February 23, 2018

Austin 5K

Since the Kaiser Half Marathon DNF, I'd been cooking and eating super healthy, but not doing much that was too impressive on the running front.  Instead, I've been trying to increase my flexibility and work on avoiding re-injuring my left hip/leg by adding in things like calisthenics, yoga, biking, etc.

7:30 AM CT start for the Austin 5k? 
I think we look pretty damn bright eyed!
Essentially, from a pure running perspective, I pulled together two 17 mile weeks, which is not too great.  But, despite the low mileage, most of the running was on the higher effort side, and resulted in faster paces than I'd seen in a while.  Also, I did quite a bit of stretching and my flexibility improved.  My upper body, on the other hand, was wondering what the hell these things called pushups, dips, and crunches were, and why they were back in the mix.

This was a great fun race, even if it did start at 5:30 AM our local time.
I was looking forward to the Austin 5K after our improvised Golden Gate 5K.  The day before the race, a friend informed us that the race was essentially 1.56 miles uphill, and then the same route downhill back.  Well, that was good to know.  I reassessed my pace goals and just decided to do the first half by effort and then see where I was.

Slightly rolling, but essentially a 200 ft climb out
and 200 ft descent back.

I had such a great time on this race.  I hadn't had a *fun* race in a long time, and it was fabulous to remember what they felt like.  E & his buddy passed me on the downhill and I knew I could have kept up with them, but I let them go.  It was a day for joyful running, not pushing to pain.  I needed to just have a great fun race.  And I did.  My low-key goal had been to beat my last Chrissy Field 5K average pace of 9:55/mile, but that was before I knew about the hill.  Official results have me at 10:03/mile and I'm happy to take it.

Next race?  A 12K in April close to where I grew up with friends.  My current goal is to string together 7 decent weeks of healthy food and good fitness despite hosting a visitor in early March, followed by a trip to Pasadena for a conference where both E and I are speakers, then vacation in Colorado to ski with family, and finally a trip to lecture at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in early April.  I'm hopeful I can put together some good weeks despite the life chaos and improve my fitness.

February 14, 2018

Black Rice Navy Bean Turkey Chili

Part of the low-key homebound lifestyle I've been living is getting back into the swing of regularly cooking delicious meals from scratch with a focus on how I can make traditional staples healthier without negatively affecting the deliciousness.

Leftovers for tomorrow!
One of the things I've been doing quite a bit of is cooking in bulk and taking advantage of the freezer.  I'm regularly making a full pound of dried beans or rice when I only need 1/2 or 1/4 pound for the recipe and then just freezing the rest.  I'm also likely to double or quadruple things like soups and sauces and freeze the remainder.  I've also been experimenting with adding additional vegetables to traditional legume and grain preparations.

So, we've been eating very well out of the freezer. E's requested Butternut Squash Gnocchi Bolognese resulted in a fresh-made hosted dinner for 7 plus 3 more defrosted meals over the next 4 months (feeding 3, 2, and 2).  Then there's been lentil soup, vegetarian minestrone, excess broccoli, and more, that at various points, I've reached in, defrosted, and used to make a delicious meal.

Tonight, I had quite a bit of black rice in the fridge.  Plus I had frozen navy beans from the last time I made a navy bean soup.  And, I had some ground turkey.  I put them all together for a great Chili-esque stew.  Making this stew in one night would be quite the undertaking, but I'd done it over a couple of weeks.  All told, it was awesome.

1. Black Rice:

4-6 stems celery
1 large white or yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
3 carrots
1 lb black rice
2 Tbsp salt
olive oil

Mince celery, onion, garlic & carrots.  Sautee in olive oil for 2+ minutes.   Add black rice and sautee.  Add 5 Cups water and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Stir occasionally.  Add water if too dry.  Cook until water is all gone and rice is al dente.  45 minutes is likely good.  Turn off heat and stir in pot as it cools down to allow excess water vapor to evaporate.  Take 1/4 to 1/2 of rice and put into Tupperware in fridge.  Spoon remaining rice into ziplock bags, push flat to 1 inch wide, label them with the date, and freeze.

Very good for adding to salad bowls.

2. Navy beans

1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 celery stem
1-4 cloves garlic
5 sprigs rosemary leaves removed from stems
salt to taste
1 lb beans

Optional: Soak beans in warm water for 1 hour+.  Toss water and rinse.

Place all ingredients in large pot, cover with 8 Cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Cook until beans are al dente (30-60 minutes depending on soaking, bean age, etc.)

Remove beans from cooking liquid with sieve.

Immediately use some of the freshly cooked beans for something like Creamy Broccoli White Bean Soup, substituting for canned beans.  Blend the carrot, onion, and celery into the soup's base as well, combining with water or bean cooking liquid in lieu of vegetable stock.

Put remaining unused cooked beans into ziplock bags of 1 inch layer, air removed, labeled with the freezing date for future use.

Freeze leftover cooking liquid for future use as vegetarian stock.

Pre-cooked beans are great for salad bowls and soups.

