Williams Reunion 2017

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View from Pine Cobble

I loved my time at Williams.  It was a really special time in my life- an intense cerebral-minded place filled with really smart, interesting people (but let’s be real, there was also a lot of partying).  Although I feel I’d be even more appreciative of it now than I was in my late teens/early twenties (see previous parenthetical), I know I am incredibly lucky to have such a formative experience there.  I also realize that there are many avenues to getting a great education and I am glad that I had such great parents who always encouraged me to do my best and not quit, even when I wanted to (I’m looking at you, organic chemistry!!!).

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Overlooking Greylock Quad

Why these warm feelings?  I just came back from my 15th Reunion!  I had missed my 10th when I was on the USNS Mercy so it was important to me to make this one.  I missed the Berkshires and really wanted to go back.  June is usually lovely and I was excited to go and re-meet people I had gone to school with so long ago.  I realize that there are many more reunions to come (hopefully) and that one day, I’ll roll my eyes at my 2017 self thinking that 15 years is a long time but really, a lot of living and life events have happened during that time!

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I had planned my trip back based on the college’s website which said reunion was 8-11 June.  Well, my class really had things on 9-10 so arriving early on the 8th meant that Morgan Hall was pretty empty.  I felt like a first-year wondering who my friends were going to be that night!

Backtracking a little, I landed in Albany and picked up my rental car where I recognized a woman I had been in school with.  We spoke briefly and then went off our separate ways.  I took a meandering route through Vermont and ended up on Rte. 2.  I drove out to Shelburne Falls and went to the Glacier Potholes and Bridge of Flowers.  It’s picturesque and a place I would visit the Summer of ’01 when I worked in a Williams lab.  The glacier potholes were so much fun to swim in.  “Were?” you ask.  Yes, unfortunately.  The town has cordoned off the potholes as they decided it was too much of a liability.  Apparently, it’s a miracle I survived my youth.

I also stopped in at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, a frequent stop on roadtrips across Rte 2.  I ate lunch at Rollin Dough, a portable wood oven pizza place outside of the coffee shop.  I had a delicious 1/2 pizza, tomato and burrata.  Deelicious!  If you are passing by, I highly recommend this roadside stand!

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Behind the scenes of beautiful Instagram shots!

I headed back to Williamstown and checked in for reunion weekend, which included lodging in Morgan Hall for $80.  Excellent!  I met up with a few acquaintances and we went out for tapas and drinks at Hops & Vines.   It’s weird to type “acquaintances” because I feel they are now friends but at the time, they were people I certainly remembered but had never interacted with at length.  We talked about our current lives and certain highlights of Williams.  A few of them had been at the Williams at Oxford program, which sounded fantastic.  I did not study abroad due to a double major + pre-med work that I wanted to complete in four years.  I definitely had to be goal-oriented because it was a choice to take classes I wasn’t necessarily interested in but needed to complete pre-med requirements.  As a result, I didn’t take Art History 101 (*single tear*) or study abroad.  I’m glad I made the choice I did but it was fun to hear about other Williams experience, especially seen with 15 years perspective.

We also had great political discussions that I really enjoyed.  While you might imagine that there’s a certain political leaning among most Williams graduates, I found people’s viewpoints to be very nuanced and well-considered.

On Friday, I headed to MASS MoCA with two friends.  The collection is incredible.  James Turrell has a temporary exhibit with interesting manipulations of light.  Our trio’s favorite exhibit was Spencer Fitch’s “Cosmic Latte.”

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A bigger photo of Cosmic Latte

Friday afternoon saw the arrival of some of my close friends, whom I had last seen during our November trip.  Two women from our November trip couldn’t make it and Gisele is still over in Europe.  Our class had a casual dinner that night and it was really delightful to talk to so many people.  I really had the best time and it was a late night, ending at the Purple Pub.

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A note on the Purple Pub and other buildings in the area.  In no way did I feel that Williams was austere when I went there but the current swankiness of the buildings and facilities (minus the dorm beds) is unbelievable.  The architecture is world-class and the new Sawyer-Stenson quad is exquisite.  I can’t believe that the class size (~525) is still the same- it’s such seemingly overabundance of riches.

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Alumni parade!

