Categories
Food Recipes

Local Fare

Today proved to be one of those formulaically beautiful spring days that compel New Yorkers by the droves to swarm my (read: everyone’s) farmers’ market to fill their reusable bags with seasonal greens and camera reels with seasonal photos.

Ah, what the hell. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?

A staunch advocate of the locavore movement – when convenient and comparably priced, that is – I’ve been sustaining on Tri-state winter staples like apples, bosc pears and sweet potatoes since November in wait of the first spring harvest, and my God, I’m ready for some variety.

Thankfully, in the words of classic literary hero Rafiki, “It is time.”

Today’s bounty at the Union Square Greenmarket included an array of early springtime offerings from ramps (i.e. wild spring onions) to turnip greens (i.e. turnip greens).

Too often a creature of habit when it comes to my vegetable selections – my genetic make-up is probably 90-percent kale at this point – I forced myself out of my comfort zone and bought a new kind of green at today’s market: broccoli rabe.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what to do with it, but a little olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper can never be wrong. Unless broccoli rabe is one of those poisonous greens you have to cook thoroughly to avoid sure and sudden death. In which case, cooking it my way might be wrong. Stay tuned for an update and/or obituary.

Speaking of playing dead – gratuitous niece photo anyone? Ok, I guess if you twist my arm.

How are you celebrating the flavors of spring? And who is with me for Operation Puppynap? Sorry future defense attorney. This scheme is decidedly premeditated.

Categories
Running Training

Reality vs. Expectation

Do you know that brilliant scene in 500 Days of Summer where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s expectations of an evening and the actual events unfold simultaneously on a split screen? (This is my first attempt at embedding a video clip, so I apologize in advance for whatever coding mess may or may not follow.)

That’s a pretty accurate portrayal of my training schedule this week. I entered my final week of pre-taper Broad St. Run preparation with high hopes – another 30+ mile week, a Wednesday interval workout, a voicemail from Ryan Hall begging me to pace him in London this summer – absolutely none of which came to fruition.

DAY EXPECTATION REALITY
Monday 3 m run + strength training Walked 5 blocks to ShakeShack. Inhaled double Shack Burger. Walked home. An exhausting exercise all around.
Tuesday 6 m run 2 (whiny) m run on treadmill
Wednesday 8 x 800 5-K pace 3 m run and the consumption of entire loaf of cheesy bread with my favorite British bombshell
Thursday 4 m run + strength training Rest, plus convincing my friend on antibiotics that drinking a bottle of wine was more important that curing her ear infection. I am a terrible human being.
Friday Rest 10 m run to try to make up for a week of wrongdoings. Too little, too late? Perhaps.

Friday evening may or may not have also included my second ShackBurger of the calendar week. Don’t judge me.

I’m not going to lie: I’m a little disappointed in myself, because I know the Wednesday interval training in particular is key if I’m going to reach the ambitious 1:22 goal time I’ve set for next weekend’s event. But I’m also trying not to beat myself up too much, because sometimes life/cheesy bread get in the way, and that’s OK too.

(And sometimes your favorite New York street artist seems to know you’re having a rough week and tags the sidewalk in front of your apartment at a serendipitously opportune moment. Thanks, de la Vega. I love you.)

Did your week live up to your expectations? I’m sure my brother’s did, since this morning, he brought home this blond beauty. I have never been so jealous in my life.

Categories
Food Recipes

Meat Free… Tuesdays.

Remember when I suggested everyone slowly up their protein intake with the calculated addition of more eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes and canned tuna into their daily diets?

Turns out, there’s a faster way to reach your targeted protein threshold: order a Double ShackBurger.

What's that? You didn't realize I was going to post this attractive photo all over the internet?

In addition to sporting a proprietary blend of premium beef and scientifically unparalleled deliciousness, a Double ShackBurger also comes complete with 52 whopping grams of protein, or more than three-fourths of my daily target. A Double ShackBurger is also calorie-free. (One of these statements is a lie, but I’m not telling you which one.)

But while inhaling two delicious Pat LaFrieda patties yesterday with one of my oldest friends was hands down the best decision of my adult life, I also recognize that a dish need not contain meat to be delectable. And so, without further ado, I present what may or may not become a recurring segment: Anne’s Favorite Fleshless Recipes. (The Focus Group did not approve that title.)

This fan favorite has already worked its way into my girl Sarah’s culinary repertoire, and I suggest you add it to yours.  I like to make two at a time and pop one in the freezer for a rainy day/a sunny day when I feel like eating lasagna.

