Race Expo + Underwood, Graton

Posted by Lauren

Hope you enjoyed the Santa Rosa half marathon race recap. A few friends/coworkers asked me how the race went and although my review wasn’t full of sunflowers and ponies, I really did have a great weekend up in the happy Sonoma County town.

As I mentioned, the expo was top notch.

DeLoach Vineyards hosted all of the runners…


After picking up your race bib and race jacket, you could go into the barrel room and pick up a special bottle of wine…


There was also a complimentary tasting for every runner over 21. Additional tastes could be purchased for $2.50 (a little steep IMO). Blue skies and pinot go together quite well!


My pal Kyle suggested we go to the nearby town of Graton for dinner. Graton is a small, unincorporated town in Sonoma County (only 1.5 square miles, population less than 2000 people). Although downtown Graton is just one itty bitty block, it shouldn’t be overlooked. And that’s because it has one of the best local restaurants in town.


Underwood Bar and Bistro

9113 Graton Road, Graton, CA

Reservations are recommended, but we arrived early enough to take one of the open tables outside next to the bocce court. Everyone, this is Kyle… he’s no stranger to the blog


We each ordered a pint of Blind Pig IPA from Russian River Brewing Co. So delicious.

Then, we joined some randos on the bocce court for a friendly game of lawn bowling. They had been wine tasting all day and were really funnnnny. One of the guys gave us the password to a website he’s working on, to convince us to become business partners. And another girl shouted at Kyle “are those yo kids?” when some six year olds ran past him. Too funny.

We decided to order a few plates from the tapas side of the menu. (The entrees sound FABULOUS too BTW.)


Harissa Fries – cilantro, scallions, lime
Perfectly cooked, crunchy fries with homemade ketchup. A neighboring table had these and we couldn’t resist getting a 1/2 order.


Flatbread – caramelized onion, blue cheese, walnut, sage
My favorite dish of the night. The blue cheese/caramelized onion combo took this to a whole new level.


Hoisin Glazed Baby Back Ribs – napa cabbage and mango slaw
Just kidding, this ties with the flatbread as my favorite dish of the night. The hoison glaze reminded me of my favorite Pok Pok wings, but less tangy. Kyle and I both thought the slaw was refreshing, just a little too much …parsley?


Thai Curry Crab Cakes – green papaya salad, peanuts, red chili-lime dressing, cilantro
These run a little small, which was fine by me since I was already quite full. I don’t think the Thai flavor shined enough, but Kyle declared this dish his favorite of the night.

We left Underwood VERY full, but so happy with all of our picks. I can’t recommend this place enough! Locals swear by it.

When we got back to Kyle’s house, we participated in a mock fantasy football draft on ESPN.com …. you girls better watch out, I’m coming extra prepared this year ;)


I fell asleep a little before 11 pm! Plenty of rest before the 5:45 am wake up call.

Kyle – Thank you for hanging out with me all weekend, especially letting me crash at your house! You’re such a great host :) and you have wonderful restaurant recommendations!

Question: When is the last time you played bocce ball? Are you a fan?


Santa Rosa Half Marathon, 2013

Posted by Lauren

A new race to add to the books! On Sunday I ran the Santa Rosa [half] Marathon.

From their website:

The primary goal… is to promote and stage a quality, flat, fast, accurate, and festive half and full marathon to be enjoyed by our community, spectators, and all the participants… as they start and finish in picturesque Juilliard Park after looping the entire length of the scenic Santa Rosa Creek Greenway.

I have some positive and negative opinions of this race, but let’s start at the beginning:

Five weeks before the race, participants received an email stating that all three races (full, half, 5k) would start an hour earlier than planned. I appreciated the announcement, but thought the timing was a little too close to the race. Luckily it didn’t affect my plans too much and I know the race directors made the change with the weather in mind.

I woke up at 5:40 am (after pressing snooze a few times) and was out the door 15 minutes later. I was staying with my pal Kyle, who lives only 2 miles from the start line. Lucky! Right?


I parked close to the start line, in the designated mall parking structure, and followed runners to Julliard Park. With about 10 minutes before the 6:30 start, I heard the announcer warn of a 15-minute delay. More time to stretch!


The gun went off around 6:46 and I felt a good rush of energy for the first……. 5 minutes? HA.


(I really want to post this recap, but I don’t have the cord to plug in my Garmin. Erg. If I wait, this might never reach the interwebs.)

Mile 1 looped around a portion of downtown Santa Rosa. Mile 2 we entered the Santa Rosa Creek Trail. Mile 6 we cleared the trees and could finally see something unique, but that only lasted 2 miles. Mile 7 we turned around on the creek trail. This is when I mentally wanted the race to be over. Mile 12.5 we re-entered the streets of downtown Santa Rosa. And then it was over. << shortest recap ever.


Other highlights:


1. HOT AIR BALLOON!!!! I want to go on a HAB ride!


2. Spotted a few vineyards… it only took six miles of boring to get to them. Sheesh.

3. Glimpse of corn fields… reminded me of Illinois and put a smile on my face.


4. Ran through a bubble machine at Mile 11?


5. The scenic finish line with lots of crowd support!


6. Free pancakes and coffee for finishers (mmm syrup)


7. Live music courtesy of Midori & Ezra Boy, a high energy rock band from Santa Rosa. They were really good and mixed a few covers in with their originals on the set list. Plus my friend knows their guitarist from high school.


