Thursday, March 10, 2016

Making a list and checking it twice

I'm running a half marathon in 2 days.
What?  I'm doing a race and I haven't been blogging about it all the time?  I know.  It's strange.  I've even been training for this one in earnest, unlike last time, where I kind of just winged it.  (I feel like that should be 'wung' it.  I know that isn't a word.  It just sounds like it should be.)  I started training just after New Years because I was dead set on running a half this year and since it gets crazy warm in southern Arizona (What?  I haven't blogged about not running in tights at all?  That's also strange.), I figured I should do it sooner rather than later.  So, I'm running a half marathon in two days.
And I'm freaking out.  I haven't had a good run in what feels like weeks, my heart rate monitor went out and I had to send it in and was without it for my dress rehearsal, my ankle decides to be funny (not hurting so much as the whole "I want you to be aware that I'm here" sort of thing), I haven't been getting enough sleep as I'd like and am apparently walking a lot more than I used to.  And then the taper brain went into full swing today.  I took off my shoes and heart rate monitor and piled them with the rest of the stuff I need and it really hit me what I'm doing here.  As I phrase it in a conversation this morning, "Why did we want to do this again?"
In large part, because I want to be racing again.  It's been almost two years (3 days shy), and the longer I wait, the harder it's going to be to get back on the horse.  And I've probably felt this way before, but I don't remember.  Maybe I need to do this to remember what it's like again.  How taper brain is good for making sure that you pack everything you need (and then some), for making you sure rest, for keeping you hydrated when you need to be.
It's also good for making you a little crazy.  But only half crazy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

As I Lay Dying

I'm training for a half marathon.  (Yes, it's very exciting.  If you'd asked me a year ago if I would be here, I probably would have said yes, because I hadn't yet sprained my ankle this time a year ago.  If you'd asked me a year ago if I would be running a half marathon less than a year after a really serious ankle sprain, I might have started crying.)  My training plan - 10 weeks long - is kind of monotonous.  Easy(ish) run Monday, alternative tempo/speedwork, long run Saturday.  Cross and strength train in between.  This week, although a rest week, I had 2x800 at 4:45 planned.  (Why 800s?  I don't know.  It's a ridiculous distance for anything longer than a 5k, the hype about Yasso 800s notwithstanding.)  So I put on my tights, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, headband (seriously, didn't I move to southern Arizona?) and watch and headed out.  I found a track that's almost exactly a mile from my house, so instead of driving to the track, like I did in Salt Lake, or taking my walking warm-up to the track and then doing a mile on the track, like I did in Roswell, I get to do my warm-up on the way to the track.  It's awesome, because it means way fewer miles counting down how many laps I have left.  I'm a block into my run, stop at a stoplight, and my watch decides to stop with me.  Not as in, I stop it so the time waiting isn't counted against me, but when I try to stop it, it totally blanks out.  Nothing.  Not a flicker, not dim, just nothing.
Now, a normal run, this wouldn't be a big deal.  This wouldn't even be a huge deal on other kind of speed workouts.  But the entire point of speedwork is to run certainly intervals in certain timepoints.  It's kind of hard to do that when you don't know what the time is like.  I kept running and my watch kept being dead.  I did have my iPod, which does have a stopwatch feature, so it took a little rigging, but once I got to the track, I switched over to that feature, started the watch, clipped my iPod back onto my pants and went for a run.
When I stopped it, two laps later, it was a 4:48.  Given that it probably took me at least 3 seconds to clip it back onto my pants . . . well, you see where this is going.  I took a lap to rest, and then gave it another go.  This time, it was a 4:49.
I cannot explain this.  Normally when I do speedwork, I am meticulous about knowing what my splits should be, not even to the lap, but down to 100 meters.  I know when I should be, and I slow down and speed up as necessary to hit more perfect laps.  And it's not uncommon for me to be 10+ seconds off my time goal (granted, they're longer than 800 meters, so a direct comparison falls flat).  So how is it that when I'm not even looking at a watch, I hit it basically dead on?
Now, I don't think the answer should be that I should always be doing speedwork and only looking my watch at the end of an interval.  But maybe it means that I shouldn't be quite so meticulous.  After almost 9 (!) years, my body has a better idea of what it's doing.  Maybe I need to be a little more trusting of myself and a little less reliant upon my watch.  It's a scary proposition, but one that's probably long overdue.
After I was done with my two 800s, my watch flickered back to life, at the same stopped time and watch time that I'd stopped it at.  Then it died for good.  Considering I bought it more than 8 years ago, not that long after I started running, I'd say it's lived a good life and I'm going to give it a hero's burial.  Which means unceremoniously dumping it in the garbage can.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It's okay to not be okay

