010, I'm on a roll!

December 22, 2009

Epic Plans for '010

Since it's almost the end of the year, it's time for holiday mayhem and setting New Years resolutions.  I don't really know why I set resolutions every year because I hardly ever keep them for more than a few weeks anyway.  I don't even remember what my resolutions were last year or any other year for that this time, I'm changing things up.  I want to actually accomplish something, and remember it!  I decided the best way to go about doing this, is to do something running-related since I'm finally back into the running groove, sort of.

Half way through 2008 I started running again - a few miles here and there - and ran my first race since high school!  A seemingly difficult 5 miles with my dad.

In 2009, I ran another 5 mile race in Madison in a friggin massive thunderstorm (proof), a 5 mile trail run, my first and second half marathons, a repeat of my first 5 miler the year before, an absolutely ridiculous "10k," and completed a pretty epic bike tour!  Side note: just realized 5 miles is my favorite distance :)

I definitely need to do something totally epic to top 2009.  So, I give you my New Years resolution for 2010:  Run at least 1 race every month!  Including 3 marathons!  I'm really excited about this, but nervous at the same time - mostly about the 3 marathons.  All the other races will pretty much just be a way to make sure I get off my butt and do my long training runs.  My first marathon will be in May, and I have no idea how it will go.  Right now, I can't even fathom running 26.2 miles since just running 13.1 is a daunting task.  So why 3 marathons?  If I (worst case) hate my experience at the first one, it'll force me to give the marathon another chance - and if you've talked to Chic Runner, you'd know second chances can be amazing!  And if I love it, then duh, I'll have 2 more to run!  Also, I'd like to do 3 over just 2 because I already have two I know I want to do, so throwing a 3rd in there will make things interesting :)

I have my race schedule for the first half of the year almost all planned out!  It's going to be challenging, but fun.  I'm signed up for two TRAIL half marathons (I don't do trails), a 3 mile race on a frozen, snowy, lake which I plan to run to from my house since it's only 4-5 miles away - not a lot of people can say they've RAN to their race!  And finally, my first full marathon!  Here's the line-up so far:

January - Southern California Half Marathon
February - Yukon Day 3 Mile Run and Catalina Buffalo Run Half Marathon
March - Chesebro Half Marathon
April - TBD
May - OC Marathon!
October - Chicago Marathon - 10/10/10!

I hope I can afford to keep this resolution :) Can't wait for '010!

December 6, 2009

Bachelorette'n Weekend

I spent an entire 4 days totally alone.  No biggie, right?  I've been staying home alone for like 10-15 years.  I didn't realize until today, however, that I had never actually been THIS alone for an extended period of time.  Just coming from college at a large university, and going to high school in a suburb of St. Paul, I've always had lots of people to hang out with and lots of things to do.  Then, coming up on 6 months ago I moved from the familiar, homely midwest to Huntington Beach.

My main hangout partner here, Pete (duh), unfortunately had to fly home for a funeral.  My roommate and I don't talk or see each other much, or hang out due to totally different lifestyles/personalities,  and all of the other people I hang out with are coworkers and we really only get together during the week for Taco Tuesday and other random occasions.

I'll admit, this alone time made me feel like a bit of a friendless loser.  It's not hard for me to make friends with people once I'm with them, but I have found it hard to just get to that point.  I'm not really into the church thing - where it seems a lot of people meet others when they move to a new area, and the main issue is I don't have a car.  I'd love to join a running group, or join other "meet-up" groups, but not having a car makes getting to gatherings a bit difficult.  Maybe it's time to think about buying a car again...I have a feeling this week-long rainstorm coming up might do some final convincing...

Although I felt loser-like, I was actually kind of excited for the time alone.  I definitely have an introverted side, and sometimes being alone is energizing and refreshing.  I started looking for things to do, and found a few girlie goodies that I knew Pete or my coworkers (who also happen to be all guys) wouldn't be too excited about.  Pete also left his truck behind, which gave me some more flexibility if I needed it.

Thursday was typical.  After work run and yoga.  Followed by dinner and bed.

Friday I decided I wanted to check out the $3 theater and see a movie - I could see whatever I wanted!  I was set on seeing "Pirate Radio" but after an ex-coworker told me it was one of the worst movies he had ever seen, I decided to join him and his wife who were planning to see "Couples Retreat."  I had never been to a movie with a married couple that was different.  The movie was hilarious!  I thought it was funnier than "The Hangover" but I think I'm part of a very small minority that didn't think that movie was I guess that comparison sucks, but I highly recommend renting it.  The best part of that experience was after the movie, without collaboration, all three of us mentioned that the 3-4 year old character reminded us of Pete.

Saturday was definitely girl day.  I started the day off by sleeping in.  Then at noon I had a hair appointment!  I'm that girl that hates getting my hair done...just because it's so insanely expensive and time consuming, but the last cut I got a couple months ago was AWFUL.  It was so bad that the person that did my hair this time said things like "I'm not sure what the goal of this cut was...I just don't understand."  I'm not really sure how I dealt with it for 2 months.  The lady worked wonders and was able to fix my hair - also the first stylist I've had that has taught me a lot about my hair and how I can take care of it better and gave me ideas about what would look good (her name is Pamela and she works here ;-)).  Anyway, here are the before and after shots. Before shot might not look that horrible, but trust me, it was.

