Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tonsillectomy, Soft Foods, and Getting Back into It

The past two weeks have been challenging for me. Two Fridays ago I had a tonsillectomy, which I did because I started developing tonsil stones over the past year or so, which coincided with this mysterious pain I'd been having. I got a couple of opinions from recommended ENTs, and they both said a tonsillectomy was the next logical step. While I wasn't eager to undergo a significant surgery--one that is particularly difficult on an adult--I needed to find the cause behind my pain so I could refocus on my life without being constantly sidetracked by the pain.

The actual surgery went every well, and even my healing process was as good as it could have been. But it was a true two weeks before I felt close to normal again, and during the first week in particular, The first two days were actually easier than the rest of the first week; I had my mom with me, and other family came to visit the day after, and we even went out to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant, which serves (delicious) soft foods. But after everyone left, I had a hard time sitting around home by myself in pain, fully reliant on the narcotics prescribed for my pain. Plus, I was determined to work. I'm still new at my job, and I was lucky enough to get this time off for surgery; I wanted to prove that I was dedicated to doing my job if I could at all. So I worked a few partial days from home, which I needed to feel a sense of purpose while I was just lying around the house rest of the time.

During this time, eating was a challenge. I was prescribed to eat only soft foods for two weeks, and even that seemed unmanageable. Simply drinking water hurt. Actually, just swallowing was the most painful part of recovery. But I did make a couple of new foods to try to entice myself to eat. One was mashed cauliflower:

I'm crazy about this dish now and will likely make a lot in the future.

Another was carrot ginger soup:

Not as good as my mom's, but still delicious--and with healing ginger!

And then for something soothing and healing to drink, I made a warm rice milk with honey, cinnamon, and turmeric:

The honey, cinnamon, and turmeric all have healing properties.

They all turned out delicious and added a bit of joy to my recovery days.

The other annoying thing I had to deal with during my recovery was a prescribed two-week hiatus from running or other vigorous activity. I expected one week, but not two. So my whole regular routine--something that keeps me feeling sane--was off for two weeks, and now that I am cleared to run again, I haven't done it yet. I intended to wake up early this morning, or even late, and run, but it didn't happen. I may yet get a run in later this afternoon. We'll see. I'll have to really dedicate myself to getting back into a training regimen. And I have the Gasparilla half marathon coming up, so hopefully that will be my main motivator!

This is actually a deferment from last year, but still, I'm registered!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Homemade Almond Milk

I've been wanting to make almond milk from scratch for some time, but it always seemed like too much work. But when I came across this recipe on Oh She Glows, I thought, this is doable. As always, I made a couple of exceptions: I didn't have a nut-milk bag, and I didn't use vanilla, because buying dried vanilla beans is expensive! I thought the flavors from the dates and cinnamon would be plenty.

I soaked my raw almonds--and dates, which is suggested if they are not very soft to start with--for about five hours. The recipe doesn't say how much water to soak them in, but I just made sure they were well covered with water. (You can also soak them over night.)

Then I drained and rinsed the soaked almonds and dates.

I then blended the almonds and dates with 3.5 cups of water on high for about a minute. 

Next, I thought I would use my fine-mesh strainer plus a cheesecloth to strain the liquid from the pulp, but the cheesecloth turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, and the fine-mesh strainer was plenty fine on its own to keep the pulp out. I poured the blender contents into the strainer, removing pulp as it filled up and got clogged, to make room for more blender contents.

Eventually I got all my liquid through with a significant amount of pulp leftover on the side (I thought I might do something creative with this, but it just ended up in the trash).

I have to say, this is the best almond milk I've tasted. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that it's sweetened with dates and cinnamon, but it also just tastes so fresh--because it is! The recipe says it only keeps 3-5 days, so this isn't the most practical recipe for one person, unless that one person consumes a whole lot of almond milk. I still have some left seven days later, and while it doesn't taste or smell bad, I'm still a little reluctant to use it (but that hasn't stopped me).

