Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spinach is a Girl's Best Friend

Over this past year I have been having neck pain and headaches. 3 visits to my primary care physician, a visit to a ND, 1 ill-fated attempt at an elimination diet, and 1 headache journal later -- my primary care physician noticed I'd lost a significant amount of weight over a 6 month period.  That compounded with my job's characteristics (lots of driving, lots of sitting in meetings, and lots of walking with a computer bag) lead her to believe that the cause of my neck pain and headaches was more than likely musculoskeletal.

She suggested several things:
(1) Yoga. I hate yoga.  But I'll try it. I'll try anything at this point.
(2) Gain weight -- at least 1-2 BMI points.  I don't know how to do this since I've never paid attention to my weight.
(3) Massage. Now that I can do!

So I am embarking on some life changes to help ease my neck pain and headaches.  Since there is not much I can do about my job characteristics (beyond working on my posture and buying a lumbar support pillow for my car...I suddenly feel old), I am working on some small changes I can control to improve this situation.

I am fairly sure I missed the day or course in high school when we learned about nutrition.  I'm not saying I've been unhealthy. But I wouldn't say that I have been intentionally healthy.  There are some obvious rules-of-thumb that I can spout off:

(1) Everything in moderation. Eat when you're hungry; stop when you're full. 
(2) Balance your meals -- protein, carbs, fats... Have a variety of colors in your meals. Blah blah. (This gets into the grey area where I start to NOT know what I'm talking about.
(3) Proper and appropriate calorie intake -- if you are training for a marathon, you should be replenishing the calories you are burning (along with other things, like electrolytes).

Beyond those more basic rules-of-thumb, I am basically clueless. So here's to a journey of learning more about nutrition to support my training and overall health.  And if my tendency to procrastinate is any indication -- it's going to be a bumpy ride! :)

My first commitment: be vigilant in using ALL of the veggies from my CSA box that we have delivered every 2 weeks. This week's lesson in cooking is brought to you by SPINACH!

A quick google of spinach tells me I'm in for a real treat -- it's packed with zinc, niacin, fiber, protein, Vitamins A, D, E & K -- and tons of other good stuff.  Where has the been all my life?! (I'm kidding. I love baby spinach in salads...and that is about it).

Since I'm not much of a cook -- thank goodness for Pinterest and Google for making recipes just a click away.  I figured I'd look for two different meals to incorporate the spinach.  After spending admittedly too much time surfing the internet, I settled on trying to make spinach pesto (this seemed daunting -- I've never made pesto before) and a green smoothie (my friend has been trying to sell me on her recipe for a while now and I'll admit I was skeptical, but I am now a believer!!).  After looking around at different recipes, below is what I put together:

Spinach Pesto
1/2 Cup of spinach
3/4 Cup of pine nuts (but I am told any nut will work)
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Cup of grated parmesan cheese (you could probably do less, or a different kind of cheese)
1 lemon -- juice and zest
1/2 Cup of olive oil

I dumped everything in my CuisinArt except the olive oil -- blended it all together while slowly pouring the olive oil into the the mix. I put the sauce over pasta and it was delicious! Great, healthy (in my non-expert opinion) meal to cargo load before a long run.

Green Smoothie
Handful of ice cubes
1/2 Cup of greek yogurt (I'm a fan of vanilla)
1 Tablespoon of peanut butter
1/2 - 1 Cup of Vanilla Soy Milk (or some other liquid to give it a drinkable consistency)
2 Bananas -- cut into chunks
SPINACH - I just dump in a couple of handfuls to fill up the blender

I put that all in my blender in that order, blended it together until smooth, and poured in a glass to enjoy.  It's my favorite breakfast of late. I'm looking into some other additions to increase the good stuff -- but even getting this far is a huge step for me! So I'll take my wins where I can get them!