That night I attended The Nutcracker being put on by a youth ballet company at the Huntington Beach High School historic auditorium.  I wasn't expecting it to be amazing or anything, but wow, it was a really great performance - the dancers were extremely talented and the show had great flow.  The costumes were amazing, too.  I danced for quite a few years between the ages of 2 and 15 at a fairly prestigious/well-known studio, and really appreciate this type of thing.  It's fun to get a chance to WATCH all of the talent, and also understand how much time and effort is put into such a production.  Definitely excited I found tickets!  Speaking of which, if you aren't familiar with it, you should check out Goldstar - keeps you in the entertainment loop and gives great discounts (and it's free to join)!

Sunday was long run day after sleeping in and making breakfast and lunch.  I wasn't real excited about this 9 mile run I had to do - but I had told myself I was going to stick to a training plan this time around, and finally got my butt out the door.  The run sucked - not sure if it was the lack of running recently due to the bike tour, reading all of the CIM and Las Vegas RnR tweets all morning about barfing and pooping, or if my body is starting to hate gu, but I felt like total crap right from the start.  My legs felt flat and every time I had to stop at a light I felt nauseated and dizzy, making it really hard to start again.  I got through it though, running a 9:32 average pace. I wore my HR monitor this time too to see what my rate was during an average paced run - 168 bpm.  I was told this is kind of high for a fairly easy pace - but I'm not THAT out of shape so who knows...we'll see how it goes I guess.

I got back and settled in bed, and found a spider crawling on my wall.  As a kid I watched "Arachnophobia" over and over and it never bothered me...but now, I'm nearing the deathly afraid of spiders point, so it took a lot of pepping myself up to take my Cosmo magazine and lightly hit it till it died.  I'm not about killing things, but I couldn't stand the idea of it disappearing and ending up in my bed or on my face while I was asleep.  I'm going to have to get Pete to dispose of it tomorrow.

Seeing as this was my first time in this sort of situation, I'm proud of how well I entertained myself the past few days.  I think Pete and I both feel at times that he's my only source of entertainment here (makes sense), and this was a good opportunity to show both of us I can be independent, too.  As lame as it may sound, I had a blast this weekend (minus the spider) - completely alone!  And for the record, I swear I do have real-life friends, they just happen to be thousands of miles away :-)  Can't wait for Christmas!

December 5, 2009

The 400 Mile Thanksgiving Turkey Tour

Last week, Pete and I embarked on a 400(ish) mile, 9 day, bike tour around Southern California starting in San Diego, continuing across the Anza-Borrego Desert, around the Salton Sea, and finally ending at Solana Beach.

Here's a map I made of our tour:

Pretty epic if you ask me - but my pre-requisites for this event were a mere 4-5 months of biking to work a few days a week, and one day long (45ish mile) ride to Oceanside.  When I made a pre-tour trip to REI the cashier asked where I was going, and then if I did any training to prepare...hell no - I have issues just training for a half marathon!  I gave a nervous laugh and left.

Anyway, this trip was a huge accomplishment for me physically and mentally, and an amazing cultural experience.  Enjoy the Thanksgiving/turkey-themed recap!  If this gets too long and boring, I apologize, and feel free to check out the picture version :)

Day 1:  Escaping the Senile Relatives - San Diego to Alpine - 35 miles and 1700' gain
Admit it. Every family has "those relatives" at holiday gatherings that you try to avoid, or at least keep encounters to a minimum in order to save your ears, cheeks, and maybe even nose and lungs if you're lucky.

This day felt like I was trapped in a room with a ton of them - having to stop and talk to each one before I could get the eff out.  Essentially, getting out of San Diego via bike is a huge pain in the butt!  Tons of traffic, a ridiculous amount of stoplights (that were always red, of course), and a few obviously unwanted wrong turns (one that resulted in biking up a super steep hill - gah!)

We finally reached Alpine at about 4:15pm, and I was crabby and already exhausted - morale from that stretch was definitely low - great first day, eh?  Thankfully, we decided to not bike the remaining 5ish miles to the intended campsite and stayed at a motel...which just happened to be neighbors with the Alpine Beer Company (supposedly 4th in the nation) - heck yes!  Rest of the night is history.

Day 2:  Turkey Legs - Alpine to Mt. Laguna - 30 miles and 4500' gain
Uff-dah!  If I were a turkey, you would want to eat me after this stretch of the trip - my leg muscles got all big and beefy (turkey-y?).  It was only 30 miles, but it took pretty much all day because it was all uphill and I was biking slowly...even slower than I RUN at times.  Too bad we didn't come across any turtles...I would've made them feel speedy.  That probably doesn't sound like a lot of mileage/climbing to some people...but my route to work contains one or two short hills - so this stretch was definitely out of my element...not to mention all the stuff I had loaded on my bike.

