Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nothing's wrong, so I guess I'll go run a marathon

If you're wondering why I haven't been posting many updates and telling all my stories... well, the truth is, I'm kind of afraid to.  I'm afraid to even say this out loud, but for the first time in a long time, nothing is wrong! 

I've just been marching along, slowly increasing my mileage and running a race every now and then, trying not to remind myself that I'm "due" for an injury.  It feels kind of like I did something wrong and I'm just waiting to get caught.  Instead, after my dramatic start to the year on Jan 2 with my ankle injury, the rest of the year has been smooth sailing!  Maybe I'm out of the woods?  (Or maybe it's because I'm staying out of the woods!!)

After my Disney race last month I decided it was time to go big.  It's been a while since my last marathon (Boston, 2014) and I figured it's time for a new challenge.  Mentally I was ready to sign up for another marathon, but I decided that this time around I was going to select a race that really suited me.  My previous marathons have been races that I signed up for to run with friends, and although I'm glad I did them, none of them really suited my personality or allowed me to do my best.  Sometimes I think people get so caught up in the hype of a certain race that they don't consider whether it's a smart choice for them personally.  So, this time I focused on thinking about my past marathons and other long distance events, and what worked for me and what didn't.  When I pulled it all together, I realized a very common theme.  I don't like people.  Okay, well that's not 100% true.  But more specifically, I don't like the big crowds, endless cheering spectators, and complicated logistics of races.  For example, sure I love Disney.  But I don't love running a 12 minute mile because I can't get around people, or having to walk 45 minutes to the start line at 5am and having sore feet before the race even started.  For Boston, of course I love Boston.  But the start/finish line logistics and endless spectators exhaust me, not to mention the anxiety that I will always have at that marathon.  All of this makes sense since I'm an introvert, and naturally exhausted by crowds of people.  I also thought back to the Patriot Half Iron I did last year.  When I had to start running my half marathon 4 hours into my race, I was shocked at how good I felt.  Despite having already swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles, I was happy and strong.  The course was on quiet, rural roads with very little traffic and just a few friendly faces sprinkled throughout the course.  No screaming, drunken college kids.  Just an occasional property owner cheering me on.  I felt like I was running in my own town, and it was perfect.

When I finally put all the pieces together, it finally clicked.  Why not run another marathon in the same place I started my running career:  Hyannis!  I've had such a love affair with Hyannis for years.  It's where I ran my very first race (a 10k), and where I PR'd my half marathon.  I even went just to spectate the year I had my hip surgery.  I like this course because it's quiet, on small country cape roads in cool weather.  I debated whether doing a two loop course would be too much torture, but I think I can handle it.  I'm excited to have some friends there doing the half marathon, that will be there to cheer me on when I pass through at the halfway mark and again at the finish.  When I visualize this in my head, it just feels right.  Plus, I love that I can get a hotel room right there, roll out of bed and walk out to the race, and then head directly to the shower afterwards.

The timing is really perfect too, because the marathon training plan basically picks up right where my Disney half marathon training plan left off.  In fact, I'm already on week 7 of my 18 week plan!

Here is my approach to training this time around:
 - Run 4 days a week: 2 short runs, 1 mid-distance run, 1 long run
 - Rest on rest days
 - No speed work (to prevent ankle strain)
 - Consistent strength training twice a week
 - An occasional bike and swim!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015 Disney Wine & Dine race report! (short race, long post)

Last year Ron, Danny and I all raced the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Disney and loved it so much we decided it was worth doing again!  The only thing that could have made the race better last year was if it hadn't been absolutely pouring buckets.  So Ron said, "I feel like we need to sign up for this race again so we can have a do-over with better weather.  Because there's no way we could have weather as bad as last year".  <--- Famous Last Words.  Well, Danny's trigger finger wasn't quick enough and he got shut out of the registration before it sold out, so Ronnie and I were the only ones racing.  We made a family vacation out of it and had a great week, but Danny was definitely missed!

