This party’s moving

O HAI.

So as of today, I’m over here.  Come join the fun!

And update your readers/bookmarks/blogrolls/scraps of paper/etc.

http://www.eatdrinkandrun.com

 

Same crowd, different bar.

SEE U THERE!

The naked runner

Today, I had one of those bizarre epiphanies.  The kind that leads you to a totally obvious conclusion.

Sometimes, when you’re running, less is more.

And although the wisdom certainly applies, I wasn’t thinking about clothing.  I’ve been tooling around in a sports bra for a couple of weeks now, actually.

I refuse to be encumbered by superfluous clothing when it’s over eighty degrees out.  And I don’t care who has to look at my flabby torso.

Anyway, no, this epiphany was related to the little gadget that’s been strapped to my wrist on almost every run for nearly a year now.

It started when I headed down to the little gym in my building tonight.  Because it was 95* outside.  And I planned to run on the treadmill.  Only to discover that all of the treadmills were occupied.

I side-eyed an empty elliptical for a fleeting moment before sighing and heading for the front door.  Watchless, Garmin-less, iPod-less.  (And shirtless, of course, as I stripped it off and tossed it in a corner of the lobby on my way out.)

Around the neighborhood in the sweltering heat I tooled.  For 30 minutes.  Ish.  I probably ran three miles and change.  Ish.

And you know what?  It was actually rather lovely.

If I’d had my Garmin, of course, I would have been constantly bemoaning my pace and gently berating myself for going so slowly.  Every step would have twinged with mild anxiety.  But today?  I just ran.

So, here’s the deal.  I’m packing my favorite little gadget away for a couple of months.

And I’m just going to run.

This doesn’t mean I’m not ever going to run hard if I happen to feel like it. (My ten-year-old Timex Ironman can clock a 400 on the track just fine.)  But as the temperature continues to rise and the crushing humidity settles in, I’m just going to run as much as I semi-comfortably can, without worrying about whether those runs are happening at a 7:45 or 8:45 or 9:45 pace.

Because I’ve been worrying about that for nearly a year, ever since I acquired the Garmin.  And…I need a little break.

This also doesn’t mean I’m not going to track my workouts and mileage.  I’m just changing the variable part of the equation for a little while.

Traditionally:

Instead, I’ll just run by time and then back into an approximate distance using an assumed pace.  Say, 9:00/mile.

I’m pretty sure this is how I tracked my runs for years, before the days of GPS and MapMyRun.  Less data is more.  Sure, it’s not going to be perfectly accurate, but who cares?  It’s not like the IRS is going to come audit my training log.

Anyway, yeah.  Pretty obvious stuff: you’re headed in to a mellow, base-building period.  And running in punishing conditions.  Why not leave the damn wrist-computer at home?

Thank you, douchebags who were walking on the treadmill in polos and boat shoes tonight, for helping me to realize this.

Oh, and bonus?  When I pick it back up after not playing with it for a while, my little Garmin will be a shiny new toy once again.

PS: Dear iPod, you’re on notice, too.  

Not because I have anything against running with music, but because I don’t want to sweat all over it and ruin it.  And also, you can’t run through sprinklers when you’re carrying an iPod.  And I live for running through sprinklers on hot summer runs.

While we’re at it, here are a couple of quick recaps that I’m a little behind on.

Vacation week rundown:

M: 4 easy (beach, barefoot, 40:15, 10:00 pace)
Tu: 3 easy (beach, barefoot, 31:00, 10:20 pace)
W: 3 easy + circuit training (beach, barefoot, 29:59, 9:59 pace)
Th: OFF
F: OFF
Sa: 4 easy (mostly road, 35:15, 8:48 pace)
Su: OFF

Total: 14 miles.  WOOHOO!  Well, I was on vacation.  Um, running on the beach is a serious workout, yo.

And adding May’s monthly stats to the pile ‘o fun:

May gets a huge MEH.  I had very few quality workouts (which is my own fault because…I just didn’t ever make it to the track or discipline myself to tempo it).  I ran a respectable 10K and a shitty (literally) half marathon.  Then I took several days off (needed).  And then I went on vacation.

Well, I guess that last part wasn’t so bad. :)

June, onward and upward.  And I’m running naked.  I’m practically one of those early explorers, scribbling complicated equations on maps and navigating by the stars.

I’ll bet they weren’t ready for this jelly, either.

Conched out

Y’all know what this is, right?

It’s a conch.  Also known as the thing that they would blow on in Lord of the Flies when shit was about to go down.  Also known as the thing you can stick against your ear and hear the ocean.  Also known as a mollusk that is delicious when deep-fried and dipped in mayonnaise.

I would know, as that’s basically all I ate on vacation last week.

Official Vacation Calorie Breakdown:

Or thereabouts.  I don’t know, I was too busy enjoying myself to really pay attention.

The occasion was a wedding: two of the hubs’ friends from business school.  I’ve been to a few of these types of events now and they’re always an absolute blast: whirlwind reunions featuring friends and fun and food and of course copious amounts of booze.

On this particular trip, our days typically started around noon, like so:

And progressed to…who knows what.  Shenanigans.

For those who may be wondering, I’ll share a few details about the trip!

The location of this rendezvous was Grace Bay, on the island of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos.  T&C is about a three hour flight from NYC, and Grace Bay is consistently ranked among the world’s best beaches.

