General

Barcelona’s La Boqueria

Istanbul & Tehran have their Grand Bazaars, Jerusalem has the Shuk, and Barcelona has la Boqueria.IMG_1947-0

It is a feast for the eyes!

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I couldn’t believe all the varieties of mushrooms.

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Or salt

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You could easily tell it was Halloween when we were there. If the chocoalte and painted pumkins didn’t give it away,

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the vendors in witches hats, definitely did!

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Not only were the chocolate covered fruits beautiful, they were delicious!

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I sure do wish we had one of these in Delaware.

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Liebster Award

LIEBSTER AWARD–THANK YOU!!

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I’m very excited to receive this honor. I want to thank Tyler at ./KitchenLab! for the nomination!  Tyler has a really neat blog about fermenting and other forms of food preservation.  I will definitely be spending more time on his blog as my courage to try fermenting grows!  And his photos are beautiful!

The Leibster Award is given to bloggers by bloggers so here are some rules:

  1. Thank the nominating blogger
  2. Nominate blogs that are new and/or have small followings. (I have no idea how to tell if they have a small following so I will nominate blogs I like)
  3. Answer questions from the nominating blogger
  4. Tell your readers random facts about yourself
  5. Give your nominees questions to answer

And here they are–my nominations:

  • Lee and Jane @ The Beach House Kitchen.  I really enjoy their refreshing take and interesting healthy vegan dishes.  They are inspired and inspiring.
  • Barbara and Jack @ Cutter Light.  I love this blog, following Barbara and Jack on their adventures and recipes. I will not tell you more because you need to go check them out, it’s a treat!
  • Eddie @ Eddie Two Hawks.  An inspiring blog filled with beautiful photos and spiritual quotations. I look forward to Eddie’s posts more than any other. The quotes make me think, the pictures make me smile.

There are many other great blogs I follow, I apologize if I failed to recognize all of them. I appreciate the work everyone puts into their blogs and the inspiration they bring me.

Random Facts about me:

  • I am a Jewish girl form Long Island who studied agriculture at an ivy leagues university
  • When I was a child I loved the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” and now I have a yours, mine and ours family!
  • I love working in my garden, but have skin allergies whenever I come in contact with the plants
  • I love learning languages, learning to read them is easy, listening and speaking is much more difficult
  • I love chocolate milk after a long run

My Answers to Tyler’s Questions:

  1. What was your biggest recipe fiasco?
    1. Eggplant meatballs – it was probably 15 years ago, but my daughters still won’t let me live it down.  They were awful.
  2. What is your favorite holiday?
    1. It is a toss-up between Hanukah and Halloween, I love them both!  I love decorating my house and my kids for halloween and I love the meaning and traditions behind Hanukah.  The beauty and simplicity of the candles is very special.
  3. Is your favorite recipe your own, something passed down in your family, or someone else’s?
    1. It is my Uncle Jack’s Mandel Bread.  I so looked forward to when he would visit and bring it with him when I was a kid.  Now, it is a regularly requested gift by my friends and family.
  4. What is your favorite dessert?
    1. I am not a big dessert person, but I have been known to really enjoy swirling Nutella into some good ice cream.
  5. If you could uproot yourself with no obstacles where would you go?
    1. Iceland or Slovenia

My Questions:

  1. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
  2. What do you consider to be your best recipe?
  3. If you could only have 5 spices, what would they be?
  4. What traditions have you created in your life?
  5. Why do you blog? (We are all glad you do@)

Thanks again to Tyler for nominating my blog.  As for my nominations: I can’t wait to read your answers!

– Andrea

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Weekend in Sonoma

Sonoma County, California… wine…food…sunshine…and good company.  A perfect place to spend a long weekend.

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The grape vines were heavily laden with beautiful ripening grapes.  The setting was perfect for some wine tasting.  My friend, Debby, joined us as we headed off to Iron Horse Vineyards to taste their Russian Cuvee – which was served at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit and at the White House since.  As it goes with most wine tastings, different people liked different wines, and we laughed our way through our taste disagreements both here and at Russian River Vineyards. But, yes, we did all like the Russian Cuvee – probably the only one we all agreed on – no wonder it ended the Cold War.

20140727-112138-40898904.jpgThe afternoon of tastings was followed by a delicious dinner of locally grown and produced foods at Backyard in Forestville. Below was our pickle board appetizer with house fermented kimchi, preserved mustard seeds, pickled garlic (hey, I make that too!), pickled broccoli stems and more. The food was excellent!

