Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Does your dinner need...more cowbell?

I was running along this evening, contemplating and somewhat racing, the butternut squash I had baking away in the oven. I had thought I'd take the baked squash that I had seasoned with some gobi masala spices and stuff it with some arugula, good organic goat cheese and some cheeky chutney from Saturday. But as I ran, the cold ripping and biting through my tights and across my face, the meal just didn't sound like the right thing to warm me up. I knew the combination would work as I was inspired by a salad I made for Sunday supper, a Cider glazed Butternut Squash Salad w/ Arugula, Goat Cheese, Roasted Hazelnuts and an apple vinaigrette. And of course, the chutney has not been far from my mind since I made it. Naturally I wanted to take the leftover ingredients I had (half an uncooked butternut squash, arugula, goat cheese) and combine it with the chutney to create something new. My idea was good, but not great. The wind started to blow and I shivered and I thought about what my dad had been eating for lunch, which had looked very delicious at the time Tomato-Basil soup and a grilled sandwich. And that is when it struck me: I need more Cowbell! Seriously, that is what I thought but what I meant was, Eureka! I realized that a play on tomato soup and grilled cheese was in order. And thus was born what I consider, at least in part, the best recipe I have ever come up with: Curried Butternut Squash Soup and (this is the best best recipe of which I speak) Goat Cheese, Arugula and Chutney Quesadilla. The soup was good, but the quesadilla was amazing and really simple. I had a small side of roast brussel sprouts to make a well rounded delicious and flavorful meal. My dinner needed more cowbell and boy did it get it!

Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients:
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and halved
2 cups vegetable stock
gobi masala, garam masala, cinnamon to taste
salt to taste
a small squirt of Vanilla Agave

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Place the squash halves, cut side up in a baking dish. Fill the pan with 1-2 inches of water. Sprinkle gobi masala and a little olive oil over the squash. Bake until tender. In a saucepan, combine the stock and the butternut squash. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Once the combination is smooth, start spicing! I added a dash of garam masala and a smaller dash of cinnamon. A good whack of salt and a small squirt of vanilla agave. I brought it to a simmer and got to work on my quesadilla. When serving, feel free to top with a cooling spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream, which balances the spices well.

The best quesadilla ever (at least for today)
Ingredients:
Earth balance
1 brown rice tortilla
Arugula
A good soft goat cheese
Cheeky Chutney
optional: a few slices of roasted turkey

Directions:
Spread Earth balance on one side of the brown rice tortilla and heat a skillet to medium high. Spread goat cheese thinly across the entire tortilla, pile on a few slices of turkey (or not), a good bunch of arugula and top with a few spoonfuls of chutney (see picture below). Fold in half and grill until golden on both side, with the cheese melty and the ingredients heated through. Cut in half and enjoy, immensely.




Oh yes and one final note, per a question I got about the chutney and preserving it. As Jamie Oliver discusses, you do sterilize the jars. I found that when I put the very hot chutney in the jar and closed them up immediately, that when I opened the jar a few days later, the top was sealed on quite tight. That said, feel free to do the water bath sealing. But then again, it may be alot of effort for nothing since frankly its so good, it probably won't last that long!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting back in the game

The foodie in me has been reinvigorated lately. Between amazing eating in Italy, new fun cookbooks, reading good books about food/eating and the deepening of fall into the space with crisp cool air and vibrant leaves on the trees, I find myself wanting to do nothing but cook and experiment in the kitchen and run (preferably in the early morning cold air or the afternoon/evening dark). I am also reinvigorated by the opening up of my borders, that is, the reintroduction of myself to being an omnivore. Also, at long last, I finally have the results to my food allergy test. Turns out that I am allergic/sensitive to 3 things: eggs, lima beans and pecans. Add that to the gluten sensitivity (which is actually still a ? since the doctor didn't say anything about it in the test) and even then, I still have a whole new world of food open to me. It is nice to KNOW for a fact what things will and won't make me feel good. I do ponder if part of the reason I didn't have much trouble in Italy with the wheat I ate was because they didn't have eggs in them (such as pizza crust). Interesting to ponder.