Despite all the climbing and having to bike on Hwy 8 for a few miles, I was in a much better mood this day - actually had fun!  At one point I was even singing "she'll be comin' round the mountain" to myself and replaced "she'll be driving six white horses" with "she'll be driving a long haul trucker."  Happens.

The sense of accomplishment once we reached the campsite near the summit of Mt. Laguna was fantastic.  I was proud of myself.  And, that would be the most climbing we'd be doing all week.

Pete went for a run around a meadow once we got to the campsite - while I could barely move.  Jerk Show-off.

The meadow had a cool little rock structure - photo-op!

That night it got down to about 20F - I froze to death and Pete had to do all of the cooking since I couldn't feel my fingers...biggest freeze baby from Minnesota ever.

Day 3:  Gravy Train!!!  Mt. Laguna to Lake Henshaw - 35 miles and 3500' descent
After the climb the day before this day was easy, relaxing, and overall fabulous!  Definitely one of my favorite days (riding wise) of the trip.  Shortly after leaving the campsite we finally had some amazing views that made me realize just how much climbing I had actually done (Mt. Laguna summit is at about 6000').

From this point, we were able to see the desert terrain we'd be biking through and even a tiny sliver of the Salton Sea (holy crap we're going to be biking way over there?!)

Almost the entire ride was downhill on fun, curvy roads.  We stopped in Julian - a small, touristy town (historic landmark as it was part of the Gold Rush) and had lunch at RongBranch Cafe, followed by dessert at Mom's - amazing pie (and amazingly long line).

Ended our day in Lake Henshaw at a somewhat run-down RV park/campground.  Lots of barking dogs, old RVs, and interesting people - but the lake was really pretty, they had free hot showers...and they were even biker friendly! :-P

Pete has a personal challenge to run around the lake in an hour.  He made it about half way before getting attacked by worries, he has plans to return soon - just don't tell him it'll be during the rainy season and the lake will be bigger ;-)

Day 4:  Cranberries + Milk - Lake Henshaw to Arroyo-Salado Primitive Campground - 46 miles and 1800' descent
In case you haven't experienced this first hand, cranberries and milk DO NOT go well together: barf-o-rama.  Headwinds and climbing also do not go well together.  About half of this leg of the trip was into the wind, while climbing about 3000' - I summed it up in my journal by bluntly writing "F**K HEADWINDS!"  The ride was difficult for me and pretty miserable in general.  However, Pete did make me smile at least once when I found him sitting on an abandoned chair on the side of the road when I came around a bend.

Our windy ascent ended (finally!) in a really tiny town called Ranchita.  The biggest thing in that town was probably this weird albino Uncle Sam Big Foot?  I guess the real estate person makes them...for whatever reason.  Fun fact: Big Foot has a nice backside - Pete took a picture if you're interested (see picture version link above).

Departing from Big Foot, I noticed my front tire was flat. I freaked out since I'd never had a flat before, proceeded to stop, let out a squeelish "ahh," and tipped over - landing on my knee on the side of the road.  FAIL.  I bet the whole thing looked absolutely ridiculous.  For time sake, I had Pete fix my flat tire while I attended to my bleeding knee...and thankfully this happened less than a mile before the next part of the ride: a 12 mile, 4000' descent in Borrego Springs.

The descent into Borrego Springs was really beautiful - definitely a reward for having to deal with our barftastic combo of wind and climbing!

But while Pete was having a blast flying down the mountain...

...I had my hands clenched to the brakes.  First time riding down something this steep and it took a while (like 11 of the 12 miles) for me to warm up to the "weeee this is fun!" point.

We devoured some food at a local restaurant, and headed into the desert.  Finally some flat roads!  16 miles later we were at our campsite just in time to watch the sunset.  And when you're in the middle of the desert, the stars are absolutely amazing!

Day 5:  The Cornucopia - Arroyo-Salado Campground to Salt Creek Campground - 50 miles and 600' descent
There's not a ton to say about this day as the majority of the ride consisted of biking along a busy highway that paralleled the Salton Sea.  The sight and sound of semis driving by you at 60 mph isn't the most enjoyable.  I also got another flat tire soon after leaving the campsite which put us in a bad mood right off the bat.

For some reason I was surprised at the amount of farming being done on the shores of the Salton Sea.  We biked alongside date palms, orange groves, lemon orchards, vineyards, rows of peppers, lettuce, and what we guessed were onions - quite the selection!  Unfortunately, the little place we were told to go to get a date shake was closed.

The aroma was quite nice when a semi full of red bell peppers spilled a few crates all over the highway and all of the cars kept driving over them.  And on a stretch the next day we got a few free lemons that were spilled on the side of the road.  When life hands you lemons...pick a few up!  Or run over them with your bike like I did, heh - I had to laugh when Pete looked back and asked, "did you just make lemonade?! [uhu] Do it again!"

