Sunday, May 31, 2009

Building a sandwich

My mother recently discovered, and introduced me to, Orowheat Whole Wheat Sandwich Rounds. That's what's at the bottom of the open-face sandwiches in the picture, though you can't see them. Each split round (including both halves) has 100 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. It's about the size of a hamburger bun but much thinner. I've had one every day for the last four days, topped with grilled halibut, deli roast beef, and deli turkey, plus a cornucopia of veggies.

Today's creation is my grandest yet (though you can't beat the deliciousness of the halibut). I used each half as the base of an open-face sandwich and topped it with a tablespoon of fat-free cream cheese, 1/8 of an avocado (you can get three or four slices out of that), two ounces deli turkey (you could skimp with one ounce, but I wanted to protein up*), sliced Vidalia onion (the best sweet onion), sliced green bell pepper, sliced cucumber, and a slice of tomato. The big leaf of lettuce (from Ann's garden) goes on top and makes it possible to eat as a sandwich. The whole plate, including the raspberries, comes in at just under 400 calories. And it is delicious!

*Because I am in the midst of a house cleaning/organizing project and I need STRENGTH! Also, I ran 9.1 miles this morning (about 9:30 average pace), and that certainly should allow me a little caloric leeway. (Hence the last-minute addition of avocado.)
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Look what I ran into this morning on my run

About 2.5 miles along I turned a corner and spotted this very appealing garage sale. The building in the background is actually the garage, though it looks like a perfectly nice house. The real house is out of the frame to the left, and it is a lovely old big white house. I was kind of excited to get an opportunity just to walk into their driveway. So I paused the Garmin (it had been acting screwy anyway) and spent several minutes browsing the goods. But since I had only a few dollars and I was in the midst of a run, I left empty handed.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

I was here!

I passed it several times, in fact, both walking and running, but this morning was apparently the first time I looked up. Fitting, perhaps, because this morning was my last run in Kona along the Ironman route (albeit only a fraction of the distance), before heading home to Seattle. In fact we are sitting at the airport now, waiting (another hour plus) to board our marathon-length* flight home. Which is the one part of this trip I am NOT looking forward to.

*It's almost a six-hour flight, so we're talking run-walk-crawl marathon, not some Boston qualifier or anything.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Who needs sweets when you have this?

"This" being champagne mangos, bought fresh and ripe at a farmer's market in Kona, Hawaii. The one on the left is a whole one (of course) and the cut up one on the right is what I just ate, juices running down my chin. Champagne mangos are smaller than the "regular" ones,* and as you can see they are a sunny golden color on the outside and deep orange on the inside. They are the sweetest thing I've eaten since I gave up sugar on May 6!

Did I mention I was in Hawaii? We got here yesterday and are lounging at the Royal Kona Resort until Monday.

I had a nice (though extremely moist) run along Alii Drive this morning. I left at 6:30 but I think tomorrow I'll try to go half an hour earlier. It wasn't too hot at that time but the humidity left my entire body covered with a layer of moisture. I ended up going 7 miles (though I had to loop around a parking lot to finish my last mile). I averaged under 10 minute miles, even though the route had lots of hills. And despite the humidity. I was quite pleased.

*My calorie counter gives it only 80 calories, hurrah!
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back to Planet Earth

I feel like I've been on a different planet for a few days, because I was in Eastern Washington over the weekend to go to a concert at the Gorge (more on that in a bit) and most of the places we were at didn't have cell phone reception. Hence no BlackBerry, no Google Reader, no Facebook, no Livestrong Calorie Tracker*. (When we did go into areas with a signal I had to hustle to update my calorie tracking so I didn't have time to fool with other stuff.)

So I guess people have been running a lot of races this weekend, with some pretty great results. Congratulations, everyone. But this blog is all about me. So back to my story.

We took off Friday after I finished with work, hoping to get to Rimrock (Rod's property and cabin) before sunset, and at least before dark. I would guess we left between 4:30 and 5:00, and the drive takes several hours. You go east across Steven's Pass, and stay on Highway 2 all the way. Rimrock is between Waterville and Ephrata.

Because the area is surrounded by hills (rock cliffs), you don't get as much time before sunset as you do over here by the water. So the sun actually had dropped out of sight before we arrived, but it was still light enough out to get unpacked before dark. It's a very primitive cabin (one room, no plumbing, chemical toilet), but with electricity provided by a solar panel. That's enough to power a lamp and radio, and there's a gas generator for more power when needed (for the microwave). There is also a heater fueled by some kind of gas (propane?), but the cabin was still holding heat from the day so we didn't need to turn it on.

After hauling our stuff in (I, not surprisingly, having packed rather more than one would expect to need for a short weekend), we had a few hours to kill before hitting the sleeping bags. So Rod got the deck of Uno cards that he got at my office Christmas party and we set up a makeshift coffee table to play on. Neither of us had played Uno for years, so we studied the rules intently. They were a little easier to understand than the cribbage rules we had tried to decipher last fall.**

As it turns out, two-handed Uno is far more cutthroat than Uno in a group (in my opinion). Everything is personal and there are far more opportunities to screw your opponent. The phrase "skip you" (used when playing both a skip or reverse card) has a definite tone to it, sounding a lot like "something-else you"!

Uno also takes a really, really long time to finish. At least it did for us. It seemed like it would go fast when I got 170 points in the first hand, but after that followed a whole lot of hands with 30, 15, even 2 points. By 11:00 or so we were still only around 300 points*** (that was me), and I was getting tired. I believe I expressed doubt that we would ever finish, and perhaps we should just suspend play. That, however, would leave us without a clear winner. So we decided to play to 500 or midnight, whichever occurred first.

