Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still got it.

Today was a good day. A very good day. Let me tell you why...

My morning started at 5:30 with a wakeup call from Jamie to make sure I was up and out of the house in time. Hooray for race day!

I hopped on an empty cable car headed toward downtown and chatted with the super friendly drivers. Next thing I knew, I was on a plush shuttle bus to our half marathon start at Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.

My shuttle got me there by 7:15...a half hour before our running group planned to meet. Eventually I started to see some blue Run the City shirts congregating and made my way over. Our fearless leader snapped some group pictures, gave a motivating pep talk and off we went to our respective wave starts.

I huddled near a heat lamp until my 8:30 start...yes, heat lamp. Where else are you going to see a heat lamp and folks running around in garbage bags in the middle of July?? Love it!! Here's how the rest of the day went down:

Cruised through Golden Gate Park and felt fabulous. So fabulous I didn't realize how fast I was going until I checked my watch at the first water stop. 7:50something. Time to chillax. I ended up dropping my pace a little too much and didn't quite make all my splits. Ah well, it was close enough.

Golden Gate Park is big. Very big. It felt like we ran through there for-eh-ver. Don't get me wrong, it was a great run. I just didn't realize the first 6 miles were in the park. Ha. That'll teach me to pay attention to the course map next time!

The next 6 miles were a testament to the planning skills of the race directors. Technically, they were coordinating 3 different races (full marathon and 2 half marathons) on the same course. That takes a whole lotta skill. To minimize congestion along the race route, they had the course alternating between parallel streets so some runners would run on one street, while another batch ran another route. Check it:

When I first looked at the map, I had no idea how that alternating course thing was going to work out. I pictured tons of runners getting confused, maybe running more or less than 13.1, pretty much disaster all over the place. I'm impressed with how smoothly things went. There was very little confusion, no real clusters of people to weave through...really great approach!

Once we hit mile 9, I started getting nervous since we were approaching the portion of the course that is known for being pretty desolate.

Thankfully there were lots of DJs parked on corners BLASTING music and our coaches were scattered between miles 10 and 12. It's amazing what a little music and familiar faces will do to your energy level. Next thing I knew, I was hitting the splits on my pace tattoo :)

Zoomed through the next few miles, turned a corner and saw a friend that came out to cheer (yay!!) and before I knew it, we were on the Embarcadero with the finish line in sight. Full marathoners and half marathoners got split into two chutes for the finish. Looked down at my watch and kicked it into gear. Crossed the finish line in 2:03. Hells yes. Not quite 2:02, but a PR is a PR. :)
Couldn't have asked for a better race. Just a few things that stuck out for me:
  1. Very well organized. Coordinating two half marathons and a full marathon with two different start times on the same course is quite a task. Having them go so smoothly that this runner didn't notice any logistical problems is amazing.
  2. Finisher medals and sweat bags are reusable. You know how race medals kinda just pile up and you really don't know what to do with all of them? Mine turns into a key chain. The full marathoners' medal turns into a coaster. The bags are made of a durable material and were really easy to keep track of since you sharpie your bib number on the designated squares. I'll probably tote mine around to runs.
  3. Music where and when you need it. DJs galore. Loud. Awesome.
  4. Finish food: Water, Cytomax, bananas, Pirate's Booty (in like 2 or 3 flavors), a baked good I didn't take, nectarines, Bear Naked granola, Jamba Juice smoothies. So many things to choose from!
  5. Only thing I'd change. All our markers went like this: 7.9, 8.9, 9.9, etc. It threw me off at first, but eventually I got used to just required more brain power than I was willing to use mid-race ;)
I'd definitely recommend the 2nd half marathon to anyone looking for a moderately challenging course (the hills are gradual and pretty scattered) in the middle of the summer.

After the race friend and I met up with the running group for some mimosas and then a genius
someone of us decided tacos were in order. Not just any tacos. Nick's Crispy Tacos. The one in my neighborhood too!

