Saturday, July 17, 2010

Off to market

Farmer Joe. That's what I've named the kind man in the overalls at the farmers market. He's tall and a bit round. A beard of sandy blond hair covers his face.

He is also warm and very enthusiastic. Enthusiastic about the food he's grown, how to prepare it and how it tastes.

My loot from "Farmer Joe."

Take the purple-skinned Caribe potatoes. I was looking at them, as well as the "new" potatoes, Yukon golds and heirloom varieties, and he began to tell me why they looked a little less pretty (too much rain this spring). He told me that they would make the best mashed potatoes. Ever.

I'd love to buy them, I told him, but I wasn't planning on mashed taters for the upcoming week. I wanted something for the grill. He then directed me to the heirlooms, boasting that they are native to the area and have been around since at least the 1890s. Some of the potatoes, which he dug up himself, were tinier than a toy ball you get out of a vending machine. I think they'll make an excellent hash for some eggs tomorrow morning.

I moved around the table and he showed me some squash. "This one really surprised me," he said, pointing to the two-tone vegetable. I asked about baby squashes, I'll call them, a variety I had seen on Food Network. He told me that one was a bit nutty, another more like zucchini. Yes, to those please.

He packed up my purchases and I made my way to find some tomatoes. But as I wandered the market, I wanted to go back. Farmer Joe was just so adorable and his passion was refreshing. I was in love.

To think, though, that a year ago I might not have ever met Farmer Joe. I wouldn't have cared about eating better; I wouldn't have considered how to be better to me. It's amazing the things, and people, you'll discover when you're willing to make that stride toward health.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Up to tempo

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast with Polaner High-Fiber Orange Marmalade and cinnamon roast coffee
Workout: Ran 5.18 miles in 46 minutes, 15 seconds; average pace, 8:55.

I felt like an idiot. There I was, on the sidewalk alongside a semi-busy road, with my hand down the back of my pants. Fumbling with the dang zipper of my Adidas shorts. All I wanted to do was put my ear buds in my hidden pocket so they wouldn't bounce silently on my chest. That's all. Instead, I'm sure passing motorists thought I was having gluteus maximus issues ... or worse, gastrointestinal ones.

Nope. Just trying to put away the ear buds because my iPod crapped out on me. I bring the dern thing for the first time in a month (or more), and it can't even make it 4 miles, much less 5.

"Why did I bring it in the first place?" I thought to myself, in probably cruder language. Oh, yeah. I brought it because I thought I'd try my hand at a tempo run with two weeks to go before the Rock and Roll Chicago half-marathon. Yeah, that's how I stride.

Anyway ... I decided it might be fun to (arbitrarily) follow a Runner's World plan designed to help someone train for a sub-2:00 half. The Week 1 workout called for a mile warm-up, 3 miles at 8:54 pace and a mile cool down.

Splits: 9:59, 8:50*, 8:44*, 8:21*, 8:50**

*I obviously can't follow directions. **Subsequently, I'm fairly certain that I have no idea what a cool down is.

I took Denali with me for the run but I opted to loop home and drop him off after 3 miles because he was starting to look fatigued. Sad showing for a husky, really. I'm sure he'd blame the heat, humidity and brutal sun. Or maybe he knew I'd give him a frozen bone to chew on while I was gone. He's pretty manipulative that way.

Can you see the deception in his eyes?

This weekend is my last long run of this half training cycle. It might be 12 miles. It might be more. We'll see how I feel and how early I wake up.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

3 Things Thursday: Simple pleasures

I can be a real grump sometimes. A lot of the times, it seems lately. It's so easy to stumble over the little things and let them upset us rather than take the time to let the little things make us happy.

Today, I'm going to let the little things make me happy.

1. Rest. I didn't run today. I didn't swim, either. Nor did I lift a weight, get in downward dog, hop on a bike. I woke up an hour later than normal, had a bowl of cereal and took Denali on a 2-mile walk. I have a hard time letting myself rest but I needed this one, and I am far happier for it.

