Monday, June 12, 2017

#12. Newport Marathon

I ran marathon #12 last weekend. It's funny, it wasn't a big race, so for some reason it doesn't feel as monumental. The last one was in Berlin, so there were some huge differences. Regardless, I still ran 26.2 miles (or 26.45 according to my Garmin), and made it across the finish line to collect my glass medal. 

A couple of days before the Newport Marathon my friend Sara and I met at PDX, and drove to the beautiful town of Newport on the Oregon coast. She was a bit jet-lagged since she flew from NYC, and I hadn't been sleeping as much, so we tried to relax, catch up on sleep, eat appropriately, and hydrate before the marathon.

PDX arrival.
We checked into our hotel, scoped out the beach, and found food. It was an early night. After a full night's sleep, we shook it out on some of the hills of Newport. Hills that I really hoped we weren't going to run on the the following day. I would be looking at the course map a little closer later that day. You can't beat the views though. Our turn-around spot had a great shot of the coastline. 

Shakeout Run.

Later that afternoon we headed to the Race Headquarters. Note that I didn't say Expo. Since this was a pretty small race, I wasn't expecting a large space with endless vendors. But I thought it would still be slightly bigger. It took about 5 seconds to pick up our bib numbers, and there were 2 vendors selling race clothes. Since it wasn't crowded, I went ahead and asked the volunteers all my questions instead of waiting to read the race materials. They were all very nice, and patiently answered all of them. I was feeling good about the race and logistics. 

That evening we got our spaghetti dinner at the American Legion, where the locals were happy to serve up our carbs. We found that some would be volunteering along the race course the following day. Along with a lot of the local high school sports teams, we would find out later. It was a pefect way to get our pasta dinner. We got our carbs, it was inexpensive, and it didn't take long at all. 

Before heading to bed, I took a short walk to the water before calling it a night. I do love sunsets on the water, and can't resist being out in the cold to watch them. 

Marathon Eve.

Race day weather was looking promising. Low 50s and overcast. Excellent. As long as the sun didn't come out, we were in the clear. We had a 7am start, so we woke up at 4:50 to start consuming calories. We got into our race clothes, and packed our bags with more food, water, and post-race items. Fortunately there was a shuttle bus that made the rounds to the hotels, and we didn't have to drive. I didn't anticipate any issues getting around the small town, but it was just nice to know we didn't have to deal with parking or drive after running 26.2 miles. 

Shuttle to the start.

Beach shot before we run a marathon.

We arrived at the old and possibly haunted Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in plenty of time to use the porta potties and chill out before the race started. The thing I get most anxious about before a marathon is using the porta potties. I don't mind a little bit of a wait for them, but I also don't want to wait forever and miss the start. I'm always balancing the time that I need to be in my corral and ensuring I used the bathroom at the last possible minute. Since this was a  small race, there was no reason to be anxious. There were plenty of porta potties for the number of racers. I didn't have to wait in line at all the 2 times I went. Which meant I was all ready and stress-free for the start of the race.

After singing Happy Birthday to a local runner, the gun went off, and we were off. 

The first few miles was in the residential beach area called Nye Beach. We explored it the day before, so had an idea of what the terrain was like. There were some little hills, and a few gravelly sections but nothing major. I was just trying to focus on getting into my groove, and ignore the other racers, as many get a little too optimistic at the start. For some reason it's more noticeable in smaller races. Probably because there are fewer people. 

We looped back around the lighthouse, (still no ghost sightings), and down towards the harbor. From there we would follow the Yaquina River out several miles, before turning around and coming back. At around mile 4.5, I made the very short climb up the major hill of the race. It really wasn't so bad, and at that point in the race, all was good. I wasn't looking forward to it on my return though.

There were no timing mats in this race. So I have no 5k or half marathon splits. All I have are my Garmin miles splits. When I saw the mile marker of course since I did it manually.  Of course, I did miss a couple of them. When I saw a 15-minute mile, I was alarmed at first, but then remembered that it included 2 miles. This usually happens in every marathon. My target was to hit each mile in the 7:27-7:32 range, on the slower end at the beginning of the race. I was doing a relatively good job of being in the range. Although there were a few exceptions (2 slower miles, and 1 faster mile). Up until mile 18 all was good.

