Happy National Pizza Day 2017

A runner's calendar and veggie pizza

It’s National Pizza Day! Last year I celebrated with Black Sheep. This year, on my ‘own’ while Jen is out of town, I couldn’t decide between ordering in Pizza Nea (specifically for posting this sentiment online) or picking up ingredients to make my own pizza.

After walking up and down each aisle at the Wedge, twice, and realizing the dough I had my eye on would take a few hours to thaw, I opted to try out a new-to-me-frozen-pie from western Minnesota. Spinach, mushrooms, parmigiano reggiano cheese, whole milk mozzarella, and a crust enriched with organic golden flaxseed meal. A mile walk home and 10 minutes later I had a delicious pizza all ready for one.

Bonus: My aunt is fascinated with my running adventures and sent me this surprise package with a 2017 running journal and a cute note of encouragement, “Hi Elizabeth, Happy Running!”

I’ll definitely have to visit Pizza Nea in the near future–to support a local business that routinely speaks up for what’s right. 

Happy National Pizza Day 2016

#nationalpizzaday

Who declares these “national” celebratory days? Every day is a good day for pizza, but why let a day dedicated to the delectable food go to waste? We took advantage of pizza’s partner in convenience crime… delivery.

A frozen four mile run followed by a tasty salami/onion/mushroom coal-fired pizza from Black Sheep in the North Loop.

Happy #nationalpizzaday!

Why I Run Wednesday #13

The ‘Why I Run Wednesday’ posts are a weekly feature exploring a past, present, or future reason why I run.

“This blog is supposed to be about running AND pizza, but all you talk about is running…” There are pizza places aplenty to indulge at in the Twin Cities. I’ve recently ranked my favorites, but to not keep you in suspense I’ll let you know which one is my favorite

Birthday-card-PizzeriaLola
The perfect gift from my sister, complete with a unique sketch.

In the last month, I’ve received THREE Pizzeria Lola gift cards so I suppose you could say it’s not the best kept secret that Lola is #1 in our household. Tonight, Jen and I completely branched out and skipped over our usual order of The Iowan (prosciutto! arugula!) and The Forager (mushrooms galore) for the Korean BBQ (beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallions, arugula, sesame and soy-chili vinaigrette) and The Boise (potato, gruyere, cream, cartelized onion, olive oil and rosemary). As always, AMAZING. The crust itself is worthy of complete meal status; add on high quality, perfectly paired ingredients, toss it all in a HOT wood-fired oven and BAM! Pure magic.

Another favorite, Hello Pizza, shares the same owner, but a modern diner style all of its own. The relaxed, pizza by the slice dining made for the perfect early dinner post-LONG run this past Saturday with a big group of family and friendly. Keep your eyes on that pizza prize! 

So why do I run? The pizza. All the pizza.

Ultra Birthday

Snow on the ground at Franklin Steele Park
The first few steps of Ultra Birthday

30 miles. 30th birthday. January 30. The perfect set up for reaching a new decade and attempting a first ultra marathon. Four months of minimalist-inspired training and after quick hugs from Cristina (mega-talented sister), Rachel (a close friend since college), Jackie whom I know through Rachel, and Jen (wife extraordinaire), off I ran from Franklin Steele Park in Minneapolis. Although the sidewalks were slick on the walk to the park, I managed to stay upright as I propelled forward, careful not to push the pace so early in the day. Fortunately the warmth, a lovely 35 degrees day in January, quickly turned any icy spots to slush and water.

My first running buddy of the day, Danika (a friend of my wife’s since birth), found me via bike and sped ahead to lock it up to run with me for a mile or so down the Greenway. The first example of Garmin live tracking working like a charm and how motivating running buddies were going to be on this very long run. Jen biked up next to us and the three of chatted while I felt a huge smile on my face, appreciating the great company so early in this unofficial ultra.

I turned off the Greenway at the lakes, headed around half of Lake Calhoun, and made my way to Lake Harriet. The first five miles were a breeze. I tried to focus on that–small segments of the run and not the full 30 miles. Another mile or so in, I heard MASSIVE amounts of honking…my mom of course! My dad and sister were down on the bike path and I stopped to give ’em each a hug. I waved to my mom and continued on.

