Monthly Archives: April 2014

On running a marathon

I did something for myself on Saturday.
I ran a marathon.

What made it special was not that I did it,
but how I did it and what it meant.


Starting at the end, a look at the finisher’s medal


Starting at the beginning, the sunrise around 6:00 a.m., an hour before the start

You could say the journey to my marathon experience Saturday started long ago and includes the entirety of my life, and I would agree with you. Some of the more recent seeds of my goals and plan for the race, though, start with where I was at when I signed up for it earlier in the year. I’d done another marathon last spring, and having not gone quite as fast in that one as I’d hoped for (though that was okay (another story for another time)), I had the thought, I should do it again and go for that Boston qualifying time. If I was honest with myself, though, I knew there was some ambivalence. Did I really want to train that much? Should I really push my body in that way for that long (running for 26.2 miles)? What if I can’t do it? What if I fail?


“So how many people here are racing the marathon tomorrow?”

This was one of the first things Coach GP said during the Friday afternoon marathon-expo talk he gave, titled, “Pushing Beyond Presumed Limits,’ which was ostensibly about running mechanics and how to think and what to do when trouble comes during the race. He continued:

“Note that I didn’t say, How many people are running the marathon tomorrow. It’s a race. You all have a bib number. There’s a clock timing you. No matter what you tell yourself to take the pressure off, once you get started you’re in the game and competing. You’re an assassin…You have a goal time and you’re going for it.”

I immediately felt like I was in the wrong place. What I was hearing is what had historically been my mindset, but I’d already been thinking of a different plan for this race. I knew my training hadn’t been as good as last year and that I wouldn’t be able to get the aspired-for Boston qualifying time. I’d also been missing some sleep and ruminating on life recently following the ending of a short but impactful bit of dating, and I really just wanted to go for a run and enjoy it – to say, I’m just going for a long fun run. And to not feel like I needed to push for x or y time – to not have that as my focus – and also to not have my legs feel terrible afterwards.

gearbag (2)

My marathon bag around 6:25 a.m., posing just prior to gear check. One more pit-stop, and then ready to go.


The race started on time at 7:00 a.m., and it wasn’t long before the old mindset, still there just a little below the surface, worked its way up. Earlier, I’d told myself that a 7:30/mile pace (3:16:38 overall) would be a good target given my fitness and one that I could maybe glide along and enjoy things at. But the course was going to be flat! And now the 3:15 pace guy was right in front of me and planning to lead people to a 3:14:30 finish…which was halfway further to 3:13…which, who knows, maybe I could do if I felt great…and, shouldn’t I give it a shot to hit 3:13 if it was maybe possible?…and, 3:13!…which would be a great time and PR (even if not the 3:10 needed for Boston) and a great palindrome!

My legs were feeling good for a while, and I was keeping up with the 3:15 group, but I knew I wasn’t relaxed. My thinking and focus were just, I need to stay with this group. It wasn’t until going through Meadowbrook Park, between mile 8 and 9, that my mind returned to me. This isn’t what I want, I told myself. And I won’t be able to keep this up anyway. Chasing a time is not my race today. My race is to enjoy it, to make it to the end still smiling and happy to be alive. To appreciate it.

Mile 11

At the turn at Mile 11. Thank you Aaron and Jami and Mom for watching and cheering.

So I slowed down a little. And I started to relax. And began to really smile. I was running by myself now (amidst the others around me), and now finally running for myself.

It was a shift in mentality and remarkable because it wasn’t just about running, but life too. In a culture of feeling the need to please other people and meet their expectations and fit in, sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself, What do you want and need for you? And then be true to yourself and do that, rather than doing what you think others think you need or should want.

I was listening to myself, and in that sweet spot of comfortableness and just running, came things like joy, gratitude, and connection. As I started the backstretch and moved through miles 13-20, I was smiling.

A few times I looked up with open arms and thought, I love my life.

alma mater

The University of Illinois Alma Mater sculpture (1929), the Alma Mater (center) welcoming the world along with Labor (left) and Learning (right)


One of my grandfather’s paintings (1930). Its story isn’t known (still to be tracked down), but I like to see the gesture as one of welcoming life and whatever comes.

People, families, and volunteers watching the race were cheering and encouraging me and everyone on, and when I would meet their cheers with a smile or other acknowledgment, they would go further and give me a little more. Which then made me appreciate them and smile even more myself.

It’s true you get back what you put in and that we’re all connected. If you want love, part of it is you have to be open and willing to give some yourself.


Looking good, right after getting a bottle of Gatorade from my brother at mile 18. Thank you also Jami for getting that on digital film.

