Expanding my eating horizons

I’m a morning person, which is why I got up bright and early on a Saturday to tackle the freelance work that looms: an outline for a brochure on retirement income options. But I’m sitting here staring at a jumble of source material and my eyes and brain are swimming. So I’ll “warm up” with a blog post. It’s not procrastination. Just, um, oiling the gears.

We’ve been on a diet for the past six or so weeks that has us eating frequent meals, in small portion sizes, of nutrient-dense foods. It’s worked too — I’ve lost about 12 pounds. I’ve got 12 more to go. Halfway home! Of course, since next weekend is my birthday, there will be a slight pause in progress. But at least we’re making a smaller cake and using the “reduced fat” recipe (applesauce substituted for oil).

The diet is heavy on whole grains and legumes. For the first week, we ate brown rice and black beans, seemingly every 20 minutes. I got very sick of brown rice and black beans. So, I’ve branched out and have discovered the following interesting grains and beans:

  • Spelt
  • Steel cut oats
  • Lentils
  • White beans
  • Soy beans
  • Barley
  • Quinoa

You can make some good meals by mixing and matching these ingredients. I’ll post some recipes that I’ve found later on, but here’s a really good quinoa recipe Jonathan found on Cool Running.

I’m also going to sing the praises of Trader Joe’s. They sell, among other things, spelt (which I’d never heard of) in a nice little box with some things thrown in to make it interesting. And most of what they sell in the grains dept. comes with a recipe or two already. Plus they’ve got some great whole grain muffins that weigh about five pounds apiece and fill you up for hours.

I could go on, but I won’t — but check out Trader Joe’s Fan’s blog for more of the madness.


I’ve got some sort of problem with my left foot. I can’t say I’m surprised — in fact, I’m happier that there’s not more wrong with me, all things considered.

I have a sharp pain on the outside bottom of the foot, about an third of the way up the foot from heel to little toe. I did some walking (and, yes, I admit it, a little light running. So sue me.) on the treadmill last night, which seemed to aggravate it. So I’ve put the kibosh on plans to run this evening. I’ll take another day or two. In the meantime, it’s back to ice, elevation and ibuprofen. At least it’s refreshing to be treating something other than my shins.

I have some writing work to do this weekend, but not more than six or so hours. I’ll get it out of the way early tomorrow so it’s not hanging over my head. Other big plans are watching “Little Miss Sunshine” and cheering Jonathan on in the Scarsdale 15K race this Sunday.

I do miss running. I think I’ll buy a new pair of shoes to comfort myself.

Recovering nicely

Well, my pulse returned to normal sometime overnight. It was elevated 10 beats per minute Monday and yesterday. This morning it was back to a healthy 44 BPM upon waking up.

I’m also almost walking normally again. Read that again. This is a hobby that I choose to do. Where I say things like, “I’m also almost walking normally again.”

I went out shopping yesterday, as we were having a Milk Crisis. That was sort of a mistake, as I obviously had trouble negotiating stairs and curbs, and wasn’t even walking that well. I’m sure people thought I had hemorrhoids or somesuch.

The high has lasted, although it’s fading. I’ve been pretty obnoxious, reporting on my race to anyone who looks in my direction. So much for keeping a low, humble profile.

But the next one‘s around the corner, and I need to start thinking of what my goal time for that race is. Plus I’ve the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon at the end of April. I’m practically blasé about it now: 13.1 miles? Easy peasy. A mere training run.

I can see how this is like heroin. The 5K is the gateway race. Before you know it, you’ve lost entire weeks and months to ultra marathoning with other addicts.

I did some reading today about Susan Loken, who won the More Marathon for the third year in a row. Here I’d thought she was another one of these lifelong runners, but in fact her running history is similar to mine (with the exception of running a marathon well over an hour faster than I can…heh heh): A non-athlete in her youth, a blob in her twenties and thirties, followed by a casual interest in “jogging,” all the way to qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Trials. Pretty impressive.

Tomorrow I’ll probably do some walking on the treadmill, and then try out a very short, very easy run on Friday to see how my legs feel.

Today’s haiku

Walk downstairs backward
With an elevated pulse
When’s the next Mary?

Race Report: 2007 More Marathon

The short version:
I finished with a time of 3:56:02, placing me 17th out of 143 runners. I also came in 10th in my age group, out of 60 women. I am very happy with that time and with my placement considering that this was my first marathon and that my training didn’t go as well as I’d hoped due to persistent shin problems.

I made the classic first-timer’s mistake of going out too fast — not for a lack of self-control, but because my watch wasn’t properly calibrated! So my watch was reporting a pace that was 23 seconds slower per mile than I was actually running. This was enough to throw things off for me, and I ended up running positive splits.

End result? I didn’t make my Boston qualifying time. In fact, I overshot it by about five minutes. But I think I’ll be back next year with a goal to crack the top 10 finishers list.

