Friday, August 29, 2008

Thanks for coming!

That was a great visit! K and I are so happy we were able to host this year. It was a memorable way to remember 40 years.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Blueberry Day

In the typical rush of life, you sometimes can forget some very basic things. You know. Get up, work out, get ready for work, go to work, come home, cook dinner, relax, go to bed, repeat. Before you know it, you are 40 years old.

Then there are the days where you realize that you have it pretty good and you really wouldn't change anything.

This past weekend, dear friends came to Seattle for our (at least) annual get together. It's always a whirlwind tour of some city with much good food, laughing and hanging out enjoying each others' company generally with a tot or two in tow. Neither friend has been to Seattle in many years so once we realized when they were coming, we knew that we had to take them on a quintessential Northwest experience, that is, blueberry picking.

It turned into one of those days that are just perfect. The farm K and I have found through our next door neighbors is the Byebee-Nims Farm which is about an hour out of Seattle towards the foothills of the Cascades. They have a perfect location which seems very remote but it easily accessible and set at the base of Mount Si.

We loaded everybody into the van and set off. Once there, you get buckets available at the farm and wander off into the blueberry forests. Fortunately they do not weigh your body before and after, just the buckets! The kids loved it and the adults loved it. After an easy hour of picking, there is a beautiful bucket of blueberries to show for it and a very full belly and you are done.

And when you are back home with a blueberry crisp about to come out of the oven, and everybody is sitting around happily discussing the fun day that's when you know you got it good. The reminder shall be, don't forget to stop and taste the blueberries.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brain Use

I asked for and received an ice cream maker for my birthday this month. It's a pretty easy contraption to use as it's just a bowl which you freeze overnight and then a paddle which easily attaches to our Kitchen Aid mixer.

As it is August, I had to debut the ice cream maker with a Blueberry Sorbet made with just a simple syrup, lemon juice and lots and lots of blueberries. I strained some but not all the skins out and it was pure summer in a bowl to enjoy.

Next we tried a Stone Fruit Ice cream. Stone fruit? Well it was a mix of peaches and I threw in a nectarine to get enough ripe fruit plus it had apricot nectar in it. It had a delicious peachy flavor but a rather odd coating left in your mouth. It was a scalded cream recipe and I wondered if it had something to do with that.

Next, I tried a banana ice cream. It was a very simple recipe which required no heating so pretty quick to put together as I had refrigerated the bananas. I added mini chocolate chips and tried swirling in peanut butter. yeah.....that worked! No weird coating in the mouth but I need to work on the peanut butter swirl as that got rather hard in the freezer.

Since K is not a banana fan, he tried his favorite coffee ice cream. He was using a recipe which called for light cream and we had only heavy cream so he winged it by mixing whole milk and the heavy cream. Personally the point of ice cream for me is to have a bit of rich decadence so even though the flavor of this ice cream was really good, it was a little too ice milky for me. Not rich enough.

What does this have to do with brain use? Cooking and baking and ice cream making is such a creative process to me. It's so much fun to try new combinations and see what happens. At 40 years now, I gotta keep the brain nimble you know!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Only in Seattle...

I had my next 50 mile bike ride today. OK. It was only 49 but it a challenge for me as I started in Seattle and traveled to the east side on roads close to the foothills. It's a place I've always wanted to go riding but I'm a big ol' chicken about trying new routes on my bike. I need to know where I'm going and be certain I can do the route and not feel too intimidated by hills or traffic or whatever.

Today's ride was an excellent introduction to the eastern area. I was riding as part of a group ride with my running group and the intent was to ride to the end of where the group run was and then get a ride home. Nice!

On the Sammish River Trail, I got to dodge lots of 10k runners as there was a race going on. This only made me slightly jealous as really, it was too warm today for a race. Biking was actually better! I passed the earlier cyclists in my group and got to take over course marking duties. This was highly amusing to me as I had never been this way before on my bike and wasn't too sure where I was going.

