Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Food

Everybody has to choose his or her own path on Thanksgiving. Will it be gorging to one's delight on traditionally rich and fattening Thanksgiving dishes? Will it be a road of strict, Ghandi-like asceticism, eschewing all but the most healthy, lowfat offerings?

I am pretty much planning on the middle road between the two extremes, concentrating on turkey (lots), salad, and roasted sweet potatoes. I can easily pass on the mashed potatoes and gravy, and I can resist the dressing (even though it's my special recipe, "Northwest Dressing" with lashings of oysters, filberts, and apple). But I'm having pie, for sure. My secretary is kindly making me her delectable marionberry pie (and yes, I do plan to share with others) and my sister is bringing a couple other pies (so that will protect "my" pie from being completely devoured, leaving a piece or two for a treat or breakfast the next day).

Here are a couple of recipes for easy Thanksgiving side dishes that are low in calories and pretty good for you. The jello dish* does have Splenda for sweetening, so it's not pure, but it is yummy and even people who aren't trying to be sugar-free will enjoy it. It's good for diabetics, too. I started making it many years ago when my grandmother was alive, and adopted it myself when I decided to change my eating habits.

Raspberry Applesauce Jello
One large or two small packages sugar-free raspberry jello**
2 cups boiling water
2 cups frozen raspberries (without added sugar)
2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Light & Fit vanilla yoghurt, or plain yoghurt sweetened with a little Splenda and vanilla

Dissolve jello in water. Add raspberries and stir until thawed. Add applesauce and mix well. Pour into glass baking dish and refrigerate until set. Top with vanilla yoghurt, if desired. (This can also be made in a jello mold if desired, but in that case, omit the topping.)

This sweet potato dish is very simple. I've made it a lot. I've also tinkered with it by adding spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, even cinnamon to the diced sweet potatoes, or omitting the rosemary. Here I'm leaving it simple, just as the recipe is written. It's from Stop the Clock Cooking by Cheryl Forsberg. Obviously the quantities can be adjusted as you desire.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary
1½ pounds sweet potatoes
1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil spray. Position a rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Scrub sweet potatoes well. Rinse and dry completely. Cut into ¾ inch dice. Cut out eyes and blemishes but do not peel.

Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. (Alternatively, it may be easier to toss with the olive oil in a bowl first, or often I just spray generously with olive oil spray instead the liquid oil.) Sprinkle with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat and place baking sheet in oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until golden outside and tender inside. (I am taking the recipe's word for it on the time here. I just bake until they are browned to my liking.) Turn potatoes once during baking.

A 2/3 cup serving has 102 calories and all kinds of good-for-you stuff. (Have a whole cup for only 153 calories!)

I also like to make a big green salad. This year I'm thinking of making this spinach salad instead. By coincidence, it is also a Cheryl Forsberg recipe. I like the dried cherries (and other stuff). Instead of the complicated dressing, though, I am going to make a vinaigrette*** using a cherry balsamic vinegar. I may saute some sweet onion to add to the salad, though, to keep that element in the recipe.

You may have heard on NPR (or the Iron Chef) that lobster was one of the foods served at the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. If you can swing it (great for you East Coasters), steamed or boiled lobster would make a great add-on to a healthy Thanksgiving feast. Each ounce of plain lobster has only 29 calories, 6.2 grams of protein, and virtually no fat. Of course, just keep in mind that each tablespoon of melted butter adds 100 calories and beaucoup fat! I've never had lobster for Thanksgiving but I would love to make it a tradition.

But whatever you decide to eat for Thanksgiving, please be thankful that you have the ability to put good food on the table, and the good health to enjoy it. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving and fine fellowship with your loved ones.****

*I'm not a huge fan of jello, per se, but the applesauce and raspberries give this a great texture that totally makes up for the jiggliness of typical jello.

**You could also use another flavor of red jello, and might want to tinker with the frozen fruit, trying perhaps strawberries or cherries instead.

***Balsamic Vinaigrette: Whisk together one tablespoon dijon mustard and four tablespoons balsamic vinegar (preferably cherry balsamic vinegar for this recipe). While whisking, slowly drizzle in four tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk until emulsified.

****Hopefully without too many family fights. I've been on one end, and the sidelines, of many a Thanksgiving battle!

Monday, November 24, 2008

TIck tock tick tock (time is passing)

Two weeks from today will be the day after the Las Vegas Half Marathon.

Yikes! How did that happen? When I realized last week how close I was getting, I decided it was time to sketch out a training schedule for the remaining time before the run. It had been probably two or three weeks since I'd done a run longer than ten miles, thanks to a 10K one weekend and an out-of-town trip another weekend. I figured there was still time to squeeze in two longish runs without over-exhausting myself before the race.

So here's the plan. (We'll see how well I stick to it.) (Just for running. I still have yoga and core classes, and cardio-machine workouts on the schedule.)

Sunday, 11/23 — long run (12+miles)
Monday, 11/24 — regular easy run (6 miles)
Wednesday, 11/26 — regular run with speed work (6 miles)
Friday, 11/28 — long run (12+ miles) (seems like a good day for it, since it's a day off from work and the day after Thanksgiving)
Sunday, 11/30 — easy run (6 miles)
Monday, 12/1 — regular easy run (5-6 miles)
Wednesday, 12/3 — regular run possibly with speed work (5-6 miles)

I debated whether I should reduce my mileage on Monday or Wednesday of next week and I decided that probably wouldn't be necessary (unless of course it is to allow myself to get to work on time), as I'm taking Thursday, Friday and Saturday off from running to really allow my legs and the rest of my body to recover and rest prior to the race. I don't want another situation where my compulsion to burn calories and accumulate mileage causes me to burn myself out in advance of the race.

In anticipation of running yesterday, I mapped out a long loop around Marysville to get in twelve or thirteen miles. Based on my route, it looked like I would have to do some extra blocks (or miles) to get in the full distance. But thanks to a mistake on my part, I ended up with the full thirteen (while planning on twelve) without having to add anything extra. In fact, I took advantage of a shortcut just to finish at a reasonable time and not go too much over thirteen.*

Running in Marysville is kind of like a trip down memory lane, since I grew up and went to school there. I started out near the church I attended with my family throughout my childhood and high school, then ran north on State Street (the main drag) and past the high school. Then all the way north on 67th (a pretty busy main road), crossing back and forth frequently to try to run on sidewalks (as opposed to a shoulderless white line) whenever possible. I missed my intended turn off 67th and ended up following 71st until the road finally ran into Sunnyside at Soper Hill Road, where I followed Sunnyside back into town.

I was running a pretty respectable 10:30 pace for most of the run, with notable exceptions at a couple of long, steep hills. When I turned onto Sunnyside I was already at nine miles. I was a little concerned about how much further I had left to go to return to my starting point... but reasoned that I could always call for a ride if I hit twelve miles and still had a long way to go.

And then I was at twelve miles, and although I wasn't quite sure exactly where I was, I knew I wasn't back at my starting point. But luckily for me, I was actually at a fortuitous point, not far from the north entry to Jennings Park, and in my pocket I had a map that showed a nature trail through Jennings Park that ended near Grove Street (very close to my destination).

The cut through Jennings and the remaining blocks took me to 13.06 miles, a very respectable distance (just don't ask me how long it took to run this "half marathon"). And despite my delays on the hills and trying to figure out where I was, I finished with plenty of time to spare.

The time I needed was to shower and dress and get all prettied up** for a trip to the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall. I had tickets to see the symphony perform Tchaikovsy's Romeo and Juliet Overture and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (as well as a very impressive Sibelius work after the intermission). The brilliant pianist performing the Rachmaninoff piece was a tall, young, skinny guy who I couldn't help thinking of as "that child." But if a child (which he really wasn't), he was certainly a prodigy, as his playing was beautiful.

Although not performed by the Seattle Symphony, here are tastes of these very delicious musical works.

Romeo and Juliet Overture

Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini

*It's not that I would have minded the extra distance. But I had to allow enough time to get myself ready to go to the symphony in the afternoon, and a couple of extra miles would have been a major problem.

**Black velvet dress. I could have been in the symphony myself!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


When I was in England last year I was fascinated by this road sign I came across. I wrote a post about the concept of priorities, as they related to travel plans and, a little bit, life in general.*

Evaluating and balancing priorities in life is an ongoing challenge. I don't have children, so that particular non-negotiable priority is not an issue for me. That means that pretty much everything else in my life is up for grabs as to order, and weight, of priorities.

The major priorities in my life these days are work, family, my personal life,** my friends, my home life (e.g. cooking, cleaning, gardening, bills, etc.), and of course, running, exercise, and diet. I try to balance my priorities so that I give sufficient time and energy to each area, without devoting so much of my attention to any one particular area that I neglect the others.

I think that for many people—me included at many times in my life—the diet and exercise piece often falls victim to the others, which can seem more demanding, more crucial, and have live people attached to them drawing on your attention and time. Of course, neglecting a healthy diet and exercise doesn't make your life better; in fact it can make your life worse on many levels.

The first few years when I was losing weight and really starting to exercise and run, I probably put the diet and exercise priority at the top of my list, because in many ways it was the most important part of my life at that time. I was still able to devote sufficient attention to work, family and friends so as not to damage those relationships, but they definitely came second to my healthy lifestyle agenda.***

This was actually a good thing to do for a while, because it helped me to develop the discipline (and habit) not to let family and work demands detract from working out and eating well. Skip the Y to go out for drinks with friends? No thanks. A birthday party on a Saturday afternoon? After working out, and choose the grilled chicken over hot dogs, and accept only a small piece of cake. Ballet tickets on a Sunday? Get up extra early to run first. Hanging out at work late into the evening? No, just get my work done quickly and head to the Y.

As time has passed, I have let myself become more flexible, and hopefully have allowed the diet and exercise to form a more balanced relationship with my other priorities. I still decline to skip a workout for a casual meet-up with friends, but I will if a friend needs to meet for dinner to work through a difficult issue. Sometimes I do have to skip the Y and stay late at work, to do taxes and reports, or prepare for a big trial, but I do this as needed, not routinely. And I admit, while 90% of the time I adhere to the eating plan which has worked well over the last four years, I am a little (lot) more likely to succumb to a cookie or treat on occasion.**** But while I know I'll eat pie on Thanksgiving, I also know that the rest of my dinner will be turkey, salad, and roasted sweet potatoes (and maybe just a bite of dressing).

As far as the personal life part of it all, I admit it's really tempting to skip going to the Y or running in order to spend more time with the object of said personal life, but so far I have managed to keep those priorities in balance as well. It helps that he really admires my dedication to running and yoga and so forth, and I know he wouldn't ask me to give them up. In exchange, I might on occasion move a run to another day or make some other kind of accommodation to make the schedule work for both of us. And so far, it does. Work.

The one thing that I am still not good at, but am really working towards these days, is putting the home and garden part of my life back in the full priority department. Between working and the time I spend running or at the Y, and spending time with my friends, family, and object of my personal life, there's not a lot of time left for housekeeping, prompt bill paying (oops), or garden work. I'm afraid I was much better at those things when I was overweight and sedentary!

However, I have made some big strides in this area. My downstairs is picture perfect, and ready for Christmas decoration.***** My upstairs is still a work in progress. (Stacks of books, shoes, and way too many clothes—it's a challenge!) This last summer in the garden I planted a lot of patio containers, and I had some helpers with yard upkeep and maintenance. Next year I plan to work more on landscaping and borders.

So, have my priorities changed over the last few years? The things that are important to me remain the same. The weight of my priorities, however, continues to fluctuate. Some needs are more urgent at times, requiring other interests to take a back seat. Then, I hope, the balance will shift back and I can put more energy into the things I've neglected. My goal, always, is to balance out my priorities so that I never end up abandoning the things that are important to me. That way I can maintain the happy, balanced life that I seem to have been blessed with.

*You should read it, I'm a really good travel writer. And modest too.

**And considering that I now have a personal life for the first time in a while, I'm not about to be neglecting it!

***I admit freely that I seriously neglected the home care aspect of my life.

****And full disclosure, my sister just stopped by with a huckleberry pie—apparently it was the last day of the season that they would be available at Metropolitan Market—and I accepted a big piece, which I will eat a bit later with a big blob of light ice cream. A couple of years ago, the "diet priority" me would have probably sent her away. Now, I said "thank you" and "yum!" It's all about balance. No wait, priorities. Okay, balancing priorities.

*****In fact, thanks to my laxness last year, the Christmas decorating is already halfway done! But not the tree. Thank God. That might have been the final straw.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Looking towards year's end

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away (dear God) and Christmas following only four weeks after (dear, dear God), we are quickly approaching the end of this year, and with it, the results of my annual mileage goal.

I did a little math last night and happily, I am well on track to accomplishing my goal of 1500 miles, without requiring any Herculean efforts at the end of the year. My current total is just a hair over 1380 (thanks to last week's 32 miles), which leaves only 120 miles to complete my planned objective. There are six full weeks (plus a handful of days) left in the year, which requires only 20 miles per week to meet goal. Easy peasy, I hope. That even allows for some slacking around the holidays,* if necessary—or unavoidable—as my typical week has been over 30 miles throughout this year.

I did some additional math and figured that it would be quite impossible, and just too much work, to revise my goal to some other, higher, round number. So 1500 it is. I'll almost certainly be over, but after all, I don't want to raise the stakes so high that I can't leave something to shoot for next year.

2009. Now there's a concept. It's already looking to be a good year. Let's hope expectations bear out. 2008's done pretty well for me so far.

*Although goodness knows, the holidays are the last time of year when I should be slacking on exercise!

And speaking of the holidays....

I have yet to accomplish my "lose 10 pounds by Las Vegas" scheme. Which also means that I weigh almost 10 pounds more than I did this time last year (and let's hope it's still "almost"). Which means that I don't have the luxury of gaining a few pounds over the holidays. I know I'm not alone in this predicament. Still, it's an irritation.

So for now, in the ten days remaining until Thanksgiving I'm trying to be extra vigilant about staying on track. (With a small blip for the Book Club cookie party on Friday. But I'm trying to make cookies, not eat them, for that.) Okay, I'll admit to a cookie and the last piece of apple pie* in the office this morning. But now all that crap is gone and I will just ignore the other crap.

Maybe five pounds by Las Vegas?

*Eaten in chunks. By hand. Over several trips out and back to the kitchen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Running east

I spent the weekend on the Eastern side of the mountains, and although we were only about 180 miles from home—a 3½ hour drive—it was like another world. Over here we are all green and shiny. Evergreen trees and mossy lawns and wet streets and puddles. Eastern Washington is gold and grey and beigey tan. At least this time of year, after the hot summer has burned away all the springtime greens. Golden wheatfields (all shorn at this time of year), great craggy rocks and silver brush, and, if you can imagine, tumbleweed!

My friend has a little cabin on an acre between Waterville and Ephrata. It's powered by solar energy, so our radio and reading lights were completely environmentally friendly. We also used a small propane heater to warm the cabin, which, although less "green," was invaluable as the evening got pretty chilly. The cabin was pretty toasty by the time we went to sleep, which was good because it was a cold night. The heater was off during the night, of course, and by early morning the indoor temperature was probably in the 40's, and the outside was 28.

So that certainly made the prospect of crawling out of a cozy sleeping bag to go running somewhat less than appealing! Although by the time I seriously considered it, around 8:00, the relit heater had warmed the indoors quite nicely. Which made the chilly outside even less tempting.

But I was determined to get a Sunday run in. I ran about 10½ miles on Friday, anticipating that a long run on Sunday would be impractical. For one thing, I didn't want to leave my friend sitting around waiting while I took an extended run. The hour or so it would take to go five or six miles was plenty to expect of him.

So I pulled on running clothes (I had brought long pants anticipating the colder weather) and stepped out onto the porch. Yep, 28 degrees. Nice.

He said, "so you'll be at least 45 minutes?" Uh... yeah... "at least an hour!" I responded. Then, thinking twice, I added an extra 15 minutes, not wanting to raise any alarms in case I was unusually—make that typically—slow. Plus there would be an inevitable potty stop at the clubhouse (real plumbing, hurrah!).

The roads were packed gravel, and I felt pretty sluggish as I headed out. The cold air felt harsh on my lungs, and I think perhaps the elevation added to my labored breathing. While my home turf is only slightly above sea level, we were at least above 1500 feet, maybe more. Add the incline that I started up, and we're talking slooow, baby.

We had measured out above a mile and a half from the cabin to the clubhouse, and initially I thought I would just have to do a double loop, to get my miles without wandering off into uncharted territory. But at the clubhouse I just kept on running on the main gravel road, figuring I would turn around when I got to the highway or 2.5 miles, whichever came first.

I think I was pretty close to the highway when I did turn back, at 2.6 miles, to retrace my steps. I hadn't realized I was climbing gradually on this part of the road, but I certainly noticed the decline on my return, as I picked up the pace to make like Deena Kastor (Deena Kastor in traction, that is).

After the blessed bathroom stop, I continued my return to the cabin. I was a little more nervous here, because I had to make a couple of turns along the way. Although I knew the names of the roads, I was paranoid about missing them and heading off into the wild. I figured if I got to 5.5 miles without finding my road, I would know I'd missed it. But luckily, at 5 miles I spotted the first turn, with the second shortly thereafter. As I neared the cabin and 5.6 miles approached, I decided I couldn't stop without finishing the whole six miles. I still had ten minutes of leeway before I used up my allotted time and raised a "missing" alarm. Four tenths of a mile in ten minutes? I thought I could handle it.

So I just kept running past the cabin for another two tenths, and turned back to finish at 6.01, five minutes before "deadline." By that time either the air had warmed a bit or I had become accustomed to it, because my lungs had stopped burning. Actually that probably happened about two miles in.