And deservedly so.  With sand like powdered sugar and that impossibly turquoise water, this was definitely one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen!  (Topped only by the pink sands of Harbour Island in the Bahamas, where we honeymooned.)

We stayed at a little motel across from the beach called Grace Bay Suites.  It certainly wasn’t fancy, but it was clean and functional and centrally located – and it fit in our budget better than the fancier beach resorts.  Honestly, for the price, I think we got a steal!

The wedding and most of the wedding events were held at The Somerset.  This was where we ended up hanging out most of the time, clearly, as many of our friends were staying there.  It was gorgeous.

Things on the island, in general, were pretty expensive – which makes sense, as everything is imported.  But that said, I thought it was a very easy and fun place to travel:

  • Standard currency is USD.
  • There’s no language barrier.
  • Things felt very safe.  (Their tourism board claims that Provo, as Providenciales is commonly known, has the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean.)
  • There was a large gourmet grocery store that stocked every type of Greek Yogurt and organic vegetable you could possibly want (for a steep price, of course).

Compared to other parts of the Caribbean where I’ve traveled, T&C certainly had an abundance of the comforts of home – and not so much of the spring-break-style nightlife.  If you’re looking for a gorgeous, low-stress beach vacation and don’t mind paying a little more to avoid some of the challenges endemic to other island destinations, T&C is for you!

And the wedding?  Of course, it was absolutely amazing. The hubs and I worked up a serious glisten on the dance floor:

Sweat is sexy.

Congrats, Jer and Alli!  Thanks so much for putting on a spectacular string of wedding events, and for including us in all of it!

With that, I’m off to detox for a few days.

And run off all of those fruity-nonsense drinks and conch fritters.

Blogger Q&A: Everything you ever wanted to know about cows

Hello and happy Friday!  I’ve been at the beach for nearly a week and I’m still not sunburned.  This is definitely some sort of record!  

Not that there isn’t still time…

Anyway.  For today’s Q&A, we’re chatting with someone who has a cooler job than I will ever have.

Lisa blogs at Cow Spots & Tales and she’s a dairy farmer! Pretty cool, huh?  I wouldn’t know what to do with an udder if it smacked me in the face!  I was curious about what life on the farm is like, and Lisa agreed to answer my questions.  Enjoy!

Q: So you’re a real-life dairy farmer?  How does that work?

A: Yup, a real life dairy farmer. We milk dairy cows on our farm, and then sell the milk to a cooperative milk processing plant (which is less than an hour from our farm). A milk truck with a refrigerated stainless steel tank on the back comes to pick up milk everyday.

Most of our milk gets made into cheese, but the plant also processes some butter and milk. I do know some dairies that are set up to process in a plant right on the farm, but most do sell their milk to a processor like we do.

Q: How many cows do you have?  Are you a big farm or a small farm among “local” dairy farms?

A: Well, big and small have definitely become relative terms in dairy farming. I would say we are bigger than average for our area and even our state of Minnesota. But if we were in Califiornia, which is the largest dairy state, we would be smaller than average.

We milk right around 500 cows, plus we have all the young calves. All of our heifers from about 12-20 months old (kind of like our teen-age cows) go to a close by farm where there is more building and outdoor space for them. They come back to our home farm 1-2 months before they have their first calf, which is usually just before they turn 2 years old.

Q: You recently mentioned that you’re transitioning to farming as a full time job.  Walk us thorough a day in the life!

A: Oh gosh, it seems like no day is quite the same! Depending on what we’re doing with field work or how many calves are born in a given day, things can vary a lot.

I’m usually up around 6:00, and that’s when I try to get in my morning run. My husband (who I call JR on my blog & sometimes in real life too) and I will talk through our thoughts for the day as we make the quick drive to the farm. We’ll check on the milking parlor first thing, where they’ve been milking cows since about 4:00 a.m. We have two shifts of people milking cows, with the first running about 4 am – 1 pm and the second about 4 pm – 1 am.

We’ll check in with our morning calf-feeder, and I’ll help move and feed new calves. Then we might start on anything from bedding pens with fresh straw to moving calves or vaccinating. We also need to ear-tag new calves and keep information on births, vaccinations, treatments, etc up to date in our computer software.

If any of our feeding or milking equipment breaks down, getting that fixed moves to top priority. By about 3:30 I’ll start getting water to our individual calf hutches and then pour milk bottles for evening feeding. All our hutches plus groups pens will get grain and hay, in addition to milk for calves 8 weeks or younger. Most nights we try to get home around 8:00, but it can certainly vary. We also raise hay and corn to feed our cows. It seems like either planting, chopping hay, or harvesting corn are never too far away!

Q: So I saw the movie City Slickers.  I saw Billy Crystal shove his arm up that mama cow!  Does that actually happen?

A: Well, I haven’t seen City Slickers in a long time, so I can’t remember exactly why Billy shoved his arm up the cow. But… here’s a true story. Every week on Tuesday at 11 a.m. our vet comes to the farm specifically to do pregnancy check. We’ve got a list of cows we expect are a certain number of days pregnant, and the vet puts his arm “up” the cow to determine if she’s carrying a calf and how far along she is.

Probably not super fun, but I can’t imagine it’s any worse than my yearly OBGYN appointment. :-)

Q: Yikes.  Um, I’m crossing my legs over here.

Anyway.  You just ran the Fargo Marathon – congrats!  How on earth do you balance running and marathon training with a highly physical job like dairy farming?  

