Tag Archives: marathon

Coppa!

Coppa is one of those restaurants that I kept meaning to get to. Chef/Owner Ken Oringer is legendary on the Boston food scene, with restaurants as diverse and well-loved as Clio, La Verdad, Toro, and KO Prime to his name. The other Chef/Owner, Jaime Bissonette, has not only worked with Oringer at several of those restaurants, but he’s the sort of young, funky, tattooed chef who gets profiled all over the place. All signs pointed to Coppa being a great dining experience. So what took me so long to get there?

I’ll admit it, location was a huge factor. Coppa is tucked away on a little side street in the South End that just isn’t that convenient to my nightlife. I’m in the neighborhood once a week during the school year to volunteer, but the middle of a work day isn’t the best time to visit a restaurant that calls itself an enoteca – while it’s not literally a wine shop, there is a very serious Italian wine list. I was also concerned that this would be a splurge meal – something I have no trouble doing, but I needed an excuse for said splurge.

One finally came in the form of my third marathon, which I ran with two friends with similar attitudes toward good food and drink. We would celebrate our accomplishment with wine and meat!

Because that’s Coppa’s specialty – a marvelous selection of Italian salumi, cheeses, and meaty delights. This is not a restaurant that vegetarians would enjoy. Thankfully, I am no vegetarian. So, did it live up to my great expectations?

DID IT EVER.

We started with pretty much our only vegetable dish of the evening, little crostini topped with sunchokes and marscarpone cheese.
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(apologies for the blurry picture – it was quite dark in the restaurant. Eventually I caved and used my flash.) This little bar snack is seriously fantastic. If you’ve never had a sunchoke, imagine a cross between a chestnut and a mushroom – nutty but earthy at the same time.

Our other non-meat dish was the burrata, which is type of insanely buttery mozzarella cheese made right in Somerville, MA.
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If it had been acceptable to lick the plate, we would have.

Similarly warm feelings were had about these:
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These are pig’s tails, roasted in a wood-oven and glazed with mostarda. They are tiny nuggets of pure joy. If I could eat them every day, I would be extremely happy for the rest of my incredibly shortened life span.

Naturally, we couldn’t visit Coppa without getting a salume plate. Regrettably, I forgot the name of nearly everything on this platter the minute she put it down, but I DO know there’s some lardo on that piggy, because we asked for it, and it was amazing. Also, how adorable is that tray?

Adjusted Salume Plate

This was an entree special of an extremely decadent rib. Though just one, the meat was plentiful.

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Finally, we did try one of the wood-fired pizzas – bone marrow with beef heart pastrami and horseradish. If, like myself and the ladies I was dining with, the combination  of beef heart and bone marrow on your pizza tantalizes, GET THIS. It is outstanding, meaty and silky and cheesy and wonderful.

Untitled If, on the other hand, like the young couple on a date next to us you are in fact a pair of very confused vegetarians, DO NOT EVEN ASK what is on this pizza. You will be sorry you did.

The atmosphere in Coppa is jovial and close – the space is teeny tiny. Everyone seems friendly and the wait staff is lovely, but if you’re in Boston and want to go, I’d get (I did in fact get) reservations, because there’s really not the space to wait. Since they call themselves an enoteca, a note on the wine: I thought it was fabulous. I also really love Italian reds, so this seems like a no-brainer, but I felt like Coppa carries interesting grapes for a reasonable by the glass price. They don’t have a full liquor license, so the cocktails are all cordial-based (Boston has some weird liquor laws). That’s not really my scene so I didn’t try them – but if you have I’d like to hear about it!

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Tomorrow

Well, my friends, we’ve finally made it to the big day. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 am I will begin running the 114th Boston Marathon.

I plan to do a big wrap-up on this entire affair after it’s all said and done, but I did want to let you all know a few details beforehand:

1. There’s an article about my teammate and dear friend Nandi and myself over at Boston.com! Humongous and heartfelt thanks to David Jordan, who helped make it happen!

2. I also shared my “Why I Run” story on the site.

3. Together, we raised $4,726.60 for Boston Partners in Education! Thank you all for helping me exceed BOTH of my goals! If you haven’t donated and still want to, just click the link.

4. I’m bib number 23019! Visit here to get text or email updates about where the heck I am on the course.

For reference, here’s a photo of the current staff/former staff component of Team Boston Partners picking up our bib numbers. With 6 members who fall into this category we make up a quarter of the team!
The Entire Staff-Former Staff Team!
As you can see from this photo, I have left my hair uncut to ensure maximum volume and craziness for tomorrow – if you’re trying to spot me in the crowd, I hope it helps!

As I said, I have lots more to say, but I’m going to save it for after I get through this thing. For now, let me once again, though hardly for the last time, thank everyone who reads this for the love and encouragement you’ve shown me. I never really thought I’d be doing something like this, so it means all the more to me that so many people believe that I can.

One Week To Go!

This week I deliberately waited to post my marathon update until Monday – because we are ONE WEEK away from the marathon! I’m getting chills, folks.

On Saturday we had our final big coalition run of our entire training – a little over 9 miles on the course. We started out at Revolution Fitness as usual, but only for the talking portion of the day. This involved all of the team managers giving shout-outs to their top fundraisers, followed by Coach Rick giving us our last pep talk and answering any questions we had. While I didn’t come with any questions myself, those of others were extremely helpful and I’m glad I didn’t skip the meeting as I originally intended. Perhaps most useful was Rick’s advice about breakfast before marathon day, although I didn’t know it at first. He eats a bowl of oatmeal before he leaves, and brings a bagel to the Athlete’s Village. This sounded, in the words of Nandi, like a Mack Truck’s worth of food to me, but by the end of the day I was a convert.

After the final questions were answered we all trooped down to Copley to take the D Line to Woodland Station. This is the stop at Newton-Wellesley Hospital – in terms of the course it puts us just before the Newton Hills and about 9 miles out from the finish line. The day was sunny, windy, and a bit chilly – pretty much ideal running weather since the wind was at our backs!

I started at a nice easy pace with my running buddy Lisa, slightly concerned that we were tackling the hills cold. However, once the first one was under my belt I felt good. Really good, in fact. So good that I decided to run the rest of them the way I run the Somerville hills – as hard and fast as I can, slowing on the downhills. What the heck, I thought, it’s only 9 miles!

As I crested Heartbreak, I saw one of the runners from the Boston Debate League team, and suddenly the thought entered my head that I could overtake him. Those of you who know me are probably aware that when it comes to physical endeavors I’m not exactly the most competitive person in the world. (Mental endeavors, such as trivia, are another matter entirely. I’m out for blood!) Something shifted in me that morning, however, and I knew that simply by keeping it “light, smooth, and easy” as Caballo Blanco recommends, I could pass him. And I WANTED TO, and I did!

At this point I was ahead of all of the other runners in my pace group, and feeling pretty good about it. However, at Cleveland Circle a large group of them managed to cross the street at a much more convenient location than I had, and were well ahead of me. On a normal day, I’d shrug and let it go, but on this day I was determined not to let them beat me. Get ahead of me because of a traffic light? Oh, HELL NO. Keeping the mantra of light, smooth, and easy in my head (along with Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf“), I carefully ate up the lead they’d built, despite further problems with traffic lights. By the St. Mary’s stop on Beacon Street they stopped for water – and I caught them! I finished ahead of all but two of that pack in what was easily the fastest time I’ve ever run nine miles. It was an amazing feeling! I pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of and it was a big success.

It was followed, however, by one of the worst feelings of my life, in the form of some seriously low blood sugar. Remember what I said about Coach Rick’s breakfast advice? Well on this run I’d eaten a bagel, but with all of the talking and then the T ride, it was about four hours gone when I started running. After giving everything I had to the run, I had nothing left. I was irritable, shaky, and my vision began to blur. A hit of chocolate milk made a vast improvement, but I wasn’t fully recovered until Nandi and I grabbed lunch at Porter Exchange – a huge rice bowl with beef, tofu, and eggplant. Lesson learned: I will be eating two breakfasts on Marathon Monday, since there will be a similar lag time between leaving the house and starting the race.

Before I end this, some huge fundraising thank yous! Chashing Bugang, Maggie Taney & Nadia Ibrahim, and Susan Hoye: Thank you so much! I am now at $4,580.40 raised for Boston Partners in Education! Can we take it to $5,000?

Thanks as always to everyone who reads this for their support and encouragement!

