Monday, December 2, 2013

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread

I can usually tell the winter holidays are nigh based on my desire to bake. Not that I don’t enjoy baking, but there’s always the inevitable eating (and over-eating) that occurs with an abundance of baked goods around. With a day-long meeting and a baby shower at church, I decided to provide an outlet for my compulsion while I had an avenue for sharing. My poor KitchenAid mixer has been gathering dust since Joe and I have been eating more of a Paleo diet, so I selected this recipe from the Penzey’s catalog.

In a frenzy of kitchen-purging, I got rid of all but one loaf pan, so I improvised and made one loaf and 12 muffins. The muffins took about 20 minutes to bake. At church, people enjoyed the addition of the cranberries, though I used dry because I couldn’t find fresh that week. I do love pumpkin and the texture of baked goods that include it, and I couldn’t let an opportunity to do some rare baking pass by.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread
source: Penzey’s
Yields: 24 servings

3 1/2 cups of flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp grated orange rind
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 15 oz can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Add the vanilla, pumpkin, and dry mixture approximately 1/2 cup at a time, alternating between the pumpkin and dry mixture until all is combined. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Divide the batter between two 8x4 1/2 inch greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350-degrees for 55-65 minutes (or 20-25 minutes for muffins).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Indianapolis Marathon Race Report

It’s been said that one should run the first third of a marathon with your head, the second third with your personality, and the remainder with your heart. I have no idea what “running with your personality” even means, but every repeat marathoner has some way of mentally breaking up the seemingly endless miles. For me, the first half is about staying calm and comfortable and trying not to freak out. The most mentally challenging portion is the section between 13 and 19, and then once I hit 20, I know I’m going to at least finish.

Finish face:


Two weeks ago, I toed the start line of the Indianapolis Marathon. Leading up to the race, I had been traveling and then staying with Abby and John in London, Ontario. John and I completed the final two running workouts of our training plan together, Abby and I logged a swim workout that Wednesday, and I felt good and sharp. Running slightly faster than goal marathon pace felt pretty comfortable, even to where I could carry on a conversation at a sub-10 minute pace without straining much.


My friend Jen and I have a bit of a friendly competition chasing each other’s PRs. Last year, she finished Marine Corps a minute or so ahead of me, which I then bested at Rocket City. Earlier this year, she lowered her time significantly, and while my A goal was to go under 4:40, my B goal was to beat Jen’s PR…until she clocked a 4:27:xx at Chicago the week before Indianapolis. I even told Abby, “There’s no way I’ll beat that!”

On our drive down to Indiana the Thursday before the race, we were stuck in terrible traffic, delaying our arrival until late in the night, and irritating my knees and hip flexors. Then the weather forecast started to fall apart. After putting in some hot and humid miles during the Middle Tennessee summer, I was looking forward to the 40-degree race day temperatures. Until rain entered the forecast. But with anything, there are variables you can control and variables you can’t control. One of the variables I can control is my attitude. Despite stiff knees, lack of quality sleep, and rainy race day weather, I tried to stay positive.

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Our hotel was across the street from the expo, so it was easy and quick for us to get our packets. Then we made a Meijer’s run for some race day food, and Abby decided to make spectathlete t-shirts for herself and my dad, which I don’t have pictures of, unfortunately. I made my flat runner trying to account for the weather conditions. If the rain stopped and the sun came out, I could ditch the arm warmers, and the visor would keep the rain (or sun) out of my face. The blue flower symbolizes “Content” from Fellow Flowers.


Sure enough, we woke up that morning to rain, not a heavy downpour but a steady drizzle. My mom’s flights had gotten messed up, and she didn’t arrive in Indy until after 9 pm. She was not up to running the full 26.2 and threatened to not even start, but she lined up in the corral anyway.

John and I before the start. Doesn’t this look like fun?


My race plan was to go with the 4:30 pacer and hang on as long as I could, re-evaluating how I felt along the way. When I got into the corral, the 4:30 pacer was nowhere to be found. I spotted the sign for the 5:00 and the 4:15 pacers and lined up somewhere in between, but I was disappointed and a little panicky. I talked myself down a little bit, knowing I was shooting for clocking each mile somewhere between 10:10 and 10:20.