Needless to say, the cabin has no indoor shower facilities, but on the other hand, I was hardly sweating in the cold weather, so I quickly changed clothes, made myself some instant oatmeal for breakfast, and we packed up to head out. We had a three to four hour trip home, not including any stops we might want to make along the way.

The first of which was just down the road from the cabin, to view some of the dramatic surrounding scenery.

Then we headed back towards home. In Waterville, we detoured off the main road to check out Badger Mountain Ski Hill. Right now there's not a lick of snow on the ground, but assuming a decent winter snowfall, this small ski area will open in January for skiing (three rope tows). With the roads clear right now, we were able to drive right up to the top and look down the main run into the Waterville farmland area below.

Our final stop on the east side of the mountains was in Cashmere, at the delightful Anjou Bakery, for a bite of lunch (quiche) and a treat (cherry pie for him, which was reportedly scrumptious; and a shortbread brownie for me, which was, yes, a layer of brownie on a layer of shortbread).

Actually that was not quite the last stop. That was at Safeway in Leavenworth, for a fill-up of gas (with an amazing phenomenon, a 20-cent reduction off the posted price, for a net cost of $2.06 per gallon), and for me, a quick trip into that coffee shop inside the store that I apparently mention a lot by name in this blog.

And then we were over the pass, going right by Stevens Pass Ski Area (where we intend to spend a lot of time this winter), and zooming westward toward home, work, and another week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like a drowned rat

This morning was the first time this fall that it's been really, really raining when I went out. Oh there's been drizzle and mist and sputtering sporadic showers, but steady rainfall? Not until today.

By the time I got home my clothes were soaked through, and I don't think I was even sweating. I'm pretty sure if I'd stepped on the scale fully dressed I would have added five pounds in wet clothing! At one point I know the rain was dripping off my hat. My gloves, when I stopped at Starbucks, were so soaked that I could literally wring the water out of them. Halfway along I took off my glasses and put them in my pocket, because between the rain on the outside and steam on the inside, I couldn't see a thing. My spectacle-free myopically impaired vision was much better.*

Needless to say, my feet were squishing in my shoes by the time I stepped in the first puddle. After that, it didn't really matter any more!

And at some point I dropped the cap on my water bottle and instead of stopping to recover it, I figured, what's the point? It's not like the splashing from the bottle could get me any more wet that I already was. So I ran on with an open bottle and, you know, I don't think it splashed me at all!

Despite the bad weather I had managed to get up half an hour early, which allowed me to add on an extra mile** and still get to work a little early. Since I was early, I stopped at Starbuck's and walked the last half mile home. My average pace (before the walking portion) was 10:09, which included 3¾ miles at a sub-10 minute pace. The other miles (which alternated with the faster miles) were above 10 minutes. (Obviously.)

And despite the bad weather, I still felt great when I was done!

*I am seriously considering getting contacts just for the purpose of running in the rain. Maybe for skiing too.

**For a total of 7.23 miles, the last half mile walking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Banned Bake Sales

I'm sitting here watching the CBS Evening News—I like to call it Katie's news—before heading to the Y for my evening workout and yoga class. Partly I'm just passing time. Yoga doesn't start till 7:15 and leaving here at 6:00 allows plenty of time to work out beforehand. And heaven forbid I use that extra time at home doing something useful, like cleaning! (Or paying bills—which reminds me, I need to do that!)

But in the teaser segment at the beginning, Katie mentioned a piece that they will be airing which intrigues me. The story is about schools outlawing bake sales, in the wake of the childhood "obesity crisis." This is probably related to the California nutrition standards, which prohibit schools from selling snacks containing more than a certain level of sugar and fat. Specifically, snacks sold during the school day may contain no more than 35% sugar by weight and derive no more than 35% of calories from fat. I'm pretty sure that most traditional bake sale fare—cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.—would not possibly meet those standards.

Is this a bad or a good thing? Leaving aside the whole regulatory aspect of it all, which I'm certain that people have different views on regardless of the topics of the regulations, is it good or bad that bake sales have been eliminated to help prevent childhood obesity?

I'm totally in favor of schools not selling soda pop, candy, or unhealthy packaged snacks like chips. I remember, even in "my day," such junk food often was a substitute for decent lunches amongst my friends and acquaintances—okay, and maybe me as well. Or if not a substitute, a supplement, which may even be worse, at least as far as calorie consumption goes.

But outlawing the sale of homebaked goodies for special occasions and fundraisers? I'm not so sure. To me, there's a difference between a sugary Coke and a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Although, to be fair, they have about the same number of calories.

I'm sure there are a lot of other legitimate, healthier ways to raise funds for school activities (or charitable causes). But really, let's not turn to the sale of more wrapping paper. I have enough already.

I don't remember a lot of bake sales when I was in school. So it's not like I have some nostalgic memory to fall back on. But I wonder, are they really a major cause of childhood obesity? Is their elimination really going to solve the problem? (Or help with the problem?) Maybe... but only if parents and kids adopt a healthier lifestyle overall, including nourishing meals and exercise. And you know, if everyone did that, I bet we could survive a bake sale or two.

Ten years in 100 characters

Pasta Queen wrote in her blog about writing a summary of her life over the last ten years in 100 characters or less. Always up for a writing challenge, I decided to try my own version. The problem is, I have a really hard time not being verbose. My first try, which I thought was really concise, hit 100 characters in about the second line. I didn't actually know whether characters counted spaces or not, but I decided, to be scrupulously fair, I should count the spaces as well as actual letters.

So I paired it down to the ultimate bare bones. I'm sure that there's a lot more stuff that happened, but these are the events in my life that stand out over the last decade! I think the characters and spaces add up to 99.

Got new job. Started own firm. Lost lots of weight. Ran lots of miles. Met guy I’ve known 35 years.

Seem short on details? Yeah, that's my problem too. That's why you'll never see me writing telegrams or personal ads!

In retrospect, I guess I could pare it even further, to: New job. Started firm. Lost weight. Ran miles. Met guy.

That cuts it to 55 characters. Just think of what I could do with 45 extra characters! Wrote blog, for one thing—that adds ten characters. Cut hair? Nine characters. Did yoga. Plus nine. Ran more. Another nine. And I'll leave the last eight characters to your imagination. Here you go:

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Foul Weather but Fun Run

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night... no wait, that's for mail carriers. Probably it could apply to runners as well, however, because certainly a little heat, or snow or rain is not going to stay a dedicated runner from the swift completion of his or her appointed rounds. By "appointed rounds" I mean, of course, a 10K race, and by "swift completion" I mean, well, as fast as one can manage under inclement conditions.

Such was the case yesterday, Saturday, at the Fowl Fun Run 10K up in Mount Vernon. There was no snow, heat, or gloom of night, but there was rain. And wind—oh, was there wind. Last year's race day was cool and sunny, and I had hoped for the same, but it seemed unlikely considering the wet and blustery weather we had been having all week. On Saturday it actually seemed a little bit better, at least not raining hard as we drove up toward Mount Vernon early on Saturday morning. There was even some hint in the sky that the clouds might break.

Alas, as race time approached at 10 a.m., the clouds rolled back in and rain started to sputter from the sky. Firm gusts of wind loosened leaves from the trees, swirling them into damp piles on the muddy ground. The inside of a warm, dry car (with company) seemed much more appealing than the soggy fairgrounds where the race was to start.

But as 9:30 approached I had to take some kind of action if I wanted to make any kind of decent effort at this run. We reluctantly left the car to walk over to a track-like area where I could do some warm-up. I jogged one lap around, testing my ankle for soreness. I felt it a little bit in my heel, but the rest of my legs felt okay. There is something to running several hours after waking up, when your body has had a chance to loosen up naturally, as opposed to early morning runs where I roll almost directly from the bed to the sidewalk on still sleep-stiffened legs.

I took two more laps, picking up the pace a bit at the end of the second, and by then it was about 9:45. My support crew-slash-volunteer coach felt that I should do some pre-run stretches, so I stopped then and he guided me through some gentle loosening stretches for the ankles, shins and quads.

Then, after a quick last-minute stop at the rest room, it was time to gather at the starting line. It still wasn't raining more than lightly, but the wind persisted. We gathered in a loose mob as someone made announcements. He reminded us that about a half mile in, the 10K runners would veer right and the 2-milers would go straight. (Good to know—it would be horrible to go the wrong way and lose time backing up!) There were no chips, but the crowd was modest enough that we wouldn't have much delay at the start.

Then, at just about 10 a.m. or a little after, we were off. I had a moment's delay as I was caught behind two very little girls dressed in pink, and I had to veer around them, but I am unable to be irritated with little girls in pink (as opposed to slow adults, who piss me off regularly), and I quickly was able to pick up my stride.

I had decided not to be obsessed with the Garmin, and I pulled my sleeve down over it so I couldn't see the time or the splits as they passed by. I had no idea what my pace was, but as I passed the one-mile marker my legs were loose and I felt fast.

Unfortunately, that's about when I headed directly into the wind. It wasn't quite like running uphill, but I was sure it was slowing me down a little. And in fact, the one time I did look at my watch was at the two-mile mark, and I was a little disappointed to see 9:04. Although certainly, it could have been worse!

The middle of the race was a long out and back along Dike Road. The turnaround was at the 5K point. I vowed, as I was pushing along into the wind, that I would make an extra effort to pick up the pace in the second half. As I turned at the cones, the guy there (who was probably making sure no one cut the turn short) shouted something encouraging, like "great split." Undoubtedly he was saying that to everyone, as I don't think he even had a stopwatch, but still, it was nice. I shouted back, "now the wind will be with us," hoping that was true.

It wasn't quite true. I wasn't running into the wind as I retraced the route along Dike Road, but it was still coming at me from the side. Probably this made it a neutral wind, neither hindrance (as before) nor help (as I had hoped).

Since I was in the second half, I decided it was time to try and catch, or pass, some of the runners ahead of me. I fixed my sights on a few that seemed reachable. There were few enough runners that each person ahead of me was an individual, as opposed to the packs in some of the big races. While I was running along the "back" portion, of course there were many runners still passing on the "out" section. I like to think there were still more coming than there were ahead of me! Occasionally, as others had done for me on my "out," I waved and shouted encouragement to those I met. As I recognized one much older man that I had met at prior Skagit races, I waved and shouted "Hi Boris!" This was Boris Balac, 72 years old, not the oldest male in the race,* but a fixture in these runs and a strong finisher at 61:31.

I'm not sure if I passed anyone in that fourth mile, but as I approached about mile 5 there were at least three people in my sights. The first, who turned out to be an older male** (sometimes it's hard to tell whether someone is male or female until you are near them), I passed pretty easily and stayed ahead without any further effort. There was one young woman in red (the race shirt, actually), who was far enough ahead of me that I never had a substantial chance of catching her, though she stayed in my sights throughout (I believe she finished about a minute ahead of me).

But closer to me I saw a young man and a woman about my age and they seemed within my grasp. I soon drew even with the male, but the woman stayed ahead of me, maintaining a steady lead (of about 10 seconds, I would say, as it turned out). Then I passed the male and pushed ahead. A few minutes later he must have gotten a second wind, because he came from behind and re-passed me! But I was still running strong, and I think he was flagging—that pass was perhaps a last push—and moments later I pulled ahead of him again and never saw him again.***

But my other primary "competition," the woman in the grey shirt, managed to stay ahead of me even as I put on my extra push in the last mile and in the quarter mile finishing section. She finished ten seconds ahead of me. When I congratulated her after the race, she said she saw me coming and was just out of steam, she didn't think she could stay ahead. (But of course she did! Congratulations, Ann!)

So what about my finish time? I said I wasn't seeking a PR, and I didn't get a PR. I said I just didn't want to be disappointed, and I wasn't, really, except for a moment because I had felt good enough about the run that I thought, maybe, I might do better than expected. But as it turned out the wind probably played a big part in my finish time.