What a (not-so) lovely shot. Getting ready for work, flat-ironing my hair
and drinking my icy blueberry lemonade.

2. Berry, berry good
. I usually take a refreshing beverage to work with me - whether it be a homemade smoothie, frap or a coffee-shop beverage. Today, it was an icy blueberry lemonade. I got the idea from a post on The Girl Who Ate Everything. I took 1 cup of blueberries, the juice of one lemon and three packets of Truvia and threw it all in the blender. (See, I remembered to tell you about the lemons!) After I had a good puree, I added a cup of water and ton of ice and let it go ... again. Delish. It wasn't overwhelmingly sweet, nor overwhelmingly lemon like lemonade usually is. Be warned, though, this recipe makes two servings. I enjoyed some as I got ready for work and had the rest on the drive to the office.

Don't you just love that polka dot ribbon?!

3. Flower power. There's an asiatic lily blossoming in my backyard. I've been meaning to cut it and take it to the office. I figured the beautiful aroma would subdue me if I had the urge to stumble over something small (or punch someone in the mouth). I thought of doing it this afternoon as I headed back to work after my lunch break but was in too much of a rush to go back into the house for a vase. No worries, though. I returned to my cubicle to find a pink, yellow and white arrangement sitting on my desk. "Just because" flowers from my husband. They don't have the strong scent of the lily but they are far more beautiful in looks and meaning. Made me happy all afternoon.

Do you take pleasure in the little things?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Say cheese!

According to my eating plan for the day, my breakfast was supposed to be French toast made with a cinnamon-raisin English muffin (Operation: COP) with a side of cheesy scrambled egg whites.

Instead, my breakfast was just the French toast.

Doesn't it look lovely? I am so glad no one can see how badly I need to clean the stove.

I just didn't feel like cracking the eggs ... and cooking the eggs ... and having syrup get all over my eggs. Gross, just gross. Sort of like the sugar-free syrup that I'm trying to use up before I crack open the organic maple syrup I bought at the farmers market this past weekend. Dern that Operation: Clean Out the Pantry.

While my breakfast was lovely, it was lacking something important, something I planned. PROTEIN. Protein is key, for me, to staying full and I knew the French toast and Diet Coke (don't judge - it was a bad morning) wasn't going to hold me till noon. I knew I had to run to the store for lemons before work so I figured I might pick up a container of Greek yogurt. (More on the lemons later ... like tomorrow.)

Once in the store, though, I was distracted by the posted weekly circular. As part of the 10 for $10 sale was sour cream and cottage cheese. I didn't want much to do with the sour cream but the cottage cheese ... well, I hadn't thought about cottage cheese in ages. Sad really. It's such a good source of protein, always on sale and very versatile. Never mind that it's DELICIOUS.

I had to pick some up, and I took a 1/2 cup serving to work as a nice mid-morning snack to replace my egg whites. I topped it with some red bell pepper rings and had myself a little protein-packed treat.

Do you have a favorite food that tends to slip your mind when you go to the grocery?

Yes, I'd like cheese with this whine

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast with Polaner High-Fiber Orange Marmalade and cinnamon roast coffee. (Are you sick of this combo yet because I am. I desperately need to finish all of it - even the coffee beans - so I can get something new and interesting.)
Workout: Ran 5.04 miles in 48 minutes, 19 seconds; average pace, 9:35. Made-up upper-body workout.

My run was a big, fat flop. I was tired. The dog was tired. I was hot. The dog was hot. My legs were still sore, I got a cramp and I wanted to go home and take a nap.

