Eight Years and Counting…

Before we know it, it may be “38 years and counting”…

Tomorrow, we will celebrate our eight-years wedding anniversary. We plan to return to San Francisco City Hall where we married to revisit that beautiful, fateful date.

Being together for eight years, one of the keys is to learn to go with the flow. I’m a closeted control freak. Over the years, I have came out and seen the other side (once in a while). We have a hotel reservation at Omni, but we don’t have a slew of activities booked. Truth: I have looked and have thought of about booking dinner reservation or show tickets. Finally, I let it go (someone please give me a high five) We will go on the fly.

We have an idea of HOW things may be, but there isn’t a schedule to follow. That itself is an accomplishment on my part. I’m slowly learning the art of go with the flow. For example, Vlad and I had an awesome time last night just chilling and not necessarily plan out a “date night”. It’s the HOW and not the what … And more importantly, it is the FEELING for each other that can feel like rekindling the romance. It felt like we were back in the earlier days of dating.

On my birthday, Vlad gave me an Amazon echo. Sweet thought. It was all about the music part. There IS always music whenever/whereever I am. Echo basically can play music from pandora, controlled vocally, much like a siri. The first few days, we were like “Alexa, this” “Alexa, that” I jokingly said: “with Alexa in the house, we will not be talking to each other, instead, we will be talking to Alexa”

Last night, after laughing through few episodes of Sex and the City, Vlad was falling asleep, partly because it was SATC and partly because I was giving him a head rub/massage. Then, out of nowhere, I decided that I wanted to listen to spice girls on Pandora. Pretty soon, I was humming to tunes of backstreet boys and TLC, laughing so hard of how much lyrics I remembered.Even more hilarious, Vlad admitted he knew a good number of songs.

Next thing, we moved on to the 2000’s hip hop when we were in college. 50 cents in da house, yo! Before we knew it, we were dancing as if we first started dating and jamming to “Get Ur Freak On” So. Much. Fun. and So. Entertaining.

Who knew Echo/Alexa can be a time machine?

This is the advantage of being born only couple years apart and being together for a good amount of our 20s. We shared similar musical “rite of passage”. It was such an ordinary but super fun night, because of the person I was with. The mood was playful. The atmosphere was intimate (candlelight for the 90s music!). The person was perfectly right!

It is not WHAT to do, but choosing the HOW to do it and with WHOM to be with. I’m really excited for what the next 38 years of the HOW and the WHO with the love of my life.

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Morgan Hill Half Marathon: Closing the 13.1-mile Chapter of My Journey

5am. The alarm went off. I rose out up bed thinking “am I really doing this?”

6am. I dressed in the tech shirt I received at my very first 5-K race in September 2013. I put on my favorite ‘Running is Cheaper than Therapy’ cap. I taped up my knee and ankle. I laced up my blue Mizuno ascend running shoes. Out I went, navigating in the still-dark streets, to my last 13.1 mile race in Morgan Hill.

7am. Crowds of enthusiastic and excited runners blasted off the start line. I thought to myself “okay I’m really doing this”

The journey of running began more than two years ago in the spring of 2013. I was that person who hated running but chose to do it to continue the change-of-lifestyle adventure I had began fall of 2012. To this date, I still didn’t know why I chose running. Maybe it was the easiest thing to do at a relatively inexpensive cost where no gym membership or fancy equipment was required. Maybe it was about conquering what I hate. Either way, I have no regrets even as I have struggled with the idea of walking 13.1 miles today at my last half marathon at Morgan Hill.

Tackling 13.1 miles in any fashion requires effort. The idea of being out there WALKING it has been a tough one for me to swallow. Call it pride. Call it ego. Call it crazy. But at the end, I wanted to finish this chapter of my journey in any fashion I could. I registered for the Morgan Hill Half (MHH) last year as my goal to PR. Unfortunately, I injured my right ankle and knee while training hard. I had to postpone, which to my gratitude, the race organizer allowed it!

