travel

Local finds

Time for explorations… which usually mean food. Living in California provided me with any kind of food I could want. When I lived around campus, 24-hour Mexican was a favorite. When I lived in City Heights, Vietnamese, East African and El Salvadorian food was to die for, and all made by natives of each respective country. Delicious food, decently priced.

When I was getting ready to move to Virginia, being able to find ethnic food was my biggest question. I searched the Internet (specifically Yelp), and was pretty bummed with the results. Almost everything was “American” food, whatever that may be, but not many ethnic restaurants, and those that were listed didn’t have stellar reviews.

Last weekend I was in Norfolk and thought I’d have better chances in an actual city. I found a Mexican restaurant (hallelujah!) and went inside for lunch, after my dress fitting at David’s Bridal. 1) There was no one else in the restaurant, and 2) the girl that seemed to run the front was American. “Don’t make any assumptions!” I kept thinking to myself. The first thing she asked was I I wanted guacamole or cheese with my chips. Cheese?! Then I took a look at the menu while she or my chips, salsa and guac. She came out with the basket and bowls and also included a bowl of off white-ish cheese something (I presume? A take on queso fresco maybe?) The salsa was pretty good and the perfect level of spicy, so I was hopeful. I ordered rice, beans, an enchilada and a soft taco and checked Instagram while I waited.

20121017-141216.jpg Commence taste test. Verdict: I miss California. Everything was pretty dry, including the enchilada, and the potatoes inside the enchilada were undercooked so some were still semi-crunchy. But I think this is as good as Mexican gets here, so hopefully I won’t have any cravings!

I did pass by this beauty on my way home the next day:

20121017-141511.jpg I knew I smelled my people from all the way across the street 🙂 Can’t wait to give them a try!!

I did find a fabulous Mennonite farm/cafe/amazingness a few miles from the house. It’s family owned and operated for generations, everythings homemade (fruits & veggies are locally grown, honey is local, cheese and milk are made by them as well) , their coffee is fair trade, and their cinnamon rolls are to die for.

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Plus, these little guys are roaming around outside 🙂

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Peroni Crawlin’ Crab 1/2 marathon Recap

So I had mentioned in the last post that living in a new state brings on new races. An 8k a week after you move, a 1/2 marathon 2 weeks after you moved, why not?!

Sunday was the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon in Hampton, VA, put on by J&A Racing.  So Saturday I headed up to Hampton for the expo and packet pick-up, not knowing quite what to expect.  J&A has put on races in the area in the past, but this was the Inaugural Crawlin’ Crab.  5 of my 6 previous 1/2 marathons had been put on by large companies in large cities (Rock n Roll x3, Nike Women’s and Carlsbad 1/2), so I was excited to see what difference a smaller company could make.

The expo was about 40 minutes away (with no traffic), and I had to make it through the dreaded “tunnel” that I kept hearing horrible things about. Luckily there were no accidents or gas breakdowns, so it was smooth sailing.  The expo was held at the Hampton Road Convention Center, was easy to find off the freeway, had ample parking and there were no lines to pick up my packet (change #1).  It was much smaller than the other expos I had been to, but they had swag to purchase with the race name on it (see my last blog post for awesome pictures) and the purchasable running gear was made by Brooks, so how could I refuse?!  There were 2 rows of vendors (change #2) representing local chiropractic clinics, running stores (yay for Fleet Feet!), nutritional items, and of course vendors selling stickers, shirts, headbands, socks, hats, you name it. One thing that I would have loved to see what a booth selling different gels, bars, drinks, etc. Honey Stingers are few and far between in these parts, so I had to drive about 30 minutes out of my way to find the Honey Stinger gels for race day.  But since that’s the only thing I can eat during a race, it was worth the drive. I also snagged a pair of Brooks shorts and a long sleeve race shirt, also by Brooks.

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This is how I get ready to rumble!

Sunday morning I made the drive up to Hampton again, and this time it was raining. They had forecasted a high of 60, thunderstorms and 80% chance of rain… fabulous. As if last weekends 8k in the rain wasn’t enough, let’s add on another hour and a half to that, and then take away about 10 degrees of warmth and all the humidity. I was doing a reverse rain dance in the car for the drive up. It was more than welcome to rain the entire drive, as long as it promised to stop once the race started and not start up again for 3 hours.

Now let me just say that the organization of this race was fabulous (take notes RnR!).  Since it’s a smaller, local company, they can really focus on the participants needs, take (and welcome) advice, and don’t skimp on, well, anything.  The expo was organized, they answered question quickly via Facebook, updated their page with picture from the expo to get everyone excited.  Race day proved to be no different.  There was ample parking, tons of volunteers, enough port-o-potties (they call them port-o-johns here, crazy kids) to go around (and the convention center was even open for us to use their restrooms as well!), corrals were clearly marked, etc. I honestly don’t have any complaints about the set-up of the race.  It was the perfect size, capping out at 5,000 participants, split between the 1/2 marathon and 5k.

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Let’s do this

The route was really beautiful, and being new to the area, I honestly think the best way to get to know your new town is through running. I looked at everything I passed, I read signs on building (talk about history), I admired the architecture of the houses, and really enjoyed the fantastic views of the Hampton Harbor during that stretch.  Despite the weather, residents along the route came out to the sidewalk still in their pajamas to cheer us on. Some brought out chairs, some carried steaming cups of coffee, and others came out with their whole families. These people didn’t know us, didn’t know anyone in the race, but lived along the race route and wanted to cheer us on. It was such a great feeling.  They also placed crab-themed jokes along the race route to entertain us 🙂

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Captain Crabby was on hand to cheer us at the Start line. Fabulous host!