I was pretty sure I was going to win, anyhow. I had maintained a lead throughout, probably thanks to the big 170 point boost at the beginning. But then the scores started to tighten, and the fickle cards began to turn against me. Soon we were neck and neck! This was ominous. And then we were in the upper 400's, and I was behind... and all it took was one more hand, and it was over. I lost. It was exactly 12:00.

And it was really getting pretty cold. Earlier in the evening, after it had gotten completely dark, we had gone outside to look at the stars. Here in the middle of nowhere, with no lights around, you can see stars that you would never see in a more populated area. The sky was thick with them. It was amazing.

At midnight, though, I had no desire to go outside again, even to see stars, and I happily crawled into my sleeping bag. It was probably good to be so tired, because that made sleeping on a cot much more palatable! I was, however, just a tiny bit cold all night, and on Saturday night I put on an extra fleecy sweatshirt.

I woke up very early, despite the late night, thanks to the sun streaming through the windows. But it was also very cold, and just like nights at the beach when I was a child, I was reluctant to leave the relative warmth of the sleeping bag. Rod put on the heater, though, and that warmed things up enough so that I was eventually willing to get up and get dressed to go for a run.

Being fearful of losing my way, I just followed the gravel road to the clubhouse and then in the direction of the main road, turning around when my Garmin showed 2.8 miles. I figured I'd trace my route back to the cabin (to make 5.6 miles) and then just go on a bit further to make it six miles, if I wanted to. The road was hilly, and my pace varied accordingly, switching back and forth between about 9:45 and 10:45, depending, I assume, on whether I was going down or uphill. My average pace for the entire distance (6.35 miles) was 10:24.

I got back to the cabin pretty much on schedule around 9:15, and we walked around the property looking at wildflowers and the surrounding views for a bit. Then we packed our stuff up to go take a shower and go on to the concert at the Gorge.

Rimrock has a pretty nice locker room facility by the pool, kind of like a really nice campground. I got plenty of hot water and had a mirror and electrical outlet to dry my hair, and that was enough for me.

We took the scenic route to Ephrata, through Dry Falls, which is a massive geological phenomenon in the Grand Coulee canyon. Once the largest waterfall in the world, all that remains now is a breathtaking series of canyons ("coulees") and lakes. We stopped at the interpretive center, so I was able to take a few pictures and also read about the geological history.

In Ephrata we had lunch, and I won't dwell on the "out of salsa" incident relating to my salad, just to say that I am not at my best when I am hungry.

Finally we arrived at the Gorge around 2:30 p.m. This was the first time I'd ever been to the Gorge, which is probably quite shocking for someone in her forties. Parking was out in fields, but the walk in really wasn't too far.

It was a sunny day, and although not as hot as it can be in Eastern Washington, mid-70's and above were enough to make me a little concerned about my jeans and long-sleeved shirt. The shirt actually was quite light, but the jeans felt heavy and I rolled them up to my knees to simulate shorts and try to catch some breeze on my legs. I also coated all my exposed skin with sunscreen (and had no problems with burning). I had a backpack with two heavy sweatshirts for the evening, plus a couple of cans of diet Coke (technically contraband, according to the rules), and a bottle of water. I could have (and should have) had two bottles of water, but I didn't realize my pack had water bottle pouches on both sides.

The concert we were going to was—wait for it—the Grateful Dead. Rod went to University of Oregon, does that explain it? It wouldn't to me, necessarily, but when I saw all the Oregon gear combined with tie dye and past concert shirts, I gathered that apparently U of O folks like the Dead. The two opening bands were the Doobie Brothers (good for us kids of the eighties) and the Allman Brothers.

We made our way into the amphitheatre and started searching for seats on the grass. Even though it was pretty early in the afternoon, there were already tons of people in the "best" areas. We ended up in a pretty good spot to the left of the stage, right above the walkway. There was kind of a rut in the grass, which is probably why the spot had remained open, but actually the rut created a pretty good sitting place. What wasn't so great, we figured out later, was the way people eventually started standing in the walkway in front of us. But generally speaking, it was a good enough view.

Rod in his tie-dye.

The view, of course, was not just of the stage and the scenery beyond. It was also of the people, the other concert goers. Not surprisingly considering the era of the bands, at least half or more of the crowd were our age or older. There was a good sprinkling of college students and younger kids as well, though. (And a good number of small children being towed around by their parents!)
I can't really describe the get-ups I saw on the people around me. I eventually took some pictures, but of course missed the most eccentric costumes. In addition to the really extreme outfits, I noticed lots of guys in the garb that I would characterize "typical Deadhead": On the top half a tie-dye tee-shirt, or a Dead T-shirt, or a U of O shirt, or any combination of those; some sort of head rag or straggly grey hair and/or beard; on the bottom cargo shorts, and socks with sensible (Merrell-type) shoes. Deadhead meets Eugenite meets guy from the suburbs. And then there were people dressed scantily for the warm weather, including one heavyset woman who was wearing (on top) only a large-sized purple bra (not a bikini top, I'm quite certain). (I didn't take a picture, so no need to look for her in my photos.)

At 3:30 the Doobie Brothers came on and played for about an hour and a half. This was a lot of fun, and really low key. I was a little warm in the sun (don't know what I would do in real summer weather), but I sipped a little water and appreciated the occasional breeze on my legs and neck. At 4:30 I also allowed myself to drink my first diet Coke (I had to spread out the two cans over the evening). After a break the Allman Brothers came on and played for a long, long time. (The guy behind us referred to it as one long song, because it really all ran together.)