Tapering

This week was our first official week of taper before the marathon! Rather than the nearly 40 miles we ran last week, this week we only ran 25. This number will continue to decrease until marathon day, allowing our legs to rest, recover, and be at full strength on the big day.

However, while significantly less running happened this week, other challenges were in abundance. For one thing, it’s apparently common to experience weirdness around the taper – emotions run high, weird pains appear, and strange cravings take hold. Nearly all of these symptoms have manifested in me, from the doughnut that I desperately wanted the day after we ran 21 miles (I don’t really even like doughnuts) to a strange, anxiety-ridden dream I had about being the slowest person on my marathon team. Fortunately some friends who’ve already run marathons have set my mind at ease about most of these oddities, and my teammates seem to be sharing them – and as we all know, a burden shared is halved.

This week’s other challenge, on the other hand, wasn’t one that could be avoided or lessened – the continual drenching downpours that soaked Massachusetts from Monday-Wednesday. Kelly and I maintained our usual morning running schedule in spite of the monsoon conditions provided by the second “50-year” storm that we’ve had in two weeks. Our rationale was that with 3 straight days of rain predicted, there was no real chance of avoiding a soaking, so why not just get out there and do it? We even continued to climb the hills of Somerville – I would argue that you haven’t really lived until you’ve run 82 feet straight up in the pouring rain. You’ve probably also not gotten the looks that say “You two are lunatics” the way we have, either.

Here we are grabbing some coffee after that 4 miler:
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Kelly almost appears dry, but her bag gives her away.

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Thanks to more visible hair, you can more clearly see my thorough soaking. Please note that these beasts are what we run with every week day.

We recovered from the rain well enough, however, that by Thursday we were able to turn our morning run into something a bit more fun – we successfully purchased and then carried, in the blue beasts, doughnuts for the entire office! Purchased at Verna’s, a coffee shop that’s been in North Cambridge forever, they were homemade and the perfect answer to my weirdo craving.

Perhaps this week’s greatest challenge, however, was on this weekend’s long run. Though it was a mere 12 miles, the weather shifted from tropical storms to tropical heat – nearly 80°! While the abundant sunshine and short-sleeve weather would have been lovely for a stroll in the park, it turned the run I did with Nandi into sweaty, salty, soggy mess!

And yet, in spite of all the taper craziness and the horrendous weather, it ended up being a good week. Thanks to the generosity of my Aunts Joanne and Cindy, fellow marathoner Meghan Malloy, and most especially my cousin Tamara Askew, my fundraising has hit $4,500 for Boston Partners in Education! Kelly and I conquered new and challenging hills with blistering speed, and we all proved that the weather, be it a monster storm or just monstrously hot, is not going to defeat us. There are two weeks until the Boston Marathon, and I for one am excited!

Celebration!

A few weeks ago, my friend Nandi and I decided to celebrate the fact that we’d hit our fundraising minimum for the marathon. This was a pretty big deal because the minimum is non-negotiable; if we didn’t hit it we’d owe the difference! We were also far enough into the training that a bit of fun was much-needed. Since we’re both fans of excellent food we decided that this celebration would take the form of dinner at Ten Tables Cambridge, a popular spot that we had yet to try!

Ten Tables started in JP, an itty bitty place as the name suggests that had a focus, as most of the nicer restaurants in the area do, on locally sourced, organic ingredients. Alas, I’ve never made it to the original location, as Jamaica Plain may as well be the moon if you live on the other side of the river and don’t drive. However, when Craigie Street Bistrot moved to its digs in Central Square, lo and behold! Ten Tables was happy to expand to the Cragie Circle spot, an odd space in the basement of an apartment building, but much more convenient for us Redliners. (In full disclosure it is also a bit bigger than Ten Tables JP – it’s more like 20 tables.)

When we arrived at the restaurant we were informed that we could either eat ala carte or put ourselves at the mercy of the Chef’s Tasting – an entire dinner including appetizer, entree and dessert that would be a total surprise! The catch was that we both had to do it, but after making sure that we could get our meals sans shellfish (Nandi is allergic!) we decided that it had to be done.

Dinner opened with salmon crudo (regular, unshelled fish are fine for the Nandster) topped with baby spinach and toasted pine nuts:
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This was very fresh and spring-like, and surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because sometimes I find the texture of raw salmon to be alarming – I love the taste, but it can have an unpleasant squishyness. This aspect was happily missing from Ten Tables’ version!

