Carter Lake Crossing: “Race Report”

This event recap is about a month old now, and I wasn’t going to share it here, but then the journal voice of the blog won out for the sake of posterity, in case swimming happens to slip back into the lowly ranks of “extra” again.  😉

What kind of reluctant swimmer signs up for a 3-mile open water swim race on a whim and with enthusiasm? That would be me. And, it was lovely. Really, truly enjoyable, in so many ways, from the scenery to the conviviality to the personal attitude.

This is not a race report. That would be a dishonest description, since it was never my intention to “race”. It’s more of an “event description”.

Coming from a running background and lacking in swimming talent and motivation, I tended to count swimming as “extra” or even “rest” when training for multisport, even when an attempt at swimming hard resulted in rubbery whole-body lethargy and searing lungs. But when, last year, my avid ultra-running husband was handed a devastating blow in the form of complex injuries that meant he would have to give up running permanently, something changed. I didn’t transform into a “swimmer”, but I made the decision to start swimming like I meant it, to support him and also to safeguard my own active options for the unseen, inevitable future.

Two swim sessions bursting with incredible pointers from the brilliant Eney Jones and I felt gifted with a new perspective on moving through the water. I soon had to acknowledge that enjoyment for the sport was creeping in on me, on just two one-hour swims a week. I even found myself inspired to sign up for swim events, completing a few one-mile, and one two-mile, races. There was a peaceful friendliness to those morning swims that made me hungry for more. It was strange being motivated by something I was floundering at. But I loved the shift back to finding satisfaction in “complete” versus “compete”. The anonymity and finding your own groove oblivious to whose feet were creating the bubbles and waves around you felt somehow really great.

I signed up for the Carter Lake Crossing because after a year of healing a glute injury, I hadn’t challenged myself with event goals for awhile, and I craved something different. I’d ridden many times along the lake, but had never dipped a toe in the water. Three miles of swimming seemed an awfully long way to go, but at the same time a logical step up from 2.4, my longest to date as part of a tri.

Leading up to the race, I felt more relaxed than I deserved. Knowing it was a foregone conclusion I’d be closer to the back than the front made it hard to really stress. The day before, however, I started to panic, dreading: a) how early I was going to have to wake up, then b) the possibility that I really might actually drown.

As it turned out, not only did I not drown, but from the moment I arrived with a friend at registration to the second I stepped out of the water, things couldn’t have been more relaxed considering it was officially a competition. I bumped into friends, and everyone I met or brushed wetsuits with exuded laid-back, cheerful energy, whether they expected to be first out of the water or carried back on a jet ski.

Since the race is point-to-point, we were shuttled to the start line. Race briefing was concise, casual but clear on safety. The water was perfect and generally still, save for the odd pulsing wave from nearby boats. Sighting was easy as could be, with the shoreline to follow parallel to the bright orange and yellow buoys.

Maybe if I was a stronger swimmer I’d get caught up in thoughts of where I might be in the “pack” and my ultimate time. Sometimes not being near the top of your category has its benefits, I’ve discovered. Swimming, I felt on my own but in touch. I did my best, and was happy with my 1:37:17 getting from start to finish. But best of all, it was the ‘during’ part of the experience that was most rewarding. In fact, I even fell into a sort of meditative zen at points, appreciating the opportunity to just stretch my body and turn off thoughts. Until this year, I never would have imagined that I’d sign up for a swim event like this without being goaded somehow, but I did. What’s more, I will surely do it again, and relish the prospect.

Rim Rock Marathon: Learning to relax and race

What’s a race, project, or otherwise big endeavor without a whole bunch of built-in excuses? You don’t have to be elite, or stake a lot on the line, to have a hefty list. They’re padding my back pocket when nervously anticipating most races; this one was no exception, despite the fact that it was very purposefully meant to be “just for fun”.

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The thing about excuses, though, is oftentimes they also happen to be facts. The excuse part of the equation comes into play depending on how much those facts are shared, and with what attitude and/or whining. We often forget them once our goals are achieved, unless the ego insists on a little extra stroking along the lines of, “And it would have been even better if…”. This time though, I want to remember and share my excuses post-completion while happy with the results. Because this time, it feels like all the factors that seemed to go against a good performance strangely ended up opening my mind to a really good day–one of the nicest, purest race experiences I’ve yet had, and I’d love to repeat the feeling.

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Rim Rock Marathon is described as “one of the most scenic marathons in the world”. It is absolutely stunning, winding up and over the Colorado National Monument. What an opportunity, to run through a national park! It’s also pretty darn hard. Climbing 2,000 from the start to the halfway point, it offers views that are both spectacularly dramatic and serene. Sheer red rock walls, sweeping canyons, gorgeous contrasts, twists and turns. Running along such splendid vistas, how can you help but tap into a deep source of inner peace and personal strength?

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Nevertheless, the run/race nearly didn’t happen. I forced myself to get on the bus that shuttled runners to the start line, trying not to inwardly curse Dave too hard for being so encouraging. Excuses? I had miles of them, including:

  • I hadn’t trained on hills. Still nursing, and navigating tight schedule constrictions, my runs tend to be from the house, with one quality session with inspiring Masters’ runners on the weekend.
  • I hadn’t slept more than 2 consecutive hours in two days, and was generally sleep deprived before that, anyway. (Once again, nursing. Little Monkey is weaning on his own, but since taking off walking and running at one year, and now suffering another raging bout of teething, he’s been waking up numerous times at night again, bringing on lots of deja vu to this time last year.)
  • We all caught a stomach bug a week before, which cleaned us out. I still felt utterly drained.
  • I’ve been managing plantar fasciitis for some time, and nagging heel pain was aggravated by compensatory and related issues, mainly a tight back, glutes and hamstrings, especially on the right side and connected to how I’ve been holding my strong and solid little tot.

There are more…but they are truly excuses more than valid. When race morning dawned, I was practically delirious for lack of sleep. I would have had us pack up and drive back home, if it weren’t for the fact that driving is exhausting. I could not wait for the race to be over, and berated myself for putting Little Monkey through a long drive, a dull hotel room, and pack-and-play nights.

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The funny thing is, all the things that stacked against a good day forced a mental choice: wallow and weep and probably bail; or, accept, relax, and see what was possible. I won’t lie…I did spend some time wallowing, petulantly, and nearly even wept. But I’m so glad, even proud of myself,  I was able to step into a more peaceful acceptance in the nick of time.

Stepping off the bus on Rim Rock Drive, I was struck by the casual, laid-back atmosphere and easygoing nature of the small crowd assembled. Lots of ipods didn’t convey lack of friendliness, just a shared expectation of some relatively solo miles and a goal of getting in the zone and enjoying the views. Stretching and chatting with a few other racers, I felt my body shrug off fatigue and start to look forward to a beautiful run.

Set off by a simple whistle, I took things really easy, having no idea how my legs were going to react to 13 miles of consistent, often sharp, uphill. I was amazed to find myself near the front of the pack, and fully expected to be steadily passed. Only I wasn’t. I won’t wax on about too many details, but just as I’ve bulleted the bag of excuses, here are a few notes on what worked:

