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Monday, February 28, 2011

RnR Mardi Gras Marathon: review remix

I reviewed this race in 2010, but that was the inaugural year and since then things have changed - enough that I think it deserves another review.

Pre-race information, logistics, organization
Pros: It's a Rock 'n Roll race, so they're all pretty much the same. You know what to expect.
Cons: No race day packet pick-up. BUT I did talk to a runner who actually picked up his packet on race day. Apparently there is a table at the start village marked "solutions" and he just went there and picked it up. I wouldn't recommend this, of course, but I was intrigued to hear that race day was a possibility. 

Lodging and transportation:
Pros: Tons of hotels near the start, and they're all nice. It's New Orleans!. Or you could just stay with me and sleep on my sofa. Shuttle services available and improved from the first year, when apparently they picked you up miles and miles from the finish after a long race! There is parking near the finish, too, but you kind of have to hunt for it if you want to park for free.
Cons: Navigating is a little hard for spectators. This race shuts down all the major roads.

Swag: Kind of standard. Shirt quality was way down this year (and really, really ugly) and there were fewer free samples and useful coupons in the bag. Expo was typical Rock and Roll. Like all RnR races it was EXPENSIVE but you can always get a deal - coupon codes, %off, early registry, etc.
The after-party doesn't have food for non-runners (and not real food for runners, either, mostly snacky stuff - although this year Snickers was trying to unload more bars and was walking around the party handing them out) so if you have people meeting you they should bring a picnic. I mean, if they care about food. Obviously I do and I had David bring rolls and cheese and apples.
Heading to the after-party...yum, mandarin orange cups!
Pros: Course was much improved over last year - it avoided the nonsensical long loop into an empty, flooded neighborhood around the end of the full course. Instead, you do a loop along the lake - hot, sunny, windy, but very pretty. This was a big plus. The rest of the course is quite scenic. New Orleans is a beautiful city and I was proud to show it off! I expect this race to garner some good reviews and start attractive star runners: it's completely flat and very fast. It's also held at a beautiful time of year; both years I ran it the weather was ideal.
Cons: As some of the winners mentioned, the roads in New Orleans suck. Very rough ride. Be prepared.

Aid stations:
Pros: Gu, electrolyte drink, and water on course; well-staffed with cheery and efficient volunteers. I loved that some of the volunteers were letting you grab your own Gu, but were offering to open for you. Opening is the hard part!
Cons: I don't like Cytomax at all, but I lived.

Chip timed/scored. Wave start with MUCH better start than last year. Last year the waves started so slowly and sporadically that the race dragged on. I waited in my back corral for almost 45 minutes last year; this year I was only about 20 seconds off the gun.
Abe and I were distressed that they messed up his scoring this time, and it took them ten days to correct it (they gave credit to a runner with his exact number ... PLUS an extra zero in the middle. This guy was in the tenth corral rather than first so I'm pretty sure he was thrilled with his temporary time!). This would not be a problem except for the fact that Abe needed his time to register for nationals, and because Abe won his age group. RnR sent him an email that implies that he will either not get his award or it won't be personalized, but they're still proud of him for his finish. Um, ok.

- Get over here and run this race. If you don't PR it's your own fault for being out too late in the French Quarter.
- Totally stay a few days. And visit me.
- Be aware that the road surface is rough, bumpy, and potholed. Choose shoes accordingly.
- Don't pay to park at the convention center for the expo. You can almost always find free parking on the street if you don't mind walking and you go at an off-time.
- Print the road closures list.
- Get in touch with local runners on Dailymile and find out the scoop on after-parties, if you're interested. I know of two with free food and drinks for runners after this one. We're a party city.
- Fly in right before the race but stay a few days after so you can eat all the yummy food without worrying about how it will affect your race.
- Check the weather. Mid-Feb is when our weather begins to change - usually - so you might get cold weather or really hot.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Making the most of the weekend