After having an amazing lunch at Watershed restaurant in Decatur with my dad and being introduced to the some great organic liquors (no I wasn't getting smashed, we were sitting at the bar for lunch and were looking at the liquors behind the bar and discussing the interesting organic infusions and ones we had never heard of, when the bartender got involved and started giving us a tasting of his favorites), I decided to make the smartest move any omnivore (new or old) can do to ensure that you are eating top quality, free-range, organic, grass fed meats. I went and found a butcher. It makes me reminisce about my time in South Africa, which is the only other time in my life when I had a close personal relationship with my butcher. As Scott Gold discusses in the Shameless Carnivore, this is a very smart move because if you have a good relationship with your butcher then you can get the products and the kind of products you want to eat. The fact of the matter is compared to your local supermarket, even your whole foods, etc type the quality of meat is going to be better at a butcher. It is a specialty shop, so just as you get the best bread at a bakery, the best cheese at a cheese shop, the best wine at a wine shop....etc, you get the best meat at a butcher. Yes, you are going to pay more, but frankly, you eat less of the good stuff. Since I am not looking to glutton myself on meat, instead it maybe 1/3 or less of my meal, getting the good stuff makes the flavor and texture really pop without needing alot.

It turns out that unbeknowst to me there is a butcher shop that has been around for several generations about 6 blocks from my place here. In fact, I have been so oblivious, I didn't know that it shares space with a CVS that is on my daily running route (so I pass it twice a day on foot and many more going too and from work). Earlier yesterday I had bought another Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie at Home and selected a recipe for dinner: wild mushroom and venison stroganoff for two lucky people. Though it was just going to be for me, I figured I could make the whole recipe and have leftovers!. I headed to the meat market introduced myself and asked for some venison loin. They didn't have it but they uttered the magic words, "but we can get it for you". Nice. That is the thing about a butcher or a specialty shop, they will not just turn you away, they will find what you want. This makes me excited knowing that I can start dreaming big and crazy and they will be able to get me what I need. I decided to opt for some ground Buffalo instead. I also had the butcher order me some hangar steaks. Hangar steaks are known as "Butcher's Steak" as they are the part they usually keep for themself. I headed out satisfied with my purchase, but decided that I would check at whole foods to see if they happened to have venison when I was there picking up the rest of the ingredients. Surprisingly, they did in their cold case. I got some ground venison and decided that I would do a combination of the ground buffalo and ground venison. So for this recipe, I did about 6 oz of each. I used Lobster, Blue Foot and Chantrelle mushrooms and I highly recommend these rarer (and more expensive varieties) if you can find them. I threw in some organic white mushrooms as well to round out the flavor.

The result of the Wild Mushroom, Buffalo and Venison Stroganoff was amazing. Served over brown rice instead of white, as the recipe (linked above) it was the perfect end to an amazing fall day. It truly was a perfect day, the sun was shining in a way that only happens in the fall, it more glistens. The air was perfectly crisp, the sky whisped with little puff clouds. I took frog for a walk and just couldn't help but have a cheesy smile plastered on my face. I also went for an evening run and savored the seam of a fall night, which has the same crispness of the day, but a interesting and delicate silence. I brought my dinner together with a side of steamed brussel sprouts with earth balance and truffle salt and a quick salad of baby greens topped with my other culinary adventure for the day by Jamie Oliver, Cheeky Chili-Pepper Chutney. This was a fun and involved process. It took me an hour to find Mason jars! After that, I had a blast roasting the chilis and pepper and making this tangy, spicy chutney that worked brilliantly as a counter point to the Stroganoff. It is by no means necessary to the stroganoff, in fact, I just happened to be making it on the same evening. It makes about 3 full jars and will last for a few months on your cupboard shelf. Going back to the Stroganoff (which I can't help but do in my head over and over again), make sure that you top it with gherkin (pickles) and a cultured sour cream (creme fraiche), it absolutely absolutely adds a level of flavor you do not want to miss.



The final product


Massive amounts of chilis and peppers, pre-roasting.


All the ingredients for the chutney


Brussel Sprouts still on the stalk.

Lobster, Blue Foot and Chantrelle Mushrooms

Brussel Sprouts, Stroganoff and Salad


Makes me hungry just thinking about it

The perfect start to a lazy Sunday
This morning I woke up pretty early, just after 7 and hastened to the kitchen to revamp my breakfast "pie" recipe. I had done earlier in the year and indulge in some Moose Munch coffee from Harry and David, which is the best coffee I have tasted state-side. I whipped up the "pie" and sat at the kitchen table with the morning light shining through the window, sipping coffee and enjoying the smell as it cooked and filled the kitchen with the sweet flavor of baking fruit. It was nice to wake up on a weekend and laze about instead of heading out for a long run. While I love my long runs and will definitely run today, it is nice to have a weekend without the structure of training. It is a well deserved break.