Lake One and Feeling Fine

The three laps around Harriet were the perfect start… spotted my parents a couple more times on park benches and in the car waving frantically, my friend Sarah–decked out in doughnut-printed spandex–ran a lap with me, Kyle (a good friend and our wedding officiant) and her sister threw bread at me (the most delicious slightly cheesy, little French biscuits), snapped a photo with Hannah (we ran her first half marathon ever together) and Erin (one of my first ever friends in the Cities), and ran into a Fleet Feet Marathon Sports co-worker who wished me well. Around mile 10 I reminded myself that at some point during this run, it was going to hurt (it did), and that was okay.

Lake Two and Fancy Hats

Onward to Lake Calhoun for 2.5 laps, clockwise. Rachel and Jackie drove past and honked (this was one day where I was delighted to have cars honking at me… because I knew the drivers and passengers). A fellow Winged Foot run club member turned as he passed me asking “What are you training for?”

“Today! I’m running 30 miles for my 30th birthday.”

He wished me well and took off at a much faster pace than my cautious 10:30 per mile pace. At that moment Rachel and Jackie slowly drove past and yelled “You’re half way done!” I glanced at my watch and was pleased to see 15 miles on the face.

It was a nice day for a late January morning in Minnesota, so there were plenty of walkers, runners, and a few bicyclists trekking around the lake. I could tell fairly easily when Jen rode up behind me, the single studded tire giving away the ‘surprise.’ That, and her announcing her presence with a sweet word or several of encouragement. Mile 18 was my only significant stop, just a couple minutes, where I was immensely grateful for a clean portapotty. Sarah, a professional dog walker, joined me again for my final lap around Calhoun. She provided entertainment by commenting on every dog we passed (I suppose I have a tendency to comment on stranger’s running shoes…) Midway through the final lap, Jen biking as slowly as she could behind us, we saw a young woman ahead with a fancy hat and waving excitedly in our direction. Turned out to be our friend Leah, decked out in the fancy hat, jeans, and a cool pair of Pumas as took off running next to me. If you’re ever in need of an ego boost, this is the woman you need in your cheering section. Later on, Jen informed me that she and Sarah started in on the Forrest Gump references as I ran in front of them. Leah departed the bike path, and I continued the final lap around Calhoun with Sarah.

Lake Three… “This is it!”

I trudged into mile 22, under the bridge that connects Lake Calhoun to Lake of the Isles. My trail shoes took no issue with the only section of this run covered in packed down snow. At this point, I was three miles past my longest training run and eight long miles from fulfilling my goal. Thankfully, Kyle (wedding officiant/bread thrower) was just up ahead waiting for me in her running gear. One of so many special moments encountered on this run was not much further away, as we heard our friends hooting and hollering from across the lake as they spotted us making our way around. As we moved closer toward the group, a few strangers walked past and yelled “Happy birthday!” (Thanks to my friends for announcing to any passerby that’d listen I was in the midst of running 30 miles for my 30th birthday). We reached the group, Matt (husband to my first friend ever in Minneapolis) taking photos, Sarah (donut spandex), Cady (a Pilates instructor that showed me how to work muscles I didn’t know existed), my parents cheering, plus my new running crew including Natalie (very first friend in Minneapolis), Hannah, Erin, and Cristina ready to run another lap around Isles.

I was exhausted. All I wanted was an ice cold glass of tart lemonade and thoughts of simply stopping raced through my mind, fleeting and of course not a real possibility. However, we (amazing friends and family) were in this together and at mile 26.2 I proclaimed “We’ve just run a marathon!” A couple friends dropped off for the final lap, and Cory (a friend Jen and I met through rock climbing) joined Kyle, Hannah, and we made the FINAL loop around the FINAL lake.

Disaster struck. Okay, not really a disaster but Kyle suddenly got a bloody nose and although I won’t go into details, something very odd (and painful) happened to my toe a mere mile and a half from the finish. We kept going.

UltraBirthday-medal
I made a ‘race medal’ out of the weight attached to the birthday balloons/finish line from Hannah and Erin

And then, finally! I could see the finish! Sooner than I had originally mapped; marked with a friend on either side of birthday balloons, the ribbon stretching across the bike path. I motioned for my friends to run forward a little more to be sure my mom (she had to wait in the car due to the slightly illegal parking spot after only a quarter mile’s notice that’d I’d be finishing in a different location down the street from the originally planned spot) could see me triumphantly crossing the made up, and most rewarding, finish line.

