Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dizzy Daze 50k

Ironically more well prepared than usual.

It is my last big week before starting to taper for Boston and for my long run today I was hoping to have a confidence building run that might make me feel a bit better about things going into Boston. I haven't been feeling great for a while now and have been trying to sort out some various health issues and energy implications of such. Its not nice to feel just plain run down. Part of my road back to health is exploring and addressing all the issues and potential issues with my doctors and treating them head on. As I mentioned in my previous blog, some of the issues can be handled through "going back to the beginning". Not only the beginning of my ultrarunning career, but the beginning of time. That is Paleo. It works for me. It has worked for me in the past, my body responds really well to it. I am not planning on being militantly on any diet again, but (gluten-free always) Paleo had me running with crazy energy, healthy and strong in 2007. In light of how I have been feeling, it is worth a shot. And being the introspective person that I am, I can pinpoint that it was working. I just want to be healthy, running long, strong and fast. I'm working on it. I will be interested to see how it unfolds.

This week has been quite the hammer drop. I have done some good high mileage and had very quality workouts. When I was considering my long run for today, I decided that it would be fun to join Jonathan and about 30 others, at Jonathan's race (2nd annual) Dizzy Daze 50k/100k. More importantly for motivation was the really cool shirt that Jonathan had made, designed by my tattoo artist/logo artist Owen. I wanted to earn my shirt! I opted for the 50k distance, which was only slightly longer time wise than what my coach Howard had planned for me. I needed it though. I needed to go out and have a good day. And despite, crappy, rainy, windy, cold weather, I had a phenomenal day. It was a nice confidence boost. Last night, I had been been less than optimistic since my quads were still pretty sore from Krissy and my Mt.Si repeats, but I did a nice long stretching session and miracle of miracles, my legs instantly felt better. Note AGAIN to self, stretching works. I woke up this morning feeling good and ready and was pleased when the day continued that way.

The race is held at Greenlake and is run on the muddy outside loop which is 3.2 miles. The 50k runners get to do a bit of bonus mileage by running a full 10 loops, while the few brave 100k runners get the precise distance. As I mentioned, I am a mileage pig and never mind a bit more mileage. There was one aid station over by the crew stadium and by mid-day had sunk into the sloppy mud (poor volunteers!). My goal was to run controlled, strong and even. I wanted to have a good hard effort, but not too taxing or requiring much recovery. I left it open on if I would go the full 50k and just planned on listening to my body and working on good form, concentration and strong running. Part of improving my health is addressing severely low Leptin levels, meaning I have been instructed to eat a minimum of 600 calories a day more than I have been. Considering I am never hungry, dietary restrictions (due to health), possible underlying health issues and consistent negative energy balance due to high mileage, I have found myself with some nutritional deficiencies despite my best efforts to fuel myself with amazing healthy foods and plenty of them. Apparently my (head) idea of plenty, is different than my (body) idea of plenty. To that end, last night I had a great pre-race meal with lots of butternut squash, roast vegetables, steak and guacamole. And then this morning, I decided to again go back to the beginning in a way and eat the amount (calorically) that I use to eat before races/long runs. For a year or so, my pre-race meal has gotten smaller and I haven't had any noticeable race energy differences. But I decided that I wanted to start myself off in the right direction.

Outside the cozy confines of home, the weather was disgusting. Cold, rainy, windy. There is a clock/temperature gauge outside Super Jock and Jill on the other side of the lake and everytime I passed I watched the temperature drop more and more. Brrrrrr. We set out at 7am sharp and worked our ways counter-clockwise around the lake. Despite of myself, I love loops. They make the time pass on otherwise dreary courses. I run around Greenlake enough to be familiar with every inch already, but found as laps progressed they felt quicker and quicker. I was hammering along swiftly, hitting the aid station to the cheers of Jess and Laura (and various others who dropped in to say hi). I was feeling good, running strong at around 7 min/miles. There is not much one can report from a course like that. I played games with myself, meditated and generally just got geeked out on how good I was feeling. I WAS back at the beginning of my ultrarunning career, where I was doing alot less "future-tripping" as Jonathan calls it, when I was able to be in my run in there here and now. This is the first year where I have felt anything but that and I think it is because I am pressuring myself for Boston. Or I was. As I said in my previous post, I have gone back to the beginning in my vision and focus as well. And today, on the road, I felt it. I was just there, here and now. 4:04, 3 bathroom breaks, gallons of mud, one essential greens bar, a bottle of Nuun and a shot or two of coke later, I was done with my 32 miles. 1st woman, 2nd overall (well kinda technically 3rd overall since one 100k-er was ahead actually through first, Sam Thompson). It was a great day and on my last lap, I nearly cried I was so happy to finally have a good day. It was just refreshing, it was confirming and it is something I want to have on a consistent basis and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get back there on a more permanent basis.

I changed my clothes, took orders from those who wanted something from Flying Apron and headed off to get some well earned goodies. I dove head first into a giant slice of gluten free, vegan Maple Cake with raspberry and almond filling and just a hint of chocolate on top and an almond milk latte. Refeeding can be so tasty. I went back with a curry calzone for Laura and a slice of cake and coffee for Linda, hung out for a bit and then headed home for my favorite part of the day: ice bath. All in all a very successful day.
RD Jonathan and I post 50k.... he was going to carry on to at least 50m

Unwavering support crew in the sinking aid station

A beautiful day at Greenlake. Not! Rain, Wind, 36 degrees

My new sweatshirt and the awesome race shirt. Logos by Owen!
I earned my shirt!

Simple Foods

And so winter drags on here in Seattle. After spending a few beautiful and warm (well warm-ish) days in Winthrop, WA, I am back in Seattle where it is cold, rainy and windy. This weather makes me hungry. And that is saying something since I am so rarely hungry, which I know is quite bizarre for an ultraunner. After a really hard training day, including "hill" repeats (aka mountain repeats) up Mt.Si and an afternoon recovery run, all I wanted was something warm, hearty but requiring little to no brainpower. I dreamed up this combination and man oh man was it a winner. I baked off an acorn squash and then filled up each half with some of the meat spaghetti sauce I made in a huge batch (and froze) a few months ago. Topped it with a bit of parmesan and threw a side of steamed veggies next to it and I was in absolute bliss. Considering I don't eat pasta, I do eat alot of marinara sauce.  The marinara is my mom's recipe, she use to make it in giant batches at my behest when I was young. We always had a container or two in the freezer and I have never tasted a spaghetti sauce I like more. And that is saying something, considering her recipe is always a bit off the cuff. A bit of this, a tad of that. But always delicious. Try it for yourself, I promise you that you will start being like me: looking for excuses to eat more and more!

Mom's Amazing Marinara

In a (very) large stock pot, brown 1/2lb to lb of bacon and set aside. I used turkey bacon this time, which required a bit of olive oil to get it started.

Brown two lbs of ground beef drain and mix with the bacon. Also used ground turkey

Chop onion and garlic fine and add to meat mixture and brown. About 1 large onion, garlic to your taste, several cloves.

Add sliced mushrooms,green pepper,whole tomatoes (if you use fresh peel them first cause the skins get weird) any other vegetables that you think will taste good. I added baby squash, zucchini.

Mix all this together and cook for a bit.

Season with salt pepper rosemary,oregano thyme,bay leaf and then dump in a bunch of red wine and cook that for a bit. I used Lost River Syrah
Then add 4 large cans of tomato sauce and 2 cans of tomato paste
Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer on low for several hours stirring to keep it from sticking on the bottom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winthrop Week

Day 2, view from the Ridge Trail long run
My life currently is like a game of Where's Waldo. I have been zipping about from place to place for over a month now since I moved out of my apartment. Lots for work, some for fun, a bit for a race or two. Man is it exhausting. But also rewarding. The stressful tiring parts are made well worth it by the relaxing, quiet times that (thankfully) follow. After Portland, SF, ATL, SF, Cool, Portland, Olympia, Home in the space of a month, I decided after being home for 4 days that I would head up to Winthrop, WA to visit one of the best people I know and great friend, Alison. After heading up to Chuckanut 50k to volunteer in the morning on Saturday, I hoped into my car and sped (5 hrs) down, over and back up to Winthrop to visit Alison for a 5 days.

As soon as I arrived in town, I parked my car at the Barn and Alison scooped me up for a nice run up a rolling "primitive" road. It was nice to shake my legs out and I was just completely in love with where I was. It was warm enough for shorts, the sun was shining and the surrounding mountains just begged for a trail run. Alison warned me that alot of the trails were half melted and instead were extremely spotty and had a lot of the bad kind of snow, that is frozen solid, but not enough to bear weight and so you end up post-holeing and shredding your ankles. Hmmm. Oh well, the "primitive roads" were good enough for me! That evening we headed to the local pub for some, well, grub and music.
Heading onto, or should I say, looking for the Ridge Trail in the snow

Over the course of my stay, I got in several good runs with Alison and a few without her while she was working. We ate great food, I picked up my brand new single speed bike and I spent alot of time just plain relaxing. I love the pace in the Methow, nice and slow. There is no rush there. A few times Alison apologized to me for there not being more to do but she neednt have, I was loving it! We would sit by the fire after a nice homecooked dinner with fresh local ingredients, reading our books, talking or watching movies, drinking copious amounts of tea. We would go to bed early and listen to the coyotes howling in the distance. I spent my days working remotely, running up hills and trails and zooming along the highway. It was fun to explore the few small towns in the Methow and live at country pace. Alison took me to all her favorite spots including the Mazama Country Store for a post long run donut (which sadly I can't eat) and my last night there we had some fine dining at the Arrowleaf Bistro. The food was delicious and I was falling over with jealousy at Alison's slice of Carrot Cake with Ginger Frosting (which, again, sadly I can't eat). It was so much fun to catch up with Alison and spend some time with her, now that she is 4 hrs away I don't get to see her as much. As I said, she is one of the best, brightest, sweetest people I know and her attitude about alot of things are not only refreshing to me, they are exactly what I need more of. We need more Alisons in this world. I am not usually prone to gushing about my friends (or maybe I am???), but I think sometimes it is nice to verbalize our affirmations of the people we value.

A beautiful day for a long run! Me and Alison all smiles up top.

Looking out over the Methow Valley

Sunset in the Methow

Going for a walk with Alison and Arlo

It was hard to say goodbye to Alison and Winthrop on Wednesday morning, but alas I had business to attend to back in the big city. Like getting my butt kicked at 6 in the morning by Mt.Si with Krissy on Thursday. We went out to do "hill" repeats and had ourselves an adventure, making it a bit more than halfway up the first time before being turned back by snow. The second time (as I lay dying from being one of the few times I have been on trails this training cycle- stupid Boston idea, what was I thinking? WHAT WAS I THINKING?I miss the trails) of our (or should I say my) sufferfest, we decided to damn the snow and go all the way up. We hit major snow for the majority of the second half but it was packed down and "runnable" (as runnable as snow is on a steep hill) and we worked to the top. As soon as we got there, we regretted not having our cameras. It was a gorgeous day, the sky was blue and the view of Rainier, Seattle and darn near all of Washington was amazing. We even slogged knee deep through the snow to make it to the top. After enjoying the 4 miles of downhill, we did a 2 mile out and back on the road to feed our "mileage pig" appetites. It was brilliant. Even though I got down on myself for not feeling good on the uphills and not running where I want to, it was awesome to run with Krissy and mutually push each other. Needlesstosay, I look forward to doing it again BECAUSE it kicked my butt so bad. I went out today to get new pair of trail shoes since my New Balance 790s are completely blown out in the right shoe (I noticed this as we started up #2).

In a lot of things in my life, I am going back to the beginning (i.e. the beginning of my ultrarunning career). I am going back in the structure and content of the food I eat (that is a whole other blog, someday) to regain my health, I am going back to the focus of my training and racing (love baby, love) and I am going back to the shoes I adored. Except the shoes I adored are even better than before! I wore Salomon's straight for the first year and half of my ultrarunning career and loved them. Absolutely loved them. And now I remember why. I went to REI today and hunted down a pair after researching a few potential models by Salomon and when I got there, AHHHHH, Salomon Whispers. 8.8 ounces, with all the cushioning, support and teeth I loved about my Salomons.
I just slip these on and start kicking myself that I ever had a momentary lapse of judgement and decided that training hard for a road marathon was a good idea. I am truly a trail runner at heart, I can't deny it. While Boston should be fun, or at least interesting, I am looking past it already and dreaming of the trail races I want to do and the mountains I am going to run. I just can't wait. All in all, the last month has been crazy and wonderful. Great places, great friends, great running and I have only just begun!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Traveler's Toolkit

One of the things that I have realized/confirmed (since I really I already knew it) while "homeless" is that it is extremely easy to cook fresh, organic, amazingly delicious anywhere. I mean I have cooked a 5 star quality meal on a camping stove, it should be easy to create fabulous dishes in the "luxury" accommodations of various friends and families houses. As I have harped on again and again, good healthy tasty food does not need to be complex. Simple food goes a long way. For instance, I am up in Winthrop visiting one of my favorite people and friends, Alison Hanks and last night we roasted off what we had around- potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, brussel sprouts, zucchini and some steak from a local farm. I made a marinade/glaze of stone ground mustard, balsamic, and evoo and roasted off the whole mixture at 400 for an hour. It was delicious!

Another thing that is really easily to make quick, healthy and hearty are salads. Before I moved out of my place I made a great seared Buffalo and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Mango Vinaigrette. It was a simple matter of roasting the butternut squash, searing the buffalo steak and making the marinade. Throw the whole combination over a huge bed of greens, dress and voila: Amazingness in every bite! I won't include a recipe, because it is just that simple. The dressing is a combination of mango (diced then pureed with the other ingredients), apple cider vinegar, peanut oil, a dash of cayenne and salt, to taste.

But the one thing that I have noticed as I go from house to house is that one of my "must have's" in creating a great meal are good knives. I find it fascinating that so many people I know from foodie to novice, from all all-clad kitchen to mismatched pots and pans, so many people do not own a good knife. And I don't mean you have to go out and spend a small fortune on a knife, but it is a worthy investment. Nearly everything you cook up whether on camp stove or restaurant kitchen is going to be influenced by your knife in some way. So why have crappy ones? Make your life easier. Invest in a good knife. Thankfully for me this time I remembered to pack up my knife roll with me and keep my knives out of storage. If I am willing to drag my knives around with me across the country, you should be willing to keep one on hand to use on daily basis.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

(Don't) Kiss me, I'm Irish

I was (finally) home in Seattle, enjoying hanging out with my mom on and having a serious hankering for corned beef. Thankfully it was the week of St.Patty's day, so it was easily to come by some great house-brined corned beef (organic, grass fed, etc). And better yet, I was in the mood for a hearty meal after being on the road from Atlanta to SF, to Cool, CA to Portland to Olympia to Seattle all in a very short time. I needed comfort, I also needed replenishment from my race that previous Saturday and this meal was just the ticket. And it was simple too!

The meal:

Corned beef (simmered for 2.5 hrs, 1 hr per pound)

Bubbies Sauerkraut (non-pasteurized!!!)

Mashed Potatoes

Grilled Baby Artichokes (

Throw in a bit of organic dijon mustard and you have a party in your mouth. So why do I say, "don't kiss me, I'm Irish"? Well, the potatoes of course. These were no ordinary mashed potatoes. These were boiled reds with a bit of earth balance smashed together and then twisted with a hearty dose of garlic sauce (Karam's) and horseradish. Aren't those suppose to be the anti-making out foods? But heck it was worth it, they were the best addition to the meal!

Steelhead Diner

This review almost didn't happen. But I am absolutely delighted it did, or I really would have missed out. I say that because just over a month ago, on Valentine's Day, my sister, mom and I attempted to try the Steelhead Diner but were rebuffed by a very, very rude hostess. We knew that trying to go somewhere on Valentine's Day without a reservation was ridiculous, so we called ahead to Steelhead to see if it was even worth it to come downtown and try and snag table. They said they were sure there would be cancellations and that we should come in and they were certain they would be able to find us a spot. Well, apparently no one told the hostess since when my mother and sister came in while I parked the car, the hostess acted appalled and annoyed that they even dare inconvience her with our ridiculous request. We left and our interest in returning with a reservation was not as strong as it might be. Let's just said it slid down the priority list.

Last week when trying to decide where to make reservations for dinner for this Wednesday, Steelhead popped up in my head and the cuisine was sounding appealing to both my mother and I. And we definitely made the right decision. From the moment we walked in our experience was completely different. We were whisked to our table by a kind and attentive young man and our waitress was right around with drink menus. My mom got her standard Crown Royal on the rocks in a bucket and I contemplated their extensive specialty drinks menu before deciding on my usual, a Manhattan, and I got it with Bookers. The dining room itself in beautiful and filled with light. There are huge (and highly coveted) window tables that look out at the view above. We were talked towards the Post Alley end, albeit still near windows. We didn't really notice anyways as we burrowed down quickly into conversation. Like I am about my sister, I am excited that my mom has gotten more into food and restaurant reviews. It is fun to hear their commentary and enjoy food with them in a way that is relatively new for us.

As we perused the menus which double as our placemats, we found ourselves fiending over several dishes and quite indecisive. Our waitress came back around and we inquired with her about her favorites. My mom had narrowed it down to either the Wagu Beef Burger or the Fish and Chips, and I was thinking the Neah Bay Black Cod, as well as salads. The waitress highly recommended the Hills Farm All Natural Pork Chop with Sauerkraut, Steamed Potatoes, Smoky Bacon and Stone Ground Mustard Infused Demi-Glace for a meat dish and the Kasu Marinated Neah Bay Black Cod for seafood. Sold! My mom abandoned her burger or fish/chips and went with the Pork as well as the House Salad with has Baby Iceberg Head Lettuce with Crispy Bacon, Avocado, Red Onion, Boiled Egg, Crumbled Blue Cheese & Lorenzo Dressing and I went with the Cod as well as a Baby Spinach & Moro Blood Orange Salad with Frisee, Toasted Sunflower seeds and Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette.

My mom snacked on the bread basket, commenting how fresh and delicious it was, even pausing to have me smell the cheese bread with fresh butter. It smelled amazing. I am off wheat and dairy for a while trying to figure out some health issues, but the bread smelled almost good enough to be worth the massive digestive pain I would suffer.

Our salads came soon enough and the portions would not leave this hungry girl wanting. The House Salad was a artfully arranged and my mom said that the ingredients really popped and you could tell they were of the highest quality, flavorful and working well together. My salad was equally amazing. I really like a vinegary dressing and the Peppercorn Vinaigrette really fit the bill. There was an interesting play between the blood oranges, the plum and juicy (dried) cranberries and walnuts. It was simple, yet delightful. That is to say, I took notice of my salad and salad is definitely something that generally tends to be just ok. Good, but not profound. With a prelude like our salads, we were excited for our main courses to arrive.

Even though I had made corned beef with sauerkraut the night before and thus worried that my mom's dish might taste a bit redundant at this point, with one bite of her dish, I completely forgot all about my own meal the night before. The pork was tender and perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful. The potatoes were simple and played well in the demi-glace and the housemade sauerkraut. I had one forkful of the combination and was in bliss. I was surprised by how light the dish actually tasted. I had expected the combination to be heavy or at least very hearty but it was pulled off brilliantly, walking a very fine line. As for my Black Cod, it certainly delivered. As the waitress had said, it simply melted in your mouth and the Kasu marinade was flavorful, complex and salty, just like I like. It was offset perfectly with the very fresh and light carrot-ginger salad and baby bok choy. We cleaned our plates and we perfectly satisfied. There are plenty of heavy dishes on the menu which I am sure we could have glutted (and delighted) ourselves with such as the Poutine. The menu is ever changing with the seasons and what is available locally and I am excited to go back and try many more of their delicious selections. I am really glad that we didn't get too put off by our first go and I know that this is definitely my new go-to restaurant (I feel like I say that alot, but I keep being delighted and impressed!) for both out of town guests as well as locals who want to meet up for a great meal, drinks and a view. An excellent experience, I highly recommend it.

Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon

Le Garage- A guest blogger review

It totally makes me excited to be able to introduce my sister Sarah as today's guest blogger. I found a restaurant, Le Garage, in Sausalito for her to try out and she was kind enough to write up a review for the blog. We were surprised we had never been to/heard of Le Garage, but as you will read, we will be frequenting this restaurant for sure. It makes me even more excited to see Sarah excited about food since a few years ago she was not really interested in it at all. I love my sister!

From Sarah:

I was predisposed to enjoy my trip to Le Garage because when I called to make a reservation, the man who answered the phone had a French accent and said, "Bonjour" when he picked up the phone. Finding Le Garage is not an easy feat if one does not know Sausalito as it is at the end of a poorly marked road in a Marina. It is literally in a garage with a large red door. Last night, it was warm so the garage door was up and there were heaters and tables both inside and out. It has a unique feeling to it, with the waiters (all French) in mechanic gear and a large open space for the dining room. When we arrived, the owner (I am assuming it was the owner) welcomed us in and offered us a selection of tables. We picked a table on the end (inside) and began to peruse the menu. Our waitress took awhile to get to us, but when she arrived she apologized profusely and asked what we would like to drink. I ordered a Kir Royal (my all time Paris favorite), my date just had water (no fun, I know) and we ordered the Dungeness crab stuffed pequillos peppers lightly fried and served with a tomato basil coulis. Almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, the Kir Royal was on my table. It was delicious, just like I ordered in Paris. I was in heaven. The water and bread arrived shortly after. The bread was a little dry and the butter looked like it was spoiled and it was hard and somewhat flakey, but I didn't have much time to focus on that because the appetizer arrived. It was delicious, the tomato coulis had the flavor of fresh, flavorful tomatoes, the crab tasted fresh and not fishy and it was fried to perfection with just enough cruchiness. i practically inhaled it. For dinner we ordered the Black Angus Rib eye with Petaluma’s Spring Hill Farm organic truffle butter and Kennebec fries and the Mussels Provençale w/ garlic, shallots, white wine, cream, tomatoes, niçoise olives & pastis. The steak was cooked to perfection. My date remarked, "I wish I could cook a steak like this." It was tender and flavorful. The truffle butter also added a nice richness to each bite as it melted on the steak. The fries on the plate were cold, but it wasn't a concern as I had ordered the Kennebec fries with aïoli to go with my mussels. Those fries were hot out of the fryer with a delicious aioli to dip them in. However, I think my favorite dish that evening was the mussels. The wine/cream sauce was amazing. I don't know that there are words to describe the amzing flavor it had. It was a healthy portion of mussels, the shells filled two bowls. Each bite was more delicious that the one previous. The mussels were not briney in the least. The tomato, olive combination provided a salty, sweet, tangy flavor to each bite. To top off the delicious dinner, we each enjoyed a glass of a Cote du Rhone wine called Village (I believe). It was a fruit forward wine with just a hint of earthiness and although reds are not usually a compliment to mussels, it was an excellent choice none the less. Overall, I very totally impressed. It was a mix of a wonderful night in Paris mixed with a night spent at home in Sausalito, definitely worth the trip down the unmarked road in Sausalito to Le Garage.

Le Garage on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Way Too Cool 50k

Just getting to the starting line at Way Too Cool still standing, now looking back was a feat in itself. I left Seattle about a month ago and hit the road for Oregon, then SF, then ATL for work. While in Atlanta we worked liked dogs for about 10-14 hrs a day trying to get a huge project out the door. It was exhausting and I flew back to SF on Thursday before W2C so I could have at least one day in the right time zone. Going into W2C, I had a mixed bag of ambitions and goals. On the most fundamental level, W2C was a training run, a "controlled effort" as my coach Howard said. I wanted to run well and continue build up some confidence heading into my first "A" race of the season, Boston. That said, W2C is a highly competitive race and is one of the largest 50k races in the country, so I wanted to run well. I knew I would have to stay on top of myself during the race and manage my effort closely.

Hollis picked me up on Friday and we headed up to Auburn on Friday. I slept well and felt as rested as I could the next morning for someone who had averaged 4 hrs of sleep for nearly two weeks. I was feeling loose and limber and ready to run. My stomach was not really being my friend but sometimes that is just the way things go (and go and go and go, ok I'll stop).

We headed up to the start and I milled about saying hi to all the people I know. I felt like everywhere I turned there was another old friend to reconnect with or someone I know of to finally introduce myself to. It really seems to be a good cross section of "who's who" of ultrarunning, Andy Jones-Wilkens, Scott Dunlap, Dan Olmstead, Lewis Taylor, Eric Grossman, Karl Meltzer, Eric Skaden, Paul Dewitt, Rod Bien,Phil Kochik, Graham Cooper Meghan Arbogast, Bev Anderson-Abbs, Joell Vaught,Mark Lantz, Leor Pantilat, Caitlin Smith, Jenny Capel, Jean Pommier, Tim Twietmeyer, Mark Godale, Caren Spore and probably many more that I am leaving out. It is a huge field, 500 runners and the day was looking to have perfect weather, despite the clouds that rolled in early.

Before I knew it, we were lining up and I was saying a few last "hi's" before working my way up to the front of the pack. I wanted to get out early and burn a little bit at the start to get my legs going and give myself a little fun since I knew I would not be doing that for the entire race, in order to stick to my game plan. I hope someday I am able to come back to W2C and have it be more of a focus race since I think it would be fun to let it rip on that course. Off we went like a cannon at the start and I clipped along comfortably down the road behind the lead men and slightly behind Bev Anderson-Abbs and with eventual winner, Caitlin Smith. We went through the first mile at 5:59 which was pretty freaking blazing and didn't back of the pace much for the few miles except dictated by terrain.

The field thinned and we worked our way along the wide trail toward Highway 49. I fell into a comfortable pace and recentered on my goals and my ideal pace. The trail is absolutely beautiful and I just tried to find my mind, body, spirit space that I had found the week before on the AT. I just let myself float along and work my way up and up along the trail. Before I could blink, I had gone 15 miles and was heading up around the 7 mile loop turnaround. I saw Bev just slightly ahead of me and figured Caitlin was probably just slightly in front of her. I was surprised to see them since I thought I had consciously taken the throttle off and backed off, but took this as another reminder that I needed to slow the heck down. I am all for hammering at hammer time, but I also knew that I was hanging on by a thread to any semblance of energy and steam and if I pushed myself too hard I would end up paying a price in my recovery time and ultimately in running my goal at Boston. I decided to walk all the remaining hills no matter how much of a wanker it made me feel like it. The miles continued to clip away and I found myself wondering how and when that kind of distance started feeling "short".

Somewhere along the loop, Joelle from Boise, ID caught up to me and I said a quick hello and let her pass. It was funny, for as competitive as I sometimes can feel, I had no competitive instinct on this particular day. I was just doing my own thing and that felt pretty darn cool. I made it up the massive hill before the mile 21 aid station where I refilled my bottle for the first time and had a sip of coke. The VESPA was working its usual miracle and my energy was even and sustained. I was feeling generally run down though. My legs didn't feel tired, I didn't feel bonky, I just felt like I wanted a nap. I felt anemic. I felt the way I do when my iron is really low (which unfortunately, along with some other health concerns, seems to be pretty often), like my blood is just moving at a snails pace. Knowing I had just hammered out two hard weeks at work, I was not particularly concerned, but also knew there was not much I could do to aid in jovial resuscitation.

I ebbed and flowed with some runners in my relative pace window and we headed up Goat Hill to mile 26 aid station. I ate a Larabar and picked up litter as I hiked up the hill. My 100k teammate Meaghan came gliding past me and we chatted briefly before she danced up the hill like it was flat. Soon there after Nicola came along and passed me too. I recognized Nicola from her good performance at WR50 last summer. I kept up my systematic march up the hill and was very happy to see the aid station at the top. "Can we get you anything?" Came the question. "Yeah, the race finish would be good." I don't like feeling exhausted. Or more, I don't like feeling exhausted for reasons unrelated to what I am doing. It is just annoying.

I picked myself up mentally though and reframed my perspective as I left the aid station. Sure I was tired and not doing cartwheels down the trail since I was taking it easy, but so what?!?! I am immensely blessed. I am blessed to be able to physically, mentally and spiritually be able to cover that kind of distance. I am lucky to be able to go out on a beautiful Saturday morning and beat myself into a pulp and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. The last seemed more bareable, though I was no less tired, with my head on right. I knew that I had run the race I wanted to. I knew that I am primed and ready to have the year I want to. And on top of that, I still came in, in the top 50 of a very competitive race and 6th woman overall in 4:25:08 (though when I crossed the finish line the clock said 4:24 but hey who's counting?). It was a great day and after a bit of socializing with some great runners and my sponsors, Shannon at Moeben and Peter at VESPA, Hollis and I headed back to Sausalito. I am really happy I got the opportunity to run this race and definitely see myself returning in the future! Now, onwards to the big dance: Boston!

Meaghan, Me, Joelle, Bev and Nicola
Photo by Scott Dunlap

One (Midtown Kitchen) More Time at Craft Atlanta

I am the type of person who is always up for a challenge and up to be challenged. When I reviewed Craft Atlanta, I got challenged a bunch on my posting because I had reviewed the restaurant after only eating there once and during its first week of opening. I didn't say don't go there, I simply said that here is the experience you are possibly in for. I also challenged the universe to change my mind. I was not going to go back to Craft and spend MY money, but if someone (knowing full well what my experience was the first time) wanted to change my mind and take me to dinner there, I would be game. Well, my opportunity came just over a week ago.

I was in Atlanta for a grueling two weeks of work and my dad (who's girlfriend it was that I took to Craft the first time) was keen to try Craft ESPECIALLY knowing my previous review of the place. That made him more curious. He wanted to see if they had risen to the challenge or if they had not taken any steps towards improvement or even worse, gotten worse. We made reservations for Sunday night and I looked forward to hopefully having my mind changed. I mean who doesn't want a restaurant that is going to put you out $$$$ to be good?

But what emerged was the perfect setup for my evening at Craft. A throwdown. My coworked and friend Lauren whom I was staying with wanted to take me to her favorite restaurant and see if this foodie would agree with her opinion. In short, she wanted to impress me. We made reservations for Saturday night at One Midtown Kitchen and I looked forward to it greatly. She touted that they had the best calamari anywhere to which I mentally responded, I don't like calamari so it will be interesting to see what "good" calamari tastes like.

From the moment we walked into One Midtown Kitchen, I felt that sense of what I have harped on time and time again, that good service & attention can make or break the experience. We were greeted at the door and were asked our names and had a fun discussion with the two hosts, one of which (Bob) was so friendly and jovial, that you couldn't help but feel you were at your neighborhood joint where everyone knows you name. One is definitely not that kind of place, but it was interesting that that feeling could be pulled off in a super hip chic setting. I have heard that One if prone to being a meat-market on the weekends, but it seemed to strike a balanced cross section of couples, gussied up groups, people my parents age and friends of all ages getting together for a great meal. Bob told us if there was anything we needed we just holler and he'd come running. Even if his behaviour was completely contrived, he was convincing and so he achieved his goal of making us feel welcomed, relaxed and happy to be there. Our waiter was quickly around, Christo, I believe his name was and he followed Bob's lead of being thoughtful, attentive and on point. We ordered our drinks (I took a suggestion from him and went with the amazing Mint Julep ) and tucked in to our menus to see what caught our fancy. Lauren was insistent upon the calamari, so I decided to humor her and "try it again for the first time" we also got the pork and lamb stuffed cabbage rolls. By 8pm when our appetizers arrived and we were merrily sipping on our drinks, the place was pretty hopping but we were able to easily carry on our conversation without being drown out by a loud din.

From the moment the runner set the plate of calamari down on the table, I knew it was different. Instead of the anorexic looking fried bits that are usually passed off as calamari, these were meaty and thick, perfectly breaded with a spicy sauce. Upon first bite, my opinion changed about calamari. Or more, my opinion feel right in with Lauren's that this was the best calamari I have ever had. And possibly will ever have. The standard set with the plate in front of me was enough to make me never want to eat calamari anywhere ever again. And I probably won't, except when I come back to One (which I will be doing). The cabbage rolls were less successful than the calamari, but still delicious. We agreed that they were good, but they were missing an element. There were good layers of flavor, but it needed a kick to make the whole thing come together. The cabbage rolls got that when I dipped them in the sauce for the calamari. They were so close with the flavor profile, that all it needs is a minor adjustment to tip it over the edge from ho-hum to damn that was an amazing bite.

For our mains, Lauren ordered the Steak Frites and I went with the Smoked Brisket. It usually comes with grits on the side, but I am not a big fan of grits, polenta, ok most grains in general most of the time and so I asked to have those swapped out for the Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Thyme Butter. Christo was picking up what I was putting down on that one and said I was one smart girl for making the swap since the Brussel Sprouts are amazing. I was looking forward to some Memphis BBQ style brisket and the vinegar coleslaw and could hardly contain myself with excitement. The runner brought out our dishes and before my plate landed in front of me, I knew they had mixed it up. The coleslaw had been omitted (noooooooo!) and the grits left. The brussel sprouts were there (phew) but I still had no intention of eating the grits. Lauren started on her steak and fries (which were both up to standard for a pretty standard fine dining offering) and I contemplated what to do. Before I had to muster up a complaint, Christo was back at the table asking how our meals were. He addressed Lauren first before looking to me. I didn't even have say anything before he snatched my plate up and said, "well that is just not right! Back in a flash". It was nice to see that he knew what was wrong without mention. That is some serious attention to detail in a restaurant that is serving a good deal of customers. The plate was back before I knew it and it was amazing. The brisket was expertly cooked and flavored, the coleslaw was vinegary just like I like it. The Brussel Sprouts popped with flavor but were not heavy. I was delighted. We capped off the evening with some Caramel Baileys Coffees and went home extremely satisfied. When I finally pulled my head up long enough to survey the scene at the restaurant, I realized how busy the place really was. But that impressed me even more. They had managed to make us feel attended to and special in an environment that is not conducive to that. Top that off with dinner costing us less than $60 apiece and I have to give this restaurant my full approval. I will go back and try it again for sure and hope it continues to impress and delight me. One threw down a serious challenge for Craft the following evening.

Sunday rolled around all too quickly and I headed out for the morning to run on the AT with my friend Christian. After a fun grueling run, I was ready for a delicious and hearty meal. I was still dreaming of my brisket from the night before and had specifically not had the new lamb special at One since I knew that Craft had lamb, which we were likely to try.

In short, I wish I could say that my opinion of Craft has changed. But it hasn't. In fact, we didn't just spend $250 on an average meal, we spent $500 and got smaller portions and less attentive service. We tried 3 different salads, had good cocktails. We got the lamb for the table (at $85), accompanied by jerusalem artichokes, baby carrots, brussel sprouts and sweet potato gratin. My dad and Fran had dessert of Pear Crisp and Chocolate Cake. We drank an expensive bottle of wine. The restaurant was sparsely occupied and despite that the service felt cold and impersonal. I write this so in brief because it almost feels like a waste of precious energy. The food wasn't bad, it just wasn't profound. It wasn't even particularly interesting. I prepare vegetables on a daily basis that are more interesting and flavorful (and to add insult to injury they made their vegetable sides smaller, which precipitated me ordering the carrots after the fact since I was darn hungry!). As I said before, it was not bad, it just was not $500 worth it. If there was anything redeeming in the experience, I might say "ok, maybe, maybe on a special occasion", but it just seemed average all the way around for the price. If I am going to eat a small portion of lamb for $85, I want it to be stepping up the plate with a legitimate shot of hitting it out of the park and being the best thing I ever tasted. This didn't even go down swinging.

In the end, One Midtown Kitchen wins the duel and I once again get reminded that I can trust my own judgment and palate at a restaurant. I was right on from the start about Craft (insert people jumping on me for only going there twice now....well, whatever.) and was more disappointed because I really had hoped that their missteps when I went the first time were really first week issues. Alas, they were not. The food was not bad, it just wasn't $500 good. If I am going to spend that kind of money, the food should be that kind of good. I would have rather kept the $500 and gone to One Midtown Kitchen 4 or 5 times instead. I concede that I am glad I went another time to get a better idea of the food, I am now even more glad that I don't ever have to consider or wonder about going there again.

One Midtown Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Craft Atlanta on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Resurrection on the Appalachian Trail

This song (there is no actual video footage) sums up completely how I felt out there on the AT today. I only wish I had been carrying my camera so that I could have recorded footage of what was easily not only the best run I had in months, but the most profound and important as well.

This morning I got up at the pre-crack of dawn to meet up with Christian to hit up the Appalachian Trail and get in some good dirt time. Christian is an Atlanta area ultrarunner who I got connected to many months ago through our mutual networks of running friends and who I failed to run with the last time I was in Atlanta (how I have no idea). During my last stint here, he had connected me with lots of people and places to run and I am infinitely grateful. I was excited to finally get the opportunity to get out with him and have a great run. We were suppose to head out yesterday to do the "Meat Grinder" but work obligations kept me city bound and thanks to the wonder (or not) of technology, Christian still was at the meetup spot at 5:45am when he finally received my cancellation text from the previous evening (sorry!!). He was kind enough to reschedule for this am and instead and hit up Kennesaw instead and hammer out a fast 20 miler (color me jealous!).

The morning alarm at 4:40 came all too early and I woke up feeling like I hadn't slept much. Um...because I hadn't. When planning my bedtime, I forgot about the time change and went to bed well after 11pm, which meant I slept from 11:30-3:40 (without the change). Thankfully my phone automatically changed and I was able to be on time. I grabbed a cup of coffee, banana and Chia seed food bar and headed out from Lauren's parents house to head to the meetup spot of highway 400. It was another 1hr plus drive up the trailhead and so I hopped into Christian's truck and we scooped up his friend Victor from their usual meeting spot. We still had plans to run "Meat Grinder" but Victor suggested we hit up Blood Mountain instead which was according to him, comparable climb/difficulty but far more beautiful. As this was my first time on the AT, I was down with both optimal difficulty and optimal beauty. We decided to do Blood Mountain which was about 9.5 from trailhead to the top, making for a great 19miles for the day. It was a apparently a day for random songs, references and movies since as soon as we decided on Blood Mountain, all I could think was the first line of this song:

At the trailhead of the AT, heading out to Blood Mountain

We made it to the trailhead and set out. Victor (who also sparked another random reference in my head making me go "Hey Victor" everytime I thought his name in the vein of the movie Smoke Signals) explained the route and told me just to follow the white paint on the trees that denotated the AT. It was a chilly start and I was thankful that I had packed a pair of my bamboo Moeben sleeves to rock. They joked that I shouldn't worry about getting lost, just to run out to about 9.5 on the Suunto and then turn around. I objected and said I was sticking with them, so I wouldn't have to worry. Their response was, "yeah right this is about the only running we'll be doing with you" as we ran the first few 100 meters. I tried to get Christian to take the lead but that lasted about 200meters. I didn't want to just run off, but Christian put me in front and told me to set my own pace. I had no intention to hammer the run, especially with the promise of it being a grueling uphill grind. But within the first 1/2 mile, something magical happened. I came back into my own. This was my first trail run of any consequence (i.e. in terms of difficulty level, that is hills) since my injury and even after a good run at Hagg Lake, I still haven't really been "feeling it" much. It comes back in bit, flashes, pieces that are fleeting. "It" being that feeling of firing on all cylinders, feeling like you are highly trained machine that you are. When mind, body, spirit merge and you feel like there is nothing else in the world but you and the trail. Before I could even blink, I had floated uphill 5 miles and long abandoned the boys. I felt a moment of guilt since I never like to leave a very gracious and generous host, but I also knew that it was Christian's desire to be this way. We were all "getting ours", so it was all good. I had music float in and out of my brain, which was funny since this is the first run in a while where I did not listen to music at all.

I felt moved, I felt strong, I felt like I was flying or dancing. The uphills all felt runnable, my feet moving swiftly over the rooty trail. I passed many campsite of through hikers and soaked it all in. The sun started to peak out from behind the misty moisty clouds and illuminate the trail and amazing beauty of where I was running. I kept grinding, hitting each natural marker that Victor had said I would come to and confidently moved up the mountain. I ran past a campsite of a group of 7 hikers, one of which exclaimed, "wow, you go girl! You are flying. Do you run up the hills to? That is just amazing." I laughed, and said, "I certainly try, but I'll probably get around the corner and start walking" as I zoomed on through. But I didn't walk, I didn't need to. I hit the stone stair case and pushed up what I could tell (by mileage on my watch) was the final grind. I sipped my Nuun and felt the temperature drop as I climbed. I scrambled up and made it to the top where there is a shelter and an amazing outcrop of rocks that I am sure provide some of the most profound views from the AT. Unfortunately for me, it was fogged/clouded in and I couldn't do anything but stand there and try not to get flung off the rocks in the wind. I made it up to the top in 1:35 and was feeling awesome. I doddled a few minutes and then decided to indulge in my due reward which was the rocking downhill off Blood Mountain.

I flew down, carefully picking my way through the rocks, taking special care since I was rocking road shoes. About 3/4 mile down the trail, I ran into Christian who was looking strong and fresh and I about faced and ran back up to the top with him (bonus miles!) and had a good chat. It is always so amazing to me how genuine and generous the people I have met through ultrarunning (the majority at least), Christian and Victor were no exception. Christian and I made it back to the top and lamented that we didn't have a camera for the summit. What a spot! We turned around and headed back down. Within a few 100 meters, I did one of my more epic trips and stumbled about 25 yards downhill but managed to keep myself on my feet (thank goodness). We ran into Victor shortly thereafter and all headed back down. Christian told me I should take off and so I floated off down the trail, kicking into high gear in one of my fortes: technical downhill. Despite the tripping, I am a great downhiller.

I couldn't help smiling ear to ear and feeling my heart uplifted by the run. About 4.5 miles down, I realized how much uphill I had run on the way up. And I had run it! All of it! My confidence in myself as a trail ultrarunner resurrected in a way I haven't felt since Leona Divide or Tahoe Rim Trail. I was finally able to own that "my event" (my favorite, my talent, etc) is not just the road, not at all in fact, it is just as much the trail. Somewhere along the line, I bought into the idea that I should "just stick to the road" and despite having numerous trail victories of substance, still lacked confidence in my abilities therein. As I continued down the trail and back up and over the rolling ridges of the AT, for the first time I felt a bit of confidence in myself as a trail runner. It may seem strange to think that I haven't until now, I mean I have in glimmers, but I have in equal amounts wondered if I was just a flat and fast girl or that my trail victories ( &*cough* course records) were flukes. I admit it that last year, there was a part of me that was relieved when WS was canceled since I was at an all-time low of trail confidence at that point (how since I had a great Spring of trail victories, I am not sure. I think it is intertwined with my hypo-thyroid that was throwing off physical and mental chemistry). Subsequently, I decided to focus on the road a bit more since I was excelling there and because the 100k was an event in which I thrive. I have put off big trail races for the year and more and more bought into my own self doubt.

Until my feet hit the AT today. Back came the glimmers of confidence, full power came the reasons why I love the trail so much, and completely my body, mind and spirit converged in a way they rarely do in any other context. It was beautiful and profound. It was simple, but infinitely meaningful. With 1 mile to go, I hit a rocky outcrop that offered, the skies now clear, a breathe-taking view of the AT and the surrounding country as far as the eye could see (damnit where is my camera)I took a mental picture and zoomed back the way I came and sped back into the parking lot at the trailhead, averaging sub 10 min miles for a run that had about 4,500 feet of ascent. Christian came soon thereafter and Victor was along a bit after him. We hopped in the car and headed back to Victor and my cars, talking the whole way about restaurants and food (Victor lived in Seattle, so we chatted lots about the food scene there). Christian dropped me off at my car and I headed home still lost in my own little world. I felt supremely disconnected from the world going on around me. In my mind, I was still in the space I had found on the trail. In my heart, I was still floating and dancing along a thin dirt line heading northwards towards Maine. For this gift, I am eternally grateful.

Christian post run. A total rockstar who hammered out 40 miles this weekend. Thanks so much for everything Christian!

Christian and I post run.

One happy me

Sunday, March 1, 2009

SLOW down

It feels like 10 years since I left Seattle, instead of the 10ish days it has been. I have been so busy and caught up that I have felt like numerous lifetimes have passed. I have barely been able to catch my breathe. Until today. It was snowing outside here in Atlanta and I had no plans, so I decided to use it as an opportunity to not do anything. To slow down and be productive at the one thing I haven't been productive at in a month, relaxing. Sometimes, doing nothing is as important as doing something. Balance in all things is vital.

When you hit the road and leave behind routine, it is easy to get caught up in the fast lane. While I am the fast foodie, there is nothing fast about my cooking or eating. I am definitely a slow foodist, but that is not always easy to accomplish on the road. You go out to eat with friends, grab a lunch to go on the road or aren't somewhere you have access to a kitchen. I have tried to keep my food philosophy foremost in my travels, but today I needed a good immersion, a full dunk. I need to cook. I needed to fill my stomach with fresh, vibrant, homecooking.

Another thing that seemingly flies straight out the window when on the road is green living. We forget to be concise in our travels, unplug our ipods or leave behind our portable travel mug. Traveling is stressful, so most of us just operate in survival mode or over-indulgence mode where the stress of traveling becomes an excuse to indulge in every pleasure and throw out good conscious. I tend to try and stay balanced, but err towards the side of survival mode. No that doesn't mean I start eating McDonalds, it just means I tend to be less mindful to be in the here and now, less time to relax and put pressure on myself to be constantly productive. Green living translates differently on the road. It becomes a battle of the time crunch and stress, with trying to be green in a city where you are unfamiliar. I found a couple of cool websites that help you seek out green business in your area, including But even I find, my brain, good intentions and approach to the world become muddled when I travel.

Case in point, I headed off for my one trip out today to go to the grocery store to pick up some things so I could make my lunches for the work week and possible some breakfast items. Even though I am familiar with Atlanta, my first instinct was to go to the closest grocery store that I am willing to shop at: Trader Joes. Trader Joes ranks lower on the list than other stores in my book. While they have a decent selection of organic foods, they also have an abundance of non-organic and tons of processed foods. And the packaging just slays me. I rank it this way:

1) Local Co-op

2) PCC/ Chain Co-op

3) Whole Foods/ Local Natural Markets

4) Trader Joes

As I drove towards Trader Joes, fresh off doing some reading about green living, I knocked some sense into myself. Why was I going to Trader Joes, when the co-op was only another mile away. At the co-op, especially Sevananda, the focus is on SLOW food and I would be able to get exactly what I was looking for and not have to wade through a sea of "organic" but completely out of season vegetables or non-organics. SLOW food is my life, and I am constantly reminded that the earth and the foods that are produced in the SLOW food way, are what are naturally best for our body.

S= Seasonal    L= Local   O= Organic   W= Whole

Remember how I said that I can always tell that winter is coming to an end because I stop craving brussel sprouts? Well, today as I navigated the fresh, extremely local, organic produce section at the co-op, I noticed the brussel sprouts and could tell they were leaving the season. They were small, light green and no longer so vibrant. It was probably one of the last boxes they would put out for the year. I decided that while I wasn't craving them in particular, that I would give them one last go around the block for old times sake and make brussel sprouts, apples and baked tofu. I picked up a bunch of kale and other greens as well as some Braggs Dressing for a super green salad. I picked up two resusable bags worth of delicious SLOW food and felt good knowing, that while I had driven the extra mile or two to get the food, nothing I had in my bags had comes very far to get to me. Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina were not involved. And that, just that, small thing was enough for today.

You may also enjoy:

Related Posts with Thumbnails