Week 43

Redemption

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“Brad, have you seen my bike shoes? They were under the sofa in the clubhouse and I can’t find them.”

“Yeah, I think they’re in a milk crate in the back. I moved everything when we set up packet pick up for the race last week.”

“I unpacked every milk crate. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I looked in the basement. I thought they might still be in the car from my race but they’re not. Then I thought they could be in my duffle bag but they’re not there either. I ran out of time to get my ride in. I had to use an old pair of shoes and cut it shorter than I planned. I’m worried I won’t have anything to race in this weekend if I can’t find them.”

“OHHHH…I remember where I put them. They’re in the freezer.”

“The freezer?”

“The freezer. They smelled bad so I put them in the freezer.”

For some reason, I didn’t think to check the freezer for my bike shoes but now I know not to ever rule it out.

Weekly Training Log

Monday:

BIKE: 60:00

Tuesday:

RUN: 5x1K

Wednesday:

SWIM 1550 yds in the lake! Longest swim in open water, ever! And I completed in in the same time it took me to “swim” 750yds in the Chesapeake Bay

Thursday:

RUN: Fartleks - 3, 5, 7

Friday:

PIZZA: 110 pies sold out in 90 minutes!

Saturday:

WYCKOFF TRIATHLON

A week ago, upon the urging of a few people who make this an annual event, I signed up to complete the Wyckoff Triathlon. I didn’t intend to race so much as I wanted more practice in the water. I decided drinking from a firehose was my best bet.

The race started at 6:45am. I arrived at 5am and found many runners from our club in the transition area. It was relaxed and friendly, the air was cool…perfect morning for a race. I managed to swim to the first buoy and back before the race started. I felt calm.

My swim was not pretty. I didn’t panic this time but there were so many people in the water, I kept getting kicked or I would run into someone. I stopped a lot to find another way through. I let people swim around me so I could have more space. I kept my face in the water. I never once thought about turning on my back. When I made it back to the beach, I could see people from my wave still in the water. The waves behind me were still far from finishing. I was actually in the race.

The bike ride was beautiful. I tried to keep an even pace and enjoy being on the roads. I rode 17 miles back to the transition area where I swapped my shoes out and started the 5 mile run. I kept telling myself, it’s just a Saturday long run…just 45 minutes on the road with lots of company. Right foot, left foot. I didn’t glance at my watch once. It felt like I was keeping a 9:30-10:00 pace. My legs were heavy and there were no shortage of hills to climb. My calfs were cramping. My butt hurt. I was so happy and grateful to be running.

Just before the race, my friend Yale told me once I passed mile 4, the hills were over. I saw the mile marker and decided to see what I had left to give. I turned a corner and saw people with medals. One of them told me it was a quarter mile to the finish. I picked up the pace a little more.

After I finished, packed up my things and headed back to the car, I looked at my watch. Somehow, I managed to run the last mile at a 7:15 pace and the other miles weren’t as slow as I thought. When the results were posted later on Saturday evening, I discovered that I was 4th in my age group…the 27th woman to cross the finish line, 189 out of 438 men and women to complete the race. I’ve made progress in the last two weeks!



Week 42

Race Week #3!!!

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One last race week in this year of recovery. At least this one was a little warmer than the last two. I didn’t have to worry about the water delivery freezing before the big event or about heating 100 gallons of hot chocolate before the first runners crossed the finish line. The unfortunate timing of this race put it two days after National Doughnut Day which always falls on the first Friday in June. Due to a few scheduling issues in May, it also happened to be two days after the first Friday with live music and pizzas made to order on the bakery’s patio. By the time the race started, I had been put through the ringer so many times that this event became the easiest part of the whole week.

On Friday morning, I started frying doughnuts at 3am and didn’t finish until sometime around 8am. I’m pretty sure it was one of the highest volume doughnut days I’ve had at the bakery, if not the highest. Doughnut Day started to recognize the “Donut Lassies” a group of women from the Salvation Army who gave out doughnuts to the troops in World War II. Now, customers start calling weeks ahead of the big day, asking what we’re giving away for free.

After I finished with doughnuts, I headed to a lake in North Jersey where I met with Chris who would be coaching me to help overcome my fears of swimming in open water. With him by my side, I actually swam (not backstroked) 850 yards in the lake without having a panic attack. It was a bit of a breakthrough moment for me. I learned how to stay calm.

As soon as I returned to the bakery, I started working on pizza prep for music night. Last Friday I made 54 dough balls and sold out of pizza in 90 minutes but there wasn’t music. This week I prepared for 90, thinking that was an insane amount of pizza. The most I ever made last year for music night was 28 pies. At 7:03pm, I sold the last of the pizzas. I was on hour 16 at the bakery and I still had to bake sourdough bread for the farmer’s market before I could call it a night.

With Hillary as my co-director and Jessica organizing all the behind the scenes logisitcs at the bakery, all I had to do on Saturday, while they were handling packet pick up, was make and box the doughnuts. After last year’s Branch Brook Park 5K, I thought it would be fun to have boxes filled with doughnut holes. The ‘holes’ are actually squares of dough that more likely resemble beignets. This concept allowed me to make multiple different doughnuts and topping…chocolate & vanilla dough with powdered sugar, sprinkles and cinnamon sugar. I made one final request for volunteers to help with the doughnut production and I got the best helping hands ever. We finished shaping, frying, topping and boxing all 850 containers in record time. I was able to lock up and go home before the sun went down.

Race day arrived. Josie got up early and sat in the passenger seat of my car at 5am, afraid I was going to leave for the park without her. Brad brought the rest of the kids closer to the starting time so they wouldn’t have to wait around for too long. This would be their 10th finish line on medal detail. They’re pros.

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When Hillary and I arrived at the park, there were no barricades set up to block traffic. The garbage cans were overflowing and the porta potties had not arrived. It was the opposite of what we arrived to find last year. We started preparations and hoped for the best. We sent our friends out to use their cars to block traffic in downtown Newark - not an easy feat! By the time people starting arriving en masse, the police and the parks had everything in order. It all came together.

By 11am, it was over, the cars were packed and we were on our way home. Sunday proved to be the easiest (and most rewarding) day of the week. I spent the remainder of it in a puddle on the living room floor, incapable of moving more than a few inches.

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Weekly Training Log

Monday: OFF

Tuesday:

SWIM: 1675 yds

Wednesday:

BIKE 45:00 Recovery Ride

SWIM: 970 yds in the lake!!! I swam further than I did in my race in roughly 6 minutes less than it took me last week. I am determined to conquer my fears.

Thursday:

SWIM 1650 yds

Friday:

SWIM 850yds in the lake!!! Twice in one week!!

Saturday:

RUN 45:00 recovery run


Week 41

Rock Hall Sprint Triathlon

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The week after I was able to participate in the December 5K Doughnut Run, I floated the idea of training for a sprint triathlon but not just any one, the one that takes place in my hometown. It be a major recovery milestone and it would be in the water I grew up splashing in and on the streets I knew better than any others.

Since January, I have been preparing to swim 750 yards, bike 15 miles and run a 5K.

Swim Course - you can kind of see the buoys in the distance

Swim Course - you can kind of see the buoys in the distance

The Rock Hall Triathlon Festival includes an Olympic distance race on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. When I got into town, I stopped for gas alongside a car full of triathletes who just completed the Olympic race. They told me wetsuits were not permitted. I pretended not to care, filled my tank with gas and spent the rest of the car ride freaking out. The wetsuit was my security blanket. It would help me float if everything else failed.

Alden, Brad, Yana, Barb & Lizzy all tried their best to help me keep my cool, reminding me that I’ve swim 100% more without a wetsuit than with one.

After I unpacked, I ran through all three activities to make sure I didn’t forget any critical pieces of equipment. I swam in the bay for 10 minutes. I had the familiar anxiety of swimming in open water take grip of my heart strings and cause it to beat out of control. I was able to calm down enough to actually swim and I felt a little better about what race day would bring.

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More than 10 years ago, my mother became estranged from me or me from her, however that goes. The last time we spoke Josie wasn’t quite one year old. She never met Keegan or Malachi, never knew Montclair Bread Company existed and she didn’t know her daughter, who always got picked last in gym class, is now an athlete.

While I was still in the hospital, my mother reached out for the first time since June 2009. I have proceeded, with trepidation, to build a relationship with her. In December, she met the boys for the first time and was reintroduced to Josie. The kids are happy to have a(nother) grandmother.

The last she knew, I was living in Pennsylvania, pregnant with Keegan and struggling to make ends meet. My husband was unemployed and my salary from the small retail bakery where I worked was not enough to cover all the bills. I was receiving supplemental income from the government for food, healthcare and to offset household expenses. Now that I know the end of the story, I can say I was about 3 months away from rock bottom.

I guess being in the hospital recovering from a nearly fatal accident, unable to walk, could be considered rock bottom too but it didn’t feel quite as tragic. As least there was a light at the end of this tunnel.

My mother has quickly been brought up to speed on the advancements I’ve made in life. She had the opportunity to visit the bakery for the first time and see what I’ve built and I filled her in on the importance of running and my running community.

