Monthly Archives: September 2010

Meteorological fantasies

Here’s a fact I’ve begun to accept about myself: I like to complain about the weather.

For most of the summer, it was too hot.  Now, it’s finally cooled down, but it’s too rainy and too humid.  And although I’ll try to deny this and declare my love for cold-weather running, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find me grumbling too cold, too icy, too windy, and/or too snowy at some point during the winter.

Today, I complained.  See?

All day, I whined internally while procrastinating my run.  I tried telling myself I should be glad that at least it wasn’t 90*.  But, nope.  Too rainyStill not impressed, weather.

Here’s another fact:  I get a kick out of those international weather listings on the back page of the front section of USA Today.  Whenever we travel and get a copy plopped at our hotel room door, I become immediately engrossed in the weather section and proceed to call out tidbits to the hubs (“It’s 68 and raining in Milwaukee! 92 and sunny in Abu Dhabi!”) while he pretends not to hear me.

Right.  I am a weather nerd.

So. What would perfect weather look like? Easy: 55 and sunny.  Or if not sunny, at least dry.  That’s my ideal running weather.  The very definition of not-hot but not-cold.  Shorts and a tank-top comfortable.

I poked around to see where in the world I might go, at the moment, to find this blissful fantasy weather.  Hmm, could I live in any of these places?

(All data weather data is from USA Today’s Friday forecasts.  Pictures as cited.)

1. Buenos Aries, Argentina – High 59*, Low 44*, Partly Sunny

(source)

From Lonely Planet: “Mix together a beautiful European-like city with attractive residents, gourmet cuisine, awesome shopping, a frenzied nightlife and top-drawer activities, and you get Buenos Aires, a cosmopolitan metropolis with both slick neighborhoods and equally downtrodden areas – but that’s part of the appeal.”

Could I live there? I’ve never been to BA, but from what I’ve heard – yes, I could definitely live there.  However, I’d be thirty pounds heavier from a constant diet of amazing steak and red wine and thus less able to run, so the weather ideal would be sort of lost on me.

2. Wellington, New Zealand – High 58*, Low 48*, Fair

(source)

From Lonely Planet: “Hemmed in by hillsides around a magnificent harbour, Wellington is NZ’s capital. Given the relatively small population, there’s an astounding number of quality restaurants, cafés, bars, galleries, shops and theatres here. Timber Victorian houses terrace up steep valleys from the waterfront in an almost San Franciscan manner.”

Could I live there? Sold. When’s the next flight?

3. Helsinki, Finland – High 54*, Low 45*, Sunny

(source)

From Lonely Planet: “Helsinki is cool without – as yet – being self-consciously so. Unlike other capitals, you sense that people go to places because they enjoy them, not to be seen. Much modern décor is ironic and humorous.”

Could I live there? Well, I am also “cool without – as yet – being self-consciously so.”  Right?  (Seriously, what does that even mean?  Lonely Planet, call me. I can do yer guidebooks better.  Thx.)

But really….no, I couldn’t live there.  I don’t mind snow but I don’t think I could deal with Finland winters.

4. Ulan Bator, Mongolia – High 58*, Low 31*, Sunny

(source)

From Lonely Planet: “An enormous city of pulsating commerce, heavy traffic, sinful nightlife and bohemian counter-culture, the Mongolian capital stirs as much shock as it does excitement. UB is a cauldron of concrete and dirt. New buildings are thrown up on any available patch of ground, while Humvees battle Landcruisers and yellow taxis for right of way on pot-holed boulevards.”

Could I live there? Um, yeah…NO.  I don’t want to live in a “cauldron” of anything.  Manic drivers in giant SUVs?  That sounds like the worst place to run ever.  I would love to visit though!  (Really…the hubs and I have talked about doing a Mongolia trip at some point, mostly for the awesome trekking, but I’m sure we’d stop in the city too.)

5. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – High 54*, Low 37*, Sunny

(source)

From Lonely Planet: “A crop of concrete and glass pops out of the prairies in an area fertile with history and culture. Winnipeg’s isolation, self-sufficiency and outside ignorance have allowed it to evolve into one of Canada’s honest and composed metropolitan cities that can handle being the butt of the Simpsons gag, ‘That’s it! We’re all going back to Winnipeg!’”

Could I live there? Probably.  The interior of Canada has seems mysteriously charming to me.  As in, I feel like Laura Ingalls and her Pa might still be up there today…dragging their wagon across the prairie and igniting pioneer fantasies in my childhood heart.  But anyway.  I could, but I probably wouldn’t. Because those Ingalls chicks had to use outhouses, yo.

One final weather-related fact. At this point, I am refusing to check the forecast for October 1o in Chicago.  If there is one thing that is totally out of my control for this race, it’s the weather. My stalking it over the next ten days is NOT going to change it.  So I’ll check it when I’m packing next Friday morning and deal with it then.

Happy almost-weekend. :)

Today’s EAT: Again I dine alone.  Woe is me.  (Yes, the hubs is still in the picture.  He’s just logging some late hours at the office this week.)

I knew I should have a somewhat healthy, balanced meal instead of eating ice cream for dinner.  Enter: Pork Nacho Salad.

