Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Flying out last Wednesday was no big deal.  I'd fretted about storms in the area, but fortunately we were free of delays.  We arrived in Seattle in the late afternoon, had dinner, and called it an early night because our bodies were still on Central Time.

Thursday morning I got in a run on the treadmill- 8 mi with 15 min at marathon tempo pace (6.9 mph on the 'mill).  We conferenced in the morning, and in the afternoon we took advantage of the beautiful weather to do some sight seeing.

We had lunch at the Space Needle and got some good pictures of the city from the observation deck.

 The Space Needle- if you've never seen it- is very 1960's Star-Trekey on the outside, but surprisingly modern on the inside.  No pictures from lunch because they all show a coworker who would be *very* unhappy if I put her picture on the internet.

We also checked out a sculpture garden nearby.  These concrete eyes actually have chairs on the other side!

If only I'd brought my bathing suit...

 The next day was mostly spent conferencing, but we did get out at lunch for some window shopping at Pike's Market.

 And in the evening, we presented our posters.  I actually had a few people talk to me about mine.  Yay, science!

Saturday morning I did 6mi and strength training, we conferenced some more, and flew back to the Midwest.

That's it for now because I have to get out and run.  I'm planning 7mi with 2x15 min marathon tempo.  Notice I didn't say anything about a workout on Friday?  See the hint that I said we flew back to the Midwest, not Madison.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's feature- Seattle: When Travel Attacks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Still here

Hi all,

I'm still here!  I'm a little (lot) behind on life because it took about 15 hours longer than expected to get back from Minneapolis on Saturday/Sunday.  Lots to share, but I feel like right now I'm just keeping my head above water.  I did *mostly* keep up with running although my long run got pushed back to yesterday.  I'm not sure how fast it was because my GPS battery died after a mile, but I got to the end feeling like, "Yeah, I can do this long run thing" in a way I hadn't before.

Speaking of marathons, here's a shout out to LA Runner for her awesome PR at the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon last Saturday.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's been a long 12 hours without air conditioning

Starting last night being eaten by mosquitoes at volleyball despite being coated with a layer of bug spray and sand like a breaded chicken breast and ending with Bikram's treadmill running at the un-airconditioned gym this morning.  Fun fact: 2 out of the 3 campus gyms don't have AC.  Sandwiched in the middle I had a great night's sleep, soothed by the fan blowing on high, poring rain, and thunder.  My only hope is that we will in fact get on a plane at 11:36 and make it through Minneapolis to Seattle without weather delays.  I'm afraid I squandered the only "nice" weather we're having all day at the gym because I was- with good reason IMHO- cautious about going out to run when my area was under a tornado warning, a severe weather warning, a flood warning, and a flash flood warning.  Then- according to channel 5 at the gym- 6-8am was our only break and everything is going downhill from here.  Yeesh.  And memo to the Nat- those fans you have up for show aren't blowing on any of the treadmills.  Maybe they are providing an important service to the recumbent bike area, but I could have used a little air circulation this morning.

Okay, rant over.  With any luck I won't be posting for the next couple days because I'll be conferencing in Seattle.  


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fording the river

I had to take back all the times I'd complained about fighting traffic to go get Daniel at school because I'd never actually feared being able to get home until last night.  I drove onto campus to pick him up because it had been pouring off and on, and the bus only comes every 45 minutes after 6pm during the summer.  When I was driving over, huge parts of the campus streets were flooded.  At one point cars were taking turns driving on a wide sidewalk to avoid some really deep water.  I got Daniel and said, "Campus is totally flooded.  We should try University."  That was a huge mistake.

That's not University, but it gives you a flavor for what the water was like.  Actually parts of University were deeper, and there were a lot of cars stalled out.  After driving around, looking for a better way to get home, we were forced to turn onto a really flooded street.  We were doing fine until the car in front of us stopped!  It was a Volvo baby SUV/ station wagon thing, so I don't think it stalled out.  The guy just stopped.  To try to turn left?  I don't know.  I honked.  Nothing.  People started going around me on the right where the water was really deep.  We could hear sloshing all around the car.  Finally I was able to get around them.  The car didn't stall and the drive was all uphill from there.  

