Friday, July 30, 2010

Shame Spiraling, and the Art of the Escape

My day took an unexpected turn South yesterday afternoon, and rather than extract myself from the situation, I let it consume me. Sitting in a conference room, I watched my reflection as my face went from neutral, to slightly scowly, to full-on bitchy over the course of 75 minutes. Granted, yesterday's dose of life's daily drama didn't even involve me directly. No matter. Surely life had been unfair to me at some other point, and so I too was going to make myself a victim. This was not a pleasant process.

I had a brief glimpse into reality at one point, and thought to myself, "I should go home after work, have a nice run, take care of my errands, and do things that will make me feel like a productive and happy member of society." Instead, I spent the afternoon eating donuts and tater tots (yes, really) and then going out for a beer. And four glasses of wine.

When I woke up this morning, I was still feeling sorry for myself. "Woe is me," I thought, letting the fluffiness of my Ralph Lauren bedding embrace me in my Gramercy apartment, as I looked out onto my balcony, across the Adirondack chair where I so often spend my mornings with a book and a cup of coffee as I kill time before going to my office, where I am not expected before 10:00am, and into the sunshine on this Friday morning in July. "I have a very hard and sad life." Talking about not seeing the forest...

But I booked up ye olde MacBook and the interwebs and read about happy people taking advantage of their days and enjoying the weather and going for runs and being awesome and I realized how self-indulgent I was being, home in my cushy apartment with clean sheets and fashion magazines and strands of pearls (I'm just looking around my room naming things right now, but the pearls I'm looking at aren't real; please don't rob me). And slowly, slowly, I got out of bed and opened the drawers of my dresser and assembled a running outfit. "Maybe just a few miles will make me feel better," I thought. And slowly, slowly, I wriggled into my shorts and t-shirt, and unearthed my sneakers. "It does look rather pleasant out," I thought. And slowly, slowly, I walked over to the mirror and lifted my iPhone and took a picture to send to Nina, marathon superfan in Chicago:

And then I burst out laughing because I am melodramatic and possibly hungover and really life isn't so bad after all, save for the fact that I look in the above photo like I'm missing some chromosomes, which thankfully isn't the case and it's nothing a shower and a little make up can't fix. And so off I went, knocking out 10k in gorgeous conditions and thanking my lucky stars for all of it.

Happy Friday kids, and a huge thanks to all of you who motivated me to run this morning.

Let's not take ourselves too seriously today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stone Brewing Company Tasting Event Recap

I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath for the full report from my Stone Brewing Company tasting dinner the other night, and I apologize, dear reader, for the delay. You try to drink 5 courses of beer, some of which packed 7.2% ABV, then get up to run 7 miles of hills, and still have the endurance blog.

Upon arrival, my date for the night (thanks, Mom!) and I were seated at the bar (obviously), where we were both close to the booze, and could look into the kitchen to see the food being prepared. We were also close to the front of the room, and as such I was able to get the attention of Dennis Flynn, the Stone rep, to ask various beer-related questions and throw my "I'm a beer blogger" weight around. I impressed exactly zero people with that line, but whatever.

The man of the hour - Stone Brewing rep. Dennis Flynn

Beer 1) Levitation Ale (4.4% ABV, 45 IBUs)
Food 1) Shaved parmesan and crushed toasted almond crisps with homemade mustard dipping sauce and roasted red peppers with pine nuts and raisins

This beer was hoppy to start, with that signature spicy aroma and an amber color. The hoppiness dissipated, however, and gave way to a malty finish. Having struggled to find a hops I enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked this beer alone, and it was enhanced by the food. The sweetness of the roasted red peppers cut the bite of the hops a bit, while the spicy mustard brought out more dynamic hoppy flavors.

Beer 2) Stone Pale Ale (5.4% ABV, 41 IBUs)
Food 2) Tuscan shrimp Bartolli with rosemary and cannellini beans with extra virgin olive oil

When the beer was presented to us, I called Dennis over to ask why this beer was served in a bottle and not draft, but apparently there was no secret or trick; the restaurant just couldn't get enough kegs. It had no hoppy or spicy smell to it, and I was surprised at how much less hoppy this beer was compared with the Levitation, given that it's only 4 IBUs fewer (that's "International Bittering Units," FYI. Thanks to the fine folks at Saranac who taught me that as a child passing through Utica in the summer!). The hop taste that was detectable finished quicker and left you with a rich, caramelly malt taste. As for the food (which was delicious and perfectly cooked), because all of the tastes were mild, I didn't find the beer to enhance to food at all or vice versa.

