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Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Report – Part 2

7 Feb

The looooong overdue part 2!  Life has been a little crazy, and sadly when life gets crazy blogging falls off the priority list pretty quickly.  Never fear, I’m still running and Weight Watching.

There are still a number of prizes left from the Team ASPCA raffle, so I’m just gonna bite the bullet and give them all away!  The winners are:

iFitness Ultimate II Running Belt – Kim E.
Sweetpea Baking Co. Gift Certificate – Cindy E.
RunWallet – Liza J.
Organicville Prize Pack – Emily H.
Ultima Replinisher – Mathilde P.
Ultima Replinisher – Carrie T.
O.N.E. Coconut Water – Sheridan P.
8 X 10 Print from My Zoetrope – Jackie D.
Gardein Prize Pack – Amey M.
Three E-books by Hannah Kaminsky – Alivia P.
Four Annie’s Coupons – Esther O.
Nasoya Prize Pack 1 – Sheridan P.
Nasoya Prize Pack 2 – Kim E.
Nasoya Prize Pack 3 – Alivia P.
Tofurky Coupon (pizza) – Kim E.
Tofurky Coupon (roast) – Brandy B.
Daiya Coupon (wedge) – Miles S.
Daiya Coupon (shreds) – Kim E.

The Team shuttle was scheduled to leave at 5:15AM sharp on race morning.  I got up at 4:30 and actually made it to the hotel lobby in time to pick up the provided breakfast and get on board with a few minutes to spare.  I’m really, REALLY awful at being on time in the mornings, especially when it’s that early, so I was pretty proud of myself.  I may have been driven by the fact that if I missed the shuttle I had no other way of getting to the start line!

For breakfast, I had a bagel with peanut butter, OJ and water.  I only had a little bit of the OJ to make sure I didn’t get any heartburn.  My typical pre-race breakfast is a sprouted grain English muffin with almond butter, so the bagel with pb wasn’t far off.  It was probably a bit more caloric than what I’m used to, but we had quite a bit of time until the race started, so I figured it would be fine.

The drive downtown went by really quickly due to the fact that it was 5:15AM on a Sunday.  We walked a short distance to the Team ASPCA area, started organizing our stuff for the race and bag check, and had quite a bit of time to kill.  I think the plan was to take the Team picture right away, but the sun hadn’t risen yet, so we had to wait a while.  I thought about my race plan and goals, which were:

1.  Don’t aggravate my IT band.
2.  Keep my pace under at or under 12 minutes per mile average, to finish in 2:37:19, which would be a personal best by almost 3 minutes.
3.  Negative split the race – keep the pace slow and easy for the first 6 miles and see if I could pick up the pace for the second half.

Those were my goals, but if the second two didn’t happen I wasn’t going to be too disappointed, considering training didn’t go as well as I had hoped and I was dealing with the tricksy IT band.  At the start of training I had wanted to run the race with no walking breaks, taking gels and liquids while jogging, but I knew I would need to walk once or twice and stretch just a bit to stay healthy.

When the sun came out and other runners started gathering, we headed over to the start line for the Team photo.

I’m on the right side somewhere in the sea of orange…notice Larry the Dog, Team ASPCA’s mascot, in the middle.  He ran the whole race!

After the photo we headed to our corrals; most of the Team members were in 13 or 14, and I was in 14.  They gave each corral their own start, playing music and counting down from 10 each time.  I really enjoyed the energy and excitement, but have to say that I question what the Rock ‘n’ Roll people might classify as rock – I definitely heard Call Me Maybe and other non-rockin’ songs.  While we waited and slowly inched forward, I checked out some of the costumes, since it was a Halloween-themed race.

A gaggle of Elvii

Soon enough, we were off!  This was my first big race with corrals, and it was nice to start with a group who ran about the same pace as me.  Everyone started nice and easy, and there was no need to dodge or weave.  I wanted to hold back my pace during the first four miles, so I just ran easy and enjoyed the bands and the costumes.  Two of my favorites were a Rainbow Bright and a Michael Jackson, fully decked out in a red leather jacket, pushing a cart with a boombox playing his music.

At the fourth mile marker, I took a quick walk break along with a gel.  In addition to carrying Ultima Replenisher electrolyte drink in my belt, I grabbed a sip of water at every station, since it was hot and dry.  At the first station with Gatorade I tried a bit, which reminded how gross Gatorade is.  From then on I stuck to water.

