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The Big Sur marathon offers a chance to experience dramatic landscapes along Highway 1 while tackling a challenging course. For this reason, it’s considered a great destination race for runners across the globe. This marathon has been on my bucket list for years, as it combines two things I love: running, which started in high school not far from the finish line in Monterey, and Northern California, where I grew up. Big Sur in particular has always been a magical place for me, in part due to yearly camping trips with my family when I was young, which is why I wanted it to be the first marathon I ran in my home state!

E and I had already signed up for the marathon when an old friend of mine from high school asked if we would join his relay team, We Be Crazies. He’s been trying to get me to run for the last 7 years, but the timing was never quite right. Doing the relay and the marathon seemed a bit nuts, but apparently we could run Leg 1 (4.9 miles) and then continue onwards to complete the marathon. I was on the “A” open female team that won 1st place last year, which meant that I was expected to run as fast as possible for the first 5 miles. Not exactly ideal marathon pacing strategy, but I was never planning for this race to be a fast one, and I was excited for a potential podium finish!

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We flew in from NYC late Thursday night before the Sunday race, allowing us to stay on East Coast time. Very important when you have a 3am wakeup call race morning! We had a relaxing day at my parent’s house in Santa Cruz on Friday, including some nice walks on the beach to calm our taper crazies, and drove down to the expo on Saturday. The expo was small (you don’t need much time there) but had some great speakers. I particularly enjoyed meeting Bart Yasso – he shared an entertaining and powerful story about how he became the Chief Running Officer of RW, and all the adventures and health challenges that he has experienced since. His book is great too!

Bart’s main message was the following: you may not always have your health, but no one can take away your positive attitude or your passion for the sport. This proved very helpful on race day while being blown to pieces by crazy headwinds and feeling unusually fatigued early in the race. I could either think about how crappy I felt, or focus on the gorgeous views and how fortunate I was to be running in such a special part of the world. Attitude is everything!

The race was very well organized, with shuttles in several convenient locations. We stayed at the Hampton Inn (5 min walk from the shuttle at Embassy Suites), which was brand new and very comfy. It also was only a short drive from the expo (note – it says Monterey but really it is one block away from Seaside). The staff was great about letting us use their microwave to reheat our pre-race meals (salmon, zucchini and rice for lunch and pasta with mushrooms for dinner), and cooking oatmeal at 3am. As for gear, I had never run in my relay singlet and it was very big, so I layered it over my usual racing tank and the awkward baton fit nicely into my arm sleeve so I didn’t have to grip it.

The bus took about 75 minutes to get to the start line in Big Sur – a slow ride of peering out into the darkness. We got to the athlete village around 5:30am, which was extremely small and crowded (there isn’t much space to put everyone off of the highway). We were essentially dumped into a convoluted, massive line for the porta potties. Thankfully, the hilarious signs on each one kept us laughing. For example, “Tesla charging station,” “Las Vegas bus leaves here,” “Only for under 40 years old,” “Toasty 75 degrees inside,” and my favorite – “Condo for rent.” Not much of an exaggeration for California! The mile markers also had funny pictures and sayings – the race organizers definitely have a great sense of humor, and I appreciated the laughs while mentally toughing it out on the course.

Despite the crowds, we soon reunited with our fellow We Be Crazies Leg 1 runners. Because the highway remains open until 6am, the start line is only put up right before the race begins. They also load the corals differently – slowest runners first to get them further down the highway and fastest first. My friend encouraged me to start at the very front, which seemed crazy since my “fast” pace is slow compared to the front runners. But hey – it was my only opportunity to start at the very front of a major race, so I figured why not go for it! It was such a rush, running down that hill. I knew I would be passed immediately (and I was) at my 7:07 pace, however it was still awesome.

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The weather was cool and cloudy but fairly protected by the redwoods during my relay leg. It was so peaceful and mostly downhill – though certainly not “all downhill” as everyone kept saying (never believe that statement with regards to this race). There were several climbs though relative to the rest of the course, I suppose they were quite small. I felt strong and happy with my pacing, even though it would bite me later in the race.

After the handoff at mile 4.9, I felt sick. But sick = nice job on the relay! I shifted gears and slowed down to catch my breath and settle into a more sustainable pace. It wasn’t really a choice anyway as this was the point at which the roads opened up and the wind reared its ugly head! Large groups of runners kept passing me by, making me wish I could run fast enough to keep up so that I could get some protection from the wind. This sign definitely rubbed it in – all lies! Those hills felt endless…because they were.

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By mile 10 I was exhausted and the wind and slanted roads were taking a toll. I focused on how lucky I was to be there and on one of many long hills, the following mantra popped into m head: “Never ever ever give up.” I repeated it to myself over and over again and particularly while climbing hills to the rhythm of my feet.

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The taiko drums before hurricane point really locked in my mantra. You feel the sounds reverberate in your soul. These drums are a call to battle – in this case, the battle within against the never-ending hill! The fluid, powerful movements of the drummers were inspiring.

At the top of hurricane point it was so windy I literally could not move forward. It stopped me in my tracks and nearly blew me over! Good thing I ran during some crazy snowstorms back in NYC – who would’ve guessed it would be great Big Sur training? Usually you can make up time running downhill but the wind was so strong, it wasn’t worth the energy to push against it.

Bixby bridge was magical. We didn’t have blue skies like the last time I visited Big Sur, but the views were just as beautiful. You could hear the piano way before you even saw the bridge – the music floating faintly in the wind with sounds of crashing waves down below. This race clearly was not going to be a fast one, so I made sure to stop and really soak it in.

Just after the bridge, E cruised by me! I was beyond happy to see his face. He was looking strong and I could barely keep up with him at first. We settled into a slow but steady pace for 10 miles or so, occasionally saying a few words but mostly focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 22 or 23, I finally got my groove back while E started to fall behind. I needed to keep moving so we parted ways. I hit the strawberry aid station – yes, an aid station with super sweet, fresh local strawberries – where I ran into an old friend from college. Turns out she lives in the neighborhood, and since they’re blocked in for the day they have a party!

The slant of the roads was tough on the body – I tried to find a sweet spot on the road but getting comfortable was nearly impossible. It was the first time in a marathon I wanted to walk but somehow I kept myself running. Knowing my parents were waiting for me at the finish helped me finish strong – it was the first time they were watching me race a marathon since Boston 2013. I saw my parents screaming in the spectator stands and was proud to finish in 4:08. It was my slowest marathon time ever but I still fought hard for it and took time to soak in the scenery – and that’s what matters.

E finished shortly after me in 4:16 – it was a strong run for him, given it was only a few minutes off of his flat course PR. The medals were awesome – ceramic with leather cords. Definitely a unique one to add to our collection!

Our relay team’s success certainly sweetened my slow personal finish! We Be Crazies won four awards – 1st overall, 1st open male, and 2nd and 3rd open female. My team won 2nd – we missed 1st by 15min – but we still rocked it with a time of 3:19!

