Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Black-Eyed-Pea Hummus and Roasted Veggie Collard Wraps (V/GF)

A couple nights ago I made the best meal I've ever prepared for myself. I don't feel too arrogant saying this because my standards for home cooking are not terribly high; I generally don't like to put too much effort into making food for one, and I'm more concerned about consuming nutritious meals than gourmet ones. That said, if I can achieve low maintenance, healthy, and delicious, I'm pretty wowed.

This particular meal was inspired by a black-eyed pea dip I had at Fodder & Shine recently. I wanted to make my my own, which really is just hummus with black-eyed peas instead of garbanzo beans, but I also wanted use it in a way that felt more like a meal than a snack. I also remembered some vegan tacos I'd recently had at Bartaco, which included cauliflower and almonds in the filling. The carrots and onions just seemed like a nice complement to the roasted cauliflower. Then I needed something green, and the collards helped bring everything together (literally!).

Here's my recipe for one which lasted nearly three dinners:

Hummus

  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 handful parsley
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste

Combine everything in a food processor and blend until desired consistency is achieved.


Veggies

  • Half a bag frozen cauliflower (or 1 small head, fresh)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • A few dashes cumin

Chop all the veggies and toss in olive oil and seasoning, then bake at 400 for 20-25 mins.



Spread a spoonful of hummus lengthwise on a collard leaf, then top with veggies, wrap it up and enjoy! 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

For 2016: Have More Faith

This past year was one of the most challenging years of my life. It started out with a loose foundation: fresh out of a long-term relationship, living in a new space, still new at my job. I had some early successes with running, but that changed abruptly when I developed pain in my left foot that would keep me from running for the rest of the year. Running was therapy for me. It provided me with a physical outlet, a meditative space, a constant cycle of challenge and reward. It gave me confidence and kept me healthy—except when it didn't. So without a lot of stability to begin with, my world as I knew it was shaken, and I had little to fall on. And rather than reach out to loved ones, I wanted to fall apart. I was lucky to have some close friends and family members help pick me up. I was able to end the year on a good note, spending lots of time with family, dedicating myself more to swimming, and appreciating whatever abilities I had in a given day, even when it wasn't running. I tried to feel more gratitude for life in all of its dimensions.

And that brings us to the new year. Here is my obligatory and unapologetic list of goals for 2016, with a look back at the past year.

2015's Goals in Review
  1. Get back into top running shape.
    I did PR my half-marathon time, but running thereafter was cut short, so, partly met.
  2. Ride my new bike.
    I did this and more. Actually, I traded that bike in for another, and then that one in for another in an effort to get the most performance out of cycling, once I realized I'd be taking a hiatus from running.
  3. Visit a new place.
    Technically, yes. I went to a professional conference in Pittsburgh. But I didn't have much of an opportunity to explore the city, so I'm only halfway counting it.
  4. Spend more time with girlfriends.
    Yep. This came rather automatically, having spent the year single.
  5. Do what scares me.
    I did do one big thing I'd previously been afraid of—I took up swimming. I started in May with very little idea of what I was doing, and now I average about 3.5 miles per week of lap swimming. The best part? I love it.
  6. Read more books.
    I did finish some books this year, but not nearly as many as I'd hoped I would. More work to do on this one.
  7. Give myself more credit.
    Why is this one so hard? I think on the whole I met this goal. That's not to say there wasn't room for improvement, but in an effort to give myself more credit, I'm giving this one a "goal met."
  8. Budget better.
    Eh.
  9. Be successful at work.
    I did have several big, measurable successes, and I also grew more confident in my new position. 
  10. Listen to more music.
    Sort of. I listened to more of what I already knew, but I didn't try to discover anything new, which I think was part of the intention behind this goal.

2016 Goals

  1. Have more faith in things.
    A couple of recent conversations with friends have helped me realize that I could use work in this area. (1) In talking to a running friend about my ongoing foot troubles, he suggested that I have faith that my foot will get better. He was right to intuit that I'd pretty much given up. I had put all of my faith in doctors—many of them—and hardly in myself or my body, and I ended up continually disappointed. (2) Another friend recently pointed out my "pragmatic" approach to a situation that might have benefitted from more of an optimistic, even romantic (in the sense of being imaginative, hopeful) view.  It made me wonder what else about my life might be different if I were able to take on a more auspicious outlook. So, duly noted, friends. 
  2. Meet swimming goals.
    I've actually already set a couple of goals for swimming—one that will keep me swimming throughout the year, and another that is more performance based. I joined a 111 Miles Swim Challenge, which is a year-long challenge that started through November 2016. At my December check-in I was just over 30 miles. I feel pretty confident I'll be able to successfully complete this one. I also wanted to make a pace goal for myself, and because I was fairly close to swimming 50 (50-yard) laps in 50 minutes, I set a personal goal to exceed that pace. Recently I came close with 50 minutes and 11 seconds, so I have a feeling I'll meet that goal soon and likely make a new one.
  3. Write more.
    Journal, blog, write good or crappy poetry, try a personal essay, write a sentence, a few words--all of it counts. Just do it. Daily.
  4. Visit a new place.
    This one stays on the list. Perpetually. My travels used to revolve around an event, like a marathon. It's been a long time since I've just gone somewhere to explore the place. And there are so many places I want to explore—within and outside of the U.S. I just need to plan to do it, without any other reason.
  5. Follow through with grad school.
    For a second time, I've been admitted to a graduate program, the first of which I didn't follow through with. But this time I feel more ready and excited about it. However, because I'll be a part-time student of an online program, it might feel easy to disengage, or take it lightly. But I want to do it well and try to gain as much as skill and knowledge as possible from the experience.
  6. Nurture close relationships.
    I have a tendency to act as though good friend and family relationships will maintain themselves. But I've learned otherwise this year. I was negligent in taking care of some relationships that were actually very important to me, and I saw the negative affect of my actions, or inactions.
  7. Allow new relationships.
    Uhh...
  8. See my potential.
    Why is this one so hard? I think on the whole I met this goal. That's not to say there wasn't room for improvement, but in an effort to give myself more credit, I'm giving this one a "goal met."
  9. Spend more time making food.
    Research shows that using our hands to create things helps relieve anxiety and depression. Hence the recent popularity of adult coloring books. I've also found that making food makes me feel good, gives me feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. Further, as someone who has struggled with food issues before, being able to not only control but also appreciate everything that goes into what I make eases my mind.
  10. Run.
    In keeping with the spirit of goal number 1, I would be remiss to not include this one. Of course I want desperately to be able to run again, but I've wanted to be realistic about when or whether that will happen. That realistic view, though, has perhaps crossed a little far into pessimism and has kept me from having hope. So without setting any parameters around this goal or measures of success, I say simply that I aim to run in 2016. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's a Froggy-Frog World

Okay, I know that's a bad wordplay on what is already an eggcorn, but I couldn't help myself. The allusion, of course, is to swimming, which is something I am able to do right now. In addition to laying off of running, I've decided I need to give biking a break, because, if I'm being honest with myself (which I sometimes hate doing), it aggravates my foot—and my pelvis, but that's another issue. While the impact of biking is minimal, I still use my foot to push down on my pedal, which creates enough pressure that it could be delaying healing. So there's my first confession for the day.

Confession #2: No activity I do is pain free. So even swimming sometimes exacerbates pain I've been experiencing in the medial (inside) arch of my foot. Frustrating, right? (Right!) But it's mild and its level of irritation seems to be directly related to how long and hard I swim. So when I went to a coached group swim last Tuesday, I swam harder than I normally do on my own. I felt the pain a bit more afterward. But the reward from this session was significant enough to warrant the mild and temporary pain. That's my position for now, anyway.

This was the most "coached" swim session I've ever had, which means I learned all things I suck at can improve at. It was a lot to take in at once—counting strokes, streamlining (which I had no idea I was supposed to do), following through, sighting, cupping, among others. But the coach, Julie, had us focus on just one thing at a time, so it didn't feel too overwhelming.

We're happy because it's over! Just kidding; it was fun. Really.

Even though we in the group weren't directly competing with one another, it's hard for me to swim next to someone and not try to beat them. This inclination proved detrimental when, toward the end of practice, we were to swim five 100s (100 m is out and back two times) with 8 seconds of rest in between at about 75 percent effort. I realized that what I thought was 75 percent was closer to 100, and I burned out really fast. I had to concede to the woman sharing my lane (who probably wasn't racing me like I was racing her). And that was hard to swallow. But here is where I need to step back and be okay with not being perfect or the best—I'm so far from it!—and just take these opportunities to improve.

