Sunday, June 20, 2010

My favorite 20-mile run.

On long runs I'm always struck by the beauty of the world. I don't know if this is because running (unlike driving or even cycling) forces you to slow down and actually look at the terrain around you, or if there is something about prolonged exercise that heightens our perceptions, but for whatever reason, I always find myself marveling in the beauty of the natural world when I'm running long. And while I marvel, I feel incredibly grateful to be granted such unframed beauty.

So, for the first time ever, I took my camera along with me on a 20-miler I did yesterday. I started at Spooner Summit and did the 4- mile climb to the "Marlette saddle" and then ran alongside Marlette Lake itself until I descended onto the Flume trail: a single track cut into the side of the Tahoe Basin with the Lake below. Here are the few images I took (at miles 10 and 12). I hope you will enjoy the natural beauty almost as much as I did.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The problem of foot-chafe: solved.

The socks that will save the life of my feet. 

One major problem I've always had with distance running is what it does to my feet. In the past, I've been able to ignore the blisters, callouses, lost toenails, cracked and bleeding skin and prolific athlete's foot because as a teaching assistant at a four-year university, it wasn't often I wore sandals. Now, however, that I work in a clothing store AND I'm wearing sandals frequently, I've come to the horrific realization that my feet resemble something from a movie called "Swampman returns from parched desert" or photos a podiatrist might keep on his iphone of the very worst patients to remind himself of his luck in not having feet like that.

So I admit: I tried to ignore the problem. I'm not that vain, after all. But when my toenails started falling off in twos and my nail-less toes rubbed together to create geysers of blood, I thought it was time I sought out a possible solution to my problem of foot-chafe.

While at the Fleet Feet Store in Sacramento on J Street, I came across an odd sight: toe socks. But they were not your usual piggly-wiggly type made from sweater-like material, but rather thin like a running sock, but with material that separated each toe from each other. Like parents that bought 5 bedroom homes for their four-child household, I thought my problem would be solved by separating the offending digits (are toes called digits? They are like fingers, but on your feet?), giving each it's own little sock area. The salesman asked me, as I put them into my pile of purchases "You're going to run in those? Have you, before?"

I admitted I had not. But I was desperate, and not wanting to make the man throw up, I downsized the scope of my problems. "I just though they might help with blisters?"

"Well let me know how they work out for you." It was like the thing you say to someone who plans on diving out of an airplane with a new type of untested parachute. "Well, let me know how that works out for you," some skeptic might say, thinking if you come back at all, it's a good sign.

But I put them on this morning for an easy 12 miles down west shore. At first, I was conscious of a bit of pressure between my toes where they had previously been rubbing each other to a bloody pulp. But when I came home, there was no blood on my socks (a welcome sight) nor had blisters formed where they usually do.

And so-- I'm planning on investing in a few pairs. Besides, have you ever seen cuter running socks? I think not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two mile repeats.

I ran them today: 2 mile efforts with 3 minutes rest. I can't believe I'm fit enough to do that. I know that sounds silly, but really: I've been telling myself how fat and out of shape I am for so long that a halfway decent time in either a mile or two surprises me. I wonder if this is a character flaw, or a good thing, the attribute that will keep me humble. I can't say I know either way. All I know is that it's good to day "I ran 2 mile repeats today and then the bike for two hours at a 17.7 mph pace." Yessir, that sounds and feels wonderful.

And I think that's what athletics might really be about: personal achievement. It's about pushing through the hard times and about laughing when you screw up; about celebrating victories (even the very small ones) and about marveling in the journey.

I'm so happy summer is here. The natural landscape-- of trees and sky and the acute smell of pine-- makes me grateful for each step I take.

It's summer... and it's about time (for some fresh vegetables)!


Greetings! I apologize for my long absence. The simple truth is that I've been outside-- finally-- running, cycling and swimming. The weather has finally (though it seems reluctantly) turned away from the snow and cold of recent months to relative warmth. Nothing is more encouraging than seeing the snow recede. First, the yard was clear and now the trails are slowly becoming uncovered and runnable again.

With the change in weather has also come another element of the summer life: the farmer's market. We had our first in Tahoe City two weeks ago and since I've made a point to go every Thursday and enjoy the fresh vegetables and fruits from the valley. This week, I was lucky enough to find fresh tomatoes-- those little yellow ones that somehow contain flavor beyond their small size.  I did a search of all my recipes and decided to use them in a pasta recipe I found in an old Vegetarian Times.  And since it's been so long since I've posted anything about food, I thought I'd post a recipe that is both healthy and that contains the carbo-staple of many endurance athletes. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Linguine with Torn Fresh Basil


2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 T olive oil
garlic (the recipe calls for 2 cloves, but Steve and I usually just use an entire bulb) minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1//2 13.25 oz. pkg whole-wheat linguine
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine the shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.

3. Transfer to roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms and onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 

4. Add tomatoes to the pan and roast 7 to 10 minutes more, or until tomatoes shrivel and soften.


(It's OK to pace and admire the beautiful colors offered by the fresh produce. I did!) 

5. Transfer vegetables to bowl. 

6. Add wine to roasting pan, stirring to scrape off any stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the roasting pan on burner over medium heat, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, or until wine has evaporated by half. I do not recommend the alternative method offered by VT which suggests one might place the roasting pan in the oven for 5 minutes. This caused my oven to catch fire. 

7. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

8. Drain pasta, and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Stir reserved cooking water into reduced wine in roasting pan. 

9. Return pasta to pot. Add wine mixture and vegetables, and toss over medium-low heat until heated through. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. 

10. Stir in torn basil leaves. 

11. Serve immediately. :)