Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rachel's Animal Art

I'm really behind on posting. First, I never did a year-end recap. It took a little while to see how I was going to post it. Instead of numbers and data (like I've done every other year), it's going to be a little more qualitative. Stay tuned...

I've been trying to invest a lot of time in the job search. I've also been spending some time doing things I've never had time to......writing. I'm working on a Triathlon Memoir. We'll see. I'm on Chapter 4. It'll be neat to see how it turns out.

And...painting? Yup, been doing that too. I like doing it to relax. Plus, it satiates the animal lover in me at the same time (I paint animals). Well, after painting some of the dogs at the animal shelter, I realized another way I might be able to give back. So, in addition to walking dogs at the local animal shelter, I've decided to try to use proceeds from some of my paintings to help local animal rescue groups. Check it out!

Rachel's Animal Art

Monday, January 24, 2011

Buffalo Run 1/2 Marathon,_California

I spent the weekend on Catalina Island, only a 45-minute ferry ride west of Dana Point. Bustling during the tourist season in the summer, Avalon, the tiny town of Catalina (pop ~4,000) is a relaxing, quick get-away in the dead of winter. Sailing, scuba diving, and hiking are popular activities on the Catalina. I enjoyed clear, sunny skies, mid 70-temps, friendly locals, and a fantastic tour of more remote areas of the island while treating ourselves to the Buffalo Run 1/2 Marathon.
Catalina is a small, mountainous, and rocky island, 8 by 22 miles (highest point, 2,000 feet). The island is fiercely protected by the Catalina Nature Preservancy. No cars are allowed on the island and most of the island is an undeveloped nature preserve. The water surrounding the island is crystal clear and teeming with fat and happy fish. Catalina has a rich and interesting history. Some odd tidbits? Mr. William Wrigley Jr. (yes, the rich CEO of the Wrigley corporation, as in Wrigley gum and lifesavers) owned the island. He built a lavish mansion, country club, and baseball diamond and fieldhouse. This is the same Mr. Wrigley who owned the Chicago Cubs (at the time, 1914). The Cubs then came to the island for ~7 weeks during spring training during the 1920s-1950s.

These were the views I was greeted with as we ferried in from Dana Point (a quick 45 minute ride; 20 miles):
Avalon's harbor of boats lined the dock us as we pull into the pier. The shadows of the late afternoon sun grew long on the dark green hillside.

The narrow, hilly streets were lined with Old English-style cottages brightly colored in pinks, yellows, and greens, reminiscent of San Francisco. This one was our favorite, clinging precariously to the edge of a seaside cliff.

Race Day:
About 300 of us lined up on race day. The sun was out, and all of us shared the same uniform: a simple t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes.
Me, not knowing how to pose for the camera.

The first 2-miles, although on road, were very slow. We quickly exited Catalina and wrapped up and around the southeast side of the island. I tried my best to settle into a slow jog or shuffle but the ascent steepened almost immediately. I was forced to slow into an awkward "jog-walk", unable to find any rhythm. Luckily, I had brought my camera. I had glanced at the elevation map before we started. 1600' of climbing (all in the first four miles) translated to "4 miles of walking" for me. I started to snap pictures pass the time.

Somewhere between a shuffle and a jog (aka "slogging") up the first two miles.
I was so thankful I had brought my camera. The views were spectacular. Here, we can see the town of Avalon from the road above.
It was a gorgeous day, and the ocean was no-less brilliant. Avalon's boats docked at the harbor. In the distance is the historical Wrigley Casino, the cylindrical, white building.
The smell of the recent rains hovered richly in the damp soil. Emerald green leafy boughs surrounded me in a cool, comforting shade. The sun danced and glittered over the ocean, like blazing coals of fire.
We reached the trail and continued our ascent. All of us were walking now, some more vigorously than others. I shook my head in disbelief. How could some people run this? Besides, I was having too much fun!
Above us, the trail zig-zagged up to the summit.

Up, and up, and up.

A "topographical" view of the first 4 miles of the course from sea level.
Either up or down, the only thing this course lacks is flat!
(Wo)man versus hill.

