Monday Miles: July 7-13

The past week has been all about preparing my body for building back up in preparation for the Water to Wine Half Marathon. With 1 month to go until race day, it’s important to build back up in mileage rather quickly. However, my body has really been struggling to overcome fatigue lately, so I’ve been working with my coach to make sure my legs and body are ready for this next build. With that, I spent the week starting to take on additional mileage without pushing things too hard. Here’s how it all broke down:

Monday - The week starting with 6.9 miles of bike commuting plus an additional 30 min on the bike trainer when I got home from work.

Tuesday - I had a 50 min tempo run on tap, although I didn’t realize it was tempo until I just now double-checked the calendar. I held a pretty steady pace, but I ended up being a little on the slow side for the pacing. I went out over my lunch hour to run up and down the Eastern edge of the city and enjoyed some stunning views. I also “enjoyed” a lot of sun and ended up with a sunburn at the end of the run. You’d think that with all of the color I’ve picked up since living in California that wouldn’t be an issue anymore, but I even got a sunburn when standing outside for a little bit while Pepper was getting groomed so I guess I should work on remembering sunscreen still. The run itself was a little tough – my legs felt pretty heavy – but I still managed to cover 5.44 miles for a 9:11 pace. I also wrapped up the day with 6.9 miles of bike commuting.

SF Bay

Such a shame to have such a beautiful view while running, right?

Wednesday - I started off with 6.9 miles of bike commuting. After getting home, I headed out to the track for my workout. Matt came back to running for the first time since his accident for my first track workout at our new place! We ran 1 mile of warm up to the track together. Matt did a lot of stretching while I did a 2400 at threshold (ouch!) and finished up with 2 x 200 m at 90% with 200 m jog. We then did a cool down mile back home for a total of 3.91 miles in 35:21. (The track we live by now is a little short so I need to figure out the right pacing for laps; in trying to adjust, I think I overcompensated and ran too fast this week).

Thursday - Bike commute for 6.9 miles.

Friday - Total rest day!

Saturday - Weekend long run: I headed out for 6 miles around Lake Merritt on a beautiful morning. I absolutely LOVED getting to run this loop and am so thankful we live so close now. I finished the run in 57:06. My legs were thankful for the rest day going into this run. It was a little difficult to keep my body and my mind strong for the whole run, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it went.

Sunday - This was the big workout for the weekend! I had a brick on tap that started with 45 min on the bike trainer. I of course took advantage of the Happy Potter marathon going on to distract me from sitting in my living room. The bike went well and after finishing, I switched into my Mizuno’s and headed out for 45 min of running. I ran up Grand, which was fun to explore the area a little more, and covered 4.89 miles. My pacing ended up being faster than Saturday’s long run, which was pretty cool.

And with that, I’m getting ready for my training to ramp up even more. Four weeks until race day…time to put in the last push and bigger distances!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite view on your typical running routes?

Wine Tasting in Napa

After a hot morning of racing the ZOOMA Napa Valley Half Marathon, it seemed like the best way to celebrate our accomplishments was with some lunch from In-N-Out and plenty of wine tasting! How else do you celebrate a big accomplishment when you’re in Northern California???

Since we had Pepper with us for the weekend, it was important that we find wineries to check out that were dog-friendly. The first stop on our list was Clos Du Val. The prices here were some of the most reasonable we saw all weekend (Napa is notoriously over-priced compared to Sonoma), and their Sauvignon Blanc was quite good. We had brought some cheese, baguette, and salami to enjoy, and set up a little picnic for our group at the outdoor tables.

clos du val

clos du val

We opted to stay outside and enjoy our wine there even though it was incredibly hot out. However, if you’re looking for places where you can bring your dog, Clos Du Val’s tasting room is also dog-friendly so you can take your little pup inside if you’d like.

It was getting close to 5 pm when we finished, which is a very common closing time for tasting rooms in Napa, so we made a quick dash to the next winery down the street to get in a second tasting.