After the awards ceremony, we celebrated together with an Indian buffet before heading back to Santa Cruz. As much as I love the solo nature of running and racing, I also enjoy being part of a competitive team. It’s not just about you achieving your personal goals – people are counting on you, which make you want to push that much harder. Doing both the relay and the marathon was a real challenge, but it was pretty cool to race hard for my team and then be able to battle it out for myself. I highly recommend this race – you can choose one of the shorter distances if you wish to experience the course without committing to the full 26.2!

After Big Sur, we got to relax in Santa Cruz with my family. As much as I love NYC, I hadn’t been home  in a year and I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be back. Our bodies ached for several days but we quickly recovered with daily beach walks, lots of delicious food, and massage. One week later, my legs felt refreshed and I had one of my all-time best beach runs, from La Selva to Seacliff (10 miles)! Perfect conditions – low tide and sunny with a cool breeze – combined with an awesome playlist led to some unexpectedly fast miles.

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without a run in the redwoods. I did a couple short runs with E on the trails in Nisene Marks as well as a hike and meditation session with a close friend down by the Buddha bridge, my favorite spot in the forest. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful, active week!

Do you have a special place to run or walk that immediately makes everything else melt away once you get there? I do. Actually, I’m lucky enough to have two – La Selva Beach (aka “my beach”) and Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz. Every time I come home to California for a visit, I look forward to experiencing the beauty and serenity of these spots. Running these routes brings me great comfort, and allows me to temporarily escape everything else going on in my life. 

After a very late arrival home yesterday due to my delayed flight, I only managed to sleep for a few hours and woke up this morning feeling exhausted and cranky. I headed straight to the beach to clear my head. It was foggy and breezy, with the sun threatening to come out and make way for blue skies later on (typical for August). I was fortunate to catch low tide and enjoyed the long stretch of packed level sand beneath my feet. The beach was mostly empty – a few surfers and walkers here and there, but otherwise very peaceful. The sounds of waves crashing made up my running soundtrack – no iPod needed. At least ten different types of birds were in the water and sky in the middle of some sort of feeding frenzy, and a couple seals poked their heads up every few minutes in the shallow parts of the water, almost seeming to swim alongside me. I almost forgot how awesome real wildlife is – you spend enough time in New York City and you begin to define wildlife as dirty pigeons, massive rats, and psycho squirrels. 

Afternoon shot of La Selva Beach

La Selva Beach, after the fog burned away

It was just a 4M run, but by the time it was over, it was as if I had hit my personal reset button. I needed to wash away the last seven challenging months in New York City without any vacation or significant mental breaks. Even if this isn’t truly “time off” in that I have to start cramming for the RD exam, at least I’m getting “time away,” which is nearly as valuable to me. Such a long stretch of time in NYC makes me feel trapped and burnt out. 

So here I am, sitting out on my parent’s deck in the sunshine, listening to the sounds of distant waves and bird chirping, watching hummingbirds fly by and deer hanging out in the backyard, munching on some delicious California produce, and feeling so grateful to have grown up here. I really wish I didn’t have to study, but I guess if I have to, this isn’t a bad way to get it done! 

I’m looking forward to running my first 20 miler in Nisene this weekend. I was signed up to do the NYRR long training run #2 before I booked this trip; running up and down the mountain will be a lot more enjoyable and SO much harder than doing loops around Central Park, that’s for sure. I wish E could join me out here – it’s our shared special place, after all – but it will be good practice for race day, when I’m out there on the road by myself. 

It’s been quite an exciting summer so far! And after yesterday’s turn of events, I think it’s safe to say I’m enjoying a bit of a winning streak…

First, an amazing wedding and honeymoon: After five weeks of frantic wedding planning, E and I got married amongst the redwoods on June 30th at Nestldown, up in the Santa Cruz mountains. The day was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and filled with so many special moments. We can’t wait to get the professional photos – here are a few taken by friends!

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Nothing beats marrying the person you know you are meant to spend your life with and celebrating with your loved ones…except perhaps escaping all the craziness and enjoying your first days alone together as husband and wife! 🙂 We spent a week in Tofino and Sooke on Vancouver Island – a perfect place to relax and explore the outdoors (cycling, sea kayaking, and of course running). We loved the weather (which was perfect every day – apparently that never happens), dramatic landscapes, running long on Long Beach, and all the awesome food and wine. It was blissful!!

Ferry to Vancouver Island Dinner in Tofino Tofino view Pacific Rim National Forest, Tofino Schooner Cove Trail Long run on Long Beach Cycling on the beach Sea kayaking Sooke

Second, winning 1st place in the NYC Triathlon relay: Just a few days after our return to NYC, after having eaten waaaay too much and trained far too little, I competed in the NYC Triathlon as part of a relay team (I had committed to this race before I got engaged, in case you were wondering). It was my first triathlon as well as my first relay, so even though I wasn’t too thrilled to wake up at 3:30am and wait around until 8:45am to run 10k in the heat and humidity, I was really excited to race in such a different type of event.  And let’s not forget about the body markings – at the expo I thought it was ridiculous that they would make me mark my age on my calf and my number on my arm (isn’t that what the bib is for?!), but I felt hard-core when I got marked up in transition! My two teammates (our team name was “Dietitian Divas,” since they are both RDs), had competed with a different runner two years prior and had placed 2nd, right behind a team that had won four years in a row, so we knew what we had to do. It was such an interesting experience – and made me realize how simple running is by comparison! I have always said I want to try a triathlon someday, but man, that is a complicated sport! Maybe I’ll try a sprint at some point though…

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We each gave it our all – it was really tough waiting around for so many hours and then suddenly springing yourself into full-on 10k racing mode, but I tried my best and managed to run  an extremely strong race in the heat, helping my team win FIRST PLACE in our division by just over two minutes! I ran 44:52 – which technically is a PR as that time and distance are up on the race website – although *technically* it is not a PR, since the distance I ran was not a full 10k. It was closer to 6 miles – the short run that our swimmer had to do to get back to transition counted as part of my distance but not my time. But hey, I still ran a 7:29ish or faster pace in crazy weather, with jet lag and hardly any training, and we WON! It was my first 1st place and first podium finish, so I consider that a huge accomplishment!

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The best part, aside from winning of course, was passing people along the course. I’ve never passed so many people in a race before!! It was such a morale boost, even if I knew it was completely unfair since nearly every person I passed was doing the full triathlon. I kept getting these exhausted looks of disbelief as I sped past them because the body marker had forgotten to put an “R” on my leg to indicate I was doing the relay. Haha! I can’t imagine how the triathletes felt after swimming and biking – I was struggling and I hadn’t been racing for hours. By the end of the course, I was in complete beast mode – it was awesome to really push myself and know I had tried my hardest when I crossed the finish line. It felt even better knowing that my teammates were counting on me – a new feeling in what is usually a solo sport for me – and that I hadn’t let them down! I will definitely be doing more relays in the future – SO much fun.

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Third, acceptance into the NYU Dietetic Internship: Yep, you read that correctly. I received an extremely unexpected phone call yesterday morning notifying me that a spot had opened up in the NYU Dietetic Internship (which basically never happens) and I was next on the list, meaning that I am now starting the DI this September, just as if I had originally matched back in April. I am still in shock. After working so hard, and receiving such devastating news that I didn’t match, followed by everything that happened in Boston, it’s beyond gratifying that everything somehow worked itself out and now I’m suddenly where I had hoped to be in the first place. Simply amazing.

