Sunday, August 31, 2008
Yup. That was me today. It's hard to believe that a week ago I felt ready to rock & roll at the Maine Coast Half-Marathon three weeks from now, and today I was slogging around the Arlington Airport with lead in my legs.
I shouldn't be too hard on myself, because I know I've been just as slow many times in the past, and really it's just since I got the Garmin that I've been more aware of my occasional* snail-like pace. And I was just as slow on my long run at Green Lake three weeks ago, even with the "iPod fartleks." Slow and steady might not win the race, but at least it gets you through the long runs.
I might have been better off if I'd started earlier in the morning. I meant to, really. But one show on the Food Network led to the next, and somewhere in there I fell asleep again, and then Meet the Press was on KONG (alternative NBC affiliate channel), and before you could say "get your lazy ass out of bed, you lazy ... um... lying-in-bed-person"—it was approaching noon.
People who are living in hot climates probably cannot imagine going for a run in mid-afternoon without expiring from the heat. But I had checked the weather forecast last night, and the high today was only supposed to be mid-60's, so I wasn't too worried about that.
It was warm enough that I decided to leave my jacket in the car and just use my waist pack for my phone and car key. There were a few times when the sun was actually glaring on me that I felt a little hot. But amazingly, there were other moments when it went behind a cloud and I felt a bit chilled. Obviously, I wasn't running hard enough to get overheated!
The running trail around Arlington Airport is actually a great place to run, even if it's not a fast route for me. I've been told it is 5½ miles around, but today when I measured I got more like 5¾ miles. Parts of the trail route have been changed to accommodate some road work or construction or something, so I don't know if that accounts for the difference.
I ran counterclockwise for my first two loops. Why that direction, I don't know. I do the same thing at Green Lake. The first mile or so parallels a busy road, then the trail turns into the airport. I described the route back in March when I ran up there for the first time. This time, however, I figured out that there was a gas station along the route where I could stop to use the bathroom without having to divert all the way back to Starbucks!
A lot of the trail is gravel, and I'm not crazy about running on gravel. Maybe that's why I was so slow. Yeah, that's the ticket.
While not horrible, this was not one of my more exhilarating runs. About a mile and a half in I was groaning to myself, not even two miles yet! Although that's pretty common—the first few miles always seem endless!
After the first lap, I stopped a quarter of a mile or so onward to use the bathroom at a gas station. When I stopped my timer, I was at 6.22 miles—just about the length of a 10K. The length of the Nike Human Race that many people are presumably running today. I actually signed up (for the "run where you are" version), but since I don't have the Nike+ stuff I don't know how I would actually record my time. More importantly, I would not want to claim those 6.2 miles, or any 6.2 miles from today's run, as a timed 10K. Too, too humiliating. Not to mention I have no intention of displacing the Run-a-Muk results with a crappy successor.
This 6.22 mile stop may have been the low point of my run. Especially when I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw rolls of flab sticking out from my waist pack. Usually the waist pack acts kind of girdle-like and makes my waist look very trim—but somehow today the fat had managed to escape. Well, at the very least, this certainly made me abandon any thoughts that maybe 6.2 miles was far enough for today!
So back out for loop number two. The second time around was easier, if not faster (and it wasn't), because I was thoroughly warmed up now and I was familiar with the route. Landmarks seemed to come more quickly.
After two full rotations and another bathroom stop (at which I preemptively sucked my stomach in before looking in the mirror), I was at 12½ miles with 3½ to go in order to meet my goal of 16 miles today.
This is where I cut a sweet deal with myself. My original plan had been three full rotations, but when I measured how far one time around was, I decided that three would just be too far. So after I did the two, I would turn around and go clockwise for half my remaining distance, then double back to finish.
Okay, I know that doesn't sound like there's any special deals or bargains in that proposition. It's really all psychological. By doing the last portion as an out and back, I "only" had to go 1¾ miles out, before turning around and coming back. Two teeny-tiny short little stretches in lieu of another very, very long loop around the outside.
I almost managed to convince myself that it really wasn't that far.
I would never have gotten through any of this without my iPod playing in my ear. I had already gone through a couple repeats of my power songs. In these last few miles I resorted to repeated playings of Ain't No Mountain High Enough, occasionally interspersed with You're the First, the Last, My Everything. Not your normal running songs, I know! Although, I must say that they both have quite a good beat to them and the Barry White song was a staple from my treadmill days. But really, to me they evoke my favorite movie, Bridget Jones's Diary**, and playing them puts me in England, a little bit.
In case you are not intimately familiar with Bridget Jones's Diary,*** Ain't No Mountain High Enough comes on when Bridget is driving with her parents to the Darcys' Ruby Wedding party. The scene is in the Cotswolds (although technically that is not the part of England where Bridget's parents lived, at least not in the book); it is just after Christmas, and it is quite snowy out (although technically, it really doesn't snow that much in England). Bridget, you see, had just realized that she likes Mark Darcy, very much (just as he is), and is heading off to the party to tell him so. Her father is driving too slowly for her taste (perhaps due to the snow on the ground), and she makes him move over (to the left side of the car, where passengers sit in England) so that she can drive chaotically over the hills (no doubt on a one-track road). Throughout this scene the song (Ain't No Mountain High Enough) is building up, and reaches its high point as Bridget surges over the hills and screeches to a halt in front of the Darcys' house. Mansion, really. (After which Bridget scurries inside and proceeds to thoroughly embarrass herself in front of a dumbfounded Mark Darcy.****)
So anyhow, reliving all of this (I mean in the movie-viewing sense, of course) did help to move the miles along a bit. I went over those snowy hills again, and again, and again! Actually, there was a bit of time where I was even singing along—"Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough..." etc. Under my breath, mind you! Even if I had the nerve to sing out loud in public (not that there was anyone around), I'm sure I did not have enough spare breath in my lungs to expend on singing.
Finally, I reached my turnaround point and headed back. Easy peasy from here on, right? That's what I kept telling myself. Shortly after I started my final mile, maybe a quarter of a mile in, I decided to find my sixteenth wind and kick it up a notch for the final stretch. Amazingly, I had something in me that clawed its way to the surface and I was able to finish in a burst of glory. The last mile was ten minutes, which obviously does not sound very fast, but keep in mind that I only sped up partway into it, and I had just run 15.25 miles beforehand!
But I did feel pretty cruddy after I stopped. I walked around the parking lot for a bit before I crawled into my car. At that moment, every bit of me hurt a little. Even sitting down was uncomfortable. Luckily, that feeling passed pretty quickly, although the achy legs remain (even hours later).
I was going to stop by my parents' house, but I didn't have a change of clothes with me. I had the brilliant (I say that facetiously) idea to stop at Target and pick up something quick and cheap to change into. About 40 minutes and $100 later (which included a dress that I will probably be wearing to work on Tuesday), I left Target with a change of clothes that I no longer probably needed because by that time my sweaty running clothes had pretty much dried. Oh well.