I didn’t take off my throwaway shirt until two miles in. A woman started talking to me about Marathon Maniacs. She was attempting to qualify with 2 in 16 days and was scheduled for run/walk intervals. It took a while to warm up, but I was right where I wanted to be, maybe even a little faster. I tried to get myself to slow down and relax even though I felt good.


There was a slight hill at mile 3 that didn’t phase me too much, and we spent some time outside of the park before heading back in. Abby was cheering at mile 4, though that was the last time I’d see her until the finish. I was running with a woman wearing a “Birthday Girl” sash and her friend. They were doing the half, but we traded some encouragement. At mile 11, I had to make a bathroom stop, jumping a fence to use some non-race Portolets on a golf course. Then the big hill hit. People around me were freaking out, but I chugged up, one foot in front of the other, logging my slowest mile of the day.


The half-marathon split off at mile 12.5, and by then, I was ready to see them go. The pack thinned out considerably. Mentally, I told myself that the real work was still ahead of me. I came through the mats at 13.1 in 2:13:44, a little faster than on-target. Then, lo and behold, ahead of me was a man in a orange shirt with “Pacer” on the back. “Are you the 4:30 pacer?” I screamed at him, probably a little louder than necessary. “Yes.” “Sweet!” I latched on to him and wasn’t going to let go.


Our pace group was the pacer, me, and another woman named Michelle. We entered a ten-mile out-and-back stretch, and we talked about family, running, different races, etc. I was trying to trust the pacer as we clocked sub-10:00 miles consistently along that stretch. When the wind kicked up, our pacer told us to draft off of him. I was looking for John to be coming back the other way and got a little nervous when the 3:30 pace group went by with no John in sight. I saw him later than I expected to and knew he wasn’t having the race he had hoped, but he yelled, “See you at the finish line!” so I wasn’t too worried. We lost Michelle at an aid station, and the pacer told me to go ahead. Suddenly, there was the turn-around, just past mile 19. Thanks to Iain, our fabulous 4:30 pacer, I had gotten through the most mentally difficult stretch without a second thought.


When I passed the 20-mile marker, I did some quick math in my head. To break 4:30, all I had to do was keep at least an 11:00 pace, which felt completely possible. Every mile faster than that was that much more under 4:30. Physically, I felt great. Despite the rain, I didn’t feel any chafing or blisters though my quads were substantially fatigued. The out-and-back was fun because I got to see the other runners and cheer on my fellow Maniacs. The volunteers, other runners, and photographers told me I looked good, and this time, I actually believed them. I was passing a lot of people and tried to give them some encouragement to keep going.

From studying the course elevation chart, I knew the last mile was uphill to the finish. Cruel but necessary. I started to put the hammer down past the 24-mile marker, as we headed back through the park. By this time, we had run this stretch at least 3 other times, so it felt familiar, and I knew where I was in relationship to the finish line. The last mile WAS uphill. As hard as I was working, my pace kept dropping. Finally, we were out of the park for the final push to the finish. The rain had stopped, and the cloud cover lightened. Only then did I peel off the arm warmers.


I knew I was within striking distance of Jen’s PR from Chicago, as I hit the 26 mile marker. My parents were there yelling and cheering and I threw them my arm warmers and kicked it into my last and final gear. My mom said she told my dad, “She’s after Jen’s time.” Abby & John were near the finish chute cheering as well.


I started to tear up like I always do at the finish and hit my watch as I crossed over the mat. I didn’t even need to look at my time to know that I ran a hell of a race, that it didn’t matter if I’d beat Jen’s time or not because I knew I ran sub-4:30 by a few minutes. 4:26:59. Official time – 4:26:52. Nearly a 15-minute PR, a negative split, and a better race than I could’ve imagined. Mom, Dad, Abby, & John met me just outside the finish chute. I couldn’t really speak when my mom asked me my time; I just held out my watch.


