First non-running centric blog in awhile…haha. But, if we’re not getting up at four am to run a race, we might as well get up at four to get in line for beer.  

We’d both heard a lot about Russian River Brewing Company and their limited release beer, Pliney the Younger.  So, for Brian’s birthday, we decided to take a day and go out for the first day of the release.  He did a bunch of research…found out what time we needed to be there, where to go, etc.  Turned out, we’d need to leave the house at 4:30…also turned out it was going to rain.  Awesome…totally like a race day.  

Traffic wasn’t bad (imagine that at 4:30 am), but the rain proved to be a slight challenge.  Since we didn’t know what parking would be like, we decided to take my car…though his probably would’ve been better in the rain.  It wasn’t terrible, and once we got past Novato, it had pretty much stopped raining.  

The brewery was easy to find once we got to Santa Rosa.  Right in the middle of downtown…for some reason, I was expecting it to be in a farm field, why I’m not sure.  At first, we thought the line wasn’t that long, but quickly realized it spanned several blocks as we kept driving.  We found parking in a lot right behind the brewery (though we didn’t realize it at the time).  Wandered around for a bit, and then finally found the line.

We made ourselves comfortable – opened up our chairs, pulled out the coffee, etc.  of course it had started to rain again, but luckily, Gortex is our friend.  We weren’t cold (thank you Everest clothes) or wet…well, eventually I was…not sure what the deal with my water proof pants was…Brian even got interviewed by the morning news.  

As he was getting interviewed, more people fell in line behind us.  That’s when we met Richard and Sean, two guys from Fresno, who’d decided to come up while enjoying a growler from Russian River the night before. 

The rain came and went, and came and went again.  A very smart Girl Scout made her way down the line selling cookies before she went to school.  I’m pretty sure everyone bought some – genius idea.  At some point the security guards started counting people and we were maybe 78(ish) in line. They came back shortly after to stamp our hands, and at that point, we were in the 100’s.  Then they started condensing the line.  It was kind of exciting, even though we knew we still had 90 minutes to wait.  But, since we’d been waiting three hours already, it felt like the end was in site.

With maybe an hour to go, the owners (two cousins, I believe), made their way down the line, thanking everyone for being there…listening to everyone’s stories…offering us breakfast and coffee. After that, one of the owners brought his mother out to meet everyone and say hello.  I was really amazed how nice everyone was, from the people standing in line to the owners, to the employees.  Even as we got close to going in, an employee asked us if we needed anything – water, coffee, etc.  At that point, we were ready for beer.  

As they started taking people in, we decided with the guys behind us that we were either a group of two or four. Whatever made sense. And, it turned out to be a good decision. Not only did we get the last table available for the first seating, but also, we got to enjoy the rest of the day with friends. 

Once you’re inside, you get three Pliny the Younger’s, and three hours inside. We enjoyed our beers, tried some of the other ones, and decided what to take home (along with the merchandise).  Interestingly enough, the guy at the table next to us was from Buffalo and sporting Bills gear…lives out here now, but, small world. 

Overall, it was a great experience. Pliny the Younger was delicious. Was it worth five hours in a rainy line…I’m not sure. What was worth the wait was the hospitality – meeting people in line that morning that became friends by the end of the day, meeting the owners of the bar who took the time to greet everyone (despite the rain), hearing and being part of the toast the owners did with the first group of diners, and being able to cheer as more people were able to come in and have their tastes. 

Such a fun day and definitely something I’d do again.  We’d leave earlier (or stay out there), apparently the rain kept a lot of people away and the line was shorter than it’s been in the past. 

In other news, I’m one month out from Way Too Cool.  Yikes!  Hopefully I can get in shape before then.  Big mileage weeks coming up these next few weeks…I see several double OTF workouts in my future…

Viva Las Vegas

Since Brian had a conference in Las Vegas this past week and we’re heading straight to Bizz Johnson after my conference next week, we decided to sneak in a quick weekend getaway after his conference.

Getting there wasn’t too crazy, until I got in a cab to head to the hotel.  Of course the driver asks me if I want to take the freeway or the strip.  I KNOW one of them is a rip off…I  just couldn’t remember which one.  I ask what’s faster….he says the freeway.  As I watch the meter tick past $20, I knew I made the wrong choice.  But hey, I got to drive past the Delano, which will be my home away from home for my conference next week.

We stayed at Harrah’s…for some reason, something about music, I think, everything in Vegas was super expensive last weekend.  Even Luxor, which is usually our go-to for a decent priced hotel with a decent pool was more than I’ve ever seen it.  Anyway, we stayed at Harrah’s since we could stay there and see a show for the same price as staying at any of the other hotels.  It was…

Well, it was clean, safe, and the door locked.  And was pretty centrally located.  It also had Toby Keith’s bar, which we love.  Other than that, not too much going on.  Overall, it felt pretty dated compared to the other hotels and seemed to have a cult following, I’m guessing those who like to gamble there.  People don’t go there for the pool….it was small and barely in the sun.  But, we were able to rent a cabana of sorts to ensure us some sunshine and a way to hide from it when it got too hot.  It was pretty cheap too….I think only $30 if you met a food and beverage minimum, which was also pretty low.  The room had been recently re-done, but came with feather pillows and sliding bathroom door.  Great, unless you’re us and prefer normal pillows and an actual bathroom door.  The shower was also only covered with half of a glass door….just odd.  All that was missing was the cut-out between the bathroom and the bedroom and I could’ve been in Beijing again….

Bottom line…if you’re going for the gambling, and you like to gamble at Harrah’s, it’s probably a great option for you.  If you’re looking for a pool and to see shows, probably not the best choice.

We saw two shows – Mystere and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club.  Mystere was Saturday night and Brad Garrett’s was Sunday.

