28 November 2010

Race Recap: Chilly Half Marathon

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves." -Sir Roger Bannister

In October I ran my first half marathon, finally accomplishing something I had wanted to do for years. I literally came home from the BAA Half Marathon and began researching another half I could this fall. I was devastated when all races conflicted with the American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo or were sold out. But me being me, I got resourceful. I contacted the race director of the Chilly Half Marathon in Newton asking if there were any way I could get a number if I volunteered at other races. I ended up volunteering at the Bill's 5K in Newton Centre on Halloween and also at the number pick-up for Chilly at City Sports in Chestnut Hill the day before the race (where I was thrilled to meet very successful and inspirational fellow Boston blogger Carrots 'N' Cake by recognizing her husband). 

I knew Chilly was going to be a great race for me when I was told by a volunteer parking lot attendant I had the absolute last parking space at Newton South High School, the start and finish location of the race. I got in line for the women's restroom and waited over 25 minutes -- it was outrageous! By the time I went to the bathroom and checked my bag, I found myself jogging to the race start so as to not miss the starting gun. Because so many other people were inside the high school with me, they delayed the start by two minutes, allowing me to stretch a bit more and adjust to the cold temperature. I started iPod Shuffle and off we were, about 1200 runners ready to tackle 13.1 miles.

Anyone familiar with the Boston area and the Boston Marathon understands the phrase "the hills of Newton." Newton is a rather large community of smaller Newtons (Newton Corner, Newton Centre, Newtonville, Waban, and so on) and to say it's a hilly area is a huge understatement. Although much of the course was flat, Miles 4 through 8 were basically all hills. The first six miles were fantastic. It was a beautiful, sunny day without too much of a breeze and I was so happy just to be racing again. Around Mile 6 I started to feel a bit beat up by the hills and around Mile 7 I was  starting to experience some serious dietary distress. All the lines for the port-a-johns along the course were at least 3 deep and I decided to keep going; it wasn't THAT bad. At the top of Woodchester Road and Algonquin Road there was the most beautiful view of Boston -- I had no idea the altitude back there was so high! It really gave me motivation heading into running down Heartbreak Hill, a route I run quite frequently in training runs.

I had one incident on Commonwealth Avenue where a police officer tried to stop me from crossing the street to let a car go through. I said "Really?!" to the cop and kept running the course. Reckless? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. But I was frustrated. Keep in mind I say "thank you" to all police officers and volunteers along the race course for their support and safety of participants. Except this one Newton police officer, to whom I am very sorry. 

By Mile 10 I found my second wind and knew I was on pace to PR by a significant amount of time. Then my nemesis, my right IT band, decided it was time to act up again. I decided my pace and overall time was so great the best thing for me to do would be to stop and stretch. The stretch which seems to help me best involves laying down and crossing my right left over my straight, outstretched left leg (see example picture). So right at the Mile 11 sign I lay down half on the sidewalk, half in someone's driveway and stretched for about a minute. Several other runners asked if I was okay. I replied I was stretching my IT band and one guy replied with "ouch, I hope you finish" in a concerned, understanding tone like he knew the pain I was experiencing. Having another half marathon under my belt, I knew the running the last two miles in pain was completely possible. Before I knew it I was approaching the finish line and heard my name being read over the loudspeaker as I crossed the finish line. I was emotional and teared up a bit as I was handed a medal and the timing device was kindly removed from my ankle by a volunteer. Despite my burning right IT band, my legs didn't seize up as they had in my last race. Instead my lower back hurt a bit (later I discovered it was swollen but ice and a massage helped significantly). Although like my first half marathon, it was not exactly pretty, it was still a 6 minute PR (i.e. Personal Record) for me! Very exciting!

The kind folks at mix1 found my blog and sent me some samples of their all-natural protein shake, which I enjoyed during my final training runs as well as after the race. I was a bit apprehensive since the only other recovery drinks I had tried I did not like. But I really enjoyed mix1 -- no chalky flavor or weird aftertastes. The Blueberry-Vanilla flavor was my favorite and I will definitely be purchasing more in the future.

I've realized I absolutely live for racing. Not because I think I am going to win by any means; for me, just finishing is winning. But rather because I thrive off the energy in the air, being surrounded by other serious runners, simply pinning a bib on my shirt gives me such a thrill.  I'm so excited to start running my "11 in '11" in February, which I am sure will be here before I know it! I'll be blogging again soon about my first gluten-free Thanksgiving and other updates.

04 November 2010

11 in '11

Did you hear I'm running eleven half marathons in 2011? Yes, it's true! Before tackling my first full marathon in 2012, I decided to challenge myself with eleven 13.1 mile races in 2011. It's a very fun, manageable yet challenging distance to tackle -- and "11 in '11" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? 144.1 miles,  not to mention all the training runs, plus 5Ks and 10Ks I'll undoubtedly register for as well. 

Many friends have expressed interest in running some races with me, so after weeks of planning I've come up with a fairly solid calendar. It's still open to some tweaking as I have not officially registered for many of these races and may decide to run others once I have a better sense of my class and work schedule.

Sunday, 20 February
Hampton Beach, NH
My childhood friend, fellow foodie and new nutritionist Erin is also running this race

Sunday, 20 March
New Bedford, MA

Sunday, 3 April
Exeter, NH
Sunday, 15 May (race date is not finalized)
Newton, MA

Sunday, 29 May
Boston, MA

Saturday, 25 June
Seattle, WA
Girls weekend in one of my absolute favorite cities with some wonderful, fast ladies!

Saturday, 7 August
Providence, RI

Saturday, 10 September
Plymouth, MA

Saturday, 24 September (race date is not finalized)
Hollis, NH 

Sunday, 9 October  (race date is not finalized)
Boston, MA
Can't wait to run this again and see how much progress I have made in running half marathons in one year

RACE 11  I haven't decided yet!
Sunday, 6 November  (race date is not finalized)
York, ME
Sunday, 6 November  (race date is not finalized)
Manchester, NH

I still have one more half marathon in 2010 -- the Chilly Half Marathon in Newton on Sunday, 14 November. I'm also seriously considering doing a detox/cleanse in January to start the year off refreshed from the holidays and ready for a busy 2011! 

03 November 2010

Gluten-Free Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake

I've enjoyed so many fantastic meals lately (seafood curry, venison liver, stuffed poussin, and so on). And although they were absolutely incredible, they were devoid of my favorite aspect: dessert! (Unless more wine counts -- and for me, it doesn't).

The smell of the chocolate and butter melting together over a double-boiler is just heaven to me. As such, one of my go-to desserts for years has been a Gourmet (RIP) flourless chocolate cake recipe. Incredibly simple, this recipe has always garnered huge praise from those I've shared it with, often yielding "you should be a pastry chef!" remarks. 

I haven't made it at all since becoming gluten-free earlier this year, and when a craving for brownies struck earlier today, I decided to make my cake instead. As I haven't been using white granulated sugar lately, I used turbinado sugar for the first time in this recipe and I think it added a bit of depth and complexity. I paired a decadent slice with Sweet Scoops Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt and I was quite pleased. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (I splurged for Valrhona Manjari 64% Feves)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling (I used Valrhona)

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper. Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler (or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water) melt chocolate with butter, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler (or bowl) from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Slowly add 1/2 cup cocoa powder into chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 20-25 minutes, until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with ice cream, sorbet or whipped cream if desired.