I am a control freak.
I am an anxious person.
And I am a runner.  At least when I can be.
I like having everything 'just so' in my life.  Now, I realize that this rarely happens, so I like to have just enough things 'just so' so I feel like things are coming together and the things that aren't coming together are things I can work on or around or through or maybe just deal with until I can get them to come together.  And it's incredibly helpful when running is one of the things that's working.  It doesn't even have to work all that well all the time - even if I have a bad run, I know I'll have another one in a couple of days and I can see what I did wrong and do it right this time.  (Hint: I probably went out too fast.)
And there are times that running isn't working.  At all.  And it feels like that makes everything else fall apart.
I realize that's an incredibly unhealthy view to come out with, and it's not one that I espouse frequently.  Which is why, when my ankle was bothering me again this morning (even after taking a week off two weeks ago), I did not run.  And even though I had a really good sweat this morning, my entire day still felt off.  What could have been a good day became not such a good day.  It wasn't a bad day by any means, but it also wasn't a shine your heart open kind of day.  It was a little more anxious and a little less together than I would have liked.
All because I have yet to learn that it's okay to not be okay.
Somehow this is a lesson I have actually learned in running.  Not that it makes it any easier; it's every bit as difficult when I decide at sub-6:00 in the morning to go to the gym instead of running, but I also know that this is not the end of the world.  I know that sometimes, I am not okay.  Because sometimes I run 20 miles a week and that's hard on my body and no matter how nice I am to it afterwards, it still takes a toll.  And no matter how hard I try (or pretend) to be 'okay' I can't magically make myself be okay.  I have to let myself not be okay and work on becoming okay.
So why can't I apply this to my life?
Why is it not okay for me to not be okay?  For one, it's because I'm a woman in a traditionally man's field (although I'd like to think that's changing) and I feel that my being 'not okay' would equate to 'not professional.'  It's hard to erase that image once it's there.  For another, it's because I don't like presenting that side of myself to people.  It's very vulnerable, and even though I'm okay being vulnerable while running (in fact, I think running strips away everything but your most vulnerable self and makes you face who you really are), I am definitely not okay doing that with the rest of my life.  It's terrifying.  Maybe I can do it with running because running can simultaneously make you feel powerful.  But I don't associate power, in any form, with vulnerability in my life.  I cannot feel that this is okay.  It feels not okay.  It feels wrong and strange and awful.  And I don't know how to fix that.  Or even if it's something that needs fixing.  I do know that I can't live every day being only 'okay.'  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Don't blame Canada

