Mystery Weekend - Destination Corrales, New Mexico! 
Wednesday, October 1, 2008, 11:24 PM
Posted by Administrator
On Friday morning, Paul left the house in the dark, both literally (it was only 5:15) and figuratively (he had no idea where we were going). During the previous week, I had left him little clues and packing suggestions which, apparently, had led him to believe we were traveling to Salt Lake City. It wasn't until we got to the gate that he found out we were headed to the Land of Enchantment.

After picking up our rental car, we headed to Annapurna's for a late breakfast. I should warn you that Paul and I like to eat our way through the places we visit. This is a huge part of the journey for us - we love food! But, not just any food. You'll almost never catch us in a chain restaurant. We want unique, local food. We want quality, healthy food. And, due to Paul's allergy, we want gluten-free food.

Annapurna's turned out to be one of our greatest finds ever! We feasted on cardamom pancakes and a beet and cranberry salad, before rounding out the meal with pecan pie (all gluten-free, of course). We left sated, happy and, if you believe in the benefits of ayurvedic cooking, "balanced in our bodies, minds, spirits, senses and emotions." Ohm...

We hit the GO Downtown Albuquerque Arts Festival, which was a smaller version of Tucson's Fourth Avenue Street Fair, and then checked out Old Town, a quaint area of adobe shops and restaurants - very southwest.

Having worked up an appetite again, we stopped by Le Crepe Michel for a yummy buckwheat crepe filled with smoked salmon and capers. It was divine. Paul then talked me into visiting the National Atomic Museum. I was not too jazzed about this idea, but actually learned quite a bit of interesting history.

Finally, we hopped on I-25 and headed north to our final destination, the village of Corrales. The surprisingly short drive took us out of the city and into a rural town complete with farms, llamas and a welcome sign that read, "Drive slow, see our village. Drive fast, see our judge." We settled into our cozy quarters at Casa Entrada Guest House and our hosts gave us restaurant recommendations. Yes, we're back to food.

With Corrales being such a small place, we left the car and walked to dinner. But first, we happened upon the local bike shop where we made arrangements to rent a tandem for the following day. Then we enjoyed an early meal at the Indigo Crow. The brief report - fabulous food, spotty service and a chef who could not tell us if his dishes contained gluten. That last part was somewhat concerning.

Saturday - The Harvest Festival
Saturday morning marked the beginning of the 22nd Annual Corrales Harvest Festival. We had a mediocre breakfast at Hannah & Nate's before finding a spot to watch the Pet Parade - definitely one of the highlights of the weekend!

We then headed to the bike shop where we were offered a single-speed tandem with a basket and bell on the front, as well as a life-sized decorative black cat attached to the back. I'm not kidding - check out the photo.

For some reason, Paul made the decision to rent the undecorated 21-speed tandem instead. We donned our loaner helmets, dingy from God-knows-how-many past users, and hit the streets to check out the festival offerings.

We quickly discovered that Corrales is beautiful! We pedaled down quiet, shady streets lined with wildflowers and the occasional farm animal, and then went off-roading on the Bosque, a natural area along the Rio Grande. Not surprisingly, our ride brought us to lunch. This time we checked out the Flying Star, a casual, pay-at-the-counter kind of place with fun decor and a fun menu. Two thumbs up on the tofu scramble!

As a portion of the main road was closed to traffic, the bicycle was the perfect way to enjoy the festival. It was just us, pedestrians and tractors driven by guys in overalls pulling hay wagons full of festival-goers. We hit a farm, the arts & crafts fair and the book sale before returning our trusty wheels and having our only disappointing food experience of the trip. If you find yourself in Corrales, don't eat at the Old House Gastro Pub. I'll just leave it at that.

Sunday - the 10K
Sunday morning came and we put on our running shoes for the Corrida de Corrales 10K. I had planned to make this my speedwork for the week, but was concerned that two days spent on my feet along with the elevation (5,000 feet) would make this a slow event for me. About 60 people toed the line for the 10K - quite small by Tucson standards but, as we later found out, pretty typical for Albuquerque which often has two to three race options on a single weekend. As is always the case on race morning, I had gone to the bathroom a dozen times, but then had to go right before the gun went off which left me scrambling into the bushes with about 30 seconds to spare.

The course was beautiful, almost all of it on shaded, dirt trails. We had been forewarned that, due to some recent trail work, the dirt was of the beach-like-sand variety, rather than the packed-down, easy-to-run-on variety. This meant that, when the gun went off, those of us in the back of the pack literally ate the dust of Paul and his speedy buddies leading the charge. After a mile or so, the pack spread out and I found a spot about 10 feet behind two women. They kept a nice, steady pace - about 10-minute miles - and so I just concentrated on sticking with them. They chatted away the entire race, but I was already pushing it to keep up with them, and so kept my mouth shut and hung a bit behind them for motivation.

The course was not marked and so, after realizing I had a shoe pod, the women called out occasionally for mileage, pace or time. When I finally called out "5 miles" they kicked it into high gear and just took off! One looked back, yelled "come-on" and gave me an encouraging wave...but I was already in my high gear and had nothing in reserve. So, kept chugging away at 10-minute miles as I watched them get farther and farther away. My legs felt okay, but holding this pace for this long was definitely a challenge for my lungs.

At 6 miles, I began to get excited about finishing. At 6.1, I began to realize that the course was long. At 6.2, I was pissed. Where is the #%@!&* finish line?!? Around this time, Paul met me to get some photos and cheer me along. I greeted him with, "The course is long!" but managed to smile for the camera. Finally, at long last, I saw the finish line and picked it up just a bit as I crossed. In case you're wondering...6.56 miles according to the shoe pod.

After the burning in my lungs subsided, I checked my stats on my watch and was pretty darn pleased with myself. I averaged a 9:43 pace! I'm not known to push myself at races. In fact, I'm much more likely to find a new friend with which to pass the time and also to take periodic walk breaks. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to not only have run the entire distance, but to have pushed myself the whole way. I was also proud of Paul who finished 12th overall and won an award for 3rd in his age group.

We wound down the weekend with a leisurely morning reading on the guest house patio before packing up and heading into Albuquerque. We couldn't leave without visiting Annapurna's one more time for a delicious South Indian Sampler Plate and sweet potato pie. Yum! And then, before heading to the airport, we stopped by Great Harvest Bread to pick up an order we had placed the day before for fresh gluten-free bread and scones to take home. Paul is set on carbs for a while.

At the airport, Paul and I agreed that the Mystery Weekend Christmas Present experiment was a fabulous success! We each had a ton of fun masterminding a surprise getaway and we also both loved being on the other side of the surprise. This truly was a gift that kept on giving, and we're already thinking about our mystery trips for 2009!
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$50 Well Spent 
Sunday, September 21, 2008, 07:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
I have to say, I was apprehensive about spending $50 on a pair of compression socks. I mean...they're socks! After my first long run in them, however, I'm pleased to report that they were worth the cash.

Paul and I were up before dawn to meet about 20 other members of the Tucson Trail Runners for the Sabino Basin run. It took my calves five days to fully recover from the last trail run, and so I knew this would be a good test. I ran with Ross for about 10 minutes until the Phoneline Trail started to climb and then he gradually pulled away. I didn't mind the solitude. I'm used to being near or at the back of the pack with this group, and so I just enjoyed the beautiful, relatively cool morning in the shadow of the canyon.

Where the trail meets the top of the road, we continued on the trail for another few miles to Sabino Basin. At this point, I began to see others on their return trip, including Paul and a guy I didn't know who apparently lives near us and recognized me from running in our neighborhood. Tucson really is a small town sometimes - gotta love it!

I was just starting to get that "Are we there yet?" feeling when I turned a corner and there was Ross taking my picture. Seeing Ross, I knew that I had to be close to the turn-around and, in fact, it was just another two minutes down the trail. I caught Ross on the way back and we parted ways at the top of the road as he took the Phoneline Trail back and I opted for the road. I didn't want Paul to have to wait around too long for me and knew I would be much faster if I wasn't rock-hopping and wading through tall grass.

With about 1.5 miles to go, Paul came trotting up the road to run in with me. Is he a great husband or what? Although he has teased me about the fashion statement made by my compression socks, he was happy (and intrigued) to hear that my calves were pain-free. So much so, that he may be picking up a pair himself! My hamstrings were aching, which tells me that, typically, my calves would be too. But they felt just fine! Yes, $50 is a lot to pay for socks, but when I think about all of the massages I've had to work out the pain in my calves, this may actually save me money!

So what's next? Mystery Weekend 2008 Part II! Paul took me on a mystery trip to Denver this past March and now it's my turn to whisk him away on a surprise weekend - we leave Friday! Check in next week to find out about our adventure!
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Stylin' Socks! 
Thursday, September 18, 2008, 11:25 AM
Posted by Administrator
At the tri camp last weekend, Kim from talked about using compression socks to aid in recovery. My calves can ache for days after a long run and so I decided these socks were worth a shot...even if they look totally goofy.

I purchased a pair a few days later and tried them out on a short run yesterday just to make sure they're comfortable. (If clothing is going to cause chafing or blisters, then it's much better to discover this during a short jaunt around the neighborhood than on a 13 mile trial run.)

So far, so good...stayed tuned for a product report after my next long effort.

