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”

Bay to Breakers 2016 weekend

This past weekend was amazing and packed with fun events.  There was even a special bonus on Monday (teaser alert!).

Pretty Mountain View Garden- not ours though!

On Friday, we picked up our keys to the new place and did our walk-through.  The house is absolutely lovely.  The property manager spent two weeks between the two tenants fixing up the place- and it had already been quite nice!  There’s new paint, completely clean interior, new recessed lighting and a backyard drought-resistant landscaping, aka, mostly gravel.  SMS and I love the place and are so happy!

SMS moves rocks.  Literally.

Saturday was a little less glamorous as we rented a truck, bought and picked up a couch on Craigslist and moved SMS’ stuff from storage to the his new garage!  We met a neighbor building an electric go-kart and overall, we’re looking forward to our new place.  It was really a very lucky find!

Beautiful SF day!

After moving, I headed up to the city to pick up my Bay to Breakers bib.  The expo was pretty cool and absolutely mobbed.  Thanks to the power of Facebook, I messaged and met up with two friends from San Diego.  We belonged to the same book club and they are so much fun.  They had originally come to San Francisco for the Spartan Race but when they heard B to B was going on, they signed up for that too.  I was so happy to meet up with CL and Beth!

This is how I will take my coffee from now on!

Plus, we met up at The Buena Vista Cafe, famed for its Irish Coffee.  The cafe has been on my “SF List” and through serendipity, I ended up there with two great friends.  The coffee was delicious and I highly recommend.  Well, actually, there’s a caveat because we actually went to two places with Irish coffee.   The second was one that Darren, SF native, knew about called the Gold Dust Cafe.  Here, hidden in plain sight among the tourist traps in Fisherman’s Wharf, is San Francisco’s “best and cheapest” Irish Coffee.   Unlike the Buena Vista with its white-tiled, bright interior, Gold Dust is more lounge-y with lots of crushed red velvet.  Both are awesome and really, can you ever have too many Irish coffees? Yes, I’m sure the answer is actually yes but if you have two spaced out over a few hours, you should be alright.

Yummy shabu shabu!

After leaving CL and Beth, SMS and I met up for a late shabu shabu dinner at Shabuway in Mountain View.  It was pretty tasty and brought back good Japan memories!

The Ladies!

 

Costumes from Bay to Breakers
More Bay to Breakers photos!

The next day, I met up with CL and Beth for Bay to Breakers.  They were actually fairly hungover thanks to several Irish Coffees (see above) with more drinking after that.  But they rallied like champs!  We jogged/walked the race and had an amazing time.  There were so many people with costumes to see.  It was an incredible event and I’m so glad I did it.  I’ve been wanting to do it for years and since this is the year I live here, I made it a priority.

Costumes included: a group of chickens, men in Franzia boxes, a Pintrest-worthy homemade rocket pack, male Disney princesses, oompa-loompas, many Princes with a heavy “Purple Rain” contingent, a few David Bowies, old naked people (not technically a costume) and so many more costumes that it was hard to remember them all.  It was costume overload!

I wore my Japanese fuzzy monster costume from our Amazing Race days.  I’m glad I had something because I would have felt out of place in normal running clothes although there were many people in just that.
Andytown

After the race, we met up with SMS and headed to Andytown Coffee for a Snowy Plover.  Oh man, that drink is so delicious.  Since it’s been awhile on the blog, I’ll remind the reader that a Snowy Plover is espresso, Pellegrino and whipped cream.  Delectable!

Then we headed out to Lale cafe in Inner Sunset.  It was very good and best of all, no line for brunch!  I got an egg scramble with a homemade English muffin, which was delicious.

After brunch, we dropped CL and Beth off at their house and went to Glass Key Photo where SMS sold a camera.  It was a cute shop with a lot of old cameras.  We headed home and relaxed for the afternoon.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

That evening, we went to Mountain Winery for a John Prine concert.  He’s an excellent performer with great songs, although I want to listen to some of his older recordings since his voice was a little clearer when he was young.  The opener was Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires.  They were excellent and a new-to-me find.  I also want to seek out some more of their work, which shouldn’t be hard since Jason Isbell is a very well-known performer in his own right, even though I hadn’t known about him before the show.

The venue was absolutely gorgeous.  It was also so cold!  There was a mountain breeze and the temps were in the low 50s/possibly high 40s.  Yuck!  We were definitely not dressed for it.

