My daughter was in the car waiting for her sister and me, who were putting on our shoes to go to a riding lesson, and suddenly BLEURGH, she puked. I mean she got rid of everything she had eaten all day, soaked the carseat, soaked the floor mat, the carpet under the floor mat, the back of the front seat, you name it. It even ran down the seat and into the gap between the seat and the backrest of the car, and down into the bit where the seatbelt sticks out. Am I ever going to get the smell out, is what I want to know. I have scrubbed and spot treated and scrubbed again, and scrubbed with Basic H and scrubbed with Fresh Laundry and sprayed and dried and washed and scrubbed and sprinkled baking soda, and the miasma in the car is still formidable.

To top it all off, we got to the riding lesson, groomed the horse, tacked him, and then the instructor phoned to say she had an emergency and couldn’t make it.


I am bailing out – it is 8:15 and I am leaving the house to have coffee with my friend. Can’t stand it another minute – can’t stand being The Mum – the person who is in charge of cleaning up all the most unpleasant messes. Everybody’s peed pants, everybody’s accidental diarrhea toots, everybody’s vomit, everybody’s bloody noses are MY responsibility. Bad enough during the rest of the year - flu season is too much for me. I just can’t take it anymore. I need an hour away, and coffee, and maybe a stroll through a magazine section somewhere.

Here I am, beyond thrilled because I get to spend an hour and a half in Starbucks - my first coffee break in around 3 weeks. "Mum" is the grittiest job there is, and you've got hardly any sodding break from it.

But hey - at least it teaches you to be grateful for small mercies.

Changing it up

After a crazy insane double half marathon weekend, I felt a bit broken by the time I got back home.

Not feeling up to running just yet, and I was PSYCHED to have a transition week in P90X. First day back... YOGA!! Felt sooo good to stretch out. Then I got to try a workout I haven't done yet, the "Core Synergistics" - that one was pretty tough but I liked it. And then today was the Kenpo X. Sorta like boxing. Only very little direction/demonstration and fast moving so I'm all over the place. Never realized how off balance and CLUMSY I was... hehehe. But nice to have a break.

I did a little math and discovered that in just under 8 weeks I'll be doing the Great Wall of China Marathon. I emphasize marathon because when we signed up early last summer we were planning on just doing the half. After all this time and how much we have already accomplished... why settle for the half? We are going all the way to China, we might as well go ALL THE WAY. So. The Stairmaster training commences. In 30 minutes I accomplished 130 floors climbed. And felt like I was having a minor heart attack while doing it. At least China is more scenic than the boring gym :D

Here is a YouTube video about the race:

Race Pics
I finally have some that aren't too ridiculous. So here they are... I'm digging my new race hat and after all these races I of course still LOVE my knee socks and skirts.

NYC Half Marathon
National Half Marathon
Another double header scheduled this weekend! My calf and foot are feeling much better after icing and sticking. I'll run a few miles today, but that's the only run I have scheduled for the week.

Achillies Heels

We've all had that one special day.  One where every step you ran, from the first to the last, was pure bliss. One that made you love everything about running.  One that made you believe you will run every single day until you die.

Too bad we don't always feel that way.  The fraction of life that DOESN'T involve running tends to throw innumerable wrenches into our best-laid plans.  I've traditionally held up well against many of said wrenches, but my kryptonite...my de-railer...has hit me head-on this past week.

Weather and terrain seem to be a major player in the excuse sweepstakes.  Luckily, I've felt impervious to mother nature.  Maybe it was my upbringing in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I ran 10 miles on this day, so getting through ones like this were no problem this winter.  (La Crosse also afforded me the opportunity to run on this day - my buddy and I even intentionally ran at 4PM to just to see if we could do it)  Mountains?  Altitude?  Whatever, just run slower.  Adjusting to altitude only sucks for a little bit.  Visiting my parents in Colorado during college meant dealing with that adjustment multiple times a year.  I couldn't afford to just quit training, so I just dealt with it.  Wind?  I remember this story from my high school coach upon overhearing a teammate of mine remark "the wind SUCKS!"  His response:  "No, Kelly.  The wind sucks for Edina."  In other words, the conditions are the same for everyone.  It's how you react to the conditions that matters - any bit of adversity can be an opportunity to separate yourself from your competitors.

The stress of work and the real world also seem to derail a good deal of people.  I get it.  Back when I made good money sitting in front of a computer all day long, I sometimes found myself struggling to get out the door.  I just didn't get excited about doing anything after work...I just wanted to go home and stare at a wall.  When I sucked up my pride and went into a profession for which I actually had a passion, I found that I could work twice as hard, give ten times the emotional energy, yet still be ready to rip off a hard hill run when it was all said and done.  I attribute this to the fact that teaching might take a toll on me unlike anything I ever experienced in the corporate world, yet whatever I get in return makes me feel alive!  That, in turn, gives me that extra motivation to run immediately after work.  More common than work doldrums are the personal and relationship stressors that people deal with.  I've had my share, trust me...but I've found that when I run, I relax.  I think things through.  I escape my demons.  Years ago, when I went through a divorce, running was the one thing I could count on.  Even when I'd torment myself for the other 23 hours of the day, I knew I would have a stretch of time where I would feel at peace.  Safe.  The stresses of life have always pushed me TO train harder.

