Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 - Goals n' Stuff

Do you realize that Prince's 1999 was released 30 years ago?

You let that sink in.  I'll wait here.
What?  Come Again?  30 YEARS?!
I always associate that song with New Years and I found myself singing it as I watched the fireworks explode over Sydney Harbor on tv this morning.   30 years?  If I had been this obsessed with New Years goal setting back then, I'd probably be a kick ass media mogul by now!

This year I'm setting goals for January 1 through June 30 and then we'll do a little recap & reevaluate for the remainder of the year.  

1.  Publish 26 blog posts by June 30, 2013.  
I wrote more in 2012 than any other year but considering all that I read and learn about, you'd think I could pump out at least one post per week consistently.  It's not like I'm ever at a loss for words! Stop snickering.

2.  Get my half marathon time under 2:10.
I might not have any official races to run before June 30 but I'm just as happy to get it on a long run.  When I do, I'll snap a picture of my Garmin for proof.

3.  Simplify our 'stuff' in anticipation of moving. 
By my estimation, we have 15 legal size boxes of paperwork, 6 closets, 4 dressers and 12 months of VAT submissions to deal with.  I want these numbers cut in half by June 30.

4.  Pass my Precision Nutrition exam and get my certification.
This is going to be awesome to have but the test is no joke.  I was a study monster up until we left for the marathon but I've totally dropped the ball.  Time to crack the books and get back to it.

5.  Send a card for every birthday in our our family.
This might be the single most challenging thing on my list.  I am AWFUL at sending anything in the mail.  I wasn't this bad in the States but dealing with a small APO that doesn't stock stamps or mailing supplies makes mailing anything sink to the bottom of my pile.  And at the bottom of that pile is guilt and shame.

6.  Complete all 25 miles of The Great Train Run on February 13, 2013. 
I'm really looking forward to this run.  You can see my experience from last year here.  I don't have much trail experience and the heat makes this run a killer.  Mark and I are registering as individual runners (you can register in teams) with the agreement that if one of us falls apart, we'll start trading off segments and finish as a team.  The course starts in the capital city of Bridgetown and follows the old train tracks all the way across the island to the upper most corner.  I got to run 8K of the coastal segment a couple of weeks ago with a small group...
Gorgeous, right?

As I went over this list with my husband on the beach yesterday, I kept returning to the fact that none of these goals scare the bejeezus outta me.  Nothing even comes close to the terror and excitement I felt about Western States last year.  This feels more like a laundry list of tasks.  Mark's advice:  "Keep training hard so that when 'scary' comes along, you're ready!"  Sage advice from the old ball & chain.

Wherever you are in this beautiful world, I hope you enjoy ringing in the New Year!  Remember to take a breath and a moment to look back on 2012 with love and reverence for this amazing gift of life!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goals of 2012 - A Painfully Honest Review

I'm already laughing as I sit down to write.  This oughta be good.

Last Sunday I asked my yoga girls to think of a few goals for 2013 and then share them at class this morning.  Everyone had a wonderful spirit about their goals - "be a better me", "be a more patient mother", "get back to my wedding weight", "spend more quality time with my husband".

Then there's me with race dates, time goals, blogging requirements and business ventures.  I felt like The Enforcer while my beautiful friends floated above me on fluffy clouds.  Two words:  Lighten up.

So before I unleash fresh goals onto the world, let us enjoy a recap of successes and shortfalls of 2012.

2012 Goals
1.  Learn to swim for real.
Technically "I did it" and could swim a couple of laps in the pool or a decent distance at Pebble Beach but all in all - not what I thought it would be.  Not peaceful, not awesome.  If I devoted a lot more time, perhaps a romance would develop but for now, the box is ticked and I'm moving on.  Thank you Rachel for every ounce of patience I squeezed from your soul!

2.  Devote one hour per day to talk with loved ones.
This shouldn't be hard but it is.  I definitely put in more time on the phone than in 2011 but the numbers of people I want to stay in touch with has also grown exponentially.  This year my nephew was born, my amazing grandmother passed, and some of my closest friends had pretty big issues.  Those three items alone were responsible for hours and hours of talk time.  I'd say I accomplished this goal 50% of the time.

3.  Develop one discernible abdominal muscle.
I did this.  I worked down to a weight that made my face look bad - as the old adage says "You can save your ass or your face.  You cannot save both without surgery."  As I worked on this goal, I  discovered a five pound window.  At the bottom end, I have a few visible abdominal muscles and a Skeletor face.  At the top end, I have softness in my face and a mini muffin top to match.  In the end, I choose a softer face and to work like hell on the mini-muffin.

4.  Get three restaurants to offer a vegan option on their menu.
Ummm... I didn't do this.  I didn't do nothing in regard to advocacy but no, I never got a restaurant owner to change their menu.   I did talk with the manager of my grocery store and thanked him for stocking vegan cream cheese and organic tofu.  I extolled the virtues of Daiya cheese and tempeh (he nodded blankly) and I taught two of my favorite checkers how to press tofu.   I also worked my butt off to promote a new vegan restaurant here on the south coast called The Good Life.  I got to know the owner and then started taking lunch orders on Wednesdays from my co-workers and shuttling the food to the Embassy.  Regardless, I failed on the goal.  Wah-wah.

5.  Train to be a pacer at the Western States 100.
Completed!  I trained, I went, I supported, I was blown away, I cried, I was moved beyond words, I ran, I almost got ran over by a bear, and then I went RVing!   In a nutshell.  Definitely not the way I thought it was going to go but wow! A life-changing experience.  Thank God I said 'yes'!

There you have it - an approximate success rate of 65%.  I knocked off a couple points for not continuing to swim and not keeping the ab muscle visible.

I've got 24 hours left to ponder the goals for 2013.  Wait here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shake It, Don't Break It!

I'm pretty much bowled over by the response to my EnerPrime post.   Honestly, I wasn't writing a sales pitch but I am over the moon at the number of you who are willing to give it a try!

Here are my tips for making EnerPrime shakes a part of every day:

1.  Give the EnerPrime canister a good shake before opening every time.  Some of the components weigh a little more than others and can sink to the bottom.