  • Nutrition: The volunteers were wonderful–so kind. Aid stations, which were every 2 miles or so after the initial 4 steepest miles, were stocked with water, Gatorade, Honey Stinger gels, bananas, pretzels, chocolate.  I alternated water and gatorade and faithfully took a gel every aid station. Normally, I don’t take much but fluid during a race. The energizing burst was awesome.
  • Entertainment: The incredible vistas should probably have been enough, but for the first time ever I wore an ipod in the race, on Dave’s suggestion. He had loaded me up with the perfect playlist. Two really engaging Marathon Talk podcasts were like reflective and fun conversation in the first 20 miles; a shock wave of super charged songs were perfect for the last 10K. One of the podcasts featured amazing British runners Liz Yelling and Jo Pavey discussing motherhood, running in your 40s, family. To hear Jo, a four-time Olympian who is still a competitive elite, talk with such a relaxed and grateful approach was especially grounding, motivating and relaxing.
  • Alone time: I don’t get that much time to myself these days, and typically I don’t crave it. That said, when I get it (usually on a run), it can feel oh so good. Up there, running along the rock walls, I felt this zen flow of being whole, and being just me for awhile, and it was blissful…in spite, or even more because of running a marathon.
  • Love: This will sound oh so sappy, but I was overflowing with it. I felt swept away with loving thoughts for my dear husband and Little Monkey. Flixy’s beaming grin and rosy cheeks after keeping me awake all night before a race took the edge off pain. At one point (towards the end of the race, when I’ll admit there was probably a little bit of light-headedness setting in), I felt like Harry Potter, protected by love. My thoughts kept racing while racing, centering on how much Dave did to help me get to this place, able to relish this race despite all the obstacles. From nightly massages to persistent positive thoughts, packing, packing, planning and driving, he did everything he could. I also felt bolstered by mommy love. One unexpected bonus of being an old new mom–I am consciously grateful for him every single day. Not that other, younger moms aren’t…but I know I have constant awareness of how lucky we are pinned to how very nearly parenthood didn’t happen.

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In the end, I placed 4th overall female and 1st Master’s female (I told myself there are some perks to getting “old”, but prefer my uncle’s take on things: growing older is inevitable, growing old is not an option). The time wasn’t anything close to a PR (3:42), but I’m pleased with that for the tough course, with the winning time just 20 minutes faster. It was a beautiful day, and so very gratifying to finish knowing I’d been able to shake off my own negative energy. Best part, the special little cheering squad that waited at the finish, and the active recovery playing on the grass and kicking leaves all afternoon.

rim_rock (1)What it all comes down to, always, though, is Attitude. It’s the most important thing, in everything. All the bullets helped shape a positive mental approach. So too did all the things that went wrong. Ironically, having a crappy lead-up to the day was what really forced me to choose, finally, to have fun, tune out others’ posturing and focus on what I could do in the moment. Which is without fail how I reach my personal best, proved time and again. The races, projects, even relationships I work for are always most successful when I relax, enjoy, and challenge myself without fear of failure in relation to others around me. Why do I need to take so many classes to learn this lesson? I’m hopeful that writing it down this time, a takeaway may be that I don’t need lots of things to go wrong to get it right.

 

 

 

Let’s Play!

Go ahead. Play with your food.

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That’s our tag line for Plot to Plate, and I can’t help but admit I love it.  Even more so as of Wednesday, when Melissa and I got to share an edible play date with some 50 or more creative kids and LiveWell Longmont at the Longmont Downtown Farmers’ Market. As part of LiveWell’s mission to promote healthy eating through early educational opportunities, we’re hosting an edible activity booth highlighting seasonal produce at the market the first Wednesday of each month. For this first event, we featured cool cucumbers…but the stars, of course, were the kids who came to visit, and their marvelous inventions.

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As a new parent,  aligning play with food will no doubt taunt and even haunt me at times in years to come, but that’s ok. Because, there will also be magic.

“Can I eat it now?” asked one young boy as he proudly held up his creation for a photo. Others were overheard talking about adding toppings like hummus or cottage cheese when they got home. Faces beamed as plates were gingerly carried away. Dave brought Felix by to get squished with fierce cuddles see us, and it made my heart swell a little to see my little 10-month old’s eyes widen in awe at the bright colors, swirls, lines and designs of the vegetables and the art kids made with it. By the end of the evening, we must have seen 60 kids, all of whom created incredible, edible art, and/or approvingly sampled the simple and nutritious refrigerator pickles we had on hand, taking home the simple kid-friendly recipe cards.

