Big Sur Half Marathon

So my running page hasn’t been getting a lot of love lately.  And that’s not due to lack of running!  In fact. I’ve been running more than ever and ran the Big Sur Half Marathon just over a week ago.  I’ve been training pretty hard for this race for the past few months and it’s taken me awhile to put my incredible experience into words.  So here’s the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay race recap.

big sur half marathon medalAt the beginning of summer i knew I was ready to train for a race again.  We had gotten through our wedding and honeymoon, and now was the perfect time to dive back into training.  Karla had signed up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon that was taking place November 22nd, so the Englishman and I decided to run the Big Sur Half the week before on November 16th.

I should preface too that this race does not run through Big Sur, but rather old town Monterey and out along the bay – it’s still a beautiful course, but if you want the sweeping Big Sur views, you need to run that one in April.

We drove up to Monterey Bay on Saturday and arrived at the expo around 3pm.  I contemplated getting a half marathon sweatshirt, but at $50 a pop, I decided against it.  We grabbed our bibs and then headed to our hotel to get settled.

big sur half marathon bibI was nervous about the dinner situation since at home my pre-long run dinner had always been pretty textbook: pasta or potatoes + eggs and toast.  I found an Italian place a short walk from our hotel and when I called them they said we could just walk in as they weren’t that busy.

Only that wasn’t the case.  The restaurant was PACKED with an over 2 hr wait.  I frantically began searching other places to eat and might have had a small meltdown where I declared that I was going to “poop my pants” during the race tomorrow (which I’m sure my husband appreciated).  We ended up at the Sardine Factory which cost an arm and a leg, and I ended up ordering short ribs, mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Not ideal, but I figured the potatoes couldn’t do too much damage.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and were ready to race!  The race conditions were perfect – upper 40s at the start and gradually warming into the 50s.  I brought a throw away cover up to wear at the start and then wore compression sleeves for a little extra warmth.

Our hotel was about a mile from the start so we walked over there to warm up and loosen our legs a bit.  Soon enough we were placed in our corral, I gave the Englishman one last kiss goodbye and we were off. I was running my 2nd half marathon!

My main goal for this race was to break two hours, but my “A” goal was to go sub-1:55.  Based on my training, I figured I could do it, and the plan was to stick in 8:45 min mile range and progressively get faster.  Well I started the race a bit faster than intended but my legs were feeling great so the first 6 miles were more in the 8:15-8:30 range, as evidenced by my splits below.

big sur half marathon miles 1-6

The course had rolling hills with one big incline on mile 4, but since I had been training on hills all summer and fall they didn’t phase me at all.  In fact, I found myself passing people on hills more often than not.  We weaved through Pacific Grove and then found ourselves along the coastline which was beautiful.  Nothing beats the sound of splashing waves while you are running.  This was before I began to throw down the gauntlet.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay pic

I was feeling really good at this point so I started to kick it up a notch.  Mile 8 was the turnaround point so I tried to keep my splits as close to 8 minute miles as possible.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay splits 2

After the turnaround we started to hit a nasty headwind and I started doing some calculating in my head.  If I could pick up the pace a bit, I’d come in under sub-1:50, which was something I never thought was possible.  It was around this point I started looking for the Englishman as I knew we would cross paths.  Sure enough I saw him, we exchanged high fives and it was just the boost I needed to get through the final miles.

I’m not going to lie, those last miles were HARD.  We had a strong headwind, my legs were getting tired, and I knew I had to stay under 8 minutes if I wanted to break 1:50.  I started thinking about all my friends and family who had sent me good luck wishes before the race (and were subsequently tracking my run). I thought about my running partner in crime Karla who stuck it out with me throughout all of the long runs.  I thought about my wonderful husband, the Englishman who put up with me and all my crazy training antics (and who ran the race with me even though long distance isn’t really his thing).  I wanted to do this for them, and more importantly, for myself.

big sur half marathon miles splits

We finally made our way out of the headwind and headed back down Cannery Row towards the finish line.  When I saw the final marker that said 1/4 mile to go I just went for it and sprinted my way across the finish line.  It was all such a blur at that point.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay pic 2

I looked at my garmin in disbelief, got my medal, and then cried.  I could not believe I broke 1:50.

big sur half marathon garmin

The Englishman finished in 2:05, which was a 10 minute PR for him and we made our way through the food tent collecting bananas, apples, cookies and everything else the wonderful race volunteers were handing out.  We then hobbled our way back to our room and enjoyed the Sidecar Doughnuts we brought from home as a post-race victory treat.

