Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sleep ... where are you?

I must be insane. Certifiably, undeniably insane. It's 7:12 a.m. on a Saturday, and I'm sitting at the dining table, checking e-mails and listening to Denali bark in Mark's face because the lazy bum is still in bed.

I wish I could say that I'm up to go exercise ... I' not ... but I am going to blame exercise. The mornings of getting up by 6:15 so I can get in my run and/or other fitness-related endeavors before I go to work at 10 - they have seriously messed with my sleeping schedule. I was awake at 5:10 a.m. to use the ladies room and up-up at 6:45. On a Saturday.

I tried to curtail the situation. I stayed up late (for me), watching "House Hunters" and putting away laundry. Mark and I even watched part of "se7en," which was sure to give me nightmares and keep me up till the wee hours of the morning and allowing me to sleep till, oh you know, 8. Nope. I quickly fell asleep, my head filled with dreams about driving from the backseat of a car and the car transforming from a Buick into a sporty red car. I had to wear a helmet for that ride and thank goodness I remembered how to drive a manual.

The wonders of the brain.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater!

It all started with the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream from Toft's Dairy in Sandusky. My obsession with pumpkin. The ice cream took me to Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks to pumpkin cheesecake to pumpkin donuts ... well, you get the picture.

These delicious, delicious things, though, were more than an occasional treat. I am fairly certain that I enjoyed Toft's ice cream more than once a week - as an ending to a fast-food dinner. When I recommitted myself to weight loss last year, I also committed myself to finding healthier alternatives to my favorite things.

Pumpkin fluff. Pumpkin lattes (or chai lattes) made with actual pumpkin - not sugar-laden syrups.

And this week, it was the pumpkin muffin. Or this week, the pumpkin muffin tried to be a healthier alternative.

I found a recipe on a diabetic recipe website, and I thought it might work well. Plus, it only made six muffins - just enough as Mark doesn't care for fall's glories.

To get started, gather your ingredients. You'll need:
  • 3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 4 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten (I used 1/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk
  • 2 tablespoons margarine melted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line six muffin tins with paper baking cups. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg, milk and margarine.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Add the pumpkin mixture and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling till almost full. I use a small ice cream scooper and count how many scoops per muffin so that I can ensure that each has about the same amount of calories.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Let the muffins cool. Do not try to taste them straight out of the oven ... just sayin'.

The verdict: These muffins taste good but taste healthy if you know what I mean. They are not overly sweet and feel a bit dense in the mouth. Next time, I'd use 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour. I'd also use real brown sugar or 6 tablespoons of Splenda.

What's your favorite healthy way to eat pumpkin?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three Things Thursday

Pre-workout fuel: Peanut butter bread
Workout: 30 minutes "Biggest Loser Boot Camp" and 2.2-mile walk with Denali

1. I was pretty proud of myself this morning. Not only did I put on pants to take out Denali did I drink a bottle of water before breakfast, I also took a bottle on my walk with Denali. The water on the walk was old hat when it was hot but I've been "forgetting" it lately and my H2O intake has suffered. Water really helps with recovery, flushing out toxins and general health, and I need to think about those things.

2. Especially when my inner thighs still ache from Tuesday's session with Jillian Michaels and "Shred It With Weights." I did the version on Comcast OnDemand, which may or may not have been cut to entice you to buy the DVD. With that said, I did like the workout but don't think it works if you use a weight instead of a kettlebell. I really felt it in my lower back yesterday, and I don't think that's where I was supposed to feel it.

3. Pain aside, I did the week 1/week 2 workout with "Biggest Loser Bootcamp." The DVD is an old favorite, and I was able to borrow it from the library. Lots of squats and lunges, which I apparently need to work on, and bursts of cardio. It's not as rigorous in terms of upper body like I'm used to so I might need to try it with a heavier weight (I used 5-pounders) to get the same effect.

3. Post script: I have some ideas for "what's next," which I'll share soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's next?