So this probably won't be a regular thing, but if I ever needed to use a lot of almond milk for a recipe, I might go through the trouble to do it again. It was so delicious!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Goals

I promised a post on 2015 goals. Before I do that, I want to look back on 2014's list of goals to see how they panned out (I'm scared!):

2014's Goals in Review
  1. Work on relieving anxiety.
  2. This one gets a "halfway met," because while I feel I tried to work on it, I didn't get very far and still was overcome with crippling anxiety at times. By the very end of the year, though, I felt my best.
  3. Do speed work.
  4. Not met. Not close.
  5. Visit a new place.
  6. Sadly, no. I traveled, but to the same places I've been.
  7. Do more yoga.
  8. Nope. I did do some, but I had a really hard time finding a studio that felt like my yoga home. The only place I really looked forward to was Curtis Hixon Park, which has yoga in the park each Sunday. There's just something more freeing being outside, in a an unconfined area. Perhaps I'm just lacking discipline.
  9. Eat less sugar.
  10. Met! I had very few cupcakes this year. And I didn't replace them with anything else. One way I kicked my cupcake obsession was to "unlike" my local Gigi's store page on Facebook (visit site with caution).
  11. Send more cards.
  12. Yep. I had more occasions to send cards--about dozen interviews for one job, for example--but it all counts. And I still haven't touched my Ray Charles stamps--I think I'm going to hold onto them.
  13. Maintain better email habits.
  14. Overall, yes. I still have an immediate reaction upon opening some emails to close them and mark as unread, because I don't want to deal with them, but I am dealing with them better and sooner, because I know it keeps me from getting stressed.
  15. Spend less time viewing social media.
  16. This gets another halfway. I was more conscious of my goal earlier in the year, which helped me avoid social media sometimes, and then when I started my new job I avoided it altogether (which I did not do at my former job). But I slipped toward the end of the year, when I had trouble sleeping, and when I decided I could just check social media on my phone at work. Still need to do some work on this.
  17. Read more books.
  18. I finished one whole book for pleasure and started two others. This is better than the previous year, I think--but still pitiful given the time in a year. I did make strides in freeing up my weekend and evening time by dropping freelance projects, and, going forward, I plan to use some of this free time reading more. 
  19. Judge less.
  20. It's a constant effort and constantly on my mind, so I think as long as I'm always making that effort, I'm accomplishing my goal.

2015 Goals
  1. Get back into top running shape.
    It's time for some PRs. This means I might just need to do that dreaded speed work.
  2. Ride my new bike.
    I don't have it quite yet, but when I get it, I want to use it for both in-town riding and exercise. That was the point of trading in my cruiser and road bike for a hybrid.
  3. Visit a new place.
    Since I failed at this last year, it automatically gets put back on the list. And I already have plans to do that--Pittsburgh, for a professional conference; and hopefully Outer Banks, NC, for a fall marathon!
  4. Spend more time with girlfriends.
    I always love this time and find it so fulfilling--not to discriminate, but it's irreplaceable (sorry, guys).
  5. Do what scares me.
    Sometimes these are little things, like running a new route, or committing to social events. Sometimes they're bigger, like putting myself out there at work through writing, or basically doing anything new and unfamiliar. But I've found the only way to overcome the fear is to do the thing.
  6. Read more books.
    I think this is always on my list. I joke to myself that I'm a terrible English major, because I have no idea what's going on in the world of literature at most times. And I love books, but I have a hard time focusing. But, as with number 5 above, the only way to get better at reading--and subsequently writing--is to do more of it. Book club, anyone??
  7. Give myself more credit.
    Like most people I know, I am my own worst critic. I can be terribly hard on myself for mistakes and blame myself for things out of my control. But I often fail to appreciate all the ways that I take care of myself--physically, emotionally, professionally, etc. Sometimes when I accomplish something lately I'll even pat myself on the back (not usually in public). It's a nice feeling.
  8. Budget better.
    I can be kind of an impulse buyer. If a so-so item is deeply discounted, sometimes I'll buy it because the sale is so good. But I still end up with an item I didn't really want or need. And that I didn't budget for. I've actually made a realistic budget for myself, with the purpose of saving, so now I just need to stick to it. Heh.
  9. Be successful at work.
    Hopefully this will be easy to measure in a year, as I'm still a new employee. But I really want to do well at my job--(1) because I left a place I was very fond of for it, and (2) because I care about making a valuable contribution to an organization. 
  10. Listen to more music.
    I love music. And I have a lot of music that I love. But I rarely listen to it. When I first moved into my new place, I had no Internet on the first couple of days, and I had placed my turntable and records in the living room so they were more accessible. While I set up my condo, I played my favorite records--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith--and loved it so much. I just need to remember to take time to do it. It transforms me.
These are all kind of random goals, but they're the things on my mind now. I'm sure I'll succeed at other things not on the list and not meet my own expectations in ways also not listed. But at least I'll be able to look back and see what it is I wanted out of myself and life at the beginning of 2015 and evaluate my progress.

Here's hoping you all meet your written or unwritten goals for the new year!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Year in Review

In line with last year's 2013 Year in Review, I wanted to do something similar for 2014, but with a separate new year "goals" post to follow. 