I have a lot to practice going forward, but at least I know now what I should be working on. I had pretty much become complacent with my own way of swimming, which was based purely on what felt good and natural to me, but I now know that some of the efficiencies I learned may not feel natural at first. So I just have to deal with it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grieving the Loss of Running

It's been more than seven months since I've had to step away from running. While I've been able to do other things during this time, I've experienced strong and varying emotions every day that I haven't been able to run. It occurred to me only recently, while watching an episode of Jane the Virgin (an excellent show that I was pretty skeptical about initially), that I've been grieving the loss of running. In the episode, Jane recaps how she went through the well-known Kubler-Ross five stages of grief in one day, over the loss of a relationship. But it was her highlighting of these stages that made me realize I'd been going through the same thing—except over months, and over the loss of running.

It may seem trivial, especially given the grave and tragic world events occurring daily, to make such a big deal out of running, but we all still have our personal challenges to deal with each day, and I in no way mean to minimize the suffering of others in this post.

Here are the five stages and how I have experienced them and still continue to:
  1. Denial. When I first felt the pain, I thought I'd just take a few weeks off and get back to it. I went to several doctors over the course of several weeks, not accepting the possible diagnoses I received, which would have required serious treatment that I didn't think I really needed.
  2. Anger. When it became clear that a diagnosis—never mind a treatment plan—was not going to be easy to come by, I grew very frustrated, and scared. All I wanted was a plan—a way forward, and I couldn't seem to get one. 
  3. Bargaining. I decided I'd be okay without running for a while as long as I could do other things—bike, swim, and workout at the gym. But of course, these would only be temporary. I'd trade them back in for running when my foot was healed.
  4. Depression. When it started to feel as though my foot would never heal, after a false start back to running, I became depressed about my situation. I then went to another doctor and received a stress fracture diagnosis. At first, this was happy news. It was a solid diagnosis (I thought) with a real treatment plan. I kept up my training with some restrictions, but soon began to doubt that the stress fracture was the real problem. The closer I got to my two-month "sentence" in my fracture boot and on restricted exercise, the more I felt unconvinced that I'd be able to run in the foreseeable future. The fracture, if it really existed, was in a different location than my initial foot pain, so the doctor wasn't able to address the initial problem until the fracture finished healing. After two months and three weeks, I was released from the boot got a cortisone shot in my foot for what we thought could be a neuroma. I thought the shot would be the answer. But it didn't help. And I was back to the start, with new pains I'd developed from wearing the boot. I went to yet another doctor, who told me the MRI I'd previously gotten did not clearly show a stress fracture (I think I went through an entire grieving process for that news alone), and essentially I'd wasted three months on a misdiagnosis. She re-diagnosed me with metatarsophalangeal (MTP) synovitis (basically, ball-of-foot pain). She prescribed a treatment regimen for me to try for a few weeks, which I'm still doing beyond that few weeks, because I wasn't very dedicated the first time around. 
  5. Acceptance. I feel I've had no choice but to reach this stage. It's not that I think I'll never run again, but I cannot plan for it. I can't keep asking, "when?" That has only led me to disappointment and frustration and depression. I have to live my life the way I can now, even if that means without running. I've gone back to yoga, a practice I used to do regularly but fell out of when running took over. It was hard to go back; I felt I'd betrayed the practice and I had to overcome my own guilt from walking away. But now that I'm doing it a couple times a week, it feels really right.
I still get twinges of pain when I see someone running outside, especially in this cooler Florida weather. But I can be out there too, just on a bike instead of on my feet. And I'm still swimming three times a week and loving it. I'm also trying to embrace more non-athletic things, because I've learned what can happen when I tie my identity too closely to those endeavors.

Life without running is still a good life—a great life, if I allow it to be. Arriving at that realization has not been easy, and on a cheesy, pre-Thanksgiving gratitude note, I also have to say how thankful I am for the family and friends who stuck with me through all of my gloom and doom. You helped pull me through the worst of it, and I'm so grateful.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mi Nuevo Vivoactive

After four steady months of swimming and biking, I decided I should go ahead and get a multi-sport watch. I really wanted it for swimming, as I'd had no real method for tracking my progress, and even my laps I 'd been counting in my head, hoping I didn't skip a number. So I went to the bike shop to check out what was available, and the choice was pretty much made for me after I looked at the prices. I "opted" for the Garmin Vivoactive, which seemed perfectly suited to my needs for a starter multi-sport watch. I was still just amazed that I could wear a watch under water!

FYI, I'll probably never use the golf function.

I've used it for two rides and a swim so far--but I noticed something was off on the first two summaries:

The coolest feature is that I can see my strokes per lap, which are pretty consistent!


5,606 calories burned on a 20-mile ride--pretty amazing, no?

As much I wanted to believe it, I knew there was no way I was burning that many calories during my workouts. I then realized that someone at the bike shop who shall remain nameless, when setting up my profile, entered my weight as 776 lbs. Because it's hilarious. So after I corrected that, I went on one more ride and got accurate stats:

While my speed had been getting better, this was a windy day and I caught four red lights :)

The watch itself is pretty easy to use, once you figure a couple of things out (like how to use it). It's primarily touch-screen, but the on/off and start/stop buttons are on either side of the watch face. Also, the charging dock is magnetic, so the watch goes is really easily to charge, which is an improvement over my Forerunner 210, which uses prongs that must be perfectly aligned with the holes on the watch back via a clip. The Vivoactive charging dock plugs right into the computer via USB, and there's no additional plug to deal with. This can be a pro or con; it's simpler and less messy when I'm at home, but if I were to travel and not have my computer with me, I'd need to bring a wall plug with a USB port.

I will say that the stats aren't very large on the screen while the watch is in use, but I don't have any vision trouble, so it's not an issue for me, luckily. It may be a drawback for others.

Truthfully, I was struggling with motivation throughout dealing with this foot thing, and the watch is a great new tool to keep me pushing toward goals and improving my performance. I used to geek out over these stats with my running watch, and now I can do the same for the other sports that look as though they'll remain in my near future, and hopefully much longer.

Also, I've been working on my Spanish, mostly in my head, during rides, trying recall all the words, phrases, and conjugations I learned in college and prior. So for this week, I can say that las cosas estan mejorando (I had to look up mejorando :-/).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Look Up, Look Forward

I'm going on six weeks in the boot. I recently had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedist, and it wasn't the happy-making experience I thought it would be. I have a tendency to put all of my hope and faith for recovery in one appointment, when really healing is a months-long process, which I've been reluctant to accept. I thought I'd be able to go in to the appointment, convince my doctor of my self-diagnosed neuroma, and get myself a cortisone shot. But that's not what happened. First, I don't think he was convinced I had a neuroma, but even if he had been, he wouldn't give me the shot. He said it could interfere with the healing of my fracture. Oh yeah, that. Probably responsible doctoring, but I wasn't satisfied. 

He had me get an x-ray to see what we could see. He said everything looked normal (which doesn't mean anything for my fracture), except that I had a sesamoid bone in my second metatarsal head. We all have them naturally embedded in a tendon within our first metatarsal head (I'm kind of a foot expert now), but I guess I have this extra one? I wasn't clear on what that meant. I don't think they just grow suddenly, but maybe I've always had it and it got shifted around and caused inflammation and irritation. Or maybe it was nothing. When I asked my doctor about how it was treated, he mentioned something about possible stem cell therapy, and I tuned out and gave up. I knew nothing could be done for at least another month, for which the doc wanted me to continue wearing the boot and then come back for another check-up. Before I left, he told me to look forward; don't look back on all the time I'd been out of commission and in pain, he said. 

It reminded me of what the sales guy at my gym had told me the day before, after I broke down crying when he asked me how my foot was (poor him). He told me, "Look up. Don't look down; there's nothing good to look at." So, with these directionals in mind, I tried to improve my outlook. 

This same gym guy (whose name I forget, but he's super nice) told me about a chiropractor who was "amazing." He'd told me this before, and I pretty much disregarded it, thinking, I've been to a chiropractor before and it was useless. I also kind of figured the gym had a referral deal with the chiropractic office, which turned out to be true. But this time I really had nothing to lose by making an appointment, so I thought, why not? Long story short, I saw him, I had a good experience, and I'm going to continue treatment to see if it helps. More on that later.

