Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kitchen Demolition - Week 1

A friend of mine suggested that I keep a journal of my kitchen demolition.  I really keep saying, "I need to blog more" so I thought I would do it here.

Last week I started a remodel on my kitchen which involved a complete tear out to change the layout of the kitchen.  Most of the work is being done by real professionals, with myself doing some of the demo (not the serious stuff, I took the cabinets, counters and some of the floor up to donate to Habitat for Humanity).  I'll probably paint too.  Anyway, above is my kitchen before.  Below is it as of today (Thursday).

The real challenge is going to be eating without a kitchen.  I have a crockpot, a vegetable steamer, a microwave and panini press.  I also have an outdoor grill if it gets warm.  It is unseasonally cold here.  I planned this time of year because it's normally perfect weather. 

I really don't like to eat out.  I try to only eat out socially or at new restaurants (it's at part of my job) and only a few times a month.  Without a kitchen, this is a real challenge!  This week, I ate Chinese food once, but the rest of the time I managed to make somewhat healthy meals (I did use a lot of tortillas this week).  I am hoping to keep eating out down to once a week, at least.   A bunch of friends are going for pizza on Saturday, so that makes twice this week.  So far, not off to a good start.

My Weekly Meals:
To be honest, I really normally only eat a big meal for dinner.  I normally grab some fruit for breakfast and leftovers for lunch.  Lunch is a problem, because I am trying not to have too many leftovers, because those make dishes I have to clean in the bathroom sink.  Yuck! 

I seem to have been in a Mexican mood this week.

This is the first day of my kitchen demolition (Monday). I grilled some chicken on my panini press and made tacos. This meal actually dirtied no dishes, aside from the cutting board and knife, because I covered the press with foil before grilling. 

This is pasta diablo with some fresh steamed veggies and I actually made homemade garlic rolls with my panini press.  They were a little flat, but they tasted pretty good.  The pasta and veggies were kind of messy.  I made the veggies in my electric vegetable steamer (which is hard to clean in a bathroom sink, but worth it) and I boiled the pasta in the microwave and covered it in some sauce I had stored in the freezer. The pasta wasn't cooked quite like I like, but it works in a pinch!  It was a little soft for my tastes.
Thursday night I had quesadillas and a big green salad.  The quesadillas were made in the panini press.  No dishes were dirtiedd in this one either.

The cabinets are supposed to be in next week!  Let's hope I get to show off my new stove with some new culinary adventures soon.  I didn't think about it when I scheduled this, but the remodel will cut into my Farmer's Market time! I really like writing about unique farmer's market finds.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Little Rock Marathon 2014 Race Report

I have officially finished the worst marathon I HOPE I ever run, and the biggest cluster of a finish that I can even imagine. They weren't wrong when they named it EPIC, and the lightening bolt is a piece of foreshadowing I'm sure the race directors didn't intend.  I would have regretted it if I had missed it, though, because it will be the most memorable Little Rock Marathon yet.  Let me take you back to Sunday.

The day started off nice.  It was a nice 50 degrees and no rain, but the weather reports had been saying 100% chance of rain all week.  One even said freezing rain during the marathon, so I was prepared to run in the rain.  I thought about wearing ski pants, but then thought that was a little much.  I decided to go with normal sweat pants and a hoodie. I would regret that later, but not at first. I actually had to take the hoodie first for the first 13 or so miles.

I was actually not making bad pace.  Not awesome, but not too bad.  Little Rock Marathon has an early start, which allows slower participants start at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.  The only rule is that you can't go ahead of the 6 hour pacer.  So, I tend to stick with them for the race.  I was keeping pace until the elites passed (around the 13 mile mark), and it started to drizzle a little.  I put my hoodie on and kept on trucking. 

I made it past the hills and saw my friend, who started with me, on the other side of the out and back, when I was around mile 19 (she would have been 22ish).  I was so glad to see her doing well and that inspired me to pick up the pace a little bit and cross the 20 mile timing mat.