Friend and I each got a Pescado taco (one Nick's way, one not) because they are clearly my new favorite.
We also sampled two others, the Carnitas (braised shredded pork in corn tortilla with pico de gallo & pinto beans) Nick's way and the Pollo Asado (grilled chicken in corn tortilla with pico de gallo & black beans). Originally we planned on splitting those last two, but they were so huge and messy.
I thought the Carnitas taco, was ok...still not as good as the Pescado. In hindsight, the Carnitas would have been better not Nick's way. I think I just don't like pinto beans with melted cheese. Anyway, it was a taco with meat. It made my belly happy either way.

Very good day. Very good day indeed :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The accidental vegetarian meets race week...

And it should be an interesting party.

I'll get into the whole 'accidental vegetarian' bit later on. Let's start with the fun stuff, shall we?? RACE SWAG!
So this Sunday I'll be running my first race in my new city...
No, I didn't sneak one by you guys. I'm just running the half. The second half to be exact. Yep, you get to choose which half you want to run! How fun is that?? Apparently the first half sells out pretty quickly since it takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, but I'm more than ok with passing on that.

The second half marathon starts in Golden Gate Park and winds through Haight-Ashbury, the Mission, Mission Bay, past AT&T Park and finishes at the Ferry Building. Conveniently, all the neighborhoods I haven't yet explored. Very excited!!

I scooted out of the office around 2 to pick up my bib and check out the expo goods. If I wasn't so flustered, I would have busted out the camera to take a picture of the crowd. INSANE. SO thankful for half day Fridays.

I grabbed my bag, bib and shirt (as shown in the pic above) and flew past the official race merchandise (my new thing is I will only allow myself to by 'official' merchandise if I'm doing the full) and into the expo area. O my...holy overload. I'm happy to report that I only bought a few things:
Pace tattoo (I only bought it b/c I couldn't find the free ones). Yeah, that says 2:02. I know I said I was going to take it easy on this one, but I mean if I happen to cruise in at 2:02, I won't complain ;) I also vow not to be miserable if I don't finish in 2:02.

Nuun and portable Nuun (yeah, that's an individually packaged Nuun tablet. I'm a sucker.) to replenish my stash.

Double Espresso Clif Shot Gels! Do you know how long I've been looking for these?? I forget the first time I had one of these, but I thought they were awesome. Unfortunately most stores don't stock them...maybe it's the 100 mg of caffeine! haha. I picked up 2 just in case I ever have a tough time waking up pre-Saturday run ;)

Check out some of the expo/bag surprise highlights:

Joint Juice (plus some powdered packets) - I keep seeing ads for this stuff. Will definitely report back after I try it.

Itty bitty Larabars - how cute are they? Finally snagged a PB&J one...can't wait to try it!

Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil? I found these at the very bottom of my bag. Kinda random, yeah? Maybe not so random? They did have a pho table set up at the expo. WTF??

So today was also supposed to be couch delivery day, but that didn't happen. I'll spare you the story. All that matters is I'm getting free delivery on Monday now. Score.

Since I didn't have to wait for the delivery folks, I got to work on dinner - Broccoli Rabe with Tofu. I can barely contain your excitement. I was psyched to see broccoli rabe at the farmers market on Sunday, but I didn't have a chance to use it until today.
Broccoli Rabe with Tofu
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 block high protein tofu, cubed
1 tbsp mirin
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chili garlic sauce

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Brown tofu over medium heat and set aside. In same pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat, saute garlic for 30 seconds, add mirin and broccoli rabe. Saute for 1-2 minutes or until broccoli rabe begins to wilt. Add oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce and unagi sauce. Cook for 2 minutes before stirring in tofu. Cook for another minute and serve over rice.

I ate this over some brown rice (totally rocking the brown carbs tonight, white carbs tomorrow in the form of sushi rice!) and thought it was pretty good for being so simple. I've made this dish, in some form or another, many times before but this was one of the better versions!

Just a couple observations:
  1. These were super leafy. Usually when I get broccoli rabe in the store, the leaves aren't that big and there are a few little florets poking through. Not the case here.
  2. The stems were pretty thin. I've usually gotten ones with thick stems. These were closer to watercress thickness.
  3. There was more crunch going on. Less of a broccoli stem crunch, more of a watercress stem crunch. Yes, I listen to how my food crunches in my mouth. I know, I'm very strange.
Ok, so onto the accidental vegetarianism. There's no denying my love of meat. I could probably give up chicken in a heartbeat, but red meat could never leave my life. I've never had random chicken cravings, but you bet I crave juicy steaks and burgers. Lamb shank? Hell freaking yes.

Unfortunately, good quality meat isn't exactly cheap and apparently chicken isn't cheap these days either? Meh. Damn good thing I appreciate soy and soy products.

Have I noticed anything different? Why yes, yes I have:
  1. When I do get around to eating meat (usually when I'm out), I end up eating less of it. Not because I don't like it, but because my stomach starts to feel weird.
  2. I tend to feel bloated more often (I've even tried to not eat dairy with lots of soy or ruffage, but that doesn't seem to help)
  3. General weirdness when it comes to digestion. I will refrain from sharing TMI.
  4. I still crave meat, I wish my wallet did too.
So I guess I've become a quasi-vegetarian (an at home vegetarian??) for financial reasons. Anyone else find themselves in the same situation? Is there a secret butcher somewhere that had good, reasonably priced meat? A secret Safeway?? :(


I haven't posted since Monday. Woah. I am happy to report that I managed to find motivation the following day :) Instead of rushing over to the Marina Green for the scheduled 2 mile group run, I opted to run my flat office route...until I realized I forgot my access card. D'oh!

Since my home is on top of a hill, I decided to walk down to flatness and run until the timer on my phone went off. Seemed like a pretty good idea. 30 minutes later, I had completed exactly 3 miles...a pretty rough 3 miles. Yeeh. Dinner was leftover couscous salad (hooray for eating all my leftovers this week!)...exciting, I know.

Wednesday's run was MUCH better. I left my office and did the same timer thing (15 minutes, turn around, 15 minutes) and almost made it to 30 minutes, except the stupid light changed on me :( I got home, mapped my run and turns out I did 3.23 miles. In 29 minutes. O hey!

My run must have been an indicator for how the rest of my evening would pan out. I got home by 7 and knocked out some laundry and cleaning. I even sorted my recycling bin and broke down a bunch of boxes! Talk about productive ;) I also made a random quick dinner: Ghetto Tempeh & Swiss Sammich.
There's a whole lot of yellow going on in that picture. I sliced up my block of tempeh and spread some Nando's Peri-Peri Garlic Sauce on each side before baking.
Toasted up some bread, a slice of swiss cheese and a generous smear of my favorite mustard:
Dinner was served in no time.

Was it good? Eh, not really. It lacked greens and flavor. I ended up digging through my fridge for something to dip my sammich in. Sadness.

Since I had 2 slices of tempeh leftover, I made a similar sammich for Thursday's lunch subbing in hoisin sauce for the mustard. I crossed my fingers that it added enough flavor to keep my tastebuds happy.

Again, flavor fail. Belly was full and happy though! Happy all the way through my last group run...a whole MILE from the Marina Green to a bar. Haha. I love my running group. To justify changing clothes, having to shower, and rushing out of the office, I tacked on a little more for an even 2 mile jog to the bar.
At the Final Final in the Marina, I had a wonderfully balanced dinner consisting of a Racer 5 IPA and bowl upon bowl of free popcorn. Hey, they were addictive! I also chatted with fellow runners and managed to find a potential new long run buddy. Hooray :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cold = no motivation

That's right. It's cold out. In July. So not helping motivation.
Ok, it's not frigid...just colder than my wardrobe is prepared for ;o) I decided to pass on tonight's KnockOUT Pilates class so I could get back in touch with my kitchen and crash early. On the menu: Israeli Couscous Salad (for lunch/dinner tomorrow) and a Roasted Potato Salad (for dinner tonight). Sometimes I like making two things at once :)

Israeli Couscous Salad
1/2 package Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend, cooked according to package directions
1/3 c smoked fontina, diced
1/3 c grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
2 tbsp basil, chopped
1/8 c Monday Vinaigrette (see below)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before eating.

Monday Vinaigrette
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
splash balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
pinch salt

Whisk or shake ingredients together.

You like my creative dressing name? Seriously, random mix that ended up tasting pretty good. Will report back on how the couscous turned out tomorrow. I used the harvest blend because I thought I had a package of Israeli couscous in the cabinet, but no. I did not. Figured the harvest blend was the next best thing! I'm sure this would work well with just the couscous.

Tonight's main event was the Roasted Potato Salad. Last Sunday I picked up a handful of German Butterball Potatoes and I knew I wanted to roast them for a salad...I just never got around to it.
These cute little balls got cut in half and tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. The standard roasted potato recipe, minus garlic (because I forgot it). I roasted them at 350 for about 20 minutes before plopping them on my large salad
I'm not kidding when I say large. That's a mixing bowl.

I ended up tossing some little gem hearts, mixed greens, hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, fontina, japanese cucumber, scallions and avocado with the remaining Monday Vinaigrette and it went really well with the potatoes. Who knew it would work out so perfectly??

So here are a few things I've noticed since I started buying my produce at the weekly Fort Mason Farmers Market:
  1. Peaches and nectarines go bad faster than store bought ones. Must buy firmer ones to last me through the week.
  2. I will always have to stop at Safeway to fulfill my banana fix.
  3. Basil is plentiful, cheap, and has lasted me over a week.
  4. Everything just tastes fresher and better.
I realized this as I nibbled on some of my grape tomatoes. I've never had grape tomatoes that were this sweet until recently. Plus, they're not ridiculously expensive as the pints at the grocery store! My cucumber was equally delicious. I've had weird cucumbers before that tasted slightly bitter and this one definitely did not have that trait. I heart you, farmers market! Do you have a farmers market near you? Have you noticed any differences between the farmers market and grocery store produce?

I came home with some broccoli rabe this Sunday, so keep an eye out for its return! Very excited. I'm thinking an asian-y tofu stir fry for half the bunch and a simple garlic, olive oil and salt mix for the other half. Any suggestions? I'm hoping for non-pasta...trying to branch out from that broccoli rabe safety.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rush, run, relax, repeat.

After I left y'all Friday night, I stayed up a little longer so I could map out my route for Saturday. My plan was to leave the apartment by 8:45 so I could whip out some miles in time to catch the running group just as they were working on some dynamic stretches. As always, my plans always look great on paper and not so great in execution.

I scooted out of the apartment closer to 8:55 which meant I was cutting it super close. It was a somewhat chilly, foggy morning so my legs got moving pretty quickly. I rocked some flatness followed by the o so familiar Fort Mason Hill and eventually made my way onto the Promenade
Not exactly sunny, but my legs were actually happy to be on the gravel. I turned around at the Warming Hut and knew I was behind schedule...looked like it was going to be my first solo 10 miler in awhile.

Lucky me, I made it to the Marina Green monkey bars just in time to see the last batch of runners start. I followed the group over the Fort Mason Hill into Aquatic Park and did my turn around at Green Street while everyone else ran to the Ferry Building. Struggled back up the hill (yep, for the second time that day) and finished in a comfortable 1:47.

I knew I mapped over 10 miles, but it wasn't until I got home that I found out how much over 10. Might as well have been 11!

I had a bunch of errands to run that afternoon, so I didn't dillydally post-run. Most of my erranding took place in the Marina and since my tummy was growling, I stopped into The Plant Cafe on Steiner.
This place is located right near the restaurants the running group frequents, but I've never stopped in before. Selin mentioned it a couple times, so I figured I should give it a try since I was in the area.

At first I thought I'd grab a salad, but then I made a last minute decision to go with a panini...the BBQ Tempeh Panini (chipotle bbq sauce, roasted red onion, cheddar cheese & garlic aioli), minus garlic aioli.
You know I've only eaten tempeh a couple of times and haven't been totally sold on it, right? I think it's because I've only eaten them in cold cubes. This sammich was DELICIOUS! First of all, my bread was perfectly crisp on the outside and squishy on the inside. The bbq sauce was nice and subtle; perfect with the cheese and tempeh. Speaking of the's much better sliced thin and warmed. Oh, and the roasted red onion/bbq sauce combo...LOVE.