I wish I could say that I'm invincible.  Tough as nails.  This brings me to this entry.  Here's the problem:  I see weakness in myself when presented with scenarios such as the one I'm in now.  My left hip has been bugging me for the past week or so.  At first I thought it was ITB, but now I'm beginning to think it may be Greater Trochanteric Bursitis?  (I'd never heard of it until today, when a PT friend of mine suggested I jfgi and find out)  Anyhoo, I took three days off last week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) to see if it would go away...and it did seem to bother me less every day I stayed off it.  However, today I felt it throughout much of my run.  At this juncture, the pain does seem bearable - something I can run on for a few weeks if I had to...but the thought of having this nagging injury for the next five months is unfathomable.  When I'm dinged up, I lose all motivation to train.  Could I bike?  Swim?  Ice and stretch?  Absolutely.  Do I do everything I can to heal?  No.  I don't know why I struggle with this part.  I think, "eh, I'm a gimp, so why even bother doing anything about it?"  In the face of a potentially serious malady, I can't believe I could even think this way for an instant.  But...I do.  Henceforth, one of my goals shall be to "do better" with the little things like stretching and icing.

Thing is, how do you measure this?

6 miles, 800' to 1st tunnel with Haven this afternoon.  Hip bothered me throughout, and definitely more at the end than the beginning.  Going to try flat surfaces for the next two days.

Cale turns 6 tomorrow.  That thought in itself is big.

What I Love: Browned Butter Brownies

First things first: don't forget to bid at the online bakesale Wednesday March 30th, to benefit Second Harvest Japan!  The sale is international, so there's bound to be something that can come to your mailbox!

As I've been thinking about the direction this blog, and my future, will take, I've been taking stock of what I love.  And since Audrey sent me a Stylish Blogger Award (Thank you, Audrey!  Though anyone who knows me in real life will probably laugh out loud at the idea that I'm stylish ... by most people's definitions I am anything but), which means I have to list some number of things about myself, maybe I'll take this opportunity to enumerate some of those loves (not counting family, of course, which is a given).

1: Writing.  Having a blog has reminded me just how much I like to write.  Some people have suggested that I'm actually good at it: once upon a time, I actually won a prize or two.  I'm less sure I have talent, and this blog is admittedly not great writing (there are much better bloggers and writers out there who actually read my blog, much to my embarrassment ... you know who you are, and I am humbled by your presence here), but having a project has given me a (semi)regular schedule for producing something, which I never had before, other than my dissertation, and let's not talk about that, shall we?

2: Food.  In case it's not obvious, I am a foodie, par excellence.  It's beyond mere appreciation.  I will spend hours gaping at pictures on foodgawker.  I plan day trips to bakeries and specialty food stores for tastings.  A good day for me is a day when I get to wander the aisles at Whole Paycheck Foods and our local farmer's market.  For two months I subscribed to the Foodzie tasting box, and though I cancelled it, I am dropping not-so-subtle hints to my friends and relatives that a subscription would make an ideal birthday gift.
    2a: Chocolate.  But it's not just that I like to eat chocolate.  I like delicate tastes and textures, discerning the differences between varietals, pairing it with things like lavender and chile and cardamom.  Did you know that you can order a chocolate bar with whatever you want on it?  I have not yet done this, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.
3: Yoga.  OK, this is related to none of the above.  And I don't even have a regular home practice to speak of, so I probably shouldn't count it.  But I know that I love the spiritual space I find when I'm in a yoga class, and I love the sangha at the studio where I currently practice when I can get away (which, sadly, has not been at all since N. was born).

4: Problem-Solving.  I think that the reason I left my first graduate program and decided to become an administrator instead of a faculty member was because I wanted to help people in a more immediate way, cliche as that sounds.  I had thought, years ago, I'd become a psychologist, but that was a no-go for my parents (not to mention that I am not the most tactful person ... a therapist probably shouldn't say something like "pull yourself together, man!" which I, in an unsympathetic moment, very well might). Still, I ended up  problem solving for people, anyway.  I've also liked problem-solving for community organizations.  I'm good at being my own boss, setting my own deadlines, and figuring out how to do something in the most efficient way.  In fact, come to think of it, I get pretty ticked off if someone interferes or thinks their way is better.  S. can attest to this character flaw.

5: Sustainable Living.  This has become sort of a mini-obsession for me.  What can I recycle?  How can I live more greenly?  How can I support local farmers?  How can I bring others to the dark side?  (Muahahaha.)

So all of this adds up to ... what?  Food blogger for a green soup kitchen?

I'll have something more thoughtful and useful to say next time, I promise.

The Stylish Blogger award requires that I share the love by passing on the award to 10+ other bloggers.  I will list a few new ones here, as I usually do, with the note that they need not feel obliged to enumerate loves or even pass on the award unless they feel moved to do so ... rather, I'd like them to go comment on a new blog today and pass it on way, instead.  I will also share a recipe for something covering my loves 1 through 2a, which I made today in preparation for a visit tomorrow from a sweets-loving former neighbor.  No culinary lavender required, and they are incredibly moist and fudgy, especially for a recipe that uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate.  I don't think I've ever made browned butter before for a dessert base, but it seems to be all the rage these days in the food blogger community.  I hope you love them (the blogs and the brownies), too.

