Monday, October 31, 2011

MCM: spectator report & weekend wrap

And October goes out with a bang.
The weekend started with 14+ big ones on a ridiculously gorgeous DC morning...
With my bicycle-got-sucked-into-running-with-me-partner-in-crime.
I picked up the girls and we proceeded directly to the expo.
And the weekend deteriorated pretty rapidly from there.
There was a lot of squealing and hugging and eating and drinking.
And....I mean, I'm not even sure what some of this is, but I'm certain that a good time was had by all.

I know there was a pillow fight...but you'll just have to trust me on that one.  
Getting up to spectate the next morning took some oomph, but we rallied hard to cheer on the marathoners, who lucked out with a pretty perfect day.
I hopped in a few times to run with a few girls on their way to some pretty serious PRs.  Christy is in there...
And I've never had as much fun in a race as I did pacing this pink girl, who took no prisoners and about 30 ridiculous minutes off of her PR.  No one deserved an amazing day more than she did.
The rest will just have to be left up to your imagination.  How was your weekend?  I saw quite a few of you on the course at MCM, and was tracking online!

Friday, October 28, 2011

random friday facts

I know, I know, I created this mindless internet meme and then ignored it for a month. I suck a fatty.

1. I'm afraid of most of the popular healthy-living-blogger foods.  Grill me up a cheese sandwich and get the hell outta here with your strange little seeds and stinky plants.  I eat tofu, that should be enough.

2. I will plant a flag in the ground and firmly declare that I will NEVER wear a running skirt.

3. I like the idea of farmer's markets a lot but can never get my act together enough to actually go to one while they are open.

4. The Puppy Cupcake Palace is at capacity for the next few months.  I'm pretty excited.

5. I am a semi-mature (snort) responsible organized competent woman.  Whenever anything goes wrong with my car, I immediately call my dad.  

6. I've basically been sitting on my couch reading trashy historical fiction (I'm looking at you, Diana Gabaldon) and eating bonbons for the past 2 weeks, with a side of lots of easy miles.  I don't see a problem with that.

7. I really hate touch-typing.  I miss my little flip phone.

8. I absolutely refuse to turn on the heat in the same month the air conditioning is running.

9. Statues made of giant body parts creep me out.  Ditto on phones, coasters, pillows, etc.  I don't want to talk on the phone with a giant lip.

10. I've replaced my nightly ice cream with nightly hot tea.  

11. I would really like to learn how to properly: fire a gun, hem curtains, use my borrowed-fancy-camera.  

12. I have never lost a toenail due to running.

13. On Halloween, I pull the shades and turn off all the lights.  I know, I'm so cranky.  YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN.

I know this was a short one, but I ran over 14 miles this morning and now my redheads are starting to roll in, so I'm off to the weekend races!  If you RFF'd, drop me a comment and let me know so I can link you since I probably won't touch my reader until Monday.  Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