I think we got all the juice out of this one.
Friday we went to The American Sector happy hour for $0.75 fancy sloppy joes (actually they are pulled pork sandwiches) and $2.50 pints. We met up with one of David's law school friends and talked law, politics, running, New Orleans, and parades. As we were leaving I got a call from my friend Vanessa who I went to art school with. She was home alone with her baby while her husband was out directing a high school play, so we decided to stop by. We picked up ice cream on the way and had dessert with her and her little girl, then stayed to say hi to her husband when he made it home. We were out late and got in bed after midnight.
Saturday I slept in a little, so we rushed a bit to make it to the West Bank through parade traffic for my sister in law's 10 am birthday party. It was at Skate Country. ROLLER SKATING RULES. I forgot that I'm obsessed with it. I was a horrible party guest and stayed on the floor the whole time, skipping cake and presents to get some skating in. ADORE IT. We (ok, I) decided that Skate Country definitely has to be part of our recreation from now on. We left the party and hit the mall to pick up two things: David's replacement ipod, since his died out of the blue (it was still under warranty) and my racing flats, which I had shipped to the store for free and just had to pick up. Luckily neither errand took long, and we were out in a few minutes. On the way back we stopped to catch some of a mardi gras parade since David's old co-workers rode in it. We got showered with useless crap that David will no doubt recycle (he rides in another parade) and caught some sun, too. I think winter is officially over. :(
Once we got home I really wanted to try out my new shoes, so I went for a fast run before showering the parade funk off. I like the shoes, but they're loud. The wells where the spikes would attach cause each footfall to echo! I made curry for dinner and we relaxed for the evening, reading and watching a documentary.
Sunday I planned on going for a run early, then baking the rolls I'd prepped the night before and enjoying a slow Sunday breakfast. Unfortunately someone forgot to set the alarm, and I didn't get up until 8. I let the rolls rise overnight, so I popped them into the oven while I went on a short run. We had time for breakfast and the paper before church. After church we decided to bike to the park and bring a picnic lunch. Everything went wrong. My handle bars broke (my bike already lacks brakes, so I couldn't stop or steer!) and halfway to the park David's back pack actually broke: it was the string backpack I got at The Wall and not only did the cord tear off the bag, but the bag itself ripped, spilling books into the middle of Magazine street! We limped into the park and after lunch read our Bible study chapters for this week. Then we played a little football. Every time we play football I have to re-remember how to throw a spiral. Good thing I'm not, like, an NFL quarterback. Now we're catching up on all the chores we ignored on Saturday!
How was your weekend? Do you roller skate? If so, are you an inline person or a quads person? I don't care what kind of dork I seem, I love me some quads!

Friday, February 25, 2011

No Races.

All the good races in my area are over. The next half-marathon is October (and it will probably still be 85 F at the start). The next marathon is in November, and it's that sucky one in Mississippi.

Check out the schedule from the New Orleans Track Club.
Yeah, that's right, they're all 5ks! I don't even know how to run a 5k (I've run two; my most recent races, last year, I ran with a stomach bug and had to stop to throw up. Then I ate a bunch of Greek food after).
There are two 10ks I could run, the Crescent City Classic and the Gulf Coast Classic. I am debating whether to run the CCC - it's a huge event but a major hassle.
This shoe is coming in the mail*, and once I wear it I will automatically be faster! No work required! And then I will also own four pairs of running shoes. Ouch. I am really running out of room for all these shoes.

So, two questions for you:
1. Should I run the CCC, even though I complain about it every year? (Think 55,000 runners and half of them are pushing strollers...and the other half are walkers....and they are all in front of you.)
2. Since my options are all short races, how do I speed up for short races? I basically only have one speed, and lately it is in the 7:30 to 8 range - no matter the distance. How can I change that?

*Presumably its mate is arriving, as well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everybody's doing it.

 Just be glad I didn't tag you on Facebook or something annoying like that.
(A) Age: 28. Gah! Old!
(B) Bed Size: Queen. We have to keep this bed forever, because I glued it together and now we can't take the frame apart unless we use a saw.
(C) Chore You Hate: Sweeping my stairs, and they are dirty again every single day.
(D) Dogs? I'm allergic to dogs although they're ok outdoors, but after seeing what pet owners went through during Katrina evacuations hubster and I agreed to never have a pet.
(E) Essential Start Your Day Item: Two cups of coffee and a quick read of Dear Abby. Other peoples' problems make me feel all normal.
(F) Favorite Color: Yellow
(G) Gold or Silver? Gold. Because you can buy white gold and then you can have it all!
(H) Height: 5ft 7in
(I) Instruments You Play: None, I have zero musical talent. I can read music but I can't do anything about it.
(J) Job Title: Regional market lead pharmacist for HIV. Hehehe.
(K) Kids: No. Been there, changed that diaper, as I like to explain.
(L) Live: The Crescent City!
(M) Mom's Name: Louisa
(N) Nicknames: I go by Gracie on this blog but actually no one calls me that anymore.
(O) Overnight Hospital Stays? I stayed for a few days after having a thyroid tumor removed. Hospital stays = bad; hospital stays on liquid diet = awful.
(P) Pet Peeve: Misplaced apostrophe's (hahahaha!!!!! I crack myself up!!!!)
(Q) Quote from a Movie: I have drawn a blank. I don't really watch movies as I find it hard to sit still.
(R) Right or Left Handed? Right
(S) Siblings: Many. One sister and 7 brothers.
(T) Time You Wake Up? between 5:45 and 8 depending on my work schedule.
(U) Underwear: Whatever was on sale. I'm picky about underwear I run in, though. Hanes cotton bikini only.
(V) Vegetable You Dislike: Carrots are revolting. Veggies are not supposed to be sweet.
(W) What Makes You Run Late: Ha! My husband! If I'm ever late it's because WE are late!
(X) X-Rays You've Had Done: Only two dental "wing" X-rays. I don't believe in cavalierly throwing radiation around.
(Y) Yummy Food You Make: Pfff! Everything! I cook a lot and it's pretty much all yummy!
(Z) Zoo, Favorite Animal: Orangutangs. This group at the Audubon zoo just hangs out and takes off T-shirts and puts them back on all day long. Hilarious.