First, Mystere, which is one of the Cirque shows…apparently, it’s the first one, if I remember correctly.  Last time we were there, we saw Ka, which put just about everything else I’ve seen to shame, so that may have influenced my reaction.  There wasn’t much of a story tying the performances together, and I found that I missed that.  However, the performances, when they were happening were very good.  During those times, there was always so much going on, it kept my attention.  But, there were those times that the performances weren’t going on…and the fact that the story tying everything together was pretty loose.  There were two sets of…I don’t even know what to call them…interludes?  Probably the wrong word.  Interruptions?  I like that better.  But two characters engaging with the audience differently at points throughout the show and it just, to me, fell flat.  It interrupted the performances, which almost made them feel like America’s Got Talent instead of Cirque and both of the characters got old….real fast.  It was almost like, ok, this was funny once….Overall….go see Ka.

Sunday, we returned to Brad Garrett’s.  We went there in May, finding ourselves with a free night and no plans and it was in our hotel and cheap.  So we went and enjoyed it.  When we were choosing shows for this trip, Brian saw that Brad Garrett was going to be there, so we thought it would be cool to go again.  Hilarious.  Definitely recommend.  Especially if he’ll be there….he started the show and performed between the other comedians and was just….hilarious.  Didn’t miss a beat and the audience loved him for it.

I also took the opportunity to sport not one, but two Charlotte Russe dresses.  They were actually pretty fun and looked great.  I wish I had remembered my curling iron, but that’s another story.  I mean, you can’t go wrong in Vegas in a cute red dress and heels you can barely walk in.

Day three was pretty low key.  Having learned our lesson with the Harrah’s buffet, we once again ventured over to Denny’s.  During breakfast we talked about when we might come back and where we’d want to stay, which turned into us exploring the nearby casinos and pools to decide.  Cesar’s, Flamingo, and MGM top the list.  With the looming thought of the airport madness ahead of us, we looked up how long it would take to drive and thought that might be an option next time.  We ended the day with a drink at Cesar’s…first time we’ve done that…and for some reason, it took way too long to find a bar….maybe because the place was so big.  haha…

So, since we pretty much decided that we’d try driving for our next trip, avoiding both the airport and the cabs to get to the airport, the great beyond decided that we needed to have a ride to the airport to remember.  Since my adventure from the airport wasn’t enough, apparently….

We get in the cab just fine, guy isn’t very social, but whatever, it’s fine.  We’re just lounging in the back, dreading the thought of dealing with TSA and airports and everything else, as we head down an access road between two of the casinos.  And I noticed we kind of, sort of, maybe roll through a stop sign.  And maybe we’re going kind of fast.  And then I hear sirens.  No easy feat over the bad 80’s music Mr.Cabbie is blaring.

He pulls over, and I think we were all hoping that the police just needed to get through.  No such luck…he’s pulling us over.  Of course, turning down the music is out of the question, so we can barely hear Mr. Cabbie fight with the officer about how he didn’t run the stop sign before handing over his credentials.  And then we sat…..and sat some more….in awkward silence.  Mr. Cabbie never said a word.  No, I’m so sorry, I’m sure we’ll be on our way in a minute….nothing.  Nor does he turn the music down.  I start thinking about calling Uber from the side of the road…is that a thing?  Can we do that here?  Half an hour later, he has his ticket and his court date, and we’re on our way.  Such fun.  Only when we get to the airport and we’re unloading does he say anything….’you’re not leaving a tip?!’.  Really, dude?  Really?

Oh Vegas…until next time….Viva Las Vegas!

Trip to Vegas, New Injury, and Catching Up on Life

I realized today that its been over a month since I updated this, over a month since finishing Lake Sonoma, and what a month its been.

Coming out of the 50 mile, I managed to take it easy for a couple of days.  Ok, three days before I was going completely stir crazy, four before I was in my first bikram yoga class in years, and five before I was back at Orange Theory.  I was out running again that weekend, interestingly enough, back at Lake Sonoma for a quick seven miler before I picked up wine.  It was 90 degrees and sunny – quite the change from the previous weekend.  I was a little stiff, but overall felt good.

The next week, I was back to my normal routine…four days at the gym and a 10k road race that weekend.  I was still a little stiff, a little achy (especially my left hip), but again, overall, felt good.  I was slightly nervous about running on a road for the first time in over a year, partly due to the last year I spent healing my right knee, and not knowing how it would hold up…and partly due to the stiffness in my left hip.  However, I was excited to see how I would do running such a short distance.

It was so much fun!  My goal was to come in under an hour, which I didn’t think I had done before.  I spent the first two-ish miles trying to hang with my fast friends, but eventually fell back.  Which was fine, I was still moving fast for me.  Miles three and four felt long and I hadn’t gotten into a rhythm yet. I started feeling great somewhere between four and a half and five, and then it was over.  As it turns out, I did well on the fast and flat course….final time: 56:49.  According to Strava, there was an 8:30ish mile in there (its been years since that happened).  9th in my age group out of 51….I don’t think I’ve ever been top 10.  Unless there were less than 10…haha.

The next weekend, Brian and I headed to Vegas on vacation.  No races, no crazy adventures, no nothing….other than vacation.  We stayed at MGM…floated in the lazy river…enjoyed our fair share of terrible pool beer and good dinner wine.  Saw great shows. For anyone heading to Vegas: Ka is amazing.  Go see it.  I really can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t like this show.  It’s a cirque with a story that’s easy to follow, great stunts, and a super intricate stage.  I feel like it was over before it even began.  Just so, so good.  Maybe skip the large, slushy, adult beverage during the show…you won’t want to get up to find a restroom and nothing makes the last fifteen minutes of a show really, really long like needing one.

