Saturday, November 12, 2011

Marathon Day NYC 2011

34th street and 11th Ave, we step into the expo to get our race numbers. The energy and excitement of 45,000 runners fills us with a new buzz. Do we belong? Have we earned the right?. Our unconventional training seems scarily inadequate. There is no changing anything at this point so we push on, making our final preparations. Pick out race clothes, write name on shirt and pin on number, carb load, pack post race supplies, set alarm, sleep, morning strech, eat nervous breakfast, catch cab to Statin Island ferry.

There are runners in all shapes and sizes, other nervous breakfasts, muffin, monster brownie, egg sandwhich, ball caps and bandanas, lycra, living billboards with t-shirts fighting cancer and autism, tutus glued to running shorts. Bus to the starting line. Free coffee and bagels, no thanks- too much at stake. Bodies covering every inch of side walk and grass, sleeping bags to keep muscles warm.

We reluctantly strip off all warm clothes and send them to the finish line. Discussion again, how shall we run? Time does not matter- we want to believe this but it is hard. Head to the starting line. Star spangled banner, elite runners burst from starting block. Ten minute miles we agree, this should be our goal, at least for the first ten miles. Try to be fresh at the half.

Calculating splits from races clocks is too hard. We run trying to listen to our bodies. 2 million spectators spread out over 26.2 miles, hardly a moment without cheering. Brooklyn first.  “TJ you can do it”, “Julie, you got it baby” the effect of our names called by strangers on the sidelines is utterly uplifting. Music of all kinds, tiny hands held out for high fives, offerings of Halloween candy, orange slices and banana halves. We catch up with the runners aiming for a 3 hour and 50 min race time and settle in.

Mile 11, “ouch”, “oh no” a new but familiar pain shoots through my left knee quickly escalating to severe status. As I stop to asses the situation I am jostled by runners with too much momentum to stop. I wonder if this is the end. Can we walk 15 miles to the finish? Stretch, keep going, the pain is less but how long will this last. Mile 13, into Queens, still a long way to go, not quite as fresh as we had hoped.

Mile 16, bridge to Manhattan. Total lower body pain and the left knee is getting worse. I need to stop, I need to walk, squat, stretch.  Ten miles to the finish, my eyes get blurry thinking about it. TJ still feels good and starts cheering me on. First avenue is packed with spectators. I can no longer appreciate them. One foot in front of the other. Dig down deep.  Run through the pain. I pick out running goals in the distance. I think I can make it to the second bus stop. Frequent breaks to stretch. Walking hurts too so might as well keep running. “You can do it, I am so proud of you.” TJ is amazing.

Into the Bronx, keep going. Look for Jon and Katrina. One foot in front of the other. Stretch when the road widens. Run to the next water station, maybe a whole mile this time. Last bridge, Manhattan. The final push. TJ becomes more quiet as he starts to feel more pain himself. Dig down deep, one foot in front of the other. Bright fall leaves, the roar of the crowd. I feel some unseen support give me a boost. Just keep going. Into the park, walk the uphill. Run, there they are! Our family is waiting and cheering us on. We can do it. Push. One more walk. Turn the bend, 400 meters, 200 yards, we can see it. Grab hands, cross the finish. 4:11:49. Grace.

Shivering, groan, muscles shake. No relief, no room to sit down. Pick up bag, sit down, warm clothes, sigh. Turn phone on, texts, phone messages, we are overwhelmed. Five smiling faces meet us as we hobble out of the park. So much love and support. The day is capped off by burgers, fries and malt. Our prayers are answered beyond what we could have imagined.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marathon Training 2011

Exactly one year ago, we wandered into central park on a brisk Sunday afternoon and were met by cheering crowds and a sea of runners. The NYC 2010 marathon was in full effect and the momentum was contagious. Watching runners push through their last 2 miles for a victorious finish, we entertained the idea of running ourselves.

The pieces came together, a lottery spot, a cause to support, and a swipe of the credit card. For the first time ever we became morning runners. Starting July 4th weekend, 16 weeks before the anticipated event, we starting crossing off boxes on the Hal Higdon “Novice 2” training schedule. This entailed 3 short runs per week, one long run and a day of cross training. Our egos were a little puffed up and we thought of ourselves a little higher than “Novice 2” but realistically looking at our schedules decided it was all that we could commit to.  We wanted to do our best and achieve a good time.

Our first long run in central park (9 miles) took a little wind out of our sails. This was going to be harder than anticipated. Training runs from my marathon 10 years ago were a little rosier in my memory. We advanced slowly but surely. I had a toenail turn black after our 12 mile run, a sure sign of a dedicated runner.  We came up with plans for hydration and were fitted for new shoes at a local running store.  Our calculated splits on our long runs was a little less than a 9 min mile.  This was ok, but we both wished we were going faster. Couldn’t we do a little better?

The first sign that things might not go according to our plans occurred 8 weeks in.  We headed to Utah/Colorado for a 10 day vacation. My ironman triathalon watch which was less than a year old died the night before our trip after running in a heavy rain. Wasn’t that watch supposed to withstand submersion, let alone a little sloshing? In the flurry of our leaving NY our running shoes were left behind.  Buying new ones seemed out of the question as we had just forked out a small fortune for the ones at home. There would be no running. Rigorous hiking over the next two weeks would have to do.  

Our cardiovascular status was no worse for the wear upon picking back up on our training although some muscles whined a bit. Everything seemed on track until a few days later when TJ’s knee started hurting. It was a tiny twinge a first but quickly escalated. Our first long run back we made it through 15 miles. The knee starting complaining by mile 9. We pressed on but the pain came sooner and sooner as the days passed. By the next weekend we did not make it past 5 miles.

If we ignored the knee it was not likely to get better on its own. After prayer and discussion we decided to alter the remaining of our training to optimize the possibility of actually running the marathon at all. The new plan involved a week and a half of rest, twice daily stretching and strengthening, short runs 5 days a week and no more long runs. Amazingly, the pain was gone our second day back running but other injuries were soon to follow.  Lower back strain, neck spasm, incapacitating foot cramps and a rolled ankle.  We took turns with our injuries, each one leading to a short halt in training. Needless to say we had no idea how things would go on race day.

Our plan for training was to condition our heart, lungs and muscles to be able to run the marathon and measure our abilities. Ultimately what happened was very different.  We grew in discipline together but also in flexibility and communication. Morning prayers which were typically sleepy in bed became more vibrant along our runs. And through grace, with each injury and setback we felt less pressure to perform and more free to enjoy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eating out adventure: Silver Star Restaurant, Upper East Side, Manhattan, NYC

Silver Star Restaurant

We visited this homey joint after Trinity Grace's morning church service on the upper east side of Manhattan. I was on call so we were looking for a quick place to eat. We enjoyed a cozy table by the window with lots of families with small children all around. It was a nice change of pace from our neighborhood which is mostly inhabited by young singles. 

The menu was fairly typical, diner fair with too many options for any of them to be that great. I got the eggs benedict above and TJ got an open faced monte cristo sandwich below.

Neither dish was anything that special to the taste buds. We enjoyed the meal but I don't see us re-visiting any time soon. 

Good Friday

the only way
my people have forsaken me
for the remnant
for the few
for the narrow path
there is only one way
take this cup from me
redemptive blood
the renewal of all things
a new kingdom

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eating out adventure: Momokawa, Murray Hill, Manhattan, NYC

Shortly after moving to Manhattan TJ had a discussion with a medical student he worked with about "Shabu Shabu".   The student was from Japan and explained that the name is an onomatopoeia  in japanese. It is the sound the food makes while cooking. She said she loved it and was going out of her way to eat some before leaving the city. 

 For the next few months TJ and I were in search of this intriguing meal. We couldn't actually remember the name and kept looking for "Shoba Shoba" which is something different (shoba noodles are also japanese but made out of buckwheat and eaten in soups.) 

This cozy restaurant is just a few blocks from our home on the second story with inviting window seats. We decided to try it out thinking it served sushi. When we got there the elusive "Shabu Shabu" was one of the main items on the menu. We had no idea what it was but had to try it. 

It turns out that this meal is somewhat like a Japanese version of fondu. You get a pan of water set in the middle of the table that simmers continually during the meal.
You order meat, veggies and noodles and cook them for a few minutes in the simmering water.
You then dip then in some yummy side sauces

Although this was very fun experience I don't see it as something we would crave. Of the japanese dishes we have tried since coming to Manhattan I like ramen soup, udon and shoba noodle soups better.

Supernatural Cooking: Espresso Banana Muffins

Espresso Banana Muffins

I made these when my family was in town.  Every body seemed to like them. They were very dense. I used greek yogurt which has less water. I am not sure if that had anything to do with it. If I make then again I think I will try regular yogurt to see if it makes a difference.

2 cups white- whole wheat flour ( or one cup white, one cup wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/14 cups toasted walnut pieces
1 tablespoon coffee, very finely ground
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup natural cane sugar (I found this at the local grocery store)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain yogurt
3 large overripe bananas

Heat oven to 375

Combine dry ingredients and 3/4 cup nuts in a bowl and mix

In a separate bowl cream the butter then add in the sugar and eggs.  Stir in the vanilla, yogurt and mashed bananas.

Gentle mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, take care not to over mix (may make muffins tough).

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the mixture into muffin tin, preferably with muffin papers (should make 12). Top with remaining nuts and bake for 25 min. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eating out adventure: Pio Pio, Murray Hill, Manhattan, NYC


Pio pio is the sound that little chicks make in latin america as opposed to our English version "cheep cheep".   This latin american chain has figured out how to make a few things really well and get by with a very simple menu. TJ and I visited a location just a few blocks from where we live and found it to be a real treat. The restaurant was a cozy nook with brightly colored walls and familiar Latin American tunes from my childhood in Venezuela. We indulged in a family size sampler platter ending up with enough left overs for a couple of meals. 

Chicken "a la brasa"
 the meal would not be complete without sausage and fries :)
Avocado makes everything taste better