I’m still in shock that I broke 1:50 which is why it’s taken me so long to write this recap.  I only really started running in 2009, and even then I never thought I’d ever run a half marathon under 2 hrs, let alone 1:50.  I’ll write a separate post on my training and how I prepped for this race, but I truly believe that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything.  This was a race that I ran with my heart more than my head, and it’s something I’ll cherish forever.

If you ever get the chance to run the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, do it!  It’s one of the most well-executed races I have ever been to and the course is just stunning.  There was a ton of entertainment and crowd support along the course as well which was just icing on the cake.  We spent the rest of our day celebrating and checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

big sur half marathon aquariumSo what’s next? I currently don’t have any races on the horizon right now and I’m just going to enjoy my PR.  BUT now that I’ve had my taste of sub-1:50, sub-1:45 is definitely next.

Send Me Gluten Free

I really like the idea of food subscription boxes.  In fact, I’ve reviewed a few on the blog in the past.  When the team from Send Me Gluten Free offered to send me a free box to review, I happily jumped at the chance to check it out.

Send Me Gluten Free Box

As someone with food allergies, I loved the concept behind the Send Me Gluten Free box as all of the items are free of gluten, and many of the items are free of other allergens.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find how much was in the box.  When I opened it, it was bursting full of gluten-free goodies.

Send Me Gluten Free CouponsIn addition to the gluten-free snacks, the box also contained coupons for many of the products included and a few recipes as well.  Most of the brands I was familiar with, but it was fun to try out some new products as well.  A couple of my favorites included:

This vegan, gluten-free banana muffin mix (I swapped the pumpkin for banana and it still turned out great).

Send Me Gluten Free Banana Muffin Mix

And these PB2 crackers!  I’ve used PB2 in baked goods before to add a nutty flavor, but have never seen it in cracker form.  Not only are the crackers tasty, they have pretty good nutrition stats too.  I’ll definitely be buying these more in the future.

Send Me Gluten Free PB2

Thanks again to Send Me Gluten Free for the awesome opportunity!  And as an added bonus, they are offering 20% off your first subscription!  Just make sure you enter BLOG20 at checkout.  Even if you don’t have food allergies, I highly recommend checking them out – the goodies are THAT good.

Secret Superfoods with Andrew Weil

If you have been reading Sweet Potato Bites for a while, you probably know of my love for True Food Kitchen.  I have the cookbook, I’m frequently dining there, and I love their use of seasonal ingredients.  Recently I was invited to attend a Secret Superfoods with Andrew Weil cooking demo, and jumped at the chance to go.

superfoods with dr andrew weil demo

I have been a big fan of Dr. Andrew Weil for quite some time now and try to follow his anti-inflammatory diet.  For this particular event, he was going to be creating some new superfood-inspired dishes that will hopefully appear on the True Food Kitchen menu this weekend.

I recruited my fellow fabulous fitbooker Tianna to come with me, and when we arrived at True Food Kitchen we were immediately presented with the Natural (which happens to be my favorite beverage there), which has fresh ginger, agave, and club soda.

superfoods with dr andrew weil the natural

Unfortunately, I forgot my cookbook, so I wasn’t able to get that signed, but Tianna and I were lucky enough to meet Dr. Weil and snap a pic.

superfoods with dr andrew weil picThen it was time for the cooking demo.  The first dish that was created was a curried cauliflower soup made with cashew cream.

superfoods with dr andrew weil soupI’m not really a curry fan AT ALL, so I wasn’t sure how I would like this, but the soup was excellent.  The recipes were provided to us during the demo so we could follow along but this soup contained cauliflower, vegetable, cashew cream and sautéed apples.  The apple sounds totally weird but it worked.  There was also a hint of turmeric and curry powder which has anti-inflammatory properties.

The main course was a toasted buckwheat salad (with buckwheat groats, not flour) with autumn vegetables.  Unfortunately, this dish contained walnuts so I could not taste it, so I just took pictures of Tianna’s plate (and have plans to recreate this at home).

superfoods with dr andrew weil buckwheat saladThe staff at True Food was kind enough to bring me my own dish, so I got the harvest chopped salad which included mixed greens, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate, apple, and goat cheese.  A beautifully grilled piece of salmon was placed on top as the finishing touch.

superfoods with dr andrew weil harvest choppedI remember having the harvest chopped last year and I forgot how amazing it was.  All the flavors in this salad just work.  If you visit a True Food Kitchen this fall, be sure to order this salad.

