Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sweet tooth fighting a moral dilemma

I'm fighting a moral dilemma.  I love sweets.  All kinds of sweets ~ cookies, cake, cheesecake, ice cream, chocolate, candy, pastries, donuts, cupcakes...  which is why I gave them up for Lent.  I'm not Catholic, but I typically do this every year to sacrifice something that I really enjoy.  Lent is 42 days long and starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.  Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays, probably because of the candy and chocolate and that cute little bunny.  I'm not religious, but I think Jesus was a pretty cool dude as well.

My mom used to hide Hershey's kisses and jelly beans for me and my brother all over the house and we would have to look around and find them
if we wanted to eat them.  It was a lot of fun.  Then we would put our stash in our Easter baskets, along with a book and a new stuffed animal and maybe even a full-sized chocolate bunny.

So now we are facing the end of Lent, and potentially the end of giving up sweets for 42 days.  The end of my sacrifice.  I've been substituting my nightly sweet-treat with a bowl or two of cereal (yes, unfortunately it does still have sugar in it) or a couple of pieces of toast.  I've even stayed away from Spekuloos cookie spread and Nutella for the past 6 weeks.  The first 3 days was really tough.  My cravings were insane.  But now...  I'm faced with the fact that (horror of all horrors) I don't really miss sweets that much.

I did not eat one M&M or oreo cookie at the 50-mile race this past weekend.  (Maybe if I had eaten some, I would have finished the 100-miles I signed up for?  Not likely... my knee wouldn't have played along nicely for that amount of time and distance.)

Is my stomach less pudgy?  Maybe.  Has my weight changed?  Might have dropped a couple of pounds.  Do I feel better?  Undoubtedly, yes.  Maybe it's because my blood sugar is more stable?  Less processed sugar and more fruits and vegetables?  When I want something sweet to snack on, I eat a couple of cuties, some baby carrots, or a handful of nuts.  More vitamin and mineral content?  You betcha.

My moral dilemma is this ~ since I feel better without sweets, I'd like to keep NOT eating them.  I think I will be healthier for it.  I feel like if I fall off the wagon and eat just one chocolate chip cookie, it will be all over and I will want to eat a dozen.  I'm going to Germany in two weeks.  Can I resist the chocolate and the cheesecake?  I doubt it.  But what is eaten in Europe, is eaten in Europe ~ and no one has to know about it!

I want to eat a whole container of Trader Joe's mini peanut butter cups come Easter Sunday.  Do I have the willpower to fight them off?

photo credits:  1), 2) Wikimedia commons, 3) Michelle E. Swierczek photography, 4) Wikimedia commons, 5), all found by Google images search.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buffalo 100 recap

Snow and cold in Layton on the way
to the start ~
I had a sinking feeling as I drove to the start of the Buffalo 100 on Friday ~ 33 degrees and snowing in Layton, just a few miles away from Antelope Island.  It was ominous.

The Island awaits ~
When I arrived at the start-area at White Rock Bay, I busied myself with arranging my gear, dropping off my drop-bags, and saying hello to a few friends.  I kept my headphones on to distract myself with some music because the pre-race talk always gets me a little more jittery.  I also left my fleece-lined ski pants and puffy coat on until the very last minute.  I considered racing in my puffy coat, but decided to keep my other 2 puffy coats that I had in my drop bags as reserves and try to tough out the first 19 miles without them.

It was windy (understatement).  Sustained winds 20-30 mph with some gusts probably up to about 40 mph.  I think the high on Friday was in the low 40s.  That translates to a temperature around 30 degrees if you factor in the windchill.  And that was while the sun was out.

I opted to pull a "Meltzer" at Elephant Head, and while the rest of the race went on a 4-mile out and back, I did the 6 mile loop first.  I did this for two reasons:  1) I love running by myself, without listening to the chatter of other racers and the snorts of snot from them which make me gag.  and 2) I was hoping that some of the faster racers (who had done the 4 mile out and back first) would catch up to me and I would see them.

Indeed, both assumptions played out nicely.  Although I missed running with Karl (he was just too fast), I did get passed by Craig, Bob, and Aaron as we headed back to Elephant Head.  I moved out of the way, cheered them on, and they gave me some words of encouragement as well.
On the way to Elephant Head, moments after the start ~

Despite the chilly, windy weather, I had an awesome marathon ~ I ran 5 mph until the first pass through Lower Frary Aid station at mile 27.  I got some broth and a perogie from Roch, Seth, and Sara and felt really good.  About a mile after the aid station, I felt a little "twinge" in my left knee, at the IT band insertion and also below the knee and thought to myself, "Uh oh.  This is not happening."  I took out a knee compression strap and fiddled with it a bit until I found a placement that alleviated some of the pain, popped a couple of Ibuprofen, and continued on to the Ranch.

Split Rock bay from Elephant Head ~
Feeling pretty good despite the cold and wind ~
mile 14-ish ~
I got to the Ranch aid station (mile 33) and said hello to Erik and John.  I mentioned my knee issue to Erik, and he reminded me of the cold temps.  Yes, I hadn't had any issues with my knee in about 2 1/2 years and was pretty sure he was right.  My knee was just stiffening up because of the cold.

The sun went down and the mountains to the east glowed pink with the setting sun (Alpenglow reflected from the setting sun in the West).  The wind continued to blow, and as the sun went behind Stansbury Island to the west, the temperature instantly dropped about 10 degrees.  It got a bit colder as it got dark, but the trail was smooth and I put off turning on my headlamp until just before I went through Frary again at mile 38.

I said hello to Roch and Sara again and they hooked me up with some hot green tea (which I mixed in my handheld water bottle with a Honey Stinger gel ~ so delicious) and a turkey and cheese quesadilla.  That food held me for nearly 10 miles!  I also put on my puffy coat from my drop bag ~ so cozy.

Ogden Alpenglow ~
The wind was blowing so hard from the north ~ probably 30 mph sustained, that I felt like it wasn't even worth running against it and wasting my energy.  I could walk 4 mph without knee pain, but as soon as I tried to pick up the pace and run, my knee would hurt after about 10 steps.  Bugger.  I was starting to get tears in my eyes.  Everything else felt good.  Why did this have to happen?

A couple of times when I took my tights down to pee on the side of the trail, I took my gloves off and felt the skin on my legs.  Then I understood why my knee hurt so much.  My skin was like ice.  The wind was going right through my winter-weight tights and I wasn't able to keep my muscles and tendons warm enough to prevent the stiffening up of my knee.  The cold really only affected my knee that I had ACL surgery on 6 years ago ~ my other knee was fine.  I wondered to myself if I would have been better running in my fleece-lined ski pants after all!  But they were in my car at the 50-mile aid station, so there wasn't much sense in dwelling on something that couldn't be changed.

I talked with another runner named Mike, and he said that his hips and knees were bugging him too, from the cold, and had opted to put some wind pants on over his tights.  I though about putting a second layer of tights on from my drop bag at Frary, but honestly have you ever tried to run in two pairs of tights?  I was afraid I would be walking like the Tin Man.

I called my friend Mark (who was a few miles ahead on the trail at one of the aid stations volunteering) and told him what was going on.  I said I was going to drop at mile 50.  He said for me to continue to his location and we would talk.  When I got there, what seemed like an eternity later through the cold, windy torture chamber (the temperature was now 25 degrees, with 30 mph wind, translating to a temp in the single digits) I dropped about 4 or 5 f-bombs and I think I scared the crap out of Zac, the other aid station volunteer.  Poor guy.  We had just met at the half-marathon event in Moab the previous weekend and I had to laugh at what he must have thought of my outburst.

On my way up the hill to start the Bridger Bay loop, I walked next to my friend Leon.  As we were going up the hill, Karl came cruising down the hill, already well into his second loop of the Island at mile 70, as we were at mile 43.  He was nearly 30 miles ahead of us!  What an amazing athlete, I thought to myself.  What a jerk!  Leon and I talked about how he would certainly get a course record, as many of the rest of us were struggling just to make it one time around the Island in the conditions.  We saw a huge flash of lightening off to the west and a rumble of thunder.  Leon said, "Oh, it WILL storm again!"  And I thought to myself, "I do not want to be out here when it does."

I told Leon to go on ahead, as he was mustering a nice jog and I was only able to speed walk on account of my knee pain.  It was eery going out to the Bridger Bay campground by myself, on a rudimentary trail through the sand and dead waist-high weeds.  I met up with Quintin who was drinking some broth at the aid station at mile 46, and the volunteer showed me the way around the tent to continue on my path around Buffalo Point.

It was dark out there.  So dark.  It was also sheltered from the wind and very calm.  I looked up at the stars and saw them twinkling in the jet-black sky. I could see storm clouds off to the west and I could see the lake just a few yards below me, reflecting in the moonlight.

