Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Racing Season

Fall is officially here. I've discussed some recent races, but haven't really gotten into my race plans for the remainder of the year.

Coming off the heels of a bruising half marathon in Salisbury, I've been training for this weekend's Tower of Terror 10 miler at Disney World. I use the term training loosely, as I'm focused on the distance moreso than any kind of time. This race is all about fun. Plus, it doesn't even start til 10pm, so who knows what kind of shape we'll all be in while out on the course after midnight.

The rest of the year looks like this thus far -

Oct 13 - Baltimore 1/2
Oct 21 - Army 10 miler
Nov 3 - Down's Park 5 miler
Nov 18 - Philly 1/2
Dec 15 - Celtic Solstice 5 miler

The Baltimore 1/2 is the second part of the Maryland Double. I will get a bonus medal for successfully completing that and the Frederick 1/2 back in May. Baltimore will also be my 25th half. I'm so excited to hit that milestone in my hometown.

This is my first year running the Army Ten Miler. I'm a bit nervous since I know it has a tight time cut off prior to mile 5, but I hear it's a great race.

Philly should be a really fun weekend. I've gone up there twice before for the Rock N Roll Philly race that's held in September, and have heard that this course is better as you see much more of the city. When I did those races, it was a quick overnight trip. November's will be a full weekend exploring the city and hanging out with some fabulous running knitters I've had the pleasure of meeting, mostly online. The promise of post race margaritas was too much of a draw to say no, lol.

Lots of fun to look forward to!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What I'm eating this week

I had a rare weekend with very little planned, which meant I could spend some time in the kitchen.

For some reason I really wanted a baked potato the night before my planned 8 mile training run on Saturday morning. Of course, I needed some protein to go along with that. I immediately went to one of my favorite sites, Skinnytaste, to browse around. I decided on Baked Chicken with Dijon and Lime. It was delicious. I loved the flavor the lime gave the chicken. I think next time I make it I might use some chicken breasts instead of thighs and marinate them in the sauce overnight.

I tried something new with the potatoes. I picked up some basic baking potatoes, rubbed the skins with olive oil and some roasted garlic sea salt from a nearby gourmet shop. I baked them at 400 (since same temp needed for the chicken) for 45 minutes/til tender. OMG, this is how I'm making them from now on! The salt caramelized a bit and had a hint of sweetness to it.

I'd love to say that this meal fueled me for my whole 8 miles, but I did struggle toward the end, in part because I'd forgotten to pack an energy gel. I did the best I could with some Gatorade and a couple of Jolly Ranchers in it's place.

For dinner on Sunday I decided to dig out my Crock Pot. I bought it about a year ago and love it. I had always associated slow cookers with cans of greasy cream of something soups. It wasn't until I started researching recipes, thanks in large part to Pinterest (you can check out my slower cook board here), that I realized it's possible to do actual cooking in it, limiting how many processed ingredients you used. One of my favorite things to make in it is a basic roast chicken. The trick I've learned is to set it on some foil balls to keep it out of it's juice while cooking. At the end of the day it falls apart and is still super moist. But that's not what I made this time, lol.

With pork shoulder roasts on sale at the grocery store, I decided on Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork from Better Homes and Garden. Of course, I decided to get adventurous and make one that required making my own bbq sauce rather than just dumping bottles of some. I increased the chicken broth from 1/2 cup to a full cup since my roast was nearly 5lbs, unlike the 2-3lb one called for in the recipe. I also put some coarse salt and fresh pepper on the roast, in addition to the herbs it called for. I made no alterations to the sauce recipe. It was all excellent. I loved the tang the sauce has from the balsamic vinegar. It reminded me alot of some Carolina style sauces, and I think would be excellent to make for some grilled bbq chicken as well.

A good meal was a great way to wrap up a nice weekend at home. Always fun to find a couple of new recipes to add to the arsenal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekendlong Duathlon, err....Tri (part 2)

After finishing the 25 mile bike ride and enjoying our post ride bbq lunch, Jon (my partner in crime for the crazy weekend) and I headed down to Salisbury to pick up our packets for Sunday's Hidden Treasures Half Marathon. This was a route I knew well, having spent a semester driving between the two cities while working at an internship. It was fun to see both the familiar sites and changing landscapes along the way.

