12 Fitness (but mostly running) moments of 2012

1. Cross-country skiing for the first time in my life

2. Learning how to run in New England Weather in the winter – layers and tea!

3. Running my first marathon – DC

4. Day I beat the fastest Kenyan by finishing Boston Marathon in 90 degree weather in mid hallucination

5. Running my first trail race, DNFing at my first 50K

6. Biking and Hiking in the Catskills

7. Skipping the hotel gym to explore a new city – running in Chicago

8. Hiking Pawtuckaway Park in NH with friends

9.Listening to my body in not wanting to run a full marathon and PRing at Newport half marathon instead

10. Hiking Mt. Monadnock with coworkers to celebrate end of busy season

11. Trampoline dodgeball with friends

12. Glacier hiking in Iceland – First time on a glacier, first time using crampons, another fun time.
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50 Miler Training – Pre-season week 2

I thought about calling this week one since it was a great week but I don’t really have a plan in motion so I’ll keep it pre-season until January 1st.  New Year, New Plan? Right?

I did sign up for the Hyannis marathon February 24th (please don’t snow New England, PLEASE) with hopes of BQing so I guess I could choke this up as a marathon week training.  No trails this week but plenty of miles, no hills but with flatness comes speed.

Sunday – 18 miles 2 hours 22 minutes 7:53 pace
I can’t say I have yet to have a more perfect run that wasn’t a race. I say that each time until I have a new training PR.  This was definitely a pace with distance miles PR that wasn’t a race. The route was running along the ocean in Brooklyn towards Manhattan  two round and back trips on the 5 mile path.  Flat as flat could possibly get, something I don’t have in Boston.  The weather? Seriously perfect, sunny high 30s with moderate breeze since I was near the ocean.  I think I actually kept a pace of 7:43 for about 16 miles with probably a few 7:30 miles to average out the slow 8:30 miles when I ran with stop lights in streets before I got to my path.

The sad part of my run was seeing the destruction on Caesar Bay.  Whole parts of the railing was destroyed from hurricane Sandy with much of the path in rubble   I did feel a certain pride in seeing a good amount of runners and walkers on the path.  I know a recreation path in an immigrant elderly neighborhood won’t be a top priority in NYC, but I”m glad many people refuse to let it go to waste or at least ignore that it’s getting slummy and just run with it.  Nonetheless, I hope the broken parts of cement get remade and railings replaced, south Brooklyn doesn’t have a lot of nice things and I would hate to see one of the few things it got turn to slums.

Saturday – 11.7 Miles 8:43 Pace
Ran with Tony so the pace and distance was shorter/slower than I would have gone for; however, that saving of strength allowed me to have a great run on Sunday.  Run was completely flat. About 6 miles were an out and back 3 mile path with few stop lights.  The other 5.7 miles were around streets of Bensonhurst!  Gave Tony a small tour of my childhood, dropped him off at mile 8 and looped around in random turns wherever the light was green until I ran out of time.  Did a lot of people watching on this run, although with cold weather most people were in hibernation.

Friday – REST

Thursday – Double Duty 8 miles 1:06 on work TM @ Incline 2 and 8 Miles 1:05 on the home mill, average pace around 8:10 for 16 miles
The first 8 miles were good, but the evening miles on the homemill were misery.  I hated every mile after 3 but if I’m going to run 50 miles in June, I need to come to terms that with 50 miles I won’t be loving every mile and as Scott Jurek says, “Sometimes you just do things”

Wednesday – 6.2 53 minutes incline 3, 8:36 Pace
Incline run

Tuesday – 2.7 Work TM @ Inc 2; 22 minutes 7:59 Pace & 6.3 50 minutes, 7:56 Pace
My runch got cut short because I had some work to do so instead I followed up with some home miles for a total of 9.

Monday – 6.3 50 minutes, 7:56 Pace homemill
Busy day at work so I did some homemill miles

Total for Week 2 – 67.1 Miles!

A Great Weekend Of Food and Family

A visit to NY for some latkas that got inhaled before a photo was taken.

A walk around Manhattan to wave by the tree surrounded by a mass of humanity

Walking up and down the avenues to check out the window displays.  Bloomingdales on Lex and 59th Cirque Du Soleil was my favorite.

Tony has never been to the insanity that is FAO Schwartz.  I held back on buying a giant stuffed monkey in exchange for candy.

A stop at a German restaurant (Rolf) that looked like Christmas puked on it only to leave because kitchen was closed.

A stop at different German place whose kitchen was not closed at 10PM, Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst

I ended up liking a lot more due to the chill atmosphere and lack of crazy crowded and slightly epileptic lights.  We got a Wild Boar and Lamb sausage wurst with a side of potato salad and

Brezel!! So Good!  Salt addiction!

The following day after an 18 mile run, I got sushi with my mom and Tony.  Apparently after Spain they’re all best buds now.

And I demanded a fried green tea ice cream.

On Sunday night we drove back to Boston with my parents for Christmas at my house.  Jack and Rocky met again but I don’t think either of them liked each other.  Jack just wasn’t into Rocky sniffing his butt, he did not like that one bit.

But he looked so handsome all weekend long

Tony and I hosted 16 people but the main course and most of the food was prepared by Tony’s mom.  I put my expertise to salad and making rice pilaf as well as arranging crackers on a plate.  It’s where my true skills are.

I’m also now an expert at napkin folding.

The first course was Italian soup with spinach and chicken sausage

Followed by ravioli

And for main course? Roman chicken with rice pilaf and salad

and of course dessert!

How beautiful are these? Our room Adrienne made them.

After all the food, family, gifts and laughs, we were all pooped and passed out into a deep slumber.  Seriously, waking up this morning was rough.

Are you taking advantage of any post Christmas sales? I just loaded up on tea from Teavana for 75% off!

A Visit to Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Exploring the grounds of Alhambra

Alhambra is a palace and a fortress built during the mid-14th century for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty..  After the Moors were driven out of Spain in 1492 (Same time as Columbus sailed the ocean blue), the Christians continued to use it as a palace.

Palaces back in the day were built as whole cities that house markets, shops, and homes.  However, currently, outside of where royalty lived, the rest are just ruins.

Surrounded in luscious greens with breathtaking views.

Generalife

Unlike others, we started at the end with the Generalife, summer palace and country estate of Granada’s royalty.

I didn’t think I could be nearly this impressed with a garden but with each step, the next part was more glamorous than the last.

We continued to just wander around the grounds, getting lost until it was our allotted time slot for the Nasrid Palaces.

We had 4 hours to enjoy ourselves during the visit and sometimes taking a nap on top of the world is what is needed.

And yes I rock Mizunos wherever I go, because I never know when I’ll feel like running 😉

My mom hasn’t perfected her photo taking skills, so all my shots with Tony might be a little (okay a lot) crooked.  I guess we can’t all be as talented as me 😉

Now it took me a while to remember what the circular structure below is.  It is not another Plaza de Torros (bullring), but instead is the Palace of Charles V. He wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. Although the Catholic Monarchs had already altered some rooms of the Alhambra after the conquest of the city in 1492, Charles V intended to construct a permanent residence befitting an emperor.

As we walked around the structures of what remains I was amazed by the beautifully carved ceilings.

The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra.  It is thought that before it was built and before the Muslims arrived to Granada, there were already several constructions in the same area dating back to the 9th century. It is believed that it was then built by Sawwar ben Hamdun during the fights between Muslims and muwalladins [Christians who converted to the Islam and lived among the Muslims].

One of the towers, Torre De La Vela, gave some of the most amazing views of Granada if you get past the stair hike to the top.

Palacios Nazaries

Alhambra wasn’t built in one time, nor planned so trying to organize yourself on a point to point tour isn’t really worth it unless you’re following a tour group; however, your visit to the Nazaries Palaces is schedule at a specific 30 minute interval.  Don’t miss it, because you will lose out on the jewel of Alhambra.

The royal palace consists of three sections: royal offices, ceremonial rooms, and private quarters.

The walls are jaw-dropping with carved wood ceilings, stucco “stalactites,” ceramic tiles, molded-plaster walls, and filigree windows from top to bottom. The colors red (blood), blue (heaven), green (oasis), and gold (wealth) as suggested by the Qur’an.

To be honest? As I walked around I pictured myself on a rich rug smoking a hookah as the walls are covered in rich fabrics from around the world.  None of the rooms are furnished but you can let your imagination run wild.

The first building you enter is Court of Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes). Moors loved their patios as open-air courtyards in the palace feature fountains with bubbling water like a desert oasis, the Quran’s symbol of heaven. Women, who rarely went out, stayed in touch with nature here.  One theory is that the jealous men even with all the women they can maintain (as Quran suggests) kept wooden screens that allowed the cloistered women to look out without being clearly seen. The other theory is that the upstairs was for winter use, and the cooler ground level was for the hotter summer.  My personal bet? Jealous men.