Stumbling Gracefully   AFM   A Moment 2 Think
Lauren vs. the World   Love Life Project   One Year Down, 2 Years Left ...
Sparkling Ink   Three Is A Magic Number    Too Many Fish

Browned Butter Brownies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011, recipe by Alice Medrich

1 1/4 stick unsalted butter (10 tbsps) cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. sea salt
2 large eggs (I beat them first)
1/3 c. plus 1 T. flour
1 c. pecans, chopped (optional) or orange zest (I added about 2 t. dried)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 F, and line the inside of an 8x8 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving 2-inch overhangs and pressing the foil tightly to the sides of the pan. (If you like, spray the aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray, though I didn't find this necessary, and it meant that some of the brownie stuck to the foil, which I could scrape off later and eat.  Yum.)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring often. The butter will first melt, then foam, then form more clear bubbles. Once the butter has only bubbles (and no foam) and there are browned bits at the bottom of the pan, remove the butter from the heat.  (This step requires patience.  Cultivate it.)  Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt, and 2 teaspoons water. Let the mixture sit for about 4-5 minutes to cool, then mix in the eggs one at a time, beating quickly after each addition. Once the chocolate mixture looks relatively smooth, mix in the flour, and then beat well for a few minutes. Mix in the chopped nuts (or whatever else you decide to add), and transfer to the prepared pan, smoothing the top before baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes or more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean - if there is still a tiny bit of moist batter at the very bottom that is ok. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, remove the brownies from the pan using the aluminum foil overhangs; peel the foil away and cut as you like. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container.

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, March 27
Wilmington, DE
Half Marathon #27
State #24/50
Weather - Sunny, COLD (low 30s)

The Caesar Rodney half marathon was actually a last minute add. It is pretty expensive to travel to the east coast, and I figured whenever possible, it's best to just have a double weekend to get some of these smaller states out of the way. This one seemed promising... I mean any race that is on its 48th year has to be doing SOMETHING right.

Anyway... we were taking the train from Union Station to Wilmington, DE. I had found a Doubletree hotel for a pretty decent rate that was really close to both the train station AND the start/finish area for the race. This all seemed like a no-brainer.

We got off the train and headed to the hotel. We noticed right away that Wilmington ALSO seems hilly. Greeeat. My calf was still feeling tight and it was cold and windy on our walk. We noticed there didn't seem to be many food choices on the way and hoped we would find something. Checked in to the hotel and then headed back out in the opposite direction to find somewhere to eat.

Pretty cool architecture
Unlike D.C., Wilmington (at least the area we were in) is SUPER clean. It is also SUPER "old fashioned" - everything was closed by the time we headed out. Apparently 6:00ish on a Saturday night is simply a CRAZY time to try and get something to eat. After about 30 minutes we were cold and hungry and tired of walking around and decided to shell out the extra money to just eat at the hotel. After checking the menu, the only pasta option was "lobster ravioli" - unimpressed. Neither of us particularly LIKES fish. So... our next option was to call for delivery. It was really our last hope. We found a place called "Seasons Pizza" that had some pasta on their menu, and they were able to get it to us in 40 minutes. Not too bad.

Ziti, chicken, salad (fries, even though I asked for veggies)
Dinner was fabulous, and for the first time in a while, I was actually kind of struggling to eat the entire thing, but I knew I would need all the carbs/help I could get. We finally finished with dinner and then tried to stay up.

Problem #1 with adding this race. I only "skimmed" when I read the race info. I thought it started at 8:30 and therefore a 12:54 train and a 3:20 flight out of Baltimore would be no problem. Well. The 5K started at 8:30, but the half didn't start until 9:30. Especially with how yesterday's race went, and that my calf was feeling funky, I was NOT optimistic about a 2 hour finish. Of course we would still have to walk back to the hotel, shower, walk to the train station.

This was ALL going to be cut VERY close. We also had not picked up our packets yet, and the only detail on the website was that pick-up STARTED at 7:30. We decided to get up at 8:00 in the morning, walk over in our pj's and get our packets, then come back and get ready.

There were quite a few people in line getting their packets. It took about 10 minutes to get our bag, then I grabbed a cup of coffee and we headed back to the hotel to get ready. After the last couple of races, I was really torn on if I should do something off the wall like run with my jacket. Just so tired of freezing throughout (and before and after) the race. Decided that I would not wear my jacket, it's really not so much my arms that get cold, but my hands. I did, however, decide that I would wear my gloves for the race. L and I had also brought travel blankets with us (to keep warm at the start). I was glad to have it, it was pretty chilly.

Sure DID feel like 25
L by the Caesar Rodney statue
In addition to the gloves, I decided I would also wear my running tights. We found the start line and set our blankets on top of a trash can and lined up to start. I was relieved that we were going to start running DOWN. The gun went off just a few minutes after 9:30 and we were off. I almost immediately lost L, but I knew that today of all days would NOT be one I'd even have a hope of keeping up with her. I was trying to take it a bit easy.

The first two miles were ROUGH. I cannot even begin to describe how tight my right calf was. I know that it doesn't actually need to bend or anything while running, but it was so tight I felt like I was gimp/running. I noticed my foot didn't hurt, so I was undecided if this was better or worse. At mile 1, I noticed I was under a 9 minute pace and decided I needed to slow down a bit. The first part of the course was weird. Ran around and through a strip mall. Clearly just to get the correct amount of mileage. Came up on the first aid station and I was really relieved to be able to walk.

