Alright, I know you're here to read about the Ragnar, but can we detour for a second and talk about the fact that it's August 15th already? You guys, WHERE did the summer go?? I've been excited about this race for months, and all of a sudden it's over. And that's for the best, really, because that means I survived. But I just don't know where the time goes.
So, the Ragnar. Quick summary to get everybody on the same page here--the Ragnar Great River is a relay race where teams of 12 (or 6, if you're out of your freaking mind) run 200ish miles between Winona and Minneapolis, non-stop, which took our team about 29 hours. That means we started at 11am on Friday and finished just before 4pm on Saturday, and someone from our team was running consistently (yes, through the night) during that time. Your team splits up into 2 vans, with one van's runners actively running at any given time (and the van leap-frogs the runner to get to the exchange points where runners switch off). The van that's not actively running finds somewhere to stop and eat/sleep, change clothes, and maybe take a shower. The first big twist came when Ragnar sent out a notice on Thursday that part of the race course had to be closed due to flooding, so some of our runners' first legs were canceled. I wasn't one of those runners, so I ran all three legs, and instead of canceling my miles Ragnar tacked on an extra half mile to my last leg to run around some flooded areas. Thanks a bunch.
I was runner 4, and with the extra distance on my third leg my total mileage came out to almost exactly 16 miles. My first leg was 6.6, second leg was 3.4, and last leg was 5.9. With our start time, I ended up running at about 1 on Friday afternoon, midnight between Friday and Saturday, and 9:30ish on Saturday morning. Luckily, our van was led by two wonderful Ragnar experts, who had run the Great River several years in a row and completely ran the show (pun intended). They got us to the exchanges on time, knew where to stop for food and rest time, and told us what to pack. Plus, they did all the driving, like superstars, while the newbies sat in the back wondering whether we should eat or sleep or try to stretch something.
This race really is unlike any other I've ever run in basically every way. To give you a sense of what I mean, here are some of the oddities about Ragnar-ing.
1. You're almost alone on the course. At any other race, everyone starts at the same time and you're running near at least a few other runners at any given time. With Ragnar, they stagger the starts throughout the day on Friday so that everyone's vans aren't all trying to park at the exchanges at the same time (with about 500 teams that would be impossible) but for me this meant I was running alone for a lot of the race. On my first leg, I didn't see anyone until the last half mile of the leg.
2. You're running three times in less than 24 hours. I had a really hard time figuring out how to train for this race...my longest leg was 6.6 miles, which isn't a big deal, but my total mileage was 16 miles in 24 hours, which is a bigger deal (to me, anyway). I ended up focusing on doing training runs on consecutive days, and the week before the race I did three runs between Saturday and Sunday, just to get a feel for it, but I didn't do any training runs longer than 5.5 miles. That ended up working out fine, but I wasn't nearly as confident about my training plan for this type of race.
3. Your eating, sleeping, and all other normal habits are completely disrupted. When you're not running, you're in the van (or having some downtime somewhere else, but mostly in the van). According to my FitBit, I slept for a total of 2 hours and 42 minutes between Friday and Saturday (and they were glorious minutes, every one of them) so we weren't exactly well-rested. We stopped for food at a few restaurants when Van 2 was running, but mostly we ate things that could be kept in a cooler or not cold, and I ate a lot of peanut butter, crackers, bananas, and rice cakes. Plus, you have nervous race stomach the whole time, but you need to keep your energy up because the race lasts more than a day. Not super ideal.
4. I wasn't that worried about my time, which was great. First of all, our team was not caught up in being super competitive (thank goodness). But also, in the course of a 29-hour race I just felt like a few minutes here or there didn't really matter. This really came in handy when my last leg turned out to be all hills and I had zero energy left, because I didn't hesitate to switch to power walking when I needed to. And I did need to....a lot.
5. The course is beautiful, and changes a lot between the legs. My first leg was partly along a highway and partly along the river, and was mostly really pretty. Although, a semi did drive by and blow my running hat off at one point, and I had to run back and climb into the ditch to retrieve it. That was not awesome. My night run was on a gravel road through corn fields, and it was really still and beautiful and there were one bazillion stars shining. There was also an insane manure stench at one point, but just keep running, you know? ALSO, it occurred to me in the middle of that run that I could easily be grabbed by a serial killer and pulled into the cornfield before anyone could notice. It didn't happen, but it could have happened. I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have watched The Lovely Bones before the race.
My last leg started in Afton, Minnesota along the roads there and turned off into a state park, where we ran along the hiking trails for the last three miles. There were lots of hikers in the park with hiking boots and poles, looking at us like we were insane (because what are you guys even doing here??) That's a fair reaction. I can admit that. This leg also included a hill that spanned an entire mile. From mile 1 to mile 2 was straight hill. I mean, come on.
6. There aren't mile markers. This was alright for me because I use Map My Run, but if you don't use GPS not having mile markers can be really disorienting. The only markers along the route are these "one mile to go" markers that make you want to do a celebration dance, because they mean you only have one mile left on your leg. My last leg didn't have a one mile to go sign, but again, thanks to Map My Run, I knew I was almost done. My teammates who didn't use GPS lamented seeing signs giving directions (i.e. "Ragnar Relay turns right here") that they mistakenly thought were the One Mile To Go signs, only to realize as they got closer that there was...more than one mile to go.