The third night we had dinner at Tao – probably my favorite Vegas restaurant and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  Then headed over to Cesar’s for Absinthe.  Somehow we were VIP’s, which meant they gave us champagne to enjoy during the show.  Unless you’re me…then you dump half of it all over your purse and having to get creative in drying it off…..anyway, I digress….the show is hilarious.  Very politically incorrect and full of adult humor, but so much fun.  However, if you’re easily offended, this is not the show for you.  Aside from the humor, it’s a variety show with amazing acts.  Dancers and tightrope walkers and aerialists, etc.  So good.

I anticipated coming back to my leg being 100% after four days of rest.  But, I’m not that lucky.  By the middle of last week, I finally caved and called a doctor’s office close to my office to deal with whatever the situation is in my hip.  I’ve rolled, I’ve rested, I’ve stretched, and it’s not getting any better.  After doing nothing in Vegas for four days (other than those nights in five inch heels ;)), I got to my second day at the gym and the shooting pain was back.  That’s not normal.  The following week, I got through another two days and while it wasn’t shooting pain, it was definitely achy.  Definitely not normal.

So, of course I go home the night before seeing a doctor and do some searching on the internet about what might be wrong.  The first thing I find that sounds plausible is a stress fracture.  Cue stress at the thought of no running for probably three months.  Really?  When am I going to learn to stay off of internet?

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that something was really wrong and I was going to be out of running and working out for the foreseeable future.  My suspicions were close to confirmed as I was talking the doctor through everything that was going on, and the first thing he mentioned was a stress fracture….but, once he started his exam, luck seemed to be on my side.  First, I was much stronger during the resistance tests than he thought I would be….second, he found two knotted, locked up, muscles.  Took him an extra 15 minutes to find, but the two highest muscles in my hip – the pectineus and the adductor brevis, were a sore, painful, tight mess.  Apparently having the adductor tight that high isn’t normal….apparently he hasn’t met me….

Cue some super fun ART that surprisingly didn’t bruise.  Unfortunately, the relief didn’t stick for too long either….hopefully that just means I need more sessions.  As much fun as ART is, I like that and strained muscles far more than I like stress fractures.

Before he left, I made sure to ask him if I was still allowed to exercise and if there were any restrictions.  Surprisingly, he told me I could…just asked that I dial it back to 75%.  If I had a class I liked to take, that was fine….just take it easy.  Yup, I can do that.  So I threw on my gym clothes and headed to class.  I mean, why wouldn’t I….last year I had an MRI on my knee and ran a half marathon the next day….

Since then, I actually have been heeding the doctor’s warnings – 22-year old me ran a half marathon with a broken ankle….32-year old me does not need to learn that lesson twice.  I’ve done a couple of Orange Theory classes, but have taken it easy.  I think I’m going to set the record for the most classes with zero splat points.  But, it’s better than being completely side-lined.  I’ve also gotten back into bikram…that’s been a great way to stretch out and relax, not to mention get in a good workout with little impact.

Today, I had the x-ray done.  No one was there to read it (I’m pretty sure the lady taking it was pretty new, as I could clearly hear someone giving her directions), but they did give me a CD to take back to the doctor.  Of course, I took it home this evening and tried to get it to open to read it myself.  I saw what my ankle looked like…I’d think the same would apply to this situation, right?  Sadly, the files wouldn’t open.  But, really, do I need to be trying to read an x-ray?  Probably not.  Just give me something else to stress about….haha.

So, I wait until Wednesday, when hopefully the doctor has the report…or can read the films.  And cross my fingers and toes (and whatever else I can think of) that it’s strained muscles and some more rounds of ART can fix it.  And I can get back to running healthy soon.

Until then…signing off…


Life in Overload

So, at the beginning of 2015, I promised some sort of New Year’s update….ringing in the new and casting off the old, or something like that.  And, I intended on it, but as always, the time got away from me….life got in the way….things happen.  A lot happened.  After awhile, it felt like I’d been writing this entry for at least six months, and then I realized I had.  And then I backed off…and then it was almost 2016, so I decided to wait.  And reflect.  And now I have pages of randomly typed thoughts and feelings….semi-sober, deep down, and at times heartfelt/heart wrenching thoughts and feelings.  What a ride it’s been……

It started with a race….

I rang in the new year doing the thing I love most….which ended up being my first 50-miler and fourth ultra of 2014.  It was fun and tough and boring and great all at once.  And, somewhere along the way, I learned that AIDS Marathon friends are some of my best friends.  Something that I think I’ve always known, but forget to be thankful for.  I also learned that 50 miles on pavement and gravel takes its toll on the human body and ended up staring down a knee injury for most of the year. That was an adventure in and of itself, a nagging, not-that-painful-but-I-know-its-not-normal adventure, requiring rest and PT, and two rounds of prolotherapy and a platelet injection.

Then, life threw me a curve ball…or kicked me in the shins…or both.  I thought I knew the trajectory I was meant to be on, but turns out – life had other plans.  And, sometimes, as hard as it is, knowing when to let go is just as important as continuing to hold on.  I feel like there is so much I could say, but, as I also learned, some things are better left unsaid.  Things happened and it wasn’t ok and in my opinion, unforgivable.  But, sometimes it’s all about letting go and moving on.

Because, you never know what adventure you’ll find once you do.  Right now, I’m still not sure what that is yet.  But, I get to figure that out, and I am so excited for that.  Sometimes you have to let go of the planned finish line …just like a race.  You’ll still get to there, it just might look like Coyote Ride or the North Face in 2014, and be a little different than you imagined.

It continued with a race…

Starting out the year with an injury and a healthy dose of stress was no fun, but I quickly found a way to stay involved with running and started volunteering again.  It was something that I’d loved, but had given up in the craziness of work and school.  As I got more involved in my free time over the summer, I learned to mark and sweep courses, and drive a giant van up and down some winding roads.  I had so much fun exploring new trails and helping other runners…In the absence of all I knew, I found somewhere new to belong and something to focus energy on.

And, not to be out done, the back half of the year had to give the first half a run for its money.  Whether I was getting re-acquainted with a certain fashion novel or finding out what happens when slimer gets in a fight with a Toyota Tacoma (nothing good), I began to anxiously await the arrival of 2016.  I’m not sure why, something about turing the page, casting off the old, and bringing in the new felt fresh and necessary.  Then, when I thought it was over, I had the opportunity to cross driving down the freeway with the flu off my bucket list (also not good).  Since it’s not 2016 yet, I suppose I should knock on something…..

It ended with a race….

I plan to end 2015 (and then begin 2016) with the same race I ended 2014 with. Though this time, I’ll be working at it, not running it. Racing for me is on hold until March and then April – the race lottery odds were somehow in my favor and I ‘won’ entrance in to both Way Too Cool and Lake Sonoma, hopefully an omen of good things to come in 2016.  I’ve spent the past week and a half (feels like forever) resting, so my silly ankles could heal, my body could get a much needed break, and I can get back at it in the new year.  Bring it on lottery of pain, bring it on.

This year is nothing I’d sign up for again, I might dare say it’s been the toughest of my life.  But, looking back, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned and how differently I look at certain things now.  The importance of taking things one day at time….celebrating the small victories….forgiving yourself…standing up for yourself. Stopping to smell the roses….climbing up one more hill…taking the long way home.  That wine just might be a food group – sometimes it needs to be, and that’s ok.  The importance of surrounding yourself with things and people that make you happy.  And if you just keep moving, eventually you’ll be moving forward.

And, above all, the biggest thing I learned is that I have a stronger support network than I ever realized and I will forever be grateful.  I had listening ears when I needed to talk, advice when I didn’t know what to do (or just needed confirmation), and smiles when all I wanted was to frown.  I always had a rock, a safety net, and everything in between. Perhaps that cheesy car commercial has a point – when it’s dark enough, you can see stars.

So, here’s to 2016.  Here’s to good times with family and friends.  To new adventures and new races.  To my continued understanding that everything happens for a reason….and hopefully to understanding what that reason is.

Escape from San Francisco

This past weekend, Brian and I escaped from San Francisco (and Fleet Week) to Susanville, home of Lassen National Forest and the famed Bizz Johnson Trail.  I was heading up to work the Coastal Trails races on Saturday and Sunday, and Brian was going to help on Saturday and run the 50k on Sunday.  Our Anniversary was Monday, so an adventure, a race, and some trails seemed like the perfect thing for us to do.

In an attempt to miss traffic, we headed out early Friday afternoon.  After sitting in traffic getting out of the city and enjoying some delicious fast food at Carl’s Junior, we made it to Red Bluff – pretty much the last large town before heading into Lassen.

The first part of the park/Rt. 36 was a trip through volcanic rock.  It was pretty cool and the sun was just starting to set, which resulted in some picturesque views.  I was able to catch the below just as the sun was setting……the photo doesn’t really do the view justice.

The winding roads took us through several little towns and villages that seemed to be ghost towns now, but I’m sure were booming railroad towns years ago.  Then the sun set and it seemed like the deer took that as their cue to come out and play….or try to get hit by cars….or both.  Too many close calls.  And, as Brian said – no one wins if we hit a deer….it dies and we have another busted up car.  Luckily, we made it into town safely.  
I had booked us at the only hotel available in town….Budget Frontier Inn, or something like that.  Based on the name, I had some idea as to what I was in for, and I had fun taunting Brian with ideas around what it might be on the last leg of our trip.  When we got there, I was definitely not disappointed.  The outside looked as I imagined and on my attempt to check in, I found the door to the lobby locked and pressed the doorbell multiple times before someone came to let me in.  Luckily, someone did eventually come and let me check in.  
On the walk to our room, we noticed at least one door that looked like someone had tried to kick it in…luckily, ours was in tact…or so we thought (we did find out later that side paneling left something to be desired).  We did have a door to an adjoining room that didn’t lock…awesome.  Luckily, during our years of traveling to cheerleading competitions and staying in sketchy hotels, my mother taught me well.  I just took the table and pushed it against the door – at least it would slow them down.   
Amongst other things, we also didn’t have a remote….where is there a TV without a remote?  Brian tried to find it and then I took a shot at it.  No dice….but I did find this guy.  Any ideas on what it is?  Creepy Sponge Bob?  Sponge Bob on drugs?  

But, despite the neighbors busting into their room at two am and waking us up with the noise, it ended up being fine.  We survived our three nights there and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the place in Rohnert Park a few years ago.  I mean, it didn’t smell like smoke to the point that we couldn’t stay there and there weren’t drug dealers waiting for rooms when we left.

Saturday morning started bright and early with check-in for the Express Half Marathon.  Even earlier for us since we didn’t really know where we were and needed to get coffee/tea before getting where we needed to be (the awesome hotel also didn’t have a coffee maker….what hotel doesn’t have a coffee maker??).  We had to be at the train depot at 6:15….so naturally we left the hotel at 5:15.  We were five minutes away….from both the depot and the Starbucks.  Only us…..

But, we got our coffee and tea and made it to the depot in plenty of time.  Again, narrowly missing some deer, but I digress….We worked check-in for awhile before Brian headed off to an aid station and I headed off to the finish line.

It was pretty cool to be near and see signs for a trail I’d read so much about.  When you run marathons for nearly ten years, it’s impossible to not hear about the Bizz Johnson trail.  Yes, I am a runner geek…deal with it :).  

I learned how to pull results – and managed to do so all day without causing any craziness on the computer….haha.  So, I spent the race pulling results, posting them, and reading out age group winners.  Since the only thing worse than the sound of my own voice is the sound of my own voice on a megaphone, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy making announcements…..However, it was actually a lot of fun.  People are usually excited when they win awards, more so when they aren’t expecting it.  It took me back to getting my third place finish from this race in the mail.  Totally unexpected, but so fun.

