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10 perfect days in paradise

07 Jun

I just completed a 10 day celebration. It was a celebration unlike any other I have experienced…better than any birthday. It will be difficult to describe this experience, but I will try.

I was looking forward to this trip for many reasons, but the main focus of the trip, and the reason I had originally decided to go, was the marathon. I had been training since January, and was ready to run the 26.2 miles. This had been a goal of mine for quite some time, and now the time had come to achieve that goal. Another goal I had was to qualify for the Boston Marathon my first go around. (More on this later) I was excited about running my first marathon, but I was also extremely excited for a vacation. I had really planned it perfectly: go down a week early, stay with my sis at the beach, relax, get acclimated to the warmer weather, run along the beach, eat, sleep, and get ready for the marathon!

I arrived Saturday afternoon. I ran my easy three mile run that morning before heading to the airport. I arrived 20 mins early in LA. How often does THAT happen? This was the start of my perfect vacation where everything just fell into place…perfectly. 🙂

My sis has lived in Hermosa Beach for nearly 6 years, and each time I visit I feel happy when I catch the first view of the ocean. Coming over the hill…the ocean comes into view with palm trees in the foreground. Heaven. Fiesta Hermosa was going on for Memorial Day weekend. So, after I changed, freshened up, and met Sebastian and Stella (Annie’s new kitty babies), we headed out to meet some of her friends in the beer garden. On the way, we popped into Hermosa Ink, a new tattoo parlor. A girlfriend’s sister is the manager there, and recommended a tattoo artist. A new tattoo was on my list of things to do while in LA, and I wanted to chat with them about availability and prices, etc. I couldn’t decide exactly WHEN I wanted to do it.

After a brief visit to the beer garden (I wasn’t drinking), we went to a BBQ. I was pretty tired, and when everyone went out after the BBQ, I went home to sleep. AHHHHHHHHH!!

Sunday-Woke up with a really, really bad stomach ache. L I had some sort of stomach bug, and was worried. The marathon was only a week away, AND I had my last long run. After several trips to the bathroom, and lots of water, I started to feel a bit better, so I suited up for my run. Ooooooh boy, it was really, really, really windy. I ran along the beach and had sand whipping against my body the entire time. It HURT! But, I finished pretty strong, with no stomach issues along the way. After I got back, however, the stomach ache returned with a vengeance. I went to bed, slept for about 30 minutes, and woke up a new woman! And I haven’t turned back since. It was quite amazing, actually. I showered, got ready and met Annie out, who had been on a pub crawl for the past 4 hours. THAT was entertainment. When Annie decided she was cold, and wanted to walk home to change, I went with her, and made a stop on the way: Hermosa Ink. I got my tattoo right then and there: NAMASTE on the inside of my left bicep. Annie made it just in time to take pictures, and it really didn’t hurt that much. It was all over in about 15 minutes, and I absolutely love it. It is just perfect, and it symbolizes a lot.

Monday-Slept in. (I am having no trouble sleeping. It is wonderful). Took an 11:30 Bikram class. Oh my goodness! It was HOT. 115 degrees hot. I am used to 105. But, I made it, and felt amazing after! Relaxing beach time after, then back to Fiesta Hermosa to get some fair food. Dinner at Hots Kitchen in Hermosa: small plates. Very good. Frozen yogurt for dessert.

Tuesday-Slept in (are you seeing a pattern here? Hey! I am on vacation!). 5 mile run. Felt great. Then met Annie for lunch at The Counter. Had an AMAZING veggie burger! Beach time. I basically had the beach to myself. Sushi Sei for dinner with Annie. Frozen yogurt for dessert.

Wednesday, June 1-Slept in. 4 mile run. Met a friend for lunch at Hennessey’s on the Pier. We ate on the roof top deck, then we had a couple of hours beach time. Then up to Los Feliz (sat in rush hour LA traffic. FUN!) to meet my dear friend, Michael. Michael and I went to dinner at Geisha House (sushi) in Hollywood, then we walked down Hollywood (saw the stars) to The Roosevelt Hotel where he got us into a private LA Times party/fashion show at the pool. We showed up right when the fashion show started! Then he took me to the Alcove in Los Feliz for dessert. WOW!! I stayed with him that night. I can’t even tell you how amazing this day was. It was the first day of June. I told myself no boys/dating until June, so spending time with him was a nice kick off!

Thursday-I did NOT sleep in. We woke up at 6:30. Michael had to be in Manhattan Beach at 8AM, and dropped me off on the way. As soon as I got home, I went to bed and slept until 11:30! WOW! I needed that for sure. Had a couple of hours of beach time, then went to yoga at 6PM. After yoga, I met my friend Terri for dinner at the Rockefeller. Awesome place: great food and great ambiance. Terri and I ski raced together in our pre-teens/teens. We had not seen each other in 20 years. It was great to catch up. She lives in Redondo Beach now, AND was running the Rock and Roll half marathon!

Friday-Slept in. Went for a short walk. Had lunch at Veggie Grill in El Segundo. That is my kind of restaurant! Everything on the menu is vegetarian! Then home to pack and get on the road to San Diego!! I made my marathon play list in the car on the way down. We got to San Diego around 6:30, checked into our hotel, then met my friend Kim (who lives in Hollywood and just happened to be in San Diego at the same time) for dinner in Old Town San Diego. It was awesome. I felt like I was in Mexico! I feasted…and feasted some more, and enjoyed great ambiance and even better company. It was just perfect. We then went back to our hotel to meet our mom and dad who came down to support me! We talked about how they were going to spot me on race day. I told them what I would be wearing, but that sounded silly. How would they spot me out of the 30,000 runners? Annie suggested a balloon. Brilliant idea! So, the next day we would search for a balloon. We visited for a little while before I went up to bed.

Saturday-Slept in a little bit. I could have slept more, but I was getting excited, and I had a lot to do! We went to breakfast at The Mission: best breakfast in San Diego. Yup. It was incredible. After breakfast we went to the Expo to pick up my race packet. That was pretty cool. I bought a purple sparkly headband to wear on race day. We then went to get my balloon! I got a purple balloon that I would tie on me so my “fans” could find me. Then we went to Balboa Park for an easy 2 mile jog. It was perfect! Annie was an awesome tour guide, and the scenery was great. Then back to the hotel to shower, check me in to my hotel (I stayed in my own room the second night), before we went to Little Italy for my pre-race dinner! We ate at Mimmo’s, and my mom, dad, Terri, and Annie’s friend, Christy, joined us. It was…you guessed it, perfect in every way! The ambiance, the food, the company. Just perfect. We then went back to Christy’s for a bit so I could paint my fingernails, purple (purple became the race day color), and she loaned me an old shirt I could wear while walking the 1.5 miles to the start in the morning. Then back to my hotel to take a bath, finish my playlist and get to bed. About the time I should have been turning out my light, I realized I left my swag bag with my number and timing chip in Annie’s car!! Luckily she answered the phone, so I had to walk to her hotel and meet her. This was the most stressful part of my trip, and it was easily and quickly resolved…phew!! I turned out the light and tossed and turned. I was so excited! My nearly 6 months of training was coming to an end, and I had no idea what the outcome would be! Eventually I fell asleep…

Sunday…RACE DAY!!!-4AM wake up call. This is NOT sleeping in. This is the middle of the night. I was pretty excited to get up and didn’t even care I was tired. I made coffee, made my pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and a banana, and ate at a leisurely pace. I had everything laid out that I needed and went through the pile: sunscreen, body glide, deodorant, headband, running panties, sports bra, running dress, watch, headband, socks, shoes, number, timing chip, long sleeved shirt, arm sweat band, iPhone arm band headphones, chapstick, balloon, electrolyte fruit snacks, gum. Out the door I headed, and began my 1.5 mile walk to the start. It was cold! It was 48 degrees, and I was glad I had Christy’s long sleeved shirt! I walked slowly, and it was a nice pre-race warm up. Since I was in corral 5 (out of 42), I had further to walk…nearly to the start line, which was great! They start you in corrals based on your estimated finish time you enter when you register. I put 3:35.00 although my goal was 3:45.00 (this qualified me for Boston), but I liked being close to the start and running with the “fast” runners. The lines for the porta-potties were horrendous and I was glad I peed twice before leaving the hotel. But, as it got closer to start time (6:15 AM), I thought it would be wise to pee since I was going to be running for nearly 4 hours. When I came to this realization, there was no way I was going to make it through a line. I had to squat. So, I found some bushes, but couldn’t really go too far into the bushes for fear of popping my balloon, so I hid what I could and peed…quite a bit, I might add. And…since I didn’t have any toilet paper, I used Christy’s shirt, and tossed it before I headed to the start to find my 3:40.00 pace runner. My goal time was 3:45.00, and since this was my first full marathon, I needed someone more experienced to set the pace for me. They didn’t have a 3:45.00 pace runner, however. There was 3:40.00 and 3:50.00, so I opted to run with the 3:40.00, and I am so glad I did.

I introduced myself to him when I found him, Jay, and told him it was my first marathon. He wished me luck, and then we, the family of 3:40.00 runners, were off. We were a family. There was Jay, the main pace runner, and his followers running behind him and beside him. There were probably 20 of us…maybe more, and the majority of us stayed with him most of the race.

The race is a blur. It seems like a dream. I only remember bits and pieces. I remember running downtown and nearing mile 5. I was supposed to pay attention at mile 5 because that is where my sister would be watching. I saw Petco Park, turned the corner, hit mile 5 and there was my sister! I saw her immediately! It was awesome. That was a highlight of the race.

The part I liked the least is when we were running on the freeway. I hated it. It was around mile 10, and it was boring and the surface wasn’t fun to run on. This was the only time the 3:40 family pulled in front of me a bit. I panicked. We weren’t even half way. I noticed a woman running in front of me, who was part of the 3:30 group. Her 3:30 bib was pinned vertically with the top at the waist of her shorts and the bottom part near her crotch area, so it was covering her butt. Under the number was a visible brown spot. The poor woman had pooped her pants. Yikes.

After the miserable freeway portion was over, we came to a small town filled with cheering spectators. This definitely helped boost my spirits, and I regained a spring in my step. At the halfway point, I started to feel REALLY good. I had decided early on to take water and Gatorade at every single stop, starting with the first one at mile 3 (I think?). I never take water this early on, but I wanted to be proactive and ensure I stayed hydrated. I would be running for a LONG time, and it was going to get warm. I also started eating my snacks pretty early on. At about mile 8, I felt what I thought were hunger pangs. I didn’t take any time to question whether they actually were; I ate. And I fed myself a couple of snacks every few miles or so after that. When they were gone, I grabbed two GUs, and put them in my pocket. I never used them. After about mile 20, my focus was on staying hydrated, and I didn’t want to mess with eating since I had no hunger whatsoever.

Around mile 15, I felt a slight twinge in my right IT band. I altered the way I ran, and it never got worse, fortunately.  The next few miles were a blur. I remember passing mile 20 and telling myself. This is it! This is the hardest part. I had never run more than 20 miles, so I had no idea how my body was going to hold up. My body started hurting around mile 22, and got progressively worse, but the more it hurt, the harder I pushed. If I could maintain the current pace, I would qualify for Boston no problem. To qualify for Boston, I needed to maintain an 8:30 mile, and I was running around an 8:18. I had it in the bag, and I felt pretty dang good, considering. I even think I had a smile on my face!

At mile 23, I started thinking I would see my dad and sister any time. They told me they would run the last few miles with me, and right about then I could have used them. It was HOT, but I trucked along, maintaining a consistent pace, and even pulling ahead of my pace runner for a bit. I actually got emotional here, too. I thought, “I am going to do it! I am going to finish this marathon. And not only am I going to finish it, but I am going to qualify for Boston!” My eyes filled with tears, and soon after, I felt my chest tighten. I shook off the tears and got back to concentrating, and the tightness went away. At mile 24, an excruciating pain developed on the outside of my left foot. It got progressively worse. It felt broken, and it hurt really, really bad. I had visions of my foot giving out and my not finishing, and this made me push even harder. I told myself, “NO WAY!! Just run!! You can baby it AFTER you finish!” And, run I did. I ran hard, and I ran fast, and then at mile 25…right at the sign, I spotted my dad and Annie. Oh, wow. I got teary eyed again, as my dad fell into step next to me and my sister ran while she took pictures. My sister grabbed three waters for me at the last water station, and I eyed the finish in the distance. At mile 26, a woman collapsed right in front of me. As she tried to get up, she collapsed again, fell backwards, and hit her head on the concrete. I was definitely affected by this. She had run 26 miles. .2 to go, and her body just shut down. She had no control over it, and I was very sad for her. I was thankful MY body hadn’t shut down, and I prayed I could make the last .2 miles. I did. I crossed the finish line at 3:38.49. More than 6 minutes faster than my goal time, and feeling much better than I thought I would be feeling. My family greeted me with open arms, flowers and smiles. They congratulated me and told me I looked great! J I felt great, actually. I drank water and Gatorade, tried to eat a banana but it didn’t taste good. I was doing great until I started to get cold, and I needed to stretch, so I planted myself on the ground and didn’t want to get up. It was warm down there, and my feet HURT!