Napa Valley Marathon 2016 Recap

This past Sunday, I ran my first marathon in 11 years!  It was the culmination of a pretty awesome training program.  I was really happy that I stuck with the 18 week program and it’s all due to having an incredible training partner.  I never would have done it on my own, which I’ll be honest, I don’t totally like admitting but hey, if I need some external accountability and another person to get me to stick to my long runs then so be it!  I’ve also made a great friend in the process so this whole experience was much more than just the race but since that was the goal, let me tell you about it!

At the Expo for our number pick-up

So, J and I decided to stay in Calistoga the night before the race.  This allowed us to “sleep in” until 5:45 rather than wake up even earlier in Napa to catch the 5:15 shuttle.  We walked over to the race and a couple of notes for future reference.  One, the Calistoga Roastery opened early so we could have had real coffee instead of lukewarm instant made from tap water.  The lukewarm instant was all part of the experience but if you’re looking for slightly higher quality coffee, the coffee shop apparently provides on marathon Sunday.  Two, the traffic in Calistoga was highly overstated by the race organizers.  It would have been very easy to drive and find nearby parking if one wanted to avoid the Napa shuttle departure time.  I wouldn’t show up five minutes before start time but still, nice to know.

J and I dropped off our sweat bags filled with our finish line supplies.  The race ends at a high school and shower access is available at the end.  We brought shower toiletries, towel, change of clothes and flip-flops/slippers (pick your favorite regional noun for flip-flops- just don’t pick “shower thongs”).

Next, I dropped off two 0.5L disposable water bottles with Honey Stingers taped to the sides.  These were transported to specific aid stations and laid out on a foldout table right along the course.  At 9.3 and 20.4 miles, my water bottle was waiting for me.  I ran with the bottle until the next mile marker and then put it in the provided trash bag set up at the base of the marker.   This ended up being a pretty awesome perk of being in a small marathon.  Even though there were plenty of water stations with fruit options, it was nice to be able to drink a little more water at two specific points while still being able to move.  In addition, I was happy to fuel with my known Honey Stingers rather than risk an upset stomach with a weird flavor goo.

So excited!

After a quick stop at the PortaPotties (plenty of toilets but you know, sometimes the less said about those things the better!  Ok, ok, there was a little bit of poop on the seat.  Eeeeemwwww!!!!), we headed towards the start.  After “The Star Spangled Banner,” we were off!  The RF trackers are now located in the bibs instead of the shoe chips I was used to from the 2000s.  J even signed A up for text message updates.  We crossed the tracker line and started running.

Our goal pace was 8:12 for a 3:35 finish.  Although this may seem obvious, I realized in the first two miles that we would have to run a little faster than that in order to finish the marathon in our goal time since there’s a little bit of distance added unless a runner runs the tangents perfectly, which we did not.  By the end, I think I had added about 0.2 miles to the total distance.  Not terrible, but something that needs to be taken into account.

We started out a good clip.  Our first mile was 8:18 but then we picked it up for several sub-8:00 miles.  We weren’t too far below 8 though, so I wasn’t worried.  I felt that we would do better with a slightly positive split.  There were two inclines, one at 2 miles and a slightly longer one in the 4th mile.  They were definitely doable and similar to the pedestrian overpasses we would run up on the Steven’s Creek trail.  I’m glad we had those small inclines under our belts but really, it wasn’t too bad.

The vineyards were beautiful.  The early morning light was gorgeous and there was so much vivid green punctuated by the fluorescent yellow of the mustard flowers.  There was a merciful break in the weekend forecast of rain that lasted about 4 hours just in time for our marathon.  We were so lucky!

It’s a no headphones race.  J and I didn’t talk to each other a lot, but it was fine to not have music.  It would have been a little bit of a nice distraction in the last few miles but whatever, we knew the rules!

Based on prior race reports, we were expecting a big hill somewhere between the 18-20 mile markers.  On the course elevation map, it looked like there would be a big incline right before mile 20 but when running it, I didn’t notice any significant change.  Because the elevation changes are fairly slight with this race, I think the scale on the course elevation profile threw me off.  I was happy not to encounter a perceptible hill challenge so late in the race!

J and I ran together for about 21 miles.  Around the 21 mile mark, we went our separate ways which was disappointing since we thought we could hang together the whole time but J was starting to get affected by congestion that had been plaguing her the week prior.  Argh, marathons are fickle like that.  You hope for the best, but illnesses and injuries happen.  I also think Winter/early Spring is challenging because of cold, flu and/or allergy season.