The final 10K went by for me with a mindset similar to the one I carried from 13 to 20. I could feel myself moving a tad slower, and around mile 23 or 34, I did have the thought, ‘It really doesn’t have to be this long,’ but really I was still feeling pretty good, smiling, and appreciating the spectator love. Keeping up with the water, Gatorade, and some GU helped too. Further on the topic of spectator love and encouragement, and creativity, the following were my top 3 favorite signs that people made, each of them also only appearing during the last 10K:

  • Keep going! You’re almost there!!!
    [then followed by a second sign saying:]
    That’s what she said!


  • Give 100% in everything you do!
    [then followed by a second sign saying:]
    Except when donating blood!


  • Stop being tired,
    and start being awesome!

In the end, my final time was a few minutes faster than my first marathon and a few minutes slower than the one last year, but it wasn’t about the time as much as being right where I wanted to be. I continued to push beyond the presumed limits of my older ways of thinking and seeing, and I felt genuine appreciation and gratitude for the day. I appreciated seeing my family at miles 4, 11, 18, and 26.2, feeling and engaging the support of the crowd and volunteers, and even Coach GP for getting me thinking and providing some words and ideas for me to remake and claim for myself. All in all it was a great run.


A view at the finish. If you look closely, you can see me.


The finisher’s medal, further proof of the above


And the medal zoomed in, back again with the Alma Mater and Labor and Learning

Matzah Lasagna

And now, for my first act of Passover cooking… Matzah Lasagna. (Make sure to say it in an Italian accent. Or a magician accent. Or both.)

matzah lasagna

Matzah lasagna!

I made this for dinner last night, having gotten the idea after a few minutes of searching the phrase, “Passover dinner recipes,” and seeing lasagna turn up several times. (Thank you internet.) Having made lasagna in the past, I thought, How hard could it be? You just need to remember one important substitution! (Matzah for the noodles)

For the recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along. What appears below is what I wrote up after I was done.

Matzah Lasagana

7 pieces of Matzah
28 oz homemade tomato sauce
1 bunch swiss chard
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 teasp salt
10 oz mozzarella cheese

Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Make the tomato sauce. (You can also use sauce from a jar, but I usually make the sauce. Yesterday I sauteed an onion, green pepper, and carrot in olive oil, and then I added a can of crushed tomatoes and some dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. More details on sauce in a future post.)
  2. Prep the matzah. (The internet seems to say to soak it in water for a minute or two, and then drain the water. I soaked it for 10 minutes because I forgot about it. I can tell you that 10 minutes isn’t necessarily too long, but the result was more difficult to work with.)
  3. Chop the swiss chard leaves, and saute them until wilted and soft. (If you want to save a little time, you can skip the chard. Or use frozen spinach. Or also put in/not put in additional vegetables or ingredients.)
  4. Make the ricotta mixture by mixing the ricotta, eggs, chard, dried oregano, and salt. (Some of the recipes I saw called for cottage cheese, but I went with ricotta.)
  5. Add the layers to the baking pan (9″ x 13.5″) to make the lasagna:
    – Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce in the pan (an initial sauce layer)
    – Then add a layer of matzah followed by 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the remaining sauce, and 1/3 of the mozzarella (shredded)
    – Do the preceding step one more time (add matzah, ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella).
    – Then to top it off, add a final matzah layer followed the rest of the sauce and mozzarella.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes (bake until the lasagna is bubbly or the mozzarella on top begins to get a little crispy).

Here’s how to do it with pictures:

Step 1: Make the sauce

onion sautee

Get that saute going if you’re making the sauce.


Why stop at an onion if you can add more veggies?

tomato sauce

Tomato sauce, now ready to go

Step 2: Prep the matzah


How matzah looks before you soak it

Step 3: Make the chard


How chard looks after you chop it but before you saute it

Step 4: Make the ricotta mixture


How ricotta, eggs, chard, oregano, and salt look after you mix them with a fork in an orange bowl

Step 5: Layer the lasagana









And then, you know, continue with the rest of the layering…

It might be just me, but does anyone else have trouble following the layering steps as described in a typical lasagna recipe? If I’m following a lasagna recipe, I always find myself reading those steps multiple times. For the more visually/graphically-oriented among us, I drew a picture to help:


Lasagna layers in profile. Check out the shape on that pan. 

And now, the final product:

matzah lasagna

Matzah lasagna! Out of the oven


On the plate!



My first thought after taking a bite was, Hmmmmm…..Celeste Pizza! I haven’t had Celeste or other frozen pizzas in a while, but the very top layer of the lasagna (the matzah, sauce, and mozarella on top) was reminiscent of the melting-in-you-mouth, feel-good flavor and texture of a hot-out-of-the-oven highly processed, one-dollar frozen pizza.

Another thought was, This could use a little more salt. I say this perhaps more as an aside to myself because I made the tomato sauce and have a tendency to use less rather than more salt. Maybe next time (next year) I’ll put more salt in the sauce or ricotta mixture.

Final thoughts? I like the noodle version better, but this one was still good. You can tell there’s something different going on (the softer matzah gives it more of a casserole feeling), but if no one told you what it was, it wouldn’t be that remarkable (as in, something different to remark about).