Five hours and 19 minutes after I started I WAS DONE. Wow, was I happy to be done running. I caught my breath–I hadn’t been moving fast but a few hours of physical activity will likely leave you winded–before thanking these wonderful friends and family members for not just cheering me on, or running with me, but for making Ultra Birthday a success. I probably could have done that unofficial ultra completely on my own, but at best it would’ve been excruciatingly boring looping around the lakes 9x and at worst, I would’ve called it a day early on or just walked.

UltraBirthday-lastlake-crew.jpg
Running crew at Lake of the Isles – Matt, Jen, Cady, Sarah, Hannah, Kyle, Cory, Natalie, me, Erin, Cristina

So how was Ultra Birthday? The BEST birthday, EVER.

I’ll share more specifics about my first ultra, e.g. nutrition, training, and gear details in a near future post. Until then, check out this awesome video my sister shot on the run!

Scaling Back

The act of running is a decision to be the best possible version of ourselves. -Martin Dugard, To Be a Runner

Today’s long run felt SO good. I still have a bothersome thing going on with my left leg (a longish and boring story for another day), and my stomach opted for a quick pit stop, but I ticked off each mile a little faster than the last and it just felt right.

Many traditional endurance running plans will include a scale back week, where you build up mileage (e.g. your once a week long run distance) for a few weeks, then maybe every three or four weeks you drop down the mileage. In my case, I built up from a whim-of-a-long-run (it was silly to jump from three miles to 10 miles in one week but I did it), then another one, followed by back to back long run weeks of 15 miles. So for this weekend I decided to take it easy and run an hour on Saturday followed by 10 miles on Sunday. I also opted to use the spin bike in lieu of running twice this week. Cardio, check. Limited pounding, check. 

Proudest workout of the week? Again a minimalist approach, this type with body weight exercises. I even rolled out my yoga mat as though I was taking the strength training seriously–I swear I do, it is just so easy to put it off…

The Primo pizza with mushrooms, garlic, olive oil
The Primo at Element Pizza. Verdict? Pizzeria Lola, Burch Steak & Pizza Bar, and Punch Pizza hold steady at 1st, 2nd & 3rd.

Second proudest moment? Trying out a new pizza place! Wait, I mean the proud moment was getting in my Saturday run BEFORE all the other fun planned for the day, including a trip to Element (wood-fired) Pizza in Minneapolis.

A combination of higher than usual temps forecasted for this upcoming week, a lowish mileage total for last week, and the importance of building my endurance base sooner rather than later should mean racking a bunch of miles this week.

In re-reading this flurry of thoughts, I think this Yogi Bedtime tea has already kicked in. Here’s a to hoping for a night of sweet running dreams!

Long Weekend and Discomfort

Saturday, an all day blogging conference. Sunday, an all day preparation and recovery for a long run. Fortunately, pizza provided the bookends for the activity-filled weekend.

Pizzeria-Lola-Iowan
Pizzeria Lola. Arugula, prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic confit, wood-fired PERFECTION.

The 2015 MN Blogger Conference provided just the right motivation at just the right time for me to make this blog happen. Although not a registration requirement, it seemed only appropriate to have a semblance of a blog before trekking to St. Paul on Saturday, November 14 to learn all about this online phenomenon. My first conference of the type, it was inspiring to be among 300+ mostly local bloggers. However, similar to when I trained for my first triathlon this past summer, it was uncomfortable.

Rewardingly so. But just enough outside the comfort where you know how to swim (or create a blog and write), plodding alongside so many better-than-you swimmers in open water (or attempting to strike up conversations with new faces), and knowing there are transitions to make quicker, equipment to streamline your movements, experience to be had that only comes with time (short version of the story: web analytics). I came away from that conference with a few new contacts, a chance to catch up with current friends, and tips for moving  This is How I Run forward. I finished that sprint tri too.

A plate full of Bob’s Red Mill buttermilk whole grain pancakes, filled with banana and toasted seeds, cooked over a layer of hearty grass-fed butter, preceded my long run of the weekend. To be slightly more accurate, a brief nap to delay the run directly preceded the workout. Why delay what I love to do? Fifteen. The daunting number of miles on my training log and my definitive re-introduction into distance. Self-imposed intimidation! Finally, I packed up a slim Camelbak (no bladder for this run) with the essentials including ID, cash, keys, Honey Stinger chews, and a tiny water bottle that could hold just enough to wash down the chews. Conveniently, my iPhone 4S fit without any bounce in my running pants pocket, protected in a Ziplock bag. A playlist of Podcasts sounded particularly appealing to tick off the miles.

