Killer Hills

Take a good, hard look at this scenery.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Awe-inspiring, I might daresay.

But this scenery has a malevolent side. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies and blue skies. Far from it.

This scenery handed me my sorry runner booty on a platter today, and it wasn’t a pretty thing.

Today, I ran 10 HILLY miles amongst the gorgeous terrain featured in this photo. This particular area is a mere city park here in Colorado Springs. Can you believe that? A city park! In any other state, it would at least be a state park, but we have an abundance of scenery riches here in Colorado. One can’t go around naming everything a state or national park. The whole damn state would be a national park if we were going on the basis of looks alone.

See what I mean?

Anyway, this run was probably the toughest and most arduous run of my life. No joke. Tougher than both of the half marathons I’ve run and any other training run that preceded it. It KILLED.

This lovely park, appropriately named “Garden of the Gods,” is one of the toughest places to run in Colorado Springs, and I know this. I know this, and yet I still thought it would be a grand idea to do my weekly long run amongst the killer trails and endless hills of this area.

I shake my head in shame at my own stupidity. Oh, silly and misguided Lindsay…..thinking I could tackle the killer hills for miles on end.

It didn’t help matters that it was incredibly dry and sunny out today. I had to loop back to my car for water bottle refills several times because I was going through my water much faster than I had anticipated.

This was where I started the run. Home base, if you will. I made several trips back to this area during the run to refill the water bottles and refuel.

I also started this run a little later than I meant to- 9:30 instead of 7:00. Those extra two and a half hours between my original start time and my actual start time led to a significantly higher temperature that I had to combat throughout the run.

A mile and a half into my run (which starts straight up a steep incline and never relents….the park literally has no flat parts. It’s all steep hills!), my legs were beginning to burn.

In all ways possible. My muscles burned, and I also acquired a sunburn on the backs of my calves! Double whammy. The fierce Colorado sun sure can do a number on someone with fair skin like mine.

Due to these circumstances, I decided to throw all expectations for this run out the window. I just wanted to survive it. That was all….

I slowed down my pace a fair amount, so I could contend with the hills (and I am quite proud of myself for conquering the vast majority of them, some of which extended for a mile and a half at a whack). I also took a few walking breaks when the muscle burn became too much. Mentally, this run seemed endless; and physically, it was just painful.

But I survived. I survived, and I feel that the experience has served as worthy preparation for those last few miles of the marathon, when I imagine I’ll be feeling quite similarly to the way I felt today.

When you just want it all to be over with, but you have to force yourself to keep going, to dig in deep to whatever reserves of energy you have stored deep within you and use it to get you through the run.

That’s what I did today, and I’m proud of myself for it.

It doesn’t hurt that I had these views as the reward for my efforts. Beautiful mountain views ALWAYS motivate and inspire me.

Dinner

For dinner tonight, I had a soup n’ sandwich combo platter. I might have even made the sandwich all by myself- my first attempt at “cooking” in more days than I’d like to admit (that is, if you can call assembling a sandwich “cooking”). For my sake, let’s just roll with it.

The soup of the day was a lovely gazpacho (…made by mom…).

The featured sandwich (made by me!) was a turkey havarti melt with spinach and cilantro-mint pesto on a whole wheat sandwich thin.

Yum, yum. I love any and all melted cheese action. The havarti paired nicely with the pesto too.

Question: What’s the toughest run (or workout) you’ve ever had? Did you find it demoralizing or motivational?

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My Civic Duty

My time was up. I knew it as soon as my dad handed me the envelope. I couldn’t avoid it. Couldn’t escape it. Couldn’t pretend like I didn’t know what was happening. Oh no.

It was jury duty time.

That’s right. I ventured on down to the court house this morning for my first ever jury duty summon and quickly realized why most people dread these things.

All you do is sit there and wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait. And then, just when you think you’re done waiting, they’ll make you wait some more. Just to test your patience. I was glad that my parents had urged me to bring a few books, so I spent most of the morning happily chugging through Freakonomics. The other entertainment option was some terrible Nicholas Cage movie about the Masons and buried treasure that they screened on the tvs lining the large holding room (or as I like to think of it, the holding “pen”). Of all things to subject us, a Nicholas Cage movie.