Miles five through eight were fairly uneventful; we passed the start line going the other way (the course was a double out-and-back) and a few more bands.  I took another quick walk break at mile 8 but didn’t stop to stretch, as my knee thankfully wasn’t bothering me.  Just after mile 9, we started up the only real hill of the course, an overpass.  I saw two of the Team ASPCA coaches on the way up, and they both told me that I “looked strong”.  I don’t know if that was true or if they were just being nice, but it was good to hear either way!  Honestly, the hill wasn’t that bad and I was only a little winded at the top, where we turned around to head back toward the finish.  We had a really great view of the downtown LA skyline, which I admired for a minute before I realized we had to run all the way back.  Doh!  I cruised down the hill we had just run up, and then started to feel how tired I was when it flattened out at the bottom.

Toward the end of that ninth mile I was exhausted, and started bargaining with myself as to when I could take another walking break.  I went back and forth in my mind about it, and finally told myself that NO, I didn’t need any more walking breaks.  I would keep running the rest of the race at whatever pace I could manage, no matter how slow.

The shade was nice, and the sun was HOT!

I don’t have accurate splits for the end of the race because we went through a tunnel that threw off my GPS, but the last few miles were definitely over 12 minutes per mile.  The ball of my left foot was hurting with every step, and at some points I caught myself practically walking.  With just over a mile left to go, we made a final turn and could almost see the finish line.

Best picture of me running, ever – both feet off the ground!

I had just a little bit of juice left and ran as fast as I could over the finish line.  I was really sore and tired, and happy to be done!

Jamba Juice had a tent just after the medals and were handing out smoothies, which were confirmed dairy free, and it was SO refreshing.  Then a bagel, which I started wolfing down right away, and a slow walk back to the ASPCA area.  It was right around the time when the first shuttle was scheduled to depart back to the hotel and I assumed I had missed it until it was announced that they were rounding up to walk to the shuttle right then, so I grabbed my bag and booked it over there as quickly as possible so I could get back and take a much needed shower.  I missed out on the main concert and free beer, but showering and food were much more important to me at that point.

My official finishing time was 2:39:59, exactly 2 seconds faster than my previous half marathon time.  I am nothing if not consistent!  I really think I could’ve shaved a bit more time off if the heat hadn’t gotten to me, but I was happy to set at least set a PR.  And, while my muscles were quite sore, I was knee pain-free at the end, which meant I had achieved goal #1 of not re-aggravating my IT band.

Apart from the heat, I enjoyed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, and would definitely recommend it.  The start and finish were well organized with plenty of porta potties and supplies, and it didn’t feel like I was surrounded by so many thousands of other runners.  The course was marked well, and the on course entertainment and support were fantastic.

I’d like to write a separate post on my experience with Team ASPCA but I don’t think I’ll get to it, so I’ll jot down my thoughts here.  I really enjoyed my Team ASPCA experience, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to train for an endurance event and raise funds to help animals nation-wide.  It’s a big commitment, time and energy-wise, and you do have to raise a certain minimum in order to get your race entry and accommodations.  Even with all the work I put in and the generous donations of friends and family, I had to cover a bit of the amount myself.  I would say that unless you know a TON of people who will donate, you will need to hold at least one event in addition, such as a bake sale or raffle.

I wasn’t in an area that had enough team members to train together, which is definitely part of the experience I felt like I missed out on.  The support I did have was great though; both the Regional Manager Tina and the National Coach Spencer were swiftly responsive to e-mail, and very helpful.  Spencer gave me good motivation and tips when I was training through my IT band issues.  Tina is about the bubbliest person I’ve ever met, and she even took me and a few other team members out to dinner one night when she was in the area.

So, if you’re considering joining Team ASPCA for an event, I would say go for it with the understanding that it will take some time and energy!  There are a few different training plans available, so it’s good for beginners and experienced runners alike.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll LA Half Marathon Report – Part 1

27 Nov

The race passed (a few weeks ago now), but I still have raffle prizes left, so onward we go!  Tonight’s winners are Emily H. and Kylie B., I’ve e-mailed you for prize selection.

I have a LOT of pictures from race weekend, so I’m splitting the recap into two parts.  This one will be about the pre-race happenings.

