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Today is my Runniversary

Today is my runniversary. On July 11, 2013, I walked down to the Gorzycki middle school track and I ran a mile. This journey didn’t start with that run. It’d actually started on, I think, July 8th after I looked at some photos of myself in a bathing suit from a recent vacation in Cabo, and after looking at myself in the mirror after getting out of the shower. I didn’t like who I’d become. I was overweight and I didn’t have the stamina I wanted and needed to keep up with our daughter.

So I decided to download an app for my phone and track my speed and distance on some bike rides I was going to start taking. 12 years prior I used to ride my bike eight miles to work, and then eight miles home. I started watching my diet, and not long after, pounds started shedding.

On the morning of July 9, 2013, I hopped on a bike and went on a half mile ride. I only made it a half mile because my hip immediately started hurting. You’d think a low impact activity like riding a bike wouldn’t cause hip pain, but it did. I came home and decided I’d try again the next day. The next day, I rode eight miles, but my hip was still hurting to the point where I knew I couldn’t try another day.

So on July 11th, I decided to go to the track and see how fast I could run 1 mile. Just a mile.

It wasn’t until I was 4 miles in to a 6 mile run this morning that I remembered today was my runniversary. My plan was to return to that same track and see how close I could come to pulling off a 5-minute mile. But, alas, I wasn’t prepared. Better yet, I just didn’t remember.

Maybe I’ll go hit the track this evening. Maybe not.

Here’s that very first run:

And here’s to 985 runs covering 6,247.01 miles so far. Lots more ground to cover!

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Seattle and The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon

Elise & Josh in SeattleOn June 7th Elise and I flew to Seattle for a short vacation together, and for me to run the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. The trip started with a early evening direct flight from Austin to Seattle. We arrived at 11 p.m. PST, and had a bitch of a time getting transportation from the airport to our rental apartment in Wallingford (northern suburb of Seattle). It took us an hour of shopping all of the rental agencies to learn that there were no available cars for rent. So we finally hailed an Uber. I don’t think we went to bed until 2 a.m. I couldn’t tell you the last time I stayed up until 2 a.m.

For some reason we woke up early on Thursday and walked to the nearby grocery store for food and other sundries to sustain us for our 5-day trip. We stopped at Julia’s, a local cafe, for a hearty breakfast. Elise had eggs benedict. I had the corned beef hash. Then we did all the tourist things. We walked to Fremont to see the Fremont Troll. Then found a bus stop and took a ride to explore Pike Place Market. We had an early dinner at the Athenian Seafood Restaurant. I got the fish stew. Elise had fish & chips. Elise soon decided she didn’t want just fish & chips, so we traded meals. After dinner we tooled around the market & downtown a bit, and got to experience the great gum wall.

On Friday we did even more tourist stuff. We took the bus into the city again to rent a car, and then started our day’s adventure on a underground walking tour of Pioneer Square, and learned the history of Seattle’s sea level settlement and the plumbing & backwash adventures thereof. We also learned of local development, architecture and Chief Seattle. Next we walked over to the market for some [more] fish & chips at Ivar’s, which is a must-do in Seattle. We rode on the Seattle Great Wheel and enjoyed the views of downtown and Elliot Bay. Then we went on a self-guided tour of the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Two days before my marathon and I think we’ve covered 20,000 steps so far. I’m supposed to be taking it easy. Lastly we drove up to Kerry Park for a really pretty hilltop view of Seattle.

Elise & Josh at Pike Place MarketOn Saturday we hopped in the car and drove out to Renton to have lunch with our friend Jen and her daughter Addison, with whom Mara went to preschool this past year. We visited for a bit and then headed back to our apartment so yours truly could get off my feet and do some resting. Elise drove back into the city to do some gift shopping and to pick up dinner for us. Note to self: penne, garlic & tomato spaghetti sauce, ground turkey and mushrooms make for a great pre-marathon meal.

The race started at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. Since the race is in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, we had to get there extra early as they don’t allow vehicle parking at the start. So that meant we had to get me to an elementary school near the finish line to catch a bus that hauled runners to the start of the race. Buses started running at 4:50 a.m. I tried going to bed around 9:30 on Saturday night. I read for a while, thinking that would lull me to sleep. I think I might’ve fallen asleep somewhere shortly after 11 p.m. I’d set my alarm for 2 a.m., and 2 a.m. came quickly. I don’t think I woke up during the night, but my sleep was pretty restless, which is to be expected the night before a big race. Thankfully I’d slept pretty well on Friday night.

