Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Look Like It

"What exactly DOES it mean to look like a runner?" My sister asked as we ran along in the early morning stillness of Memorial Day. That is a good question. One we were mutually pondering after reading a blog posting by someone I know who characterized a recent female winner of a marathon as inspiring because she was "older" and "heavier" than a typical runner, that she didn't "look like a runner". Instead of feeling inspired by this individuals post, I was incensed. I don't think the woman who won the race would have liked that characterization either. She was neither old(er) nor heavy(er) than the average ultrarunner I know (the woman was a 40 year old mother of 1), nor even of the average runner in general. It is inspiring that she won her first marathon post-baby, that is for sure and that she hadn't even thought about the possibility of winning or breaking 3 hrs, which she did. Her accomplishment is awesome. Her characterization by someone else, not so much.

I mean really, what does it mean to "look like a runner?". Every 6 months to a year, someone will say something to me or someone I know that makes me ponder this question. How does one "look like anything"? Isn't that just stereotyping? If you can "look like a runner", then you can "look like a car thief", "look like a math genius", etc etc. And I have never felt complimented when someone has said that too me.
My first Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon 2005. 30lbs heavier than today.

When I started running marathons, I was about 30 lbs heavier than I am now. I still ran fast, I was strong, my body was adapting to a new sport. For the first three years of my running, people told me all the time that I didn't "look like a runner" and what I heard was "you are too heavy to be a runner". To say that is to say, "you don't look like someone who is working hard enough to actually qualify as actually "being" a runner", in essence: "you would look like xyz if you actually were". Sound like an over complication of semantics? Maybe, but the point is runners (all people in everything they do) come in all shapes and sizes, heights, weights, skin colors, etc and can find success. "Looking like a runner" is a myth. It is one founded on the backs of a wave of anorexia that swept through the beginnings years of long distance running for women. It became the standard that way. And it is one we all buy into. It is one of the reasons that long distance running is such a hot bed for eating disorders. It is the reason that more than half of the people I know who run have disordered eating, restricted eating or full blown eating disorders. Instead of just being runners and letting our bodies shape and follow, we are trying to force ourselves to look a certain way. Instead of being healthy, working our asses off, eating to support our training and doing the work, the numbers on a scale or the number of bones that protrude become the focus. While I thankfully have never suffered from an eating disorder, I am not made of steel and I have also always been taller and bigger than most other women, so I always feel like a giant and therefore when the "looking like a runner" characterization is made, it just hits a nerve. And it misses the point too.
On my way to winning Breakers Marathon 2008, 30lbs lighter.

Even now, at 6'0, 137-140 lbs, I still thought (for example) going into Boston that I was going to feel like a fat cow standing next to all those underweight elite runners in the EWS. I thought I was hugely bigger than them and that they would all be emaciated twigs I was dying to give a hamburger too. I think I look healthy and therefore don't look like the stereotype we all have in our heads. And then I stood there in a pack of 60 elite women, all of whom were shorter than me, but most who were about the same build as me. It was a good wake up call to stop buying into that mentality. After losing wt over 2 years healthfully, through harder training and healthier eating but not by focusing on weight loss, my body rebelled a bit last year and I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid and low leptin, it caused minor weight gain and even though I was running very well (I had 4 ultra victories and a few marathon victories), I felt bad about myself because I looked "less like a runner", I had bought into that idea. And it is ridiculous. The point is that we as runners, no matter what we look like, are out there on a daily basis doing something amazing with our bodies. I work my butt off, running a tough schedule from my coach, doing 2-a-days 5 times a week, long runs of 5+ hrs, cross & strength training, stretching, etc, etc. I keep it healthy, balanced but difficult. I love what I do, I love how I feel I do it. I basic in the simple joy of what my body can do whether it is running up to a mountain top or speeding along for 400 meter intervals. It is my peace, my bliss, my joy and it has the additional benefit of being incredibly healthy for me physically, mentally and emotionally. Stereotyping or being into that stereotype serves no purpose other than to diminish, hurt or completely miss the point. I don't ever, ever want to start pursuing the "look" instead of the actual "being" part. We should celebrate others and our own accomplishments in that same sense.

Be your bliss. Remember why you do what you do. And occasionally, when someone makes a stupid comment to you about "looking like a runner", just close your eyes, take a deep breathe and remember all the sweat, tears and miles you have experienced that make you a runner. I AM a runner, I AM a runner, I AM a runner- so I guess that is what a runner looks like, me, you, each and everyone of us who laces up our trainers and just gets out there and runs.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chips Banana Bread- a BabycakeNYC recipe

Sometimes you just want to do something nice for someone for no other reason than they crossed your mind and for whatever reason, for wherever they are in their life, good or bad, you felt it warranted to do something nice for that person. Today, I wanted to bake something. And I wanted to bake it for my friend Leah Jurek. Leah is just one of those genuine, sweet, good people that I have had the pleasure to get to know since moving back to Seattle. She is also a talented massage therapist, runner and artist. So I decided to bake her something. Having tried out BabycakesNYC first hand, I was motivated to try out one of their recipes even though I haven't managed to get my hands on the cookbook yet (it is shipping soon from Amazon). Luckily, Food and Wine featured one of Babycakes Recipes and I decided to adapt it by adding gluten free/vegan chocolate chips to the mix. I also changed a few other small things which I illustrate in the recipe below (no canola oil or soy milk). Result: Absolute bliss. I doubled the recipe as well, so that there would be two loaves. One for me, one for her.

I enjoyed two slices after lunch. Being a runner has its rewards and as I reflect on in my running blog (in this post), we need to refuel our bodies with enough fuel to sustain it and keep us running healthy and strong. That said, this bread is healthy enough for anyone even if you have never run a step in your life!

Adapted from Food & Wine:

Cinnamon-Banana Bread



The Good News This recipe is full of potassium-packed bananas. Instead of processed sugar, it calls for agave nectar, a natural sweetener; a little canola oil replaces the usual butter. The bread is an improvement on the one Erin McKenna often made with her mother when she was growing up: "I thought it was so healthy, because of the bananas. I didn't factor in all the sugar and butter."
  • SERVINGS: 8

Ingredients


  1. 1 cup Bob's Red Mill gluten-free, all-purpose baking flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  8. 1/4 cup canola oi olive oil
  9. 1/3 cup agave nectar
  10. 1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk almond milk
  11. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract




Directions


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil an 81/2-by-41/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the baking flour with the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum and salt. In another bowl, whisk the bananas with the oil, agave nectar, soy milk and vanilla. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the banana bread cool on a rack for 20 minutes before turning it out. Let cool completely before slicing.

Notes


    One Slice 198 cal, 8 gm fat, 0.6 gm sat fat, 33 gm carb, 3 gm fiber.

Look Like It

"What exactly DOES it mean to look like a runner?" My sister asked as we ran along in the early morning stillness of Memorial Day. That is a good question. One we were mutually pondering after reading a blog posting by someone I know who characterized a recent female winner of a marathon as inspiring because she was "older" and "heavier" than a typical runner, that she didn't "look like a runner". Instead of feeling inspired by this individuals post, I was incensed. I don't think the woman who won the race would have liked that characterization either. She was neither old(er) nor heavy(er) than the average ultrarunner I know (the woman was a 40 year old mother of 1), nor even of the average runner in general. It is inspiring that she won her first marathon post-baby, that is for sure and that she hadn't even thought about the possibility of winning or breaking 3 hrs, which she did. Her accomplishment is awesome. Her characterization by someone else, not so much.

I mean really, what does it mean to "look like a runner?". Every 6 months to a year, someone will say something to me or someone I know that makes me ponder this question. How does one "look like anything"? Isn't that just stereotyping? If you can "look like a runner", then you can "look like a car thief", "look like a math genius", etc etc. And I have never felt complimented when someone has said that too me.
My first Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon 2005. 30lbs heavier than today.

When I started running marathons, I was about 30 lbs heavier than I am now. I still ran fast, I was strong, my body was adapting to a new sport. For the first three years of my running, people told me all the time that I didn't "look like a runner" and what I heard was "you are too heavy to be a runner". To say that is to say, "you don't look like someone who is working hard enough to actually qualify as actually "being" a runner", in essence: "you would look like xyz if you actually were". Sound like an over complication of semantics? Maybe, but the point is runners (all people in everything they do) come in all shapes and sizes, heights, weights, skin colors, etc and can find success. "Looking like a runner" is a myth. It is one founded on the backs of a wave of anorexia that swept through the beginnings years of long distance running for women. It became the standard that way. And it is one we all buy into. It is one of the reasons that long distance running is such a hot bed for eating disorders. It is the reason that more than half of the people I know who run have disordered eating, restricted eating or full blown eating disorders. Instead of just being runners and letting our bodies shape and follow, we are trying to force ourselves to look a certain way. Instead of being healthy, working our asses off, eating to support our training and doing the work, the numbers on a scale or the number of bones that protrude become the focus. While I thankfully have never suffered from an eating disorder, I am not made of steel and I have also always been taller and bigger than most other women, so I always feel like a giant and therefore when the "looking like a runner" characterization is made, it just hits a nerve. And it misses the point too.
On my way to winning Breakers Marathon 2008, 30lbs lighter.

Even now, at 6'0, 137-140 lbs, I still thought (for example) going into Boston that I was going to feel like a fat cow standing next to all those underweight elite runners in the EWS. I thought I was hugely bigger than them and that they would all be emaciated twigs I was dying to give a hamburger too. I think I look healthy and therefore don't look like the stereotype we all have in our heads. And then I stood there in a pack of 60 elite women, all of whom were shorter than me, but most who were about the same build as me. It was a good wake up call to stop buying into that mentality. After losing wt over 2 years healthfully, through harder training and healthier eating but not by focusing on weight loss, my body rebelled a bit last year and I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid and low leptin, it caused minor weight gain and even though I was running very well (I had 4 ultra victories and a few marathon victories), I felt bad about myself because I looked "less like a runner", I had bought into that idea. And it is ridiculous. The point is that we as runners, no matter what we look like, are out there on a daily basis doing something amazing with our bodies. I work my butt off, running a tough schedule from my coach, doing 2-a-days 5 times a week, long runs of 5+ hrs, cross & strength training, stretching, etc, etc. I keep it healthy, balanced but difficult. I love what I do, I love how I feel I do it. I basic in the simple joy of what my body can do whether it is running up to a mountain top or speeding along for 400 meter intervals. It is my peace, my bliss, my joy and it has the additional benefit of being incredibly healthy for me physically, mentally and emotionally. Stereotyping or being into that stereotype serves no purpose other than to diminish, hurt or completely miss the point. I don't ever, ever want to start pursuing the "look" instead of the actual "being" part. We should celebrate others and our own accomplishments in that same sense.

Be your bliss. Remember why you do what you do. And occasionally, when someone makes a stupid comment to you about "looking like a runner", just close your eyes, take a deep breathe and remember all the sweat, tears and miles you have experienced that make you a runner. I AM a runner, I AM a runner, I AM a runner- so I guess that is what a runner looks like, me, you, each and everyone of us who laces up our trainers and just gets out there and runs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

When it all comes together

After about a weeks worth of not sleeping, back and forthing across the country, pacing Glen Redpath at MMT100 last weekend (report to follow in a separate blog), driving through the night back to Seattle and being so exhausted I could barely stand up yesterday without nearly passing out, I was frankly a bit concerned for todays planned 40 mile run through the city. It is my biggest run leading up to Belgium/WC100k on June 19 and I wanted it to be good, fast, strong and indicative to what I was going to be able to pull off in a months time. Feeling as I have been this week, I just was not looking forward to it. I had initially scheduled the run for Tuesday, as my coach Howard had schedule the distance for last Saturday which I couldn't do because I was running the hardest 27 miles of my life through the night at MMT. Tuesday rolled around and I made it about 5.5 miles into the run before aborting the mission and heading home for a total of 11. I was dead on my feet and there was no way I was going to pull it off, nor would it be worth it just to slog through the miles. I was not concerned however since I was listening to my body and responding to the signals. Being smart overrides our prideful "suck it up" nature. I decided to just hold true to my schedule for the rest of the workouts for the week and do my 5hrs today.

I got in good training this week but by Thursday, I was just feeling exhausted, sore and still not good. I would bounce back and forth from extreme hunger to extreme lack of appetite coupled with nausea. Not fun. My sister and I drove up from SF to Seattle overnight on Thursday night, so I spent the majority of Friday just laying there, wondering if I should admit myself to the hospital for extreme exhaustion. I felt like death and that does not instill confidence, at all. After a great lunch with Linda and a short 9 mile run in the afternoon sun, I spent the evening at home, eating a good sized pre-run meal of baked potato with marinara and turkey sausage and then going to bed early. I mean 8pm and I was out in 5 minutes early. I stretched before bed, hoping and praying that all the various aches, pains and kinks would work themselves out. As much as I can mentally hype (or calm/zen out) myself, you can't fake a 40 miler. You can't phone it in.

I woke up this morning at 5:30, ate my gluten free waffles and banana, drank my coffee, took my Vespa and gathered up my gear for the run. I wanted to average 8mph for 5 hrs. I figured that was a good indicator for a sub-8hr race and I would (hopefully) not be too worked afterwards. I waited until exactly 7am to leave the house, as I had planned with Jonathan to meet him at his house at around mile 22 and have him run the remaining 18 miles with me, so I had to try and time it to arrive when I had told him. He had been up pretty much all night running on Tiger with a crew of people and had gone to bed at 3:30am after the 15 mile climb-fest. I strapped on my Nathan waist pack and filled up my handheld with Nuun and was out the door. I go straight uphill from my house and was happy to not feel dead in the first 30 seconds like I did yesterday. I had mapped out a run that took me from Northgate, down through the U-Dist to the Burke Gilman, across Montlake Bridge to the Arboretum, down to the lake front and all the way down to Seward park, around Seward Park, then back north, over to Beacon Hill, then down along SU to Jonathan place just off Pike on Capitol Hill. That first section, which turned out to be 23.3 miles went by really smoothly. I was clipping along comfortably, pleased that my legs didn't hurt and were not feeling tired at all. I was passing people left and right and was ahead of my 8mph pace from the beginning. And I wasn't slowing down. In fact, I sped up. I downed some Sharkies after coming off the Seward Park loop and had been really good about taking my SaltStick tablets every hour as it was decently warm (and beautiful and sunny!).

By this point I was in the zone and despite the headwind on the return north along the lake and heading into the 20 mile range, I felt great. I ran by a Buddhist monk who was meditating on a rock and I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the ability to be out doing what I was doing. Running is my church, my meditation, my spirituality and I am so blessed to be able to do it. The day just kept getting better and better. I didn't feel tired, not even a hint of the previous day (or weeks) exhaustion lingered. I just motored. I hit mile 20 in 2:23 and stopped to text Jonathan that I was a few miles away. He was up and ready to go and I was super excited to have the company. I hadn't seen him since Miwok so there was lots of catching up to do.

(Cont. below)


I was pushing a good pace, keeping my heart rate going and not letting myself settle. I zoomed up to Jonathan's, we did a quick refill of my bottle (with new Banana Nuun, yum!!). The rest of the run's plan was to head down to the Sound, hit Myrtle Edwards park, run north along the water, cross over to Magnolia, head up the hill, do 1 loop at Discovery, back down the Locks, cross into Ballard, head up towards the zoo, around the east side of Greenlake, then north home to Northgate. The first few miles JB and I spent chattering away excitedly and I told him the amazing story of the epic finish at MMT100. We kept a good clip going, not hammering yet, as I wanted Jonathan to have an opportunity to get warm again. I was feeling good though. The miles just ticked away and I occasionally would have to smile to myself and think about how cool it is when a run comes together like that. We headed up the long slow grind of a hill in Magnolia towards Discovery but then opted to not do the Discovery loop. I was ahead on mileage from where I had mapped out, and wasn't too keen on the loop anyways. We figured we could make up anything we were shorted later, even if it meant running around the block a few times.

We headed down through the locks, through Ballard and on to Fremont. We were cruising right well at this point (I had made it through the marathon distance at 3:08/3:09ish) and we started talking about everything we had learned about pacing people. Pacing Glen at MMT was an education. I learned what it means to push someone to the brink and be the "x factor" at the end of the race. Jonathan paced Sam Thompson last weekend to a CR at Watershed 12hr and learned similar lessons. He and I are both new to the 100 milers and we are both sponges for information and experience on how to improve and excel. We headed out of Ballard (I went through the 50k marker sub 3:40) and it was clear to me that Jonathan was feeling good (he had been nervous that he was spent from the night run and wouldn't be able to keep up, as if!!!) and he carried the pace. He was pacing me out at a good clip and my legs felt as good at mile 30+ as they did at the start. Sometimes things just come together, sometimes they don't- good or bad, who is to say. When the good times come, you celebrate and when they go, you accept it. Things change and that is just life. But on this run, nothing would change, at least not for the worse.

We hit Peet's coffee in Fremont as our aid station and filled up our bottles. We decided that running up Fremont Ave (a one mile not pedestrian climb), then taking a left at the zoo and a right onto Phinney/Greenwood would be just the ticket to get the mileage. We ran up the hill better than I do alot of times on much shorter runs. We didn't have to stop and walk and it felt good. Not bad considering at that point in the run I was breaking 100 miles for the week).

We just ran and ran hard. Turned right down 80th, still chatting away feeling good. We came to the north end of Greenlake and I realized that if we just turned north and ran home I would be short, so we decided to run part way around the lake to where Gregs Greenlake Cycle is, hit Road Runner Sports for some cold water and then run uphill on 5th back to 95th. At mile 37 my average pace was a 7:15/mile and my stride was still strong and my energy good. We did a quick in and out at Road Runner, saying hi to everyone (as JB knows everyone from his years working at RR) and off we went. Jonathan was carrying the pace, pushing it up the hill and I simply hitched my wagon to his train and followed. I had it in me to push, I was not spent and yet, I definitely was relying on him dictating the pace to get to that pace. What pace? Like 6:30 pace, up a freaking hill. As we crested the hill, he said, "this is where it counts" and it is so true. If you can drop the hammer in your training at mile 38 like that, then you are on point for your target race. This year has been strange, I have raced less and frankly don't feel like any effort I have put forth was "A race" status. Nothing has been worthy of that really. It had been worrying me though since I had no indicator of where my fitness is. I have been training hard and was hopeful that my fitness was where I wanted it to be. This run today proved that I am ready. We zoomed along 5th Ave and had to bypass the turn down my mom's street as we were about .5 miles from mile 40 and my mom's house is less than .25 down the hill. We dropped down the other side to the next street and did a big loop around a very big block. We pushed and pushed. I crossed the 40 mile mark a long block away from home and we flew up the hill towards my mom's. The last push we were really moving, it just made me giddy to feel that good and be moving like that. My final average pace was 7:12. So in the last 3 miles, we ran fast enough to drop my AVERAGE by 3 seconds. Sick!!! 4:47 for just over 40 miles. Not a bad days work!

It was a truly epic day and I am hopeful and excited about how WC100k is shaping up! A very special thanks for JB for coming out and running with me. He really made a huge difference and is so much fun to run with!!! The post-run eating was fun too (check out the picture below)

Jonathan and I after an epic day for both of us!

40 miles like it was nothing. All smiles for being done!

Burrito as big as my head from Whole Foods.
Followed by gluten free vegan cake at Flying Apron. Ahhh food.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ostrich Kao Gra Prow & Quick Cooked Asian Greens

I love Asian food- you name it Japanese, Thai, Korean, not so much Chinese, but you get the idea. I love the flavor profiles. Ginger, garlic, tamarind, soy sauce (wheat free of course), thai basil and on and on. I also love how simple a lot of the recipes are. I mean have you ever gone out to a Thai restaurant and marveled at how quickly your food came. It is because the ingredients are 1) simple and 2) get cooked quickly over high heat. No baking, no complications, simple, delicious. I crave Thai food alot and sushi even more than that.

Today, I was craving something I never crave: white rice. For the most part, I only eat white rice when it is a part of sushi or when I am having stomach problems and need to eat something incredibly basic and bland. Anyways, I was craving white rice. Be still my sisters heart. She loves rice. And she owns the one kitchen tool that I do not: a rice cooker. Even better, so I can cook it perfectly. Starting from wanting white rice is not exactly an inspirational jumping off point, most of the time. However, for some reason when I think of white rice and actually craving it, I think about a dish my sister, her ex-boyfriend and I use to make and eat relatively often when I lived with them about 3 years ago: Kao Gra Prow. Kao Gra Prow is ground meat (usually chicken), with fish sauce, chili peppers and lots of basil. It is delicious and simple. As soon as it came into my head, I was sold. It was exactly what I wanted. I headed to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients and started writing the recipe and working through the flavors in my head. When I got to Real Food, I was happy to find all the ingredients I needed and then ran into the kicker that took this recipe from good to great: ground ostrich. Considering Real Food in Sausalito does not carry very much meat at all, it was awesome to see that they had it! I grabbed it and headed home to get cooking.

This meat and rice dish is super simple, hugely flavorful and incredibly nutritious. The ostrich is so lean and the flavor combination of the roasted red chili paste, garlic and basil meld together for a very satisfying. Because of the noticeable absence of veggies in this dish, I decided to do some quick cooked asian greens on the side. Once I took the Kao Gra Prow out of the skillet, I simply added a bit of coconut oil and cooked the greens for a few minutes. I plated it all together and honestly, after a few bites of each separately to check flavor, texture and see if I liked the recipe, I mixed it all together and it just bumped up the whole dish to a whole new level. The two dishes can easily and fantastically stand alone, but they can combine to make a balance, nutritious, gourmet, even dare I say, traditional dish, which I will definitely be making again.


Ostrich Kao Gra Prow


Ingredients:


2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1.5 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
3 tablespoons roasted chili pepper sauce, divided
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 lb. ground ostrich
1-2 pkgs fresh basil, chopped

Directions:


In a wok over high heat, heat olive or peanut oil up and add garlic and 1 tbsp of the roasted red chili paste. Brown garlic, add ostrich and break up using a wooden spoon and cooking until beginning to brown. Add another tbsp roast red chili paste, soy sauce and dark brown sugar. Cook another minute. Add final tbsp of roast red chili paste. Add chopped basil and toss together. Remove from heat.


Serve over white rice (optional: once plated crack a raw egg over top of hot meat/rice and mix together) and side of quick cooked asian greens.

Makes 4 servings. Cooking time: 15 minutes.

Quick Cooked Asian Greens


Ingredients:


.5 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large bok choy, chopped
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions:


In a hot wok (perhaps the same wok used for the Kao Gra Prow), heat the coconut oil. Toss the bok choy and red cabbage into the wok and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in soy sauce and cook 1 more minute. Greens should be crisp tender.

Serves 1. Cooking time: less than 10 minutes.


Babycakes NYC

I rarely go to NYC and over this past long weekend while I technically flew in and out of JFK, I didn't spend much time in NYC proper. Instead, I was there to pace my friend Glen at MMT100 (yes 100 miles, actually 102) in Virginia. He lives in Inman Park and we drove the 5 hrs down to VA on Friday and returned to NYC on Sunday afternoon, soon after Glen had run an amazing race and come in second place in 20:44. I paced him for the last 6 hrs (27 miles) and endured lots of wet, wild, painful, technical running (and falling). It was awesome! Needlesstosay, running that far makes you hungry. Really really hungry. We stopped somewhere in PA somewhere to grab lunch, but by 4pm were ravenously hungry again and ready to head out to eat a huge plate of sushi at Glen's favorite spot on the lower eastside.


Sushi sounded like just the thing, but I was thinking on to breakfast the next day (and dessert after sushi) and was really hankering for a gluten free treat. We all deserve a treat now and again, especially after such hard running. As I drove us to the lower eastside, I was hit with a stroke of genius: Babycakes!!! I follow the Babycakes blog and suddenly I realized that we might just be in the right part of town to go try some out. I quickly found Babycakes on my iPhone and jumped for joy when Glen told me that the address was literally right around the corner from where we were going. Yesssssss!!!

After a bit of misdirection, we found our way and I illegally parked across the street, leaving poor, tired, debilitated Glen in the car with the hazards on (you would be debilitated too if you ran 100 miles). I popped in the shop and was instantly in heaven. They had a ton of gluten free agave sweetened cupcakes, different kind of frosted and unfrosted loaves, breakfast pastries, skinny buns and cookies. Not to mention Stumptown coffee. They had me at Stumptown.

On the glass of the pastry case they have written which items are gluten free and what they contain (i.e. agave sweetened, etc). I was very pleased to find out that while they do use spelt in some pastries, they do a strict seperation in the kitchen to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items. I mean what is the point in having a gluten-free bakery if the entire world of gluten-intolerance/celiacs aren't going to be able to enjoy it! I was just happy to know it was egg-free, since half the time I can actually locate a gluten-free item, they still have eggs, dairy or soy (all of which I can't have). I just stood there, going back and forth, back and forth about what I wanted. Deciding on items for Glen was easy, he had been mentioning wanting blueberry pie (he is a man after my own heart on that one and he doesn't even know it) and he really likes cinnamon rolls. I ordered him a slice of frosted banana blueberry "loaf" and a skinny bun. For myself I ordered a small carrot cupcake and a banana muffin for breakfast the next morning (on my early early morning flight, concluding a weekend of no more than 4 hrs of sleep a night for 5 days). By the time I had ordered Glen had hobbled into the shop and approved of my purchases. We stopped for a quick photo of the shop and were off to sushi (or maybe Glen just needed a seat before walking back to the car).

After dinner we headed back to his apartment and I broke out the dessert treats, handing over his frosted banana blueberry loaf (not before swiping a bit of the very light, intensely blueberry frosting from between the two layers of load and tucking into my own carrot cupcake. The carrot cupcake was light, moist and very flavorful. Of all of the gluten-free, everything free, etc cupcakes/ dessert treats I have ever had, this was the one that tasted so "un" anything free (i.e. it tasted like the "real" thing), it blew my mind. This did not taste like alternative baking at all texturally.  The frosting of both items was not heavy or overbearing, it just added another layer of flavor and texture. We gobbled our treats, looking at each other wide eyed and saying, "wow that is good, that is really really good."

The next morning we were up early, again before 5am and Glen took me to the airport. I carried in my bag some fruit and the precious BabycakesNYC muffin. I couldn't wait to eat it, but I made myself wait. I wanted to be good and hungry for it. I wanted to let the anticipation build a bit. Plus I was still full from all that sushi! After the plane took off and I was chatting with the couple seated next to me, I was hungry enough to break out the muffin. I opened the box, peeled off a small piece and put it in my mouth to savor. It had the texture of a full gluten muffin, light and airy. The banana flavor was understated but balanced. Not too sweet, perfectly satisfying. I was in love with that muffin. I ate slowly. I closed my eyes. "Wow, that smells really good", my neighbor to the right said, "if you don't gobble that up, I may have to steal it from you". It is a serious compliment on how good it smelled, after all, not many people threaten to steal a perfect strangers food for nothing. It was delicious. And it gave me hope that I too could create baked goods that were satisfying and wouldn't sit like a brick in my stomach. I went home and immediately bought the Babycakes cookbook and am eagerly, enthusiastically awaiting its arrival. Frankly, I can't wait.


Babycakes NYC on Urbanspoon

Pacing at MMT

Weekend before Memorial Day, I had the pleasure of pacing my friend, Glen Redpath at MMT100. It was an education in pacing and running 100s. I definitely felt like I made a difference in Glen's day through both crewing and pacing. Whether it was not letting a decisive move by Todd and Mike break him at mile 89 or pacing him out in the big sprint finish or talking him past being "spent", I came away from the run feeling like I had done everything I could to get him across the finish line and leave everything out there. He definitely taught me how to make that possible. Pacing is the art of getting your runner to push past what they can access on their own but not pushing too much that they are spent before they reach the line. As a crew and pacer, you have to be completely selfless to the point of being willing to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of your runner. Being a pacer is more than just being a companion, you have to be coach, motivator, pace-keeper, pusher and hard ass. Your own needs on the run are secondary. Tired, suck it up. Fueling, better figure out how to do it and keep up. Slow on the hill, better learn how to run up them. In fact on the second to last climb, before that race I would have told you I couldn't run up hills that steep and technical and definitely not that fast, but I did. It is amazing what you can push yourself to do on behalf of your runner. That was probably the hardest 27 miles I have ever run. It was hard not just because it was technical, steep, dark and wet but because we kept a good pace and because I had been crewing all day long which is not restful, you forget to eat and you have been up all sorts of crazy hours like your runner. But you have to suck it up. Your runner depends on you. That is your job, your responsibility. It is not a small undertaking if you are doing it right. I come away from this experience having learned so much from an amazingly talented and long time runner such as Glen. I think my experience pacing him and then our subsequent rundown of some additional tips for future reference, serves to make those I pace in the future better served. It was awesome to be a part of his experience and his success! What a race and weekend!

Below is Glen's race report.
Checking out the course pre-race & making sure we know which direction to go!

Up since 3am, smiling a few minutes before the 5am start of MMT100.

Glen's MMT 100 – 2009 Report

Consider myself a good technical runner yet I still fell down not once but 4 times {twice on Kearns Mt (miles 41 and 44), once on Bird Knob (mile 54) and once coming off the Shawl Gap (mile 98)}. Each time I seemed to rise up alert and more aware of my surroundings. Scrapping my hands and one knee was just part of the adventure. The EMT at the finish thought I might have broken my left thumb since it had swollen up so much. But after a days rest the swelling went down and it just seems to be badly bruised.

So why would anyone want to put themselves through all this?
Most runners can run a marathon, the dumbing-down or Galloway miles have helped many a runner accomplish this. So with a little more training one can run a 50k and even a 50 miler. But a 100 miler on technical trails up mountains is a different beast. There is a lot more in-take of food and drink involved (so an iron stomach is important) as well the ability to stay awake and run through the night and the utmost important factor, a positive mental attitude.

So with a little nudging from my friend Nathan I decided to take on the Massanuttan Mountain Trails 100 mile challenge. Preparing most of the Winter and Spring well I even took three separate trips to run different parts of the course, the last one being a 25-mile fast-pack (hike/run) from Edinburg Gap Mile 75 to the finish.

My solitary crew member and pacer, Devon Crosby-Helms, and I drove down to George Washington State Forest and the Skyline Ranch on Friday arriving in time to take in the race directors talk, course briefing and check into our lovely chalet, a quarter mile from the starting line.

The customary 5am start left little time for sleep. Did my usual one lap of the parking lot to loosen up and off we went. The first 2.4 miles is all run on a paved road, helping sort out all the runners. At the first aid station there is a small group of five runners already ahead of the rest of the field. We make a sharp right turn and head up the first big climb (first of 12) up to Shawl Gap (approx 6.5 miles). Just before the turn and steep downhill I can see two runners (Karl Meltzer and Todd Walker) in front of me. When we arrive at aid station two (Mile 8.7) I am already 3 mins behind the two leaders. There I realize that Meltzer, an accomplished ultra-marathoner with numerous 100-mile victories, is out to break the course record and my only way of catching him is if he has some sort of meltdown and if I ran a perfectly paced race. So settling down I knock off some road miles before the next aid station. Special thanks to Keith Knipling
for yelling at me, “course goes straight” when I veer off momentarily onto a trail that heads back up to the Massanutten ridge.

The pancakes, fried eggs and bacon at aid station 3 (Mile11.8) are enticing but I don’t stop. Heading up the second big climb near the top I spot Todd walking. By aid station 4 (Mile 16.9) we are together running and talking. We head back down the ridge and onto another road section. The heat and humidity are rising and I am dreaming of a popsicle. When I arrive at Habron Gap (Mile 24.7) Devon hands me a Vanilla Smoothie. Oh this is heaven and I down it in 3 seconds and head up the third big climb with Todd. Half way up my stomach is acting up. Todd offers me a Tums but I decline. By the time I reach the top Todd is gone and I am suffering from indigestion (I learn later that despite the label saying Soy there is dairy in the smoothie and I am dairy sensitive). I reach into my waist pack and pull out a Tums. The run down to the next aid station (Mile 34) is uncomfortable. When I reach it Devon is there with positive words of encouragement.
I internalize them and head out up the forth climb towards Gap Creek I aid station (Mile 39.8).

Before I arrive I see Todd off in the distance and realize he has about 3 mins on me. Exchanging my bottles for fresh ones with ice (a runner’s dream on a hot day) and getting more words of encouragement from Devon and another friend Angus, I take off up the fifth climb towards Kearn Mt, the first of two extremely technical (meaning head down - very rocky) five mile sections. When I arrive near the top I see Todd and accelerate to catch up to him. We exchange pleasantries then I fall hard scraping my knee. I look up and again he is gone. I accelerate and soon we are back together discussing the various creatures we have spied during the day (including a box turtle). Just before the decent I fall hard again this time scraping both hands. At the bottom of the Kearn Mt there is an unmanned aid station and I use the clean water to wash off my bloody hands. We then head down the next 2 miles on road to the Visitor’s Center at Hwy 211. This is by far the hottest time of the day (mid 80’s and high humidity). We run together into the aid station (Mile 48.2) where I meet Devon and Jenny Chow (Nathan’s girlfriend, crew and pacer). They give me fresh bottles with ice, a bandana filled with ice for my neck and a turkey sandwich. I leave smiling knowing the steepest and hardest climb and out and back to Bird Knob is just around the corner. Todd has decided to hold back. Just after reaching the top and before I hit the lollipop loop I see Meltzer. I smile and say “great job” he just stares back lost in his music (headphones on). I estimate that he now has 45 mins on me.

His stare fuels me and I crank this next section. Just before the steep downhill it starts to pour rain. Thunder, lightning the whole nine yards I even here later that there are golf ball sized hail but don’t encounter any. Shortly after I take another tumble. Miraculously no blood this time. Back down the stick of the lollipop I see a handful of runners going out including Nathan who I estimate to be in 10th place. When I reach the next aid station (Mile 56.4) I am a sopping wet from head to toe. I think of toweling off and changing shirt, socks and runners but realize they will all get wet again. With the rain still coming down I have literally no option but to proceed down the trail. My friend Karl Hoagland told me the day before, “the rain is your friend so embrace it as your friend it is there to help you”.

With this thought in my head I run hard on a short downhill section to Hwy 211 parking lot (Mile 58.1) where I see a small group. Bryon Powell is there and whips out his camera and yells at me to “run smart”. After crossing Hwy 211 for a second time there is another very long gradual not too technical climb. Half way up on the single-track section I am literally scared out of my shorts when two mt bikers in full gear (racing helmets and shin pads) coming screeching at me. Good thing their brakes are working. What next??? Another box turtle for starters and the disappearance of the trail into a full fledge river. Completely drenched I run straight up the rushing stream. When I get near the top the rain subsides a little and then there is a very steep yet runnable downhill. I begin to crank again and continue the pace after I hit the road section and all the way into the Gap Creek aid station (Mile 64.9).

There is a crowd at the aid station with runners still on their way out to Kearns Mt. I waste little time and leave after filling my bottles and grabbing some cantaloupe and pretzels. The next uphill to Jawbone Gap is the same section I ran 25 miles earlier. The first time I ran it in 19 mins and thought if I could do it in 21 or 22 that would be an accomplishment. Amazing myself I run it the second time also in 19 mins. It is a short distance to Moreland Gap aid station (Mile 67.7) more pretzels and cantaloupe and then the dreaded most feared technical section up Short Mt (climb number 9 of 12).

The loose debris (dirt and sand) from the rushing stream has now made its way under my gaiters and into the tops of my running shoes. There is friction that is creating hot spots but I just blank it out. On Short Mt I keep telling myself over and over to be smart, be smart and somehow get through the 5-mile section before darkness and without falling. I ran downhill to the Edinburg Gap aid station (Mile 75.9) mentally exhausted. Devon is there and smiling. She has worked all day with little sleep and now she gets to run with me to the finish. We leave the aid station then head across the highway and begin our climb (number 10 of 12). We walk while I devour a sliced chicken sandwich and drink a Red Bull. When we reach the top we begin to run. Her positive energy and conversation are infectious and I begin to enjoy the adventure anew. She also tells me that at Moreland Gap Meltzer was over an hour in front of me and that there were two runners just 8 mins behind. It is getting dark and we try to run as far as we can before reaching for our flashlights. When we reach Woodstock Tower aid station (Mile 84.1) there is a large crowd of Virginia Happy Trails team members working the station with a menu of delicious food. No matter I cannot stay more then a minute to fill my bottles and devour some more cantaloupe chunks and Pringle chips!

It is still raining and this next section is extremely difficult because of the rain and the thick fog that has rolled in. We run / jog this next section and agree to run hard once we reach the 3-mile road section heading into and out of Powell’s Fort aid station (Mile 89.3). When we reach it we quickly fill our bottles and look back to see a group of three runners. Todd Walker, Mike Mason, and Mason’s pacer have caught up to us. Still standing in front of the table I reach out to slap Mason’s hand. He immediately grabs some food and is off. When we leave the aid station all three runners pass us at full speed. Mason’s pacer runs about 400 yards and then stops to wave us on.

The rolling gravel road goes for about a mile before turning onto a single track for about a half-mile and then an extremely steep (not technical) climb (number 11). After 3 or 4 mins Todd falls back and we work to catch up to him and have a brief conversation. It is here that I realize the OMG THE RACE IS ON and that we need to wake up. We see Mason in front of us reach for some fuel and slow a bit to consume it. We run hard to catch him as he slows to fuel up. We pass him and eventually hit the steep climb first. The next two and half miles are technical but mostly level or downhill. We appear to be putting distance on both Mason and Todd. With only one aid station left I assess whether I have enough left to eat and drink before the finish. We decide to run through the Elizabeth Furnace aid station (Mile 96.8) without stopping and head up the last hill (number 12). Closer to the top of Shawl Gap (yes the same place we ran through 90 miles earlier) the trail gets steeper and a little more technical. I am literally willing my body to the Gap. When I reach it I am completely spent. We start downhill for the last 2.5 miles sort of walking when I put my foot on a long very slippery tree root. I take another tumble (number 4) and pause before getting back up. I am done (this is where the positive mental attitude bit comes in). Devon encourages me to keep moving and rips open an entire pack of gel blasts and puts them into my hand. I devour them and keep walking down the hill. Every few 100 yards I ask if she can see anyone coming behind us. As we reach the bottom of the hill she looks back and says, “there is someone about a minute back”. While navigating through the forest and running straight through two creeks I sense the gravel road approaching. Devon tells me there is someone 20 seconds behind us. We hit the gravel road. With just more then a mile from the finish she looks at me and says he is only 10 seconds back. Looking right at her I say, “But I have another gear”. We hit it and reach the paved road first and looking back as we turn and see Mason sprinting hard. He is maybe 10 yards behind and yells something like, “Go get em”. Devon and I continue to run hard up the last little hill and through the open field to the finish line (Mile 101.8) and cross it exhausted in 20:44 for second place overall. Mason comes in 20 seconds later and we give each other a monstrous hug.

We wait for another 15 or 20 mins but see no Todd. We learn later that he got lost up at Shawl Gap needing another 110 mins before making his way to the finish. Meltzer brought his “A game” and ran strong all day taking the win in 18:29. Nathan faded a little over the last 25 miles and settled for 12th overall. Here are the official results:

http://www.vhtrc.org/mmt/2009/results.htm

It was glorious day with all its variations, a true adventure that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Special thanks to Devon, Jenny and all the aid station crews you were all amazing despite the weather and long hours.

Happy trails,

Glen

Glen coming into Camp Roosevelt, mile 36
(photo by Aaron)

Sherpa (aka crew) bringing all the goods in one trip! Miles 40 & 65—Gap Creek (photo by Aaron)

Glen and I crossing the finish line in 2nd place. What a run!


Outside gluten free heaven, Babycakes NYC- picking up WELL deserved treats.

Glen's brutalized feet post-race.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A really "goode" life

When I packed my stuff into storage a few months ago and drove away from Seattle for the first of many trips, I was overwhelmed with a sense of wanting to be rooted, stable and in one place. For about the first 3 weeks I was thoroughly convinced that I was ready to "settle down" and for all intents and purposes, track my life on a traditional and typical track, there was a part of me that just seemed to succumb to life long pressures that I should domesticate, have a clear career path, not explore my ephemeral interests or passions that offer no easy, clear or distinct path. I am not that type of person that has ever fit into a mold, but there I was shrugging my shoulders and saying, "well, maybe that is the answer". And then I woke up from that scary nightmare.

Everyday the sunrises. But everything else changes and ends.

And when I say I awoke, I really did. You can see in my most recent blog postings, not only am I in a really rad place, but I have finally embraced the fact that a non-traditional life and path is what is right for me. I am not only hitting my stride, I am actually finally synthesizing the ideas I have into life. I quickly realized that I don't have a desire to take my stuff out of storage and set up house, because right now I don't know where I want to be. Furthermore, I don't have any need or want of the belonging I have in storage and simply paying massive amounts of rent just to feign some sort of rootedness is ridiculous. Frankly, I am losing absolutely nothing by not being in one place. Where do I live? Here. Wherever that is. I am really, really comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I am completely open to where life is taking me. I am truly living with amor fati . And it is bringing out the best in me. I am inspired daily to write, to run, to cook, to celebrate life. It is pretty cool. And that is why when I happened upon this posting for a "job" opportunity at Murphy Goode Winery, my jaw dropped and I instantly thought: maybe my life has conspired to put me in exactly the right circumstance to be the exact right candidate for this position. I mean check out this description:

WHO WE'RE LOOKING FOR

You must be at least 21 years old and eligible to work in the U.S. and should be an excellent communicator, imaginative and inquisitive. Show us your marketing and public relations track record for effectively using Web 2.0 tools including social networking sites, video-sharing sites, blogs and more on both computer and mobile devices. You should be passionate about wine. In addition, you’re a “people person” who can speak to customers, colleagues and media. You have great verbal and written English language skills and are able to provide multiple writing samples.

WHAT YOU’D BE DOING

Here’s what you’ll be doing:

  • Exploring the vineyards of Murphy-Goode and surrounding areas and discovering what the Sonoma County Wine Country has to offer, from well-known destinations to off-the-beaten-path spots.
  • Tasting hundreds of wines and meeting the locals in our tasting room.
  • Increasing your wine wisdom: while studying isn’t required, our winemaking and vineyard experts will take the time to show you how it’s all done.
  • Working with our winemaker, David Ready, Jr., to create a new wine commemorating your job with us.
  • Filing reports on your experiences, via weekly blogs, photo diaries, Twitter, Facebook, video updates and ongoing media interviews.
Other duties may include:
  • Tracking the local owl and raptor populations: There are hundreds of raptors patrolling the vineyards, keeping the grapes safe from harmful pests. Monitoring owl and hawk populations — particularly those that inhabit the new series of nesting boxes — is helpful to our sustainable farming practices.
  • Testing potential picnic sites: Sonoma County is full of scenic spots, and visitors will need guidance on how to choose the best place for a picnic. Scout undiscovered sites and test-picnic established locations.
  • Playing Liar’s Dice in the Barrel Room: (We named one of our great Zins “Liar’s Dice.”)
The six-month, temporary position with Murphy-Goode Winery starts August 1, 2009.

When I read that, it screams at me. I see myself being in a position like that. In fact, compensation aside, I would do that for free and I kind of do already. I live my life, I run, I cook, I socialize, I enjoy the nooks and crannies of life and I write, blog, tweet all about it. I am passionate, dedicated and hardworking. All the things that they say they want. But I don't really need to sell myself to you, or anyone. In fact, I am so thoroughly trusting of life and fate right now that I know if this is what life has conspired for me than celebrate and good times, but I am not invested in the outcome. I am intrigued though, I think I would be a fantastic fit for this position. But if not this, than there will be something else. Right now, I am just open I don't have a long term plan. I am not agonizing over what I need to accomplish for some future moment down the line or planning out a set of standards I need to achieve by certain dates and times. Don't get it twisted, I am still highly motivated, hard working and daily accomplishing more than I have been in a long time, but again, I am doing it for the present moment which ultimately cultivates me future reality on its on. As the Chinese proverb says,

"If you want to know your past – look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future – look into your present actions.”

I look forward to the adventure as well as sharing the journey with you. And finally a short Taoist tale to start your day off right. This story is what I remembered when my tires blew out recently on the car I was transporting across country. The only reason I didn't have a deadly accident is because I was driving very slowly due to getting two speeding tickets in a very short time. All things in life: good or bad, who is to say?

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?" Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a disaster?" Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?" A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed. The Lost Horse, Chinese Folktale. As told by Ellen J. Langer, in" The Power of Mindful Learning," Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, page 99-100. (1997).

Tuna Casserole- or not, by any other name

Maybe its because I was thinking about my good friend Alison Hanks who lives up in Winthrop, who happens to like tuna casserole. Or maybe I had taboo foods on the brain because of Karina's blog about garden loaf. But for whatever reason, I had the strangest desire last night to make something inspired by traditional tuna casserole. Now, let me get two things straight: I have never liked tuna casserole and I don't really like pasta, at all. In my house growing up, tuna casserole and green jello were outlawed as my dad had bad childhood memories about those items. Even though my parents divorced when I was quite young, neither of these items were resurrected to the menu. As for the pasta, I ate it growing up pretty regularly but neither my sister nor I really enjoy it that much, in fact I think both my sister and I have an aversion to it because it has always made us have digestive issues (wheat-duh!).



But there I was, last night and what did I want? Tuna casserole. Ok, that is not exactly true. I was really dreaming of a tuna melt. My mom makes those all the time- simple: tuna, tomato, melted cheese. I thought about making that but it was lacking creativity and more importantly a predominance of vegetables which is how I like pretty much every meal to be. That is when tuna casserole popped into my head. And the pasta part even sounded appealing. I am talking brown rice pasta here of course. No tuna casserole is worth a massive stomach ache and digestive issues for days.


I began with some trepidation. While the recipe that was in my head was vaguely based on a traditional tuna casserole: tuna and pasta (no cream of anything soup is going anywhere near me!), I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go from there or how I would incorporate all the elements in my head and make a delicious, healthy and still light meal. I knew I wanted there to be tuna (and I always mix Dijon with my tuna), I knew I wanted there to be a sharp tangy cheddar (inspired from the tuna melt). I also knew I really wanted to have not only a bunch of roast veg but also a big whack of cherry tomatoes (again from the tuna melt). But I figured I would just prepare the individual elements, combine, hope for the best and adjust from there. And what turned out was magical. Sometimes I surprise myself with my own innate ability to understand flavor and work things together in a way that just simply works. It was a well rounded flavor, each element complementing the next, the texture was perfect and unlike every tuna casserole known to mankind it was both light and healthy. So come of over, try tuna casserole again for the first time. I already convinced you that brussel sprouts are a fast foodie's best friend, so you can trust me. I am in no ways going to develop an obsession with tuna casserole, but this one in particular seems a particular triumph over the old standard of a heavy, unhealthy blob of cream of mushroom soup, unflavored tuna and boring pasta. Enjoy!

Tuna Casserole


Ingredients:


2 cups broccoli & cauliflower
2 medium carrot
½ tbsp. olive oil
1 can tuna, water packed
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 scallion, diced
2 tbsp. chives, minced
1 serving brown rice pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 ounces raw sharp cheddar, shredded
salt
pepper
cayenne

Directions:


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut broccoli, cauliflower and carrots into bite size chunks, toss with just a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges of the vegetables are golden and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix tuna, Dijon, scallions and most of the chives, retaining some for garnish. Salt and pepper to taste, a small dash of cayenne.

Boil water. Cook pasta according to package. Once pasta is cooked, drain pasta water retaining 1-2 tbsp of pasta cooking water. Add cheese (retain a few tbsp for garnish),roast vegetables, cherry tomatoes and tuna mixture into cooking pan and toss together, allowing cheese to melt and flavors to incorporate. Warm over low heat. Plate in a medium size bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining cheese and chives and put a dash of cayenne pepper over top.

Serves one as a main, two if complemented by a nice mixed green salad with a lemony dressing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finding your motivation

Some days it is very hard to get motivated. Some days your workout says hammer and your legs/body object. Some days you mind is just not in it and you want it to be easy, not hurt, not be a struggle. Training with a smart schedule and being in tune with your body can help you mitigate which days are which. Some days it is smart to listen to your body and ease off. And some days it is smart to tell your mind to F off and quite your whining.

Today was one such day. I have started back CrossFitting down here in the Bay Area at CrossFit Marin. Trainers Roger and Andres are incredibly smart, fit and genuine people who are more than happy to kick my butt up and down and support my running goals as my primary purpose. I headed in for my first session last Thursday and got obliterated by Roger doing the Angie workout (100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 squats for time). Today I headed back for a repeat punishment. Well, it is not punishment, I adore the beatings, but it is definitely not easy. While today is an easy running day, CrossFit is the perfect way to get a Monday morning going. This morning we did a pretty tough warmup 4x (bear walks, hanging pikes on the bars, 20 kettle bell swings and 8 jumping pullups) to get the blood flowing. Then we setup for Kelley which is 5x (400 meter run, 30 box jumps and 30 wall balls- with a 12lb ball, for me). It really seemed like everyone had a case of the Mondays and motivation in the pack of CrossFitters was not pro-asskicking. I am definitely tired after last week which was a big week and rightfully so as I start to peak for WC100k in mid-June (more on last week later), but also I am surprisingly not as tired or worked as I might have expected. My mind was definitely leading the charge of tiredness, so I felt a bit more whiny than I usually allow myself to be. I did have fun doing some spotted upside down pikes on the parallel bars. It is so satisfying when you can hang upside down and balance you entire body perfect straight above you. After a few turns, I actually managed to hold it! Nice. But after that, I just wanted to curl up in the sun and take a cat nap on the mats. We finally got going on the workout and I tore away from the group on the 400 meter run (even though I was not hoofing it at all) and got back for my first set of box jumps and wall balls. Andres coaching and encouraging us on, everyone was lamenting at having to do 5 sets. I knew it would be a grind, but was trying to keep perspective. I was having a hard time though, a voice in my head was scrolling through the Rolodex of pithy motivational cues and nothing took. Andres came over during my first set of wall balls giving me a few pointers and corrections and I let out a phewwwww, wondering for myself how I would make 5 sets when 1 was rough. He looked at me, smiled and said, "it's easier than running 100k". Ding, we have a winner. That was the motivation I needed to kick the whiner out of my brain. Not only would I survive this workout, I would utilize it as a powerful tool to carry me through in my goal races. This workout was not a frivolous thing, why treat it like one. I focused and took off for my 2nd round with renewed energy. I became like the bionic woman. I powered through the workout. One of the other CrossFitters commented, "you are amazing. Watching you is like watching a whole other breed of people". I finished in 26:09 or something close to that and felt so satisfied at my effort. I had told my mind to F-off and successfully pushed past a mental barrier. Physically I obviously had that effort in my body, so I was glad I was able to recognize that it was a mental exercise.

Last week, after the Seattle crew left and Miwok (and its crap weather) became a distant memory, I locked into a good training week. Howard has me on an awesome, balanced schedule and I am currently doing my specific workouts in the morning, followed by an afternoon recovery run per his instructions. I really like the higher mileage, so it is fun to get out twice a day and often it gives me an opportunity to do my sister's runs with her as she trains for Rock and Roll San Diego.
Looking down on Rodeo Beach, heading up to Wolf Ridge.

On Thursday, I got up early, ok super early to run with my sister (4am). We headed out on the flats towards Mill Valley running through the fog and darkness. We did a nice 10 miler and I was feeling quite good. A few hours later, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and I was ready to do my 90 minute run with last 30 good. I decided to do it as a trail run and bring my camera. I also decided to do in reverse the end of Miwok, so I could show my Seattle people what they had missed out on. I got a little carried away on the run and was feeling so good, I just kept on going and wandering around in the Headlands. It was pure, pure bliss. I then headed off to CrossFit to further the hammer-dropping on myself. It was a good day. By the time I got to Whole Foods to pick up ingredients for the original recipes I was creating that night (check out the deliciousness here) , my arms were shaking and my legs were nicely toasted (not to mention, I really was toasted as I had decided to do my second run in a sports bra and got super sunburned, oops).
Heading uphill towards Mt. Rose. Photo by Gary Gellin

On Saturday morning I got out to Ohlone with Caitlin Smith, Gary Gellin, and Will Gotthardt. They are all running the Ohlone 50k in two weeks and we headed out to do Sunol to Mt. Rose which is a 20 mile run, with about 4,000 feet of climbing all on the way out. My legs were definitely feeling tired and the uphills made me feel like I was moving backwards but I just reminded myself that you do what you can and stay listening to your body. As much as I would have just loved to have willed myself up the hills at blazing speeds, I settled for feeling just ok and we worked our way to the top. I had Vespa'd up, so despite the heat (there is no shade) and the distance, all I needed was my Nuun and I felt great. Actually, after we arrived at the top I felt alot better and the second 10 miles were phenomenally better for me. Of course those 10 miles are more flat and downhill, but I fully recognize that those are my strengths and furthermore even downhill and flats are not everyone's favorite. I was very pleased to feel good that deep in the week. It was really fun running with that crew and I am excited to run with them alot more while I am here. Caitlin is amazingly inspiring and was moving up those hills like she was on an escalator despite the fact that she rocked Miwok 100k last weekend, coming in third there at her first attempt at the distance. Rockstar! I certainly think so!

Sunday, I headed out after noon with my sister for her 18 mile long run and we opted for an "urban adventure" as we call it. We headed across the Golden Gate bridge, bobbing and weaving among the tourists and headed out towards Ocean Beach. After a few rough first miles for both of us, we both started to feel alot better and clipped along nicely, talking, philosophizing, etc. There is no one in this world that I admire more than my sister. She is simply an amazing, beautiful person and I for one am made a better person by having her in my life, not just as my sister but as my best friend. It is runs like yesterdays, when I can't help but feel blessed. A fun run with my favorite person on a beautiful day, followed by post-long run burritos while sitting on the curb outside whole foods= bliss!

It was a great week and I am very excited to see how this week unfolds as I head to DC/VA to pace at MMT100 for Glen Redpath. He has 6-1 odds to win and frankly, I am going to do everything in my power to help him win. He has been working hard and training smart, so I think he has a great shot. I am excited to see how it all unfolds.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Practically Perfect in Every Way & Sloppy James

Somedays just come together in a way that you can't even imagine being more perfect, where you go to bed with a smile on your face because you know you accomplished everything you wanted to do and more. While I live my life in a way that means that hopefully I experience that sense of satisfaction and bliss on a daily basis, somedays you have to experience that in spite of the circumstances that arise, instead of the day itself insisting it. Yesterday, it would have been hard not to have a great day.

My day started really early with a 4:20am wake up to go on a 10 mile run with my sister before she headed off to work. She is a teacher and often has to get up incredibly early in order to accomplish her training. That is dedication and I admire and support that commitment. I know it is easier to pull yourself out of bed at that hour when there is someone else also getting up, it makes you feel counted on and so I volunteered to get up and run with her. I am running twice a day, per my coaches instructions and though my second runs on occasion end up longer than prescribed because I am running my sister's schedule with her, my body is handling and enjoying the mileage and the second runs are accomplishing what they should. We ran a nice out and back into creepy folds of fog and darkness. By the time we returned, the sun as starting to make its way up and the fog was burning off. It looked like it would be a beautiful day. We both felt extremely refreshed and not a bit tired after the run, but nonetheless I headed to Poggio to grab us each a nice Americano.

The day unfolded naturally and pleasantly from there. I worked a bit, ate a delicious breakfast of berries, bananas, prunes and goat's milk yogurt. I blogged a bit and then headed out for my own run in the Marin Headlands. It was absolutely glorious.



Frankly, I had a hard time stopping myself from just running around for the entire day. As I ran, I dreamed about what I wanted to cook for dinner. I knew after the mileage I had done for the day and the addition of a tough tough CrossFit workout at CrossFit Marin that I would need a filling, healthy meal but given that the temperatures were pressing into the mid to upper 70s, I didn't want something too heavy. As I ran, I started drooling over the idea of  garlic-y spinach and green beans and I got it in my head that I would really like something like sloppy joes and fries. But not exactly. Sloppy Joes and fries don't exactly fit the "healthy" part of what I was looking for in their traditional forms, so I decided to make them so.

Over the next 5-6 miles, I worked through the ingredients and flavor profile and came up with what, in theory, sounded like a perfect balance of familiar flavor, health and heartiness without heaviness. First for the fries, I decided to cook up some carrots and parsnips instead of potatoes and bake them in a hot hot oven to crisp them up without any oil. Then onto the Sloppy Joes. I thought about things that are included in Sloppy Joes and things that are included in their vegan counter-part Sloppy Janes and fused a bit into both. I decided to use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (gluten free!) and kick up the vegetables. I also decided that I was going to use super lean and flavorful ground buffalo. I would have considered using ostrich, but that is not widely available at your whole foods counter. Would have been interesting though. Any super lean ground meat will work, but I liked the buffalo. I also decided that I would wrap mine up in a gluten free tortilla and top with bread and butter pickles and I would call it "Sloppy James". I really like the name James, it reminds me a soldier I once met on an airplane flying back from Seattle to Pittsburgh at a very important juncture in my life. Our "single serving" interaction profoundly moved and changed me and I will always look back on that interaction as formative in the turn my life took from there.

Really, with the kicked up vegetables and the various twists, it just didn't seem right to call them Sloppy Joes. The meal ended up perfect and I was able to enjoy it sitting on the deck, looking out over a clear night to Angel Island (see picture at top). The Sloppy James could easily be made into a twisted up Sloppy Jane by substituting steamed and crumbled up bits of tempeh. I decided to not make this for myself as currently (and potentially forever more where possible) I am staying away from gluten, soy and milk as these are my trigger foods for serious digestive problems. That said, I know from experience that this technique and the flavor of tempeh would lend itself nicely.

By the time I collapsed into bed exhausted at 10pm, I was ready for a blissful night of sleep. My muscles ached from the good hard work, my belly was satisfied with good food, my skin tingled from a bit too much sun (ok, way too much- I got a sunburn) and all I could do was sigh and fall asleep absolutely satisfied.

Garlic Green Beans and Spinach


Ingredients:


1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons water
3 cups fresh spinach
salt
pepper

Directions:


In a medium skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute until it begins to get golden. Add in green beans and saute and additional minute. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan (carefully as it will spit!) and cover with a lid. Steam for 4-5 minutes until the green beans are tender. Add in spinach and let wilt, tossing garlic and green beans and spinach together. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve! Makes 1 serving.

Carrot and Parsnip "Fries"


Ingredients:


2 medium carrots
1 large parsnip
chili powder
salt

Directions:


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the carrots and parsnip (peeled) into thick matchsticks. Spread the matchsticks into a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with chili powder. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottoms are golden and crispy. There is no need to flip. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Sloppy James


Ingredients:


1 medium onion , diced
1 pound ground buffalo
½ bell pepper, diced
½ cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can tomato sauce (15oz)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. vegetarian, gluten free Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp. yellow mustard
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
salt
pepper

Directions:


In a large skillet, over medium high heat brown the onion and buffalo, about 4-5 minutes. Add bell pepper, mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. If there is any fat in the pan after that, drain off fat (though not likely as buffalo is incredibly lean). Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar. Simmer together for 8-10 minutes over medium low heat until sauce thickens slightly. Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve in a gluten free rice tortilla or bun. Makes 4 large helpings.

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