We were able to get to Chimney Rock very quickly and decided to share two wine flights (their prices were quite outrageous). I thought the wines were alright, but I certainly wouldn’t have paid $80 for a bottle. The woman doing our tasting was very friendly and since it was 5 pm, she gave us a list of wineries that were open until 6 pm with a recommendation for the next winery we should check out (and where to grab some dinner). The grounds were quite gorgeous, but I probably wouldn’t ever go back.

chimney rock

For our last tasting of the day, we headed down the street (all of these wineries were located on the Silverado Trail) to Van Der Heyden Vineyards. All of the wines at Van Der Heyden are late harvest, which means they have a high sugar content making them all sweeter than you would typically expect from that grape. The tasting was $10/person, which is SUPER inexpensive for Napa, and the wines were some of my favorite. I find that a lot of wineries in Napa are pretentious and over-priced, but Van Der Heyden was 100% the kind of winery I enjoy. You do need to “make a reservation” when visiting, but if you don’t make one ahead of time, you can sign the reservation book when you arrive. I’m guessing that has something to do with the way their liquor license is set up, but I’m not entirely sure. Out of all of the places we visited, this is the one I would recommend first! Unfortunately, I didn’t actually snap any photos while we were there.

Sunday morning we headed out for a few more tastings before heading back to the city. Upon a recommendation from a friend of mine that lives in Napa, we headed to Mumm Napa, which makes sparkling wines. We each ordered a flight of three champagnes, but as our server would come and talk to us about what we liked about the different champagnes, he kept bringing us other ones to try. Despite paying for the 3 drinks, we ended up having more like 5 or 6; definitely a good value! And the patio was beautiful for sitting out and enjoying the morning.

mumm napa

After taking a break for lunch (which will be another post because it was FANTASTIC), we headed to Rutherford Hill to enjoy a tasting. By that time, it was 100 °F and I was more than happy to go inside and have a tasting. It would have been nice to get a bottle and sit outside, but I couldn’t handle the thought of sitting outside in the heat much longer since we’d sat out on a patio for lunch. Instead we did a tasting with perhaps the most condescending woman I’ve ever met. When we picked one of the cheaper tastings (their prices were out of control expensive), she was rather snooty. While we were there, my friend from Napa joined us for the tasting, so while we spent time catching up and got behind everyone else, she was evidently annoyed with us for this. Even though I enjoyed some of the wines, I would not have purchased any out of principle. It was pretty ridiculous. However, their grounds were gorgeous and Pepper enjoyed playing on them for a little bit.

rutherford hill

After our final tasting, we headed into the city to cap off the weekend with some fantastic views from Twin Peaks. If you haven’t gone up on a clear day, you’re missing out on some incredible views of the city.

SF

sf

I must give photo credit for most of these photos to my father-in-law, Neil. They’re pretty stunning!

Your Turn: Do you have favorite wineries in Napa? Have you visited any of these?

ZOOMA Napa Valley Race Report

One of the reasons I have loved the ZOOMA race series for so long is that the race is a weekend event. You show up with your girlfriends on Friday afternoon, score some samples from the race sponsors, hang out at the speakers series, enjoy some cocktails with Honest Tea, carb load, and head to bed. You wake up Saturday morning, run a 10K or half marathon, then head back to the hotel for a superb after party with wine, snacks, massages, yoga…basically the best post-race party you can imagine. After spending several months getting to know racers at various training events, registering runners at race expos, or connecting online with runners through our Runner Report series, the entire weekend was an amazing opportunity to hang out with incredible friends I was fortunate enough to make as an ambassador for the race, and to feel all kinds of love and encouragement from my fellow runners.

