Friday, April 27, 2012

My Poor Kitchen

Our fridge is in a sad state of affairs.

There is no milk. No bread. There are some shriveled oranges, lots of condiments and four eggs.

It wouldn't be so much of a problem on any other Friday night. Mark and I would simply go out to dinner. Except I'll be out of town for Body Pump training this weekend and will be eating out a lot. The last thing I want to do - tonight - is head to a restaurant.

It was time to get creative.

I had a half-packet of ranch mix from the faux-tato salad, some macaroni from God knows when, Ro-Tel (L and I split a case from Sam's Club) and some chicken stock from a soup I never made. There was also 10 ounces of ground turkey and a chunk of monterey jack cheese leftover from How Sweet's Green Chili Chicken Burgers.

If I am my mother's daughter, I would almost say that I had the makings of Hamburger Helper. (Side note: I ate so much Beef Stroganoff from that unassuming box growing up that looking at it still makes me feel icky inside.)

I browned the turkey.

I grated the cheese.

I entertained Miles with some Goldfish.

And, in 20 minutes, my empty fridge produced a Ranch Cheeseburger Mac. With the obligatory side of broccoli.

Ranch Cheeseburger Macaroni

Adapted from Kevin & Amanda

10 ounces (1 pound, ideally) 93/7 ground turkey
1/2 packet ranch dressing mix
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked macaroni

Brown and drain ground turkey. Stir in ranch seasoning, Rotel, chicken broth and macaroni. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and cover pan. Simmer 12-14 minutes until macaroni is tender.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce ...

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup 1% milk
1 cup shredded monterey jack
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking for 5 minutes until fragrant and light brown in color. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Whisk until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until melted. Add the salt and pepper to the cheese sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the ground turkey mixture. Stir gently to combine. Serves 4.

And if you're wondering where I got the milk from. Well, I made Mark "borrow" some from his parents when he picked up Miles. Sometimes you have to get creative!

Starting over

It was an undeclared goal, if you will. It was one I had in the back of my head (sometimes in the front) but just never managed to share with anyone. Not even you.

For the month of April, I wanted my average pace for every run to look like this: 9:xx. A 9-something pace may be nothing to some of you and, for others, it might be a big deal. I am somewhere in between.

And I'm pleased to report, with the exception of the Wallaby 5K I ran with Heather, I met my goal.

Note: This assumes that I do not run this weekend while attending Body Pump training and take Monday as a rest day.

Before I had Miles, I had worked myself up to a respectable pace and most runs were in the mid- to high 8's. I set a 10K PR in 53:06 (8:34) and a half-marathon PR of 1:54:12 (8:43).

I maintained some of that speed during my pregnancy but eventually stopped tracking pace when I started to see more 10's than 9's. When I came back, I knew I might be slower but I had also read of female runners who not only came back from pregnancy strong but stronger than before.

My first run, with a 12:43 pace, made it evident that I would not be one of those women.

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard to accept that fact. It is. Every day, when I think of the running goals I want to accomplish and realize just how far I am and how close I once was, I get frustrated. I want it all back. The speed, the endurance, the confidence.

It's true that I'm slowly getting there but it hasn't been without some effort.

Here's what I have done, from a mental standpoint:

1. Accept that I was starting over. I took off eight weeks, had major surgery and lost all semblance of normal life. It would be silly to think that things would just snap back.

2. Fall into the comparison trap. I didn't become an avid runner, so to speak, until 2010. That year, I ran three halfs (spring/May, summer/August, fall/September) and a longer trail run in November. 2012 is the year of the post-partum comeback, with me running a spring half, summer half and fall full. The nearly identical training cycles between the two years allow me to look at the numbers, I can see where I've been and where I'm (hopefully) going.

While I feel like I've been at the starting line these past few months, I can see that I'm much stronger and faster than I was when I was training for my first half-marathon.

3. Set goals. I can sit there and focus on who I used to be or I could occupy my mind with things that I can actually work on. Since my return to running, I have been training for a race - Fort-4-Fitness 4-miler, the HUFF, Martian half-marathon. Next up: a half-marathon that happens to be on Miles' first birthday. (Yes, I plan to get up early, run 13.1 miles and then throw a party.) I've done all of these without a time goal, instead focusing on accomplishing the week's training plan.

4. Remember that I am not doing this alone - literally. It was easier to work toward getting faster because I had freedom to do what I wanted in the morning. There were no bottles to make, no diapers to change, no child to dress in four layers because it's still 30 degrees at the end of April.

