Christmas Feast and New Cooks in the Late Year


Christmas Eve Traditions


Christmas Eve dinner for as long as I can remember has always been the same meal for my family. No matter where we are, it doesn't really feel like Christmas unless we are noshing on prime rib for dinner and my sister's special sugar cookies. Even though when we get together the question is often posed, "what do we have for Christmas Eve dinner?", it is not really a question. This year my sister, mom and I were going to be all together unlike last year and even more special, we were going to be celebrating in my sister and my new apartment. Furthermore, I was very excited to not only share Christmas with all the most important people in my life, but also to share our Christmas traditions which also include eating homemade loaves of Stollen on Christmas morning with sausages, eggs, fresh squeezed oj and plenty of coffee and eating "stew-p" which is an everything but the kitchen sink type of soup/stew (hence stew-p).

I ordered a really nice roast from Drew's Brothers and while I was picking it up nabbed some breakfast sausages, hot italian sausages and chicken (for Christmas day). There were a total of 7 of us for Christmas Eve dinner and I wanted everything to be awesome. I fretted a bit over how to cook the prime rib and didn't settle on a method until I read this post from Serious Eats. It went through the popular methods and figured out how to have the perfect sear plus perfect pink (medium rare). I was sold and with some trepidation proceeded forward.


Secret recipe Mac and Cheese


The menu included Prime rib, Horseradish Sauce (creme fraiche, dijon and horseradish), Green Beans with Garlic and Butter, Salad with AMAZING homemade dressing (red wine vinegar, olive oil, blue agave, fresh herbs and garlic), my secret recipe Mac and Cheese and fresh bread from The Baker.




I prepared everything in stages, timing out the whole meal and executing it dang near perfectly. Especially impressive since dinner time got pushed back by slightly tardy guests. I was nervous about the meal. I really wanted to provide an amazing dining experience for my guests. Before we dug into the food, we enjoyed a nice spread of crackers, hummus, salsa and plenty of Prosecco.

Empty plates and empty wine glasses? For shame! Dig in people!


With everything ready we sat down at the table, paused for me to take a picture of the table and then dug right in. Once everyone's plates were full the room fell into a deep, deep silence as everyone savored their food. I hadn't started digging in to my plate, instead I just watched their reactions and the delight at the tasting of each thing. It was actually pretty funny since they all seemed to look up at once at me and say, "this is really good!". We drank delicious red wine with dinner and then once we had digested and socialized for a while devoured some of my sister's Special Sugar Cookies, Peanut Butter Peanut Butter Chip cookies by The Baker and Gluten Free Ginger Molasses cookies by me. It was so much fun enjoying our tradition as a family and sharing it with the people I care about.




Goodbye Year, Hello New Chef in the Family?



Sister sampling her soup.


The other night, my beautiful sister offered to cook for us and boldly go where she doesn't often go. My sister can cook, she just doesn't know it yet. She has her staple items that she makes for herself, but a bad experience in the past of being made fun of for something she cooked for someone else has led her to be trepidatious when it comes to cooking for others. I was utterly shocked when she offered to cook for The Baker and I.

And cook she did. A delicious Baked Potato soup with bacon, scallions and cheddar. It had the flavor profile of a good hearty loaded baked potato but was a much lighter meal. She paired it with a salad and we were in business. She did great and I look forward to her next attempt. Who knows maybe one day she'll be guest posting for me!

While she made soup, I worked on making some gluten free dark chocolate peanut butter and jelly cupcakes for NYE dinner. They are pretty dang tasty. I am stoked to share them. It has been a good year of eating, blogging, writing and living. I look forward to a continuation and growth of that in the new year. Happy New Year everyone!

Happy Holidays and New Year

[caption id="attachment_737" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="The perfect bite: date, blue cheese and truffle honey"][/caption]

I have been absent. I know. I apologize. It was necessary.

[caption id="attachment_734" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Breaking in the new kitchen: Buffalo Runner Bean Chili & Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (GF!)"][/caption]

You see I have been taking care of one of my goals, a necessary thing to go forward with my life: finding a place to call home. For the majority of this year I have bounced around, having with me only enough stuff (including my knife roll!!!) to cover the bare minimum. Everything else was stashed in storage. I have been all over the world this year, spent copious amounts of time in Seattle, San Francisco and Colorado. This whole time however, I have circled and circled the same central issue when trying to tackle other goals in my life: lack of roots, absence of home, no place to provide routine, consistency and roots. Over the summer and early fall, I really focused on deciding where I want to be and came to the answer I have known for a long time but was unwilling or able to accept: my heart is in San Francisco. The food, the trails, the people, the family, the vibe, the weather, everything is just me. It makes me happy. And so over these past couple of weeks, I have been in a fever pitch trying to get moved. My sister and I found a place in the City and we went in to go mode in order to get the place sorted before Christmas. I have been to Seattle and gotten all of my things out of storage, unpacked box after box and even managed to sneak in a few phenomenal meals cooked in my new kitchen, which is absolutely fabulous. And I have been good about snapping pictures with my Nikon camera, I have loads of shots of drool inducing food (included here, a sample).




[caption id="attachment_735" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="GF Ginger Molasses Cookies and Peanut Butter Peanut Butter Chip Cookies"][/caption]


One of the things that has not been able to be a priority is a weekly (or three) post. I wish that was not the case, but on the list of dire necessity it does not rank highly, maybe at some point in the future when I am a famous writer, but not right now. I often wonder if I would even be missed in the massive blog-iverse. Probably not, but I'd still like to believe that my voice matters, to someone.

[caption id="attachment_736" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="A Thanksgiving Salad"][/caption]

If you've had a chance to read my Delicious Journey, you'd know that I have a clear goal of making this blog into something. And I am more resolved than ever to do so. Starting with the new year. So awesome reader(s) enjoy your holidays and happy new year! May you have a safe, beautiful, delicious holiday! Cheers!

[caption id="attachment_738" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Thanksgiving dinner: Turkey Mole on handmade tortillas."][/caption]

PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k

This year's off season has been a bit different than my two others of my ultrarunning career. My first year of ultrarunning, I needed a good three weeks of no running in order to rejuvenate, recuperate and feel ready to run again. After all, I went from running 2 marathon in a year to nearly a dozen marathons or ultramarathons in one year. No wonder I was tired.

Last year, I took a good week and a half off, I seem to recall. I didn't feel like I needed it much, but the break was good for me mentally, as where I was in life was just an exhausting state of being. I was moving back from Atlanta after a temporarily indefinite stay there and trying to figure out where I was going and what I was doing with myself. I got back to running pretty quickly and have been running ever since.

This year after JFK in November, I was looking forward to a nice recovery period for the first time this year. After every race this year I have had maybe a week or so to relax and recover (or less) before turning my sights towards the next race. It was nice to think about just running and not scheduling, planning and just running (or not) what I felt. I decided to signup for the last PCTR race of the year, Rodeo Beach 50k as all of my training partners and a bunch of friends were running and I wanted to join in the fun. Plus, I wanted to see if I could run a race without specifically focusing on the race and truly allow myself to just let the day bring me what it would. Deep down, I was also hoping I might earn a hug and a mug from co-RD Sarah Spelt. She gives awesome hugs. See...



After JFK, I took a nice easy week, running 60 miles including running around at Quad Dipsea and such. I ran when I wanted and my body responded. With all the work we've been doing on my muscles at Psoas Massage and Bodywork in my weekly sessions, my legs recovered phenomenally from JFK and I decided that I would just continue with my run what I feel "offseason". Since then I have run 91 miles, 50 miles, and last week 105 miles. I have been tired, energetic, dead legs and the freshest legs ever. The 50 mile week mentioned before was my moving week from Sausalito and Seattle to San Francisco. Moving is exhausting and while I got 50 miles in Tuesday-Friday, Sat and Sunday were full of nothing but moving boxes and furniture into my 18 foot rental truck and driving down from Seattle.

Fast forward to the following Saturday, December 18 and the PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k. After hauling, lifting, carrying, driving, cleaning, organizing the new house, not to mention trying to do things to prepare for Christmas, I was standing at the start line of the race wondering what the hell I was doing and how I was ever going to muster up the energy to run 50k let alone 5 cussing feet. I had been going full out all week, for more than a week really, and really hit the wall Thursday. I had a horrible run Friday morning feeling like after 2 blocks I should go home and never run again. Then I emotionally started crashing and that didn't buoy my energy either.

But I showed up at the race nonetheless. Why not? Either I was going to run myself out of my funk for a time, for good or I wasn't. I figured I wouldn't be any worse off trying. We arrived at the start line less than 30 minutes before the start and waded through the huge crowd of people to gather numbers and say hi to friends before lacing up the Salomon's and heading up the road. The course had been rerouted off of Wolf Ridge and now would pretty much identically resemble our Thursday morning 12.5 mile loop. That meant that Brett, Nathan, Larissa, Marla, Amy and I had no excuse not to know every turn, rock and roll in the entire course. The first loop also included a jaunt up Miwok out to Coyote, down Pirates Cove and back to Tennessee Valley. The 50k and 30k started out together and before I could think twice about changing my mind and hiding in the car for a few hours, we were charging down the road towards Rodeo Valley Trail and onward to Miwok. The first few strides were a marked improvement over the previous day, but I wasn't overly excited. I went from feeling like death to death slightly warmed over, so that is not much of anything. It was a music for motivation and distraction kind of day and I found my own pace and turned on my music. The wind was crazy for the entire first loop. There were points when I thought I was going to go flying backwards like the "others" in Mary Poppins. It was not a friendly wind, but I just went with it. Nathan took off with Pete (who was running the 30k) at a nice clip and Brett was not too far behind. I was hoping they would both have good days (as with my gals Larissa, Marla and Amy) since they are gearing up for HURT. Brett had an awesome race at NF50 which was a great indicator of his fitness leading up to HURT and I was hoping that Nathan would have a good run to indicate the same. As for me, I was just happy to run all the way up Miwok and start cruising down Old Springs. My philosophy was to just get through the first loop and then I could just phone it in since the second loop was exactly our Thursday route. Heading out to Pirate's Cove, Charlie Vazac a former triathlon teammate of mine who was running the 30k after finally coming back from injury and we chatted and caught up.

And from there well, I just ran. It was pretty uneventful actually. I just ran. I felt pretty consistently slightly better than ok. I didn't bonk or have any super lows. I just got into a groove and cruised. I just ran. It was nice. Once I was in the second loop, I started passing guys and moved up about 6-8 places without working any harder. I was happy to run all the way up Miwok the second time and appreciated that there was less wind. When I hit the final aid station with just 3.7 miles to the finish, I finally allowed myself to believe and marvel for a second at my ability to run a 50k on that little energy and still run pretty well (even though comparatively I was really just cruising).

I got out on the road and kicked it up a bit, heading in for the finish, excited to see how the guys did and to be done. While I was feeling very accomplished for running well, I was really looking forward to just being done. I cruised in to the parking lot and sashayed across the finish line (literally, not figuratively) in 4:28 and as the first woman, I think 11th overall. Nathan was there at the finish line and I immediately asked him how he did and he smiled and said casually, "I won". I was so excited for him because the men's field was really fast and he trounced them and PR's by 15 minutes in the process. He ran a 3:43!!! I was super impressed. Brett had a great day running a 4:12. All of our training crew finished and it was just a fantastic day all around. And in the end, I did get my mug and a hug from Sarah.

Whether or not this off season has been truly a break, it has been a good period of time for me. I have not had the additional stress of a training regime while trying to move, get settled and handle the holidays. I have been able to truly follow my bliss and run (or not) as I want to. It is really nice. I have enjoyed it. My first real race of the season is not until March, so I am looking forward to a nice slow long build up for that and seeing how a potentially VERY interesting 2010 shapes up!

The Wall

In my running, I have learned, very quickly actually, how not to hit the wall in races. I have worked out a plan that works and about 95% of the time, I execute it well and never even have to have a brush with the wall or a scare even.

