Tag Archives: running

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!

Running and Running and Running…

My apologies for the unexpected blog hiatus – I didn’t at all intend to stop posting for a week! I think my training is catching up with me a bit, sapping the energy to both write and try new foods, recipes, and restaurants. Luckily I’ve got a few things lined up for this week, so I should be back on track!

In the meantime, despite being exhausting, the marathon training is going really well. Kelly and I have been completing our mid-week runs before work, providing at least a smidgen more time in the day as well as some truly amazing views of the city as we cross the Longfellow Bridge! We are blessed with a shower on the fourth floor of the office to make this all possible.

In order to adequately prepare for Heartbreak Hill, most of these training runs have been from Broadway through Union Square in Somerville, allowing us to do a series of very serious hills before the gentle downslope into Kendall Square and the relative flatness of Boston proper. It’s a bit like doing the marathon backwards, since the course is largely downhill until the hills of Newton, but it’s still a good workout! Winter Hill is my biggest challenge each morning – it rises 120 feet as opposed to Heartbreak’s more modest 88 and it is sneaky, climbing gradually enough that you wonder why on earth you’re so out of breath. If that monster doesn’t prepare us for the marathon, I don’t know what will.

Speaking of running crazy hills, I just read an amazing book that I’m going to heartily recommend to all of my running friends, as well as anyone who just likes a well-told true story. Born to Run is a hell of a book – partly the tale of the Tarahumara an indigenous tribe in Mexico who routinely run insane distances, partly of a race between the Tarahumara and some of the top ultra-marathoners in the world, and partly a lesson in evolution and running shoe sales, the book begins with simple question on the part of author Christopher McDougall – “Why does my foot hurt?” There’s death and madness and true friendship, a guy named Barefoot Ted and a man named Horse – all extremely well-written and fun. I finished it in two days and have been regaling anyone who will listen about all the fun facts I’ve learned. If you read it let me know what you think!

Life Lessons

As we creep ever closer to April 19th, I find that the cliches are true – I’m really learning a lot about myself through this crazy process, some of it very practical and physical, some of it more mental. This week seems to have been particularly illuminating. For one thing, I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my body needs more rest than I would like to admit. Most of my close friends know that if I were allowed to make any basic life necessity optional, it would be sleep. Sleep is boring, and prevents me from doing the far more exciting things, like everything, that I would rather be doing. So I compensate for the fact that I MUST sleep by getting as little of it as possible, then pushing myself like an insane person when I’m awake. But several things happened this week in training that have made me at least try to reconcile myself to my body’s demands:
1. I ran 5 miles one evening, then 7 miles the next morning. And then, dear readers, I HURT. That 7 miles was a run of pure suffering, such as I quite literally have never felt before. It took nearly 2 hours to complete. Lesson learned? DON’T DO THAT.
2. I skipped a run. I had yet to do this in all of my training, and I felt really bad about it. I still feel a little bit guilty, but two things have alleviated that guilt. The first is that the reason I skipped – the weather was wretched, a borderline hurricane that made my house shake terrifyingly. A few friends DID run in it and agreed that my choice was sound. The second reason is that even after that extra day of rest my legs STILL hurt a bit after the back to back adventure.
3. Run/walk works! This week’s long run turned out be one of the best, and fastest, that I’ve ever done, and all because I finally submitted to the wisdom of our coach and walked some of it. (It was also only 15 miles as opposed to 18, but it was much faster than my original 15, so the point still stands.) Kelly, Nandi and I all ran together, and walked roughly 1 minute for every 9. I typically lose those ladies about 3 miles into any of these team runs, so to be able to keep pace with them was a big accomplishment for me! The one minute walks were just enough time to catch my breath, the biggest struggle for me when I run, and they also broke up the brisker pace often enough to keep it sustainable. Overall I think this approach is going to turn the marathon from a nearly impossibly daunting task into a very difficult but manageable one. My goal is to run and still be smiling at the end and I think it’s going to be a lot more achievable this way.

I’ve also learned this week how really lucky I am. I’m lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people who continually support this madness. I’m lucky (knock wood) not to have a had any serious illness or injury as I force my body to perform previously impossible tasks. I’m lucky to have had this opportunity to show myself what I can really do – this whole adventure has really given me a new confidence in my abilities, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. The truth is that this is really, really hard in ways that aren’t really the ones I expected – but I’m getting through it. I think it’s worthwhile to put yourself through something like this at least once in your life to get a better sense of yourself. Thanks to all of you for joining me through the process!