zooma expoLet’s back up, though. I drove up to Napa on Friday afternoon with my husband, my mom, my in-laws, and my puppy (who at 15 months would like me to stop calling her a puppy!). The ladies headed to the expo at the Marriott while the gents dropped off our bags at the house we found on AirBnB (if you’re looking for an awesome place to stay near Napa, Mary was awesome and I can’t recommend her enough…she even made us breakfast!). At the expo, I finally got to meet some fantastic women IRL that I had only previously known online. Getting my race packet was a breeze (love the shirt, hat, and socks from Feetures that were included), which gave me plenty of time to socialize. Muscle Milk and Ultima were giving out samples, and I got to try the Banana Creme flavor for the first time…so good!!! I spent a lot of time chatting with Beth, the pacing organizer, and catching up with other Ambassadors, runners from our Runner Report series, and my favorite Oakland fitness guru, Carla Birnberg. I’ve never had more fun at an expo or experienced such an amazing amount of community at a race. I loved it!

brazenAfter catching Carla’s talk on BRAZEN goal setting (you missed a good one if you didn’t see it!), we headed to an Italian restaurant down the street for dinner, Il Posto Trattoria. Guys, this place was awesome!! It was run by the kind of guy you want running an Italian restaurant and the food was outstanding! We shared some arrancini and burrata around the table, and Matt and I split two pastas. They were both good but the pesto cream sauce with the ravioli was my hands down favorite!

We ate quickly so we could get back to the Marriott for the Honest Tea Mocktail Party. I love snacking on the Cabot cheese and watermelon, and really enjoyed getting to try the mixed drinks. They were pretty fun! My favorite part of the party, though, was getting to catch up with some I the women that joined me for the 10 mile training run a few weeks before the race. Getting to share the race weekend with so many incredible women i was fortunate enough to meet while training for the race really made the weekend so much more incredible.

honest tea mocktail partyOn Saturday morning, I woke up early to eat breakfast before heading to Napa (about 20 min from American Canyon, where we were staying). Matt and his dad dropped the ladies off at the start line before taking Pepper to scout out some places to cheer along the course. The race started in the LDS church parking lot, and there were so many porta potties it took no time to get through the line for one last pre-race pee. Normally I spend pre-race time getting settled into the corrals and chatting with Matt. But at this race, I knew so many people it was hard to not get distracted every second, which I loved.

Eventually I helped my mom and mother-in-law find Carla, who was walking the 10K. The day before she had decided to walk the first half with my mom and MIL, Melodie, since they were walking the half marathon. The three of them had an amazing time together and I know my two moms came away truly valuing Carla’s motto of #wycwyc (what you can, when you can).

After wishing the three of them good luck, I went off to find the 2 hour pacer, Christine. I had met her a few weeks before the race and was looking forward to running with her. My goal had been to see if a conservative effort could still bring me in under 2 hours, but having raced a duathlon hard just 1 week prior, I knew I didn’t have a PR in me. I lined up win Christine, chatted with some of the women around us, and before I knew it, I was starting my 10th half marathon!

I’d love to say that this race was rainbows and sunshine for me, but that would be a lie. By the time the race started, I was already really hot and the course was almost entirely in the sun. I had forgotten my Garmin in Oakland and was focusing on staying with Christine but gauging how my legs were feeling. The first mile was more of a struggle than the first mile of any race should be. And I think at that point I already knew I didn’t have 2 hours in me.

zooma napa valleyI could feel self-doubt creeping in, and I tried my hardest to fight it. It helped getting to see Matt, Pepper, and my FIL early in the course, and I used that boost to help me push through the first 3 miles on Dry Creek Road. I kept telling myself to stay with Christine through Orchard, and somehow I managed to overtake her a little bit. Considering how tired I was feeling, I have no clue how that happened. As we started to approach Orchard Drive, I knew I needed to easy off. I’d been running with another runner and didn’t think the pace was sustainable. I could hear Christine coming up behind me, and while I tried to stay with her for a bit, I ended up dropping back. Just shy of the 10K turn around, I found myself running alone in the hot sun.