I bought a pair of shorts to change into because I thought I might want to try soaking my legs in an ice bath, or at least going down to the beach and walking in the water (which is pretty much the equivalent of an ice bath). I really liked the beach idea, but it was a little late in the afternoon, and everyone was eating by the time I got there, so I scrapped that idea. And as for the ice bath, I still haven't managed to work up the nerve.
I did manage to persuade my sister to try massaging my legs a little bit, since I don't have a personal physical therapist/masseuse. I wasn't a very good subject though, since every time she touched***** the back of my legs I shrieked. I think her technique needs a little work! (But she did throw in a few minutes on my back, arms, and feet, and she did a good job there. Maybe my calves and hamstrings were still over-sensitive.) I also laid on the floor with my legs up the wall for a few minutes and man, my hamstrings are tight.
In a few minutes I am going to throw myself into a hot bath laced with Epsom salts. I know that is the opposite of all recommendations. Perhaps I will be able to attempt an ice bath in the winter (bear with me here) when I actually have the heat on, and a cup of hot tea or hot cocoa by my side!
Tomorrow's a regular "short run" day. I expect it will be another very slow run. (Mondays always are, anyway.) But since it is a holiday, there is no need to go out at 6 a.m., so I can "enjoy" a leisurely 9 a.m. run and still have the rest of the day to play. I'm thinking I need a pair of shoes to go with that dress from Target....
*More than occasional.
**You're the First, the Last, My Everything is actually from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. And that plays when Bridget... oh, go watch the movie!
***And if you are not, go watch it immediately! I would myself, if that would not require me to sit upright, rather than in a bath, which is my next destination.
****A look which Colin Firth does quite well. As we shall see....
*****And by touched, I mean jabbed, poked, squeezed, pounded!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Here are some other braggadocious statistics.
- I was third in my age group (40-49) out of ten women, and also ahead of the four women in the older age categories.
- In the 30-39 age group, I was faster than all but the top three (out of 11).
- In the 20-29 age group, I was faster than all but the top two (out of 10).
- In the 15-19 age group, I was faster than one (of two).
I was 9th of all the women (37) and 30th of all participants in the 10K (74).
So I guess I don't mind about that one second too much.
I was, of course, slightly irritated. How could this happen right after I'd declared myself "ready" for the Maine Coast Half Marathon, and planned a long run for Sunday? (Which is still planned unless my calf doesn't get better, or gets worse, before Sunday.) I've always prided myself on my lack of injuries (except for the achilles tendon condition, of course). No knee pain, ever, even though that seems to be a common complaint amongst runners!
So I kept it slow this morning, without trying to squeeze in any "fast" miles as I frequently do these days, with the aid of the Garmin. I didn't even mind stopping for a moment when my phone rang.** I was standing on the sidewalk talking to my mom when I saw, coming my way, the "track team."
That's what I called them, because it was a group of males running together all dressed in the same outfit, gold shirts and navy blue shorts (similar to the high school colors). I stepped out of the way for them to pass, at which time I realized this was no high school track team. They were clearly older than high school age, and heavier (that is more muscular) than the lean (skinny) high school runners I've seen. And they were running slower than any high school track runners I've ever seen. (High school P.E. classes, that's another matter.)
I let them pass and get ahead of me before I followed. Even if they were slow (and they were), I didn't want to be ahead of them and have them pounding on my heels! I followed them and determined they were running about a 10:30-10:45 pace. If I hadn't been coddling my sore leg I would have passed*** them easily.
In fact, I still started gaining on them in Grand Avenue Park when they stopped to walk at the top of a slight hill! That put me in mind of the Whidbey Island Half Marathon, where I kept seeing Marines wearing shirts saying "Marines do more" and walking up the hills. I wanted to say, "Do Marines walk up hills?" but didn't have the nerve.
Oh yeah, because I had decided that these guys, not being high school students, must be from the Naval base. Who else would be out jogging in a pack in matching outfits?
A guy walking through the park said to me, "You can catch them, they're slowing down!" I responded, "Oh, I know I could catch them if I wanted to!" Then I got to the end of the park and turned back toward downtown, while they continued southward, presumably toward the footbridge that would take them back down toward the naval base.
I would write more clever things about chasing a pack of sailors, had I been up to flying past them in a blaze of glory instead of plodding along in their wake.****
Anyhow, I finished my run, 7.5 miles to Starbucks and then another half mile walk home from Starbucks. I'm calling it 8 miles.*****
I debated whether to treat my sore calf with ice or heat, and possibly ice might have been better but I chose heat, since that would allow me to take a hot bath and get ready for work, while ice would just take too much time out of the morning. I really felt this type of muscle soreness might be better helped by heat, anyway. Several hours later at the end of the day, my leg is still achy but not worse. I'm resisting the thought that it could be any kind of muscle strain or real injury, and I'm going with residual soreness from a cramp. I've been gently stretching it here at my desk and periodically massaging the back of my leg. I'll take another hot bath tonight and rub some arnica cream on it. I'm sure it will be better tomorrow and fine by Sunday. (I've always been an optimist!) I wasn't planning on running tomorrow, anyway.
Unless the sailors are going to be out again???
*Such as John McCain trying to steal Obama's thunder by choosing a woman as his VP candidate and announcing it the morning after Barack Obama's fabulous speech, when all attention should be still be focused on Obama's speech! (Just an example. No partisan intent... tee hee.)
**With my mother calling to vent about the McCain deal.
****Hahaha, that's a sailing joke, get it?
*****I get to count the last half mile because 1) I did it on my feet, therefore it was part of the run; 2) That last mile took 13:33 minutes, even walking half of it, which still puts the average pace within jogging standards; and 3) it's my run, so therefore I can include anything I want in it.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
- Make sure my work schedule is clear or covered during my 10-day trip.
- Straighten up the house so it's not too messy when the cat-sitter visits, and nice when I get home!
- Stop mail and newspaper.
- Load up on cat food, kitty litter, etc. (Probably should be first and last on the list!)
- Figure out what to pack, what clothes to bring, etc.
I also have a pretty good plan for my running schedule in the weeks leading up to the race. This week the Y has been closed, so I have been doing nothing but running (no cross-trainer, no yoga, no Pilates). I thought I might run every day this week, but after going out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings (6, 6.5, 5.5 miles) I decided to take this morning off. Tomorrow I'll go out for seven or eight miles, take Saturday off, then do my last long run on Sunday. I'm still thinking about where to do it.
Here's the rest of the schedule.
