I was on a school bus, for the first time in more than a decade, and much earlier than ever in my life. Still dark, we couldn’t see the landscape. It was quite chilly, there was no sound except the motor. All the passengers where silent with their thoughts and the bus rocked us gently back and forth. I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, but right then my nerves where taking over and keeping my stomach uncomfortable and fluttery. ‘How long is twenty six miles, anyway?’ It seemed like an eternity getting to the marathon start line and every second I sat there I pictured my legs having to carry me all the way back.
Yes, I had put skates on again, even after my disastrous start in the sport. Mystery Man and I put the inline skates on every weekend and racked up the miles on the local trails. My miles were much different than his. As I pushed, sweated, and worked for every stride, most of his time was spent skating backwards in front of me, coaching me along, and on occasion would break away to ‘stretch his legs’, then wait patiently for me to catch up.
I reminded myself that we were here for fun. After all, we had met up at this race in Duluth Minnesota for more than the skating. Friends came from several states away. Ones we hadn’t seen in far too long. The skating, to them, was only secondary.
Stepping off the bus, I was astounded. Three thousand five hundred people where here to skate this race and yet everyone was calm, collected, and making their way to the appropriate fitness stage for start times. We found ours, but not our friends. The crowd was too thick. Bang! Here we go!
I have seen wonderful sites in my life. The Sistine Chapel. The Rome Colosseum, Big Ben, the canals of Amsterdam. But, that finish line is one of the most memorable and beautiful things. Bleachers full of people flanked each side of the the road. Flags, banners and festive music filled our senses and took the pain from our legs. Mystery Man stayed with me all the way to the end and we crossed the finish line together.
We found our friends and hugs lasted minutes as we soaked everyone in. It had, indeed, been way too long. We had two days and we planned to make the most of it. Lunches lasted through dinner. Toasts where made with silly sayings and laughter, and solemn memories and wet eyes. Laughter rang in our ears long after retiring for the evening, and as I lay there and took stock of my body that I had pushed to the limit, the parts that hurt most were not my legs, but my cheeks and abdomen from smiling and laughing. Suddenly the skating, for me, was secondary.
This is a recipe from a friend in the skating community. We (lovingly) call it Chicken Shit in our house, but I have renamed it for you. Your welcome.
One-Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice
1 Pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 – 13 Ounce can chicken broth
1 – 8 Ounce can tomato sauce
1 Package taco seasoning (check for gluten in the ingredients)
1 can corn, drained
1 green pepper (diced)
1 1/2 Cup minute rice
1/2 Teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
All Toppings are Optional
1 – 2 Ounce can Sliced Olives
Shredded Mexican/Spicy Cheese
• Heat olive oil in 4” deep heavy pan over medium heat until shimmering
• Add chicken and cook (stirring) until no loner pink
• Add broth, tomato sauce and seasoning packet. Stir and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat and simmer for minutes.
• Add corn and pepper, stir and bring to a boil.
• Stir in rice, cover the pan and remove from heat.
• Fluff with fork and adjust spice with hot sauce if desired.
• Serve with toppings and corn chips.
For a crowd – Do not drain corn. Add one cup of water and one additional cup of rice. Transfer to crock pot on low. Serve directly out of crock pot. Check periodically to make sure it does not dry out. Add water as needed. This dish is just as good, or better the next day.
Vegetarian – Add one can of thoroughly rinsed black beans, omit the chicken, use vegetable broth.