Wilder at Sunset

Yesterday I joined the SCE Tuesday evening Trail run for the first time since the marathon. Usually this is a loop through the Wilder hills, just shy of 7 miles. When I showed up at the starting spot, there was chatter of a longer route. Two of the guys are moving into their fall marathon training and wanted something closer to 8-9 miles. Cool. I had no real plans, so I was up to add on a mile or two. The run ended up being closer to 10 miles but included some new trails I hadn’t explored at Wilder yet (and connected some other ones that I did know). I took a couple of photos as we headed down and had to post them here! So without further adieu, pretty Wilder views.

 

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Sunset at Wilder – perfect way to end the day!

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SCE guys enjoy the views too

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Ok, time to finish up this run!

 

Fun Running by the Sea

One of the benefits of fun running (i.e. not training!) is that I can drop into events that would not be great races for me but are really fun. This was the case last week when I ran Race Thru the Redwoods and it was true for yesterday’s Run by the Sea 12k as well. For some, these events are ideal settings but I am just not super fast on trails (whether they include hills or not) and therefore they aren’t great events for me to test out speed training or look for a PR (although since I’ve never run a 12k before it’s an automatic PR ;) ). But they are great for going out and having a great time while supporting a good cause and being a part of the running community. And sometimes, you surprise yourself and walk away with a spot in the top three in your age group too!

Just about to start

Just about to start (photo cred: SCRC)

Yesterday was the second annual running of the Run by the Sea. Last year, I couldn’t run it because it was the same day as the Santa Rosa Marathon but this year I had no conflicts. The race wants to raise both awareness and funds for the Santa Cruz Rail Trail project. It follows the trails through Wilder State Park, including a little off-road adventure down to the beach (another reason I wasn’t interesting in “racing” this one). My morning started with a few texts from family members checking to see if we were ok from the earthquake… so then I had to go figure out what earthquake they were talking about since I slept right through it. (We are about 2 hours from the epicenter but some did feel the quake here, including the hubs and one of our pups). Then, of course, I spent a bunch of time reading about the early reports of Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake and trying to determine if my friends running SRM would be ok (they were!). Then I just wanted to go back to sleep… forget the race (especially considering the several glasses of wine I drank the night before…) But somehow I still managed to head out.

In the pack, starting the race

In the pack, starting the race (photo cred: SCRC)

This was definitely not a “race” morning for me. Besides the wine the night before and the atypical wake up, I didn’t run any warm up or cool down miles and I didn’t wear my normal racing singlet. This, I wanted to remember, was just fun miles to support a good cause. I found my teammates Sam, Josh, and John right before the start. I positioned myself a few people deep and started out on the trails. I encouraged a gal to pass me since she clearly was in race mode (she came in 3rd overall) and happily ran toward the water. I took it easy climbing down the rocks and across the sand. I happily took the volunteer’s hand to help over the rocks on the way back up to the trail. At the first water station, a volunteer cheered her friend behind me – telling her to pass me. Fine by me. I let her go and continued toward the turn around. There I saw the first woman (who went on to win) and Sam looking strong. I counted the women and realized I was 6th woman. Cool, I thought, it would be fun to end up in the top 10 women but still no pressure.

Wilder views are the best!

Wilder views are the best! (photo cred: SCRC)

I felt really good after the turn around and unintentionally picked up a little speed but nothing too crazy. I passed the 5th woman and was back at the beach. I saw Jason from Santa Cruz Running Company, SCE’s sponsor and said hello. Then I saw the gal who has passed me back at the water station. She was a few minutes ahead of me and I didn’t expect to catch her, but I felt good and caught up to her. There was less than a mile left, so I just cruised along to the finish line. I finished with an official time 58:27, a 7:51 pace. Good enough for 3rd in my age group, 4th woman, and 16th overall. Not too shabby. All age group winners got chocolate (nice!) and a medal.

I promise I wasn't running a race by myself!

I promise I wasn’t running a race by myself! (photo cred: SCRC)

This was a really nice, low-key event. If you’re in Santa Cruz during August next year, I definitely recommend it. While you will do a little climbing for the beach portion, the Wilder bluffs are on of the best running spots around. And this race, unlike other races, is ran entirely on them. For those into swag, the shirt is nice – I wouldn’t run in it but it will be good for the gym. There are two water stations and helpful volunteers. There is both a 4k and a 12k (instant PRs for uncommon distances) and this year, just over 150 runners.