On the complete opposite end of the universe, my step-mom, Barb (aka Nana, aka Mom) has played a huge role in my life and that of the kids. She and my Aunt Cathy have raced more than one 5K Doughnut Run and we all ran the Bay Bridge 10K together, when halfway through the race I strained a tendon that would take 12 weeks to heal but I still managed to come in minutes ahead of my little brothers. In an effort to beat me, my brother Kyle pushed himself so hard that he was hanging over the bridge puking just like my baby brother Travis told him he would be if he tried to catch me.

After I racked my bike in the transition area and set up my gear, I was met by not one but two moms on the sidelines. Along with Brad, they both came out to my race. It was the first time anyone in my family would see me run. Having all three of them there made this day truly special for so many reasons. It felt like everything was finally right in the world.

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Back to the freaking out part…wetsuits were ‘optional’ but optional really means ‘not allowed.’ If you opt to wear a wetsuit, you’re taken out of competition and you have to get in the water after everyone else. At the time, I thought I had a chance to place in my age group. I came here to race. This is a race.

The swim was an in-water start. I had to jump off a dock, swim out to the start and tread water until the gun went off. The course looked SOOOO long even though it was only the equivalent of 15 laps in the pool, it could have been the length of the English Channel from where I was bobbing.

I swam to the first buoy and then a feeling of sheer terror swept over me. I could not put my face back in the water no matter how hard I tried. My heart felt like it was going to explode. There were still 7 more buoys to clear. All I had to do was get out of the water and get on the bike….out of the water and on the bike…get me out of this water so I can get on my bike…I said it to myself over and over and over for the next 28 minutes that I backstroked my way to the dock. It was not pretty. I was number 229 out of 237 swimmers to get out of the water.

My bike was one of the last ones in the transition area. I was in and out in one minute. I got on my bike, put my head down and passed as many people as I could on the course. They might be able to get out of the water faster than me but I’m back in control now. I had no idea how fast (or slow) I was going because my watch was still on my wrist (I normally strap it to my handlebar) and I wasn’t going to look. I sped up my cadence to get my legs turning over faster heading back in to the transition area. As I dismounted I was sobbing and smiling at the same time. By all medical accounts, I should NOT be able to do this but I can and I did and I am filled with joy and gratitude. Imagine what it would feel like to have someone take away one of the things you hold most dear and then give it back to you 9 months later in perfect condition, when you never thought you’d see it again. I got to ride my bike on the road in a race. I was 166 out of 237 cyclists.

Another minute to get in and out of transition. It was 10:30am, 80F and the entirety of the run was in direct sunlight. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and moving my legs forward. One after another, I passed people. I remember seeing her go by me on her fancy triathlon bike. Isn’t that the chick who was in and out of the water in minutes? How much time could I make up? How many more people could I pass? My legs were so heavy and the heat was oppressive. I struggled to stay under an 8:00 pace. I was almost at the finish line. I could see my moms and Brad waiting for me to come in. I did it. After two years of training, I finally finished my triathlon. I was 73 out of 237 runners.

My lack of ability to keep my cool in the bay kept me well out of the running for a place in this race but the bike and the run showed me that I am capable of more. Is valium considered a performance enhancing drug???

Weekly Training Log

Monday: OFF

Tuesday:

SWIM: 2200 yds

Wednesday:

BIKE 30:00, RUN 2mi @ Race Pace

I surprised myself on the run when I was able to keep both miles in the low 7’s.

Thursday:

SWIM 2100 yds

Friday:

RUN 20:00 plus strides

Saturday:

SWIM 10, BIKE 10, RUN 10 - gear check.

Week 39

Testing, testing…

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Now that I have a beautiful oven, it’s time to make beautiful pizza. I love my dough. Of all my recipes, it’s the one I’ve been making the longest, ever since I became obsessed with flour, water, yeast & salt. It’s versatile and incredibly forgiving. Nevertheless, I wanted to be thorough and make sure I still loved my dough most of all. I dug through countless recipes I’ve acquired over the years. I mixed four different doughs - mine, Jim Lahey’s (Sullivan St & Co.), Jeffery Hammelman’s (King Arthur Flour), and mine with sourdough in place of yeast. They all fermented overnight. The next day, I mixed a batch of my dough to test same day against the overnight fermentation.

It was like a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears…Lahey’s was too sweet and too puffy. My sourdough was too thin and too crispy. Hammelman’s was solid. My same day dough was solid. The real stand out was my dough with a 36 hour fermentation cycle. After nearly 20 years, it’s still my favorite. Obviously, as with anything in life, we all have different preferences. There isn’t one perfect pizza for everyone, this one is just perfect for me. It has almost as much to do with the how the dough handles as it does with the flavor. It’s the whole package.

I called my friend, former instructor and forever baking mentor, Nick Greco (Head Baker for Wegman’s) to tell him about my results. He rattled off a few percentages of how he makes his pizza dough. It is exactly the same as mine. I used to marvel at how he was able to recite percentages, fermentation times, mixing times…off the top of his head. Nothing makes me prouder of my accomplishments to be able do the same especially when it is decimal to decimal, minute to minute, the same as his.

Weekly Training Log

Monday: TRX @ Architect Studios

Tuesday:

Plan: RUN - 3x1K @ 4:40, 2x300

Reality: 3x1K: 4:18, 4:22, 4:23

After I did the math to figure out how fast this workout would be if I hit the paces, I had just a bit of anxiety. It was the first time I used the 1K loop at Brookdale Park. Shocked I was able to hit the paces, especially after working the 2am doughnut shift before heading to the track.

Wednesday:

Plan: SWIM 2,100 yds

Reality: 4x400, nice and easy, felt great

Thursday:

Plan: BIKE 60:00 tempo

Reality: I may have added another 20 minutes

Friday:

Plan: SWIM 2100 yds

Reality: Forgot my watch but I swear it happened!

Saturday:

Plan: BIKE 60:00, RUN 3 miles

Reality: Done! Tested out my race day ‘outfit,’ all systems go.

Sunday:

Plan: 75:00 Run

Reality: 2am baking shift followed by 80 minutes of running with Anne - ooof! Tough but complete.

Week 38

PIZZA, PIZZA

Through Brad’s Eyes

Through Brad’s Eyes

Eight years ago, I attended the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine for the first time. Montclair Bread Co wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye yet. It was at this event I first became acquainted with Maine Wood Heat ovens. Bread Alone and Wegmans both had wood fired ovens I was lucky enough to bake in but the heat source was under the stone decks. The heat from the fire in the box traveled up and around the bread while it was baking. Maine Wood Heat ovens are made of clay harvested in France and fashioned into bricks by La Panyol. MHW imports the bricks and uses them to construct a domed oven and deck. They also custom build trailers to allow the ovens to be transported and a local artist hand crafts a metal exterior for the dome. The ovens are so well insulated that the exterior remains cool to touch at all times while the inside heats to 1100F! A fire is built directly on the clay deck and once it rises to the proper temperature, it is moved to the back to expose the bricks for baking.

July 2018 - barefoot & baking

July 2018 - barefoot & baking

Through the years, I’ve gone back to the Kneading Conference as an instructor and continued to swoon over the beautiful ovens. Since I teach doughnut classes that require a vat of oil, I never got to bake in the ovens until this past summer when a group of us baker ladies got to fire one up in the backyard of the cabin we were staying in for the week. Sharon Burns-Leader, one of my long time mentors, gave me a very broad overview of how one uses the oven to make pizzas and I got to practice until I couldn’t possibly eat another bite (or maybe I just consumed too many carbs via the Maine Beer Co. inoculation).

For the second time in as many years, I contacted MWH when I returned from the conference to ask for their professional services. I almost pulled the trigger a year ago but I spent my budget on the patio build-out instead. After barely surviving last summer’s pizza nights and farmer’s market bake-off using my very tiny, super maxed out, MIWE deck oven inside my bakery, I knew I had to make some changes to get through this summer.

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This week, my oven arrived. I didn’t really have time to be excited about opening my bakery seven years ago…it was too much of a whirlwind. So, I can honestly say, the oven delivery was the single most exciting day of my professional career. I’ve been so inspired watching my peers build fires and bake the most amazing loaves of bread out of these ovens. I never thought I would be able to join their ranks.


The first fire, built by Keegan

The first fire, built by Keegan

Truth be told, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. I’m armed with my friend Richard’s book ‘From the Wood-Fired Oven,’ and lots and lots of google searches. Before this week, I’d never even built a successful camp fire. A few days of faking knowledge later, I baked my first pizza in my new oven. It was magical and a day I will never forget. Keegan built the fire. The whole family shared the experience.


Still a lot to learn but the first pizza did not disappoint!

Still a lot to learn but the first pizza did not disappoint!

Weekly Training Log

Monday

Plan: REST

Reality: Challenge Accepted

Tuesday:

Plan: Swim 3x500

Reality: Done

Wednesday:

Plan: BIKE 60:00

Reality: Brookdale Park

Thursday:

Plan: RUN 45:00

Reality: I may have added another 20 minutes

Friday:

Plan: SWIM 1700, 20x25 on 30

Reality: Wow. In order to get a 5 second break after each 25, I had to swim as hard as I could. A stronger swimmer could have easily gotten more time to rest between repeats but a strong swimmer I am not. After 6 sprints across the pool, I thought my heart was going to explode. It was so hard. To put it in running terms, imagine sprinting 20, 100s with only a 5 second rest between them. Yikes!

Last year when my coach gave me swim workouts, there was always a rest noted, usually 15-20 seconds. I added a solid minute on top of the number he gave me..so I could not drown going into my next lap. Amazingly enough, over the last couple months, I’ve been able to adhere to the rests as prescribed.