7. The weather is bizarre. In past years, the race has been unbearably hot (apparently the heat index last year was close to 110) and even though the days were not outrageously hot for us, it was still about 85 degrees with considerable humidity. It didn't feel awful when you were standing still, but as soon as you started running it was HOT. And then, once the sun went down, the weather was pleasant for running but freezing for standing still. I was wearing sweatpants, a sweater, and wrapped in a blanket shivering in the van while my teammates ran their night legs.
All in all, the Ragnar was exactly what you'd expect it to be: a fun and insane experience that I'm proud to say I finished, and I'm happy to not do every weekend. Or maybe ever again. We'll see.
I hope everyone's weeks are off to a great start. I think it's going to take me several more days to catch up on the rest I missed this weekend, so mine is dragging a little. Wish me luck.
I have such a hot tip for you today. You guys, two of the very best people in the health and wellness world are making a podcast together. It's called The Living Experiment, and it's coming to you every week from Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of The Whole 30 and owner of one of my most favorite Instagram feeds, and Pilar Gerasimo, creator and former Editor In Chief of Experience Life Magazine and owner of one of the best voices on the planet. I listened to the first episode tonight while I ran my LAST RAGNAR TRAINING RUN and I took these two beautiful photos (because Minneapolis was showing off so hard) and life was good. Also I was sweating so much that sweat kept forming droplets on the end of my nose, which was very distracting. Obviously I took a picture of that too, and I'll even share. You're welcome.
There. Don't ever say I only showed you the flattering sides of my life. But, ok. So. The Living Experiment. I love the podcast globally because I think Dallas and Pilar bring very grounded and fresh voices to the health and fitness world. They both grew up in non-urban, sort of separated-from-society settings for some portion of their childhoods (Dallas on a homestead without electricity or running water, Pilar on a farm that was only slightly more modern) and have definitely joined the mainstream media and world as adults, Dallas putting forth the Whole 30 program and all of the speaking and writing and engagement that came along with that, and Pilar working on the Experience Life magazine that Lifetime Fitness puts out to all of its club members. I respect them both immensely because I think they do a great job of engaging with the modern world and speaking to everyday Americans while pushing back on the modern American lifestyle, and somehow they don't seem judgmental or snooty about any of it. That's not easy.
Specifically, the first episode of their podcast made two points that I love deeply. The first is that they'd like to engage with people who are interested in becoming healthier and happier, but they want those people to know that: 1) you're fine as you are right now, and 2) there's room for improvement in where you are right now. I slowed down in my run at this point and momentarily searched for a pen (none to be found on the lakeshore path, obviously) because this was one of those statements that made my soul scream, "YES!" and I wanted to write it down. This is exactly how I feel about engaging with people about health and fitness and wellness. You're fine as you are. You're whole and there's nothing about yourself that needs fixing. But of course you could be healthier. You could be more well. There's room for improvement in all of us humans, on the fronts of nutrition and fitness and wellness and all sorts of other things. I think improvement in those areas is important and I love nothing more than to engage with others that are also seeking improvement. But it's so important to recognize at the outset that this is not about fixing. You are not broken. You're fine as you are right now, and there's also room for improvement.
The second point is that the "experiment" part is really important, because no one set of rules works for everyone. This is the most important essence of the Whole 30 to me--the point of the Whole 30 is to eliminate foods that might be causing less-than-desirable reactions in your body, and then to reintroduce them to see if they are, in fact, having negative effects. The point of the Whole 30 is NOT that grains or dairy or legumes are evil. They aren't. The point is to find out how YOUR body tolerates different foods, because there's no way for you to know that without experimenting on yourself.*** And relying on nutritionists or doctors or researchers to make generalizations about food, exercise, or any other aspect of your individual life is missing the point that you are an individual person with individual needs. The approach that Pilar and Dallas propose, then, is to take this information as a suggestion and introduce it into your own personal experiment. For example: I recently wrote about dietary collagen supplements. I read about the potential benefits of collagen, and I introduced that supplement into my diet to see how my body responded to it. This allows me to assess whether something that is beneficial to others is also beneficial to me personally, but doesn't assume that a study on the general population would always predict my own personal results. This mindset is important: when I hear about stretching after exercise, for example, and read about a study that found that 15 minutes of stretching after strenuous exercise drastically improved some health metric, instead of thinking, "Ugh, another thing I don't do when I should" I might think, "Maybe after this week's runs I'll add some stretching and see how it makes me feel." Because I already feel pretty good, and I don't stretch...almost ever, but I acknowledge that there may be some benefits to that activity that I'm not realizing, and I'm willing to give it a try and see how I personally react to it. This approach is empowering, because it takes the responsibility away from the experts and puts it back on you, the person most knowledgeable about your own self. And I think it's liberating, because instead of committing to an idea that might seem overwhelming to you, or getting bogged down by all the things you "should" be doing, it lets you take a let's-just-try-this approach. Just see how it goes. See what you think, and go from there. I love that.