Oh, and there's the whole fact that during 75 percent of my runs I'm pushing 40+ pounds. Yes. Forty. Four-Zero. And that's not counting the energy spent wrangling my dog.

5. Attack it. I want to be faster. And, yes, there are things that make it harder. However, I'm not going to give up. I have arranged "Mommy needs alone time" nights so I can get in mid-week long runs. I am continuing to focus on strength and building lean muscle. I am enlisting the ever-motivating Mark this summer to push me through some tougher runs to get me back in form.

Maybe I won't get there. Maybe I will. Maybe, eventually, I'll be one of those women who get faster after baby.  I don't know. I guess I'll keep running to find out.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Because I want to

It's been a long time since I've posted a Three Things Thursday but I have three things to tell you ... and well, yeah. This is what you're getting.

1. My running has been and will be a bit off this week. With Body Pump instructor training taking up the entire weekend, I won't have the opportunity to get in a traditional Sunday long run - or even a short one. I wanted to try to fit in four runs even still but my aversion to running three days straight has made this impossible. I did run Tuesday and Wednesday and I have another run planned for tomorrow. Unless I can get Miles to sit in the stroller for a 10K, I don't think I'll even hit 15 miles this week.

2. And speaking of running, I had a bit of a scare yesterday. I was having a good run. It was on the slow side but steady, and I felt really good. About 2 (uninterrupted) miles in, I hit some uneven pavement and rolled my ankle. It's the same thing Mark did last August that had him on the DL for months. To be honest, he's still working his way back. I stretched it a bit, took it slow but it seemed OK. I think it was fear more than anything that caused any remaining twinges. Thankfully, it feels A-OK this morning.

3. I made this recipe for dinner last night - the chicken, not the rice (we had a brown-white rice mix). Let's talk about the definition of good because that's what it was. It even got the Mark seal of approval.

I was going to be clever and sneak in a No. 4 but Miles is playing in the toilet. Apparently it's the new fun thing to do.

What are your things for Thursday?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Faux get about it

It's here. You know, that time of year when people shove cheese-covered beef patties in one hand, a beer in the other and try to pour baked beans down your throat.

Otherwise known as grilling season.

While grilling offers many healthy options (chicken, seafood, fresh veggies, cooking sans oil), I always find myself in trouble when it comes to the sides. Take Heather's grill out this weekend: There were baked beans, Buffalo chicken dip, hashbrown casserole, corn pudding - and that's not even including this insane donut-tasting dessert someone brought. Don't get me wrong, there was also a veggie tray and fruit salad with low-fat dip but given the choice ... well, pass the mac and cheese.

Of course, I brought my own dish. I originally signed up to bring potato salad but Heather later said to bring something that I could eat, aka a "safe" food for the both of us. I wasn't willing to give up the flavor, though, so imagine my excitement when I came across a Hungry Girl recipe that would allow me to bring the flavors of a grill out to the party without the calories.

Faux-tato salad

Adapted from Hungry Girl

2 average-size heads cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs pus 6 hard-boiled egg whites, chilled and chopped
1/2 envelope ranch dressing/dip mix
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons milk
2 small onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/4 cup chopped chives
3 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional garnish: paprika

Place cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl, and pour 2/3 cup water over it (you may have to do this in batches). Cover and microwave for 6 to 8 minutes (until cauliflower is soft). Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the ranch mix, mayo, sour cream, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside. Once cool enough to handle, drain any excess water from the cooked cauliflower. Lightly mash just 1 cup of cauliflower with milk (I used a whisk). Add the mayo mixture and mix until combined. Chop the rest of the cauliflower into small half-inch pieces. Place these cauliflower pieces in a large bowl, and add the onion and celery. Toss and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour the blender mixture over the vegetables and mix well. Add the chopped eggs+egg whites and chives and fold them in. Chill for several hours. If you like, sprinkle with paprika just before serving.

Nutrition (based on 16 servings):105 calories, 6 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates and 5 grams protein. Traditional potato salad will run you at least double.

(Note: Hungry Girl uses fat-free ingredients to lower the calories. I think fat-free mayo is gross. If you want to get this under 100, I'd cut the mayonnaise to 1 cup and add a bit more milk to the cauliflower puree.)

And the bonus? Heather's stepmom said she preferred it to traditional potato salad. (Mark, on the other hand, wasn't even willing to carry it into the party much less eat it. He said he'd rather die of starvation.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Like a virgin

We all remember our first times. Mine was in May 2008.

