Athens Marathon Training: Settling Into Something

21 Aug

I’ve written several times about how I like to use words or phrases during runs or races to keep me focused and my mind from going into the deep, dark place a 3-hour run in 95% humidity can suck you into. This week was all about one of my favorite phrases: “settle into something.”

Mostly, I use this little phrase to help pace myself. During track workouts, I have the bad habit of sprinting the first two repeats and then struggling to finish the subsequent 4-6. So, I usually spend the first half of the workout encourage myself to “settle into something you can hold on to.” During long runs, I’m usually saying something to the tune of “settle into something you can run at for 3 hours.” And when it’s just a regular old run, the loop I like to repeat in myhead, “settle into something that feels good.” (And if you’re wondering why I talk to myself in the third person, read this interesting article about the maximizing the benefits of carrying on whole conversations with yourself.)

This week was all about settling into things– it was a dial-back week, so I didn’t have to focus on running longer, faster, or farther than the week before. I just had to settle into something and get it done. Maintenance phases of anything can be difficult for me, as I’m Type A enough to prefer increasing intensity… but not every week is for building, so I just kept focused on “settling in,” and tried to avoid making eye contact with the concerned passersby who heard me talking to myself.

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Athens Marathon Training Week 4: Settling into Something

Monday: I ended up doing my long run on Sunday last week, so Monday was a mostly rest day. I did a little bit of cross training– tennis lessons! I had a blast, but let’s just say I don’t think I will “settle into being Serena” anytime soon.

Tuesday: Solidcore Arms & Abs with James. Settle into suffering.

Wednesday: 70 minute run post-work — after several cooler days, the heat surprised me and slapped me upside the head. I am pretty sure I could wring out my body weight in sweat from my clothes by the time this run was over.

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Thursday: Track day! I was not really feeling like getting out of bed and flinging myself around an oval, but I put on my favorite “get it done” shirt and got it done.  I had 6×800 on the schedule, with a goal of 3:45 per repeat. I ended up with 3:41/3:39/3:38/3:42/3:41/3:45. After the 2nd and 3rd 800s got away from me, I really tried to slow down and hit the pace on the head, which you can see took me a few more repeats.

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I did some yoga Thursday night to try and keep these calves of mine loose, as well.

Friday: 30 minute run at lunch — this was an exercise in settling into soupiness. Blech.

Saturday: Finally–finally!– made it to my running group in time for the pre-run picture. I had 90 minutes scheduled, but I got my math all messed up and ended up running for just under two hours. Whoopsies. Luckily, I had great company for most of the route– thank you, Liz!

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Weeks to Race Day: 12
Total Miles This Week: 25.7
Gains: finally back to getting in all my workouts
Losses: my taste bud’s innocence– Liz and I tried the margarita-flavored Cliff block, and I would NOT recommend it.

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Almond Lemon Poppy Seed Teacake

16 Aug

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed my first trip to San Francisco. Since my factory settings default to somewhere between “contrarian” and “hater,” I fully expected to return with the report that the Bay Area does NOT live up to the hype. Wrrrrroooooonnnnnngggg. I had a really wonderful weekend there and can definitely see why it gets the rep it does. Some quick highlights:

ThisIs YourLifeNowKef came to hang, and we walked 12 miles and ate tacos– talk about the perfect way to catch up.

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IMG_8142Everyone in SF kept talking about the “heat wave,” while I was thanking our sweet lord baby Jesus for the zero-humidity, perfect running weather. I headed out for my 16-mile run to the Golden Gate Bridge and was reminded, once again, that I would never make it as a teenager these days because I cannot be bothered to be good at selfies.IMG_8149

I stumbled upon Souvla, which serves the definition of a Greek-American dessert: SOFT SERVE NOTHING-ADDED FROZEN FAGE (FRO-YAY?). I cannot believe I did not die of happiness on the spot. FullSizeRender (36)

When I told people I was going to SF, the #1 recommendation was a trip to Tartine. Pretty much everyone who spends their time making listicles about food agrees that this bakery puts out the best bread in America, so when ThisIsYourLifeNowKef and I happened to stumble upon it, we took it as our duty to check it out.

