Sunday, March 15, 2015

fast-ish 5k

Well, we ran a race last weekend. I've done a lot of distance running and triathlon-ing, and I love it. You pick a pace you can maintain forever, and although you are putting out effort, there is a trance-like place you get into, and you completely relax. It's wonderful. 

However, my steady pace has gotten steadily slower over the last few years, so I decided to do something different this spring. I've been training for speed. I picked the Rex Lee Run 5k, and grabbed an advance training plan from Hal Higdon online for 12 weeks. I don't think I had the whole 12 when I decided to start it, and I had a few days of heavy lifting during the week where I didn't want to run too. So. What was probably an ideal plan for someone who follows directions turned into a less successful scenario. 

With a long distance race, I found if I did one short run and one long run a week (cross training the other days of course) it was enough to get me to a successful finish, meaning, I could finish! But when I wanted a certain time, I should have done more than 3 runs a week. I did a sprint workout, a fast-ish 5k distance, and a long "miles under your toes" run. 

Still I made progress. I took 2 1/2 minutes off of my average mile pace, and finished 4th in my division. Poor Tia had a good learning experience. That girl is usually much much faster than I, but ate breakfast too late and ended up cramping the whole time. Her cramped, handicapped pace was my race pace, and OH it was uncomfortable! This wasn't the zen-like experience I've gotten used to in long races. But the standard workout mantra applied here --I was happy when it was done.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chocolate right from the bean.

 One time Kai was tasting some honey we got from a friend. " It tastes so good --like it's right from the bee!" He was so excited. My kids saw bags of cocoa beans for sale when we were in Nicaragua for you to make your own chocolate. I didn't buy them there, but when I saw some in the Asian store for not too much,I couldn't resist buying them to make our own chocolate "right from the bean!"  
 The first step is roasting them in the oven. Not too bad, although the directions I found said vague things like: until they aren't burnt, but aren't raw either. ???? How can you tell? I winged it. I think we got pretty close. It smelled wonderful in the house --like brownies! The hard part is getting the shells off each bean.

 Jeff did a couple and said they reminded him of cockroaches. ick. There WAS something about the shape and color and crunch of the shells though...wait stop stop. I'm grossing myself out.
 All the kids helped. In fact we left the bowls out on the counter for a few days, and as we walked by we would all do a few until they were all peeled. Took us a week. Seriously.
 But finally they were all done.
 To really do chocolate right, you need a grinder like Indian chefs use to make dal --but they are around 800.00. Yeah, not going to invest that much. I used my food processor. I got a little frustrated for a while, because it kept piling up the sides, and not getting more ground down. Finally I took the blade out of the bowl, and heated it in the microwave for a minute or so to melt the cocoa butter in the beans. THEN things started happening!
 After a while it ground down to what looked like melted chocolate. Pretty neat. I did some quick calculations, and figured out how much sugar to add based on weight to make it 60% dark chocolate. I melted it together in a double boiler for a while, but I wish I'd used confectioner's sugar. The chocolate was a little grainy from using only a food processor as it was, and I couldn't get the regular sugar to melt enough. Oh well, next time I will know better. 

 I spooned it into ice cube trays, and threw it in the fridge to harden.
Chocolate! It's a little grainy, and dark. It reminds me of "Abuelita" Mexican drinking chocolate, but tastes pretty good anyway!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Epic Snowshoeing down into Bryce (day 2)

 The second day we stayed at Ruby's we wanted to do another hike that was different from our rim circling expedition of the day before. One of the guys in our home neighborhood suggested Navajo Loop from Sunset point. Done. Decided. We knew we needed to check out by 11:00 or 12:00, so planned on getting up early and eating breakfast on the trail. I was also hoping that the idea of a breakfast break, along with the loop idea instead of an out and back would help keep our littles happier. I wanted a longer time out. 

When we woke up, there was a foot or more of snow on the ground outside. Woohoo! I thought. Now we will all see what snowshoes are really for. We started getting ready, but around 7:45 all of the electricity in our room went out. I called up to the front desk and asked if we'd blown a fuse, or if it was the whole building. "It's the whole county ma'am" the desk guy said. "!" 
We dug the car out, and headed down to the park entrance. The road was plowed and sanded, the gate was open, but nobody was in the booth to pay the $25.00 per car entrance fee to (ouch by the way on that price). We went back out and circled around, looked around the visitor center, and finally ran into a ranger. "They are supposed to be in there by 8:00. If you beat them then don't worry about paying. You're fine" Woohoo!
 We were the only ones in the parking lot to start the trail, and as you can see from the photo above, it was snowing pretty heavily. The kids were a little nervous. OK, I was a little nervous. 

