Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tar Heels Workout

One of my favorite workouts is the 'Medicine Ball 400', a total-body workout using nothing more than a 10-lb medicine ball.  It is similar to a workout used by the University of North Carolina to whip the Tar Heels team into championship shape, helping to create a solid core, burn fat and improve sports performance. 

What I like about it is that it has lots of diversity, with 10 different exercises including big circles, 'woodchopper', standing Russian twist, squat to press, medicine ball situp, rocky solo, toe touch, 45-degree twist, and a couple of crunch variations.  As challenging as you care to make it; if you speed things up and run through 25 repetitions of each exercise twice back to back, it ends up being an aerobic workout as well.  Which is what I did today, in addition to run-walking about 5 miles this morning with Daisy along Buffalo Bayou.  So all in all a pretty good day.

Last night we went to a masquerade party at the home of one of our runner friends - lots of fun and way too much to eat!  Everyone had really creative costumes - most of which I failed to recognize.  Having grown up in Africa, I am not too familiar with the characters from Scooby Do or Sesame Street... Kathleen went as a Girl Scout, complete with authentic uniform and sash from the 60's and I dressed up a Juan Williams' worst nightmare - in 'muslim garb'. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Running (and walking) in place

My running isn't quite in a state of hiatus, but it is close.  An occasional few miles of not quite scintillating jogging here and there, inevitably followed by the left knee issue flaring up.  Followed by  few days of just walking, some working out with my personal trainer a couple of times a week, mixed in with a big dose of frustration.  So not much progress. 

I recently thought I had stumbled onto something when I read about capcaisin (an extract of red hot chili peppers) being used for arthritis and certain nerve pain conditions such as the side-effects of shingles.  A short trip to Walgreen's and $8 later, I was rubbing the not too sticky but burning hot (to the taste, yes I had to try it...) liquid onto my knee.  It seemed to work initially, deadening the painful response I would typically get when tapping the bony protrusion right below and to the left of my left knee.  Hmmm?  Could this be the answer to world tension?  Of course it was too good to be true.  I have now dutifully been applying hot pepper sauce to the knee three times a day for a week, with little effect.  As they used to say in Mozambique in the old days, 'la luta continua'. The fight goes on.

Consults with two orthopedic surgeons (completely contradictory advice) led me to nowhere.  Next week I will make an appointment with a local sports injury 'specialist', a chiropractor who also performs (if that is the word) ART aka Active Release Treatment.  And if that doesn't work, I can always wait until my next trip to Africa in January, to have a spiritual healer throw some bones to divine if there's any running left in my future.  It won't cost nearly as much as seeing an orthopedic specialist and will likely be just as effective.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The road to Boston starts in New York

More specifically, the road to Boston starts in Albany, NY where Kathleen ran a PR of 3:58:15 on October 10 in the Mohawk Hudson Marathon.  Everything went right:  a solid training cycle using Hal Higdon's Intermediate II program, a near-perfect marathon day with starting temperature around 40F and ending around 55F as well as a mostly flat net downhill course along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers from Schenectady to Albany.

It was a great race and a great day to BQ, with as many as 10 other Houston runners making the Boston grade on the day.  We were part of a huge Houston contingent of more than 30 runners, most of whom arrived on the Friday before the race.  Kathleen and I enjoyed meeting several of the Katy Fit 'ATP' training group members - such enthusiasm and run ('work') ethic!  Truly a fun bunch of people and we had a superb time at Jillian's sports bar, the Pearl Lounge, Lombardo's restaurant (pre-race pasta loading), Miss Albany diner for breakfast one morning and a grand finale dinner at brewpub.  I am having to work off the 5 pounds I gained accompanying the group!  So much food!

As Kathleen's part time coach and adviser, I am just as thrilled as she is upon reaching this milestone of amateur running. Boston is our Olympics and to actually qualify for Boston immediately and forever elevates the most non-assuming mid-packer into near elite status. At least in the eyes of the thousands of recreational runners who are still out there chasing this goal.

Registering for Boston was almost just as difficult as qualifying:  some 22,000 spots filled up last Monday in less than 8 hours - a new record.  The Boston Marathon governing body may consider tinkering with the qualifying standards to reduce the almost overwhelming number of runners clamoring for spots.

Here are a few of my favorite pics from the Mohawk Hudson Marathon:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Balsamic glazed tofu

Lately, I have been trying several new tofu recipes.  A particularly good one was a sweet and sour tofu with a really delicious sauce with ketchup, tamari, rice vinegar, white and brown sugar, some ginger and garlic.  The tofu pieces were dipped in an 'egg' sauce (with egg replacer, water and tamari) and then rolled in cornstarch before frying.  We rarely - hardly ever - fry anything and that is not likely to change.  It was rather tedious to fry the tofu but the end result was superb.  Every bit as good as any of the many sweet and sour pork dishes which I have made over the years.  We'll try it again in 6 months time.

Today's recipe - which I found at  The Vegan Foodie - is Balsamic Glazed Tofu.  As is the case with other marinated tofu recipes - I keep finding new ones every week - the secret is to leave the tofu in the marinade long enough.  Twenty or thirty minutes really won't do it.  I find that a good overnight soak is required to impart more flavor and color to the tofu.  I added a bunch of fresh herbs to the marinade:  several heaping tablespoons of chopped thyme, rosemary, marjoram and oregano.  Fresh herbs are not  nearly as assertive as their dried counterparts so don't be shy.  I also added some fresh chives. 

Grilling the tofu on my handy electric grill pan was a cinch.  No coals and ash to deal with, thank you very much.  Just a bit of sizzle and smoke, some nice grill marks and voila! Served with butternut squash (10 minutes in the pressure cooker) and some edamame and corn salad it made for a delicious and very enjoyable Saturday lunch.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The known unknowns & some running pics

Many of us recall Donald Rumsfeld warbling on about the differences between what we know and what we don't know.  As he put it, " we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

Personally I couldn't care less about the unknown unknowns; it's like feeling bad about something you're not guilty of doing.  As the years go by, it is the known unknowns that are starting to get to me.  The stuff you know you don't know.  For example, I have been taking an intermediate photography class at Rice University's Suzanne Glasscock Center for Continuing Studies.  The more I listen to the very capable and experienced presenter - a professional photographer -  the more I realize how little I really know about photography and in particular the post-processing work flow. If you want to do it right, there are seven steps: Transfer. Rename. Consolidate. Cull.  Separate. Improve. Print.  I don't even do recipes with 7 ingredients anymore, never mind tackling new projects with seven steps!

By the time we were halfway through last night's class, I honestly felt like picking up my camera and tripod, tucking them under my arm and walking back to my car and right out of the intermediate photography class.  It was just too dispiriting to realize that there is a whole world of knowledge and procedures and techniques out there which appear to be almost overwhelmingly difficult to master.  If I were 26 I might have had a different take on it.  But of course I'm not.

In the end I didn't walk out.  After all, I paid good money to be there.  And then, when I got home, there was a message from a Facebook friend complimenting me on the quality of some of the shots I took at the recent Cross-Country Relay and asking if he could repost some of them.  Repost some of them?  Absolutely.  No need to transfer, consolidate, cull or improve: just go right ahead and repost them, as many times as you want. 

Here are a few of my own favorites from the day: