Tuesday Tracking and Muffins to Make

So, I don’t literally track every little thing I eat, or every minute my kids are reading, or every penny I spend. Maybe I should pay more attention to that last one…haha. But regardless, I do track my mileage. There are a number of reasons, but the primary reasons are to avoid injury in half-marathon training and to complete the Run the Edge 2016 miles in 2016 challenge.

Here’s an update on my numbers for 2016:

Total miles last week: 35.58

  • Run miles 15.33
  • Walk miles 20.25

Total monthly miles to date: 43.55

  • Run miles 21.48
  • Walk miles 22.07

Overall 2,016 miles in 2016 progress: 538.69 miles complete! Only 1477.31 to go (about 6.25miles/day). I am somewhat behind for the year, but I have plenty of time to make up the miles.

Recipe to Try: Low Fat Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Yesterday I was faced with a common dilemma: rapidly blackening overripe bananas in the fruit bowl. Generally, I peel them, cut them up, and store them in sandwich bags in the freezer so that smoothies are always cold. But we are at maximum frozen banana capacity at the moment, so instead, I decided to try a new recipe. I’m glad I did, although it’s arguable that the kids and I loved this recipe just a little bit too much – there are only 2 muffins remaining of the 12 I baked yesterday. These are lowfat chocolate peanut butter banana muffins with M&Ms on top. Delish. Recipe courtesy of Skinnytaste.com. The only substitution I made in this recipe was to use the chocolate PB2 for the regular powdered peanut butter; and to top each muffin with 6 m&ms just prior to baking. So yummy. I’ll have to take pictures as soon as they come out of the oven next time, since I was not fast enough this time.

Advertisements

New Shoes, Renewed Inspiration

Running and I have been mutually blowing one another off over the past 6 weeks or so. I kind of slid into it, making it less of a priority and then simply not “finding time” to run more than a couple of times in a week. In return, running has handed me some pretty mediocre workouts and a painful foot that I’m pretty sure is the result of my shoes.

Hoka OneOne’s Clifton was the most perfect running shoe my feet have ever experienced; they were thick-soled to cushion my knees and had such a wide toe box that I no longer needed bunion cushions. I ran through 4 pairs of the Cliftons, (never losing a toenail or any other common running foot drama)and when the Clifton 2 came out I was enthusiastic and hopeful that the new model would have even more to like. My hopes were dashed when I took those babies for the first run. Three of my toes went numb and I developed a painful blister the size of a dime. This was such a disappointment that I TWEETED about it. That’s just not something I generally do.

Against my better judgement, I decided to push through a few more runs with these shoes. Maybe they just needed to be loosened up and broken in a bit, I told myself. As usual, that idea was wrong. It got worse, eventually feeling like running with a knife through the bottom of my foot. That’s probably contributed to my recent general disinterest in running. 

This week I got another new pair of running shoes. I went with Altra, because they are specifically designed with a roomy toe box. I’ve taken them out on two runs and wore them today running errands and going to kids’ lacrosse and hockey games. 

I also started working on icing, massaging, and generally coddling my foot so that it might be willing to get through the half-marathon coming up in May. We’ll see how it goes. 

I’m doing my best to just take it as it comes in order to get through the upcoming half-marathon without injury. But when running isn’t easy, the challenge is far more of a mental/motivational one. I need a WHY in order to elevate the priority of my running. 

Just knowing that overall physical and mental health is better when I run regularly should really be enough, but it doesn’t always do the trick, does it? Not for me. I need some tangible reminder of my accomplishments to reinforce the WHY. 

 

Race Report: 21st Annual Run to the Rock

Perspective can be everything.

perspective

In running, I find this to be especially true. Take, for example, the experiences of two unique runners in the same race:

2runners

The first is Matt, a 32-year-old first-time half-marathoner, excited by the challenge of this distance. The second runner is me, a 41-year old long-time, mid-distance, average speed runner who is – on this day – apprehensive and under-trained for this distance.

