Edamame Hummus (aka rescuing an otherwise rotten afternoon)

Edamame Hummus

Some days wear me down more than others. On those days (like today) I try to find something to reenergize myself before others have to deal with me. On particularly tough days (like today), I turn to a never-fail combination: some of my favorite music cranked up high, a glass (or two) of good red wine, and dancing in my kitchen while I create something I crave.

I’ve intended to make tahini for a while (it’s so easy, and I’m not sure why I’ve not done it yet), and as long as my Vitamix was being used it only made sense to take care of some of the cleanup by mixing up a batch of hummus. (It makes so much more sense to make use of hard-to-scoop-out ingredients than to wash an extra container.)

For the tahini, I bought unhulled raw sesame seeds in bulk, toasted them in a skillet, put them in my Vitamix and blended on high until it was smooth (about 2 minutes). I scooped out most of it, then added the other ingredients. The wonderful thing about dips (as opposed to baked goods) is that you can adjust them however you like – add more of what tastes good, or what will make the texture more to your choosing.  I love tahini, so the recipe tastes more strongly of that than the edamame. Use less if you prefer. I also love the brightness of lemon juice (which I find tempers the other ingredients) – but you can use more or less as you like. Add extra oil (or water) if you want it less thick. Put in a touch of red pepper if you want to spice it up – the variations are quite literally endless.  That said, this is what I used for my hummus (it works well in a high powered blender, but a food processor would work well too):

  •  about 1/3 cup tahini (make your own and just leave some in your blender container, or use store-bought) – if you’re not sure, use less and add more to taste at the end
  • 2 cups cooked edamame (I buy frozen edamame which cooks up easily in a few minutes)
  • 2/3 c. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. good quality olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (granulated garlic works well too)
  • t tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

Blend until smooth, adjust to taste.

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Superstition

I try to live by this, every day.

I try to live by this, every day.

Some people consider me to be a risk-taker. My adrenaline-seeking activities through the years have included sky diving, rock climbing, and riding dirt bikes and ATV’s. I try to embrace life, in part, by confronting my fears and refusing to let them hold me back (for example, I’m afraid of heights, so it only makes sense that I’d rock climb and sky dive, right?).

An incident that has always stuck with me took place in the early 90’s in Russia. I had the opportunity to go outside on a high parapet with views of the city, but my fear of heights stopped me. I still regret missing the opportunity and determined after not to let fear stand in my way. I’m not always successful, but I do my best and have had countless unforgettable experiences as a result.

Despite this, when it comes to running I have a lot of superstitions – some may border on paranoia.  My dissertation advisor used to remind me that there’s a fine line between paranoia and good common sense.  That line is fine, indeed, and I’m not always sure which side of it I’m on.

Strength

I’ve been known to wear charms on race-day or during tough training runs; not so much for good luck, but to remind myself of what I’m made of. Sometimes it’s jewelry, sometimes it’s a mantra written on my arm; having something tangible when the run gets tough can focus me and get me through.

As I prepare for a big race things can get even more crazy … or maybe I’m just focused on being more-than-usually sensible. It can be so very hard to tell.

I’m a huge fan of kinesiology tape – I buy it in bulk rolls and tape anything that’s been troubling me before heading out for a long run, or prophylactically for trouble-spots before they start to hurt. This always seems to help, but I’m not sure how much of the improvement is real and what is just a placebo-effect. Honestly, it doesn’t matter – it helps and I’ll keep using it.

Running shoes are another issue entirely. I started running in Brooks Launch not long after they were introduced, and was devastated when they announced in 2012 that they were discontinuing the shoe. Fortunately, they listened to the outcry and re-introduced it shortly thereafter.

A sample of myy collection of Brooks Launch running shoes …

I’ve tried a couple of other shoes, but with one exception the results have been disastrous. I flirted with a more minimalist shoe and shortly thereafter tore my plantar fascia. More recently I tried another brand and strained my achilles just as my marathon training was scheduled to ramp up. I got online to order another pair of my standby Launch shoes and found them on sale – never a good sign. I looked, and sure enough they were releasing a new version – the Launch 2. I got online, chatted with a customer service agent, and got full information on the specifications. They seemed comparable, but for insurance (and assurance) I bought another pair of the original launch along with the new version. So far, they’re both doing well, though I only take out the new version on short training runs, still not fully trusting them.

My trust, it turns it out, is measured in terms of millimeters of midsole drop. Which might be paranoia. But with 50 days until my first Boston Marathon, it seems closer to good common sense.

