My First Marathon

On Sunday, I completed my first marathon, side-by-side with my dad.

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What was it like?

The first half breezed by, pain-free, doubt-free. I hadn’t felt that good running in a long time. I enjoyed chatting with other marathoners, hearing their story while distracting ourselves from the miles that lay ahead. That was actually one of the best parts of the marathon: the connection with like-minded people, each with their own interesting story to tell.

Our long training runs were completed at around 12 minute/mile pace. During the marathon, the first few miles slipped by at under 10 minute pace, and we completed the first half at just over 10:30 pace. The first hill at mile 12 didn’t come close to living up to it’s internet legend. But my legs took a pounding going down that hill, and coming back up it the whole game changed. It felt like every muscle in my legs were seizing; it was pain like I’ve never experienced. I didn’t let myself walk up the hill, but with the pace I was going I might as well have. Somewhere in the haze of miles 18-20, it got really dark. There were tears. And strange whimpers that I’ve never made. And pain. PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. I can’t describe the pain. So we walked a ways, and our slowest mile crawled by at over 16 minute pace. At that point I had to decide: Is this worth it? With all this pain, do I even care? Weedy, negative thoughts entered my head. I wanted to think them. It almost felt good to think them. But deep down I knew I couldn’t let them spread. I had tried to rehearse this point of the race in my mind. I had quotes on stand-by. I knew what I would tell myself. But it was worse than I had imagined, my self-talk wasn’t working.

Ultimately, it was a combination of wanting to be a marathon runner, wanting to beat five hours, and the reality that walking hurt just as much as running did that gave me the strength to run on.

We didn’t see mile marker 20. And right around this time I was swearing off marathons for the rest of forever.

At around marker 21, we knew we needed to pick up the pace to beat 5 hours. I wanted to. But for 5.2 more miles? It didn’t feel physically possible. At first it was all I could do to keep shuffling at the same pace.

Mile maker 22: 4.2 miles still seemed so far. Five hours was in sight, but slipping away. I shuffled a little faster.

Mile marker 23: 3.2 miles? Seemed easy enough, until I did the math: 36 more minutes of running. Yetwe kept moving, now on pace to reach our goal.

Mile marker 24: The end was finally in sight. That mile we ran for each other. It was the fastest mile of the second half.

Mile marker 25: I remember thinking “that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” Yet we needed to increase our speed. We ran that last 1.2 miles for ourselves. We stretched from a stumble to a real run.

Mile marker 26: We sprinted to the finish, which I swear was more like 0.35, instead of 0.20 miles later. It was going to be close. I started to feel the high of finishing, and I accepted the idea of running another marathon someday.

The finish line: 4:59:41. And we became marathoners.

I wanted to sit down right there as they handed us our finishers medals and visors, but the photographer gave me an urgent look that said “you’re in the way!” Didn’t he know I couldn’t breath? Or walk? My dad coaxed me to the side. He NEVER lets me sit down right away, always making me walk it off. This time he didn’t say anything when I fell into a chair and stayed there. I think my tears and whimpers on the course softened him.

…At least that’s how I remember that scene of crossing the finish line. But I must have been doing alright, because when I look at my finisher’s photo, I’m smiling and lingering in front of the photographer to give a “thumbs up.”

Today, in line at the grocery store, wearing our shirts and medals, the checker congratulated us and expressed how she “couldn’t run.” It was surreal, because I actually couldn’t relate anymore. I never used to consider myself a runner. In fact, have distant memories of thinking the same thoughts as that checker. Memories of huffing and puffing and feeling “pain.” But after completing a marathon, I can’t fathom feeling that way anymore. Almost anyone can run. Maybe not fast, but that doesn’t have to be the point. Movement. Health. Feelings of achievement. That’s the point.

Over the course of three months of training, and a five hour event, I have transformed, physically stronger, but even more mentally. I now see opportunities where I used to see impossibilities. My confidence in myself to do hard things has grown. I’ve experienced the worst pain of my life and survived. I survived and I want to do it again. It might have taken a marathon for me to really believe it, but I believe it now: I am a runner. To me that means that I can do hard things. Not just once, but as many times as it takes for as long as it takes. And I have faith that I will come out stronger, happier, and more alive.

