Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Short Story

Well, I finished :). It was....a learning experience (said in my teacher positive spin voice). I feel proud that I completed it, but Ed and I both learned that, while we love running together for weekend runs, doing a race together isn't the best choice. Poor Ed was just not mentally prepared to be a "back of the pack" runner and pushed me a bit too hard in the beginning. That, on top of too hard runs the last few weekends, meant that I was spent by the time we got to the "easy" last 4 miles, and essentially dragged myself to the finish (with Ed's help). 

Still, there were great moments, and I did love spending a day on the trails with Ed. And, getting to do this about 12 times over the 3ish hours of the race was pretty awesome:

Report cards/big meeting/field trip are all happening this week, so once I survive this week, I'll fill all of you in on the details :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jumping Back In

Tomorrow I'm going to be embarking on an exciting journey - up to Mt. Diablo!

Now, before you think I'm crazy, the race I'm doing tomorrow does NOT summit the mountain. That, after all, was pretty much what screwed up my leg to begin with!

This race is more, I think, through the foothills, starting and ending at Castle Rock State Park. However, it is a half marathon. While this doesn't seem big in the grand scheme of race distances, this will be the furthest I have run since I got injured 2 1/2 years ago. I have to admit that I'm a little nervous.

Luckily, though, Ed has promised to stick with me for the whole thing, no matter how slow I have to go. He's even willing to carry the camera since I want picture but am not yet up to the point where I can carry my backpack for long distances without it bothering me. I know it will be beautiful because, after weeks of storming, the last week has been 70+ and sunny - just gorgeous. My fingers are crossed for some amazing wildflowers.

I'm still not sure where I'm going after this run. I really didn't think I'd be able to get up to this distance so easily, and since my leg still is funny (talking to me right now, in fact) I don't want to jeopardize it. I think I might hang out at this distance for a while - the 10 - 14 mile mark, which seems far enough to enjoy some good trail time but short enough that it feels "safe".

It's exciting, though, be be "back." One of my colleagues told me today that I look like a completely different person from the beginning of the year, and I feel that way, too.

Wish me luck tomorrow :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Lucky Day in Marin

Time has been flying by lately, and suddently it's just 3 1/2 months until my wedding! Ed and I have been traveling to Mt Tam increasingly often, to take care of details, which has been wonderful and is solidifying this as an important place for us as a couple. Two weeks ago, we came up with Ed's mom to visit Cataract Falls, taste some food for the rehearsal dinner, check out a park, and try some cake. While it was fun to spend the day together, the trip was a bit of a bust. Our hike took too long, the restaurant wasn't that great (in food or price), the park felt a little off, and the cake was pretty darn bad.

So, this weekend, Ed and I decided to redeem our favorite place and retry that day.

We started out at Old Mill Park, our first idea as a rehearsal dinner spot. Revisiting the park, we both decided that, while it was gorgeous, it just didn't feel quite right. However, it was right for starting a very special run.

That's right - the Dispea trail begins "here". Now, here is in quotation marks because finding this trail is a bit of an insider's game. We had to ask a local to point us in the right direction (she told us to go up, then right, then a u turn, then left, then right, and then cross a road - yeah, good thing we asked!), but did finally find the infamous stairs.

I had forgotten how much I struggle with stairs.
(Ed at the 2nd set of stairs)

We had a slow slog going up set after set of stairs. Towards the top of the 3rd set, we got behind an older woman who was probably in her 70s, going strongly up the stairs. I certainly felt out of shape heaving behind her.

(Engraved step at the top of the last stair, commemorating an infamous Dipsea Runner)

Finally, we reached a road, where we hit our next point of confusion. We knew we were supposed to cross the road, but to which trail? Another runner ran by and we decided to follow her, which turned out to be a smart move. That took us to the next confusing part, where now the trail was gone. Again, 2 new runners ran by and we followed them into a residential area. I'm not sure what we would have done, had we not seen these runners!