I figured Matt and his dad were at the turn around for the half marathon just on the other side of the border between Napa and Yountville, so I started focusing on reaching that point. I was taking Cytomax at every water station and dumping water on my head, as well; with the heat I was so thankful the water stops were 1.5-2 miles apart. The views on the course were stellar, and I was able to distract myself for a while by taking them all in. As I started getting close to the turn, runners coming back in were passing me, and I started looking for everyone I knew. I spotted Erin early on (that speedy lady is seriously impressive), and Miriam and Hayley weren’t too far behind, either. And before I knew it, we were in Yountville, and my puppy was trying to come lick all of the sweat off my face :). I yelled out to Matt that I was struggling, but I think it was pretty clear when he didn’t see me with Christine since we’d discussed my race plan.

zooma napa valleyComing off the turn, Kara passed me looking really strong. I thought she was ahead of me for good, but when I came up to the next water stop, we ended up falling in step together and chatting for a bit. It was a very welcome distraction for a mile+, but I came to the realization that with 5 or so miles to go, I couldn’t hang at that pace much longer so I dropped back and let her pull in front of me.

At this point I was just focused on running steady and trying not to positive split too badly, but after a few more minutes, I came up on a runner that fell into step with me and asked if she could pace with me for a bit. I told her I didn’t have a watch but I was happy to have her run with me. It turns out it was Krissy, who had joined me for the 10 mile training run! I hadn’t gotten to talk to her much then, so it was awesome to get to know her on the course.

She was also coming off of a race the weekend before in Seattle, and the heat, which was rapidly rising, was not helping. Having gotten myself into some pretty dark places during runs before, I could tell she was close to having a run like that, and without a second thought I knew I was going to stick with her until we finished the race. I no longer cared about my time or how my legs felt or how hot I was. I focused on getting to know Krissy and trying to distract her from any self-doubt she might be feeling. We stopped to walk a few times, but we always kept moving.

Just before we turned off of Orchard Drive, we passed my mom and Melodie, which was awesome! They had just left a water stop where Matt and my FIL were waiting for us…with a kiss from Pepper! That boost gave me so much heading into the final 5K of the race!

zooma napa valleyZOOMA napa valleyWe kept pushing forward, and I was so proud of Krissy for never giving up! When we turned onto Dry Creek Road, I knew we were getting close! The mile 12 sign quickly approached and I told Krissy what I always do: mile 13 is your victory lap. Run it as hard as you can for yourself. All of your training, all of the race has brought you to the final mile…finish strong for you. And she did. She pushed hard through the finish and I was ecstatic for her!

zooma napa valley

After giving her a big hug (and Pepper licks), I grabbed some Muscle Milk Light and hobbled off to the car. I was convinced I had giant blisters growing on my feet, but only found ghost blisters! My right foot had also cramped up and I was having a hard time walking…so I’m really glad I brought a pair of flip flops to change into!

After jumping in the car, we headed out to find my mom and Melodie on the course and to cheer them on. We found them shortly before the 10 mile mark, and it was awesome to get to cheer them on! There was also a group of 3 walkers that I had registered during the Oakland Marathon expo, and it was so cool to see them and cheer for them – and to see the guys rocking the sparkly pink headbands they’d received with their registration!

zooma napa valley

zooma napa valley

From there I headed over to the after party to catch up with friends and ambassadors.

zooma napa valley ambassadors

Erin, Miriam, Lynda, me, Rachel, Karen, & Kara

It looked like a pretty fun party, but I was on a mission: it was getting close to the course limit and I knew it’d be close to an hour before my mom and Melodie were finished. I found the race organizers and asked about trying to keep the finish open (Brae had mentioned the day before that they would keep it open as late as possible), and Brooke told me the best place to be was at the finish line. So we all headed back over and I cried to Brae about letting my mom and Melodie finish. She explained the need to get equipment returned to SF on time but that they’d just talked to my mom on the course and said she was still moving. She also gave me medals just in case the finish line was torn down when they finished, which made me cry even more. Everything they did to make sure my mom and MIL had the best race experience possible really meant a lot to me.

The bike pacer stayed with them for a while, but since there were a few people still on the course, she was biking back and forth to check on everyone left. ALL of the volunteers stayed to provide course support, the photographers stuck around to capture their final moments on the course, and the team taking down the course markers waited for them to pass the mile 13 sign before taking it down. When I say that this race staff and crew is incredible, I REALLY mean it!