We arrived Thursday morning and stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside resort on Disney property.  This was a beautiful property with a southern/bayou theme and is connected to the French Quarter resort where we stayed last year.  

Andrew and I rested for a bit after our early flight, and then headed to Disney Springs for dinner at Fulton's Crab House and then Cirque du Soleil.  

I was so excited to meet up with Coleen while we were down there!  

Friday morning we decided to go for a short run just to shake things out a bit and acclimate to the temperatures.  It was well above average, with highs in the 90's and 100% humidity.  It was the thickest air I've ever felt!  What I expected to be a very, very easy 2 mile run resulted in me being positively drenched with sweat and gasping for air.  The only upside to this was the amazing sunrise.

I was praying for lower humidity for the race Saturday night.  After a quick shower we headed to the Animal Kingdom for a full day of animals and rides.  By the end of the day, my watch had calculated more than 12 miles of walking throughout the day.  Probably not the smartest way to lead up to a race!  I won't put tons of Disney pictures in here but maybe just a couple of my favorites.  Like this one, taken at Expedition Everest.  You know how they put the hidden cameras at the most thrilling part of the ride so they can catch you looking scared/crying/vomiting/some sort of ridiculous?  Well, it appears we were sitting behind a family of corpses.
Friday night we headed back to Disney Springs to do a little shopping and then a late dinner at Raglan Road.  Because who doesn't go to an Irish Pub the night before a race, after walking 12 miles?  We had a good meal and some good live music, but I think we were all pooped by the end of the night.

Saturday our plan was simple.  Go to the race expo right when it opens, get in, get out, and then relax with the feet up for the rest of the day.  Ronnie and I got to the expo right at 9am when it opened.  There were large crowds because of events happening at the ESPN complex, but the expo itself wasn't busy.  

One of the cool things about Disney races is how much of an elite runner it makes me feel.  Numbers are assigned by corral and by times based on previous races.

"I'm faster than ALLLL those people"
Ronnie said next time he would take a picture of me taking a picture of them, to prove that he's even faster than me.  Such a one-upper!

There was a cute little photo-op where people were just being lame and taking normal pictures.  We turned it into a sport.

"Baguette fighting at the Wine & Dine race expo!"

Unfortunately, the expo was pretty much sold out of all the good Disney race merchandise.  We spent the day relaxing, napping, sitting by the pool, and I had a "dinner" of chicken fingers at about 1:30.  All day I kept hoping for a cold front to blow through, but the humidity didn't budge, and my feet were uncomfortably swollen.  

We took Disney transportation to the start of the race, which stated that buses run from 7pm to 8pm.  We got in line at 7pm and didn't get picked up until after 8pm, finally making it off the bus close to 9pm.  There were tons of delays because of traffic and road construction, which caused a bit of stress.  Luckily we didn't have to check a bag.  We just headed straight to the porta potty line, while both taking note that the wind sure had picked up in the last hour.  After standing in line for at least 10 minutes, suddenly huge masses of people started moving away from the start line.  We realized we were being evacuated due to a severe lightning storm nearby!  Some stubborn folk decided to take their chances and stay in line for the porta potty but eventually all people were ordered out of the field.  This is what 12,000 people running for cover looks like:

We had to take cover in the ESPN field houses and await further instructions.
camping out on the floor
A lot of confusion ensued, with people hearing various things via social media and looking at the radar.  Meanwhile, Andrew, Donna and Chelsea were having the time of their lives at Epcot, which was closed to the public and open only to race spectators at that time.  They basically had the park to themselves and were completely unfazed by the weather.  Finally at close to 11pm we were told that the race would go on and we had to start making our way to the start corrals.  At this point the announcer was really rushing us along, and I could tell that there would be tons of people that wouldn't make it to their corral in time.  We also started hearing that the course would be shortened, and then the announcer confirmed that we would be skipping the Animal Kingdom and losing 6 miles of the race.  While I can totally understand why people would be upset about it, especially if this was their first half marathon, I honestly didn't care.  I was so tired, the race adrenaline had worn off, and it was so disgustingly hot.  I just wanted to get to the finish line party!  Ronnie and I were in different corrals so we split up heading to the start.  My wave started about 8 minutes after his.  It was pretty funny when we passed mile markers because of the altered course.  I specifically remember passing the "10 mile" clock at 1:00 hour and thinking I should take a picture of that.  But my hands were too sweaty!