Saturday was a Williamstown day.  We ran, went out for coffee, marched in the alumni parade where we closed down Rte 2 (not much different than the 10 minutes between classes during the academic year), went to the all-campus lunch, hiked Stone Hill, ate ice cream and got ready for the Saturday night dinner and party.  Our party went late and we ended up getting crashed by current students, the class of ’07 and the class of ’82.  So clearly, it was a great party.  I ended the night again at the Purple Pub, this time with several people from the Class of ’82.

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Sunday was the day of departures.  Marissa and I hiked up Pine Cobble, which had fantastic views.  Then we went back into town and said goodbye to each other and to Hillary and Jason.  After my friends left, I went to the snack bar for a bit before leaving the dorm room around 11:30.  I went to the Clark Art Institute with its fantastic collection.  Then I got a Lickety Split ice cream (so good!) and a Papa Charlie’s sandwich and hit the road.  I got home late but it was worth it to maximize my Berkshires weekend.  I’d like to get back in between reunions but if I can’t, I am really looking forward to the 20th!

PS: Where was SMS?  Home.  He didn’t have enough vacation time, plus it wasn’t his reunion so interest wasn’t super-high.  As it turned out,  a lot of people came sans spouse unless the spouse was a fellow Williams grad.  Since it had been so long, I felt like I was meeting people for the first time so introductions could have been hard.  Someday, though, I will definitely take SMS to this amazing place!

Memorial Day Weekend

After the marathon, I hopped in the car to head back North to Mountain View.  Did I stretch?  No.  Possibly a mistake but I don’t think anything was really going to help with the soreness I’d feel over the next few days.

I hurried back to the hotel and took a quick shower.  SMS and I headed to Santa Barbara where we went to Handlebar Coffee Roasters, where they had great espresso!  Although there are many lovely places to eat lunch in Santa Barbara, we headed to Isla Vista (home of UCSB).  There we went to Woodstock’s Pizza and had wings and Wildebread with cheese.  It was delicious!

After a quick walk, we headed back to the car and drove to Firestone Walker Brewery.  The beers were very…creative.  We had a few we liked (DBA, Parabola) and a few we didn’t.  After a few samples, we drove past Paso Robles to visit his Grand-uncle, cousin and his wife.  We had a delicious dinner and it was really interesting listening to Al’s stories about his time in the military and LAPD.  We hung out for awhile but left reluctantly in order to make it back home that night.  SMS felt great but I hit a wall (second time in a day) and kept drifting off on the way back.  I wanted to keep SMS company while he drove but it was hard!

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A present from SMS!

The next day, we had a low-key day.  We went to Chromatic for coffee, hung out around the house and at 5:30, had an appointment at Watercourse Way!  Hooray!  The hot tub and cold water plunge felt great!  Afterwards, we went out to dinner with our close friends.  It was a really great weekend and we did so!much!  Hooray for three-day weekends and although the holiday is solemn, it is nice to celebrate and appreciate what we have while remembering the context of others’ incredible sacrifice.

2017 Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Recap

SMS and I drove down the Central Coast on Saturday.  Why?!?  I had signed up for the Mountains 2 Beaches marathon to try and qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.  My time at Boston (4:01) was not great but I knew it was mainly due to the heat.  I had so much fun in Boston that I wanted to run it again so…Mountains 2 Beach it was.  I wanted a marathon that was known for providing BQs (Boston Qualifiers…ack, I’m using the lingo and drinking the Koolaid!) and with a 700 feet net downhill, M2B was it!  Also, I didn’t want to do an extended marathon training plan again so I tried to keep my fitness up for a few more weeks.  M2B had been sold out but right after Boston, they opened up 200 slots.  I signed up for one and kept up my training after the marathon, mostly in the form of long runs and a few interval workouts.

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Papi’s Grill- so good!

So!  On Saturday, we stopped at Papi’s Grill in Pismo Beach and had excellent Mexican food.  We had several awesome tacos- butter beef, chorizo, potato, chorizo and veggies, shrimp- and chipotle chorizo french fries.  Although the fries were written about in a lot of reviews, the tacos were the winners in my book.  SMS thought that I had ordered too much food (truth!) and that chorizo was a bad choice before a marathon (false!) but he went along with it!

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Outside the Expo.  I feel that if the driver got pulled over, s/he would not have an easy time getting out of a ticket!

