Mid-year run update

As we approach the middle of the 2016, I wanted to look back at the first 6 months of the year.  My run goals this year were fairly simple.

  1. Stay injury free
  2. Hit 70 miles each month

These are fairly modest goals, but given the last few years of running I thought it was time to take a step back and see if I can stay overall healthy.  I’ve had a long bout of injuries each of the previous years that has sidelined me from running entirely or severely limited by activity level.

So far this year I’ve been running injury free *knocks on wood*.  I have had a few aches and pains here, but nothing really to stop me from running and cause lasting pain.  In years past I’ve done at least a handful (3-5) races and this year I said to myself that I’d concentrate on just running healthy.  I am signed up for a half marathon later this year and then a full marathon in February of next year.  One thing that I like about not having any imminent races is that I can take a rest day if I feel like my body needs it.  I’ve had a few occasions where I’ll think about running but my body tells me that I should rest, so I take a day and then I’m back at it the next day.

I’ve hit my goal of 70 miles each month.  In previous years I have had goals such as hitting 50 miles a month and felt that was tough.  Somehow this year 70 actually isn’t too terrible.  I’ve done it even when I lose multiple days where I’d normally run during that month.  I’m already at 440+ miles so far.  If I can continue with this streak of injury-free running, then I’ll have hit a new PR for miles per year.

So far I’m proud of what I’ve done thus far.  Just need to keep it on up.  I’ll leave you with a funny pic of the cat. 🙂

IMAG4278.jpg

-StewsCat

Advertisements

Homemade pancakes – Sourdough discard

Homemade pancakes – Sourdough discard

Hello!  Quick little post from this morning’s breakfast

This morning I did an impromptu homemade pancakes since I had to feed my sourdough starter and didn’t want to just toss the extra sourdough starter in the trash.  I have kept my starter in a small mason jar in the fridge.  Everything I read says you should feed your starter that is stored in a refrigerator about once a week.  You can technically let it go longer, you just have to revive it later when you’re ready to start cooking again.

IMAG2973
Sourdough starter out of fridge

I procured about 1/2 of the above volume (~1/3 cup) and mixed it with the below pancake recipe I found online.

Pancake recipe:

  • 1.5 cups AP flour
  • 3.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups rice milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

I mixed up the sourdough starter discard with the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar) and combined it with the moist ingredients (milk, egg, butter).  Using a whisk, I mixed it until I had a nice pancake batter.

I then used a ladle to make pancakes on my cast iron pan.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve made pancakes but I remembered something about waiting until there were a good amount of bubbles in the center of the pancake before needing to turn.  I wasn’t sure how long to cook after turning since there would be no more bubbles to watch.  I kind of winged it and noted it took about another 1.5-2 minutes after the first flip.

IMAG2981

Overall they came out well.  Glad I was able to use the sourdough discard.  I had mine with maple syrup and the wife had hers with maple syrup and blueberries.  Will have to consider other recipes for the sourdough discard (biscuits, crackers, etc).

In other news, I made it out for 7 and a quarter miles this morning.  It’s been warm here and will only get hotter next week.  Surprisingly even though I didn’t go out too early, it still wasn’t too hot for a long run.  I also managed to do some good stairs (there’s a parking structure at the nearby school that is about 5 stories with an outdoor staircase).

-StewsCat

Urban Cow Half Marathon Race Recap (2014, 2013, 2012)

Urban Cow Half Marathon Race Recap (2014, 2013, 2012)

The Urban Cow Half Marathon is one of my hometown races.  It started out as the Sacramento Marathon a long time ago, then became the Cowtown marathon.  In its third iteration, the race was renamed the Urban Cow Half Marathon.  However, they dropped the full marathon distance when it was renamed and now offer a half marathon and 5K Run/Walk option.

Packet pickup is at the local Fleet Feet store in midtown Sacramento.  I like local races because the packet pickup process is usually fairly quick.  It helps that they have two days of packet pick ups (Friday and Saturday) before the race.  This is a non frills pickup and isn’t an expo by any nature.  Usually you go in and pick up your bib, t-shirt, and sometimes a small bag (not actual swag usually, just flyers for other races and products).  One year they had perks for people who signed up early (first so many runners) and in addition to the shirt, you received a handheld water bottle with the urban cow logo on it.

