Sunday, October 28, 2012

Enjoying a 5K is not Impossible

For those of you know me personally, you know that I despise running a 5K.  I am built for endurance, not for speed.  Amongst my fellow runners, I am the proverbial Clydesdale, plodding along for miles, so the 5K is not my preferred distance.  I mean, what's the point of a race that you finish just when you are properly getting warmed up and finding your groove?
I do love to go to running events with a group of people, though.  And, I really do believe in the power of a race to build community and/or raise money for a meaningful cause.  So, when I got an invite to join my cousin at the Undy 5000, I immediately registered the hubs and me for this 5K.  The Undy 5000 is a race series sponsored by the Colon Cancer Alliance to raise funds and awareness for colon cancer.  My cousin is a survivor and I was more than thrilled to celebrate him and do a 5K in his honor.
Yesterday, with my hometown dipping down to a chilly, breezy 38 degrees, we bundled up and headed out.  Here we are huddled up before the race.  The race environment is intended to be a fun-filled race with a wink because you are encouraged to wear underwear on the outside.  We weren't quite that committed, but we did see some crazy costumes.  One lady who wore a thong - and nothing else covering her backside.  The guy who came in first ran only in a pair of whitey-tighties.  Brrr!

I have been bonding with my treadmill as I discussed in my last post, so I haven't run outside since June.  That meant my race strategy was to walk with the hubs and enjoy the scenery.  He's not a runner, but loves a good walk.  Since every single time that I have attempted this race strategy, I have ditched my husband, he wisely brought his own headphones because he predicted he wouldn't have company.

He was right. (shh! Don't tell him I said that)  I used the excuse that I wanted to warm up by running and took off.  Two miles later, I was still running. Three-point-one miles later, and I was still running.  Not only was I still running, I was feeling great!  I was having fun and vibing on the energy of the race participants.  I crossed the finish line and was greeted with this image on my watch.

Nope, that's not a PR.  Not even close.  But that is a guarantee that I am still a runner.  In this period of my life when so many things feel like they are not guaranteed, I will take that 5K and run with it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Treadmill As a Way of Life

Whew!  It's been a while.  In that while, a lot and very little has happened.  Let's start with where I left off on my last post.  I was a week out from The Hottest Half.  I didn't get a DNF because I didn't even start.  Blech.

A few days before that race, I looked at the DH and asked, "If I don't finish this half marathon challenge, does that make me a loser?"  He answered honestly and told me that if it were under any other circumstances, then yes, I'd be a loser, but that for now, I'm not.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief and let go.

I let go of all of the expectations that I put on myself; the ones that are illogical or beyond the norm. Let's not get crazy, folks.  I was still showering every day and getting myself to work and I even cooked a meal every now and then.  I just quit punishing myself for missing boot camp or a run or for leaving clean clothes on the couch three days after laundry day.  I quit worrying about eating a cookie or too many carbs and I had too many glassy-eyed nights out to dinner.

Then, I realized that I might have let go of some expectations that make me feel like me.  And, I was packing on some pounds and that made me really feel like someone I didn't want to be.  The problem was that I just couldn't get my butt out the door.  I was crushed with anxiety that I wouldn't be able to finish a run; that I'd be stranded out there in the early dark of the morning feeling like I couldn't go on.

I'm someone who (thinks I) thrives on stress.  I over-pack my life with commitments and goals.  I find it thrilling to see an event ahead on my horizon.  It's a part of me that helped me write a dissertation and to become a runner.  But I'm here to tell you, friends, that the personal stress that has come from my mother being treated for leukemia with these crazy long hospital stays, has/is/may crush me.

Somehow, I had to get out from under that weight.

I stepped on the treadmill.  I convinced myself that I only had to stay there for 30 minutes and that I could walk, run, or crawl, but I had to stay on that thing for 30 minutes.  Turns out that all I needed was an exit strategy, but I didn't actually need to exit.

September was about remembering how to run.  It was a great relief and joy the day I once again ran for 30 minutes without stopping.  Then, in October, the DH and I began a challenge to work out every day and to not eat pizza.  It's been a little rocky for me, but I'm doing better.  This morning I ran for 45 minutes and was happy.

The treadmill has been a metaphor for my life in many ways recently.  There are days that I just have to put one foot in front of the other.  Just keep staring forward.  Just keep moving.  Just keep going.  Just hope that tomorrow it will all be fun again.

If I were a triathlete, this is the part where I would say, "Just keep swimming."  But, I'm a runner, so I'll just keep running.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Looking Back and Running Forward

I haven't written a blog since June and that's with fairly good reason.  July brought a double whammy that left me staggering, even though I was still running.  My Grandaddy entered hospice care on Saturday, July 7th and peacefully passed away a few short days later on July 10th.  He was possibly the person who has been the most proud of me for my entire life.  He found himself a single man unexpectedly shortly before I was born, so in the first years of my life he filled his spare moments with me, his first grandchild.  In his words, "We were buddies."  Deservedly or not, Grandaddy beamed with pride with every one of my accomplishments, great or small.  Every person should have someone who is so unabashedly on their side.

