Beauty of Spring

Although I have only run once since Sunday, and if I went and changed right this very minute I’d have time to do a short run this morning, it’s not happening. Maybe I will run after work? In the meantime, I am looking back at pictures I have taken over the past two weeks and realizing how much I love the beauty of Spring. If I’m going to be honest, I must add that I’m not a fan of spring allergies.

Fargo and I have spent a ton of time outside this week. I weed, he spies on the neighbors and poses for pictures.

fargo tulips

He knows everything that goes on next door!

fargo spying

This dogwood tree made a great backdrop for prom pictures.

fargo dogwood

Sometimes Fargo needs to rest…while I continue to weed…

fargo resting

This bleeding heart looked rough after the late frost, but has really recovered nicely.

bleeding heart

It was cold and rainy yesterday and it’s supposed to stay that way for a while. We needed the rain, for sure, but there is still so much outside work to do. Of course, there’s quite a bit of inside work to do as well, since I’ve been ignoring the inside list for the outside list…

 

Lamb’s Ear

Do NOT let it get out of control…like this…

lambs ear

It takes forever to do this…

ripping lamb's ear out of garden

That pile is the base of an old butterfly bush (invasive, do not plant) and the lamb’s ear from about 1/3 of one perennial bed. Great way to work the hammies and make them sore to balance out the OUCH in my quads from the Half.

Half Marathon Race Report

It was an amazingly beautiful day. It was a day filled with in-person and virtual support beyond what i anticipated. Although hubby is on the injured list for running, he brought his bike so he could find me several times on the course.

spectator hubby

I have an amazing group of online running friends, one of whom lives close enough to where the event was located that she came to cheer. Not only did she arrive to cheer, but she brought a sign, with messages from the other amazing ladies in our group. BEST. SIGN. EVER!!!

poster

Another bonus was spending time with a high school friend, both at the expo on Saturday, and before/after the race on Sunday. I’ll get back to her later in this post.

It started out on the chilly side, temp around 40, but was supposed to be crystal clear with bright sun and warm up into the 60s. A little hard to figure out what to wear. In order to try and avoid being too hot later, I dressed for the warmth, but boy, was I freezing at the start. So cold, that my leg muscles were feeling pretty tight. Luckily I’m such a slow runner that I felt I would be okay in terms of my muscles warming up once the starting gun went off.

It is an overall great course, with great volunteers and spectators. The worst part of the course (in my opinion) is an early out-n-back on roads with very cambered (slanted) surfaces. It’s not a flat course, lots of hills, most shorter and steeper, and I knew where they all were from previous times I participated. I felt like I was keeping a reasonable pace, pretty much on target for my PR, even with the hills, up until mile 10ish. There were quite a few hills in the beautiful parkway area of the course, and though I didn’t realize it, I must have lost some time in there.

Hubby was amazing and found me multiple times along the way, which really helped and made me happy. He was also my own personal course photographer. Here are two of my favorites, where you can see the beauty of the middle course miles .

beautiful course

course creek

In the past, I have had IT Band issues on this course, due to the cambered surfaces and the steeper downhills. I was able to make it to mile 12 before it happened this time. I was close enough to the finish that I pushed through and kept running. It’s a long last half mile-ish at the end, where you can hear the announcer and see the stadium, but it doesn’t seem to get closer as fast as you think it should be getting closer.

I had spent time during my miles thinking about my family and friends and using them as inspiration. I made sure to thank first responders, race volunteers and even some spectators. I knew I wanted to finish strong with or without a PR (I had figured out around mile 11 that the PR was not happening). Just about when I was ready to fade, my high school friend showed up. She had finished (a lot) earlier, ran her own PR, and stayed to wait for me. Not only that, but she ran back along the course to find me and run me in. Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

last hill

That’s her on the right in the blue, and my running friend clapping on the left. They both ran with me up the final hill into the stadium while hubby took the pics and cheered. I felt so many warm fuzzies! I did finish strong and I felt the best ever after a finish. I missed a PR by 1:04, but ran my best time in 7 years by almost 3 minutes.

medal

The quads and IT Band are sore, I’m feeling the ouch today, but I am using that as a reminder of a great day. I feel so lucky that I was able to spend the weekend with my parents, get cheering and props from my girls, have the support of my hubby and my amazing friends, and have my hard work this training cycle pay off.

I also may have registered for another Half at the expo…as well as a 5k and a 10k the day before…uh oh!

Thank you to EVERYONE who was part of my support crew, near and far!!

 

 

Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with my perennial beds. Right now, I’m leaning more towards hate. They are SO MUCH WORK!! For whatever reason, the past two years, the grass and the lambs ear have been attempting a coup.

It’s all lambs ear!!!!! Last year I ripped the lambs ear out of the closer half, and you’d never know it.

lambs ear

I was late in removing the old growth from the front beds, saved it for last, because I worry about Fargo being out front, near the road. And because I didn’t want to see all of the grass and the weeds hiding under last year’s dead flowers.

old growth

Fargo was quite helpful, as usual.