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While my husband was busy, I spent my alone-time at the Sebastopol Farmers Market.  What a selection of organic produce! I was quite content among the tomatoes, pluots, dates, almonds, olives and more!

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After I met back  up with my husband, we took our pluots and headed to the ocean for an afternoon of walking along the shore, watching the waves.

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As we drove to our dinner destination, we stopped for a snack among the redwoods…

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And, lastly, made it to our destination – dinner at a colleague’s parents vineyard and olive groves – Old Chatham Ranch in Mendocino County.

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The family made some beautiful wines – the best we had tasted yet.  But, alas, they only make wines for their own enjoyment.  But what they specialize in is super high quality extra virgin olive oil.  So, as you can imagine, dinner was a wonderful experience, as much for the company of this warm family as for the sumptuous food and drink.

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So, with that, we watched the sun set at the ranch and our weekend in Sonoma ended.

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We brought the wine home with us.  I am anxiously awaiting my shipment of olive oil.  This is not oil I will use for cooking, it is for dipping, special salad dressings, and as a finishing oil.  I can’t wait, and I will fill you in on what I do with it. Tomatoes with a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing, or perhaps with truffle balsamic vinegar, or just making a good rustic bread and simply dipping it in the oil  – oh I can’t wait!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So many ingredients, which to use first?

While visiting my daughter, who has been doing graduate studies in ecology in the Negev Desert, we traveled around the country visiting other family members in the north and generally exploring. After 7 months of Arielle being away, it was great to have my oldest and youngest children together again.

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We hiked in the desert, explored a cave, played in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and generally saw the sights…

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An early morning hike in the Negev with Arielle’s friends

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Incredibly clear water in Eilat

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Digging colored sands in the Ramon Crater

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The Bahai Temple in Haifa

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Beach in Netanya

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Stalactite Cave

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Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

So, when you are traveling around a country, where do you go when you have a few extra hours and are in love with local foods?… the local markets, or shouks as they are called in Israel.

First there was the shouk in the Old City in Jerusalem…with its wonderful displays of za’atar and other spices.

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Then Mehane Yehuda, also in Jerusalem…with more varieties of halvah and tahini than one could imagine

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Not to mention its varieties of dates and other dried fruits…

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Then, with a few hours to spare before our plane, we stopped at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv…

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The result of visiting the markets and even a supermarket or two …suitcases filled with foods and ingredients to use at home…

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Dates, figs, almonds, almond-cranberry mix, spices to add to rice and a flavorful topping for salads and other dishes

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Dark chocolate hazelnut spread, milk chocolate and plain hazelnut spread, more dates, more spices – including za’atar, and a date spread.

Where do I start?  Breakfast!

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Amsterdam Half Marathon

The day finally came: 7 months in planning, 6 months and another half marathon in training, the decision to do the half instead of the full, a plane trip, a visit to the 1928 Olympic stadium, a day to adjust to the time, and here it was…the Amsterdam Half Marathon!

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The weather forecast was for perfect running weather…for the marathoners who left at 9:30am.  See those blue skies as they were coming into the stadium to finish?

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Our start time – 1:30pm.  The weather forecast…rain starting midway into the run with thunderstorms near the end.  But it was also going to be warm, in the mid 60’sF (15-17C). All my plans for clothing for after the race changed.  Thank goodness my nephew was there as support and could carry a bag of dry clothes stuffed into a trash bag to keep them warm.  But no post-race Birkenstocks and compression socks, water sandals would have to do.

We got into the starting corral and the skies were grey.  But I was very happy, Amsterdam is a beautiful city and the Dutch are so well organized, this was going to be great.

Surprisingly, we got off a few minutes late (perhaps the Dutch were not so efficient after all?).  I felt great, but was running fast, too fast, a 28 minute 5K.  I needed to slow it down.  By 10K I was on a better pace, still faster than I had planned, though.

Then the water/energy drink/banana/sponge stations started, they were great!  I never felt so comfortably fueled up.  I also had my almond-date chews that I made and brought with me.  Those are still my best mid run munchies.

We ran a good bit in the new sections of town before turning to stay in the old city.  We ran past homes where people had set up their own water stations for us.  This was when I remembered an article I read in Runners World about how it makes a water volunteer’s day if you ask them to throw the cup of water at you.  So, I did this just to see what would happen.  She grinned ear to ear and jumped up and down in excitement.  I guess I made her day!  Try  it next time.

