Monthly Archives: December 2011

2012 National RNR Half Marathon Training

This week is the start of my training for the National Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on March 17th. For each of my other two half marathons, I’ve used Hal Higdon’s half marathon plans as the starting point for coming up with my own plans. I used his Novice 1 program for my first half marathon and my legs just about fell off once I hit mile 10, which was the longest run in that plan. The second time around, I added in a few extra weeks so that I could complete 12 miles before race day and I had a MUCH better race.  I saw that he has since added the Novice 2 program, so I am giving that a shot this time around, but adding in two days of strength training (as were included in the Novice 1).   Here’s my schedule:

I plan to go to Body Pump classes on Mondays and Thursdays to get in my strength training. I’m hoping to get into the habit of getting up early to get in the midweek runs before work, but to be honest, I doubt that’ll actually happen.  I’ve never been very good about being a morning workout person. If I can do that, I may add in the occasional Tuesday spinning class, because I really like the instructor.  I also plan on going to spinning as my main form of cross training on Sundays, but I might alternate that with yoga, hiking, walking or any sort of cardio.

The plan suggests running the Tuesday and Thursday runs at an easy, comfortable pace, and doing the Wednesday runs at “race pace.”  I do my midweek runs on the treadmill (I might get outside for the 5 miles ones towards the end), and when I run on the treadmill, I vary my pace to keep it interesting, kind of like a tempo run.  I’m going to try to push it a little harder on Wednesdays, though, maybe closer to my 5K race pace.  I have three goals for the race: a base goal (minimum I’d be satisfied with if I have an off day or poor race conditions), a realistic goal (what I should be able to accomplish considering my training and the race specifics), and an optimistic goal (what I might be able to do if I follow my training closely and everything goes just right on the day of the race).

Base Goal:  finish strong

Realistic Goal:  set a PR (currently 2:20:33)

Optimistic Goal: 2:15:00 (10:18/mile pace)

There you have it… my half marathon training plan. I might try to do a weekly recap each weekend just to keep a record of my training on here this time around.  And it all starts tomorrow, after taking a LONG break from regular training.  Stay tuned…

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Traditions…

+ Growing up, my mom used to bake (with my “help” when I was young, and my actual help as I got older) dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies and package them up to give to each of the guys on my dad’s shift at the fire department. Although she no longer spends days making and wrapping cookies to give away, she still makes several batches of cookies to have at all of our various family gatherings and just to have around for snacking.  Because of this, it just doesn’t seem like Christmas until I bake several batches of cookies.  This year, I made four types of cookies to give away.   However, I think this might be my last year to make cookies… as much as I love baking, I think I might try to find some healthier goodies to package up next year. By mid-December, I am all sugared and junk-fooded out (not that that keeps me from eating it all, of course).

+ Adam and I don’t exchange gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas.  We did the first few years we were together, but then a few years ago we decided to start doing something special together instead. We’ve done fancy dinners, a weekend trip to NYC to see the Elf musical last year, seen a few holiday shows.  We get enough “stuff” from my family – it’s nice to just take some time out of a busy month to go out on a fancy date.

+ Because Adam’s family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, we still go up and stay with my parents every year. It’s going to be strange the first time I don’t wake up in my parents’ house on Christmas morning.  (We usually go see his parents for a day or two after.)

+ On Christmas Eve, my mom’s side of the family comes over to my parents’ house. We always have pierogies and Gołąbki (pronounced “gawumpki,” a.k.a. stuffed cabbage rolls) for dinner, and probably three or four desserts (not counting the cookies… and the Christmas m&ms and kisses that are surely filling candy dishes all around the house). Before dinner, we break the oplatek and share good wishes with each other for the coming year.

+ On Christmas morning, we wake up and head downstairs. Overnight, my parents put all of the gifts under the tree and filled our stockings.  We bypass the presents under the tree and open our stockings while drinking coffee and waiting for breakfast to be ready. (My mom usually makes a breakfast casserole of some sort, although last year we had waffles!)  After breakfast, we go sit around the tree and open presents, usually two people opening at a time.  (Even as little kids, my brother and I never just tore into the gifts… gift opening has always been very civilized in our household.)  We then relax for a little bit, before getting ready to head out for the day.

+ Around lunchtime, we head over to my grandparents’ house to see my dad’s side of the family. Gift opening is a bit more hectic there – everyone is opening things at once, my grandmother is running around tossing presents at each other, there’s no chance to see what anyone else gets.   My grandmother gives out gift bags instead of stockings, which usually include, among other things, a calendar she’s received from a charity and an orange. We usually have some appetizers (cheese and crackers, shrimp) and some coquito (basically, Puerto Rican eggnog – my uncle is Puerto Rican). We visit with everyone for a while before heading out to our next destination.