So, if you’re reading this and have even the slightest hopes of running a marathon one day, I truly believe that you can do it! It will take a lot of training and discipline. It will take hard work.  Maybe even a little suffering! But it can be done and it will be worth it. You’ll see.

Since finishing, I have indulged every food craving. The toll? Half of a Red Robin chili burger and half of a jalapeño cheese burger, one and a half servings of Red Robin fries, two waffle cones piled high with real Tillamook ice cream (one scoop of chocolate peanut butter and one scoop of cookie dough), and one Dick’s cheeseburger with half and order of fries. Riding home in the car feeling sick and unable to digest the second ice cream cone and cheese burger, and sitting here feeling bloated, I am reminded why I like vegetables and grilled chicken.

Feeling sick with indulgence, we started plotting our next marathon. Criteria: Well organized, relatively flat, relatively scenic, nice weather, not conflicting with Cougar football, not too soon or too far, and close enough to drive would be a plus. We have tentatively decided on Portland, whose website boasts “The best organized Marathon in North America!” which sounds delightful after the very poorly coordinated Coeur D’Alene marathon. I want to run in a large, energetic race; there’s something about the idea of suffering with thousands of other runners that just seems right.

Perhaps, after reading about the worst pain of my life, you’re left wondering why I am considering doing it again? To put it simply, and you may have already guessed, it’s the post-marathon high. If you haven’t experienced it, I’m not sure I can explain, but I’ll try. It’s the sweet fatigue of a job well done. It’s the story that you get to tell for the rest of your life. It’s the overwhelming relief that you’ve killed yourself for months and it’s over. And, from my experience with other exercise highs, it’s fleeting. You have to chase it again.

But the one thought, almost a fear even, that lingers in my mind is, will the second marathon high be as good? Or am I on a slippery slope of endurance addiction? Always needing a heightened challenge to feel it? I suppose that’s why everyone is trying to run farther or run faster?

As amazing as completing a marathon was, and at the risk of putting up self-imposed limits, I think a marathon might be far enough for now. So faster it is, then!

Get some sleep! {12/1/12 Workout}

Yesterday, encouraged by the sunshine pouring through the windows, I decided to start my day with a run. I laced up and headed out. When I set out for a run from my apartment, no matter which route I choose, it’s uphill at first. My legs felt tight, the arch of my right foot hurt, and I was all-around tired. Just finish the 1.5 mile loop then see how you feel. As I ran, my aches were unrelenting, and the wind whipped against my face and ears.

The 1.5 mile loop turned out to be all I could take, and I retreated to a warm bath.I played with the idea of going to the gym for some indoor cardio, but I just felt exhausted all day. Instead, I spent the day running errands and packing. I think I’ve been so tired lately (1) due to the grey days, and (2) because I still have my sleep schedule all out of whack since staying up too late over Thanksgiving break.

So, my goal for this week is to go to bed by 10:30 every night! It’s amazing how lack of sleep can affect your energy level, emotions, and cognitive abilities. I just don’t feel like myself when I’m sleep-deprived.

Today, I am going to hit it hard at the gym! But first, caffeine…

Sinless Reeses Milkshake & 11/15/12 Workout Log

Awhile back I shared my secret recipe for healthy chocolate-banana milkshakes. Well, today it gets better. What could be better than a chocolate-banana milkshake, you wonder? A peanut butter chocolate-banana milkshake… without  all the fat from peanut butter! Enter, PB2. PB2 … Continue reading

Workout Log 11/12/12

Today I had an awesome workout with my cousin Lauren. I came across “Minka Kelly’s Treadmill workout” and thought it looked like “fun.” By fun, I mean more fun than zoning out doing steady-state cardio for 60 minutes, but not quite as fun as say, Christmas morning.

Here is the workout (with minor variation and extra walking at the end to round out the hour), plus the ab routine we did afterwards:

Cardio

This workout burned some serious calories!