Grandaddy was a runner and often talked about how he would rather run than walk throughout his teenage years.  He held the mile record in our hometown's high school until his own son broke that record.  So on the day he passed away and the days that led up, I ran to honor him and to remember this wonderful man who had given so much to me.

In the kind of oddness that is life, my mother was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia on the same day her father, Grandaddy, passed away.  It was the kind of day that can break you.

But it didn't.  And it won't. 

I continue to find strength in prayer, from my DH, from dear friends, and from running.  I have run through tears in July and run with such a heavy heart that I have broken down in tears mid-run.  But now, it is August.  It's a new month and I have a race next week.  I'll be at The Hottest Half to continue pursuing my goal of 12 half marathons in 2012.  I am afraid of my first DNF because it just keeps getting hotter here in Texas and I'm woefully under-trained due to some of my woe in July.

What's my race plan?  First, hydrate (and that should probably be what I do second, just to be safe).  The rest of my plan is to make my body do what my mother's cannot while she is hospitalized to receive chemo and to think about how proud Grandaddy would be to see me try.   

Friday, June 22, 2012

How can running be unhealthy?

Many years ago before I considered myself a runner, someone told me that running was an unhealthy activity because people who chose to run were, at least symbolically, running away from their problems.  This statement has stuck with me over the years as I have evolved as a runner and as a person.  Even Runner's World has considered this question with a recent article on how much exercise is unhealthy. 

I started running a little over five years ago in July of 2007.  In the months preceding my not-so-auspicious beginning, one of the dearest people in my life had passed away, I defended my dissertation, got a new job, moved into my first house, changed my relationship status (for the better), and had surgery for the first time.  Although there were a lot of positive changes in my life, so much crammed in to such a short period of time was incredibly stressful and I had consumed a lot of oreos along the way.  Blessedly, I had moved close to an experienced runner who was getting back in the game.  On that first day I don't even think it I made it a mile before I was tomato-faced and clutching my side, gasping for air.  Since then, I've taken some very small breaks from running, but never really quit being a runner.

Over the years, there have been times that running has been an unhealthy thing for me.  It's been unhealthy when I used a three-mile run as an excuse to eat whatever junk food in whatever amount I wanted.  It's been unhealthy when I have let comparison steal my joy by watching leaner, faster runners and wondering why I cannot or do not do the same. 

And, yes, I have also used running to "run away".  I run away from the middle schooler that I was who was ridiculed by a track coach.  I run away from my own limiting concept of myself as someone who is not an athlete.  I run away from the part of me that is shy and finds it a challenge to be in new social situations.  I run away from weakness.  I run away from letting fear keep me from trying something new.

In really analyzing just how unhealthy running is for me, I fall on the side that running has made me healthier in mind, body, and spirit.  I run toward a better version of myself.  I eat to fuel my body for a good run.  I run in the summer to absorb the golden nature of Texas heat and run in the winter to feel the cold in my lungs.  I run with friends, old and new, and rejoice in their fellowship.  I run alone to heal and think.  I run slower than some and faster than others, but I run, and, despite the naysayers, I will continue to run.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The First Day of Marathon Training: Back to School

My new year's resolution was to run 12 half marathons in 2012.  Here in the middle of June, I've logged 5 halfs on the way to that goal.  On June 10th, I completed the Wounded Warrior Half Marathon in Las Colinas, Texas.  The race started at 7:00 am and it was already 78 degrees and my weather app was registering a whopping 80% humidity.  Here's what went right with that race: I finished and I had the opportunity to contribute my racing dollar to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to support those injured in post 9/11 combat.

There was a lot more that went wrong with that race.  I hadn't done a long run since my last half marathon at the beginning of May.  We recently got a treadmill and I've been enjoying my miles indoors in front of the TV.  It was humid and hot and I was not acclimated for the time outdoors.  All of that resulted in my slowest half marathon time EVER.  How did I let that happen?  And, what can I do about it?

I let it happen by not training properly.  Since we moved away from my get-your-butt-out-the-door running buddy, I am more than reluctant to go for long runs alone.  So what does any logical, clear-thinking person do immediately following an epic fail half marathon?

Yep, that's right.  Sign up for marathon training.

So this morning, I put on my sassy new kicks and went to my first training run fueled with a lovely petit filet from last night's dinner at Artin's Grill, oh yeah, and maybe a glass of cabernet or two. 

Starting with a new training group is a lot like the first day of school.  Is anyone going to talk to me?  What if everyone else knows everything already?  What if I'm not allowed to use the bathroom?  Very quickly, those concerns disappeared and we were off for a warm-up, drills, and a 3-mile evaluation run. 

This is not my first time to train with this organization, but I have never completed a season with them.  I usually get bogged down with my own agenda of how the training should be going.  For example, those drills before running wear me out. Seriously drive me nuts.

I've decided that this year, I'm going to heed the plan of those who run stronger and know better.  I'm going to put only one thing on my agenda - run the plan.  We'll see what happens.  I can guarantee there will be a lot more running, a lot more eating, and a lot more in between in the coming months as I chase the elusive marathon medal once again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frittata Bolatta Mi My Mo Motta - Fritatta!