Somewhere around 7:00, before drinking my second diet Coke and we before the Dead started, I hiked down to the porta-potties. I thought there might be a long line but there wasn't. There were tons of potties and only a few people in line ahead of me, and it moved quickly. This was nothing compared to the porta-potty lines at most races. When I got back Rod said that it had been hard to keep people from sitting in my spot, as I guess it was really one of the few open spaces around. When he took a trip down, though, I didn't have any problems with saving his spot.

By the time the Grateful Dead came on, a little past 8:00, the air had cooled nicely and it was pleasant, not yet cold as it would be later. The sun was starting to set, but it wasn't a very dramatic sunset. My main problem was that I was hungry. Not hungry in the gnawing stomach sense, but it had been six or seven hours since lunch and I was getting that low blood sugar moodiness that I get in the evening. Usually it translates into snappishness but I wasn't quite that bad. I know now that I really should have brought food (besides the light cheese sticks which were probably all that prevented me from a complete meltdown). There is food at the Gorge, lots of food stands in fact, selling all kinds of delicious unhealthy foods like hot dogs and hamburgers and nachos and (oh dear God) elephant ears. It was all I could do not to grab someone's plate of fried dough as they walked past me.****

So, due to the effort it would take to leave my staked out spot and go buy food, combined with my reluctance to eat the sweet and savory poisons on offer, I decided not to go get food and instead spent the evening in a state of hungry depression.*****

I was, however, entertained by the antics of those around me. Just before the Dead concert began, a couple of kids (college students, probably, by the U of O garb the male wore), laid out their blanket in front of us and alternated between canoodling in the grass, smoking grass, and dancing in the roadway.******

Despite my mental state, I did enjoy the first half of the concert. I'm not a Grateful Dead aficionado, but I like them well enough, and I've certainly become accustomed to listening to their music with Rod. It was just that the long day, lateness, encroaching cold, and hunger took a toll on me.******* We made it through the intermission, but things kind of went downhill in the second half. Each song was very, very long. I enjoyed "Eyes of the World" but was not so enthralled by its length. Then there was a very long, strange "drum space" which went on, and on, and on... and when they finally went into another real song it didn't have enough energy to revive a chilly crowd. Or me, anyway. (For a somewhat different opinion, read this review.)

During the drum space we made our way through the crowd to get closer to an exit, which was good except that brought us out in the open where the wind was even more noticeable. Finally we headed for the parking lot. The last song we heard was "Dark Star," from the edge of the parking lot. Unfortunately (I take Rod's word that this was unfortunate), we missed the closing number, "One More Saturday Night," and encore, "Box of Rain."

But considering that it was already past midnight, we were exhausted and cold, and had an hour's drive back to Rimrock, it was just as well we got on our way. Lots of people had already left and there was no problem getting out of the parking lot, though I suspect it might have been different after the official end when everyone still around tried to leave.

I didn't even try to go running on Sunday morning; I was due an off day, anyway. We packed up and were on our way by midmorning. We took another scenic route back through Moses Coulee, where the road dives dramatically into the rocky canyons. My pictures don't do it justice, since we were speeding along without stopping for photo ops. The couple I took were from the car window (with the car temporarily stopped). As much as I wanted to take pictures, it's really (psychologically) hard to decide when to stop and do so, and before you know it, the moment is past.

Sunday was another sunny day, even warmer than Saturday, though it didn't matter so much since we weren't sitting out in a field. It was still beautiful and sunny when we got back home, and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun to go for a long walk before I had dinner. I ended up going more than seven miles, with a stop at Safeway for groceries and another stop at Starbucks for iced tea. I wanted to walk fast, but not try too hard, and I ended up with an average pace of 15:45. I really would have had to make an effort to consistently get under 15 minutes, but it was pretty easy to stick around 16 minute miles.

That was the end of the Gorge weekend. Now it is the countdown to Kona weekend! Yes, on Thursday we are going to Hawaii for a long Memorial Day weekend. I haven't been to Hawaii for 20 years! (Yes, I am bringing running clothes. I even bought a new pair of running shorts.)

I started writing this on Monday, and have just finished adding the pictures on Wednesday. Now it's really time to start getting ready for Hawaii! By the way, I ran on Monday morning and today, 6+ miles on Monday at 9:40 average pace, and 6.13 miles today at 9:5x average pace. Getting under ten minute miles this morning was a bit of a miracle, as I have a crick in my shoulder which is making me move like an old lady. It's better now but this morning I woke up in pain. Even carrying my water bottle was a chore. I'm hoping that this goes away so I'm not lurching around Kona!

Aloha everyone!

*Apparently there is wireless internet at Rimrock, where Rod's property is located, but I didn't bring a laptop because it just might seem a little obnoxious to be hunched over a computer a lot. It was all I could do to discreetly peck away at the BlackBerry when I got the chance.

**Although we've both played cribbage in the past, again it's been years, and I at least have always played with people who knew the game better than me, so was able to follow their instructions. The official instructions use weird words like "pone." (What is pone? Something made with cornmeal?) I did get some clearer instructions off the internet but we have yet to make another stab at cribbage.

***500 points wins the game.

****I could see the elephant ears as they passed but luckily could not smell them, perhaps thanks to the other scents that permeated the air.

*****You'd think that Rod would have been hungry too, but perhaps that would have something to do with him eating a big burger with cheese and bacon and guacamole for lunch, while I had a salad!