5x through at 1% incline:

1min at 5.0

1min at 5.5

1min at 6.0

1min at 6.5

1min at 7.0

1min at 7.5

1min at 8.0

2 mins at 4.0

15 min 3.0 @ 10%

Abs

3x through circuit, reps to failure

Core Disk

Bench V-Ups

Plank with knee drive

Truthfully, I expected this workout to be challenging, but the  3 minutes at 7.0 mph, 7.5 mph, then 8.0 mph were a serious push for me today. After the first time through, I had serious doubts if I was going to make it through four more rounds. More than once I had thoughts like “Oh, it will still be a good workout if I cut out the minute at 8.0” or “Four times through should do it.” But I didn’t give in (well, I did immediately lower the prescribed “walking” speed from 4.5 to 4.0, because I felt like an awkward waddling out-of-breath duck at 4.5). Instead, I lengthened my stride and — don’t laugh — repeated this mantra over and over again in my head, louder and louder each round to block out all thoughts of pain or quitting, “Don’t forget that you are lucky to be in good health and able to run. Right this second, you are living your values and chasing your dreams.” I don’t even know where this thought came from, but I’m sure glad it popped into my mind. When we finished the fifth round, it felt awesome to high-five Lauren. Though we didn’t talk much during the run, but the camaraderie was invaluable.

After my workout, I was so excited to call my dad to tell him all about it and to challenge him to the very same workout. He took the challenge and one-upped me by increasing the speed for each interval by 1 mph. Rockin’ it out at 53 – go Daddy!

I came home to delicious Crockpot chicken. Perfect dinner with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower! Who doesn’t love dinners that make themselves and are ready when you are?

High on Life: Shopping Marathon & 100K Relay

My dad came to visit over the weekend, and we had a wonderful time! The purpose of the trip was to compete in a 100 km relay race on Sunday, but we made a whole weekend out of it! He arrived Friday afternoon, and we hit the gym for Ab weights and an hour on the elliptical; I was ready to quit at 30 minutes, but he inspired me to complete the hour! Just one of the reason why I love workout buddies! We came home to the aroma of meatball stew that I had prepared earlier that day, and it was just what the doctor ordered after a workout! Just another one of the reasons why I love advanced meal preparation!

We slept hard, and then set out Saturday morning for a 12-hour day (including the 3 hour round trip) of shopping! Most fathers don’t like shopping, but we are quite the dynamic duo at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack; every time we shop together, we somehow manage to crack up the shop assistants, and we are repeatedly told “you too are so cute together!” My dad was proud of my bargain hunting, and I was proud of his fashion growth even at age 52 (sorry, Dad, for revealing your true age — we all know you look 40!). Although I might be a shopaholic, I really did have a need for clothes — I lost the last bit of weight at the end of last summer, so my size 12 spring/summer clothes needed to be replaced by size 6! 🙂

Shopping was a blast, but I was exhausted by the time we got home at 10pm. We snagged a few hours of sleep before we had to get up at 6am for the start of the relay. I had the first leg, which started at 7:30am. I traversed 6.5 miles, including one monstrous hill in 58 minutes. I’ll take that! My dad had the second leg, 7.9 miles of unrelenting downhill, and he finished it a few minutes under his projected time with the blisters and sore calves to prove it. Finally, Zach brought it home for the team, finishing his 4.1 miles in 80+ degree weather!

While I was running (okay, powerwalking) up that hill, I honestly wanted to quit… or at least walk the rest of the way. The next few miles after the hill were painful as my muscles tried to recover from the assault. By the time I came to the finish, however, I was riding on the adrenaline high & brought it home in a full-on sprint. I’m still feeling that natural high (and soreness!) two days later — I think I’m becoming addicted to the adrenaline of the race. We’re registered for a 7.4 miles race in two weeks, and a 6.2 mile race the following weekend. Bring it on! Just more motivation to train 🙂

This week we’ve had wild thunderstorms at night, but sunny days. I find it is so easy to be happy when I’m bathed in sunlight! I look forward to the coming months of warmths and vitamin D!

This afternoon I had the pleasure of working out with my cousin. Afterwards she came over and we made my special spaghetti sauce (blog post & recipe to come!).

Life is good!

Hearty Healthy Meatball Stew, Pumpkin Protein Muffins … And Sore Legs!

This quote can sum up my day “One should not watch the food network if one is not prepared to spend the day in the kitchen!”

