Friday, January 27, 2012

The Daring Bakers: Basic Scones (Biscuits)

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I've been baking biscuits for years. Steve and the boys love them so I make them quite frequently. I've baked them with cream, cheese and chives, fruits, whole grain and herbed.  I don't know that they have ever created much of a challenge so I was kind of disappointed with this months recipe.

I could have tried an exciting new variation of the basic biscuit but, alas, I did not. I was making meatloaf for dinner when I read of the January challenge so whipped up a batch to go with the meal.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
A no frills, basic dough which is very simple to turn into biscuits.  Everyone loved them but again, we were puzzled by the title of Challenge. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

2012 Game Plan

After scouring race schedules, thinking about goal races and looking at my calendar I have been able to put together my schedule for 2012 racing.

My first choice is the Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series (races listed below). 4 100 mile ultras and 1 100K. In looking at the dates of the races and my family calendar, the dates align. No conflicts!  This must be a good omen. I then had the family discussion. I stated my goal, the dates involved, the training involved and asked if they would be interested in family road trips to a few of the races. I received the high five on the long training days, the few weekends away and a maybe on the family road trips. I’ll work on them!  I reminded them of the fun we had going out to Leadville 100. I planted the seed, now I’ll work on getting them out to the Black Hills again. I don’t think it will be much of a problem. If so, I will go solo. That’s A OK. I never do crew/pacer, it is just fun to share the fun traveling.

After receiving the OK at home I needed the OK at work. No problem, all of the vacation days have been approved.

The Gnarly Bandit Ultra Series begins with the Zumbro 100 Mile Trail Race in April. There is added difficulty training for a spring 100 in Minnesota.  The trails are covered in snow and snowshoe running 50 miles plain old sucks. I’ve done that too many times. After running McNaughton 100 for so many years, also in April, I really wanted to find a few races instead of long solo training runs of 10 hours around the Minneapolis Lakes.  

I found Triple D Winter Races last week. That put my long run at marathon distance and it went so well!  I’m still thrilled that I was able to go that distance with a pack and not feel disc pain. Woot. The  only downside is that I ran with a horrible cold which has now turned into bronchitis and I have open wounds on the side of my feet where the Kahtoola spike bands drove into my foot. I will survive!  I’m very very please with the outcome of this race. I did it!

The marathon distance has me ready for Psycho Wyco 50K in Kansas City, KS on February 11.  I’m so excited!  I’ve signed up for this race two times before and never made it.  I’m heading out with Maria and Doug.

Psycho Wyco 50K will have me ready for Land Between Lakes 50 Mile in Grand Rivers, KY on March 10. It will be a blast!  The only downside is that there is an 11 hour pace cut off and I don’t know that I am in 11 hour shape. Most of my 50 miles are less than 11 but it’s been a while since I’ve run one. I told Misty that if we are cut off at 38 miles we’ll have to run around for 12 miles around the area to get in our 50 for Zumbro 100 training!

After March  10 it is all about recovering/tapering for Zumbro 100.  I’m ready, man. I’m ready!

This is my plan:

Triple D Winter Race Marathon
Dubuque Iowa
January 15

Psycho Wyco 50K
Kansas City, KS
February 11

Land Between Lakes 50 Mile
Grand Rivers, KY
March  10

Zumbro 100 Mile
Zumbro Falls, MN
April 14

Kettle Moraine 100 Mile
LaGrange WI
June 2

Black Hills 100 Mile
Sturgis, SD
June 23

Superior 100 Mile
Lutsen, MN
September 7

Wild Duluth 100K
Duluth, MN
October 20


Included in the UMTR Ultra Gnarly Bandit Series

Monday, January 16, 2012

Triple D Winter Race Report

About a week and a half ago I noticed that my back was healing at a much faster rate than it had been. What had been months of recovery and no running had morphed into pain free running. 0 mile weeks turned into 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 mile weeks. Amazing. I was feeling very very good.

I decided to enter Psycho Wyco 50K and am planning a road trip with Doug and Maria Barton mid February to KS for the event.  I knew to be ready for this training run I at least needed to get in a  20 miler and hoped it wouldn't hurt.

Success! As I stated, last weeks 21.25 was sweet. That success had me thinking I could run marathon distance to be even more ready for the Psycho Wyco 50K.