Please answer "P". I love hearing about your peeves!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kick-off meeting

Crappy picture.
Today and tomorrow I have regional meetings to kick off a big new program in our area. It's exciting, because I'm the clinical lead. I get to tell people what to do! It also means I get to wear big girl clothes instead of "business casual" (read: shoes I can stand up in all day). I decided to wear peep toes so everyone will ask me about my black toenail and I can tell them about the last marathon (although actually the black toenail is from The Wall 30k, so that would be a falsehood).
Obviously this picture shows nothing, but I have a black tank with black and silver beads/chains layered necklace and a black blazer with brown wool slacks.
What are you wearing today?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking for racing flats, ladies?

Go here. Saucony flats for $20, and shipping is free if you have a store nearby and you can pick them up. And if the $20 pair are not your size, the black and white version has all sizes available and is $30 - still a good deal.

Happy President's Day!

If you work for the government like my hubby, enjoy your day off. But don't slowly sip coffee and nibble on waffles while wearing pj's right in front of me as I get ready for a long miserable Monday. That would be mean.

Did you know that James Garfield used to be a preacher (also did you know he died after a long, painful battle with sepsis contracted from doctors probing his bullet wound with bare, unwashed hands?)?*

Did you also know Harry S Truman doesn't have a middle name, only a middle initial, and therefore there is not a period after the S? And if you put a period after the S you're incorrect, ahem, whoever is editing

Did you know that William Taft was morbidly obese and famously had a jumbo bathtub installed in the White House since he couldn't fit in standard tubs?
Read more fun facts here.

*The story of Garfield's assassination is a moving one and medically fascinating. You should read it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A week in bullet points

- I carried my Gu's (and 2 granola bars) in my jog bra for the Mardi Gras marathon, with disastrous results. I chaffed so severely that I actually have a patch of bleeding, lacerated flesh that makes showering, wearing clothes, or moving painful. I am in the process of patenting a pocket jog bra, so don't steal the idea.
- Someone called in at work every day this week. I am the lone consistency at that place.
- Hello, humidity, can't say I missed you.
- I really appreciated the Tulane guys who called out "Nice pace" while I was running Friday. That was nice!
- I just remembered that I own a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans that I bought on Ebay for $4 (Ebay tip: don't always search by size; inexperienced sellers don't always enter a size so few people find the item and bid on it) but are kind of winter weight. Therefore I saved them to wear this winter. Except I forgot all about them.
- The Rock N Roll people mistakenly put another runner's name under my brothers time and bib number, which is freaking me out since Abe needs that time to be corrected so he can use it for NAIA nationals. They also included FOUR other people in his race pictures, all of whom were running the half marathon. And his finish line video cuts off before he gets to the finish line. They had it out for him (he doesn't care about any of this stuff but he did email the directors for a time correction since he needs that).
- For Valentine's Day David didn't get me a store bought card, but wrote a message on a blank card instead. It was so much sweeter and I love it!
- My disgusting slob neighbor (the one who grills in his living room and has a bedside toilet on his front porch) is moving out in April! I am going to throw him a going away party! In the middle of the night with loud music, since that seems to be the thing to do in our neighborhood!
- I made some adorable Valentine kisses from a recipe I found here. They were way easier to make than I thought they'd be; I printed some paper tags that said "Happy Valentine's day" on thin parchment for an authentic look. I brought some to work and they were a big hit! (hint - use cheap aluminum foil, dull-side out, to wrap. It looks more like real kisses wrappers)
- My brother Nate lost my phone number when  his phone died last year Rather than re-enter mine (which I've emailed him several times), whenever he calls he just calls David then asks to speak to me. That boy is crazy.
- My brother Abe died his hair black to be in a student film about Asian Americans. Except his hair is curly. He's not pulling it off very well.
- My left eye started to twitch during the final miles of the marathon Sunday and IT HASN'T STOPPED YET. To the dude waiting in line at Pj's, I wasn't winking at you, I promise.
- I altered a pair of pants before work on Wednesday. I worked all day without realizing I forgot to trim my threads and was dangling about 15" of gray thread from my leg.
- I'm half-way through my second block of Cabbot's habenero cheese. Someone please take this away from em.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ask a Pharmacist: What can take for a sore throat?