It was the Warbird 5K, and I ran it in just over 42 minutes. I'll never forget the feeling of crossing the finish line knowing that I didn't walk one step - even if my pace began with a 13.

And I'll never forget how grateful I felt toward Mark, who stuck with me the entire way and never once complained that we were going too slow.

I've always felt like I owed him for that and, on Sunday, I got to pay it forward.

My friend Heather is one of those people who were born to be a mom. She's kind, caring, patient and loves babies. Good thing, too - she is mom to a 9-year-old daughter and 16-month-old twins. Her daily life makes me want to take a nap and yet she somehow finds the time to run.

As part of her Weight Watchers effort (she's lost 35 pounds!), she started Couch to 5K, running on the treadmill while the twins nap. We've texted back and forth about training, shoes, apparel but nothing got me more excited than when she asked about races. Not only was she working up to the distance - she was working up to the event!

Wait. Scratch that. Nothing got me more excited than when she asked me to race with her.

Among other things :)

The Wallaby Waddle 5K was organized to raise money for a youth basketball team that is going to Australia this summer, and it took place on my home turf - the park where I log most of my miles.

We got there in plenty of time to pick up our packets, go to the bathroom, meet up with L, got to the bathroom and meet up with the race VIPs.

I wiped Miles' tears (he was upset that he had to hang out in his crib while Dad brushed his teeth) and headed to the starting line.

This race was on the small side, less than 200 participants, so it was kind of a haphazard but easy start. There was a horn and you ran.

Heather has been running at 4.9 on the treadmill, with the occasional outdoor run, so my goal was to maintain (hopefully) a pace as close to 12 minutes as possible - in the beginning at least. I wanted her to feel comfortable yet strong.

We headed up the park and around the golf course but I only know this because I am so familiar with the park. Otherwise, I'd have to tell you about our conversation because the event was just to race but to have 30 minutes of uninterrupted girl talk. Before we knew it, we hit the first mile - 11:31.

After the first mile, we headed down the trail for an out and back. We passed an aid station but both of us decided that we didn't need water. Or want water. Even with the temperature in the 50s, it was a blustery April day with very little sun and lots of wind.

The wind was worse when we hit the turnaround. It smacked you in the face and with a small field divided among two distances, there was no option to draft. You just sucked it up and went.

And waved to your friends who were doing the 10K, giving you a much needed boost. (Side note: L PR'd the 10K by 3 minutes!)

Despite the headwind, we managed to hit mile 2 in 11:26 ... 5 seconds faster than mile 1. And mile 3? Well, we hit that in 10:39. My girl ...

... she negative split her first 5K! (We finished the last tenth at an 8:22 pace. I figured if she could still chat that she had enough in the tank to sprint it out!)

Overall time: 34:47, average pace 11:04. Pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

After crossing the line, I grabbed her a water, banana and yogurt. Wallaby Organic yogurt - so perfect I could almost die. We munched and chatted but didn't spend much time hanging out. There was a grill out and faux-tato salad to be had. 

What was your first race like?

Pump it up

A month – that’s how long it’s been since I’ve been to an actual Body Pump class.

Saturday, I did something about it.

I met “L” just like old times and got to work. We did a mix of releases 79 and 81, and I could tell that it had been a while since I’d been there. My biceps were quivering during “Living on a Prayer,” and I wasn’t used to doing lunges with a bar.

But I could tell that I’ve been keeping up with a strength routine.

I cranked out full on push-ups like nobody’s business.

And I didn’t need modifiers during the ab track. Side planks, anyone?

It’s a good thing, too – the getting stronger – because I’m going to need it this weekend. Big time.
After much consideration (albeit not as much time as I would’ve liked), I am attending instructor training for Body Pump this weekend. It’s a two-day (all day) course where I will learn all about my favorite exercise that is not running. It is my hope to become certified and pick up the Saturday class that I’ve been taking for so long.

It’s a big step, one filled with anxiety and excitement, but I know it is the right one. I knew it when everyone was chatting about winning the Mega Millions. People were going to quit their jobs and lounge. I said that I’d have to work to keep myself out of prison (Mark knows I’d kill him), and I’d like to be a group fitness instructor. I couldn’t help but wonder why I would wait to win millions to get an extra job. If that’s the path I’d take in my dreams, why not take it in the real world?

This is how we like to live our life/ I got a feeling everything is gonna be alright/ So come on, come on, come on
- "Party All Night," Sean Kingston (chest track, Body Pump release 79)