Race Recap: The North Face Endurance Challenge California

Since it’s the last day of 2015, I thought that I better get this posted ASAP so without further adieu, here is my race recap for The North Face Endurance Challenge back at the beginning of December.

Back in mid November I received a notification on one of my Instagram posts from Repreve. This was a pretty exciting notification because they were notifying me that I had won an entry into the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco.  I immediately ran in and told Sean, who I know wanted to run the 50 mile race which was sold out.  I told him that I was going to ask if I could give my entry to him.

I immediately messaged them and asked, to which they responded that it shouldn’t be a problem for Sean to have my entry and that if because of the late notice, one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend, I could have my own entry too.  How awesome was that?!  We had to wait a few days to find out if I was going to be able to run as well but we found really inexpensive tickets to SF and were able to use some miles so we were good to go.

A few days later, I was notified that I could run too & that I could do any race as well including the marathon relay.  So I immediately went back to Instagram to find a partner to run with and the oh so lovely @mais_runs_trails agreed to run with me.  Why did I choose the relay?  North Face has a number of different races during race weekends, on Saturday the 50 miler, 50k, Marathon and Marathon Relay and then on Sunday a half marathon, 10k and 5k.  I really wasn’t excited about running the marathon because this race is supposed to be pretty hilly, which is so not my fav, I would prefer to run the half, but the only caveat was that it was Sunday and since we had plans with Sean’s mom, that would be a problem, so I choose the relay.

Now, I didn’t even look at what the relay was, oops, for some reason I thought it was a 2 person relay with us each running a half of the marathon course.  Well in reality we could have up to 4 people run and it was a 6.5 mile loop course.  So Maili & I would each run 2 loops.

Sean & I flew up to SF on Thursday evening because it was less expensive and it would be better so we could pick up our packets and not have to rush that evening with a super early wake up call on Saturday morning.  We stayed at a lovely B&B in Sausalito called the Gables which was really close to the course.

Friday, we went for a fun shakeout “runch” over the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and relatively warm out but definitely super humid.  There really is nothing like running over the bridge.

Running, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon

Afterwards we met up with Maili at the North Face Store in Corte Madera to pick up our bibs.  We chatted for a while and of course got a few photos 😉 before getting our race fuel.

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Sean grew up in Marin County and has some favorite places, including his fav pizza place Mulberry Street in San Rafael.  We met up with his mom and her boyfriend there for a little pre-race carb loading.  I tried a super yummy Tomato Pie on whole wheat crust which was amazing!

Mulberry Street, Tomatoe Pie, Pizza, San Rafael, Carb Loading

After dinner on our way back to the hotel we went over to where the start area was so we had an idea on where to go the next morning.  For most participants you had to park off site and take a bus over, about a 25 minute drive, but for the 50 milers they were allowed to park on a first come first serve basis on site.

Once we got back, I got my gear ready and then got ready to head to bed, the 50 mile race started at 5am so that meant getting up around 3:15am which is really early.

And let me tell you 3:15 came really fast, especially since I didn’t sleep well that night.  We got ready and headed over to the start line.  I was a little worried because there was quite a few people waiting to park.  This park is interesting in that it has a long one lane tunnel that you have to wait 5 minutes for your turn to go through.  We finally made it through and then headed over to park.  We were sooo lucky that we were able to get a parking spot in the lot closest to the start line.  It was so nice because it was really cold out.

I went over with Sean early, even though the relay didn’t start until 11am, so I would have over 5 hours there to hang out.  Sean dropped off his drop bags, we ran into our friends, Cindy & Fern (got a photo of course) and then it was time for the race to start.

Three Amigos from SD

I watched them all start and then headed back to the car to drop off our stuff.  I was going to take a nap but I didn’t want someone to ask me to leave since I was running the 50 so I went back to the start area and hung out chatting with some other runners while hanging out around the fire pits.  I would stay around here for most of the next 5 hours.  It was quite fun chatting with all the other runners about various races, etc.  I quite enjoyed meeting new people.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, Marin Headlands, Fort Baker, Trail Running, Marathon Relay, Sunrise

I watched all the other races start, the 50k at 7am, the marathon at 9am, cheering on my new friend Becca, and then it was time to get ready for the relay.  I took some of my stuff back to the car and waited for Maili to arrive, at this point I was seeing that 90% of the relay teams were all a part of the November Project.  They were all in costumes and everyone seemed to know everyone else.  It was pretty cool to see all the teams dressed up.

Once Maili arrived, I asked her if she would mind if I ran the first 2 legs since I had been out there for quite a while and she agreed.  Plus I was the slower of the 2 of us and wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go since I was fighting yet another cold.

So we went over for a quick briefing which started out being a pre race bounce session for the NP members.  Then they told us how it worked and we got ready to start.  Maili got a few pics of me as I was heading out which is a nice part of having a partner, so we could both get pics ;).

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

After the briefing, they had us line up at the start, I wasn’t sure about how the course was going to be, if it would be single track or more fire roads so I didn’t want to be too close to the front, but I also didn’t want to be all the way at the back so I found myself in the front third.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

The course ended up being on very wide trails and started out on the road so I never had to worry about being boxed in or slowing anyone down.  The first mile was pretty flat and then we started climbing from 33 ft to just over 900 ft over the next 1.75 miles (give or take).  At the top of the hill we were rewarded with an aid station and a nice and relatively steep downhill.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running, orange mud, altra running, lululemon, procompression

At the bottom of the hill, it leveled out and on my first loop, this was the hardest spot for me.  I had been going pretty fast down the hill and then it was like what just happened when we got to the flatter section.  Fortunately there were people in hot dog suits cheering us on at that point which gave me a little boost.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, Marin Headlands, Fort Baker, Trail Running, Marathon Relay

I did pretty well for my first loop finishing the 6.5 miles in 1:12.  I knew that the 2nd loop was going to be a bit slower because of the hill, I wasn’t feeling that strong and knew I would be walking for most of the climb.  I started out strong, posed for some photos, didn’t see hardly anyone on the course this time around and just concentrated on getting it done.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, Marathon Relay, Trail Running

As I was coming down the 2nd loop, I was running with a lot of the 50 mile & 50k leaders.  It was a lot of fun watching them fly down the mountain and we were all cheering each other on, there were a lot of good jobs, way to go’s being said down that hill.

