I Would Run 198 Miles Just to be the Cow Who Winds Up in Your Van. Ragnar.

Last weekend I was a cow.

Wait, wait. Let me be more specific. Last weekend I was one of 12 Dairy Queens. Not the place that sells Blizzards. The Ragnar team called the Dairy Queens. Dairy as in cows. We are 12 runners who have gotten together in Wisconsin the past two Junes to run from Madison to Chicago while making ridiculous cow jokes. It’s basically the coolest thing I’ve done as an adult since Green Cove.

So if you don’t know much about a Ragnar Relay, let me explain for a hot second. Ragnars are run between two towns, places, cities, whatever, and are around 200 miles. Teams are made up of 12 runners (or 6 if you’re extra crazy), each of whom run three legs over about 30 hours give or take over a Friday and Saturday. Your team runs straight through the night on Friday and into Saturday and is divided into two vans, six people per van.

Everyone in van 1 runs first.Then van 2 takes over. That goes on two more times.

This whole thing, this being jammed into a 15-passenger van with five other stinky, sweaty people who are running 15-25 miles on more or less no sleep, sounds fairly horrible. I swear to you though, it’s not. You cheer each other on. The support is beyond any other I’ve found in running. Typically runners are nice. They smile at each other on the street and give each other encouragement. My Dairy Queens though, they sped ahead of me to give me water, to pour it over my head if I needed it, to high five me, to moo and scream at me, to cross a street waving an orange flag. We stood in a swarm of mosquitoes to cheer each other on.

They let me use their toothbrushes, slept with me in sleeping bags on the grass by a parking lot, opened their lake house for me, and washed my cow print socks. They ran with me at 1:30 a.m. through winding Milwaukee roads and spotted a deer standing just six feet away. My fellow Ragnar runners who weren’t on my team cheered for me from their vans as they drove past me on hot country roads. They offered me water. They laughed when they read “Show Me Your Udders” written on the side of my mode of transportation. Ragnar is this weird community of runners who come together in a team for what is normally a fairly individualistic sport.

And the amazing thing is at the end of it all, you want to do another one. You have pounded your poor joints, you sleep either for only about three hours during the night or during times of the day when sleep seems ridiculous, and are then expected to wake up feeling like warm poop and run another dang leg. You smell. Your van smells, mostly like feet.  You get confused about which direction you are driving and which direction Lake Michigan is in relation to Chicago. You stare at said lake and forget which lake it is exactly, because you can’t think straight at 6:00 a.m. after only three hours of sleep.

And you’ve eaten like shit while attempting a decent amount of physical activity. But when we crossed the finish line on the beach by Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago as a team with our Cow 12, I felt nothing but joy.

Yeah sure, joy that the whole thing was over, but also joy as in I was proud of what we’d accomplished, proud that we’d pushed ourselves together, and happy that we’d bonded over stupid things like a spicy meat stick and a vomiting stick cow.

A few days later we’re already planning our next relay. I once heard that running is addictive. That’s a pretty true statement.

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Spring Salads, Songs, and Spirit Squads

Spring, I think you’re here. Finally. Why did you make us wait so long? You’re going to stick around for awhile to make it up to us, right? We’ll now be blessed with endless 70 degree days with light breezes and lots of sunshine.

Sweet relief from the cold means I’ve been celebrating in lots of ways. Running in shorts (miracle!) and with the Indy Runners group. I like having running companions to keep my mind of off the actual run some days. Yesterday I showed up for the Tuesday run at Hinkle Field House on Butler’s campus ready to do four, maybe five, miles. Thanks to the girl I ran with, I ended up going six miles!

 

May is Race Month in this fair city and the Mini-Marathon is the kick-off for a month of festivities leading up to the Indy 500. Biggest half marathon in the country, what what? I opted for the role of cheerleader this year instead of runner, which I thought would be very difficult. I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to races. But I remembered how much I appreciated the support of my friends along the race course last year, and I was excited to cheer extra loudly in the places where I remembered feeling the most tired. My friend Sam and I biked to around mile 9 and then maybe .25 mile before the finish line. Extra perk? En route we go to see the wheelchair racers and the insanely fast top finishers (can you imagine running 13.1 miles in just over an hour?!), a part of a race that I never get to see as a participant. The sheer athleticism of these men and women blew my mind.

 

Our posters (yes that’s Ryan Gosling and Bob Dylan) got plenty of head nods and smiles from random runners, but we cheered extra hard for our friend Marnie and her fiance Jannson and my two other friends that we happened to see run by. We even ran along the sidewalk for the last .25 miles with Marnie, screaming her name the whole way. I am beyond proud of these two!

Can we talk about driving with the windows open and music blaring? It’s one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. Right now I could listen to Patty Griffin’s new album American Kid all day. The first song feels like the perfect summertime folky anthem to me.

Back to running. It’s cool, it’ll lead to epic spring food. In starting to think about training for the marathon I’ve signed up for this fall, I’m considering my diet. I know that the more miles I log, the hungrier I’ll be, but I do not want to just stuff myself with tons of pasta, as amazingly appealing as that sounds. So I’m focusing on fueling with lots of fruits and veggies and healthful proteins like beans and lentils. To kick start this fresh new diet I did a really great three-day juice cleanse from Natural Born Juicers. If you live in Indianapolis I highly recommend checking them out. I’m now a few weeks out from having finished the cleanse and am back to my marathon fueling diet. I’m actually really missing my morning juices and how awake and strangely full they made me feel, so I’m thinking of going in on a juicer.

On top of that spring has brought the most magical produce to the farmers markets. Slowly at first, but surely. A few weeks ago radishes and pea sprouts started to show up, and so I rejoiced. This time of year is perfect for buying lettuce and any other awesome vegetables that catch your eye and making a huge salad.

I’d love to give you a recipe for this, but I feel like that would just be limiting, so here’s a basic guide.

Pile your plate with lettuce (mine, year round thanks to hydroponics in greenhouses, is almost always from Eden Farms). I like a mix of lettuces to give my salad a little more flavor and depth.

Chop up a variety of vegetables, whatever is pretty and bright and catches your eye at the store or market. I went with pretty pink and white radishes and sweet pea shoots from Harvestland Farms. Never had pea shoots? Me either until this salad! They taste like peas, not surprisingly, but before peas come around. Like a pea preview. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon over things now. Add some fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

Any good salad, or meal in my opinion, is topped with a soft yolk fried egg (my eggs always come from Schacht Farm, I love them, eggs and people, so much). Fry one up with a bit of salt and pepper, or poach it in olive oil like Oh Joy, which is what I tried out for this salad. I liked this cooking option, because it a nice amount of olive oil to drizzle over the salad as dressing.

Break open that egg and let the yolk get all cozy with the lettuce. Heck yes, spring!

Weekends. Sanctuaries.

Coming at you with a weekend.

I play music as I do things around the house on this unrushed, mostly unplanned Sunday morning. Lately I think I’ve been trying to catch the wind. Futile most likely, but for some reason I can’t seem to stop. Wind, leave me alone. Come back when you’re a pleasant breeze.

Sunday is pancake day. This morning pancakes broke me. (Sorry Joy the Baker, I cannot get your single lady pancakes to work!) In one stupid moment pancakes almost ruined my entire day. Just breathe, though, right? Turn to a favorite pancake. Funny how the same food that brought me to tears one minute, is perfectly golden and doused in maple syrup the next. Sometimes it’s good to stick to our favorites.

Sunday needs to relax, because Saturday was spent being busy. When one of your best girls is getting married in August some Saturdays are busy. Find bridesmaids dresses, have margaritas and beers, accidentally make off with diamond bracelets from my parents’ jewelry store, visit the reception location.

This is The Sanctuary on Penn.

Stained glass windows everywhere.

Even the bathrooms were lovely.

Have you ever been somewhere that just breathes a person? The Sanctuary on Penn fits my friend and her fiance perfectly in the history, the stories, the details, the scuff marks, the light, the many rooms, the leather chairs and dark wood bars, the fact that I can say bars plural.

Good luck penny floors.

Perfect. Wandering around this old church and picturing it filled with their guests was easily my favorite part of the day.

Birthdays. Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.

Let’s be honest for a second. Is that OK? I’ve sat in front of my computer about fifteen times in the last week and a half staring at the big, blank “Edit Post” screen. I’ve typed a bit. I’ve brainstormed a bit. Mostly I’ve just felt anxious as more time passes and my planned birthday cake post goes unpublished. Unwritten, really. Nothing is coming.

I want all this inspiration in the start of the new year. I’m really thankful that my friend Sam got me this really cool journal, 642 Things to Write About, because I want to be inspired, but in small and not overwhelming doses. I want to plan big for 2013, but big plans give rise to anxiety. I did make one successful plan: I signed up for a marathon in November. A mother fucking marathon. Oh shit.

This is the year I turn 29. One more til 30. Instead of resolutions I’m making a 30 before 30 list. Thirty things I’ll do this year. Number 26: Run 26(.2) miles by completing a marathon. Number four: Send flowers to four friends. Number 12: Go to shabbat services 12 times. Number 20: Take pictures of 20 of my favorite things. Do you have any things to add? I need helping filling in the numbers. I’ll post my whole list next week, after the birthday happens.

Birthdays come with cake. Always cake. My favorite part of birthdays. I love making cake for other people.

Happy birthday Marnie

I hate asking other people to make me cake. I always lust after these complicated layered things, covered in frostings, drenched in flavored syrups. And it’s not that I don’t trust my friends to come through, I just feel bad asking for something complicated.

After all, a birthday cake should be filled with a good, joyful energy that you bake into it. Not a stressed out, this will never live up to expectations energy. In reality, I’m a fan of a simple cake, a cake with good flavors, one that I can even make on a weekday, because sometimes that’s when birthday celebrations happen, but that looks and tastes dang fabulous.

One that I am proud to put on my pretty silver cake stand, but that didn’t take hours for me to make, because, after all, we are busy. It’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shower cake on our loved ones on their birthdays. So, simple and lovely cakes for busy people who are looking in every corner for simple inspirations and have birthdays to celebrate!

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Race Recap: Wine at the Line 5 Mile

Fall is officially upon us here in Indianapolis. This is my favorite time of year. I never get tired of the crisp blue skies and the bright trees. Plus, fall makes for perfect running temperature. After what seems like months of summer, the relief of not sweating and feeling as though I may suffocate from heat and humidity is so welcome. This fall also marked the beginning of running for me again. I took the entire summer off due to a pretty badly sprained ankle, and set the beginning of August as my official start to run date.

I signed up for Wine at the Line, a 5 mile race just south of Indianapolis at Mallow Run Winery with four of my former co-workers. Michael and I did this race last year. It involves a scenic 5K or 5 mile run through some farms around the winery, and lots of free wine after the race. The whole afternoon is very relaxed, and the course really isn’t incredibly challenging.

So, now the question: how to get back into shape after taking three months off due to an injury? I didn’t want to rush back into running and just pound my poor ankle, but I wanted to be in good condition come October 6. Ashely who writes at (Neve)Homemaker, one of my favorite running/food blogs, had mentioned Hal Higdon’s training programs before, so that’s where I turned. I followed his intermediate 8K plan. Three days of the week I would run at a nice easy pace, one day I did a long run, and one day was a tempo run or interval training. Perfect to slowly bring me to racing shape.

When it comes down to it, coming back from an injury has really taught me to listen to my body. Taking a day off if my ankle hurts is OK, cutting back on mileage is OK, and so is pushing myself extra on a day I feel awesome.

So, Wine at the Line.

This is my friend Heather on the left. She is a beast. You don’t believe me, do you? It’s the crown, I know. Or the friendly smile.

This girl runs like a gazelle, and damn if she doesn’t make it look easy. We started the 5 miles together, and for a bit I ran ahead. Then Heather passed me, and then I lost sight of her crown. (We ran in our crowns.) But you know what? I crossed the finish line and she didn’t tell me her time. She didn’t ask my time. We congratulated each other and discussed running with crowns. We talked about work. I could take a lesson from Heather. I could be less competitive, not obsessively check my pace every half mile, and remember that I run because I love it, the rush of feeling like I’m cruising, the road passing under my feet.

By the way, the crowns, the cow get up? We’re two members of the Dairy Queens—only the best Chicago Ragnar team ever.

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Oh, and my results? 42.55, a new PR at this distance. Fourteenth in my age group. And I was right on my goal of 8:30 minute miles. I’m proud.

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Last time I posted I think the season could still be considered summer. Now we are knee deep in autumn. This is totes my favorite season. Changing leaves, cool weather/perfect running weather, cozy food, and art contest prize delivery trips!

Michael and I ran in a 5K with a few of his friends earlier this month.

I have yet to run a race in my FiveFingers, a goal I set for myself in the spring to reach by the end of the summer, but this 5K was amazing. It was at Mallow Run Winery, a bit south of Indianapolis. Firstly, I’m super happy with my time of 24:25. Guys, that’s a 7:52 per mile average pace! That’s under 8 minutes! These are things I never thought I’d say about myself as a runner. Secondly, we got a free glass of wine after the race. Thirdly, we tasted various wines after our free glasses.

Fourthly, we bought two bottles of wine per couple and sat on the patio and enjoyed many glasses. Wine and running and friendly people are a good combo!

In the last month my magazine’s amazing art director and I have traveled to three cities to deliver prizes for our art contest. Do you have a kid? You should so enter! Multiple perks to these trips include: making the day of a kid and his or her family, giving money to art programs in schools, getting to visit awesome cities!

San Diego. We visited the San Diego Zoo. Oh mah Gawd, it was worth every dollar of the $40 we paid to get in! We ate cupcakes two nights in a row. We saw seals. We hiked on the beach And we saw Erica!

I went to high school with Erica. She moved to L.A. for college and is still there. I’m glad we’ve stayed friends despite miles and time. The kind of weird thing about this whole trip is that most of the time it was cloudy. I thought San Diego was sunny almost all the time.

Knoxville. We had a hotel…disaster…horror story…grossness…long story short, the hotel was terrible and we ran at 11:30 at night. Before we broke free from trucker hell, we wandered around downtown Knoxville. Jen had a contact emergency that took us to this little grocery.

They had growlers and eight beers on tap IN THE GROCERY. Like a little bar in the grocery with awesome beer! I died a little. Just one more reason the South is superior.

Kalamazoo. The Bell’s Brewery is located in Kalamazoo. Oktoberfest is in season. Have you had Oktoberfest on tap at the Brewery that it comes from? Holy amazing caramel-flavored beer awesomeness! We sat in the bier garden and enjoyed some pints. I left with a six pack of Oktoberfest and a variety six pack.

I just realized that I sound like a drunk. Wine. Beer. Beer. I am not a drunk. I am not a drunk …

So cozy autumn food. It goes well with Bell’s beer. It goes well with cool weather. Unfortunately we are having some sort of Indian summer during the days. 70s and 80s, what? I don’t care. I’ve been cooking roasted chicken, potatoes, and butternut squash (which, sidenote, is amazing, sweet, and creamy just diced, salted, peppered, and nutmeged, and roasted), vegetarian chili, and a new soup, coconut curry noodle soup.

This soup is coconuty, spicy, flavorful, and I love the slurpy noodles. I actually managed to eat most of the soup with chopsticks! As is, the recipe is vegetarian, but I’d say add in some chicken or shrimp if you so desire. One of my favorite soup perks is how it lasts for multiple meals. This one gave me two dinners and two lunches. Plus, it was insanely affordable. I got my ingredients at the farmers market and an incredible international grocery in town called Saraga. They have a whole aisle practically of curries. And all sorts of produce from around the world. And all of the exotic food that costs a fortune at the regular grocery cost half the price. I think overall, this meal, or four meals, cost me around $10. Seriously, guys.

The recipe calls for Singapore noodles, but you can sub any rice noodle. Laksa paste is a type of curry paste. I found a jar at Saraga, but if you can’t, just go for any curry paste available. As for vegetables, I used a carrot, a zucchini, and a red pepper.

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The Girls I Love

I have some pretty amazing girls in my life.

My Mira dog loves car rides. Pure bliss. She may have enjoyed the car ride more than our destination, a park in town with mountain bike trails. Us girls walked through the woods while Michael tore up the trails on his new cyclocross bike. You know how dogs are supposed to attract cute guys orgirls? Well, Michael’s bike seems to do a better job of that than Mira. It got a cute Irish guy to come over and chat up Michael after his ride. He ignored Mir, who was conked out in the grass. I’d take Mira over a cyclocross bike any day.

Lola kitty has an uncanny ability to make any item into a toy. The bathroom trash can is basically her toy box. We’re not phased when we find used cotton balls and Q-tips scattered around the house anymore. Lola got lots of amusement out of the box that Michael’s new bike came in. (Yes, that damn cyclocross bike again. Trust me, it’s popping up just as extensively in my life as it is in this post.) She played hide-and-seek with us from behind it for awhile.

A lot of my ladyfriends have started blogs as of late. I would like to invite you to take a look.

Seriously though, they’re all awesome and all really different, which is one of the things I love about my friends, they’re unique!

That’s me, Tim, and Samantha at a Black Keys concert this summer. Samantha and her dude, Tim, blog over at 104days. There are 104 weekend days in a year, and Sam and Tim write about how they spend theirs. They do seriously cool stuff like visit Cape Cod, do the Warrior Dash, watch buildings explode, and camp. Oh and Tim skateboards and plays with his motorcycles a lot, too!

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This picture is a throwback to 2003, the first summer Bette and I organized drill team at Green Cove. We dressed up as pink princesses the day our campers performed the drill team. After this summer, dressing up in pink dresses became a somewhat regular occurrence for us at camp. If you are a horse person you should add Bette’s blog, Riding to B, to your daily reading list. If you are not a horse person, you should add it to your daily reading list. Bette has been riding horses basically ever since she could walk. She events, teaches lessons, trains whichever horse she is riding at the time, and helps to care for a barn of horses. She’s currently training a cute guy named Gus. Sometimes she writes about random things, too, like movies or weird fashion, and usually with a horsie twist. She’s a funny girl; check it out.