Beer 3) Stone Cali-Belgique Ale (6.9% ABV, 77 IBUs)
Food 3) Organic mixed greens with chicken, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, bleu cheese and vinaigrette dressing made from Levitation Ale and Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

A quick word on this salad: it was so unbelievably delicious, I was stuffing stray bleu cheese crumbles into my purse. Hold God. Unfortunately, this beer sucked. Majorly. For starters, with "Belgique" in the name, I was expected a yeasty, refreshing beer, so the hoppiness seemed way out of place. Dennis explained that while it was "Belgian-style," it is still an American Ale, which didn't make much sense to me as a description, since American breweries like Ommegang make awesome Belgians, but perhaps I'm way off base and that's why no one gave a rat's ass when I took out my Very Important Notebook and alleged I was a beer blogger. Anyway. When the waitress brought us our glasses, she described the beer as having flavors of "bubble gum, cloves, and banana." That sounds effing foul. And it was! I was shocked that such a weird description could possibly be accurate, but unfortunately she hit the nail on the head. This beer reminded me of being car sick. If I had to find a plus side, I'd say that the strong flavors of the salad masked the beer's flavor.

Beer 4) Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV, IBUs "classified")
Food 4) Rib roast marinated with a homemade Texas Black-Jack sauce and Stone Imperial Stout with potatoes and baby carrots (yes, I really ate that)

This was a "man meal."

And with a big, rich course like this, the Oaked Arrogant Bastard could hold its own. This beer was dark in color, but not creamy like a stout, which might have been too heavy for this steak. With a hoppy smell and taste, the Oaked Arrogant Bastard had a full, caramelly body that could support the bold hops flavor. I have an additional note which reads "good pairing; food makes it..." but I can't read the last word, which I guess it to be expected, given that I wrote it at the end of course 4...

Beer 5) Stone Smoked Porter (5.9% ABV, 53 IBUs)
Food 5) Gevalia chocolate lava brownie with raspberry gelato and melba sauce made with the Porter

God I love porter. So, so much. Thick and chocolatey, it's like drinking a hug. The chocolate brownie (which was really more like cake) deepened the flavor of the beer, and the tartness in the berry really brought the complex flavors of the beer. That's all I have for notes, though, probably because at this point in the night I was having difficulty mastering the holding of a pen.

In summation, this was a great event, and I look forward to the next one; the restaurant (Coalhouse Pizza, in Stamford, CT) has planned several more for the summer and fall. On the whole, I was more impressed by the food than the beer, which is unusually for me. While I definitely tasted beers I look forward to drinking again, they weren't very diverse; Stone is known for its bold hops, and that was really the focus of the evening.

How depressing is it to read so much about beers and foods and then have to go sit in your office all day, being sober? Sorry about that...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stone Brewing Company Tasting Preview

Something delightful is happening this week, besides "The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All" (which was excellent last night, for those who missed it. Idiots): this evening, I am going to a five-course Stone Brewing Company dinner and beer pairing event. I could hardly sleep last night, I am so deliriously excited!

I'm picturing myself, the Frank Bruni of the beer-blogging world (yes, that's a stretch, but this is my fantasy, so butt out), inhaling deeply over a heady pint of Smoked Porter and taking sumptuous bites of a Gevalia chocolate lava brownie, all the while scribbling in my important notebook that someday many years from now, someone will find and review and say, "By GOD! This girl knew her beers! If only someone had paid her handsomely to divulge her wisdom!"

I first tried Stone when I was out on the Left Coast visiting Maddy and Ryan and running 26.2 miles in honor of my 26th birthday (for those who haven't read the tale, this plan wasn't nearly as cool as it sounded, most notably because my race bib said "BDay Girl!" on account of space limitations, but most of those who saw me run by cheered for "Bidet Girl!" which was awkward). I was initially turned off because the gargoylian label looks like something straight out of Star Wars or Dungeons and Dragons or something else I had nothing to do with in high school because I was busy being popular (read: having boobs and developing a penchant for beer at an early age). But, if I recall correctly, I was surprise that Stone was a flavorful, beer-drinker's beer. As a beer-drinker, I support this.

That said, if you've been following along at home, you know I've struggled to find a IPA or other hop-heavy beer I really, truly love. Well you don't get much hoppier than some of the brews Stone has to offer, so here's hoping (hopping!) I find something that fits the bill tonight.

