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I'm a self-professed adventure writer and former exercise junkie seeking a long-term relationship with my higher self, healthy workout habits, and a balanced, adventurous lifestyle in San Luis Obispo. Join me as I discover the healthy activities of SLO County, from land to sea.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


No one ever said training for a half marathon was easy. But if it was a simple task, then I doubt there would be much gratification in achieving the training goals, and ultimately, getting to the end of the race. 

Today I ran/walk just shy of five miles. No small feat for me. 

Towards the end of this training session, my mental will to finish took over even when my legs screamed: NO MORE!

But on race day, getting to the end is not just about well-toned muscles. That psychological component kicks in and your brain says "keep on going" even when your legs feel like led. 

So here's to willpower and the ability to dig deep into your psyche. Keep on movin'.

Storm clouds over Pismo Beach in late December.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

SLO Holidays

During the last four days, I've indulged in more than just a few holiday treats: filet mignon, champagne cake, cheesecake covered in berries, my dad's homemade chili, a decadent crab omelet, well-crafted wine and fizzy mimosasjust to name a few. Tis' the season.

But even with the holiday excess, as well as spending some much needed time away from work with family and a good friend, I stuck to my training schedule. 

Christmas Day was all about the run/walk. What a difference this training method can make to a runner's legs. I ran along Pismo Beach for a total of 30+ minutes, running intervals of three minutes, then stopping to walk for one.

This approach to running makes training for a half marathon so much more doable.

Not to mention that this tactic allowed me to stop, stretch my muscles and snap pictures here and there. Who wants to miss the sights along the way?

I wish you many adventures and abundant beauty in the coming year, wherever you are. 

Christmas Eve morning on Pismo Beach Pier.
The sun rose quietly that morning.

The wind and choppy seas made for incredible waves.
A lone surfer took advantage of the fiesty surf  just after sunrise
Christmas Day brought stormy skies.
Storm clouds loomed ominously.
But a few hours later, the sky opened up for a dazzling sunset.
The brilliant light display over the water brought Christmas Day to a spectacular close.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

SLO Run/Walk

I remember a former running coach's edict: "Sometimes you own the road, and sometimes the road owns you." 

Today I found myself in the latter category.

Although I've been following Jeff Galloway's run/walk half marathon training schedule, I admit that I've been a bit impatient with my progress. I've been pushing myself too hard and placing unrealistic expectations on my improvement. Simply put: I haven't been taking enough walk breaks during my runs. 

Although the run/walk method might not appeal to everyone, for a beginning runner or someone
like me who is getting back into shape again, the physical and emotional benefits of stopping to walk during a long run are immense.

Galloway claims that runners who break up their runs are able to conserve resources since they're using muscles in a different way. He further contends that most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don't slow down at the end. 

Not to mention the fact that when you're faced with several miles ahead of you, knowing that you get a short walking break every so often can boost your psyche. 
Today I had every intention of logging in several miles. Although I didn't meet my goal, I'm grateful for the reality check. From now on, run...walk...run. 

Pismo Beach Pier during the holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SLO Utopia

Yesterday I drove behind a car with a license plate frame that read: I live where you vacation. 

Although I felt the placard's sentiment a little bombastic, I couldn't deny the statement untrue.

San Luis Obispo County boasts 80 miles of striking coastline; easily accessible hiking trails that meander along volcanic plugs that sport stunning views; budding wine regions and wineries galore; millions of dollars worth of agricultural crops; innovative local cuisine; and a climate that averages 315 days of happy sunshine per year. 

Let's not forget some of the county's hotspots: Hearst Castle, Morro Rock, Pismo Beach, and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. 

But even when you are surrounded by bliss, the realities of life can take over. I wonder how many of SLO County's 250,000+ proud inhabitants take full advantage of their surroundings.

I know I don't. At least not always. But for me, a little bit of Utopia here and there suffices. 

My 30-minute run/walk on Pismo Beach today did the trick. The sun set low, the waves crashed...the colors gleamed. 

Just another day in paradise. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

SLO Roasted Soup

Saturday I felt great. I braved the early morning cold and ran a nice stretch of beach at sunrise.

Sunday was another story. A stressful work week caught up with me and I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. But my body sensed what it needed: vitamin-packed comfort food. 

I visited a local San Luis Obispo County farmers' market and picked up some vine ripe tomatoes and red jalapeños. I threw them in the oven to slow roast with a whole bulb of garlic, as well as some onion and spices to create a vibrant, spicy soup. 

This satisfying recipe, served with an oven-toasted grilled cheese sandwich is just what the doctor ordered. Flavorful, nourishing, good-feeling food.

Serves 2

2 pounds tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 of a large onion, sliced
1 whole bulb of garlic (unpeeled)
2 jalapeños, sliced with seeds removed (unless you really like it hot!)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
32 oz. vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
4 slices sourdough bread 
Several thick slices of your favorite cheese (I used a cheddar Gruyère combination that I found at a local specialty store)
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, wash tomatoes and jalapeños. Cut out stems of tomatoes and cut in half (If you have jumbo-sized fruit, quarter them). Slice jalapeños in half and scrape out the seeds (wash your hands afterwards!). Place the tomatoes and jalapeños in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. 

Peel and slice half an onion and sprinkle over tomatoes. Put a whole garlic bulb in the center. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place in the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes. 

After time is up, sprinkle oregano over tomatoes and stir. Set timer for another 30 minutes. Stir again when timer buzzes. Remove the garlic bulb to cool. 

By this point the medley of ingredients should be getting soft, juicy, and developing all kinds of wonderful flavor. 

If your tomato mixture doesn't yet feel soft and squishy and bubbling in its own juices, set timer again for another 30 minutes. 