The next grand building is The Hall of the Ambassadors (Gran Salón de Embajadores) where you would meet the sultan.

What I heard from a nearby tour, the writing are scripts from the Quran repeated over and over again. Muslims avoided making images of living creatures — that was God’s work. But they could carve decorative religious messages. One phrase — “only Allah is victorious” — is repeated 9,000 times throughout the palace.

It was also here that Columbus made his pitch to Isabel and Ferdinand to finance a sea voyage to Asia.

The final building is the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) where 600 years ago, only the royal family and their servants could enter.

The fountain, a gift from a Jewish leader celebrating good relations with the sultan, has 12 lions that represent the 12 tribes of Israel. During Moorish times, the fountain functioned as a clock, with a different lion spouting water each hour. Conquering Christians disassembled the fountain to see how it worked, and it’s never worked since.

The Hall of the Kings (Sala de los Reyes) is probably my favorite part of the whole palace.  I love staring up into the enchanting ceilings.

Although our ticket to enter was at a specific time we were free to take our time in the palaces and then wander a little more around the grounds and get a photo of all three of us taken!

TIPS FOR VISITING THE ALHAMABRA

  • Book your ticket in advance.  Tickets sell out and are limited!  If you want to avoid paying a hefty fee for going through a guide, buy your ticket in advance.  I brought mine a month in advance and already the time slots of the Palaces were limited. I wanted to start with the palaces but only time available for a party of 3 was 1:30. If you know which days you’re going to be in Granada, get your tickets and bring the credit card you ordered with you if you used Ticketmaster   There are machines to the side that are easy to use and avoids a long wait time.
  • You can walk or take a bus from the city center.  The walk is a long, uphill walk in potentially hot sun.  Once you get to Alhambra, there will be lots of walking in side the grounds.  The bus ride is 1.20 Euro.  You can decide what you prefer.  I personally am more into downhill walks and uphill buses.
  • Examine your ticket for your allotted time.  Your Alhambra ticket is good for 4 hours and 30 minutes of that at a very specific time is allotted to the Palaces.  Don’t miss it.  As we sat there and waited for our shift, we watched many disappointed faces who were not allowed in because they missed their scheduled time. Being old, being young, being confused, or any other excuse in the world, won’t let you inside.
  • Take your time – Certain parts of the Generalife, and the towers, you can only enter once so make sure you take in everything with whoever you’re traveling with because there is no reentry.  Tony and I ran into the tower without my mother and we couldn’t go with her when she was ready.
  • Get a written guide – You can share it, and sometimes I really wish I knew what I was looking at without having to eavesdrop on tours or goggling my photos after the fact.  It costs extra but I think knowing more things about this enchanting palace is worth it.

Curried Shells with Collard Greens & Tofu

Cooking with Collard Greens

The other day I made a huge mistake.  As I was running around the grocery store like a headless chicken during lunch, what I thought was kale turned out to be “New England Collard Greens.”  By the time I realized the tightly wrapped bunch with gigantic leaves wasn’t kale, I was already paying at checkout and was too lazy to switch.  Yea it looked a bit funny but I figured non-organic kale is just bigger and less pretty.  Rookie mistake.

I took it home and the bunch of greens haunted me every time I opened my fridge, mocking me as I had no idea what to do with them.  When I think of collard greens, I think of bacon and butter and other southern grease that I have no desire to leap into after a day of work.

Finally, after getting sick of staring at it, I decided to throw it into my wok.  Add a curry paste and two cups of water and simmer for about 25 minutes after the water reached boiling.   I tried a taste of it after 10 minutes and unlike kale, it still tasted bitter and harsh; so I kept simmering away.  After 25 minutes I added some cooked pasta shells and tofu cubes for another 10 minutes of simmering action.  
The end result if you love curry ended up being delicious.  I now have a healthy vegan lunch for 4 days.  Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1/3 Box of Wholewheat pasta shells (you could use rice but I was craving me some shells)
  • 1 Packet of Kitchens Of India Curry Paste with 2 cups of water
  • Frank’s hot sauce because curry alone isn’t enough spice for me
  • A giant bunch of collard greens
  • One box of firm cubed tofu

And the best part? I learned that if I have the patience (35 minutes vs 10 minutes with kale) collard greens are really not that intimidating and can be quite delicious with a simmering sauce!.