I could go on about how much this stunk but I hate being a whiner. At least when it comes to running. So I'll whine about some random sightings from this jaunt.
  • Waiting for a green light, a driver stared at Denali and me as we walked our warm-up. Maybe we were quite the sight but the driver ... well, he was a LARGE man, wearing no shirt and smoking a cigarette. Yeah, just stare at me as we walk. We're the spectacle.
  • As we made our way around the towpath, Denali and I found ourselves in the middle of a corporate-type walk or scavenger hunt or team building exercise. Everyone was really friendly as we crashed the party and showed lots of love for D-boy.
  • Still on the path, which winds through a college campus and behind an apartment complex, I was not a fan of the owner of the loose dog. Don't let a dog out unattended and untethered if it will leave its appropriate area. The boxer followed us and whimpered as he smelled Denali's butt.
  • There were quite the unpersonable construction workers on the trail. I noted that I was going to squeeze behind them to continue on, only to be stopped a mere few feet later at a blockade. They looked at me with such distaste as I made my way behind them again but never said anything. I wouldn't have annoyed you if you had simply noted that the trail was closed.
After plodding my way through the 5 miles (as opposed to the 7 I had planned to do), I grabbed my weights and did a short workout while I watched last night's "The City." As Olivia rocked out Tokyo, I rocked out my arms. I did three sets of 12 reps of the following: bent-over row, tricep kickback, shoulder press, hammer curl, alternating lateral raise, tricep extension, chest fly, chest press and wide-grip bicep curl. For the first two sets, I used 5-pound weights and then upped the ante with 10-pounders for the last set.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pain in the ... everywhere

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast with Polaner High-Fiber Orange Marmalade and cinnamon roast coffee
Workout: Ran 5.9 miles in 55 minutes, 47 seconds; average pace, 9:27.

Legs ... so ... SORE. So sore that I could feel the pain in my inner thighs before I even got out of bed. So sore that I felt my quads with ever foot strike during my run.

Not so sore, though, that I couldn't sit down properly on the toilet. I will admit, though, that I wondered whether I could tether myself to Denali and have him pull me off the seat when I was finished.

I sort of felt like Jillian Michaels did this to me for 30 minutes:

Of course, she didn't. I'd be a bit scared if she got all "Lord of the Rings"/Gollum on me in my house. Anyway, I didn't even complete the "No More Trouble Zones" yesterday - I just did 30 minutes. And still, I my legs are on FIRE.

I had planned on doing the workout again tomorrow but I'm thinking I might hang out with Cindy Whitmarsh and her "Tank Top Arms" and Tony Horton and his Ab Ripper X. I'd like to walk the rest of the week, ya know.

Meatless Monday success

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and White Beans

After an epic fail last Monday - egg white omelet with turkey sausage and rotisserie chicken - I wanted to make sure I had a good meal planned for Meatless Monday. I could have gone with a simple pasta to use up some marinara in the fridge and pasta in the pantry. I also thought about trying my hand at Rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry that I tried the last time I hit the buffet line at Taj Mahal.

In the end, I met myself half-way, making something interesting and using items I, ummm, thought I had in the pantry - Ellie Krieger's Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and White Beans. (I ended up having to buy white beans last minute, half way through cooking the dish.)

It was incredibly easy to make and very tasty, way tastier than I imagined. I give credit to the fantastic, full-flavored tomatoes that I picked up at the farmers market on Saturday. Who cares if they came in at $3.39 a pound?

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes Garlic and White Beans
Adapted from Ellie Krieger

4 large tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini beans
1/2 pound Ronzoni Smart Taste penne pasta
1/4 cup or so vegetable stock
1/4 fresh basil leaves, torn
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Slice each tomato into 8 wedges and discard the seeds. (I did not discard the seeds because that's my favorite part.) Put the tomato wedges and garlic into a 9 by 13-inch roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and a few turns of pepper. Roast in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

Drain the beans into a large colander in the sink. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta into the colander containing the beans, so the hot pasta water will warm the beans. Return drained pasta and beans to the pasta pot.