My mom had ended up running the half. Weirdly, we were running nearly the same pace but never saw each other. John finished his first marathon in 3:51 after struggling with some cramps. His race report is here. Abby and my dad, then joined by my mom, were miserable, cold, and wet for the morning, as it turned out the course wasn’t very spectator-friendly. Once we traded brief race stories and I had stopped crying from joy and exhaustion, we ATE. The post-race party included hamburgers, brats, baked beans, coleslaw, and cookies. I never know what might sound good after running that distance. The thought of baked beans turned my stomach, but the hamburger, coleslaw, and cookie was delicious.

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After all of that, I was ready to return home victorious and see Joe, having been gone for 10 days.

Next up: Adventures in Canada!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beer, Ice Cream, and Ironman Kona

Way back in May, my brother qualified for Ironman Kona by winning his age group at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix. He and my parents invited me to go, but it was the same weekend as my ten-year high school reunion (and was a lot more expensive to get to). So while I was drinking beer in Michigan, my brother was swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. That’s just crazy.

I woke up Saturday morning and opted to do a 10-mile run around the lake. If you had told me ten years ago that I would wake up the day after my 29th birthday to run 10 miles around Green Lake, and it would be “easy” because I was tapering for a marathon, I would have laughed in your face. But so it goes. It was a beautiful morning for a run, and I watched the sun rise over the lake.

2013-10-12 07.35.07

After I got back to the cabin, I checked my phone to see that I had won a swag bag from Garmin, including a Forerunner 910XT watch, for participating in their Twitter contest. They asked why I wished I was in Kona, and I answered that I wanted to be there to cheer on my brother in his first full Ironman. Nothing quite like winning a $400 watch, plus some shirts, a visor, and a silicone swim camp, to start the day off right.

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Abby was keen on spending Saturday checking out some breweries, and I was totally on-board with that plan, so we grabbed Ethan and Josh and headed to Bellaire, Michigan – the home of Shorts Brewing Co. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and the winding country roads made me wish I had brought my bike. It was over an hour’s drive from Interlochen, and by the time we got there, we were hungry and thirsty.

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Abby and I split a flight since she was driving. Shorts had a HUGE selection of beers on tap with some very interesting experimental beers. One of our favorites was OMGWTFBBQ, a beer that recalled BBQ sauce with some spicy tomato, umami flavor. Their pumpkin ale was a disappointment, but their bourbon barrel IPA blew my mind. It was hoppy and vanilla/oak, which was crazy.

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Their food menu was pretty extensive as well, and we had some food to help us soak up the beer.

Something about the unseasonably warm day and driving through numerous little resort towns on lakes had me craving ice cream. Obviously the only option was a stop at Moomers, voted the Best Ice Cream Shop in America. Anything with cherries is pure Northern Michigan, but I opted for pumpkin gingersnap.

2013-10-12 15.52.34

And then Abby tried to feed her ice cream to the bizarre taxidermied animals.

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All the while, I was checking the Ironman website for my brother’s progress in the race. He made it out of the swim in 57 minutes, a huge achievement, and seemed to be kicking butt on the bike. We were most nervous about the run due to some underlying injuries, but everything was going well so far. I selected Right Brain Brewery for our next stop, mostly by blindly selecting it from our Traverse City Ale Trail map.

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The atmosphere was very cool. They had done an awesome job turning a big warehouse building into a funky, lounge-type place. There were little pockets with couches and coffee tables as well as more traditional bar-height tables and stools. They provided a stash of board games, darts, and other entertainment options. While the beer didn’t impress me, it would be an awesome place to hang out with friends.

Again, Abby and I split a flight. The strangest-and-yet-surprisingly-good-beer award of the day went to Schrute Farm Saison, a beet-flavored saison. It kind of tasted like earth. The other beers were pretty forgettable but not offensive.

Our former choir director had invited us to dinner, so we headed back to Interlochen. After dinner, Kiley had started the run a little too fast. The next splits I downloaded showed him slowing down, but it was apparent that he was in trouble. He couldn’t keep down any fluids while running and so was forced to walk if he was going to have a shot of finishing rather than ending up in the medical tent.