 The top part had a railing, but after the first switchback you had to look carefully for the trail.

Jeff went in front because I figured if he fell or something he was the best at climbing back up. Ari looks a little cold here. but cold wasn't a problem as long as we were moving. Tia said she felt like she was in a jacuzzi --warm and wet. 

 Do you see this?? Do you?! These are switchbacks all the way down into the canyon. It was so dang cool. The bright red rock, dark green pines, and white white white! 

 Natural rock bridge. 

 About 45 minutes into the hike, we saw a little cutout cave type place off to the side, and sat in there to eat our cold cold breakfast -- green smoothies and Greek yogurts. I kept thinking how nice hot chocolate would have been, but hey --I'd have had to heat it in our electricity-less room. 

 Notice Kai looks pretty happy in all of these pictures? This was a cool hike he told Tia.
 We kept going, and at the trail sign intersection considered whether to take the Queen's garden trail back out, or continue Navajo. We decided to continue Navajo. When we got within .2 miles from the end, there was a big danger sign and tape right in front of a huge rock slide blocking the path. We couldn't help thinking that sign might have been more helpful at the trail intersection! We turned around and headed back the way we came. This ended up being an out and back hike after all (and a little longer than the kids planned on hehe)!
 So lovely.
 Some of  the trail down in the bottom was striking slot canyon.
 Back up at the top.
Very happy kids are a nice part of the memory.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bryce Canyon by way of Ruby's Inn snowshoeing and hijacking.

 Around Christmas, one of Jeff's friends told him about a snowshoeing trip he took around Bryce canyon. I hadn't really seen it since I was a little kid, and it sounded like a great way to experience it. I imagined the bright red stone set against the snow and ice being spectacular. After he told me about it, I took advantage of a special Ruby's Inn (a huge resort right at the mouth of the canyon) was having and booked us for last Thursday and Friday night. 
 It was strange to see so many resorts on our way in closed up for the season, and half of the little shops around Ruby's also closed. This was also the nicest part about coming in winter. We were undisturbed by crowds, and once we got on the trails we mostly had them to ourselves. 

  This has been a strange winter in Utah. We had a series of storms right when my sisters came to visit from out of town, and then January and February have been mostly dry and warm. Very unusual. For a while I thought we might just be hiking instead of snowshoeing, which was OK with me. Luckily, the week right before we went, down south they got a nice big storm. We were in business.
 Or so we thought. Our confirmation email mentioned renting cross country skis, snowshoes, ice skates, etc. from the resort, and I planned to figure stuff out when we got down there. But Jeff called right when we were leaving to make sure, and the front desk swore that not only didn't they rent, they didn't know of anyone nearby who did. We made an extra trip up to Outdoors Unlimited before we left to get snowshoes for the kids. Then at breakfast the next morning, noticed the placemat was advertising a "Nordic Center" for the resort. We wanted info on trails, so we asked at the front desk, and the lady there had no idea it existed. I ran back to the restaurant and brought her a placemat. "Oh yeah, at Ebenezer's" she said, which was a building across the street. We walked over there, and it was locked up tight. Jeff called again, and the next lady still knew nothing. We talked to the gas station guys that rented ATV's, they knew nothing. Jeff called again. Finally he got someone that could help us and this manager was incredulous about the whole thing. Turns out the warm weather threw off everybody, or something. Weird. 
 He recommended  taking the resort's Nordic loop to the Fairyland rim trail. 
It was lovely.
  Completely had it to ourselves.
 We had the kids wear their shoes to get the experience, but Jeff and I just wore spikes.
 The views were as amazing as I'd hoped.

 The only problem was we decided to do an out and back trip. I told the kids all morning we would go three or four hours, and I pictured in my head us hiking for a while, stopping for a snack, going again for another hour or so, taking a little rest, and just continuing on for the rest of the afternoon. One of us however, was pretty whiny the whole time, and at one point, Jeff just told him to turn around and go back. By the time I figured out what was going on, Jeff and Kai were quickly moving in opposite directions, and I just didn't feel like I could leave Kai to go by himself through the woods. Love and Logic parenting fail? Maybe. I just knew I would worry too much, although Jeff was fine with it (he was the one hiking next to him most of the time, and was the prime target for the whining). I will say I was pretty upset about having my hike cut short by a ten year old, and let him know it. Still, we got in a good hour out and another back, so it was worth doing. In case anyone wonders if we were pushing him too hard? He was moving at a nice fast clip going back, and cheerfully talked about going swimming as soon as we got there.