With that, I leave you to your Tuesday. I've gotta go find the aforementioned important notebook that appears suitably scholarly and well-worn, yet is pretentious enough to indicate that I am An Important Beer Critic. Yup, a Moleskine oughta do it...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Wrap Up: I Smell Terrible Right Now

You're lucky you're reading this from a remote locale right now, because I smell like a zoo. But after 10+ miles on a treadmill, during which I very nearly died of boredom while sweat rained down not just on me, but onto the treadmills on either side of me, I raced home to crack open a beer ASAP, the need to shower be damned. I'm slightly nervous that when I stand up from this chair, my ass will have left a ring of moisture, like a giant, doughy glass of ice water.

My post-run beverages (Go Spartans!)

To be sure, I spent the morning dreading running a 10 miler on the treadmill. But a boring indoor run was the lesser of two evils this weekend; Saturday's run was a BEAST of heat and humidity; it was 94 degrees when IMan and I set out for 6 miles, and by the time I finished and found IMan waiting for me outside, I ask if he'd peed in his running shorts. He was just that sweaty.

IMan's post-run puddle

So yes, July hasn't been very conducive for running. But that doesn't mean I've been slacking on my training. Sure as the sun rises over the East River to burn everything in its path, so too do I keep plodding along. To that end...

Number of Miles Run This Week: 38.9. Many of those were ugly. But having felt guilty about doing this week's long run on the treadmill, I decided to run it at BQ pace. 10.25 miles at 8:13 per mile. So now I have enough self-confidence to pretend those ugly ones didn't happen.

Number of Beers Consumed This Week: 15. I'll be honest, this week I was focused on quantity over quality. No word on whether my anxiety-ridden dreams this week, including one featuring one of the Real Housewives of New York locking me in her house, which was infested with chinchillas and beavers, are part of the reason I sought comfort in the arms of Anheuser-Busch this week, or a result of that fact. Either way, I singlehandedly kept the Metro North bar car in business this week, having spend several evenings having dinner in the 'burbs.

Types of Beers Consumed This Week: Besides the Bud Lights, I enjoyed a few Blue Moons, including bottled ones yesterday. They were actually quite good, particularly because I've found a lot of draft Blue Moon to be too flat, with not enough head. I'm also enjoying some Harpoon IPA right now, which has a nice hoppiness to it. I'm rapidly approaching the ravenous post-run stage, so I hope this Harpoon goes well with the EVERY SINGLE TYPE OF FOOD EVER MADE I'm about to take down.

And speaking of beers, IMan asked me this morning what my pre-race plans for going dry are. Ugh, I hate this part. According to him, I said 2 months dry, with a reprieve Labor Day weekend for Kelly's wedding. Which is a) the wedding of one of my oldest friends, and b) in Ireland, so obviously I'll be partaking in the local traditions of drinking and swearing. Two months sounds pretty extreme. Especially because I'm going to Maine next month, and I can't imagine a summer without Geary's Summer Ale. So it looks like I'll end up with somewhere between 4 and 6 alcohol-free weeks. And my Sunday depression will hit in 3, 2, 1...

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and still have a few weeks before that DDay. Weekly runs get shorter this week, but my LSD next weekend is 16. Gross. No matter how many marathons I run, I have some weird mental block about running anything longer than 13 miles. I dread it and dread it and then finally get around to doing it and survive and feel sheepish that I made such a big deal out of nothing. Story of my life...

Okay, I'm going to eat this laptop if I don't get food in my system, and I think my parents' cat was just asphyxiated by my stench, so I have to go get my life together. I promise, this week I'll take care of my Heineken taste test. Come back soon. But not tomorrow since Monday's are rest days for me.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Run in Pictures

While the schedule for today called for an easy 6, "easy" is relative when I'm running in Connecticut, which is what I was doing this morning (because no, 26 is not too old to mooch free laundry off one's parents. The statute of limitations is extended for those of us who work in the non-profit field. Also, my dad has good taste in beer. And it's free). I headed out this morning with iPhone in hand, a rare occurrence as I seldom run with music, but I was hoping to fire myself up for the day with some tunes. In addition, I also snapped some pics of my adventures:

Halfway up the hill of doom. This is blurry from my hand sweat. It's one of my feminine wiles.

At the top of the hill of doom is a convent, where the sisters pray for my soul as I stumble my way uphill dropping F bombs and swearing that running makes the baby Jesus cry. Thanks ladies! I need all the help I can get.

