Monday, March 19, 2012

Becoming a runner all over again

In August of last year, my friend R ran a mile.  

Through a combination of bullying and cheerleading, I convinced her to sign up for the Somerville Homeless Coalition 5K where she crushed her goal and got psyched to do the Jingle Bell 5K.  

In preparation for that race, she allowed me to write her a training program.  I'm not a coach.  But I've read a good deal about training science, and I've executed on more than a few training plans in my time.  I know for me, one of the most important factors in my training is knowing that my coach is paying attention to my workouts.  Accountability is just not something I can enforce on myself.  Where I may lack in the certifications, I can definitely deliver on the accountability for R.  And using a few online plans, I cobbled together a plan that I thought would be enjoyable and would get R to her goal of going faster.

At Jingle Bell, R took 7 minutes off her time from SHC.  And she did some nice descending work, each mile faster than the previous.  Bolstered by her improvement, we embarked on a ~6 month plan to build to a half marathon at the Run to Remember this May.

R's new shoes,
taken, without permission, from her blog

The thing I wasn't expecting is how rewarding it has been to be part of her team.  I mean, I guess it's not totally surprising, that I might like telling some one what to do.  But, it's more than that.  Yesterday, she toed the line at her fifth 5K with a goal of breaking the 30 minute mark.  As I left her at the starting line reminding her to love, respect and then own her goal pace (I'm big into mantras, so far R is still humoring me on this), my heart was pounding.  I was so nervous and excited for her.  This was the first 5K that she was not just running:  she was racing.  

In the end, she ran a new PR by over a minute, but missed the 30 minute mark by 17 seconds.  So close.

I share in her disappointment, but I'm also so proud of the progress she's made.  She has run over 350 miles since last year.  She has run a sub-9 minute mile.  She has confidence in the things her body can achieve and tackles the hell out of her hill workouts.  The way she talks about running has changed.  Her love for running has been kindled:  she is a runner.  It's so amazing to watch this transformation, and I am so grateful that she's allowing me to share in it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Out of practice

Tonight I ran my first run in 11 weeks.  The running part was glorious.  Everything around it was a little out of sorts.

  1. I couldn't find my gloves.  They are completely gone.
  2. I overdressed, which I discovered when I wasn't cold as I stood outside waiting for my watch to
  3. Find the satellites and
  4. Find my heart rate.
  5. Forgot to turn on the alert tones on the watch, so no pleasant beeping.
  6. Discovered I don't like running on the darkened bike path, even with my headlamp, it just felt a little too alone.
Looking back at my Zone two speeds (peak for 5 minutes), I slowed down quite a bit in December when I wasn't training for a race, and I was getting down on the shin.  Tonight I was right back in it with a pace just north of 8 min miles.

But most importantly, my shin felt great.  No pain whatsoever.  Time to start signing up for road races again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game on!

I got the all clear to run today.  It's been 11 weeks, yes, 11 weeks, since I last ran.

But tomorrow I get to run again.  I didn't think I was going to be quite so excited about it.  I mean, I don't even love running.  I've completed runs that I love, but I've also done ones that I didn't love so much. 

Still I was so excited, that when my alma mater emailed me asking for money, I sent it to them.  Let's hope the warm glow continues, but the spending spree abates.

All you need is water

Another entry in the Fitness Marketing Hall of Shame.

Last night Paul and I saw this commercial:

We were both dumbfounded.  Seriously, Nestle, you don't just lose water.  You lose salts.  Gatorade addressed this nearly 50 years ago, and since then, many others have worked on perfecting it.  Not replacing your electrolytes can lead to cramps in the short term and hyponatremia in the long term.

In 2002, a woman died of hyponatremia at the Boston Marathon.  A 2005 study of amateur Boston marathoners found 13% of their sample had hyponatremia at the finish line.
Do the girls depicted on the soccer field actually require electrolytes?  Probably not (a recent study found that for adults who cycled an hour, water or gatorade performed equally well).  But by making a blanket statement that you should just be replenishing your water, you increase the likelihood of hyponatremia amongst other athletes.  For shame.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I think my new colleagues must think all I do is eat.  I'm starving by 11am, so I usually have my lunch at 11:30.  At 3 then, it's time for a snack, usually cottage cheese and triscuits.  I swear it feels like I'm always eating.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm missing the cafeteria at HLS.  The 'Hark' (as it was referred to by old-timers like myself) always had a hot meal bar, that was by weight.  I could get protein, veg and grain for about $5.  And if I was feeling down, there was mac and cheese every day.  Around Kendall, the options seem to be $8 sandwiches or $8 salads.  Both usually a bit larger and pricier than I'd prefer.  So, I'm bringing my lunch.