So, listen. Subscribe to The Living Experiment. It's free and it will enrich your life, and I want more people who I can talk to about the episodes. Thx.
***I need to embark on a small rant here, but I'll do you the courtesy of separating it from the rest of the post. This point is exactly why I get really ragey when people complain about the "stupid trend" of gluten free diets, or belittle people who avoid gluten because they believe such diets are a fad or are not healthier or better. Listen: I am wholly committed to a gluten free diet and I don't think gluten free diets are universally healthier or better. I don't think gluten is evil and I don't think it's intrinsically bad or unhealthy. It's a protein and many people seem to tolerate it just fine. I don't. It makes me violently ill, and I do not have celiac disease. But listen, folks, we are all different. My digestive system is a little bit of a diva, and she doesn't like gluten. I wish she felt differently, because baguettes, but I REALLY wish we could accept that it's ok for people to make their own choices when it comes to what they eat and how they move, based on what they've learned works best in their personal living experiment. You don't have to eat the way I eat. You don't have to exercise the way I exercise. And vice versa. If we could all accept those ground rules I think we'd be a lot better off interacting with one another.
I can understand why the idea of exercise on vacation is not appealing to everyone--if you think of exercise as a chore, why would you do it when you're supposed to be relaxing. (To be clear, no judgment there--I like exercise but I DO often think of it as a chore, and taking time off is appealing to me, too.) But I realized on our last family trip that running on the road is actually one of my favorite times to run--getting outside of my normal routes and enjoying the scenery of wherever I'm traveling makes the run way more fun than it would be at home, and fitting in some good sweat sessions throughout a trip makes me feel healthier and more energetic than I would if I skipped it. So I decided to put a short post together about why I love to run when I travel, in case it's just the inspiration you needed to throw your running shoes in your suitcase on your next trip.
I. The Scenery
One of my favorite runs to date happened when I was in Washington, D.C. last fall for a work conference. I decided to get out of the hotel and go for a run around the monuments one rainy evening, and it was the best run. When you're enjoying sights, scenes, and people-watching that you don't get at home, you're not focusing on your breath or your worn out legs like you might if you're running the same old tired route. Plus, what's better than getting an awesome workout and being a tourist at the same time??
II. New Challenges
If you know Minneapolis at all, you know that most of the running around here is pancake flat. I love that, actually. But running on flat ground is different than running on hills, and the latter will challenge and improve your running a lot more. Plus, I'm training for the Ragnar Great River right now, and I've heard that race is nothin' but hills. I'm terrified, truth be told. But I took advantage of the hills in Hill City, South Dakota (509 feet of elevation gain in a 4-mile run that was basically 2 miles up hill and two miles down hill) and the elevation in Denver to stretch myself and get ready for the upcoming race. And I discovered some pretty forests and trails while doing it. Win win win.
III. Blowing Off Steam
I love to travel, but travel often comes along with some stress and frustration, too. If I'm traveling for work, that probably means trying to catch up on emails/to-dos in the evening after a long day of meetings. If I'm traveling with my family, that means we're spending a LOT of time together navigating the best ways to get places and choose things to do--and I say this with all the love in the world, but that can be a lot. Getting away for a 45-minute run can make all the difference in letting off that stressed energy.
So that's my endorsement. Anyone have recommendations for great vacation runs they've taken? Horror stories about running into a moose, bear, or a buffalo when you were running on a vacation and not thinking about it? (The wildlife hazard did occur to me when I was deep in the woods running in the Black Hills--maybe good to think that through ahead of time. Maybe.)
Happy Fourth of July weekend, readers! I love this weekend. It's really the sweet spot of the summer--you've acclimated to summer living, but there's still so much out in front of you to enjoy. I know this FUF is technically coming on a Saturday--it's a Fueled Up Friday that's just a little tardy for the party. But, that happens, because I was busy livin' the life on Friday (i.e. doing all the things we're about to discuss--boating, eating fresh figs, and Ragnar training).
Last night, we went out on the St. Croix river with Dan's cousin and his wife, and it was AWESOME. We talk a lot about wanting a cabin when we're grownups, because getting away from the city for a weekend does amazing things for our sanity--we relax so much more deeply in the woods, and always feel refreshed after a day or two. Boating does the same thing--there's something about getting out on the water that just rejuvenates you. The St. Croix is beautiful, and wasn't too crowded (because everyone leaves the cities for their cabins the weekend of the 4th! It's sort of magical to stay, really.) It was a gorgeous night and I'm still smiling about it.
II. Fresh Figs
Are you guys eating these?! I'd never eaten fresh figs before last year, but I'll never miss out on them again. They're delicious--slightly sweet with a really mild flavor, soft, delicious with prosciutto or on their own. They're only available for a month or two mid-late summer, so you need to seize the day and stock up on these. If you shop at Trader Joe's, they always have flats of them for really cheap later in the summer. I slice them in half and layer a slice of prosciutto on top, or just eat them plain. They're not super nutritionally-dense but there's great fiber in there along with some potassium, and their subtle sweetness is just perfect for a summer day. Plus, they're the prettiest food there is.
