Feeling like a runner, among other things

This week has been characterized by a week in which I began to feel like a lot of things. I felt like a foodie, I felt like a Seattlelite, I felt like a runner, I felt like the new year had brought me over the crest of a hill that I thought would never end. To some, it might seem like an odd idea to not feel like a runner when you are one, or like a foodie when you are one or to feel unconnected from a place in which you live and are from. The fall was a rough time for me, the culmination of a year of alot of change, transition and personal work. It all came together in the fall to test me once again and during the off season the inner space outlook was bleak. But the new year brought respite, it brought perspective, it was like I had been running up a steep section of trail for so long and was about to give in and the top arrived just in time. Everything just started to click and started to fall into place, plant seeds for positive growth. It is funny how that works, just like when one thing seems to be wrong, other things seem to follow, so it is with good.

Feeling like a runner
I went for a run yesterday in the afternoon, the air was crisp and cool. I headed out on my favorite loop at a near Tempo pace which felt easy! I got on the flats near UW and was flying. For the first time in a long time, I had this feeling come over me that felt like a runner. As I said, its ironic to say that, because I am a runner. But the feeling is more a sense of, this is what I imagine a runner SHOULD feel like. That is fluid, strong, and the entire body working together in a way that makes running feel effortless, even at fast speeds. Too often there is something that feels just a bit off, not pain or anything but just not the click, click, click. It is a hard thing to admit, but a lot of the time I don't feel like a runner, but instead just as someone who is running. When I see other fast runners gliding along, I imagine I imagine they feel something different than I do. I wonder if they feel like every cell and fiber in their body is conspiring together as one to make that motion. I felt that yesterday and even after I had gone to the gym and was running home, legs tired and worked from my circuit, I was powering up Fremont Ave and flying by the zoo. This feeling is one of the nicest surprises of the young new year, especially amongst how things have unfolding in other areas.

Bridal Trails pair relay and weekend
This past weekend was awesome, probably the best weekend I have had in a good long time. On Saturday, I got to sleep in, lounge about and try to figure out a prerace ritual for a race that starts at 3pm! I ate a fabulous prerun meal of gluten free Flying Apron bread with Avocado, cherry tomatoes and Spicy Hummus. Since I was going to be not running until about 5pm (since I was doing the second half of the relay), I needed something that would stay with me for a while. It was delicious and kept me full!
I picked up Alison whom I was partnering with for the race and the Jurek's at Seattle Running Company and we headed out to Bridal Trails on the Eastside. It was an interesting experiment fitting 4 people in the mini, 3 of which are 5'10 or taller and all our gear!

I am thoroughly in love with the Seattle Ultra scene. There are a ton of amazing people, the community is so strong and the events are a blast! This was no different. There were even more people at this race because there was a 5 mile and 10 mile option. The course is 5 mile loops on (what turned out to be ) muddy horse trail. After quick chats with various folks I know from SRC and other events around, and the 5 mile & 10 mile folks being sent off, it was finally time for the 50k people to start, including relays, pairs and solos. Alison lined up for our dynamic duo and took off at the front of the pack. Atta girl!

She ran amazing, coming in under 40 in her first lap and not slowing down much in her other two! I waited patiently, trying to keep warm and talked to 2 of 3 members one of the relays, Eric Bone and Glen of Team Dart Nuun. At last, I got my shoes on and got ready. Alison came flying into the aid station and we made the tag. I was off, running along on what felt like two blocks of ice. It took a good 20 minutes before I could feel my feet.By the time I started it was pitch dark and I had two headlamps to guide me but it took me time to find an adjustment that fit. The path was completely torn up and the mud and manure was shoe sucking. I ran a conservative pace to get to know the course and reading the path in the darkness. While I felt like I was running decently fast, the mud inevitably slows any effort. I stumbled my way to a 42 minute lap and headed out a bit more confident in the second one. About 3/4 of a mile I caught up to Scott and Leah who were both running the solo 50k and decided to back off my pace to run with Scott. It was nice to have the company (and more light) and we cruised in for a casual 43 min lap. I got another headlamp from Alison for the final lap and tore off. I blazed as fast as I could, feeling great. I flew as fast as I could and ran my best lap. We finished in 4:12 and were the first woman pair,as well as third pair overall. Go team!

Alison and I piled into the car after I changed carefully and put my disgusting horse crap covered shoes in the trunk. My car was pretty much covered in mud from the inside out, which was hilarious! We drove back to the city and went to Araya were we ate some delicious. Then we went to Whole Foods to get some dessert. Alison stayed with me since she recently moved to Olympia and needed some place to crash while in Seattle from work and such.

Sunday continued the best weekend in a long time. We got up and walked to Whole Foods for some breakfast. Then we spent the rest of the morning in Ballard doing a little shopping, music finding and farmer market wandering. The sun was out and it was a brilliant day. We had Pho for lunch and then went for a 8+ mile run up to REI, Feathered Friends, etc and down along the water in Eastlake. We arrived back at my house in enough time to go (again!) to Whole Foods to grab some items for the potluck at games night with a bunch of ultrarunners. Games night was so much fun. Not only did we enjoy some amazing delicious food but enjoyed playing Taboo (girls rule!), Speed Scrabble and Jenga! All around it was a great weekend, I got to do what I love to run, eat and spend time with friends. It was relaxing, exciting and helped me feel even more connected and at home here in Seattle.

Building Flavor

When it comes to being gluten intolerant and vegan, alot of people think "what do you eat?" it must be bland, must be boring but in fact it is not at all. I think the key for people to understand that the reason why a lot of vegetarian meals are commonly meat dishes with the meat removed, that means you are taking away from primary flavor component and not replacing it with anything and so it is bland. The key to good vegetarian/vegan cooking is being aware that you must work harder to build the flavor, because fat carries the flavor and therefore meat is often the component that does that. However, I think once you are aware of that, it become so much easier to create fabulous dishes.

This week has been awesome for cooking. On Monday, I went for a nice 12 mile loop including a stop at the gym. It had been raining the whole time, but when I came out of the gym (having had to put all my wet clothing back on) the temp had dropped and it was freezing rain that turned into snow about 10 minutes into my run. I was suppose to meet my friend Tara for dinner and quickly got ready. When I emerged from my bedroom and looked outside, the ground was covered in snow! I decided to go get Tara anyways but the roads were treacherous (as Seattle people are completely unprepared for snow) and we called off our dinner plans and I took her home. I swung by Whole Foods for some ingredients on the way home. I decided to make grilled veggies with brussel sprouts, black beans with cilantro and diced green chilis,quinoa with chili and nutritional yeast, and homemade guacamole.

This was a very easy meal to prepare:
1) Grilled Veggies: I short cut on this one, purchasing some of Whole Foods grilled veggies and then cooking up the brussel sprouts over medium high heat, cut side down in some olive oil. Once the brussel sprouts were golden, I added the grilled veg in to warm it.

2) Black beans: Again, short cutting on this, I used a can of organic black beans and added some diced green chilis and a handful of fresh organic cilantro, warming them over medium heat.

3) Quinoa with chili powder and nutritional yeast: After my success with "not mac, nor cheese", I decided to try it again but make it more Latin to work with the rest of the meal. I cooked 1/2 cup quinoa in a cup of water (cook like rice) until all the water was absorbed, fluffed it with a fork and added a 1/2-1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.

4) Guacamole: 1 avocado, 5 cherry tomatoes chopped small, 1 green onion chopped small, 2 tablespoons prepared medium salsa, salt, pepper. Mash it all together and you are good to go!

This meal was incredibly tasty, warming and satisfying. When Alison came back to the house a few hours later, she was greeted by the pleasant smell of the cooking that still hung in the air (it is always gratifying when someone exclaims, "it smells so delicious in here!")

Last night I got together with my Uncle and his girlfriend to kick off what will now be a regular cooking session. I had emailed my Uncle an ingredient list for the evening and I headed over to his place to have some fun in the kitchen. It is one of my favorite things to get in the kitchen with others a prepare a nice meal. I was the head chef and he was my very helpful sous chef. I had decided to try out a few recipes from the cookbook I got for Christmas, Veganomicon.

Our menu:
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing
Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts

It was so incredibly tasty. Here are the recipes (Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz & Terry Romero, 2007 Marlowe & Company, New York)

Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing
1/4 cup prepared spicy, smooth mustard
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (we used olive oil)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

8 cups mixed organic greens
1 avocado, peeled, halved, pitted and sliced thinly
1 small red oinion, slice thinly (I also soaked the slices in ice cold water to remove some bite)
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 recipe Roasted Portobello mushrooms sliced thin
(roast portobello- marinate mushrooms in 1/2 cup cooking wine, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp balsamic, 2 cloves garlic for 20 min. Then bake in a baking dish at 400 degrees, covering with alumnium foil for 30 minutes. Take foil off, flip mushrooms and cook for 10 more minutes).

Toss all ingredients together! Enjoy!

Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed, baked and cooled (bake the potatoes at 400 degrees for 1 hour, giving it a perfectly crisp skin and creamy inside
1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk or vegetable broth
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 small yellow onion, small dice
1 medium carrot, small dice
2 cloved garlic, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
extra oil for brushing

Slice the cooled potatoes in half and scoop out the inside. Mash the potatoes with the soy milk or broth (I used broth) and set aide the skins. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the mustard and coriander seeds. The mustard seeds should begin to pop, if they don't after 1-2 minutes turn up the heat. Let the seeds pop for a minute (put a lid on them so they don't splatter you), add the onion and carrots, saute for 7-10 minutes, until the onion begin to brown.

Add the garlic and ginger, saute for a minute more. Add the cumin, turmeric and salt with a splash of water, stir well and add the potatoes, mixing everything well. Add a little extra water if it looks too dry. Cook until the potatoes are heated through, then add the peas and cook until those are heated through. Add the lemon juice to taste and stir to incorporate.

Brush the inside to the potato skins with a bit of oil. Then scoop the filling into the skin, pressing gently to hold the filling in place. Line the potato halves on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

This recipe could definitely have the spices up-ed if you like a stronger Indian flavor. It is an amazing dish and reminds me of the samosas I use to eat in South Africa, but without the pesky wrapper. The crisp potato skin was a satisfying alternative.

Overall, I am very pleased with how this year has begun... It makes me excited and curious about what is to come and how things will unfold!