It's all a process.  And being at the beginning of this one, it feels overwhelming and hard to know where to start and if I am even making any progress at all.  But if this is anything like other challenges, it will be worth it. Just one step at a time.  I wonder what will be in my box next week...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Friends that Make Us Stronger

I am so fortunate and grateful to work at a place surrounded by amazing women who are not only super fun and incredibly intelligent and talented individuals, but who are some of the most supportive and caring people I know.  And a bonus is that a growing number of them are RUNNERS...and we know that  runners are some of the best people around! ;-)  

We've been talking for awhile that we should all get together and go for a co-worker group run, but like many extracurricular things, it had never come to fruition.  Last week I was facing (what felt like) the daunting task of running my longest run in my training since the SF Half.  My usual running buddy wasn't going to be available to run and facing this long run alone was feeling overwhelming.  Enter my supportive co-workers.

I mentioned my upcoming long run to Liv and she was immediately both supportive and ready to join!  Liv is a much stronger and seasoned runner than I am. I was a little nervous I would slow her down or wouldn't be able to keep up for 10 long miles.  But the company and building a larger community of runners, especially at in our little co-worker group of runners, outweighed my self-self-concious hesitations.  Liv also assured me we would take it slow to ease my fears -- in retrospect I should have realized that our definitions of "slow" probably were not the same.

Another co-worker agreed to join us for a couple of miles as she is building up her mileage again.  We were on our way to a solid group for a nice Saturday run!

Saturday morning came cloudy and early.  It was a perfect, crisp fall Seattle morning.  We met at Greenlake and started our run around the lake, then heading South to do a loop around Lake Union.  The pace was much more brisk than I had planned for and I was questioning whether I would be able to keep up the pace the whole way.

We stopped by Gasworks to pick up Carmen around mile 4.  I was feeling good but thankful for a small break as Carmen joined the party.  Off we went down and around the lake, taking in the beautiful fall colors against the backdrop of Lake Union.  Catching up with Carmen on what is going on in each of our lives was a great way to pass the time and not focus on if I could keep the pace up for another 6+ miles.

Carmen left us three short miles later as we started the uphill climb back toward Greenlake.  I was still feeling good, but I knew I was getting tired.  And the quick and rough math we did pointed towards an additional 2 miles to get back to our starting point, making our run a total of 12 miles.  I was NOT planning on that.  Silently questioning my ability to finish, I was giving myself outs -- I could legitimately stop at mile 10 because that was where I was at in my training.  I could walk/jog the last 2 miles if I was too tired.

One foot in front of the other and with Liv's encouragement, we slogged up the long 2 mile hill that would deliver us to the final stretch.  When we made it to the top of the hill, I knew we were in the home-stretch and I could make it.  We finished at 12.1 miles and at a pace 1 minute faster per mile than my SFM time.  In my wildest dreams I did not think I was in a place in my running that I would be able to keep up that pace for 12 miles.  And if it wasn't for this group run, I don't think I would have ever known.

This run taught me 2 very important things that I tend to lose sight of in the comings and goings of life:

Number 1: While the run was tough (tougher than I even expected), I so appreciate the strength we find in numbers and in community.  Left to my own devices, I may have lost the mental battle.  But with a little help from some friends who can push you beyond your self-imposed limits, you can go further than you ever thought you could.

Number 2: It's moments like these that make me appreciate running for its ability to slow us down and appreciate the communities that we are apart of.  So much of the time at work we forget to take the time to attend to the relational aspects of work and life.  But without that, we are missing the point.  I look forward to more group runs with these ladies so we make the time to catch up and support each other in our ups and downs.

Thrive Ladies out for a run!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dawg Dash 10K

I had never really run with my husband Matt until this summer.  He’s been unbelievably supportive of my running (not the least of which includes walking me to the SFM start line at 5am and meeting me at the finish with my warm clothes in-hand) but would never consider himself a runner.  But this summer we made a pact to find more active things that we could do together (agreeing that carpooling to the gym just doesn’t count).  So this July, Matt put on his running shoes and trudged through several training runs with me. 

I was excited to share something with Matt that I love and has been such a big part of my life, but I’ll admit I was nervous at first.  I knew he would be faster than me and I worried I’d hold him back or wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I wanted to impress him (this makes me laugh just recalling this) and didn’t want to disappoint.  Silly worries that shouldn’t matter, especially given that we are MARRIED and have seen each other through much more substantive things!  But still, I worried. 