This was so easy and really delicious. I’m not sure why I’ve never put salad on nachos before because it’s a genius combination.  The key, I think, is to toss the salad with the dressing before hand so it sticks to the lettuce.  But…wow.  I’ll definitely be making salad-topped nachos of various varieties again!

Sound good?  Try it for yourself, or make your own variation.  And let me know how it turns out!

Today’s DRINK: I’ve been sipping in a glass of red while cooking and blogging this evening:

Artezin (ha – get it?) Zinfandel.  Not horrible, but nothing special either.  It was very dry.  I don’t like red wines that leave me thirsty.

Today’s RUN: In spite of my weather-related whining, I dragged myself out for five easy miles.  The taper continues!

Today’s QUESTION: If you had to move abroad, where would you move? I have no intention of expatriating any time soon, but it’s a fun question that I think about often!  I’d love to live in Ireland or Scotland!

Table for one

So, this girl walks in to a bar.

It’s a dreadful evening, weather-wise, and the corner pub has been transformed by the rain.  Gone are the throngs of twenty-somethings, with their ubiquitous vodka-sodas and tipsy chatter.  Instead, a few damp jackets dry out on chair backs as their owners occupy the stools around the small square bar.

“Is this seat taken?” I claim an empty stool next to a lone guy with a business-traveler look to him.  Everyone around the bar is sipping beer, chatting quietly, nibbling from plates of food.  The place feels like a communal dinner table.  I’m kind of digging it.

Within moments I have a pint of Magic Hat Oktoberfest in front of me.  I pull my John Irving paperback out of my bag and settle my elbows on the counter.  The quiet din of conversation is a lovely backdrop for some light reading.

My black bean burger and french fries arrive; I set the paperback face down and reach along the bar for the ketchup bottle.  Business-traveler guy smiles and hands it to me.

“What are you reading?”

I smile hesitantly.  On one hand, I’m not opposed to a little friendly chat with a stranger.  But on the other, I kind of just want to enjoy my dinner and my book.

This is always a tricky thing to navigate when dining solo.  Back in the real-job days, I traveled frequently and often found myself eating dinner alone at the hotel bar.  And in my experience?  Interactions with strangers are most often surprisingly pleasant. You never know when someone has a funny or touching story to tell.  I’ve learned a lot from the stranger on the next stool over.

But there’s always a small chance of disaster.  As in: you’ve committed yourself to a two-hour lecture on the evils of television media from a certifiable lunatic.  As in: you’re about to hear an lengthy tale from a (very drunk) older woman about her sex life.  As in: you unknowingly sat next to a powder keg of bat-shit-crazy, and your kind hello lit the fuse.  In which case: congratulations, your dinner has been ruined.

Really, it’s not unlike chatting up the person next to you on a long flight.  Odds are good that they’re perfectly normal and will provide a few minutes of pleasant conversation during take-off and landing.  But there’s also the small chance that the next four hours of your life are going to be miserable.

It’s a calculated risk, engaging with strangers.

I give business-traveler another once over and decide to bite.  I smile and explain, in a couple of sentences, the plot of the book.  (Which is no easy feat, by the way, for an Irving novel.)

He nods politely.  I can tell he’s not a consumer of epic fiction: he was just trying to start a conversation.

We chat amiably for a few minutes.  I find out that he is indeed an out-of-towner: Florida is home.  We discuss hurricanes and LeBron James.  At some point, the conversation drifts off to a natural conclusion and I return to Irving.

That was nice, I think to myself.

I finish my beer at a leisurely pace and ask for the check.  Business-traveler does the same.  He pays cash for his and stands to leave.  We exchange it-was-nice-to-meet-yous and take-cares; he retrieves his sport coat from one of the chair backs and heads out into the rainy night.

There’s a bit of a social stigma about dining alone.  But once in a while I rather enjoy it.  If executed with skill and a little luck, it’s just the right amount of social interaction.  It’s not a dinner date with friends – something that would require changing out of my pajamas and putting effort in to actual conversation.   But it’s not eating alone on the couch, either.  It’s in between.

As someone who often goes all day without talking to another person, it’s nice to get out of my apartment and eat with other people – even if we’re all on our own bar stools with our own novels.  Which is not to say that I don’t love sharing meals with the hubs or with friends – I absolutely do!  But sometimes a few pleasantries with a stranger and a good book are all I need.

I linger for a few minutes, avoiding the inevitable walk back to my apartment.  It’s still pouring and the bar is cozy.  I secretly wish it could be so intimate and friendly all of the time.  But as soon as the skies dry, the droves of downtown workers, happy-hour revelers, and pre-partying clubbers will return.  Those bar stools, so inviting and easy to come by tonight, will be a precious commodity.  I feel a little jealous.  This is my neighborhood.  I want it to be my bar.  I don’t want to share it.

The bartender passes by and asks if I want another beer.  Tempting – very tempting – but no, thanks.

“Hey, so how are you liking the neighborhood so far?” she asks.

“You remember me?” I’d only eaten there once before.

“Of course!  You just moved in to the building next door, right?”

I smile and nod, and tell her that I’m liking it quite a bit.  I pull on my hoodie and prepare to brave the rain.

“Well, see ya soon!” she calls cheerfully.

Maybe it can be my bar after all.

And I might even be willing to share it with actual dining companions.  Sometimes.