+ Late afternoon, we head to my mom’s sister’s house to see her side of the family again. We don’t exchange gifts on Christmas Eve (which actually is one reason I prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas in many ways… that and the pierogies!), so even though we all saw each other the day before, this is the gift-giving event.  Lately, we’ve been waiting to open gifts in between dinner and dessert.  Dinner itself usually is some sort of roast, although last year my aunt also had a ham. (There’s something vegetarian for me to eat as well, but it’s usually a substantial side dish, like stuffed onions or risotto… in addition to other veggies and sides.)  We open gifts in a very civilized manner here, too… usually three people opening at a time so we all get to ooh and ahh over each other’s gifts, although this side of the family is also big on wishlists, so there are few surprises. However, when someone goes “off list,” it’s usually pretty good.  (My Uncle Matt is particularly good at going “off list.”)  Depending on how late it is, there might be time for a few board games or a movie before we head back to my parents’ house.

So, in sum, we open gifts all day long and eat lots and lots and lots of food.  Sounds about right, right?

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To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made…

Two years ago today, Adam proposed to me while we were out in the snow in the midst of a huge winter storm.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He’ll say: Are you married?
We’ll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you’re in town

*  *  *

Later on, we’ll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we’ve made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

*  *  *

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling
We’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Yup, that pretty much sums up December 19, 2009, for us.  Frolicking and playing in the snow, deciding to get married, and then coming back to cozy up on the couch and imagine what the rest of our life together would bring (unfortunately, we don’t have a fireplace!).   Now whenever I hear Winter Wonderland, it just makes me smile. Luckily, I hear it often this time of year!

 

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A Delicious Fruitcake Recipe (Really!)

My grandparents are especially hard to shop for at Christmas, as most grandparents are. At 80-something years old, they pretty much have everything they need. Every year, their Christmas lists consist almost entirely of gift cards to chain restaurants, Amazon, and maybe a department store. Last year, they added something new… a fruitcake. My aunt called dibs and ordered a fancy one from a website my grandparents had found.

This year, the fruitcake showed up on their list again and I claimed it immediately. (Basically, if people have non-Amazon wishlists, we all send out emails “claiming” the gift we’re going to buy off of the emailed wishlist to everyone except the recipient. The whole process leaves few surprises unless someone goes “off-list,” which probably happens 25-30% of the time, but it is what it is. There are far fewer exchanged or re-gifted gifts this way, I guess.) Anyway… I knew that I wanted to make a fruitcake if they put it on their list this year. Specifically, Alton Brown’s fruitcake, which has an unbelievable 5 stars for 173 reviews. I’d seen the episode of Good Eats where he made the fruitcake and it sounded good! Not at all like the doorstop bricks made of day-glo colored candied fruits. I mean, just look at the ingredients. Dried fruit, sugar, rum, butter. What wouldn’t be delicious about it?

I ended up making a few tweaks based upon my specific preferences, but the basic components of the recipe are still there:

+ Instead of the exact proportions of raisins, currants, cherries, cranberries and blueberries called for, I used two bags of Trader Joe’s Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries). This was much more economical than buying full bags of each (and tracking down the currants), plus, in my opinion, cherries, cranberries and blueberries are WAY better than raisins so I’d rather have more of those in the fruitcake. (With the two bags of dried fruit, I ended up with exactly the same total amount of dried berries called for in the recipe. It was fate!)

+ I omitted the candied ginger because I don’t care for it, and the recipe used so little I would end up with nearly a full bag going to waste. So, instead, I upped the amount of dried apricots a bit.

+ I didn’t have any oranges, so used two clementine peels.

+ I substituted apple cider for apple juice.

+ I didn’t want to buy and grind my own allspice and cloves, so I looked up substitutions and used a heaping 1/4 tsp already ground of each.

+ I didn’t have a large enough loaf pan, so I used an 8″ pan (I think), plus two mini loaves – perfect for testing out the recipe before foisting it upon my grandparents.

The mini loaves came out of the oven about twenty minutes ago and I already dug into one of them. I have to say, it’s quite good. It’s basically a spice cake, spike with rum, basted in brandy, and studded with plump dried fruits. Really, what’s not to like?

I totally sound like an 80-something myself, don’t I?

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