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam, and me

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam (2nd woman), and me (photo cred: Sarah)

Food Friday: Pono

Before the hubs and I bought our house, we lived on the east side of Santa Cruz near Aloha Island Grille. It was super dangerous because it was a few minutes away (walking) and we could smell the food cooking all day. Whenever we didn’t feel like cooking, we ate Aloha. The menu was limited, but the mahi mahi was always good and it was the only place that had macaroni salad I liked. We were sad to leave it behind when we moved… but then we found we were just as close to another delicious Hawaiian spot in Santa Cruz: Pono Hawaiian Grill.

Photo cred: Pono Website

Photo cred: Pono Website

I first head about Pono when I was teaching at the Scotts Valley campus. I mentioned that I liked Aloha our administrator and she said I had to try Pono. She also told me that it was owned by the same awesome people who run Aloha! And when we finally checked out Pono – same delicious mac salad and a WAY bigger selection. When I went to Aloha I usually ate mahi mahi with rice and mac. But at Pono I had that option, plus fresh poke bowls, and so much more! The food is always tasty and fast. The prices are reasonable (although Poke varies based on the availability of fish) and there is something for the hubs and me.

So much goodness! Photo cred: Pono FB

So much goodness! Photo cred: Pono FB

Have you had Poke before? It’s a typically a raw salad served as an appetizer in Hawaii. It’s commonly made with sushi grade ahi tuna. But at Pono, you can get it in a bowl with rice and chose from whatever fish is fresh. I usually a salmon poke bowl with avocado – so good! But recently I had scallops with spicy sauce. It was a nice little kick to my favorite. And of course, I have to order a side of mac salad (with a lot of siracha!).

Poke deliciousness! Photo cred: Pono FB

Poke deliciousness! Photo cred: Pono FB

The restaurant is very low key and casual. It’s the type of restaurant where you walk up to order and they bring you your food. But they almost always have live music – a variety of bands and musicians play. They also share the space with Reef Bar, so you can get your drink on while you’re there too. But most of the time, the hubs and I just get our food to go. Plus where else can you get some good Guava juice… or even better (but really worse for you) POG from Hawaiian Sun? ;)

So if you’re the only Santa Cruzian who hasn’t tried Pono, better get on it! Aloha!

A Little Trail Race for the End of Summer

A couple months back, a grad friend of mine, Dustin, asked me about local trail races. I recommended a couple that I had run, including Race Thru the Redwoods. About a month ago, he asked if I was going to run it and I said, maybe, depends on how I feel post marathon. Well, about a week or so after the marathon, I was thinking about the race and decided it would be fun to run it. I knew it had a good climb in the middle and I am not comfortable running terribly fast on trails, so I knew I would not go out and do something dumb like try to race super fast three weeks after SFM. So along with my teammate and good friend, Leslie, decided to join my grad buddy and just fun run the Redwoods race. (Plus it was only $30 and goes toward the local community in Felton.)

The sign is more intimidating than the race

The sign is more intimidating than the race

Saturday, the day before the race, we joined Elise and Sejin for a speedy long run and then, Leslie and I headed up to UCSC to cheer for the SCE men who were racing in the kick off race for the cross country season. We had thought about running it too, but after seeing the speedy guys we were glad to have decided on the Redwoods instead!

SCE Men Represent

SCE Men Represent

Sunday morning, we all met at my house and headed up to the entrance to Henry Cowell State Park. I’ve had some parking problems at this race before but this year it was really easy: close to the start and free. We grabbed our bibs and ran into Bob and Jaime, who were cheering, and Jose and Dan, fellow SCE teammates who were also running. After a easy warm up mile, with some cheering for the kids race, we hopped into the pack to start the race. Race Thru the Redwoods (yes they use “thru” rather than “through” and yes, it drives me bonkers) is pretty small, capped at 700 runners, and is a self-seeded start. The start came quickly (no countdown or anything) and we were off.

Low key start

Low key start

Chasing Leslie

Chasing Leslie

The first mile is all on road through the parking area and entrance to the park; I’m pretty sure it is just to add a mile and get the course to the full 10k distance. Then we are on to the trails, some of which is pretty loose sand, and with our drought, very dusty. It was fun running with Leslie for the first mile or so, but then we settled into our comfortable paces and made our way through the trails and up the big climb that begins about half way through mile 2 and into mile 3. It’s pretty steep and even though I feel good on hills, I had to hike a portion on it (partially due to forgetting to my inhaler before the race). As I was coming to the top of the climb, a couple of the volunteers told me I was the 2nd or 3rd woman. I knew there was a woman ahead of Leslie, so I knew that would mean I was the 3rd woman. Pretty cool! (But not accurate…)

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Where are the rest of the runners?

