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Where do you camp when all the campgrounds are full in Joshua Tree?

With no real plans except for a few campsites in mind (e.g. White Tank, Jumbo Rocks) Kevin and I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park late on Saturday afternoon to a full park.

We were informed that the only campground with open sites was Cottonwood.  However, Cottonwood was 30 miles away within the park, basically at the South entrance/exit.  So instead, we decided to weigh our options and scout out the backcountry sites.

I had read of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping which is free and primitive camping outside the National Park (and from what I’ve read quite desolate).  However, we found out that you can do dispersement camping (pack-in, pack-out) at designated Backcountry Boards inside the park.  These are located throughout the park (look on the map for the blue B’s).  All you need to do is find the Backcountry Board, and fill out a free permit that basically provides the information for your car (so you can park overnight) and some accountability for yourself going out there.  The only real restriction to backcountry camping is that you must be 1 mile from the road and 500 ft from any trails.

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After driving through the White Tank campground and realizing that even though all of the sites are divided by huge boulders, there is still a lack of privacy.  Going off the grid was exactly what we both wanted, needed and liked (camping is all about isolation!).  We ended up using the Twin Tanks location (you can see 12 other spots within JTNP here).  With just enough time to carry 2 loads from the car (we’ve worked on condensing since our first dispersement camping experience) and set up camp, we took a hike to the nearest rock formation.  After climbing about 50 feet up, we reached the top for the most majestic sunset.

I find that camping in completely remote locations is the best way to disconnect and relax.  With no cell reception, and the sun serving as your gauge of time, it’s easy to lose yourself into complete stillness and tranquility.

We also happened to catch the full moon which illuminated our little valley like a spotlight!

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I feel like after 24 hours in Joshua Tree, we had a pretty good understanding for the park.  Even though I had done some research prior, it’s always hard to place things in perspective and know how they all relate!

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San Diego Restaurant Week returns tomorrow, January 17th for 8 days of dining!

On Thursday night, Kevin and I ventured down to Mission Hills (near Hillcrest and Downtown San Diego) to sample Brooklyn Girl’s San Diego Restaurant Week menu.

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Stuffed Pink Baquetta Sea Bass — Oven roasted and stuffed with crab meat, served with Forbidden black rice, organic broccolini and finished with a stone ground mustard sauce.

We entered the expansive building with exposed ceilings and were gestured to our table against the wall adorned with vintage trinkets and unique light fixtures. The interior of Brooklyn Girl has an urban and loft-like feel, while still maintaining a warm and welcoming communal vibe. Old P.S. chairs are used in combination with rustic wooden tables. There’s a bit of artistic glam mixed in (for example chandeliers enclosed in bird cages) to contrast the coolness of the steel.

During our visit I had the opportunity to sit down with Brooklyn Girl’s proprietor, Michael McGeath, to discuss the restaurant, the menu and the inspiration. Not only did he show us incredible hospitality, but his story of how Brooklyn Girl came to be was interesting and insightful.

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Cajun style shellfish étouffée — Shrimp, crab, crawfish and andouille sausage stew with white rice.  Mushroom and truffle risotto — Wild mushrooms, black truffles, parmigiana cheese and chili oil.

With 40 years in the restaurant industry, and an extensive background in opening 15 different restaurants (5 of his own, 10 for other people), Brooklyn Girl is the most recent project (going on 5 years in the location) for husband and wife duo, Michael and Victoria McGeath.

The name Brooklyn Girl is an homage to his wife who is originally from Brooklyn. But it’s also a tribute to the creative food scene that Brooklyn Girl brings from the East to West.

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Carlsbad Black Mussels — Thai basil, coconut, chiles, lemograss, fries, grilled baguette.  Bacon Wrapped Vietnamese Meatballs — Shrimp & pork meatballs, quick tiger slaw, sweet ginger glaze.

With the more recent gentrification of Brooklyn, this New York neighborhood is now known as a hip, trending foodie spot, with an anti-corporate attitude. Immigration to this area has also created a melting pot of multicultural flavors. All of these aspects are carried across and transplanted into this San Diego restaurant, with the aspect of fusion playing a big role in the Brooklyn Girl menu (e.g. Vietnamese meatballs, étouffée, risotto, etc.).

In addition to fusion, the menu is also innovative and fresh. Michael states that Brooklyn Girl is not just following the trends, because they’ve always been devoted to using local, organic and sustainably farmed ingredients. With eating at the restaurant 6 nights a week, Michael serves food and quality he would (and does) eat.

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Chocolate chip bread pudding — Bourbon creme anglaise and whipped cream. Caramel Budino — Salted caramel, custard, crumbled chocolate cookies. 

Without a current executive chef, the couple is fully embracing the unassuming style of Brooklyn restaurants, such as the whole do-it-yourself approach, coming up with the latest menu items on their own. Scouring food blogs and utilizing their personal collection of over 200 cookbooks they seek inspiration that gives way to their unique menu items and ideas. With rotating weekly specials, they are always looking for the next and new thing without trying to replicate anyone else.

