Cooking, Cooking, Cooking! 
Sunday, March 7, 2010, 11:26 AM
Posted by Administrator
This is how I spent most of last Sunday. I started the day with a free "Incredible Eggs" demonstration class at Williams-Sonoma where I learned, among other things, that one should crack eggs on a flat, rather than vertical, surface to avoid getting shell fragments getting in your eggs. So, no more cracking eggs on the side of the bowl.

We also covered poaching, omelettes and fritattas, the last of which I made the following evening for Paul's birthday dinner. I should have taken a photo - it came out quite nice. You'll just have to take my word for it.

These free demo classes take place every Sunday at 10:00 a.m., but they fill up quickly. And, by quickly, I mean weeks in advance. Check out their website for info and call ASAP if there's a class in which you're really interested.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm learning more about cooking, this time from a private chef in the comfort of my own kitchen. I had been wanting to take a cooking class, but hadn't found anything that really piqued my interest. So, I arranged a private cooking class for me and a few friends with Chef Craig Nassar.

I can't recommend Chef Craig highly enough - it was a great experience and, considering what was involved, a really great deal. For $50 per person, he planned a lesson and menu according to my wishes, came to my house with all of the food, gave us a fantastic 3.5-hour class, fed us a delicious dinner...and cleaned up afterward!

I was interested in learning about herbs and spices and so we made a rub, marinade and salad dressing - enough for each student to take some home. For dinner, we enjoyed salad, shrimp, chicken and steak that had been prepared with the aforementioned dressing, rub and marinade.

The finishing touch was creme brulee made with vanilla bean. It needed more time to chill and so we waited a day to taste it. It was delicious, although the presentation may have been nicer had Chef Craig been there to extract it from the ramekin.

Craig was knowledgeable and professional, but also fun and flexible. He prepped and chopped and cooked, all while fielding our many questions. Best of all, he wasn't the least bit fazed by the 5 dogs wrestling at his feet. Impressive.
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Headin' Home  
Monday, February 22, 2010, 09:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
We have some exciting news,
So we decided to send a letter.
No, we are NOT pregnant.
You should really know us better.

A move is in our future.
We feel the need to roam.
We're packing up and heading east.
It's time to come back home.

The exact date is not set.
We're taking some time to play.
First we'll tour the west coast,
And hope to be home in May.

This is the poem that was read at my niece Hannah's birthday party to announce my and Paul's upcoming move to Massachusetts.

Q: WHAT?!? Why?
A: After 11 years in Tucson, I'm ready to return home and be close to family again. Paul and I have been discussing this possibility for two years. Fortunately, I'm married to a wonderful man who loves his in-laws and cross-country skiing.

Q: Does this mean that you're going to start a family?
A: No. Definitely, no. Although Hannah has already requested a bedroom in our new house.

Q: Where in Mass?
A: It depends on where Paul is working, but we're shooting for eastern Mass.

Q: Do you have jobs?
A: I moved from Massachusetts to Tucson without a job and it somehow all worked out. Why be different for the return trip? We've decided to take advantage of our dual unemployment and take a month-long road trip up the west coast. We leave March 15 to drive all the way up the coast to Vancouver and will return a slightly inland route. (No, we're not bringing the dogs along.)

Q: Are you going to be able to survive the cold?
A: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

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Catalina Trail Run 
Saturday, February 20, 2010, 09:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
With rain predicted for the afternoon and just two days left on our annual state park pass, I headed to Catalina State Park to squeeze in a trail run. I took the Nature Loop Trail and then hopped onto the Sutherland Trail for a scenic 6-mile route with a number of water crossings.

I stopped to snap a few photos, but didn't linger too long as the southern skies were ominous.

As a result of the recent rains, the grass was green and the very beginnings of wildflowers were blooming.

Back at the trailhead, the Arizona State Park Volunteers had set up a wildlife display with some pretty cool desert critters.

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2010 Pemberton 50K Relay 
Sunday, February 14, 2010, 09:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
You may wonder, "How do ultras differ from large road marathons?" Here is your answer, in pictures:

Last year, I became an ultramarathoner at the Pemberton 50K, and so it holds a special place in my heart. This year, my mileage wasn't nearly where it needed to be, but, after realizing how many of our trail running friends were planning on racing, Paul and I decided to enter as a relay team. With a half marathon two weeks prior, the relay leg of 15.5 miles fit perfectly into my schedule.

We headed up to Fountain Hills after work on Friday and I had an extraordinarily restful night of sleep at the Holiday Inn before waking at 4:30am to get some food in our stomachs before making our way to McDowell Mountain Park for the 7:00am start. Although I was planning to run my longest distance in a whole year, knowing that I was running half as far as most of the runners left me with calm nerves and a lighthearted attitude. Goal races are great, but sometimes it's nice to race just for fun.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our packets, wish good luck to our friends and be humbled by the race chatter in the bathroom line. I met a woman who would run the full 50K and then follow it up with the Lost Dutchman Marathon the next morning. That, is hard core.

I cheered on Paul and friends as they began the race and then headed back into town with Denise and Dori to search for Chris's sunglasses in his truck. Then, in the hotel room. Then in the truck again, where they were eventually found under the seat. It was a great way to kill some time as, when we we got back to the park, it was time to strip off my layers, slap on some sunscreen and fill my hydration pack with pomegranate XOOD. And wait.