I was informed I would have to walk 1.5 miles to catch the trolley. This information did not make me very happy. I walked and walked until I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to sit. So, I sat right there on the ground. Someone going by on a rickshaw saw me and took pity on me. They gave up their seats for me. THANK YOU!!!

On the trolley we talked to a racer who had run 19 marathons…and never qualified for Boston. I felt warm and fuzzy inside and extremely proud. I had friggin qualified for Boston! The greatest marathon ever known and I was going to run it in April. Wow.

The trolley let us out by our hotels and I had to say goodbye to mom and dad: they had a flight home that afternoon. As soon as I got to my room, I sat in an Epsom salt bath and became extremely relaxed. Then, Annie took me to In-N-Out for my post-race meal, and my first visit, too. It was great.

We then drove to La Jolla and sat on the rooftop deck at George’s and had a celebratory mimosa…I hadn’t drank in 3 months, and it was tasty. I had earned it!! Next came a not-so-fun part. Sitting in the car for 2 hours for the drive back to LA. I was tired, and my legs were starting to get pretty sore. We made it back to Hermosa just in time for my massage, which was amazing. Unfortunately, I only got 60 minutes, although I had told them I wanted 90 minutes. L Oh well, it was great, nonetheless. The massage therapist told me my legs felt surprisingly loose for someone who had just run a marathon, and had been training since January. I told her I have been consistently: going to yoga, going to the chiropractor, getting massage, reiki, and acupuncture. She commended me, and told me that most people don’t take care of themselves like I do. I had to! My body was demanding it, and for the first time EVER, I really, truly listened to it and gave it what it wanted, and because of this, it rewarded me.

After my massage, we went to dinner at MB Post in Manhattan Beach. By this point, I could barely walk. My feet were a mess! But, I did enjoy dinner very much. Frozen yogurt after dinner and then I passed out. I was so, so, so tired.

Monday-Slept in a little bit. Not nearly as much as I thought I would, but I felt rested, so I got up. Ouch. My feet REALLY hurt. It’s difficult to describe the pain, but it felt similar to a sprained ankle especially the feeling of the blood rushing to them after having been lying down all night. My legs were surprisingly okay…and my knees/IT bands, too. They were sore, and I could tell I ran some miles, but nothing compared to what I thought they would be. My feet took all the beating. It was dumb. I wanted to be tough and act as if the marathon was no big deal, but my poor feet really hurt. This made going about my day difficult. I would normally walk down to Starbucks to get some coffee, but I could barely walk two steps in front of me! Ugh. It was still a little cloudy outside, so I filled a bucket with ice, put my feet in for as long as I could stand it, and uploaded my pictures. I thought about what I had to do before heading to the airport: pack, shower, get dressed, eat, beach time, and it all seemed daunting when you’re crippled. But, after taking some pain medication, I was finally able to stand (literally) being on my feet. I packed, showered, got dressed and headed…very slowly to the beach. Two of my girlfriends came down and met me, and we relaxed and chatted for a couple of hours before going to The Spot for lunch. It was exactly what I was craving: healthy vegetarian food! After consuming thousands and thousands of calories for the past week or so, I wanted something light and healthy, and The Spot hit “the spot.” Ha! After lunch, I said goodbye to my friend, Terri, and my friend, Kim, drove me to the airport.

I was sad to leave California, but not overly sad. It had been a perfect trip in every way, and I thank every person I spent time with on my trip. Every single one of them played a huge part in how incredible my 10 days in California were. Something amazing happened while I was down there that I just really can’t describe with words. I feel amazing and lucky and happy and loved. I continue to work hard and see amazing results and it feels so incredibly good. My trip to California was the beginning of another chapter in my life, and I am eager to see what comes next. I can do anything I want, and I actually believe this for the first time in my life. 🙂

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