I thought I'd rather run a race and use it as an aided training run for my next long run.  Trail as opposed to pavement, not to far to drive. I contacted my friend Vicky to see if she was heading to Dubuque Iowa for Triple D. I knew that there was a group of friends that ran this last year.  She told me that she would be there, along with Wayne and Misty. They invited me to come along.  Score!

By perusing the blogspot for Triple D I learned that there was a half marathon, marathon and 50K distance for runners. The main event was a bike ride, they also welcomed skiing. The blog seemed to have information for 2010 and 2011 races and I was rather confused.  I didn't worry too much because I was riding with Misty and they already had room reservations and such. I was just going along for a training run.

I came down with a terrible cold. One which I still have. I was hoping it would go away by Saturday but it did not. I packed cough drops, my inhaler that I haven't used since McNaughton 100 2007 and a ton of kleenex.

On Friday I tried to navigate the site and couldn't find information on aid stations. I contacted Wayne and learned the race was unsupported. Well, there went my aided long run theory.  This worried me as I haven't trained AT ALL with a pack since I herniated my discs. Man, a headlamp hurt just a few weeks ago.

I chilled out and realized I would just take the marathon mile by mile. I promised myself that if I were to feel any tingling or numbness I would stop. Then I amended the promise to if I felt any pain prior to the last 30 minutes I would stop. I mean, come on, if I only had 3 miles to go and the pain began I might as well finish..the damage would be there what more would I do in 3 miles?

So, 26.2 miles on snow, no aid.  I dug out my Superior 100 pack, numerous gels, Heed and 4 24 oz bottles. Ugh.  My back hurt just looking at it.

Misty and I rode to Dubuque, having a great road trip. I have only met Misty once before so we had lots to talk about. What a great sport hu? To be welcomed to ride along, even though we've only met once and for a few minutes. Nice! The drive was about 5.5 hours. We met up with Wayne and Vicky and had a good time.

I learned that we could have finish bags at the end point. I found a bag and jammed it with my favorite warm clothing.  My Ugg boots wouldn't fit. Wayne offered me space in his bag for my boots .  I dropped my bag at the sign "RUN-U" and thought what is the U?  I placed my bag next to Wayne's and didn't think about it anymore.

Don, Julie, Misty, Vicky, Wayne

Misty, Julie, Vicky

We had nice (unheated) busses to bring us to the start. The 4 of us had our own bus!  On the way Wayne told me that the finish bags were for the 50K only. Shit!  My stuff would be 6 miles away from my finish. I thought that once you made it to the marathon, you went out an additional 3 miles, came back 3 miles to the same finish for 50K/marathon. Oops.  This gave me cause for concern. I think I just needed something to worry about.

Julie, Vicky, Misty

The morning was warm. We didn't begin until 10 AM so the sun was high, the wind was stiff. 20-30 MPH winds but it was 20 above already so plenty warm. I lugged my pack onto my back hoping it would be OK. We started late, like 1030 so now I was worried about it being dark when I finished and I hadn't even thought to carry a light. Did not even cross my mind. Am I a newbie or what?? How could I not have a light?  Good grief. Something more to worry about.

Because Dubuque received 7" of snow on Thursday I decided to stop by REI on Saturday on the way to Misty's to pick up some Katoola Spikes. I have never used anything like this but thought of all of the slipping and sliding I did at Tuscobia 50K last year. I figured they couldn't hurt, might as well give them a try even though I normally don't try anything new on race day, but this was training run day.

The Mayor of whatever town we were in had  a few words to say and then GO!  We headed out along a paved path through a park or something. Oh man, don't let this whole marathon be upon a cement paved trail..PLEASE.

After a while the cement went away and we were on a crushed gravel trail with snow in most areas.  It reminded me very much like the trail at Lean Horse 100-that constant downhill grade, limestone gravel. Only this was 80 degrees colder, 30 MPH wind and snow covered.

My spikes were fine, I think they kept me steady upon the snow, I'm not sure. I didn't slip and slide like I did at Tuscobia. After a few hours they did cause my little toes to become smashed. I lost both nails already.

Before I knew it I was last in the pack, just fine with myself. I was taking in the sunshine, smiling, trying to notice if my pack felt too heavy.

I became warm. I removed my neck gaiter, had and mittens. Pretty soon the wind would whip up and I'd replace it all.

My strategy was to drink .5 bottle of Heed every hour. This would give me plenty of drink to get through the race. I had sweet potato in ziploc, gels, banana. Plenty of calories.

