Monday, October 29, 2012

Oo-Rah: Marine Corps Marathon 2012

Since I’m currently stuck in Washington D.C. thanks to Frankensnurricane Sandy, and everything is closed, what better time than to write my race re-cap for the 37th Annual Marine Corps Marathon!

Saturday morning, Joe and I got up crazy early to make our 6:25 am flight to BWI. Everything went smoothly, and I chatted with some fellow Nashville runners at the baggage claim. After taking the SuperShuttle to our hotel and stashing our bags in our room, we met up with my friend Jimi for an early lunch of pizza at Matchbox Chinatown and then headed to the Expo.


The process of getting our bibs was very smooth, and the Marines working packet pick-up were very friendly. The expo itself was more overwhelming. There was a bit of a snafu because security wasn’t allowing any glass bottles inside the DC Armory, and Jimi had brought a whole bunch of beer in his bag from the brewery he works at. So Joe ended up staying outside of the expo to babysit the beer. After getting my shirt, I shopped a bit and ended up waiting in a really long line to pay. I wished I’d stayed at the expo longer, but the crowds wandering around aimlessly were driving me crazy. And there’s really only so much running stuff you can buy, right?

My grandparents moved to Arlington from Charlottesville two days before we arrived, so we ventured out there to visit them for dinner in their new assisted living facility. It was a pretty decent pre-race dinner – kind of bland and pretty much guaranteed to not mess up my digestive system. Then it was back to the hotel on a Metro full of fun Halloween costumes. Predictably, I slept horribly and woke up at 5 am to drink my coffee and fuel up. Every morning I get a quote from in my e-mail, and the day of the marathon, it was particularly apt.
“For all that has been, thanks; to all that will be, yes.” – Dag Hammerskjold


Earlier this week, I bought iron-on letters for my race shirt and put my name on the front and “Run Rev Run!” on the back. Best idea ever; all through the race people were cheering for me by name. After I was all ready to go, we hit the Metro, chatted with more runners, and hopped on the train to the Pentagon. If I thought the train was full when we got on, more and more runners kept squeezing on. Then we walked. And walked and walked to Runner’s Village. I met up with my friend Jen after waiting in the slowest moving Port-o-let line in the history of running, and we walked to the start. After hopping the fence to get into the start corral, the gun went off, and we stood around for 15 minutes before crossing the start line.


Jen and I both had a “reach” goal of sub-4:40 and were planning on a PR race. We started out conservatively and feeling good enough to keep reminding ourselves to pull back on the pace a bit. I first saw Joe at mile 10.5 where he took the picture on the right. Obviously, I was feeling pretty happy at that point. After over a week of worrying about the weather, we ended up only having a strong headwind at a few points and NO rain. Lots of signs read various iterations of “Sandy is right behind you!” though my favorite sign was, “Paul Ryan is already finished.”


We kept ticking off mile after mile and started to pick up the pace a bit. Joe saw us again along the National Mall, which was encouraging. I was starting to not feel so great anymore. When we made the turn to go over the bridge back into Virginia, I knew I would have to back off. Lots of people around us were walking, and we kept having to weave around them. Jen was looking strong, so when we got off the bridge, I told her to go ahead. I slowed down and took some walk breaks. Everything hurt, and I was mentally frustrated by the crowds of runners that had us weaving the whole race, adding an extra .43 on my Garmin by the finish line. After allowing myself a brief pity party, I said “yes” to the pain, the blisters, the aching muscles, the foggy head, and the guy dressed as a purple Teletubby in front of me and pressed on. At about 25.8 miles, I saw Joe, and he tried to motivate me. In my pain, I told him to shut the hell up much to the amusement of the runners around me.


Marine Corps Marathon finishes up a hill to the Iwo Jima monument. A hill. After running 26 miles. Fortunately, I run hills all the time, and this particular hill was surrounded by cheering spectators and Marines and had a giant finish line at the top. I surged past the people around me and kicked everything into the finish. 4:43:44, official time. Then I burst into tears. I waited in a short line to be presented my medal by the awesome female Marine above, and we saluted each other. After getting a jacket, food, and drink, I walked for what seemed like forever to meet up with Joe.

One of the truly great things about MCM was the social media support. Every 10K, my time and pace were tweeted, posted to my Facebook page, and e-mailed/texted to everyone who had signed up to follow me. So even though Joe hadn’t been right at the finish line, he knew I had finished and PR’d. And at the end, I received all the texts, tweets, and Facebook comments from friends who had cheered me on from all over.