three things thursday

1. Maybe for the first time in my life, I ran three days in a row this week.  IN A ROW, you guys.  My injury-prone ass usually doesn't even like two days in a row.  Actually, the best thing is if I go out and run and then climb directly in a sensory deprivation chamber full of healing blue light - shit, wait, no light in the chamber - until at least 48 hours have passed.  And I still would somehow manage to break something.  Or a limb would fall off or I'd get hit by a meteor (very common running injury).  The word you're looking for here is ANYWAY....I ran easy on Monday, track on Tuesday, easy on Wednesday, and I feel basically like a normal human being.  None of my limbs have cracked and fallen off.  Let's hope this continues as I have my long run planned for tomorrow morning and I'm actually really looking forward to it.
2. However, I haven't been in the pool for almost 2 weeks, and since it was raining and I didn't want to get wet couldn't ride, I got back in this morning.  WOW, does that fitness die off quick.  After spending the first few 100s flailing around like a drunk hippopotamus, I decided that the best thing to do to distract myself from forgetting how to move forward in the water was to do drills.  So I did 2000 yards of drills (only cracked my head on the bottom of the pool during a flip-turn once FTW) and then got out.  You don't want to overdo these things.  But I couldn't believe how much my body had forgotten in two weeks.  It's almost as bad as that time last winter when I took an entire month off of cycling and lost all my strength, power, and speed.  WTF?  Fitness is stupid.
3. Girls Gone Wild NYC ended up being rescheduled for this weekend - the Washington, DC edition - and I'm so happy about it, although my liver is oddly producing little white flags and leaving them all over the place.  Items on the itinerary currently include: dinner, squealing, brunch, giggling, drunk baking, drunk spectating, not-drunk pacing this pink girl, pillow fights, a Halloween bar crawl and visiting the Mall in a raging snowstorm (seriously, DC, you're a hot mess).  I couldn't be more excited about the massive amount of bloggers redheads runners descending on my city for the weekend and hope to get to see everyone!  It looks like we're putting together a brunch for Saturday morning so drop me a note if you'd like to be part of that.  Also, you should probably just go ahead and mute my twitter feed now.  
Have a great Thursday, everyone!  If you are running MCM, we'll be cheering around the 22-mile mark along with the rest of humanity, so just look for the girls wearing dark glasses and slamming electrolyte-replacement drinks after a long night of table-dancing studying in the library.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

wordless wednesday

My very first bicycle ride.
I can't believe no one told my dad that only noobs leave the reflectors on.  And where are the helmets?!  At least he's not talking on his cell phone while riding.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

running + soft honey pretzels

Otherwise known as, more food less running!  Running is going pretty well.  I feel like I'm starting to get some of my pep back.  I ambiguously decided to do this morning's interval workout at my current estimated tempo pace since I won't get in a tempo this week, and it was solid.  Not remarkable, but not terrifyingly slow at 98% of my max HR like last week.  I also did my first double-digit run since the race a few days ago and was more than pleased with the effort level (easy) and execution (not a total hot fricken mess).  
I don't think I'm going to be in fast shape by Richmond but I feel solid and I'll be happier to hang onto my base without any little twinges popping up.  I'm happy with where my running is right now.  I feel like I'm recovered from Waterman's and now just want to keep pumping out mostly easy miles.

Onto the food!  A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to try and make this recipe for apple honey challah bread, but it didn't rise properly and I got bored trying to fix it, so I turned it into a soft pretzel recipe.  Here's my extremely bastardized version of it (adapted from smitten kitchen).

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/3 cup + 1 tsp honey
1/3 cup oil
2 large eggs + 1 large yolk + 1 egg
1 1/2 tsp salt 
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
Large sea salt or pretzel salt crystals

Whisk yeast and 1 tsp honey into 2/3 cup of warm water.  It will get foamy and bubbly.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes.  Pour yeast mixture into mixing bowl, add in oil, 1/3 cup honey, 2 eggs and 1 yolk and whisk together.  I used my stand mixer and switched over to my dough hook here.  Add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time and the salt.  Use the dough hook until it pulls the dough together and then let the hook knead it on low speed for a few minutes.  Transfer the dough into another bowl, cover it and let it rise for about an hour.  Pre-heat oven to 450º.  On a lightly floured board, roll out small hunks of dough and then twist into a pretzel shape.
They need to rise a little, but by the time I had finished making the entire batch and prepping the water, they were fine.  Fill a small pot with 2-3 cups of water and set to boil.  Once boiling, add baking soda and sugar (stand back a little, that baking soda goes CUH-RAZ-Y).  Drop the pretzels in and poach for about 1 minute on each side.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a greased cookie sheet.   Beat 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water and brush the pretzels with this, then top with unground sea salt or pretzel salt.  Bake about 15 minutes or until they look golden and delicious.  
Soft pretzels make excellent fuel for double-digit runs.  Or so I've heard.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Great Pumpkin Ride: race report

