Thursday, May 29, 2014

Go Fargo Race Report and Video

Here is Holly's Fargo Marathon Report:

In the quest for 50 states you are going to have to go to some strange ones. I never thought I would ever end up in Fargo, ND. I was pleasantly surprised. This was going to be a fun one. We had Michael, Eddie and Rich all coming to Fargo to run this one. Eddie and I were beat up from Big Sur, 2 weeks earlier,and tired. I knew there would be some whining from me and shockingly there was even some whining from Eddie.

Dave and I got in Friday night and the boys arrived Friday afternoon. They all did the 5k that night - wearimg their Marathon race shirts. Seems like bad luck to me but they survived. Dave and I went to dinner while they were running and then met up with them after for a beer.

It was nice to sleep in a bit, but I still don’t prefer an 8am start. I would much rather start earlier as I don’t eat much before the race and a late start equals a hungry Holly later in the race. We met down in the lobby at 7:00. I was very calm and even let Michael run back up to the room to change socks. We didn’t get to the corrals until about 7:45. It was a short walk from the hotel to line up on the bridge.

Michael was very unhappy that I was throwing away my throw away sweatshirt and decided to carry it until we saw Dave at Mile 1. Ridiculous!! This was a flat course, which was very welcomed after Georgia and Big Sur. The crowd support was spectacular and the course was great. We went through tons of residential neighborhoods and while there weren’t any landmarks, there were plenty of nice Fargoans out and about cheering. There were tons of kids to high five and lots of DJs and bands blasting the music.

Dave did a spectacular job of race chasing. It was great to see him, because like I said I was hungry and he kept me supplied in orange slices and bananas, and of course cookies and diet cokes for the boys.

We tried a new interval for the first half, which resulted in going out too fast. This caused me to be very tired during the back half. We ended up with a 1:1 interval at the end and that was getting difficult. Another positive split race for me, but I still had a blast. Michael was doing the typical Tweeting and Facebooking, Eddie was running ahead for pictures and Rich was always politely listening to my whining. We really had a great day and the highlight was a wonderful woman running into her house and getting us each a beer. I ran a half of a mile with it, right by a nice Fargo policeman. This was mile 23 and I was worried I would be thrown in jail, but he just cheered, as did everyone we encountered. The finish was great and we finished hand in hand right by the famous Fargo theater. A delicious piece of pizza and chocolate milk was waiting for us. The only negative I have was that they ran out of beer by the time we finished, 5:51. But I guess I got mine on the course.

I would highly recommend this race to anyone, not just someone who is looking for North Dakota. It was well organized, had great communication, fun course, awesome race swag and THE nicest people I have ever met. Thanks Fargo, you ROCK!!

Dave's Comments: At Mile 1-ish I was situated by a DJ stand and keg. The family next to me struck up a conversation and we discussed spectating strategies to see their family members in the 10k and half. I worked my way to the keg and asked if I could grab a beer. Of course I could. This is Fargo. Nice people willing to have a conversation, or give a stranger a beer. 8:15 with my first (and only) beer on the course.....

I wasn't even considering too many spectating spots. The volunteer at the airport told me there's no landmarks but the Fargo sign at the end. So I didn't bother. By the half I saw the crew seven times, many because of a snack request at mile 10. At the end of the day it turned out to be 15.

While I waited in a bar at the finish line the family from mile one was there too and invited me over to join them. Once again, really nice people in Fargo. In the afternoon, we hit several local establishments, including Fargo Brewing. We were approached by another local, whom figured out we were not locals. She came over to talk to us and find out why we would cone to Fargo. She gave us great dining tips.

Downtown Fargo is about 3x3 blocks of decent dining and drinking establishments. People are so nice and willing to help a stranger. If I had a reason to go back to Fargo I would look forward to that trip.

Here's our race video, followed by Eddie's

2014 Fargo Marathon from Eddie McCoy on Vimeo.


Monday, May 26, 2014

California: 17 Mile Drive

We had a free morning the day after the Big Sur races. The area of Carmel and Monterey has lots to offer so we decided to start the day with one of their breakfast offerings. Yelp! and Urbanspoon guided us to From Scratch Restauarant. This place is in a cute strip mall made to look like a collection of barns complete with fountains, flowers, and lots of stairs. We dined on a great breakfast that included banana walnut pancakes and crab eggs Benedict.

We debated what our next activity should be: walk around downtown Carmel, see the Monterey Aquarium, or do the 17-Mile Drive. We opted for the drive.

We started in the green circle and headed Northwest
Green circle was our start point and we moved northwest
According to Wikipedia: 17-Mile Drive is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in California, much of which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions, including the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees. So it's pretty. The price for entry was a reasonable $10 per car.

Things to be prepared for: People driving slow and tour buses. Thankfully we made the trek on a Monday so crowds were light. We enjoyed an extended period of time at the Links of Spanish Bay to take in their boardwalk walking path along the rocky shore and their fine restrooms.

Just a bit further down the road was Point Joe and Bird Rock. Unfortunately Seal Point was blocked off to us because of birthing season.

Following that were points like the Cypress Forest, the Ghost Trees, and the Lone Cypress.

The finale of the route was Pebble Beach Golf Course. We skipped stopping in for a look. We ended the route and decided to try and visit Point Lobos State Reserve. We were interested in seeing the seals that people saw during the 9 Miler race giving birth. In talking with the ranger it seemed like we were too short on time to make this a worthwhile visit. With that, we drove back to Monterey and had a beer at Cannery Row Brewing and some froyo. A good day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Planning (or lack of) for the Greek Islands: Part Four

Here is Part One of this series
Here is Part Two of this series
Here is Part Theee of this series

Our trip to the Greek Islands is upon us. It snuck up real quick. Quick as in, we have no clue what we are going to do once we get there..... Fortunately we have great hotels to remind us to do some thinking. Each island hotel sent us email asking for our arrival information so they can help arrange our transfer to their property. The Ikies Traditional House in Santorini took it one step further with an additional email filled with tour suggestions, dining options, and rental car information. Big thumbs up.

Pretend it's less than 48 hours before our trip and Holly buys the Lonely Planet Greek Islands book. Dave remembers he downloaded a dozen apps at Christmas time pertaining to Santorini and Mykonos and starts going though them frantically. Maybe a day before leaving he was sending Holly links of interesting restaurants while he was on the treadmill.

Since we are used to planning things out it is kind of weird to go on a long trip like this with limited scheduling. On the other hand, these islands seem like they need to be explored. We'll see how it goes...

Actual planned activities:

  • Through Hotel Ikies we booked a sunset cruise in Santorini.
  • We plan to go to Delos, an island with some significant ruins next to Mykonos. We can take a plain public ferry over so no further planning required.
  • We will probably book a rental car in each location. In Santorini we will use it to visit Akrotini (a site preserved like Pompeii was after a volcano eruption) and the Santorini Brewing Company. In Mykonos we may use the car for a day of beach hopping.

Food research has been interesting. If restaurants have websites they typically do not post menus. So we'll be picking dining based on local suggestions and pictures from websites.

Two apps have really been helpful - Experience Mykonos and Experience Santorini. Each app is like a digital magazine with great photos and links to the web for more information. They are free so check them out.


Wish us luck!



Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Big Sur 10.6 Miler Race Report

It's time for one of those rare race reports from Dave:

When Holly signed up for the Big Sur Marathon we found out that virtually the entire course was closed to spectators. For the runner's safety that meant no cars on the Pacific Coast Highway. I really wanted to take pictures of Holly running along the scenic course, but it looked like I'd be out of luck. Then we found out about the smaller distance races offered that day. Big Sur organizers offered a 21-miler, 10.6 miler, 9 miler, and 5K. 21 was never a consideration and the 9 miler was mostly through a park as opposed to the famous coastal road so I chose to do the 10.6 mile race. I signed up within the first minute of registration availability because we figured it would sell out quickly.

The time limit for the 10.6 mile race was 6 hours - the same as the marathon. With no pressure, I decided that I was not going to go out there and push myself like I did in Janaury for the WDW Half. Instead, I was going to walk a normal pace, take pictures, and film. At one point I thought about bringing the DSLR but Holly talked me out of it.

I was happy to board a bus at 5:40 vs. the early time the marathoners had to take off and get to their start line. Our start was at Rocky Point Restaurant and we had no fog to obstruct the view. Lots of great ocean views, including the Bixby Bridge. We had a band, free Starbuck's coffee, and a sufficient amount of potties. I waited here about 40 minutes before crossing the start line.

There seemed to be a pretty even mix of walkers and runners. With the generous time limit there was ample opportunity for folks of all abilities to participate. Our course was mostly downhill, but there were a few long up hills thrown in there. We had lots of on-course entertainment, including a reggae band! Snack and water stops seemed sufficient to me. It wasn't a real hot day so my fluid levels never really dropped.