8. Beer ticket for one of the best NorCal beers – Lagunitas!


9. A friend at the finish line! Kyle and I hung out until 10:30 and I think he’s convinced to sign up for his first half marathon :) I’m so grateful that he let me crash at his house, went with me to the expo, showed me a cool dinner spot (more on that tomorrow!), and woke up early on Sunday to support me at the finish line! Thanks Kyle!!


10. Incredible race “bling” – a bottle of wine from DeLoach Vineyards, a spinning medal, and a race jacket instead of a tech tee. They go all out in Santa Rosa.



Garmin Time:


Official time: 1:48:11 – pace: 8:16

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 2.36.05 PM

I loved everything about the race EXPERIENCE, except 70% of the race course. The expo was top notch, the weather was just right on race day, bag drop was a breeze, and everything after the race was perfect (vendors, pancakes, beer garden, live entertainment). The course, however, was a snoozefest. I’m sure the marathoners have something else to say since they spent 13 extra miles on Santa Rosa backstreets; but, for the halfers, 11 miles on a creek trail reminded me of my running routes near home. And that didn’t make it seem “special.” I love exploring new towns, and I wish the course had meandered more though Santa Rosa. If they change the course, I’d be tempted to sign up again. We shall see!

Question: Do you care more about race perks or the course?


The Giant Race Half Marathon, 2013

Posted by Lauren

Remember how I said I did something crazy last weekend? That whole “two half marathons in two days” thing?

Salinas Valley Half Marathon on Saturday in Soledad.
Giant Race Half Marathon on Sunday in San Francisco.

Here’s what happened after I finished the first set of 13 miles on Saturday.

I joined Nicole, my dad, Lauretta, and 60 other family members at a campground in Morgan Hill for a few hours at the annual Family Reunion extravaganza. I made it just in time for the water balloon toss. Let’s set the record straight: my teammate (NICOLE) popped the balloon, not me. :)


After some games, resting, and food prep, it was time for the potluck dinner.


Once I had plenty dessert, I said goodbye and headed north to San Francisco. My pal Krizia totally helped me out on Saturday night. She let me crash at her house, park in her garage, made me coffee in the morning, AND drove me to the race start. Thank you!!! I am a spoiled friend!


I found a spot in the corral and then spent 10 minutes lightly stretching. I was definitely sore from Saturday, but I didn’t feel terrible. As soon as the clock struck 7, I realized my Garmin was still off. D’oh. I decided to start running anyways and waited for my watch to locate satellites. At Mile 1, I pressed start and just pretended I had a 12-mile training run to complete. #MindGames

giant race start line

Miles 1 & 2 run along the Embarcadero, starting at AT&T Park (aka home of the SF Giants!) – past the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf.


Bay Bridge & Fog = Duh

giant race route

The next 1/2 mile was a fun, short hill (looks like I blazed through it at a 11:50 pace?) that came with a much more enjoyable downhill section near Fort Mason. Miles 3 – 6.5 we ran towards the Golden Gate Bridge, with Alcatraz to our right and the beautiful homes of Marina Green on our left.


“The Torture Will End”


At the turnaround point I saw the 1:50 pace group was not far behind me. They passed me at Mile 7.5, but I didn’t really care. I walked up half of the Mile 8 Fort Mason hill, again pausing just a second to adjust my knee braces. Mile 9 – 13 were much like the first 4 miles: flat and doable. I’m happy to say that this course is less tiring than Salinas Valley!


Ferry Building on left

giant race 2013 race photos

As I approached the ballpark, I heard a thundering group of runners behind me. A guy kept shouting motivational quotes to get the group to sprint. This was probably the only point where I wouldn’t let someone run past me (one of my pet peeves = when someone passes me 4 feet from the finish line). I kicked everything into high gear and sprinted in at a 4:42 pace. SHEESH.


Finish line in the outfield. Can’t be beat.


Race bling!



Official time: 1:51:49 – pace: 8:32

giant race 2013 results

35 seconds faster than Salinas Valley. How’s that for consistent?

Mile splits (last 12 miles ONLY!):

giant race mile splits last 12

giant race speed elevation

After the race I met up with Kristine for a much deserved brunch at The Plant! Not going to lie, at mile 7 I started daydreaming about brunch…


Kristine is amping up for the Chicago Marathon and did 2 miles to the start + the half mary to cover her training plan’s 15-miler. Needless to say, we both devoured our meals and still felt full. I went with the Pacific Northwest Eggs Benedict – two poached eggs, wild smoked salmon, herbed creme fraiche on an english muffin. Damn, it was REALLY good.


Clean plate club.

Did I explain yet why I ran two half marathons in two days? It’s because I ADORE Salinas Valley and I CHERISH the Giant Race. For some reason, the Giant Race organizers moved the race up 5 weeks. I was in a pickle and didn’t want to choose between the two. It’s like asking our mom to pick her favorite daughter… she can’t! (Oh wait, maybe she can – and did – when she picked Nicole to be the Maid of Honor! Ugh, devastating.)