We must have been quite the sight at pick up, still wearing all of our bike gear.  Ok, maybe we left the helmets in the car. We met an older couple while waiting for the elevator at the hotel. The gentleman asked what we had been up to that day and could only shake his head when I filled him in on our weekend exploits. After catching up with my wonderful friends Anne & Matt over dinner, it was an early bedtime. We were both completely exhausted.

Unlike most, if not all, of my other halfs, this did not require a crack of dawn wake up. Race start was 9am and our hotel was only about 10 minutes away. Plus, with a small field, about 200 runners, parking was not an issue either. While I greatly treasured the extra sleep, I felt almost like I needed to find ways to fill the extra time. Another plus was being able to eat the complementary hotel breakfast. I got to have some hot oatmeal for a change.

We packed up the car and checked out before heading to the race. Late race start, meant no time to get back to the hotel for a shower before hitting the road for home. After getting to the Civic Center, where coincidentally my college graduation had been held, it was more of a hurry up and wait. I did get to say a quick hello to another college buddy, Jim, who was running the 5K for the third year. Finally it was time to head toward the start. There were no signs, people just pointed toward a row of trees and said it was past them.

I took up a spot near the back, and then we were off. I felt good and was in a decent groove early on, feeling like I was moving slowly but actually doing a decent pace. Around mile 4 we turned onto the Salisbury University campus. It really was like being home again, not that I ever ever would have dreamed of running through there before, lol.

The course then turned into neighborhoods along the water. It was beautiful! I was by myself, expect for one other woman who I kept ping ponging back and forth with for awhile. Eventually we turned onto Camden Avenue and headed back to the college. This was fun since I knew where I was and would be at mile 8 soon. My outer toe was bugging me a bit for no apparent reason, so I stopped and took my shoe off and adjusted my sock a bit. I should have realized at the time that this was essentially the beginning of a massive wall I couldn't overcome. It continued to annoy me, but again, I couldn't figure out the root of the problem.

Back through campus, and mile 8 was done. While the first part of the course was through shaded neighborhoods, the last miles were in business and industrial areas, minus some parts near corn and melon fields. Most importantly, they were all in full sun and it was pushing 11am. Physical and mental exhaustion kicked in at full steam at mile 9. I allowed myself a pity party of sorts and told myself I'd walk to the mile 10 marker but then I had to run the last 5K. It would only be 3.1 miles. The worst would be behind me.

Except, it wasn't. Mile 10 came and I went to run and everything hurt. My body was in full revolt and I ended up trudging along. The sag wagon drove by a couple of times while monitoring the course, and I summoned the energy I could to give a friendly wave when deep down I wanted to jump in and just be done with it all. I just kept repeating to myself that it was ludicrous to quit when I'd gotten that far.

I must have looked kind of rough. At one of the last water stops one of the volunteers pretty much made me stop so he could fill my water bottles for me. His help and kindness was much appreciated. Then, I got to mile 12, and basically the last intersection I'd have to cross. Not only were there no cops or volunteers to help me, it was also confusing as to exactly where I had to go. That part of road also made up the 5K course, so traffic cones were going in a couple of different directions and the one sign only said 5K, not half. I also couldn't find any spray paint markings on the road.

Up to this point the course had been very well marked so I couldn't believe what was happening. Fortunately, I had grabbed a course map "just in case" and had put it in the pouch on my water belt. Once I got my bearings I continued on my way, again, slowly walking along, counting practically every 10th of a mile  and praying to be done.

In addition to the late start, another quirk of this race was the indoor finish line. I could barely muster the energy to run over the finish line, but somehow I finally finished. And there were about 3 people inside at the time. No people cheering, no music, just the photographer, time keeper, and a volunteer handing out medals.  Organizers had moved all of the post race festivities outside, and across the street. And the medal I received was a generic running medal without any kind of info even identifying the race. They had some pulled pork sandwiches and other hot food for race participants, but the smell just nauseated me at that point.

Despite the problems, I did actually like this race and would do it again, but likely only if it started at least an hour earlier. I also learned that I'm just not cut out for back to back events. I had the same miserable final miles back in May when I did the Run for the Dream 1/2 the day after doing their 8K as part of the Patriots Challenge.

Two pretty rough races has been a bit demoralizing. It's been a further reminder of how much losing time to injury last fall affected me and how slow coming back from it has been. It also reignited a debate I had with myself last fall about whether or not I should consider listening to music when running solo. There is no longer a debate, I bought myself an iPod Shuffle earlier this week.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Weekendlong Duathlon, err....Tri (part 1)

Last month I mentioned my crazy weekend plans where I would essentially be doing a duathlon over two days this month. Well, things got even more interesting when a kayak outing got rescheduled twice due to bad weather. The final make-up date became the Friday of said crazy biking-running weekend, and thus how a du became a tri.