2.  Always use a dry spoon as the enzymes in EnerPrime are activated by water.

3.  EnerPrime can be taken in just water or any juice so don't let making a shake deter you on a busy morning.  Just toss a tablespoon into any unsweetened juice and give it a stir.

4.  These shakes travel pretty well if kept cold in a cooler bag.

My daily blender makes two 16 oz shakes:

2 medium bananas
2 tablespoons of EnerPrime
2 tablespoons of Udo's 3.6.9 Oil Blend
1/2 cup unsweetened Cloudy Apple & Pear OR Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 cup cold water
1 handful ice

I add Udo's Oil Blend to add Essential Fatty Acids and calories to my shake to help tide me over.  I need all the help I can get to make it through my days.  Lord knows, I won't take a pill with any consistency so I just dump it in the shake. Done!

If you don't tolerate bananas, substitute 1/4 cup of almond, soy or rice milk OR soak 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed in a small cup with a few tablespoons of water.  This creates a "flax egg" and is used in place of egg in vegan baking.  It will help thicken up the shake and add valuable Omega 3 fatty acids to your shake.  Add a small sliced apple for even more texture and thickness.   Continue with the juice, water and ice in the quantities above.

All this said, don't get hung up on quantities, recipes, etc.  Any fruit (fresh or frozen), any unsweetened juice, water and ice.  Some will be better than others but it's all easy-peasy!  FYI: Blueberries will turn your shake a funky purplish-grey but it's still yum!

Frequency and timing are up to you.  What will you do every day?

I am a runner and I teach kickboxing for a few hours each day.  On run mornings, I make the shake immediately after the run.  Exercising creates tiny tears in your muscle fibers and those fibers repair and grow best when they get protein (especially easily digestible liquid protein!) within 45 -50 minutes after exercise.  If it's not a run morning, I still make the shake for breakfast.  I'm a creature of habit!  Occasionally, after a particularly rough food day, I'll make an extra shake at night after dinner.  I love thought of the proteins and enzymes going to work as I'm going to sleep!

Bottom Line:  It doesn't do you any good if you don't get it in your body.  My multivitamins can sit in the cupboard untouched for weeks and yet if you asked me, I would say "Yes, I take a mulitvitamin!" Uh, no you don't!

Make your shake when it's convenient for you and your family - everyday - and then really evaluate how you're feeling after a month.  Have you stayed healthy?  Are you going to the bathroom more regularly?  Are you less sore after a run or the gym?  Are you more focused?  Are your cravings for sugar and caffeine dissipating? Are you sleeping better? Is your acid reflux calming down? Are your headaches going away?  Is your body craving the greens?

USE THIS as a time of self-evaluation and healing.  Greens are wonderful for you on so many levels.  I can't' wait to hear your story!

You can check out EnerPrime here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's EnerPrime Time!

I had a wonderful time with my family and friends who visited over the past 10 days!  It's a madhouse during trips like that but I have to embrace the madness because when it's over... the house is too quiet, the dog is depressed and all that excitement grinds to a halt.

Between the tours, the beach days and the laughter, I got to share a lot about my veg lifestyle with my loved ones.  It's easy to bore or make people uncomfortable when talking about eating animals.  I tried my best to keep the words to a minimum and my actions cranked to maximum:  Don't talk about tofu - make tofu!  Better yet, teach how to prepare tofu.  Set out almond milk for coffee like there is nothing to discuss.  Lay out a bowl of taco "meat" next to the chicken with no fanfare.   It just is.  My brother-in-law commented that he wasn't sure what I was I feeding him but it all tasted good!  Bingo.

My sister-in-law suffers with horrible frequent migraines and it was on my mind for weeks before her arrival.  I read up on migraine triggers and (more importantly) "What NOT to say to people with migraines".   Apparently, peppering them with stories of every person you've ever known that gets migraines and the myriad of ways they were cured is not appreciated?  So I thought about the problem the way I know best - nutritionally.  What could I do to make her feel good?  True, the sunshine and general awesomeness of Barbados would go a long way to making someone from Syracuse feel good but I needed to feed her from the inside out.

I use (and now rep) a nutritional greens product called EnerPrime which is manufactured by a small company in Northern California.  My friends Wayne and Angie introduced me to the greens back in June on our Western States RV adventure.  They have been using EnerPrime for 16 years and credit much of Wayne's recovery from two bouts of very serious cancer to the product.  Of course, his team of surgeons saved his life but even they couldn't explain the healing effects of EnerPrime on Wayne's battered body.

We started taking the greens six months ago and haven't missed a single day.  When we started, my husband's face broke out all over the place and I've never seen a blemish on that man.  My "EnerPrime Initiation" resulted in a LOT of time in campground bathrooms.  In fact, I'd like to personally apologize to KOA campgrounds in the Northern California region.  Sorry!  As we purged our bodies of toxins and residual "God knows what" in our digestive systems, we both had to admit that we felt great.  We kept it up during our travel for the marathon and used it within hours of the start and finish of the race to speed recovery.  In 12 years together we've never done anything this vigilantly but it's easy and the benefits are undeniable.  While I'm not much of a "rep" person, our household usage was getting to a level that needed a discount!  With a bit of reluctance (I gotta be honest!), I opened an account with the company so we could afford to keep chugging the "green stuff".

On the first morning of the family visit, I presented everyone with a shake upon waking.  No explanation. "Good morning.  Here's your breakfast!"  The sleepy sheep took the bait!  Taste is not an issue (read: my shakes rock) but I was worried that it wouldn't hold them over until lunch and the toaster might get dragged out for bagels and butter.  Why clean out the gut to immediately re-clutter?  So I started loading up the shakes with extra Udo's 3.6.9 Oil, ground flax seed, extra bananas and sliced apples.  Anything to bulk it up.

It worked like magic!  As I started to open up about EnerPrime and the effects it's had on our health, my sister-in-law started to see how it could change her situation.  She took her migraine medication on the first day of the trip as a precaution and had no signs of migraine for the next 10 days.  I taught her to make shakes for her and her husband and we came up with all sorts of variations that would satisfy them both.  I sent her home with enough EnerPrime to last for a month and now I'm holding my breath to see what happens as she returns to "normal" life.

