Monthly Archives: December 2011

2,011 in 2011: the failure

The best thing about setting meaningless and arbitrary goals is that when you don’t meet them…nothing bad happens. Hooray!

I suppose there’s the possibility that I’ll drink enough champagne with dinner that I go streaking through the streets in the hours before the clock strikes, thereby logging another 6.7 miles. But given that we’re staying in and laying low tonight, I’d say it seems unlikely.

But hey – I cracked 2K for the year! Not bad, eh? I don’t really know how many miles I ran in 2010, but I’m quite certain that I ran more in 2011. So I’ve got that going for me.

Here’s a quick look at the other meaningless and arbitrary goals – as outlined in this post from last December – that I (mostly) failed to accomplish this year:

1) Learn to bake bread: PARTIAL SUCCESS

I owe any progress on this one entirely to Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. And I still whip up a batch every so often. But I never really progressed beyond the basic Round Peasant Loaf. Oh well. The Round Peasant Loaf is still pretty delicious.

2) Learn to drink Scotch: FAILURE

Did I ever show you the photo of the time that I tried?

That’s the same face I was making during my flight out to Seattle last week, when the guy next to me kept ripping these terrible farts – and then, to my horror, apologizing. Every time! Awkward! Because what are you supposed to say to that? Just pretend it wasn’t your fart and look around with a disgusted look on your face like the rest of us, dude.

Anyway, Scotch. Yeah, still not my bag. But I’m sure I’ll keep trying.

3) Learn to spell: SUCCESS?

This was a stupid goal to begin with because obviously I already know how to spell. I’m just lazy. Like, I noticed that I misspelled JUBELALE in my last post but am I going to go back and fix it? Probably not. (Also, I’m not sure it counts as a misspelling if it’s not a real word.)

So really the goal should have been LEARN NOT TO BE LAZY. But then I wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Overall, though, I’m giving this one a green light if for no other reason that I believe Words With Friends has improved my grasp of the English language. Or just allowed me to learn a bunch of random words that I didn’t realize were actually words. Whatever! I know how to spell them!

4) Learn to fix a (bike) flat: FAILURE

Utter failure. Except to pull it away from the wall it to remove the cobwebs collecting around it, I haven’t touched my bike all year. Pretty sure both of the tires are flat now, too. Doh.

5) Learn to jump turn: MOSTLY A FAILURE

I did end up getting out west to ski last spring. Each year, I think I probably do a little better with my form. But I’m still mostly a disaster when it comes to even the smallest moguls. It’s hard to have skiing goals when you live in the southeast. #southernerproblems

6) Learn to carve a bird: FAILURE

For Thanksgiving this year, I literally just tore the meat off of the turkey and plopped it on a serving platter, as it was just the two of us so who cares about having pretty slices? And personal hygiene?

Still…I’d love to take one of those knife skills classes or whatever. Maybe next year.

7) Learn to taste wine: SUCCESS

I drank a lot of wine this year. And I went to a Wine Bloggers Conference. Learning FTW! Still definitely not an expert, but I’m starting to feel like I can talk reasonably intelligently on the subject.

8) Learn about beer: SUCCESS

Again…definitely still a novice, but I have learned so much this year. I’m counting it as a success.

9) Learn to apply mascara: SUCCESS

This one was easy. As soon as I started buying the good shit from Sephora instead of the crappy shit from Target, I stopped looking like I had fleas all over my face. I can handle spending 20 bucks on mascara a couple of times a year.

It’s true: money really can buy happiness.

10) Learn how to poach an egg: FAILURE

I don’t think I’ve even attempted this since I wrote that goal.

11) Learn to do a headstand: TOTAL FAILURE

I don’t think I’ve even attended a yoga class since I wrote that goal.

So, to summarize: My successes this year stemmed from drinking, shopping, and dicking around on my iPhone. Sounds about right.

In all seriousness, though, 2011 was a pretty good year. I trained pretty hard in the spring and ran a pretty decent half marathon. Then I trained pretty hard in the fall and ran a legit marathon PR (and a BQ to boot).  The latter ranks pretty highly among my favorite running experiences ever. So far, anyway.

So, really: who cares if I fell 6+ miles short of my yearly mileage goal? Or that I avoided my yoga mat and my bike like they were covered in cooties? Or that I can’t drink whiskey without making a ridiculous fart face? I’m taking some pretty good memories from 2011 when we say goodbye in a few hours.

As for 2012, there are some Big Running Plans and Mega Life Changes on tap in the months ahead. But I’ll save all of that for another post.

So…cheers to the new year! Be safe, have fun, don’t drink so much flavored vodka that you end up falling asleep with your head in a paper bag filled with your own vomit. (Not that I’ve ever done that…. #college)

Things that happened while I was not blogging

This Christmas, I was a slacker from the start. It was a solid 48 hours after I landed in Washington State that I even tried to connect my computer to the internet.

Eventually, I thought: I should probably do a blog. But when it became clear that the WiFi at my mom’s house wasn’t going to play nice with my laptop…well, it seemed like a great reason to take a little time off.

But I was thinking about you guys. I really was! If I had blogged during my little Christmas vacation, here’s what I would have blogged about. In title-plus-three sentences-format.

Friday, December 23: Fit ALL OF THE THINGS Into The Suitcase

I successfully finished my shopping. My suitcase was 54 pounds. Thanks, Continental, for letting that one slide.

Saturday, December 24: A Christmas (Eve) Miracle

The miracle is that blue sky. In Tacoma…in December! Too bad it disappeared with the sunset that afternoon (at, like, 3:30….Jesus H, PNW latitude!) and never reappeared, replaced by the gloomy perpetual drizzle that I remember so fondly from my childhood winters.

Sunday, December 25: Jubelale!

Family, food, and of course beer! Winter Warmers are irresistible, and boasting a 97 BeerAdvocate rating, Deschutes Brewery’s Jubilale is a fine representation of the style. Enjoyed one, then two, then…uh…. (Pilfered from the family fridge, 6.7% ABV)

Monday, December 26: Jubel…ail

Alternately titled: How to spend the day after Christmas loafing on the couch with a itty bitty kitty (literally…my mom’s cat is like four pounds) on your lap, watching way too many episodes of Property Virgins, which is a show you don’t even really like because it’s always in freaking Toronto, but you’re feeling too fetid to fetch the remote. And then rally and head to another Christmas celebration with even more boozing. Tis the season!

Tuesday, December 27: Mem-reeeeeeez

The day, chronologically:  (1) a run on my favorite high school trails; (2) a trip to the mall where I used to hang out as a dorky middle schooler; (3) happy hour with my dad at a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the sound; (4) a bottle of wine in my mom’s rec room while digging through a box of old childhood crap. That last one yielded some hilarious treasures which I’m excited to share with you very soon. And the wine – Darby’s Viognier Blend, from Washington’s Columbia Valley – was excellent.

Wednesday, December 28: Mad Gluttony

Lunch: sushi at Kikasu in Seattle, which included the the best Albacore and Red Snapper I’ve ever laid lips on. Dinner: a little bit of the South in the PNW, as I made a big batch of Rosemary Gorgonzola Grits (pictured) to go with our grilled ribeye steaks. Boarded an eastbound red-eye flight with distended bellies.

…and that brings us to today, which can pretty much be summed up thusly:

It was a good Christmas and a nice trip home to Washington, but I missed my CHUBBY KITTEH SNUGGLES.

I hope y’all had good holidays too! Til tomorrow…

In search of a new home for my miles

Last weekend, I was flipping through my planner (which, to my surprise, I’ve used faithfully this year!) and was dumbfounded when I discovered that its pages end. Soon. Like, next week. SHOCK.

For a relatively intelligent person, I am really clueless sometimes.

So of course now I am scrambling trying to find a refill-slash-replacement because GOD FORBID I go for a week or two without a place to write down reminders to pick up dry cleaning and buy cat food, or be forced to jot my work schedule on a post-it note. Naturally, the store where I bought my planner is out of my planner. Of course they are. It’s December 21. People who use planners? They are the type of people who saw this coming and purchased theirs weeks ago.

Anyway, what does this have to do with running miles? Well, at the end of the month, my miles are going to be homeless as well, as the site that I’ve been using for the last two years to log my workouts is shutting down.

And because I’ve waited until the last minute to address this problem, I’m just now starting to explore other possibilities.  This is where I need your help.

Dailymile is the obvious answer here, and having lurked around there a bit, I think I’d like it okay. But I’m curious about other options that might be out there – and also considering just going to a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. If you’re a runner, what do you use to track your mileage? Would you recommend it?