In the meantime, I've been trying to stick to a regular biking and swimming schedule, but it had started to get harder to stay motivated. I was going to go on a group ride--I even had a couple of confirmed "buddies" who would go my slowish speed--but I chickened out the morning of the ride. I was too afraid. And as it turned out when I later prepped my bike for a solo ride, I had a flat in my rear tire. This has never happened to me. The front tire is one thing, but the rear--I had no idea how to get the thing off. Several YouTube videos later, this is what my disassembly looked like: 

Just like the pros.

I eventually did get it off, changed out the tube, and got the tire back on. All said, it probably took a couple of hours. For frame of reference, bike mechanics do this in a couple of minutes. 

Good as new!

Later in the week, in untimely fashion, I attended a flat clinic at my local bike shop, Outspokin Tampa. I was like teacher's pet. I knew all the things that could go wrong, because for me they did, so I knew the good questions to ask. It was an extremely informative clinic, and I highly recommend that anyone new to cycling attend one (earlier rather than later).

I was doing really well with swimming--up to 3,000 yards in a workout, and then my left shoulder started hurting. So I had to back off of that for a little while, which was depressing. Swimming was my new happy sport, and it gave me confidence because, even though I was new and still had lots of room for improvement, it felt good and right to me. Well, until it didn't. 

But after some rest, I was able to get out to a group swim tonight and really push myself. I've never done anything but straight laps back and forth continuously until I'd met my desired distance. But tonight I did some interval training with a coach, Leo, and got to see what it felt like to go all out for time. I think I did 100 yards in 1:44, which, from what I know about swim times (not much), is very average. But I enjoyed the competitive feeling, which I haven't had since I last ran a race in April. And now I have a time to improve on.

We couldn't touch the ground. Some serious doggy paddling.

Throughout all of my difficulties with motivation and feelings of hopelessness about running again, I could never get too down because of these two loves:

Movie night! It was all fun and games until someone threw up :/

Depression is sometimes easy for me to sink into, but my nieces give me a reason to be stronger, to be a good role model, and to try to stay positive. They don't understand my fears and anxieties about my health; they care about what immediately affects them in their lives. They have questions that constantly need to be answered, and they need to constantly feel cared for and loved. These things help me stay present. Plus, they're just so darn cute. So spending time with them has been important to my healing.

"Tita this is for you and I love you."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Boot Chronicles: How I Really Feel

I've been wearing my fracture boot for nearly 14 days (minus the 1.5 days I didn't have it during the Great Flood of '15), and I'm having a hard time with it. Not just the boot itself--its clunkiness, stuffiness, heaviness--but I'm reminded of how much longer I have to wear it and, more than that, I'm afraid the fracture isn't my only problem. I feel pain where I don't think I should, based on the location of my fracture (first metatarsal). More and more, I'm concerned that I also have a neuroma. I feel pain very specifically on the ball of my foot, around the third metatarsal head. My doctor said this could be "referred" pain from the fracture, but I'm not so sure.

It's hard to know the timing of everything; I avoided getting a new MRI for weeks and weeks after initially feeling the foot pain in April, so I don't know how old (or new) the fracture was at the time of diagnosis. My hope is that, at my follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks, assuming I'm still feeling the ball-of-foot pain, my doctor will give me a cortisone shot with the intention of curing the neuroma--if he agrees there's one present. Then I should be able to determine whether the pain in that specific area had been caused by the fracture or a neuroma. That's my own medical opinion, though. And I'm only an obsessive hypochondriac, not nearly a qualified medical professional.

One perq of wearing the boot: my niece loves to push the "nose."

Making a new foot-impaired friend.

I'm becoming concerned that I'll never have full use of my feet again, that I'll never be able to run again. This is how my mind works; I jump to extremes, I catastrophize. But I also feel I have to consider all possibilities. All of this worry--we'll call it anxiety--keeps me from doing things. It's killing my spirit, my motivation to keep on going and doing what I know I can still do: swim, bike, strength train (on the floor). It's wearing on me, after several months, and at least a couple more to come. 

I realize this is quite a downer post, but this is how I feel, under the rose-colored glasses.