I feel like the second loop was a bit more challenging on the front end, but that the back side and the more flat part after the downhill was actually easier the second time.  I just kept chugging along and eventually made it back to the start in 1:20 – 8 minutes slower than my first loop.  Considering how horrible I am on the hills, I was pretty happy with that.  Total time 2:33 minutes for 13.1 miles.

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And then it was Maili’s turn.  I knew, even though she said she was going to be slow ;), that she would be faster than me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because she is able to run in these or similar trails all the time so she’s not a baby like I am on the hills.  She did a great job, finishing in 2:10 for the half / her splits were only a minute apart so she did amazing.

It was super exciting watching her finish and then going thru the finish line hand in hand.

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After I finished my 2nd loop, they gave me my medal and I got a cool North Face water bottle.  There was a little tent with some food.  I got some orange slices, a bag of cashews, a clif bar and a bag of chips.  By the time Maili went through there wasn’t as much left and there was even less food when Sean when through.

After Maili finished, I waited for Sean, I saw our friend Cindy finish the 50 miler, talked to a few other friends, saw another friend finish the marathon and then in 10:09 Sean finished.  He said it was a great race but that he had to give his leg a talking to at mile 6.  Fortunately he was able to finish with minimal pain and had a great time out there seeing a lot of his friends while on the course.

The North Face Endurance Challenge, California, 50 mile, Trail Running

If you ran the 50 mile, 50k or marathon, they included a hot meal in your entry fee.  The meal consisted of salad, pasta, chicken, cookies, bread and a drink.  There were a few booths that had hot drinks, I had an amazing cup of coffee from a company out of British Columbia, I wish I could remember the name of the company because it was really good.  And another fancy coffee, one of those were the coffee is inside a filter and it takes a while for the water to go thru into your cup.

Race swag: We received shirts similar to those we received in Utah, although the design was a lot better with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it.  They were the same Repreve shirts in the same green color that we got in UT.  Sean also got a North Face buff in his packet.

Post Race: We received medals, the exact same medals that they gave out at all the other North Face races, which personally I find pretty cheap.  The only difference was on the ribbon.  It shows the date, location and distance.  The water bottles were nice though.

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Would I run this race again? Maybe a different distance or if I did the relay, I personally would want to only run 1 loop vs. 2.  I will say though that it’s a well organized race.  Huge Thanks to Maili for running with me!  You are the best!!

And now, just one more race recap for 2015 & I’m all caught up ;)!!

My favorite things of 2015

This has been a fabulous year and I can only hope that 2016 is just as fabulous.  I thought I would share some of my favorite moments of 2015.

January – Visiting Sean’s family in Hawaii and getting to see a bunch of the places he’s visited over the years. And of course crewing for him at H.U.R.T. 100.

hurt 100, hawaii, trail running, ultra running, oahu

February – Starting the month off running the Xterra McDowell Mountain 15 mile Trail race and ending the month at the Phoenix Marathon (1/2) both with Sean!

Phoenix Marathon, 2015, marathon, half marathon, race bling

March – Running the 30th Anniversary of the LA Marathon and meeting Deena Kastor!  And of course moving to San Diego.

Deena Kastor, LA Marathon, 2015, LA Marathon expo, Los Angeles, asics, marthon

April – A couple of firsts, my first juice cleanse and my first 50k.  Finishing hand in hand with Sean was a huge highlight.

Stephanie Plomarity Photography, Leona Divide, 50k, 50 mile finish line, ultramarathon, lululemon, altra running

May – Making friends at the M2B marathon. And a great time at my first local race, the San Diego Rock n’ Roll half.

m2b, marathon, mountains to beach, 2015, race bling

June – Crewing for Sean at the SD 100.  Running my first 6 hour run – running around a 1 mile loop for 6 hours is not easy ;).

SD100, Finish Line, Ultra Race, 100 miles, San Diego

July – A pre-wedding race at the SF Marathon and then the most fabulous day marrying my love.

San Francisco City Hall, People's Palace, Carmen Alvarez Photography, San Francisco, SF Wedding

August – Starting off married life crewing the AC 100.

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September – Crewing & Pacing Sean at the Tahoe 200.  This was such an amazing experience, I am so glad I was able to be there for him.

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October – 2 weeks in Italy and specifically our time in the Dolomiti.  This was one of the most relaxing and amazing adventures I’ve taken.  And running the Venice Marathon was pretty fun too.

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November – Hands down one of my favorite races Revel Canyon City was a blast.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon, Azusa, Finish Line, Race Medal

December – Last minute entries into The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship race and getting to run with a new friend.

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I’m truly blessed and thank you all for following along on my adventures.  Best wishes to you all for a healthy and happy 2016!

Happy Running!

#TeamNakamura Italian Honeymoon: Miramonti Boutique Hotel

I haven’t even started recapping our honeymoon and it’s been almost 2 months, oops.  While it may not be super relevant now, I have to share how amazing the Miramonti Boutique Hotel is and how super lucky were were to have the opportunity to stay there.

Sean & I booked our flights to Italy way back in May but outside of knowing we wanted to run the Venice Marathon (recap here) we didn’t have any definite plans on where to go.  We finally decided on going to the Dolomiti in Northern Italy for a few days before the marathon.

