Water Girl at the Chicago Marathon and Spicy Baked Balsamic Chicken

Water, Water Everywhere…Does Someone Want My Drink?
Running has been, to put it mildly, not going well lately. Basically, I’ve been hating it. I hate thinking about it, I hate getting dressed for it, I hate actually starting it. It hasn’t felt good in a long time, even when I complete a run that I previously thought I couldn’t. There’s no sense of accomplishment, just an overall feeling of thank-god-that’s-done. On Saturday I was hating it so much that I was reduced to doing run/walk intervals just so I wouldn’t quit. Not that there’s anything wrong with run/walk intervals, but I had completed the distance without walking in the past and I knew I could do it again. The thing was, I just couldn’t. All I could think about was how much I don’t want to do this anymore.

When I’m frustrated, I often feel my ideas are best expressed in rhyming couplets*, so I wrote a little poem upon returning home. I call it: “An Ode to Running, or I Hate You.”

::Cue ostentatious throat clearing.::

An Ode to Running, or I Hate You
Cold blowing wind or spiteful humidity,
The weather ne’er deigns to shine favor on me.
As careful as I am post-donning my socks,
In the depth of my shoes lies e’er errant rocks.
A too skinny girl, an impossibly fast man,
Oh, the unreachable heights which I cannot stand.
Here on the path we follow rules of the road,
“Run on the right!” to contrary jerks I want to crow.
Shin splints or side stitches, always there’s pain
Somewhere in my body and deep in my brain.
Ears are too sweaty to keep buds inside.
The threat of not finishing crushing my pride.
And when finally I rest, when do I so choose,
The sweat it doth run down between my boobs.

*Okay, no, I do not actually believe my ideas are best expressed in bad poetry, but I did thoroughly amuse myself writing this.

Anywho…later that night I opened up my new issue of Runner’s World to find this quote: “Accept the ups and downs you will experience. You are going to have days you feel like you’re flying and days you struggle. This is normal for all runners.” This comes from Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the New York City marathon. Well. How very apropos, and way to remind of my own proselytization on patience. Touché, universe.

I had to go to bed early that night because the next day I would rise pre-dawn to head down to North and Wells for my stint as a volunteer water girl for the Chicago marathon. At 5:30am I received my volunteer badge and lovely Nike jacket (seriously, I’m going to wear this thing for reals), joined three other very nice girls, and commenced to stacking large tables with cups of water four-high.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

After a quick break for coffee and a bagel, we got ready for the wheelchair racers to come through. Man, that is some serious arm work.

Chi Marathon 2013 (2)

Between some buildings we could see the elite athletes running down the first leg of the race on LaSalle. They were going so fast, I wasn’t entirely convinced that they weren’t also in wheelchairs. So fast, in fact, that I could never snap a focused photo of them. That’s CRAZY fast.

Chi Marathon 2013 (3)

Not too long after, the 3-hour pace group started to come through. This is when we really started to work. Thousands of people came through over the next couple of hours and we stood patiently, holding our cups of water for them to take. The variety in runners was stunning. People had all sorts of countries emblazoned on their shirts. Some were running for charities. Some donned superhero costumes. A few men sported rainbow colored tutus and socks. I saw no less than two people leading blind runners down the street. Many people shouted their thanks to us for being out there. It was amazing.

Chi Marathon 2013 (4)

After standing out there for several hours, my legs hurt and my hips were sore. I had to support my right arm with my left because my shoulder no longer agreed to do its job. Ironically, all that standing during the marathon had put me in pain, but it was worth it to see so many people working so hard to achieve a singular goal and be a part of the intense energy of the day. And you know what? It made me want to run. It made me want to get out on that pavement and RUN, more than I have ever wanted to run before.

So when I got home I revisited my poem and came up with this instead:

Further Thoughts on Running, or Maybe You A’ight
With not one step do you dare to falter,
Taking gracefully from me this cup of water.
You thank us with heart for our task of import,
Our small contribution to this hard, great sport.
“Go Kaylie! Go Jeff!” we scream names writ on shirts.
“Lookin’ good!” especially to the ones who look worst.
(And, oh, that one runner who at the 10th mile,
Did gift me with the most gorgeous of smiles!)
Because this race it is run for much less than the win,
And more for the people, the noise, the din,
The shared belief we can do something great
E’en when our feet, our legs, our minds, they ache.
And though 26.2 still looks so far away,
I can’t help but think, “Maybe. Someday.”

Spicy Baked Balsamic Chicken

Spicy Baked Balsamic Chicago
I have to admit, I haven’t been eating particularly well lately. I don’t consider myself a slave to carbs, but there are times when all I want is pizza crust and cookies and hunks of sourdough bread. This is one of those times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks that carbs are the enemy, but when I get like this I have trouble controlling my cravings in general and that is the enemy. The baking meetups aren’t helping either. While gorging on sweets once isn’t horrible, the, shall we say, “quality control” prior to the meetup can be an issue. (I literally had to dump the extra ‘Nilla wafers in the trash after I made my pie crust so as to prevent myself from scarfing half a box.) You may not be able to see it on the outside yet, but I can tell the difference. It’s time to get back on the healthy eating bandwagon.

I had seen this recipe in the same People article where I spotted Daphne Oz’s Mixed Greens Salad with Blueberry and Walnuts. I’ve been wanting to try it since, but hot weather does not make me yearn for baked chicken. Now that we’ve got some legitimate 50s and 60s going on, I’m cranking the oven back up.

I can’t even tell you how easy this recipe is. Mix together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and oregano in a bag. Marinate chicken thighs for an hour. Bake until done. So simple and so good. The only areas where I deviated is that I bought bone-in thighs with the skin and skinned them myself, because that was much cheaper, and I sprinkled some salt and pepper over the thighs before baking them. That night I made some mashed potatoes and cooked some green beans for a lovely dinner. The remainder of the chicken I cut up and added to green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, and broccoli slaw to take to work for lunch. Several meals from one dish: that’s the kind of cooking everyone can get behind.

¾ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds organic, skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or use bone-in thighs and remove the skin yourself)
salt and black pepper

Mix together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and oregano in a large ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425º. Shake excess marinade off the thighs and arrange them on a foil-lined baking sheet (easy cleanup!). Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes for boneless thighs, 40 minutes for bone-in thighs, or until juices run clear. Remove from oven and let the chicken rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

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3 comments

    1. You are so welcome! Congratulations to you on completing the race. You and everyone else out there are so inspirational to me. (And I loved reading your post about it.)

  1. Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening.

    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this
    short article together. I once again find myself personally spending
    way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

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