Water to Wine Half Marathon Race Review

Sunday, August 11 was the 2014 Water to Wine Half Marathon. The race was originally named Water to Wine because it ran from Lake Sonoma (the location of the swim portion of Vineman 70.3) to a winery in Sonoma County. This year, however, Kendall-Jackson became the race sponsor, and the new course now starts and ends at their winery with a loop through the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley regions of Sonoma. Additionally, packet pick up is held the day before at Kendall-Jackson during their tasting hours. (Not noted on the website, however, is the fact that you can also do packet pickup the morning of the race. I’m glad we’d already booked a place to stay on AirBnB before we found out, though, because race morning traffic was crazy and we wouldn’t have made it!) One final note before I get into the actual race, this is the 2nd race in a 3 race series put on by Run Wine Country (Windsor Green Half Marathon was the first and the Healdsburg Half Marathon is the third). Run all 3 in one year, and you get a special label bottle of wine.

Going into the race, I had been experiencing a lot of shin pain for the last few weeks. It had seemed to go away prior to my last long run (the 7 miler in Topeka), but I could feel tightness in my calf pulling on my shin throughout the run. It seemed to be fine, but for several days after, I was in quite a bit of pain. I did one last run before the race and could feel it while running this time, and even just walking down the stairs was aggravating the area. After talking to my Coach, I decided to still go for the race, but I did wear compression calf sleeves. Prior to this development, Water to Wine was probably my last good chance at a PR this year. And I had really hoped this would be the race where I finally went under 1:55 – which is nuts since my goal for the first half of the season was to break 2 hours! But with my trouble recovering from races recently, and my abysmal training going in, on top of the shin issues, I decided that I was aiming to still break 2 hours but would really take anything that got me across the finish line injury-free.

With that in mind, Matt and I headed up to Windsor on Saturday afternoon (in our new car!) and stopped at Kendall-Jackson to pick up our race packets. We realized that Matt had forgotten his SpiBelt, which we decided did not need replacing, and I had left my compression sleeves on my dresser. And those did need replacing! After a quick stop at Fleet Feet in Santa Rosa, we headed to LoCoco’s, which was just around the corner, for dinner. We couldn’t find any Italian restaurants in Windsor, but we had found some in both Santa Rosa and Healdsburg (the two towns on opposite sides of Windsor, where we were staying). Since we’ll be back in Healdsburg in October, we opted for LoCoco’s in Santa Rosa. And it was awesome! (Though we couldn’t find a way to make a reservation on their website and thought they didn’t take them. If you want to go, call ahead and make a res because we got the last seats at the bar and we were there for an early dinner!)

I didn’t snap any photos at LoCoco’s because the lighting was so dim, but the food was incredible and the restaurant is everything you want….especially if you grew up in an Italian family. We split the burrata appetizer and two entrees: the papardelle and the gnocchi. Both were phenomenal. And the olive tapenade that was served with the bread surprised both of us with how much enjoyed it (despite not liking green olives).

After dinner, we went back to the house to hang out, relax, and get ready for the race. We’ve had a lot of luck getting good places on AirBnB for races in wine country, and I would definitely recommend looking into that option over a hotel if you’re planning on visiting.

Race morning went pretty smoothly, though we ended up getting out the door about 10 min behind schedule. When we got down to Kendall-Jackson, we were stuck in traffic trying to pull into the parking lot, but we figured with all of the traffic the race would have a delayed start. The first mile of the course was exactly where all of the cars were backed up, so the only way the race could have started on time was if they’d turned away A LOT of runners. Fortunately, the 15 min delay meant everyone was able to get into the parking lot and lined up at the start line. It also distracted me from my usual pre-race nerves. I had just enough time to get excited and appreciate the PERFECT running weather we had for the day – slightly overcast to keep the sun away with temps in the low 50s.

Before I knew it, we were off! After talking to my Coach, I had decided my race strategy would be to take the first 6-7 miles easy to see how my leg was feeling. From there, I’d evaluate, and if I felt good, I’d race as hard as I could. Otherwise, I’d continue to take it easy and prevent an injury. We both agreed that with 5 races left on my schedule, that was the smartest option.