Next we were brought what was perhaps our favorite dish of the evening:
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What’s this? An egg? Yes! But not just any egg – this is a Five-Minute Egg, served in a soup of green garlic, more baby spinach, semolina, and truffle butter! The truffle taste was wonderfully pervasive – lending the otherwise very light and delicate soup a meatiness. Here’s the egg split open to reveal its golden middle:
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Next we received our entrees, a very nice skirt steak with tomatillo salsa and “crushed” Yukon Gold potatoes:
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The steak was tasty, but I find it to be a bit of a boring entree for a tasting, to cook a really good steak properly is to largely leave it alone. However, the crushed potatoes were great – wedges of Yukon Gold that were sort of smashed – not mashed up – intact but broken – and cooked until they were crispy. Yum.

Before dessert we were brought a little palate cleanser, a light yogurt beverage that was similar to a thin lassi:
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It was very refreshing!

Finally, it was time for dessert! While I’m usually more motivated by savory than sweet, these confections were truly stunning. They’re definitely running a close second with the semolina for best dish!

While up until this point our plates had been identical, for the dessert course we were each given a unique item. We agreed to eat half of each and then switch. Laid before me first was the Toasted Pound Cake with Rhubarb Compote and Chantilly Cream:
Toasted Pound Cake
A strong vanilla flavor pervaded the still-warm cake, making a good, sweet contrast to the sharp rhubarb and rich cream. Toasting the cake had given it an enjoyable crispiness.

But my heart belongs to the dessert brought to Nandi:
Chocolate Terrine
That, my friends, is a chocolate terrine with sea salt and Thai basil ice cream. Be still my heart. For one thing, any time sea salt is incorporated into a dessert my day is made – I told you, I’m a sucker for savoriness! For another, that ice cream was a revelation – the herbal spiciness of the basil was a perfect counterpoint to the rich bitterness of the chocolate. Throw in the crunchy, salty goodness on top and I was in my glory.

Throughout we drank a perfectly lovely 2008 organic Barolo that seemed to play nicely with everything we were eating. Our entire experience was just what I hoped for – the right amount of celebration for our mini-goals achieved!

21 Miles!

There are 3 weeks left, everybody. Three weeks until the biggest physical effort of my entire life. Three weeks until all of this crazy training and sweating and pain pays off. Three weeks until I can devote myself to all of my other hobbies. Three weeks until the 114th Boston Marathon!

In celebration of the momentous occasion nearly being here, yesterday I completed the SECOND largest physical effort of my entire life (currently in first place until April 19th!) and ran 21 miles from Hopkinton to Boston College along the official course! After the insane monsoon 19-miler of two weeks ago I was totally freaking out about this run, terrified that I would once again hit the wall at 17 miles and have to crawl up Heartbreak Hill, which was the culmination of the course. Friday night, despite going to bed at an extremely reasonable hour, was less than restful.

Bright and very early on Saturday morning I woke up to meet teammates Nandi, Kelly, and Brandt at Alewife Station so that we could arrive at BC for 7, where we would board buses that would bring us to Hopkinton. (Thank you for driving, Brandt!) I sat next to Nandi on the bus and did my best not to let my jitters manifest in too much fidgeting – Coach Rick warned us that this is a fine way to waste energy. Luckily my teammates provided some much needed entertainment and distraction in the form of whistling, crossword puzzles, and an argument over whether “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” is the same song as “I‘ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.” (Click the link if you care to find out the answer to that one – let’s just say that my position was LARGELY correct but in the end I have to give the points to Todd and Nandi.)

When we disembarked in Hopkinton the day was bright, sunny, and horrifyingly cold. Apparently March has decided to go OUT like a lion this year, manifesting in 20° temperatures that most of us were ill-prepared for. As my fingers froze into icicles and I was bemoaning my lack of gloves, a girl from another team mentioned to our friend Peter that Saucony was giving away FREE gloves at the tent behind us. Hot dang! Not only could I warm up, the gloves were really nice! Score one for unpreparedness! We then more comfortably waited for teammates Jess and Lisa to get off their bus, and set off around 8:30. Despite the cold the day was gorgeously sunny, and once we were truly underway I warmed up considerably.

