Friday, September 10, 2010

What dreams may come

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced banana
Workout: Ran5.68 miles in 49 minutes, 10 seconds; average pace, 8:39.

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. in a sweat - and it wasn't just because the heavy duvet was smothering me. It was a cold sweat, the kind that jolts you into consciousness. A sweat caused by the deepest of fears, the fears that only surface in slumber.

I dreamed I was a DNF at Fort-4-Fitness.

In this dream, I struggled to get to the starting line on time and found myself in the last wave. I couldn't keep pace and with each step I found myself further and further away from my goal: a sub-2:00 half-marathon. So I quit. I just walked off the course. As others had successful runs, I found myself scrambling to find another half at which to make my goal.

I told Mark about my dream as he got ready for work and I got ready for my run.

"Yeah. Right. Like you would DNF," he said. "Ain't gonna happen."

I know that Mark has had a front seat to my growth as a runner over the past year and has the utmost confidence that I'll succeed. Yet I couldn't help but fret wonder about the pressure I ... we ... put on ourselves when it comes to these races. It's as if the accomplishment of finishing 13.1 miles isn't enough. We won't feel good about the race unless we accomplish something ON TOP of the 13.1 miles. We have to run the whole thing, finish sub-2:00, beat so-and-so at work (I'm talking to you, Mark).

It almost takes the fun out of running. And running ... it's supposed to be fun.

I did my best to keep that in my mind - running = fun - when I set out on my morning 5-miler. I took a route that I haven't traveled in a while and I just kind of ran. I went out a little too fast and sort of stayed there but I eased up as necessary and took an extra breath at a stop light.

Of course, that breath was taken away when Denali almost got hit by a car. Or could have almost been hit by a car. We were running north, and a school bus was stopped at a cross street. As I ran in front of the bus, Denali got scared and moved behind me, then to my right and straight into southbound traffic. Eek! I about had a heart attack, tripped and cried - all at the same time. Thankfully, the drivers were alert and all was well.

How do you keep your runs fun?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Three Things Thursday

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast drizzled with honey
Workout: 20 minutes upper body with weights, 10 minutes lower body and 2.2-mile walk with dog

1. Mark has been helping out with the cross country team at the middle school where he teaches. He mostly just runs with the kids, keeping an eye out on behalf of the coaches and doing his best to encourage the students. But there's only so much he can do. Last night, he was telling me that some of the kids were running in socks or bare feet because they didn't have shoes to run in. Mark asked me if I would have an old pair to give - knowing I probably did with our weekend purchase. Part of me hesitated. My shoes ... well, they are my memories. I logged miles on them, overcame obstacles, met goals I was too scared to set for myself. How could I just give them away? It makes me sad, though, and I'm now on a mission to find a way to help Mark get the kids the shoes they need and hold on tight to my memories.

2. It seems like in a day it went from summer to fall. The leaves are starting to carpet the grass, acorns crunch beneath my feet. Squirrels scurry about in an effort to prepare for winter. Denali and I saw so many squirrels this morning that he could barely control himself. Seriously. If he wasn't on a training collar, he would have spent the morning trying to get any taste of squirrel he could.

3. While I was walking with the dog, my breath hanging in the air, I couldn't help but want something warm to wrap around me, envelop me. The breakfast I had planned - a bowl of Kashi Island Vanilla with banana - no longer seemed appetizing. A bowl of oatmeal with a banana - now that's another story. I tried to recall a recipe for oatmeal custard that I had read about back in the day on a WW message board. I warmed/scalded a cup of milk and slowly tempered 1/4 cup egg substitute to make a custard. I then added a 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 cup oats. Once it was sort of together, I put it in a loaf pan and topped it with sliced banana. I put it all under the broiler to get a "brulee" effect. While I might have gotten the effect, I didn't get the taste. It seems, with the help of Google, that I should have done something a little like this:

Oatmeal Custard
- Adapted from "What's For Breakfast"

2-3/4 cup water
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cup egg substitute, thawed
2 tablespoons Truvia
1-1/3 cups skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Vegetable cooking spray
2 bananas, sliced on a diagonal
1 tablespoon Splenda brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water in covered saucepan. Stir in oats. Return to a boil, reduce heat and continue to boil. Cook uncovered for about one minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

In large bowl, mix next five ingredients. Add cooked oatmeal and cinnamon to egg mixture and mix well. Pour into 8-inch square pan, coated with vegetable cooking spray. Place in larger pan of hot water. Bake for 30 minutes. Gently pull out rack and place sliced bananas on top of oats. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until set.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strawberry-chocolate love

I can't eat right after a run. Call me weird but I can't. It doesn't matter if I ran 3 miles or 13, my body needs a bit of time to readjust before it can crave food. Not so good if you want to go to work and eat your lunch at noon and not 10:30 a.m.

Usually, I'll try to eat something even if I don't want it but this morning I had an idea. I'd take my breakfast (greek yogurt with barley and strawberries mixed in) to work and I'd have a bit of a smoothie to drink while blogging/making my lunch.

I didn't have an frozen fruit so I improvised:

1 container Fiber One strawberry yogurt (which has been in the freezer for, umm, a while)
1 packet Diet Swiss Miss
1 cup almond milk

Put it all in the blender and let it go till the yogurt is creamy and not a frozen blog. It wasn't super thick but it sure was tasty. And oh so cute in my favorite mug.

"Life is short ... buy more shoes." Ain't that the truth, sista!

Giveaway winner

And the winner of the $35 CSN gift card is ...My gal over at My Story ... Chapter 2. If you could kindly send your e-mail to hlthystrides at gmail dot com, I'll get you hooked up.

Run with determination

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat bread with reduced fat Jiff, half a banana and a Diet Coke
Workout: Ran 7.71 miles in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 20 seconds; average pace, 8:43.

"I ran and ran every day, and I acquired a sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never, give up, no matter what else happened."
- Wilma Rudolph, U.S. track star

I have said it before and I'll say it again: Mile repeats scare me shitless. The intensity, the possibility of failure, the feeling of death as that last repeat comes to end ... it's not fun. But the Runner's World plan called for 4x1 mile repeats at a pace of 8:15, and I was going to do my best to get it done.

My goal for this workout, besides getting it done, was to run the repeats in negative splits - ideally at 8:15, 8:10, 8:05 and 8:00. The first one started out slow. Very slow. In the first third of a mile, the average pace barely crept above 8:30.

"Not going to work," I thought to myself. "You need to kick it up."

Repeat No. 1: 8:03. Although I was glad to see my pace increase, I was a bit unnerved. I had really wanted to negative split and an 8:03 on the first repeat was going to make that difficult. I made a decision in that first recovery jog that I would do my best to negative split the second repeat and go from there.

Repeat No. 2: 7:58. Negative split ... Great! Half-way finished ... GREAT! This repeat went a bit better but still not easy.

Repeat No. 3: 7:56. Negative split ... again ... but barely. I didn't feel like I wanted to die at the end, like I did at the end of my third repeat that last time. That's good at least.

Repeat No. 4: I decided to go all out and, well, go home. I knew it was going to be difficult to do three miles under 8, and I tried to give myself a buffer in the beginning. I lost a bit of time, as I expected, from .5 to .75 but just threw myself into it at the end. "I could always walk home," I thought.

7:42 - Booyah!

This workout wasn't easy ... at all. And it's probably my last really tough run before Fort-4-Fitness. However, it was a clear example of where a little determination can take you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Labor Day's labor

A little catch-up from Monday ...

Pre-workout fuel
: Slice of whole-wheat toast with banana
Workout: 30 minutes yoga and 2.25-ish mile walk with dog in the a.m. Upper body strength in the p.m. (while catching up with "Dexter").

I had my coffee, my peanut butter toast and a couple blogs to read. The clock - it read 7:05 a.m. Normally, I'd be rushing around, frazzled that I had yet to start my workout. Oh, but this day was Labor Day and all I had on the schedule was a 1 p.m. lunch with a gal pal.

Sip away, Kim. Sip away.

Once I finally got motivated to start my day, I found myself also motivated to try a new yoga workout on OnDemand. Or what I thought was a new workout on OnDemand.

"Body Slim" is "an active series of yoga postures that flow together to build long, lean muscles; improves your flexibility; and makes you drip with sweat."

Tell me about it. The workout started off with core (ugh) and went through a cardio sequence then a slow burn sequence. Once the second cardio sequence began, I became keenly aware that I had done this workout before ... and quit.

Reason No. 1:

Reason No. 2:

As much as I'd like to practice yoga, I am more of a do-er. And I only do yoga when my head allows me to believe that I can do the given poses. My head usually doesn't like me to think that I can do downward dog splits and then bring my knee to my chest ... my knee to my tricep ... my knee to, well, just about anywhere.