I started a new job a little over two months ago. I had a nice chat with our lovely HR lady during which she explained life in Tucson and told me where not to live, and let slip this little tidbit that my boss is from Canada.
So after a week of work and him not dropping an 'a-boat' I blurted out, I need you to clarify: Are you or are you not Canadian?
He is not Canadian. But since then  it's sort of been stuck in my head. So, earlier this week when I polled my lab mates as to their feelings on maple-bacon Gu, the faux-Canadian said he would give it a try.  (The Arizonan gave it a hard thumbs down.)
I was thinking about giving it a try anyway, so that night I went to REI to pick up some Gu.  Including the maple-bacon variety.  This morning was the first time since my sprain that I was finally going long enough (7 miles) to do a Gu, so I took it with me.  40 minutes in, I pulled it from my water bottle, pulled the tab, and put it in my mouth.
My first thought was, This isn't too bad.
My second thought was, And there's the bacon.
You see, your first hit is a shot of maple, and unless you're a weirdo, you probably like maple.  Maple's a good flavor.  And as far as gels go, it's actually a good flavor.  I mean, imagine maple syrup, just a little bit thicker.  That's delicious, right?
And then there's bacon.  
Now, I like bacon.  But imagine thick liquid-y bacon.  Now that doesn't sound so good, does it?
It wasn't.  The aftertaste of bacon came up and kept up coming up throughout my run.  That makes it sound like I was vomiting, which I wasn't, but there were some burps at some points in time and it was unpleasant.
Now, I'm not going to tell you not to try it.  I mean, everybody has different tastes, but you've been warned.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The dreaded 9/1

Since I started running anew, I started running from scratch.  Let me tell you something, it was rough starting out.  I was doing a 28/2 run/walk interval before my injury, which basically means that I have time to eat some Gu or change my iPod or something like that, but it's mostly running.  When I started from scratch, I was doing a 2/1 walk/run interval.  Yes, you read that right.  And it was horrible.
But I realized that I'd cobbled together this plan from various places on the internet that may no longer exist, so I thought I'd write it down in case anybody else is starting from scratch and is looking for resources.  Here goes nothing.
Week 1: 2 minutes walk/1 minute run.  The one good thing about this is that you actually get to look forward to the run interval.  Otherwise, it's horrible.
Week 2: 1 minute run/1 minute walk.  I think the way this was actually written was the walk interval first, but I don't know that it really matters.
Week 3: 2 minutes run/1.5 minutes walk.  This one means you have to do a little bit of math on the fly, but I do math on the run somewhat regularly (yes, I'm weird), so it worked for me.
Week 4: 3 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
Week 5: 4 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
Week 6: 5 minutes run/3 minutes walk.
Week 7: 7 minutes run/3 minutes walk.
Week 8: 8 minutes run/2 minutes walk*.
Week 9: 9 minutes run/1 minute walk.
Week 10: 13 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
Week 11: 18 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
Week 12: 23 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
Week 13: 27 minutes run/3 minutes walk.
Week 14: 28 minutes run/2 minutes walk.
This actually catches up with you faster than it seems.  Yes, the first couple of weeks are horrendous, but I've moved up in time way faster than I have in mileage.  I only did 10 miles last week.  You want to be sure not to go more than 10% in distance than you were doing the previous week.  The last thing you want to do is re-injure yourself.  Believe me, I know how much you want to be running again.  But do you want to be running again now, or do you want to be running again forever?**

*I actually did this week twice.  My rule is that if I have a run - any run in that given week - where I have to walk outside my given walk intervals, I have to repeat the interval again the following week.  If I have two weeks in a row where I do that, I drop back to the interval before that.  It's a strong motivator.
**You want to be running again forever.  Why do I even need to spell that out?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Recipes, Round Two

