Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SF One Day


At least the view is nice.
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to crew, pace, cheer for the amazing runners for the SF One Day. The race put on by PCTR is a 24hr race on a 1.06 mile loop around Crissy Field. I knew several people running the race and had volunteered to help out Nathan (one of my super speedy training partners and in general favorite people) who was running the race one week after winning Humboldt Marathon in 2:45. I also knew eventual winner Brian Krogmann whom I had paced at Headlands Hundred in August and eventual female winner Suzanna Bond, who is the most consistent and steady runner I have ever seen. Not to mention she always is smiling.



Nathan running strong in the afternoon with Brett, the Banana.

I can't even imagine the mentality it takes to run for 24hrs straight. I won't be signing up any time for such a race, I really need a finish line to pace off of. I need a destination in my racing. I need a marker of progress in relationship to something else. Watching the highs and lows of the runners was absolutely fascinating. The passage of time can feel so relative, some days pass like the blink of an eye, some days crawl along like a lifetime. I can only imagine what running for that long feels like. Currently, the longest amount of time I have ever ran is 18:30. I commend the runners of this race.

I crewed and supported for the afternoon after a great 31 mile run of my own in the Headlands with Brett, Larissa and the Endurables. There was great support out for the runners and most were comfortably cruising along ticking off the early miles. I left for a nap and came back to the race at 2:30am when I figured the real support would be needed. Nathan came into the aid station about the time I arrived with severe foot pain and after sitting for a while, RD Sarah and I put him in her tent for some sleep (one of the nice things of a 24hr race!). While he slept, I ran a bit with Brian Krogmann, helped out in the aid station and cheered on the runners who were pushing away through the night. A few hours later, Nathan was back up and started to walk with another runner friend and slowly transitioned back to running. The new day brought new life to the runners and more fans came around to cheer the runners in their last few hours of running.

When all was said and done, Brian Krogmann won with a new CR of 140.1 miles. Suzanna Bond won the woman's field, placed second overall (and scared Brian pretty bad since he was scared she was going to catch him) with 134.7 miles which is top 10 all-time for American Women in the 24hr. Nathan broke 100 miles and finished his last 4 miles in under 34 minutes, winning his age group. It was a really well put together event and I had a fantastic time being a part of it, from the sidelines! A huge congrats to all the runners!


 
Mark Tanaka looping it up in the afternoon light.




Co-RD for all the PCTR races, Sarah Spelt. She is amazing and makes these races something special.




The Comeback Kid, Nathan pushing for 100 miles after a rough night. Last 4 loops, two sub 9min/mile, two sub 8. Winning his age group.


Suzanna Bond, Women's Winner 134.7miles & Women's CR.



Brian Krogman. Tears of joy, relief, disbelief at his 140.1 miles, 1st place and CR!

More images from the day:

SF One Day

Trail Run Times Report of SF One Day: Here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Slow and Steady


I am someone who has always felt that where talent ends, hard work begins. That is to say, I have always believed and operated under the auspice that if you work hard enough at something, whether it is a talent like running or basketball or a skill like cooking, that you can improve. I have carried that philosophy into my own self work. I commit to everything in my life similarly, knowing that whether it is self-work or a work day, that there will be a lot of conscious hard work needing to be done. The premise of this blog was similar: focus and hard work to achieve a goal. I think most things in life that work and improve are a product of some effort somewhere along the line.

But over the last week, I am reminded that sometimes the awesome things that come along in life are a product of not only hard work, but patience and faith. Many things in life are like the process of having a garden. We work hard to plant the seeds and nurture them, but ultimately, have to relinquish a little control and let nature do what it will. Sometimes, hopefully more often than not when we plant & prepare in the best way, the seeds grow and product fruit, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes we plant things and don't see any results and give up only to see new growth much further down the line. It is a process that absolutely fascinates me both in an actual garden and in life.

As I said, over the last week I was able to see surprising growth where I didn't expect it at all. The development enriched my life and absolutely delighted me. In fact, it removed the only real tangible stress/conflict I felt in my life. It was really cool to be faced with a confrontation that I thought was going to be intensely painful and hard and be pleasantly surprised that what I had envisioned would be WWIII with massive fallout, was in fact a pleasant experience which actually brought us closer. And I was able to see an amazing amount of growth in someone. Though it wasn't overnight growth, it was like I went to bed without even a bud peaking out of the ground and woke up to a bean stalk. Sometimes all it takes is a tipping point to really see the nature of things.

The last week has reminded me why I am such a believer in working hard at the things you can control and cultivate and then stepping back and having faith in the growth process. It is a reminder that I needed in and amongst what I am trying to accomplish and create in my life, because there have been many (way too many) moments where I have been filled with dread and panic and ran away from things because the results I thought were suppose to already have come about weren't happening on my time line. But life is like a garden, as I have said. There are many factors, weather, sunlight, soil quality, seed quality, etc etc etc that can affect how things grow. In life there are even more factors!!! But having faith in the process is essential. Sure there will be our fair share of epic fails, but for every six of those, there may be a redeeming bud break through the surface that erases all the fails that have come before it.

You just can't give up. I think whats really cool about this blog project and my sense of accountability to myself with it, is I can watch the process. Sure I go about my day in a usual way, but I come back here and reflect on how the process is unfolding. I am checking with myself over my own place and process and it is serving to promote confidence in my own growth, the expanding of my world since I can actually see the seeds begin to grow. So I proceed, without fear (though that is not to say I will not have fears, doubts, etc) for now, on this delicious journey, excited to plant new seeds, cultivate the ones I have planted and reap what I have sown.

Cook the Book: Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein

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I am a big fan of new traditions. And I am even a bigger fan of Sunday dinner. So why not make Sunday dinner a tradition again??

Making a huge Sunday dinner was what cultivated my love for cooking. When I lived in Atlanta is 2005, we would spend the better part of the day after my long runs in the kitchen getting a fantastic dinner together for family and friends. I learned all sorts of culinary skills, developed my palate and enjoyed some seriously good eats. When I moved away, Sunday dinners ceased to be something that I routinely did. It downright sucked. I have longed to be in a place for long enough to resurrect it.

Recently, I finally got my wish. The Baker (enter stage right) and I, decided that we should start making Sunday dinners on a regular basis. The idea developed when I mentioned that we had received our shipment of wine from Italy and insisted The Baker experience they profoundness that is Vin Santo. We started with the dessert wine and worked backwards to develop a menu. Italian was a must, to go with the Italian dessert wine. Biscotti for dipping in the Vin Santo as they do in Italy. I let The Baker cover dessert since well, just seems a little obvious.... I decided to consult the family collection of cookbooks here and stumbled upon load of delicious recipes that would have worked. One that stood out to me was Braised Tun with Tomato, Garlic and Mint in Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein. I had never braised tuna, so I was absolutely taken with the recipe.

We converged at the house on a Sunday afternoon and put our culinary brains, skills and taste buds to work. Though a multitude of culinary sins were committed between the two of us for a whole host of reasons (I blame the bottle of Grgich we opened up while cooking), the outcome was absolutely delicious. We ended up with incredibly flavorful and perfectly cooked tuna. The quick tomato sauce I made to braise the tuna in was chunky and the mint, garlic combination provided a powerfully complex combination. I was delightfully surprised. The Baker took lead on the sides and made a herb salad with homemade green goddess dressing and roasted and stuffed red bell peppers, filled with wild rice and Italian goat blue cheese. My job felt easy once the tuna was in and braising away.

We plated up everything, poured more crisp Grgich Chardonnay and I grabbed my camera for a few shots. The Baker didn't even flinch at my desire to photograph my food and even expertly held the plate with just the right light. He explained he had "a little" experience with people taking food photography and I laughed. Once the food hit our taste buds we were not disappointed. It looked, smelled and tasted delicious.

Dessert was an experience. He brought both "real" and gluten free biscotti and as good our meal was, the Vin Santo was definitely the star of the show. Not to sweet, very complex, absolutely delightful.

Sunday dinners make me happy. It is a nice way to end the weekend, cooking at home for family and friends. I hope to continue the tradition as often as possible.

As for the recipe I tried, I recommend you go grab yourself a copy of Italian Slow and Savory. I have now made several recipes from this book and it absolutely doesn't disappoint!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run

My first experience as an ultrarunner with the concept of doing an epic run for someone's birthday was a few years ago when Krissy got together a big group of runners to run 30 miles for her 30th birthday. We ran up on Chuckanut and had a blast. Flash forward to now.This past weekend I got together with Krissy, Ellen and Monica to have a girls weekend run at the Grand Canyon, doing a Rim to Rim to Rim run (46miles, 11,000+ ascent, 11,000+descent) to celebrate Krissy's birthday.


Krissy, Monica and Ellen flew in from Seattle to Flagstaff on Friday and I did the same from San Francisco. We all were on 6am flights and so by the time we were all assembled in Flagstaff and had the rental car we were goofy, somewhat caffeinated and hungry as all get out! We headed into Flagstaff, went to Pita Jungle for lunch and then shopped for pre/during/post run snacks, breakfast and other food. We went a bit crazy with the food, but it all got eaten over the weekend!




After stocking up on groceries we headed up to the Yavapai Lodge where we would be staying which is about 1.5miles from where we would finish our run up (at Bright Angel Trailhead). We got dinner, fueled up, sorted our gear for the next day and hit the hay as early as we could for the 5am wakeup. We had to catch a shuttle in the morning to our starting spot at South Kaibab Trailhead and knew that we needed to aim to catch it at or around 6am.


Ooh Aah Point at Sunrise

We were up, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am. We all downed some coffee and munched on granola and yogurt/coconut milk keifer, some fruit and got ourselves prepared for the long fun day ahead! We got to the shuttle stop, it finally came and then as we were approaching our transfer point to the next shuttle, we were informed that we may miss that shuttle since it was in front of it and may or may not stop. We really didn't want to have to wait, but the shuttle in front of us didn't stop at the round about. Our driver shouted at us not to chase it, but hell, we are runners, that is what we do! We sprinted off the bus and a few feet only to realize that the shuttle wasn't leaving us, it was going around the round about to pick us up! We jumped on the very full bus giggling at our own antics. We got to the trailhead moments later, snapped some pre-run photos and hit start on our watches and headed down.





 I have never been to the Grand Canyon before and it was absolutely breathtaking. The sun was just beginning to peak out as we headed down the steep dirt trail. We were all about fun, there was no hammering, sprinting or putting the hurt on one another. That was the goal and we did a good job of sticking to that for the day. All of us are very strong runners and we were able to stick together.




Down and down we went, stopping every so often to snap some photos or capture some video. I felt really good running down hill and was just blissed out looking at the scenery! We ran into some Big Horn sheep right before we got to the river which gave us a bit of a pause since they were standing in the middle of the trail. Then one of them decided to run towards us and bound up onto a rock. Needlesstosay, when I proceeded past them I was running very very hard in hopes that I wouldn't get head-butted. We crossed the black bridge over the Colorado River and headed into Phantom Ranch Ranger Station for the first time. We saw a few other ultrarunners out there on the trail which was really cool!
 

We filled up on water, hit the bathrooms and then started up towards Cottonwood Campground and beyond to the North Rim, which was 14 miles from Phantom Ranch. We were about 8 miles in and everyone felt decent.

The heat of the day was coming on stronger and stronger but none of us were worried about it since we had ample water and knew there was plenty more along the trail. The 14 miles up to the North Rim is a gradual uphill for about 7 miles, gaining only 1500 feet up to Cottonwood Campground. After that, you really start climbing going from 4000 feet at Cottonwood to 5000 at Roaring Springs to 8,255 at the North Rim. From Roaring Springs to the North Rim up the North Kaibab Trail is maybe 3.5 miles, maybe even shorter than that. So you get lots and lots of that nice uphill. It was freaking beautiful and we were having a blast. We were still feeling pretty good going up. Ellen was having some less than ideal stomach conditions and I managed to elbow an Aloe plant and skewer my arm with the tip of the plant going a few inches into my arm flush with the skin. My arm bled nicely as shown in the picture above.


 

It is funny the comments we received as we ran along the trail. Most were of disbelief, most were sweet and funny. We ran into a solo ultrarunner on his return trip from the North Rim. He informed us that the water was off at Roaring Springs. I kind of freaked out in my head at this. I hadn't filled up at the last stop and my pack was getting very very empty. And we were getting on to mid-day and I was feeling pretty thirsty. Thankfully we ran in to some trail angels, two newly back from Iraq soldiers who gave us a good amount of their water. Their generosity saved our butts. We continued up the switchbacks, hiking fast, running in parts. At about 7,000 feet of altitude, Krissy and Monica were getting headaches and my stomach joined Ellen's in rebellion. I suddenly had a basketball size gut which did not feel nice at all. We continued to the top in what felt like a bit of a death march. No one talked, though we were all still happy to be there, it was just a group lull.

Less than a mile from the top, we ran into a more elderly couple who were hiking the canyon. They and their family had gone South Rim to North Rim in 4 days and were now on the first day of a return 4 day hike. But the woman in this couple (and grandmother to the majority of the rest of the group we come to find out) was not doing well. As we came up the trail, her husband asked us to help her up as she had fallen for a third time and couldn't get up. It took the four of us to help her back up and she was unsteady on her feet. We spent 10 minutes talking to them and it was determined that they were going to go to the remaining 1/4 mile to next rest area (though there was no water there), rest up overnight and then return to the North Rim and wait for their family. It was a scary situation and brings home the reality that what we were doing is far and beyond the capabilities of the majority of the world. An 8 day hike we were running in a half of a day! Its insane when juxataposed!

We continued to the top and triumphantly reached the North Rim (us at the top, pictured left) in under 5 1/2 hours (22+miles). We fueled, begged for more water from some hikers and thankfully were able to fill all of our packs, rested and prepared for the longer trip back. We also talked to a volunteer from the backcountry office who had come out in response to the situation with the woman we had just helped. We felt more secure knowing that their situation was being handled and monitored by the backcountry folks. After a 15 minute break or so, one round of the peanut butter jelly song by your truly (prompted by eating a Larabar Peanut Butter and Jelly bar), taking another Vespa and sipping on some FRS which I had added to my water, we began our last descent of the day back down to Phantom Ranch. My basketball stomach disappeared and I felt like ripping and roaring downhill. The trail is not technical, but it has some rocks and unevenly spaced wooden ties. It is very switchbacky as you can imagine with that kind of elevation gain/loss. We spread out on the trail and each went at a comfortable pace for ourselves. By this point in the run, everyone is on a different page in terms of how they feel and so we just would run for a section, regroup and then continue.

We were all really looking forward to getting back to Phantom Ranch where we would indulge in Lemonade and Snickers bars as part of the ritual of running R2R2R. Krissy had warned us that the 14 miles down to Phantom Ranch could seem very long. And once we got off the more switch-backy part of the descent, back along the creek it did feel a bit long, but I was feeling freaking fantastic. My legs just felt strong and healthy and not feeling the climbing and descending we had been doing. We continued along, section by section, ran into a few more ultrarunners, took a few dunks in the creek to cool ourselves and finally made it to Phantom Ranch. Krissy and I collected some Lemonade for the group and bought a Snickers bar (king sized) for us to share (not more because we didn't need to eat too much and barf). We got a lot of interest at Phantom Ranch which was a buzz with people. People were really interested in what we were doing. Many people asked us if it was ok if they took our picture. They just couldn't wrap their heads around it.

  Once we were fed, watered and rested we headed out to finish up the day. We had a bit more than 10 miles to go on the return portion as we were heading up a different trail (Bright Angel) than we had come down in the morning. Bright Angel is a much harder climb than the one we had done up North Kaibab to the North Rim, but that is all part of the fun eh? We crossed the river and headed along the river trail that loped up and down. I was still feeling good as was Krissy and we lost ourselves in conversation heading up the trail. We stopped and waited for Ellen and Monica who were never far behind and then continued on our way. With about 6 miles (my Suunto lied to me and said it was only 5 miles to go, sorry ellen!), we stopped again to bring everyone together when Ellen and Monica suggested that Krissy and I continue up the climb at our speed and that Ellen and Monica would go their speed and we didn't have to wait for them. They suggested that we run back to the lodge and get the car and come back and get them at the trailhead. It was funny they suggested that, as I had just thought the same thing and told Krissy the very same. Neither of us were keen on leaving anybody but since we were in pairs it seemed like a logical thing to do. We made sure Ellen and Monica had their headlamps and enough food (as Monica was out, I told her to "shop" in my pack as I had plenty food left) and headed up the hill.

We were running well, chatting away and I was struck by what a difference a summer makes. I know I have said it before, but man, I am such a better uphiller than I use to be. I actually loved the climbing. I was feeling pretty good. I could tell that my last Vespa had worn off, as we ran up since I was feeling in definite need of some sugar (or conversely putting the snickers into my system made me need the sugar, but whatever). I ate a pack of sharkies and we continued climbing and climbing. When we reached the 4.5 mile Rest Hut, I realized that my watch had been wrong when I told Ellen and Monica that we were only 5 miles out, since it had been about 30+ minutes since left them and we were running faster than 1mph.  Oops! As I mentioned earlier, there are wooden ties on the trail that I believe help keep the steeply graded trail from eroding to rapidly and provide footing for the mules and humans. We took to calling the ties "dumbasses" after the mules and since they were not only oddly spaced but made us really lift our knees and legs up to get over them. Which is fine in a short run but when you are at mile 42 or something and going up a 15% grade, they are less appreciated. We hiked fast where the grade required and ran where we could. Ok, ok, I am sure Krissy could have run the whole dang thing but she had dead-weight me to hold her back. Not that I was going slow, as we barely did any walking, but still. While I am proud of my progress running up hill, I know that I am still slower than the truly good hill runners and I just don't want to frustrate anyone. Krissy and I were getting close. We just kept focusing on the while rocks above our head and reminded ourselves that according to a few sources the last 1.5 miles is the hardest grade. The white rock signifies the last layer before you get to the top.

For the first time all day, we checked our watches for time and we were nearing 12 hours. That got us motivated and we started running pretty hard to try and make it under that arbitrary (since we hadn't been doing it for time all day) marker. We busted ass though. "Hey Look" I exclaimed and pointed to our left. It was the lights of the Bright Angel Trailhead. It was close but was a few long switchbacks away, we pushed and pushed. We got a lot of comments as we did. I am sure we left a wake of slack-jawed, gawking, astonished people as we were moving really well. We skid into the finish in 11:54 (just after sunset) and celebrated with a big hug and a few pictures near the trailhead sign.

Krissy and I then got to work getting back to the lodge and hammered out the 1.5 miles+ on the paved trail back to the lodge. It was very humerous to me how fast we could run on the road after all that climbing. Guess it is a good sign for Western States! We sprinted into the room and started throwing everything we could think of that they might want when we picked them up. We filled an entire grocery bag with food. Chocolate Soy Milk, chips, crackers, apples, bars, water, etc. We grabbed coats and hopped into the car (ok, massive SUV) and drove back the meetup spot giggling and energetic, sipping on our chocolate soy milk (with a kombucha chaser for me) and Wasabi Rice Chips (random and disgusting sounding, yes. Delicious combination after nearly 50 miles, definitely). We were nearly perfectly timed with Ellen and Monica and they hopped into the car and we headed back to lodge. We had to take a picture of our dirty dusty feet all together (above) and we all faired pretty well with only a few blisters. My feet had absolutely no problems and were comfortable in my Salomon Whispers all day! We went into overdrive mode and all of us 4 girls showered, changed and were out the door to our 8pm reservation at El Tovar!

We had a delicious dinner and celebrated Krissy's birthday and our insanely fun day! I am so glad that I got to join the girls for this adventure and we are already on to planning the next adventure! What a great run, great weekend and great friends. I am truly blessed to have been a part of it!


Happy Birthday Krissy! Love ya!

Shadows on the wall



Plato's Allegory of the Cave: Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. (Wikipedia)

Over the weekend, I headed down to the Grand Canyon to run Rim to Rim to Rim with my friends Krissy, Monica and Ellen. A nice quick girls weekend that included tons of laughs, photos, fun and running. We were there only briefly but I experienced a nice feeling that has eluded me for a while. I had a sense of reality. What I mean is that unlike most of the year where I have felt like the things I do were aberrations, exceptions, not my real life, I realized over the weekend this is my life. And that is pretty cool. My "real life", not the shadows on the wall include kick ass girls trips to the Grand Canyon and weekday runs & trips to the bakery. For most of the year, while being a wanderer/vagabond, I always had a sense that I was knowingly looking at my shadow and believing it was reality. Better put, I always felt that the things I was doing, experiencing and living were outside of my "normal" "reality". I felt uncomfortable accepting that what I was looking at was not in fact a shadow at all of my reality, it was the real thing. My life is pretty cool and when I accept where I am, embrace where I am it becomes even cooler because I am not racking myself over the coals with guilt that I should be living a different life. I feel less anxious now that I have started to accept where I am. Its a beginning.

It is a gradual process working through the brambles and weeds that come with forging a new path for yourself. I feel like I am undoing slowly but surely alot of the defense mechanisms (self-defeating as they are) that kept me in the confused limbo/existential crisis state for a while. First, I had to decide on a home. I needed grounding. I decided I had roots and thus, now I feel as if I have them. Disappeared is the anxiety at the end of a trip/travel, where I feel like I want to hurry on to the next thing instead of just lingering at the end of the last. It was ironic that as we flew back from Flagstaff that my flight was extremely delayed. It caused me no anxiety, I found myself just able to pass the extra hours in a neutral mind and not be thinking about the next thing and the next thing and the next. I knew I would be home and life would kicking sweep me up so quickly, that I would be begging for quiet moments like the ones spent sitting on an airport floor eating kale salad from the co-op with friends. I am embracing where I am. It is funny that I have spent so much time not doing that, since one of my fundamental mottos to live by is "Here and Now". I have spent much time not being in that space, we all have. I accept that, forgive that and move on. Much too much to do, trying to undo those things.

Once I decided on home and roots, I moved on to working on accepting where I am. Embracing where I am. For me, it has been hard to accept that what I was looking at was not in fact shadows on the wall. This is my life, my reality. I think there is some fear involved in really facing our lives and giving up the shadow life. For when we give up staring at shadows, we are faced with the reality that we can create our lives and our journey, instead of being resigned to be pushed along by the forces of life.

Acceptance and resignation are such fundamentally different things. When we accept things, we are allowing them to be as they really are. We can work to make it better or different, but in the end when a healthy (i.e. when we use good boundaries) amount of work has been done or cultivated, we take it as it is at that moment. For instance, I am learning to accept where I am in life, does that mean I won't continue to improve my life and cultivate the things on my journey? Of course not. It is a journey after all. I know that right now I have to keep myself open, work on accepting things, people and life but proceed unafraid.

Resignation is different. Resignation is trying to push water up hill in vain and then succumbing unwillingly to the reality of the situation. We try to change what fundamentally is far past the point of being healthy. We waste so much time and life not accepting things and resignation is inherently painful in the end. I have done that, we all have. There are things in this life that are really really hard to accept like loving someone who doesn't love you. We fight tooth and nail for it not to be our reality, resist acceptance and ultimately wound ourselves so throughly that when we finally resign ourselves to it, we have not only wasted time and energy, we have scars to carry with us potentially for a long time. Ironically, I did not accept my life for a long time. I was keeping myself from feeling comfortable in something that is, in fact, hugely positive and good for me. Now immerseing myself in it, it is like wadding into an ice cold creek after a race to ice. At first it is shocking a bit, but then as you slid under the surface you adjust, you find out its not that bad, and sometimes, you even find that you like it. You accept it. You don't resist it.

I find it intensely interesting to examine what things in my life I am accepting and what if anything I am resigning myself to. What shadows am I looking at and calling it reality? What shadows am I looking at knowing they are not reality and pretending they are anyways? What at this very moment can I work on accepting instead of resisting? What is a small step I can take to be more fully present? I like where I am, here and now, I am accepting this moment. And that is a huge small step. I accept that forward progress cannot always be made, that sometimes I will go in circles. But to let go of some fears, move something off of my plate that didn't need to be there in the first place, feels really amazing. The shadows of life playing on the wall can hold us in rapt attention for a while, but ultimately life with it light, shadows and shades in between is a much sweeter thing.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Tequila Shredded Chicken Tacos

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Remember this recipe: Whiskey Spiked Slow Cooked Beef Chili? Yeah, the one that I said was my best yet.  Well, I took it, put its on its head and made it even better. I was in more of a chicken mood when I made this and couldn't stop thinking about tender shredded chicken that packed a huge flavor profile and a not overwhelming, but very present spicy kick. I also wanted something to put with the handmade masa tortillas I had grabbed at the store.  I wanted something I could put on the stove and let it do its thing for hours, come home and be in heaven, absolute heaven. Mission accomplished on this one.

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Not only that but the leftovers, which lasted for 5 days, were just as good as day 1. Which is nice considering I went away for the weekend to run the Grand Canyon and when I came back didn't want to have to think much about making an amazing meal, but definitely wanted to have one. I certainly enjoyed everything about this meal(s!!) and know you will too!

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Ingredients:



  • 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with chipotle chilis

  • 1 can tomato puree

  • 1 red onion, diced

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless organic chicken breast

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced

  • 20 baby belle mushrooms, chopped and divided (half set aside to be added later)

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper,

  • 2 tsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 shot of tequila (single serving bottle)

  • 1 medium zucchini


Directions


In a large heavy bottom ceramic pot (or in a slow cooker), add a splash of olive oil and brown chicken on both sides. Add all ingredients except the Tequila, zucchini and half of the mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 4-6 hrs, stirring occasionally or if you do it in a slow cooker put it on high for 6 hrs or low for 8hrs and just let it go. After 6 hrs, add Tequila, zucchini and remaining mushrooms. Shred the chicken with a fork. Continue to simmer for another 1-2 hrs. Salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon chicken and sauce onto warm tortillas with greens. Top with avocado, green onions and salsa.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

After the rain has fallen

The storm on Tuesday here in the Bay bruised and battered the region with torrential rain, high winds and all sorts of crazy conditions. When you are in the midst of a storm like that, you feel like there is no escape that you could potentially face a life that is forever altered by the conditions. Storms like that don't just dampen the streets, they dampen your spirits. But just as quickly as they come, they go and you wipe your brow relieved you made it through, happy to have survived in one piece. Sure there may be damage, but you have come out the other side. Big storms reduce us to a mode of shear survival, so when the storm calms you tend to feel a bit like you are living raw, renewed, wiped clean. There is a moment, even if brief, of huge relief. Simply, it is over.

And then, you proceed forward. You go back to life and realize that the clean up, that the moving forward is extremely hard work, tedious, and that it takes a lot of work to rebuild in a way that will better prepare you for the next inevitable storm. Some storms destroy us so much that our lives are forever altered, others batter us only enough to remember our own vulnerability, shaken not stirred so to speak.

There will always be weather, the skies are always changing and it doesn't take much for the next thing to develop. That is life, that is what makes life interesting. But with each storm, we learn better how to live and build and be that will better protect us, carry us through, alleviate the next storm. We recover, we go on, somehow. We find our way, picking our footing through the mud and downed trees and let the light of the first break of sunlight wash our faces in rejuvenating light.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Storm is coming

I am sitting on the couch watching torrents of rain come down, the trees swaying in the strong wind. It has rained a few inches already this morning and this is just the beginning of the storm. There will be wind, there will be more rain, flooding and possible destruction, power outages and problems. It is a good day to sit on the couch and watch the rain come down with a warm cup of coffee instead of venturing forth into the fray. Life is like that sometimes. Sometimes you can sit back and watch the storm brew, form, fall and disappear without ever having to get wet. Sometimes you have to suck it up and thrust yourself out in the worst part of the storm. No matter how wet and worked over you may get, sometimes it is unavoidable. Sometimes the only way to get through a storm is to go head first into the storm and work your way out the other side. It is a hard thing though, deciding to do that. It is much easier to stand at the doorway looking for a quick break in the deluge. Wait for a way to avoid the worst of it. But instead often times, we end up waiting too long and end up in a worse part of the storm. It is a hard thing to know the moment to just go for it.
The moment comes, of course, where we just go for it. We step out into the storm and steel ourselves from whatever comes our way. That moment is coming, I am watching it roll in off the coast. I hope I am brave and strong enough to weather the things that come. It really is not a big storm in the greater scheme of life, but to some it may feel like the storm of the century. Come what may, I at the very least have prepared myself. I have my rainboots, coat and umbrella ready!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

[caption id="attachment_660" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Just like a fond memory. Gluten Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pie."]DSC_0022[/caption]

Food is often equated with or can provoke both strong positive and negative memories. During the fall, as the weather cools and the leaves change color and fall to the ground, I think back fondly to my time in Pittsburgh when I was in library school. I loved the fall there. I can remember getting in my little kitchen and cooking my first ever Thanksgiving dinner. I remember hunched over a fingerprint covered copy of that month's Food and Wine magazine, meticulously following the recipe for three elaborate dishes that I would serve only to myself. I wasn't much of a foodie then, or even that creative of a cook, but I had my moments of brilliance.

[caption id="attachment_655" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Ingredients for the GF Pumpkin Whoopie Pies"]DSC_0003[/caption]

One of the things that I discovered while in Pittsburgh (food wise) that I had never heard of, other than Fluffernutters and Salads and Sandwiches topped with handfuls of fries, were whoopie pies. According to Wikipedia: whoopie pie (alternatively called a gob, black-and-white, or bob) is a baked good made of two round mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, sometimes pumpkin cake, with a sweet, creamy frosting sandwiched between them. While considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition, they are increasingly sold throughout the United States. According to food historians, Amish women would bake these and put them in farmers' lunchboxes. When farmers would find these treats in their lunch, they would shout "Whoopie!"

Once I left Pittsburgh, I didn't see these delicious treats again. Until, that is, I visited Vermont for the Vermont 50miler. As the description indicates, it is also a New England phenomenon and when my friend Glen was eating at the pre-race dinner the night before the race, he came back to the table with three desserts. One of which was a pumpkin whoopie pie. I was instantly lost in a memory of cool, crisp Pittsburgh fall evenings and the comfort of a pumpkin whoopie pie and a cup of tea, nestled down on my couch. I hadn't thought about that time in my life for a while. And, I began seriously craving a pumpkin whoopie pie.


[caption id="attachment_656" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Folding the ingredients together"]DSC_0005[/caption]

After I finally got home from my trip to Vermont & NYC, I decided to start testing a recipe for a gluten free/ egg free/soy free version of the pumpkin whoopie pie. While I would have loved to stuck with the Amish tradition of using eggs and normal flour, I simply cannot eat those things and so what would be the point of having my cake but not being able to eat it too?!?!

[caption id="attachment_657" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Cakes fresh out of the oven waiting to cool and be frosted!"]DSC_0009[/caption]

I was quite pleasantly surprised at my first go-round with these. Their texture was absolutely spot on. Very light and fluffy, which is saying something considering gluten free flour usually does not lend itself to that. The frosting turned out creamy and dreamy once whipped the heck out of it the blender and then let it hang out in the fridge to tighten up. I took these pictures before I did that, thankfully I only frosted one "show" whoppie pie. Ok, let's be honest, I couldn't hardly wait so I made one I could gobble pretty immediately. It was brilliant! The frosting was not to heavy or sugary. The cakes were not heavy and not super sweet either. Admittedly, I had a second one once I let everything really cool and setup and it was out of sight. I love it when things get better with time.

[caption id="attachment_658" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Vanilla frosting and half a cake."]DSC_0014[/caption]

Today is a very crappy day. The bay is being slammed with bad weather, but these GF Pumpkin Whoopie Pies give me a sense of comfort and security no matter how hard the rain falls and the wind blows. I am comforted by the taste that floods my mouth with each nibble, but even more than that, I am comforted by the memories that are evoked in my mind and wrap my spirit in a sense of calm and coziness.

[caption id="attachment_659" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Gluten Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pie perfection!"]DSC_0025[/caption]

Gluten Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pies


Ingredients


1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 serving eggs replacer, equivalent to 2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ½ cups bobs red mill gluten free flour mix
¾ tsp guar gum
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
¼ cup coconut flour
pinch salt
¾ cup almond milk
¾ cup butter
2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
3 ½ tsp vanilla extract

For the cakes:


Preheat the oven to 400 F and cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Prepare the egg replacer and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat well and add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, guar gum, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar alternating adding the pumpkin puree. Mix well until smooth.

Drop rounded spoonfuls onto baking sheets leaving plenty of room for the cakes to spread out as they cook. Bake for 11-12 minutes until the spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely and then frost and top with another cake. Wrap each whoopie pie individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

For the filling:


In a saucepan over medium heat whisk the flour and salt with the almond milk until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken. Cool in the refrigerator.

In a blender meanwhile, cream butter and confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Add the cooled milk mixture and blend until the filling thickens. Taste and add more sugar if more desired sweetness. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes until cool and thick before frosting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What motivates you



"Check yourself before you wreck yourself" or so go the rap lyrics by Ice Cube. We all make bad choices in life at times. Sometimes thats ok, when we acknowledge going in that our motivation is bad or we know that the choice is not good for us and when in general the bad choice is an abberation not the rule. Its not good though when we try and lie to ourselves and say our motivations are good and pure and try and pretend that our bad decisions are actually good ones. It is not healthy when we make bad choices out of physchologically unhealthy places or when the bad choice involves little real choice and is instead motivated by obsession or compulsion. When it comes to training and racing, I am constantly monitoring myself and questioning my own motivations in order to not make bad decisions or decision that are self-destructive of the goals I really do want to accomplish.

With training and racing scheduling it is a battle to find a healthy balance, a balance that is motivated by concrete goals and steers clear of compulsion, ego or other neutrotic and self-defeating motivations. I am motivated to run because I love it. I love challenging myself, I love to push myself. I love the freedom of running. Racing is a fun opportunity to mark in time my progress. Races are a challenge and a goal. When I plan my schedule, I try to not over-race as I want to first and foremost, give myself a chance to actually train for an event. Next, give my body an opportunity to recover. For me racing less means I can race better and faster.

After racing Vermont 50 two weeks ago, I was suppose to follow up with an insane running of another 50miler 6 days later. I couldn't because I was sick. And while I physically could have accomplished the feat if I hadn't been sick, the point of doing the back to back was the two races individually, not the feat of running back to back 50 milers. That is important to point out. I say that because after not being able to run Tussey, I felt a bit bad about myself for not doing the double and I got a (bad) idea in my head that I would run Dick Collins Fire Trails 50 mile this past Saturday. I figured, why not? I was going to run Tussey, so I might as well do a double. The question I should have been asking myself (and a friend did ask me) was why for? I have other goal races coming up and rapidly. Running Dick Collins would have meant more recovery, less time on specific training, possibly hurting myself or pushing myself to hard, possibly being slower for my "A" races. There were plenty of reasons why not, but in my head I couldn't shake the desire to do it. So I decided to make a bad decision. I have wanted to run that race and here was an opportunity to do so. But deep down deciding to do so left me unsettled. Friday night rolls around and I make my pre-race dinner and tuck into bed early, but I couldn't sleep. I was kept awake because I knew that I was trying to lie to myself. I was making a bad decision AND doing it for the wrong reasons while telling myself my choices were good and pure. I was telling myself I was running just to run, but really I was running because not running Tussey, even though I physically couldn't run because I was so sick, bruised my ego. I had decided to do this double and didn't achieve it, I wanted to prove that I could race and win two major 50 milers in a row. Bad motivation. I hadn't planned to do Dick Collins, had done no specific training for it and had been very sick until about 4 days before it. As I lay there, I had to check myself. I had to walk away from my decision. It is hard to do that sometimes. We make a decision, we announce it to the world (or not) and we commit in our heart to doing something, it is hard to turn the tides of a big, firm decision, especially as "too late to change your mind" approaches.

One of the things I really love about personal growth is the ability to read and understand ourselves, to recognize our own bad decisions. In the first stage of personal growth, we often recognize immediately after a bad decision that we made a bad choice. Then, gradually over time, we beging to recognize our behaviour sooner and sooner, until at last we can get to the place where we don't make the bad choice in the first place. A great example of this is when I was going to buy a new VW TDI Jetta Sportwagen this year. I was completely in love with the car, got my name on the list for mine to be built and waited for my name to come up. I got to line jump and put my deposit in earlier than I had expected and my order went to the factory. Now, I didn't need a new car. I own my car outright, it is awesome. There is no good reason other than having a shiny new toy to get a car. But there I went down the road of bad decision. Finally, my car came in and I went to the dealership (driving up from SF to Seattle to get it) to sign the paperwork and get my new car. I was trading in my car and expected that I would at the minimum get blue book for it. When push came to shove, they were willing to give me $6000 less than blue book. It was my wake up call. I didn't need a new car and now I was going to get robbed on my trade-in and end up with a large car payment again! Heck no. I was under alot of pressure from the salesperson and was knee deep, we had worked really hard to get this car for me and all ready for me. But I realized that I was making a bad decision, I was buying a new car because I wanted a shiny distraction. There was no need for me to get the car. So I walked away. I got up from the salesman's desk and walked away. That is like showing up a the startline, hearing the gun go off and turning around and getting back in your car. It is a hard thing to walk away when you are in so deep. But I did it. And I have become more comfortable bailing out before the moment of bad choice impact. Running Dick Collins would have been that impact, so I bailed. I am happy I did. It is a bigger victory for me to be true to myself than it would have been to win a race.

I think it is good to question yourself, your motivation, your emotional health. I think we should never ever be afraid to ask the question of ourselves: What motivates me? What is motivating my decisions? Whether in running, eating, working, relating or life, it is always good to keep a conscious eye on our motivators.

What motivates you



"Check yourself before you wreck yourself" or so go the rap lyrics by Ice Cube. We all make bad choices in life at times. Sometimes thats ok, when we acknowledge going in that our motivation is bad or we know that the choice is not good for us and when in general the bad choice is an abberation not the rule. Its not good though when we try and lie to ourselves and say our motivations are good and pure and try and pretend that our bad decisions are actually good ones. It is not healthy when we make bad choices out of physchologically unhealthy places or when the bad choice involves little real choice and is instead motivated by obsession or compulsion. When it comes to training and racing, I am constantly monitoring myself and questioning my own motivations in order to not make bad decisions or decision that are self-destructive of the goals I really do want to accomplish.

With training and racing scheduling it is a battle to find a healthy balance, a balance that is motivated by concrete goals and steers clear of compulsion, ego or other neutrotic and self-defeating motivations. I am motivated to run because I love it. I love challenging myself, I love to push myself. I love the freedom of running. Racing is a fun opportunity to mark in time my progress. Races are a challenge and a goal. When I plan my schedule, I try to not over-race as I want to first and foremost, give myself a chance to actually train for an event. Next, give my body an opportunity to recover. For me racing less means I can race better and faster.

After racing Vermont 50 two weeks ago, I was suppose to follow up with an insane running of another 50miler 6 days later. I couldn't because I was sick. And while I physically could have accomplished the feat if I hadn't been sick, the point of doing the back to back was the two races individually, not the feat of running back to back 50 milers. That is important to point out. I say that because after not being able to run Tussey, I felt a bit bad about myself for not doing the double and I got a (bad) idea in my head that I would run Dick Collins Fire Trails 50 mile this past Saturday. I figured, why not? I was going to run Tussey, so I might as well do a double. The question I should have been asking myself (and a friend did ask me) was why for? I have other goal races coming up and rapidly. Running Dick Collins would have meant more recovery, less time on specific training, possibly hurting myself or pushing myself to hard, possibly being slower for my "A" races. There were plenty of reasons why not, but in my head I couldn't shake the desire to do it. So I decided to make a bad decision. I have wanted to run that race and here was an opportunity to do so. But deep down deciding to do so left me unsettled. Friday night rolls around and I make my pre-race dinner and tuck into bed early, but I couldn't sleep. I was kept awake because I knew that I was trying to lie to myself. I was making a bad decision AND doing it for the wrong reasons while telling myself my choices were good and pure. I was telling myself I was running just to run, but really I was running because not running Tussey, even though I physically couldn't run because I was so sick, bruised my ego. I had decided to do this double and didn't achieve it, I wanted to prove that I could race and win two major 50 milers in a row. Bad motivation. I hadn't planned to do Dick Collins, had done no specific training for it and had been very sick until about 4 days before it. As I lay there, I had to check myself. I had to walk away from my decision. It is hard to do that sometimes. We make a decision, we announce it to the world (or not) and we commit in our heart to doing something, it is hard to turn the tides of a big, firm decision, especially as "too late to change your mind" approaches.

One of the things I really love about personal growth is the ability to read and understand ourselves, to recognize our own bad decisions. In the first stage of personal growth, we often recognize immediately after a bad decision that we made a bad choice. Then, gradually over time, we beging to recognize our behaviour sooner and sooner, until at last we can get to the place where we don't make the bad choice in the first place. A great example of this is when I was going to buy a new VW TDI Jetta Sportwagen this year. I was completely in love with the car, got my name on the list for mine to be built and waited for my name to come up. I got to line jump and put my deposit in earlier than I had expected and my order went to the factory. Now, I didn't need a new car. I own my car outright, it is awesome. There is no good reason other than having a shiny new toy to get a car. But there I went down the road of bad decision. Finally, my car came in and I went to the dealership (driving up from SF to Seattle to get it) to sign the paperwork and get my new car. I was trading in my car and expected that I would at the minimum get blue book for it. When push came to shove, they were willing to give me $6000 less than blue book. It was my wake up call. I didn't need a new car and now I was going to get robbed on my trade-in and end up with a large car payment again! Heck no. I was under alot of pressure from the salesperson and was knee deep, we had worked really hard to get this car for me and all ready for me. But I realized that I was making a bad decision, I was buying a new car because I wanted a shiny distraction. There was no need for me to get the car. So I walked away. I got up from the salesman's desk and walked away. That is like showing up a the startline, hearing the gun go off and turning around and getting back in your car. It is a hard thing to walk away when you are in so deep. But I did it. And I have become more comfortable bailing out before the moment of bad choice impact. Running Dick Collins would have been that impact, so I bailed. I am happy I did. It is a bigger victory for me to be true to myself than it would have been to win a race.

I think it is good to question yourself, your motivation, your emotional health. I think we should never ever be afraid to ask the question of ourselves: What motivates me? What is motivating my decisions? Whether in running, eating, working, relating or life, it is always good to keep a conscious eye on our motivators.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Things I love to love, more than I love to hate


Me and the boys on an early morning trail run. Photo by Brett Rivers.

This morning I got up at 4:50 and headed out to meet up with Brett, Nathan and some others for our Thursday morning trail run hammerfest. I don't think we start out thinking it will be a hammerfest, but inevitably, someone feels good and we all try to follow. Or in my case, I just try not to make them wait too long.

4:50am is freaking early. Not nearly as the 4:20am or something my mom gets up at, but its early. The alarm goes off and I just want to throw my phone against the wall. I rarely wake up at that hour and go, "wahoo! I am so glad to be awake". Darkness has that effect on me, because in the summer I routinely wake up naturally just after 5. It is pretty easy to talk yourself out of getting up at that time. I spent about 10 minutes trying to come up with a legit reason not to get up. Sure, unlike my running partners, I don't have to show up at the office at a certain time, but that is not a good enough reason not to. I got my butt out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door. And I am glad I did. I never regret a good run like that.

When I lived in Atlanta this time last year, I got up at 5am pretty much everyday and did my morning run and was in the office before 9. I really liked having that routine. I would work all day, come home, lace up and do a nice evening recovery run before either cooking a nice meal, going out with friends or taking the crazy dog for a long walk. I liked that routine. As I have said, I am someone who thrives when I have a routine. I am way more motivated when I have boundaries and constraints. See I even like to make a routine out of talking about how much I like routine. And I am thinking that what I need to do is just commit to my self-prescribed schedule. Until such time as my work situation changes and I am required to be somewhere at an appointed time, I am just going to live the life as if. I am so much more productive and happy when I don't spend my time thinking about what I am going to do and instead just do it.

It was a kick ass run, except for Nathan taking a header and cutting himself up pretty bad. War wounds! I like getting up early, even if I am sleepier later in the day. I know there are people militantly in both camps (pro-early, anti-early), and I definitely don't take up with either. I don't like to get up early because I think it makes me hardcore. I like to get up early because it helps me feel human and alive. And that is a nice feeling.

I laugh at myself for how serious all of these postings have sounded. But the reality of the situation is that I am essentially talking to myself here and trying to keep myself on the right path. I find it very humorous indeed. Silly me!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Signs of Life

It's the small things in life for me that makes me feel home, settled, nesting. Since coming back from NYC late Monday night I have been putting my best foot forward in terms of digging in a making SF even more of my home.

Life is busy when you go away from 10 days, or pretty much all summer. And yesterday I did my best to balance my big to do list with work and working on my home life. I was really proud of myself that I stayed on task and knocked down item after item on my to do list. I got a massage at Psoas Massage and then headed to Rainbow Coop to do a big grocery shop. When I have a fridge full of groceries, I feel like I really living in one place. It means I am going to be around to use them and cook and play in the kitchen and I have been truly and deeply missing that. I even went one step further and stocked up some pantry items that I may or may not use immediately but are good to have on hand. In a way, I am nesting in my own kitchen. Even though I had an opportunity to go out to eat last night, all I wanted to do in the world after spending every meal out in NYC, was cook some food at home.

I had stopped by Tartine to visit Nathan and pick up a fresh out of the oven loaf of bread (fully gluten-y bread in all its glory), which was a reward (and possible stomach ache) for my victory at Vermont, as well as checking off another item on the list of 100 Things You Should Eat Before You Die (in SF). As I am gluten intolerant, bread is a big special occasion and so for dinner I ate large chunks dipped in leftover (I froze the extra in individual serving size containers) of my Ragu Alla Napoletana. It was bliss just sitting on the couch, noshing on that, salad and broccoli.

After that I headed to Target and got really domestic. I picked up a bunch of picture frames and a bulleting board to decorate my room. I figure if I don't want to be a stranger in my home than I should make my life a part of my room. When I got home, I put a bunch of the recently prints I got into frames and then spent an hour making a huge collage of art and photos and such. I love to make collages.

Today was even more fun. I started out the day early, getting up to hang out with my sister before she went to work on her birthday (the big 30) and then got to work making quick refrigerator pickles. I have never made pickles, but damn it if I don't love em! I figured a little test kitchen couldn't hurt. Then I started the real work, a huge, I mean huge batch of my marinara sauce. I like to make a bunch in the fall and enjoy it over and over and over again all winter. It has protein (this time from buffalo) and is hugely flavorful. I throw it over roast veggies pretty often in the winter to make a complete meal. I absolutely adore it. When I was little, my mom use to do the same thing and it was my lifelong favorite thing.

None of this is profound but it is a step, small step in the right direction. It may not be moving into my own place, having a different job, opening up my own cafe or anything else but I am here and all of these things make me present in my space and I like that.

Tra Vigne- Our Napa Valley staple

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I don’t make nearly enough trips to Napa as I would like considering the large number of fantastic fine dining restaurants there. Usually, when my dad is in town we will go and our trips often have the same curve. We drive up, go straight to Grgich, do the special reserve tasting and then head to Tra Vigne, drink Rombauer, eat fantastic food and then drive home.

When my friend Lauren came to town earlier this month, we took her for wine tasting in Napa and while we did hit Grgich, we also managed a few other wineries and even found Camus where we were rejected for not having an appointment. Which turned out to be ok since we wanted to drink Conundrum which Camus doesn’t even sell at their winery (but is made by them, but their name is not on the label). Despite trying to get reservations at several other restaurants, we ultimately and happily ended up at Tra Vigne for lunch. Not only did it provide for a fantastic meal, it afforded us the opportunity to drink Conundrum which they had on their wine list. It was the perfect, crisp, cool wine for a warm waning day of summer.

I have now eaten at Tra Vigne more than a half dozen times including birthday lunches and other special occasions. The food never disappoints me, in fact it usually results in us feigning that we are falling out of our chairs and rolling our eyes back in our heads in delight. And this occasion was no different.

We decided that we could not live without the fresh mozzarella prepared al minuto. The waiter brought it out, gave me just enough time to get my camera ready (ok, he was hamming it up and advising me on angles for the best light) and cut into the glistening white orb which was tender and flesh beneath the knife. He laid each delicate slice on a perfectly toasted slice of crusty bread and pushed the separate plate of colorful, intensely fresh, plump heirloom tomato slices into the middle of the table. While the combination of cheese and bread is havoc on my delicate gluten intolerant digestive system, it was worth it. I took the slice in my mouth, my teeth sliding through the warm mozzarella like butter, into the tomatoes which exploded with flavor, into the crisp bread whose crunchiness first resisted than gave way to a warm but tender center. The hints of basil, salt, pepper and olive oil that I had splash over mine commingled and built a complex flavor profile that made us all giggle with delight. It is not a profound or new combination of flavors, but each element spoke volumes of the care that took to create it: the cheese artisan, the baker and farmer all presenting their best in that simple bite.


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DSC_0033MOZZARELLA CHEESE “AL MINUTO” -hand made at the moment ordered, grilled bruschetta, paesano sicilian olive oil


After that brilliant start to our meal, my sister and I decided to share the Roasted Padron Peppers and Smoke and Braised Beef Short Ribs. We have had both before and frankly, not just once. They are that good. The meat is incredibly flavorful and so tender, I swear it could fall apart just using telepathy. Lauren tucked in to a plate of the SAGE INFUSED PAPPARDELLE and braised rabbit ragu. We did our best to keep the Peter Rabbit jokes to a minimum, but after a few bites, no one was thinking about fuzzy little bunny rabbits, only tasty morsel of tender meat in a rich, bright ragu.


In the case of Tra Vigne, I think these photos speak volumes of the quality of the food. The food at Tra Vigne is more than just a feast for the eyes, it is even better tasting than it is looking! I highly recommend Tra Vigne for a post-wine tour bite, a special occasion or even AS the special occasion. It is well worth it.


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WOOD OVEN ROASTED PADRON PEPPERS  -napa valley olive oil, sea salt


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SAGE INFUSED PAPPARDELLE -braised rabbit ragu, wild mushrooms, grana padano


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SMOKED AND BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS   -soft polenta, natural jus, horseradish gremolata



All Photos Copyrighted by Devon Crosby-Helms




Tra Vigne on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Home again, Finally.

I am ready to be home. And I have been for a while. Maybe its been months, maybe its just been since Wednesday when I came down with a serious flu. I am a spontaneous, adventurous spirit, I can be comfortable anywhere and I can find my way and thrive anywhere in the world. But just because I can, doesn’t mean that that is the ideal situation for my own personal growth and well being. While no slave to routine, I like having one. I am someone who needs roots so that I can spread my wings. When I have a home base, I feel free to bound off for the next adventure. But when I am rootless, I feel a level of disquiet and stress, blowing free in the breeze. A home, for me, gives me a place to come back to and recharge, relax and reset. I have been without a home for a year and I approached threshold on being homeless somewhere along the line. That doesn’t diminish the adventures I have had, not at all, they are all wonderful and I look forward to many more. But I am ready to be in one place and cultivate THAT place and THAT adventure. As I said in my previous post, I have decided that home is San Francisco. I am super excited and ready to dig in.

What home means to me:
having a routine, cultivating and tending to friendships, as well as widening my social circle. Filling my cupboards and pantry, cooking things and making enough to freeze and eat months from now. Leaving my shoes near the door and my suitcase deep in the closet gathering dust. Answering the question “where do you live” with a resolute answer. Having friends come visit me from out of town. Brewing my own kombucha, making sauerkraut and a throwing cooking and dinner parties. Exploring my city, trying restaurants with reckless abandon and taking weekend trips all over the place. Having weekly runs with friends, early, late, fast and slow.

There are many and more things that I am very excited about. But for now, I am trying to be patient, enjoy the waning moments of my vagabond days and look forward to the new adventure that is ahead of me.

The Un-Tussey Race Report

After Vermont 50 miler a week ago, I barely had time to savor the victory (ok not at all!) before I mentally had to change gears and start getting ready for Tussey Mountainback 50 miler. My running strategy was definitely dictated by Tussey looming on the schedule in front of me 6 days later. I had signed up for Vermont on a last minute suggestion by Glen, Tussey I had committed to much earlier in the season. Tussey was supposed to be the crowning achievement of my back-to-back 50 milers, not an easy after thought. Though the fact of the matter is, while Tussey’s road would have beat my body up worse, Vermont 50 was by far a superior and tough race, especially considering conditions. Directly after Vermont, Glen and I hopped into the car and headed back to NYC. We ate ourselves silly that evening, but by the next morning, Vermont seemed like a distant memory. Glen had just completed a insane back-to-back-to-back of 2 100 mile races then Vermont 50 (and he still beat me at Vermont) and so I felt little justified in wanting to savor my accomplishment of winning, hell just running, Vermont. I was happy to hear from Glen that Vermont destroyed him in a way that neither of his “easy” 100 mile races had.

But in my mind, I had gone on to Tussey. It was as if mentally I had erased the toll Vermont took on me, like it was a mere jaunt around the block. I consciously know better, but my subconscious was in taper mode instead of recovery mode. My legs were not sore, but I was tired from Vermont. I did well to remember my recovery status on Monday and walked around a lot, ate a ton including a few cupcakes from Babycakes NYC. Recovery is a time to indulge and relax, taper is a time to stay safe (as in not eating any trigger foods for me), sharp and focused. What a balance I was trying to strike! Even telling myself that I merely had to show up at Tussey and just do what I do: run, didn’t help. Running back-to-back 50 milers is freaking hard. In fact, running back-to-back ultras is insane. Just running one ultra taxes the body in unprecedented ways and two so close together takes walking a very fine line. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to walk that line.

About Wednesday, I stopped feeling just tired and started feeling genuinely sick. Glen and I went on a good 12 mile run in the morning. Good only in the sense that my legs felt good. I bonked at mile 5, had low energy and was feeling like I had a head cold, but at least my legs felt good. Overnight on Wednesday I was up almost all night with a stabbing, excruciating pain in my stomach that made me ponder at 2am whether I should wake Glen up and have him take me to the hospital. Usually I wouldn’t be an alarmist, but that symptom coupled with the flu like symptoms and fever that had come on, concerned me. As it is not seasonal flu season, it is more likely to be H1N1 than anything else. After a race with seriously depleted immunity and not regular exposure to the level of germs in NYC, I was left defenseless and my system got bombarded. I spent most of Thursday in bed, rallied for a great run with Glen’s track club CPTC, running a warmup, then a 10k in 39:23 (faster than my Italy win and this run felt easy) and a nice cooldown. I felt good running, crap the rest of the time. I hoped that I would come around by Saturday morning but it was just not to be. Friday, I felt no better and could barely stand up for more than a few minutes without feeling dizzy or naseuous. I also was unable to eat anything for most of the day which does not bode well the day before a race. I was pounding the vitamins, liquid and hoping Saturday morning would miraculously find me well again. Such was not the case. We drove to the race, checked in, I managed to eat some pre-race dinner and watched several episodes of Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel.

I woke Saturday at 4:50am, did a 15 second self check, hit the snooze and turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Glen woke me at about 5:30 and tried to motivate me to get up and start the race. But I was resolute. I was checked out. I could not even feel good sitting up, so I knew running would be self-defeating. I was running a fever and still dizzy, not good things going in to a run. I had to put my health first. And I had no qualms doing so. That is the breaks of the game. I am ok with that. As someone said, there are plenty of races, but you only have one body.

The only thing that is a bummer is that I didn’t get to celebrate and bask in the accomplishment of Vermont 50. Sure, one could argue that I can kick it into celebration mode now, but my momentum is gone. I am instead still just focusing on getting healthy and finally getting to go home from NYC. I am as ready to be healthy as I am ready to be home, but that’s another blog completely.

I like ninja stealth strikes

If this trip has taught me anything, it is that I am a big fan on the ninja stealth strikes on a race. That is, I like to show up two days before a race, preferably just before bed two nights before (I arrived Friday night for Vermont on Sunday) a race. It gives me only enough time to get to my accommodation, get to the race site and check in, eat, sleep and be off and running. Too much time spent waiting around for a race makes me a bit batty. I spent a lot of time in Boston before the Boston marathon, in Colorado before TransRockies and in NYC between Vermont and Tussey. It just means I spend a week (more or less) with my life dictated by a race, usually doing little more than pacing around like a caged animal. While I enjoyed NYC, I always had it in the back of my head that I was racing less than a week after a 50 miler. And being away from home waiting for a race means I can’t carry on my home routine, can’t accomplish the things I would want to in a normal week and while vacations are nice, the time before a race is anything but, really. The long wait before a race is hard enough when you are at home and tapering, but away from home, it gives you little else to do than think about your race and I realize that doesn’t work for me. For Vermont, I never had time to really think about the race or neurotically think and rethink every little thing. Instead, I had to trust myself, my planning, my training, and my fitness. I responded well and I see now that will be my modus operandi from now on where possible (in international competition it is less possible since recovery from the trip is necessary, as with altitude acclimatization). I am learning more and more what works and doesn’t work for me in terms of running, racing and heck, living.

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