It was around here that I started chatting with a cyclist I'd passed but who then passed me back as I got course marking responsibilities (you have to draw arrows on the ground with colored flour). This guy was rather interesting as he was riding his road bike and just had one arm. If you have ever ridden for some time with just one hand on a road bike you know what great core you have to have to do this! He answered my questions about where I was going and we traded stories about what we were training for and what we were riding today. The nice thing about cyclists and runners as K observed is that they are always easy to chat with!

I bade farewell to my cycling buddy and made my way onto Highway 202 towards Snoqualmie Falls. I was expecting a rolling course but this ended up being basically flat, fast and fun! There was just a bit of traffic but nothing too much and I was really enjoying myself. I really didn't see any other cyclists out there which surprised me. I did run out of water but otherwise did a good job of fueling myself on the bike.

I had been very nervous about the climb up to Snoqualmie Falls. I've driven up and down this road before and had seen cyclists struggling up it. I expected it to go on and on up and up but before I knew it I was to the top with no trouble at all. I made my way through the town of Snoqualmie and took a turn to take me towards the big interstate freeway. As I was cycling, I see a very large, dark object get onto the road. it took me a bit to identify this as a brown bear!

Yikes! I stopped immediately and saw the bear look over to me and continue across the road. There was a truck pulled over on the road behind me and the driver leaned out the window to exclaim about the bear! Who knew you could see a bear while out on the roads? This was certainly not what I expected to see.

As I debated about whether the bear was past and what about if there was a cub, the truck driver noticed my angst about continuing. He was very kind and drove my speed past the area where the bear was. It was a big relief! I continued my final climb a little shaky because I was getting hungry, thirsty and hot and I'd seen a bear!

Hills, traffic and whatever. Watch out for that whatever!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Since I've not been running much the past couple of months and the weather has been good, I've been enjoying biking quite a bit. It keeps me fit, gets me outside and keeps me (relatively) sane.

Biking is actually what got me running. When I stopped working with young children and got an office job many years ago, I realized I'd have to figure out something to do to keep the flab at bay. I joined a gym and tried swimming but the swimming pools here in Seattle leave a lot to be desired. I started lifting weights and half-heartedly trying recumbent bikes but it wasn't too exciting and I wasn't real motivated about it.

Finally, the gym I went to started spinning classes and I thought that sounded like fun. I went to one and had multiple realizations:
  • I was seriously out of shape. As in I had never been in shape in my life and thinking that just running after a bunch of kids all day was enough was delusional.
  • I could work hard physically, have sweat pouring off of me and not die.
  • Cycling might just be fun.
So I stayed with spinning classes (even got K involved) and started to feel in shape. After a winter of spin classes I thought I might try biking to work and figured out how to do that and was pretty happy with how things were going. Then the gym closed for a couple of weeks in summer for maintenance. Hunh. What to do?

I'd seen all those strange people running. I could try that. I was in shape now after all. I went for a walk and alternated a lot of walking with brief spells of running to the end of the block. Hoo boy! Was that difficult or what? I was pretty certain I was dying. But remembering the lessons from spin classes I persevered and eventually did my first 5k. I got more and more into running (dragging K along for the ride) and biking fell by the wayside.

Oh don't get me wrong. I really do enjoy a good bike ride especially once I got my zippy road bike which fits me really well. I used cycling as just a fun activity to do every once in a while especially with K. I am most definitely a fair weather cyclist. I've got pretty good bike handling skills and am comfortable in traffic from bike commuting but I'd rather be running in general.

Even though I consider myself a cyclist secondarily, I have never done a lot of biking. Two to three times a week at most and 20-30 miles per ride was about my max since I'm not all that consistent. These past weeks, I've been steadily increasing my ride time and have been feeling stronger on the bike. It is very satisfying to see the progress.

MPW the past 7 weeks:

20 (planned cut back and Ragnar Relay recovery)

Yep. I finally hit over a hundred miles in a week and this morning I had my first half century ride. I know for serious bicyclists, it's not much at all. For me it is a milestone I am very happy to have achieved.

