Monday, March 30, 2009


My past two runs have been tough and a little discouraging.

Last Thursday, an eight mile tempo run was on the schedule. I was anxious to break-in my new running shoes and excited that I would be able to run outside. Dark, heavy clouds hung over the skyline all day and the rain started just as I was leaving work. It was really more of a drizzle, so I decided to brave the elements and complete my run outside as I had planned.

In the time I took me to change into my running gear (ten minutes), the drizzle had become a steady rain shower. As I was still recovering from a second ankle problem, I promised I would constantly check-in with my body during the run. During the first mile, my legs didn't know how to react to the new shoes. At first, they seemed pleased with the new cushioning and support. But my knees weren't used to it yet and the cold, wet weather wasn't helping. My ankle started twinging with pain.

The runner's loop was completely empty. At first, I enjoyed the quiet; just the steady sound of raindrops and my feet striking the pavement. But soon I was lonely - I missed the usual after-work crowd along the loop, which, if nothing else, provided me targets to focus on passing. I also missed the unappreciated security that comes from running with such a crowd.

After about the third mile, my stomach started cramping. The only relief seemed to be when the pain in my ankle became more intense, shifting my focus to my right foot instead. I cut the run short by one mile - I decided it would be more beneficial for me to get home and dry than trying to force myself through an additional mile.

I completed 7 miles in 59 minutes; certainly not the tempo pace I was hoping for, but not bad given the conditions. I trudged into the apartment; my beautiful new shoes were completely soaked through, as was the rest of my body. My stomach was still one big knot, but I forced down part of a Clif bar to help my muscles recover. But my stomach did not appreciate the effort and responded by tying even tighter.

I stood under the hot water for five minutes before I could feel my body again. My knees took an extra few minutes to recover.

I figured my long run would go better on Sunday morning. Rain was again in the forecast, but the morning only saw a few raindrops. I headed out for an eight miler a little after nine o'clock. Just a mile and a half in, my stomach again tied in one big knot; I felt nauseous. The delicious spicy salsa and burger with chipoltle ketchup from the night before suddenly seemed like an awful idea. Luckily, my ankle had recovered from whatever it's problem was on Thursday and only presented a very minor pain.

For the first time in a long time, I was not enjoying my long run in the least. At no point could my mind wander off; the entirety of my run was spent trying to coax my stomach to staying down where it belonged. After the first three miles, I my body was ready to call it quits.

I'm getting anxious about the half marathon. I lost some crucial training while nursing some injuries and, suddenly, 13.1 miles seems a lot more daunting than it did just a few weeks ago. I needed to finish my long run today. Eight miles certainly didn't equal 13.1, but I needed to finish to boost my waining confidence.

Just keep going...just keep going...just keep going," I kept repeating to myself. It may not have been the most creative or inspirational mantra, but it was all my brain could provide at the moment. And it worked - I did complete all eight miles. It wasn't a pretty eight miles; I finished in a depressing 1 hour 10 minutes 57 seconds - but I did finish.

After a hot shower, I climbed back into my sweats and (slowly) ate my breakfast. I tried not to think too much of how slow my pace had been that morning or to let my mind wander with "what ifs?" about the half marathon.

And I promised myself - no more spicy foods before long runs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet

Sorbet is one of my favorite desserts: light, sweet, and satisfying. It adds a nice end to any meal, without being as heavy as it's other counterparts.

My favorite Thai restaurant serves a delicious blood orange sorbet, which I wanted to replicate with my tiny ice cream maker at home. Unfortunately, I have encountered many freezer burn issues in the past.

I thawed the bowl on Saturday, wrapped it in a plastic bag and froze again overnight. According to the maker's instructions, this was the trick to freezer burn-free delights.

But because I wasn't quite positive the mixture wouldn't end up as another frozen block, I decided against the expensive blood oranges or juice. Instead, I opted for grapefruit (my favorite citrus fruit).

The result was phenomenal. Light, airy, sweet, fresh. Before I finished my first helping, my mind was already turning with ideas for the warmer days ahead: blood orange, lemon, lime and, the one I am particularly excited about, Mojito-tea.

The recipe I used is below, in case anyone would like to join my club of sorbet lovers. I will probably use less sugar in future versions, as I love the natural tartness of grapefruit.

NOTE: You could substitute the juice of your choice. The juice should be fresh-squeezed, either by hand or store-bought. If choosing the store-bought route, just be sure no extra sugar has been added, as the end result may be too sweet.

16 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 cup white sugar

(1) Place sugar in small pot; pour in just enough juice to saturate the sugar.
(2) Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves completely.
(3) Pour sugar mixture into remaining grapefruit juice; stir to combine; chill.
(4) Freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


You are supposed to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. While this seems simple enough, I have always had difficulty keeping track of the miles I put on my shoes. This usually leaves me guessing when it is time for new shoes through a very scientific method of pressing on the padding and letting out a thoughtful, "Hmmmmm..."