Saturday:

Plan: RUN 65:00

Reality: Done!

Week 36

Nashville

My grandfather adored Chet. So many memories surfaced on this trip through my musical childhood.

My grandfather adored Chet. So many memories surfaced on this trip through my musical childhood.

Weekly Training Log

Sunday

Plan: 90 Minute Run

Reality: My alarm went off at 2am. I was at the bakery by 2:05. It was Easter Sunday and we had 2000 doughnuts on the production schedule. My task was to hand cut all the them (while making cinnamon buns, sticky buns, three kinds of muffins and baking the breads). By 3am, they were finished and the first of the doughnuts were ready to fry. Once they started coming out, the team raced to finish them before the first customers arrived at 7am.

I had a flight to catch at 11am. Brad and I were going to Nashville. It was my first time. I just had to finish the doughnuts and the bread so I could grab my bags and get on the plane. My mom called. ‘Don’t get on a bike before that plane takes off,’ she advised. Brad and I were supposed to leave for San Francisco the day after my accident, it would have been my first non-work related trip without the kids, ever. Now, Nashville is.

I may have slept on the plane, for a minute or two. As soon as we landed, the warm sunshine welcomed us. We were both starving and set out to find food immediately upon arriving in downtown Nashville. It was 1:30pm. There were runners passing us on every corner. I was chomping at the bit to get my 90 minutes in. We found an open BBQ joint (everything was closed or booked for Easter). I had a BLT with fried green tomatoes, what a brilliantly southern idea, and a giant vat of sweet tea. I did spend half a decade in northern Florida. It’s hard not to get sucked right back into the south.

After our late lunch we checked into our Airbnb and I laced up. I couldn’t wait. I had a vague idea of where we could spend 90 minutes running based on all the Nashville Strava stalking I did over the weeks leading up to the trip. When we hit the road, it was 80 degrees and the sun was right above us. It felt great, for about 2 minutes, then it felt terrible. We ran downtown, past the Country Music Hall of Fame, down the frat boy hell strip, through the NFL draft and over the bridge. I was tired but enjoying the scenery. At the 40 minute point I I could barely hang on. All I could taste was that fucking fried green tomato. What a terrible idea. The heat was pounding, there was no shade where we were running, I stopped and puked on the side of the road. That was a first for me, though I’ve threatened a few hundred times. What made me think no sleep, baking since 2am, navigating airports, eating BBQ and a 90 minute run in direct sun was a good idea? FOMO? Brad was a good sport. We turned around and walked for a few minutes, ran to the bridge, walked a little more and ran back to home base. I think I got 6 miles in. It might have been an hour. I definitely didn’t learn from my mistakes in Vegas. Working/Flying/Running does not do a body good.

After we cleaned up, we walked 3 miles back downtown to check out the Pinewood Social, an old bowling alley turned bar & restaurant where you can still knock some pins down. I had a big fat quinoa salad and a half a beer before I almost fell asleep at the bar. I had been up for 20 hours straight.

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Monday

Plan: HIIT

Reality: Food Tour of Nashville! We started out at Milk & Honey a restaurant that opens early for breakfast and serves Stumptown Coffee. Finally a trip that doesn’t require me to bring my own. Brad and I met the head baker, Ben, when we were in Vegas. We knew this had to be our first stop. I had an incredible avocado toast on the house sourdough with fried eggs on top. I quickly learned that everything in Nashville comes with pimento cheese spread although I’m still trying to figure out what that is exactly. I’m pretty sure it’s what they served at every 1950’s potluck in the US but Nashville just didn’t let it go. Brad had a bacon egg and cheese on the most incredibly delicious biscuit ever!

Avocado toast from Milk & Honey

Avocado toast from Milk & Honey

For lunch we found another BBQ joint in the 12 South district. We shared brisket & pulled pork tacos that were incredible. I discovered Imogene & Willie’s, a boutique who fabricates their own jeans, one of the only in the nation. I bought the most comfortable pair of pants I’ve had in long time, so much so that there’s only been one day in the last week that I didn’t wear them.

We had reservations for Rolf & Daughter’s for dinner. I have to say, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten from the sourdough with seaweed butter, the sweet potato with chili and anchovies, the nettle pasta with toasted hazelnuts to the house made kombucha…out of this world. And we got to sit outside.

After dinner we checked out the Bearded Iris Brewery, the top recommendation from everyone we knew who lived in or visited Nashville before. They were not wrong. Definitely the best beer on the trip. And we got to sit outside, again!

Jeni’s ice cream but more importantly, new pants from Imogene & Willie…best trip souvenir EVER!

Jeni’s ice cream but more importantly, new pants from Imogene & Willie…best trip souvenir EVER!

Tuesday:

Plan: RUN (3x200, 1600) x2

Reality: Done

I found a local track about a mile from where we were staying. It was like Brookdale park minus the soccer balls with the addition of foul balls from the adjacent baseball diamond. It was 6am on a Tuesday. Luckily, I didn’t have to heed the ‘watch out’ warning.

The crappy Sunday run, followed by a day off on Monday must have been the fuel I needed to make it through the workout hitting all my paces. I’ve come to love the track, which I once despised. Instead of counting laps, I count down the number of straightways. It’s similar to laps in the pool and it goes by a lot faster than counting the full circle.

We grabbed a quick bagel for breakfast before we stumbled in Biscuit Love where I couldn’t help but order the ‘bonuts.’ The tiny fried biscuits, rolled in cinnamon & sugar, topped with mascarpone cheese and laid on a bed of blueberry compote were the best version of a doughnut I’ve eaten in a very long time. It takes a lot for me to take more than one bite of a breakfast pastry (that isn’t one of my cinnamon buns) and I cleaned my plate of these!

Fried Biscuits!

Fried Biscuits!

We joined the Tuesday Nooner group run at the Nashville Running Company in lieu of lunch. It was a small group. I wasn’t going to run but decided I could go out for the 4 miler and keep it easy after my track workout, or so I thought. I was holding down the back of the pack with an 8 minute pace and struggling to keep the group in sight. Brad was busy one-stepping the front runner and had time to get water, freshen up and hang out on the back porch before I finished. I did get to chat with members of the board of the East Nasty Running Club along the way. They’ve been established for a decade and I admire their organization as Fueled by Doughnuts continues to grow and expand.

After my second run of the day, we went to find some Nashville Hot Chicken. Somehow we missed all the music in Nashville but we were not about to miss the food the city is known for. Having just watched Anthony Bourdain’s Nashville trip, I urged Brad not to get the Hot Chicken Hot. He kind of listened to me and insisted on the medium. After Bourdain’s meal, he spent 22 hours in peril, unable to film until he was well again. The atomic heat radiating from my MILD chicken was ridiculous. I couldn’t feel my face for hours after lunch. Brad was pretty much down for the count for the rest of the day too. Insane! Don’t do it. You can have a tremendous food adventure in Nashville WITHOUT ever eating Hot Chicken. This stuff was hotter than the hottest curry I’ve ever eaten and I frequented the Jackson Diner when I lived in Queens.

Sweat is literally dripping from his face! Hot Chicken at Bolton’s.

Sweat is literally dripping from his face! Hot Chicken at Bolton’s.

Wednesday:

Plan: SWIM 2000

Reality: We were still feeling the after burn from the Hot Chicken when we boarded the plane the next day. It seriously felt like a hangover even though we didn’t have anything to drink. My skin was clammy and my head was spinning.

Shortly after we landed and made it back to Montclair, I went to the Y to swim off some of my excess consumption this week. Workout completed as planned.

Thursday:

Plan: BIKE 60 Minutes

Reality: My first day back to the grind was certainly a grind. Even though it was her birthday, Jessica offered to sit in court with me. A vendor dispute arose over a year ago and, unfortunately, it had come to this. We thought we would be in and out but nothing in the judicial system is in and out. After our 8am arrival, we finally got to leave just before 5pm. Thankfully, the dispute is resolved however, there was no way I was in any shape to get on my bike once I finally got back home. Push to tomorrow.

Friday:

Plan: SWIM 1800 long reps

Reality: I arrived at the Y at the perfect off-hour to have several open lanes to choose from, after the people swimming before work but before the post-kid-drop-off swimmers. My workout consisted of 3x500….long steady laps. I would have never been able to complete this a year ago. I finally figured out how to float.

In the lane next to me there was someone who was clearly in the same place I was a year or two ago. He expended so much energy getting to the other end of the pool that he had to rest for several minutes before coming back again. I wanted to tell him it would be okay, just stick with it, it will click…just like everyone told me back when I was certain they were lying. When I finally got a break to talk, he was already out of the pool. I was a little afraid to say anything because I didn’t want to be ‘that woman,’ the one giving a 20 minute lecture on stroke form when you just have one lap left in your workout….cause that may have happened to me once.

When I started baking bread, at the Culinary Institute of America, my instructor, Nick Greco, was a very seasoned baker. He would stand by the mixer and tell me if my dough needed more water or more flour just by looking at it. He knew exactly how much to add to make it perfect. I would ask him for a recipe and he would rattle off numbers for me to transcribe. How did he do that??? No books, no binders, they were just in his head!!! Now I rattle off recipes and add more flour and more water so often that I don’t even think about it or consider how I know it, I just do.

The first time I got in the pool with John Williams, he made swimming look sooo easy. He learned later in life and didn’t consider himself to be a strong swimmer. Watching him, his head was barely peaking above the surface. It was like his entire body was underwater. Only his nose and half of his mouth emerged every so often to take a breath. When he got to the other end of the pool, his head barely bobbed above the water as he turned to come back. Meanwhile, I stopped for a good minute to 90 seconds before I turned to come back, hanging onto the side and embracing every breath before I thrust myself back into asphyxiation.

Today, I acknowledged how far I’ve come in the water. My form may not be perfect. I’m 100% mediocre in terms of pace but I can float and I can breath and I can use the water to recover. When I reach the end, I turn as quickly as I can to come back just as I watched John do. I feel calm. I’m no longer struggling just to breath, I have focus and determination.

Swimming in open water still horrifies me. I’d rather the bandaids and the hair ties than whatever lies in the murky brown abyss as creepy ick brushes against my skin.

After I completed my swim, I hopped on the bike to make up for my dropped Thursday workout.

Saturday

Easter Bunnies!

Easter Bunnies!

Plan: RUN 60:00

Reality: 3AM start at the bakery, finishing doughnuts. At 5AM, I had enough support staff to head out for a run with Anne. We decided running and hiding Easter eggs for the Fueled by Doughnuts hunt would be easier than driving around. We filled our bags with eggs and had a blast dropping them along the course.

Keeper of the prizes…still wearing my new pants…trying to keep them clean enough to last another day.

Keeper of the prizes…still wearing my new pants…trying to keep them clean enough to last another day.

Week 33

Cherry Blossom 10K

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The 2015 Cherry Blossom 10K was the second race I’d ever run. My first was the Sleepy Hallow Half Marathon which was a month before. I had a blast running with my closest mom friends. A year later, Anne and I used the race to put the Fueled by Doughnuts Running Club on the map. We made goodie bags for all our runners and handed them out at the finish line. In 2017 I raced the 10K for the second time and set my still unbroken 10K PR.

I had high hopes for this year’s race. The weather was forecast to be perfect. My training has been solid. In the back of my head, I thought I could set a new PR. My plan was to start out slow and try to shave 5 seconds off each mile until the end. I hit all my targets until Mile 4…I just couldn’t pick it up but I held on. By mile 5 I was slowing and mile 6 was a struggle. I crossed the finish line 10 seconds over my PR time and I knew I gave it all I had to give. I didn’t mentally quit like I’ve done in so many races, I fought to stick with it the best I could. My legs were heavy. I could feel the stiffness in my left hip and thigh.

I was feeling a little blah, disappointed I couldn’t shave those 10 seconds off…just 5 seconds faster in the last two miles would have gotten me to my goal. Then, I ran into Hugo who reminded me 7 months ago, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t even sit up on my own! My emotions got the best of me and suddenly, I felt my disappointment turn into joy and elation. I was so happy to be able to run in one of my favorite races with so many of my favorite people. Sure, it wasn’t my best or a new record but I held my own. It was a solid performance.

I thought back to 2017 when I ran my fastest 10K and I remembered the aftermath. I strained my tendon and had to take weeks off of training. My spring goal race was downgraded because of it. I spent the rest of the year in and out of PT nursing strains, tweaky muscles and achy joints. Aside from the nerve damage I’m still experiencing, I have no mechanical issues. I feel balanced and strong.


Weekly Training Log

Monday

Plan: SWIM 2150

Reality: BAKE 3AM

Tuesday:

Plan: RUN 3x 1000 @ race pace

Reality: Got the first lap in and my watch froze even though it was a balmy 29F. Ran for effort on the second two.

Wednesday:

Plan: SWIM 1800; BIKE 60:00 workout

Reality: Done and Done!

Thursday:

Plan: RUN 45 minutes

Reality: Check!

Friday:

Plan: Rolling & Stretching

Reality: BAKE 3am, 5am, 7am - continuous check-ins with the staff to make sure everything is going as planned with intermittent napping

Saturday:

Plan: RUN 35:00 plus 5x30 sec strides

Reality: Done!


Sunday: Race Day!


My first Cherry Blossom 10K

My first Cherry Blossom 10K



Week 32

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My favorite part of owning a small business is the dexterity I have when it comes to decision making. I don’t need to sit around a boardroom table and discuss options. I don’t need to have sign off from multiple levels across multiple departments. There isn’t a consumer panel review. I just take a leap of faith.

A couple months ago, the Montclair Bread Co. team realized April 1st was a Monday. Mondays are typically the slowest sales day of the week. We started kicking around some ideas for April Fool’s Day doughnuts and someone suggested we turn the whole bakery into a taco shop for the day. Montclair Taco Co started snowballing…before I could stop the momentum, Jessie designed a new logo and there was a menu in place. Then I thought, since we’re already MBCo, we should make burritos instead of tacos and so the plan began.

I’m notoriously bad at keeping secrets especially when I’m excited about a new menu. I managed to go for 2 months without telling anyone!!! The teasers started going out on social media a week before the big day. I finally cracked when text after text from friends started filling up my phone. I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy enough to buy a taco truck or host a Cinco de Mayo 5K (although that sounds like a blast!!!) so I started letting the cat out of the bag.

Over the last couple months, we had signs printed, staff shirts made to mimic- and stickers customized. We were ALL IN!

I spent all day Friday roasting chicken, brisket, pork, tomatillos and jalapenos. The bakery smelled like a Mexican grandma’s house. I made horchata for the first time…won’t be the last! On Saturday, I started testing the tortillas. I figured out how to steam them using my bread oven and I practiced my rolling technique.

Sunday night was the big reveal. I posted the following message on Instagram & Facebook.

“It has been almost seven years since I launched Montclair Bread Company, in a tiny little space on Walnut Street. During this time, I've worked around the clock to bake the best artisan breads and doughnuts, often starting in the early hours of the morning to make sure everything is ready in time for the doors to open at 6am.

After much consideration and longing to have more sleep and balance in my life, I've decided to leave the Montclair Bread Company behind. Today, I am relaunching this business and am happy to announce the opening of the Montclair Burrito Company!!

Breads will always be my first love, but I am so excited to turn our favorite staff meal into the heart and soul of my business. Please stop by to try one of our new signature burritos (including the breakfast kind!), tres leches doughnuts, churros, conchas, or a bolillo roll! Join us tomorrow, April 1st, as we embrace a new menu and a new start!”

I spent the rest of the night reading customer comments on social media. I was shocked at how angry so many people were when they read the news. The majority of our fans picked up on the joke and a few people were very hopeful about actually getting burritos!!!

I arrived at the bakery at 3:30am to help shape bolillo rolls and finish off the conchas. I had to start cooking rice and get all the meats and beans ready to go. Apparently, the bakery doesn’t have enough electrical circuits to support all the food holding devices I needed for the burritos! Oops.

The first customer in the door asked how she could get her own Montclair Burrito Co. shirt and then we were off to the races!

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Churros!

Churros!

Conchas!

Conchas!

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Weekly Training Log

Monday

Plan: SWIM 2300

Reality: BAKE 3AM

Tuesday:

Plan: RUN 3x (200, 100 recover, 200, 400 recover, 1000 @ 7:00 pace, 400 recover)

Reality: I woke up too sick to go to the track at 5am with the Sunrise crew. I unlocked the clubhouse and went back to bed where I stayed until I had to go to court in the afternoon. Three hours later, after I finally got back to Montclair, I was filled with just enough rage to nail my track workout like never before. As it turns out, I can still harbor enough anger post-divorce to run fast.

Wednesday:

Plan: SWIM 1550; BIKE 60:00 workout

Reality: Done and Done!

Thursday:

Plan: RUN 60 minutes

Reality: Turned into a bit of an unplanned workout when I sprinted to make it to Lorraine to open the bakery before the group run. Didn’t quite give myself enough time to run there but I made it with 2 minutes to spare.

Friday:

Plan: GRIIT @ Architect Studios

Reality: BAKE 3am, 5am, 7am - continuous check-ins with the staff to make sure everything is going as planned with intermittent napping

Saturday:

Plan: RUN 1:30 minutes

Reality: Completed as planned. Even managed to squeeze 10 miles into my allotted run time for the week!

Week 30

Redo!

There aren’t many things in life you get a second chance to complete. This week was everything last week was not. It was calm, at least by my standards, I completed my scheduled training plan and I hit all my objectives.

Monday: SWIM 500s, 6x75p, 4x50d, 4x100, 4x125

After frying doughnuts for a couple hours at the bakery, I arrived at the Y just after the pools opened. It was nice seeing different faces in the pool.

Tuesday: RUN 5x1K @ 7:00 pace

Thankfully, I didn’t have to try to run this workout on the Vegas strip again but rather the Brookdale Park track. Everything went as planned.

Wednesday: SWIM 2100; BIKE 55:00 workout

I got my swim in early and, in lieu of my bike workout, I spent 3 hours getting re-fit to my bike. After my accident, I traded in my bike for a new one. My bike was unscathed in the fall but I wanted a fresh start. At the time of my purchase, my body wasn’t still in good riding shape and a fitting would have been pointless. Now that all my limbs are moving properly, it was time. Arland M. took hit time to go over every angle of my geometry and he adjusted my bike perfectly. I learned a lot about my physical composition and about proper bike positioning along the way. My left leg is slightly shorter than my right. I’m not sure if that was always the case or a result of the trauma.

Thursday: RUN 4mi tempo

Just when I thought I couldn’t go another mile, Brian happened to be running by. He turned around and ran the last 7:45 mile with me and I was able to finish out the workout strong.

Friday: BAKE 3AM

I’ve been spending more time focusing on quality control. No, I’m not eating more doughnuts, I’m just frying more of them myself and shaping bread and mixing dough….

Saturday: RUN 1:20 minutes

Early, easy miles to finish off the week…completed as planned!

Week 29

Plan B

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Monday

Plan: SWIM 500s, 6x75p, 4x50d, 4x100, 4x125 - 5AM start

Reality: It snowed all night. School was delayed. Just before bed, I got an email from the YMCA about a delayed opening. I couldn’t get in the pool until 8AM. I started reorganizing my day in my head to see if I could fit everything in.

4AM start at the bakery. We closed for a cleaning day. Staff was scheduled as per usual but everyone had specific cleaning tasks. There is a space behind the dish sink where three years of unused items - cake pans, muffin pans, cookie cutters, salad spinners, blenders, coffee pots…have been piling up. I emptied the space and ridded the bakery of the clutter.

8AM swim at the Y. Thankfully, it was empty and I didn’t have to wait for a lane. I got in and out as quickly as I could so I could head back to rejoin the cleaning party.

11AM start packing for Vegas. I heard from the organizers at the conference where I am speaking about creating unique doughnut. There’s a very good chance I will not have access to a fryer. All the ingredients I told them I needed will be useless if I can’t actually fry a doughnut. I got to work making the doughnuts at the bakery. Once they were fried, I wrapped them tightly and packaged them in a plastic container. When I’m assembling a doughnut menu, I feel a little like a rockstar. I have my set list in front of me and check off all the hits as I go. When I finished gathering ingredients, I had 20 containers of glaze, sprinkles and treats and another 4 piping bags filled with chocolate, nutella and buttercreams. Everything was wrapped and triple packed to make sure there wouldn’t be any spills on the way across the country.

12:45PM start packing for Vegas. Brad and I had to leave the house at 1PM, 1:15 at the latest. I had yet to start packing my clothes. I spent 15 minutes searching for my chef’s coat, the one I only wear for special occasions, and 5 minutes packing for the rest of the week. Packing shorts for my run was the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while.

1:20PM leave for Brooklyn. Brad was picking up his daughter from her mother’s house (her school closed because of the snow threat) to take her to her track practice before our flight out of Newark.

1:30PM return to the bakery. I forgot to leave house keys for Lily who would be staying with my kids on Wednesday night. There was no other option but to turn around.

1:45PM leave for Brooklyn, again.

8:55PM leave for Vegas. After track practice, dinner with Olive and a trip back over the bridges, we made it to the flight. My giant box of doughnuts was successfully checked. The plane was empty. We had a whole row to ourselves as did most of the passengers. I queued up Michelle Obama’s audiobook and settled in for a six hour ride.

2:30AM arrive in Vegas. We jumped in a cab and headed to the hotel. There were no non-smoking rooms remaining…gross.

3:30AM lights out….well, not on the strip but definitely for us.

Tuesday

Plan: RUN 5x1K @ 7:00 pace

Reality: 7:30AM after tossing and turning for 4 hours, I got up and dressed to run. It was a perfect 50 degree, clear morning. Brad joined me as we headed down the Las Vegas strip. I felt groggy but good. When I started my first K, I thought I was putting in the effort to hit my pace. It was difficult but I knew I could hold it for 1000 meters, then I looked down and saw I was only at an 8:00 pace and there was no way I could run any faster. The second K was the same and we were thwarted by MC Etcher style road crossings requiring us to go up and down stair cases, in and out of casinos. We couldn’t get a good rhythm. I continued to move through the workout, dodging drunks and meth heads, waiving to other runners we passed along the way. My final K was the closest I got to hitting my pace and I was still 30 seconds off. Before my cool down was over, I was already plotting my redo next week.

9:00AM head to convention center. I opened my carefully constructed box of ingredients to see how it weathered the flight. I was horrified when I saw the love note from the TSA displayed prominently inside the box. They opened the package and rummaged through the containers. There were sprinkles strewn all through the box, glued to the sides with dripping, sticky glaze. FUCK!

I tried my best to reorganize and salvage as much as I could.

10:00AM check in to the Artisan Bakery Expo. I found my presentation area and unpacked my doughnut components. There was stadium seating for the attendees! Quite the spectacle. I caught up with a few fellow bakers who I haven’t seen since the last time we all taught together at the Bread Baker’s Guild ‘Wheatstalk’ conference in Providence last year.

12:15PM 15 minutes to show time. I whipped cream and cut the tips off my piping bags. The sound guy gave me a mic to wear. I had my set list in front of me. I was ready to go.

12:30PM presentation 1 of 3. Brad sat in the audience and took pictures and videos for me to share later. The kids were really excited to see what I was doing in Vegas. I talked about my doughnut style and walked the audience through simple ways to take basic ingredients and customize them. There were skilled bakers, amateur bakers, bakery owners, ingredient companies and people looking to open a bakery for the first time there to listen. Pretty much as broad a range as you can find at a bakery expo.

1:30PM break-down. I packed everything so that I wouldn’t have to bring anything back home. I hate checking luggage on a flight. My entire presentation was disposed of in 5 minutes - what wasn’t eaten by conference goers, that is.

1:45PM Pizza Expo. Brad and I ventured into uncharted territory. Parallel to the Artisan Baking Expo, Pizza Expo was in full tilt. I never knew there were so many different versions of pizza printed three piece suits until now. I ate as much cheese, cured meats and completed pizzas as my body could handle. It was a carb lovers dream come true.

3:00PM meet with Solveig. Tomorrow’s presentation is a collaboration with Solveig Tolfte about each of our experiences in opening a bakery. She owns Sun Street Breads in Minneapolis. Our bakeries are the same size, same age, same staffing, same philosophies yet totally different. We reviewed the powerpoint she put together, showcasing both our stories.

4:00PM break. Just enough time to get back to the hotel, shower, change, 15 minute nap and head out for round two.

5:00PM meeting with Steve. A couple years ago, I attended a brainstorming session for a large European ingredient company looking to expand their doughnut offerings. That’s where I met Steve. Turns out, he has a home just down the street from my great uncle in a very tiny town near where I grew up. He’s also a runner. In fact, he’s run at least a mile, every single day for the last 20 years. He’s 99th in the world on the list of longest running streaks, and he likes doughnuts. Brad and I joined Steve and the rest of the group from his company for dinner. We gorged ourselves on BBQ until we couldn’t eat one more bite, and we sure did try.

9:00pm bed. finally. sleep.

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Wednesday

Plan: SWIM 2100

BIKE 55:00 workout

Reality:

4:30am wake up. It’s pouring rain. I’m exhausted. I’m not going to run.

5:00am wake up. It’s pouring rain. I’m exhausted. I’m not going to run.

5:30am wake up. It’s pouring rain. I’m exhausted. I’m not going to run.

6:00am wake up. It’s pouring rain. I’m exhausted. I’m not going to run.

6:30am coffee. I really wish I’d brought my own. I used to travel with a whole set up. I thought it might be okay to trust the hotel coffee in Vegas. I was wrong.

7:00am breakfast. We walked downtown past most of the tall buildings and bright lights where the meth is seemingly more plentiful and there’s a little diner tucked away in the corner. After some eggs, home fries and a slice of ham as big as my head, we were on our way back to the convention center.

9:00am presentation 2 of 3. Solveig and I went through all the specifics of how we each came to open a bakery. It was super informative and we tried our best not to scare anyone off while still giving everyone a good idea of how much money and work it takes to keep it all going.

11:00am break. We headed back to the hotel where we had lunch and time for a 15 minute nap.

2:00pm back to the expo. Brad stayed back to go for a run while I worked my way back to the convention center for my final presentation.

3:00pm cruised by the Peroni booth at the pizza expo for a “sample”

3:15pm caught up with Amy of Amy’s Bread whom I haven’t seen in over a year. Of course we meet more often in other cities than in the one where we both reside.

3:30pm presentation 3 of 3. Tried to remember what I said earlier and what I still needed to say again.

5:30pm back to hotel to meet Brad, arrived with exactly 5 minutes to spare before we had to meet his cousin for dinner.

6:30pm dinner with cousin Barket. Brad’s dad sent an email to himself months ago, only it was the wrong email address. As luck would have it, someone responded. Turned out to be a long lost cousin who no one in Brad’s immediately family ever met, until tonight. We met up with Steve and his family for dinner and I somehow managed to stay awake.

9:30pm bed, no run, no bike, no swim, just bed.

Thursday

Plan: RUN 4mi tempo

Reality:

3:45am alarm goes off. Hastily finish packing and head out to catch a cab. Hotel casino and lobby were packed with people still up from last night.

6:00am heading down the runway.

Carolyn texts: ‘Pink pussy doughnuts for International Women’s Day?”

I respond: “Can we do something different? Maybe everyone can pick a woman who inspires them and match her with a doughnut??? What if we put RBG’s dissent collar on a chocolate doughnut?”

6:15am plane takes off, I switch to airplane mode and listen to the end of Michelle Obama’s autobiography followed by David Sedaris’s newest, Calypso.