Around mile 23, there was a light sprinkle of rain but that was it for the race.  Very lucky!  My legs were becoming more and more leaden, but I was determined to keep pushing.  I felt like I could make my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon and I wanted to leave it all out on the course.  I did pretty well effort and pacing-wise because at the end, I really didn’t have any juice to sprint it in to the finish line.  I just held my pace and crossed the line.  Hooray!  My Garmin time was 3:35:12 for the marathon and my official clock time was 3:37:10.

After some finish line pictures, swag bags and a congratulations kiss from SMS, we all met up and headed towards the gym.  There, J and I took showers in the two available stalls.  There were group shower heads but surprisingly, no one was in the locker rooms so we opted for the privacy of the stalls.  I don’t necessarily mind group showers but it’s sort of weird to opt for it when you’re the only one and there’s a nice individual one available.

I stepped into the gym and just as I entered, my number was called from the massage waiting list.  Score!  I got an awesome 10 minute massage from Julia, who was my new BFF.  Afterwards, we headed out for lunch, wine tasting and the rest of our Napa day.

Mumm Champagne!

I definitely recommend the marathon.  My only other experience is the Marine Corps Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005 so this was my first “small” marathon.  Significant perks include the option for water bottle drop-off for course pickup, showers at the end, kind volunteers, good time-keeping system and fast course.  There are two potential drawbacks based on personal preferences of runners. No headphones are allowed and there are a lot of lookouts trying to catch violators.  The second is that there aren’t that many spectators along the course.  There are about 10 easily accessible spectator stops based on feeding roads leading onto the Silverado trail.  Some people also watch from the end of their driveways and wineries.  I don’t need constant cheering but at the MCM, it is pretty cool that there are spectators along the entire course.  It’s hard to believe that that many people want to watch or cheer a bunch of sweaty runners!  So, the energy levels along the course are different but for me, that’s ok.  I appreciate both types of marathons although at this point, I think I’m leaning towards this smaller marathon as more of my personal favorite.

My #1 fan!

 

Sporty weekend!

Last weekend, I was a little bit more sporty than usual.  On Saturday, I went to the Mountain View Running club meet-up, which is always a lot of fun.  It’s an easy 5K with a nice Starbucks hangout time at the end.

I cut it a little bit short because SMS and I went to the Old Pro in Palo Alto to watch the Williams vs. Amherst football game.  I met some new alums and saw a classmate of mine.  It was one of the better alumni events I’ve been to.

Afterwards, SMS wanted to go for a walk to bask in the sun.  We ended up walking over to Menlo Park and back, exploring the neighborhood and enjoying the day.  We also stopped into a running store and tried out the different fascial release/self-massage devices.  They were awesome, especially this one.

On Sunday, I met up with J to do our 13 mile long run.  It felt ok.  I need to eat more carbs and drink more water.  After Thanksgiving, my Whole 30 will be over and I can start eating more grains and runner friendly carbs.   I’m doing some reading on long runs and trying to strike a balance between getting the miles in, not pushing too hard and trying to up our pace a little bit so that we meet our pacing goals next March.

After my run, SMS and I went to the rock climbing gym because his plans were rained out by an early morning downpour.  I’m enjoying rock-climbing even though I was better when we were in San Diego.  I’m ok with being an amateur dabbler in that sport though!

Local Hiking- Mission Peak

From the summit, looking at the “Mission Peeker” summit pole
Happy we’re at the top!

On Sunday, SMS and I met up with two of our friends for another hike.  I was pretty excited to meet up with A and J since I really want to have couple friends for SMS and I.  Maybe that’s cheesy but hey, the heart wants what the heart wants (<– this is the first and last time a Selena Gomez song will be quoted on my blog!).

New friend!

We had a later than normal start but the weather was perfect so even though it was a mostly sunny trail, the temperature was pretty perfect.  We headed over to Fremont and hiked Mission Peak.  We parked at Ohlone College and took the Peak Trail to the top.  Parts of it were through cow pasture land and we walked past several cows and calfs.  Awesome!

It was a beautiful hike and the westward views towards Silicon Valley were a nice change from our normal vantage points in the Santa Cruz mountains and Saratoga wineries.  SMS and I hung in pretty well for our second straight day of hiking, although the winner of the day was A who carried a baby on his back the whole way up.

New friend, foreground; hiking group, background

After the hike, we headed back to the house where we quickly showered and headed out to Stein’s brewery.  We hung out with A’s second cousin, his wife, A and J.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend a Sunday.

Now, SMS and I are hanging out at home, trying not to fall asleep too early thanks to a combination of a weekend of hiking and Daylight Savings Time!

New Friends and Yokosuka Festivals

Beautiful beach near Uragwa
My sad sack bike.  It’s a Miyata.  No glory with that name.

I feel like I have moved to Japan recently instead of SMS.  I am getting up insanely early.  Trust me, I wish I wasn’t but I’ll wake up between 5:15-6:15.  I will sort of know it’s too early but then my brain says, “It’s light outside!  Wake up!” and then my thoughts are off to the races.  Le sigh.  My life, so hard.

At the half-way point, smiling!

This morning, I was going to get up anyway because I decided to go road biking with a friend I had met at October’s Run for the Cure.  [Where, for all my readers that don’t know, I was the grand prize winner!]  Never mind that I don’t really bike for exercise, I figured that I could hang well enough and fortunately, that proved to be the case.  The route had only a few challenging hills and even those were puny compared to some of the hills around here so I feel like the route was just about my speed (ha, ha, see what I did there?).  We went to Nobi and back for a trip of about 20 miles.  I came home to a message from SMS saying he was out shopping, an empty house and the saddest sight I’ve seen in a good long while…

Nothing sadder than an “Egg in a Hole” without an Egg 😦

SMS came back with eggs and made his breakfast.  Then we picked up around the house until it was time to meet his friends for lunch.  We went to the Kalbi House, where they had really good-value lunch sets.  It was so nice to meet some of SMS’ friends from his recent AOB class.  We had a great lunch and walked over to Umikaze Park.  There, the kids had an awesome time on the plastic sled slide-hill and the rock climbing wall.  SMS practiced his “kids setting” on his SLR and he was pretty happy with the results.  We headed over to Homes to scout out ideas for our balcony garden.  After Homes, I was pretty tired but SMS wanted to check out the Yokosuka Blue Street Festival.  We walked to Blue Street and it was a really nice, mellow walk.

 Blue Street was closed and while we had missed most of the performances, we had an early dinner grazing feast at various food stands, also known as food-on-a-stick. We had a chicken stick, pineapple stick, chocolate banana slices stick, cucumber with miso stick and, my favorite, a spiral cut potato stick battered and fried that was the most perfect balance of fresh potato chip and french fry.  I’ve never seen anything like it and it was so delicious!

Delicious swirl potato on a stick!

We finished up at Cafe Mercado, a pour-over coffee place in More’s City.  The caffeine didn’t completely help me so I took a quick 10-minute power nap before heading to the commissary.  We didn’t have the best plan so our take-home groceries were a pretty random assortment, but it should all come together once we buy our produce out in town.

Approaching the finish line!

Four more days until I travel back to the US to start the long-ish journey to my 6 April oral board certification exam.  Sagoy!  I’m going to stay in the LA area for a few days on an “extended layover” which a totally awesome concept since I get to see SMS.  On April 1 afternoon, I’ll head to Chicago to start my 3-day review course the next day.  I am excited for the practice and final consolidation of my studies and ability to present them in a clear, logical, correct fashion.  I have a day “off” on the 5th and then my exam is on the 6th.  The next day, I’ll have a bit of time in Chicago before I head back to Japan, probably totally nerve-wracked!  I won’t get my results for 9 weeks, wah! [Oh, I realize that posting full itineraries on the internet isn’t the smartest but no one really know where I live to break-in and steal my stuff, plus I live in a secured apartment building.  And if a robber tried to come in the middle of the day (um, what robber would do that?), Yamaguchi-san would probably kick their a** given the aggressiveness of her pursuit of bad garbage sorters!  Yamaguchi-san is the little old lady- really, she’s very little and pretty old- who supervises the building.]

I’m looking forward to the boards being over although I did manage to run a race this weekend and go to Church, where I sat with the lovely Cragin family.  On Saturday, I ran the Anchors Aweigh half marathon.  I felt alright during the race apart from a brief wall-like feeling at mile 9.  Oh yeah, at the end I thought I was at the finish line but I didn’t realize there was a 1/3 mile loop to complete.  Argh.  I had already started my kick and that did not feel awesome to keep it going for longer but that’s what I get for trying to pass people at the very end (because I am competitive!).  I ended up coming in at 1:46:48, which is respectable enough.  I’d love to train more so that I could keep that pace up for a whole marathon since 3:40 is what is needed for Boston, but I’m not super bitten by the long-distance bug right now so I might keep my long runs around the 10-12 mile mark for now.  Granted, before the race, I hadn’t ran very far at all- one six mile run and one twelve mile run with a few stretching breaks.  Eh, we’ll see how my motivation holds up as the humid, hot Japanese Summer approaches. [<– That sounds promising.]

Ok, back to studying!  I have such big reading (for fun!) and TV/movie plans when this is all over.  I cannot wait!