Once the Express Half had finished (and I’d had my fill of BBQ), I headed back up to the depot to run check-in for the rest of the day.  I was surprised at how many people showed up to check in a day early – definitely helped with things the next morning.  There was also some sort of chili baking competition….and festival…and I don’t know what else going on in the parking lot.  What I do know is that there was a very loud band (playing good music, but still very loud…probably because they were right outside the door), and people really don’t know how to close a door.  The amount of times we shut the door to keep the noise down (and what little AC there was inside), people just kept coming in and leaving it open….come on, were you raised in a barn?!

Saturday night was pretty low key.  We tried to find an Italian restaurant, and thought we had, but unfortunately, it was closed.  So we ended up at some random pizza factory or something.  And recognized just about everyone in the restaurant.  We’d either checked them in for the race the next day or saw them at the race that morning.  I remember one lady saying, ‘hi, expo people’….haha.  Food wasn’t the best – the Round Table pizza from the night before was better, but, oh well.  Win some, lose some.  And really, I was ready for bed.

Sunday morning started off similar to Saturday, but with a later trip to Starbucks – thank god.  haha.  We started with check-in, until Brian departed for his race, then he headed out and I stayed at the depot to continue check-in for the shorter distances, until those were ready to start.

Once the races had started, I packed up everything from check-in and the depot and headed to the finish line.  First, I was glad I had the x-terra – not that my car was ever an option, but that’s a whole different story.  Second, I was glad I had loaded the Coastal van so many times….loading the x-terra was like a mini loading of the van….haha.  But, I got it all to fit.  We bid farewell to the lady at the depot, and we were off.

I spent most of my time at the finish line on Sunday like I spent Saturday….pulling results and announcing age group awards.  Again, it was a lot of fun….people were in disbelief that they had placed, so it was fun being able to make their day.  Brian had a great race – PR in his 50k and first in his age group.  It was fun to announce his name and give him his first place medal.

I also got to take Brian on a trip in the Coastal van….always a good time.  Thankfully, he’s good with directions and was able to prevent me getting us lost.  We did pass a car that had just hit a deer….really glad that wasn’t me.  We picked up all the aid station stuff at one main gathering place – I thought I was being slick and got the tables in…thinking we wouldn’t have to unload them again.  Of course, I forgot about the timing mats.  Not that slick….apparently I haven’t loaded the van enough times…haha.  Once that was done, we headed back to the finish line, broke down, loaded up, and were off…until the next race.

We celebrated Brian’s good run with some more Round Table pizza (what else do you eat in Susanville?), some wine, and an early bedtime.  We were really excited to sleep in the next morning, but disappointed our time away had come to an end.  Such a great weekend getaway…..

Overall thoughts – great trip, great race – highly recommend.  I’d pick a different hotel though…or as Brian said, maybe next time we can see if we can find a worse hotel to stay at…haha….

Until then, over and out….

Tahoe Getaway

Great friends + the great outdoors = an amazing weekend.  Despite Tahoe being so close to San Francisco, Brian and I haven’t been there in years….I think the last time we were there was for the Tahoe Marathon/Half Marathon.  The one where I don’t remember the last two miles….I mean, there are photos of me looking pretty green near the end, so I got there somehow.  Anyway, I digress….

Brian and I haven’t been to Tahoe in years, so we were really excited when our friends Sean and Chiara invited us on a weekend away.  I was a little worried about getting out of work to get up there in any sort of reasonable time, but it actually wasn’t as big of an issue as I thought it might be.  Traffic was….bay area traffic, but wasn’t as terrible as I thought it might be.  After grabbing a bite at one of the sketchiest, slowest Wendy’s I’ve ever been to and a dark drive down some winding roads, we arrived at about 11:30.  Enjoyed some celebratory beers before settling into some bunkbeds.  So tired…..

I got up Saturday morning to a group of friends preparing breakfast (I knew better than to jump in and touch anything ;))….it was as if we’d all known each other for years, rather than just met the night before.  And the food was delicious… one was going to go hungry on this trip.

After breakfast, I decided I needed to explore – busted foot and all.  Brian went out on a run, I swapped the ankle brace from my left foot to my right, and off I went.  It started out simple enough…planned on two miles out and two miles back….staying in a simple straight path – out and back.  Of course, I wasn’t planning on finding a trail.  Cause when I find a trail….I wonder where it goes.  And I have to find out.  I mean, I have Strava, and it will route me back, right?

The trail was great….pretty flat, through some gorgeous trees, I even found some trail race markers….and then it ended.  So, I ended up on the road….which was fine, I had a fine time exploring the nearby neighborhood.  Other than not really knowing where I was….typical me….haha.  Thankfully, I had Strava going and was able to route myself back.

Once I got un-lost and got back from my walk, we headed out to Camp Richardson to meet the rest of the group.  If you go to Camp Richardson, make sure you bring cash for parking….or stop at the general store once you get there, but before you pull in.  I think we had $4 on us…oops.  Luckily, it was an easily solvable problem and I was able to pick up some snacks at the store too.  No keep Tahoe blue sticker though.

The plan for the day was to rent kayaks and head over to Emerald Bay.  Since Sean and Chiara had decided to go for a double kayak, I decided Brian and I would do the same (he was parking the car)….I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend the day in a kayak with me.  haha.  Our new friend Anna took a single kayak and the rest of the group went the stand-up paddle board route.

And, what a great day….good friends….cold beer….an adventure on the water…on a beautiful day.  Of course, I ended up with a new running pants tan line and flip flop tan line, because, well, why wouldn’t I….haha.  

Saturday night, we hung out at the house and made good use of the BBQ, the hot tub, and the sauna.  We all brought our own food, but shared everything, so dinner was a buffet of all sorts of meat and veggies and cocktails and wine.  I’m not sure I ever had flank steak, but wow…it was delicious.  As was the lamb and the rest of the steak I tried.  Such a fun night with old friends and new friends.

