Friday, July 22, 2011

Wheels Are In Motion

On this ridiculously hot Friday, I'm so pleased to report that my first week of marathon training has gone exceptionally well. I've run three times this week and each run has been solid and pain free. I've felt a little tightness through my IT band but no pain, yes! It's amazing how incredibly sore I was after getting back out on the road for the first time since March. Though I've been intensely riding my bike regularly, there are so many muscles that ached after running which shows just how different the muscle groups are that you use on the bike. I'll take being sore any day if it means I have a strong run with no knee pain. It's weird to talk about this as though I'm just starting to run for the first time. However, when you're out of the game for a bit, you really notice. I can happily say without a doubt that boxing and biking have increased my stamina tenfold. After my first three miles on day one, I felt completely strong and stabilized. I could've kept running with no issue and I really think it's because my core has gotten much stronger and, as mentioned, my stamina and endurance has gotten so much better. God has truly answered my prayers, that's all I know. One day, one run at a time is the only way I'm choosing to view my training.

In other news, the New Balance team has officially been picked and the wheels are in motion! We'll all be "attending" a webinar next week and our running gear should arrive shortly after. I'm really excited to get this sponsorship underway! Stay tuned...

Hope everyone stays cool this weekend with the nasty heatwave. I'm heading out of town to the beach in ten minutes so my weekend is officially about to begin. :) Happy Friday and weekend to all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Balance Picked Me?!

I'm very very excited about this post today. It's going to be the first of many that I'm excited about (I hope!) but I write today with some awesome news. I was chosen to be sponsored by New Balance in the NYC marathon this year! A friend of mine read about how and New Balance were looking for 15 runners (yes, I'm 1 out of only 15!) to sponsor so she sent me the information. I decided to apply because a) I had nothing to lose and b) I really didn't think I'd get it. Well...I did and I'm beyond thrilled about it! I definitely think my being qualified already for the marathon was a big part of it all but who cares, I'm totally psyched for the opportunity.

I've loved New Balance for years so this is such a special opportunity to represent them specifically. To this day, my favorite running tights are New Balance and I don't foresee myself using another brand even outside of this sponsorship. To begin, they're sending me shoes and a running shirt to train in so I'll get to see how the products actually work for me. I'm pretty pumped about the shoes as they're the new 890 REVlite which seem amazing!

As a sponsored athlete, there are certain commitments I agree to making which I find fun and challenging. One of the more significant things I'll be doing is blogging about my training and how the product is working for me. I'll also be participating in online forums and discussions, answering questions that outside members might have and posting other relevant content about both the marathon and New Balance. It's a unique opportunity to get really involved with the brand and to have a higher level of motivation as I train.

I hope you'll follow along with me as I begin my training journey that will ultimately bring me to finishing out a long time dream. Onward and upward I go!    

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Ride to Montauk

A 'century' in cycling terms means a 100 mile bike ride. It's also code for something I never thought I could do. You couldn't have bet me on my first day out in clipless pedals that I'd ever grow confident enough to ride the way I do now. Though my interest in the sport over the past three years has been great, I had a huge fear of riding on my own. I got my very first road bike in 2009, a beautiful gift from a friend, and I put a bit of extra money into it myself, as well. I'd decided to go ahead and switch out the pedals so I'd learn right off the bat how to clip in and out which is the best decision I could've made. I'll never forget falling right over in the first five minutes I was on it and I kept thinking I'll never ever get the hang of this. Well, fast forward to the present, and I'm a radically different person on the bike. I have to giggle even at times when I think about what a process it can be to overcome fear. I think the greatest lesson is learning to not take yourself or things so seriously and to simply try. Just remember how to breathe, take things one step at a time and see what happens. More often than not, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

On that happy note, back to the cycling. Since I've been riding so much, especially lately, a couple of cycling buddies threw out the idea of doing Ride to Montauk together. There are various mileage options you can pedal but we decided on the 100 mile route since most of us had never done a century before. We all signed up and, on June 18th, we hit the road for what would be one of the greatest, most adventurous, hilarious, bonding and memorable days for all of us.