I ran the 2012 Giant Race with a cast on in 1:44:41.
I finished the 2011 Giant Race in 1:39:37. (shout out to with Megan and Brian Wilson!)

Last year I was plain ol’ happy to run considering I had a fractured wrist on the mend. And the year before I managed to snag 3rd in my age group. I’m a little nostalgic for the speedy days, but I think I can get back to that point someday. This year? Just happy to reach the finish. And that’s okay too.

Question: When’s the last time you challenged yourself to do something out of your comfort zone?


Salinas Valley Half Marathon, 2013

Posted by Lauren

I did something crazy this weekend. Two half marathons in two days.

Salinas Valley Half Marathon on Saturday in Soledad.
Giant Race Half Marathon on Sunday in San Francisco.


On Friday I packed a bag with two running outfits, two knee bandages, and one pair of compression socks. I drove down to my mom’s house in south San Jose and crashed their new dinner routine. It was Sam’s designated night to cook and he broiled fish and prepared tasty couscous. Thanks, step-bro Sam!


My mom threw a salad together, primarily with veggies and dinosaur leaves from her bountiful garden. Farm girl at heart.


Anywhosies. I crashed in Nicole’s bed and set my alarm for 5 am. On my way out of town, I stopped to get a spinach/feta/egg white wrap from $tarbucks and a tall coffee to wake me UP! By 7 am I was parking near Soledad Mission ~90 miles south of my Mom’s house in between Salinas and King City.

You may remember that I love this race and “participated” in 2010, 2011, and 2012.


Why is this half marathon a staple on my race calendar?

  1. The race is extremely well organized! Just look at those 57 porta-potties in the photo above! Since year 1, they had the mechanics down pat and the growing number of participants hasn’t affected them.
  2. The course is beautiful. You run along a farm road, past crops and vineyards, and finish at a gorgeous winery.Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.55.37 PM
  3. Wine tasting. ‘Nuf said.


Knowing that I had 13 miles to cover both Saturday and Sunday, I forced myself to RUN and NOT RACE.

If you’re semi-competitive, you can probably relate to the feeling of “oh, I’ll just take an easy day” and then next thing you know you’re busting out at 120%. That was NOT the case here. I positioned myself near the 1:50 pacer (I race at ~1:42 these days) and chatted with my ex-coworker Miranda about race nerves. She helped me calm down quite a bit before the [very real/startling] gun shot.


But why did I have race nerves? Truth be told, my “training” levels are at an all time LOW these days.  It’s a combination of laziness and being busy with work that’s kept me off the treadmill. Actually, since Ragnar SoCal Relay and The Relay in SF, my knees feel different while running. Bad-different. So… 3 months of sporadic running with low effort can’t transform me into a running superstar, obviously. But would I at least be able to finish and feel strong?


Miles 1 & 2 I definitely ran faster than I should have. I had to slow it down. There was a 70 foot hill at Mile 3 that I powered through (yes, I realize 70 ft is whimpy sounding). Miles 4 & 5 were less eventful and I felt like I had a good amount of energy. And then, there was Mile 6. Ugh. The big hill of the race. My pace slipped from 8:3X to 10:3X at the beginning of the hill and then hovered around 9:0X as the climb continued until Mile 8.5. That really wore me out. At that point my knees felt uncomfortable so I stopped to adjust my knee braces. I stopped again at Mile 9.5 for water (I think). There was another small hill right before Mile 11 and at that point I was chanting “almost there, almost there” to stay motivated. I paused at the final fuel station at Mile 12, where I grabbed three strawberries and focused on getting to the finish line. And for three glorious seconds I maintained a 5:52 pace while I sprinted to the finish!


Live music on the course. Not as many acts as a Rock n’ Roll event, but definitely brightened my spirits to see local performers.

The goods: bananas, pre-sliced apples, bagels, orange slices, and raisins. Usually they have strawberries and Jamba Juice and Taylor Farms gives out veggie trays. This is the only thing that I’ve noticed scaled back.


I quickly found a spot in line for the massages and played with Instragram while I waited….


The massage felt SOOOOO good. She did stuff to my butt that I didn’t know was possible. When I run my hips get crazy sore and she pressed all the right spots to loosen them up a bit.


Garmin time:


Official time: 1:52:24 – pace: 8:34

salinas valley results top

salinas valley results bottom

Mile Splits: Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.55.17 PM After the complimentary massage, the sun came out…


…I grabbed my goody bag + wine glass…


… and met up with Matt (1:23:47!!! 3rd in age group!!) and Miranda. We stretched, sipped on wine, and chatted about their move to Colorado (they left Sunday!)


As always, Passagno Winery is a fabulous host and I encourage you to check out their winery if you’re ever in Monterey County!


Me, Miranda, and speedster Matt – can’t wait to visit them in Denver :)

Oh! One other thing that totally surprised me. This race had food, water, and coffee for participants BEFORE the race. Such a good idea!


Question: How strict are you with training for races, bike rides, swims, dance comps, etc? What works for you to stay motivated?