Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Mario

Tunnel Time!
Mario has been in less of a shredding mood with the paper I stuff in his tunnel lately.  Instead he likes to push the paper around and remodel a bit.  My little gopher.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Mario

A Draw Something game with my friend.  I thought it would be pretty easy, but she had a little difficulty with it.

It is not every bunny who has permeated pop culture ;)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Mario

I love this photo of Mario.  The way his nose is tucked and his little hind toes are curled up makes him look so angelic and sweet.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Monterey Weekend

Boyfriend hasn't come down to Monterey with me for Big Sur since 2009.  Can you believe that?  We made a mini getaway vacation out of the weekend and I'm hoping we can do that every year.  This was my 7th trip down to Monterey since we moved to California.  At first I had a hard time thinking of things to do but we revisited some old favorites and I already have ideas for next year.

After the race we stuffed our faces at Chili's (original, I know) which was right by the hotel.  Boyfriend ran 17+ miles while I was running and barely had enough time to get to the finish to see me. So we were both starving by the time we got back to the hotel and needed food faster than searching for a cool local eatery would have taken.

We then checked into a new hotel with a great location and only emerged later so I could secure this:

Topped with caramel and sea salt.  SEA SALT. The way to my heart is through salt.

And a photo with this:
Who doesn't love a giant sea otter?

The next day we went to the aquarium which we hadn't visited since 2007.  We got to catch the otters at feeding time.  There was a rescued baby otter (the darker-faced one) and his surrogate aquarium mom. It is hard to get photos of the otters.  They move so quickly and you're looking through glass that is constantly being sprayed down with water.  Plus there is a huge crowd around the glass at feeding time.


So cute, I die!
The only thing better than bunny butt is otter butt.

I'm also a huge fan of the jellyfish and seahorse displays.  The jellyfish are so peaceful and I'd love to have a jellyfish tank of my own.  The seahorses are just so bizarre and beautiful all at once.

Boyfriend found a restaurant he wanted to visit out in Moss Landing.  They're famous for their cioppino, but I opted for some pasta.


All in all it was a fun quick getaway and one of the reasons I love doing the Big Sur Marathon every year.

I thought this was so clever.  Almost bought a mouse pad, but Boyfriend talked me out of it :P

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Big Sur International Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #33:

Owned the hills.  Course PR.

The Full Recap, Marathon #33:

This was my fourth consecutive running of the Big Sur Marathon.

My legs have been a little tired and perhaps uninspired since Modesto.  I managed to build back up to an 18 mile long run the week before the race.  I wasn't planning on racing so I figured I didn't need any sort of long run taper and building up was preferable to cutting back.

The course was back to its usual point-to-point self.  My favorite part of this marathon is the stretch between mile 10-13.  I actually love the challenge of Hurricane Point (2 mile hill) and cruising downhill towards Bixby bridge with beautiful piano music is the perfect reward.  These miles were cut out of last year's out-and-back course so I was jazzed to get back to normal business.

I caught a bus at about 4:30 am.  I started to get a little carsick on the windy drive to the start.  Luckily I had two seats to myself so I curled up and tried to take a nap.  Can't say I slept the whole way, but I definitely cat-napped a bit which was nice.  The bus ejected me at the start at 5:45 am, 1 hour before gun time.  The start area was packed out.  People were sitting in areas which were clearly intended for walking traffic, but there was nowhere else to go.  I went over to the portapotty line which was a complete nightmare.  The portapotties are in sort of a horseshoe configuration and you couldn't tell where the end of a line was.  Worse still, lines seemed to merge with other lines further down so there was very little movement.  I even jumped ship from my first line after not budging an inch after 15 minutes.  I spent an hour in the line and was unable to meet up with friends.

Thanks to Keely for a photo of the portapotty "lines."  Sadly meeting up with her was a casualty of this madness.

Waiting at the starting area, this was definitely the warmest Big Sur start I've ever experienced.  It was not hot or even warm by any stretch of the imagination, but I was worried what would happen temperature-wise towards the end of the race.  I was wearing a tank and due to the warmer temps decided arm warmers weren't necessary this year.  I had throwaway gloves but figured I'd chuck them early on.  I saw Layla and Karin at the start and said, "At least it isn't windy this year."  Famous last words.

The downhill start always gives you a false sense of what you think you're capable of this day.  I tried to find a comfortable groove.  I was hoping for a course PR and figured I could probably manage that barring any catastrophe.  I wanted to run at a comfortable pace and was hoping to hold strong up the hills in the latter part of the race.

During the first few miles through Big Sur I started to warm up and worked up a bit of a sweat.  I tossed my gloves at about mile 4.

I was looking forward to the first views of the coast, but once we got there, it was apparent that the 2012 running of Big Sur was going to be slightly lackluster in comparison to those of the past.  There was a thick fog hugging the coastline which obscured all the beautiful views.  Along with the fog, a wicked wind appeared which immediately chilled me to the bone.  I went from worrying about extreme heat at the end to wishing for my arm warmers and really, really wishing that I hadn't tossed my gloves not 10 minutes earlier.

What an amazing ocean view!

When you can't see the awesome views, running at Big Sur devolves into a hilly course with little reward.  I tried not to let this get to me and thought about my favorite miles up ahead.

I love this mile marker

The fog came and went and we were occasionally treated to great vistas that bolstered my spirits.

The start of the 2 mile climb up to Hurricane Point

Taiko drummers to get you moving up the hill.