It was really something.  People were standing around on the streets watching the mayhem.  We saw some people carrying a raft but not actually floating in it.  Anyway, we've had a dry night so hopefully my trip to the gym this morning will be uneventful.

I did end up running yesterday.  My 1mi-2mi-1mi at a little slower than 10k pace were a little slower than I'd have liked (8:12, 8:07, 8:04), but at least I had a negative split despite having to dodge humans, geese, and goose poop during the last interval.

Here's to a dry Tuesday!     

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pre-party 1

Daniel's birthday is Thursday, but I'll be in Seattle and he's busy with his summer teaching job, so we had "present time" yesterday.

Real men love Gaga (on the left), and candy I've horded since the after Christmas sale (good through June 2010!).

Right now I'm keeping an eye out on the weather, wondering if I should run this morning or hit the gym.  It's currently fine, but there's a 75% chance of rain for my zip code in 30 minutes.  It probably won't rain very hard, but it's supposed to be sunny tomorrow am (although that could change) and maybe it would be nice to have another day between my long run and my speed day.  Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week in Review- The Delirium Tremens Edition

I'm on day 4 of no Diet Mt. Dew and - probably more significantly- no caffeine after my very early morning cup of coffee.  I think I'm over the hump, which occurred from 11am to 6pm on Friday when I reaallllyyyy wanted a soda, a cup of coffee, some tea, some No Doz, anything to make the "I would go away if only you'd give me a 20oz Dr. Pepper" headache go away.  But it passed, and yesterday was much easier.  Why put myself through this torture?  Because I will probably not have a soda and/or caffeine source during the Mississippi mission trip, and I'd rather go through one afternoon of crabbiness during a boring meeting in the air conditioning than in 100+ degree heat and humidity, surrounded by teenagers, insects, and power tools.

Week in Review
Su - 5mi easy
M - Strength training and yoga
T - 7mi with 2x(3x800) at 10k pace
W - 8.2mi 
R - Strength training
F - 6mi easy
S - 14mi long

Overall mileage: 40.2
2x strength training
1x yoga

I know some of you think that life begins at 100mpw ;), but 40 has always been the marker of real training for me.  Otherwise, I don't have too much to comment on from the past week.  I'm trying to get used to the idea that it's really not bad to go fairly slow on my easy days because it means I'll be recovered so I can go hard on the hard days.  I'm also a little concerned about my long run pace being too slow (about 9:40 min/mile) but it's right in the middle of the long run pace interval on the McMillan Pace Calculator for a 3:50 marathon, so I'm trying to roll with it.  

On that note, it's off to do a very slow, very easy 5mi.  Have a great Sunday, all. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Getting an MS in Baking- Pineapple Upside Down Cake

When is a cake a muffin?  When it's pineapple upside down cake.  Why?  Because unlike, say, birthday cake, the cake part of pineapple upside down cake is supposed to be kind of course.  In the book, Brown says that pineapple UDC is probably a descendant of cornbread, which is also made using the muffin method.

The bottom/top comes together first.  Melt some (okay, a lot of) butter and stir in brown sugar.

Top with pineapple and marachino cherries, then sprinkle with nuts.

Then the actual muffin technique comes in.  Mix together the wet and dry ingredients (which have been weighed and sifted in the food processor, of course) until just incorporated.  I don't think I mentioned this before, but Brown recommends using a whisk for this part and walking away about 10 stirs before you think you should.

Here's the cake after 40 minutes in the oven.  Golden brown and bubbly.

And after it's been "right side upped".  I like this cake because it's easy but has a nice presentation, and it's different from other deserts that usually end up at picnics (which is where this one is destined).  

This picture looks a little bit like it came out of the Gallery of Regrettable Food, but I can assure you it looks delicous IRL.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hill Running

I've subscribed to Runner's World for several years now, and I always enjoy reading it and find it motivational.

However, I wouldn't say I usually learn something from reading it.  This month was different.  One of my goals for this marathon is to improve my hill running, and this month's RW has an article on just that with some tips that I definitely didn't know (or chose to ignore) before.

