Sunday, May 30, 2010

Northern Lakes Run photos, and running with turtles

I found a couple photos of me at the Northern Lakes Run last weekend. They were taken by some photographers with Charities Challenge:

Start line of the 10 miler - you can see my white hat to the right of the guy holding the yellow sign, and just underneath the left railroad light.



Crossing the finish line - I think I look a little too serious here, but I am actually having a good time!



Had a very nice 13 mile run this morning. It was warm at 75 degrees, but there was something of a pleasant breeze that helped. Actually felt a bit speedy at times.

An amazing amount of birds today. Lots of yellow warblers, American redstarts, and common yellowthroats at various places along the trail. I also heard numerous sedge wrens in some of the swampy area along Elm Creek. Eastern wood-pewees were singing all along the route. I love this time of year in Minnesota.

A couple of other nature notes: the red-winged blackbirds have started defending their nesting sites, which means they have begun to dive-bomb runners, bikers and other pedestrians. This is something I get a big kick out of, as they are such feisty birds!

Also, I had to tiptoe around three different snapping turtles on the trail! One was actually laying eggs, so I presume they were all looking for a spot to do the same. For the smaller and much cuter painted turtles, I will frequently pick them up and move them off of the trail out of harm's way. However, I am going nowhere near the snapping turtles, as they are big (some are enormous) and can be really dangerous. That, and they are definitely not cute.

Until next time,

Jean

The next big thing

For me, after finishing a significant race, it is always fun to get the "next big thing" scheduled on my calendar. It took me some time to figure out what my fall marathon will be, but I have done so, and I am excited.

In looking at the upcoming marathons in the Midwest, there are plenty of options - but I had some difficultly choosing, and some just wouldn't cut it for a variety of reasons:

  • WhistleStop Marathon - a few quick phone calls made me realize that a hotel room can't be found anywhere near Ashland. A logistical nightmare for lodging and transportation.
  • Twin Cities Marathon - by all accounts a really nice race, but I am not particularly interested, mainly because I live in the Cities and run races here all the time ;-)
  • Chicago Marathon - not interested, too big, and too chaotic for my taste
  • Lakefront Marathon - Milwaukee must be popular...this October marathon was sold out as of April 21st!
  • Paavo Nurmi Marathon - an historic marathon in Hurley, WI. Considered this, but it takes place in mid August, which all but guarantees plenty of heat and humidity.
  • Moose Mountain Marathon - race on the Superior Hiking Trail in Lutsen, MN. Too brutal! I did the 25k at the spring race here a couple years ago and barely survived!
  • Quad Cities Marathon - out of the running simply because of a conflict with that particular weekend.
  • Omaha Marathon - see Quad Cities
  • Fox Cities Marathon - nice race in Appleton, WI, and the surrounding communities. But, been there, done that, and would prefer to do something different
  • Des Moines Marathon - a really pretty marathon at a nice time of year in Iowa. However, see Fox Cities
  • Walker North Country Marathon - the place where I ran my first marathon on a cool mix of trails and roads in Walker, MN. But, see Fox Cities or Des Moines
  • Siouxland Marathon - another Iowa marathon, but canceled this year due to a bridge and road construction project!
  • On The Road For Education Marathon - while it has received lots of positive reviews, and I do like Iowa, I am just not all that excited to make Mason City my fall destination race
  • Mankato Marathon - brand new marathon in southern MN, but might be good to let them work out the kinks and growing pains
  • Marquette Marathon - bound to be quite scenic in the U.P. of Michigan, but see Mankato. And, this coincides with a "blues festival" and is on Labor Day weekend, which guarantees lots of tourists.
  • Wisconsin Dells Marathon in Wis. Dells, WI - like Marquette, I would imagine this would be kind of pretty. However, see Mankato or Marquette. Plus, this one was $90...for a first year marathon?!?

So what did I decide to do? Go west! Or, slightly west, anyhow.

I signed up for the Kroll's Diner Bismarck Marathon in Bismarck, ND in September. This is not being viewed as a consolation prize, either. I am genuinely excited, and I almost did this race last year. Looks to be a nice, smaller race that has received very favorable reviews from past participants. A surprisingly scenic course, the hotel (with a nicely discounted marathon rate) is walking distance from both the packet pickup area and the start/finish line, it was incredibly reasonable ($50), and there is a lot of interesting history in the area as well (particularly of the Lewis and Clark persuasion). What is not to like? I have even scouted out some rather promising looking restaurants.

Somebody warn North Dakota that I will be coming this September! ;-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going "halfsies" on a pizza

Saturday night I decided to celebrate my performance at the Northern Lakes Run by making a special pizza. I was debating between two different sets of pizza toppings, and I eventually decided to do both on the same pizza, dividing things right down the middle!

But first, let's talk a little bit about making pizza...

I have homemade pizza quite often. Once you master the dough (which is not very difficult) and keep the dough on hand in your fridge, you can crank out pizzas in the time it would take to have one delivered. And they will be much better than delivery. In fact, nobody from the pizza delivery joints in my neighborhood has ever met me. :)

My old standby pizza dough recipe is from Alton Brown and his "Good Eats" show. I follow Alton's measurements, but generally use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, sometimes even mixing in a scant amount of whole-wheat flour for flavor and variety (the total amount of flour is always 2 cups). This makes two balls of dough, enough for two 12-inch pizzas, and it can be kept in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for several days. In fact, I recommend doing this at least a day ahead of time, as the dough seems to develop a better flavor. I have also made this dough using beer as the primary liquid instead of water, but perhaps I will save that for another post!

There are two piece of pizza making equipment that I love - a pizza stone, and a pizza peel. The stone helps to hold an even, high heat for quick cooking and to help you get a nice, crispy crust. And the peel allows for quick and easy transportation to and from the oven. While nice to have, Michael Ruhlman explains that neither one is necessary to make a good homemade pizza.

Anyhow, here is how I made the pizza in question. Admittedly, this was a little over-the-top and slightly involved, but the basic principles can be applied to make a simple or complex pizza with whatever toppings you like. As a rule, fewer toppings produce better results. I am guilty of this from time to time, as it is fun to put a lot of good stuff on your pizza. But you can always tell if you went a little too topping-heavy - too much cheese and the top doesn't quite get brown, and too much of the other ingredients and they won't really "adhere" to the pizza.

Before making the pizza, I rendered a couple slices of double-smoked bacon just to release much of the fat, but not until crisp (since it still has to cook in the oven). Once cooled slightly, I cut them into large pieces.

I also took a medium sized Vidalia onion, sliced it thinly, and caramelized the slices. The onions were sprinkled with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and a tiny pinch of sugar (it helps with the browning). Over medium heat in a large skillet with a little bit of olive oil, you just let the onions cook, turning them over every so often. This will take some time, perhaps as much as 15 minutes, but patience will be rewarded. Part way through the cooking, I drizzled perhaps a scant tablespoon of sherry vinegar over the onions, which adds a nice acidic contrast to the sweetness, as well as deglazes the skillet, but this step is totally optional. The onions should develop something of sticky, jam-like texture, and a deep brown color. These can be done ahead of time and will keep well in a covered container in the fridge for a few days.

Now, we are ready to finally make the pizza!

I rolled out a single ball of dough into a circle on a lightly floured board. Once rolled out to the size I wanted, I transferred it to a similarly lightly floured pizza peel to make for an easy transfer to the oven. Once the dough is on the peel, always give it a little shake to ensure it does not stick. Now you can brush the edge of the pizza with extra virgin olive oil, which aids in the browning of the crust.

The entire pizza is topped with a simple homemade pizza sauce, as well as the pieces of bacon (so, bacon and the sauce are the common ingredients on both sides).

On one side, I added sliced grape tomatoes, fresh basil, grated provolone and Grana Padano cheeses, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. On the other side, I added the caramelized onions and small bits of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

This pizza was baked in a 500 F oven directly on the pizza stone for approximately 7 minutes (your mileage may vary). Here is how it looked coming out of the oven.

A tale of two pizzas, combined into one



Each set of pizza toppings would make an outstanding pizza on their own, but it was fun to be able to do a little taste test. As good as the bacon, basil and tomato side was, the side with bacon, caramelized onions, and Gorgonzola absolutely rocked. Mmmm...must make that again!

Here are a couple of closeups of the different sides:

Bacon with sweet onions and stinky, creamy Italian blue cheese...



...and, the side with bacon, basil, and tomatoes



And that is how pizza gets made around this place!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Northern Lakes Run 10 Miler

Saturday morning I pointed The Silver Hornet east to the to the city of White Bear Lake to partake in the Northern Lakes Run. This is a scenic race that loops its way around Bald Eagle Lake. I would be running in the 10 miler, but there were a number of other folks on hand to take on the 30k and the 5k.