My time? Exactly 54 minutes. As I was approaching the clock I saw it in the high 53 numbers, and I tried, tried as much as I could to get over the finish line before it clicked over. Kind of like trying to get across the street before the end of the "don't walk" countdown! I practice that fairly regularly in the mornings. But it was at 53:59 one step before the finish, and I saw it turn over as my foot crossed.****

So, given that my time was a minute or so more than my best times, and that I've never placed in the age groups up in Skagit, I didn't bother to try to find out my official place or wait for the awards. I didn't even wait to see if I won a turkey or a pie in the random giveaways. Instead, I caught up with my support crew/coach, and we left pretty quickly to go eat at the Calico Cupboard. Even though this wasn't a long run, I thought a cinnamon roll was in order.

Later on, as we were driving home, the sun started breaking through the clouds, enough that I even flipped down the sun visor. I wondered why this couldn't have happened earlier in the morning! But really, the rain hadn't been my problem, only the wind.

When I checked my splits on the Garmin, I was both shocked and pleased. Most of my miles were faster than my typical 10K pace, or at least what I consider a typical 10K pace, and if it hadn't been for miles 2 and 3, I would have been under 53 minutes (assuming that I had run those miles at the same pace as the others).

I have to brag on myself a little. Mile 1, which I knew felt good, was 8:32. Then I must have hit the wind, because that gave me the 9:04 in Mile 2. And then 9:05 in Mile 3. But after that, thinks improved immensely. Mile 4 was 8:25. Mile 5 was 8:34. Mile 6 was 8:24. And the final quarter mile (because my Garmin showed a total distance of 6.25) was at a 7:53 pace. Wow. That makes me happy. Because although my total time was a bit slower than I would have liked, I never felt during those faster miles that I was killing myself. My average pace for the whole run was 8:39 per mile.

As I've been writing this today, I looked up the results to get some of the details I've added here. Just for fun, I decided to see where I finished in my age group (Female 40-49). There was one 46-year-old woman at 46:26 (wow), as well as a few women in their thirties, a handful of teenage girls, and a 57 and 61-year-old all ahead of me (and lots of males too, of course). But after the 46-year-old, I was the next 40-something female! Could that be possible? (And I didn't stay for the ribbons!) Overall there were ten women in my age group. The last two or three had times that indicated they were walking, not running. But I was definitely second.

Maybe they'll mail me a ribbon.

With my support crew/coach/official race photographer, after the run and before the cinnamon roll.

*That would be one Ben Grevstad, 74 years old, with a blistering 49:40 time. Yes, 31 years older than me and running a time that I can only hope for in my wildest, I mean wildest, dreams!

**Age 71, upon looking at the results, and finishing at 55:21.

***Looking at the finishing times, he probably ended up just under two minutes behind me. And if he's who I think on the list, he's twenty years younger than me and yes, I "chicked" him.

****When the finish picture is enlarged, you can see that the clock read 53:50 at the time of the photo, and you can also see my competitor in grey crossing the finish line.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My heart is soaring, my feet are flying

Perhaps it was a surge of adrenaline from the past few days of heightened excitement and wild happiness. Perhaps it was just the extra rest day I got by skipping my Wednesday run to recover from the late night shenanigans and celebrations on Election Day.

Whatever the reason, I burst out of the house this morning for an off-schedule Thursday run and flew through 6.19 miles at an unprecedent pace for a weekday morning run. Every single mile was under ten minutes.

Even in the first mile, where I usually struggle to get the morning lead out of my legs, I felt light and free. When I paused the timer for my bathroom stop 1.5 miles in, I was thrilled to see the total time at that point was under fifteen minutes. It turned out that the first mile was 9:49 and the next half mile was at a 9:46 pace. After the potty break things got even better, with the next four miles coming in at 9:15, 9:32, 9:26, and 9:09, and the last .69 mile at an 8:51 pace. I had wanted to go at least 6.2 miles, but I hit the front door at 6.19, and my stomach was beginning to cramp, so it seemed prudent to stop. (If I'd left the Garmin running during my sprint to the bathroom I would have passed the 10K mark, but it would have brought my pace down.)

I'm running a 10K on Saturday, my first race since Victoria, and I'm trying to do everything I can to maximize my performance. I'm not planning on trying for a PR, but I would like not to feel disappointed in my results. So I'm trying to do everything that's worked for me before, and avoid everything that has seemed to hurt me before.

I am definitely not running tomorrow, the day before the race. I am going to run on fresh legs, not tired legs! I am, however, going to a yoga class tomorrow morning, for some gentle mental and physical stretching. And even though it's probably only a myth, psychological crutch, or placebo, I am going out for a pre-race pasta dinner tomorrow night.

I have also added bit of adrenaline-enhancing company to my race day, by inviting a special friend who seems to have the ability to make my heart race. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that some of my faster recent training runs have occurred on mornings after we've spent an evening together. He was also a pretty talented runner in days gone by (high school and college) and probably can't really comprehend how a sub-nine pace could be considered "fast" by someone like me. Still, I think I'll have a bit of impetus to run faster knowing that he'll be watching the clock as I finish. (But even if that doesn't make me faster, it'll be fun having his company and support.)

So good things are happening all around. The election results were magnificent, my personal life is definitely looking up, and I am running well, and loving it all. The world is a beautiful place!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My One Partisan Post


That's all I wanted to say.

You may now get on with your day and living happily ever after.

Don't forget to vote! (As long as it's, you know, the right way....)

Peace and love to you all.


Monday, November 3, 2008

How to live a longer life

Through another blog, I ran across this Prevention article discussing fourteen things that might help you live a longer life. Many of these are attributes or historical events in one's life which we cannot change now. A few are lifestyle patterns which can still be changed. They're not just the typical diet and exercise tips, but instead are some rather surprising factors which you may never have even thought about.

Here's the list—you can click on any link to see the explanation of why it applies.