With Matt making a comeback from six weeks of no running following his bike accident, he also hadn’t had the best training going into the race. With his goal being to finish (so we can complete the 3 race series), we focused on taking the first 6-7 miles easy. The course was quite beautiful, running through wineries (and by through wineries, I actually mean in between the vines), and the overcast morning was perfect for the race. By about mile 5, I was really happy with where I was and decided to take it easy until mile 6, when I’d stop for a little food break and to take a salt tablet. From there I planned to run easy with Matt to mile 7, at which point I’d consider picking up the pace.

All was going well with the plan until I started running after the quick food break…when I unintentionally picked up the pace. I didn’t realize I was running faster at the end of mile 7 because of the walk break, but when I hit mile 8 and realized I was running faster than I intended, I decided to stick with the pace. (I had opted not to pull ahead of Matt after mile 7 since I was feeling a little winded…about 8:45 later, I knew why.) At that point, we were running through another vineyard (we actually spent a good 1.5 miles running through their vines, which were gorgeous) and I made the decision to stick with the pace until mile 10, when I’d take another quick walk break for food. Coming out of the vineyard, I had a rock stuck in the tread of my shoe, which was super annoying. But we hit mile 9 right about the time we hit the pavement, and I figured I’d be able to put up with it for another mile (it almost drove me crazy and mile 10 could not end fast enough!).

After the short break to pull the rock out and eat some Swedish Fish, we were off for the final 5K. Maybe ½ mile or so into mile 10, though, I felt some pretty serious knee pain that reminded me a lot of how my knee was feeling back in December 2012…right before it became seriously injured, leaving me in PT and race-free for the better part of 2013. I decided that if the pain didn’t go away within a few minutes, I’d stop running and walk the rest of the race. I was disappointed because the race had been going so well mentally up until that point, but I also knew it wasn’t worth risking another knee injury.

Fortunately the pain went away within a few minutes, and at that point I just wanted to finish the race so I didn’t have to worry about the pain coming back. Mile 12 seemed to be a little long (I think the mile marker was off, which is par for the course with the Run Wine Country race series it seems – although they were much better about water stations for this race!). We had to climb a bridge – perhaps the “steepest” part of the course – to cross the freeway, but my legs were feeling it more than I would have liked given the size. Coming down the back side, my hopes of finishing with minimal knee pain rose when I caught sight of the mile marker.

From there, we just had to make our way back to Kendall-Jackson, through the winery, and to the finish line. I held a steady pace for about another half mile, at which point Matt started whispering in my ear that there were several men ahead of me that had actually asked to be chicked at the end of the race. And what kind of runner would I be if I didn’t personally deliver that gift? :)

water to wine half

So I pushed. I dug down for everything left in my legs and held on with all I could. It wasn’t easy, but it was the race I mentally needed at this point in the season. Sure, my training could have been better. I could have spaced our races better. I could have done more long runs before the race. But at the end of the day, I cannot change what kind of shape I was in going into the race. And knowing that I wasn’t in optimal shape with the strongest training under my belt, but I still broke 2 hours…that’s a MAJOR improvement from where I was just 12 months ago. And that’s pretty freaking awesome.

water to wine half marathonFinal Stats:

Finish time: 1:58:01
AG: 29 out of 122
Overall: 294 out of 932

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 8.49.58 PM

I have really enjoyed participating in the Run Wine Country series, and I’m looking forward to the final race, Healdsburg Half Marathon in October. There’s an Octoberfest at the finish line, and I can’t wait to partake! Water to Wine treated us to delicious Mexican food accompanied by free wine and beer at the finish line…which were served in our finisher wine glasses! I have to say that these races are a great value, and they do a great job putting together really fun and enjoyable races. The fields aren’t too big, which means the courses aren’t too crowded, and it’s a blast getting to enjoy different parts of Sonoma County with each race. If you’re looking for a Wine Country race series, I can’t recommend these races enough!

water to wine half marathon

And because I’m sure you’re all curious – I ended up with a sore knee later in the day post-race. After a few hours of wine tasting, I stood up to leave and found myself in quite a bit of pain. Fortunately, a week of serious foam rolling and deep tissue massage from Matt (can you say Ouch!) took care of the problem and it’s been feeling fine since then – knock on wood. My training hasn’t been derailed, and I was able to nip a problem in the bud before it grew into something worse. Definitely something to celebrate!

Your Turn: Have you run a race in Wine Country? Which ones are your favorites? Of the races you have done, which had the best post-race party?

Monday Miles: August 11-24

Hello friends! Things have been quite busy around here with work and prepping for a trip to Disneyland this weekend keeping me on my toes!

The last time I checked in with all of you, I had just finished half marathon #12! In the week following Water to Wine, I focused on getting in some good recovery. With legs that felt mostly, or at least partially recovered, I spent the last week ramping up for Ragnar training. Because, you know, the thought of covering 18.7 miles in less than 30 hours is not at all nerve-wracking!

August 11 – Recovery day filled with LOTS of foam rolling and stretching.

August 12 – My coach asked for a bike commute, but I opted for 30 min on the bike trainer instead since my knee was still hurting and walking down stairs was rough. I wasn’t really up for carrying my bike down the stairs in Bart and having my knee give out on me.

August 13 - Knee felt much better so I did 6.9 miles of bike commuting.

August 14 - Went for a shake out run before work and had to cut it just a little short to get back to work for a meeting. I also somehow hit the pause button on my Wahoo app while I was running and didn’t get the full workout recorded. So I ran farther and longer (the plan was 40 min) but only recorded 3.39 miles in 32:00. I was happy with how my knee felt after beating up on it with the foam roller all week, and relieved that whatever craziness was going on had settled down. I rounded out the day with 5.9 miles of bike commuting.

August 15 - Full on rest day! Since I was struggling with getting in recovery time, I have decided not to bike commute on rest days, and I think it’s really helping.

August 16 - Back to the brick workouts! After cheering on The Town Half Marathon runners as they raced by our apartment, we headed out for our first brick workout in what feels like forever. We covered 13.84 miles on the bike in 1:06:24. From there we headed over to Athleta for the run portion, where we ended up just doing 20:00 to cover 2.08 miles…which was quite rough after the ride!

August 17 - Sunday Funday! I’m always happy when that’s on my schedule :).

August 18 - Rest day. I needed it before the beating my coach had in store for me!

August 19 - Bike commute for 5.9 miles. Matt picked me up at Bart so we could get the track workout in before it got too dark. Even still, we cut the warm up and cool down to 1/2 mile each. We did 3 x (800 at threshold, 400 easy, 400 hard) with a 400 m jog out in between. That was no joke a rough workout!! The first 800 was a little slow but my legs warmed up after that. Overall, we did 4.35 miles in 40:46.

August 20 - Mid-week brick…yikes! To get this one in, I timed my bike commute home (25 min) and then jumped on the trainer for another 35 min to get in 60:00 of biking. That was followed by 30:00 of running to get in 3.01 miles. My legs were pretty dead after all of that…and very happy to make it home.

August 21 - After working out the night before, I figured that a morning run would be great Ragnar training. So after biking to work, I switched shoes and headed out for a tempo run. I did 10 min warm up, 20 min at tempo, and then cut the 10 min cool down short because I needed to get to work. Overall I did 3.64 miles in 32:47. My legs were SHAKING when I finished! I wrapped up the day with an additional 5.9 miles of bike commuting.

August 22 - Rest day!!! Glorious, glorious rest day.

