Monday, July 21, 2014

The Time I Went Totally Vegan ... Overnight

So, as I've bemoaned a few times in the last couple of weeks, I'm having a hard time kicking the extra pounds I put on two to three months ago.  And, to make matters worse, I've been feeling like a bloated balloon.

In an effort to turn things around, last week I decided to try something drastic.  I decided to go Vegan for three days straight.

And not just Vegan like the "I go to Whole Foods and buy processed substitute foods of items that are unhealthy, non-vegan foods to begin with" Vegan.  I mean the "Whole fruits, vegetables, quality grains and nuts only" Vegan.

Yeah, that kind of Vegan.

What inspired me?  Of all things - reading about juice cleanses!

Although I totally think they are wrong for a lot of reasons, some of the basic ideas behind juice cleanses are good, like:

(1) The focus on vegetables.
(2) The drive to eliminate processed foods.
(3) The idea that they can help reset your body.

Plus, regardless of where you are in life, everyone can definitely benefit from 1 & 2 above, and #3 was definitely on my radar given my less than stellar eating habits of late (part of what lead me to put on this weight to begin with).

So, with some feedback from friends and some careful thinking, PLUS with my husband heading out on a business trip (thus leaving me to my own eating devices), on 7/7 I began a 3 day planned journey into all things wholesome...


Monday, 7/7 - Day One

Breakfast: not feeling very hungry, I waited until about 9 or so to have a banana, and then drank lots of water

Lunch: taking small inspiration from the juice trend, I decided to try a green juice from Freshii along with a large side of quinoa

Snack: mixed nuts

Dinner: a HUGE salad of sautéed portobello mushrooms, green peppers and onions (sautéed with seasonings in olive oil), guacamole, romaine lettuce and tomato salsa

First thoughts - this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Mostly, it was a practice in shifting my mindless eating habits towards drinking more water, since I realized I've been letting my snacking run wild.  However, I definitely already craved carby stuff like bread and donuts - of all things, donuts?!  I hardly ever eat those to begin with.  Weird.

Tuesday, 7/8 - Day Two

Breakfast: blended smoothie of pressed apple juice, spinach, natural peanut butter (no sugar added), banana and hydrated chia seeds

Lunch: realizing they were much cheaper than Freshii, I opted for a Daily Greens juice from Bolthouse farms, along with some kale chips and mixed nuts

Snack: more mixed nuts

Dinner: a simmered "stew" of quinoa, herbs and crushed tomatoes... with LOADS of garlic (yum!), and what I'll call romaine and hummus spears (essentially whole leaves of romaine spread with a blob of hummus, and eaten like you would a celery stalk).

Thoughts - although I thought this dietary shift would leave me feeling hungry or deprived for sure by day two, I ended up anything but.  Don't get me wrong, hamburgers and cookies still looked / smelled good.  But a true NEED to eat something specific never came up.  And, I was definitely full to the max - I guess that's due to the fact that eating a diet like the above provides something like 150% of my daily fiber...?

Wednesday, 7/9 - Day Three

Breakfast: blended smoothie of pressed apple juice, spinach, natural peanut butter (no sugar added), banana and hydrated chia seeds

Lunch: another bottled green juice from a Bolthouse competitor, kale chips and mixed nuts

Snack: an apple smeared with peanut butter.

Dinner: leftover "stew" from last night and more romaine and hummus spears.

Thoughts -

Just kidding.  I'm wasn't starving, although the smell of kale chips and green juice was starting to make my stomach churn.  I think that's a sign of too much of a good thing.

However, I did notice I was starting to miss eating some sort of protein ... even just cottage cheese was sounding good.

Also, I noticed a few mild headaches on the last two nights.  Since I was drinking plenty of water, my only guess would be either I wasn't getting enough calories (which I thought I was based on what my calorie tracker was telling me), or I was having some mild detox issues from cutting out carbs (which I am guessing is the true reason).  Given my carb cravings in the prior days, I'm inclined to point my finger that direction.

All in all, though, I felt good, I didn't feel hungry and... when I weighed myself the next morning, I was down 3 pounds!!  To qualify that, though - it was all water weight.  As soon as I ate a reasonable amount of bread the next day, the three pounds were all right back on... *sad clown whistle*...


So, what are my final thoughts about this whole experiment?

Well, if you don't mind pooping salad, I guess living a vegetable based vegan lifestyle is A-OK.

LOL!  Just kidding. 

Honestly, though, I don't really intend to ever go totally unprocessed foodie/vegan.  And overall I eat a fairly healthy and balanced diet.  So why did I do this?

The only reason I decided to give unprocessed, vegan eating a shot was because I decided I needed to challenge myself. I knew my eating habits had fallen WAY off track in the last couple of months, and doing this challenge just proved to me that I was in denial about it.  I realized immediately day one how much I've been letting myself snack, and how much processed food (not a ton, but enough) has snuck back into my daily routine.  And, I was shaken awake by the fact that I need to refocus on eating more vegetables again.  This point was driven home when I followed up my experiment with a long weekend of crap eating in Chicago.  Just by changing my diet for three days, I noticed a change in my cravings.  Every day in Chicago I craved raw/fresh produce.  Every.  Day.

Also, interestingly enough, I did notice a change in my digestion over the three days.  Although I didnt' feel like crap prior to starting this challenge, I did notice I started to feel almost... lighter... once I eliminated all the junk out of my diet.  I even felt like my stomach was starting to flatten up a bit, which I think speaks to how much bloat I had picked up over the last couple of months.  The true test now will be to see if I can keep that change going in a positive direction...

Regardless, I'm glad I took this time to evaluate and be honest with myself.  And while I didn't see any maintainable weight loss from the challenge itself, it opened my eyes to where I'm slipping every day.  Since those little slips can all add up to a lot of extra calories long term, fixing those issues is what will stimulate my weight loss again in the coming weeks.

And with that being said, now it's time ... to eat another salad.

Friday, July 18, 2014

CSA Hooray! Week 3

A few weeks ago, a friend from the gym reached out to me ... for something totally unexpected.  It turned out that she was going on a multi-week road trip with her family, and needed someone to dump her 1/2 share CSA on while she was gone.

Say what?  Fresh grown produce? 

Of course I'm down!

And so, on Friday 6/27 I received my first bundle, and on Thursday 7/3 I received my second.  They were delicious!  Which meant this time not only was I excited to get my third share - I was somewhat in mourning.  Why?  Because this would be my last week of CSA procurement, since my friend was due to come home.  :-(

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, right?!

And then - BOOM!  My impromptu trip to Chicago came up... ruh-roh!  I wasn't going to be here to get the box, so I had to give it away to my friend's friend (who does the pickup for us anyway).  EXTRA frowny face.  :-( :-(

Mourning aside, my final share for 7/11 would have been:


In case you're wondering, that is an assortment of: Napa Cabbage, Arcadia Broccoli, Cilantro, Parsley, Summercrisp Lettuces, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Summer Squash/Zukes, Cucumbers, Scallions and Fennel.

Like I said in all my previous CSA posts, above is a photo of a FULL SHARE of from the CSA.  I was willed a HALF SHARE.  Imagine the above cut in half.  And FYI, I'm not belittling the size of a half share - it is very generous and definitely plenty to eat before it would end up going bad anyway.

So, I guess I can't say what I did with the food if I didn't actually get it.  But, what WOULD I have done with all this goodness?  Well, here goes!

-  Fennel and broccoli- ah!  I can't believe I missed these.  Fennel in particular is SO good!!  I saw a recipe posted by the CSA grower that took fennel, broccoli and sausage.  I really wanted to try that.  Maybe I will in the future.

- Napa cabbage is soooo good in Asian dishes.  I was actually looking forward to shredding it and making some sort of pot sticker or egg roll filler.  I'm sure the scallions and cilantro would have been a great complement in this as well.

- The lettuces are never hard for me to use up.  I eat a ton of salads.  Those would have been gone on day one.  I would have tossed the parsley in there for good measure, too.

- Swiss chard and cucumber - I've really been enjoying a wrap from Freshii lately that uses a par-boiled pair of chard leaves instead of a tortilla for the wrap.  It's filled with chick peas, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, artichoke, onion and a light creamy dill sauce.  Mmmm, so good!  Anyway, I was hoping to recreate that at home with the chard.  Or try out this recipe, also suggested by the CSA grower.

- That leaves the summer squash and zucchini... which I actually had a massive plan for already.  I just bought a spiralizer so that I could turn them into noodles, since I've read they make a great pasta alternative.  Boo!  I can't believe I missed my chance to try out my new machine.  Good thing I'm growing my own zucchini in my garden!! 

