Recap: Knoxville Marathon 2015

Despite another long absence from the land of blogging – extended due to falling ill with the plague – it’s time to share the joys of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon that took place on March 29, 2015.

Yes, I mean joys. Honestly, I had SO much fun during this race. Part of the happiness stemmed from my fear of hearing the wall at mile 19 again. But, a bigger part came from all the external inputs – the great crowds, the sights of a city I know very little of, hot jams from strategically placed bands, and that overwhelming sense of accomplishment bursting out of all the other runners participating.

Our entire stay in Knoxville was chilly, and race morning was no different:


I was feeling ok. I may have been kissing on a baby that may have had croup (d’oh!) but I had my traditional pre-race breakfast (peanut butter + banana toast) and a cup of coffee + a cup of tea (this may become problematic later?). It was an easy drive from our friends’ house to the University of Tennessee. A lot of folks were huddling in the convention center for warmth, but the forecast was promising – and it delivered.

11080836_10102965434582215_945296493093939163_oWho doesn’t have time for a quick World’s Fair selfie?

The stage was beginning to set. Runners milled at the starting line, filled with nerves, caffine, and relief that the day was finally here.


And then, it was time.

14979_10102965433943495_8705945705637753727_nI can do this…?!?!

I had a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. Originally, I intended to find the 4 hour pace group and hang out, but the first mile was a bit of a cluster. We were assigned to different corrals, and I’m going to venture a guess that some people were not as honest in their finish time predictions as others. Oh well – the first mile was my slowest, and then I begin to find a groove.

About eight miles in, I had to make a critical choice: hold the bladder for 18 more miles, or concede and make a pit stop. I do not regret my decision one bit. It may have been a 30-45 second difference on my time. But, I could then allow my mind to be free to focus on everything but finding a port-a-john.

When the marathon split away from the half-marathon, it became a bit quieter. No, not just a bit: it was like we were running in isolation. This is when we hit old town Knoxville – the grittier sights and sounds of a city. Still, the neighborhoods came out in support. I kept my smile on from this point forward through the:


The result?

marathon finish3:53:34

Woo! I actually passed the 4 hour pacer in the last 3/4 mile. He noted that he was about five minutes ahead of the pace. I turned on the engine and cranked it in.

10995856_10102965432421545_4456085235924401843_nWoot woot!

The course was definitely challenging (hills a plenty), but I thought it was fair. We got to run over not ONE but TWO bridges! And, finishing in Neyland Stadium was incredible. I must give major props to my sherpa, Aaron J, for sharing his former home and university with me, for inspiring me to try 26.2 once again, and for traversing Knoxville on foot to ensure I had all the goo and water one girl could need.


So now…oh yes, I want to run another marathon. New goal: 3:45. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks about Chicago. Until then, my focus is on getting better. In just one week, I went from crushing hills with ease to finding myself out of breath reaching the top of our stairs. And, the pollen explosion here has not helped matters. I’m just taking it one day at a time and giving myself the space to restore…because as my yoga instructor said yesterday: “When did the idea of self love become radical?”

Memories of tuna melts reborn

Confession: I loved me some tuna sandwiches growing up. Cracking open the can of Albacore, smashing in mayo (shifting to yogurt as I grew older), garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and pickles. Piling up this goodness in between two slices of freshly toasted bread.

And then, I took it up one notch: the tuna melt. A slice of Muenster or Provolone, swaddling that tuna surprise for a successful plate to mouth interaction. Crunch.

In the pursuit of veganism, I had not yet come across a recipe that evoked the same flavors (and nostalgia) of those original tuna sammys.Chickpeas were part of the equation, and I had enjoyed several varieties of chickpea salad sandwiches on wraps and over greens. Flipping through my Isa Does It cookbook, I came across the Chicky “Tuna” Salad recipe, and lo and behold, this was exactly what I was desiring:

Dulse flakes? This was new territory for me. As I scoured the international shelf at Whole Foods, I stumbled across several “vegetables of the sea” – all of which had odors reminding me of the aquarium section at a pet store. I did pick up a back of Dulse flakes because I really wanted that fishy quality for this particular dish. How else could I capture the tuna-esque aroma?

chicky saladMmmmm…flaky Dulse goodness.

Chicky ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwiches
Makes 6 sandwiches

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1 ½ cups)
1 large carrot, peeled
1 rib celery, leaves removed
¼ medium white onion
½ cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup vegan mayo
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kelp or dulse flakes (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
Lettuce, sliced tomato and/or sprouts for topping (optional)

You have a couple of options. You can make this up in a food processor or by hand. I opted for the food processor:

Cut the carrot and celery into a few large chunks (5 or so). Add them to the food processor, along with the onion. Pulse until everything is chopped, but be careful not to puree. The veggies should range from pea-size to chickpea-size, more or less. Transfer to a large bowl, scraping the work bowl with a rubber spatula to get as much out as you can, but it doesn’t have to get totally clean.

Pulse the chickpeas and sunflower seeds in the food processor to mash them. They should remain somewhat chunky, with bits of whole chickpea left, not pureed like hummus. Transfer to the bowl and combine with veggies.

Add the mayo, vinegar, seaweed flakes (if desired), salt, and pepper, and mix well.

By hand preparation:
Use a mini potato masher or a strong fork to mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. They should retain some of their texture and not appear pureed. On a cutting board, finely chop the carrot, celery and onion into just about pea-size pieces. Add the veggies to the mashed chickpeas and mix until combined.

Spread the sunflower seeds in a single layer on the cutting board and chop roughly. Add them to the bowl.

Add the mayo, vinegar, seaweed flakes (if desired), salt and pepper, and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Use to make sandwiches with the bread, including optional toppings as desired.


The next running adventure in the works?

With just over two weeks left until tackling my second marathon, this happened:

Chi marathon_application
After an initial burst of interest in entering the Chicago Marathon lottery, I began to have second thoughts. If I was selected to register, did I want to undertake another 3+ months of marathon training in the summer? With a mid-October race date, this means some high mileage runs in August and September. In North Carolina. August in North Carolina is not pleasant. You can make a case for pleasant training in September, but not August. It’s one of those months where if I could sit in a pool surrounded by fans and drinking agua frescas delivered to me, I would be ok with that. It’s the month of stache sweat and the unyielding sensation of wanting to shower.

As I was mulling over my decision with my friend Jen during our lunch date last week, she said: “Look, enter the lottery. If you get picked, then you’ll know you were meant to run it.” Jen’s reliance on fate argument won be over.

Back in current pursuits, I completed by LAST long run one week ago:

Today is only a 12 miler (only!) and the mileage continues to spiral down. I’m actually REALLY excited about this race. Not only does it involve visiting and experiencing two incredible cities (Asheville and Knoxville) but I genuinely want to tackle these 26.2 miles with abandon. I want to re-engineer the memories of have after the 2012 marathon. Bad thoughts of a rainy race day have begun to creep into my mind – but since I have on control over the weather (this is a huge admission here, folks), as we like to say:

“It is what it is.”

I really dislike that phrase. OF COURSE IT IS.

What will I do with my Sundays back, for at least a few months? The possibilities are endless!

Likely one of these things:

computerLet’s be real: this is likely taking the lead.

booksSo many books to read. So little time,

thewireSo close to finishing Season 4!

Question for you: When you have free time, what do you find yourself doing? Is it what you want to be doing?

A twist on a classic Irish dish

Move over corned beef and cabbage, there’s a new addition to the March 17 menu. And this one hails from South of the Border.

PPKpiePhoto courtesy of Post-Punk Kitchen

Because by now you should know that my photos do not look anywhere near as mouth-watering as those. It is on my list to take a photography class, and now I see one of our local kitchen supply stores (Whisk) is offering a food photography class. This might need to be on my to-do list.

Back to the meal: this particular recipe falls under the Sunday Supper section in Isa Does It as it is a little more labor intensive than the weeknight stir-fry/salad/sandwich/broiled tofu concoction. With that said, it was worth every minute. And, it made 8 servings, so I was finishing this up five days later. And: it was still as good.

Tamale InnardsFiesta!