We went to the expo which was small and efficient.  Parking cost $5, which I was a little annoyed at but hey, parking by the beach is not usually free, I guess.  (Tip: Park near the Patagonia store and walk over).  I picked up my bib, shuttle ticket and shirt in about 7 minutes.  We looked at the vendors but left fairly quickly.  We walked over to the original Patagonia store.  We poked around for a bit and I got ideas for things I wanted to look for on sale.  SMS found a nice pair of board shorts but they didn’t have his size.  They directed us Surfboards by Fletcher Chouinard Designs where several Patagonia suits are carried.  We found the right size and got a 30% military discount!  Yay! [Re-reading this paragraph, I realize like I sound like such a cheap bastard- 3 money-saving tips in one paragraph?   I can’t believe I stopped clipping coupons long enough to even type these words!]

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Missile Park outside Pt Magu

We drove South about 25 more minutes to Pt Magu Naval Base where we stayed at the Navy Gateway Inn.  It was near the beach and the room was really nice.  I would highly recommend the place.  I would like to go back later in the Summer to enjoy the beach (and maybe beach camping!?).

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Pt Magu beach- the rock Central/South CA divider is on the right.

For dinner, SMS and I decided to drive a little further South to Malibu.  The drive along Rte 1 is really beautiful and there’s a spot where the highway runs between two large rocks that were blasted apart for the road.  We decided that it was the gateway between Central Coast and Southern California.

Malibu didn’t seem to be the most walkable place.  Most of the restaurants and shops were in scattered small shopping centers rather than one central “Malibu” town.  We ate at Ollo, which was really delicious.  We shared several dishes- beef shortribs risotto, grilled artichoke, burrata & peach salad and curried lentils.  The shortribs were amazing and the grilled artichoke was beautifully charred.  The burrata was a bit of a miss- I thought it was going to be more of a baguette & spread rather than salad.  The curried lentils were tasty.  Afterwards, we drove back to Pt Magu and went to bed.  I was pretty tired since I was on East Coast time.

The next morning, I woke up, quickly got dressed and drove to Ventura to catch the shuttle.  Parking was pretty easy and fortunately, I parked on the correct side to get to the 101 without having to cross the course later in the morning.  There seemed to be a few more people than there were buses but fortunately, I made it on the last bus.  We arrived in Ojai about 25 minutes later.  I headed straight for the Porta-Potties which, as reported in other write-ups, have fairly long lines.  I would think a few more are needed but Ojai doesn’t seem like much of  a Porta-potty town so maybe the number is limited.

The start was well-organized and I started about 4 minutes after the official start.  I set out with the 3:37 pace group but I realized that I felt really, really good that morning.  So after the first mile, I had caught up to the 3:32 group and ran with them for awhile.  I didn’t necessarily think that I would finish in 3:32 but I thought that building a time buffer would be a good idea and make the end of the race less stressful.

I felt great for the first 16 miles.  I had my headphones in and really got a lot of energy from my music.  Nothing great, just pop music with a good beat.  At mile 16, I stopped for a quick bathroom break.  This is where I lost the 3:32 group because there was no way I was going to sprint after them.  I slowed down a fair bit after that but it also corresponded to where the course flattened out and a headwind started to pick up.  It wasn’t a terrible headwind (in fact, it was slightly cooling) but it was definitely noticeable.

Around mile 21, my legs really started to hurt.  My quads felt so tight and my calves were almost as bad.  It progressively got worse through the last 5 miles but I just gutted through. The last mile, I had a pretty hitch-y gait but I knew that as long as I kept running, albeit slowly, I would very likely make my time goal.  I thought of SMS and his hard climbs, telling myself that this race was like a 12A climb and “the crux is at the finish,” which means the known hardest move is at the end.  I also thought about my friend Jyotsna and how I really did not want to text her bad news about missing my time goal.  I tried to find internal motivation thinking that it was important to do it for myself, not just others, but my internal motivation was telling me to walk so I didn’t listen.

The 3:37 pacer passed me shortly after the 25 mile marker.  His group numbers had significantly dwindled compared to the start.  I kept him in my sights as best I could through the last mile.  I had a suspicion that he was running slightly faster than a 3:37 finish since my TomTom sportwatch was pretty spot on with mile markers and pace.  I crossed the finish line, fairly confident that I had BQ’d but I didn’t know by how much.  I went through the finishers corral where I was given a medal and a delicious snack plate with watermelon, orange slices, peanut M&Ms in addition to a few other things I didn’t eat.