Fargo always helping

At least it will look better from the road, just don’t look up close.

cleared and raked

It would be easier if we used chemicals, but we don’t. I have spent at least an hour weeding, almost every day, for the last two weeks, and you would never know. But once the flowers, and the plants that are supposed to be there, really kick into gear I will be back on the love side of the scale.

The hubster thought it would be fun to share that his dinner tonight, was wild roasted turkey (he brought home from a hunting trip last week and prepared himself), on a sandwich with home baked bread, a sweet potato from our garden and homemade cookies for desert. All of the hard work does have its rewards!

Am I Ready?

It’s the big question when an event is a week away. It’s the question people ask me and it’s the question I ask myself. I only missed one run in 14 weeks, and over the last few weeks I’ve maybe missed 2 miles overall. It’s the closest I have EVER stuck to a training plan. I haven’t had as many strong long runs as I would have liked, but most of my weekday miles have felt good.

I was reading Mark Remy’s article in Runners World last night in which he reflects on what he’s learned about running over the past 20 years. The two things that stand out are that there is no way to predict what will happen on race day, and if you wait until you need a trip to the port o potty, it’s too late.

The first is something I’ve said over and over to myself and to others. There are so many variables in the form of things we can’t control. It can be way hotter, or colder, or wetter, or windier than any weather we have trained in. We can start out too fast, or too slow, or tweak something, the dreaded IT Band can crash the party, we can randomly get blisters, or have GI issues, etc. We can also have all of the stars align and have an amazing run.

The potty reference made me laugh, especially with the additional note on the very bottom of the page that if you learn only one thing from the column, learn this. It’s good to laugh.

I’m already stalking the weather. I’m already starting to lay out stuff to pack…clothing, nutrition, both pairs of sneakers, body glide, water bottle, etc. I will have way more stuff shoved in my bag than necessary, but I want to have race day options depending on what the weather actually is that morning.

?

I am definitely looking forward to a taper week of fewer miles in order to rest up. I guess the answer to the big question is, yes.

Cookware

As we’ve been doing more and more cooking/baking, the hubby and I have found that we are also researching the best tools to use in these endeavors. So far, our main purchase (which I still like to admire) was the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. We’ve added some smaller things along the way as well, but in terms of big ticket items, that was it.

More recently, we’ve looked at cookware. We have a mish mosh of pots and pans, many of them hand-me-downs, with little thought to what types of surfaces, materials, uses, etc. We have two stainless steel frying pans, probably some of the newer cookware, that are beautiful, but EVERYTHING sticks to them. I’ve tried oils and butter, and it’s always a mess to clean them after use. However, I’d like to get away from the nonstick coatings that have potentially toxic ingredients.

An unfortunate reality in all of this is that quality cookware is so so so expensive! And in reading reviews, there are always negatives for every brand and finish and shape and size. These are the things that freeze me in a state of indecisiveness, not just for cookware, but sometimes, in life. Making decisions can be hard. Maybe it’s hard for everyone, but it is especially hard for me. It is time consuming to figure out the options, to do all of the research necessary to really understand the options (I’m still working on the sneaker thing, for goodness sake!), to weigh the options, and then, possibly, make the actual decision. 

Apparently, the hubby decided he had enough information to get us started on cookware. He bought me a large saute pan for my birthday. It is beautiful.

saute pan

It is so beautiful, that I just looked at it for a few days. I did this with the pretty kitchen power tool as well. I have finally washed it, so it’s ready to use, but I may just have to look at it for a while longer. This is to replace the pan that I use at least 3-4 times/week. The one that is in pretty rough shape. The one that probably needed to be replaced a few years ago.

It is an incredibly thoughtful birthday gift, for many reasons, not the least of which is the time that hubby spent researching with me. We looked online, we looked in stores, we read reviews, and he patiently listened to all of my pros and cons. He knew I would continue to make a decision through indecision and he used my birthday as a way to move us forward. This a high quality piece of cookware, and if it holds up, I’m hoping we can slowly add more of its kind to our kitchen…now that a decision has been made.

 

Gingerbread

Gingerbread was one of the first things I made after our purchase of the pretty kitchen power tool (stand mixer) in December, before I started this blog. It is a recipe I found in the pile of recipes we have in a big binder. It is hand written, I copied it, but I have no idea from where. I have searched more than a dozen recipes online and I have not found one that matches. I’ll type it out at the bottom of this post, but apologies to the original creator because it is incredible and I would have loved to give credit where credit is due.

I never thought much about sifting ingredients together before this recipe. I believe now that sifting does make a difference though, especially with baking powder/soda and cocoa powder.

sifting ingredients

Another new one for me, was adding baking soda to boiling water. Adding that to the butter and sugar makes for pretty runny stuff.

runny batter

It also taught me a lesson. I should have learned it after the disastrous mess I had after making the Irish Car Bomb Brownies, but I didn’t put it together until making this. The stand mixer paddle with the spatula blade attached is not good with liquid or cocoa powder recipes. No matter how slowly I tried to pour in the water/baking soda (or the beer from the brownie recipe), it splashed out of the bowl all over the counter and all over me. As you can see from the picture, I switched back to the original paddle in the middle of mixing.

Actually, the overall batter is not super thick once all of the mixing is finished.