Lately I haven’t been a regular food network watcher mostly because I’ve been busy, and also because sometimes it gives me the urge to make not-so-healthy food. I especially try to avoid the channel when I’m hungry (for obvious reasons). But on Friday I got home from class, and Giada at Home was on — Giada is my favorite food network host. She had me salivating with a Meatball stew, among other sinful delights. Although the desserts looked great, I decided to keep it clean with the stew.

I didn’t have time to cook on Saturday, although I was dreaming about this stew all day. Today, however, was the perfect opportunity to make it — I had a free day and my hubby had a friend over that could enjoy it, too. In my opinion, cooking and baking is the best way to spend a Sunday, and its even better when you can share the results!

The stew was an extremely easy one-pot recipe, and it turned out even more delicious that it looked on TV. The true test of a dish is 1) Did we eat it all & will I make it again?, and 2) Do I actually make it again & eat all of the leftovers. This dish passed round one, and I suspect it will pass round two as well! Below is the recipe with my minor tweaks to Giada’s version.

My photography skills don't even begin to do this dish justice, but at least the photo will give you an idea.

Hearty, Healthy Meatball Stew

Ingredients for Meatballs

  • 1 slice of Dave’s Killer Bread
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 8 oz Jenny-O Sweet Italian Turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Ingredients for Stew
  • 1 tbs whole-wheat flour
  • 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb white mushrooms, quartered
  • One russet potato, sliced into “disks”
  • 4 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your affinity for spicy food)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Instructions (Quoted from The Food Network)

“For the meatballs: Place the bread and 3 tablespoons water into a medium bowl. Mash to a paste with a spatula. Add the beef, sausage, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend the mixture thoroughly with your hands or a flexible spatula. Form the mixture into 10 to 16 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until ready to use.

For the hearty meatball stew: Sprinkle the meatballs with the flour and turn to coat with any flour still on the foil. Heat a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Drop the meatballs into the skillet, spaced apart. Cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes. Using a flexible thin spatula, turn each meatball onto an uncooked side and cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes longer. Turn and cook a third side, until set and brown, about another 2 minutes, so the meatballs are browned and set all over. Transfer the meatballs to a large plate.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook until soft, 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes.”

My vegetable concoction

 I also made roasted veggies again, this time using an even wider array of vegetables from my Bountiful Basket and the grocery store. I baked the following ingredients 400 degrees for ~30 min
  • Russet potatoes (microwave for 4 minutes in advance)
  • Sweet potatoes (microwave for 4 minutes in advance)
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow zucchini (I’m not sure what it’s actually called)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Topped with feta, parmesan, and olive oil (the more cheese you add, the better it tastes, but also the higher in fat it is… Oh decisions!)

Because I couldn’t find oat flour (to make my trusty protein brownies and protein cinnamon bread) at the two stores I went to this weekend, I decided to try a new pumpkin protein muffin recipe that I found on Pinterest. I followed the recipe exactly from here (except I mixed walnuts throughout, and sprinkled white chocolate chips on top). They were delish! I’m looking forward to having them for breakfast this week! 🙂 I love that because they’re made with pumpkin puree, they are actually lower in carbs and higher in fiber than other muffins I’ve made in the past. I think these muffins have definitely earned a spot on my baking rotation! But all the white chocolate chips that I ate while decorating were certainly not low-cal… oops 🙂

Pumpkin protein muffins with walnuts and white chocolate chips!

Before I started my culinary adventure this morning, my hubby joined me for a fun 4 mile run in the sun. It was a nice change-up to run with a buddy, and he kept it fun by cracking me up with jokes and silly made-up songs the entire time. Just another one of the reasons why I love him 🙂

After I finished baking this evening I hit the gym for an enjoyable 30 minutes on the elliptical. After the elliptical, I met up with my cousin and my friend for about an hour of leg weights. Maybe I shouldn’t have terrorized them with the 3-lunge variation routine that I do… they might not want to workout with me again, and it was fun having workout buddies. If you’re brave, you can find a breakdown of the lunge routine here. My legs are already a little sore for the killer leg workouts I did today, but its a satisfying kind of sore!

