Catalina hijinks

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After yesterday’s craziness, it was nice to have a day to sleep in, enjoy the island and hang out with T, Erik and Nerissa. After a big bacon-filled breakfast, we took the golf cart into town. Judging from the huge group of finisher shirts heading to the ferry, it appeared that most people were heading home today. Which meant we had Avalon to ourselves for the most part:

RecoveryHijinks06RecoveryHijinks05But that just means no witnesses to our silly photos!

RecoveryHijinks02Catalina has a bunch of crazy painted bison dotted around town:

RecoveryHijinks01Which means more photos…

RecoveryHijinks_BuffaloBoysAfter browsing in the cute shops for a while, we headed up to look at the Wrigley Memorial Botanic Garden. Apparently, I ran down this yesterday…

RecoveryHijinks_WG3It was really interesting to see a botanic garden of succulents and other local plants:

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I love how sculptural succulents are:

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Nerissa in the garden:

RecoveryHijinks_WG4We walked up to see the memorial:

RecoveryHijinks_WG5It took me quite a while, because there were many stairs involved:

RecoveryHijinks_WG8RecoveryHijinks_WG9But the architecture was impressive:

RecoveryHijinks_WG6As was the view:

RecoveryHijinks_WG7Naturally, I made Erik pose on the Bridge of Science. (We never really figured out what made it “sciencey”. I figure placing a physicist on it certainly helped!)

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All of that walking around worked up an appetite, so we headed back to town and stopped for ice cream. (Yep, I’m rocking the dorky compression sleeves in public.)

RecoveryHijinks_IceCreamOur final Avalon activity was to go check out the old Casino building.

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We’d originally planned to do a walking tour of the inside of the building, but they were having a special event and not offering tours. The Art Deco murals on the outside are quite cool:

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The outside of the building is quite nice as well.

RecoveryHijinks29Then it was back to the condo for some lunch, a brief nap, some adult beverages and some croquet. The complex had a little court, so it seemed like a very pleasant afternoon activity. T set up the court and Nerissa ran the wickets to show us the course.

RecoveryHijinks32Her dedication to the art of croquet is impressive:

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We had a very enjoyable time, croquet is a silly game. (Made sillier by us and a little alcohol… )

RecoveryHijinks_CroquetRecoveryHijinks35RecoveryHijinks34At the end of the game, Nerissa had us do a fun panorama shot:

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The rest of the evening was filled with fun card games, (Cards Against Humanity, obvi, and a really fun game that Erik & Nerissa brought called “We Didn’t Play Test This At All.”) champagne/wine, delicious dinner and lots of laughter. It was a fantastic way to end an amazing weekend. We stayed up too late for our early wake-up call, but it was worth it.

The next morning we were up early to catch the 8:00 ferry. This meant one last sunrise:

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Packing up and getting to the ferry was hectic, but we made it happen. Farewell, lovely island. Thank you for a beautiful weekend. Even the tough parts…

RecoveryHijinks40RecoveryHijinks44Good-bye, ridiculous condo. You were a wonderful place to stay.

RecoveryHijinks45The ride back was a bit quieter and more subdued than the ride out. Thankfully, so was the external temperature.

RecoveryHijinks41We killed a few hours in Long Beach. First at a great breakfast place and then a really cool coffee house:

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Then it was time to say good-bye and head for home. Such a fun trip!

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Race Report: Catalina Marathon

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I’d be lying if I said that I thought this race would be easy. I mean, look at the elevation profile FFS:

CatalinaMary-RaceElevationThe course basically goes from one side of the island to the other:

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This means you have to get on a boat that leaves at five am. (It also means that your poor husband has to get up at zero:dark:thirty and figure out how to drive a golf cart, so that he can drive his wife to the boat dock. He’s a saint.) As you might expect, a pre-race boat full of runners is very quiet:

CatalinaMary-EarlyMorningBoatLike any runner worth her salt, I’d been watching the weather forecast for the last month of so. It had been pretty consistently 71 degrees, but about a week ago it shot up to 81. Then yesterday we heard that they were expecting temps in the 90’s. The day moved from crazy to ridiculous. Temps on the boat were still cool, but when we docked at 6:30 it was already in the 60’s – as warm as the mild days we’d been enjoying in Seattle.