I decided I need to sleep on the top bunk of the bunk beds that night.  Not sure why that was a good idea….maybe it was the wine.  Or that I hadn’t been on bunk beds since Sarah and I went to London in 2004.  Anyway, I survived the top bunk experience and even remembered I was up there the next morning.  haha…..

We kicked off Sunday with yoga on the porch….what a great way to stretch out after a day of paddling on Saturday.  It was a great start to a warm and gorgeous day….even if I’m less than stellar at yoga….haha.  Anna was a great instructor too :).

After yoga on the porch, we decided to have a relaxing day at the beach and headed over to Falling Leaf Lake.  It’s another lake near lake Tahoe, but a little further up the road.  And, well, we all know how good I am at relaxing.  I was considering wrapping up the busted foot and shoving it in a hiking boot so I could go explore the trails around Falling Leaf Lake, but instead decided to have a second go at stand-up paddle boarding with Nathalie and Chiara.  June and I had a blast when we went a couple summers ago, so I figured this would be fun too (and far less taxing on my ankle).  And it was amazing.  Well, once I remembered how to do it…haha.

We paddled over to a private beach, then over past some Stanford cottages, relaxing and hanging out along the way.  The cold water felt great on my foot too.  Sadly, our hour was over far too soon and it was time to head back.  After paddling against the wind to get back to the protected beach, we just stopped and coasted in….we didnt want it to end.  I had visions of riding in like a surfer, but apparently that’s a bad idea…..luckily, Nathalie let me know and I scrambled to my knees just in time.  

But, like all good things, our trip had to come to an end…and we had quite the drive in front of us.  So, we said farewell to our new friends and jumped in the car with Sean and Chiara to head home.  

Of course, despite leaving at a reasonable time, there was an accident on 50 impacting all four lanes of traffic.  So we sat….and sat…and sat some more….two hours and less than two miles later, we got through it.  Annoying, but not the longest trip back from Tahoe I’ve heard of and a small price to pay for a fabulous weekend adventuring with friends.

Until next time….over and out…

Impromptu Chicago Vacation

So today started out as a normal travel day.  Early morning, easy pass through security, lots of seats at the gate.  And then the flight computer was broken….but they started boarding….then they stopped boarding.  We’re checking connecting flights, they said.  Unless you’re going to Reno, don’t worry, they said.  If we leave by 11:30, all connections will be fine, they said.  We were ready to leave by 11:35….

Then something else broke.  Don’t worry, they said – connections are fine.  Here are all the gates for connecting flights…..if we didn’t read your gate, you don’t have a problem, they said.  I never heard Oakland….of course, my first thought was that I mis-calculated the time in flight and the time difference and actually had an hour.  They wouldn’t just forget me, right??  I decided I must have screwed something up, and continued swapping airline horror stories with the couple from Portland that was seated next to me.  Small world – she was from Redwood City (where I just took a job), visiting family in Buffalo.

Once we landed, I knew something was off.  My phone confirmed the time – 12:21….my flight was planned to leave at 12:15.  No email or text stating it was delayed….but, they were holding the Portland and Reno flights….so, maybe I was going to get lucky?  Maybe they just forgot to mention it?

I made a beeline for the flight monitors as soon as I was off the plane: Nashville…Omaha…Orlando….Oakland?  Anybody going to Oakland?  Does my flight exist?  I went to the first gate I saw and asked for help.  Yup, they confirmed that my flight left.  Awesome.  So….what now?  She’s messing with the computer to see when they can get me out….tomorrow 6:20pm.  uhhh….ok.  So, where’s my hotel voucher.  Oh wait, there’s nothing in her email about my flight delay being mechanical, so no voucher for me.  But she gave me a card and I can call the number on the card and they should be able to help me out (never mind there’s no phone number on the card)….she sends me along to the next gate over where there’s a plane headed to San Francisco that I can maybe be standby on.  Great…..

After my somewhat disappointing interaction at the first gate and feeling abandoned by Southwest, I headed over to the San Francisco gate.  No one was there and the jet way door was closed, neither of which was a good sign, so I waited in line at the desk there.  Coincidentally, I get behind another lady trying to get to the bay area.  The guy tells her the same thing the other lady told me, but somehow she got on a flight to San Jose…and I think they’re paying for her cab to Oakland or San Francisco or where ever she’s going.  I also watched them give another guy a food voucher.  Finally, it’s my turn.  I asked the lady if there was a customer service desk at the airport, and once she told me it was her, I handed her the card the previous desk had given me, and explained the situation.  Of course, she tells me the card isn’t going to get me anywhere.  However, her boss (who was helping the other Bay Area passenger) told her if I was on the Buffalo flight to give me the hotel voucher.  So I got that, then asked about food….so she gave me one meal voucher.  Ok, not trying to be difficult, but I have at least five meals (vs. the one I was planning on) between now and 6:20pm tomorrow, which is the next time you can get me out.  She tells me customer service should be able to help me sort that out…based on previous experiences, they are pretty helpful, so I thanked her for her help and went on my way.

Since my food voucher was going to expire today (and I was pretty hungry), I decided to grab a bite before leaving the airport.  Went to Harry Carey’s for a delicious lunch of Chianti and Fettuccine…yum.  Especially yummy since I didn’t know what or when I would be eating next.  

After lunch, I found my way out of the airport – pretty quick when you don’t have any bags – and found the sign for the Midway Hotel Shuttles.  I waited for a few minutes, along with a few others standing in a the general vicinity, but then had a fleeting thought that maybe I needed to call the hotel so they would send the shuttle to come get me.  Did a quick google on the phone and called the Midway Hampton.  Yes, in fact, you do need to call.  The little red bus showed up less than five minutes later (as the lady told me it would) and just about everyone there jumped on it.  Was I the only one who thought to call for it?  How long had these people been waiting before I got there?