Go FAQ yourself

Happy Tuesday!  I am blatantly stealing the idea for this post from the venerable Runner’s Kitchen.  Here is a smattering of questions I have been asked by bloggers, readers, and other assorted people over the last few months, along with (mostly) honest answers.

When did you start running? Cross-country season of my freshman year of high school.  I was thirteen when I attended my first pre-season practice.  I wore mens’ boxers from The Gap, tube socks and a pair of Vans.  Thankfully my attire has evolved in the ensuing seventeen years, but I’ve been running pretty much nonstop ever since!

How many marathons have you run?  Which one was your favorite? I’m counting eight, although I feel like there should be nine: Providence, Phoenix, Vegas, Seattle, Cleveland, Tampa,/Gasparilla, Marine Corps, NYC.  NYC is hands-down my favorite so far!  (As I noted in that race report, it’s the only marathon I’ve run to date that I would gladly do a second time.)

Do you have a goal for Chicago? Yep.  I want to come in under 3:30.  Failing that, I’m hoping to smash my PR (3:42) and of course qualify for Boston.  Although I’ve run many marathons, I’ve never really trained for one as I have over the last few months.  Eight-minute pace feels far more comfy than it has in years, so we’ll see.

What’s your favorite distance to race? 5K.  I love them.  And recovery is quick, so you can do one every weekend if you want to.  I keep telling myself that I want to put the whole marathon thing to bed for a while and focus on shorter stuff.  And then I sign up for another marathon.  Sigh.

What do you eat/drink before/during a long run? I would call myself a moderate believer in the Washington Ran Here Approach to Running Fueling.  I don’t typically bring food or water on runs under two hours long (~14 miles).  For a twenty-plus-miler, I’ll eat one or two Gus and take in about 20-40 oz of fluid, depending on the weather.  I guess that makes me a bit of a minimalist by today’s standards.  But I try to listen to my body and not to take it if I don’t truly need it.  It takes practice to get there though.  Running is hard, and it’s tricky to distinguish between a genuine need for calories/electrolytes and general discomfort or boredom.

Before heading out for a long one, I usually slam down a bar of some sort (Larabar, Kind Bar, Balance Bar) along with some water and coffee.

Where are you from?  It seems like you’ve moved around a lot. True dat.  We have indeed moved around a lot.

I grew up in Washington State and lived there until I went to college.  In the twelve years since, I’ve lived in SoCal/LA, Cleveland, Boston, New York and now Raleigh.  It’s been quite a circuit.

Most of the moves have in one way or another involved the hubs’ professional or educational needs.  It’s been a wild ride and I’ve loved living all over the country, but I am definitely ready to settle down for a few years.  And all the moving has left me with some career malaise and general confusion about my path in life.  Which brings us to…

What do you actually do all day? This is really a great question.  Sometimes I wonder the same thing.

Up until a couple of years ago, I had a normal-person job and went to an office every day.  I liked the work and the people I worked with, but when we moved to NYC in the summer of 2009, I decided that ultimately I didn’t want to be on that path.  So I decided to become a “freelance writer.”

In case you didn’t know: the “free” part stands for “working for free.”  At least according to my tax return.

But I scraped together some odds and ends: an article here, a consulting project there.  It kept me marginally busy and I generated a microscopic amount of income.  After a few months I also picked up a part-time gig at a local running store in NYC, which I loved.  (And am actively seeking something similar here in Raleigh…heeeeey, running stores!  Hire meeee!)

So that’s what I do.  At the moment I am working on a couple of writing projects that I’m pretty excited about – but we’ll see how things flush out.  As a practical matter, I spend 90% of my time in either running shorts or yoga pants and I converse with my cats regularly.  It’s a pretty sexy lifestyle.

Do you feed your cats steroids? They’re enormous. Well….yeah, they’re not small.  Emmy is 15 pounds and Parker is pushing 20.

I don’t feed them that much.  Really, I don’t.  They get a high quality canned cat food (Wellness) and I administer less than the recommended daily amount.  They’re just big.  But the vet says they’re healthy in spite of their girth so I’m not too worried about it.

Do you really drink a bottle of wine every night? Yes, but not by myself!  The hubs and I typically open and split a bottle of wine with dinner or while watching TV.  That works out to about 2 generous glasses each.  If I’m not a huge fan of the wine, I usually stop at one.  We chuck the remainder (or use it for cooking, or save it for another night when we’re feeling less picky).

Sometimes I’m in a beer mood and have a couple of beers instead.  I go in phases on the wine-versus-beer thing.

But yes, we generally have a drink or two in the evening.  Call it a vice, but I’m not really a huge sweets person so I think of my wine/beer as a dessert equivalent.

Do you really only wash your hair twice a week? Yes!  Well, sometimes three times.  But I only wash every second or third day.  Yes, even in the summer humidity.  Yes, even when I sweat all over myself.  Washing your hair daily is a pain in the ass.

I want to run a marathon!  Where should I start? Well, honestly first I would start by asking yourself: are you sure? Like daily hair washing, marathon training is a pain in the ass.  Expect….moreso.  Way moreso.  Seriously, it’s a pretty big time commitment.  And there is nothing wrong with shorter races!  5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons are all great distances to race.  (And I truly believe that a well-executed 5K is every bit as challenging as a marathon, albeit in a totally different way.)

