Race recap: What better way to start the year and put a little "spring" in our step than running a half marathon in Palm Springs California! Somehow we managed to run ~175 miles in December and even finished our 4th marathon in January, but oddly enough this was our first half in 3 months, so we were excited to be back on the race circuit.
At the race, local runners were talking about how cold it was (mid 50's at the start), while Kristin and I were happily in shorts and thinking quite the opposite (it was a balmy 18 degrees in Chicago that day). Once the starting gun sounded we were off and fighting a somewhat crowded start. After a handful of quick turns and rolling hills we chatted up Dan (a Half Fanatic who is working on running a marathon in all 50 states) as we continued up some gradual and rolling hills. At mile 3 Kristin and I both remarked that while the pavement seemed flat the surface was actually quite lumpy. We were soon distracted from the lumps as we checked out Kurt Russel’s estate and Goldie Hawn’s palace as we cruised down the course. All the uphill running we did came to a nice reprieve as the course turned downhill for almost a mile, which allowed us to rest our legs, turn on cruise control and soak up the mountain scenery in the distance. The mountains off to our right just beg to be climbed – but we left that job to the big horned sheep. Just past mile 6 we passed the half marathon relay exchange, full of runners eager to begin their race. The energy in the exchange zone was pretty cool, a lot of the waiting runners cheered us on while we overhead more than a few runners say “glad I’m not doing the whole race”, which made us smile. Shortly after the exchange, we ran past the Palm Springs Art Museum and saw the leading male and female runners blow by us in the opposite direction (it was a loop course). After a nice uphill battle, we took a short break to down a gel, which helped to stave off our hunger pains. The final 3 miles were basically a large loop around the finish line, which was equally motivating and discouraging as we could hear the crowds at the finish line cheering loudly but we knew we still had some running to do before crossing the tape. As we eyed the finish line we were greeted by Kristin’s parents cheering us on - which was a quite a sight for sore legs!
Highlights: Aside from having family greet us at the finish line (I still can't believe Kristin's parents took "sweat" hugs from us post-race), seeing a couple run the entire race dressed as the tortoise and the hare was hilarious. And just like the age-old fable, the tortoise out sprinted the hare in the last 100 meters! I can confidently say I would have melted in that costume.
Tip: Palm Springs may "seem" flat, but it's not - be ready for some rolling hills on this scenic course.
Day 1 (Friday):
It's kind of funny that we have a go-to restaurant in the San Francisco airport, but we do! We love Anchor Steam - the beer is great and the steamed crab sandwich was pretty darn good and even better when considering we were in an airport.
We were coupling a trip to see Kristin's parents with the Palm Springs half marathon. After making a quick stop to pick up our race packets, we drove the course so that Kristin's parents could see where we would be running and to check out a number of celebrity homes along the course - check out a listing of celebrity homes in Palm Springs here (Jack Benny, George Burns, Kirk Douglas, Goldie Hawn and even former president Ronald Reagan).
Casa de Gallagher (also known as Kristin's parent’s house) served up some fabulous ribs, rice and cucumber salad - yum! What a great view of the mountains from their house too!
Day 2 (Saturday):
We checked out the College of the Desert street fair, which was more or less what we expected, a lot of artsy stuff mixed with specialty clothing, purses and a ton of socks (seriously there were at least 4 separate booths which just had socks). Nice weather to walk around, but this is definitely geared towards an older crowd. I apologize in advance if your name is Bavis - but I saw this piece of art for a kid's bedroom and it made me laugh. Seriously, who names their kid Bavis?!?!
Sherman's was voted the best deli/bakery in Palm Dessert with good reason. Even though it was 2:00pm in the afternoon the restaurant had a 45+ minute wait, so we did the only logical thing and ordered take out and had a picnic on the front lawn – who wants to sit inside on a gorgeous, sunny day anyways? The turkey was fantastic and some of the best I have had outside of Thanksgiving and the bread was extremely fresh. The rest of the sandwich was non-existent (seriously no lettuce, tomato or anything on the sandwich). Worth a try, just for the meat alone.
Casa de Gallagher this time for spaghetti carbonara with peas - which served as excellent race fuel. One of my favorite Italian dishes – thanks again Joan!
Day 3 (Sunday - Race Day):
Post race we dined at Bit of Country with the Gallagher's for a nice home style breakfast. We were even lucky enough to enjoy our meal on the outside patio. The biscuits and gravy were quite good, but the poached egg on top was a little buttery. Kristin tried grits for the first time and maybe the last time, (tasted like bland mashed white rice), but she enjoyed her eggs and bottomless cup of coffee.
We decided to stretch our legs and walk off breakfast with a stroll around downtown Palm Springs, which was enjoyable even though a number of the boutique store fronts were vacant. We did manage to find Donkey Balls (ok, chocolate covered coffee beans) and Dick Little's star of fame (no idea who he is, but with a name like that he must have been a huge star).
As we were driving back to shower and change we saw a sign for Swiss Donuts and couldn't pass up the opportunity to try the locally made yeast donut covered in milk chocolate and the cinnamon apple stuffed bear-claw. The chocolate frosting on the traditional donut was great and the pastry was extremely fresh. Oddly enough the bear-claw was better the next day (I tried it immediately in the car and was relatively unimpressed but when I re-tried it the next morning I really liked it). I think the yeast donut may have been so good that it confused my palate into thinking that the bear-claw wasn't a nice treat.
Shields is a must stop destination in the Palm Springs area. Not only does this 60 year old shop host a free movie on the "sex life of a date", but it also makes a killer date shake and offers a seemingly endless array of date samples. We liked the brunette dates but loved the date shakes.
We celebrated our 28th state with a victory meal at La Casuelas in La Quinta. The chips and salsa are addictive - the chips are super thin and cooked to perfection and the salsa is very fresh (we asked the server for salsa refills at least four separate times). Traditional Mexican fare which we all enjoyed.
Day 4 (Monday):
We hit the links at the Arnold Palmer course in PGA West, which was really nice. Kristin and I only manage to squeeze in a few rounds of golf each year, and it was a nice treat to play on such a scenic course (a few of the holes were literally dug into the side of the mountainside. We had some good shots, some bad shots and a lot of sand shots, but it was really a great round with the Gallagher’s (minus the 30mph winds on the final 2 holes, which made it a bit challenging to even stand up!) A special thanks to Ralph and Judy Koresel for letting a couple of hacks use their clubs for the day :)
For dinner we visited The Homestead to celebrate a family friend's birthday (happy 75th birthday Ralph) and had a great time with the Koresel family. The French onion soup was smoking hot and tasty, but not as good as Kristin’s homemade variety (that's pretty much impossible though). Overall it's hard to give a review of the entrees as we were having such a good time with friends and family that it seemed like our meals just got in the way of talking (which might mean that the dinner was just ok, or maybe that we were just having a great time).
Day 5 (Tuesday):
I flew back to Chicago to get back to the grind today, but apparently Kristin kept busy over the next few days with her parents. Below is what I found in my inbox one morning with the subject line "This is what I've been up too." Very impressive shooting Kristin - even makes a little nervous that you put so many shots right through the bulls-eye Ms. Annie Oakley!
California Half Marathon Medals
February 12, 2012: Palm Springs Half Marathon