Monday, January 28, 2013

Marin Headlands run

Yesterday I broke in my new trail runners.

It was a sunny Sunday in the Marin Headlands, a bit cool, but so crisp and clear I could see the Farallon Islands.

I started out at the Visitors Center, off Bunker Road, and went counter clockwise on Miwok Trail. For the first 2 miles you run a low grade climb on fire trails. Wolf trail is closed for the season, to help restore the environment.

Around the 2 mile mark, I turned left onto Old Springs Trail. This was a beautiful mid-ridge level trail, with broad views of the Pacific Ocean. The trail then heads down into the Tennessee Valley, the big tourist area. The trail takes you to a horse staging area, keep heading left until you hit the Tennessee Valley parking area, then head toward the beach, west. Take this for about another mile, and watch the left closely for a single track trail - the Coastal Trail. There should be a warning that this trail is steep. And a sign saying Hill 88.

The Coastal Trail toward Rodeo Beach is the highlight of the run. Yes, it is very, very steep. I had to hike this whole trail - no running. I was drenched in sweat. It is not scary steep - no cliff faces - very safe. The views from the top are worth every droplet of sweat.

At this point I hit the 6 mile mark. The last 2 miles are all downhill and very easy. You do have to dodge the tourists. You run by the old Nike missile sites, and the Farallons are still in full view.

This is an 8 mile loop. I finished in 1 hour and 49 minutes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Trail Shoes

My old grey trail shoes are 2 years old, and the tread is so worn down that if they were tires, the steel would be poking out. So I went on and ordered a new pair. My favorite brand is New Balance. I am very confident in their sizing, which is more accurate than some other brands. In a NB shoe I am a 41, or a 9.5 Women's. I ordered the NB Women's Minimus Alpha Trail Runner, in Red/Blue/Yellow, a limited addition skittle colour! And (probably because skittles are no popular) they only cost $67.98! Who ever heard to a shoe costing under $100? And look sooo good! They match every outfit I own!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hot Borscht on a Cold Night

Here in Northern California we are having an unusual cold snap. Our Eastern European friends would laugh at what we consider "cold", as would our friends in Detroit. We have been dipping down to the low 30s Fahrenheit (-0.5 c) and reaching the mid-50s during the day. On my Saturday long run, through the Berkeley hills, I cracked ice when stepping in the mud puddles, and the leaves of the poison oak were covered in white frost.

Since I need something warm in my belly to fight off the chill, I made one of my favorite home cooked soups. I don't use a recipe; my soups are always improvised. However, there are some techniques I always use, and would call them "signature" secrets. And some of these secrets I don't see on-line when I Google soup recipes. So here is how I make borscht, taught to me in Kiev.

Red Beet Borscht - American Style via Kiev

Wash raw red beets. If you have large ones, 3 is a fair amount. If small, use more than 3. (Saute the greens later for a side dish, as you would spinach. Beet greens are better than spinach, and way, way better than kale.)

Pre-heat the oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the beets in foil. Bake the beets until they are tender, maybe an hour, depending on their size.

Baking the beets will preserve their colour in your soup. If you boil the beets, they drain their colour. In addition, baking the beets gives them a sweeter, roasted flavor. (this is the big secret!) You can prepare the beets days ahead of time if you want, and just refrigerate your beets until you want to make soup.

Take pork fat, from bacon, or pork belly, and render. Chop up onion (red, white, whatever) and saute in the pork fat. If you are using bacon, leave the chunks of meat in the mix - yum. Add garlic if you like. I think garlic will give the broth richer flavor. (I love LOTS of onion. So you can add 2 whole onions if your a fan.)

Add water, or chicken broth, or beef broth to the pot of onions, garlic and bacon. At first maybe add 4 - 6 cups. You may add more later, depending on how chunky you want your soup. Add a spoonful of tomato paste and blend in. Bring to a simmer. (Tomato paste is optional. Often I leave it out. But it adds a little bit of richness. You can substitute a little tomato sauce, or a fresh chopped tomato. If using a fresh tomato, add it to the sauted onions and cook it a bit.)

Shred your beets on a grater. Many recipies chop their beets. But in Kiev I was taught to shred them on a large cheese grater. Personally the texture of shredded beets is my preference to chopped chunks. Add the beets to the soup.

Add spices. The spices I add include black pepper, salt (if the bacon or pork belly is not salty enough, so be carefull with the salt), a pinch of dill (not too much - be carefull with the dill), a pinch of caraway seeds (again - be careful with the caraway - you don't want your soup to taste like rye bread), and a bay leaf.

Simmer the soup for about 15-20 minutes. If the soup looks too chunky, add more broth.

Serve with rye bread, sour cream, a side of halusky галушка, some chopped hard boiled egg, or cucumber.  The soup will taste even better the next day, when the flavors mingle a bit more.

In Kiev me and my brother ate borscht everyday. It is totally addictive!

2013 - The New Year

It is now 2013, and I am looking ahead to what goals I should set. I have already signed up for The Grizzly Peak half-marathon, a 13.1 trail run in the Berkeley Hills. This will be my first trail race, and it is a good one for me to tackle since I know those trails well. The next race I am looking into is the Big Basin 50K. This would be my first 50K, set in the Santa Cruz, CA mountains. I know the Sky to Sea trail - I have hiked it - it is beau-ti-ful!! You start at the top of the hills and take the trail 30 miles down to the beach. But I don't want to do it alone and am trying to get Andrea to sign up. And as to travel, we are looking at Christmas 2013 in Slovakia, with a side trip to Vienna. Hugh has always wanted to go to Vienna at Christmas time, and we have not been back to Slovakia for a few years. It is time!