When the tomatoes are done, pick out the garlic cloves, squeeze the garlic out of the skin into a small bowl and mash with a fork. Pour the roasted tomatoes into the pasta pot, add the garlic, vegetable broth and spinach. Cook over medium high heat until the spinach is hot and the stock reduces a bit. Add the basil and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve topped with the Parmesan.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Toast to success

Do you ever get a food stuck in your mind and you won't be satisfied till you have it?

Yeah, that's how I felt Sunday morning. After reading other bloggers eating French toast and my husband talking about it, all I wanted was a piece - or 10 - of French toast.

So after my run, I walked to the grocery and picked up some egg substitute and a Sunday paper and headed home to make a much-thought-about breakfast. I poured 1/2 cup egg substitute into a shallow bowl and added a healthy dash of cinnamon, a couple drops of vanilla and some Silk Almond Milk. I whisked it all together and got set to dip the wheat bread and get cooking.

That's when I had an idea. A genius idea born from Operation: Clean Out the Pantry. I took a handful of Fiber One cereal (that I've had far too long) and roughly chopped it in the coffee grinder. I dipped the bread in the egg, then the cereal and put it on the griddle.

French toast must be sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with syrup.

What was put on the plate was crunchy on the outside, a bit gooey on the inside and tasty all the way around.

The only thing I might have done differently is processed the cereal a bit less. Of course, I'll probably find this out later in the week as I need to redeem my Operation: COP efforts. You see, I picked up a box of cereal at the grocery that my friend promised tasted like candied pecans found at the festival. So instead of being down one box of cereal, I am up one ... or two ... however you decide to look at it.

Keeping your mojo

Pre-workout fuel: Healthy Valley Organic granola bar and cinnamon roast coffee
Workout: Ran 6.23 miles in 58 minutes, 45 seconds; average pace, 9:26.

Pre-workout fuel: 1/2 slice wheat toast pre-yoga, bowl of cereal post-yoga
Workout: 30 minutes yoga, 2-mile walk with dog, 30 minutes "No More Trouble Zones"

I was combing through my e-mail as I sipped my morning latte when a message/newsletter from Fitness Magazine caught my eye.

"Never Miss a Workout Again," the subject line said. While I am pretty good at guilting myself into a workout if I feel like I want to skip it, I am always looking for ways to keep myself motivated. Maintain the mojo. The article advised readers of seven habits of effective exercisers:
  • Don't put away your gear.
  • Turn your commute into a workout.
  • Invest in more workout clothes.
  • Log your workouts online.
  • Involve your causes.
  • Make friends with class regulars.
  • Create an exercise contest.
Thanks, Fitness Magazine. I never thought about having my everything set out for the gym before. Where was my head?

Maybe that's a little snarky but I didn't find the tips all that helpful. I'm not going to run home from work - it's a bit dangerous in dress shoes. I can only buy workout clothes as the budget allows, and I workout at home - not the gym. No class buddies for me. I will say that I have thought about running a marathon to raise cash for breast cancer research, and I do log runs on a personal spreadsheet that notes distance, time and pace.

For me, though, my biggest motivators are having a goal (i.e. race) to work toward and having a schedule, which I post on the refrigerator. I even put a sticker on each day of the schedule/calendar after a successful workout. It's totally nerdy but I love seeing a month full of stickers.

What do you do to stay motivated?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Runner, on parade

After running a crazy personal best 5K, what is a girl to do? Eat, of course.

But first, she has to walk in a parade.

(Check out Prints, our mascot. He looks a little sad hanging out on the float.
Maybe he should have ran that morning.)

My friend and I have a tradition when it comes to FWN 3RF. We walk alongside the company float and pass out whatever item the company bought too little of. (This year, it was can coozies.) We then head over to Art in the Park, check out the Chalk Walk and hit Food Alley.

Or should I say Junk Food Alley.