For San Diego Restaurant Week, Brooklyn Girl is offering a 3-course dinner menu for $30. This is an absolute value, considering the quality and price of the individual dishes on their own. Ordering off the San Diego Restaurant Week provides a wide range of tastes from the regular menu. With over 6 options for each course, there’s ample opportunity to see why people flock and gather at the Brooklyn Girl!

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My recommendation of the perfect Brooklyn Girl San Diego Restaurant Week order would be:

First Course: Carlsbad Black Mussels — the coconut broth was the best thing ever. We found ourselves soaking the mussels…and dipping the bread…and dunking the fries

Second Course: Mushroom and truffle risotto — perfectly cooked, super creamy, and when can you ever go wrong with truffles in a dish??

Third Course: Caramel Budino — buttery and rich with a velvety texture, nicely contrasted by the subtle crunch from the cookie crumbs.

Brooklyn Girl
4033 Goldfinch Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Thank you to Brooklyn Girl for hosting me! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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After a beautiful but VERY chilly morning trail run with Marissa and Heather, I had the later afternoon to myself. Per one of Marissa’s suggestions, I went to South Table Mountain for a solo hike.

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The trail was a mix of snowy, icy and muddy. It was pretty easy except for one part when it got a little technical, steep and icy. On my way down I contemplated if I would be able to get down without slipping completely off the mountain, or if I would have to spend the night there (in which case I would freeze). A little overreacting, but I conquered my fear and slowly but surely (and on my butt) got down.

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Every so often on the switchbacks up I had to stop and just take in the view. It had warmed up to around 26 degrees, the sun was just resting on the mountains, and you could see the whole town of Golden.

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The view from the very top, on Castle Rock, was unbelievably spectacular. I took some time up there by myself to take it all in. But then it started to get chilly and I knew the sun would set soon enough.

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After making my way down I drove into downtown Golden to explore. Not before long it got super cold and I grew an appetite. Channeling my inner Wild/Cheryl Strayed, I sat down alone at the Old Capital Grill bar for a bowl of chili with some Texas toast and a Boulder Brewing Mojo IPA.

It was a very satisfying afternoon and Colorado is pretty amazing, even despite how cold it was.

South Table Mountain

Entrance: 19th St & Belvedere St, Golden, CO 80401
Route: A sign says “Golden Trail Rules,” but there’s no sign with the trail’s name. From here, you start up a series of switchbacks to the top. At the top of the mesa, head north towards Castle Rock. Keep heading north and the trail will lead to cement steps climbing to the top of Castle Rock.
Miles: ~2 mi

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Get ready…this is going to be a novel!

Saturday, December 12th I woke up at 5:50am. I made a fire, some coffee and spent close to an hour trying to make oatmeal. Unfortunately I stayed at the Leo Carrillo Campgrounds, which ended up being 30-40 minutes away from Malibu Creek State Park (which is south and east from Leo Carrillo). In hindsight I’d plan a little more ahead and stay at Malibu Creek State Park. Originally I wanted to leave around 6:40, but with waiting for water to boil, it was more like 7:05. So of course, I ate and drank on my drive over, resulting in some spilled oats on my shirt and shorts. Great!

I arrived at Malibu Creek State Park in the back of a car line around 7:35. I was slightly worried because the bib check-in was from 7-7:45am. However, I tried to remain calm, and remind myself that it was a super low-key race, and if I made it in the realm of on time, they would have to give me my bib.

When I arrived I quickly parked, hopped out of my car and ran over to get my bib. I returned to my car and prepped all my gear — water in the Camelbak, fuel, GoPro, iPod, keys, toilet paper, etc. I debated between wearing a long sleeve shirt and not (the same one that had oatmeal stains on it now). It was quite brisk so I decided to keep it on. I had to pee, and the line was a couple people deep, so I decided “this is a nature race,” and popped a squat behind a tree. My biggest fear was not starting with the pack and not knowing where to go.

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At 8am we were off on the Malibu Canyon 50k!  I hopped in the back and walked my way up to the start.  Everyone started at essentially the same time, because there was no tracking when we crossed the starting line. Around less than a half mile in, before we had even passed the parking lot, I decided I was NOT going to wear my long-sleeve shirt (mind you, we had already started the race). I decided to pop out and shed this extra layer, since 1. this race was pretty low-key, 2. I knew I would be taking pit-stops anyways, and 3. I didn’t want to end up carrying extra gear. I jumped back into the race but was now in the back of the pack. As we made our way from the camp road to the trail, we started on single track switchbacks, running in a single file line. It was fine until people started walking…already. In a single file line. My pace dropped to 13 minute miles and I knew I could be running this part at least a little bit faster. I wasn’t racing this race, however, I don’t like feeling stuck and confined. I was just going to go with the flow until a boy passed on the left so I decided to piggyback and follow him. I have and had no idea about etiquette in terms of trail running and/or ultra races. He seemed pretty experienced, like he’d run several ultras before, and like he’d be in the front of the pack. However, this was also his first ultra, and first race ever. Little did we know, Max and I would be spending the next 6 hours together.