September 1 - 7
- Run Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Cross-train Tuesday and Thursday
- Resume yoga & Pilates classes
- Aflac Iron Girl 5K* on Sunday, September 7
- Run Monday & Wednesday
- Cross-train Tuesday and Thursday
- Yoga & Pilates
- Rest on Friday
- Fairhaven Waterfront 15K on Saturday, September 13 (followed by Tonna's Pickle-making Party)
- Run Monday & possibly Wednesday (depending on flight time)
- Cross-train Tuesday
- Pilates Monday and yoga Tuesday
- Fly to New Hampshire on Wednesday
- Drive to Maine on Thursday
- Easy run in Ogunquit on Friday
- Rest and Race Expo on Saturday
- Maine Coast Half Marathon on Sunday, September 21
Who knew that Michael Phelps had a summer job at the Lobster Pound?
I *heart* lobster!
Can't beat a lobster roll! (All pictures from 2006)
*I debated and debated whether to do the 5K or 10K in this race. My general practice is to always do the 10K when there's a choice. But two or three weeks ago a feeling came over me that I should do the 5K this time. It seemed to make sense since I had two long races coming up in the following weeks. Plus, it might give me a last opportunity this year to better my 5K time. (It's at Greenlake, where I've done well in other 5K's, and since the 10K is just a second lap, I don't really see a strong appeal for that.) The only other 5K I see on the horizon for this fall/winter is the Jingle Bell Run, and that is always a fiasco and completely impossible to get a good time in!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Clockwise from left....
- Corey - 14 years younger than me. Just did the Danskin triathlon and thinks that triathlons are her "thing" (as long as it is not too cold out).
- Mary - About 12 years younger than me. Our newest attorney and the sweetest person you could meet!
- Ann - My business partner, 1.75 years younger than me. Watched the Olympics obsessively and became rather depressed that she wasn't Dara Torres.
- Jennifer - 10 years younger than me. Pregnant!
- Kari - 12 years younger than me. Used to be a gymnast - now she can walk on the balance beam (probably).
- ME! Older than all of them, but I can run further and faster than any of them!
- Jasmine - Was a senior in high school when I started in Juvenile Court ten years ago! (I could have represented her if she had wanted to be a criminal.)
*I know it bears no relevance to anything, it was just a gratuitous opportunity to throw in a little Andy Garcia.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Regardless, I am thrilled with my time, as this is the first time since that one time in 2006 where I have finished a 10K under 53 minutes. (Dare I say it? 52 minutes is the next barrier to surmount. Thank goodness I probably won't have another 10K on the schedule until next year.)
In my last 10K, I was somewhat disappointed with my finish time (not only was it not a PR of any kind, it was about a minute slower than other recent 10K's). While I'm okay with that, I decided to optimizing the conditions to support a better outcome this time around.
This did not include any kind of special training runs or anything like that. No, this was totally external preparation.
First of all, and most importantly I believe, I rearranged my running schedule for last week so I was not running the day before the race. On the day before the previous 10K, I ran about eight miles, and I kind of suspect that may have impacted my performance. This time I moved my Friday run back to Thursday and took Friday off entirely (from running, that is). I didn't even go to the Y. I rested my legs like a roast before carving.
Actually, that was pretty much all I did. I skipped the pre-race pasta dinner because I've been indulging in all too much carb-loading (read, indulging) these past months. I did make my usual effort to cut down on fiber after Friday's breakfast, so as not to risk the kind of emergency suffered by Paula Radcliffe on occasion or other bloggers I know. But I sort of slipped up there when I used high fiber tortillas to make a wrap for lunch, then later had half of a double fiber english muffin (with delicious smoked salmon) for a snack. I was thinking whole grains, good carbs, without thinking about the potential side effects.** At least I didn't cook up a mess of broccoli for dinner!
And I skipped a Friday night high school reunion get-together in hopes of getting a good night's sleep the night before (something I rarely have before running, but I hear is supposed to be a good thing).
Still, despite my efforts, Saturday morning did not have an auspicious beginning. The run was in Mukilteo, which is only about eight miles from my house, so I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn. Still, waking up at 6 a.m. was not easy (even though I do it every workday), and I really hated getting out of bed when I finally manage to at almost 6:30.
My stomach felt a little off, and it was a little too close to the scheduled race time of 8 a.m., to eat much of a breakfast. So all I ate was about half a banana in the car, and drank just a few sips of my pre-race latte, not wanting to put too much milk into my stomach. I wasn't quite to the point of nauseous, but it was close. I definitely would rather have been in bed instead of on the way to a 6.2 mile run.
This is where I also launched into my usual mental tirade of self doubt. What makes me think I can run faster than a 10-minute (or perhaps 9:30) mile? What if I am on the decline and all my 10K's and other races will continue to get slower, rather than faster? What makes me think I can compete with all these other people? (I go through this every time, even when I'm not feeling queasy!)
I took off on a 1.5 mile warmup run at about 7:15. This is when I noticed that my delicate heel/ankle/achilles tendon was hurting. The warmup helped, though, and by the time I returned to the starting area my foot felt okay and so did I. The weather was pleasant, sunny enough that I decided to wear sunglasses, but not overly warm. I still wasn't confident about how well I would run, however.
Eight o'clock (the planned start time) was approaching, so I squeezed in a final bathroom stop (I do love the short lines at small races) and headed toward the starting line (literally a line on the road). The guy making announcements and jokes informed us that the race would start at 8:10. I squeezed myself into the crowd, somewhere between the front and back of the pack, and turned on my Garmin and iPod in preparation.
Here is the crowd waiting to start. I am actually a little bit visible somewhere in there—I am the only person wearing a black hat. In the distance you can see the Mukilteo ferry sailing in (just to the right of the tree in the center), and to the left of that tree, the Mukilteo lighthouse.
At about 8:15, the race finally started, and all the runners, 5K and 10K alike, surged forward up the street. Again, somewhere in that crowd is the black-capped runner who is me!
One of my problems with the Garmin (and it's really more of a problem with me), is my constant compulsion to look at it. It does not make distance go by more quickly if you are noting every tenth of a mile! Even watching for my times to pop up after every mile can be distracting. And needless to say, checking the pace frequently can be quite frustrating, as well as misleading.
This time though, I managed to refrain from quite such obsessive watching, and I actually missed the time for the first mile! I felt comfortable with my pace, though. The second mile clicked by with a time of 8:55, which obviously was a little slower than I hoped to be going. It was not that surprising, though, since the route was hilly and we had been going uphill more than down. (I make that wise statement now, having seen the elevation map after the race.)
The course was out and back (although the return portion was slightly different, and longer, than the first part), and after the first two miles I started to encounter the fastest runners on their way back. The first two or three were men, looked very fast, and understandably looked to be in a tight competition for first place. The first woman passed shortly thereafter, and she was flying too! Last year I counted the number of runners I saw on the way to the turnaround point (about 60, I think), but this year I gave up after five or six. It was too distracting to try to pay attention.
Of course, the closer I got to the turnaround, the more the returning runners looked like me. By this point, nearing three miles, we had all pretty much settled into our positions and there was not a lot of passing going on. There were a couple of people near me, a man and a woman, who did pull ahead of me just before we got to the turnaround at Harborview Park (which was also a water station).
Both of them paused to get water, so I—not needing or wanting to stop for water—passed them back. I fully expected them to pass me later after they got back in the groove.
But by this point I was running really well. I know this not because of my mile times, which I didn't really confirm till later, but because I could feel it. On the uphills I didn't feel like I was slowing down too much, but on the downhills I let myself fly. Then I tried to maintain that pace as much as I could on the level parts. When I passed the 5-mile point my time was 42-something, which is consistent with my typical pace for a 5-mile race.
I was running completely alone during this last half of the race. Strangely, this didn't prevent me from running well. One of my techniques to push myself through the end of a run—whether it's a race like this or a long run where I want to finish well—is to imagine myself in a different situation where I have a stronger motivation to run fast. On a simple long run, often it's enough just to pretend I am in the last third (or last mile) of a 15K or half-marathon, and that helps me to pick up the pace. Here, in an actual race, I need something a little better than pretending I'm in a race!
So I like to pretend I am an elite runner. Normally I try to channel Deena Kastor, but given her recent injury in the marathon (stress fracture which caused her to drop out at 5K), I didn't think that would be very good karma right now. (Sorry Deena, you'll be back at the top of my list after you recover!) Paula Radcliffe would be an acceptable substitute, because even though she finished 23rd in the Olympic marathon, her performance was more than I could ever hope to emulate. Still, she did have to squat on the side of the road, and she was in a lot of pain due to her incompletely healed injuries, neither of which were something I would want to experience.
So after tossing aside my usual role models, the obvious choice was, of course, Constantina Tomescu-Dita, the winner of the Olympic marathon. Constantina pulled ahead of the pack at the halfway point, and led for the remainder of the race, finishing at least 30 seconds ahead of the closest competitor. But even though she was in the lead that whole time, she could not let up—any slowing or delays could allow another runner to catch up to or pass her.
Even though I was certainly not "in the lead" or in any position to win the race, I did have that pressure of runners somewhere behind me, though not actually on my heels, so I too had an incentive to keep pushing forward as fast as I could.
And, by the way, the two people I passed at the water stop? Never did catch up to me again.
I did get passed by one person, however, in the last mile or possible even in the last half mile, but well before the finish line. This was a younger woman who came flying out of nowhere and passed me at a pace that was so fast, yet looked so easy, that I was stunned. If she could run that fast (without looking like she was on her last leg), then what was she doing behind me at all? Why hadn't she been up with the 8-minute milers all along, instead of back with the "trying to be faster than 9-minute" runners? Did she just now realize, "hey, I can run fast"?
I came into the finishing stretch without realizing it was the finish. There was no finishing clock (which I had known in advance), so I didn't have the usual clue that I was close to the end. I actually thought there was one more turn to go. So I was only about a block from the finish line when I realized "hey, this is it" and put on the final push. If I had known where I was, I would have done that at least another block sooner, and probably would have cut at least a few seconds off my time!
Without a big clock, I had to listen for my time to be announced as I crossed the finish line. I even pulled the earbud out so I could hear well. And what I heard was 52:50... and I just don't know if there were any more seconds after that. Because of the way they were recording the results, I couldn't just go back and look at my time, and I forgot to shut off the Garmin for about 30 seconds after I finished. So I will just have to wait for the results to be posted to get my official time.
I did download my race data to the computer, and the results were fascinating. My split times correlated perfectly with the elevation of the course. Where we were going up, I was slower. Where we were going down, I was faster. Take a look.***
Mile 2 - 8:55 (still climbing)
Mile 3 - 8:22 (downhill mostly!)
Mile 4 - 9:00 (past the turnaround point, and regaining the elevation lost in the previous mile)
Mile 5 - 8:33 (heading down again)
Mile 6 - 8:32 (and still down, toward the finish, which is basically at sea level)
Since I forgot to turn off the Garmin, I don't have a good time for the last bit, but my calculations determine that my pace during that last little stretch was at 6:50!
I did not place in my age group. (Although I don't know who those women were who beat me; I didn't pick out anybody on the return group that looked particularly the same age as me. But I wasn't looking too closely, and I didn't stick around to hear the awards.)
I still had quite a full day ahead of me. After I went home and got dressed and lounged around a tiny bit, I had just enough time to meet a friend for lunch, who had moved to Washington DC five years ago and was in town for a visit. Hi Roberta!
So, a fine but full day altogether. I am still psyched about my sub-53 finish time! And more so, the ease with which I ran it. (I'm not washed up yet!) It makes me feel really good, and optimistic, for the Maine Coast Half Marathon coming up on September 21. For some reason, I feel like the course may be somewhat similar there. I think I do better on somewhat hilly terrain (as long as the hills aren't too long and too steep) than I do on flat. I am able to maintain my pace pretty well going uphill, and then really make up for it on the downhills! So if the coast of Maine is the same as the coast of Snohomish County, I'm golden.
*I have said 52:50 so many times now that you will have to peel me off the ground if it is even so much as 52:51!
**And blessedly, there were no serious problems. Not that I would write about it if there were, unlike some people.... Oh, who am I kidding? Runners love to write about their bowel issues. It's like a point of pride, if you are a serious enough runner to... well, you know. (And really? People who don't run have no concept of the laxative effect of running.)
***How did I manage to finally transfer my Garmin elevation data? Good old fashioned cut and paste, with a twist. I could not copy the elevation graph for some reason, but I did manage to print it out in landscape mode (so that it wouldn't be cut off at three miles). Then I cut out the graph with a scissors, scanned it into the computer, and uploaded it as a picture. Voila!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I do see that I can watch it on CNNpolitics.com (and also apparently on Obama's website), although hopefully it will still be available tomorrow because the sound has mysteriously disappeared from my computer at home and it probably would not be that interesting without it. Hillary is speaking tomorrow night (so I hear) and I'm going out to dinner so I guess I'll tape it. (I am still living in the video dark ages and Tivo is little more than a funny-sounding word to me.)
It's kind of exhausting, after two weeks of constant Olympics saturation, jumping right into the convention. Beach volleyball, Michael Phelps, Barack Obama—a natural progression?
*But at least I didn't miss the marathon!
*This picture might come up frighteningly large. She's the one in pink with her back to the camera. Just ignore the one in blue.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I take full blame for it—it was all hand-selected by me, all favorite foods, most of which I rarely eat but certainly enjoyed today! The menu: Country ribs baked in a sweet & sour barbecue sauce, tiny fingerling potatoes roasted so that they are crisp on the outside and creamy soft on the inside, corn on the cob (bought at the farmer's market today), and tossed green salad (my staple food) with chopped heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (also from the farmer's market).
