Friday, February 14, 2014

Bang Bang (Guns and Stuff in LA)

It's Valentine's day! So let's talk about guns, sausages, and beer!

I'm currently waiting for Scott to get out of class to have some adventures around Redlands, so I thought I would celebrate now by talking about last week's "Explore LA" date. Last Friday, Scott was in town for my sorority invite (in which we were decked out as Hugh Hefner and a Playboy bunny). Usually, the following Saturday we catch up on all our shows and have a lazy day, but this time my house was holding a conference.

The conference left us with no where to stay, so we decided to spend the day out and about downtown. After a quick lunch (breakfast?) at Pizza Studio, we drove to the LA Gun Club by the arts district in Downtown LA. I knew a few people who had gone before, and it was on my "do before I graduate" list.

Scott and I had never shot a gun--I don't think I've even held one--so I was getting the nervous/excited feeling as we walked in. I'm not sure what I expected from a gun club, but I was shocked at all the options and was getting antsy as we took our numbers and waited to be called.

Luckily, we seemed to have beat the large crowd that came in after us, and soon we were talking to an employee about the best gun for beginners. The place gets mostly beginners looking for a fun activity, so I was't self conscious asking a bunch of questions. I wish I could remember the name of the guns we used, but we started off by renting a handgun that I can only describe as the Russian roulette type. I picked a target, and we were given headphones, glasses, and an aisle number.

We had bought a round of 50 to share, and I started off the first shot. Even with my first bad couple shots, the experience was exhilarating. I also was shocked at how well I got the hang of it. By the time I had finished my portion of the rounds (we switched off every barrel), I was spending most of the time admiring my handiwork.

Scott and I ended up having so much fun that we decided to rent another gun and go for one more round. This time we went for a semi automatic handgun that the army uses, and grabbed another target. This gun had more of a kick to it, and all my previous "skills" from before were completely gone. I think I only hit my target about 5 times throughout the whole practice. Scott on the other hand was killing it, and getting everything on target.

Finally, our bullets had run out, and we decided to finish up. We were there for probably about 2.5 hours (including wait time), and the club doesn't rush you to finish which was really great. The whole thing cost about $70 between two people so it was a fairly affordable date (as long as you split it) and was an adrenaline pumping activity. It was so much more fun than I expected, and it's always fun when even after 7 years there are still "firsts" for Scott and I to do together.

Our next stop was at a popular restaurant in the arts district called Wurstkuche for an early dinner.
It sells sausages and imported Belgian and German beers, and is one of those hipster-y restaurants that actually lives up to its reputations (so I heard). It was my first time eating there, and I ordered a simple kielbasa and German beer while Scott got the same (different beer) and fries. The food reminded me of Prague but even better. Ok, so Prague's kielbasa will always hold a special place in my heart but having a bun to eat it with instead of a single piece of dark bread was an improvement. 

It was so much fun just hanging out and eating good food, and by the time we got back to school we had just enough time to squeeze in two episodes of Community before Scott left. It was one of the more perfect weekends I've had all semester. A party with friends, adrenaline, good food, and Scott visiting makes for an amazing couple of days.

Now I just need him to get out of class!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Surf City Half Marathon!

After 3 months of training and long runs everywhere from San Francisco to Santa Monica, the weekend of the Surf City Half Marathon was finally here. Running a half marathon is also on my new bucket list, so I was both nervous and excited to finally do it.

On Saturday, I drove to Long Beach to pick up my sister, and we both headed to the race expo to get my and my roommate's bids and swag bag. It was much funner than I thought it would be and Jessica and I spent most of the time grabbing all the free samples and admiring my new hot pink, long sleeve (!) race shirt.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out until we decided to grab a dinner downtown at Pitfire Pizza. Madison and I shared a pizza and spaghetti and meatballs (tip from my brother for our pre-race meal) before heading back, packing our running stuff, hyperventilating, and setting our alarms for 5:45 before finally heading to bed.