Ah, seasons are changing, pollen is wafting, people are sniffling!
One of the common questions I receive this time of year is about sore throats. Nothing is more annoying, yet since a sore throat isn't dire, you still have to go to work and school and act normal. How you should treat it depends on the cause.
1. Scenario one: "I'm getting over a cold, but my cough is always the last thing to go. It's giving me a sore throat."
It sounds like your throat is irritated. While out and about, suck on some Halls Breezers. They're pectin-based, so they coat the throat to soothe it. Alternatively, buy slippery elm lozenges at a health food store. They work well, too. When you're at home you can sip hot water with honey. I don't usually recommend tea since it is an astringent and can dry out the throat and worsen the irritation.
2. Scenario two: "I think I'm dying."
You might have the flu. If you're aching, feverish, and seem to have a severe cold or a flu, you may have a sore throat as part of the infection. The pain is partly due to your immune response in the area, partly from irritation thanks to coughing and mucous build up, and partly due to the overall aches that set in with a flu. Swallowing and talking hurts.
Treat the pain with a lozenge that contains benzocaine, such as Sucrets or Chloraseptic. They actually numb the throat. Avoid sprays; they're messy and hard to apply and wash away with a few swallows.
3. Scenario three: "Swallowing is so painful! It feels like there is a lump in my throat."
First, make sure you don't have strep. Strep symptoms can be similar to a cold or flu, with noticeable throat pain. You may be able to see swelling, redness, or white spots on the uvula, tonsils, and palate. But don't trust your own diagnosis: it's hard to look in a mirror with a flashlight see if your throat is red and sometimes symptoms are non-specific.
If you have a cold or flu and feel that painful swallowing, you need to reduce swelling in the area. There are two prescription options: one is an oral steroid to decrease inflammation; another is a gargle called by various names (1:2:3 rinse or Magic Mouthwash). You have some non-prescription options, too. You can actually make your own gargle for sore and swollen throat and tonsils. Mix 3 teaspoons Maalox liquid with 2 teaspoons Benadryl liquid and one teaspoon Chloraseptic spray (take the spray top off the spray bottle),. Gargle and swish well for at least a minute and spit out. you can repeat every few hours; don't swallow since you'll be loading up on Benadryl. Another remedy is very old fashioned: plain Coca-Cola. Sip some regular coke and notice that it reduces inflammation. And of course, a good old hot toddy helps, too.
4. Scenario four: "I've had this annoying sore, raw feeling in the back of my throat for days."
Most of the time a nagging sore throat is allergy related. Allergies give you sniffles; sniffles give you post-nasal drip; post nasal drip irritates the throat. Drying up the drip usually takes care of the problem. If you have noticed other allergy symptoms, try an antihistamine for a few days. I'm partial to cetirizine (Zyrtec). You may need more than just an antihistamine if you are experiencing a great deal of nasal mucous. One remedy is to use a saline rinse to clear the sinuses out. Try a netti-pot or similar wash. This is not comfortable, but if you keep producing nasal mucous this can help. You can also gargle with salt water to clear out the mucous that collects in the throat.
If you have a cold, sometimes the post-nasal drip is thicker and an antihistamine won't help very much. If you are waking up with a lot of thick congestion and a sore throat, try thinning the mucous with a guaifenesin (Mucinex in the blue box or plain Robitussin). At first your nose will run more and you will have more drainage, but it will help you to clear it out.
5. Scenario five: "I had a long night out/long speech/12 hour meet and greet/opera. Now my throat is sore."
Overuse injuries require rest, hydration, and soothing. Drink tons of water. Milk, especially whole milk, can sooth but don't use it if you're a singer - it prevents mucous breakdown and can effect your singing voice. You can sooth the throat with pectin drops or slippery elm lozenges but don't use regular cough drops.

By the way, I'm now taking real ask a pharmacist questions, and I'm going to go back to my previous posts and find questions from the comments in that section, too. Thanks in advance for the questions!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creepy people live in Boston

I've run Boston qualifying times (um...current standards and 2013 standards) and I'm still not going to that race. Why? Because my husband's "friend" lives there and this dude is a mooch. If I go to Boston I will be forced to visit his alcoholic self and his green-card seeking wife and their debt, deals, pyramid schemes, veiled insults, and freeloaded meals. This man is a con. And he annoys me. So. Whatever creative registering scheme they come up with and however long they ignore the gender gap, I am not planning on registering because I don't feel like getting talked into eating at an expensive restaurant and getting the "Oh, I forgot my wallet" speech again.
P.S. Really I'm not running it because hills kick my booty.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is long-distance running genetic?

