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Every now and then you meet someone who makes an impression on your life. Someone who, through their integrity, hard work, selfless achievements, and personal sacrifices, is, simply put, a hero. I was fortunate enough to meet such a person recently, although I didn’t fully realize the scope and quality of her heroism until the other night.

I met Molly Thorpe for the first time several weeks ago when Alan and I volunteered at the Run for Ike 5k. When I met Molly, I was mostly impressed that she had managed to put the event together in three weeks, involving the community, the police, and the city government as sponsors, supporters, and volunteers. It was impressive, but not heroic. I also knew that she coached young students to run in many events, including training for, participating in, and hopefully finishing the Los Angeles Marathon. Again, impressive, worthwhile, but not necessarily heroic.

All that was before I attended the annual award banquet for the Palm Springs Marathon Runners and finally recognized just what a hero Molly is.

First, a little history of the Palm Springs Marathon Runners. The program has just finished it’s fifth year. Molly was inspired to start the Marathon Runners after reading an article in Runner’s World Magazine about ‘Students Run LA,’ a similar program, which focused on taking ‘at risk’ students and training with them to run the Los Angeles Marathon. Molly embraced the idea, partly because she was a runner and a teacher and loved the idea of changing students lives through running.

Over the years, 75 students have participated in the Palm Springs Marathon Runners program. Of those, 30 completed enough smaller events to qualify to run the marathon, and 27 of those completed the 26.2 mile race. Along the way, the children learn about commitment, dedication, friendship, goal setting, hard work, and accomplishment, just to name a few of the benefits. To date, each participant is either still in school, or has graduated from high school. Some have gone on to college. And these were troubled kids, some of whom had been expelled from school, who, had they not found this program could have ended up being written off by the standard school system.

While I was preparing to write this post, I sent Molly an email asking about the history of the Palm Springs Marathon Runners. She quickly replied and asked me to spread the word about the program. To do so, I added a new page to this blog and copied Molly’s entire email, which gives a lot more information about the program. To read it, click here.

When we arrived at the banquet, we mingled for a while, then following the seating charts were seated at table #2, along with some friends of ours. Greg Klein, co-owner of KleinClark Sports, who produces many of the running events in the Coachella Valley, and helped the PS Marathon Runners’ program by offering discounted race entries. Cherie Gruenfeld, who has completed numerous ironman distance triathlons and has written a book on how to train for the event. Cherie introduced Molly and her kids to multisport, and they added a triathlon to their training program. Jim Franklin, who at 81  still competes in many running events and enjoys sharing his experiences (and the road) with the young people in the marathon program.

Our friends, Jim Franklin, Greg Klein, and Cherie Gruenfeld were seated at our table.

After we had all taken our seats, Molly introduced herself, talked a little about the program, then introduced the people sitting at table #1, who included her husband, Jay, some family and close friends. Then her teacher side came out, and she had her runners introduce the rest of the guests.

We were shown a video of the runners participating in this year’s events, then Molly, again channeling her inner teacher, called upon her students to stand before the crowd to tell about their experiences.

This was when I realized that I was in the presence of a hero. As child after child stood before us, they all, some haltingly, some confidently, spoke about their experience becoming marathon runners. They talked about the challenges they faced, the accomplishment they felt, the confidence they gained, all through participating in the Marathon Runners program.  Most of all, though, what came through during their speeches was the love and respect for the woman who, in reality, had saved them. It was Molly’s guidance, dedication, hard work, and love that enabled them to learn that they could succeed.

Ironman Cherie Gruenfeld gave all the kids a signed copy of her book, "Become an Ironman."

The rest of the evening went quickly. We were fed (I was able to make a nice vegan tostada salad!), many awards were handed out (Molly really knows how to put together an awards banquet!),  The last part of the evening was dedicated to the Run for Ike. Ike was the Palm Springs K-9 who was killed in the line of duty last month. The proceeds from the race will be used to purchase and train a new K-9 officer for the police force.  Amazingly, $15,130.25 was raised! Palm Springs police officers Lt. Fallon and K-9 Sgt. Cabrera were there to receive the check. Sgt. Cabrera brought tears to my eyes as he choked up himself describing the loss that the entire force felt with the death of Ike.

I love being called "Ikes Angels!"

What really touched me about the whole experience was this: This dedicated woman put together this program from scratch. She worked with the community to raise money to fund the Marathon Runners. She has dedicated her life to these children. She is, of course, out there running right along side them, both in training and in the marathon. She stands behind these kids, fights for them, and when all is said, she loves them. Molly Thorpe, not only are you a hero to your kids, you are my new hero too.

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it started off in the best possible way. I slept in. Seriously, I don’t get to do that very often. Between working most days at 5:30 (yes, that is AM), trying to beat the desert heat, or just getting an early start on the day, my alarm clock generally goes off somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00. So my big deal was no alarm clock and I slept all they way until about 5:30. Woot!

After my coffee, I figured I’d be a good mother and take my furry kids for a run. They love it so much, but sometimes when time is short they miss out on their run. So I took them for a two mile run. The video below is from a different day, but it gives you an idea of how much we all enjoy our run.

Next up..a bike ride with my husband. I am so happy that Alan is finally recovered from his bike crash. Yes, it’s great that he feels good and can get back to training, but, to be honest (and totally selfish), I am much more committed to my training when my training partner is healthy. In any case, we had a nice 35 mile ride with almost perfect weather.
Our timing was so spot on..with high winds forecast and of course, Mother’s Day plans, we chose to cut the ride short, arriving home just as the winds kicked up. The shorter ride allowed me time to have a short nap (oh, yeah!) before getting dressed for the actual “Mother’s Day” part of the day.

We were meeting my youngest son, David, at my favorite restaurant for lunch. Native Foods, is, of course, the only vegan restaurant in the desert, but even if there were competition, it would stand out above the others.

I needed to try their Mother’s Day special. As quoted from the Native Foods Facebook page:

Oh yes, I needed that. I encouraged my son to order the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, something I always suggest for first-timers, non-vegans (or anyone who is hungry). Alan had the Chicken Run Ranch Burger, which was the daily special and came with a side. My entree was wonderful. Why doesn’t my tofu scramble taste like that?
We had an extra treat during this visit. Chef Tanya was in the house and kindly stopped by the table to chat and let me pose with her! She is always so nice whenever we see her at Native Foods and seems to love to get out and talk with her customers. She suggested I post the photo on Facebook (which I did–Twitter too!).

That's my little boy!

Following my advice…
David gave me, you guessed it, a new cast iron pan for Mother’s Day. I always feel the direct request works pretty well. Nathan, my oldest, and my future daughter-in-law, Sarah, sent flowers.  Very nice.
This post has been a bit of a ramble, but it was obviously an event filled day. After lunch, I resumed being “Debbie” instead of “Mom.” We did a little shopping, then headed home. I did want to mention dinner (since it is in my post title). I made Vegan Mexican Pizza. Follow the link for the recipe, but I did make a slight change. I didn’t have any of the Vegan Queso, so I made my own. I took about a half cup of Daiya Cheddar, added an eighth cup of almond milk and an equal amount of fresh salsa and popped it in the microwave until the cheese melted. Perfect!

I sprinkled some cilantro on top and served with a chopped salad.

Really an excellent day.

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Alan and I volunteered at the Run for Ike 5k race on Saturday morning. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ike was a police dog who was killed in the line of duty last month as he and his partner were chasing a suspect. As Ike was released to tackle the man, the suspect pulled a gun, shooting both Ike and his handler. Ike’s partner was treated and released from a local hospital. Ike died at the scene.

When Palm Springs’ teacher and runner, Molly Thorpe,  heard this story, she decided to do something to raise money for the Police Department to purchase and train another K-9. Molly will be the first one to say that she did not do this alone. She was assisted by many people, including Tracy Redmon, who lived near the scene of the shooting.

Alan interviewing Molly Thorpe, the teacher and runner who worked so hard to put "Run for Ike" together.