 

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Snow Days and Hill Training

(with apologies to my Northern friends who’ve had more than their share of snow days this winter)

Snow days are something of a rarity in my adopted hometown of Atlanta. It’s not just the kids who wait for news of school closures with rapt attention whenever the forecast calls for a chance of snow or freezing precipitation. Exhausted from teaching an 8am class, and trying to squeeze in training runs after long days on my feet teaching, I’ve been perhaps a bit more anxious for a snow day than usual. So you can imagine my excitement when I received a text yesterday afternoon announcing the University was to be closed today because of the forecast for hazardous (by our delicate Georgia standards) winter weather.

I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping a bit later than usual, then having a full day free to get caught up on work, and plenty of time for my planned 8-mile training run. When I got up I was amused by the day’s forecast: temps above freezing, with nothing but rain (and even that not starting sometime after 2 or 3pm). I texted pictures of clear, dry streets to my Northern friends, then after putting in a good morning of work went out for a run.

About two miles in I felt something stinging my face: I was being pelted by sleet. Obviously this was payback for poking fun at those who were predicting another fierce southern snow and ice storm, but I couldn’t care less. I was dressed for the conditions, and getting to run in any kind of wintery mix is rare treat to be treasured. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh and happily great everyone I passed on the running trail.

Adding to my fun, this morning I was finally given permission to add hills – real hills – to my training (at least with the condition that I keep it slow at first). There’s a hill – not a long hill, but steeper than I’ve been allowed to tackle – that has stood between me and one of Atlanta’s Living Walls that I’ve been wanting to photograph. Within an hour of receiving permission I was standing in front of it, in the sleet, taking my long-awaited photo (below).

It feels so good to be back in action.

Living Wall

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A Recovery, Photographed

One of the things I enjoy most about running is exploring new places, or seeing something new somewhere I’ve been dozens or even hundreds of times. I can run past the same stretch of road every week, but at a different time of day or as the seasons change, there is always something new to see. At least I’ve always thought that was true.

This conviction (as well as my long-standing determination to focus on the positive, even during tough times)  was put to the test over the past few months when I was restricted to running pretty much the same (short) route while allowing my thoroughly pissed-off achilles to settle down and forgive me. This effort proved to be just what I needed as I put in run after run over the same terrain (with just a couple of breaks for travel).

What follows is a journal of hurt and recovery, tracked through the photos I took on my runs. With the exception of two trips out of town, all of the photos were taken on the same two miles or so of paths and trails around the park near my home.

A reminder to myself to be patient and thankful.

Keeping focused on the long-game: A reminder to myself to be patient and thankful.

Loops around the lake on a gray winter morning

Loops around the lake on a gray winter morning

I'm always drawn to the water - the harbor front seemed like the safest running route on a trip to Baltimore.

I’m always drawn to the water – the harbor front seemed like the safest running route on a trip to Baltimore.

I'd hoped to track down several murals during my Baltimore runs, but was happy to stumble across this during a run along the Baltimore waterfront.

I’d hoped to track down several murals during my Baltimore runs, but was happy to stumble across this during a run along the Baltimore waterfront.

Honoring the winter solstice and longer, better days to come with a run around the Active Oval at Piedmont Park

Honoring the winter solstice and longer, better days to come with a run around the Active Oval at Piedmont Park

Christmas Eve run between rainstorms

Christmas Eve run between rainstorms

Home for Christmas - I put in all of my runs on the local high school track.

Home for Christmas – I put in all of my runs on the local high school track

My father … patiently waiting as I ran 7 miles on the track. It brought a smile to my face on every lap as I saw his car.

My father … patiently waiting as I ran 7 miles on the track. It brought a smile to my face on every lap as I saw his car.

I love running through this old graveyard when I'm home - this year I could only admire it from the track, but it was still a good view.

I love running through this old graveyard when I’m home – this year I could only admire it from the track, but it was still a good view.

Rainy Trail

Back in Atlanta after the holidays, a soft muddy path through the park after a winter rain

Still enjoying the skyline will (quite literally) running in circles around the park.

Still enjoying the skyline will (quite literally) running in circles around the park.

Park Gate

A milestone: shedding layers on the Active Oval in sub-freezing temps while doing m first speed work in months.

A milestone: shedding layers on the Active Oval in sub-freezing temps while doing m first speed work in months.

Sunny afternoon loops around the lake

Sunny afternoon loops around the lake

Back on the Active Oval as the fog descends on a mid-January afternoon

Back on the Active Oval as the fog descends on a mid-January afternoon

Sunset on the Active Oval

Sunset on the Active Oval

More cold and rain, but happy for speed-work on the active oval to warm me up.