We ran the same race. We started at the same start line under the same conditions, etc. But our perspectives colored our individual experiences. Here’s how they lined up:

Pre-Race

Matt:
What can I say; this place had an incredible bathroom area for the pre-race. We’re talking both professional outdoor lake-beach style bathrooms in addition to a complete row of not-too-horrible porta-potties. I had some pre-race coffee to enhance my pre-race jitters and used these facilities at least twice.

It was also a nice place to start, right near the beach of one of the many lakes/ponds found in the Myles Standish State Park Forest. The sea of people filtering down the start road was a nice image enhanced greatly by the beautiful weather.  

Alice:
Why is everything against me on this one? A nagging stomach problem has kept me from really running for the past two weeks; I woke up at 4am for no apparent reason, so I got almost no rest; I got lost trying to actually find the race. I observed each of these things as they happened and gave them a brief moment of consideration – “is the universe trying to tell me something? Maybe I shouldn’t be running this race today…nah.”

Once I finally got there and parked, I had some time to enjoy the super-mellow pre-race vibe. There were no lines for bib pick-up, and the people handing them out were friendly. The race started in the woods – in the Miles Standish State Forest. There were bathrooms – actual plumbing – and picnic tables near a small beach, all of which made for a nice environment in which to anticipate the run. It felt like a pretty small crowd too, which also made for less stress in the air.

The Course

Matt:
Holy crap. Holy. Crap. If I had known that the entire course was basically hills I may have chosen to bring a scooter instead of running the entire way. The scenery in the park was nice. I saw some birds, some sand, several species of trees I’m not qualified to identify, and I think my Mom and Dad popped up a few times. Yes, in case you didn’t know, I’m a 32-year old male whose awesome parents attended my half-marathon.

Back to the hills. The going down part was obviously great and the going up parts a little more challenging. That being said, I felt slightly more awesome at the end for being able to conquer these beastly obstacles instead of quitting and falling asleep on one of them.

The course did temporarily intersect with a major road, causing the runners to race single file; and what I imagine was a slight two- to three- hour complete stop for the vehicles waiting to get by. That was weird.

Alice:
I knew there would be hills since the race started in the State Forest, and I had read somewhere that there would be hills near the beginning. That was a huge understatement. The first 6 miles were just uphill with some level stretches thrown in for good measure. There was no real traffic control and as a result, most runners seemed to be just doing whatever felt right in that moment. Runners on both shoulders, runners crossing between cars, etc. It was all really dangerous, or felt like it was. (universe – is that you trying to tell me something? nah.) 

When I passed the 5-mile mark there was a turnoff (just before another giant hill) that would have led me directly back to my car. For a moment I contemplated quitting mid-race. {What?!! Who am I??} I think I was bored. My music wasn’t streaming, nothing interesting was happening in my earbuds, the scenery was just meh, and there were almost zero spectators to make me feel like a jerk if I quit. And more than anything else, I wasn’t enjoying it. Not even a mile of it. 

The People

Matt:
Honestly, the people were great. I didn’t get a chance to speak with almost any of them, but they all seemed really cool. I did have a pleasant exchange in the parking lot with a lady dropping of her husband and friend in regards to their stylish racing gear. She thought I had some room to expand my style palette and up my game the next time around. I agreed wholeheartedly, although she did mention that my blue headband was pretty cool. 

There were not a ton of people along the course so my dreams of having thousands cheer me on as I completed my historical half-marathon run didn’t happen. But that’s OK, my family was there, and I gave a pretty rad double thumbs-up to the photographer at the end of the race.

Alice:
What people? Honestly, there were almost zero spectators, a few, unenthusiastic folks at each water table, and what felt like a limited number of actual runners.

The Finish

Matt:
The finish was of course at the top of one last dumb hill. Hills are dumb, we all know it, and it’s not debatable, just pure fact. I had really pushed myself during this race, a lot more than I thought I could. So by the end I was bushed, ready to wind it down and relax. But I got passed, it happened in the last two minutes, by someone older and more determined than me. 

And so, as I turned the corner and saw that last hill I fired up the jets and took off. I gave that last leg everything I had left, which happened to be just enough to re-pass that dude that just passed me. It made me feel surprisingly good.