III. Ragnar Training
I think it's safe to say at this point that I just do not run if I'm not training for a race. Basically at all. I need the motivation of a deadline to get my butt out there and do it. Luckily for me, the Ragnar is coming up mid-August and it's getting me out to log those miles. I had a truly terrible run yesterday (five miles of side aches and concrete legs) but it actually didn't bother me at all--I know hard runs are part of the deal, and I know that pushing through them gets me to the easy, fun, "how'd I breeze through that?" runs. So I soldiered through, took some walking breaks, and told myself I'd do another 5 on Sunday and beat my Friday time. Which should be easy to do, knock on all of the wood. Setting the bar low, ya know? It's not a bad idea.
One thing I'm doing a little differently for this race is doing a lot more cross training, and maybe a little less running. Typically when I'm race training I pretty much exclusively run, but lately I've gotten really into some workout classes at my company gym and I don't want to give those up (spin class, and a boot camp class that is BRUTAL) plus I'm still doing this Beachbody challenge and trying out Beachbody workouts at home. I think running twice a week plus doing other exercise another 3ish days will keep me in good fighting shape for the Ragnar, and for the trail half marathon I'm doing in September. Fun things ahead, guys.
Have an incredible holiday weekend! Seize the summer. Seriously--go buy some figs.
You guys, yesterday when I was driving home from work I got a call from an 800 number, and when I answered it an automated message said "Hello, we are calling with an important reminder for [my full name]" and then the message cut out. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO BE REMINDED OF?? Am I missing a terribly important appointment? Am I late for a very important date? Honestly, I may never know.
It's Friday again! This week went pretty quickly for me, and this weekend is packed with seeing friends and throwing another bridal shower. Things keeping me fueled up this week include: coconut cream, warm weather, and fast, fun workouts.
I. Coconut Cream
Coconut has really grown on me. When I did the Whole 30 last year and tried adding coconut to things where I would usually use dairy, I was displeased. Not a fan. But it's sort of done a slow creep and gotten under my skin. On Friday last week I was intensely craving some creamy, thick, fatty coconut cream, so I grabbed a few cans at Trader Joe's and added some to my green smoothie. YUM. I threw the extra in a mason jar in the fridge and have been eating it all week...in smoothies, scooped over fresh berries, in spoonfuls by itself. Probably not an addition I'll make to my everyday routine (not a low calorie food, coconut cream) but I figured if I was craving it then maybe I needed a little extra fat.
II. Warm Weather
So, it's raining in Minneapolis right now and has been for the last few days, but last weekend and earlier this week we got a little taste of summer and I LOVED it. On top of the warmer temperatures, the sun is rising earlier and setting later, which does wonders for my mood. I saw these little turtles sunning themselves on a walk on Monday and they made my heart so happy. Look at them! All lined up on a log like Yertle the Turtle! (Ok, I just googled it, and yertle actually had stacks of turtles. But still. LOOK at them!)
III. Fast and Fun Workouts
Now that I'm not logging high mileage for an upcoming race, and my knee is healed up enough to do some shorter workouts, I'm having fun with some quick and high-energy exercises to get back in the game. This hill is at a park a mile from my house, and my new favorite game is running to the hill and then doing hill circuits where I spring the hill and jog back down on a looped path that makes sort of a semi-circle around the two ends of the hill. When I'm done, I run home. I recognize that you can't see the slope all that well in this picture, but it definitely does the job.
The hill/path loop is just over .2 miles, so 5 hill sprints plus the run there and back is a little over 3 miles, and 10 hill sprints comes out to a little over 4 miles. Dan wants to take Kelly on this run on Saturday morning--that's either going to be a lot of fun or a huge disaster. Odds feel pretty evenly split.
So, I did not run the half marathon. But I was there to cheer for Dan, and I picked up my packet because I was grabbing his...and I happened to put on my running shoes...and I was this close to just jumping in the starting queue with him because, what's the worst that could happen? But I have a really great husband who was like "Yeah, don't do that. That's a bad idea. I mean, you can if you want to. But you shouldn't." And he was very right--I didn't, and I shouldn't have, and it was the right choice. Because the worst that could happen was total devastation of my knee that then wouldn't function correctly for an undetermined amount of time. But the great thing that happened was that I got to cheer for Dan, which was so fun. He did an amazing job, and I got to wander around St. Cloud while I waited for him to finish. Did you know that St. Cloud is beautiful? I didn't. Just look at her:
So, on Friday I wrote about how I was sad to be missing the race but excited to look forward to other fitness goals and get excited about what was coming next. But you know what happened between my week of travel and my week of realizing I couldn't run the half marathon? My eating really slipped, and my exercise fell off, and I found myself feeling bloated and uncomfortable and just all around crappy. And then today, I decided to do some strength training after dinner and it quickly became obvious that the strength and conditioning I'd worked hard to build for months has essentially disappeared in the space of about twelve days. I was doing a set of burpees and on the ninth one, when I went to jump my feet from the plank position back up to my hands, I didn't have quite enough power in my jump and my knees and toes hit the floor (which HURT) and I just sort of rolled on to my back like a sad turtle, swearing all of the swear words.