I’ve been re-reading Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Diet Workout, which has been re-engergizing my weight-training spirit. I also really enjoyed doing cardio today — I think the 10 hours of sleep I got last night also played a role in my high motivation and energy levels today! Another contributing factor could be that I got a new pair of headphones today — no more listening to one crackly earbud while on the elliptical! 🙂

Overall it was a really wonderful weekend! Now I’m going to go finish it off right by cuddling up with my hubby for part of a movie before bed! This reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest: “Being married is like having a sleep-over with your best friend every night.” So true! 🙂

Roasted Veggie Revolution and Cinnamon Bread

I cannot tell you enough how much I love Bountiful Baskets! For $16.50 I get a huge (and I mean huge!) basket full of fresh produce — half fruit, half vegetable. Each week it’s a surprise what we will get, and I love that! It motivates me to try different things and get a greater variety of nutrients than I would normally choose at the grocery store. As far as veggies go, this week we got mushrooms, sweet potatoes, asparagus, zucchini, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and lettuce. It is my personal goal each week to not waste any of it! If I don’t like anything (for example, I cannot tolerate the bitterness of most citrus fruit), I share it with friends.

I normally just steam most veggies, but such a variety prompted me to try something new — roasted veggies. I tried searching for a roasted veggie recipe, but I couldn’t find one that matched all the ingredients that I wanted to use, and I didn’t want any spices to clash (I am not that knowledgable about mixing spices, but I’m learning!). In my search, I did learn that you should at least coat them in olive oil and then roast them at 400 degrees, checking them after the first 15 minutes.

So, armed with bare minimum knowledge and no experience, I started my experiment. What’s the worst that could happen? We have steamed broccoli with dinner yet again. In this “recipe” I used:

  • 1 pkg mushrooms
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • 2 zuccini
  • (I wanted to use brussel sprouts, and I suspect they’d be good, but I forgot them)

First, I microwaved the sweet potato for 4 minutes (because I figured they would take longer than the rest to cook). Then I coarsely chopped all the veggies and laid them out in a large baking dish. I sprayed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and tossed them around a bit. At the last minute, I decided to add a little bit of parmesan and feta on top (and I’m glad I did!).

I checked them and stirred them at 15 minutes, and they were done after 25 minutes. They were THE BEST VEGGIES OF MY LIFE! The sweetness of the potatoes permeated into the other veggies while the cheese added a welcomed savory dimension. They were so good that the hubby and I nearly polished off the entire pan. Roasted veggies will be a new staple in my home!

Next on my list to try (and to use up my brussel sprouts) is this recipe, stolen from my dad’s facebook status update:

How do I know I’m unusual? Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil, dusted with garlic powder and salt, baked @ 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Yum!

Thanks for the idea, Dad!

This weekend I also made another favorite, Protein Cinnamon Bread. I love it because it gives me the feel of eating a cinnamon roll without the guilt! I follow the recipe almost exactly from here. But I’ll reproduce it below with my small adjustments for convenience.

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup Xylitol (a sugar alcohol — it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, but it does have calories)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flower
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Xylitol
  • 2 egg whites OR 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (Almond Breeze)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix together the 1/3 cup of xylitol and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  • The actual recipe calls for for mixing the rest of the dry and wet ingredients separately, but I almost always skip this step — I just pour everything into a large bowl and let my hand mixer do the work. As far as I can tell, it turns out the same only with less mess
  • Spray loaf pan or cake pan and add batter — I’ve made it in both but I strongly recommend a loaf pan, because they turn out much more moist
  • Evenly pour xylitol-cinnamon mixture on top and swirl around with a fork.
  • Bake for 24-28 minutes
It yields 8 servings at ~100 calories each, with ~half the calories from protein!
I meant to take a picture right away, but as soon as it came out of the oven I ate several bites before I even realized what was happening, so the picture is missing a few bites. What can I say? It smelled that good.
Also, today was the first day this year that I actually felt warm running outside! I felt so alive running in the sun in a sports bra and feeling the just the right amount of wind cool me. I also did my abs routine (at home) for the 3rd time this week! 🙂 I am determined to keep doing abs every other day!
Oh, and HAPPY EASTER!