I left work early Friday and flew down to LAX, and took a shuttle to the team hotel, the Loews Hollywood.  I was supposed to be sharing a room with another team member, but there was nobody else there and no one ever showed up with a key, so either I was a lucky odd woman out when it came to room pairings or someone just didn’t show.  Either way, I got a sweet hotel room to myself!  Score.

After settling in, I headed out for an early dinner.  I had researched vegan restaurants in the area, but my top choice was easy – Veggie Grill.  I’d never been to one and the menu sounded right up my alley.  The closest was just under two miles away, and I decided to walk in order to see a bit more of LA, and to avoid paying cab fare.  I was already famished when I set out, and absolutely starving by the time I arrived, so seeing the sign made me incredibly happy.

On a normal day, everything on their menu looks great.  Being so hungry, everything on the menu looked AMAZING.  I didn’t waste any time in ordering, and grabbed a seat.

I don’t usually have caloric beverages with dinner, but I took carbo-loading as an excuse to have a tasty drink.  I mixed half strawberry lemonade with half peach tea, which turned out to be a surprisingly delicious combination.  While I waited for my meal, I enjoyed watching everyone who came in, including lots of “normal” looking people who you wouldn’t peg for those who would eat a vegan meal.  Even the mall security guys came in to grab a take out order!

For my meal, I chose the Buffalo Bomber – crispy chickin’ tossed with spicy buffalo sauce, tomato, red onion, lettuce, and ranch dressing.  I really loved the sandwich.  The roll was hearty enough to hold everything together, the chickin’ was crispy and meaty, and the buffalo sauces and ranch dressing balanced each other well.  With carbo-loading as an excuse (again), I went with mac and cheese as my side, and to be honest I didn’t love it.  The texture of the sauce was gooey and creamy, but it was a little bland flavor-wise.

For dessert, I chose the chocolate chia pudding parfait with chocolate cookie crumbles.  I was expecting to get something with whole chia seeds, like tapioca, but I was pleased to see this perfectly smooth parfait.  It was wonderfully chocolaty and rich, just like the pudding cups of my youth.

I took the long way back to the hotel and walked over another hour, which probably wasn’t the best idea two days before a race, but it was a really nice night out and I wanted to explore.

The next morning was the coaches’ brunch.  I had been told there would at least be something vegan to eat, and I was expecting oatmeal or a bagel and fruit.  So, you can imagine I was thrilled when I saw tofu scramble (with veggies!), potatoes (clearly marked vegan!), and soy milk for the coffee.  I was feeling like a bottomless pit that morning, and definitely went back for seconds, only after some potatoes slipped off the plate and spilled ketchup ALL over me and the table cloth.

As we ate, we listened to remarks from Olympian Frank Shorter which were great, and then the national coach Spencer gave us some last minute tips and strategies, which were also great.

After brunch, we loaded into shuttles to be taken to the expo.  I’d never been to a big race expo, so I was excited to see what it was all about.  I was also determined not to spend any money.

Team ASPCA had our own check in area which was nice, but not necessarily faster since there weren’t a lot of other people checking in at the time.  After picking up my bib and swag bag I ambled around for a while, trying some samples and just looking around.  There wasn’t a whole lot to do there if you were trying not to shop.  The coolest feature, I thought, was a time lapse video of the race course, which gave us a preview of what was to come the next day.

I had plans for an early dinner that night but was hungry already by the time we got back to the hotel in the early afternoon, so I went to the mall next door and picked up a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen.

I would’ve liked way more veggies, but beggars can’t be choosers, and this was certainly fine for a get-me-through-to-dinner “snack”.  I also had a pumpkin soy latte from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, since I’d heard they’re vegan if you ask to leave out the vanilla flavoring.  There was actual chunks of pumpkin puree in it, which was kind of weird texture-wise, but nice to know that it’s made from actual pumpkin.

For pre-race dinner, I had plans to get together with Dave’s sister, who lives in LA, and her boyfriend.  They’re not vegan or vegetarian, so I tried my best to find a good restaurant in the area that would suit us all, but had a hard time.  Luckily for me, they’re really open to different types of food and said they’d be fine with a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, so I came up with a few options.  I was really hoping that we’d be able to go to Real Food Daily, but we were a little short on time and traffic was crazy in the area (it was the Saturday before Halloween and partiers were out in full force), so we went for the one that was closest, Paru’s Indian.

When we pulled up to the address on Sunset, the front of the small building was a brick wall with bars on the windows.  We weren’t certain we were in the right place, but there was an open sign, so we rang the bell and were buzzed through the door, which revealed a courtyard of sorts.  We were then lead into the dining area, and it was clear that the restaurant was a converted house, which explained the weird facade.  It was really cozy inside, and we immediately became more comfortable with our choice!

We started with samosas, which were huge and delicious, and unfortunately I forgot to take a photo.  They came with chutney, coconut sauce, and a small dish of some sort of curried chickpeas in brown gravy.

For my entree, I chose the Tanjore Double platter, which was full of South Indian specialties.  It was WAY more food than it looks like in this photo!  I don’t eat South Indian food very often, and the tastes and textures were so interesting.  My favorite new discovery was the uppama, which was described to me as a kind of cream of wheat.  And the “mini dosa”?  It was at least a foot long.

I tried to leave some food on the plate in order not to completely stuff myself, but it was so good that even after I pushed the plate away I kept going back for more bites.  I know you’re not supposed to eat anything new or different the night before a race, but honestly I think my digestive system is strong enough to handle almost anything.  I did make sure not to order anything too spicy.

Next post – race day!

Tuesday Totals

25 Sep

Tonight’s raffle winner is David C!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there are still plenty of prizes to be won in my Team ASPCA raffle!  Or, you can just donate to The ASPCA because you’re awesome and love animals!

I’ve still been having trouble staying within my points limit lately.  I’ve become a little lackadaisical, and I think I’m enjoying the success I’ve had so far by staying at this weight (and being able to wear the same clothes) for a little while.  I’ve also been more stressed than normal, so in addition to diet and exercise my mind is on a number of other things.  And, I’ve still been reaching for a glass of wine more often than I should…in fact, I’m drinking one right now (doh!).

Totals for 9/19/12 – 9/25/12

Daily points used:  182/182
Weekly points used:  46/49
Activity points earned:  38
Activity points used:  38
Non-existent points used:  36
Points left on the table:  -36

I’m hoping for a little bit of a loss tomorrow morning, sine I was up last week, but I’m not holding my breath for anything major.

Sunday, 9/23/12

breakfast – half a sprouted sesame bagel with 1 1/2 Tbs Tofutti cream cheese, banana, coffee with hazelnut coconut creamer
AM snack – Wavy Lays potato chips
lunch – salad (lettuce, red bell pepper, shredded carrot, Gardein Crispy Tenders, agave mustard dressing, Bac’Un bits
dinner – Hickory Smoked Tofurky in a wheat pita with mustard, shredded cabbage and pickle, cauliflower florets
after dinner – 18 oz red wine, whole grain pretzel sticks

daily points used:  26
non-existent points used:  17

Monday, 9/24/12

breakfast – smoothie (almond milk, frozen strawberries, banana, 2 Tbs hemp protein powder, 6 Tbs rolled oats, cinnamon, kale)
AM snack – grapes, 6 walnuts, coffee with vanilla soy creamer
lunch – salad (lettuce, red bell pepper, shredded carrot, Gardein Crispy Tenders, agave mustard dressing, Bac’Un bits
PM snack – chipotle black bean dip with cucumber and red bell pepper
PM snack 2 – banana ginger energy bar
dinner – Hickory Smoked Tofurky in a wheat pita with dill pickle coleslaw, cauliflower florets
after dinner – 10 oz red wine, whole grain pretzel sticks

exercise – walked 10 minutes, ran 49 minutes, strength training 40 minutes

daily points used:  26
activity points earned:  11
non-existent points used:  11

Tuesday, 9/25/12

breakfast – smoothie (almond milk, frozen blueberries, banana, Vega One protein powder, 2 Tbs rolled oats, kale)
AM snack – apple, 12 almonds, coffee with vanilla soy creamer
lunch – Hickory Smoked Tofurky in a wheat pita with dill pickle coleslaw, cauliflower florets
PM snack – chipotle black bean dip with carrot sticks and red bell pepper
PM snack 2 – 2 Medjool dates with 2 tsp almond butter
dinner – Lebanese Sleek, 6 oz red wine

exercise – walked 40 minutes, ran 53 minutes

daily points used:  26
activity points earned:  11
non-existent points used:  6

Lebanese Sleek, adapted from Quick Fix Vegan.  I changed pretty much everything about the recipe – couscous instead of bulgur wheat, kidney beans instead of black eyed peas, red onion instead of yellow.  The only components I kept were the Swiss chard and zahtar seasoning, and it was pretty tasty and definitely quick!

