Can someone turn up the A/C, please?

Mornings like these are hard.

I’m not sure of the exact temperature, but believe me: it’s a swamp out there. Even starting these weekend runs before the sun emerges doesn’t free me from the vice grip of humidity.

Observe:

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Post-run “glow” with AT photobomb

8 miles at 7:55/mile in the books. I have tempo runs sketched out on Saturdays, aiming for between 8 – 8:30/minute mile, and I save those big, juicy long runs for Sundays. Tomorrow is a 17-miler. Ugh. Even typing that hurts. Fortunately, two treats await me for tomorrow’s trek. First, it is supposed to be cooler. Second, AJT will be joining me on the trail, cruising alongside (and likely in front of) me on his bike.

As much as I enjoy the solo aspect of running, it can get lonely on those lengthier runs. I have tried to incorporate podcasts for entertainment and learning, but my propensity to sweat makes keeping headphones in my ears nearly impossible. I have yet to find a pair that sticks (if you have recommendations, I’m all ears — ha! No seriously, I am.)

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, and I have found a few gems as of late. Between my overextended life, many meals this summer have been born from frozen vegetables, pressed tofu, and some sort of stir-fry marinade. I’m not complaining – I could eat stir-fry nearly every day. But, cranking oven the stove and frying in the wok are not pleasant when it’s 5,000F. Really. I’m not exaggerating.

Enter this:

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Hello, darling.

Almost too pretty to eat, no? No. It’s so worth eating. Served cold, this quinoa-black bean salad can be tossed over greens, thrown in a wrap, topped with seitan or baked tofu or whatever floats your boat.

Black bean, quinoa, and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette

Serves 4 – 6 

1 cup quinoa

1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans

1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced

1 tsp minced jalapeno (optional – and heck, I added the entire jalapeno! Seeded, of course)

1 scallion, finely chopped

2 tsp honey or agave nectar (I opted for the nectar)

1/2 lime

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp canola/vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)

Pinch of salt, or as needed

Directions:

1) Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Add to saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to simmer and cook, about 15-20 minute or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. (If you have a rice cooker, take advantage of using it to cook your quinoa!)

2) Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, and chopped scallion.

3) In a small jar, combine honey/agave nectar, lime juice, rice vinegar, and vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (should be a bit tart). Pour dressing on quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute dressing evenly.

4) If you are not serving right away, toss salad again before serving and adjust seasoning (dressing will absorb into the quinoa and the salad might need more moisture if it sits for awhile).

My moment of zen

In hindsight, I would not do this again. BUT, on Wednesday, I drove out and back to Asheville (7 hours in the car – what what!). During my brief stay in the beautiful mountain town, I had a chance to sit in one of my favorite places, Green Sage Cafe, enjoy a cup of coffee and a vegan peanut butter cookie while I cleaned data in a spreadsheet.

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If you have to clean data in a spreadsheet, it’s nice to have a cookie to go along with it.

 

 

Vol II: Things that made me happy this week

I’m sticking with my series dedicated to little gems of what made me happy during the week. I found myself trying to stick mental post-it notes throughout the last few days in an effort to list them in this entry. We’ll see how I did…

Parks & Rec – Season 7 – now available on Netflix
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Doesn’t anything else need to be said? Frankly, no. What a freakin’ great show.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

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Look at that massive pile of sauce (there is tofu underneath there, I promise). Inspired to spend multiple hours in the kitchen last Sunday, I decided to make homemade BBQ sauce for the first time. Following the recipe below from Veganomicon, I whipped up this spicy, sweet, sultry mass of goodness. I was scraping down the pan so I could get all of it!

 

Backyard BBQ Sauce
Makes about 4 cups
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped as finely as you can
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-once) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup molasses (I substituted maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Directions:
Preheat a saucepan over medium heat. lace the onions in the pan and saute in oil until browned (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add all the other ingredients except the mustard and liquid smoke, and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if the sauce begins to splatter everywhere. Add the mustard and liquid smoke, and taste for sweetness/sourness. Adjust the flavors if you think it’s necessary, and cook for 5 more minutes. If you like a smooth BBQ sauce, then puree it, but that’s not entirely necessary.

First race of the season

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Sponsored by the Trailheads, the Little River Trail Run on January 16 turned out to be one the most beautiful mornings imaginable. While I still have yet to purchase actual trail shoes, I have fallen in love with trail running over the last year. Thanks to friends who open up my eyes to new places in our region, I have found such joy in romping through the woods, having to flex mental strength to pay attention and not wipe out over a root/rock/you name it.

We took on the challenging 10 mile course (although, per all of our GPS devices, it was closer to 9.5 miles total). The two days of raining prior to race day made the section near the river a scene from a Tough Mudder – people sliding, slipping, and splattering as we scrambled up and down the hilly trail.

I ended up finishing 10th in my age division with a time of 1:41:46 (10:11/mile), which is beyond expectations. I had ZERO goals in terms of timing. My only self-directive was to NOT GET HURT. I did fall – once – in the most graceful fashion I could manage, popping back up immediately and continuing forward. One of the best surprises of the race was running into (no pun intended) another friend who I ended up pacing with the last four miles for the course. That’s why I love running so much – building connections with others in this shared desire of achievement, of fulfillment, of success.

Double-date nights

Despite a disappointment experience at the newish Vegan Flava Cafe (you can read my Yelp review here), it was such a blast to go out with our friends Jon and Michelle. Who goes on double dates anymore?! We had the pleasure of taking on the 2 x 2 challenge before the holidays with another set of awesome friends Chelsea & Nic, more by accident than by intent.

The double-date needs to be a come back in 2016. While I love large gatherings, I find such fulfillment from these more intimate encounters. Despite the dining adventure not working out well, we all gave thumbs up to Bottle 501, another bottle shop/bar. Good vibe AND good prices – not always an easily-found combo.

#SOTU

Love it or hate it, Twitter has changed the game when it comes to national events including the State of the Union. I was glued more to my phone than to the actual television. The commentary, especially that made via the gif, was too good to not watch. The actual State of the Union speech was pretty good too. You can read the full transcript here. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t — it doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, it doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.

Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest

and, of course, #ActOnClimate talk:

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

Recap: Knoxville Marathon 2015

Despite another long absence from the land of blogging – extended due to falling ill with the plague – it’s time to share the joys of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon that took place on March 29, 2015.

Yes, I mean joys. Honestly, I had SO much fun during this race. Part of the happiness stemmed from my fear of hearing the wall at mile 19 again. But, a bigger part came from all the external inputs – the great crowds, the sights of a city I know very little of, hot jams from strategically placed bands, and that overwhelming sense of accomplishment bursting out of all the other runners participating.

Our entire stay in Knoxville was chilly, and race morning was no different:

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I was feeling ok. I may have been kissing on a baby that may have had croup (d’oh!) but I had my traditional pre-race breakfast (peanut butter + banana toast) and a cup of coffee + a cup of tea (this may become problematic later?). It was an easy drive from our friends’ house to the University of Tennessee. A lot of folks were huddling in the convention center for warmth, but the forecast was promising – and it delivered.

11080836_10102965434582215_945296493093939163_oWho doesn’t have time for a quick World’s Fair selfie?

The stage was beginning to set. Runners milled at the starting line, filled with nerves, caffine, and relief that the day was finally here.

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And then, it was time.

14979_10102965433943495_8705945705637753727_nI can do this…?!?!

I had a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. Originally, I intended to find the 4 hour pace group and hang out, but the first mile was a bit of a cluster. We were assigned to different corrals, and I’m going to venture a guess that some people were not as honest in their finish time predictions as others. Oh well – the first mile was my slowest, and then I begin to find a groove.

About eight miles in, I had to make a critical choice: hold the bladder for 18 more miles, or concede and make a pit stop. I do not regret my decision one bit. It may have been a 30-45 second difference on my time. But, I could then allow my mind to be free to focus on everything but finding a port-a-john.

