Monday, September 30, 2013

Headlands 50k

If you have never been out to the Marin headlands and taken highway 1 to Stinson Beach, you really are missing out on an awesome experience. It's really beautiful and the road is windy and the town of Stinson is idyllic. However, although driving there is fun, it's even more fun to run over the hill and get the sweeping views of the ocean from the top.

The Headlands 50k is 6,400 feet (according to Garmin; the website said it was 7,300) of climbing and is on firetrails and single trails and encompasses many of the classics (the Dipsea, Matt Davis, Miwok and Coastal trails, to name a few) of the area.

It starts near Muir Beach and the morning of the race was foggy and cool. Driving there, you take the windy road and it's slow going, creeping down toward the ocean without being able to see more than a couple car lengths in front of you. The race is put on by one of the local running teams and the organization of it was very good. It was a figure eight race, so we would end up back where we started.

My goal was to finish in around 6 hours, as this was less gain that Ohlone (8000 ft) where I finished in 6:30 and more than Skyline (5000 ft) where I finished in 5:09. Based on elevation, I was hoping to come in right in between the two. I would be happy if it were closer to the 5 hour mark than the 6, but would not mind anything in between.

We started on time and as always, went straight up. From Muir Beach, we went on a firetrail to the Coastal trail, which winds around the outside of the cliffs right near the water.

Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail

I made a friend as we were speed walking up the first hill and we hung together for a while, chatting. However, I tend to be faster on the uphills than the down, so I took off without her after a while, in order to keep my pace going. We wound down to Tennesee Valley and then back up the hill again, which was a trail I hadn't tried before, so it was a new adventure! After that, the trail went down to Rodeo Beach and my new friend caught back up to me. She was way faster than me on the downhills come to find out. We made it to the first aid station, where a random guy told us we were females number 7 and 8 overall.

From that aid station, she and I stuck together, keeping each other going. She would lead on the downhills and I would lead on the uphills. We arrived back at Tennesee Valley aid station (AS) together and her husband told me to keep her in line, even though I was struggling to catch up to her half the time. She had the cutest little family, three kids, the husband, the dog...the perfect cheering team! We didn't stay long at the AS, maybe 30 seconds, before heading back up the hill.

This was the big one. In the elevation profile, there were a few smaller climbs and then two very large ones in the last third of the race, which is generally where I have problems.

 We climbed and climbed and climbed. Then we got to another aid station and I stopped to get some lube and all of a sudden my friend was gone. I hustled up to try to catch her. Once we reached the top of the hill, the way down was awesome. It's on a trail called the Matt Davis, which is covered with ferns and in the middle of a mossy forest. It's really pretty. However, we were not the only ones who thought so; there were a TON of hikers! I have to say, this race would be better if we did this section earlier, when there are less people.

At the bottom of this hill is Stinson Beach. By this time, I was starting to get tired, which didn't bode well for the next section. From there, we headed back up the famous Dipsea trail to another trail called the Steep Ravine. This trail was also very beautiful, but was also full of hikers. It also lived up to it's name; it was steep. Luckily some new friends were spectating from this trail and they gave me some words of encouragement as I chugged up the trail.

Once we got to the top of the second big hill, I would like to say it got easier, but downhill is not really my friend. However, I was (still!) trying to catch up to my friend and thought maybe I still had a chance, so I skipped the last aid station at the top of the hill and headed down toward the finish. The last few miles consisted of switchback after switchback and it was brutal. I probably got passed by about 15 people in this section, which really bummed me out. However, I could not move any faster!

I finally got to the bottom and gave it my all to pass ONE guy right before the finish. Yes! That really made up for all the ones who had passed me before. I finished in 5 hours and 55 minutes, just under my goal of 6 hours.

My new running friend beat me by 7 minutes! When I went up to talk to her after the race, she said that she had thought I was ahead of her the entire time and had been trying to catch up to me. Man, she was fast!

This was not my best finish. I usually end up in the top quarter overall; it was not so this time. However, it was pretty interesting to see what my splits were at the aid stations. Actually, I guess that there were not as many people passing me at the end as it seemed!

11.5 miles -- 85th
19.5 miles -- 71st
24.1 miles -- 58th
27.7 miles -- 59th
Finish -- 62/181

Age group: 4/15
Gender: 9/60

After the race there was pizza; it was so good! I also enjoyed an after race beer and had a great time hanging out, shooting the breeze with new friends, ie people who passed me or who I passed along the way. All in all, it was a great day on some of my favorite trails!

Do you have a favorite trail nearby? Or maybe just a place you like to go on the weekends?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

European Discounts for Seniors

Friends in Benalmadena Pueblo, Spain
Are you a senior who wants to save money on your next trip to Europe?  Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, will give you a few tips in this article published yesterday, "With Age Comes (Some) Discounts."