We left our apartment at 4:15 a.m. and made the hour drive east into the mountains. Thankfully the sun starts coming out around 4:45, so we were able to see the beautiful landscapes as we drove through the forest. I hopped out of the car and loaded onto a bus with a bunch of other runners and after a short wait, we started the trek 30 more miles east into the mountains.

We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare, so I had time to check in, get my bib, go to the bathroom a couple times, meditate, and shiver my ass off. It was 40-degrees outside and this Texas boy coming from 95-degree summer temperatures was having a hard time keeping warm. Thankfully they had tents, so I waited until 6:55 before heading to the start line after ingesting a chocolate coconut Gu Roctane and chasing it with 12 ounces of water and Emergen-C. I lined up with ~700 people, tried to listen to the pre-race announcements, and when the clock struck 7 a.m., the gun sounded and we were all off.

As mentioned above, I tried to listen to the pre-race announcements. Since I wasn’t able to hear any of it as the races PA system was terrible, I missed the part where we were told that we’d run a few hundred yards to the east and then turn around at an orange cone. 700 people running in a straight line, and then turning right back around to run in the opposite direction. I was confused and a bit worried there for a good 30 seconds. I was mostly worried that someone was going to trip me and I’d get injured a tenth of a mile into the race. Thankfully I just took it slow & easy and kept my distance from other runners.

Another quarter mile in and it was time to go into the tunnel. The cool thing about this race is that it starts out by going through 2.5 mile train tunnel through the mountains. It’s pitch black, cold, quiet and wet. After you get a couple hundred yards into the tunnel, you can see the exit, over two miles away. And that’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Since my GPS watch couldn’t get a signal, I had to pace myself by feel alone. And that proved to be hard because we were still very early into the race, and while it’s a relatively small race, I was running amongst a lot of people, which made for a lot of dodging and weaving.

When the end of the tunnel was a quarter mile away, I switched off my headlamp and took off my hat and pullover. There was a volunteer at the tunnel exit who collected headlamps and other drop-offs. After lightening my load, it was time to settle in. It wasn’t long before mile 3 beeped on my watch. I looked down to find that I was two minutes behind pace. I worried briefly, shook it off, and then kicked into a bit of a quicker pace. I’d guess it was 42-degrees out and I felt great. I settled in behind a group of 4 guys and kept at a 7-minute pace. In order to hit my goal time and hopefully qualify for Boston, I wanted to keep my pace between 7:15 and 7:17.

Mile 5 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in just under a 7 minute mile.

Mile 10 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in just under a 7 minute mile.

Mile 13 came. The halfway point. I took inventory and decided that I felt great. I kept my pace and decided I might just crush this race.

Mile 14 came and I decided that I’d most likely made up for the slower-than-I’d-wanted first 3 miles, and that I need to pee. So I found a spot in the woods that would make for a good quick pee break and took care of business. I took a pee break at mile 1 in Houston last year and I think that’s what cost me my entry to Boston. This time it only took me 17 seconds to pee. Believe me, I counted.

Back on the trail and settled into a 6:45 pace at mile 15.

Mile 16 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in to a 6:45 pace.

RUNNINGNote that this is a beautiful course along the John Wayne Pioneer trail, through the mountains, lush pine forests, over trestle bridges, along waterfalls and the flowing Snoqualmie River. The race is all downhill at a steady grade decrease of 2000-feet across the full 26.2 miles, so it actually feels like it’s flat. I’d never been to Washington, so everything was new and green and beautiful to me. The course is absolutely stunning.

Mile 17 comes quickly and I’m still holding strong. However, my brain kicked in. Mile 17 is where I started coming unraveled in the Austin Marathon back in February. The last thing I wanted was for brain to start telling me things. Running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental. I told my brain to shut it, and I kept going.

Miles 18-20 are dangerous too, as those are notorious “walls.” The wall is that proverbial point where your glycogen stores are depleted, your brain lets the monkey get onto your back, your legs stop working, your stomach hurts, and a myriad of other things. Mile 18 was actually my fastest mile at a 6:27 pace. And I started passing a bunch of folks at this point.

I stayed steady at mile 21.