I wish I could figure out how to do that in life.

For the last two weeks, I have been going full speed, all out doing the big move from Seattle (and Sausalito) to our new place in San Francisco. Moving is stressful. And top that off with the holiday season, I was expecting a bit of stress. I managed it well through the tough parts. I moved everything out of my storage unit last Saturday on my own (since the truck place called and gave me the truck a day early) into the 18 foot truck. Drove down to San Francisco on Sunday in merely 14.5 hours of driving, unloaded the truck on Monday afternoon and went to bed Monday night without a single box left to be unpacked in my room or in the kitchen. The week brought a flurry of activity and by about Thursday afternoon all I had energy left to do was collapse on my bed and take a 3 hr nap. I physically was hitting the wall. And within a matter of hours, I made another turn and smacked face first into the mental wall. And man, did that hurt. I tred water in that space until Saturday morning until about 6 miles into my 50k race and then managed to stay afloat until midday Sunday when a unwarranted lambasting sunk my spirits even lower.


A brief weekend respite.
Things that make me happy.

In reality, I should feel very accomplished since I can now tick off one of my goals that are the cornerstone of this blog: finding a place to call home. I am home. Yeah!! But instead of basking in that nice feeling, I am instead feeling like a failure. The wall has smacked me so good, every time and every direction I try to get up, it delivers another blow to keep me on my knees. It's the type of epic crisis of confidence that makes me just want to sit in the dark hiding under a blanket. It sucks to doubt your worth, to hate yourself, to be completely disappointed in yourself. And for no good reason. Instead of looking at what I have and am accomplishing, I can't stop thinking about all the things I haven't, the failures, the fall shorts.

Even feeling that way, I am able to not feel hopeless or even worried really. I know the feeling will pass. I have patience. When I was in Seattle last week, my cousin sang me a song she wrote about patience and it was beautiful. She reminded me that I have been and am able to be incredibly patient and wait for the right thing to come along. I will do what I can to make myself feel better and just ride it out, hopefully without blooding and bruising myself too much. I am proud of myself for trying to work through this on my own. I may have self-doubts, I may feel oppressively sad at moments, I may even loathe myself briefly but I also know that I am not really (or at least can work at not being) those things I am unable to stop telling myself currently. I have hung up the phone two rings in, deleted emails a half hour in the making in an attempt to see if I can handle this on my own. I have practiced good self-nurturing for the most part and even questioned writing this post. I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. I don't want to be a downer, whinner. I am annoyed with myself for feeling this way. It will pass, and I cannot tell you how much I look forward to that happening.... I have much too much to still accomplish and do and live to occupy the doldrums for long.

Home, let me go home

For me this year (and beyond) has been typified by my spontaneity, not my commitment. At least to place. I have floated and bounced. Searched and sought. Pondered and thought. Decided and undecided. I have for a long time, maybe even since I left San Francisco two years ago, never felt home. I have felt restless and unsatisfied with solutions that I thought were the answers to my searching.

It is a funny thing, signing a lease. It is a funny thing when it means that you have found your home again. I have signed many a lease since leaving SF and never felt home. I have lived in beautiful places, made my self beautiful spaces but never felt home. I feel home now. I signed on the dotted line and even if it is just an apartment with my sister, a block away from where we use to live together a few years ago, it is still my home. That excites me. I am going up to Seattle this weekend and taking my stuff out of storage and that blows my mind even more. I can unfolding my life only in part, stop living with one foot out the door. I haven't wanted to for a long time, but it took more than just sheer willpower to make it so. As I discussed in earlier posts on this blog, finding a home was one of my goals or objectives along my delicious journey. I discussed leaving Seattle many months ago and not looking forward to the road. Not looking forward to the open ended, no answer to "when will you be back?" or even "where do you live?". I didn't know. And now I do. Cue the music and ride off into the sunset? Nope, but in a long of ways, establishing a firm place of residence is a closing of a chapter, a book, a leg of the journey. No longer can I expend my mental energy in finding my place in the world. Instead I can expend it finding my way in the world from the springboard of home. I can take it off my plate. It also opens me up to things that haven't been possible, things I have longingly wanted but been unable to touch for a while: committment, routine, regular every day life.

I am not balking at the vagabond life I have been leading. Heck no! Don't get me wrong, it suits a part of my personality. But routine and every day life do too. And as I mentioned in my shadows on the wall posting, I have a pretty radtastic "regular" life, so committing to that is not scary at all! This new chapter of my life is unfolding and I am embracing it, warts and all, with open arms. I get giddy thinking about monthly girls nights and thursday morning early morning runs. Sunday dinners and crossing things off the list. I am looking forward to balance, looking forward to all the fun things that come along with having a home (like not having stuff in storage! Dinner parties! Etc). I am looking forward to having this constant struggle and question, not be a constant struggle and question. Instead, I can focus my attention on my career, my running, and finding a way to write that book, those blog and open that cafe or food company. From here I launch. It is exciting, terrifying, a drastic change and only a subtle move at the same time. It is an adventure.

Enough talk for now, I need to go move another load of stuff to the new place!

Run for your life! Pacing the North Face 50

This past weekend, just two weeks after racing JFK 50, but feeling like it was nothing but a distant memory I headed out to my "backyard", the Marin Headlands to cheer, crew (aka collect headlamps) and pace at the North Face 50 miler. I had a bunch of friends out there including training partners, Brett, Larissa and tons of the Endurables. Not to mention my speedy buddy Caitlin and lots of friends from all over. This race draws a ton of people due to the $10,000 prize purse.

Michael Wardian, my friend and fellow USA 100k Teammate, had asked me to pace for the last 20 miles and since I was feeling well recovered, I decided that, despite the fact that I was sure there was no way in hell I could keep up, I would agree to it. Nathan was pacing Brett and so we headed out in the wee hours of the morning to see our friends come through Muir Beach the first time before heading up to Pantoll to get ready to pace.

It was freaking cold up there. I saw tons of friends up at Pantoll including Nikki, Kami, Prudence, Trisha Steidl, Bryon Powell, Ed (Caitlin's boyfriend), Jeri Howland and plenty others I am sure I am forgetting (sorry!). It was really fun to watch all the runners coming in, not so fun to stand there and shiver, but as soon as Uli Steidl and Geoff Roes came through, I had to be ready. Michael's goal was to run for the win, so I knew I would have to run the heck out of some super tough trails. Before I could think twice or question for the millionth time if I was ready, he came screaming through Pantoll and we headed down Bootjack, Lost, etc over some pretty technical terrain. It took me a minute to get my legs warmed up, but once they got going I really needed them. I was pretty much running as hard as I could to push the pace for him. He had had a bad bonk on Coastal and had slipped out of the top 10 and was now hunting to get it back. Running that hard, all I could think was: "I am going to run as hard as I can until I can't. I am just going to run as hard as I can until he drops me". There were definitely moments where I felt that point was closer than others. We picked off a few runners and kept cranking along Redwood Creek trail back to Muir Beach. I was behind Michael and merely hanging on for dear life but encouraging him and talking to him. I felt like I was running hard enough that at any moment I could or would go smashing into threshold at any second. I never did though.

We managed to do good enough work to bring Michael back up to 5th place. With less than a mile and a half to go Leigh Schmitt came zooming up on us like he was on a bicycle. Mike said, "sorry Leigh but I can't let you beat me now." And took off at Michael Wardian sub 2:20 marathoner pace. I was spent and I simply cannot run that fast, but I had done my job. It was incredible to watch him drop the hammer and protect his position.


I was super stoked to be a part of Mike's race. As much as I helped him, which he assured me I did, he also taught me something at the same time. I learned that I can run at a pace which seems beyond comfort, outside of myself, along the edge of the knife on some seriously difficult terrain and hold on. Not only hold on, but still have the power to push up some hills that use to make me cry like a colicky baby. It was awesome. Running in the "pain cave" was something I wanted to learn to do and by pacing someone significantly faster than I am, I was able to go there. It was awesome. I was worked after those 20 miles.

All in all it was a great day. Uli won, Caitlin won ( read their accounts here and here). Brett massively PR'd and had fun doing it! A huge congrats to all the finishers! It was an awesome day. I was super stoked to finish off the day by having dinner with my Salomon crew and the next day did a short, sleepy, sore run to top my week out at 91 miles. Pretty crazy that it was my second week back from JFK and I did 91 miles. And that is with no doubles and feeling phenomenal the whole time! Cool!

Sink, Swin or Buoy. The art of being a friend.



We all feel like this sometimes? Like we are locked up in prison, trapped, screaming to get out of our lives, circumstances, spaces or heads. It is not a nice feeling. I don't currently feel that way and I can say that is a big relief. I have spent a lot of time in that space. Believe me. A charmed life it has not been. Charming and cute at times, but I am sure if I counted my life experiences like pile of poker chips, the good ones would only in the past few years be making a move towards being even.

And I am not complaining. I love my life. Whatever it has taken to get me where I am, I accept it as part of the journey. Good or bad, Amor Fati, I accept it. Because if you take any of it away, I might not be where I am now and I like where I am. I like who I am. And I feel the same way even when I don't feel like this.....



But this post is not about my struggles.

While I am really enjoying the ebbs and flows my journey is currently taking, I know that not everyone I know and care about is in the same boat. For some, it is drastically hard times. For some, it is their darkest hour. For some, it is not easy right now. I can relate to that. I can understand that. I know what it is like to cry yourself to sleep night after night for months and months. I know what it is like to feel like you have no idea when the sun will shine again. It freaking sucks.

When people I care about are unhappy, struggling or having a hard time in the past, I have gone way past empathy and often found myself feeling a part of or responsible for their issues. Even though I know I am only responsible for myself, I am what is known as a "sensitive". I can't turn it off that I become sad when someone I know is sad. It usually works with genuine happiness to, so I'll take it. It has taken me a long time to figure out how to navigate knowing that about myself. I remember this time last year my joke was "I don't have any problems of my own, I only have other people's". That didn't actually help the other's with problem or myself. What was helpful was being an available, willing to listen, willing to hug and console.

I have slowed learned to be an empathetic, available friend but in a way that actually is helpful and healthy to both people. Remember a while ago when I was talking about being like a little boat being tossed around in a storm? And how helpful it was to have friends who didn't jump in my sinking ship and wallow in it, they threw me light teethers to key me upright until I was able to do it for myself. I likened it to a parent's hands under a child on the monkey bars. For me, I know that when I have a problem or feeling, I want to address it, I want to deal with it, I want to sort it. I don't want someone else to. If someone else does, than its bound to come back to me later. The little teethers, the guiding hands gave me a confidence to get through the storm, ship not sunk, back to calm seas.

Through that experience I again confirmed what I have learned through self-work, reading and Al-Anon, that people don't need to be knee deep in the mud with you to be sympathetic, supportive or helpful. In fact, it is the opposite of helpful. It is nice to realize that instead of jumping in the sinking ship and yelling for a bucket, it is better to stay firmly and safely in your own boat, but throw a line to someone else. It is better to stand on the edge of the quicksand and offer a branch, instead of diving in after someone. It was a revelation to realize this. I mean, if I think about my own sensitive nature, than shouldn't I think that someone else could have their spirits lifted by my happiness and joy at life?

I love my friends and family intensely. It pains me when they hurt. I have to work really hard at NOT trying to fix them. I want to fix, I want to help. And the reality is, I cannot. All I can do is be available, be strong, be happy, be helpful, listen well and offer a hug or a nice warm meal. I can be present. And that is all. I went for a run today, it turned into a very long run because I was trying to work through some of these feelings. I was trying to run my way out of others sadness so that I could be of use, be good to them. And it worked. I started to hum, "Lean on Me". And all of the above unfolded to me. And then I thought, what helps me when I am feeling down? A perfectly happy song. It may not change life, but it is a reminder of joy, it is a reminder of where life will be again. Today, that song(s) were this.... Listen and be well....
 


edward sharpe and the magnetic zeros on NPR's Tiny Desk

Recovery Running or Falling Head over Heels


That giant hole doesn't come with the shoe
As I mentioned on my Delicious Journey Blog, this past week has felt like 2 years! I have been trying to savor my victory at JFK last week. That and outpace my savage appetite. While I am pretty sure I managed to do both, I also wanted to make sure not to start running too soon. I was good, my season is over. JFK was the last big hoorah until March. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be running! But as I said, I was good. I took 4 whole days off. And that felt nice.

I ran on Wednesday out of necessity more than anything. There was a big accident on the Golden Gate Bridge and I needed to get across to meet my aunt for lunch, so I opted to run the 6 miles (each way). Ultimately, she canceled on me after I was already standing outside the restaurant, but I hopped over to Blue Barn, grabbed a salad and showed off my ultrarunner skills of eating on the move. I ate my salad while walking and immediately after the last bite broke into a run without issue. Funny how we ultrarunners adapt. It was a good salad.

I also ran on Thursday, 12 miles of very hilly San Francisco streets. We hit up 4 of the SF 7 hills and I again, felt really good. I mean, I have felt good and healthy and without issue from running JFK. My legs were a bit tired on a few ups. But hell, a little lack of energy as a side effect for running 50 miles? I'll take it! Thanksgiving's run was awesome. I really enjoyed myself. And worked up quite the appetite. But that is what T-day is for right? That's a whole other blog post though.

Friday I was good again and took the day off. 24 miles in 2 days was enough weekday mileage, especially since I ran on Wednesday when I hadn't planned to. And I wanted to be able to enjoy my weekend of running.

Saturday was the Quad Dipsea and Nathan and I had decided to go out and be Larissa's crazy cheer squad. 



Nathan puts the "G" in go.

I got up to Pantoll a wee bit after 7am and powered through 6 miles up/back Boot Jack and Nora trails to check out the beautiful view at West Point Inn before meeting Nathan at the Quad Dipsea aid station .6 miles from Pantoll. I brought with me two "throw away" t-shirts for us to customize with the words "Go Larissa". Nathan ran up from Tenn Valley (with a permanent marker) and met me there. He is hitting the HURT training hard right now and needed much more and faster mileage than I would be running. We met up at 8:45 and waited around chatting with Peter of Vespa and awaiting the runners.


The Larissa cheering squad

Nathan and I donned our "G" And "O" and when Larissa came up the hill we cheered wildly and spun around so she could get the full effect of the GO LARISSA t-shirts. It was hilarious. At least I found us hilarious. Nathan and I then took off the long way to try to meet or beat Larissa down the trail. We ran up to Pantoll in our GO LARISSA shirts, then down Steep Ravine. We quickly realized she had passed the cut off already between Dipsea and Steep Ravine, so we headed down to Stinson Beach to catch her on her way back up and then visit friends at that aid station.

Go Larissa Go!



The flat part of Quad Dipsea, all 150 feet of it


After seeing Larissa and other assorted friends and runners, we headed up Matt Davis so we could see Larissa again on her 3rd passing through the aid station near Pantoll. I told Nathan to run as fast as he wanted to up the trail and I was going to take my sweet ass time. I ran decidedly well up the hill, but was so far left in the dust by Nathan that the dust had settled before I even got to it......


Nathan running down a crazy grade
While he was waiting for me, near where Coastal Trail and Matt Davis connect, Nathan decided to sprint up a crazy (more than 20% grade) and I got to catch a glimpse of him just as he got to the top. There were a few runners (that it turned out I knew) on Coastal who stopped to watch him in awe.

We continued up Matt Davis, the technical nature of the trail smoothing out and getting much more runnable. I should have known that meant danger for me! I am pretty much an expert at staying on my feet and moving fast over technical trails, especially downhills. But give me a clear trail with one root on it and I will obliterate myself!

And that is just what happened. I was running behind Nathan up the trail, sun in my eyes, just as two hikers were passing us on the way down and bang! Yard sale. As the shoe picture above would indicate, my shoe got shredded. In fact, I got stopped stone cold. I didn't even have time to stumble. The sharp root skewered my shoe (but thankfully not my foot) and I slammed into the ground right straight. I lay there for a second and tried to take inventory of the damage. Nathan came running back to see if I was ok. Within seconds the runners who had stopped on the ridge to watch Nathan caught us (they had been trying to catch us) and it turns out it was Jeri Howland and her husband Jerry, whom I met at my first ever ultra 3 years ago. I was introduced by my friend Jerry. Ha! Jeri is an awesome ironwoman and ultrarunner and has won the Quad a few times in addition to tons of Ironman events and probably has every age group record known to man. She is awesome.

Back the the lying on the ground though. I lay there for a second and determined I was not completely broken. I did cry a bit. It freaking hurt, we were not running slowly and I hit hard. I smashed my knee (left), arm (right) and scraped my hand and face (left). Good work me! It was pretty intense to see the clean hole the root left in my shoe!


It hurts way worse than it looks

I guess I am just a spaz on the smooth, even flat single track! We continued our run, my knee a bit more stiff and went back to Pantoll where a ranger wrapped up my hand and we cheered on Larissa on her third pass through. She did awesome. Ended up 6th woman and was under 6 hrs! She is a rockstar and will have done 4 races in 5 weeks after next weeks TNF50miler! Go girl!

We ran down Heather Cut off and I turned around and returned to my car at Pantoll for about 21 miles. Sunday I hit up my favorite 15 mile loop on Mt. Tam watershed and ran into Jeri and Jerry again! It was hilarious. I had a good weekend of running though. And I am still in awe my legs feel so good. Right now I am working on correcting my upper body and arm swing so I can be more efficient. For the next few weeks I am just running. I may do big (undirected) mileage or I may not. I may take 1 day off a week, I make take 3! I may run 30 miles on a Saturday or none at all! It is my "off season". While in the past I have taken 2-4 weeks off completely off from running, my muscle health is so great that I am just going to back off for a bit and then start base building in a few weeks. In past years, this time of year I have felt desperate for a rest and instead this year, I am just energized and ready for the next mountain to climb. I am being patient and looking forward to cultivating my fitness into something cool. That, and healing up my wounds from falling head over heels on the trail.

Little Skillet

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Walk up window of Soul Food goodness


I have lived in the south two times. And I never had any inclination to get into the whole chicken and waffles thing. The few times I had grits, it left something to be desired and while I had tasty soul food, it was never something I have ever craved. Until that is, I stumbled upon the Little Skillet menu.Little Skillet is a off shoot of Farmer Brown's Restaurant in SF, which is farm fresh, organic soul food. Little Skillet is farm fresh, organic soul food TO GO. Little Skillet is a window operation down the small side street Ritch in the SOMA area.



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Waffles and chicken (as above) are what beckoned me. After picking up that it is a personal favorite of someone, I suggested we check out Little Skillet for a brunch-ish bite on Monday morning. Little Skillet delivered. We ordered a 2 pc chicken+ waffle, biscuit with jam and grits with andouille sausage and cheddar. I expected a large bill with that kind of order, but instead had to stifle a laugh when she said the total was $15. Really $15!!! Nice.

The flavor delivered. The chicken was light and crisp (and topped with Crystal Hot Sauce), perfectly spicy. The waffle with maple syrup was a balanced counter point. The sweet, spicy, crisp, doughy nature of the combo was perfect for me. I only managed to get a few bites away from my cohort. Ok, like one, but it was a perfect bite.

The biscuits were light and buttery, even more buttery when I topped with butter and chunky berry jam. I love chunky jam and butter. Simple pleasures.

The grits nearly caused a riot. I have never ever liked grits. These changed my mind. And when I shared them, the hearty portion came back nearly gone. That is why you never share food with someone who has just run a long ways. Ok, it was a great idea actually so we could try numerous items on the menu. But I was ready with my fork to stab someone in the hand if the andouille started to be gobbled too quick. Needlesstosay, I may be a convert.

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I had expected to feel weighed down and stuffed after this meal, but walked away feeling surprisingly light. Sharing helped with that, fresh, quality, flavorful ingredients also helped. It was totally fun to walk up to the window on a quiet side street and nestle down on a sunny bench to share some Southern soul food best I've found outside of the South and better than most I found in the South. Check it out! I can't wait to go back and try a Po'Boy, more waffles and DEFINITELY more biscuits!

Little Skillet on Urbanspoon

Living Life


Just over 2 weeks ago, but feels like over two lifetimes ago. 
Photo by Brett Rivers

I can't believe that the past 10 days has only been 10 days. It's been a crazy whirlwind that feels like a month of living, jam packed into no time at all. I haven't been thinking about writing blogs, tweets or facebook except in the moments in between when I needed to kill a few moments. I am happy I had a bit of time to kill last Sunday on my very very very very early morning flight home (I got up at midnight west coast time, like 4 hrs after going to bed & 13 hrs after finishing JFK) so at least I could get my JFK Race Report written and posted (thanks Virgin Air & Google with your free wifi!). After that, the living of life and enjoyment of it has just gotten in the way. A big race, flying back and forth across the country, cooking and enjoying Thanksgiving and numerous other meals, recovery running, Quad Dipsea cheering, apartment hunting and finding, Sound of Music sing along and Monday morning Chicken and Waffles at Little Skillet. And that's a cursory glance. It's been awesome.

In this quiet moment, before I run off to do the next thing, I stop and ponder myself as a writer. I haven't been even thinking about my self-prescribed blog schedule. I have not further unfolded my Fast Foodie blog as I had thought I would many months ago. And its not for lack of a foodie life. If anything, my life as a foodie has intensified and expanded infinitely since the Baker and I started, um...holding hands.....roll your eyes, whatever. (Except for the inclusion of individuals prescence in my life on my blog, my personal life will remain, well personal). But as I was saying, we've been throwning down some amazing meals in the kitchen, knocking things off lists (both 7x7 100 list and our own list) and I've just generally been more geeked out on food (and life) than ever before. But the inclination to capture it in tweet, blog, photo or writing has been much of an after thought. And that makes me ponder.

After the Sound of Music sing along yesterday, I walked past a yarn shop called Imagiknit. It is a yarn shop I use to frequent when I took up knitting for a time. I took up knitting with an intense passion, spending pretty much every evening after work, running and cooking, knitting up scarf after scarf after scarf. I threw myself into it like I do with most passions/hobbies of mine, with reckless abandon, without moderation. But soon, I couldn't hold it all on my plate. When you do things that intensely, you start to run out of room. I probably (and have) could live a 5am-10pm life filled with nothing but running, eating, working, running and eating (like I did in Atlanta). As I pondered my lack of knitting, I wondered if writing, blogging, etc is like knitting in my life or like running. Knitting, I can live without, do without and while I enjoy intensely, I could easily live my life without ever knitting again. Running, I would not willingly give up, I love and care too much about it. Sure I can take days off, but it is a part of my life that just IS. It is not a question.

And what is writing to me? Is it knitting or running? Is it merely a trifle to fill space in the quiet moments of life or is it something, that like my running, will continue to grow and develop on an exponential curve over the next few years? I want to be caught up in my life, every footstep, delicious bite, or list worthy adventure. Not only do I want to be, but I AM, I am just out here living my life. It is a glorious thing. And part of really embracing that, embracing your "real life" and not the shadows on the wall, is accepting the ebbs and flows. It is accepting that sometimes you are in peak training and pounding out 140 miles per week and sometimes you are in recovery and eating your weight in waffles and barely running at all and accepting that they are both a productive part of the pursuit. I am seeing that with my writing. I have goals, I have ideas and I have a passion and sometimes I am knocking out 5 blogs a week, producing pages and pages of original recipes and restaurant reviews and commenting on all the vast offerings in the blogsphere and hunting down my goals like a hound after a fox and sometimes I can't even imagine pausing life to report on it.

Deep down, I know I am a writer. Deep down this post is an exact reflection of what this blog is all about: THE JOURNEY. It is cool to note, it is cool to watch. I don't really have any doubts about my desires, goals and passions when it comes to writing as this post might suggest. This is more like the squiggly line of road through the mountains. Part of this whole process and journey and pursuit of my goals is continually learning and growing and living at the same time. One of the cool things I am learning is how to let go of absolute definitions. As this post would suggest, I am prone to trying to absolutely self-define. Which is ridiculous! Silly me! Silly me. But it is very fascinating to watch the thought process and note it and let it go. I am what I am and I will be what I will be. I will continue to watch and witness and write and record the journey as it unfolds. I am loving and living life and it feels good. And I am glad I am putting that in writing, I want to remember this and every moment.

Sponsor Highlight: Psoas Massage + Bodywork


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to one of my sponsors, Psoas Massage. They deserve a great deal of thanks from me because they actually physically contribute to my running success through the work that they do. Over the past 8 weeks, I have gone for a weekly sports massage session with one of the co-owners of Psoas Massage, Scott Schwartz. We have working on keeping me running injury free, reducing recovery time and generally increasing the healthy and flexibility of my muscles. I have also seen another of their therapists, Rodney McBride to help me develop a fantastic stretching routine and another, Jason Garcia for Feldenkrais Method and also for massage. It is awesome to have a team of therapists working on me and addressing the every changing needs of my very active body. Working with Scott and the other therapists, I work on both my immediate needs (i.e. massage for recovery and any tweaks) as well as my long term health and improvement. In the weeks I have been seeing Scott for my weekly sports massage sessions, the health of my muscles has increased immensely. I have little soreness after even huge mileage weeks or months (for instance running 440+ miles in October) and being able to race top speed in a 50 miler without any muscle soreness during or after the race.

On Monday when I saw Scott, he said he could line me up with someone who'd run 5k, another who'd run a marathon and me, who'd just run 50 milers and bring in any of the other therapists and have them guess who'd run what and they'd never guess who's who (unless of course we'd all be massaged by Psoas and then we'd all feel phenomenal).

And if any issue arises, Scott who is the lead on my case, dispatches me to the best therapist in their cadre of therapists to get the problem fixed. Several of the therapists are certified in Active Release (ART) which saved my butt, well actually my foot, at the beginning of the year!

Truly, like my healthy diet and getting good sleep, massage and the work that Psoas Massage and Bodywork do for me is an integral part of my success. I am so thankful to have they as a sponsor and I highly highly recommend them to you.

Check out more information about Psoas on the website HERE.

Or better yet, try them out! Tell them I sent you!
Psoas Contact:415-227-0331
Psoas Address: 333 Third Street, Suite 205, San Francisco CA 94107

This week (and a half) on my plate

Wow. Where did the last 10 days go? I feel like I was just revealing in my Lithia Loop run and here I am now post-JFK 50 mile run (read all about it here). Before and after the race, I ate some amazing things. It's funny sometimes to think about what an awesome foodie life I have. I live in a place where even simple meals, such as "Sunday supper"(which was really a week ago Saturday), of broccoli, rice, butternut squash and scallops are profound because of the fresh, local ingredients. I really feel like I could just spend my time only running, cooking, eating and writing it and I still wouldn't be able to keep up. Case in point, the last 10-ish days! I knocked out 4 of the 7x7 100 Things to Eat and Drink Before You Die, which I have been using as inspiration and for uncovering all sorts of tasty foods in SF. It's fun! I also had several stand out homecooked meals like "sunday supper" as well as spending 4 days on the east coast and eating nothing noteworthy! While in Maryland, I went to two Japanese restaurants for basic foods like steak and rice. I had to "eat safe" the days before the race. But I definitely made up for it afterwards!

Delfina Dinner Date

gnocci


Gnocchi al Ragu- divine little pillows at Delfina


On Friday night, November 13 I took my sister out for a fun sister date. I got us VIP tickets to the Save the Waves Film Festival and we started off the evening with a reservation at Delfina to check the Pork Sugo with Pappardelle off our 100 list. I manged to get us a 5:30 reservation and we were among the first seated for the evening, however the place was packed within minutes. The waiter told us that the Pork Sugo went quickly, so we ordered it the moment we sat down, along with Pomegranate Bellinis. We got a Insalata di Campo with bitter greens, pancetta, walnuts, Parmigiano and balsamic vinaigrette, a half order of the gnocchi al ragu and (my favorite) Brussels Sprouts with pancetta soffritto and horseradish. We had a nice glass of red wine with dinner and everything was fantastic. Even though we had come for the Pork Sugo with Pappardelle, I actually like the gnocchi much better. The gnocchi were light, the sauce complex and the cheese the perfect note. The film fest was great and I even managed to be in bed before 11pm, so I could get enough sleep before my Saturday morning 7 am long run.


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Insalata di Campo at Delfina


Saturday "Sunday" or something in between

broccoli

Giant bowl of broccoli + giant bowl of cheese= yum!



Saturday the 14th was an awesome day all around. I got to get out for a great run with friends, see more friends running around doing the PCTR race in the Headlands and then spend the afternoon enjoying amazing and at times curious food. After the run we headed to Cafe Del Sol in Mill Valley for salads and wraps. The Baker and I were going to make "Sunday" supper together that night, so we headed to Rainbow for supplies and brainstorming. It is a fascinating and fun thing to collaborate with someone who has (more) food knowledge and tons of creative ideas. We came up with a very simple menu to highlight some of our cravings. Broccoli with cheese, rice with broccoli stems & carrots, roasted peri-peri butternut squash and scallops cooked in butter/evoo. And of course, wine. Even though it was a week out from a big race, wine is such a beautiful compliment to a meal when paired well.

scallops


But while shopping we both hit the wall and needed an afternoon snack. We were wandering around Rainbow co-op, our blood sugar plummeting and wandered past some prepared tofu sloppy joes that sounded amazing. We agreed that was a good start, I wandered off to see if I could find some gluten free buns to put it on, to no avail. But then I thought, as weird as it sounded, that the sloppy joes would do well on Primavera corn tortillas. I suggested it to the Baker and he said, ohhhh yeah. And then suggested we top it with Sauerkraut. Ohhhh yeah, I said. And how about avocado, we practically said in unison. And I thought that this weird food combination would only sound good to me. And it was sooo good. We devoured it before I had to go see an apartment. Then we got cooking in the Sausalito kitchen preparing our delicious dinner.


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Throw it all together, why not! It works!


broccoli


Melty cheese and broccoli



Onward to race week

dcpb

Sunday breakfast was Udi's gluten free bread toasted with Maranatha Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter spread and banana. Wow it was good. Like dessert for breakfast.

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Amazing Grass shipment for being part of the Amazing Athlete program!



The rest of the past week has been a whirlwind of amazing food. Monday we made a giant meat salad. What that means is we made a huge salad and then topped it with pretty rare marinated flank steak (my iron has been low). I wasn't feeling very well on Tuesday and so my dinner at L'ardoise with my friends Marshall and Suzanne consisted of only a simple iceberg wedge and a very small squash soup. Pretty simple for my upset stomach. Midweek I received my shipment of Amazing Grass products. I have just been accepted into their Amazing Athlete program. I am super stoked to have them sponsoring me because I love their products. I make a Green SuperFood drink every morning and usually have an Amazing Meal smoothie after most morning runs! And their bars are absolutely delicious!

Once I flew off to the East Coast the food fun was curtailed for a bit in the pursuit of running greatness. I try to eat bland foods before a race and stuck to mostly salads for lunch and basic Japanese foods for dinner including steak, rice and seaweed salad for dinner. I guess the combination worked! After the race we went to Bulls & Bears in downtown Hagerstown and I had a nice plate of fries and a spicy chicken breast salad. Not awesome, but I knew that I had a special post race treat waiting for me when I returned!

On Sunday I flew back to San Francisco and I was treated to a nice cup of Four Barrel Coffee. I had been up since midnight west coast time, since I flew out of DC at 7am. About 1pm in the afternoon I realized I hadn't eaten since 2am and should probably eat something considering I had ran 50 miles the day before and not exactly chowed down (I ate the meal at Bulls and Bears and that was pretty much it!). I was eagerly anticipating my "real" post-50 mile dinner which was Pizzeria Delfina, followed byt Bi-Rite Ice Cream (both of which had items on the 7x7 List). I had thought about pizza for the last 10 miles of my race since I had decided before the race I would eat some "real" not gluten free pizza post race. It was well worth it.

At Delfina, we procured a small table in the corner and had a round of sparkling wine. We then tucked into the Erbette Chard w/ garum and pinenuts in lieu of our desired appetizer which was not on the menu currently which was spicy cauliflower. We decided on two pizzas (Delfina is only thin crust): Pizza Margherita (the pizza on the 7x7 list) and then a Broccoli Rabe pie with pepperoni added. Both were great. We got a side of sauce, which was terrifically garlicy. I had had a hard time deciding if I wanted to go to Little Star pizza and get a Brass Monkey, deep dish pie or if I wanted thin crust. I generally prefer thin crispy crust but like the amount of sauce a thick crust can hold. The solution (genius!) I figured out was to go to Delfina for thin crust and get a side of sauce. Not exactly original (or genius) since it is listed on the menu as an option. Oh well, I will give myself credit for at least figuring out what I wanted! After dinner we went across the street to tick another on the list which was the salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite. It was sweet, more sweet than I usually like but after such a savory meal, it was just right. I also got a small scoop of the cinnamon snicker-doodle ice cream. The whole evening was absolute dining bliss.

A perfect monday lunch

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The Sentinel for Corn beef sandwich



Monday I spent in the city before my massage appointment at 1:30pm. I nearly was able to get another 7x7 item at Dynamo Donuts but they were closed on Mondays. I was perfectly okay with this since I had a nice cup of coffee from Philz, a gluten free flax carrot muffin and a smoothie in my belly. I saved the 7x7-ing for lunch!

Around mid-day, I decided I would go to Outerlands for soup and toast, but after driving all the way out there found my plan thwarted as they are closed on Mondays. And Trouble Coffee was closed too for construction. Curses! I hightailed it all the way back to SOMA and headed to The Sentinel where I had toyed with going at the same time I decided to go to Outerlands. The Sentinel's Corn Beef Sandwich with Gruyere is on the 7x7 list and after one bite I knew why. The meat was hugely flavorful, the condiments understated and the bread very light. It was 2.5 seconds to my stomach, while sitting in my parked car. I followed it with a cup of Sight Glass coffee which Dave at Outerlands had recommended, as he was using the beans at Outerlands, but we didn't try any. It was great and the stamp on the cup was even better.

photo(2)Viola Swamp is WATCHING YOU (SightGlass Coffee)


I am looking forward to a delicious meal tonight (7x7 again!) at Ducca, going after the aranicini. And then before I know it, Turkey Day! The Baker and I are having Turkey Mole. We are working on it currently. I just finished making a batch of gluten free peanut butter chip brownies. The kitchen smells spicy (the massive amounts of roast chilis) and fragrant (all the herbs in the turkey stock). I am super stoked! Happy eating everyone!


JFK 50 mile Race Report


If you are not smiling, why are you running? (less than 16miles to go)

Photo by Jenny Ueshia 

Prerace

I am not a sandbagger, if I feel good going into a race, I own it. If I am feeling on top of my game, I know it. In theory, I think I would I love to toe the line feeling like a thoroughbred pressing at the gate. But, alas, I have no idea what that feeling is like.

Instead, just like before WC100k in Belgium in June, my week of taper before the race was awful. On Monday, my stomach was so bloated I looked like I swallowed a basketball, my legs were swollen and doughy. I felt tired, lethargic and sick to my stomach. Tuesday was no improvement and I was nauseous enough to not be able to eat much all day along and only stomach a small soup and a wedge of iceberg lettuce. Wednesday I was just crabby and mustered up a decent run once I got going, hitting my favorite ½ trail ½ road loop in the Headlands & Sausalito. Thursday I flew and that made my legs swell and threw me off for a bit. Friday I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel bad either. I was able to eat, most of my bloating and swelling was gone and I at least felt like I had slept. Boo hoo, I know. Nothing was actually wrong, my training had gone exceptionally well with 4 100 mile weeks in October after a swift recovery from Vermont 50. I had raced well 2 weeks ago at Lithia Loop and recovered well from that. It was typical taper but it definitely was driving me to madness and insecurity.