5:45 is a time meant for sleeping. Hearing my alarm and realizing that I was getting up to run 13.1 miles (which I had to keep reminding myself was something that I had not only chosen to do but also paid a decent amount of money for) made me wish for a few more hours of sleep. Especially since I found out when I'm nervous, I wake up and switch my pillows every hour of the night. I was happy that I already laid out all my clothes the night before, so it just took a quick change and grabbing my bag before I was downstairs eating my PB&honey English muffin.

The sun was rising as we drove the 45 minutes to Huntington Beach, and for once there was no LA traffic and the radio wasn't playing ads. We were trying to mentally prepare ourselves for the race, and the drive did actually help.

What didn't help was waiting almost an hour for the shuttle to take us to the starting line. It was really cold and we went from being intimidated to just wanting to get on the bus so we wouldn't be cold and late. By the time we made it to the start our heat was just about to begin. Without anytime to get nervous, we were instantly running.

The start was scenic and felt good. I instantly warmed up even though I had tossed my jacket to the side, and running the two miles to a three loop mentally made the first half go quick and painlessly. I ran the first half of the course with Madison which meant that I had someone to talk to.

For some reason, I had decided to train for the entire half marathon without listening to any music. It actually made the run feel much more special, and it became a more meditative experience. During a good run, I can just zone out and think about nothing for several miles or focus on mantras that motivate me.

Until mile 8, we were running to Bolsa Chica Beach on PCH. I was shocked about how good I felt--I didn't want to walk, was at a comfortable pace, and was enjoying having so many people around me to "target" since I usually run alone.

At that point, I grabbed a free Cliff Bloc (first time eating during a run) which helped get a little energy back. I was also tempted to grab a donut that people were handing out, but refrained when I imagined the stomach cramps that could result. As the race took us back to Huntington Beach, I started to get more and more tired. From mile 9-10 I was cursing the slight uphills (while also happy that my house was surrounded by so many hills during my training runs) and debating at what point to turn on my music. Mile 11 was a rough point--I finally turned on some Beyonce before realizing that without headphones, I couldn't hear anything. Luckily, at the point there were more spectators and I had made up several mantras that I was chanting in my head to make sure I didn't stop running.

Although slightly nauseous, I knew my one goal was to run the whole marathon. I had to keep reminding myself that I would be so disappointed if 2.1 miles from the finish line I started walking. It also made me think about how far I've come and how well the training worked. Achieving a goal was taking actual hard work, and I was amazed that this was possible for me. A red vine handed out by a spectator also may have helped too.

A huge motivator was also knowing that so many people came to support me. Scott drove out from Redlands, Jessica came to watch, and my two friends from school Andrea and Maddie had driven out as well. It wasn't until I was running the race that truly I realized how much it meant to me, and how much it helped keep me motivated.

I saw them right at the finish line and waved before crossing over with the biggest smile on my face. That smile quickly turned to shock when I realized that instead of relief, every muscle from my butt down was KILLING me. I could barely walk, but I still managed to grab all the free food and my medal on the way out before meeting up with Scott (who may have offered to carry me ;).

I cannot put into words how proud of myself I am that I completed the half marathon and stuck to all my goals. Finishing the race was a combination of awe at how feasible the race felt (up until mile 9 I felt strong and in the zone) and how much mental strength it took to not take walking breaks. I was amazed I could run so far and so long without listening to music and really focusing on myself, my goals, and at the same time nothing at all.

A half marathon has been a goal of mine for years. I would print out half marathon training plans and look up races, but never got past a three mile run. Crossing the finishing line was so empowering, and I'm already looking forward to my next one (not in the near future however). I was also beyond appreciative to have such an amazing support system and people around me.

Even better, we celebrated with a mimosa and some chicken and waffles from Roscoe's in Long Beach. My eyes may have been a little bigger than my stomach, but it was amazing (and I had the leftovers for dinner). What's the point of a half marathon if you can't brunch?