One stop elevator to Hurricane Point,  you can see the low-lying fog up ahead which came back with a vengeance just around the bend.

I stumbled upon a running friend when I stopped to take a photo of the mile 10 mile marker.  I had missed her at the start due to my portapotty fiasco so was so happy I got to see her for a bit.  I slowed my pace to stick with her for the next mile or so.

This year he was playing a version of the Rocky song.

I met up with Layla right after Bixby and we stuck together the next four miles or so.  That was a nice way to pass the time.  I so look forward to miles 10-13 that I often get into a bit of a rut until mile 20 at this race.  There's so much going on and then you realize that there is a lot of work left to do.

I had planned to walk while eating gels at this race (four of them in total).  I also walked when I needed to drink water at aid stations.  I have always wanted to run Big Sur like it was any other fun marathon.  In other words, walk to eat, walk to drink at stations, but otherwise keep running.  Especially at the end of this race, I usually have to resort to walking up 1/3 or 1/4 of each of the hills.  The walk break for my third gel was very welcome and I didn't think I'd have it in me to not walk up parts of the latter hills.

 Gu Roctane on the course!  Made back $2 of my entry fee.

The wicked head wind came and went and seemed to hit the hardest right as you were running up hills.  At one point, I was trudging up a hill into what felt like hurricane force winds.  I had my head tucked down and was holding onto my hat.  My nose was running terribly with all of the wind.  With the direct draft into my face I was having a hard time catching my breath (and with my runny nose breathing felt near impossible).  Most people were walking and I started to feel like I wasn't really gaining anything by trying to run.  So I walked for a little bit to regroup.  It was horrible, people. I don't hold this walk break against myself at all.

After about mile 17, I started to feel really strong.  I kept tackling hill after hill and told myself to just keep going.  I strategically planned to eat my last gel up part of a soul-crushing hill at mile 21ish and after downing that told myself that barring pre-approved walk breaks, I would run all the way to the finish.

There are some decent climbs at the end of the race but also some pretty decent descents.  I used these to cruise easy and recover.

My hug lady was not out at mile 23 this year :(  But I did grab some yummy strawberries at the strawberry aid station.

I have always wanted to run up the hill at mile 25.  It isn't so long or steep or terrible, but it has always gotten the best of me.  One year I made it up 3/4 of the way before giving up.  As I saw it rise ahead of me I told myself this was the year I would make it up the hill.

I popped up that hill and over and knew I was home free.  There is a slight uphill grade after the mile 25 hill but it isn't as sinister as that last big rise.  I kicked up my pace just one little notch to get myself to the finish.  The last mile and a half were getting pretty warm and I was thankful for the chillier conditions on the coast.

I crossed with an official time of 4:27:xx.  That is a 13 minute course PR and over an hour faster than last year's I-sprained-my-ankle-and-couldn't-run-for-three-weeks-but-I-think-I'll-do-the-marathon-anyway showing.

I am not so proud of my time per se, as much as I am proud with the way I ran. I have always wanted to run Big Sur in such a way that I dictated the terms of my walking.  I wasn't sure it was even possible for me to run the course this way.  I think I have faster Big Sur times in me, but I'm not sure I'll ever run it feeling as strong.

I'm a very different runner than I was at my course debut in 2009 (5:19).  In 2010, I ran three marathons the month before Big Sur and had a marathon to tackle the week after (4:40).  In 2011, I sprained my ankle and had to take 3 weeks off from running before the race (5:29).  So I was pretty sure I could course PR this year but I was fairly surprised at how strong I felt.  This course usually humbles me mentally but I left it this year feeling as if it wasn't so hard. The hills didn't seem as long or as steep as they have in the past.

Love this road sign at the finish.

I've run Big Sur when it was overcast and windy, brilliantly sunny, and now bipolar fog/sun/wind.  Fog is definitely the least desirable of the conditions because I really think the views are the strength of this race.  Even though lots of the views were obscured, I still came away from this race loving it as much as the first time and eager to run again next year.

The shirt this year is a half-fail.  Exact same logo as last year. But I like the snazzy color and the XS WOMEN'S CUT fit, and the v-neck.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Mario

Sorry for all the silence.  I already owe you two race reports and missed more than a couple "Monday Marios."  I'll try to catch up and do better.

Remember when I gave Mario willow wreaths?  He got into a little trouble with it and even did some interior decorating.

I had gotten Mario another set of wreaths for Christmas this year and recently gave him one of them.  I woke up one morning and checked on Mario and wished him a good morning.  Everything was any day normal.  I went into the bathroom, came out and saw this:

At first I was horrified and was about to spring into action to free him from the jaws of the willow wreath. But he didn't seem bothered by it so I took a moment to snap some shots as I couldn't believe how he had managed to do it, nor how he had done it so fast while I had stepped away.  I needed some photographic proof (much like the time he was actually sitting on top of his water bottle.  But I wasn't fast enough to document that one).

And then I realized how stupid he looked and it was actually sort of funny.

I thought it would be a battle to get it off, but I just held onto it gently and he hopped right out without any fanfare.  I'm just glad I saw him briefly before stepping into the bathroom because otherwise I would have felt terribly guilty that he had spent the entire night in that contraption.

So a funny Mario story, but also a little bit cautionary.  I haven't and won't leave him unsupervised with willow wreaths again.  It didn't seem to bother him, but I'm sure if he had gotten a leg stuck through it, that would have been a different story.