And for dessert, my favorite apple cake, made from a recipe that has been in my family all my life, which my mother originally got from a fellow teacher named Dagne Reque. It's a lovely recipe for the end of summer and fall, as apples are harvested and we start to crave things that are warm and cinnamony. This is one of those recipes that every who has it got it from someone else. So here it is, from Dagne to my mother, to me, to you.
Raw Apple Cake
4 cups cubed raw apples
½ cup oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ cups raisins or chopped dates (I always use raisins)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°.
Break two eggs over the cubed apples and mix well. Add oil, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts and and stir together.
Sift or stir flour, soda, and salt together and add to apple mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until flour mixture is incorporated into apple mixture.
Pour batter into a greased 9x13 baking pan and bake for 45 minutes (until done).
Serve warm or cold.
Cake can be topped with whipped cream, or (my preference) frosted after it is cool with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¾ cup butter, softened
One pound confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat together cream cheese and butter; add confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and mix well.
This makes more frosting than you probably will need to frost the single layer apple cake. I don't know what you will do with the extra, but by all means, don't eat it out of the bowl with a spoon. That would be a very bad idea.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Distance: 18.23 miles (sounds impressive, yes?)
Total Time: 5:39:35
And here are my "splits":
Mile 1 - 21:01 (2.9 mph - a little slow, perhaps)
Mile 2 - 1:07 (53.1 mph)
Mile 3 - 1:03 (56.8 mph)
Mile 4 - 1:06 (54.5 mph)
Mile 5 - 1:04 (56.2 mph)
Mile 6 - 11:01 (5.4 mph)
Mile 7 - 3:21 (17.9 mph)
Mile 8 - 1:00 (59.1 mph)
Mile 9 - 1:02 (57.6 mph)
Mile 10 - 1:01 (58.4 mph)
Mile 11 - 1:04 (55.8 mph)
Mile 12 - 1:52 (32.1 mph)
Mile 13 - 12:28 (4.8 mph)
Mile 14 - 10:19 (5.8 mph)
Mile 15 - 1:29:16 (.7 mph)
Mile 16 - 22:18 (2.7 mph)
Mile 17 - 3:27 (17.4 mph)
Mile 18 - 2:00:19 (.5 mph)
Mile 19 - .23 miles at .4 mph (35:48)
A careful inspection of the map reveals that I did this amazing "run" beginning at my office, all the way up the old highway to Haggens with a stop at Starbucks, then back into Everett to the Y, a lot of stationary movement at the Y (okay I know that is an oxymoron), back to my house, apparently with an extra loop around the block (I like to do that sometimes to add mileage), then all around my house for the next two and a half hours before I finally shut the Garmin off (or it ran out of battery power!).
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Well, I'm spinning it 180 degrees and taking the opposite position. The middle ain't so bad. A lot of good things come in the middle.
Take, for example, the middle of an Oreo.
Or the middle of a workday.
Or a school day for that matter!
Or Matthew McConaughey's middle!
(I'm talking abs, people.)
So as you can see, the middle can actually be quite... yummy!
And when it comes to running, the middle doesn't have to be a chore of endurance, something you just have to get past. In many ways, the middle can be almost the high point of a race, training run, or even training program. (I say almost the high point because, obviously, the end is inevitably the high point, for reasons good or bad.)
The beginning is always hard. The first few miles of a race or a training run always seem so long, and sometimes they are long, if you are not warmed up yet. The beginning of a training program? Sure, there's the initial excitement. But still, you don't know if you can do it yet, maybe you're a little out of shape, you're definitely not in the zone yet.
The ending, on the other hand, is a different kind of hard. The last three miles of a half marathon, the last six of a marathon—these are the miles where, if you're going to hit the wall, you do it. Now hopefully you'll get over that, and get a second (third, fourth, fifth) wind to push you to a big finish, but before that happens, those ending miles are brutal. The same thing with the final weeks of a training program before the big race. This is where you're running more miles than you ever have before, wondering if it's really true that you can run faster in a race than you do in a training run (because those long, slow, distance runs are really long, and really slow).
But in between the painful beginning and the agonizing end, you have the middle miles. These are the miles where your muscles have finally warmed up and your heart and lungs are pumping strong (but not to the point of sucking air) and your legs lighten and you're floating along like a balloon on a breeze. This where you go into the zone and it seems, for a little while at least, like you could run forever. (Yes, that feeling does go away, but while you have it, it's sublime.) Your middle might be long (many many miles) or it might be short (just a few miles), but somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot where everything comes together and you are a runner.
Enjoy it, because it will pass. Yes, there are more good things to come, a glorious finish for one, but the heart of the run—the center of the cinnamon roll—is in the middle miles.
The middle is underrated. For a long time, the phase of life known as "middle age" was dreaded and derided. That phrase still has a negative connotation, but more and more we are realizing that our middle years are the prime of life in many ways. Even in high profile events such as the Olympics, athletes in their thirties (and in at least one case, forties) are excelling in the endurance sports. In more local running events I have noticed women and men in their forties and even fifties beating the younger runners.
And you certainly don't have to win a race or even an age-group prize to experience mid-life success. Many of the women I meet in my age group of runners did not start running until their late thirties or even in their forties. Now they, like me, are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever before, certainly more than we were in our pizza-loving twenties.
So don't knock the middle miles. They may be the best miles of your race.
And if you think that's all B.S. and you need some real ideas to get through your middle miles? Okay then, you can...
- Eat Oreos! You're burning off 1-2 per mile, depending on your weight.
- Plan the lunch you're going to eat after the run! Or...
- Think about Matthew McConaughey's middle! You can pass the time counting his six-pack abs. And if you still have more miles to go, move on to Lance Armstrong and David Beckham! Oh yes, the middle is a very good thing.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Okay I know that I am the person that mocked beach volleyball (all in good fun, I promise!), but I really am interested in the state of Olympic racewalking. It's so handy that these questions can all be answered while sitting on my posterior in front of the computer.
Those of us who remember Seattle's Almost Live television show from the 80's and 90's might recall Bill Nye's "Speedwalker" character—the "physically fit superhero who fights crime while maintaining strict adherence to the regulations of the International Speedwalking Association (heel – toe, heel – toe)."
The actual definition of racewalking can be found in the USATF Rules: "Race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. The advancing leg must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the leg is in the vertical upright position." Hmmm, sounds tricky. The key rule is that one foot must be on the ground at all times, and if you violate that rule, you will be disqualified!
In the 2008 Olympics, the racewalking events are Men and Women's 20K, and Men's 50K. I've been trying to find some sort of results from other racewalking events so I could get an idea of how fast these folks go, but numbers are very hard to come by. This blog says that the Olympic record (presumably men's) for a 20K is 1:18:59. If that's right, that's a pace of about 6:22 per mile—substantially faster than I've ever come close to running, particularly for a distance of 20K! That's just crazy!