A: Hmm – good question! Honestly, I’ve just decided that running is something I like doing, and I need to make time for it. It’s easy to get bogged down in farm work, but running and racing reminds me that there is a world outside the farm. Even though running is physical and my job is physical, running also tends to relax me because I can just let my mind wander.

As for time management, I try to do my runs in the morning because otherwise they probably won’t happen. My weekend schedule is more variable, so I may do long runs mid-day Sunday, early morning Saturday, or anytime in between. I just try and figure out a time slot in advance so I can claim that time as my running time!

Q: Cheese is seriously one of my favorite foods.  I love a creamy brie…but I’m not sure if it beats a delicious sharp cheddar.  What’s your favorite type of cheese?

A: That is tough. I love both of the cheeses you mention, but I think the sharp cheddar wins for me. One of my favorite snacks is definitely a sharp cheddar with fruit and/or crackers and red wine if possible. :) I’ve also become a fan of stronger cheeses in recent years and like various Swiss cheeses far more than I used to.

Thanks, Lisa!  I’m totally up for sharing that cheddar and red wine if you ever come to NC!

Blogger Q&A: Everything you ever wanted to know about beer

…as told to you by a pregnant lady.  And for sure, one that still knows way more about beer than you do.

Say hello to Marie from Cheaper Than Therapy!  She graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions about beer and blogging.  I’m saving a cold one for her…

Q: You sure seem to know a lot about beer. How and when did you get in to it? Did you evolve from the likes of Nattie Ice-chugging college students, or did you always have better taste than most of us?

A: I have always had better everything than most of you.

Nah, but yeah. I drank shitty beer by the gallon in college. Keystone Light was my poison. Every once in a while we’d really live it up and buy some Corona or Shiner. But I saved most of my money to buy good pot…

I knew there was better beer out there, but I couldn’t really comprehend how good. I also knew there were these things called stouts and porters, but I just kind of always assumed I wouldn’t like them. I was like a lot of people in that Big Beer had conditioned me to believe that beer should not have much flavor. I blame it partially on the fact that I lived in Lubbock, Texas throughout my formative beer-drinking years. (Although in Lubbock’s defense, Hub City Brewery did have some great beer.)

I’ve always been a fan of drinking though, so once I had a little more money, I started branching out. I really got into it when I started hanging with a couple guys from work who were real big beer geeks. My epiphany beer was Dogfish Head 90.

Q: Everywhere you turn, there seems to be someone yammering about “craft” beer.  What exactly is craft beer?  How is it different from a microbrew or a mass-produced beer?

A: In the book Great American Craft Beer, it says that a microbrewery was once classified as one that produced less than 3000 barrels annually. Then a lot of brewers who had inadvertently exceeded “microbrew” levels due to their sheer awesomeness got kind of pissed, and the number was raised to 10,000. Then 15. The American Brewer’s Association now maintains a strict 6 million barrel microbrewery threshold. For now.

Mr. Fancy Pants Brewer’s Association defines a “craft” brewery as one that is “small, independent and traditional.” Then they go on to to describe just exactly what qualifies as small, independent and  traditional. And then they offer some more subjective criteria.

It’s kind of stupid.

I think if a brewer makes a legit effort to be distinct and flavorful rather than just trying to appeal to the masses, it could be considered craft. Oh, and you have to really like doing it. You can’t be a faker who’s just in it for the money.

But I try not to get too hung up on the semantics (that’s what wine people do). You figure out what tastes good to you and you drink it.

Q: On your blog, you’re always drinking beers that I’ve never heard of.  You seem to have a ton of local favorites.  What are your top three?

A: SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

Indiana is really lucky to have some fantastic local breweries. I go on and on about Three Floyds, but for real, they epitomize everything I love: great beer, heavy metal, tattoos. Those guys just know what the fuck they’re doing. Three Floyds’ Imperial IPA, the Dreadnaught, is my all-time favorite. My second would probably be Arctic Panzer Wolf Double IPA or Apocalypse Cow (another DIPA). Alpha Klaus is one of their seasonal porters that is really incredible. Hoptimus (like from Transformers?) is an IPA from New Albanian in New Albany, IN, and it’s pretty killer too.

Upland (Bloomington, IN) has a fantastic black IPA called Komodo Dragonfly, a seasonal take on their Dragonfly IPA (picking up a theme here??)

ALSO ALSO ALSO the new 3 Pints Brewpub in Plainfield, IN has some beers that smell wonderful. But you’d have to ask my husband. They only started brewing after I was already knocked up.

Well, that was more than three. But screw your three.

Q: How about favorite three beers that you could find anywhere in America in a typical grocery store?

A: New Belgium (they make more than just Fat Tire!) is one of the largest craft breweries in the country now, and their Ranger IPA is fantastic. I think you can find Stone beer in most places too; I really like their Sublimely Self-Righteous American Black Ale, but if they don’t have that, pick up an Arrogant Bastard. You also can’t go wrong with Sierra Nevada pale ale. Also, I might get killed for saying this, but A-B’s Shock Top Belgian Wheat is really not that bad. If you’re in a pinch.

Q: Help me expand the non-running-and-oatmeal-eating section of my Google reader.  Name a few of your favorite beer blogs?

http://www.dailybeerreview.com/ is one I read every day. He’s reviewed thousands of beers so it’s a great source for researching stuff. And we’ve done a couple of beer trades so I can vouch for his expertise. He’s also pretty funny.

http://www.brewkkake.com/ is pure gutter. He doesn’t blog very often, but when he does, it’s definitely worth reading.

http://willrunforbeer.blogspot.com/. She’s a really good runner and she drinks a lot of beer. Proof that that everything in moderation adage is bullshit.

http://beerporndaily.com/ is also funsies.