Dry Run

What an exciting week of running that was, folks! Our weekday mileage has increased to 17 total – 4 on Mondays, 6 on Tuesdays, and 7 on Thursdays – and I think the entire team is feeling it a bit. For one thing, working in a 7 mile run on your average Thursday can be a bit tough – Kelly and I resolved the problem by running directly from the office all the way home. Since we usually take the T to Central Square before running home, this was big change. Running through all of the folks in Downtown Crossing who are commuting home is a slightly crazy-making proposition, but we managed, and were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Boston skyline at sunset courtesy of the Longfellow Bridge.

The other thing about our mileage increase is that, while I can’t speak for everyone else, my legs are tired. I wouldn’t say they’re sore, exactly, although sometimes that’s true, but they’re slightly stiff and I find myself noticing them more, which I realize is a bit vague but is the only way I can describe it. I am very aware of my legs.

Despite all of this, though, I have to say – this week’s long run may have been one of the best yet! This week we were able to run the last 17 miles of the marathon course – Children’s Hospital and The Liver Foundation (who all wore wacky Valentine’s Day related costumes) put together this amazing training run every year. Runners are bussed from the Riverside T stop out to Natick – and run right to the finish line! It was a wonderful opportunity to really understand some of the challenges of the route.

I’ll admit that I was nervous on the bus ride to Natick. Last week’s 15 miler had been pretty exhausting, and 17 miles seemed like an impossible number in my head. As I told Nandi, I couldn’t even wrap my head around it – it was too large.

When we reached our destination and started running I decided that the best way to approach the course was to do what I could and not worry about what everyone else was doing. This meant I lost Kelly and Nandi, who were keeping a brisk pace, pretty quickly, but since we had a clearly marked rendez-vous point at the end I wasn’t concerned. The weather was about as perfect for running as you could wish for – clear blue skies, sun, and just under 40 degrees. As I ran, I was in awe of how good my legs felt – no numbness or woodness, no real pain. I did have one terrifying moment around mile 6 when I bent to tie my shoe and something literally exploded in my right knee – I saw stars and was convinced I was done for, until I stood up and felt great! The slight stiffness in the knee was gone! If anyone has any explanation for this I would love to hear it.

Around mile 8 or so we started on the Newton hills and I was pleasantly surprised by how manageable they were! While I realize that in the real marathon I’ll have run about twice as far when I come across them I still feel like all of the hillwork we’ve done in the weekly runs is paying off. After the hills the course is pretty easy – a small climb in Coolidge Corner but that’s rewarded with what’s practically a downhill slope all the way to the finish line. In this week’s dry run I crossed it with a huge smile on my face – let’s hope I can do the same in April!

Alas, I have no pictures of this week’s run. Here’s one from last week’s pegleg run, for contrast:
Crushing Ennui
That’s Jess and I, exhausted from our efforts and the evil set of stairs at mile 14!  Note my sad, zombie-like demeanor.  Now imagine me bounding with joy – that was this week.

Big fundraising news!
1. I am over the minimum $3,250 threshold! Special thanks to the folks that made that happen this week: Kevin Kominsky, Matthew Fuller, my sister Kelly and most especially my dad! You are all amazing!
2. The staff teammates are hosting what promises to be a really fun trivia night at Crossroads Pub on 2/19, at 6 pm. Details are here. We only have room for 100 people, so please let us know if you plan to attend.
3. February Raffle! $1 for one chance, $5 for six, this month it’s going to be cookies. Your choice of chocolate chip, ginger molasses, brownies or lemon squares.
4.As always, you can check my fundraising progress, buy raffle tickets or make a donation here.

A Pirate’s Life For Me!

Ok, I’m not really a pirate. But I felt a bit like one on my long run this week.