But okay, you really do want to do 26.2.  First, you need a decent base.  Can you easily run five miles?  Are you logging 20 miles a week consistently?  In my (completely unqualified, but plenty experienced) opinion, that is where you need to be to think about a marathon.

If you have a good base, seek out a training plan: Hal Hidgon’s plans are popular.  Runner’s World also has a great tool called Smartcoach which will customize a plan for you based on several inputs about your experience and goals.  Then: stick to the plan.  Well, mostly.  I never follow training plans to a T.  But if you pay attention to only two things each week, look at the total weekly distance and the long run.  Follow the weekly mileage guideline (don’t increase more than 10% each week!) and get the long run in (no, you cannot split it up) and you’ll be fine.

And if possible: find people to run with.  Seriously.  And this is a lesson I’ve learned myself, in a big way, over the last year.  Running with other people is a lot more fun than running alone.  Join a club, ask your local running store about meet-ups, post a note on your gym’s bulletin board.  I know it can be intimidating, but it’s worth it.  Trust me.

How much time do you spend blogging every day? Way too much.  And this post is getting way too long.  So I’m gonna call it a night.

Got a question?  Feel free to email me: eatdrinkrun [at] gmail [dot] com.

Today’s EAT: Tonight was a throw-it-in-a-skillet dinner:

Shrimp, sugar-snap peas, rice noodles, scallions, scrambled egg, cashews.  Soy sauce, sriracha, brown sugar.  All good stuff, but…it was just okay.  Good considering its halfhearted preparation.  But it could have used a little more flavor.

Today’s DRINK: I’m not on the OMG PUMPKIN bandwagon (seriously – I like it too, but isn’t it just another squash?  Can someone please explain the pumpkin craze to me?) but one fall food that I do get stoked about?  Cider.

And if it has some ABV, so much the better.  This JK’s Scrumpy (awesome name!) Hard Cider was perfect – earthy, delightfully cloudy, not too sweet.   At 6% ABV, it’s not a lightweight cider, but not ridiculous either.  Thoroughly enjoyable on the first truly cool evening (rejoice!) of the year.

And what a sunset to have as a backdrop for a good cider.  I love having a balcony and a view.

Today’s RUN: A short track set: 9X400M with 200M recovery.  I was positively giddy about this workout.  One thing that I really enjoy about tapering is workouts like this: you get to open up a bit on fresh legs and finish workouts feeling like you have a full tank of gas left.  Doing light speedwork while in taper mode is a huge confidence builder!

After a 3-mile warm up, splits looked like this: 91, 88, 96, 91, 95, 92, 95, 91, 92.  If only low-six pace could always feel so….bouncy!

I tacked on a 1.5-mile cool down for a total of ~8 today.  A solid workout and a fun one, to boot.  Seriously, it’s days like this that make those long weeks of mileage worth it.

Today’s QUESTION: FAQ you! Share something random about yourself!

September playlist: guilty pleasures

“Hey, can I borrow your iPod?”

It’s a question that has the power to ignite fear in the bravest of hearts.

Why?  Because of course there is crap on your iPod.  Crap that would mortify you if the borrowing party stumbled upon it.

So perhaps you respond: “Sure, of course.  Hey, let me just show you which playlists are – ”

“Nah, it’s cool, I can just put it on shuffle.”

Shuffle.  Dear God.

You’d better be prepared to explain what Justin Bieber is doing in there, along with Britney-circa-1999, and a few choice selections from Taylor Swift’s Christmas album.  Because the iPod Anxiety Effect is no joke, y’all.

But I can own up to the crap on my iPod.  At least, some of it – the portion that I use for running, anyway.  So here is my Guilty Pleasures Running Playlist:

May I (attempt to) explain?

1. Girlfriend (Featuring Lil’ Mama) – Avril Lavigne: I think Avril Lavigne is a pretentious twat, for the most part.  But this remix has an awesome beat for running. [Listen]

2. Rehab (remix) feat. Jay-Z – Amy Winehouse: Amy Winehouse is a nutcase for sure, but this mix with Jay-Z is high-energy and fun. [Listen]

3. Fighter – Christina Aguilera: All anger.  Great for kicking ass on a run. [Listen]

4. Love in this Club (feat. Young Jeezy) – Usher: I really…I don’t know, it reminds me of an old Bone Thugs track or something?  The lyrics are about as stupid as you can get, but for some reason I love this song. [Listen]

5. I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) – Pitbull: Okay, I’ll be honest.  I love Pitbull.  At the wedding I went to in South America earlier this month, I (apparently) repeatedly pleaded with the DJ to play “more Pitbull.” [Listen]

6. These Boots are Made for Walkin’ – Jessica Simpson: I know.  JESSICA. SIMPSON.  It’s shameful.  I really have no reasonable explanation for this one. [Listen]

7. Low (feat. T-Pain) – Flo Rida: Who didn’t have the boots with the furrrrrr a couple of years ago?  I’ve since ditched the boots but I still love the song. [Listen]

8. Take it Off – Ke$ha: I totally think less of myself for liking this song.  It’s about glitter on the floor of a shady strip/sex club…right?  Gross.  And yet somehow….YES. [Listen]