Fall Breakfast Bake

Ingredients:
for the bottom dough:
3/4 cup Pamela's Baking and Pancake mix
1/4 cup Buckwheat Flour
just about 3/4 cups water
just under a tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp baking powder

for the fruit middle:
1 bag organic frozen raspberries
1 bag organic frozen blackberries
1 bag organic frozen peaches
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
a few tbsp good maple syrup
a dash of cinnamon

for the granola top:
1 1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
a glug of almond milk
a few more tbsp of maple syrup

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 11x14 baking dish with earth balance. In a bowl, mix together the bottom dough ingredients. It should have the consistency of pancake batter. Spread it out in the baking dish and use a spatula to make it even and completely across the bottom. In a clean bowl, mix together the fruit middle ingredient until the fruit is coated in the sweeteners. Once thoroughly coated, even distribute over the batter in the pan. It will sink right down into the batter, which is what you want since as it bakes the crust will rise a bit and up and around the fruit (yum). The granola top is made my mixing all the ingredients and then sprinkling it down over the top with your fingers. Press it down lightly, but not to hard. Put in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the bottom crust is cooked. You will be able to see some golden edges of the crust. Because of the liquid in the fruit, which produces the most amazing fruity syrup through the dish, the bottom won't get crisp, but it will get a good pancake consistency. The top will come out like granola and adds a good crunch. Basically, once it cools, you will be able to cut it into slices which are delicate but not falling apart. That is, if there is any left by the time it cools. It is amazing straight out of the oven (ok wait a few minutes so you don't burn yourself). I would imagine that it would be complimented nicely by a good greek yogurt. This could also be a healthy dessert idea. I helped myself to a hearty satisfying portion, to go with another cup of coffee. This breakfast is a bit different, but it is an awesome change from the norm and perfect for sunday brunchy bite.


20 minutes into cooking


5 minutes out of the oven, 2.5 seconds to my stomach





Friday, November 14, 2008

WC100k Italy Race Report

I've finally caught my breathe from my trip to Italy and the WC100k and can sit down to write a race report. I think I will spare myself and you the vulgarity of all of the details of my trip leading up to the race, since there was a lot of stress, anxiety and uncertainty in all things leading up to the race from an incredibly long journey just getting to the hotel, to the race organization being, how shall I say it nicely, very "relaxed" about important details. Despite the fact that I wrote in my journal upon arriving that I should never ever do the WC100k race ever again because it has been so painfully stressful in the getting there and the coordinating, I say with 100% certainty that I love this event. Every moment leading up to the starting gun can suck but the moment I start running, it all fades away and what comes to the surface is the desire to represent for my team and my country and just get out there and run in a beautiful place. The trip I will remember for its beautiful countryside, great running, amazing food and interesting travel. I will also remember that no matter the curve balls that are thrown at me in life, I can handle them and come out no worse for the wear. If you want some good background on things, check out my teammate Meghan's blog about the hotel, etc, including when she saved me from having to sleep outside with the cats on the night of my arrival.

This year I was especially excited since the women were coming in with a very strong team. Last year we were seconds off the podium and I know that at least for me that that made me particularly hungry to make it up there this year. I knew our team leader, Kami Semick, was running particularly well leading up to the race as illustrated by her 2:45 marathon at the Portland Marathon 5 weeks ago and I was feeling ready and strong with a 2:49 at Breakers. That meant we needed only one other of the remaining 3 to be challenging for the top ten and we would have a fighting chance for the podium. I didn't know Meghan though I knew she had run an 8:23 qualifier and more importantly, had been training with Kami. I knew that Connie and Carolyn were strong and consistent, so barring disaster, we were ready to challenge.


Women's Team: Kami, Team manager Lin, Meghan, Connie, Me and Carolyn.


Connie and I in Tarquinia day before the race.