1. Your Mom Had You Young
2. You're a Tea Lover
3. You'd Rather Walk
4. You Skip Soda (Even Diet)
5. You Have Strong Legs
6. You Eat Purple Food
7. You Were a Healthy-Weight Teen
8. You Don't Like Burgers (or in my case, just don't eat them, which is pretty much the same)
9. You've Been a College Freshman
10. You Really Like Your Friends...
11. ...and They're Healthy
12. You Embrace New Challenges
13. You Don't Have a Housekeeper
14. You're a Flourisher
Will You Live to 100?

I figure there are only two of those which definitely don't apply to me. #1—My mother was not under 25 when I was born (she was 27). And #4—I definitely do drink diet pop, and can't really imagine giving it up any time soon.*

I'm on the fence about whether a couple of others apply or not. #7, about being a healthy weight as a teenager, is a real puzzler for me. That's all wrapped up in my distorted body image from when I was younger. I definitely felt like I was too heavy, but whether I was actually a healthy or unhealthy weight, I'm not sure. When I graduated from high school I weighed almost 20 pounds less than I do now. I was heavier at other times, but whether that was to the point of unhealthy? I saved that for the years after law school.

The one about healthy friends, #11, is difficult too. I don't have a lot of friends, but there are a few, and they are all over the spectrum of healthiness. I'll only mention one by name, Jenifer in Boise, who is certainly on the high end of that spectrum. She is the person who got me to the Y in the first place, and is pretty fanatical about working out. My visits to her always include trips to the Y, Pilates classes, nordic skiing in season, and plenty of walking or hiking in the hills around her house. She tries to eat healthy, although with three kids that's a challenge, and I am quite envious that she stays thin despite enjoying cheese, pasta, and wine. I suppose, though, since I only see her a few times a year, she doesn't really "count" in this category.

My other friends are probably a little less stellar, both in the lifestyle and physical health categories. I understand that this is a negative because studies show that their bad habits might be a bad influence on me. I can see how this works, unfortunately. It is way easier to eat "bad food" (like onion rings at Red Robin, mmmm) if your friends are doing it. And I'll admit that my most social activity, the bimonthly book club, focuses around food and drink (as well as the book!).**

On the other hand, to some extent that relates back to the category just above, #10, having good friends, because interpersonal relationships help reduce stress, which helps both your mental and physical health. So I try to balance the two categories, generally declining to skip my running, YMCA classes, or workouts just to hang out, but being willing to compromise for more special events, as well as planning get-togethers at more acceptable times. (I don't work out on Friday nights, so that helps!) And the food thing? I just try to eat sensibly, the way I normally do, but realize that an occasional treat is good for the mental health too.

There is one item on this list which is a definite yes for me, but I don't know that it actually has any effect on my health. That would be #13, not having housekeeper. I certainly do not have a housekeeper. I would like to have a housekeeper, I probably need to have a housekeeper (if not just a keeper), but I don't. The health benefit here is the physical activity expended in vigorous house cleaning. I regret to say that I just don't do too much of that! Certainly not enough to lengthen my life. In fact, the dust mites and so forth that are undoubtedly living in my corners are probably helping to shorten my life.

Guess I'd better pump up some of the other categories to make up for that. Like flourishing!

*Two that really do apply, in spades—#5, strong legs (I think that speaks for itself) and #6, eating purple food—I consume blueberries and other berries by the gross! Well, pound anyway.

**But what about the concept that hanging out with me might help improve their healthy lifestyles? I haven't been too successful about getting people to go to the Y or running with me, but I have been known to cook salmon for my friends and bring healthier foods to Book Club dinners. It goes both ways.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Paula Radcliffe just won the New York City Marathon for the third time. Well actually, it happened several hours ago, and I saw it on the NBC recap a little bit ago. My only real goal for my long run this morning was to finish before noon so I could watch the marathon coverage. I even resisted looking up any results on the internet beforehand.

Paula's first New York City Marathon (and win) was in 2004, after her disappointment in the Athens Olympic Marathon. Then last year, she won less than ten months after giving birth to her daughter. Today, after again suffering a disappointment in the summer Olympics, Paula again sailed through New York to finish in 2:23:55 (unofficial time). Watching her with her daughter right after the finish, with the Union Jack draped around her shoulders, I was so impressed at how calm and collected she looked, and certainly not as though she had just run 26.2 miles at an average pace of less than five and half minutes!

That means that Paula's pace for the whole marathon was about half of my pace in a few of the slower miles in my long run. (My 12.6 mile, less than a half marathon long run.)

But since I am in no competition with Paula Radcliffe or any elite runner, I find that comparison rather amazing, rather than discouraging. I know I'll never run even one mile in five and half minutes. I am awed that anyone can do it for 26.2.

But other than being non-elite caliber, today's run was pretty satisfactory. After about 5K I paused for a moment to take a few pictures with my phone of the fall foliage in the Arboretum. Then I took another ten minutes or so (that could have been an extra mile!) sending a picture with a text message to a friend (I am so lame with texting).

The rather long break in the Arboretum did allow my warmed up legs to cool down, and mile 4, out of the Arboretum and back onto the road, was my slowest at 11:02. I also noticed that perhaps the reason the first three miles had seemed relatively quick and easy was because I'd had the wind at my back, as I headed south into a brisk breeze.

I hadn't decided how far to run today, planning somewhere between ten and thirteen miles, depending on the weather, how I felt, and of course, how much time I had to get home before noon. As I hit downtown at about six and a half, seven miles and continued south, all these factors seemed to be coming together to suggest turning around at nine miles or so would be a good plan.

There's something about running through downtown that works for me. Maybe it's because I'm usually past the five or six mile mark when I get there, and that's the point where I start to go into the zone, and really want to keep running, instead of feeling like I have to, just to meet some arbitrary distance goal. So I flew (relatively speaking) through downtown, hampered only by the streetlights which persisted in turning red as I approached. South of 41st I hit a big hill, which I momentarily resented ("Las Vegas is flat, I don't need to be training for hills"), but also realized would give me a big break on the way back.