For my vegetarian artichoke lasagna, you will need:

  • Cooking spray
  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (14-ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 (28-ounce) jar tomato pasta sauce
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 (4-ounce) package herb and garlic feta, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. (I use the thin, no boil noodles because I am lazy.) Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until onion is tender-crisp. Stir in broth and rosemary; bring to a boil. Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach; reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce.

Spread 1/4 of the artichoke mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish; top with 3 cooked noodles. Sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese over noodles. Repeat layers 2 more times, ending with artichoke mixture and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Eat in one sitting.

What’s your favorite animal-less meal?

Categories
Running

A New Milestone

My boyfriend may be in Costa Rica this weekend doing all sorts of fun things that are bound to get him killed–from unlicensed scuba diving to waterfall repelling to dining with cannibals, only one of which I made up–but my solo New York City weekend promises to offer something perhaps even more exciting: my first ever 30-mile week.

 

I realize a 30-mile running week means virtually nothing to any experienced competitor, but for this novice athlete, it marks a major milestone in my drive to become a marathoner. Initially logging just 4.5 miles during my first seven-day stretch as a runner in January 2011, I’ve since boosted my stamina more than six-fold in a little over a year. I’m not really one for late-night infomercials, but a six-fold stamina boost sure sounds like the kind of thing you’d pay for with four easy payments of $19.95.

“I would like to have a product that was available for three easy payments and one f-ing complicated payment! We ain’t gonna tell you which payment it is, but one of these payments is gonna be a bitch. The mailman will get shot to death, the envelope will not seal, and the stamp will be in the wrong denomination. Good luck! The last payment must be made in wampum.”

– Sir Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005)

What’s that?  You demand at least one Mitch Hedberg joke be included now in every future blog post? Done and done.

Of course, my planned 30-mile accomplishment is fully dependent on my completing a scheduled 9-mile long run tomorrow, which is fully dependent on my ability to decline what I expect will be a very compelling argument from my roommate to go out for drinks after a screening at the TriBeCa Film Festival tonight. Go ahead, Liz. Give it your best shot.

Now I usually end (or start, or pepper throughout) my posts with gratuitous photos of anonymous puppies, but since there will soon be a new addition to my nuclear family, I might as well share the good news – and photographic evidence – here. Much to my sister’s and my insurmountable jealousy, my kid brother is now the proud owner of his very own golden-doodle, Keira (right).

 

She will never replace our one and only (dog) love, Ellie, but I’m excited to watch her try.

Eleanor Roosevelt
(Dec. 3rd, 2002 to Feb. 18, 2011)

What’s in store for you this weekend? If you live in NYC and don’t want me to have to run 9 miles all by myself tomorrow, I’ll give you one good guess.

Categories
Food Running Weight Loss

Back on Track

Sometimes the temperature grazes 80° for the first time this calendar year and your mom offers to buy you an ice-cream cone. Sometimes you go to a gorgeous Southern wedding and you can’t pass up the mounds of barbeque beef brisket vying for space on your plate. Sometimes your little (grown-up) brother doesn’t want to share his box of Cheez-Its, which – in proper sibling fashion – only makes you want them more.

Sometimes all these things happen the same weekend. Or perhaps I should rephrase: Sometimes you return home to New York from an excursion to Maryland to find you’ve gained three pounds in as many days.

In years past, whenever I’d go on a “healthy eating spree,” one weekend of caloric debauchery was enough to see me throw in the towel and revert back to my earlier ways. I’ve already ruined my diet – I’d say – so I might as well test that all 6 burger options at Shake Shack have the same meat-to-bun ratio. You know, for science.

That kind of thinking didn’t get me anywhere (or more accurately, it got me here) because it was fatalistic, short-sighted and – pardon my French – le dumb.

But now that I’ve finally given up on short-term fixes in favor of what I hope will be a lifetime of nutrition and fitness, a weekend off the wagon no longer carries the same weight. I ate both the chocolate and the vanilla wedding cake on Saturday night – I said to my slightly hung-over self the following morning – so I’ll just stick to oatmeal and coffee at the hotel breakfast buffet, even though they have all the free sausage a carnivore could hope for. When you’re thinking long-term, it’s easier to bounce back from a few days of bad habits, Episcopal guilt and all.

That said, I’m still using this weekend’s free-for-all as an opportunity to revisit my goals and recommit to some of the healthy practices that helped me drop 30+ pounds by this time last year. For example, I’m taking a page from my girl Tara’s book and trying to pack my own lunch four out of five days this week. I’m also recording everything I eat over the next few days in a drive for mindfulness. And I’m not sneaking any more rest days than Coach Hal allows as I enter Week 8 before my most important race of the season.  I even upped my Monday 3-miler to a 6-miler just for good form. Who knows? If I sneak in one extra, unscheduled mile by Sunday, this may even be my first ever 30+ mile week.

