Thursday, October 29, 2009

Part Two: The End

I can now proudly say that I have two full marathons under my belt, and I beat my previous time [(albeit by 1 minute), though, to be honest, I feel I could have easily broken 5 hours on a flatter course…which means I want to test that theory by completing just one more marathon. I have my sights set on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this time (let’s just hope they have had enough time to learn from their mistake back in 2007). The Chicago Marathon is in the Fall (like Nike)…putting that together…I will be training during summer again (Ugh! Me no likey the heat). So, cats and kittens, if anyone wants to come with me to either run the marathon, or sightsee in Chicago afterwards - start planning now! You have approximately 1 year to schedule time off :)]

I know I thank people a lot on here - but, again, a BIG thank you to my parents and Juan for coming out to support me on marathon day! The pictures you took during and afterwards have reconfirmed my belief that I look awesomely terrible when I run.

As for the trip and race itself…

I felt like a little kid on the morning of Christmas when I got on my Virgin America flight 2 days before the marathon: I hadn’t slept more then 4 hours, I was hoping that the man with the big flying mobile was going to bring me something good, and I had an anxious leap in my stomach every time I thought about what was just about to happen.

I had booked my westward bound flight to be the same one as my team so that I could have some companions on the long journey (though I spent most of the trip asleep). I had traveled solo to Alaska, and although I didn’t mind it too much when I was in the air, I was thankful to have someone I already knew at the designation when I landed (who also happened to pick me up from the airport). Since I went with my Team, I was able to hop on the prepaid bus with everyone else, and not have to worry about whether or not I was going to arrive at the correct local.

We were staying in the downtown section of San Francisco, just 2 measly blocks away from Union Square (a.k.a. the start line), with some of the other chapters - who all seemed to arrive at just the same moment we did to check-in. Fan-tabulous. We all stood in the windy, long line on the second floor of the
Parc 55, waiting to see if our room was ready and we could check in early. Everyone in front of me seemed to be having luck, and I even texted my mentor and teammate, Kristy, (who had arrived slightly before us) to see if she got into her room - which, she, of course, did. I could not wait to get a shower.

I get up to the counter, “Name’s Mozer, Lauren” and…

“I’m sorry miss, your room won’t be ready until 3 pm today.” It was then 10 something in the AM. I slowly took a look back at my luggage and sighed. Since my medium sized bag had broken recently on a trip to Texas, I was forced to use my gargantuan roller bag instead (that I proceeded to pack until Virgin America needed to strap a “HEAVY” tag on it for the poor guys hefting it into the airplane’s belly), as well as bringing along my bookbag, and large purse. They gave me the option of leaving all of it downstairs at the concierge desk for the time being, but that still didn’t take care of the whole showering issue. I felt gross and just wanted to rinse away my 5 hour plane ride before hitting the streets of San Francisco for the first time.

Luckily Kristy arrived in the lobby moments later, and graciously allowed me to use her room for my primping needs while she headed out to pick up her race day packet and window shop for awhile. Fifteen minutes later, I felt and looked much better. After I finished getting ready (cough…another 30 or so minutes later…), our other team member and my marathon roommate, Wendy, had arrived into town with her boyfriend - completing our trio (well, quartet, including Greg).

We headed out, and up. I knew San Fran had big hills, but I didn’t realize that there would be nothing BUT hills everywhere. You are constantly going up or down a hill no matter what direction you are headed. You were headed north up a hill, and then decided to make a quick left west down a side street, and are now…still going up a hill? What in the…? The day, however, was absolutely gorgeous (though a tad warmer then what I had been expecting), making whatever we did that morning enjoyable. Plus, I was in California! Life was good.

When we arrived it was sunny and just around 78 outside. I didn’t need more then jeans and a tee-shirt to walk around in - which was fine for the first day, but seeing as how I packed mostly light sweaters and thin jackets - anticipating a more Fall like atmosphere - I was nervous I would have to buy a completely new wardrobe for my 5 day trip. It ultimately worked out just fine, and I had brought just the right amount of cooler clothes with me. (Side note re: weather - I had also apparently planned my trip perfectly, seeing the East Coast had massive amounts of flooding and chilling temperatures from almost the moment I left, but yet when I flew back the next week, I was coming into sunshine and 70 degree temperature. Thanks weather gods!)

My immediate impression of SF (aside from the hilly streets) was that it reminded me very much of New York, NY - only (I hate to say it) not as good (though MUCH better smelling). We were staying strictly in the downtown section (read - skyscrapers and chain clothing stores), and I hadn’t made it to the water yet (which I wanted to note immediately after making my “SF looked like NYC” comment, since I got MANY sideways glances after verbalizing my initial observation while still in Cali), staying between Market Street and Washington Street, traveling briefly into Chinatown looking for a cookie factory [that we never found :( ]

After a bit of walking around, and a quick bite to eat at a very cute Irish pub (with outside seating), we headed back over to Union Square so Wendy and I could pick up our race day packets as well. On our way down (yes, finally, down!) Post Street, we ran smack into Nike Town where a crowd of women gathered on the sidewalk to find their name on the (wait for it…its quite profound…) “Wall of Names.”

The “Wall of Names” holds every name of every runner who signed up to do either the Half or the Full Marathon, which of course brings out everyone’s narcissistic side as they clamber to locate their name, screaming “I found it!” proceeded by, “Take my picture! Take my picture!” to some family member/ friend/ spouse standing back away from the crowd with camera in hand. I was no different or better (as you can tell by my picture).

We then walked across the street to the big tent set up in Union Square and waited in line to get our race day packets, which included: race number, a few coupons to use later, some sport beans, a granola bar/ fruit bar thing and our race chip. We decided not to spend too much time in the expo since it was ubber crowded, and planned on coming back early the next morning to get our free manicures, fruit smoothies, and flavored oxygen (Ooo La La!). Feeling a little tired and needing to check- in we headed back to the hotel and made some dinner reservations down in North Beach (where my parents were staying, so I gave them a quick call so that they could meet up with us). Once we were inside the room we took advantage of the time and started to organize and get ready for the next few days ahead.

Saturday we stayed true to our word and got up early for free manicures and smoothies (I passed on the flavored oxygen), and then decided to walk down to the Embarcadero to do some more sight seeing and picture taking. We took the flattest route we could find (Market Street) and walked at a leisurely pace. After checking out a cute outdoor market, snapping shots in front of the Bay Bridge (side note - did you hear that the Bay Bridge is now closed indefinitely? Talk about a scary commute home from work!), walking down the boardwalk and checking out some of the Piers (I'm on Pier 7 in the video),

I met up with my folks and cabbed it up to Fisherman’s Wharf. Hello tourist trap! I did enjoy getting my first look at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in person, and seeing the Pier 39 seals (noisy suckers). After lunch we grabbed a trolley ride back downtown so that we could get ready for the Inspiration Dinner Team In Training organized for us. At some point during the day Kristy had to run over to our lead staffer, Jenny, and pick up a few things from her. While there, Jenny handed Kristy some personal notes our head coach had made for every single Nike participant from our chapter. Since he, Coach Charlie, went through all the trouble of making these for us - and I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen - I thought i'd share my card with all of you:

Tell me that didn't make you smile.

The room for this dinner was two times the size of the one we had in Alaska. EVERY Team In Training chapter participates in this event since the entire marathon (whether you did it through TNT or not) benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. After wafting through the crowds of people and cheering coaches, we headed over to the buffet tables, grabbed some food and drinks, and navigated our way up to the front where the National Chapter’s tables were.

The food was decent, but the speakers were top notch. We had Joan Benoit, who was the first woman to win a gold medal in the marathon in 1984, a woman, around my age, who not only watched her mother and father deal with Hodgkin's Lymphoma as a young girl, but was diagnosed herself a few years ago with the disease and became a direct beneficiary of funds provided by LLS to help her cover her medical expense (amazing story. I was surprised I wasn’t crying), and, finally, John "The Penguin" Bingham once again showed up and ended the evening with a bang and a laugh. I was the only one at my table who had seen him “perform” before at a LLS dinner. Favorite quotes from that evening’s performance:

“I have been told that during the Victory Party I will be in the game room playing something called Wii. Now, I don’t know what that is, but that would so be like San Francisco, wouldn’t it? We can all go ‘Wee’ in the game room.”