I was still having fun.  I was enjoying all the little kids who eagerly handed out water or wanted hand slaps.  But then came the 15km section and the mood swings started.  I hated running, I didn’t know why I was doing this, the good feeling at the end would not be worth how not-fun this was.  The rain hadn’t come yet, I was actually hot.  I slowed way down.  I was really getting bummed.

Two things kept me going forward, well three, no, four:  1 – it really was beautiful; 2 – they had our names on our bibs, so people started cheering me on by name – absolute strangers would say “Go, Andrea, you can do it!” – that really was wonderful, and energizing; 3 -Mahmood was there waiting for me, I couldn’t let him down; and 4 – I really wanted to finish in the Olympic stadium.

I passed the 18K marker and there were only 3K left to go.  3K, that’s less than 2 miles; I could do that any day.  Suddenly my speed picked back up and I was enjoying myself again.  We ran through a beautiful park…Note the sponge helping to keep me cool…

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Then it was just a short 1K to the stadium and the sprint to the finish. It may sound corny, but it really was amazingly cool to run in under those rings and finish the run with a loop on an Olympic track.

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My goal was 2:12.  My time was 2:12:53…I did it!

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They met us with medals and a plastic blanket…and an unbelievable traffic jam of runners trying to exit the stadium (I guess Dutch efficiency only apples to trains and trams). It took 2 hours to run 21K, but another 1/2 hour to get outside the stadium to where the energy drinks, water and bananas were waiting.  No chocolate milk (that made me a little sad, but you can’t have everything)

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The rain never came, no thunderstorms.  But that night, I was highly doubtful I would do another half marathon.  A 15K, maybe, since I committed to a friend that I would run it with her, but why on earth would I ever run another 21.1K (13.1miles)?!  I need to take a break from running.

The next day, my legs did not want to straighten out, my hamstrings were so tight.  But I did a lot of waking and eventually they loosened up.  By that night I was planning a run for the next morning.

Hold on, I was what?!  Yes, I was planning to go for a run through town to explore the Jewish Quarter and loosen up my legs.  And I was looking forward to it – that is the crazy part.  It would be a slow run, but it would be a normal half hour run. I made a few unplanned turns down interesting streets, got my self good and lost, asked directions, and kept on running.  I must have really lost my mind, because not only did I do it, I really enjoyed it.  But then again, how could you not enjoy running when this is what you see?

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I will be taking a break from running training for a couple of months.  For now, I need to focus on my core and upper body.  It is time to get in shape for cross-country skiing… just in case we get some snow.

Then, who knows, there are some interesting looking races next year…

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Preparing for Amsterdam

My half marathon in Amsterdam is less than 2 weeks away and, unlike my trepidation before the Chicago run in July, I am feeling very ready for this run.

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For this training, I didn’t just focus on building my mileage, I included at least one speed-work workout each week and interspersed 5K races periodically.  The training has worked, my speed has improved,

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and in the last few weeks I have set new personal records in the 10K and 5K.  Both of these were set during training runs when I wasn’t even trying to go fast; I was focused on relaxing and the speed just came.

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But the big test came with my 18.1 K run (11.25 miles).  In July I bonked during my 11 mile run and walked about 3 miles of it.  I decided to run a slightly longer version of the same route so that I would have to face my demons.  I was hoping for a cool October day, but we are in the middle of a heat spell and it was 68F and humid before the sun came up – Demon #1.  So, I got myself out the door at first light.  My run started off slow; I reminded myself that that was a good thing, so I went with it.   The other demons popped up their heads at each point where I had trouble the last time, I argued them back and kept going. I hit the road that defeated me last time and heard the demons telling me  I would fail.  I told them that I felt strong and added a loop through a neighborhood along the road for good measure – Demon destroyed! I ended up speeding up throughout the run and had my fasted kilometer at 15K.I did it, I did it in 1:52; so I am ready.  Amsterdam, here I come!!!

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How to Roast and Freeze Poblano Peppers

This was the first year I grew poblano peppers. I don’t know whether it was the cool, wet summer, or whether this was typical, but the plant took a long time to start bearing fruit. Starting in September, however, I got a steady flow of nice-looking poblano peppers.

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A steady-enough flow that I couldn’t keep up using them all. So, I decided to roast a bunch of them, use what I needed and freeze the rest. I needed 2 roasted poblanos for dinner – 1 for the guacamole and 1 for the quesadillas.  So there were several left for me to freeze for use later.

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How to Roast Poblano Peppers

Step 1 – Char the peppers.

There are several approaches.  You can hold the peppers over the flame from the stove, use an outdoor grill or, as I did this time, use the oven.  To char the peppers in the oven, turn on the broiler.  Place the peppers on a rimmed baling sheet and place on one of the upper racks in the oven.  Char the peppers on all sides.  This takes between 5 and 10 minutes per side.  You are better off over-charring them than under.  A pepper that still has green on it is difficult to peel.

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Step 2 – Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  

You can also place them in a sealed paper bag.  Let them sit like this until cool enough to handle, 10 minutes or more.

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Step 3 – Peel the charred skin off the peppers, remove stems and seeds.

Note – if you are using the peppers whole, do this very carefully.

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How to Freeze Poblano Peppers

Step 1 – Slice the roasted peppers into strips.

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Step 2 – Place in an airtight container in single layers with plastic wrap between the layers.  

The single layers makes it easy to access the amount needed for each dish.

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Step 3 – Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

Seal out the air as best as possible.

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Enjoy!

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I tried, the ingredients were beautiful, but I failed

I had beautiful ingredients:  Swiss chard, garlic and jalapeno from my garden, tomatillos and yukon gold potatoes from Farmer Kim, and corn from Highland Orchards.20130901-094108.jpg

 

I wanted to make a vegetarian enchilada with salsa verde.

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It looked good, tasted OK, but something was off.  When we added pico de gallo, things improved. The filling for the enchilada was very good, and the salsa verde (tomatillo salsa) was good – they just were not enough together.I think it needed a red sauce (salsa roja).

Here is what I did for the filling:

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook 2 ears of corn for 4 minutes.  Plunge into an ice bath.  Cut the kernals off the cob and set aside

Meanwhile, with about 1/2 pound of swiss chard, chop the leaves and coarsely slice the stems.

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Chop 6 oz of yukon gold potatoes into 1/2-inch dice.  Cook in 2 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil until lightly browned and tender, about 8 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoonto a paper towel to drain.

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Mince 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 a small onion.  Cook the garlic and onion about 2 minutes.  Add the swiss chard stems and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.

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Add the leaves, cover and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes more.20130901-094133.jpg

 

Pour the swiss chard mixture into a colander to drain off any excess liquid.  Mix in the corn, potatoes and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar.

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This will make about 10 enchiladas.  You can fry the corn tortillas in oil for about 30 seconds if they need to be softened.  Fill each tortilla with 2 heaping Tbsp of filling.

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Roll and place in a 9×13 baking dish.  They will eventually be baked for 20 minutes at 350.  But here is where I think the red sauce is needed, both under and on top.  Perhaps a mix of salsa verde and salsa roja.

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For the tomatillo salsa, I used a version from Daisy Martinez.  Click on the link for the recipe.  It was quite simple, first you put the ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth.

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Transfer to a small sauce pan,

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and cook over medium heat until it cooks down to relish consistency.  Then season with salt and pepper.

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If you try a different version of this recipe, let me know how it goes!

 

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The Green Bean Revolution

Ok, so my green beans (or purple beans, to more accurately describe my Trionfo Violetto) have gotten the best of me. Even with giving away harvest after harvest, I STILL have more than I can use!

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I have tried blanching the beans and freezing them in the past, but I don’t like what that does to the texture and flavor. I have pickled them, that’s ok. But I would love to have them available to use in fall and winter recipes.

So, I searched the web. I found this post by anoregoncottage.com on how to freeze green beans without blanching. She, and others who commented on her post, found that this method helped with both the texture and flavor of the beans. So it is worth a try.

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Three quarts of green beans are now in my freezer, and I will add more as the season progresses. If it works well, expect a detailed post next year.

For now, eat what you grow, and enjoy!

A Farewell to Arielle, for now

Arielle left a few days ago to begin her graduate studies in ecology in Israel.  Although I am excited for her as she begins this new adventure, it has been so very nice to have her home for the past 8 months; I will miss her terribly.  With Arielle home, we never knew what would show up at the house; she brought home everything from unknown creatures she found squirming in the dirt at Farmer Kim’s to an injured sea gull.  Cam enjoyed learning about and watching each of Arielle’s “babies.”  In honor of her leaving, here are some pictures of the latest visitors…

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Samwise the Carolina sphinx moth

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Samwise refusing to leave Arielle

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Tiger Swallowtail before release

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Kaiser the injured Seagull

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Rock n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

I have always hated running. I hated it as a kid; I would get side stitches and I was slow.  I hated it as a teen; I would get side stitches and I was slow.  I hated it as an adult; no side stitches, but my knee injuries always flared up and I would get shin splints, but I wasn’t that slow any more.

