Friday, January 30, 2009

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

A girl's got to eat-and I don't like stuff that tastes like thought I would share a few things we've tried around these parts that mesh well with a running lifestyle, yet don't taste like cardboard. I was up a few pounds after the holidays-not anything to become obsessive compulsive over, but enough that I needed stop the willy-nilly mass consumption of everything I wanted to eat. These are a few of the recipes we found that had nice flavor, the kiddos would eat, and didn't cause any feelings of guilt that sometimes come after shoveling a bunch of crap into the old fuel tank.

Cooking Light was always an old favorite recipe source for me, and we've been rediscovering it as of late. The first new recipe we tried and enjoyed was Ma Po Tofu. Put aside any bad feelings you might have toward tofu, and give this a go. This was a great substitute for the night I was jonesing for Chinese buffet food, and I think that the next time we have this, I'll get chopsticks and let the kids go to town with them.

Another keeper for the new year is Cooking Light Chili Mac, made with my new favorite Kraft 2% milkfat cheese. We've been using the 2% stuff for awhile, but this is the first 2% cheese we've found that melts like the full-fat variety. We add more in the way of seasonings and chili powder, but it's a good basic recipe to add or omit, and it's oh so filling.

I need to try the Chicken Tamale Casserole again....I was distracted and unfocused while I prepared it the first time, and did a bunch of things out of order, not long enough, or just plain WRONG. Due to my high degree of user error, it didn't turn out how I think it should have, but the flavor of my messed up version was decent enough for me to think it could actually be pretty good if one is a fan of listening to and following directions. I might try that some day.

Another great dish we recently tried is not from Cooking Light, but from fellow runner HikerGirl. It's a crock pot meat loaf made with turkey, and when it's all ready, you get to schmear it with that yummy cranberry sauce from a can. Or don't. To me, though, nothing beats that HFCS jelly in a can, and an occasional pinch shouldn't kill me. That recipe is as follows:

Harvest Time Turkey Loaf

2 lbs ground turkey meat
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 cup ground walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
cranberry sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients, except parsley sprigs and cranberry sauce, in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and shape mixture into a round loaf. Place in crock pot/slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours. Slice turkey and garnish (well, schmear liberally in my house) with cranberry and/or parsley.

Anyway-that's some of what we've tried and liked lately. I get into cooking and recipe ruts sometimes, so I'm all ears if anyone would to throw back some "fuel that tastes good" recipes.

We're not doing inverted keg stands or anything here-but I do like a nice beer or glass of wine with meals here and there. A couple of beverages we have enjoyed lately include this fine beer, Ommegang Abbey Ale from the Brewery Ommegang in New York. MMMMMM. It's a meal in a bottle. I wish I knew all the good words that people with expertise in tasting might use to describe it-all I can say is that I enjoy it and am in no rush to slam a bottle of this beer-it's one to savor.

Another recent find that we'll purchase again is Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. Great stuff-another beer to sip slowly and enjoy. My son thought the white plastic ram tied to each bottle made for excellent combat play, as well.

The last interesting surprise has been the discovery that there IS in fact a red wine that I like. After hearing about Argentinian Malbec wine ad nauseum on Fdip podcasts, I finally said fine, fine, I'll try one but won't try too hard to like it. I was intrigued, though, about the idea of my mouth and teeth turning purple. Lo and behold, the 89 point, very inexpensive Alamos Mendoza Malbec wound up being something that was just "like buttah" on the tongue-and it did indeed stain my entire mouth a lovely shade of purple. Even my husband, who typically turns a shade of red himself from the sulfides in red wines, was able to drink this wine without the usual flushy reaction. I'm not sure what they do differently with wine in Argentina, but he sure enjoying being able to have a little red wine that doesn't make him look like a grape.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This Is Beyond Unfair

I wouldn't routinely ask the couple of people who pop in at my blog to pray, meditate, think of or channel positive thoughts, but I feel it's needed today. Some of you who are runners already know Mickey, and his son Cody. If you do, you may have already read yesterday's blog entry but if you haven't, please take a look at what's going on with Cody now, and consider taking a moment to do whatever it is you normally do to find strength in your own life. The little man needs it now more than ever.

It literally makes me sick to my stomach that this is happening to a young child who should be running around, playing, going to school and doing regular kid stuff. I can only imagine how helpless I'd feel if it were one of my children. So, if you are compelled, please keep Cody, his parents, and siblings in your thoughts and/or prayers. I don't understand why crap like this happens to anyone, let alone a small child.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Back to the Races!