After passing by a few closed campsites in the Salton Sea Recreational Area, we finally arrived at the Salt Creek campground.  I think this was both of our favorite campsite of the trip - just off the Northeastern shore of the sea, it was really pretty and we were able to hear all of the birds and the sound of the water crashing against the sand and rocks.

Day 6:  The Unidentifiable Hotdish - Salt Creek Campground to Slab City - 25 miles and 100' descent
There's always that one dish somebody brings to Thanksgiving or other gatherings that makes you wonder.  And when you're younger, a good portion of the dishes look this way.  For me, it was always the sweet potatoes.  Orange potatoes?  And, marshmallows?  What the...even though I've come to like sweet potatoes, I still don't find myself eating any of it today.

Slab City reminded me a lot of that unidentifiable hotdish.  It's strange, out-of-the-ordinary, and makes you feel a little uncomfortable...but it definitely has a lot of character.  Once you muster up the courage to dig in, you'll find out you either love it or hate it.  I happened to love it.

I could ramble on about our almost 24-hour experience in "the slabs" but I've found it's hard to relay to someone in a way that paints the full picture.  As our neighbor for the day Patrick (a handsome, 30-some guy from Houston spending the winter there in a tent) put it when we arrived, "it's kind of like landing in Oz, isn't it?  You have to go explore and figure it all out...have fun!"

One thing I did find especially noteworthy was the library.  Cody, a guy we had met at the hostel in San Diego, told us we definitely had to check it out.  He had just spent about 3 weeks in the slabs and apparently thought it was noteworthy as well.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was exactly what I expected.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of donated books, free to take (and keep), on a bunch of shelves and milk crates, all covered by a few lean-to's.  The fountain in the middle of it all added a nice touch.

Salvation Mountain was also noteworthy.  You may recognize it from the book-turned-movie "Into the Wild."  It was thought up and constructed by a quirky, now almost 80 year old guy name Leonard who has been living just outside of Slab City and working on his mountain and other structures for the past 25ish years.  We had a chance to meet him and go on his "tour" - he's got some serious spunk.

I've left out a lot of details, but Slab City is somewhere you just have to dig into and experience for yourself.  Most of the sights are by no means beautiful or breathtaking, but the culture is somewhat otherworldly and the people are overly generous and real.  I do have to wonder though, what do these people do all day, every day, all winter?

Pete wrote an interesting, more-detailed, recap of our experience in Slab City and his unique thoughts - be sure to check it out here.

Day 7:  The Awkward New Boyfriend/Girlfriend - Slab City to Borrego Springs - 70 miles and 700' gain
Going to your significant others' family gathering for the first time can be somewhat un-enjoyable: you feel out of place, time seems to drag on, and everyone appears to be judging you.  This day brought about a lot of those same feelings.

First of all, with the 50 mile bike ride a few days before being my longest ride to date, I felt a bit intimidated just going into a 70 mile ride.  Was it going to be welcoming and accept me?

The first 25 miles of this stretch was biking through a grid of farmland, literally.  Pete loved this part of the ride for some reason, but I didn't share those feelings.  I thought it was kind of eerie in a way, like I was stuck in the middle of someone's farm in FarmVille or like I was going to get chased on a remote road by some creepy truck like in the movie "Jeepers Creepers."  Not to mention it was just boring - I've seen enough corn in my day.

The majority of the rest of the trip involved biking back through the desert, through some huge off-road vehicle recreational area.  This is where I think we both really started feeling out of place.  There were miles and miles and miles of people riding motocross bikes, 4-wheelers, desert buggies, and whatever else.  People stared at us like we were nuts, people rode on the sandy shoulders creating menacing clouds of dust, people flew by with their huge trucks and trailers...and it never seemed to end!

We decided to stop and get something to eat at what for all we knew was the only place between where we were and Borrego Springs.  This place looked like it had thrown up motocross and I remember Pete saying something like "I have never felt like such a loser."  You'll have that.

We had a couple guys that were really interested in our trip and asked a bunch of questions (I just wanna go eat!) but other than that we just kept to ourselves and ate our food, which was good.

Twenty some more miles till we finally arrived at our motel in Borrego Springs.  Holy cow I was exhausted.  First shower since day 4 - I have never appreciated a shower so much!  More dinner, more drinks, more bed.

Day 8:  "Crap, I ate way too much" - Borrego Springs to Lake Henshaw - 45 miles and 1800' gain
Everyone always eats way too much on Thanksgiving - it's inevitable.  When this happens, you're tired and all you want to do is sleep.  This day, my legs felt like they had pedaled a few too many times.  Pete got the furthest ahead of me he had been all trip (a few miles), and I was on the verge of crying and wanted the day to be over.  I was eating plenty, drinking plenty, and trying to go my same easy pace I had been going all week...but for whatever reason my legs were not having it.  The little climbing we were doing was not much compared to the second day, yet I felt like I was going so slow and was so tired I might start rolling backwards!  I remember tweeting at one point, "Bonkville: population Andrea."

