Santa Barbara Veterans Day Half Marathon

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This was my second year running the Santa Barbara Veterans Day Half Marathon. It’s my hometown race, so I’ll likely try to run it every year I’m able. Last year when I wrote my recap, I had just started blogging and it was my second half marathon ever. I ended up expending all my energy right before the biggest hill of the course at mile 10 or so. I crashed while running up the hill (I didn’t allow myself to stop, but people were walking past me faster than I was shuffling), and the last few miles were painful. I also didn’t realize we had to run a lap around the track at Santa Barbara City College right at the end, and that hurt too. This year, I was hyper-aware of saving energy for the hill, and it paid off. I was also treating this race as just a long run, since I didn’t feel super prepared. But, let me start at the expo.

Shake-out run on the beach.

Shake-out run on the beach two days before the race.

Before

I have gotten this exact sandwich for lunch the day before two half marathons and they both went well, I think I should stick with it.

I have gotten this exact sandwich for lunch the day before two half marathons and they both went well, I think I should stick with it.

Santa Barbara sure is pretty.

Santa Barbara sure is pretty.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t care too much about expos. I enjoy them I guess, but it doesn’t matter to me if they are big or small; I usually just walk around a bit and get my number and shirt and leave. I hate to say anything negative, but I haven’t had the best luck with volunteers at the SB Expo. Last year was not quite as bad, but this year the lady handing out the shirts was pretty rude. The shirts are a baby blue, and made of non-tech material. I ordered a women’s medium, and there is no way I can squeeze into it. Last year the shirts ran a size small also, but they were aware of it and gave everyone a size up. This year I asked the lady to switch out my shirt and she basically just coldly said “No.” I’m sure she had a lot of people asking her the same question and maybe that’s why she was short with me, but I don’t think it would have hurt to smile or something. Anyway, a lot of people have been complaining on the race Facebook page about the shirts, so hopefully they’ll get some different ones next year. People were also upset because the medals were held up in a port in Long Beach and didn’t arrive on time, so they’ll be sent out in the mail at some point. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work goes into putting on a race, so I’m not about to go say something nasty on the Facebook page, but these were just a couple unfortunate things.

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At the expo, I ended up buying a new handheld water bottle (I grew to hate my other one) and some Body Glide from the SB Running Store stand. I bought the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus for $25 and even though it seemed a little pricey, I’m really glad I got it. I used it during the race for the first time, and it was so much more comfortable to carry than my other one (the Nathan QuickDraw Plus). I also picked up a sample of lemon-lime Clif Shot Hydration Drink Mix and put it in my bottle to drink during the race. I don’t know why, but I always try new stuff during half marathons and luckily it’s always worked out for me. I will not do this during my first marathon, don’t worry.

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That evening, I met my friend Liz on the beach and we drank a beer and watched the sunset (at like 4:30pm). We then met Jeremy for a drink… I wasn’t planning on drinking any alcohol the night before the race especially since I hadn’t been sleeping well and was exhausted, but hey it worked out.

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Carb-loading, right?

My mom made fish and sweet potatoes and green beans for dinner, and then I went to bed early.

During

I didn’t sleep at all really, maybe a couple hours, and the 5am alarm was rough. I had a small bowl of oatmeal with half a banana and a cup of coffee, and Jeremy and I left my parents’ house at 6:30am so he could drop me off at the start. It’s a good thing we didn’t leave any later because they closed off the roads about five cars behind us. The race started at 7:15am and I arrived at about 6:55am. I used a porta-potty (there were no lines at the ones near where Jeremy dropped me off, but long lines at ones closer to the start), and headed to the starting line.

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There were waves but the chutes were so small that nobody could really squeeze in, so I just found a place near the back and waited. The weather was pretty warm and I didn’t need a sweatshirt or anything. I usually don’t bring my phone during races, but I wanted to listen to a podcast for the first half at least, so I stuffed it in the pocket of my handheld water bottle.

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The only picture I took during the race.

I’m not good at remembering specific miles, but I do know that I drank a good-sized cup of water at each aid station because of the heat, and I drank about half of my electrolyte drink I was carrying. I ate half a Clif Shot mocha gel at about mile 8 and threw the rest away (I don’t think I’ve ever been able to eat a whole one). I listened to the Serial podcast for the first nine miles or so, and that made it go by pretty fast. I didn’t feel too tired and I kept a steady pace. All the volunteers handing out water and Gatorade were really nice and that part of it seemed a lot more organized than last year. During the last mile before the big hill, I put my music on and tried really hard to start building up energy. I was following a girl (not too closely) that was dancing and singing along to her headphone music, which helped. As soon as the hill started, Eminem’s “Survival” came on and it was the absolute perfect song to hear at that moment. The lyrics, as cheesy as they are, helped me so much and I felt really strong and started passing people left and right.