Also, I’m proud of myself for posting the recipe even though I only made it once and know it’s not perfect. I can think of more to say about that topic on the life side, but for now, let’s say this particular recipe is good but also a work in progress. I’m putting it out there for all to see, use, and potentially make better and give me suggestions on. Have an idea? Let me know. And yeah, give it a try, especially if you happen have to a good-sized stock of matzah (or matzo or matzoh) left over from the 5, 10, or more lbs you may have started with this week.

A great day for a ride

I made some good lentil soup for dinner tonight, but the highlight of my day was going for a bike ride with my friend Bob.


Vintage picture of my bike

We took some familiar roads and made our way from HoVal to Sergeantsville and back, catching up and sharing wisdom and understanding on things like relationships and life.

We were happy to be outside riding, and our halfway point 20 miles in was also familiar.

Sergeantsville General Store

The  Sergeantsville General Store, a deli which also makes very good and reasonably-priced Chinese food

Sometimes if I’m on a long ride and I need a little more food, I’ll get the $5 meal with dumplings, rice, and salad. (If you haven’t tried it, you should.) Today, I went with the more standard fresh scone and Gatorade.


Can’t think of a better way to spend $3.47 on a Sunday morning

After repositioning the scone into my stomach, I took a few pictures of some flowers nearby and thought this blog and appreciation.



pink flowers

Pink flowers

painted flowers

Painted flowers

It was definitely a day for daffodils on the side of the road, which Bob and I noted, and in fact, the first pictures I took today were of some yellow daffodils at my place before leaving. I took them with the idea of including them on another (more photo-centric) blog that I was thinking of starting under the heading and theme of, See the beauty every day.

Another friend, though he didn’t remember having had said it (perhaps it came naturally to him), had said these appreciative words one day a few years ago when glancing at an architectural feature on the side of an urban building – something he was seeing and I wasn’t – and the words lodged in me as something to come back to and remember whenever perspective is wanting or wanted. Among other thoughts today, I did think of See the beauty every day, and the sentiment was present on seeing the daffodils in the morning and then seeing much more of them and other flowers later on.

daffodils 1

Some yellow daffodils

daffodils 2

A daffodil close up

daffodils 3

And some more

According to Bob’s Garmin, when we finished the ride, we had done 2,681 ft of climbing, burned 2,662 calories, and covered 43 miles in 3 hours. It was a good ride.


Hello World! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

Hello! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

I’d been thinking of starting something like this for a while now, and today’s the day it’s happening! Are you ready too? Let’s go! It will be a story in words and pictures, a mix of food and life. And even if it doesn’t always turn out as planned or hoped for, it’ll still be good.

Gooda Bartha

Gooda Bartha! But how did you end up looking so good??

So I had Good Bartha (Zucchini puree) for the first time three years ago, and it was one of those times when after tasting it, I thought or said something like, Wow, that’s really good, that’s amazing, let me finish this so I can have some more. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Illinois at the time, and my uncle was cooking. I think he made rice and dal that night too.

I got the recipe from my uncle a few weeks ago, and now it was my turn. Time for some re-creation recreation.

Gooda Bartha (Zucchini puree)

  • 1 lb zucchini (about 2)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 teasp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh green jalapeno chili
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teasp salt
  • 1/2 teasp chili powder
The players

But it says 2 zucchini, 1 chili, and 1 onion! That’s okay – let’s make it a double!

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow!

The players, more prepared

The players, now more prepared

Here’s how to get everything ready:

The zucchini gets chopped,
the onion gets sliced, and
the chili gets seeded and sliced.

And here’s what to do in five easy steps:

  1. Put the zucchini in a saucepan, and cook with water until soft. (I used 1 cup water for 4 zucchini, and I covered the pan to have it cook faster.) Then drain the water, and mash.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the cumin and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds crackle.
  3. Add in the onion and chili, and cook until the onion is soft. (I covered the pan again during this step.)
  4. Add in the mashed zucchini, salt, and chili powder, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    (Recipe modified from “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon)
Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini mashed up

Zucchini mashed up

Seeds in the pan

Onion and chili added

Onion and chili added

All together now

And now, ready to be introduced:

On the plate

Gooda Bartha close up

Gooda Bartha, with friends

I also made some friendly beaners while I was cooking and let them join the party too. They’re the red and black you see balancing out the picture.

And in the end? It was pretty good! My uncle’s was better (at least according to my memory), but that’s okay. I can compare notes and do some cooking with him the next time I’m in Illinois. Lucky for me, that next time is going to be in two weeks, when I head out there to do the Illinois Marathon and see my aunt and uncle and brother.

I’ll see you later too – here are some Gooda Bartha seeds and spices to chew on until then.

Cumin seedschili powdercumin seedssalt