******There were a couple of amusing moments when our neighbors came very close to being busted by security walking by. They managed to quickly tuck away their paraphernalia and blow cigarette smoke around, which probably didn't fool anyone one bit.

*******At 8:00 Rod mentioned that they would be playing for 3½ hours and I just about fainted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dreams and Reality

I had a running dream last night. It was actually kind of a fun dream, though exhausting. I'm pretty sure that the reason I was tired and my legs ached when I woke up this morning was because of the dream, not (just) because of my double elliptical workouts yesterday and staying awake too late last night!

I dreamed that I was running a half marathon. The first half or so of the race was on a normal course, roads and so forth. I was running easy, doing pretty well. In fact, for a long time there were only five people ahead of me! Around the halfway point people started to pass me, though, including my very pregnant sister, which was extremely irritating because not only is she pregnant, she does not run at all.

However, around that time the route also began to change from a road course to more of an obstacle course. I found myself winding around objects, crawling through a very tight tube (thinking that my sister would never be able to get through this), and climbing up very steep ladders. Luckily the course was marked by colored numbers and arrows on the ground, which was a good thing because otherwise I would never find my way! It really got complicated when the course began crossing itself. Luckily the color of the arrows changed with each mile so that helped keep me from doubling back on myself. Pretty much.

By now, you can imagine, I wasn't running so much as walking and scrambling. Nobody was passing me, though, but there was a whole crowd following behind me.

Things really got hairy around mile 11. That was when I had to climb up a scary steep ladder (like a rickety fire escape) and then swing along what appeared to be a string of Christmas lights. Impossible, right? Especially for someone who has never been able to cross the monkey bars arm to arm. I just don't have the upper body strength.

I don't know what I would have done next, if I hadn't woke up then. I was stirred up enough that when the alarm went off around 5:40 I didn't even hit the snooze button, just turned off the alarm and turned on my light.

I didn't, however, hop right out of bed and throw on my running clothes. My legs felt far too leaden for that. I just laid there thinking about getting up and running, contemplating how much time I could linger before it got too late, briefly thinking about not going but knowing that if I didn't run this morning I would have to eat much, much less today, which was not a pleasant option either!

Finally, as 6:30 grew very near, I threw myself out of bed and stumbled into my running clothes. Putting on my running pants always makes me feel better. Something about the snug, stretchy fit is energizing. Slightly energizing, anyway.

Instead of my usual iPod running playlist, I put on a new "London Songs" playlist that I compiled the other day. It's a bunch of songs that all have London in the title and generally have London themes. Some have a good running beat, others less so. But I thought this would be a good chance to listen to at least part of the collection.*

And I must say, this change of music really did help make the run go more easily. Listening to the Londonny lyrics made me think of my trips to England, future trips to England, other people's potential trips to England, and all sorts of other distracting thoughts.

I didn't feel like trying for speed work today, and I didn't push myself to run too hard. I had to make not one, but two bathroom stops, which made things a little uncomfortable at times. So I just ran at a pace that felt comfortable, picking it up when it felt right.

In the end I finished 6.02 miles in 59:58 (with the Garmin paused for bathroom breaks). My splits were pretty progressive (10:30, 9:40, 10:08, 10:04, 9:55, 9:35, 9:27, 9:31—there are more splits than miles, as some of them were partial miles). I felt pretty satisfied that I squeezed in under a 10-minute pace (9:57 average).

Not the half marathon of my dreams, but a pretty good run considering.

*Many—most—of the songs are not ones I necessarily knew before. I did an iTunes search for "London" and then listened to a snippet of each song to see whether I thought I'd like it before downloading. But I haven't listened to all of every song yet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eight Things

I'm kind of excited because I've been tagged by A Marathon Leap, and there's nothing I enjoy more than writing about myself! Well, maybe there are a few things, but at least one, cake, is off-limits to me right now, so I'll have to substitute a bit of navel-gazing instead. So here goes!

8 things to which I am looking forward
  1. Our trip to Kona, Hawaii, over Memorial Day Weekend (Thursday through Monday). And my new Land's End swimsuit, which I LOVE.
  2. Finishing the house cleaning/organizing/de-cluttering project.
  3. The installation of my Verizon FIOS phone-TV-internet package, and subsequent return of the Food Network and other channels now lost thanks to Comcast.
  4. DVR!
  5. Finishing my 30 sugar-free days. Because after that I will no longer crave sweets! (And I can have a little piece of cake....)
  6. Losing some weight.
  7. Running faster again (I know I will) and pursuing new PR's.
  8. A bunch of Fridays off throughout the rest of the year, thanks to County furloughs. I know it's not so great for the county employees who have to take pay cuts, but it does result in a lot of 3- (and some 4-) day weekends, including the 4th of July weekend, Labor Day weekend, and Christmas Eve!

8 things I did yesterday
  1. Ran 6.5 miles.
  2. Got a latte at Starbucks (double tall skinny caramel latte).
  3. PC's (probable cause hearings) and arraignments.
  4. Rescheduled the Verizon installation appointment to give myself more time to clean.
  5. Wrote a blog post about other people's blogs.
  6. Met with the investment guy to talk about starting a retirment plan for our employees.
  7. Recorded everything I ate, plus exercise, into the Livestrong calorie tracker on my BlackBerry.
  8. Worked on the house-cleaning project with my mom (she is being very helpful, even came over for a couple hours of work on Mother's Day morning!).

8 things I would like to do
  1. Buy a mountain bike.
  2. Get back to, and below, my low weight of 154.
  3. Walk the Cotswold Way from Bath to Chipping Campden, in England. Then possibly also (in a separate trip) walk the Thames Path from the Cotswolds to London.
  4. Take Rod to England.
  5. Write a book that gets published.
  6. Read most of the books in the "to be read" shelves in my basement (ideally before buying more books).
  7. Be in the audience of the Oprah show (on a show that has a fun, not depressing, topic).
  8. Make my garden into a beautiful English-style garden.

8 shows I watch
  1. The Today Show
  2. The Biggest Loser
  3. The Office (and frequently 30 Rock)
  4. Desperate Housewives
  5. Brothers and Sisters
  6. Private Practice
  7. Assorted Food Network shows (Nigella, Ellie Krieger, Barefoot Contessa)
  8. What Not to Wear

Finally, I am supposed to tag eight people to list their own Eight Things. Frankly, I am too tired and lazy to pick out eight blogs to link to! Plus, lots of the blogs I read have already done this. (Although I can't remember which ones, so that would be a problem.) (And I suppose it's possible that not everyone is as thrilled as I to do this kind of thing. Although it is hard to imagine a blogger who doesn't believe the world wants to know eight things about them....) So, if you happen to read this and you haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged!

Thank you, bloggers

...For being so verbose over the last couple days that I was able to fill 70 minutes on the elliptical tonight reading your posts! Granted I alternated with spells of actually watching what was on the TV screen, but I managed to get through the whole stint without ever running dry. There may even still be one or two entries left in my Google Reader. Keep writing! I need a whole new stack of reading material by Thursday morning.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Self Control

There are a lot of things that require self control. Getting up around 6 a.m. to go running or work out, for example. Refraining from eating sugar and sweets—Herculean self control. Not eating too much food in general, going to work instead of hanging out at home watching TV, not screaming (much) at people who irritate you—all require some amount of self control.

And here's another one. Not reading all the blogs in my Google reader as soon as they pop up. Instead, saving them to read while on the excrutiatingly (well, somewhat, at least) boring elliptical at the Y. I like reading blogs on my BlackBerry to add to the time-passing quality of watching TV at the Y.

So I hoard each list of posts till my next Y session, either weekday evenings or mornings. Oh, I am excited when the list piles up! (Because just a couple of blog entries don't pass much time.) On weekends, when I don't to the the Y, I allow myself to read freely. (Because I don't want to get so far behind that I'm reading about last month's half marathon this week.)

But even on Y days, the BlackBerry is heavy in my hand as I obsessively open the Google reader to see what's in it. Whenever I have a little time on my hands, after I've checked my email and Facebook, I want to click into the new entry from The Marathon Mama or Half-Fast or Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge or Middle-of-the-Pack Girl, or one of the many other blogs I have lined up (mostly, but not exclusively, running blogs, many of which I haven't bothered to add to my Blog Roll so are accessible to me only through Google Reader*).

Today I am not going to the Y, because I have things to do at home this evening.** That means I won't be "allowed" to read the new entries until tomorrow morning. The only thing that's preventing me from saying "what the hell" and reading them anyway is the idea of being on the elliptical for an hour with nothing new to read. So I'm reluctantly exercising self control. Almost as hard as not eating a piece of the cake in the refrigerator at work!

*Because I can't always remember the names, so an internet search would not work.

**I did run this morning, 6.31 miles at 9:30 average pace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I haven't done THIS for a while!

It was an exceedingly low tide today, -1.9 at 12:19, and considering that I was going to my parents' house for Mother's Day anyway, and also considering that the weather was pretty decent, it seemed like a good day for a run on the beach.

Even though I didn't get over there until about 1, the tide was still way out, allowing me to run all the way to the end of the spit in Tulalip Bay before stopping to turn around. Which was exactly 2.95 miles. No further. As I learned the hard way when I tried to run out into the mud for another .05 mile. One step and I immediately sunk to my ankles in sandy mud. I dropped to my knees to avoid sinking further and scrambled back to firmer ground.

Beach running, though appealing in many ways, is HARD. The ground is rarely even, so often I am running mountain goat style. The best surface, hard packed sand, is still slower than road, and when you throw in rocks, seaweed, and barnacles--well, 11 minute miles are a gift.

But still, by the time I did the first couple of miles I was enjoying myself and trying not to mind how slow I was going. (The only reason I cared was that I didn't want my body to think it was okay to go this pace on a regular basis.)

I hit 5.9 miles when I returned to my starting point, and 6 shortly thereafter. I thought I might go another mile and then head back, but soon decided the beach was too rocky to want to go much further. I was going to turn around at 6.5 miles, but then--at 6.34--I stumbled over a rock and hit the ground. It didn't hurt, so I was surprised to see blood on my leg when I stood up. The rock had been covered with barnacles and I was quite scraped up.

I thought about going on to 6.5 miles before turning back, but also thought about blood and gravity and pounding on my legs, and decided to walk back.
It still didn't hurt, so when I got to the beach house I kept walking so I could get to 7 miles anyway. The .68 walking miles threw off my average pace, but it hardly mattered. Slow or slower, what's the diff?

I rarely fall on the beach because I know the hazards and watch closely. And I go slow. :) Now I'll be wearing my Mother's Day memento on my leg for quite a while!

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sugar Free

In an effort to rein in my bad habits and finally lose some weight, I have declared myself sugar free for 30 days, beginning on May 6. I know it would have made sense to begin on May 1, but I didn't think of it until May 5. (And besides, I was busy during that first weekend in May, self-indulging in Spokane.)

