Virtual long run- Two- #longrun #academia #runchat #oiselleteam

If we were on a long run today, I’d fill you in on the last few weeks of life. This probably won’t be too long of a long run (maybe 1.5hrs? 10miles? What do we feel like doing?) because I ran at a rate that was inversely proportional to the rate at which I consumed cheese and meat over the holidays. Like most everyone out there, December seemed like a whirlwind of events, too, and I didn’t get in all the awesome workouts and training and things I had planned. But really, it wasn’t too crazy. I ran a trail race in 8 inches of snow, I finished my first semester of teaching college sophomores, I applied for a few jobs, I traveled to Michigan for Christmas. I could probably write the “12 days of fall semester ending” song: There was 1 white elephant gift exchange, two Secret Santas, three holiday parties, four students that liked me as an instructor (if I am being optimistic), five reference letters requested, six CV updates, seven lunches and luncheons, eight dinners, nine cookies, make that ten cookies… ok fine, 12 cookies. All long runs should have some singing, right? Anyway, I digress.

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you how relieved I am to have finished my first semester as a lecturer in engineering. Teaching was tough; it required a lot more time than I thought it would (and I went in expecting to put in more time than most college profs given that I’d never taught an entire class before), it required a lot more effort, and a lot more emotional restraint. It was both humbling and rewarding, and I am excited to teach again knowing what I know now. I didn’t expect or anticipate all the questions I was asked throughout the semester, but as we chugged along, I found my stride. It was a steep learning curve, but I definitely know what approaches to take, and what not to take, in the future when I teach again. That is, if anyone hires me… (more on that later). Have you ever taught a class? A lecture? Have you had any teachers or professors that stood out as ones you liked or didn’t like? What about them made them a good or a bad instructor?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you that I have officially started the tenure track (TT) faculty search. In fact, this would probably take up the whole run, so maybe I will save the majority of it for a different post. I will say, however, that this is yet another thing about academia that is not as easy as one might expect (and requires a lot more time than I thought it would). Get a fellowship, they said. It will make you a “hotter” candidate, they said. What I have gathered, in my immature and rather short experience of TT-applying thus far, is that I’m not entirely convinced that the search committees always care that much about that kind of stuff. Cool, you have funding. So does everyone else applying for TT jobs right now (or so it seems).  Nonetheless, I’m on pins and needles waiting… waiting… waiting. Because even if you submit an application on Tuesday, you want (you really, really want) some sort of “cool, thanks for applying” point of contact from a real person, not an automated email, with some sort of “you’re just what we’re looking for!” or, at least, “nah, you’re not that cool” feedback. Because, even though you really want to be that cool, you also don’t like waiting. As I’ve been told, the first round of applications for TT positions tends to be a crapshoot, (or rather in academia) “a learning experience,” and yet another way to develop thicker skin. Also, it’s a way of finding out that the search committees just aren’t that into you, as one might say. And lastly, I will tell you that the TT application process in and of itself is a lot like trying to date someone you’ve had a crush on for a while; the nervous butterflies after you put yourself out there, the checking your phone/email all the time to see if you missed a message or call, the constant sinking “oh shit” feeling that you messed something up (grammatically, of course). Oy. I haven’t dated in a while. Remember when we used to chat about dating on our long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d laugh at the analogies we make now that we are “older,” and obviously more mature. Seriously, there was a time when we ran for hours and talked about our crazy sorority roommate and all the f^&#ing glitter in our upstairs bathroom, or our crazy office mate who didn’t use headphones and drove us nuts, or what freshman we could find to give us a free dorm meal. What crazy stories from college (or earlier years) do you remember that got you through long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you about the awesome race I did a few weekends ago called the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run. It’s a cult race, usually selling out in the first few days that registration is open (this year it sold out in 6 hrs). Fortunately, the race director threw me on the wait list and I got in after bribing him with threats of volunteering and trail cleanup. Also, Pere Marquette is (apparently) a fairly famous area of Illinois; according to my Coffee Guy (@stringbeanPete), it’s the #2 place in the late 1960s for people to go on their honeymoon. There’s loads of bald eagles flying around, and its about an hour away from St Louis City proper. I almost ditched the race because the area got about 8 inches of snow between midnight and 6am, and the roads were in horrible condition. Fortunately, Emily agreed to drive, so we picked up Irwin and we skidded our way to the PMQT visitors center to run a 7.5mile race, in snow. It was fantastic. Lots of fun, actually kind of fast because the trail was basically paved (albeit with snow). There were some slow sections (e.g., getting behind the train of runners from waves that started ahead of me) and super fast sections (e.g., running in the powder and just flying down the hills), and I wound up in second place for women behind Emily herself. We had the speedy car, apparently. Has there ever been a race that you almost didn’t show up to the start line for that was an absolute freakin’ blast to race?

