Camping in Ojai

Last February Joe and I went on a weekend camping trip to Ojai. I am so excited to share some details of the trip with you guys. Ojai is one of the more relaxing and beautiful places I’ve been in a while and our trip was fantastic. I love that California is filled with fantastic vacation locations.

I’ve wanted to check out Ojai for years. Ojai is about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles in Ventura Country. All of my friends who have gone to Ojai say that it is a very calming and spiritual place. Joe and I have been talking about going camping for our entire relationship but hadn’t organized ourselves enough to go. Joe’s birthday is right after Christmas so this year I decided to surprise him with a weekend camping trip as a joint birthday/Christmas gift. On Christmas morning I gave him smores ingredients with a card that had photos of all the activities I had planned for us. I preplanned most of the trip before I gave it to Joe. I know the activities he likes and this way he could just relax and enjoy a break.

I picked a camp ground, planned out our activities and our meals. Before we drove up Friday afternoon, I went to Trader Joes and Albertsons to get the essentials (i.e.: wine, cheese, firewood). We drove up Friday afternoon and managed to beat traffic.

Dennison Park

We camped at Dennison Park outside of Ojai. I read a few yelp reviews of this campground and knew it would be perfect for us. There were only 20 campgrounds and few people staying there the same weekend as us. We were the only people when we arrived so we had our pick of spots and snagged this one with a killer view.

It was only $20 a night. Each site had a fire pit, picnic table and there were toilets and running water nearby. The camp host came by in the early evening to introduce himself. There were only two other groups camping each night and we had barely any interaction with them. The tree cover kept the site pretty private. After setting up we commenced with our favorite vacation activities: drinking wine/beer, eating and generally doing nothing.

On night one I made salmon and baked potatoes. I’ve never camp cooked before so I went simple on night one. The potatoes were just wrapped in foil and cooked over the fire. After they were soft enough I cut into them and added cheese, garlic salt and pepper. For the salmon I made a simple marinade and cooked with foil over the fire. It was so nice to relax in the fresh air, under the stars. We (mostly) turned off our phones while on this trip so we just sipped wine and enjoyed being outside.

Day 2 we ate homemade cheddar scallion scones and then explored downtown Ojai tomorrow which is very small. We walked the whole thing and got coffee. After we did a hike in Los Padres National Forest and went wine tasting.

Rose Falls, Los Padres National Forest

For hiking we went to Rose Falls in Los Padres National Forest. There are many hiking trails around Ojai. I didn’t want us to kill ourselves with anything too long or intense but I wanted to end somewhere beautiful. The hike was on the short side, maybe only a mile, but the trail ends at a waterfall. It was a bit drier than usual because of the drought. Luckily the waterfall wasn’t totally dry. I highly recommend this trail. It wasn’t too challenging but the end product was beautiful.

There was a longer trail but after the mile out, exploring around the waterfall and walking back along a small creek we were OK with not spending hours going on a much longer hike. The falls was truly beautiful. I would love to hike this trail again. While hiking we met a nice golden retriever and took photos. The falls were tall and beautiful. I wish we were able to go when the water was flowing more. We were able to stand in what should have been a water bed. Pray for rain.

Old Creek Winery

After hiking we went to Old Creek Winery. Again, I researched this winery online and liked the reviews. The winery is on a large, open ranch. There were dogs running around and the vibe was very laid back and relaxed. There was an outside sitting area and a building where they do the wine tasting. For $10 we got 10 pours.

Great policy!

The verdict? We loved it! I highly recommend Old Creek. Joe and I were keeping tabs on which wines we liked and I think were starred about 6 bottles which is way more than usual for us. Usually when we got wine tasting one or two bottles are good enough to want to buy but at Old Creek there were several we absolutely loved. I even liked the Rose which I am not typically into. The women who poured for us was so nice and personable. Overall, we loved Old Creek and will be making return trips.

California, I love you.

After the winery we went back to the camp ground to eat more wine and snacks. Saturday night dinner was campfire pizza which I burned. Still need to work on some of my campfire cooking skills.

Sunday we drove back to LA through Ventura where we grabbed a delicious diner breakfast.