I don't really think I eat a lot of sweets, but with all the candy and goodies that had begun to accumulate at the office, it was a rare day when I didn't treat myself to one thing or another. Or two. Or three. And it made a lot more sense to stop eating sugar and see how that helps, before cutting out oatmeal, or yoghurt.

So here are my rules. No sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc., or any foods containing a significant amount of sugar products. I'm not going so far as to scrutinize the ingredients of healthy non-sweet foods. For example, my favorite Double Fiber English muffins (110 calories and eight grams of fiber each) have brown sugar and honey in the ingredient list, but I'm still going to eat them. I am, however, giving up the South Beach granola bars, Fiber One bars, Erin Baker Breakfast cookies, and other genuinely reasonably healthy goodies which not only contain some sugar, but might as well be (low calorie) candy bars to me. They make me want more.

I am not, however, giving up artificial sweeteners. Not giving up Diet Coke. Not giving up Dannon Light & Fit yoghurt. Neither of those have been a trigger food for me, anyway.

So today is Day 4. So far, so good. I haven't slipped, and I suppose it will get easier after a few days. There's nothing to make you want something so much as depriving yourself of it (which doesn't mean that having some will make me want it less). Nothing worse, that is, than having cake and candy in front of your face and not eating it. On Wednesday I heard that there was a big cake at the office... so I boycotted the office all day (just stayed at court). I had to stop by to pick up a bottle of water, and I'll tell you, it's like an addict looking at a tableful of crack. The sight, the smell, of a big frosted cake... well, I just got out of there as fast as I could.

I also decided to start tracking my food, just to be more mindful of what I was eating. The first couple of days I just wrote everything down on a piece of paper. Today, just for kicks, I signed up for The Daily Plate from LiveStrong, and have been wasting a fair amount of time logging everything I've eaten. I picked this program because there's an application for BlackBerry, which I just downloaded a bit ago. Now, if you can believe this, I'm not hungry (anymore) but I kind of want to eat something so I can log it in! Yes, I am truly mentally ill.

Oh, and by the way, I am supposed to be working on a big housecleaning project, so that may be another reason why I have been busy downloading programs and blogging! Procrastination, you are not my friend!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Biggest Loser marathon episode

I am kind of a half-hearted Biggest Loser fan, a fan with reservations. I am fascinated with the show, fascinated by seeing the contestants lose so much weight, get in shape, "change their lives," etc. etc. But I am also a little disturbed by the huge amounts of weight the contestants lose every week, numbers that are unrealistic in real life (I think), and their huge crushing disappointments when they "only" lose four or five pounds in a week.

Still, I watch when I can. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights that keeps me away from home until 8:30, then by the time I take out the garbage (Tuesday is garbage night) and make dinner, it's 9:00, and all I end up watching is the weigh-in. So in the last few weeks I've been skipping yoga to get home earlier (although the garbage and dinner still drag me down).

The other day I happened to see in the TV listings that the Biggest Loser players were going to run a marathon. Naturally I was intrigued by this. So I made a special effort to take out the garbage early in the day and leave the Y by 7:40 to ensure I was home and in front of the TV by 8:00. Success! (Although thanks to my television ADD and jumping up to get dinner during the commercial breaks, I still missed bits and pieces of the show.)

So this was the week that the four remaining players (two women, Tara and Helen, and a father and son, Ron and Mike), go home for one month before their last pre-finale weigh-in. Of course there is a lot of drama over the difficulties of adjusting to real life while still maintaining a punishing diet and exercise regimen. The two women, at least, seem well on the road to eating disorders, so trainer Jillian goes against type and shows up at their homes encouraging some balance and taking it a little easy on themselves. (Meaning that the world will not end if they have a glass of wine and something nice to eat.)

The big challenge for this week (or more precisely, for the month that they are at home) is a special "marathon" for the contestants to participate in—not an official marathon, but a 26.2 mile course for the players to run and/or walk. Thankfully there was no real competition surrounding the marathon, no special rewards for the fastest finisher, only a prize of $10,000 for each finisher to donate to the charity of his or her choice.

Runners love to watch marathons (at least I do), so this was a good entertainment to me, although I suppose other people might find it less than compelling viewing. I did, however, question the wisdom of using a marathon as some sort of training tool in a weight-loss program, especially when the participants were given less than a month to specifically train for this event. The official trainers, Bob and Jillian, also questioned whether a marathon was a good idea, and these are people who usually did not hesitate to push the contestants beyond any normal limits of endurance and exhaustion!

Some reasons why this was probably a bad idea....

  • With only 26 days to train, there is no way someone could get into legitimate marathon shape, even for walking the distance.
  • Untrained runners are much more likely to injure themselves trying to complete the distance.
  • Even marathon-trained runners are beat and debilitated after a marathon and have to take some rest and recovery time. These participants would not have that kind of time to recover before continuing with their weight-loss and exercise quest.
  • A marathon is not really a weight-loss tool. The distance itself probably burns off 3000-4000 calories—about the equivalent of a pound—although there might be considerably more water weight loss immediately afterward. The calories burned in a lengthy training program might help you lose weight, but on the other hand many runners who do longer distances, myself included, often find themselves eating voraciously to fuel the distance.

But nonetheless, it was a good gimmick and pretty interesting to watch. The two women finished first, and only they ran a substantial portion of the course. Actually the show never told us whether they walked at all (and only showed them running), but their finish times—though perfectly respectable—kind of indicate to me that there was some walking involved (it would be shocking if there was not). Tara (in her 20's) finished somewhere under five hours (pretty amazing for someone with little distance training), which would be less than an 11½ minute pace. Helen (age 48), finished under six hours, which would be 13:45 or faster average pace. Mike walked the whole way due to some injury which I didn't catch, although it wasn't bad enough to interfere with walking, and his father Ron, who never should have even tried this, finally finished after 13-some hours, tremendous pain, and a lot of people joining him to walk along with him (including Tara and Helen in the last bit). Hopefully he did not cause serious injury to himself.