(Oddly, I am vehemently pro-pen-and-paper when it comes to my daily calendar and to-do list, but rather pro-digital when it comes to logging workouts. There  are too many numbers involved in running, and I’m no good at the maths.)

So that’s my question of the day. For anyone wondering what else I did today, I shopped until I drop-kicked a million other last-minute shoppers at the mall. (Not really, but I wanted to.) And then I came home and ran nine miles – including a few hill repeats – in the weird 65-degree weather we’re having here. And then I rewarded myself with this beer:

And what a beer it was. Dogfish Head’s late-fall release Immort Ale is an American Strong Ale brewed with maple syrup, peat-smoked barley and vanilla. I don’t think I’d ever tried this one before…and, um, I don’t think noticed the ABV (a hefty 11%) when I tossed it into a mixed sixer that I assembled the other day. But what the hell, it’s a Wednesday night and I throat-punched my Christmas shopping list this afternoon. Why not?

This beer poured a lovely dark caramel color, which was echoed by its flavor: toasted sugar, vanilla, bourbon, general earthiness and spicy sweetness. And the booze. Oh, you’re not going to miss the booze in this one. It nuzzles your tongue a little on the finish, then wraps your esophagus in a warm hug. It’s a pleasant burn, though: think of the burn that a sip of good whiskey gives you, but on a much, much smaller scale. Very nice.

Bottom line: I really liked this! A great bottle to sip slowly or share. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $3.85/12 oz)

So…I hope there are no other year-end surprises lurking around here. I’ll get my planner ordered and my new running log set up and I’ll be good to go, right?

Finished? I’ve barely started…

So have YOU finished your shopping yet? Oh…you have? Well. Good for you. I haven’t started yet.

I guess you could say I take after my father, whose mall assaults on the afternoon of Christmas Eve have always been infamous in my family. I used to go with him sometimes, and it was always an efficient – and even rather enjoyable – process. Slippers, toaster, toolbox. Earrings, backpack, socks. We cruised through half-full parking lots and breezed through short lines, collecting the required items, then took them home and wrapped them up – to be opened mere hours later.

But somehow, in my own adult years, I’ve been unable to replicate the process. I always end up all grinchy and stressed.

(It’s December 20 and there are no gifts underneath my tree. Unless you consider cat hair a gift.)

Perhaps the problem is that I cannot fully commit to the Last Minute Shop. I lack my dad’s ability to truly put it off – and out of mind – until those final hours. A little bit like swinging at a baseball, I guess: you have have the patience and confidence to wait for the perfect moment, the sweet spot that’s just a split second before too late.  (It should come as no surprise that I’m appallingly bad at hitting a baseball…but that’s a story for another day.)

It’s a fine line between calculated postponement and procrastination. Yet again, I’ve found myself on the wrong side of it. If I were a pro at this, I’d be kicking back and waiting for everyone else to finish their freak-outs and go home before swooping in to the stores at the eleventh hour and calmly claiming my haul. If I were like my dad, I’d be chillin’ in the dugout drinking a beer – but instead, I find myself among the panicked masses, swinging and missing and lobbing foul balls into the backstop like it’s my job.

Just kidding about part of that – I’m definitely enjoying a beer or two this week. Tonight’s was excellent:

Sierra Nevada releases their annual Celebration Ale every winter. But don’t let the name fool you: this beer is not going to give you a mouthful of Christmas. There’s no nutmeg or coffee or molasses or clove. This beer is about one thing: hops.

And it’s definitely a beer worth celebrating. It’s just…a really good IPA. Sierra Nevada labels it “fresh-hopped” which in this case appears to mean that it’s made with the first hops harvested that growing season. I guess that’s why they can only produce it once a year. That’s a damn shame, because I’d happily enjoy this beer year round! 6.8% ABV.

Bottom line: Yes, definitely! (Received in a beer swap, widely available at upscale grocery stores for around $10/six)

Early tomorrow, I shall brave the mall, whereupon I will attempt to cram an entire season’s worth of shopping in to one morning. Wish me luck!

If I weren’t such a pussy, I’d wait until Christmas Eve.

The five worst Christmas songs ever

When you work in retail, there are many challenging things about the holiday season. But, by far, the most trying is the damn music.