This is all I remember until the Ninja Turtles.  My hoodie is a Ninja Turtle costume.  I thought it was funny since I'm slow.  The ladies at the waterstop on the out and back (probably mile 21? I don't remember) said, "You're the first turtle we've seen! We have turtle heads. I know you're in a hurry, but we can go get them!"  I waited and had a photo taken with Raph and Leo.  So, at this point not even the volunteers were saying anything was wrong.

The temperature had been dropping all day.  I think it was in the 30s at this point and we were all wet.  I wasn't too bad in spirits, but I was cold and getting colder, but at this point in the race you're almost there!  Just a 10k left.  No problems.

It was shortly after the ninja turtles that the race got insane.  My Garmin said 24.25 when I saw the first cancellation sign, but I don't think I had really crossed the 24 mile mark. I know I had passed 23 and the 18 mile marker on the other side of the out and back. The following is not my photo, because I was really too confused to even think of a photo.  The weather didn't seem  too bad, and I wasn't sure what was going on.  None of the volunteers seemed to know either (one told me a storm with lightening was headed that way in a few hours, but they weren't sure where we we supposed to seek shelter). 

After I saw the black signs, a cop told us, "You need to find shelter now.  The race has been cancelled. Buses are being called in." I said, "But we're so close...can't we just finish?" and he said, "Finish what? The race is over.  There is no race."  As I said, my Garmin said I was 24 miles in.  I didn't see any place to seek shelter and everyone was just running on, so I walked on. I heard police on the other side telling runners that the course was closed ahead and they needed to find shelter.  It didn't make much sense to me to quit and load us all into buses 2 miles away, even if there was no finish.

Shortly after that, another cop says, "You need to get off the course and find shelter.  There's buses coming to the Wal-Mart at the right."   I do not ever recommend completing a race against police advice, but I did.  Generally, what the police say is good advice to follow.  I didn't follow this rule because of the specifics of the situation.  Generally, when they say a course is closed, it's closed.  Get off.  It puts the volunteers and yourself in danger to keep on going.

However, first of all, I didn't realize there was a Wal-Mart literally right there.  I was thinking, "Wal-Mart is miles away.  What is going on?"  I said, "Wouldn't it be quicker for us to just finish? We're just about 20 minutes away."  They, again, said there was severe storms and lightening so we needed to seek shelter.  My mom at the finish texted me almost that exact moment to say that the rain was picking up and ask if I was ok.  I texted her and said, "I think the race is cancelled. I'm not really sure what is going on.  Do you know?" She said, "Cancelled? People are still coming through.  The guys at the finish are joking around with them.  It's raining and really cold here, but no really bad weather.  Are you sure you're ok?" [I guess she thought I was delusional, ha].  Then she texted, "Where are you anyway? How are you going to get back?"  Good question.  I stood there and thought that we'd be sitting out in the rain waiting for a bus (I didn't even think about going inside Wal-Mart), so I might as well finish. 

So, I kept on.  It didn't make much sense to stand around and wait for a bus when downtown Little Rock so was close and my car was there anyway.

When I got to the church, a lady (a volunteer I think) said, "They're telling people to get on buses, but you can finish if you want to.  There's no course support, but you can continue at your own risk."  I was cold and confused at the point, but I kept on going. I know the course, so I know the last part, after that last hill, is easy.  I wasn't sure what would be at the finish, but I figured my family was there anyway and I wasn't running into a tornado, which is what I really feared.  Surely they would have told the people at the finish if that were the case.

I'm pretty sure mile markers and volunteers were gone, but I was trying to just hurry up and finish.  Right before you turn to the finish, there was a nice unofficial stop where they had beer.  A lady said, "I really just need water right now." and one of the guys said, "Beer is 95% water." Ha.  I love that.  The lipstick stop was the next volunteer I saw.  She said, "You want some lipstick?" and I said, "Today, this is as good as it gets.  I'll just be happy to go inside!"

The finish was still open. Nobody was acting like anything at all was going on there.  I was very confused, but I crossed, got a medal and some snacks and headed to find my family (and some warmth) in the River Market.  I was colder than I have ever been in my life.  But, after I took off the hoodie, I was mostly dry at least.

I really regretted not wearing the ski gear.

After warming up a bit, I went to Gus's for some chicken and waffles and to tell everyone the story.  I sat at a table next to someone who was forced off the course at mile 13 by the police.  I was happy I got to finish the whole thing (the paper listed me as a DNF, but I Did F.  Here's proof).

I did the 5k and the unofficial Capital Hotel 10k detour walk the day before.  Both of those were great weather and great fun.  The  Capital Detour was a little odd.  There were only about 20 of us and they basically handed us a map and said, "Have at it."  The bad part is that sent us, potentially out-of-towners, behind Central High and into that area.  If you know Little Rock, that's not the safest place to be alone.  That being said, it was daytime and we mostly separated into two groups: a fast group and a sightseeing group. I'm not sure anyone was alone.  I'm not sure I'd do this again, but I'm glad I was there because I think I was the only local in my group, and I know quite a bit of history of the area.  Nobody understood why Central High had a museum, for example.  It wasn't bad, but I was glad someone in our group knew how to read a map (the map could have been more detailed).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Disney Marathon Coming Up

So, I haven't blogged since around last year's Disney Marathon, but I always seem to blog more at the beginning of the year. I did lots of all cool stuff last year including visiting Australia.  I've been meaning to blog about the food and culture there, but I haven't.  I'll try to be a better blogger this year.  Right now, I want to blog about Disney.

I've been training for the Disney Marathon's Dopey Challenge this year.  This is a 5k + 10k + half marathon + whole marathon.  Yes, I'm crazy.  But Disney is crazy fun.

I used Hal Higdon's guide, because I used Galloway's official guide for Goofy last year, and I didn't feel prepared.  Do I feel prepared this year? Not really.  I'm freaking out just a little bit.

Besides doing all the races, I'll be hitting the parks and using the new MagicBands and FastPass+ systems.  I hope to blog about each of those things (and maybe some healthy eating choices on the dining plan).  I wish I would have blogged about my park days more last year, so I'm making an effort to do it this year!

I do have costumes planned because I'm a nut.  I'm going as Ariel for the first two races, Vanellope Von Schweetz for the half and JUST KEEP SWIMMING Dory for the whole (may change my mind about one of the Ariels).  I'm looking forward to an awesome Disney time.  I just hope the weather holds out. They're calling for rain.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Tragedy: Weakness and Warriors

As I came home from work yesterday, before the bombing, I was contemplating how much of our lives are dependent on other people.  I was stopped at a red light and I was thinking, any of these people could kill me right now.  Even grocery shopping, or at work.  Anyone could easily kill me.  All it takes is a gun, or a knife or anything.  There are so many times during the day that I'm basically unprotected from other humans.  There's not even a wall between them and me.  So much trust between us.

Physically, humans are pretty weak.  I'm surprised we've been so successful as species.  Chimps and gorillas are so much stronger than us.  They're so much harder to kill than we are.  The only reason we've survived for so long is because we really do help each other out.  We don't often go after our own.  We know, at some basic Darwinian level, that we are weak.  We need each other.

When I got home I started thinking about some warriors I know.  People who I would have never classified as weak.  People running the Boston marathon that morning.  I posted a "Good luck" on Facebook to my friends, who I knew were running and went to bed.  When I woke up and switched on the TV, my wind whirled.  It was around 4:00 Boston time.  What? Someone bombed the marathon? The most prestigious marathon in the US?  It doesn't make sense.