Deer in the suburbs aren't very smart. This lady was planted directly in the middle of the road as I turned a blind corner. She kindly stepped to the side of the road to let me pass. She didn't seem to understand that if I'd been holding a shotgun and not an iPhone, we'd be having venison burgers for lunch. (Come on, who thinks like that? Good thing those sisters are praying for me...)

Not a bad way to start a weekend...

Keep it real, kids, and best of luck to Queens Half runners tomorrow. Stay hydrated!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Division Doesn't Apply To Running

I am a morning runner. This is because I am an evening drinker. And pleasurable as it might be to switch the latter with the former, I am a creature of habit (also, a productive member of society), and so I continue to do my runs in the morning. Except when my evenings interfere with that. And given that I went out for happy hour last night (which was really more like sad hour, but that's another story entirely), where I had 4 pints of Blue Moon (which incidentally was so flat, and served in a bar so dark, I would have thought it were Tang, had I not woken up with a mouth that felt like I ate sand for dinner and tomato sauce smeared on my face), today was one of those days when my routine was disrupted. Much as I dislike running after work, I dislike missing a workout even more, so I dragged myself to the gym, where I could at least have a satisfying non-humid run.

On the occasions when I do have to workout in the evening, and when those workouts do take place at the gym, I try to time it so that those who go straight to the gym after work are already gone. Usually if I arrive a bit before 8pm, much of the crowd has cleared out. Except, apparently, when we're in the midst of a heat wave and everyone is clamoring for air conditioning. Or maybe people are just really into watching reruns of The Office on teeny TVs. Either way, the gym was still crowded when I arrived. While I was able to hop on a treadmill and start my planned 7 miler as soon as I arrived, a line had built up behind me as the timer crept into the upper-20 minute range. And since I'm not one of those exasperating, towel-masking timer haters, my elapsed time read-out was clear as day to the half dozen gym goers waiting patiently behind me. Though I considered blatantly breaking the rules, I hoped that perhaps karma would one day return the favor. At 30:00 minutes and 3.5 miles, I dutifully hopped off, wiped down, and got on the end of the line to wait for another treadmill. That doesn't mean I was happy about it.

To me, breaking up workouts is cheating. 7 miles isn't the same as 3.5 miles twice. I mean, yes, technically it is; your legs are covering the same distance. But breaking up runs does nothing for endurance, nor pace awareness. I'm not talking about walking through water stations and taking a porta-potty break (though I feel strongly that you shouldn't stop your watch during either; those things take time, which that orange chip on your shoe is tracking, so lying to yourself about that fact doesn't make it go away. The folks at Boston Athletic Association don't care if you have to take a dump 20 miles in; 3:40:59 is 3:40:59, diarrhea or not. And that reminds me, I probably should limit my fiber intake the morning of the Wineglass Marathon...). But this was about 10 minutes of standing still and reaping the benefits of air conditioning. That part, I loved. The fact that it made my 7 miler seem less than that, I did not.

I finally hopped on treadmill number 2 and was fired up from standing around. I decided to knock out an even 4, as the line had dwindled (I guess The Office was over). I briefly contemplated running a full 7, for integrity's sake, but then remembered tomorrow's 8 mile hill workout and quit being a hero.

And to that end, it's bedtime. Central Park hills tomorrow. 8 miles means I'm going to have to tackle Harlem Hill twice. Hurl. Maybe as a reward I should have a morning beer...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Wrap Up: Brides and Bar Fights

Well. I'm sandy. I'm sunburned. My voice sounds like I moonlight answering phones for a 1-900 number. And I've slept a grand total of 8 hours in the last 3 days. How was my weekend? Outstanding.

I can't mentally unpack the whole of the weekend right now, but suffice it to say that, despite (or because of) a heated altercation with two jealous girls (we won for creative use of mockery, slinging such arrows as "Your haircut is stupid"), this bachelorette party was a success. I bring you the wrap up:

Number of Miles Run This Week: 38. 12 of them were in Montauk. They were not good. But they were done, thanks in large part to Nina, who rode her bike alongside me the entire time, handing me water and singing me songs and naming passing cars when things got really ugly.

Looking good! Also, looking supportive, sporting head-to-toe Chicago Marathon gear to remind me of my (soon to be broken!) PR.

I, on the other hand, do not look so good. Here I am, giving the middle finger after clawing my way uphill on Montauk Highway.

Another 5 of these weekly miles were run when I got back into the city after this epic weekend, when I was already deep in the throes of Sunday depression. My pre-run fuel was a Happy Meal. I really think the Boston Marathon should have different qualifying standards for people like me. And by that, I mean lovers of fun. And booze. Which brings us to the next weekly statistic (God, do I love a good segue!)...

Number of Beers Consumed This Week: 14. When I travel, I always look forward to trying the local beers of my destination, so I was hoping to find some Fire Island Beer Company brews on tap out in Long Island. Unfortunately for this beer-loving gal, I think the culture of the Hamptons is more caipirinhas than craft beers, so once I bid farewell to Gotham City on Friday evening, I supplemented my bottled Bud Light intake with champagne, white wine, and mojitos. When in Rome...

Sweet sports bra chafing lines...

Types of Beers Consumed This Week: Thanks to my friend John for taking me out for drinks on Tuesday (Hefeweizen), because otherwise I'd have nothing but Bud Light, Corona and one random Negra Modelo to report on here. Not that I mind making the sacrifice in the name of a lifetime of matrimonial happiness for one of my oldest friends. The lengths I go to in the name of friendship.

Speaking of beers, after my sister so very kindly procured the Will Run For Beer Heineken for me, she suggested I conduct a highly scientific study regarding the difference in taste between New York-born and Holland-born Heineken. My hypothesis? Both will be delicious. In any case, I've been saving my special Dutch Heineken in the back of the fridge for 3 weeks now in anticipation of this taste test. Check back this week for the results.

One last note before I slather my body in aloe and futilely attempt to make up for sleep lost this weekend: a few weeks ago I got an email from one of my countless adoring fans. Jenn reports that she too enjoys adult beverages, and wants to start running (Jenn, you might want to take a look at that picture of me above, doubled over in pain and sucking wind, and rethink this plan...). Jenn was kind enough to interview me for Vats and Vines, where you can also check in on her progress. Pop in to wish her well.

I leave you tonight with our fair bride-to-be:

Love you Kelly! I'll try to recovery before the wedding...

Thursday, July 15, 2010


So what if The Plan called for rest today; I was feeling restless after work today, and decided to take on a little something extra. Plus, this afternoon I discovered pretzel M&Ms, so I had plenty of fuel (fine, empty calories) to burn. Seriously, they are delicious.

Things I saw on my run this evening:
1) One jazz recital
2) One (unrelated) trombonist
3) One (also unrelated) saxophonist
4) One man wearing what appeared to be a survival suit, a la Deadliest Catch. He was not, it should be noted, on a ship, nor in, nor all that near to, the water. Which would be the East River, which I don't think is particularly cold or rough, though I might recommend a haz mat suit, were you to get in it.
5) Two people smoking pot (which I do think was related to the music)

Felt good to knock out a run that was on par with my "normal" rate of pace vs. exertion: 4.5 miles in 35:35. Try to keep this run in mind when you're judging me on Sunday for running a 4 hour 13 miler. In my defense, I'll probably have begged our fair Bride-to-Be to lend me the nipple tassels someone will undoubtedly bestow upon her, and that'll mess with my aerodynamics. Bachelorette weekend, here we come!

(P.S. Sorry about that nipple tassel thing, Mom and Dad).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Discomfort

What's that? You're not a natural math whiz like me? Let me break it down for you: the closer the dew point is to the current temperature, the less sweat can be sucked off your skin and into the air around you. And the more you'd like to unzip your skin, hang it up in the closet with your winter coats, and climb your skeleton-self into the walk-in beer refrigerator at your local grocery store.

But that would be creepy. And also probably a health code violation. So today for my hill workout, I did the next best thing: the Alpine Pass workout on the treadmill.

With the air conditioning cranking, I hopped on the ‘mill, switched on the TV and set the workout limits: 4.5% maximum incline, 7.5 mph maximum speed, 60 minutes. To start: not too shabby. Also, not too fast. If I wanted to get 7 miles done in an hour, the 5.1 mph starting point wasn’t going to cut it.

After much fiddling, I adjusted it so that I was running about 8:20s on the flat stretches, 8:45s on the low inclines, and 9:15s on the steep sections. After an hour, I’d gained 559 feet in elevation, or roughly twice what I gain on Central Park Hills. Plus, I learned how to make collard greens on toast, thanks to the Martha Stewart Show. Not a bad Wednesday.