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I’m embarrassed these lyrics affected me so much, but I’ll take motivation where I can get it!

I ended up walking for about 15 seconds to catch my breath near the top (the hill is loooong) but then I knew the last two and a half miles or so were basically downhill to the finish. I pushed those last few miles, and got a nice burst of energy when I saw Jeremy near the finish line. The finish was so much better than last year; spectators could line the course and we didn’t have to run a lap on the track. Official finish time: 2:09:36. I didn’t have a specific time goal for this race, but I was hoping to finish under 2:10. Last year my time was 2:04:22 so I haven’t lost too much fitness thankfully.

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After

After the race, I went to put my feet in the ocean and asked a lady to take a picture of me. I ended up getting hit by a wave right as she was taking it. Whoops. The water was pretty cold and it felt SO GOOD.

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Pretty much the only thing I can stomach after a race is something salty, so I found some fries from Georgia’s Smokehouse food truck immediately.

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McConnell’s has the best ice cream ever, I’m sad I didn’t feel like eating any.

Jeremy and I drove back to LA that afternoon, and I celebrated my race by eating chips and salsa and wine. I used The Stick to roll out my muscles and iced my knees.

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And then we got breakfast burritos the next morning from this cute little place in Atwater Village that we heard about from an Anthony Bourdain episode.

IMG_0754 The next half marathon I’m registered for is the San Diego Half on March 8th, which will be my third year running it. Will I finally break two hours there?! I sure hope so. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on building a strong base to start marathon training in January, and losing the weight I gained in Europe (oops). Hopefully the SB Half medal comes in the mail soon!

For Real This Time

Before Jeremy and I left for Europe, I decided I wanted to run my first full marathon abroad while my parents were visiting, and chose the Cork City Marathon in June. It was not a fully thought through decision, and no one had even planned transportation to get to Ireland. Shortly after, our plans fell through and we all decided to go to Italy instead. For about two weeks, I thought I was starting marathon training. In that time, I realized that training for my first full marathon while traveling would be really hard, and not all that realistic. So, technically I’ve been registered for a marathon before. But this time, it’s for real.

!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!

 

A few days ago, I registered for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon on May 24th. I’d been wanting the Oakland Running Festival Marathon in March to be my first full for a while, but it just seemed too soon and I didn’t really feel comfortable with it. I researched different marathons for weeks, and finally decided on this one. The course starts downtown Ojai, and ends along the ocean in Ventura. It’s close to Santa Barbara so my parents can come, and it’s a holiday weekend so I’ll have an extra day to recover. It’s a pretty small field, but I’m hoping that won’t affect me too much. My next marathon will have to be a big one with lots of crowds to see the difference. I’m working on building a base to start training in January, and I’m pretty excited. The Ojai mountains are beautiful, and it should be a really nice course. It’s also touted as “lightning fast” because of the downhill elevation, but I doubt I’ll be running anywhere near lightning speeds.

I was worried about too much downhill at first, but I read every review of the race I could find and the consensus was that it's a gentle slope that you hardly notice.

I was worried about too much downhill at first, but I read every review of the race I could find and the consensus was that it’s a gentle slope and you hardly notice.

In the meantime, I have the Santa Barbara Half Marathon on Saturday, which I’m not really prepared for. I feel like I’ve said that for my last couple halfs, and I hate it! But with traveling and moving and all that, I’ve been trying to get back into a good running groove. I ran ten miles last weekend, and I did two out-and-backs from the house we’re staying in currently. I thought it might be boring to do this, but it actually made it go by faster because I could think about it in 2.5-mile increments. I also listened to the Serial podcast, which made it go by super fast. I highly recommend it if you want something to get hooked on.

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Found some leftover Halloween candy on the ground. I didn’t eat it.

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Tried these for the first time. It’s kind of fun eating jellybeans while running, although they stuck to the inside of my shorts pocket because of how sweaty I was… gross.

The Wednesday before Halloween, November Project was having a Not-So-Casual Wednesday workout, and I wore a dress shirt and tie. It got hot really fast.

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The only time I dressed up this year for Halloween. I felt like a server at Olive Garden.

The whole gang. I love being at the Hollywood Bowl for sunrise!

The whole gang. I love being at the Hollywood Bowl for sunrise!

Walking around and looking at the neighborhood's Halloween decorations.

Walking around and looking at the neighborhood’s Halloween decorations.

In other news, I’ve had a horrible stiff neck this week, and it’s been really painful especially at night.

