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The Medved Madness trail race took place a few weeks ago… on May 1st to be exact. I am always weary about signing up for anything that takes place outside… I do not like to do anything outside if it rains.

Before I started running, I would always sign up for the Highlander Cycle Tour, which in the past took place in September. September in Rochester can be super hot, super cold, super sunny, or super rainy. In fact, the first year that I rode it, it was all those throughout the ride. It was also my first century and I kept thinking to myself what was I doing out there riding for 100 miles in the cold/cloudy, then sunny, then rainy, then cold, then sunny/warmer day. I think that out of the 6 years that I rode it, only 2 or 3 times was nice out.

In the days leading up to the Medved Madness run the weather was looking good. No rain but a bit chilly. Then of course, with my luck and the stupid Rochester weather, it changed to rain. Bah! “Why can it just be nice for once!”, I complained to Joel. I ran the run as a relay… Joel ran the first leg, our friend Marc ran the second leg, and I ran the last leg. The run was actually super fun! And the weather ended up not being too bad. It was just a bit drizzly at times and not too cold. Also, with my luck, I ended up running through the exact same mud gardens and hill as in the Dirt Cheap race, since the race was also in Mendon Ponds Park. Super lucky! Ha!

But the most exciting part of the race was the kid race. When we first told Julia about our race, she enthusiastically told us that she wanted to run in the race too. Of course we said yes! So during the leading months, weeks, and days, she trained for the race too. Joel set up courses for her… around the perimeter of our house, around the trees in our front yard. She was super excited!

As we were walking towards the event tent, Julia told me that this year she wanted to run it on her own. Last year she ran the race too, but we ran together and I held her hand the entire way. She was only 2 1/2, so I was impressed that she even wanted to run it at all. She did great last year too. She also told a few of her friends that she was going to run in the rain. Although, as we were walking towards the race tent, she mentioned that she no longer wanted to run in the rain. I reassured her that it was not a big deal and that all of us were going to run too. I am glad that she changed her mind.

As the kids took off and she ran past me, I could tell that she was super excited. I ended up running behind her to cheer for her and to make sure that she ran the course. She had the largest smile on her face the entire time. As I was checking out the photos that Joel and Marc took, I noticed that she also had an intense and focused look on her face at times. She seemed so determined to have a good run.

And she did! She did SO awesome! We are super proud of her. I think that she is proud too… she talked about it for a few days after the race. It was so fun to watch her race and I loved her excitement and enthusiasm. I hope that we can find some more races for her soon.

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She did it!! Good job Julia!!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the après run party. This was by far the best running event that I have ever attended. The food was fantastic! We are super lucky to have Medved in our community. They did a fantastic job with the entire event!

dirt cheap

About a month ago, an email came into my inbox about a race that was on dirt and it was cheap… $13 to be exact. How can you pass that one up! Ha!

The Fleet Feet Sports Dirt Cheap Trail Race Series (aka Dirt Cheap) is a series of 6 races, but I decided to only sign up for the 1st series just to check it out. The race started at Devil’s Bathtub in Mendon Ponds Park. As I drove into the park, I came across rows and rows of cars that were parked along both sides of the road. “Wow! That’s a lot of people.”, I thought to myself. I heard that the race was popular, but I did not realize that it was this popular.

The race was interesting. Apparently 432 people ran it. Crazy!! The trails are not very wide, so there were bottlenecks. Luckily I started closer to the front, but even so, there were bottlenecks. And then there were the mud gardens. In the mountain biking world, there are rock gardens. In the running world, there are mud gardens… or at least that is what I am calling them. Ha! And oh what mud there was! Deep, wet, slathery mud. Mud where you are afraid to pull your foot out of since your shoe may be lost in it. It was the craziest mud that I have ever ran through. And it was not just one mud garden, there were at least 3 mud gardens. Although, one was definitely the worse. I do not like mud! I could not help but just laugh as I ran through them.

As if the mud gardens were not challenging enough, there was this one hill that went straight up and then straight down. I do not care for running too fast down a hill since I can just picture myself tripping and just doing cartwheels all the way down. Some folks were running it full speed, which I do not understand how that is even possible.

Lastly, as if the mud gardens and the huge hill were not enough, the finish included running up a staircase. That’s right… a staircase. I am speechless. Haha! This reminded me of the Highlander Cycle Tour where you had to climb Route 12 out of Naples at mile 90… so cruel!!

I guess that in the end the run was pretty fun! It ended up being 4.73 miles and I ran it with a 10:44 average. I was pretty proud of myself for that. I think that I could have ran it a little faster if those bottlenecks were removed. And apparently I ended up placing 145 out of 432. Yes! :)

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ride

It is that time of the year again… the salt has washed away and the weather is warmer (although, not today), which means that the biking season is finally here! My first ride of the season was last Wednesday. I rode my usual Wednesday night ride with the Rochester Bicycling Club. My friends Brian and Cindy joined me for the ride, which was great! It was nice to see them and catch up. It is kind of funny how we do not see each other pretty much at all during the winter and then we spend so much time together all summer. It feels as though we just saw each other yesterday. I love it!

The ride felt great! I was unsure what to expect since I have not ridden since last September or October. The first rides are usually pretty painful. The endurance is out the window. But I was super happy with my ride! I rode 20.6 miles at a 14.6 average. Ever since I started running, my first rides of the season have felt so good. It amazes me!

When I first started riding, that is all I did. I rode 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes logging as much as 200 miles or more a week. It was my thing. And I loved it. I loved wandering through Mendon, Victor, the Finger Lakes. I live in such a beautiful area! My favorite was the big ride of the season… the Highlander. I always finished the bulk of the season with a century and the Highlander was it since it was an easy century due to the rest areas. I did the ride 6 years in a row (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011). The ride itself was not easy at all, since it took us through the hilly Finger Lakes. But it was SO beautiful and all that pain was super worth it. Ha!

Then I had Julia so I had to find another thing, since riding took too long, especially the riding that keeps you in shape. So I took up running. I did not love it at all. It was fine. But I have grown to like it over the years. After much reservation, I now consider myself a runner. Haha! I can be both a rider and a runner, no?!? I am pretty ok with it.

I am happy that I can bike and run. I find them to complement each other really well… perfect cross training. In fact, I went for a run on Sunday and I felt great! I ran 5 miles at a 9:48 pace in the hilly Powder Mills park. That is pretty fast for me especially for a trail run.

I do miss those long rides though! I really love wandering on my bike. This week is not looking so good weather wise and I signed up for a run race, which is on Sunday, so I need to do some running. But I look forward to logging some miles in the saddle. The season just started after all!

 

roasted chicken

I cannot roast a chicken for the life of me. It is super true! I have tried it numerous times over the years with no success. It always ends up way too dry. I have a fear of it being under cooked, so I tend to roast it way longer than needed.

A while back I got food poisoning from uncooked chicken. It was the worst experience! It was so painful that I could not move. If I made just a slight move, I would get the worst stomach pains. I spent the entire day motionless in the fetal position. I do not wish that pain even on my worst enemies, if I had any. So now you understand.

I have tried several recipes, with no success… even a Martha Stewart recipe! I have been successful with roasting chicken pieces, mostly chicken thighs. I guess that you cannot really overcook chicken thighs since they tend to be more fatty.

As I was walking thorough the grocery store a few weeks ago, I was eyeing this whole chicken. “It would be so nice to roast an entire chicken in order to have leftovers for the week.”, I thought. I also thought about just buying a premade rotisserie chicken but I decided that roasting my own would be so much better. So I took it. Since I have no clue about how to break down a chicken and do not really care to attempt it, I asked the butcher at the grocery store to cut it down for me.

As soon as I got home, I contacted my brother (who is a chef). “I have this entire chicken. How long will it take? An hour at 425 degrees?”, I asked. His answer changed my life… ok, maybe not my life, but definitely shed all my fears about roasting a chicken. :) It really did!

Before divulging all the secrets, I have a disclaimer, which is that I own a convection oven, so my roasting time may differ from your oven. Ok, so here it goes…

First, do not roast a chicken whole. Roasting a broken down chicken allows each piece to cook independently, especially the breasts, which take the longest. Also, never add lemon juice or any acid during the cooking process.

Second, submerge your chicken pieces in a brine. I have been using about 6 cups of water and 1/2 cup of salt. You can certainly use more or less depending on the size of the chicken. I let it sit in the brine for no less than 15 minutes. If you let it sit longer, go easy on the seasoning during roasting.

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Third, after adding some olive oil and some salt and pepper, roast the chicken in a preheated 425 degree oven until the pieces reach about 150 to 155 degrees. For me, that is anywhere between 20 to 25 minutes. The thighs reach the temperature faster than the breasts. I have to let the breasts roast about 5 minutes or so longer than the rest of the pieces. If your oven runs hotter, check it earlier. The trick is to reach that temperature, so check often if needed.

Fourth, once the pieces reach the 150 to 155 degrees, remove them from the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to do anything with them at this point. Just let them sit.

Fifth, once the 10 minutes are up, put the chicken back into the oven and continue roasting it until it reaches the recommended 165 degrees. For me this is anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes. Again, the trick is to reach the 165 degree temperature, so check often if needed.

Sixth, once roasted, remove the chicken from your pan and squeeze some lemon juice over it. This will give the chicken that great lemony flavor, which I love.

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This is the best roasted chicken that I have ever made and tasted. I really mean it! I made it 3 times so far and every time it has come out fantastic. The meat is super juicy and delicious! It was so good in fact, that each time I made it, we almost ate the entire thing. :)

Next time you are craving roasted chicken, give this a try… you will not be disappointed.

maple syrup

Every February and March I think about visiting a maple tree farm. Then somehow I forget about it. Perhaps it is because usually February and March are super cold and I do not feel like being outside to check out the maple trees. Ha!

Vermont is always associated with maple syrup, but we have a lot of maple tree farms in New York too. There are a slew of them in the Finger Lakes. Just do a search on the New York State Maple Weekend’s website and you will be amazed. You do not have to drive too far to find a maple tree farm.

One of the most popular spots is probably Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn. Every year the Inn serves a pancake breakfast with their new batch of maple syrup. I know folks who go there every year. The pancake part probably made them popular… who does not like pancakes with maple syrup? About 6 years ago, we decided to give them a try. The Inn is a drive, so when we visited it we bundled the trek with a hike through Letchworth State Park. Hiking through Letchworth in the winter is super pretty. I loved seeing the frozen water near the falls. Then after a 45 minute wait outside in the frigid cold but luckily sunny day, we made it in. The pancakes and the maple syrup were pretty good, but I was not sure if the long drive was worth it every year.

Last weekend was Maple Weekend in New York state. I decided to check out what farms are in the area so we can take Julia to learn how maple syrup is made. After searching on the New York State Maple Weekend’s website, I was surprised to find out how many farms are just in my area, let alone in the surrounding counties. I was super excited to find that there was a farm 5 minutes away from my house on Log Cabin Road.

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I actually had an idea that there was some kind of a maple tree farm around there. Whenever I ride my bike from home, I like to ride on Benson Road, which leads into Log Cabin. Benson Road is super pretty! It reminds me of the Adirondacks… super wooded and the trees’ canopies form an umbrella over the road. Towards the end of Benson right before Log Cabin there is always a little stand on the left side of the street with a maple syrup and honey sign. Since I was always on my bike, I never stopped, but I always told myself to go there with the car. But of course it always escaped my mind. There is another little stand on Willis Hill Road too, which I have never stopped there either since I am always on my bike when I pass by it.

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So last weekend we drove to the maple tree farm. We found out that the farm is called Kettle Ridge Farm and they make maple syrup, collect honey, sell eggs from their farm chickens, and are trying to grow shiitake mushrooms. How cool is that?!? The farm is family run by a father/son duo.