When the marathon split away from the half-marathon, it became a bit quieter. No, not just a bit: it was like we were running in isolation. This is when we hit old town Knoxville – the grittier sights and sounds of a city. Still, the neighborhoods came out in support. I kept my smile on from this point forward through the:

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The result?

marathon finish3:53:34

Woo! I actually passed the 4 hour pacer in the last 3/4 mile. He noted that he was about five minutes ahead of the pace. I turned on the engine and cranked it in.

10995856_10102965432421545_4456085235924401843_nWoot woot!

The course was definitely challenging (hills a plenty), but I thought it was fair. We got to run over not ONE but TWO bridges! And, finishing in Neyland Stadium was incredible. I must give major props to my sherpa, Aaron J, for sharing his former home and university with me, for inspiring me to try 26.2 once again, and for traversing Knoxville on foot to ensure I had all the goo and water one girl could need.

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So now…oh yes, I want to run another marathon. New goal: 3:45. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks about Chicago. Until then, my focus is on getting better. In just one week, I went from crushing hills with ease to finding myself out of breath reaching the top of our stairs. And, the pollen explosion here has not helped matters. I’m just taking it one day at a time and giving myself the space to restore…because as my yoga instructor said yesterday: “When did the idea of self love become radical?”

The next running adventure in the works?

With just over two weeks left until tackling my second marathon, this happened:

Chi marathon_application
After an initial burst of interest in entering the Chicago Marathon lottery, I began to have second thoughts. If I was selected to register, did I want to undertake another 3+ months of marathon training in the summer? With a mid-October race date, this means some high mileage runs in August and September. In North Carolina. August in North Carolina is not pleasant. You can make a case for pleasant training in September, but not August. It’s one of those months where if I could sit in a pool surrounded by fans and drinking agua frescas delivered to me, I would be ok with that. It’s the month of stache sweat and the unyielding sensation of wanting to shower.

As I was mulling over my decision with my friend Jen during our lunch date last week, she said: “Look, enter the lottery. If you get picked, then you’ll know you were meant to run it.” Jen’s reliance on fate argument won be over.

Back in current pursuits, I completed by LAST long run one week ago:

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Today is only a 12 miler (only!) and the mileage continues to spiral down. I’m actually REALLY excited about this race. Not only does it involve visiting and experiencing two incredible cities (Asheville and Knoxville) but I genuinely want to tackle these 26.2 miles with abandon. I want to re-engineer the memories of have after the 2012 marathon. Bad thoughts of a rainy race day have begun to creep into my mind – but since I have on control over the weather (this is a huge admission here, folks), as we like to say:

“It is what it is.”

I really dislike that phrase. OF COURSE IT IS.

What will I do with my Sundays back, for at least a few months? The possibilities are endless!

Likely one of these things:

computerLet’s be real: this is likely taking the lead.

booksSo many books to read. So little time,

thewireSo close to finishing Season 4!

Question for you: When you have free time, what do you find yourself doing? Is it what you want to be doing?

Snow over it

From beautiful distraction to the bane of existence, the winter weather of the last two weeks has taken us – literally – by storm.

11000604_10103668719169272_3682778691255327476_nSo pretty. So…much…snow.

The last storm that rolled through Wednesday night was the doozie. Our walk through the neighborhood on Thursday morning was eerie. It had a post-apocalyptic feel [minus zombie sightings]. We also learned (and were quickly grateful) that our section of the neighborhood was on a different power grid as we passed by many dark, quiet homes (minus the two likely Yankee homes that had generators on full blast).

Even better (or worse?): our Internet was out for the entire day Thursday. Work from home? Not so easily. We made the best of it with our neighbors: impromptu sledding down the back hill. Sadly, zero kids were out playing. ZERO! Get off your iPads, generation jelly. Build a snowperson, an ice fort, throw a snowball or two.

11012754_10103668722612372_1992479225457152388_nYes, that is a beer snowman

11001781_10103668715466692_8965242498668517207_nTree struggles.

10998253_10103668722013572_4171058845840179764_oSnowfie!

Outside of throwing off daily routines left and right, this weather has made marathon training even more taxing. Last Sunday was the first of two scheduled 20 mile runs. The last time I ran 20 miles was during the Rock N’ Roll Marathon back in January 2012. I elected to hit the American Tobacco Trail for this endeavor…

only to find it a sheet of ice. Literally – it was a solid block of ice and snow for the vast majority of the trail despite the almost 50F outside. Treading lightly with my NPR friends, I traversed the landscape, knocking the training out of the park with zero falls or injuries:

run2015It will be warmer in March. It will be warmer in March. It will be over in March.

We’re just shy of 30 days out from the Knoxville Marathon, and I’m still feeling great, which is a relief from the battles I faced in 2011. On the schedule for this weekend: 8 mile pace run today with a 15 mile long run tomorrow. I will force myself to run in a hillier section of the Triangle to prepare myself for the rolling landscape of Knoxville. I did give into some treadmill running the previous weekend, and boy – that was rough. I tip my hat to those who can spend quality time on those machines. It could also have been the fact that the Y was blasting the heat, so my own cooling system was unable to perform its own cleansing duty. Suffocating.

But, today is the LAST day of February! Is it time for spring? I sure hope so. Looking forward to getting away to some warmer climate next week. All I have to say to the snow that remains: it’s you, not me. Come back at Christmas, but that’s about it. Thanks.

Runners, how do you train during the winter months?

Finding the will

Sitting here this morning, I can hear the wind whipping outside, casting an ominous tone for the nine mile run marked on my calendar. Tis the season of marathon training once again. It “officially” kicked off last Sunday amid my carefully scheduled 16 week plan to tackle the hills of Knoxville in March.

As much as I enjoy the physical aspects of running, I can (and do) still struggle to clear the mental hurdles. With a headache scratching the surface of my brain, I have much stronger desires to crawl to the couch, flanked by cats, than hear the crunching of leaves underfoot

Alas, I’ll fight through this lack of motivation. Whether through guilt or grit, I’ll make it outside, knocking off this task like most others.

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Hark! I hear the call of the finish line

After an outward (and quite vocal) objection to ever running another marathon, I’m less than five months out from taking on another 26.2 mile journey.

Now that I have recovered from the initial race (over three years and counting), I feel that I’m in a better place emotionally and physically to run a second. With all transparency, I also feel that I have something to prove – to myself, mainly.

Looking back, I am so different from the person who ran the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in Arizona (in some ways – the good ones, hopefully!). With a couple of years added to my age bracket registrations, an entirely different eating lifestyle, and a deeper and more in-tuned understanding of my body, I think this will be a healthy challenge that I plan to enjoy.

mizouno

I even bought some new kicks for the journey. The Brooks Ghost 7 series have been wonderful for me, but I did pick up a deeply discounted pair of Mizuno Wave Runner’s (pictured above) to serve as the yin to the yang of my well-worn Brooks.

Time. For me, it’s one of the biggest burdens of signing up for any major race. The sheer willingness to devote hours upon hours, logging miles on trails, streets, in the rain, in the dark, and up hills. In the past, I have trained predominantly in Durham, specifically on the American Tobacco Trail. However, the hilly course of Knoxville requires me to take the training to a similar landscape.

Hello, Raleigh.

I’ll be gleaning insight from some of Raleigh’s top runners (in my humble opinion) on best trails to build endurance for the cascading waves I shall face in March.

While training “officially” starts on November 30, I’m spending this month building my base. That means Pilates, yoga, and core work: oh my. I picked up another Groupon for Arrichion hot yoga classes. If I could afford a monthly subscription, I would purchase one in a heartbeat. I absolutely love these classes: 45 minutes of demands, depending on the class.

Plus. when it’s 40 degrees outside and dark, the ability to sweat in a tanktop and shorts sounds pretty blissful. No, really.