By friday, I was all settled in and over my jetlag. Connie and her friend, Jim (who took all of these pictures and more which can be found here) were there and that made things better as well, since Connie is one of my favorite people and an amazing ultrarunner. Last year, we had such a great time in the Netherlands and so I knew that I was in for some good times again this year. Connie and I went for a run in the morning and got so busy chatting that the miles just passed and passed (ok, I was blathering on telling her a story born out of my teammate Michael Wardian's sister recognizing me from the movie I was in... Heart of the Game) and we finally realized we should turn around and head back to start our day. We had had our team coordination meeting the evening before and had no where to be until the parade of nations in Tarquinia at 5pm so we planned to go into town to shop at the Coop (sounds chicken coop, not co-op. Apparently Coop is a very funny word in Japanese). Connie, Jim and I got a ride to town with Mike Sweeney, who is one of the team managers and the race director of JFK50 (which is an awesome race from what I hear, if you want to try your hand,err feet at an ultra it is up there on the list of ones I would recommend). We wandered around, hunted down the race organization office to see if we would be/could be getting t-shirts for the race and then enjoyed a cappuccino while overlooking the Italian countryside. The rest of the day zoomed by and soon we were arriving at the race finish line to get ready for the parade through Tarquinia. The parade was awesome, we walked through the crowded streets with Howard carrying our flag and feeling very proud, as the masses cheered not "America" like last year, but "Obama, Obama!". That was a nice feeling and frankly, it does make me proud to know that our country does have hope for change.

We finished up the parade and were waiting for the pasta party to commence, but time was wearing on and on, so Mike took us back to the hotel (which was pretty far outside the city- a very beautiful farm hotel, which had all sorts of amazing and delicious produce being grown on site. They also made their own wine and olive oil and I think cheese....I definitely enjoyed our team meal on Thursday evening and the daily breakfast they provided. They made me gluten free food, it was awesome) and I cooked up my own pre-race meal and joined Connie and Jim in their apartment (i.e. their room) and we chowed down.

The Parade


Handing out flags

Enjoying my brown rice pasta with sauteed veggies and insalata.

Race Day

Despite the race not starting until 10am, the shuttle was picking us up at 7am as Connie, Mike and I weren't able to get a ride to the start. I woke feeling decently rested and ready to go, dressed and headed over to Connie to have a cup of coffee. I ate a banana with some pb and packed my vespa to take at the race start. We took a long bus ride to the starting line in Tuscania which is about an hour away from Tarquinia. We would be running 37 Km down to the 14km loop at the base of Tarquinia. We arrived shortly after 8am and found a spot to sit in the sun on the cement. It was cold and the cement didn't help warm us. After about 17 trips to the bathroom, we ditched our clothing with Colin and Paris and headed to the starting line. The five US women got together and we did a little "ra ra go team, let's get on the podium dammit" and waited for the gun. Kami and Meghan were going to run together, as were Connie and Carolyn, but I was somewhere (goal time) in the middle. Last year I went out with Connie and then sped up at the 50k. This year she forbade me from running with her, as she believed I had a speedier race in me. I was not looking forward to going the entire distance alone, but I had done it before and I could do it again. After a brief encounter with my Australian friend, Darren, the gun went off and we were dashing through the streets of Tuscania. They had us running through the town through narrow passages and around hairpin turns. We did a big circuit around the city and then headed out along the long and winding (descent) road towards the loop.