While the festival has loads of charm and tons of fun events, like a bed race down Main Street, the one thing everyone looks forward to is Junk Food Alley. Fried cheese, gyros, steak tips with sauteed mushrooms, lemon shake-ups, funnel cakes. Well, you get the picture. In years past, I have eaten fried cheese, steak tips, at least part of a gyro and maybe a dessert. In one day.

This year, though, I knew it wasn't going to happen. Not only did I not want to avoid calorie binging, I was afraid that too much greasy stuff would kill my tummy as I don't eat that much fried food. I knew I wanted at least a piece of fried cheese and a Sati Babi - Filipino-style marinated pork on a stick. Anything else would be a bonus and in limited portions.

The Sati Babi booth is at the entrance to Food Alley so my friend and I headed there first. He got two sticks, and I got one. I made sure to eat mine slowly as to savor every bite and not feel like I had less food than him. It was tasty. Uber tasty. We then headed to the fried cheese booth. There are five or six sticks per order so I asked to share an order with my pal. Once again, I took my time eating my two pieces of fried, cheesy goodness. Next up, my friend wanted steak tips. It's not an easy dish to split, and I didn't want a whole order to myself. So I opted for a piece of grilled corn - no butter. He ate steak, I nibbled on corn and we were both happy.

The only thing that would have made it better was stopping by the roasted almonds/nuts booth. These are my FAVORITE. However, I had had plenty to eat and the nuts are at every summer festival. I wanted to eat the items that I look forward to each year ... and I did. And, surprisingly, by eating them in limited quantities, I enjoyed each bite 10 times more than in years past.

How do you balance eating the foods you love and eating healthy?

Runners on Parade 5K recap

Pre-run fuel: About 3/4 of a slice of whole-wheat toast with Polaner Orange marmalade and cinnamon roast coffee before leaving house; Powerbar Harvest Toffee Chocolate Chip about 45 minutes before start.
Run: 3.16 miles in 25 minutes, 33 seconds; average pace, 8:04. Official chip time: 25:36 (gun start, chip finish accounts for Garmin difference).


I ran a 5K in 25:36.

It still hasn't sunk in. I'm not sure it will sink in ... at least for a while. The time was far beyond my imagination and much better than my A++ goal, which I only shared with my husband.

I went into the race hoping to go sub-27:00, which would mean about an 8:45 pace. I knew to do this that I would have to go out strong so that I could settle into a decent pace, push myself and relax, avoiding putting too much pressure on my self. I also knew that I'd have to position myself fairly close to the front as the race was a gun start - not chip - and there were about 1,000 runners and I wanted to avoid as much congestion as possible.

Obviously, I did that. Other things I did:

*I got to the race about 45 minutes early - early enough to score prime parking and do some butt kicks, walk around and loosen up the legs.
*I kept an eye on the Garmin but didn't focus on it. I only checked it to make sure I wasn't going too slow and to keep an eye on distance. I never looked at time.
*I consciously thought about my posture, making sure to relax my shoulders, and my form.
*I found a group of people to keep in my sights, then run next to and then pass.
*Totally chicked a 9-year-old boy. Yeah, that's how I stride.
*I knew that I had banked enough time to slow a bit and not freak out the third mile. By the way, it came in at 8:16.
*I knew the downtown course well enough that I knew when to kick it in.

Things I disliked:

*No honey buckets or available restrooms a the start and finish. I really wanted to grab a water pre-start but there were no available bathrooms, and I was already feeling the urge to go to the bathroom. I just told myself that I had to hang on for less than 30 minutes.
*Gun start and chip finish. It's just stupid.
*No apples, oranges or other sustenance at the end.
*The course was a weird loopty-loop out and back in which you saw runners ahead of you and behind you. It just plays tricks on you.

Still, Runners on Parade might be my favorite Fort Wayne race. OK, I've only run a few 5Ks in town but the race kicks off the city's prized festival, Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival. People line the course, which is along the parade route, and are always very encouraging as they await the floats and marching bands. There's just an energy to the race, and I definitely felt it.