Abby and I stayed up drinking wine, chatting, and pressing “refresh” on the athlete tracker page until either a) he had dropped out or b) finished. Once he reached 20 miles, I knew he would finish. It was slow-going, but I finally got the text from my mom that Kiley was an Ironman in just under 10 hours and 18 minutes.


I was relieved and crazy proud of my little brother. Next week, at the Indianapolis Marathon, it would be my time to shine.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Reunion That Wasn’t

I had spent a long time getting excited for my ten-year high school reunion at Interlochen Arts Academy. Abby and I plotted and planned our travel, and I reserved a beautiful cabin right on the lake. Then we got the word that the reunion was cancelled because not enough people showed up. After some discussion, we decided to go anyway. So we wouldn’t have the “official” reunion stuff (which honestly didn’t sound that much fun anyway), but we would have a long weekend in Northern Michigan with the changing leaves and a few other friends from high school.

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Yep, that’s how we roll.

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Abby picked me up from the Detroit airport, and we headed northwest. We arrived in time to watch this beautiful sunset before heading to the grocery store and to the Hofbrau for dinner. Many years ago, the alumni visiting for their 10 year reunion told us, “When you guys are older, you’ll find out that the Hofbrau is actually a BAR!” And it is! With a phenomenal draught list to boot.

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The next morning, I got up and ran a few miles in the cool, crisp air before we headed to campus to walk around and sit in on some classes. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day. The mall was ablaze with color, and the lake was calm and clear. Over the past 9-10 years, Interlochen has built some new, gorgeous buildings including a film studies center and a new visual arts complex with galleries and studios. What was a gym/orchestra rehearsal space when we were there is now a beautiful library and music library. So some of that stuff was a little crazy.

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At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly (“when WE were here…”), it was funny to see students with laptops in class and Wi-Fi throughout campus. My first year, we had to individually pay for dial-up internet in our dorm rooms, and we had awful DOS-based computers in the basement to check our e-mail. Technology has come such a long way in ten years. Our second year, the school put internet connectivity in our rooms, and we all had LiveJournals and chatted after-hours via AIM. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time reminiscing.


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And now:

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It also happened to be my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. One of the coolest things we did was take advantage of the photo archives, and the photo below of our dorm hall must’ve been taken on my 18th birthday, 11 years ago that day.

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We’ve come a long way!

Of course, being there with those kids made me totally sentimental and cheesy. I remember thinking that there was no way I would be happy doing ANYTHING besides being a classical singer. I couldn’t even imagine ten years from that day or envision that I could be doing something entirely different and yet still completely fulfilling. I never imagined that I would be married, an Episcopal priest, living in Nashville, or a runner. And I looked at these kids with all of this possibility in front of them and all of their youthful idealism, hope, and drive, and I missed part of who I was then. A lot at Interlochen has changed but a lot has stayed the same. It reminded me how thankful I am to have had such a formative couple of years there with talented and creative colleagues and gifted teachers.

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Here’s hoping another 10 years doesn’t go by before I return to the land of the stately pine!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Running Less, Running Faster

Due to my sporadic attempts at blogging, no one is probably aware that I am currently training for the Indianapolis Marathon on October 19th. Last year, you might remember that I ran the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon in Fort Wayne with John and Abby, their first half. Well, this time, it’s going to be John’s first full marathon! Abby is currently taking a break from running due to an injury, so she’ll be our shuttle driver, cheerleader, and all-around fabulous spectathlete.


John has been following the training plans in Run Less, Run Faster (based on the Furman FIRST program) for a little while now and has really improved both his speed and endurance. For this training cycle, I wanted to spend a little less time worrying about getting in my miles and a little more time cross-training. The basis of the program is 3 key running workouts (interval, tempo, and long runs) supplemented by 2 cross-training days. The workouts are HARD as the suggested pace is based on a recent 5K time, but it has improved my fitness immensely.

RLRF 2012 web

After an unusually successful 18-miler this weekend that included the 11.2 mile loop at Percy Warner Park, a hilly route that has previously brought me to tears, literally, I knew that this training program was really working. And really, if I’m honest, I’ve probably done 75%, at best, of the workouts as written due to travel and scheduling and life. On Labor Day, I ran the Franklin Classic 10K on a hot, humid day on a hilly course and came within 40 seconds of my PR, run on a 50-degree day on a flat course.

The FIRST program has its detractors, but 5 weeks out from a marathon, I’ve never felt better. I’ve had no consistent niggling tightness or aches and pains. For the most part, I feel energetic and motivated, and I don’t loathe having to lace up my shoes and hit the road. So it’s working for me. Currently, my suggested paces are based on a 27:50 5K I ran on Memorial Day, shortly before starting training. FIRST predicts a 4:30:51 marathon based on that 5K and the subsequent training, which seems laughably fast to me (about 10 minutes faster than my marathon PR from last December), but we’ll see. Based on my 10K time from Labor Day, McMillan predicts a 4:27:16 (eek!).


Anyway, this is what my training from 9/9-9/15 looked like.

Monday: 1750 yds swim using this workout. Joe came with me, and we shared a lane.

Tuesday: 5 miles intervals on the track: 1600 warm-up, 4x1200 @ 6:25, 1600 cool-down. I have a terrible habit of running them too fast and clocked them at 6:02, 6:11, 6:13, & 6:15. Not executed very well. Joe came to the track and ran a few laps of my speedwork with me.

Wednesday: 1 hour of racquetball with Joe. He’s a much better player than I am, but I did pretty well.

Thursday: 2.5 miles of some fartlek on the treadmill, 30 minutes upper body lifting, again with Joe.

Friday: 7 mile tempo at MGP (10:20/mile). We had a cool front sweep in overnight, and I got excited and ran too fast because it felt so easy. Splits were 10:18, 10:08, 9:59, 9:42, 9:35, 9:57, 10:12.

Saturday: 18 mile run at MGP+45. I usually do long runs with my mom, but she was out of town, and Joe was working in the ICU so he wasn’t available to run part of this with me. Fortunately, my friend Kelly volunteered to run 11 with me at Percy Warner, so I ran to the park to meet her for the 11.2 loop and then ran home for 18 total. Average pace was closer to MGP+25.


Sunday: 17 mile bike ride to Radnor Lake with Joe. We were not the only ones with the idea to go to Radnor on a lovely September Sunday afternoon, and we had to go really slowly on the road through the park due to people being completely oblivious. It was beautiful though. I think we will definitely bike that route again.

Totals: 32.6 miles of running, 17 miles of biking, 1 mile of swimming, 1 hour of racquetball, and 30 minutes of weights

Friday, September 6, 2013

That Time I Ran a Marathon at Midnight

Crazy is a matter of perspective. “You run marathons? That’s crazy.” I suppose that’s true, but when I have friends who do things like half and full Ironmans, a marathon seems pretty normal. When registration for Loonie’s Midnight Marathon opened, my mom signed up. A marathon in the middle of July somewhere north of Cookeville, TN that started at midnight. Totally crazy. But while we were in the car en route to Charlottesville, she told me that our friend Jen (with whom I ran Marine Corps) was coming down from Indiana to run it too, and I decided to sign up too, after doing some quick math to see if I could increase my training in time.

Well, June was a very busy month, and I never did run over 13.1 miles. The Saturday that we were going to limp through a 17-18 miler, we woke up to thunderstorms, and I settled for 9 miles on the treadmill. That Monday, less than two weeks out, I Gallo-walked through a miserably hot 15.5 miles before I was done and curled up in the fetal position on the couch. I didn’t so much care about my time as I a) didn’t want to get injured, b) be miserable for the last 16 miles, and c) be out on the course forever.

The day (night?) of the race rolled around, and we made our plans for a very conservative pace. Jen is great at pacing, so we knew we probably wouldn’t go out too fast. The course was a series of 5 mile loops with an initial 1.2 mile leg. Every loop, we went by our cars, so we set out a cooler with our fuel of choice. Did I mention that I’m not a night person? Staying up for the start was half the battle, though once we arrived at the race, the adrenaline kicked in. I had tried to take a nap during the afternoon but only slept for 20 minutes or so. In reality, the start just felt like an early morning race: dark, people in their running clothes milling about, making Porta-Potty runs, just like any other race.