I know from my years as an athlete (and as an independently active person) that it is a much faster and easier process to lose strength and conditioning than it is to build it. But even though I know that, it is so hard and so disheartening to find yourself at the bottom of a hill that you could swear you just climbed. And it's a vicious cycle--feeling frustrated that you've lost the progress you fought hard to gain makes you want to give up altogether (and sit on the couch eating a big bowl of cereal). And eating poorly just makes me want to eat worse. When I don't feel great (because I've been eating crap) I crave sugar and other simple carbs, and if I eat them I feel even crappier...which makes me crave more sugar. Unfortunately, because it's not fun, the only real way to get out of that cycle is to recommit to exercise and healthy eating, and start again from the beginning. That's pretty excruciating, but I think it helps to know that it's not a unique experience to feel frustrated with setbacks, and to be tempted to just give it up because you've already "ruined" what you were working on, anyway. Everybody feels that way. I feel that way today.
But tomorrow, I'm going to wake up early and go run some hills, because I know now what my body feels like when it's healthy, and that feeling is worth the discomfort of the winded, weak, getting-back-on-the-horse workouts (and the "no brain, you may not have any more sugar, please enjoy this green salad instead" internal dialogue). Remind me I said that tomorrow, ok? Thanks.
Hi. It’s Friday! We’re going to get right into Fueled Up Friday in just a second, but I have to start with some news I’m pretty bummed about. Remember how last week I was raving about Tiger Balm because I hurt my knee on an 11-mile run the previous weekend? Well, I was really hoping that injury was going to get in line and cooperate for the half marathon I am supposed to be running tomorrow, but after diligently icing and Tiger-Balm-ing and using the elliptical and the bike so that my knee could get some rest, I went out for a run on Wednesday and had to cut it short about two miles in. Which means there’s no chance I’m going to be able to run the half on Saturday, and that is very sad. Not like, real problem sad—no one is starving or homeless, and my knee totally will heal, but I’m bummed that I don’t get to run the race after logging all those training miles. There will be other races. But there will not be this race. So, that disappointment aside, here are the things that are keeping me fueled up this week: our new fence, making new fitness goals for the summer, and This American Life.
1. Our magical new fence
Disclaimer: I'm aware that what I'm about to say will sound very privileged. It could be hashtagged with lots of offensive-but-accurate descriptors. But it's true. Here it is: I love being able to pay for services that are completed by other people before I arrive home from work. Case in point: on Tuesday this week I left for work and I had no fence, and when I arrived home from work I had a completed, beautiful fence. My appreciation for the magical fence men is endless (they…probably like that they’re appreciated, but like more that I’ve mailed them a check for their work). Dan and I did not get in a fight about the proper way to build the fence. I did not lose years off my life out of frustration over building the fence. Chewy is SO HAPPY. He’s been running laps around our yard with his tongue just hangin’ out the side of his mouth, having the best time that a dog can have. He’s also really interested in finding out how far he can stick his face into the fence, so I’m curious how long that experiment can go on before he gets stuck. I think the over-under is about four days, so we'll know soon. Also, our next door neighbors have cats that pride themselves on sitting just far enough away that Chewy can see them but not reach them, and slowly flicking their tails back and forth until he loses his damn mind trying to reach them, but he can’t. Now? They live on the solid side of the fence. No one can see you, cats. Take that.
2. Making new fitness goals
So, now that the half marathon training is behind me, I’m thinking about what comes next. I have a lot of ideas about what I want that to be, but mostly I think I want to shift my focus to heavier weight training and continuing to log several shorter runs per week. I really want to work on strength training and high intensity interval training to see how much muscle I can build, but I also really want to keep logging running miles because I want to hit my thousand kilometers in 2016.
know I talked about this once before, but the You vs. Year challenge is something I signed up for after about seven seconds of thought on my Map My Run app—the challenge is to run 1000km in 2016, which is actually kind of a lot. Despite having signed on to this goal with absolutely no forethought, I really want to complete the challenge. Which means I need to run about 13 miles a week for the rest of the year. I think this summer I’m going to focus on logging 2-3 shorter runs per week and really working on my speed, and then maybe late summer/early fall I’ll run another half marathon and try to break two hours. Looking forward to goals for the next few months is definitely cheering me up about missing this half—stay tuned to see where things go from here (hopefully not just to the couch. Really crossing my fingers.) One encouraging development, despite the disappointing knee injury, is that I ran the first mile of my run at 8:11 on Wednesday…even though I had to quit that run a mile later, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to improve my mile splits as the summer goes on.
3. This American Life
This American Life really deserves its own entire post, but I’ve listened to so many episodes this week that it’s just going to go on this list. You guys. This American Life is THE BOMB. I actually used to deeply hate this podcast and ridicule my friends for being nerdy when they listened to it (<---any time that’s the case you can almost set your clock to my total change in opinion, because I love all things nerdy. I don’t know why I didn’t catch that flaw in my hatred for TAL earlier, but sometimes I’m pretty dense.) So, This American Life. If you’re not already listening, I have great news for you: this podcast is available to you for free, and will periodically deliver one hour of thought-provoking, funny, and smart content that you can listen to while you’re driving, or exercising, or sitting on the couch (…or sitting at your desk….no, of course I don’t do that. Why do you ask?) The podcast covers a different theme every week, and includes 1-3 stories that relate to that theme.