I began wondering a few weeks back if it might be time to replace my shoes; I thought I had purchased my shoes in early November and with a rough calculation of my weekly mileage, assumed I was fine.

My foot injury two weeks ago made me reevaluate my decision. When I eased back into running last Thursday, I realized my heel was sliding around a lot. Then I thought about how cushioned and supportive these shoes used to be under my arches. Not so much anymore. "But you just got them in November!" I (or perhaps my wallet) thought.

I went back and checked my credit card statement from November, just to prepare myself for the cost. But there was nothing there. October? Nada. As it turns out, I purchased these just as fall was coming to relieve the hot months of summer: the first week in September. Yikes.

Because this particular shoe had been so wonderful, I ordered the exact same model and color (still purple!). The only difference was in the price - half the cost since they just released an updated version!

As I have a quite dorky affection for new running shoes, I have been checking the tracking on them every hour or so since Saturday. They have been "out for delivery" since 5:36 AM this morning, so I know they will appear at my door sometime this evening.

I got in my speed workout during my lunch hour today. This was the first time since my injury two weeks ago that I have braved a treadmill. I understand the injury was a result of many different factors; but I didn't need another reason to believe treadmills are evil.

About halfway through my 4 x 800m workout, I realized it would be my last run with these shoes. This made me a little bit sad; unlike my previous shoes, I became really serious about running wearing my little purple warriors.

We had countless runs in Central Park, a few in the hilly Virginia countryside and set two PRs. They adored when I jumped out of bed on the weekends to take them on a long run and glared at me when I begged for another 20 minutes of sleep. They were part of my transformation: for the first time in my life, I actually consider myself a runner.

I guess that's not a bad life for a pair of running shoes.

Maybe that's why I love lacing-up new running shoes so much - you never know what adventures await you. Here's to the next 300 to 500 miles.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Rosemary Flatbread

A few Mondays ago, Mike and I were both feeling under the weather. We decided homemade chicken noodle soup sounded like the best medicine.

Normally, I would make my best effort to replicate Mum's biscuts as a perfect side to accompany the soup. But the temperatures were warming to welcome Spring and biscuts sounded a bit heavy for the evening.

I searched for flatbread recipes online and after a few personal touches, I created my own version of a whole wheat rosemary flatbread. Fresh from the oven, the cracker-thin bread easily breaks into delicious bite-sized pieces.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The past week has been one of the most challenging since I started getting serious about running last fall. It wasn't due to impossible speed work-outs or high mileage. For the first time in over six months, I haven't clocked a single mile in the past week.

During my speed work last Tuesday, my birthday of all days, I injured my left foot/ankle. It started as only a slightly noticeable twitch during my fourth sprint; it wasn't the type of pain to make you immediately stop running. I finished the workout, went back to the office and put my heels back on.

I imagine that's where the trouble truly started - by switching from my running shoes into heels for the rest of the day. I was even fine walking around in my heels during the afternoon. But when I switched back into my sneakers for the walk home, I could barely put any weight on my left foot. Tears pierced my eyes with each step I took. My usual 25 minute commute home took almost an hour.

The next day wasn't any better. In fact, it was slightly worse because I started to realize that if I couldn't even walk, running wouldn't be happening for awhile. Whatever the injury, the typical 6-8 week recovery period would put me past the half marathon.

That evening, Mike and I arrived a bit early at the restaurant where we were meeting his Dad for dinner. When he asked me why I looked so upset, I had to choke back the tears as I tried to put my frustration in words. Mike looked genuinely confused when he replied, "You're really this upset about it?"

It wasn't the response I wanted to hear. But the past week has really given me a chance to reevaluate and appreciate my current relationship with running. For most of my life, I would have gladly accepted an excuse that honestly kept me sidelined from running. So this deep level of disappointment and frustration is entirely new. Every morning, I have crossed paths with runners on my way to work. It makes me insanely jealous to see other people enjoy an activity that has become so much a part of me. I feel like running has been cheating on me.

Luckily, my injury seems to have healed quickly. I have been able to walk without a limp, and therefore at my normal Manhattan-pace, since Saturday. The spring weather and longer days have made me restless, but I have resisted the urge to lace up my running shoes and go.

Tomorrow I am planning on going for an easy 3.5 mile run after work. I am a bit nervous because I know, despite my efforts, I have already lost some of my endurance. But I am already excited to hit the pavement and have that feeling of freedom wash over me again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Double Digits

Today marked a milestone in my running career: my first double-digit run. Ten miles.