3.  Black Rice Navy Bean Turkey Chili

1/2 large white onion, diced.
5 cloves garlic, minced.
Olive Oil
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 C pre-cooked black rice (see above)
1.5 C frozen pre-cooked white beans (see above)
1 - 28 Oz. Can of tomato pulp (I'd prefer to use canned garden tomatoes, but I don't have any since I didn't have a garden last year).
chili powder
red pepper flakes
1-4 Cups water

-Sautee first 3 ingredients together until onions are translucent.
-Add turkey and sautee until fully white (no longer pink).
-Add all additional ingredients and bring to a simmer.
-Cook under cover for 20 minutes, adding water as necessary to keep the consistency appropriate.

Enjoy immediately with minced chives and shredded cheese on top.  Serves 4-6.

February 11, 2018

San Francisco Fun

This week was an easy low-mileage week with a goal of getting to the start line of the Crissy Field parkrun and being able to finish it, ideally, at least 1 second/mile faster than the last time I'd run it (9:55/mile).

Cable car turn-around at Aquatic Park
Early in the week, I substituted pushups, dips, and core work for several of what ordinarily would have been running minutes and in reward, my arms and chest spent several days wondering what the hell I'd done.  But my leg was happy.  Tuesday, after 2 days of super easy running, I felt like I could go to track group the next morning, and I was excited to do so.  Except, the calendar informed me that that I had a dentist appointment.  Seriously?  Forgotten dentist appointment scheduled 6 months prior is never something to get excited about, but when it means you can't join in your favorite workout?  I was disappointed to say the least. 

SF Date night oysters
After the dentist appointment and work day, I did motivate and took myself to a local track solo before the sunset to try to do some semblance of drills and speedwork with the knowledge that track is definitely one of the most important workouts for fitness for a 5K for me.  It was a solid workout, pace-wise, in fact, I surprised myself with my speed, but I still cut the distance short in an effort to preserve my leg (total speedwork = 1.3 miles, 3+ miles total with jogging w/u, recovery & drills).  

I took a rest/stretch day on Thursday and did one more easy short run Friday AM before Saturday's planned for 5K.  My alarm went off, E jumped out of bed, and I saw that I had a text message and missed call.  My sister was sick.  She would not be coming with her kids to the Exploratorium, which was our scheduled activity for the day (the reason we'd stayed in the city and also the reason we needed to get the run done early before a day of niece/nephew management, hence Parkrun).  I told E we could skip the Parkrun and sleep in if he agreed to do a 5K with me later in the day and he hopped back into bed and was asleep within 30 seconds, happy with the run later plan.  We slept another hour and half and then headed out for our own VERY STEREOTYPICAL San Francisco 5K across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.

One of the best runs I've done in years.
Perfect weather. Gorgeous views.
With E. Over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Couldn't ask for anything more.
It was wonderful.  I stopped for a 1 minute 37 second walk break at the turn around point to get my earbuds in and music turned on while E ditched me on his way back.  From there, I pushed myself without looking at my watch to finish the 5K at an average pace of 10:23, which equals an average pace of 9:54 for the running if you pull out the walk break.  I was elated.  The bridge has a decent hill in the middle, and I was working hard, but nowhere near racing 5K effort (there was a bit of pedestrian weaving as well, of course). I'd hit my original racing goal (minus the walk break) and I had a runner's high for the rest of the day.

Parked by the headlands and walked under the
bridge to get to the start of our run.
We took advantage of our hotel location to enjoy Fisherman's Wharf touristy people watching and entirely too much SF sourdough bread for lunch.

Sourdough breadbowl tomato lobster bisque?
(with a side of bread?)
Don't mind if I do!
We spent the afternoon reading at Aquatic park and enjoying the egregiously gorgeous weather.

Look closely, you can see the swimmers...
E2 and J came and joined us and we enjoyed some local culture from the car clubs that showed off their hydraulics and classic restored American cars.

Check out the cars in the background!
From there, we got cleaned up, went to Franciscan Crab for dinner (highly recommended!) and then the Symphony for the Emperor's Concerto.  

Grand Piano vs. the Orchestra:
The Emperor's Concerto is an awesome back and forth
Sunday, I woke and met E2 in the gym, opting to stretch instead of trying to push my left leg.  I felt great. I'd had a wonderful run and a great weekend.  I wanted more of the same, and I was willing to be a responsible adult (who didn't get back on the treadmill for junk miles) in order to get it.

Sunday dinner was a lovely dinner at our friends' place including visiting parents we hadn't seen since our year abroad where we visited them in Singapore.  And now, with no pain, content and thrilled with such a wonderful weekend, I am looking forward to a pedestrian healthy, home-cooked, lower calorie, higher mileage pain-free week.

Wish me luck!

February 4, 2018

A good spicy food week and Kaiser DNF

Last week was a good taper week, which, in theory, means lots of healthy food and sleep, very little running, lots of stretching, rolling, a visit to my ART specialist and getting myself into the best state possible to run an awesome half marathon.