I got a few comments that running might be genetic when I mentioned that my brother Abe runs long distance as well. Abe is unusual in that he is much younger than most long distance runners; he ran a sub 2:50 marathon at 19. That kind of running could be genetic right?
My dad was a long distance runner and ran cross country for the US Coast Guard academy. He was the first - and for years, the only - NCAA athlete to come out of the Coast Guard Academy.
With Sunday's marathon, Abe - and his teammate Vanessa, who ran the half marathon - became the first NAIA athletes for Loyola University.
I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!

RnR Mardi Gras Marathon Race Recap - the non deathly ill version

(You can read the deathly ill version here.)
Abe and I post-MGM marathon

I felt like we were very last-minute about this whole race thing and in keeping with that, my little brother Abe texted me last night to ask if he could ride with us to the race (he runs cross country for Loyola but since he doesn't have a car, we often bring him if the whole team isn't racing). So we picked him up early and David dropped us at the start. We got to the start in plenty of time and I ran back to the water area to grab us some water. They also had free Snickers protein bars and I grabbed two..not sure what I was going to do with them, but I do like my free stuff. I put them in my jog bra!
I saw several people I knew while waiting for the start, including Ryan, who has basically become my race friend. As in, we only see each other or chat at races. He told me his goal was a 3:30 and we said we'd pace off each other. It was cold, and I gave away several pairs of rubber gloves to runners I knew. Drug dealin'!
This year, the race started on time and the corrals were right after each other (last year starts were interspersed with boring motivational speakers). The minute we started I lost Ryan. Scratch that plan. I tried to hold back at the start since I usually run the first three miles in 7:30's or so, then hate myself later. I felt good until mile 3 when my strange knee pain started. I decided to continue the same pace, same gait, same stride, and ignore it.I did, and it was completely gone by mile 6. It hasn't returned yet, either. We reached Audubon park and I saw David with his camera and blew him a kiss but as soon as I passed him I was kicking myself for not handing off my Snickers bars! We circled the park and thank goodness he was at the exit and I could give him my freebies (which I commanded him not to eat). The people standing nearby were cracking up. Hey, that was like, $3.50 worth of food there! As we left the park, out of the blue I saw Margee and Shelly - I was looking for them but they somehow completely took me by surprise! It was Shelly's first marathon ever! Right after them, my friend Joanna saw me. I love seeing people on course and Margee and Shelly always cheer like you're winning the whole race  :)
Look at that port-a-potty background - beautiful!

So. I felt perfectly fine all race. After the half, I started passing people. I passed people who had passed me, and I passed people who looked done-in. I got to the Gu table and actually stopped and picked through to get the good flavors (mandarin!), and took Gu's at 9, 14, 18, and 22 (at the second Gu stop I was disappointed to find only Rocktanes). Around mile 19 you start seeing the leaders heading towards the finish - mile 23 or 24 - and I saw Abe looking mighty strong. I hollered for him and he cheered me back and did thumbs up. Right after that, I made the turn myself and unfortunately saw Ryan the other direction; he was struggling and must have missed his goal. I also spotted Margee and Shelly again; both were looking so strong! Then came the only rough patch. See, I felt great, but apparently so did "Ohio" next to me. This dude from Ohio started up a conversation that he would NOT drop. He talked for about a mile and a half and I really wanted to just pass him! He was slower than I. But he would absolutely not be quiet and all of his questions required a long answer. Finally I actually skipped a water stop just to shake him. I was thirsty but faster. Soon after, it was the home stretch! I realized when I saw the finish that I had so much more energy left in me. I booked it and passed about  10 people in the last small section. I smiled for the camera because I knew David was waiting for me behind a lens somewhere and sure enough, he and Abe were at the end. I took my time stuffing food into my space blanket (which I had rigged up like a bag) and then we relaxed in front of the live music. Abe was pretty happy that he qualified for nationals (and this is a PR for him by almost 2 minutes). It's a PR for me, too, so we were a pretty pumped crowd!
The best part of this race is I experienced zero stomach upset. Usually the rest of the day I'm in a lot of pain but today I'm fine!
The stats:
Pace 7:54's
Gu's: Picked up 9 on course. Brought and ate 4. Came out positive 1 Gu.
Snickers bars: Dude, scored 8 of those.
Fruit cups: five
Chobani: 3 cups of lemon, can't wait to try it.
Beer: Four. David used his ID to get the 2 free beers Abe should have gotten, but can't 'cause he's underage. Score.
Food afterward: After the race I ate: Two beers, a large roll, a big plate of rice with sweet and sour meatballs, peppers, and onions (an easy dish I should cook more often, if I didn't hate sticking my hands in raw meat so much), a spring roll, a plate of chips, a Snickers protein bar, a liter of club soda, an apple, a baked potato with chili, a large salad, and a cup of frozen yogurt! I was famished!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I earned my corral.

Now I don't feel [quite as] stupid for gloating over it.
Me: 3:27:04
Abe: 2:48 something (forgot the change). That's NAIA qualifying time and my little brother is heading to Nationals!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rock 'n Roll Mardi Gras Marathon expo...