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It’s amazing how appealing produce can be when it decides to play dress-up with imagination, becoming caterpillars, trains, sea monsters, flowers, and a limitless universe of possibilities. Throw toothpicks and maybe a lego or two into the mix, and WOW!

Of course, magical as moments may be, there is no magic “fix”. Now that Little Monkey’s taste buds are developing, and his preferences made clearer, our happy, easygoing eater is showing signs of occasional fastidiousness. At breakfast, he may pointedly clamp down his jaw surveying his porridge, while pointing, grasping for, and nearly hyperventilating at the sight of his current favorite, blueberries. All we can do as parents, I suppose, is continue to expose, expose, expose, and have fun with the journeys our children take wherever we can.

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I saw this fascinating TED Talks video the other day, which focused on correlations between the decline of play and the ride of mental health issues. Play, it said, is nature’s means of ensuring young mammals acquire the skills they need to develop into healthy, successful adults. This message has been persistently popping up lately, through new studies and commentary, reminding the world of the psychological and educational advantages of learning and exploring through play. Wednesday night made me reflect more, and emphasized for me where I stand. It’s sad when we see play getting the life squeezed out of it, or when it’s squeezed out of life.  Whether the context is a work-addicted, weary world that values hours logged over quality and efficiency or budget cuts and focus on rigor meaning less recess, free exploration, and time in the day for kids to make choices and create on their own.

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As we grow, we learn and learn to accept life is never ever all about play. There are times to buck up, even with food, including “have to try”. There is a point where we all have to suck it up and work hard even when we don’t want to, as contributors of society and people who do need to eat, clothe ourselves, and have shelter. But isn’t everything so much better when it’s at least a little playful? 

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Next month at the Downtown Farmers’ Market we’ll be exploring zany zucchini. Come see us if you can! We’ll have zucchini chips and fun edible supplies for your children and your inner child. You’ll see, we take our play seriously. 🙂

Baby boy, journey and joy

Health & Fitness | September 1, 2013 | By

I’m indulging myself and straying from the topic of food. A few weeks ago, I could have sworn I’d be making time this week to post about fun edible adventures like quinoa and chickpea falafel, tapioca uses, and almond butter freezer fudge, but I just don’t have the focus. All that’s being directed to our tiny little package named Felix Rory McMillan, born August 22nd at 4:37 pm.

Felix is long and lean like his Dad. He stretched out to 21 inches at birth and weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces. That dropped to 7 on the nose by the time we left the hospital, but by the time we went to his first pediatrician’s appointment two days later he had climbed up to 7 pounds 5 ounces! In other words, he eats like a champ, also like Dad. Still, he’s slightly below average weight. He is exceptional, however, as in 95th percentile, for his big head! That, I am sure, is due to his beautiful, amazing big brain.

No matter the numbers, this baby doesn’t look big, not even his cute, adorable,  larger than average head. He looks tiny. He is tiny. But he already has a story that is gargantuan in so many ways. At least to my heavily biased, swooning heart and mommy mind.

Felix was our miracle baby from the moment we discovered his little spaceman shape with its furious heartbeat at 9 weeks along. We’d just given up on the idea of having children at all. After fourteen years of marriage and over a decade of keeping the “door open”, we’d been told a year ago that our options toward that goal were IVF or adoption. We’d finally concluded we were no longer pursuing either one. I’ll never forget the feeling when, one crisp day in November, I went for a run and felt the weight of the decision lift off of my body and float away into the blue sky like a kite. In an instant, an oppressive stress-lined coat of tension washed off me in a way I can’t help but call spiritual. I had no idea what a burden we’d been carrying with the overhanging question. Within a week, I was pregnant.

Throughout my pregnancy, Dave and I marveled at the lucky breaks we’d been handed. Oblivious to my “condition”, I ran the Tuscon marathon at 6 weeks along; we then flew to the UK for Christmas where I ran every morning in the rain alongside my husband who, we were soon to learn, had contracted whooping cough. This special baby had a purpose, to survive and thrive in spite of our ignorance.

