Monday, August 31, 2009

Unlucky 13?

The fact that I was born to a family with strong Irish, Scottish and German heritage seems to increase my ability to find superstition in the smallest of things (not to mention being a lush, pack-rat and bossy) - so it was with some trepidation that I began my thirteenth week of training.

I took two days off after my race last weekend. I slept alot, I went to get a massage, I soaked my bones in bubbles and in general I was a suck. All of which paid off for my triumphant Tuesday run!

Tuesday: 8km. Same loop as last week which gave me some insight into how much my energy levels change from week to week. Last week I just wanted to lay down and cry in the middle of the Mt. Pleasant Cemetary - this week I smoked those gravestones (too far?). I had a great pace, only had one walk break and tried my hardest to sprint past my fellow runners at the end. Yah, my heart almost assploded at the end but it was all good. My ample relaxation may have come into play here - may also have something to do with my hydration levels and the fact that I ran with water this time around. Note to self: don't be dumb and you'll be fine.

Wednesday: Track work. I'll admit it - I was terrified of starting track work. In the past I've consistently skipped out on the track and haven't really spent any quality time there since my very first 5km clinic some four years ago. This could also be why I still run at a snails pace. But my coaches did a great job selling the track workout and using the McMillan calculator gave my inner control freak some satisfaction. I figured out my goal tempo for 800 metre repeats and I was off. I really had no idea if there was anything funky that I could do with my Garmin at the track (please tell me if there is) - the bf goes old school with just a stopwatch - so I did the same. My goal was to lap in the range of 4:08 - 4:20 and I was able to consistently run at 4:10. I was amazed. It took alot not to feel intimidated by the multitude of compression-sock wearing hardcore RUNNERS speeding past me at full throttle - but like the smug tortoise that I am, I just kept going until I was done.

Post-track workout I did have some pain. My old shin pain made a return appearance and my quads were doing something rather uncomfortable - but after an ice bath and a few days of ibuprofen I seemed good as new.

Friday and Saturday I did some cross-training in the gym and on my bike.

Sunday: 31km long run. Planned a new route to shake things up and start incorporating more hills into my Sunday's - lest I forget that San Francisco is not known for it's long stretches of flat road. First half wasn't bad and I did have to remind myself a few times to slow it down and keep hydrating - the winds were cool and the sun was hidden so I wasn't as parched as usual. By 20km I was giving myself pep talks out loud. "C'mon, here we go, just a little bit farther girl, here's a nice pretty downhill stretch" - that kind of thing. At 28km a woman of dubious sanity allowed her large, horselike, drooling dog to lunge and snap at my shorts - so that gave me a brief adrenaline surge and got me through the last 3km - not to mention the boost from my internal stewing and rage over why I refrained from screaming at her. The answer - because I'm a lady ;)

I was completely dead by the end of the run and after a grilled cheese sandwich, chocolate milk and 30 mins of intense stretching - I collapsed for a long afternoon's nap. It's my belief that the Indian food we had for dinner bathed my joints in clarified butter and helped to induce all sorts of healing.

And thus brings Week 13 to a close. Maybe not such an unlucky number? After all I wasn't actually BITTEN by the horse/dog.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pudding for dinner

A few months back I came across a recipe for a fabulous SAVOURY bread pudding. Yes, you heard me right- savoury. As in - not including chocolate chips. I swooned. I baked. I devoured.

Since then I've tampered with the recipe only slightly - including different cheeses, using different types of breads, increasing the rosemary etc. And trust me - nothing can ruin this recipe. It's absolutely freaking delicious. Up until this point my basic bread pudding has consisted of any or all of the following: asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, sourdough bread, potato bread, rosemary, sage and cracked pepper. As for cheeses I've basically been sticking to a mixture of fontina and gruyere - both creamy and slightly stinky. Delish.

Last week while cleaning out the freezer I came across the vegetarian chipotle sausage that I smuggled across the border from Trader Joe's (Oh Joe, when will you come visit your friends to the north!!??) and I was hit by a culinary lightening bolt - SPICY BREAD PUDDING! Try this my friends and you will be hooked.

1 loaf stale bread - I bought the day olds from the Market Bakery for $1!, consisted of an old olive bread, some multigrain buns and a small sourdough bun. Chop up the bread into bite size cubes. Should measure about 3 cups.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (2% or homo works best)
1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock, cooled
1 cup grated fontina (you could mix up different cheeses if you like, and trust me increasing the cheese has never hurt this recipe)
1 tbs fresh oregano (half if it's dried)
10 cremini mushrooms, diced
2 veggie sausages, remove casings
1 shallot, thinly sliced and 1 red pepper, thinly sliced

So here's how I do it:
1. cube the bread and lay it out to dry for at least an hour, sometimes overnight if it's too fresh. this is where stale bread comes in handy.
2. fry up your hot stuff - sausage, shallots, red pepper and mushrooms. leave this to cool slightly, you don't want it to melt the cheese.
3. whisk up the eggs and milk.
4. in a large bowl combine the bread, grated cheese and the sausage mixture - i do this with my hands. then move this to a large dutch oven or covered casserole dish.
5. pour the egg/milk mixture and the stock over the bread.
6. let to sit overnight - at least 8 hours for the bread to soak up all the goodness.
7. i like to sprinkle a little extra cheese and grated pepper on top right before it goes in the oven.
8. casserole dish will need to sit inside a water bath in the oven - i do this by placing the dish into a 9x9 glass brownie pan and surrounding it with hot water. this is important. do not roll your eyes and skip this step.
9. place the whole thing into a 350 degree oven.
10. the pudding will need to bake for at least 55 minutes then take the lid off for another 10.
Eat Your Face Off.

The egg mixture keeps the bread ultra moist and reminds me of my mom's turkey stuffing. I'm sure there are a million amazing variations that can be made on savoury bread pudding. But this was definitely a fave - I ate it all week with some adzuki bean stew.

Further evidence of its deliciousness - the bf cleaned out the leftovers and the bf NEVER cleans out the leftovers. Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Race Report: Midsummer Night's 30km

As part of my marathon training our coaches have encouraged us to participate in what is known as a "Tune-Up Race". Otherwise known as the "let's get real and see if you can get shit done out there" race. I was glad that they had chosen the Midsummer Night's Run because a) I had already registered for it (early birds can win prizes!) and b) for many reasons I actually really like this race (as opposed to the many that I don't).

The MNR offers two running distances - a 15km or a 30km and also a 15km walk. I ran the 15km last year and despite the intense exhaustion and the fact that I was running at NIGHT in AUGUST I had a great time. Last time I ran alone - didn't know a soul, no one to cheer me on except for my doting bf at the finish line. This time I had several new running friends, both from the clinic and also from the Pride RUN so it was great to cheer and be cheered on whilst in the thick of it all.

First things first: pre-race. Picking up the race kit was smooth as silk and the easiest pickup that I have ever made. Not only that but the race shirts are ADORABLE! SO much better than last year. AND they're purple! It couldn't get any better. Oh but wait - there was also a 45km pin recognizing the total distance that I had run with MNR. LOVE IT!

Race day: Unlike last year (which was delayed because of lengthy lines at bag check and the toilets) everything at the start line seemed to go off without a hitch. There were plenty of pre-race fluids available and dropping off my bag was easy breezy. All the road closures seemed secure and the announcements at the start line could be heard even in the back.

The actual race: At this point most of the race is a warm, fuzzy haze and from what I can recall there were no real moments of losing my shit. Figuratively or literally (thank you Tums). At the Around the Bay race in March I totally psyched myself out before I got to the start line - I wasn't kidding about the crying. This time around I was pretty confident, at least that I could finish. I gave myself tons of leeway just in case I couldn't hit my marathon race pace but I ended up needing to slow myself down every once in awhile and by the end I had so much energy that I was cheering on the people I was passing (I know, how smug and annoying am I?) and I was amazed that I could actually speed up in the last kilometre.

I made sure to continuously hydrate with Gatorade throughout the race and probably downed around 36 ounces of fluid and two energy gels from start to finish. On the advice of a runners nutrition book that I'm currently reading I also sipped Gatorade in the hours leading up to the race. I think that the combination of all this hydration was enough to keep me going for 3 hours and 8 minutes - a whole 4 minutes faster than my time five months ago!

Because we were meeting a friend for dinner we had to flee the scene pretty much as soon as I crossed the finish - but I'm hoping that next year I'll be able to partake in the beer gardens scene. It looked like a runner's version of the prom in there - all pimped out in intimidating race jackets. Who knows, if things keep going this well maybe I'll have my own pimped out race gear next year ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the twelfth week of training my coaches gave to me...

FORM! Okay, maybe not as exciting as a partridge in a pear tree but definitely more useful when it comes to hill training.