The drive up.

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

The line of people.

The line of people. Photo by Joann Fricke

If we were on a long run today, I’d make a plan to have a long run again on Saturday or Sunday, because it’s 2014 now and it’s time to get back at it. Let’s think about what races we want to do this year, and chat about it in a few days, yeah?

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More summer training adventures

Training lately has been going well. I’ve had some quality training sessions on the track and off the track, in multiple states even. And, best of all, I’ve been feeling great.

I think that it’s all in the small details; I drink more water during the day (since moving desks to the office instead of being in the lab), I eat incredibly well thanks to my fantastic spouse, I run consistently 6 days a week, and I feel rested. I even took a nap three days in a row last week. Who does that? Well, professional runners, of course. I am by no means a pro, but I do feel exceptional when I am getting the right balance of intensity and recovery. Did I mention I eat incredibly well?

Backing up a few weeks, Baberaham and I traveled up north over the 4th of July weekend to spend some quality time on trails in the Keweenaw. We hit up the Tech Trails right away, and I hammered out 8 fantastic, fast, and flow-y miles on some of the best single track in the Midwest.

Then it was off to the shores of Eagle River, where we enjoyed one of many perfect sunsets on the sandy beach. We camped, drank whiskey, and caught up with friends we haven’t seen in years. Literally. It was fantastic.

On the 4th, we headed all the way up north to the northernmost town of Michigan, Copper Harbor. The IMBA Epic certified, Silver level Ride center that absolutely does not disappoint. I don’t think I could ever get enough of these trails; well, minus the biting flies, of course. But the flow and the climbs and the descents are just so fantastic, and the views are breathtaking. Seriously:

Photo by Hansi Johnson

After a day full of running (me) and riding (B), we went back to Eagle River for some smoked meats and campfire, but made the better decision to head back to town and stay with our friend, Tim, in “town.” We enjoyed a comfortable pull out couch and slept, a lot. Well, I did. B got up and biked more, and I took a rest day. It did get pretty hot, so I was glad I made the decision.

B made a fun, Game-of-Thrones-ian dinner at our friends’ house, and we we slept like rocks again at Tim’s. On our last full day in the Keweenaw, I got a big breakfast in my belly and headed out to tackle my favorite of workouts: Ripleys.

Mont Ripley is the ski hill in Hancock owned by the University (Michigan Tech), and it makes for a great summer/fall training ground. In college, my teammates and I would tackle the “long” route (mostly under the tutelage of our first coach, Gary) and the guts (under the tutelage of our second coach, Joe). The good thing about the long route, you usually only had to do one. The good thing about the guts, they were over in 3 minutes. Either way, though, they were pain, suffering, and shear VO2-max-inducing awesomesauce. It was hot again, and humid, and I haven’t been doing much in the world of hill work in Saint Louis, so I started out by aiming for getting through three guts. After 2, I decided to take a “break” and hike the long route to the chair lift at the top, so I could take some photos and get oxygen to my brain.

Check out more of these on my Instagram

We spent our last night at The Fitz, which is quite possibly my favorite place on Earth, and had a delicious meal with fantastic whiskey and amazing friends. I am ever grateful for having Mike and Marc in my life. I worked at The Fitz as an undergrad, when Mike and Marc were just out of high school and Mike’s parents owned the place. Now, these guys run the show, and it just keeps getting better and better. We had our one-final-amazing sunset on Lake Superior as we sat at the bar, Marc pouring us the perfect pours of Stagg and Ardbeg and Pulteney…

And when we woke up in our comfortable queen size bed with the sound of waves crashing against the beach outside, we packed up our things and rolled out of town. We were just as sad as the weather to be leaving, but it was time to head back to the real world. Fortunately, the Keweenaw will be there when we are ready to escape next time.

Real World, Real Food Wrap-up

Thanks to everyone for contributing, spreading the word, and getting involved with the Real World, Real Food Organic Basket Challenge that Sonja and I did last week. It was so incredibly fun.  A particular congratulations goes out to Kara for winning, but I think everyone who participated was a winner (of course!). There was a lot of heart and soul (and tummies) in the mix. It was a great experience to be involve with.

