Friday, May 19, 2017

Three Days in San Francisco - Part Two

Time to start another over programmed day! After a quick breakfast in the hotel we made our way through an empty Financial District to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Terminal. The iconic building is home to a great indoor market everyday, and a farmer's market 3x a week. There were maybe 70-100 vendors selling many different food items with varied ethnicities. We did not end up buying anything from the outdoor market since we were not hungry yet. We did end up buying some Italian style donuts from an indoor vendor. If we lived or worked anywhere near this place it would be trouble - so many great items for a lunch, snack, or to bring home and cook.

Our next stop was Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies, or more popularly known as the Full House-houses. Parking in this residential area was a challenge, especially since we were not the only ones with this idea. A bummer about the experience was the park was under construction and mostly fenced off. These are not the only pretty homes in the area and if you want a fun game to play when you visit walk around with Zillow open on your phone.

We didn't stay in Alamo Square long because we had a lot more boxes to check-off. We drove over to The Presidio to take in a few attractions. First stop was the Yoda statue outside the Lucasfilm corporate office. We peeked in the windows and there were a ton of great items on display in the lobby. Too bad we didn't come on a weekday. After visiting Yoda we went to the visitor's center for our National Park stamp. It would have been a better experience if we remembered to bring our stupid National Parks Passport. We are always forgetting that thing.

Our next stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, yet another park surrounded by beautiful buildings and homes. The small parking lot was a nightmare filled with impatient people and folks who were just oblivious to the world around them.

After a quick walk around the Palace we drove to the other side of the Presidio so we could visit Fort Point. We had to dodge and be mindful of 100's of oblivious cyclists taking advantage of the long bike path and challenging hills. The only thing we knew about Fort Point before visiting was that it was used as inspiration for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the bay. When they were building the Golden Gate Bridge they thought they'd have to tear it down but then someone figured out how to tweak the designs to build over the fort. The hassle of navigating through the masses was worth it for the views of the city, bay, and bridge. The fort itself is an added bonus.

Finally it was time for lunch. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed into Sausalito for lunch. Our chosen spot, Fish, was located in a marina north of downtown. There was a long line to order at the counter and limited seating. We split up so Dave could stalk tables while Holly ordered. There were some decent local beers on tap that went well with our fish & chips and crab legs. After lunch we ventured into crowded downtown. While pretty, it was just another tourist trap city. They took easy advantage of the folks that arrived into town via ferry from San Francisco. Sidewalks were too narrow to accommodate the crowds. After browsing a few shops we headed out of town to our next destination.

We heard Muir Woods would be crowded so we thought the strategy of hitting it late in the afternoon would work. When we arrived all parking lots were full. Cars lined the road for miles. We drove about 2-3 miles away from the park entrance before deciding to turn around. As luck would have it we arrived at one of the lots while a car was leaving. The attendant let us in. Score! One of the reasons the park was so crowded was a rare free admission day. So much for actually remembering the National Park pass. With limited time we kept our visit to the main path and the elevated path on our way back out. It was worth the trip and the parking hassle.


After an hour-long drive back into town we decided it was time to relax with a drink. Dave found Barbarossa Lounge via Map App near our hotel. It was a nice craft beer/cocktail lounge that apparently is deserted until later in the evening. We had the place to ourselves (which we consider a good thing) and got to relax. The bartender chatted with us for a bit and gave us a few local tips.

One of the reasons we picked our hotel location was proximity to Chinatown for dining options. We made reservations via OpenTable at Begoni Bistro. Their website was nice and they actually had beer beyond Asian styles and Miller. When we arrived at 8:00 it was empty, but filled up soon enough. It ended up being one of the best Chinese food meals we have had. We chose simple entrees like General's Chicken and Shrimp Pan Fried Noodles - they were just fantastic. Maybe we should visit Chicago's Chinatown someday.

Even though the North Beach nightlife was close-by we decided to call it a night after dinner. We had successfully over-programmed ourselves and the next day was likely going to be the same.

Here's the map of the area with circles around what we covered:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Charity of the Month: New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

April: In April we supported the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston Marathon Team. Our friend Kimberly was running to raise money and awareness as a survivor. Donation links are still live if you would like to contribute.