Today’s recipe comes to us from the bakery’s first cookbook, Tartine. This recipe was published in the LA Times, and there appears to be an entire corner of the internet devoted to this sweet and crunchy tea cake. I made this twice in the first week of being home, and both times I received several text messages within minutes of dropping it off that said something to the tune of “OMG THIS IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH.” The good people of Tartine are real culinary chemists– what this loaf lacks in flour (only 3/4c in the whole thing!) is made up for by almond paste, which must be the magic ingredient for both texture and taste.

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Since no one has proclaimed my kitchen to put out the best anything in America, I will reproduce their recipe verbatim below–there’s no room for my two cents in this masterpiece of a recipe!

Almond Lemon Poppy Teacake from Tartine

Ingredients

  • 1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus some for preparing the pan)
  • 3/4 c pastry or cake flour, sifted (plus some for preparing the pan)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c almond paste, at room temperature (I used one 7 oz tube)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 TBS poppy seeds
  • 3 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 TBS orange juice
  • 3/4 c sugar

Assembly

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, knocking out the excess flour.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt twice. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together just to combine.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until it breaks up. This can take up to a minute, depending on how soft and warm it is. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated. If you add the sugar too quickly, the paste won’t break up as well.

4. Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Continue on low speed while adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs in a very slow, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer again to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds more.

5. Add the citrus zests and poppy seeds and mix in with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture in two batches, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time, then spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.

6. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 7 minutes while you make the glaze.

7. To make the glaze, stir together the lemon and orange juices and the sugar in a small bowl. Place the wire rack holding the cake over a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil to catch any drips of glaze, and gently invert the cake onto the rack. If the cake does not want to release, run the tip of a small knife around the edge to loosen it. Brush the entire warm cake with the glaze, then let the cake cool completely on the rack. The cake breaks apart easily when warm, so don’t attempt to move it.

8. When the cake is cool, transfer it to a serving plate, using two crisscrossed icing spatulas or the base of a two-part tart pan to lift it. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well-wrapped, for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Athens Marathon Training: Calves, Coughs, and Complaints

14 Aug

For those of who could care less about running, there’s good news: I actually have some recipes to share later this week! Operation: Free Woman has me whipping up all kinds of good stuff.

For those of you who do like the running rundowns, we’ve got a whiny one today. I did something to my calves last week — not really sure what — and it took me most of the week to see even a little improvement. Just as they started to loosen up, the tickle in my throat went from a “little summer cold” to “does she have pertussis?” So, it was a week of winning some and losing some.

Athens Marathon Training Week 4: Calves, Coughs, and Complaints

Monday: Yoga @ Yoga Heights. My calves were so sore that most of my downdogs looked like this:

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Tuesday: Solidcore Arms & Abs followed by a 30 minute run. Calves still tight, had to hobble up the Harvard hill to get home. Not cute.

Wednesday: Had the wonderful treat of being able to catch a yoga class during lunch, and my calves were feeling a teensy bit better. Went for a 60ish minute run after work, and it turns out that whatever marginal improvement I felt in my legs would be overshadowed by the summer cold I had been harboring and was now ready to come tumbling out– I met my friends for dinner right after running and was in such a coughing fit I couldn’t eat and breathe at the same time. Still not cute.

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Thursday: MORE.DAMN.YOGA.  Listen, I like yoga as much as the next person who would rather be running than doing pretty much anything else, but by this point of the week, my calves were still killing me and the cough was getting worse. I walked out of this class like this:

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Friday: I intended to do my speed workout during lunch, but about half way through the second 1000, I realized that my HR had been in zone 5 since my warmup… turns out, when walking up the stairs makes you hack up a lung, pretty much everything becomes an anaerobic workout. I turned this run into a shake out run, and then just stretched the hell out of my calves.

Saturday: Woke up feeling like death warmed over. Slept in, then took a nap, then went to see BabyKef (who is about to have an ACTUAL baby!!!!!), and then went back to bed.

Sunday: Souped up on some Dayquil, I braved the world to meet Deb for a run. About 2 miles in, I was trying to figure out how to delicately tell a woman who had just driven from a different state just to do a long run with me that I was going to have to turn around and go home. But, then we met up and got to running and I realized I was actually feeling better than I had all week. My calves were loose and my lungs were holding up, and Deb was the hero of the day– she kept on running with me, even when I kept asking to take the long way around. We did a wonderful loop from the mall, past the Capitol, across the river and past the Big Chair, and then back to West Potomac Park. I was still feeling great once I dropped her at her car, so I tacked on another 2 miles and, wouldn’t you know it, I was at 18 miles! Another personal distance and time record.

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Weeks to Race Day: 13
Total Miles This Week: 32
Gains: another distance milestone, appreciation for good health
Losses: another missed speed workout, no spinning, and minimal strength training this week. Womp womppp.

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Athens Marathon Training: Reclaiming My Time

7 Aug

If are you reading this, you probably have already heard that I am officially Chef Kefi, CPNP. I passed my certifying exam this week and am now a real, live Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.  As such, I spent my week interpreting the meme-inspiring words of Auntie Maxine herself and was reclaiming my time left and right.

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The good news is that I had a really fun week… but the bad news is that I missed a lot of running time. I almost never deviate from my training plans so it doesn’t make me TOO nuts to have an off week, but it certainly makes writing a training recap a little more difficult.

Athens Marathon Training Week 3: Reclaiming My Time

Monday: 60 minute slow flow and meditation at Past Tense — so necessary for the night before the big test!

Tuesday: NO MORE TESTS DAY IS THE BEST DAY! After I passed my test and wept the most genuine tears of joy that have ever been shed, I got right down to the business of reclaiming my damn time. It was 2 pm and HOT, but you think that bothered me one little bit? Nope. Got in a wonderful 75 minute run and loved every single second.

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Then, of course, there was the little matter of celebrating. SummitKef and I couldn’t quite summon the skills to get this shot right, but as I do not intend to reclaim even one second of time working on my selfie game, we just kept the party moving right along.

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Wednesday: y’all, the people of OffRoad are trying to kill me.  This week’s death sentence included two 10-minute pushes marked by looooong ascents. Dru, you win.

Thursday: meant to run hills, but got caught up at work until 8 pm and then had a ton of party prep to get done so just had to skip it. Womp. I muttered a teeth-clenched prayer to St. Maxine herself that my newly-found free time would not be eaten up by work and reminded myself that one missed run is just the way things go sometimes.

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Friday:  was up way late on Thursday night so slept in on Friday.  Planned to get at least my planned 30 minute run in at lunch (plus maybe some of those missed hills if I had the chance) but then — of course– it was the one Friday we were swamped at work and had to work right through lunch. Another missed run– I did not love that, but BabyKef was coming down after work down to help  me with the rest of the party prep, and we turned out about a million cookies that looked like this, so I called the day a net win:

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Saturday: If you want any evidence that I was plum out of effs to give, I’ll tell you this: I had planned to run for about 2:45 on Saturday starting in Rosslyn at 6 am. At 1015 am, I finally set out from Petworth, ran 60 minutes and then abandoned ship. I hadn’t slept well (see also: too much work, too many party projects) and just couldn’t get into a good headspace. Usually I can work with that and find a phrase to focus on to get me back into the groove, but right around the hour mark my calf was cramping something FIERCE and I was just.plain.done.

All this extra energy left me feeling a little nutty… which I’m sure early arrivals to my celebration noticed (…sorry about that, guys). But then MrKef’s cowboy hat came out and I remembered that I will have allllllll kinds of time next week to make up for those missed miles but I will never get to celebrate the RECLAMATION OF ALL MY DAMN TIME with my dearest friends ever again. So celebrate I did.

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Weeks to Race Day: 14
Total Miles This Week: 14 … whoopsies
Gains: William-Wallace-style FREEDOM, several letters behind my name
Losses: uh, the 20ish miles I didn’t run

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Athens Marathon Training: Whoop Whoop

31 Jul

The good Lord answered every one of the running community’s prayers and sent some friggin’ spectacular running weather our way last week. Here’s how things shook out for your dear friend Chef Kefi, RN:

Athens Marathon Training Week 2: Whoop Whoop

Sunday: Yin Yoga at Past Tense — so nice to shake off that swampy week and get my head right to move into a new one.

