Sunday, March 27, 2016

Weekend: Mt Diablo Hike and Jack London Square

This weekend was a lot of fun.  SMS and I were pretty mellow since we have a big weekend planned next weekend when Mom and Dad come to visit!!!!  Hooray!
Coffee purchase by SMS
On Friday, SMS made a delicious baked egg dish in our little ramekins.  Sometimes I feel like we rediscover a way to cook things and I think ramekins will be showing up with more frequency in the near future!

Saturday, SMS and I went to the Mountain View Running Club Saturday run.  We talked to a lot of nice people both during the run (3.5 miles) and afterward at Starbucks.  I'm so glad SMS came.  We're going to be doing more running and hiking in preparation for Summer adventures!  The afternoon was pretty lazy.  That evening, we met up with a really nice couple for dinner at Doppio Zero.  I had met the woman at my book club and got along really well so we decided to meet up for dinner.  It could have gone poorly but I think everyone had a really nice time.
Flowers along the trail

Sights along the trail- do you see the turkey in the top left picture?  We even saw him flying, which looked as
ungraceful as I would have imagined if I had ever thought of a turkey flying.
 SMS planned our Sunday adventure.  He found a great book detailing local hikes and he decided we'd do the Mt. Diablo State Park Donner Canyon Waterfall Loop.  This time of year, the wildflowers are out and it's not too hot so...perfect!  The hike is a little over 5.5 miles with some decent inclines.  It was beautiful and we really enjoyed ourselves.  There were a fair number of people out but not uncomfortably so.
Waterfalls along the trail
Afterward, we headed into Oakland and explored Jack London Square.  The day was gorgeous and we sat outside for awhile for lunch at !!!Plank, a restaurant/bocce ball/bowling alley/arcade.  It was a really cool place and would be really nice for a group event.  After lunch, we played a couple rounds of SkeeBall and one round of Air Hockey.  
We headed home afterward and have just been enjoying the tail end of the weekend.  I have some exciting work research plans in preparation for my next job so I'll be working on that for the next three months.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Screenshots from Neko Atsume.  Even in my brief time, I collected several "Rare Cats:"
Peaches, Joe DiMeowgio, and Senor Don Gato.  And a rude butt cat, but that wasn't rare.
Since the marathon, SMS and I have been staying more local which is fun and restful but not very exciting for the blog.  Since I usually write about our travels, I sort of fall off the map when things aren't as "eventful."  But here are some updates, bullet-style...

* I've run three times since the marathon: a tempo run (excellent), 3.5 miles with the Mountain View Running Club (MVRC- fun!), 14.5 miles (ok).  I wasn't sure how I was going to approach post-marathon running and there seem to be many opinions on the best post-race plan.  I ended up going with the "Run when I feel like running" plan.  I kept Jyots company on two runs and we both went to the MVRC two weeks in a row.  I really like the social aspect of the MVRC run so I will keep that up.  I'm not sure where I want to keep my long run mileage.   Anyway, zzzzzz....  Boring!  I have almost fallen asleep typing this so I'm going to move on.  Here's a funny article about hating on marathon runners before you go.
Faceplant.  This is how Snowball feels about having
5 pages of a dedicated photo album to her.
*I have had the rise and fall of Neko Atsume on my phone.  I read about it in the NYTimes, which definitely means I've already missed the trend by at least six months.  Nevertheless, I downloaded it on my phone and became weirdly obsessed with gold fish, silver fish, and that chubby chubster Tubbs who kept eating all the food.  In fairness to Tubbs, he usually left more fish than the food cost but the times he didn't- infuriating.  Tubbs, you did not just leave 20 silver fish for a 3 gold fish can of Ritzy Bitz!!!! And that was when I realized that I was becoming a little weird about the game and spending way to much time tapping on my screen like a little lab animal.  So, away it went.  But not before I bought the room expansion (proud moment!).
Tubbs, oh tubby tub Tubbs.  Other rare cats include Ms. Fortune, Guy Furry and Ramses the Great.
*Our Chinese class is over!  Yay!  SMS and I saw our commitment through and had perfect attendance (Mom and Dad, you raised me well!).  Chinese is very difficult and the pronunciation, combined with the tones, really takes a lot of dedicated practice and perseverance.  We've decided we're not super-interested in pursuing it so for now, my mastery of the Chinese language is decidedly on hold.
Beginning of the party, clearly.
 *We had a really nice dinner with friends last night where we drank fancy California wine and ate Buddha bowls with veg and paleo options.  The base is rice (real or fake no-carb "rice), lots of veggies (carrots, red cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes) and a protein (peanut sauce tofu or coconut amino-flavored chicken).  It was all delicious and we got to use SMS' new decanter while he looked on, barely partaking since he sort of wrecked himself climbing like a maniac earlier in the day and was completely wiped out.

*Silicon Valley is crazy.  We were talking about a package offered by a local hotel for $9,995 that is completely insane since it mostly features things that are free.  I want to do most of the activities but I'll do it on my own rather than place my money carefully on their concierge's counter and then set it on fire.  I have figured out a way to make money though- we are going to rent our little cardboard home on AirBnB.  The listing is almost complete.  I just need to get better pictures!
It has a certain j'ne sais quoi, non?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Napa Marathon Weekend

Although Napa is fairly close by, J and I decided to make a short getaway out of our trip.  On Saturday, we met up at the Runner's Expo in the Napa Marriott.  There we picked up our bibs, our duffel bags and tech shirts.  The lines weren't too long and things were well organized.  I also tried several Nuun flavors at their booth.  They weren't terrible (great recommendation) and if I ever needed to get into hydration supplements, I'd probably pick the watermelon flavor.

After the Expo, we booked it over to the Whole Foods to get our other swag bags.  The bag was awesome!  Lots of drinks, bars and little snacks.  Not everyone got one so I'm glad we hustled over to pick one up. 

There was a lot of rain but we were becoming happier with the developing forecast that was predicting little rain the next morning.  We headed up to Calistoga to check into our hotel and then headed downstairs to the restaurant for an early dinner.  A lot of dishes were shared.  SMS and I got pizzas and his mushroom pizza seemed to be the table's favorite dish.  It was generous with the mushrooms and the cheese was perfectly paired.  It was pretty delicious.

Then it was off to bed.  I didn't sleep all that well because I was more nervous than I thought.  But I woke up feeling fairly rested and most of all, excited!

After the race, we headed to Oxbow Market for lunch.  I really sold the group on the place saying it was like "a food court in a big shed."  But no one put up a fight and when we got there, A&J really liked it.  A suggested that it was more like a food hall in a European Train Station and that is definitely a better description.  We went to Kitchen Door, which is a restaurant with its own seating section.  I didn't want to have to deal with hovering and snagging the limited tables in the central area.  It was really crowded and I didn't have the energy!  The food there was great.  I enjoyed a plate of Singapore noodles.  SMS had a delicious beef tartare breakfast plate.  My favorite was A's salmon eggs benedict.  Those were pretty phenomenal.  

Next, we went to Hess and Alpha & Omega for wine tastings. When in Napa!  We met a really nice group in Hess that we talked to for a bit.  J and I wore our medals all day and they were definitely conversation starters!  Maybe I'll start wearing it all the time!  But, yes, wearing the medals helped us identify fellow runners (most everyone recovers so nicely once the race is done!).  We also talked to people who were curious to know what event had shut down the roads earlier in the morning or thought that the idea of a marathon was cool.

For dinner, we went to Evangeline in Calistoga.  My favorite dish was actually the pickled vegetables.  They were so good!  They were crisp and fresh tasting, even though they were lightly pickled.  Amazing!  I also had the salmon appetizer for dinner.  It's delicious although my description isn't- salmon with creme fraiche on a hash brown. 

I was a little less impressed with the maitre'd initially because he tried to seat us outside on the patio saying, "It's heated."  Um, no.  It's raining and there are tables inside that I just called about and you said were free.  I think it was because we had a toddler with us but guess who is awesome?  That kid!  He is so cute and well-behaved.  And sure enough, he was quieter than some of the other patrons.  So, even though I sometimes cringe when I see kids at a less-than-family friendly restaurant, there are definitely some kids who can handle it.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Napa Valley Marathon 2016 Recap

This past Sunday, I ran my first marathon in 11 years!  It was the culmination of a pretty awesome training program.  I was really happy that I stuck with the 18 week program and it's all due to having an incredible training partner.  I never would have done it on my own, which I'll be honest, I don't totally like admitting but hey, if I need some external accountability and another person to get me to stick to my long runs then so be it!  I've also made a great friend in the process so this whole experience was much more than just the race but since that was the goal, let me tell you about it!
At the Expo for our number pick-up
So, J and I decided to stay in Calistoga the night before the race.  This allowed us to "sleep in" until 5:45 rather than wake up even earlier in Napa to catch the 5:15 shuttle.  We walked over to the race and a couple of notes for future reference.  One, the Calistoga Roastery opened early so we could have had real coffee instead of lukewarm instant made from tap water.  The lukewarm instant was all part of the experience but if you're looking for slightly higher quality coffee, the coffee shop apparently provides on marathon Sunday.  Two, the traffic in Calistoga was highly overstated by the race organizers.  It would have been very easy to drive and find nearby parking if one wanted to avoid the Napa shuttle departure time.  I wouldn't show up five minutes before start time but still, nice to know.

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

Next, I dropped off two 0.5L disposable water bottles with Honey Stingers taped to the sides.  These were transported to specific aid stations and laid out on a foldout table right along the course.  At 9.3 and 20.4 miles, my water bottle was waiting for me.  I ran with the bottle until the next mile marker and then put it in the provided trash bag set up at the base of the marker.   This ended up being a pretty awesome perk of being in a small marathon.  Even though there were plenty of water stations with fruit options, it was nice to be able to drink a little more water at two specific points while still being able to move.  In addition, I was happy to fuel with my known Honey Stingers rather than risk an upset stomach with a weird flavor goo.
So excited!
After a quick stop at the PortaPotties (plenty of toilets but you know, sometimes the less said about those things the better!  Ok, ok, there was a little bit of poop on the seat.  Eeeeemwwww!!!!), we headed towards the start.  After "The Star Spangled Banner," we were off!  The RF trackers are now located in the bibs instead of the shoe chips I was used to from the 2000s.  J even signed A up for text message updates.  We crossed the tracker line and started running.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My #1 fan!