This week in our marathon clinic we discussed running form and it couldn't have come at a better time. After last week's lower back debacle I knew that something was seriously off with my form and that I was getting sloppy as the hills got more difficult. The problem - bubble butt. Apparently I stick my butt out when I get lazy, throwing my hips out of whack and placing a crazy amount of pressure on my lower back. Yes that's right, I'm the Beyonce of hills. So I made an extra effort to focus on my form and to push my hips forward as I maneuvered through my last week of hill training - Oh, did I forget to mention that? NO MORE HILL TRAINING!! Hallelujah and praise Jebus.

So yah, the whole form thing - totally changed my running, not to mention the ease with which I was able to jump out of bed the next morning. Thank you coaches :)

Tuesday: Headed out for 8km with the group. Really lovely route that kept us in the shade and mostly away from scary traffic - but I was ill-prepared without my juice and had a few bouts of cotton mouth. Thank goodness for a few well positioned public water fountains. Definitely ran slower than planned.

Wednesday: The end of hills. Finished up our last week with 10 hills and I have to say - it wasn't bad at all. The hill was not so scary and we were all able to spread out and run side by side - very much appreciated after weeks of being forced to run Army-style in single file. Kept a good pace and HR wasn't out of control. I am still completely annoyed and dumb-founded by girls that can chat whilst running UP a hill!? Seriously?? RUN FASTER!

Saturday: Tune-up race - Midsummer Night's 30km. Unlike my previous 30km this year I was much more confident and prepared going in - I didn't even cry at the start line this time ;) Seriously. I didn't. The run was absolutely fantastic. After Tuesday's dismal pace I wasn't so sure that I could maintain my goal race pace so I set my virtual trainer a few clicks slower than expected. And I totally kicked the computer's ass! In the end I ran 1 second faster per kilometre than expected and had enough wind in me to start sprinting at 29km. I stayed loose and hydrated and had a really great time out there.

Up next: we start speed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

West African Ginger Drink

Last year when I noticed the edges of my teeth becoming disturbingly dark I gave up my daily brew of green tea. It was tough but I found that I was mostly addicted just to the sensation of warm liquids in the morning. So I moved over to the more tooth-friendly lemon & hot water - providing even more conclusive evidence that there is an old British lady living inside of me (not that the Coronation Street addiction was enough). I loved my lemon and water and despite the fact that sometimes it felt as if I was brewing a pot of water and pesticides I kept it up.

A few months ago I was battling some digestive issues and started adding ginger slices to my morning brew - mmm ginger, me likey. So when I came across this recipe last month on Food Safari I knew that I had to give it a whirl. It's a West African Ginger Drink that essentially involves pulverizing a whack load of ginger and limes with some peppercorn and sugar thrown in for kicks. Lemme tell you - it's bloody brilliant. Watch the video at the link until the very end just to see the look on their faces after the first sip - it's at that point that the ginger reaches out, grabs your tongue and stabs it with a million tiny flavour darts. That's right - FLAVOUR DARTS (copyright me).

I like to make this a really strong mixture, so I only add about 3 cups of water and then strain the whole thing at least four times through the sieve. It's amazing the amount of fibrous pulp that comes out of the mix!

Once it's strained and contained it's ready to go. I like to add about 1/4 cup to my mug of hot water and I've also been adding it to tonic water (apparently good for sore muscles) as a nice chilly cocktail. I added some Pimm's to it this week but I found it to be kind of a waste, the liquid is so overpowering that any additional flavour is lost. That being said - it would make a brilliant vodka cocktail. It's got punch like a sonofoabitch and a ton of healthy antioxidants to boot.

Delish. A++

Monday, August 17, 2009

A few months ago I came across this recipe for breakfast pizza and pretty much haven't stopped making it since. Soft dough with creamy cheese and runny eggs - um, yes please. Here's a step by step evolution of my most favorite breakfast/lunch/dinner treat.

Step 1: The DoughI like a rectangular shaped pizza as opposed to circular - but that's just me. Do whatever you want. I start with a pre-made pizza dough, pound it into shape and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then I like to smear some creamy cheese from edge to edge, in this case I used garlic Boursin. Mmmmm.But we've done it with plain old mozzerella as well.

Step 2: The stuff on topOnce the cheese is adequately smeared I cover it with fresh basil, thyme, oregano and whatever leafy green I have - like spinach, kale or arugula.

Step 3: Top it off

Add some onions or garlic if you like and then drizzle olive oil all over the toppings. You should also smudge the olive oil around the edge of the crust, this increases the level of deliciousness (that's an official chef term). And then AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT - drizzle the entire pizza with some truffle oil. I'm telling you, if you don't have truffle oil go BUY SOME. They sell it pretty much anywhere these days and a good small bottle will only cost around $12.00. You won't regret it.

Step 4: The cooking part

Put into the oven (preheated to 500 degrees) for 5 minutes - hopefully you have a pizza stone otherwise just use a baking sheet (well oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal). After 5 minutes slide a few eggs onto the pizza - I like to do this from a small cup instead of directly from the shell. If there are any air bubbles forming it might help to press down on the pizza with your spatula. Cook for another five minutes or until eggs are set.

Step 5: Insert into mouth

This is what happens when you don't press down on the air bubbles - egg suicide. Still delicious just not as pretty.

This pizza is one of my most favorite foods right now and I keep adjusting the ingredients as the summer progresses and new veggies come into season. I can even imagine a goat cheese and grilled peaches version towards the end of the month. The best part of it all is that the bf considers pizza creation to be man's work - so I get to kick back and wait for the pizza delivery man :)


Fairly uneventful eleventh week of training.

Highlight of the week: nearly puking my guts out on the appropriately named "Horror Hill".Never before have I felt so nauseous, exhausted and covered in sweat and bugs than I was during hill training this week. Let's get straight to it:

Tuesday: Had a late meeting so couldn't join the group, only managed to get in a 4km tempo run. Felt pretty good though, especially after two days of rest.

Wednesday: Hill Training Horror. Could have been a snuff film title, for sure. When word got out that our leaders were taking us to a "shady hill" we all breathed a sigh of relief - the sun was scorching. Our sighs turned to screams when we arrived at our ravine-like destination and were forced to pick up the pace in order to escape from the ravenous mosquitoes that swarmed our sticky bodies. Ugh. Probably the toughest hill that I have EVER trained on. Did something nasty to my back and couldn't stand up straight for the rest of the evening, felt better after some TLC (read: wine).

Saturday: 6km steady run. Treadmill. Yes, I'm a wuss and yes I was catching up on some Food Network TV.

Sunday: 23km long run. I'll say it straight up - I was terrified of this run and was convinced that I was going to collapse in a pile of sweat and lululemon gear on the side of the road. But I made it! I headed out early and managed to stay on the shady side of the street, I even gave myself the option to cut the route short if I needed to - but I didn't! Don't get me wrong - I ran SLLLLLOOOOOOOWWWWW and I had to stop for a Gatorade refill around 17km, but it was all good. Aside from a little bit of armpit chafing (what's with me and my tissue paper flesh!?) and losing approximately 3 litres of sweat I was fine. Didn't even have any gut rot or swishy waterlogged stomach :) Yay me.

Coming up next: Midsummer Night's 30km Run on Saturday. Please pray to the weather gods that the humidex has evacuated the city by then!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Report: My life on the run / Bart Yasso

First things first, I must confess that I love Bart Yasso. When I see him at races I scream his name like he's a rock start. I've even had him sign my training guides and race bibs like some kind of teenage fangirl. He pretty much has the COOLEST job in the world and the few times that I've heard him speak his self-deprecating humour and Yankee accent make me swoon. So I know that it was imperative I read his autobiography "My Life on the Run: the wit, wisdom and insights of a road racing icon". Hoping for a little motivation I waited until I was mid-training schedule to open my copy. And say what you will about his writing abilities, the man knows how to tell a good story. And his life is full of them, so much so that it blew my mind.

I'm the kind of runner who puts off runs when the wind is too strong or if there isn't enough cloud cover - this man has run in conditions that make me doubt his sanity. Up and up mountains for days, on roads so hot that his shoes melt, away from gnashing wild animals and even in his birthday suit - the man is definitely a rock star of the running world.

Yet aside from all his bravado (look at how badass I can run!) he definitely shows a softer and more emotional side when it comes to discussing his family and how they helped him find his calling. I found it fascinating to learn that he's a former alcoholic and that he didn't start running until he was well into his twenties - there's hope for me after all!

I was glad that he ended the book with a series of different training programs and was really interested in his 10-day training plans. He very much endorses the types of plans that give you plenty of recovery time and allow you to get in your mileage without overtaxing your body. And he's definitely a guy who knows overtaxing up close. It was sad to hear about how his own running career was slowing down due to an advanced and chronic case of lyme disease - although it seems like lately he's been tweeting about being out and running several races, so hopefully he's gone into another period of remission.

I just learned that he'll be attending the Toronto International Marathon again this year (he thanks Jay Glassman in the intro, so I guess they're buds?) but I'm hoping to rub elbows with him at the New York City Marathon in November.

And yes, I'll still be the one screaming like a teenager.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beet it

I've had a severe love affair with one particular farmers market stand this summer - and it's all because of one dirty little root vegetable. THE BEET. As a kid I could down a jar of pickled beets like nobody's business (really anything pickled for that matter - carrots, onions, eggs...yah, I was born a salt addict). I loved the firm, smooth texture of the cooked beet and the crisp acidity of a raw beet. And above all I loved that it turned my lips and fingers a stubborn red.

Unfortunately the bf does not enjoy the beet. Initally this meant that I would cook only a small portion for myself but lately I've grown lazy. I throw the entire haul into a pot with plans of portioning them off for future lunches and dinners that week - this doesn't happen. Once dinner has ended and we've lounged around digesting for a bit I will end up back in the kitchen, hunched over the sink eating the rest of the beets directly from the pot. Sometimes I'll even take them out individually with my fingers, salting and buttering each cold piece before popping it in my mouth. Savage, I know. I can't help it.

A word of warning for the uninitiated - if you go out and buy beets this weekend don't be shocked when you poop beet for the next few days.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julie & Julia. The fury and fantasy of a foodie.

Made the trek to see Julie & Julia this weekend. It has been a film much anticipated by my circle of peeps. I read the book, read the blog, tried some recipes, couldn't wait to see it on the big screen. The still photography that came out months ago showing the styling of the food and characters looked amazing and was pretty enough to make any food blogger (or food blog reader) weep. I was excited, yes.

My film going experience started by sitting next to a man who has clearly won prizes for his skill at loud decibel popcorn eating. For his ability to rip his way through a buttery bag of kernels without stopping for a quiet breath. For his talent of chomping through even the toughest of unpopped kernels. For readily disgusting all of those within earshot by his lip-smacking, mouth-breathing, finger-licking soundtrack. I was livid, yes.

Fast forward 10 minutes into the film when Julie (the quarter life crisis, mullet wearing food blogger) serves a delish looking bruschetta. Perfectly grilled bread! Ripe and juicy looking tomatoes! I could smell the garlic from the screen! And what does her oaf of a husband do? He shoves the entire piece into his face like a wild dog protecting his find from the pack. Now, if Cesar Milan was in that dining room he would have pinched the back of neck, made a shushing noise and allowed him to eat only when he had calmed down.

Oh how I wish Cesar had been there.

My point in all this - the unspoken word in the Julia Child part of the story is SAVOR. The look of ecstasy on her face when she first bites into the Dover Sole or when she licks the vanilla meringue off her whisk - it's perfection. You know exactly how she's feeling. You also know that in the next take she won't be stuffing her face or smearing meringue all over her face in an effort to digest it more quickly.

All that being said I really enjoyed the movie. Part of me wishes that it has just focused on the Julia Child side of the story and is kind of disappointed by the fact that she has to share her screen time with the rather annoying and dull Julia Powell. And I HATE to say that considering how much I enjoyed her blog. But there you have it.

The movie made me hungry. It made me want to go to France. It made me want to go grocery shopping. It made me want to invest in new pots & pans. And it made me want to smack the asshole next to me.

Bon appetit :)

The halfway point

This week officially brings me to the halfway point of my marathon training. Frightening, yes. Yesterday I whined to the bf "I just want race day to be here already!". Mostly because I'm getting really excited about being in San Francisco and also because I want to buy some pretty marathon race gear (don't judge me).

His flat response "No you don't. Your body is ready for it yet". Predictably my initial response was a "Screw You!" With a side of "So you're saying I'm weak!?"

He's right of course. One 30km run does not a marathoner make. Despite all that I was feeling quite good about my training this week. I'm definitely feeling stronger and my injuries are fading away nicely. I've been trying to pamper my body lately so I think that has alot to do with it - lots of baths, massage, wearing the right shoes, loads of sleep etc. Following the advice of my clinic instructors I've been adding core strength to my workouts and am now up to holding my planks for 1:45. Not bad considering that eleven weeks ago I looked like I was having a stroke after 30 seconds.