I have to briefly mention the day prior to riding where me, Cristina, Ginna and An volunteered in order to get our ride entry free. It was seriously the most ghetto operation in history. Not only that, it was literally hard work. We loaded trucks for six hours and, if not for the hilarity that always ensues when we're together, we might have lost it. Numerous times. I love our naive smiles before the day begins:
I mean, ghet-to:
Enough of that. Soon enough, ride day got here and we were all excited! We met at An's apartment building just before 4am (this would most certainly be the start of our adventure) and off through Times Square we went on our way to Penn Station. I have to was uniquely cool to be riding at that hour and to realize that we truly do live in the city that never sleeps:
We met the rest of our group at Penn, got our bikes loaded on the truck and jumped on the train to Babylon which is where our official 100 mile start would begin. It was an absolutely beautiful morning, too. We saw the sun come up on the train which was really neat and we were hanging out having coffee while we waited on our bikes to arrive, all before 7am:
By 7:30am, we hit the road! We were all in amazing spirits and each of us was ready to kill it. It truly was awesome riding along such a beautiful route as the sun was just getting a little higher in the sky:
Our first rest stop was really soon into the route at 25 miles and none of us really needed to stop. However, it was right at the beach so we had to check out how neat that was:
We got back on the road and wouldn't you know that Blue Point Brewery was just two short miles away. Wouldn't you also know that, even at 9:00am, they were up and running full swing offering free beers to cyclists. Um, that's only a little up my alley...! So, we had another lovely pit stop tasting delicious beers and cracking each other up, as usual:
We had to make ourselves be responsible and get back on the bike before our full century stayed at a quarter century. We proceeded to ride one of the most beautiful routes alongside the water, past flowers and stunning homes, and we had smiles on our face the whole way:
Around mile 75, we finally approached the rest stop that had the infamous homemade pie we'd kept hearing about. An and I had just come down from catching onto the wheel of some speed demons so I'm hugely disappointed to say that I was in no mood for pie when we stopped. I was solely concerned with gatorade and breathing but I made myself try at least a bite because I'd looked forward to that the most the entire time. It was delicious:
As we got back in the saddle to finish those last miles, An and I ran into that same speedy group again. We looked over at each other with that "let's do this" smirk and we caught their wheel a second time. We powered through the next 12 miles at a solid 25 miles an hour and, at that late point in our ride, we were both SO proud of ourselves. We came around to a final tough climb at the end (arrrrgh!) and we both rolled into the finish together feeling pretty darn amazing. By the way, it was 106 miles and not 100. Liars!

Sadly, our high quickly came down when we learned that a) the crap organization ran out of BEER (what?!?!) and most of the food and b) our girl, Cristina, flatted out with just four miles left to the finish. Luckily, the rest of our awesome crew was there with her to help get her back up and running. Those girls kick some serious ass:
When we finally regrouped, we had to break the news to the girls that there were no celebratory beers which was seriously heartbreaking. Yeah, you think I'm kidding. I'm not. However, we all stopped then and there to recognize the awesome day we'd had and it totally didn't break our spirits. That's about the time that An walks up out of nowhere with mysterious ice cold Coronas and it was like angels were singing:
Yod-An, our savior. She'd walked around and found a little place selling beers and took care of us all. I don't even like Corona but it was the best beer I'd ever had, ha. We still had to wait on the train back and all of us were truly exhausted at that point. You can certainly tell:
It was also pretty trippy to watch the sunset from the train since we'd seen the sunrise together, too:
We got back to Penn Station around 11pm and I wish I could say the night ended on a positive note. Unfortunately, due to very poor organization, we had to wait another 45 minutes for our bikes to arrive and our fatigue was getting the best of us. I'm extremely proud to say that none of us lost it, though. We kept up the positivity for as long as we could but it wasn't easy. It was after midnight when we all finally got our bikes and parted ways. After starting our day at 3:30am, I can tell you that I was dead to the world. So, when I got a terrible flat riding home on Park Avenue, that was just the last straw. I had a good cry as I walked my bike the rest of the way home because, at that point, I think I just needed to vent and that was my way of doing so.

Regardless, we had the most terrific day together. It's amazing when you laugh so hard while riding that you really almost crash. These girls have become dear to me and I couldn't have imagined a better crew to spend nearly 24 hours with. We all bring something so different to the table and it makes for a truly special, unique, rare group and I treasure it. We've been riding hard together since and have no plans of slowing down. I'm a very lucky gal to have these women in my life and I'm excited for what I know will be continued shenanigans to come.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Belated James Beard Birthday

Not much in life makes me smile as big as sharing an amazing meal with a deeply special person. The only thing that makes it better is if that special person is a dear friend. Though it's way past my birthday, I got to celebrate it a couple of weeks ago with my close friend, Kristine. As my birthday came around in March, Kristine completely surprised me saying she wanted to take me to have my first James Beard dinner. I'd heard of this fabulous dining experience through her a couple of years ago when she treated Allison for her birthday and I've wanted to go ever since. Kristine is one of the most generous people I know when it comes to her friends and she does not disappoint in the area of making one feel special. She even indulged my request of waiting on this dinner until after lent since I'd given up bread and pasta. Let's face it, having something to look forward to after your actual birthday is awesome anyway.