Mile 22 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in to a 6:45 pace.

I think I got a cup of Gatorade at mile 23. I can’t remember. It was somewhere in the back half of the race that I drank some Gatorade. I just wanted some extra sugar.

I think it was at mile 24 where I almost started crying. I started thinking about my dad. I told him that I was going to do it. I was going to get a personal best in this beautiful marathon and that I was going to qualify by a large margin and run the Boston Marathon next year. My dad never knew me as the runner that I’ve become. I think he’d be proud of me.

I shook off the emotions (because that’s what Dad would’ve wanted me to do), and dropped the hammer. I kept an even pace through miles 25 and 26, and then saw the finish line. I sprinted as hard as I could on beaten legs and saw Elise at the finish and heard her scream, “Go Josh!”

I saw the finish line (gun clock) at 3:05:55. I’d beaten my goal time by six minutes. My race results are here.

I gave Elise a big sweaty hug. I don’t remember what she or I said. I was on cloud nine. I think she followed me around as I kept walking to keep my legs from seizing. I grabbed some food and something to drink and tried to just keep walking. Elise wound up volunteering for the race to help with food and water, so she had to get back to “work.” I hung around the food and tried to keep replenishing and getting lots of water.

After hanging out at the finish for about an hour, we finally hopped in the car and headed back to our apartment in Seattle. Elise had to do some work for vacation bible school, and I just sort of hung out with her on the patio in basked.

Later that afternoon we drove back out to Renton to have dinner with John, Jen and Addison. We had a nice seafood dinner at Wildfin, and it was good to hang out with friends and have a restful evening. We went back to John & Jen’s house to hang out for a bit, and then it was time to head out and get Elise to the airport. Elise took the red eye back to Austin so she could start her week as director of vacation bible school bright and early on Monday morning.

Yours truly headed back to the apartment and took it easy for the night. As exhausted as I was, I was quite restless. I didn’t sleep very well that night, and had to get up in the morning to clean up the apartment, turn in our keys and head to the airport in time to return our rental car and catch my plane back home.

I sat next to a runner and mom of three on the flight home. We talked about running quite a bit.

Photos can be seen here.

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Running milestones

I ran 200 miles in April. I don’t think I’ve ever run 200 miles in a month. Maybe I have, but I noticed I ran 200 miles in April.

I organized my first race/group run yesterday. I’ve always wanted to organize a race. Last summer I decided that the 5.5 mile end-to-end span of Escarpment Blvd. would be a good & scenic course. So I created the Escarpment 5.5 and invited the Circle C Run Club to participate. I decided that the 5.5 mile race would happen at 5:55 p.m. on 5/5. Thirty people registered, however, only 5 ran. That’s fine. 5 is a good number. We had a great time, I made some new friends, and I have a [possible] new recruit for the 2017 Capital to Coast Relay.

And this morning I hit 1,017 kilometers for the year. I completed the Under Armour You VS the Year Challenge in a little over 5 months. I beat last year by a month. For the past two years I’ve been the project manager for the You VS the Year challenge, which has proved to be very successful. Last year we had over a million people across the globe participate. We’re on track to do about the same this year.

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2016-17 Austin Distance Challenge results

Official results:
October 2, 2016 Run Free Texas 8k – 30:56
November 6th, 2016 Run For The Water 10 mile – 1:05:54
December 11, 2016 Decker Challenge Half Marathon – 1:30:05
January 22, 2017 3M Half Marathon – 1:28:11
February 19, 2017 Austin Marathon – 3:52:51

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Being an injured runner with running to do

On July 19, 2016 I, for whatever reason(s), decided to sign up for the Austin Distance Challenge. This challenge consists of five road races: an 8km (5 miles), a 10-miler, two half marathons and a full marathon spanning five months. After the first race I found myself in 3rd place in my age division (40 – 49-year-old men), which is a lot of places ahead of where I thought I might find myself.

Now that I think about it, I know exactly why I signed up for the distance challenge. It’s because I’m competitive. I vividly remember that very first day when I ran four times around the middle school track. As I was panting, on the verge of puking and passing out, I looked down at my phone and saw that I’d run one mile in eight minutes and one second. That one second bothered me because I knew that if I tried harder, I could run faster. And ever since then, I’ve competed against myself to make myself better, faster and stronger.

