Friday, December 23, 2011

Mail bag

Good morning, lovelies. It's been an exciting day in the Healthy Strides house today. Miles slept till 6 a.m. (thank the Lord), I went grocery shopping at 7 a.m. and found myself eating a Christmas cookie for breakfast. 

OK. Not that exciting but I did learn that my neighbor's perfect sugar cookies are a surprisingly filling  treat. Exactly what you wanted to know I'm sure.

Other things you wanted to know ...

Beth, a super cool, super harcore triathlete, asked me what a plank jack is.

Well, it's a medieval form of torture where you assume the plank position and then jump your legs out the way you would for an upright jumping jack.


OK. It's really not torture. I think it requires more coordination than anything and for the exerciser to not be wearing Vibrams. (My little toes kept getting "caught" on the floor.) During my boot camp class, the instructor had us do three plank jacks then complete a burpee. Now those are torture.

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Katie asked me how to carve a whole chicken after reading about my slow cooker chicken.

While I'm no expert in the kitchen, I can haphazardly butcher a chicken. Start with a sharp knife and cut down the breast bone. Flip the chicken over and cut down the back bone, separating the chicken into two parts - each with a breast, wing, thigh and leg. Once you have the two parts, you can see a line to separate the breast from the thigh; cut there.

Of course, you could do it the right way.


If this is all a bit funky, feel free to just pull the meat from the bone and say "Fig it, carving." You can use pulled/shredded chicken in any number of dishes, such as Buffalo Chicken Tacos, Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches, Chicken Caesar Sandwiches or on a simple salad.

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Kimberly asked me why her nearly 6-month-old has decided to begin napping in the morning now that her teacher husband is on break and available to baby wrangle. Her dreams of casually styling her hair while he held a screaming baby have been dashed.

"Now he'll never believe me when I exclaim that I don't have time to do things in the morning because the baby won't let me put him down!" she lamented.

Oh. Wait. That's me. Dangit!


At least he's cute - it saves him every time.

How is your Friday shaping up?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

With a twist of lemon

Remember that easy peasy chicken I made the other night? The one I made in the slow cooker?

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I sure hope so because you are going to need it for this.

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti. Yumminess in a bowl.

Mark asked me to make this soup specifically this week. I’m not sure whether it’s because he agrees with my description or that the source of the recipe is a certain Food Network star whom he enjoys, ahem, watching.

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I find it really unfair that someone is allowed to look like that but I’ll give her a pass, if only because of the soup.

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti

Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1 dried bay leaf

1 (2-inch) piece Parmesan cheese rind, optional

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) whole wheat spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces, *see Cook's Note

2 cups diced cooked rotisserie chicken, preferably breast meat

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind, if using, to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind and discard. Stir in \the cheese and the parsley. Season with salt, to taste. Ladle the soup into serving bowls.

Mark and I enjoyed the soup for dinner, along with a grilled cheese. It was a bit of a haphazard grilled cheese as I was missing some key ingredients – decent cheese and tomatoes. I used some American slices and a stick of Kraft Tomato Basil string cheese. Surprisingly, it worked. Go me!

What did you have for dinner tonight?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hips don't lie

I listened to the rain spitter spatter as I nursed Miles at 3:30 a.m. Actually, it was more than a spitter and spatter. It was more like a pounding on the windows.

It was the kind of rain that made you glad you were inside - not outside running. But I had promised Denali (and myself) that we would run this morning. Rain or no rain. If I could run through knee-deep water during the HUFF, I could handle a little shower.

I rolled out of bed at 5:35 a.m., a little later than I had planned but still enough time (I hoped) to squeeze in a couple miles before Miles woke up for the day. I got dressed, leashed up Denali and was out the door 15 minutes later. Once outside, we were greeted with quite possibly the most perfect weather. It was a toasty 47 degrees and the sky had stopped. It was a blessing of a December morning.

We started out slow but steady - I wanted to make sure I was tuned in to my body to see how everything felt after running the HUFF. Unlike road races where I usually feel soreness in my calves, hamstrings and/or quads the next day or so, my ankles and hips were what felt the most uncomfortable. I attribute the discomfort to the awkward gait I had to adopt due to the muddy and sloped trails. My ankles felt fine but my right hip felt ... well ... I could feel it. It didn't hurt, and I wouldn't even say that it was uncomfortable. I just knew it was there.

I continued to be mindful as I picked up the pace a bit as we cruised around the neighborhood - you have to run fast to be fast (relatively, of course). I never felt strained nor did I feel as if the "discomfort" became anything greater. In fact, I think the hip started to feel better as if all I needed was a good stretch.

I felt fantastic and rejuvenated as I rounded home just shy of 2.5 miles. I couldn't have asked for a better run, not even at 3:30 as I listened to the rain.

Did you run today? How was it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Center of attention

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Oh, hey. It’s you guys!

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So glad to see you! I am sorry if I was being rude. I just really love Valerie Bertinelli, and I had to read about her low-calorie blueberry cake.

OK. That’s a lie. I couldn’t give two lattes (getting an early start on my 2012 resolution to stop using bad words) about Valerie. I’m sure she’s a nice lady but I don’t really think it’s hot in Cleveland.

I was reading the January issue of Woman’s Day, which hit shelves today, because … I’m in it. Don’t believe me? Go get a copy and turn to page 75.

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See – it’s me. With really great hair and professionally applied makeup. If you turn that page, you’ll see me … again … and a full page of me discussing my weight loss story. So. Crazy. Like, really crazy.

How does something like that happen? It’s all because of this blog.

An editor at Woman’s Day found her way to Healthy Strides and read about my journey. She emailed me, inquiring whether I’d be willing to be featured in a “I Did It!” column to run in November. I said yes, and the editor sent me some questions to answer. I did my best to give thoughtful answers as I consoled my colicky Miles (I was still on maternity leave) and included before and after photos. Just as we were going through the fact-checking process, the editor emailed me to say her boss liked my story so much that she wanted to save it for the January issue.

So there I am, featured with two amazing women – one of whom lost 170 pounds. I feel incredibly honored and humbled to be considered a weight loss winner with them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Boot camp is proving to be a challenge. And not just because my instructor decided that it would be super fun to combine plank jacks and burpees into one exercise. (Really, how do you think of things like that?)

L and me, pre-plank jack torture

The twice weekly class has been a challenge for my schedule. More specifically, meal planning. The class is from 6 to 6:45 p.m. - the time fame when I would normally arrive home from work and prepare (and eat) dinner. In another life, I would have just made something quick for Mark and myself when I got home at 7 p.m.but that hour is now devoted to baths, jammies and nursing.

By the way, in that other life, I would get to sleep past 5 a.m., eat with both hands and would never feel guilty about taking a shower.

Anyway ... if I had a bigger entertainment budget, less of a conscience and one of those mythical metabolisms where you can eat whatever you want, I'd probably pick up dinner from one of the many fast food restaurants that dot my route back home. Arby's, Long John Silvers, Big Boy, Taco Bell. Heck, I might even go out of my way and hit up KFC.

But why would I do that? Especially when I can make a healthful (and affordable!) chicken dinner in less time than it takes to go through the drive through.


Here's what you do in 5 easy steps.

1. Buy a whole chicken. It works best if you plan ahead and buy the chicken during your weekly grocery trip.

2. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Don't forget to take the chicken out of the packaging and remove any of the innards.

3. Sprinkle chicken with seasonings of choice - seasoning salt, pepper, garlic powder. You even could go super fancy and use lemon pepper. You do not have to add anything else. Not even liquid.

4. Cover the slow cooker and turn on low. If you have a programmable one like me, set it for 8 hours.

5. Come home. Eat.

Seriously, it's that easy. Whip up some mashed potatoes (I made them in the morning so all I had to do was reheat them) and pop a steamer bag of broccoli in the microwave and you have a whole meal.

What is your favorite go-to meal in a pinch?