Checking into the hotel was pretty painless.  Got a room easily and there’s even free breakfast, though I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss that tomorrow.  The nice lady at the desk even gave me a toothbrush and found a phone charger in the lost and found for me to borrow.

After getting to my room and figuring out exactly how the key works…of course it’s all it has on it is a picture of kids in a wagon and the caption, ‘backseat driver’, no arrow or anything to indicate how to use it in the door.  I call Southwest to figure out how to get reimbursed for the additional meals and to check and see if there’s another flight they could get me on.  The good news, I can get out at 6am tomorrow….ugh for the earliness, but yay I’ll get home and can take care of the pets.  Of course, they can’t check me in until tomorrow morning, so I’m sure I’ll be at the back of the C’s….goodbye B8….The maybe good news, only customer service at HQ can deal with any meal reimbursements and they aren’t open until Monday.  Ok, I’ll call them tomorrow, last time I called the HQ service people, they were super helpful, but really??  No one else is empowered to do anything in this situation?  Wouldn’t it be easier for the people at the airport to be able to handle it and be done?

Once I was off the phone with the airlines, I took off for Walmart…..the only thing I really needed was a bottle of contact solution.  I mean, I wanted wine and deodorant would be a nice courtesy to the people on the plane tomorrow, but being able to see was the main driver.  So, I headed off to what I believe is the same Walmart Brian and I went to a few summers ago when we were sure we were going to star on the next episode of The First 48.  It looked like it was going to pour (of course, I’d get my storm now…) and at some point, raindrops did start falling.  At that point I started jogging, thank you knee for holding up during that one, but the rain held off.  It even held off for me to get back to the hotel, despite the people in front of me having the poor cashier price check all 30 of their items.  All in all, a successful trip….contact solution, wine, and deodorant.  And there was a Subway in the Walmart, so I have a sandwich for later.  

Shortly after returning to my room, I realize that while I have procured a bottle of wine, I have no way to open it.  So, being the tech savvy person I am, I look on google for ways to open a bottle of wine without an opener.  Use a knife….yup, definitely don’t have that.  Put it in a shoe and bang it against a wall…hmmm, probably not the best idea in a hotel.  Use a key….ahhh, yes, I have a few of those I don’t use.  I’ve been looking for a use for that old desk key anyway….So I try that.  And break the key.  And possibly my shoulder.  So I try another key.  Not getting very far.  I briefly consider asking the front desk, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have a wine opener and have already lent me a phone charger.  So, I decide to head out on another adventure to find a wine opener, there has to be a convenience store nearby that’s closer and less sketchy of walk than Walmart, right?

So, I head out.  Somehow, the rain has held off or blown over or is probably waiting to either disturb my sleep or impede on my travel tomorrow morning.  I decide to head the opposite way of Walmart, since it looks like there are signs of life down that way as well and what looks like a liquor store on the next block.  Liquor store – sweet – they have to have a wine opener, right?  Sure, they probably did….back in 1990 before they closed.  As I get closer, I realize it’s nothing more than an abandoned building with nothing left but the awning.  A block further, there’s a Continental Sales – Lots for Less – Food, Household Goods, and More, on the corner.  That sounds promising.  A bit sketch, but promising.  And oh what a place that was….kind of like if a grocery store and a TJMaxx had a baby, this place would be it.  But, they did have a $.75 wine opener.  Score.  And, it works pretty well, I’m a little sad I have to leave it, but am pretty sure it’s not allowed on the plane.  haha.

Alright, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that I’m at a hotel instead of the airport and for less than $10 have food and beverages for the evening….I mean, who doesn’t love wine in a paper cup and a sandwich from a Walmart Subway?  And Southwest, well, at the end of this you’re either going to be the prime example of customer service or the bain of my existence….only time will tell.

Until next time (hopefully from home)….over and out.

Thinking of Nepal

One year ago today, I was on a plane to Korea – final destination, Kathmandu, Nepal and the trek of a life-time.  Today, I woke up to text messages and emails about a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hitting the region.  To put it in perspective, the Loma Prieta, the ’89 earthquake that hit San Francisco, was a 6.9.  The Napa quake that caused quite a bit of damage late last year was a 6.0.  A 7.8 in California would do a lot of damage….in Nepal, it’s been catastrophic.
I took the below photo on our first day out and about.  We’d just finished touring our first Durbar Square (basically the word for palace in Nepal) and were enjoying lunch at a rooftop restaurant.  I took the photo because I liked watching the people in the street below….and there was just something about the multi-colored building across the way.

I found this picture of the same area online this morning.  I recognized the colored building right away.  However, most everything else, including the building I was standing on it seems, is gone.

photo credit:

It’s unsettling to know that many, if not all, of the historical places I visited around Kathmandu are gone, if not forever changed.  From the first day exploring Kathmandu on a seven mile walk to the tour we took with Ron Jon (totally not how it’s supposed to be spelled, but that’s how I remember it ;)), all of those would be completely different if we took them this year….if that would even be possible now.

And that was before the trek even started.  I read an article somewhere that said the small villages were 80% damaged.  I tried to look for further information, but was unable to find any.  Not really surprising….communication and internet and phone were difficult enough to come by during normal times, I can’t imagine now.  Are the lodges we stayed in still standing….in any sort of shape that’s reparable?  Are the people who showed us nothing but kindness safe?  I can’t help but think of the woman who ran the lodge at Lobuche and knitted wool hats to sell as souvenirs.  She had a horse for rent and let me charge all of my electronic gadgets for the hourly fee, even though they ran over the hour.  Or Namche….what of the bartender who served celebratory beers on the way down, who had moved from Queens, NY, after her Sherpa husband.  And the souvenir shop owners who sold us most of our gifts….and told us we could store it in our guide’s house while we were trekking….haha.  I can only hope that they’re all safe and able to repair their homes and businesses.