20160407_162845

Not only is the flavor wonderful, but the consistency and texture as well. We really love the chewiness, for lack of a better descriptor.

gingerbread

The recipe calls for a square pan. I found that it rose too high in the middle when I used a square pan, so I do a 1.5 recipe and put it in a 9×13 pan. The recipe below contains the original amounts for each ingredient and you can decide if you want to increase quantities or not.

Gingerbread Recipe (sorry, but I have no idea how to set this up to be printer-friendly)

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 1/2 cup flour (I used a ratio of 1 1/2 white and 1 wheat)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

(1/2 teaspoon cloves which I DO NOT USE)

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup unsulfured molasses

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • preheat oven to 350, butter/spray oil pan
  • combine water with baking soda and set aside
  • in a large bowl, sift together flour, spices and baking powder, set aside
  • in another large bowl (or stand mixer), cream butter and sugar together, beat until fluffy
  • add in molasses and baking soda mixture
  • beat in flour mixture
  • add eggs and beat well
  • pour batter into pan and bake 35-40 minutes
  • dust with confectioners sugar if desired

 

 

 

 

Sneaker and Training Update

It is Week 12 of Half Marathon Training. I think that I am ready for the Half now, that a 12 week plan might be better. I did miss one run this cycle, and I’ve adjusted 2 or 3 to be slightly shorter or longer. I also switched last Sunday’s 10 miler with this Sunday’s 6 miler. I felt that a 3 week taper for a half was too long, so I actually did 6.7 last Sunday.

The weather has not been especially cooperative with wind and near record cold temps. Saturday night’s low will be close to 20 with the high on Sunday barely reaching 40. Yesterday morning our outdoor thermometer showed 17.9. I think Mother Nature is taking the April Fool’s prankster stuff too the extreme at this point.

Both of my running partners are now out with injuries. I will be on my own for the race. Certainly, it will not be the first time I’ve run solo on race day, as I’ve done two full marathons on my own and numerous half events.

Remember this picture?

Lonely at the back

I am sad though that they are both hurting and I miss them on the training runs.

Way back, I wrote a post about the Hoka One One Clifton 2s and the Odysseys. I sent them both back. I will try the Clifton 3s when they come out in the fall as a Hoka rep emailed with information that the 3s will be going back much closer to the original Clifton design. But since sending the Oddyseys back, I tried the Altra Paradigm, which I liked for the running, but not the walking part of my intervals. The Altra Paradigm is a zero drop shoe and unfortunately, it made me feel almost like I was falling on my heel during my walks.

So, I have since gone back to the Saucony Triumph, which is what I wore before the Hokas. The Hoka Cliftons are a 5mm drop from heel to toe, the Saucony Triumph ISO 2s have an 8mm drop. I really love the feel of the sneaker, the padding/padded tongue is pretty awesome. The fit is great, though I did decide to go with and extra half size larger than I had previously worn.

h and s sneaks

The Triumph definitely has less padding under the ball of the foot, but so far it seems to be working out. You wouldn’t think that the extra 3mm would make a difference in gait, but I do have to watch that I’m not catching my heels each step.

sneaks side view

I divided a few runs, so as to wear each pair for some of the miles. I have run a 5 miler and a 6 miler in just the Triumphs. I think I might wear the Triumphs for the 10 miler this weekend. Then I will need to decide which pair to run in for the Half. You can see how battered the Cliftons are, truly my most favorite pair of sneakers EVER. Might need them as a security blanket on race day. I’ll keep you posted on the decision.

Quick fun fact, from January-March I logged 178.3 miles. Pretty sure that is a record setting first quarter for me.

 

Double (Triple) Chocolate Sweet Potato Muffins

I saw a recipe on tumblr a few days ago that looked pretty interesting, Double Chocolate Sweet Potato Muffins. We still have sweet potatoes left from last year’s harvest, I haven’t made muffins in a while, and I liked the idea of “double chocolate” in the title. Really though, it’s triple chocolate if you consider that there is melted chocolate, cocoa and chocolate chunks in the recipe…sounds yummy, right? And if there is sweet potato in the recipe, it must mean it’s healthy and guilt free (well, maybe healthIER).

Off to a good start with the mashed sweet potato mixed in with a combination of melted butter and Trader Joe’s 72% cacao dark chocolate.

sw potato chocolate

After adding the rest of the liquid ingredients, I was a little worried. The recipe says it will be runny, and it sure was runny. However, it ended up being incredibly thick batter that filled 18 muffin spaces vs the 15 stated in the recipe. I was also nervous because I did not have spelt flour (though I plan to get some) and subbed in wheat flour, so I wasn’t sure how that would work.

muffin tins

They weren’t the prettiest muffins, kind of rough and uneven, but looks aren’t everything.

baked sw p muffins

sw p muffins rack

The flavor is pretty amazing. They have just enough sweetness, they are very moist and have a smooth texture which I think is due to the melted chocolate.

sw p muffin plate

I have another cup of baked and mashed sweet potato, so now the question is, do I make more muffins or do I make more scones? It’s just such a terrible thing to have to choose between two yummy options 😉