One Week: RunRaleigh

It dawned on me this morning, while viewing my calendar, that I’m running a half-marathon next Sunday. I signed up for the RunRaleigh race just a couple of weeks ago after I ramped up my training early on in preparation of the City of Oaks Half-Marathon. It should be a beautiful run: the course runs along NC State and then we’ll spend a bulk of the race on the surrounding Greenways. You can check out the map here. A hilly course, for sure. Perhaps all those hill sprints Cleve and Chan incorporate into our Bootcamp workouts will finally be put to the test!

The last race I completed was this past spring’s Tobacco Road Half-Marathon, and while I had a great time (finished with chip time 1:56:16), I had some difficulties during the race. I’ve learned NOT to drink one more cup of coffee, even if I’m chilly, right before hitting the starting line. I’d like to finish next Sunday’s race under 1:50:00 and continue to work my pace down for the November race. I heart goals!

ImageIn other pursuits, yesterday proved a BUST for our collective collegiate teams (with the exception of Tennessee). Aaron and I represented Mount Pleasant pride along with about 150-200 other Chippewa fans at the NC State game. Despite sporting a big doughnut for the first half of the game, Central Michigan did score TWO touchdowns in the second half!

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And, my Arizona Wildcats could not play defense…or offense…against the Washington Huskies. Typically, I don’t have the stamina to stay up and watch Pac-12 games (kickoff 10:30pm EST?!). Alas, the 7pm airtime did not help the Wildcats (or their fans).

This week’s focus: lots of foam rolling, one more tempo run, one more hill run, and then tapering. And carbs. This is one of the recipes I’ll be trying this week (slow cooker AND local Durhamites!)

Cheezy Butternut Squash Macaroni

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Recipe: http://www.keyingredient.com/blog/post/15338307322/slow-cooker-cheezy-butternut-squash-macaroni

Shaking Up The Training Routine

Despite the gloomy forecast for the Triangle this weekend, I was able to enjoy two beautiful runs this weekend with two very different goals. Yesterday morning, I was primed to comb Bull City Running‘s birthday sale in hopes of finding shoes on clearance. Sadly, my Mizuno Wave Rider’s were on their last days. The tread was essentially gone, and I finally felt the aches and pains of the concrete despite my beloved Superfeet. I gave my Mizuno’s one final spin on the American Tobacco Trail – a four miler. To keep my brain engaged and try something different than just a tempo run, I threw in some fartleks, which was quite fun. It made the usual trek through Hope Valley much more entertaining. And, in some level of irony, I canceled my massage scheduled for that morning in order to be at Bull City for the official opening at 10am. Trading one Swedish delight for another?

After trying on a few new pairs and testing them out on the concourse, I found the Brooks Ghost to be reminiscent of my Mizuno’s neutral structure (although this did require me to purchase a narrow width – who would have thunk?!) I broke in these new kicks this morning on another big switcharoo for my training pattern: I opted to complete my 12 miles at the Al Buehler Trail around the Washington-Duke Inn. While my phone’s weather app touted 100% humidity, it felt amazing outside this morning: cool breeze, slightly overcast. I had never completed more than two laps around the Buehler trail. It was definitely challenging: those hills had my inner thighs aching after lap two. But, I kept moving on, channeling some of Scott Jurek’s advice from Eat & Run (a current read) and focusing on different breathing techniques and keeping an open mind.

One aspect of running that I witness which I would like to see change: less people plugged into headphones. Now, I recognize and respect that external factors can make running a much more pleasurable experience (and provide that needed motivation). At the same time, the sounds and sights happening all around runners, especially on trail runs, can be equally or even more inspiring (my argument, for sure). The birds, the wind, the sound of your footsteps on the earth. Also, there is so much to be said about channeling inwards and checking-in with yourself: how is your breathing? What does a body scan reveal? where is your mind? What messages are you sending to yourself?

Maybe that sounds too hokey or new age, but what’s the point of running if you don’t allow yourself to be present and revel in it? You are accomplishing something many people elect to avoid, and it’s your own inner and outer strength that allows you to take each step forward.

As Jurek writes: ““We move forward, but we must stay in the present.”

 

Wearing workout clothes = oh, it must be time to look at new housing

Outside of finding tempeh at the Kroger and stretching out the IT band on the foam roller, I’m in the midst of another pursuit. Well, I = we (AT and me). There may be some big changes in our lives (I know, like moving in with my two cats could actually be toppled from the number one spot!) and a new home is part of that evolution. After researching for hours via TLC, HGTV, and other home-related shows (House Hunters is a typical guilty favorite), Aaron and I realized something critical: we like the same stuff, at least when it comes to floor plans. Paint colors are a different story.

Aaron loves to research, and he does an excellent job, especially when it’s something exciting. Earlier this year, we ventured out to Chapel Hill/Chatham County to check out Brier Chapel, an up-and-coming neighborhood conveniently located to UNC…and conveniently located to UNC. This is where our theme of “wearing our gym clothes to home tours” initially started.

Then, about two months ago, he introduced me to a neighborhood just a few miles from our current location: Chamberlynne. And yes, once again, we were wearing our gym clothes.

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What’s happening, hot stuff?

The day we toured the models available was, I believe, the heaviest day of rainfall in Durham for 2013. We were trapped in the office for 45 minutes AFTER we looked at all the nooks and crannies, and it was still Noah’s Ark conditions outside. Needless to say, the models were all we wanted: open floor plan, optional loft space, optional downstairs study, upstairs laundry room, and fantastic location. Downside = the baseline prices are near where our budget almost tops out. So, back to the research pool we jumped.

Over this past weekend, we drove out to East Durham (I will fully admit: I was against even looking at in this area to start) but quickly fell in love with the Juniper model at Ashton Hall.

Juniper

Future home?

Of course, we were fully decked out in our running shorts, tech t-shirts, and shoes. Had we worked out? Absolutely not. Although, I would argue that thinking about the steps in purchasing a home is exhausting, a Boot Camp of the mind, if you will.

We will be back out in the hunt this coming weekend, checking out some other developments in the same area. Could we be residents of the 27703? Hard to know. But, what I do know is this: if you don’t like the word “option,” don’t look at a new home. I lost count of my options. Where is the structure?

Keeping it postive: It WAS a good run

This morning marked my first double digit run since training for the half-marathon in the spring. At this point in my running life, I don’t face the same apprehension compared to how daunting those two numbers paired on my calendar screamed at me: TEN MILES? 11 MILES? And so on.

My goal was an easy ten miler, but getting out the door and to that mileage proved to be more of a challenge. Let’s start the story from yesterday morning. Regardless of the various tricks and threats Aaron and I have imposed on the cats, their cries begin promptly between 4:45 – 5:15am every day. During the week, it doesn’t interfere with our sleeping habits as much since I tend to set my alarm for 5:15am. But, on Saturdays and Sundays, unless there is an airport run or race scheduled, I don’t want to see 5:15am.

Alas, yesterday morning I found myself downstairs, scooping cat food into their bowls at 5:23. blinking into the morning. Aaron made his appearance just a few minutes later, and thus our Saturday morning officially commenced. It turned out to be a great day – we did our house chores, removed more “things” from our lives via a thrift store donation, and toured a new housing development in East Durham (Ashton Hall) that sparked our strong interest. With all the excitement from the home, we spent the afternoon researching instead taking our naps. Then, it was time to prep for Oktoberfest 2013, an annual Bavarian celebration by our friends Paul and Lara. I planned to contribute two vegan dishes to the crowd: a beer “cheese” soup and avocado potato salad.

I will be the first to say that I did not succeed in my beer “cheese” soup making. I should have tried to make the recipe for the servings recommend FIRST instead of doubling it off the bat. Oh, and then I should have read the directions more carefully since I realized at the end that the almond milk was still sitting on the counter instead of in the soup. Here is what it should look like (note: there are no pictures of mine because after the party, it ceased to exist):

beercheesesoupVegan Beer and Cheese Soup via SaveTheKales.com (click on photo for recipe)

The other dish turned out better, still not as good as other potato salads present (yes, salads. I should have stretched my creativity a bit – oh well! Who doesn’t like potatoes??) In lieu of mayo, this recipe called for avocados in order to create that creamy texture:

Avocado Potato SaladCreamy Potato Salad (Vegan) via Detoxinista.com (click on photo for recipe)

Outside of my culinary challenges, the evening was just lovely. A lot of awesome people gathered to laugh, eat a ridiculous amount of food, and drink multiple, sessionable homebrews, from a pilsner to a saison to an IPA to a gose to a marzen – delicious.