9. Crank That (Soulja Boy) (Travis Barker Remix) – Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em: I know what you are thinking.  Soulja Boy and Travis Barker in the same song?  A double dose of douche?  But this remix is freaking AWESOME and has carried me through many hard workouts. [Listen]

10. Bossy (feat. Too Short) – Kelis: This song is so much better than that stupid Milkshake song.  Favorite line: “I’m the bitch y’all love to hate.”  Yeahhhh, haters. [Listen]

11. See You Again (Rock Mafia Remix) – Miley Cyrus: Oh hai, Miley.  Guess what?  I kind of secretly love you.  Because – bonus confession! – this is not the only Miley Cyrus song in my iTunes library. [Listen]

12. Picture to Burn – Taylor Swift: Aside from the fact that she’s starting to look like a tranny (less eye makeup, Taylor!) I think Taylor Swift is kind of okay.  This song is angry in a cute way and fun for fast tempo stuff. [Listen]

13. Thong Song – Sisqo: This one is thanks to Mr. Shue and his dance moves.  I mean…I liked the song when it came out back in the day, but it has a whole new meaning for me now. :) [Listen]

14. Stronger – Britney Spears: Oh, Brit-Brit.  Remember when you were fierce?  I miss Fierce Britney. [Listen]

15. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson: I don’t think that Kelly Clarkson is all that special.  Like…she’s just another one of those chick singers that came out of that circa-2004 timeframe.  But this song’s driving beat makes is a favorite for running! [Listen]

Whew.  I feel better with that off my chest.

Today’s EAT: Speaking of guilty pleasures…

Strawberries.  Nutella.  Vanilla Ice Cream.  Dinner.  It happens sometimes.

Today’s DRINK: I’ve had a few people ask me whether I “give up drinking” pre-marathon.

Umm….no.

But I do try to be reasonable.

If I’m having ice cream for dinner, I don’t need to wash it down with wine.  Water will do tonight.

Today’s RUN: It poured allllll day today.  I was not looking forward to Monday night running club.  And so I decided to whine about it all over the internet.

As with all important life decisions, I consulted Twitter.  And of course, the consensus was unanimous: I should nut up and go run in the rain.

And so I did.  And it was nice.  5 miles at an unknown pace – they felt like eight-minute miles or so, but who knows.  Not having a functioning watch is kind of annoying.

Today’s QUESTION: I am dying to know…if I got into your iPod/computer/CD collection, what’s the most embarrassing song I’d find?  I spilled mine.  Now you spill yours.  Lurky-loos, too.  :)

I heart yuzu

What’s spicy, green and comes in a slightly shady-looking bottle?

Yuzu paste.  Yuzu is a rather obscure Japanese citrus fruit.  When its peel is ground up and mixed with chillies, it makes a delightful condiment that is equal parts sweet, sour and spicy.

I’ve never seen it in a store, but I’m sure if you go to the right sort of Asian market in an urban area, it’s there.  You’d have to know what you’re looking for, though.  There’s no English anywhere on the package.

Back in our LA days, one of our favorite restaurants used to make a ridiculous Yuzu Chicken.  So a few weeks ago, at a tiny Japanese cafe in NYC, the hubs was thrilled when he spotted a little bottle of murky green paste on the table:

“Do you know what this looks like?  Yuzu!”  He stuck a pinky in, smelled it, tasted it. “YES!  We have to take this – will it fit in your purse?”

Classy, we are.

Of course we didn’t steal the bottle – because the restaurant gave us a brand new one to take home!  It was carefully transported to Raleigh during the move and, tonight, cracked open for the first time.

Yuzu Chicken, homemade version:

Almost as ridiculous as the restaurant version. :)

(True story: I have no idea how to carve a chicken/turkey/etc.  I usually poke at it with a fork and knife for a while and then end up deconstructing it with my fingers.  If you’re ever at my house for Thanksgiving dinner, pretend you never read this.)

Anyway.  Yuzu.  Good stuff.  Can’t wait to see what else I can do with it.  Anyone have any ideas?

Today’s EAT: I have trouble coming up with sides for Asian dishes.  Rice?  Noodles?  Yawn.

But a couple of potatoes and a carrot that needed to be used up provided inspiration:

Ginger Carrot Potato Hash.  I just grated up the potato and carrot, tossed it with a beaten egg and some garlic and ginger, dumped the whole mess in a skillet and fried it up.  Yum.

As usual, I filled my plate half with salad greens (tossed in seasoned rice vinegar with a few cashews) before loading on the chicken and taters.

All together, a delicious twist on a classic Sunday chicken dinner!

Today’s DRINK: What sort of wine goes well with a yuzu-tastic dinner?  Sake?

Well, we didn’t have any sake.  So this Nobilo Sauv Blanc had to stand in.

I wasn’t blown away by it, but the light, fruity wine complimented the spicy citrus flavor of the chicken nicely.

Today’s RUN: Nothing fancy today: 5 very mellow miles.  Total for the week?  Right around 46, including one track workout, a tempo run (which I don’t think I ever blogged about – but it wasn’t anything special) and a 15.5-mile long run.  Not bad for week one of taper!

Goal for this week: 35 miles, including a couple of short but high-quality speed sessions.  Long run this weekend will be <10.

Also, it looks like I’ll be running in bike shorts all week to protect my tender inner thighs.  I failed to use any sort of anti-chafing substance on Saturday’s long run.  FAIL.