2014 began on a good note with a marathon PR at the Clearwater Marathon

A happy finish with my adorable niece running behind me!

and then quickly declined after injuring my foot.

I got to wear leggings like every day.

After taking six weeks off, I felt recovered enough to run an "easy" Iron Girl half-marathon in April

Just happy to have made it through uninjured!

and then moved through highs and lows as I began summer training for the Marine Corps Marathon and transitioned to a new job in September, after more than 12 years of working at USF.

My good-bye picture as I drove away on my last, sad day.

I trained through some still-lingering foot pain for 15 weeks, but in the end, I successfully completed the Marine Corps Marathon in October, exceeding my goal. 


Things got hectic right after the race. I went on my annual family trip to Ohio, which coincided with Halloween.

Very cold Floridians in front of our rented country house in Yellow Springs.

Me with "Dorothy," trick-or-treating in Yellow Springs.

Then birthdays and holiday events rolled in one after another, and through all that I went through more major changes in my personal life. At the very end of the year, though, I felt firmly on my feet and content with where I was in life, and that's saying a lot.

2014 Year Running Totals:

Not as good as last year, but I took a couple months off total due to injury.

Already, I've started the new year off right by running this morning, still trying to find my favorite way through my new neighborhood.

Though slightly, my pace is coming back down!

In addition to running, I hope to incorporate more of this:

I recently returned to boot camp after way too long of a hiatus!

as well as biking. I traded in both my cruiser and road bike for a more suitable (for me) hybrid. I bought one that I really loved

and then decided I wanted to upgrade to a slightly better version (on order)--just in case there are any triathlons in my future ;-)

I have no idea what 2015 will bring me, but if 2014 has taught me anything, it's that I know I'll be able to handle whatever comes my way. Late last year, I rediscovered a necklace that a USF friend had given in a prior year, and it couldn't have been more timely and relevant:

The inscription says, "All the strength you need is right there inside you."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Still Running

I took a little break from the blog while life things happened after the Marine Corps Marathon, but I'm still hitting the pavement.

I ran a Turkey Trot 5k with my brother-in-law on Thanksgiving day,

Our first race together! (And I have bed-head.)

the Brandon Half Marathon two weeks ago,

I cut that one a little too close!

the Let It Snow 5k for Girls on the Run last weekend,

I hijacked this pic of my friend Karen and her running buddy; I'm toward the back with mine.

I finally replaced my overly worn shoes with the newest Brooks Ghost (7),

At last, I get a wide shoe with good colors!

I went back to my bootcamp class this past week after a seven-month hiatus (ouch),

It's easy to smile when all the hard work's over!

I made a bike change that I've been wanting to do for a while--I sold both my road bike and my cruiser and bought a hybrid (if you ever want to know where NOT to try to sell, ask me),

I'm so excited to ride again!

and I ran (sort of) the Say No to Drugs 10k (a.k.a, the Scientology run) this morning. I was having a fantastic race for the first half, but then I started to feel a pain in my right-side abdominals, and all of a sudden I couldn't keep going. I had to pull over to the side and was practically doubled over in pain. I knew my abs were over-sore from the bootcamp workout, but I didn't think that pain would affect my run. However, I was also probably dehydrated, so I guess my muscles just seized up. I had to grab my right-side abs with both hands and stretch them vertically along my torso in order to keep moving. It was an awkward, painful, slow finish. But I had a great 5k and loved hanging out with friends afterward.

Just focus on those first three splits...

In one way, it's nice to not have a rigid marathon schedule to stick to; I can do whatever I want. But on the other hand, I struggle a bit more with accountability. Hence all the signing up for races. I'm actually surprised that I've kept up my weekly running, though my mileage is less, and I'm not running much in the mornings these days. It's been cold--like 40s--in the mornings for a while now. That's not tank-top running weather. But evening running is perfectly fine for me now. And in good news, my foot is bothering me less and less. 

With the holidays coming up and then a tonsillectomy scheduled at the start of January, I'm sure things will get off course even more, and I'll have to just accept the lack of structure and temporary break from running and working out. Mid-January, I should be rarin' to go and ready to train for spring races!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Recap

Pretty steady race. I can't complain about my performance.