I've been looking forward to this ride for weeks.  Last year, it was one of my favorite fall rides - the route winds through Warrenton, which has fabulous cycling terrain, with the addition of pumpkin- and Halloween-candy-flavored rest stops.  Plus, it had been almost 2 months since I had spent most of my Saturday morning staring at this:
The morning was a rushed-around over-slept lost-keys stopped-traffic disaster.  We pulled in and parked just in time to see the pack roll out.  However, I remembered the initial part of the route from last year and we were able to catch up to some people fairly quickly, plus I stopped and picked up a dropped cue sheet.  I'd only been on the bike once since Waterman's, and my legs felt slow and heavy and didn't want to wake up.  I was glad to pull into the first rest stop and stretch out a bit.  Plus fill my stomach with this:
After a not-quick pit stop (wearing bibs+50º weather+going to the bathroom=some pretty serious portapotty gymnastics), we rolled back out.  I was pretty glad that I had taken any information about speed off my Garmin screen and that we had decided to just chat and roll easy for the day.  I know that not being on the bike these past few weeks has slowed me down, and while I've made the conscious decision to concentrate on running for the next month or so, it still made me pretty cranky to have lost so much fitness so quickly ("I shouldn't feel this tired!  This hill is tiny!  We aren't going that fast! We'd probably go faster if I stopped complaining so much!").  However, I had a great time rolling through some gorgeous scenery and catching up with my riding buddy for the morning.  
The second and last rest stop was in the same location as it was last year, although we approached it from a different way and missed the long slow climb up the back side.  The day stayed gray and pretty cool, and it was nice to go inside and sit on a soft chair and fill up on refined sugar and complex carbohydrates before the last 10 miles.
We decided to resurrect the post-ride burrito on the way home, and Emily had the rather brilliant idea of stopping for some peppermint hot chocolate as well.  I was pretty stoked about the hot chocolate.
I spent Saturday night over-celebrating the poet's birthday with lots of great friends.  The details of the evening are not appropriate important to discuss other than to note that my liver really can't take many more significant life events. 

HELLO off season.  How was your weekend?  Did your liver and crotch get fantastic workouts like mine?

Friday, October 21, 2011

things that are delicious

The downside to cooking all these delicious things is that I'm kind of stuck in a bit of a food rut, but that's for another day.  Also, I generally can't manage to take pictures while I'm cooking but I think you guys all know what it looks like when you stir cheese or put something in the blender.

This is maybe the most awesome thing I know how to cook.  It's heavy and cheesy and delicious and reheats incredibly well for as long as it survives in the fridge (usually not long).  It's easy to substitute or add ingredients (I've made it with spinach/white sauce) and cooks well even if you are missing a few ingredients.  And it doesn't take that long to make.

1 onion
1 package ground turkey (I usually get 99% lean in a weak effort to make this more healthy)
1 large jar of tomato sauce (my favorite is the sweet basil Ragu)
1 pint of ricotta (I usually get low- or no-fat, see above)
1 large package of shredded mozzarella (part-skim)
1 package of no-cook lasagna noodles
A few splashes of milk
Garlic powder or a few cloves of smashed and diced garlic
Cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper

Meat sauce 
Brown turkey over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Chop onion and garlic and toss it in.  Stir occasionally until meat is browned, adding basil, oregeno, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt & pepper (to taste).  Add 3/4 of the jar of sauce and stir.  Let it all simmer and become delicious for a few minutes.

Cheese sauce
Dump the ricotta in a bowl and add a few splashes of milk (I've used water when I've been out of milk).  Use a fork to mash it all up.  Keep adding milk until it's gloopy but not watery.  Stir in a few shakes of garlic powder, cayenne, basil, and pepper.  

Get out a large casserole dish.  Spray it with non-stick spray, and cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce.  I stack my layers like this: a layer of meat sauce, a layer of cheese sauce, a fine sprinkling of shredded cheese, another layer of noodles.  Repeat until it weighs at least 12lbs.  Cover the top layer of noodles with a light layer of tomato sauce and top with shredded cheese.  I should have told you to preheat the oven to 400º, so make sure you've done that, and cook this puppy for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and crackly.  Serve as soon as you can eat it without burning your mouth.  
Tofu Mac & Cheese
I mentioned this one earlier in the week.  I had really never made mac & cheese until a few months ago, and it makes me itchy to not have a big protein in my dinner.  But it's a delicious comfort meal for rainy nights in October, and it also reheats pretty well.