That brain - it's so funny. It tells you that you can't do something but if you are motivated enough (or don't want to embarrass yourself in front of your husband, who is eating frozen waffles on the couch), you can do things thought impossible.

Like the downward dog split.

I won't say that it was easy. It wasn't - at least for me. And I definitely struggled through the third and fourth salutations, which featured the poses. But I allowed myself to do it, and I'm thankful for that. Maybe I'll even try it again next week. Maybe.

How do you keep your mind from defeating you?

Monday, September 6, 2010

End of summer salad

Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans, mac and cheese ... ahh, the joys of a barbecue to celebrate a 3-day weekend the fruits of our labor.

If you're like me, though, there's always a bit of anxiety when it comes to going to those celebrations. A lot of people don't eat healthy on a daily basis much less eat healthy on a holiday. It's usually an excuse to eat bigger portions of foods with bigger calorie and fat contents.

And, in the past, I was no different. I'd make two or three desserts with ridiculous amounts of white sugar and white flour. This year? Not so much. In fact, my mother-in-law asked me to bring the SALAD to last night's get together.

I was incredibly tempted to buy lettuce in a bag but, alas, I was inspired by a recipe for Summer Barley Salad over at The Kitchn. Before you wrinkle your nose, let me tell you one thing: This salad was fan-friggin-tastic. Even the people who don't care about eating healthy loved it. And the cherry on this Sunday was that it was really easy to make.

Summer Barley Salad
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 cup uncooked barley
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1.5 cups corn (I used frozen)
Handful basil leaves, chopped
Handful parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil 3 cups water. Add barley; cover and reduce heat to low. I let it cook for about 35 minutes when I turned off the heat and let it do the last of the cooking. Let the barley cool and add it to a big bowl. Add the chopped vegetables and herbs. Whisk together vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss together. Cover and refrigerate.

I made this using half the dressing that the original recipe called for, and I am glad I did. The salad was "wet" but not drenched, and the flavor wasn't overpowering. In the future (or for leftovers), I might add extra veggies and maybe even some feta cheese. I am sure you can use whatever veggies you could pick up at a farmers market or if you have a CSA share.

And, in case you were wondering, I did make dessert. A delicious and decadent coconut cream pie ... that just happened to have less than 150 calories a slice. Add that one to your recipe box, too. You'll thank me ... or Hungry Girl.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Brave new world

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast with reduced-fat Jiff
Mid-workout fuel: Triberry Gu at mile 4 and Mint Chocolate Gu at mile 8
Workout: Ran 11.39 miles in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 29 seconds; average pace, 8:49.

I turned over this morning and looked at the clock.

7:10. Ugh. It seemed so late and yet I just wanted to lie in bed and doze for another hour.

"What time do you want to get up?" Mark asked. I stared. "Let's just be brave and do it."

Brave? Me? But his word choice did seem appropriate. I think there is an act of bravery when it comes to running. Stepping outside to put one foot in front of the other, without knowing what lies in the miles ahead ... yeah, that's brave.

Mark and I set out for our 11 miles on a familiar route, first taking the pathway around the campus and down through the park. It should have felt great - the temperature was hovering around 50 - but I had a terrible cramp/stitch on my right side. I did my best not to lose focus or pace as I didn't want to get off to a bad start on an 11-miler. I concentrated my breathing and applied pressure with the hope that the pain would cease.

By the time we got to the park/greenway, the pain was gone. The pace felt pretty moderate and we didn't slow down any as I took my first Gu. (I opted for a Tri-berry out of my prize as I had tried it before and knew it didn't upset my stomach.) In fact, we didn't stop at all until about mile 7ish when we needed to make a bathroom stop and were trying to locate one.

The bathroom stop was made just after mile 8, which is where I took the Mint Chocolate Gu. Holy mother of all that is good! The word amazing doesn't even do it justice. It was like a York Peppermint Patty had just exploded in my mouth. And, thankfully, it caused no ill side effects, which I had been worried about and was the reason I saved it for later.

After the pit stop, it took me a bit to work out some stiffness and from there it was game on. Mark either wanted to pick up the pace or just be done as he was a good 10 feet ahead of me for the last couple miles. In the past, I would have screamed something to the effect of: "If you want to run with me, then RUN WITH ME." But I didn't. I ran what I could and he did, on occasion, fall back.

Those last miles were the fastest and mile 11 clocked in at 8:30. Mark wanted to stop at that point. The 11 miles were done, and we could walk the rest of the way home. But I didn't want to walk and so to make up for his fast pace, I made him run farther.

Wasn't that nice of me?