Archive | June, 2012

Tasty Tofu

29 Jun

{While I’m off whale-watching in Alaska, please enjoy these posts from the archives and random thoughts library of Life, Really.}

Tofu used to intimidate me (now tempeh does that). The whole “drain the water out of it before you use it” thing somehow seemed like a lot of work for something that Travis doesn’t really like eating in the first place. (But he doesn’t even like the tofu from Noodles & Co, which is beyond crazy if you ask me, because their tofu is delicious.)

But I finally overcame my fear and decided to try making tofu. The first recipe I used called for cubing the tofu, covering it in flour, and then sauteing it. I ended up with a slimy disgusting mess. Nope, not it.

Then I found a recipe that called for baking the tofu. That seemed more my speed. So bake I did and I’ve never looked back.

Here are my tips for baking tofu quickly – the whole process takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish (‘draining’ time included).

Tasty Tofu

I always buy extra firm tofu – the brand doesn’t matter (to me).

When I’m ready to prepare dinner, I preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it’s heating up, I take the tofu out its water-filled package, place it on a cutting board, and use paper towels to ‘drain’ it. It takes quite a few paper towels (shhh… don’t tell the environment) but it works and it’s quick. Press firmly (but not hard, you don’t want to destroy it!) on every side of the tofu until your paper towels are no longer getting soaked with water. This is a guesstimate.

Then, I cut it into roughly 3/4 inch cubes.

I prepare a baking sheet by covering it with tinfoil (for easy cleanup) and spraying the tinfoil with nonstick spray. Then I distribute the tofu evenly across the sheet, spray it with the nonstick spray and sprinkle all of it with paprika.

Then I bake it in my pre-heated oven for roughly 15 minutes at 425 degrees. It’s done when the outside is just a little crispy. The inside should be soft but cooked.

This tofu goes really well with one of my favorite recipes of all time: Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta.

And that’s how easy it is to make tofu!

Now I just have to take the plunge with tempeh…

Ten random observations of Colorado (by a Minnesotan)

27 Jun

{While I’m off trekking around Alaska, please enjoy these posts from the archives and random thoughts library of Life, Really.}

–Originally posted February 21, 2008–

1. The same street can have two completely different names. On one side of the intersection, it’s South Boulder Road and on the other side, it’s Table Mesa Drive. Makes it kind of hard to follow directions.

2. They never plow the roads when you need them to and they do plow them when the snow is gone.

3. They’re not very creative with street names. The same name, for example Arapahoe, is used in any combination they can think of: Arapahoe Street, Avenue, Road, Boulevard, Circle, Square, Lane, Pathway, Alley, Sidewalk, Gutter, etc.

4. They named the road in front of our apartment Table Mesa Drive. Mesa means table in Spanish. So technically they named the street Table Table Drive. ???

5. No matter what the temperature, Coloradoans always complain about it being cold outside. It can be 65 and sunny and they’re still complaining. Try living in Minnesota for a week. That’ll shut you up.

6. There are organic, overpriced grocery stores everywhere and they’re just as big as the regular grocery stores. There are literally four in Boulder alone. I personally have not yet stepped foot in one, anywhere.

7. It must be a hoppin’ auto market out here because I see more people driving around with the registration paper taped to their back window than I do people with actual license plates. (When you buy a car and are waiting for the registration to be processed by the DMV, you put the paper in your back window…we are one of those people.)

8. People regularly drive under the speed limit. This is unheard of in Minnesota. Absolutely unheard of. Are people just happier out here? More laidback? Or maybe their feet are lighter on the gas pedal because of the higher altitude?

9. Everybody loves to talk about how the weather is so great in Colorado. Except for this winter. And last winter. And the winter before that. Well, the weather is great in theory at least.

10. I love Colorado: 300 days of sunshine…………….5 days of winter.

Race Recap: Mayor’s Marathon

25 Jun

{Sorry for the late update/recap – we’ve been in The Last Frontier with no wi-fi!}

Travel on Friday to Anchorage was a debacle – our 6:30 am flight to SLC got delayed enough that we would miss our connection to Anchorage. After spending an hour investigating options, the best choice was to instead fly to Minneapolis at 11:35 am, have a layover until 3 pm, then fly 5.5 hours to Anchorage, getting in there at 6 pm (Alaska is 1 hour behind Pacific Time) – meaning a 15 hour travel day for us. Travis’ parents were able to pick up my race packet, so everything ended up working out fine. Just not my choice of how to spend the day before the race.