After a couple more races in the distance challenge I found myself in first place. I can’t lie. There’s quite a bit of pride that goes along with being in first place. It’s like, after 40 years I’d finally found something that I’m really good at. Bear in mind that I moved up to first place only because the guy who previously held first place injured himself and had to DNF (“Did Not Finish”) our last race at the 3M Half Marathon.

And as I type this, I’m suffering from an injury incurred at 3M. Thankfully I didn’t drop out of the race, but I really wanted to between miles 7 and 13. And I was hurting after the race. I had my usual nagging pain in my left hip, and a newly acquired sharp pain in my right knee, which I’ve self diagnosed as Pes Anserine Bursitis (self-diagnosis is the absolute worst thing to do).

I tried to go on a recovery run the Monday after the half marathon. The pain in my knee was still sharp and caused a limp in my stride after a mile in (this is not a good thing). So I prescribed myself with a week to 10 days rest from running.

After my painful 2-mile recovery run, I decided that I should finally heed everyone’s advice and do some strength training. I’m a stubborn runner. I’m not a lifter. I’m not a stretcher. I’m not a cross-trainer. I’m a runner. Well, it finally caught up to me. I’d injured myself early last year to the point where I went to the doctor and was prescribed two months of physical therapy three days a week. I liked the massages and the ultrasound, but I didn’t like the homework (the stretching and strength training).

I should’ve listened to and done what the doctor told me to do.

So I’ve been doing all kinds of strength training every day since this latest injury. If I can’t run, I need to do something, and it’s better to try to strengthen the areas that have been neglected and quite possibly the source(s) of injury.

I went for a 4.5 mile on the 10th day. I started feeling the knee at around mile 3, and my knee kind of nagged me for the rest of the day, but thankfully it wasn’t a sharp or nagging pain.

This pain & injury comes at a very inopportune time. I have the full marathon coming up on February 19th. Since being injured, I haven’t been able to go on some much-needed long runs in preparation for the marathon.

My current plan is to continue my strength training regimen. I’m going to try to go on a long run tomorrow and (fingers crossed) if it doesn’t debilitate me, I’ll put in some modest miles between now and the marathon. If I can’t make it, I guess it’s back to the physical therapist and a professional recommendation on my physical ability to run the marathon.

I had a long conversation with Elise and while I’m competitive and would love nothing more than to place in the distance challenge, I’d rather have my health.

A good friend taught me to grade my races. If I’m healthy enough to run the Austin Marathon on February 19th, I’ll consider it my “B” race for this year. It’ll be a training race for my “A” race, which is the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in Washington in June.

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Smart home, smart phone, dumb me

I’ve owned an iPhone since day one. I’ve started a mobile app company. I presently exchange my time for money at a company that was founded on mobile apps. I use my iPhone quite a bit. It’s a smart phone.

Elise’s parents gave us a Google Home for Christmas this year. Now we’ve forayed into the world of having a smart home. After setting up the Google Home, I immediately started shopping for other things that could make my life easier and my home smarter. This was, of course, after I connected the Google Home to our Nest thermostat. Now I just have to say, “Okay, Google. Turn the temperature down to 72.” And the air conditioner magically switches on and the house gets cooler. The alternative to this would be me taking approximately 16 steps and adjusting the thermostat with my fingertips. I soon thereafter went out and bought a Chromecast because I wanted to tell Google Home to do things with the television. I don’t know what those things are yet. Change the channel? Turn up the volume? Make the President-elect’s head less bigly?

It was at the point where I found myself on the cusp of signing up for a waiting list where I could eventually buy three lightbulbs for $199 when my lightbulb came on and I thought to myself, “this is dumb.” These light bulbs can communicate with Google Home. I could tell Google Home to dim the lights. Or change the color of the lights to “Celeste Polvere.”

All of these things are things we don’t really need. The gadgets and tech and automation are cool, but they’re not really adding immediate value to our family’s life. Yet. Maybe I’ll play around some more with Google Home and figure out what kind of value it brings before investing in any more gadgets. In the meantime, Google Home is used mostly by the kids to ask, “Okay, Google. What sound does a dog make?” And then it barks. And then the dog runs to the door and growls. And then the kids laugh and do it all over again. Google Home will probably be the reason why the dog sets the house on fire because she conked out from exhaustion with a lit cigarette in her mouth.