Looking back, the 70 mile ride the day before probably had something to do with it, but I'm going to go ahead and blame the weather.  We had amazing, sunny, warm weather all trip (minus some wind), and then there was this day.

We woke up to a lovely rainbow, and it was drizzling out but nothing crazy.  I knew it was supposed to rain this day...but I wasn't expecting it to be much worse than the drizzle.  After a few miles of climbing, the pretty rainbow disappeared and BAM!  Downpour...and it was freezing rain - holy owe!  I was miserable within minutes: freezing cold, wet, stingingly numb, and not happy.  Pete turned back to ask if I was doing okay and I remember grunting something dramatic like how I was going to die of hypothermia.

Just as I was freaking out thinking we still had like 40 some miles to go, and no sign of the weather clearing up, we came to a campground.  We ended up taking over the handicap bathroom for a good half hour while I warmed up.  Pete made me some hot chocolate, and I put on a billion layers of clothes:  under armor tights and long sleeve shirt, capri tights, bike shorts, long sleeve tech tee, fleece jacket, windbreaker, headband, socks, and gloves - ha!  I was ready to face the weather and we left the bathroom - and then what happens, the sun comes out...and I was WAY too hot - weird, huh?

Alas, I think that 20-30 minutes of being freezing cold and worrying took a lot out of me.  That, and the shoulder-less climb that followed with an obnoxious amount of RVs and trailers with obnoxious honking/taunting occupants...but that's a different rant.

Up until the last 8 miles, we had a dry and somewhat sunny trip - I just felt like crap.  The last 8 miles were downhill so I was feeling much better, but it was yet another downpour.  We buckled down and got back to Lake Henshaw as quick as possible.  Out of luck, they had a no-show and we were able to get the last cabin instead of having to camp outside.  Warmth - yahoo!  The rest of the night was spent eating, drinking beer, and drying our clothes while we sat around the heater on the porch chairs Pete brought inside.  We kept it a white-trash kind of way :-)

Day 9: After Dinner Drinks - Lake Henshaw to Solana Beach - 54 miles and 2600' descent
Last day of the trip - bumtown!  Pete and I have a slight obsession with Stone IPA, so we made sure to fit a visit to their brewery into the itinerary and make for a fun last day.  We ate some breakfast waiting for the residual rain to pass (no way was I biking through that again) and then headed to Escondido.  By the way, Pete loves coffee.

The ride to Escondido was fun, and I was feeling so much better than the day before.  We had a few really fun descents (one in which Pete had a scare because he brakes wore out, yikes) and even got a glimpse of the ocean for the first time in a while.  There was also a bit of climbing...and get this - I thought it was fun!

At the "brewing company" we went on a tour and had a really good meal.  Their facilities were nothing like I was expecting, but really impressive.  I highly recommend their tour - as long as you get our awesome tour guide - he gave us FIVE samples of beer instead of FOUR...angel in a brewery!  Their food was pretty awesome as well, if you're willing to pay a little more than usual.

Quite a few beers later, we headed out.  Guess what I got?!  Another flat tire!  Seriously...I get 3 flat tires and Pete gets none - Spokey needs to shape up!  We only had about 16 miles left to go to the train so we just filled it up a few times and made it.  The ride to the train was kind of sketch - it had gotten dark out and I learned I'm not a fan of biking on busy, unfamiliar roads when it's dark.  Also, you'd think biking to a beach would involve a lot of downhill, right?  Not the case - rolling hills the entire way...but I was badass by this point and Lance'd the crap out of those hills :-)

We made it to Solana Beach with about an hour to spare until train time!  I celebrated by eating some frozen yogurt, and Pete bought some interesting over-sized donut/cinnamon roll thing.

Bought a few beers, boarded the train, and chillaxed till Anaheim from which we'd have a measly 10-15 mile ride back to Huntington Beach.

We did it!!!  And I didn't even cry!

This trip was fan-friggin-tastic and I learned a great deal about myself, Pete, other cultures, biking, and camping.  It went by way too fast and I'm anxiously awaiting the next bike tour...whenever that comes about. I admit I doubted my capabilities numerous times before and during this trip, but I'm proud I was able to turn those doubts into accomplishments (something to remember when I start training for my first marathon - eek!).  Props to Pete for being patient and helping me along the way :-)

And the best part, I get to show-off my amazing tan when I go home for looks like something along these lines (pun intended):

Thanks, Jeff :-)

November 1, 2009

My Longest Training Run :)

First off, shout out to my new friend Ravi!  Not sure why I didn't buy a Garmin sooner, but I absolutely love it.  No more having to spend ridiculous amounts of time tediously mapping out my running routes on walkjogrun - just one reason why I'm in love.

This morning I woke up with a massive headache and slept until about noon - even with the daylight savings.  I'll admit, I was a little under the weather from two nights of Halloween mayhem.  Here's me wearing part of Pete's "sooper aqua dump" costume which he wore for the Superhero run with Jeff and e_rod.  I think I look more like a Chia pet than a sooper aqua dump, though.