Seriously, if I’m still in VA next year, I will be doing this race again, no questions asked.  And if all the J&A races are half as good as this one, I’ll be doing them all (I’m already registered for their Blue Moon Wicked 10k at the end of October).  Virtual high-5 for those at J&A. You took everything that’s wrong at those big company races and made it all right. No not just right, amazing.

And about the race itself:

I don’t sleep well normally. I’ve been sleeping even worse since moving to Virginia. Before, I would wake up a few times during the night, but usually can go back to sleep pretty quickly. Even though I’m not awake for long, the disruption makes for a really tired day.  Since moving here, I’ve been waking up every hour-hour and a half, wide awake like I’ve been asleep for 8 hours and I missed my alarm.  Then I freak out and grab my phone to check the time. It’s only been an hour?! What the!  The night before the race was no different. Even though I had a quiet house (aside from the cat that kept waking me up), and got in bed at 8:45pm for a 4:40am wake-up, I woke up at least 6 times during the night, so I was ti-yerd the next morning. Luckily I already had everything set up and packed up.

I went to the bathroom before the race, like any well-hydrated runner does. It was about 40 minutes before the race, and since it was FREEZING outside, I went back to the car to attempt to stay warm until a few minutes before the race started. Big mistake. I should have just parked it next to the bathrooms, just in case.

The gun went off at 8:00am with Corral 1. Since I had no idea how I was going to do, I put myself in Corral 5 (aka the last one), so I had a few minutes to look around while waiting.   I should have gone to the bathroom while waiting! But instead I parked myself alongside the 2:30 pacer. I knew if I wanted a PR, I had to stay in front of her, so I figured I’d stay with her until my legs warmed up and then take off. For the mental aspect, I break my 1/2 marathons into 5k’s to stay sane. Sometimes I’ll also randomly yell out “we’re 1/4 of the way done, you can do this!” I apologize to anyone I’ve annoyed 🙂

Mile 1: 10:12

That plan quickly changed when 1/4 of a mile (yes, that fast), my bladder decided I still had extra nuun to discard. Luckily there were port-o-potties just after mile 1. Unluckily there were only 5 and there was a line. I’m not going to pee on myself, so I fell in line. 4 minutes later I was off and running again, knowing I had to make up A LOT of time. My goal was to catch up to the 2:30 pace group at least.

Mile 2: 13:56  (DANG YOU BLADDER!)

Mile 3: 10:40

Mile 4: 10:20

Mile 5: 9:51 (yay finally loose legs)

At about mile 5.5, my throat started to itch and tickle. I had woken up Friday morning with a little sore throat, but was hoping it was just the weather change, or maybe I had slept with my mouth open (attractive, right?) Not so much. I woke up Saturday morning with an itchy throat and so much pressure in my head. Hello DayQuil, please work FAST.  Then I woke up Sunday morning with the itchy, tickly throat (that also kept me up the night before, drinking water or trying to clear my throat to get it to leave me alone).  Unfortunately it was like this on and off for 4 miles. I’m sure it was really annoying to those running around me, because I wanted to punch myself in the throat. I had to cough every 4-5 breathes, so it really threw off my breathing 🙁

Mile 6: 10:37 (finally passed the 2:30 pacer and not all hope was lost… and then it started to sprinkle)

Mile 7: 10:20

I really wish I would have run with my phone so that I could take pictures of the scenery along the harbor and the houses. But I decided that morning that I 1) didn’t want the extra weight in my SpiBelt (in a previous 1/2, having my phone in there had actually bruised  my tailbone or whatever shifty bone is right there), and 2) I didn’t want it to get wet or have to fiddle with a plastic bag if I wanted a picture. Mental pictures, all mental pictures.

Mile 8: 10:34

My knees were really starting to hurt at this point, and I realized that I need to spend a lot more time with my foam roller. I had a fabulous sports masseuse in San Diego, and while at times it felt like torture sessions, all my best runs were after sessions with him. I really miss that guy!

Mile 9: 11:06 (I had to chew and digest my Red Vines, duh. Oh and it was mile freaking 9 and was raining at this point)

I came to the realization that with the sky darkening, the rain wasn’t going to let up. All the races I had run in CA were dry (Bay to Breakers doesn’t count because we were people watching and not actually racing)  This was my 2nd race in VA, and the 2nd wet race. Time to get used to it, I guess. Good thing I put on a hat and long sleeve over my tank, otherwise I would have been miserable.

Mile 10: 10:29 (realization that if I could somehow maintain this pace, I had a shot at a PR)

Aside from knowing that if I even had to stop to walk once that my PR would be gone, this was probably the toughest mental mile. This is my wall.  In previous 1/2’s, my brain and body just want to stop at mile 10. I’ve had to walk in previous races. Some I’d only need to walk the water stops, others I would need walk breaks once or twice in the final miles. To pass mile 10 without needing this was SUCH a huge relief for me and the mental boost that I needed to get me through the rest of the race.

Mile 11: 10:42

Mile 12: 10:40

I knew it would be close to my PR, and I REALLY wanted it (especially after the heartache of missing it by a minute at this years RnR SD, when I was on pace for 3/4 of the race and making stupid mistakes that cost me the PR). I wasn’t going to walk. I wasn’t going to give up!

Mile 13.1: 13:05

BOOM SHAKA LAKA! PR time! It was a fabulous feeling coming into the home stretch, looking down at my Garmin and knowing I was going to do it. It was also a scary feeling because my Garmin isn’t always trustworthy. At least on current/average pace side. I had the top line set up for overall time though, and based on that,  I had a PR. I wasn’t sure how accurate it was, so I was going to wait until official results were up before getting too excited.

Since I was getting sick, and it was still raining, I had to skip the finish line festivities and that totally bummed me out because those J&A kids love to party! Peroni beer, chowder in bread bowls and all kinds of goodies at the finish line, but even though they made one hell of an effort, even they couldn’t control mother nature and had to pack up early 🙁 You better believe I still collected my awesome medal (all J&A medals also double as a bottle opener. I told you they love to party!), banana, pretzels, Gatorade and Powerbar at the finish line. I didn’t want to turn down all the free food!

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Turns out it was a PR by 1 minute and 51 seconds (Final official time: 2:22:24).  On the one hand I was really excited to finally PR (my previous PR was set during my 1st 1/2 marathon in June 2011. Crawlin’ Crab was my 7th 1/2 marathon, so there have been quite a few “almosts” in between).  On the other hand, I was 1) really sad that I was there alone, and had no one to share the excitement with. I just went back to the car and drove home.  Running is as much an individual sport as it is a social sport.  I miss running with friends, and I miss my Saturday morning sessions with Team in Training, and 2) Even though it was a PR, I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t stopped to go to the bathroom, it would have been over a 6 minute PR. It would have been a sub 2:20 1/2 marathon, and that absolutely killed me. I’m still not over it, but I’m trying.

Next up is the Wicked 10k in a couple weeks. I plan on trying to PR for that distance, and I need to think of a runner friendly costume idea. Since I just moved here and don’t have a lot of my things (and let’s face it, am not a huge costume person), can I get away with black running tights, a sparkly running skirt, a football jersey and eye black and pretend I’m a football player?

Meet Virginia…

So I’ve been living in Virginia for 2 weeks now and thought it was about time for a post… I know I already did a little race recap of the 8k I did last weekend, but I have a few more photos I’ve taken since I got here that I needed to catch up with.

The area I’m living in is pretty different from living in San Diego, and California for that matter.

1) Hello humidity. My poor hair had no idea what was coming.
2) My favorite stores? Nope. I miss my favorite grocery stores. I miss REI. I miss Road Runner. I miss everything being so close. I guess I was spoiled living in San Diego and having everything so close. I have yet to find an outdoor store, the closest running store is at least 40 minutes away (if there’s no traffic at all), and the grocery stores carry weird brands that I’m not used to, and not a great deal of variety. Oh and they like their fried foods. Healthy food options aren’t in abundance.
3) This is country suburbs.  There are some hosing developments, but they’re surrounded by trees and farms and open land.  Most houses are on bigger plots of land (something you rarely see in cities), with no fences dividing the houses.  I’m kind of loving that aspect, especially when said houses have wrap-around porches 🙂 Perfect for my rocking chair… or hammock.
4) Using your cell phones while driving is perfectly legal here. OK, so most people still do it in CA even though it’s now against the law, but I always freak out for a second when I see someone doing it out in the open. You know what else is still legal? Smoking everywhere. That’ll take some getting used to.  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve also seen smoking in their cars and then throwing the cigarette out the window. Come on people!
5) Traffic is HORRIBLE! And this is from someone coming from California. From San Diego and the Bay area. I know my traffic. Tip: just because Google maps says it’s 18 miles away, don’t expect to get there in less than 40 minutes.  Especially if you have to drive over any draw bridges (ugh) or through the tunnel (triple ugh)
6) There are more churches here than good places to eat or coffee shops. Churches aren’t a bad thing, but literally, there’s one every couple blocks (and some blocks have multiple), all different denominations of Christianity. I have yet to see any Catholic churches, LDS churches, synagogues or temples. I love good food. I love coffee shops. I just don’t want to have to drive 20 miles to find either (seriously though, I’ve only seen about 5 Starbucks in the 2 weeks I’ve been here and ZERO independently owned coffee shops. So sad).

All that aside, it’s beautiful here.  I love the back and forth between town, suburbs and country.  I love the history that’s on this side of the country. I love that people don’t feel the need to live on top of one another, and don’t have fences between their houses. I love the architecture of the homes. I love the random farms (there’s one right behind our neighborhood).  I love the Mennonite bakery/dairy that’s 3/4 of the way down the road. I love taking the back road to Virginia Beach and passing by the farms, open land, forest and swampy areas. I love the smell of the trees when it’s humid. I love still having the beach about 30 miles away (even if the boardwalk is kind of sketchy and they make you pay for parking).  I love when I hear a bit of southern twang when talking to people (I haven’t come across a ton yet. The accents are super thick here and there are a lot of transplants because of the military presence).  I love that I’m still close to bases, even though I can’t get on one. For my entire life, I’ve lived within 20 miles (and for most of it, within 5 miles) of a military base. It may sound weird but it makes it feel like home.

On to the pictures!