This year certainly has been an adventure! This wonderful turn of events suddenly happening right at the time that I was starting to feel discouraged and frustrated with the process once again really reaffirms my belief that things have a way of working themselves out for the best. I am still surprised I wasn’t accepted in the first place, but I’ve put all that behind me – all’s well that ends well. Right now, I’m just grateful – I realize how unusual this opportunity is, and how lucky I am that it came my way.

While luck is of course a factor in all of this, none of these wonderful things would have happened had I not worked so hard planning the wedding, running the race, applying to internships etc. So it’s nice to be reminded that hard work really does pay off.

Now, off to celebrate!

I flew into SFO on Monday night – how am I halfway through my trip already?! Being home hasn’t exactly been relaxing, as I try to catch up on all the admin and other things I neglected during the semester, but escaping NYC in itself has eased my stress levels dramatically. I wish I had another week or two to recuperate from the four months of craziness, but I guess six days will have to suffice.

I didn’t realize just how much I missed Santa Cruz until my run in Nisene Marks yesterday. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know those redwoods are my running haven. It’s where I go when I need to calm my mind (or occasionally, have an adventure).

It was a gorgeous day – a bit warm for running in the sun, but in the shade of the trees, perfectly cool with a slight breeze. I missed running in Nisene – the peacefulness of the forrest, the sounds of the babbling creek and the birds chirping, the smell of the redwoods, the feeling of those trails under my feet, even those painful, never-ending climbs towards the summit! It felt good to be back in my running home – like no time had passed at all and I was right where I belonged, as if I were seeing an old friend.

And yet more than four months have passed and so much has happened! The last time I ran in Nisene was the day before I moved to NYC  to begin my first semester at NYU. It was my time to say goodbye to a place that had supported me through a challenging but successful transition from London to NYC. It’s where I went to think, to brainstorm, to zone out, to freak out – it’s even where I found out that I had been accepted to NYU (back at the car post-run). Halfway through that last run in January, I stopped for a few minutes to talk to the trees. I know, slightly crazy (or just Santa Cruz), but I was nervous and excited for so much change, and sad to be leaving California. I wanted to vocalize my goals, as well as my gratitude, and it was the most appropriate time and place to do so.

Thus, it felt really good to return to one of my favorite places in the world yesterday, having accomplished exactly what I set out to do, and celebrate with the trees. I took a moment to stop, soak up my surroundings and express feelings of relief, pride, and once again gratitude, mostly in my head but a few words out loud too (thankfully no one was around). I worked hard but it all paid off. Was it worth all the stress? Probably not – but I’m working on worrying less and slowly I’m achieving more balance in my life. The year ahead is very intimidating, particularly the remainder of 2012, but that moment of reflection gave me faith that I will prevail!

Yesterday was a bit soon to do a longish run after the Brooklyn Half, but it was so beautiful in the redwoods that I just couldn’t stop at 5 or 6 miles. The further I ran, the more I wanted to continue running. I ended up doing one of my favorite shorter loops (around 8.75M), including the first part of the Loma Prieta Grade trail, then veering to the right down to Buddha bridge (had to say hello to the Buddha!) and back up to the Fire Road to the earthquake epicenter and back. My hamstring wasn’t hurting at all and I felt pretty strong overall. Here are my garmin details.

I stopped before the huge, long climb to the summit – however I did hit a few hills, which served as a good reminder that I really need to start hill training again. Sorry, but Central Park just doesn’t cut it – not when you’re going to run a crazy 16M trail race in Colorado that starts at 6,700 ft of elevation and gains 4,500 ft! Think my goal for that race definitely is JUST FINISH (and don’t die). Actually, that should become my motto for the rest of the year, generally.

Chicago marathon training officially starts in just a few weeks. That means that it’s time to begin ramping up my base mileage and easing back into speedwork, tempo and marathon pace training. I really hope my hamstring will cooperate!

Today is a rest day and I just devoured a huge stack of my Dad’s amazing banana pancakes. My parents and I are driving up to Davenport today to see if there are any whales and take in the beautiful views. I haven’t been there in ages. We had planned a San Francisco trip tomorrow before seeing my sister and little E in the East Bay but think I’ve had my share of cities – more time in Santa Cruz, with the redwoods and my local beach, is what I really need! That and some quality family time. I wish I didn’t have to leave…but I will get back here permanently, someday.

Nothing like running in a downpour and getting soaked to the bone to kick off the week! It’s NASTY out there for sure – but it kinda felt good after the heat of Saturday’s Brooklyn Half Marathon. Okay, maybe only for the first few minutes (as I still try to get water out of my ears)…

As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go. Both E and I were a bit of a mess this week – E in particular, with jet lag, the beginnings of a cold and no recent experience running in warm weather. We ended up missing our sub-1:50 goal by a few minutes, but it was still a great race and a fun, productive weekend overall.

  

We woke up at 4am to eat and arrived at Prospect Park around 5:45am – surprisingly we were both feeling somewhat awake! Even at that early hour, it felt a little too comfortable out – no need for garbage bags or long sleeved shirts. Yep, it was going to be a hot one!

The race was fairly well organized – we dropped our bag and headed to the start. My one complaint was that there were no bathrooms in the corrals, which closed at 6:40am for the 7am start. E had to make a last minute run to the trees! I was tempted to do the same but managed to control myself.

The first couple of miles of the race were CROWDED – much more so than the NYC Half, partly because the roads were a bit more narrow but also because we were of course quite a bit further back than where I usually start. It was frustrating having to weave so much and zapped some of E’s energy, but eventually we got into a groove and we were right on pace by mile 2.

However, by that point, it was already obvious that E was going to have some trouble with the heat. I established a system for each water station to try to keep him hydrated and moving at a steady pace – I would sprint ahead to grab two waters – one for him at that point, and another one for a half mile or so later to carry him through to the next station. It was a bit hard to keep the water in the cup as I ran, but I managed to keep enough in there most of the time (once I handed it to him and it was empty – oops – he was pissed!). It was a good system for the most part – and a great fartlek workout for me – although he did say that later in the race when he was really struggling, my offering water in between miles was a slight distraction from his attempts to “get in the zone.”

Once we hit the big hill after mile 4, he started to struggle a bit. We were still within reach of our goal as we left the park around mile 7, and I tried practically every motivational technique I could think of to get him to keep up with me and make up lost time in the park, but it just wasn’t working. I was hoping we would at least get him a PR (under 1:52:40ish), but he kept slowing down with each mile and by mile 11/12 it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen unless he really picked it up.

It was a slightly frustrating experience for me. I was concerned about him in the later miles so that was of course my priority – making sure he was okay and staying hydrated – but I also really wanted him to reach his goal and I couldn’t get him to stay anywhere close to on pace. You can only do so much to get your runner to stay with you, I suppose! It just wasn’t his day. I did get a compliment from another runner along the way that I was a “great support team” so that was nice.

I’m not sure why, but every NYRR race lately seems to involve narrowing roads and multiple sharp turns in the last 400 meters. Very annoying! In this case it didn’t matter so much as we were already off our goal, but I was still trying to get E to pick it up at the end. There was a slight bottle neck as we turned onto the boardwalk and then it was a straight shot to the finish. After all those miles of trying to get E to stop slowing down and to keep up with me, he suddenly sprinted towards the finish like a bat out of hell. We had joked that this race – our first race we were running together – would be his golden opportunity to cross the finish line before me (I had told him that would be his reward if he reached his goal). He had been struggling so much I was shocked by how fast he was going – I obviously wasn’t going to let him finish first so I went into full gear. A woman was right in front of me so I had to slow down at the last second, thinking E had finished first, but guess what? We tied, with a time of 1:53:57 – haha! Nice try, E – you will never beat me!

  

Despite not reaching our goal, finishing together was pretty special. He gave me a big sweaty hug and it was just so nice to share the actual finishing experience. I was proud of him – even though that sprint indicated a bit too much left in the tank, I know he tried his best.

I was also really pleased with my first pacing experience – it certainly is a fine art, figuring out how to motivate your runner, what to say (if anything), what to do if your runner is struggling etc. You need to know your runner well, and you also have to accept that you can only do so much to make it happen! I also discovered that running a half around that pace with minimal training is not a problem at all for me – it wasn’t easy but I wasn’t working that hard either, so that’s good to know for the future, as I definitely plan to offer pacing as one of my coaching services. I would certainly pay someone to pace me, sprint ahead to get me water etc!

  

We met up with my running buddy afterwards, who got a PR – impressive in that heat! It was my first time in Coney Island and we had a great time wandering around on such a beautiful day and in such a festive atmosphere. I would definitely do that race again!

  

We tried to wait on line for a Nathan’s hotdog but it was just too long…oh well, another time!

We did, however, have some amazing food later in the day in the West Village. We wandered all around town and ended up meeting a friend at a great little restaurant with outdoor tables. A bottle of bubbly, pizza, salad, burrata, sunshine….oh yeah, it was awesome. My first weekend without any studying to do, in great company and incredible weather! It felt amazing.

  

And now, after a wonderful weekend, I’m flying to California. Time to head to the airport! My family, friends, redwood forests and beautiful beach await me…

Ah, New York. We meet again. It’s only day four, and our love-hate relationship feels stronger than ever.

I’ve lived in big cities for most of my adult life – including three years in Manhattan – and I’ve visited NYC nearly every year since I left in 2006. However, visiting and living here are two very different things, and acclimatizing to my new surroundings has been a bit harder than I expected. I suppose London is a bit more chilled out, or at least greener and less claustrophobic, and I did spend much of the last four months in small town California. It’s only natural that going from the warmth, solitude, space, quiet and nature of Santa Cruz to NEW YORK INSANITY, living in a shoebox on a major avenue and 18 degree weather would lead to a bit of freaking out! Everything in this city feels very familiar, but just not like home. However, I know that will change with time.

The sublet I decided to take for three months is cute – certainly not new or modern, but a nicely decorated and cozy one bedroom third floor walkup with plenty of storage space in Grammercy. It has its challenges – the kitchenette is very “ette” and I wasn’t able to bring any of my own kitchen things (except for a few essentials – a french press, a silicon baking dish and my salad dressing emulsifier), but I’m trying to be creative and will do my best to keep up my cooking. It should help that I can now actually use appliances in the kitchen, such as the tea kettle I bought (can’t live without a tea kettle). The only plug is across the sink and around the corner, but I solved that by using scotch tape and an extension cord. Voila!

Gotta love New York.

There were a few other things I had to adjust – for instance, there is no chair, just a sofa, so I bought a cheap folding chair which makes the tiny end table somewhat acceptable for studying.

The REAL problem – and this is partly why I’m struggling so much – is that the city that never sleeps is doing so right outside my window. I realize NYC is loud, but this is by far the loudest place I’ve ever lived. The apartment faces first avenue and the noise is relentless. I should’ve expected this but given that everything else was so convenient, I decided to go for it. I’m hoping that I will adjust, but so far it’s been pretty tough. Last night was a slight improvement, after I turned a fan on high, used ear plugs, put my white noise app on full volume and placed a pillow over my head. However, that of course doesn’t help when I’m simply trying to relax or read in the living room. It’s still comfy and it certainly is a luxury having my own space, but I’m used to home being an escape from the outside world. The walls are so thin, I may as well be suspended over the traffic lights. Perhaps after a few weeks the noise will fade into the background? I certainly hope so. If not, I guess it’s temporary, and I can always spend more time in libraries.

On a more positive note, my neighborhood is a wonderful new running home! I’m a mere three minutes from the East river park, including an awesome all weather outdoor 400m track only 1M from my doorstep. It’s nice to keep to my London running roots and live near a river (Central Park isn’t too far away either by bus or train). I’m also SO happy to finally be able to do proper speed workouts! I’ve always had to do intervals and tempo runs on the treadmill because I didn’t have a track nearby that I could use.

So far, I’ve gone running three times. I ran four bitterly cold miles on my first morning in NYC (it was 18 degrees but felt much colder) at marathon pace simply so I could get home faster. I seriously thought I was going to freeze to death – I was also somewhat delirious from sleep deprivation. Monday’s 7M run was slightly warmer – by a few degrees! I ran with a friend at least so that kept me distracted. For once I might actually NEED new running gear. I have some cold weather clothing, but clearly not enough. I bought ten pairs of hand warmers so that should help in the meantime!

Today I tried out the track. It was my first real speed session in months, and my first track workout in who knows how long (I honestly can’t remember). Shameful! Technically I’m in training for the NYC half, which is only 8 weeks away, although I haven’t made a training plan or set any goals quite yet. Through my somewhat aimless training in California, I’m currently farther along in my long runs than I should be, and completely behind in my speedwork. I decided to get back into the game with a ladder/pyramid session – I ran 1M easy to the track, then 400m, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1000, 800, 600 and 400, all with 200m jogging breaks in between and then 1M easy back home. The total came to 8 miles.

It was very challenging and I had been dreading it all morning, so I’m pleased I pushed through. I was aiming for 10k perceived effort level rather than a number since I’m not quite sure where I’m at right now race pace wise. My average pace was a bit inconsistent, partially due to the strong winds (which kicked up more towards the end) but mainly from starting too quickly and subsequent fatigue. However, I’m not sure how much I trust my Garmin – when you compare the times of the corresponding distances they’re not THAT different. Either way, it was a start and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it – I can only improve!

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with a friend in Carroll Gardens. It was wonderful to catch up and also take a break from Manhattan for the afternoon! We had a lovely lunch at Frankie’s, wandered up Court Street and hung out in her (relatively peaceful) apartment. It made me wish I lived in Brooklyn too. I’m sure I will sometime soon, but I know that living closer to campus was the right move for my first few months here. The noise REALLY bothers me, but the location is convenient. Union square, including a Trader Joes, is only a ten minute walk away, and campus is a 20-25 minute walk away. My favorite bagel shop in town – Ess-a-Bagel – is a block away, and my other favorite bagel/smoked fish shop – Russ & Daughters – isn’t too far either. Gotta have my bagels (I’ve actually had a bagel every day so far…naughty). It’s awesome to be able to walk everywhere – cheaper and healthier, not to mention liberating after driving around so much in California.

