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!

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?

Food Friday: Discretion

I know … what, not Fit Friday?! Well, I felt like I needed to change it up a bit for at least a couple weeks. So my plan is to post on some of my favorite places to eat on the Central Coast. It took me at least 3 years to realize that there were restaurants that I loved in Santa Cruz… to the point that I miss some of them when I’m in So Cal visiting family. This might not sound very exciting to you but trust me, I dream of food from home and so to have the reverse is impressive. Plus I feel like I’m always telling people that yes, there are delicious places to eat & drink here…so why not share?

So I’ll start with a new/old fave (and if you have been following my instagram, it will be no surprise): Discretion Brewery. Even though it is a bit hidden off of 41st Ave., it’s always busy. When it opened a year ago it served food from Main St. Garden Cafe. I was a big fan of their fish bites and I know many were huge fans of the chili and cornbread. I’m not sure what happened, but that ended sometime earlier this year. For a while, they had guest food show up. The hubs and I liked when the Truck Stop showed up (miss my Sunday morning breakfasts from there when we were close to the Sunday Farmer’s Market). Anyway, then it was announced that the chef from Soif (another fave eatery in Santa Cruz … look you’re already getting so much good food info!) would be coming to Discretion! What! Awesome-sauce!

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On Wednesday, after our group run for National Running Day, SCE team members headed over for a beer at Discretion. And we were surprised to find that the new food was debuting at Discretion! Of course, we had to try. I had the Caesar salad (great fresh cheese and lettuce, deliciously seasoned croutons, and not-to-heavy dressing – so good!), but others tried the mussels, the peach and cherry salad, and the chicken and waffles.

Caesar Salad with a pint of Song of Your Heart, yum!

Caesar Salad with a pint of Song of Your Heart, yum!

I love when a brewery opens a restaurant. This one is great because while there is a good selection, the menu is small. I always feel like a smaller menu equals better quality food. And based on the experience we had on Wednesday this was definitely true! It also looks like this will be a changing menu, as the menu has a date with it too… I like that too! Check out what they offer HERE.

And because I haven’t stated yet, yes the beer is really good! My favorite is the Song in Your Heart Brown Ale. We recently also tried the 4th Conversation, a Belgium Blonde. Very tasty.

Have you been to Discretion yet? What’s your favorite thing about it?

 

SCE Takes on the Capitola Half Marathon & Relay

About a week and a half ago, I ran in the Surfer’s Path Marathon/Capitola Half Marathon race. This was my third year in a row running it and my second year running the relay portion of the half marathon (2012 half & 2013 relay). I had initially not planned to run it, but my running team, Santa Cruz Endurance, was paying the entry fee for four relay teams (one women’s, one men’s, and two mixed teams). I entered my information and thought maybe I’d be a part of a mixed team, as I definitely not the fastest runner in my team. When the teams came out, I found out I was in the women’s team paired with my good friend (and super speedy) Leslie. Challenge accepted.

The race weekend was beautiful. The day before the race, Elise (who had been in town all week visiting) and I headed down to the Expo. The race’s expo is a perfect one in my opinion. It’s the Capitola coast, includes an easy race bib & shirt pick up, and a handful of local companies’ tents. Alisyn and I were hosting a tweet up. While it ended up being just the three of us, we had a blast. (Next time, we need a sign and some fun giveaways – and maybe not compete with the awesome beach weather). After the tweet up, Elise and I headed over to the SCE tent. Our team was hosting a raffle to win a free surfboard. We were neighbors with our sponsors Santa Cruz Core and Santa Cruz Running Company. (If you are in the Central Coast area and looking for a team, SCE is an awesome one – our sponsors hook us up with great deals, Epicenter is another sponsor). I had originally planned to spend just an hour or so at the expo but ended up spending the afternoon. Fun company and beautiful weather was much more appealing than the stack of essays I had at home to grade.

Tweeting at the Tweet Up

Tweeting at the Tweet Up

SCE Tent at the Expo (photo credit: SCE Instagram)

SCE Tent at the Expo (photo credit: SCE Instagram)

The raffled off surfboard modeled by Charmin's mini-me & myself

The raffled off surfboard modeled by Charmin’s mini-me & myself

For race day, I had specific instructions from the Coach. Since I still needed to get in my long run, the race was going to be incorporated into my 15 miles. I had a 2 mile warm up with some strides. Then the race (my portion was a 10k) to be run at my current  tempo pace (7:05-7:15) and then run the remaining miles to get in 15. My plan was to run the second half the half marathon with some friends who were fun running the race – perfect.