Pre-workout fuel: Peanut butter bread
Workout: Ran 4.27 miles in 37 minutes, 31 seconds; average pace, 8:47.

I woke up this morning, hobbled out of bed, and went to the bathroom - the thinking room if there ever was one.

While most of my thoughts were trying to sort out an odd dream that involved wild critters invading my house and Denali munching on a raccoon, I did devote a moment or two to deciding on a workout for the day. I could do yoga and walk the dog. I could run with the dog. I could get out the bike. I could ...

Ugh. For the first-time in more than a year, I don't have a schedule dictating runs, paces, cross training. And, to be honest, I find it a bit unsettling. I like knowing what to do and when to do it. It works for me.

So I'm on the hunt for my next challenge though I don't know what it is.

What I do know:
*I need a break from the half-marathon and will sit out the rest of this calendar year in terms of that distance.
*A full marathon, while seemingly more possible after my showing at F4F, isn't a goal. IF I were to do one, I'd want to start training now and run in January and the idea of running 20+ miles in the winter isn't appealing.
*I want to stay in 10K shape and plan to run the River City Rat Race next month.
*I have neglected other forms of exercise in the interest of keeping running a priority, mainly lower body strength training. I tried Jillian Michaels' "Shred It With Weights" yesterday, and I've since had the privilege of being reacquainted with my inner thigh muscles.
*I am becoming increasingly curious about a set of DVDs being released by Bob Harper. The clips sort of remind me of a less intimidating P90X.

Speaking of "The Biggest Loser" trainers, did anyone catch last night's episode? I would so like to get in on those workouts! And the numbers? Insane.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Standing at the edge of the Earth

Alert the troops. Put the National Guard on stand-by. Call for back-up.

I am teetering on the edge of binge cliff. I am not just walking close to it, indulging an innocent craving or two along the way. No. No, today I found myself wanting to put my hand into a 5-gallon bucket of Pretzel M&Ms, shoveling the tasty bits into my mouth until there were no more. And when I say shovel, I mean SHOVEL.

It all started this morning, about 11:15, when I had the urge to eat my lunch. I am not sure if it was actual hunger prompting my desire or the fact that I was freezing in the office and the thought of hot soup was as appealing as Curtis Stone making me dinner. I tried to gauge the feeling but ended up warming my soup and healthified Tuna Melt Pie at 11:30. On one condition: I couldn't eat my Triple Chocolate Chunk Vitatop until at least 12:30 p.m.

I ate it at 11:50 a.m.

At 12:30 p.m., when I was supposed to eat my Vitatop, I ate a fruit leather that I found in my emergency snack stash and a mini Twix someone left on my desk. Just because. Afraid that the mini Larabars and almonds would be next out of sure mania, I headed out for a break. An hour out of the office = no chance to eat. Plus, I needed a fall coat.

As I drove to Kohl's, my mind went from lattes to McDonald's ice cream cones to those dang Pretzel M&Ms. What. The. Heck. Was. Up?!? Thankfully, I was distracted by the racks filled with cute sweaters, tunics and other items that would look so cute hanging in my closet. I found a jacket and headed to checkout. I looked at my phone - I still had a good 20 minutes before I needed to go back to work. I could head to Walmart for some facial cleansing wipes.

Big mistake. Big. Huge.

Sure, I got my wipes but on my way to find them, I also found the candy aisle. White chocolate Reese Cups and Twix bars and Whoppers. Oh, and the devil in a candy coating: Pretzel M&Ms. I seriously thought about saying, "Eff it. I am going to go ballistic today and will worry about it all tomorrow."

I stood there for a minute, letting the idea weigh on me (literally) when I decided that it was not, in fact, something worth pursuing. I would need a fix, though, and I opted for Baskin Robbins sugar-free hard candy in Pralines 'n' Cream.

Each candy has 10 calories. Just 10. And one would certainly be enough, especially if I paired it with a zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater (Blackcherry Dragonfruit, if you were curious). Flavor on top of flavor ... without busting a gut.