Nine miles took me further south on Colby than I'd ever been running, which was an interesting experience. If I'd gone much further I'd be well on my way to the mall! (Whoop-de-doo.) (This also illustrated how difficult it is to rack up mileage just running around town. Everything is so much closer than you think.)

So I turned around at a light on 52nd, and figured I had about a three mile, mostly downhill route to get to Starbucks near my house. So, although I hadn't intended this in advance, this seemed like a good opportunity to turn this into a sort of "progression run," or more accurately perhaps, a 3/1 run as described by Hal Higdon.

So keeping in mind that the first nine miles covered a pretty good spectrum between 10:06 and 11:02,* I picked up my pace for the remaining three. With the assistance of gravity, and a little bit of push, here were my final splits:

Mile 10—9:09 (Half marathon pace)
Mile 11—8:45 (10K pace)
Mile 12—8:32 (8K pace)

Mile 10 turned out to be the exact pace I would need for a two hour half marathon. The 10K and 8K paces in 11 and 12 are my average pace for those distances, although I have been faster in some of my better 10K's. I had no idea those times would turn out so coincidentally. I was just trying to run a decent pace, hopefully under a nine-minute mile.

There was a minute or so during Mile 12 where I was convinced that the Garmin had totally lost it. Or the satellites had, or something. I've felt that way before, when I was running what felt like a moderately decent pace yet the Garmin showed a 13-14 minute pace (impossible). This was the very opposite. Against my better judgment, I kept glancing at my wrist and was shocked to see the pace as 5-something... which was, I can assure you, totally inaccurate. A few moments later it was 6-something. Then 7-something. Finally, in the 8-something range I felt that perhaps sanity had been restored. That was the mile that ended at 8:32, which I think was fair. I'm keeping it, anyway.

Unlike last week's 8:37 final mile, this time I did not feel wrecked after that final mile (possible because of the boost I got with the downhill grade). I actually felt like... keeping going. I'm sure that even easing back a bit, which I probably would have done, I could have done another mile or so around the nine minute pace. But I was on a time schedule, and I was at my destination, and there will be plenty of time for more miles on other days.

I had to run a little bit off route to finish the twelve miles before stopping at Starbucks. So by backtracking, my running distance to Starbucks was 12.16 miles. I walked home from Starbucks, which added half a mile. The Garmin told me the run used up 1,481 calories, so I didn't feel too guilty about the delicious cinnamon scone** I took home with me to eat while I watched the marathon.

I got home at exactly 11:55, just in time! (And, in another display of amazing speed, managed to take a shower during one of the commercials.)

I wonder what Paula Radcliffe is doing this afternoon after the marathon? Playing with her daughter and eating a good meal? Having a massage? Taking a long nap? I'll bet she's not cleaning house! Well...unfortunately...neither am I.

*And it was definitely not progressive.
**Starbucks says 410 calories and the other website says 510... I prefer Starbucks' data! Although regardless, it all pretty much depends on the size of the scone.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


The Pilates instructor is recovering from back surgery and is out for an indefinite period. During this time our boot camp Pilates has been replaced by a Core Stability Ball class.

The first night she was gone, when I thought it was just a one-time illness, I was pretty pleased by the reprieve. I was tired, had very little sleep the night before, and the idea of bouncing around on the stability ball, instead of raising it up and down between my legs (along with other endless series of ab-straining exercises), was pretty appealing.

So I bounced, and did crunches and pushups and stretches on the ball. Some of the moves were pretty challenging, but the overall impact was much gentler and less exhausting than our regular Pilates class.

The second time we had the substitute class I found out that Trudi was going to be gone for several weeks, at least. Once again I enjoyed the break (as I was again sleep-deprived and weak), but this time the ball class was even easier, hardly a challenge at all.

After the class was over, a couple of the other regulars were talking about whether we might want to start staying after for a mini-Pilates class of our own. At first I laughed at that idea, knowing that my ability to torture myself was very questionable without Sergeant Trudi cracking the whip, but later I started to wonder if it might not be a good idea to attempt.

I have been doing this Pilates class for at least a year, probably longer—I can't remember when exactly it started. It is harder than any other Pilates class I have tried. Most people who come in to try it for the first time end up collapsed on their backs as Trudi forces us through endless reps of various roll-ups, oblique twists, and other core-strengthening exercises, mostly focused on the abs. But I can make it through every single repeat.

How long will it take for me to lose all that strength that it has taken so long to develop? I know I've been able to go on vacation for a couple of weeks and come back pretty easily. I slacked a lot (skipping classes) over the summer, but in September I vowed not to miss a class unless I was out of town or I had a really good reason to skip. (Feeling tired? Not a good reason. Presidential debate? Good reason.)

Believe it or not, I do have rock-hard abs, abs of steel. It's just that they're covered by a layer of fat, so it's not that obvious.* Not to mention the little roll above my waist which, I can assure you, all the crunches and Pilates in the world will not get rid of. But if I am standing up and you press on my lower abdomen, it is a wall of muscle. I'm pretty proud of that. Sometimes I just stand around, pressing on my stomach and saying "my, that is firm...." (But not too much. Not all the time. Not in public, usually.)

They say (whoever "they" are) that a strong core helps your running. I would agree with that. I definitely felt when I was skiing last winter that a strong core was making me a better skier. I felt in control of my skiing, and I even felt my ab muscles tucking in as I flew down the slopes.

So in order not to lose what I've gained (which is similar, but not the same as trying not to gain what I've lost), I may have to squeeze in a few interim roll-ups and leg lifts. While barking, Trudi-style, "Obliques!" Cause I don't want those iron abs to turn to mush. Even if I'll never look like Nicollette Sheridan. (Bitch.)

*One of the stylists at the hair salon I go to said she doesn't like to do ab work because she doesn't like getting "ripples" on her stomach. "You know," she said, "six-pack abs?" I just looked at her, trying not to roll my eyes. "No," I said, "I've never had that problem." Six-pack abs! I would give anything for a ripple on my stomach that could not be more properly described as a "roll." Never. Gonna. Happen.