Thursday, September 25, 2014

San Francisco to Napa: Part 2, Ragnar Relay!

Now to the "meat" of the trip.....the race.

For those of you not familiar with "Ragnar": it is a 205 mile relay running race composed of a team of 12 runners (or 6 if you're really crazy). It starts Friday morning, and goes straight until Saturday afternoon! Each runner does 3 legs. When you're not running, you hang out in a van and cheer on your team. The race takes you through some amazing scenery and experiences - and it is an incredible experience! There are 36 different legs (exchage stations)

Our race started at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, followed through some coastal towns (with insanely beautiful homes and massive hills), and into the orchards of wine country. The race finished in Calistoga, CA (which is cute town Northwest of Napa).

I was runner #5 - and my legs were 6.4 miles, 8.6 miles, and 4.9 miles. I added an extra 2.2 miles on at the begging to run across the Golden Gate Bridge with Ryan and my friend Sharon. (Ryan was the lucky dude who's leg took him across the bridge, but we decided to "pace" him - which was an excuse for us to run across the bridge!)

I have the say, running across that bridge was one of the coolest feelings ever. There was such an energy and excitement. It was a misty and windy morning, but that just made it all the more exciting. The wind whipping in your face, the sight of the fog rolling across the bay, it was so envigorating!!!

The pictures turned out kind of goofy, since they were action shots & selfies.
There's that happy face


My friend Sharon and I getting ready to cross!!!

We stopped for a quick photo - it was worth it.
My 1st leg was the most beautiful - which took me through Tiburon Valley. In fact, I saw some of the most breath-taking views my eyes have ever seen!
It was super challenging.  The hills were so steep, that it made me laugh at times. And then when you got to the top of a hill, I took 4 flights of stairs, which took me to a trail - it was insane!
Here are a few pictures from leg #1.

My night run was kind of scary. You were on these country highways, it was misting, you could see vineyards around you when you turned your headlamp, traffic was insane, and there was barely a shoulder. My complaint here was no race support. No cones for safety. I was seriously terrified of getting hit by a car in the dark (especially being in WINE country. Hello, drunk drivers!). We had one runner take a hard fall and another runner get lost during the night.
After my night run, I got pretty really sick. I didn't eat right away - since it was 1 am, and I was going to wait for the rest of my van (6 runners) to be done. Then I got nauseated and couldn't eat. Then I spent the rest of the night hunched over a porta-potty dry heaving. Sorry for the TMI - but it was a huge reason for my tears when I finished this race!!
Going into my 3rd leg was a little nerve-wracking considering my ill, sleepless night. The 1st mile I was grabbing at my sides in pain from cramps. But once I figured out my breathing, I was able to press on and finish!! This is the 1st time ever that I've finished a race in tears. When I handed off the paton to my team-mate, I was seriously sobbing uncontrollably! (and I am not a crier!!) (I kept saying, "I don't know why I'm crying!!!")
This was my face was I approached the exchange station. I have never had to focus so hard on a run! Not even in my marathons! It took so much mental strength and breathing control, since I had so much stomach pain. But I did it!!!
The race was so much fun. The memories, the laughs, the bonding with your team-mates, the sights/countryside you all makes it worth it!
This was taken somewhere between Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Sharon & I were waiting to catch Ryan so we could cross the bridge with him!


Here is an example of the attire that needs to be worn at night (with headlamp and flashing back light) for safety!

It was so exciting Saturday morning when the sun camp up, and we were in a vineyard!! The grapes were ready for harvest!

My friend Kristy and I found it hard not to taste the grapes. But one must "respect the grapes"
One of the exchanges has the most beautiful trees with changing colors!!!
This was my van of 6! There was originally supposed to be 2 guys, but one of them had to cancel. So Ryan "got" to spend 32 hours in a van with 5 women. He could also be known as "The Survivor". Ha!

And here we are post-race celebration! Yes, we are double-fisting the beers! We earned it!!

This team picture has 18 instead of 12. That's because we had 6 people who were part of another team - called a 6 pack! Our team was called "Corked" - the other 6-pack was called "Half Corked".
It was such a fun group of people - and we had such a blast! It's amazing to put this many people in such close quarters with sleep deprivation for 32 hours, and there was no drama. It was all fun and smiles!!




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

San Francisco to Napa: Part One

This past weekend Ryan, myself, and 16 others did a Ragnar race from San Francisco to Calistoga, CA (which is near Napa). Which is a 205 mile, 24 hour race. I'm going to save the explanation for my "Race Recap Post".

We decided to make a vacation out of it, and spent a few days in San Francisco before and after the race. And we obviously indulged in Napa as well.

If I recapped the trip in 1 post, it'd be a novel. So I'm breaking my reflections into 4 posts! We packed that much fun into the trip! Everything was wonderful, and I don't think  I'd do anything different!

Day 1: Arrive in San Francisco.
We arrived to the city by the bay shortly after 12pm. Our shuttle was already waiting for us! (In hindsight, I would recommend just taking the BART instead of a shuttle. BART=$10/pp. Shuttle=$17/pp). The BART is the train system in SF.

We stayed at an apartment in Nob Hill the 1st 2 nights. This apartment was found on VRBO, and it totally exceeded my expectations! Wish we would've had more time to cook - as the kitchen was delightful.
We dropped off our luggage, and headed out to explore. We were on a mission to see as much city possible!
We headed to a little Italian Bistro called Cesario's near Union Square for lunch, where we enjoyed delicious panini's. Next up was our start of the city bus tour.
The bus tour was through Viator, and it was one of the "Hop on Hop off" tours. Definitely recommend it to anyone visiting San Francisco for the 1st time. It was very informative, engaging, and took you on a great tour of the city. I also liked that we had the option to get on and off as we please. The tour starts at 8 am, and the last bus picks up at Union Square at 5 pm. The highlights include:
(This is a view from our tour bus - which was a double-decker)
-Union Square
-Chinatown (2 stops...because it's that big)
-Little Italy (otherwise known as North Beach)
-Lombard Street (the "crookedest street in the world")
-Fisherman's Wharf (the bus stops at 2 different piers)
-Golden Gate Bridge (crosses twice)
-Golden Gate Park
-The Presidio
-Haight and Ashbury (the hippie neighborhood of SF. Jimi Hendrick's house!)
-Through various neighborhoods looking at the different styles of architecture
-Back to Union Square!
Day 1 we only went as far as Fisherman's Wharf. We spent the majority of that day wandering around the wharf, checking out the sea lions (which naturally habituate there), and of course took a break for a cold beer while we gazed at yachts and sailboats!
It's hard to tell from this picture - but there were probably 30 sea lions sun-bathing on this dock! It was so funny watching them play "king of the mountain".

"Ahhh...the sun feels so good"

I was so happy to be comfortably wearing jeans! (In AZ, I would be sweating profusely in jeans) The weather was absolutely gorgeous every day we were there!!

I think I could gaze at these boats trying to decide which one I'd like to own for hours....


A panoramic view of the Bay from one of the piers. Be still my heart.......
The bar we stopped at was a piano bar, and we ended up visiting with a couple from Australia who were touring the US for 6 weeks. They were the nicest couple, and it was so fun to hear their experiences! They have us convinced to make a trip to Australia some day in our future! 
After our "thirst was quenched", we started our walk to Little Italy for dinner. We chose a place called Calzones, which was recommended to us by a tour guide. It was obviously known for their pizzas and calzones. Ryan and I shared the Margarita pizza, and it was divine!!
After dinner, we walked as far as Union Square, and took a cab to the Mission District to an underground Comedy Club. I happened to find it on a local SF website. It was little bit shady, but we ended up being pleasantly surprised by some high-quality comedy!
It was midnight by the time the show was over (way past my 9:30p bedtime) - so we cabbed it back to our apartment!
Day 2: More Touring
Thursday morning we slept in (!!!) until 7:30, got ready, and walked down the street for breakfast to a creperie called Honey Honey Café. We didn't even order crepes (lol). But our breakfast was amazing! I got the oatmeal and Ryan got a Crab Florentine Eggs Benedict. We enjoyed it with a delicious cappuccino.
This was Ryan's breakfast, which I got a taste of. It was incredibly delicious!!

We then headed to the bus for day 2 of our city tour to hit up all the other spots. We ended up learning so much about the history of SF. Such an interesting city!
Since we had seen the tour up to Fisherman's Wharf, we decided to walk Union Square, China Town, and Little Italy (which was about 1.5 miles).
San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. This was quite impressive to walk! Again, the people watching was entertaining.

Next we headed to "North Beach", otherwise known as Little Italy. 1st stop was Peter and Paul Catholic Church to do some exploring.

This was the church where Marilyn Monroe & Joey DiMaggio had their wedding photos taken. (They couldn't get married here since it was their 2nd marriage, which is frowned upon by the Catholic church)

It was beautiful!

We stopped in, lit a candle, and said a little prayer. Pictures don't do justice to how beautiful this church was.
We got back on the bus at Fisherman's Wharf to catch the rest of the tour! We were so busy exploring that we completely missed lunch!

It was very windy crossing the bridge, as you can see by my "hair-do"
We spent about an hour wandering Golden Gate Park, which is actually larger than Central Park (!). It was so peaceful and fun to look at all the plants and trees. It's a very impressive park. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos! Derp!!!
The rest of our friends' arrived Thursday afternoon, so we took the bus back to Fisherman's Wharf for our dinner reservations @ The Franciscan Crab Restaurant.
Since we missed lunch, all the walking worked up quite the appetite! So Ryan and I shared a crab & shrimp platter. It was pretty dang delicious!!
But to be an honest food critic, I felt it was the a little too buttery. (even Ryan agreed. So this wasn't just a case of Abby being overly-health-conscious!) I would still recommend this restaurant. The view are insane, as it's all glass and looks out into the bay.
We completely forgot to get a group photo! I think we were all hungry and tired from a busy day!
After dinner, we headed back to our apartment with happy hearts and full bellies. We had to get all packed up for the race in the morning! We had a wake-up time of 4am!