Paul had given me a 20-minute window and I found it difficult to stand around in the cold squinting at the trail for glimpses of approaching runners while being ready to run at any moment. I even had one false start where I threw off my jacket and ran to the starting line only to find that the runner was not Paul. Is it bad that I mistook some random guy for my husband?

Paul arrived toward the end of his time window, having had trouble with one of his glute muscles. I was happy to finally be running and it was 6 minutes before I realized that I had neglected to start my GPS. With no mile markers and only two aid stations over 15.5 miles, this meant not having a great idea of how I was doing for much of the race. I contemplated starting my GPS late, but, instead, decided to embrace the "running for the fun of it" attitude and go old-school with just my stopwatch.

Last year, I averaged 3:17 per loop. Since I wouldn't need to save anything for a second lap this time, I was hoping to finish around 3 hours. With this in mind, I planned to reach the first aid station in 1 hour. I was a little disappointed to arrive in 1:05, but reminded myself that the first 5 miles was a gradual climb. I passed on the food, thanked the volunteers, ate some of my gel and kept on truckin'.

As I had started in the midst of Paul's equals, I had no steady company - just runners passing me by. But, everyone had an encouraging word as they went. I actually felt a little guilty knowing that most of them were on their second lap while I was starting fresh.

The course tops out around mile 7 or 8 and then offers some fantastic downhill running. It's gradual enough to give you some speed, but not so steep that it beats up your quads. It had been hard to find my rhythm on the first half as, on the uphill sections. I slowed and, occasionally, walked. But, now, I was cruising and loving it. And, really, how can you not enjoy a race with 360 degrees views like this?

Just before the second aid station, I got passed by Renee who, though on her second lap, was looking fresh and was excited about beating her goal time. It was uplifting to see a familiar face out there and, even more so, when I reached the next aid station and found that this 1/3 of the race had taken me just 1 hour. Maybe I could break that 3-hour mark...

This 3-hour goal motivated me to push it for the final miles, although now I regretted not having that GPS to tell me exactly how far I had left to go. I got a surge of energy when, thinking I had about 4 miles left, I came across a trail sign indicating that it was only 3 miles. Woo hoo!

Unfortunately, it was around this time that my IT band started acting up. My holiday running hiatus had done wonders for these grouchy muscles fibers, but, having worked them hard since the New Year, they were tight again, resulting in pain on the outside of my left knee. Knowing that continuing to run would not cause permanent injury, and that walking would only prolong the pain, I just kept running and pushed as hard as I could...although this was probably only about a 10-minute mile.

Paul walked out a ways to support me and then I got a boost from the Tucson cheering section just before the finish. It felt good to stop running, but I had enjoyed much of my run and was pleased with my time. While official results have not been posted, my watch showed 2:57:51. With Paul's time, we finished around 5:10.

After catching my breath, I headed right to the food. While I didn't get photos, this is where ultras really outshine their road counterparts. Unlike the standard banana and bagel combo at most road races, Pemberton offered croissant sandwiches, chili, chips, cookies, chocolate and, my favorite, popsicles.

Along with some food, I took 2 Aleve that Renee was kind enough to share with me. My only complaint was that there was no water - just HEED and soda. And it was mostly diet, caffeine-free soda. Seriously? We're burning thousands of calories out there! This is one of those times when sugar and calories are a good thing.

We hung out for another few hours to cheer on the rest of the Tucson contingent, including fellow Tri Girl Shari who, despite an injury, gutted it out to become an ultramarathoner.

All-in-all, it was another great day on the Pemberton trail. This is a fantastic race that I highly recommend!
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A Recovery Weekend 
Sunday, February 7, 2010, 10:05 PM
Posted by Administrator
Most weekends involve the decision of which day to bike and which day to run. This weekend, we choose poorly.

On a gorgeous Saturday, while most Tucson athletes were enjoying the desert's sunny skies and 70 degree afternoon temperatures, we opted for an early morning indoor spin workout. And on a cold and wet Sunday morning, perfect for an indoor spin, we had planned for a trail run. Although some braved the muddy trails, rain and (rumor has it) hail, we turned off the alarm and slept in. I did, however, make it up with an afternoon 6-mile run along the majestic Rillito River. Okay, maybe majestic isn't the word, but there was actual water flowing.

Though I had planned for an 8-miler at a 10:22 pace, my legs quickly let me know that they were still recovering from last week's half marathon and so I settled for 6 miles at an 11-minute pace. If all goes well, I'll be fully recovered just in time to do some more damage at the Pemberton 50K next Saturday. While my mileage is definitely not up to ultra marathon standards, I should be able to put in a good effort for half the distance as part of a relay team with Paul.

The remainder of the weekend, I flexed my domestic muscles with lots of cooking and cleaning. I whipped up all manner of staples to tide us over for the week: chicken, chicken stock, black beans, split peas, garbanzo beans, sun-dried tomato & basil hummus, and almond butter. I was rather impressed with myself at one point to have three large pots going all at once!

Paul occupied himself with our upcoming bathroom remodel. We've hired someone to do the work, but Paul visited various big box stores to purchase the tile and such. See below for the "before" pictures. With any luck, we'll have the "after" photos within two weeks.

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