The race organizers were kind enough to let folks leave early if we were so inclined, so I took them up on it and hit the road. First, I hit the restroom (like with lights and flushing toilets! Height of luxury!!!) and took a picture of the sunrise over the harbor. After I ran it through Instagram it looked more like something you’d paint on a van, but still pretty:

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We kicked off the race with a nice long hill. This would become the theme of my day. Looking through my photos, it was pretty funny to see pictures of hills:

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Followed by pictures of pretty views:

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This dichotomy really defines this race. It is brutally difficult, but also breathtakingly beautiful. I tried really hard to let go of my expectations for the day and just let it unfold.

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The worst part is that while you’d be climbing this hill…

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you’d look to your left and see this:

CatalinaMary09In case you can’t tell, those tiny specks are runners going up a giant hilly switchback.

CatalinaMary10-labelsBut for every one of these…

CatalinaMary12You’d get this…

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As I ran/walked along, the analogy popped in my head that the Catalina Marathon was basically a very pretty, but very mean girl. Which kicked off a volley of “Mean Girls” quotes. The mind is quite a fascinating machine…

But as the temperatures rose, it got harder and harder to keep spirits up. As I reached the halfway point, it became readily apparent that it was going to be a very long day. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think about quitting. But the combo of having pulled the plug on the last standalone marathon and the only potential ride that I had was the paramedics, made it really hard to quit. So, I trudged along, running where I could and trying to stay on top of my eating and drinking.

Early on in the race, I’d seen this sign. Regrettably, I didn’t see any foxes. But I was hoping to see bison.

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Then, almost exactly at the 20 mile marker, I saw this guy. I thought I might be hallucinating, but a couple of other runners ahead of me were taking his picture as well.

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To add insult to injury, I couldn’t get a cell signal to text T and let him know that I was going to be at least an hour and a half later than projected. (Or two hours, as it turned out… ) It wasn’t until I reached this point:

CatalinaMary18-labelsThe combination of being able to see our condo complex and the fact that around this hill was the cell tower for the island made me check my phone.

CatalinaMary17And sure enough, I was able to get a text through. There was a beautiful view of Avalon from up there. The phrase “so close, but yet so far” has never been more true…

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I’m a far better descender than I am a climber, so I’d been sort of counting on being able to bomb down some hills at the end of this race. But in the cruel way of 22 miles of punishment, my body had other plans – every time I’d descend, my abs would cramp like someone was stabbing me. So the descents were a little more run/walk/whimper than I wanted. Not to mention that walking down steepish downhills really hurts your quads and swollen feet. This was definitely the lowest point.

As we got closer to town, I just decided to run as much as I could and get this stupid, godforsaken race over with. Surprisingly, I was able to pass some people with my crampy, old-lady shuffle. The course goes right through the botanic garden (a fact I would only discover the next day when we visited it, as I was in a total pain haze.) Bros on golf carts rode by and I cursed them in my head.

Thankfully, I wasn’t killed by any of the rental golf carts and I navigated my way into town. Then, with one mile left, I saw T, Erik and Nerissa. They cheered mightily and ran with me down the homestretch. The race photographer got this shot that captured the moment nicely.

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(I pretty much have to purchase and make some sort of t-shirt, coffee mug or poster out of it, don’t you think?)

Nerissa got a much better shot of my finish. (I’m giving the race announcer the thumbs up because he pronounced my last name correctly. Score!)

CatalinaMary-FinishLineT also got the best post-race picture of me:

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I can’t believe how difficult this race was. I would say it’s the hardest race I’ve ever done. I am extremely proud of myself for finishing and have already caught myself thinking about what I’d do differently to train for future attempts. (What can I say, it’s a sickness!)

Afterward, there was: dunking my poor feet in the ocean, a long and heavenly bath, eating and drinking all of the things and a really wonderful dinner out. I am so grateful to T, Erik and Nerissa for cheering me on. I also have to give Nerissa a shout-out for doing her first 10k today on an impressively hilly double-loop course. Apparently, the madness is contagious! 😉

Out of the gray and into the blue

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Even though we’ve had a very mild winter here in the Pacific Northwest, I was still soooooo excited to get away to some California sunshine. Our flight landed early and coincided nicely with Erik & Nerissa’s arrival. After buying all of the groceries that we could fit into the rental car, we made our way to the ferry terminal for our trip to Catalina. They had this handy topographical map. Whose idea was it to run a marathon on this mountainous rock?

CatalinaArrival01And, of course, Erik & I had to get our picture taken with the pirate bison!

CatalinaArrival02(Fun fact about Catalina: back in the in the 20’s a film crew brought bison to the island to film a western. Naturally, they left them behind and the herd flourished on the island. Now, they are part of the island’s local wildlife.)

After a long wait in line, we were onboard the ferry, (im)patiently waiting for departure:

CatalinaArrival03The ride over was quite lovely. We saw a bunch of dolphins as we neared the island, jumping and frolicking in the ocean ahead of us. Naturally, any attempts to photograph them with my iPhone were futile, so picture dolphins in this view:

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After so many years, I was nervous that it would have gotten ruined, but it was still just as beautiful as I remembered.

CatalinaArrival05We picked up our key and took a taxi to our condo, approximately a mile or so from town. It was like stepping into an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” I mean, this was the view from our balcony:

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CatalinaArrival07Wicker-palooza on said balcony:

CatalinaArrival11I thought they did a nice job with the mission-style architectural touches inside.

CatalinaArrival10But the highlight was this:

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I mean, look at that tub! (Sounds of choral music) I felt a little guilty about the giant bathtub, given the very serious drought situation that California is in, but after a hilly marathon, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

It was a chill evening, given the ungodly early hour I had to get up the next morning. We grilled some chicken and hung out on the balcony. I laid out all of my race stuff and went to bed early in the fruitless quest to get a good night’s sleep.

Return to the Hot Chocolate 15k

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It’s been two years since I’ve done this race. (That pesky Hawaii trip interfered last year… ) I wanted to get a little “race practice” in before Catalina and this race landed perfectly on the schedule. In order to keep my training on track, I opted to do a 2-hour trail run yesterday. Unfortunately, I was meeting a group of folks, so I couldn’t bring Mr. Austin. He was not impressed:

0215_PoorAustinGiven my Saturday exploits, I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. My goals were to get a final test of some of my planned race attire and get some good, steady, hilly mileage.

I’d forgotten what a cluster it is to get to races at the Seattle Center, especially when the course is on one of the major roads to get there. Poor T had to drop me off half a mile away and then wrangle traffic to find someplace to hang out for a couple of hours. (He’s a good boy.) Bonus, I got a bit of a warm-up before the race and happened upon the totally empty and pristine row of porta-potties by the finisher area.

They’ve improved their process and I was in the fifth corral. They sent groups off at three minute intervals, so it didn’t take long to be able to see the start line.

0215_HC15k-startI lined up at the front of my corral, so was able to run right from the start. I wasn’t feeling 100%, but was able to keep a nice steady pace going up the hills and enjoy recovering by bombing the downhills. The weather was perfect and I had plenty of company:

0215_HC15k-midwayAfter the finish, I picked up my GIANT finisher’s medal and bowl of sugar. Then walked over to meet up with T and spare him having to drive closer to the circus. Seriously, look at this thing, it looks like Mr. T designed it:

0215_MrTmedalNow that taper has officially begun, I pity the fool who has to deal with me!

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