Thursday, July 11, 2013

Evil Race Directors and Bee Stings

In 2010 I ran a little half-marathon, called the Veteran’s Marathon, through the Indiana countryside with my sisters.  In 2011 I was back to run the race with a friend.  Last fall my wife decided to run the race with her sisters and I said I could watch the kids while she ran.  But a  couple of months before the race the friend that had run with me the previous year asked if I would run the full marathon with him.  I said to myself, “Myself, you just finished a triathlon so you’re in reasonably good shape.  Yes, there isn’t a lot of time to build up the mileage but the race is nice and flat.  How hard could it be?”  Sometimes myself can be such a moron. 

But it wasn’t myself’s fault.  I blame the race directors that laid out the course.  The first half, the half that I had run twice before, had a few little rolling hills but wasn’t too bad.   So you can imagine my surprise when almost immediately after the halfway point the road started going up and down like a 13 mile rollercoaster.  They weren’t huge hills but they were relentless.  I imagined the race directors in a smoke filled room scheming how to ambush unsuspecting racers.

- Race Director 1:  How about we line the race course thousands of killer bee hives?
- Race Director 2:  I have a better idea, let’s make the first half flat and second half absurdly hilly.
- Race Director 1:  I like the way you think!  **Maniacal Laugh!**

Let’s just say the rest of the race didn’t go well.  After about 17 miles my calves started seizing up  and couldn’t run up the hills anymore and I had to do a walk up, run down strategy. 

As I limped across the Indiana countryside I had some extra time so I started pretending that the traffic signs were written for me.  I happened to have my cell phone with me so that I could send progress updates to my wife (so she wouldn’t be waiting at the finish line for an hour wondering if I had been attacked by killer bees).  So here are a couple of texts that I sent to my wife:

  • “I'd go faster but the speed limit is 45.  I assume they mean 45 minutes per mile.”
  • “Now there's a sign that says ‘SLOW’”

Then towards the end there was one pleading with them to leave me and save themselves and a lot of delirious whining, but I’ll spare you that.

I really need to tell myself to shut it when he starts suggesting crazy things.


Speaking of bees, I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet.  I made it today for a birthday gathering at work.  I had two people say that it was the best thing they'd ever eaten and one ask, seriously, if she could make an order for her next event.  It comes from a historic reception center  in Salt Lake City, UT called the Lion House, at which I used to work.  I found a recipe a while ago but there are definitely some tricks to making it.

Sting of the Bee Cake

  • 1 c. butter (no substitutes)
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. flour, sifted
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ c. milk
  • Butter cream filling (below)
Cook topping as described below and set aside to cool.

With mixer, cream butter and sugar until soft, add eggs and mix well.  Mix in dry ingredients; slowly add milk. Beat until dough is thick, scrape sides and mix a little more.  Prepare 10-inch spring-form pan: Place parchment on bottom of pan. Attach side of pan and line with a strip of parchment paper.  

Scoop dough into the pan and spread out.  Sprinkle small amount of flour on top of dough and press dough evenly in spring-form pan. (Dough should feel firm and press against the sides of pan.) Pour topping on dough and spread evenly.

Cover pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until cake looks firm and golden brown. Allow to cool in the fridge for at least an hour.  Split in half horizontally.  Fill with Butter Cream Filling and raspberry preserves.

Note: This cake is similar to biscuits in texture.


  • ½ c. butter (no substitutes)
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 c. almonds, slivered
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
In medium saucepan, melt butter until almost boiling. Add sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, stir carefully as mixture will pop. Return to a boil and add almonds. Bring to a boil once again. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature if made early in the day, or cool in refrigerator until thick and cool to the touch. For best product, topping should be same temperature as dough.

Butter Cream Filling

  • 1 c. butter (no substitutes)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ c. raspberry preserves
Soften butter. Beat in powdered sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Spread on bottom of split cake. Spread preserves on top of butter cream and replace cake top.

Adapted from the Lion House

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Magic Happens

After years of badgering, my wife finally decided to run. (Truth be told, her sisters talked her into it. The only result from my badgering was an annoyed wife.)  She has set a goal to complete a half-marathon in mid-November.

Since she’s new to running she asked me to put a training plan together to slowly build up her base. We knew one of the most difficult parts was going to be making it through our two week trip to Europe in July. For the most part we followed through with our grand plans to run on our cruise in the Baltic, a necessity considering the never-ending food, and then even more during our week in Copenhagen.

Running on a cruise ship is blah. It’s either on a treadmill or about 50 laps around a little jogging track. Still, it takes a terrible run to be better than no run at all.

It was easier when we got to Copenhagen. My mother-in-law pointed out a little jogging trail close to their apartment and we took off for a nice five miler. The next day was a rest day for my wife but I went out alone on the same path.

The following day I was ready for a change so I pulled out the map and looked around for some green indicating a park. A little over a mile away there was some green so we decided to give it a shot. Exploring a new place on foot is the best, even if it was raining.

We found the park as expected and entered through a canopy of trees. The rain helped to keep the crowds away and somehow made the landscape look even greener than it already was. The park’s paths wound and crossed. We just enjoyed meandering, excited to see what was around the next bend.

