27 June 2011

An ISLE of ASLE and other Geographies of Bloomington

Although the past week has been a strong one for marathon training, it has unfortunately been a weak showing in the blogosphere. Truth be told, I was rather swamped preparing for (ah, the joys of seemingly endless work coupled with a wee bit of procrastination and case of perfectionism), traveling to, and presenting a paper at the ASLE 2011 Conference in Bloomington, IN. Rather than preparing scrumptious meals and taking artistic photographs to post on this blog alongside witty commentary about running and life as an athletically hopeful PhD student, the past number of days were devoted to condensing a manuscript (hopefully to be available in a forthcoming issue of ISLE) into a concise, yet comprehensive 15 minute argument for John Steinbeck's prominence within the American environmental movement (via [what I perceive to be] his ideological parentage -- John Muir & Aldo Leopold).

Well, all the hard work paid great dividends. The presentation was a success (marked by larger-than-expected attendance, audience laughter at funny parts [but not at the serious bits], engaging post-presentation Q&A session, etc.) and journey to and from Bloomington (home of the Little 500 of Breaking Away fame) was quite an adventure. So, in the event that you ever find yourself driving from Blacksburg to Bloomington...

Stop for lunch in Louisville @ Blue Dog Bakery. Wow! A delicious, Euro-inspired menu will please everyone's palate. My only qualm -- we couldn't stay for dinner. They also pull a mean espresso (nicely complemented by a pistachio macaron) .

Photo courtesy of Blue Dog Bakery.
Spend your evenings resting peacefully at the appropriately titled Scholars Inn Bed and Breakfast. Thanks to charming early 20th century architecture and kind and helpful staff members, you'll enjoy both bed and breakfast at Scholars Inn. They also make rather tasty granola -- available throughout the Bloomington area and online.

Photo courtesy of visitbloomington.com
And, since the inn is only a short walk from IU and downtown Bloomington, you'll be able to explore the cultural, cinematic, and culinary bounty of this quintessentially midwestern college town. Recommendations include:

FARMbloomington! Menu awesomeness includes: Lugar Burger (Local Bison Burger with Columbus Cowboy Espresso Chili Rub), Sweet Potato Fries with Banana Catsup, BBC Big Stone Stout Chocolate Cake (Harrison Bourbon Ganache, Hartzell’s Black & Wild Cherry Ice Cream, Sour Cherry Compote), and great beers from local faves Bloomington Brewing Co. and Upland Brewing Co. 

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Restaurant Scene.
But, you're probably wondering, 'is there gourmet foods in Bloomington?' Yes. Unequivocally, yes. If you find yourself in (or around) Bloomington and in search of fine dining without the stuffiness, but including the creative, sophisticated, and tantalizing menu, Restaurant Tallent is a splendid place to enjoy an evening of fine, yet not conceited, dining. Full disclaimer: Carmen was kind enough to treat me to a special post-conference-presentation dining extravaganza (which included highlights such as Foie Gras PB&J, Crudo, Vegetarian Jambalaya Risotto Cake, Rhubarb Galette, all paired nicely with a 2007 Miner Sangiovese), so my glowing review may include some residual elation. Nevertheless, Restaurant Tallent has few (if any) gourmet competitors in Bloomington (which is not to discount the gourmet-ness of FARMbloomington [in fact, Carmen and I ate @ FARM three times during our short stay in Bloomington, hands-down my fav during the stay], the two restaurants are simply in different categories -- white table cloths, right?).

Photo courtesy of Restaurant Tallent.
As with most collegetowns (or not-collegetowns for that matter), Bloomington has a plethora of coffeehouses to help students on both ends of all night study sessions. Whether gearing up for a marathon deciphering of Marx or rousing from a little-sleep rumble with Rousseau, you're one and only caffeination destination in Bloomington should be Pourhouse Cafe. Not only do they offer complex blends (and some single origin roasts too), an array of foodstuffs (including the aforementioned Scholars Inn granola), free wifi, and excellent decor, but 100% of their profits and tips go to helping others. Currently proceeds are being directed to Japan - Relief efforts through International Disaster Emergency Services (I.D.E.S) www.ides.org. Truly an amazing company -- socially conscious, ethically concerned, and they provide an outstanding product (and environment)!
Photo courtesy of westervin via flickr.
My weekly training mileage is an approximation (still working out a system -- Garmin 610 still looming "just" beyond my financial reach), but I ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles (including a nice little jaunt on finished and under-construction sections of the Bloomington B-Line trail [see pic below]). Not a bad first full week of marathon training -- I've officially morphed from a cyclist who runs for cross-training into a runner who rides (occasionally, but not frequently enough quoth Cole) for cross-training.

Photo courtesy of Indiana Public Media via flickr.
I'm still finalizing my training regimen, but hope to move from "running as often and as long as possible (given time, weather, and energy constraints)" to a more systematized and progressive approach to building fitness, miles, and speed. Really, I'm attempting to develop what you might call a "plan." From what I've solidified thus far, the rough draft of the plan (perhaps plan beta?) involves yoga as cross-training, but more importantly as strength and flexibility training. If the plan comes together, I should be engaging in this mind, body, and soul centering practice twice weekly. More details as plan beta takes more tangible form.

Please help me reach the $1000 plateau before race day -- 9 October 2011. Donating is quick, easy, safe, and tax deductible. Visit my fundraising page to make a contribution. No amount is too small (nor too large for that matter). $1, $1.50, $5, $6.84, $20, $1000, every bit helps me help the Chicago Fire Foundation (who in turn helps the youth and communities of Chicago).

What about you? Have you travelled to Louisville? Bloomington? Any culinary, cultural, or recreational recommendations? Are you training for a marathon, 5k, or steeplechase? Cycling sportive or cyclocross season? Any training insight or engaging stories?