May's Charity

New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

By now you've most likely seen the video of Jimmy Kimmel talking about the birth of his son with the congenital heart condition Tetrology of Fallot. This is the same condition Dave was born with, but nobody knew he had this issue until almost 3 years later. Dave's surgery was successful thanks to the doctors and staff at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital (now New York-Presbyterian) in New York City. When Dave was younger he attended hospital reunions that included celebrities, characters from Sesame Street, and a Mets baseball game. It was nice to be included in these event many years after the operation. One of his favorite memories was being at the hospital for his ruptured appendix surgery at age 4 and somehow making it to the lobby and wout onto the streets. That probably scared some folks. Check out their website to see all the good work they are doing today.

Dave around age 2.  Squatting for kids with undiscovered TOF is a way to bring more oxygenated blood back into the system. Family members just thought this was another one of my quirky habits.

Below is a clip of Dr. Oz explaining Tetrology of the Fallot and its relation to the development of cardiac surgery.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Three Days in San Francisco - Part One

Our usual travel schedule got a bit of an overhaul this year because of our upcoming epic trip to Alaska. That meant we had to skip our February BVI trip. With only two marathons in the winter season we were itching to get out of town for a few days. We decided that Easter Weekend would be a great time to visit San Francisco. We visited San Fran quickly in 2014 when we passed through on the way to the Big Sur Marathon and 10.4 mile race. This trip would be a bit more of an immersive experience.

We landed Thursday night, checked-in to our hotel on the border of Chinatown and the Financial District, then climbed the steep hills to the Fairmont Hotel for our reservation at The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.  In 1945 Hollywood set designers transformed an indoor pool into one of the original tiki bars, making this a Mecca for fans of mid-century tiki culture. We lucked out with a poolside table near the boat-shaped bandstand. The 3-person group was kicking off their second set when we arrived. To our amazement, the stage started to float out into the center of the pool. We were thankful for reservations because the bar section became crowded real quick. Our dinner was good; Pu Pu Platter type food. Dave was in heaven.

Friday: With the two-hour time difference we woke up before the alarm. We had a full day of touring on the agenda. By boat we were going to visit both Angel Island State Park and Alcatraz. The reason we were visiting both was because me missed out on buying just Alcatraz tickets so we had to buck-up for the combined tour. It was actually a decent value considering the extras included.

We decided to walk to Pier 33 - a mile from our hotel. We wanted to look at Coit Tower / Telegraph Hill on our way. This was another encounter with a really long steep hill. We were tired and sweaty after climbing to the base of the building, but we were offered some great views. We found the best way down was to take the Greenwich Steps. We were thankful we were going down. The stairs were narrow and went on forever.

The trip to Angel Island allowed us to get some different angles on Alcatraz because of the boat's route. Once on Angel Island we received an hour guided tram tour that highlighted the natural beauty and military installations dating back to the Civil War era. Angel Island is considered the "Ellis Island of the West" since it was the second largest immigrant processing center in the country and served as a detention center during WWII. The hilly island offered wonderful views of San Francisco and the Marin County coastal towns. We had a decent lunch at the cafe on the island.

As we approached Alcatraz the first thought that came to our minds was "how are we going to avoid getting crapped on by those birds?" It was nesting season and there were so many birds flying around. Luckily we survived. Upon disembarkment a friendly park ranger "ordered" everyone to listen to her orientation - which was helpful. 

We jetted up the hill to beat the crowds for the prison audio-guided tour. The program was told as a narrative from the POVs of guards and inmates. We toured cells, solitary, the dining hall, intake, and the grounds where the employees lived. Interestingly enough, Alcatraz had a fort on the island before it was a prison.

When we arrived on mainland we went over to Pier 39 (against our better judgment). Good Friday with beautiful weather meant people were out in-force. We found refuge in a sushi restaurant and had beers and rolls. We escaped "The Pier" quickly and headed to a grocery store to pick up some things. We realized it would only be another .6 miles to get to Rogue's Public House (we went there in 2014) so off we went. After climbing the hills we swore we would cab to the hotel, but it was only .6 miles away. We walked it.

Dinner was a dress-up event. Restaurant Gary Danko did not disappoint. We enjoyed pre-drinks at the bar and excellent service the whole evening. Dave spilled something on his shirt and someone on staff noticed. A man discreetly delivered Shout stain wipes. Our meals were delicious and included all the little extras like an amuse bouche, little pastries with dessert, and take-home cakes. If we are back in SF we would not hesitate to visit again.