Love it when the GoPro makes me look slimmer

As I headed into the finish line I said hello to my friend, race announcer Rudy Novotny, then picked up my medal. I grabbed my snacks from the snack tent (cookie, banana, bagel, chocolate milk, pretzels) and my one beer allotment. While I watched the band I saw someone with the 9 mile race medal. It was nicer! I talked to them about their race and they told me they saw seals (or sea lions) giving birth! Man........

My finish time was 2:41 with a 15:11 pace per mile. Some miles were in the low 14 minutes per mile and others were 17 minutes per mile. I noticed some finishers took 4:40 to do the race, so once again this is an event for almost anyone.

After snacking I jumped on a shuttle and headed back to Monterey to shower, change, and get the car so my two marathoners did not have to take the bus back. By the time I returned to Carmel I still had about 45 minutes before their finish. Since I could not get any snacks or beers in post race area I just sat there and watched the award ceremony and complained to myself every time I saw a 9 Mile race medal.

After collecting my runners at the race finish line we returned back to Monterey. After their showers we crossed the street to the Monterey Fisherman's Wharf for a seafood lunch and then hit Cannery Row (we don't make beer) Brewing Company for a few rounds before taking Eddie to the airport to pick up his rental car. Holly and I rounded out our evening at a local bar, the hotel's brewpub, and the hotel bar.

The 10.6 was a unique way for me to take in what this incredible area had to offer. Typically, I'd drive a road like this and pull off at the scenic vistas. Doing the race made for a more personal, and longer, outdoor experience.

P.S. Holly really wanted a picture with. CHiPS guy, but this was the best we could do that day.

Be sure to read about Holly's race experience in her report and checkout our video:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2014 Big Sur International Marathon Race Report and Video

Holly's report from Big Sur:

When I ran my first marathon, Chicago in 2005, I remember walking around the expo and seeing all the booths advertising different races. I came upon the booth for the Big Sur Marathon. The pictures looked stunning. I thought to myself that if I ever did another marathon I would like to do that one. It took me 26 marathons to get to it, but I finally did get to it.

The reason I kept putting it off was I was scared. Scared of the hills that everyone talked about. I live in Illinois, home of the flattest land around. I have been doing some hillier marathons and was gaining some confidence, but I was still terrified of this one. I finally bit the bullet and registered on a whim last summer. Rudy Novotny posted on Facebook that registration was opening the next day. I remember thinking about it that morning and I wasn’t even sure when it opened. I clicked on the link and registered myself. I even bought the insurance, which I never do, because my Plantar Fasciitis was really bad at that point and I really had no business registering for any more races. Turns out the race sold out in under an hour. I was lucky. Apparently it was meant to be.

I'll just say that I was more nervous for this marathon than any other. They have a hard 6 hour cutoff time and the elevation chart looks like this:

This does not even accurately reflect the number of hills on the second half of the course. I had done A LOT of hill work to prepare for this and felt after the very hilly Georgia Marathon that I was ready.

Race morning started with a 2:45 wake up call. Eddie and I were running the full marathon and Dave was running the 10.6. Eddie and I had to catch a bus at 3:30 and Dave was lucky to get to sleep in and catch a bus at 5:45. Big Sur is a point to point course so the bus ride is the 26.2 miles you will be running. I tried to close my eyes because I didn’t want to see anything. However I could hear the bus struggling to get up the hills so the nerves were kicking into high gear. We got up to Big Sur Station around 5:00am. We had two hours to wait in the dark and cold. I was somewhat prepared with throwaway clothes and trash bags. I gave one to Eddie since he was not somewhat prepared. We waited in the longest port-o-potty line ever and finally made it to the start area. We both got nice shout outs from the nicest race announcer around, Mr. Rudy Novotny, and we were off running.

The first 6 miles or so were down a steep hill. We were going too fast, but it was impossible not to. I was worried, but I didn’t know what else to do. When it did flatten out, I noticed my legs were not all that fresh. Not a good sign for the day. I chalked up to more nerves and enjoyed the scenery. We finally got a look at the hill that takes you up to Hurricane Point. It honestly didn’t look bad from a distance. Yes it was 2 miles long, but it didn’t look that steep. The Japanese drummers were drumming us up the hill and we were doing ok. Then it started getting steep. Whew! We switched the intervals here. We went from run 2 minutes walk 1 minute to walk 2 minutes run 1 minute. It really helped and we still maintained a good pace up the hill. Once to the top the view was spectacular! We switched our intervals back and went downhill for 2 miles across the famous Bixby Bridge. Eddie got mad at me when I said “I hope there isn’t an earthquake right now” as we were crossing the bridge.