And what’s more glamorous than ending a race at THE Plymouth Rock? I mean, it’s legendary. The view of the harbor is pristine, and a few adventurous bathers even sampled the water with a quick dip to cool off. 

Alice:
I don’t know why but I just never found my groove in this race. I looked at the course map ahead of the race and had my gps app narrating the passing of the miles in my ear, but I still didn’t really have a good idea of where I was on the course at any given moment. When I made what turned out to be the last turn on the course, I had literally NO IDEA that I was so close to the finish line. There was no one giving me false hope that I was “almost there” 2 miles out from the finish line, and no thickening of the crowds to indicate that we might be getting close to where people are waiting for their runners.

I crossed the finish line, giving the photographer my happiest finish face. I picked up my finisher medal and two bottles of water. Then, since the finish was literally at Plymouth Rock, I walked the remaining 10 steps to see it.

The Verdict

Matt:
This was my first race north of a 10K and I had a great time. I’m not qualified to judge it too much because I have little to compare it, too. I do know it felt great to get out and conquer some horrible hills, spend the day with my family afterwards, and relish the fact that I have a shiny new medal to Instagram once a week just to remind people of my accomplishment.

Alice:
I really love the half-marathon distance. I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite racing distance. It’s long enough to be a real challenge, but short enough to allow me to play with my pace a bit (when I’m not overtired and undertrained).

THIS half-marathon, however, was my personal worst.  I was slow, unmotivated, and miserable through most of it, and I was really glad to be done just to put it behind me. It didn’t really scratch the itch for me.

I’m Still Here & a 2,015 Miles update

I’ve been missing from this place recently. I only meant to stay away for a week or so in August, but that week extended to a full two months. Wow – time flies! So, summer ended, the kids went back to school, soccer, and hockey, and work got really busy for me. And just like that, months are slipping by.

Races and Training

I’ve got two more half-marathons and a 5K still on the 2015 calendar. There is just nothing like running in the fall, particularly here in New England. The cool, crisp air; the cerulean blue sky; smoke from backyard brush-burning; the sounds of nature magnified against the cool air – hawks, tree frogs, squirrels. Running during the past couple of weeks has been so enjoyable that it’s reminded me of why I started to enjoy running in the first place: In the fall, I’m never overheated; in the fall, it’s never humid; in the fall, the light through the trees is like an optimism filter on life. In the fall, I could run forever.

My training runs have gotten so much better since the last race I ran (September), and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that translates in two weeks when I run the Green Stride Newburyport Half-Marathon. I’m fighting a head cold right now, but I still think I will have no problem beating that performance.

2,015 Miles in 2015 UPDATE

I’m going to have to really buckle down on this or I’m not going to make this goal. For this month, I’m averaging about 4.5 miles a day (walking and running combined), but I really need to be closer to 7 miles a day. Better crank up the treadmill for some evening walks, I guess!

Motivation: Is Yours Slipping? Here are Some Thoughts on Getting it Back

motivation scraps

Does this sound familiar? You’re going along, being productive, getting things done, moving in the right direction, when, seemingly out of nowhere something is in your path and you’re suddenly searching for the energy within yourself and the time in your schedule to do accomplish the basics – eat a proper lunch, run a few miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It can really be anything: a particularly tough stretch of weather; an unexpected project at work; a subtle change in the family schedule; over-training…even sheep, I suppose. Motivation can drain out of you almost before you realize what’s happening. The lower it goes, the more difficult it becomes to build it back up again. I like to think of it like a campfire – once it’s going, it doesn’t take a lot of work to keep it going, just a small amount of maintenance. If it’s left to simply burn, without any attention, it will eventually just burn itself out, leaving you with the more difficult task of re-igniting the fire.

I know this because I’ve been in the position of having to re-ignite my own motivation before. And since I have just emerged from a month of some tough-to-get-through workouts, I find myself here again, stoking the embers of my motivational fire. So here are some things I have found helpful – maybe they can help you too!