After dinner we went back to the hotel. With the time change and aggressive touring we were wiped out. The next day was shaping up to be just as busy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lost Dutchman Marathon (Arizona) Race Report and Video - February 2017

Here is Holly's report from the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Apache Junction, AZ.   As usual Dave's comments and video will follow.

I heard a race report about this race on a podcast and it sounded like a fun, unique, small race.  It was also appealing that it was in Arizona in February, a good time to get out of Illinois.   As luck would have it we left sunny and unseasonably warm Illinois for rainy and unseasonably cold Arizona.   I conned Stan and Michael into joining me for the marathon and we had a great group of brave cheerers as well: Lee, Laura, Pam and Dave of course.  

The race starts at the top of a mountain and you need to get a shuttle bus to the top of this mountain very early.   Michael, Stan and myself left the hotel at 4:30.    Michael drove us to the shuttle parking area and it was chilly and pouring rain.   Luckily they had the system down and we did not wait for a bus.  We walked right on and as soon it was full we started the long drive up to the start.   It was dark, very dark and I don’t think our bus driver had ever driven this route before.   We finally make it to the top and she exclaims, we made it, boy that was scary!    Yikes.  They want you there early to be sure they have enough time to get everyone up the mountain.   There are fires and stretching mats and food available while you wait.   Obviously with the rain none of that was available.  However they did let you stay on the buses until right before the start, which is of course what we did.   We momentarily lost Michael at the port o potties, but luckily found him right before the start.  The sun was up now but it was still raining and quite chilly.  

The first 6 miles was mostly downhill with a few uphills thrown in on a dirt/mud trail.   With the rain our feet were muddy and soaked within the first mile.  This was going to be a long uncomfortable day.   We tried dodging the puddles, but it was pretty impossible.   We were laughing and having fun though.  It would have been a beautiful run if the sun was shining over the desert landscape.   We got off the trail and now had road for the rest of the race.   We saw our spectators and they were all soaked.   They were real troopers.   They did go and procure some umbrellas.    I was freezing as I wore my running skirt thinking I would be fine, but the rain made it extra cold.   I remembered I had some throw away pants in our luggage.  They were from a race expo and they were Tyvek material and huge.   I managed to get them on but they wouldn’t stay up while I was running.   We all called them my sexy pants.   They eventually got a hole in them and I had to ditch them, but I think they helped me for a few miles.

The course itself was nice with just some rolling hills.  The fire department had a water stop with lots of goodies, including, WARM and crispy bacon.  Delicious.   We were soaked, we were miserable but we kept going and kept laughing at the ridiculousness of doing this.  

Our group did a great job of following us and getting us supplies when needed.  We can’t thank them enough for standing out there in the cold and rain.   The sun finally came out and the rain stopped at mile 25.5.    We finished and were very glad to be done.   The medal is great and the organization of this race is top notch.    They also offered showers at the local state park, and we took them up on the offer.   I was so cold and so thankful for a hot shower.    I would like to go back and try this one again when the sun is shining, although there is no shade on the course so I could see that being an issue as well.  

Dave's Comments

This was pretty awful.   Not my worst experience, but just yucky (as evidenced by lack of photos).  The good news was the spectators could not go anywhere near the start so we got to sleep in.  We left the hotel around 7, got breakfast at Basha's Grocery, and ended up hanging out around mile 6.5 with the local neighborhood cheering squad.   They were nice and offered us coffee.  The rain started coming down a bit harder at this point and we were not prepared for it.   Mile 8 was by a Walgreens - umbrellas were procured.   The course was open to cars so we had an easy time spectating and we had a good handle on timing of how long we could stay in the car before they showed up.   Although it was cloudy we did get to see some nicely landscaped homes with cacti and other desert things.

Snacking options were available at a few locations.  Basha's Grocery had great donuts at a very reasonable price plus most of them had Starbucks inside.

At Mile 24 we were across from the rodeo grounds.  Per the officer we could have cut into the finish area by going that way.   Not really.  Only shuttle buses could cut through.   We decided to try to beat the clock and go the long way around.  I failed.   As we were walking toward the finish I saw our runners in the distance approaching the line.   Nuts.   We got the runners to the State Park for showers while the rest of us took in the only 20 minutes of sunlight that day.  We got Subway sandwiches for lunch then proceeded to drive 4 hours towards the Grand Canyon.

Here's the video: