Wine Country Half Marathon: Two down, one to go!

Today I ran my first hyper-crowded half-marathon, as opposed to the miniscule out-and-back Ventura half where you have to share with cyclists and occasionally wait for cars.  We got to Santa Ynez early this morning and the entire block was end-to-end neon synthetic tops and visors as far as the eye could see.  It stayed nice and foggy the entire time and I only walked through water stations–I also did about half an hour better than I did in Ventura (in spite of hills, even), and ten minutes better than my best 13 mile work-out.  That put me at 2 hrs and 20 minutes, which was even better than I hoped for.

My darling husband came along and filmed me finishing, and unlike last time I was strong and proud of myself.  I was also hyper competitive and as soon as we got to the 13 mile mark I tried to pass as many people as possible (no one passed me thank you very much)!

Here’s the video of me about .03 miles from the finish line:

And here’s a brief interview with me and my runner’s high afterward.  To my followers in Australia, I apologize for the horrible accent.  My husband and I have a habit of making fun of this Australian guy who eats 30 bananas a day–militantly.  I would link, but he has a WordPress account and I’m afraid of him knowing I exist because he’s pretty in-your-face and hates people who eat meat.  And I eat a lot of meat.  And there’s an entire video of him talking about how fat Robb Wolf’s wife is (she’s not!).  Anyway, just Google “thirty bananas a day” and you’ll probably come across his stuff.  All ramblings aside, apologies again for my poor cultural sensitivity.

Next stop: San Diego!

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Today’s Long Run: Botched for you by Tweakers!

I’ve been pretty anxious lately about how much fitness I have lost relative to before I got sick, and how said loss of fitness came at the point in my training where I had scheduled high mileage and hard work-outs.  Re-structuring has been stressful and I’m discouraged by the speed and endurance I’ve lost and am determined to recover in the next three weeks.  That’s right–I’m going to have to rebuild my fitness right about when I should be tapering.  Figure that one out.

Today’s adventure did not help.

I ran a laborious four miles in direct sunlight until I approached the park where I often take a water break.  I heard them before I saw them: there were three men standing around their car screaming incoherent things at the top of their lungs and blasting rock.  They didn’t seem to be fighting, they just seemed to enjoy the sound of their own voices.

First I thought they might be beating someone up, and then I figured they were probably just getting high.  Not rasta-high, mind you, more like Manson family high.  As I tried to walk around an island of high grass on the other side of the street they spotted me and waved manically at me as I passed by.

I walked another few feet past the parking lot out of view of the group and then made a decision.  My decision was informed by several things.  The first was this…

California teenager Chelsea King was raped and murdered in 2010 while running.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.  Even though I did have pepper spray and am pretty good at defending myself, I’ve also seen Cops before and know that pepper spray doesn’t work on people who are super high.

The second is the fact that due to my previous employment I know way too much about the levels of drug abuse in my small town, and was pretty confident that my intuition had reasonable grounds.

The third is that I happened to be listening to the ZombieGrrlz podcast which reminded me of movies like I Spit On Your Grave, that prominently feature similar scenarios.  In these movies, a scene like this–where a woman encounters a group of unruly men and thinks that just ignoring them is the answer–is always a precursor to havoc.  They’d seen me and acknowledged me (in a way that let me know they could tell I didn’t want to be acknowledged), so I didn’t want there to be any opportunity for further interaction.

So I hid behind a dumpster in the other parking lot and called my mom to come get me and tried to deep-breathe myself out of a panic attack (and was successful!).  My husband said I should have called the police, but I had just enough self-doubt that I didn’t.  I probably should have called the police, but a part of me kept saying,”You have a panic disorder, so this probably isn’t as bad as you think it is.  They probably forgot you even existed.”  It’s not fair that I should feel panicky or unsafe in my own town on a running route that I freaking love because a bunch of loud man-children.  But I guess life isn’t fair.

In any case, by the time my mom arrived and we drove back down the road, they were gone.  Tomorrow I’ll have to try the long run again and plot out a more populated route this time.


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Baked Almond-meal Pork Chops

I accepted a dare from my husband at the beginning of this challenge: that once a week I, not he, would cook dinner.  That may seem odd to some, but in our home (as I imagine is true in many others across America), the man is the czar of the kitchen.  He approaches dishes with years spent cooking for his family and a scientific, detail-oriented mind.  I, on the other hand, was usually playing the piano or in ballet class while my mom was cooking–hence I went into the marriage knowing how to chop a salad, make a sandwich, and boil pasta.  That poses a problem when I’ve made a commitment to living without pasta and bread…all except the salad.

This week, I selected one of the recipes from Dr. Cordain’s book: Oven-baked Pecan Pork Chops, and tweaked it for what we had in our pantry: lots and lots of almond meal.

Putting the chops in the oven–the suspense!

My ingredients were:

1 egg
2 table spoons olive oil
Coconut oil
Ground ginger
Pork chops
almond meal

All I did was coat the bottom of a shallow ceramic dish with coconut oil, dip the chops into a mixture of egg and oil, then coat the chops with a mixture of almond meal and ground ginger (which I barely tasted–in retrospect ground pepper may have been a better addition).  It baked in the oven for 50 minutes; 30 on one side, 20 on the other.  While I waited, I did something I know I’m good at: prepped a big-ol’ salad.

The finished product

My greatest fear was that I would have to smack my mouth through a bone-dry meal without the benefit of applesauce to temper the cottony texture.  To my delight–and the hubs’s–it was tender and savory.  An awesome first step in a quest for skill acquisition.

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Paleo 30 Day Challenge-Eve

Ok, so tomorrow I’m taking Robb Wolf’s 30-day challenge.  For realsies this time.  And I’m stoked.

So here are the reasons that I think Paleo might be a good fit for me, given my hedonistic inclinations.

1.  It will lead to a longer, higher quality life.

So barring any accidents or otherwise sudden and violent deaths, paleo is supposed to be helpful in fighting against any type of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases.  All that stuff about early-human life being “nasty, brutish, and short” in bygone days (that’s Hobbes uh-thank-you), references tribal violence, wild game hunting, and exposure to the elements.  If you want to take “Paleo” super-literally, I guess it would seem like a bad idea.  Only eat meats that you’ve tracked and killed yourself, eat whatever you can scavenge, raw/catch as catch can etc…but I’m not taking it literally because I have the capacity for logical thought (I DO!).  I’m mostly just aiming to eat things that human beings are naturally meant to metabolize, and the only things that are ruled out are grains, sweets, legumes, and excessive dairy.  Elimination of inflammatory foods has been linked to reduced symptoms of lupus, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.  Cutting wheat and peanuts seems an all right trade off for years of better health.  What can be more life-affirming than not-dying?

Won this basket of candy today at my cousin's baby shower, ironically enough: all things that probably will be the easiest to do without in the long run.

2.  There’s a lot I’m allowed to eat.

Prevention educators are encouraged to look at their community from an “asset-based” perspective.  That means instead of going “oh this, this, this, and this all suck and won’t work”, we’re supposed to look at what we do have and are able to do.  Among the delicious things that I’m still allowed to eat when “going paleo” are: salsa of all kinds, avocado, rib eye steaks, mustard, super-dark chocolate, honey, dill pickles, sauerkraut, bacon, eggs, sweet potatoes, seaweed salad, oysters, sashimi, apples, bananas, berries, almonds, macadamia nuts, smoked salmon, chicken soup, and (dun-dun-DAAAH) coffee!!!  When I look at this from the “what I can have” perspective, it seems like something I could do forever.

Why yes! That IS a stock pot full of beef ribs!

3.  An occasional cheat is allowed (and cherished).

From the anecdotal evidence, the longer a person eats clean, the cleaner the cheats themselves actually get.  I’m going to try to have as few cheats as possible during the 30 days so as not to completely derail myself, but I don’t want to overdo it and rebound/rebel either.  If you go off the rails and continue to eat high-fat, high-protein that can lead to a lot of unnecessary calories.  Beer is gluten-y so not the best cheat, but it comes in smaller servings and is more expensive so it’s way less likely that I’ll have leftovers to throw my entire ensuing days off track than if I indulge in something like pizza or cake.  I’m just going to make it something I buy one of at a time and primarily in social situations.  I won’t be able to have nearly as much of it as I have grown accustomed to, but I suppose that will make what I do drink all the more carefully selected and adored.

Extra points if the cheats are in little tiny glasses?

4.  It will lead me to acquire SKILLS!

When I was a kid and should have probably been apprenticing in the kitchen with my mother, I was instead practicing Rachmaninoff preludes on the piano.  That leaves me not-a-concert pianist and also unable to cook much of anything.  So far, every time I’m left on my own sans husband, I resort to eating out, boiling noodles, or making a sandwich.  That won’t be something I can fall back on anymore.  I’ve already trained myself to make delicious eggs and bacon as well as pan-fried steak, and I can roast a chicken.  Salad is easy too.  My next goal is to make chicken breasts not taste like shoes and tasty pork stir-fry.

At its core, this basically is a “don’t-eat-crap” lifestyle change with a spiffy name slapped onto it.  I’ve cut grains before and seen good results.  I’ll be happy to do it again with a bit of a road map, support, and an impending goal.

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A Technique Booster (Like put some Rockets on my shoes!)

When we first got our home power-cage, my lifting-loving husband gave me some pointers on lifting technique.  There was a particular trick that he’d recommended to me involving breath that I completely forgot within a couple of weeks.  All I remembered is that it had really helped me lift heavier weights more explosively.  Without it, what I was able to lift had decreased significantly.

Then Lift Big Eat Big published this article on the Valsalva Maneuver.

And guess what?  I was able to lift ten pounds heavier than last week with way less effort.  At this rate I’m going to be squatting and RDL-ing body weight within the next couple of weeks.  YAY!

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The Pleasures of Getting Lost

Up until last week, every time I’d go for a run I’d have weigh and measure it like it was protein powder before consumption.  This was both boring and stressful, because my routes were limited to what I could measure out on Google Maps or–shudder–Runkeeper (their map function makes me want to throw my computer across the room).  I was always paranoid as to how far I was actually going and how fast.  I only had a vague idea of where my mile markers were, and while I could calculate my average time after a run, figuring out how to pace myself was a total guessing game.  Also, because I’m a paranoid rape-prevention educator, going to the same places over and over was starting to make me really nervous.

The GPS watch is perfect for me because it permits spontaneity.  I don’t have to stay on the same routes, and I’m able to explore some of the beautiful trails that make living in this enclave not only bearable, but enjoyable.  Sure, I may have to sacrifice a good time on one of the miles if I make a mistake, but the watch pings after every mile and gives me the precise amount of time it took me to run it.  Finding that the way back down to the three-mile loop is actually a muddy, 200% grade is a major pain, but I know that my upcoming mile times won’t be impossible to calculate because of the slow descent.

The "unbeaten" path can be pretty messy.

After I find a clear path again, I can reach a faster pace.  My average mile time on a five or six miler has improved almost by an entire minute since last month!  Either that or I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough credit.  Due to all the technical changes and strength building I’ve been doing, however, I think it’s probably the former.

Speaking of strength training–I think I’m going to jump in on posting about free weights in the future.  I’m holding back a little bit on them because I don’t want to have the DOMS too bad to build speed and mileage, but I’m still having a pretty fine time.   Also it’ll probably be good for me to share how I’m training just in case I’m doing something that’s not optimal.  I’ll take the criticism like a champ, as long as you’re not an ass about it.

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