Set a Goal

It’s easier to build motivation when there’s an ultimate goal to work toward. It doesn’t need to be monumental, it just needs to be a target you want to hit. Choosing a goal that is both realistic and achievable has been a good way to set myself up for success.

  • Think about the Why
    Be specific. If you think this through now, you’ll be better prepared to react when you inevitably face a challenge to your motivation down the road.
  • Divide and conquer
    Break your goal into bite-sized pieces. Trying to get from point A to point Z in a single step is overwhelming, and likely to push you closer to giving up than to success. But if you can define smaller, more manageable steps, you create a path for yourself.

Write it Down

Writing down your goal can provide an effective reminder to yourself that you’ve committed to something. Write it in your journal; write it on a post-it note and stick it on your desk; write it on the calendar on your fridge; post it on social media, if you’re so inclined. Any of these will help.

Make it Routine

When you’re feeling unmotivated about something, it’s easy to make an excuse (or 50) to avoid doing it. I once skipped a lunchtime run at work because I hadn’t remembered to bring an elastic for my (short) hair. True story.

stronger

By setting up your workouts or runs as appointments in your schedule, you commit to following through. Our family uses a shared, electronic family calendar, which makes it easy for everyone to see when I’m planning to focus on my fitness for an hour (or two). Because everyone expects it, and has made time for me, I’m held accountable to not waste the time.

Making it routine involves having or developing a strategy. In my experience, the only strategy that works is one that’s agile enough to change course quickly.

Have a Backup Plan

No matter how motivated you are, sometimes you have a lazy day. Or, more likely for me and every working mother I know, a really BUSY day. Your son forgot his homework so you give up your morning run to drop it off; something urgent comes up at work and your lunchtime workout window closes before your eyes.

It’s helpful to have some basic workout equipment at home – I don’t mean a home gym with a treadmill. I’m talking about a couple of dumbbells and a mat – maybe a stability ball or some exercise bands. This way, you can still get in some exercise after the kids go to bed or in the small pocket of time you found between picking up the kids and making dinner. No, it probably won’t be the workout you planned, but it’s better than nothing and it will help keep the motivation going.

Including more walks in my workdays has helped keep me focused on my fitness as a routine part of my day. I aim for 12,000 steps everyday. Sometimes I end up at 20,000 or 30,000, but most days I end up right around 10,000. With a 9-5 desk job, I can assure you that I have to go out of my way to get those steps.

Make it Fun

Try to set a goal that involves some fun – something you enjoy. Routine is great, but  boredom will edge out your motivation if you let it. When my workouts start to feel monotonous I can usually shake that off with a new route or a new class at the gym.

Reward Yourself

I am all for appreciating the internal rewards. Try to appreciate those hard-earned, good-feeling endorphins, and give yourself an attagirl for getting it done.

Many of us are even more driven by the promise of external rewards. If that’s you, set some up and work towards them. For example, a dollar for every mile; a new workout outfit every month for sticking to the plan; new music or a new book on Audible as a reward for a specific number of miles; race medals, etc.

Stick with it

So you have a specific goal, you’ve written it down, and you have a plan for making it happen. All you have to do now is stick to it, right? Let me break it to you now: you’re going to lose motivation again. It’s going to happen. I know this because it happens to everyone. So what will you do when this happens?

First, being aware of your waning motivation can help you get things back on track more quickly – keep fanning those campfire flames. Second, don’t have a pity party. Think of other people you know who are pushing themselves forward in the face of other very real challenges – like serious illness of the loss of a family member. Once I’ve reminded myself that my motivational struggle pales in comparison to the struggles of others, I can usually pick myself up and move forward again.

What do you do to keep the motivation alive?

Beet It

One of the things I love is food. I love to eat great food – of course – but I truly love everything about food. I love to think about and study the nutrition behind food; I find food policy both fascinating and infuriating; pictures of food; reading about food. Seriously, I even love food shopping. I dig it.

I go through periods of loving a particular food or type of cooking, etc. At the moment, I am beet-obsessed. I have really always liked beets, but I am currently on an eat-beets-everyday kick, so I thought I’d share some of the beet love here.