Monday: as (almost) always, SolidCore Arms & Abs. Had an especially good class and even spent a good portion of it on my toes– which brings us to our theme:giphy (1)

Tuesday: 70 minute run  — no humidity, a little wind, and temps UNDER 75 degrees at 645 AM? Yes, please. Hallelujah.

Wednesday: Speedwork — switched things up so I could take full advantage of the nice weather. I had 25-30 min @ Tempo pace, which I just so happened to have hit pretty on the nose: 7:43/7:45/7:43/3:54 (800). But the real story here isn’t the workout… it was what happened on the way to the track…

WHOOP WHOOP! THAT’S THE SOUND OF DA POLICE!

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If you look closely, you’ll see the flashing lights of the one of the TWO cruisers that pulled me over for an illegal left turn… at 6:17 AM, with no oncoming traffic and no pedestrians in the crosswalk. One officer would definitely not have been enough to handle my flagrant disregard for the law. $150 in tickets later (because one ticket wouldn’t have been enough, either), and you can see why I was booking it around that track!

Thursday: Spinning at OffRoad before work. Have I mentioned how much I love OffRoad? They deserve their own post. No dancing, no bumping into your neighbor while trying to coordinate your bicep curls to the beat, just awesome spinning workouts made for people who actually ride their bike outside. Indoor cycling as it should be.

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Friday: 30 minute run — torrential downpour meant I had to take it to the treadmill. Not my favorite, but I was not going to take issue with mother nature after the rest of the week’s wonderful weather.

Saturday: 2:37ish minute run — I actually felt a CHILL in the air when I left the house around 6:15. I took an old favorite route through Rock Creek Park to the mall and back, and it was just about the most lovely few hours in recent memory. I had originally planned on just 2:30 minutes, but I forgot that the zoo opens later now and so had to add on some time finding an alternate water source in Rock Creek Park. Once I realized I would be a few minutes over, I figured I might as well go for a personal distance record and ended at 17 miles on the dot. And then the eating commenced and did not end until I quenched the inner beast that is my post-run hunger and looks something like this:

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I really didn’t know how I was going to incorporate the theme into that one, but luckily the internet always provides. If anyone knows what “shoop da whoop” is, call your girl.

Weeks to Race Day: 15
Total Miles This Week: 31.5
Gains: New personal distance record, new respect for how hard adding miles over 16 is going to be.
Losses: the boulder on my shoulder about humidity, my 100% record of never getting a ticket once I tell the police officer that I am a nurse.

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Athens Marathon Training: Hot as Hades

24 Jul

Well my dears, it’s about that time: I’m officially in a training cycle for the 2017 Athens Marathon. After years of saying I’d never do a full marathon, my tune changed and I started saying things like, “If I ever do a full, I’d only do the ORIGINAL marathon in Greece” … and then I accidentally ran 16 miles with Courtney, and I soon found myself on a registration page half in Greek clicking “submit.” Looks like I’m running a full after all!

I can’t explain the appeal of training recaps, but I love reading them. There is nothing particularly enthralling about the recollection of miles, routes, and paces that OTHER people ran, but I guess it’s like shouting out the answers to Jeopardy at home– sort of feels as though you’re along for the ride. So, I’ll post my weekly training recaps and see how it goes … if I like writing them as much as I do reading ’em, I’ll keep posting. And if I get bored, well, I won’t.

In other news, there is ZERO chance that I will be able to keep up with the photographic requirement of recaps, so I think instead of running pics, I’ll just pick a theme for the week and post random ish I find at least tangentially related. And if that ain’t for you, you can just keep on scrolling.

Athens Marathon Training Week 1 : Hot as Hades

Hot as Hell.. None needed.. sums FORECAST traer. glenn beck you fail at life agian.

Sunday: Spin + Core at OffRoad. Andrew BROUGHT IT with some Rihanna and these high-resistance sprints that seemed to go on forever. Dead.

Monday: Solidcore Arms & Abs. My obliques still hurt.