After work on Friday I headed over to Truxton Park and met up with Captain Kate and Pirate Pete of Kayak Annapolis. I’d bought a LivingSocial deal several months earlier for a sunset tour, complete with wine and cheese. Unfortunately, our first two attempts at scheduling this fell through due to storms, so it kind of became a do or die to do it on Friday evening due to the quickly approaching shorter fall days.

We went through a quick paddle lesson, and then launched our boats. We were in Spa Creek, and headed toward the Annapolis Harbor. Our route was about 3 miles total. About halfway, we pulled up in small park area with benches that overlooked the harbor and enjoyed our refreshments. After we set off again, we crossed through the harbor area and went up into Ego Alley. Was my first time seeing it from the water. Very cool. During our tour Pete provided some historical insights into the city. We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. Overall, I had a great time and it was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check them out!

Once we were back on dry land, I picked up some pizza to get some carbs in me, and came home and packed my bike gear in the car and got an overnight bag together. Saturday morning, I caravanned to Dover with Kim and Jon for the Amish Country Bike Tour. We arrived after the main wave start, so got caught in some traffic, but once we got moving again easily found some parking in the state employee lots near the Legislative Green. After unloading our bikes and putting air in the tires, we met up with some friends from the gym and were on our way.

There was a fair amount of automobile traffic until we really got out of the heart of the area. Fortunately the routes (from 15 miles all the way up to 100) are very well marked, so we didn’t need to rely on our queue sheets as we navigated around. We eventually found ourselves on quiet farm roads and practically in another world. As we were on one road, an older Amish gentleman was working his field with a horsedrawn wooden plow. It was a beautiful scene. The neighborhood children were out to greet everyone as they road by, too, making an interesting dichotomy of bikers in colorful clothing and high tech gear, and them in the handmade, sober outfits.

Around mile 20 we reached the rest stop, a one room schoolhouse. It was a flurry of activity, as all of the routes eventually funnel through there. Volunteers were in the yard serving snacks and refreshments, as some musicians provided entertainment. The highlight of all of this – pie! The winds had been steadily picking up during our ride. Forecasts called for them to gust up to 20mph by later in the afternoon when strong storms were supposed to move in. This made our last 5 miles much harder than the earlier ones had been, but we all got back safe and sound. We set up a picnic and enjoyed the bbq lunch provided to all participants.

Then it was time for the next adventure of the weekend to begin.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I'm eating this week

Those of you who know me in real life know that one of my other passions is cooking. So, I figured why not start sharing some of my favorite recipes/experiments to help break up all of the incessant running talk? ;) Plus, it's a way I can procrastinate from writing about my CRAZY weekend...

Temps have started to drop here in lovely Maryland, and fall is definitely starting to make it's appearance. This made me want some comfort food, and chili was calling my name. I browsed through some of my Pinterest boards for inspiration (yes, I'm totally addicted to it) and happened upon the Skinnytaste recipe for Turkey Chili Taco Soup. Done! I planned on going to Trader Joe's after work and knew it might be hard to find a couple of ingredients there, so I grabbed them while getting lunch at the market near my office and made a list for later.

I made a couple of alterations. First, I put some canola oil in the bottom of the pot before browning the meat. I prefer to use ground turkey breast from TJ's, but it does stick very easily since it is so lean. Rather than one medium onion, I used a 1/2 of a yellow onion and 1/2 of a red onion since I had those leftover from other things and just sitting around in the fridge. Plus, it was trash night, so might as well use them rather than toss them. I also used 15 oz of tomato sauce rather than only the 8 oz called for the in the recipe. Why? Because TJ's only sells it in 15 oz cans and I figured why waste it? This is the glory of soups - just dump things in and see what happens. Since you add a can of refried beans, that acts as a good thickener, so I didn't think this would really dilute it too much, and I guess right. Finally, I added a heaping teaspoon of ground ancho chili peppers. I'm not a fan of very spicy food, but this really gives it great flavor, and beautiful deep, color.

I topped it off with some shredded Mexican cheese blend, and a bit of light sour cream.

Bottom line = yum!

What's your favorite fall comfort food?