Stadium by mile 2
I walked a bit longer than usual and already the wheels were turning in my head. How slow could I actually finish this race and give us enough time to get to the train on time? I even thought that if I started walking at mile 2 I would give us about 20 minutes to get there as long as I jogged a few minutes here and there. What a terrible way to think so early in a race!

Luckily that walking at mile 2 seemed to have loosened up my calf a bit and it didn't hurt as bad when I started up again. However... I started to feel that ache in my foot. Damn. New plan. Attack the race like I do a marathon, run easy, don't race. I started to get passed a lot. Oh well... I just had to finish (ideally as fast as possible so we would have time to shower :D )

In the parking lot
After we ran through the strip mall, the course made a turn and we ran by the nature conservatory (where I had a GUY tell me I had some really awesome socks). Then we turned and started down a path by the Riverfront:

I didn't really feel "tired" but I was... fatigued, and I was worried that my foot wasn't going to hold up for the rest of the race. I was still taking it easy, and was relieved when I made it to yet another aid station without having to walk. Maybe this wouldn't be too bad after all!

Mile 4 aid station
We ran back through a business district in the city, and then headed up a pretty big hill (by our hotel and sorta near where we started) before we turned off and headed into a more "park-like" area. I wasn't moving very fast on the hill, but I was able to keep going. I almost missed the mile marker at 6, but I knew there was a timing mat at the halfway point.

Cool bridge, approaching 1/2 way
The next aid station was under a bridge right before the timing mat. Once again, I enjoyed my brief break. Happy that I'm halfway, this just might work! Of course THIS was the toughest point of the entire course. There was a small section of course that we would do twice, and right when I passed halfway, the winner was headed toward me. This section of the course, while scenic, was ALL UPHILL.

Between Miles 7 & 8
I actually was able to jog a little longer than I thought I would be able to, but then I eventually decided that walking for a few minutes might loosen up my quads and give me a quick break. The next aid station was somewhere around mile 8 (and the only one with Gatorade), and then we headed to another park area:
Between Miles 8 and 9
I was super happy that I hadn't needed to use the bathroom on the course. L had heard that there was only one on the course, somewhere before mile 9. I never saw it though. (That's really one of the only complaints I would have on this race... there should ALWAYS be at least a couple places to stop and use the bathroom). Right around mile 9 I noticed it was already 11:00. Damn. I needed to keep at it the same pace I was going or we were going to have problems. Took a third GU right before mile 10... Vanilla Bean. Haven't had that flavor in ages. It was really tasty and I think it actually gave me a little bit of energy!

After we exited the park we ran through some neighborhoods, then the next aid station at mile 10. I liked that the kid that handed me my water very enthusiastically said "You can do this!" LOL. There was a nice "out and back" along a residential area and I think the aid station was supposed to have been in the middle of the street we were running on. I had been expecting another aid station at mile 11. We turned a corner and were finally running the downhill of that huge hill. I was finally feeling pretty good! I hadn't expected that so late in the course.

Approaching mile 12 and I see the last person heading up the course at mile 7. An old man, walking. He looked SO happy! (By the way, he finished in 3:53). I kinda wish I could enjoy more races like that. I knew we'd get that aid station again under the bridge, the last one of the race. I walked through it, and realized I only had about 3/4 of a mile to go. I can do that!

The course ran along a park on one side, and the city on the other, we turned into the city, heading toward Rodney Square, and the last quarter of a mile? ALL UPHILL. A ridiculous uphill. A hill I was cursing. UGH!!! I was struggling and wanted to walk but of course this is where all the spectators were so I couldn't. Again, I had nothing left in me to "sprint" to the finish, but at least I didn't walk across the finish line. I crossed the line, was handed a small cup of Gatorade, and found L. We got someone to take our picture in front of the Caesar Rodney statue:

Me and L
Official Time - 2:12:10
Official Pace - 10:06
Halfway Split - 1:04:37
Halfway Pace - 9:52
Overall Place - 1046/1316
Division Place - 60/85
Gender Place - 377/534
Garmin Time - 2:12:11
Garmin Distance - 13.19 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:01
Mile 1 - 8:42
Mile 2 - 9:25
Mile 3 - 9:56
Mile 4 - 9:53
Mile 5 - 10:12
Mile 6 - 10:16
Mile 7 - 10:24
Mile 8 - 11:31
Mile 9 - 10:24
Mile 10 - 9:58
Mile 11 - 10:06
Mile 12 - 9:36
Mile 13 - 9:47
Mile 13.1 - 10:26

FYI... Caesar Rodney is on the back of the Delaware quarter. L had grabbed me a bottle of Gatorade, and then we each grabbed a slice of pizza (from Seasons Pizza, the same folks that delivered our food the night before), and we headed back to the hotel. We walked by the start area and saw our blankets still on top of the trash can... This was a trash can that had a lid and our stuff was just sitting on top... so we grabbed them. I was still FREEZING. Anyway, we got to the hotel just before noon, and we both took super fast showers, and were out of there by 12:15. That gave us almost 45 minutes to walk to the train station. PLENTY of time...

Got to the train station, bought a drink and a souvenir and then tried to figure out where we needed to be. That's when we noticed that our 12:54 train NOW said - "Now 2:21." WTH??? We get in line and found out the train was delayed almost 1.5 hours! What that meant is that we were going to miss our 3:20 flight out of Baltimore. 2 out of 3 trains were a bust. NOT impressed with Amtrak. After about ten minutes the incredibly rude woman finally refunded our money (we had kept our tickets from BWI and got that refunded to). Our only solution was to take a cab to BWI. That is NOT cheap if you were wondering. Our $38/each train tickets became a $225 cab ride. Ugh.

It was about a 70 mile drive to the airport, and we got there right around 2:00. We still had to actually print our boarding passes and then go through security. After printing our boarding pass, we discover our flight is delayed. An hour. You are kidding me... Sigh.

It takes a while to get through security, there is only one person checking tickets, and the X-Ray lines are LONG... At least since our flight was delayed we would actually have time to sit down and have a nice lunch without rushing. We went to a diner and got our typical lunch of salad and a burger:

Best lunch ever! Then we headed to the gate area. Our flight ended up not being quite as delayed as they had thought, and we were actually boarded about 15 minutes earlier. Once on the plane they thought we would land only about 20 minutes later than originally scheduled. I was psyched!! We haven't had a flight that got us home during daylight hours in ages! The best part of the flight?? New snacks!!!

Once again, we lucked out and all our travel issues were fixed and most of them were at the END of the trip.

Another double header complete... and another on the books for this weekend. Bring it.

Joe's Oat Patties

Image Source

Joe's Oat Patties

Okay, today I am going to go a little hippie on my readers.  I am going to tell you about a meatless patty.... WAIT WAIT!! DON'T LEAVE THAT QUICK!!  For all you non-health nuts and cupcake makers I promise you they are good.  I am no yoga, tree-hugging, all natural clothing, vegan, hemp clothing, dreadlock hair, etc type guy.  I like my leather shoes, cotton/rayon clothing, dairy products, showers, hunting and the occasional piece of dead animal flesh.

So I picked up a few of these oat patties at Whole Foods the other day to try out.  Bonnie is not a big meat eater so I figured she may like them.  Most of the meatless (cough horrible) patties I have tried tasted like cardboard.  Actually.. that is unfair to seriously unfair to cardboard which would taste must better than those other patties if you added some salt. These patties are different. These are SERIOUSLY good. 

The Curry Lentil and Island Jerk were awesome!  The BBQ and Taco flavored patties was good.  The Spicy Hot was good but too spicy and hot (and I love spicy and hot).  I have not tried the other flavors yet.  I really want to try the seafood flavored patties.

Making these patties is easy as heck.  Just dump the contents into a bowl.  Boil some chicken/beef broth (or just water if you are a hippie) and pour over the oats.  Then do NOTHING.  Don't stir. Don't look at them. Just walk away and do some yoga and recycling for 10 minutes.  When you get done with your downward dogs, heat up a pan with some oil.  Form the oats into patties.  Then place them into the pan for about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Cook until golden brown and delirious.  These are seriously Good Eats.

You can find these at Whole Foods Markets or online at Joe's Oat Patties.

National Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Saturday, March 26
Half Marathon #26
Weather - Chilly, breezy, low 30s

I signed up for the National half marathon FOREVER ago. Literally. I was stalking the registration page and registered the night before I ran my THIRD half marathon on 4th of July last year. So much has happened since I registered for this race! Anyway, I was really excited about this race because I met new friends when I went to Greece last October that live near DC and were also planning on racing AND offered to let us stay with them. SCORE!!

We weren't able to get a great flight out of Denver, so we had an elaborate plan of flying into BWI and then taking a train from the airport to Union Station, meeting up with our friends, picking up packets. It all sounded great. Easy, even.

Our flights (we had a connection) luckily went very well. We were flying Southwest and had forgotten to check in at 24 hours, so on the first leg of the flight we weren't able to get seats together, which was a bummer. At least going to MCI (Kansas City) only takes an hour. We had a short time between connecting flights and we HAD to get food. FYI, if you are in a hurry, do NOT go to the Quiznos. Slowest.Moving.Humans.Ever. Literally did not even have time to use the bathroom, and walked right from Quiznos to board the plan. We were lucky enough to get seats together for the remainder of our trip.

We landed with plenty of time to figure out how to get to the train, took the shuttle, got to the train station with about an hour until the train was to depart... and then about 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave we found out the train was delayed. Asking how long the delay was going to be proved to be useless and we weren't even able to get a ballpark... 10 minutes? 4 hours? Since we were under a bit of a time crunch (the expo was closing at 8:00 pm and it was already almost 6:00, we had no choice but to take a cab from BWI to Union Station. Luckily there were two woman who were in a similar predicament, and we all shared a cab ($20 per person). Although neither of them was running the National, they were both runners. What a small world :D

We lucked out yet again with no real traffic and we were dropped off at Union Station roughly the same time we would have arrived if the train would have been on time. I called my friends and we found them easily. We walked to their car, and we got to the expo about 7:00. Nope. I don't like to cut things close at all...

We only had a few minutes, but I made sure to run over to the Razzy Roo booth to FINALLY meet Cheryl. I just love her products, I love the customer service, and of COURSE the price is right too. She had tons of stuff out that I hadn't seen on her website, and of course I walked away with some new bands (and new monkey socks!)

We left the expo and drove to my friend's house in Silver Spring (about 30 minutes away). We were cooked an AWESOME meal, and after a beer and some dinner conversation, it was 11:00 before we knew it. It had been a long day, and we were EXHAUSTED. The plan was to leave the house by 5:30ish, arriving around 6:00, which would give us time to check our bags and get to the start line.

I didn't fall asleep that easily, and 4:55 came FAST. We got ready and we were only out the door a few minutes late. There was no traffic until we got just a few miles from the Armory. And that's when it all started to unravel. Literally bumper to bumper traffic. Moving so slow the speedometer wasn't even registering. Finally after about 10 minutes (by now it was already 6:15), we decided to go off the main road to see if we could find another road to get to parking. Of course all the satellite roads were already blocked off. By 6:30 we knew there was no hope of driving all the way there. We were lucky enough to find a place to park about 1.5 miles from the start line and we had to walk. We came across the port-o-potties at the first aid station (around mile 1.2) and we used the bathrooms and then had to jog to the start line. That was a first! As soon as we had to park and run, we knew there would be no time to do bag drop. That was a major bummer.

We literally were walking up on the starting area when the national anthem was happening. I was in corral 8, which meant it would take us about 20 minutes to cross the start line. We had planned ahead (luckily) with our awesome $3 Wal Mart sweaters. It was COLD and had already been outside a while. Don't we look awesome??

Me and L
Corral 8
Starting Area
I was tempted to keep the sweater on for the first couple of miles, I was THAT cold. L did remind me that it might be tough to get off since I would have to pull it off over my head. So I decided I would wear it for as long as possible and then toss.

As I said, it took  more than 20 minutes to actually GET to the start line. I started out feeling pretty good, and I was able to keep L in my sights for about ten minutes :D

The first part of the course was the best part. Not that hilly, and we actually had some cool stuff to look at. I hadn't been to DC since I was a teenager, so it was neat to see some of the buildings up close.

Capitol - around mile 2
I hadn't really planned on taking that many pictures along the course, but I was already feeling a little more tired than usual, so I took quite a few in the first 4 miles.

Aid station somewhere between mile 3 & 4

Along with this last picture I took at the Washington Monument (about mile 4), that's about when things really started to go poorly for me. I had been pacing pretty well, and I was feeling... ok.

And then the course took a turn, and we were no longer running down the cool and historic part of DC. It was a hilly, dirty and scary part of DC. I have been lucky lately with not having any aches and pains, but my foot/ankle issue from last fall decided to come back somewhere around mile 5. I hadn't expected the course to be as hilly as it was. I hadn't expected to feel so fatigued. I hadn't expected my foot/ankle to start hurting.

I'm glad I was running with a watch because the miles weren't marked and it was hard to figured out where I was along the course. I saw the first relay exchange at mile 5, but my watch put me much further along. I think that's when I mentally started to fail at this race.

ONLY mile 5??? Damn. It was all I could do to keep going. The first of the really insane hills was around mile 6, and that's when I started walking here and there. I came across a group of people offering free beer and vodka shots. Yep. I took a cup of beer. Probably the best part of the race.

About that same time, I realized I needed to use the bathroom. There were only 3-4 port-o-potties at a time, and they were only at the water stations, which were few and far between. Each one I came across had a line of about a dozen people. I had to go, but not quite bad enough to wait so long to use one. So I kept going. I think it was the aid station around mile 8 where they first ran out of fluids. They did not have enough volunteers and hadn't pre-made enough cups. I had to wait to get my Powerade and water. Annoying, but I did enjoy the break.

I still always walk through the water stations, and during this race I did it even more than usual. I was so freakin tired!!! I honestly don't know how I kept moving. My hands felt like they had frostbite, so I was a bit distracted with shaking them to be sure my fingers were still functioning. Finally I came up on the mile 10 (more like 10.25) relay exchange. There were a half dozen bathrooms and a line, and I finally decided I just didn't care how long it would take to use the bathroom. The race was already completely miserable. I had to seriously wait almost 5 minutes to get in. And then (probably TMI), my fingers were SO freaking cold that I couldn't pull my shorts and skirt back up. I was seriously having a mild panic attack. Why weren't my fingers able to grab?? That is not good. I probably really WAS getting frostbite. Curse this race. Then I get out of there finally, and an old man stops me to tell me my skirt is tucked into my shorts. Great... too bad my fingers aren't able to pull it out. Blah.

The best part about my 5 or so minute break was that it lowered my heart rate to around 100... it was like starting completely over. Only, it still sucked. My foot still hurt, I was still tired, and I still just wanted to be done. Between mile 10 and 11 I had a lady stop me and tell me she LOVED my shirt and wanted to know where we got it (custom designed by L's boyfriend and printed by Cafe Press!) That was probably one of the best parts of the race :D

Just. Keep. Going. Man this sucks. Why. Why am I doing this.

The crowd support is the only good part about this race. They are REALLY into it! Lots of people out with music and signs. Still not really enough to motivate me. I just want to be done. I'm so cold and tired and miserable. Then I see that we are running toward the capital. That must mean we are getting close!!!

Just like around mile 8, the last two aid stations are NOT at all equipped to handle the amount of runners and I have to wait for my fluids. At this point? I just do not care.

Around mile 12... horrible horrible horrible side ache. Are you kidding me?? What next?? It's bad enough that I have to walk for a few minutes because just putting a fist of pressure on it is NOT enough. This hurts. I finally decide - I just have to be done. Just have to finish. I figure that even the slowest jog in the world will at least get me there THAT much quicker. I suck it up and am honestly surprised that Garmin claims I'm moving at a 10:30ish pace. Feels like I am barely moving and that people are sprinting past me. The last mile seems like it is going on forever. I recognize the road that we are on, and I am surprirsed to see the marathoners running back up where we started. I hated this course. Cannot imagine doing it twice!

I have absolutely NOTHING left. I know I'm almost to the finish and yet I can barely move my legs. I get passed by tons of people and can barely stomach a jog to get to the end. And just like that... it is FINALLY over.

The finish area was chaos. I had to pull my medal out of a box, because unlike at most races they didn't have one ready to hand out. I was funneled through a "food" area, and grabbed a granola bar and a water. I was way too cold to consider eating or drinking anything. I somehow found L, and then we were watiing for our friends to finish. We saw them not too long after I finished. We talked for a few and then decided it wasn't getting any warmer and that we should just head to the car. We didn't see anyone we knew in the finish area and spent the walk to the car complaining about how poorly organized the race was. L had even received the wrong medal (full instead of half) but luckily realized it before we left. I would NOT do this race again.

Official Gun Time - 2:34:10
Official Net Time - 2:16:33
Official Pace - 10:25
Official 10K Split - 1:00:52 (pace 9:48)
Overall Place - 7234
Division Place - 761/1070
Gender Place - 3795/5231
Garmin Time - 2:16:30
Garmin Distance - 13.39 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:11
Mile 1 - 9:08
Mile 2 - 9:35
Mile 3 - 8:56
Mile 4 - 9:20
Mile 5 - 9:53
Mile 6 - 10:01
Mile 7 -11:07
Mile 8 - 10:14
Mile 9 - 9:38
Mile 10 - 10:25
Mile 11 - 12:59 (bathroom)
Mile 12 - 10:58
Mile 13 - 10:15
Mile 13.1ish - 10:09

It was seriously freezing outside but we decieed that we had to do at least ONE picture of us in our Colorado tanks and our awesome Sparkle Skirts (thanks Leah!)

Happy to be done!
We headed back to the house, took a quick shower, and then enjoyed a tasty homemade brunch of quiche and champagne. I was surprised when we had a visitor, another friend from Greece!!

Toly, Rose, Me (apparently I'm a midget??) and John
About 3:00 and we had to pack up and head back to Union Station. I had such a great visit with friends, it was a bummer to have to leave so soon. Our awesome friends then drove us BACK to DC to catch our train. Yep, I will forever remember Union Station:

We didn't have too long before our train left, so L quickly got a Starbucks, I got a diet coke and a new book. Quick trip to the bathroom, and a last minute splurge purchase of this AWESOME cupcake. At least we had the sense to split one instead of EACH get one. Doesn't it look delicious??

Our train left on time, and off we went... headed to Wilmington, DE for the second half marathon of the weekend.

Food in the Mail: Online Bake Sale for Japan

When I was a kid, I loved to get things in the mail.  There was a wonderful book called Free Stuff for Kids that I checked out of the library countless times, just so I could ensure a constant stream of packages and envelopes to our house.  Since then, partly due to the explosion of the internet (gee, I am getting old) the U.S. Postal Service has seen a downturn in people sending things other than bills and junk mail, and I think it's a damn shame.

So I try to make up for it by sending food in the mail.  Some of you know this first hand ... and while I know there's no guarantee that everything arrives intact as it leaves my kitchen, at least I'm keeping the post office in business.  I especially like to send food to people when they're feeling under the weather, or when there's a crisis that leaves them less able to cope in the kitchen.  Now there's an important cause that requires our attention.

A fellow blogger at The Tomato Tart came up with a cool idea to raise a little “dough” for a good cause through a virtual online bake sale. All of the proceeds will go to Second Harvest Japan, which is an organization that makes sure perfectly good food that can’t be sold through mainstream stores in Japan make it to the people who need it. (Take a look at this little video from CNN if you’d like to learn more about the organization.) I am one of the many food bloggers participating in the bake sale, and I'll be sending the lucky winner 9x13 inches of my amazingly buttery, nutty (only if you want them that way), chocolatey blondies!  Bidding will go live on March 30th for one day only. There's a little article in SF weekly about the sale ... I hope you'll check it out and bid on some amazing baked goods, for a good cause!  Go to The Tomato Tart now!

Sounds Like What??

Kitcat was playing the electric keyboard a few days ago. As she systematically worked her way through the the various buttons which change the sound she came across the button for the brass instruments.

"Listen Daddy!" she cried out to HB, who was practising his trombone, "I've found the trombone sound on the keyboard!!"

As she spoke she kept playing, going down into the lower register.

"That's great, Kitcat." HB replied just a split second before she continued, in complete innocence and sincerity, to say....

"Or, maybe it's just the farting sound."

(And then everyone else in the house came running to see why I was laughing so hard I was almost choking.)

No, HB did not enjoy the joke!

Cripple Creek "Celebration"

"Hey Sean, how do you feel?"
Who in their right mind comes up with this kind of crap?

A few months ago,  I took ideas from a few of my friends and began to put together an "event" that would get some people to show.  (I'm good for about one of these annually)  Peter Maksimow had turned 32 a few months ago and did a 32-miler that day just for kicks.  Brooks had run the 35 miles from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek unsupported a couple of times.  I realized that A)I was turning 36 and B)I needed to get at least one meaty run in before Collegiate Peaks.  Why not see if I could talk a few people into joining me for the trek across the south side of Pikes?

The logistics were fluid to say the least.  In the two months leading up to the event, many people were in and out of the picture.  A couple of guys committed to running the whole thing.  Many others chose to run it as a relay, run just a portion, ride a bike, provide sag support to everyone, or just wait for the crew to show up in Cripple Creek.  Some folks were staying overnight in Cripple Creek, others opted to take the Ramblin' Express shuttle back to the Springs.  Needless to say, trying to figure out just who was going to be where was a challenge.
Ready to run

When all the smoke had cleared, we had a group of about 12 or so looking to at least start the run on a crisp and beautiful morning.  From the Upper Gold Camp Rd./Helen Hunt parking lot at 7,500', we set off together in a 10:00 mile before settling into a couple of groups.  We stayed in these groups for the majority of the day - in mine were Peter, Branden Stepanowich, and Paul Doyle.  All four of us have 50-milers on the not-so-far-off horizon.  I was a little nicked up, as my left hip/IT band had been kind of tender all week.  I had concerns that the birthday boy might have to pull out of his own shenanigans prematurely.

  The first eight miles climbed 1,500' on the closed portion of Gold Camp Rd., and they featured many tunnels and views of Colorado Springs down below.  Unfortunately, running this stretch was like running on a beach - sand, gravel, and generally sloggy footing.  We met our sag vehicle at mile 8.5, where Gold Camp intersects Old Stage Rd. and opens up to car traffic again.  A quick refuel and we were off again.  To this point, my hip problems seemed fine - a little soreness, but nothing debilitating.

Patrick, Peter, Sean, Branden, Paul.  "9 miles down"
 As the miles clicked away, we alternated between chatting and retreating into our own little worlds.  As one would expect, the further in we got, the more withdrawn we became.  Once we hit our first view of the Rosemount Reservoir at mile 14, we had reached just short of 10,000'.  We stayed within a few hundred feet of 10k for the remainder of the day.

One of many tunnels

Gold Camp solitude?

A little lack of communication with our Taylor, our sag driver (I failed to tell him that he was to take care of ALL the runners, not just the back pack) left us without extra clothes, food, or water from miles 9 to 22.  These miles were precisely where a brisk headwind met us.  Paul and I had stripped down to short sleeves when we last saw the sag.  At first, we weren't concerned as we figured Taylor would catch up to us any minute.  One minute turned into ten, then sixty.  Finally, another sag vehicle topped us all off.  We also gained two more part-time runners - Darin and Sandu.  We began to open up the pace a little bit from miles 10 to 25, averaging a shade under 8:00's for this stretch.  The pace was a tad more brisk than I had hoped for, but save my hip I felt comfortable.  It began to throb periodically during this stretch, and I began to wonder again if I was going to suffer a DNF. 

At mile 24, Brooks and Amanda joined us.  They had parked in Cripple Creek and run backwards to catch us.  They were just in time to witness the first casualty of the lead pack.  My hip had been tightening up with more and more frequency, and just after they joined us, I looked up to find myself a minute behind the others.  After downing some calories and sandbagging a couple of 9:30 miles, I got back into a groove.  Brooks and Amanda stayed with me for the remainder of the run, and I was thankful for the company.

By now, I had begun to chunk up the remainder of the run into doable portions.  My focus moved to just reaching the first pavement of the day at mile 30.  This signified a new long for me.  The thought of every subsequent step taking me further into the unknown blew a little bit of wind back into my sails, but needless to say I was still experiencing more downs than ups at this point.

The last six miles were broken up in my head in this way - 1.5 miles of pavement, 2.5 miles of climbing on a dirt road, and 2 very steep downhill miles into town.

The paved mile and a half marked my low point of the day.  Thoughts of the various methods of inflicting death upon myself went through my head.  I'm pretty sure they all were more appealing than continuing in the ragged state I was in.  The pain that I had once felt in my hip I swear had spread to my entire body.

Once we turned back onto dirt and began climbing again, I caught a glimpse of Branden ahead of me...it was then that I quit having a pity party and went to catch up to him.  His wheels had fallen off not too much after mine, but our little reunion gave us enough juice to top out at mile 34 realizing we were going to finish this madness.  All that remained was, according to Brooks, a "nice little jog" into town.  Losing 1,000' vertical.  In just under two miles.  On twisty, uneven pavement with no shoulder.  Ugh.  Sweet relief when we hit the city limits!

Run distance:  36.0 miles
Gain:  3,560'
Time:  5h20min

This was a great experience on many levels.  First, bringing over 30 people together for something like this was neat.  Never thought I'd find like-minded souls that actually find running for hours on end to be fun.  Second, I finally am familiar with the ultra "death" feeling.  I had averted it in my 30-miler last month, but now I know it's real and that I won't actually die.  How encouraging.  The celebration afterward was comical, as well...

Runners(full):  Paul, Peter, Sean, Branden, Steve, Julian, Yeti
Runners(part):  Patrick, Jane, Andrea, Deirdre, Darin, Sandu, Brooks, Amanda, Sarah, Deb
Bikers:  Patrick, Beth, Marc, Brandon
Support vehicle:  Taylor
Moral support:  Brian, Christoph, Wes, Chris, Josh, Katie, Matt, Randi, Nora

Post-run festivities

What the ...?