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I went to the gong line, which BQ-er’s can hit after the race.  In line, a very nice couple from LA was behind me and he looked up my time.  3:37:19.  Yay!  Not only had I BQ’d but I likely have enough of a time cushion to make the cut-off time as well!  A woman joined me in line- I think she was a little out of it since she was completely cutting the line but she was so happy to have BQ’d.  She said she had been trying for over 30 years! She was crying and a little snotty (like from the nose, not attitude) so how could I tell her the line started back there (even though I am usually a mega-line enforcer!).

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So, yes!  It was a great course and I met my goal.  My legs have never hurt so much in a marathon but I think it’s a result of low-mileage training.  I would not recommend that type of training, but it’s just what happened after recovering from Boston and not running enough.  I don’t think the leg soreness was from going out too fast, but I don’t know.  Would I have been able to keep up with a steady 3:37 pacer?  I don’t think so since I usually slow down a bit at the end of every marathon.  I was glad that I built the time cushion up early and I think that a positive split marathon is what works for me.  Next up, Boston 2018 (cut-off time allowing)!

 

Switzerland Travelogues!

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Hello, faithful reader!  It may seem to have been dead around here but I have been working very hard, I promise!  Over the past two weekends, I have been working on my Switzerland entries from our vacation in July 2016.  I like having my vacations in proper order so rather than having a bunch of #TBT-style entries, I backdated all of them to their proper date in July 2016.  So, you can either search by month over there in the right column or just click below to any day that interests you.  The vacation was amazing but I am fully aware that this may be as boring as a long slideshow so never fear, I’ll have some more current posts soon!

Day 1: Arrival

Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

Day 3: Luzern

Day 4: Bern to Vevey

Day 5: L’Etivaz and Gruyere

Day 6: Vevey to Zermatt

Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte

Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken- Mürren

Day 9: Via Ferrata (Murren – Gimmelwald)

Day 9 (cont): Gimmelwald – Grindelwald

Day 10: Grindelwald – Luzern – Lucarno

Day 11: Valle Verzasca- Orselina

Day 12: Ascona- Bellinzona- Lugano

Day 13: Lugano

Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

Day 15: Zurich

Day 16: Zurich – Home

Five Trip Planning Tips

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Trabi Safari (image source)

So…I didn’t really have anything planned for this weekend so I decided to plan our September European Trip.  I am so excited!!!  SMS and I will vacation with his family for a week in Italy.  A few days before and a week after, we’re going to travel around Slovenia and Germany.   I am so excited!!  Wait, I just typed that but really, it is true!

I thought I’d write out a few tips for the planning process as well as list some resources (read: blogs) that I’m digging right now.  You can find the blogs on the updated Trip Planning tab.

  1. Create a system.  My current M.O. is to make a spreadsheet with various headers and tabs to keep me organized.  I’m not sure if I ever would have thought of this pre-SMS but he has converted me into (somewhat) loving Excel/Numbers (Apple equivalent).  Since I failed a genetics lab report in college due to my inability to comprehend Excel, it took a lot for me to give it a second chance.  I’ve also made an email folder in my Gmail account for all trip related emails.
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    Here are my current columns: Date, Time Activity, Location, Travel Time, Lodging, Notes.  The notes column can get a little hodge-podge but it works for me.

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    Here are my current tabs.  The itinerary is my main go-to for now.  As the time approaches, I’ll probably copy my reservation info from various programs (email, AirBnB, etc) into the spreadsheet.  My to-do list is in use.  The packing list I’ll make really close to departure and use it the night before (when I’m packing, haha) to try and help me not forget anything.
  2. Travel blogs are great.  This time around, I’ve mainly looked at the ones I’ve used in the past but then looked at the comments section.  I’ve found a lot of treasures and amazing tips from expats/locals who comment on posts featuring places we’d like to go.  My favorite so far is the Trabi Tour we’re going to take in (former East) Berlin!  Trabis are the old taxicabs and we’ll ride caravan-style with our guide leading the way, directing us via instructions transmitted through the radio.  Yeah!  I never would have found this without getting lost in the travel blogger interwebs!
  3. If you have a credit card with an associated travel service, give it a try!  I have an AmEx and I’ve been really impressed with the website.  I booked my flight through it in order to get more points.  I also booked a hotel where we’ll get a $75 credit for services/food during our stay.  [And heck, even though I only have two readers on a good day, if you want me to email you a referral link, let me know!  We will both win with extra points!  AmEx will also waive their fee for active duty.  If you’re interested in more info, my friend Andy has a great blog The Military Frequent Flier]
  4. I think this means I’m getting older, but I like using some of the more established Travel sites to get an overview of the area.  Fodor’s has really solid itineraries.  I found a great one in Toyko a few years ago and, currently, it’s been really helpful to make sense out of the different Italian regions.  The Italian provinces are somewhat large and cities can be a little farther apart than I would expect given their location in the same province.  Also, I’m really worried about ruining any cool kid cred I may have, but Rick Steves has excellent area overviews.  I’d be hesitant to follow one of his tours exactly because you’re likely to have a lot of company but it’s a good reference.
  5. Two words: Google. Flights.  This will search all airlines (except Southwest) and find the best fares.  You can also track prices for your itinerary which can help you take advantage of any significant drops in price.  It will also look for multi-airline flights which can occasionally help me save big (e.g. our Austin trip, I took one airline there and another back which saved me about $200).

