Wine & Dine half marathon (NaBloPoMo day 8)

On Sunday morning my alarm didn’t go off at 3 AM like the two previous days, but at 2:45 AM instead! I figured I needed an extra 15 minutes to apply all of the necessary sunscreen before catching the bus to the start line. Daylight saving time ended shortly before I woke up, rolling the clocks back one hour, so the sun would be rising earlier as far as the clock was concerned. I’d definitely be running part of the half marathon in the sunlight and I had to be prepared. The upside of DST ending was that I fell asleep at 8:30 PM the night before, which was equivalent to 7:30 PM, so I got 7 full hours of sleep! That’s hard for me to do when my schedule is so out of whack on vacation. I picked my Wonder Woman shirt and white sparkle skirt to wear for 13.1 miles. The last time I wore those items was for the Long Beach marathon a few weeks earlier and it was such a miserable experience that I wanted to have a more positive memory associated with that outfit. Spoiler alert – it worked! It was very humid on Sunday morning so I was sweating like a pig, but the temperature was as low as I could have hoped for central Florida in November. Similar to the 10K, the half marathon started in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and went south, so the first three plus miles were on boring access roads. But after that we ran through Animal Kingdom, and this time I got to see the new Pandora area in the daylight. It’s absolutely amazing! After leaving Animal Kingdom we had another few boring miles before getting to Hollywood Studios, but that was quickly followed by the Boardwalk resort hotel area and Epcot. I actually enjoyed the last 5K of this half marathon, which is usually the hardest part of the race for me, due to the clustered entertainment along those miles. It was a lot of fun. My time wasn’t amazing, but it was better than I initially expected after my slower than average summer and fall running so I was happy. I was even happier to pick up my half marathon and Two Course Challenge (10K + half marathon) medals after crossing the finish line. Afterwards I hopped on the bus back to my hotel so I could shower, scarf down some Mickey waffles for breakfast, and take a nap! I needed some rest before going to Animal Kingdom later that afternoon for an amazing dinner at Tiffins (pea fritters, venison tenderloin, and sorbet) – seriously, everyone needs to eat there – and the Rivers of Light evening show. I skipped the Wine & Dine post-race party at Epcot that night because it didn’t start until 10 PM and I was dead tired much earlier than that. Repacking my suitcase to fly home the next day and getting a good night’s sleep were more important. than staying up late for the party!

Carnitas (NaBloPoMo day 7)

Before I can write about my prize-winning Halloween chili I first have to share this carnitas recipe because I put some if the pork in the chili. I don’t want to diminish the importance of this recipe, though. Not only is it Whole30-compliant due to being sweetened only with fruit juice, but it’s also incredibly simple and delicious. I ate this meat for many lunches during the month of October with roasted sweet potatoes and vegetables on the side, but it would be delicious in tacos if tortillas and cheese are included in your diet. When you don’t have a lot of free time your Crockpot can be your best friend. Slow cook a batch of carnitas either on the weekend or one day while you’re at work and you’ll have protein for days. Now that my Whole30(-ish) experiment is over I might add some BBQ sauce to the leftovers I have in the freezer for a little change of pace. I get tired of eating the same thing more than two days in a row so variety is important. I encourage everyone to customize this recipe any way they see fit.

INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
3-4 lb pork shoulder (or pork loin, which I used instead)
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions, quartered
3/4 c orange juice
2 limes juiced

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, paprika, and pepper. I did this the day before to save time. Once you’re ready to put the pork roast in the slow cooker, rub the spice mixture on all sides. I cut my roast into two pieces to make this easier and to have more surface area for the spices. Put the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker, place the pork roast in next, and evenly distribute the garlic cloves on top. Pour the orange juice and lime juice over everything. Cover and cook on low heat for about 8 hours.

Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat in a large bowl, removing any large fat deposits that remain. Add some of the cooking juices from the slow cooker if you want. I did this because my batch would be refrigerated and reheated for lunches and I wanted to keep it from getting too dry. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. I added a tiny bit of salt to my lunch portions and it was divine. Enjoy!

Based on Damn Delicious’s Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas.

Wine & Dine 10K (NaBloPoMo day 6)

The theme of this vacation was doubling the number of miles I had to run each morning. (My January trip will have a similar theme, but it will be a startling four mornings, rather than just three. Doesn’t that sound like fun?) So on Saturday morning, much to my chagrin, my alarm again went off at 3 AM so I could get ready for the Wine & Dine 10K. This is what I signed up for on this vacation! Fortunately my pre-race preparations were minimal because the entirety of the race would take place before sunrise, same as the 5K. No sunscreen required! For someone who takes sun protection extremely seriously, bordering on obsessively, not having to slather greasy lotion all over my exposed skin at 3 AM is a huge convenience. (One of the reasons I love winter is having more hours to run in darkness. I cannot wait to get back to Los Angeles to enjoy the earlier sunsets and lovely fall weather.) To continue the Avengers trend I started the day before, that morning I selected my Hawkeye shirt and a black skirt. I don’t get to wear black running shirts often because they get so darn hot in the sun, but luckily that wasn’t a factor this time! I jumped on the bus to the 10K start line at 3:30 AM. It was just chilly enough for me to use a mylar blanket to keep warm while waiting for the race to start at 5:30 AM. Usually I get annoyed at the DJs who “entertain” the crowds that early in the morning, but this one conducted a lip sync battle between the corrals of runners and it turned out to be surprisingly delightful. It was certainly more fun that sitting there doing nothing for hours. I always read a book on my Kindle app since there is so much time spent waiting around, but singing a bunch of great songs was a much more engaging way to pass the time. Once the race began I didn’t cross the start line for about 15 minutes since I was in corral C. The 10K started in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, but didn’t actually run through that park. (It’s a shame because it’s my favorite.) Instead we made our way south for a little more than three miles before briefly entering Hollywood Studios. The Christmas decorations and music there are fantastic. After that we headed to the Boardwalk resort hotel area, and then to through a portion of Epcot before finally hitting 6.2 miles in the Epcot parking lot. The weather was beautiful that morning, the second half of the course was lovely, and I got back to my hotel in plenty of time to take a nap before I needed to be at Epcot for my first Fast Pass. A decisively successful morning!

NaBloPoMo day 5

My vacation is rapidly coming to an end. It’s been a busy trip, but also a heck of a lot of fun. I haven’t written about the 10K (yesterday morning) and half marathon (this morning) yet, but I survived and even enjoyed both races. More on those when I find enough time and energy to compose some comprehensive posts. Anything I write right now it going to be incomprehensible babble. I’m exhausted after waking up really early three days in a row, and then spending a lot of time exploring the Walt Disney World Parks after the day’s running was complete. I’ve been on the go and on my feet a lot over the last four days. After the half marathon I tried to sit down and draft a decent blog post about the 10K, but I couldn’t put together more than a couple of sentences before I was in desperate need of a nap. I’m flying home tomorrow night (I’d rather have an early flight, but I didn’t have another choice on Virgin America) so I’m hoping to have some time either at the airport or on the plane to publish something more extensive that this little paragraph. But right now I’m going to round up everything in my hotel room and try to somehow fit it all back in my suitcase. A seemingly impossible task. Wish me luck!

Wine & Dine 5K (NaBloPoMo day 4)

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 3 AM and I was so groggy that couldn’t immediately remember where I was. I have many early wakeup calls due to training and races that you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I blame this particular confusion on being in a strange hotel room. I was still really sleepy, but I had to scramble to get ready for the Wine & Dine 5K at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Actually, it was rebranded as the Fall Feast 5K this year which is a shame because it used to be a Christmas-themed race. It would have been the perfect way to kick off the post-Halloween season. With the new race name I was tempted to wear my Thanksgiving running shirt, but I decided against it. When I was packing for this trip I realized that I own six or seven superhero running shirts – more than any other category. They are by far my favorite. Given that there are only three Avengers races at Disneyland next weekend (of course I’m running all of them) I decided to extend the superhero theme to the Wine & Dine weekend as well so that I could wear as many of the shirts as possible. This morning I picked my Iron Man shirt and a red skirt for the Fall Feast 5K.

I was in corral A for the 5K which was a rare treat. I was one of the first runners to cross the start line at 5:30 AM. Funny enough, after I finished the race and was walking to catch the bus back to my hotel the final corral was finally crossing the start line! That was surreal. It was a really fun 5K running through Animal Kingdom. I think it’s my favorite Disney World park to run through. We got a glimpse of the new Avatar area as well, but it was so dark I didn’t recognize anything. I’m planning to go back tomorrow and take a better look, assuming it’s not completely packed! I got back to my hotel room after the Fall Feast 5K long before sunrise which gave me plenty of time to shower and get ready for my breakfast reservation at Magic Kingdom at 9:30 AM. One Wine & Dine race down, two to go!