We passed several ponds with swans and ducks, and a little foot bridge. We took a turn and found another beautiful pond with a waterfall and a crane standing in the shallows.

Up a little hill and around another bend were, as expected, elephants. Okay, we hadn’t expected elephants, but there they were nonetheless. Apparently, the park is directly behind a zoo.

Around the next bend we found ourselves on the grounds of a palace. It was one of those, “We must be in Europe” moments. It sat at the top of a gentle slope with a beautifully manicured lawn that descended down to a lake and a pagoda.

That was probably the best run I’ve ever been on and, even with all the grandiose and expensive things we did, it was the highlight of my trip. Just me and my wife, an unexpected palace, and some elephants.

As we left the park, my wife mentioned to me how much fun that was and how she didn’t feel nearly as tired as she normally did after running that long. It’s that “Enjoy the journey” thing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the journey is someplace really cool.


On our trip we had some great food, especially when my mother-in-law was cooking authentic Danish cuisine, but, to be honest, the European desserts generally weren't quite sweet enough for me. There was one dish I really enjoyed though. It is a dish that is very popular in Denmark in the summer. The recipe I'm including here was one of the simpler ones that I found, but my unpracticed taste buds couldn't tell a difference.


1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla 

Mix all ingredients thoroughly until sugar is dissolved and no lumps remain. Chill. Serve in a bowl over kammerjunker cookies. In case you don't have any kammerjunker cookies laying around you can substitute Nilla wafers. 

Adapted from 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faster, Higher, Poorer

Yesterday I had an epiphany.

But first, an update as the foundation for my epiphany…

Since my last post I have delved into the unknown world of triathlons. I know it sounds weird that I would try to add two more sports when I’m still so bad at running. The problem was that the thought of another full marathon didn’t make me nervous enough to be absolutely disciplined when it came to training, and I desperately need disciplined training so I don’t turn into Jabba the Hutt.  So, what better way to make myself nervous than to risk drowning or crashing into things at high speed?

I had had a triathlon in the back of my mind for a while but had resisted because triathlons can be really expensive. In addition to all the running stuff that I already had, there’s swim gear (goggles, swimsuit for training, wetsuit for racing, etc.) and the access to a pool that you have to pay for every month. That stuff can really add up.

But where the sticker shock really hits is with the biking. Just the gear like a helmet, tire pump, special clothes, etc. can be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. And of course you have to have a bike, and those can cost several hundred or several thousand dollars, or more.

There are a lot of options when it comes to the bike, depending on whether or not you are the CEO of a major corporation. I looked on Craig’s List for used bikes but either they were too small for my body (yes, they have sizes) or, even though they were used, they were still too expensive.

Since I am not a CEO I didn’t have a lot of money to plunk down on this, especially since I didn’t know whether I would like it. So after looking around a while and pilfering my kids’ piggy banks, I got the cheapest road bike I could find that had decent reviews on Amazon. $189. Those of you that know bikes know that $189 for a road bike is super cheap, and that’s because it is probably a piece of junk. I am happy to say that it is slightly better than a piece of junk. Slightly.

So I got the cheapest I could find of everything else I absolutely needed and competed in my first triathlon in May. The swim at the beginning went well. I was actually passing people in my age group, which is a new thing for me.

The run at the end went as well as could be expected. Slow and steady with a respectable kick at the end.

However, the bike portion in the middle was terrible. People were passing me like I was going backwards. I was huffing and puffing and my hips felt like they were being ripped apart by crowbars. It was not a pleasant experience.

The trouble on the bike was not really unexpected. I had had mechanical trouble with the bike in the weeks leading up to the race and didn’t get to train on it much.

So I chalked that race up to experience and, after some thought, decided to try another one in September.

I have been training on my junky bike and going farther and faster each ride, to the point where I am not too shabby. Even though I have gotten much better, I know that because my bike is so junky, people are still going to be passing me on race day. There’s not much I can do about that, except get a better bike… a $900 - $2,000 better bike.

Okay, now for the epiphany. And sorry it took so long to get here.

I realized that I will never, ever, win a race. I won’t even place in my age group… ever.

So what am I racing for? To win? Nope. My only goal is to improve my fitness, my mental toughness, and test the limits of what I can do, to be better than I was last time. If I'm just trying to beat former me then it will do me absolutely no good to get a better bike, as long as my junky bike is still working. Biking faster because of an expensive bike will only tell me that I have a better bike. It doesn’t say anything about me or my progress to my goals. That is only shown when all external things are equal.

Maybe someday I’ll upgrade, after they finally make me CEO.


 So, if you've spent all your money buying bike gear too and can't afford marshmallows, these Rice Crispy treats are awesome. I actually prefer them to the boring run-of-the-mill kind.

Peanut Butter Rice Crispies


1 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups rice crispies
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz butterscotch chips


Combine corn syrup and sugar in large pan. Bring to boil. Remove to heat and stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add rice crispies and mix well. Press into 9X13 pan. Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, use to coat top of rice crispies squares. Cool, then serve. Try not to eat them all at once.

Thanks for the recipe Cecilee!