Tasty Tuesday

18 Sep

Today’s Team ASPCA raffle winner is Janet W!  I’ve e-mailed for prize selection.

There are still tons of prizes available, including Disney tickets, running gear and all sorts of goodies, and you can enter with a donation of as little as $5.  Every dollar helps the animals!

I splurged a little over the weekend and last night, so I tried to keep my eats today tasty but clean and light.

Tuesday, 9/18/12

breakfast – smoothie (frozen cherry-berry blend, banana, almond milk, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 Tbs chocolate hemp protein powder, 1 Tbs cocoa powder, kale)
AM snack – coffee with vanilla coconut creamer
lunch – tofu and vegetable soup with rice noodles, soy sauce and sriracha
PM snack – orange Emergen-C, strawberries
dinner – Vegan Shrimp & Quince Curry with quinoa

exercise – 45 minutes stationary bike

daily points used – 26
activity points earned – 7
weekly points used – 2

This delicious (if a bit unusual) shrimp and quince curry was made with Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Shrimp, one of the prize donors for the raffle!

Prize Pineapple & Parsley Green Thickie

14 Sep

The first winner of the Team ASPCA raffle is Brandy B!  Brandy, I’ve e-mailed you for prize selection.

There are still plenty of prizes available, and you are still welcome to donate to The ASPCA to earn raffle entries!  If you’ve already donated, remember you can share the raffle link for an extra entry.  The next drawing will be Tuesday, September 18th!

I stumbled across the website Green Thickies the other day, and was particularly intrigued by the Prize Pineapple & Parsley Smoothie.  I’ve used parsley in fresh juices before, but never a smoothie!  Katherine pretty much guarantees that her thickies will last you through lunch, so this morning I gave it a shot.

I already have a green smoothie-for-breakfast habit, so making this wasn’t much of a change.  I made half of the recipe as written.  The only differences from my normal smoothies was that I used less almond milk and added 1/2 cup of rolled oats instead of protein powder.  It ended up being the same number of PointsPlus as normal, 4, so that was convenient.  I loved the flavor!  You couldn’t tell that there was parsley involved, it was more like a vibrant, fresh flavor.  The recipe is called a smoothie, which I guess isn’t as thick as a thickie, but it was much more thick than my normal smoothies.  Sadly, it didn’t hold me over until lunch, but I did wait to have my morning snack until about a half hour later than normal, and had less food than normal, so that was good.  I think I might try making smoothies with a combination of protein powder and oats to see if I can come up with a combo that lasts for hours.

I’ve got more parsley in the fridge, and am looking forward to another pineapple-parsley smoothie on Monday!

Weight Update

27 Aug

My posts have been pretty running-centric lately, which makes sense since I feel like running has been taking up all my free time!  I haven’t really talked about my weight loss (or lack thereof) or cooking lately, so I figure I owe an update.

My Weigh In Log has been updated.

Here’s the past 24 weeks.  Kind of looks like a roller coaster, yes?  I’ve had some great weeks and significant losses, and some not-so-great weeks that resulted in gains.  I’ve kind of been bouncing around between 148 and 152 for a long while now.  I could make excuses and say that I’ve been busy (I have) and that other things have gotten in my way, but the truth is that I’ve become a bit lazy with my eating.  I’ve fallen prey to my nemeses, salty snacks and red wine, way too often lately and it shows.  Having lost about 25 pounds since I started Weight Watchers, I feel pretty happy about where I am and am kind of enjoying being this size for now.  The bouncing about has been a bit frustrating, but it does accurately reflect my efforts, and these past few weeks I’ve been waiting to kind of naturally come back to re-commitment and full effort, eating-wise.  You can see that I had a good result last week, a 3.6 pound lost to put me at 148 pounds, but I have a feeling I’m going to gain a bit this week, so the struggle continues.

Training for my next half marathon (which I’ll post about really soon) is still taking up a lot of my after work hours, so meals have been of the fast-cooking or no-cooking variety.

Corn tortilla quesadillas with red onion, zucchini, squash and Daiya Pepperjack shreds, cabbage and carrot slaw with hemp oil and lime juice.

Potato, black eyed pea & squash soup with corn broth and fresh dill.  My original plan was to just include fresh corn in the soup, then I thought I might be able to puree the corn and give the soup a creamy “chowder” feel without adding any milk-type product.  Worked like a charm!  I didn’t even have to add any water to the corn in the Vitamix, it pureed beautifully on its own.

Blackened seitan salad with Cusabi Dressing.  I adapted a cusabi recipe I found online, using reduced-fat Vegenaise and plain soy yogurt, and sadly, it wasn’t great.  Either my wasabi is old, or I just didn’t get the proportions right.  Luckily, the blackened seitan was fantastic.  I used the blackened seasoning mix from Appetite for Reduction, and just roasted the seitan with a bit of spray oil until it was hot and a little crunchy on the edges.

Clean-out-the-fridge tofu scramble with leftover grilled potatoes.  The tofu included shallot, mushrooms, tomato, broccoli, shredded carrot, and alfalfa sprouts.

Potato and black bean skillet with vegan ground beef, squash, greens, and cheesy green chile sauce.  I seasoned the dish with cumin, dried cilantro, and oregano, and it was actually creamier than it looks.  At the end I added a sauce made from thinned vegan cream cheese and green chiles, which made it really tasty.

Dave and I made a giant pot of minestrone one Sunday evening when he wanted soup.  It had carrot, celery, zucchini, white beans, kidney beans, green peas, kale, and quinoa pasta shells.  We based it off of this recipe and added fun stuff like fresh basil and red pepper flakes.

Kale salad two ways!  First, with creamy hemp-red bell pepper dressing (which was really delicious on its own), shredded carrot and red cabbage, and black lentils…canned lentils, the ultimate busy person’s shortcut.  Second, with tahini dressing, shredded carrot and red cabbage, edamame and sesame seeds.  I love shredded red cabbage in kale salad so much, I don’t think I’ll ever make it without!

Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Chowder from Vegan on the Cheap, with avocado, lime, Way Better sprouted blue corn chips (which I love), and steamed broccoli.

So soups, salads, scrambles and skillets have been the way lately.  It’s a big bonus whenever I can throw everything in one pot or pan!

I’ve decided to stop posting my entire daily menu for every single day because it was taking up way too much time, but I’ll definitely still be posting food and a daily menu here and there.  Hopefully I’ve posted enough already that someone looking to find out what kind of vegan food you can eat on WW can get some good ideas!

Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon Report

27 Jul

When I started training for my first half marathon, I thought I could finish in under three hours.  A few weeks into training, I set my “A” goal as 2:45.  With a few miles left in the race, I surprised myself by realizing that if I kept pushing I could finish in 2:40, and I barely made it…my official time was 2:40:01!

I headed up to Napa on Saturday with my friend Becca, who is the one who convinced me that I could run a half marathon in the first place, and her friends Ashley and Desi.  We first stopped by the expo, which was small but well organized.  We picked up a few samples, and I bought Run The Edge and met Adam Goucher!  I’m still fairly new to running culture and don’t know about many running celebrities, but I know his name and that his wife Kara is about to compete in the Olympics.  He was really nice, and I look forward to reading the book.

We were really hungry but didn’t want a heavy lunch since we had an early dinner reservation, so we stopped by Oakville Grocery and had a little picnic.

I took carbo-loading as an excuse to have a big strawberry lemonade, and it was fantastic.  To kill some time before our hotel check in, we drove up to Cain Winery, just to see the building and the view.  Desi apparently has the hookup though, and we ended up with a suprise private tasting, even though they were technically closed!

After checking in and getting settled, we went to Mustard’s Grill for an early dinner.  I had called ahead to ensure that they could provide me something vegan.  The waitress offered a vegetable pasta or a bean tostada, and I figured I’d go with the typical pre-race dinner of pasta.

Doesn’t look like much, but this was a really flavorful penne dish, with lots of little bits of onion and garlic.