Quintin came along from behind and I stepped aside to let him pass.  He gave me words of encouragement to continue and I appreciated his ever-positive attitude.  Feeling a little low, I had another bite of something to eat and thought the aid station at 50 miles would never come when moments later, I was on the pavement again, just a mile away.  I caught Leon and Quintin again as we headed in to the last stretch of lap one and jogged into the tent.

I gave my race number to the volunteer (who was drinking a beer at 11:30pm) and he replied with, "Are you sure that's your number?"  Well, asshole, I've only been out here for eleven and a half hours, through half a dozen other aid stations, checking in with the number that is on my race bib, so I'm pretty sure that's what my number is.  I gave him a blank stare and said, "Yes.  I'm sure."  And proceeded over to a camp chair where my friend Britta got me a hot cocoa and my friend Kim would would have been my night pacer (had I not dropped out) gave me a steak and potato burrito from Rancheritos.  Delicious.

My knee continued to stiffen up as I sat there and I was sure I made the right decision to drop at mile 50.  Here I was, eleven and a half hours later, and Karl would go on to set a new course record in 14hrs 34min.  I went back out to Frary to pick up my drop bag and say thank you to Roch and the other volunteers there (Sara was sleeping and would win the 50 mile race the next morning).  I marveled at how beautiful the cities along the Wasatch front were as viewed from the east side of the Island at night.  It was one in the morning when I got home.  I heated up the rest of my burrito, took a shower and went to bed.  My knee was killing me and I took 800mg of Ibuprofen.

Reward ~
Here I am now, 4 days later, and my knee feels fine.  My legs never really did get sore.  Hopefully that is a testament to me being in pretty good shape.  I'm certain that if the conditions had been different (warmer) I would have finished the race, having not had the knee issues that I had.  I look back at last year when I volunteered at this race at Lower Frary and it was 80 degrees for a daytime high.  Back on that day, I said to myself, "I think I'll run the 100 here next year."  The Island tricked me and lured me into its beauty.  I wasn't able to overcome the cold temperatures and the winds.  But never fear, my knee feels much better now, and I think I averted a grander injury had I kept going. There are lots of races this summer and the Island will be there next year.  And next time, I will have Windstopper tights.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Good for the soul ~ rest, running, and laughter

Wow, after my 4 big running weeks in a row, I was super tired last week.  I decided to give things a rest.  I napped in the afternoons and took 5 days off in a row.  By Friday I was running again, and put together 20 miles over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  It felt good.

Now, this week I'm up to 20 miles already over Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I ran two 5 1/2 mile runs yesterday (one with the dogs).  My running partner, Mark, told me that it felt like I was running faster on the afternoon run.  I looked down at my watch, and the pace-clock said we were doing 30 seconds per mile faster than usual!  And I felt relaxed and was chatting away.  I guess that rest did me some good.

The weather has been sunny this week ~ first cool, and brisk, and sunny, then today a bit windy and warm.  It got up to nearly 60 degrees here in Salt Lake!  Running with the dogs was relaxing and nice this afternoon.  We've got some weather moving in tomorrow evening, and hopefully it will hold off for the first session of Girls on the Run that starts tomorrow.  I'll be coaching again this year at Uintah Elementary with my friend Suzanne.

Since I gave up sweets for Lent a few weeks ago, I've dropped a couple of pounds.  I really think I feel leaner and lighter, and my pants are fitting a little looser too.  All good for the upcoming Buffalo 100 in two weeks!  Yikes!  I'm so excited.

My friend Tiffany is in town this week from Seattle for a work conference.  We hadn't seen each other in over 20 years!  She is exactly the same.  It was so good to hear her laugh.  I love her laugh!  We went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant near my house, along with my friend Mark, and Tiffany's friend Laurence from work.  Delicious food, good company, laughter, and hugs.  I felt transported back to when I was 18 years old and didn't have the stress of being a "grown up" and having to worry about grown up things.  Maybe that's why I like a lot of the things that I do:  working at Student Health, coaching Girls on the Run, and running with my dogs.  Sometimes acting like a kid and being around younger people makes one feel more young at heart, I think.  And laughter is always good for the soul.

Me and Tiff at Little World Chinese restaurant ~
Enjoying the bright sunshine on the porch ~
Tired pups after a run in Memory Grove
and City Creek ~
A nice place for a nap ~