As far as a wrap-up goes, I think the biggest take-away for me was the obvious differences in food costs across the country. Surprisingly, for the same grocery list, Kara (who lives in a fairly rural area) walked away with a lower grocery bill than anyone else who did the challenge from a big city. I was especially surprised that I had the highest bill, even though I am in the most centrally-located city (St Louis is the midwest after all). I for sure thought I would beat Sonja’s basket price, since I live in a mid-sized city that – from what I gathered – has a fairly low cost of living. But, I was wrong.

There are some confounding variables, of course. For one, the list was the same no matter where you are. So, what is locally grown in one region is probably not available locally in another. And, what is easy to import in some places (like from CA to CO) might take a little more to get from the origin to a different destination (say, Michigan’s UP, or Missouri).  Secondly, I shopped in the city instead of on the outskirts, so I had to pay a bit of a premium (depending on where I shop, sales tax can be as high as 9.8%, and it turns out even food is taxed here … I think its around 4%?).

So where do we go from here? For me, the week’s worth of produce that I had all to myself forced me to eat real food every day. Instead of having nachos and cheese for dinner, I had to eat the fennel and cucumber and tomatoes and collard greens before they went bad. I admit, I didn’t get through everything by myself in the one week. Some of the stuff I stored in the freezer (shredded my zucchini and stored it in freezer bags for future bread!). But for the most part, it all went down my gullet. I realized, reflecting on the last week, that most of my meals were vegetarian, some were even vegan. I got a lot more creative with my meals, ate nuts and used olive oil in nearly every meal, and didn’t spend any money during the week by going out to lunch or grabbing a snack from the bookstore. And, as an extra bonus, I felt great all week. I felt sustained. My meals were filling, but not gigantic mounds of noodle and meat. In fact, I only had meat once during the week. I learned that I like fennel, and I like cooking with spices. I learned that I can make time to cook but I can also cook enough for myself to have leftovers to sustain me for the busier days. In other words, in the past week, I’ve really learned a lot about food, and myself.

It got me thinking more (oh boy, who needs that?!). It got me thinking about other cool things to try and what sort of plan I’m going to have every time I go to the grocery store. Yeah, I probably am not going to buy all-organic all-the-time. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it. But I am going to continue my habits of buying mostly in-season foods that don’t travel far. I also got thinking about another cool challenge: see how far our foods travel from the farm to the table. People have done this, they’ve written books about it. But something like this nationally, or even globally, might tell a better story as to why food is more expensive in some cities than others.

So to wrap up, thanks to everyone who participated, including:

TriMommy Kelly

Donna, all the way from the UK!

Miles, Muscles and Mommyhood

Kara, our RWRF Winner from Michigan’s UP

Muddy Mama

Jennifer

And thanks to everyone who spread the word and thank you to those who thought about what they were throwing in their cart at the grocery store. Also, thanks to Whole Foods Galleria for being convenient and friendly, and for having everything I needed to complete my list. Did I mention that, this weekend – after eating clean for an entire week – I finished off my sweet potatoes with a (rather large) side of nitrite-free bacon and farm fresh eggs from Whole Foods? I love their meat counter folks.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Larabar FitKit Giveaway Winner!

The winnings!

I had nearly 60 entries for this awesome contest, but only one lucky winner was picked. Everyone was assigned a number based on when they commented or tweeted or blogged (whichever came first). Random.org generated for me a random number between 1-59.

The Larabar Fit Kit Giveaway winner is:

Nancy! Here’s her entry:

Nancy, on December 3, 2010 at 9:09 am said:Pick me! Pick me! Loves me some Larabars. 2010 was a bust for me due to injuries, so I’m really hoping the running gods will shine on me in 2011.

She also had a bonus entry because she tweeted, but it was her comment on the post that got her the win! Lucky #12!

Congrats Nancy!

The Real World Real Food Challenge

For the past two years, I’ve had the most excellent hook-up: I was part of community-supported agriculture (CSA). My CSA was especially rad because the farmer charged ~$400/year, and delivered fresh fruit and veggies to my door every Tuesday. There were some things I loved, and some things I didn’t love so much, but regardless, having the seasonal fresh food at my dinner table helped me eat better and live more neutrally.

A friend of mine recently signed up for Door to Door Organics, which although isn’t entirely local, it is entirely organic. She gets weekly deliveries to her doorstep for around $40/week. She posted this photo on Twitter of this week’s delivery, posing the question:

This is what $38 in Organic veg delivered to your doorstep gets you from Door to Door Organics, thoughts?


and that got me thinking…

What would all this cost from my local grocery store? Certainly I could spend much less than $38, I thought. And, if I want it all organic, I’ll probably have the best luck at Whole Foods… (or as some people so aptly name it: Whole Paycheck- but for me, being gluten free, it doesn’t make a difference where I shop!). Then I thought about this: I live in a different metropolitan area than Sonja. Would the price of this real food be that much different city-to-city?

So I challenged her.

@goSonja hmm… they grow kiwi and avocado in CO? I am curious if it wouldn’t be cheaper to get it yourself from @wholefoods

@megankillian d2d organics is not local. It’s only local when it can be. I think it’s a tad cheaper than WF.

@gosonja which sounds like a challenge/contest to me. Send me the list of veggies and I’ll see if StLouis is cheaper, too 😉

@megankillian will do, I think I’m going to do the same, send ya an email in a sec, k?

@goSonja word.

And so it began: The Real World Real Food Challenge. Sonja sent me the list, and five minutes later I set off to match her grocery list and check out without going over my budget of $38.

Here’s the rules:

  • Everything must come from the same store, during the same shopping trip
  • Everything must be organic. If you can get it local organic, that’s even better
  • Buy only what is on the list, in the same quantities
  • Keep the receipt

The List

With my list in hand, I headed to Whole Foods Galleria, which is one of two Whole Foods in the St Louis area (and the only one in the city limits, I think). I chose Whole Foods because I really like Whole Foods, and I guessed that they would be the most likely store to have everything on the list in the organic variety. As a plus, I just love the atmosphere of the store, the smell of the deli and the bakery. Plus, the variety always compels me to explore my taste buds and try something a little exotic. But tonight, I had a plan.

I felt like I was on a secret mission. The Hunt for Red October, only it was the Hunt for Red Roma Tomatoes. I didn’t have to wander too far, because everything I needed was in the front produce section. Duh. The zucchini squash, the fennel, even the collard greens (of which I’m not a fan… yet) found their way into my cart. But I was careful to grab the right amount (4 zucchini squash, one fennel with at least 4 stems, etc). I hit a speedbump, though, when it came to golden sweet potatoes. What are golden sweet potatoes, anyway? I am glad I had my Android, because I Google-Imaged that. And all I saw was a regular, ol’ sweet potato. So I grabbed three of the smallest sweet potatoes they had (organic) and moved along the list. In hindsight, it looks like I was a little off with that one, because my sweet potatoes don’t look the same… but anyway, I digress.

Moving along- breezily counting squash and kiwi and knocking on pomegranates, and then I hit the apples: pinova. What is that? Google phone to the rescue: It’s a cross between golden delicious, Cox’s orange pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Never heard of it. And I couldn’t find them next to the braeburns or red delicious. So I asked the produce guy working and he told me they don’t have pinovas at this time. They had them a few weeks ago, and might get them again… but today, no goose. Dang. I asked him what would be the closest thing to a pinova, and he said the braeburn tastes similar. So I made an exception and grabbed two of these.

There also weren’t any organic bean sprouts. I had bought them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods just had “naturally grown” quasi-local (from Chicago) sprouts. So I grabbed a bag of what they had, and shrugged.

Then I finally got to last thing on my list: limes. I found five organic lemons easily, but limes? Well, there were limes from Mexico, but they weren’t organic. There were key limes, but those weren’t organic either. Turns out, no organic limes at the Galleria Whole Foods on this trip. Uh-oh. This was a problem. I grabbed the regular old pesticide full limes and threw them into a bag.

I made it to the checkout, thinking that I had no idea how I faired. Produce is hard to shop for if you’re on a budget, because you really can’t tell how much things cost unless you weigh everything out and allocate a certain percentage of your budget to purchasing it. And some things I expected to be cheap while others more expensive, but it always surprised me. Take the zucchini, for example. I would have guessed it to be a less expensive item, since it was marginally still in season and they grow like weeds. But it was the most expensive item on my receipt, coming in at $5.60 for 4. And the pomegranates, I assumed, would be redonkulously expensive, but they came in at $2.50 a pop.

The check-out total?

A whopping $51.18.

Ouch. I didn’t even come close to Sonja‘s $38, and I had to leave the house to get it. Not to mention I didn’t even get everything organic, and the receipt is a billion times long! I certainly accrued penalty points for not getting the limes and sprouts organic ($5 extra each), but it didn’t really matter in the end. She had this one in the bag… but not literally, since she got hers in the box and I got mine in the bag. I wonder if the difference was because we lived in different regions of the US…

That’s the other unfortunate thing about my produce-obtaining experience compared to hers. I had bags, lots and lots of bags. The collard greens and the fennel had just been sprayed, so I put that in their own bags (because one was by weight and the other was not); the lemons were rolling all over the place, so they went in a bag. Eventually, everything that came in pairs or more went into a bag. So, yeah. Everything went into a bag (except the pomegranates and the avocados. I don’t care if their skins get all yuckied up). I had so many bags, I decided to dedicate a photo to my teammate, Jamie

…although it looks more like a tutu than a hula skirt.

It was quite the gorgeous shopping experience, though, I have to admit. I got all these beautiful, colorful, healthy, whole foods, just ready for me to eat them.

And I don’t think I’ve ever bought five lemons at one time before. Or fennel. Or collard greens (someone please help me to like them).

Sonja went out to price the stuff at her local Whole Foods in Denver, and her grand total came to $41.53. There is a discrepency between cities, so it appears. Although not everything from her list at Whole Foods was organic, she was well below my check-out total. I wonder why? I would have assumed things would be more expensive in the mile-hight city.

So… now that you’ve seen all the fun I’ve had, do you wanna be a part of the Real World Real Food Challenge, too? Because you can! It’s super fun and exciting. Just make sure you have $50 to spend on produce, and make sure that you’ll put it to good use (um, by eating it, silly! Not feeding it to your neighbor’s goats).

Here’s what you gotta do:

  • Take the shopping list and head to your favorite grocery store where you can buy lots of organic and/or locally-grown vegetables and fruits.
  • Buy only organic, and only what’s on the list.
  • Keep your receipt.
  • Share it with us! (If you scan or take a photo of our receipt, just black out all the private info, k?)

Sonja and I will even have a points system to determine who and where has the best real food available. Wanna try it but don’t wanna shell out for organic? That’s cool, too! We’re interested in how much it costs for regular-ol’ produce, too. Just remember, some things are healthier for you when they are organic than others (like apples, pears, tomatoes, and anything that you eat what is on the outside where the pesticides can soak in).

Once you’ve done the shopping, share your story on your own blog, and make sure to tell one of us (or both!) the name of the store you shopped at and what city/metro area you live in. Share the link to your blog post with us, too (in the comments of our posts). We’ll use the honor system, but share your grand total and any modifications (if you made any).

Of course, if your grocery store that you choose doesn’t have an organic fruit or veggie on Sonja‘s list, you’ll be fined. How does $5 plus what my St Louis price of that same food cost sound? This could get expensive really fast…

Why do this? Because it’s fun! Interesting! A learning experience!

Why else? Well, if you really want more motivation, we can give you a little incentive. How about a big ol’ blast of Justin’s Nut Butter? We’ll giveaway a big, sweet and tasty supply of our favorite nut butters to the person with the best blog post. We will be deciding the winner on December 20th, so you have a little over a week to get your groceries and post your blog.

Good luck!

Frugal Gluten Free Girl: Oatmealed Acorn Squash

With my bi-weekly buy-in of community supported agriculture, I got a lot of squash. I love squash, but Baberaham isn’t such a fan. Nonetheless, I’ve found these delicious fruit easy to prepare. As a bonus, if you are to buy squash from a grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s pretty stinkin’ cheap.

Tonight, I scraped together experimented with stuff we had in our cupboards. I came across the following and made it into a meal:

2 small acorn squash
1 c steel-cut oats
1c milk
1c water
1/2c pecans, chopped
honey
sea salt, to taste

I halved the acorn squash, saved the seeds, set the squash on a cookie sheet insides up, and baked them at 375F for 30 minutes, and then an hour at 350F. After dropping the temp on the oven for the squash, I started cooking the oats with 1c water and 1c skim milk to make them a little creamy.

Once the oats and squash were done (I could tell the squash was done by the “fork test”- when the fork goes in easy, its done!), I laid the squash insides-up on a plate and covered the inside with chopped pecans (about 2tbsp for each half). Then, I drizzled about 1/2 tbsp of honey on the pecans.

After adding the pecans and honey, I filled the squash halves to the brim with hot oats. That’s it!

Eating it from the outside in is the best way to get all the flavors. Each bite should contain some squash, oats, and pecans. The slight sweetness of the honey blended with the sea salt makes this dish irresistable (at least, to me!).

For me tonight, this meal was practically free, because I was using up milk that was close to expiring, I was eating squash that has been sitting on our counter for weeks, and I found a bag of steel-cut oats behind the crackers in the cupboard. But! If you were to go to the store and buy all these things, it would work out something like this:

McCann’s Steel-Cut Oats– 1lb box that will last you a while- $3.59
2 acorn squash – $2
honey, 12oz – $2
1c milk – 50cents

I eat big, so this was enough for two meals in my eyes. But, if you want to divvy up the calories, it could feed four. Let me know if you try this dish!