The race director required a certain amount of reflective gear, though most of the roads were lit by streetlights. Obviously, my Amphipod Xinglet works really well. Loonies was my first marathon as a Marathon Maniac (I qualified at Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL), so I was excited to wear my Maniacs singlet, and we all somewhat inadvertently dressed the same. Our fellow runners dubbed us “The Pink Ladies” as they cheered us along the course, which was fun. And I got to legitimately be in the MM group picture.


One of my race goals was to finish before “official sunrise”, around 5:30-5:45. However, the pre-race festivities (national anthem, prayer, moment of silence for Boston, another Boston remembrance, acknowledging the cross-country team, etc.) dragged on and on, and we didn’t start until after 12:15 am. We did the first 1.2 miles slow and steady and came back through the start/finish line. The next 10 or so miles were pretty uneventful. There was a volunteer playing the banjo and serenading us, amusing spectators with beer, and great aid station volunteers. Since it was a lollipop course, we saw our fellow runners over and over again, were lapped by the leaders (twice!), and it really fostered a sense of community with the other crazy people who were running a marathon in the middle of the night.

I started to hurt shortly after the halfway point, but I knew that if I could get through the third and fourth laps, that I could finish. Sometime around 3:30 am, we started to hear roosters crow. The fourth lap was the hardest, mentally and physically. Everything hurt, and it seemed like we still had so much more to go. Even though the course was pretty flat, I started to walk up some of the inclines just to give my legs a break. I honestly thought I might walk the whole fifth lap, but once I passed under the finish for the last lap, I got a second wind of sorts, and my despair dissipated.

By that time, we could see the light begin to creep up behind the hills. The course emptied out with other runners finishing. One of the volunteers was passed out asleep in his chair. I tried to enthusiastically thank the aid station volunteers for staying up all night to pass out water and Gatorade to us, but I probably wasn’t making sense at that point. Our goal was 5:10, and all three of us crossed the finish line in 5:12:54. Instead of medals, they presented us with these personalized tiles.

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After a little bit of food and a quick clothing change, Mom and I said good-bye to Jen and headed back to Nashville. We were completely disoriented since it felt more like 10 am than 6 am, and by the time we got to breakfast, we could barely walk and started laughing hysterically. Then she spilled water all over the table which set us off again. I don’t think I’ve felt that loopy since the last time I stayed up all night at a sleepover. I managed to get myself safely home, took a shower, and got right in bed where I slept for three hours.

This was a REALLY good race. Except for the late start, it was incredibly well-organized, and all the volunteers were amazing. Our first few laps, they passed out cold washcloths and then oranges. We also received a technical t-shirt and a running hat with the logo. But my favorite part was the camaraderie with other runners. Even some of the faster runners cheered us on (as they lapped us), and we supported the runners who were a ways behind us as well. Would I do it again? Eh…it would have to be with someone else, and I would definitely want to be better prepared and trained!

So, yeah, I ran a marathon at midnight.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Energy Balls & BBQ Sauce

I managed to make it through Whole30 without making a lot of my own condiments. It helps that the salsa we like (Mateo’s from Costco) is Whole30-compliant. As Joe remarked one evening, “Thank GOD salsa is on Whole30.” I stuck with olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar for salad dressing and never really needed anything else for those 30 days. After Whole30, a few non-compliant things slipped back into my diet (Sriracha, for one), but I never did buy any barbecue sauce because, inevitably the second ingredient is some sort of sugar. When a craving for some barbecue chicken hit, I decided to make my own.


This is not the kind of gloppy, sticky, molasses-thick barbecue sauce I’m used to, but it’s okay. I had to warn Joe that it was definitely more of a sharp vinegar, tomato-based flavor. I think I will tweak the seasonings in the next batch to try to get a bit more of a rounded flavor, but this did the trick on some chicken breasts one night.