Then I had a friend tell me she was training for a half marathon.  I told her she was crazy, that I hated running.  She suggested I try this Zero to 5K app she used.  It looked like a game, so I decided I would give it a try.  And, probably most importantly, I would do it in my barefoot shoes.  8 weeks later I could run 5K, no knee problems, no shin splints, and…I was running at a decent pace.  I still didn’t “enjoy” running, but it was an efficient way to get exercise when I was time crunched.

Then came my 49th birthday and the decision to start training for a marathon for my 50th birthday.  I wasn’t convinced I would actually do it, but I would start out and see how far my body took me.  I am registered for the Amsterdam Marathon in October.  Thus, the half marathon in Chicago in the height of the summer.  The race fell exactly when that would be the length of my long run for the week.  What made it even better was hat my nephew Matt, who lives in Chicago, would run it with me.

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Matt and me chilling out before the race…note the coordinated visors 🙂

I was nervous in the days before the race, it was the end of a ridiculously hot and humid week, my 11 mile run had not gone well, and I had never run with 20,000 people before.

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The view my iphone had from my arm at the start of the race

Race day came, we left the house at 4:15am so we would have plenty of time to relax before the 6:30am start time.  It was fun having Matt there with me before the race.  We started separately, he a few corrals ahead of me, and did not see each other again for a few hours.  Running, for each of us, is a solo activity, we did not want to feel we had to match strides or paces.

The race started off great, there was little humidity, but it was warmer than we had expected it to be.  I was really relaxed and surprisingly enjoyed the first 7 miles.  After mile 3 though, we were in the sun, which reflected off all the pavement and buildings…it was hot!  But they had water stations and ice and people were out spraying us with hoses, so all was good. We even had shade from mile 6 to almost mile 8. And I was really enjoying the crowds cheering – what a difference from my solo runs along the farms at home.

After mile 8, we were back in the sun, the road narrowed and became more crowded.  My mood started to darken (as I learned later, so did just about everyone’s around me).  My arm started to chafe – not fun, but I found a medical tent and put on vaseline, so that problem was solved and my mood picked back up for about a quarter mile.  By mile 9 the negotiations started in my head…”if I walked from here, how long would it take?” “How many cycles of my run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute will it take?”  “What if I walk through some cycles?”  I kept running and re-calculating after each cycle and each mile.  The good part was, I never told myself that I couldn’t do it, it was just an issue of whether I wanted to or not.  My body felt fine, I was just really hot.  So I kept running, kept stuffing ice into my bra (a definite benefit to being a woman) and took advantage of every hose, telling each person with one that I loved them.  I also consciously drew energy from the cheerers, if they wanted to slap my hand, then I would slap their hand.  I was actually having fun.  I was miserable, but I was having fun!  What an odd combination of feelings.  Around mile 10 though, I decided that I really did not need to do twice this distance, that I did not have anything to prove.  A half marathon is long enough.

So, I kept running. At mile 11 I was really pleased with myself and decided to let myself walk between 11.5 and the 12 mile marker to cool my body temperature down a bit, then I would run the last mile.  I felt I earned the little break that would give me. It worked, not only did I run til the end, I even gave it all I had and pushed for the last 1/4 mile.  I made it, and I made it really running at the end!

No knee pain, no shin splints.  Was I fast, no, but I was not slow either – I ran a 2:24:32, respectable time for a first half marathon at 49, especially on a hot, sunny day.

They handed me all kinds of food and drink after I crossed the line, but all I wanted, and it made me very happy indeed, was the chocolate milk.  The best thing ever created for after a run.  I found my nephew while we were both still experiencing our runners highs, we were loopy, but we were happy.

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Still smiling after the race!

I never imagined that I would run 13.1 miles, never.  But I did. And will do it again, probably more than once.  I will run the half marathon in Amsterdam, but October seems far away.  Maybe there is another one locally before then? I think I am crazy, I still don’t “like” running, but I love how it feels when I am done!

 

 

 

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