Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cookin' Some Stuff: Chicken Noodle Soup

Yo people I made a pot of chicken noodle soup today while the NCAA basketball games were on. I make CNS a few times a year, and the recipe is always different so I decided to blog it out and, who knows, maybe even perfect it someday.

Here's how it all went down:

BTB's Chicken Noodle Soup
1 lb chicken (more or less, but get the package closest to a pound. This time I used 1.05lb)
3 carrots
5 small potatoes
a few celery stalks
half a bunch kale
ginger root to taste (I recommend about a TBSP)
Chicken broth
1 clove garlic
rosemary, black pepper, nutmeg (if you dare)

Put stove on high heat

Fill bottom of pot with water, enough to cover the chicken and then some
Add dash of pepper, dash of nutmeg, dash of rosemary in water
Cut chicken into little pieces
Add chicken, simmer a few minutes

Add vegetables (chopped into small pieces) should top water, let sit for a minute

Add broth, 2 big boxes
Add ginger
Let boil 30 minutes covered

Add garlic, chopped into tiny pieces
Add more black pepper
Continue boil another 30 minutes or so
Add some water if you feel like it
Add egg noodles, 6-8 clumps of them*
I didn't love it as much as some of the past recipes, but so far so good. I usually use more ginger, which has been overpowering in the past, I guess I need to lock down my amounts.

*my pot isn't quite big enough to hold all that so I cooked the noodles separately, ate a couple bowls to relieve the pot, then made some more noodles and added them in.

2012 St Pat's Dash

Seattle - In the two weeks after my tundra battle at the Hillbilly Half Marathon I didn't run a step, unless you count the last ten feet of a jaywalk road crossing here and there. My main issue was that the first metatarsal of my left foot winced at every impact, drawing attention away from my right kneecap's more moderate yelping.

I hobbled around Olympia preoccupied with work during the day, and dulled both pain and idle regret in the bars at night, telling myself things would normalize in a few weeks once the pain went away and I could get back to my routine of working, running, and cooking before gently sampling some of the finer ales and wines this earth has to offer once darkness inevitably rolled around to wipe away the guilt-inducing glow that comes from a cloudy daytime sky.

Those two weeks of idleness ended just shy of 8 in the morning on March 17, when my friend Chris and I parked his Jeep 4 blocks up the hill from the St. Pat's Dash starting line.

I had recently made the final decision to run the Seattle St. Pat's Dash, a tradition with my mom dating back to my childhood, which had become a Tacoma friend tradition during the winter I moved home in 2008, forged with a mysterious stranger named Walter whose silver tongue inspired us to 17 Guinness' in just one short afternoon.

This year I was hangover-free, breaking new grounds for the Dash. Lord, I remember last year, and I sure as Hell remember two years ago with all the hoping that the rhythm of running would drown out the drumbeat in my head. My foot as pain-free, too. But my knee, though functional, brought to mind a man in a ski mask hiding behind an alley dumpster--not necessarily dangerous, but lurking nevertheless.

We didn't warm up for the show, aside from jogging down to the starting line, and spent the final 25 pre-race minutes kicking our legs out, joking at the expense of our fellow racers, and dutifully acting as landing pads for the intermittent raindrops coming from the thick clouds above.

We settled in about 10 yards behind the starting line with the intention of starting slow and having a built-in population of wannabe runners to pass over the course of the first two slightly uphill miles, with hopes of bringing it home on the downhill with whatever we could muster.

Nothing crazy, but a good, sustained effort. Goal pace: 6:15 for the roughly 3.7 mile race. Break 23.

The first part of the plan held up, I went out at a controlled effort down Mercer, around Dexter and Republican to Aurora* and started picking people off three by three at first, then two by two, until it was one at a time as I approached the turnaround. I used the same old tricks--find the people who were charging and follow them, get offended at my place behind children, women and geezers, pretend that I'm further along in the race than I actually am--to good effect.

At the turn I knew that I was running alright, but shortly thereafter it was clear that picking up the pace wasn't really in the cards. Although I had passed a couple hundred over the first two miles, I quickly realized my best chance from here on our was to just stay put.

I kept a good face on in spite of my limitations, shouted out passers-by and high fived whatever kids stood on the sidewalk to support with their parents. My body didn't feel as bad as it did in Centralia the month prior, but I was pushing the pace, I hadn't run in two weeks, and the KIND bar I ate in the morning was still sloshing around in my stomach**.

When we finally left Aurora for the homestretch, I had been passed by a couple of runners, and sat directly at the back of a pack of three runners. I was sucking wind and made the decision not to make a big move on them, hoping I might be able to sprint for 50 meters and nip one or two, but none of the above happened.

Still, I was happy with my time of 22:36 (which they called 6:13 pace). It was good for 83rd overall, a more competitive year than usual. And I barely beat a 12 year old, which reminds me of one of the key rules for old man runners: always celebrate beating children in a road race.

I was dead enough to let the volunteers cut the timing chip off of my shoe, then waited for Chris and a quick trip to the beer garden.

Good news: we found and exploited the beer garden.

Bad news: Sunday morning confirmed my suspicions of a torn meniscus by swelling heavily and forcing an Omar Little-esque limp. Back to the disabled list for this geezer. More race reports coming soon, I hope. July, perhaps.


*This new St. Pat's course might be the worst in all of Seattle. What was one a fabulous rumble down the viaduct to Pioneer Square is now an ugly, annoying, boring trudge through bland pavement and ending in the party void that is daytime Lower Queen Anne.

**Ever since college, any bar I eat gives me a mild and regrettable stomach ache.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MLS Notes

I'm a little bummed to say I missed every minute of MLS opening weekend. But I'm happy to see that LA and NYRB both lost, even if it means they lost to a couple of bullshit pretenders-to-the-throne in RSL and FC Dallas.

Don't get me wrong, both of those flyover state teams are strong, and I wouldn't be surprised if I was made to be a fool later on by denigrating them now, but this year's season comes down to two teams: LA and Seattle.

And I think Seattle can give LA a run.

Just going on record. I think Seattle wins at least one of the two big domestic prizes in 2012: Supporter's Shield or MLS Cup. Honestly I consider both of them to be equally important, and I think only two teams have a shot at either of them. Go Sounders.

2012 Hillbilly Half Marathon

Last Saturday I popped my half marathon cherry. But if, in this metaphor, my legs are a vagina, then the penis equivalent for this race was a 16-inch long, frozen, studded dildo. Simply put, that shit hurt but it felt really good.

Beloved former college teammate Wes Fuhrman drove up from Portland to join me for this year's Hillbilly Half Marathon out in the Capitol Forest. (As a quick aside, I'd like to give a shout out to Guerilla Running for not only putting on such a legitimately grueling and genuinely interesting race, but also for donating over $2000 to local trail-related services.)

Going into the race my training had been solid for an old, cubicle-dwelling borderline alcoholic like myself, but I would consider it suspect for a man of my pride and expectation. After six months on and off struggling to run more than twice a week in Seattle, I had put in two months of relatively consistent 30-35 mile weeks complete with a handful of runs over 10 miles and even a few track and hill workouts.

My training was nothing amazing, but enough to slowly bring my average training run pace from 8 minutes in December down to a smidge over 7 at the end of February. Highlights included an 11-miler at 7 flat pace and a 4.5 mile tempo run at 6:25.

Complicating things a bit further, I came down with strep throat the Tuesday night before the race and began a 10-day dose of antibiotics late Wednesday night. I stayed home from work Wednesday, Thursday and half of Friday, but thankfully felt significantly better on race day.

A couple of grizzled vets gear up for race day

Wes and I arrived a little over an hour prior to the start so we could sign a waiver, adapt to the morning weather, and poke around the area. After about 2/3 of a mile of walking, we discovered that the course didn't fuck around. There was a steep incline from the get-go, time to get mentally prepared for a march.

I knew I wasn't completely over my illness about 100 steps into the race. While we started out at a fairlyly pedestrian pace, the moment we turned up the hill I was gassed. Every step up was way harder than it should have been. I was exposed as a fraud by the first 100 feet of elevation gain, and ready to give up on my dream of a top 3 finish about a half mile later.

The logging road continued up and up, with two slight downhill drops, for a mile and a half before encountering an aid station and a right hand turn onto another mile and a half of single-track, the first half of which gained elevation at a sharper rate than the road. The game just kept getting realer.

Fortunately for me, the trails became physically ugly once the elevation gain stopped, flattening out for a little over a half mile and becoming less and less passable. Large, deep, frigid puddles covered the full width of the trail for meters at a time, requiring nimble toes and quick decision making to sneak around them. A decision to ford even one of the puddles risked the temporary loss of feeling to feet, ankles and knees. It was here that my running instincts and muscle memory kicked in, and I passed the two runners who had blown by my on the single track switchback and left them in the dust before turning on to another inclined gravel road, now covered in snow.

The elevation gain continued to kill me at every step, only now I was burdened by slushy traction in addition to the grade, which was only slightly negated by enjoying the beautiful ridgeline views and the fact that I could no longer hear footsteps behind me. I had created enough space between me and (then) 9th place to give me the courage to believe that as soon as we hit another batch of sloppy single-track trails I would be able to start picking people off instead of dreading that each step would just be one closer to being passed myself.

The good feelings continued through mile 5, when the snow kept getting deeper, the puddles more frequent, and my feet more and more numb. Every downhill risked a total yard sale-style fall on my ass and my attack of each puddle became slower and slower as the course curved, the legs fatigued, and the toes became less responsive.

Around mile 5.25 two middle aged guys passed me and, although I hung close to them for nearly two more miles, the leaders running the turnaround began flying by me well before I hit mile 6. I realized here that I was now in 10th place and looking at at least a 15 minute loss. It wasn't getting better.

The "out" half of the course left the trails for a final time a few hundred meters before the turnaround, only to tease you with an aid station followed by a straight-uphill stretch that you ran halfway up before turning around at a cone to head home. I hit the turnaround at 1:00:10. 2 hour pace. Dread.

Besides my slow time at the turnaround, I also realized that the next set of runners had crept on my pretty fiercely over the last mile, and by mile 7 they both passed me, relegating me to 12th overall, 11th for men. One place out of scoring for the La Sportiva Series. A mile later, they were long out of site.

At mile 7. 5 fatigue and cold were settling into my legs like a grizzly bar ready to hibernate--heavy, full and slow-- and even worse I had to dodge all the "going out" runners, who became more and more oblivious to on-comers as I reached the tail end of them.

The two-way traffic on a single track trail conundrum peaked around mile 8 when I was forced to jump full-legged into a puddle in order to avoid plowing into a pack of 6 women who were hugging the dry trail ridge at a walking pace. Against nearly all scientific odds, the depth at that location had to have been the deepest of the entire course, and my right leg went all the way to the bottom of my shorts. The subsequent left foot step was not much better.

Here I was, 5 miles to go, tired as fuck, and now I could barely feel my legs, let alone my feet which I hadn't felt for a whole mile because of the constant puddle fording that the single file trails required. 5 miles to go? 45 more minutes?

Despite the existential dread, I carried on knowing that once I hit mile 9.5 it would be mostly flat and downhill and, who knows, maybe even get a second wind.

The second wind never hit, and the final switchbacks were far steeper going down than I remembered them coming up. It was there, with 2 miles to go, that I achieved the feeling that maybe all marathoners get. I am going to finish this damn thing, and it is gonna feel fucking great!

Every single little step was effort once I turned onto the logging road (1.5 miles to go!) and every single little thought was focused on remaining willfully ignorant of the two remaining hills. When they came, by God it took every ounce to willpower to keep from walking.

But I did keep from walking and I gave the best impression of a sprint that I could in the last 100 meters.

Finishing time: 1:55:02

Derrrty Berrrd Pride

Wes ran a hell of a race, given that he trained even less than I did, finishing 4th in a little over 1:33. The only guys who beat him flew in from out of state and probably run 110 miles a week.


Here I am on March 11, a full 8 days later and I regret to announce that I haven't run a step since Saturday. My left foot and right knee are both ailing, the foot in particular. Better safe than sorry, so I reckon I'll spend a few more days drinking instead of running just to make sure I can have a viable comeback. It was a fun race, and I want to do more. Barring injury, I'm really hoping to do a few more trail races this spring and summer. If everything goes well, maybe I'll even get fit enough to compete for a win.

Beer Beginnings

What follows is a very loosely regulated description of the events that I hope will successfully lead me to my first batch of beer.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cooking Beer

I used the Around the Horn IPA recipe from Cellar Brewing Supply to kick off my maiden brewing voyage, and in deference to the folks at Cellar I'll leave the recipe details on my sheet of paper.

I added an extra 3/4 oz. of the flavoring hops halfway through the wort boil (roughly 25 minutes remained) in hopes of giving it a little extra hop flavor. Slightly worried that I never reached the boiling break point. I left the pot uncovered, which in hindsight may have been a mistake. We'll see.

Wort Up

Cooled the wort in my sink with cold water and a little bit of ice, refreshing the water trough every 7-10 minutes or so, and when it came time to transfer the wort into the bucket I had a slight panic moment because it felt like it had cooled so drastically. I thought it might be a good idea to put the half of the wort which hadn't been dumped into the bucket on the stove to heat it up before realizing that was a stupid decision and poured the rest of it into the bucket.

I really struggled to sleep that night, doubting my every instinct, and assuming that wherever there wasn't a photo of the brew equipment in my sources and instructions, that I had used the wrong equipment. Legitimate night terrors, folks.

Over time my fear subsided. Brewing Is Fun and Easy, according to all my books, right?

March 7, 2012
Fermentation Transfer

This was pretty easy, and it was a lot of fun to hook up the rubber tube to the bucket spout and watch her rip down the water slide into the carboy. Because I'm so bush league, I sanitized the carboy in the shower with me, down a double duty of scrubbin and rinsin. Sexy.

I added a sleeve of hops to the carboy. I think I was supposed to do this, but I'm not sure. Hoping for no spoilage.

Chillin in the Carboy

And there she still chills today. Next up: bottling