AK and I spent the last five days in...well, a bunch of places--San Francisco, Berkeley, Napa, a couple of minutes in Sonoma. You'd think we'd won a very short trip to Europe and were trying to cram everything in, in case we never made it back there. But hey, that's how we roll. And we had a great time. And despite the pace, we actually took a lot of naps.
First stop: San Francisco, where we hung out with my college friend Nerissa on the far west end, home of reasonable-ish rent, better Chinese food than Chinatown and a lot of fog. "I just pretend I live in Cape Cod," Nerissa said. She loaned us winter coats and took us on a walking tour of Sutro Baths and Lands End.
The trees looked like giant bonsai, and all the plants had a rugged, wind-worn look with a dash of bright California pinks and oranges. The signage was as intense as at Volcano National Park.
The next day, we hung out in the slightly sunnier Mission, where we had lunch with AK's old high school friend Olinda (a triathlete who gave her race tips--where are these sedentary Americans I keep hearing about? Seriously, I would like to meet some. It would make me feel better about myself).
I ate an amazing soyrizo burrito. I hear there's some kind of SoCal/NorCal burrito rivalry that involves the merits of authenticity vs. the merits of whole wheat tortillas and, well, soyrizo. Personally, I have never met a non-chain burrito I didn't love, but I'd be happy to fan the flames of this rivalry if I could be an official judge in many contests.
Then it was onto Berkeley, where we stayed with AK's other high school friend, Laura, and her husband Mikko, adorable children Tai and Meilin, and poodle-ish dog Ella. This family was so wholesome that the grownups were reading books about sharing; that they not only made us dinner but grew it in their backyard; that they staged after-breakfast dance parties and flew kites with the kids; that I felt like a creepy crack addict admitting I really couldn't start my day without coffee.
But of course they were so nice that the minute they overheard me whispering about said coffee to AK, they offered to drive me to a place nearby, which they'd heard was great. Which it was. And a little caffeine makes kite flying that much more fun.
Once in Napa, site of AK's half marathon, the carb loading began. I had me some solidarity pasta. So did Stephen and Garrett, respective significant others of AK's fellow runners, Pedro and Andrea. (Yes, AK is the kind of extrovert who can convince her friends that running 13.1 miles would be a good time).
Unfortunately, if you want to eat pasta in solidarity with your runners, you also need to wake up at 4:40 a.m. on race day with them. Pedro and AK put on white shirts, black shorts and brave smiles, and called themselves Team L.A.
After dropping them off at the shuttle bus that would take them to the start of the race, Stephen and I drove to the finish line in Sonoma, where it turns out there's not much to do at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning besides hang out in the park with the ducks.
A scarily short hour and a half later, Pedro came zooming across the finish line. He'd sort of joked about wanting to finish in the top hundred (out of three thousand entrants), but when he finished 32nd, I think we all saw him in a new light. But Stephen made sure he kept his priorities in order.
AK came in at two hours and 19 minutes, which was within just a couple of minutes of her goal time. At first she was all, "The last miles were so hard. I'm bummed. I feel like crap." And I was all, "But you just RAN 13.1 MILES." Seriously, she worked like hell and it paid off. I was so proud I teared up, and I hadn't even had any wine yet.
You can't really see it here, but the medal (and the race T-shirt and poster) featured a picture of a runner bending down (to tie her shoe? to pretend to tie her shoe?) while a sheep leaps over her, licking its lips in a manner that cannot be described other than "suggestively." I guess the message is, "Running makes you sexy, even to sheep."
After a little stretching/resting, AK felt better. Eventually she was like, "Hey, I ran 13.1 miles."
Our brave runners even felt up to a little wine tasting, for which we were joined by Maria and Calvin, who, along with Pedro, put on their bougie whites.
At Peju Winery, it was nothing but class. And a little grabbing of the occasional statue's boob.
We finished the day at a place called The Border, which seemed to specialize in Oaxacan fusion cuisine: mescal cocktails, mango papaya salad, pineapple raisin flan and some sort of mushroom-y wonderfulness stuffed into a chewy fried turnover. It made me think, not for the first time, that my true athletic calling is competitive eating.