A few short runs and one long trail run later, we found our groove (and realizing how ridiculous my nervousness was).  Running together once a week is now one of our favorite traditions where we get to wind down from the week, talk about the week’s events, and just have some devoted time together.  Fast or slow, easy runs or workouts, it’s been great to be there encouraging each other and finding synergy in our strengths. 

With no fall races on the books and Husky pride to spare, we decided to sign up for the Dawg Dash 10k.  It would be my first 10k and his first race, ever!  As the day approached we were more and more excited, but preparing ourselves for 6.2 miles of torrential downpour.  But when the day arrived, we had nothing but clear, blue, beautiful fall skies and a tree-lined course full of amazing fall colors from the changing leaves. 

Both being Huskies, it was fun to find the start line right in the heart of campus where we spent countless hours studying and shuffling between classes.  When the gun went off, we worked our way through the massive crowd dressed in purple and gold, finally settling out by the first half mile.  From there we settled into a comfortable pace – surprisingly about thirty seconds faster than our normal pace – kicked it into cruise control and enjoyed the scenery of the race step by step, mile by mile. Before we knew it, we were rounding the corner to the finish.  No better setting for a final kick than running through the UW Quad, crossing the finish line together.

Crossing the finish!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Road to San Francisco

I promised myself (and several friends) that I would run the San Francisco Marathon.  Well, the half. But anyway, three years went by and each year I had an excuse.  I’m getting married and my summer is really packed.  I’m in grad school and I can’t possibly find time to train. I have a wedding to go to that weekend.  I’m the master at making excuses and putting things off. That’s why I wrote my undergraduate thesis in a period of 48 hours. But what I didn’t realize is that I made that promise for a reason even if I didn’t know it at the time.

Running connected me with a community. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with the sport. But somewhere between undergrad and graduate school, I lost sight of that wonderful byproduct of running.  After I graduated (for the last time!) and settled into my career I noticed a void that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I had my degrees. A wonderful husband. Beautiful family and friends. And a job I love.  What else could I possibly need?

After some soul searching (interrupted by a lot of Pinterest and Facebooking), I realized that what I had lost in those years was something that I did for myself, but also connected me to a community in a larger way.  I had been running -- albeit sporadically – but not really engaging with it.  I knew I needed to get myself out of the rut and back in the groove.  And thank goodness for a visit from an old friend from high school who reminded me about my 3-year-lapsed promise.  I had my answer! 

In the Fall of 2011 I signed up for my first half marathon and my first race in (gulp!) 8 years!  With my registration complete and training plan from Jojo in hand, there was no turning back! 

Training was daunting. I had a terrible experience with over-training and stress fractures in high school – so every step and every miles I crossing my fingers that I was staying healthy.  Each week my long run gradually increased and every morning before my long run I would get butterflies.  While I was excited that I was progressing in my training and upping my mileage, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do it (Seattle has hills, but San Francisco has HILLS) and terrified I would let the mental game get the best of me (13.1 miles is a lot of time to talk myself out of anything).   But a solid training plan from a trusted running friend, the gchat conversations with Nellie that put my worries at bay,  the support of my husband pushing me out of our front door every Sunday morning, and the encouragement and company of my running buddy, Laura, all got me through it.
SFM Start Line

July 29th – San Francisco Marathon race day arrived and I was ready.  Nervous at the start line, but determined to enjoy each step as a celebration of my training (wise words from one wise friend), I was off and running my first half marathon.  Feeling stronger and more empowered with each passing mile, I couldn’t help but smile each step of those 13.1 precious miles. 2 hours and 10 minutes later I crossed the finish line in Golden Gate Park and I am forever grateful for my people and my community who helped me every step of the way. I am also super grateful to the SFM – a race that restored my faith in myself as a runner.
If you are interested in running the San Francisco Marathon (half or full!) – happy to answer any questions. If I can do it – you can do!