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!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mudder May I Take a POUNDing?

So, a couple Saturdays ago I participated in the Tough Mudder. It was basically an 11 mile long obstacle course, with obstacles pulled directly from a boot camp set up in the 80s by Dr. Kavorkian. The weather was normal for April, meaning that it was cold and rainy. And the rain made the already muddy course even muddier.

So it went like this:
  1. Run through mud
  2. Jump over 15 five-foot walls
  3. Run through mud
  4. Wade through waist deep ice water
  5. Run through mud
  6. Swim through mud
  7. Run through mud
  8. Run up a hill, down a hill, through a lake, up a hill, down a hill, through a river, up a hill, down a hill
  9. Jump off a 25 foot high platform into a freezing cold lake
  10. Run through mud
  11. Run through a field that is on fire
  12. Run through mud
  13. Etc.
  14. Etc.
  15. Etc.
 Do you get the idea?

There were a total of 24 obstacles spread throughout the 11 miles. They don’t call it tough just for fun. I think that there were three separate ways in which it was challenging. The first, and probably easiest to prep for, was that it was long; it tested one’s endurance. The second was that it required bursts of strength to get over the obstacles.

The third was that it was mentally challenging. I have to admit, I was a little freaked out waiting my turn to jump off the high dive into that lake. The volunteer said, “One – Two – Three” and I took a step forward, off the platform. As I was falling I realized that taking that step wasn’t actually what I had wanted to do. I’m glad that I didn’t take the time to think about it. Several of the obstacles didn’t require any particular feat of strength or endurance, but just made me decide whether I was going to give up or do something that was uncomfortable.
I’m happy to report that I survived, with the help of some great teammates (and some helpful strangers), although my legs are a little worse for the wear. Going back to work most people thought I was crazy, and I probably am. I like the sense of accomplishment that I get from stretching the limits of what I think I can do, whether it’s a marathon or a Tough Mudder, and the lessons I learn about myself.

I just hope I can talk someone into doing it with me next year.


Since I  really took a pounding I thought I'd share the recipe for an awesome pound cake we made a few weeks ago. (Thanks to my wife for the juvenile word play). It's full of butter and that can only mean one thing: it's from Paula Dean.

Mama's Pound Cake


  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Thanks Paula!

Friday, January 20, 2012

You Know You're a Runner If...

You know you're a runner if...

-You collect running shoes like a dictator's wife collects stilettos
-You've ever put Band-Aids on your nipples
-You know what a "Fartlek" is
-Your shoes have more miles on them than your car does
-You don't think black toenails are that big of a deal
-Safety pins are scattered all over your house
-You know exactly how far it is to the end of your street
-You have ever taken a family vacation just so you could run a race
-You have a drawer full of shirts that you don't know what to do with
-You've lost track of how many people have asked you how far a marathon is
-You haven't had a free Saturday morning for you can't remember how long
-You count Vaseline as one of your closest friends
-Taking an ice bath is a regular occurrence
-You think energy gel doesn't taste that gross anymore
-You were to collapse midrun, you'd like the paramedics to pause your stopwatch

Anyone have any others?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Molasses Me

I've never been a huge fan of resolutions, probably because they don't keep and start to smell bad after a couple of weeks. And then they attract annoying little fruit flies that buzz around whispering disparaging remarks in my ear.

So I'm not really making resolutions. I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing, mainly following training programs in order to successfully complete a few races and eat healthy so that I can occasionally binge and sugar.

This year is a little different, however, because I'm trying a few different types of races than what I've done in the past. In April I'll be attempting the Tough Mudder (which I've already written about) and in September I have decided to do a half ironman triathlon.

A regular ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed immediately by a 112 mile bike ride, followed immediately by a full marathon. So a half-ironman is half that. Go figure. 1.2 swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run.

Soapbox time. For a large portion of the population running 13.1 miles is a serious accomplishment. Can't they call it something other than half of something else? It just seems like calling it a half-marathon is implying that you aren't tough enough to go the whole way. Same goes for a half-ironman. I guess I'll only be half a man. Err, Ironman. Soapbox done.

So I've started to train on all three disciples of the triathlon, doing each about three times a week, as well as doing a little lifting. I think I may have to take out a second mortgage to get all the new gear though.


So my sort-of-resolutions should take me two steps forward in the healthy department, it's time to take that ever so scrumptious step back. This time the step back is an old family recipe that is a staple of the holidays. My great grandmother used to give a batch to my grandparents and their family for Christmas way back in the day. It may sound a little old fashioned but it is seriously addictive. There is a disclaimer though; I am not responsible for any lost fillings or other dental work.

Molasses Candy

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup molasses or sorgam
1/3 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbs vinegar
2 heaping cups of whole almonds (other nuts will work too)
1 tsp baking soda
butter for pan

Combine sugar, molasses, corn syrup, evaporated milk, & milk. Heat until soft ball stage**, stir in vinegar. Cook until hard ball stage, add nuts. Heat until it boils again and add the baking soda. Stir until fluffy and pour out onto a buttered cookie sheet.

** You can cook it less so that it is softer and it is just as good. It's really just a matter of taste.