Recent difficulties

Last Thursday I pulled a muscle in my leg while going for a routine weeknight run. I felt some weird pains after the first two miles, but by mile three I knew something was really wrong. After four miles I limped home, cursing under my breath. An injury was problematic for a couple of reasons – 1) The Mermaid 10K I was registered for that Saturday, and 2) My trip to Orlando for the Princess Half Marathon a week later. Being hurt at a time like this was just not acceptable. I almost never regret going for a run, but this time I wished I’d been lazy and stayed home on my couch watching television. I went to bed that night hoping that I’d be miraculously healed by the next morning. I wasn’t. That night I was supposed to drive down to San Diego and stay in a hotel before the Mermaid 10K. But since I was still hurting when I woke up I tried to cancel my reservation. It was too late to do that without getting charged for the room anyway so I had to find another solution. I emailed the race company and asked if there was any way I could switch from the 10K to the 5K so that I could walk it in a reasonable amount of time but still participate in the event. Luckily they responded that it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s a good thing too because I really wanted that shirt and medal! So I packed warmer clothes to wear for the race (walking does not keep you nearly as toasty as running) and made my way to San Diego on Friday night. Walking the 5K was a bit boring, but I’m glad I did it. My leg was stiff and sore, but not too bad. Running that day would have aggravated it, I’m sure, so at least I was smart enough to avoid that. My main goal was to be healthy for the Princess 10K and half marathon at Disney World this weekend!

And speaking of my trip to Orlando, it hasn’t exactly started off smoothly today. I woke up at 6 AM and checked my email. Nothing interesting there. Then I finished packing my bags, loaded up my car, and headed to McDonald’s at 7:30 AM for a quick breakfast on my way to the airport. When I was halfway through my Egg McMuffin I checked my email again and found out that the first leg of my flight had been cancelled. The new itinerary that the airline sent me had me arriving in Orlando not at 8 PM as originally planned, but at 5 AM tomorrow morning. Not cool. The good news was I was only a few blocks from home so I could drive back and investigate rearranging my travel plans. The bad news was that JetBlue had no better options than my effective redeye that arrived in Orlando before the crack of dawn tomorrow. I had bought a ticket on a flight leaving from Long Beach due to the convenience, but if I’d had the inclination to drive up to LAX I could have gotten to Orlando a bit sooner. But only about 4 hours sooner, which wasn’t much help. I reluctantly accepted my fate to depart this afternoon and get to Florida in the wee hours. Then I spent the rest of my morning watching TV shows from this week on my DVR. Gotta make space for all the shows that are going to get recorded while I’m gone! Right now I’m sitting at the Long Beach airport waiting to board my plane to Salt Lake City. I’m going to need to buy a neck pillow when I get there (I have about a four hour layover) because sleeping on the flight to Orlando is my best option to avoid a vampire schedule. Luckily the only thing I absolutely have to do tomorrow is go to the expo and pick up my race bib and shirts. I’ll get some sleep eventually!

Unnecessary purchases

When I went to DC the week before last I took four jackets with me. Not to wear all at once, of course, but for different situations (inside, outside, cold, not so cold, etc.). This Florida/California girl does not handle much more than a mild winter very well so I packed two fleeces, a sweatshirt, and a North Face jacket that I’d just bought. I haven’t needed a heavier coat in years so in order to be prepared for potentially cold temperatures in DC I went in search of one before I left on my trip. The first place I looked was REI, but I was underwhelmed with their selection. My next stop was the North Face store at South Coast Plaza which I figured would be chock full of good options. But strangely I wasn’t crazy about the offerings there either. The warmer jackets that I was interested in were really expensive and I wasn’t willing to spend $200 on something that I would need for a week, tops. In desperation I tried Sport Chalet. Surprisingly I found an acceptable option, a North Face jacket that was also on the sale rack. The only downside was the color. It was a drab light gray that I never would have selected given any other choices. But I bought the jacket anyway because time I didn’t think I’d have time to shop for another one before my trip. When I got home that day I did a quick search and found out that this particular item comes in a seemingly endless array of colors, all of which were more appealing than the light gray. I immediately ordered one in a lovely dark purple from REI online with assurances that it would arrive in time for me to take it to DC. Unfortunately my plan didn’t exactly work out. The jacket from REI didn’t get delivered as promised so the stupid gray jacket made the trip to the East Coast with me. And after all that effort I ended up not needing it at all! In fact, it was too warm in DC that week for just about all of the outerwear I brought with me. So this new jacket that I went through so much trouble to obtain went completely unworn. The good news is that I returned it to Sport Chalet this weekend without any trouble. Now I have to decide whether I want to keep the purple version. I’m not sure there’s any reason to. It’s not exactly useful in Los Angeles, and I don’t anticipate visiting any cold climates soon. What a ridiculously drawn out scenario for a jacket that I might never need!

Belated Foodie Friday – Brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies

My chocolate chip cookies were a hit with both my East and West Coast co-workers last week. The three batches I ended up making weren’t quite what I originally intended, though. The notable difference was these brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies. I started out planning to just make some brown butter chocolate chip cookies based on a request from one of my co-workers, but as I was mixing the dough I decided to add some molasses on a whim. So this is the third time I’ve tried molasses in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I’m glad I was persistent because the result was absolutely perfect. Something about the combination of the brown butter, molasses, and potentially the little bit of bacon fat I threw in there for good measure made for some of the best cookies I’ve ever baked. Of the three different varieties that my co-workers sampled last week I got the best feedback from this recipe. So if you’re looking for a chocolate chip cookie that’s just a little bit different, definitely give these a try. They are amazing!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar (light brown works too)
1/2 c (1 stick) salted butter, browned
2 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
2 Tbsp molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl combine the sugar and brown sugar. Set aside. Brown the butter in a medium saucepan. Make sure not to burn it! (If you need help with this step refer to this post on Serious Eats with a great tutorial.) As soon as the butter is browned immediately pour it over the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the bacon fat at this point if you want. I had some left over after cooking bacon for another batch of cookies so I threw it in just for fun. Add the molasses and eggs and stir to combine. Add the baking soda and flour and stir until almost all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and stir until the flour is completely combined. Spread the dough into a 13×9″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Something Swanky’s Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Surf City half marathon 2016

“I felt like such a fraud collecting my medal after crossing the finish line because it took me significantly over 3 hours to complete that half marathon. Pathetic!”
2/2/15 webpage post

I was so excited to run the Surf City half marathon again, but this time without an injury. This race last year was by far my slowest half marathon and the least enjoyable one I’ve ever run. Luckily after a month of rest things started to improve. My IT band still bugs me occasionally, but not enough to prevent me from running. Thank goodness! So the 2016 Surf City half marathon was my chance for redemption. Despite two great half marathons in January, today didn’t go quite the way I hoped. It started out well, though. Last year I discovered that parking for this race can be a fiasco so I tried a different strategy this time around. I arrived earlier and parked in a more remote lot, right next to a shuttle stop. Stress free parking! The problems started when I walked over to catch the shuttle. At some point between my car and the bus I dropped my timing chip that was supposed to be attached to my shoe. I was going to put it in its proper place after I adjusted my laces at the start line, but the timing chip made a bid for freedom before then. This was problematic for a number of reasons. Not only would I not get an official finish time, but I wouldn’t get credit for completing the race at all. This wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the Beach Cities Challenge (Surf City + Orange County + Long Beach). I haven’t decided whether I want to run all three of the races this year, but my initial thought is that I want to try. (The OC half is the only one that’s really up in the air right now because I already have two other half marathons in May. I’m still considering whether I’m crazy enough to add a third.) But if I want a chance to earn the new sand dollar Beach Cities Challenge medal I need to get credit for the Surf City half marathon. But that was a situation I would address after crossing the finish line.

The next problem of the day was the weather. We’re having a little heat wave in Los Angeles right now. It’s not nearly as bad as the scorching summer that was had last year, but warm and sunny are not the ideal conditions for long distance running. And the fact that the half marathon didn’t start until almost 8 AM didn’t help. Despite a little bit of a cool breeze off the Pacific, the whole race was really uncomfortable. After the first two miles I was rethinking my wardrobe. Shorts and a tank top would have been a better choice than the capris and short-sleeve shirt that I chose. I’m not sure if these unfavorable circumstances themselves caused my poor performance today or whether it was a combination of factors, but I was exhausted by the second mile. My body just didn’t cooperate today so there was a lot of walking involved in this “run.” I was so glad to make it to the finish line! It wasn’t my slowest half marathon, but it was close. Luckily my only goal for the race was to finish it, so in that sense I was completely successful. (The focus of 2016 is going to be distance rather than speed. This will become apparent when I start marathon training in the fall.) After collecting my medal (which is gigantic this year for the 20th anniversary) I headed over to the expo tents to figure out what to do about my errant timing chip. I ended up telling my admittedly ridiculous story to a race administrator who then took down all of my information for further review. Hopefully she will be able to verify that I did indeed complete the race today so I can get credit for it. That would make all of the discomfort worthwhile. Beach Cities Challenge 2016, here I come! Hopefully.