I'm not sure at what point I gained company, but there were a few of us that stuck in a pack. For the most part, it was ok. I tend to not really run with anyone since I don't want them to be in my way, or have them influence my running. There were points when I wanted to hit the tangent and was unable to (hence the 26.45 miles). One of my running buddies was female, and the other male. Around mile 11, a spectator yelled at me and my female partner that we were 2nd place females. Well then. I assumed there were more women in front of me, but that wasn't the case. Courtney (whose name I later learned) and I tried to work with each other and aimed to be second and third place. Her parents and brother were out there cheering, and I pretended they were cheering for me also. And at some points they actually were.

Around mile 17.5, I was a little ahead of Courtney, but then another woman passed me. I actually spoke to her at the start of the marathon, and assumed she was having a great day since she was going faster than her goal. From that point on, I tried to maintain my 3rd place position. Even as each mile got a little slower. I knew I wasn't hitting my goal time (I lost sight of the 3:15 pacer miles before), and it looked like a PR also wasn't going to happen. If I could manage to get 3rd place female, that would be something.

I kept ticking of each mile. Finally I got to mile 25, which was a steady incline. I think my training in Upstate New York and in San Francisco helped for sure. I've always been comparatively strong on hills. So it didn't bother me as much. But it was still the end of a marathon, so when I got to head downhill at mile 26, I was thrilled. And all of a sudden, I was done. I collected my medal with a smile on my face and fire in my legs. 

I managed to pull in the 3rd place female (out of 209), 54th overall (out of 439), and 1st in my age group. My finish time of 3:20:18 is my 3rd fastest time overall. It wasn't what I hoped for, but there will be other opportunities. Overall I'm pleased with how I did. I gave it all I could through the finish. 

The highlight though was my friend Sara. We trained together the last several months, but in different places. I was traveling around, and she was mostly in Brooklyn. We got to do one race/long run together in Prospect Park on a freezing cold March Saturday. We motivated each other through workouts and long runs. I was helping her achieve her goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. She was going to have had to take 7 minutes off her PR, but I knew she could do it.

When I saw her after the turn around point (mile 15.5), she looked good and we slapped each other high-five as we passed each other. I was hoping she could maintain and finish strong.

After I finished, I went to shuffle to the baggage area to get my phone with the hope of getting a few photos of Sara finishing. But I was moving too slow and the baggage was too far, so I decided to turn around and head back to the finish line. It's a good thing I did. As I approached it, I saw her coming down the hill. And then I ran for it. Seriously. Somehow I some more in me in order to cheer her on, and see her cross the line at 3:30:31. Not only did she qualify for Boston, but she surpassed last year's cutoff time. She should be in the clear, and will be headed to Boston next April. Go Sara!

Boston Qualifier.

Icing my calves.

I ran into my running buddy and her family, and chatted about our experience. After our race recaps, Sara and I went in search for food and beer. Unfortunately the local brewery didn't have beer at the finish line area. I was a little disappointed. Although their lemonade was quite tasty. Fortunately they honored a free beer at various places in town. We headed back to the hotel, took race photos on the beach, showered, and headed back into town for the awards. I got 1st in my age group (which was a paperweight recycled from last year's medals), and Sara got 3rd. We took our hardware, and headed to Rogue Brewery to finally get our beer. From there, we spent the rest of the day bar hopping to make up for lost calories, via various liquids.

Age group winners.

Post-race beer.

We were definitely moving slow the next morning, but had a delicious breakfast at Pig 'n Pancake on our way out of town, and stopped at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. We had to walk a bit, and go down stairs, but we survived. The coastline was absolutely beautiful. I really wish I had more time to see more of the coast. 

To Boston she goes.

The Oregon Coast.

We headed back to Portland, with a stop in Tillamook for an ice cream lunch. We didn't have to pay attention to what were eating anymore. It was so good. In Portland, I met up with some family and a friend at a great local brewery. It was a nice way to end the weekend, and I'm already planning on a return to Oregon. 

Ice cream stop.

Drinks with the family in Portland.

Catching up with an old London friend.

I've had over a week to reflect. I'm pretty pleased with how I did (and when else will I be able to get 3rd place), but I do wonder if there was anything I could have done differently. And honestly, I'm not sure. I did a lot of solo training this cycle, so maybe having a buddy to push me over the last several months could have helped. I really didn't get a lot of sleep leading up to the race, but I'm not sure if that was the main culprit. I probably could have slowed down a bit in the first half. But who knows. It may have still ended similarly. Maybe I need to change up my training regimen a bit. Or maybe not. I guess this is why we keep running marathons. If we get a PR, we set a new goal. If we don't, we want to figure out what went wrong, and do it over. 