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This guys is the familys’ cat. I am not a cat person. I don’t enjoy their razor sharp claws digging into my skin, but wouldn’t have the heart to de-claw it. Easy fix – never have a cat. This one’s different though. He’s calm (unless I’m taking a nap). He’s loving. He lets the kids do whatever they want with him and he just takes it. He’s lovey, and when I’m sitting on my bed catching up on Grey’s Anatomy, he comes and sits with me.

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My cousin sent me this picture. My Lola just got a new cell phone and was learning how to text :)

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Coast to coast. I need the ocean!

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18th annual Neptune Festival was the 2nd weekend I was here. The weather was beautiful, the boardwalk was full of vendors and live music was playing. They had tons of stuff for people to do all weekend, including the 8k I participated in on Saturday morning!

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Neptune himself showed up! This is a pretty awesome HUGE sculpture on the boardwalk.

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Olympian Francena McCorory even made an appearance (she’s a local). Then she said “I be over there” and I was a little sad.

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The night before the 8k – how am I supposed to choose just one pair?!

And then, because one race a week after you move isn’t enough, I registered for 2 more that night. A 1/2 marathon on Sunday (tomorrow) and a 10k on October 27th.

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Entrance to the Inaugural Peroni Crawlin’ Crab Expo

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Bah, you have no idea how much I wanted these! Crab themed on everything! Props for being so creative, but no props for not having my size. Saved me money though, because I don’t know how often I’d wear a running skirt.

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Expo swag success! The blue shirt on the left is the race shirt. It’s a pretty good shirt, except for the fact that they’re unisex, aka don’t fit women. Look how high the neck is! I could barely get my head through it, so if I want to wear it and not feel like I’m being strangled while running, I’ll need a creative way to cut the neck 🙁 I bought the fabulous #brooksrunning longsleeve and another pair of Brooks shorts as well. Such great running gear! And creative on the shirts :)

That’s it for now! I woke up this morning with an itchy, sore throat and a headache that won’t go away, which means a cold/the flu/my bi-annual strep scare is upon me. And just in time for my 1/2 marathon tomorrow morning, joy! The weather forecast says high of 60, with thunderstorms and an 80% chance of rain. I’m sure the sore throat, coughing because of the itch and headache will make it more fun 🙂 Now time to try to catch up on Army Wives, carbo-load, hydrate with my fabulous Nuun (I’ve been guzzling it), and try to get to bed early. Work your magic Ny-Quil!

Send me good juju to get me through tomorrow! And then send all the good juju to the Seahawks so they can win their game 🙂 After last week, they need it. No more interceptions!

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I couldn’t resist… You’re welcome :)

First race in Virginia

… was also my first 8k ever.

So I had lived in Virginia for less than a week and decided it was about time I ran a race here! I registered the night before the Neptune Festival 8k at a local running store (note: having to drive 40-50 minutes to get to “local” running store means it’s not local. There really needs to be one closer). It was only $35, which is pretty cheap, but it was cotton shirts and no medal, so that was a bummer.

I woke up early the next morning and pulled on shorts and a tank, since it has been warm and humid since I got here and headed for Virginia Beach, with plenty of time to find residential parking a bit further away because I refuse to have to pay for parking at the beach. That’s just insane to me!

I’m really glad I grabbed my visor on the way out because about 5 minutes after I parked, it started to rain. It never really stopped, and was spitting rain for almost the entire race. Starting temperature was 68 and humid, so I actually didn’t mind it. It would have been a whole different story had I not had a hat, since glasses and rain don’t mix.

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Since running the hilly, hot, sunny, hard trail half marathon a couple weeks ago had bummed me out a bit, I was hoping this race would lift my spirits.

I had to get my timing chip that morning since I had registered so late. The lady handed me a plastic baggy with the chip in it and told me it had to be worn around my ankle. I strapped it on and marveled at my “just released from prison, can’t leave my house, Martha Stewart-esque” ankle bracelet/monitor. It also looked like a shock collar for a dog. Yikes.

The horn went off and naturally, even after 20 minutes, my Garmin was still attempting to locate satellites. Ugh. I started off at a steady pace and once it found a satellite, started the timer and flipped it to the inside of my wrist so 1) it wouldn’t get wet, and 2) I wouldn’t look at it as much. I tried staying right behind a girl to keep pace (ok, an she had a cool race shirt on, so I was trying to read the back). Just after mile 1, my left shoe came untied, so I had to pull over to tie and double-knot both shoes. Dang it, now I had to catch up with her! When my Garmin beeped indicating mile 2, I looked down to see my time was happy with what I saw! I tied to keep it up for each mile, separating the race into one mile segments (totally mental, I do this with a lot of races to keep my brain from freaking out. Running is both physical and mental!).

I passed people (KILL!) and was passed (oh well), and would try o pick a person just ahead to catch up to. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but at least it kept me busy. The race was along numbered streets, which is great, because then you know how far you have to go, and not so great because then you know just how far you still have to go.

I finished strong (and even better, pain-free and happy!), handed back my timing chip, and you guessed it, headed straight to see what food they had 🙂 Pizza, bananas, bagels, muffins, water, soft drinks and a trailer with beer taps on the side. JACKPOT! it was a bit too early for beer, but I stuffed my face with pizza, half a muffin, a banana and an iced tea. De-lish.

20120930-192822.jpgThanks Brooks Running and Injinji and Moving Comfort!