As with the 19 miler I ran with Lisa and Teresa, and we added Jess to our merry band – it was her first time trying the run/walk and I hope she found it useful! While it felt silly with folks breezing past us in those first ten minutes, by the time we hit mile 10 or so it was definitely worth it – my legs still felt fresh and good, the run felt comfortable and easy. We were maintaining a 10.5 minute mile on average – while I’d love to be faster I think this pace will see me through to the finish line with a smile on my face in a way that keeping up with Kelly and Nandi at 9.5 will not. Our little group kept up a happy conversation throughout the entire run, so I believe it was a comfortable pace for us all. We were continually either just in front of or just behind Todd, giving a spirit of friendly competition to the day.

At various points throughout I kept saying “I feel great!” and then immediately chastising myself that we hadn’t really gone that far yet – only 6 miles, only 10 miles, only a half marathon. After all, we had to go 21 – and the Newton Hills awaited us at the very end. For those of you who don’t know, the Boston Marathon runs a course that is largely downhill until you reach Newton, where the hills loom suddenly and constantly for almost 4 miles. This can be the undoing for many a runner – the urge to go as fast as you can on the downhill is strong, but you’ll burn out your calves and your energy and have nothing left for the hills. I saw many people walking Heartbreak, and one poor soul sitting on the sidewalk, massaging life back into his calf. I was determined not to go down in a blaze of irony and so tried to keep myself in check.

When we reached Newton, however, and I still felt good I knew I had to take those hills with everything I had left. By the time we reached Heartbreak there was only about 1.5 miles left and I went for it, charging up like the devil himself was after me. Jess, who had been sidelined for three weeks with a cold, proved that she’d made an awesome recovery when she caught up to me. I felt great, like all of my training, the myriad hills of Somerville, the rain and snow and slush we ran in, the horrible stiff legs, was all leading up to this. We passed Nandi and Kelly, already finished with their run and with my camera in hand, to kindly take this:
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(Jess looks a bit more dramatic, but you can tell by my dimple that I am grinning ear to ear!)
As we crossed the chalk finish line and accepted our plastic leis from a volunteer, I felt an incredible sense of joy because I knew if I had to, I could keep running. I will do this all again in three weeks and I WILL finish the next five miles, I WILL cross the finish line, I WILL take my medal and I WILL do it with a smile on my face. I may not be the fastest, but on April 19th I plan to run my own race my own way. What more could I want from this crazy journey?

Right after we finished I forced as many of my teammates as I could find into a sweaty, salt-stained photo. Thanks, you guys, for keeping me sane and smiling!
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From left to right that’s Jess, me, Kelly, Nandi, Lisa, and Todd, some of the best teammates a gal could have! (Besides myself, of course. I can’t be me AND a teammate at the same time. That would require some sort of clone – or perhaps a wormhole?)

Week 18 – Getting Down To the Wire!

Friends, there is now officially less than one month until the 114th Boston Marathon. That means many things:
1. There’s only one long run left before the taper. We’ll be running 21 miles next week along the course with Children’s Hospital.

2. There’s only a month left of fundraising. Yes, I’ve hit my original goal but I would LOVE to finish by raising $4,500 for Boston Partners in Education. Thanks to the generous donations of Aime Goldberg, Superfan, and Matt Baker this week, I’m only $287.60 short of doing just that! Visit my page if you’d like to help me reach it – or beyond!

3. Bib Numbers are out! I am officially runner 23019. If you’d like to follow my progress on race day, you can use that number to sign up for text alerts here! You’ll also be able to search for my number on the BAA’s site on marathon day, if you prefer.

4. Sign up for your mile! You may recall way back when that I mentioned that donors of $50 or more could have a mile in their honor. This will include an official list on this blog, plus appropriate commemoration at your chosen mile. My tee-shirt the day of will be covered by my dashing red singlet (picture to come, DON’T YOU WORRY) but I’m thinking of putting together a post-race shirt that has everyone’s name and mile on it. Feel free to sign up in the comments or email me at frightfullyclever*at*gmail*dot*com!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for the continued support. I know I write it nearly every week, but you all deserve it. One of the biggest thrills of this marathon has been how overwhelmingly wonderful all of my family and friends has been!