Once we got in, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel, ate dinner at an Alaskan restaurant called Gwennie’s, and then passed out in our hotel room.

……………………

My alarm went off at 5:30 am and I popped out of bed. I had actually slept pretty well – I woke up quite a bit throughout the night but was able to get back to sleep quickly without lying awake panicking.

I slathered on Body Glide (not enough apparently because I got major sports bra chafe);  put on my 2XU compression tights, running skirt, new REI shirt, and 2 sports bras; taped my big toes; got my race bag together; packed my stuff; did my hair and makeup (just mascara and a little powder); and then went down to breakfast.

Everyone (Travis’ parents, brother and nephew, along with Travis) was up to see me start! I had coffee and water and buttered a plain bagel to eat closer to the race start. We drove over to the race start and got there at 7:00 – plenty of time before the race started at 8. I used the portapoo, stretched, took some pics, ate my bagel, found some Tums, and then used the portapoo again.

During this time, I was feeling relieved that race morning was finally here (no more worrying and wondering!) and excited – I was about to run a marathon! It was also the perfect day weather-wise: sunny, mid-70s, no rain. A gorgeous day. Finally, it was time to line up.

They played an Alaskan song, the National Anthem and then the mayor spoke. And then it was time to go! Travis and his family snapped some pics of me as I ran by and then I was lost in the sea of runners. There were about 1,000 runners again this year – from 48 states, 16 countries and a record number of Alaskan runners.

I tried to ignore the pace of the runners around me and just run what felt right to me. My legs felt good but the sun was hot – I could tell that it would get pretty warm out on the course. I had my Garmin set to show the average pace of my entire run and when I saw 11:20 for my first mile, I decided that even though it was faster than I said I would run, I didn’t feel like I was going out too fast. By Mile 3, my average pace was around 11:33, where it stayed for almost the entire race.

1 – 11:21

2 – 11:21

3 – 11:45

The first aid station was around Mile 2 and I grabbed a cup of water, stopped to drink it and then kept running – which was what I did at every aid station, although around Mile 10, I started grabbing 2 cups of water and an orange slice every time. I was So. Thirsty. There were times when I wished I had my Camelbak and didn’t have to wait until aid stations for water and then chug down 2 cups at a time. But overall, I think it was worth it to not have that extra weight/annoyance to deal with.

The first 4 miles, we ran along the busy highway, which wasn’t the most enjoyable but it had a nice view of the mountains. Then we crossed over the highway and got on to a county road, which was paved and rolling hills. I was very encouraged during the first 5 miles of the race – the hills that I had seen on the elevation map weren’t challenging to me at all! I sailed up almost every single one of the hills – there were maybe 2 in the entire race that I had to slow down to run up and got to the top breathing heavily but I didn’t have to walk any hill (except at the very end but even flat road was a challenge then!).

4 – 11:45

5 – 11:22

I ate my first packet of Honey Stingers at Mile 5, which is also when I started my iPod. Travis was going to join me for Miles 9 – 13, so I planned to listen to my iPod until he joined me. Well, it had other plans. Around Mile 7.5, it froze. The screen was on but it wasn’t playing music. I took off my headphones, stashed them in the pouch, and gave it up for dead (I handed it to Travis’ brother when I saw them at Mile 9).

After the rolling hills on the county road, we ran past a golf course and then got on the Oilwell Tank Trail, which was where Travis joined me. This was the gravel road that stretched from roughly Miles 7 – 14. I had been slightly apprehensive before the race about this portion because of reading about “baseball size rocks” and the possibility of twisting an ankle. And I’ll say – they’re not lying. There are some very decent size rocks out there and it was not at all like a well-maintained gravel walking/hiking trail. It was a gravel road. But I had known it was coming and I knew when it would end, so I didn’t mind it for the most part, though it was kind of rough on the feet.

6 – 11:44

7 – 11:32

8 – 11:13

9 – 11:34

There were a few steep hills on this part of the trail but we muscled up them. Travis peeled off at Mile 13 and I continued on.

10 – 11:41

11 – 12:14

12 – 11:18

13 – 11:26

Around Mile 14, though, we were funneled onto a single-track hiking path – like a true trail run! I was absolutely thrilled at this discovery. It was a lot easier to run on than the gravel, but we were running through the woods and even had to cross a couple of streams (on small bridges)! I was in heaven. I kept thinking, “This is freakin’ awesome!” Even though that part of the trail was the peak of the course elevation, it was less steep than previous parts. I kept running, though almost everyone else around me was walking.

14 – 12:07

Still on the trail, we started going back down. I felt great so I ran it at a strong pace and kept going when we got back out onto pavement around Mile 15. We kept going down for Miles 16 and 17. These were my fastest miles of the race. I knew that I still had 10 miles to go, so it wasn’t the time to get crazy, but I also felt I should take advantage of the downhill while I could. I ate my second packet of Honey Stingers here – I didn’t really want to eat them but I decided it was probably the smart thing to do if I wanted to avoid The Wall.

15 – 10:56

16 – 10:47

17 – 10:58

At Mile 18, which was along a main road in Anchorage, Travis met up with me again (and his family was there cheering me on!).

{nice sweat stain, huh?} 

Travis asked me how I was feeling and I said “Ok.” I still felt energetic and mentally excited to be out there but my legs were starting to make themselves heard. It was nice to have him there to distract me and break the race up into smaller sections – especially since I didn’t have my iPod!

18 – 11:40

After a mile or so, we left the main road and dived back into the trees on a nice bike path. The rest of the race was like this. I had been expecting this part of the race to have a city feel, but we were in such densely wooded areas that it still felt like we were out in the country! This was a pleasant surprise to me. The only thing not a pleasant surprise: BUGS. So. Many. Bugs. (I’ve gotten spoiled living in Colorado.) But the bugs were more just annoyed than actually biting me so at least there was that.

19 – 11:45

20 – 11:39

Around Mile 21, my legs felt great. I picked up the pace a little but then decided that probably wasn’t the best strategy, considering I did have 5 miles left, and they would be the hardest ones. So I slowed it back down. For the whole race, I had been eyeing my Garmin. My average pace had been hovering around 11:33 the whole time, sometimes getting as slow as 11:35 after an aid station stop, and getting as fast as 11:28 after my speedy Miles 15 and 16. I knew that I had to maintain an 11:26 average to come in under 5 hours. So I was trying to keep enough left in the tank to push it in the last 2 miles.

21 – 11:39

Travis peeled off at Mile 22 and headed with his family to the finish line.

Before he left, Travis encouraged me to continue focusing on enjoying myself instead of hitting a certain time goal (I told him that enjoying myself at that point would mean walking but I understood what he meant). As I ran along trying to maintain my 11:30 average, I realized that since my Garmin was measuring slightly longer than the course mile markers, my pace wasn’t accurate anyway – meaning I’d probably need a 11:22-11:25 average to make it under 5 hours. That wasn’t going to happen. There was no way I could speed up that much.

22 – 11:23

23 – 10:57

24 – 11:52

As I realized that, I also realized how much pain my lower body was in. I ran until the Mile 24 marker and then took my first non-aid-station walking break. Those last 2 miles were a combination of exhausted running and painful walking. My legs were so tired and sore from running but every time I stopped to walk, the pain was amplified. Such pain.

I let go of my 5 hour goal and broke out the mental game – “This is where the rubber meets the road. You trained 6 months for this moment. Don’t give up now. They didn’t say it would be easy, they said it would be worth it. This is when you show what you’re made of. How bad do you want this? Just think of the gallons of cold water waiting for you at the finish line. After this, you’re done – No more running! Can you believe that you’re actually at Mile 25 of a MARATHON? We’re actually doing it Harry!”

For each of my 4-5 walking breaks, I’d pick out a landmark a hundred feet ahead or so at which I’d start running again (or else I never would). And the parts I did run, I ran at whatever pace I had in me – “Just run it” I told myself. I grabbed water at the last aid station and powered up the hill, running most of it. In those last few miles, there were quite a few nice local people who had sprinklers/showers set up for runners to stay cool. Even though I was hot and SO INCREDIBLY THIRSTY, I didn’t run through the sprinklers… because I didn’t want to get my shoes wet.

25 – 13:06

26 – 12:55

FINALLY, I could see the finish line area. It seemed to stretch on for way longer than reasonable but I didn’t really care. I was almost there. I was almost done. I picked up the pace, mustering all the energy reserves I had left (for around a 10 minute pace) and crossed the finish line strong.

Gun time = 5:09:10

Net time = 5:08:24 (11:36 average – Garmin says 26.59 miles)

I was (and am) VERY pleased with the way I ran and how this ran went. I maintained a very consistent pace throughout the whole thing, my hill training definitely paid off, I had fun, AND I accomplished my B Goal of 5:10:00 or under. What more could I ask for?

After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and shirt, chugged two cups of water, took some pictures and then Travis and my mother-in-law massaged my legs, which were in excruciating pain. I’ve heard other marathoners talk about the pain after the race and they are right. Holy cow.

We left the race and went to pick up our RV. I showered there, where I discovered a big blister on the inside of my right big toe (though I hadn’t felt it forming at all!) and the sports bra chafe. After that, we ate at The Village Inn (I had some delicious sausage and gravy crepes), went grocery shopping (I tried to take a nap while they were doing that) and then we headed out of town for Denali. My legs were pretty sore and painful that first day but Sunday morning, they were more of a good sore, and now on Monday, they just have a few twinges here and there but are mostly just exhausted.

I’d say the marathon was a success!

Thanks for all of your encouragement and advice while training for this race! It means a lot to me.

And now, I’m off to enjoy Alaska disconnected from the interwebs! Enjoy my random postings in the meantime and I’ll be back the week of July 7.

The Cheap Way to Clean Your Wedding Rings

25 Jun

{While I’m off RV-ing around Alaska, please enjoy these posts from the archives and random thoughts library of Life, Really.}

Travis picked out my engagement and wedding rings all by himself. I told him that I wanted a diamond (as opposed to a gemstone) but he did the rest.

I’ll be honest – even though I loved it, it wasn’t what I would’ve picked. I had visions of a princess-cut diamond on a plain band for the engagement ring, and an eternity band for the wedding ring.

But I loved the thought that Travis put into the rings – he wanted to get me something that wasn’t really traditional (like what I was picturing) and went to about 10 different ring shops to find exactly what he wanted. He knew that I usually wear small, simple jewelry and wanted to get a smaller, high-quality diamond that would really sparkle, instead of a bigger, lower-quality diamond. He also told me later that he chose a round-cut diamond because apparently, they catch the light better than princess-cut. (Who knew?)

Travis actually bought my engagement and wedding rings together because the wedding ring is a ‘shadow band’. It looks exactly like the engagement ring, only smaller. Travis told me after we were engaged that he thought about giving me the wedding ring (with the smaller diamond) first as a joke, but then realized it probably wouldn’t be funny. (Good call.) And to this day, the cost of my rings is a secret.

We bought Travis’ wedding ring from the same jeweler (white gold, very plain band) and had our wedding date engraved on the inside of our rings (I figured that would give Travis an easy way to remember the date! just kidding). We also got ring cleaner solution with a handy little dipper thing – I could just put my rings (which I got soldered together) onto the dipper thing,  plunge it into the liquid, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and voila! good as new.

Well, the first month we lived in Boulder, I ended up dumping that solution out all over our bathroom. I’ve looked for the same thing at Walmart and such stores but I’m pretty sure I’d have to go to a real jewelry store to get it (and actually, I think I have done that but they didn’t have the same thing). The jeweler that Travis bought the rings from will do free cleanings but they’re a local jeweler so no dice when we moved to Colorado.

With the design of my ring especially, it needs to be cleaned every couple of months, bare minimum. So what’s a girl who spilled her ring cleaning solution to do?

Use toothpaste. 

Seriously.

{Disclaimer: Some people say that toothpaste will hurt gold but I’ve been using it for 4 years and my ring looks fine. Other alternatives are dishwasher detergent or Windex.}

All of my old toothbrushes (before I got an electric one) became ring cleaning brushes. The toothbrushes work great for getting into the nooks and crannies of my ring and around the diamond, and the toothpaste makes the diamond sparkle like new.

Put a little bit of toothpaste on your toothbrush, add a little warm water and brush away.

Then rinse it with warm/hot water, dry it and voila! Good as new.

{Side note: In the picture above, you can see the aftermath of me slamming my middle finger in our closet door. It took a couple months for that to grow out!}

How do you clean your jewelry?

Our Alaska Itinerary

21 Jun

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We leave for Alaska tomorrow! Little by little, the knowledge that I’m running a full marathon on Saturday is sinking in, but it still feels surreal. It probably won’t feel real until I’m running the race.

So what are we doing after the marathon?

Just about everything we can pack in. Here’s our itinerary:

Friday 6/22 – Fly into Anchorage. Go to packet pickup. Eat carbs. Sleep.

Saturday 6/23 – Run 26.2 miles.

Celebrate! Shower. Eat. Pick up RV. Sleep.

Sunday 6/24 – Drive to Denali State Park and check into campground. Hike, relax, see the sights for the rest of the day.

Monday 6/25 – Go on Eielson bus tour of Denali State Park.

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Check out of campground and start driving back toward Anchorage. Stay at a rest stop somewhere.

Tuesday 6/26 – Drive down to Seward and check into campground. Hike or relax.