I was convinced early on of two things: the baby I was carrying was a boy who was craving burgers; and, he was going to be early, or at least punctual. But as my due date neared and then passed, I had to accept that the sense of timing was more wishful thinking than intuition. We were scheduled for an induction at 41 weeks.

When induction day arrived, we got to our hospital room and I was hooked up to the monitor for contraction and heartbeat measurements. “Wow,” Heidi, my OB (who is my hero, and exceptionally amazing and skilled), said. “Based on the strength of these, you look like you should be right there.” I was pretty surprised at that, because I’d been having contractions of same or similar strength for close to a week. I just figured that the Braxtons were getting uncomfortable, not that they’d evolved into actual contractions. Yet, I was hardly dilated.

Our wonderful nurse that night, Camille, administered cytotec to help get labor progressing before they’d start with Pitocin the next day. My body’s response was swift and strong, and before I knew it, I was having painful back labor. We’d been told baby’s head was face down and didn’t anticipate this, but as it turns out he was tilted in a way that created the extra pressure.

I had an open mind to pain relief going in but really wanted to try to have as natural an experience as possible. As the night progressed, however, and the pain got worse, it started to become clear that everything providing relief for me had the reverse effect on our baby. I went into the jacuzzi tub and felt instant soothing effects. Then, when Camille brought the doppler in to measure baby’s hearbeat,  we spent an agonizing, intense minute listening to…nothing. Camille’s face was beginning to look blanched, and there was an undeniable urgency in her voice when she told me to get out and move back to the bed so we could monitor from there. To our enormous relief the heartbeat was again detected, but it had become more erratic. We were already feeling ragged.

The contractions continued to strengthen with no to minimal change in dilation, and by morning I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I elected to the epidural along with the Pitocin, which in itself I had seriously been dreading. Once again, my body responded well to something that baby rejected. Throughout the rest of the day, we were scrupulously monitored, and Pitocin levels were altered in response to baby’s reaction. He wasn’t descending further; and I wasn’t dilating beyond 8 cm. I was completely exhausted. Worst of all, baby’s heartbeat was experiencing regular dips whenever medication was increased.

At 4 pm, Heidi came in and even in my drug-induced state it was clear from her face what she was going to say. “Uh-oh,” was all I could muster, swollen and woozy from fluids, collapsed on my side with nausea and fatigue. “Yeah,” she said soberly. “We have to talk.” She went over the risks of a c-section, but concluded by telling us that there was no other option. It seems because of an operation I’d had at birth for a diaphragmatic hernia and residual scar tissue, my uterus had tilted to a degree that baby’s descent was obstructed. Poor little thing had been trying to come out punctually after all. In fact, when he was delivered, he had a bitty cone head forming from pushing so hard to make that impossible journey.

The room suddenly felt oppressively hot, and a short sharp shock of dizziness flooded me with the news. I threw up as Dave frantically tried to call my parents to fill them in quickly even as I was being rolled towards the operating room. At the end of the hall we got to share a quick “last kiss” before Dave was ushered elsewhere to get into scrubs and I was transferred onto the operating table.

Ultimately, the actual operation was a really positive experience. Not how you’d typically think of major abdominal surgery! I wasn’t groggy, but surprisingly alert, and Dave squeezed my hand tightly while we carried on a fairly normal, even upbeat conversation. The medical team I had working for us was beyond awesome. I had complete trust in them and their talent. My ego was even stroked a little when I heard them talking about how nice and easy a procedure it was because there was no fat to cut through. The whole thing was completed within 30-45 minutes.

Towards the end, I asked the anaesthesiologist standing on my side of the curtain and looking over whether he could see baby yet. “Not yet,” he responded, “but I do see lots of hair!” Then there was a single, high-pitched, beautiful baby cry that brought on the joyful tears, and everything sped up. Dave was a few feet away, still in view, and I could catch glimpses of him cutting the umbilical cord. His voice was reassuring, exclaiming through tears and bewilderment, “oh he’s co cute, you’re going to love him so much, he’s so cute, just so cute.” His fabulous 8-9 Apgar score was announced, and finally, little Felix was placed on my chest.  I knew him at once as the little love and light of our lives.