So what's next. I have a goal to complete the 6 majors, and I only have Tokyo and London left to run. So I will be plotting which one will be next over the coming months, and maybe throw another marathon in for fun. We shall see. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

California Living

I finally made the move. After years of thinking about it, months of being at home searching for a job and some soul searching, and weeks exploring California back in March, I went for it. I picked up and moved to San Francisco. 

After college graduation, I moved to New York City with no job, a temporary apartment, and 2 suitcases of belongings.  I planned on getting a job in advertising or marketing, and a few months later I did. And then I found an apartment. My post-college life was starting. 

However, I only planned on staying for a few years. I wanted to either go to Business School, join the Peace Corps, or head West. None of those things happened. But I do not regret my 10 years in NYC. I essentially grew up there. I arrived as a fresh-faced 23-year old, and left as a somewhat-wise 33-year-old. I moved my way up in the advertising world, formed relationships outside of college friends, spent the occasional 4am late night out, and lived on my own for the very first time. So many great memories, and a couple not-so-great ones. 

When my 10-year anniversary of living in NYC approached, it was time to make the 3rd biggest decision of my life (1. selecting which college to attend, 2. moving to NYC after graduation). It was time to quit my job, leave NYC, and travel the world. It what an incredible experience. You can read all about my world adventures in this blog, but this post is not about that. It's about the 4th biggest decision of my life, making the move to the West Coast.

And that's what I've done. Back in March, I got a buddy pass to California to investigate where I wanted to live. I already had a pros list going based on previous visits and online research, but I had to go in person. My friend Lindsay and her family hosted me in beautiful San Diego, where I got to explore the city for the 2nd time. I then spent a few days driving up the coast to take in all of what the rugged coast had to offer. My last stop was San Francisco, where I crashed with my friends Lindy and Melanie, and experienced what my life would be like if I lived there. After about 3 weeks, it was time to make my way back to Upstate New York, and make a decision. 

Before my trip, I was leaning towards San Francisco, especially after visiting for my friend's wedding back in 2012. I could definitely see myself living there as I spent a few beautiful October days wandering the city. This last visit pretty much solidified my decision. The city is beautiful, as is the surrounding area. The weather is supposed to be pretty nice. I have friends here, most of who relocated from NYC. There is an amazing running community. The potential to explore the West is easy from here. And the jobs. There are so many opportunities in SF. And since I need a job to stay here, that is a good thing.

So I got on a plane to San Francisco last Friday, after a short visit to NYC to see friends and family. I'm only a few days in, and am slowly adjusting. Although the adjustment isn't to a new city, it's being in a more permanent place. I've spent the better part of the last 20 months being a nomad. I've lived out of a backpack, slept on various couches and beds, and didn't stay in one place for too long. It's only been a few days, but the feeling of being a visitor will go away. I will have regular run dates with friends, go on hikes, do brunch, get a library card, find a job, attend Giants games (not football), and find my spot in this bustling city on the coast.

Here's to the next phase. 

"If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." 
~ Frank Sinatra

SF trying to impress. And succeeding.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I made it to Brussels, my last stop on my European tour. I guess my final stop on my Around the World trip. It would be the end. I would be flying back home for the holidays in just a few days.

The train ride from Antwerp was pretty quick and was at my hostel before I knew it. My hostel was in a good spot, close to both the Central and North train stations, and not far from the Old City. I had to store my luggage since I was a bit early, but that allowed me time to explore the city in the afternoon. While I was charging my phone, I looked up the hours of Cantillon Brewery. Good thing I checked. I planned on a day trip the following day, and it was closed on Sunday. I would be long gone on Monday by the time it opened. So off I went.

I found some frites for lunch, saw some excitement with the police in the Old Town, and headed towards the brewery. But not before walking through the Grand Place and checking out the outfit of the day on Manneken Pis.

Grand Place.

Manneken Pis.

After a little bit of a walk in the rain outside the Old City, I arrived at Cantillon Brewery. It was a self-guided tour, so I took my time as I walked through. I then got to try 3 different beers, a Lambic which came straight out of the barrel, a kriek, and a rosé. They were all pretty tasty. While I was drinking, I met a nice couple from South America, the woman was from Argentina and the man was from Venezuela. We ended up walking back to town together and hanging out the next evening.

Tour of Cantillon Brewery.

Time to try some beer.

I walked around a bit more to explore the city and the Old Town was beautiful. Especially in the rain. Although it was cold. The Grand Place was definitely one of my favorite squares that I had seen on this trip. I only captured one side here, but all sides had beautiful architecture. 

The Grand Place lit up at night. 

The following day, I got a fairly early start on my day trip. Dinant, a small town south of Brussels kept coming up as a can't-miss in my research. However, just like with Halstatt, Austria, it was just too expensive to stay over. So I decided to dedicate a day to Dinant while I was in Brussels. I was able to do everything I wanted while I was there, so I was happy with my decision. The stunning town is set on the Meuse River, and I ended up picking a good day, so I got some great views. 

Dinant, Belgium.

After a break for lunch, and a short walk to get the lay of the land where the saxophone was born, I headed up to the citadel. The hike up offered some nice views of the river and town below. I learned a little bit of the history of the town, which included a lot of war and devastation. The town always persevered and came through on the other side. 

View from the Citadel.

Adolphe Sax's birth town. 

After I saw as much as I could of Dinant, I headed to Maison Leffe, which was on the other side of town. I was able to learn about the history of making Belgian beer, and specifically the history of Leffe. After my tour, I was able to choose whichever beer I wanted and enjoyed a full glass. I wanted to try something I may not be able to get elsewhere or in the store as easily. I landed on the Mount Hood. The hops actually come from Oregon, which I thought was cool. Once I was done, I grabbed another Leffe at the corner store for the road, and caught the train back to Brussels.

Maison Leffe.

After dinner, I ended up meeting up with the South American couple to try some new beer in a few new spots. They had a list of cool bars they were making their way through before leaving town. I was happy to participate for a few rounds. 

More beer. 

The following morning I headed out for a run. It was my last chance to run in Europe, and I wanted to also run at least once in Brussels. Like Antwerp, it was a little challenging to run around the city. I ended up on the sidewalks and most parks were further out of town. Luckily, the streets were quiet, so I didn't have to deal with too many cars. I made my way to Parc du Cinquantenaire. I arrived, but the gate was locked, which was a bummer. Instead I ran around the perimeter. On the other side, I was able to get in, so I was able to check it out. It was a nice little park, so I ran through it to head back. Of course, I couldn't find an exit. Remember that locked gate? Well I jumped it in order to escape. I ran off before anyone could stop me.

Parc du Cinquantenaire.

After my run, I found a seat at breakfast and met Emily, who was from Washington, DC. We hit it off and we spent my last day together. We explored some more of the Old Town, checked out the view from Palais de Justice, shopped a little, and visited Jeanneke Pis, Manneken's sister.

More of the Grand Place.

View of Brussels from Palais de Justice.

Jeanneke Pis.

After walking around the city, it was time for more beer. Emily and I went to Delirium Tremens to hang out for a bit. I wanted to check off another bar, and Emily was on board to visit the bar she frequented when she used to live there. We enjoyed some beer before heading back to the hostel for a bit.

Delirium Tremens.

While at the hostel, I packed up as much as I could while we enjoyed some drinks and tried to eat most of my remaining food. From there, we headed out and stayed out. Since it was my last night, I was content drinking more beer, and staying out later than normal. We had a great time chatting, meeting new people, and trying different Belgian beers. I didn't get a lot of sleep that night, but it was worth it.

One last rainy shot of the Grand Place.

My new friend Emily.

The next morning was definitely a blur as I got up, showered, finished packing, and headed to the airport. My flight to Dublin was quick. I had time to enjoy a Guinness before heading to NYC. 

And just like that, my trip was over. I was back in NYC, and then upstate for the holidays. 

Friday, February 10, 2017


My new friend Bri and I headed to the port city of Antwerp, and the next stop on my Belgian tour. Bri was accompanying me just for the day, but I had a couple of nights booked. We arrived in one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe. It was almost straight out of Harry Potter.

Antwerp Central train station. 

I checked into my hostel and we went looking for food (frites with steak sauce). Antwerp was a bit larger than I had expected, but as we explored, I found it wasn't as large as I initially thought. Just compared to Bruges, it seemed bigger. We went to check out the sights.

St. Paul's Church.

Town Hall.

I wanted to walk under the Schelde River through the Sint-Annatunnel. It looked like it went on forever, but was really only a quarter of a mile long. We walked to the other end and had some nice views of the city across the river.

Under the Schelde River. 


We didn't stay for too long and went back through the tunnel to keep exploring the Old Town.


Flemish architecture in Grote Markt. 

Het Steen.

After all our walking, it was time to eat again. We had to get more waffles, and this time with ice cream. It was so good. Honestly, you could add ice cream to anything and I'm on board with it.

Waffles and ice cream. Yes, please.

Bri had to head back to Bruges, but before we said goodbye, we got to see a beautiful sunset.

Sun setting on Antwerp.

That evening, I hung out at the hostel to make dinner and plan out the next few days. The following morning, I headed out for a run. Antwerp isn't the most friendly running city. I found a park to get run in, but it wasn't very large, and was hassled by a few guys on my way. There is a great bike path, but due to construction, it was a little tricky to run on. Even with those challenges, it was good to see some more of the port side of the city. 

Port of Antwerp.

After my run, I spent the day wandering around Antwerp. And drinking beer. 

Inside Central Station.

Hidden alleys.

Doors and bikes.

Antwerp streets.

It was time to grab a beer, and I found a cute cafe bookstore to have one in. I hung out for a bit and tried a new beer recommended by the bartender.

Beer at a bookstore.

I caught Grote Markt at dusk with the lights reflecting off the rain before making another stop at a popular cozy bar for another drink before dinner. 

Nighttime scenes.

I went back to the hostel and met some people while I was making dinner. I drank the beer I had gotten at the grocery store, plus some other alcohol that my new friends were sharing. The next morning was a little rough. This is why you don't mix beer, bourbon, and wine. Fortunately, I didn't have very far to travel, and wasn't in a hurry, so I managed. I made my way to the train station in the rain, and was in Brussels in a very short amount of time. It was time make the most of the last stop on my trip. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


My first stop in Belgium, my 37th country, was Bruges. I had about a week in Belgium and based on recommendations, Bruges was at the top of the list, so I went there first. I arrived pretty late due to the delay of my car share driver in Luxembourg City, but good thing for the bar in the hostel. I dropped my things off in my room, where fortunately my roommates were still awake, got settled a bit, and went back downstairs to enjoy my first Belgian beer in Belgium. And it was delicious. 

Belgian beer.

The following morning, after breakfast, I went to check out the city. But before I left the hostel, I signed up for a walking tour for later in the day. Because of this, I tried to avoid some of the main touristy stops. But some places I couldn't help but see.

Grote Markt Square.

Belfry Tower.

For lunch, I had my first real taste of Belgium, frites. Just as a heads up, I was planning on eating and drinking my way through Belgium. I had to get mayo and curry sauce since apparently that is the thing to do. I can now say that I tried it. But I will stick with regular ketchup for now. I'm not a fan of mayo to begin with, let alone having it with fries. I really only like it when it's mixed in egg salad.


I walked further out of the center of town to explore a bit and see the windmills along the Gent-Bruges Canal.

Bruges doors.

Bonne Chiere. 

After seeing the 4 windmills along the canal, I hurried back to the hostel for the walking tour. I met the group and we spent the next few hours walking around the city. We saw various scenes from the movie Bruges (which is on my to-watch list), beautiful architecture, cool canals, and medieval churches. Bruges really is a pretty city and I can see what all the fuss is about. During the tour, I met an American from Hawaii, who lives in New Mexico. She was traveling on her own for the first time and was have a great time. We ended up spending the next few days together.

Belgian architecture.

Scenes from Bruges.

Beautiful canals.

Our last stop on the tour was the Beer Museum, where Bri and I shared a beer tasting. We had a good time chatting with our new friends from Brazil. Afterwards, we wandered for a bit, and made our way to the Beer Wall, where we tried some more Belgian beer.

The Beer Museum.

The Beer Wall. 

The next morning, I got a run in. Mostly because I love running. But also to fully enjoy all the beer, chocolate, waffles, frites, and other Belgian goodness I was planning on consuming. The run was really enjoyable, and reminds me of why I love running paths along water. 

Beautiful run along the canal.

My next food item to try were waffles. Now waffles is not at the top of my list for breakfast food (I'm more of a French toast girl). But true Belgian waffles, with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, that's another story. So good. I could eat them for dessert all the time. The next one I get will have ice cream on it.

Belgian waffles.

After a few errands, Bri and I hit up some new places as we walked around town, and revisited a few places from our tour so I could get better pictures.

Leaves falling on canals.

One of the prettiest spots in Bruges.

Houses on the canal.

After we saw everything we wanted to see, we went looking for chocolate and beer.



Brouwerij De Halve Maan.

We eventually headed back to the hostel to spend the rest of the evening. We met a local girl who works at the hostel, who shared her stash of beer with us. Which was amazing. She had so many different kinds that she opened up. It was a true Belgian tasting.

So much beer.

Even after all that beer, and unwarranted warnings from some guy at the hostel, we got up with no issue. I checked out, met up with Bri, and we headed to Antwerp.