Tuesday: 90 minute run that didn’t quite go as planned. I had been running at night to avoid (some of) the humidity, but I could.not.get.out.the.damn.house Tuesday night and didn’t start until almost 845 pm, which is pretty much BED TIME every other night. About 25 minutes in, I realized I also hadn’t eaten enough during the day and was pretty miserable. I took a break around 45 minutes to collect myself, and then made it to 65ish minutes before I needed to give myself another stern talking to. I took a different route home to try and get in a different head space, but just ended up cursing everyone and everything along the way: WHY is it so hot? WHY am I a human, not a self-cooling FemBot? WHO lets all these damn rats live on the mall at night? AND WHY THE HELL IS Q ST ONE WAY??!? It wasn’t pretty, but it — finally– ended. Glad that’s over.

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Wednesday: Slept through yoga in the AM– after the previous night’s shenanigans, that was fine with me. Spinning with Katie at Off Road Cap Hill after work, which was FULL of long hills simulating stage 12 of the Tour De France. Death by bike, once again.

Thursday: 60 minute run — Determined to get back on my AM running schedule, I headed out Thursday morning thinking that this hour would just fly by. Wrong. It was (surprise!) hot as eff, so I took a few moments at the 45 minute mark to bring down my core temp/HR and generally fix my face. I wasn’t sad to see this run end.

 

Friday: rest day, for my body and brain. Needed to reset in a major way. I’ll take this opportunity to pivot on this week’s theme.. Mahershala Ali: so hot, and yet still so cool.

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Saturday: 2 hour run — THIS HUMIDITY WILL NOT LET ME BE GREAT. I actually started out feeling good… way, way too good .. and ran the first 5 miles around ~845/mile. I just couldn’t get myself to slow down, even though I could feel my insides cooking and knew this was not at all sustainable for another 75 minutes. Luckily for me, I was running with a wonderful group of people who are infinitely more sensible about pacing than I am, and Deb, Courtney, and Dawn let me tag along with them for the second half of this gnarly run, and I was able to keep it at a pace reasonable enough to get the whole thing done.

Weeks to Race Day: 16
Total Miles This Week: 31.6
Gains: toughened up my mental game, recalled with clarity why I do not run at night
Losses: kissed a good amount of my self-respect and about a mile’s worth of energy goodbye in a mid-run temper tantrum on the mall

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Tsoureki Bread Pudding

17 Jul

Thanks to the many, many of you who reached out with kind words about my grandfather. It is appreciated more than you know.

I’ve got no clever transition and very few jokes today, so we’ll just get right into it– tsoureki bread pudding. IS THIS NOT THE MOST BRILLIANT THING YOU HAVE EVER HEARD OF? I mean, really.

So here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna make a loaf of the delicious sort-of-sweet Easter bread, tsoureki. Then we’re gonna drown it in cream and sugar. And then we’re gonna throw some chocolate on it, bake it and eat it.

Please accept my most sincere apologies that I could not have been bothered to take the perfect picture of what is obviously the world’s most delicious dessert. Although, if you need a picture to believe that this dessert is a good idea, I’m gonna need you to check yourself — the cheddar on your cracker may not be as sharp as it used to be.

FullSizeRender (31)I pooled several resources to come up with this recipe–what I ended up going with is reflected below.

Tsoureki Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of tsoureki, cut into cubes (or, any store bought not-plain Jane bread … a cinnamon raisin loaf would probably be all kinds of awesome, too)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 c sugar
  • 6 c milk (please do not even come to me with anything other than whole)
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 c butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • 1 TBS bourbon (Metaxa if you have it!)
  • pinch of salt

Assembly

  1. Lightly grease a 9×13 pyrex or large cake pan. Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, butter, vanilla, chocolate and nutmeg together.
  2. Arrange in the tsoureki cubes in the pan, the fewer the layers, the faster it will cook. Pour the egg mixture over it. Set aside and let the bread soak up all that creamy goodness for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F while the bread/cream mixture sits.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is browned and center is set. This will vary depending on your pan, so go with what it looks like rather than what these direction say.
  4. While the pudding bakes, make the sauce: simmer sugar and water on medium heat, swirling the pot  instead of stirring, until it is a deep amber.
  5. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the cream.
  6. Add bourbon and salt. Return to heat for 1 minute more, stirring constantly and gently.
  7. Serve pudding warm or room temp, with a generous serving of cooled bourbon sauce.
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