We really loved escaping for a weekend to Ojai and camping. Joe and I both love camping and are OK with going for 2 days without a shower so I think there will be a lot more camping in our future. I highly recommend all the places we went to in Ojai. I could not have imagined a more relaxing vacation and I really hope we are able to camp out again soon. As far as budgeting goes, I managed to cash out my tips from work and that paid for almost the entire trip. Campsites are cheaper than hotels and I loved being outside and seeing all the stars at night. Even though we went in February it wasn’t too cold and luckily there wasn’t rain while we were camping (unlike the time I camped in a tornado rainstorm with my dad as a small child). We came back to LA recharged, relaxed and with more wine than we left with. I’d say that it was an excellent vacation.

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Another Frisco Trip

Two weeks ago Joe and I headed up to San Fran for another trip to the Bay. This was my 5th time to San Francisco. Every time I go I fall more in love with the city.

This trip was based around our tickets to the 49ers vs. Packers game on Sunday but we decided to extend our trip to be Thursday until Monday. I was super happy about that because it meant I got to spend more time with Chrissy (one of my favorite law school people ever) and got to spend time with my cousin Mary who I haven’t seen in nearly 1 year.

Chrissy and I during 1L when we were young, innocent, and I experimented with bangs. #NeverAgain

We drove up on Thursday arriving in time to catch the Broncos vs. Ravens game (booo Ravens) at a bar. The bar was quiet and full of what seem to be mostly regulars. I love how Lagunitas is on tap at almost every bar in SF.

We also sat next to a very drunk man who told my boyfriend that he is blessed because he has a girl friend who loves football. Obviously, I will never let him forget it.

Thursday night we eventually got to Chrissy’s apartment which is really like a very nice hotel. There is a hot tub and a pool which needed to be taken advantage of. We also spent plenty of time with Penny. Penny is adorable but secretly a mischievous demon destroyer who kept putting the moves on Joe.

Penny snuggles with everyone.

Friday we went on a run and then headed over to Berkeley to see Mary. She took us to Sliver Pizza which was an amazing choice. They only have one pizza available per day. On that day the pizza was Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Fresh Corn, Mozzarella, Bulgarian Feta Cheese, Mexican Key Limes, Cilantro Garlic Olive Oil. I also had an IPA.

Feast your eyes.

The pizza was amazing. I know that Cheeseboard corners the good pizza market in Berkeley but this was damn good. I loved the potatoes and sweet corn but the hint of cilantro stole my heart. After we walked around Berkeley with my cousin and got some delicious ice cream because it was vacation.

Saturday’s major food highlights included a trip to the farmers market at the Ferry Building where I was reunited with my favorite blue bottle coffee.

 

While I waited in line at Blue Bottle Joe went over to Strauss Creamery for milkshakes. We each got our own because I cannot control myself and I would have drank the entire milk shake before he had a sip otherwise.

Saturday was hot and we spent the entire day at Chrissy’s rooftop pool.

For dinner the girls went to a small hole in the wall Italian restaurant called Café Sport. I loved the vibe of the restaurant. There were things hung on every inch of the wall which made the booths feel very private.

I don’t remember exactly what we had. I do know we ate a ton of garlic bread, pasta with beef sauce and ravioli.

After we saw Moonrise Kingdom in the park and then crashed after watching numerous episodes of revenge. Party animals.

The highlight of the weekend was Sunday and the Packers vs. 49ers game. I have a deep dislike of the Packers as a native Chicagoan and was very excited to be at the 49ers season opener. We tailgated with burgers and beer in the parking lot before the game.

The game was exciting, probably the most exciting NFL game I’ve been to. The game moved quickly and it was close until the end.

It was great to go to a game where every down felt like it was do or die. The game was very loaded for the Packers because we knocked them out of the playoffs last year and they came to play. The 9ers ended up prevailing and a fun time was had by all.

Fun Fact: an elderly grandmother Packers fan flipped off one of the members of our group at one point. Oh, Green Bay.