Molly Thorpe, Palm Springs' Mayor Steve Pougnet (3rd from left) and the Palm Springs Marathon Runners before the start of their 10 mile run.

Molly is also the coach of the Palm Springs Marathon Runners, a group of students, many of them without previous running experience, who train to run the Los Angeles Marathon each year. Molly combined her love of running and coaching to create an event that would raise money for the purchase of a police dog: a 5k race, plus a 10 mile training run for her team, who would take pledges for each mile they would run.

With three weeks to plan this event, Molly and Tracy went into action (Molly stated on race morning that she hadn’t slept for three weeks!). In that tiny time frame, they pulled together both sponsors and volunteers from throughout the community. The City of Palm Springs and the Palm Springs Police Department jumped on board right away. Hurrying a process that usually takes months, they waived the fees associated with such an event, providing the road closures, course set-up, and police presence that usually costs thousands of dollars. The Mayor of Palm Springs, Steve Pougnet, a runner himself, even ran the 10 mile route with the students and was there to see the runners off for the 5k.

The officer told me that this wasn't a 'real' CHP vehicle (his car is parked to his left). Good thing, cause I don't think he'd fit in this Smart Car.

Other K9 handlers were there to support the cause.

Molly also got the Lion’s Club involved. In addition to volunteering at registration and finish line, they also offered a free pancake breakfast for the runners. Other organizations donated money, water, finish line dog tags (a great idea for finisher’s medals!), raffle prizes, and many other items. She recruited other volunteers, including Alan and myself, to help out. Alan, in addition to announcing the race, also helped with set-up and logistics. I was in charge of the finish line timing, which was hand-timed with a chronometer and pull-off tags (the old fashioned way!).

The Lions Club showed up in force. This is Shirley.

His vest said 'president,' but he said he was the former president. I guess they get to keep their titles, like the real President.

Not vegan, unfortunately, but nice, and free to all the runners.

Mostly through word of mouth and a little local news coverage, more than 140 runners pre-registered for the race. There were also probably 100 or so day-of-race sign ups. At 6:00, as the 10-milers took off, the weather was cool. That wouldn’t last long, with temperatures of around 100 degrees forecast for the day. Sure enough, by the 8:00 start time it was getting pretty warm (that’s what we desert rats call 85 degrees or so).

Guide Dogs of the Desert had a booth. These two 11 month olds are in training.

The Mayor again, before the race.

The Color Guard

The runners are ready to go.

Amazingly, for an event pulled together so quickly, everything went off without a hitch. The kids completed their 10 miler with time to spare before the race started, the 5k runners had a good time, and the community participation was excellent.

Connor Blalock, the men's winner, has a special place in our hearts. He ran on our Palm Desert High School Cross Country team for four years!

The women's winner, Marina Jones, is also a friend. A few years ago, she was the oldest woman, at 49, to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon!

The fundraising goal was $6,000 in order to purchase a K-9 police dog for the Palm Springs Police Department. The final numbers aren’t available yet, but I was told that by race time over $8,000 had already been raised! That is without the race day registrations, t-shirt sales, raffle ticket sales and other donation made today. I would say that the Run for Ike was definitely a success!

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Yes, I know that we are over a month into it. And here in the desert it will soon (some will say already) feel a lot more like summer than spring.

But spring means starting over, refreshing, new, and that is how I feel right now. Winter in the desert means great weather (especially relative to the rest of the country), but it also means “the season.” “The Season” means Snowbirds. For those of us in service businesses, like personal training in my case, Snowbirds means “too busy to do much else besides work.”

So, the dawn of spring means the end of 10-12 hour days, relief from the horrendous traffic, the ability to walk in to places like restaurants, hair dressers, Starbucks, etc. without an appointment or reservation and not be turned away. Spring means, in a word, recovery. And, oh God, are we desert dwelling service providers ready for it. Quick, now, before we snap each others heads off!

Not yet, but soon

For me, personally, it means more time to play. Meaning running and riding my bike. Hurray! (gosh now what will I use for an excuse?)