After much hemming and hawing, and no great motivation to race lately, I finally found something I felt like doing this month. I'm going to head down to Gateway Canyons Resort and run the Winter Warmup 5K, which I ran last year. This is a perfect race when I'm not primarily focused on shorter distance stuff-there were maybe 20 runners last year, and the small crowd was very laid back before and after, but competitive during the event.

There are door prizes out the wazoo, as well. I think I walked away from this with a nice pair of running socks a year ago, and the race directors really strive for that personal touch with this little event. It's nearly always a guarantee that the weather will be nice in Gateway, so I'll just make sure to have adequate layering options and should be good to go. My time last year was about 3:45 off my best 5K road race so it's definitely NOT a PR course-yet another reason I can approach it just wanting to improve upon my time from last year. That shouldn't be tough. I'd been back running after thyroid surgery recovery for only a few weeks and I'm now running nearly double the mileage of a year ago. I was 0 for 3 last year in road 5K's with trying to run sub-23:00, and I think that came from being way too aggressive early on. The 5K is a short race, so there's not much room to save juice for the end-but I think that's what I need to do to some degree.

In the past week, I also set a treadmill mileage and time PR, running 21 miles on Saturday. I know that sounds as much fun as getting teeth pulled without anesthesia, but my kids had a full schedule of alternating activities that day, and the rain was just pouring down. It was an easy choice to stay home and run on the mill of dread, because then my husband could leave a kid or two at home with me, and not have to drag all four everywhere. Something about soggy, blistered feet wasn't very appealing to me, either. I know I could be racing the marathon in any number of conditions, but I'd rather deal with that on race day, and work on hitting my paces any way possible now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Temptation, Frustration

Mostly frustration. We were supposed to have one of the best men from our wedding, who crashes at our place once a year on a return holiday trip from seeing family California to his Kansas farm, crashing at our place tonight. Oh, and going out with us to our favorite Mexican restaurant. It's the annual tradition. I was looking forward all day to a margarita and crab enchilada. As it turns out, he's stopping in Mexican Hat, Utah tonight (named for this ), so no tequila for me this evening.

My husband was also skiing in Crested Butte today (this is how we in Colorado typically celebrate the MLK holiday...sad but true), so of course all hell broke loose at home-I successfully removed sharpie from a bathroom toilet (go me!) with a combination of two passes with rubbing alcohol and one with toothpaste. My two-year-old Captain Calamity managed to give herself a bloody nose during nap (I'm still trying figure this one out....she sleeps in a crib-was Baby Fight Club taking place?). My oldest daughter had a friend come over for the day and of course they thought that "keep it down during nap" means dance around, slam doors, send your voices up two octaves, and make sure you wake up the younger kids early.

I'm tired and beat and really SHOULD try to knock out tomorrow's run tonight, since our buddy won't be here today-but I'm truly whupped and can't see it being a good twelve miles. I never blow stuff off but I say to hell with it tonight. I'm going to be bad and eat pizza, watch TV, and not run. I'm thinking that since my schedule was turned totally upside-down today, they can all wait a few extra minutes tomorrow evening for me to finish my run before heading out for enchiladas and margaritas.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coffee, coffee, coffee.....

It is my friend indeed. I am waiting for the pot of coffee to brew, then it's time for a nice cup of joe and maybe a little bit of plain bagel. Then, I suppose, I won't delay the inevitable 18 or 19 miles through the Colorado Riverfront trail and Connected Lakes area.

The big lake on my route, on a section of gravel trail (or the "inner loop" section, as label it on my runs) was covered with a beautiful layer of snow last Saturday, and was just as quiet and free of noise pollution as could be, even though it's not really all that far from roads and civilization. Just thinking about getting two miles in, and running around the lake, are enough to motivate me to get out there. It's another cold but very sunny day already-just the best for winter runs around these parts.

Then it's time for much thought and pondering about how to finish this marathon training cycle. I got my new second edition of Advanced Marathoning, and there were actually a number of changes, one of which was the inclusion of four marathon pace runs. I've already missed the first one on the new schedule at this point and I'm just not sure how crucial and important it would be for me to add another pace run to the existing schedule. I have to say that I was a little cranky and irritable yesterday for various reasons, so a nice three hour run sounds like the perfect cure to purge the negative.

