Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dead to Red 2010

God is blessing us with triumphs and challenges, often intermingled, at such a rate that I've scarce had time to chronicle them, never mind, the notable recipe or contemplation. And though the 3rd place trophy, won three weeks ago, now has the lightest layer of dust on it, the stiffness of muscles has subsided, and the victory dinner of steak and home-made ice cream has been enjoyed, I couldn't let pass the chance to to celebrate the Dashing Dudes 3rd place (of 26 teams) win in the annual Dead to Red 250K relay marathon. And this year I have pictures!

Though this is the sixth Dead to Red run my guys have participated in, I'd never gone to the race start (1.5 hours from Amman) or taken any race pictures; I usually sent a camera along with repeated pleas for pictures, though somehow in the heat of the race no one ever thought to take pictures. So, knowing that this would be Active Son's last Dead to Read race before leaving for college, I decided to drive down to the race start to cheer the Dashing Dudes and take some pictures.

The Dashing Dudes 2010 Dead to Red Team

Meet the Dashing Dudes:

Active Son, a six time Dead to Red runner, was handed the Team Captain baton by Dear Husband this year; It was Active Son's last year to run the race before heading off to college next year. Setting the pace for his team by training diligently, he encouraged his teammates to stay on track with their own training plans, he held periodic time trials during the training months, and with imput from others he worked to develop a race strategy which set the Dudes on a winning course.

This would be a good time to mention that, once upon a time, Active Son had no desire to run. That is putting it mildly. He would tell you now, as he has told a few college admissions officers per his college admissions essays, that God has used running and this race, through the vision of his father, to discipline and humble him. Active Son is preparing to run his first full marathon next month.

Dear Husband was a dad with a vision. If his mom had years ago written a blog about her family, I'm certain Dear Husband would have been dubbed with the same or similar moniker as Active Son. About eight years ago, Dear Husband chose running as an activity that he and our boys could do together, and by which he could impart to them a means for staying in good physical shape. Not a "natural" runner himself, his goal is to run the Dead to Red with his boys until they graduate from high school. Just two more years to go! He trained extra hard this year in a gallant effort to keep up with the young bucks on the team, remembering nostalgically that he used to be faster than both our boys. His reward: he ran faster legs this year than he ran two years ago!. Great vision, great dad!

Artist Son ran his first Dead to Red race when he was nine years old--at that time, the youngest runner to enter the race--and he has been running ever since. He is the only runner in our family with a natural runner's gait of ease and is a pleasure to watch. He makes it look so easy. Artist Son plans to run his first 21 K (half marathon) next month.

Brendan, another graduating Dude, competed in his fourth Dead to Red this year, having joined the team his first year living in Amman. Maybe, just maybe, he'll be running at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy next year...

Doug thought he was just going along for the ride. Little did he know that joining the Dashing Dudes team four years ago as a driver when his son, Brendan, got involved, would be a life-changing experience. The second year he drove, one of the runners injured himself and Doug ran part of the race. Last year he was a full-fledged member of the team, leading them to a stunning 2nd place in Dear Husband's out-of-town absence. At 50+, Doug has the honor, and I do mean honor, of being the oldest Dashing Dude. He is training to run his first marathon next month.

Andrew also completes his Dashing Dude career with four good runs. Though he doesn't have the the longest legs on the team, I'm sure he has the longest stride--his legs can really reach! And the Dudes are ever grateful to Andrew's dad, Fawzy, for faithfully driving their green van, the official van of the Dashing Dude team, for all four of those years. If I remember correctly, their van shuttled Dashing Dudes to Aqaba even on the year that Andrew and Fawzy were in the States, with someone else doing the driving.

Zack, a two time Dashing Dude, is a valued team member known for his enthusiasm and determination. I observed him run his first 1K, which he began in an all-out sprint. This guy runs like a rabbit. Another graduating senior, Zack heads off to college in Southern California this fall.

Though the Dashing Dude victory was nothing less than a team effort, Jon's contribution, no doubt played a big part in helping the Dashing Dudes to shave nearly 40 minutes off last year's race time. Now teaching elementary school in Amman, Jon ran on Calvin’'s National Championship cross country and track teams in college. Jon started the race for the Dashing Dudes and his 2K leg was the only time during the race that the Dashing Dudes enjoyed first place status. And, though he is a more seasoned runner than any of the other Dudes, I think he would say that he's never run a race quite like the Dead to Red.