 

Adrenaline was soaring. Felix was cleaned up and both our vitals measured. An hour later, we were back in a recovery room and my parents, visiting from the east coast, came over to see their first grandchild for the first time.

If only that were the end, but the toughest part began in the middle of the night, when I began severely bleeding. I had only to stand up and pools of blood were on the floor. Camille, again on night shift, did her very best to keep the concern she felt from showing, but it was there. I was so thrilled with our new baby, and perhaps a little buzzed on painkillers; it would really be days before I’d begin to process how scary the night became. At about 3 am, after several more rounds of blood loss, Camille determined it was time to call Heidi. In the moment, all I could think was “oh no, I’m ruining her night”, and I couldn’t stop apologizing for all the trouble I was causing.

Heidi arrived and the next thing we knew, the hospital bed looked like a murder scene. The way my uterus was tilted, the lower half wasn’t retracting in pace with the upper portion, and blood was pooling and clotting, making further retraction impossible. We needed to go through another procedure, but there was no time to call in the anesthesiologist. “Be prepared it’s going to be painful and intense,” Heidi said. “Basically you’ll feel my whole hand reaching in as high as I can get to pull out as many clots as I can.” Several nurses assisted and I squeezed Dave’s hand until it must have felt like it was breaking off while I felt my body contort in ways the scarring from the c-section abhorred. It was so painful. When it was over, though, once again I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible medical professionals who were taking care of us, and the sweet baby boy lying quietly in his bassinet just feet away.

Since that moment, life has mostly been a blur of one continuous, emotional day. The labor and delivery experience was harrowing, but the hospital experience itself was actually superb. Aside from the unavoidable discomfort of being monitored, poked and prodded constantly, we couldn’t have been happier. The staff at LUH were exceptional, in competence and friendliness, and they went out of their way to do everything they could. I had a complementary massage on the second day post-delivery; they even sent us home with a lasagna and cookies.

The ups and downs of post-pregnancy so far are strangely unrelated despite their inextricable connection. The ups are all about baby  brilliance and being new parents, and I’d never blame baby for the downs, as overwhelming as they can get. While I feel I can safely say I’m not at risk for depression, there is a part of me that has been wholly revolted by my post-partum body. I worked so hard to keep as fit as I could throughout pregnancy, even doing an easy run on the treadmill the day we went in to be induced. It’s not that I feel like all that was for naught, but I didn’t expect to leave the hospital wearing weird mesh granny panties, looking 6-months pregnant still, and dragging fluid-filled legs, sausages ready to pop from their casings. The long recovery period sometimes looms ahead like a black cloud. And “baby brain” during pregnancy was nothing compared to the real deal I’m experiencing now. I can’t seem to remember anything involving numbers at all, let alone work out real math. Every day is a marvel for just how unproductive I can be, outside of nursing (which is actually going startlingly well…and I now have breasts for the first time in my life, only they’re really more like rocks with nipples), baby laundry (thank goodness for my Mom’s gift of a cloth diaper service to begin…it is the best time-saver ever), and managing to not sleep. Considering how much I was prepared for post-partum period ups and downs, I can’t believe how much remained secret when it comes to the nitty gritty. Adding insult to injury, on top of the stretchy “lacy” hospital panties, I had an allergic reaction to the bandage dressing over my sutures, and my whole abdomen was covered with itchy blisters.