(I apologize for the angle - it's not easy to take a picture of your own legs with a camera phone!)
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17 Miles! 
Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 10:24 PM
Posted by Administrator
Not only did I run 17 miles on Saturday, but it actually felt pretty good! Of course, this is relative to my last three long runs which have been miserable. Why the difference? Who the heck knows, but some contributing factors were probably a new pair of shoes and cooler temperatures. It turns out that the weather is beautiful at 4:30am! I don't typically drag myself our of bed this early for training runs, but the Tucson Tri Girls Triathlon Camp was scheduled from 9am to 5pm and I wanted to enjoy that event without my long run looming over me. So, I sucked it up, woke to my 4:00am alarm and headed out the door with my headlamp and my trusty running companions - Rex, Mielo and Molly. Paul? He was saving himself for a time trial on Sunday and so I had five miles under my belt before he crawled out from underneath the covers.

When it became light enough to ditch the headlamp, I swung by the house and traded it in for my MP3 player. The dogs had had enough and so I hit the road again, solo this time, with 12 miles to go. I usually run with a hand-held water bottle, but opted for my Camelback this time and enjoyed having my hands free.

Throughout the run I was just amazed at how good I felt! Around mile 12, I started to get aches in my hamstrings, calves and feet, but that is all manageable. I called Paul with one-half mile to go (convenient pockets are another benefit of the Camelback) and asked him to start an ice bath for me. I was a little stiff and achy for the rest of the day, but nothing like I had expected. I'm feeling much better about the marathon in November!

Sunday was another early morning (although not quite 4am), as we drove to Picacho Peak for Paul's second time trial bike race. We are both new to these types of races (Paul as a competitor and I as a spectator) and we're both still learning. Thanks to knowledge gained at the first race, Paul showed up to this one with a new tri bike and aero helmet; and I arrived with a folding chair, cooler and reading material. Of course, I had to lug everything a mile to watch Paul start and finish - these races are not very spectator-friendly.

Paul did great, although he has spent a lot of time since the race thinking of things he can tweak to buy him the 3 minutes that separated him and first place in his category. He knows it's time for him to start focusing on marathon training...but he's itching to squeeze in another time trial to redeem himself!
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Apple Picking & Trail Running 
Sunday, September 7, 2008, 08:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
Thanks to a recent newspaper article, I discovered Howard's Orchard, a small farm in the town of Catalina. Yesterday, Paul and I strapped on a pannier and rode our tandem there to check it out. The owner is a really sweet man who instructed us to "treat it like home" as he gave us some plastic bags to fill with apples. Rumor has it they have amazing peaches, but we were a little late in the season for those. And, at other times of the year, they also have blackberries, pecans, tomatoes and cucumbers. We'll definitely be back - it made a great pit stop during our ride!

For any locals who want to visit, take Oracle north to the town of Catalina. Go past Golder Ranch Road and take your next right onto Hawser. When the road ends, turn left on Columbus. Turn left onto Pinal Street, which is a dirt and gravel road. The farm is just about one-quarter mile on your right - look for the signs.

We rounded out the weekend with the first run of the Tucson Trail Runners' annual series - Mount Wrightson - although neither of us fully participated. Paul wanted more time on his new tri bike to prepare for his time trial next weekend, and so he rode from our house to the trailhead - a distance of about 60 miles, with the last 10 miles being up a gigantic hill.

While the rest of the group ran to the top of Mount Wrightson, I opted to go only to Josephine Saddle and then take the longer, more gradual Super Trail back down. This amounted to only 6.2 miles, but it's been a long time since I've run trails or hills and so I wanted to ease myself back into it. Also, while the view from the peak is spectacular, I just do not enjoy the hike from the saddle to the top. It is steep, rocky and, for me, extremely slow-going. I've done it twice and have no desire to do it again...although I hear I missed some spectacular wildflowers.

I finished my run in just under two hours and then found a shady spot in which to sit and read while I waited for Paul to climb the gigantic hill to meet me. Just after he arrived, the other runners began to emerge from the trail and so we hung around for a while to catch up with friends. For me, this is one of the best parts of running - the socializing! It was great to see Renee, who came out for her first TTR run and I'm sure we'll be seeing her at others!

On the way home, we decided to make a detour and stop at Eclectic Pizza for lunch. It's on the opposite side of town from us, but we recently discovered that they serve gluten-free pizza and Paul was anxious to give it a try. We ordered a Greek salad that was absolutely delicious, as well as two pizzas (to ensure leftovers) and a gluten-free beer. Paul was in heaven. However, the pizza was a mixed bag. The toppings were extremely fresh and the sauce was probably the best I've ever had. However, the crust was clearly a gluten-free crust...which is not a good thing. It just didn't compare to the crust we get at Picazzo's. They make it on site (although, unfortunately, none of those sites are in Tucson) and you really can't tell the difference between it and "normal" pizza. If only we could combine Picazzo's crust with Eclectic's toppings...
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