When I first started thinking about running ultras, I literally used to “run for food”. I would head out on the road with a destination restaurant in mind, and then start running. The only two qualifiers were that it had to be less than 10 miles away (I had to be able to run home and 20 miles was about all I was willing to travel – still is) and I had to be able to eat there looking, and smelling, a little bedraggled. Yes, my options were somewhat limited.

Because I didn’t want McDonald’s to be my only choice, I learned to carry one of those lightweight nylon drawstring bags filled with my wallet, house key, baby wipes, a small brush and a light jacket that could be slipped over my sweaty self when I went into a restaurant. The jacket didn’t solve all of the grooming issue, but after a quick trip to the Ladies’ Room to wash my face and hands, and run a brush through my hair, I was borderline presentable. At least no one ever complained to my face or kicked me out of anywhere.

Years later, after many, many ultras, I still find it highly motivating to run for food. And Los Angeles has proven to be the ideal place to do it. Food trucks, small cafes and gourmet deli/markets are everywhere. And best of all, no one seems to care if you look, or smell, funky. Every week, I check the Food Trux Map to see where my favorite trucks are going to be stationed around the city and then I come up with a plan. I stick to my original guidelines – less than 10 miles away, no grooming niceties needed – and figure out what I can hit that week. I’ve had crab sandwiches, Korean fusion tacos, dumplings, Indian fry bread, fish tacos, tamales, and an Argentinian steak sandwich, just to name a few. Sometimes it feels like I’m running around the world!

And the same feeling has carried over to my travel for races. Wherever we go, I spend as much time researching where to go eat as I do the race venue/competition. Sometimes my husband says I actually spend MORE time worrying about the food than the race, but he never seems to complain when he gets the best roasted chicken of his life in Florence or the spectacular white asparagus in Bergen Op Zoom. You’re welcome, Honey.

I think we all have different motivations for running, for putting in the long hours, getting up before the sun rises day after day, skipping the second glass of wine with friends because you know you have a long run the next morning, for training even when you’d rather be doing practically anything else. Something, often many things, keeps us going, keeps us striving, keeps us on the trails and roads. For me, it is the adventure, the seeing where I might end up if I just keep going, the potential for something special a few miles down the road. And when that something special happens to be a braised short rib grilled cheese sandwich with plum butter, well, then it is a perfect run.


Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese with Plum Butter (adapted from The Grilled Cheese Truck)

16 beef short ribs

1/2 cup all purpose flour (for dredging)

salt and pepper to taste

4 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can chopped tomatoes

2 cups of red wine

2 cups beef broth

2 tsp thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh)

2 tsp rosemary (or 2 sprigs fresh)

parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Salt and pepper each rib, then dredge in flour.


In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Brown ribs on all sides, in batches – I usually do them in batches of 6, 6, 4, depending on the size of the ribs. Once browned, remove the ribs and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery and stir, loosening up the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes.


carrots and celery

Add chopped garlic and saute for another minute. Add tomatoes and stir. Pour in  the red wine and scrape the pan some more. Bring it to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes.

Add the beef broth, 2 tsp. of salt, 1 Tbs. of pepper. Add the ribs back into the pan, making sure the liquid is about 3/4 of the way up the ribs.

Add the thyme and rosemary.

Cover with the lid and put in the oven.  Cook for 3 hours, turning ribs over at the halfway point. The ribs should be super tender and falling off the bone when done.

Serve over mash potatoes or polenta and save some for your grilled cheese the next day!

Braised Beef Short Ribs

(Note: I’m not including a grilled cheese recipe because everyone has their favorite. I personally like a mix of cheeses – fontina, cheddar, brie – and lots of butter)


Plum Butter

3 ripe plums, cut into wedges

3 Tbs. sugar, more to taste

1 Tbs. lemon juice


Put ingredients into a sauce pan and heat on low until juices start to collect at the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently to make sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Turn up heat to medium high and let boil about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Puree in a food processor or blender, taking great care with the very hot liquid – will burn you!

After pureed, return the mixture to the pan, and continue to cook it over medium heat until it is as thick as jam.

Slather on your grilled cheese just before you “grill” it – and, YUM! Seriously, sounds weird but it will knock your socks off.

Okay, now go run.




I’ve Been Tagged!

by Carilyn on September 12, 2014

My friend over at ReadEatWriteRun tagged me last week – love it! I’m supposed to provide 10 random facts that y’all may not know. But since we all know I’m a big blabber mouth, it is doubtful that I’ve kept anything interesting to myself. So, sorry for the repeats and/or lameness that is forthcoming (I thought about just making cool stuff up – “I used to be a gangsta” and “I’ve always wanted a tattoo on my neck” but I knew you would see right through it.):

1. My name is spelled with an “i” because my mother’s name is Marilyn. She thought it was cute. For the first 24 years of my life, I did not – no toothbrushes or backpacks with my name spelled correctly to be found. Then I married someone with the last name of “Johnson” and I was very happy to have an odd first name. There are a lot of Carolyn Johnsons in the world.

2. If I wasn’t a lawyer/writer/runner I would be a chef.

3. I speak three languages – English, Spanish and French. Spanish because I grew up speaking it – I live on the border, and French because I went to school in Montpellier, in the south of France.

4. My parents just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary! And my dad is still hitting holes in one on the golf course and my mom is still a firecracker and the center of our very large family.

5. I love school. Law school was one of the most interesting times of my life. I was one of the few people who didn’t want it to end.

6. When I quit running all the time, I will go back to swimming, my first love.

7. My sister, Linda, is my best friend.

8. Coffee makes me sleepy. I’ve heard that this means I’m ADHD. If that’s true, it never affected me in school, thankfully. But I’m definitely “On” of “Off” – moving or sitting, running or working – not much in between.

9. I’m allergic to shrimp, which has caused me some embarrassment at dinner parties. It is very difficult to turn down a dish without appearing rude – and shrimp is very popular.

10. Diet Coke gives me really bad headaches.


Now, TAG! You’re it!












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Sunny Days and Tuesdays Always Get Me…

August 19, 2014

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My Once in a Lifetime

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Work. Trust. Let Go.

June 16, 2014

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If You Do Nothing Else, Finish

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I guess I should have known I would end up being a loopy runner from the beginning.  You know how, years later, you are able to look back at something and say, “Ah.  Yes.”  Well, that’s how it is for me now with my first 50 miler.  I should have known there would be many […]

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