And that was it!  Although I'm saddened to be done with the CSA, the timing is actually quite good.  I've got some VERY busy weekends coming up, which would make getting the produce home a challenge, not to mention the challenge of having time to cook/eat it before it goes bad.  Besides, I can't be too upset.  My garden is starting to come into fruition and the Minneapolis Farmer's market should be up to speed in the next week or two with all sorts of great options.  I think I'll survive.

That's not to say that I wouldn't recommend buying your own CSA.  I totally would!  If you are even considering it, please sign up!  In fact, Easy Bean Farm just had a terrible incident last week where their truck's refrigeration unit needed a massive repair, and they are desperate to sell a few additional shares ASAP.  So they are definitely an option if you're considering it.  And just my two cents: I highly recommend them, and suggest you consider purchasing your own share.

Regardless of where you land, having access to a CSA basket in the last few weeks has been a lot of fun for me, and opened my eyes to some new ways to eat vegetables that I may not have thought of in the past.  And for that, I'm grateful.

PS: Read more about the CSA origins at Easy Bean Farm by checking out their website or Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chicago Chinatown 5K 2014 (SPICY!!)

Chicago Chinatown 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 10:06/mile

Wow!  What a whirlwind of a weekend I just had.  But I guess that is to be expected when you decide two days before race day that you're going to go for it... and attend a race that is two states away.

Let's back up... how did this happen?

Well, a few months ago Emmers712 wrote a post talking about how the 2014 Chicago Chinatown 5K was going to take place on her birthday.  Although I really wanted to run the race, at the time I had a hunch that I was pregnant.  After doing some math, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to be 5+/- months pregnant AND run a 5K in the middle of hot, hot July.  So, I lamented having to miss out on what would for sure be an awesome race (and perfectly suited to someone like me with a Chinese language background), and thought ... maybe next year.

Unfortunately, as you already know, the pregnancy didn't work out ... it's ok and I'm ok, so don't dwell on it.  Regardless, wouldn't you know, three months later I just so happened to still have that weekend free?!?! 

After making that realization, and exchanging a few text/email/phone conversations with my husband about a possible weekend getaway (he was in Boston working for the week), we decided - why the heck not?!  Let's just go!

And so, a weekend adventure was born about 24 hours prior to my departure from Minnesota.  Excited about my trip, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut:


Yep, you got it.  I was going to go as a sriracha bottle.  I'm guessing it was an impressive idea given this post on Emmer's blog.

How do I come up with this stuff?!  Don't ask - I don't know!!!  Somehow, in looking at Asian inspired costumes on Amazon, I stumbled across sriracha leggings.  And thank goodness I did because I was NOT going to wear some sort of stereotyped, extremely offensive, geisha outfit or ninja garb.  Seriously, who buys that sh!t?!  I just don't get it.  Anyway...

With the leggings on order, I made a quick stop at Target for a tank top ... unfortunately from the men's section (AKA ill fitting), but what can you expect last second?!

And that was it!  Costume SOLVED!

With the most important parts in place on Wednesday night (costume - check!  hotel - check!), I ran around in a tizzy on Thursday to get the rest done.  I managed to request a last second PTO day for Friday, arrange to get my dog over to my in-laws for a weekend of dog sitting, and do TWO loads of laundry while packing... and trying to talk my husband through his extremely delayed flight back home to Minneapolis.

Lucky for him, his flight was so screwed up that he was able to request a change and flew from Boston into Chicago the next morning.  Unlucky for me, that meant a 7+ hour drive to Chicago all alone.  *sad clown whistle*  Oh well!  Queue a 5:30am wake-up, a large espresso drink, some loud music, and cruise control.  (I just got a speeding warning after dropping my sister off post running pride, so I definitely didn't want to take any risks). 

Fortunately, the ride went by in a snap.  Well, aside from driving in 45-55mph construction zones on I-90 in Illinois.  Yeah, those folks see a sign that says "minimum fine $375" and interpret that to mean "speed limit 375mph".  Fun times when you're the one obeying the posted limit.

Anyway, soon enough I was in Chicago.  And pre-race fueling, of course.

Although, in retrospect, I wished I would have saved the rich dinner of Lou Malnati's for AFTER the race, since my stomach couldn't quite handle it on race day.  Oh well, I survived!