I'm sharing all of this because a) I want to document my sister-in-law's story in some way.  If this sort of fundamental nutrition even just lessens her headaches, it will be a great gift in her life and yet another testimony to the power of the plants that God created for our use.  And b) I want to encourage you to take a look at your daily nutrient intake and make improvements. Are you getting 10 servings of veggies every day?  If so, BRAVO!  If not, join the other 99% of us and consider trying a greens powder.  I think of it as filling the cracks in my foundation with live green sand.  Before we treat symptoms, perhaps it's wise to fill the cracks and operate from a place of wholeness first.

When using a greens powder, a good rule of thumb is to identify a thickener (banana, ground flax, avocado, chia seeds soaked in water) and a sweetener (pure fruit juice, fresh or frozen fruit, a touch of honey or agave nectar) and then water and ice.  Any extra spinach, kale, lettuce, celery that's about to 'go" in your fridge can also get tossed in. Honestly, it takes less time than making toast!

There are many greens products on the market and many ways to make green smoothies using no supplementation at all.  If you'd like to try EnerPrime, give me a shout or click here. Otherwise, Google 'green smoothies' and get your blenders hummin!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pink Beans - I Love You

With the marathon safely in the rear view, it's time to get back to cooking, writing and staying up past 8:30 p.m.  Yes!

We have two couples coming to visit for 10 days in December and that spells opportunity!   This is a chance to let my veggie kitchen shine.  The keys to success as I see them - quantity and ease.  I'm not used to feeding six adults and I would be a fool to sacrifice island time with my friends and family just to hole up in the kitchen all day.

How many yummy, filling, and easy to prepare vegetarian meals/side dishes can I bang out for six adults?  That question will be the focus of the next few posts.

Pink Beans

My bean loyalties shift throughout the months but the pink bean has become a true favorite and a weekly staple. Plus, they're pink!  How can you go wrong?

Some beans maintain their integrity when canned but not the pink bean.   For any light colored bean (except garbanzos!) just remember - "Mushy and bland when placed in a can."  Get the dried beans and soak for at least four hours on the kitchen counter.  This recipe is not complicated (or even very original) but it is delicious and feeds a clan!

1 bag of dried pink beans
1 small or 1/2 medium finely diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon of dried cilantro
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (if you're a heat junkie like me - also toss in red pepper flakes and chili powder)
1 teaspoon of Complete Seasoning or Nature's Seasoning Salt
1 cup vegetable broth or 1 veggie bouillon cube disolved in 1 cup water
1 cup water
1 garlic clove - grated

Cover the beans with at least an inch of water and boil (lid on) for about 40 minutes - until the beans are al dente.   Note:  Pink beans don't create a lot of "foam" while boiling.  Any of the foam you can remove will reduce the gas content of the dish.

Remove from heat, drain and rinse.  You might wonder why we're dumping the thick juice that's been created at this point.  Because it's full of gas and gas is not attractive.

Rehydrate a tablespoon of dried cilantro in two tablespoons of water - set aside.  I never thought to use dehydrated cilantro but fresh is rare here and the dried version is surprisingly flavorful when rehydrated.  Give it a sniff, you'll see.

Place the pan back onto the stove and sauté your onions in a tablespoon of olive oil until they're golden.

Dump the beans onto the onions and add the veggie broth, an extra cup of water, cayenne pepper and Complete Seasoning.  Bring the mixture to a boil (keep a lid on the pan or you'll just have to keep adding water) for around 30 minutes or until the beans are softened to your liking.

Turn off the heat and stir in the reconstituted cilantro and grate a clove of garlic into the pot.  Pop the lid on the pan and walk away.  The sauce that's created in the pan will thicken up within about 30 minutes.

These pink beans are perfect for taco night, served over rice or as a bed for your favorite veggie burger.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - That's a Wrap!

Yet again, my life distracts me from producing timely blog posts!

After crossing the finish line and having a good little cry of joy, I tucked in behind some of the Marines in the receiving line and waited for my husband.  The minutes started ticking by and I started to panic a little.  He shouldn't be that far behind me... we only separated for the last 10K... tick tock.

Finally, his tallness appeared through the crowd as he inched down the line, shaking the hand of every Marine in attendance.   The pain on his face was obvious but he didn't miss a single Marine.  By the time he reached me, all he could say was CRAMPS!  He leaned on me heavily as we waited for our picture in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial - again - Great Dane and Chihuahua mismatch.

We inched our way to the hotel and by the time I put the key in the door, he was in FULL cramp mode.  I raced (hobbled) around, peeling bananas and making icy NUUN to help with his electrolytes but he was nauseous and having none of it. Cramps it is!  Enjoy that.

Five minutes into CrampFest, we got a call from Mark's dad.  Our cousin Robyn fell at mile four and was in route to the hospital.  What?  Oh, and even though she fell at mile four, she bested her PR from 4:47 to 4:11! Hello ROCKSTAR!

In the fall she scraped her forehead, chin and both palms.  She knew she'd knocked her knee but didn't lift up her compression pants to check the damage.  And that's a good thing because THIS...

is what was under those compression pants... OH MY GOD! So gross and yet so completely amazing that she rocked that time!  Amazing, right?  Warrior.

Fifteen Franken-Stitches later and she was in a car racing her way back to Portland, Maine to beat Hurricane Sandy.  Bye Robyn!  Nuts.

Soon after that phone call, I got a distressed call from my beautiful friend Poonam just after she crossed the finish line.  She definitely struggled but my girl finished with that glorious medal around her neck.  I give her every single ounce of credit for battling to the finish.  You did it sister!

My friend Dawn from Barbados ran a great race after training entirely on a treadmill - a feat I cannot comprehend.  4:12!  Big Congrats!

My sister-in-law Jodi finished her 6th MCM with a time of 4:14.  Her friend Stacey ran her second marathon in 4:20, and my rekindled friend Laurie came in at 4:18 - well off her usual pace but her old friend "hamstring injury" came by for a visit around mile 18.  Again, battled through!

Dinner was great with my family and friends on Sunday night.  Everyone doing the "marathon shuffle" with lots of laughter and race recapping.  If I could've sported my Marathong without it falling to pieces, I would have :)

The relentless teasing by my husband for leaving him in the dust began at dinner and continues to this day.  Shots like "Hey, will you pull up that picture of us crossing the finish line together?  OH! That's right, it doesn't exist!" Or... shouting out "Hey wait for me!" when I get up to go into the kitchen.  Hahaha... this will haunt me forever.  That's love.