For example, the most recent episode on my phone is called “For Your Reconsideration” and the description is: “The older and wiser we get, the more bewildering our past decisions can seem. This week, people revisit those decisions – and we revisit a story we aired a year ago with new, fascinating updates about a groundbreaking study that turned out to be false.” The story is about a study that looks at how canvassers can change voters’ opinions by simply speaking with them for about twenty minutes, how those changes are effectively made, and what those transformative experiences look like. I listened to This American Life on many of my plane rides last week (six flights in seven days left plenty of time for that) and it really just reignited my passion for Ira Glass and his genius. (Ira Glass is the host of the show, FYI.) If you ARE already listening to This American Life, high five. Let’s talk about it.
Have an excellent weekend, you guys. Love you the most.
Do you ever have a thirty-second burst of your life that you wish you could have gotten on tape to share with a thousand of your closest friends? I was standing in the Chicago airport today on my quick layover between Nashville and Minneapolis and I had one of those moments. I was watching the nearby moving walkway, and saw a mother standing by her toddler, with an infant in a stroller in front of her that was just screaming bloody murder (the really gut-wrenching kind of baby wail that makes your throat gravelly just to hear it). The walkway pushed this woman past me, and as she went by I noticed a woman standing behind her, who looked to be six or seven months pregnant, just staring forward with total “oh shit” eyes. Like zoning out in the direction of this screaming baby with a look of sheer terror on her face. It was so delightfully hilarious. Stop the walkway, I want to get off.
So right now I’m home for about fifteen hours between the conference and the bachelorette party—just enough time to write a quick Fueled Up Friday. This week, I’m talking about switching it up, and tiger balm. Ready? Ok.
Switching It Up
This week was a great reminder that changing up my routine is essential to recharging my batteries. Even though I was traveling for work, and the conference wasn’t restful, I am more energized than I’ve been in weeks just because I got to do something new. Stepping away from my normal surroundings and daily routine gives me a chance to reflect, and without fail leaves me feeling more appreciative of my life and happier to return to it. I try to be mindful and grateful on a daily basis, but I really need to get away every few months to really keep perspective and stay energized for my daily routine. I thought a lot about that while I was away this week, and realized I need to be more deliberate about planning a few days of routine-busters every couple of months, even if that just means working from home or taking a long weekend. And if I can get out of town, even better. How else am I going to experience something like this on a Wednesday night?
Last Sunday I experienced my first-ever true running injury. I went out on Saturday night for a different friend’s mini-bachelorette party (lots of celebrating around here) and on Sunday I was feeling a little worse for the wear, but decided to soldier on and run my eleven miles anyway. I actually killed the run—I finished with an average time of just under 9:15 a mile—but a few hours later my knee started feeling really sore. We went to see The Big Short that evening, and by the time we left the theater I was noticeably limping.
I figured out that my quad was too tight and was pulling on a ligament on the inner (medial) side of my knee—it’s nothing major, and it’s feeling somewhat better now, but it’s still sore when I walk a long distance and so far this week running is a no go. So, I’ve been icing and foam rolling and getting to know my new best friend Tiger Balm really well. Rubbing it on my knee seems to help, and it makes me smell like a cinnamon air freshener that you would hang on your rear view mirror if you drove a 1996 Buick. Who doesn’t love that? I’m hoping the Tiger Balm and some more TLC will have my knee in fighting shape for next weekend’s half marathon. Cross your fingers for me! This setback has reinforced that I need to be better about post-running stretching and foam rolling (and probably also that running hungover is just asking for trouble...)
I hope you all have marvelous weekends! I’ll be back next week with some recipes and more normal programming. And, almost certainly, another hangover. Bachelorette parties, you guys. I just can't.
Good morning, friendlies. I'm realizing that "I'm so tired" is becoming a theme for my Monday posts--not a particularly good one, it's not fun or funny in any way--I'm going to take a real weekend off soon, and get some rest, so my Monday posts aren't just whining about how hard it is to be a grownup. That said...this post is going to start with just a leeeeeeeeetle whining.