This week we were actually meant to run 15 miles, and this time I was able to do it with my stalwart companions: Nandi, Jess, and Kelly. Todd was supposed to accompany us, but due to a late start and a failed meeting (for which the only logical explanation is that either he or we fell through a wormhole, but we’re unsure which) he did not manage to join our merry crew. Nandi planned a terrific route, one that took us from Simmons down the Charles to the Fresh Pond Reservoir and back. It was a great run, but chock-full of weirdness, from our inability to meet Todd to the VERY unpleasant man who told us to “Run that fat off” on the Mass Avenue bridge. Never in my life have I more wanted to dump someone into the drink.

It was also very, very cold, which might explain the strange sensation from which I take today’s post title. About 5 miles into the run, my right leg went…dead. It just sort of became numb, as though it were made of wood. I could continue running just fine, but it was quite annoying to have this wooden leg. It lasted for quite some time, at least another 5 miles. After that I was in some sort of other zone altogether where neither of my legs felt entirely real, but at least they were even again.

Despite these odd feelings, we finished the run in decent time and in good spirits. In any run of this length there are points in which my brain has little arguments with itself, in which I am tired and have legs of wood and the asthma kicks in and feels like I’m breathing through a straw, and the whiny brain wants to just give up and stop running. The other part of my brain, however, the luckily more dominant side, is the tenacious part (or stubborn, if you are feeling less charitable.) The part that will not allow me to stop, simply because this is what I’ve set out to do, today. I think all of my teammates are blessed with a similar sort of brain. Not only did we finish 15 miles, we all rushed off to do other things after – I had to grocery shop, Nandi was going to see a favorite comedienne, Jess was going out dancing, for goodness sakes! This marathon business can take up a lot of time and energy, so I think I’m most proud of being able to keep having a life on top of it. Even if it is the life of a pirate, with a little wooden leg.

Going The Distance

Or as it turns out, slightly over the distance. But we’ll get to that in a moment. It’s been a heck of a week of training, folks!

For starters, while we’ve already run half of the marathon distance, this week marks the end of the first half of training! We’re all very excited to get onto page two of our training calendars – it means the marathon is in sight!

Secondly, the weather this week was absolutely bananas, as those of you who are in New England know full well. We managed to ride the thermometer all the way from the high 50’s on Monday to the depths of the 20’s on Saturday. There was also just about every kind of precipitation you can think of, short of a rain of frogs, and as a result I actually ran for the first and last time of this training on a treadmill. Funnily, it was not sub-zero wind chills and sleet that did me in, but rather that 55° day and the buckets of rain that accompanied it. I had already had several slushy runs that filled my sneakers with water and couldn’t bear the idea of wet feet again. Since it was only a 3 mile run that day, I trotted off to the gym. Within 5 minutes of being there, I remembered why I’d been avoiding it so assiduously. The treadmill is hot, bouncy, and worst of all, hideously boring. I watched the miles tick away on the machine, which didn’t help the situation at all. The saddest thing was that the rain pretty much stopped completely not long after I arrived at the gym, meaning I could have just run outside after all. Lesson learned, I suppose.

Tuesday’s run was uneventful, but Thursday’s was a fine example of the need for mental toughness and fortitude when training in the winter. The day started off with light snow, but it wasn’t sticking and had abated by the time I left for my run with Nandi. So far, so good! Nandi had planned what turned out to be a really great and challenging 6 mile route with some decent hills, and despite some residual iciness from the morning’s snow all was going well. As we reached about mile 3, however, a few flakes began to float to the ground. No problem, thought we, we’ve certainly run in worse! And then, as we reached the bottom of a hill, it struck. A sudden, near-complete whiteout. We found ourselves running in a souvenir snowglobe, completely blinded. I suddenly gained appreciation for what the term snow squall truly means. Luckily it ended after about 10 minutes or so, and we finished the rest of the run uneventfully, but there was a definitive air of grueling about the entire experience. I’d like to try the route again sans nutty weather!

All of this, however, distracts from the main event – Saturday. The day we were due to run 14 miles, the farthest I’ve ever run in my life. And for the first time in quite a while, I needed to run it alone. The rest of the team was headed to a coalition run in the morning, but due to other commitments I couldn’t go out before the afternoon. In deference to this I decided to utilize the Minuteman bike path near my house – a straight shot with only occasional intersections to worry about. I plotted what seemed like a fool-proof route and headed on my way.