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My stiff neck home remedies.

These feel nice and warm, but didn't seem to do much in the way of relieving pain.

These feel nice and warm, but didn’t seem to do much in the way of relieving pain.

My mom visited me here in LA and we went to lunch at Petit Trois – SO GOOD.

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There’s only counter seating, which I love.

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Ham and butter sandwich for me, Croque Monsieur for my mom.

Jeremy and I visited the nearby Golden Road Brewery, and had some nice lunchtime drinks and food.

Jeremy and I visited the nearby Golden Road Brewery, and had some nice lunchtime drinks and food.

It rained one day last week! It never rains here (hence the terrible drought) so it was great. And caused a fire-like sunset.

It rained one day last week! It never rains here (hence the terrible drought) so it was great. And caused a fire-like sunset.

That’s about it… Jeremy and I are heading up to Santa Barbara this morning to spend a couple days there before the race on Saturday. Hopefully I’m able to finish the race and not crash and burn at mile 7… wish me luck!

Weekly Workouts

Last week was another pretty good week as far as workouts go. I’ve got the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon coming up in a couple weeks, which for a minute I thought maybe I wouldn’t run, but the last couple weeks have changed my mind. I still think it’s going to be a struggle, but I’ll just focus on finishing half marathon #6 and trying to enjoy it. I’m tired of going into these races with half-assed training behind me, so I’m looking forward to ramping up the consistent training and maybe sub-2 during half #7.

Monday – Rest. I ran 8 miles the Saturday before then hiked on Sunday, so I took Monday as a rest day.

Tuesday – Ran 4.5 miles, average pace 9:24 min/mile. I ran along the LA River bicycle path for the first time. The path runs for many miles, so I only saw a small portion of it, but it’s a nice option to have. I do prefer Griffith Park though since there are more runners and more shade and it’s not directly on the freeway. There’s actually a 10K taking place this weekend on the LA River Path, but it’s pretty pricey ($65) so I don’t know if I can swing it. It ends at a brewery though, which I’m all about, and it includes a pint glass and a beer. We’ll see. The money goes to a good cause – The LA River Corporation – and the course is flat so I think I could PR…

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Wednesday – Woke up early and drove to the Hollywood Bowl for November Project. We did thirty minutes of stadium stairs with some strength work sprinkled in. I love seeing the Hollywood Sign behind the stage during sunrise.

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November Project LAX

After NP I drove up to Santa Barbara to spend some time with my family. I took the family dog Pez on a nice long walk on the beach.

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Pez refuses to touch the water.

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Thursday – I woke up in time to get down to the beach for sunrise, and ran 4 miles at a 9:27 pace.

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When I got back to LA, Jeremy and I enjoyed a pumpkin beer, my first of the fall season.

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So good.

Friday – Rest. Jeremy and I drove down to San Diego to spend the weekend with my grandma.

Saturday – I got a late start but still wanted to get a long run in. I ended up running 9 miles at a 10:11 pace. It was 70 degrees and humid, and I was sweating like a crazy person. It was tough, and I made sure not to stop (I paused quickly to take one picture, but that was it). When I was running in Europe I stopped a lot to take pictures and find my way if I got lost. I’m trying to cut that out so I can get more accurate results, which I did on this run. It was a tough one, and made me a little nervous about the SB Half in a couple weeks, but hopefully I can build up my endurance some more in the next week or so, and race day adrenaline will take care of the rest. I had a Salted Caramel GU with me and tried to eat it around mile 6. It really grossed me out and still does when I think about it now, and was only able to get down maybe half of it. I really liked this flavor when it first came out but I think I just got sick of it. Or maybe it was a really old one and it went bad… who knows. I’ll stick to the mocha flavor with caffeine.

Running along the bay near Mission Beach.

Running along the bay near Mission Beach.

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That night we had dinner with my aunt, uncle and grandma in Del Mar.

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Sunday – Rest. Not ideal, but we got back to LA late afternoon and I decided to take it easy so I could have a good run today. I’m about to go on that run and it’s a little hot out there, so hopefully it’s not too difficult!

Back To It

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During one of our hikes in Griffith Park recently, with a tiny Hollywood Sign behind me.

Last week was the first week in a while where it felt like I was finally getting back on track. I had a pretty good week of workouts, and now I feel motivated and ready to get back in shape. I ran a 10K last Sunday, and felt pretty sore on Monday and Tuesday so I didn’t do much in the way of exercise (so, not the greatest start to the week). But Wednesday morning was November Project, which brought more soreness after, but it was a great full-body workout.

On Thursday morning, I ran a little over 4 miles at a 9:40 min/mile pace, and it felt pretty good.

