Race Season

I'm so stoked! I just registered for the 5 Peaks trail running series. For a while now I haven't had a race to prepare for and nothing on the horizon that was really grabbing me as a goal race. The two Vancouver half marathons held in May and June respectively are very expensive and, as I learned in February, racing in my hometown just doesn't give me the charge that traveling for a race does. There's something anti-climactic about catching city transit home after running your butt off through familiar streets. The race in February was great and I'm glad I ran it, but I want something a little more exotic to look forward to.

The 5 Peaks series offers races across Canada. I registered for the 5 races held here in coastal BC and every race is in a different park area, all within driving distance of Vancouver. It's a race a month starting on May 10th with the first race in Golden Ears Provincial Park where we have camped before and could potentially camp the night before the race too. There are a few different options for race distances at each event. Sport distances are between 5 and 6km, Enduro distances are from 8 to 15km. This year they've added a new challenge, a half marathon distance at the final race of the season, September 13th at Buntzen Lake. I've done a trail run out at Buntzen before and it's a spectacular area for running - so I challenged myself and signed up for the longest distance. Hopefully by then I'll have a handle on this trail running gig so the distance over rough terrain won't be too daunting, just hellishly long.

This new challenge is really exciting. Last summer I hoped to dive into trail running with an experienced friend, but she turned her ankle badly when we were out at Buntzen Lake (ironically) and was out for the season. Without her I found it hard to hit the trails, plus I'm not sure you should be running alone in some of the trailed areas around here considering the large animal population. She might be up for joining me in the race series, but even if she isn't, I now have one race every month to look forward to and prepare for. There's a group who do training trail runs every Saturday morning on the North shore so I might join them for a few training runs here and there. Core strength and stability needed for trail running should also help my road running, that is of course if I have a good season of trail running and manage to improve a bit and build strength.

It should be great! Anyone else up for the challenge? Or, what else are you challenging yourself to do as the weather improves?


Fine-ish dining

We had some friends over last night for dinner and a board game. We've done this fairly regularly lately and it makes for a really nice evening of food, friends, trash talking, victory dances, and wine.

We had a kind of rustic dinner with bowls of spinach soup (YUM!), two really nice breads, three awesome cheeses, roasted red peppers, relaxed zucchini (yep, it's true), caramelized red onion, tapenade, and cilantro pesto - essentially build-your-own-sandwiches. Our friends are very, very informed winos, tending towards old world Italian wines and investing pretty seriously in BC wines. They brought over a bottle of Starling Lane marechal foch (2006), a red wine produced on Vancouver Island. Apparently it can only be bought at the vineyard so it was a real treat. Pretty subtle flavours but a really nicely blended taste of strawberries, a little oak, and something darker underneath I couldn't identify.

We supplied a cab sav that came on the recommendation of Katie The Mermaid Girl who I bumped into at the wine store. We've never actually met in person before even though we live about a block and a half from each other, both go to UBC, and she's friends with my sister. A girl was staring me down as I looked over the bottles, and finally asked me, fairly tentatively, "Are you Liminal Me?" To anyone overhearing our exchange it would have sounded really strange, but it was great to meet her face to face finally. It couldn't have been more fortuitous to finally meet her there because the 2005 bottle from the Elderton winery in the Barossa valley she pointed me to was really fantastic, and impressed our oenophile guests. Thanks, Katie!

We played Settler's of Cattan, our new favourite, and the Settler's virgin at the table won only one move before I was going to sweep the game. ARG! AND she didn't even produce a victory dance. What's that all about? One more move and my booty shakin' victory dance would have stopped traffic! Ah well. Maybe since they are new-ish friends she was feeling a bit restrained. Pshaw, I say.

In lieu of a winner's dance, we celebrated her win with an upside-down pear cake. I was still creaming butter and eggs and all that when they arrived so the first half hour of our visit was mostly yelling over the beater. Of course that meant that the smell of dessert baking filled the whole place while we had dinner and during most of the game. It was super tasty, although in my opinion the ratio of pear to cake was way off. I've printed the recipe below but halved all the cake ingredients so that your cake (you're definitely going to make this, right?) will have a better ratio. If you're a stickler for following the rules, just double the cake ingredients to return to the original recipe.

Upside-Down Pear Cake
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet; set aside. In the skillet over medium-high heat, stir the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons butter until melted. Add the pears. Sauté them until fork-tender and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the pears and the juices into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Clean the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and ginger. In a large bowl, with a mixer set on high speed, beat the 1/3 cup butter and the granulated sugar until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low; beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until blended.

Coat the skillet with vegetable spray or butter. Place the parchment paper in the skillet and arrange the pears in overlapping circles. Pour the remaining pear juice mixture over the pears. Carefully spoon the batter over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture evenly. Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes [Since I halved the cake recipe here, it may take considerably less time. Check cake at 1/2 hour]. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges to loosen from the sides of the skillet. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Serve the cake by itself or with ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.

Fun times! I hope you're all having an equally fun weekend!


Minted Chickpea Smash

1 small garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 oz feta cheese
3 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

Mince garlic then mash into a rough paste with a fork or pestle. Mix in salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil. In another bowl, smash chickpeas with a fork or potato masher; a pastry cutter works well too. After smashing, the peas will be a mix of rough chop and whole peas, NOT a smooth paste. Mix in garlic dressing with a spoon, then crumble feta into the chickpeas and stir again. Salad should sit for an hour or more so flavours mingle. Tear or roughly chop mint leaves and stir into the salad just before serving. For the vegans among us, this is just as good, and lower in fat, without the feta.