Earlier this week and old friend of mine posted something on Facebook that raised my brows. I didn’t know this about her, but she consciously removed her smartphone from her life unless the phone was necessary. She placed the phone in its place at home and at work. It wasn’t at her side, or in her pocket, or in her purse, readily available. And she always kept it silenced, meaning that there were no notifications with chiming distractions that beckoned for immediate attention. She also posted a link to this article from the Minimalists.

After reading my friend’s post, and then the article she shared, I pulled out my phone and just started deleting apps. Most notably, Facebook and Instagram. And then I went through all of my other apps and just started deleting the ones that I hadn’t used, as well as the ones that I thought I might use at some point in the future, but after asking, “really, Josh?” they got the boot.

I like to think I was pretty good about keeping my phone pocketed. Now I’m confident that I’m good at keeping it pocketed because it’s not longer a device of distractions. I’m looking up. I’m engaged with people, notably my family and friends. I know I’m not missing anything on social media. Especially while I’m standing at the urinal.

I wonder if I could get Google Home to flush the toilet.

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2016 Decker Challenge half marathon

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It started out as a really early and rough morning. I barely made it to the race before the gun. It was my hardest and hilliest race to date. I climbed 732 feet of hills. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to quit right after hitting 10 miles. But I can’t, and I couldn’t. I kept pushing and fighting. I thought about all of the really early long runs. All the miles. I thought about my dad. It was all I could do to not stop and walk. I even had a couple guys pass me in the last mile. Until I saw the finish line a quarter mile ahead. The fire burned hot and I had to dig deep. I saw Elise out of the corner of my eye at the finish line and I ran as hard and fast as my legs and lungs would take me. I went sub-5, overtook the two guys who passed me a half mile back and wound up getting first place in my division. I won the Gold Cowbell.

I also moved up to 2nd place in my division in the Austin Distance Challenge.

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17 miles talking to myself

I haven’t gone on a good long run in a long time; not since marathon training last year. Something about the air. The atmosphere. The runner’s biological clock. It’s September. Something. It’s hard going from running a daily 10k or 8-miler to just up and running a half marathon or 17 miles. I knew the route I wanted to run, I just didn’t think or know if I’d be ready for it. I walked out onto the front porch this morning and just thought, “Okay, let’s go.”

I took it easy. I had my iPod shuffle with me and my ear buds in, but I never flipped it on. I just ran and talked to myself. I told myself the story of Josh as an athlete, starting from the age of 11. It was a good conversation.

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First day of Fifth Grade

First day of 5th Grade today:
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First day of 4th Grade last year:
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First day of 3rd Grade 2 years ago
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First day of 2nd Grade 3 years ago
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First day of 1st Grade 4 years ago:
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First day of Kindergarten 5 years ago:
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First day of school 6 years ago:
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First day of school 7 years ago:
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First day of school 8 years ago:
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First day as Kiker morning door greeter

  

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On running a Marathon

It’s going on six weeks now since I ran my first marathon. Even with all the training, it was rough. I think I should’ve gone on runs longer than 26.2 miles. I think if one were to train on 30 miles runs, a 26 mile run would be a walk in the park.

While it was tough running 26 miles, it was a lot of fun. I was in my hometown, the race was amazingly organized, the course was awesome (and flat), the weather was perfect and it made for a really nice weekend. I drove into Houston on Saturday afternoon, checked into the Magnolia Hotel and tried to go to bed early. Top Gun was on TV and I couldn’t just turn it off. 3:30 a.m. came early. Three and half hours later I was toeing the line.

IMG_7854Elise drove in from my mom’s house to meet me at the finish line. As a nice lady sang the National Anthem, it was at that point that my bladder decided to send signals. When the National Anthem starts, that means that whenever that song is over, you’re going to hear the start gun seconds later. So I started my first marathon. And within the first half mile I knew I should just go ahead and take care of business. So, I did. And then I ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. My first mile was in 8-minutes and some change. The next 23 miles were in the low 7’s. And then the monkey jumped on my back right at mile 24. I held him off as best I could, but my pace suffered a lot. I finally saw the finish line, but it was still a long way away. I waited on my body to tell me when I could sprint. And it did. I probably sprinted the last 300 yards.

My official time was 3:14:58. Here’s the course and my stats from my Garmin Forerunner 610.