Throughout the week, that number had been staring at me every time I opened my planner. It's appearance matched my feelings for it: it seemed large, but attainable; I was uncertain I could actually complete that distance, but something kept telling me I was ready.

I planned my route a few days ago. I would run two laps of the four-mile loop in the Park, combined with a mile each way to and from the entrance on 90th.

I set out around 9:30 AM this morning, feeling light and airy in just running shorts and a short-sleeved top. Today's weather was perfect for running: low sixties, partly cloudy with a light breeze.

I entered Central Park and began my first four mile loop. It was a bit intimidating, especially on the hills, to think I would be back again, facing the same challenges, only with an extra 40 minutes of running behind me. I felt strong when I finished the first loop; five miles down, five miles to go. I was only half-way finished?

I passed the exit and began to get a bit worried. Suddenly I wasn't so positive I could do the ten miles. But I needed to do it, I was too sick to run last weekend. I tried to think about how rewarding it would be at the end. I still have seven weeks until the half-marathon; to know I would only be 3.1 miles shy of that distance with so much time remaining would certainly be a confidence booster.

So I trudged along, very slowly in some parts, taking advantage of bursts of energy in others. I tried not to worry too much about my pace; my biggest concern with this run should be my distance. Shortly after I crossed-over to the West Side, I felt my body become completely focused on the task at hand. While during my first five miles I enjoyed the scenery and taking in my surroundings, the last half of my run was focused only on the distance I could see directly in front of me.

At about the seventh mile, there was no way I would let myself stop before I finished all ten miles. I felt the power in my legs, my core and upper body had kicked-in to sync and the bottom of my feet were surprisingly blister-free (thanks to a lot of Body Glide and two pairs of socks).

I finished the ten miles (10.08 miles technically) in 1 hour 27 minutes 50 seconds. I felt amazing; I felt like I could really be considered a runner now. That time breaks-down to an average split time of 8 minutes 42 seconds, which is about 20 seconds higher than my training program calls for. But I was not upset in the least - I was too proud of finishing my first-ever double digit run.

The windows have been open in the apartment all day. When I was younger, I could never figure out why Mum and Dad were so excited to open the windows when the winter chill had finally disappeared from the air. But now that I am cooped-up indoors pretty much all day, I understand that excitement. I understand wanting that fresh, pure air to blow through your house and overtake the staleness of the winter months.

Between a wonderful run, a replenished tummy and the breeze, I enjoyed an hour nap on the couch this afternoon. Afterwards, Mike and I ordered lunch from our favorite Thai restaurant. The afternoon was just as relaxed as the weather.

My muscles have felt a bit sore throughout the day. But combined with the fresh air in my lungs, it has been that feeling of soreness you get after a day of hiking or an afternoon swimming in the ocean. The type of soreness where your body seems to be thanking you for taking care of it and using it for something other than the grind of everyday life.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rest & Recovery

Last week was exhausting. Tough workouts, lay-offs at work and fending off the flu. Combine this with the fact that my body was already worn out from the cold, dark days of winter and just getting out of bed in the morning can seem like the biggest challenge of the day.

Last Thursday was probably the worst day I have experienced in a long time. I heard rumblings of lay-offs well before Thursday and I knew HR had blocked off usage of all the conference rooms for the day. But nothing really prepared me for the gut-wrenching feeling of hearing an unsuspecting co-worker say, "Hey guys, where is conference room number two?"

That was 8:45 in the morning. For the next seven hours, I sat in the stunned silence of the office, watching familiar faces trudging towards the conference rooms. I felt trapped and nauseous; I had to remind myself to eat during the day so I could handle my workout that evening.

A week later, I still cannot put all of the feelings from that day into words. I was thankful to leave the office that day still being employed, but I couldn't stop thinking about those people, especially with families to support, who hadn't been so lucky. A tough tempo workout helped put things in perspective for me; all I could hope for was that this happened for a reason. I had to believe there was something more rewarding, more fulfilling waiting for them.

I busied myself during the weekend with projects around the apartment and running errands. All day Saturday, I felt exhausted. I could feel the stress and anxiety of the previous few days as a heavy weight on my chest; it seemed to resonate in every muscle in my body. I went to bed early Saturday night and slept for almost sixteen hours.

That's right, I said sixteen hours. I didn't wake -up until 12:30 PM Sunday afternoon. I knew there was no way I could put my body through a long run; just standing up seem to take every ounce of effort I could muster. I tried not to feel guilty about it, I tried reminding myself that I would only make it worse, but it didn't help much at the time.

Luckily, this week has been much better than the last. My body recovered from Sunday and has felt strong through all of the week's workouts. Morale in the office is closer to what it was pre-doomsday. The eather has been miserable, but the weekend holds the promise of warmer temperatures and Daylight Savings Time. I am so incredibly ready for the Spring days, just around the corner.
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