I had the worst run of 2016 to date on Sunday--for completely predictable reasons that were within my control and totally my fault, but it was still a bummer. And I was so very, very tired that the rest of Sunday just became a struggle. Which was an extra bummer, because we were hosting Easter lunch and I needed to get my act together. (I did! I made the pretty pretty potatoes you're going to hear about in just a minute.) The following is the list of very obvious reasons why this run was doomed from the beginning: 1) on Saturday I decided I hadn't been doing enough strength training lately, so I did burpees and squats and abs and planks and extra extra pushups. So, sort of maxed out the muscle power there. 2) We went to see Batman vs. Superman on Saturday night (Kelly thought it was "EPIC" and I thought it was "pretty good" and Dan fell asleep but thought the parts he was awake for were great) but I didn't realize the movie was going to be almost three hours long, so by the time it was done dinner time had passed, and Dan and Kelly ate a giant popcorn so they weren't really hungry....and....I didn't really eat much dinner. (<---that was just a huge run on sentence to say that I didn't eat sufficient dinner on Saturday. I'm sorry. I'm still very tired.) Not eating dinner and then running the next morning does NOT work...I know this. But sometimes it's hard to do better even when you know better. 3) It was raining and windy and COLD when I left to run. Gross. Gross gross gross. But, I needed to do a long run. A long run had to happen. So off I went.
The first four miles were tough but strong (constant mental complaining but a 9:15 pace) and then when I hit four I decided to walk for a minute, and after a minute I thought "ok, time to run again?" and my body said "nope." And that exchange happened again for a couple more minutes, and basically I ran 7.5 miles but I walked a LOT in the last three. Even Justin Bieber couldn't keep me going. C'est la vie.
Then I came home and took a long, hot shower, and made some Easter foods. Including the prettiest potatoes of ever. They're also yummy, and Whole30 compliant. Want to hear about them? Ok, good.
To make these potatoes you need an equal amount of white potatoes (I used Yukon Gold) and sweet potatoes (my sweet potatoes were huge, so an equal amount for me was about 8 Yukon Golds and 2 sweet potatoes) and then some avocado or olive oil, salt, and some rosemary.
To get the potatoes sliced really thin and uniform, I used a mandolin slicer. This is a kitchen appliance that I probably use twice a year, tops, but they're inexpensive and make quick, thin, beautiful slices. Unless you're really talented (and patient) with a knife, you're going to want a slicer for this. Buy one for yourself! Make pretty foods. Pretty foods are clinically proven to improve happiness.* (*in an informal clinical study of one person, who is me.)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Peel your sweet potatoes and wash your white potatoes thoroughly, and slice them both. Be REALLY careful with your fingers if you're using a mandolin slicer--when you get down to the end of the potato, just throw the little end piece away. Not worth the stitches.
Spray or grease your baking pan with your oil of choice to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom. Layer your potatoes, alternating sweet and white, around the edges and spiraling to the middle (or just in rows, whatever floats your boat). If you have some potatoes that came out oddly shaped, just find the roundest edge and tuck the weird-shaped part under the next slice.
Brush the tops of your nicely-arranged potatoes with avocado or olive oil (if you don't have a brush, you can also drizzle oil over the tops and spread it over the potatoes with your (clean) fingers. Sprinkle your salt and rosemary (or other seasoning of choice) over the top, and pop the spuds in the oven for an hour. If the tops aren't browned at an hour, leave them in for another 15 minutes or so.
These potatoes are nice and soft in the middle and crispy along the edges, and the flavors of the sweet potato and Yukon Gold are really great together. Plus, they're lovely enough to set on the table for your next fancy meal.
Enjoy! And best of luck conquering the world this week. Seize the carp. Happy belated Easter!
Huzzah! Everyone made it through the Hot Dash. As I write this, I'm sitting on my couch taking inventory of my aches and pains...my back is pretty sore, my legs are achey (though better than they would have been, because I used a foam roller on them yesterday) and I have a blister on my left big toe that's pretty whiney. But I am filled with pride and happiness, because I can report that I beat Dan handily at the Hot Dash, finishing with a total per-mile time of just under nine minutes per mile. My splits ranged from 8:45-8:59, which is very strong for me and also very consistent (consistency is not always my strong point) so I am quite happy. This was also the first race I've finished where I didn't walk at all, so that was a cool accomplishment.
As I ran, I was thinking about some of the strategies and tricks I've developed to get through long runs. In case some of those ideas could be useful to you, lovely readers, today I'm sharing the recap from the Hot Dash along with some of the running strategies that work for me. Let us begin.
I woke up pretty nervous about this race--I usually get some butterflies before a race starts, but Dan upped the ante on this one by talking all of his "I'm not going to let you beat me" trash. I like to eat some carbs for breakfast on race day, so I had a small bowl of oatmeal with a banana and a spoonful of cashew butter mixed in, and two hard-boiled eggs. There were a few inches of snow on the ground and it was thirty degrees the morning of the race (after being in the fifties for several weeks). Dan hopefully asked if the race was canceled. It was not.
We headed over to Northeast for the race (which runs along the river, crosses over between miles 7 and 8, and then crosses back over the Stone Arch bridge and finishes along the cobblestone river walk). Dan asked how fast I was planning to run, and I told him I was hoping to keep it about 9:30 per mile, so we lined up behind that pacing sign. I started my "run run run" playlist, we took a selfie, and the race started.
The beginning of a race is always tough because it's so crowded, and it's hard to find a spot to run and the right pace with all those people and all that excitement. We settled in and finished the first mile at 8:59, which is a quick-ish pace for me but not a bad place to start. Plus, I really wanted to show Dan what I'm made of, so I decided to hold on to a strong pace as long as I could.
The second mile was also pretty uneventful--we passed the 9:30 pacer and kept up an 8:59 pace. Between miles 2 and 4 I started to panic a little bit--I've learned that my running struggle is much more mental than physical. My mind starts to worry before my body does, so I have to find ways to calm myself. In this case, it was still very early in a fairly long run, and my thoughts started reeling ("this is too fast," "this race is too long," "what if I can't finish," "what if I have to walk and tons of people pass me," "I'm getting tired, it's too early to be tired"). Trick #1: When my mind is freaking out about my body's ability to continue running, I give myself permission to run as slowly as I need to. I tell myself that it's alright, I can run a twelve-minute mile if I need to do that, but that I'll continue running at whatever pace I can sustain. I've noticed that when I do this, even if I think that I slow down after making that decision, I usually keep running at exactly the same pace (because my body was fine to begin with, it was my mind that thought I couldn't do it). By giving myself permission to slow down, I take away the panic.
Trick #2: I'm pretty sure every runner on the planet does this, but I always break my long runs up into chunks mentally, so I'm not thinking about the whole ten miles at a time (this is like that old saying about how you eat an elephant...one bite at a time. Don't eat elephants though, ok?) How I think of the segments of the race varies during the race--at the beginning of the Hot Dash I thought, "Ok, you're going to run three 5ks and then you'll just have a mile to go." I told myself that at least the first 5k would be fast, and that I could reevaluate my pace at the three-mile mark if I needed to. As I kept running, I started thinking about four-mile chunks instead. On my nine-mile training run I met up with my friend Jenny after about four miles, so I told myself that I would get to four miles running quickly and then I'd see how it went. At four miles, I told myself to just do one more and then I would be halfway. At five miles, I told myself to just get to six and then I would only have four left (four is a common training run distance for me, two out and two back, so once I got to six I started thinking of the last four like a training run--just run to eight and then that's like the turnaround in your weekday run, and you only have two left). At five I also told myself to keep the pace strong until 6, so at least I'd have a great 10k time even if I couldn't maintain that speed all the way through ten miles. It's all mind games.
Speaking of mind games, I really realized on this run that I use walking as a mental reward, but that I don't actually need to do it physically. I walk at least a little bit on almost every run that I do--I tell myself that if I run to five miles I can walk, or four miles, or six miles, and then I walk for a minute or two before I continue running. I have nothing against walking during runs, and my theory about exercise is that if you're moving forward in any way, you're doing your job. But I've realized that these little chunks of walking are more for my mind than they are for my body (unless I'm walking to work out a side cramp*. That's crucial, and physically necessary). Yesterday I ran an entire 9 miles at more than 30 seconds per mile under my training pace, with no walking breaks, and I was fine. It was hard, and I was tired, and I'm sore today, but it was fine. I could do it with no problems. That's pretty cool, and it tells me my body is capable of more than I thought it was.
*Trick #3: you can get rid of a side cramp, or stop one from getting worse, by making sure you're exhaling really deeply (blow out forcefully on your exhale before you start to breath in again). In swimming, the coaches would tell us to make sure to "blow out all your bubbles" on your exhale before you took another breath, and that's still the image I use when I'm running today. If you start to feel a pain developing, take deep inhales and blow out, hard, for a few rounds of breath.
Also, it's important to note, I am pretty motivated by competition. A huge reason I performed well yesterday is because Dan lit a fire under my ass, so thanks to him for doing that (even though it was annoying). This is another lesson I need to take forward--fighting for PRs and goal times will keep me running faster. And, while Dan did take an L, he also deserves some kudos because he stayed with me for almost six miles, at a pace that was much faster than his training runs (and six miles was the longest he ran prior to race day). Even after stepping off the course to take some phone calls and answer a few emails, he popped back on and finished with an overall pace around 10:00 per mile, which is great. Waaaaay faster than he ran it last year.
At the finish line, I met a friend of mine who also ran (but she is a gazelle who runs under eight-minute miles, so she had been finished for a while) and wondered where Dan was...he tapped me on the shoulder to let me know he was "out" just before six miles and I saw him walk off the course, so I thought he had decided not to finish and I expected to see him at the finish line when I got there. He wasn't there, and wasn't answering his phone, so I was starting to get a little nervous until I heard his name called as he crossed the finish line (ah! Bravo, my dear. Way to get back on that horse.) We grabbed our bananas and Old Dutch potato chips (never, in the history of ever, has a potato chip tasted so good) and headed back to our car, freezing our tails off. The weather was not terrible for the run itself, but after we stopped running (and were sweaty) it was SO. COLD. Cold enough that I got home and took a hot shower and my lips were still purple when I was toweling off. Oh, Minnesota. You silly goose.
Now I'm on to thinking about the half marathon we're running in four weeks (yes, Dan is also signed up for the half. See previous post re: his incredible willingness to sign up for stuff.) One of my resolutions for 2016 is to finish a half marathon in under two hours--I didn't think that would happen on this run, and was thinking I'd make that a goal for a later-season half. But, after yesterday, I feel like I need to put the pressure on for these last weeks of training and swing for the fences on this one. Stay tuned.