I thought the course was picturesque. We ran along different creeks, crossed many wooden bridges, ran past a ski hill with lots of artificial snow and there were many high walls of rock. I was surprised at how pretty the course surroundings were.

My cold was horrible. I couldn't breathe. My head was so congested it gave me a head ache. Eventually the running loosened up all that was in my head and begin to drain. It felt better but was totally disgusting. It was a good thing I was running by myself.  I needed to stop often to get over coughing fits.  The drainage felt better than the congestion.

At one point I was running along and I could hear a dog barking. I looked to my left and saw a black lab puppy refusing to get into a man's truck. The guy could not catch him. The dog spotted me running and tore after me. I began to panic. I noticed it was a pup, so he probably wasn't going to be mean, but still...who knows. I kneeled down and removed my sweet potato from my pocket extending it out to the puppy just in case he wanted to bite me. He just wanted to lick the salt from my face! What a cute puppy. I waited there until the man finally reached us and he could grab puppies collar and get him back to the truck. So cute. So thankful it wasn't a mean dog.

A few miles later I saw three dogs together without a person. Oh boy. I slowed to a walk and kept an eye on them. They all looked my way but didn't care about me one way or another.  I happily walked past and continued on.

As I came upon mile 20 I looked to my left again and noticed little statutes of people into a rock. Here someone had set up a miniature nativity scene right into the rock. It was pretty cool.

I was feeling good, euphoric that I was able to run this distance with this pack and feel no pain.

As I came into mile 22 I knew that  a bar was going to be coming up where I was supposed to check in.  I hadn't seen another runner since the start so was wondering if I would even see anyone at the check in.  I walked into the bar and two women were sitting at a card table. I checked in with them and they told me I could order anything I wanted to eat or drink..the race had a tab set up where for the runners. What? Wow. Nice thought but I didn't want to hang out here..I just wanted to run.  I learned here that they had mistakingly registered me as an ultra runner for the 50K. She said 'you are an ultrarunner' I said 'yea, I am, but I'm running the marathon today.' 'No, you are running the 50K' 'ah, no. I registered for the marathon' I wasn't going to argue with her so I just told her I was going to head back out. She was very nice and I thanked her for helping us out. I just wanted to move on. I began to realize the reason there was a U on the finish bag sign-for the ultra runners running 50K, duh. It all began to click. They had me down as running the 50K. Oh well. As I was about to go out the door I saw Misty turn around from the bar. She had reached the checkpoint before I and decided to head back out with me. I'm so glad that I noticed her.

We ran along for the next three miles going over each other's run. It was nice to run with company for the first time during the race. My cold was so bad I couldn't talk and breathe and run at the same time. I was coughing real hard by this point and my head was draining profusely. I was grossing myself out.

Before we knew it we saw Wayne running toward us, off for the 50K.  Misty decided to finish at the marathon with me. We hugged Wayne and wished him well. He finished in fine form.

Misty and I climbed the final hill and saw our finish at the bar.  We checked in, I ordered a diet coke and we relived our fun day!

By now I couldn't speak without coughing. I took a few puffs of my inhaler and it seemed to help a bit. We visited with Melissa, who finished her first trail run. Melissa offered us a ride back to the hotel. We stopped by the 50K finish where I retrieved my bags and off to the hotel we headed.

Misty and I hauled our things to her car and headed for home.  Driving was icy in some spots and a semi pulled out in front of us. Misty is a cautious driver much like I. I felt very safe! I arrived home last night about midnight.

I feel great today!  My cold is still awful but my back does not hurt AT ALL. I am so glad I decided to try this run. Even thought I anticipated aid, it worked out for the better. Now I know I can carry my pack without pain. Good stuff.

The spikes tore off two of my toenails. I think the bands put pressure on my toes, making the fit inside of my shoes too tight. I wore thick smartwool socks. During the run I tried to move the socks around, trying to alleviate the pain. I couldn't get my running shoes over my painful toes this morning so I headed off to the trail with Topaz in my big sorrel boots.

Now I'm really looking forward to Psycho Wyco 50K next month. I should be able to pull it off.

Thanks to the Triple D RD, the volunteers, runners and bikers. It really was  a fun day!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Stringing Small Successes Together

I am just thrilled. The little things that I have in the past taken for granted, then lost, are returning. I no longer take them for granted.

I have been able to wear the heavy Turkish bath towel upon my head after shampooing. It no longer pains my neck.