After the run, I've got a big day of back-and-forth between home and the dance studio, for various classes the kids are taking, plus rehearsals for the year end ballet in which my 9- and 6-year-old daughters have parts. I've been hemming and hawing (and getting an earful from the others in the adult ballet class) over playing a pirate in the show (Peter Pan), so who knows...I may suck it up and sit in for the pirate rehearsal as well. ARRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Friday, January 16, 2009

One Strong Woman

This is just a quick note this evening regarding fellow blogger Miranda, whose Bittersweet Symphony is the Phedippidations featured Blog of the Week. Please check out her blog-those of us who "know" her from the Women's BQ thread at RWOL already knew she was an outstanding, competitive runner. Her determination and courage, though, following an event that the word "traumatic" wouldn't even begin to describe, speak to her character and who she is as a person. It's so cool to see her running stronger than ever, and wonderful to find out that more people will get to "know" her through the podcast.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Great Run? Not so much.

I think my body's trying to get sick. I hate this feeling.

Monday was another Pfitz lactate threshold run. I can't believe it but I am finally getting over my mental block with the LT run. I did not think about it during the day or stress it-it was just something to do later. During my first Pfitz cycle, I struggled to knock out the miles on LT runs at PW (personal worst) half marathon pace in the beginning of training, and didn't get much better for the duration of training. Now, I am darn close to what would be my 15K race pace (fast end of how this run should be done) and it's comparatively MUCH easier than six months ago. The LT miles were 8:06, 8:06, 8:00, 8:00, 7:53, and the first two required NO self-talk or motivation. Then, at two miles in to the LT miles, it becomes easier to say hey, I'm almost halfway there and don't do another one of these runs for two weeks. Bring the pain!

I was tired for my recovery miles on Tuesday. This is typical now with my "fast and hard runs faster and harder, easy days slower and easier" strategy but I've been tacking on extra miles to the easy runs and just did not have it in me to do this on Tuesday. Wednesday was supposed to be 11 general aerobic miles. I thought I would add one for 12 total but this was not to be today. I felt craptacular from beginning to end and couldn't even salvage things by dialing down the pace. In fact, that felt worse. I was chilled and achy for the rest of the night (even my arms were sore...what's up with that? I felt like I'd been running on my hands). My stomach hurt. Meh.

It's ballet night, so hopefully the night of strength and flexibility training with the cardio break will give me a day to get myself feeling better. It's a big ballet night for my oldest daughter, too. She's been added into a class that's up a level from what she's been taking, and is now one of the two youngest by several years in the class. I'm anxious for her to see how she handles the class but I am sure she will do just fine.

Her middle sister started out the week not so great, with a somewhat surprising report card in some areas, and some stuff I would have liked to have known about at school before it got to this point. Their school and teachers kick butt and frankly, both my husband and I were surprised that this was the first time we were hearing about some things.

We met with her teachers within 48 hours of getting that report card, though, have a plan of action, and it's amazing what a difference a few days has made (and her knowledge that mom, dad, and teachers are keeping closer tabs on her). She's in the normal spectrum of kid behavior BUT brushes the edges of having attention and concentration issues at times. Physical activity has always been a GREAT outlet for her, so we have already told her that we'll add her into one more dance class and talk about a spring 5K if the next two weeks continue to be a marked improvement behaviorally and academically. She's one of those kids who is extremely motivated by carrot dangling, so we're going to go with that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Here Comes The Sun

It's all right. That nice, warm, Colorado sun on my face in January.

I'm happy to say that the treadmill was left unused and unloved yesterday, as I was able to successfully schedule a 14-miler into my day at a time that wouldn't impact other goings-on, or cause me to run out of daylight and have that packed snow and slush turn icy and dangerous.

This was one of those runs that reminds me why I LOVE running here in the winter. There was slight humidity in the air, which is great around these parts-it gets so dry on some winter days that breathing can be difficult at times, especially on a very cold day coupled with very low humidity. Yesterday, the air was just moist enough that it felt good to take in the air without it being so humid that it became bone-chillingly cold. This was a cutback week, and I was scheduled for twelve miles, but as I'm "SuperPfitzing It," my personal plan was to run on feel and do somewhere in the 12-15 mile range. I wound up doing fourteen, and was pleased with my pace, given the snowy, slushy spots on the trail.

Another fellow blogger mentioned some amazing bird sightings on a recent run. It caught my eye because I've found myself becoming more and more aware of the birds that perch in trees and fly around the riverfront trail where I run. It's always out of the blue-I'll be running along and something with a humongous wing span will cross the water, or I'll look up and see something staring down from a tree. I think that before I started running regularly, I was completely unaware of all the sights and sounds of wildlife down there. Between the mountain lions and bobcats, the deer and the birds, I find myself becoming more and more interested in the creatures that live where I run, and am always excited and curious to find out which animals will make an appearance along my route on any given day.

Yesterday, I was on what I call the "lonely section" of the riverfront loop. The human population tends to avoid this section other than those who are biking, running or walking the entire loop, and there are large, bare, shadeless stretches where tamarisk abatement has taken place. I was moving along, looked up and saw what I am nearly certain was a bald eagle, or a VERY similar species. It soared overhead and I had to stop what I was doing to watch it for a few more seconds until it was out of view. This was just one of many unexpected moments I'm treated to when I make sure to get OUT there and off the treadmill whenever I'm able, and I am very excited to get back to my regular weekend routine of layering up to hit the trails.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Amazing Marathon Moments

Just a few of my favorites here, including other nice marathon moments besides the finishes.

Deena Kastor Takes the Bronze in Athens
Watch for the hard pass, late in the race, at the 1:45 mark on the video. It makes her emotional finish all the more enjoyable.

Duel In The Sun or Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar in their famous battle for victory at the 1982 Boston Marathon. I love the pure guts on display here. The motorcycle cops and the stray horse make me cringe, though.

Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss and her famous finish at the 1984 Olympics, the first contested Women's Olympic marathon. Many were shocked to see her coming in looking like this and those who fought for the event to take place feared this could be used as an argument against women running the marathon. She waved off officials because at the time it meant that she would be disqualified from the event, and went on to finish in a still amazing 2:48:45. It's important to note that she was feeling better and fully recovered later that day, and went on to a very successful Masters running career.

And the winner from that race in 1984....Joan Benoit Samuelson. And again.... twenty four years later! Under 2:50 at age 50. Simply remarkable.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hit The Ground Running

Um, yeah. About that.....

I was treadmill bound during the week, which is my normal routine. I've always done my long runs outdoors, though, come rain or shine. Last weekend's unusually cold, icy and snowy weather caused me to choose a long treadmill run last Saturday, which went surprisingly well. I vowed, though, that this would not become my new norm. I really do enjoy that outdoor time, even if it's a little cold or a little hot, and I have some great outdoor running options here in western Colorado when my husband is not working, and home to care for the little monkeys.

I was all set for a long run outdoors today...really, I was. In all my (*cough* stupidity *cough* failure to plan *cough* ) running around and taking care of various errands and chores around the house late in the week, I forgot that a)we had some friends bringing their daughters over to spend the night as part of a child care/date nights tradeoff Friday night, and that b)my entire family was scheduled for haircuts at 1pm Saturday. This left exactly enough time to get out for a long run in the morning.

Um....make that-if I'd gotten out there after our friends' children went home. Or, truth be told, I could've gone out earlier. My husband can hold his own any day of the year with the kids, and in a world of kids acting up and misbehaving, our friends' children are some of the most pleasant and polite kids I've ever met. So-yeah. I don't think he needed me to save him from any children laying out a path of destruction in our home. I didn't make it out in the morning, though, and realized once it was too late that I hadn't given myself enough daylight for an afternoon run by the time haircuts were done. So, I sucked it up, had our hair lady cut my youngest daughter's and my hair first, and hightailed it home with her to get her down for a nap and then begin my (ultimate human hamster wheel experience) high quality long run.

The first three or four miles of this run were just plain tiring. I passed my time listening to the latest Fdip podcast, then moved on to Phish, A Live One, Disc One. If you are a runner who likes dirty hippie jam band music, it's a great album to play all the way through on a hard or long run. By this time, the rest of the family was home and the Tired Daddy came in to chat with me for a bit, and asked what I wanted to nibble on right after the run. Did I mention that my husband is awesome? We were talking lately about stuff I'd read and heard about taking in nutrients within the hour following a long run, and how it aids recovery, and he was taking the time to get something set out for me so I could just shower and sit down to eat. I've said it before but there's no way I could go after this BQ goal without his full and enthusiastic support.

I was officially scheduled for seventeen miles on the Pfitz 18/55. I've been running my own "SuperPfitz" remix of the Pfitz 18/55 plan, though, (essentially splitting the difference between 55 and 70 mile per week plans) and really wanted to hit 18 for the day. I did not think this would happen after the sluggish start, but am pleased to say that I did in fact feel stronger in the final miles than anywhere else in the run, got in the full 18 and hit a Sunday-through-Saturday weekly mileage PR of 56 miles! Part of this was from the MRT mileage challenge, running 12/24-12/31, but it was a good week for me nonetheless.