This and that: More from the HUFF

It’s been 37 hours since I crossed the finish line of the HUFF 50K relay, and I feel like I am still processing the entire event. Overcoming the mud, the water and my own fears and insecurities seems to have had a lasting effect – something I wasn’t expecting for a race that was not close to my personal distance record.

So bear with me as I share a bit more from the day.

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I think what made the day so, umm, special was the fact that I got to share it with these amazing women. So often we go to races with our own agenda and our own goals, and we lose out on the camaraderie of running. Taking on the HUFF as a team allowed us to share the good times, the bad times …

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And a little nakedness.

When I say these women were amazing, it wasn’t just because they believed in me when I didn’t or that they were out there in the cold and dark rooting for me as if it was noon on a sunny day. No, these women were amazing because they handed me hot chocolate at the finish and helped me undress and redress in the tent. Let me tell you, there’s nothing to bring a group closer than underwear and trying to get on Recovery Socks.

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If you are appalled that I stripped down in the tent, don’t be. It was pretty common. In fact, one runner stripped down completely – as in L saw his bare bottom – and that was when the tent was crowded. I give him props for keeping his man parts toward the outside of the tent.

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Mark knows that I’ll do just about anything for a new pair of shoes. He just didn’t know that included running 10.5 miles in pools of water and ankle-deep mud.

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I’m not sure if you can tell from the photo but my shoes were trashed after the race. Thankfully, I found the same shoes on sale at Running Warehouse and using Skinny Runner’s discount, got them for less than $60 shipped. Huzzah!

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I might have developed a strong affection for the course worker who went out of his way to make sure I finished safely but there was one guy who won my heart.

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Ringo, a malamute-husky mix, ran the entire 50K with his owner and still had enough energy to socialize. It made me wish (sort of) that I had brought Denali.

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People like to preach the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Pshaw. I have something better.

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Cheeseburger Happy Meal with a Diet Coke – now that’s a combination of protein, carbs and fat that I can enjoy.

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Remember that video I showed you the other day, previewing the course?

Here’s what the course actually looked like:

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Other blog posts about the race:

Teammate L at My Story Chapter 2

Nurse with a Purse

See Meggie Run.

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Have you ever had an experience, race or otherwise, stick with you?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Huff 50K relay: A recap

Warning: This is a long one for me. If you don’t feel like reading all of it, don’t.

I could see it – the red stripe on the roof of the white finishers’ tent – in the distance, maybe a half-mile away. It was a sight I had been waiting 10 miles – more like 5 hours actually – to see. I splashed through the final pool of water on the course and did my best to pick myself up and kick it to the finish line.

As I emerged from the woods and headed toward the last stretch along the parking lot, I could hear C shouting my name, the sound breaking miles of silence. I saw L’s red light blinking in the twilight. I dug deep, my legs moving faster than they had all day, and rounded the last corner to the finish line.

My teammates were there to  greet me as I crossed the mats. The sky was dark as we embraced and embraced again, celebrating our journey. It was a difficult one, one I don’t think we thought we’d finish. But we did.

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I had arrived at Chain O Lakes State Park 5.5 hours earlier per Victorious Secret’s team plan. L thought she would finish in 3 hours or so, and C would take 2 or so hours to complete the course. We were hoping that I would arrive when C was half-way finished with her loop. I would have time to stretch, go to the bathroom and be off. However, despite my worrying, we had grossly underestimated the condition of the course and I arrived just as L was finishing.

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I gave L a big hug and ushered her to the tent to get her warm. We chatted a bit about the race, her telling me that the first 7 miles (of 10.5) were the roughest but not to expect negative splits. As I listened, I saw ultra and relay runners come in battered and bruised, muddy from head to toe. Some of them were even bleeding. I tried not to worry but with each minute C was on the course, my anxiety levels grew.

A best case scenario had C coming in at 2 hours but L was sure she would be closer to 2.5, if not 3. However, I still insisted that we keep an eye out for her. Five minutes passed and then 10. I watched the tree line with hope but I did not see her.

