Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013: Running

It's that time of year again! Time for the recaps to begin! In 2012, one of my favorite running experiences was my first 50k. Let's see what makes the list this year, shall we?

Amber did kind of a fun thing and talked about how many posts of hers were related to running. This year, I did not write as many posts as normal  (only 80 vs over 200 in 2012), but of that number, roughly half were tagged with "running". That's a lot of running! Approximately 2000 miles of running (just barely squeaked over). I just want to say: thank you all for putting up with all of the running talk! I know as a non-runner, it can be boring and I don't blame you if you skip over some (or all) of it. We can still be friends.

So, what were the highlights of the year, running-wise? It is hard to pick as there were a lot of great moments related to running this year. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Travel: due to running, I got to travel to several far off destinations, such as Washington DC, Boston and British Columbia, as well as several close to home hidden gems, such as Tahoe, the Marin Headlands, Saratoga and of course, my backyard, the East Bay hills and their many parks and open spaces.

vancouver
Vancouver, BC

2. Exploration: this goes hand in hand with the above, but I love finding new places that I would not have seen otherwise and exploring new cities on foot, which gives me such a more extensive tour of the city than I would have been able to accomplish had I only been walking or driving. I have seen sunrises and been places where there are no other people around and it's moments like those that really make all the difficulties worth it.

PCT -- Oregon

Lake Merritt, Oakland

3. My First 50 Mile race: This year, I trained for and ran a 50 mile race. This was a great experience which taught me patience and perseverance as well as made me realize (as always!) that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Plus it was in my own backyard and it was great to be there, seeing my familiar trails in a different light. To top it all off, my Dad and Grandma were there and my Dad ran the final 6 miles with me.

4. Family: My family has been so supportive about my running. This year, they came to Boston, they were there for the 50 mile race, and came to support me at the Quad Dipsea after Thanksgiving. They are so patient and have braved the crowds and the unfamiliar places to be there for me and that has been priceless.

Quad Dipsea -- Mill Valley, CA

5. The Tahoe Rim Trail: This was not even my race; for this race I paced a friend for the last 20 miles of his 100 mile race. Not only was this course beautiful (think 8000 feet, alpine, views of lakes) but being there with him really was an eyeopening and uplifting experience for me. He was such a trooper and he made me realize that if he could run 100 miles, I could definitely run 50!

trt
Tahoe Rim Trail

6. Volunteering: I did a few different volunteering gigs this year and once again, it makes me really have a warm place in my heart for all the other runners out there and the running community as a whole. People who get up at 2 am to drive the shuttle for the runners, or who spend their whole year preparing for this one event, or people who go out and volunteer at many events, are so inspirational. Some people are not even runners; they are just like my family, coming out for support without asking for anything in return. It is really fun to be a part of that group and to see things from the other side of the table sometimes!

7. Local Trails: I know I already said travel, but I also really enjoy the trails that I can get to right from my house! From my house, I can run about 3/4 of a mile and I am at a trail system that could take me easily 50 miles or more! So I really have NO excuse to not go running!

FRC PCT
PCT -- Northern CA

8. Running Friends: I usually run alone, but I have had a great time meeting up with people when I travel for races. When I went to DC, I got to see friends I hadn't seen in over a year. In BC, I got to meet Amber. In Boston, I ran past Jill, saw Nancy and met up with friends from both the Bay Area and Back East. I also joined an ultra racing team, and while we do not run together, we still give a hearty "good job" if we pass each other during a race! I also did quite a bit of running with Broski again this year.

9. Squamish 50k: This was easily the hardest 50k I did this year. In total, I completed five 50k races (6 if you count one Fat Ass), but the steep downhills of the Squamish really did me in.

Squamish, BC

10. Boston Marathon: This was An Experience. A BQ. A new PR. An explosion. You can read about it here and here and here. It was so monumental that I  have 6 of my 80 posts dedicated to it. That is almost 10 percent! I won't forget it.

finish line
Finish Line, Boston, MA
 
What were your top running moments of 2013? What are the majority of your posts about?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Back: November

What better time to do a November recap than at the end of December? I actually wrote this at the beginning of the month and then neglected to post it! So, good-bye November, hello and good-bye December!

To sum up November in three words, I would say: Work. Eating. Fun.

Work: has been crazy; we are still working a lot of overtime, since the end of the year is near and everything needs to be done by year end. We have been going in on Saturdays, which I actually like, because without the phone ringing and a new email popping up every second, I actually get some work done! On top of everything else, we had a guy go out on Paternity leave and the temp who was supposed to cover his desk fell through, so we have been doing his work too. I was already pretty swamped; doing his work as well has made me way behind. In addition, his wife had some complications and the babies came two weeks early, so we have been doing it for a few weeks now.

sf window
Morning view from my office window

Fun: comes before eating because a lot of the eating was fun too! However, I had a girls night at the house at the beginning of the month, which was a ton of fun. I made a bunch of muffin inspired foods and there was plenty of wine and a dance party was commenced. The weekend after that, my brother had an end of Harvest party and it was good to hang out with some of his girlfriend's friends who I had met before but didn't know very well. The next day we canned some pickled veggies and then had Sunday dinner because it's CRAB season! The next day I took the day off and volunteered at the local food bank. It is near my aunt's house and when I asked if she wanted to join, she, my uncle and two of my cousins came too, so it was a fun family affair (plus I chalked it up as a workout since I had to move so many cans of food). Thanksgiving was spent doing a bike ride and then I got to hang out with my extended family, some of who I have not seen in a while (and who are all grown up all of a sudden).

Food: has been plentiful this month! At girl's night, I served muffin shaped foods: mac and cheese bites, southwest chicken cups, mini chicken pot pies, mini quiches, artichoke and spinach dip cups, and....salad. The recipes were kind of thrown together from things I already liked making. At the Harvest party, there was brisket (I ate SO MUCH brisket!), corn, cole slaw, beans (with Jalapenos), and salad. There is always salad. For Thanksgiving there was turkey, of course, and some super good mashed potatoes. My favorite were the two different kinds of stuffing. At one party, it was brie and artichoke stuffing; at the other it was cranberry, sausage and apple stuffing. Both were delicious, even though they were pretty different. Finally, I took the turkey carcass home and made turkey stock, which will be used soon!



Aside from the top three, there has been some running (163 miles), a bit of reading (2 books), a bit of yoga, one trail race, a bit of biking and a little too much TV watching (Parenthood, Greys Anatomy, Top Chef).

What did you do in November? What is your favorite food to serve when people come over? Do you enjoy crab season?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Free Tours Around the World


I'm not enthusiastic about organized trips that require early morning wake-up times, dictate your every move, and keep you captive on a bus for hours every day, but I do love tours that give an overview of the city.  And the very best tours for a Tightwad Traveler, of course, are the free variety.

You can find a free tour for almost any city you visit, and the good people at the Price of Travel have published a handy list: list of free tours

David and I have taken several of these tours; here is a description of the first one we took in Paris in 2009.
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Fountain in the Place St. Michel, the gathering spot for the tour.
If you wear your sturdiest walking shoes and prepare yourself for a pace more suitable for twenty-year-olds than fifty-somethings, you'll love the New Paris free walking tour.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Quad Dipsea

So this space has become an area for race recaps and.... not much else.

I hope everyone had a really great Thanksgiving! I did. I double booked myself and had BBQed turkey and 3 different kinds of pie at my brother's house and then had second turkey dinner with homemade candy at my aunt's house. The best part was my parents made it to both, which I missed last year (they went back East last year). So it was good times, good food, good friends, good family! And I took home the carcass and made some super good stock.

So...how to burn off these two dinners (and massive quantities of dessert)? Hill work, of course.

You may remember I have mentioned the Dipsea before. It claims to be the oldest trail race and has been going on for over 100 years. It goes from Mill Valley, up and over a hill and then back down to Stinson Beach.

The quad Dipsea is up and over to Stinson, and then back to Mill Valley and then back to Stinson again and then back to Mill Valley. The first section from Mill Valley, for about a mile and a gain of around 500 feet, is all stairs. After that, it's back down hill and then you begin the climb to Cardiac.


It was about 40 degrees when we started. I opted to go with tank top and shorts because I had made the overdressed mistake in the past. I ran this as one of my team races, with an ultra team that I joined a few months back. The other members are a lot of fun and are very encouraging. We don't run together, but it's still fun to have more people to cheer on along the way.


The first climb was not bad. I had a lot of energy. I was passing people, as I often do on the uphills. I got to the top of Cardiac and skipped the first aid station. I headed back down the other side to Stinson and was still feeling great. This race was fun for the fact that once I got about half way down, the leaders of the pack started to come back up. There were so many "great jobs" and "way to gos" being thrown out and you saw so many people that you knew, whether they were in front of you or behind you. It was very encouraging, especially since trail races usually are not very well spectated, due to their difficulty to reach for most people.

I got down to Stinson Beach and fueled up with some cantaloupe and headed back up the hill to Cardiac. This section is partly trail, partly stairs and it pretty steep the entire way. This section was mostly speed hiking/jog/walking. There was barely any time when it wasn't either uphill or downhill. Usually there is some flat, but this time, there was very little. Finally, it was back to Cardiac again and then back down the big hill, back up the little hill and then DOWN the stairs, which was way harder than up, since they are all different lengths and heights. It is hard to get a rhythm, plus there are other regular Saturday walkers out and about with their dogs and kids and families.

I arrived back at Mill Valley and my family was there, cheering me on. My Mom snapped this photo; it makes me look really fast.



After another handful of canteloupe and a piece of pumpkin pie (I love ultra food!) I headed BACK up the stairs. This was not too bad either. Of course, this time, I was not moving as fast as I had the first time! But I was still feeling good. At Cardiac I ran into a friend who was taking photos, gave him a high five and headed back down the hill again. Before I reached Cardiac, the front runner passed me heading the other way. The next person behind him was at Cardiac at the same time as me, making him about 20 minutes behind the leader. It was pretty impressive. He was just blowing down the hills like a maniac!

On the way down to Stinson, I still felt good. I saw a ton of people I knew and the "good jobs" were still flowing! I got to the beach, ate, and headed back to Cardiac. This is where is got a little difficult. After Cardiac, the long downhill was a bit muddy and rocky, with roots and rocks and bumps in the ground. My knees were starting to get a little tired, but it didn't seem like a big deal. Then one of them really started to bug me, so instead of overdoing it, I slowed to a walk for a while. I got passed by a bunch of people, including 2 girls (darn it!) at this point.

When I got to the stairs, I took it easy, and got back to the end a little after I wanted. I had set a goal of 5:45, but I came in at 5:52. I was still happy to be under 6 hours though!



Total elevation gain: 9200 feet

The winner set a new course record of 3:48. You can read more about it here. The second place runner got 4:15. The first girl got 5:06. I call that impressive! I was the number 10 female out of 72, and the 59th out of 249 overall.

I don't know if I burned off my two turkey dinners, but I sure had fun trying! (PS I went to the gym on Monday and there were at least 2x more people than normal. I am not the only one trying to burn off that turkey!)

How did you burn off your turkey dinner? What did you do for Thanksgiving? Do you participate in a turkey trot or any Thanksgiving day exercise?