Monthly Archives: May 2011

Blogger Q&A: Everything you ever wanted to know about tasting wine

Hey-oh! I’m probably making an ass of myself at the pool bar right now, so I’ve lined up some fun  guest posts and Q&As to entertain you while I’m gone. 

First up: everyone say hello to my good friend Allison, who knows far more about wine than I ever will – and blogs about it over at A Glass After Work.

I adore her blog because her wine reviews are funny, honest, and written in plain English that even a wine rookie like me can easily understand. I recently asked if I could pick her brain about all things vino-related over a virtual tasting (thanks G-chat!) and she graciously agreed. I learned a lot – and I hope you do too!

Q: You know an awful lot about wine! Have you always been a wine person?

A: Well, if you’re asking if I’ve always been a wine drinker, absolutely. I started learning about what I was drinking about 2 years ago, though.

My husband was going to grad school and I decided I wanted to take a class, so what better class than one where I can learn and drink? And I was totally hooked…I became a wine geek almost overnight.

Q: What class did you take and how did you choose it?

A: I took took a 6 week class at the Washington Wine Academy.  It was described as being for beginners who liked to drink wine, but knew nothing about it…so I figured that was perfect for me. The class ended up being far more detailed than I expected…talking about soil types, climates for growing particular grapes. I hadn’t really thought about the science of viticulture before, and I was fascinated.

Plus, there was the tasting six wines a night.

Q: Um, can I sign up just for that last part?

A: Trust me, that’s what had me in the door from day one!

Q: Okay, so on your blog when you review a wine, you typically tell us a little about why you chose it, then go on to taste it, describe certain of its characteristics, and give it a rating. Can we walk through how exactly you do all of that? Because usually I just pick whatever is on sale, then drink half the bottle, and come back with “WELL THAT WUS GUD. I THINK.”

Your method is obviously a little more….refined.

A: For the most part, when it comes to the buying of a wine, I’ve started gravitating to particular grapes grown in particular regions…like Oregon Pinot Noirs. For imports, I’ve start looking at who imports the wine, since I’ve noticed that there are some importers that I just don’t like.

Q: That’s interesting! Do you have a favorite importer?

A: It’s not so much a favorite as much as a list of names I recognize. If it’s one I don’t recognize, I will often ask someone at the wine shop about the wine. I do have a list of a few importers I stay away from, but I probably shouldn’t list those out!

Q: Okay, so we’ve both got a Kim Crawford 2010 Sauvignon Blanc here. Can we taste it together?

A: Absolutely!

[source]

Q: First up – let me make sure I’ve done this correctly. How cold would you normally chill a wine like this one?

A: I will usually keep my whites in my fridge, since I live in a small condo, and take it out about 5 minutes before opening it. With my reds, I usually keep them at room temp and put them in the fridge for 5 minutes before opening it. It’s my 5 minute rule, either way…

Q: Wow, that’s a great rule!

A: It’s not foolproof, but it makes it easy to drink whenever I’m ready, and you know me, I’m usually pretty ready!

The key to New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs is not letting them age. You want the most recent year you can find.  The older the wine, the more it’s going to taste like drinking a bottle of canned peas.

I always look at the wine first, just to see the color, make sure there isn’t anything funny looking about it. This one has a nice pale-to-medium yellow color…like the pulpy part of a lemon.

Then, I give the wine a good swirl – very important because it helps bring out all of the aromas – and stick my nose as far in as I can without actually getting wine on it. It feels silly, but the farther in, the better the whiff! Then I inhale deeply. This is my favorite part! I feel like it’s all about anticipation…it tells me what to expect from the wine.

Q: [Plunging schnozzle in to goblet] Oh wow…it almost smells…like flowers?

A: Actually, oddly enough, yeah…there’s a little bit of honeysuckle on there. Not what I would expect, but kinda nice. Also green bell peppers, granny smith apples. The green peppers are key to the fact that’s a NZ SB. Think of the smell of them as you’re cutting them, not as your cooking them. That’s what really makes this wine for me, actually. There’s also some fresh cut grass and a hint of grapefruit, limes, and pineapple, but the green bell peppers let me know it’s not from France or California.