While I was stalking another blog, I noticed that I have a new follower. This has inspired me to get back to the blogging after a hiatus in which I made several batches of cookies and had a dinner party at which I attempted to regale my guests with full-fat versions of incredible food. I didn't have to scrape any leftovers into the garbage, so let's call it a success.

I know you are really here in the blogosphere because you heart the incredible, edible egg, so let's get going with the frittata. For the uninitiated, as I was very recently, a frittata is like a quiche without the pie crust. You can fill it with just about any (healthy - I hope) veggie that you want. You will need a pan that can go from the stove top to the broiler so it needs to be capable of withstanding some heat.
While you prep your veggies, turn the broiler on low and let it preheat. Meanwhile, whisk six eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, and 1/4 lb. of cooked and roughly chopped bacon together in a medium bowl. That's the tasty surprise in our frittata - bacon! The Cook Yourself Thin ladies suggest 1/4 cup of Romano cheese, but I didn't use any because of the DH. I can honestly say I didn't miss the cheese this one time. I say skip the cheese and add another piece of bacon - mmmm!
Heat a medium non-stick skillet (the one that can go in the oven in a few minutes) on the stove top and you are going to progressively add the ingredients. If you are improvising, keep in mind that the higher the water content of your vegetable, the later you will want to add it in the mix. Here's what we like in our frittata. Put them in the skillet in groups then saute for about 3-4 minutes before you add the next group.
3-4 garlic cloves (no vampires come over for brunch)
1/4 c. of white onion
1/2 c. of asparagus
1 large zucchini, sliced in half moons.
1 bell pepper (I prefer green)
Oooh... wouldn't a jalapeno be fun here?
1/2 c. mushrooms sliced thinly (I just use what the grocery store has pre-sliced)
1/4 c. tomato (okay, I don't really use tomato because of the DH, but it would go here)
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
If you, like me, do not have an herb garden, then feel free to substitute dried herbs - just change the amount to about a teaspoon. Watch out for that thyme, though. It can easily overpower the other flavors. Of course, you also need the requisite fresh ground black pepper.
After your saute action has yielded a nice mix of slightly firm and bright vegetables, pour the egg mixture over the veggies. You'll want to give it one quick stir and then let it set by leaving it on the stove top with the heat still on until the egg starts to firm up. It will look something like this:

Slip your pan under the broiler for about 12-15 minutes. It will be nicely browned around the edges and you'll be able to see that the texture is firm when the eggs have cooked. This recipe yields about 6 portions at 209 calories each. Fabulous, right? The protein content will help keep you satisfied, too. We have had this for brunch, lunch, and dinner - just not all on the same day.

See you next time for Green Chile Chicken Casserole! Giddy up, vaqueros!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burger and Fries, But Light

Eating these sweet potato fries makes me feel self-righteous as in, "Ha! Take that, you naturally thin people! I can eat fries, too!" These "fries" are baked, of course, but they taste so good that I don't really care how they were made.

One large sweet potato is more than enough for two people. Give it a good scrub and chop it into fairly thin slices. Toss the potato slices in 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder (or garlic salt if you prefer), and 1/4 tsp of salt. The recipe from our Cook Yourself Thin ladies recommends 1/2 tsp of chili powder, but I double that to get them nicely coated.

Spread the fries on a baking sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Every ten minutes, take them out of the oven and toss them so they bake evenly. To add a little crisp, I put them under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes at the very end.

Voila! And, did I mention that these yum sticks are only 89 calories per serving? How fantastic is that? One sweet potato yields about two servings, by the way. Adjust the seasoning ratio if you add more potatoes.

I usually have the turkey burger patties ready to go and start them about the same time that I put the sweet potato fries in the oven. I cook the turkey burgers in a pan on the stovetop at a medium-low heat for a longer time so that they cook all the way through. Unlike a beef burger, pink in the middle is not desirable for poultry. In fact, I took a long break from this recipe because I made it once when the DH and I were dating and he bit into a raw-in-the-middle turkey burger and banned it from the repertoire for about a year. True story.

This recipe for Basil Turkey Burgers is from a Light and Luscious cookbook that I bought ten years ago for $3.95 from the clearance rack at the bookstore. It is light and luscious, indeed, at about 255 calories per burger (bun included!).

Combine 12 oz of ground turkey, 2 tbsp finely chopped onion, 1 tbsp dry bread crumbs, 1 tsbp snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Can you guess what I'm going to say here? I usually add more basil and some fresh cracked pepper to make it more flavorful. Then, form four burgers from the meat. To be quite honest, I usually use more than 12 oz of ground turkey because my preferred brand (Jennie-O) just doesn't come in a 12 oz package. It all works out pretty well, even with a little more turkey per burger.

Can you guess who gets the burger with the slice of cheese (and another 90 calories)? That's right, it's me! The DH gets the extra charred one. It isn't that I am a negligent cook, my husband likes things burned. He's a freak, but I love him, and I hope you love this delicious burger and fry combo. Remember that the real secret to enjoying a turkey burger is that knowing it will NOT taste like a regular hamburger. It is its own entity and must be appreciated as such.

Next up: Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata