Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay with Oiselle Team Frozen Flock

All of the Oiselle teams.
So instead of running the F3 this year, I made an impulsive decision to run  the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay with my sister. I had already decided i wasn't going to run the F3 and was thinking of working the hydration station for CARA when my sister texted me and asked if I wanted to run this relay. With four team members, I had to run roughly 6.5 miles. No big deal right. Plus the race, while in Milwaukee, wasn't until 1 p.m. so I didn't have to get up early and stand around in the cold. And it was inside, so that was a plus. Of course, it was inside an ice rink so it wasn't actually warm.

We didn't run on ice, because that would have made it next to impossible and a bit stupid. Apparently the Pettit National Ice Center is this crazy ice rink that has two hockey rinks on the inside of an ice track which is surrounded by a three lane running track. Like I said, crazy! So here's how the day goes:

Wake up. Lay around while deciding what one wears to an race at an ice rink. Get picked up by my sister. Stop at Starbucks because Whole Life Challenge or no, I am having coffee I enjoy if I have to travel two hours to a race. Drive to Wisconsin. Meet up with the other Oiselle team members - there were maybe seven other Oiselle teams all with cute names like Frozen Flock and Frozen Flight and Birds of a Feather. Put sleeping bags, blankets and what not on the ground next to the track and watch the end of the half marathon. Figure out our order, put on the cute socks that Jackie bought so we all match and try to stay warm.

Not drawn to scale.
Runner C not necessarily a short person/child.

At 1 p.m. Jackie takes her place at the start line and does her first 800. We, like most teams, have broken up our race into 800s. You can technically do it anyway you want to. And you don't have to have four people on a team. You could have just two, but no more than four. 800s sounds about right to us, so we get into the groove of doing two laps around the track and then switching the timing chip on our ankle (it had to be on your ankle, not your wrist, not your head, not your neck, your ankle. They made this very clear) to the next runner. This is a complicated maneuver where the runner who is going next (runner b) waits for the current runner (runner a) to come in. The runner who is going after runner b (runner c) is in charge of taking the velcroed timer off of runner a's leg and placing it on to runner b's leg. It's an awesome responsibility and one that you want to do quickly but securely. I was the third in the order, and the first time I switched the timer I was sure I hadn't put it on securely enough and it was going to flop off and we'd end up dead last reliving my most painful running memory when I came in last in the mile race back in grade school.

After Jackie came in from her first set, I switched the timer and then Jackie gave me her singlet. Because as I was a last minute replacement for someone who couldn't make it, I didn't have my own Oiselle singlet. My first 800 wasn't too bad. I took off as fast as I could making sure not to run into one of the other 99 runners on the track (there weren't really 99 others - there were 100 teams signed up, but only 87 teams finished). Anyway, I keep to the outside since I know I'm pretty slow compared to a lot of the runners and just try to go as fast as I can. I make it to the far side of the track before my lungs begin to burn and I slow down a bit. But then I'm coming back around by the group of Oiselle teams and they're all shouting for me, and so I speed up again. By the time my lungs are hurting again on the other side of the track I realize I'm almost back to the exchange area and there is no reason to slow down now so I keep going.

And this is how it goes for the next 3 plus hours for 12 sets. In 8 minuteish segments, I switch the timer, I run, I recover, I cheer, I switch the timer, I run, I recover, I cheer. I'm not entirely sure how far I ran because the track was slightly more than a quarter of a mile (443 meters apparently) and the start and finish weren't full laps. But if we say I did a quarter of a marathon - which is 6.55 miles, then my overall pace was a 8:56. Overall our finish time was a 3:31:54 (definitely my fastest marathon time ever!) with a pace of 8:06. So my speedy teammates helped me a bit, but I feel pretty good about running sub-9's over and over again, having just enough time to cool down and then actually cool down necessitating the need to warm up again on my next go around. Not really the best way to run speed drills. But it was fun.

What was really fun was watching the fast guys and gals running on the inside track blaze past you. The winners ran a 2:10 marathon which is insane. Normally you don't get to see that kind of speed when you're a middle to back of the pack marathoner. Also, it was kinda cool as people finished to gradually be the faster person on the track. The big downside was being inside in the cold, dry air. By the end of the day my lungs were burning and it sounded like I was coming down with bronchitis.

I would definitely recommend this race. It was fun, fairly well organized but also low key.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Whole Life Challenge - Week One

Day 1 - Saturday long run day, stretched and rolled after. breakfast was eggs - miss coffee with cream. made 'muffins' with coconut flour, coconut oil and blueberries. VERY dry. End up crumbling into my yogurt cause I hate for food to go to waste.
Day 2 - Made chili which is a normal Sunday night meal especially during winter/football season. realized i wasn't going to be able to have crackers, or cheese, or sour cream on my chili - booo
Day 3 - starting to feel a little weird, sluggish, went for a run and felt like we were going really fast - but then looked at my watch and realized we were going fast(er than we normally run). at least i was tired for a good reason and not because my body hasn't gotten used to not having carbs as a ready fuel source.
Day 4 - my body has not gotten used to having carbs as a ready fuel source. really wanted coffee so had a soy latte thinking soy milk was compliant, it's not, oh well, i had one 'indulgent' point. went to knitting which is at Kopi which is a vegetarian restaurant, which means no meat. they do have tuna, and i was feeling like I needed some protein. so i had a salad with a hard boiled egg and tuna. realized the tuna probably had mayo which i assume isn't compliant. there goes another point. first day not getting full points on nutrition.
Day 5 - starting to get the hang of this. tried the butter, coconut oil in my coffee thing and wasn't bowled over. didn't use the grass-fed butter like people recommend. is Kerrygold going to make that much of a difference? worked from home so had a weird lunch of walnuts, almonds and raisins. dinner was plain chicken breasts and salad. i'm eating a lot of lettuce these days which is good because usually i buy a bag of lettuce thinking i'm going to have salad every day for lunch, and then I don't and it goes bad and then I feel bad and I give it to the worms in the basement (I have compost worms, not just random worms, in my basement).
Day 6 - breakfast - yogurt and fruit. lunch, leftover chicken and salad, four mandarin oranges. dinner turkey tacos. first day i was actually hungry. i came home hungry and then hubby said we had to do our exercises before he made dinner. WHAT?! realized again that while I was eating a 'normalish' dinner, i wouldn't be able to put cheese and sour cream on my tacos. cut up an avocado and red pepper and put that on there. was pretty good alternative to my salsa from trader joe's that has lots of good stuff in it (beans, corn, tomatoes) but also has SUGAR because of course it does.
Day 7 - am i ever going to stop thinking about food?

So clearly all of my energy is focused on the nutrition portion of these 7 habits. However, there are other habits I am tracking and accomplishing. I have managed to workout at least 10 minutes as well as do 10 minutes of mobility each day. Sleep never is really an issue for me. If anything, it is making myself get out of bed that's the problem. The only day I didn't get at least 8 hours was Monday when I woke at 4:30 a.m. to run. Hydration has been something that I do need to work on and, except for yesterday when I was chugging down 20 ounces of water right before I went to bed, I managed to get my full 41 ounces before the end of the day.

The last two, Lifestyle and Reflection are usually the last things I do before going to bed. My Lifestyle goal this last week was to write down, each day, three goals, one long term, one medium term and one short term. My short term goal was to write a blog post. I've done that. My medium term goal was to be able to do a pull up. I don't really know why I put this as a goal because I don't really care if I can do a pull up. But everyone around me assures me that I will be a better person if I can do at least one, unassisted pull up (not really, no one else really cares either). I only worked on this goal once this last week, so that probably either needs to be more of an immediate goal, or I need to give up on the idea that my upper arms and back will ever manage to pull the weight of my body up several inches. I guess if I get stuck hanging off the edge of a cliff i'm just going to fall because lord knows I won't be able to pull myself up back over the edge. That's the only real reason I can see for being able to do a pull up. If there are others, let me know.

Speaking of weight (which I did about three or four sentences back), I have actually lost a few pounds and I can see the definition in my stomach a little bit. But I also know that the weight loss is mostly water. I didn't really do this to lose weight but to cut out some bad habits in my diet (sugar). But I won't lie, seeing the scale go down a few pounds has been a nice side effect.

My thoughts on this week are:
- I thought I would miss bread more
- I thought I would miss cheese more
- I miss ice cream

Friday, January 27, 2017

The thing that will change my life

How many apps/challenges/systems does it take to motivate and improve oneself? Well if you’re anything like me, every single one of them. I feel like I’ve tried, or contemplated trying, pretty much every app out there. I have drooled over every planner from Day Runner to Moleskin to the cute one the Chicago Public School system gave my child at the beginning of the school year. I have tried micro-journaling and just plain ole journaling. I have a journal in notebooks, in a Google word doc and on my cell phone.  And clearly I blog.

This need to improve myself, quantify the things I do, I’m not sure where that comes from. Clearly I am not the only one afflicted with this, otherwise all these products and apps wouldn’t exist. I suppose it’s a combination of a need to get things out from inside my head, remind myself to take time for reflection and the little things, and a desire to improve. While a lot of it may seem like navel gazing, I know that I need to be happy with myself to make the changes I want to see in the world - and boy do there need to be some changes in the world (but that’s another blog post).

Here are all the things I am currently doing to improve myself:
1.    I am using a new journal/datebook called the Ink and Volt. It grew from, where else, a Kickstarter campaign when the designer went on a quest to create the perfect notebook. It has a place for weekly, monthly and yearly goals. It has monthly and weekly calendars. It has space for you to reflect on what went right that week or doodle ideas or whatever.
2.    I am using - sporadically - an app called the 5 minute journal. Each day it prompts you to add three things that you are grateful for; three things that you will do to make today great and a daily affirmation. At the end of the day you are prompted to write three amazing things that happened that day and three things you could have done to make the day better. You can also take a picture for each day.
3.    I joined an 8 week challenge called the Whole Life Challenge. This focuses on 7 areas: Nutrition, Exercise, Mobilize, Sleep, Hydrate, Lifestyle, and Reflect. The nutrition is probably the hardest thing for me. It cuts out a lot of food. And even though I was already working on cutting out processed food, this eliminates almost all dairy and all grains, all sugars. So it’s basically a paleo diet. It’s only for 8 weeks, so we’ll see how it goes. Exercise is just exercising for 10 minutes a day - so that should be a no brainer since I should be doing something like that anyway. Mobilize is adding movement such as yoga and breathing exercises. Again, it’s just 10 minutes a day. For the Sleep requirement I set an amount of sleep that I want to get each night, same with drinking a certain amount of water a day for Hydrate. Lifestyle are challenges they set each week. Like this week it is writing down three goals each day of the week, the same goals. The intent is to focus on the goals and keep them top of mind. Finally, you end your day with a reflection.
4.    I am tracking some tasks via an app called Coach Me. Not unlike a lot of people, I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of checking off my to-dos each day. And some of my to-dos are mundane, but for some reason I have a hard time doing them every day - like flossing my teeth. So I set up my basic to-do list - read for 10 minutes, exercise for 10 minutes, floss, write 500 words each day etc. I try to remember to go in there each day to check the things off. I probably need a task to check off my tasks, but that seems a bit, well, crazy.

There have been a myriad of other apps and systems I’ve used to try to fix my life, get my life to where I want it to be, to be the best me I can be - whatever. All of these things probably seem like overkill. But so many of them actually overlap. It’s not like I have to exercise twice to check it off both the whole life challenge and coach me. And now that I’ve written this, I've written more than 500 words so I can check that little item off my list too, as well as the write a blog post weekly goal I have. See, they’re working already.

Note: I have not received any compensation by any of the above products. These are just things I’ve run across in my never ending journey to get my shit together. What I will do with all of it when it is together...well I guess there’s probably an app for that.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Healthy Cooking

One of the things we're trying to do this year is eat healthier by cutting out as much processed food as possible. This means that we either have to give up, find replacements for or make our own for some of our frequently eaten foods. This last week embarked on making our own waffles and bagels and ice cream.

Now waffles are fairly easy; people make them all the time. The only thing I needed that I didn't already have in my pantry was a waffle iron. I subscribe to the Alton Brown philosophy of kitchen gadgets - I try to not have too many single-purpose items. I occasionally look at the Cuisinart waffle/griddle/panini maker on Amazon as this incorporates my desire for both a waffle iron and a griddle - I have no read need for a panini maker. I will be all ready to buy it and then I read one bad review and I worry that I'm just going to end up hating it and I move it in to my 'keep for later' part of my Amazon cart. Good news is my sister has a waffle iron and so I just borrowed hers.

Frozen waffles are one of the primary breakfast items for the kid and while my homemade ones still have some sugar in them, at least they don't have as much sugar as the store bought ones. I buy blueberry (or blueber as they are called in this house) frozen waffles from Trader Joe's and they already don't have preservatives or artificial colors, so in the grand scheme of things, they aren't terrible. But the homemade ones smelled wonderful and looked great. I even took some frozen blueberries and added them to a couple of waffles so they'd be even more like the store-bought ones. S helped me make them and he seemed pretty excited. Way more excited than I was back in college when I worked in the cafeteria at Augustana and got stuck working the Belgian waffle iron for awhile. I would stand there reading a book waiting for someone to decide that today was the day they wanted a waffle. I didn't have to make the batter. I just had to scoop some on to the waffle iron, let it cook for a minute or two, flip it, let it cook for a couple of more minutes and hand it over. I've got to believe that the waffle iron had some sort of beeping system when it was done otherwise I'm sure I would have been making burnt waffles - of course that would have stopped people from bothering me when I was trying to read.

Luckily, my sister's waffle iron does beep when it's done so I knew when to take them out - no burnt waffles. Unluckily, S decided that he didn't like the blueberry waffle. We gave him a regular one, and he didn't like that one either. We've had this reaction before. We make something from scratch and he decides it's just not as good as the store bought food. But the next day we tried again and this time he ate it, so hopefully that continues because we only have a few left of the Trader Joe's frozen waffles and if he decides he doesn't like homemade waffles (a) we won't be needing to buy a waffle iron when my sister wants hers back and (b) S is going to have to give up waffles for breakfast.

Unfortunately for him, one of his other breakfast staples are bagels. The Trader Joe's raisin & cinnamon bagels have even more sugar in them than the waffles. Mr. H. also eats a bagel each morning, so figuring out an alternative to store bought bagels is important. At first we figured we'd just eliminate bagels all together, it seemed ridiculous to actually try and make bagels. I contemplated finding a bakery that makes their own bagels and grilling them about the ingredients. But then I looked at a couple of bagel recipes and it looked pretty easy. So today we set about making bagels. As the photos show, we did manage to make them, we even made some with raisins and cinnamon. It remains to be seen if S will actually eat the bagels. I do not have high hopes because frankly they look nothing like the bagels he normally eats and if we know anything about the way a child feels about food - it is all about what it looks like - unless it's candy. If it's candy it can be the most disgusting looking candy ever and they'll put it in their mouth. 

He had no problem eating the homemade ice cream we made however. Yes, I already had an ice cream maker. I know what I said about single-use kitchen gadgets, but this is different. This is for ice cream. Actually, had I had my Kitchen Aid stand mixer when I was buying the ice cream maker, I would have bought the attachment that goes with that rather than a stand alone one. But I didn't, so I broke my (fairly flexible) rule for an ice cream maker because it makes ice cream! Anyway, while I am trying to cut sugar out, I know that I'll want at least some sweet things and I'd rather have the kid eating homemade ice cream rather than crappy candy or other junk for dessert.

Of course, it's not just waffles, bagels and ice cream. We have plans to make pizza from scratch next weekend - including the sauce, as well as making pasta sauce - which I have never done. I don't know  how far we'll take this. Maybe I'll be churning my own butter soon. Of course, I can't have a cow, so I'm going to have to settle for store-bought milk. But I can have chickens....just kidding, that might be a step too far.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cozy Cups

Yesterday I went to pick up my son from Pump It Up - which by the way is located in the most inconvenient place in the world, Halstead and North and Clybourn (that's him making it almost all the way to the top of the climbing wall). After battling my way through the traffic and finding a spot to park and then figuring out what room him and his friends his class were in, I chatted for a few minutes with some of the moms and was asked if I would like to join them for pizza. I declined because Tuesdays is my knitting night and just to make sure they know that I don't think of myself as a cool hip person who knits, I added a self deprecating remark - because I'm old. 

Now of course, lots of people knit and not in that cool ironic hipster way, but because they like to knit. I've thought about giving it up, not because I don't enjoy it, but because I don't do a whole lot of it and it takes time and I always seem to never have enough time to do the things I want to do so why add another item? To top it off, it's not like I usually knit for myself. I usually knit for other people - such as recently I knit my running crew cup cozies. I needed wanted to get them done to give for Christmas gifts, and while they don't take that long individually, I needed to do nine. And so therein lies the problem. My hobby that's supposed to be relaxing has become a chore - one that I enjoy, so less of a chore - but something that needed to get done. 

Cups all cozy.
To recap, I like to knit, but feel the need to make sure people know that I know it's a 'stupid' hobby, and it sometimes becomes a chore when I put pressure on myself to finish things. I have thought of giving up knitting all together. I could get rid of my yarn and needles, and the ball winder and all the other bits and bobs that comes along when you've been knitting for a while and spend more time reading, or writing, or exercising, or cooking or one of the other things I like to do but feel like I never have enough time to do because I'm doing all the other things that have to get done. But you know I wouldn't. It wouldn't matter because there's always dishes to be washed, and floors to be mopped (mine for example have needed to be mopped for the last several weeks, instead I just keep telling myself I will mop them tomorrow and never get around to doing it). 

But...but, I did actually enjoy making them. And I got cups to put them around and then I put cookies that S. and I baked inside the cups. And unless all my friends are lying to me, they liked them. And that's why  I knit, and bake Christmas cookies - because it means spending time with my family and doing something for someone else, even if it is just a cup cozy. Plus, if I quit, I wouldn't have a reason to go knitting on Tuesday nights and I'd miss my knitting friends.

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