Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Beautiful Day on Mt. Tam

I'm going to do my best to let my pictures do the talking here, as they are more than worthy of the responsibility. I ran an awesome 1/2 marathon today in the Santa Cruz mountains, running a respectable 2:52 (Ed ran an even more respectable 1:50!). That post is for another day, but the run did take a lot out of me, leaving me less than eloquent.

So, without further ado, here in pictures is our 8 mile jaunt on Mt Tam last weekend. We took Alpine Spring trail to West Point Inn, and from there took a fire trail up to the summit. It was a place we always wanted to visit, and we were excited to go there on foot.

(A lizard checking out the view)

Taking a break in a Mt Tam Gravity Car

We were very happy with the views, and accidently took a mile-ish trail around the summit, which sported amazing views of our whole surroundings.

Ed taking a break running on a side trail (I was too nervous about the bees that were hanging at the trail)

The summit lookout - I'd seen this in photos before

Then, we got a chance to go to the very top!

We made good time on the way down, but I was hurting by the end. I think it was just too much time outside (we spent a while on the summit) - mostly, dehydrated, sunburned and low in electrolytes.

The view from our car at the finish of our run

On the way down, we stopped to check out a place to take photos together after the wedding (we wanted redwoods), and were pleased.

Shortly thereafter, I started feeling incredibly sick - nauseous and pretty miserable. We also hadn't eaten in well over 5 hours, and my breakfast was french toast, not exactly lasting food. So, we stopped for sandwhiches - I tried to come in, but felt a bit like I was going to keel over, so I hurried back to the car. Ed saved the day with a big bag of salty chips and a good sandwich. It helped a lot, and soon I was feeling better and we were heading home.

Amazing to think that the next time we are on that mountain, it will be for our wedding :).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

44 Days....

until Ed and I spend the most amazing day on Mt Tam of our lives :)

(fair warning - this post is very wedding filled. I know this is a running blog, and this weekend did include running, which I will talk about soon, but for now, this is just a documentation of a romantic, wonderful weekend :) )

Ed and I were up spending a romantic overnight trip at Mountain Home Inn to take care of some pressing issues.

Who knew taking care of issues could be so relaxing and fun?

After we checked into the inn (a new room - #4, which we had always wanted to try),

we headed upstairs to try the first of what would be many complimentary delights - a glass of wine on the deck.

After enjoying the cooling evening air, we headed back to get fancied up, and then returned for the official start of our tasting.

We were given many, many choices. We had to decide on cocktail hour treats, 2 appetizers, 3 entrees, and wine.

These were some of our favorites:
Cheese board - we knew that this would be a definite. It's displayed on a huge slab of redwood and includes fabulous goat's cheese, local blue cheese, another good one I can't remember, candied pecans, curried walnuts, and grapes (with, of course, bread). Yum!

Our salad choice is this great hazelnut and feta(?) salad with tangerines. Very light and summery. We also picked a fabulous carrot ginger soup that was heavenly. 

All the food is seasonal and local, which makes it fabulous. 

As far as entrees, I had a very surprising favorite.

Balsamic marinated grilled portobello mushroom with a creamy cheese polenta and asparagus. Now, I have never had a portobello and generally hate mushrooms. But, this was amazing! I might even order this as the wedding - seriously. 

In addition, we're also getting grilled salmon with mashed potatoes (not the potato pictured) and a fennel salad that Ed loved. 

Finally, we're getting a petite filet with a cabernet sauce, spinach, and fingerling potatoes. 

Wine wise, also surprising myself, we're getting chardonnay! It was really lovely. We picked a cab to, of course, go with the filet. 

And, even though we're not having one of their desserts, they still brought out molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Wow. 

While we stuffed ourselves, we managed to ask our wedding coordinator everything we could think of, and now feel like everything is totally ready for us to be married :). I'm excited to know that a lot of my ideas about the wedding will actually work, and that all the big decisions seem to have been made. 

After trying 4 appetizers, 2 soups, 2 salads, 4 entrees, 4 wines, and dessert, we stumbled downstairs to change and find a flashlight. 

We decided the best course of action after all that food was a night hike. I was a bit nervous (of course - mountain lions and I continue to be adversaries), especially because our flashlight wasn't exactly well working. 

Still, the night air was beautiful and it was gorgeous watching the night lights brightening far down below and the silhouettes of the mountain and trees above. 

We wandered around on firetrails that were near the inn, ending up going by the fire station. 

We tried to use the flashlight to little success, and ended up back down at the parking lot across from the inn on a bench, just sitting and watching darkness fall over the valley below. 

Finally, we made our way back to the inn. 

We had learned during our tasting that the inn actually has board games - including national park scrabble, and decided that that would be a fun way to spend our evening. 

As we began playing the manager, Bryson, who was amazing, brought us chocolate infused complimentary port and lit us a fire in the fireplace. Seriously, wonderful service. It is so nice being wined and dined :). 

Finally, it was time to turn in, still very full and sleepy from so much delicious drink. 
The next morning, we had a lovely relaxing start to our day, reading in the room (and drinking 3 cups of coffee! I never drink coffee) and enjoying the deck. 

Around 10, we realized that we finally needed to start our day, so we headed up for our breakfast. 

After a hearty meal of french toast (me) and eggs and potatoes (him), we read for a bit and then checked out, right on time for meeting our photographer at 11. 

I was really looking forward to this, as we chose this photographer through the internet, and hadn't actually met previously. Ed found the team, and we loved their website, which featured photos from our wedding location. I was still a little nervous, because photographs are so important to me. 

Well, our fears were completely put at rest. Vita Hewitt was great! I had made up a list of photos that we wanted, which she really appreciated. As we went through the list, she made notes and asked good questions. We knew it was a good fit when she told us that her husband would probably be taking the camera sometimes because he is just so in love with this mountain and loves to shoot here. We also asked for no silly shots or fisheye shots (there is a special lens for these). She is also not a fan of either silly shots and doesn't even have a fisheye lens because she really dislikes it - perfect match!

After going through the list and making sure she understood it all, we headed up to the point to get a feel for the ceremony pictures. She let us know where she would be during the ceremony, checking with us to make sure that we were okay with her plans. She's even planning to bring a ladder for after the ceremony to get a shot of the whole group. 

It was certainly a beautiful day up at the point. 

She really was making sure she had a good feel for us as a couple and I think she and her husband will do such a great job. 

After the point, we stopped at another place to see if we could find somewhere to take photos in the redwoods. We found one potential spot off of Bootjack, but the redwoods were sparse. 

Driving back to the inn, we spotted another grove that we decided to revisit later. 

It was a great meeting and I feel so excited about having this important part of the wedding set. 

The rest of our day was spent (of course) up on the mountain. But, I'm going to save that story for another post! For now, this will give you an idea of what the day was like:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Two Big Decisions

Training has been going well lately, and it's been begging the question, what's next. I've been able to push myself - up to almost 14 miles - with no discernible difference in my leg. In fact, the weeks that I don't run much, the leg actually hurts more.

So, despite the annoying, always present, tingling and achiness, I've started to set my sight on some bigger thoughts.

I've looked at the calendar, done some research, and have decided. My next big race will be (drum roll please):

(and, yes, I mean marathon, not the half!)

I dutifully have written down a training program that will take me from this week to August 29th. I'll admit, I'm a bit worried, as I've written down some pretty heavy mileage (July calls for 147 miles!). I am excited though, to think about running 15 miles in Siena and 16 in Germany while on our honeymoon :). I asked Ed if he thought we'd be able to run 16 somewhere in Germany. "Can we run 16 in Germany?" he scoffed.  "We can run 30! 40! 50!" I think we'll stick to the schedule, but glad to know he's so confident :).

This marathon seems like a good "first" choice. Much like my first marathon, it's flat (which, while I love trails, just feels safer to me). It is also a modified out and back, that you do twice. While that sounds not too exciting, it's on mostly trails and I think it'll feel less scary jumping in with an increasingly familiar course. Ed is planning to run a 50k the previous day, so I'll cheer him then, and he'll cheer me at mine. This will make the format of the course even better, because from one spot, Ed will see me 4 times!

Santa Rosa is beautiful - quiet wine country. I think a nice, subdued race will be great.

This training also makes for a fun summer. Early August, where I hit my heaviest mileage, I'll be happily on summer break, and once I start tapering I will (hopefully) be back to teaching.

So, we'll see how all of this goes. My leg is actually pretty sore at this exact moment, which makes me worry that all these plans won't pan out, but the fact remains that my leg's pain has been constant for almost 3 years, despite the amount of running that I do or don't do. I don't think waiting will do anything - I'm ready to try. If the pain really gets worse, I'll stop, but by the end of July, I should know.

My second big decision (which will seem much less big after this announcement) is that I've decided to start a push-up training program. I'd love a somewhat more toned upper body before the wedding (which is in 7 weeks!) and I stumbled upon this:

I'm all signed up, and I did my first workout today. While I really wanted to do real push ups, I had to go with modified knee push ups - just not strong enough yet. I've only 'officially' scheduled the first two weeks, so we'll see how this goes. Maybe I can switch to the real push ups at some point :). My arms are a little sore as we speak, so I'm excited to see how this goes.