We headed back Monday. I love San Francisco. San Fran is probably the only place I would consider moving outside of LA and I was so happy to explore it with Joe and spend quality time with Chrissy. I always eat well there and I am so excited to go back.

I have my marathon in Long Beach in 5 days. I am planning on posting before then. Don’t worry everyone who gave me a hard time for not blogging enough over the weekend 🙂

What I did on my summer vacation (minus the vacation)

I cannot believe I’m writing a blog post titled “summer” with all the fun life and food things I did this summer. Actually, I can because I’ve barely blogged in months. I was actually out to dinner with some of my best law school buddies last weekend and they asked if I ever planned on blogging again. I’ve been busy thing summer with all kinds of things and distracted. I do love blogging and I miss the role it used to play in my life. Hopefully I can find a way to incorporate it more frequently.

Izzy likes lobster in the summer.

I still owe a post on how marathon training is going (spoiler alert: I’m training) but this post is other life things and food happenings from the last few months.

First of all, this is my most proud cooking moment of the summer:

Beer can chicken.

This is so easy. You take a whole chicken, oil it up and season it, place it over a half full beer can. You can use any beer you want because the flavor doesn’t do any work on the chicken. Rather, the beer just keeps the chicken extra moist. Then you cook it on the grill over indirect heat for 90 mins.

It took a bit longer to make this chicken because we ran out of propane (whoops) but it was still probably the best chicken I’ve ever made. Plus, it sounds complicated but it really is incredibly easy to make.

Note: the beer can is supposed to go in the rear end of the chicken and not the neck. Inset your own can’t tell my head from my ass joke here.

Another major exciting thing that happened this summer: I bought a bike!

I had some special gift money that I’d been saving from my Grammy and I decided that it was time to invest in a bike. I went to Summit Ski and Cycle at the recommendation of Joe and purchased a Vitamin A bike from KHS. This bike is a hybrid bike that is between a road bike and a beach cruiser. I’ll be able to use this bike in sprint tri’s when I decide to make the leap. I should always listen to my boyfriends recommendations. He really knew what he was talking about sending me there. The guys at Summit were so nice and helpful. They walked me through all my options, let me test drive several models around the block and even went out of their way to make sure I got the best price possible. I tried out a road bike but decided to go with the hybrid instead. I haven’t biked in a long time. If I decide to be more adventurous than sprint triathlons then perhaps I will consider an upgrade. For biking around town, going to medium length rides and attempting a sprint tri, I feel I made a good decision. A few days later I went back to pick up my baby.

I am also now accepting name ideas.

I’ve been on a couple rides with Joe and a couple of rides alone. I’m mixing it in with my marathon training and so far I really love it. I’m still getting the hang of the gears and biking in traffic and the South Bay’s killer hills but so far so good!

Note: Another bonus, Summit offered me free tune ups for the life of my bike and gave me a discount on all the accessories that I needed to buy for the bike (they threw in the water bottle holder and a water bottle for free!)

I also managed to make it to two concerts this summer.

First I saw Geographer for free at the Getty! I highly recommend checking out the free concerts at the Getty. We had to pay to park (but it’s only $10 after 5) but other than that the concert was totally free. We did, however splurge on dinner at the Getty which was fantastic and probably slightly over priced. No photos but I had an adult grilled cheese with apricot jam and prosciutto. Some of my favorite things! We also smuggled wine into the concert in coffee cups.

#WineSmuggler

The show was pretty good and it made me excited to see more concerts. I took some videos that I posted to Instagram.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait long to see another concert. The second concert we went to was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the Hollywood Bowl. This was another great show.

Two world music acts opened the show: Oliver Mtukudzi and The Sun Ra Arkestra. They were both fantastic and so much fun!

Edward Sharpe was also just fantastic. I’m not as into their third album as I was into their first two but they did a lot of the first and second album so I was a happy girl.

Last major highlight of the summer: Last week was my birthday. That’s right: I’m officially old.

I started out my week long birthday celebration on the Saturday before my birthday. Joe made me homemade chocolate chip pancakes with bacon and mimosas. I even got to look at this cute dog while I ate.

After we went to Raging Waters, California’s largest water park! I had a blast but I was so tired afterwards.