August 23 - Serious weekend workouts kicked in with a reverse brick Saturday morning. I headed out for a 7 mile run around Lake Merritt, which left me in struggle city. The plan was 4 miles easy with 3 miles building to 10K pace. By the time I hit 4 miles, I didn’t think I had it in me to pick up the pace, but somehow each mile continued to get faster (seriously, I must have been dying to finish) and I executed a solid progression run. I finished the run in 1:05:27. And then it was time to head out on my bike. I did the usual bike route out on the Bay Bridge (with shaking quads on some of the hills) for an additional 13.57 miles in 1:07:20. I have NO CLUE how I managed to get through all of the miles, but it felt pretty awesome to finish.

August 24 - The last thing I felt up to on Sunday morning was another long run…but that’s exactly what Coach had in store for me. Woof! I told Matt we were taking it slow – obviously! – and we headed out for 1:15:00 around Lake Merritt. The sun wasn’t out in full force yet, which made the run much more enjoyable compared to Saturday, and we were out a little earlier so we didn’t have as many people to dodge. When I started the run, my legs felt like they were at mile 20 of a marathon, and by the time I finished, they felt like mile 15. I’m going to call that a successful run! We ended up covering 7.28 miles at a much slower pace than Saturday :). And I’m sure none of you are surprised to know we passed out HARD both nights this weekend. Didn’t even feel the earthquake.

And now I’m off to finish up laundry and the rest of the typical weekend chores we couldn’t muster up the energy to complete yesterday!

Your Turn: Could you feel the earthquake? Have you ever done double weekend workouts? 

Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Without a doubt, I’d have to say that my Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake recipe is everyone’s favorite recipe from the delicious treats I’ve baked using Shokomonk chocolate. When one of their SF-based employees hosted a pop-up restaurant a few months ago, he asked me to provide a dessert for the menu. For a traditional German menu, I decided to go with the blueberry white chocolate cheesecake…it’s made in a springform pan and the word springform is an old German word. Plus, I was already racing a duathlon that morning and working at a race expo that afternoon; I decided to go with a recipe I knew I could rely on 100%.

The base of my cheesecake recipe I actually received from my mother in law, and it’s been a personal favorite since my first bite. However, to make this a white chocolate based cheesecake, I’ve reworked the recipe for the topping. Try this recipe and let me know how it turns out. If you don’t have a springform pan, go buy one so you can (you can find them for about $25). I dare you to make this recipe and tell me this isn’t the best cheesecake you’ve ever had…I haven’t served it to a single person that hasn’t given me that response!

Shokomonk Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake


2 cups graham cracker crumbs (16 whole crackers crushed)
1 cup + ½ cup sugar, divided
1 stick butter
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz sour cream
4 oz cream
2 blaubeere (blueberry) white chocolate Shokomonk  bars (3.5 oz)


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 °F.
  2. Crush graham crackers in a food processor using the metal blade. Add ½ cup sugar and 1 stick of butter cut into pieces. Mix until crumbly, then press into the bottom and partially up the sides of a 9 inch Springform pan. Keep the crust in the freezer while making the filling.
  3. Rinse out the food processor then cream the cheese until it’s smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Be careful not to whip too much air into the filling or the cake will rise during baking and collapse in the middle upon cooling. Add 1 cup sugar and vanilla, mix well, then pour the filling into the pie crust.
  4. Bake for 65 minutes. Check until the cake no longer wiggles and appears liquid in the center, adding 5 minutes to baking time until it achieves that consistency.
  5. With about 10 minutes to go on baking, use a double broiler or water bath to melt the chocolate. Once creamy and smooth, mix in the cream and sour cream until well combined.
  6. Once the filling has finished baking, poor the white chocolate topping over the hot cake and bake for ~7 minutes until the topping is set (add on 3 minutes at a time until consistency is achieved).
  7. Cool the cake on a rack before refrigerating for 6 hours or overnight.


Shokomonk blueberry white chocolate

shokomonk blueberry white chocolate

white chocolate blueberry topping

blueberry white chocolate cheesecake

blueberry white chocolate cheesecake

blueberry white chocolate cheesecake

Your Turn: Are you a cheesecake fan? What’s the best cheesecake you’ve ever had?