After the bridge was the famous Grand Piano playing guy. It was surreal! We were now half way through the race and I was feeling relieved as the worst was over according to the elevation chart. Our pace was good as well, 2:41. The next few miles were ok, the views were spectacular but I was starting to tire. The race said that they would have fruit at the aid stations after mile 10.8 and I was counting on that for some energy. We didn’t find any until around mile 18. Best orange slice ever. I also started getting a cramp in my right calf. In all my races I have never had this happen. Not FUN! Eddie managed to scrounge me up the nastiest looking banana that I happily ate to help with the cramp. It did work. The course did not flatten out. It was one steep hill after another. We switched to 1:1. Then finally to: let’s walk up the hills and run the downhills. At the end I was so tired, I would say, let’s run to the tree. It was rough and my whining was EPIC. Thanks Eddie for sticking with me.

I was so happy to get to the finish line. Rudy did an amazing job of calling us in and I felt like a rock star. We finished in 5:49 and I’m happy with that time. It was a big positive split and I knew it would be. My only goal was to finish in under 6 hours and to enjoy the views. I did both. It was the most scenic marathon I have ever done. If I ever go back, (I highly doubt it), I would put in even more hill work. It was a really fun weekend and a beautiful area of the country. State 21 is finished!!

Here is our race video from the day, followed by Eddie's video. In our video you'll see more of the 10.6 miler race course (the back portion of the full course) since Dave participated in that event mainly to film and sight-see. We'll have that report in a future post.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Few Hours in San Francisco

We were meeting our friend Eddie McCoy in San Francisco to kick-off the Big Sur Marathon Weekend and Eddie's completion of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. On paper his flight from Atlanta and our flight from Chicago would arrive within 3 minutes of each other. In actualality, it was 35 minutes.

We were spending the night in San Francisco before trekking off the next morning to Monterey. We stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf hotel mainly because it was very close to Pier 39 and Ghiradelli Square - which were sights we were going to take in quickly Saturday morning. The hotel definitely catered to tourists and we noticed many of international guests hovering around the lobby.

Another reason for picking the Sheraon was its easy walking distance to Rogue Public House. This is an offshoot of the popular Portland brewery. Local options were much farther and mostly closed by the time we arrived in town. Rogue had a decent selection of beers available, about 20 of their own and another dozen guest taps. Food was good and our selections included mahi mahi fish and chips, fish tacos, and the kobe burger. We didn't stay out very long since we were jet-lagged and had very trying days. We agreed to set alarms for 8am and text each other when we were ready.

Dave got up to turn off the alarm and checked the Facebook. Apparently Eddie could not sleep and spent a few hours walking around. Good thing since he scouted out some great places to take in the city views. We walked a couple blocks over to Boudin's - a great San Francisco bakery and maker of sourdough bread. Some of our selections included bagels, cinnamon rolls, croissants, and chocolate chip cookies.

After breakfast and obligatory Fisherman's Wharf pictures we took a mile walk and headed to the curved pier at the San Francisco National Maritime Park. This location gave us great views of the cityscape, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. We were fortunate that the skies were clear and the fog didn't roll in. Our next stop was Ghiradelli Square. Since it was almost 10am Eddie and Dave decided ice cream would be a good idea. We took in the display of how chocolate was made and let Holly give a tour of the bearings in the machinery.

A few minutes later we were standing on a corner waiting for a cable car. We got onto a crowded car and moved to the inside-center. At the next stop, the top of the crooked portion (curvy, not corrupt) of Lombard Street the car cleared out and we got to move over and hang off the side. We rode for about 15 minutes into the center of downtown near Union Square. This experience was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

At the turnaround, we found a cab and headed back to Pier 39. We wanted to look for small souveneirs and view the sea lions. It happened to be Coast Guard Appreciation Day so we got to watch them setup and bring some boats into the area.
Back to the hotel and into the rental car. We drove to the bottom of Lombard Street, saw the crowds, and decided not to bother driving down it. Once we starting mapping our route using Siri we ended up going around the block and ended up at the top of the Lombard hill. There was no line! Dave made a quick decision and turned left so we could enjoy the fun of all the hairpin turns. A few hours later we ended up in Santa Cruz, an edgy beach town, for lunch at Seabright Brewing. Great beer and food, but their men's room decorations maybe were too much for a place that allows kids.

The rest of the ride to Monterey was through the California agriculture area. Now we know where our produce comes form. Lots of farms and road stands selling avocados, strawberries, etc. we saw lots of workers in the fields picking the berries.

Finally some views of The Pacific Ocean came into sight and we were ready for the next part of this adventure.