...or, apparently, "The compression socks show", was today. I picked up my shirt (hideous!) and some freebies:
Notice the small stains: I have already managed to get food on this shirt and I haven't even worn it yet!

And my humiliating alcoholics bracelet that I have to wear to work all day tomorrow:
Would you trust a pharmacist who drinks Miller?

And I brought some drug paraphernalia from work. Just kidding. Latex gloves are awesome for racing - they keep you toasty warm and you can just throw them off when you get hot. And in New Orleans we won't really notice extra rubber gloves laying by a homeless guy on a corner.
Got my number, too, and - why what's that little green sticker in the corner? Does it speak of a corral change?
I didn't steal the latex gloves from work; they fell out of the pocket of one of my drug dealer customers when he pulled out his stack of 980 $5 bills.

Yes, it does...and I know this is extremely immature of me, but I am thrilled that it's corral TWO! Not that I actually have run a marathon fast enough for the second corral - 3:30 cut off - but that's what I'm shooting for so the corral change guy moved me to two. From six. Sorry, I just didn't want to hang around in the corral that long. Last time I waited forty five minutes and I was so thirsty because I didn't have water with me!

After pick up, hubby and I went to dinner at Restaurant Atchafalaya, an uptown casual fine-dining place. Someone had given me a a $25 coupon, so we thought we'd try it. I was surprised by how good the service was. A total of EIGHT people waited on us for dinner, and despite the crowded dining room we were in and out in 45 minutes. With the coupon we spent $35 pre-tip: those coupons are the best. I had veal pies and a crab salad; David had a generous bowl of gumbo and crawfish-stuffed flounder. I thought the veal pies lacked a certain pungency; I would have added shallots and decreased the salt a little, but overall it was a good meal. Plus, I'm automatically a happier diner if I have attentive service.
Does service do it for you in a restaurant? Or are you the type to put up with The Soup Nazi just to get a good bisque? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pre-marathon check-list, 2011 version

Last year this checklist detailed my (lack of) preparation for the Mardi Gras marathon.
When I re-read that post, I couldn't believe how injured and miserable I was for that race! I remember the knee swelling as being particularly painful during the marathon; I ran with a brace but it actually came un-done the swelling was so severe. I am SO thankful to have that behind me.

This year, I'm a little less prepared, though.

I have to work all week leading up to the race. It fell on my weekend to work, which means I work Saturday and Sunday and get Thursday and Friday off. But obviously I need off on Sunday, so I swapped and I'm working Friday to be off Sunday. Standing all day at work leads to leg fatigue, and I won't be getting a lot of rest. I'm particularly worried about the 9.5 hour shift on Saturday. I will be exhausted!

My schedule also means I can only squeeze in an expo visit after work on Friday - not ideal - and I'm not sure if I can give Abe a ride. Today is Abe's birthday, so I was hoping to combine an expo trip with a birthday dinner for him. I need to change corrals at the expo, something I used to think was silly. But I registered last year before I'd ever run a marathon, and I put my estimated finish time at 4:15. I definitely want to beat that on Sunday and in fact am considering an attempt for 3:30 (which would be easier if, you know, I had done a single training run!). I want to move up because last year I sat in that corral for SO long. There wasn't water or bathrooms in the corrals and it was not fun at all. So I guess I'll be a tool and ask for a corral change.

I haven't even glanced at all the final details for this race - drop off, road closures, corrals, and other nonsense. I'm mentally unprepared for this race. And I haven't spent two seconds thinking about what I'll be wearing - except I know what shoes I'll be in. Despite my blisters and swollen toe, I will be running in my Karhu's. This is part of my experiment to move gradually to minimalist shoes for all my running. More on that later!
Me freezing to death before the Harrisburg marathon. Sunday should be warmer!

And yes, I'll be running hurt again. Silly me. My knee actually started to hurt again and obviously needs rest (after which it will be fine I'm sure). It can rest after the marathon though, so Sunday it will just have to hurt and I will just have to suck it up. That's all that's really injured, but a few little things went wrong this week. I switched to a pair of heavy, supportive shoes for a 5-miler, thinking they would ease the knee pain. Instead, everything felt off - I felt like I was jarring every part of my body. As I neared the end of the run, I actually pulled something in my neck. Does that ever happen to you? It sucks. I hate running with  a hurt neck because the bouncing irritates it.

So I'm not expecting this to be my most comfortable race. I'm kind of not ready (Someone remind me that I would have been ready if I'd actually run the runs I was supposed to). Have you ever raced not-rady? How did it go? Tell me your story!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's a coat for $9.99

I don't care if you're a 48 year old man. Buy this coat. You can give it to someone. It's a freaking pea coat for $9.99.

