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.

 

 

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:

longrun
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?

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.

Getting Lost in a Run (Literally)

Yesterday, I awoke and eagerly read with pleasure a literary gem from my friend Jennie Saia. Her manipulation of words to invoke such powerful images and sensations is a craft I dream about honing. One of the greatest roles in our society is that of the storyteller. There are many who covet such positions, but overall, many fail. Only a few rise above the masses and cause us, the readers, to feel both exposed as individuals yet strangely connected and safe within the confines of words. In other words: read her blog.

I thought about Jennie’s blog post as I started on my six mile run yesterday morning. It was not the ideal conditions for outdoor adventures: foggy, damp, and the misting Seattle-esque rain casting a lingering chill. Donning my headlamp, I headed out at 6:45, determined to find solace and rhythm within my pace.

Sans street lamps and sun, the first part of this journey was shrouded in a sense of unease tinged with the excitement of the unknown. The first leg took me down the American Tobacco Trail where I encountered several others pounding the pavement, driven by something greater than good sense. The silence of the morning apparent until my louder-than-necessary “Good morning!”, the vocalization to console feelings of safety and also invite any sense of camaraderie.

I knew these paths, and I knew this roads. Whether it was the haziness of my surroundings or the early morning cessation of sleep from the feline choir performance, I found myself – lost. I had turned off the trail and was making my way through Woodcroft. After cutting through part of the Greenway system, I exited on a street that I did not immediately recognize. How could this have happened? It’s not as if I had traveled miles in an unknown place: this was home. I pressed on, determined to identify recognizable landmarks. The funny part is that I knew the street names, but I had zero ability to conjure up visualizations for my location. It was as if my mind had been shaken like an Etch-A-Sketch, and I could not use those white knobs to doodle a map back home.

This is where one might suggest: why didn’t you use your phone to make a call or use the GPS? For shorter runs, I do not typically bring my phone. I had shared with Aaron my route for that morning and then had set off to follow it. Back to my confused state: I started to become emotional and even slightly scared. It was bizarre – I could not fathom how I became so turned around. Spotting a fire station, I ran over and asked if I could use the phone, attempting to call Aaron to give him an update. After two unsuccessful attempts, I relied on the firefighters directions on how to return home, and then, it all clicked: I knew exactly where I was. I felt like an idiot – how could I not have pieced together where the Greenway had spit me out?

I double-backed to where I had made my mistake of turning left instead of right, and continued pressing on toward home. The damp air clung to my clothes. While the puddle had initially invoked pleasant memories of childhood mischief, I now viewed them with contempt as my shoes turned from mildly wet to soaked. In my voice messages, I had told Aaron where I would be running with the hope he would be able to scoop me off the street, and I could curl up in a warm tub (or even just crank on his car’s seat warmer). With the sound of each approaching car, I snapped back to attention, scanning for his vehicle. This went one for over three miles until I was completing my final ascent to the finish. Honking and waving, Aaron drove by, looking concerned yet relieved. I signaled that at this point, it would make the most sense to meet at home.

Walking in to our home, I learned that he had never received my voice messages but grew fearful when he saw the missed calls, dialed the number, and heard a voice message for a fire station. Needless to say, I made it home, safe and sound, with a long(er) run under my belt to kick off the first training weekend.

Have you ever experienced something similar, being in a place you know quite well but realizing you, in fact, don’t know where you are? (This could be taken as a metaphorical journey into one’s self, but I’m focused more on the literal lacking of direction, not the “I don’t know what to do with my life” phase)