As I said, I am  not a sandbagger. That is just how I felt and if you had asked me the day before the race how I thought things were going to shape up November 21 at the JFK50 miler, I probably would have said, “I am not feeling confident about my speed, my recovery from peak training, from Lithia Loop, etc. I just feel a bit off.”

JFK 50miler is the oldest (I think) and largest ultramarathon in the country. This year was the 47th running of the race and the field was “limited” to 1,000 starters. The day before the race the Herald had a lengthy article about all the top runners that had shown up for the race. There were easily 15 or more legitimate contenders on the men’s side and the women’s side, despite being called a “two filly race” between Meghan Arborgast (my 100k rockstar teammate) and I, it was a much deeper field than many years has seen. Annette Bednosky, Jill Perry, Monica Ochs and Francesca Conti were all in the mix and there was no saying how things would unfold. Meghan and I decided that I was the thoroughbred and she was the Arabian, filly that is.

Meghan picked me up from the airport on Thursday (lifesaver, thank you thank you thank you Meghan) and we drove up to Hagerstown and got settled in her room. We managed to stop on the way up to Hagerstown at a decent Japanese restaurant and found an organic grocery store to get our snacks and breakfast food. Friday was relaxing and we hit up The Plum in downtown Hagerstown and I had a delicious salad and later after race packet pickup and checking me into my hotel, we went to another Japanese restaurant and I had steak, white rice and a seaweed salad. I wanted to keep it as basic as possible and I wanted to fuel up properly. And that combination was a good one. I was in my hotel room by 7 and settling in for the 5am wake up. I got my stuff sorted, relaxed in bed, wasted a bit of time and was asleep before 10:30. By the time my eyes closed to sleep, I had a familiar feeling that I recognized from before Vermont 50. It was the feeling of being completely neutral and unstressed about the idea of racing the next day. It is almost a feeling of not racing at all. It is odd. But I kinda like it.

Race Day

When I woke up at 5am, I had to remind myself I was about to run 50 miles, probably at least as hard as I have ever run that distance. The JFK 50 miler is very runnable after the initial 16 miles of AT and so it had the potential to be fast fast fast. Anne Riddle Lundblad's female course record stood at a daunting 6:29:42. That is an hour and 15 minutes faster than my 50 mile PR. I have never run a fast 50 mile course before and I knew that the year Anne ran that time it was after she won the 100k in 7:47. She was on top of her game and even though Meghan and I had joked about hoping to both be under the course record, when I ran the numbers, I thought it would take a perfect day for one of us to do it and for both, it would be completely unprecendented. I imagined that if we "two fillys" could push each other side by side, neck in neck and I could find a way to run "in the pain" i.e. nearly outside of myself but maintainable, than we might be.

But really, when I rolled out of bed, I was thinking, well guess I should try to muster up some enthusiasm before the race. It's not that I wasn't happy to running and looking forward to it, it was that I had no nerves. And I don't really know what that means. Again, it wasn't a brimming with confidence feeling. I ate two bowls of crispy brown rice cereal with pumpkin butter and pb, had a banana and a nice cup of coffee. I got a text message just as I was getting up that offered words of encouragement that would come back to me all day, just when I needed them. I dressed and headed out the door for Meghan to pick me up at 10 til 6. I was a bit vexed leaving the room since usually coffee, well, um clears the pipes before I leave for a race and nothing was happening. Not even remotely. I was worried that if I didn't have my pre-race bathroom break, that somewhere along the AT or worse on the tow-path that the shit would hit the fan and my stomach would betray me. Even once we got to the start, nothing was happening. Luckily, Friday had been good on this account so I was feeling pretty good in spite of the irregularity (TMI, I know!). At the last second as we crossed out of the high school I decided to take an Immodium to lock up my stomach, a trick I learned from Connie at the 100k World Championships in Belgium.

Before I could spend any more thought or energy on it, we were walking across the field and down the road to the starting line in downtown Boonsboro. The air was perfect, the skies slightly overcast, slightly cool, but particularly to my liking. I decided on wearing my Salomon Sleeveless Jersey with my Primal Wear Tattoo arm sleeves on top. On my legs, I wore my Salomon Compression 3/4 length tights. I wasn't wearing them for warmth, but for support. I wore Asics Speedstars, since a light road shoe was in order even with the AT section. I wore a Nathan waist pack with my gels, saltstick caps and VESPA. I carried one water bottle in a Nathan handheld. There were so many aid stations, I probably could have carried a smaller bottle, but I opted for a strategy of filling up every other  or every third aid station and taking cups of water at the ones where I didn't fill up. 

We lined up, nearly 1,000 deep in the early morning calm and before we had a chance to change our minds, we were running off down the road. The lead men's pack took off and Annette and Jill shot off ahead of Meghan, Monica and I. I was perfectly happy to tuck in and roll up the road and warm up. I wanted to not burn up my carbs immediately by turning on the burners too early.

Coach Howard had divided up the race into 5 parts (among other very helpful advice found :
1)   Uphill road
2)   AT
3)   C&O Canal
4)   400 Meter Uphill
5)   8 miles on the road


We cruised along the uphill road along the highway for about a mile, chatting and trying not to work too hard on the gradual uphill. Meghan and I joked and laughed and we soon caught up to Annette and Jill. We passed a few guys who said something about bacon, the smell of which was wafting through the air. For some reason, we switched to talking about songs that get stuck in your head during running. Nothing is worse than having a bad song stuck in your head, so I decided to offer the ever so torturous songs of manhamaha (Sesame Street 40 years ago) and then "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Annette groaned and said something about Journey and John Denver. She told me after the race she had Journey stuck in her head all day. Meghan and I stuck together as we turned off the highway and headed up the road, climbing up and up the mountain towards the AT. It was not an easy hill, but compared to Lithia Loop where the hill was similar, I was just happy to know it wouldn't last long at all. I put a few seconds on Meghan going up the hill, feeling very strong and comfortable on the uphill.

We hit the AT and started the dance which would last over the next 14 miles. The dance I am referring to is that which you have to do over leaf covered rocks, twists and turns under foot. I have been on the AT only once and in GA, running up to Blood Mountain with my buddy Christian Griffith. I think that one run, like my one bike ride on the TRT before TRT 50 mile, gave me enough information about what to expect that I could visualize and not be too surprised. I think pacing at MMT100 for Glen Redpath also helped immensely. I was use to tripping and falling and hurting myself on similar rocks at night while running with Glen, that I was prepared. But I didn't fall!

I felt good cruising, hoping, spinning, slipping and sliding at a very, seemingly slow pace along the AT. We came to an aid station and I stopped to use to portapotty since I had to pee really bad. Meghan caught up to me as I was coming out of the bathroom and we headed back on to the trail together. I kept a really conservative pace on the AT knowing that realistically all you can do on the AT is burn yourself out. You can't get enough speed on it to make it worthwhile to hammer, so I just enjoyed the warmup. I sang Horse Feathers songs to myself and kept my smiling face upturned toward the morning light (well, when I wasn't watching for rocks everywhere!). There were some nice gradual uphills and then finally we hit a sweet, pretty trippy, rocky, steep downhill. It was, of course, then that I ran into about 50% of the 5am earlier starters, because naturally the trail is narrow and steep and hard to navigate easily without falling off a cliff. Once the early starters heard me coming (as I warned them), they started cheering me on in large groups. It was awesome. Meghan was maybe 30secs to a minute behind me but I also knew that no matter what, I could only run my race and see what that meant for me.

I popped off the trail into a huge crowd of spectators and Howard told me that there was about a mile until I hit the C&O Canel tow path. When I arrived in the aid station, I filled up my bottle and headed out for the next section of the race which is 26 miles of flat, runnable, cinder trail winding alongside the Potomac River. Mike Spinnler, race director of the JFK, had emailed me earlier in the week to let me know that there was a bicycle escort for the lead woman and that his name was Scotty. Sure enough waiting there for me was Scotty on his bike clad in a bright yellow Course Official (or something like that) vest. Mike had said I could talk with Scotty all I want, Scotty just couldn't handle for me in any way. Fair enough, having the company was WAY more than I could have ever hoped for. Like the road 100k and all USATF championship races, headphones aren't allowed. And while, I haven't raced with headphones in my races for the most part, I could imagine that when the crowds thin out and the tow path drones on and on, it might have been helpful. Instead, I had Scotty. We told each other stories, he commented on how consistent my pace was. It stayed at 8.1 mph, everytime he'd look down he would shake his head and say, "you are amazing, you are so consistent". And then he would say, "and you are smiling and happy!" To which I would always respond, "of course I'm happy, this is so much fun!".

Early on I asked him if he was allowed to look back on my behalf and tell me who he saw behind me. He said he was and he did. He turned back to me (we were less than a mile in at that point) and said, "she's about 50 meters behind you". A few minutes later, "she's about 100 meters behind you". We pass through an aid station and I don't stop. Still a few hundred meters. Then, a few minutes later, "I can't even see her anymore". I think I had gassed it for a few miles there because I had a guy runner to latch on to. The tow path can stretch out straight for a while and you can see competitors pretty far behind you and ahead. I settled in and just kept cranking. I took my non-caffeinated Clif Shots on a schedule like it or not starting at 1:30 into the run and taking 1 every hour after that. I took a salt-stick cap every hour and took a Hyper Vespa at 3 hrs.

I just clipped along. Not feeling like I was pushing too hard, in fact was quite comfortable. I told Scotty about how I was trying to learn how to push myself hard enough that when I crossed the finish line I had nothing left, how to run on the fine line between major disaster and overwhelming success. I had the feeling at the 100k in June that I could have kept on running another 50k or more at that same pace and would have been just fine. Scotty is a competitive master's cyclist and so we discussed a lot about training. I told him about how nice it was to have a companion with me on this journey and how usually I imagined my training partners and family running with me at various points in the race. I use that same visualization during various points of JFK and found myself very charged and enthusiastic at certain points. Scotty was probably really entertained by me and all the chattering I was doing. By mile 24, I was feeling like I was cruising and comfortable. I was getting all geeked out on life and running and the beautiful journey I was on. I checked my watch and I was at about 3:20 something for the first 24 miles. I did a quick attempt at calculating how fast I would have to run the final 26 miles if I wanted to take the course record, which crossed my mind for the first time since before the race and I laughed out loud at the idea that I would have to run faster than a 3:10 marathon to even run even with the CR. I gave a little mental shout out to Anne Lundblad at what a savage she was for running that mark and having infinite respect for how freaking fast that was.

I was still smiling as the miles ticked away. I stopped at a few aid stations which were 3-4 miles apart, stopped for pit stop behind a tree and just kept plugging away. I passed the 50k mark and was happy to be under 20 miles to go. I was really looking forward to having 16 miles to go. For some reason, mentally that left really chewable sections for me. After my experience at Lithia Loop, running the last 16 miles closer to tempo than marathon effort, I knew that if I could get to 16 miles I could lock into a pace I WOULD (that is would make myself maintain). I came up to the mile 34 aid station and saw Coach Howard who told me that the last time I had seen him I was 5-6 minutes up on Meghan (which was somewhere in the 26-28 mile range I think). He asked me how I was doing, and I smiled (see picture at the top) and said, "I am feeling awesome!". He said, "you are the first person to come through here saying that! There are some guys ahead of you suffering. Go get them!". Last I had heard, I was in 35th place or so. But I had been steadily passing guys all along the tow path and was picking off more and more as the miles remaining dwindled. The final 8 miles of the tow path I broke into 2 4 mile sections, bite sized pieces in my mind. Scotty was encouraging me to "make the boys cry" and would spot the next target or rabbit for me to chase down. It made it a fun game.

Nearing mile 38, I spotted the bright green jersey of Ian Torrence from Rogue Valley Runners & Co-RD for Lithia Loop. Ian is an awesome individual and I was surprised to see him, though I knew nothing of his current fitness level. He passed through the aid station and stopped to tie his shoelaces just past it. I caught him and as I was running by asked, "What the haps? You ok?" I think of him as a super speedster that I should not ever have a chance of catching, so I wanted to make sure he wasn't hurt or suffering. He said he was cool and running fine for where he was fitness wise. I wished him luck and zoomed off. With 4 miles to go on the Potomac I was feeling renewed and excited. I kept eating and drinking, getting mentally "handled" by my visualized crew, or should I said, I shamed myself into remembering because I didn't want to bonk and then have to hear about how I wasn't on top of my eating and that I needed to eat more! I took my caffeinated gels at this point and enjoyed the kick it gave me through those final miles. In the entire race, I took in 5 gels and one gulp of coke, so while that is not much (as I don't need much as VESPA and fat metabolism change my needs), it was ample for me.

Howard was at the aid station at the turn off the path onto the road. He said there were a few crybaby boys ahead of me really suffering and I should go catch them and make them feel worse. Ok, maybe thats not exactly what he said, or wait, maybe it is.... He also said to get up the "big hill" anyway I could.

I turned on the road feeling the hard road under my feet for the first time since many hours before and it actually felt really good. The sign said there was 8.1 to go. An ironic number on the day. Scotty gave me a few words of encouragement as we rolled up the hill that were something like, "wow, you are moving!". Howard had said to go up the hill as gently as possible and I thought it was going to suck more but apparently all my hill training has made me look at hills like that (and everyone in this race) like "sissy hills". Lithia Loop, that had a hill, TransRockies, that had HILLS, Vermont 50, that had 9,000 feet of climbing in knee deep mud. That 400 meter hill made me giggle with surprised delight at being so easy.

The road rolls on through the country side past pretty little farms and houses, into small little towns. There are aid stations about every 2 miles in the last 8 and I was half tempted to throw my bottle to Howard, but I didn't see him again until the end. After I had gotten up the hill, I did another quick calculation and determined that to equal the record I would have to run that 8.1 miles in under an hour and as I rolled along, I thought that laughable. I didn't feel like I had slowed down much if any, but I also didn't feel like I was moving along that fast. Scotty told me that my pace still hadn't swayed off the 8.1mph overall average since he joined me at mile 16. Nice, consistent if nothing else. I was starting, wait I take that back, I continued to have fun with it and just run happy. I started to accept that I was going to do it, I was going to win, hell, I was going to finish, which as funny as it sounds, still is something I don't take for granted.

I started to try and track down one guy, Andrew Mason and set my sights on catching him. I went through the 6 miles to go aid station and was told that I was 14th overall. Nice, I had moved up 20 some odd places on the C&O! Andrew and pacer, were a bit ahead of me out of the aid station and I pushed a little to reel him in. I ran up behind him, "hi there, how ya doing?" Gave him a big grin, chatted for a second, saying something about trying to make boys cry (jokingly of course). He laughed and said I looked great. He then said, "That's Scott Jurek right up ahead" (about a minute ahead or so) 30 seconds ahead of David James which as my next target), 'That would be a good scalp to take". He appealed to the ninja in me on that one, plus I like Scott and even though it might notbe nice for him for me to catch him, it would be a great boost for me to be able to catch him. At this point, I was battling with the top ranks of men, challenging guys who had been listed as potential winners of the race. Wow. It really blew my mind. I knew I was feeling good, but to do that, I couldn't even understand. All I was thinking was, "man I feel great, this is what you should feel like with less than 5 miles to go, right??".

I soon caught David James and he did one of the things female runners loathe which is to speed up and kill themselves not to get passed by a girl. I mean I was about to cruise right by him as he was struggling pretty obviously to me and when he turned to see it was me coming up on him, he charged to stay next to me, even though he was then running well outside himself. As he huffed and puffed and tried to hold on to me, I calmly made idle chatter and then gassed it a bit up a small riser and left him in the dust. Scotty was telling me what was coming up and which way the course was turning or if we were about to be climbing or descending. At 3 miles left sign, I lopped up on Scott and he turned to look at who was coming up on him. He smiled and said, "Devon, wow! You are moving!" I responded that I felt great and he encouraged me on. I said, "Just one Greenlake left!" making reference to Greenlake in Seattle which has a 3 mile dirt loop around the outside. I pushed onward, toying with the possibility that I might be able to get close to the record. I remembered back to many miles before when I had told Scotty about wanting to run myself into the pain cave and wanted to learn how to leave everything out on course. With that in mind, I decided to push harder. I sped up about 10-15 seconds per mile. I got my heartrate and breathing up more but still in control. I caught Josh Brimhall and put myself into the Top 10 overall. I turned the corner to the last aid station which was 1.5 miles to the finish line and smiled and choked back tears. At this point, I was singing to myself "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I was emotional, overwhelmed by the impending victory and top placing overall. I wouldn't let myself slow down though or succumb to the emotion. Where often the final stretch seems like a celebratory mile, I dug deep. I looked at my watch and calculated that I would have to run under 10 minutes for the last 1.5 miles. That's 6:40ish pace. But what the hell I thought, I have been not suffering at all in this race I might as well crack myself now. Scotty told me I would follow the road take a right, go over a little riser, roll down and then up to the finish. (I found out after the race that I ran 6:40 average pace for the last 12 miles from Damn #4 and that only 2- Crowther and Woods, had a faster split than I did for that section).

I came over the riser with power and spotted the finish line. I asked him to double check. that it was truly the finish line where I thought it was. I didn't want to sprint if it was much past the RV I could see. It was the finish line. I pushed, I pushed, I could hear Mike on the microphone encouraging everyone to cheer me to the finish, to the Course Record. I nearly lost my breathe, I nearly cried, I was going to do it. I spotted the clock and looked at my watch, shit, I thought, my watch was more than a minute off! I had a matter of seconds not the minute plus my watch indicated (how on earth time was lost is a mystery to me since I hit start when the gun went off!). I threw my bottle to the ground (what a bad habit this is becoming!) and pumped my arms and raced across the finish line, breaking the tape in 6:29:21 and new Course Record by 21 seconds! I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry or jump up and down. I had a moment of feeling like I had pushed myself hard enough to barf, but by the time they'd taken my tag and I had given Mike Spinnler a huge hug, I felt giddy and springy and full of energy. I was racing around full speedy talking to everyone! Maria took me inside so I didn't catch cold. My friend Joanna who was one of my dearest friends from Pittsburgh, her husband and their two kids had made the 1.5 hr journey up to watch me finish. We hadn't seen each other in 5 years and it was absolutely wonderful to see them.

I got changed, was interviewed, chowed on an Amazing Grass Bar, drank some FRS and Meghan came in to the gym. She was 2nd in 6:56:06, 1st masters woman and total rockstar. I was so happy for her. She went to get changed and we headed back to the hotels for a quick change, snack, etc before the 4:30pm award ceremony. I took an ice bath, ate some Rice Chips and drank an Amazing Grass Amazing Meal which really hit the spot. I had a dance party in my room and just really let myself get giddy with excitement! We made it back to the gym for awards, LATE! And snuck in as the men's awards were finishing. We had to park really far away and hadn't anticipated that, so we were running behind. We literally had to run to where the awards were! It was funny.

Hey, that's my name he's calling!

Mike introduced the women's field. He said that for a really really long time the CR stood at JFK and then in 2005 Anne Lundblad had broken it in a time that he thought would stand for as long as the previous one had. He thought it nearly untouchable. He said he knew our field would be fast, but never had an thought it would have two women run in the top 7 fastest times ever and have a new CR established. That made me pretty giddy (if it was possible to get more than I already was) hearing that. I was in disbelief of what I had accomplished. Even when he announced my name and I joined the other top 10 ladies in the front of the gym, it didn't feel like I had just done that. Mike handed me my trophy and an envelop with my winnings. I had earned a nice payday for the win and an additional payday for the CR! I was really happy that Meghan had run so well. Annette was 6 mins behind her in 3rd and my pal Monica was in 4th with a great run of her own! It was awesome.

Top 5 Ladies!



The four of us gals and Howard retired to the Bull and Bell in downtown Hagerstown for some sharing of drinks, war stories and good eats (at this point ANYTHING would have tasted great).


Look at my big, heavy trophy!

It's now the morning after, I am sitting on an airplane zooming back westward with my very heavy (and already broken- the runner snapped off) trophy. Even writing this, it is surreal. While my feet are swollen (and swelling more as I write this, even though not too much as I am rocking the 2XU compression socks), my legs feel so great. Its a testament to how well trained I am and how much my body work at Psoas has been helping me. My muscles are so healthy. It is cool to feel this good. And I close my eyes and replay the miles, I don't want to let it go, I want to savor this moment for as long as I can. Fact of the matter is, I had a damn near perfect day. I ran with joy, I ran with strength, I ran in a state of pure bliss. It was awesome. I celebrate this feeling and at the same time start thinking of all the awesome possibilities to come. What a day!

Congrats to Greg for his amazing win and to everyone who raced out there!


Links
* Pre-race round up in the Hearld-Mail
* Race results
*New First Lady at JFK 50 miler (article in Competitor by Bryon Powell of iRunFar)
* Redemption comes with Crowther’s JFK victory (article by Dan Kaufman in the Herald-Mail, with accompanying video)
* Seattle's Crowther wins JFK 50; Crosby-Helms sets women's record (article by Bill Cauley in the Frederick News-Post)
* Nearly a Thousand Runners Take on 50-Mile Race (brief video from Hagerstown TV station WHAG)
*Winner Greg Crowther's Race Report
*A Trail Runner's Blog





I will include more pictures as I have them!

Lighten up already!



I admit it, I was freaking out for the last few days. Taper madness squared and then multiplied by a few other physical factors (like low iron, pissed off stomach and swollen legs) had me in a tizzy. I hate that feeling and I hate being waist deep in it and unable to extricate or talk myself out of it. I annoy myself with the feeling, I can't even imagine how much I annoy others with it, as much as I try and keep it to myself. It is natural. As my coach Howard would say, "you feel like crap, perfect! You are right on schedule!". I know that my best race this year came on the heels of a similar taper week and that I should have just let myself "feel what I feel" instead of resisting it or trying to ninja kick it in the butt. The ninja kick didn't work, but lightening up and having a little faith that it would work itself out did.

I am looking at this particular episode of neurotic overexamination with interest. My personality is prone to being introspective yes, but I sometimes have to rein myself back from that, lighten up and not put everything under the microscope. Not everything in life needs to be micro-managed. I am usually pretty good about not doing that. I am a pretty go with the flow adaptable person, but when I go into hyper-examinator mode, I really go. But I realize that this time, I am being more aware of the arch of the "spaz out" and feeling. I am feeling it, working on it, struggling with it and all at the same time, maintaining humor about it. It's really not all that serious after all, not much in life is, as much as a bit of taper madness might make it feel like it is.

I think one of the greatest things for me to work on is in fact not spending as much time doing such intense self examination, especially when experiencing routine dishevelment. At this point in my life, I don't take much very seriously. I have a levity in my heart that hasn't existed in a long time, maybe ever. I really like where I am and where I (may be) am going. I look at each day with excitement, interest and contentment. I have been incredibly present and it is such a nice way to be. And so, when life dips and dives into murky emotional waters, I need to continue to stay present and ride along the crests and waves the way I do the positive ebbs and flows.

I forgive myself too, for my imperfections, for when I fail myself. I forgive myself without shame, without punishment. I smile knowing that everything in life ebbs and flows, comes and goes, even when I cannot maintain faith in that. It is nice to laugh heartily at yourself, especially after working yourself into such a tizzy! I laugh, put on a some music and my running shoes and go enjoy a spontaneous mountaintop dance party.

