Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marathon des Sables...a Long Beach Man's Ultimate Challenge

On Sunday the Press-Telegram wrote a feature story on a neighbor of mine. Calling him a runner would be an understatement. He is about to embark on the most grueling and toughest foot race there is – the Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands. It’s a six day, 156-mile race through the Sahara Desert. Not only do the participants have to run in the ultra-fine sand of the Sahara and face biting winds and temperatures ranging from 130 degrees Fahrenheit to 30 degrees F, but they have to carry ALL their gear the entire time. John Callos, the man featured in the article, has methodically put together his pack to be as light as possible, down to a flash light the size of a fingernail and a stove made out of a beer can! Talk about resourceful!
The article is pretty cool and this man has my admiration and respect for even attempting this ultra through treacherous deserts. Here is the link to the article:

Race in Sands is Long Beach Man's Ultimate Challenge

It’s a quick read and very interesting. Good luck to John Callos and the running of the Marathon des Sables!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

LA Marathon Recap: A Volunteer's Perspective

This past Sunday I volunteered at the LA Marathon.  One of my best friends was running it and I really wanted to be on the course to support her.  Originally I was planning on making a poster and picking a spot on the course to stand and cheer everyone one, but then I thought back to my first half marathon at Surf City and remembered how important and encouraging the volunteers were...especially towards the end when the cramps and fatigue set in.  So I decided I was going to support ALL runners by volunteering at a water station near the end of the 26.2 journey…the Mile 20 water station to be exact!
Not only was my best friend, her brother, and our other friend running LAM, but a bunch of people on Twitter were running it too! I wanted to shout out to them all and cheer them on, but with water cups in my hand I wouldn’t be able to hold a poster or anything.  Then a brilliant suggestion came from @anotorias
 and @IronmanLongRunr on Twitter.  Make a shirt!  So I made a shirt on Saturday that looked like this:
If I had more time I would have made something a little nicer than Sharpie, but at least it was colorful and did the job! :)  I’ll tell ya, writing on fabric is much harder than one would think…the sharpie pulls the fabric then ‘jumps’ over the wrinkle and leaves a space so you have to go back over it to complete the stroke.  Anyways enough about that…I made the shirt and got a TON of compliments on it at the Marathon!!
For some reason I couldn’t sleep the night before and woke up on Sunday at 3am.  It’s a good thing I did because our volunteer confirmation said nothing about meeting points or parking so it was a shot in the dark when heading up to LA.  I left my house around 4:30 and zoomed up there (the one time LA has no traffic is between 4:30 and 5am haha!).  I first went to Santa Monica where the buses were shuttling runners to Dodger Stadium in hopes to ask security where the best place for mile 20 is.  No go.  I ended up pulling out my iPhone and google maps-ing Mile 20.  Why I didn’t do this in the first place, I have no idea.  So I cruise over to Mile 20 at the Veterans Affairs building and the streets are now closed off.  I ended up parking a mile away in some residential area and waited in my car until the sun started to come up.  Finally the sun started to pop out around 6:30 so I walked over to the VA hospital.

I eventually found the Mile 20 marker and water station and helped filling cups and stacking them on the tables.
Me with some of the volunteers
The end of Mile 20 H20 station on the Veterans Affairs grounds
A couple hours later, the wheelchair marathoners came through (what stamina!) followed by the elite runners. All I have to say is WOW.  Are these people built to run or are they built to run!?  Given this is their profession, but they were mesmerizing to watch.  The elite men hit mile 20 at 1:39 and the elite women at 1:53.  Pretty incredible.  They were FAST.
Woo hoo!!!  Do these guys have endurance or what?
 Here come the elite women!
They appear to do it with ease.  Wow!
On to the masses!!!  This is when it became super fun for me because I screamed and cheered so loudly while handing out water! It was great to see everyone run by.  I saw some Elvises, clowns, cheerleaders, I even saw Shia LeBeouf but didn't realize it was him until AFTER he passed by me.  Even Minnie Mouse made an appearance:
If I can only going to say one thing about volunteering at the LA Marathon it’s that the runners were incredible! Not in their running, but in their support of the volunteers and their enthusiasm towards us.  Even at Mile 20 when fatigue and cramps are setting in, the runners were cheering ME on and supporting me as a volunteer!  It was incredible!  All the runners were so gracious and grateful that I couldn’t help but keep my enthusiasm at its peak for the entire 8 hours I was out there! A few runners passed by the water person in front of me and said pointing at me “I’m getting water from her!  She’s super energetic and I want whatever she’s having!”  Haha this made me laugh and cheer harder than ever.  LA Marathoners, YOU ROCK!!!
I got to see my best friend who kicked LAM’s butt!  I was able to meet @gwjones00 in person finally who also rocked LAM!  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see all my tweeps, but there’s always the next race!!!

My best friend Koko and our friend Drew...almost to the finish!!!
 Me and Glenn (@gwjones00)  Great job Glenn!
After the 26.2 journey!  I'm SO proud of them!
I had such a fun time volunteering.  It was fun to experience a race from another perspective, from the sidelines, and volunteering my time and support to all the runners!
Oh, and I got this pretty sweet cotton long sleeve out of it (and it just so happens to be Laker gold!!  Go Lakers!!!)

The front reads:  "Honda | LA Marathon" "sponsored by K Swiss"
The back reads:  "RACE TEAM"
I love it!

Afterwards I went to Koko's house for a celebratory feast prepared by Koko's incredible chef parents!  Of course I had to snap this gem of a pic with her newly earned (albeit not the prettiest) medal!

We've been friends since we were 7!!
Yay for LAM and everyone who ran, volunteered, and participated in any way to make it such a successful and fun event!  Who knows...maybe I'll experience from the runner perspective next year...

To the runners of the LA Marathon, you guys are incredible and you all did a fantastic job!!!!  Way to Rock LAM!!!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend in San Fran & Napa :)

Last weekend my boyfriend and I went to San Francisco and Napa for our three year anniversary. I had never been to either place so needless to say, I was super excited! Well, I take that back…I went to San Fran once with my family when I was around 8 years old, but I don’t remember much. So this was kind of my first trip, at least my first visit there in my adult life.

Anyways, we drove up early Saturday morning and I was so entertained on the 6 hour drive by all the beautiful country we drove through. There were so many cows roaming around the rolling hills (yay for no enclosures!), which Sean and I kept calling ‘happy cows’ and saying “Happy cows come from California!” The hills were so verdant and painted with vibrant mustard colored flowers. We actually saw more of this in Napa, and I ran through some during my run up there, which I’m coming to.
We spent an incredible day in San Fran and saw so much from driving across the bay bridge, to walking around Embarcadero and the financial district, to hiking around Nob Hill (where our hotel was…they even upgraded us to the suite for our anniversary!), and cruising around Union Square. I definitely fell in love with San Francisco and we had such a fun and romantic day and evening there.

The next morning we drove to Napa. Of course we had to stop and take this gem of a picture:
It was cold at night walk through Union Square.

Love Love Love San Fran
After driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped in a cute little town called Sausalito and had brunch at a little Ma n Pap cafĂ©. BEST blueberry pancakes EVER!! Then onwards to Napa! It was a breathtaking drive. We drove through hundreds of vineyards, and through the beautiful Sonoma County. When we arrived in Napa, Sean surprised me with booking an incredible room at the new Avia Hotel.  He wanted to plan everything in Napa since I was doing that for SF, so I didn’t even know where we were staying until we got there! It was a gorgeous hotel in downtown Napa. He also surprised me with a romantic couples massage that afternoon and when we got back to our room from our massages there was a bottle of wine and cheese/meat/fruit plate waiting for us. Everything was so romantic. We relaxed and enjoyed the view from our room before getting ready for dinner at Mustard’s Grill.  I won’t go into details, but I will say that if you go to Napa, dine at Mustard’s. It was in a vineyard with a spectacular view and the food was outrageously good. Go there!
The next morning I decided to go for a run. I wanted to get at least one run in during our long weekend, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so. The weather had been clear and sunny all weekend with temps reaching 75, so I wanted to head out before it got warmer. I ran through downtown Napa from our hotel, ran past some of the annual mustard festival (not related to Mustard’s Grill restaurant), and ran next to vineyards, through wildflower fields, then back to our hotel. I even ran past Napa Running Co! That was a cool little running store. Not so little though. Here are some of the pictures I took during my run:
Downtown Napa

Mustard Festival/Pre-St Pattys celebration.  There was a band playing in the park on the right too!

Beautiful wine country
Mustard colored wild flowers painting the hills
The vines were beginning to bud
Napa Running Company!!
Napa Church--I thought this was a beautiful building
The old Uptown theatre in Downtown Napa
Wine Tasting!
That afternoon we decided to make the most of our last day and do some wine tasting! We first stopped at Artesa Winery located on top of a hill and the view was gorgeous. Wines…eh. We then went to a great little winery called Folio.
It was spectacular country
They’re actually owned by the Mondavi family. It was close to 4:30 when they close, so we were the only ones there. Patti who was working was so friendly, she took us out back to the wraparound porch that looks out onto the vineyard and all the rolling hills of Napa and just kept bringing wines out for us to enjoy. She just said, relax, enjoy the view, and I’ll bring out a sample of all our wines and some that we don’t even include on our ‘tasting’ menu. We had great conversation with her and Bill, who also works for Folio, while sitting on the porch, drinking delicious wines, and watching the sunset.
Sitting on the porch at Folio Winery enjoying a 100% cabernet Rose
Sean and I ended up buying a case of wine.
It was the perfect weekend and the perfect way to spend our anniversary <3 I ran through some beautiful country and we felt like it was heaven on earth.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck o' the Irish!! Happy St. Patty's Day + 1st Hill Workout!

First off, Happy St. Patty’s Day!!!!
Have a fun (and safe!) St. Patrick's Day!!

Now onto my first hill workout:

Last Friday, I accomplished my first hill workout.  I went to Signal Hill, and if anyone knows it, it’s no small feat.  It definitely was a workout.

I started at the base of the hill and ran up Skyline Drive.  It was beautiful because Skyline Dr. overlooks all of Long Beach towards the ocean and I could see all the city lights because the sun hadn’t come up yet.  So I made it to the top only to run back down and back up two more times.  Once I did three up/downs on the big hill, I found a trail that was a hill followed by stairs.  I ran down and up that twice and I definitely started to feel the lactic acid in my legs.  I ran an easy lap around the neighborhood then found a short but very steep hill off of Ohio Street.  I ran down and back up that hill once, jogged around the top of it to steady my heart rate, then tackled that monster of a hill again.  It was SO steep!  I ran halfway up the hill, then picked up my pace for ten yards, then sprinted to the top.  That last bit to the top is probably the steepest too, so I really had to dig and push myself.  I did that breakdown (halfway, pick up speed, then sprint) 2 more times on that hill and afterwards I was spent.  I pushed so hard I felt like I was going to throw up after all those hill repeats all over the Hill.  That workout definitely will increase my lung capacity and endurance!!!  I cooled down a bit then ran back to the lookout point at the top of Signal Hill before running back down Skyline at an easy cool-down pace.

I stretched it out then got in my car and chugged my water before heading home.  As exhausting as my first hill workout was, I did it!  I felt so great and amped up!  I know I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and it was worth it.  On top of having a great first hill workout, I saw a beautiful sunrise that showered the city in golden light.  It was intoxicating and inspiring.

I spent this past weekend in San Francisco and Napa with my boyfriend for our 3rd anniversary.  It’s beautiful up there, and I was able to get a run in through the vineyards in Napa which I will share tomorrow!

Friday, March 5, 2010

First Week of Bootcamp: COMPLETE!

Today's quote:  "Don't let what you can't do get in the way of what you can do."

I just completed Week 1 of Boot Camp.  As I mentioned here I signed up because I wanted to put more energy into strength training and conditioning.  I have been slacking off in those departments because I have been focusing on running, and I thought this would be a fun way to tackle them and get them back into my routine.  Turns out I was right!  I have had such a fun week with this program and have met so many inspiring women of all ages.

Each day consists of a warm up run of about a mile then straight into jumping jacks while the instructor tells us which weight training exercises we will be doing next.  It can be biceps, triceps, back, shoulders, legs, or any combination of those (with stability thrown in there as well such as standing on one leg with the other knee in line with your hip while doing a one arm shoulder press of bicep curl, then switching).  Some days there will be circuits so our workout might be this:  sprint to the first station and do pushups for one minute, sprint to the second station and do biceps curls for one minute, lunge to the next station and do triceps, etc.  And anytime in between the instructors can yell for us to stop the circuit and run laps.  This running laps part is misleading because it’s not just running…we will grapevine, do exaggerated skipping (knees all the way up in the air and arms pumping), sprinting, lunging, etc.  Basically everything and anything.

