Saturday, August 15, 2009
Ever since I planted the tomatoes in May, I've been eagerly awaiting the first picked tomato, plump and red (or yellow), and sun-warmed. For months I've been carefully tending the plants, trimming here and there, re-staking (they've gotten huge!!!), picking garden pests from their leaves, and making sure they've had plenty of water.
Just before leaving for vacation, a few of the cherry-sized Sun Gold tomatoes began to ripen. I picked a couple and popped them in my mouth, bit down and felt that satisfying "pop" as the skin split and the warm juice and seeds ran out bathing my mouth in their sweetness. I scoured the plants and gathered a few more to take home to tease the taste buds of DH and Daisy (our dog--she is a tomato fiend). During vacation, I kept telling DH how great it was going to be to get back to the garden and pick all of those ripe tomatoes--8 plants in all. Four Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and the rest heirlooms--Persimmon and Brandywine. My neighbor was going to lend me her canning equipment so nothing would got to waste.
The first hint at impending disaster came when I went through my email. There were several from the garden club warning that late blight was hitting the tomato and potato plants. There is no cure for late blight--the plants have to be pulled up and destroyed to keep the blight from spreading. Then I had an email from a friend whose garden is 4 rows down from mine--she had to pull up 5 tomato plants. After reading this news, I knew I had to get to the garden as soon as possible. A friend was caring for my garden while I was away and there wasn't any email from her, so I was cautiously optimistic that my plants hadn't been hit.
As soon as I got out of the car, I could see how many gardens had been hit with the blight. Once tall standing plants were shriveled, tomatoes bursting with the disease or imploding from within. I thought I was going to cry. When I reached my garden, I just stood there for the longest time looking at the disaster--all of the tomatoes had been hit and were in various stages of decay. Slimy, rotten tomatoes were on the ground, stakes pulled over from the weight of the dying plants lying on the ground. It was horrible. Pennsylvania has been hit hard with late blight, and I thought how devastating this must be on the farmers.
I started going through the plants, salvaging a number of the cherry tomatoes that still looked good. All of the heirlooms were beyond salvage. Slowly I started cutting them down and putting them in the garbage bag. After just pulling 2 plants, the bag was full, so I'll have to go back this weekend and finish cleaning up.
The rest of the garden is doing okay--there is more parsley than I know what to do with, the first eggplant was picked and another head of broccoli was ready. The mint is doing well so today I'll make a batch of minted simple syrup to sweeten ice tea. We'll also enjoy some mint juleps--perfect for this hot, sticky weather. The sugar snap peas and green beans are still producing, and I have a couple of yellow squash coming in--they were planted late. The brussel sprout plants are huge, but no sprouts. Not sure what is up with those--maybe they don't come in until later.
Despite the disappointing tomato crop, I've enjoyed the garden immensely and plan to garden again next year assuming the community garden program continues. I'm already researching tomato varieties resistant to blight. There is so much more to learn!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
This week I got back on track with the training schedule. Tuesday’s run, just 3.1 miles, felt much longer. I started out right after work and had hoped to set a PR for a training run. Instead, it turned out to be one of my longest—about 31 minutes and some change. I was hurting more than usual—hips, thighs, and ankles. After the run, I spent a good deal of time stretching. For a short while after the stretches, I felt great. But by the time I got home 30 minutes later, everything was hurting again. I got some dinner, grabbed a bag of ice, and spent most of the evening moving the ice from point to point. I should have just sat in an ice bath.
On Wednesday, I did some strength training at the gym for 45 minutes, then headed to the chiropractor.
Thursday I took an extra day of rest. I have been icing my aching legs twice a day and popping aspirin. And taking stretch breaks throughout the day. The stretching does help, if only for a few hours.
Friday morning I walked 43 minutes before going to work to make up for Thursday. Ice packs again at work. After work, I ran 3 one-mile repeats. Between the milers, I walked 1 ¾ laps and stretched. I was pleased with my times: 9:13, 9:09 and 9:23. If only I could run that fast out on the road. I had to take a bathroom break between miles 2 and 3 and discovered I had my shorts on inside out. Maybe that’s the trick for a faster pace.
Saturday was my rest day—at least from exercise. But there was plenty of work to do to prepare for our vacation. I surveyed the fridge to determine what we would be eating for the next couple of days so that nothing perishable would be left. I warned DH that we were probably going to have some strange meal combinations. He said he was game. Then I made my packing list: clothes, toiletries, food, bikes and gear, books, books on CD/tapes, games, ice chest, electronics and chargers. Why can’t there be a uniform design for chargers? And a list of do’s and don’ts for the house/dog sitter. And a list of things that have to be done before we leave: stop the mail, pick produce from the garden and distribute to neighbors, stop at the bank, pay some bills, buy some groceries, and on and on. There is always a list of last minute projects that make the time leading up to vacation hectic.