The first aid station came at mile 2.7 (Tapia Park). I didn’t need any aid at this point and moved quickly past. This stop marked the start of the climb that would last until mile 10. It was definitely an uphill climb, so steep that running wasn’t even an option for me. Walking at a moderate pace was all I could manage. And even then, if I didn’t have Max hiking at a faster pace I definitely would’ve been walking slower.

Around mile 3 my nose started to drip and I realized it was bright red blood. I ended up using my gloves to stop the bleeding (which caused some chafing under my nose), and luckily I had packed some TP (in case of bathroom issues) so I shoved some up there several times until the bleeding stopped.

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The second aid station came at mile 8 (Corral Canyon). By this time I took a little water top-off and started my electrolyte hydration plan (or non-plan because I kind of made this up as I went along). I had packed some Nuun tablets split in half, and when I came to an aid station, I grabbed a water cup, threw in a tab, and chugged it. After this point, we had about 2 more miles of climbing until the GLORIOUS downhill began. The first time around it felt great. We flew down with an ~8 minute pace. On the flats we kept it consistent and were “flying” in an ultramarathon sense of the word.

At mile 12.7 we came to the M*A*S*H* site aid station. I re-filled my Camelbak with a little more water, took a Nuun, and sat down to rub some vaseline on a blister I could feel forming on the inside arch of my left foot. From this point we knew we had 2.9 miles until the halfway mark.

We finished the first 25k with smiles on our face. I think if I was alone and hurting, this would have been mentally challenging because the turn-around checkpoint was immediately to the right of the finish line. We stopped, I ate half a PB&J sandwich, swallowed a salt tab and continued with my half Nuun hydration tactic.

We started back off feeling great. But by the time we hit the switchbacks again we both were beginning to experience the fatigue. All of our intentions of making the second half better and faster than the first quickly went downhill. It’s true you experience so many different emotions, so many highs and lows. There are times when you feel like absolute shit and times when it’s not too bad. Max and I worked off of each other, making plans like “let’s walk the uphill and run the rolling hills,” or “let’s run to that ribbon,” “let’s run to that tree” even if it was just to keep us moving and propel us only 50 feet forward.

On the second go, the scenery looked vastly different. Instead of focusing on the people in front of me like I did in the beginning, there was nothing around us this time except for an arbor of trees and a fall backdrop. After crossing the small creek (a much bigger feat at mile 17 vs. mile 2) my hips started to tighten. We stopped and stretched, I did a figure 4 on both sides which helped out immensely. See, it is a different mentality! In a normal road race I would never stop and stretch.

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The one good thing about repeating a 25k loop twice is that you know what to expect. I knew from about 18-25 we would be climbing (which meant walking, which was OK by me). At mile 23 I could not be any more excited to seek some serious aid from the aid station. I already had it planned from 2 miles out. Salt tabs, Nuun, vaseline, potatoes dipped in salt. What I would’ve given for some McDonald’s French fries at that point! This was our longest pit stop but very much needed. It lifted our spirits and I left feeling refreshed and ready to go for the next 8 miles.

Max and I talked about what our position might be in the race. I suspected we were in the top third because based on where we started and how many people were in front of us, it didn’t seem like too many. Plus a lot of the runners that were on the loop the first time were only doing the 25k, so that put them out of the running.

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The downhills that felt so great the first time were far from that the second time around. They were torturous. My hips felt like they were rubbing and my knees felt like they were tracking out. I was afraid of taking too big of strides in case the impact was too powerful. Instead, I was taking 2-3 times as many small steps than usual. It was all about controlled falling. Originally we were going to skip the M*A*S*H* site and keep moving to the end. But after enduring the downhill, a little break sounded more than deserved. I could not have been more excited when we reached this aid station. A little stretch, a little Nuun, and a little questioning — “what position are we in?” gave us just the boost we needed. We found out we were 26th and 27th (WHAAAT!) and the game plan changed. “Don’t let anyone pass us, and pass people if we can.” We were ON! We came across #25 and he quickly succumbed to a lower position.

The last 2.9 miles ended up being a constantly evolving game plan. From holding a 9 minute pace, to just running by feel, to keeping it moving until we reached the stairs. I would have to say mile 29-30 was THE hardest. Not even mentally, but physically. I felt like I was a cartoon character trying to run. By the time we made it up the stairs and onto the camp road, we were in the definite home stretch!! As we rounded the corner into the last straightaway with a clear view of the finish line, I could not contain myself. My body filled with so much adrenaline, to the point where it would have been more work to slow down. I picked up the pace and finished strong. 31 miles. 6:19:20. I have never felt more happiness, excitement or sense of accomplishment in my life!