NaBloPoMo day 3

This morning was the Wine & Dine 5K (officially rebranded as the Fall Feast 5K this year, but I’m not a big fan of that name) and I intended to write a whole post about it tonight, but I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. I’m sitting in my hotel room watching this week’s new episode of “Once Upon A Time” and dozing off briefly every commercial break. I can’t wait to take a shower and climb into bed. My alarm went off at 3 AM this morning for the 5K, and it’s set to the same time tomorrow morning for the 10K. Yikes! These races always sound like a good idea when I sign up for them, but are less appealing when I have to get up so many hours before dawn. I will try to devote more time to writing tomorrow so I can share a full account of the Wine & Dine 5K, but for now it’s bedtime. Good night!

NaBloPoMo 2017

November means that it’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) once again. Luckily, all of my
Whole30(-ish) blogging in October was the perfect segue into NaBloPoMo 2017. I’m already in the habit of updating my webpage every day which is a plus, but November has traditionally been an extremely busy month for me. Case in point, I’m at Walt Disney World right now for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend which means that my normal routine has been thrown out the window. I’m sitting down to write this post in my hotel room before an early bedtime in order to be ready for the Fall Feast 5K at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning. It’s my first of three pre-dawn race mornings. Not the kind of thing most folks would sign up for on their vacations, but we runners are a little bit crazy! This morning I went to the race expo and picked up my race bibs and shirts for the three races. Actually, I slept in and barely rolled out of bed in time to get to the expo when it started. Last night I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom and I stayed until after the park closed at midnight. Very uncharacteristic for me, but the party was amazing and totally worth the effort it took to get there after my flight landed yesterday. I’ll write a separate post about that later. I spent most of the afternoon at Hollywood Studios visiting a few rides that are no longer at Disneyland, like Tower of Terror and Muppet Vision 3D. So much fun. But now it’s time for me prepare for the 5K early tomorrow morning. I have big plans for the rest of this runcation and I need to be well-rested to fully enjoy it!

Ultimate pumpkin bread

After the usual ordeal of preparing for air travel I finally made it to LAX and sat down at my gate with my laptop expecting to be able to connect to wifi and update my webpage. Due to several factors yesterday was just too busy, and by the time I was able to think about blogging it was really late and I needed sleep a little before my flight today. However, when I got to the airport today my laptop wasn’t recognizing the LAX wifi connection for some reason. And then I discovered that internet access on my flight was $24! Needless to say, I didn’t pay that hefty price. So that brings me to the present, sitting in my Disney World hotel room for a few minutes to charge my phone before heading to Magic Kingdom for the Halloween party. After such a long day I’m taking advantage of this brief window of down time to publish this post.

All throughout October I knew how busy Halloween was going to be for me. Not only was it the day of the annual chili cook-off at work, but I figured I’d be scrambling to finish getting ready for my trip to Disney World. Add a 12-hour workday on top of that and I barely had time to eat dinner last night! I’ll write more about that tomorrow. The point of this little rant is to explain why I planned ahead of time to share this year’s pumpkin bread recipe on Halloween rather than writing a more extensive post. So here it is!

I mentioned this pumpkin bread last year, but didn’t deem it worthy of a formal recipe post at the time. This year I’ve used it twice and it’s absolutely the most delicious pumpkin bread I’ve ever made. The amount of spice is perfect and the combination of the pumpkin puree and pudding mix makes this bread incredibly moist. I took half a bundt cake to my Galloway running group’s end of the season breakfast a few weeks ago and they devoured every single crumb. Since I was doing Whole30(-ish) at the time I shared the rest with my co-workers and it disappeared in record time. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pumpkin bread, and this recipe is so easy to make and perfect for fall and winter. Just remember to grease the bundt pan or, as I learned firsthand, your cake will be ruined!

INGREDIENTS:
5 large eggs
1 1/4 c canola oil or extra light olive oil
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
2 packages (3 oz each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp baking soda
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c granulated sugar (or half white sugar, half light brown sugar)

DIRECTIONS:
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Add the oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, pumkin pie spice, cloves, ginger, allspice, cardamom, and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla pudding mix and baking soda and beat until combined. Lastly, add the flour and sugar and beat until combined. Pour the batter evenly into a 12 cup bundt cake pan with every nook and cranny coated with cooking spray. This is important because you don’t want the cake to stick! (This happened to me the last time so I speak from experience.) Bake at 325 deg F for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting the cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread.

Day 30 – ‘Twas the night before Halloween

‘Twas the night before Halloween and the last day of Whole30(-ish)! And the people rejoiced! Actually, my current mood is pretty frazzled getting ready for the chili cook-off. I’m still looking forward to all of the excitement of tomorrow, but I would be even more enthusiastic if I didn’t have a sink full of dishes to wash, a to do list a mile long, and a suitcase I still need to pack for my pending vacation. And my house is a wreck too. So basically the typical state of things during the holiday season! I should just get used to my life being like this for the next two months. It’s certainly not a bad thing. I’ll gladly take a little disruption in my normal routine in exchange for experiencing my favorite time of the year. All I can do it try to enjoy the festive chaos to the fullest extent possible.

I celebrated both the arrival of Halloween and the departure of my month-long diet experiment by baking a pumpkin sheet cake when I got home from work (while watching the traditional October fare – “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Hocus Pocus”). I didn’t eat any of it because it’s for the chili cook-off, during which I will sample a wide array of desserts that have been off-limits to me for the last 30 days. For most potluck scenarios I would make an always crowd-pleasing chocolate sheet cake, but Halloween requires something more specialized. I know pumpkin spice has fallen out of favor recently, but it’s still a surefire winner when it comes to baked goods. I’ve made this pumpkin sheet cake before, specifically for the chili cook-off back in 2013, but that recipe included cream cheese frosting. This time I topped the cake with a white glaze (the frosting portion of my white Texas sheet cake) because I wouldn’t have to refrigerate the whole thing that way. Finding space in the fridge for such a huge pan would have been challenging. I also added some Halloween sprinkles (pumpkins and witch’s hats and brooms) for good measure. I’m sure it will be delicious, like so many other things at the chili cook-off. I’ll have a full report tomorrow.

I have so much more to say, but it’s extremely late and I need to go to sleep ASAP. I hope everyone has a lovely Halloween!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with hot dog slices (cleaning out my fridge!)
Snack #1 – Apple, cashews
Lunch – Carnitas, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana with almond butter
Dinner – Tomato soup with Italian sausage

Day 29 – A busy Sunday

I’m sitting on my couch watching Game 5 of the World Series right now and I’m exhausted. It’s been such a busy day, but I feel like I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. I currently have a few more dishes that need to be washed before I go to bed, but I’m just about done with everything that I can fit into this weekend. And I actually crossed a lot of things off my to do list, but there is an alarmingly large number of untouched items too. Today started early because the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles half marathon kicked off at 6:45 AM in Downtown LA and I had to meet my running buddies at an ungodly hour in order to get there in time. Luckily the race itself was great, even if I ran it at a fairly slow pace. In spite of the many hills on the course I felt strong for the entire 13.1 miles, which was wonderful. And the weather was so perfect. Cloudy, cool, and even dense fog all over Los Angeles. After the completely out of character heat wave last week I will cautiously declare that fall has finally arrived in Southern California. Just in time for me to leave town on Wednesday, of course.

My other major achievement of the day was making my traditional batch of chili for Halloween. Traditional in the sense that I have chili every October 31st, not that I make the same recipe every year! I had some time on my hands this afternoon because I decided not to go to work today after hurting my foot during the half marathon. Fortunately it seems to be much better this evening. This year’s chili cook-off entry has three different kinds of pork – bacon, ground pork, and carnitas. A friend of mine suggested the name Three Little Piggies chili and it’s perfect! I honestly haven’t eaten any of it yet, but if it tastes as good as it smelled while it was simmering then I think my co-workers and I are in for a treat. I’ll let you know how the chili cook-off goes this week.

Speaking of food, on our way back from the half marathon this morning my running buddies and I stopped at Starbucks for a late breakfast (around 11 AM). Since there are only two days left of my self-imposed diet, I intended to stick to it as much as possible today (with the exception of Sports Beans and Pedialyte while running), but I was really hungry after the race. I scarfed down a Starbucks breakfast sandwich (sausage, egg, and cheese) in record time and then washed it down with a small hot chocolate. Not at all diet-friendly, but my body desperately needed fuel and it all tasted amazing. When I got home I started keeping track of my meals for the day, but it ended up being an underwhelming list and I deemed it not worth sharing. As hungry as I was after running 13.1 miles, I strangely didn’t eat a lot after that Starbucks meal. I’m trying to clean out my fridge before going on vacation so for dinner I had a salad with some leftover chicken and whatever veggies I found in my crisper drawer. Delicious, if not exciting. Tomorrow is my last day of this Whole30-ish experiment so we’ll see how well I can stay within the diet parameters with the end in sight. I’m hoping to finish strong!