In the 3 years I ran the race, the course remained about the same.  The start and finish line are in Land Park (a large well-known park south of downtown Sacramento).  This is a nice start/finish area since there is plenty of room to have all the fun things for a race (lots of booths, tents, and beer garden at the finish).  Parking is also not terribly bad as you can park around the park and there are neighborhoods nearby that allow free street parking.

The first mile+ of the race courses through the park and then you head north into the neighborhoods.  These streets are lined with a variety of houses from the early 1900s to mid-century modern to more contemporary houses.  Typically the race is run the first weekend of October, which is great weather here in Sacramento.  It starts in the 40s or 50s and does warm up but not too terribly by the time the race is done.  After heading north through the neighborhoods we moved into a more industrial area of Sacramento just south of downtown.  You pass by the big Blue Diamonds almond plant as well as the Front street animal shelter.  After this we found ourselves in downtown Sacramento between the “sky scrapers” (aka taller buildings of the city – not really sky scrapers).  We run just west of the Capitol building so you get a nice view of it around 5.5 miles into the race.  Finally the turnaround takes place in Old Sacramento.

I feel like all somewhat big cities have an “old” part of their city.  Usually its very touristy and has some kitschy stores.  Sacramento is no different and has a bit of a Western theme.   There are some nice restaurants in this area and it also sits right on the Sacramento river.
We then continue south along the Sacramento river, passing by the famous Tower Bridge.  From miles 6 to 11, the course runs on a bike river trail along the Sacramento river.  This is a nice change of pace from running in city streets except if there are a lot of runners can get congested because the bike trail is fairly narrow.  Eventually at mile 11 we make our way back to regular streets and head north and then east back towards Land Park.  The last mile of the race is run through the park and that’s when you know you’re close.

I like the finish line because there’s always a large crowd of people cheering and they announce names of people as they reach the end.  The finish line refreshments are usually good – bottled water, chocolate milk, bananas, bagels.  The big perk is that all participants over 21 receive a free beer from a local microbrew.  When I ran the races, it was Lockdown Brewery from Folsom, CA.  Another unique part of this race is that the finisher’s medal is a cowbell.  Each year it is a different color.

Overall I like this race because of a few things:

  • Good weather – usually, global warming may change this though
  • Relatively flat course – the course is almost entirely flat except for a few areas where you have to climb short hills (in the city).
  • Good crowd support and course support
  • Easy packet pickup
  • Free parking
  • Free beer!!

I’m registered to run this race again this year after taking last year off.

IMAG2972

-StewsCat

Sourdough boule – with homemade starter

Sourdough boule – with homemade starter

I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to posting about making my own sourdough starter but this week’s bake involved using that homemade starter.  Using starter from the fridge does require a bit of advanced preparation as you need to “wake” your starter up and get it up to snuff to bake with.  On Thursday I pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge (it had been in there for about a week).  I split it in half, fed one half and let the yeast eat for awhile (i.e. get some bubbles going) and then replaced that back in the fridge.  The other half I removed half of the starter and then fed it with 1/4 cup water and just under 1/2 cup of flour.  Previously I had been feeding the starter based on weights but decided for this week’s bake I would switch to using volume because it is much quicker using a measuring cup instead of getting the scale out.  I continued feeding the starter around every 12 hours for the next 3 days until I had an active bubbly starter.

Sunday morning I fed the starter one more time then waited about 4 hours (I read that is when the starter is most active).  I  haven’t used the sourdough starter by itself as the only source of yeast so was interested to see how this would turn out.  My recipe was as follows:

  • Sourdough starter (199 g)
  • Bread flour (500 g)
  • Water (360 g)
  • Salt (10 g)

I deliberately kept this recipe simple as I wanted to see how much sourdough flavor I could get from the starter.  I mixed all of the above together into a wet mess, let it auto-lyse for 30 minutes and then did the slap and fold method for about 15 minutes.  This dough was placed in a clean bowl and allowed to bulk ferment for about 1-1.25 hours.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dough had increased by 1.5-2 x it original size.