And yes, it's from Urban Outfitters, but no, you don't HAVE to look like a dirty waif to wear it. You could look all polished like me, except I'm allergic to wool and can't wear it. That is why I'm sharing it with you. It kills me not to be able to take advantage of a bargain so I plan to do so vicariously through you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Knee Makes Itself Known

My knees used to give me all kinds of problems. The pain started when I was fitted with super stability shoes for my "over pronation" complete with hard-as-rock orthotics for my sky-high arches. Question - how does one pronate with stiff, high arches? Is that even possible?
The answer is basically no. I don't over pronate - however, my shoes wear on the inside because I have bunions (ew!) so I naturally land and push off on the inside of my forefoot. Because of this wear pattern I was given stability shoes twice at a local running shoe store. I developed constant knee pain that was so bad it kept me up at night and eventually sent me to the doctor. Unfortunately, he didn't really pinpoint the problem. He recommended I replace my shoes and again I was sold stability shoes. The pain worsened and ended in either severe bursitis or a ruptured bursa (I was undiagnosed because, you know me, I hate going to the doctor. But my knee swelled to the size of a grapefruit and the black-and-blue swelling stayed for months!).  The pain limited my running, but I put a few miles in, still feeling it. I stumbled on the fix myself when I realized that the more worn my shoes were, the better I felt. I switched to light, flexible, neutral shoes and almost instantly noticed a difference. In weeks the pain was history. 
Since last spring when I made the shoe switch, I've run a lot of miles and a lot of races. So far, no pain. I am leaning more and more toward lighter and thinner shoes.
This week, however, I felt pain in my right knee while running (my old injury knee!). Of course, this pops up right before a marathon! But this pain baffled me. It was a bruised, tight feeling on the inside back of the knee. It didn't feel like a running injury, but I couldn't think how it could have happened. I was blaming work. I blame work for all my problems, though, so no surprise.
Finally, the cause dawned on me. Remember my calf cramp during The Wall 30k? Running through it made me land all funny and hurt my knee! I tested this theory by clenching my calf muscle and running on it...sure enough, major pain in my knee area.
My plan? Well, I dialed down the miles last week and plan on keeping it light this week, too. I mean, I'm supposed to be tapering anyway. Haha. As if my life isn't just one big old taper! Tonight I'm skipping my run and going to a class at my gym that is hilariously entitled "Hard Bodies" and is taught by one of my customers. If he nudges me about missing classes, I scathingly ask when he last refilled his cholesterol drugs. Just kidding.
The good news is that the pain seems to be on the wane. With any luck and a little rest, I think I'll be fine for next Sunday's marathon.
Have you ever had a knee injury? If so, how did you deal with it and how long did it take to heal?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I love this...Packers v. Steelers

This is real football. Cold weather, mean defense, big bad quarterbacks. If I can't have a Saints Superbowl, at least I can have the kind of game you can watch while eating a bowl of chili and drinking a bock.With a jersey over your pajamas.
I started watching NFL football when I was five and my mother - the "no TV" enforcer at our house - was on bed rest during her pregnancy with Joey. We kids quickly took the game outside, where we played a brutal tackle football in which your team got penalized by 5 yards if anyone cried. For years Melissa, Johnny, and I were one team, pitted against Dad, Nate, and eventually Joey. Dad's absurd size advantage was no match for Melissa's quick play calling and my down-right violent blocking. We lived in West Virginia and, like most of our friends and neighbors, cheered for the Redskins. It was bittersweet when we moved the Michigan right in the middle of the football season in which the Skins won the Superbowl (but it was priceless when they beat the Lions in the championship game. We carved "Go Redskins" into the snow; a light rain followed by a freeze ensured that our obnoxious message stayed set in ice for weeks.).
Years passed, teams changed (but I still have a soft-spot for the Redskins and think fondly of the Art Monk and Darryl Green days!), but football has always been a bright spot in the fall. It's funny how I was the only girl who watched football growing up, but now the NFL is so popular that I see as many women sporting jerseys as their obsessed husbands and boyfriends. Tonight I'll be missing the Saints, but I'm happy to see a classic football clash to wrap the season up.
So grab your terrible towel or cheese head and a high fat snack, and enjoy the game.
Are you a football fan? Where are you watching the game tonight? Are watching for the game or the commercials?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foody Firday: Aged Habenero Cheddar

I never would have dreamed I could buy cheese this good at my grocery store. It beats out Cork and the St James Cheese Company any day (those are two cheese stores near me).

I bought this habenero cheddar by Cabbot and I am addicted! It has an amazing aged, smoky cheddar taste and real, spicy habenero. This isn't some wimpy pepper jack kind of pepper. It has a kick to it.