Edit: OH YEAH! I forgot to add… I made pepitas out of the leftover seeds. Traditionally, pepitas are made from pumpkin seeds, but to be honest, acorn squash seeds taste just the same. There are fewer seeds, but why let ’em go to waste? I just peeled away the “gunk”, put them in a bowl, sprinkled them with sea salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil, and then baked them at 350F for ~5-10 minutes- while I was preparing the oatmealed squash. Once they started to brown and swell a very small amount, I knew they were done. Delish!

The blueberry queen

Yesterday afternoon, I went blueberry picking at the Gierke Blueberry Farm in Chassell. I was on a mission to pick a shitton of blueberries, enough blueberries to (dare I say it) last me through the year. This is a big feat, because I 1) LOVE blueberries and 2) have a problem with stopping when I eat them.

I picked and picked, and picked some more. I found a few jackpot bushes, and felt gluttonous about halfway through but could.not.stop.picking. By the time my friends dragged me away, I was 17.5lbs of blueberries richer.

What will I do with all these blueberries, you ask? What won’t I do. Muffins. Cobbler. Ice cream. Oatmeal. A bloggy-friend sent me a recipe for Zippy-Fast Blueberry Crisp (via microwave) and I am psyched to try it. But my favorite thing to do with blueberries is just eat them raw and plain.

Today, they’ll be fueling me right on a long ride through the Keweenaw (I had creamy grits with 1/2c blueberries for brekky). Chances are good that I will stop along the road somewhere and find another blueberry (or raspberry. or thimbleberry) bush to steal from.

The week-long bonk – or “How a slab of meat changed my week”

This week has not been very awesome.

In fact, last week wasn’t either.

With traveling, conferencing, interviewing, meetings, research, and training, I have been feeling the weight of life slam down heavy on my shoulders [although, I can’t even imagine how Marg must feel with her upcoming wedding and job search]. And of all things, its my training that suffers. I feel tired, and my speed work ends with me crapping out. I swim 2000yards and I feel like I am drowning. My plans for running after work end up with me and heading home from campus at 7pm, only to seek refuge in grilled cheese and True Blood on Blu-Ray because I don’t have any energy for anything else. Yesterday, I tried to get in a long road ride, and a flat tire had me in tears and calling my boyfriend to come get me in BFE.

The question I have asked myself every day this week: Who took my energy, and where did they go?

Last week, Baberaham hinted that I might have symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and taking it easy is probably not a bad idea. Granted, we were in Florida, where swimming in a lap pool set to 86 degrees and “getting refreshed” by jumping in the ocean (which was 91 degrees) was only minimally satisfying. Not to mention, running at 4pm before lightning storms because that was the only time there was a breeze didn’t really help my energy levels. But I wasn’t having any headaches (except for when I wasn’t injesting caffeine) and I felt descent after napping, so I chocked it up to a shift in the climate and a lot on my plate.

Then I got to thinking about one of the cruxes of endurance training: my diet.

It’s true, I hadn’t been eating as great as I should have been after Rev3 Quassy. I do a great job of hydrating and eating right before a race, but afterwards I don’t care as much. And a trip to Florida, with big meals and glasses of wine, threw me out of whack a little. It wasn’t until I got home, spent a week cooking for myself, and feeling like absolute dump, that I realized what mgiht be going on.

After the failed bike ride of yesterday (55 miles does not equal 130, thankyouverymuch flat tire), I had a craving. Not a normal craving, either. I usually want to eat things like chocolate or ice cream, or a Snickers bar or cheese. No, this craving was unusual, for me, especially since I am no longer a vegetarian. The craving: a big fat juicy STEAK.

Growing up, I was raised on red meat. My parents bought a cow and had it processed, and we’d eat beef 3-4 times a week. Hamburgers, chili, meatloaf, you name it. I depended on finding, during summer weekend evenings, a T-bone steak and an ear of corn on my plate. When I went off to college, I stopped eating so much meat, and when I went to graduate school I became vegetarian. I never had too big of issues with training, but I rarely trained as much as I do now (plus, so it goes, I was younger and could apparently recover faster then… plus during graduate school I was adament about having a protein shake after every big workout).