The furniture is on the ceiling


All smiles on a Thursday morning trail run. Photo by Brett Rivers

It's one of those days. Some days, I can just feel what I feel, like I mentioned a few posts again. Sometimes though, I want nothing more to find the escape hatch and pull the plug on how I feel. And yet, no such escape is to be had.  So I just sit quiet and pray quietly, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." 

I am working really really hard at talking myself out of this weird, annoying mood. In fact, I am starting to see it is as a challenge. Can I make myself feel better when all I want to do is be a big freaking baby? And I feed the savage beast of feeling or starving it out? It is interesting to think about how we handle ourselves and our feelings. I discussed the "feeling our feelings" but that is not always the solution. Sometimes we need to drop kick ourselves in our sissy pants and quit our mopping. 


I am a disciplined person, but I am also an introspective person. I don't want to stifle legitimate feelings, but I also don't want to coddle neurotic ones. This morning I have been really thinking about balance. Balance between discipline and not, and just balance itself and how to find it, keep it and manage it. Most things, no matter how we try to control them, balance out in the end. I am trying to have the wisdom to know the difference today. We'll see what I can do with it.

In 10 years



"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" That is a loaded question, one that I shudder to ask, but asked nonetheless recently. As soon as the words escaped my lips, I had to think for a second if I had an answer should the tables be turned and it asked of I.

I have never been one to adhere to convention. I never envisioned myself or fell into living my life like a series of destinations to be checked off the list... college, check. married, check. kids, check. What now...oh check....I have always lived my life with calculated risk. While this style of living has inherently ushered in its own set of psychological pitfalls, I have navigated them as best I can and come to a point in my life where I honestly, truly embrace that I am who I am and I live my life according to the philosophy that "in 10 years" I hope to be (still) happy, I hope to still be embracing the fact that (as I said to myself one dark, depressing, snowy day last winter) in 10 years everything will be different and I won't even remember this moment. And the moments I do remember will be mere stepping stones along the continuous journey.

This is particularly interesting to ponder over the next 6 months as I approach the milestone of my 10 year high school reunion. I think, wow 10 years?!?! Really! Has is really been that long? When the reality is, I have lived a life so dense since then that it might be argued, has it really only been that short? I have lived all over the world, experienced fantastic food, wine and people all over. I have had several reincarnations of careers, I have loved, I have lost, I have experienced. I have truly lost track of time.

For me then the answer is not "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" (which inherently implies a definition) but "what are some of the things, feelings, experiences you want to have in the next 10 years? What are some goals that you would like to cultivate?". I think the very nature of this blog spells out the answer of how I would answer. I want to see where my path leads me, I want to continue to stay open to the world, I want to continue to take calculate risks. I also want to stay patient and grounded.

Practically speaking, I would love to travel more. I would love to solidify my home here in San Francisco to a point where I feel like I have squeezed all I can out of it, so that I can go on to other adventures. I want to run and run and run and compete for a while (never stop running!). I want to open a cafe that serves beautiful espresso in the morning and charming delightful wines at night, pastry and salads and sandwiches in between. Walls covered in local artists and songs playing that make you say, "I love that, but I've never heard it before". I want to work really really hard on this labor of love and have it be a success. If it happens, that would be beautiful. If that is not what life has in store for me, than I look forward to seeing what life DOES. I see myself at a high table at my cafe with my notebook working through notes for a cookbook or novel, the smell of ginger cookies mingling with hot tea and coffee. So I guess I do see myself somewhere specific, but not in the way that that question is often posed. I am not hatching a plan from here to there. I note the desire, the interest, the goal. I live my life in a way that will build the foundation for those things to occur in life and then see what unfolds.

I think for me, I want to continue to live Amor Fati. Hic et Nunc. My little motto. Accepting and embracing my fate and whatever comes, living in the here and now. I find myself at this particular moment, absolutely fascinated by the possibility of how things will unfold in the next 10 years. Absolutely jaw droppingly fascinated. I just imagine the possibilities and it is so freaking cool to try and take them all in. Really there is limitless potential in life where things will go. I look forward to the journey!

Feeling your feelings


 A nice reminder


Last week I tweeted "Forget afternoon snack attacks, instead I get afternoon crisis of confidence". I think it is interesting to ponder on the nature of feelings and how, despite knowing (sometimes) exactly where they stem from, exactly how they are manifesting, exactly their lack of merit, we are powerless to stop them. They rise up and throttle us by the throat, leave us shaking and gasping for air. If we are lucky, we recognize where they are coming from and can talk ourselves out of panic.

My afternoon crisis of confidence is one of those feelings that I watch come up (in slow motion almost) and wash over me. Even though I can see it coming, feel it hitting me, I can't turn away, I am powerless against the feeling. So instead, I have learned to just feel the feeling. A not very good person once said, "whatever you feel is right" and its true. It's what people do with feelings that makes it a mess. I have learned that sometimes feelings are like scars, remnants of a former experience. You can't necessarily hope to get rid of them, but you can definitely come to grips with their existence. 

Now, as the wave washes over me, my confidence falling like a lead weight off a tower, I simply take the feeling and throw rationale thought at it. I imagine lobbing confidence boosting bombs at my feelings, which seem to lessen the blow. I just let myself feel it, but not give in to it. I don't freak out or try and hold on to the feeling, I don't try to get anybody else to buoy me through the feeling. It is just a feeling, not a rational concern. I don't need to make my irrational feelings into an interpersonal issue. Plus, teaching ourselves to self soothe when these feelings hit us, is among the highest skills one can hope to build in their self work. It is hard when you feel like crap to tell yourself that you are fabulous and believe it. It is hard to logic our way out of something that is not logically.

Often these feelings are not new feelings, in fact, I have not been struck with an overwhelming feeling that I was like, "really, that's a new one and news to me!". It is usually something that I have gnawed on for a long time in the past, something I worked through the best I could at a time when it was applicable. Or sometimes it is related to something that I can't seem to work through or find an abiding peace about.

A perfect example of that is in fact exactly how I feel today. I have learned over my 4 years of running marathons and 3 years of running ultras, that approximately (but sometimes can happen any time during the week after) 3-4 days after a race, I am struck with an incredible bout of depression and an even worse bout of dismorphic body image. I suddenly feel like a depressed sad cow. Yes, it is not rational, but that is how I feel. Sure the necessary post-race eating and post-race swelling (in my legs which occurs regularly unfortunately for me), create a circumstance that just make me want to hide under a blanket and wear fat clothes. Sometimes I do. Or I eat 5 cookies and feel worse about myself.

I understand it is not rational, but I simply can't make it go away. So I just feel what I feel. I simply tuck in, put my head down and ride it out as best I can. Trying to come away unscathed or even trying to get out of it early by doing something phenomenally confidence boosting, like running really fast or fitting into a size 2 pair of jeans with a bit of room (but you of course are gambling when you are having body image issues on putting on any sort of form fitting clothes, lest your usual size doesn't fit!).

Just feeling your feelings hastens them to exit. Let it flow and let it go. I try and not hold on to them. It takes a good amount of work but in the end it is just another intensely good exercise in our own self care.

Frankly, I feel better already!

This week on my plate

After really digging in and getting writing again on my "non-running/non-food" blog and letting my writing and personality shine through on that blog, I realize that I have continually, but slow and surely removed a lot of my voice from this blog. That is of course the last thing I want to do. Part of what makes a food blog appealing is the personality behind it. Recipes are great, but in the end, we are flooded with good recipes at every turn. And heck, what am I trying to accomplish here anyways? I want to bring you amazing recipes that are applicable to your life and health and palate. Whether you are a runner, a foodie or a health nut, I want this to be your place.

[caption id="attachment_692" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Come to my table"]Come to my table[/caption]

Over time, I would like to completely overhaul the site and turn it into something bigger and better. I love to write, I love to cook, I love to share (evidently). And so, I am going to be trying out some things. Heck it's my blog right? As professional and streamlined as I want it to be, is that what it is really all about. Hello, I am not food and wine magazine, though I would never balk at an opportunity to be (a part of them). That said, I need to proceed ever forward into the food writing expanse? Abyss? World? and see where my voice takes me. No use in trying to be someone I am not. I think my food speaks for itself (it says, "I am good, yum, eat me") and I should also not be afraid of doing that for myself.

One of the things I am going to start doing is doing a weekly wrap up of all the fun things that crossed my plate that don't fit anywhere else. Sometimes I make a fantastic something or other that doesn't quite warrant free standing post, or I complete another of the 7X7 100 things to eat before you die in San Francisco (and want to comment!)- I am 15 in and they have for the most part been phenomenal.

So without further adieu....

This week on my plate and in my belly


Over the last weekend, I headed up to Ashland for Lithia Loop Marathon, the Trail Marathon National Championship. I think the trip was 1/2 going for the race and 1/2 going for the food at Morning Glory Restaurant. Both the Baker (crew extraordinaire for the weekend) and I had had numerous people recommend it to us and so it was my incentive for running the race as fast as possible and making it to the restaurant for breakfast. It was worth it, the food was great. There was housemade marionberry syrup, gingerbread waffles and a tandoori tofu scramble involved. And it was good.






marionberry

tofu

gingerbread

I was back from Ashland by Saturday night and dinner was cobbled together out of the pantry (soup) and a stray sweet potato and onion, quick roasted. It was simple belly satisfying goodness. Sunday was a leisurely day for the most part. I hung out at my house until my sister was ready to run in the early afternoon and then we headed out to run my favorite loop in the North Bay on the Mt. Tam watershed. Yes, 15 miles the day after a marathon. We ran with joy and exuberance. It felt really good and made us super hungry. I hadn't eaten lunch so by the time we got done, I was ready for my main motivation for that loop: going to Woodland Market in Ross for a "Devon Special" which is a Green Goddess sandwich but done on a spinach tortilla instead, replacing the cream cheese with hummus and occasionally (like Sunday) adding Turkey. It was good. My sister and I sat outside and shivered while downing our wraps and triple fisting beverages. It was late afternoon, so neither of us really were keen for another meal. Instead we decided to tuck into some treats and a trashy romantic comedy. There was wine and popcorn, followed by dessert (ha!) of one of my most clever discoveries/ combination to date: Maranatha Dark Chocolate Peanut Spread and Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island Ice Cream. And a persimmon on the side.

ice creamI really like Coconut Bliss's Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream, but it is a bit sweet for me and I prefer chocolate as a small taste instead of the base. That is the genius of this combination. I love vanilla ice cream and I want the dark chocolate peanut in their too.

Monday found me quite the excitable girl. I had been keen to make a fun buckwheat soba noodle dish on Sunday, but as I mentioned my day unfolded in a way that left little time for cooking. But Monday I was determined!

My sister and I headed into the city for a full day of painful apartment hunting, stopping off for lunch at Blue Barn for our favorite personalized salads. It was delicious and a nice counter point to the previous evening decadence. Next door to Blue Barn is Miette. Miette's ginger snaps are #49 on the 100 Things to Eat and Drink in SF before you Die, so I figured, well, we are hear, might as well check one off the list. I went in, grabbed a $7.00 container of cookies and we dug in. Yummmmm. Crisp and gingery.

DSC_0018The cookies went splendid with our coffee. They were the type of good that satisfied each of us with just one slim cookie each. I still open the package repeatedly just to smell them. The fragrance reminds me of a fall day and provokes thoughts of Christmas time, snuggling by the fire of my childhood home.

By the time we were done, we were both famished and so we returned to the house where I began whipping up some Otsu with sweet potato and spinach (both were my addition to this great recipe from 101 Cookbooks). I used 100% Buckwheat noodles which sucked. They ended up clumping together in one sloppy ball. So much for presentation.

DSC_0014DSC_0021I also made Beef Short Ribs from Sage of the Coast in LA. It was a very satisfying meal indeed as my post-marathon appetite was truly rearing its ugly head. I felt like I was going to gnaw my arm off for most of the day.


After discussing possible dessert ideas for Thanksgiving on Wednesday, I decided to go home and test kitchen some of the Babycakes Ginger Snaps to see if I could make an "acceptable", ok down right tasty treats for T-Day.


DSC_0030The Babycakes version is not only gluten free, vegan, etc etc etc it is actually pretty healthy. It has coconut oil in it which is delicious and a "good fat" and adds some kick arse flavor too. These cookies turned out super flavorful, but I definitely need to make them smaller so that they can crisp up more. They needed more snap.


babycakes1I am excited to hand them over for review to the critics and see what tweeks I need to make. But for now, I think the fact that I ate 5 after my bibimbap dinner (sans rice), shows that they were not in fact bad in any way. That or I was just really hungry. Probably both.


The rest of the week, well, it should be fun! I am trying two new restaurants today and tomorrow, then cooking on Saturday, so I really can't complain. I will try and keep my camera close and my food even closer.

Lithia Loop Marathon


The race start
Over the weekend, I headed up to Ashland, OR for Rogue Valley Runners' Lithia Loop Marathon. After meeting Hal at TransRockies, I was keen to take him up on his offer of a great race. They definitely delivered, it was an absolute blast.

I did a "power taper" for this race. After 4 100+ mile weeks (including 122 miles the previous week), which came on the heals of a 1 week recovery from Vermont and the flu, I decided that I would take 3 days completely off leading up to the race and run only 2 quality workouts. On Tuesday and Thursday, I headed out on the flat road and just shook my legs out. I had gotten a really great massage with Scott at Psoas Massage and was feeling as good as I might expect the day before the race after only a few real recovery days.

I have never actually spent any time in Ashland and it was an absolutely beautiful drive up and took a mere 5 1/2 hrs. We spent the afternoon eating good food and wandering around the little town. It was very pleasant and I felt decent, though not really fired up for the race. I am really focusing my energy and efforts towards JFK on the 21st, so it is hard to want to fully go into race mindset lest I race too hard and waste myself. Lithia Loop was suppose to be a good hard long workout, with the nice bonus of being the national championships for the trail marathon which meant I could win some money while I was at it.



Pre-race dance party aka how I warm up for races

I slept incredibly well, woke up feeling neutral and ready to go. I downed a gluten free flax muffin with agave sweetened jam and a banana and we headed out to Dutch Brothers Coffee for my morning fix. After telling Nathan (my crew/support extraordinaire) that I didn't really ever get to races extra early, we ended up arriving before 7 and before they had really even set anything up. It was decently chilly outside, so we stayed in the car and had a dance party instead. It was a good way to warm up for a race. Krissy found me and we chatted it up before the race with Ellen, it was nearly a Grand Canyon girl's weekend reunion. Monica was there in spirit I am sure.

It was pretty cold outside but I opted to just don my skirt, Salomon jersey and sleeves and skip gloves or a warm hat. While I was fine at the start, I would later regret not having gloves. We lined up on the road at the new starting line. Apparently the previous years course had been a mile short and they had adjusted this years accordingly. I chatted with friends and familiars and before I knew it Ian Torrence was making a final little talk and 1,2,3, go!

I tried to stay comfortable and controlled on the road. I knew that the first 8 miles were all uphill and not friendly you won't even notice this uphill, but real what the hell am I doing is this ever going to end hill. I also knew that after that extreme hill, it continued rolling uphill until about mile 10. I planned accordingly mentally.  I just told myself 8 miles of up, 12 miles of rolling flat and 6 miles of down. Breaking it up gave me the ability to map out my strategy.

The uphill was pretty daunting and I was feeling pretty chilly. I didn't feel like I could get warm even though I was running hard up hill. Two women went out ahead of me and I just let them go knowing my strategy was to stay in control and that my goals were to run well but not race too hard. And I am not sure with so little rest that there would have been any point in trying to hang with them on the uphill at the start, it would have been a waste of energy to try and run someone else's race. I was just happy to be able to continue to run, mile after mile after mile uphill. I had opted to not listen to music for this race but probably could have used it on that uphill.

Finally at mile 7 we turned off the fireroad and got to do the last mile of steeper uphill on single track. We popped out of the woods at mile 8 to the smiling faces of Eric Skaggs and other Rogue Valley runners. Eric asked if I needed anything and I said, "the top". He smiled and said, "you are more or less there". More or less means no, but at least I could see that we were back on fireroad and it was much milder. I had also looked at the course profile before the race, so I knew the worst was over. I wanted to spend a few miles trying to pick up the pace and start rolling. But it was freaking cold on the ridge. We had climbed up from 2,000 feet to over 5,500 feet and the temperature was much colder up there. My hands quickly turned into blocks of ice and I was not sweating or drinking at all. To make matters worse I felt extremely bloated and I attribute it to the elevation, though it was very uncomfortable. I felt slow and fat, instead of light and speedy which would be preferable. I rolled with it even though it made me a less than happy camper.

Krissy was about 30-45 seconds behind me and part of me just wanted to run with her and chat and be silly like Grand Canyon, but I also knew that I needed to focus on what my plan was a try to get into the groove. It freaked me out a bit by mile 11 when I still was feeling not great and not warm. I had been hoping to be settled in and have all the hard work I have been doing in training show its stuff. Just after mile 11, I hear two runners charging up behind me, closing fast and I turn to see Krissy and Ellen running up on me like I am not moving. I speed up to match the pace they are running at as the pull up along side me. Despite it feeling a little fast for me, the change of pace finally hit the on button and I found the pace much much more comfortable than the pace I had been running. We clicked along together, though Ellen dropped off less than a mile after she caught up to me, she had real stomach issues and lost her breakfast on the side of the trail. Krissy and I zoomed along, legs churning, feeling good. We chatted while we threw down 6:30ish miles and started passing handfuls of men in front of us like they were standing still.

I was finally feeling good and really grooving after that. My first half split was 1:47 which is slow, but with the hill, not that bad.The lights came on somewhere after mile 15 and the mid 6's just felt easier and easier. I decided at mile 16 that I would hammer as hard as I could for the last 10 miles in order to give myself a good hard speed workout. I figured that I should practice running harder than comfortable pace and get some confidence in knowing I can hold that kind of pace. It worked. I was flying. Around this time, Krissy and I stopped running together and I pulled ahead, but never looked back. I took a gel at mile 17 which proved really difficult. My hands were so cold, I could not move my fingers and I didn't want to slow down at all, so I just struggled to get into my waterbottle pocket and get the gel. Then I fought to get the top off and finally got some of the nearly frozen Clif Shot into my mouth.

I clicked off the miles in a very focused fashion. I felt like I was flying. The miles turned over in what felt like seconds and I lost contact with effort, with resistance, with pain. I passed a few more men and passed the mile 20 sign, knowing that I would be hitting some great downhill soon. I started thinking about maple syrup and post race breakfast at Morning Glory and I got even more motivated to keep on flying.

The previous day Scott Dunlap had told me that the last 4 miles was a pretty gnarly technical steep descent, so I was looking forward to ripping and roaring down that. Soon after mile 22ish, I hit another aid station, dropped my trash and then dive bombed down the firetrail heading back towards the finish. I really got rolling and just allowed my strength carry the blow and pounding of the downhills. I passed Mark Godale from Ohio and he told me that he had been with the 2nd place female at the last aid station and she should be right ahead of me.

"Well then, I guess I should go after her", I thought! And took off at a tear. I was still feeling good and speeding up. I was still running within myself as I didn't want to kill myself literally (on the crazy descent) or figuratively (for my next race). I hit another aid station, not sure which mile it was at as the mile markers had ceased to exist. And then I saw her. Becca, a SRC XC teammate of mine, was flashing along just below me made a minute-minute fifteen. I dropped the hammer to get her as we both zigged and zagged down the switchbacks. It is hard to get enough speed on a descent like that to really catch someone when they are running decently. She hit the road below and I popped out soon thereafter. Ian Torrence was there and he said she was about 45 seconds up. It was mile 25. I wasn't sure that I would be able to run 45 seconds faster than her, especially with her knowing I was there trying to get her.



Trying to reel in 2nd place, after being 45 secs back at mile 25. 
Finished 6 seconds back.

It was funny to try and sprint to catch someone like this at the end of a trail marathon. I hadn't seen her all day, yet she was really within striking distance all along. Maybe if I had known, I may have done things differently, but I doubt it. I was pretty much running as hard as was smart to do for the last 10 miles. I worked and worked and worked to try and was gaining and gaining and gaining. I saw Nathan with less than a half mile to go, he snapped pictures, cheered and I tossed (actually smashed) my water bottle to him so I could use my arms (not like I had been drinking anyway!). We came into view of the finish line and her friends screamed for her and she kicked as hard as she could. She crossed the finish line in 2nd and I was 6 seconds back. It felt good to run that hard and know I could probably still go back out and run some more. It was an awesome race. I finished in 3:16:20. Good for 3rd and a great workout.

Krissy and I after the race
Krissy came in less than 2 minutes later with a strong run and we hung out for a little bit after the race. There was a good while until the awards ceremony, so Nathan and I headed over to Morning Glory which numerous friends had recommended and I had been thinking about for more than 26.2 miles!


We are very happy with our post-race food at Morning Glory Cafe
The food was amazing. The marionberry syrup was so good I just wanted to (and did) just eat it with a fork. I opted for a tandoori tofu scramble and hash browns. Nathan got an amazing gingerbread waffle with whipped cream. After filling our bellies we headed back to the race finish for the award ceremony. Krissy, Ellen, Nathan and I sat around and chatted and then really enjoyed the award ceremony. We had finished 3rd, 4th and 5th, all in the money, so that made a great day for all of us!


Yeah for Grand Canyon girls! Ellen in 5th, Krissy in 4th, Me in 3rd. 
All in the money, nice!
Overall, it was a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed getting out of town for a fun roadtrip and a great race. The event was incredibly well put together and the experience a good one. I am feeling pretty good for JFK, with two weeks of taper ahead of me, I am going to focus on eating a ton, staying hydrated, sleeping lots and getting in some quality workouts! We shall see how it goes. For now, I am just going to enjoy my experience from Lithia Loop.


Mt. Shasta on the drive home

The things that matter (An ode to my friends)


I am not someone who is prone to being overly sentimental. I am not prone to letting people in or coming close. When you have been hurt, burned or simply not have it in your nature to do so, it becomes harder and harder over time to let people in. After everything that occurred in my life in high school and the loss of friendships I sustained because of it, I lost a lot of faith in close friendships. Among the things that I sustained because of that situation, that is probably the most hurtful. It took me a great deal of time to recover, to try, to risk opening up again and letting friendship in.

 
It's a hard thing to admit. And over the years, I have slowly but surely, piece by piece taken small steps to undo that feeling. Thankfully for me, time and time again, I have been shown that my experiences in the past were in fact the exception, rather than the rule. I am extremely blessed to have amazing friends. Whether they are friends that I talk to everyday or friends I barely talk to more than a handful of times in a year, I realize at this time in my life: I have amazing friends, I am incredibly blessed.


Over the weekend  I went to Ashland, OR for the Lithia Loop Marathon. It was one of the most fun weekends I have had in a long long time. And during all of that fun, I felt constantly felt immersed in a deep imbibing sense of peace. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the great people in my life.

My friends, each and everyone of them, is incredibly special to me. I love my friends, I value them and I am sure I fail short in letting them know how much they have shaped and influenced my life. I wish there was some way I could tell each and everyone of them how amazing, beautiful and valued they are. Over the years, the bonds grow deeper and my fear diminishes, my faith renews.


So instead of going on and on, this is just to say: thanks friends. Thanks everyone, for just being you. To someone, whether it is me or someone else, you have made a difference, you have touched or shaped a life. The value of being a real friend to someone can never be diminished, you (may) never know how much it means to the people you extend that to. It is awesome and beautiful.