At the store where I work, there is an ominous sign tacked to the little receiver that controls our satellite radio, indicating grave consequences for anyone who dares to switch it from the “Sirius Nonstop Holiday Cheer” station. Or whatever the hell it’s called. From Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, it’s a holiday music extravaganza in our store.

Now, I really like my job. But, my dear customers: while I will cheerfully make as many trips to the stockroom as it takes to find your perfect running shoe, know that, behind that smile, I’m thinking…OMG if I hear Jingle Bell Rock one more time, I’m going to hurl this Limited Editon Wave Rider through the window.

It’s nothing personal. It’s just that time of the year.

So as an early Christmas present, I give you my top five most hated holiday ballads, jingles and carols. (It was hard to narrow it down.)

#5: All I Want For Christmas Is You

Oh, Mariah Carey. You know, I actually liked “Someday.” I envied your tight jeans and your vocal range. The whole package was very cool at the time.

But, like most of the questionable things from the early nineties, it went away. It’s like…remember Stussy t-shirts? They enjoyed their run, then gracefully disappeared. But this mediocre pop song from 1994 gets insane airplay, year after year, for no reason other than it’s about OMG CHRISTMAS.

Really, there is no other reason. It’s a totally unremarkable song.

Besides, Mariah, I’m calling bullshit. You’ve made a career on being a diva. This “I don’t need no stocking, baby” crap? Not buying it, sweetie.

#4: Christmas, Don’t Be Late (aka the Chipmunk song)

Why adults choose to listen to this garbage is beyond me. Does anyone actually find it cute or funny when Alvin demands a hula-hoop for, like, the twentieth time? Or when Dave has to break in and chastise him for being flat?

This much I’ll admit. I agree: please, Christmas, don’t be late. Because once Christmas is over, we all get an eleven-month reprieve from these helium-sucking rodents.

#3: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Seriously. Unless you’re building an aviary…

And really…a partridge? Geese? All geese do is honk and poop. If I were going to get a bird for Christmas, I’d much rather have something fun or useful. Like a snarky talking parrot. Or perhaps a bird of prey, which might do us all a favor and make dinner out of some smug little singing chipmunks.

Yeah, I know there’s a symbolic religious/cultural thing going in this song. But it’s still a crappy song. It’s like the “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” of Christmas music: it just goes on forever.

#2 Deck The Halls

Let’s consider the fact that nearly 50% of this song’s runtime consists of the repetition of a single syllable. Perhaps there’s some sort of artistic genius going on here? MUFUFUFUFUFUFUFUFUFUFUFUFU! HEY LOOK, I’M A COMPOSER!

The rest of the lyrics aren’t much better. In fact, I’ve condensed the entire song into a single haiku:

Hang leaves. Christmas! Fa!
Ugly ties. Fire. Babies. La!
Let’s sing! Fuck the snow!


…I just saved you 167 words, 96 of which were la. You’re welcome.

#1: Anything consisting primarily of animal sounds.


I mean…it’s not even real. It’s all computer tuned. It’s not like there are a bunch of adorable puppies or kittens somewhere, lined up obediently on choral risers, woofing and mewing on cue to make up the melody of “Jingle Bells” or whatever.

The rest of the year, you hear shit like this in a commercial for Purina and everyone reaches for their DVR remote. But make it into a Christmas song, and all of a sudden it’s adorable.

Except…no, it’s not.

Especially when you hear it three times in a single afternoon. Maybe that’s why I am cranky tonight?

Or maybe it’s my reduced running mileage. Backing up a couple of weeks, I took most of the week after CIM off, but stretched my legs on a couple of easy runs:

And this week, for some reason, I took a lot of rest days. But I kept my runs a little longer on the days I did run. All still at an easy pace, of course!

I’m not sure what’s next on my training/racing radar. I do know that I’m just going to cruise to the end of the year with easy miles, though. No workouts, no real long runs. My only goal at the moment is to make my 2,011 in 2011. Right now I’m at 1,947. 64 miles to go and two weeks to do it – plenty of time!


I know I’m not the only one who is less than fond of Christmas music. But I’m sure that everyone has at least one holiday song that they cannot stand. What’s yours?

Mornings are for suckers

My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning. Group run morning. It was dark outside. It had been raining when I went to bed, and now I could hear the swoosh of cars along the wet street below, indicating that it was probably still drizzling.

So I did what any rational person would do and turned that thing right the hell off.

I felt slightly guilty for about three seconds, then told myself to shut it. Because, really: summer is the time for early morning runs. When it’s the middle of December and there’s no reason I cannot run at noon…why on earth wouldn’t I just do that instead?

And I have to say…days like today might almost make suffering through the horrible and humid southern summertime worth it.

It is 55 degrees and sunny and I am going to go enjoy a leisurely long run under those blue skies…as soon as I finish this post + my coffee.

I like winter down here an awful lot. Remind me of this in six months when I’m wailing about the heat and humidity.

Anyway…I have a rare Saturday off of work, so as soon as I knock out this workout thing, I’m going to enjoy normal Saturday-like activities. (Which are…what again? Because I’m not going near Target today. Maybe I’ll just spend the afternoon with a beer and a nap.)

Don’t forget to enter the Brewed Awakening giveaway if you haven’t yet! It’s a super easy one. I’ve really enjoyed reading your responses as they’ve rolled in, too. Y’all have some good taste in beer!

[Also, a few of you mentioned that you’re thinking of buying the book, so I’ll pass this on from Josh, the author: if you buy the book directly from him, it comes signed, along with coasters and buttons made by his wife – aww! For more info: Brewed Awakening Autographed Gift Pack]

Any fellow lazies out there still procrastinating your Saturday workout? Let’s get to it, shall we?

Thoughts on ‘Brewed Awakening’ [+ giveaway!]

Not many beer stories start out with “when I was a kid,” but that’s how I’m going to begin this one.

When I was a kid, I remember vividly the interior of the refrigerator at our family lake house. My parents liked beer, as did my aunts and uncles, and so this shared fridge was well-stocked with a nice variety of brews: cans of Bud and Coors stacked alongside the local specialties, Rainier and Olympia. From time to time, a six-pack of Henry Weinhard’s bottles would also appear in there.

That must be the good stuff, I’d think to myself as I stabbed my Capri Sun pouch with its pointy orange straw.

But it wasn’t that my family’s taste in beer was unadventurous or lowbrow. It’s more that, until recently, to the vast majority of consumers in America, beer was beer. It was yellow and fizzy and something of a commodity; it was all Duff Beer.

In the last couple of decades, however, beer has become a different product entirely.

Exploring the various facets of this so-called craft beer “revolution” is the mission of Brewed Awakening, a journal-slash-guide penned by Joshua M. Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based food and beer writer.

Written in an easy, informal style, the book works its way through the trends in today’s craft beer: from newly cross-bred hop strains to styles of beer recently rescued from the annals of history, and from microbrewers to nanobrewers to homebrewers and everyone in between. A colorful magazine-like layout with lots of photos gives the book a coffee-table (or perhaps top-of-the-toilet-tank) feel.

“It’s easy to get caught up in ABVs and IBUs, but craft beer is all about the people behind it,” said Bernstein, who agreed to chat with me on the phone about our favorite topic and elaborate on some of the ideas discussed in Brewed Awakening.  And indeed “the people behind it” play a big role in this book’s story. Frequent (and often amusing) anecdotes from brewmasters and other industry folks give readers a fun peek inside the minds behind some of their favorite beers.

Here are a few of the things I picked Bernstein’s brain about:

Q: There’s a lot of page space in your book devoted to styles other than the one that, for many people, is the quintessential craft beer: the IPA. And at one point you quote former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall saying that “sour is the new hoppy.” Have IPAs jumped the shark, or what?

A: IPAs are so popular because it’s a complete 180, a drastic departure from what people are used to drinking. It’s kind of like the gateway craft beer. You can move up the IPA ladder: more IBUs, higher ABV, double IPAs, triple IPAs, and so forth.

But Pilsners and Lagers don’t get a lot of love. I like a big hoppy IPA as much as the next guy, but I have to be realistic about how much I can drink in a night. People hear ‘pilsner’ or ‘lager’ and they think of Bud. But I think we’re going to see a return to pilsners and lagers. You don’t have to have a 9% or 10% beer to have a lot of flavor.

Q: There’s also an implication that many breweries might choose to brew the big hoppy stuff because it’s effectively easier, masking mistakes or inconsistencies. Are hops a scapegoat?

A: Well, brewing beer is a low margin business, and some styles – IPA, big stouts, porters – are much more forgiving than others. But at the end of the day, I think it’s a market driven decision. People want to buy those beers.

Q: So what’s the next big thing in beer? Is sour indeed the new hoppy?

A: I don’t know, but the number of brewers doing sours right now is incredible. Sours are going gangbusters. It’s a different part of the palate. Sour beers are great dinner table beers.

Q: Speaking of dinner tables…I’ve spent some time with both wine people and beer people over the last couple of years. I have to say, the communities are quite different. How does the beer world differ from the wine world?

A: With wine, everything is put on such a high pedestal. Beer has a much lower barrier to entry than wine. You can spend two bucks on a single bottle of craft beer and get a lot of flavor.

And beer people are down to earth. There aren’t a lot of jerks in the craft beer world.

Q: Okay…so here’s something I observed. Your book? Is mostly about dudes. Why do you think craft brewing such a male-dominated thing?

A: I can tell you for certain that that is changing. The number of women involved is definitely growing.

It’s a big misnomer that beer is so closely associated with the men and the male ego. I mean, think of Budweiser commercials. That’s not craft beer. Go in to any great beer bar and you’ll usually find an equal mix of men and women.

Q: What’s the best way to become a craft beer nerd? Any tips for those of us who are just getting started?

A: When I first started getting more in to beer, I had a rule at the supermarket: If I didn’t know it, I’d buy it. Don’t be afraid to have a beer you don’t like!

Bottom line: As I am nowhere near being a beer expert, I actually learned a lot from Bernstein’s book, and from chatting with him as well. My single criticism of Brewed Awakening is this: given that it’s chock-full of specific beer recommendations and discussion of what’s happening right now in craft brewing, I fear that it will be dated in a few years. Because if Bernstein’s thesis is correct, this is an industry that’s changing very quickly.

But that’s no reason not to read it. And if you’d like to, I’m giving away a copy of Brewed Awakening to a reader!

I know there are a lot of giveaways going around blogworld right now, but here’s why you should enter this one:

1) It’s not a damn cookie thingy in a mason jar.

2) Even if you’re not a beer person, it’s an fairly interesting and easy read. And it would make a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer for a beer lover in your life!

3) The cover of the book opens up in to this Beer Map. As a map nerd and an aspiring beer nerd, this blew my freaking mind. I spent like an hour staring at it. (Sober.)

4) It’s super easy. Just leave a comment stating the name of the last beer you consumed. Doesn’t matter if it was tonight or last week or last month. (Bonus entries if you just gave birth and can actually remember  back that far.)

I’ll pick a winner on Monday (December 19) at midnight EST. (Priority shipping will still get it to you by Christmas!)  Cheers, and good luck!

Fine print: Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. FTC disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review as well as another to pass on, but was not compensated in any other way for this post.

The 1200-meter Airport Gate-to-Gate Sprint

Here’s a spoiler: I didn’t win.

When our overnight flight from Maui – delayed by an hour – touched down at SFO just fifteen minutes before the departure of our connecting flight to Houston, I knew it was going to be a close one.

“No way are we going to make it,” we all said, as we hefted rollerboard bags from overhead bins.

As it turned out, everyone was connecting to Houston. It was one of those oddly charming moments of commiseration among the randomly miserable. We had shared the same row of this Boeing 767 for the last six hours and hadn’t said a word to one another; but now that we shared the same unhappy fate with respect to our prospects for getting to IAH on time, we were best friends.

“We might be able to do it,” I said, to no one in particular. No one particular responded, but I think a couple of people nodded slightly in encouragement.

Adding to the hopelessness of the situation, the pilot came on the intercom and  announced that we would be deplaning in the international terminal. Our connections, should they be of the domestic nature, would take place in the domestic terminal. Of course.

Although I wasn’t intimately familiar with the layout of the SFO airport, I was pretty sure that the distance between our arrival gate and connecting departure gate would be no less than a long f*cking way.

(Because that’s always how it works. When your connection is three hours, you’re at the gate next door. When it’s twenty minutes, you’re all the way across the damn airport, in a separate terminal, at the very last gate at the end of an interminable hallway.)

“I’m going for it,” I muttered as we shuffled forward through the aisle. I hefted my purse over my shoulder and resolutely extended the pulley arm of my carry-on suitcase, and I sprinted off of the aircraft and up the jetbridge like I was coming out of blocks on a track.