Now, even though I have reincorporated meat into my diet, I struggle more in recovery, and have found that it takes more time and more discipline to feel good during and after a big training block. Although we don’t eat a lot of meat, Baberaham and I usually fill our meals with a good variety of foods like black beans, eggs, and whole grain rice. I usually make an Ultragen shake after long workouts, but my First Endurance supply has been depleted and my ambition as of late has not been focused on reordering more.

So, yesterday, sitting on our friend’s couch watching World Cup, I saw a Bon Appetit magazine on their coffee table with a big rib eye steak. I then counted the meals I had consumed this week and could count on one hand the number that had either meat, egg, or beans in them. Immediately, I turned to B and proclaimed: “I need to go get a steak dinner.” He looked puzzled, and I continued, “My treat.”

After the US’s disappointing loss, we went to Calumet and both ordered the rib-eye. All 16-ounces of the bone-in, medium rare meat melted in my mouth and slid down my gullet. I felt euphoric, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my mouth. Baked potato? Gone. Grizzle? Gone. Sour cream? Gone. Of all things, I left the limp green beans on my plate, I suppose as a sacrifice to the bovine gods.

I didn’t know how it happened, but I had put my finger exactly on the issue that my body was dealing with. After the meal, and the post-feast lethargy of more True Blood and muddy buddies, I slept like a baby and woke up in the morning before the alarm. I pulled on my running shorts and darted out of the house, tackling the 3hr run to South Range with more umph than I’ve had all week. I felt like I was flying during the last hour, and I felt strong, fluid, and forward. I felt good.

True, part of that could have been because my ride yesterday was cut so short and I let my brain and body rest all afternoon. But I really, truly believe that the thick, juicy, delicious slab of meat I ate last night changed my week, and my week-long bonk will happen again if I don’t pay better attention to the protein I put in my body.

Don’t forget: It’s what you do after the run that counts (too)

When I ran in college, I was a (shockingly) a little less regimented with my recovery than I am now. Maybe it was because I was young and spry. Maybe it had more to do with my love of dancing and party-natured roommates (and my love of college-type beverages). Or, perhaps, it had more to do with the fact that I raced 5Ks, not marathons. Whatever the case may be, I have changed my post-workout and post-race mentality quite a bit since I was 20. I guess when your body starts to protest, you kinda have to listen.

This week was the biggest mileage week I’ve had for running since … I’m not sure when. Might have been last summer, when I was training for Ironman Wisconsin, or it might have even happened before that. I honestly can’t recall (mostly because I trained by hours for IMWI). Anyway, I threw in close to 70miles this week (68, actually), without any two-a-days for running and with two days sans-run (because I didn’t run every day this week, that may have actually helped my recovery).

I am feeling pretty darn good. Today’s 21mile run pushed 30sec/mile negative splits even before the halfway point. The route we picked included a 550ft climb in two of the first three miles (up Quincy hill). The drastic up-and-down’s of the Keweenaw will keep a runner honest, and even though I caught my Garmin reading 7:15s in some instances for longer stretches, our fastest mile was just around 8minutes.

Quincy Hill is a "hufta" at the beginning of a long run.


Midway through the week, after taking a rest day form the Hills from Hell (which we have done two weeks in a row, now… I’ll be sure to tell ya’ll about those at a later date), I was having a weird tightness in my adductor. So I spent some quality time with my massage baller this week, as well as pampering my legs with some Chomper Body’s muscle butter. It’s got a similar feel of like IcyHot, only not nearly as stinky and not as intense. Perhaps the key to good muscle butters is their ability to promote circulation, and getting the blood in there to get the lactic acid out. Chomper’s are also all-natural, which gives their products an extra bonus in my book. The muscle butter feels like cool breaths of someone blowing ice on your legs. A little goes a long way (I usually dip my fingertip in the jar and it’s enough to cover both my inner thighs). I’ve also tried the Warming Up Cream by Sportique, which is quite nice, although I do not recommend it to be used after shaving!

As far as real good recovery goes, nothing beats the real thing: 1hour sessions with my trigger point massage therapist, Mel. Probably because she doesn’t relent even when I am “eeeking” and “ouching”, and even crying. But when I can’t get in to see her, and for general maintenance, I’ve picked up a good habit in using Trigger Point Therapy’s products.