This is long enough overdue--I know. Life has been busy, and that's good. But before I wait too long and attempt a lengthy post that covers everything, here are the highlights from my first (and probably last) Marine Corps Marathon:

  1. I'm really glad I did it. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not. However, running in this race has made me want to cling even more to smaller races. I get a bit of social anxiety--or crowd phobia, or whatever you want to call it--when I'm squished among 30,000 other runners.
  2. I beat a Goonie. Yes, Sean Astin, the darling asthma kid from the Goonies (yay for asthma representation in the media!) ran this race, and I ran it faster than him. That doesn't mean much, but in a race in which I didn't PR, I have to claim something. His net time was 4:29:11, and his clock time was 4:30:56 (all in all, a great time). But this is significant because it means he had very little time between when the clock started and when he crossed the start line, which further means he started up front, which leads to my next observation about the race...
  3. "The People's Marathon." I guess folks at this race don't feel a need to align themselves in the clearly marked pace designations prior to starting. MCM is not a race for elite runners; that is, there is no cash prize for winning. This probably makes it more average-runner-friendly. And I'm an average runner, so I should appreciate that. But I still appreciate rules and organization, too. I started in my predicted finish time of 4:15ish, around a 9:30 pace, and I still spent about five miles just trying to get ahead of everyone not going that pace and seemingly not interested in going that pace. I spent a lot of energy trying to make up for my slower pace in the initial miles. That's not ideal. (Aren't we racing? Is this a giant group run? Am I doing it wrong?)
  4. Oh yes, there are hills. I heard very mixed reviews about the elevation of this race from others who'd run it. Some said hilly, some said not (all Floridians). Let me be the definitive voice on this matter: it's hilly. But--they are mostly in the first quarter of the race, and I felt them. Particularly because I was also trying to run faster than my goal pace during this portion, I really felt them. I did not hill-train, so that's my fault. But I also didn't feel any worse for the wear after the race, so it was a mild inconvenience, I would say. Nothing like what I did at Steamtown. And that last, cruel .2 of a mile felt like it was straight up to the sky. I was prepared for that mentally. But there was something I was not prepared for...
  5. "Beat the bridge." Some friends told me this prior to the race, but I didn't know what they were talking about, so I shrugged it off. Now I know exactly what they mean. There is a bridge at about the worst point in the race, around mile 20, and the evil of it is not in it's elevation; it's actually a flat overpass. What makes it awful is that it goes on pretty much forever, and all crowd support is suddenly gone, and all you have to look at is more bridge in front of you, while the sun beats down and tries to drain your energy from your worn-out body. I saw so many people give in to walking on this bridge, and I came pretty close myself--but I didn't do it. I knew it would only take me longer to get off the cursed thing.
  6. Emily. I don't know Emily, but I was really annoyed with her by the end of the race. You see, at some races, usually smaller ones, the race organizers print runners' names on their bibs, but not so at this one. So in order to ensure that crowd supporters would still call her name and cheer for her, a woman who unfortunately ran just about the same exact pace as I did wore a shirt with her name printed on it. This way, for the entire race, wherever there was crowd support, people would yell and cheer for Emily. And I couldn't escape her. It's not that I was jealous; I just found it obnoxious after the first couple of times. And then I was irritated that I was spending energy being annoyed at Emily. A couple times I passed her, but somehow she always reappeared, pumping a fist into the air each time someone called her name. She must have had a great race. Good for her.
  7. Candy from strangers. I've never seen so much kind offering of candy at a race. Supporters held out large bowls full of unwrapped, sticky candy--Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, gummy anything. All I could think about was the numbers of runners before me who must have clumsily stuck their sweaty hand in the bowl and grasped around for whatever they could grab while still trying to run. And how many other pieces they must have touched! And how our immune systems are low after such an arduous race. The germs; the horror! I didn't spend days prior to the race prepping with Airborne and Emergen-C just to get sick from a sugary treat. Thanks, but no thanks. 
  8. Friends. I knew going into this race that I would not PR. I was glad to just feel capable of running it, given some of my foot drama throughout training. So what made this race special was having such wonderful friends there with me. Tampa really represented at MCM. I knew at least eight Tampa runners going into it and met a few more afterward. And while I didn't really stick with my girlfriends for very much of the race (see #3), I was so happy to be able to meet with them beforehand and afterward. I knew they were going through what I was going through, and that made it feel more special. 
  9. The monuments. I'd be negligent not to mention the other special aspects of this race. As we walked toward the start area, we walked past the Arlington Cemetery, which really tugged at my heartstrings before anything had even happened. I already tend to get emotional at races, so why not bring it all out before the start? It's impossible to walk past that vast graveyard and not think about the numbers of military personnel who have fought and died for our country, imagined their reasons for doing so, and considered their lives before their deaths. It was at once spooky, touching, and thought-provoking for this self-proclaimed pacifist. I've always had a deep appreciation for and interest in the military--despite my feelings about war. Now that I think about it, I guess this is the only monument I really noticed; I'm sure we ran around other ones, but not close enough for me to have paid attention (I was too busy trying to win).
  10. Oh, and all those marines. Active-duty marines lined nearly the entire course. They were professional, gracious, and encouraging. But one too many of them called me "ma'am." I let it slide. At the very end, when I'd made my big push to finish, I was ready to collapse, and there just happened to be young, attractive marines at the ready. So I wobbled a little bit, as I usually do when I've finished a marathon, but I might have exaggerated when I got near a handsome marine, who was probably not even twenty years old. He held me up and walked me over to some steps so I could sit down. By then I was pretty much done with my stunt, but he was taking his job very seriously and asking a gazillion questions about my well-being. Then another woman--who actually had passed out--grabbed his attention and I got away. And then I felt guilty about my behavior. 
Shenanigans aside, the actual race went well, overall. I was aiming for sub-4:15, and I got 4:11. I'm slightly bothered that I got so close to 4:10 and didn't make it, but it really doesn't matter. I'm happy with my race performance; I pushed hard through a difficult course and through various pain (my foot became the least of my problems as pain from my hips and shoulders took over).