And for any Indiana friends out there, http://www.hoosierbeergeek.blogspot.com/ is our local beer-enthusiast organization. The site has everything you would ever need to know about local beer: where you can find it, special events, reviews, etc. A really fun crowd of people. Also they seem to have some really weird fetish for pandas.

Q: I remember that one time when you went to Germany and drank a bunch of beer and blogged about it.  That was neat.  If you could take another beer-related vacation, where would you go and what would you do?  (And can I come with you?)

A: I love visiting exotic places and foreign countries, but for a beer tour, I’d stick to the good ol’ U.S. of A. I’d love to take a few weeks to drive or cycle up the west coast. California, Oregon and Washington have some fantastic local breweries, camping and sightseeing.

Q: You recently got knocked up.  Congratulations!  I must admit, though, that I did a double-take when you posted your announcement because it seemed like the sort of thing you might joke about.  Your blog has become rather well-known for its hilariously deadpan satire.  Where do you get your material?

A: Thank you! I waste a lot of time being insolent and making fun of people, so it may come as a surprise that I actually have a heart. Or a uterus.

Material…I like to take stuff I think is stupid and expand on it. My intention is never to hurt feelings; rather, to say what (I hope) everyone else is thinking and to make people laugh. And sometimes to hurt feelings.

Having said that, there are a lot of bloggers out there who give bad advice and seem to take the idea of being a fitness role model way too seriously. And also they take way too many pictures of themselves doing the most mundane and/or absurd things. From sitting in a car drinking iced coffee to getting a colonic (okay, I’m exaggerating, but really? I wouldn’t be surprised. And I’m not a prude, okay, but is nothing sacred?) It’s really just an excuse to post flattering (and if we’re being honest, not-so-flattering) pictures of themselves. I see myself as providing a public service to help these people understand how ridiculous they are.

Also, when it comes to humor, nothing should be off limits. Eating disorders, drug abuse, Down Syndrome, AIDS, cancer, abortion. All of these things have the potential to be very funny. The Ebola virus is hysterical to me. So is crystal meth.

Okay, look. Before I start pissing people off, these are things we have all encountered in our lives, either personally or via a friend or sex partner or family member (except maybe for Ebola), so I’m not trying to diminish how scary they can be. But you make horrible jokes about them, and suddenly they don’t seem so scary. Don’t give them power, and they won’t overpower you. It’s like finding out the monster on Scooby Doo was just that disgruntled lighthouse keeper all along. I never try to simply be gratuitously shocking; I’m trying to make a point. And if somebody doesn’t get it…well, I’m too lazy to explain.

What was your question again?

Q: I have no idea.  Um, okay, final question: sliced fruit in yer beer. Yay or nay?

A: Personally, I think a good beer should be able to stand on it’s own without requiring fruit to enhance it. BUT I also think the coolest thing about beer is that there are no rules (um, unless you’re the ABA, I guess). You can’t embarrass yourself at your dinner party by pairing a beer with the wrong dish. You don’t spit out your beer at beer tastings. You can dip your pork rib in your beer and nobody will give you side-eyes. And if you ask that your beer be served in a snifter, you’re not a snob, you’re a geek.

So I would say yes to anything, if it serves a purpose. (Dogfish Head’s “neo-Berliner Weisse” Festina Peche is served with a dash of essence of woodruff or raspberry syrup to soften the intense sourness…I know, what?) But if you’re just doing it because you think you’re supposed to (or worse, because it makes the photo look prettier!), then nah.

Thanks so much, Marie!  

And with that, I’m gonna go drink a cold one on the beach.  

Blogger Q&A: Everything you ever wanted to know about racewalking

If you’re not familiar with her particular brand of self-deprecating humor and leave-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat race reports, head over to Angry Runner’s blog.  Bring a beverage.

I recently chatted with her about her dark past as a racewalker.  And other things.  Enjoy!

Q: You have been running for-freaking-ever. Maybe even longer than me. When did you start?

A: I ran my first race in 1985? It was a kiddie one mile I ran while my father was doing a 10k. I don’t remember much other than the fact that my mother ran with me and we were slow. The next time I ran a race my father ran along side me and he told me to go faster. It was then that I learned that running was supposed to hurt, at least if you’re in a race…

Anyhow, I did a bunch of those – not very seriously – while trying and failing at some other sports. I didn’t run a 5k till 1991, and I ran cross country that fall for my middle school team. I quickly learned that actually running more than here and there and remembering that “hey, this hurts!” moment and learning to deal with it could make you run a lot faster. It’s a good lesson.


Q: You’ve probably run a lot of races, then! Like, how many?

A: People actually keep track of that shit? Because I can’t tell you off hand how many races I ran last YEAR let alone in a lifetime. Vaguely curious, I just checked Athlinks and they’ve got 151 listed dating back to 1992. And that’s only a small percentage of them considering how many dinky backwater races I did in the nineties (before the age of digital results.) It also omits the many many many high school cross country/track races I ran and the 19 times I ran the Thanksgiving Day race near where my parents live…

So, um, a lot. And seriously, do people try and keep TRACK of that shit? I hope they’re getting something out of it…

Q: I have no idea what people would get out of it! But people seem to like to talk about it so…ahem.