Same deal as last time - recipes links, then my commentary on them.  WARNING LABEL: there are going to be a lot of chickpeas here.  Call them garbanzo beans at your own risk.
I made this mostly as is.  I left out the scallions, because I pretty much dislike any form of onion (garlic isn't pretty much any kind of onion, right?).  I cut the dressing in half and used only 2 cups of chickpeas, and toasted the nuts.  While this obviously isn't a chicken salad, it's a pretty good (and vegan!) option.
This one is going to take some explaining, because they don't tell you how to make the pepita salsa.  Which is pretty darn amazing, and you don't want to leave it out.  But first, I made the chickpea crush as is.  Including the onion!  I'm okay with them if you saute them first and they're not staring you in the face.  I just used straight cumin, no seeds, and left the tomato on the side to add as you like.
Pepita Salsa Directions (ingredients are okay, except omit the water):
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread pepitas on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, util pepitas have toasted and popped.  Remove from oven and let cool.  (You can do this on the stove too, if you don't want to heat your oven.  Just keep an eye on them so they don't burn.)
2. Combine garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor.  Pulse until mixed and slightly broken up.  Do not blend it into a sauce!  Add pepitas and salt and pulse just until pepitas are mixed and slightly broken up.
I took some liberties here.  She uses just rice; we actually used millet, but I put it into my recipe file as using any grain.  I probably wouldn't go amaranth - bigger works better here - but it's customizable.  I also used the grain water to partially cook the carrots.  The thinner you cut them, the more cooked your carrots will be.  And I topped them with some toasted sunflower seeds.  It looks like the link to her pesto recipe is not longer working, so used whatever pesto recipe you like.  I used 2 cups of packed basil leaves, just so you can get a feeling for the volume.
Yes, there is a chickpea-free recipe!  The only changes I made here were to up the "fried crispy bits" (this was my mom's term for the fried garlic and ginger) to 1/4 cup each, and I upped the leeks to 3 cups because once they were sauteed, they kind of disappeared.
Also, this recipe was delicious!  Even though I don't really know how to fry an egg, it somehow still managed to work and this was the best thing ever.  Seriously, make this dish!
This recipe seems intimidating.  Even the name sounds intimidating.  Ravioli?  Yes.  And it was pretty easy.  Of course, I did not make my own pasta.  I used egg roll wrappers that I'd cut into fourths.  (Somehow, these seemed sturdier than wonton wrappers.  I don't know why, but they did.) 
How I made the ravioli:
Ingredients as the recipe called for, except I backed down the onion for 1/2 cup.  Once I'd made the filling as the recipe called for, I cut the egg roll wrappers into fourths, wet the edges of the squares, and put a small amount of filling into the centers.  Sorry, "small amount" is all I wrote in my recipe file.  Yes, my imprecision is also annoying me here.  Fold the square over to form a filled triangle.  When ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook until the pasta floats to the top.  You'll need to do several batches.  If you have lots left over (and you probably will), feel free to freeze them.  They freeze just fine, but they're certainly better fresh.
I made the broth as called for, except sans leeks.  Only because we didn't have them.  Be sure you add the cheese rinds.  (Don't throw them away like I did last week!  Save your rinds in the freezer.  We had Gouda rinds, but I think any kind of cheese rind would do.)  Normally, I don't care for vegetable broth, but my word, this stuff was delicious.  The broth might have been better than the ravioli.  It was that good.
Okay, so the linked recipe isn't vegetarian.  But I made it so by omitting the prosciutto.  Bam!  Her recipe is a little all over the place, so here's what I did:
1 pound of pizza dough (make your own - we had some leftover in the freezer - or buy it at the store)
1/2 cup ricotta
8 ounces grated mozzarella
8 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raspberries
1 spring fresh rosemary
3 cups arugula
Plus cornmeal for the pan, and olive oil for drizzling and sea salt
I just divided the dough in two (I don't think anybody reading understood the whole 'divide into six sections' nonsense) and proceeded as she states.  Instead of trying to figure out how much she's using on her pizza, just split the ingredients in half and put half on each pizza.  I obviously did not proceed past the arugula, although you are welcome to if you'd like.  I didn't add the red pepper flakes (I just forgot), but I think they'd be great, so I put them in my recipe file.