Of course, my little solution had to come with a $1 off coupon for a Baskin Robbins cone. Thanks, Universe.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Caught on tape

Pre-workout fuel: Peanut butter and jelly
Workout: Ran 3.71 miles in 34 minutes, 1 second; average pace, 9:10.

In case you ever wanted to see me run ...

I'm within sight starting about 1:38 and "fly by" by 1:43 or so. I'm on the right side, wearing a white top and purple-ish shorts. You'll know it's me because I look off to the side and hold my arms really weird (as compared to other runners).


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fort-4-Fitness: The Recap

Warning: This is a long one, folks.

Fort-4-Fitness ... we know how the story ends. But let's talk a little bit about how I got there.

Despite having a hectic end to my workday Friday, I managed to sufficiently carb-load and lay out my stuff so I wouldn't have to scramble in the morning. Heck, I even pinned on my bib.

Too bad I put it on a little high, and the pins were dangerously close to some girl parts.

Denali agreed that I looked a little funny and told me to move down my bib. So I did.

I then made myself a delicious breakfast about 6:30, an hour and a half before the start. One mini bagel with peanut butter, sliced banana, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. That's decaf coffee you see there on the side.

At the health expo on Friday, the one hospital had free pace tattoos. Yeah, baby! I picked up a 2:00 pacer and got to work on my "ink."

After some major toodling around the house, which include my in-laws calling to see where we wanted to eat after the race, we left for downtown. It was a bit later than I wanted, maybe 7 a.m.

We managed to find free parking on the street about a half-mile away and proceeded to walk to the start. I had a bottle of water to sip on to ensure proper hydration and minimal bathroom needs. I did make one stop in the ladies room at Parkview Field before heading to my corral.

I had about 20 minutes to go when I got to "F" so I did some stretching, butt kicks and people watching. There were a couple athletes from the "community" college wearing singlets and short, tight shorts. Emphasis on short and tight. I saw another guy with some shorty shorts and an MMA shirt, who came over talk to a girl in my corral (also wearing an MMA shorts). I couldn't help but stare. Not just because he had the most massive quads ever but because I'm pretty sure I did some staring at him back in my irresponsible, "let's go to the bar" single gal days.

Then there was the best sight of all: A runner wearing black shorts, an ivory chemise/nighty, a garter at the knee and a veil fashioned from a second garter and the ugliest lace kitchen curtain ever. Oh, did I mention this runner was a guy? He also had applied some flamboyant makeup and brought a bouquet to carry. It was quite the look to say the least.

Before I knew it, the mayor was saying a prayer and the gun went off.

Miles 1-4:
Overall, I felt really strong during this stretch of the race that took runners down a single street through downtown, some south-side neighborhoods and then pretty close to the airport. The course gave runners ample room to move, and I didn't have to weave as much as I have in previous races.

I did have a slight scare after the first mile. My stomach began to cramp, and I started to wonder whether I was going to have to make a pit stop at the honey buckets that were positioned at every aid station (~1.5 miles apart). I talked myself out of stopping at the first one and I was 70 percent sure the problem was gone by the time I got to the second one.

The one thing I did have to stop for, about 3.5 miles in, was an untied shoe. On all my training runs, I inevitably had to stop to tie my shoes. I thought I had double-knotted them for the race. Apparently not. I didn't stop the Garmin, though, so I knew how much time I had to "makeup" for such a dumb thing.

My pace felt strong in this first stretch. I did my best to hold back and not waste my energy in those early miles. I was only racing me - no one else.

Splits: 8:49, 8:37, 8:39, 8:38

Miles 5-8:
The next part of the course wound through a scenic part near the Rivergreenway, part of the trail system itself and one of my favorite south-side neighborhoods.

It was right around the 4-mile marker/start of the fifth mile where one of the few bands on the course were set up. So many big races tout bands at every mile, cheer squads and thousands of spectators. This race had none of those things and, to be honest, I think I might have preferred it. I was able to focus, take in the scenery when desired and allow the sound of foot strikes to set a rhythm.