I have always had a soft spot for Shepherd’s Pie. My roots do trace back to an Irish clan (the O’Connells), and the women in our family seem to resemble Irish potatoes as we age, so it seems appropriate to prepare one of my homeland’s classics. Although, as I learned doing three minutes of research on Wikipedia, this dish was initially called Cottage Pie (1791) when the potato was first introduced as the crop to eat…if you were poor. Essentially, the “recipe” called for whatever meat you had left over, and then throwing potatoes on it. It evolve into Shepherd’s Pie in 1877 when the main meat used was lamb – not beef.

The “meat” used in this dish requires no shepherd – except your arm holding a fork and bringing this food to your mouth. The combination of beans, poblano chili, onion, tomato, mushrooms, corn, and tortilla chips (plus all those amazing spices) has such a complex and rich flavor. And thne, it’s topped with LIME-infused red potatoes. The lime flavor is subtle but noticeable and draws this entire dish together. Oh! I can’t wait to make this again. Add it to your Sunday meal planning! St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Time for Katie’s terrible photography skills:

sp1Always know – it tastes better than I could ever capture on my cell phone

From my ancestors to you, Éirinn go Brách! [Ireland forever]

Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Post-Punk Kitchen (Isa)

Serves 8
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes

For the mashed potato layer:
2 1/2 lbs unpeeled red potatoes, cut into big chunks (1 1/2 inches or so)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant teaspoon grated lime zest
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra)
1 onion, diced medium
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced medium
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, cut in half and sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 lbs plum tomatoes (about 6), chopped
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces tortilla chips (about 4 good-sized handfuls)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Frank’s red hot hot sauce (plus extra for serving)
3 cups cooked black beans (2 15 oz cans rinsed and drained)

Place potatoes in a pot and submerge in salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes and immediately transfer them back into the pot. It’s important to do this while everything is still hot. Give them a quick preliminary mash, then add the milk, olive oil, lime zest and salt. Mash until creamy, taste for salt, then cover and set aside. (Note: I usually add black pepper, but decided not to here so that the lime really shines through. If you feel naked without it, though, go ahead and add some.)

To prepare the stew:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and pepper in olive oil and a pinch of salt, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime prep all your other ingredients.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add mushrooms and cilantro and cook until the mushrooms have released a lot of moisture, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, corn, wine, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes. Turn heat up and cover the pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. The tomatoes should break down and become saucy (if corn was frozen it may take a bit longer.)

Now take the tortilla chips and crush them into fine crumbs with your hands. It’s ok if there are a few bigger pieces, but aim for crumbs. Add them to the stew and mix well. Since tortillas can be salty, wait until they’re added to taste for salt. Mix in the lime juice and hot sauce, then fold in the black beans and heat through. Now taste for salt and seasonings.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a deep 11×13 casserole (cooking spray works just fine). Transfer the stew to the casserole and even it out with a spatula. Add the potatoes in dollops, and spread it into an even layer.

Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until potatoes are lightly browned. Stick under the broiler for a minute or two just in case the browning isn’t happening. Serve hot garnished with cilantro, chili peppers and lime.

Photo from Post-Punk Kitchen

#BeCrueltyFree Week: 10 Under $10 for Your Beauty Bag

Featured Image -- 1403

Katie T:

Need ideas for how to shift your personal care products? Here are some fabulous ideas!

Originally posted on The Friendly Fig:

By now, you all know that the three of us are big supporters of the #BeCrueltyFree campaign. So… you can imagine how excited we were when we were asked to participate in this year’s #BlogForBunnies for #BeCrueltyFree Week!

#BeCrueltyFree Week is a global awareness raising week where everyone joins in to make some noise about cosmetics cruelty, promote fab cruelty-free brands, and tell people about how they can support the campaign to end cosmetics cruelty in our country or globally. I thought now would be a great time to go over some affordable cruelty-free options. It’s NOT hard to #BuyTheBunny!

What’s in your vegan beauty bag? For me, I carry the essentials: lip balm, lip color, blush, liner, concealer, and mascara. If I wanted to go all crazy-Mary-Poppins-style, I would carry nail color, powder, hand lotion, face wipes… the works!! But I like to keep it simple.

We’ve found…

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