Wednesday 6/27 – Take a Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise all day.

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Thursday 6/28 – Explore Kenai Peninsula. Drive back up to Anchorage.

Friday 6/29 – Fly to Juneau. Visit the Mendenhall Glacier.

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Board the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) to Ketchikan.

Saturday 6/30 – Spend all day on the ferry – hopefully viewing marine wildlife and glaciers.

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Sunday 7/1 – Arrive in Ketchikan. Depending on weather, either boat out to family friends’ remote cabin or check out Ketchikan.

Monday 7/2 – Explore Ketchikan or fish. I’ll be reading books and napping.

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Tuesday 7/3 – Explore Ketchikan or fish.

Wednesday 7/4 – Explore Ketchikan or fish. Watch the fireworks set off from Pennock Island (I’m hoping).

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Thursday 7/5 – Explore Ketchikan or fish. Head back to Ketchikan if not already there.

Friday 7/6 – Fly back through Seattle to Denver. Cuddle with pooches!!

The first week of the trip will be a whirlwind of sight seeing and I’m sure, very tiring. The second week should have more time for relaxing and hanging out. A good balance. And we’ll have all day Saturday and Sunday back home to do laundry, recuperate and sleep before having to head back to work.

I am so excited for this vacation. It will be the longest vacation I’ve ever taken as an adult (and the most expensive – holy cow!) and after this past year of being so busy and feeling burned out on running and life in general, I’m hoping this trip will refresh me and bring me back ready for triathlon season!

………………….

As for the pooches, they’re being watched by friends the first week of our trip and then going to Camp Bow Wow for the second week. This way, we still get to save some money but they still get to have some fun with other dogs while we’re gone. Should be a good time!

Week 18 Tapering: 6/18 – 6/24

20 Jun

I am doing this training recap early because this morning, I went on my last training run!

Marathon training is officially over. All that’s left now is to run the actual race. 😉

My runs this week were just like last week’s – slow, recovery pace. My massage Monday seems to have helped my tight muscles ever so slightly but they’re still begging for lots and lots of stretching.

Anyway… here’s what has happened so far this week.

Monday: 3 mile recovery run (37:20; 12:06/mile)

Tuesday: 2 mile recovery run (~12:15/mile)

Wednesday: 4 mile recovery run (49:30; 12:22/mile)

On today’s run, the first 3 miles I ran were around a 12:50 pace. Then the last mile, I ran in 10:59, just to remind myself that I can run faster.

Running Miles = 9

Here’s what the rest of the week will look like:

Thursday: Rest (to finish packing!)

Friday: Traveling

Saturday: Mayor’s Marathon – 26.2 miles!

Sunday: ??

………………….

Like any other athlete before a race, I’ve been checking the weather for race day everyday. So far, it’s looking like the perfect day:

Apparently, 69* is hot for Anchorage. But for Denver, it’s downright chilly (what with all the upper 90s we’ve been having lately. I’m not complaining though – dry heat is nothing like humid heat!) And I love that sunrise in Anchorage is at 4:21 – no getting up when it’s still dark outside for this race! The race starts at 8:00 so I figure I could get up around 5:30 or 6:00, get to the race site around 7:00 and be good to go.

T-3 days!

Week 15 Tapering: 6/11 – 6/17

19 Jun

I got in all of my planned miles last week and each run felt better than the last. I purposefully ran them all at a very slow recovery pace. Even when I felt like I could run faster, I made myself keep it slow and VERY easy, reminding myself, “Running slow is the thing helping your legs feel better.” Having no pace pressure also made running more enjoyable!

Monday: 3.06 mile recovery run (38:08; 12:27/mile)

Tuesday: 6.01 mile recovery run (1:13:43; 12:16/mile)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 6.02 mile recovery run (1:12:19; 12:01/mile)

Friday: 4.03 mile recovery run (49:00; 12:10/mile)

Saturday: 2 hours of easy hiking

Sunday: 30 minutes of moderate hiking

Total Running Miles = 19.12

And with that, it is now RACE WEEK! Gah!

My IT band/hamstring/glute/hip area has been feeling really tight the past week so I got a massage last night. It felt great, though there were definitely some areas that had me wincing a bit while the lady worked them over. My legs felt great on my run this morning but they end up getting angry the longer I sit down at work. Even though I get up to stretch and walk around every hour, my hips are not happy! At least they don’t hurt while I’m running.

Travis and I still have a lot of stuff to do before we leave on Friday morning so I gotta go. It’s good that I’m busy – less time to drive myself crazy with race day nerves!