I decided last night before I knew I was going to feel like death when I woke up, that I wanted to run 10 miles today.  Come 4pm, I still didn't feel the greatest, but after a few encouraging tweets telling me to get off my butt and run, I headed out.

The first couple miles I felt pretty tired and my head was still pounding, but I was enjoying the scenery as the outline of Catalina was perfectly clear again.  By mile 4 my quads were starting to kill, and continued to hurt an abnormal amount until I stopped to stretch at mile 7.  I think they're a little exhausted from all of the biking I've been doing. While I stretched I ate some Skittles.  Yep, Skittles.  Taking advantage of all the leftover Halloween candy.  Some foggy mist-like stuff had also started to develop towards the pier - looked pretty cool.

Now I'm not sure if it was the stretching or the magical Skittles I ate but when I started running again I felt amazing - at least not like I had ran 7 miles already.  Nothing hurt, at all.  I picked up the pace some and by mile 9 I was thinking "maybe I'll just try to run 13.1 miles and beat my half marathon PR!"  I was all about it, until it became totally dark out and I kept encountering some interesting (in a bad way) people.  Not to mention I almost got hit by a skateboarder.  Kids.

I ended up finishing my run at Pete's house so I could pick up his truck to use tomorrow.  Made it 10.5 miles - furthest I've ever ran outside of a race!  And, I felt like I could run at least another 5 miles - crazy.  Sooper happy I made myself start and finish this run :)

I realized at mile 2 that I could keep track of my mile splits.  I've always kind of wondered what my splits are like during a long run because I feel like I'm pretty inconsistent - not too bad tho:

Mile 2 - 9:29
Mile 3 - 9:21
Mile 4 - 9:16
Mile 5 - 9:29
Mile 6 - 9:30
Mile 7 - 9:20
Mile 8 - 9:14 Sooper Skittles start to kick in! :-P
Mile 9 - 9:07
Mile 10 - 9:15
Last 0.5 - 9:10
Avg. 9:21 - w00t!


October 26, 2009

A Special Case of the Mondays

After a long and severely turbulent flight (worst flight EVER), I'm finally back on the ground in California. Thankfully!

I was uber happy to see Pete, Spokey (my bike), be out of the cold, and back into the comfort and familiarity of my own room.  However, it was Sunday night and I was not excited about going back to work in the morning.  I just wanted a day to do absolutely nothing: no driving, no packing/unpacking my suitcase, no listening to people lecture all day, no thinking, no nothing.  As you can imagine, I wasn't very excited to hear my alarm of obnoxious bongo-like drumming go off at 6:30 this morning.  Definite case of the Mondays.

But not all Mondays can be bad.

About a month ago I decided I was going to put all car purchasing plans to an end, quit using Pete's truck for convenience, and rely on Spokey or public transportation to get everywhere.  Maybe I caught the "going green" bug.  Maybe the amount of money I'd have to spend on a car seemed daunting.  Maybe I like the exercise.  Probably all of the above, who knows.  I made it a whole two weeks before I had to use the truck to get to the LB Half Marathon, and then had a rental car for the past two weeks in Minnesota.  Today, I was back at it.

Once my brain sort of started functioning it sunk in that I was going to ride my bike again for the first time in two weeks - yay!  Then I remembered I had bought some biking gloves before I left for Minnesota and I'd get to test those out too - yay!  Then, when I walked out the door I noticed that it was incredibly foggy - yay!  I had not biked through the fog yet.  Turns out this Monday wasn't so bad, and it was about to get even better.

I reached the bike path and was having fun watching people emerge from the fog - it seemed like some sort of surreal, weird, other-dimension that these people were riding out from.  Freeing me from my "fog trance," I heard a "Goooood morning commuter girl!"  It was Alan.  I had met Alan, a 60ish-year-old retired electrical engineer with a nice Octobeard, back in July on one of my first commutes to work.  That day, Alan ended our "get-to-know-each-other-in-2-min-small-talk" with an intriguing request: "bike commuting is going to change you - figure out how and why and you'll learn to value your ability to time I see you out here I want a full report!"  And he pedaled away.

Naturally, the first thing Alan said to me after his initial greeting was "so, figure it out yet?!"  I had totally forgotten about his request until this moment - isn't he supposed to be the "old" and forgetful one? But without even hesitating I blurted out, "the simple and unexpected things make me incredibly happy."  Where did that come from?  I'm pretty sure I said it without even thinking first, thankfully it sounded sort of smart and actually made sense!  That usually doesn't happen when I don't think before I speak.  Anyway,  it must've been the "right" answer because Alan got the kind of grin your parents get when you've done something to make them proud - like clean your room or wash the dishes without being asked.  Alan then proceeded to laugh a bit and explain that I seemed more scared than incredibly happy when he unexpectedly emerged from the fog shouting "good morning."  What a goof.

So here I am, happy as can be on this Monday afternoon.

The simple, and often unexpected things are really what matter most.

Today's list of simple pleasures: happy halloween/welcome home card from the roommate, trying out my new biking gloves, uber fog, crazy Alan, smell of fresh-cut grass at the end of October (this doesn't happen in MN), cupcakes from the boss.