Found a nice trail near where I live and I saw lots of other runners.

Found a nice trail that goes by this golf course near where I currently live and I saw lots of other runners.

Later that day, my friend Liz (the same one Jeremy and I just saw in Spain and New Orleans) was in town, so we spent the day eating tacos and ice cream.

Crazy good shrimp tacos and fish ceviche from a taco truck called Mariscos Jalisco.

Crazy good shrimp tacos and fish ceviche from a taco truck called Mariscos Jalisco.

Portland's ice cream shop Salt & Straw opened in LA recently. If you're ever in Portland or LA, you have to go.

Portland’s ice cream shop Salt & Straw opened in LA recently. If you’re ever in Portland or LA, you have to go.

Frog legs from a cute wine bar called Mignon downtown LA.

Frog legs from a cute wine bar called Mignon downtown LA.

Liz tours with a band and Jeremy and I went to her show that night and didn’t get home till about 2am, so a 5am wake up call for November Project didn’t happen. And thanks to my high maintenance sleeping habits, when I go to bed really late I usually don’t end up getting much sleep at all, so Friday was spent recovering from a sleepless night.

On Saturday morning, I drove across the city to park in Marina Del Rey to get a long run in. I’m registered for the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon on November 8th and I really want to do it, even though I won’t be in top shape (or close to it). I set out to do eight miles and ran to the Venice Beach Boardwalk and back. I’ve been stopping to take pictures too often on my runs lately, so I wanted to cut back on that. I only ended up stopping once to use a public restroom next to Muscle Beach (not recommended, lots of crazies) and then quickly twice to take pictures (and I didn’t stop my watch). I felt pretty good until mile six where I started fading, and realized I forgot to bring any fuel with me. But I finished strong, and I hope to do nine miles this weekend, which will hopefully prepare me a bit for the half.

Crossing the bridge over to Venice.

Crossing a pedestrian bridge over to Venice.

Venice Pier.

Venice Pier.

It was a long haul to the beach for my run, but it was totally worth it.

It was a long drive across the city to do my run by the beach, but it was totally worth it.

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On Sunday, Jeremy and I went hiking, which was the second time hiking since we moved to Los Angeles. We’re really near Griffith Park, which is a HUGE park with tons of trails. The Hollywood Sign is also located in the park, and you get nice views of downtown LA and the sign. The hike was four and a half miles and provided some really great views.

IMG_0393 IMG_0378 IMG_0370 IMG_0364 IMG_0358 IMG_0352All in all, it wasn’t the best week of training by any means, but you gotta start somewhere. Hopefully next week will be even better!

A 10K and My First November Project Workout

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I ran the Cancer Center 10k last weekend in Santa Barbara and it made me realize how much fitness I’ve lost recently. I actually did a pretty good job keeping in shape while we were traveling, and had an enjoyable half marathon in Ireland at the beginning of September. Since then though, I haven’t run that many times, and I got sick and didn’t do anything for a week. I was hoping the 10k would be one of those runs where you surprise yourself and have a great performance, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. The first mile of the course or so is downhill, and I got excited and went out way too fast. The 10k course is two 5k loops, and by the time I hit, oh I don’t know, mile 3? I was spent. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to finish strong and pass a few people in the last quarter-mile. IMG_2033

Half the reason I run this race - big breakfast buffet from the local Four Seasons Biltmore resort.

Half the reason I run this race – big breakfast buffet from the local Four Seasons Biltmore resort.

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There were pain au chocolats, croissants, mini quiches, sausages, bacon, bagels, frittatas, etc.

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Pretty excited to be wearing a different shirt to run in for the first time in seven months.

This is the third year in a row that I’ve run this race, and I like it because it’s a local, small race, and in 2012 it was my first ‘real’ race. Last year I set a 10k PR and came in fourth in my age group. This year I also came in fourth in my AG but I was a couple minutes slower.

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2012 finished in 60 minutes; 2013 finished in 56:07; and 2014 finished in 58:26. Nice chronological bib order though.

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This year’s splits: not pretty. I never run miles in the 8 minute zone, no wonder I crashed and burned quickly.

Anyway, it was a good wake-up call to get my butt back in shape if I want to start training for a marathon and break two hours in the half soon, which I was hoping to do this year but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I’m trying not to get too down on myself though and trying not to compare my performance to this time last year, but instead just keep in mind that it is a slow progression and I’ve got to stick with it.

November Project

Yesterday morning, I arrived at the Hollywood Bowl at 6:30am for my first November Project experience. I’ve heard a lot about it through other people’s blogs and finally set my alarm at 5:30am to make it there. And it was just as fun as everyone says it is. I’ve done a few group runs/classes before, and I’m pretty quiet and keep to myself since it always seems like people have their own little group that has been established. But as soon as I arrived at the Bowl, people were introducing themselves to me and giving me hugs, even though it was still dark out. Hugging is a big thing in November Project, and I didn’t mind one bit.

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The entire hour was really fun, we started with a group huddle and some warm ups, some zombie tag (where a few other people and I had to act like zombies and whoever we tagged had to do five burpees), some freeze tag (but instead of freezing, again more burpees), then we partnered up and one person ran stadium stairs while the other did a series of exercises like push-ups, wall sits, planks, burpees, etc. I got such a good workout, and am feeling it today. I haven’t strength trained in months, and I used to do bootcamp when I lived in Santa Barbara, so this seems like a good way to get some strength training in once a week at least. November Project also meets on Friday mornings at 6:15am, but it’s all the way at the Santa Monica Pier, which would take 35 minutes or so to get there, before finding parking. BUT I really want to do it (last week they ran in the sand then jumped in the ocean afterward), so I’m going to try to make the trek either tomorrow morning or next week. My friend Liz is in town today and we’re going to her show tonight (she tours with a band), so it depends on what time I go to sleep tonight.

From November Project LAX’s Facebook page:

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What happens when it’s somebody’s birthday.

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This guy got the Positivity Award yesterday, he is about to embark on a ten-month walk across the continent of Europe. Way to show me up, man.

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Group picture. I’m in front of the flying baby.

Off-topic question: blog friends, is it worth it to go self-hosted? I’m sure I know the answer, but I was curious what people think about it. I would also pay someone to migrate my stuff since I’m spending all hours applying for jobs and it hurts my brain to even think about doing it myself. Thanks for any advice!

ABC’s of Travel

I got this idea from a blog I follow – Unlocking Kiki (written by Kaelene, who is from the US but now lives in Iceland with her Icelandic boyfriend) – who got it from a blog called We Took the Road Less Traveled. I thought it would be a good way to start making sense of the past six months traveling Europe. Even though I blogged about most of it, it still kind of feels like a blur, and I want to start organizing all my pictures and memories, and I need a reminder course of everything Jeremy and I did.

ABCs of Travel

A) Age you went on your first international trip:

I’d have to ask my parents about this one, they started taking me and my brother to Europe when we were very young. Most of the time, we’d trade houses with a family in Europe, and since the internet didn’t really exist back then, we’d order a catalog where you could see tiny pictures of the outside of people’s houses and a little bit of information about them, then you’d call the ones that wanted to switch houses with someone in your region, and make plans to do the trade at a certain point. It is kind of crazy to think about now. Most of the time we wouldn’t meet the family we were trading houses with. I remember one in France where we had a big lake in the backyard and a bunch of goats, deer, and peacocks roaming around. I thank my parents for taking me on adventures every summer growing up, and instituting a strong desire and love of travel very early on.

Me and my dad hiking in Switzerland in 1993 when I was 8.

Me and my dad hiking in Switzerland in 1993 when I was 8.

B) Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:

This one’s easy. All the beers we had in Germany (especially Bavaria) were delicious, but the one that stands out the most is the beer we had in the Bavarian Alps at a little alpine hut. We had been hiking about an hour and a half and were starving, and the beer and soft pretzel were so fresh and delicious, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything better. We continued hiking to the top of the mountain afterward, and it was just the sustenance we needed to make it.

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I’ll never forget you, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse.

C) Cuisine (favorite):

This one’s not as easy. Jeremy and I had some really delicious food over the six months we were abroad, and it’s hard to choose what was best. All I know is that I could eat French cheese (the stinkier the better) with a fresh baguette and a glass of wine every day for my entire life and I’d die happy.

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In cheese heaven in Paris.

D) Destinations–favorite, least favorite, and why?:

We’ve been asked this a lot lately and it’s hard to choose, but I think Iceland is still at the top for favorite destination. It was the very beginning of our trip, we had no idea what to expect, and being in Iceland was like being on another planet. The landscape changes as fast as the weather does, and around every corner is one of the most beautiful scenes your eyes have ever seen.

Black beaches mixed with volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland.

Black beaches mixed with volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland.

As far as least favorite goes, we got lucky and really didn’t have any terrible experiences anywhere, but I think the most not-fun time we had was housesitting outside Geneva. The scenery around the house was beautiful and I got to run through vineyards and nice paths with a view of Mont Blanc, but it was Easter weekend, everything was closed, and even if anything was open we couldn’t really go anywhere. It was isolated, the bus into Geneva was super expensive, and we ran out of food with a couple days left.

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E) Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

I have to go back to Iceland for this one. A few things happened there that basically blew my mind (touching a glacier, seeing the Northern Lights, watching a geyser erupt, petting a wild Icelandic pony, etc.), but I think the moment where I was most in awe of the country was when we hiked to the oldest hot springs pool in Iceland. We got changed into our bathing suits in a sheep shed, and sat in the warm pool for a while, and eventually made friends with the other travelers in there.

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I never wanted to get out.

The view from inside the water.

The view from inside the water.

F) Favorite mode of transportation:

We mainly walked everywhere once we got to a city (although we became experts at Paris’ metro), but I always loved taking the train to and from different places. The cabins were usually spacious, we brought our own food and wine, and often times we got first class tickets for almost the same price as coach if we bought them early enough. Plus, the train stations were always right in the center of a city, so there was no confusion in finding transportation from the airports that are outside the city. We also got some incredible views.

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The view of Lausanne, Switzerland from our train seat.

Favorite mode of transportation runner-up: ski lift. We took a twenty-minute ride up into the mountains in the Bavarian Alps and I never wanted it to end. If I could sit in a ski lift chair and travel around the world, I’d be happy.

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G) Greatest feeling while traveling:

Stepping off a plane or train and being in a completely different place with different architecture, customs, language, feel, everything, for the first time. No wonder it’s so addicting. Either that, or sipping a glass of wine at a sunset picnic in a beautiful place.

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Sunset on the Seine in Paris.

H) Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to:

We got lucky and didn’t have much extreme heat to deal with, even in Paris in August when it’s normally stifling. Rome was the hottest though, which made walking for hours around the city a little tiring.

Rome was still pretty awesome though.

Rome was still pretty awesome though.

I) Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?:

Probably the (approximately) seven-course dinner we had with my parents in Turin, Italy. The waiters were super informative and didn’t mind translating the entire menu into English for us. The food was incredible and even though I couldn’t eat all my food because I was too full, everything I tasted was fantastic.

My appetizer at our meal in Turin, Italy.

My appetizer at our meal in Turin, Italy.

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My pistachio cake dessert.

J) Journey that took the longest:

I’ve taken plenty of 12-hour plane flights in my life (CA –> Europe), but this time around our longest journey was the train ride from Berlin to Amsterdam. It was supposed to take about ten hours, but a couple hours away from Amsterdam, the conductor announced that the train was stopping because some of the cabins didn’t have AC and it was too hot. There were no further instructions on how to actually get to Amsterdam, so after being dropped off in some random town in the middle of the Netherlands, we had to find our way. We ended up taking two more trains and eventually got there, but the whole thing was a confusing ordeal, and then we got lost walking to our Airbnb in Amsterdam and it took an hour longer by foot than it was supposed to. It was a long day.

Walking around the charming streets in Amsterdam.

Walking around the charming streets in Amsterdam. 

K) Keepsake from your travels:

Jeremy and I didn’t start buying souvenirs until we were almost done with our trip since we were worried about luggage space, but I’m glad we finally got some little things to remind us of a few adventures in Europe. We got a little handcrafted spoon in Paris that we want to use for salt when we move into a new apartment. We also got a mini beer mug in Germany, and I have about 20 postcards from various places that I never sent. I think our best keepsakes will be our pictures, which I’m going to work on enlarging and framing soon.

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In front of our little house in Iceland.

I had a travel tripod for the first couple months of our trip. This is from our first housesitting experience in Kent, England.

I had a travel tripod for the first couple months of our trip. This is from our first housesitting experience in Kent, England.

L) Let-down sight, where and why?:

Probably the Trevi Fountain in Rome; I had high expectations, but it was under construction when we found it.

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What it’s supposed to look like:

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M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:

Somewhere around this time:

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Eight-year-old me in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

N) Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

We didn’t really stay in any nice hotels this time around, mostly just Airbnbs or housesitting homes, but a hotel that sticks out in my mind is The Parker in Palm Springs. Jeremy and I went there last year for a mini-moon the weekend after our wedding, and it’s got to be one of the coolest, most relaxing, awesome places that has ever existed.

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Our room at The Parker.

O) Obsession–what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

God, I don’t know, everything? There wasn’t one particular thing I looked for the most, but I guess I have a fondness for taking pictures of places from high up. And sunsets.

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View from our rented house in Turin, Italy.

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Salzburg, Austria.

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Bologna, Italy.