Anyway.  Obviously you’re a pretty experienced runner, but I heard a rumor that you can also probably walk a 5K faster than most people can run one. What’s that all about?

A: Ah yes, the rumors are true. I have a dark past as a racewalker. Before I elaborate, what do YOU picture when I mention racewalking? You can be honest – I can take it. (That’s what she said.)

Q: Um, short nylon shorts and terrycloth sweatbands? I have no idea. For some reason it seems super retro, even though I know the sport is alive and well!

A: I don’t know how “well” it is in North America at this point, though I also don’t think racewalkers had nearly as bad a rap back in the day where Americans were reasonably competitive.

Anyhow, I went to high school in NY where racewalking is an event in the indoor state meet. I also lived close enough to the Canadian border to get CBC coverage of track. I remember watching some racewalking and thinking I could do it. II don’t remember the impetus other than being (1) bored and burnt out; (2) knowing my wonky form wasn’t too far from a racewalking stride; and (3) wanting to go to states in indoor track and knowing I wasn’t fast enough to qualify running.

My first attempt was at the indoor state qualifier. I won and was DQ’d in my first attempt (1996) and frankly, I had no clue so whatever. I then did a 5K at the Empire State Games that summer and went slightly faster than I expected, though I still kinda sucked and didn’t really know what I was doing. But I decided I liked it and that it gave me a break from running – and there you go. The love for a secondary event was born.

Q: Being DQ’d must have sucked. So apparently there are pretty serious rules. What are they?

A: That DQ was kind of meh. I was inexperienced so I wasn’t stunned. There was another that makes me angry to this day, but that’s neither here nor there.

But the rules are this: one foot always has to be in contact with the ground and one knee always straightens. The actual wording is very specific. Racewalk courses are usually 1000-2000 meter loops  with judges positioned all over. (They also rotate, but the specifics of that aren’t all that important.) They can caution you if you’re “lifting” or if you have a bent knee, or they can just write out a red card. You can get two of those in a race and still be okay but if you get a third…you get tossed.

The DQ that bothered me came because I was trying to kick on a downhill and must have caught some air because three judges carded me in the last 200 meters. (Though a look at video footage showed that one wasn’t actually looking at me when he filled out the card – THAT’S what really burns me. Pretty sure the guy just didn’t like me.)

Q: Sounds like an asshat! So is racewalking harder or easier than running?

A: The downside to judged events is there is, well, judging. Racewalking is harder. A lot of people hear it and assume it’s what old blue-haired ladies do around the mall. Or asshats go on letsrun.com and start threads like “WHY R RACEWALKERS SO DUMB” and start throwing shit around. I don’t get it. Because of the specific bio-mechanics involved, you have to do a LOT more of it to really be good at it.

I never did it full time for more than a week or two out of my “season” (I’d usually run half of mileage) so I never got anywhere near my potential in the event. But you’ve really got to focus on (1) not fucking up your form; (2) figuring out how to move faster within the confines of what you’re allowed to do (think: breast stroke in swimming); and (3) really having to set aside time to work on efficiency/turn over, or suffer.

Q: Like it’s a combo of skill/fitness as opposed to just straight fitness. (Also, no one who posts on letsrun shaves or gets laid so I always just assume they don’t know anything about…anything.)

A: Yeah, that’s fair to say. And for me, frankly, I’m probably a better racewalker than I am a runner which is why I stuck with it as long as I did. I never had to work a whole lot to develop the form and at this point I’ve had more than one person tell me I “run like a racewalker.”

And you’re so dead on about the letsrun crowd. They’re dickholes with skinny man syndrome. Though that does remind me of an indoor race-walk I did once…two letsrun high school types entered the race in costume. Like, pink spankies, wigs, shit like that. I remember turning to the girl next to me and asking her if we should be offended.

[source]

Q: Well, at least they weren’t wearing running skirts!

A: Sad but true: They weren’t invented yet. YES, THERE WAS A TIME BEFORE RUNNING SKIRTS.

Q: I’m sure “Angryrunner hates running skirts” must be one of your most popular search terms, and not just because I spend an hour a day trolling your blog with that one.  You’ve gained quite a following over the last few months, people seem to love your hate!

A: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen more traffic lately. And that running skirt post is still one of my most popular, and it’s got a fair number of “YOU SUCK ELITIST BITCH” comments. People have gotten there by googling about running skirts, hatred of running skirts and fucking in running skirts. But that was my first “hit.”

And it’s funny, because when I started my blog I had set out to provide a slightly “different” voice – not sure whether or not anyone would read. Because really, there are 50 billion blogs out there where you can read about how happy someone is or how they have the best husband in the world or how they had oats for breakfast again. That’s cool, but it’s just kinda played out. Maybe other people are starting to vary their reading habits because I’ve had a lot of new blog subscriptions lately. To that end, you’re actually my top referrer of all time. More people have found me from your blog than anywhere else, which I think is kind of fun.

Q: Or else it means that they come to my blog and become enraged enough by my half-drunken prattle to click on “ANGRY RUNNER” links. In any case, it’s a win-win situation!

A: Agreed! A match made in…something. A bar? Yes.

Q: You seem to sort of play in an in-between space here in blogland…you’re half satire, half legit running/training/racing talk, half entertaining random rage…oh wait, that’s too many halves. But you are obviously a little different than the average running/fitness/whatever blogger. And you’ve chosen to keep you identity relatively anonymous, which is sort of unusual. Any advice for bloggers who want to break the mold?

A: Well, for starters, I suppose it’s probably a good thing to figure out what you want to do.

If you want to make money from your blog, I think you have to be pretty safe. Think network TV. Specifically, say, CBS. CBS does well in the ratings because they crank out a lot of “safe” material. Procedural shows that attract a dedicated audience. Mindless Chuck Lorre sitcoms with programmatic laughs. Lots of people watch “Two and a Half Men” and “NCIS,” and that’s cool. But these shows don’t break any boundaries. They’re not horribly original. They just manage to create a formula that a lot of people like and stick with it. Good on them.

Too bad *I* don’t want to watch that crap. I’m a big advocate of shows that are different, which is why I’ve long pulled for “Arrested Development,” “Sopranos” and “Parks and Recreation” (watch that one, people). There are a lot of pieces of these shows that people who like the other familiar ones might like, but it’s…a different context. Paced differently. Not in the same mold.

And if people can get out of the habits of watching the same things again and again, they might agree. Of course, with that comes the risk of writing to an audience that expects more of the same…see also, why “The Office” has gone downhill.

This probably sounds pretentious as all fuck but that’s not my intention. What I’m getting at is you can really try to get readers by writing what a lot of people write and posting on the blogs that a lot of people read saying the exact same things. Or you can offer similar stories…but make them different. Hence by whole “Angry Runner” concept. Yes, I’m generally a cynical pessimist, but I don’t *actually* run around calling everyone a fucking cunt all the time. The blog gives me the power to do that. My name isn’t attached because, well, I’d like to be able to apply for jobs and not have this indexed in a search. (O hai, future employers! I like to call people fat cunts!) And because it gives me freedom to be more HBO and less CBS.

(I should mention that I don’t flatter myself to be as talented as the writers on that show, lest anyone misjudge my intentions with that analogy!)

Q: I know you have a lot of people who ask you if you’re really as mean and sarcastic in real life as you are on the blog. I’m pretty sure the answer is no, having shacked up with you that one time….but just for reference, if you had to compare yourself to a TV or movie character, who would it be? And you can’t say Dexter because it has to be a chick (otherwise everyone will think you are a dude again).

A: This is something I think about all the time. No, seriously. I do. But there is a specific breakdown.

Q: OMFG.  BRB, I need another glass of wine.

A: I know, it’s sad. I watch way too much TV.

I’m at least 50% George Costanza. Sorry, but it’s true. Which means I’m also a bit of Larry David since George Costanza is more or less Larry David. So to this end, I really am kind of a sarcastic, evil, bitch…but as I’m more George than Larry, I’m also a loser who never gets her way so it’s ok.

10% Liz Lemon for her “if you’re looking for a beard, I don’t do that anymore!” comment alone. And many other things. But the mix of general neurosis is dead on. Make it 20% Liz Lemon actually. No, 15%.

10% Elaine Benes as I am the smug, sarcastic chick who has just as much contempt for the people around her as her male counterparts.

….so we’re up to 75%

15% Lisa Simpson. I am not nearly as big a perfectionist or as smart, but some of her quotes are dead on (“I know this obsession with thinness is unhealthy and anti-feminist…but that’s what a fat girl would say!”) and the more miserable parts of her childhood have always hit a little too close. (True story: I can’t think of that fucking “You Are Lisa Simpson” note the substitute leaves her without getting a lump in my throat.)

The last 10% is kind of a toss up. 5% Dexter for his basic misunderstanding of a lot of basic emotions everyone else seems to get (though I swear I don’t kill people), but also another 5% of House, at least from early seasons as I gave up on the show last year. I’ve always enjoyed watching a character who embraces self loathing to the degree that I do, but fuck…he’s a hell of a lot more successful than me.

Q: Um, most of those are men.

A: I KNOW THEY’RE DUDES, but blame Hollywood and the fact that most writers can’t write good female characters. (Obvious exceptions exist, particularly on “Mad Men”…or you know, Leslie Knope. PEOPLE SHOULD WATCH PARKS AND REC!).

To that end, maybe I should become a television writer…I think I could make an awesomely self indulgent show centered around a female antihero….

Q: Sigh. Okay.

One last question. I know you’ve been nursing a bum leg for a couple of months, but any exciting race plans on the radar?

A: I will be running the Boilermaker for the 20th year in a row. I have no idea what sort of shape I’ll be in since I’m not sure exactly how much fitness I’ve lost, but since my last race streak stopped at 19 in a row I’ve got to make this one happen. Steamtown will be my fall marathon, so hopefully I’ll be back to where I was for that.

Thanks for the chat, AR!  

Next up: more nerdy booze talk.  Stay tuned!

Blogger Q&A: Everything you ever wanted to know about tasting wine

Hey-oh! I’m probably making an ass of myself at the pool bar right now, so I’ve lined up some fun  guest posts and Q&As to entertain you while I’m gone. 

First up: everyone say hello to my good friend Allison, who knows far more about wine than I ever will – and blogs about it over at A Glass After Work.

I adore her blog because her wine reviews are funny, honest, and written in plain English that even a wine rookie like me can easily understand. I recently asked if I could pick her brain about all things vino-related over a virtual tasting (thanks G-chat!) and she graciously agreed. I learned a lot – and I hope you do too!