It Starts with Food BBQ Sauce

1 cup Tomato Sauce
1/3 cup unsweetened Apple Sauce
2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Hot pepper sauce
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 clove Garlic
1/2 Tbsp clarified butter or coconut oil


In a bowl whisk the tomato sauce, apple sauce, vinegar, coconut aminos, mustard, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper. Heat the butter/coconut oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and remaining spices to the pan stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds only). Whisk in the tomato sauce mixture. Bring to a boil, then GENTLY simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes until it is reduced and flavorful. Remove from heat and allow to cool


Fueling for long runs is a challenge. Most commercially available products have all kinds of sketchy chemicals and sugars. Some people use unsweetened applesauce or dried fruit, and I’ve had success with Larabars before a run. I purchased a large tub of dates at Costco and wanted to experiment with making my own dried date/nut balls (yes, I am giggling as I type that because I’m 12). These are great mid-run or as a small snack. I made them tablespoon size, which is more than one bite, and covered them in coconut flakes. The cocoa gives them a chocolate flavor as well.


Energy Balls

20 dates, pitted
2 cups almonds or pecans
2 tsp cocoa powder
Coconut flakes or cocoa for dusting

First, soak the dates in water until they are soft and easily blended into a paste (an hour at room temperature or in boiling water for a few minutes.)
While the dates are soaking, grind the nuts in a food processor. Add the cocoa powder and pulse to blend together.
Add 6 dates to the food processor, lightly shaking them to dry. You want a little additional water to help them come together. Process on low until they are blended.
Continue adding dates until the mixture becomes a ball or begins to stick together somewhat firmly. Then, pinch off and roll into balls. If desired, roll them in cocoa powder or coconut to coat.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sukuma Wiki

Kenya is known much more for big game animals than for its food, and yet, as soon as we got home, I turned to the internet for help with some Kenyan recipes. Like any of the myriad places where I have spent time, the food of those places feels like reconnecting with their spirits. I never did end up making a big Kenyan feast, and that idea was put on the back burner.


This is a plate of typical Kenyan food, pretty much the definition of “peasant” food. Boiled potatoes, sauteed cabbage, rice, some kind of meat (usually beef or goat) stew, and sukuma wiki (suh-KOO-muh WEE-kee), or kale. I learned that sukuma wiki means “stretch the week” in Swahili, and since it is grown year-round in East Africa, it is easily available and often added to meals to stretch them throughout the week. Eating all that kale is probably the reason why most Kenyans are so healthy! Well, that, walking a lot, and not smoking or drinking alcohol.

In browsing for paleo-friendly recipes, I found this version of sukuma wiki which uses ground beef (so much easier to find than goat) and collard greens. Without being so finely chopped, the texture was much thicker, and the warm spices gave the dish more of an Indian flavor. Apparently, one must go to Mombasa to get the well-seasoned food in Kenya. It’s a simple dish that comes together quickly, but it’s also soul food – warm and hearty. I know we’ll be revisiting this dish frequently in the winter.


Sukuma Wiki
source: The Domestic Man


1 tbsp cooking fat of your choice
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp each sea salt, cumin, coriander
1/2 tsp each black pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel seeds, turmeric
1 lb organic, grass-fed ground beef
1 bunch collard greens (about 8 leaves), stems removed, sliced into 1″ strips
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp lemon juice


Warm the fat in a skillet on medium heat for a minute, then add the onion. Sauté the onion until softened, about four minutes. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the ground beef and seasonings, and cook until mostly done, about six minutes, stirring frequently so the ground beef doesn’t clump.

Add the collard greens and tomatoes, and sauté until the collard greens are wilted, about four minutes. Stir everything around carefully as it cooks – be sure to do this step gently so you don’t mush up the tomatoes.

Add the lemon juice and season to taste by adding salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately.

Monday, July 15, 2013

June…Busted Out All Over

June is always a strangely busy month, but this one managed to take the cake. I might have overbooked myself a tad, though it was worth it. Here’s a little bit of what I was up to:

It started off with a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia. My grandmother died in March, but with family spread literally coast-to-coast, it made sense to do the memorial service when everyone could make it. My parents and I drove up to C’ville, spending a night in Bristol, TN, so that I could officiate the memorial service. We also got some good running in.