Training and perseverance earned Matt a coveted spot on the Dashing Dude team this year. This is his third Dead to Red run; he ran on the Boy Scout team two times, once as their team captain. Noting that the Dashing Dudes will be losing half their members next year, he is already scouting new runners for the team. Rumor has it that Matt put away the most steaks at the Dashing Dudes victory celebration.

This is Jonathan's second Dead to Red run, and his first as a Dashing Dude. I didn't see Jonathan at the end of the race, but at the beginning, at least, he ran through the desert with a really big smile.

This year 26 teams competed in the Dead to Red relay marathon on Thursday afternoon, the first teams finishing around 4 a.m. Friday morning. As you can see from the pictures, the race is run along the highway-which I found out as I drove along the first 15K or so taking pictures, can be dangerous--a mom's point of view.

Map of Jordan~Lonely Planet

Over the years the Dashing Dudes have come to be known as a team with a plan. Race strategy is serious business and this years' race plan was about three pages long. Not to mention the pre-race emails flying back in forth between the teams' top strategists. I'm convinced that it is the Dudes' strategy of running shorter legs that has enabled them to compete with teams which include professional runners, such as the perennial first place Aramex team.

The Dashing Dudes start strong with Jon running the first leg

Active Son flying through the desert

Dear Husband hands off to Artist Son

The Dashing Dudes Chorus Line
stretching out at about 4am in the morning, just outside of Aqaba

The Dashing Dudes just after finishing the race
wearing the mandatory reflective vests. (Active Son wanted me to tell you that they were mandatory)

Congratulations, once again, to the Dashing Dudes. This year they ran the race in 14 hours, 38 minutes and 55 seconds, just six minutes behind the second place team and 20 minutes behind Aramex, the first place team. Not only did they cut about 40 minutes off their previous best rest time, but the also bested the race record which Aramex set in 2009. They currently have the third best race time in the history of the race.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Sweetheart Special~Recipes from the Valentines Banquet

It is March but I am yet blogging February. Life has been such a wonderful albeit exhausting swirl of youth activity and I'm thankful for it all, for I know the day will come when the house will be too quiet. Love, love, love these teenagers!

Like last year I oversaw a great staff of cooks. We prepared all the food during three afternoon shifts and served it, again sans kitchen, to 50 adults, mostly parents of the youth.

While we busied ourselves in our makeshift kitchen, other costumed youth served the food and provided some very entertaining entertainment. Most notable was a previously filmed Jack Benny spoof with the youth acting to the dubbed in radio program. It was perfect! And, I only had one minor correction for Active Son/Sound Technician: Supertramp was a 70's band, not a 50's band. He had no idea--it just sounded like "old" music to him.

Our menu, based on our 50's theme, wasn't as elaborate as last year's Italian menu but the youth did a great job of preparing the food and we received a few recipe requests from the moms.

The Sweetheart Special

Soft Sliced White Bread
Not-Your-Mom's Coleslaw
Peanut Dressing
Mom's Meatloaf
Twice Baked Potatoes
Sauteed Green Beans
Mom's Apple Pie
Tea or Coffee

For the salad we combined:

Curly kale (sometimes called Chinese cabbage)
Carrots, coarsely grated
Yellow and red bell peppers, julienned

No specific quantities: I was buying vegetables for 50 so just bought what seemed the right quantity, and thankfully, it was. I'm sure what elicited the recipe requests was the peanut salad dressing, provided by Martha

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup salted peanuts
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Puree 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 cup salted peanuts, 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in a blender until smooth.

The most requested recipe was for Mom's Apple Pie aka The Only Apple Pie Recipe I've Ever Made And I Learned It From Fanny Farmer. I've always thought it to be a basic apple pie recipe--no special ingredients or anything. I'm guessing that the "secret" that people asked me about is in the slicing of the apples--the youth, upon my insistence, sliced them oh so very thin. Overheard in the kitchen from one of the youth: "Cut them thinner or she'll send them back."

"Pidy, Widy, Tidy, Pidy, Nice insidy apple pie!"

Apple Pie with Crumb Topping
6-8 large Granny Smith apples (about 10 cups)
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Toss them in the sugar/spice/salt mixture, coating them well. Pile them into a prepared pie crust. Top with crumb topping and place in the oven. Bake 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and bake about 40 minutes longer--or until the apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

Hint: Place pie on a baking/cookie sheet before placing in the oven in case bubbling apple goodness spills over from the pie pan.

Crumb Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) butter, chilled

Mix the sugar and flour until blended. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

The recipe for the pie crust is here.