I hit the open road trying to stay very comfortable and trying not to strain in any way. I was hoping to hit about 4hrs for the first 50k and then speed up for a 3:50 in the second half. We didn't really know much about the course and the course description was very deceiving. Pretty quickly after hitting the road out of Tuscania, I met up with Canadian runner Glen Redpath, whom I met at Vermont100 (he whooped me good there running a 16:55 or something) and another Australian runner named Dave. We chatted for a bit and decided that we wanted to go through 10k in 47 mins and do about 23 min 5ks (to account for the course variability). That would put us through the first 50k in 3:50 (gulp!), but after some discussion about the course, it actually seemed like a good idea because it seemed like the second half would not be an easy grind. Pretty quickly we had a big group together of 2 French women, 3 German women and a few Scandinavian men. We all clicked along hitting 22-23 5ks and 46-47 10ks comfortable. We all (the three of us English speakers) kept commenting on how comfortable it felt. It felt comfortable aerobically, but my foot was hurting a bit. I just tried to stay relaxed. Dave mentioned that he had been teasing one of his teammates that he (dave) was going to find him (Tim, the other guy) a girl to marry while at the race. He said that the guy was tall, a doctor and a very good runner. So I volunteered. We all had a good laugh and he memorized my name and race number so that he could tell his teammate after the race. The group had an interesting dynamic, as Glen, Dave and I would stay consistent as we rolled up and down hills, while the rest of the group would fall back going up a hill and then charge past us going down. I downed a few bottles of Nuun that I had had placed at the aid stations and stashed a gel and HyperVespa in my sports bra for when I needed it. I had also taped some S!Caps on the inside of my race number and took one about 1.5 hrs in as the mid-day sun started to heat things up. We hit 30k in good time and turned left onto the road that our hotel was on (in the opposite direction) and ran straight into a headwind. We had had a bit of a headwind before we turned left and it didn't bode well that we had an even stronger headwind in another direction. After hitting an aid station, I had been leading the group which didn't bother me, but I quickly realized after we turned on the road that everyone was tucking in behind me so that I could break the wind. Forget that I said, and in cyclist fashion, dove across to the other side of the road. Glen and Dave had tucked in behind the two french women (for numerous reasons, ahem) and so I sidled up next to the them. I took a Hyper Vespa about 2.5 hrs in even though my energy was very stable and I felt very fresh. I also took on gel and a caffeine tab, if for no other reason than I just needed a different taste in my mouth. I think what I learned at CC100 is that Vespa will keep my energy stable but I need a different taste in my mouth, which is why I chewed gum at CC100.

Finally we came around to the Station #1 on the loop which was our exit of the 37km run up to Tarquinia. Who was going to be waiting there was a mystery as part of the "cluster f-" as Mike called it, that we runners were instructed not to worry about, was how the aid station manning was going to be. I was very happy to see Lion there waiting for me. His personality works perfectly with mine in race and he always strikes a perfect balance. He has pulled me through all my rough patches and this race would be no different. I came through (37Km) not feeling great but with nothing curably wrong. My legs were just feeling a bit pounded on and my mood was not great. The first loop I was just a big grump as I headed into the middle miles/kms. You have come a long way at that point and still have so far to go.

I headed out of the aid station, still running near-ish to Glen (not to be mistaken from the very illegal pacing off a male runner) and headed on a non-windy section that would eventually spin us off to the finish line. We hit the "only" hill on the loop which is a train overpass. Glen said that he didn't want to see me walking over this one the 4th lap (or 5th partial lap as you head towards the finish). I resolved that no matter what, I would not walk up that hill! We zoomed through Station #2 and saw Lin there as well as Jim. It was only 4km after Station #1, so I drank some water and went on my way. We soon neared the 42.195km sign which is the marathon sign and soon passed it in 3:12-ish. Glen was feeling strong and soon disappeared into the distance. After Station #2 the headwind was steady and strong as I, now completely alone and not happy, headed down a very quiet back country road. There was no hustle and bustle as there was between #1 and #2, as that was close to the city. Instead it was quiet country road with a headwind, not a space to be when your head is already out of it. In what seemed like forever, I made it to Station #3 and Lion's wife was there to support me, as well as Colin, one of Howard's crew. I took more nuun and just plugged along, getting to know the loop. I had hoped that as had happened in the Netherlands, that with each passing loop, it would feel shorter and shorter. I finally turned right (since the loop was more like a skewed rectangle) and headed towards Station #1 and the 50k mark.

I wasn't feeling great and felt like I was losing alot of time, but didn't have the strength to push it, when I knew that there was another half to go and I wanted to keep my reserve for the later part of the race. I really started talking myself out of the bad mood as I neared the 50k point. When I hit the 50k mark in 3:52, I was pleased despite falling off pace for a bit. I did notice that there was something very wearing about the way the loops were constructed. I haven't been able to pinpoint what it is about it, but it definitely made you feel like you were running backwards. And then, the lights went back on and I found my stride and my head again. I hit Station #1 feeling happier and much more upbeat. Lion and the rest of the crew responded well to my smiling face and I dashed on through. This chart shows how things continued to shape up. The first split records the first 37km plus more km to Station #2 where the timing mat was. So lap #1= Check #2, lap #2= Check #3, etc. As you can see I even though I felt like crap on lap #1, I was still running strong.