My calf seems better, the experiment with no orthotics continues and I'm planning on at least a couple of good half marathons or even a marathon by the end of this year so biking will fall by the wayside again. I have hopes to maintain some of this cycling fitness but I just can't tell what will happen once that lovely combo of darkness and rain hits.

I am very glad I got a chance to explore some new challenges.

I love Seattle! What you can see on a bike:

Waiting for the Spokane Street swing bridge to close. Other bicyclists also stuck so fun to chat with them. Big ol' barge coming through the Duwamish water way with tugboats.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

things to focus on

Since I haven't been running all that much, what have I been doing with my time?

It's amazing to me how much running helps me stay focused and better organized. I stop running and I get rather lazy about well, everything.

I have been biking to stay active and the weather has been most cooperative this past month except for today. :-/

I'm supposed to be getting the house ready for when I have friends with toddlers visiting in the next couple of weeks. It'll happen.

I looked at signing up for a rowing class but the timing sucked for all of them.

What to do?

What I like about not running as much is that it gives me a chance to focus on some other fitness areas. I like weightlifting and working on core because it makes me feel stronger overall. So I've been trying the 100 push up challenge.

Why push ups?

"The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness."

Heck. When I started running I couldn't do one real push up. I took the test from the website and did 23 two weeks ago with which I was quite pleased. Why bother doing more?
  • it gives me something to focus on while coming back to running.
  • push ups work not only my arms but my core and low back.
  • you can do push ups anywhere and at anytime.
  • it takes no time at all to do a lot of push ups so no excuses.
  • I liked the toned arms even though I still have what look like noodle arms. :-D
  • ultimately (you knew it was headed back to this point, right?) a stronger upper body helps me when I run.
I just finished Day 3 of Week 2 and just did almost 70 push ups broken up into sets. I wasn't even working all out at the end of a set so this is already progress. Stay tuned.

Anyone else? I dare ya!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm a runner?

I am. No really. How come the ???

I've been injured. Again.

Shin splints again. Plantar Fasciitis. I was good. I backed off and stopped running. And then this little thing called the Ragnar Relay reared it's head. I had to do it. You know I did. And it was worth it. I had a great time running, laughing and hanging with Van One.


Since I hadn't been running, somehow running 16 hard miles didn't agree with my calf. I pulled something and had to take another couple of weeks off. I wouldn't have done anything differently however. 12th overall and 1st place in our division was worth it! I'm still smiling to myself about the whole thing almost two weeks later.

So I've been biking while waiting for the calf to heal, the shin splints to settle again etc etc. Yawn. It doesn't help that it is gorgeous trail running weather.

The big change I've been dealing with is I finally decided to ditch my orthotics about a month ago. I got them way back in early 2004 and I thought they were miracle workers. My foot pain left, my knees felt better and my running suddenly got so much better. I have super high arches yet my feet overpronated so much that I got placed in the most controlling shoes to help my floppy feet stay put. It worked and I loved the orthotics both for running and at for work where I'm on my feet a lot during the day.

And then, something changed. I've been having lots of little lower leg and foot injuries. I do what I'm supposed to do. I strengthen, I stretch, I ice, I rest and it keeps on happening. I realized that my favored orthotics were forcing me to run on the outside of my feet (supination) and that could cause as many problems as the opposite problem (overpronation).

It's pretty scary ditching my security orthotics. Today I went to a running store which could watch and record me running on a treadmill. What is the verdict? In their (non doctor, non professional) opinion, do I need the extra control of my orthotics?

The verdict: no.

I'm an efficient, mid-foot striker.

I'm a runner.

The calf is healed and I'm starting back to running without the huge chunks of plastic under my arches. It is an experiment and we will see what happens.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I guess I missed having my own little space.

What's this place about?

running, cooking, gardening, house projects, biking, training, friends, fun, life...