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Every night in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo we found ourselves eating a dinner better than the night before.  If you find yourself visiting, make sure you don’t miss out on these places!

Bistro Soleiado – Soleiades is a French restaurant in the middle of Ixtapa.  We had such a great experience here the year before, this was a definite on our list.
What to order: Mahi Mahi filet with lemon and caper sauce.

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El Mediterraneo – This dinner we met up with another family.  With a large group of 12, we were set up at a long table in the back.  With just a few other tables in the area, it felt like we were in our own private space.  With only the walls surrounding and no roof above (just the stairs), it felt completely open.
What to order: Everyone either ordered the jumbo butterflied coconut shrimp butterflied or the super fresh tuna sashimi.

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La Casa Vieja – The owner was super attentive and did everything — from greeting and seating the tables, to being waiter, bartender, entertainer.
What to order: Shrimp fajitas.

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Ristorante Il Mare* – This was the day that we experienced some intense storms.  We drove over flooded streets, hoping our over-stuffed and small taxi would be able to get maintain traction and get us up and over the hills.  We entered Il Mare, an Italian-influenced restaurant, situated on the edge of the cliffs, overlooking the dark ocean and to the hills that lit up with twinkles of lights.
What to order: Shrimp scampi.

Coconuts – This year and the last, we have unintentionally ended up in Coconuts. It’s a great restaurant, but both times we have started somewhere we did not want to be, left, and found ourselves at Coconuts. Lauren and I were stuffed after we both decided to order a full cornish hen and not share. Lesson learned. Share!
What to order: Cornish hen stuffed with goat cheese, mediterranean vegetables and truffle mashed potatoes.

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El Paraiso Escondido on Isla Ixtapa – This is the restaurant we chose to hang out at when we visited Isla Ixtapa.  To get to Isla Ixtapa, you take a water taxi over from Playa Linda.  The owner of Paraiso Escondido, Juan/”Johnny” said that they offer their own boat, so if you want to stay later than the 5pm cut-off, they can personally taxi you back.  He was super generous and even offered for us to enjoy some of the activities for free (this is when we decided to tube behind a jetski!).  They had fun cocktails like pina coladas in pineapples (adorned with ridiculous fruit faces).
What to order: I went a little out of the norm and ordered grilled octopus in butter.

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Patys Marimar* – At this restaurant your feet are literally on the beach, where you can take off your shoes and dig your toes into the sand. They offer 2 x 1 drinks, but that means they bring you both drinks at once! Tyler and I decided to get mango daiquiris and strawberry daiquiris and swap. At first the mango tasted really mild (like maybe there was no alcohol).  However, we were informed there was alcohol, and were offered additional alcohol, in the form of a double shooter to add as we pleased.
What to order: Shrimp fajitas.

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La Casa Que Canta* – This is probably one of the most beautiful, nicest, and romantic restaurants in Zihuatanejo, located in an upscale hotel.  You feel like you’re on the edge of the world.  The food is delicious and the service is impeccable.  Walk around the grounds and you’ll see an infinity pool that looks like it drops off into the ocean, and a salt water pool that looks like it sinks deep with no end.
What to order: Coconut shrimp.

Bars —Señor Frogs and Alex’s – for the dancing experience and the blue mystery liquid poured down your throat, go to Senor Frogs.  And for the DIY DJ experience (aka make your own playlist and play it on YouTube) go to Alex’s — a bar carved into the side of an old dilapidated stadium.

*You cannot top the view at any of these restaurants.  I have marked a couple of the restaurants that sit on the edge of the cliffs or are literally on the beach and look out to the water with an asterisk.

These past 2 years vacationing to Ixtapa have been an absolute treat!

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This was one of those vacations where you completely relax. When your biggest decision is what bikini to wear, and your only commitment is dinner for the night.

Our daily routine consisted of waking up for a run, eating breakfast at the house (usually greek yogurt, fresh pineapple and mango, white gold honey and granola), going down to the beach for a couple hours, going back up for lunch (usually tortillas, frijoles, queso, aguacate and chipotle sauce), followed by a couple more hours at the pool, the occasional massage on the beach, and then dinner out.