It wasn’t much longer before I spotted my mom and Melodie on the horizon, and they came in finishing strong! I rushed over to the finish line to meet them there and join in their celebration.

zooma napa valley

 

And it was pretty awesome to give my mom her medal!

zooma napa valley

And the ZOOMA staff waited until they crossed the finish line before taking down that arch (it seriously came down as soon as they finished).

zooma napa valley

This race was absolutely incredible and while it was definitely not the race I was expecting to have, it was a better experience than I could have asked for. My finish time ended up being 2:12:31, but that number doesn’t even come close to capturing what the race means to me.

I have much to share about the fun we had celebrating the rest of the weekend in Napa, but I’ll save that for another post as this one is getting too long. I do want to give a BIG thank you to the race sponsors that gave me some incredibly awesome goodies during training and helped make my experience even more incredible! So thank you to:

- Ultimate Direction
- Altra Running
- Honest Tea
- Muscle Milk Light and Cytomax
- Ultima Replenisher
- Athleta
- Feetures

Your Turn: Did you run ZOOMA Napa Valley? Post your race report in the comments so I can check it out!

Shokomonk White Chocolate Coconut Brownies

A few months ago I mentioned that I’ve been working on writing recipes for the German chocolate company Shokomonk, and over the last few months, I have been lucky enough to work with a wide range of their products. I have some personal favorites (I think the white chocolate raspberry might be at the top of my list right now, but it’s incredibly hard to decide because there are so many that are amazing), but I have loved getting to bake with all of them because it has been really fun to get creative with the flavors and try new combinations.

I’ll be starting to share some of my recipes with all of you, starting tonight with a fan favorite: the white chocolate coconut brownies.

Shokomonk white chocolate coconut brownies

I made a batch of these brownies for the guys to take to two different chocolate salons earlier in the year, and they were a big hit at both places. Even my husband, who has a strong dislike for flaked coconut, loves these brownies. I’ve heard from several sources (including unbiased ones – so not Matt) that these are the best brownies they’ve ever had. Whether or not that’s true, that at least means they’re pretty freaking delicious. So my advice to you? Place an order (you can find them in the US on their website here or on Amazon here) or pick some up if you’re lucky enough to live near a store that sells them, and get baking!

 

Ingredients 

1 cup unsalted butter
½ + ¼ tsp salt, divided
1 12 oz bag (~2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
2 ½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ bars Shokomonk White Chocolate Coconut Bars, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil and spray generously with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter with ½ tsp salt over medium heat. Once melted, add in the chocolate chips and stir until completely melted.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until completely combined. Add the eggs in one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Once completely mixed, add in the vanilla extract, flour, and remaining salt. Stir well until evenly combined, then mix in white chocolate.
  5. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the center is almost set. (If you prefer fudgier brownies like me, cook them on the shorter side.) Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Eat as is or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Shokomonk white chocolate coconutbrownie batter

white chocolate coconut brownie batter

Shokomonk white chocolate coconut brownies

Shokomonk white chocolate coconut brownies

Your Turn: What is the best brownie you have ever had? Are you a coconut fan? Have you every tried Shokomonk?

Monday Miles: June 23 – July 6

No, I did not fall off the face of the planet! With family in town for last weekend’s ZOOMA half marathon, I was a bit preoccupied enjoying my time with them…and didn’t spend much time working on the blog. I have, however, been working on some face lift plans that are still under way, which has slowed me down a bit. But have no fear, once I make it through those, I have a plethora of blog posts writing themselves in my mind…and maybe someday I’ll actually get them all written out!

But today is not that today. Instead, I’m recapping the recovery/taper week I had in between my rocking duathlon and half marathon #10, as well as the recovery I’ve been doing for the last week.

June 23 - Rest day!

June 24 - Bike commute for 3.8 miles. After work, I jumped on the bike trainer for 45 min at a steady cadence. Tried to work out the tired and build back some energy.