I also liked that my sammich automatically came with a side salad. Simple and light, I loved that I had some ruffage to go with my salad. It had a little too much dressing, so next time, I'd probably get it on the side (as usual).

Plant had some great salad and burger options, so I will definitely check it out again!

Today brought some much needed R&R at the pool and an impromptu home cooked meal at Selin's parents' house. AMAZING food...turkish meatballs, grilled corn on the cob, a light eggplant salad, rice and some tomatoes fresh from the garden sliced up with some mozzarella. To round the perfect summer meal out, we devoured some sweet and refreshing slices of watermelon...aaahhhh watermelon! Great end to a weekend :)

How did you spend this fine summer weekend?

Friday, July 16, 2010

O my, Friday came so fast!

Did this week fly by for anyone else??

Wednesday was an experimental breakfast day for me. A friend suggested I try the Trader Joe's Frozen Steel Cut Oats since they're easy, tasty and filling. Of course I pick up a box!

I expected the box of 2 servings to house 2 cute little containers of microwavable oats.
UM, good thing I have tupperware. I'll admit, the packaging is great - portable, minimal waste, perfect size; it was just unexpected.

Approximately 4 minutes later:
Ta Da! Maple Steel Cut Oats! Confession: this was my first steel cut oat experience. I have mixed feelings. The flavor was good and I liked the extra chew to each oat, but it was really soupy. I usually like my oatmeal drier than most. Are steel cut oats usually soupy?

I was in such a rush to leave the apartment that I grabbed the container of leftover lentils without realizing I only had like 3-4 tablespoons of lentils left. Not quite lunch-worthy. As much as I hated to do it, I knew I had to buy lunch.

After an extensive Yelp search for salads near my office, I settled on Sweet Joanna's Cafe. I've been here once before and was pretty impressed with the salad bar offerings. They've got standard lettuce and toppings, as well as some marinated salads. This time there was also a hot rice dish and some roasted chicken.

I made a beeline for the large to-go box and mixed greens...gotta build the base for my salad!
To top things off, I grabbed the usual salad fixins and scooped some cabbage salad, marinated eggplant and a tomato and cucumber salad. I also tucked a couple falafel in the corner with some hummus for dressing. YUM. I only wish my falafel (falafels?) were piping hot :\

I had a major running fail after work that I really would not like to re-live. Let's just leave it at I should know by now that I shouldn't stray from the sneaks I've worn for 4 years. Done.

Yesterday marked a few firsts for me:
  1. First lunch outside of the office
  2. First lunch w/coworkers
  3. First happy hour in San Francisco (like legit, post-work happy hour)
Ridiculous, right? I've been here for almost 3 months and haven't done any of those. BAD! Since it was a day of firsts, I didn't whip out the camera so, bear with me as I try to find images for you guys.

We walked over to Sellers Markets on Market and 2nd Streets for lunch and immediately claimed a spot on the patio since it was a gorgeous sunny day. I had browsed the menu earlier and narrowed it down to 3 potential lunch options. After chatting with the girls, I ended up going with something totally different - Free-Range BBQ Chicken Salad (black beans, sweet shucked corn, red onion, roma tomato, corn tortilla crisps, romaine, house ranch dressing).

I forgot to ask for dressing on the side so it was a little over-dressed for my taste, but the chicken was fantastic. It was pulled bbq chicken and it wasn't funky fake chicken either (you know, like that weird spongy stuff from ABP I used to complain about?). The bbq sauce was mild, very tomato-y and kinda reminded me of a chicken dish my mom used to make. Two thumbs up!

A side of Creamy Mac n Cheese (all-natural cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella & finished with Point Reyes blue cheese) was also ordered for the table. At first I was worried about all those cheeses partying in the same bowl, but one bite...YUM. Rich, creamy and comforting. Good thing we split it ;)

Overall, I think Sellers Markets is a great lunch spot. I loved the large patio and the menu is diverse enough to fulfill any of your cravings. There are a couple other locations throughout the city and as I write this post, I see they have a Thursday happy hour too! $2 for a 20 oz PBR and $3 for a 20 oz premium beer. Good to know!

The afternoon zoomed by after that and then next thing I knew it was 6 and time to head over to Quiver Bar at Epic Roasthouse.

From the website:
Epic Roasthouse is home to Quiver Bar, an intimate upstairs bar and lounge with panoramic views of the city, the Ferry Building and the bay. Quiver offers the full restaurant menu as well as its own separate bar menu, and specializes in expertly crafted classical cocktails, a wide selection of premium whiskeys, and a selection of local and international beers.
They weren't lying about the views either.

Agh, I wish I had taken a picture! It was such a perfect evening with clear views of the Bay Bridge and Embarcadero.

Sorry, I got a little excited about the space and views. Back to the main reason we were there...happy hour! Quiver Bar is also home to the 3 B's. For a mere $20, you get a 1/2 pound burger, a beer (I think there was a restriction on this, maybe bottled beers only?), and a decadent brownie. Quite the deal, yeah? It gets's offered ALL THE TIME.

The thick burger comes with a huge pile of potato wedges and cute cups of toppings (jalapenos, bacon, mushrooms, mustard and mayo). Not that hungry? Don't worry, it's big enough to split with a buddy.

I wasn't quite hungry enough to commit to even half of a burger, so I just ordered off the regular bar menu. Kicked off Thirsty Thursday with a Lagunitas IPA (apparently my new beer of choice at bars?) and settled on a Short Rib & Horseradish Slider and a Vinegar Barbecue Pork Shoulder Slider.

I had such high hopes for the short rib slider, so I left that for last. Do you save the best for last or do you eat the best thing first?? The first thing I noticed when I bit into my pork slider was the perfectly crisp brioche bun. It was soft on the outside, but the inside had been toasted and had a delightfully buttery crisp crunch. AAHHH. Perfect with the tangy pork. I wish I saved this for last :(

The short rib slider was nice and tender, but really didn't have much flavor going on. Don't get me wrong, it was tender and just didn't compare to the pork that packed so much zing! I also wished the horseradish sauce packed more of a horseradish-y punch.

I definitely recommend the 3 B's deal if you find yourself wandering along the Embarcadero on a gorgeous night (or day). I saw the plate of burger two of my coworkers split and it's no joke. It's a whole lotta food for $20.

Tonight was a return to home cooking as I tried to make use of the following ingredients that desperately needed to be used:
  1. 1 Sweet Potato
  2. 1/2 package lentils
  3. bunch of kai-lan
  4. small basil tree
Random assortment of goods, right? Here's the final product:
Lentils with Roasted Sweet Potato
1 sweet potato, diced and roasted
4 stalks kai-lan, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 package steamed lentils
2 tbsp basil, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c chicken broth

Heat olive oil in a pan, saute onion until softened. Add kai-lan and half of the chicken broth. Cook until kai-lan starts to turn a bright green. Add lentils, sweet potato and remaining chicken broth. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in basil, salt and pepper to taste and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yeah yeah, not exactly an exciting dish, but it used all of the ingredients. Plus I thought it was pretty yummy. Toss a little hot sauce on there and it's perfect!

For dessert I snacked on a little fun mix I made this afternoon:
I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home and grabbed some dried mangoes, apples, cranberries, pepitas, pretzel nuggets, granola and a dark chocolate bar. I was inspired by my new favorite Clif MoJo bar flavor (Mountain Mix) and decided I'd make a sweet and salty mix of my own. I really want to find some yogurt chips and maybe some nuts to add to the snack mix.

I also picked up a couple bottles of this delicious adult treat:
I sampled some of this sparkling red wine last Friday at dinner and thought it tasted like a calimocho...but better. The best part about it? $4.99 a bottle. I love bargains!

Off to bed now. I've got a 10 miler tomorrow morning and I'm running the first portion of it on my own before meeting up with the running group for their scheduled 6 at 9:30. Welcome back to early runs! What do you have on deck for long run Saturday?