On Thursday I didn’t do anything too special however I did meet up with Eric, Phil and Jessica for dinner the following Saturday. We went to a new restaurant: Louie’s in Mar Vista.

Louie’s is owned by the same people who own North End Caffe in Manhattan Beach. I love North End and my roommate works there AND had tried Louie’s so I was pumped. The owners actually came out to say “hi” which I really appreciated.

I easily decided to drink an old fashioned which is the drink of the moment.

For dinner Joe and I split bacon fries, the short rib po boy and the pork chop special. The prices are all between $4 and $16 and the plates are between being a full plate and a small plate.

The bacon fries were good. The bacon was in the form on a powder that is referred to as “bacon crack”. It was pretty good and Joe loved the tomato romalade sauce that it came with. They also offered ketchup which was cool cause some restaurants in LA are very picky about the sauces they offer. I usually don’t mind this (as long as the sauce is as good as the Father’s Office aioli) but I liked that they didn’t force their sauce on us.

I loved the short rib po boy. It was served open face with arugula, horseradish crème fraiche, and yellow tomatoes on the most delicious bun ever. I would order this 1 million times.

Then we had the pork chop. It was a pork chop with Japanese flavors with bread pudding and cranberries. It was a delicious take on a thanksgiving meal. Usually I’m not that gaga over pork chops but this was probably the most moist pork chop I’ve had… ever. It was off the specials menu.

I really want to try the desserts at Louie’s but it was a birthday party so of course I brought birthday cake! FYI- when you work at Susie Cakes you bring your own cake to your birthday party.

I ordered a 6 inch chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream on the outside and coconut butter cream on the inside. I love coconut butter cream with chocolate and we only do it by special order at Susie Cakes so I was pumped to have the combination for my birthday cake! It was so delicious. There are few food items I love more in this world than chocolate cake from Susie Cakes.

So that was most of the fun things I did this summer (at least the non running parts). I also spent the 4th of July in South Dakota (which is really fun, I promise) and went to a couple weddings. I’m really looking forward to the Fall. I have a trip to SF on the books for September, complete with my first 49er’s game and a trip to Chicago booked for October. Yes, Northwestern football and cider donuts are calling my name. Oh, and I’m running 26.2 miles through Long Beach. Should be a fantastic Fall! I’ll be back with a running update soon I promise.

The best of the rest

So, over three months after it ended, I am finally wrapping up my posts from my California post-bar road trip with my Dad. I don’t have enough for a single post for each meal but I thought I would highlight the best food I sampled on my trip.

The first major stand out of the trip was this grilled cheese sandwich I ate at a tiny restaurant across the street from the entrance to Hearst Castle. The restaurant was a window that you walk up to. They were advertising grilled cheese on brioche so it was a no brainer. I was expecting a run of the mill grilled cheese but what I got was so much more:

Yes, that is oozing white and yellow cheddar cheese with avocado and bacon. I love the huge chunks of creamy avocado and the thick and crispy bacon. The bread was obviously grilled with butter.

The bacon could not be contained.

Crispy and perfect!

The shop also had a great selection of bottled sodas including these more off beat selections:

As a native Midwesterner I was drawn to the sweet corn soda but I restrained myself from actually purchasing it.

The next notable meal that has yet to see the blog is my lunch at Chez Panisse. Yes, that Chez Panisse.

Lunch at Chez Panisse was a big surprise for me. My parents made the reservation far in advance. For those that are not familiar, Chez Panisse is kind of a big deal. The Berkeley restaurant was started by Alice Waters in 1971. Alice is a pioneer of the local, seasonal and sustainable food movement. As a frequent farmer’s market patron and general fan of the local food movement, I was very excited to have the opportunity to dine in her restaurant.

I did not take that many photos when I was there. To be honest, I didn’t want to be “that blogger girl” with her camera out. My dad, my cousin Mary and I ate a three course meal and left no bite behind. The dining room was warm and inviting, like I was sitting down at a fabulous yet homey dinner party.

I did snag a photo of the amazing dessert I ordered:

Peach Tart with Blackberries and Blackberry ice cream. It was complete and total perfection. I actually do not have words to describe it. Suffice to say, if you ever have the opportunity to eat at Chez Panisse you should hop on it. Side note: for the past month I’ve been playing around in my kitchen with a version of Alice’s simple apple tart and it will be posted on the blog eventually. Promise.

While in SF I also dragged my Father along to the Saturday farmer’s market at the Ferry Building aka the greatest farmers market in existence.

I went to my favorite stand and got the pork sandwich with arugula and caramelized onions for breakfast at 8 am.

So much spicy and crispy arugula!

Gooood morning indeed!

After eating around San Francisco we headed into wine country and the food continued to be delicious.

Do you want to know what I love about Healdsburg? It was 60 degrees in the morning and around 85 during the day. This means that I was able to bundle up a bit and get a warm latte in the morning and then got to enjoy sunshine and warmth in the afternoon.

I insisted on more than one trip to Flying Goat Coffee.

Love.

No photos came out of the first meal we had in Healdsburg but we ate at a great restaurant that was recommended by family friends called Baci. Baci was notable because I had short rib ravioli. It was amazing. Does it get better than one of my favorite kinds of meat wrapped in homemade pasta? No. The answer is no.

Again, at the recommendation of friends we went wine tasting at several vineyards and tasting rooms. Our family friends are serious wine country veterans and gave several great recommendations in the Dry Creek Valley. First we went to the Williamson Vineyard tasting room off the Healdsburg Square. I splurged with some of my law school graduation money and bought a delicious and expensive Cabernet which I am saving for a special occasion.

Next we went to the Talty Vineyard. The tasting room was not supposed to be open when we were there but they opened up just for us to check it out. Talty exclusively produces Zinfandel. I drink red wine almost exclusively and I really like the spiciness of the Zins. The owner of the Talty Winery was so nice and took time with us even though he was not supposed to be open. I highly recommend checking it out if you ever end up in that region.

After we grabbed a quick bite at a pizza restaurant. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant but the pizza was something to behold.

After the pizza we went to the Teldeschi winery also in the Dry Creek Region. Again, great wine, nice people. I ended up taking home a Zinfandel and a Petite Syrah. Overall, it was a great haul!

My absolute favorite meal in Healdsburg was at Scopa. We barely got in because I forgot to make a reservation (whoops). Once we started eating even my Dad conceded that the food was worth the wait.

To start I had an arugula salad with grilled peaches.

This photo isn’t the best but the peaches were fantastic. The warm peaches mixed with the spicy, crisp arugula. I ate many, many peaches on this trip because they were in season at the time. This is probably my favorite way to eat peaches. They’re just so good when they’re grilled.

For the main course I had homemade ravioli. I can’t remember exactly what it was stuffed with but it was one of the best plates of ravioli I have ever been served bar none.

The photo doesn’t do it justice but I had to give Scopa a shout out. The sauce had rich flavoring but was light at the same time. Seriously, anytime you get anywhere near wine country you need to check out Scopa. The menu is all locally sourced and seasonal.

Oh and we ate this for dessert. Because I’ve irresponsibly waited 3 months to write this post I cannot for the life of me remember what it is (Dad- do you remember?) but I remember eating every last bite and wanting more.

I mean, giant slab of homemade whipped cream. So tasty looking, amiright?

Finally, on the way back to LA my Dad generously offered to drive through Santa Barbara to hit a bakery I had eyeballed on our first pass through. I had not been able to get a treat from said bakery because I had a nasty bout of food poisoning on my birthday. While I wanted a post birthday treat I didn’t feel like it was the right time to test my belly with more than my morning coffee. I realize I was probably gambling putting coffee in my system and I didn’t want to push it.

However, on the second trip I was able to successfully enjoy some New York Olive Oil Cake from Our Daily Bread Bakery in Santa Barbara.

I really like olive oil cake in general. I find that the olive oil makes the cake more spongy and moist than usual. I also love the flavor of olive oil. You can taste a hint of olive oil in the cake but overall the cake itself isn’t very rich. Perfect end of the trip treat!