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It was good to see my extended family and my grandfather. My grandmother’s niece put together these amazing posters of pictures from her life and career in occupational therapy, including the article and picture from when she met President Kennedy. My grandmother in the ‘50s:

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Because I had to be back at church on Sunday, I flew out of Charlottesville to D.C., where my flight got delayed. When we finally boarded, somehow someone got on the wrong plane so we had to all get off the plane because of the security breech, get rescreened, and re-board the plane. It was a nightmare.

Next up was our 5th anniversary vacation to Excellence Riviera Cancun. Sun! Sand! Beach! Except that it rained nearly constantly for the first few days thanks to the remnants of a tropical storm. We still managed to have a good time and check out for a week.

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Joe’s aunt and uncle are doing their second long RV trip around the country and were due in Nashville the next week. They requested that I bless their RV while they were in Nashville, so they invited us over for dinner, and I put together a short service. That was certainly my first RV blessing! I also opted to travel with them down to Lynchburg, home of the Jack Daniel’s distillery. We had a large family-style lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House before touring the distillery. Hanging with Jack:


We also went to the Grand Ole Opry with them, which is always a good time. That night we saw Patty Loveless, Joe Diffie, and Vince Gill, in addition to some other acts. The next morning I drove down to Bell Buckle for the RC Cola Moonpie Festival 10-miler. Miraculously, we had relatively cool weather, and I ended up having a great race for my first 10-miler. Of course, I had to refuel with the festival’s namesake treats:

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Joe’s second cousin hosted a Father’s Day brunch for Joe’s uncle and my dad, so I went straight there from church for a fabulous spread of food, including a breakfast casserole that Joe made all by himself! And then I headed back down I-24 to Monteagle for a week as the priest-in-residence at Camp Gailor-Maxon.


Camp ministry is seriously the best, and I love the Camp II kids because they’re old enough to have some spiritual discussions but still young enough to have fun and be goofy. Hikes, beautiful scenery, swimming, judging cannonball contests, and dancing. All in all, a great week. I love my camp “congregation” so much. They always give me so much hope for the church.


Straight from closing Eucharist to my parents’ house for a fellowship graduation party for Joe. His mom and her boyfriend drove down from Wisconsin bringing lots of beer (New Glarus!), brats, and cheese. The next morning, my mom and I ran the inaugural Franklin Half Marathon in scenic Leiper’s Fork. It was amazingly hot, humid, and hilly. I took care to hydrate at every aid station, but there were points when it was so hot I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Beautiful Tennessee scenery though.


And we finished! My mom avenged her not-so-great race the week before and beat me by a few minutes. Something happened with the results, and I had to stand in a long line in the sun to get it fixed. Not happy.


The rest of the day called for pool time and beer before getting cleaned up for Joe’s graduation dinner.


After getting a few days to recoup and do laundry, we were headed north to Bloomington, IN for my best friend Abby’s wedding. I got there just in time for some of the bachelorette festivities (which were really pretty tame). The next morning, those of us so inclined met to jog a very slow 3 miles around the IU campus while we chatted and sweated out the previous night’s toxins.


This was my first wedding to officiate, and it was very special and meaningful. I was essentially part of the wedding party in terms of photographs and everything, but I also had to lead the rehearsal, etc. The rehearsal dinner was at Upland Brewing Company, known for their great beer, but the food was maybe even better. The next morning, after running 11 miles with my mom on some great trails and paths, the female members of the wedding party went and got our hair and make-up done and got all ready for pictures.


Unfortunately, it rained for most of the afternoon, but I think we got some great pictures in the auditorium. It was a great wedding, and I received a lot of compliments on the ceremony. I managed not to cry during the ceremony, though there were a few moments when I thought I might lose it.


Their DJ was amazing – no boring wedding standards – and we danced until he shut it down. Then we moved the party to a bar downtown, though at that point Joe and I were so tired that we stayed just long enough for John, the groom, to sit in Joe’s lap.


Congratulations John and Abby!

And now I don’t want to go anywhere for a long, long time.