Monday, December 19, 2011

But Wait, There's More!

Since the school year started I have had to be out of my house each weekday morning a little before 6 am to get to a meeting. This means that I have to get up at about 4:30 in order to run. (At least that's the idea. I haven't been very consistant.) It takes me about 10 extra minutes to get all my outdoors gear on so I usually hop downstairs to the treadmill. What is up all of the stupid infommercials that are on about 90 of my 100 channels? The other 10 are televangelists. I'm calling for a congressional hearing to investigate the blatent discrimination against early risers! We deserve something good to watch too!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Coming Clean & Christmas Caramels

Let’s face it, on many levels running is pretty boring. For some people, pushing the limits of their body is a sufficient stimulus to keep them engaged in the sport long-term. Unfortunately, most of us need something external to motivate us. It’s probably a composite of things. For me there are several things that motivate me to keep going:

1) A sense of accomplishment
2) A desire to banish those stubborn areas of flabbiness that haunt the mirror.
3) A good audiobook.
4) A beautiful fall morning, or, when the morning is not so beautiful, something good on the TV in front of the treadmill

I know a lot of people that have given up on the sport because they couldn’t find that magic combination that worked for them. A recent development in the world of running is the emergence of events aimed at spicing things up a bit. Many of these events include ample amounts of mud, obstacles, and crazy people.

The basic format: run a little, crawl under barbed wire through mud, run some more, run over hot coals, run some more, climb over a 10 foot wall, run some more, etc., until they collapse either before or shortly after the finish line. You get the idea.

Sounds fun, right? Well, I sure hope so because I signed up for one. Luckily I have until April to train for the Tough Mudder, a 10 mile run with about 20 obstacles scattered throughout. I’ll be doing it with a couple friends, and it promises to be memorable, for good or bad. I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to agree to it, but you can rest reasonably assured that it didn’t have to do with any illegal mood altering chemical. I’m not ruling out insanity though.


The past several years my wife and I have slaved away for the entire month of December making Christmas chocolates, many of the recipes for which you can find in other posts. This year we decided to forgo the chocolates for the simplicity of the best soft caramels the world has ever known.

Before you begin will will need a large pot (7 qt or larger), a candy thermometer, and a lot of time. If you don't have a large pot it will boil over and you will curse my name forever. If you don't have a candy thermometer it will be very difficult to get them to the right consistency. If you don't have a lot of time, about an hour and a half, then you will end up with caramel sauce (actually, that's not really a bad thing, but the extra time is worth it.)

Russon's Christmas Caramels


4 cups granulated sugar
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 cups corn syrup
1 qt (32 oz) heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla. Simmer on medium heat, stirring often, until the temperature meets 237 degrees. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into greased pan. We use a large cookie sheet (technically called a half sheet, or jelly roll pan), or you can use a 9 X 13 cake pan. Refrigerate until cooled through. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in wax paper.

Okay, so that's the recipe, now some hints:

**It takes a long time to boil down. Since the boiling temperature of water is 212 degrees, the water in the milk and cream will not allow the mixture to get much above that so you basically have to boil off all of the water. It will get stuck at about 217 for what seems like forever. Be patient. After it hits about 222 then it starts moving faster.

**Once it has started boiling we stir constantly to make sure it doesn't boil over (we had to learn from experience).

**We find that a plastic knife cuts it much easier because the caramel won't stick to it as much.

**Wax paper cut into 4 X 6 pieces works perfectly.

Thanks to Wendy Russon for the base recipe!

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Dirty Little Secret

All right, time for an update because lots has happened.  As they say on T.V…

Previously on Will Run for Dessert: I was aiming to run the Run Woodstock 50K (31 miles) that took place on Sept 10. 

I was on track until the heart of my training when I started having pain in the balls of both of my feet. I took a few days off to let them heal and ran a couple more times. The pain didn’t go away. I took a few more days off then ran a couple more times. The pain didn’t go away. 

So I was faced with a decision. Keep running in pain and risk a serious injury that could sideline me for months or take a longer break to heal up, in which case I wouldn’t have time to put in the training miles for a race so long. Put down logically like this it doesn’t seem like that hard of a decision when, in reality, it was. It was hard to face the facts and comes to terms with the limitations of my body that were out of my control.
After careful consideration I decided to downgrade to the half-marathon. I took a week and a half off then started running again. While the pain didn’t go totally away, it wasn’t nearly as bad and I never felt like I was risking serious injury. 

The training went fine, although it was a bit harder to get motivated since I was not intimidated by the distance.
As the day drew near it became ever more apparent that my decision to do only the half-marathon was serendipitous. The weather forecast called for three days of rain leading up to the race and more rain on race day. On roads that’s pretty annoying, on trails it can be horrendous. 

By race morning the trails were MUDDY. At first all of the runners were gingerly trying to avoid the mud, until they realized that that would be absolutely impossible. It was kind of funny to see people make the decision to throw caution to the wind and embrace the mud. For the first few miles I was pretty enthusiastic about the mud. It was a demonstration of my primeval manliness. 

That lasted for a while and then I had enough. For the most part the trail was covered from side to side in at least 2 inches of mud. Some parts were about 6 inches deep of a thick, wet-cement like soup that made everyone slip all over the place. The worst part was a pool of mud that went up past my knees.
The mud got everywhere. It would have been impossible to keep it out of my shoes, even if they had been waterproof, because it was so deep. But really, I could handle the mud. It was the rocks that went with that gave me the biggest trouble. I finally had to pull over and attempt to empty my shoe. By then it was too late and the blisters had already come.

And then there was the epic fall.

At around 10 miles I came around a bend and my foot caught on a rock hidden in the mud. I imagine my fall in slow motion, like a scene from Chariots of Fire, only much clumsier. Luckily no one was by me or else I don’t think my ego would have recovered enough to continue. When I surveyed the damage I was left with was a scraped up knee that was bleeding down my muddy leg in a very macho way and some very muddy clothes.
Somehow I managed to hobble the last few miles. 

When I exited the woods to the field in the middle of which was the finish line I was greeted by the cheering of my lovely family. I’m surprised they recognized me. 

There were still a couple hundred yards to go and just one person to beat. I turned on the jets as I entered the ropes, and then my calves totally seized up. According to my family I didn’t look as weird as I felt, luckily. (By the way, I passed the guy. Take that, randow guy who didn't know I was racing you!)

It turned out to be my hardest half-marathon by far, and my most memorable.


Quick, easy, delicious. Three of my favorite words.

Homemade Oreos

1 box of devil food cake mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
Mix all ingredients. It will seem dry. Form 1/2 to 1 inch balls and bake at 350 until the cookies begin to crackle on top. Let cool completely then make sandwiches with frosting in the middle.
Thanks to Melissa Bell by way of Stephanie Andreasen

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cool Runnings & Cheesecake Strawberries

I feel like such a slacker that I haven't posted for so long. I don't know how all my readers survived!

The business of summer can sometimes though my training into a tailspin and this year was no exception. When you consider that there was a two week vacation thrown in there, one week in Alaska followed by a week in Anaheim California, that's actually quite a feat. For this installment I thought I'd give you a brief recap of some really cool runs that I took on said vacation.

First of all, let me just say that Alaska is by far the best place I've ever run. The mornings were nice and cool, the scenery was outstanding, and even just running around my sisters' neighborhood in Anchorage I found little pockets of relative wilderness. The highlight run of the trip was when we left the big city for a couple of days and went to a small town called Anchor Point on the southern shore of the Kenai Peninsula. I got up early and went off to the beach. I had the beach entirely to myself except for the dozens of bald eagles hanging out with me. It was one of those runs that remind me why I'm a runner.

The low-light run of the trip was waking up on Saturday morning for my 15 mile run and finding a downpour outside. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, my sisters have a treadmill. Anything more than about 6 miles on a treadmill is brutal, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

California was just as advertised, warm and sunny. That's great for getting a tan by the pool but it was a little hot for my running taste. Our hotel was about a mile away from Disneyland so there was not much open space. I already told you the lowlight, which was just a blanket "too hot". There were a couple of highlights. The first was having a rabbit bound passed literally inches away from my legs. Maybe he was running away from Breer Fox. The other highlight was running around Downtown Disney before anything opened. Gotta love the magic of Disney!


Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries


About 20 strawberries (a little over one carton)
8 oz pkg softened cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 sleeve of graham crackers
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)


Wash the strawberries and core them. Get as deep as you can without breaking through the bottom. Beat the cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Fill strawberries to just above the brim with cream cheese blend. Crush 3 graham crackers. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs or just dip the top in the crumbs.


Melt about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Place in zip lock. Snip tip off and drizzle. In the immortal words of Boots the Monkey, "Yum, yum, yum, yum. Delisioso!"

Thanks to my friend, Wes Malquist, for the recipe and picture.