I love that feeling when V-day is here and we get into the car and start driving down the road and let out a collective sigh that vacation has officially begun. We both feel lighter at that very moment. I’ve noticed that we’re more talkative and the conversation is lighter, too. Gone are the conversations about our frustrations at work or the troubled economy or national issues or talks about how or when we’re going to sink some more money into the house to fix the driveway or the roof or the deck. It’s only happy talk when we’re on vacation.
Saturday’s run was in new territory—14 miles. The longest run so far had been 13.1 back in March. Knowing that I was about to cross another benchmark was both exciting and scary. This was going to be more a mental challenge than a physical one. So to make sure I wouldn’t have any excuses, I got all my gear ready to go Saturday evening. Filled the Camelbak bladder with Gatorade—2 cups regular, 2 cups low cal, and 1 cup water—then put in the fridge. Filled an extra water bottle half full and placed it in the freezer. Laid out my clothes and packed the ShotBloks, a ClifBar, and a ball cap in my gym bag. Everything was ready to go. DH was getting up early to go into the office and I told him if I didn’t jump out of bed with him, to please kick my sorry a*#@ out of bed. I wanted to run first thing before it got hot.
I got up about 5:30 a.m., had breakfast, walked the dog, and loaded up the car. It was an overcast morning and on the cool side, but still humid. Yesterday was miserably hot and humid in the afternoon. By 7:15 a.m. I was at the trail and on my way. I had the trail all to myself.
The run started at mile marker 5. It was an easy run and I was enjoying the sounds of nature, the crunch of my shoes on the gravel, and the rhythmic sound of my breath. It must have rained early in the morning, because I could hear water dripping from the leaves. There was a little mist over the river, too. The filtered light was very pretty and everything was so green. Around mile three, a bird’s song caught my ear, and I looked up to see if I could find it and saw the coolest spider webs—maybe 8 or 9 of them, woven between the branches of a dead tree. They looked like they were just floating in the sky. Wish I would have had my camera.
At mile marker 1 I turned around and headed back up the trail. I deliberately left my ipod at home. I wanted to focus on the trail, my running form, and enjoy the quiet. Just past mile marker 2, a slight drizzle began. I heard more than felt the intensity of the rain increasing. There was enough coverage from the trees that not until it started to pour did I feel the full force of the rain. It was refreshing and felt better than running in the threat of rain. But it only lasted about 20 minutes.
Along the trail I kept my eyes out for some deer or turkeys, but I didn’t see anything other than the ubiquitous groundhogs, chipmunks and squirrels. There is never a shortage of them.
The original plan was to run four miles down the trail and back, then three up the trail and back for a total of 14. At mile 10 the aches in my right buttock and thigh were becoming intense. So I started counting my steps as I ran (about 1100-1200 in 8 minutes), planning dinner, anything to distract me from the discomfort. I was re-considering my running plan—not to cut it short—but to build in a cool down at the end that wouldn’t have me back-tracking to my car. I figured I could run 4 miles up the trail and 3 miles back and walk the last mile to the car for my cool down. At the time, it sounded like a brilliant plan. It wasn’t, but I didn’t realize that until I had finished the 14 miles. From mile marker 5, I ran to mile marker 9—another 4 miles bringing the total to 12. Then I headed back. At mile marker 8 (13 miles), I checked the watch to compare my time to the half marathon—I was about 8 minutes slower, but felt that I had plenty of energy left for the last mile. Instead of feeling like I wanted to collapse, I felt energized and exhilarated knowing I had conquered the mental and physical hurdles. I was about to run farther than I had ever gone before. So I lifted my knees a bit higher and ran the last mile in just over 10 minutes, and still I hadn’t reached the point of exhaustion. It was wonderful!! Total time: 2:40:14, ending at mile marker 7. I couldn’t wait to get home and call DH.
Just a few minutes into my cool down walk I spotted raspberries and blackberries along the side of the trail. Nice treat! The raspberries were good, but the black berries needed to ripen a bit. They were big and black, but not real sweet. Many times during the walk I stopped to stretch, but the bugs were eating me alive anytime I stopped, so the stretches didn’t last too long.
Just as I came up on mile marker 6, the light bulb went on. My car was parked at mile marker 5. I had run too far up the trail before turning around. Oh, well, this would be a really long cool down; no harm in that. By now, a few cyclists were on the trail. What a site I must have been. Hair was still soaked from the rain and it curls and frizzes like crazy; clothes were soaked, too. And my shoes, socks, and even my legs had streaks of mud on them. I wanted to shout—I’m okay, I just ran 14 miles! But I didn’t. I probably looked crazy enough without confirming it for them.
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