There might be more recipes to come.  I've got some more, including breakfasts, that I might put up.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rabbit food

If there were a list compiled of top questions that vegetarians are asked, I suspect that, coming in right after "Where do you get your protein?" (from non-meat sources, duh) would be "Do you eat nothing but salads?"  Well, I'm going to answer the first question today, but not so much the second, because this post is all about salads.
Yes, I'm going to give you salad recipes.
Now, these are not your mother's salad recipes.  Some of these salads don't even have greens in them.  I know, it sounds like a travesty, but salads based on grains are actually a pretty solid bet for vegetarians.  It's a built-in protein source.  All of these salads (green or grain or both) also contain some other source of protein, usually beans or nuts.  They're also kind of chuck full of veggies, which are good idea for anybody, even if you're not giving up meat.
So here's the deal.  I'm going to post the original link, then any notes I had on the recipe or changes I made.  Usually they're personal tastes and you should play around with them as you like.  A lot of them are very versatile to your personal tastes.
So, without any further ado.
1. Mango Avocado Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
You'll notice that this is a grain (quinoa), not a green, salad.  It boasts 3 sources of protein: quinoa, black beans and Greek yogurt (in the dressing).  I doubled the salad ingredients to make 4 servings of salad (there's plenty of dressing to go around).  I also left out the red onion (big surprise), but to each their own.
2. Radish and Pecan Grain Salad
This is both a grain and green salad.  I halved the recipe (it feeds 6-8 as is), added dried cherries to the fruit roundup, put in 3/4 cup pecans (being from the pecan capital of the U.S., I have to; besides, they're delicious) and I toasted them, used walnut oil in lieu of olive oil, kept the entire cup of radishes and put in 2 cups of arugula.  We have may used spinach; I don't remember.  I also left out the shallot.  You'll notice a pattern here :).
3. Spring Berry Wheat Salad
This is another incredibly versatile salad, and she even gives you instructions as to how to choose your own adventure.  The only subs I made here were pecans for walnuts (see above) and white wine vinegar for the balsamic.  I only did that because we had it and Google said it was a reasonable substitution.  That's a taste thing.  Surprisingly here, I left in the onion.  You sort of pickle it before it goes in, so it's less offensive.  Also, the wheat berries here took me an hour to cook (I used my mom's white wheat).  Your time on that may vary, so take that into consideration.  And, always cook your grains al dente.  Do not listen to people who like them mushy.  You want some bite left on your grains.
4. Vegan Caesar Salad
Maybe this seems like an oxymoron, and it kind of is.  Your dressing is made of soaked cashews, which seems weird, but is actually pretty delicious.  And you also make a cashew 'cheese.'  Don't leave yet!  This salad was incredibly delicious.  And my foray into dino kale, which is actually pretty good too.  If it helps, don't think of it as cheese.  Or, if you want, use actual cheese.  That's okay.  But let me tell you, I subsisted on roasted chickpeas sometimes, so this salad spoke to me.  When I made this one, it wasn't technically vegetarian because our Worcestershire sauce had anchovies in it, so if that's important to you, make sure yours is vegetarian/vegan.  And I left out the nutritional yeast, mostly because I don't have any (I think it's weird).
5. Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing
Here's another grain/green salad.  It's actually not that dissimilar to the mango salad above: quinoa, black beans, fruit, fruity dressing.  But this one has corn.  And corn makes everything better.  And this one is entirely vegan (unless you use honey), if that's your jam. The only difference I made here was to use two oranges.  I sectioned them over a bowl to let the juice flow in, then juiced the remaining peels/membranes in between.  So you get some more fruit for the salad, but maybe a smidge less for the dressing.  Oh, I lied.  I also upped the corn amount (to 3/4 cup) and took out the red onion (surprise).
6. Superfood Crunch Salad with Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette
We served this one as a side, because it's got a bunch of good stuff in it, but not too much protein.  (Also, dino kale!)  The only difference I made here was that we subbed cranberries for the pomegranate when we made it, so I left it as an option in my recipe file (but left the pomegranate as well).  I think, when we made it, we also did half the kale but the same amount of fillings, and that was a good ratio, so if you like fillings better than the kale, that's an option.  The kale does really wilt under the dressing and becomes soft, so it's not like you're chewing bark or anything.
Bon appetit!