Not getting sick on the plane ride there!

The Washington Monument in distance, early race morning.

A very cool paratrooper stunt, pre-race.

Pre-race photo--we're cold! Wait, where's Nicole?
There she is! We're about to get trampled--the race started!

I finished! And I'm in pain. And the sun is in my eyes. But it's all OK.

We reunited! Wait, Nicole's missing again!

Bonus picture: the "Exorcist stairs" that we visited the day after.

And of course, a sweet reward from the famous Georgetown Cupcake.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MCM14 Training, Weeks 13 & 14

Week 13

Avg Pace
Monday, 10/6Regular Run69:34
Tuesday, 10/7Regular Run99:41
Wednesday, 10/8Rest0--
Thursday, 10/9Regular Run69:38
Friday, 10/10Rest0--
Saturday, 10/11Long Run149:52
Sunday, 10/12Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 35

Week 14

Avg Pace
Monday, 10/13Regular Run59:29
Tuesday, 10/14Regular Run79:47
Wednesday, 10/15Rest0--
Thursday, 10/16Regular Run69:31
Friday, 10/17Rest0--
Saturday, 10/18Long Run109:27
Sunday, 10/19Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 28

Oops. I fell behind on posting. I'm actually in my 15th (and final) week of training leading up to this Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon. The last two weeks have gone pretty well--with some on and off foot pain (and lots of rest, you might have noticed). At this point, I'm just going to go up there and give it my best effort. I don't think I'm going to do any major damage to my foot; I'm not trying to beat my PRMy last long run was a bit faster than the previous ones (and much shorter), and I think it has something to do with the cooler temperatures lately:

Not exactly speedy, but still improved.

I'm hoping to stay with my two girlfriends who run the same pace as me for much of the race. Ideally, we'll keep each other from going out too fast but also motivate each other when we start to drag. And then cross the finish line smiling and holding hands. Just kidding. (Sort of.) 

The temperature should be perfect--lows in upper 40s and highs in mid-60s. While I know I'll be wearing a tank top and shorts for most of the race, I'll probably want to start in a long-sleeved "throwaway" shirt. I had visions of wearing something very patriotic, or at least trying to match the colors of the marines' navy and white uniforms, but I don't have anything like that, and when I went to three different stores this evening to find something, I came away empty-handed. All of the Florida stores are stocked with long sleeves and pants. In Florida. And the prices! This is supposed to be an inexpensive sport. So I'll just have to wear something old and unpatriotic. It may seem like a silly thing to be concerned about, but sometimes wearing something special makes me feel like I'm doing something more special (than an ordinary run). But I imagine the large crowds and swarms of marines will indicate to me that I am in fact doing something special.

My body has felt surprisingly sore this week, when I've only run 5, 7, and 4 miles--and that's it for training. It almost feels as if it's just now absorbing all of the training. I just hope it feels better by Sunday! I'm looking forward to being in DC, but I'll feel better when all of the logistics of the race are taken care of--flying in, picking up packets, checking into hotel, mapping out the plan for race day. And then, of course, the race. But AFTER all of that, I think I'll be able to enjoy myself. Lots of folks from Tampa are going, so I'm hoping to see as many as possible, but that will be difficult with the masses. And if anyone is interested in tracking me, you can do so at It won't be very exciting. You'll receive five updates over the course of probably four and a half hours. 

That's about all I've got. I've been thinking about packing, but haven't made a move yet. Luckily I don't leave until Saturday morning. One more day to procrastinate.

Hopefully my next post will tell about my major, unexpected success at the race. Or at least that I survived it. Stay tuned!