And that kind of accomplish warrants an ice-cream cone.

How do you get back on track nutritiously/fitnessly/navigationally after straying?

Categories
Races Running

Picture Perfect

I’ve never had such delusions of grandeur to think myself a good-looking runner, and this past week’s top trending Internet meme (I sincerely apologize for using that godawful word) has only solidified that understanding.

You’ve all seen this, right? Men want to be him, women want to date him and sports photographers want to capture him in a glossy 3×5: the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.

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(Disclaimer: I don’t have distribution rights to this photo, but spreading joy to the masses in the form of handsome digital images can never be wrong. Right, lawyers?)

No one looks that good in race photos, particularly me. While RPG and his windblown locks were making history last week, the rest of us runners were struggling to put one foot in front of the other, let alone flash a killer smile toward the race photographer. If I’m lucky, I’ll finish a race with one sweat-drenched, muscle-fatigued photo like this one that I should be embarrassed to even be posting:

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And that’s a good one. More often than not, my race photos make me look like a parched Fievel Mousekewitz passing mirage Tiger in the Wild West desert. (1991 feature-length cartoon reference? Yes, please.) In addition to confirming the Internet has great taste in men, RPG proves that the rest of us normal people have no place being photographed on the race course.

Or so I thought. I had a bit of a cheering squad near the finish line of this month’s Colon Cancer 15K, including my nice boyfriend, his sweet mama and his very talented photographer father. Turns out, all you need to capture a good race photo is a personal paparazzi! I’m not claiming to be the next RPG, but these stills sure beat my usual mugshots:

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And now, watch me run away.

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What’s your trick for post-worthy race photos?

Categories
Running Travel

Sweet Home Alabama

This week, I visited the alma mater of my No. 1 all-time running hero.

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Can my No. 1 all-time running hero be a fictional character? Yes? Ok, good.

Like most well-rounded athletes, my running idol wasn’t just a runner – he was also a student, a soldier, a ping pong ambassador, a shrimp boat captain, an accidental peace activist, a millionaire, a father and the title character of a 1994 historical blockbuster. That’s right – my favorite runner of all times is Forrest Gump.

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In addition to being the best movie ever, full of tear jerker moments like (spoiler alert!) when Lt. Dan and his magic legs make a surprise appearance at Forrest and Jenny’s wedding, Forrest Gump is also the original source of my own personal running mantra:

“From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running.”

I may not be planning to cross the United States on foot three times over after Robin Wright walks out on me, but like Mr. Gump, now that I’ve discovered running, I see little reason to travel any other way. Take a scary subway/bus combination through Harlem to get to a Randalls Island soccer game OR run five miles directly to the field? I’m going with the latter every single time. If I’m going somewhere – and if it’s not totally socially inappropriate to show up sweat-drenched – you can bet your weight in shrimp gumbo I’ll be running there.

Inspired by my afternoon in Tuscaloosa (whose impetus was actually work-related and not solely an excuse to blog about an 18-year old movie), I returned to my hotel in Birmingham last night ready for a run. But as nice as Alabamans may be with their “sirs” and “ma’ams” and “have a good day now, y’alls,” when I asked the front desk if there was anywhere to run in the neighborhood that I didn’t need a car to get to, they looked at me like I had two heads and/or voted for Obama. “We don’t have those newfangled sidewalks in Birmingham, ma’am,” my biased recollection of the hotel receptionist told me. “It’s best if you just work out in the hotel fitness center. Have a good day now, y’all.”

The hotel fitness center comprised one occupied treadmill and an exercise bike from the 60s, and since I couldn’t bear to pass up an evening run in the southern spring weather, I ignored her well-intended advice and ventured outside for a sidewalk-free run anyways.

And it was terrifying. Not only do they not have sidewalks in Birmingham, but they don’t have shoulders (the street kind, not the attach-your-neck-to-your-body kind), meaning I was literally running on the main street as Ricky Bobby and friends zoomed around me. Fearing for my life, I darted into a commercial park and resigned myself to just run laps of a giant parking lot when out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a trail head.

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It turned out to be a man-made trail that looped around a man-made lake that backed up to a dozen man-made office buildings, but it more than got the job done. I ran the loop three times for a total of 3.5 miles, only stopping (three times) to tiptoe around a very hostile goose and his hissing goose girlfriend.

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I survived their attacks, but only barely and perhaps by trudging through a patch of poison oak. Well played, Alabama geese.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Categories
Races Running

It Takes Two

I’ve long known that a lot of things in life are better with a buddy (See: spooning, wheel-barrow races and porterhouse steaks) and as of this weekend, I can add one more to the list: racing.

A bit of a lone wolf when it comes to my running routine, I rarely log training miles with a partner, and when it comes to actual races, you and Orphan Annie can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be crossing the start and finish lines alone. Racing solo has never been an intentional decision, but doing otherwise demands the unlikely probability of finding a friend with the same race goals who is registered for the same race who actually wants to run with you. With just a handful of running friends in the city, the racing-buddy stars had not yet aligned for me, leaving me to complete every race in my brief running career to date satisfied and proud but utterly alone.

That is, until Saturday. Enter Adam, stage left.
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A speed demon with a sub-21:40 5K PR under his belt, Adam honestly should not have signed on to run with me at Saturday’s Scotland Run 10K. But coming off some injuries and wisely opting to take his first NYRR event in moderation, he agreed to keep me company as I ran my second Central Park road race in as many weeks.

And it couldn’t have been more awesome. Although we probably could have run a bit faster if we weren’t exerting so much energy chatting the first three miles, I’d wager the benefits of racing with a partner far outweighed the negatives, at least for me. (Adam, I’m not sure what you got out of this partnership besides my leftover bagel, but let’s pretend the benefits were mutual.)

Usually, when I feel tired during a race, I slow down. On Saturday, when I felt tired, I slowed down, Adam charged ahead and I had to spend the next mile catching up – keeping me on course to meet my pace target, which would have been well out of reach if I’d slowed down on my own. Likewise, when Adam sprinted ahead in the final stretch, I may not have been able to keep up, but seeing him pull ahead lit a fire – albeit a smaller one – under my feet, too. With the added motivation of a running companion, I was able to slice a full 1:48 off my last 10K time, earning me a solid new PR of 50:58. Not quite as impressive as Adam’s 50:27, but I’ll take it.

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Hey New Yorkers, anyone else down for some non-solo miles? Like Adam, you might also walk away with a fancy keepsake like half a gnawed on bagel. Tempting, I know.

Categories
Food Running

The Power of Protein

Let’s pretend this post is an honest appeal to see my readers introduce more protein into their diets and not a thinly veiled excuse to share photos from my Easter egg dyeing party last night. Agreed? Good.

When it comes to running nutrition, most athletes are all about the carbohydrates, and for a good reason: carbs are our muscles’ primary fuel source, and after logging mile after mile on our feet every day, our muscles get particularly hungry. From spaghetti to sweet potatoes to Cadbury Cream Eggs by the dozen (don’t judge me), carbohydrates are an indispensible part of a runner’s diet, and should make up the bulk – some 60 percent – of one’s daily caloric intake.

In fact, my guidebook for running a four-hour marathon goes so far as to suggest I start each day during marathon week with a breakfast of bagels. That’s right – not bagel, but bagels. I assume the author means two, but I’m planning to read that “S” a little more liberally. Sixteen doctor-authorized bagels, here I come!

But I digress. This post isn’t about chewy, delicious and utterly unparalleled New York bagels. It’s about another key nutritional building block in a runner’s dietary arsenal: protein.

Crucial for muscle growth and recovery, protein is an important part of any athlete’s diet, particularly during the vital hours of internal repair that follow a long run. According to runnersworld.com, which is hands-down my most visited website outside http://animalsdoingpeoplethings.tumblr.com/, runners who consume insufficient amounts of protein are at a higher risk of injury. Likewise, “military research studies show that Marines who ingested high amounts of protein had fewer medical visits than those with lower protein intake.” I don’t know any Marines, but that sounds like pretty sound advice to me.

Oh wait, I do know a Marine. Shout out to my baby brother!

According to the Runner’s World report, runners are advised to consume between 0.45 and 0.72 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day, giving this runner a target range of about 67 grams to 108 grams. Unless you’re throwing back a KFC double-down sandwich every day at 53 grams a pop, you’re probably going to have to make a conscious effort to elevate your protein intake to the levels your fatigue-strained muscles require. (And if you are throwing back a KFC double-down sandwich every day, kudos! With that breadless wonder also packing a reported 145 milligrams of cholesterol, you must have the world’s most resilient arteries.)

Here are some easy ways to introduce more protein into your daily diet:

  • Swap out your regular yogurt for a Greek yogurt. I love light & fit 100-calorie yogurts as much as the next calorie counter, but clocking in at just 3 to 5 grams of protein apiece, I prefer to swap in a 140-calorie Chiobani Greek yogurt – and its 15 to 18 grams of protein – instead.
  • Add a heaping spoonful of almond or peanut butter (6 to 8 grams) into your next bowl of oatmeal/smoothie/icecream. It also works straight off the spoon.
  • Pretend you’re still a kid and drink a glass of milk (7 to 8 grams) with dinner. Bonus points for chocolate milk.
  • Think beyond fresh veggies when you’re making your next salad. Add a protein source like canned tuna (about 40 grams a can!), kidney beans (about 15 grams a cup), hard boiled eggs (7 grams an egg) or quinoa (the internet can’t agree on how much protein quinoa has) to pump up your intake and keep yourself feeling full longer.
  • Throw an Easter egg dyeing party and eat multiple colored eggs for breakfast.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know I dyed Easter eggs with friends last night and you want to see photos? Well ok, I guess I can’t deny the people what they want.

Some attendees worked very diligently.

Some attendees are very photogenic.

Some attendees act like 14-year-old boys.

What’s your favorite way to sneak more protein into your daily routine?

Categories
Races Running

Colon Cancer 15K, or Why NYC Isn’t as Bad as You Think

If, like me, you grew up in a town other than New York and had access to a household TV, you probably internalized a pretty negative view of the Big Apple from an early age. And why wouldn’t we? From the comfort of our parents’ sofas, we watched Saturday morning after Saturday morning as Gotham City fell into ruin at the hands of its selfish residents, with even good kid Danny Pennington unable to avoid the lure of the Foot Clan.

Portrayed as dirty, self-indulgent and perhaps a bit maniacal, New York City has gotten a bad rap in American culture. To quote Liz Lemon quoting Jay-Z: “Concrete bunghole where dreams are made up; there’s nothing you can do.”

Of course, as a resident of this city for more than three years now, I can recall countless examples to counteract that negative stereotype, and this morning during the New York Colon Cancer Challenge 15K in Central Park, I witnessed one more.

Let me backtrack a bit. This morning’s race – which started at the remarkably humane hour of 10:15 a.m. – took 3,014 runners around two partial loops of the park, including two drives up Cat Hill, before concluding at the Bethesda Fountain.

Never having run a timed 15K before, I knew I’d PR regardless, but I was nonetheless targeting an ambitious race pace of about 8:20 for a total running time of 1:17. Well-rested from the weirdly normal start time and carbed-up on entirely too many pancakes, I imagined my goal – though challenging – was an achievable one. I met up with my friend Leigh-Ann for a pre-race photo shoot, double-knotted my Aiscs and high-tailed it over to the starting line.

Like all NYRR events, the first mile was a cluster-duck of bodies, but Cat Hill successfully dispersed the masses, allowing plenty of room to maneuver without all the elbow-throwing friendly jostling I’ve come to expect in Central Park races. As I made my away around the first loop, I felt strong and fast and – although I wasn’t wearing a GPS watch because I cheaply haven’t bought one  yet – knew from the mile clocks that I was maintaining an 8:10 or so pace. Life was good.

And that’s when I heard the clink of something hitting the pavement beside me. I initially thought the runner in front of me had just shot back an energy gel and was simply discarding the empty casing in his wake, but a closer look revealed he had actually – and quite unwittingly – dropped his American Express card.

Well, damn it. I thought to myself as I saw him obliviously charge ahead. I’m going to need to go back and get it for this big dummy. I was prepared to kiss my race goal goodbye.

As I turned around to dart back to the card, I was shocked to see at least a dozen other runners doing the same exact thing. We were all out there racing for our own PRs, but when we saw that poor guy’s card tumble to the ground, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that helping out was more important than slicing off a few extra seconds of our own. Another runner was closer than I, so while he swooped down to retrieve it, I turned forward again and sprinted ahead with all the speed I could muster in order to catch up with Mr. Amex. It took about 20 meters of balls-to-the-wall power, but I caught him, tapped his shoulder and quickly filled him in on the situation while the runner with the card caught up. As he handed it off in true relay fashion, the cardless wonder turned to us all and yelled “Good people!”

That’s right, sir. New York is full of ’em.

Call it karma or maybe the promise of a French-fry-filled post-race brunch, but I ended up making up for those lost seconds in the final miles, crossing the finish line at 1:16:26 and maintaining a solid 8:14 pace. And I’m not the only one who PRed today (albeit at non-New York races.) A big shout out to my girls Meredith and Z-Z for logging their own new race records today – and for being good people.  New York would be lucky to have you both.

Tell me about your weekend run/good deed/best April Fools joke. Gmail tap, anyone?