And that’s not saying anything of the guides, porters, and kitchen boys who were with us every step of the way.  From the ‘sherpa saunas’ to clear my congestion to a hand up to the top of Kala Patthar to all twenty-some of them rushing out to say goodbye as we made one last trek to the Lukla airport, nothing was overlooked and they always made sure we had exactly what we needed.  I can only hope, pray, and send positive thoughts that they and their families are safe.

We’ve reached out via email, but haven’t heard back yet.  Of course, internet will be very difficult to come by, and they’re trekking with a group, so I’m sure have lots to sort out with their current group.  One of my fellow trekkers checked the site, and we think the schedule puts them somewhere near Gorak Shep, the highest point of the trek.  Hopefully it was Kala Patthar day and they would have been heading back down at the time of the quake.

All the places I’ve traveled have been special to me.  Nepal, first because of the people and second because of the history.  Never have I been somewhere that just about everyone treated you like one of their own.  I hope that they are able to rebuild and that people continue to travel there, because it truly was a life-changing experience.



Everest Trek – The End of the Road

Annnnd, once again, it’s taken me forever to get back and update this….must. get. back. into. blogging. haha….

I guess I’ve just been busy…running up Mt. Diablo, traveling back to Buffalo for mom’s birthday, working on a bunch of stuff for my new job, signing up for a 50k run in august.  And, our lead Sherpa from our Nepal trip came to San Francisco to bring his son to school.  We were able to meet him for dinner, so we took him to Sam’s Chowder House – gave him his first experience with chowder, halibut, and key lime pie.  So much fun and so great to see him.

Anyway….on to the end of the trek….

And, we’re back in Kathmandu…it seems like, just like that – it’s over.

After dinner last night was pretty much a goodbye party.  We had lodge food for dinner, and it made us really, really thankful for our cooks on the trek.  Once we were done eating, the entire team came in to say goodbye and get their tips.  We got to see the kitchen boy who received the coat Brian donated.  He was so happy and proud of his new jacket – he had never had one before.  One of the guides took my shoes, I’m glad someone was able to use them, even though they’re small.  As we gave each of the groups their tips (kitchen boys, guides, porters, etc.), they came around and shook hands and gave hugs – some really emotional moments.

We finished the night with a few rounds of sherpa alcohol our guide bought for us, Everest beer, and a championship round of dominos.  A great ending to a great trip, and I still can’t believe it’s over.

As we left this morning, all of the porters and kitchen boys ran out of the kitchen tent to wish us one final goodbye.  As we walked further up the road to the airport, the guides met us to wish us goodbye as well.  A few more powerful moments as we followed our head guide to the airport.  After weighing all of our luggage and getting tickets, we bid farewell to him and our sidar.  He wished us well and told us he’d see us in San Francisco.

The flight out of Lukla wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the flight in.  Granted, we had to wait for them to clean up a bunch of popcorn kernels (the flight before us was carrying people and supplies)…quite funny actually.  Then, we were off – down the downhill runway, kind of like a roller coaster.  Our final guide got us to our van at the Kathmandu airport, and then we dropped him off at home on the way to the hotel, officially saying goodbye to the final person from the trek.

Now that I’ve been back for awhile, and had more time to reflect, I’ve realized how awesome all of this really was.  It seemed like each day kicked my butt more than the one before, and I truly didn’t think I could do it again, climb one more hill or one more flight of stone steps.  But, then I did…and I made it through the next day, and the one after that too.

The cough eventually went away, I got over the sick, and the ankle has pretty much healed.  But, the memories will last a life time, and the photos longer than that.  I’ll never forget Mr. Bean turning around at the top of Kalapatthar and telling me that I had two more steps to go.  My smiling photo at the top will forever remind me that I can do things I thought I couldn’t.  

Everest Trek – Lukla – 5/15

So, I woke up this morning with a very angry ankle.  As I unwrapped it, Brian was like, please dont be black and blue, please dont be black and blue.  I, of course thought it was too early for it to be black and blue.  So, of course, it was black and blue…..awesome.  And, of course, I just wrapped it back up and shoved it in my boot.  It only had to make it three hours.

Our last day of hiking was a lot of fun.  It was relatively flat, I’m finally feeling close to normal (of course), and  my foot held up ok.  We also enjoyed seeing everyone come through from Lukla at the start of their trek.  Some looking prepared, some with guides, some without.  One without any warm clothes or a sleeping bag…how are you going to trek without a sleeping bag?  One rather large gentleman who walked by and said, ‘I thought I’d give this a go’…..I dont think he had any gear.  And my favorite, a girl in full make-up, short shorts, and a strappy tank top….. good luck with that as you go up the mountain….

As we walked, I tried to take in as much as possible from all of the little towns we passed.  I felt like I missed so much the first time we came through.  The school children, the porters hauling up the latest load (food, candy, beer, etc.), and the people in the village going about their business.  It made me wonder how long the Himalayas will stay as I remember.  Will these somewhat hidden villages stay hidden except to those to trek to them?  Or will the modernization continue?  Cell phones are already everywhere, even at the highest elevations.  And, apparently for the right price, you can helicopter to Gorak Shep (the highest place we slept) and take photos.  How long before the nearest road isnt more than two days walk and there really is a gondola to the top of Everest.

Once we got back to Lukla, we took a bunch of photos – group shots, us with our guide, etc.  Then we had the final meal cooked by our kitchen staff – cinnamon rolls, french fries, and yak cheese…haha…I will miss these healthy lunches.  It’s great to be back to civilization…and have the opportunity for a (not) warm shower, but I really cant believe we’re already back…and we head back to Kathmandu tomorrow.   I’m sad it’s over, but so glad I had the adventure.