2:00pm plane lands after 40 minutes of the worst turbulence I’ve been through on a descent.

2:01pm I take my phone off airplane mode to see a million messages about lady doughnuts…Lisa Simpson, Julia Child, Serena Williams, Frida, Tina Fey, Kathrine Switzer

2:40pm I arrive at the bakery and head to the office to resolve the rest of the doughnuts…Ellen, Michelle Obama, Amy Scherber.

3:15pm the kids arrive home from school. I tell them about the doughnuts, Josie says we have to include Malala.

3:30pm the kids and I start prepping the glazes, fillings and doughs for our International Women’s Day doughnuts. Jessie made special tags for all of them. I post a sneak peak on IG.

8:00pm we head home from the bakery and everyone goes straight to bed.

Friday

Plan: GRIIT @ Architect

Reality:

3:00am BAKE I go to the bakery and meet Carolyn at the door. I had to mix the semolina raisin fennel dough for the Amy Scherber doughnut and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to come together. I candied fennel seeds and made a glaze with them yesterday. The dough was a brioche that included plumped raisins soaked in fennel juice. Once it was finished, I put it aside to rest while I worked on the rest of the doughnut menu.

7:00am I rushed to finish the the first tray of RBG collars before the kids had to get ready for school. The flowers for the Malala doughnuts hadn’t arrived yet. I piped a pink buttercream flower on her pistachio doughnut so I could take a quick picture. I lined up all the finish doughnuts with the tags Jessie made and took a photo which I immediately posted on IG & FB.

7:05am got the kids breakfast, made sure they had clean clothes on and found them socks that sorta matched.

7:45am sent kids to the bus stop and I went back to the bakery to finish more doughnuts.

8:00am the doughnuts were already selling out. I elected to steal doughnuts from an evening order to make more special lady doughnuts. I would have to mix more doughnut dough for the order but I didn’t need to have them ready until 6pm. Between doughnuts, I made Irish Soda Bread.

10:00am shape sourdough for Saturday & braid challah

11:30am break for a 15 minute nap!

12:30pm mix doughnut dough for evening order

1:30pm shape doughnuts, eek out a couple extra trays to restock the retail supply which is quickly dwindling away

3:00pm fry doughnuts

3:30pm kids arrive from school. Josie helps fry and glaze doughnuts, the boys help make sugar cookies.

4:00pm done! Kids and I go to Anne’s for pizza and a comfy couch to sit on for the rest of the evening.

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Saturday

Plan: RUN 1:20 minutes

Reality: I met Anne at 5:30am to begin my run. I thought I would be able to get 7 or 8 miles in over the 80 minutes I was allotted. I was shocked when I saw I was at 7.5 and I still had 15 more minutes left. That’s when I decided I was going to stick with it until I saw double digits on my watch. I haven’t run 10 miles since August. I made it back to the bakery in 1 hour and 28 minutes with 10.1 miles done! Going into the run I felt like a failure. My whole week has been a mess…botched workouts, skipped days…I hadn’t completed a single activity as planned. Completing my first double digit run in 8 months made everything better. I felt like I could have run forever this morning and when the run was over, I finally regained a sense of accomplishment.

It’s funny, looking back, I accomplished so much this week…presenting 3 seminars in Las Vegas, creating a viral doughnut menu honoring women I admire, keeping the kids fed, dressed and (most of) their homework complete but all I can focus on are the workouts I missed, the things I didn’t get to do.

Week 28

When the bakery opened this morning, a grandfather and his 20-something daughter were the first two customers in the door. I overheard him explain what a ‘duffin’ is and tell her all about our unique doughnuts. I could see how proud he was to share his bakery find with her. He told the staff he’d like to start with a box of six doughnuts, it was his daughter’s first time and he wanted her to have a good assortment to try.

I grew up in the country with my mother’s family, sandwiched between vast cornfields, cow farms and the Chesapeake Bay. There was one coffee shop, one diner, one nice restaurant…if a second one of anything ever opened, the two would battle it out until only one survived. I wasn’t exposed to much variety in the way of food beyond the dishes my grandmother prepared from the veggies she grew in her garden or the sweet treats like whoopie pies and cinnamon buns my mother brought home from the Amish bakery at the local farmer’s market. I did develop a deep love for blue crabs & Chesapeake bay oysters!

Contrary to my mother’s parents, my dad’s father was not a fan of children. In fact, I don’t remember interacting with him at all until I was a teenager. I called him Pop pop John. I was the only grandchild for eight years. When my aunt’s son was born, my grandfather said ‘I’m over this pop-pop, poppy shit. The kid can call me Sir until he’s only enough to call me John.’ From that point on, I was the only one who called him Pop pop, the rest of the family called him Sir.

John was a company man for AT&T. Watching Mad Men is like watching old family movies. My maternal grandmother taught me how to bake but it was John who taught me how to run a business. “If you’re on time, you’re late. Always bring a paper to read before the meeting starts.”

I loved spending time with my grandfather. I often felt like I didn’t belong in my home town. John opened my eyes to a world beyond the place I lived. He talked to me like I was an adult, even though I was only 12 or 13. We were both early risers. I would wake up with the sun and he was already sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee, the Wall Street Journal in hand and CNN’s stock ticker going across the television screen. We would take a walk into town together where he would introduce me to his local favorites…a coffee shop that makes the best muffins, a bakery with exceptional croissants, the only place to buy a copy of the New York Times. When it was time for lunch, he’d take me to the bistro he discovered that only has six tables but makes the best gazpacho. I don’t think I ever had croissants, gazpacho or coffee that wasn’t Folger’s before my grandfather expanded my horizon.

If it wasn’t for my grandfather, I would have never gone beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. Each summer he and my grandmother Jackie, took me on a road trip. Over the years, we went as far up as Montreal, with stops in Boston and Burlington and everywhere in between. Then we went south to Gainesville stopping in Richmond, Charleston and St. Augustine on the way down. The summers I loved the most were the ones spent on Martha’s Vineyard where my grandparents had a house on a lake. It couldn’t have been further from my life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. After a trip to the Black Dog Cafe to pick up breakfast, we would sit on a park bench by the waterfront. He would read the Wall Street Journal while I filled out the New York Times crossword puzzle. Our worlds collided when the WSJ started including a food section. He would send me highlights over the years. Just an envelope, no note, with a column he clipped that he thought would be of interest.

When John retired from AT&T, he took a position teaching in the MBA program at the University of Florida, his alma mater. He encouraged me to apply to the undergrad program. I wanted to study photography. He told me to major in advertising - there’s pictures and you can make money. So I did. After an internship with an ad agency gave me insight into the kind of people I would be working with, I changed my major to French and never looked back. I didn’t tell John until the semester I graduated. I knew he would be disappointed.

A year later, I told him I wanted to give up my fledgling teaching career and go to culinary school. He told me he didn’t want his granddaughter working a blue collar foodservice job for the rest of her life. ‘You’ll never make any money,’ he said. ‘You’re always going to be in debt,’ he said. My dad, who also defied my grandfather’s wishes when he opened a convenience store in a small town instead of taking a corporate job in the city, supported my decision. John and I never spoke after I enrolled in culinary school. He passed away nine months after Josie was born. She took her first step at his funeral.

He was right. I don’t make any money and I am always in debt but I love what I do every day. And he was right about the business degree. The day I completed my MBA was the day I missed him the most - until the story about me and my bakery was published in the New York Times. When he was alive, my biggest goal in life was to have a byline in the Times, I never ever imagined I would have a story about me published. I’ll never forget the day Marissa Bates told me her story idea was accepted. I was at Josie’s horseback riding lesson, somehow still upright after only 2 hours of sleep. I just had three bakers quit, at the same time, and my marriage was at a particularly low point. I was happy to see her friendly face at the barn and I fell to pieces when she told me what she was working on.

If I didn’t chose this live, I would have missed the opportunity to see another girl’s grandfather introducing her to his favorite bakery and remembering all those good times I spent with my Pop pop John.

Weekly Training Log

Monday: SWIM 500, 6x75p, 4x50d, 4x200 s, p

Tuesday: RUN: interval ladder, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3 - equal time on/off

Wednesday: BIKE: 50:00, 3x 4@75, 3@85, 2@95, 1@100, 5 easy

Missed my scheduled swim

Thursday: RUN: WU, 3 miles @ tempo, CD

Friday: BAKE: 4am doughnut/bread shift

Saturday: BIKE 80:00 endurance

Sunday: RUN: 65:00 - Early AM with Anne - just like the old days!!!

Week 26.2

I Opened a Bakery

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I opened Montclair Bread Company in May 2012. Malachi was five months old, Keegan was two and Josie was three. The first week was tough. One customer walked in the door, saw me standing behind the counter and burst into tears because I was the new guy and she missed the old guy. The bakery which occupied 113 Walnut Street before mine, ceased to exist when the owners retired and moved to Australia.

Slowly, I forged ahead and welcomed new customers. I never wanted the bakery to look empty so when times were slow, I invited my friends to come by for coffee and croissants on the house. I asked them to sit outside to enjoy them so people walking by would notice. I did whatever I could to encourage people to gather at the bakery. I read stories about doughnuts to children on the patio, I gave away prize boxes of doughnuts each week, I organized a community street fair and I started a running club.