I’ll discuss the fun we had in Avelengo in a separate post, this post is specifically about the hotel we stayed at because it was that good.  After deciding on where to go, we had to find a place to stay so I headed to my go to website, hotels.com to find a spot.  I had briefly looked earlier and this hotel had stuck out to me then and it definitely jumped out again.

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The Miramonti Boutique Hotel is truly an oasis in the mountains.  It is in a little town called Hafling/Avelengo and was really easy to find. My pre-printed directions got us there with no problems.  And they have their own private parking built into the mountain which was nice, we didn’t drive at all once we arrive.

Once we made it up to the hotel, we were treated to the most spectacular view.  It was a bit cloudy when we arrived, but it kind of made the views even more amazing (until we saw them with clear, bright blue skies).  We kind of just stood there admiring the view for a few minutes.

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Once inside, there was a huge panoramic window with a couch allowing guests to enjoy the view in the warmth of the building, they had a map that showed the various peaks that you could see.  We were greeted by a lovely young girl who spoke German & English, the most surprising thing about this area was that they mostly spoke German vs Italian so we actually spent the whole time just speaking in English.

They offered us a prosecco as a greeting, since we don’t drink we had some fresh squeezed orange juice before being escorted to our room.  They had upgraded us to a junior suite since it was our honeymoon, and it was amazing.

At the end of the hallway, our room was huge, a decent size bedroom, a huge bathroom, a large sitting room and then a balcony with a view of the mountains.  And they had a delicious fruit display there for us to enjoy.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, junior suite

There were tons of little amenities in the room that added to our stay.  Like South Tyrol apples in the room, a complimentary bottle of South Tyrolean water that was refilled every day, blankets for the evening when it was a little cooler.  They are very green in Italy, almost all the hotels, this one included have the key in the wall to turn on the electricity.

In the bathroom were huge bottles of Davines shampoo & conditioner and full size bottles of L’Occitane en Provence soap and lotion.  A unique thing that you find in most Italian bathrooms is a heated towel rack (we actually used it to dry our clothes).

The bed was comfortable, it’s so funny in Italy they have this thing with twin size beds, a lot of the hotels made a king bed by just pushing two twins together.  The Miramonti did this as well, although they made it into a king with sheet connecting the two.  This hotel didn’t do a top sheet, there were only 2 down comforters (one for each) and a variety of pillows.

Each evening they would do a turn down service with a little treat and a newsletter showing the weather, some history of the area and an excursion that they offered.  It was a nice little touch that I don’t believe I’ve received at another hotel.

All the rooms had a little balcony that overlooked the valley below with an amazing view of the mountains.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Room View

Included in our rate was breakfast, and this wasn’t any ordinary continental breakfast.  It included lots of pastries, breads, fruits, meats, yogurt and toppings including local honey.  You could order any kind of coffee, a pot of American style coffee, cappuccinos, hot tea, etc. as well as egg dishes from your server.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, Italy, Dolomiti, breakfast

We saw the same servers every day, I really wonder if they ever have a day off because in the 5 days were were there I think we saw the same people all day every day :).

We never ate lunch at the hotel since we had a late breakfast and were always out exploring we never had the opportunity.  We did however come in from our adventures every day and have coffee before heading to the pool/spa area.

One of the servers/bartenders really knew how to make amazing coffee, I think it was super amazing because he gave us real cream vs. milk to put in, but seriously we couldn’t wait to get back to enjoy the amazing coffee in the afternoons.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme since we were having so much fun exploring in the mountains, but it really was good.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, coffee service

I had a cold of sorts pretty much the whole time we were in Italy and as we know about colds, they sometimes are worse in the morning and the evening.  So once we got back, we would grab our robes and head down to the pool to relax before dinner.  The hotel restaurants were only open for dinner between 7 – 9pm.  The pool wasn’t huge, but it was indoors and heated (not hot tub hot but not freezing either).  We would do laps and just relax in there.

There were a lot of lounge chairs where you could just relax and they even had subzero sleeping bags so if you wanted to go outside and lay on the lounges outside to look at the stars you could.  They had a note saying that they washed the sleeping bags every day.  We never did that, it was pretty cold (in the low 30s) while we were there and with me being sick I didn’t really want to chance it.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, spa

On our second day there, we discovered another area with a steam room, 2 dry saunas and more private sitting areas, I believe that kids were not allowed in that area.  Back in this area it was similar to a spa waiting area where there was hot tea, dried apple slices and maybe some nuts available to snack on.  The apple slices were super yummy, made from the local apples.

Now, being that we are from the states and in co-ed areas like this at spas I’ve been everyone wears their clothes, it has to be mentioned that Europeans are much more open and not nearly as modest.  We saw both men & women sitting in the saunas naked or walking around with no clothes on it this back area.  We never had anyone in the steam room or sauna with us, but during high season, I’m sure that there would have been.  We were probably the only people there in our bathing suits in the sauna but it was more comfortable for us.

We would go to the pool/spa area every day and then head over to dinner.

Miramonti has 3 different restaurants.  It’s interesting because it’s not a big place, but they had the Panorama Restaurant which is their fine dining restaurant (seats only 30 guests) and I’m sure in the summer it was spectacular but since it was fall and it got dark early there wasn’t much to see.  The Panorama Restaurant is listed in the Michelin guide.  In high season, I’m sure having reservations would be necessary, but since we there during a down time (mid October) neither the Panorama or Klassik restaurants were filled any of our 4 nights there.

We ate at the Panorama Restaurant on the first night.  Sean & I each got soup for our first course and then shared an entree, we weren’t incredibly hungry.  They started us off with an amuse bouche, she told us what it was, but I didn’t really understand her.  It tasted good though.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Panorama restaurant, dinner

They also brought out a bread box with various butters & cheeses.

The biggest surprise was when we got our soup.  I guess I haven’t eaten at very many fine dining restaurants or I just haven’t gotten soup at the ones I have been to because they set down bowls and I was a bit confused.  Mine had dried mushrooms & a circle piece of what looked like butter and Sean’s pumpkin soup only had the butter looking piece.  I was like hold on a second what is this, but then they came back with the actual broth/soup and poured it in to the bowls.  Too funny.

For the entree they were nice enough to serve our entree on 2 stone plates.  It was beef chuck chuck flap with mashed pumpkin, purple potato chips and black truffle.

Of the entree selections this was the one that looked the most appealing to us, the beef while tender, we found out was boiled, which is an interesting preparation.  I’ve eaten at a lot of steakhouses and here it seems we eat a lot more grilled beefed.

For dessert, we had a berry oatmeal parfait of sorts.  It was tasty but nothing special.

I think the best part were the amazing freshly made vanilla macaroons that they presented us at the end of the meal.  They were so soft and chewy.  I wish we could have had them every night.

We finished off our meal with espressos, we loved how they served your coffee on these cute silver trays.  It was super fancy.

The second restaurant is Miramonti Stube is a very small room with I believe 4 tables so reservations are necessary.  We never ate here but they did offer the traditional and local South Tyrolean cuisine in the Klassik room if we had wanted to try the menu. We looked at the menu one night, but decided to stick with the Klassik menu.

The largest and most popular restaurant is the Klassik.  Here they have a half board meal  which is 4 courses that changed every night.  It was 35 Euro per person or you could choose to have a more ala carte meal.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Klassik restaurant, dinner

We ate here the remaining 3 nights we were there.  We had a variety of dishes.  I think some of our favorites was the Caprese with the huge piece of Buffalo Mozzarella with super tasty Roma tomatoes & a basil coulis.

Another favorite, didn’t look the most appetizing but it was delicious, there were three traditional South Tyrolean dumplings.  There was a butter & herb dumpling, one with spec (a type of bacon) and a spinach dumpling.

We had both of these appetizers twice during our stay they were that good.

Each night we shared an entree, first night beef, second night pork and third night sea bass.  Now if you have ever been to Italy and had fish, you might recall that they bring the fish out with the head on, etc.  Well I didn’t even think about this until after we ordered because Sean hasn’t been there before & I wasn’t sure how he would react lol.  Fortunately Sea Bass is a pretty big fish so they just gave us a filet and it was already deboned, I was a little nervous about that.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Klassik restaurant, dinner

Desserts at the Klassic restaurant included an amazing apple cobbler with ice cream, a chocolate torte with sauteed pears and then on the last night we splurged and had two desserts, a traditional tiramisu and a chocolate mousse.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Klassik restaurant, dinner

The hotel offers a lot of activities, forest therapy, bike rentals, there is a horse farm near by that offers discounts for hotel guests.  But really for us none of that was necessary as we just explored the nearby trails every day.

Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Hafling, Avelengo, south tyrol, Italy, Dolomiti, Terrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say that we were so spoiled adventuring in Avelengo & staying at the Miramonti Hotel that the rest of the trip while nice never measured up.  I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to enjoy this amazing part of the world.

I would totally recommend the Miramonti hotel and in turn Avelengo – Halfing to anyone looking for a relaxing place to vacation.

The Runny Legs Christmas Wishlist

I shared the Bibrave stocking stuffer guide on Monday, and now I’m sharing my personal Christmas wishlist.

I have had a fabulous year, including marrying my soul mate and traveling all over the world and while I don’t need anything, there are always things that I would like to have.

First and foremost on my list?

The new Altra Olympus 2.0 in this super pretty pink/purple color.  I am really excited about these trail shoes.  Altra has made a lot of changes to this model, most importantly a significant drop in the weight of the shoes.  From 10.7 oz for the Olympus 1.5 to 9 oz for the 2.0.  They updated the upper so its softer & more flexible. With the addition of the Vibram outsole, more traction and less weight the Olympus is something I’m super excited to try.

Altra Running, Olympus 2.0, trail shoes, road shoes, running, hiking

Next up, I know I just got a Garmin Forerunner 225 but if budget was no issue or I won the lottery, I would love love love to have a Fenix 3.  I think it’s so pretty and can be worn not only as a running watch but also an everyday watch.

I love this fenix 3 sapphire in white.  It’s got a 1.2 inch sunlight readable color Chroma display with a high strength domed sapphire lens.  It has outdoor navigation features like a 3 axis compass, an altimeter and baromoter and TracBack feature. (I’m not sure what all that means but it sounds cool).

garmin, fenix 3, sapphire, watch

Really cool is that it has a GPS track log which allows you to create a “bread crumb trail” and mark different locations so your friends and family can follow you on line.  It has built in sensors to show you your heading, your current elevation and weather changes.

While I don’t need any of these cool features I just think this is such a cool watch.  But at $599 it’s a little more than my budget.

Next up…If you follow me on Instagram you know I love Lululemon and my favorite items are Speed Shorts and the whole Run Swiftly line (specifically the tanks and long sleeves).

lululemon, run swiftly, speed shorts, long sleeve, tank

I’m loving these purple & blue flowered shorts, this heathered berry long sleeve swiftly and this heathered slate swiftly tank is super cool looking.  But I love pretty much anything Lulu.  #luluaddict 😉

And now this is totally off the wall but I would love for Sean to get an entry into UTMB so we can go back to Europe and run the mountains again.  For the record, he has a ton of points so I’m sure if he wanted to he has enough points to register but it’s definitely not a on a whim trip.

I know we were talking about it and if only I had been able to finish the North Face Endurance Challenge in Utah, I would have had a qualifier for OCC race (55k) so we could both have had an chance to run.

After our trip to Avelengo in October, we are both itching to get back to the European mountains.  And one day we will :).

avelengo, merano 2000, runner, runnergirl, italy, south tyrol

And last on my wishlist…a GoPro so we can video our adventures.  Which one? Ideally the Hero Black or Silver so we had the most features.  And both of those have a 12mp camera.  The higher the better, right?

GoPro, Hero4, black, video, camera GoPro, Hero4, silver, video, camera

Outside of the new Olympus, most of these items are a bit of a stretch but a girl can dream, right?

What’s on your Holiday Wishlist?

 

Photos: Olympus 2.0 from www.altrarunning.com, Fenix 3 from www.garmin.com, Lululemon from www.lululemon.com and GoPros from www.gopro.com.

Stocking Stuffer Guide presented by the BibRavePros & 2XU

Looking for some awesome runner approved stocking stuffers?  Well you’ve come to the right place then.

Last week BibRave and 4 of my fellow BibRavePros participated in a stocking stuffer guide that was sponsored by 2XU.

Day 1: 2XU

2XU, Bibrave, bibravepro, running4thosewhocant

2XU has a ton of different options, I’ve been lucky enough to test out the MCS Elite tight. See my review here.  But they don’t just have tights, they have shorts, tops, socks, hats, tri suits, & wet suits just to name a few.  And options for lots of different sports, including running, cycling, triathlon, skiing and sailing.

Here @Sweetblondesfitlife is showing off their Performance Run compression socks.

2xu, compression socks, performance run, bibrave, bibravepro, sweetblondesfitlife

There is still time to save 20% on all your favorite 2XU gear by using code BIBRAVE20 until Dec 31, 2015.

Day 2: Buff USA

Buff USA, UV Half Buff, Running4thosewhocant, the northface, san diego, san francisco, chrissy field, cowels mountain, south tyrol, avelengo, bibrave, bibravepro

As you probably can tell from my Instagram photos I love my UV Half Buffs.  I wear them all the time.  While I prefer the half buff, there are so many options that are all sized to fit into your stocking.  They have the full Buffs, Insect Sheild Buffs, Merino Wool, Hats, Gloves and even Dog Buffs!

Jeremy, @runner_blogger_az shows off his Buff and his pup’s matching one.

2xu, bibrave, bibravepro, runner_blogger_az, buff usa, dog buff

Day 3: MeStrength

I’ve never tried this but here is a synopsis from their website.
5 key electrolytes for optimum hydration
Just enough creatine to support lean muscles
Pre-workout for maximum performance
Post-workout for rapid recovery
Five all-natural flavors
Zero Calories – Zero Carbs – Zero Sugars
Highly portable, single serving stick packs that mix with 20 oz of water

@SeeJessRun711 shows us what MeStrength looks like.

2xu, bibrave, bibravepro, mestrength, seejessrun711, hydration

If you’d like to know more about Mestrength, check out Heather’s great review here.

Day 4: Orange Mud

Yours truly was featured featured for Day 4 with my awesome Transition Wrap which I reviewed here.  Sean & I seriously use my wrap pretty much every day.  In fact yesterday he asked me for it after our run and I had to tell him it was in the wash.

2xu, bibrave, bibravepro, orange mud, transistion wrap

Orange Mud has a lot of different products, from water bottles to hydration packs to gym bags to hats.  There is something for everyone and you can save 15% by using code BIBRAVE on your fav products.

Day 5: Addaday

I haven’t had the opportunity to try any Addaday products yet, but they make all sorts of massage rollers in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Check out Jess’s review here.

And @erintweeting shows us how to use her Addaday Pro Massage Roller.

2xu, bibrave, bibravepro, Addaday, massage roller, erintweeting

So there you have it, 5 awesome brands with products for the athletes in your life.

Which of these products would you like to see in your stocking?

Race Recap: Revel Canyon City 1/2 Marathon

This is going to be race recap week, as I have 2 more recaps to do before my next race at the end of the month.  I’m going to knock them all out as quickly as possible :).

So a few months back, I mentioned to Sean that we didn’t really have any races on our schedule for after we got back from Italy.  He was interested in Ray Miller, but one week after an overseas trip, I didn’t think I would be up for a 50k so I vetoed that.  We knew a bunch of other people running Revel Canyon City, it was within driving distance from San Diego, near Pasadena and where we went for AC100.  I knew @runningwithsd was training for the marathon so I asked her if she had a code for the race.  Smitha was the amazing group leader for the SoCal MRTT group and even though I’m not a mom, we were still able to join their group.

We signed up under the SoCal MRTT group so we were able to save $5.00 through their group code and then you could get another $5 off if you announced that you were running the race on FaceBook.  I decided to do the half and of course Sean would be running the marathon :).  Through the group we were able to purchase a matching race shirt and the group also had a special Spandits print that Smitha had set up for them.  I have never tried Spandits yet so I got a shirt but I decided to pass on the crops/skirt.

Communication from race management was great and their website was very detailed. They even had tips on how to train for a downhill race.

The Expo: Friday from 10 – 8pm. Sean & I  didn’t get there until 7:20pm and the expo was pretty much over by that point. 80% of the booths were empty but we were able to get our bibs quickly and then they had a ton of shirts, they are one of the few races that said you could switch out your shirt if you got the wrong size. They, like the Phoenix Marathon, use Albion for their shirts.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, Expo, Azusa

T-shirts: For women they were pretty good sizing wise, I got a small and it fit me perfectly with no tight neck. For the men though, the shirts ran really big – Sean got a small and it was huge on him.

Swag: Not much, but they did put in gloves and a space blanket to keep us all warm at the start lines.  Since we arrived at the expo late, I don’t know if they had more stuff earlier in the day or not.