I was talking to a non-runner friend last night who said, "I'm glad Boston isn't one of the ones you decided to do."  I commented, "I want to do Boston, but I'm not good enough.  They don't let scrubs like me in."  It occurred to me after talking to her that most non-runners just think Boston is another race.  It's a big deal for a runner to run Boston.  It's a race most aspire to run.  You have to qualify (and be quite fast) to run the race and people come from all over the world.  It's "THE" marathon.  Some of the best runners in the world were there. 

The best runners were probably already finished by 4:09.  That's an average marathon time.  To put it in perspective, if you finished a qualifying race at 4:09, you wouldn't be allowed to register at Boston (you have to be quicker).   The time when the largest number of people would finish an average marathon (I'm sure it's the same at Boston.  Just because you have a faster qualifying time doesn't mean you're always fast, and they have some people who run for charity without qualifying).   The bomb was clearly meant for the masses and not the few first finishers.

The photos from yesterday are horrific, but I'm sure being there was even worse.  What did the runners, the warriors who I think of as strong and fearless do?  They ran, but many didn't run away.  They ran to help the people in need.  They ran to the blood banks to donate.  They ran into the mess to help clean it up.  People who had just run 26.2 miles, not an easy feat, gave blood, picked people off the ground, helped where they could.  That's amazing to me.  They really are warriors.

We do put ourselves at risk all the time. We're really at the mercy of the sanity of other people.  It doesn't have to be a car bomb or a gun, we're easily injured.  However, even in tragedy, we still help each other out.  There's something to be said for that.  When some other species would be running away, to protect themselves, we run in, to help others.  Maybe we're not so weak after all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 2013 Little Rock Marathon: Race Report

This weekend was my last marathon for this part of the year, the Little Rock Marathon!  It's my hometown marathon, my first marathon and my first half marathon.  I've done it every year since I started running (with the exception of one year when I was in Alaska).

It seems like every year I have some story at the Little Rock marathon.  Last year, it was a senior who grabbed my shoulder to lean on at the down and back and told me her legs felt too weak to continue,  but she would.  It was her dream to finish a marathon.  We walked to a water station together and she took off (finished ahead of me too).

This year, it was a young lady who was really struggling on the down and back (coincidentally, it's always the down and back where these stories happen).  I was struggling too.  This was my worse marathon ever. But, I'd been here before.  I could finish, just not as strongly and with as much fun as I normally do (I'm normally trying to cheer people on and having a great time the last 10 miles, I was in pain and it sucked).  This lady was feeling the same.  She pulled out a card that said believe in yourself and looked at me and said, "We're going to do this!  We can do it, girl."  At that point, I knew I looked rough.  Someone was trying to cheer me on!

I said, "There's only a 10 k left after that timing mat up there!  There's not much belief to it! We already finished the hard part.  The rest is cake!"  So, we started talking.  She said it was her first marathon and she said everything hurt and she's never running again.  I laughed and told her that I felt the same after my first marathon, but this was my 8th.  She'd be back.  "Once you cross the finish line and look back and see what you just ran a marathon!  You're awesome.  So few people can do what you're doing now.  You never know.  You might be back."  She said, "I don't know, girl, we'll see.  I'm not even sure I can finish this one." I smiled and said, "You'll finish.  This has been a tough race, but anyone can do a 10k.  You're doing awesome.  You look way better than I did my first time.  You get a medal no matter what time you finish in."  At the last hill, she decided to slow down and I took off ahead of her, but I watched her finish.  She did great! [They actually ran out of medals. I didn't know this at the time, so I didn't even notice if she got one or not.  I saw her cross and cheered for her, and then took off for pizza.  I hope she really did get one.  I would have probably really quit if I didn't even get a medal.  I would have given her mine if I would have known they ran out!].   

Anyway, these stories are why I love marathons and why I don't mind being in the back.  I love how people meet defeat and pull everything they have for that last push to the finish.  It's inspiring.