June 25 - Bike commute for 2.9 miles. I also had a run on my schedule (15 min warm up, 3 x 3 min at goal race pace with 2 min recovery in between, cool down to 45 min total), but my crazy work schedule for the week (early hours) kept me from getting this one in. Considering how tired my legs were feeling, I figured that was ok.

June 26 - Rest day with 2.9 miles of bike commuting.

June 27 - With family coming into town and kicking off our trip to Napa for the weekend, I took the day off of work and went for a run before picking my mom up from the airport. I had 3 miles on the calendar (1 mile easy, 2 miles building to goal half marathon pace), and I headed up to a cemetery near our new apartment that I had heard was great for running. It was – it was absolutely stunning and the views from the top were incredible. But yes, getting the views from the top meant some rather large hills I was not expecting to find. Perhaps not the best for a pre-race run, but I made sure to take it easy and only built up to goal half marathon pace in the final half mile. Overall time was 30:19.

June 28 - ZOOMA Napa Valley Half Marathon! I have SOOOO much to say and write about this race, but I’ll save that for another post (hopefully this week!). Instead, let me just say 13.1 miles in 2:12:31.

June 29 - Rest day. I enjoyed an amazing day of wine tasting with my family in Napa before heading back to the Bay Area for an evening work meeting in the city.

June 30 - Rest day #2, including 6.9 miles of bike commuting.

July 1 - I had a 30-40 min shake out run on my calendar for the day, but I had a work meeting I needed to make it to by 9 am, so I only had time for 20 min. I managed to get in 2.08 miles, which felt incredibly slow and painful. Clearly my body needed some more rest. (And then my work meeting ended up getting pushed back to 11 so I could have finished!) I also did 6.9 miles of bike commuting.

July 2 - I kicked off year 2 of living in the Bay Area with 6.9 miles of bike commuting. After coming home from work, I jumped on the bike trainer for a 45 min workout: 15 min warm up, 10 min building to strong effort, 5 min easy, 5 min strong effort, 5 min cool down. My legs were crying at the end of this from fatigue.

July 3 - Bike commute for 6.9 miles. I was also supposed to do core work, but that got pushed back to later in the week.

July 4 - I had every intention of doing the 45 min run on my schedule, but after finding out I was in charge of dessert for our Fourth of July BBQ, I had to rearrange the schedule to get to the store/bake before heading out. I ended up canning the run, expecting to get up the next morning for a workout.

July 5 - My schedule had a 20 mile bike ride for the day, but a morning appointment in Berkeley followed by an afternoon appointment at the vet for Pepper meant there was just no way it was going to happen. Instead, I planned on getting up to do an easy 4 miles (my schedule had a 4 miler for Sunday if I didn’t run Friday), but sleep won out. I kept waking up freaking out in the middle of the night since we’d found some ticks on Pepper the day before, and I finally gave into sleep and skipped the run. Oh well…I needed the recovery!

July 6 - After being lazy all weekend and complaining about how much the size of my ass has been growing lately, I finally went out for a bike ride. I ended up riding from our apartment in Oakland, through Emeryville, up to the Berkeley marina, back to Emeryville, then out on the Bay Bridge to the turnaround, and back home. Along the way, I made friends with another Oakland biker who was just getting back on the road after being hit by a car IN A BIKE LANE, which had left him with 2 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and a messed up back. It left me thinking that if I didn’t love cycling so much, I’d think I was insane for getting on a bike with vehicle traffic. However, the conversation was really interesting and I had a great time finishing up my ride while chatting. I ended up covering 20 miles in 1:29:08. And then, since I was being REALLY awesome, I did the 60 min of core work and stretching that I had skipped earlier in the week.

So there you have it…a solid two weeks of trying to recover and stay healthy. I now have less than 5 weeks to prepare for my next half marathon, though, so it’s time to start revving back up into full-blown training. YIKES! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and were able to enjoy a little extra time with your families.

lemon cake balls with blueberry white chocolate coating

Your Turn: How did you celebrate the 4th? Did you participate in a local Firecracker 5K?