And now for the times! The mile times don’t quite add up to the chip time since it took awhile to locate the satellites at the start:

Mile 1: 9:44.39 (+ ~45 seconds to start working)
Mile 2: 9:46.48 (that included tying my shoes!)
Mile 3: 9:32.75
Mile 4: 9:41.01
Mile 5: 9:21:61

Garmin time: 48:09.65
Chip time: 48:58.85

Eh, I’ll take it 🙂

And of course because that went well, I had to sign up for more races! I just registered online for the Crawlin’ Crab 1/2 marathon this Sunday (yes, this Sunday), and the Blue Moon Wicked 10k on October 27, both complete with medal, tech shirts and sweet swag 🙂

Hello Run Happy, goodbye paycheck!

Adventure Time!

I was looking through some photos on my phone and decided that despite the ups and downs, I’ve had a pretty good past few years, adventure-wise. I’m a lucky girl, thankful for what I’ve been able to do, for what I’m currently experiencing, and looking forward to what I’ll get to do in the future.

Prepare yourself for a photo-heavy post 🙂 They won’t be in date order (I’ll try but it’s a bit hard when posting from my phone)

20120831-194439.jpg Belize and Guatemala trip, May 2010.

20120831-194615.jpg Ziplining in Belize, May 2010.

20120831-193559.jpg Maui with my family, October 2010

20120831-193750.jpgBay2Breakers 2011

20120831-193907.jpgGo Mariners! May 2011

20120831-194015.jpg The morning of my very first 1/2 marathon! Rock n Roll SD, June 2011

20120831-194145.jpg Best Friends bachelorette weekend, Las Vegas, July 2011.

20120831-194335.jpg Skydiving on my 26th birthday.

20120831-194744.jpg Nike Womens 1/2 marathon, October 2011.

20120831-194935.jpg BINGO with Lola is always a fun adventure! Christmas 2011.

20120831-195132.jpg 1/2 marathon #3, Carlsbad 1/2, January 2012.

20120831-195237.jpg My fellow team in Training mentors and coaches, January 2012.

20120831-195348.jpg 1/2 marathon #4, Inaugural Rock n Roll Pasadena 1/2, February 2012.

20120831-195603.jpg DisneyWorld with the family, March 2012.

20120831-195806.jpg Attending the wedding of these 2 amazing people!

20120831-195912.jpg Bay2Breakers 2012 – There’s no crying in baseball!

20120831-200037.jpg MEETING CHRISSIE WELLINGTON!!!!

20120831-200202.jpg Finished with my 5th 1/2 marathon and first season as a TNT mentor – RnR SD, June 2012.

20120831-200439.jpg Coronado Independence Day 15k 2012.

20120831-200624.jpg Getting in this tiny plane, taking the reins and taking off without crashing!

20120831-200807.jpg My amazing cousin marries a fabulous guy. Then proceeds to splash gravy on her dress. Maid of Honor to the rescue!

20120831-201002.jpg EuroTrip August 2012! Reunion time, 5 years after I left.

20120831-201212.jpg Cheering on Team USA at the London Olympics.

20120831-201331.jpg Meeting Brandi Chastain and Summer Sanders!

20120831-201536.jpg Being back in the tiny town I studied abroad in for the 2006-2007 school year. Oh Tübingen, Germany, how I’ve missed you!

20120831-201813.jpg “Felixing” in Heidelberg, Germany, after a perfect game is pitched. GO MARINERS!

20120831-202011.jpg Crawling to the ledge of the 330 foot cliff at Dun Aenghus, Inis Mór, Ireland.

20120831-202152.jpg Haven’t seen these girls in 5 years. Reunited and it feels so good!

20120831-202455.jpg Back in London. I au paired for this amazing family over 5 years go and am finally getting to see them again! It’s like I’m back home again…

Let the adventures continue!

Last hours in Tübingen

Sunday was my last full day in Tübingen, and then I had a few hours in the morning on Monday before I needed to pack up my stuff and hop on a train to Heidelberg to visit my friend McKenzie.

Sunday I wandered around the city for the last time, probably doing about 3 or 4 circles around the Neckar and the Altstadt, just looking at everything. Went to an internet cafe to check on train times and flights to Dublin, and then got my Kugel of Eis and set out on a walk about the town (it was HOT and humid, oy).

I’m computerless for at least the next few days, so I cant upload pictures from my camera until i can get to a computer 🙁 This last one will have totide you all over until then :).

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Next up: Heidelberg!

20120822-130242.jpg Beautiful, isn’t it?!

Oh Germany, how I’ve missed you!

Just as a warning, please be prepared for all kinds of sappy nostalgia. Loads of pictures and stories of food and German architecture.

6 years ago, I got on a plane with 2 suitcases and a travel backpack; my first time abroad and ready to stamp up my new passport. I was embarking on a year-long study abroad voyage to Germany. I’d be taking a full load of classes each semester and trying to travel in between.

I was scared. I was nervous. I was excited. I was ready.

5 years ago, I finished up my year abroad and left Tübingen, not knowing when I’d be able to return again. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t ready. I was sad.

Well, I’M BAACCCKKKKKK! it only took me 5 years!

Commence photo overload.

20120819-101157.jpg I bought a huge German flag when I was here… Now where the heck is it!?

After a 7.5 hour train ride on 6 different trains from Bitburg-Erdorf, I was ready to be DONE. I arrived in Tübingen around 9pm and took in the familiar train station. It was like coming home. I dragged my wheeled luggage to a bus, took it to the Neckarbrücke and got off (closest to the Marktplatz). Let me just say how NOT fun it is to drag a wheeled suitcase at 9:15pm (or anytime) through cobblestone streets. But I made it to the Marktplatz and my first view was the beautiful Rathaus:
20120819-101300.jpg Totally worth the train ride.

Plan for the night: eat bread and French cheese and olives and have good conversations and then PASS OUT.

Day 1:
The next day it was all about exploring my old stompin grounds and trying to remember where everything was.

20120819-101907.jpg One of the most famous views of Tübingen. Many an afternoon were spent sitting on that wall, eating Eis:

20120819-102022.jpg Ein Kugel Zitrone bitte! Goal for while I’m here – eat 2 of these a day! Go big or go home, right?

20120819-102143.jpg The Stocherkann boats lined up along the bank of the Neckar river. Hopefully we’ll get to take one out while I’m here.

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20120819-102542.jpgTübingen was lucky enough to be one of the few place in Germany not destroyed during World War II, so much of the original architecture is still intact. How beautiful is this!?

While living in Germany, we all bought used bikes. It’s a small town, the university is spread out around town and moat everyone walks, bikes or takes the bus to get where thy need to go. Perfect living if you ask me. I had a bike that I loved. I got into a bad accident on a wet morning going really fast downhill, trying o get to class on time. It had rained the night before so the path was still wet. And since it was fall, it was also covered in slippery leaves. Perfect combo for a downhill ride, right? Since we lived on the top of a huge hill, the left side of the path was a brick wall covered in ivy and the right aide of the path was small “fence” with a cliff on the side. Even better! Towards the end of our ride, my back tire hot some of the wet levee and I started to fishtail, BAD. I had no control over my bike anymore and that was definitely in the top “scared for your life” moments. Luckily I was able to steer enough to go left instead of over the cliff, my front wheel clipped the wall, I Superman flew over my handlebars, slammed on the ground and skidded until I hit the wall. End result? Torn jeans, ripped jacket, bent handlebars, bloody/muddy knee and bloody palms. Just how any girl wants to go to class.

But we had amazing bike rides, too, don’t get me wrong. That was jut really memorable. So I’m walking along the main street and there are bikes parked everywhere around town (literally everyone has one). I’ve probably passed by at least 300 bikes already that day, not paying much attention. Then I pass by this building with a lie bike perched up against it. I walk by it, then stop, whip around and do a double and triple take.
20120819-102717.jpg It’s my old bike! From 5 years ago! I may or may not have (definitely go with may) gotten a wee bit misty-eyed as I greeted my old friend with a “hey buddy.” Then I tried to sneak the above picture before the new owner came out and thought I was a lunatic.

20120819-103803.jpg In case you can’t see the little red sign, that’s the towns H&M. Ridiculous, right?

20120819-103938.jpg I finished off the day with a Radler and Brezel with mustard from the Neckarmüller, one of our favorite spots next to the river.

Day 2:
You’ve made it through the first day!

Today I woke up with the intention of taking the bus up to Waldhäuser Ost (WHO), where our old dorms were, walk around a bit, and then try to remember the path to Bebenhausen, a local village/monastery/castle. I also wanted to get a run in while going to Bebenhausen since I haven’t done much running (sad, I know). After about 15 minutes around WHO and sneaking in a picture of my old building, I set off in the direction that I thought was correct. I had to stop at the gas station along the way and get a new bottle of water since I had just finished mine, still had quite a ways to go, and it was supposed to be 87*F that day. I was already sweating.

20120819-104545.jpg Ha, I remembered!

It really is a beautiful walk, and we used to ride bikes out here all the time. There are fields and fields of corn, whatever else they’re growing and apple trees. Once you walk passed all the fields, you get to a forested trail that you have to go through for quite awhile:

20120819-104731.jpg But once you get through the forested area, heart racing, you come to a clearing and have a fabulous view of Bebenhausen below:

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We did the tour of the inside when we lived here, so I just stuck to the perimeter.

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The walk back is mainly uphill. Cue the crying of my quads and hamstrings. Since they worked so hard, I treated them to a Kugel of Mango Eis 🙂

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My last full day in Tübingen is tomorrow 🙁

Last day of the Olympics :(

As I’m waiting for the Closing Ceremonies to start (and lets face it, for the Spice Girls to perform!), I’m a bit sad, thinking about the last 8.5 days that I’ve been in London for the games. I head to Germany tomorrow with mixed emotions. Sad because my Olympic experience has been so fabulous, soaking up the atmosphere, hearing every language imaginable, seeing visitors/supporters from nations I can’t even begin to pronounce, all coming together for the love of sports.  People are walking around with the country gear on, obviously rooting for their athletes, but there is still such a sense of “one-ness” if that makes sense.  Each of us traveled here for a specific purpose – to cheer on our fellow countrymen, but more importantly, to celebrate a global event.

If you know me, you know I love sports of all kinds.  I love watching, I love participating, I love cheering.  Yes, I was screaming the loudest for the Americans, but HOT DANG, some other athletes made these Olympic Games interesting. I found myself cheering extra loud for Mo Farah (I quite enjoyed him before, but he is just adorable).  When he rounded that last turn in the 10000m last weekend, I was SCREAMING at the tv for him to win (and yes, there was an American in that race; his training partner Galen Rupp. I cheered for him as well, but I just wanted Mo to win. Luckily, Galen got the silver!)

I decided to spend yesterday in Hyde Park, at one of the biggest Live Sites London had to offer. Holy moly, I felt like I was at an amazing festival.  There were 5 giant screens, food vendors all around the perimeter, a huge Cadbury thing in the corner under a big pop-up tent with a 2.5 hour queue (seriously, people better have been taking chocolate baths or something in there), and games and activities for the whole family. Not to mention the weather was GORGEOUS and I could get my tan on 🙂

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Everyone else had the same idea. Clothes and shoes were coming off in a hurry!

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Race walking- no joke. The guy on the screen is GB’s own Dominic King. He came in dead last for that race. At this point, he knew he was last. He was so proud to be at the Olympics; the crowd was cheering him on with every step he took. You could feel the electricity through the screen. He waved to everyone, smiled, took off his hat and waved it to people and finished with pride. Such a great moment.

Last night was the 5000m mens final. I was already fired about about athletics (who wasn’t?!) after the American women broke the world record for the 4×100 relay. Seriously, how can you not be excited when you see Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix smile after a race?!  Last nights 5000m final was watched at an “American bar” – the Chase Visa VIP Lounge that gave me the great opportunity to meet Brandi Chastain.  Everyone was on their feet watching this final.  During the last 100 when Mo got out in front, but there were 2 right on his heels.  Everyone was on edge.  When it was clear he was going to win, and when he officially crossed the line, an entire bar of Americans erupted in the loudest cheer I’ve heard in a long time.  I was waiving my GB flag along with others, even though they were wearing American flags on their shirts. The camaraderie during the Olympics gives you goosebumps, it’s that amazing.

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Mo and Usain Bolt exchanging their signature post-win moves. Can you say adorable?Also, can you say HOT DANG JAMAICA?!

How can I follow that night? Oh with a little thing called the mens marathon of course! On the final morning of the Olympic Games, the worlds best endurance runners toed the start line at Pall Mall.  We had 3 Americans start the race – Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman. I lined up at the same spot as the womens marathon since it provided a great view, and waited for the first pass of the loop.

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Just passed the 5k mark. Even though they are still relatively close, one pack had already gotten ahead of the rest.

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Start of the 2nd loop; about mile 11.5. Clearly Kenya was kicking some tail at this point. (Oh I’m sorry, were you surprised?)

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MEB!!!! Love this guy. At this point, he was about 15 back.

This was the leaders at the final lap, just about at mile 19.  These 3 finished with medals, in left to right order:

ImageSUCH a great day watching amazing marathoners. Oh to be an African runner for just one day!

Oh and our mens basketball team won Gold, no big deal.

London Update #3 – meeting sports legends!

The last 3 days have been fabulous.  I’ve neglected running for awhile (not good), so I decided to combine Olympic watching, the amazing London scenery and a run.  Instead of watching the events on the tv at the house, I wanted to take advantage of one of the London 2012 Live Sites they have set up around the city. Watch the events on a GIANT screen in an open area with loads of other Olympic lovers? Sign me up!  What sealed the deal on which one to choose? Potter’s Field (no Quidditch, sorry) is located right next to the Tower Bridge.

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Loads of other Olympic fans watching the equestrian events at the Live Site at Potter’s Field. IT was such a great feeling when someone from Great Britain did well and everyone watching cheered.

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Amazing location! Right along the River Thames, next to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

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I had to sneak in for a photo, even though I was sweating like a pig, compliments of walking forever and the constant weather changes in London.

After this picture, I changed tops and went for a fabulous run along the River Thames (luckily leggings double as running pants [only in the most dire situations] and I had my running shoes in my bag. Thanks Brooks Running for being so versatile!).  Seriously though, how can you say no to this view along your afternoon run?

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Then I decided shopping was a necessity (please note, this NEVER happens).  I’m one of the few girls who doesn’t enjoy shopping. It overwhelms me, I don’t have the attention span to look through racks (literally, I usually walk up and down the aisles once and if nothing jumps out, I don’t stop), and with my body type/shape, nothing ever fits or looks good, and get disheartened. Throw me in a running store and let me go to town though!

I (silly me!) had forgotten anything red, white & blue when packing – remember my night before my flight post, where all I had packed as of 10:30pm was a pair of running shoes and 2 scarves? I don’t know how I could have ever forgotten to pack something with that efficiency!  I had already been here a few days, but needed something with USA on it for the rest of the Olympics.  I headed to Oxford Street to the John Lewis department store, since they’re one of the only places that are allowed to sell London 2012 stuff and picked up a USA tank top (slim pickins this late in the Olympic games).  Woke up this morning ready to cheer on Team USA (also, I was SUPER fired up after the womens soccer team and water polo teams both won GOLD!)

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About a month or so before leaving, I had received an email from Chase (I have one of their Visa’s) saying “Planning on being in London for the Olympics?” (why yes I am, actually, how did you know?!) and letting me know about a Chase Visa VIP Lounge they would have set up every day of the Olympics. You could stop by for some food & drinks and watch the games. You had me at free food Chase.  Then they started emailing about Visa Signature athletes, and how some may stop by from time to time, but it wasn’t guaranteed. What? That’s awesome!  But for some reason, I just hadn’t been able to make it over there since coming to London,and decided today was the day. It was a great choice too, because Brandi Chastain (squee!) and Summer Sanders were set to do a meet & greet that afternoon! I went on the website to RSVP for the event and it said it was full. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I was so bummed, but was going to come for the food at least 🙂

I got there and was even more impressed! I thought it would just be this small thing with a snack table and large TV. They had fruit, variety of pastries, bagels, etc for breakfast, and tea, coffee, soft drinks and bottled water (all free!) and then at lunch changed over to fruit, variety of sandwiches, salad and the same beverages (please free alcohol after 12pm). 2 free meals for Sheena! Apparently the girl at the table next to me had been there every day for the past 5 days and said at night, they turn it into a club! Shortly before 2pm (meet & greet time), I went upstairs to see if there was any way I could get in, even though the event had been full for weeks, and they let me in!

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You have no idea how excited my elementary/middle/high school self would be right now!!!

Since they’re both actually sports commentators now, they didn’t need an interview, and just interviewed each other.  They’ve known each other for quite some time, which made the interview even better and more comfortable.  They were fabulous, so nice and open, made jokes, made fun of themselves, etc.  After their interviews of each other, they opened it up to some Q&A from the crowd (and some eyeroll-worthy questions/comments… on the crowds part, not theirs) and then took pictures/did autographs!  Both Brandi and Summer are from northern California, so when I had mentioned I was as well, and saw Brandi play in a CyberRays game in HS, I got extra hugs! SO HAPPY!

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SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO happy!

Since I had applied for the lottery for tickets and wasn’t chosen, and then tried multiple times to buy next day tickets to events only for the website to crash, I was really disheartened since I REALLY wanted to attend an Olympic event, you know, while you’re at the Olympics?  But meeting Brandi and Summer completely made up for all the bummed out moments and made this Olympic experience the BEST ever!!

Follow that euphoria up with a trek through Trafalgar Square on the way to my tube station 🙂
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A couple more days in London (mens marathon on Sunday!) before heading to Germany on Monday afternoon, followed by Ireland and finishing up in London again before heading back to California…

London – Birthday Celebrations and Olympic Park

06 August:

Happy birthday to me! I woke up at 4am (doesn’t everyone want to wake up that early on their birthday?? Thanks jetlag), so it was a really long day.

I went for a quick run and then came home and decided that I needed to figure out what I was going to do that day. After tea (naturally) and quick mid-morning nap (much needed), I had to decide between the Olympic Park and Richmond Park.  Sometimes you want to go all out and do something crazy for your birthday.

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Last year on my birthday, I jumped out of a plane. Sorry for the heart palpitations Mom and Dad!

So this year I decided that since I’m already in London for Olympics, that’s pretty BA, right? So I decided to do something low-key and it was the PERFECT decision. After my nap, I took a long hot shower (ahhh relaxation. Almost like being at a spa?), had another cup of tea (you really can’t have enough), and headed to the bus stop on my long journey.  After a bus ride, 2 tube rides and a short walk, I arrived at Richmond Park, home of the Olympic Cycling Road Race on 28 and 29 July, so it was deserted of tourists.

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Seriously, couldn’t have been more beautiful.

I walked around Richmond Park for about 2 hours taking in the scenery, watching the dragonflies (there were so many bright blue dragonflies all around that lake) and the deer (there were signs that said ‘beware of wild animals’ at the gate entrance, but I thought “meh, squirrels.” No no, there were full on deer randomly roaming around, just feet from the paths. I had a Bambi flashback).  After a couple hours, I decided if I didn’t get a move on, I’d be late getting to my friends for birthday dinner!

For those that don’t know, when I was in college, I studied abroad for a year in Germany. I met some pretty fabulous people, and while most were European, so I haven’t had a chance to see them since we all left, we still keep in contact (thank you Facebook, email and Skype!)  One of the major reasons I’m in Europe right now is for our 5-year study abroad reunion. I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that it’s been 5 years since we left. It just so happened the Olympics and my birthday were at the same time, too 🙂  One of the friends I met the first week we were in Germany now lives in London.  She invited me to dinner at her flat for my birthday and it was really great being able to catch up with her for 4 hours, and meet her husband for the first time!  That year in Germany changed my life, and after seeing someone for the first time in 5 years and it felt just like we were back again, makes it all worthwhile!  It was exactly what I needed and wanted for my birthday.

07 August:

I saved (what I thought would be) the chaos for today. I was going to the Olympic Park, where many of the venues and the London 2012 Megastore are.  I put in a bid for tickets ages ago, but wasn’t chosen, so I was hoping we could at least walk around to see the architecture of the venues, visit the store (why wouldn’t they want all that extra money?!) and watch some events from the big screens. WRONG! Without an event ticket, you could barely get close enough to see the Orbit from far away 🙁 I spent a lot of time (not to mention about £8 to get there and back, so I was a bit bummed).

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This was as close as I could get before they started demanding event tickets. I mean the nerve :)

Since I had planned my day around chaos, I decided it would be a good idea to head to the Westfield shopping center right around the corner from the Olympic Park (clearly, sometimes I don’t make good choices). I had to battle through about 535,208 people (I’m pretty sure that’s accurate) to get to one of the GB/London 2012 shops to get souvenirs. Queue after queue! I got a mug with the British lion on it, a 2012 pin and a London 2012 water bottle that has the freezable center to keep my water chilled (win!)

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And because I’m a fatty, in my dreams, all those white tents are food tents :)

And as a bonus for making it this far, another picture from the womens marathon on Sunday. There’s Shalane and Kara in the front pack, passing by me on the first lap (they were SO close!)

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It was pouring BUCKETS.