What I like about this wine, as opposed to some other NZ SB’s is that it’s not hitting me over the head, so I don’t feel like I’m drinking liquid peppers. Some will bowl you over and it goes from being refreshing to being weird.

So, after all that build up, it’s the tasting part. Give it another good swirl…and then it’s tasting time. I always put it my mouth and swish it around like Listerine to make sure it touches my gums and the roof of my mouth, breath in through my mouth to get air in the wine, out through my nose with the wine still in my mouth, and then swallow. That’s because you really want to use your sense of smell to help taste the wine…and it makes a HUGE difference.

Q: So: swirl, sip, mouthwash-swoosh, breathe in through mouth, breathe out through nose, swallow?

A: Exactly! And you know you do the mouth part right because you hear the wine warbling around in your mouth.

Q: So when you bring the air in through the mouth, it’s almost like some of the alcohol and flavor evaporates and you taste it in your whole mouth….?

A: EXACTLY! Really, it’s aerating it in your mouth. The oxygen helps exaggerate the flavors. So, do you get the green pepper?

Q: I can taste something spicy. And I get the apple a LOT.

A: Definitely…lots of granny smith apple, green pepper, and fresh cut grass. That, combined with the acidity is what makes it such great summer wine. You drink this when it’s hot and that tart green apple will be SO refreshing. There’s also some good apricot, nectarine, limes, and pineapple in there, but they’re a little hidden in the finish of the wine. Definitely something you have to search for.

What’s great about this wine is that it lingers, so you can just enjoy the taste…or if you’re geeking out about the wine, the way I tend to do, you can really think about it and let the taste settle in, trying to decipher everything. Really, it’s not a very complex wine, but it’s really good. It has something for the novice wine drinker who just wants the cold, white wine, as well as the more experienced wine drinker who wants to decipher every taste.

Q: What would you eat with a spicy, fruity Sauvignon Blanc like this one?

A: I would pair this with a lighter food…some pan-fried flounder would be great or a grilled mahi mahi. It’s a perfect seafood wine.

Q: You usually rate wines from one to five corks – how many does this one get? Is it, in fact, worthy of A Glass After Work?

A: At $17, which is what I paid for it, it’s worth more than one!  I give this wine 4.5 corks.  It’s food-friendly, but also very drinkable on its own.  The balance of the acidity, the alcohol, and the flavors is spot on.  It’s all an all-around winner for me.

Q: Let’s talk a little about the whole social media wine scene, since I know it’s pretty extensive! Any Twitter tips for a novice wine enthusiast?

A: The Twitter wine scene is amazing! I have several other interests that have resulted in a bad Twitter addiction, but the wine folks are seriously the most welcoming, most talkative group out there.

If you like wine and you want to start talking with other people who like wine, just jump right into the conversation. If you see someone talking about a wine you like, don’t be shy…just start talking with them.  Wine bloggers/tweeps are a group that likes to chat. And wineries are starting to get into the mix, so if you have a few wineries that you particularly like, look them up and start talking about them. The next you know, you’ll be in conversation with the wine maker.

When it comes to social media and wine, there is a real movement. There is always a lot of talk about how to reach younger wine drinkers, and I think wineries are really listening…because the wine bloggers are out there talking. So, when you’re drinking a wine on Tuesday night, Tweet about it…there are people who are out there that are actually interested!

Q: That’s perfect because I drink wine (or something) almost every Tuesday night. And Monday…and Wednesday….ahem. Anyway.

A: LOL…you and me both. That’s why they made Twitter…so you don’t have to drink alone.

Q: Speaking of which…you’ve mentioned that your husband isn’t a big wine drinker. Any tips for drinking wine solo?

A: Actually, he doesn’t drink at all. So, drinking solo is one of those things that I’m an expert in.

Honestly, sometimes with wine drinking, in particular, it’s hard because ordering a bottle when you go out means that it’s potentially a bottle only for one person. However, don’t be self-conscious about it.

If you’re out and you see a wine on the menu that you want that isn’t by the glass, ask if they’ll make an exception and serve you by the glass. Sometimes, they may ask you to buy two glasses, but often they’re willing to accommodate. Restaurants don’t want to advertise it, but think of it this way…two glasses may get them halfway through a bottle. Once they’re half way through, getting the other half of bottle finished isn’t usually a problem.