A great photo from the evening thanks to Chris Shields

Despite my reputation involving my early bed time, Aaron and I stayed until almost 11, and then took some interesting route home (darn you GPS dependence!). After crawling into bed around 11:40 and even feeding the cats upon arriving home, one might assume that morning wake-up call would be slightly delayed, even until 6am.

Wrong.

At 5:08am, Milo demanded our presence in the kitchen by crying outside the bedroom door. I had forgotten to run the vacuum cord back underneath the door for our “loud noise” response system, so I simply plucked him up and put him in a separate room. At 5:45am, I ended up in the kitchen, peeling away another lid of Nature Balance, feeling the limited sleep. With a little food, coffee, and Sports Center, I left around 7:45am to hit the American Tobacco Trail on one of the most beautiful mornings we have seen for some time in North Carolina. It was a balmy 55 degrees Fahrenheit at the start, and it remained cool for the entireity of the run.

So, back to the run: yes, I did 10 miles. And I did two more. Maybe it was my desire to prove to my tiredness, to prove to my jumpy stomach (always exciting on the running trail!), to prove to my sneakers in need of rapid replacement, or maybe it was because it was so freaking nice out that I opted to make today’s run 12 miles. It was not my prettiest run (are any of them pretty?) but I did it. And that’s what makes it good. I thought about that quite on the bit during the last few miles. At first, I could hear my mental voice giving my body a hard time. And then I heard myself forgiving my body for not having a good run. Not having a good run? I hoofed out 12 miles on a Sunday morning. I hoofed out at all on a weekend morning. It wasn’t my fastest run, but that was not my intention this morning. I enjoyed running through the tall pines, signaling greetings to other runners, and taking in the first breaths of fall weather. Therefore, it WAS a good run. I saw the image below on Pinterest, and I certainly think it sums up all the text I put into this post:

notaboutperfect

Back to Action: The Other Pursuits

I am terrible about writing, consistently. This is nothing new. I believe I even acknowledged in my first post. Not sure if that will change, but, hey – it’s worth a second chance.

So, in the interest of “finding myself” as Aaron coined while sitting across from me on the couch, I’ll share some of my most recent pursuit: a plant-based lifestyle aka vegan aka WHERE IS THE CHEESE?

What pursuits lay ahead?

After watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives” based on the recommendation of various friends and colleagues, I wanted to attempt a similar challenge adopted by others: a one month diet of no meat, no dairy. And, after attending a dinner with another couple challenging themselves to be vegan for one month and discovering cashew cheese dip, I knew this challenge was possible.

Now, the “Forks Over Knives” lifestyle also advocates no oils either. I’m skeptical that removing olive oil from our diets is the last step into living chronic disease free. But, I am more aware of what types of oils I’m using and ingesting (stay away, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils!)

The first week was tough because all I could think about was cheese. Aaron and I had done a decent job in limiting the amount of cheese in our diets prior to this challenge – watching our sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Still, if it was Taco Tuesday, you better believe there would be cheese on those tortillas. And pizza? It was fascinating to feel my glands just go into overdrive the first three days totally dairy-free, almost tasting cheese on my palate. I’ve learned more about the argued sixth sense, Umami, that  products such as cheese evoke.

Not this Sixth Sense

Beginning this major life change involved much Pinterest research – darn. It also involved a some additional funds at the grocery store for those vegan staples; this included items such as tahini, brown rice syrup, chia seeds, and “fairy dust” aka nutritional yeast.

Fairy Dust

Fast-forward ahead through the month challenge and….I’m still going. I felt great. Feel great. To echo similar sentiments from others who have embarked on eliminating meat from their diets completely, I notice how much easier it is to wake up in the morning. My running pace has increased, from tapping out at 8:30 min/mile to recently rocking out 8 miles at an 8 min/mile pace. And, it’s not just my speed but the recovery after intense workouts has lessened. I don’t experience the same aches and soreness that I previously did. Is it mental? Is it physical?

I’m not saying that I will NEVER eat meat or dairy again, but for now, I’m okay without it. Aaron has been a good sport along this journey as well. We’ve only had one (he may argue 1.5) failed meals (note: garbanzo-fava bean flour should NOT be used in its entireity for pizza dough):

Failed flour experiment

I want to highlight the amazing recipes I’ve tried, the trials and tribulations, and the various other pursuits I/we take on. Will I become a card carrying member of PETA?

Not Going There Yet