Most importantly, however, I have some wonderful friends in my area or only a short ride away, which is extremely comforting. I was welcomed on my first day by several close friends, who helped me pull through a few (mostly sleep-deprivation induced) meltdowns. My family and E have also been providing tons of support over the phone. NYC can be a very lonely place – I remember from my early years here how easy it is to feel lost at times, even when you’re surrounded by friends – so I really want to make sure I don’t isolate myself once things get really busy and instead take advantage of having so many friends close by.

Tomorrow, my first day of orientation begins, which includes a new grad student networking event. I’m nervous, but excited! My textbooks are beginning to arrive in the mail and I already have some reading assignments to complete. I also just found out that the lab for my Food & Food Science lecture course is actually a full-on cooking class. The syllabus sounds pretty intense – I need to purchase a chef’s uniform and knife and will be tested on things like my knife skills, food safety, and the taste and presentation of what I cook, among other things. I can’t wait! I like to think I am a decent cook, but it’s always good to get back to basics. You can be sure I’ll be blogging all about it!

As for running, I plan to do a 12M run early Saturday morning and create an actual training schedule for myself for the next 8 weeks. Oh, and I’ll also officially announce that I plan to register for the Chicago marathon when it opens on Feb. 1st. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’ll enter the NYC lottery (the price is outrageous – not good for student budgets!). I don’t plan to run a Spring marathon, but to compensate, E and I MAY run our first ultramarathon in December – TNF Endurance Challenge 50k in SF on December 1st. We’ll see if my body will cooperate!

It’s very late – so much for getting over my jet lag. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight and enjoy whatever adventures day five has in store for me…

There’s no question that NYC is one of the greatest cities in the world and that a part of me is excited to be back. My inner New Yorker seems to still be in hibernation, but hopefully within a week or two, it will have made a fierce comeback!

My last evening in Santa Cruz has finally arrived. I’ve checked into my flight, finished packing my bags, said goodbye to my family, friends and favorite places and am now trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s all really about to happen, after so many months of planning and preparation! I keep forgetting that I’m actually leaving for good tomorrow – it’s only been four and a half months since I left London for California, but it feels a lot longer. Although I’ve been traveling for much of that time, I’ve grown quite used to being based here, close to my family and with so many beautiful destinations at my fingertips. At least the unusual and long streak of gorgeous, warm weather is due to end next week – rainy California isn’t nearly as bad as East Coast winter, but still – makes leaving slightly less bittersweet!

I’ve been feeling a bit more sadness than excitement these last few days, but I know that will change once I arrive in NYC. In fact, it has already started to change – paying my first tuition bill and buying my textbooks this morning was a major wake-up call! It’s definitely time – time to leave my California bubble, live on my own again and move forward with my life and career. Not to say that I’ve just been sitting on my butt this whole time – I’ve accomplished a lot and have been very busy – but I’m also very aware that I haven’t quite been living in the “real world.” I’m grateful to have parents who are so supportive of my career change and my decision to take time off from work while applying to grad school, and I’m also fortunate to have had a good chunk of time off to spend with my family and have some fun before diving back in again. It’s been a good run but I’m ready get going!

  

Speaking of which, I had a wonderful last run on the beach yesterday – 6M including 5M of fartlek (I still can’t quite get myself to do structured speedwork yet, even though I should be preparing for the NYC half…) – and today I did 10M in Nisene Marks at 9:41 average pace and 1,030ft elevation gain. The weather was glorious and I felt strong at the end of both runs – it was a great way to say goodbye to two of my favorite spots in Santa Cruz! I mean, check out that afterglow!!

About halfway up the mountain today, I stopped and listened to the forest for a few minutes. I’m not going to be able to get any real peace and quiet for a long time and Nisene has really become a special place for me since I moved back here, so I wanted to make sure I fully appreciated it. All I could hear was the babbling of the creek and my own breath – it was nice to take a moment to meditate on all the wonderful things that I’ve experienced recently, and all of the exciting things that are about to happen!

Today’s run also taught me that although I am not a fast runner right now, I’ve become a lot stronger due to regular trail running and hiking. I was climbing the tough part of the Fire Road today at a steady, comfortable pace and was surprised when I passed several cyclists and then remained on the tail of several others who were going at a pretty good clip for nearly a mile. They kept trying to shake me and then finally commented, “wow, you’re fast!” It made me feel good, considering my lack of speed training and the fact that I’ve gained eight pounds since running Portland. I’d like to think some of it is muscle (perhaps a small fraction is), but the reality is that most of it is from November – January indulgences. It’s okay though – I’ve enjoyed my aimless training and all the wonderful food I’ve consumed! I know that I’ll be able to shed the unwanted weight once I get back to walking everywhere, begin more structured training and have my own kitchen again, without so many holiday goodies everywhere. Besides, I was only following Scott Jurek’s advice (well, save for the no running part…)…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I wrapped up my California goodbye by watching one last sunset at the cliffs overlooking my local beach – it was so beautiful and the perfect sendoff.

 

My flight leaves at noon tomorrow. I’ve found a nice sublet not too far from campus which begins as soon as I arrive (such a huge relief), and I have an entire week to get settled before classes begin. I’ve already made plans to hang out with several friends (many of whom live close to my sublet) and I’m looking forward to the various NYU grad student orientation sessions that are taking place. I’m so thankful to already be familiar with the city from my three years living there and to have such a large social network in place so I can focus on adjusting to everything else!

So, goodbye California and hello New York City. It is time and I am ready!

Happy (belated) New Year! I just finished up another wonderful California visit with E, who flew in from London on New Year’s Eve and returned this past Sunday. It’ll be my turn to fly in four days, when I move to NYC and begin grad school shortly thereafter. Starting a year filled with so much change – for both of us – wouldn’t have felt right without him by my side. I’m grateful that we were able to take full advantage of my last moments in Santa Cruz and kick off 2012 with a few more adventures!

As usual, our days were packed with beautiful trail runs and hikes and tons of amazing food, with a bit of relaxation thrown in here and there. Every day or two I experienced something special that I wanted to share, such as our blissful New Year’s Day in Santa Cruz, our exhausting but EPIC trip to Yosemite, our 14 mile run in Nisene the following day, our day trip to St. Helena (Napa) and many unforgettable meals throughout the week. However, the incredible (January?!) weather and the fact that we were constantly on the go left very few opportunities for computer work, and those spare moments were better spent enjoying each other’s company. Anyone else who is in a long distance relationship surely understands that!

In other words, I have a lot of catching up to do on FFR! I’ll power through the highlights, and for those of you who don’t feel like reading, I’ve included plenty of photos for your viewing pleasure.

After a fun, low-key NYE spent at my friend’s house, E and I woke up to one of the most beautiful days we’ve had in months – 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. It was hard to believe it was January 1st! I had done my long run the previous day, but Sunday still meant pancakes were on the menu. My Dad made a delicious batch of his gluten-free banana pecan pancakes, which we enjoyed out on the deck.

  

It would’ve been a crime to be indoors, so we all went for a 4+ mile walk on my local beach in the afternoon, and returned later in the day to catch a colorful sunset. I also took E for a relaxing 6M run the next morning at low tide. I love my beach – can’t get enough of it – and E was in heaven after many months of sun deprivation!

Since we had already visited Big Sur and San Francisco in September, we decided to spend a couple days in Yosemite and join my family for a day trip to St. Helena (with an overnight in Concord) later in the week. E had never been to Yosemite before as an adult, while I’ve been twice – once in June about 11 years ago (peak season, packed with tourists, and extremely hot – stayed in a platform tent in Curry Village), and another time in September about five years ago (slightly off season but still busy, mixed weather – backpacked and camped along the trail but had to leave early to escape an unexpected blizzard). Both trips bring back great memories, but my visit with E was particularly unique due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather and the lack of crowds. We certainly got the best of both worlds!

Temperatures were a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but they peaked in the high 60s and felt even warmer in the sun. Nearly all the roads and trails were open (except for Half Dome) because there hadn’t been any rain or snow for over a month. I realize that this isn’t good for the park, but the sunshine and perfectly clear blue skies made for incredible hiking conditions – great views and no slipping on ice! Because it was off-season, we were able to book the night before we left (usually, you have to reserve months in advance) and the lower prices meant that we could stay at Yosemite Lodge. I love to camp but it was a nice change to sleep in a warm, clean bed! Our hotel was full, the restaurants were relatively busy and there were a fair number of people roaming around the valley, but you could hardly call it crowded compared to my previous visits. There weren’t many cars in the park or on Hwy 140 and we saw very few hikers on the trails, so at times it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was refreshing to finally experience Yosemite as it should be experienced – without tour buses, traffic and hordes of hikers everywhere you turn!

   

We arrived in the early afternoon after 4+ hours of driving and decided to continue all the way up to Glacier Point. I had forgotten just how far away it was, but I thought it would be a lovely picnic spot for lunch (it was – very quiet, spectacular views) and once we had already committed 30 minutes we didn’t want to turn back! We checked out Bridal Veil falls (very little water) in the late afternoon on the way to checking into our hotel, then relaxed by the fire in the Awahnee hotel (the main room is beautiful) and had a nice dinner back at the Mountain Room near Yosemite Lodge. FYI, food is very overpriced in the park, so if you visit I recommend bringing things for breakfast (I brought instant oatmeal, bananas and almond butter) as well as snacks and lunch for hikes if possible (I brought sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, fruit etc.). The cafeteria at the Lodge has hot water and utensils, and rooms have fridges, so it is really easy to save money this way and ensure you have something healthy and nutritious to eat!

  

Our hotel was a ten minute walk to the Upper Yosemite Falls/Yosemite Point trail head, so we opted to make this our main hike of the trip. We set out at 7:15am – it was cold but given that this trail involves nonstop climbing for several hours, we warmed up very quickly, particularly once the sun started to shine in the valley.

We stopped at the Yosemite Falls overlook (we found a nice flat rock, set away from the railings with insane views) for some lunch in the late morning. My avocado and cheese sandwiches on honey whole wheat bread were pretty tasty after all our hard work! We had passed a few people on our way up, but we didn’t see anybody for the 30-45 minutes we spent at what is usually one of Yosemite’s busiest attractions. By this point, the sun was quite strong, and we enjoyed a nice long sunbath before continuing our journey. Simply amazing.

   

Last time I hiked up here, I turned around at the falls. It was blisteringly hot, extremely crowded and sticking my feet in the cool river just beyond the overlook seemed like a good ending point. Yosemite Point is an additional mile (bringing our total to about 10 miles roundtrip, with 3,000 ft of elevation gain, probably double in net gain) and was well worth the additional effort. We hit an icy patch across the bridge, which was the only tricky, wintery part of our hike. I decided to slide down on my butt and nearly fell into the bushes/partially frozen river, but thankfully E caught me at the bottom. The rest of the trail was forested and beautiful, with patches of ice and snow on either side until we reached the actual point, which was all stone, exposed and extremely warm.

 

We would’ve loved to have continued further towards North Dome, but we were running low on water and thus decided to end our hike here. We found this amazing rock towards the edge of the Point (slightly scary, but not dangerous) with two big holes that made the perfect seats! We sat in our little holes, which secured us safely into the rock, side by side for at least 45 minutes, enjoying the silence (there was no one up there – only one person passed by briefly), the sunshine and the views.

   

This was by far my favorite part of our trip – I’ve been pretty stressed out lately, but up on that rock, my stress melted away. All that mattered to me in that moment was spending time with the man I love, feeling the sun on my skin and staring out into the valley. Next time I feel anxious, I am going to close my eyes and imagine I am back at Yosemite Point with E, sitting in that rock. It’s my new place of calm. Problems become insignificant when you’re up in the mountains, so far removed from everything and faced with so much natural beauty.

It took awhile to motivate ourselves to get up, but once we did, we checked out the other side of the Point to get some different views. I made a little rock pile to celebrate our wonderful start to 2012 and all of the challenging but exciting things coming our way!

   

The way back down was pretty challenging – the trail was practically all downhill on rocks (too technical to run down, for the most part), and it was very hot. We didn’t bring nearly enough water, so we were feeling dehydrated and tired. Nevertheless, the views were amazing and we had a great time – I always love my adventures with E! We really are incredible travel companions. The best part was getting to the bottom and having beer, hot chocolate and ice cream sandwiches, followed by hot showers, passing out by the Awahnee fireplace and a nice big dinner! I know camping is a bit more authentic, but it was pretty awesome returning to a comfy bed and some trashy TV after such a long day.

   

Our day two hike was slightly less strenuous, given that we had to check out of the hotel at 12:30pm and drive back to Santa Cruz. However, we still managed about 8 miles of hiking and 2,000 ft of elevation gain (far more in net gain) up to Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail. I was dying to do a loop – out on the Mist Trail and back (slightly longer route) via the John Muir trail, but given our time constraints, we decided to do an out and back instead.

  

We drove to a parking lot near the trail head and started our hike at 7:45am – it was even quieter than the previous day! We saw one guy for only a couple minutes throughout our entire ascent – it was so dead it was almost creepy, especially since the entire hike was shaded – but then small groups of hikers started to emerge as we made our way back down. As with Yosemite Falls, it was a strange and wonderful experience to be able to enjoy what is normally a VERY crowded trail in such a peaceful way!

   

It was also pretty amazing to see Vernal Falls – a wall of water during my last visit – so dry. As a result, the “Mist” trail was not only fully open, but it was not misty at all! I was actually very grateful for this, since it was colder our second day (so cold at the top of Nevada Falls that we turned around almost immediately) and I was afraid that the stone steps, which are normally wet, would be very icy. Thankfully, every inch of the trail was dry, although there was plenty of snow and ice in the rivers and around the falls.

   

Coming back via the Mist trail meant that we had some extra time to take photos (we were going pretty fast on the way up, since we weren’t sure how long it would take us). We also ran the last mile or so back to the trail head given it was on pavement and felt easier on our legs, which by this point were feeling pretty trashed! It was fun to speed past various hikers giving us crazy looks.

After a nice hot shower and some hot chocolate, we left the park and had a lovely lunch in Mariposa at the Deli Garden. I highly recommend this place – super cute, friendly owners and a wonderful patio if the weather is nice! We enjoyed a sun bath as we devoured our sandwiches – felt good to relax for a bit before the long journey back home.

 

The photos above are only a fraction of what we took (and I got some really great shots) – check out the rest of my Yosemite album here.

Although we woke up feeling somewhat broken on Friday morning, we decided to head to Nisene Marks around noon to go for a run. I know, crazy right? But after all that hiking, we were actually craving something long and slow, and the weather was far too nice not to be outside. We were only planning to do do 10ish (we drove into the park to cut out the relatively boring initial miles) but the trails were so awesome that we became fixated on reaching Sand Point overlook. I had only been there once back when I did a long NYC marathon training run, and was dying to show it to E. It ended up being slightly further away than I remembered…whoops! E was a bit grumpy in the last miles but was a real trooper.

 

Surprisingly, we had an awesome run – 13.75M in 2:22 – and finished feeling strong, perhaps aided by the fact that two lovely rest days awaited us! I wish I had a photo of the trails towards the top and in particular, the views of the redwoods and the ocean from Sand Point, but we opted to leave our cameras behind. All I have is two tired, sweaty but happy runners back at the trail head – and our post-run lunch!

 

I made this pizza using Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough (which I had always wanted to try), mozzarella and a variety of grilled vegetables. It was cheap, delicious, healthy and easy to make – this is definitely going in my poor grad student cook book!

On Saturday, we left Santa Cruz early in the morning with my parents to pick up my sister, brother-in-law and niece in Concord and drive up to St. Helena, in Napa Valley. We were celebrating my sister’s and mom’s birthdays with a day of wine tasting, a bit of shopping/wandering around town and two incredible meals (lunch at Market and dinner at La Condesa). It was a lot of time in the car, especially having just done Yosemite, but we had a lovely day together and I’m glad I was able to spend some time with my family before moving to NYC. Elisia looked like a little doll in her French outfit! It’s impossible not to be obsessed with her when she is around.

   

Check out my full set of NYE, Santa Cruz and St. Helena photos HERE.

We stayed the night in Concord, which gave us some much-needed time to relax before E caught his flight Sunday afternoon. It was sad to say goodbye yet again, but our fabulous week together will carry us through until our next visit. We’re aiming for NYC or London sometime in early/mid February…

Now that my blissful week with E is over, it’s time to bring my focus back to my upcoming move. I still can’t believe that it’s all about to happen! I’m excited but it’s also overwhelming, particularly dealing with all the logistics. Thankfully, everything seems to be coming together, albeit slowly. Last week was a good reminder that when I start to stress out, I need to step back and put things in perspective! I’m so grateful to have such a loving family and so many friends to support me through this next phase of my life.

A frightening number of changes are coming my way, but if the first eight days of January are any indicator, this year is going to be epic! My Jan. 1st SF Chronicle horoscope, at least, seems to be on the right track…

For the last three years, I’ve spent Christmas in the UK. Whether I was alone or with friends and loved ones, I always enjoyed the peacefulness in London. Everything (except for the occasional local corner shop or pub) would shut down from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day – even public transport was closed. It was pretty special to go out into the deserted streets and see such a bustling city suddenly grind to a halt.

Last year, E and I took advantage of the quiet streets and the new Barclays bike scheme during our four days off of work. We cycled all over town, in between cooking delicious meals, watching movies, creating this blog (FFR is almost one-year old!), plotting our 2011 travels and relaxing in our cozy flat. Just another Jewish Christmas in London!

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I still associate the holiday with spending time with my family and thus am very grateful to be in Santa Cruz this year. I certainly couldn’t see a sunset like this in London on Christmas Eve!

This is one of my favorite spots since I was young – the cliffs near my parent’s house overlooking my favorite beach, which is where I often run and go for walks. My Mom and I hung out on a bench for a long time, chatting and taking in these incredible views of the Santa Cruz bay. I had already done my long run for the holiday weekend – 12M to Top of Incline in Nisene Marks (around 1,500ft elevation gain) with two fabulous new running buddies who I met through the Santa Cruz Running club – so it felt nice to sit and relax for awhile, knowing that my hard work was done!

As you probably know, the typical Jewish Christmas often involves Chinese food and movies. This year, however, our day is a bit different. We already saw several movies recently, including The Artist (which was amazing) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (which I also loved), so we’re taking today off. Instead of Chinese food, I made us a delicious and healthy brunch including veggie omelets and fruit salad, and we are going to a friend’s house in the early evening for a small Hanukkah dinner celebration, including homemade latkes! Yum.

We are sticking to one family tradition, however. Christmas Day in California wouldn’t be complete, to me at least, without a long walk together on the beach. The weather has been crisp but sunny here for most of this month, and it would be a crime not to get outside and enjoy it. My days of warm sunshine and beautiful beaches are limited!

I miss my wonderful London family of friends I made during my years living there. Most of all, obviously, I miss E – he is in London right now enjoying that peace and quiet I mentioned above. Thankfully, I just found out that he planned a last-minute trip to visit me in California for New Year’s! All those beach photos must have made him jealous. 🙂 He is all mine for a week and I am beyond excited! Best Hanukkah gift ever.

And now, it’s time to head down to the beach with my parents. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you all!

I’m a proud Northern California girl, which means I have done some SoCal bashing throughout my life. I still prefer “my” part of the state, but I have to confess – after spending a few days in Santa Monica and Malibu last week, I can see the appeal. It’s nice down there!

I am incredibly excited to move back to NYC and begin my Master’s at NYU next month. However, this trip highlighted how much I love California, not to mention how painful it will be to return to a more extreme climate.

Let’s do a quick comparison based on my recent travels. On the left, I am gazing at a snow and ice storm on October 29th in NYC from inside a cozy apartment (to be fair, the following week was sunny, but very cold). On the right, I am walking along the beach on a sunny, warm day on December 16th in Santa Monica. You can’t fault me for fantasizing about taking my books to the beach and basking in the sunshine, but I suppose I also enjoy being inside with blankets and a cup of tea. California will have to wait a few more years for my permanent return…

Anyway, let me back up for a minute to explain why I was in LA, because I don’t go down there very often (my last trip was in 2003).

My Aunt offered me a frequent flyer ticket so that I could visit my grandma in San Antonio, which I had been wanting to do for ages. I had also been meaning to visit a close friend from high school who now lives in Santa Monica and has an adorable one-year old girl who I was dying to meet. My flight had to go through LA on my way back from Texas, so I figured I may as squeeze both trips into my week!

San Antonio was fun, despite the muggy, rainy weather. My grandma and I did a bit of sightseeing downtown, but we mainly just hung out and relaxed, which is exactly what I needed after frantically working on a grant application the day before I arrived. She always makes me laugh and has such great stories!

Running-wise, there wasn’t anywhere to go, since we were surrounded by a gigantic military base (the largest in the country, apparently). I wanted to keep up my fitness, so I hit the treadmill – or as my grandma called it, “the walking machine.” I nearly died laughing!

Here are a couple photos from Texas, including the view from my grandma’s apartment and a shot of us two “New Yorkers” (my grandma grew up in the Bronx). I wish I could’ve spent more time with her – we only had two and a half days, but we had a lot of fun together, as we always do.

My time in Santa Monica was equally short, but I managed to cram in a fair amount, particularly on the running front. The main purpose of my visit was of course to spend time with my friend and her beautiful daughter – like in Texas, it was really laid back and focused on simply enjoying each other’s company.

I kicked off my first full day with a wonderful 6M run along the Santa Monica beach path, pictured above. I prefer the rugged beauty of Northern California beaches, but for running purposes, it was nice for once to not have to worry about the tides or finding a flat, packed section of sand.

I didn’t run with my phone, but I had an opportunity later in the morning to take Sophie for a walk and snap some photos of my running route along the way.

As a side note, just because I’m talking about babies and beaches and have been so delinquent in my blogging this month, I want to post some recent photos of my niece, who is nearly five months old. Right before leaving for my Texas/SoCal trip, my sister and niece came down to Santa Cruz for a couple days. We took Elisia to our local beach for the first time, which was awesome. Check me out, rocking the baby carrier – she is getting so big!

Anyway, back to LA…Molly took me to an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, where we got some lunch (the mall had a really nice outdoor seating area with ocean views) and did a little shopping. I had the most delicious marinated pork burrito. I hate to admit it, but it was better than my favorite taqueria up here. I went back there for lunch today and my usual burrito just didn’t taste the same! I can’t help but also include this photo of some mini Sauconys I found while we were shopping for Sophie. Too cute!

Shopping was followed by a short stop at the beach to watch the sunset, which was incredible. Almost made me wish I had saved my run for later in the day!

I was pretty groggy from our girl’s night out, but managed to get myself out of bed early the next morning for another run. An old friend from high school (a Japanese exchange student my senior year, who now lives in Southern California) saw that I was in town via Facebook and suggested we go for a run together in Malibu.

I didn’t know him very well in high school, although I certainly remember him (we both ran cross-country, I didn’t compete my senior year). We become friends through Facebook in the last couple of years, after commenting on each other’s various running-related posts. He also organizes teams for the Big Sur Marathon relay (his team won last year), which is what caught my attention as I am dying to participate in that race (although mainly, I would like to do the full marathon, but a leg of it would be fun too). Hopefully will get a chance to participate in the near future!

He took me to Pepperdine University, where he got his B.S. in sports medicine and ran quite competitively as part of their cross-country team. He is now done with medical school and finishing up his residency in Physical medicine & rehabilitation – fascinating stuff!

It was great to see him after so many years, catch up in person and finally run together. He is WAY faster than me but kept the pace fairly slow so I could keep up. We ran a 3.5M loop from campus down to the beach and back along various trails. The views were spectacular! I snapped a couple photos before and after the run, while he brought his sports camera along to take some action shots.

As we were stretching, we discovered we were both wearing the same exact shoes – Saucony Omni 10’s! I thought that was pretty cool. We drove back to Santa Monica and stopped at a cafe to get these massive, delicious and beautiful lattes. Post-run coffee always hits the spot.

We had a great chat about our professional goals (we both like the idea of working with a team of other young, enthusiastic healthcare professionals, i.e. a sports doctor, nutritionist, physical therapist etc., to treat athletes), as well as plotting a potential destination race with his wife and E. We have our sights set on Tokyo Marathon 2013! I’ve always wanted to go there, and what better way to see a city than take over its streets with thousands of other people?!

Molly, Sophie and I had a fun, chilled out afternoon together, after a nice brunch with her husband. Here we are playing with various ribbons in our hair.

The following morning, I ran with another friend (from college) who I hadn’t seen in years and who got in touch with me (once again through Facebook) after seeing I was in town. I didn’t realize she was living in LA or that we could run together so comfortably (pace was perfect), so it was a pleasant surprise! I love reconnecting with friends through running. Two days in a row, too!

We ran on the same path in Santa Monica as I did two days prior, but this time we went out further to run a total of 8.2M at around 8:55 average pace. So much fun, particularly knowing that my whole wheat blueberry banana pancakes awaited me upon my return! Wouldn’t have been a Sunday without a long run and pancakes…

I had made the batter the night before, since I knew I would be starving when I got back to the house. As a result, they came out fluffier than usual but equally delicious. Sophie in particular was a huge fan, which made me happy!

Afterwards, we went for a stroll around the Santa Monica farmer’s market before I had to head to the airport. I saw this bike valet sign near the market – very LA!

And that concludes my last trip of 2011! It’s been nice to be home this week – I’ve had a chance to catch up on various things I’ve been meaning to do (including blogging – this is my 125th post, by the way), go for some runs, shadow a local running coach and spend some time with my parents. My Mom and I even celebrated the winter solstice last night in the mountains with her Native American drumming circle – how very Santa Cruz of us! I went once before, as I was preparing to move to London, so it was only fitting that I go back as I am about to begin this next chapter in my life in NYC. It gave me an opportunity to unplug, pause and reflect on this past year and what I hope to accomplish in 2012.

So what’s on my travel agenda in the coming year? Not much as of now, other than moving to the East Coast. It’s going to be very quiet in travel for awhile, compared to my 2011 adventures. That’s okay though – between being busy with school and lacking funds to pay for anything other than tuition and living expenses (I count running-related things as living expenses…), it will be difficult to squeeze in any non-essential trips. I’m actually looking forward to staying put though, after so much running around this year! We’ll see how long that feeling lasts…

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

My latest photos

Asparagus stir fried to crunchy perfection with shallots and garlic - sooooo tasty! A great delicious and healthy summer side dish. Rough 18-hour travel day made better by our fav brunch @thesmithrestaurant, after a quick shower and nap! Avo toast with poached eggs, Brussels sprouts, and fresh grapefruit juice. 👌🏻 Peaceful moment early this morning as we get ready to fly back to the hustle and bustle of NYC! We don't exactly have that rested vacation feeling after our time in California & Hawaii with the baby, but it's been amazing to escape the city and be together as a new family in such beautiful places. See ya next time, Maui! 🌺 One of my favorite ways to explore when I travel is with my running shoes, and the best thing is when you discover new running routes in a place you've been going to for decades! Found a beautiful trail and paved running path through Kihei right from our condo - not quite the crazy volcano adventure we had last year, but a wonderful way to wrap up our Maui trip. #Repost @wellseek with @repostapp
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Training hard for a race or event? Don't sell yourself short on your protein intake during recovery! @eatforendurance shares her of nutritious, protein-packed picks to refuel on your off days 👍#linkinbio #ExpertsWhoSeek Happy Summer Solstice! We love to grill when in Hawaii, especially all the delicious local fish. Here we have grilled Opakapaka (aka Hawaiian pink snapper) marinated in tamari sauce and fresh ginger with greens and fresh papaya. 👌🏻

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