In brief, here's the "correct" way to run up a hill:

1. Drive hard with your arms - Pretend you are pulling yourself up with a rope.  I'm actually pretty good about doing this.

2. Press forward with your hips - Don't bend at the waist.  Wow, when I tried this it made a huge difference.  It really changes your ability to keep your leg speed up.  I knew you were supposed to stay upright when you ran up a hill, but the "hips forward" cue was key for me to understand how to actually do it.

3. Run with high knees - Increase your stride rate.  Not bending over definitely helps with this.  I'll work on incorporating fast leg turnover when I do hill repeats this training cycle.

4. Spring forward from your toes.  Actually I think I'm pretty good about doing this.  I'm not sure how else you would run uphill...

And once you get to the top, it's all gravy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Special Delivery

June 16th was the Dragon Boat Festival in China, and our neighbors- who are from Taiwan- were celebrating by making zongzi, a traditional dish made from rice and other stuff wrapped in banana leaves.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

They brought some over for us to try ("Don't eat the leaf!").  Here is zongzi up close and personal:

All tied up together:

Slowly being unwrapped

 All the way open:

The rice is very dense and there were peanuts, dried seafood, and a dried mushroom inside.  Daniel finished his and declared it "Interesting and not too bad."  I declared it "Interesting.  Do you want mine?  No?  Okay, I think I'm done now".

In any case, it was kind of them to think of us.  Daniel's birthday is next week, and I'm planning to make red velvet cupcakes, which I will take over to them to try.

I wouldn't really call this adventurous food, but what's the most adventurous thing you've ever eaten?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


There's been a lot of cooking and eating our our house lately.  I can't say enough good things about Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (except that very few recipes are posted online, and I'm not inclined to take the time to type them up).  All the Cooking Light recipes can be found on the website and in the latest issue.

Salad from the garden

Herbed Ricotta Tart (Cooking Light)

Polenta casserole (E,D and be V)

Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki Tofu Stir-Fry (E,D and be V)

Summer Vegetable Frittata (Cooking Light)

Sweet and Sour Chipotle Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes (E,D and be V)

Cocoa-coconut Chili (E,D and be V)

Avocado and Pinto Bean Enchiladas (E,D, and be V)

 Walnut, White Bean and Spinach Phyllo Rolls (E,D and be V)

They didn't explode, yay!

And running?  I had my first marathon training speed workout yesterday: 2x(3x800) at 10k pace (7:40) with 90 sec rest between each interval and 5 min rest between each set.  My 1/2 mile paces were: 7:45 (I'm always slow on the 1st interval)
7:59 (Blame this one on construction that turned my road into a MoonWalk with pot holes)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting an MS in Baking- Chocolate Chip Cookie #10

This is the second in a series of posts about baking through Alton Brown's (the Good Eats guy) I'm Just Here for More Food.  See the first one here.

This book is the source of the information contained in this post.

Marathon Maiden asked a great question in the comments on my first MS in baking post: If everything gets mixed together eventually, why worry about doing the dry and liquid ingredients separately?

The answer is that it doesn't matter too much how the liquids are mixed with each other and how the dry ingredients are mixed with each other, but when the liquids and dry ingredients are mixed together, science happens.

The reasons to mix the dry ingredients in the food processor are 1. So the flour gets tossed around, which helps to make a light and fluffy baked good and 2. So the chemical leavening agent (the baking soda, baking powder, or both) gets distributed equally in the flour.

Next the liquid ingredients come together.  Here's one of my ice cube egg yolks.  I think this would work better if I had more forethought and let it defrost in the fridge during the day rather than delicately trying to defrost it in the microwave and not get scrambled eggs.

Here are the liquids together:  You can see tiny bits of cooked egg yolk that had to be scooped out.