Another thing I am having trouble finding is the actual racewalking event schedule for the Olympics. Probably because they have no intention of showing this on TV! However, I believe at least the women's event, and who knows, maybe the men's also, is tonight. I'll try check it out, just in case I can get a glimpse of some "heel toe, heel toe" action.
The joy of victory (while keeping one foot on the ground at all times).
*Which, by the way, I saw on video, not in the theatre, as I was not even a year old when it came out.
**As opposed to some of the contemporary non-tasteful (but funny) romantic comedies... e.g. Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, There's Something About Mary, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Or there's tasteful but not funny... e.g. Serendipity. Or not tasteful and not funny... e.g. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Because I Said So. I won't bother with tasteful enough but yet funny, because thank goodness there have still been a few of those over the last 20 years!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A few weeks ago the topic for Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday was "Look Back, Look Ahead," checking in on the goals we set for ourselves this year. I didn't write about it then, but the idea stayed in my head and I've mulled it over a few times.
Now, on my birthday, which is itself the end of one year and the beginning of another, it seems like a good time to remember the goals I've set and see whether, in fact, I've accomplished anything at all!
My running goals for 2008 were pretty simple. Let's take a gander, shall we?
Mileage goal: 1500 miles for the year. Last year's mileage was something over 1200 miles (average 100 miles per month), and I thought an increase to 1500 seemed doable. This would require an average of 30 miles per week, allowing two weeks off during the year for vacation or whatever.
Progress so far: On track. At the end of June (which was technically halfway through the year), I had an average of 29 miles per week counting every week, but if I allowed myself one of the "vacation weeks" (and in fact I did go skiing for a week in January), my weekly average was 30-plus. As of last week my average was 30 miles for every week, even without incorporating a vacation week.
Half-marathon goal: Complete Whidbey, Robie Creek, Anacortes, and Royal Victoria Half Marathons.
Progress so far: I have completed the first three, and I'm registered for Victoria in October. (I am also registered for the Maine Coast Half Marathon in September and Las Vegas in December.)
Half-marathon time goal: Finish under two hours as many times as possible. Beat my time from last year's Anacortes Half. Beat my PR from last year's Whidbey (1:54:30), if not at Whidbey this year then at some other race.
Progress so far: Well, I finished under two hours and beat last year's time in Anacortes. I'm still waiting on a new PR, however. I mean working on a new PR!
General race goal: Run at least one race (of any distance) every month.
Progress so far: Definitely on track. I've actually done at least two every month except January, when I just did one.
Race time goal #1: Break 26-minute 5K.
Race time goal #2: Break 25-minute 5K.
Progress so far: #1 - Done! #2 - Still trying! Best time so far, 25:28 at the Marysville Berry Run.
I think I've done pretty well with the running goals. Each one so far is either achieved or potentially achievable during the remainder of the year. (I'm not so confident about the 25-minute 5K though....)
I also set a few birthday goals last year—things I wanted to accomplish by my next birthday. Progress was not so good there, I'm afraid.... For example:
Reach goal weight and stay there. Instead, I've gained 5 or 10 pounds in the last few months. While running more than ever! How is that fair? How did that happen? (And how am I going to fix it?) Goal not yet achieved, but not abandoned.
Start weight training and do a few sessions with a personal trainer. Not yet. I have been doing Pilates class twice a week, though, with an instructer who's a bit like a boot camp sergeant (although I've missed a few over the summer). Goal still alive, but yet to be integrated.
Run the Whidbey and Robie Creek Half Marathons on April 13 & 20. Done! See above.
Get my house back into shape. Can't say that's done yet. Well, actually it's been done superficially several times, but it hasn't stuck. This is a good goal to accomplish before the holidays, I think.
Work on my garden. Well, again, I've done some things, but there'll be no garden tours this year.
Clean closets, get rid of excess clothes. Umm... not yet.
(I have to say that all the running goals—which I've done well on—have probably impacted my ability, willingness, and time to achieve some of these more pragmatic objectives.)
Spend less money, pay off some bills. I think I'm making good progress here! I've definitely cut back on the shopping. I've become downright frugal! Within reason, of course.
I had a few fantasy goals, also (even more fantastic that my other unattained goals). Such as... Go to the Oprah show, run in the Bath Half-Marathon in England, write a book. Needless to say, they remain in my imagination. Although the Bath Half-Marathon is definitely on the schedule for next year, if I can get in when general registration opens on September 1.
So, a good year so far, leaving plenty of room for progress. It's good to have something to shoot for, don't you think? Perfection is so over-rated. Boring, really!
And, as the Sanskrit poet said, tomorrow is a vision of hope.
Monday, August 18, 2008
When I was planning what to bring to our Italian-menu Book Club on Saturday, I decided I would make marinated grilled eggplant. It turned out perfect, smoky and succulent, and it was so easy. Here's how to make it. The directions are very flexible. Adjust to your needs.
1 or 2 large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
A few cloves fresh garlic, crushed or chopped
Combine a couple tablespoons of olive oil and about twice that amount of balsamic vinegar, along with the crushed garlic, in a very large ziplock bag (big enough for all the eggplant). (Adjust the quantity of marinade according to how much eggplant you have.) Mush it around, then add the eggplant and seal well. Shake up the bag well so all the eggplant is coated with marinade. Marinate at least an hour, but not as long as overnight.
Grill slices on a medium hot grill until browned, with strong grill marks, and cooked through. This will probably take about five minutes per side. You might want to spray the grill with non-stick spray, although I didn't have a problem with sticking. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
My point is not really that they're fast and I'm slow—we know that. I'm simply marveling that I am willing to spend a good ten minutes laboring over pen, paper, and calculator (yes it took ten minutes even with a calculator), just to illustrate exactly how slow I am. Even when I give myself an extremely generous potential pace. And round off.
Here's some more math.
Almost-a-15K plus almost-a-10K equals... a 15-mile long run this morning!
I ran nine miles from my house to my parents' (coincidentally, nine miles door to door), then another six miles on the beach (with a short break in between to change shoes, grab another water bottle, eat a Creamsicle, and exchange greetings with my parents).
Then I walked another half mile up and down the beach to round out the complete 25K (I'm a little obsessive that way).
Then another Creamsicle. Possibly the best post-run treat ever.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Of course, with a time of just over two and a half hours, Paula's "losing" time is far, far faster than any of the rest of us mortals can even dream of.
Watching the runners on TV, they all look speedy and graceful. The winner, Tomescu-Dita, had an average pace of just over 5:30 per mile. And since her second half was speedier than the first, her finishing miles were even faster. It is almost impossible to fathom running so fast for any distance, let alone 26.2 miles!
I hope I have never, and never do, look in as much pain as Japan's Reiko Tosa. The agony on her face throughout most of the race was devastating. She could be the poster child for reasons not to run a marathon! (Along with Paula Radcliffe squatting on the sidelines... yes, again.)
Interestingly, this is the first time Paula Radcliffe has lost a marathon she has completed. In Athens she dropped out due to injury; she has won all the other seven that she has done. So this is something of a new experience for her, not winning a marathon.
The question remains whether this will have been Paula's last opportunity to win the Olympic marathon. I think both she (and Deena Kastor) should take encouragement from Constantina Tomescu-Dita's win today—she is 38, the same age Paula Radcliffe will be at the time of the 2012 London Games.* (Deena will be 39.) And they can always look to Dara Torres for inspiration!
*And I, hopefully, will be in London watching them.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Now granted, beach volleyball seems awfully similar to regular volleyball, at least as I remember it from school (minus the bikinis, of course). And I recognize regular volleyball as a sport, so there's that. On the other hand, if we have regular volleyball, do we need the beach version too? Are we going to have regular basketball (if that is still an Olympic sport) plus Olympic H-O-R-S-E?
Here's another question. Was it as hard to get beach volleyball into the Olympics as it was for the women's marathon? Maybe if the Olympic poobahs of the seventies and before had seen the outfits that would eventually be worn by Paula, Deena, et al, they would have moved a little faster.
I have nothing against beach volleyball. It's not like there aren't other Olympic events that seem more like recreation than sport. But it seems like every time I randomly turn on the Olympics, they are showing beach volleyball! Does George Bush have something to do with this?
Of course, there's also men's beach volleyball. That's what was on when I turned on the TV tonight. But what's this? While the women compete wearing belly-baring bikinis, the men's costume consists of long baggy shorts and tank tops (no Matthew McConaughey-style shirtless chests here). Is it possible they thought that running around on the beach half naked might be considered a little... undignified?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
More on that below.
But first. The subject of this week's Runner's Lounge Take it and Run Thursday is "Care and Feeding of Your Feet." In other words, how to keep the most important part of a runner's body happy!
Two words: foot massage.
When I went to stay at Rosario after the Anacortes Half-Marathon back in July, I booked myself a very expensive massage on Sunday, the day after the race, mostly as an antidote to sore legs and general achiness. And it was good (even though there was an inordinate amount of time spent on the base of my skull, for what purpose I am not certain). But the very, very best part was the time spent on my feet. Not just a simple foot rub, but deep massage that I could feel into the cores of my tired toes, heels and insteps.
I thought, "I need this after every race!" (Or why be stingy? After every run!)
Watch this foot massage demonstration video and see if it doesn't make your toes curl with envy!
Which led me to thinking. Instead of those mini-massages that are available after some races (either for free or fee), there should be complimentary foot massages.
Now, I know there are some problems with this idea. Stinkiness, for one thing. It is possible that the massage providers don't want to be handling dozens* of sweaty, smelly feet. But there are ways around that, such as surgical gloves for the providers or cleansing wipes for the recipients. Also, I suppose some feet might be oozing with blisters, disfigured toenails, or other injuries. I've never had those problems (except for an occasional blister), so it's hard for me to figure that in. But they could just disallow persons with open sores, I would think.
But of course, post-race massages only happen occasionally, and as much as I appreciate full body massage, it is expensive so I certainly can't indulge as much as my body would like to. I started wondering how it could be made easier to provide or receive home foot massages at home.
Then I had the lightbulb idea. Socks, marked on the sole with the pressure points for foot massage, based on reflexology concepts. What a great idea! They could be sold at race expos!
Then I found this.
Yes, those are socks marked with the pressure points for reflexology foot massage. This is from Amazon, though granted they are no longer available. I guess they weren't such a good seller after all... so much for fame and fortune.
But I sure would like a pair for myself.
*I say dozens because there is never enough time for more than a few people to get massages anyway.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Loop #3 I used the "repeat power songs" method. That's where I replay my favorite running songs over and over again until I'm done with the distance. I used to have three consecutive power songs, which was convenient because they covered about a mile's distance, and three replays would take me around the park. Now I have four, which works even better, because by the time I'm into repeat #3, I'm almost done! (Check out power songs #1*, #2, #3, #4.)
For loop #4 I decided to do iPod fartleks. I would run hard for the duration of a song, then rest during the next song, repeating again and again till I made my way around to the beginning.
So that was four times around, for 12.8 miles. I finished up by moving to the 2.8-mile inside track that goes around the lake, the one that is popular with walkers and thus more crowded than the outer perimeter.
On the outer loop I was being passed all the time; pretty much everyone out there going my directions was passing me. Anyone who didn't pass me I guess was going the same speed as me, because I don't remember passing anyone myself! I figure the outer runners must be the more "serious" runners, and the inside ones the "joggers" because I passed several (in addition to walkers, of course).
I continued around for about 2, 2.3 miles. Then I stopped and walked back to the car. 15.2 miles running; 15.73 miles altogether. Not a bad Sunday morning.
*This was the only video I could find on You Tube; hope the profanity doesn't offend anyone.
Monday I was on the low end for an entirely different reason—well, lateness was definitely part of it, but also I was sore from a long (15+ miles) run on Sunday. I decided to take it easy and ran 5.5 miles at a glacial pace. Today I went 5.65 miles, but far quicker than Monday's shorter distance. My pace plan was mile 1 warmup; mile 2 at an accelerated pace; mile 3 slow again; miles 4 & 5 at accelerated pace; then the rest of the way home at a cool down pace.
It worked beautifully. Total time was 54:46, with an average pace of 9:41 per mile, but the splits look much better:
Mile 1—11:20 (I said warmup, didn't I?)
Mile 5.65—6:19 (9:41 pace)
It may not be race pace, but I'll take it.
Monday, August 11, 2008
My book club is meeting on Saturday and I haven't read the book yet. Actually I have read it, in high school and college—which means not for twenty years or more—but I'm not sure if I'll get the opportunity to reread before we meet. Luckily, the plot is pretty familiar to me, and I'm pretty sure I can find a Cliff's Note-like summary on the internet if I so desire.
The book, by the way, is William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In my book club we only select books which have been made into movies, then we watch the movie at the meeting. After we eat, of course. We like to bring food that's somehow inspired by the movie—sometimes directly and obviously, sometimes in a more offbeat way. People have been known to pick their books in part based on the type of food they want to have! Our movie version will be, I understand, the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet. Our food—not yet determined, but I have a hankering to try my hand at recreating the tomato sauce I had at Palomino on Saturday night. Italian seems like a likely bet, and it's a very popular cuisine amongst the book club gals.
Our book club's been together for several years, and we take turns picking the books, two people at a time. We came up with this after I basically picked the first two selections, and although I would be happy to pick every book, it seemed like it would be fair to give the others an opportunity.