Bibs: They were personalized and we even registered relatively late, maybe 6 weeks prior to the race. Blue for the half and Orange for the full

Race Day Packet Pick-Up: There was an option for packet pick-up on race day for an extra $20 – because there is so much traffic going into the LA area from San Diego, the Sean & I discussed taking advantage of this next year so we don’t have to rush to the expo after work, but ultimately to save money we changed our minds.

Parking: Finally a race that gives you a pamphlet with parking information vs making you go to the website to see where to go. We had to be bused to the start so to eliminate issues with people going to the wrong start line, there were 2 different areas for parking. Unlike at the Phoenix Marathon, the marathoners got to park right next to the finish line while the half marathoners were a few blocks away. Since Sean ran the marathon, we got to park in the marathon parking.

Busing: There were a ton of buses, a mix of tour buses and school buses. For the marathon they ran from 4am – 5am, would take approx. 60 mins and for the half from 4:30a – 5:30am, which would take about 30 mins. Our bus driver didn’t get lost like I heard a few of them did, but she did overshoot the starting line because someone stole the popups for the half marathon start line during the night.  As soon as I got on the bus, I saw our friend Kat, which ended up being an awesome thing as we would end up running the whole race together.

I sat next to a lady who was planning on walking her first half.  She was super excited and had all sorts of questions.  This was my 26th half and once you’ve done a few races, it becomes second nature.  She asked me things like what to do with her bib, and if she just left her bag on the bus.  I gave her a few pointers and we chatted for a bit.

This helped me because as we were going up the mountain, I was getting more and more nauseous due to motion sickness. Talking helped a bit.

Once we got off the bus, we were one of the first buses up, Kat & I got our space blankets out & gloves out and tried to warm up.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, start line, , Azusa

Starting line: Lots of port-a-potties and they had water and Powerade at for us to keep hydrated. I would have loved to have had some bagels or something though since we had about 2 hours until race time.  We were so cold as we waited for the race to start, but I have to say that those space blankets really worked.

Bag drop: There was one truck to drop bags, this was a small race. It was right before the start line.  At the end of the race they had the bags set up in order by number.  It was really quick & easy to find them at the end.

Start: Since there were no pop-ups, it was very anti-climactic and in reality, I didn’t even realize we had started until we saw people start running. There was no National Anthem or countdown or anything that I could hear to signify that the race had started.  Sean said at the marathon start it was just a countdown from 10 to 1.

Aid Stations: All the aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were awesome. They had water & powerade at all the stations, Gu at some of them and then I think at mile 4 there was some fruit. My only minor complaint, the oranges were cut in the wrong direction so they were hard to eat quickly, but that’s so minimal lol.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon,Azusa

Course: This is a beautiful course in the mountains, it went by really quickly. The first half of the course is a very steep downhill, while the 2nd half is a bit of rolling hills so it’s deceivingly difficult.  Kat and I took it nice and easy, walking up the minor hills, taking selfies, chatting and just enjoying ourselves.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, Azusa

There were a few points, specifically between miles 7 – 9 where we were literally shocked to see that were were at the next mile marker already.

I was very happy with my finish time, I hadn’t been really running too seriously before this race and I have had a few so so races as of late so this really helped me to get my mojo back so to speak.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon, Azusa, Finish Line, Race Medal

Finish line: They did a great job at the finish line. They had a lot of food & beverages for recovery. Water bottles, horchata, chips, granola bars, bananas & pie! When Kat & I went through they had apple, lemon and pumpkin.  And there was a lot of food, even when Sean arrived about an hour later there was just as much food there.  I actually forgot to take a picture because I was so hungry.

They had a photo area where you could take your own photos, the line was kind of long so we decided to just take our own photo.  At the results section, they gave us a card with our results on it. Showing our place, time and pace so that was really cool.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon, Azusa, Finish Line, Race Bib, Race Stats

Photos: They offer free photos and they had signs on the course showing that there was a photographer coming up so we could get ready.  However, I will say, in my case, unfortunately a few of my photos were blurry and even though we posed for a ton of photos, there were very few in my feed.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon, Azusa, Free Photos

They were free however and they even posted them to my Facebook timeline so that we could share them with others.

Medal: The medal was the same for both the half and marathon with the only differences being the ribbon color and that the medal said half marathon vs just marathon. It is huge and super nice. I was really impressed.  This is seriously one of the best medals I’ve received.

Run Revel, Revel Canyon City, Los Angeles, California, half marathon, Azusa, Finish Line, Race Medal

Other things: A nice thing about this race is that they offer you the ability to transfer your registration so if you are injured or just can’t run, you can transfer your bib to someone else. I believe there was a $20 fee to transfer, but considering so many races won’t let you transfer your bib, that’s a really cool option.

All in all this was an awesome race and I know we are looking forward to going back next year!

Race Recap: #TeamNakamura Honeymoon Venice Marathon

Note: This is a very photo heavy post 🙂

When Sean & I were talking about our honeymoon, we immediately started looking at what races were going on during that time and when we saw that the Venice Marathon was over that time, we planned the rest of our trip around it.

Running an international marathon is a lot of fun, this is my second marathon in Italy, you can read about my experience at the Rome Marathon here but it can be a little different than in the US.

We procrastinated a little and didn’t registered for the race until late September, we paid approx $115 per person including adding on personalized video.  Which actually for a marathon and all that we received, was a pretty good price.

Communication was great – I emailed them a few times with questions regarding registration.  There is a health requirement in Italy and as a foreigner you have to send in a form signed by a doctor/NP showing that you are fit to run.  Sean & I went to CVS Minute Clinic to get our and it cost $60 each – we don’t have a primary care physician so this was the easiest thing for us.  I emailed it to them and attached it in the registration forum as well.

We received our confirmation email a few weeks before we left for Italy and they have a cool feature where they have a stop light on email letting you know if you are missing anything regarding your registration and then what your number & corral is.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015 Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015

I put my 2013 NYC Marathon and current PR in as my time but I forgot that I changed my name since that race until I received the email saying that I was in the last corral, oops.  They check your times and because my name was different they didn’t accept my time and I had to start in the back.  I tried to email them and have them change it with proof of my name change but I never heard back from them.

We received additional information on the Expo the week before the race.  Everything was very clear and concise in a variety of languages.

Expo: The expo/packet pickup was on Friday & Saturday in a park on the Mestre side of Venice.  There was no pick-up on race morning so we decided to head over to Venice on Saturday because we wanted to spend more time in the mountains the week before.

The expo was held in San Giuliano Park at the Exposport in Mestre. Once we finally figured out how to get there we saw lots of runners that had bags with the Venice Marathon logo on them.  It was a decent sized expo with lots of vendors and other races exhibiting.  The packet pickup was in the back of the tent.  We got there around 3pmish and it was pretty easy to get our packets, no lines except in the solutions area.  I thought about talking to them about changing my corral but that line was pretty long.

We got our bibs and then walked over to another section to get our bags and shirts.  They had a unisex long sleeve shirt as the race shirt.  They didn’t have a lot of race gear for purchase but one of the shirts had the course map on it and I thought that was pretty cool and should have been on the official race shirt.

In the packet was a ton of stuff, including a can of beer, some apple juice, 2 packets of fruit energy chews, Venetian style cookies, sports laundry detergent, a race book and a bunch of other race ads.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Goodie Bag

We walked around for a bit, checking out official race gear, which was pretty weak, I think there were maybe 2 different Asics t-shirts and a jacket, but not a whole lot else.  I wanted to get like a cup or mug, but yeah, the didn’t have anything like that.

We still needed to check into our hotel, get dinner and a shake-out run in before heading to bed so we didn’t stay long.

Shake Out Run - Venice Marathon

The race itself starts in Stra about 20+ miles from Venice so they had buses to take us over to the start area.  Since we were staying in Venice, we would have to walk over to the Tronchetto (Fruit & Vegetable Market) which was over by the cruise terminal.  We walked over along with a bunch of other people – the buses would be available between 7:00 – 7:20am. Or if you were in Mestre, you could catch the bus at the Mestre Train station from 7:10 – 7:30am.

After having run races like NYC Marathon, LA Marathon & Mountains 2 Beach where there are tons of buses waiting, it was a bit of a surprise to see just one bus when we arrived.  They would come probably every 3 – 5 minutes and we probably waited about 20 minutes (it was after 7:20am when we finally got on the bus).  Sean & I decided to jump on this one bus even thought there weren’t any additional seats and actually stood at the front of the bus.  It was a bit uncomfortable but it was fun way to see the course.  If you look closely on the right of this photo you can see me in the mirror ;).

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Trochetto, Shuttle Bus

We got to the starting area around 8:00am or so, we walked over to the first set of port-a-potties, there wasn’t too long of line at the beginning however note to self…always have toilet paper or something because unfortunately we couldn’t find any with toilet paper.  Not sure if that was how they came or if we missed out but I’d recommend having some if you do this race.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Starting area

They had trucks for the gear bags.  We would use the bag that we got at the expo with a sticker of our race number on it.  One of the odd things in Italy is that they separate the women runners from the men so the truck for the women’s bags was at the end.  They were much more organized in Venice vs Rome and had signs showing different bus numbers.  Plus I knew from Rome that the women’s bibs & bags were different.  Race bags had to be in by 8:55am so they could be transported back to the finish.  If you missed the cut-off then you would have to pick up your bag at Tronchetto, which is quite far from the finish.  They had a lot of announcements in Italian, German & English to let you know how much time we had before they closed the trucks.

After handing in my bag, we made our way over to the starting area.  Because of my issue with my name not matching up with my corral, I was put into the last Rosso (pink) corral which Sean was in the Giallo (yellow) corral which was I believe corral 2.  He wanted to split the difference and go into corral 4 but I didn’t see anyone with other colored bibs going into the earlier corrals and I get weird about that so I insisted that we start in my corral.

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Side note on the bibs, women are designated with an F for this race and they put the flag of the country you are from on the bib for foreigners.  I’m assuming so they know what language to speak to you in at the end of the race.  I say this because they were speaking to us in English with no other info when we were finished.

We had a little bit of time, or so we thought until the start, which was supposed to be at 9:40am.  They played the Italian National Anthem, and then people started moving.  I thought that the corrals would have a break between them like we do here, but I don’t think there were any breaks, it just was a way to separate everyone.

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We got started and I knew I was going to be pretty slow, I had a cold earlier in the week and while I was feeling better, not too long after we started, I started to feel sinus pressure in my forehead & cheeks.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy

So I would run for as long as I could, walk for a little bit and then run again.  It wasn’t the best of races, but I was fully aware that I wasn’t going to be setting any PRs at this race.

As far as the course goes, it definitely was flat, I think the only “hill” we went over was a bridge into San Giuliano Park around mile 16 or so.  And then there was the pontoon bridge towards the end of the race.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, San Giuliano Park

It was a very pretty course, the people who lived in the towns on the course were very nice and came out to cheer us on.  The aid stations were great, with bottles of San Benedetto Water, electrolyte drink and at some of the stations, they had food: oranges, bananas & cookies.

I didn’t bring my water bottle but instead grabbed a full 1/2 Liter bottle at each station.  The first station, they didn’t have lids on the bottles (I grabbed one from a volunteer so I could carry mine) but by the 2nd station they were keeping the lids on so that runners could take the bottles with them.  I would trade out bottles at each station and stayed very well hydrated.

It was however a bit of a lonely course, I love races, like NYC Marathon & LA Marathon where there were so many spectators, while this one there were areas where there was practically no one in sight.

As we made our way through the little towns from Stra into Mestre, we would hit the 30k mark in the park where we picked up our packets the day before.  Here there were a few little hills and some more race decorations.  It was when we were heading into the park when Sean ran back (he ran back for me many times – enough to run an extra 5k during the race) and this girl next to me was like, is he training for an ultra?  I just laughed and was like, you have no idea, he’s run 3 100mile & 1 200 mile race, a 100k and a bunch of marathons and that’s just since June.

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After getting out of the park, we would start heading into Venice.  We would run over about 3 miles (20 – 22.75 or so) over the Ponte della Liberta before we would get over near Tronchetto again.  One nice thing, on the km markers they also had the mileage which was awesome!

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Race Bibs

The next 2 miles were around the back side of Venice, where eventually we would start seeing ramps starting to go over the stairs.  It started to get cooler during this time too and the bright sun we saw earlier in the race was replaced with clouds and wind.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015

This whole time, I was going back and forth in passing the 5:30 pace group, yes, I told you I wasn’t setting any PRs at this race.  I would walk, they would run, they would walk, I would run – it was kind of a game.  Then probably with about 2 miles left Sean & I started running together & took a bunch of photos so I’m not sure if they finished ahead or behind me.

We got to the 40k mark (give or take) and had an awesome experience running over the area where the Grand Canal goes into the Laguna Venata.  They built a pontoon bridge for us to run across!  That was really cool.  It was getting a bit windy at this point, and I don’t have a photo of it, but I looked out to the right of the bridge and there was this gondola going over these huge waves.  It was hilarious, I swear it looked like it was a movie or something but it was real.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Pontoon Bridge, Grand Canal, St. Marks Square

Once over the bridge, which made me just a little dizzy, we would head down the coast, up and over ramps on the bridges and then finally, thru Saint Mark’s Square.  Because we were so far towards the back, they were starting to take down the signs on the barriers, but it was still really cool.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, St. Marks Square  Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, St. Marks Square, Tahoe 200

From there we would continue to run down the coast, up and over more ramped bridges until finally, I could see a huge balloon with San Benedetto on it.  It seemed so close, but yet so far.  Hand in hand Sean & I crossed the finish line in 5hr 20 mins, which is actually better than my time at Mountains to Beach.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Finish Line, Photo, #teamnakamura

When we finished, I turned and gave Sean a kiss.  And then a few moments later, after we got our medals, the announcer came over and was like what just happened here.  I think he thought that Sean proposed, but we said it was our honeymoon race and then he asked us where we were from and then took our photo.  It was kind of exciting.

The medal – it was the 30th anniversary for the race so they did a special medal that we were able to vote on earlier in the year.  It was nice, in gold & red, but nothing super special.  While it is bigger than the one I got at Rome, the Rome Marathon medal was more unique.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, Race Medal

Post race, they handed out grocery style bags with food inside.  I was happy to see that even though we were towards the back, they still had a lot of bags available.  Inside was a bottle of water, a bottle of Enervit, their idea of a sports drink, it was s lemon lime flavored carbonated drink (actually really yummy), 2 bananas, apple juice, some bread sticks and the best thing in the bag, a sample size bag of Groksi which is crunchy baked pieces of cheese.  So yummy.

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, post race snacks, snacks

We walked just a little bit to get my bag, where volunteers were looking at my bib and directing me to the tent with my number.  We got into warm clothes and then headed into the park before heading out into the mass chaos that is Venice near St. Mark’s Square and to get food especially some gelato to celebrate!

Venice Marathon, 30th Anniversary, Marathon, Venice, Italy, 2015, Race Medal, Gelato, Grom

 

A day or so after the race, they sent us a link to see our photos, they used Marathon Foto, and while we haven’t purchased our photos, they were actually not that bad, I think it was 44.95 Euro to purchase the download of all the photos, which seams a lot less than what they charge here for some reason.

And then 2 weeks later they sent us the video links to our race video.  This was a cool feature of the Rome Marathon too.

Overall,  it was an extremely organized race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect having been in Rome last year which seemed a lot more chaotic. I have to say this was a much better organized race than in Rome and while the course wasn’t as exciting as I would like, it was a great race.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to run in Italy!

Travel & Writers Block

In the past 6 weeks, I’ve spent 2 weeks in Italy, traveled to Phoenix three times and driven up to Pasadena.  We’ve run/walked/hiked 270 miles and run 2 races.  And so many times, I’ve sat down to write race recaps and thank goodness I didn’t have any reviews due because I’ve been exhausted and just haven’t been able to write or had the desire to do so.

November 2015 miles

Fortunately this is my personal blog and it’s not my job so it’s OK if I take a break.  I have so much to share, I haven’t even finished my wedding recaps yet, but I needed a break.

As we enter December, I have a lot to accomplish. And so I’m putting out a few goals for the month.

  1. Publish at least 2 blog posts a week – I don’t think I posted anything in November (oops) so Thank You to everyone who reads this :).
  2. Start a plank a day streak
  3. Log 1,250 miles for the year.  I’m already at 1,149 so that should be relatively easy to do.

Phoenix, South Mountain, Trail Running, Runnylegs, Ultrarunnersd

What else is happening this month?  We will be running in the NorthFace Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco this weekend and we are running the San Diego Holiday Half at the end of the month, it’s at over 85% full so if you are looking for a race to finish up the year in San Diego, now would be the time to sign up.

I’ve got 2 races on the calendar for January, SD 50 Trail Marathon and Coldwater Rumble 52k the following week so lots of long trail runs are in my future.

Have you ever had a time when you had writers block?  What did you do to get out of it?