Wish me luck with all of this craziness!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Bright Day on Skyline Ridge

Ed and I had a wonderful 3ish hours on the trails together this Saturday. Our weather has taken a turn for the beautiful, and this weekend graced us with clear, blue skies and bright sunlight. 

Earlier this week, Ed suggested that we sign up for Coastal Trails' Horseshoe Lake run, coming up in 3 weeks. They have a half marathon distance, which fits perfectly into my current running ability, and sounded good to Ed, too. However, we will be running this race separately :). We realized two great things about this - first, that he will get to finish a race before me for once, and second, that we'll be crossing paths a few times on the out and backs and get to say, "hi."

To get ready, Ed suggested a training run on the race trails. We've run up here together, before, and I love it. To me, it is the "poor man's Mt. Tam." Similar in terrain, beauty, and microclimates. Not quite the same, but satisfies my love of open vistas and grassy fields. I picked 12 as our distance, because I actually want to taper for this - no hard runs right before! So, this is my last "long run" before the race. 

We parked by Horseshoe Lake (which is apparently where the race begins, though we didn't realize it until later). From here, we took a beautiful singletrack up to another beautiful singletrack (a great theme in our day). 

It's a wonderful moment, when you leave the redwoods and the cover and are greeted with the view of the tree covered mountains. 

This singletrack is really fun, too, because it gets flatter here, and there are amazing views with every step. 

There is even an area that looks like our wedding spot! If you can see it in the photo below, there is point just like ours :)

With some more vistas and rolling hills, we finally started getting some downhill running, which took us to Alpine Lake. 

This lake was going to be our water stop for the run - it has an awesome water fountain with very cool, fresh tasting water. Unfortunately, it was only 1.75 miles in, which proved to leave us with lots of unsupported running on a hot day. In any event, we were okay at this point :). 

Ed was really excited about the next part, because it was going to be new trails for him. 

This section on the Russian Ridge was popular while we were out there, with lots of hikers out enjoying the wildflowers. If you zoom on any of these photos,  you should be able to see the fields of yellow, purple and orange that surrounded us. 

I felt so lucky to be out there!

Of course, there were many uphills in this section, so we slowed to some hiking. Ed was great about it, and we had amazing views to keep us company. Now, instead of viewing the mountains, we were looking down on the Peninsula. We could see Mountain View and Palo Alto, even making out Stanford University. 

We took a slight detour to the top of a vista point (which didn't even have the dignity of being called a peak - this was apparently just a hill).

Luckily, what goes up, must go down, and we had some nice runnable trail for the next bit (you can see our trail in the distance).

Along this section, I realized how much I love the open vistas. There is something so special about being exposed in nature like that, with civilization far, far below. 

At this point, we were sort of making it up as we went, and went off on a thin singletrack that seemed promising. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a big, wooden deck, complete with benches and a side table! 

It had just the right amount of shade, and seemed a perfect place to have a "picnic" (i.e. some cliff blocks). Here Ed is comparing the electrolytes in gus and blocks (apparently the gus have more potassium - who knew?). 

We stayed for about 5 minutes, enjoying the rest and the gorgeous day. 

However, it was soon time to keep moving. We continued along, with rolling hills always present, and finally we reached the end of the road - literally. 

Hitting Skyline Blvd (the busy road that goes along the ridge), it was clear we were out of trail and needed to turn back. We were at 5.5, so a little short, but figured we'd make it up somehow on the way back. 

We reached the fireroad and decided to head off on a different trail, to add some mileage and hopefully have less climbing. 

Well, we were right about the mileage part. This new added section was nice and shady, but I was getting tired and water was getting low. Running on the unknown is also hard, because I had no idea how much climbing we still had left. Ed could tell I was getting tired, and was a good sport. 

We had one more choice in ways back, and I think I picked the right one. We got to see some more beautiful vistas and flowers. 

Finally, we started seeing more hikers, and soon we were back to familiar trails. I breathed a huge sigh of relief (and may have even let out a small yell of joy). It was downhill back to Alpine lake. Ed reminded me of the hill to come after the lake, but all I was worried about was getting to some water and resting a bit. 

We probably rested for at least 5 minutes (well, I sat on a bench and hydrated - Ed visited the nature center and took a look at the wildlife). After drinking an entire bottle of water and eating a few more blocks, it was time to move on. 

Less than 2 miles left, and I was tired! We tried to add a little more mileage by taking a fireroad rather than singletrack down by Horseshoe lake. However, we were still going to be a bit short. Ed suggested we add some mileage around the lake, but by this point I just wanted to be done. I was hot, tired, and (as I would discover later) ridiculously sunburnt. 

We finally made it back. Total? 11.78 miles - 22 hundredths of a mile short. We're just going to round up :). 

I'm still a little worried about the half marathon, after my last one, but I'm so glad we got to have the time on the trail.