Julia loved learning how maple syrup is made. Eating a pancake with the maple syrup was even more exciting! And checking out the chickens was the highlight of her trip, especially since she was able to feed them. :)

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The tour of course included tasting the maple syrup. It was definitely delicious! One of the surprising things that we found out during the tour was the fact that the color is based on the weather during the tapping season. It has nothing to do with the boiling process. Apparently, the color of their maple syrup this year was light, then it got darker, and then it got light again. Interesting!!

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Maple syrup color ranges…

This morning I decided to make pancakes in order to taste test my usual maple syrup, Wegmans Organic Maple Syrup, with our new found maple syrup. Kettle Ridge Farm’s maple syrup was a clear winner. The maple syrup is more complex and flavorful.

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I am very excited that I found the farm. Who would have thought that I can find delicious maple syrup that is made 5 minutes from the house! Love it!

snowshoeing

I have been fighting this cold for over a week now. Sore throat and cough… not fun! Because of this, I have not done much as far as outdoor activities go. Then on Tuesday, winter decided to finally show up and dumped 21 inches of snow. Finally some snow!

So I spent my lunch yesterday in the woods trudging through the deep snow and following deer tracks.

I forgot how hard it is to snowshoe in super deep snow. Even with my snowshoes, my foot made a deep hole… the snow came half way up my calf.

I love snowshoeing in Powder Mills park since this one particular trail leads you along the creek. It was so peaceful and beautiful! The only sounds that I heard were my heavy breathing, the crunching sound of my snowshoes hitting the snow, birds singing, the occasional creaking of trees as the breeze gently swayed them, and a faint sound of the water flowing underneath the ice.

I was so happy to be outside! I feel as if the heavy breathing made my sickness go away. I always have reservations about doing things when I am sick… a while ago I went for a bike ride while congested and it was not pretty. But I am convinced that being outside makes everything better. I should have gone outside earlier. :)

chases

I had an amazing run last week! I started to run with a group called The Borough Runners. The run starts and ends at The Lost Borough Brewery, which is fantastic! You run with a bunch of super nice people and then you have a pint of the most tasty beer… brilliant! Last week it worked out that only Joel and I decided to run the 4 miler route. And running I did… I averaged 8:33 per mile. That is super fast for me! I was very proud of myself.

It is all Joel’s fault. :) I have been chasing him for years.

It all started about 8 years or so ago when I bought my first road bike. It was terrible! I never rode before and even riding at all was a huge feat. Forget about keeping up with anyone. I found myself lost and defeated around the beautiful country roads of Mendon. I was so annoyed. We always rode with the Rochester Bicycling Club so even before we left for the ride, we would decide if he would ride with me or with the other faster boys. I was always happy when he rode with me. So many times he would yell “jump on” and I would pedal my hardest to catch him and draft behind him so I could ride faster. I cannot even tell you how many times we did that. It was such a rush, and still is, to be able to ride fast and with someone else. Over the years I got stronger and stronger, but it took me 6 years to be strong enough to ride with all those fast boys. I still remember the day… I was so proud of myself on that day too.

Then about 4 years ago I decided to start running. Running even 1 mile felt terrible at first. I was so annoyed. I thought that I was in good shape. But slowly I got stronger and stronger. I run by myself a lot, since it is so easy to run from the house. But same as with cycling, I do enjoy running with Joel and other folks. It definitely pushes you to go faster.

So last week I ran faster… because Joel was ahead of me and I was trying to catch him for pretty much the entire run. I am not a very competitive person, but for some reason I am competitive with Joel. I have so many episodes where he would come back from a ride or a run and he would share his amazing rides and runs. I always lovingly responded “whatever dude… you suck!“. And then I would go for a ride or a run and I would push myself to go faster.

I feel super lucky to have Joel in the front so I can chase him. It is definitely nice to have an inspiration and someone who pushes you to have amazing rides and runs.

Smooches Joel!

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