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Sadly, the frigid weather continues in NYC, with yet more polar vortex temps and another snow storm today. I’m thankful it’s not as bad as Boston, but still – I’m OVER IT! Especially since all I hear about from my family in California is how unseasonably warm and gorgeous it is right now. I mean come on, people swimming in the Pacific in Santa Cruz in February?!

I entered a 4M NYRR race in Prospect Park this morning but couldn’t motivate myself to get out of bed early this morning. It was the first time I’ve not shown up to a race – but to be fair, going all the way to Brooklyn for a 4 miler in this weather just didn’t seem worthwhile. To make up for it, I allowed myself to sleep in (much needed) and then E and went on an enlarged “loop” of Central Park, from Stuy Town to the East 60th street park entrance, around the park (plus an extra reverse Harlem Hill loop), back downtown and ending at TJ’s for our weekly shop. It was COLD – as in my hand warmers and two pairs of gloves felt useless and I thought I was getting frostbite COLD – but fitness wise, I felt strong and it was reassuring to know that I’ve been able to somewhat maintain my endurance since my longer runs this past Fall. My speed is another story…I did my first treadmill run of the year last week with some 1min x 8 intervals at 9mph, and it was surprisingly difficult!

By the time we got home, we were freezing, starving and in need of a filling, hot, delicious meal. We often make eggs post-run, and I had some pizza dough in the fridge, so I decided to do a twist on Florentine pizza (egg, spinach, cheese), which I’ve had in restaurants and LOVE. I make pizza all the time with a wide variety of veggie, meat and/or cheese toppings, but this one was so awesome that I decided to finally do a pizza recipe post! Here are a few other pizza variations I’ve made in the past (chicken sausage/veg/feta, cherry tomato/veg/mozzarella, zucchini/veg/feta).

IMG_5796  Pizza night Fresh out of the oven

This one isn’t so much a recipe as a choose your own adventure type of meal. I always use a rainbow of veggies and some cheese, but the rest varies depending on my mood. The (+) stands for whatever you want to include to make the pizza a bit more exciting (and ideally, to boost the protein content) – for example, chicken sausage, eggs, a different cheese, pesto or tomato sauce as a base, etc. I also like to think of the (+) as standing for extra nutritious – obviously you make this whatever you want it to be, but it has the potential to provide a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber from all the veggies and whole wheat dough, lean protein and a little fat. I love Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough, as it is fast and easy to use, cheap, nutritious, and freezes nicely, but you can certainly make your own or use another brand.

If you use TJ’s, one ball of dough is enough for 2 thin crust pizzas (1 pizza = 8 slices –> feeds two people), which I recommend if you’re trying to keep the calories under control with all the toppings (and if you’re like me and want to save room for a little wine and dessert). If you’re feeling especially hungry, try pairing with a side salad and make sure you include a protein topping to make it a filling and balanced meal. Here are some before and after shots of today’s pie {cage-free large eggs, goats cheese, zucchini, kale, spinach, light shredded mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, TJ’s quinoa pesto as a base}.

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Ingredients

Whole wheat pizza dough (½ of TJ’s dough ball)
A little flour to work with the dough
Cheese of choice (I like TJ’s shredded fancy light mexican blend, goats cheese, and/or feta)
Sauteed veggies of choice (My favorites: shallots, red onion, spinach, kale, sundried tomato, cherry tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, eggplant)
Olive oil (to cook veggies)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Possible (+)  items: Chicken or regular sausage, eggs, pesto (TJ’s quinoa pesto is amazing as a base), tomato sauce, other meat/soy/other toppings of choice

Directions

  1. Let pizza dough sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  3. Chop/sautee your toppings of choice (veggies, sausage, etc) – make sure the veggies aren’t too watery to get a nice, crisp pizza (tip – don’t crowd the sauté pan to prevent from steaming and thus getting soggy)
  4. Flour work surface and hands, then stretch the dough outwards into a small circle, place in greased pizza pan and stretch further to fit the pan (I use a metal pan as pictured above – I haven’t found pizza stones to be any better). If the dough shrinks back slightly keep stretching it until it stays (starting to put the toppings on helps too).
  5. If you’re using pesto or tomato sauce as a base, put that on first. Then put a layer of cheese if using (I sprinkle on a thin layer of shredded cheese). Evenly spread veggie toppings (and meat if using) next. Then finish off with another sprinkle of shredded cheese and/or little pieces of other cheese (e.g. feta, goats cheese, ricotta etc). If you’re using eggs, crack 1-3 eggs on top of the pizza (spaced apart evenly if more than 1).
  6. Place in oven for ~12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the pizza to make sure the edges don’t get burned (they should be crispy and nicely browned) and to check the progress of the eggs. In my oven, 15min was perfect for the eggs – whites cooked but yolk still slightly runny. Sometimes the middle cooks more slowly than the edges (perhaps a downside of the pizza pan vs pizza stone)
  7. Take out of the oven, cut into 8 slices, and enjoy!