I don't know where the time went after I set foot in Chicago (I certainly didn't feel like I slept it away, I can tell you that much), but all the sudden it was 5:30am on race morning.  Since I hadn't registered in advance, I wanted to arrive to registration bright and early to ensure a spot ... and a shirt in my size.

And ... since I have a TON of photos from the race, I'm going to do this race recap as a photo essay instead.  Here goes!

6:00am - Riding the red line to the start line! 

6:45am - Check in complete, and I got a 69!!! 
WHOOP! Hahahahahaha!

7:30am - Hiding from the rain, pre race. 
You can see my husband and me in the far left of both photos. 
I may or may not have a look of concern on my face - due to the rain AND not seeing Emmers anywhere in site.
No lightening, so let's get started! 
FYI ... that is rain you hear, not people clapping.
Just after passing through the starting gate.
You can see me just off to the right of the guy in the white tank.
PS - white in the rain?  Impromptu wet t-shirt contest!!
Just as I rounded the corner after the start, I hear "Natalie!!!!"
Finally I find Emmers, or rather, she found me.
Immediately we agreed to my previous text message - let's run this (rainy) b!tch!

 Unbeknownst to me, my poor dedicated husband patiently waited in the rain
for my arrival post race to ensure epic photo documentation. 
Luckily the race photographer caught him unawares...

Meanwhile, Emmers and I ran through the gate to Chinatown and proceed to ...
Rain dance? 
Feel like we peed our pants without actually doing so? 
D - all of the above!

Finally two (?) water stops later, we hit the turn around point. 
With the pouring rain, it sure felt like a whole lot further than 1.5+ miles...
 After passing yet ANOTHER water stop (and this time, I partook),
we were still together.  Despite my slow pace,
I just couldn't sweet talk Emmers into leaving me in her dust. 
We begin our final approach to the finish...
And we did it!  A not-too-terrible (but not great) time of 31+.
I spot my husband just past the mat, and we strike a pose.
Now, what's a post-race celebration without tons of photos to document the experience?

We chose duces up in #3 to "honor" the true Chinese casual photo style...

Of course, you also can't forget the snack table and goody bags post run.
I skipped the drinks, but went for a banana and some water.
(Hopefully my hotel maid likes energy drinks - because they got one free of charge.)
Once the 5K and youth runs were complete, a Lion Dance was preformed to celebrate.
Play where's Waldo and find me in the crowd...
PS - Lion Dance origins versus the Dragon Dance (and pearl of wisdom), if you're curious.

And now for the best part - the lucky draw post race!
First, the children's drawings, with this little winner taking home the grand prize. 
I think he was cheered for more loudly than the winners of the 5K were!!
Emmers also pointed out that the Hello Kitty was about 3x the size of the kid.  Too cute!

Although I was not lucky enough to win a prize (DISCLOSURE - two of which were iPad minis!!),
Emmers lucked out on her birthday and took home a little somethin' somethin'...

Eventually the drawing ended, and after a quick detour to show my husband the gate to Chinatown,
we split back to the hotel.  There, I spent the next 20 minutes wringing out every piece of clothing
I was wearing by hand and then enjoyed another (although somewhat warmer) shower. 
I got about 2 cups of water out of my underwear alone... which made my new, DRY shirt so much more rewarding!!

And that's about it! 

Overall, I have to say, this was a really fun race.  It was a nice fast & flat route through an area I would likely never have seen had I skipped this race (I've never made it to Chinatown in Chicago prior), and despite a few potholes and HUGE rain puddles, it wasn't a bad route.  As an added bonus, there where three - yes, three!! - water stops.  A great plus for a hot July race... although maybe not so necessary for a rainy day.

You can definitely tell this event is run by people who are truly passionate about it.  The woman shown above in the Hello Kitty photo was the main organizer, and she was just so bubbly and cute.  Every other word out of her mouth while announcing was either "disclosure" (to announce another prize was about to be drawn, which just made me laugh) or "thank you" - to either the volunteers at the event, the business who sponsored the event, or even to the runners for sticking it out despite the rain and the course snafu (they had to make a last second route change and revert to the 2013 map shown above, which really didn't bother me at all).

The passion for organizing this event was so strong that it was obvious beyond the announcer as well.  The man taking photos post race had the biggest smile on his face that I think I have ever seen, the volunteers at the check-in booth were some of the best I've ever had, and the groups at every water stop were not only ready to go but non stop cheering for everyone on course. 

I cannot think of a single thing that was disappointing about this race.  Even the rain made it an adventure.  In fact, I think that's the heaviest rain I have ever ran in... and it was definitely an experience.

And of course, how can I neglect to mention the honor that was running with Ms. Emmers?!  Although we "met" via the Chicago Half last year... she was in the background of my photos, and I in hers:

We finally really met at this race.  That was worth the trip alone!!

And that's the story of how race bib # 45 joined my collection!  Here's to another race soon... but since I'm now three weeks for three 5K races, I'm pooped... so it might be a few weeks before you see another recap!

Monday, July 14, 2014

CSA Hooray! Week 2

A few weeks ago, a friend from the gym reached out to me ... for something totally unexpected.  It turned out that she was going on a multi-week road trip with her family, and needed someone to dump her 1/2 share CSA on while she was gone.

Say what?  Fresh grown produce? 

Of course I'm down!

And so, on Friday 6/27, I received my first bundle.  It was delicious!  Which meant I was pretty excited to get my second share - that actually came a day early given the July 4th holiday.  Double win!

The share for 7/3 was... drum roll please...


In case you're wondering, that is an assortment of: Romaine Lettuces, Pac Choi, Broccoli, Radishes, Kohlrabi, Summer Squash (Pattypan, Zephyr, or Zukes), Red Scallions and/or Green Scallions, Collard Greens, Basil, Culinary Sage, and Spinach.

Ok, ok.  Let's back track a second.  Like I said last time, above is a photo of a FULL SHARE of from the CSA.  I was willed a HALF SHARE.  Imagine the above cut in half (and missing the broccoli, since that was for full share folks only this week).  And FYI, I'm not belittling the size of my share - it was very generous and definitely plenty to eat before it would end up going bad anyway.

So, what did I do with all this goodness?  Well, here goes!

-  Made a simple romaine salad, which ended up being HUGE

- Threw the fresh basil in pasta

- Sautéed collard greens and purple scallions with garlic, salt, pepper and oil - and then added to scrambled eggs

- Roasted the kohlrabi, radishes, summer & pattypan squash - which was tossed in fresh sage and other herbs with olive oil - and topped them with garlic sautéed spinach

- Cooked up the bok choy the same way I did last week, since I liked that so well

And that was it!  In pretty much 3 days, everything was gone, shared among 6 adults over the 4th of July holiday weekend. Amazingly, nothing went bad before we could use it, which I was a little worried about - like I said last week, that is why I've never signed up for a CSA before.  But again, I think it really says something about how much my diet has changed over the last 5 years that I could eat all that produce and then some in a week, and have no problem doing it.

I'm already looking forward to week 3, and wonder what I'll get this time!  More to follow...

PS: Read more about the CSA origins at Easy Bean Farm by checking out their website or Facebook page.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Siren Freedom Five 5K 2014 (Lady Liberty)


Siren Freedom Five 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 10:08/mile

You're not going to believe me when I say this, but I was really struggling with the idea of doing this race for 2014.  I've run it twice in the past (once in 2013, once in 2011), and in remembering the long, sunny, hot run ... well, I just wasn't all that thrilled about the idea of doing it again.

However, after taking such a lax approach to race registrations this year, and actually kind of missing having a race on the schedule, I decided what the heck.  I figured I'd be in Siren anyway due to the holiday, so this was kinda a gimme.  Besides, the cost of this race is exceptionally low - just $15.  You can't beat small town pricing!!

So, just before the June 15th cut off, I mailed in my registration and crossed my fingers that I could start cramming in speed work to get my 5K pace back up.  Oh, and I began costume planning, of course.

Does it surprise anyone that someone proposed I run naked? 

I thought not.

The above post went on with several other great suggestions, but since Lady Liberty is such a classic, I was pretty much sold.  I was already brainstorming ideas.

And then, disaster.  My favorite run costume seamstress was out on vacation.  The horrors!!

OK, so it was time to put my so-so sewing skills to work.  No big deal.  Well, actually, maybe a big deal.  First I had to find the fabric, which was easier said than done.  You can't exactly call up all the fabric stores in the Twin Cities and say "Excuse me, I am running a 5K this July, and need some sort of spandex or wicking material that resembles the colors of the Statue of Liberty.  Do you have anything in stock that would work?"

Their response, I'm pretty sure, would be something like this.

So it's true that I spent a fair amount of time driving to fabric stores looking for the right stuff.  Which I eventually found at SR Harris, a warehouse I begrudgingly drove 45 minutes to get to after I realized Joanne's pretty much sucked in the arena of spandex fabric selection.  (SR Harris is awesome, btw, if you're looking for a huge selection of fabrics.  But fair warning - it's a PIT.  At least most of the time their fabrics are 50% off the marked price, so it offsets the atmosphere some...  Just think of it as a Marshall's of the fabric world.)

Anyway, I found the fabric and started sewing.  Oh!  Plus, I went on Amazon to find a headpiece option that I could modify to my needs, since I didn't really know how running with anything too big on would go, and I didn't want to waste time on sewing something that wouldn't work out.

So, with that VERY long premise, I introduce to you...



Ok - Let's run.

Fortunately, with the unseasonably cool weather we've been having this year, race day started out quite comfortably.  Which I was thrilled about, being that this is usually a cooker of a course (there are several sections on the course lacking shade, and in the full sun of July, the bounce back on the asphalt is practically hot enough to fry an egg).  The weather was somewhere in the low 60's when I started my journey to the start line, eventually warming to upper 60's/low 70's. 

Perfect running weather.  Assuming you've been training to run.

So, YEAH.  Let's address that straight off.  Yes, I had lofty goals the month leading up to this race that I would start speed work again.  And then... crickets. 

I think all of June I ran MAYBE three times.  Total.  *sad clown whistle*

That's not to say I haven't been working out.  In fact, as I said in my previous race recap, I've been quite busy teaching.  Plus, I'm starting to get back into the swing of swimming on occasion.  And I finally got in my first few bike rides of the summer. But, going into this race, I knew that my running was...

Yeah, that.

My plan, knowing that I wouldn't' be able to maintain a fast pace for long, was to start with an easy first mile and then shoot for speed intervals instead.  Because if I learned anything during Run100, it was that I can do anything for 1/4 to 1/2 mile intervals.  I figured if I could run my average 10:30/11:00 pace that I've gotten a little too comfortable running (a la my marathon training from earlier this year), and after my first mile crank out 1/4 mile intervals at 8:00ish, I might have a chance at coming in under 30:00 with a negative split.

Yeah!  My first ever negative split.  I totally go this!!  Right...?

And so, I lined up with the crowd with my strategy in mind and hoped for the best.

Speaking of the crowd, it was a little disappointing this year.  Hardly any 'Murika gear or interesting runners, at least from what I saw.  Being that it was much cooler than last year, I would have thought the opposite to be true (since it's much easier to run in goofy stuff when it's NOT hot).   Disappointing.  And also slightly awkward, given my extreme outfit.

No bother, though, because as the crowd started to line up, I was swallowed.  OH!  And lucky for me, I was RIGHT BY a woman doing forward folds to "loosen up her hamstrings".  Who was also wearing flip flops.  And very sheer white capri pants.  I was immediately convinced she would be taking first in her age category.  *sarcastic eye roll* 

The group of people she was with were equally as clueless, with one woman screaming into her cell phone during the ENTIRE NATIONAL ANTHEM ON FOURTH OF JULY.  It was so bad that several people around me were looking at me and rolling their eyes as well.  A few people even started shushing her, and she still didn't take a hint...

Regardless, the good thing about the walkers being so obnoxious was that I knew well enough to get in front of them before the gun went off, so I shimmied my way ahead of them as the national anthem wound down, silently hexing them for not lining up in the back with the rest of the walkers.  (I mean, hey, if you are openly screaming on your cell phone about how slow you're going to be and that you're walking it the entire way, maybe - just maybe - you should be BEHIND all the people that are obviously going to run this thing?  I dunno.  Just going out on a limb here.)

Anyway.  I made my way ahead of them just in time to get situated, and then the gun went off.

I was about 100 feet or so back from the first timing mat, so I slowly jogged up and looked for my husband in the crowd, who was on camera duty.  He didn't have too hard of a time finding me as soon as I threw my torch up in the air:

Just after that photo, I crossed the mat and away I went.

Right away I was made aware that it's election season in Siren for Sherriff; apparently I crossed the mat at the same time as one of the candidates.  For the first few minutes of the race, I followed a couple of folks wearing this shirt:

(oops, I can't find the photo right now, I'll add it in a few days
the shirt said "so & so is runnin' for sheriff")

I found that brand of advertising to be quite clever, and chuckled as I ran along.  Kudos to him for being a cop that's in shape!

Eventually my entertainment ran off ahead of me.  Being that it was such a nice, cool day ... and that the race starts out on a fast and flat section of town, I decided to check my watch to see how I was doing. 

I was shocked when I saw that I was at 0.25 miles and maintaining what my watch claimed was a 8:00 pace.  Hmm... maybe my 5K mojo from 2013 was back?  I felt good, so I figured - what the heck!  Instead of intervals, let's just see how this goes.  And so, as we bended through the first few sections of town, I kept a confident pace and held my torch up at a comfortable shoulder height.

That's when I started to realize something.  I think maybe 5 minutes in.  Despite not being noticed pre-race, suddenly my outfit was very popular.  About every 30 seconds someone would see me in the crowd, or run past me, and cheer. 


"Statue of Liberty!"

"Nice costume!"

"Happy 4th of July!"

It was actually quite fun, since it felt like I had my own personal cheering section every where I went.  My head may or may not have gotten a bit swollen from all the praise.

I motored along the course at my best possible pace, and again before I knew it, I was at the water stop.  Unlike last year, this year I had a GPS watch handy, so I checked the accuracy.  Sure enough, it was at the right spot!  Plus, my pace was pretty good.  I figured if I could keep what I was running, I might scrape out a 28/29 minute finish.  Skipping the water, I continued on.

Not even 1/2 mile down the road, I immediately regretted having no water.  I don't know if I was over thinking the fact that I skipped it, or if I didn't have enough pre-race, or if I was starting to sweat too much due to the extra fabric of the costume, but I started to get REALLY thirsty.  My pace started to slow, and mentally I started to lose my edge.

A little voice at the back of my head said:

I promptly punched that voice in the throat and kept on running, albeit at what felt like was a slower and slower pace as the distance ticked on.

Somewhere around the last 3/4 of a mile, I ended up passing a man in a yellow shirt who had finally thrown in the towel and started to walk.  As I passed him, I heard a weak but encouraging "Yeah!  Lady Liberty!".  Before I knew it, he had picked up his pace again, and was running just off my left shoulder.

At this point we had come out of the more isolated country area of the course and were starting back towards civilization (AKA, comin' back inta-town).  As I ran down the road, a man standing in his yard saw me and started screaming towards his house "Hey, Helen!  HELEN!  Quick - ya' gotta come out here!"  Unfortunately for him, I ran past before Helen made it out.

Just past that house, an elderly couple in their 80's were sitting out in their lawn chairs, spectating.  As I rounded the corner by their house, I heard the woman say "Ooooh, look at that!"

Even the spectators were loving the costume!!

Coming back into town, I knew I was close to the finish line, but I was starting to burn out.  I had it in me to run to the finish, but at that point, I just didn't know how fast.  I began to commiserate with the girl in front of me, to my right, who was muttering to herself and swearing. 

Although I doubt she realized I could hear her.

The man in the yellow shirt, unbeknownst to me, was still behind me, off my left shoulder.  He was panting about as much as me, and as the girl in front of me was muttering to herself, he let out a "I know we're almost there, come on, we can make it!  You've been motivating me through these last 2 kilometers.  I know we can do it together!"

"Yep!" I said "I know we can do this!  Almost there!"

Sure enough, we started to round the bend into the park.  The finish line was a little way out yet, but I could see it in the distance.

And then - awesomeness.  A group of high school girls saw me round the corner, and inspired by my costume, they all started fist pumping and yelling "USA!  USA!  USA!"  I think even other people in the crowd got excited and joined in...?

With the finish line less than 30 seconds in the distance, my yellow shirted partner says to me "Come on, let's do it!  Let's sprint it out!!"

To which I replied "I don't think I can, I've got nothing left in the tank."

He said "I don't care - come on!  Liberty before peace!"

And he stopped, waiving me through the mats to finish first. 

He promptly followed, high fived me for a good run, and disappeared into the crowd.

In the meantime, I was sweating up a storm and getting all sorts of random high fives from other runners in the finishers chute.  Apparently, my costume was getting me some attention once people realized I ran the whole 5K with the torch.  I even got asked to take a photo with someone else who had finished (I'm guessing well ahead of me, since she looked like an elite runner in her sports bra & shorts combo).  My husband took the scene in and laughed...

Eventually, I made my way to the snack area, where I opted to skip the muffin and settled for a banana, a cup of orange juice, and another bottle of water.  After, I hobbled back to my husband and started a sad half-limp to the car.  Yes - shame.  I was wearing an old, old, old pair of running shoes that should be retired.  But, I haven't broken in my new pair that I purchased after Waconia yet, so I was stuck.  That should speak to how little I have been running lately, though.  :-(

Once I got home, I relaxed for a few minutes on the couch and then headed for a shower... followed by the traditional post race t-shirt wearing.  Speaking of, the shirt was really nice this year.  Check it out:

And of course, beyond the t-shirt wearing, the even more traditional post race performance analysis began.


Surprisingly, despite my mind games, it appears that I kept a very smooth and even pace.  Although, I'm not sure how much I trust my report, since the elevation was definitely NOT anywhere near as challenging as the chart would lead you to believe.

Also surprising is the fact that I have hardly been running at all in the last month, and I was still able to keep a respectable pace.  Although 31:29 is nowhere near my PR, and is definitely not elite status, It is still almost 2 minutes faster than what I ran this course in 3 years prior.  When you further take into account I'm carrying a few extra pounds right now (ok, more like 10) and ran in costume with a torch, my time seems less and less shabby.

And as for the meat of the analysis per the race organizers:

     You finished 172nd out of 460 women (37%) and
     39th out of the 80 (48%) Women 30 - 39.

Well, hot dang.  I can not train, gain 10 pounds, and still come out above the 50th percentile in a random group of almost 500 women.  I'm not saying I'm glad to be where I am with my running right now... but given the circumstances, I'm ok with that result.

So I guess that's it.  That's the story of how race bib # 44, and yet another wacky workout costume, joined my collection. 

Here's to another race soon - which may be sooner than you'd expect!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CSA Hooray! Week 1

A few weeks ago, a friend from the gym reached out to me ... for something totally unexpected.  It turned out that she was going on a multi-week road trip with her family, and needed someone to dump her 1/2 share CSA on while she was gone.

Say what?  Fresh grown produce? 

Of course I'm down!

And so, Friday 6/27 I received this beautiful bounty (queue singing angels):

In case you're wondering, that is an assortment of: Kale, Panisse Head Lettuce, Pac Choi, Vitamin Greens, Cilantro, Summer Squash, Scallions, Kohlrabis, and Spinach.

Ok, ok.  Let's back track a second.  The above is a photo of a FULL SHARE of from the CSA.  I was willed a HALF SHARE.  Imagine the above cut in half (and missing the spinach, which I'm guessing I didn't get due to a bum crop or something).  And FYI, I'm not belittling the size of my share - it was very generous and definitely plenty for my husband and I to eat before it would end up going bad anyway.

So, what did I do with all this goodness?  Well, here goes!

- Made a wonderful salad of panisse head lettuce, turkey, blue cheese crumbles and a yogurt based Blue Cheese salad dressing made by Bolthouse Farms (read more about that dressing here)

- Using this recipe as a jumping point, I asked my husband to use the bok choy in a chicken stir fry (served with rice).  Despite seeming amazingly simple, this turned out to be quite delicious.  I would actually make it again, and expect it to become part of my usual dinner rotation

- Made a dinner of grilled brats served with steamed/sautéed vitamin greens with garlic, and kohlrabi sliced and grilled with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper
     **note - I recommend peeling the kohlrabi prior to grilling,
          the skin was a little tough/woody and was not very appetizing

- Finished off the summer squash and scallions by tossing them in olive oil and Italian seasoning and grilling them in a basket

- Had a breakfast smoothie that included ALL of the kale, a banana, a green apple, hydrated chia seeds, 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk and two heaping spoonfuls of natural peanut butter,

And that was it!  In pretty much 5 days, everything was gone. 

Amazingly, nothing went bad before we could use it (except the cilantro, which unfortunately didn't fair well and was already wilted day 2).  I was truly worried about using everything before it went bad - and quite honestly that is why I've never signed up for a CSA before.  But, obviously, that was NOT a problem. 

I think it really says something about how much my diet has changed over the last 5 years that I could eat all that produce and then some in a week, and have no problem doing it.

I'm already looking forward to week 2, and wonder what I'll get this time!  More to follow...

PS: Read more about the CSA origins at Easy Bean Farm by checking out their website or Facebook page.