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!

Have You Mooo-ved On?

“I was so upset!  I thought you were gone forever!”
I am still here!  It’s been awhile, yes!  Now that I am back, we have so much to talk about.  Since I last wrote, I finished fellowship, traveled to Switzerland, hung out in the Bay Area, drove cross-country and, now, I’m hanging out at my parents’ house in my old bedroom from high school.  In case you’re wondering, it’s redecorated.  No intact shrine to my awkward years, thank goodness.
“I’ve never been awkward.”
When SMS and I traveled to Switzerland, I wanted to be off-line as much as possible so no blogging for me.  But never fear!  I took along a paper journal so I’ll be writing a fair number of July recaps.  I’m really excited to get back to blogging since it’s proven to be a really nice way to use for future reference, whether recalling a favorite restaurant or thinking about a fun past trip.
Switzerland was crazy beautiful.  I would advise not filling up water bottles downstream of grazing cows.
No personal horror stories but really, it just makes sense.

Switzerland, Day 16: Zurich – Home

We woke up and squeezed (sqouze?) in a quick breakfast at Milchbar before heading to the airport.  The flight home was fine and when we got home, our buddies were waiting for us no worse for wear.

It was a great vacation and amazing to explore such a small but incredibly diverse country in regards to language, culture and things to do.  We feel very lucky to have had such an extended trip and we’re looking forward to more travel in the future.

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Switzerland, Day 15: Zurich

SMS was starting to improve.  I felt so badly that he was sick on the vacation.  There were a few silver linings like at least it didn’t happen in the mountains and that he felt better by the time we flew out but, overall, it was a bummer.  I am fairly certain he has sworn off raw cheese for the next several years.

We walked around in the morning, following tips from the “Tastemakers” featured in the Zurich city guide app.  We went to Milchbar for coffee and pastries.

Then we checked out the two famous churches: Grossmünster and Fraumünster, with its famous Chagall stained glass windows.  We stopped in Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren (specialty store), which had delicious-looking items but none that we purchased.  For lunch, we stood in line at Sternen Grill and ordered a very delicious hot dog.

Then we went to West Zurich where I showed SMS the cool sights I had discovered the day prior.  Then we went back to the hotel where SMS rested up while I went down to the lake to check out the Manifesto!

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There was a huge floating wooden dock/structure with outdoor movies playing and multiple places for jumping into the water.  I went swimming in the lake and it felt absolutely amazing.

After my swim, I met up with SMS and we went to Noon for dinner.  It was pretty good. Most importantly, it sounded good to SMS after a few days of being sick.  We walked around afterwards- it was a beautiful evening.  Overall, it was a pretty good last full day in Switzerland and SMS was definitely on the mend.

Switzerland, Day 14: Lugano – Zurich

SMS still felt badly so I went to breakfast by myself, followed by a walk around the lake.  I bought myself a Busker’s Fair tee-shirt, which was bright yellow with a seagull on it.  When I showed it to SMS later, he questioned this purchase (and by implication, my sanity) knowing that I really don’t like seagulls.  Although this reads very boringly, it was a sign that he was coming back to life.  Hooray!

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Lambs say “Muuh” in Swiss-German!
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Google Translate is so helpful in translating graffiti!

We stayed in the hotel until check-out so SMS could rest up.  We had been planning on seeing a town in the Romansch area but that was nixed due to SMS’ malaise.  We took the bus, then the train to Zurich.  We arrived around 4, locked up the suitcase and headed over to the Bellevue section where we met our AirBnB host at Cafe Odeon.

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Once we got to the apartment, SMS laid down and I went over to W. Zurich to walk around.  I got off at the Hardbrücke station and checked out Frau Gerolds Garten, the Freitag store, the Hive with its outside art and an old viaduct with boutique shops and a larger Market Hall.  I walked back to central Zurich through Gewerbeschule, which was a very cool neighborhood.  As I got closer to the apartment, I came upon the dress rehearsal for a kids’ dance school show.  I saw cute little kids in funny animal costumes so it was a great end to the day!

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The penguin and fish “walks” were very funny.