Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wine Country Weekend

Kevin at the Mumm Napa vineyard

I returned from the most pretentious sounding weekend in the world yesterday. That would be our "weekend in Napa". I find it almost impossible to say that phrase without clenching my jaw and talking like Thurston Howell, III. The actual experience wasn't nearly as pretentious as I thought it might be. Just a bunch of beautiful countryside and friendly people pouring tasty beverages.

The view from our hotel window.

We had all sorts of grand plans about all the things we would do while we were down there but we pretty much just did winery tours, wine tasting and lounging around. I only get to see Kevin about once a week so the best part of the vacation was just getting to spend a few days alone with him.

On Friday, we visited three wineries. The best of the bunch was Rubicon which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola. After our tasting there we went upstairs to poke around and look at one of the remaining 43 Tucker cars in the world and who do you think we pass on the stairs on the way up? That's right, Mr. Coppola himself. Turns out they actually live on the back part of the vineyard and CNN was there interviewing him for something. Besides being a great director the man grows some fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Mmmmmm. The grounds here are gorgeous too. The tasting fee is pricey and the wines aren't budget priced but they are definitely worth a try.
Me at Rubicon

Saturday morning I went for a quick run and saw my first vulture. It flew up into a tree and was staring at me as I ran. Damn! I am a slow runner but I am not THAT slow. Sorry Mr. Vulture! Still alive! I told him to go enjoy his roadkill breakfast and went about my merry way.
Kevin and I hit five wineries on Saturday. The first was Castello di Amorosa which is a giant castle that the owner had built a few years back. Everything down to the bricks, the doors and the roof tiles was brought over from old buildings being torn down in Europe. The construction was authentic down to the dungeon and torture chamber he had built. The tour was great but the wines weren't anything special. They even had an iron maiden that they are pretty sure was actually used at one point in time.

Wine caves at Castello di Amorosa

The iron maiden

We also found my new favorite winery on Saturday; Ehlers Estate. Wow! These were amazingly tasty wines and are served in a wonderful old stone building surrounded by vineyards. I could have happily spent all day there.

Saturday also brought us to the last kind of place I think of when I hear "Napa": Prager Winery and Port Works. It is housed in an old clapboard building, has layers of thick cobwebs in the windows, dollar bills tacked up and covering every available surface, and classic rock on the stereo. I haven't had a lot of experience with port but this stuff was delicious and one of the best experiences I had in wine country.

While California wine country is known for some of the best food in the country (The French Laundry is here after all) we balanced out the wine snobbishness by "keepin' it real" with food. We ate at In-N-Out Burger one night followed by a trip to the 7-11 for Spicy Big Bites and potato chips in the parking lot. We found a great little neighborhood breakfast spot one morning but also shoved McGriddle's from McDonald's down our gullets another morning. Next time we might try to hit up some of the nicer restaruants but on our last day in town we saw a drive-in that was advertising .99 cent corn dogs so The French Laundry just might have to wait.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ten Miles of Clarity

I have been fighting the burnout for awhile now and came to the realization that something has to give. I went down the list of items that are causing me stress and the only one I can reasonably eliminate was the half-marathon training. I haven't been able to put in the miles and the speedwork I need to to be able to have a successful race in Eugene. I have been pretty stressed by this and a few people suggested that "hey, you don't have to do this race." This solution did not sit well with me. I contemplated just embracing the suck and doing the race but allowing myself to tank it. This also didn't feel quite right.

So last night, I went out on a 9-miler that I decided to turn into a 10-miler at the last minute. At my speed that is about two hours of running and two hours of plodding along gives you a lot of time to think. Between listening to verses of "The Humpty Dance" and the soaring strains of the "Rocky" theme I came to a realization. I love running. It makes me feel good. It is part of who I am now. It energizes me and gives me an immediate feeling of accomplishment. But I don't have to beat myself up and grind myself into the ground to do this or any race. I made a deal with myself that I will give the training everything I have to give but be OK with the fact that everything I have to give isn't very much right now.