The long version:

Pre-race: Getting ready to run
I arrived at the race site at about 7:20AM. The place was abuzz with pre-race excitement and a congenial atmosphere. There were women arriving from far and wide, most of them wearing half marathon bibs. I ate three quarters of my tiny pre-race peanut butter and honey sandwich, donned my garbage bag, and ditched my bag in baggage check. The porta potty rush hadn’t yet begun, so I took advantage of the row on the west side of the park, then made my way east to the start. Did 10 minutes of easy jogging, some stretches and ate half a banana. I could see tons of people with “walker” on their bib lining up. Since I didn’t train for five months to get stuck behind walkers, I threw race propriety to the wind and lined up in the fifth row behind the starting mat at about 10 minutes to 8:00AM.

In front of me I spotted the various women who would win or place, as well as a tiny, beaming Ginette Bedard, who last year took the world masters title in the marathon for women 70-74 with a More time of 3:46:02. It was very exciting to be that close to so many great runners. After some pleasantries from the VIPs and introductions of some of the women who would go on to win the full and half marathons, we got a truncated version of the national anthem and then the horn sounded. We were off!

Miles 1-6
When I read the coverage of the NYC marathon in November, a reporter had commented on a sign one spectator could be seen holding in Brooklyn, just over the Verazanno: “Slow down! It’s not a 10K!” Well, I ran a very good 10K yesterday, and a pretty good half marathon. And that was the problem. For the first six miles, I was cruising along at an average 8:31 clip.

I figured out between miles 1 and 2 that my watch was off, but couldn’t get the math right in terms of what pace I should be looking for on my watch to compensate. But by mile 5 I had a time surplus of 1:30. I rationalized that if I’d been training with my watch out of whack, then maybe I was in better shape than I’d thought and could hold that pace for the duration.

I felt fantastic, even going over those big hills at the north end of the park. But, alas, it was not to last.

Miles 7-14
Just after the start of the second loop, past mile 6, the 3:50:00 pacer team caught up with me. This was a stroke of luck, as running with them not only forced me to slow to the pace I should have been running all along, but they also served as a human bulldozer (and windbreak) to clear a path among the kerjillion half marathoners. There were just two of us running with three pacers. What a luxury! The five of us blasted through the finish area to cheers: “Go marathoners!”

I still felt good, not the least of which was because I was running at a more comfortable pace. We rounded the north end for the second time, and I still felt good. It was at mile 14 that I spotted Jonathan and gave him the thumbs up. He said later that I looked very good at this point: in fine form, relaxed and in control of things.

Miles 15-18
I hung onto the pacers easily enough during the early miles of this stretch, although the rivets were beginning to pop. First my hamstrings began a duet of complaints as we made our way east along the 102nd St transverse. With each step, Lefty and Righty would complain: “Ouch! Stop! Yow! Yikes!” I employed a mental exercise that I’d read about, where one focuses on the areas of the body that are not hurting. I enumerated them in my head: “My ears don’t hurt. My neck doesn’t hurt. My knees don’t hurt…” After a time, the hamstrings backed off. But the quads were starting to complain quietly now. Those grumbling complaints would turn into shrieks in short order.

We lost one racer at around mile 16, and shortly after that two of the pacers split off to do whatever pacers go do. So it was just me and my pacer, also named Julie. Julie was very nice. She told me I didn’t have to expend energy talking to her, made sure I had fuel on me and kept clearing the way. But I fostered a secret resentment toward Julie which I couldn’t help — for she was running Satan’s pace. We picked up another marathoner around this time, who would also lose it a little later on. This was not the last I would see of her, though.

If you look at my splits, you can see the trouble starting at mile 18, when my pace began to slow. Not coincidentally, that was on the third trip uphill on the west side. The wind was also starting to pick up, and it was a headwind.

Miles 19-22
At 19 I was having trouble keeping up with Julie. One of the two AWOL pacers reappeared and Julie was distracted enough not to notice that my pace was rapidly cratering. I watched the two pacers and my remaining racing peer pull away, taking with them my chances of qualifying for Boston.

But sorrow over my failed BQ was quickly replaced with an awareness of something terrible happening to my legs. What had begun as a slight burning sensation in my quads turned into something that defies description, although I’ll try. My legs were rapidly transforming into two pillars of pain, starting from my calves all the way up to my hips. They were in what I can only think of as a “pre-explosive” state, as though superheated in the bones and swelling with something combustible. Another analogy that came to mind was individual vices applied to my leg muscles, pulling the muscles askew.

By necessity, and to give myself something to focus on besides my horrible legs, I formed a new race strategy. My new goals were:
1. Do not, under any circumstances, stop running. You won’t start again if you do.
2. Finish under 4:00:00

I passed Jonathan again between mile 21 and 22, and I don’t think I looked good. All I could do as I passed was croak, “It hurts so much.” He said, “Come on, pick up the pace.” Something he says he later regretted, since he didn’t want me to feel bad.

Mile 22 was my mental and physical low point. I was running a 10:09 pace, slogging uphill through a gusty headwind. I could not make my legs go faster, despite all efforts. I began to wonder if this was “the wall” and what new horrors lay ahead.

Miles 23-26.2
And then the clouds parted. As I made the turn onto the 102nd St. transverse, I had a surge of energy and hope. Perhaps it was knowing that this would all be over with in about half an hour. I’d either adjusted to the pain in my legs or it began to dissipate, because I was able to pick up the pace by 30 to 40 seconds for the next three miles. I was too afraid to look down, lest I discover that my legs had indeed exploded and I was running on bloody stumps.

Rolling down Museum Mile, I was grateful for the occasional volunteer or spectator who would say, “Go marathoner!” The marathon is the first race I’ve run where I’ve appreciated how valuable such tidings are. I was hitting the hills at 9:37 and feeling pretty good about that pace (by now, I’d figured out about what it equaled on my watch). I knew that, barring disaster, I’d come in well under 4:00:00, and I no longer was tempted to walk.

I passed the woman who’d joined and, apparently, also lost the pacing group earlier, walking, and said, “Come on, you look great! Keep running! We’re almost there!” For a moment, she kept walking and I thought, “She must think I’m a total asshole, yelling at her to run.” But then she started running and we ran together for awhile, until she pulled slightly ahead at mile 25. It wasn’t a competitive passing — she just had more in her than I did and I was happy that she was going to run through the finish rather than walking.

We rounded the lower end of the park, at this point clogged with walkers, park strollers, carriages and the like, and headed up the final hill to Tavern on the Green. The hill isn’t really that steep, but it’s long and it seems like Mt. Everest at that point in the race. I passed the 26 mile marker and could see the finish line up ahead.

But between the mat and myself was one final obstacle: a military formation of half marathoners, nine women wide, sauntering toward the finish. I envisioned a cartoon version of myself as bowling ball, knocking them down like pins to get across the mat as quickly as possible. Fortunately, they hit the mat 10 seconds ahead of me, so the way was clear by the time I hobbled to my race’s conclusion. My anonymous friend (who I suspect was Barbara Wetzel of Louisville, KY) finished just a few seconds ahead of me.

I picked up my medal — specially made for marathon finishers (I love that!). And when I picked it up, there were tons of them still there, so I knew I’d placed well. The most surprising thing about finishing was how instantaneously my legs ceased to function normally. Two minutes after running, I couldn’t step off a curb or sit down on a bench without feeling excruciating pain. It makes you wonder what the human capacity for pain tolerance, whether it’s mental or chemical, really is.

Recovery food (and good wine) awaited me at home, along with other things to dull the pain.

On the day after, I can’t walk normally yet, but there is nonetheless a spring in my step. I ran a good marathon and I know I’ll run more — and better — marathons in the future.

Event review
The event itself was well-organized, for the most part. I was appreciative of the clear mile markers and clocks at each one, since I stopped trusting my watch after mile 2. I give New York Road Runners a lot of credit for getting many of the logistics just right.

But it was a difficult course to negotiate, as there were 4000+ half-marathoners, many of them strolling 3-4 abreast, and only a handful of us lonely marathoners. By the end of my race, I was jockeying around both other race participants and regular park visitors, many of whom didn’t seem aware that there was a race going on around them. It doesn’t surprise me that the turnout for marathoners was about 20% lower than last year. This is a race that’s rapidly growing in popularity for half marathon participants, but shrinking in popularity for marathoners.

The race volunteers were wonderful, though, especially the ones who acknowledged those of us doing the full marathon. Despite the congestion, I want to run it again next year with the goal of making the top 10 finishers list.

The numbers
Here are my splits — the real ones, not the bogus watch readings — and a graph showing my pace over the miles. The bars are, unfortunately, going the wrong way (up). But it’s a speedbump rather than a mountain.

Lap Time
1 8:37
2 8:33
3 8:18
4 8:33
5 8:35
6 8:28
7 8:41
8 8:47
9 8:49
10 9:00
11 8:56
12 8:45
13 8:53
14 8:56
15 8:45
16 8:56
17 8:49
18 9:00
19 9:02
20 8:56
21 9:29
22 10:09
23 9:37
24 9:29
25 9:37
26.2 2:25

So far so good

I managed to get a decent night’s sleep last night, thanks to Rozerem. Have you seen the Rozerem ad? The one with the guy sitting at his kitchen table in the middle of the night, chatting with Abe Lincoln and a chess-playing rodent? I think whoever came up with those ads has taken Rozerem, because those are the sorts of dreams you have on it.