When the going gets tough, it’s easy to forget there was a time when no one came to visit. There was a time when thirty customers made for a busy day. There was a time I couldn’t afford an espresso machine, a real dough mixer or a steam injected bread oven. There were workarounds, lots of them. Customers emailed me their orders. Some of them I remembered to write down. Some were lost forever. I forgot about a cake order for Christmas Eve one year, a Boston Cream Cake for someone’s husband who had the unfortunate luck of being born on one of the busiest bakery days of the year. I couldn’t produce the cake. I apologized a lot.

I got better at hiring great people as the bakery grew. I hired people who were really good at the things I am really terrible at…like organizing customers’ orders so they don’t get lost or hiring great people.

I keep opening the door each day because I don’t know what else I would do in life.

I love having the ability to bake whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes I bake a batch of bread I haven’t made in a while on a sleepy Monday afternoon. Occasionally, I sneak to the bakery well after hours, and whip up a batch of chocolate pudding with fresh whipped cream on top. Once I spent all day (after the morning baking was complete) making a huge batch of tamales for the staff. Owning a bakery is like having giant foodie playground you can visit anytime.

I love seeing my children absorb the world around them, the only world they know. “How old is your daughter? When did she learn how to braid challah?” She’s ten and I’m not sure of her first time, she’s been doing it for as long as I can remember. I never taught her how to button her shirt but she figured that out too. Both Josie and Keegan have their ups and downs in math. Josie had to be pulled out of class for extra assistance but when she got to the unit about money and making change, she tested above average for her grade level. Keegan struggled through long division but is flying high through fractions and percentages because he knows his way around a recipe.

I’ve had a lot of failures. The banana split doughnuts were a huge flop and a giant waste of time. As much as I adored the spicy semolina bread sticks, no one else did. All it takes is one big win and I forget about all of those things that didn’t stick. I know I’m doing something right when I get emails and notes pining over the cinnamon buns or asking for more carrot cake.

Every single time I pull a perfect baguette out of the oven, I feel validated. Flour, water, yeast & salt mixed in just the right way, perfectly shaped, perfectly proofed, perfectly scored…deep brown crust pulling up and away from the center of the loaf with crisp, slightly charred edges. There is truly nothing that makes me happier than a baguette that tells me I did everything right.

More than the baking, I love the people. The reason I devoted my life to baking bread, rather than making fancy wedding cakes, was to be a part of the community for breakfast, lunch & dinner, everyday, not just one special occasion. I remember the woman who came in every morning for coffee the first year I was open. Then, she was joined by a man. They served my doughnuts at their wedding reception. Today, they continue to come in with their two kiddos. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this long enough to see families grow and change but it is truly a special thing to witness.

Would life be less stressful without the bakery or would I find another project to take up the same mental space? In some ways, I live for the stress of it. Nothing is more gratifying than finding a solution to a really tough problem. All of those disasters, the stresses, the reasons why I would tell anyone who asks NEVER to open a bakery…I live for them. I moved the bakery to a new space in less than 24 hours on the coldest day of the year so we could be open for business on New Year’s Eve. I stalked the Mayor at a local ribbon cutting for another business to enlist his help convincing the town that the Baker’s Dozen Half Marathon was worth doing….after it was already sold out….after I got a cease and desist order from the town…after they had given provisional approval. I came up with a plan to make doughnuts on the busiest doughnut day of the year without a functioning mixer. If I didn’t have to overcome these daily challenges, life would be boring and dull. If I didn’t know what it was like to pivot on a dime and come up with plans b, c and d, maybe I would still be using a cane to walk down the stairs instead of racing 5ks and piling on miles through the streets of Montclair. Maybe.

Creating memories through food and community is the most rewarding part of my business and the number one reason I keep giving up a good night’s sleep to unlock the door in the morning. There’s nothing more satisfying than teaching a baking class and a couple weeks later, getting a picture of a loaf of sourdough one of the students made at home. Or hearing the 10 year old in my summer camp tell me if his science class was this cool, he would totally pay attention….after listening to my detailed description of how yeast makes bread rise.

When I opened the bakery, I sought to right all the wrongs (or what I thought was wrong) of my previous employers and recreate what they did well. The company I worked for just prior to opening the bakery, and for the first three years of business, eliminated their entire marketing department because ‘we’re a sales driven organization, not a marketing based organization.’ This was during the time I was wrapping up my MBA in marketing. I made sure to allocated Montclair Bread Co. dollars to create a brand that people recognize. I designed the logo to mimic the punk rock band logos that used to be stenciled across every side walk and street sign in Gainesville, FL.

I can’t count the number of awful experiences I’ve had. In college my boss screamed in my face showering me with droplets of spit after I gave it my all to make it through Easter brunch service because I didn’t move a stack of plates fast enough. The world renowned pastry chef I worked for at the Ritz told his sous chef the accurate instructions to make a recipe work, in French, and only gave me part of the method knowing I would fail. He didn’t know I spoke French…until the day he cursed at me in his mother tongue and I dropped an egg on the ground in horror. I rarely had creative control over anyone else’s menu. Above all, I never felt like I was doing enough to prove I could work to my potential while raising my children.

I try to be a better boss and take from the positive experiences I had along the way or the ones I wish I had. Instead of being banished to a mop closet to express breast milk like I was when I worked for a notable grocery store chain, the MBCo office turned into a pumping studio. At one point there were four different women pumping breast milk for their babies at the same time. Every day schools and daycares are closed, the office turns into a nursery full of art projects and half eaten bananas.

As far as creative control over the menu, I encourage the team to make it their own. Kyra’s pear, brie and arugula sandwich is still a top seller, eight years after it first appeared at the bakery. Bananas Foster doughnut, MBCo tarts, Buffalo chicken doughnuts and chocolate chip cookies all started with a suggestion from the staff.

My staff is the heart and soul of the bakery. Without them, none of this would be possible. It’s great to have a team of high school students come in to their own while working at the bakery. I get to hear about college applications, acceptances and then they pack up and leave for their next big adventure in life. When they come back to work at the bakery during their winter and summer breaks, I know I’m doing something right. I’ve gotten notes through the years from previous employees who have moved on to work for other bakeries, coffee shops or take jobs in completely different settings…they say, it’s not the same…there’s no soul. On those crazy days, those crazy weeks, those crazy years, we have each other. No one knows what it’s like but the people standing by my side through all of it. I appreciate them. I am grateful for them. I am grateful for this life, this path I have been given.

Thank you.



Week 26.1

A couple years ago I got a letter from a CPA who really wanted to open a bakery. Based on the fact that he had no baking experience, no recipes and losing his annual vacation time was a real deal breaker, it didn’t seem like the right fit for him. Shortly after this exchange, I put together the following. It’s incredible how relevant it still is.

Here’a a slightly more light hearted version of my weekend woes. Enjoy.

So you want to open a bakery???

Have you ever baked anything?  Do you have your own recipes? Can you use the recipes to make 1000x what you would make at home…everyday?  While you’re making 1000 of those, can you make 1000 of 30 other items concurrently and have them all ready when you open at 6am?  Do you have a summer & winter version of each of your recipes to account for the changes in temperature & humidity? Did you know that’s a thing?

About that 6am thing…how much do you value sleep?  Is 3 hours per night good for you? Are you comfortable starting your day at 12:01am, it counts as early morning because it’s technically AM, right?

If you are not currently in the service industry, are you an athlete, nurse or teacher?  When is the last time you stood on your feet for 10-14 hours without a break to sit down?  Are you confident you can maintain this amount of time on your feet for 6-12 days straight?

How do you feel about meals vs. snacks?  Do your meals have to be eaten while hot?  Are you comfortable substituting hot meals for cold snacks?  You will have about 5 minutes 3-4 times each day to eat whatever you can reach.  Cold snacks just seem to work better. It’s difficult to eat a hot meal while standing and in motion.

Do you have a significant amount of money in savings or a wealthy partner to supplement your income?  How long can you go without a paycheck? Do you plan on having a staff to help you run the bakery? Do you plan to pay them more than the standard going rate so they’ll continue to work for you?  How long can you go without a paycheck?

Do you like the smell of baked goods?  Do you like it when your clothes smell like baked goods?  How about your car? Your house? Your kids’ clothes? ALL.THE.TIME?

Do you have kids?  Are they comfortable losing one parent?  How important is it to you to attend school functions…this includes the daytime pageants you’ll miss because the bakery is open and the evening fundraisers you’ll miss because you have to sleep sometime.  How will you respond to the notes from the teachers asking why you were the only parent who wasn’t present at your child’s super important book reading?

Does your family currently vacation?  Are they okay with having day trips instead of vacations?  How’s 2 day trips per year? Are they going to be entertaining themselves while you’re on the phone with the bakery all day?

How gullible are your kids?  Can you easily convince them that Christmas is December 26th?  How about Easter Monday?  Thanksgiving Friday? Do they really care if you miss their birthdays?  How important are family wedding to you? Will anyone in your family hold a grudge if you miss a funeral or 5?

Do you have a lot of friends?  Do they invite you to dinners, drinks and other evening or weekend activities?  Do you think they’ll still be your friends if you decline every invitation for the next, (how many years do you plan on having your bakery open) years?

Are you comfortable managing millennials?  Are you social media saavy? Do you know what a hashtag is?  Can you cover multiple call outs on one day? On 3 hours of sleep?  You do know how to do every single job in your bakery, right? How many excuses can you listen to before you go insane?