So that does it for my updates from my road trip. I am so fortunate that my Mom planned this amazing trip for my Dad and I. While my Dad did give the occasional side eye as I marched him from food location to food location, I’m glad that I had a travel companion who wanted to eat as much good food as I did.

Tartine

When I travel I don’t really do much sightseeing. Mostly I like to wander from restaurant to restaurant or bakery to bakery. What can I say? I like food and usually I see some sites along the way.

There is also a growing list of restaurants and bakeries that I cannot enter without losing all restraint. Tartine in San Francisco is definitely on that list. Like when I go to Flour in Boston, the moment I enter Tartine I have the overwhelming compulsion to purchase everything in sight and horde treats for later.

Obviously I told my dad that one of the big things I wanted to do while in San Francisco was go to Tartine. We ended up marching though the mission at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning and then standing in a line before the bakery opened. I’m pretty sure my dad’s internal monologue was something along the lines of “this better not suck” and “why and I in this line for a pastry”. Thankfully Tartine did not disappoint (I knew it wouldn’t!) and we were able to snag a table so we could sit down and enjoy our treats.

I did not get the chocolate hazelnut tart. Next time.

Because I have an utter lack of self control I got a sweet breakfast item, a savory breakfast item and snack for later.

Oh and this latte which was served in a bowl. I love a coffee beverage that is too big to fit into a conventional mug.

The lattes at Tartine are delicious. For me they are up there with Blue Bottle with the rich and smooth flavor. I almost tried to get another to go but I didn’t want to stand in a line which continuously snaked out the front door.

I also got a morning bun fresh out of the oven.

Sweet, orangey, gooey and delicious. I wish I’d ordered 12.

Food porn at its finest.

I made the executive decision that a mere morning bun would not sustain me on the ride to Healdsburg so I also ordered quiche.

It’s been a while because I am woefully behind on my blogging but I believe this quiche had local yellow tomatoes and bacon and some form of cheese. It was delicious. The crust was well cooked and a little less flakey than the quiche crust at Flour but good nonetheless.

Oh, and I got a chocolate chip cookie for the road. Can you blame me?

Slanted Door

The first time I went to San Francisco my good friend Chrissy took me to Slanted Door in the Ferry Building for cocktails and appetizers. The prices on the menu were a little outside the reach of my law student budget, not to mention the restaurant was totally jammed so we were in and out pretty quickly. This time I was back with my Dad to bank roll the dinner. What we didn’t expect (and duh probably should have) is that you need to lock down your table at Slanted Door about a month in advance. Whoops. I needed to get out on a run so I put Dad in charge of figuring that one out.

When I got back he said we could probably get a table if we were there when it opened at 5:30. Yeah, it was the early bird special but it was worth it.

We got to sit outside and had this impressive view…

I was so excited to rip open the menus.

I cannot remember what I had to drink the first time I went to Slanted Door. This time the choice was easy. I ordered a French 75: dudognon reserve cognac and prosecco, lemon; on rocks.

It was so good I ordered two.

As you can tell, we wasted no time establishing that we needed appetizers and entrees and dessert. This is why I like meals out with dad, there are always multiple courses.

We quickly ordered the slanted door spring rolls with pork, mint, shrimp and peanut sauce.

So fresh and so delicious. I love the huge shrimps with the mint.

We also decided to order two entrees and share them. I interrogated the waiter about what the best food on the menu was.

The theme of the food on this trip was seafood. Dad basically had clam fest the first several days of the trip. The waiter recommended the caramelized wild gulf shrimp with garlic, yellow onion and caramel chili sauce and Dad quickly called dibs on it.

Don’t worry I made him share. It was sweet and not too spicy which is good. Totally mouth watering.

I ordered the cellophane noodles with green onion, crab and sesame. What can I say? I was feeling the need for carbs.

Again, so fresh. The ingredients here are just the best. I love the food in San Francisco. Plus, I haven’t had good cellophane noodles in a long time.

The entrees at Slanted Door seem simple but they were both so delicious. The ingredients are fresh and the blend of seasonings is perfect. Nothing was over sauced (ick) or bland.

We tore through BOTH entrees and decided that we needed some sort of dessert. After a big dinner I wanted something light.

Poached peaches with crème fraiche.

This dessert had me a crème fraiche. It was light and delicious and summery. Perfect end to a perfect meal.

After dinner we went on a long walk to digest. I had a massive food baby after all this food. I highly recommend Slanted Door. It was one of the best meals that we had while traveling. If you can’t get in for a meal, try to check out the bar and order at least an appetizer.

California Love

If you did not gather from my last, teaser post I was lucky enough to spend the past week and a half exploring California. Despite living in Cali for a little over 3 years I haven’t actually spent that much time exploring my adopted home state. I’ve taken a couple trips to Palm Springs and I’ve been to San Francisco and San Diego but there was so much more of the state that I wanted to see.

My Dad flew into LA on my birthday, we rented a car and hit the road.

We went to Santa Barbara.

Cambria and Hearst Castle.

Traveled up the 1 through Big Sur.

Carmel.

San Francisco.

Healdsburg and Wine Country.

and San Los Obispo.

This trip has completely reaffirmed my love for California. I feel so lucky to live in a state with such geographic diversity and beauty. Big Sur was especially breathtaking and I really want to go back. This trip was planned over the summer so major credit goes to my mom. I basically said “I’m busy, just plan it for me” and she did a really good job. We had great hotels where we stayed with locations that were walking distance from the downtown areas.

We only had one night in Santa Barbara, Cambria, and SLO. I really liked Santa Barbara and spent plenty of time on the main shopping drag through town. Same with SLO. It was the end of the trip and I was pretty tired but we stayed at a really cute little hotel that felt super homey and I managed to get some shopping time in too.

I ate at some amazing restaurants and I documented about half of the meals I ate. I plan to do separate posts detailing those meals. I was a huge fan of the dinner I had at Slanted Door, lunch at Chez Panisse, the baked goods at Tartine (might give my beloved Flour a run for its money as my favorite bakery), and Baci and Scopa in Healdsburg. I definitely came home with a food baby. Always the sign of a good vacation!

Half Marathon of the Harbors Race Recap

This morning I woke up bright and early (4 AM!) to run my third 1/2 marathon, the Half Marathon of the Harbors in Ventura, California. This half marathon was the most low key I’ve ever done. No parents in town, no fancy meal the night before. Just me waking up early, drinking watered down Gatorade (more on that later) and driving in the dark to Ventura.

Pre race eats:

Sadly, not beer.

Coffee.

Bagel I burned with peanut butter on it.

Ventura is about 50 miles north of where I live in LA and at 4:45 the ride only took 45 mins. Woo for making good time. It was still pitch black when I arrived. This race was the polar opposite of Rock n Roll San Diego. Only 550 people ran the race today meaning I got to park about 500 feet from the start line! Big and small races both have their benefits. I was able to pick up my packet, affix my number and drop all of my things at the car within about 15 mins.

Before the race picture.

Terrible, just terrible. This picture says, “Hello, it’s 4 am and I didn’t sleep well last night and I can’t stay awake”.

I hopped on the bathroom ride and ran into Amanda’s younger sister Sarah, her boyfriend Chris and her Dad. It was Sarah and Chris’ first half marathons. Sarah and Amanda’s dad is a long time runner (he’s done an ULTRA!) It’s always great to run into people you know on race day.

The race started and ended from Ventura Harbor which was beautiful.

Best part of racing is seeing the sun rise over the Pacific.

Like I said, the race was tiny, especially compared to San Diego.

See that surf board on the left? That was the start line. I’m not sure what the story is with official times but I used my watch while running. Pretty soon the race started and I was running my third half marathon.

I talked big talk this week about trying to go sub 2 hours. I was so close in San Diego. I figured with my marathon training I should be able to hit it. I knew I needed to hit around 9:00 min miles. Using my watch I measured my splits.

Mile 1: 8:36 (way too fast, told myself to slow down)

Mile 2: 10:02 (too slow, pick up the place)

Mile 3: 8:50 (good!)

However, mile 3 is where the wheel started to fall off. I brought watered down Gatorade to the race. Because it was the first Half Marathon of the Harbors ever I was unsure what the water situation would be along the course. I feared running out of water so I brought my water bottle and planned to supplement my water breaks with the drink. I started drinking it along with 30 second walk breaks every mile at mile 2. Around mile 3 I started getting nauseous and sadly, the feeling never fully went away. I trucked along and before too long it was mile 4 (9:04).

This whole time, on top of being nauseous I really needed to pee. Somewhere around mile 5 I hopped into the bathroom. I think I over drank watered down Gatorade before I left the house this morning. By the time I hit the bathrooms the course had made its way to the ocean front. It was beautiful.

This was also around the time that the mile markers began getting wonky. I think they were misplaced along the course. I never saw a mile 6 sign and I think the mile 7 sign was facing the wrong way? I also think misplacement of signs could explain my wacky splits. After mile 4 I didn’t have splits because of odd sign placement.

My nausea got much worse around mile 6. I took a Gu and made an official decision to stop drinking watered down Gatorade. I also increased my walk breaks. I almost puked in my mouth twice… it wasn’t pretty or comfortable.

Around mile 8 I started taking 1 min long walk breaks. My legs were super sore and my nausea was still kicking around. I looked at my watch and knew I wasn’t going to hit sub 2 hours. Truthfully, I knew this when my nausea set in at mile 3. I spent about 30 seconds feeling really sorry for myself, and then a voice (which sounded suspiciously like my Mother) came into my head and said “Get over yourself! You’re running you’re third half marathon in a year. You’re training for a marathon. Get the fuck over it!” Pity party over. I hauled my booty for the rest of the race. Ironically, when I talked to my Mom after the race she said “who cares? You’ve run three more half marathons than anyone in the family!”

Oh, and this tweet came to my mind too as I was ending my pity party.

I don’t have an older sister, but if I did I would like her to have said something like this to me. Maura, you’re seriously the best.

Around mile 9 the nausea mostly subsided (it didn’t really go away till the end of the race, but it was much better) and I started thinking about how much my life has changed in the past two years. This time two years ago I was at my high weight and didn’t feel very good about myself or my life. I got a little emotional. At mile 10 my watch read 1:36 and I knew that in order to PR I would have to run the last three miles at my 5k PR pace (aka it wasn’t happening). The pressure was off and I took it easy. I had some great spurts of energy. After mile 11 there were no mile markers which kinda bothered me. Around mile 11.5 (?) Avicci’s “My Feelings for You” came on and was totally clutch. It really helped me move my legs.

Before I knew it the finish line was in my sights and I was done!

Final time 2:09:20.

Hey, not a PR but still better than my first 1/2, still a great 13 mile training run and still a completed 1/2 marathon. The big goal isn’t this half marathon, it’s the full marathon in Chicago. I learned some lessons about fueling that will help me in Chicago. The course was beautiful. I got my runners high and now I get to put my feet up and watch Entourage, True Blood, Jersey Shore and the VMA’s (epic TV night people!)

Oh and Sarah?

She is a beast! She ran sub 2 hours in the first half! Seriously, so epic. Congrats Sarah!

After the race I took off my shoe to access the foot situation (I’ve had a blood blister problem in the past while racing but not during my longer training runs). Oh yes. I’m rocking several blood blisters and one popped leaving me with a bloody sock. Just call me Kurt Schilling.

It actually doesn’t hurt (yet). Check out my runner’s high smile post race. Nothing gets me down. Running is a good analogy for life. You can’t control everything that happens to you but you can control how you react to it. So why feel bad for yourself? Who cares about time goals? I rocked a half marathon today. Bring on the treats! With that in mind, I trekked back to LA and hit Lemonade.

I took an ice bath, shower and dug into some mac and cheese.

Exactly what I needed! I also got an assortment of salads. I barely touched the chicken (I actually was full!) but I ate much of the roasted beets and tangerine rice.

I plan on enjoying the rest for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow.

The rest of the day I’m going to hang out, clean my apartment a little bit, watch TV and get ice cream from Sweet Rose! I think I earned it.

Next stop: Chicago!