We checked the sheet and saw we ranked around 29 and 30 overall. The official results came out and I saw that I placed 29th overall, 5th female, and 2nd in my age group. So not only did I get a coaster for finishing the 50k, I also got a medal for placing! :-)

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It was a blessing that Max and I were able to run together the whole time. It would have been miserable and 100x more difficult alone. At the end, I kept telling him to go ahead and I’d see him at the finish. But he kept telling me “we’ve made it this far together, we’re finishing together.”

Going into this race I had no idea what I was doing, but apparently I looked like I did, as I got that from several people. Everything I thought about or brought with me ended up being perfect and of the most absolute importance. I ate before I felt any type of intense hunger (I did not keep track of what and when) because I knew by the time I really felt hungry, it would be too late.

Honestly, after this 50k, I am hooked. Everything from the experience to the culture is unlike anything else. From being smaller and on trails. To everyone being so nice, actually talking during the race and being super supportive. I found it to be very different from road racing and actually really nice. I already asked my mom to sign me up for my next 50k for my Christmas present and I wouldn’t be surprise if ultramarathons took precedence over qualifying for Boston….just saying 😉

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (6:18:47):
1 – 9:49
2 – 10:31
3 – 12:35
4 – 15:55
5 – 15:34
6 – 13:09
7 – 11:14
8 – 11:43
9 – 14:57
10 – 9:07
11 – 9:26
12 – 8:42
13 – 12:32
14 – 8:52
15 – 8:51
16 – 14:12
17 – 10:55
18 – 12:28
19 – 18:13
20 – 18:17
21 – 13:59
22 – 14:45
23 – 13:46
24 – 23:46
25 – 9:38
26 – 10:56
27 – 9:38
28 – 11:24
29 – 9:24
30 – 9:28
Last .55 – 4:45

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So not only did I plan to run my first 50k, I planned to travel and camp the night before (and after).  Ironically I listened to a Trail Talk by Rock Creek Runner podcast the week before exactly titled “How to Tavel and Camp Before an Ultramarathon.”  And basically, what I got as the biggest takeaway was pack more than you think you need — be over-prepared vs. under-prepared.

I didn’t know how the race would work, but you are allowed to have a drop bag.  The podcast recommends separating your drop bag before you leave.  I didn’t make a specific drop bag (since I went alone), but I made a bag specific for of all my race stuff (the clear blue bag from the NYC marathon above).

Packing List:

Race Day outfit
Race day essentials + my “sherpa pack” (aka additional gear) which included:
Long sleeve running shirt
Asics Packable Jacket
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3 Trail Running Shoe (the shoes I normally run trails in. However I ended up switching it up to my Hoka’s (my normal marathon shoes) at the last moment)
Injini Trail 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew
Buff Original Buff
Skinfix Rash Repair Balm
Sunscreen (face + body)

Camp gear
Tent, footprint + hammer
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Fleece blanket
Mexican blanket
Extra sleeping bag
Pillow
Backpack cooler
Camp stove
Mess kit
Camp utensils (fork, knife, spoon, spatula, kitchen knife)
Cutting board
Swiss army knife
Poler camp mug (similar here)
Nalgene
Shower stuff (towel, travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, loofa, flip flops)
Books (Wild)
Magazines (Outside Magazine, Trail Runner)
Headlamp
Flashlight
Wet ones/make-up wipes
Hand warmers
Matches
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Trash bags
Tylenol PM

Clothing
Lululemon Runder Under leggings x2
Lululemon Trail Bound Shorts
Patagonia Strider Shorts
Flannel
T-shirts (Hoppy Beer Hoppy Life, Sol Raiz Organics, Nixon)
Poler crew neck sweatshirt
Nixon hooded sweatshirt
Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket
Patagonia Down Sweater Vest
Coal Beanie
Target Gloves
Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit Running Shoes

Phew! That was an exhaustive list, but I think that’s all.  I’ll be sharing what I did in terms of nutrition (pre-race dinner, pre-race breakfast, what I ate during the race, etc.) next!

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Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored and none of these are affiliate links.  I linked some items so it would be easier to find, just in case you’re interested!

Planning ahead, London and I knew we wanted to make a slightly elevated camp breakfast (especially following our camp pizza).  After searching for inspiration, egg-in-a-hole kind of just popped into our heads.  Just a few ingredients made an easy spin on the classic egg and toast breakfast.  This breakfast ended up being very substantial, keeping us full until well after our hike!  But I’m not gunna lie, we did kind of kill an entire package of bacon between the two of us… 😛

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Egg-In-A-Hole
INGREDIENTS:
1 slice of bread
1 egg
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut a hole from the center of the slice of bread.
  2. Turn on camp stove and heat pan over medium-low heat with olive oil.
  3. Place the piece of bread in the pan.  Crack the egg directly into the center of the hole, and cook until the egg sets on the bottom, around 1 minute.
  4. Flip it over and cook until the yolk feels soft.
  5. Remove from heat and serve with bacon and ketchup :)

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Who brings micro-greens camping? In our attempts to make our Malibu camping trip as gourmet as possible, London and I sought out to make our favorite Pandora’s Pizza (the Jupiter from Pandora’s Pizza in Leucadia) camp style. After doing some research and using this REI blog for inspiration, with some trial and error (and a lot of fire play), we ended up with the most delicious and well deserved pizza!