I could seriously go on and on. I’ve probably already done so far too long anyway, and it’s tempting to just keep on going. But in spite of everything, the core of me is truly always reveling in the perfect, precious gift we’ve been given. It doesn’t seem possible until experienced that love can be so very instantly, magically strong, and such hard work so completely rewarding. I get down on myself, but trust that the time will come soon enough when once again I have a better sense of self and body back. Eventually I will get to post about quinoa falafel and the like; I’ll take on more freelance and re-organize my teaching stuff. Fingers crossed, it won’t be too long before I feel in shape enough once more to focus on running and multisport goals, too. I’m nervous about that…hoping the process of finding my athletic self again will be more about exhilaration and less about discouragement. That said, I know those goals may never be quite the same. I’m so utterly head-over-heels in love. More than future finish lines or fast times, I’m sure to be concentrating on one perfect (to me) little boy I hope will be cheering on the side. I’m so very thankful for this chance to cheer and support him in everything he chooses to pursue, for the rest of my life.

 

Comfort and bounce-back: curried golden squash soup

We were in the mood for a taste of winter, so my teammates and I decided to book our annual Kinder field trip to the pumpkin patch for this past Thursday. Once we received confirmation, the deal was sealed with Old Man Winter. It’s kind of like washing your car to secure rain (except in a drought year).  Five of six years of pumpkin patch excursions have been heralded by snow.

On Wednesday night, we had friends Tom and Rebecca over for dinner, and the snow had already begun falling in big, wet doily flakes. Fortunately, we had a warm and soothing menu planned to keep them from catching any colds. Not only were our newlywed friends headed to Morocco for their honeymoon in just two days, they are lovely and inspiring people, and so it goes without saying I wanted to put together a lovely dinner inspired by their favorite flavor combinations.

First course (dinner became courses mainly because of an awkward combination of space and tableware) was a curried squash soup I wanted to experiment with, and I confess there was a personal agenda involved. Last weekend was a disaster, as I caught an awful cold and was suffering with lingering fatigue and croup I just wanted done with before the upcoming Saturday long run, a 20+ miler. I love squash on any day, but this week, I’ve been obsessed with curry blends, ginger, and other powerhouses that awaken the senses and clear out the crud.

Curry spice blends are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Turmeric, which is “Indian saffron” given it’s bold yellow color, has been used in Eastern medicines to treat various conditions, including menstrual pains, handy for about half the population on a regular basis. The force behind turmeric’s yellow pigment is called curcumin. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin have been considered comparable to potent drugs like hydrocortisone, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents like Motrin. A key difference, however: curcumin isn’t associated with toxicity. Other key spices in curry blends, including cumin, ginger, chili powder, and cinnamon, are all lauded for various potent benefits, ranging from alleviating nausea and gastrointestinal distress to boosting immunity, being anti-microbial, and more, naturally.

This soup is smooth, simple, rich, and excellent with a dollop of plain yogurt mixed with a little honey. Plus, it’s cheerful and golden, and reminiscent of the day we were hoping for at the pumpkin patch. I hoped the actual pumpkin/squash power of it would bring us luck for the morning’s field trip, but we woke up to this, anyway:

As the morning expanded, the sun began to shine, and the air was perfectly temperate after all. Two days later, our long run ticked over well, too, with the the last nine miles of the twenty being faster paced than the pathetic effort my runny-nosed, coughing, sleepy self of last week was able to manage over just 10K, carving this squash soup a spot in my list of indulged superstitions. Well, I guess that’s not actually true…recovery is down to rest, patience, TLC, and time. But the curry can’t have hurt, either.

 Curried golden squash soup

Serves 6-8 (dinner servings)

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • dash ground cinnamon
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • dash cayenne
  • plain yogurt (about 1/3 cup) mixed with 1 tablespoon honey to serve
  1. Roast squash. I don’t feel qualified to say how to do this, because I like to stick the whole squash in the oven when I’m already cooking at a high heat–400 F or over–leaving them in for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Makes for easy removal of seeds and peel.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot; sweat the onion and garlic until onion starts to become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add spices.
  3. Puree squash and onion mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. Return to pot and add broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook a further 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve with yogurt mixture.

 

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