Fast forward to 2015, I never really recovered, flopping few races and finally decided that 5-10K was the more reasonable distance for my body. I had completely forgot about MHH until end of August when the e-mail showed up about the race! I thought ‘maybe I could still train?’ Then, I had to deal with allergy that totally overtook my life. I barely had enough energy to stay active, let alone train a half marathon.

I finally decided 1) postponing for another year made no sense 2) getting out there was the ultimate goal. As I  cheered for my friends during this year’s SJRnR half marathon in September, it felt nostalgic. So I set the bar really low – ‘go out and just start’ If I had to DNF, so be it. At least I finally could say I made the effort and closing out the half marathon chapter with sincere effort.

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I finished. In smiles. The second part was the more glorifying part because the smiles came from meeting two walkers at mile 5. They were angels. As droves of runners passed me, I was left behind as the sole walker. I had to admit that was hard – the feeling of being all alone out there. Having two new friends who shared similar story of injury-turn-walker made me feel totally in good company. We shared stories. We laughed at the ‘mile12’ jokes/conversations. It was totally awesome!

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I’m grateful to the two new friends. I’m grateful to close out the half marathon chapter, in smiles. I’m grateful to my friends who have come for support. I’m grateful for the journey thus far. I will continue running in some fashion, perhaps shorter distances, and definitely with trail running.

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Now onto recovery…

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First Time Surfing in Costa Azul, Cabos, Mexico

The highlight of the recent Los Cabos trip was my first-ever attempt at surfing. This was not an easy decision because I was not a confident swimmer. In fact, prior to Cabos, I have never swam in open ocean without a life jacket. I have participated in snorkeling in other trips where life jacket was always required (and necessary in my case). I only learned “swimming” few years ago as an adult and I barely mastered the breaststroke in a kiddie pool.

Originally, I had signed up for body boarding lesson while Vlad registered for surfing lesson. Oddly, I did feel better and more secure with body boarding since I would be “surfing” towards the shore. After a lengthy conversation with a friend, who had done surfing, he said it made no difference in terms of “swimming”. In either scenario, I would be out in the ocean. I would not be able to “touch” the bottom of the ocean until I reached the shore.(That was the root of my fear – I freaked out when I could not touch land) I was half convinced after that conversation. Fear, irrational as always, just did not go away with “logical explanation”.

I did not dwell much as we embarked on the trip. The day before the lesson, while confirming the pick up time/lesson, I decided to ask the lady if I could still change to surfing. She assured me that it would be safe and actually more fun. I told her “okay, why not”

We drove from Cabo San Lucas to this local sport called Costa Azul to surf. The water as the name suggested was crystal blue and the waves were HUGE! I thought “holy mack, these were real waves!” And there were few dozen surfers out catching waves and it did look fun!

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We had two instructors taking care of five students, a pretty good ratio. The quickie lesson was done on the sand – “one, you lay down; two, mini push up; three, you stand up” It was less than ten minutes. Then, the instructors went off with the group of three teenagers. I thought “What? Now I am supposed to know how to surf?” Vlad and I were still tired and half awake from previous day’s adventure of off road driving. I didn’t really have much energy to “freak out” although I secretly hoped that maybe I could still take body boarding lesson.

To my surprise, the instructors did not take any boards. They were in the water with the students, helping them catching waves. The most helpful thing was the instructor “commanding” when to stand up as they helped “timed” the waves. It was much easier. That helped with my nerves knowing the instructors were in the water close by.

When the other group finished, the instructors waved at us to come into the ocean. I reiterated to one of the instructor, Victor, that I was not a good swimmer and felt really nervous. He said “okay” and told me to “take it easy”. No strong reaction (which in retrospect, it was a good response).

I had my first taste of physical challenge getting the board into the water. As stated earlier, the waves were big and as they crashed on shore, it had tremendous energy still. Because of my unfamiliarity with the ocean and the board, I got smacked around trying getting into water. Finally, Victor said to get on the board quickly and PADDLE, the word that would haunt me for rest of the morning. I paddled, paddled, and paddled (and paddled some more) to the open ocean. By the time I got to the spot to catch the wave, I was already tired!

To Victor’s credit, he never left my side the first session. He could tell I was really not a confident swimmer, as the first catch turned out to be half successful. He would tell me to get ready as the wave approached and told me when to “stand up” I did as I learned on the beach but my nerves got the best of me. I wanted to actually “fall into water” so that I would know that falling into open ocean without a life jacket was safe. I was after all strapped to the board, which essentially was a floatation device!

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That first fall was not the worst because I had planned it. The second fall was the hardest because I actually caught the wave and half confused because I did not know what riding the wave felt like! When I realized I was balancing on the board and riding the wave, it was super exhilarating and at the same time, the exhilaration took my focus away from balancing. And BOOM, I was off the board. All this happened in about 15 seconds. The wave kept going dragging my board towards the shore as I struggled with gulping salty sea water! That was NOT a pleasant experience.

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In between each catch, there was more “paddle” (and more paddle) back to the ocean. I was dead tired and my arms felt like spaghetti by end of the first session. I could barely walk back to our chairs. In some instances, I had even hard time getting back on the board (which required core and arm strength). When the second session arrived, I was half dreading going back. I did not know if I had more energy to one, getting the board back into the ocean; two, to paddle; and three, to surf!

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To the instructor’s credit and passion for surfing, their enthusiasm helped tremendously. They continued to encourage me and helped me stay afloat. They would cheer when one of us caught the wave. I did catch several waves. As the instructor called us at the end, we were “professional beginners” How about that, a sense of humor on top of being excellent teachers.

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I was glad that I challenged myself to do something I feared. It taught me to face head on (literally as the wave crashed into me few times) with  fear. Now I am actually thinking to go back to the pool and continue to swim to get over my lack of confidence in water. I know it has always been a mental thing than a physical thing. Granted, I was extremely tired and sore the day after surfing. The mental gain totally outweighed the physical gain. I’m very grateful and blessed with awesome teachers in Cabos with this amazing experience. Finally, I am thankful for the perfect ocean condition that allow a “professional” beginner to successful and safely navigate her first surfing session!

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Vacation in Costa Rica (In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the sloth welcomes us)

Pura Vida!

That was the first and the constant phrase we learned upon arriving to Costa Rica! It was used to say “hi”, to say “thank you”, to say “good bye” and to use as an explanation. The literal translation was “pure life” In essence, it was an attitude, almost like you only lived once, so make it purely about life. This could also be used to describe our 10-days trip to Costa Rica – it was pure and it was about life!

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Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for a while now. Finally, we decided to check it off the list this year. We went there to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary. What a perfect choice!

In summary, we transversed from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast and visited four areas/cities: San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal, and Manual Antonio. In total, we travelled over 1000km in 10 days. This was probably closest to “backpacking” we would ever get.  The landscape and diversity of wild life were both impressive. The Costa Ricans (ticos as they called themselves) were very genuine and welcoming. We absolutely loved the country and the people!

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We started our journey in San Jose, the capital. We were only there for a day so we only visited the highlight museum – the Gold Museum. For a small museum, there was a lot of gold on display. Very impressive. We also enjoyed one of the best Sangria we’ve had in a while! The Argentine parrillada was divine. We inhaled that BBQ in matter of minutes!

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We then headed over to the Caribbean coast to visit the Tortuguero National Park. Tortuguero meant turtle in Spanish. We unfortunately missed the eggs-laying season. However, the experience of a true tropical RAINforest was still unforgettable!

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Tortuguero NP was located amongst canals and it resembled like a mini Amazon rainforest. To get to the park, we had to drive to the nearest port to board a boat. Then it was another 1hr45mins to the lodge. The boat ride was beautiful and relaxing. The rain never stopped when we were there. The funny part was our guide, Andres, said, “this was NOT rain”. And clearly, there was water falling from the sky. By nightfall, we finally realized what he meant – there was rain, and then, there was TORRENTIAL RAIN!

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The one day and one night we were at Tortuguero, we felt like there was water EVERYWHERE and ALL the time. Our clothes never dried. It was that humid and rainy. Thankfully, it felt tropical, meaning, it never felt cold. Just very damp. We visited the national park and saw a lone remaining baby turtle. We also saw numerous awesome animals: baby crocodile, iguana, leaf-moving ants, etc.

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Then, it was time to change the scenery again. We headed over to Arenal Volcano area. It was still in the jungle, where rainforest dominated the landscape. However, it was dryer and much less rain, which made the Californian in me happy! We had few adventures in Arenal, including walking on the hanging bridges, hiking down to see La Fortuna Waterfall, hiking up the volcano national park, and ended the adventure in the hot spring.

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We definitely saved the beach for the last. Towards the end of our vacation, we would celebrate the anniversary. Since we both loved the beach, we ended the trip with visiting Manual Antonio National Park. Oh my god – it was THE BEST BEACH ever!

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Modestly, we could not say we’ve been EVERYWHERE, but we’ve traveled enough to know when we found a gem! Can you think of a beach where you could see the crystal blue water along a sandy beach AND see white-faced monkey and raccoons patrolling the beach, almost next to you? Moreover, there was some three-toed sloths hanging on the tree, almost like posing to entertain you. What a unique setting! Best of all (yes, there were a lot of “best” associated here…) The water was WARM. The beach was perfect to swim and to learn how to surf. I could move here. Really.

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It was an unforgettable trip! We will definitely return. It is not that often that we want to return to the same place. Costa Rica is one of the rarest exception!

Pura Vida!!

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Changing It Up for Fun

After a week off from traveling to see friends and family in LA, my running training took a hit. Training in LA wasn’t an option as most of the time was spent with family and friends. While it was fun to see friends/family, I really did miss running. When I got back from LA, it felt so awesome to run 5K! 

I definitely was looking forward to the long run over the holiday weekend although I was a little concern about how much in shape I was after missing last week’s long run. So I decided to take the long run to somewhere I haven’t ran before. After seeing my friends in LA area who lived near the beach, I loved the ideas of running along the coast. I drove 45 minutes to Santa Cruz, the nearest beach/coast to me. 

Oh, it was SO worth it! 

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I started at Natural Bridge’s Beach along Cliff Drive on the Santa Cruz’s coast. My plan was to run all the way to Santa Cruz Boardwalk and back. My recent longest run was 8 miles and my plan had been to equalled the same distance. I wasn’t really sure if the out-and-back would make 8 miles but it looked close enough on the map. 

The view/scenery made the first few miles very easily passable. The day was perfect with sun out and there were beach strollers out and about along with surfers in the ocean. What a nice day~ 

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The lack of training definitely started to creep up on the way back. By 6.5 mile and the final mile, I had slowed to a walk because my knee was acting up. I started feeling the pull from the calf. I did not want to risk injury so I decided to walk. In the end, I put in 7.5 miles, not entirely close to my original plan of 8 miles but it was an honest effort. And the view was so worth it!  

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I definitely want to return to this route again and run further the next time. It is absolutely gorgeous~ Sometimes, changing up the routine can be so much fun and motivating! 

More than half way, that’s more than last time!

Last time I ran the SF RnR 1/2 Marathon, my longest training run for that race was 10K or 6.25 mile. I only gave myself 4 months to train, which proved to be insufficient, as life/sickness/traveling happened. I also learned it took time to condition the body.

I still finished the first 1/2 marathon and had the experience of my life. I must confess: after mile 8, I used mostly will power to finish the race. This time around, the second half marathon training, I gave myself more than 6 months. That proved to be a good move as I struggled with bronchitis for three weeks in June and was side tracked. 

Finally, the “comeback” streak started with the 10K Bad Bass Brazen Race. At that race, I equalled my past training’s mark. The following weekend, I went out to Guadalupe Trail for 7 mile long run. It was not satisfactory because the heat got the best of me as well as the unfamiliarity of the trail. I still logged the miles in.

Just yesterday, I finished 8 miles on the more familiar territory of Los Gatos Creek Trail. I started from downtown Campbell and made my way to Lake Vasona in Los Gatos. I was thinking to myself “wow, I could now run from city to city” Something I heard other runners said in the past but never understood how that was possible. 

I would admit that mile 7-8 was definitely challenging where I had to keep saying “stay strong, finish strong” as I was also practicing “giving all I have” on the last mile. I didn’t want to “struggle” on the last mile as I did on the last race. Finishing strong is a goal I have for this second 1/2 marathon! 

I also learned from yesterday that going for the high milage, it was important to take it step by step. It was helpful for me to divide the milage into sections with my self talks. It was actually hilarious thinking back, I focused on getting four miles in (which was easy since I’ve done that many times). Then, I focused on getting to mile 6, also something I’ve done. Then to mile 7, which I told myself, okay, I JUST did that last week, easy! Then mile 8, I started saying “okay, this is the real training, just ONE mile, I can do it”. 

I don’t know about other runners and how they “self motivate” but I talk to myself A LOT. It’s a good thing that at least I do it in my mind, otherwise, people would think I’m nuts! Hahaha! This week, I may consider doing 8 miles again just to make it a solid conditioning. This is another beauty of giving myself 6 months to train. I feel way more relaxed to adjust training with fluidity and flexibility. When I can, I accelerate with attending race and increase milage. And I when need it, I can repeat. I really think for novice runner (like myself), it’s important to give at least 30-40% buffer on recommended training plans. Life happens. And conditioning needs time to take place. It’s not a “run it, forget it” type of sports. 

Finally, I’m super excited that training is more than half way with achieving mile 8! Yay! 

 

Why I Enjoy Running

Enjoying running is a new adventure for me. Up until high school, I did not enjoy running and totally detest the 1-mile fitness test every school year. I was the slowest person in the class for that test. Wait, correction, I was the second slowest person since the class clown would be tailing me and making funny movements for laughters. That certainly did not make me feel better. I actually had to try to NOT be the slowest person.

It wasn’t even like I was “unfit”. I was in the volleyball team as well as basketball and soccer. I even went to gym AFTER those practices! I just did not like running for the sake of running. Give me a soccer ball and I could run an entire 90-minutes game. Tell me to get on the track and run one-mile, I felt out-of-breathe after 30 seconds.

Believe me, I can’t even fathom how I change to a “runner” recently. But here I am, plotting when and where I would run during our vacation last week. Running was going to happen, somehow, especially running shoes/gears were packed. We went away to Tahoe with some good friends, renting a cabin with alpine views. Really beautiful. Really serene.

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We were at Truckee, northern Tahoe, at an elevation of 5800ft. Normally, this was never an issue BR (before running). Now that I was determined to get a run in, all of sudden 5800ft was a cardiovascular challenge. I knew I had to adjust to the altitude so I started with a mild hike with my friend and her two puppies second day. I even attempted with a jog and I felt out of breath very quickly!

I did not know if a run was even realistic mid-way through our stay in Tahoe, especially, after a very fun, but taxing day on a boat on Lake Tahoe. The sun was amazing, the view was beautiful, and the tubing was tiring!

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The tubing fun left me sore on my neck and arms (and some sunburnt). I decided that I would forego the “must-run” idea. I would see how I feel the next day. I did not want to risk the chance of injury. Training for a half marathon has taught me to be flexible and listen to my body.

I was glad I did because the next day while everyone was recovering and staying in bed. I woke up feeling pretty good at 7.30am. I knew I could run. I grabbed my belt, my iPhone, headphone and put on my shoes and left the cabin. I still wanted to take it easy (the elevation would be the challenge already) so I went to Donner Memorial State Park and just jogged on the trail along Donner Lake. It was mostly flat but absolutely gorgeous!

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I ran a total of 2.5 miles. I felt breathless from both the insurmountable beauty as well as the elevation. I definitely had to stop both for pictures and for breathe. It was perfect, which brings me to the final point: why I enjoy running.

Simply, running has pushed me to do things I otherwise would not have thought of. Because I’m in training, even during vacation, I look for ways to be active. Because of this, I discovered Donner Park via running the trails. I was the only (crazy?) person to take a step further to explore another place out of our group. I was also super curious to see I would do at the almost 6000ft elevation. Not bad, 2.5 miles was a proud accomplishment! Again, running pushes me to challenge myself. This is why I love running, even on the days I just can’t find an ounce of energy to do it!

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(This pair of shoes has ran at 5800ft)