“Now, for all of you that have run a marathon before you have had a personal experience with the next thing I’m about to talk about - but for all you newcomers, let me warn you that, I don’t know when, but at some point during the race tomorrow you will experience what I like to refer to as the ‘bite-me zone.’ It could be the person you spill all your secrets to, the person who has stood next to you during the toughest of times, you love this person with all your heart, however, you will get into this zone and if they open their mouth, or heck, look at you…‘Shut up! Just shut up would you! No one CARES what you have to say. NO ONE!!! Get the hell away from me!’” (More on my personal experience in the bite me zone later…)

After everyone had eaten their fill, and the speakers were done inspiring us - we filed out of the Moscone Center and headed for our respective hotels. I hugged my parents goodbye, attended a brief meeting with the TNT coaches and staff to talk about logistics for the following morning, and went back to my room to iron on my name to my jersey, puffy paint my neon green visor and lay out everything I needed the following morning in a convenient location. By this point (9 pm PST or 12 am EST), I was exhausted and ready to get some sleep. And I did, like a log.

The alarm went off around 5:15 am, Wendy and I got up and started the process of putting on our race gear. Body Glide on entire body - check, sport sunscreen applied - check, race number pinned to jersey - check, timer chip attached to shoes - check and OW! As I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to lift my right leg onto my left knee to adjust my shoelaces to accommodate the chip a dull ache shot from the tips of my toes all the way to my right glut muscle. It was too painful to keep that position and I put my leg back on the floor. Hoping that maybe that was just a fluke spasm, I tried again - ouch! Nope. I started to panic slightly and think back on the last few days. Darn those hills! I started pacing the room to warm my legs slightly, and then began to stretch out my IT band and hamstring. Wendy was even nice enough to let me use her stick. After working on it awhile, it still wasn’t feeling any better - but what was I going to do? Not run the marathon? Hardly. I changed my running plan slightly, and decided to start the marathon off at a slower minute per mile pace to help relax the muscle. I wasn’t thrilled, but I also knew that our first intermediate hill was at mile 3 and I wasn’t going to Charlie Horse and have to be carted off the course. No way, no how. So after accepting my fate, we headed to the lobby to meet up with the rest of our team and walk over to the start line (two blocks away).

After Kristy, Wendy and I dropped off our bags and did our port-o-potty rotation, we headed down Geary Street to locate our pace group (denoted by one person who volunteered to hold a pole with a sign attached to the top of it, which listed the pace they were running and time they were going to finish at, for the entire marathon. Insane.). The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am PST (10:00 am EST), and by the time we got in place, we had about 10 minutes until the gun and then however long after that until we crossed the finish line (turned out to be 15 minutes or so after the gun went off). True to form, as soon as we were settled I had to go to the bathroom again. I looked back to where I’d have to go to hit the restroom line again, and thought better of it. I knew I’d never find Kristy and Wendy again, and I wanted to at least start the race with them, especially with the way my leg was feeling.

It would have been nice to have my camera with me at this point, though there was just no way I was going to carry it with me for 26.2 miles. Being in the sea of people (mostly women), a lot of them with the LLS purple on, was incredible and hard to describe. Since most of the “death march” to the start line was spent with my eyes on the immediate ground in front of me, making sure I didn’t trip over anything, it was hard to focus on anything other then, “left, right, left, (rock), right, (curb), left, right, (pothole)…”

I missed a lot of the ambiance of the beginning of the race. Luckily, I can count on

Thank you MoshBrown for this video. She did an excellant job capturing a lot of the course - especially the beginning. The slow shuffle you see everyone doing before hitting the Start Line is exactly what I am referring to when I say "death march"

LaTeenCulture also created a great short video which shows more of the course, and gets a few people speaking about the experience (the second tux guy - the one in sunglasses - was the one who handed me my necklace!):

And last, but not least...someone was nice enough to stand on the curb, right past the start line, and videotape the whole begin of the marathon. I couldn’t find me in the massive crowd - but seeing as how I crossed around 15 minutes past the gun, I’m in one of the later videos (somewhere, probably -I'm like a female "Where's Waldo?" - purple shirt, black stretchy pants, green visor. If you find me, let me know!). If you have some time to kill - enjoy :)

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

And finally, Part 4 of 4

We crossed the finished line and took off at a jog. I clicked my watch to start the timer, and tried to get in the mindset that I wasn’t going to stop running for the next few hours.