I ran with a headlamp last week to see how it felt. A few weeks ago it was too heavy; last week it was just fine. No pain.

My Hammergel order!  I haven’t used my credit I receive from Hammer Nutrition is over a year. I ordered two cases of gel and heed. Woohoo. The small victories. Yes, I love Heed.

My foam roller!  I reclaimed it from Troy’s XBOX area. He has been using it for a foot rest. I used it yesterday after my 21.25 mile run!  Woohoo!

My left side is still weak. I have been strengthening it with weights a few times a week but it’s still a weakling.  I’ve been trying to carry a bottle during my runs as I don’t care for hydration vests.  During my 4 hour run yesterday I carried with my left arm at least half of the time. I can feel muscle fatigue today but it will become stronger.

My weekly mileage is increasing. 35 miles, 42 miles, 47 miles, 50 miles.  Nice !

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Guarded Optimism

What. A. Day!

As I packed my workout bag this morning I found myself trying to contain my excitement. It kept rushing out of my mouth as laughs and smiles, out of my body as I danced up the stairs to awake Troy.  He didn't find it quite so amusing!

I haven't run the pavement route around Big Lake in .. well .. a real long time.  It's something that I have been doing for as long as I've been running. I've taken it for granted. When I don't have time to get to the trail I run around Big Lake, after work. The route I run is the Big Lake 8K course which takes place in June.

42 degrees forecast today. No wind. Sunshine. Amazing.

I placed my run shoes, light run pants, single long sleeved top into my bag. iPod, charger-had to charge up at work-I haven't needed my iPod for quite some time.

During the day I found myself anticipating my run. Would the asphalt hurt? Would I have to stop? Would I love it as much I used to?

Would Troy and the guys have to wait very long for me?  Troy and his friends were lifting after school. I drive them home, we meet at the car at 345. I told him it might take me until 4 to finish today's run. He was fine with this and wished me good luck :)

As I clocked out and carried my bag to the restroom I thought of all the prep this took. Packing my bag, charging my iPod, water bottle, hanging up work clothes, changing into run clothes, pack away winter coat, boots, work shoes, put on run shoes.  Hair tie.  Sunglasses. Haul bag, purse, etc. out to car, leave open for Troy and boys.

OK, lets do this Julie.

Weeeee!!!  Off I go. Diggin' it.

Bluebird blue sky, sunshine, no wind. A perfect day. It's winter!  This is a perfect day in Spring as well.  Running along the road, feeling no pain. No crunch of the discs, no numbing of arm, hand, no tingling in fingers. Oh my gosh. I have missed this so much. This was a part of my day, my being. It just was.  Today I prepared and thought about it all day.  It will again just be a part of my day.

As I was running I began to think of the first race I ever ran. It was right here. The Big Lake 8K in 1998.  Run Club with my dear friend Ann, God bless her soul. She passed of cancer 6 years ago next month. Running with Topaz on these roads when he was a pup, we were waiting for Tyler to take his guitar lessons. Coaching my beginning woman run classes upon this route.

Still no pain, just joy. Joy in running, breathing, seeing, feeling.

As I ran along I saw Heidi!  Heidi was in one of the first classes I coached, she continued with a second class and I began to coach her privately. She has since run Ragnar Relay and even Twin Cities Marathon.  Heidi is getting back to running after going through chemotherapy and is looking so strong and beautiful. We stopped and chatted. We spoke of how thankful we were to be out running. We get it. We know how the other feels. We know what running means to us.  It isn't just running, it is everything than goes with it. It is everything that we almost lost, but it is coming back and we are joyful.

We separated and I just couldn't help but feel this run was just meant to be.  I am so very grateful to have experienced it.

I arrived back to the parking lot, to my car. I could see Troy and the boys inside waiting. I wondered how long it took me? I purposely hadn't worn a watch. This wasn't a timed run. This was  run to gauge my recovery. I opened the door and Troy said he could see my smile as I turned the corner. I asked him what time it was. 5 minutes earlier than I had anticipated. He asked me if I hurt. No, no pain. He gave me a high five and said "You are back, Mim. You are back".

We dropped off the boys, arrived home. Mexican chicken in the crockpot would hold for another 30 minutes. I  took Topaz for a neighborhood spin. 3 miles, more pavement and no pain.  I like to think I'm back, too.

Feeling gratitude. Gratitude and Joy.