My Race
This was my worst marathon ever.  It started out at 26 degrees (I did the early start) and didn't get much cooler.  I was still wearing my jacket at the finish.  Because of the cold, I wore two pairs of socks, two shirts, two pants.  I think the socks got me.  I was doing great (just ahead of the 6 hour pacer, and you can't be ahead or you'll get disqualified if you early start) up until about the half, thinking I was killing it because the pace was easy.  My plan was to keep up with the six hour guys until the elites passed and then take off.  Then, my feet started to get tender.  I could feel a blister forming.  By the big Kavanaugh hill, they were awful.  I could barely go downhill at any speed at all.  Ouch.  I was in pain and limping a little and my walk breaks were getting longer and longer.

Not to self: never wear something on race day you haven't trained in.  How many times have I said that to others?  I never get blisters.  Not even once.  Today, because of the blister, my hip hurts, my knee hurts, my food hurts.  The blister changed my stride and threw everything else off.  Two days later, I am still feeling it.  I'm normally bouncing around again the evening after.  Crazy.

Anyway, after the downhill, I decided to walk the rest of the way, time be damned.  I just wanted to finish.  I did.  That's all that matters.

The Course
You can kind of see the last hill here.
Everyone in Little Rock jokes about the hills.  It has an elevation gain of 727 feet according to my Garmin.  I think the reason Fort Worth seemed more hilly is that it has one big hill.  Little Rock's hill (Kavanaugh) is less steep, but longer.  Around mile 13, runners go up a long hill that continues a few miles and goes back down (from 300 feet in elevation to about 500 feet in elevation).  That hill is bad, but what is worse is the hill that appears around mile 24.  It's like, "What? ANOTHER HILL.  F-you marathon!"  But, you know that the finish is right around the corner, so the hill isn't that bad.

Aside from the hills, the course is awesome. It goes through all of the major sites of Little Rock and downtown North Little Rock: you run through the Quapaw Quarter, see the Arkansas State Capitol, the Clinton Presidential Center, the Governor's Mansion, MacArthur Military Museum, Historic Little Rock Central High School and end and start in the Little Rock River Market District. It really is a great way to see the city.

The Theme & Crowd

Little Rock is a fun marathon.  Everything is themed.  This year, they had a western theme.  The expo was full of horses and hay stacks.  A few years back they had a circus theme.  They had performers and clowns.  The medals always match the theme and, for the past few years, have been ridiculously large.  You can tell they have a great time putting the event on, and I really love how much dedication they have to the theme every year.

It's also got great crowd support.  I love everything about this marathon.  The shortcut map sign was just in someone's yard.  Love it!

The Medal

It's huge, 'nuff said.

Even though this year sucked, I still love the Little Rock Marathon.  I think every bling lover in the world should come and check it out.  You can't beat the bling or the people you'll meet.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Cowtown Marathon Race Report

This weekend, I did the Cowtown Challenge in Forth Worth, Texas.  The challenge is to do a race on Saturday and a race on Sunday.  On the 23, I did the 10k (they also had a 5k).  On the 24th, I did the whole marathon (they also had a half and an ultra which was, I think, 8 miles extra).

The weather started out cold.  The 10k was dreadful.  I think it was still in the 30s when I finished.  The marathon heated up to the 60s, but started in the 30s.


First of all, I loved how the marathon centered in the Will Rogers Center in Forth Worth.  The expo was there and post race food was also there.  This gave spectators a place to hang out that was heated (it was about 33 degrees in the morning), and runners a place to sit down after the race.  They had tables and chairs setup for the marathon.  This is the only race I've done with an indoor meeting spot, and I liked it.

The organization of the actual race was really nice.  I didn't have any problems picking up my packet, even though I had registered for both races months apart (I didn't learn about the challenge until later).  I got my packet and a tech shirt for the marathon, a t-shirt for the 10k and a t-shirt for the challenge.  They also give a finisher's shirt.  The finisher's shirt was a bright red, long-sleeved tech shirt.  It was nice.  I love races that give finishers shirts.  Everyone was nice and helpful.

The expo had lots of free stuff, like always.  They had free 26.2/13.1 Cowtown car stickers.  I hardly ever see those for free.  Most of the other stuff was standard protein bars, yogurt, pens, bags, etc.  They had lots of clothes and shoes you could buy.  The official Cowtown Merchandise was a little expensive, but you don't expect much of a discount at a race expo.


When I was looking at February races, I knew I had a race at the first of March.  I asked a few friends about this marathon and they told me that Fort Worth was fast and flat, so I should do the Cowtown.  It would be no problem to do the Cowtown and then a race the next weekend because "the Cowtown is easy."  They lied.

I talked to someone on the course and they said there was a White Rock marathon in Dallas that really was fast and flat, but the Cowtown is hilly.  I'm going to be honest.  I thought it was pretty much all uphill.  A cop yelled to me at one point, "It's downhill for a few miles after this turn!" and I said, "Yeah right, I think EVERYTHING in Texas is uphill.  Is that even possible?" and he laughed and said, "No really.  It's downhill."  It was downhill for a bit, but then another hill.  I was sorry I left my Fitbit at home by accident because I would have gotten awesome hill credit (I tried to buy a new one, but neither Wal-mart nor Best Buy in Forth Worth had them).
Total elevation gain: 570 feet

All races start and end at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.  The half, the whole and the ultra all start in the same place and split later.

The marathon course was really nice.  It first passes through the Greenwood Memorial Park and near the cemetery.  It's a pretty nice run, with trees and birds (but on pavement).  I enjoyed this part of the run.  It was a nice, peaceful warmup.  Then you hit some city streets.

The next major site is at around mile 6. I had read on the map you run through "stockyards."  I don't know anything about Fort Worth, so I was picturing running through cow dung and dirt.  This is actually a historic stockyard that's been turned into a shopping and restaurant district.  If you've never been to Forth Worth, many of the streets have patches covered in cobblestone bricks.  The whole area of the stockyard was covered in this.  It's very uneven, bumpy and a little tough on your feet.  It was quite nice scenery wise.  There were cowboys hanging out to cheer the runners on. As I ran through, I saw a sign that said the stockyard is the home of twice daily cattle drives. I made a mental note to go back later.  The stockyards had a lot of race support.  Lots of people cheering.  It was the perfect mile 6 pick-me-up.

[I went back at 4 to see the cattle drive.  It wasn't really that great, but the kids who were watching loved it.  About four cowboys (some of the same that watched the race go through) chased about six longhorn cows slowly down the stockyard main road.  I joked that the marathon runners ran through faster than the cattle.  I did hit a cupcake shop and Riscky's BBQ.  Yum! I earned those calories.]

After the stockyards, the marathon hits flat, paved streets until mile 9.  I was talking to a runner when we passed a mile marker (8 I think).  She said, "Shit.  I hate mile 9 and 10." I hadn't really looked at the course elevation map.  I only looked at the sights.  I said, "Really? What's at mile 9 and 10?"  She said, "You'll see soon enough."  Well, I did.  Mile 9 goes straight up (it seems), and you can see the hill from the bottom.  It was about a half a mile straight up into heaven.  That hill separates the men from the boys.  Mile 10ish goes downhill, though, but after a large uphill, downhill can be just as bad. The course goes up and down after that, but that was the worst of it.

I'm a back of the pack run/walker, and I noticed that I was running with mostly half marathoners.  I was a little worried about the half marathon split.  I didn't think I was last.  I was actually making 13-14 minute miles.  I was still worried.  The split was around mile 10.5.  The cop at the split saw my yellow sign and said, "You go this way, unless you're giving up on us!"  I said, "No, I'm great!  I'm not giving up." I was sure I was looking at him like he was crazy.  I think he was kidding, but did I look that bad?  I felt great . . . should I give up?   I was a little paranoid at that point that I was *too* far back, even though my Garmin said otherwise.   Still, I took the marathon turn.

After the course veers off, the marathon goes under a bridge.  I felt so alone under the bridge.  I didn't see anyone behind me or in front of me.  I was thinking, "Crap, I'm going to get lost in downtown Fort Worth!"  Still, I kept running and skipping my walk breaks.  I wanted to see someone...ANYONE.  I was so relieved when I heard cowbells.  At least I knew I was heading in the right direction.  They were around the next water station, and I saw a group of runners.  Thank goodness. I decided I would keep up with them for the rest of the run, but I eventually passed them.  Soon after I caught those guys, I saw more people.  There were some people behind us too. I felt relieved and invigorated.

This next part of the marathon, which goes through some residential areas, was not very well marked.  The pavement was marked with blue arrows in spots, and there were traffic cones in most spots, but there were some areas where it wasn't immediately clear which direction to go.  It was relief when I went the way I thought we should go and then saw a marker or traffic cone.  Also, in this area, the traffic wasn't stopped for us slow guys.  An SUV almost ran over the lady directly in front of me.  I think the traffic cones were designed to have traffic only use the one lane and yield to the other side, but this guy had somewhere to go and he wasn't going to yield.  There were lots of residents in their yards with signs, some offering tootsie rolls, bananas, beer, etc.

I was relieved when we hit the parks.  It says on the map we ran through Forest Park Trail, which looked like a paved recreational trail.  We shared it with non-marathon walkers and bikers.  I loved it.  Then we went through Overton Park, near a golf course (the traffic here at the intersection was a little hairy too, if I remember correctly).  The last few miles were along Trinity Park.  We also shared that with recreational users, including some kids who were cheering us on.  I liked this part of the course, even though it was sidewalk.  It overlooked the water and was just a nice path.  I see why Fort Worth residents run and walk so much!

The finish has a few twists and turns were you think, "It's here...wait" but I didn't have much of a problem with it.  The Will Rogers Center is a massive complex.  Race organizers were quick with the medal and water.

The After Event

I heard some people complaining that you had to walk across the Will Rogers Center to get your finisher's shirt.  The finisher shirts were in the same place as the expo.  I didn't mind, but I'm not fast so I wasn't in pain.  It would have been nice to have some tables outside.  You also had to go in to get your challenge medal.  I thought it was nice to go in there and sit down and enjoy your post-race snack anyway.

I also heard some complaining that you had to stand in line for food. One of the great things about being back of the pack is that there was no line.  They were throwing entire cartons of yogurt at me.  The milk guy gave me six chocolate milks.  I got as many protein bars as I wanted, a whole thing of bananas, apples.  It was like a shopping trip.  For the 10k, where I was quicker, I did stand in line for 20 minutes to get a little bit of food.  I can see where that would be bad if you had just run a 3 hour marathon.  Most races I've done have had more food tables, so traffic goes quicker, but this really didn't seem that bad to me.  At least there was food to go around.  I've done some races where the back of pack runners don't have any food left at all.

The Event Hotel
If I did this event again, I would stay at the Hilton.  I stayed at the Sheraton.  I stayed there because they were the event's hotel and they said they would give you late check-out.  They denied me late checkout because, "So many people are asking for it, we can't allow it."  Of course they are. You advertised that as a perk of staying with you.  

Another downside is that the Sheraton's restaurant was not that great and it's not really within walking distance of anything better.  When asked, the guy at the desk said, "Depends on how far walking distance is to you?"   I noticed on the shuttle ride that the Hilton was a lot closer to good places to eat.

The Sheraton's restaurant doesn't have a very big, varied menu.  I wouldn't have been able to eat  there more than once and not eat the same thing.   I thought it was funny that it offers a pasta special.  I asked about it.  They gave me a blank look and said, "I don't think there is a pasta special this weekend."  I know eating pasta before a race is a myth, but I joked, "On marathon weekend, there is no pasta?" and she just stared at me.  That doesn't make them bad.  It seems funny that the hotel "hosting" the event doesn't (she did eventually tell me, after I ordered the chicken, they had seafood pasta and lasagna).