The James Beard Foundation is an organization where people can really get involved with all things foodie. There are events happening all month long, from lectures to cooking classes, conferences to readings, workshops to dinners. It's a really educational organization and allows people, professional or not, to tap in to their inner culinary creativity. The dinners showcase chefs from all over the world and you're able to go on the JBF site to view menus, bios and information on up and coming dining experiences. I had the toughest time narrowing down what to choose but I finally picked the 'Five Diamond Luxury Dinner with Kristin Butterworth' of Lautrec at Nemacolin Resort. My oh my, was I in for a treat.

We met at 7:00pm and the way it works is you walk through the kitchen to get to the outside garden where cocktails and hors d'oeuvres are being served. This was the first thing I saw and I was automatically giddy:
All those beautiful soup bowls...! I wanted to jump right in. That's actually Chef Kristin putting final pepper touches on the dish, too. We kept walking and I spotted another lovely platter:
I'd learn in about two more seconds that I was about to indulge in that fabulous peekytoe crab maison (meaning 'made on premises') on brioche. It was delectable. Without skipping too far ahead though, we exited the kitchen and walked out into a lovely small garden area. They were serving crisp, clean champagne that paired perfectly with the deviled quail egg, the above-pictured peekytoe crab and a lovely truffle scone with house cured ham and cream cheese. I felt like I'd escaped the concrete jungle and walked into a fancy Southern cocktail party. Sign me up, people.

After an hour or so, we were shown to our table. The James Beard House seats only 74 people and, should your party size be smaller than enough to fill a table, you will be seated communal style. That was more than fine with me as the other guests at our table were the perfect mix of private and social. I enjoyed not feeling pressured to talk to people yet being involved at the same time:
The server came around to begin pouring wine and, soon enough, the first plate was served; a chilled heirloom tomato soup with local goat feta, olive oil powder and basil:
It was divine. It was cool, silky, pungent and clean. I am not a tomato soup fan but this was quite unique and it won me over.

I'm so mad because I forgot to get a photo of the second plate. It was a fabulous papardelle with black truffle, confit farm egg and parmigiano. I loved it's texture with the contrast of perfectly cooked pasta to earthy truffles to creamy farm egg.

The third plate was chilean sea bass with potato butter, lobster sausage and caviar butter:
This was hands down my favorite. It was absolutely perfect in ten different ways. The butter, the sausage, the perfectly prepared fish, the was divine and melted together harmoniously with every bite. I seriously did not want this to end.

The fourth plate was Elysian Fields lamb with summer squash, vidalia onion risotto and honey mustard jam:
This was my least favorite dish but only because I am not a fan of lamb. It was certainly prepared in a lovely way but I don't like lamb's distinct gamey flavor. How can you not like vidalia onion risotto or summer squash, though?

The fifth plate was the cheese course and I just loved that they chose epoisses. They served it with local honeycomb, blackberry preserves, brown butter pecans and sea salt:
This might sound silly but I died over those pecans. They were delicious! I'm so glad there were only three on the plate because I would've made myself sick on them. Taking a bite with a little of everything was just the right blend of sweet and savory. Epoisses is a delicious cheese that almost has both a brie and blue quality. Excellent!

Finally, it was time for dessert and I couldn't have been happier. It was strawberry-rhubarb consomme with creme fraiche panna cotta and basil tapioca:
The tapioca was so unique and it popped with huge fresh basil flavor. I have no idea how they did it but it was terrific. I wasn't crazy about the consomme. It was a neat idea but far too sweet for me. Who cares though when you have creme fraiche panna cotta to enjoy!

It was truly a remarkable evening and I was so deep in my element. That's what made it even more special because Kristine knows me that well and understands how much a fancy dinner would mean to me. It was a wonderful birthday celebration and I would have waited even months longer to go if I had to. Now, it's a question of when we're going back... :)