Are we ever going to get to run? At mile 4, I'm pretty cranky.
The Summit: Our Reward.

Lush grass, velvety vallies, it was straight out of an episode of Lost.

Relieved, we take a minute to pose for the camera before enjoying our descent.

Tantalizing expectations of a relaxing descent were smashed by a sudden out-and-back, 4 miles total, the first two, of which were entirely uphill. More uphill? There was a striking juxtaposition in runner morale depending on whether they were an "out" or a "back" runner. Using some mental strength, I quieted the disgruntled voice inside who continuously repeated, "Are we there yet?"
Finally, we reached the turn-around. A wide smile beamed across my face, as I upgraded to a "Back" runner. I began to run.

Downhill is better than uphill!
Finally, all this run training I've been toiling through can be put to use! I was warmed up (after 7 miles), and well-rested. My feet danced quickly over the well-groomed trail. The final 3-miles were a blazing whirlwind. My legs felt good, and I felt like I could go much farther.

Oh, and if you've made it this far, here's a fun tidbit:
Why is it called "The Buffalo Run"? Although we didn't see any buffalo, there are buffalo that live on the island. Buffalo were released on the island in 1924 for the filming of a movie, "The Vanishing American". Now, they are maintained by the Catalina Nature Conservancy to prevent overpopulation.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stagecoach Century 2011 (1/2)

This was my 4th year riding the (Stagecoach Century), and as always, I was not disappointed. I rode the 50 (I was so relieved not to be riding a full century!). The weather was perfect (low 80s), and I felt awesome. This was a relief; I've been focusing more on running lately, not biking. It was a gorgeous day in the desert; I didn't need any more motivation than that! Plus, I got some awesome pics. This year's ride re-cap is a photo gallery (in sequence) of the ride.

Mountains surrounded us in the desert valley of Anza-Borrego.

Gorgeous view of the desert. Rocky!


Cacti pepper the hillsides like tiny skeletons.

Clumps of cacti like statues posing for a painting.

We flew back towards home at 25 mph (the group of riders we sucked wheel from for 5 miles didn't hurt).

View from the top after climbing Sweeny's Pass. I can see the road spiraling below, where we just came from.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Happy New Year!

Yes, I'm still here. Gosh, I had no idea being unemployed would dictate such a hectic schedule! I've been running around like mad, trying to get a paper published from my postdoctoral work, going to networking meetings, going to interviews, and signing up for some courses to help my resume. However, I feel very positive and have no doubt that my first job in the biotech industry is only a stone's throw away.

Happy New Year! What are your resolutions? I only have 3 but I feel super motivated to achieve them:
1. Exercise consistently.
2. Eat healthfully by preparing meals at home, planning ahead, and counting calories to lose about 5 unwanted pounds.
3. Go to bed early and wake up early. (Gee, this was on my list last year).
These resolutions are all about health this year. I'm already off to a good start.

With the New Year, I've had a lot of motivation. I completely spring-cleaned the house and re-vamped my finances, mapping out my 2011 budget. Now, I feel clear-headed and ready to tackle the enormous project of finding a job.

I slacked off quite a bit on working out over the holidays. (Okay, really, who didn't?) With a (challenging) half marathon only 2 weeks away, I began to freak out. Today, Greg and I logged a very tough 10-mile trail run at Black Mountain Park. Nailed out! I felt great and could have gone farther!!! I have the confidence I need to know I can survive the race now. Personally, I think my Xbox Kinect's Dance game totally helped me maintain fitness while slacking off. Kinect is an AWESOME cross-training tool. Who knew? I'm totally hooked on the dance game. Very addictive.

Finally, since it's the New Year, and we are all striving to adhere to our resolutions, I'll leave you with this:
What motivates you?
Is it health? Fitting into those skinny jeans? A PR at your next race? Let us know!
Personally, I'm motivated to train, race, and simply be active because it's part of my identity. It's part of how I see myself. When I'm sick or injured and unable to train, I feel lost. In addition, I love the positive boost in mental health!