Halloween Haunting 5K/10K

Today, John and I ran the Halloween Haunting 5K and 10K, respectively, in Springbank Park. The short version of the story: it was excellent!

John was almost certain that he would PR, though he wasn't sure by how much. We huddled together until it was time for the 5K to start, since it was about 40 degrees, cloudy, and really windy. The forecast called for rain, so we brought a beach towel to use after the race. But I ended up walking around with it wrapped on my head until the 5K was over. John said I looked like I'd decided to dress up as a Muslim for Halloween - if Muslims cover their heads with beach towels with dogs printed on them. 

I think the Boston Pizza mascot faked its own death to get out of running in the 2K fun run with the kiddies. Here he is getting up, after a few minutes laying lifeless on the ground. 


After I watched the kiddies do the fun run, the first 5K finishers started coming in. I tried to get some photos of his finish, though it was tough to operate the camera with frozen, numb fingers.


I met John after the finish and confirmed that he had PR'd, with a time of 21:48! 

Then it was my turn to take off my fleece, warm pants, gloves, and dog-towel head covering, and become the IU cheerleader I've always wanted to be. I called to John before the start that my costume belonged to a faster runner, i. e., someone who would spend less time on the course than me.

John got some good pics of me at the half way point, and I tried to show some school spirit. 

During the weeks since the half marathon, I'd just been easing off the mileage, trying to do my physio exercises, and running about 1 long run per week of about 7-8 miles. The 10k distance has sort of been a thorn in my side, since I've never been able to go under an hour, despite good training. It's always taught me that race day can be unpredictable: weather, injuries, a cold, all things that have kept me from running this distance as fast as I wanted. Last week, John and I both had nasty colds, and I only ran about 5 miles for the whole week - blech. I figured that this race was just for fun, and I didn't want to worry about my time. 

But like any normal (re: crazy runner) person, I wrote down the splits for a 59:50 finish, and decided to see how I felt when I got to the race. 
Today, I think the odds were really in my favor. I just focused on one KM at a time and tried to hit the split I'd written out for myself, and for the most part, it worked really well. It was a challenging pace by the end, but I felt like I could hang in there. By about the 5K mark, I started running with this other women about my age, wearing devil horns. She and I hung together and agreed to try to finish under and hour. When we rounded the final corner and the finish line was in sight, she said, "I'm sorry," and started to pull away. I told her not to be sorry and cheered for her to go on. I thought I could probably hit the last marker without her. 

And I was right! The clock time was ahead of my watch by about 20 seconds, so the display looked as though I finished right on 60 minutes. 
But the chip time was the same as my watch: 59:38! 


So let that be a lesson: when trying to PR, pretend you don't care, lay in bed sick for 8 days, wear something freezing, and it'll totally happen!

I remembered while piecing this costume together that I once had another IU cheerleader costume. In case you happened to miss its appearance on facebook:


Based on the (fantastic) haircut, I'm guessing that's from 1989. Win. 

After the race, we used a buy one-get one free coupon I had for the Alibi and had diner-style breakfast food. Eating at places like that really hits the spot after a race!

And, side note: 


Yesterday I decided to eat a big bowl of leftover spaghetti for lunch (add that to my perfect pre-race prep list). The noodles were cooked but plain, so I decided to throw on some salt, pepper, and parm for toppings. Then I remembered that we are cellaring my green tomatoes, and I went to check on them. Turns out, it totally worked! I got about 5 medium-small tomatoes for this pasta, which I just cut and threw into the pot with the noodles while they heated up. They still have that fresh, summery taste. I have three more small ones that still need to ripen up, so I'm hoping that the same magic happens to them. Cellaring tomatoes! Who knew?!


Smells like Fall at our House

The squirrels are still enjoying the acorn buffet in our front yard. 

Besides squirrel watching, John and I have been up to a few other things around London.

We went to our first London Knights hockey game, and we sat  almost high enough to see the Northern Lights (j/k, it just felt scary while we were climbing to our seats). Before the elementary school kids sang the national anthem, they announced that Wayne Gretzky's dad, "THE FATHER OF THE GREAT ONE!" was in attendance. John and I watched the Knights beat the crap out of the Plymouth Whalers while we ate too much pop corn and cherry slushees. 

Our friend's daughter turned two, and we all celebrated with a potluck. John and I brought chocolate zucchini muffins (more on those in a minute), and a small collection of children's books we bought at Goodwill. The birthday girl is really into books - when they come over to our house, she always shows me her new books, and she looks at the two we happen to have (in French and German - we are nerds). 

The chocolate zucchini muffins are oil free, from Oh She Glows.

They are unbelievably moist and taste more like cupcakes than muffins. You can't even find a strand of zucchini in them! I love these muffins. They are a dream come true. Several people asked me for the recipe. 

All the leaves have peaked, I think. John and I stared at them from our bedroom window, since we both spent almost all of last week sick in bed. We watched about 6 seasons of the Office, and John watched Lawrence of Arabia on his own, while I graded assignments and midterms. 

Before we got sick, we had some squash! 

No recipe here, just roasted halves of acorn squash, filled with caramelized onions, lentils, and thyme with a little olive oil. I think adding goat cheese and/or mushrooms would crank these up a notch.

We also made this loaf, which may be the main dish at our American Thanksgiving dinner this year:

Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf, also from Oh She Glows. We made a loaf once before, but this one was hands down better. It held together so well that we could take it out of the pan and slice it for left overs. Even better, the glaze is amazing. We made a second batch of it to add to the left over pieces and I wanted to lick the leftover spots off my plate. It would be a great vegan entree for any holiday meal (or any other fall dinner).

These are the final harvest from my tomato plant:

It produced about 1 tomato per month for June and July, and then it went crazy near the end of August. Unfortunately (for the plant), we've had a very wet and cold September and October, so these toms didn't get enough sunlight and warmth to ripen on the vine. When I told my mom, she offered two suggestions: 
1) Cellar them in newspaper and they will very slowly ripen. Apparently my Grandma Madge does this. My priest seconded this recommendation and said she does the same thing with a paper bag for her tomatoes. I feel like my mom is full of random gardening advice that I didn't know she had. I need to get some more advice from her next year, as I plan to expand the tomato plant to 2-3 tomato plants, including one cherry or grape tomato plant. 
2) She also told me to just slice the green ones and fry them, and have fried green tomatoes. I'm not from a big city, and I often feel like a country mouse compared to my friends and relatives in places like Chicago and Toronto, but seriously - I did not know that unripe tomatoes and "green" tomatoes were the same thing. I thought it was some special variety of tomato that never got red! Color me ignorant. 

So we've fried a few and cellared the rest.

These were part of a recreation of the Amazing BLT from the FARM cookbook we made earlier in the summer. We used almost all the same ingredients, except the basil, and made BLTs with these fried dudes and some fake bacon (fakon). Their batter is simple - flour, egg, cornmeal with seasonings. They're best with some chicken seasoning. and a pretty fun fried appetizer all on their own. 

Other upcoming highlights this fall: the Halloween Haunting 10k/5k, then we're off to NOLA for the AMS/SEM/SMT Triumvirate.  It's hard to believe we're already at the end of October!


Fort4Fitness Half Marathon

It's been a full two weeks since John, Kira and I ran the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon, in Fort Wayne, IN, where I grew up. This was the first half marathon John and I have ever done, but it was only the most recent of several that Kira has completed. She came up to hang out and run with us, and to help pace me. 

The race started near and ended in the Tin Caps stadium in downtown Fort Wayne, and we all agreed that everything about the set up was extremely convenient. The Marriott that's part of the downtown baseball complex offered a special rate for the night before the race, so we stayed there and didn't have to worry about parking. Staying just minutes away from the starting line bought us a little more sleep, and then we could practically see our hotel room window from the finish line.

(Side note: John and I finally replaced our ancient laptops with new ones, and my mom brought them up from Bloomington. Here's John in the hotel, embracing his new favorite toy.)

The race itself was pretty well organized and fun to do. I'd never raced this distance before, and I think I really learned a lot in the training process. Running a couple of 12 and 13 mile long runs really made me feel confident on race day - I knew I would be able to finish, though maybe not too fast. 
That morning, John and lined up nearer to the front of the corrals, while Kira and I were somewhere about 2/3 in. We didn't see John again until we were entering the stadium to finish, but Kira got text updates on her phone that told us when John was finished: 1 hour, 43 minutes. So fast! He said that he was with the 8 minute-per-mile pace group for most of the race. At one point, the pacer asked how many people had run Fort4Fitness before, and John exclaimed, "This is my first half marathon ever!" and impressed his 8-minute pace-mates. 

Kira and I gradually increased our speed during the course of the race. Afterward, her Garmin told us that we'd run the first 5 miles in about 10:38 per mile, then the next 5 at 10:35, and the final 5K at 10:14. I told Kira ahead of time that I expected to actually run about 11 minute miles - slower than I would want to, but it's what I felt was realistic. Kira was pretty mellow for the first 6, maybe even 7 or 8 miles, and I felt ok with the sub-11 pace. Even my foot cooperated and didn't hurt, so I knew I could handle the pace. But then, really surprising no one, Kira started to push the pace, and she ran a lot of the last few miles a few feet ahead of me, smiling backward in a way that said, "You can do it! You'll thank me later!" I knew she was right, even though she didn't say that she was pushing me. Around mile 10 or so, I think I said to her, "Listen. I'm on to you. I know what you're doing." I didn't know if I could really run any faster, but I just tried to keep up with her, and that seemed to work. I was tired and kind of sore by that point, but I was hanging in there. Fortunately (I think?), my foot seems to do better when I run at least 10:30 or faster, so the pace was probably helping me out, even if it felt a little fast. 

At the lowest point in my attitude, I said, "I'm going to beat you." [man next to us laughs.] "Not, like, at the finish line. I mean I'm going to beat you. Literally. With my fists." 
Kira ran slightly ahead of me. I think I was trying to be funny, but by mile 10, that's the best I could do. 

Having said all that, I think I was mentally pretty stable during this race. I didn't ever think it was a mistake or of dropping out. I didn't even get bored, since the crowd support was pretty good, and bigger than at other, smaller races I've done.

And while I started to threaten Kira for making me run fast, the paster pace meant everything went by really quickly. It also helped that I've done all my running pretty much alone. Thirteen miles solo is mentally much more draining than running with my BFF, who could tell me stories about her new church job, and whatever else we talked about.

It was also fun to run through Fort Wayne, especially since I used to spend a lot of time in the South end while I was in school, but I haven't been there much in recent years. I told Kira to prepare for me giving her a nostalgic tour of Fort Wayne, and it started when we ran past South Side High School, where my elementary and middle school concerts used to be, and where I spent a lot of hours swimming in the Natatorium. We also ran through Foster Park, where my dad would walk during my oboe lessons, and we almost ran past my oboe teacher's house.  

When we entered the stadium, we were basically at the 13 mile marker, and I wanted to just run like crazy for the last .1 mile, so I said to Kira, "Girl, we need to BOUNCE!" and we ran hard toward the finish line - holding hands like the lesbians people accused us of being in high school. 

I'm so glad Kira was there for this race. And damn, that girl makes it look so easy

I would definitely do another half marathon, but one thing I learned during this training cycle is how much time I really need to devote to it. Next term, I'm teaching more and trying to write my dissertation, and I don't think I can squeeze a half marathon into that (not to mention, I'd be doing a lot of icy miles). I think the 2013 Fort4Fitness might actually be the next half I'd do, just because training for it over the summer is so convenient. 

Next up: John and I are running the Halloween Haunting 5K and 10K respectively. I'm not going to worry about getting a new 10K PR. If it's a good day and it happens, then it will happen. I have, however, carefully put together a costume, so at least I'll be festive this year. I've been taking my 10K time too seriously, and I think that's part of why I haven't gone below 60 minutes. But this time I'll be carrying a prop, and it's hard to take things too seriously when running in a costume. No hints, I'll just post a picture after the race. 
It's odd, now that the half is over, to only do a 7 or 8 mile long run, but it's also been nice to drop down in mileage after running so much. I'll write more about that after the 10K. 

So thanks, Kira, for running with me! I think the three of us had a pretty good weekend and a very successful race. 


Jess and Alex's Wedding

Two weeks or so ago, our good friends Jessica (aka my favorite hippie) and Alex got married in Toronto. John, Matthew, and I made the trip for what turned out to be a fantastic weekend. 

Some highlights: 

Between the ceremony and the reception, we stopped at a bar with some other wedding guests for a drink, and John found this giant Muskoka Brewery chair outside. 

The bride and groom met out in British Columbia, where they were tree planting during the summer, several years ago. A lot of their decor reflected their love of the environment and the landscape out in BC. I jokingly asked the groom how many trees were cut down to make this entrance hall display, and he told me they were already dead. 

Here's me and my favorite hippie on her wedding day: 

The tablecloths were made from burlap, and each place setting was decorated with a few small pinecones. For favors, each place setting received a little sapling, to be planted at home.

Their wedding was at the Baptist church where the bride's father is a pastor, and the reception was at the University of Toronto, in Wycliffe College. It was so beautiful in there! We had dinner in a hall that looked like a library, attached to what may have been a chapel at one point. It was a gorgeous venue with lots of stained glass, and ample room for dancing after dinner (which was amazing! So much great vegetarian food!).

The groom's family comes from Austria, and after dinner, his dad led everyone in some traditional Austrian songs for occasions like weddings.

They had an amazing band that was at once, incredible, but also difficult for me to know how to dance to. Instead, we mostly sat and talked with one our favorite professors who was in attendance.

This painting is part of why I think the room used to be a chapel. We tried for a while to come up with captions for the scene in the painting (Easter morning and the empty tomb, in case you were wondering). The winner was definitely Matthew's partner, Anders, who said, "Whose got two wings and is totally drunk? THIS GUY!"

We stayed at the wedding until late, and then went to the after party. The next day, I didn't have the energy to do much, and the touristy run that John and I tentatively planned went right out the window. Instead, we went with Matthew and our friend Emily, who was hosting us, to a place called Snakes and Lattes. It's a cafe where you pay $5 to get in for the day, and then you can play unlimited boardgames. We started off with Nutella lattes and a game called Cards Against Humanity, which is sort of the R-rated version of Apples to Apples. 

After an hour or so, we moved on to Betrayal at the House on the Hill. This game involves exploring a haunted house by rolling die, until a certain moment when "The Haunting" begins. At that point, one of the players betrays the rest and you have to act as a group in order to defeat him or her. It was obvious that you could play this game a hundred times and end up with a different scenario. After Matthew described it to us, John immediately announced that he wanted it for Christmas.

I'm normally not a huge board game/rpg player, but I really enjoyed Snakes and Lattes, and both of these games, very much. John LOVES playing games like this, and he was sort of overwhelmed with excitement when we walked in; the place is stocked with every kind of game you can think of, and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable, so they can help you select something to suit your mood. It was a great way to spend Sunday afternoon before driving home.

All in all, we had a great weekend, and we're so grateful to be included in Jess and Alex's wedding day!

Squirrels Gond Wild

I have so much to write about all of the sudden! My good friends' wedding and the half marathon are at the top of the list. But first, a note about fall.

The squirrels that live outside of our house have absolutely lost it.

This picture doesn't convey the drama going on. Every morning, we wake up to the sound of large acorns hitting the side of the house, the metal overhang on our porch, and the wall AC unit. It sounds like the squirrels are hurling the biggest nuts they can find at our house, like they're trying to send a message. When we come outside, I often see several waddling off in terror, their mouths as full as possible. Somehow, in the process of stuffing their faces, they have begun to strip branches off the tree - you can see the scattered limbs in the picture. Why is this happening? Are they gnawing on the branches? Our yard is a dangerous place, since you're in danger of being pelted with either a stick or a nut while trying to get from the car to the house.

Meanwhile, inside, we made our first chili of the season, and washed it down with a pumpkin beer and a cheesey-beer biscuit.

John and I have tried a whole bunch of pumpkin beers, and we're quickly learning why so many of our beer aficionado friends are down on them. They can be kind of terrible. But both the Nightmare on Mill Street and the Mill Street October Fest are fine, autumnal beers. They come in a seasonal sampler pack, and we were glad we tried it. 

This chili calls for some pumpkin beer, and we used another Ontario pumpkin ale that neither of us liked at all, but the chili still tasted good. You can find the recipe for the chili here: Pumpkin Black Bean Chili, from Veggies by Season

In a last minute attempt to use up the pumpkin ale that we didn't care for, I did a quick internet search for "Beer cheddar bread" and came up with these biscuits. The only thing I'd change for next time would be to forgo the muffin cups and just butter/flour the pan. They stuck slightly to the paper, but they were light, flakey, and buttery on the inside. John and I tried hard not to inhale these little cheesy bites: Cheddar Beer Bread Muffins, from The Beeroness (a website I think we'll use again). 

Happy Fall! Anyone else have a massive squirrels-gone-wild party in your yard?