The parking lot is not very convenient at the Sheraton and the valet actually claimed to have lost my car for a good 15 minutes marathon morning.  He found it, but how disorganized is that?   They did have a shuttle to the race, but since I had to check-out, I just drove to the race.  I took the shuttle for the 10k and it was fine.  It just seemed like this hotel, from the check-in, to the restaurant to the valet, was very disorganized.  I'm not used to paying so much for such a bumbling experience.

That being said, the rooms were large, clean and nice.  There are no fridges in the room, which I would have liked.  They also have a spa.  I wouldn't stay there again.  The only reason I paid the premium was for guaranteed late check-out, which I was denied by two different members of hotel staff.


Overall, it was a fun race.  I don't think I would have visited Forth Worth otherwise.  I took a trip to the zoo and saw the stockyard areas and a cattle run.  The city seems like a nice little city and I'm glad I went!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fit For a King: King Cakes for Two (or three)

Traditional King Cake isn't really cake.  It tastes more like a cinnamon roll that got in a paintball fight.   It's delicious, but the problem with a traditional King Cake is that it feeds about 24 people.  I think some bakeries in New Orleans and places that really celebrate Fat Tuesday in style make smaller ones, but here, if you want a king cake, you've got to have a party of people.
I wanted to make King Cake for two, so I tried to make cupcakes.  The first time I made this recipe, it only made four.  That's perfect.  Today, it made five.  With any bread, the moisture in the air changes the amount of ingredients you use.  I probably used a bit more flour.  Either way, I think two people could clean up these and not feel too fat and sugar laden afterwards.

Traditionally, the whole point of King Cake is to find the baby.  You can put a baby in one of these if you like (or some other signifier).  I mentioned it in the recipe, but I'll say it here too.  The baby is made of plastic.  Do not cook the baby in the King Cake.  Real King Cakes have the baby inserted after the cake is cooled, but before it's glazed (it's pushed up through the bottom of the cake).  You're going to have a mess if you cook a plastic baby inside your dough.

King Cake Cupcakes (for two)
(Serves 2-3, nutrition calculated for two)
  • 1 tablespoon of warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
  • a drop of vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup of white flour + extra
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, divided in half
  • a pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar (a couple of tablespoons is really all you need)
  • food coloring

    1. Combine the butter, egg and vanilla, and set aside.
    2. Combine the flour, half the cinnamon and salt.  Add liquids.  Add extra flour until the dough becomes the consistency of cinnamon roll dough or bread dough.
    3. Let the dough rise for about an hour.
    4. Roll the out dough into a small rectangle (about 8 by 4)
    5. Sprinkle the remaining sugar and cinnamon onto the dough.  
    6. Roll the dough into a log (like you would cinnamon rolls).  Cut into 4 - 6 equal pieces.
    7. Set these pieces in a muffin pan filled with paper muffin cups. You can sit them upright like cinnamon rolls, but a traditional king cake is more like a log, Let them rest for at least 30 minutes.
    8. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until brown.  Let cool.
    9. Combine powder sugar and water to get a thick glaze.  Separate the glaze into three bowls and color Mardi Gras colors. My glaze in the photo is kind of thin, but I actually like it that way!
    10. If you want to put a baby into one of these, it's really easy to pop them out of the muffin papers before you glaze them.  Just push the baby up through the bottom. DO NOT PUT THE BABY IN BEFORE YOU BAKE AND COOL THE CAKE.  That would be gross! 

    Nutrition Facts

    Amount Per Serving (serves 2, so if you made 5, a serving would be 2.5 cupcakes, which is a lot. You can half this if you only want to eat one! Also, this is for the amount of glaze I used.  You could really smother them glaze and add a ton of sugar)

    Calories: 302
    Total fat:8.9 g
    Protein: 6.9 g
    Total carbohydrate: 48.1 g
    • Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
    • Sugar: 12.2 g