Since I was running the relatively safe bike path I decided to bring my i-pod – while not a replacement for my teammates it definitely helped prevent boredom and provided some extra energy when needed. I listened to some This American Life and what turned out to be the greatest running soundtrack ever (for me anyway) – the Ettes, Look at Life Again Soon. Here’s my appropriately named theme song for training:

The Ettes – Marathon from Alexandro Silver Duran on Vimeo.

The whole album is super-catchy and sets a good pace for how I run. Check it out!

Now, the bike path slopes up toward Lexington, where I was headed, and is a downhill slope back to Arlington, so I wasn’t too concerned about my time as I chugged along. I was pretty sure I could make it up on the way back. However, as I passed Lexington Center and started looking for the playground that was my indicator to turn around, I started getting a little concerned. My time was egregiously bad. Finally, I hit the highway at 1.5 hours and decided that had to be close enough. After all I wanted to be home before dark!

Well, you can probably guess what happened. The play area, as it turns out, is not as close to the bike path as it seems on the map. Add to that the fact that the last road before the turnaround is NOT marked as Bedford Road, and I overshot. Not by much, but enough that rather than 14, I have now run my greatest distance with 15 miles! So I guess I’m ready for next week. And my time, while not exactly on fire, wasn’t too bad.

I know I’ve been a bit long-winded, but I must also mention that I think I’ve found a really good on-the-run food! I brought some dried cherries on this adventure and they were perfect! Loads of sugar for energy, compact, not at all messy, and soft enough to feel like I’m not going to choke. I ate a few handfuls every 45 minutes or so and felt great!

Finally, today’s my big fundraiser. Wish me luck!

What’s Gonna Work? Teamwork!

If you get the title of today’s post you probably either have small children or spend a lot of time with them. I have no idea what my excuse is.

Anyway, this is it folks – this was the last week that the long run was a distance I’ve gone before. After this it’s all officially the farthest I have ever run. I’m a little nervous, but the way our training is set up it’s not so bad – every week is just one more mile. I can always just run one more mile, right?

Also helping to make it all possible are my incredible teammates. I know I’ve given them some props before, but I’m dedicating this entire post to all of them, because they really make the running much more fun! Yesterday I did the long run of 13 miles with two of the other folks from the office who are running, Todd and Jess. We were running from Comm Ave to part of Heartbreak Hill and back, and at one point along the way, I looked at my watch and realized we’d already been running for an hour – but it felt like no time at all had passed. When you’re running by yourself (as I think I might have to next week – the FARTHEST I’VE EVER RUN, GUYS) you really notice every mile. You’re acutely aware of how long it’s taking you to accomplish this task. Running with the team, while I try to stay focused on my form and breathing, I’m also happily distracted by talking to these folks who know exactly how I feel about this one facet of our lives. It’s pretty great.

I know that most of them feel the same way. At least two people have mentioned to me how much they enjoy the larger coalition runs, and Kelly wrote a great blog post about how, in addition to providing happy distraction, running with others offers a little bit of healthy competition – which is sometimes needed to spur us on the difficult task we’ve set for ourselves. While I’m not very competitive in the running arena (there are a few people I’d like to beat, but I’m rarely willing to kill myself to do it), I do find myself getting worked up about our fundraising! I was holding the number two spot on the team for a long time (beaten only by my oldest and dearest running buddy, Nandi, so that was ok) but recently I’ve fallen to number four and I’ll admit that it’s providing some impetus to really kick it up a notch as we move into February!

I’ll take that as an excuse to remind you all of a few donation opportunities, as well as to announce a new one!
1. You can always donate to my Firstgiving page! It’s easy, you get your tax-deductible letter almost immediately, and you can use a credit card.
2. Buy raffle tickets! This month’s raffle is for any baked good you like! Popular choices are chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, banana bread, and my chocolate chip cookies, but really, whatever you want! Tickets are $1 each, $5 for six, and you can buy them from the Firstgiving page or me directly. January’s raffle is over on the 31st, so get on it while you can!
3. Speaking of the 31st, I’m having an awesome event. Email me for the details!

Finally, the office team is planning a trivia night that’s going to rock your socks off, so stay tuned for details on that!

Thank you to Kelly, Jess, Todd, Nandi, and all of the rest of my teammates for joining me on this crazy adventure. I can’t wait to cross the finish line with you in April!