14576399929_fbdb13e1db_k (1)

I don’t think I ever ate a fresh beet until culinary school. Until then, my love for beets was based solely on the typical salad bar sliced beets (If I’m forgetting some amazing beets you made for me, Mom, I apologize). I don’t think there was an “aha” moment or anything. I just started loving the salad that was showing up on every menu – greens with roasted beets and goat cheese, usually with an aged balsamic vinaigrette.

I know there are many people who think beets taste like dirt. These unfortunates may very well go through life without knowing the joy of the beet! I can’t help everyone. Maybe beets are like cilantro – tasting significantly different to some people based on some kind of chemistry that I’ve only skimmed articles about.  In my own personal experience, beets have a sweet taste.

In addition to being a tasty veggie, beets are inexpensive, which should make them at least a little interesting. As a vegetable, beets are naturally low in calories and are fat- and cholesterol-free. More points for beets!

Beets make fleet feet.

Even more interesting to me are the studies that link beets with better running. That’s right. There’s a connection between the nitrates you get from consuming beets and the ability to run faster. You can learn more about the specifics here and here.

Not sold? Let me share some additional health benefits. Beets are:

  • Rich in antioxidants (they are cancer fighters)
  • An excellent source of folate (which can decrease blood levels of homocysteine, in turn decreasing the risk of inflammation and heart disease)
  • High in potassium (important for heart health – see more here)
  • High in fiber (helps maintain healthy weight and good digestive health)
  • A good source of vitamin C (it seems like vitamin C is good for everything! One of its important contributions is helping us absorb iron from plant sources, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli).
What to do with that dirty bunch of beets:

So, you got inspired and bought some beets at the farmer’s market. Or, your CSA sent them home in your weekly box of vegetables. Or your neighbor dropped off some extras from the garden. However it happened, here you are, faced with dirty roots and giant leaves. First, if you aren’t ready to do anything with them, twist or cut the greens off, leaving about an inch attached. Wash them and put them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Leave the top of the bag open. Toss the dirty beets into another bag and put that in the crisper as well (leave the bag open).  Scrub them when you’re ready to cook them.

Fresh beets can be intimidating to the novice cook. What to do with all those greens? Do I peel it? What about the stringy root-like stuff? They are actually surprisingly easy to prepare and to include in your diet. My two favorite ways to prepare beets are roasting them and steaming them.

To roast them, cut off the top and bottom of each beet; peel and quarter them; toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them out on a pan and cook them at 425° F. To steam them, scrub the outside of each (unpeeled) beet with a vegetable brush; cut the tops and bottoms off; and then toss them in the steamer until you can pierce them easily with a fork. Let them cool or run them under cold water and the skins will slip right off.

easy

I like to roast them with parsnips and olive oil in the fall. While it’s hot outside, I prefer to steam them and then add them to my salads and smoothies. What about you?

Do you like beets?

Do you like trying new things?

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home

So, I mentioned that I am saving $$ by making my own cold brew iced coffee these days. I’m not perfect. I still buy coffee out. But it’s far less than it was before, and I’m working on it. The goal is progress, not perfection, right?

It’s really easy though, and if you’re reading this then you deserve to know just how easy it is – allow me to show you:

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • French press coffee maker
  • Ground coffee (I have used many, but Starbucks Pike Place is a good one) – have the barista grind the coffee for a French press – or just buy it already ground and it will probably work just as well.
  • Water

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Scoop the ground coffee into the French press. I use 10 Tbsp of grounds.

IMG_6918

  1. Add cold water.
  2. Stir to expose all of the coffee to all of the water.
  3. Place the top on the French press (or just cover with plastic wrap) and leave it to steep on the counter for 12-18 hours.
  4. After it has finished steeping, press the coffee, then pour it into a pitcher to keep in the fridge.

When you’re ready to drink some of your delicious cold brew, fill your glass with ice, pour in enough coffee to fill the glass about half full, and then fill the remainder of the cup with cold water.

IMG_6911

I like strong-tasting coffee – adjust the water:coffee ratio to your own preferred flavor. Season your coffee as usual with milk, etc

Enjoy!

Mid-Summer Gazpacho

Jonah’s tomato garden, combined with our CSA share overwhelmed us with tomatoes this weekend.

IMG_7781[1]

I had to act quickly to keep them all from rotting or drawing an army of fruit flies into the kitchen. I decided to make gazpacho. This cold tomato soup is something I only really enjoy once a year, but when the time is right for it it is the perfect dish. Last week was all heat and humidity here in New England, and this week’s forecast has that heat and humidity continuing at least into the beginning of this week.

It’s chilled, it’s hydrating, it’s full of vitamins and minerals. Pair it with some whole grain cornbread. Yum.

Mid-Summer Gazpacho

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
  • 8 c. seeded chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 4 tsp. aged balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tsp . Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 4 T. basil chiffonade
Instructions:

Combine everything in a large bowl and stir to combine. Remove about 16 cups and puree, then return it to the bowl with the remainder of the vegetable mixture. Chill well. Add basil chiffonade just prior to serving.

Nutrition (per serving):

calories: 197
total fat: 15 g
saturated fat: 2 g
monounsaturated fat: 10 g
polyunsaturated fat: 2 g
cholesterol: 0 mg
sodium: 631 mg
potassium: 689 mg
total carbohydrate: 18g
dietary fiber: 4g
sugars: 9g
protein: 3 g
vitamin A: 48%
vitamin C: 117%
calcium: 6%
 iron: 8%

What she said

I’ve been at a loss recently. My runs have been terrible, uncomfortable, unrewarding, unpleasant. Who wants to read about that?

My runs have also been few and far between. So, not much to draw writing inspiration from.

Each terrible run has just further reinforced my resistance to Running, itself. That’s been making me sad. And frustrated. And as I mentioned, it’s left me at a loss with regard to writing about Running. I’d started to feel like a bit of a fraud.

However, I saw the doctor today and he sent me to the lab for blood work. While I sat waiting for the phlebotomist to call my name, I caught up on some of my favorite blogs, including Mile Posts. I identified so directly with the first part of this post and I don’t think I could have written it better. So…what she said. Sometimes you can’t JFR.

Five Things

Who’s happy it’s Friday? I know I am!!

Some weeks just seem to drag on forever, and you just have to get run through it. (see what I did there? 😉 )

Here are five things (other than running) that helped me get through this week:

1. Watermelon!!

I LOVE watermelon. I am never in control of how much watermelon I eat – if it’s there, it must be eaten until it’s gone. I am not sorry about it either. It’s so full of good-for-the-body stuff; it’s delicious and refreshing. Just writing about it makes me want to run out and buy one.

Last weekend, since it was the Fourth of July, the kids exploded our watermelon with rubber bands before we ate it – it was so awesome.

IMG_7593
2. Summer Reading

Summer makes me want to ignore everything around me and bury my nose in a pile of books. I had no idea how lucky I was to do this every summer growing up.

The public library in town hosts an ice cream sundae party at the end of the summer as an incentive to keep kids reading during the break. This year they have also added incentives (gift card raffle) for the adults who keep reading and visiting the library. My first book this summer is Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down.allfalldown

3. Pictures

I love taking pictures. I take pictures of lots of little moments throughout the day (thank you iPhone!). When I have time to look at them, usually at the end of the day or even a couple of days later, I can see that my days are overwhelmingly made up of good. That can be a real lifesaver in the midst of a week that feels especially tough.

4. Ninja 

I think I had a smoothie for dinner twice this week. It is hot and humid and if I’m not cooking for anyone else, I’m probably making a smoothie in my Ninja! I also use it to make post-run icees – a bunch of ice, some water, fresh mint, cucumber, and lime juice. Aaaah.

5. Cold Brew Iced Coffee

Refreshing with a kick. And now that I’ve figured out how to make it at home, I can enjoy this tasty delight and still plan to retire someday.

What got you through your week?

Have you ever exploded a watermelon?

What’s on your summer reading list?