What exactly do I do with the massage baller? Well, usually I use it on my shoulder when it gets sore from swimming to relieve some of the tightness near my supraspinatus (the muscle on the top part of my shoulder blade, for you non-anatomy driven folk). I became a believe in their product after it allowed me to regain full range of motion at the IMWI expo (two days before the race, I could barely raise my arm above my head). But as of late, though, I’ve been using it to relieve some pains-in-the-rear. I sit on the ball, close to where the tightness is (and with clean clothes on, of course), and rotate my leg in small circles with my knee either bent or straight, depending on how much pain I can handle. I “search” for the hot-spot, the location that is really tight on my glutes that needs some relieving. Sometimes, I will just lift myself up with my hands and roll the ball on the lateral side of my butt muscles. Hurts so good. I don’t show it as well, but the goal of this is to tilt my hips toward the ball to target my piriformis.

The Grid is also pretty neat for treating tightness of the IT band

I use the footballer to alleviate any tightness in my calves. Funny thing about biomechanics: pains in the feet and calves can be translated upward, into the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It’s best to nip any tightness before it gets out of control. My favorite trick is to put the footballer slightly superior to my ankle. Then, I rest my non-massage-foot on the top of my massage-foot’s shin, and press juuuust a little. I rotate my massage-foot in circles, sometimes lifting my butt and moving myself a little forward to move the footballer up my calf. This has helped keep me from getting super sore later in the day after an intense run (I use TPTherapy either right after a run or after I have a snack and shower). I sometimes give it a go right before bed, too.

Practically everyone talks about what they eat while they are training, and what they put in their bodies before a big workout or race. Race day breakfast? Meal the night before? We know that we need to have these things dialed because otherwise our race/big-workout-day GI system will be all out of whack. But nutrition is really important and often overlooked part of proper recovery after training. Getting in easily-absorbed nutrients to replenish the system and help your body recover from the stresses you just put it through is key if you want to get stronger. I make sure to get in two-scoops of Ultragen after each big/hard run (today’s 21 miler was one of those). I also try to get some food in my system within the first hour, too. Today, I enjoyed a peanut butter and chocolate scone from the SillyYak Bakery (out of Madison, Wisconsin). Baberaham’s mom sent us a box heaping full of delicious- and gluten free!- treats to stock our freezer with. What better timing?! I am really excited. We got a pumpkin pecan coffee cake, and Baberaham doesn’t like coffee cake… so I am one lucky girl (here’s hoping I don’t try to eat the entire thing before the weekend’s over). Additionally, for the rest of the day, and tomorrow (a recovery, easy-training day) I will make a strong effort to stay hydrated, replenish lost electrolytes, and not eat crappy foods. Oddly enough, minus the coffee cake, I don’t really crave ‘crappy’ foods (french fries, candy bars, etc) after a hard workout or race. Usually, I would just kill for a Keweenaw Co-Op salad with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese…

It’s important to keep moving after a hard workout or race, too. Just because you crossed the finish line doesn’t mean your done. Walk around a bit, flush out the legs. If you are going to sit, prop up your feet (and take a nap!). Although not proven in clinical studies, runners can experience deep-vein thrombosis, which is why it’s not a great idea to do a race and hop right into the car for a long drive (or get on a plane right away). Compression socks help circulation, and might give your legs a happy-feeling after a hard workout anyway. I am not too geeked on spending $60 on a pair of socks, though, so I go with the ol’ geriatric-style socks from Walmart (yes, they are beige, but who really cares? $20 beats $60 any day).

Speaking of which, time to go walk around downtown on this absolutely sunny, beautiful day. Happy training!

Make ’em say mmm…

Here are a few of the things I’ve been enjoying as of late.

Baberaham brought me some Taza Mexican chocolate for Valentine’s Day. It is so crumbly and delicious. I have considered making hot chocolate with it, but I am enjoying eating it too much …

I am loving the Chomper Body muscle butter. I just threw on a dab of it on my legs, right after the run/shower combo. It feels amazing. At first, it just felt moisturizing, like a really good lotion. And then, the tingles came. Not tingles so strong as say, Icy Hot or the like. More like someone with a mouthful of ice-cubes was blowing softly on my skin. Very nice. More to come later on that, as well as their Booty Balm, embrocation (Crank) and body glide (Silke).

And I also am pretty geeked about Sportique’s line of products. I tossed a bottle of their Massage Oil in my purse and took it with me Wednesday to my massage therapy appointment with Mel. She was excited to use it, and it smelled really nice (a sweet blend of apricot and citrus). She liked using it, and it didn’t leave me feeling greasy or in need of a shower. It also felt like it got in deep into my skin, warming me up. I like!

I suppose its time to go work on loosening my quads with my Quadballer. Maybe a little massage oil will help get the knots out… Speaking of which- its time to do some before-bed trigger point and hit the sack! Nighty night!