1 box of noodles
3-4 tbsp of butter
A few splashes of milk
A container of soft or smoothie-friendly tofu
Cheese of your choice
Garlic powder 
Cayenne pepper (yes, these two ingredients go in everything)
Salt & pepper

Put on water to boil.  Start melting the butter in a large sauce pan.  Add milk gradually while stirring.  Once these have turned into a sauce, add the tofu.  Break it up with a whisk for a minute, and then dump it into a blender and liquify it for a few minutes.  Put it back in the saucepan and start adding cheese.  I've made this with just about every kind of cheese and you just can't go wrong.  This week I made it with cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella and some leftover mixed-shredded from taco night.  

Your water is probably boiling by now, put the noodles in.  Cook those noodles about 2 minutes less than what it says on the side of the box.  Strain the water out and then pour them into the saucepan.  Stir everything together and then put it in a greased casserole pan (I use my 9x9 for this) and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.  Your oven should still be preheated at 400º from the lasagna so just slide it on in.  Cook until your house smells like hot cheese in every room.  Feel vindicated about the amount of protein you are devouring (don't think about the fat or carbs).  
My chili is different every time I cook it, but the foundation of it is pretty simple.  This is the most common way I make it.

1 can light kidney beans
1 can dark kidney beans
1 can white beans
1 large can (32oz) crushed tomatoes
1 small can whole tomatoes
1 package of ground turkey (99% lean, bitches!)
1 onion
1 beer (pick the one in your fridge that no one wants to drink)
Garlic cloves/powder
Chili powder
Cayenne powder
Salt & pepper

Brown turkey over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Chop onion and garlic and toss it in.  Stir occasionally until meat is browned, adding spices to taste.  Put all beans and tomatoes in a large stew pot over low heat.  Add meat mixture and beer and any other ingredients you may have forgotten and increase heat until it is bubbling, then lower the heat and let it simmer for an hour or so.  Serve with cheese on top and some kind of crunch - I'm currently in love with the multigrain tortilla chips but saltines and crackers all work well.  

Some other recipe favorites:
Pizza with homemade crust
Mexican casserole
Beer bread and cranberry bread
A cracked skull

Have a great weekend, everyone!  I'll be out riding my bicycle and nothing could make me happier.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

three things thursday

1. Good morning, everyone!  I got back on the bike this morning for the second time since the race and I'm just so happy about it.  It was sunny, windy, chilly, and fabulous, and I got to catch up on 45 minutes of chit-chat with my bicycle partner in crime.  I also managed to take our picture without crashing:
How cute are we?  Yes, I only remembered to bring one eyeball with me.  I love fall riding.  Actually, I love all riding.  It just makes me happy.  I think I need want a new helmet though, a sexy red/white/black one to match all the rest of my cycling stuffs.

2. I bought a pair of Asics last week and have run in them a few times now, and they are damn near perfect.  Which leads me to ask...why did I even switch away from them in the first place?  No idea, stop asking stupid questions.  I'm going to keep switching them out with the Ravenna in hopes that I can move into a lighter stability shoe, but my legs are real happy about the 2160.  They are less than thrilled about the return to speed work.  Hush, legs, I'm being careful, I promise it will be okay.

3. Disclaimer: I have a lot of theories about things, and I'm usually wrong.  However, in thinking about my half marathon training last spring, I've come up with a theory.  I was running 4 days a week: interval workout, tempo workout, long run, recovery run.  That meant that the ratio of easy:hard weekly mileage was something like 4:25 (I count the long run as a "hard" workout because a) it is and 2) I was doing start-slow-finish-fast long runs, so I would start around a 10-minute-pace and drop to high 7s).  This means I really only had one "easy" run per week - which for some people, might be fine, but I'm starting to think wasn't right for me.  I think that I would have actually done myself a favor by adding a fifth day of very easy running in that cycle - maybe 4-5 miles at a recovery pace.  

