Monday, May 14, 2012

Willamette Valley Vacation Part 1

I really like to travel, but when someone says “vacation,” I have particular requirements: relaxation, no agenda, sleeping in, and no pressure to see certain things. It’s why I haven’t been to Europe since I was 16. When Joe and I were planning our spring vacation, we struggled with location/price. Looking up random destinations on Southwest and Expedia just to cringe at ticket prices wasn’t very effective. Somehow we settled on Portland and the Willamette Valley. I’d never been further northwest than the Russian River Valley, and it seemed like a place where we could drink wine (check), eat good food (check), and enjoy beautiful scenery (check). Sounds like a good vacation to me!

Photo Apr 16, 10 29 50 AM

We flew over snow-covered mountains on our descent into Salt Lake City where we drank some locally-brewed, extremely low-alcohol beer. The flavor was good, but it tasted weak. We arrived in Portland, picked up our car (upgraded due to a mistake!), and headed to Newberg where we were staying in a VRBO. Along the way, we picked up our Dundee Hills AVA Passports that I had ordered. For $15 each in the month of April, the passports provided us with discounts and extra tastings all around the Dundee Hills AVA. It was a great deal and helped us organize our tasting room visits.

Photo Apr 16, 7 39 18 PM

After dropping off our luggage, we jumped back in the car to hit our first tasting room of the trip: Alexana Winery. The wine was good, and the tasting room was beautiful. The woman pouring sent us on our way to Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard to soak in some views and taste some more wine. They were incredibly hospitable, and the views were stunning. We headed back into town to get something to eat since our internal clocks were off. Red Hills Market came highly recommended, so we split a cheese plate, a margherita pizza, and a 375 ml bottle of, what else, Pinot Noir!

We took the opportunity the next day to really break in our passports starting with Archery Summit Vineyards. Archery Summit had some of the best wine we tasted all trip, but the prices were a little on the steep side for our budget. Next we headed to De Ponte Cellars where we tried a white, Melon de Bourgogne, that I’d never had before. As proof that I should’ve taken better notes, we hit a few other places that I can’t remember. Our least favorite place of the trip was Stoller vineyards. I was excited about their LEED certified building, but when I asked the woman working about it, she could hardly tell me anything. We ended our day at Four Graces, a cozy little place right outside of downtown Dundee. Several people had recommended it to us and with good reason.

Photo Apr 18, 3 08 01 PM

Some friends of ours came down from Portland for dinner at Subterra in Newberg. It was wonderful to catch up with them, and the food was reasonably priced and quite good. However, the service was lacking. Both Joe’s and my soup could’ve stood to be warmer. Fortunately, our company was enjoyable because our dinner dragged on and on!

Photo Apr 18, 4 06 10 PM

Based on a recommendation from our friends, we headed down the road a ways to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Personally, this was my favorite day of our trip. Cristom, St. Innocent, Bethel Heights, and Left Coast all welcomed us with relaxed atmospheres, incredible wines, and stunning scenery. Left Coast even has a little bistro with sandwiches and other food for sale along with wine by the glass. It didn’t hurt that the sun came out, so we enjoyed our hummus plate outside!

Photo Apr 18, 6 34 25 PM

We closed our the wine portion of our day at Youngberg Hill Vineyards, which is also an inn. The person working there invited us to relax on their balcony and take our time with our wine, even pouring us a little extra of the one we enjoyed the most.

Photo Apr 19, 12 18 41 PM

Joe caught me playing on my phone instead of enjoying the view.

Photo Apr 18, 8 12 04 PM

Winding up the wine portion of our day, we headed back into McMinnville for dinner, though we both decided we weren’t hungry. Fortunately we stumbled onto a bar with good local beers and free pool where we played nine-ball until we got hungry and ate at McMenamins.

We woke up the next morning to nearly impenetrable fog, which made winding our way up the gravel roads to the wineries a little touch-and-go at times. Bergstrom and White Rose were the highlights of the day, both with finely crafted Pinot. We took the tour at Domaine Drouhin, where they grow and produce wine exactly as they do in Burgundy – the only difference being terroir.