Then the liquids are poured into the dry ingredients and the two are brought together with a minimal amount of stirring.  Why?  Because stirring distributes air bubbles evenly throughout the baked good, making it softer and more tender.  That's why you beat the heck out of the batter for a cake.  It makes it nice and delicate and soft.  Muffins, however, are not supposed to be too delicate.  Doing just a little stirring causes irregular air bubbles, leading to a more course texture.  Although most cookies are made using the creaming method, these are muffin method cookies.

Here's the batter together.  It's not nice and smooth like the slice n' bakes.

In fact, the batter was very loose, and I had to ball it together with my hands.  The result, however, was amazing.  I got a lot of compliments on these cookies.

It will be interesting to see the differences between these and cookies I will make with the creaming method.

Next up in Getting an MS in Baking: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Monday, June 14, 2010

No squirrels were harmed in the making of this training program

First off, thank you so much for all of your congratulations on my race Saturday.  It means so much to me to be able to share it with others.  One thing I really love about the blogging community is that- even though we all have different gifts and abilities- people are so supportive of each other's accomplishments.  Thank you all again.

So that squirrel thing...  I was running down the sidewalk, and a squirrel darted out about two steps in front of me.  I took another step forward (thinking it was gone), and it darted back right as my right leg was swinging forward again.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't hurt because it kept on going, but we definitely made contact!  Sorry, squirrel, but believe me, I was as surprised as you were.

Today is the first day of marathon training, leading up to my expected run in the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October.  I'm all registered, but I say expected because so many things can happen over the course of a marathon training cycle that you never really know until you're on that starting line.  I chose this marathon because it's close and it's in the fall so I have all summer to train.  It's the same week as Twin Cities and the week before Chicago, but unlike those two races, it's much smaller.  It's also supposed to be pretty flat and fast.

After looking at quite a few training plans, I've decided I'm going to follow the Boston Marathon Rookie Training Program.   Obviously I'm not training for Boston or even to qualify for Boston, but this plan has most of the features I think work well for me.  I like that it has a good mix of speed work and long runs, and it seems like it's about the right mileage and intensity level for me.  I look at the plan and think, "That looks hard, but definitely not impossible."

I am planning to make a few modifications.  First, I'm still planning to take two days off each week for weight training.  There's one day off built into the plan, and I'll make one of the easy days each week a day off, too.  Also I usually do my long runs on Saturday rather than Sunday, so some of the scheduling of the workouts within the week will be switched up.  And finally, my "test race" doesn't fall on the same week as the plan has scheduled, so I'll have to juggle things with that as well.  But all in all, I think it will be a good template to follow.

As for goals, I'm going to be very general and say my goal is to finish somewhere between 3:45 and 4 hours.  I'm sure this will be revised closer to race day.  For the purposes of training, I'm going to start with my marathon tempo runs at 8:45 min/mile pace +/- 10 seconds, which corresponds to about a 3:50 marathon.

And for my first day of marathon training... to the gym!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week in Review - The Vindication Edition

After two less than stellar races, I'm back in action.  I had a great race on a great course and nailed my goal time and had a huge (almost 2 minute!) PR, finishing in 47:37.  If you are ever close enough to Green Bay to run The Bellin, I definitely recommend it (Jessica, I would so go with you next year.  Or any other Madison runner who is interested).  It's huge but well run.  The crowd support is amazing.  It's fairly inexpensive and the proceeds go to a great cause.  And it's the only loop course in the world that's a net downhill.  I think it was designed by M.C. Escher.

It played into my strengths as a runner because the uphill parts were very gradual and there was one huge downhill mile in the middle of the race.

My mile split times were:
7:14 (holy downhill, Batman)
7:51 (slowed down a bit, but this was the gradual uphill part)

By the middle of the race, I was pretty sure I was going to PR, but I didn't know by how much.  My 5k split time was 23:21, which is also a PR.

I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty excited.  One the one hand, this is a huge boost going into marathon training.  In fact, that time qualifies me for a "preferred start" at the Madison Mini at the end of August.  On the other hand, it makes me wonder exactly why I signed up to do a marathon because I think I like shorter races a lot more.  I really like speed training, and I'm not super crazy about long runs...