All in all, I don’t know if I’ll do another enormous race like MCM, or if I do, I will have very different expectations. Running with 30,000 of your closest friends is inspiring but also frustrating. The course was constantly congested, even in the last few miles, and the aid stations were particularly bad. At one point, Jen and I lost each other for about a mile coming out of an aid station. As wonderful as a job as they do with the logistics, there is just no way to organize 30,000 people without a lot of waiting and walking around a large amount of space. At the end of the day, I walked away with a PR and the knowledge that I ran hard and left everything out on the course.

And because I’m more than a little crazy, I signed up for Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL, which will qualify me as a Marathon Maniac!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spicy Mole Oatmeal Chili

Traditional Texas-style chili is made only with meat, chile peppers, and tomatoes. But over the years, I have put some strange things in chili. Beer, peanut butter, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and all kinds of beans, from standards like pinto and black beans to slightly off-the-wall legumes like chickpeas, have made their way into my fire engine red Dutch oven. Even still, with the variety of ingredients that one can toss into a pot of chili, I could not have imagined the day when I would add both oatmeal and cocoa powder into my chili.

Thanks to my friend Jen who posted the link on Facebook saying it was her favorite chili, I now have a healthy, antioxidant-full go-to recipe. The oatmeal makes it a thicker chili than a lot of other vegetarian chilis, and it does look surprisingly like ground turkey. I couldn’t taste a lot of the cocoa powder over the chili powder and chipotle sauce, so next time I might use a darker cocoa to really get that mole flavor.

2012-10-22 12.44.02

Spicy Mole Oatmeal Chili
source: Natural Health
Yields 4-6 servings


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup diced carrots
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime or with basil and garlic
2 15.5-ounce cans low-sodium dark-red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons chipotle en adobo sauce
1½ cups rolled oats
7 ounces water
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Cook onions and carrots until onions are translucent but not brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt.
  3. Add tomatoes to the pot, then add rinsed beans.
  4. Add cocoa and chili powder until the powders are completely incorporated into the mixture. Add chipotle sauce.
  5. Add the rolled outs and about half the water. Cook for about 5 minutes and add water as necessary. You want a thick consistency.
  6. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes more, until oats break down.
  7. Serve in individual bowls with a sprinkle of cheese on top.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Boozy Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake

A few weekends ago, after running 18 miles that morning, Joe and I headed to the first annual Nashville Whiskey Festival.


With the weather turning cooler, I’m more likely to find myself enjoying a small glass of the brown stuff after dinner. Something about fall and football and yellow leaves and bourbon just seem right together. For a while, I had put a moratorium on whiskey purchases because the bottles seemed to be multiplying on the baker’s rack that we use as a liquor cabinet, but over the past year, we drank down the contents. At the whiskey festival, we tasted some new products and some old favorites and restocked the shelves.

Additionally, we learned a great trick from the “Chief Cocktail Officer,” Tim Laird, at the Whiskey Festival. He served us some Woodford Reserve infused with dried apples and cinnamon, and after obtaining the materials, we used some of our mixing bourbon to do the same. I’m still brainstorming cocktails using the stuff, but believe me that it is unbelievably good.

This cake made the short list for potential birthday cakes, but a layer cake seemed to fit the celebratory birthday bill better than a bundt cake. Just a few days later, I got to make this cake for a casual dinner gathering. My dad supplemented the cake with a pumpkin pie because there were children present, and this cake is quite strong. However, it didn’t seem to make any difference because our friends’ 4 year-old took down slice after slice of this cake. It’s dense and chocolaty and rich, and the bourbon adds, well, bourbon flavors – caramel, vanilla, and oak. I happened to use a winter-spiced whiskey we bought in Breckenridge, Colorado at Breckenridge Distillery a few years ago, so my cake had some hints of cinnamon and clove as well. Whatever you use, make sure it’s a good quality whiskey or bourbon because there’s a whole cup of it. After a few days, the cake got a little dry, so we just brushed a little more bourbon on it, and it tasted as good as new!