I pick the best books though. Here are some of my great past selections.
Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding, and the movie is even better than the book
With all the books we've done, some have been more enjoyed than others, and the various movies have varied in their quality as well. I always feel that the book is more important; but on the other hand, I want a movie that entertains as well. A few of the books (in addition to mine, of course) have been quite exceptional, including...
So my next turn to pick is coming up in a few months, and already I have been racking my mind for ideas. Here are a few ideas I've had, which can either be viewed as a joke, or a really good idea, depending on your perspective!
Book: Either Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner or 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days by Dean Karnazes—Movie: Ultramarathon Man movie, which may come out on DVD in November, well before my next turn selecting comes up.
Pros & Cons: I loved the book and movie; movie shows Dean without shirt on. However, may be a bit of a niche selection, maybe not so fascinating to non-runners? Food theme for book club meeting: We could eat all the foods that Dean ate on his 199-mile relay in California, like pizza, chocolate espresso beans, cinnamon rolls!
Book: Don't Eat this Book! by Morgan Spurlock—Movie: Super Size Me—Pros & Cons: Believe it or not, both the book and movie are fascinating and very entertaining, as well as educational! However, movie may show Morgan Spurlock without his shirt on. Also, book club members may feel they are being preached to (but honestly, I feel like everyone should see this movie). It would, however, prevent me from finding another Hugh Grant book/movie. Food theme for book club meeting: Well, duh, McDonald's! (Or maybe a homemade version of burgers, fries & shakes.)
Book: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser—Movie: Fast Food Nation—Pros & Cons: Book receives very good reviews; movie not quite so good (both a pro and a con). Movie may be sort of dark, and might turn our stomachs—not a good thing while we are eating. But it does have Greg Kinnear in it, and that is definitely a pro!—Food theme for book club meeting: Now, that's a problem. This is not a book or movie that is going to make you want to grab a burger! (At least in Super Size Me, Morgan enjoyed the McD foods, for a while.)
Well, there you have it, my top three selections for a non-fiction book club selection. I mostly meant it as a joke, since I've been threatening to pick Super Size Me for years. But you know, I'm really kind of tempted....
Saturday, August 9, 2008
You might think that I'm in no position to judge good food, since I consider salad greens and wheat bran legitimate diet staples. You might think that any time a carb crosses my lips I go into such an insulin-fueled frenzy that I have no ability to judge what is truly delicious and what is simply yummy.
Not so, my friend. I would have thought that myself, since most food is in fact simply tasty and while I enjoy a good meal of any kind, I generally get as much pleasure from a salad with grilled chicken as I would from a cheeseburger. But every once in a while you get the opportunity to eat something that is so delectable that you feel almost honored to have eaten it.
I hope I'm not overdoing this. But it's true, the dinner I had tonight was so good that I feel no guilt, only pleasure at having experienced it.
The restaurant I went to was Palomino in Seattle. I never realized that Palomino was essentially a chain with sites in a number of cities (but lucky you, if you have one), until I looked at the website and got signed up with the email club. Thanks to the email club, I had a $20 discount certificate for my birthday this month, and since there are a lot of birthday dinners to come, my mom and I started early in the month with this one.
I remember from more than ten years ago the delicious chopped tomato sauce served with the house bread. Back then we got some directions for making it, but it was never quite right. I'm sure that the key is the tomatoes. I can't be quite sure if they use fresh or canned tomatoes. (Even though, in addition to finishing every drop, I spent a good amount of time poking, prodding, and analyzing its appearance and texture!) I almost think it is a good quality canned tomato, since it would be very hard to get a reliably good fresh tomatoes, especially this early in the summer. If the tomatoes are fresh, they have been peeled and seeded, and chopped into a fine, juicy dice. I also detected olive oil (probably plenty), lots of garlic, maybe basil (the only reason I am confused here is we had another dish with basil, so now I can't remember which was which), and there was a little bit of finely crumbled feta cheese, chopped onion, and green olive. Maybe some red wine vinegar, and undoubtedly salt. This was served with chewy bread and oh, it was just as good as I remembered.
I spent a long time deciding what to order as an appetizer, and finally selected the grilled prawns. Six large char-grilled prawns were garnished with sundried tomatoes and a large amount of chiffonaded basil, and balanced on two large pieces of grilled baguette atop a pool of olive oil. I regret to say that the bread had absorbed some of the olive oil, which made it all the more decadently unctuous. We carefully scraped every scrap of sundried tomato and basil onto the bread before allowing the plate to leave the table. It's probably for the best that we didn't have any extra bread to start sopping up oil.
Because our main course salads, still to come, were big. I had expected something a little more nouvelle cuisine-sized, given the stylishness of the restaurant, but the Grilled Steak Salad, which both of us ordered, included a large pile of greens, several generous, well-seasoned slices of steak, crumbled blue cheese, hazelnuts, and a small mountain of crispy onion strings (that means skinny onion rings, folks). I had luckily requested my dressing on the side, so in addition to a light vinaigrette (with which I was very sparse) I got small tureen of blue cheese dressing (which I dipped into a little teeny bit). All of it so, so good. I ate all of the lettuce, most of the meat, and managed to leave about half of the onions to send home with my mother's leftovers.
At that point we had definitely had enough olive oil-drenched food to make us very happy, and we were ready to get the bill and go. But there was something more to come. When I made the dinner reservation the person on the phone asked if this was a special occasion. I said something about my birthday, thinking I had to identify that we were using the coupon. And instead of the bill (at that time), the waiter brought us two long spoons. I wasn't completely surprised, because earlier I had seen something with a candle go by in the distance. Then a candle came our way—a tall skinny candle stuck into a large square of chocolate tiramisu. Oh, layers of chocolate cake with a slightly boozy kick, oh lashings of foamy creamy sauce, oh crumbled amaretti cookie garnishes. Not planned, and certainly something we would not have dared order, the tiramisu was a lovely surprise.
As the waiter placed the plate between us on the table, he said "make a wish." I was unprepared, not having expected a candle to blow out. I quickly wondered what I should wish for and then, unbidden, an uninvited wish came into my head as I blew out the candle.
I said, to my mother, "you can't believe what I wished for!" Then I said, "I'll tell you because then it won't come true." Because it's definitely not something I want.
My mother said, "what is it?" She looked kind of excited and expectant. Poor thing, she probably expected me to say something like "I want a baby" or something else similar. (My sister and I are a disappointment to my parents, who are no longer allowed to talk about these things!)
So I told her. I wished... I wished to run a marathon.
I don't wish that. I don't wish it at all... it was simply a passing fluke of a thought!
When you leave Palomino, they give you little cards which are their version of a Chinese fortune cookie (and similarly, tend to contain aphorisms rather than actual fortunes). Mine was a special "happy birthday" version, and said, "You are never too old to yearn."