I think the best part was having Elise there after the race. She ran up to me in the “reunion area” and threw her arms around me and congratulated me. It’s always awesome to have a pretty cheerleader. Elise walked me back to our hotel and then she walked back to the convention center to watch her cousins finish the race. I stayed back at the hotel and tried to rest and sleep. I got some rest, but no sleep. A little before dark we hit the streets to find something for dinner. There were no restaurants that were open on Sunday night. After walking for a few miles, we finally went back to the hotel to ask the concierge where we should eat.

We had an awesome dinner at El Tiempo. It was the best meal that I can remember having in a very long time. I really do think it was an awesome dinner, although, I was also experiencing a 3,500 calorie deficit.

I think I fell asleep as soon as we got back to the hotel and my head hit the pillow.

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Great Friday

This past Friday was awesome. I’d decided to take the day off from work. You know, just take the day off because it was there for the taking. Pretty much a much-needed mental health day.

I took Maly to school that Friday. I usually take her to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I decided to take her to school again. We were five minutes late to school because there were a couple accidents on Escarpment and Slaughter. That was okay. We just went with it and we talked and we were a little late for school. The front office already knew about the accident, so we had an excused tardiness.

Last Friday was also Maly’s last Kiker Keynotes concert at school. The Keynotes performed the night before for family. I couldn’t attend because I had school. So I went to the 8 a.m. concert. That was a great way to start the day — watching your oldest daughter’s choir concert on a Friday when I didn’t have to go to work. I guess the only bad thing about the concert was that my phone ran out of storage, so I wasn’t able to record any of the performance. That’s okay. I think that was because I was supposed to be present and enjoy the show in the moment.

And then after the concert, I played 18 holes of golf at Grey Rock with Steve.

I really needed that Friday.

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Eating like I give a f*ck

IMG_7832I’m not a resolution kind of guy, but since the beginning of the year, I decided to lean more toward a plant-based diet. And it helped, of course, that Steve and Joanne (my in-laws) bought Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run for me for Christmas. Scott’s an ultra runner whose been a vegan since 1999. Runners require substantially more protein than non-runners, so it’s interesting (and easy) to learn that getting protein from plants isn’t as hard as it seems.

I’m not committing to going full-on vegetarian or vegan, but consciously trying more plant-based meals will help me & the family get the vegetables that we should be eating anyway. I was a humanities major, so my math isn’t great, but I think 95% of my meals this past week were either vegan or vegetarian. On Wednesday, I went to lunch with my friend Brant and had a salmon filet with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli at Whole Foods. Elise cooked bacon last week for breakfast and for a New Years black-eyed pea soup, and I ate a piece of bacon. Beyond that, I seriously don’t think I’ve eaten any meat this week. I’ve had dairy in the form of yogurt and sour cream, but no cheese.

Two recipes that I’ve made this past week turned out damn good, and did NOT leave me thinking, “this would’ve been better with beef or pork.” Last Sunday I made tempeh tacos. Tempeh is fermented soy beans that’s high in protein and comes in a pressed loaf form. You just cut it into whatever size chunks you want, season it and sautee it. Well, that’s all I’ve done with it thus far. I’m are there are a lot of different ways to prepare tempeh. I made my tacos like I’d probably make any other tacos. I sauted the tempeh with garlic, salt, pepper, chile powder and cumin. I served it with grilled onion, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro and jalapeños on mixed flour & corn tortillas. I’d eat the hell out of these tacos all day long.

On Wednesday night I cooked curried tofu. Tofu (and tempeh) are awesome because they’re both like neutral, flavorless sponges, just waiting to absorb whatever flavors you add to them. Instead of frying the tofu, I “heavily sautéd” them, a fancy culinary term I learned from Jeff Blank that basically means I fried them. And then I sautéed yellow onions and garlic with a bunch of chile powder, cumin, ground coriander, cardamom turmeric and garam masala. Then I added some diced tomato (from a can) and heavy cream. That was so amazing that I made a second pan of the same recipe and added cauliflower.

Last night Elise made a Sriracha stir fry with every vegetable in our fridge with some flax seed tempeh and baby bella mushrooms. And that was awesome and spicy.

And yesterday my copy of Thug Kitchen showed up in the mail. Thug Kitchen is a vegan cookbook. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably still smoke briskets and pork butts on occasion, but we’ll probably be eating a lot of really good plant-based food in between.

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