The Takeaway:  There is so much goodness in pushing myself to the limit. I was inspired and a little haunted by memories of the finishers at Western States.  When I felt like my ankle would just crack off, I remembered their faces as they crossed after four consecutive marathons.  The human body is capable of that - I witnessed it with my own eyeballs.  Certainly, I can give my best in this one!  As always, I am grateful to my body for cooperating and my mind for staying focused.  I am grateful to my family and friends who annihilated my Facebook page while I was running.  I knew you were watching in real time as I stomped each time pad.  It was an awesome feeling!

If you've ever had a nagging thought that you'd like to complete a marathon, I urge you to just take one step toward that goal.  Even if the thought makes you laugh out loud, you can do it.  Everyone can do it.  There are plans that will get you across that finish line even if you've never run a day in your life.  In taking those first steps, you will become the inspiration for someone else.  You will change the health of those around you.  You will find out what you're made of.  You will change your life.

Thanks for sharing in this journey!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - The Race Recap

The Weather Channel has predicted "heavy rain" from 9 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. The creativity of garbage bag clad runners is inspiring.  See Jodi:

I absolutely despise wearing a hat when I run but I have sucked it up and placed a lid on my dome in light of the dire forecast.  A hat and $6 jacket are my Hurricane Sandy armor.  The girl in front of us said it all...

From the hotel we had to walk past the start line and then filter back father to find our corrals.  We timely it brilliantly, and found ourselves standing just feet away from the Marines as they performed the Color Guard, the singing of the National Anthem and the flyover of the two Ospreys.  I cried.  I always do. I love America.

The faster runners in our group lined up around the 4:00 corral and Mark, Poonam and I kept on walkin' until we reached the 4:29 corral.  We were packed in like sardines but the crowd was happy and not a drop of rain had fallen.  So many people telling everyone to have a good race.  People yelling OORAH in honor of the Marines.  The announcer telling us 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 seconds...  KABOOM!  The Howitzer cannon was fired and just like that, The People's Marathon was in full effect!

Sardine Can!
I needed to get on my pace of 6:30/km as soon as possible and I did.  Mark hung with me and we started to tick off the miles together.  I carried by big hand-held water bottle and Mark carried no bottle. He stopped at every water stop while I shuffled down the middle to wait for him to catch up.  I stopped after every 10K time pad and filled up my bottle - he shuffled down the middle until I caught up. We didn't discuss this plan but it was all working out.  The Great Dane and the Chihuahua somehow keeping the same pace.

The first 10K clocked in at 1:05.  If I could keep that pace, I'd come in around 4:32.  Feeling good, haven't broken a sweat yet.  THIS is the beautiful part of training in Barbados and then running in the fall stateside.  No sweat, heat fatigue, cars buzzing by or potholes - except for Crystal City.  You feel so good and fresh, it's scary.

In Georgetown a couple came up behind me and the husband said "Hey, I guess we just cancel each other out!  All I eat is meat!"  I should note that I was wearing my No Meat Athlete tech shirt during the race.  Most people that comment say "Hey, me too!" or "Great Shirt!" or "Go NO MEAT!"  I had never been blessed with the carnivore narrative.  I laughed and said "Yea, I guess we're a net zero!"

I thought we could leave it there but then his wife pipes up behind me with "You should come down to our marathon in Carolina.  We have bacon-wrapped pork as the post-race snack at the finish.  You should eat more pork!"  I said "No thanks, I'm all set!"  When I wanted to say "You should call me from your hospital bed after your angioplasty!" or "I can hear your arteries screaming from here."

They moved in front of us but we all kept the same pace.  I could feel Mark's eyes boring into the side of my head so I finally turned to look at him.  He said "Proud of you. You could've unleashed.  They don't mean any harm".  I agreed and kept on running but just then, the guy jetted hard right to a water station and yelled for his wife to come over.  Instead of merging right, she stopped dead right in front of me.  I fell into her pretty hard (out of my control) and then gave her a "gentle" push to the right.  It felt kinda good.

The second 10K clocked in at another 1:05.  So far, so good.  I started eating my food and drinking water even when I wasn't thirsty.  It's hard to gauge thirst in the cool weather but I know that dehydration is the worst case scenario so I keep drinking.  The energy beans are a good sugar hit and I kicked back a Clif Builder Bar 1/4 at a time over a few miles.

Still running together, still not a drop of rain.  The third 10K clocks in at about 1:08 (I think).  We're losing a little time but I'm more concerned about coming up to "The Bridge".  Miles 20 - 22.  Slow, steady uphill with no race support and no spectators.  It's the killer of the race.

Just before the bridge we went through the water stop and I did my shuffle but it took me a few minutes to realize that Mark did not materialize as usual.  When I turned around to look, he was nowhere to be found.  I panicked for a second and then just took off.  I knew he would want me to run my own race because we'd talked about it 100 times.  Last year he came and found me on the course as I was slowing down to find my girls and shook some sense into me.  Reminding me that I put in all those hours and my race was not about anyone else and to GO.  So I didn't wait. Over half of the runners were walking on the bridge and although my left ankle was killing me, I made a vow to myself not to walk a single step on that bridge.

Mile 22 heading into Crystal City, I started walking through the water stations to roll my ankle and stretch my back.  Crystal City is the biggest party on the course.  Bars are open, people have stereos blaring on the sidewalks, lots of spectators, a beer station and a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin station.  Nothing adds more levity to mile 24 than a camo-wearing Marine saying with a straight face "Chocolate Munchkin Ma'am?"  Based upon my donut admission in Part I, you can surmise that I partook of the Munchkin.  Sugar Explosion!

Out of Crystal City and onto the highway past the Pentagon for the finish.  There were a lot more spectators on this section last year but I think Sandy got the best of people.  The thousands of spectators around the finish were up in the distance and all that was left was the vertical climb off the highway to the Iwo Jima Memorial and the finish line.  The crowds pack in so close up that hill that they create a lane only about 2-3 runners wide as you're trying to get.up.the.hill.  It's inspiring and maddening all at once but there is no shortage of support!  Screaming, screaming, screaming... GO GO GO!!!  Take IWO!