I saw Juan, who had arrived the night before, right off the bat (so great!) and after that my mind kind of goes blank for the next mile or 2. I did stop off at the bathroom, where NO ONE seemed to understand the importance of “pee quick and go” - I stood in line no less then 10 minutes. It was nerve wracking. Not because I had to go so badly, but because I was frustrated that I had not only lost my running partners, but had lost so much time and could no longer see the 4:40 pace sign! 10 minutes can be the difference of an entire mile for me. I tried not to get discouraged, and thought about how I’d make up the time later. I also didn’t want to step out of line because I knew the same scenario would present itself at the next bathroom stop (whenever that was) and I did kind of have to go. So, once I was able to get back on the course, I picked up pace - slightly.

The next thing I remember - I was at the first intermediate hill and Coach Chip (who had coached me during Mayor’s) was there cheering me on and reminding me to take smaller steps and keep my shoulders loose. I ran up the hill, and the next thing I remember after that was that I was coming down the other side of that hill, at mile 4, and I hear, “Lauren! Lauren! Woo hoo - Lauren!” I was disoriented, still focusing on my lost time, so it took me a minute to realize it was my parents yelling out to me. Yeah! It was so good to see them, and definitely broke me out of my funk. I trotted along, feeling pretty good.

Since I really only remember snippets of the next few miles, I will give you a brief overview of what I remember:

- The first big hill I decided to walk partly up because I was running just as fast as I could walk it.

- At the top of that hill was a gorgeous view of the Bay, and I remember huffing and puffing, keeping my head down slightly, then looking to my right at the top and, “Oh, isn’t that pretty!”

- At Mile 5 I knew I was going to finish the race and became very very excited that I was finally out there running. My leg had loosened up and I couldn’t wait to cross that finish line. (See - I told you I don't like running until mile 5...)

- Another hill, I can’t remember if it was the next big one or not, was the part of the course where they gave us slices of oranges. I don’t eat when I run (other then Luna Moons) so I bypassed this section and then spent the next 1/2 mile or so dodging peels on the road, nearly slipping a few times. I guess every course has to have a, “What were you thinking when you planned this?” section. This was Nike's.

- Nike picked some GREAT "Power Songs" for us to listen to at the designated sections. Can’t tell you exactly what they were (my gut says 80’s) - but I remember jamming out to them! [No headphones at all for this race for me :)!!!]

- Safeway (a sponsor of the event) and random spectators all made a good showing with their signs – most were specified towards a certain runner, others were witty, or inspirational, but my absolute favorite of the day was literally written on an index card and all it said was, “Go!” For some reason I got a giggle out of it. It was short, sweet, and to the point.

- Speaking of…at some point I ran into Kristy and her friend Erin (Wendy was apparently up ahead), and we were able to chat for a bit about how the course was going.

When we hit the portion of the course (around mile 12) that herded the half marathoners in one direction, and the marathoners in the other (it's in MoshBrown's vid), I thought two things: 1) Oh thank goodness there won’t be so many people on the course anymore! and, 2) okay, next time I’m near this section I’ll be finishing the marathon!

After the halfers moved on, they had us do a long U turn before entering Golden Gate Park - which allowed us to pass some people coming down the other side. I spotted my teammates Anita and Wendy! They both looked like they were doing great. I had devilish thought (just for a second) that I could hop over to the other side and join her. The only thing separating me from the other side were sparsely set up cones…but, no. I didn’t want to get a lower time by cheating - not after all the work I had put into training. Darn my morals!

The park was pretty, and I tried to enjoy it and not to hate those that were just out for a brisk Sunday jog (still not in my bite me zone yet). As I was on the way out I ran into a familiar and friendly face, Wendy’s boyfriend, Greg, pops up on the course and starts jogging with me…in jeans, and stylish, non-running sneakers. Oh Greg, how sweet! He also tried to snap a few shots of me, but, not wanting to stop, it took a few attempts before he was able to get a clear shot. Apparently, that day Greg ran further then he had EVER – all in the name of keeping his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s friends company – awl, what a sweetie!