Honestly now, judicial system. Where is your taste?

I digress. Anyway, after waiting forever and a year, the people up at the front started calling out an absurd amount of names and numbers. All of us in the holding pen clutched our little summons numbers and trembled in fear that they would announce our number. They might as well have been leading us to the slaughter; that’s how much people seemed to dread hearing their names called.

There were sighs. There were moans. There were upset faces.

Mine was not one of them fortunately. After nearly calling my number several times (they called the ones immediately before and after mine), they let the remaining people in the holding pen go.

Sweet freedom! It was like the last day of classes all over again.

In honor of my not getting selected for a jury, I had some celebratory tofu pad thai for lunch (which, of course, I didn’t make…my mom did). Thanks mom.

Just for the official record, I will choose pad thai over jury duty any day of the week.

You can quote me on that.

I also enjoyed my first sampling of POM juice, which the wonderful people over at POM Wonderful sent me a few days ago.

Aren’t they cute? The bottle design is just fantastic.

Beyond this, the taste is great too. Tart and not overly sweet. Just the way I like my juice.

I can’t wait to use some of my pomegranate juice in my cooking (whenever I get around to the whole cooking thing again). POM wonderful has some great-sounding recipes on their site that incorporate the juice into a wide variety of dishes and drinks. Can’t wait to try some of them out!

Anyway folks, I’m going to head to bed. Gotta rest up for my 10 miler in the morning. I’m doing it in a place that’s quite hilly, so it should be challenging.

Just the way I like it.

Question: Have you ever been summoned for jury duty? Were you ever selected for a trial?

May or May Not

After an extended absence over the weekend, I am finally back and in blogging action! Kinda…

Things I may or may not have done this weekend included:

  • An oatmeal photoshoot. It’s been far too long since I’ve captured the beauty of this breakfast for the camera. Work it, oatmeal.

Coach’s Oats, milk, blueberries, 1/2 banana whipped, flaxseed, Barney Butter, and granola.

Beautiful….just beautiful. It practically bring tears to my eyes…and if my tastebuds could weep, they would have as well. Oatmeal just does that to me (…just when I thought I couldn’t get any stranger, I write out the previous sentence and mean it…). Tell me I’m not the only one who harbors such affection for the oaty goodness!

The Oatmeal Mullet: Spoon in the front, party in the back.

Where the focus should always be…

  • A visit to Boulder for apartment hunting and general exploring. I have officially decided that I am moving to a land of crazy hippies, and it will be glorious.

My future roommates and I took a stroll along the Pearl Street Mall, a large outdoor pedestrian center filled with cute boutiques….

….and crazy hippy street performers. This guy was juggling flaming batons on a 10 foot unicycle.

Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

  • Signed a lease for a beautiful townhouse in the north Boulder area. It was SUCH a relief to have an official place to live next month when I start work up in Boulder. It doesn’t hurt that the townhouse has sick mountain views.

I will be waking up to this view every morning.

Not too shabby, if I do say so. I heart Colorado….

  • Ran six miles with the sister this morning and enjoyed a big plate of Japanese Pan Udon noodles with tofu from Noodles & Company afterward (which unfortunately went unphotographed). Noodles & Co. always knows the way to my heart…and stomach.
  • Made Matt’s Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion Burgers for dinner tonight and practically drooled all over the plate in delirious ecstasy. These burgers are AMAZING, especially if you use organic, grass-fed beef. The flavor combination is just perfect! My whole family loved them….

My photo doesn’t do it justice, but know that these burgers might change your life.

Props, Matt. Major props. Great recipe!

And with that, my friends, I may or may not be heading to bed.

Question: What did you do (or not do) over the weekend?

The Cooking Vacation

Before I returned home to Colorado, I promised my parents that I would cook for them. I had visions of myself running gleefully back and forth between the well-stocked fridge and the ample counter space while whipping up gourmet meals for my family. The mere thought of my parents’ beautiful kitchen brought a smile to my face.

Now that I’m actually home, the aforementioned vision has not yet become a reality. In fact, I would daresay that I’ve been reveling in the act of not cooking. As though I’m now on a cooking break or something….

To be honest, it’s easy to take a cooking break if your mom is as good a cook as my mom. For lunch, she busted out a beautiful cold potato and zucchini soup for us to enjoy. Why would I dare turn on the oven burners when she’s around to make such amazing meals?

All I’ve had to do for the past couple days is pull out the camera when it’s time to eat and photograph my mother’s cooking. A food blogger could get spoiled with this kind of service….

I know, I know. I should be a good daughter and give her the break from cooking. She’s been doing it for the past twenty something years, after all! But why cramp the woman’s style when she obviously knows what she’s doing?

Can you spot me in that last photograph? I snuck into the spoon’s reflection….

Just for the record, you all should make this soup. It’s simple and tasty, and while I’m not sure if it takes a lot of time to make (you’d have to ask my mom), I would venture to say that it’s worth the effort. The addition of the roasted almonds was particularly delicious.

Anyway, you’ll just have to blame my mom for the lack of new and creative culinary efforts on the blogfront as of late. I’m sure I’ll return to my cooking ways soon enough; but for now, I can’t say that I’m not enjoying being spoiled by my parents. 🙂

For dinner, I continued my lazy streak. We had grilled salmon burgers (which I didn’t grill), steamed asparagus (which I didn’t steam), and potato salad (which I didn’t assemble). It takes a lot of effort to be this lazy.

The salmon burger topped with grilled onions and avocado slices…..

I just love salmon burgers….well, I guess I love most things that come in burger form, to be honest. Veggie, salmon, bison, turkey. You name it, I’ll undoubtedly enjoy it in its burgerized form.

Green, green asparagus….a meal isn’t complete without a little green goodness!

What’s taters, precious?

A meal fit for a queen….or a lazy daughter on a cooking vacation.

On the exercise front, I attempted to do an hour’s worth of Yoga For Runners, but it was a fail. It was nice to stretch out my legs from the 13 miler yesterday, but I didn’t feel the burning desire to do a gazillion chattaranga pushups in a row or hang out in boat pose for 10 minutes straight. I stopped the podcast after about 45 minutes and chilled in child’s pose for a while. That’s more my pace…especially on a cross training day. I usually use my cross training days as an excuse to do the least amount of exercise possible without actually calling them “rest days.”

Like I said, lazy.

Question: What is your favorite thing to do on a lazy day?

Half Marathon Breakfast

This morning, I ate a half marathon for breakfast, and it was delicious. In fact, I might still be hungry for more miles. Does anyone else want to join me for my next running feast?

You know you want to.

One of the nice parts about Colorado weather is that it is significantly cooler in the morning as compared to Hartford, which means that I don’t have to get up near as early to enjoy a comfortable run. I didn’t even start running till 7:30 at which point it was in the lower 60s. By the end of my run, it was in the low 70s.

After several weeks of disgusting heat and humidity during my morning long runs in Connecticut, I am just loving this sort of weather. I hope it continues!

I did my solo half marathon on one of my favorite running trails in the Springs called the Santa Fe Trail. It’s a nice dirt path with rolling hills (some of which are quite steep) that meanders onto the grounds of the Air Force Academy and features great views of the Front Range foothills. It’s such a beautiful trail that I often forget about how tough some of the hills are because I’m so engrossed in the beauty of the environment.

That’s the type of run I had today. I so enjoyed the scenery that I almost (emphasis on almost) forgot that I was running for over two hours. My tired and achey feet again reminded me of this harsh reality by the end of the run.

I ran slowly to make sure that I could complete the distance without suffering any issues from the altitude. Apparently, it takes about a week to get rid of that yucky “Why is my lung capacity decreased?” feeling, so I didn’t push it today. I ran just under 11 minutes miles, and that pace felt just about right for me today.

Gotta take each run’s pacing one day at a time…

Nevertheless, I felt strong, especially while pushing up some of the hills. In fact, I haven’t done a run this hilly thus far during my marathon training, and I appreciated getting in some hill action. I figure they’ll make me even stronger and better prepared for race day.

I wrapped up the entire half marathon in a grand total time of 2:23:09!

These are the feet that just ran 13.1 miles. I’m proud of these guys….

Is it strange that I feel most beautiful and most myself in the moments after wrapping up a run rather than when my hair and makeup is all done up? I think that true beauty is reflected through a person’s happiness….and I am so happy here.

After a little stretching, showering, and foamrolling, I had a simple sandwich + salad lunch featuring one of my favorite sandwich combos: turkey, brie, and Crofter’s American on whole wheat bread.

Such a simple sandwich, but so tasty. Brie is one of those cheeses that I could eat everyday. Or bathe in. You know…same thing.

I also had some spinach salad with ‘shrooms, grape tomatoes, red onions, sliced hardboiled eggs, and shredded mozzarella cheese to go along with my sammich.

After eating this lunch, I crashed landed right into my bed for a solid afternoon nap. I really didn’t accomplish much of anything today because I was so tired.

One thing I did accomplish, though, was the consumption of a green monster. I split one with my mom, who is a recent convert to the green monster movement. She had been quite suspect of the green smoothies before, but the addition of some Vega Vanilla Chai powder finally made her see the light.

In the mix:

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 scoop Vega Vanilla Chai
  • two handfuls spinach
  • one handful blueberries
  • 1tbsp chia seeds
  • ice

GMs are like an energy shot in a glass. After downing this green goodness, I decided to start unpacking the zillions of boxes stacked high in my room.

Horace was proud of me for this unexpected burst of productivity. He supervised while I did most of the unpacking. He likes to think of himself as a “manager.”

Question: When are you most happy?

A Birthday With Altitude

It is only fitting that my first full day back home in Colorado is my birthday. My 23rd birthday, to be exact.

What a birthday present….the day could have been boring and terrible (it most certainly wasn’t!), and I still would have enjoyed it if only for the fact that I am now back in Colorado. I really love it here….the crisp and dry air makes me smile. Just like this:

I started my day off with a 3 mile birthday run around my neighborhood. It started off great….I ran down the hill from my house and completed the first mile in a blistering fast 9:03 (for me, this is lightning speed!). I could hardly believe my Garmin when I saw my pace…..

….and then, the altitude struck.

Oh yes, altitude.

I had forgotten about how much that little factor can affect you when embarking upon cardiovascular activities at 6,000 feet above sea level. There really is less oxygen at this altitude, and I started feeling it once I hit the turn around point in my run. As I turned around to start heading back uphill to my house, the altitude started kicking my ass. My lungs were burning, and my heart was thumping much faster than it normally does at sea level when I run uphill. On the final hill up to my house, I had to stop and let my heart slow down. It felt like it was about to thump out of my chest! This run was the anti-negative split run. My first mile was a speedy 9:03, the second mile was a moderate 9:43, and the last one was a sputtering 10:43.

That last hill up to my house KILLED.

Lesson of the day? Even though I am a Colorado native, I am not invincible to altitude. My next run (which will be a 13 miler tomorrow) will be done at an extremely slow pace to prevent altitude burnout like I experienced today.

Lunch

For lunch, my mom took my sister and I out to one of my favorite places in downtown Colorado Springs, a funky little restaurant called Poor Richard’s.

Their menu features all sorts of fresh salads, sandwiches, and homemade pizza selections. They even offer a spelt crust option for the pizza, which I think is just fantastic. I love spelt.

While I love the thin crust pizza at Poor Richard’s, my heart longed for one of their fresh and fabulous veggie burgers.

I chose the Mexi-veggie burger which was served on homemade whole wheat bread (so soft and doughy!) and was topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, mustard, and lettuce.

I could only finish a little more than half of it, but I savored every bite that I could manage…fresh veggie burgers are glorious.

Dinner

For my birthday dinner, my family and I went to a tapas place downtown called Nosh. My family loves good food just as much as I do, so the meal was enjoyed by all. Honestly, can you every go wrong with eating a whole lot of everything? I think not. It’s a foodie’s dream!

The mom and me:

Being a huge goofball:

My sis and my dad got in on the photo action.

The little sis can be a big goofball too. Guess it runs in the family…

My mom and I started the meal off with a refreshing cucumber vodka cocktail (not my normal drink choice, but my dad thought I would like it). This guy packed a punch, so I sipped it slowly and only finished about half of it by the end of the meal. I’m such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, so I have to be careful with drinks like this….one too many, and it wouldn’t be such a pretty sight.

My dad went with his usual martini. The man loves his vodka….

We ordered a slew of tapas plates including a roasted beet salad with herbed yogurt cheese, large leafy greens, and tofu-garlic vinaigrette dressing….this was so earthy and delicious!

...Wild tuna sashimi with crispy rice crackers for scooping. This had a great sesame-infused flavor, and it tasted lighter than air!

…Grass-fed bison tar tar with homemade vinegar potato chips (my dad’s choice….he ate 90% of this….the whole raw meat thing is a bit too much for my mom, my sis, and I). I dug the chips though!

…Spicy shrimp with sweet basil and kale. This was good, but I feel that I could make this type of dish at home. Whenever I go out to restaurants, I always try to order things that I wouldn’t normally cook in my own kitchen.

….Roasted brussel sprouts with manchego cheese, candied lemon peel, radicchio, polenta, and a buttery sauce made of mirin, ginger, and honey. This was hands down the best dish of the night! I am already a brussel sprouts lover, but this dish would convert even the most fervent brussel sprout hater. My family and I practically devoured this dish. The sauce was to die for!

Roasted cauliflower with caramelized onions, cilantro, and cashews.

And no birthday is complete without a little dessert. Or in this case, a LOT of dessert. I have a serious thing for chocolate, so I decided to share the “Chocolate Lovers” dessert platter with my family. Aren’t I generous?

So much chocolate. So good. My taste buds are smiling.

With that, I’m headed off to digest before my run in the morning. Let’s hope the chocolate doesn’t make a reappearance then.

G’night!

Colorful Colorado

Two thousand miles, three double digit driving days, and three subway Veggie Delites later, and I am finally back home in colorful Colorado!

I was so happy to see the ugly poop brown welcome sign that I made my dad stop the car and snap a picture showcasing my gratitude and joy.

Swooooon…..oh Colorado. Don’t make me blush.

Today’s drive across Kansas went smoothly. People often balk at the mere notion of driving across Kansas, but I actually enjoy it. It’s not nearly as crowded as most of the interstate back east, which makes for less stressful driving conditions. I also find the scenery in Kansas to be strangely intriguing. The sky is BIG. The plains are BIG. The views are BIG. You can see hundreds of miles in any direction without a skyscraper, pedestrian, or tree to block your view. Everything in the state is on such a huge and vast scale that it definitely makes you feel very small while driving across the plains in your little car. They weren’t lying when they called these the Great Plains!

Big sky country….

There were grain elevators a-plenty spotted throughout the drive. These are the things you will find only in Great Plains….that and country stations featuring songs about “sexy tractors.” I’m not kidding…

Are those tractors I spy in the background?

Oh yes. Yes, they are.

Upon arriving home, I said hello to some familiar faces including my mom!

….and this little guy.

Sorry I woke you up, Horace (yes, our cat is named Horace….that’s just how our family rolls)!

After three days of road food, it was fantastic to enjoy a fresh, homemade meal. My mom had prepared for us a crab + gruyere quiche alongside some mixed fruit salad and steamed green beans mixed with a little EVOO, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar.

After dinner, I was hoping to get a few quality mountain shots, but they were shrouded in evening thunderstorm clouds….

You can sort of see them here, but they are definitely not in their full glory with this kind of cloud coverage going on.

I was slightly annoyed that the weather foiled my plans to bask in the mountain glory. Way to be lame, weather.

Tomorrow mountains, we shall meet again….

Question: What is your favorite part about visiting home?