It is amazing to me how such a little mental shift can make such a big difference. I felt immediately lighter. If I have the time and the energy to do a full week's workout, great. If I can't manage to fit it all in that is OK too. I will do what I am able to do, hold off on worrying about PRs for the time being and just enjoy the excitement of race day. Once school is done I can re-focus my energy and see what I am capable of then.

And it was really only nine miles of clarity and one of "Ouch, ouch, ouch. I hurt. Ow. Longest mile ever. Hmmm...that's a different pain. Am I there yet?"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

That Word? I Do Not Think It Means What I Think It Means

I ran across an article on the Quiverfull movement the other day. For those of you who haven't heard of Quiverfull it is, in a nutshell; admit your husband is your ruler, lay on your back and spit out as many babies as humanly possible. But that is not why I am posting.

In this article the author quotes a statement from the Southern Baptist Convention that caught my eye. I originally was excited for the women of the SBC and thought "Whoo-hoo! Good for you! About time some religion thought this was our right! Bring it on for the ladies of the SBC." However, I quickly realized that the Southern Baptists had something completely different in mind.

The quote: wives must "graciously submit" to their husband's "loving headship"

*sigh* With my definition the world would be a much happier place.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Pat's Dash Race Report

It snowed. It freakin' snowed.

On Sunday I ran my sixth St. Patrick's Day Dash. This was, hands down, the worst weather I have ever raced in. Cold, wet and miserable. I'm talking golf ball sized snowflakes people. Once it got done snowing it turned to rain for the entire race and then a downpour by the time we were done. But even with the lousy weather and getting up at 6:00 a.m. I still had a good time. Race days are always so exciting.

This was also the inaugural race for my friends Mike and Eric. Congratulations to them on running their first race! I also got to meet Mike's girlfriend and she is way faster than I will ever be.

The organizers changed the course this year so we no longer get to run along the top of the viaduct down to the stadiums. I missed the old course. You got to see the beautiful Olympic mountains, the downtown skyline, the exposed rebar on the Viaduct... Good times. This year we started at the same spot on Mercer but instead ran north on Aurora to Canlis and then turned around and ran back to finish next to EMP. My Garmin measured the distance at 3.89 miles and since the organizers don't give you an exact distance (which totally messes with my obsessive need to quantify) I am using my Garmin for the official distance.

This race highlighted why I will never lead a pace group. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 10:29 pace
Mile 2 - 11:13 pace
Mile 3 - 9:55 pace
Mile .89 - 9:51 pace
Overall Pace per Garmin - 10:23

I clearly got into my comfortable long-run pace for the second mile. There were also a ton of people in my way and I had to bob and weave through them but I can't blame most of that pace on anyone other than myself. Once I got to the turnaround I checked my pace, saw it was at 10:54, said "Uh-uh! Oh, hell no!" and decided I had to speed up. That last 1.89 miles felt pretty good at a sub-10:00 pace. I probably should have pushed harder the first two miles. Right near the finish line there was some place cooking something greasy, friend and sweet that would normally classify as one of the top smells ever. However, after running for almost four miles it really just made me want to vomit.

This was my second worst Dash pace ever. The only time I was slower was the first year I started running. It is frustrating to look at my race log and see pace regression. I just have to keep reminding myself that I took a huge break from running last fall and that I am focusing on getting my distance up for Eugene in six weeks. My next race time will be faster. Guaranteed.*

* offer not valid on half-marathons

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Weekend Update

Most of the weekend was spent with my head in the textbooks (am I done yet?) but I did manage to squeeze in a little fun too.

Saturday night Kevin and I went to see our darling ancestor, Lucy, at the Science Center. What a thrill to get to see her. It is crazy to me that we actually got to see this monumentally important piece of evolutionary history in person. 3.18 million years old and a 40 percent intact skeleton. Truly awe inspiring to think of her walking around on the earth and all that has come after her. Afterwards, it was yummy dinner at Roti Cuisine of India ... mmmmm, mango chicken and naan.
Sunday I actually got to sleep in and then we went to Chateau St. Michelle for wine tasting and then another tasty dinner at Saltoro. While I finished up homework, Kevin set up Jackie's kitty condo (with Jackie's help). It comes down at Christmas to make room for the tree and she always gets excited when it is reconstructed. I now have one happy little chicken.