May is still a wind-down month. Many Snowbirds are starting to leave, but many remain. A lot depends on the weather “back home.” Several of my clients will stay until June, so I can’t totally relax yet. But, I can feel it coming. The gym is quieter, the traffic is lighter. And we have the freedom to make plans. So, in addition to probably getting an extra day each of running and riding during the week, here is what is going on in May:

May 1st is my sister’s 45th birthday. This has nothing to do with spring or our plans (because she is in Texas), but I like to keep reminding her that she is catching up with me (hope you’re reading this, Lis!). edit: Whew, I got the card in the mail! Always a challenge for me.

The following Saturday, May 7, usually a riding day, is the Run for Ike. Ike was a police dog who was killed in the line of duty a couple weeks ago, saving his partner’s life as he gave his own.

Alan and I are volunteering, he as the announcer, me as, well, whatever they want me to do. Probably at registration and the finish line, since I’m good at that stuff. I’m not sure how many people will be there. This was put together pretty quickly, plus it’s probably going to be hot (another reason I was happy to volunteer instead of run)!

Friday the 13th is Alan’s birthday. That weekend we plan to take our six year old grandsons to Disneyland. Although I’m sure that Alan and I must have been there since we’ve been together (15 years!), the last time I remember is when my youngest son was six years old. He turns 30 in a couple weeks, so it’s been a while. A very long time for someone who basically grew up at Disneyland. We lived about 15 minutes away and it was cheap back then (about $10)! I like to say I spent my teenage years on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

On May 22, my lovely girlfriend who lives in the valley (that would be the San Fernando Valley for you non-LA types :-)), invited me to WorldFest 2011. She is the one who stayed and rode with me on our disastrous Tour de Palm Springs century. I can hardly express how excited I am about this. Just a bit of the description from their website (click through for more…but come back):

“The WorldFest 2011 Earth Day Festival will be held on Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, from 10:30am to 7:00pm, at the beautiful outdoor setting of Woodley Park in Lake Balboa, CA. We will welcome our attendees to a magnificent day filled with entertainment, education and enlightenment. The combination of great music, empowering speakers, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare non-profits, kid’s activities and a delicious food court make for an earth-friendly experience that is sure to be inspiring and enjoyable for all.”

Seriously, I can hardly wait. I get to go to this very cool event, plus, best of all, I get to visit with a friend I don’t see too often. If we actually have time to ride together I may just faint from the excitement!

The last weekend of the month is Memorial Weekend. I have to work on Saturday, but I’ll have Monday off, so it should be a nice weekend. We haven’t made any plans yet, so maybe we’ll just chill out here in the desert (can a sentence be an oxymoron? If so, that is definitely one, because I’m sure it will be over 100 degrees by then). Even so, as much as we love traveling, we’re always happier at home with our dogs (and my vegan cooking!).

Spring is here!


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Yes, I know my title sounds overly dramatic, but I needed to finally finish out our weekend in La Jolla (since it was already more than a week ago!). I promised I’d post about eating in Encinitas (following up my post about eating vegan in La Jolla).

After the race, we cleaned up, checked out, then headed up the coast toward Encinitas. North County San Diego has been our hang out for a long time. I went to high school in Fallbrook, so ‘going to the beach’ meant the Leucadia/Encinitas area. Early in our relationship (which just hit the 15 year mark this month!), Alan and I would spend a couple weekends a month during the summer. We’d run, go to the beach, enjoy the cool weather, then when we started cycling, we’d bring our bikes and ride. I even have a favorite spa that I visit occasionally in Leucadia.

Because we love the area so much, we were very happy when we went vegetarian that there were many ‘veggie-friendly’ restaurants there, like the Roxy, Swami’s, and even my favorite Italian restaurant when I ate meat, Gusto’s. So, when we headed north last weekend, I had a destination in mind, the Lotus Cafe.

Although they serve meat, they are still very veggie/vegan friendly. Their menu explicitly designates what is vegetarian, what is vegan or can be made vegan, or what is vegan with the exception of containing honey. It is a very useful tool.