It is divine:

- On salad
- In eggs
- On a slightly sweet cracker, like Ritz
- In a quesadilla
- Paired with a fruity red wine like Malbec or a sweet white like riesling.
- Served as part of a dessert cheese plate with berries and grapes and dark chocolate. And port or sherry of course.

Go buy some. You will swoon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

David's birthday

We celebrated David's birthday at Mondo, a Susan Spicer restaurant in Lakeview. It is across the street from the Steak Knife, the first restaurant at which we ordered a BOTTLE of wine. I was a teenager dating a man 12 years my senior (yeah, whatever, don't retrospect that was a crappy relationship so I guess you can judge!) and this was all new to me! Ah, memories!
Mondo was very good and different from other Spicer restaurants I've been to. It is more casual - no reservations and it's in a strip mall - and has a friendly vibe. The food is relatively inexpensive, as are the cocktails, but the main course portions are a tad small. If you're hungry you would want to get an appetizer as well (which we did). I had the lamb and it was out of this world. We also ordered cocktails (I had the Negroni, which had a pleasantly bitter aftertaste) and glasses of wine, because we discovered the bottled wine list later. But the glass wine menu wasn't bad; it was more than just Cabernet and Chardonnay and we both had Malbec.
When we walked into the restaurant we saw David's old boss from his last job sitting in a booth with his wife. We stopped to chat and catch up on old times. That was David's first job as an attorney and he learned a lot from this guy, who is an entrepreneur through and through. When we wrapped up our meal we were told that David's boss had actually picked up our entire bill. Sweet!

I got David a few gifts, but all were fraught with drama. Example:
- I ordered DVDs that are on back-order until October.
- I ordered two pairs of shoes from Aldo (yeah, I'm pretending David's not in his late 30's) and one pair arrived literally 10 hours after I placed the order (?!?!) and the other...never did. Eventually I got a cancellation notice from Aldo.
- I ordered a cushy Egyptian cotton bathrobe to replace the one David shrunk (who makes a bathrobe that can't go in the dryer, anyway?!) and through a series of mix ups it was sent to the wrong address: my parents'. I kept my last name and my mother is a frequent shopper; I think the mix up happened because the company had to make a change to my order. Somehow when they re-did the order they picked up the wrong address.

My only non-drama gifts were a piano lesson cd (he's wanted to learn) and David Pogue's "missing manual" for the Mac OS. Overall David's pleased and his new shoes look sharp!

When I asked David what he wanted for his birthday, he told me itunes gift cards. But I don't like giving gift cards since it's basically just giving him some of his own money. I have no problem giving them to other people, though. I know a lot of people think of them as "thoughtless" and yeah, sometimes I AM just being lazy!
What's your view on gift cards? Do you give them? Do you like to get them?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Wall 30k race review

For some reason this race is always held on the grayest day in January. Last year it was bitterly cold; this year it was humid and rainy.
Destrehan, Louisiana: "We have a big bridge".
The race is supposed to be timed as a training long-run before the Mardi Gras marathon, but this year I think it is a little close - just two weeks prior.There is also a 10k option.
It's a cheap race - $20 - and you get some kind of souvenir (last year it was a beer glass; this year it was a drawstring backpack). It is held in Destrehan on the levee, which means it is a straight out and back with a few rolling hills and generally some stiff breezes. The course is nothing awesome. You can see the Mississippi River, but the view is partially blocked by industrial plants and tankers loading up. It's not really a pretty place. Some areas are stinky with chemicals or partially fermented grains being loaded into huge ships. There aren't any spectators since it's on a levee in the middle of nowhere, but you do get to see other runners since it's out-and-back.
There is water and Gatorade on the course, and this year there was also a Gu stop, which I think was a fantastic addition.
After the race, there's beer, CheeWees, red beans and rice, and fruit. Pretty decent spread.
Post-race party...under the interstate overpass. Nice.
The awards are bricks! Abe asked, "Do you think these are from the actual wall?"
Carrying a brick home is very awkward.
I found this amusing but the girl we were talking to didn't get it at all and we had to explain at length that this was a joke.
So overall, a good race for the price. I liked that there wasn't ANOTHER T-shirt; I like the small size, and I like the low price. I think it's worth it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to David!

Since David's birthday is tomorrow, I decided to make him a cake to bring to our young couples Bible study tonight. This is probably his last time with us since after his birthday he will no longer fit the description of "young".
I decided to make John Besh's Père Roux cake. Doesn't is look delicious? I altered the recipe slightly, using sour cream instead of shortening in the cake and omitting 1/4 cup sugar; I also left out an entire stick of butter from both the filling and the frosting. I mean, I want to indulge, but I don't want to feel like death after eating a slice. Plus butter is expensive. I can't be throwing sticks into mixing bowls with reckless abandon.
I'll be sampling the cake tonight, but I made the components yesterday and have eaten a quantity of filling already and it's like Bananas Foster on the tip of a spoon!