Friday, May 27, 2011

The Warrior Dash (or, Would you like mud with your run?)

So last Saturday I womaned-up and made the 2hr trek to the Eastern Shore to take place in the 2011 Maryland Warrior Dash.

The Dash is essentially a 5K bred with a butt-busting obstacle course. The result is 3.1 miles of organized chaos. Mud and fire are main components of the course. You have to agree to things on the consent form like:
  • I understand that the Warrior Dash is a hazardous activity.

  • I assume the risk of wild animals and insects that may be present on the course.

  • I understand the Dash presents extreme obstacles including, but not limited to fire, mud pits, cargo climbs, junk cars, and steep hills.
So, of course, I talked about 4 of my friends into it- Two of whom I missed on the course entirely (Lauren, Muffie - I'll see you in Frederick!) and another who wasn't spotted until the post-race hose off and was greeted with a big muddy bear hug.

I spent the race with my buddy, Carla, who graciously walked the course with me after I gave my ankle a slight turn coming down from the hay bale tower. Which was fine, really, since it took the focus off the mud-covered gash on my leg (which happened either during the wooded trail run or during the wall climb).

The mud itself came courtesy of the course designers and Mother Nature, who poured inches of rain on the area in the days leading up to the race. This made the trail run portion of the course a little more interesting since (1) the mud was deep enough that a few people (myself included) lost shoes on the course, and (2) given the smell of the mud, which we had to crawl through for one the obstacles, I'm pretty sure there were considerably less pleasant things than dirt and water in the mix. The rain also flooded parts of the trail, eliciting "Parkour!" proclamations while runners tried to bob and weave through the woods.

Still, I had a great time! And while it looks like I'm the only one out of my friends who would run it again, I'm sure we can all agree that with the free beer and crazy Flintstones Order of the Water Buffalo-like hat it was totally worth it.

I managed to snag pics of some of the course obstacles:

Damn hay bale tower. It looks so innocuous, but hay is deceptively tall. I turned my ankle a bit when I jumped down the second half.

The scene post-race. The inflatable warrior hat tent housed race results. Beer and giant turkey legs were available in the back.

Ah, the rope tower. This one wasn't too bad, really!

The super slide. I was really looking forward to this until I started down and realized the rock pile underneath the plastic basically made the thing into giant cheese grater and my ass was cheddar. I lost a bit of my hand trying to slow down.

The warning before the last obstacle.

The final obstacle: The mud pit! It was actually quite cozy and didn't smell as bad as the mud on the wooded trail.

The fire hurdle!

A (slightly less than legal) screenshot of my taking down the fire hurdle!

This is how you clean up post-race. Volunteers hose you down with freezing cold water.

A happy camper.

See you in 2012?

Here's hoping you all have a kick-butt holiday weekend! I'll be driving down to South Carolina with BHE and Donald to attend a family wedding and to work on my tan poolside. Until next time, Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Puppy Tough Love and Our First Vegan BBQ

Donald is fitting in pretty well at the apartment. Familiarizing himself with our routines and sussing out just how much he can bother the cats before they'll swipe at him. He's also taken the time to figure out where we put our garbage and recycling.

Yeah, I was less than thrilled to come home to the above-pictured destruction. We had to scramble to clean and disinfect the place in time for our first party of the season.

Donald, for his part, quickly recognized that I was displeased with his behavior and made a beeline for his kennel, where he stayed until I was done cleaning. He was the picture of good doggy manners during the BBQ and later on worked his A-game to get back on my good side.

It totally worked. Damn him and his doggy powers...

He's been in the recycling at least once since then and we've consequently moved the bins to the front of the house.

The BBQ was the first fete of the season (thank the good lord for spring!) and after compiling the guest list BHE and I realized that we'd invited mostly vegetarians and vegans. So we decided to try our hand at an all veg-friendly menu:

To Eat:
Vegan Mac and Cheese
Tofurky Beer Brats
Tofurky Kielbasa
Seasoned Grilled "Meatballs" and Potatoes
Arugula Pasta Salad with Roasted Veggies
Apple Crisp

To Drink:
Beer (which, thank god, is always veg-friendly)
Sage Blackberry Bramble (just muddle some sage before adding the gin)

We also took a crack at black-bean burgers, but they were pretty unforgettable (read: They were that dish the Sugarhill Gang spoke of in "Rapper's Delight").

The Mac and Cheese was a tweaked version of a recipe generously shared by our buddy, Matt (I added several dashes of hot sauce and a tsp or so of mustard powder). Another pal, Mere, lent me her apple crisp recipe:
Vegan Apple Crisp

4 c apples, sliced and peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c water
Mix together and put in a greased 9" square pan

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/4 c oats

Cut 1/3 c vegan butter (I'm a big fan of Earth Balance) into sugar mixture and sprinkle on top of apples. Bake at 350 for 40 mins.

The Arugula & Pasta Salad recipe came by way of Ali over at Gimme Some Oven. (Whom you really ought to check out if you haven't already.) Since BHE has a slight nut allergy, I messed around with the pesto a bit and substituted pistachio nuts, which worked out well for us.

Overall, the food was a hit! Particularly the meatballs and potatoes, which I adapted from an old recipe from Food & Wine magazine:

Grilled "Meatballs" & Potatoes

1 - 2 packages Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage (ground sausage style), rolled into 1-in meatballs
2 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp pure chile powder, such as ancho
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs small red and white potatoes, cleaned and quartered

1. Bring a large pot/stock pot of water to a full boil. Add the potatoes to the large stock pot boil for 9 - 11 minutes, until you can pierce a piece of potato with a knife while still meeting some resistance. (You want to parboil the potatoes, not completely cook them.) Drain the potatoes and then rinse them with cold water. Let them cool for several minutes and then set them aside in a large bowl.

Alternatively, you can place the potatoes in a covered dish with a few tbsp of water and microwave it for about 5 minutes.

2. On a cutting board, using the flat side of a chef's knife, mash the garlic and salt to a coarse paste. Add the caraway seeds and finely chop them. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the chile powder and olive oil. Add the meatballs and potatoes and toss to coat. (You may find this easier to do in 2 separate bowls.)

3. Place a grill pan or a bowl fashioned out of heavy duty aluminum foil (that's how we roll) on a heated grill and grill for 10 - 12 minutes, until the potatoes and meatballs begin to char. Serve and wait for people to lavish praise on the chef.

All told, the vegan theme proved successful. So much so that I'm sending this post over to Chez Cayenne to include in its House Favorites: Vegan collection :)

This weekend BHE and I will be in Philadelphia helping man the Ex-boyfriend Collection tent at the Art Star Craft Bazaar along the waterfront at Penn's Landing Great Plaza.

Seriously, stop by and say hello! We'll go grab a beer and you can say "howdy" to myself, Donald and BHE in person.

Looking forward to seeing you there. Until then, as always - Enjoy!