The next stretch of trail was more like a real trail, and this stretch took up to Panoramic Highway!

Once we crossed over, we were going to do some "reall" Mt Tam running.

(Heading out down the trail)

We've seen the trail often driving down the highway, and it was so exciting to finally be running on it. It was also exciting to be running as, up until that point, we had be reduced to a hike (darn stairs).

The view from this trail was, simply put, spectacular. It rivaled my best trail experiences, and left me in a state of awe. The sky was a perfect blue, with a delicous sliver of ocean peaking up above the mountains. The sunl.ight was shining off the forest. Pictures can't do it justice, but they can give you an idea of the amazingness of the experience.

We're thinking that this would be a perfect trail to take out of town guests on, not too steep and it leads straight to Mountain Home Inn. We did a fair amount of running (and a bit of walking) as we traveled this spectacular trail.

It poured rain yesterday, so there were waterfalls everwhere, really reinforcing that Mt Tam is a watershed. Every few minutes we were crossing over streams that flowed downward towards the ocean far below.

In not too long, we met up with the Alice Eastwood Trail, one very familiar to me, and run on with Ed on our first Mt Tam run together. I was used to going the opposite way on these trails, and, while I enjoyed the mile downhill to start, I didn't enjoythe uphill that followed. This course was feeling much harder than I had imagined when I planned it!

(My favorite part of Troop 80 Trail)

Troop 80 was next, which I love. It is beautiful redwood groves and cushy singletrack.

Troop 80 took us to Van Wyck meadow, where we took a snack break and then headed off down Boot Jack.

Boot Jack was, well, wet. Slippery, goopy, rocky, rooty, wet. We didn't get to enjoy the downhill we counted on, as we had to watch every step. However, we were rewarded with a constant creek pouring down the rocks beside the trail. It was amazing, but very tough. I think next time, we'll head down TCC to Ben Jonson, which I remember being much more managable.

Soon, we reached the forest floor, where the creek became wider and calmer (after a final fall).

As we continued our now flat run, we began to se an increasing number of hikers, letting us know that Muir Woods wasn't far away.

Once in the Monument, there were a fair number of people walking around, admiring the towering giants. We got a few odd looks, probably because we were running in substantially fewer clothes than they were wearing (most were bundled in winter jackets). The park is paved, which made for some faster distance.

Once we made it through the park to the other side, the fun flat abruptly stopped.

More. Stairs.

The positive here was that I went on the trail on my first ever trip to Mt Tam, with some people from one of my Berkeley classes. It was fun to revisit those memories, but my legs were having substantially less fun - they were still a bit irked about those stairs in the beginning and were not amused by new sets of stairs here.

Ed ran ahead while I stopped to catch my breath (and a few photos).

Luckily, this section wasn't too long, and we soon reached a road. We figured out that we were supposed to follow it, as the real trail was clothed, and so we walked on the side of the trail up, up, and up.

(A side of the road beauty)

 In little time, we we back to Panoramic and, finally, less than a mile from the end. Just a few hundred steps between us and the car :). As soon as we reached the stairs, I "released" Ed to sprit forward, since I am unforgivibly slow going down stairs (and I had little fear of Mountain Lions at this point in the excursion).

Down, and down I went, willing myself not to trip as the continuous downward movement played tricks on my eyes. At the bottom of the first set, another runner was heading up. "See you in 3 months! 3 months from today!" I realized he was talking about the Double dipsea and wondered if Ed and I should try it!

After a long trip downward, I finally reached the park once again. But, Ed was no where to be found! I looked around and in a few minutes saw Ed heading towards me from the trail. Apparently he had gotten lost on the way down.

All in all, 9ish miles :).

The rest of the day was just as wonderful and successful as our run.

We loved our new location for the rehearsal dinner:

Had an amazing lunch at Pasta Pomodoro, and are excited to use their food for the dinner, and had a sublime experience cake tasting at Fat Angel Bakery in Fairfax.