Do you like people?  Do you like people who complain about the baked goods you just spent the last 10-14 hours on your feet to make for them?  How good is your poker face? Do you have any anger management issues?

Can you make a doughnut look like a stiletto heeled shoe?  Can you make a cake for 250 people with an hour’s notice, even if you don’t plan to have cakes on your menu?  Can you make a gluten free, vegan version of everything on your menu? Do you plan to be peanut free? Tree nut free? Egg free? Dairy free? Flavor free? You know, there are a lot of special snowflakes who love bakeries!  Can you fully stock your shelves 5 minutes before closing? Can you just make MORE??? Can you make it and sell it for less than Costco?

In addition to baking, do you have the following skills…

Barista

Retail Management

Customer Service

Marketing

Public Relations

Bookkeeping

Plumbing

Electrical

Accounting

Legal

Town Planning

Construction

Crisis Management

Auto Repair

Sourcing & Purchasing

Debt Collections

Banking

Graphic Design

Arts & Crafts

Web Design

Project Management

Interior Design

Logistics

Facilities Management

HVAC

OSHA

Human Resources

Menu Development & Planning

Health Safety/ServSafe

Sanitation

Food Writing

Editing

Sales   


Week 26

So You Want to Open a Bakery???

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***The following is a dramatic account of a weekend in the life of small bakery owner who appears to have her shit together (but never really does), with a phenomenal staff and the occasional outliers.

Maybe you baked a cake for your kid’s birthday party and all the guests told you it was really great and ‘you should open a bakery.’ Maybe the idea of creating your own sourdough culture and laminating butter into croissant dough sounds romantic. Maybe you’re such a coffee snob that you think the world can not live without having your special blend made for them each day. Maybe you see people lining up for doughnuts on Sunday mornings and think opening a bakery could be a real cash cow.

I opened a bakery because baking bread is the only thing in life I’ve ever been good at. It’s the only thing I could do to support my family. I worked for other bakeries for nearly 20 years before I took the plunge. I knew what I was getting into and at the same time, I had no idea what I was getting into. I kept my full time recipe development job for the first three years during which I also worked full time running my own bakery because I knew my business would barely make enough to keep a roof over my head.

If you want to open a bakery, be prepared. There are no days off, ever. Ever, ever, ever….no days off. You might be thinking, ‘no problem, I could bake cakes all day everyday’, right? Wrong, it’s not the cake baking that you’ll be doing when you open a bakery. You’ll be putting out fires. Lots of fires.

An employee will walk out halfway through their retail shift on a Saturday, with a line of customers out the door, because they think they ‘may have an eye infection,’ but they won’t tell you, they tell the other employees who also won’t tell you until an hour later when the shit is really hitting the fan and you can’t do anything about it.

Your wholesale customer will arrive to pick up their order. What order? The same order they get every Saturday. You can’t find it? What about those three trays of buns that aren’t typically sold in the bakery? Right….the ones the staff has been selling all morning, the ones that were supposed to be packed up for the wholesale customer…those buns….

Did you remember to post a picture of the weekend specials on instagram? You know you have to do all your own marketing, right? Sure there are services you can pay to do it for you but they don’t care about your business the way you do and they can’t be there real time and they’ll probably spell something wrong. Remember all the emails you have to answer? Don’t forget to answer the instagram and facebook messages too. More donation requests! And lots of people who want to take over your social media management for you. Some of them have misspelled words in their messages…red fucking flag! Also, be prepared to have everything you post recreated by someone else…pinterest moms, teenagers, other bakeries. No one has any original ideas these days.

The nozzle on the sink will spring a leak and you’ll be on the phone begging the plumber to come and swap it for the new one that’s been sitting in the box next to the sink all week. Then, the staff will call to tell you there’s no hot water at the bakery. No hot water? Is the new nozzle working? It’s working great? So great that it sprays twice the volume of water as the old one? Guess where the hot water went?

You’ll have an order for a red velvet cake but the only one who knows how to make it has the weekend off. No problem, you like baking cake. You’ll spend your afternoon baking exactly one cake while simultaneously baking a batch of 8 dozen breakfast cookies, shaping 36 loaves of sourdough, putting in an order for specialty flours and helping to rework the schedule to cover the employee with the wonky eye. Just when you think you’re in the clear, you’ll get a message that one of the early morning bakery sprained his ankle…he’s not exactly calling out but he wants you to know he won’t be able to do any work when he comes to work so….

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The granola jars are selling well and you need more of them. Thankfully, you just secured a source for jars and they were just delivered. Well, the shipping company said they were delivered last week but they weren’t and after an hour on the phone trying to locate them, they shipped a second round of jars. Those jars were actually delivered. You are thrilled that your staff made ingredient labels for the jars but your joy dissipates when you realize the ingredient label is missing the number one ingredient…oats. No problem, you still have the jars. When you open the box, you discover you only have half the jars because the other half arrived shattered. You’ll wait until the following week to spend another hour on the phone with customer service.

You will be setting up coffee grounds to make cold brew on a Saturday night just after closing, when you think you can catch a break for a few hours after the retail staff leaves, before the bakers arrive. The staff didn’t set up cold brew coffee because the brewing bag is missing…the one you noticed on the shelf earlier when you were putting your bowls away. You know it will take 12 hours to brew and if you don’t go in to do it yourself, it won’t get done. Back for round 89….

You have Sunday covered. You do not need to work on Sunday. Finally a whole day to spend with the family. This is why you opened your own business, so you can have more time to spend with your family than when you were working your corporate gig. You can’t help it, you need coffee…the coffee that you selected because your town can not live without it and neither can you so you go to your bakery to get a cup. Where’s the staff? Why is there only one person behind the counter on Sunday morning??? Oh, there are two but one decided to slice 25 pounds of cheddar cheese in an effort to avoid helping customers.

How about the new sticky buns on the menu? Where are the sticky buns??? The staff is doing a great job executing them this week. Last week wasn’t so great, like the day they didn’t put cinnamon in the cinnamon buns, but everyone is back on track. But wait, there’s no sticky buns on Sunday morning? You’ve been preparing for this all week. Why don’t we have sticky buns? There’s no sticky bun goo to put in the bottom of the pan? We ran out on Saturday? Did we write it on the list of things we need to prepare for Sunday? Don’t answer, you already know. There are 4 ingredients. You can have your 10 year old make it so the bakery can have sticky buns for sale on Sunday. You better have a 10 year old type-A daughter on hand for bakery emergencies if you plan to open a bakery. She will prove to be quite an asset.

Wait, you came in for coffee an hour ago, where’s the coffee? The cold brew keg is tapped. You’re out of iced coffee. You wonder how long your bakery has been out of iced coffee and why no one told you…the one who drinks iced coffee 365 days a year. At least you set up the cold brew last night so if there’s not a keg, you can make one up. Whew, there’s a back up keg but you have to replace the empty one because no one else seems to know how or wants to admit they know how.

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How about the banana bread? The one that’s new to the menu. Easy enough to hand off to one of the bakers so you don’t have to make it yourself. The first batch was perfect. The second? Not so much. The third? In the garbage. What could go wrong with banana bread? Ohhhh….the baker combined the flours and just used white. Yes, it says whole wheat and white. No, they are not the same thing. Yes, the recipe should be executed as printed. Yes, it matters. You refill your iced coffee and start mashing bananas. So much for having Sunday covered.

There’s always Monday.. Monday is a holiday. It shouldn’t be too busy. You don’t need extra staff. Monday is a holiday, everyone’s kids are out of school. EVERYONE’S KIDS ARE OUT OF SCHOOL. EVERYONE will need to get out of the house. You realize you are grossly understaffed and underprepared for this day. No, this isn’t your first year. No, you don’t remember last year. No, you didn’t write it down. You were too busy making cakes and cold brew and sourdough and banana bread and whatever was on the menu last year to write it down and even if you did it would be lost in the piles of files of piles on your desk, in your drawers or your google drive. It’s okay, you can ignore the chaos for one day. The staff can handle it. The customers can wait a little longer today.

You can not ignore the call about the clogged toilet. Nope, not even if you’re almost finished folding the giant pile of laundry that you’ve been avoiding for 3, three, THREE, weeks. It’s not just a clogged toilet, it’s a clogged toilet that people tried to fix, people that have never unclogged a toilet before. Try as they might, they couldn’t fix the issue. You unclog the toilet in 2 minutes and spend the next hour mopping up toilet water and cleaning the floor. Did you remember to feed your kids lunch? What about breakfast? Where are your kids???

Still want to open a bakery??? A good friend who has a very successful pancake joint once asked me if I knew how much money it took to make $100,000 worth of pancakes. How much? $99,000! It’s about the same in the bakery business. You have to love every second of it because you’re never going to get rich. In fact, if you are able to pay yourself as often as you pay your staff, you’ll be better than the rest. Be prepared to skip a few pay periods so you can meet your payroll and then you’ll probably have to skip a few more. Oh and there’s that $15 per hour minimum wage coming down the road so you might actually want to look for another job seeing as though that’s more than you’re currently paying yourself.

I wish I could say I made all of this up but I didn’t. I wish I could say it all happened over the course of several months, or even weeks, but it didn’t. All of this fun was just three days…all of which were supposed to be days off or at least, mostly off because there are NO DAYS OFF!