By the time we arrived, I was really hungry. After running the half marathon, I had nibbled on a banana, but I hadn’t felt very good, so that was all that I ate. Fortunately, I was feeling better and my appetite had returned. Unfortunately, the line (one orders at the counter, then they bring it to your table) was out the front door. We contemplated going somewhere else, but figured we’d spend the same amount of time looking for another place that might be just as busy. We grabbed a couple menus and settled in to wait.

The line moved quickly and we soon made our way to the counter. The young lady who took our order was very friendly and helpful. I wanted food right away, so I ordered the lentil soup that was on special, plus the ‘Tempting Tamale.’ Alan ordered the “Avocado Heaven” sandwich, was was billed as honey vegan because the bread contained honey.

My soup came quickly and I dug in. It came with a slice of whole grain bread, which I verified with our server that was vegan. She assured me that it was. The soup was tasty, but not hot enough. I was way too hungry to wait any longer, so I started eating it anyway. Our entrees were served quickly, before I finished the soup. Usually, that annoys me, but I was hungry enough to just be happy to see more food.

Because our main courses came so quickly, I was able to compare my slice of bread with the bread that Alan’s sandwich was on (I didn’t take a picture). They looked exactly the same! Mine was supposed to be vegan, and his had honey in it. Hmmm. Not being in the mood for that kind of discussion, I just let it go and did not eat the bread.

My tamale was indeed tempting. It was served with rice, beans, a small salad, and a sauce that could have been a little spicier. It was still very good and hit the spot.

Our meal, including the soup, came to about $20. Not cheap, but not too bad for a tasty, healthy lunch. I would recommend the Lotus Cafe, but make sure that you ask questions (just like you would at any non-vegan restaurant) to make sure you are getting what you want. The service was fast and friendly and the food was good. There is a pleasant ambiance and lot of patio seating. I’ll be back.

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Yes, it is possible to eat vegan at a La Jolla restaurant. And I don’t mean visiting a random, omnivoric (is that a word?) restaurant, asking a million questions, only to be served something that either has bits of chicken in it (yes, that has happened to me), or to settle on a salad and hope that someone in the kitchen doesn’t think it would be ‘better’ with cheese shredded over the top.

For our visit to the area last weekend, we really only had one meal to deal with, dinner. We left a little later than normal, so lunch was home cooked. Since I was running the half marathon in the morning, and Alan was announcing the 5k, breakfast would consist of fruit and Clif Bars. After the event, we would be checking out and heading up to Encinitas for lunch. Encinitas is much, um, friendlier for vegans (more on that later).

Of course, we had gone through this last year, my first as a vegan. Fortunately, for us and for the veggie community as a whole, there is HappyCow.net, and their mobile app for Android. Thanks to Happy Cow, I had discovered that there were no vegan restaurants within walking distance (or anywhere actually in La Jolla). Fortunately, the app also lists veggie-friendly restaurants, and yes, there was one in town.

Now, La Jolla is a high end town, with a lot of high end restaurants. Don Carlos Taco Shop, reviewed on Happy Cow as ‘just a taco stand,’ is not. It is a tiny place, with four tables, a menu posted on the wall, where you order at the counter. Although they serve meat, and the standard, cheese-laden fare, they do have a vegetarian menu (also full of diary). They also have, both on their online menu and on their wall, a welcome sign: “If you are vegan, let us know.”


They also state that they use no lard or stock in any of their food. I ordered the mushroom tofu burrito. It was huge and delicious! And it was only $4.85! Alan had the Vegi Burrito, also huge, for the same price. The ambiance may leave something to be desired, but the food definitely does not. It is excellent Mexican food, healthy, huge and all at a very reasonable price.

Coming up in my next post: Lunch at the Lotus Cafe in Encinitas.