Up next: Dinner at Joel Palmer House, Columbia River Gorge, and a night out in Portland

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Flying Pig Marathon Race Recap

Last spring I had the thought that I just might be ready for a full marathon the next spring. The women’s forum (the LLR) on the running website I use was planning a meet-up for Flying Pig in 2012, and I posited that perhaps that could be my first full marathon. Training started on January 1st, 2012, and on May 6th, I started and completed 26.2 miles.

Photo May 06, 11 03 34 AM

To start at the very beginning, Joe and I arrived in Cincinnati (well, across the river in Kentucky) late Friday night. The next morning, my mom and I went for a 2.5 mile jog across the river and back to shake out our legs. I felt good and strong, better than I had all week. I was raring to go…to the expo!


Where I got a little hyper at the Finish Swine, nabbed our very nice race swag, and took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a few items. Then we met up with the LLR ladies for lunch and headed back to the hotel to rest before an early pizza dinner with the LLR group followed by Graeter’s ice cream. I laid out my stuff, set the alarm for 4:15 am, and slept decently well given my adrenaline.

Photo May 05, 1 16 33 PM

Early to rise for the 6:30 am start in order to let the coffee, water, and bagel with peanut butter provided by the Hampton Inn settle. Mom drove Joe, his friend Angela who was running the half with him, and me to the free carpool parking lot (one of the very few non-ideal race-related organizational things). We waited to get on a bus and shuttled to the start line where there were lots of other half-awake, half-jittery runners mulling about. We checked our bags easily and quickly, hit the bathrooms, and found our corral AKA our “pigpen”. Luckily, we ran into the other LLR gals and hung out for a while before the start.


The support of these ladies is phenomenal. I don’t know who was more excited about how my first marathon – me or them! We crossed the start line a short 8 minutes after the official start, and I settled into a comfortable pace up and over the first several bridges, into Kentucky, and back into Ohio before we turned to head through downtown. I cannot say enough about the crowd support for this race. We could hear the crowds along Seventh before we got there, and the cheering didn’t stop there. After we left downtown, we began “the climb”, 3 miles of elevation gain leading up to an overlook. I was thankful for doing a lot of my training on hills. We slowed our pace a little, but I never felt my legs or lungs really hurt.


My dad rode his bike around the course and snapped this picture of us after mile 7. I was looking and feeling good but had to make a short bathroom stop once we reached the top. The half marathoners split off shortly after the climb, and we continued on our way, ticking off the miles. Somewhere between 8 and 10, I took a swig of Gatorade and almost immediately felt it hit my stomach. That began a series of off and on stomach issues that resulted in a total of 6 stops. Fortunately, there were a LOT of aid stations and bathrooms along the course. Besides the bathroom time lost, our pace was right on target through the halfway point.

Then the temperature started to noticeably rise as the sun got higher in the sky. It was going to be a warm one, and we had a lot of time left out on the course. Crowd support got me to mile 18, and then we hit a long expanse of highway with no shade in sight. I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is about to get REAL.” I took a vanilla bean GU and tried to think about grinding out the last 8 miles. Our walk breaks became more frequent. Everything hurt. The sun was beating down on us. My mom looked at me and said, “One goal: get to the finish line.”

Somewhere, there was a group of girls with Frisbees full of ice chips, and I grabbed a handful and shoved them in my sports bra, thanks to a tip from Kelly. Along the way, after 20 miles, another group had cold towels. I ran through every sprinkler and dumped water on my head and neck, just trying to stay cool. We turned the bend and could see downtown Cincinnati in the distance, and it looked So. Far. Away.

The mile markers seemed to stretch out as our pace slowed, and I had to make a few more bathroom stops. Even with two miles left to go, I wasn’t sure I could make it. The 5:00 pacer passed us with no one in tow. I had really wanted to finish in under 5:00, and my mom asked if I wanted to go with her or keep walking. I shook my head and let her go by. One goal: Finish.


Around mile 25, I realized that I just might actually finish this thing. It helped that everyone around us looked just as bad as we did or maybe worse. At every aid station, people told us how strong we looked, how awesome we were, and shouted out our names from our bibs. “C’mon, Kira! You can do this!” We walked up a final hill and began the descent to the finish line. Spectators still lined the white fencing, and I saw Joe, Angela, and my dad cheering for us. My mom and I grabbed hands as we crossed the finish line and stopped our watches. 5:06:39, unofficial. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t want anyone to think I needed medical attention. An LLR friend was in the chute and gave us a sweaty hug while we got water. Food-wise, NOTHING sounded good, but I grabbed a granola bar for later.


I tried to walk around a little bit, but all I wanted to do was sit down shortly after we found Dad, Joe, and Angela. Joe & Angela had a great race and really enjoyed it. When we got back to the hotel, the front desk staff saw our medals and clapped and cheered for us. I teared up all over again! Changing into my swimsuit to head down to the pool, I inspected the damage: a giant blister on my left second toe, a bad sunburn on my back left shoulder, chafing around my waist from my SpiBelt, and a digestive system that was not feeling good. The next morning, everything was sore including my back and abdominal muscles.

Running a marathon is physically the hardest thing I have ever done, but mentally, I never gave up, even when it really hurt. The crowd support in Cincinnati was unreal. For a city that I haven’t spent much time in, I loved what I saw – fun neighborhoods, great scenery, and intergenerational support ranging from seniors sitting out in front of assisted living homes to little kids passing out high fives and Twizzlers. There were very few logistical glitches that I saw – one being the whole free carpool shuttle thing (not enough shuttles, waiting too long, uninformed bus drivers) and the other being the Port-a-Potties right near the entrance to the corral creating a major traffic jam. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone wanting to run their first marathon.

Thank you Flying Pig, Cincinnati, LLR Ladies, Joe, Angela, Dad, and especially my mom for getting me through my first marathon! Next time, sub-5:00 for sure!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marathon Training–The 20-miler and the taper

I’m so behind on blogging – ordination weekend details, our trip to the Willamette Valley and Portland, any cooking I’ve done in the past month… And this weekend, I’m heading to Cincinnati for the Flying Pig marathon.


The peak of any beginning marathon training program is the week that culminates in the 20-mile long run. By sheer coincidence, the Saturday that I was supposed to run 20 miles was also the Saturday that I was getting ordained to the priesthood. In short, not going to happen. On the other hand, lots of people were going to be in town including friends who run. My mom and I came up with the idea of running a little bit of the run with out-of-town people on Friday morning (since I came to my senses that taking Friday off of work was going to be necessary).

At 7 am, we met up with Kelly at the Brentwood Trail. She ran 2 miles with us until she had to turn back and get ready for work. Since the first two miles are usually my worst (so much further to go! Why is this taking so long?), having Kelly chat with us helped so much mentally. Mom and I went out another .5 and then turned back to get to the car with 5 miles under our belts. For the next 5, we did a little experiment and ran part of the trail system that we hadn’t done before. Running in a new place helped those miles pass by quickly, and suddenly we were halfway through our run.

photo (22)

For the final 10, we met up with Abby and John who drove down from London, Ontario. This would be their longest run ever. Spoiler alert: the run went really, really well. I got a little grumpy from 16-18 miles because I was getting tired and thirsty. John and Abby both did great, and we all finished strong. It was a major confidence boost but still intimidating to know that I would have to run for 6.2 more miles in the actual marathon.

photo (23)

The next morning, I went for a 2 mile walk, which helped shake out the residual soreness, and Abby, Joe, and I ran 4 miles on Sunday afternoon. Then Joe and I departed for Oregon, where I didn’t run all week except for a 3 mile jaunt with the sole purpose of ending up at Voodoo Doughnuts. Getting back on the running wagon was a little tough after a week of vacation. I’m mentally done with training, and taper week runs always feel horrible, which leads to me thinking that I’m totally going to crash and burn on Sunday.

So I’ll obsessively check the weather and develop phantom hip twinges and shin splints over the next few days. It’s looking like it might be a warm one, but that’s the upside to starting the race at 6:30 am, I suppose.

If for whatever reason you would like to follow my progress and get e-mail or text updates, you can sign up here with my name. I’ll also try to get my dad (spectathlete of the day!) to tweet updates from my phone, so you can also follow me on Twitter.