Where are the rest of the runners?

After the turn around, I saw there was one woman not that far behind me. Even though I was really running this as a fun run, I liked the idea of finishing 3rd, so I did my best to keep ahead of her. About three-quarters of a mile from the finish (give or take), I saw Jaime, Bob, and Miriam cheering. I gave them a smile and kept on pushing through the trails. Just as I came up to the finish, the woman behind me had caught up. I tried to give it a good kick at the end but she had more left than I did and scooted past me. But I quickly learned that Leslie had finished third, meaning I finished fifth. And as Leslie reminded me, I did just run a marathon, so I was pretty happy with a 5th place. My finish time was 48:14, about 4 minutes faster than when I ran the race last in 2012

2nd place AG

2nd place AG

We hung around for some of the raffle and the age group awards, where we all did really well. Leslie placed 1st, Dan placed 2nd, Dustin placed 3rd, and I took 2nd in our respective age groups. It ended up being a great morning and our only complaint was a lack of race day registration and no coffee at the finish! 

Do you trail run? What’s your favorite trail race?

Food Friday: Assembly

It’s fitting that I’m not posting my Food Friday entry nearly 11am (PST) as that is brunch time and that’s the meal I last had at this week’s choice: Assembly (located right in the middle of downtown Santa Cruz). It’s no surprise that Assembly is popping up on the blog, especially since I’ve been there four times in the past couple weeks… seriously, I’ve been a lot. But this is a caveat to this recommendation, the food is delicious but the service is…well… an experience.

From Assembly FB

From Assembly FB

Assembly is the newest addition to a list of delicious spots started by The Penny Ice Creamery and followed by The Picnic Basket. And my love for the Penny is unrivaled. All of the these spots all follow in the farm-to-table movement, supporting l local farms and serving what is in season. And let’s be real, they are all a little pricey. But all serve Penny ice cream! (Anytime I have a friend come to visit me in Santa Cruz, I try really hard to make sure they get to taste a yummy Penny creation!)

Enjoyed this with corn chowder with the hubs: Seared Padrón peppers with heirloom tomatoes, avocado crème fraîche, pickled corn and cotija cheese. (photo from Assembly FB)

Had this salad with corn chowder for dinner with the hubs last week: Seared Padrón peppers with heirloom tomatoes, avocado crème fraîche, pickled corn and cotija cheese. Yum! (photo from Assembly FB)

I’ve been to Assembly several times for dinner, once for lunch, and once for brunch. Each time the food has been delicious and they always have options for me (I only eat fish when it comes to meat). I know they will also make accommodations for dairy and gluten intolerant diners. (Although they seem to be limited in those options, but still good to know that you can ask). My favorite experience at Assembly was at lunch. A friend from over the hill (Santa Cruz speak for anyone who has to drive over Highway 17 to come into town) joined me, we sat on the patio, and the service was quick and friendly. I enjoyed a chickpea bowl (a meal I’ve had twice, once with the egg and once without… both delicious!). Brunch was good, but the mimosas are expensive and I really just want hashbrowns at breakfast. I suppose they are too lowbrow for farm-to-table folks. ;) And the food I’ve had at dinner has always been delicious (if they have salmon on the menu, order it! So good!).

Girls night out at Assembly

Girls night out at Assembly

But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the service at Assembly does not equate its delicious food. Unfortunately, I’ve often had the experience of mediocre service in Santa Cruz. We Central Coast citizens need to demand better service! Especially when we are paying the prices at places such as Assembly. Don’t get me wrong, I think the quality of the food merits its cost, but I expect when paying a bit more to have prompt and friendly service. Thus far, I have never experienced any rudeness or lack of friendliness (although I know some have) but it does seem that quick and attentive service is not a priority. Assembly has only been around for a few months, so I am hopeful that it will improve. I think having an additional server on staff each night would help a great deal as they always seem stretched a bit thin. But if you order a glass of wine or beer, it makes the wait that much more pleasant.

Love the ambiance of Assembly (from their FB)

Love the ambiance of Assembly (from their FB)

Have you been to Assembly yet? What are your thoughts?