Check Km Time min/Km Delta min/Km RealTime
1 0.001 03:07:15
03:07:15
03:07:11
2 0.002 04:16:54
01:09:39
04:16:50
3 0.003 05:26:39
01:09:45
05:26:35
4 0.004 06:38:44
01:12:05
06:38:40
5 0.005 07:47:55
01:09:11
07:47:51
Arrivo 100.000 08:01:52 4.49 00:13:57
08:01:48


After having a great 2nd lap and feeling good, I started to tank again after the 2nd lap. At this point Lion told me that we were on the podium but that there were already 3 Russians and 3 Japanese through and that I need to track down the Japanese girl that was just ahead of me. I put on a brave face and headed into my third lap. I took more Vespa and maybe another gel. But I suffered and struggled. I made it to Station #2 and took some Tylenol and Station #3 and took some caffeine. I just kept telling myself the bad patch would pass and that I needed to just keep going. I lost the Japanese girl, she skipped away from me like she was running a 10k and it kind of demoralized me. I kept thinking that Kami and Meghan were putting us in a strong position and that I didn't want to blow it for them and for the rest of the team. By the time I came back to Station #1, I came a bit apart and had a good cry to Lion, just like last year. At this point, I had been doing water and also coke and I drank those. Lion fed me a half a caffeinated gel (not knowing that I was waiting for my caffeine to kick in) and gave me a pep talk. I took off and then the lights really came on. It was the same point as last year (80km) and I was possesed. I took off and felt like I was fresh and strong. I started charging and picking off the real carnage of the race. Many had already dropped out of the race including teammate (and coach) Howard as well as teammate Carolyn. I flew through Station #2 and was smelling the finishline with about 9 miles to go. After heading out of the aid station I caught up to an Australian, who I decided to chat and run with a bit. I mentioned that I was suppose to marry someone on his team and he turned beet red and said it was him, but that I wouldn't want to marry a doctor. It was funny. He had been struggling, but I helped pull him back together. A few of teammates, including Darren who had a bad asthma attack, had dropped, so he was leading for them. We worked together and tracked down a 4th Japanese girl who had passed me in my bad lap. I flew through Station #3 grabbing more water and coke and headed towards the 90k marker and the beginning of the every KM marking. After leaving Station #3, I caught teammates Greg Crowther and Adam Lint. They were both having rough days but were showing their spirit and resilience by continuing on despite things not going according to plan. After a few brief moments of slowing up, I zoomed away from them and made my final turn down the backstretch of the loop.

As I neared Station #1, I started passing women and moved up from 14th place to 10th place in a matter of km, leaving them in my wake. I hit the aid station, grabbed a quick water and sprinted out knowing that the difference between silver and bronze was going to be a matter of minutes, maybe even seconds and I wanted to make every second count. I pushed and pushed, running over the flyover, now in the dark, lit only by roadside candles. I hit the final aid station and left the loop heading towards the city of Tarquinia. I passed several more men and pressed ever closer to the finish. I hit the final km and the course turned up hill. I was mentally prepared for a hard push to the finishline since we were warned about the giant hill and it delivered. It was quite steep but there was nothing that was going to slow me down at that point, I was willing myself to get us into 2nd place. I knew that there were 3 of each, both Russian and Japanese ahead of me which made it more likely for them to be 1-2, but I wanted my time to be fast enough to not negatively balance out Kami's 2nd place and Meghan's 6th. They had gotten us to that position and I was not going to blow it. I didn't want to let them down. Why did I feel that way? I remember how sad Julie had been last year when we failed to make the podium. She had been our third woman and had had a rough last lap. She felt responsible for us not making it. Though it is completely not true (as it is about cumulative time) that the last scorer wins or loses it for the team, it is just hard not to feel responsible. I rounded the familiar roundabout near the top of the hill and could see the lights of the finish line. I sprinted up the hill and crossed the finish line in 8:01:50, a 5 minute PR and more importantly, though I wouldn't know it until much later, good enough to keep us in 2nd place as a team. Kami lead the way and Meghan solidly contributed, I am just so happy I didn't mess it up. The post race was a whirlwind of socializing, pizza eating and awards ceremony. It was a great feeling to get up on the podium and receive our silver medals. I am so excited for the future and the prospect of getting up on the podium for myself and also getting us to Team Gold.


Just after crossing the finish line


Just after crossing the finish line


Connie after crossing the finish line


The top 3 females, including the amazing Kami Semick in 2nd place!


Connie and I at awards!


Team awards. Russia 1st, America 2nd, Japan 3rd!

After the Race
It is an incredible feeling to be done with such a race. You are tired but hyper, sick to your stomach but starving. I dove into a few slices of post race pizza (gluten intolerance be damned!) and they were sooooo satisfying. We went back to the hotel/farm and sat around drinking wine and gluten free beer. The next day I headed off to Florence for a few days of wandering, eating and site seeing (and running, as my 2nd day there I ran up into the hills of Florence to experience the amazing view at sunrise-plus my legs felt GREAT!). I then spent one day in Milan and headed home. The food of Italy is amazing and it is one of those times when I am happy to not be a vegan. You haven't experienced Italy if you haven't sipped on a cappacino in a small cafe. Italy is the home of Slow Food and this really showed through in every meal which had an abundance of fresh produce, the best free range, amazing local wines that never make it out of the country, grass fed meats and delicately prepared, thoughtful food. My favorite meal was at my hotel in Florence was a marinated Veal Fillet with Steamed Vegetables and a starter of Zuppa di Farro (a tradtional white bean and spelt soup), paired perfectly with a Cianti that had just been released. I was suprised that after the race, I was eating alot less but was more satisified. I never underestimate the power of a good meal and the Italians, especially the non-touristy (which impressively enough I didn't eat any of) types, really know how to do it. All in all, I had a fantastic trip, enjoyed myself (mostly). I got to hang with some great people, witness some great running (Kami is absolutely amazing for real. She is the true star of this whole thing!) and enjoy a beautiful country. I am learning better how to make my experience even better and what works and doesn't. I am learning, slowly and that makes me so excited for the future.

Connie and I walking through the farm post race

My pictures with a few from Jim's album.

p.s. While I was in Italy, I finished the Shameless Carnivore by Scott Gold. I loved it, it was well written, thoughtful and actually a great manifesto on how we should eat, much in the vein of Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food. A good deal of what he argues is why I came back to meat and I think no matter what your stance on food is, I think it is a worthy read.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Calm before the Storm

Tapering can be fun if you are able to distract yourself from the various aches and pains that show up and occupy the time you usually spend running. I have done a good job of not having too much "tapering madness" as well as not over or under tapering. Tapering for a 100k race can be tricky. You can't back off too much, but you can't keep the mileage too high. Howard put me on a good schedule that balances keeping quality up and quantity down. I have spent my time working too much, sleeping alot, developing a new obsession with the show House and cooking lots of new recipes.

Before I get on to the recipes and food, I have to share two cool things I saw on my run today and wished I had had my camera on and recording video for. The first was a young boy, probably 7 or 8, in his front yard practicing gymnastics. I am not talking about somersaults and cartwheels, I am talking round of with a half twist type craziness. And he was sticking the landing too and throwing his hands in the air in the way they do in competition. It is no the first time I have seen him and frankly, I have never seen him miss a landing or chicken out on a difficult looking move. The second thing was when I took Frog out for her little 3 mile run. I always encourage her to be interested in squirrels and will even assist her in a chase if the squirrel is close enough. I have to keep her on the leash, so if the pursuit won't cause me injury, what the heck. Gotta give the little one some entertainment. Well, we were crossing the street and a squirrel didn't see us, so she got a good run up on the squirrel. It dashed up the nearest phone pole with Froggie's teeth inches from her but Froggie didn't lose a beat, from a full sprint she launched herself vertically in the air and jump to literally twice her extended height if she were on her hind legs. If it were a basketball hoop, she would have nearly gotten rim. It was crazy. But also a good lesson in why fences need to be pretty damn high for greyhounds.