After dinner we toured the gardens outside the restaurant, then headed back to the hotel to turn in early.  I hadn’t been nervous before, but after the lights went out and it was just me and my thoughts, I started to get a little excited.

The alarms rang at 5AM the next morning, and we got ready quickly to catch a bus to the starting line at 5:30.  Breakfast was a Trader Joe’s whole wheat cinnamon roll (tasty) with some peanut butter, and hotel room coffee.  The bus ride to the start line took about ten minutes.  I meant to take a picture of the porta potties, it was the most porta potties I had ever seen!  One pit stop, to the will call registration to fix an issue with Becca’s timing chip, a final pit stop and bag check, and it was time to walk to the start line.

Becca, Ashley and me

I lined up near the back by the 2:45 sign.  Some pre-race announcements, the national anthem, and we were off!  Well, the leaders of the pack were off…we in the back shuffled forward slowly until we got to the start line.

(I took these photos during the race by holding my iPhone above my head and seeing what happened.  For the most part, they came out pretty well!)

The first half mile of the race is known as “butt burner hill”; it’s a slow, steady climb.  It was tough to start out going uphill right away, but it honestly wasn’t too bad.  Good way to get your heart rate up!

After butt burner hill, the next two miles are mostly downhill, a decent into Napa Valley.  The course was still pretty crowded, and I tried to go with the flow without going too fast.  I was feeling a little tired after two miles and reminded myself that I needed to run my own race and not pace myself off anyone else, as tempting as it was.  I decided against listening to music for the race, so that I could fully enjoy the course and the experience, and I mostly just listened to other people’s conversations.  The TeamChallenge members in orange were very loud and enthusiastic in cheering for each other.

mile 1 – 11:44
mile 2 – 11:06 (too fast!)
mile 3 – 11:35
mile 4 – 11:46

At four miles, I took a short walking break to take a gel and some electrolyte drink.  The fifth mile was a gradual downhill, but I was starting to feel fatigued and begging for the gel to kick in.

The sixth mile started to go back uphill, and I was not happy about it.  My left knee was starting to bother me, my breath was heavier than I wanted it to be, and I wasn’t even halfway done.  Somewhere in that mile though, I got a boost of energy.  I had planned to walk briefly at 6.5 miles to drink some water, but I was feeling really good and decided to keep going until mile 7.  I think it’s really important to have a race plan, and equally as important to change it up according to how you feel.

The seventh mile took us from vineyards to residential farms, and while the vineyards were absolutely beautiful, it was a nice change of scenery.  There was a guy standing on the balcony of this house waving to runners.  There were also some kids handing out cookies, and a couple in front of their house with some Guinness to give out.  There weren’t a whole lot of local spectators, but the ones that were out were great.

There was a live band at the mile 7 water station.  I walked for a short bit and drank some water.

mile 5 – 12:24
mile 6 – 11:49
mile 7 – 12:04

I don’t know why I felt the need to give thumbs up’s to the photographers.  Maybe to convince myself that I felt okay?  Because I wasn’t feeling so okay by this point.  Notice that I didn’t take any more pictures after this point.  I decided to keep the iPhone in its pouch and just focus on finishing, and my knee pain was growing worse by the mile.

At mile 7.5, I was stopped by the highway patrol to let cars cross the course, and I lost about 10 seconds waiting.  A break should’ve felt good, but I really just wanted to keep moving since my next scheduled walk break wasn’t until mile 9.  Miles 8 and 9 were more houses, farms, dogs barking, and knee pain.  The country roads were pretty worn down, and the whole race I felt like I was weaving back and forth, trying to find some flat pavement, and I was starting to get really annoyed by it.  I took my walking break at mile 9, along with another gel and some electrolyte drink.

I honestly don’t remember much about mile 10, except that there was a wine station, another live band playing a Doobie Brothers song, and that the 5K course joined up with our course.  The wine station was offering a sip of Gewürztraminer, a cold, sweet white wine.  I knew the wine was going to be a game time decision for me, and at that point it sounded repulsive.  I also didn’t want to slow down for anything, I just wanted to keep going.

mile 8 – 12:31
mile 9 – 12:04
mile 10 – 13:00

It was at that time that I realized I could break 2:40 if I averaged about 12:30 for the rest of the race, which seemed totally do-able at that time, since I only planned on one more short walking break.  The next miles saw more spectators, and even though they were mostly cheering for TeamChallenge members (and ignoring those who weren’t), it was a nice positive change in energy.  After 11 miles I walked for a minute or so, as my last planned walking break.  My knee was really, really hurting and I was basically limp-jogging.  Lots of people were walking, and I was determined to keep running as much as I physically could.