I proceeded with 3 stretch and folds (envelope style) separated by around 30 minutes each.  I could feel the dough coming together nicely.  After the last stretch and fold, I bench rested the dough for 5 minutes, then shaped it creating a nicely tensioned surface.  I used a well floured towel in a collander and put the dough in there to proof for the final time.  Since I made pizza, the kitchen was warm and after about 40 minutes the dough had proofed to the proper amount.  Instead of using a pre-heated dutch oven I free baked the dough on my pizza stone (steel) using some parchment paper to do the transfer.  I misted the inside of the oven and baked the bread at 500 F for 10 minutes, then dropped it to 475 for another 10-15 minutes or so.  When I saw how much oven spring was present, I realized I hadn’t de-gassed the dough enough during my stretch and folds and forming.  Oops!  Oh well.

You can see the impossibly large air holes in the dough, which makes it hard to use as a sandwich.  The great thing about the bread was that it had that characteristic smell of a sourdough loaf.

Overall this bake was more to see how my sourdough starter would function.  I’m happy with the amount of yeast activity present in the starter and also that it does impart some flavor as well.  It’s quite amazing that this starter was created using just water and flour.  The natural bacteria and yeast from the flour and the environment create this living, breathing organism that can be used to bake bread.  Pretty neat!

Lessons for next time: de-gas the dough properly.

-StewsCat

 

2014 School Ghoul Los Alamitos 5K Race Recap

In honor of Father’s day I thought I’d do a race recap for the one race that I ran with my father.  This was a small local race in my hometown and since my sisters’s kids attend the school district they knew about the race.  2014 was the year my father turned 70 and so in honor of his birthday our family decided to participate.  Both my sisters and their spouses elected to do the 5K as a walk and my dad and I decided we’d try running the 5K together.  I hadn’t done a 5K in awhile but was looking to run with my dad and not for a specific time.  The fact that he was running (not walking) a 5K at 70 tells you something about him.

My father has always been an active man.  As a kid, he and I would play tennis quite often.  He also used to go play tennis with his friends in the early morning hours on the weekends.  During high school and beyond, he became very interested in hiking and so I was often his hiking partner and we spent countless hours on the various mountains around the LA area.  One of the highlights of my time with him involved hiking Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States.  Luckily this is in our home state and only a few hours drive away.  A few years after that, I was happy that he was able to travel to Nepal with his friends and do some hiking by Mt. Everest.  I believe they even hiked up to Base Camp (or near it), which is amazing.  I drank the Kool-Aid and became very interested in Everest after reading Into Thin Air and watching other documentaries about the region.

After he retired, he only seemed to be more and more active.  He would swim and run regularly and also do a lot of yard work.  He’s stayed very active through his older years and I am amazed and proud of what he’s accomplished.

This race runs through the small enclave of Rossmoor, an unincorporated area of OC situated in Los Alamitos.  I am very familiar with this area.  Packet pickup was simple in a little community center in one of the parks in the neighborhood.  Since this was a Halloween race, the race t-shirts were a bright halloween orange.

Race morning we walked over from my folk’s house to the starting area (the same park as packet pickup).  There were a number of people out.  The 10K race started about 45 minutes before the 5K so by the time we arrived there were people making their way to the 10K finish.  Eventually it was time for the 5K to start and we lined up and were off.  My dad, who didn’t train for this, and I took off on a leisurely jogging pace (what I’d consider just a little slower than my usual pace).  We ran through the residential neighborhood lined with houses and spectators towards the largest park (aptly named Rossmoor Park) and bisected the park (running right through the middle of it).  At this point we turned around and started to make our way back to the start/smaller park.  This is when I really had to pee but decided since this was such a short race I could hold it.  Around this time my dad also said he needed to take a walk break so we grabbed some water and walked for a few minutes.  He said I could go on ahead as he knew I could keep running if I really wanted to.  However since this race was in honor of his 70th birthday I said I’d stay with him.

He then said he was ready to go and off we went again.  On the way back we passed my sisters who were walking the race with their family (they each had strollers and their little ones in them).  We arrived back at the park and crossed the finish line in 36:11.  It was the slowest 5K I’ve run but the most memorable because of my running partner.  Even though it was a tiny race, they had finisher medals for everyone, which I thought was neat.  After my sisters made it back they started the kids’s races and my nieces participated in that.  It was fun to watch the kids run.  They just do it by instinct and aren’t trying to follow all the “rules of running” that us adults try to do while we’re going off on our run (thinking about gait, form, pace, etc).

IMAG2961

Anyway that’s my father’s day story!

-StewsCat