Monday Miles: August 4-10

It’s crazy to think that we’re approaching the halfway point through August, and that my race calendar is down to 5 races for the rest of the year. Yesterday I raced my 4th half marathon of the season, and even though it wasn’t the PR race I had hoped it would be, it was a major mental victory. And sometimes that’s even better. Especially since I’ve been battling some crazy shin pain for the last couple of weeks that really manifested into some serious pain following last Sunday’s long run. (Fortunately it wasn’t even an issue during the race and hasn’t bothered me at all since finishing.)

Monday - Crazy 12 hour drive from Salt Lake to Oakland, during which I saw TWO semi trucks that had caught on fire and the cabs looked like they had basically melted!

Tuesday - I had a 5 mile run on the schedule, but since my shin was hurting so much, I cut it down to 3 miles instead. I got in a solid run, finishing in 27:37, without destroying my legs and felt pretty good. Until I finished and my shin hurt again for several days.

Wednesday – I was supposed to bike commute but since carrying my bike down the stairs was killing my leg, I decided not to, and instead let Matt beat up on my leg all night.

Thursday – I had a track workout planned that would have consisted of 1 mile warm up, 2 miles building to goal race pace, 3 min rest, 4 x 200 with 200 easy jog, and 1 mile cool down. But I played it safe and did more stretching and rolling, and getting destroyed by Matt :).

Friday - We had friends over for dinner so instead of the 30 min spin I had on the schedule, I did a bike commute for 6.9 miles to get in a little cardio.

Saturday - Rest day, which included finally finishing kitchen organization and hanging things on the walls!

Sunday – Water to Wine Half Marathon! Finished in 1:58:08.

water to wine half marathon

(Just now realizing how blurry that photo turned out!)

Your Turn: What fun plans did you have for the weekend? How many races do you have left on your calendar for the year?

Lemon Cupcakes & White Chocolate Poppyseed Frosting

As a little girl, I always thought it was a special treat when my parents would buy the mini lemon poppyseed muffins at the grocery store. We would always take them on road trips, and I loved waking up to a breakfast of a few muffins. Fast forward to today, and I still love the lemon and poppyseed combination. So when Shokomonk sent me some of their white chocolate poppyseed bars, I instantly knew what I wanted to make!

These lemon cupcakes with white chocolate poppyseed frosting are the perfect summer dessert: a little fruity, a little chocolatey, and oh so delicious!

lemon cupcake and shokomonk white chocolate poppyseed frosting

Lemon Cupcakes


3 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup oil (I prefer safflower oil)
2 cups sugar
4 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest from 4 lemons

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and mix with the baking powder and salt. (I’d recommend using a colander instead of a flour sifter with that much flour.)
  3. In a larger bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the butter and oil on medium speed. Gradually beat in the sugar, and slowly beat in the egg whites.
  4. To add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, alternate mixing in some of the dry ingredients with some of the milk. Add some of the dry mixture and beat on low speed until combined, then add milk and do the same. Repeat until you’ve completely incorporated the dry mixture and milk but be careful not to over mix.
  5. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  6. Grease or line wells of a cupcake tin and pour the batter in. Bake for 16-22 minutes, using the toothpick test (you want just a few crumbs to stick to the toothpick when you pull it out). Cool completely before frosting.


White Chocolate Poppyseed Frosting


2 sticks softened butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz Shokomonk white chocolate & poppyseed, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Use a hand mixer to beat the softened buffer and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in the powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.
  3. Use a double broiler or a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water to melt the chocolate, while stirring constantly. Beat the white chocolate and vanilla into the frosting until fluffy.
  4. Use a pastry bag to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

lemon cupcakes

shokomonk white chocolate poppyseed bars

white chocolate poppyseed bars

white chocolate poppyseed bars chopped

white chocolate poppyseed frosting

lemon and poppyseed cupcakes

lemon and poppyseed cupcakes

Your Turn: What was your favorite kind of muffin growing up? Are you a poppyseed and lemon fan? Have you tried Shokomonk white chocolate poppyseed bars?