So they all got their $10,000 checks for charity. As far as I know, we never heard what charities they were donating to, which is too bad. Perhaps they could have taken a moment to say, instead of the speeches they made at the final weigh-in about how much they've accomplished, how proud they are of themselves, and how their lives can begin again now. All true, perhaps, but it grated on me just a little bit. A little modesty goes a long way toward making someone likeable, in my book!

Okay, maybe I'm just jealous because even in this at-home month, they each managed to lose 7-10 pounds (which is something I've been trying to do unsuccessfully for many, many months).

But I am hooked now. I guess I'll forgo yoga again next Tuesday so I don't miss the finale. And make my dinner before it starts.

Monday, May 4, 2009

When every race has an asterisk

I'm not talking about an "official" asterisk (if there is such a thing), questioning the validity of a race result due to some fishy business or another. I'm not significant enough for anyone to bother challenging my times. And besides, I've never been involved in any situations that would lead to such questioning.

No, what I am referring to is a personal asterisk, an addendum to every race time that qualifies or explains or apologizes for my results. Usually in the vein of it coulda/shoulda/woulda been better, but.... And this is not just when I think about my results personally, or even when I write about them in the blog, but whenever anyone asks me "how did you do?"

For example.

"How did you do in Bloomsday (this year)?"
"1:12:21 * a lot slower than last year."

"How did you do in Bloomsday (last year)?"
"1:06:xx * a little slower than I'd expected, but at least under 9 minutes/mile."

"5K PR?"
"25:04 * didn't quite make it under 25 minutes."

"10K PR?"
"52:51 * only one second faster than my previous PR."

"Whidbey 2008? Maine Coast Half Marathon?"
"2:00:xx, 2:01:xx * didn't make it under two hours, slower than Whidbey 2007."

That's just a sampling. I could pull out any race in my list, including the ones from last year (*which are so much better than this year), and I would have some complaint, some reaons why I didn't quite measure up, why I was slower than I expected, how I failed just a little bit.

The only race where I had absolutely no complaints, where I was nothing but thrilled with my results, was my first half marathon, Whidbey 2007, where my time was 1:54:30 and I was so excited that I had not only beat my two hour goal but did so by several (5½) minutes. Of course, that also gave me a baseline for numerous future failures to come.

Why, I wonder, do I feel this need to criticize and apologize for not being good enough in every single race? Even the good ones (*last year), not just the bad and mediocre ones (*this year).

The obvious answer is because I am truly disappointed and embarrassed when I don't live up to what I think I should be capable of doing. And because I think other people would feel the same shock and dismay over my times. Whcih, I'm pretty sure, they don't.

So, will I quite analyzing and explaining and trying to figure out the reasons behind my race results, good or bad? HELL NO. I know I can't do that, it's the nature of any runner to want to improve (and self-criticize), no matter what the time.

But I probably will try to rein in the public self-flagellation, especially in front of complete strangers. (That doesn't include in the blog.) The person sitting next to me on the plane? Probably is genuinely impressed that I even ran 7.46 miles. She doesn't care that it was slower than I expected, slower than last year, etc. (Although she did tell me that her daughter did it in around an hour. Maybe she is judging me after all....)


In other running news, I dragged myself out of bed this morning for a post-race run before getting ready to leave Spokane. My legs were still feeling sluggish so I just took it easy. I jogged from the hotel down to Riverside Park but managed to miss getting on the riverside trail, so stayed on the regular sidewalk as it curved around the Convention Center.

As I stood on the overpass looking down at the river and the trail alongside it I knew I had made a mistake. I doubled back and cut onto the trail at the performing arts center. I was okay with the extra distance because I knew it would be a challenge to add up too many miles this morning. So I followed the river until I came to the bridge to Gonzaga. I was only a bit over two miles and I really wanted to top three miles before I crossed the river. I ran down to where the trail joined the road and back. I followed a side trail away from the river and looped back. I ran to the end of the trail again and up the road to the Eastern Washington University campus. I hit three miles there and turned back.

I then crossed over the river to the Gonzaga campus and followed the river back along the other side. During the last mile or so I started pausing the Garmin frequently so I could take pictures of the turbulent river and the power plant. Luckily I'd already gone four miles by then, because I'm sure I didn't get much of a running workout by running 100 yards, then stopping, running and stopping again, etc. But I did get some amazing photos! (I'll post them later.)

I had to do some extra loops around the paths in the park to get to five miles, but once I did I headed over to Madeleine's for my final sugar-free toffee latte before leaving Spokane. (And I also bought the most delicious cinnamon roll ever. Completely moist and a thick coating of cream cheese frosting. Oh, yum.) (*Perhaps cinnamon rolls have something to do with my sucky times, hmm?)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

And after afterward

A massage and pedicure at the hotel spa! Ahhhh....
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I finished! I mean that in a "thank goodness I'm done" way rather than suggesting that there was any chance I would not. Although there were moments I really wanted to quit, as there usually are in any race.

I don't like typing on the BlackBerry enough to write too much, but I'll say that I was both pleased and disappointed with my performance. Disappointed because I was in fact slower than last year, but pleased that I didn't entirely suck! My Garmin time, which should be pretty close to my chip time, was 1:12:23. That's a 9:36 average pace for 7.54 miles (of course the race was only 7.46 miles). I think my splits vary wildly depending on whether I was going uphill or down, and most of the race, except for the last 2.5 miles, was one or the other. (More up, I would say, but perhaps my perception was skewed.)

I will admit that I walked a little bit on Doomsday Hill. Not much, and I didn't strictly need to--but I did. What's the pits about long hills is not just the hill, but then the difficulty of getting back up to pace at the top!

After the finish I met my mother at Madeleine's, a delightful French-style cafe (with the most delicious lattes, better than my beloved Starbucks, I'm afraid) and we had whole wheat pancakes with maple butter for a carb-replenishing breakfast. And some bacon for protein. Yummy!
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I've never done a blog post from a starting corral but at least I can pass a little time while I'm standing here. I could not decide whether to wear my jacket or not--I finally decided I should because I would die freezing while I was waiting. (Someday I'll learn to bring a throwaway shirt!) And brrr, the wind is cold anyway. Ten more minutes till Bloomsday's start, which means 15-20 minutes for me in the yellow bib group. I'm all nerves!
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

In Spokane - Ready for Bloomsday?

Here is the gorgeous deep tub where I am going to soak myself tonight in preparation for the Bloomsday run tomorrow morning. That, and some sort of pasta tonight for dinner, are my final race prep efforts. It'll have to be good enough.

Right now I am (again) lolling on my exceedingly comfortable bed at the Davenport Hotel. We flew in around midday, and after checking in I decided to forgo going to see Kathrine Switzer in favor of a rest and nap. I've seen and met her twice before, and already bought all her books and a Marathon Woman tee shirt, and I wasn't even completely sure that she'd be here. There's always a chance that Joe Biden scared her out of flying. I'd been inexplicably tired today and lying down was irresistible.

After a couple hours I dragged myself out of a drugged-like state to head out for some lunch and the Bloomsday packet pick-up and trade show.

We went to Madeleine's (a charming coffee shop/cafe kitty-corner from Macy's) where I had a delicious turkey sandwich and my mother had an even yummier grilled panini with tomato and cheese, and tomato basil soup. (It was yummier because of the melted cheese, of course.) Madeleine's also has the best lattes (and a tall comes with two shots, and they have sugar free toffee syrup).

From there we headed on to the convention center to pick up my race packet. The wind was blowing in an alarmingly stormy way (and has continued to do so). I am praying that it lets up by morning!

The trade show is HUGE but for once I didn't succumb to the lure to buy anything. We did, however, succumb to the Franz display and I grabbed a handful of Mother's iced animal cookies for each of us. (LOVE those cookies.) Then we just battled the wind on the way back to the hotel. (Please PLEASE let it stop.)

While I am in Spokane it seems like everyone else I hear of is going to the Eugene Marathon/Half Marathon. Nobody I know personally, but numerous bloggers I read are headed that way. I picture them all heading to Eugene, just like everyone in the Seinfeld finale packing up and heading to the Good Samaritan trial. Good luck to all of them, as well all the other race runners this weekend. (And there are many! This is a big weekend.)

And a special good luck to my friend Gina, who is running a half marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska, where at least hopefully the course will be flat!
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Friday, May 1, 2009

That really ticks me off!

Inspired by Half Fast's post today about "inconsidiots" who interfere with your running, I have a story of a similar incident of irritation from my run yesterday afternoon. At the time I was so pissed that I wanted to stop and do a quick blog post from my phone, but I kept running and by the time I got home I had actually forgotten about it.

So I was running along yesterday afternoon on the sidewalk along Colby Avenue. I was still in my first mile so I certainly hadn't achieved any level of running nirvana. Instead I was achy and possibly a bit irritable. Ahead of me I saw a man walking with two dogs. He had them on rather long leashes so they were wandering about and amongst the three of them, they blocked the entire sidewalk. They were going in the same direction as me, so I would have to pass them to get on with my run.

Now let me say, as a side note, that I really hate passing walkers that are going in the same direction as me. I feel like I have to run faster going past them so that they are not following on my heels. Then there's that whole "watching me from behind as I run past" thing.

But anyhow. I moved onto the grassy parking strip along the sidewalk so I could pass without interfering with their walk or having the dogs nip at my ankles. So just as I'm sort of even with the group the guy—and dogs—starts running! Mind you, he is wearing street clothes, not running clothes.

I'm not about to get into a race with a man and two dogs who are hogging the sidewalk (my sidewalk, I always run this route), so I turned around, went back to the intersection and crossed the busy street, dodging traffic, to run up the other side of the street. There may have been a loud harrumph and some tossing of my head involved.

Is this not the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard? Not only is this guy not yielding to me, the runner, but he is (either deliberately or negligently) interfering with the progress of my run!

Some other things that ticked me off yesterday (and do in general):

  • Cars that pull up into the crosswalk so that I have to run behind them to cross the street.
  • Cars that are coming out of a driveway or business (e.g. McDonalds) and pull out so far they block the sidewalk, again forcing me to either run into the street or behind them.
  • Cars that are only looking for oncoming traffic coming from their left and don't seem to see me approaching from their right.
  • Any time I have to stop to avoid being potentially hit by a car, or to let a car cross an intersection even though I, a pedestrian in a crosswalk (or wanting to go into the crosswalk), should have the right-of-way.
  • The woman I saw running yesterday wearing a sleeveless top, short running shorts, and very long hair flowing around her as she ran.
Luckily, running does enhance my seratonin levels and so, despite whatever irritations I might encounter along the way, I am usually over it by the time I get home!