And I did.  In 4:44:05.  A 17 minute improvement over my first marathon time last year.  I finished in a time I can live with for another year (or less, I might do Sedona in February!) and more importantly, I finished happy, healthy and smiling.

I teared up as I came through the receiving line of 50 Marines who are there to shake your hand and thank you after you cross the line.  Thank ME?  YOU are the miracle.  That you would voluntarily serve our country with your very lives.  I am humbled by your bravery and sacrifice.  Semper Fidelis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 2012 - The Run Up

I'm finally tucked safely back into my island home after a week long marathon extravaganza.  Here are the gory details and I mean gory... especially in the race recap.  Hope you've got a strong tummy!

Thursday Evening:  At the eleventh hour of packing, I received a package from my girlfriend Angie (of Ironman fame) with this letter and bracelet:

No matter what happens this weekend, "every little ting'/ gonna be alright"... Much love to you Angie!

Friday Morning:  All that stands between me and Washington D.C. is Hurricane Sandy.  What could go wrong?  The captain decided to change the flight plan to Miami because he had flown through the storm the previous afternoon and (I quote) "it's not fun".  To accommodate the new flight plan, we needed more fuel.  Remember, this is Barbados.  The fuel truck hooked up to the plane and the pump promptly broke.  They scrambled to get another fuel truck and by "scramble" I mean... well, you get the idea.  We were so late in to Miami we actually had to sprint to the gate ala OJ.  No worries, I had my magic bracelet!

Friday Night:  Met up with my friend Laurie from Portland that I hadn't seen since 1994!  SO great to catch up and learn about each other's lives.  She has done many amazing things with hers and I couldn't have asked for a better reunion.  Our "link" in this life, Brian Kalimanis, passed away in 2001.  I know for certain he was smiling down on us as we tried to pick our way through the Ruby Tuesday menu looking for vegan options.  I settled on four veggie "sides" and 32 oz of wine.  Not pretty.  

Saturday:  We got up early and made it to and through the Expo in good time.  ALL anyone is talking about is the weather.  How much will it rain?  What time will the rain start?  What kind of winds are we expecting?  Weather weather weather!  Mark and I picked up two disposable water-proof shells for $6 and called it good.  I only brought my running skirt which led to hours of discussion about buying and wearing new tights for the race.  Never try anything for the first time during a marathon.  I followed that sage advice and decided that I'd rather have wet legs that could possibly dry than wet pants chaffing for an eternity.

Saturday Night:  We all convened for our Last Supper at an Italian restaurant by the hotel.  The weather was warm enough to sit outside where we were treated to a dog fight between a Doberman and Newfoundland.  I wanted to cry the whole time the owners were trying to pull the dogs apart.  All emerged unscathed but my heart was pounding out of my chest.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law Jodi had given us pre-race gifts that lightened the mood considerably...
The front...

The back...

And lest we forget... Mark's "Monument"
Yes, these are the prototypes for our little family brain-child:  The Marathong.  Jodi used stickers to customize our undies and it didn't even matter that they were all extra large.  I laughed so hard I cried.  What dogfight?

Sunday Morning:  Got up early and coerced Mark into bringing me two glazed donuts from the buffet in the lobby. I never eat doughnuts but for some reason, the pure sugar rush before a race gets me going and doesn't upset my stomach.  So, donuts it is!  I also ate a veggie burger and drank two iced-coffees.  All systems were GO in the bathroom (totally appropriate information when discussing a marathon) and the streets were dry as we headed out to the start.

It seems that not one of us had a decent camera all weekend but at least we got this "phone photo" just before we walked the plank to the start line!

From Left:  Stacey (from Pittsburgh - FAST runner!), Cousin Robyn (squatting), Sister Jodi (in trash bag),  Handsome Husband, ME (my what pink socks you have!), Laurie (from Portland- she hates this and ALL photos) and Poonam (my beautiful from from Barbados, recently back in D.C.)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Almond Milk = Almond JOY

Sometimes I dream BIG:  Running Western States.  Or... building an ultra-modern-eco-compound in Sedona with a full gym of my own, next to a barn where I can provide love and care for abused farm animals.

Sometimes I dream small:  I would love to not ever have to purchase cow's milk again.

My reasons are too numerous to list here but in addition to the compassion I feel toward mama cows who have (in my opinion) the worst of the farm animal lives, I believe whole-heartedly that there is a link between cow's milk consumption, inflammation in the body, and prostate cancer in men.  There are naysayers but more often than not, they are curiously affiliated with the dairy industry.  What I've read is enough for me.  Prostate cancer runs in my husband's family.  I need to stop the milk consumption. Period.

But wait.  The husband loves milk... how will I ever convince him?  Maybe I don't have to...

My small dream might come true thanks to my friend Angie Miles.  As we RV'd together from California to Oregon in June, she used her Magical-El Salvadorian-Mom-Charms on my husband and got him to LOVE her homemade almond milk.  In what I'm sure was a statement uttered by mistake, he said "I'd give up milk forever if you'd make this every day!"

So here we are - back at home and I am an almond milk making machine! Angie's recipe is simple, easy and delicious. Bless you Angie!

Here's how I do it every day...

Soak one cup of raw almonds overnight (or at least 4 hours).  Every time I empty the jar, I fill it again.  There is a tupperware of almonds & water on my counter at all times.

Rinse the almonds well and then pop off their skins if they come easily.  I find that some almonds never want to lose their skins, no matter how long I soak them.  If you have a VitaMix or Blendtec, you can skip this step altogether.  For those of us with less than $500 blenders, it's nice to get the skins off quickly before blending.

The almonds are now "blanched" - congratulations!  They're also delicious in this state and easier for your body to digest.  Try not to eat too many, we need to make milk.

In your poor-person-blender, place the almonds, 10 pitted dates, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2.5 cups of water.  

Blend like the dickens.  I leave my blender on high for at least one full minute.  The more you can break down those almonds, the more milk you have.  Blend beyond reason.

Icy cold almond milk
Taking the top off the blender at this point is gorgeous - creamy, frothy, white MILK.

Pour the blender contents into a NUT MILK BAG.  This is a cheap little bag made specifically for the purpose and is sold on Amazon.  If you live in a cool, hip, city - I'm sure you can find one in a store.

Spend some time squeezing the bag and creating your milk - like a cow's udder!  I squeeze the milk into a large mouth container so all of the squeezing is done under the lip.  I refuse to lose a drop.

If you'd like, empty the almond meal left in your bag onto a cookie sheet and then rinse the bag.  Pour the freshly squeezed milk back into the blender for a quick spin.  Pour it back through the rinsed bag to get out any remaining pulp.

Place the container in the refrigerator right away and let it all chill down.

The almond pulp is GOLD.  Spread out the pulp evenly on your cookie sheet and then place it in a 250 degree oven.  It just needs about 20 minutes to begin to dry out.  You can also just leave it out on the counter after the oven time and wait for it to dry.

Once dry (or close to it) I place the almond meal into Ziploc bags and store in the freezer.  When it comes time to make Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies,  I just run the almond meal through my coffee bean grinder and it makes a wonderful "almondy" gluten-free flour for my cookies.  WIN.

Ironically, the process of making almond milk has become kinda zen for me.  Squeezing the milk is relaxing and it calms me to know that I'm removing my little family from the dairy lie.  Most importantly... I thoroughly enjoy by-passing the cow's milk section of the grocery store. Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What to do when injury strikes

No, I don't have any magical words of medical advice.  I'm resting (read:torturing) myself for two more weeks, which will result in a total of three weeks with no running.  Looking down the tunnel now, I don't see how I'll survive but here are some things I've planned to help me pass the time.

1.  Read new blogs to stay inspired and remember how it used to be when I was a runner (insert dramatics here - like throwing myself onto the bed and burying face in pillow).
2.  Obsess about the injury and scare the crap out of myself on WebMD until I'm convinced that it's really a life-threatening-flesh-eating-disease.
3.  Try to watch my food intake to avoid 10 pounds of "injury weight".  Running burns a lot of  calories.  Whining to my husband about not running burns almost nothing.  Must adjust.
4.   Practice my yoga breathing when I see the early morning runners on the road.  Remember that their running is not designed to mock me.
5.  Practice more yoga breathing when my running vest, new road light and extra Amphipod bottle arrive in the mail - all accoutrement for the ultra marathon I just dropped out of... awesome.
6.  Download massive amounts of new running tunes while trying to convince myself that this break is a good thing... when else would I have the time to download new music? Such crap.
7.  Watch the Western States documentary Unbreakable every night - sobbing optional.
8.  Take a few jog-like steps every few hours, shake my head and say "yeah, I think it's all good now".
9.  Talk to my dog about not running while she's napping. Otherwise, even she will tell me to shut up.


10.  Rest.  The hardest part of all...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Western States - The Finish

Sunday morning at the finish... 7:30 a.m.
A new day dawns...Mark and I are up early and after getting lost a few times, we've found the stadium at Auburn.  Yes, I'm a confirmed Western States junkie sitting at the finish watching 26 hours and above. I can't hold back the eye watering as every runner finishes.  At these finish times you know that the runners have struggled and walked a lot (and probably puked a lot!) but every single one has run/shuffled the track - no one is walking it in.
So many families and crews surrounding their runners... Many runners stopping on the track to hoist their children onto their shoulders to run them in for the finish. Heartfelt hugs and tears of thanks from runners to their pacers as the pacers peel off to let the runner finish alone.  Some runners won't let go of their pacers hand and pulled them along for the finish.  Some runners doubled over in pain all the way around the track (and probably for much longer) but continue to shuffle - huge smiles spreading across their faces as they turned the corner and see the finish clock.
The announcer is reading the bios of the runners.  Does he have prior experience at the Olympics?  Because he's making me cry with all the backstory...
A man in his 60's carries his wife across the finish line for the 102nd time he's run 100 miles.  Yes, the 102nd time.  I'm bawling...
A German Shepard K9 named Bodie that was shot three times in the line of duty a few months ago in Sacramento belongs to a WS runner. They allow the dog to run the final track lap as his the runner's "pacer" with his leg in a full cast.  Runner and dog both hobbling together to the finish line.  You have to be kidding me, right? Sobbing.
Bodie, the injured K9 
The number of runners in their 40s and 50's completing their first 100 mile run is amazing and inspiring on a very personal level.  Mark is taking video of the finishers that we thought would be inspiring but then he just stops because everyone is inspiring and the iPad can only take so much. It started smoking back at hour 28!
And last but not least... As the clock ticked down within two minutes, the final runner that would be allowed to finish entered the stadium.  The crowd went CRAZY as the announcer called our the name "Jerry Bloom".  At age 61, Jerry was going for his 10th Western States finish. Everyone was on their feet, screaming for him to hurry.  Half way around the track, the clock ran out and the air horn blew.  A big group of various crew members ran down onto the track to create a tunnel of arms for him to run through and there wasn't a dry eye in the stadium.  He crossed the finish line at 30:01.00. It doesnt count as a finish.  Heartbreaker. (Video of Jerry's finish - grab some Kleenex)


After we left the stadium I was an emotional mess.  So much inspiration and human triumph had left me with a serious case of swollen mole-people-eyes and I was feeling so disappointed that I hadn't gotten the chance to test myself and come through for Wayne.  It's not like I can just come back next year.   My husband suggested we go run part of the WS trail on our way home.  It turned out to be the perfect suggestion.

We parked at No Hands Bridge and ran back to the Hwy 49 Crossing aid station (which was already torn down) and then back to No Hands.  The WS signs were still up along the trail and there were hundreds of footprints in the dry red dirt below my feet.  At least I was running in their footsteps!  I felt better and better with each kilometer.

On the way back to No Hands I was enjoying a long lovely downhill stretch and had put some distance between me and Mark.  My height and his bad knee both give me an advantage on the downhills.  Happy to note that my short stature is good for something!  As I was looking down the trail to pick my path, a huge brown bear came flying up from the gully below, jumped onto the trail right in front of me and then leapt up to the ridge above.  I could've touched him.  Two more steps faster and he would've plowed right into me.  I freaked.  I started sprinting back up the hill to get to Mark.  When I reached him and told him about the bear he started laughing so hard.  In his words, all he saw coming up the hill was "eyes, teeth and knees screaming bear! bear! bear!"    Very funny.  For some.