At mile 12 I decided to take a quick unplanned walking break and stretched my lower back.  I needed it to mentally prepare myself for one more mile.  We entered into a park, and I could tell we were finally in Sonoma, which gave me a mental boost even though I was in quite a bit of pain.  I tried to pick up the pace but didn’t have much left in me.  Two more turns and we were on a city street, and I could see the finish line in the distance.  There were many more spectators, and lots of walkers on the right.  My Garmin showed 2:38, and I knew I needed to book it to finish within 2:40, so I went for it.  I ran at what felt like a sprint at the time, although in reality it wasn’t very fast!

(I don’t normally cross my arm across my body like that; I think at that point I was using my entire body to compensate for my knee pain…)

I watched the seconds tick away as I neared the finish line, and stopped my Garmin at 2:39:59.  I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, but absolutely elated.  Coming in five minutes faster than my “A” goal felt like absolutely smashing it!  My official chip time was 2:40:01, which I am okay with because I can still say “I’m a 2:40 half marathoner”.

mile 11 – 12:05
mile 12 – 13:01
mile 13 – 12:38
last .1 miles (.2 according to my Garmin) – 2:14 (11:09 pace)

I wasn’t thrilled with the food options at the finish line.  There were bananas, Greek yogurt, and sample bags in which the only thing I could eat was a sample sized bag of Mary’s Gone Crackers and a Clif protein bar.  I needed more sustenance!  Luckily, some of the drinks being given away at the FRS tent were vegan and had a good supply of carbs, and Zico was there handing out coconut water.  I got my finisher’s wine glass, found Becca and Ashley, took off my shoes (revealing some pretty nasty blisters), and sampled some wines before we hopped the shuttle back to our hotel.  My knee was incredibly stiff, I had to take stairs one at a time for the rest of the day, and if I sat for 10 minutes or more it hurt really bad to bend it.  I don’t know why my knee was so bad, it didn’t hurt like that on any of my long runs in training.  I think it might’ve had to do with the unevenness of the road and zig-zagging to find flat ground, and maybe taking the downhills too fast in the first few miles.

The medal is AWESOME.  It is both a corkscrew and a wine stopper.

I ate the Clif protein bar on the way back to the hotel, and didn’t have time for a real meal before our afternoon wine tasting appointment.  I wasn’t really hungry, so I wasn’t too worried about it.  After the first wine tasting though, I was starving and ate the snack pack of Mary’s crackers to tide me over.  One more wine tasting, and I was starting to feel it all wearing on me.  We decided on Bistro Don Giovanni for dinner, which came highly recommended by a few different people.

The waiter brought out fresh bread with this spicy spread of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and red pepper flakes, and I devoured four pieces.  I wasn’t going to order an appetizer since I figured bread would be enough, but when the waiter mentioned they had gazpacho I knew I needed to go for it, especially since we’re in the middle of summer and the tomatoes in Northern California are fantastic this time of year.

There was a spicy cauliflower rotini dish on the menu that the waiter confirmed would be vegan without cheese, and it was really delicious.  The pasta and cauliflower were cooked perfectly.

Even after all that food, I still felt like a bottomless pit.  When we got back to the hotel, I had some Barbara’s Chocolate and Peanut Butter Puffins mixed with pretzels.  It was sweet and salty and wonderful, and I finally felt satisfied.

My knee was extremely sore the next day, although it felt better when I was walking around.  I played tourist in San Francisco and Berkeley Monday and Tuesday, and was ready for a short, easy run by Thursday, with only a small amount of discomfort in my knee.

Next up?  The Bad Bass Half Marathon tomorrow morning, around Lake Chabot.  That’s right, I signed up for another half marathon two weeks after my first half marathon, with confidence that I’d be recovered enough to do it.  I had planned to run four or five times in between and only got three runs in, so I guess on the bright side I’m well rested?  My plan is to take it easy and just have fun, enjoying the scenery around the lake.  My goal is just to finish, earning an automatic trail half marathon PR.