Today’s QUESTION: Have you ever had yuzu?  What’s the most exotic thing you’ve cooked or eaten lately?

Saturday PSA

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Saturday for a very important message.

If you have one of these:

And you decide to wash it out before your long run…

make sure you rinse all of the soap out.

Unless you want to start a little party in here:

…in which case, carry on, my friend.  But I hope you’ve hired help to clean up after the festivities.

XOXO,

Shelby

P.S. I was fortunate enough to only take one gulp of soapy Gatorade on my run this morning.  Therefore, major disaster was averted: after some foreboding gurgling, things calmed down and I felt fine.  But I’ve been down that road before and I know it ain’t pretty.  Also, yes, running is gross sometimes.  Sorry.

Today’s EAT: AM Edition!

Eggs, bacon and sweet potato pancakes. Holy crap, I have a new favorite breakfast food!

Does that pancake count as a serving of veggies?  According to Bruce, it does indeed!

Honestly, they could be made of arsenic and asbestos and I’d probably eat them again.  They were that good.  I’m sure there are healthier ways to make a sweet potato pancake from scratch, but these are hands-down the best pancakes I’ve ever had from a mix.  If you see Bruce on your grocery shelf, snatch him up.  You won’t be sorry!

Today’s DRINK: Coffeeeeee:

Coffee and I have a fickle relationship.  I go thorough phases where I drink it black, with fixins, or not at all.  Right now, I’m in the midst of a love affair with milk (whole milk!) and sugar.  Mmm….it’s like a dessert, but socially acceptable to consume first thing in the morning.  Win.

Later today, I’m planning to drag the hubs to the Boylan Bridge Brewpub for some patio beers.  Because if summertime insists on sticking around (*shakes fist at 90-degree weather*) then I’m gonna party like it’s summertime!

Today’s RUN: I was out the door early and headed Umstead today.  Even though I’ve got a Taperworm -I’ve still gotta do a long run!  Today was a “short” long run though – around 15.5 – most of which I ran with my new Bromar TC friends.

We kept the pace mellow.  For one thing, the temperature on the car dashboard as I pulled out of the garage at 6:15 AM, before sunrise was 72 degrees.  I cried a little.

Also, those Umstead hills?  They haven’t shrunk at all, unfortunately.  And I don’t see any need to push the pace on a hot, hilly run, especially when I’m in taper-mode.

Chicago is going to feel so very different from my last couple of long runs.  But long, flat, stretches of hard pavement and (fingers crossed) cooler weather can only be an improvement when you’re used to soft-surface hills in the brutal heat.

Two weeks to go.  Bring it.

Today’s QUESTION: How are you spending your Saturday?  Has fall arrived, or are you stuck in summerland, too?

I ate tofu and I liked it

It felt so wrong, it felt so right…

I’m a carnivore to the core, but I’ve been trying to learn how to cook some vegetarian stuff too.  Why?

Mostly out of boredom.  (One can only deal with so many nights of “boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes.”)  But also out of thrifiness/unemployed-ness.  (Black beans and fermented soy are cheap, yo.)   And to save myself from panic if I ever have a dinner party with vegetarian guests.  (Because we have a dining room table now!)

Anyway.  I’ve had tofu before, of course, but never really been all that thrilled about it.  I love eating; I needed to find a way to love tofu if it was going to make more than an occasional appearance in my kitchen.

Carnivore’s Tofu Tip #1: Hang it out to dry.

Just as you would pat dry a chicken breast or squeeze ice-melt from shrimp for maximum flavor absorption, tofu also must be wrung out before preparation.  But tofu has a lot more water than your average hunk of flesh.  There are bizarre-looking gadgets that can help you remove it, but if you don’t have one, an old college textbook works just fine:

(Thanks, Barro.  And yes, I remember how to make those IS/LM graphs.  Mostly.)

I let it sit for a few minutes, took it out and re-wrapped it (the paper towels were soaked!), and repeated.

Carnivore’s Tofu Tip #2: Flavor the bejeezus out of it.

When I think of tofu, I think of those cold crumbly cubes you often see at salad bars.  (Once I mistook salad-bar tofu for feta cheese and was sorely disappointed when I got home.)

Plain tofu is gross.  It just is.  It needs bold flavor.

So I flavored mine with lots of brown sugar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes.

Bonus: if you toss tofu with something a little sugary and then bake it, it’ll crisp up a bit and almost make you think it’s deep fried.

Carnivore’s Tofu Tip #3: Surround it with love.

Or rather, with things that you love.  This works for any food you’re trying to convince yourself to like, actually.  I remember when I was trying to sell my picky palate on the concept of green beans.  The first few times I made them, I absolutely drenched them in a pan with browned butter.  I like green beans any-old-way now (except in those nasty casseroles – ick) but when I see one, my primitive little brain still screams “OMG BUTTER!” and my mouth waters.  No better than Pavlov’s dogs, we humans.

But I digress.  The point is this: when cooking a new food you’re wary of, it’s okay to splurge a little.  Smother it with something you know and love, even if that means being a bit decadent.  In my case, this was peanut sauce. (I would eat Styrofoam if it were doused in peanut sauce.)