Q: You know an awful lot about wine! Have you always been a wine person?

A: Well, if you’re asking if I’ve always been a wine drinker, absolutely. I started learning about what I was drinking about 2 years ago, though.

My husband was going to grad school and I decided I wanted to take a class, so what better class than one where I can learn and drink? And I was totally hooked…I became a wine geek almost overnight.

Q: What class did you take and how did you choose it?

A: I took took a 6 week class at the Washington Wine Academy.  It was described as being for beginners who liked to drink wine, but knew nothing about it…so I figured that was perfect for me. The class ended up being far more detailed than I expected…talking about soil types, climates for growing particular grapes. I hadn’t really thought about the science of viticulture before, and I was fascinated.

Plus, there was the tasting six wines a night.

Q: Um, can I sign up just for that last part?

A: Trust me, that’s what had me in the door from day one!

Q: Okay, so on your blog when you review a wine, you typically tell us a little about why you chose it, then go on to taste it, describe certain of its characteristics, and give it a rating. Can we walk through how exactly you do all of that? Because usually I just pick whatever is on sale, then drink half the bottle, and come back with “WELL THAT WUS GUD. I THINK.”

Your method is obviously a little more….refined.

A: For the most part, when it comes to the buying of a wine, I’ve started gravitating to particular grapes grown in particular regions…like Oregon Pinot Noirs. For imports, I’ve start looking at who imports the wine, since I’ve noticed that there are some importers that I just don’t like.

Q: That’s interesting! Do you have a favorite importer?

A: It’s not so much a favorite as much as a list of names I recognize. If it’s one I don’t recognize, I will often ask someone at the wine shop about the wine. I do have a list of a few importers I stay away from, but I probably shouldn’t list those out!

Q: Okay, so we’ve both got a Kim Crawford 2010 Sauvignon Blanc here. Can we taste it together?

A: Absolutely!

[source]

Q: First up – let me make sure I’ve done this correctly. How cold would you normally chill a wine like this one?

A: I will usually keep my whites in my fridge, since I live in a small condo, and take it out about 5 minutes before opening it. With my reds, I usually keep them at room temp and put them in the fridge for 5 minutes before opening it. It’s my 5 minute rule, either way…

Q: Wow, that’s a great rule!

A: It’s not foolproof, but it makes it easy to drink whenever I’m ready, and you know me, I’m usually pretty ready!

The key to New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs is not letting them age. You want the most recent year you can find.  The older the wine, the more it’s going to taste like drinking a bottle of canned peas.

I always look at the wine first, just to see the color, make sure there isn’t anything funny looking about it. This one has a nice pale-to-medium yellow color…like the pulpy part of a lemon.

Then, I give the wine a good swirl – very important because it helps bring out all of the aromas – and stick my nose as far in as I can without actually getting wine on it. It feels silly, but the farther in, the better the whiff! Then I inhale deeply. This is my favorite part! I feel like it’s all about anticipation…it tells me what to expect from the wine.

Q: [Plunging schnozzle in to goblet] Oh wow…it almost smells…like flowers?

A: Actually, oddly enough, yeah…there’s a little bit of honeysuckle on there. Not what I would expect, but kinda nice. Also green bell peppers, granny smith apples. The green peppers are key to the fact that’s a NZ SB. Think of the smell of them as you’re cutting them, not as your cooking them. That’s what really makes this wine for me, actually. There’s also some fresh cut grass and a hint of grapefruit, limes, and pineapple, but the green bell peppers let me know it’s not from France or California.

What I like about this wine, as opposed to some other NZ SB’s is that it’s not hitting me over the head, so I don’t feel like I’m drinking liquid peppers. Some will bowl you over and it goes from being refreshing to being weird.

So, after all that build up, it’s the tasting part. Give it another good swirl…and then it’s tasting time. I always put it my mouth and swish it around like Listerine to make sure it touches my gums and the roof of my mouth, breath in through my mouth to get air in the wine, out through my nose with the wine still in my mouth, and then swallow. That’s because you really want to use your sense of smell to help taste the wine…and it makes a HUGE difference.

Q: So: swirl, sip, mouthwash-swoosh, breathe in through mouth, breathe out through nose, swallow?

A: Exactly! And you know you do the mouth part right because you hear the wine warbling around in your mouth.

Q: So when you bring the air in through the mouth, it’s almost like some of the alcohol and flavor evaporates and you taste it in your whole mouth….?

A: EXACTLY! Really, it’s aerating it in your mouth. The oxygen helps exaggerate the flavors. So, do you get the green pepper?

Q: I can taste something spicy. And I get the apple a LOT.

A: Definitely…lots of granny smith apple, green pepper, and fresh cut grass. That, combined with the acidity is what makes it such great summer wine. You drink this when it’s hot and that tart green apple will be SO refreshing. There’s also some good apricot, nectarine, limes, and pineapple in there, but they’re a little hidden in the finish of the wine. Definitely something you have to search for.

What’s great about this wine is that it lingers, so you can just enjoy the taste…or if you’re geeking out about the wine, the way I tend to do, you can really think about it and let the taste settle in, trying to decipher everything. Really, it’s not a very complex wine, but it’s really good. It has something for the novice wine drinker who just wants the cold, white wine, as well as the more experienced wine drinker who wants to decipher every taste.

Q: What would you eat with a spicy, fruity Sauvignon Blanc like this one?

A: I would pair this with a lighter food…some pan-fried flounder would be great or a grilled mahi mahi. It’s a perfect seafood wine.

Q: You usually rate wines from one to five corks – how many does this one get? Is it, in fact, worthy of A Glass After Work?

A: At $17, which is what I paid for it, it’s worth more than one!  I give this wine 4.5 corks.  It’s food-friendly, but also very drinkable on its own.  The balance of the acidity, the alcohol, and the flavors is spot on.  It’s all an all-around winner for me.

Q: Let’s talk a little about the whole social media wine scene, since I know it’s pretty extensive! Any Twitter tips for a novice wine enthusiast?

A: The Twitter wine scene is amazing! I have several other interests that have resulted in a bad Twitter addiction, but the wine folks are seriously the most welcoming, most talkative group out there.

If you like wine and you want to start talking with other people who like wine, just jump right into the conversation. If you see someone talking about a wine you like, don’t be shy…just start talking with them.  Wine bloggers/tweeps are a group that likes to chat. And wineries are starting to get into the mix, so if you have a few wineries that you particularly like, look them up and start talking about them. The next you know, you’ll be in conversation with the wine maker.

When it comes to social media and wine, there is a real movement. There is always a lot of talk about how to reach younger wine drinkers, and I think wineries are really listening…because the wine bloggers are out there talking. So, when you’re drinking a wine on Tuesday night, Tweet about it…there are people who are out there that are actually interested!

Q: That’s perfect because I drink wine (or something) almost every Tuesday night. And Monday…and Wednesday….ahem. Anyway.

A: LOL…you and me both. That’s why they made Twitter…so you don’t have to drink alone.

Q: Speaking of which…you’ve mentioned that your husband isn’t a big wine drinker. Any tips for drinking wine solo?

A: Actually, he doesn’t drink at all. So, drinking solo is one of those things that I’m an expert in.

Honestly, sometimes with wine drinking, in particular, it’s hard because ordering a bottle when you go out means that it’s potentially a bottle only for one person. However, don’t be self-conscious about it.

If you’re out and you see a wine on the menu that you want that isn’t by the glass, ask if they’ll make an exception and serve you by the glass. Sometimes, they may ask you to buy two glasses, but often they’re willing to accommodate. Restaurants don’t want to advertise it, but think of it this way…two glasses may get them halfway through a bottle. Once they’re half way through, getting the other half of bottle finished isn’t usually a problem.

If they’re not willing to do the wine by the glass, though, ask if they’ll let you take an unfinished bottle with you. DC recently passed a law that allows that, which makes it very nice for us solo drinkers.

I will say, it takes some time to overcome being shy about drinking alone…and there are days where I’m just not willing to do it in a restaurant, but you just have to get over that. There are too many great wines out there to let drinking alone stand in the way..

Q: So what would be your dream wine vacation?

A: It would be to head to the Southern Rhone Valley in France and spend a week tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I never had a wine from this region of France before taking my first wine class, but they are some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. Plus, the region has so much historical background and is so beautiful that my wine dreams could be filled while I also indulged the amateur photographer and the history buff that is raging inside of me.

Q: Sounds amazing! I’ll admit I almost never buy French wines because I find them intimidating. And also, they usually don’t have cute labels.

A: Yeah…they’re very stiff like that, but once you learn the key (Burgundy = Pinot Noir, Bordeaux = Cab Sauv or Merlot, etc) it makes them a lot of fun.

Q: Wait, seriously? I didn’t realize they mapped across like that.

A: That’s the thing, it’s intimidating for no reason! It’s actually something that is often talked about in the US versus European wine market…Americans avoid European wines because they don’t know the grapes, but the grapes are all the same ones we drink!

Q: Okay, I’m sure this is cliché, but indulge me on a common wine question: “HALP! I don’t know anything about wine and have to bring one to a dinner party and no I don’t know what they’re serving! Recommend your favorite three crowd-pleasing bottles under $20?”

A: Oooh…the under $20 question. My hands down favorite might actually be hard to get in some places, but it’s my house white — Paul D Gruner Veltliner. If people don’t see the bottle and just drink it, it’s gone within 30 min of opening.

After the Paul D…for whites, the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc that we tasted tonight is always on my white list! I first reviewed it back in 2009 and have loved it from that moment on.  I also really enjoy the Gnarly Head Pinot Grigio.

For Reds, that’s a little harder…if I have enough time to plan, I will bring Painted Wolf, which I usually have to order online, but is a fabulous Pinotage from South Africa.

And for Sparkling, hands down, I will bring a Segura Viudas, which is a Spanish Cava.

Q: You recently ran your first half marathon at the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. Congrats! That’s worthy cause for a nice glass of Cava!

A: Thanks!  It a hot and hilly race, and I have to admit that I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it while I was actually running.  Afterwards, though, there is just no way to explain how wonderful I felt…mentally, at least.

Admittedly, there was no Cava at the end of the race for me.  Right after I crossed the finish line, all I wanted was beer.  The next day, though, I was back to wine–Tennessee-style.  My husband and I went to the Belle Meade Plantation, which has a winery.  Their white, in particular, was smooth and went down easy…maybe a little too easy.  It definitely helped ease the pain of my sore muscles.

Next time you’re pondering a bottle and wondering if it’s worth A Glass After Work, be sure to check out Allison’s blog, or follow her on Twitter at @Alleigh!

See you tomorrow with another fun Q&A!