Kugel says, "Most of the countries that responded to my survey claimed that discounts are frequently given at theaters, cinemas and tourist attractions to those aged 60 or 65 and over."  He goes on to list countries that recognize age with reduced public transportation fares or reduced admissions, and he gives two websites with information geared to the older traveler.  

Getting a discounted price in countries that have never heard of AARP is helpful, but I think it's also valuable to plan a trip that will save you money every step of the way.  My book, Europe on a Dime:  Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, is geared to the baby boomer, and it shows how to travel in style for less than $98 per person per day! 

Use Kugel's article and my book to plan your next frugal visit to Europe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cheap Sleeps

Fort Payne, Alabama
Want a room for less than $55 a night?  Then look for those old motels with names like Dew Drop Inn or Three Roses Bed and Breakfast.

I wrote about these colorful accommodations a few weeks ago, and now Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, has discovered them, too. On a recent trip through the heartland of America, he enjoyed staying at these roadside motels, the mom and pop places that have sometimes been in the same family for fifty years.

He found that, "... the old roadside motel has gotten an upgrade. Though they are still decidedly one-star, my experience indicated travelers can expect flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi and beds that are perfectly comfortable."

I'm sure he'd agree with me that most of these places also have character, a trait missing in most of today's motel chains.

If you'd like more details about Kugel's experiences and information about how to find these places, read Kugel's article, "Finding the Right Roadside Rooms," here.   Check my blog post for additional resources.

Monday, September 23, 2013

R & R

Last week was scheduled to be my highest mileage week before starting the big taper for the Firetrails 50 mile race, which is in three weeks (eek). As I have mentioned before, things have been busy at work and it's been hard to fit any miles in at all, never mind a large amount of miles, so I was kind of looking forward to getting this week over with so I can start to return to a normal weekly mileage again.

However, I was also excited, because it would be my highest weekly mileage ever. It was going to be a 60 mile week.

But it wasn't in the cards. On Monday I started getting a cold, so I took the week easier than planned. I ran a 10 mile run on Tuesday in the city; it was a beautiful clear day. I got up on Thursday morning for a nice and early (and dark) 10 mile run before work, which I am really loving. It is really (really!) hard to get up any earlier than I already do, but man, the run in the dark and the silence, with the lack of cars, and being part of the early morning city activities (delivery, street cleaners, sleepless elderly folks out for their morning stroll) is really special.

On Friday I came straight home from work and got in my PJs and went to bed. I actually think I was asleep by about 9 o'clock. That is, after I drank about 248 liters of liquids! I tried it all; juice, tea, water, theraflu and soup. I was determined to get rid of this thing!

I got up Saturday and met up with Broski for a run in the Marin Headlands. There was a 50k we were going to run, but Broski works in the wine industry and they are in the middle of harvest, so we couldn't take that long of a run. The forecast called for rain around 8 am, but it was supposed to move through really fast so we figured it wouldn't matter if we got a little wet. We started around 6:30 and it was kind of misty/foggy for the first half an hour and then it just started pouring! It rained on us for roughly the next 3 hours (out of 4) and it was an interesting run to say the least. There were not a lot of great views but the rain also kept all the weekend hikers off the trails. We had them nearly all to ourselves. On this day, my cold was not too bad; and being in the woods made it easy to do a couple farmer's blows from time to time! I ended up running about 23 miles, which was longer than planned but the loop we took ended up being longer than we thought. We rewarded ourselves with a burrito before going our separate ways. I never say no to a burrito. Plus, isn't the saying, "starve a fever, feed a cold...a burrito"?

I got home, took a shower and got back into bed. It was kind of nice to finally have a relaxing weekend! I watched Midnight in Paris (which was a pretty good movie). I finished Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (which was entertaining) and started another book. I got some laundry done. I watched the first season of House of Lies. Yup, I watched a lot of TV, ate, drank and relaxed. It was great!

Sunday I slept in and was feeling much better, so I met up with some friends for brunch and a walk and then went for another run around the neighborhood. Ironically, after Saturday's rain, it was perfectly clear and warm on Sunday. However, my legs were pretty tired and my heart wasn't really into it, so I cut it a little shorter than I had planned.

I would like to say I reached my goal of 60 miles, but I didn't. Sometimes life just gets in the way! However, I did get in some good mileage and some good rest, as well as having a great weekend with good friends. Now, let's bring on the taper!

How was your week? Did you get everything done that you wanted to do?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mexico Is Land of Opportunity

English Library Courtyard in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
An article by Damien Cave in The New York Times yesterday detailed the changes in Mexico that are making it more attractive to big business and expatriates from the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In "For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico," Cave says that not only is Mexico appealing because it offers cheaper industrial costs and lower wages, it is also attractive because of its creative opportunities.

My three-story house in Ajijic with pool and two-story casita (not visible) for $550 a month.
As Cave states, "Europe, dying; Mexico, coming to life. The United States, closed and materialistic; Mexico, open and creative. Perceptions are what drive migration worldwide, and in interviews with dozens of new arrivals to Mexico City — including architects, artists and entrepreneurs — it became clear that the country’s attractiveness extended beyond economics."

My living room which is the first floor of the three-story house pictured above.
Of course, Mexico has long been a destination for retirees looking for a cheaper, simpler, and culturally diverse retirement destination.

For more information on how to make a move to Mexico, see my book, Retire in Mexico--Live Better for Less Money. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Currently: September

Current Book - Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler: this is the second book I have read by her and although I don't love her TV personality, her books are pretty funny. They are a bit crude, but are a good way to pass the time, especially since I usually read on the bus ride home, so her short antidotes are a perfect length.

Current Running Path - 

Home sweet home

Current Drink - Supplication

Current Excitement - I signed up for Boston!

Current Favorite Blog/Website - Garmin Connect

Current Garden Item - Tomatoes: We made tomato sauce, tomato salsa, and have been eating a ton of salads!

Current Love - Getting up before work to run. Okay the getting up part is not so great, but the being up when the rest of the world is still is priceless.

Current Food - Potato and Beet Salad. I have been on a kick where I throw some veggies together with a bit of vinegar and a scoop of greek yogurt and call it a salad. I love it!

Current Indulgence - Happy Hour

Currently Pondering - What is up with Miley Cyrus? I am sure you have all seen this video. Next thing we know she is going to shave (the rest of) her head and start weilding a bat in the middle of Los Angeles. Is this just a phase? 

Current Mood - Tired

Current New Find - Butter infused garlic noodles. What can I say? Butter? and Garlic? Tell me more! 

Current Peeve - I think I am getting a cold. I am fighting it off with water and vitamins and...pickles, and I am hoping it doesn't get any worse! This is not the time for that! 
Current Song - 


Current Triumph - August was my second highest mileage month ever with 206 miles, and September is looking to possibly surpass it! 
Current TV Show -  Master Chef is over and I am so glad that ___ didn't win! Since then, there's been nothing else. I am looking forward to Top Chef starting again.

Current Wish-List - More hours in a day 

Currently Delaying - Some organization of my finances that will take me a while, so I am not looking forward to getting started. 

What is your current favorite blog? What are you currently loving? What do you think about that Miley Cyrus video?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Looking Back: August

Whew. August, where did you go? I know, I am so late that September is almost over and here I am talking about August still. However, I had a great month, albeit a busy one, and I had good intentions of talking about it here, but things have gotten a little out of hand over in these parts. So, it's going to be a recap in list form...

Some highlights included:

Running: I had a most excellent time with Amber and her family in Squamish in the beginning of the month. I also spent some time exploring Vancouver, which I still want to recap, because it was so much fun! Look for more on that at some point! I also had another 50k in the Marin Headlands, which I have yet to recap... In addition to that, I met up with a long-time-no-see friend for a run around the lake and we had a great time catching up, and I helped Broski conquer a hill near his house which has been on his To-Do list for quite some time.


Friends: I met up with a good friend for a hike in the Redwoods, another friend for a walk/brunch near the bay and had a sleepover with a different friend where we caught up and had some wine and cheese and acted like girls (even though one of the friends was a guy). I also joined a softball team at work and have been having a great time getting to know some of my coworkers, even though we have been losing a lot of our games! It's really pretty crazy that we all work together every day but barely ever see each other or talk to each other during the day!

Running in the San Francisco Marina

Family: My dad came to visit and I took him out for Korean food (he was very impressed by the Banchan, side dishes!) and then we did a mini walk around the lake. He just spent some time in NYC, so it was good to see him again and to have him back on the correct coast! We also all met up for my grandmother's 81st birthday. We went to our old standby, The Old Clam House, which has supposedly been there for 150 years. I also went to visit my family for Labor Day weekend and we had a great time running and cycling and swimming and eating, oh my!

On top of all of that, as I mentioned before, we had the Bay Bridge shut down for 5 days in order to switch over to the new one, I have been working overtime at work and I finally went to use my Groupon for Bikram Yoga that I have been procrastinating about. I also got rid of the car, have been biking more, and have been helping take care of the dog. Needless to say, it's been a crazy month.

In September, I don't have any races (I know, crazy, right?) but will still be doing a lot of running in preparation for the Big One (Firetrails 50 Miler) in October. There will also be more softball and biking and yoga. I am planning on having a couple of low key weekends though, as I feel as if I need some down time!