Ok, that’s all I’ve got.  Don’t worry, I’m looking forward to Summer and all the fun events between now and the September trip but I have so much fun planning that it’s really been a treat!

Boston Marathon 2017 Recap

The Boston Marathon was a dream experience.  Seriously.  My love for running is renewed and I am so happy.  I feel so effusive that if I kept typing, I’m sure the average (sane) person would think, “Is she for real?”  Yes!  There are some reality checks in this recap so I promise, it is a balanced perspective with several highs and a few lows.  Also, I don’t know why I’m finding it now, but this article has the best mile-by-mile analysis of the course itself if you want a more “objective” overview.

Ok, but I’m going to stick to Marathon Monday.  I slept until 6:45 and then I was awake!  My training partner had noted the day before that, as Wave 3, we didn’t have to get on the buses until 8 a.m.  Sweet, sweet sleeping in….yeah right!  Too excited!

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard downtown, which was about a 1/2 mile from the bus loading area.  I went to the Hilton around the corner, picked up to Starbucks, picked up Jyotsna and then headed over to Charles St.  Jyotsna had a gear check bag, which was about a 1/4 mile in the other direction on Boylston St.  The gear check was very smooth, both drop-off and pick-up since at the finish, you just kept walking ‘till you reached your stuff.  The Adidas plastic bags were fairly thick and had drawstrings, making them pretty secure.

We both had our little plastic baggies approved for the start line area/Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, filled with snacks and water.  There were freebies in Athletes Village (Clif, Gatorade, bananas, water, sunscreen) but we felt better having our own stuff, especially our breakfast of choice.  There were donation boxes for castaway gear which filled up fast because, unfortunately, it was very warm.  Very, very warm. 

Oh, the weather.  Forget heartbreak hill, the weather was the heartbreak.  The average course temp was 74 degrees and I know!  It makes me sound like such a whiny baby to say it was hot!  But I once read that in long-distance running, a runner should dress for 20 degrees warmer because that is how it feels.  I would definitely agree with that ballpark estimate.  Continue reading “Boston Marathon 2017 Recap”

April in Photos and Bulletpoints

After an amazing pre-birthday weekend, I had a workweek followed by a North Carolina weekend.  On Saturday, I had some FDA-required training that is necessary before using a Eustachian Tube Dilating balloon.  I ate at Chicken + Honey in downtown Raleigh where I ordered a chicken ‘n’ waffle- of course!

The next day, I went to New Bern, NC where I hung out with my sister-in-law and my adorable nephew.  We had another delicious lunch and had a really nice day of hanging out.  I was excited to see their place since they are moving to California soon(ish), where they will be down the road from us!  Ok, ok, like 75 minutes down the road but better than the current distance!

I also had late night drinks with friends on my birthday, which was very enjoyable.  And we stayed out until after midnight which had not been in the plans but was definitely ok!

After that, I had my focus on the Boston Marathon!  Posts coming!  In the meantime…

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*My love for Popeye continues.  I have cooled it on stalking the local SCPA pages, at least for now.  I travel a little too much, unfortunately (for my dog loving aspirations.  Otherwise, it’s cool!)

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* My parents send the funniest cards.

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*The Cristiano Ronaldo memes were so funny after a statue dedicated to him but of questionable likeness was unveiled!

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*Sigh.  Why did I spend 5 years of residency learning ENT surgery when I could have just gone to Lowe’s and powered up?

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*I’m getting ready for a return of more protein, fewer refined carbs!  This is a meal prep photo of my Trader J’s smoked trout salad, courtesy of my friend Jyostna!

*I need to keep my phone on higher charge levels.