The verdict? I really really enjoyed this tofu.  I’m not ready to bat for the other team or anything, but it’s definitely an advancing crush.  I snacked on a few of the brown-sugar tofu cubes (before drowning them in peanut sauce and other things in my big-ass salad, below) and they were tastier than chicken, actually.

Case in point?  I ate the entire block of tofu. Which was supposedly five servings.  Um, yeah.  *Burp*

Make it for yourself and let me know how you liked it!

Today’s EAT: Tonight’s big-ass salad was pretty spectacular.

In the BAS: mixed greens, carrots, scallions, cashews and the Brown Sugar Tofu.   I tossed it in a creamy peanut dressing (1 part jarred peanut sauce, 1 part lowfat greek yogurt, drizzle of sesame oil), which I could have easily eaten an entire bowl of.  I love peanut sauce.

Today’s DRINK: A nice brown beer for a nutty salad:

Actually, this Scotch Ale wasn’t as nutty as I expected.  (I’m not sure why I expected anything, because I don’t know much about Scotch Ales.  Just that it was dark brown.)

It was delicious though!  There was actually a hint of lime/citrus in this beer, which paired amazingly well with the salad.  And it was a little bit sweet.  An awesome sipping beer.

Today’s RUN: I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  I was supposed to do a tempo run, but for various reasons am putting it off until tomorrow.  Which is certainly a decision I will regret when I have to spend my Friday afternoon on the treadmill.  But hey, what can I say.  I live in the moment.

Today’s QUESTION: Have you ever trained yourself to love a food that you once hated?

Rotating blogroll: badass edition

You know what?  I love chicks who have balls.  Well, not literally.  But you know what I mean.

Check it.  Here are three of my favorite badass bloggers:

  • Angry Runner: http://angryrunner.wordpress.com/ I love this concept.  The running-blog world needs more anger and sarcasm.  Bonus: when she’s not being angry, she’s really funny.
  • Sweaty Kid: http://sweatykid.wordpress.com/ She lives in Alaska and battles grizzlies on her runs.  Like, real ones.  And probably wolverines and polar bears too.  And, um…Yetis.  Talk about cajones.

Badass bloggers. Fewer smiley faces and smoothie pictures. More snark and bears.  Love them.

As for me?  My day was about as non-bad-ass as you can get.  I drove my yuppie SUV to Costco and then ran on the treadmill and then cleaned the floors.  Seriously…shoot me now.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be more badass and less desperate housewife.

Today’s EAT: Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with salt?  I try to avoid eating it superfluously – like, in processed foods – but I do love a good salty meal.  I figure that if I’m going to consume it, I may as well enjoy it.

So I totally savored this Salmon Stir Fry, which was loaded with soy sauce:

Salmon, eggs, onions, bell peppers and garlic pan-fried with brown rice.  Yummmmm.

Today’s DRINK: Isn’t this cute?

Baby ducks on the label.  Of course it was going into my shopping cart.

Unfortunately, this Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc kind of tasted like….lemonade.  And I like lemonade.  But if I want lemonade, I’ll buy a bottle of Crystal Light.

Today’s RUN: Recovery day.  Four easy miles on the treadmill.  Snore. Majorly boring, but I didn’t feel like dealing with hills or heat today.

Today’s QUESTION: Who are your favorite badass bloggers?

Return of the black thumb

I haven’t owned a plant in years.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: green living things tend to perish under my care.

So it was with some hesitation that I walked in to the local garden shop last week.  I didn’t even attempt to browse.  Pointless.  It would have been like Lady GaGa browsing in Ann Taylor – totally foreign merchandise.  So I flagged down a plump saleswoman in a green smock and made my entreaty.

“Hi.  I need an indoor plant that’s impossible to kill.  I need two of them, actually.”

Why?  Because of this little beast:

Emmy has suddenly decided that our speakers are a great place to sharpen her claws.  And no doubt, she needs to maintain her weaponry at its finest.  For important tasks like, you know, lounging on the bed all day.  And occasionally stalking a catnip-filled banana.

In situations like this, I find it’s best to simply remove the temptation.  The speakers needed to be barricaded.  Preferably with something mildly attractive.  And hence, I found myself in an aisle of potted shrubs listening to this green-smocked woman rattle off Latin names of plants that she thought might survive my attempts on their life.

“Um.”  I interrupted her discourse on the care of Floris Perishus (or something like that).  “I really don’t know anything about plants.  I need the easiest-to-care-for plant in this entire store, please.”

“Well, how about a snake plant?”  A snake plant?  It sounded sinister – but maybe that was a good thing.  The pit viper of the houseplant world.  Surely it would be tough enough to battle my black thumb.

And that’s how I ended up with two of these badasses in my living room.

They’ll persevere through anything thrown their way, or so I’ve been promised.  Good thing, because I’m sure at some point I’ll forget to water them for three weeks, in spite of the fact that I walk past them about seventy times a day.

So far, so good.

And if there are any mice in the apartment?  I’m sure the snake plants will snatch those up, too.  (The cats will be too busy lounging on the bed to deal with such things.)

Today’s EAT: My kitchen feels neglected.  Today was a day of eating out.  Tsk, tsk.

It was a delicious day though.  Lunch was a cellophane noodle salad from Spize:

Packed with herbs and dried Thai chillies – spicy and delicious!  Also, cold noodles on salad are really underrated.  Filing that away for next time I make a BAS.