P) Passport stamps-how many and from where?:

Let’s see, since I got my passport in 2008, I have stamps from: Berlin (2008 and 2014), Paris (2008 and 2009), Frankfurt (2008), London (2008, 2009, and 2014), Dublin (2008 and 2014), Reykjavik (2014), Zurich (2014), Bordeaux (2014), United States (2014). That was definitely only fun for me, sorry about that. It makes me realize that I visit a lot of the same places a lot, time to explore more of the world!

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Q) Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?:

Probably Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) in Paris. It was full of taxidermy animals, extremely old rifles, interesting art (there was one room where the ceiling was covered in feathers and owl heads – that were not real), and there was a special event going on so each room had actors in togas acting out scenes and running around with creepy music.

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R) Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?

Jeremy and I got lucky again with that, we never really felt unsafe anywhere, and didn’t ever get pick-pocketed or have anything stolen. We were very aware of people at all times, especially on crowded subways or buses, and I always put my purse across my body and had my hand on the top when we were walking around.

S) Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:

Food. As more time went on, we started having more and more incredible dining experiences, especially after we made the decision to go home. Having lunch with my friend Liz and her boyfriend Alain in a medieval village in France called Sarlat will stand out as one of the best meals of our lives.

Jeremy's foie gras dish.

Jeremy’s foie gras dish in Sarlat. The city is known for having some of the best foie gras in the world.

T) Touristy thing you’ve done:

I think that we visited touristy stuff in every city we went to; we avoided it as much as we could, but sometimes you just have to fight the crowds and see the stuff you’ve heard so much about and seen so many pictures of.

Had to.

Had to. 

U) Unforgettable travel memory:

The entire six months were unforgettable, and my travel bug is slowly creeping back after looking through all these pictures. Traveling with my parents was also really great and visiting France, Germany and Italy with them were highlights of our trip. I couldn’t possibly choose one travel memory that stands out the most, but visiting monastery breweries in Germany and Austria and drinking beer straight out of the barrel was super cool. And celebrating Jeremy’s birthday at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich with my parents and an oompah band was so fun. And touring the marble quarries in Carrara, Italy. And taking a ferry to the colorful Italian town of Portovenere. And riding an alpine coaster down a mountain after hiking to the top of the Bavarian Alps. And celebrating Jeremy’s and my one-year anniversary at a lakeside restaurant in a pretty village in Bavaria. And visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy. Okay, I’ll stop.

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V) Visas-how many and for where?:

None! We never got any visas, and never felt like we had to. We knew we wouldn’t be in a country for longer than the allowed amount.

W) Wine–best glass while traveling:

We had so much delicious (and inexpensive) wine in France and Italy, and much of it was consumed at a sunset picnic with a nice view, aka my favorite thing to do in the world. The best wine we had though was in Barolo, Italy when my dad took us wine tasting there. One day we’ll have to splurge and buy a bottle of it for a special occasion. It is delicious.

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Visiting towns in the Piedmont region of Italy.

X) eXcellent view and from where?:

Without a doubt, at the top of the Bavarian Alps:

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Y) Years spent traveling:

Over twenty! Thanks, mom and dad.

Z) Zealous sports fans and where?:

We were in Berlin for the World Cup finale when Germany won, and people were going CRAZY. We are not super into sports, but being in a bar with a huge screen while the game was going on was a lot of fun, and you couldn’t help but get into it too.

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Jeremy getting in the World Cup spirit.

Phew, that was a LOT harder than I thought it was going to be. Every time I thought of a memory, a dozen more came pouring in. And going through all my pictures was quite the task, but I’m excited to start making albums and framing some!

Since We’ve Been Back

Goodbye, Europe. This was taken in Dublin outside our Airbnb right before we made our last trek to the airport to fly home.

Goodbye, Europe. This was taken in Dublin outside our Airbnb right before we made our last trek to the airport to fly home.

Monday marked three weeks since Jeremy and I flew back to the States. I’ve been trying to process how it feels, but honestly it just feels like we never left. Europe already seems like a distant memory, and I have to look at the pictures to remind myself we were there for six months. The startup disk on my laptop is full so I can’t get the pictures off my camera just yet, which means I am unable to share pictures of Ireland at the moment, but that’ll happen at some point. I also want to do a whole wrap-up of the time we spent in Europe and all the places we went. In the meantime, there are apartments to be rented and jobs to be found. Back to reality.

One of the last pictures I took while in Europe. Heading to the bus to take us to the airport to fly home.

Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to the past few weeks:

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First order of business as soon as possible: a big ol’ to go cup of coffee in Columbus, Georgia. So tired and jetlagged.

Publix sub, of course.

Publix sub, of course.

Walking around Columbus - this river is right downtown and you can kayak down it.

Walking around Columbus – this river is right downtown and you can kayak down it.