What did you do in August? Do you have any fun plans for September? Which month is your busiest month each year?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Credit Card Bonuses - Two Questions

Two posts ago, I wrote about earning free flights by using your money, and your credit cards, wisely.

A couple questions that arise are, How do I meet the minimum spending requirements so I earn all those credit card sign-up bonus points?  And, after I've met the spending requirement, should the credit card be cancelled so I don't have to pay the yearly fee?

The Points Guy blog has answers to both questions.  To find ways to meet those spending requirements click here.  To determine whether it's in your best interest to cancel the credit card or pay the yearly fee, click here.

People I've Met

I'm having a problem.

I can't keep up.

SF mural
How I feel, or a mural in the Mission, SF

So much so that I created a new category in my Reader (aka Feedly). It's called "People I've Met".

This category contains 15 blogs. It is the one that I TRY to keep up with. If I have time, I (try to) move to the next category, which has 50 other sources which I love. Then there is another category, and another 40, another category with another 30. And there are more after that.

I am ashamed to say that I can't even get through the first category. In fact, I have guilt RIGHT NOW because instead of getting through the first category, I am writing about the fact that I don't even have time to get through the first category.

Lately, I have been working overtime at work. My running schedule has been in the 50+ miles per week. I have been traveling on the weekend in order to see family and friends and/or do races. The commute each day has been a headache due to the fact that the Bay Bridge has been closed or there is a BART strike or the new Bay Bridge has opened.

I finally got rid of my car; the guy that came to get it was late and the process took longer than expected. I finally went to that Bikram class that I bought a Groupon for and now I have 8 weeks to complete 10 classes at a place roughly an hour away from my house or I lose my money. I volunteered for a couple of races which have been in random places at strange hours. I joined a softball team in San Francisco, which means I get home around 10 o'clock once a week.

I have been reading the same book for the last three weeks. My only chance to read has been on the bus, and often I am too tired, so I just stare out the window.

I have been eating "dinner" at 9 or 10 at night. This usually means heating up a potato in the microwave, eating it, and passing out shortly after.

Where does the time go, I ask? 

Let's be clear; I am not complaining. I wish that I wasn't so swamped at work, because it does take up a lot of time, plus my brain? Is tired by the end of the day. So tired, that reading books, or reading blogs, or writing, or pretty much doing anything where brain power is needed, is impossible. Or I can do it, but it doesn't stick, or make sense, so it's not really worth it. I'm like Sloth from The Goonies; I can't articulate (but I do like candy).

All of the other things are things I love and have chosen for myself. So I have nobody else to blame but myself. And I love hanging out with family and friends, running, eating, and enjoying the beautiful days. Which is part of the problem. If it's a nice day outside, it's hard to say no; it's impossible to sit inside. I sometimes want to say no, but then the guilt takes over. I feel like if someone is available and they invite me somewhere and it's a nice day, I would be a dunce to not enjoy it. But then I'm tired. But if I say no, I wish I would have said yes.

A guy at work told me today that I like a duck.

On the surface, I am calm and serene.

Below the surface, I am paddling like the dickens.

Sometimes I just feel that I can't paddle fast enough, no matter how hard I try.

Do you always paddle fast enough? Do you always fill your time or do you make sure to set aside time to relax?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Food for Thought

Would you rather explore this Ajijic, Mexico, market or consult your smart phone?

Jonathan Look says, "Comfort is sacrifice – Ultimately, everything comes down to balance. It is impossible to enjoy the full beauty of a hike from your easy chair. You can try but you can’t get the true street food experience from your dining room table. Cruise ships require shorelines. All-inclusive resorts isolate you from the locals. A homogenized 5 Star hotel in one place is at least 80% the same as a homogenized 5 Star hotel in any other place. If you really want to see and learn about a place you probably need to give up some comfort instead of sacrificing your experience."

Look, a man trying to experience the world by living in ten different places for a year at a time, lists his thoughts about seeing the world involving sacrifice in his post entitled, "Top Five Observations from My Two Years of Minimalist Travel."  To read the rest of his observations, click here.

Frank Bruni also talked this week, in The New York Times, about how frequently travelers cocoon themselves in the comfortable familiarity of "home," even when they're thousands of miles away in an exotic locale.  With our technology, he suggests, we can insulate ourselves from everything around us.  He says:

     "I’m talking about our hard drives, our wired ways, 'the cloud' and all of that. I’m talking about our unprecedented ability to tote around and dwell in a snugly tailored reality of our own creation, a monochromatic gallery of our own curation.
     "This coddling involves more than earphones, touch pads, palm-sized screens and gigabytes of memory. It’s a function of how so many of us use this technology and how we let it use us. We tune out by tucking ourselves into virtual enclaves in which our ingrained tastes are mirrored and our established opinions reflected back at us."

To read Bruni's complete article, "Traveling Without Seeing," click here