Dessert was sea buckthorn bars.  They created a vegan and non-vegan version, and we were served the vegan one which was made with gluten-free flour.

superfoods with dr andrew weil sea buckthorn

The bars had a lot more citrus flavor than I was expecting!  We had tasted the sea buckthorn juice by itself earlier and it was quite sour, so it was nice to have a dessert with a little added sweetness to balance the sea buckthorn flavor out.  I’ll admit this dessert wasn’t my favorite, but I do like the idea of using different ingredients.

After the meal Dr. Weil hosted a Q&A and explained his perspective on living a healthy, balanced, diet.  Some of the takeaways included:

  • Grapeseed oil is a great alternative to olive oil in cooking.
  • Use natural sugars as opposed to artificial sweeteners in cooking.  Honey, maple syrup and palm sugar are some of the best.
  • Dr. Weil firmly believes in a diet that consists of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and healthy starches.  Sweet potatoes are one of his favorites (heck yes!)
  • Do not fear the fat!  Healthy fats are a great addition to your diet.
  • Beware of overuse of antibiotics.  Dr. Weil believes this is a contributing factor to why people have more and more food intolerances these days.  He also mentioned how less and less people are breastfeeding, which can contribute to food intolerances in babies which I found interesting.
  • And of course, nothing should be off limits, but everything in moderation (which we already knew).

Thanks True Food Kitchen and Dr. Weil for an informative evening!  I can’t wait to see the new recipes appear on the menu!

Brunch at SeaLegs Wine Bar

A couple of months ago Karla and I decided that the only way to proper celebrate our last long run of half marathon training was to treat ourselves to a delicious brunch.  We decided to have our celebratory brunch at SeaLegs Wine Bar after stumbling upon a groupon that included an entrée and bottomless mimosas for $15.

Our brunch was set for 11 AM, and after running 11 tough miles that included a strong headwind, almost getting attacked by poodles and aggressive transients on PCH, we were more than ready to get our grub on.  And apparently we weren’t the only ones as the line to have brunch at SeaLegs Wine Bar was out the door when we got there.  Thankfully Karla made reservations and we were seated right away.

brunch at sealegs wine bar champagneAs promised, our meal started with champagne and orange juice, which was a nice way to start brunch while we perused the menu.

The Englishman (who is also training for the Big Sur Half) decided to get things started on the right foot by ordering the “donut of the day” which was a chocolate maple bacon donut.

brunch at sealegs wine bar donutSince I have such a high standard for donuts (thank you Sidecar), I didn’t end up sampling it but he said it was tasty, however not on the same level as Sidecar’s donuts.  Noted.

For my entrée, since the runger (it’s a word I swear) was in full force, I went with the Vegetarian Omelette which came with kale, mushrooms, and truffle oil with a side of roasted potatoes.  I also ordered an extra side of avocado and fruit, because why not?

brunch at sealegs wine bar veggie omeletteI was pleasantly surprised at the portion size of my dish.  The omelette was cooked perfectly and was nice and filling, and the potatoes were a great compliment.

Karla followed suit and ordered the shrimp omelette which I did not try but will seriously consider ordering the next time I have brunch at SeaLegs Wine Bar.

brunch at sealegs wine bar seafood omeletteKarla’s boyfriend Jesse got the Chilaquiles, which included braised chicken and a poached egg over tortilla chips.  I couldn’t partake because of the corn component, but everyone else raved about them.

brunch at sealegs wine bar chilaquesI had told the Englishman there was a chicken and waffles dish which he immediately ordered.  The verdict was it was good and possibly better than famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles which is a pretty high compliment.

brunch at sealegs wine bar wafflesThe only knock I would give SeaLegs is that the service was a little slow and it looked like dishes were coming out at inconsistent times.  I do love the venue and their extensive wine list, so I think I’ll be back for happy hour and some tapas.

We all left brunch feeling pleasantly full and then proceeded to have post run/brunch naps, which is one of the best things about half marathon training.

Thanks Karla and Jesse for being such fabulous brunch companions!