Dinner was barbeque-licious:

A half-rack of Carolina ribs from The Pit makes me a happy girl indeed.  Meals like this remind me why I could never be a vegetarian.  Tofu and beans are fun to play with in the kitchen, but sucking sauce off a BBQ bone once in a while is pure bliss.

Today’s DRINK: Cold, cheap, light beer.

Why is that always what sounds so appealing after a hard workout?  Normal people crave Gatorade.  I crave beer.

I sucked down this TJ’s brew after my track session tonight.  Maybe it’s the bubbles?  Or the carbs?  I don’t know.  It hit the spot, though.

Today’s RUN: Back to the Tuesday speed routine!  The Taperworm and I headed out to the track tonight.  I met up with a few new running friends and pounded out  6 X 800M with 400M recovery:

800 – 3:23 – 6:46 pace
800 – 3:26  – 6:52 pace
800 – 3:25 – 6:50 pace
800 – 3:19 – 6:38 pace
800 – 3:28 – 6:56 pace
800 – 3:25 – 6:50 pace

(Times are the best of my recollection.  Garmin is still MIA, and to add insult to injury, my watch died yesterday.  So I’m going off what my my running partner called out as we crossed the line.)

After the 800s (which kind of hurt – but not as bad as they could have) I tacked on 3 X 200, just to work on form and get some turnover going.  The rest of the group went on to do 8 or 10 of the 800s, but I decided to stop at 6.  All of my track workouts this summer were 5K or shorter, and I didn’t see any reason to start adding track miles, especially not 2.5 weeks before race day.

Anyway.  It was great to meet some new running peeps, and with warm-up, cool-down, recovery and all of that I logged 9 yesterday.  Solid day.

Today’s QUESTION: Do you have a houseplants?  Or – gasp – a garden?  Any tips on the care of my new charges?

Taperworm

Well.  The time has come.

Tapering is one of those things that really should be easy as pie.  Reduce mileage?  And intensity?  Well, twist my arm, will ya?

Of course the physical part of tapering is pretty simple.  You just do…less.  And then a little less, and a little less.  It starts to feel like you have all of this free time.  Because, suddenly, you’re not fighting to find time to run a bajillion miles every week.

But you’re fighting a different battle.

It’s hard to accustom yourself to running less, when you’re used to running more.  It messes with your head.  For every ounce of relief at: “Hey, I don’t need to run as much!” there’s a pound of paranoia for: “OMG, I’m going to get out of shape!”

And that is why I don’t really enjoy tapers.

For the next three weeks, I’ll be in a constant state of mild worry over whether I’m running enough.  Or too much.  Or eating too much.  Or too little.  Or drinking too much.  (Well, I’ll probably still be drinking too much.  But I can deal with that one.)

But go ahead, Taperworm.  Attach yourself to me.  Feed on my doubt.  I’ve been through the marathon song-and-dance a few times now, and I’ve come to expect it.  I know that, contrary to common sense, these last three weeks will not necessarily be the easiest part of training.

Hey.  At least I don’t have to go it alone.

He tries to get all warm and fuzzy, that Taperworm. We’ll see how we fare together over the next three weeks.

Today’s EAT: There are couple of foods that consistently come to my rescue on days that I don’t have time to cook.  Thin-crust frozen pizzas are one of those foods.

Normally I try to make something more exciting of it – a gussied-up frozen pizza, with added meat, or veggies, or other exciting fixins.  Sometimes, though, I leave well enough alone.  This Fresh Market pizza was loaded dried basil and tomatoes and that was good enough tonight.

I know they’re not the healthiest thing out there (hello, lack of fresh food; hola, sodium) but thin-crust frozen pizzas like this one fill me up without packing a ton of empty calories.  This entire pizza had 750 calories.  (Although, no, I didn’t quite eat the whole thing.  The Taperworm talked some sense in to me and I stopped at two-thirds.)

Today’s DRINK: I am always intrigued by wine blends, and this one was a doozy:

Ironberry Cab-Shiraz-Merlot blend.  I was intrigued, but also a little suspicious.  Are they using the crap grapes from each harvest?  With that many different pieces and parts…is it the Spam of wines?

If it was, it didn’t taste it.  I thought the wine tasted fine.  I tasted mostly Shiraz.  But take that for what it’s worth, because clearly I have a Spammish palate.

Today’s RUN: I did 5 easy miles today.  It was kind of hard to only do 5.  (Once again, though, the Taperworm talked some sense in to me.)

I ended last week with almost 55 miles.  It should have been my peak week, mileage-wise, and it was a little below that, but still very respectable.  I’ll take it.

The plan for this week is 40 miles, then going down to 25-30 next week. My 40 miles will include a longish run (two hours?) this weekend, and possibly also a 5K race.  I don’t want to do too much, but there are a couple of local races this weekend that are very tempting.  I’d love to have the confidence boost of a decent 5K going in to this marathon.  Especially since I haven’t had a good speed session in a while.

On the 5K, Taperworm says go for it!  I think I just might.  What would you do?

Today’s QUESTION: What’s your go-to frozen or quickie meal? I know everyone has one.  My number-one is definitely pizza, but I will also bust out a box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese or some frozen Asian dumplings!