The rest of the run was beautiful and uneventful - except that I felt happy and satisfied that I had claimed a tiny part of the trail for myself.  I rode home dirty, dusty, exhausted from the release of emotions and so grateful that I allowed running into my life.  I see now that I would be a different person without it.

The takeaway...
Western States is simply insane on every level and at every turn.  If you ever have the chance to go, even just to watch it all go down - DO IT!  It will leave you with the doors wide open in terms of what is possible.  Watching so many people accomplish something so inconceivable for the hell of it is just amazing.  

No, I didn't run.  But I did say "yes" when asked - even though I was scared.  I completed the training.  And I leant support to my friend in every possible way I could think of.  To include an impromptu nine day RV adventure up the California and Oregon coast that began the day after the race - but that's a story for another day :)
I am absolutely richer for the experience.  THANK YOU Wayne and Angie Miles!  
Somewhere on the Oregon Coast...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Western States - Game Day

Saturday, June 23, 2012  Runner Check-In Squaw Valley

Awake at 3:00 a.m. and ready to rumble.  After a quiet breakfast we headed over to the Olympic Center at Squaw to get Wayne's bib and timing chip.  Runners, crews, family members - loads of people everywhere.  I stood in the breakfast area just watching people.  The runners wear white bibs so it's easy to spot them.  I saw I tall bald guy wearing a pink leotard, pink tutu and pink leopard gators over his shoes.  I saw some girls with tiaras.  I saw Nick through the crowd and gave him a big good luck squeeze. I saw Cowman (pic below).  I saw a wild assortment of footwear.  Some runners were wearing nothing more than racing flats, some wore traditional running/light trail shoes and then some had on more of a hiking boot. I saw a lot of nerves and a lot of smiles.  Again, great people watching. 

*Must give a big huge shout out to Molly Knox - she knows why :)  Great to meet you Molly!

The start. 4:45 a.m.

The fire pit in front of the iconic Western States time clock was blazing and surrounded by people. Bruce Springsteen was blaring ‘Born to Run’ followed by The Plimsouls 'Million Miles Away'.  Both excellent choices.  The energy was a very strange blend of subdued excitement. The task at hand is absolutely no joke. 
All of the runners and their crews were standing together as one huge group in the small starting area. So different than any other kind of race. I realized it's true that Western States is a shared experience by everyone who participates. I kept tearing up as people came one after the other to wish Wayne good luck.  I was thankful for the cover of darkness.  
A runner next to me was a little panicky.  She was talking to her girlfriend and just kept saying  " I am so nervous, I am so scared, I am so nervous."  Her girlfriend took her by the shoulders and said all the things you're supposed to say... “You are going to be amazing. You've done all the training.  ENJOY every step.”  That's when the runner started laughing and said "Yeah... where is that bitch Joy that everyone keeps talking about?!  I haven't seen her on any of my runs!"  The laughter cleared the air and she was literally glowing after that. All the hours. All the training. The impossibility of even getting into the race... I could see the start clock behind her head ticking down under 50 seconds. Amazing.
As the clock wound down, spectators started climbing the hill to get a good view of the start and to cheer on the runners. It was so surreal in the darkness and I was blown away by how many times I had watched the start online... And there I was, standing in the midst of the runners. 
The gun went off and the crowd went nuts. Wayne's green wind breaker passed by us and the 30 hour miracle began. 369 runners. 1600 volunteers. 50 doctors. 75 nurses and hundreds of crew members and pacers all converging for the "Boston marathon" of ultras. Bang!

Video of the start taken by my husband... 
Saturday morning - 6:00 a.m.
I came back to the room with a few hours to kill and used it to take a long hot shower, drink a huge mug of my greens (as I've easily gained 7 pounds in anticipation of this trip, I have to watch the crap food from here on out) and settled in front of the massive hotel room window looking out at the beauty of Squaw Valley to peck out my thoughts. 
There are black clouds moving fast over the mountain tops. Angie seems worried about the rain but I’m hoping that the lower temps will benefit the runners.  Its traditionally in the upper 90's to low 100's for a good part of the run.  I know from experience that when you train in hot weather, cold temps can make you feel bionic. 
We’ll leave in about 90 minutes to start our crewing adventure. My run doesn't start for another 14 to 15 hours IF everything goes well for Wayne.  I could be in for a 20 mile walk if things go bad.   He's warned me numerous times to rest today - don't hike into difficult aid stations, sleep in the car when possible and eat and drink water all day long... I shall obey.
12:30 p.m. Robinson Flat aid station. Mile 30.6  (written after the fact - once I was warm!)
There were only two shuttle busses running up to Robinson flat so we waited with hundreds of other crew members in a long line of anxiety and anticipation.  We were finally going to see our runners for the first time.  It was a long six miles up a logging road that rocked my motion sickness but once we got to the top the weather was so awful, the motion sickness was replaced by fear sickness for the runners.  Mid 30's and cold rain falling somewhere between a drizzle and spit. The runners had trained and dressed for soaring temps and here they came into the aid station freezing, soaked and calling out to aid officials to get back down the trail to help injured runners.  We heard that one of the top women had just been taken out with hypothermia.
Wayne and Angie's daughters were watching on line and texting us when to expect him. 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes. Runners struggling as they came up the trail. Crews all looked worried. 
When a runner drops from WS, the arm bracelet that's placed around their wrist at medical check-in is cut off their wrist by a race official and then radioed in to race headquarters.  While we waited at Robinson Flat, a race official walked by us with several cut bands in his hands.  More worry.
As Wayne's green windbreaker made its way up the trail, I could see that he wasn't smiling.  We rushed forward to the barricade and called him to the side to collect his aid bag. When we asked how he was doing and if he was cold, he didn't respond.  Immediately, a doctor came up to walk alongside him and started moving him away from us and over to the med tent.  The three of us completely forgot it was freezing rain as we stood there trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening.
After his weigh in he made his way to us but the doctor was right along side.  The only thing I heard the doctor say was "It has to be your choice Wayne.  If you want to go on, we'll send an aid official to run with you to the next station".  The doctor left to attend to other runners and there we all were, facing each other.  Wayne took a big breath and said "I can't do this anymore. Not today and not ever again."  My heart just sank. His hips were a mess from all of the rubble on the trail and his "non-existent quad" could not handle the pressure on the down hills. (Oh, did I mention that Wayne had cancer in his quadricep and had it removed last year? Technically speaking, the hamstring wrapped around his thigh bone is currently filling the role of a quasi-quad. Just FYI.  He's amazing.)
After making that statement, the second guessing and negotiating began... How much further did he think might be possible? The next crew station with transportation was 25 miles away at Michigan Bluff so if he needed to drop in the middle, it would require assistance and resources from race officials. Guys he used to run with came by and offered up various scenarios.  They would do anything to help him continue - it was amazing to see the support of the ultra community in action.  
But Wayne had spoken his truth with the first sentence.  It was over. Not just the 2012 Western States, but the end of his 100 mile race career. Everyone was tearing up.  Watching him walk back to the med tent to have his bracelet cut was the final straw for me. Bawling.  My husband took me by the shoulders and told me that even though I wouldn't be running, my job was not over.  Now was the time to pull it together and be supportive of the decision.  Set the pace sister!  He was right.  Wayne didn't need a sobbing girl on his hands.

We hitched a ride down the six miles to the parking area with some aid officials.  Total silence.  Everything started to sink in. We rode the two hours back to their home in El Dorado pretty much in silence.   

Fireside at the start  
Wayne and beautiful Angie
Wayne and Molly


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Western States - Pregame

Everyone who attends Western States 100 has their own unique story. Runners, pacers, crew, family members, aid station workers - everyone is looking through their own lens.  This is mine.  Some written on the spot and some after I could get a little perspective.  
Perspective is (in fact!) at the crux of all of this... how does a 66 year old man who has somehow survived terminal cancer get out and run 100 miles in under 30 hours?  How does he cope with the fact that last time he ran it, he was 9th overall - before the cancer?  How does it change my life to see people accomplish the seemingly impossible?  I’m still grappling with it all but for now, the following musings will have to suffice.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 7:30 a.m. - Bridgetown, Barbados
So here we are... on the plane and on our way to the Western States 100!  
Don't be alarmed that I haven't blogged in over a month for THIS is why!
Running, running, working, training, running, recovering, watching videos, studying maps, running- everything leading up to getting Wayne across that finish line.  The entire country of Barbados must be breathing a collective sigh of relief - the crazy girl is outta here!
Hoping for some beautiful California produce tonight and a good night's sleep.  Wayne is taking me out for a run tomorrow on some local trails to "see how I move".  Sounds like an audition to me but I'm ready to tackle anything at this point. Bring it.
We'll leave for Tahoe on Friday morning to get Wayne cleared through medical, attend the mandatory runner's meeting and I'll get checked in as an official pacer. 
Before I get too far along in this journey, I just have to raise up thanks to Rachel Corbin, Poonam Lewis, Dawn Arriola, Hillaire Campbell,  Angie Gerber and Alice Nielsen for providing the kind of support and encouragement that only your running girls can provide.  When people ask "Why the hell would someone run 100 miles?" - your girls know why.  You're in my heart every step of the way.
Thursday, June 21 2:06 p.m. - El Dorado, California 
Had a great 13k run with THE Wayne Miles around a beautiful green water lake at 3500 ft.  Beauty abounds.
The run was a little faster than I anticipated for someone who was supposed to be fully tapered for a 100 mile run but I could keep up. Can I keep up for 20 miles? THAT is the question!  Mark assures me that Wayne won't be running anywhere near that fast by mile 62.  I also need to remember that trail running isn't my norm. What I lack in trail experience I will surely make up for in adrenaline!
Friday, June 22, 2012 4:00 p.m. Squaw Valley, California 
Walking up to the check-in station my heart started pounding in my ears.  If I was checking in to run 100 miles, I think I would've had a heart attack.  I looked at Wayne and said "wow, I'm nervous!" he smiled at me and said "I'm scared to death!". So, I guess it doesn't matter how many times you do it. Duly noted.
When we entered the check-in area the reaction was instantaneous - WAYNE MILES!  So many people came up to wish him luck, ask about his health and some just kind of stood around with their mouths open... What is HE doing here?  I quickly noticed that all of Wayne's running buddies were working the race. Not running it. Hmmmm.
The medical check-in began with the emergency contact card and race photo. Easy peas. Then we moved onto the stuff that matters - weight and blood pressure.  If you weigh in heavy, the medical officials might pull you off the course on race day for losing too much weight between aid stations. If your blood pressure is too high, they might not even let you start the race.  Wayne weighed in five pounds over his normal weight which he planned for but his blood pressure was sky high from nerves.  The med staff let him calm down for a few minutes and tested him again - borderline at 152/100.  Much higher than his usual blood pressure but they cleared him.  Lord knows if they had slapped a cuff on me they would've called an ambulance!
I had a couple of people to try to find at WS... One of them was Nick Triolo.  He's a friend of my friend Alice in Portland.  Nick is a young gun (and a great writer) who won a 50 mile race prior to arriving at WS.  I had tried to find a bigger picture of Nick on his blog to no avail but I was keeping my eyes open.  As I accompanied Wayne through the medical check-in he introduced me to his friend Lisa who was doing the weigh in, the guy behind me said "Lauren?"... Of course, it was Nick. Cuz that’s how things work.  We had a minute to chat and the light in Nick's eyes was undeniable.  That cat was ready. 
After Wayne's check-in was finished, we walked over to the pacer tent and I signed my life away to get my bib.  It seemed like peanuts in comparison but my heart was pounding and my eyes were tearing up nonetheless.

The last item of the day was the mandatory runners gathering at Squaw.  Here we got to hear about the course conditions, meet the race directors and learn a whole bunch about how to properly poop in the woods.  Enlightening.  That aside, the people watching was fantastic and it was pretty awesome to see all of those crazy people gathered in one spot.

Wayne, Me and my precious bib...

Under the world famous Western States time clock

Runners meeting at Squaw

Oodles of crazy people
Strangely, Wayne has no pre-race rituals, meals, etc. so we're off to dinner at the restaurant here at the Resort at Squaw Valley.  Is there any chance of sleeping tonight?  Odds are low.