Well, 5/6 ain't bad.

First, I'm a sucker for Sichuan numbing hot spicy flavors (Mala and all of the other related variants).  I've been trying to figure out where I can acquire the taste close to home and just last week finally found a couple of places that make prepared dishes with it, which was awesome.  But then, I went to Din Tai Fung with a colleague, L, whose wife is from Sichuan.  We ordered spicy noodles and I lamented how difficult it is to get Sichuan numbing spice.  L mentioned that her wife ships spices to the US in bulk because apparently our Californian imports do not meet L's wife standards.  Through some miracle of making my desire known to the universe, within one week of seriously starting my quest to acquire Sichuan spice sources, I was offered some of the imported stash from L's wife for home use.  JACKPOT!

Green = numbing Sichuan peppercorn;
Red = ridiculously spicy pepper flakes. 
Mortar and pestle for scale. 
This is easily a 3 year supply.  Thank you L!
So, on the delicious food front, I hit up 99 Ranch to stock our house with delicious Asian dried, canned, preserved, and fresh goods and we ate off of them for at least half of our meals this week.

Rice stick noodle bok choy stir fry with peanuts, spicy shirataki noodle soup (made it twice -- better with a poached egg), and spicy veggie soba ramen-style pre-race soup were all delicious.  After this many meals, E has requested that I rein in the numbing spice, both in frequency and in amount per serving.  Apparently, there can be too much of a good thing.

Not gonna lie -- this spicy mushroom miso veggie soba pre-race dinner was amazing.
So, #1, food?  Check.

#2, sleep?  Yeah.  I did lots of that.

#3, very little running?  Check.  Total weekly mileage before the start line on Sunday AM was 10 miles, almost all of it at target race pace or faster.  I felt fast, strong, and pleased with my lack of pain.

#4, lots of stretching, rolling and a visit to the ART specialist?  I did these as well.  The beastie balls make rolling while indulging in screentime very easy, and I found time to stretch a couple times in the week in an effort to avoid major issues.  The ART visit was wonderful on Thursday and I left thinking that a half finish was easily doable.

#5, an awesome half marathon?  Nope.  Not even close.  My AM went perfectly.  I slept fitfully (typical pre-race stuff for me), woke at my 6:20 alarm,  did the obligatory AM rituals, got out the door, to the Starbucks for the latte and juice and back on the road by 6:45 AM.  I made it to my parking spot before 7:30 AM, and I thought of my friend Cat while waiting for the buses.

This race's shuttles used to be yellow US school buses, but now, in peak SF tech something or other,
they are the tech company buses put to good use on the weekends.
I made it to the start with plenty of time to wait at the porta-johns, finish my juice, do my business, and get to the start, ready to go.  I missed all the cool kids near the start 'cause I don't have FB on my phone and they were all communicating with it. C'est la vie.

4th SF Kaiser half start.  1st DNF.

I headed out for a fast first downhill mile and, it was easy and fast, so as planned, I built in walking breaks and hit the 5K right about on target pace, even though the last mile in the first 5K is significantly uphill.  I felt good.

It was warmer than expected, but not too warm.  Similarly, it was more humid than I'm used to, but not egregious.  I mean, I was sweating like crazy, but that's my gig. If it's over 60, regardless of the humidity, if I'm working at a decent effort level, I'm losing water like no one's business.

I took a Gu at the water station after the 5K and then I picked the pace back up.  I tried to keep the target pace but I was falling behind despite what felt like appropriate half marathon effort for how early in the race it was.  This was, of course, frustrating, as I'd picked a relatively "easy" target pace.  At the 10K mark I was seriously considering stopping.  In addition to the lackluster pacing (which killed any desire to push through for a nice time), my left hip was starting to tighten up and I was concerned that I'd lose all the (minimal) fitness gains I'd made if I pushed it too far.  I have a tentative crissy field 5K next weekend as a training race and a real 5K in Austin the week after.  I knew I wouldn't be able to do a good job at either of them if I pushed today too far.

At mile 7.52 I stepped off the course and walked back to my car --
I had brunch to console myself with a bunch of awesome runners and amazing food, 
hosted by the awesome http://sfroadwarrior.blogspot.com/
Part of me is disappointed, of course.  I was looking forward to completing a half marathon for the first time in over 18 months.  But the other part of me is happy that I made the call I did.  As AK eloquently put it -- it's a risk/reward equation.  The risk was you were going to continue to tighten up your leg and undo the good work you'd done and mess up your upcoming 5Ks.  The reward was you could finish the very annoying 2nd half of Kaiser out and back on Ocean Blvd in the direct sun and humidity.  And when you put it like that, I'm very happy with my decision.  Thanks, AK!

Cheers.  Here's a blurry sweat-covered phone lens photo of fresh fruit in sparkling wine
(who needs juice for mimosas?)
and the first runner to show up to bRUNch
who actually finished the half (https://jensrunningblog.wordpress.com/).
Let's just call it art.