More cold and rain, but happy for speed-work on the active oval to warm me up.

Sunny Sunday afternoon Warm January Days

Finally, after two months, a pain-free sunset run around the lake.

Finally, after two months, a pain-free sunset run around the lake.

Another reminder as I hit the water for a pool-run

Another reminder as I hit the water for a pool-run

Finally my patience is rewarded … I'm set free of the Park and allowed to run on Atlanta's Beltline Trail.

Finally my patience is rewarded … I’m set free of the Park and allowed to run on Atlanta’s Beltline Trail.

And two weeks later, I'm given a little more freedom, and permission to do a long run on the Silver Comet Trail.

And two weeks later, I’m given a little more freedom, and permission to do a long run on the Silver Comet Trail.

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Turning a Corner (AKA rediscovering my AWOL groove)

Tomorrow I get to run 12 miles. When I think about it I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. I know I need to get to bed early and rest up – but it’s hard, because I get to run 12 miles tomorrow!

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this kind of excitement toward running. 2014 was a tough year by any standard I set for myself. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a lot of good in the year: I had a lot of fun: travel – on my own and with friends, two Ragnar Trail Relays (Atlanta and McDowell Mountain), three Ragnar Road Relays (Del Sol, Cape Cod and Adirondacks), supporting friends as they worked toward new goals, and lots of live music, great food and nights out with friends. But throughout it all I was struggling to find my footing at work, at home, and on my runs. I over-committed and under-trained, and the results reflected that.

I got my motivation back late last year (a Boston marathon acceptance notification went a long way toward helping with that), but then an injury and two months of hard, often painful runs. My mental countdown to Boston turned from months into weeks, but even as the pain began to subside, my doubts grew – was it too late to get in the training I need – not just to perform well, but to cross the finish line?

Finally – just in time – it’s all coming together. I feel healthy and strong. With the help of a great coach, we have a training plan that I’m confident will get me there.  And I’m having fun. I’ve missed pushing myself and exploring what my body can do. I’ve missed those days when I’m not sure at the start if I have enough in my tank to hit my targets, and then discover reserves of discipline and energy that are just what I need,  just when I need it.

Most of all, I’ve missed the self-confidence that comes with setting a goal, and putting in the hard work to achieve it. Tomorrow it’s 12 miles, next week it’s 14. And in 9 weeks (plus a couple of wake ups) it’s Boston. Really, how am I supposed to get to sleep with that to look forward to?

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Simple Pleasures

A glimmer of a beautiful sunset at Piedmont Park

A glimmer of a beautiful sunset at Piedmont Park

A pain-free run after a long day at work; speed-play with a few fast intervals – just enough to find that sharp edge between discomfort and pleasure; warm weather with a bit of breeze to dry my sweat; plentiful people-watching; a lone fisherman watched over by several geese; the start of a beautiful sunset.

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Pumpkin Nut Berry Smoothie (aka Sloth is the Mother of Invention)

I started adding nut-butter to my smoothies out of sheer laziness. The hardest part about making my own nut-butter is scraping it all out of the blender, then cleaning it up afterward. Fortunately, it occurred to me that I could simplify matters by just scraping out most of it – leaving the hard to reach tablespoons at the bottom of the blender container, then making a smoothie in the same container.

I always start with milk (and/or yogurt) and some greens and blend that up well. That’s enough to loosen the nut-butter from the blades and start to work any leftovers off the side of the container. Add a few more ingredients, and I have a tasty smoothie and an easy-to-clean blender.

When I made a batch of mixed nut and seed butter yesterday, I used the remnants as the basis of a pumpkin-berry smoothie. The nut butter went really well with pumpkin, and I was surprised by how well the berries complemented the other flavors.

If you don’t make nut butter first (sun butter or any nut butter of your choice would work well), then just add two or three tablespoons in the first step of the recipe. I used the wet container of my vitamix, but any high-power blender will work well. I also used frozen berries (mostly blueberries, with a few raspberries and blackberries). If you use fresh berries, you’ll probably need to add several ice cubes to chill and thicken the smoothie.

Place in the wet container of your vitamix (or your blender container):

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1.5 cups milk (I used cow’s milk, but any unsweetened milk will be fine)
  • 1/2 cup (uncooked) oatmeal (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup kale or other leafy greens, tightly packed

Blend until everything is liquified – about 30-60 seconds. Then add:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups berries of your choice
  • ice (if you don’t use frozen berries and banana)

Blend until smooth. Makes about two 16-ounce servings.

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