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During this past weekend in La Jolla, I did do a few things besides running the La Jolla Half Marathon. We had gorgeous weather, especially on Saturday, when it was about 85 degrees (very warm for the coastline in San Diego), sunny and perfect. It was cooler on Sunday, but it was great running weather. Here the rest of our weekend in a (rather larger) nutshell:

The Expo

After sitting through some pretty horrendous traffic (the few miles from the freeway to downtown La Jolla took about 30 minutes) we stopped by the expo, for Alan to check in with the race director, and for me to pick up my race packet. Expo is a rather grand word for this event, which exists of race check-in, packet and t-shirt pick up, along with six or eight vendor booths. After getting our business done, we took about 10 minutes to wander through. Nothing real exciting, although one booth offered some t-shirts with cute running sayings, such as “If you see me collapse, please pause my Garmin,”  “This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago,” and “If found on ground, please drag across the finish line.” My favorites, because they seem so true to me are, “The older I get, the faster I was,” “Toenails are for sissies,” and my favorite, all time cross country shirt, “My sport is your sport’s punishment.”

The best of all was: “You know you’re a runner when…” (on the front of the shirt) On the back:

  • You can recite the dialogue from chariots of fire.
  • Your vacations are planned around marathons.
  • You lube up to get into your clothes to prevent chafing.
  • Your friends don’t call you anymore to go out on Saturday nights.
  • The majority of t-shirts in your closet have sponsors and race dates on them.
  • You consider gels a food group.
  • You consider a half marathon a good “training” run.
  • You can say fartlek without laughing.
  • You buy advil and Epsom salts in bulk.
  • You can correctly spell plantar fasciitis.

The problem was,  I wanted them all, so in the end I couldn’t decide and bought none. I did get this, though: Mine is pink. I got it to go with my license plate, which is RNINGRL. Perfect, no? All these items were from One More Mile and they had tons more sayings on their shirts–something for everyone!

Old Friends

After the expo, we headed over to the La Jolla Cove Suites to check in. Our plan is always to get to the hotel, park the car, then not use it again until we leave. The traffic along the coast is always pretty bad, and getting from point A to point B is challenging. We dropped off our bags, then walked the few hundred feet to the La Jolla Cove. Even at about 4:00, the day was still so warm no sweater was necessary.

I have some friends that take great self photos, but not me.

We took a stroll along the path, then headed up to town for a little window shopping. We stopped at the La Valencia, which is an old, elegant hotel that looks out over the ocean, for a glass of wine. Does two years in a row make a tradition? If so, that’s what our stop is. This year we sat out on the deck and enjoyed the warm weather.

My Darling Husband

What really made this year special, though, was that I was going to see someone who I hadn’t seen for more than 38 years! My first best friend! Kathi, who I met the first day we moved to Los Alamitos when we were both three years old! She lived on the street behind me and we were inseparable all through elementary school. Birthday parties, swimming (we had the pool and we both were always in it), Disneyland, all the things that young girls share when they are best friends. I was a year ahead of her in school (due to a cut-off date), so unfortunately, we started to grow apart as I got into junior high school. We moved out of Orange County as I was entering my junior year of high school, and I hadn’t seen her since.

We reconnected, not surprisingly, through Facebook. All that had really amounted to, up to this point, though, was some reminiscing on each others’ wall. When I put a call out last week for advice about whether to run the race, Kathi let me know that she would be in La Jolla that very weekend. We exchanged phone numbers and she happened to call while we were at the La Valencia, so we decided to meet there.

We really had a great time. It was so much fun, catching up, meeting Kathi’s husband, Kirk, talking about old times, new times. The time passed way too quickly, especially for two people that needed to wake up at 4:00 the next morning and still had not had dinner (that would be Alan and me). Finally, after too short a time, we said our goodbyes. Hopefully, it won’t be another 38 years before we see each other again.

I have to apologize, though. In this short period of time since I knew I was going to see Kathi again, I haven’t been able to find any old pictures of our childhood together. I’m sure I have them somewhere and I’ll keep looking and post them when I find them, but until then I’ll have to leave you with this very bad photo that Alan took on Saturday. Sorry, Kathi.

With that I’ll end part one of the rest of our weekend in La Jolla. Next post I will talk about eating vegan in La Jolla.

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