Here's my roundup for the week:

Sunday: 19km long run. Bf suggested that instead of my usual route I try out the Martin Goodman trail. Once again my hatred for that route prevailed and I had an awful, energy-sapping, sun-drenched run. The smell of garbage, the crowds of Caribana and the bone melting rays from the fireball in the sky did nothing to improve the situation. Did I mention that it was sunny? It was.

Wednesday: 8 hills. I skipped my Tuesday run because my legs were still feeling sore and tired and my stomach was giving me grief - so this was my first post-long run run. It wasn't good. The warmup seemed to take forever and was mostly uphill [I hate you run leaders]. The hill itself was in Forest Hill and was actually quite pleasant. Aside from the cobblestone-like rode I was able to keep a fairly consistent pace and my HR didn't skyrocket (probably meant I could have worked harder). But I was comatose by the cooldown. I was obviously dehydrated and my legs felt like stone appendages. No good.

Thursday: 10km tempo run. Went out on my own for once and quite enjoyed it. Took an old route that I haven't run in awhile. Definitely needed some time to feel properly warmed-up and get my legs moving, but after 15 minutes or so everything seemed to start working more efficiently. Wasn't my fastest tempo run but I definitely put in some solid effort on speeding up my turnover.

Saturday: 29.5km long run. I moved up my long run this week because I heard that Sunday was supposed to have terrible, terrible, no good weather. And am I ever glad that I did! Took a long route west and then back along the Danforth to Victoria Park then back along the Beaches. Was lovely. Perfect conditions of 18 degrees and overcast sky - very San Franciscoesque. Drained every ounce of liquid and gels on my person and then stopped for more along the way. Had a bit of gut rot around 22km but at the end I actually felt like I could keep on going. For the first time 42km didn't seem that elusive! Had some wicked chafing from the back pocket of my shorts but other than that my legs and hips feel great!

And so beings the second half...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Where I've been, where I'm going

Over the past nine months I've gone progressively from training for a half-marathon, to a 30km to a full marathon. The half was the Toronto International Half-Marathon which I completed in October 2008. I had been using the Nike+ system in my training and the week before the race the battery blew on my sensor - causing my calibration to be slightly off and therefore making it appear that I ran further than my required 21km. Regardless, it was still a thrill to hear Paula Radcliffe's chipper British voice cheer me on through my iPod "Congratulations! You've just run your farthest distance yet!". Thanks Paula :)

With my momentum high I immediately signed up for the 30km Around the Bay Race in Hamilton, Ontario. Aside from being the oldest road race in North America (with the coolest shirts!) the race was also held in a town from my childhood and is one that my mother herself completed when she was 16 years old - walking, of course.

I followed a new training plan for this race, for the first time straying from the John Stanton regimen. This time I was only running 4 days a week - three runs of 5-10km and one long run. I think that it really helped me to stay injury free (or as free as possible) and prevented me from burning out towards the end. The bf paced me on the run which really saved my ass and got me through some tough points. Unfortunately it also meant that I went out way too fast and didn't walk early enough - as you can see from the mountainous peaks in the latter half of my Garmin report.

And yes that's right - I said GARMIN. The bf got me the Forerunner 405 model for Christmas - many kisses all around for that one. I was thrilled to the gills but had no idea how much it would change my running or my training - in one word it's BRILLIANT.

The day after the Around the Bay race I received confirmation that I won the lottery into the San Francisco Nike Women's Marathon. Within minutes bf had the race hotel booked and I was already mapping out my training plan. To say I was excited is an understatement. We have a thing about San Fran, and I have a thing about medals made by Tiffany's. Funny that.

I quickly realized that the marathon might be the end of me physically so I decided to break down and re-join the Running Room training clinic. A friend of mine was running in it and I figured that I could use the mental support during long runs. I'm at week 10 now and I've yet to join the group on a long run. I have to say that I find the solitude of a long run enjoyable, I kind of get lost in my audio book and my pace and just go. I have definitely found the clinic instruction sessions helpful though - especially when it comes to pacing and injury prevention. And I must say that I have never been more committed to my hill training than now. In the past I've slacked when it came to hills and would never make it to the final goal number (usually 7 or 8). But this time around running with a group of 50-70 other runners helps to keep the motivation up and the pace moving - you don't wanna slow down when there's a huge, heavy-breathing pack coming up from the rear!

So despite the fact that I like to think of myself as an independent, lone, strong, willful runner - being surrounded by a crowd of short-short wearing, sweaty, sassy, gel-packing misfit runners is helping to get me through. We'll see how the next 10 weeks go :)