Sometimes I feel like there's this message that you're not a "real runner" unless you run marathons, and I regret letting myself buy into that.  However, I know I didn't sign up for the marathon just because I felt like I "should".  I know I did it because- just like 99.9% of other runners- I want to qualify for Boston one day.  I feel like my running is really improving, and I think that I could do it- probably not this training cycle- but maybe next spring???  Anyway, I'll have happy running dreams tonight.

As for the rest of the week:
Su- 5m easy
M- 6mi easy
T- Strength
W- 6mi easy
R- Strength, yoga
F- 4mi easy
S- Bellin!    

Friday, June 11, 2010

This deserves a post of its own

This morning I accidentally kicked a squirrel while I was running.

Bellin Run Preview

Tomorrow I'm running my last big race before marathon training.  In my mind it marks the end of spring "getting into shape/ shaking off the winter fluff" training period and the summer "this is for real" training period.  I'm riding up to Green Bay tonight with some friends who are also running (well, one is running, and one is looking at a motorcycle in Appleton on the way).  We'll do the race- hopefully not in the rain- the Weather Channel is now indicating thunderstorms just for the afternoon, not all day- and then head back home.  This will be my third "destination race".

I don't have any huge expectations going into the race.  I've heard it's well organized and a lot of fun.  I think it will be provided it isn't pouring.  It's been cooler around here- at least in the mornings- so hopefully the temperature will be kinder than my last two races.  Also, it's a 10k, and even though I haven't done much structured speedwork in the last few weeks, I still think I'm in better shape to do short races than long ones.

Goals???  Hmmmm...
0.5 - Don't forget anything important like shoes or clothes.  Either at home or in GB.
1. Have a fun time.  I think this will be easier to meet because I'm counting the trip up and back as part of the race experience.  So even if the race is a disaster, at least I'll have time to hang out with friends who I haven't seen much lately (and who will be moving to California in a few months :( ).
2. Faster than 50 min.  I think this is a fairly flat course and it's a wave start.  I'd like to see if I can get back in the 40s again.  I feel pretty confident I can hit an 8 min mile for 6 miles.
3. PR, which would be sub 49:30.  Everyone always wants to PR, right?
4. Sub 49:00.  Ambitious, but not totally out of the realm of possibility.

I'll be back, possibly tomorrow afternoon, to let you know how it goes.

I have so many pictures and so many posts swirling around in my mind, but I just need to get them on Blogger.  I had good intentions last night, but honestly I was tired, so I shirked all responsibility by ignoring the laundry, eating at Noodles and Co., and taking a trip to Target with Daniel rather than packing for the trip and practicing piano.

Have a great Friday, all!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I was not excited about going to volleyball last night, and I wasn't excited about staying up late to make shirts for our team.  I was praying for lightning, thunder, hail, anything so that we didn't have to play the game and could go back to our house sooner, eat, do shirts, and have me in bed by 8:30pm.  Fortunately none of that happened.

It was sprinkling when we started the volleyball game, but the weather stayed calm while we played.  It was chilly- I had to wear jeans, a sweatshirt, and shoes again- but actually a pretty nice night.  And it was my best game ever.  I served over the net about 50% of the time, thanks to a teammate's suggestion that I "serve it to the side like they tell you in elementary school".  I actually had one ace because I think the other team was so stunned my serve actually went over the net that no one went for it.  And I successfully passed a few times.  So much more fun to feel like a part of the team and not helpless dead weight just out there to fill a "girl" spot.

Then we came back for t-shirt time.  We had Target brand self-rising crust frozen pizza (cheap and tasty- highly recommended), green salads from lettuce from the garden, watermelon, an chocolate chip cookies.

No pictures of the whole spread, but these guys will have their own post as Getting My MS in Baking Part 2.

Here's my shirt, decorated by my much more artistically inclined teammate.  BTW- Our team name is My Arms Hurt Real Bad and the group we play with is from our church.  I'm planning to write "ouch" on each sleeve once the puffy paint on the back dries.

There was much "had to be there" hilarity, including our team captain decorating the inside of his shirt with fake abs and chest hair, which he promised he would wear inside out if we ever won a game.  There's nothing like good food and good times with good friends.