I started off very slow.  I didn't really care about my time at that point, the humidity was killing me, and it was super crowded.  Lots of people passed me in my first mile.  However, every mile after that I got faster and they got slower, and I ended up passing tons of people  right up to the finish line!  When Ronnie found me at the finish he said, "you will not believe what your son is wearing".  I couldn't think of what Andrew could possibly be wearing that would be so strange.  Until this snuck up behind me.

After the race it was quite the process to get our free beer, unlike last year where it was very accessible after the finish line.  Eventually we made our way into Epcot for the important part: the party!!  I was going to take pictures of everything I ate and drank but it got complicated with not having enough hands.  So there's just a couple.

Spanikopita and wine from Greece
Chelsea and I sipping champagne in France
Eventually as more and more people finished the race, Epcot became very crowded and the food lines were a good 50 people deep!  Finally we decided we'd had enough and headed back to the hotel.  I was showered and in bed by 3:45am.  That was a LONG day, and Andrew and I were meeting up with Jaimee in the morning to head over to Universal!

The rest of the week went like this:  Sunday at Universal, Monday at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and Tuesday was Disney Springs for lunch and shopping before our flight home.  In fact, we had an extra park day that we never even ended up using on Tuesday because we were so worn out and tired of the thick crowds.  

So, would I do it again?  Hard to say.  I do love the race but it has its drawbacks.  It's a heck of a production getting there.  There are lots of crowds both at the race and at the Disney parks during the trip.  I think if I did it again I'd do things a little different.  I'd probably fly in a day later, skip going to a park the day before the race, and then spend the rest of my trip at Universal after the race instead.  Universal was surprisingly empty when we went on Sunday, possibly because there was so much happening at Disney with the food festival.  I know I'm definitely not in any hurry to go back to another park with long lines and tons of strollers.  I also know that I will never, ever sign up for a race uttering the words "it couldn't possibly be as bad as last year" again!  I think my new approach will be: plan for bad weather, and be pleasantly surprised if it's not.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Newburyport Half Marathon race report!

I spent last weekend up on the north shore of Massachusetts for my second run of the Newburyport Half Marathon.  There are so many things I like about this race but probably the best part is that it gives me an excuse to spend the weekend with my long-distance friend Karen!  Now, I'm sure Karen would let me visit her anytime without the need to run 13.1 miles, but this sure does make things convenient.  Ron and I ran this race last year and felt it was definitely worth a return trip, and this year we recruited Danny to join us.

On the drive up to Newburyport we were telling Danny about Karen and how welcoming she is so he didn't have to feel weird about staying in a stranger's house.  I happened to mention her cats and noticed he didn't say another word, but I didn't really give it much thought at the time.

We settled into Karen's house Saturday night and dug into our pre-race meal.  I made my usual chicken and rice casserole, Karen made baked ziti, and then we had some bread and apple pie.  Fellow horseback rider and good friend Laura stopped by to join us!  


During dinner Danny started sniffling and sneezing, and then the cat was out of the bag (pun intended)... he was allergic to cats!  He took some Zyrtec, washed it down with a beer, and then later took a Benadryl, and washed that down with two more.  Meanwhile I was on my third glass of wine and thought this potential overdose was hilarious.  In my diabolical mind I was thinking this might be the one time I can beat him in a race.  He's jet lagged from coming back from California the day before, and is now stuffed up and full of allergy medicine and beer.  Now's my chance.  

In the morning I felt my odds at beating Danny were even better when he told us that the air mattress went flat and he spent all night sleeping on a hardwood floor.  He was a good sport about the whole thing, but I saw the relief in his eyes when we left the house to head to the race.  He could finally breathe, even if it meant he had to go run a half marathon just to get away from the cats!  Karen had been nice enough to pick up all of our numbers for us on Friday so all we had to do was basically jump out of the car and wait for the race to start.  The temperature was low 50's and drizzle so we wore ponchos until the race started.  At 9:35 I headed to the porta-potty line, and didn't get out of it until 9:55!  Naturally Ron and Danny had abandoned me by this point (just like Disney!!) so I headed to the starting line alone and never saw them again until the end of the race.  

The race itself was great.  I love the scenic course that winds its way through Maudsley State Park, past some ponds and classic New England farms.  There are hills, but nothing too major.  I think all my training runs on the 15k course definitely helped!

The day before the race I posted this picture on Instagram:

"Now when they say 'nothing new on race day', they don't mean little things like shoes, socks, or nutrition, right?"
I ended up not wearing those new socks but instead a pair that were used but still in good shape.  I went through hell to get those shoes and then the insoles were the wrong size (long story) which I then "customized" with a pair of scissors.  I was just hoping I wasn't going to end up like this guy that won the Berlin Marathon a few weeks ago with his insoles literally sliding right out of his shoes:

Not pictured above was my new handheld water bottle.  I'm used to holding a bottle while running but the one I had was leaking, so Ronnie picked me up a new one at the store.  It held 16 oz so it was a little smaller than my last one.  I used half a packet of the tailwind powder as my only source of nutrition.  Never having used it, I didn't want to go overboard.  Note: I later read the directions (because why would I do that before the race?) and realized the ratio is 2-3 scoops per hour of endurance.  I used 1 scoop for 2 hours.  Lesson learned!

My race went well for the first five miles except for a very cranky ankle, but then everything started getting harder.  Maybe I started too fast, or maybe I shouldn't have had 3 glasses of wine the night before, or maybe I needed some fuel.  I plodded along still happy with my pace but not happy with how hard it felt.  Seeing Karen and Donna at mile 6 perked me up a bit and I just kept chugging along.  By this time I had drank most of my water and realized I really needed some energy, but by the time I got to the fuel station it was completely empty.  I was so disappointed to see all the empty gu wrappers everywhere and none left.  I may not have been blazing fast, but I would think a 9:30 pace would've gotten me to an aid station before it was emptied out!

Eventually a side stitch hit me like a bullet and I had to walk.  I was really hoping not to walk at all because my ankle had been bothering me quite a bit, and I was nervous that if I walked it might seize up on me.  But I ended up walking for about 30 seconds or so and stretched out that stitch until it was completely gone.  At the final water table I realized I wasn't going to make the last mile without water and I wanted them to fill up my bottle.  In hindsight, I don't know why I didn't just take a cup of water.  I didn't need my bottle filled up.  I'm blaming this on the marathon brain damage I get when I run long distances.  Just wasn't thinking clearly!  In any case, I thought I'd be super quick about it and unscrew the cap to my bottle on my way to the table and all they'd have to do is pour water and off I go.  But I couldn't unscrew the cap!  My hands were weak and slippery and I just couldn't get the cap off.  So I stopped at the table and asked the guy to unscrew the cap for me.  Unfortunately what I said in my head and what came out were two different things.  I was talking gibberish, but he figured out what I meant.  He unscrewed the cap quite easily and in fact with such velocity that it went flying into a box full of cups.  So then he had to dig through the box to find the cap, fill up the bottle, and screw the cap back on.  I looked at my Garmin afterwards and found that it took 1 minute and 10 seconds to get that bottle of water.  Although that irritates me a bit because I was hoping to beat last year's time, I think it may have saved me from having a stroke!!

The final mile is on the bike path which is lined with cool art statues, and then onto the boardwalk along the water.  The finish line was exciting and I saw Donna just before I crossed!

Right at the finish they handed out medals, water bottles, and a green towel.  I made my way through and immediately saw Ronnie.  Then he told me Danny was getting a massage.  I was thinking to myself, how freaking slow was I that they had time to get massages??!

We met up with Karen and Donna and then headed straight to the beer garden.  There was a long line to get in (for the ID check), but once in there the beer was very accessible!  We hung out there for a while, enjoyed some fresh brews from Newburyport Brewing Company, and swapped war stories from our runs.  

I kind of felt a little bad for Karen and Donna.  Here they were freezing standing around for a couple hours, and then we come barreling in all obnoxious, high on running endorphins, talking miles a minute about all sorts of running things.  I equate this to what happens when you stumble in the house drunk from some party while everyone else is sober.  (I'm guessing, how would I know that...)

Once we had our fill of free beer we headed back to Karen's house, showered, ate lots of pizza and watched the Patriots game.  This was another great race and is going to make next week's Disney race feel sooo easy!

The bottom line:
Great race, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a scenic fall half marathon in New England.  It's a little on the pricey side, but the course has clocks at every mile, tons of water stops, porta-johns throughout the course, lots of spectators, and tons of volunteers.  The free beer and pizza after the race, as well as the live music, really make this a fun event.  

The numbers:
Well my plan to poison Danny backfired on me.  Despite my best efforts, Danny smoked me with a 1:49 something, and Ronnie was just ahead of him.  I casually strolled in at 2:08, making for one of my slowest half marathons ever.  I'd like to think I just got my money's worth out of the race by spending as long as possible out on the course!  I'm just going to have to think of more clever ways of sabotaging Danny next year.  Maybe I'll sprinkle some sleeping pills on his breakfast bagel.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Plymouth Run to the Rock 10k race report

Back on September 12, I headed down to Plymouth MA for the Run to the Rock 10k.  This was sort of a last minute thing.  I hadn't really planned on doing much racing this summer but Ronnie somehow talked me into it.  And since I was looking to get in that distance that weekend anyways, why not do it in a new location?  At least that always seems like a good idea at the time, until the night before the race when I realize how early I have to leave my house, how much stuff I have to pack, and knowing that I had some issues at work looming over me this weekend.  Man, it would've just been so much easier to run from my house!  Nevertheless, I headed down 495 super early and got a call from Ron, who happened to be just ahead of me on the highway.  We pulled into a parking lot in Taunton and carpooled the rest of the way, which made things easier!
The race started at 9am and we got there with plenty of time to spare.  This was a point to point course, where you park at the start, run to this rock in Plymouth that's famous or something, and then get shuttled back to the start after the race.  I thought the logistics of the race were a little confusing, with three different distances all starting in three very different locations and converging at the finish line.  It made it impractical to carpool with anyone doing a different distance.  Plus, they promote an after-race BBQ and beer festival, but the festival starts at 1pm and the shuttles to your car run only until noon.  If I looked into it more I probably could've figured out how to make that work, but we ended up doing just fine without the beer festival.  (<--- Teaser!)
The day was overcast at the start, mild temps and very soupy air. After such a dismal performance at the Finish at the 50 10k in July, I knew I needed a better plan.  So this time I started further back in the field, and made sure my pace was only slightly faster than my usual pace.  Let people pass me, don't get sucked into the fast first mile pace.  That worked great and my first mile was 8:54.  The course description mentioned a "memorable hill", and sure enough I found it going into my second mile.  The people who made a break for it right at the beginning were sucking wind going up that hill and I motored past a lot of people.  I was happy to see that 2 miles into the race I could still see Ronnie just ahead of me.  The good thing about that big hill was as soon as it crested, it went right back downhill, so I made sure I took as little recovery time as possible at the crest of the hill and then took advantage of the downhill.  A little bit later, I smelled the distinct odor of a feed store.  That seemed strange since we were running in an industrial park, until I noticed the SmartPak sign off to my left.  SmartPak is where I order most of my horse equipment and supplements, so that was pretty funny to see it in person.  My second mile was 8:56 which I thought was great considering that memorable hill.  Mile 3 was even better at 8:45.  I started slowing down a bit after that, partly because my body was like, okay... I think 5 miles is far enough.  The sun came out which heated things up, and I also noticed that I started getting caught up in other peoples' paces.  I realized I was comfortably running right behind a guy, when I should have been passing him.  Turns out I get sucked into both faster and slower paces.  I'm such a follower!  I was excited when I realized I might actually make a sub-9 minute mile pace, which is the fastest 10k I've had in years.  Finally I reached the finish line in 55:16, and an 8:55 pace.  I was really happy about that!
At the finish line I caught up with Ron, and Sarah, Kim, Melissa and Julie who all did the 5k.  We got a quick picture for the running club, then headed over to the BBQ.  10am hot dog?  Sure why not!

We enjoyed our BBQ on the lawn and noticed a photo booth nearby.  Naturally we can't resist a photo op.

By this time it was about 11am and we still had some time to kill so we decided to take a walk up the street to grab a beer at the bar.  It turned into two beers, and then we realized it was well after noon and remembered that the shuttle back to the start line only ran until noon.  Luckily Melissa had a giant truck that we piled into and she gave us a lift back.
As we pulled into the parking lot where our day had started hours before, Melissa pointed out that the Mayflower Brewery was right next door.  So, obviously we had to stop in for a tasting and a tour!

We left the brewery and stopped by the beach where Julie spent the afternoon.  It was a beautiful beach day for September, and a nice way to end the day in Plymouth.  We capped off this adventure by meeting up with more friends in Carver for dinner.  I pulled into my driveway at 8pm, 13+ hours after I left for the race.  Running from home definitely would have been less time consuming, but it wouldn't have been nearly as fun!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back by popular demand!

The people have spoken, and I've finally listened.  Golly, I didn't know so many people missed my blog posts!  Well it's been an interesting year so I'll just give some highlights to get us all up to speed.  The last time I wrote was in February and I was droning on and on about the stupid snowstorms and stupid snowshoeing and stupid snow shoveling and stupid stupid stupid.  Oh and I was going to run the Hyannis 10k with my stupid ankle injury, but that didn't end up happening because it was - you guessed it - snowed out!  So that might have been the beginning of the temporary hiatus of my blogging.  But I'm back, and here's what you missed:

The official ankle diagnosis
Turns out I wasn't as much of a whining weenie as I thought, and I had very good reason for complaining about my ankle.  You might remember how, back on January 2, Julia and I went for a nice easy trail run (hard to believe there wasn't snow on the ground then) and I managed to destroy my ankle.  I diagnosed myself with a severe ankle sprain and waited for it to heal.  In March, fed up with the lack of healing, I went to see an ankle specialist at St. Vincent's in Worcester.  (Dr. Barrette, highly recommended btw).  After an x-ray (which I insisted I didn't need because I knew it wasn't broken for crying out loud), we found the culprit of my ankle pain: a ridiculous deformity called an Os Trigonum.  If you want details, click that link.  The short version is that it's a stupid extra bone in my ankle that got "nutcrackered" when I sprained my ankle, and is causing all sorts of problems.  I took time off running, had it in an ankle brace for a while, and then had a cortisone injection.  The next step will be surgery, but after the horrible winter we had, I really didn't want to be sidelined all summer recovering from another surgery.  So now I baby the ankle, can't run downhill, can't do speed work, can't take any quick turns, can't point my toes down.  Despite the restrictions, I've actually had a pretty decent year of running so I'm getting by with my mutant Frankenstein ankle.  After the Disney race in November I will reevaluate the surgical option.

Booked that trip to Disney I just told you about!
That's right, heading back to the most magical place on earth to run the Wine and Dine half marathon again in November!  So excited to be running this fun event again, and so are loads of other people based on the fact that online registration sold out in 20 minutes.  Ronnie and Donna are coming again, this time with their daughter, and my son Andrew is coming too!

A couple 5k's
Nothing dramatic here... Just a couple local 5k's in May and July.  I placed 3rd in one and 5th in the other, so I was really happy with that!

The Greendale Triathlon
Signed up for this because I had a discount voucher to spend this year, so I thought an early season triathlon would be fun.  What also would have been fun is if I had ridden my bike more than once or twice before this race.  Still, it was fun despite some equipment malfunctions and a staircase on the run.  A staircase?!?!  And I managed to squeak out a 3rd place which I was shocked about.

Random trip to Nashville
Becca texted me one day and was like, "do you want to go to Nashville next week?" and I was like, "okay", and then we went to Nashville.  It was fun, hilarious, and dehydrating.  We even managed to get a couple morning runs in before all the drinking sightseeing!

The Finish at the 50 10k
Said I'd never run it again, then I ran it again.  I'm training to be a politician.  But really, it was a good race and a fun time afterwards with grilling (illegally, no grills allowed!) and a fireworks show.  Unfortunately my ankle was a giant mess on this race and it was a pure struggle.

Logged a bunch of miles on the bike with Kristen
Apparently I only like training for races and not actually racing and getting the finisher's medal.  I did some long bike rides with Kristen to prepare her for Ironman Timberman.  (Side note: She, and everyone else, killed it!)

Survived another edition of "The Leavitts are trying to kill me"
This is going back a ways but long time readers will remember fondly the story of Mark and Diana, and the wild bike ride they dragged me on in the Alps of New York.  Well, they were up to it again this month.  We spent a week out in the Berkshires camping with our horses, and I inconveniently forgot to forget my bike, and went out for another punishing spin.  Mark and Diana really are sweet people, I swear.  This one might actually have been worse than New York, just because the elevation gain all came at the end, in 4 steady miles of climbing.

And that pretty much brings us up to current, where as recently as Saturday I had a little encounter with some fisher cats on my trail run.  Lucky for me I am quick thinking and thought, hey how about if I just don't run on this trail and promptly booked it back to my house, and then up the street instead.

So there ya have it.  Was it all you hoped it would be?  I promised to give you just the highlights, but hey I'm feeling generous so I'm willing to take requests.  If you want the "full story" on any of these, let me know!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kale and bean soup

Hey folks, some people have asked me for the recipe for the kale and bean soup I referred to in my last post, so here it is!


2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cups kale, chopped
1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dry pasta shells
1 container of Organic vegetarian no-chicken low sodium broth
1 cup water
Red pepper flakes, optional
Cooking spray

In a large pot sprayed with cooking spray, lightly sautee garlic and onion.

Add whole container of broth, plus 1 cup water.  Then add kale, sweet potatoes, and cannellini beans.  Cover and simmer on medium low until sweet potatoes and kale are cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.

In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to al dente directions.  Once cooked, drain and add the cooked pasta to the soup pot.

Garnish with red pepper flakes if desired, or salt and pepper to taste.

(Mom likes to garnish hers with grated parmesan cheese, rendering it non-vegan)

Servings: 5

Nutritional value:
Calories: 199
Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 415 mg
Potassium: 345 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 43 g
Dietary fiber: 8 g
Sugars: 5 g
Protein: 9 g
Vitamin A: 276%
Vitamin C: 85%
Calcium: 10%
Iron: 17%

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New England is the New Alaska

Just about everyone in the Boston area is losing their minds over the sheer volume of snow being dumped on us lately, and I'm no exception.  Look, I hate snow.  I hate everything about it.  I wish it never snowed.  At best, it's just a cold, wet nuisance.  At worst, it shuts down the whole state and life becomes a full time job of shoveling, raking, chipping ice, repeat.  We're in the "worst" column right now.  I don't understand people that think it's pretty.  How is this pretty, when all of nature is covered in white?  A Monet painting is pretty.  If someone took a can of white paint and dumped it over one of his haystack paintings, would you think it was still pretty?  I don't think so.  You know what's pretty?  Florida.  The Caribbean.  You know, places that have colors, like blue skies and green grass and pink flamingos.

Years ago I had decided that since I hated snow so much, and yet I continue to live in New England, I had to find a way to hate it less.  I took up snowshoeing, which I honestly do enjoy.  It's a great workout, a safe way to get outdoors in the winter, and gives me a chance to be in the woods experiencing nature, even if it is just monochromatic.  A few weeks ago, it was still fun to snowshoe.  Back when we thought we were dealing with "the big snowstorm of the winter".  How foolish we were!  Three weeks and seven feet of snow later, and the honeymoon is over!  Snowshoeing isn't just for fun anymore.  It's an honest-to-God regular mode of transportation just to get from Point A to Point B around the property!  I had to snowshoe all throughout Rocco's paddock just to give him some room to walk around.  Rocco actually loved this and followed me all over the place.

Rocco and I are master selfie-takers, wouldn't you agree?  We even have the same smile
 I did manage to get down to the park a couple times, and I'll admit, the scenery was actually pretty nice.

Like I said though, this was back after the first major storm, when it was still kind of cool to have just two feet of snow on the ground.  I have shoveled, raked, and ice picked so much in the last three weeks, I'm going to have the most outstanding arms come Spring.

Shovel the deck, to rake the roof, then shovel the deck again.  Repeat.

Might be easier to install a zipline to the barn at this point.

"I'm up to my ears in snow!"
Oh you're wondering if it gets worse?  Well of course it does!  What horrendous "unprecedented" winter would it be without historic temperatures?  This was yesterday morning:

In case you haven't figured this out yet, I'm so glad I'm not training for a spring marathon!  If I had even the slightest bit of regret not signing up for Boston this year, trust me I'm over that!  I feel bad for all the runners trying so hard to stick to their training plans right now.  The roads are downright treacherous and the treadmill is pure torture for anything more than a few miles.  I have to hand it to people like Dale and Sarah, who are logging 16+ mile runs on the treadmill right now!  Well I might not be accumulating that kind of mileage, but my treadmill and bike are definitely getting lots of use this winter.

The sweat zone
Have I mentioned that last year's impulse purchase of the treadmill was the best shopping decision I've ever made in my whole life?  Treadmills might get boring and they're certainly no match for a nice country road, but they have some seriously great advantages:

  • Climate controlled - I can play "Mother Nature", set the temperature to my liking, add a fan or two, and run comfortably in shorts year round
  • No traffic
  • Nearby toilet (very nice bonus for me)
  • I can watch TV or listen to music without headphones
  • I never have to worry about bonking so bad that I need a ride home
  • No need to carry a fuel belt on a long run
  • Building up mental toughness

Even still, I'm getting a bit tired of the treadmill and I'm finding it harder and harder to get motivated, especially when I'm already tired from shoveling and my back is so sore.  I usually play some sort of game.  Like, run the 1st 2 miles without music, then add music.  Or, stop every 2 miles and do some crunches or planks.  Or, continually switching up the pace.  Yesterday for the first time I tried running based on "time", versus "miles", with a goal to just run for 30 minutes.  Turns out I hated that, so we'll scratch that off the list.  Sometimes I just like to run in silence and day dream about things.  Like Florida, for example.

All of this solo indoor working out can get boring, so I'm happy that Joe put together a semi-weekly indoor cycling get together at his studio.  The biggest challenge is sometimes getting there, especially with all the extra work this time of year around the house and barn.  I've been a few times, and it's been a great experience.  Amazing how much longer I'm willing to ride the trainer when we have a good group of people to suffer with and some entertainment to watch!

For the record, these beers were props only, a toast to Rori who was too busy at a beer tasting to ride with us

In other news, my mother and I brainstormed and created a new hearty vegetarian soup that has become my new favorite.  This is a kale, sweet potato and white bean soup.  Only 199 calories per serving!

Well, the Hyannis race is fast approaching.  It's scheduled for next Sunday, and a bunch of us booked rooms to stay there for the weekend.  Originally I wasn't going to run it because of my ankle injury, but I emailed the race director and was fortunate enough to switch to the 10k!  The only issue now is that there is another snowstorm, possibly two, coming between now and then, so it's very possible the race could get cancelled.

While we wait to hear the final word on Hyannis, I will continue to get my runs in on the treadmill, daydreaming about burning books with Jake Gyllenhaal and getting rescued by Dennis Quaid.

In the meantime, here is my current view out the window.