Yours truly, arriving at the race on what was a most humid and overcast day



It was a strange day weather wise - incredibly humid, with temperatures predicted to climb into the 80's later in the day. We had low 60's at the start, but there was an added bonus of cloud cover, which would prove to be something of a saving grace.

You might recall I did this race last year. And you might recall the start of the race being delayed slightly by a train! No such difficulties this year, and we got underway without a hitch.

This is a shot at the 10 mile start. The 10 mile and 30k runners start the race simultaneously towards each other (on opposite sides of the road, that is!).



Another shot looking towards the 30k start line



Again, I left my watch at home to keep the pressure off. Having just run a marathon two weeks earlier, I didn't want to do anything crazy. I was just going to run for fun. And actually, another reason I signed up for Northern Lakes Run again was because there was a large half marathon taking place in my neighborhood on my trails this morning. I run on my trails all the time, so it was a good reason to get in a long-ish run elsewhere! :)

While not exactly hot, the humidity was quite oppressive. The cloud cover was helpful in keeping the temperature down, but I was still sweating like a madman after only the first mile. This was definitely not the most comfortable of days to run.

Despite the conditions, I managed to keep up a decent pace. It wasn't easy, and I took liquids at every aid station (normally I might skip some at this distance). You really needed to on days like this. I was feeling pretty decent and decided to make my goal a simple one - stay ahead of the 1:20 pacer. A sub 8:00 per mile finish would be a race I could feel good about.

This course is becoming quite familiar now, as I have participated in a couple of different races that use variations of the route. I now have a good idea of where I am at, recognize familiar landmarks, and am able to gauge how far I have left.

And, as noted, the course is scenic. You take in many views of the lake during you ran. Lots of ducks and geese were out and about today, several of the geese hanging out with their goslings. A nice way to while away the miles.

I did pass a few runners in the last couple of miles. Conversely, a few runners also passed me, even though I wasn't slowing down. Some folks around me really rallied and had strong finishes! I ended up crossing the line in 1:18:42 (results here). That is actually my second fastest 10 mile time, and more than a minute faster than last year's time. Today's conditions were much more difficult, and after coming off of a marathon, I was pretty happy.

The 2010 Northern Lakes Run shirt



Another fun race. Final Stretch always does a good job with their events. Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers for their efforts!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana, my way

Tuesday I returned home from a trip up north. I didn't feel like grocery shopping when I got back, so I started to scrounge for dinner. Much to my surprise, I had some fresh herbs that were still good. Onions and garlic in the cupboard. Can of tomatoes. Dried pasta. Cheese and a little white wine in the fridge. Hey, this is going to work out!

With these few items in my fridge and pantry, and thanks to a stop at a meat market en route, I was able to throw together my take on an Italian classic. I whipped up some "spaghetti all'Amatriciana," a pasta dish traditionally made with long, hollow bucatini noodles, tomatoes, and guanciale (cured pork jowl) or pancetta.

My nontraditional version uses spaghetti, a common and well-accepted substitute for the bucatini. I swapped out the guanciale or pancetta for double-smoked bacon from Old World Meats in Duluth. Old World's bacon is about the best stuff on the planet, and it adds a delightfully smoky component to the dish. I also added caramelized onions, which contributes an "oniony" sweetness.

I was winging it, but this is more or less what I did with the ingredients I had available. All measurements are approximate, and a little more or less of any one thing isn't going to kill it.

Jean's Spaghetti all'Amatriciana



1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 t. crushed red pepper
1/4 c. white wine
28 oz. can plum tomatoes (drained, chopped)
1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper as needed
12 oz. dried spaghetti
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for grating


In a large skillet, saute the bacon over medium heat until crisp and the fat is rendered. Drain and reserve the bacon, leaving perhaps a couple of teaspoons of fat in the skillet.

Saute the onion in the same skillet over medium heat until caramelized and brown (this will take several minutes, so give it some time - let the onions get withered, brown, and sticky). Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and stir for just a minute or so. Deglaze with the white wine and scrape up any nice browned bits.

Add the plum tomatoes, chopped parsley and thyme, and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

Get your pasta boiling. Cook until al dente, and reserve a little of the pasta cooking water.

Add the bacon back into the sauce. Stir to incorporate and heat the bacon through. Check for seasoning and add some salt (if you must - remember, there is bacon in here!) and pepper if desired.

Add the cooked and drained spaghetti into the sauce and toss well to coat. Drizzle in some of the pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick.

Serve it up and grate on some Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese (which is more traditional, but I just had the Parm on hand!) if you wish. Makes about four decent sized servings.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How I train

A few shots of me from the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon from the St. Cloud River Runners website. The first shot is early in the race after crossing the covered bridge in Holdingford.



At the half marathon split



Coming into the finish. I like this shot because I am looking at the clock and starting to smile!



After having more than a week to reflect, I am pleased how everything came together at Lake Wobegon - the weather, the way I managed my race, and how I was able to finish strong. Marathon recovery is going quite well. After a couple of days off, I returned to my regular weekday running schedule and even put in a 10 miler over the past weekend. Feeling good!

Much has been written about marathon training philosophies and approaches. Seems there are a lot to choose from, many are proven, and each has their devotees. But, like running shoes, I can't believe there is a "one size fits all" plan.

I've never really talked in any great detail about my training strategy. Sure, I document my mileage and training runs in these posts, but I usually end up talking more about the birds I see en route or remarking about the flora and fauna. In any case, after having a few of these under my belt now, I thought I would describe how I trained for my last marathon. I am sure this won't go down in the pantheon of outstanding, highly original training plans, but it is what works for me.

Typically, the schedule is that I run on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a long run on Saturday. Thursdays and Sundays are days off. This has the flexibility to change based on my schedule, but it almost always ends up being five days a week with two days of rest.

The weekday runs are always about the same distance - 5.2 or 5.3 miles, depending on the trail (I have a couple of different routes I mix up just to add variety). The long runs on the weekend are where the mileage varies. In what was the "winter off season" (following last fall's Des Moines Marathon through mid February), I would run anywhere from 10 to 12 miles on Saturday, keeping up a fairly decent base level of fitness. Starting in mid February (12 weeks before the marathon) my weekend mileage, for the most part, increased gradually.

Here is what my weekend long run mileage looked like over that period, counting down to race day:

Week 1 - 13.2
Week 2 - 14.1
Week 3 - 15.3
Week 4 - 16.0
Week 5 - 16.3
Week 6 - 14.2
Week 7 - 16.0
Week 8 - 19.2
Week 9 - 15.5 (25k race)
Week 10 - 20.0
Week 11 - 13.2
Week 12 - Marathon race day


All of those runs were done at a relatively easy pace with the idea of building up endurance. And believe it or not, I really looked forward to the long runs! They are truly relaxing, especially on a quiet spring morning when the world is waking up, and I have a fantastic network of trails that allows me to do even my longest run without having to duplicate any of the route. Getting to spend 2 or 3 hours or more on the trails is a treat.

I built up my mileage gradually, even backing off a little at times (weeks 6 and 7), culminating in the longest run two weeks before the race. (Most training plans will tell you to do your longest run three weeks before the race and then reducing your mileage over the last two, which is what I usually do - this just happened to be how it worked out this time because of a race I wanted to do three weeks before the marathon! I think training plans have to have some flexibility.)

During the long runs, I carry bottles of Gatorade and a few energy products, typically Clif Shot Bloks or Jelly Belly "Sport Beans." (mmmmm....jellybeans!) My general plan is to take a couple of the "Bloks" or a handful of beans every 4 miles, and to take a drink at least once every mile, or whenever I feel thirsty. I have found that this seemed to work for me in terms of hydration and ingesting some calories during the runs.

I always went for a run the day before a long run. For example, on Friday after work I would put in my normal weekday run. Then, early on Saturday morning, I would put in the longer miles on what was oftentimes less than 12 hours rest. I figured this would help me to train on somewhat "tired" legs and help learn how to deal with a certain level of fatigue. In addition, the week 6 long run was followed up with an 8k race on Sunday. And the 25k race on week 9 involved a run the night before.

Again, this is what worked for me and my schedule, so I have no idea if it would work for anyone else. I have no delusions of grandeur that I will become an elite runner, so it doesn't make sense for me to train like one. I don't do speed work. I don't cross train (unless you count hiking on my days off). I never time my runs. Not that I am opposed to any of that. I know doing those things would probably be beneficial, but I am fairly laid back and just enjoy running. If I feel like going fast, I will go fast, and if I want to take it easy, then I will take it easy. I like being able to have the freedom to stop and look at a bird, talk to a rabbit, or whatnot. :)

What this schedule does is give me a chance at having a satisfying performance while still having a life and being able to pursue other interests. I like that balance. It isn't going to get me a sub 3 hour marathon or anything. But it did get me sub 4, which is all I really wanted.