If they’re not willing to do the wine by the glass, though, ask if they’ll let you take an unfinished bottle with you. DC recently passed a law that allows that, which makes it very nice for us solo drinkers.

I will say, it takes some time to overcome being shy about drinking alone…and there are days where I’m just not willing to do it in a restaurant, but you just have to get over that. There are too many great wines out there to let drinking alone stand in the way..

Q: So what would be your dream wine vacation?

A: It would be to head to the Southern Rhone Valley in France and spend a week tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I never had a wine from this region of France before taking my first wine class, but they are some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. Plus, the region has so much historical background and is so beautiful that my wine dreams could be filled while I also indulged the amateur photographer and the history buff that is raging inside of me.

Q: Sounds amazing! I’ll admit I almost never buy French wines because I find them intimidating. And also, they usually don’t have cute labels.

A: Yeah…they’re very stiff like that, but once you learn the key (Burgundy = Pinot Noir, Bordeaux = Cab Sauv or Merlot, etc) it makes them a lot of fun.

Q: Wait, seriously? I didn’t realize they mapped across like that.

A: That’s the thing, it’s intimidating for no reason! It’s actually something that is often talked about in the US versus European wine market…Americans avoid European wines because they don’t know the grapes, but the grapes are all the same ones we drink!

Q: Okay, I’m sure this is cliché, but indulge me on a common wine question: “HALP! I don’t know anything about wine and have to bring one to a dinner party and no I don’t know what they’re serving! Recommend your favorite three crowd-pleasing bottles under $20?”

A: Oooh…the under $20 question. My hands down favorite might actually be hard to get in some places, but it’s my house white — Paul D Gruner Veltliner. If people don’t see the bottle and just drink it, it’s gone within 30 min of opening.

After the Paul D…for whites, the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc that we tasted tonight is always on my white list! I first reviewed it back in 2009 and have loved it from that moment on.  I also really enjoy the Gnarly Head Pinot Grigio.

For Reds, that’s a little harder…if I have enough time to plan, I will bring Painted Wolf, which I usually have to order online, but is a fabulous Pinotage from South Africa.

And for Sparkling, hands down, I will bring a Segura Viudas, which is a Spanish Cava.

Q: You recently ran your first half marathon at the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. Congrats! That’s worthy cause for a nice glass of Cava!

A: Thanks!  It a hot and hilly race, and I have to admit that I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it while I was actually running.  Afterwards, though, there is just no way to explain how wonderful I felt…mentally, at least.

Admittedly, there was no Cava at the end of the race for me.  Right after I crossed the finish line, all I wanted was beer.  The next day, though, I was back to wine–Tennessee-style.  My husband and I went to the Belle Meade Plantation, which has a winery.  Their white, in particular, was smooth and went down easy…maybe a little too easy.  It definitely helped ease the pain of my sore muscles.

Next time you’re pondering a bottle and wondering if it’s worth A Glass After Work, be sure to check out Allison’s blog, or follow her on Twitter at @Alleigh!

See you tomorrow with another fun Q&A!

No, I don’t want to go SCUBA diving

It never fails.  When I go on a beach vacation with friends, the following conversation always happens with my well-intended companions:

Them: “Hey! So we’re going diving tomorrow.  You’re in, right?”

Me: “Um, well.  Nah.”

Them: “What?  Why not?  You’re certified, right?”

Me: “Um…”

Every time.  Because I’m generally an athletic and adventurous person, people always assume that I’m some sort of SCUBA savant, with zillions of dives under my belt, ready to take on the giant squid who live twenty-thousand leagues under the sea.

Uh….no.  Not even a little bit.

Sure, I love to run, hike and climb.  Bag a peak?  Sure, I’d love to! But dipping under the surface in open water? Frankly, it kind of terrifies me.

Nevertheless, the question always comes up when I take a trip to the tropics.  Do you want to go SCUBA diving?  Oh I can’t – I’m not certified!  But you can get certified on this trip!  All you have to do is spend a day taking classes in the shallow end of the pool!   