Now on to the food. I have been trying out different flavors and pushing myself to try new things. It has been fun and I have had some delicious results. I made Jamaican Jerk Lamb Tenderloin and West Indian Vegetable Curry one night for Dad and Fran, Dijon Roast Vegetable Wrap with Garlic Hummus, Avocado and Roast Bell Peppers another. Yesterday, I made my Pumpkin Corn Bread and then made it into an Egg Sandwich with Avocado and Parm Reggiano. For dinner, I made a Jamie Oliver recipe of Jacket Potatoes w/ cottage cheese, beets and fresh horseradish. Everything was delicious and it was fun to get in the kitchen alot again.
Jamaican Jerk Lamb Tenderloin and West Indian Vegetable Curry

For the lamb tenderloin, I made a marinade of extra virgin olive oil (about a tbsp), dried Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (3 1/2 tbsp), balsamic vinegar (1 1/2 tbsp), bay leaves (4, crumbled finely) and minced garlic (the more the merrier). I only got to marinate the lamb tenderloin (which comes in long thin strips, I had 5) for a few hours, but obviously the longer the better.

After you marinate, cook the lamb to your liking, you can grill it or pan sear it. I pan seared it. And whatever you do, DON'T get rid of the marinade. No, make it into a nice spicy sauce for your meat. Once you take the meat out of the pan, put the marinade in there, add a tbsp or two of flour (I used buckwheat flour) to thicken into a roux and then start adding vegetable stock in to make it into a nice sauce. When you plate, put the vegetable curry on the bottom of a nice platter, top with meat and then put the sauce over top. In theory, you could make a very nice Jamaican Jerk Tofu instead of lamb.

The curry comes from this recipe. The only thing I changed was the cooking spray thing. I don't use stinking cooking spray, I use evoo. It has great spice and could easily stand on its own or be paired with rice. I had been planning on making grilled plantains with this meal but couldn't find them anywhere, bummer.
Dijon Roast Vegetable Wrap with Garlic Hummus, Avocado and Roast Bell Peppers

Ingredients:
For veg:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp evoo
double pinch of herbs de Provence
1/2 eggplant, sliced medium
1 med. yellow squash cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 zucchini, same as squash
1/3 cup chopped red onion

For dijon sauce:
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Wrap (for each serving):
1 rice tortilla (unless of course you can eat wheat then get something that stays together better!)
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp garlic hummus
1 roast bell pepper (from a jar)

Directions:

Combine the veg ingredients and toss well. Place veg in a roasting pan and roast on 350 until the veg are beginning to get tender. Meanwhile mix the dijon and balsamic vinegar together. When the veg is nearly done, pour the mix together and continue cooking. I think the veggies being super tender worked well in the wrap, but it is a matter of personal preference too.

To assembled, spread the avocado (mashed up) on the tortilla and the hummus on top, place the slice roast bell pepper on top. Spoon the roast veggies down the middle and roll the wrap up. I find rolling it over on the folded side secures a full wrap. Put on some foil on a backing sheet and put back in the oven (still on 350). Cook until the wrap has a bit of crunch to it. You can feel free to skip this step (or pre warm your tortillas and then wrap). I liked it this way, but will most certainly try other ways too.


Egg Sandwich with Avocado and Parm Reggiano
This was a delicious combination of salty and sweet. I also could envision replacing the parm reggiano with a nice pepper jack cheese and adding bacon for the salty kick. I don't know what fake bacon tastes like, but if it is salty, I would say that vegans could use that. I never partook in that faux bacon, chicken nugget thing, I think they are as over processed and chemically as a bag of cheetos, but if you are into that...by all means, try it out. But it does need something salty in it, which is why I used the parm reggiano. The corn bread will not hold together thoroughly so be ready with fork and knife.

For assembly:
1 egg, fried
2-3tbsp of grated parm reggiano
1/2 avocado
sliced tomato
1 slice pumpkin corn bread, sliced in two and toasted under the broiler

Slather the avocado on the corn bread and pile egg and tomato on top. Sprinkle cheese on both halves of the bread and broil until the cheese melts. Put the top on and dive in!



Jacket Potatoes w/ cottage cheese, beets and fresh horseradish.

Ingredients:

2 baked potatoes (bake on 375 for 1-1:20), halved
cottage cheese
cooked beets marinated in 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. I got some cooked beets from WF
chervil
fresh horseradish root (cut off the outside bark and then use a microplane to grate)
sea salt

Assemble:

On the halved potatoes put a knob of Earth Balance or butter if you do butter. I like Earth Balance. Then spoon cottage cheese down in there, beets next with a little juice but not to much. Top with a sprinkle of fresh chervil and then go to town with the fresh horseradish root. I mean really, we all went crazy, it really brings out all the flavors. Sprinkle salt on top. Enjoy.

All this food writing is making me hungry....off to make the next creation.

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