What happened next should have been one of the most heroic running performances of my lifetime. Seriously; in terms of sheer athleticism, it was nothing short of incredible. In spite of the uncomfortable chafing of my pajama pants and sloppy slippers, I sprinted. Against the protests of my rollerboard bag – which wobbled perilously as I pushed the limits of its little plastic wheels, derailing on to its side approximately every seven seconds – I persevered. I flew past confused morning commuters and started sleepy employees as I streaked through the terminal like an awkward adrenaline-fueled comet.

And for a few glorious moments, I was sure I was going to make it. Everything seemed to work itself out: my fuzzy slippers stopped slipping off of my sweating feet, my suitcase stopped flopping around, and I was just running.

I pre-played the coming scenario in my head. I would stride up to the gate like an Olympic champion just as the boarding door was closing. I’d then graciously but firmly demand a pause in the boarding process, and, a few minutes later, stand by to accept the praise and thanks of my fellow Maui-to-Houston connectors as they filtered by me, peering back shyly to marvel at my athletic prowess as they descended the jetbridge onto the plane that was supposed to have departed without us.

This fantasy fueled my legs further, and I picked up the pace even more as I rounded the corner of a long corridor and headed toward our gate, positioned (of course!) at its terminal end.

I broke in to a full-on sprint, as best as I could with my burdens, and it was every bit as difficult as those last few minutes of a hard-run 5K.

At last, the gate was in sight. The boarding door was still open, attended by a gate agent who was giving the boarding area a frighteningly final look. Like a farmer surveying his field of crops before heading in for his supper and thinking: Good enough for today.

“HOUSTON CONNECTION HOUSTON HERE HOUSTON!” I yelled maniacally. I put on a final surge toward the finish line. My suitcase topped over yet again; I dragged it on its side as I staggered toward the port.

And that gate agent? She looked me directly in the eye – there was eye contact! I swear! – and shut the door to the jetway.

“BUT!” I exclaimed, holding my side and panting. “BUT I’M HERE!”

She gave me a blank look.

“Our flight! It was delayed! And I ran here! And I’m here! And the plane’s there! And there are like twenty people coming…they’re right behind me…we’re all here!”

She blinked and replied: “I’m sorry ma’am, it’s not possible to open the door at this time.”

At that precise moment, the jetway door clicked open and two airline employees emerged from behind it. I raised a sweaty eyebrow in my best attempt to appear cleverer than the system.

I tried again: “But…the plane’s there! It’s right there!”

But it was all for naught. My delusions of heroism were shattered. I’d been too slow. I’d hustled my ass off for a total of perhaps five minutes, and missed my window by just a few seconds.

“I can rebook you,” she said, holding out her palm for my boarding pass, her face still remarkably blank. I stood there, perspiration dripping down my face and my pajama pants sticking to my sweaty legs, expecting an “I’m so sorry” or a “My hands are tied” or maybe even a “Wow, this must really suck for you.”

But all she did was tap on her computer in the endless way that airline employees tend to tap on their computers. (Seriously…it takes me four clicks to see what flights are available on Kayak? What is with all of the typing that they always have to do?)

And then I sighed, resigned. The inevitable crush of displaced passengers – my former compatriots from that flight from Maui – had begun to arrive. They queued up behind me and all of a sudden I understood the gate agent’s indifference. She probably was not thrilled about having to report to work before dawn and deal with the likes of us. For her, this was just another of the endless workplace transactions that make up her day. All of the drama and potential heroism that I’d assigned to the situation was routine to her, and to the scores of people who run the airport and who deal with this sort of crap every single day.

Three hours later, we were on a flight to Houston. And just a couple of hours later than planned, we were turning the key to our apartment door in Raleigh. Slightly inconvenient, but not exactly the catastrophic disaster that I’d concocted in my mind while I was gunning down the airport passages, hoping to save the day.

But still. Five seconds? Ten seconds?

No matter how unimportant, it always sucks to lose a race by a hair.

A smile by any other name

The way I replayed it in my head, I came across the CIM finish line with a big grin on my face.

In reality, apparently, I looked as constipated and miserable as usual.

Running is hard. The photos don’t lie!

I was a veritable ray of sunshine afterward, though.

And I think I’ve done enough smiling this week to make up for those grimacing moments in the last part of that race. Ah, vacation.

Ziplining: n., an activity in which tourists pay exorbitant sums of money to wear unflattering harnesses.

Just kidding. It was a lot of fun.

So I owe you guys some Shakoozie winners! Congrats to #62, Summer, who’s keeping it classy with Bud Light, and #45, Kimra, who definitely needs to share her Anchor Christmas with me because I’ve never tried it.

Check your emails, you two.

We’re headed home tonight and I’ll be back to regular posting on Monday, with another boozy giveaway. Until then…

Beer in Sonoma

Apparently I have become that person who goes to wine country to drink beer. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

But first: I have to say thanks for all of your wonderful comments on my CIM recap. I’m definitely still on my post-race high, and I smile again every time I read your words. A few other odds and ends about the race:

Expo: Easy to get in and out of, lots of parking, well-staffed, no lines (and I went on Saturday afternoon).

Course: I really don’t think you could ask for a better marathon course. In spite of being net downhill, it’s not pancake-flat, and I actually really enjoyed the gentle rolling hills in the first 15 miles of the race.

Amenities: There were more than enough water stops for my needs, although I’m not a huge drinker during races (gotta save room for the post-race beer!) and I only passed through every other one for a total of probably 6 or 7. Every stop also had electrolyte drink of some sort (it was pretty thin and actually tasted okay) and there were three separate Gu offerings. Port-o-potties were abundant at the start and I only had to wait behind two people when I went just a few minutes before the start; on the course, there seemed to be plenty and although I didn’t partake, it seemed like people were popping in and out of them with no wait.

Crowd support: More than I expected, actually! I’ve always had the impression that CIM is a racer’s race; people show up to run hard, not to hear bands or look at funny costumes and signs. But I spotted all three on the streets of Sacramento on Sunday, and there were only a few stretches of the course that were entirely without spectators.

Oh, and I wore the Ravennas. Safe choice and it worked out fine.

Final taper-week mileage:

Other than some sore quads and a slightly achy back, I’m feeling fine post-race. But I’m taking a few days off this week. Maybe a whole week. If I feel like doing some beach running in Hawaii, I might do that, or I might not. We’ll see.

Anyway. Yesterday was a day of total indulgence. I hadn’t really thought about what we’d do with ourselves on Monday. Sunday night, sitting around the kitchen table, I asked my friend Newt, who we’ve been staying with at her house in Davis: How far is Napa from here?

Less than an hour, she said.

Within ten minutes we had dinner reservations in Yountville and I’d mapped out an entire eating and drinking extravaganza for the following afternoon.

First stop was lunch at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.

This place is like a little foodie dining hall. Oysters and tapas alongside fancy little stalls selling chocolates and cupcakes and cheeses. The hubs and I split a bunch of little plates of stuff; my favorite was the Garlic Yucca Fries from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen:

(The garlic was actually quite mild, given its abundance.)

Next, we meandered across the valley to Sonoma County to pay homage to the venerable Russian River Brewing Company, home of Beer Advocate’s top-rated Pliny The Elder IPA.  I suppose you could say I was a responsible consumer in that I opted for the 7-pour California-only tasting instead of the 15-pour option, which included the brewery’s Belgian-style beers as well.

Pliny was indeed excellent, but the Happy Hops Pale Ale was a close second for me, sweet and refreshing with lots of citrus intermingled with the mellow hops. I would have stayed for pint after pint of that stuff, but we had places to go and food to eat.

After a gorgeous drive through the mountains, we dropped back in to Napa Valley and cruised in to Yountville to dine with the early birds at our 5 PM (it was the only time available!) dinner reservation at Ad Hoc.

Like its famous big sister, the fancy French Laundry, this Thomas Keller-owned joint offers a single fixed-course menu each night. I’ve never dined at French Laundry (although I would dieeeee for the opportunity), but it seems that Ad Hoc is much more casual and focuses on simple “comfort food” dishes. (And is a lot less expensive.)

So we got there and discovered that it was barbeque night. We’d come from North Carolina to Napa to eat…barbeque.

I think we were both a little hesitant just because, well…BBQ in CA? Could it really be better than at home?

The answer: yes. Yes it could. Our family-style plate featured a rack of baby back ribs, pulled pork atop peppered cornbread, fried quail (!) and some braised greens with rice and black-eyed peas. Everything was very good and refreshingly unfussy. But…

That pulled pork was the best pulled pork I have ever had. It will live on in my dreams. (Yes, I have food dreams.)

So, in summary: we came to wine country to drink beer and eat BBQ.

I guess you really can’t take the honky-tonk outta the girl.