Here are two of my lunch recipes.  The first is one I've been making for a while that I probably make twice a month.  The second I made for the first time last week and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Grilled turkey salad

I was writing this recipe up to submit to a friend's blog and realized I hadn't put it up on my own blog.  I put this together on a sunday afternoon and bring portions for lunch for the following week.  I like arugula for this purpose cause it seems to hold up to being part of the salad for a week, but I've also used wilted spinach.  Actually, I tend to use this as a base make substitutions based on what's in the pantry.  I've made it with barley instead of quinoa, with lemon juice instead of sherry vinegar, and I add raw corn when it's in season.  In general there's not a lot of cooking, but there is a fair amount of chopping.  I usually spend about an hour prepping.

1 pound grilled mediterranean turkey breast from whole foods deli (sorta cheating, I know, but this is so easy, it's cooked and sliced into thick slabs, all I have to do is dice)
1/2 C uncooked quinoa
3 scallions
1/3 C dried cranberries
1/2 of a package of arugula
1/3 C slivered almonds
1 onion diced
5oz feta cheese
small shallot
sherry vinegar
olive oil

1. Cook quinoa according to package.
2. Caramelize onion.
3. While those cook, dice turkey breast, thinly slice scallions.
4. Combine turkey, scallion, cranberries, almonds, arugula, and feta.
5. Mince shallot and combine with sherry vinegar and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
6. When quinoa and onion are ready, cool and mix with rest of salad.
7. Add olive oil to shallot vinegar, shake, then top salad with dressing.

Squash, black bean and chorizo chili

I started with this recipe from Sweet and Savory Kitchens, but made a few adjustments of my own.

1 butternut squash
Cinnamon, cayenne and salt.
4 soft chorizo sausages (I used chicken chorizo)
1 large red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, membranes and seeds removed, cut in ½-inch pieces
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 C maple syrup
28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon sriracha, plus extra for serving
1 bay leaf
1 large can of black beans, drained and rinsed (2 cups)

1.  Slice butternut squash into 1/2 inch pieces, sprinkle with cinnamon, cayenne and salt, and roast on a greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 400, flipping half way through.
2.  Brown sausages in a dutch oven, remove from pot, and once cool, slice into 1/2 inch pieces.
3.  Add onion to dutch over and brown for 5 minutes, add garlic and peppers and sautee for 3 minutes, add spices and let bloom for one minute.
4.  Add tomatoes, chicken stock, maple syrup, sriracha, bay leaf and simmer for 15 minutes.
5.  Dice butternut squash, add squash, sausage, and black beans.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
6.  Serve with a little feta cheese.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Despite what my mother said about being special, I am apparently normal.  Very normal.  (Too normal?)

I've gotten the results back from the initial rounds of blood work and bone scans for the clinical trial.   My bone density, although slightly below average, is within a normal range.  My calcium, normal.  My BMI, normal.  My kidneys and liver, normal.  My body fat percentage, normal.  Pretty much, straight across the board things look as they should.  Not that I'm disappointed with those results at all.  Just means, stay the course.

To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised that the body fat percentage.  I had had it measured 2.5 years ago, and it's pretty much the same.  Although I'm definitely more active now than I was then, I've still put on my "winter coat" this year, as I do every year.  The good news is I should still be in a healthy range when racing season comes along.

The scans of the print outs of the scans don't really do much justice to the Dexa.  As far as I can tell, they are showing bone, lean and fat.  Who knew I had such a fat head?  (Don't answer that.) 

Fun fact:  My left side is fatter than my right, both in absolute terms and percentage-wise. 

I have one more dexa scan at the end of the study, so it will be interesting to compare the results.

One more thing.  Full disclosure:  I am getting paid to participate.  There will be $200 if I complete the study.

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