Which brings me to a little impromptu New Year's Resolution Review.  Two of my goals were to push myself to try new things and to have more get-togethers.  I'm pretty bad at volleyball, but I'm getting better, and I'm definitely enjoying it in a way I wouldn't have expected.  I know I love hosting others, but sometimes I convince myself it's too much work, no one will come, etc.  Obviously that's not true, and this is another data point that I should do it more often.  The point is, I'm not where I want to be with either of these goals, but I'm realizing more and more why they are important to me.

On that note, I'm off to run my last 6-miler before I do a mini-taper for my 10k on Saturday.

A little preview of upcoming posts I have planned:
1. Tackling phyllo dough and other kitchen adventures.
2. MS in Baking Part 2- Chocolate Chip Cookie #10
3. Bellin Run Race Goals/Recap
4. Marathon training plan/goals/etc      

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Getting an MS in Baking- Old School Muffins

Until now I've been BS-ing my way through baking but no more!  I'm taking on a challenge to really learn the science behind baked goods by baking my way through Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food.

The book takes you through the 6 major baking methods, roughly from easiest to the most difficult.  This week I started with the first recipe in the muffin method section, titled appropriately: Old School Muffins (recipe from a non-Alton site).

Honestly, the recipe is one of the least important parts of the project.  The goal is not just to dump some stuff together and call it baking.  The goal is to do things right.

First you have to weigh your dry ingredients- at least the flour.

Then sift all the dry ingredients together.  Brown recommends doing this in the food processor.  I recommend making sure you know all the safety lock features on your food processor before you get to this part so you don't have to pause for 20 minutes while your frustrated husband tries to figure out why the darn thing isn't working.

Then mix together the wet ingredients.

Add bits and pieces to the dry (I chose cinnamon, raisins and walnuts).

And the wet goes into the dry until just incorporated (lumps = okay).

Dish into muffin tins and bake.

Here's how the first batch turned out:

And for the real test, did the crumb of my muffins look like muffin (on the left) vs. cupcake (on the right)?

Answer: I have no idea!  You be the judge:

Daniel said he thought they were very muffin-like and not cupcake like, but he knows enough to flatter me when it comes to baking.

What did I think?  I thought the recipe was very quick and easy even with the added weighing and processing.  I loved dumping the wet into the dry because it kept the mixer from getting sticky, making clean-up quicker.  Not sure that the next recipe will be, but I felt successful with this one, and I'm ready for a new challenge.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The future is in my hands

in the form of my beautiful new planner.

This is a myAgenda Planner, made by the momAgenda company.  I first saw one of their planners in a little stationary/gift store in Sheboygan.  Unfortunately they only had one planner left, and it was a momAgendga for 2009-2010.  Fortunately, when I Googled them after we got back home, I found that they had non-mom products that had all the features I'd liked about the one in the store.

First of all, it's thick, but not too big lengthxwidth-wise.  The cover feels sturdy, and I don't think the fabric will rip too easily.  There are pages with things I don't care about- like birthstones reminders and a mini address book I know I'll never use- but that is one of the few minor drawbacks.

The planner has both a month view (which I tend to use less frequently)

And a week by week format that I know I will use a lot.

What I love is that it is sectioned off into regions that you can title yourself.  My current planner has good space for writing, but the lines are all done by time, which I basically ignore.  I might get tired of having to write in the categories week to week (which I'm tentatively thinking of having as MIT's- most important tasks of the day, my workout, the meal plan, any chores/errands/appointments scheduled for that day, and other important events- Birthdays etc.), but on the other hand, if my initial system doesn't work, I can revise.

I also like that Saturday and Sunday get a full share of planner space.

And there are two markers- one for the month view and one for the week view.

There's some other questionably useful information and space like a holiday/birthday calendar section.

Notes on restaurants, etc

Some planning sections

And blank pages for random jottings

Sadly this little guy will sit in the kitchen catch-all basket until July 26 when he (She?  It is a sparkly purple planner after all) will be put into action.

If you like this sort of thing, check out Sarah's give-away!