Next memory is of the stretch of course next to the beach when I hit mile 16. My parents were waiting on the median with homemade signs and their camera. My mom and dad had huge grins on their faces, and my dad was waving his sign back and forth to make sure I saw – unfortunately, it was upside down. I still have no idea what he wrote on it. As I was headed up, I tried to tell him so that he would turn it around, but in his excitement (and after probably standing around in the cold awhile) it didn’t click until I was almost passed him. He jumped out on the road with me to ask him how I was feeling and if I needed anything. I was in a good mindset at this point in the race. I had passed the mile marker for 16 a little while back, which means I just had to go 5 up and 5 back to be done. I could do that – no sweat. I told him I was good, and he asked me if I wanted him to run with me some more, “Nope!” and I took off down the lane. The race coordinators had set the course up so as we were headed up from mile 16 – 19, we could see the people who were about to finish on the other side. This screwed with my head in many ways.

1) Seeing them finish made me think that there wasn’t far for me to go (though I’m not sure why, since I new I had 10 miles left to run. Probably because there is a point in which your brain just turns off logical thinking when you run this far. Your body just can’t handle running that long and making rational connections at the same time. At least, mine can’t),

2) with this euphoria of thinking that I was almost at the turn around point, when I came to the part where I thought I would U Turn, like before, it was time to run around the (dauntingly large looking) lake,

3) I had completely forgotten about the Merced Lake and seeing it completely took the wind out of my sails. EVERYONE I have talked with since the race has said that the lake was the hardest section for them – and all because it was a mind scrambler.

In reality, it was only 3 miles of the course, but coming up to it looks twice that long. Not only is the first impression tough, but it’s lonely out there (besides all the traffic that was let through and we had to run next to), there are many tiny hills you are constantly going up and down (this is the part of the race where I started to throw curses at the hills in my head – not the big hills, all the stupid, nagging, little hills that never seemed to end. Can we get a little “flat” here please? Thanks.), and I was completely disoriented as to where the ending point of this never ending circle was (this was probably the hardest to deal with of the three). I had now hit the bite me zone – for all 3 miles. Mile 22, just like the last marathon, was the absolute worst for me - mentally. It had been 6 miles since I had seen my family last, and although I hadn’t minded my father running with me at Mile 16, I started to get angry about the possibility of him running with me after I broke free from the lake.

“He better not. He doesn’t know how this feels and then he is going to be asking me all of these unnecessary questions. He shouldn’t ask me questions. He shouldn’t even talk to me. I bet he’ll jump out again and be smiling and will pat me on the back. He better not pat me on the back. Oh, he better NOT run with me. How dare he think he should run with me!”

I couldn’t believe how angry I was over something that hadn’t even happened yet, and had a good possibility of not happening at all. My poor father, who flew across the country to love and support me, who stood in the freeze wind for hours waiting for his daughter to get done her marathon, was now, unnecessarily, getting yelled at in my head. What kind of terrible person am I?

I feel bad NOW, but when I was in the bite me zone, the anger just radiated through my body. Word to the wise: if you know of someone who is running a race, and they hit the bite me zone – just back away, quickly. Trust me when I say, you do not want to get caught up in their bite.

When I finally did come back around to the other side of the lake, it was like finding my stride all over again. Sure, I was sore and, according to my watch, I was about 30 minutes off of my goal time (I blame the hills, my sore leg/ glut and the long port-o-john line), but I had hit the part of the course that was now all down hill (woo hoo!) and only 2 miles from the finish line. I picked up speed, and just let myself coast for the next 1.5 miles. I decided not to look around to much and focus on my goal – the finish line. I ran into Coach Mikey around mile 25, and he kept pace with me for a little while. When he fell back, he let me know that I looked strong and happy.

“It’s all an illusion.” He got a good chuckle out of that.

I came to the last ½ mile. Coaches, finishers, spectators all crowded the sides and cheered us on as we came in. I picked up more speed and just strided into the finish line. I walked up to the nearest tuxedoed man, who handed me the ever coveted eggshell blue box, and felt joy and sadness that the adventure was now over. Did I really just complete my second marathon? Wow. I proceeded towards the finisher exit where I handed over my time chip (I could actually lift my leg to the stool they set up, I was pretty proud!), and then was bombarded with bagels, bananas, granola bars, coupons, our mylar wrap and – luckily – a bag to put it all in. (Dear volunteers, we, who just finished a marathon, are lacking motor skills. Please give us a few extra seconds to situate ourselves so we don’t drop things on the ground. Kind regards, me).

My parents found me disturbingly quick, and the next thing I know Juan is by my side. Great job guys! After a few pictures, and the donning of my Tiffany’s Necklace (e.g. race medal) I checked in at the TNT tent, sent my dad to get the bag I checked before the race, sent my mom to wait in the massage line for me (they’re the greatest), and headed to the stretching tent.

Although my time was right about the same, I felt 100x better after I finished then I did during my first marathon. At Mayor’s I could hardly walk when I was done. Getting 100 feet took 10 minutes and the next day was even worse. Rita and I crawled around her apartment, only walking erect if it was absolutely necessary. There wasn’t a whole lot of “absolutely necessary” going on that day. After Nike, besides my right knee being a little sore and my legs a little stiff, I felt good. I walked around with no issues.

After a quick massage, I decided to head over to the medical tent to get some ice for my legs anyway, just as a precaution. I’m guessing because it’s a women’s race, Nike stocks only SF’s cutest guys to come help out. Not only were there male cheerleaders on the course, adorable firemen in tuxes at the finish line, but my EMT, Justin, was also very handsome. Unfortunately for me, I had just run a marathon and was not looking or smelling my finest. Oh yeah, AND he lives in California. Oh, right. I had initially just expected them to hand over some bags of ice to me, but I was given the full work up. And, since it was just my right knee and right hamstring that were sore, Justin had to wrap the ice around my leg so that I couldn’t bend at the knee joint. It was quite comical to watch me attempt to walk around after that point.

When I was ready to head back to shower and change, I could not locate the TNT shuttle buses. I finally ran into one of hte mentors, Mimi, who had fortunately done this race before and lead the way. For some reason the TNT shuttle buses were rather far away from the finishers’ area. We had to walk across a parking lot, go through a wooded path, and then down about a block before locating our Parc 55 shuttle bus. I kept thinking that I was lucky I wasn’t more sore at this point. Since my parents were taking a different shuttle bus back to their local, I hugged and kissed them goodbye (my mom let me know later that I tasted like salt. Well, yeah - silly!). Juan had disappeared earlier to meet up with another friend in SF (such the popular guy!), so we had made plans to grab a drink after my Victory Party.

Wendy was already in the room taking her ice shower when I got there. I hopped in after her and decided against taking a nap before dinner. Not sure I would have made myself get up after being in my nice, warm, rented bed! I met up with my folks across the street at the Hilton for the VP, ate 3 or 4 plates of food, plus desert, plus wine, plus water (I was hungry…I tried to note the calories I burned when I finished. It was something akin to 2,630. I apparently need 1979 calories per day to sustain my current weight. Since I was in the negative zone, I had some catching up to do!). After eating our fill, we all headed over to the karaoke room and jammed out with some rather impressive karaokers. Everyone looked great, I even saw some girls in 4 inch heels (no idea how they were able to pull that off after a marathon - or even a half marathon).

My parents were leaving the next morning, and since I was continuing on with my trip, we said our goodbyes that evening before they headed for their hotel. They were tuckered out! They had had a long day :)

It didn’t take me long to crash either, yet forced myself to keep my word to Juan and head out for a drink. How many times am I in San Francisco? Exactly. I was getting a drink out, darn it. Wendy and Greg joined us at Lefty O’Douls, Kristy apparently was already asleep by the time I called to invite her out (only smart one of the bunch!) so we raised a glass to her in her absence.

The rest of the trip would take me another 12 paragraphs or more to write about, so I’ll do a quick summation (because it was amazing):

- My hotel reservation at the Parc 55 was only booked until Monday morning (since that is when the other TNTers were headed home). Wanting to wait until I got into the area to see where I should book, I plopped down at the hotel computer and searched for something close to where I was already, and boy did I find something! The Mosser - are you kidding me?!?! Pronounced slightly different, but still. Completely affordable too (thank you!) Juan helped me lug everything over, just 3 blocks or so, and became instantly jealous of my surroundings. So he ended up booking a room there for his last night in SF :)

- Monday we also went to Berkeley. Originally we were going to head to Napa, but we both wanted to sleep in a bit after the long day we had on Sunday. We meet up with Kristy and her dad for breakfast, and she let us know that the BART would take us right there, so…we hopped on and walked around. First, we had duck into Walgreen’s and pick up some umbrellas (it POURED that day), and find out where the school was actually located. Gorgeous campus - I’m officially jealous I didn’t do undergrad there. And, apparently the stereotypical Berkeley hippie has taken a shower, gone to Abercrombie, and made themselves more preppie. Interesting…a few hippies were spotted in the metro when we were headed back into the city, though. Whew! Thank goodness the culture hasn’t completely died!

- Tuesday we hopped on a tour bus and headed for Napa! We had opted for a tour bus since neither one of us was familiar with the area, or had a car, or wanted to spent the day debating what wineries to hit, or hold back on the tastings (most important part!) On our way out to wine country we got to go across the Golden Gate Bridge (please see video) -

which thrilled me to pieces. Once in Sonoma/ Napa Valley, we visited Jacuzzi (yes, the same Jacuzzi), Madonna Estates (no relation to the singer) and Sutter Home (yes, Sutter Home. No, I’m not kidding. Sutter Home.) The first was by far my favorite - nicest wine, and the winery itself was breathtaking. I should have purchased more bottles. At the second one, Juan and I were joined by some of my friends from back east - Gideon and his wife, Emily. So, so great to see them. They looked so relaxed too - I guess not working will do that for a person (wink). I, for some unknown reason, couldn’t talk them into accompanying us to Sutter Home (hmmm), but they were able to join us for a leisurely lunch on what turned out to be a perfect day for wine tasting. Thank goodness we had decided to sleep in and hit up Berkeley Monday! After some delicious sandwiches and good conversation, Juan and I said goodbye to our friends and got back on the bus. Our last stop was the Sutter Home vineyard. (They actually had a reserve that was quite good. It doesn’t get mass marketed, like their others; you can only buy it in their tasting room. I still opted against purchasing it.) Sutter Home also had some very beautiful grounds, and apparently the cottage in the back is somewhere you can rent a room while you stay in the area. Hm, a B&B near a winery…? I think I could like California…

- In general, I’d like to go back to SF when 20,000 women, plus their friends and family, aren’t taking over the joint. I’m sure there is a completely different feel to it. I’ll be glad that I know the city a little better next time though, since apparently no one in SF can give directions. Juan and I, on multiple occasions, from multiple sources (to include hotel concierges) would get wrong street names, or they say left when it was really a right - you name it, we were sent in the wrong direction. I’m sticking strictly to my map during San Fran, Part 2 - whenever that is.

- The day had finally come where I was headed off. A lot of people had had their flight delayed because of weather conditions back east. Again, the weather Gods blessed me and I actually arrived 20 minutes early! Too bad my bag didn’t arrive until 9:00 pm that evening…Yeah. Even though I had shown up to the airport an hour early that morning, Virgin didn’t put my bag on my flight (for God knows what reason) - so it didn’t arrive until the next inward bound flight from SF. They couriered it over to me, arriving at the reasonable hour of 2:00 am - 1.5 hours after they said their latest arrival time would be. (insert gasp here). I never check my bag, so the one time I do - stupid oversize, wine bottle carrying, suitcase! Upside to this was that I didn’t have to worry about lugging in to class with me (which I went to, straight from the airport)!

I think this is long enough! Thank you again to everyone who donated and participated in this experience with me!!! Clearly it was amazing - from start, to finish. Oh, and if you see me in the Youtube videos up top - please let me know which part and at what time! Think - green visor!


  1. I had a great time reading your post! Thanks for posting..You've got nice photos.

  2. Great pics! Looks like you really had fun with that. Hope I can have the same experience.. thanks for sharing.. :)