Boozy Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake
source: Cook Like a Champion


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
5 ounces unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon, rye or other whiskey, plus more for brushing
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)


Heat oven to 325º. Generously butter a 10-cup Bundt pan and lightly dust it with flour and/or cocoa powder.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool. Bring water to a boil. Place espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup or larger glass measuring cup, then add enough boiling water to bring the mixture up to the 1 cup line. Stir until the powders dissolve, then stir in the bourbon and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, then add about a third of the bourbon mixture. Once the liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup of flour. Repeat with another third of the bourbon mixture and the remaining cup of flour. End with the last third of the liquid. The batter will be thin. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula, then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the spatula and bake for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place cake on a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then carefully unmold the cake onto a serving platter. Brush on an additional tablespoon of bourbon and allow to cool completely. Once cool, dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Who has two thumbs and recently had a birthday? This gal! The big 2-8, creeping ever closer to 30. Working in church circles, I constantly get told how young I am, so adding another year is more of an advantage than a cause for crisis. Seriously, 28? If you had told me at age 18 that I would be in charge of a church as the only clergyperson, married and a homeowner, and have run 2 marathons, I would laugh in your face. My life is ridiculously awesome. For example, at our Blessing of the Animals in celebration of St. Francis, I blessed a chicken. Ministry in Wilson County can get a little wild!


Anyway, for my birthday week, Joe took me out to etch for dinner on Tuesday night, and we had a phenomenal meal. On Wednesday, we hit up Amerigo for a South American wine tasting. I love my Malbec. And then on my actual birthday, Joe left early that morning for a conference, so I had a few friends (and my parents) over for appetizers, wine, and cake.


I’m only towering over my mother because of the glittery high heels I’m wearing. If you can’t wear sequins and glittery high heels on your birthday, when can you wear them?
The theme of the gathering was Trader Joe’s + pumpkin. A delicious hummus quartet, chips and salsa, and a pumpkin butter/pecan Brie en croute made up the majority of the offerings. And of course, the pumpkin pie cake. Lightened up baking can often be disastrous, but this cake was not at all overly dense and had a great spice flavor. The icing was a little thin, which explains the recommendation to only ice the top of the layers. I may have seen my dad sneak back for another slice.


Pumpkin Pie Cake
source: Cooking Light November 2005


Cooking spray
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare cake, coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Dust pans evenly with 2 tablespoons flour.
  3. Combine 1 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Add egg substitute and eggs; beat until well blended. Add pumpkin, beating until blended.
  4. Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pans; cool completely on wire rack.
  5. To prepare frosting, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until blended (do not overbeat). Add juice, stirring until blended.
  6. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1 cup frosting over layer, and top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top of cake. Sprinkle with pecans, and garnish with orange slices, if desired.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hard Cider and Cabbage Stew

It is legitimately fall, y’all. The morning temperatures are regularly in the 50s and sometimes 40s. The leaves are turning, and I have found myself combing through cookbooks and spending more time in the kitchen. And it’s not all about pumpkin either, though the pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin rooibos tea, and pumpkin pancake mix might not agree.

I love soups and stews. I also love using my slow-cooker. But as Lesley noted, most slow-cooker recipes are meat-centric, and there are only so many times you can make beans in the slow-cooker. In those cases, I turn to my favorite cookbook: Kathy Hester’s The Vegan Slow Cooker. Generally, the recipes require a little more prep than your normal slow cooker fare, but if you prep the night before, you can usually just toss everything in and go. For this meal, Joe helped me prepare it in the morning, and it was ready to go when we came home from spin class that night.

This particular recipe caught my eye because FALL. Vegan sausage, hard cider, apples, and root veggies like cabbage and carrots fit the season so well. The apple essentially melts into the stew, and the broth is incredibly flavorful due to the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Add some cornbread, and you are set.


Hard Cider and Cabbage Stew
source: The Vegan Slow Cooker
Yields 4-6 servings


2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-size carrots, sliced into rounds
1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped
1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 12 oz package vegan sausage links
2 cups hard cider
2 tbsp vegan chicken-flavored bouillon
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme (My store was out of thyme, so I subbed 1 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes longer. Combine the onion and cut-up vegetables, apple, and sausage in a large air-tight container and store in the refrigerator if preparing the night before.

When ready, combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaves, rosemary sprig, and thyme sprigs. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

September/October Races

When I had lunch with my (former) CPE supervisor last week, he said, “You’ve been running a lot!” And I guess I have. I had three race weekends in a row starting September 22nd, so I’ll walk you through them briefly.

Women’s Half Marathon – Nashville


This is the third (and probably last) time I’ve run this race. I have some nostalgic feelings about it since it was my first ever half marathon (the first year) and my PR race (the second year). For myriad reasons, this year wasn’t quite as good. Even though they changed the course to allegedly make it less hilly, my plan was not to race. In fact, my plan was to make this into an 18-mile training run by running the 5 miles downtown to the start and then catching a ride home with my mom. File under: marathon training makes you do crazy things. I thought I would run the first 5 slow and easy and then shoot for marathon goal pace during the race.


First mile was slow due to crowds and several turns, but I settled into a ~10:00/mile pace, about a half-minute faster than I wanted to be going. But I felt strong and loose, so I decided to ride it until I inevitably crashed and burned. This year, the crowd support was significantly less than it was in previous years, and there weren’t as many bands on the course. It’s not something I would normally complain about, but for a pricey race, it’s nice to have those pick-me-ups. Fast-forward to the end, I never crashed. I felt strong the whole time, even at a faster-than-anticipated pace – complete with negative split and a fast last 5K. Official time – 2:12:35

Fort4Fitness Half Marathon – Fort Wayne, IN


How did I end up running a half marathon in Fort Wayne? Those two crazy kids on either side of me – Abby and John. The original plan was to run the half marathon together and stay at Abby’s parents’ house, but her parents up and moved to Bloomington. This was both Abby’s and John’s first half marathon, which was really exciting. They had trained diligently and hard throughout the summer and were rewarded with very successful races.

The race was extremely well-organized and based out of the minor league baseball stadium. Bathrooms, gear check, and everything else we needed were right there. Plus, we finished in the stadium and on the Jumbotron, which is always fun. We stayed in the adjacent Courtyard Marriott, which meant that we didn’t even have to park. Even though the shirts were kind of ugly, the medals were very nice, and it was a well-attended race without being super-crowded.

fort4fitness finish line

At the start, I persuaded John to jump several corrals based on how fast he was planning on running. He ended up sticking with the 8:00/mile pace group and finishing in 1:43:46 for his first half! Abby had tossed out a goal of 2:30, but I knew she was underestimating herself, so I figured I’d pace her with 2:20 in mind as the time to beat. We executed the race really well. The first four miles took us straight down this one street, and then we turned into a park. I wanted to keep her comfortable until mile 10 and then push the pace a bit. We were right on target at the 10 mile mark, but then we merged with the 10K event that had started an hour later, so we had to dodge a bunch of walkers. I ran ahead of Abby a few feet to keep her motivated and also to weave my way through the other participants. Finally, we made the final turn before we entered the stadium, and we took off. We finished well under 2:20. Official time: 2:17:35

Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon – Winchester, TN


In a potentially disastrous move, my mom talked me into doing a practice marathon with her as our last long run before our goal races (Marine Corps for me; Seven Bridges for her). It’ll be fun, she said. It’ll be supported and a nice jaunt through the beautiful southern Tennessee countryside, she said. And, well, it was a very successful race for me, but it wasn’t really fun or beautiful. First off, we had hotel room problems. Like, they couldn’t find our reservation even though we had an e-mail and a confirmation number from the hotel. The next morning, we woke up to pouring down rain. Fortunately, it let up right before the start. Joe had signed up for the half with the plan to run the first 7.5 miles with us, but due to a miscommunication, we separated a little over a mile in.


The plan was to maintain a 11:00/mile pace and finish comfortably or as comfortably as one can finish a marathon. We did not account for the 8 miles along a highway into the north wind. Then my Garmin lost satellite reception at 10 miles. The second half of the course was a little more pleasant, but it continued to mist and drizzle off and on. The hills were not insignificant either. After my stomach issues at Flying Pig, I was apprehensive about my capability of executing a marathon well, but this went really well. At mile 18, about when the wheels fell off at Flying Pig, I still felt good and strong. When I hit mile 22 and realized I could basically walk the next 4 miles and still PR, that was huge encouragement. I PR’d by over 20 minutes with an official time of 4:45:15.

While maybe not the most brilliant training strategy, executing a race according to plan and not experiencing any fueling or stomach issues was very important for my confidence going into Marine Corps (October 28th!). I now know that I can run a marathon successfully, even in the face of less than ideal weather conditions, and finish with a smile on my face.