Something to think about:
[Thought taken from a talk I went to last week by John Daly]

Can you remember all of the [expected] birthday or holiday gifts you've given or received over the past 5-10 years from family members and/or significant others? (I have trouble remembering past this year)

How about the small, simple, "surprises" you've received (or given) for no specific reason?  (I can remember these types of things, in detail, as far back as 10 yrs ago)

October 16, 2009

Lending a Hand

Volunteering never fails to be rewarding.

This past week I have been back home in Minnesota training for work.  A requirement for our training program is that we somehow give back to our community by volunteering an afternoon of our time.  My group was asked to go to Bridging Inc. - a non-profit organization that "provides the economically disadvantaged with a one-time gift of quality furniture and household items."  Basically, people and families that need household items for a variety of reasons are referred to Bridging Inc. and get to "shop" at the on-site warehouse for everything they need.  The place was packed with donations, old and new (12 semi-loads of furniture and housewares are donated each week).  Pretty cool!

Stores such as Target, HOM Furniture, and other local places will often donate overstock items, and a lot of these items require some assembly.  Our job today was to assemble some small entertainment centers.  Sounds simple, right?  Definitely not the case.  These entertainment centers required the most ridiculous assembly I have ever seen (think Ikea on steroids).  There was an instruction BOOK in place of the usual small packet, holes were drilled in all the wrong places, and 11 engineers were crowded around it all.  How many engineers does it take to put an entertainment piece together?  One would've been a lot more efficient.

Here we are, attempting some sort of assembly line.  It was only slightly defective.

Despite a vast amount of frustration, it ended up being an afternoon packed full of fun (we even fit in a game of lawn darts and football on a patch of grass before we started building).  I gained more experience working with a team in a different type of situation, I learned that reading and following instructions isn't always as easy as it appears, and I developed some pretty awesome carpentry skills - just call me Bob.  But most importantly, and most rewarding, in four hours we were able to build...3 entertainment pieces, and help out 3 families!

Here's the finished product:  

What a beauty, eh?!  Lets just hope it doesn't fall apart in transit.  We may have ended up with a few extra screws, plugs, and pieces of wood...nobody was really sure where they were supposed to have gone...

I've always really enjoyed volunteering - but my experience has really only involved volunteering at races.  Helping out at races is never very strenuous - mentally or physically.  For me, it's just a helpful way to cheer for family, friends, random people with awesome names on their bibs, and socialize without having to actually torture myself :)

I had a completely different feeling after volunteering today.  Although the work was relatively tedious, and involved a significant amount of cooperation foreign to a select number of engineers, it felt incredible to know our 22 hands will touch at least 3 families in need.  Lending a hand is something I definitely want to spend more of my free time doing, and I plan to pursue this interest when I get back to California.  

I encourage everyone to find ways you can help out in your community.  I promise you will smile, feel like you did something significant (something many of us struggle feeling with our paid jobs), and meet some fun people.  And, if for some reason you don't enjoy the can't regret helping someone out, right?  Win-win.

I failed to mention I almost cut my thumb off on a sharp piece of worries, though, Batman's got it all covered, literally:

All smiles here :D

October 13, 2009

Long Beach Half Marathon!

After taking a very lovely scenic tour of Long Beach Sunday morning due to what seemed like EVERY road being closed, I finally arrived at my pre-assigned parking spot.  I parked, stuffed everything into my iFitness belt (that thing holds an incredible amount of stuff!), and jogged to the start line.

Just as I started making my way towards the "Wave 3" signs, I realized I really had to go to the bathroom and looked in horror at the ginormous lines.  I joined the billion other people who apparently also had pre-race IBS, and ended up crossing the start line in Wave 4, almost 15 minutes after the race had started.  Thank goodness for Mr. D-chip.

The first 3 miles flew by, and it wasn't until I looked at my watch for the first time at mile 4 that I realized I was well ahead of pace for my 2:15 goal (thank you, wristband).  Bonus!  I was a little concerned I had started too fast - but decided to just keep going and hold on for as long as possible.

"As long as possible" came between miles 9 and 10 when I got a huge bummer of a side ache.  I was thinking "ugh why does this ALWAYS happen!" and that I really needed to figure out how to get rid of them, ASAP.  Apparently I had accumulated some good Karma because within seconds I felt a tap on my shoulder followed by the glorious words, "take deeper breaths, and finish strong!"  Superman then flew away, literally (if I passed 378 people in the last 7 miles, this guy must've passed 2000).  FINALLY, someone told me how to get rid of a side ache, and I felt great again.  This was short lived.

Mile 11 I guess I hit the "wall."  This was totally expected - I knew I could finish, and if I kept myself from walking, I knew I'd be able to break 2:10!  I used the last of my energy to speed up again, and crossed the finish line at 2:08 (a 16 minute PR!).  I was not expecting to do that well at all, and was SO happy!  :-D

                             Here's me: happy!  And, I was a good girl and recycled my foil cape!

This was only my 2nd half marathon and I'm still learning a lot about long distance running.  Here are the main things I took away from this race:

1.  TRAIN!  I really need to give this another shot.  I most likely would not have hit the wall so hard (my pace slowed by almost 2 min), and my legs probably wouldn't still be hurting this bad had I done more than one long training run.

2.  Refueling really helps.  I decided to run with Gu this race.  First time I've ever tried it while running, and it definitely made a huge difference.  Who knew?!

3.  Enjoy the beauty of the course.  So, for about four miles of the race we ran along the beach, next to this huge, blue thing called the ocean - yet, I don't recall ever actually seeing the ocean...I guess I was in "the zone" but I might as well have been zoning out in the middle of a cornfield.

4.  Pay it forward.  If you see someone struggling (or just to be nice) help them out!  This type of running may be all about personal goals and achievements, but we're all one big team.  I don't think I would have been able to meet my goal had "Superman" not taken the few seconds to tell me how to get rid of my side ache -  so thankful!

5.  My skort is awesome.

I've worn this during both half marathons, and both times I've been pleasantly surprised with a "cute skirt!"  Compliments are always nice, but when I hear this it also means I've passed someone :-D.

After the race I walked back to the parking lot, took a lovely scenic route out of Long Beach since the crazy full marathoners were still running all over the place, and made my way to the airport to fly back to Minnesota.  When I awoke to immense pain Monday morning, I was also greeted with chilling 35 degree air, and 3 inches of snow - Uffdah!  Here's to 2 weeks of running on a treadmill...

October 9, 2009

Then and Now

Sentimental first post: it happens.

With my second half marathon coming up in two days, I've been thinking a lot about running.  Why did I start running?  Why did I quit, and start running again? Why am I running another half marathon I didn't really train for?  How do people get so motivated to far?!

It all started with my dad.  My dad was an elite runner in his prime, and can still rock a sub 3:30 marathon with his 63-year-old legs.  Now I've never been very close with my dad, but we've always shared a special bond thru running.  Out of his four children, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who has ever found any ounce of joy in this crazy sport.  When I was 2 years old he had me running the kids' fun runs at his races with him, and in middle school I decided to quit soccer and start running cross-country and track when I consistently "won" the mile run in gym class, realizing I had inherited some of his natural talent.

I ran cross-country and track through high school, and was pretty good at it...for not trying very hard.  One thing I definitely did not inherit from my dad was his drive to win.  Running was always about having fun, socializing, and screaming at the top of my lungs for my teammates during the last leg of the 4x4 at track meets; not about taping my face so I wouldn't get frostbite running in -30 deg wind chill, running so hard I start hallucinating, or pushing myself so hard I threw up.

During "long" runs on the Gateway Trail, my friend Sarah and I would always find ourselves looking for places to "hide" until everyone passed us again...cutting a couple miles off the (what now seems short) 5-7 mile runs.  Somehow I still ran sub 6 min splits in our cross-country races, and hovered around 2:30s in my 800s.  What?!  I can't even fathom running that fast anymore.  Maybe my previous success without training is why I currently struggle with it?  All I know is running was a blast, and my dad may have missed a lot of conferences, basketball games, and dances...but he was at every single track and cross-country meet when he was in town.

Then I graduated from high school and made the move to Madison, where I ran maybe 5 times my whole first 3 years of college.  I guess I found new, more exciting things to do?

I totally lost touch with running, and it wasn't until I moved to Huntington Beach last summer for an internship, that I met Pete, and remembered why I loved running in the first place: it's fun, and the bonds you form (Pete has an awesome running group) are unbreakable!  I started running again - struggling to run just 2 miles - yikes; but, by the fall, I felt confident enough with my newly found mad running skillz to ask my dad to do a 5 mile race with me at the apple orchard by my house in Minnesota.  I could tell this made him really happy - we had lost touch a bit since I moved to school - and it made me ecstatic that my dad was going to run a race, slowly...with me!  My mom even seemed to be overjoyed with the idea and came to watch us - she made sure to take a picture similar to one she had taken 18 years ago:

See my dad's ridiculous outfit?  He still wears that...and he still has those shoes, but that's another story.

This race made me fall in love with running all over again.  I'm excited to do it again next Saturday - where I plan to retire my current running shoes - that have been with me thru some major accomplishments this year:

Since that day I've run another 5 mile race in Madison (in a thunderstorm), my first Half Marathon, my first 10 miler, and my first trail run!  My two longer runs, and biggest running accomplishments to date, were extremely painful, and painfully slow - but I had fun, ran with good company, and my dad ran to the finish with me during my half when I felt like quitting...which was right about when this picture was taken (too bad I didn't have to obey traffic signs):

So here I am, waiting to run the Long Beach half marathon which will undoubtedly be painful, and painfully slow...but I've never been more excited.  I'm okay with being a turtle as long as I'm having fun.  The course will be beautiful (and beautifully flat), the crowd sounds promising, and there are lots of runners signed up! Perfect!