Of course, I did have some distractions. Namely, my drag bride, who was in sight for the greater part of this stretch. And let me tell you, he was having a good time. He soaked in all the comments and cheers, blowing kisses to the crowd. He invited everyone possible to his wedding. He promised that he'd keep hold of the bouquet to the end. The best part, though, was as we ran through a very nice neighborhood next to Foster Park. Two middle-aged guys cheered him on and as I ran past those same guys, I heard one say, "Thank God he's not my son." Classic.

As far as running went, I remember thinking, "Wow. I still feel really strong." I didn't really feel any signs of fatigue. Maybe a bit of hamstring tightness but that's it. It did help that I saw one of my work pals along the course and she cheered me on, gave me a high-five and told me I was "kicking butt." I decided to keep up the pace and work on banking time. I figured that if I did well enough in the first couple sections, I could blow the last 5K and still get my sub-2:00.

Splits: 8:35, 8:39, 8:34, 8:22.

Miles 9-12:
This is where the course got interesting. I had thought the course was supposed to go one way but instead went another way. The whole time I was thinking, "Where the heck are we? And why are we here?"

This section of the course was also the most residential area of the course, and many residents had set up lawn chairs on the sidewalks to watch the runners. Some set up speakers and played music ("Eye of the Tiger" was a perennial favorite for these folks). One family even set up their own mini water station with their young daughters passing out cups to the runners. Hands down one of the top five best parts of the course. First and foremost, it was just so thoughtful. Secondly, the girls were insanely cute. And thirdly, the aid stations were 1.5 miles apart and I was really needing liquids at this point.

I would say this was the part of the course where I was really beginning to feel it. I didn't feel like walking or quitting though I did think about slowing down. After all, I had enough time banked to make it under my goal. It must have been serendipity then that as I was thinking these thoughts, a National Guardsman was standing on the sidelines, giving very military-style encouragement. Something about pushing through the pain to do things you didn't think possible. Yep, that got me moving.

Splits: 8:38, 8:33, 8:36, 8:44

Miles 13 to 13.1:
I would be lying if I didn't say that I just wanted it all to be over by this point. Done. Finished. Complete. But as I have said before, the faster you do it, the more quickly you can stop.

So I pushed. And let others push me. There was another female runner with whom I had traded lead spots multiple times since mile 11. I originally surged ahead of her because she had the unfortunate experience of receiving a "visitor" mid-race and I didn't want to stare. But she kept running and kept running hard.

The course finished on the baseball field and from 12.95 to 13.0, that lady gave me a real run for my money. As I turned down the ramp to enter the field, though ... when I could see the finish line ... when I could hear my husband and friend cheering for me from the stands, I went for it. I passed her. And I went for it even more when I saw the finish clock going from 1:54:59 to 1:55:00. I knew that it took me at least 30 seconds to cross the starting mat. A sub-1:55 was in reach. I had to get it.

And I did. 1:54:12.

Final splits: 8:27, 7:25 pace at end. (Garmin registered 13.31 miles, most likely from random weaving.)

Parting thoughts:
I have to thank everyone for their encouragement and support these past eight weeks. It might seem weird but in the moments I doubted myself, I drew on the confidence and encouragement you have given me. I though of you in your own races and hoped you were doing well.

As far as Fort-4-Fitness goes, great race. Awesome, actually. From mini Body Glides being handed out as runners waited in the corrals to the plastic grocery bags available to stock up on finish-line eats, some of the best race services ever. And to really show how great the race directors are, take this story from Mark. He lost his chip somewhere between getting to the race and running the first mile. He finished with a very impressive time - his parents saw the clock read 1:34:18 - but it was going to go unrecorded. UNTIL the timing director e-mailed him, saying that someone recorded him crossing the finish. Did Mark, indeed, run the race? They would like to include him in the results if he did.

Great service, great course, great race.