When time is up, take the dish from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Get your blender out. 

Pour the tomato mixture (including juices) into the blender with 1 cup of the vegetable broth. Blend for just a few seconds (don't over-pulverize as this soup benefits from a bit of texture). Pour into a large soup pan on the stove top with the remaining broth and crank up the heat to high. 

Tear open the garlic bulb and squeeze the roasted mash into the soup. It's a messy job, but somebody's got to do it!

Once the soup comes to a boil, turn heat way down and simmer on low-medium heat, uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir and taste intermittently, adjusting for seasonings. You might need to add more salt, pepper, and oregano depending on your preferences. 

Once the soup is simmered down and flavored to your desire, turn it down to low heat. 

Crank the oven back to 350°F. Get out a baking sheet, your bread, cheese and olive oil. Drizzle the outer sides of your grilled cheese sandwich with oil. Place 2 slices (oil-side down) on the sheet and layer with cheese. Top with the remaining bread, making sure the oil-side is up. Place in the oven for 8 minutes, then turn the sandwich for another 4 minutes. 

Remove from oven.  Ladle soup into a bowl and serve with toasty sandwiches. 

Dipping optional. 

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., he contends that eating tomatoes cooked with a little fat yields the most health benefits. Get some lycopene!

Click here for a print-friendly version of this recipe.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

SLO Drizzle

Even though I'm training for a half marathon, I decided not to renew my gym membership.

My decision stems from the move our office will be making early next year. In my new location, I will literally be steps away from the company's workout center.

So on a drizzly day like today, when normally I'd love to jump on a treadmill, I ran outside.

But honestly, the cold sludgy weather didn't bother me much. Life isn't perfect and the sun doesn't always shine.

Besides, you never know what kind of weather conditions you'll have to face on your race day. As in life, best to be familiar with running in the muck, in splendid conditionsand everything in between.
Pismo Beach gets more than its fair share of splendid weather throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Get it Done!

We can all rationalize a hundred different excuses for putting off exercise on a given day. This evening I could have easily gone that route. But instead, I sit here sweaty after a workout, blithe that I at least did...something.

Although I had every intention of driving over to Pismo Beach after work for a run alongside the crashing waves, a hectic workday altered my plans. As the day grew longer and the setting sun splashed glorious pink splotches across the horizon, I gazed longingly at the sky. 

But time ran short and dark hours quickly settled in. My plans changed. I went home, tired.

Yet I still made the effort to dig out a fun, peppy at-home aerobic DVD by Kathy Ireland called Total Fitness Workout. 

I moved. I breathed. I perspired.

My exercise is done for the day. 

November sunset at Pismo Beach.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Steps

Tonight I made it through approximately 16 minutes and 23 seconds of my 50-minute at-home Pilates DVD workout. No small feat. 

Core work is my pet peeve and I tend to dismiss it. But training for a half marathonand taking the rigmarole seriously—decrees that I strengthen the supportive muscles in my trunk and hips. If my core is strong, supposedly the strength and alignment of my spine, ribs, and pelvis will help carry me to the finish line in an endurance event. My core will take over after my legs tire. 

Eventually I'll work my way up to the full 50 minutes that my DVD dictates, three times a week. I can already picture how much taller I'll stand and how lovely it will feel to have my small gut suck itself in. My clothes will fall loosely; I'll be grateful I kept my skinny jeans hidden away in a drawer. 

My goal is attainable. I just need to get there. 

Early December sunset at Pismo Beach.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

SLO Colors

Tis' the season for colorful, melodramatic sunsets. 

Today in the late afternoon, I dragged my stiff, sore legs back to Pismo Beach, where just yesterday I ran along its sunny coastline. But today was all about recovery.

After a leisurely stroll up and down the beach, where I stopped intermittently to stretch and elongate my stressed muscles, the setting sun beckoned. 

I stayed long enough to witness the scattering rays morph from vivid orange, into the soft beguiling colors of lavender and pink, then finally settle into a golden reddish glow across the sea.   

The lighted tree at the end of Pismo Pier meshed with the glowing backdropanother day well done.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

SLO Inspiration

I don't have many heroes. Of course there are people I look up to and admire, but I believe that people are just...well, people.

But if I had to choose just one, my choice is undeniable: Dean Karnazes.

His inspirational memoir, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, sits on my bookshelf just waiting to be re-read. 

For those of you not up to speed with the running world, Dean defies human anatomy. Running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days is just one of his staggering accomplishments. 

A few years ago when I ran the San Diego Rock 'N' Roll Marathon, I heard Dean speak at the runners' expo. Not only was he running the marathon the next day, but he arrived after an 11-day run down California, where he ran point-to-point, covering all California Missions.

I barely hobbled through that 26.2-mile marathon, arriving at the finish line exhausted and sore, yet extremely grateful for the accomplishment.

Running fast and swift still eludes me, but I developed a deep appreciation for the sport. After all, where else can pros and amateurs participate in the same race?

When I found out Dean was going to run the San Luis Obispo Marathon next April, I got out my credit card and eagerly signed up for the half marathon entry. Even though the short days of winter often leave me tired and lacking motivation for exercising in the dark (before or after work), I knew I had to do this. 

Now my discipline begins. I know the drillthree seasons with Team in Training provided me with a solid foundation for endurance training. Hydrating, carb-loading, knowing what to wear, what not to wear and everything else that goes into pushing your body farther than you ever thought possible is engrained in my subconscious.

Today's weekend run on the sunny, cool stretch at Pismo Beach proved the perfect training ground to get started. Firm sand, fresh air, plunging waves. Need I say more?

I'm looking forward to the next several months of training (in the dark or in the light of day), and of course, to the race.