All this means is for the next few weeks, I've decided that I'm only going to do one track workout a week - tempo was recommended by the brain trust so tempo is what I will do - and will make the rest of my weekly miles very easy.  I will split those miles into four days instead of three so I won't really increase my weekly mileage, just spread it out differently.  (Side note: I've been running four days a week consistently for three months now, so this isn't a huge stretch.)  I know that I won't bounce back into my fast as quickly as if I had two speed workouts a week, but I'm hoping that having more easy miles and shorter runs will make my body happy, and I think it's the right thing to do for right now.  It's all a process.  

What do you think?  I should be a scientist?  I have no idea what I'm talking about?  I really don't need a new helmet?  Let me have it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

random wordless wednesday

Also, I got my hair done for the first time in 11 months, but am a huge failure at taking a self portrait.

And I've got a big recipe post coming up, but here's a sneak peek...
It has secret protein in it.  Other than the 3 handfuls of cheese!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

where did all my fast go?

I went back to track this morning for the first time since....July?  At least?  But the last time I was consistently doing track workouts was March, so it's been a long time.  I wasn't sure whether or not I would want to talk about this in detail but now that I've been through it and seen the carnage, I think that it's important to only so that in a few weeks/months I can feel a bit better about the progress that I hope to make (and quickly!!).

I've spent the past few months rebuilding my running base, but my "easy" pace has gotten slower and slower.  I've done almost no speed work at all, and while I have come to a bit of an understanding with how HR training works and that it is a process, I also think that my zones weren't set up properly 2 months ago when I started down this road.  Because of that, I think I've been doing all of my interval work far more slowly than I should have been - 3x8 minute Z4a intervals should not be a 9:40 pace, as far as I'm concerned - and while I don't think this did any lasting damage, and possibly even helped me rebuild a stronger base, I definitely have lost all the speedy pep in my running step.  

Since this was my first workout back, I wanted to avoid pissing off my body as much as possible and talked to George before the workout about how to handle it.  The workout was 1x1600, 1x1200, 1x800, 1-3x400.  He suggested skipping the mile and just starting on the 1200, and to dial it back down to about 10K race pace.  I don't know exactly what that is for me right now, but I guessed it would be somewhere in the 8:20-8:35 range.  

I was surprised how good it felt to blow out of the gate for the 1200 and finally run FAST again.  I was also surprised how quickly my heart tried to explode out of my chest and I wanted to stop.  It was dark at the track and I didn't have my screens set up properly for intervals, but I figured it's better to just go off effort anyway, since I knew I was going to be annoyed no matter what.  The 1200 felt a tiny bit on the easy side.  The 800 felt good although I was horrified at the time when I stopped, and the 400s felt like I was finally starting to figure out how to push again.  I think that part of what I have to relearn here is not exactly how to pace myself, but how to go into that place where it hurts just a little because it's hard.  Spending 3 months running very easy makes it tough to remember exactly how and when to push and pull back.  So, here's the carnage (this makes me cringe, thank you).  (Also, general Garmin PSA: the pace is horseshit because of the way GPS works but I lap the interval - i.e. pay attention to the number on the left, ignore the one on the right).
Oof.  I don't have an exact replica of this workout from last spring, but it looks like we did a similar step-down (1x1600, 1x1200, 1x800, 1x400) the first time I went to the track in my training cycle for the National Half.
Yeah.  Like I said.  Carnage.  Right now I'm running about 10 seconds/400 slower off where I started last season.  Granted, I was taking it slightly easy this morning, but my effort on the 400s felt pretty hard.  The good news is that everything feels pretty okay after this workout.  My right adductor was tight after the last 400 (probably because my form went all to hell on those) and my right hip flexor is a bit tight, but in general things feel much better than I would expect.  So I've got some work to do here, but I'm happy and excited to be jumping right in.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Acumen Race for a Cause 8K: race report

This "doing another race the week after a half Ironman with a giant hangover" thing is starting to be a pretty cool trend, I think.  Too bad I couldn't follow this one up with a week in paradise.
Last week this girl hit me up to join her at a Sunday-morning 8K as part of some crazy "race every single day" plan she has going on this month.  This race actually lined up nicely with the "45 minutes easy run" I had on my schedule.  After doing my first extremely creaky recovery run on Thursday morning, I decided that the very nice race tee-shirt was worth my very inexpensive race fee, but warned her that I would be rocking a pretty serious 10 minute-mile recovery pace and that if she ate all the finish line bagels before I got there, our friendship might be over.
This was also going to be my first 8K race.  I have a problem with racing 8Ks because it's about 13 (or 45) seconds short of a 5 miler.  Why can't we just race the full 5 miles?  I live in Virginia, not Canada, and have been raging a quiet and very personal boycott of the 8K for my entire racing life.  But "brunch after, with mimosas" was enough for me to change my life-long convictions, so I spent Saturday preparing for the race just like I would prepare for any race.  Eating a correct balance of carbohydrates and protein....
Relaxing with friends and making sure to stay off my feet.

I slept like a rock on Saturday night but woke up Sunday morning to discover that someone had rudely inflated my brain to about four times its normal size.  Sadly, my race buddy hurt her foot on Saturday and couldn't make it to the race, but it was pretty easy to convince Beth to join me for the ghost of our Sunday-morning-gossipy-recovery-run.  I showed up at the race early enough to park, get my bib, and stop in the porta-potty on the way to the start line to let loose some of the 9 gallons of water I had slugged since I woke up.  Huge fail.  Who puts down the seat on a porta potty?

We lined up and went, noticing that everyone around us had dressed for an Arctic marathon instead of a sunny and chilly morning in Virginia.  Tights and fleece?  It was 60º out, or maybe my blood thickened by dehydration was keeping me warmer than everyone else.  The race itself was nice, an out-and-back with only a slight hill on the way back that lent very well towards catching up on everything that had happened in the 36 hours since we last hung out.  I felt creaky and headachey for the first 3 miles or so, but then my legs loosened up a bit just in time for my hangover to wake up.  We made sure to negative-split the race by cranking out a 9:17 last mile - yeah, sick, I know, we were really flying - and as we rounded the corner to the finish, I saw a guy with a stroller sneak up on our left.  In honor of the poet, who was out running his first 20-miler and HATES to get stroller'd in the last few feet of the race, I lunged around him and towards the finish line with all the grace of a stampeding elephant and he WENT WITH ME.  Ughhh.  I held my roughly 6-minute-mile pace for all of 15 seconds only to collapse on the other side of the finish line, pausing just briefly enough to remove my timing chip before staggering over towards the porta-potties (lid up this time).
I was pleased to note that I followed my race plan to a T: 50:04, and negative-split the back half by more than 5 seconds.  Another item now filed in the "easiest PR to beat ever" column.  How was your weekend?

Friday, October 14, 2011

graham is two!

Dear Graham, 

I feel like you just turned one!

Probably the best thing to happen to you this year was having all your hair grow back.
Sorry about that.

You've had a pretty busy year.  We brought home Molly, and you were so curious about that wiggly barking monster that went rampaging through your quiet life.
But you were patient and let her steal your toys, and you guys are great friends.  
You love to wrestle and chew on each other's ears.
But your favorite thing to do, above all else, is go outside.
And play.
No matter where you are, if someone says "outside," you are instantly at the back door.  You like to remind us where it is (in case we forget).
Your best friend is Nigel.
You still hate swimming at the dog park, but you'll go in after Molly every once in a while.
You ran your first 5K this year, and then PR'd a few times.
You love running with your dad.
You keep your mom company all day at work.
Your dad loves giving you a peanut butter noozel.
Like I tell you all the time, I love Molly almost as much as I love you.
Happy Birthday, baby Graham.  Bringing you home changed my whole life.  
The Mamas