We got to try three different cakes (2 frostings, 3 cake flavors, and 3 fillings) and decided on the unbelievable spectacular white chocolate buttercream (I still cannot believe how delicious it was) with almond flavored cake, and a filling of whipped cream/frosting, pralienes, and raspberries. I can't believe I have to wait over 3 months to take this deliciousness again.

All in all, it was a spectacular day.

I cannot wait to marry this man :).

heading home

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

This was a very successful and "fancy" Saturday night dinner for Ed and me from my Cooking Light cookbook.

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots (about 1 medium)
2 cups chopped, peeled ripe plums (no plums at the store, so we used plum jam)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon butter (we didn't use this, but didn't miss it)
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, toasted

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup parmesan
4 tablespoons cream cheese

1 lb asparagus, trimmed
olive oil cooking spray
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by preparing the polenta, a food that Ed and I had been excited to try, ever since we had amazing creamy polenta while we were in San Francisco.

The recipe I used was a combination of a few different ones I looked at. I started by boiling 4 cups of chicken broth with 1 tablespoon of butter. Then, I added the polenta, a little at a time, wisking it in as I went. It was amazing how quickly the polenta soaked up the liquid! It cooked for 25 minutes on low heat. Then, I added the parmesan and the cream cheese. I didn't really time this correctly, though, and next time won't start this until after I got the tenderloin going. 

Next, I combined the grated ginger, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 tesaspoon of pepper in a small bowl. 

Then, I rubbed in on my tenderloin, which was cut into 7 pieces (the recipe calls for 8, but one of my tenderloin's ends was pretty thin, so I went with 7)

Let the meat sit for 15 minutes. (Next time I'll do the meat step first, then prepare the polenta). 

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat (I used a smaller pan, which was fine). Add shallots; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. 

Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, plums, sugar, and ground ginger. Cook 8 minutes or until plums are tender (We skipped this step, since we started with jam instead of plums). Stir in wine and vinegar. Reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes. Add butter, stir until butter melts (again, we left this out, which was fine).

To prepare the meat, heat a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Cook pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness (I didn't put the pan heat high enough, and it took a lot longer, about 6 minutes on each side, to cook). Serve sauce over pork. Sprinkle with walnuts. 

For asparagus, I placed trimmed asparagus on a foil lined pan, and then sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and then roasted the asparagus in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Finally, I put everything together, paired it with a glass of red wine, and it was ready to enjoy :). 

Flank-Steak Fajitas with Spicy Garden Vegetables

I have been doing some running lately, though not as much as I would like! Work has been busy, and I apparently have this wedding coming up, that needs some planning :). Ed and I took his mom up to Mt. Tam last weekend for a wonderful hike, and as soon as I get photos I'll share about that. For now, I'll share what I made for dinner while she was visiting!

Flank Steak Fajitas with Spicy Garden Vegetables

1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup vertically sliced onion
1 (1 - pound) flank steak, cut into strips
Cooking Spray
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup julienne-cut yellow squash
1 cup julienne-cut zucchini
1 cup fresh corn kernals (we used frozen, which worked fine)
Corn torillas
2 cups chopped tomato (we substituted tomatillo salsa and mango peach salsa)
low-fat sour cream

To make the marinade, combine the first 9 ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare the fajitas: Combine 1/3 cup marinade, onion,

 and steak in a large zip-lock plastic bag; seal. (The 2nd time I made this, I only marinaded the meat, so that the onions could cook longer.)

Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove steak mixture from bag; discard marinade.

Place a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add the steak mixture, and stir-fry 5 minutes. Place the steak mixture in a large bowl, and keep warm.

Add bell pepper, squash, zucchini, corn,

 and remaining marinade to skillet; stir-fry 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

 Add to steak mixture; toss gently.

Warm tortillas according to package directions (we warmed them in the microwave). Arrange 1 cup of steak mixture with condiments

and roll up. Enjoy!