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Camp Pizza
INGREDIENTS:
Pre-made pizza dough
1/2 fresh mozzarella ball
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 fresh basil leaves
1 pinch microgreens
1/2 avocado
Olive oil
What you’ll also need:
Cast iron skillet
Lid
Wood burning fire

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start fire.
  2. Prep ingredients (slice mozzarella into rounds, halve cherry tomatoes, chop basil, cube avocado).
  3. Preheat pan and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Layout pizza crust in pan and top with cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes, then cover with lid and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and top with microgreens and avocado, then serve.

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A couple weekends ago, London and I hit the road for an overnight camping trip.  After 3 hours of driving, we finally arrived to the Malibu Creek State Park campgrounds.  We pulled in the line to enter the park when the young ranger (age identified after I saw the braces) informed us that Reserve America moved our campsite to Pismo Beach.  WHAT!!!!! London and I looked at each other in disbelief, like what the hell.  Lucky for us this little lass was playing a joke, and we were able to enter and set up our camp with limited sunlight left.

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As I set up the tent, London popped open our hydroflask filled with Saint Archer’s Blonde Ale.  Trying to capitalize on the last few minutes of light, we went for a little hike around the campgrounds.  We found a little path that we followed until I grabbed London in reaction to a snake.  However, she proceeded to step on it’s HEAD and then stumble back and fall on her butt (which bruised quite nicely).  We continued to walk and experience the wildlife, which included a deer (that I thought had no horns, but indeed did have horns).

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When we returned to the campsite, we decided it would be a good idea to TRY and start a fire.  Good thing we started when we did.  We got a little too excited with the first sight of a flame (yay for camp hacks — hand sanitizer and lint for fire starters) and quelled the fire by shoving too much brush on top of it.  Luckily from the help of our neighbors we were able to get enough of a fire going to cook dinner and play bananagrams until it died around 8:30pm and were forced to retreat in the tent.

It was a cold night, and I didn’t sleep too well.  And it didn’t help we didn’t have any fire to look forward to in the morning.  But luckily when we woke up, the sun was shining high above and it was warm enough to brew a couple cups of coffee and start cooking our gourmet breakfast.

After breakfast we packed up our camp and headed out for a hike.  Originally I had several hikes in mind (see here and here) but we ended up coming across Sandstone Peak in Sunset Magazine earlier in the morning, so we decided to give it a try.

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Our short but fairly vertical hike ended up being pretty eventful.  Sandstone Peak is the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains (From overcast and windy, to raining to sunny skies and double rainbows, 4 miles was fairly thrilling.  We didn’t end up going to the very top of the peak because the rain made the stone slick, and after London’s fall the day before I didn’t want to risk it.

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By the time we finished the hike it was already late afternoon, so we were aching for some good (real) food afterwards.  We ended up at Malibu Farms Cafe on the edge of the Malibu Pier.  SO SATISFYING!!!

Camp pizza & breakfast recipes to follow!

Where to stay:
Malibu Creek State Park
1925 Las Virgenes Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302

Where to hike:
Circle X Ranch/Sandstone Peak
12896 Yerba Buena Road
Malibu, CA, 90265
Sandstone Peak Trailhead: 1 mile north of Circle X Ranch contact station on Yerba Buena Rd. Parking lot is on left.

Where to eat (real food):
Malibu Farms Pier Cafe
23000 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265

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My Instagram post (which is the only paragraph caption I think I’ll ever write) basically sums up this race to the best of my ability — “Today I ran with no plan. After the summer off and only 2 months of training my goal was to make the ‪#‎tcsnycmarathon‬ as enjoyable as possible…and to have fun! I ran by feel, determination and some personal competition.  I stopped every time I felt like I needed to pee (3x) and filled my water bottle up at several stations.  The weather was perfect and the experience was unbeatable! I finished strong with an official time of 3:50:26 and I feel very lucky and inspired to have been able to run with ‪#‎teamCAF‬! *end paragraph*”

But if that’s not enough, here’s the full scoop:

The New York City Marathon is hard to describe. It’s something that should be on your bucket list one way or another (lottery, qualification or fundraising). The opportunity we had was unquantifiable. Jen and I fundraised and went as part of team CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation).

I was nervous about the late start (10am) because I am the type of person that wakes up, shoves a bar in my mouth, and heads out to line up for a race. I didn’t know how eating and pooping (to be completely honest) would work with such a lull in time. However, the delayed start also made the race seem like a long run without all of the anxiety and anticipation that comes when you have to wake up and immediately run.

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CAF partners with FDNY and subsequently NYPD, and as part of our team perks, we received SUPER VIP treatment. Race morning we were instructed to meet in front of Park Central Hotel at 6am for the special shuttles that would take us over to Staten Island. Because Jen and I registered so late, normally we would have had to take the ferry over. Luckily we didn’t have to deal with any potential seasickness and were able to travel by land. The bus left around 7am and we arrived to Staten Island around 8am. At this time we thought we would be placed in the Charity Village, however, we were dropped off at a completely separate area reserved exclusively for Team FDNY/NYPD with heated tents, food, coffee and porta-potties.

Here’s how my wake up/eating schedule went down:
5:15 wake-up
5:30 eat buttermilk biscuit with strawberry peach jam and drink cup of coffee
5:50 walk over to Park Central
6:45 get on shuttle
7:00 depart for Staten Island
7:45 wake up from brief shuttle nap and eat larabar
8:00 arrive to Staten Island
8:15 drink cup of coffee
8:30 eat first half of almond butter & strawberry peach jam sandwich on a mini brioche loaf
9:10 eat second half of sandwich

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The morning was warm for being New York in November. There was no wind (even compared to the day before) and I felt fine in my sexy Target throwaway sweats. I ended up wearing my race day outfit (tank, shorts and compression socks) layered with an old stained lululemon tech longsleeved top (to also be tossed), and sweatsuit, plus gloves if necessary.

Around 9:10am we left this staging area and walked towards where we would line up for our corrals. Even though my wave didn’t start until 10:15am, the wave 2 corrals opened at 9:15am and closed at 9:40am. I split up from the rest of the group as I headed towards blue start. I shed my sweatpants. Then slowly my other garments. I kept my gloves on just incase the bridge was exceptionally cold, and in that case at least my extremities would be warm and help make everything else feel ok.

The race is divided into 3 different colors — green, orange and blue. These 3 groups start in different areas, and merge together after mile 2. The difference is how the 3 groups run across the Verazzano Bridge. I was in blue and we crossed over the top. Jen was in green and ran underneath.

The first half mile I was seriously worried. My legs felt heavy and I was worried this was going to be the longest, slowest and most miserable race of my life. I was worried that, even though I tapered the week before, maybe I didn’t take it easy enough the week before (post half-marathon when I only took 1 day off from running).

After the Verazzano Bridge you enter Brooklyn from mile 2 to 12. I knew this going in and kind of just wanted to get out of Brooklyn ASAP because I knew it would take up a good portion of the race.  However, the crowds were robust and I found myself scanning the sidelines in the off chance I might recognize someone (haha).

It’s hard for me to write about the rest of the race because as much as I tried to pay attention, it now all seems like a blur. The second bridge, Pulaski Bridge brought us over to Queens where you spend miles 13 to 15 (I believe).

Mile 15 to 16 is supposed to be the hardest over Queensboro Bridge because it’s an incline and no crowds are allowed on the bridge.  However, I am weird and almost preferred running on the bridges, because it would knock out 1 to 2 mile sections at a time. For instance, I preferred the silence of Queensboro Bridge over First Avenue, even though First Ave was probably the most populated area next to Central Park. But I felt like it just went on and on and on into infinity.

After spending about 3.5 miles on First Ave, you cross Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx, where you’re in and out within a mile and a half. I knew mile 21 we would enter back into Manhattan via 138th Street Bridge. We passed by one side of Central Park on Fifth Ave and my goal was to just keep moving. This drag lasted from 21 to 25 before you round the corner onto Central Park South, around Columbus Circle and back into the park.

I stopped for the bathroom at 4, 10 and 20. I also stopped for water, and at first I would just grab the cups and drink them, but it worked out better for me to stop off to the side for a couple seconds and refill my bottle. Because honestly I didn’t care about my time. I was also worried stopping in the later miles would make it hard to get going again, but I ended up feeling so much better and refreshed after every stop. My goal was to get to mile 10, to get to mile 18, and to get to mile 20. At 23 I knew just a 5k more, and at 24 I was ready to be done but knew I could make it 2 more miles. I started picking up the pace, bobbing and weaving and just flying by everyone. It felt pretty empowering and exhilarating!

I have read a good number of recaps that consider the bridges hills, but honestly, I can’t really remember any of them being “hills.”  They were more like ascents followed by descents (on which I told myself to stretch my legs out).  It’s not necessarily a hard course, just hard in terms of humanity and obstacles (water cups, banana peels, sticky gus, etc.) Because there were ALWAYS people. I would look ahead and think that it would come to a complete gridlock. But it also gave me chills and motivation to know that there were that many people running the race and “I CAN DO THIS TOO!”

I ran based on feel, but after running M2B significantly faster, I knew my threshold. The last two miles I really pumped it, dropping my pace down to 7:44, 7:38 and 7:23 for my last half mile. I’m glad we walked/ran the finish line area before because the finish line was kind of inconspicuous and I knew to expect that the downhill in Central Park would be followed by a subtle incline to the finish line (which I literally picked up my feet and felt like I was climbing with large strides).

After the finish line, rather than having to walk to 77th Street (where people who opted for ponchos got to exit) or 81st Street where the rest of humanity got to exit, we got to exit with team FDNY/NYPD at 69th Street. Afraid I was going to miss my exit, I asked the first policeman I encountered, and he told me I had 2 more blocks to go up, and that I still needed to get my medal. Oh yeah! That thing!

I grabbed my recovery bag and headed out. My question for everyone was “how do I get out of here?” I also walked past Marcus Samuelsson (from the Food Network) who I didn’t recognize or realize at the time besides the fact that his bib said “MARCUS” and I remembered seeing a sign during the race that said “Go Chef Marcus S” (I just assumed it was a local chef). Later, cross-checking on Instagram I confirmed it was him.

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I headed towards the family reunion section “A” where I thought I was going to meet Jen’s daughter, Tyler. I was walking along with the walking dead until I got really tired of walking so slow. And being an annoying and crazy maniac I started to power walk and weave around everyone. I think this helped to keep the blood flowing in my legs… I mean I just ran 26.2 miles…I have no patience!! 😛 When I got to “A” it was around 2:11 and I projected that I would get there around 2:15. But I didn’t see Tyler and couldn’t remember if I was just supposed to meet her back at the hotel. So I kept moving and followed the crowd out of the family reunion section until I realized that it was heading back into Central Park and towards the race. Not seeing an exit that way, I found the next policeman (again, full of so many questions!!) and said “I just need to get to 54W St, how do I get out of here?” She looked at my bib and said, right this way, and let me walk through the center of Columbus Circle that was blocked off to all traffic and everyone else!!!! It was insane.

This race was FILLED with inspiration. I don’t think at any time I wasn’t surrounded by someone from a different country. There were people from Achilles running with guides which provided additional inspiration. It was a great way to experience the entire city of New York, and to see all of the boroughs, especially for my first time. It ended up making the run feel just like a long exploration of the city!

My official time was 3:50:26, but I stopped my watch every time I stopped for a bathroom, so my watch recorded 3:47:49.

All in all it was a great experience and I feel so fortunate to have been able to run the NYC Marathon!

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (3:47:49):
1 – 8:46
2 – 8:06
3 – 8:27
4 – 8:28
5 – 8:27
6 – 8:35
7 – 8:32
8 – 8:41
9 – 8:53
10 – 8:37
11 – 8:42
12 – 8:40
13 – 8:58
14 – 8:45
15 – 8:46
16 – 9:57
17 – 8:40
18 – 8:36
19 – 8:47
20 – 8:44
21 – 8:54
22 – 8:30
23 – 8:39
24 – 8:39
25 – 7:44
26 – 7:38
Last .46 –3:23

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Since this trip was primarily focused on the marathon, we stayed pretty close to the hotel/Central Park. Each day seemed to pass by quicker than the next and in the guise of saving our legs, we stayed pretty local. The only time we somewhat ventured out was for the expo at the Javitz Convention Center and concurrently Chelsea Market, and the CAF Luncheon (also located a couple blocks from the expo).

I have never been to New York before and had no concept of the city, what I wanted to do/see/eat. I received several recommendations from Evann but didn’t put together an official itinerary (are you surprised?!).

However, as we ran through the different Burroughs, specifically Brooklyn, I saw a lot of restaurants (including Sweet Chicks recommended by Evann) that would have been fun to visit if we were visiting for other than the marathon. This just leaves me wanting to come back to New York for another trip and for another reason.

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Arriving on Thursday late afternoon and departing Monday after breakfast, we experienced 5 days and 4 nights in NYC. The first night I found Trattoria Dell’Arte where we would also end up spending dinner the night before the marathon and then night after. The first night we dined in the regular dining room, but the next 2 nights we sat at the Antipasto Bar, receiving special treatment (complimentary Prosecco, etc.) and entertainment from the waiters.  The night before the marathon we wanted to go with something we knew, and instead of chancing it at a different Italian restaurant, we decided to go back with something we knew worked (and was delicious!). Post-marathon I was ravenous (talk about finishing a marathon at an awkward time…think 2-3pmish) I was too hungry to think/pick a new restaurant, and while hesitant to spend another night where we had already visited two times before, we returned. What we ordered: Burrata & Prosciutto Di Parma, roasted halibut with polenta, salted broccolini and olive tapenade, grilled vegetables & pecorino cheese thin crust pizza (with sausage added), limoncello dessert and cannolis (with added ice cream lololol).

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Post dinner night one, we went over to Momofuku Milk Bar for dessert (a familiar name from my baking/Tastespotting days of seeing the cornflake cookie and the compost cookie). I ended up getting a mixed soft serve with crack pie and cereal milk ice cream, with chocolate chips and crushed cornflake toppings. The ultimate breakfast for dessert flavor!

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Ok, so now that I’ve covered night one and taken up 3 out of 4 nights/dinners, lets retrace our steps back to Friday morning. After a light jog around Central Park and to check out the finish line, we were all pretty hungry.  I found Blue Dog Kitchen — a small and communal style restaurant serving up homey but not greasy/diner-ish food. What we ordered: roasted avocado benedicts, DIY omelette with mushrooms, goat cheese, spinach and sausage.

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After visiting the expo, we decided to walk down on the High Line down to Chelsea Market. We had planned to have high tea at the Plaza hotel, but adhering to an itinerary was not fitting with our non-schedule so we ended up canceling this. We ended up just grabbing a pick-me-up and snack inside Chelsea Market. My iced latte from Ninth Street Espresso was super smooth (and maybe consumed too late in the afternoon — but well worth it). At Sarahbeth’s we got buttermilk biscuits and raspberry/strawberry jam. These absolutely hit the spot, and Jen decided to get a couple biscuits and a jar of strawberry peach jam for our pre-race meal.

For dinner we took a tip from our Concierge at the Warwick Hotel who recommended Il Gattopardo. This was the only night we stepped away from Trattoria Dell’Arte but not from Italian Food. We had an amazing dinner, sharing a couple bottles of wine, Burrata (again), halibut (again) and beignet style desserts. Notice a trend? If it’s not broke don’t fix it!!

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Saturday morning I slept in a little later than the others. We had a couple hours before our lunch, but not enough to have a decadent breakfast. We ended up just picking up some coffee and packaged to-go breakfasts from Le Pain Quotidien (which is like one of my favorite chain-style cafes) and headed over to Central Park. We sat atop a huge rock formation, which seemed so weird and surreal to actually exist in the middle of the city.

Soon it was time to get ready for the CAF Luncheon held at Clyde Fraizer’s Wine and Dine. After hearing inspiring talks from some of the athletes who have been helped and granted by CAF as well as some of the members of the board, we had a well catered lunch. I was surprised with how good the food was — mixed greens salad, grilled chicken sandwich and sorbet dessert.

After lunch we had a couple hours before we knew we wanted to get dinner to stay on track for an early night. So the hunt for the perfect pre-race breakfast was on. I think that was one of the weirdest things about the race — starting after 10am. I ended up getting a couple of bananas (which I didn’t end up eating), a mini brioche loaf from Bouchon Bakery (small enough to split it in half and make one sandwich) which I ended up covering with almond butter and some delicious Sarahbeth’s jam.

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Dinner was at Trattoria Dell’Arte, and the next morning was race day! And since the race traversed the morning/afternoon, we ended up not eating out until dinner, which was once again at Trattoria Dell’Arte. Fast forward to the morning after the race where Jen and I indulged in breakfast at Sarahbeth’s Central Park South (the actual sit-down restaurant). We shared a mix of salty and sweet breakfast dishes, satisfying me to no end because I woke up feeling completely famished. What we ordered: lemon & ricotta pancakes, spinach & goat cheese omelette, pork & apricot sausage, and three-pepper home fries.

I didn’t take a whole lot of food pictures because I either 1. forgot because I was so hungry and dug in, or 2. didn’t feel like it was the time or place to had a food photoshoot.

Restaurant list:

Trattoria Dell’Arte — 4 stars $$$ Italian
900 7th Ave (between 56th St & 57th St)
Neighborhood: Midtown West

Momofuku Milk Bar — 3.5 stars $$ Bakeries, Coffee & Tea
15 W 56th St (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)
Neighborhood: Midtown West

Blue Dog Kitchen — 4 stars $$ Sandwiches, Breakfast & Brunch, Cafes
308 W 50th St (between 9th Ave & 8th Ave)
Neighborhood: Theater District, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown West

Ninth Street Espresso — 4.5 stars $ Cafes, Coffee & Tea
75 9th Ave (between 9th & 10th Ave)
Neighborhood: Meatpacking District, Chelsea

Sarahbeth’s Bakery — 3 stars $$ Bakeries
75th 9th Ave (between 15th St & 16th St)
Neighborhood: Meatpacking District, Chelsea

Il Gattopardo — 4 stars $$$ Italian
13-15 W 54th St
Neighborhood: Midtown West

Le Pain Quotidien — 3.5 stars $$ Bakeries, Coffee & Tea, Breakfast & Brunch
922 7th Ave (between Central Park & 58th St)
Neighborhood: Midtown West

Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine — 3.5 stars $$ American (New), Sports Bars
485 10th Ave (between 38th St & 37th St)
Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown West

Bouchon Bakery — 4 stars $$ Bakeries, Sandwiches, French
1 Rockefeller Plaza
Neighborhood: Midtown West

Sarahbeth’s Central Park South — 3.5 stars $$ Breakfast & Brunch, American (Traditional)
40 Central Park S
Neighborhood: Midtown West

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