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L insisted that I move inside the tent to stay warm as she swore that my lips were turning blue. Inside, I might have felt better physically but emotionally I did not. Fear began to overwhelm me, and I seriously doubted whether I’d be able to complete the course. Everyone assured me that I could and promised that I would get wet, not cold, and that it was totally doable. The more I was told I could do it, the more unsure I became. Two hours and 45 minutes after C started, I called Mark in tears. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I wanted to do it. He said that no matter what I decided he would support me but he knew that I was not a quitter.

I hung up, put in my ear buds and tried to lose myself in Adele. I headed back out to L and decided that I was going to do this … or at least try.

C finished in about 3 hours and it was my turn. My feet felt like frozen blocks as I began, shuffling – not running – up the road. I fought back tears with each step and prayed that my feet would warm up. I started to focus on the music as the course veered off onto the trail at just over a half-mile in. It seemed like a steep decline, and I had to give up feeling sorry for myself to pay attention to my footing.

I found in the early stretches of the race that it would behoove me to really take my time on the downhills and do what I could on the flat stretches – the few there were – and charge the uphills. The course was very muddy and going too fast downhill was only going to lead to disaster.210835_10150531717346138_251609066137_11245644_601915851_oThe course went from muddy to wet within the first two miles, and I soon found myself running in anywhere from ankle-deep to knee-deep water for up to 30 feet at time.

trailAn example of water on the course, courtesy of Three Rivers Running Company 

There were side “trails” made by previous runners to avoid some of the water but I had been warned that it sometimes did more harm than good to avoid the water. The trails were lined with sticker bushes and taking those side trails meant, at minimum, that you would be stuck if you didn’t fall over the brush and limbs.

Despite the trail hazards, I made it to the first aid station – at 3 ish miles – feeling pretty good. So good that I told a course volunteer, who was concerned that I would finish in the dark, that I could finish 7.5 miles in 1:15. He sort of looked at me with knowing concern and warned that there was more water ahead. I blew him off, telling myself that he didn’t know what kind of runner I was, and kept moving. I was doing OK, I thought. I was managing the mud and the water with far more constitution than that girl I had became in the tent. 

Just before the 5-mile sign, the course crossed a road and descended into a different section of trail. What I thought was uncomfortable in the early part of the race became a distant memory as my pace slowed to a walk as I trudged along a path that was more like sewage than trail, with mud ankle deep. The next two miles were a combination of walking sideways to keep from slipping, running on the outer edges of trail, running through water if only to rinse my shoes and making sure that I was following the green flags that marked the trail.

The markers indicated a turn onto a service road about 7.25 miles in, and I made sure to take advantage of the flat, dry surface. I ran. Grateful to be unencumbered by the trail. As I made the move down a dirt road (still dry), approaching the 8-mile marker, a big truck sped past me.

“Who does he think he is, speeding in a park like that?” I thought to myself.

Who he was was the same gentleman who warned me of my chances of finishing in the dark. He was on a mission: removing course markers and making sure that I knew the jogs the course would follow. I stopped for a minute to listen, trying to remember each jog in the trail that he mentioned. Then I waved goodbye and descended back into the woods. Alone.

I tackled the hills and mud with determination, the daylight clock ticking, knowing that I had conquered most of the trail. The toughest parts, according to L, were over.

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I weaved around the trail, taking in the sights of the frigid lakes surrounding me. It was beautiful – just as L had promised.

At mile 9 or so, I looked up and saw my kind course worker. He had met me on the trail and ran with me for a half-mile until I made the turn he was so worried that I would miss. All I had to do was follow the path. I couldn’t mess up. The finish would soon be in sight.

Before I could get there, I had to go through one more long, deep section of water. I trudged through without care or concern – unlike the way I approached the water so many times before on the course. In five minutes, I would be finished. And that promise was all I needed.

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My Garmin read 2:11:56 when I crossed the mats. It was, hands down, the toughest 2:11:56 I had ever spent running on a course tougher than I ever thought I’d tackle. I wish I could find the words to truly describe the joy and pain I felt during that time but I can’t. Instead, I leave you with this:

You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement. - Steve Prefontaine