Yield: 1 pizza, 8 slices

Serving size: 4 slices

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Another week, another batch of granola!

It’s insanely cold this week in NYC, so I needed to add a little kick to this week’s recipe. It’s a twist on my ginger coconut granola – this time with slightly larger chunks of chopped uncrystallized ginger, which gives this recipe a more potent ginger flavor. The chunks are quite large and the chopped pieces are very sticky, but I discovered that if you massage them with a little coconut oil, they are easier to separate and intersperse throughout the other ingredients. The oil also allows the ginger to get a little crispy on the outside while remaining chewy on the inside when you bake it (although you will only get this texture once the granola cools).

I also used a wider variety of nuts/seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chopped pecans, sliced almonds) and coconut flakes. I kept the maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and salt the same, but barely used any coconut oil this time (just a tiny splash in the maple syrup mixture). I think it’s my favorite version yet…even crunchier, spicier, bolder and more addictive! It’s also a bit closer to the version that I love from Borough Market (Mini Magoo).

Here are the before and after baking shots. You’ll know the granola is ready when the oats are nice and crispy and the coconut flakes are nicely browned (stir frequently to make sure they don’t burn). I made a larger batch today as I’m sending half of it to my sister in California – makes a great homemade “just because I love you” gift! I also included nutrition facts on this recipe (see below).

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Stay warm folks – E and I layered up big time and managed to knock out 14M for our Valentine’s Day long run yesterday, but with today’s sub-zero temps, I think it’s a lazy indoor day for us!

Ginger Coconut Granola (Version 2)

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/8 cup flax seeds
Generous pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped uncrystallized candied ginger (lightly coat knife blade in oil to help with stickiness)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Combine dry ingredients except for ginger in large bowl (use more or less of the various nuts/seeds as desired)
  3. Whisk together maple syrup, salt, vanilla and coconut oil in small bowl
  4. Pour wet into dry mixture and combine so that it is evenly distributed
  5. Massage chopped ginger pieces (which are likely stuck together) with a tiny bit of coconut oil using your fingers and separate pieces before adding to mixture
  6. Spread mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet (or use foil brushed lightly w/ oil)
  7. Bake for 15 min, stir mixture, then bake for three 10 minute intervals in between stirring until oats are crunchy; if you see the coconut flakes browning but oats are not yet crunchy enough, you may want to stir every 5min to make sure it doesn’t burn
  8. Remove from oven and let cool completely
  9. Store in an airtight container

Yield: 6 cups granola

Serving size: 1/4 cup

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This was my third consecutive year running the NYC Half Marathon. Although conditions were brutal this year and I didn’t have the amazing race I had last year (PR of 1:37), I enjoyed the new course and got a good sense of how I will perform in Boston. I didn’t hit my sub-1:40 goal, but my knee felt fine, no GI issues, I ran smart and held back the pace slightly as soon as I felt I may risk straining my hamstring in the cold, and finished feeling very strong. Overall, a great training race!

A 1:41:24 finish was about right for me today given the frigid temps and my current fitness level. My head also wasn’t exactly in the game – I find it hard to motivate sometimes when I’m that far away from a PR or when I haven’t raced in awhile – so it was really good for me to get back into the racing mentality before the marathon, even if I decide not to give it my all.

I missed E at the start (he ran the past two years but didn’t get into the lottery this year), but certainly appreciated his support. He was kind enough to wait 45min for me in the cold to see me run by at mile 10. Don’t I look like I’m enjoying myself?! This was right after I passed a water station and was handed a solid block of ice in a cup. No joke.

NYC Half 2014

E also scooped me up at the finish with several jackets on hand, given I opted not to check a bag. The security this year was pretty hard-core – metal detectors to get into the corrals and no bags of any kind after security (even my clear ziplock with a few pre-race items). It’s amazing how things have changed since last April. I know security will be pretty nuts at this year’s marathon – for the best of course, but it still takes some getting used to.

Boston is on the horizon – just two more long runs left then taper time! It was awesome to see so many Boston runners in my corral this morning. Got me excited for April! E and I both decided to enter the lotteries for the NYC marathon (I still dream of running a marathon where I actually live) and also for the Marine Corps Marathon, so we’ll see if we get in. After such a crazy winter, summer training doesn’t sound half bad (I’m sure I’ll regret that statement later!).

Between breaking my 4-year PR at the NYC Half, running my first Boston marathon, getting married and beginning my dietetic internship, 2013 was quite a year! I’m happy to report that I had a very successful (although stressful) semester since my last blog post, as well as a wonderful, much-needed vacation with E to celebrate reaching the half-way point in my internship (2 weeks in California with my family, 1 week in Tulum, Mexico). It was the first time in years that I had time off that was actual time off – no exams to study for, DI applications to complete, wedding planning to do, or anything else to distract me from spending quality time with my loved ones and getting some R&R in between two tough semesters. So much sleep and incredible food. It was awesome, not to mention good timing as we missed some pretty horrendous weather on the East Coast! Bad weather ended up hitting us in Mexico for 4 out of our 6 days, and of course the polar vortex has returned to NYC recently, but at least we got to skip a couple weeks of it! This California girl is not built for extreme cold, that’s for sure.

Here are a few shots from our trip:

Hanging out with my beautiful niece! Ice cream at Bi-rite creamery in SF  SF Two days of sunshine in Mexico better than nothing!

I could use another few weeks of winter break, but overall I’m feeling mentally recharged and ready to get back to it, which is a good thing because tomorrow is my first day of hospital rotations. The hospital is starting me with clinical rotations so I get to dive right into the deep end! It will be a bigger adjustment than starting with food service but this way I get to tackle the most challenging rotations first while the material from last semester is still somewhat fresh in my mind. It’s clear that the next 6 months will make last semester feel like a piece of cake, but I’m looking forward to helping actual patients and getting some great experience.

So with 6 months of hospital rotations ahead of me, as well as another go at the NYC Half and Boston marathons and my RD exam later in the year, 2014 looks to be just as busy, exciting and challenging as 2013. I can’t say that I’m feeling quite as positive about my training as I am about my internship, but I’m doing my best. I’m five weeks into my current  training cycle and with each week I feel like I’m moving backwards. I felt great in my first two weeks while training in California – it’s hard not to when you get run for hours in gorgeous Nisene Marks forest and on the beach in the sunshine! Pure bliss. Also, my hamstring and other niggles seem to have finally healed from all the time off, so although I felt a bit out of shape, I was able to begin speed work again feeling relatively strong.

Cut to being back in NYC and everything just feels ten times harder. I did the exact same tempo run on the treadmill that felt easy in California and could hardly finish it. Same with my interval session. I’m sure not being as well-rested and relaxed played a role, as well as the insanely frigid weather, but it’s still been discouraging. E and I ran 18 miles this past weekend in the coldest weather I’ve ever run in, and 16 the weekend before (which probably was the worst run I’ve had in months). I had three hats on, two pairs of pants, three long sleeve layers/jackets on top of my tank, and resorted to wearing wool socks over my gloves and hand warmers to keep my fingers warm (always my biggest challenge). We were out there for nearly three hours and I’m impressed that we made it to the end. Certainly the type of run that I could not have finished without the company of E and my other running buddies!

I’m not excited about the rest of this training cycle especially since I have to begin training at night, if time even allows for that. My internship obviously takes priority so I’ll just have to see how it goes and fit in whatever I can. It’s looking like Boston #2 may be the first marathon I run without a real time goal, and I’m actually totally fine with that. I ran strong last year and after everything that happened at the finish, I think Boston 2014 is the perfect race to relax my pace and enjoy being out on the course!

I returned late last night from my shortest trip to London yet. I spent two and a half days visiting E from NYC and it was worth every hour of travel (26, to be exact) to spend that time together. I had to blow off studying for a couple days and I’m paying for it now, but I had a great time.

I was actually a bit surprised by how great it felt to be back in London! I enjoyed myself during my last trip in November and it was really sad saying goodbye, but the decision to leave had been made long ago and I was eager to move forward. This time, however, I didn’t really want to leave – it was an escape from reality as well as from the abrasiveness of NYC, and obviously it was wonderful to see E. I nearly got my wish when a snowstorm hit London on Saturday night and shut down Heathrow, disrupting service right up until a few hours before my flight took off at 8pm! Mixed feelings on that one, but I suppose it’s best NOT to be stuck somewhere and miss classes today…

I arrived early Friday morning, a bit of a mess from my crazy week plus the redeye flight, but incredibly excited to see E. The flight – my first time flying with Virgin Atlantic – was practically empty and getting to E’s flat went very smoothly. It took 13 hours door to door, using public transportation on both ends – not too bad! London seemed so calm, particulalry E’s flat which is ironic given that I always used to complain about the noise (he lives near a busy street). Everything is quiet compared to NYC, I guess! I forgot just how chilled out London is by comparison – more parks, less noise, not as claustrophobic. I miss it.

 

We headed to Borough Market for some Monmouth coffee (I brought home three bags – very exciting) and some of my favorite goodies, including Comte cheese (the best!), oak roasted tomatoes (SO amazing – like sun blushed but WAY better) and homemade ginger granola. I always love going back to Borough Market – it’s comforting to see all the same vendors, some of whom recognize me from my years of weekly visits.

 

We relaxed for most of the day – it was FREEZING out and I was very jet lagged – but we had a nice meal at The Garrison, one of our favorite local gastropubs. I wasn’t over the moon about what I ordered, but the atmosphere was awesome as usual – very cozy and bustling.

Saturday morning we headed out to the river for a 9M run. It was peaceful and relatively nice weather, although a bit chilly. E has become so much faster in the last year or so – I really am impressed. I had to tell HIM to slow down at times (well, mainly because I was trying to do a steady, easy run and he kept surging every mile or so, but still). My legs definitely feel SO much better after this past week – I’m glad I took three full rest days and only ran 23 miles.

Our run was followed by coffee with a friend and then an early dinner at one of my favorite London restaurants – Boca di Lupo. We sat at the chef’s counter, which is always my favorite place to sit (I love watching the chefs). However, this time was a bit different. Ever since my Food Safety lecture in Intro to Food & Food Science, I have become VERY aware of all the things that should and should not be done in restaurant kitchens. I couldn’t help but watch the chefs – particularly the grill – with a very critical eye and analyze the death out of what they were doing. I was cringing as I saw about twenty different examples of cross contamination, among other things, and of course I couldn’t shut up about it. E was ready to kill me!! But our food was delicious as always – malfatti with ricotta and spinach; celeriac, radish and pomegranate salad with parmesan shavings and truffle vinaigrette; and profiteroles with hazelnut, chestnut and pistachio gelati and chocolate sauce (pictured below). We also got an amazing sausage dish, a veal chop and a lovely carafe of red wine. I can’t tell you how much of a treat this was – I haven’t been out to eat much these past few weeks and really missed it!

    

During dinner, it suddenly started to snow! We were so surprised. We had planned to meet some friends across town at a pub after dinner – by the time we got there it was a full on snow storm, which is pretty unusual for London. I apparently bring winter wherever I go – first NYC and then London! At least we were nice and cozy inside the pub with our pear ciders, and it was awesome catching up with my London “framily.”

 

 

E and I had to walk 15 minutes to get back to the flat. We were soaked by the time we got home. I was also a bit stressed out that so many flights were being cancelled, including the Virgin flight to Newark right before mine. However, I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just tried to focus on having fun. Got some great shots during the walk back – and yes there wasn’t THAT much snow, but London shuts down even after a dusting! Ridiculous.

         

We slept in Sunday morning and had a fabulous lunch at Zucca, another local favorite on Bermondsey street. I forgot how great my old neighborhood is! I packed up and checked my flight status – on time! What a relief. E of course was bummed out – apparently he had been conspiring with the weather to keep me in London!

E accompanied me to Heathrow which was very sweet. Saying goodbye was tough as always, but he’s running the NYC half in mid-March so we’ll be seeing each other again soon. Meeting up every month or so until he is able to move to NYC (by this summer, we hope) is doable.

The airport was mayhem and I had a bad experience at the Virgin check in counter (never have I heard of a 6kg weight limit for carry ons – stupid) but the flight went smoothly and I even had a free seat next to me.

It’s going to be a very busy week trying to catch up with school and get back into a more intensive training schedule, but hopefully my lovely weekend in London will provide me with plenty of inspiration to get through it! At least it’s sunny in NYC…

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…

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

Grateful for quality time this week with my little pumpkin! 🎃😍 Happy Monday from California! I haven’t posted any running pics for a long time as I’ve been dealing with a hip injury for the last few months (and zero running for the last 5 weeks). 😓 I haven’t run a race, even a short one, in over a year - so different than how I imagined my postpartum running life to be. It makes me sad that I can’t run especially while in Santa Cruz, but I’m trying to stay active in different ways, be diligent about my PT, and remain positive even though the road to recovery feels endless at times. Yesterday, E and I went on a beautiful beach walk in the morning and then I did a hike with a friend and our babes in the afternoon, where I normally run in Nisene. I miss running but hopefully will get back to it soon, stronger than before! Baking “for the baby” tonight (so I say as I gobble up these delicious treats). Made mini pumpkin muffins (and a few mama sized ones), recipe adapted from @babyfoode. So easy to make - I added full fat Greek yogurt and almond butter to include some healthy fats. I think Arielle will love these - if for some crazy reason she doesn’t, more for me!! 😂 Nice work on tonight’s dinner, @trailz.io!! So good I’m going back for seconds. Veg bake with layers of eggplant, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, breadcrumbs, & spices with arugula on top. 👌🏻 Surprise package in the mail today! Thx @rxbar - stoked to try out the new gingerbread flavor. Speaking of, how on earth is it already the holiday season?!?! #rxbar Love @siggisdairy triple cream yogurts - perfect to satisfy a craving for something sweet and indulgent while providing 9g protein, relatively few calories (170), and calcium. The chocolate flavor was so delicious! #dailysiggis

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