This place had very tasty Southern food.

This place had very tasty Southern food.

Hung out with this dog for a minute while stopping to buy some meat from a farmer for Jeremy's family.

Hung out with this dog for a minute while stopping to buy some meat from a farmer for Jeremy’s family.

I'm so sad this toothpaste we got in France is empty, it made me chuckle every time I used it.

I’m so sad this toothpaste we got in France is empty, it made me chuckle every time I used it.

We went to Athens and ate at Seabear Oyster Bar - highly recommended if you're ever in Athens.

We went to Athens and ate at Seabear Oyster Bar – highly recommended if you’re ever in Athens. That’s a Negroni slushy on the right.

My scallion pancake from Seabear.

My scallion pancake from Seabear.

Visited Athen's newest brewery, Creature Comforts.

Visited Athen’s newest brewery, Creature Comforts.

Is this not the saddest magazine cover you've ever seen?

Is this not the saddest magazine cover you’ve ever seen?

One of my favorite corners in Athens.

One of my favorite corners in Athens; this is the exact spot where I started my runs way back in 2002.

Stopped at Jittery Joe's for some coffee after a run in my new Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3s.

Stopped at Jittery Joe’s for some coffee after a run in my new Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3s.

Visited my friend Liz (who we had just seen in France and Spain) in New Orleans. Donut flavors: red bean and rice, and peanut butter and honey.

Visited my friend Liz (who we had just seen in France and Spain) in New Orleans. Donut flavors: red bean and rice, and peanut butter and honey.

Wandering around New Orleans.

Wandering around New Orleans.

Drove across the country again. I think that must have been the 20th or so time for me. Not exaggerating.

Drove across the country again. I think that must have been the 20th or so time for me. Not exaggerating.

Of course we stopped at In-n-Out.

Of course we stopped at In-n-Out.

Got up early the night after we got back to Santa Barbara to run by the beach. Oh how I missed it.

Got up early the morning after we got back to Santa Barbara to run by the beach. Oh how I missed it.

Another run, another beautiful view.

Another run, another beautiful view.

Beach walks with Pez the dog.

Beach walks with Pez the dog.

View from the top.

View from the top.

Trail ran a little bit.

Trail ran a little bit.

The old stomping grounds.

The old stomping grounds.

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We moved to Los Angeles.

Oh yeah, we moved to Los Angeles. As much as I love Santa Barbara, Jeremy and I were looking for a bit of a change, and settled on LA so we were still fairly close to SB. And now we’re closer to my grandma in San Diego! We’re even driving up to SB this weekend so I can run a 5k or 10k (haven’t decided yet).

Moved to Los Angeles. For some reason I thought this tree would be a nice photo op.

For some reason I thought this tree would be a nice photo op.

There shouldn't be allowed to be something this cute in existence.

This car is so cute it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

Another view.

Another view.

We’re in the middle of apartment hunting, which is very stressful. I don’t remember ever having this much trouble, but there is lots of competition, and it seems like you have to decide within five minutes of viewing a place if you want to live there for the next year because there are seven other people there filling applications for it on the spot. So much pressure! We rented an Airbnb for the month of October so we’d have time to look around and explore all the different areas of LA (there are so many, this place is huge) and not feel like we had to settle on something immediately, which is proving to be a very good decision. I’m also job hunting, and I have an interview tomorrow, so fingers crossed that goes well. All my clothes are still in storage so I had to do a little shopping, but I think the dress I bought was a good decision.

There's a Madewell like ten minutes away from our Airbnb in Atwater Village. It's dangerous.

There’s a Madewell like ten minutes away from our Airbnb in Atwater Village. It’s dangerous.

My first run as an LA resident.

My first run as an LA resident. The highway’s not too pretty, but the mountains are.

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The LA River bike path is nearby, and I’m excited to explore it.

Driving around apartment hunting with the Hollywood sign right there.

Driving around apartment hunting with the Hollywood sign right there.

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Oh yeah there’s a heat wave.

As far as running goes, I’m feeling pretty blah about it. Shopping was a wake-up call; all those donuts, Southern food, In-n-Out, and everything I ate in Europe was bound to catch up with me, and it finally did. My pants don’t fit and my arms aren’t toned at all anymore. They’re big ol’ jelly sticks now. Plus I’ve been sick the past few days and haven’t exercised at all. I’m supposed to run a 10k this Sunday but may go down to the 5k since I’ve only run nine times since my last half at the beginning of September. I also have the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon in exactly a month, so not sure what’s going to happen there either. I really need to get my butt in gear and start training again, and I feel like my motivation is slowly creeping back, which is a good sign!