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tater Tot Hot Dish

In celebration of my marathon performance at Lake Wobegon, I thought it would only be appropriate to prepare something Minnesotan this weekend - that would be a good 'ol fashioned hot dish! Here in Minnesota, we use the term "hot dish" to describe a variety of baked dishes that people in most other places simply refer to as a "casserole."

So on Sunday night I made a school lunch classic - tater tot hot dish. Only I gussied mine up a little bit.

The basic essentials of any good tater tot hot dish are ground beef, onions, a can of French cut green beans (drained), cream of mushroom AND cream of celery soup (I insist on using both), grated cheese (if desired), and of course, the tots. You could brown up the beef and onions, mix with the green beans and the soups, throw on some optional cheese, add the layer of tots, bake until bubbly and the tots are browned and crispy, and you will have a quick, easy, tasty, and cheap meal.

School lunch done right



However, I embellished and added some crisped up lardons of double-smoked bacon, sauteed carrots, celery, and garlic, sliced crimini mushrooms, peas, minced fresh herbs (an assortment of sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley), a splash of Worcestershire sauce, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and a scant dusting of smoked paprika over the layer of tots.

Tater Tot Hot Dish gone wild!



Admittedly, this is a little over-the-top for a humble hot dish, but it was really darn tasty. And the leftovers were great for lunch today!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon

Welcome to Lake Wobegon!



For much of the country, the name "Lake Wobegon" conjures up images of Garrison Keillor's fictional Minnesota town popularized in his "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program. Lake Wobegon, a noble and stoic town strong in Norwegian and German heritage, known for potlucks and hot dishes, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." For those like me who were raised in the small towns of the rural upper Midwest, we say, "Hey, that sounds just like my hometown!" Keillor's narratives strike a more familiar chord with those who are from here.

What a lot of people don't know is that Lake Wobegon also happens to be home to a nice little marathon.

Saturday I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed northwest to the town of St. Joseph to run in the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. This region of the state is said to be Keillor's inspiration for Lake Wobegon, and it is now home to the Lake Wobegon Trail, a beautiful paved biking/hiking trail, which the marathon traversed.

Believe it or not, areas of Minnesota received snow overnight. On May 8th. Ocho de Mayo. I'm not kidding. Not much accumulated in this region, but there were patches of snow in ditches and low lying areas. That being said, it was not warm. Temps were in the upper 30's to start with a strong northwest wind (which would prove to be a blessing).

Yours truly, staying warm before the race inside the Holdingford school!



We were bussed to the town of Holdingford to the high school to start the race. We were even allowed to hang out inside the school before the race started to keep warm, which was most appreciated!

Meandering out to the start



The race got underway at 7:00 and a few hundred of us wound our way around the school, through a residential area, and then hit the trail which would take us to our destination. From here, the route ran roughly north to south, then more or less west to east. Remember that northwest wind I told you about? It would be either helping, or at our backs, for most of the way.

I purposefully left my watch at home. I have been doing this on occasion when I race and find that I run more relaxed when I am oblivious to what is going on! :) It allows me to just run and not worry about time, and I have found that these races often produce the best results. So I ran. Comfortably. I found my pace that I liked and set the cruise control.

The race takes you through four towns - from the start at Holdingford, you run to Albany, Avon, and finish in St. Joseph. So you get to take in the sights of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church, Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, Skoeglin's Five and Dime, The Sidetrack Tap, and the Chatterbox Cafe. (OK, I made that last part up - those are businesses in the fictional Lake Wobegon! But what I am telling you is that these are really cute, picturesque towns)

And the Lake Wobegon Trail is really quite scenic. Outside of the towns, you pass through wooded areas, farmland, past lakes and swamps - a beautiful variety of landscapes. I heard loons calling from a lake, red-bellied woodpeckers squawking from wooded groves, and even a chorus of sedge wrens from a marshy area (which made my day - one of my favorite birds is back for the summer!).

As for the weather, there was an interesting mixture of sun (quite a bit at the start) and clouds (more of those towards the end), and the temperature wouldn't get any higher than the upper 40's. And with the wind helping, this was turning out to be a perfect day to race.

I was running well and enjoying myself immensely. The miles just seemed to clip on by. Volunteers at the aid stations were fun and friendly (and bless them for standing out in the chilly wind - running in it is fine, but standing around? Brrr!). Police officers controlling the busier intersections even shouted words of encouragement while holding up traffic. Runners chatted with each other the whole way, most going out of their way to say thanks to the volunteers and the police. What a cool race.

The only place I knew where I stood was at the halfway point on the outskirts of Albany. 1:56 something. This is roughly the same time I made it through the half at Fargo last spring, and I blew up with 3 miles to go, finishing in 4:04.

But today felt somewhat different. I had been running with two ladies who were running together, and their pace was to my liking. So I just tried to keep up with them. I will bet I ran with or near them from miles 11 to 23, where I eventually dropped them when they stopped for water. But I was feeling really good. I knew I was going a little slower than the first half, but I wasn't losing it. Pace was good, pace was steady. Still had something in the tank.

Just past the 25 mile mark, you can kind of see the finish line in St. Joseph. The water tower eventually comes into view, and the finish line is right by that. With a quarter mile to go, I even managed to find a little kick to bring it home to the finish. Quite a few folks were at the finish line, cheering wildly. They even had a guy calling out names of the finishers. I took a look at the clock and started grinning like the Cheshire cat.

When I crossed the line, a lady handing out the medals greeted me with an enthusiastic handshake. "You look GREAT!" she shouted. "How do you feel?"

"I feel great!" I replied, still grinning ear to ear as she slipped the medal around my neck and handed me water. And I wasn't lying. Aside from some stiffness in the legs, I was really feeling remarkably good. My stomach even felt good, which is not always the case after a big race.

I finished in 3:57:50. That is my first sub 4 hour marathon, and a new personal best. A significant milestone for me for sure, and I was absolutely thrilled with how everything went. After a brutal winter of training that made it difficult to get in the long runs, and not feeling like I was doing enough to ramp up the mileage in the spring once the weather improved, this was something of an unexpected, albeit pleasant, surprise.

A happy marathon finisher



I would highly recommend this marthon. If you like the "big" races, the huge crowds, the expo with the clinics and famous guest speakers, and don't mind paying the extortionary hotel rates, this might not be for you. But if you are looking for a small, inexpensive (I paid $45 to enter), friendly marathon put on by runners for runners (SCRR organizes this race), in a beautiful area of our state on a PR kind of course - then by all means, you should find yourself in St. Joseph next May.

And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and the local marathons are way above average. :)

The cool medal and finisher shirt

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quick weeknight pasta dish

Here is a quick Wednesday night pasta dish I whipped up for dinner - linguine with bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic, white wine, and all kinds of herbs (fresh sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme) with a fried egg on top. Because everything is better with a fried egg on top! There is a little fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in there, too.

Weeknight gourmet meal



I love quick pasta dishes like this. The main challenge is timing everything so you get the pasta done and tossed with the sauce, and then frying up the egg at the same time. But it is worth the momentary chaos.

There was no run tonight. It was extremely windy with occasional drizzle. Plus I am tapering, so this was a good enough of an excuse to stay inside and cook! :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day Run

The first day of May greeted me with temperatures in the low 50's and a fairly stiff breeze coming out of the southwest. I put in 13 miles, so this is my last "long" run during the taper.

Yours truly, sweating in the breeze around mile 6



Felt pretty decent today, and it was a solid run. And like any good taper run, it felt incomplete and I wanted to run more! Hopefully that translates into a good day next Saturday.

I met a lot of runners today, and I was the most scantily clad of the lot in my shorts and long sleeved top (I mean, come on, it was over 50 degrees). Other runners were wearing winter running pants, jackets, heavy sweatshirts, cotton sweatpants, gloves, and even one person with...good grief...earmuffs! I was thinking it was December for a second, but the leaves on the trees said otherwise. :)

A couple new birds to report - on Wednesday, the barn swallows arrived. They nest under the freeway bridge along one of my trails, and it is fun to have these little fighter jets back. Their flying skills are incredible. And today I saw the great egret. I suspect they have been back for awhile, but this is the first one I saw this spring.

Also, the female red-winged blackbirds have returned in great numbers. The males arrive a month earlier to stake out some territory. But now the ladies are back, and the men were really busy showing off their red wing patches today!

Made one of my favorite cookie recipes on Thursday night. This one comes from the recipe files of the Italian goddess, Giada. Her Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies are to die for. Only I made them with chopped pecans instead of hazelnuts, and opted for dark chocolate chips instead of semisweet. Delicious stuff, and they were a big hit at the office on Friday!

Giada's cookies rule



Until next time,

Jean

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