Well, that sounds like a fun way to spend my vacation.  Let me strap a heavy oxygen tank on to my back and spend the entire day going up and down the 8-foot depth of the resort pool while the rest of you assholes get sloppy at the swim-up bar.

Yeah.  No thanks.

They press: But you’re missing out!  You wouldn’t believe what amazing things you’ll see under the water!

Oh, I think I know what’s down there.

I watch a lot of Discovery Channel.  Clearly, the ocean is full of things that will sting, pinch, bite and poison you.

Or worse.

Not to mention the fact that the whole process sounds complicated and scary as all hell.  Weights around your waist to drag you down to the appropriate depth.  Heavy tank on your back.  Try to breathe normally, or you’ll suck up all of your oxygen!  Don’t go back up too quickly or you’ll end up on an episode of House!

My lounge chair is looking pretty good right now.

So when people finally get it that I’m not going to shell out hundreds of dollars to acquire the necessary training to visit the sea floor, they invariably suggest SCUBA’s dorky little brother: snorkeling.

I’ll be honest: snorkeling kind of sucks, too.  I’ve never encountered a snorkel mask that didn’t leak and I’ve never been able to float along the surface of the sea without constantly managing to suck water down the air pipe.

And, really?  It’s cool to peek beneath the surface, but…

You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.  Maybe my ever-flooded mask is distorting my vision…but that’s just a bunch of fish…and fish…and fish….

Really, when it comes down to it, all of this stems from the fact that I’m a giant pussy.  At least when it comes to anything related to the ocean.

I’m convinced that people are just wired differently – everyone has their own matrix of braveries and fears.  Me?  I’ll happily climb a mountain or live on a trail, out of a backpack, among the bears and beasts.  River rafting?  Sleeping under the stars?  Bring it on.  But descend the depths of the sea?  I shudder.

But I’m okay with that.  I’ve spent been lucky enough to explore the peaks and valleys of some of the earth’s most beautiful places, from the Cascades and Sierra Nevada and Joshua Tree to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Someone else can call dibs on the bottom of the ocean.

I’ll be snoozing on my beach chair, possibly having rum-fueled nightmares.

Take it from me.

You have fun with your underwater adventures.  I’ll be here when you get back.

I’ll probably be drunk, though!

Four salads and a suitcase

I love having people over for dinner.  But I also love being invited to other peoples’ houses for dinner.

Especially when the lovely hostess concocts an awesome menu centered around one of my favorite things: salads.

I’m totally serious.  While french fries and bacon will always capture my palate’s attention over vegetables and other healthy fare, I absolutely adore a great salad.  And on a steamy summer evening, it’s hard to beat a well-dressed plate of salad fixins.

But let you think this meal was rabbit food, let me assure you that there was nary a leaf of lettuce involved.  Instead, flavorful fruits, veggies, cheeses and herbs dominated these four fantastic dishes.

Uno: Fruit salad with melons and bright red strawberries:

Fruit gets sweeter when it’s chopped up and mixed with other fruits.  I’m pretty sure this is a fact.

Dos: Potato salad, sans mayonnaise:

And as much as I do love mayo…I’ve gotta admit, there was none needed!  Lots of freshly ground pepper, olive oil and dijon mustard gussied up the skin-on red potatoes just fine.

Tres: Israeli cous-cous topped with artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, sundried  tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley:

I had never had Israeli cous-cous before and was rather smitten by its chewy, pasta-like texture.  Delicious.

Cuatro: Cucumber salad with pomegranate, fresh mint and feta:

Oh man.  Although everything was amazing, this dish was the star of the evening, in my opinion!  And that’s really saying something, because cucumbers usually freak me out (due to their resemblance to pickles, which are pure evil in vegetable form).

But I happily gobbled this up and went back for seconds – and thirds!  Dressed generously with olive oil and champagne vinegar, the pomegranate seeds softened and melted in my mouth, providing a lovely sweet contrast to the tangy and crunchy cucumber base.  The feta added just enough salt.  The whole thing was simply perfect.

And oh yeah…chicken and corn were also served.  And while both were tasty as well, I have to admit that the variety of lovely salads made this carb-and-meat girl into a veggie fanatic for a night.

That doesn’t mean I won’t eat the daylights out of a cheeseburger tomorrow. But fresh crunchy veggies?  Yeah…they got me tonight!

Well done, Caroline!  Thanks so much for having us over.

An offsite dinner break was very welcome after spending my afternoon figuring out how to fit a week’s worth of clothing and supplies in to this overhead-bin-friendly suitcase:

I refuse to check bags.  That is for rookies.

As you can see, I did it!  With room to spare for beach toys on top. :)

While I’m vacationing it up this week, be sure to check in daily for some extra special bonus posts!  I’ve got some fun stuff lined up, and I promise I won’t subject you to any trite photos of my feet in a beach chair with the ocean in the background.

But I might drunkenly post after a long day at the pool bar.  I’m not making any promises.

In the meantime….Happy Memorial Day!  Give a moment of your party-hardy weekend to give thanks to those who have sacrificed in service – and, as your mom would say, have fun and be careful.

Check ya from the Caribbean!

That’s inappropriate

Uh…guys?

Wrong room.  Discovery Channel auditions are next door.

And pssst: UR DOIN IT WRONG.

Heheh.

Happy Caturday!

Well, that worked out well

The dress drama concluded happily today.  I went back to the little boutique where I first went dress shopping return one of the dresses I originally bought, and saw this hot little number hanging on the rack:

It’s freaking perfect.  Done and done.

Also, here’s a better picture of the strapless one from The Limited that I picked up yesterday:

I actually ended up taking back both of the original dresses.  Lesson learned: go with your gut when it comes to what looks good on you and what doesn’t.  I’m short and musculo-curvy and I really don’t think I can pull off tit-curtain-belted-sacks, no matter how cute and trendy they are.

So that’s that.  And because unless we’re talking about skid marks on Tempo shorts, this is the farthest thing from a fashion blog on the planet…so I promise I’m done playing dress up now.  Thanks for all of your help along the way!

Moving along.  Let’s talk about how it feels to go for a run after a week off.

Um…I guess that’s all there is to say about that!  It was both by accident and design that I ended up taking a long stretch of rest days after the Brooklyn Half last weekend.  This week has been crazy busy, and the weather has been shitty, and well…if there’s ever a time to take a little break, it’s after the last long race of the season.

A couple of people have asked if I’m planning on running while on vacation next week.  Yes!  Most definitely!  Nothing too long or hard, but I’m going to try to get out there each morning, even if it’s just a couple of miles.  Gotta do something to flush the previous night’s Mojitos out of my system!  I’m excited to do some beach running and I’m totally packing my Vibrams.

Okay…laundry calls.  Happy Friday night, y’all!

Today’s EAT: I needed to stop for lunch today between meetings.  And at that exact moment, the skies opened up and released a torrent of rain.

So I hit the drive-thru:

I don’t even pretend that I don’t like McDonald’s.  I love McDonald’s.  I think it’s delicious.

But obviously I know it’s crappy for you.  To keep my Mickey D’s splurges from being total gut-bombs, I usually get a happy meal (or, in today’s case, a Mighty Kids Meal.  Two extra nuggets for only $0.60!)

It came with two Batman figures, one of which did not stand up on its own. Lame.

Today’s DRINK: Leftovers from Wednesday night’s party!

Boxed wine on a Friday night.  Classy.

Today’s RUN: On the dreadmill for 40 minutes, which was good for 4.6 miles. Definitely not my favorite, but better than getting struck by lightning!

Today’s QUESTION: Do you have a favorite fast-food splurge?  Mine is definitely McDonald’s fries.  Suck it, Burger King.

Feast in the furnace

Well, I do declare.  It’s hot.

How low can the gas tank go?  I got it down from 29 miles to 11 before I filled ‘er up today.  Life on the edge.

My tank was empty from driving to the beach and back earlier this week!  We had some guests in from out of town and it seemed like a good excuse to explore a part of the state I hadn’t seen yet.

Wrightville Beach is pretty clean and only 90 minutes from Raleigh.  And home to stingrays that play tag!

I’m not sure if “cute” is an appropriate adjective, but those frisky little fellas were fun to watch!

Anyway, it’s freaking hot here and I had a little dinner party to host last night.  I was thrilled that we’d decided to make it a grill-out affair.  Because 96* + hot stove + apartment full of people sounds like a sweaty mess.

And when you’re cooking for a crowd, it’s hard to beat the simplicity of grilled food.  Salt, pepper and a little olive oil provide plenty of flavor once the grill works its magic!  We had steak and shrimp galore:

Asparagus.  Taste it today, smell it when you pee tomorrow!  Bonus.

And for a hearty side dish, I assembled a delicious salad with red quinoa, grapefruit, arugula, apples, walnuts and cubed gouda.

Recipe: Red Quinoa Salad

It was quite a little feast for a random weeknight dinner party.  And no sink full of dishes to deal with!

This week has been a little hectic, what with all of the guests and mini road trips and dinner parties!  I can’t believe it’s almost Friday already.  I’m leaving for that beach wedding/vacation in just a couple of days…yikes! (Oh hey #firstworldproblems.)

I haven’t decided what to wear.  I’m still kinda torn about the orange dress.   The whole tit-curtains/sack-with-a-belt thing….I’m still just not sure about it.

I did snag another little dress on sale at The Limited today…

Love the cut.  Not entirely sure about the print (in general I like it, but it’s not exactly beachy.)

Gah.  Now I’m even more conflicted.

Can I just wear my adorable new swimsuit to the ceremony?

From WHBM.  On sale, too.  LOVE.  I cannot wait to spill fruity tropical drinks all over it while getting sloppy at the pool bar at 10 AM.

And here’s a fruity tropical drink for you, too, if you made it through this completely random and discombobulated post!  I promise, I’ll be back to whining about my track splits soon.

Cheers!

Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Alternate title: Speed work makes you faster. But only if you actually do it.

Alternate-alternate-title: There’s a first time for everything.

Alternate-alternate-alternate title: If that tree grows in Brooklyn, it will be because I fertilized it.

So I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape going into this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d run a solid half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace a couple of months ago, but since then, I’d pretty much been cruising.  No speed work.  Decent mileage, but a total lack of quality work.

But nonetheless, as I hopped nervously in the start corral, I thought to myself: well, maybe I haven’t lost any fitness.

And I still believed that for the first few miles:

Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:24
Mile 4: 7:17

Circling Prospect Park, I thought about how I felt during the first four miles of Shamrock.  In that race, it felt like I was running easy.  This…didn’t exactly feel like that.

But as I would discover, that was the least of my problems.

Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 7:37
Mile 8: 8:11

As I headed in to mile five, two things happened:

One, my pace slowed as I headed up the dreaded Prospect Park Hill for the second time.  Fine.  But, more concerning…

Two, my tummy started to gurgle ominously.

Let me say that I’m generally not one to have running-related digestive issues.  Sure, I can obliterate a port-o-potty with the best of ’em on race morning, but I’ve never had to stop during a race to use the bathroom.

Until Saturday.

There’s a first time for everything.

Somewhere around mile 6, I decided to make a pit stop.  It made me cringe, the thought of pulling off the course, waiting for the plastic bathroom’s occupant to vacate, and passing precious seconds doing my thing.

But you know what really killed me?  Getting in to that plastic bathroom and not being able to do my thing.

Gah.  Frustrated and still full of shit, I headed back on to the course.  I hauled ass, trying to make up for lost time.  But my mile split was on the slow side of 8-minutes.

And with that, I headed out of shady Prospect Park and on to the long haul down to Coney Island.

It was the beginning of the end.

Mile 9: 8:17
Mile 10: 8:24
Mile 11: 8:12 
Mile 12: 8:19

I had a hard time getting my pace back after that pit stop.  I was mad that I’d stopped during a race – something I’d never done before! – and still hadn’t managed to relieve the rumbling roil of discomfort that was brewing in my bowels.  At some point I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal 7:30 pace, and I plodded along Ocean Avenue, seething.

For a couple of miles, it seemed that my tummy-ache had subsided, too.

Until somewhere around mile 10, when it returned with a vengeance.

Gurgling recommenced.  And then the internal spasms.  And then…well, I needed to stop and take care of business.  Like, now.

The only problem was that the next mile marker – and hence, the next possible location of a port-o-potty, was at least five minutes away.  As I saw it, I had three options:

  1. Attempt to hobble at a near-walk while clenching things together until I found the next available toilet-like apparatus.   Could be half a mile, could be longer.
  2. Pull off the course and find a place to let it go.
  3. Shit myself.
A grim situation, no doubt.  But I knew what I had to do.  So, on a wide boulevard lined with handsome brick brownstones, I ducked behind the widest tree truck I spotted and…well, you know.

There’s a first time for everything.  And hopefully a last time.

Mile 13: 8:19
Mile 0.1 + tangent trash: 0.29 in 2:12 = 7:42 pace
Finish time: 1:45:22

Once I’d accepted the indignity of what I’d done, I found myself facing the last mile of the race!  Well, I guess that’s the silver lining to having major digestive issues and stopping to crap on a tree in the middle of a major metropolis.  It’ll really distract you from the fact that you’re running a long race!

I thought about trying to make myself hammer that last mile, but honestly I just didn’t see the point.  I’d lost a ton of time to dealing with stupid shit (literally) and what did it matter if I ran 1:44 or 1:45?  In either case it was several minutes slower than it should have been.

So as I turned off of Ocean and on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, I just tried to enjoy the rest of the run.

Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

I would say there was a lesson to be learned here, but I’m really not sure what I did to piss my intestines off so royally before this race.   Late-ish pizza dinner the night before, perhaps?  Dish soap in the coffee pot at the bodega where I stopped for a cup on the way to the race?  Just bad luck and karma finally catching up to me?  Who knows.

(I must say that I have a newfound appreciation for those who battle tummy issues on the regular while running and/or racing.  Because damn, that is not a fun feeling.)

I’d hoped my spring half-marathon “season” would go out with a bang and a sub-1:38 performance.  I have to admit that it’s a little funny that I crapped out – both literally and figuratively!

But honestly, even without the stomach issues, I’m not sure if I could have come in under 1:40.  This race demonstrated that if I want to be a faster runner, I need to do speed work regularly – like I did before Shamrock.  I can’t just coast along on base miles and expect improvement.  In order to run faster, you have to practice running faster.  Speed work works – but only if you actually do it.

For now, though, I’m happy to take my requisite recovery week, then shift to focusing on shorter races for the summer!

Because there are always bathrooms at the track.  And I’m probably never going to have to worry about possibly crapping on myself during a 1500.

I miss NYC

You simply cannot get the good stuff down south.

I’m back from the shortest New York weekend ever.  On Friday afternoon, I hopped a quick flight from RDU to JFK, made my way to the UES to pick up my race bib from NYRR, and then met up with Sarah.  We had some time to kill so we practiced our duck face.

Practice makes perfect!

After hooking up with Megan, we got down to business with a little runner-style sleepover.  We ate pizza, laid out our race clothes, watched a little TV and fussed over the procurement of bagels and the availability of coffee at 5 AM in Brooklyn.  Very important!

Everyone was all smiles as we headed to the start line the next morning!

Well, almost everyone.

I’ll spare you the details of the race for now – it was pretty ugly and deserves its own post – but suffice it to say that I was definitely glad to put those 13.1 miles behind me and get on to the important business of the post-race brunch/barbecue. (Thanks, Will and Kristan, for hosting!)

Sunburned, exhausted and desperately in need of a shower, I made my way back to Manhattan to chill with my friends H & J for the evening.  We did something amazing that you cannot do in North Carolina: we ordered delivery Thai food.

Roti roll with crispy duck. I would kill to have this brought to my doorstep in Raleigh.   I. Miss. New. York.

My awesome hosts had a fridge full of delicious beer and I happily sipped on a Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale:

This little guy was making bedroom eyes at me all night…

He and Emmy used to have play-dates when we lived in NYC!

I miss this cat.  I miss my friends.  I miss good pizza.  I miss delivery.  I even miss the crazy smelly people on the subway talking about the rapture.

Even though I only lived there for a year, I think NYC will always feel a little bit like home.

Sniff.

I guess I’ll go load the dishwasher and do some laundry.  And sit on my spacious balcony.  After a leisurely trip to Costco and Target.

It’s too bad I don’t have a lawn to mow.  Because the grass is always greener on the other side.

Off duty

So I was going to post tonight, but you know what?  I’ve been a terrible blog reader (and commenter) lately so I’m going to use the time to catch up on what’s going on with everyone else.

I’m sure your days were all more exciting than mine anyway.  (Laundry, cleaning, laundry, cleaning….)

See you tomorrow from NYC!  Wheeee!

P.S. Be sure to check out this massive raffle over at Walk A Mile In My Boots!  

Brooklyn goals

Uh…I’m not really sure what I’m doing with this half marathon on Saturday.

Way back when, when I registered, it seemed like a good idea to focus on Brooklyn as a spring-season-culmination race.  It was almost exactly two months out from Shamrock, which was on March 20, and I figured I’d have time to build on that and improve my fitness more with some good speed workouts.

*twiddles thumbs and whistles*

Yeah.  My speedwork has been rather absent in the last couple of months.  I’ve kept my mileage about the same, but I really can’t point to a single quality workout where I’ve looked back at the numbers and been like: okay, that’s what I’m capable of.  

Mostly, it’s just been maintenance mileage.  And…maybe that’s okay?  I honestly think it’s possible that I haven’t lost any meaningful fitness over the last two months.  While the course in Brooklyn is, technically, harder and hillier than Shamrock’s pancake-flat route…it’s a walk in the freakin’ park compared to the hills I’ve been training on here in Raleigh.  And also, I should have more company in Brooklyn than I did in Virginia Beach.  So there’s that.

That is the long answer, I guess.  The short answer is: I’m not really sure what my goal is on Saturday.  I do have some rough parameters, though:

For one: I’ll be pretty darn pissed if I don’t at least run faster than I did at Brooklyn Half 2010, considering all of the work I’ve put in between then and now. That means breaking 1:43.  I feel pretty confident about that one.

For two: It would be great if I could finish under 1:40.  I’ve been fighting the 1:40 barrier for a couple of years now and I broke it with two minutes to spare at Shamrock.  I think for me, for this Saturday, this is probably my tipping point between feeling happy or unhappy about my race.  I need to break 1:40.

For three: When I raced Shamrock in June, my one regret was that there was a time, sometime around mile 11, when I was running hard and feeling good and pussed out because I looked down at my Garmin and saw a sub-7 pace and it scared me.  I felt like I lost some time because of my mental state.  And I think, for me, racing this distance is all about the last 3-4 miles.  I know I can go out and hold 7:30 pace for 10 miles.  It’s whether I can take it down in the last three that matters.  I’d like to see if I can do it, and the course at Brooklyn, which totally flattens out at seven miles, it a great place to do it.

If everything else stays the same, and I do that, I should be able to break 1:38.

I’m going to think of this blog post at mile 10 when I’m feeling miserable.  And seriously, I expect all of you to harp on me if I bag out for emotional, rather than physical, reasons.

Okay?  Okay.

Today’s EAT: Awesome grocery pick-up of the day: lemongrass in a tube.

I love lemongrass, but I don’t love buying an (expensive) bundle of stalks for a single recipe.  Also, mincing things sucks.  This tubed paste is a godsend and I barely made a dent in it with tonight’s dinner.

Packed with veggies, lean beef and noodles.  Yum.

Recipe: Lemongrass Beef Lo Mein

Today’s DRINK: Yay, I am feeling well enough to consume something other than Ny-Quil!

But tonight’s wine is under wraps for a little while.  Look for a special post in a couple of weeks, featuring a *real* tasting of this wine!  I can’t wait to share it with y’all!

Today’s RUN: Yeah, it’s probably too late to do any meaningful fitness-gaining work before Brooklyn.  But I’m following Megan’s lead and hoping that a slightly-swift workout a few days before race day will build confidence!


I decided to dedicate the three middle miles to Goal Half Marathon Pace tonight.

GHMP is actually around 7:25, and obviously this was a little faster, but the idea was there.  Faster than comfortable, but still…sort of comfortable.

I guess we’ll see how that feels on Saturday.

TODAY’S QUESTION: Do you use squeeze-tube herbs?  I probably won’t buy the Italian one, because I have all of those things (basil, oregano, thyme)  in abundance in my herb garden, but the ginger, lemon-grass and garlic versions are highly intriguing….