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With all the time spent bronzing and drink cervezas, I finished 4 books —Into the Wild, The Luckiest Girl, Disclaimer, and The Husband’s Secret. Out of those I would highly recommend Disclaimer and The Husband’s Secret. I had started Into The Wild before I left, and I really like John Krakauer books so I enjoyed his investigation of Chris McCandless and highlighted the passage “the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”  The Luckiest Girl was a good beach read, but not very dense and kind of reminded me of a Lifetime Movie. Disclaimer kept coming with twists and turns — a woman who reads a book and realizes that it’s about her. And The Husband’s Secret has 3 different storylines that all begin to intertwine.

Back to the trip….We flew into Ixtapa on a Saturday, stopped at the grocery stores and picked up supplies to make breakfasts and lunches for the week. By the time we arrived and checked in, it was time to shower and go out to eat.

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On Sunday and Monday we worked on getting ourselves into the routine. You know, having loungey breakfasts, lathering up with sunscreen, and getting ready for a full day of relaxation.

I also competed in a beer drinking competition, of which I had to do 2 rounds consecutively (the first time I kind of drank it like a shower, which led to a rematch). I really didn’t want to chug any more beer, but I also didn’t want to lose…so I ended up winning 😛

Tuesday and Wednesday we experienced some stormy weather. However, by Thursday the skies were blue and the rain had really cleared everything up.

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Thursday we visited the Isla de Ixtapa where I ate octopus, fed a deer with my mouth, and went tubing behind a jet ski. To get there you take a bus to Playa Linda, hop on a boat that taxi’s you over to the second harbor on the island. When you get to the island, you choose the restaurant that you will essentially hang out at all day. There’s lounge chairs and access to the other side of the beach that is prime for snorkeling (lots of fish and lots of coral).

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On Friday we resorted back to our usual routine — run (this time a 10 miler), breakfast, beach, lunch, and pool. We had dinner at the gorgeous Le Casa Que Canta and then met up with the rest of the group to go out to Alex’s bar (where the DJ is youtube on a computer and you can play anything you want), followed by a true Mexico nightlife scene at Señor Frogs (not exempt from blue liquor).

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Saturday is always an awkward day because check out is at 10am, but then the flight isn’t until after 4pm. We packed up all of our stuff, headed down to the resort restaurant for breakfast, and then hung out at the beach for the majority of the morning. When it was time, we took a quick shower in the pool bathrooms, and headed to the airport.

Overall, this trip was the epitome of a real vacation!  Stay tuned, post to come on “Where to eat in Ixtapa!”

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As I’ve read, Joshua Tree is not one for bountiful trails and hikes say for like Yosemite NP.  However, it’s filled with what I would call points of interest (such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock), that are easily accessible and less than 1 mile off the paved road.

Originally I wanted to do The Lost Palms Oasis hike, one of the longer hikes in the park (around 7 miles).  However, once we arrived we realized this located near Cottonwood Campground, roughly 30 miles away from us.  So instead, we decided to do 2 shorter hikes — the first one classified as a “challenging hike,” and the second as a “short walk/nature trail.”

Both of these hikes were easy to find from the road, clearly indicated by wayfinding signage.  The hikes themselves were well maintained and straight-forward.  For example, we thought finding the petroglyphs would be more challenging, but even they had signs pointing towards them.

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Ryan Mountain — “challenging hike,” 3 miles out-and-back with 1,000 feet elevation gain.  The total elevation ends up being a little over 5,000 feet, with sweeping 360 views of the entire park, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio.

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Barker Dam — “short walk/nature trail,” 1.5 mile loop, with the only body of water in the park and Indian Petroglyphs.

I’m glad we did Ryan Mountain first.  Although it is deemed a strenuous hike, we had no problem going up and down this within an hour and 30 minutes, with a prolonged break at the top.  If we had only “hiked” Barker Dam, I think we both would have been fairly disappointed, although the Indian Petroglyphs definitely made up for this (we were so stoked and intrigued!!!).

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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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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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