What a gorgeous Sunday in November! Boy was I overdressed! I knew I’d be moving slowly enough for the outfit (long sleeve lined in light fleece, thin running pants) to suffice, but a t-shirt would have been the more optimal choice on an uncharacteristically sunny late fall day in Minnesota. The unplanned route led me through downtown, Loring Park, Kenwood Park, and around the Lakes. As I was finishing my lap around Calhoun, and swung up to the Greenway, somewhere around eight miles I knew 1) I’d forget about only getting in 10 or 12 miles, 15 was my number and 2) my stomach had lost interest in this run.

Udi's Gluten-free pizza
Pizzeria Lola. Arugula, prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic confit, wood-fired PERFECTION.

It was an uncomfortable few miles down the Greenway, but at least the sun was out, leaves were colorful, and I was still moving. Finally I reached my [uphill] exit and a couple blocks down the street I heard “HEY YOU!” To my delight, it was the beautifully friendly voice of my wife, who spotted me as she was driving home. Just the pep I needed to finish out mile 15.

Once home, I refueled with a cold glass of water/ginger/lemon juice. Then a cold-processed whey protein shake with berries and turmeric. The refueling continued through dinner, a 12-minute masterpiece of pre-made pizza and fresh kale.

That run felt like a marathon on my left leg. Two days later, it is still fighting through plenty of quad soreness. Bring on the turmeric.

Discomfort. The unexpected companion to an accomplished long weekend.

A Week of Writing and Running

This past Sunday I launched “This is How I Run” and set the goal to write a post every day this week. I know I have had the remnants of this blog concept in my head since long (months? years?) before Sunday, but here we are on a Friday and five for five on the posts. Hard to say if it is the flurry of post ideas circling my mind or the early onset soreness of Thursday morning’s kettlebell session and Thursday evening’s foray in spinning that has me wide awake an hour before my 5:30 a.m. alarm. Either way, I am feeling proud and grateful for this first week as a blogger and another week as a runner.

Speaking of running…

Have I mentioned how fantastic it feels to be back on a training program? Informal at best these first few weeks, but I have a training log (99 cent calendar from Walgreens), and I am setting out for multiple runs a week, which is more than I can say for the past several months.

Saturday – A super fun 5 mile run at Calhoun with Hannah. Why so fun? Great company with one of my original Twin Cities running buddies, legs and lungs felt great, and it was like falling into an old routine in the best new way.
Sunday – An hour at moderate effort through downtown and Northeast.
Monday Run Free! In this case, a rest day.
Tuesday – Faster paced four mile loop sporting a head lamp and spent dodging pedestrians.
Wednesday – A beautiful bike ride to Lake Calhoun for an easy three mile lap, while enjoying a podcast and the mid-morning chance to run. Rounded out the evening at the Wedge Table for a free one hour yoga session.
Thursday – A grease-the-groove inspired morning, where I swung around a kettlebell, completed several squats, and lifted myself up for a few chin ups, all in the comfort of our modest one-bedroom apartment. The evening was spent walking in the cold/wind/dark for a last minute errand, and wrestling with the idea of having to go back out for a run. Skipping it was not an option, so I grabbed my earbuds and ran down the stairs for a 30 minute spin session (I have no idea how to really use a spin bike, but I adjusted the seat and varied the speed and friction) in our tiny workout room (no treadmill, and I refuse to smash my toes on the elliptical).
Friday – It is a rest day. To do: foam roll.

After a week of writing and running, tonight we plan to celebrate with a date at Pizzeria Lola, the best pizza place you will ever find in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Consistently delicious wood-fired pizza, where the crust alone is perfection, but add on fresh and crafted combinations of toppings and wow, AMAZING. Absolutely worth the standard Friday/Saturday wait time of over 30 minutes. While you hang out in the waiting area, grab a beer or ginger ale, and chat away with your dining mate(s), because then once you’re seated and the pizza arrives your focus can shift from conversation to enjoying every incredible bite of that pizza.

-E