Today was an assessment day.  What this means is the instructors tested us in multiple areas so we can set a benchmark for ourselves in order to track our progress during and at the end of camp.  The assessment day consisted of running one mile, doing as many pushups as we can in one minute, doing as many squats as we can in one minute, and holding the plank for as long as we can.  Here is how I did:

Mile run -- 9:47
Pushups -- 17
Squats -- 61
Plank -- 1:30

Each class is an hour long (sometimes more) and there is no resting during the entire 60 minutes.  It’s an intense and super fun workout!  We use waits, resistance tubing, and our own bodies for everything we do.  It’s very involving and even though the class consists of about 30 women, it really feels like a one-on-one training session.  The instructors are amazing!  They are inspiring, helpful, and really push you!  Everyone in the class is at a different level and the instructors cater to each person and their needs to make the most of their workout.  It sure kicks your butt if you push yourself!

Tomorrow I have a 4 miler that I want to try and get in before 8am when the rain comes.  The forecast says it’s going to shower earlier than that, but a little drizzle will be refreshing :)


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Viva Las Vegas!

This past weekend I went to Vegas with my boyfriend, my friend Kelso (that what I call her) and her boyfriend whose name also happens to be Sean, and one other couple.  My boyfriend and I drove up Friday and met up with everyone that night in our hotel room at Planet Hollywood Towers.  The PH Towers opened only six weeks ago and the rooms were huge with a floor-to-ceiling window and a great view of the strip.
Our room minus the kitchen and bathroom
That first night everyone came to our room for drinks before heading out. My friend’s boyfriend went to Bartending School for fun, so he was mixing some tasty drinks for us.
Me and Sean
The girls with Mr. Bartender in the background
The Seans and A-ron
Me and Kelso
Sean and I ended up going on our own adventure that night to the new Aria Hotel across the street which was gorgeous! It was very modern with an upscale chic lounge-like atmosphere.  The Aria had glass orbs hanging from the ceilings which I took like 534,298 pictures of with both my camera AND phone haha.
The Aria and shops @ the Aria
One of the millions of decor pictures I took
Anyways, we checked out a bar there and two drinks came out to almost $50 so we closed and out headed back to PH.  Cool bar though, just pricey.
The next day I met up with Kelly and her boyfriend and we cruised the strip and ended up at the Venetian sipping on Bloody Mary’s and eating chicken sandwiches.

Moving sidewalk to the Venetian
Later we all drove to go see the Pawn Stars shop since the Seans are obsessed with that show (my dad and bro too!  I’ve only seen a few episodes and it’s an awesome!).
Pawn Stars!!!
There was no photography allowed inside, but watch the show and you’ll see the incredible antiques and the seemingly-worthless-things-that-are-actually-worth-a-ton-of-money that we saw.  None of the guys were there, but it was still cool to be at Pawn Stars.  Then we cruised over to Fremont Street which I had never been to for some reason!  It’s classic Vegas.
Fremont St has this state-of-the-art light sound and animation display with over 12.5 million synchronized LCD modules and  we saw “Bad to the Bone”.
We then went back to Kelly and Sean’s room at the Trump before cruising to a Comedy Show at the Sahara.
All of us @ the Sahara
Morgan, Kelso, me
We're goofy
The Sahara should not have been called the Sahara that weekend…with NASCAR in town, the Sahara turned into NASCAR NATION.  Everyone and their moms (literally) and kids were wearing NASCAR jackets, smoking, betting on the race.  Side note:  I’ve always been an INDY fan going to the LB Grand Prix since I was 6 months old…not so much a NASCAR fan.  Anyways….we went to The Comedy Stop and saw headliner Al Ducharme who has quite the repertoire.  He was hilarious!!!  His previous act not so much, actually not at all.  But we all were falling out of our chairs with Mr. Ducharme and his uncanny Star Wars and Matrix sound effects and impressions as well as everything else he did.  The man was funny.  We all went back to PH where we got comped for Prive and then gambled a bit.  I lost $20 bucks :(
Next morning Sean and I headed out at 8:30am and made it home in three hours!  We decided we like leaving early because there was absolutely zero traffic!!  And it was a crystal clear day.

Cruisin' back home
We made it home in time to watch the USA v. Canada Olympic Gold Medal hockey game!!!  We were a little bummed USA lost, but not so much because Getzlaf, Niedermayer, and Perry are on the Anaheim Ducks so we heart them.  Oh and my friend’s cousin is engaged to Getzlaf!!!  Sean and I are working on an invitation to the wedding hehe.

Tomorrow I will post about my first week of boot camp which I am totally loving!