I jogged an easy mile and then met back up with Elise and Hillary to jog down to the start line. (I love races that start a mile from where I live!) I ended up only running 2 strides instead of 4 but I felt fine. Then I found all my SCE teammates. In addition to the four teams, SCE had 6 runners in the half marathon. (Spoiler: three of those runners scored major PRs! Woot!) Before we knew it, the race was about to start and we separated into our various zones.

Race start (photo credit: Laura or Bob)

Race start (photo credit: Laura or Bob)

Laura, our consummate phototog

Laura, our consummate phototog

My plan was to run the first two miles conservatively – 7:15-7:20 pace (there is a good climb right after the first mile) and then pick up the pace for the last 4.2 miles for a nice negative split. My goal was to average a 7:05 pace, which would have been a PR in the 10k distance. Well, you know how it goes… I started the first mile way too fast: 6:52. Whoops. The climb out of the first mile sobered that pace a bit. I ran the next mile around Jeremy, who was running the half. It was fun to hang with him for a bit. Miles 2 & 3: 7:16 (much better!), 7:09. Despite some stomach issues pre race, during the race I was feeling really good. This course is basically the Wharf to Wharf course and a route I have run hundreds of times. I know each climb and each turn really well. I think that this meant that after the first mile, I ran a very smart race. I knew I just had to hold on until about 5.8 miles because the final .4 miles was all downhill. Miles 4-6: 7:04, 7:07, 7:03. I ran the final .2 I ran at a 5:53 pace. And that was good enough for a 10k PR (yes, I realize this isn’t a real 10k race but I’ll take it!): 44:13 official (44:05 by my watch, not sure why there is such a big gap).That’s a 7:05 pace (and with my watch running the course a little long, a 7:02 by Garmin). I came across the line to hand off to Leslie and yelled “I PRed for you!” Ha :) And off she went.

Keeping up with Jeremy on the hill out of Twin Lakes Beach (photo cred: Bob)

Keeping up with Jeremy on the hill out of Twin Lakes Beach (photo cred: Bob)

Coming into Opal Cliffs (Photo cred: Rebecca)

Coming into Opal Cliffs (Photo cred: Rebecca)

In what seemed like less than a minute, three of the SCE half marathoners (Elise, Gaylia, & Charmin) came through and I had to scream at them. There was some mixture of sharing my PR excitement with knowing that Elise was on route to score a massive PR. I was just super excited! Then came my two teammates fun running the half. I joined them to run the remaining 6.7 miles I had to get 15 miles. I was having way too much fun with them (see photos) and we stopped for water and bathroom breaks. We picked up Benoit with a few miles to spare (he was also running back from running the first leg of the relay). As we approached the final half mile of the race, I saw my teammate Leslie and Elise (who was in post PR glow – I’ll let her share her awesome PR story). And we all finished up our runs together.

Having WAY too much fun on my fun run back to the finish (photo cred: Bob)

Having WAY too much fun on my fun run back to the finish (photo cred: Bob)

We're done running, thank you :)

We’re done running, thank you :)

The team hung out for the awards and we dominated the podium. First Women’s Relay Team: Leslie & I. First Men’s Relay Team: SCE Benoit & Casey. First & Second Mixed Relay Teams: SCE Jenn W. & Dan V; Selena & Dan M. Gaylia, Elise, & Jeremy all took age group wins, as well as their own PRs. Charmin also took a nice AG win. So much fun! (In other awesome news, Alisyn was volunteer extraordinaire, Paulette ran the longest distance since January, and her Kevin PRed in the marathon – good day all around!)

SCE hanging on the beach

SCE hanging on the beach

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Winners!

And then, I had to drive Elise to the airport as she had to go back to DC, tear. It was a great weekend to share with her even if she had to leave at the end of it all.

Awesome team!

SCE Post Race Love

Awesome race, awesome team. 1st place finish! (I need Leslie as a relay partner more often!)

Awesome race, awesome team. 1st place finish! (I need Leslie as a relay partner more often!)