Anyway, I’m happy that I got 8+ hours, as apparently it’s the quality of sleep you get two nights before a race that’s most important. Which is good, since I’m sure I’ll have trouble sleeping tonight despite Honest Abe’s attempts to calm me.

Now I’m checking the hour-by-hour weather every five minutes. Runners turn into Fashion Week hysterics in the 24 hours before a race…”What will I wear?! I’ll be too hot in this! Or not warm enough! I’ve never worn this in a race, so can’t take the risk of chafing! What. Will. I. Wear?!!!”

It looks like it’s going to be fairly chilly. So I’m settled on wearing tights and probably a short sleeve tee under a long sleeve tee (both wicking, of course). Footwear will consist of Balega socks and my Brooks Adrenaline 6’s. Perhaps a fashionable Costco garbage bag to keep warm at the start. No hat or gloves.

Jonathan will dutifully be there two hours into the race to cheer me on as I circle the park repeatedly like a semi-rabid greyhound. So I can always treat him as a human clothing rack if I get too hot or cold. He loves that.

Tonight is a dinner of pasta with chicken and French (or is it “Freedom”?) bread. I think I’ll skip all alcohol.

Have a mentioned how incredibly nervous I am?

38 hours to go and counting down

I went into the city to the More Marathon expo today. Picked up my number and chip: I’m number 366. For a moment, I thought it said “666” — bad omen?

The registration tables said it all: the table for half marathoners was long enough to land a plane on. I couldn’t even find the marathon table at first, as it consisted of three shoeboxes stuck on the end of the phalanx of half marathon boxes. I only came across one other marathoner while I was there.

It was a strange expo — but I guess most expos are strange: A mish mash of exhibitors, such as the California Raisins, St. Josephs Aspirin, CARE international and Florida Grapefruit Juice to name a few. Okay, when I look at that list, I know it’s not just me. It was a particularly strange expo.

I’m happy to say that the More shirt is not as ugly as most race shirts are, which is a major accomplishment. Sometimes I think if I had more time I’d volunteer to design race tee shirts. I always see really great designs from JogBlog’s races in England…why are American shirts always so ghastly?

I threw off my Shy Coat and introduced myself to women’s running legend Katherine Switzer, who was very friendly and kind enough to sign her name on my race number, along with some encouraging words.

After I left I realized I’d forgotten to ask her to please tell NBC to do a better job of covering the ING NYC Marathon, which she appears on as a commentator. Their 2006 coverage was less than stellar — four hours of human interest stories, lots of shots of cheering crowds, inane factoids (“…the runners will consume 16 trillion bottles of water!”)…and about 20 minutes total of people actually running. Can you imagine the outcry if they covered NASCAR that way? They also couldn’t even identify who were the “rabbits” vs. competitors, which led to lots of confusion for those of us watching the women’s race.

I really need to calm down.

I have been hydrating and eating complex carbs like it’s going out of style. Now I just need to get a couple of good night’s sleep and I’ll be as ready as I’ll ever be.

BQ or bust!

I ran a seven mile marathon pace run yesterday morning. MPace is around 8:45 to make a time of 3:49:00. That would give me 1:59 to spare to make a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time to run Boston in 2008.

It was my last “hard” training run before the marathon, which is now nine days away (shiver). It’s all easy running at reduced mileage from now until race day.

The run went very well. I did a mile easy, two miles at MPace, a mile easy and another two at MPace followed by…yes…a mile easy. I found it a bit difficult to run slower during the rest mile inbetween the hard ones, which I took as a good sign. The pace felt natural and comfortably challenging, if that makes sense. I even deliberately did it in heavier shoes so I’ll feel like Tinkerbell come the 25th.

I still have no clue if I can hold that pace for 26+ miles, but I’m going to try. Now I just have to pray for a windless, rainless and heatless race day.

And if it doesn’t work out, I get another chance to try in late May in Burlington, Vermont.

Today’s haiku

Hop hopping robins
Buds and temperature swings
Harbingers of spring

Back from the dead

Sheesh. It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last post. So it’s time to do some catching up.

We spent about 10 days in Sedona, Arizona visiting family and, among other things, running in the half marathon there. If you’re looking for a truly tough race, do the Sedona Marathon or Half Marathon. It’s not only the hardest race I’ve ever run, it’s probably the hardest run I’ve ever run. It’s hills, hills, hills — mostly up. And at 4500 feet, which isn’t easy for those of us who live at sea level.

Still, despite the challenge, I was happy with my time: 2:08:29 and 12th in my age/gender group. Jonathan flew over the hills and took home a lovely age group award — second in his pack. And it’s an extremely scenic run — beautiful red rocks all around. But, given the course, I often had to remind myself to look around and enjoy the scenery.

Before the race, we were treated to free myofascial massages from a family member who does them. I think it helped, because my shins were much better during the race and beyond (popping ibuprofen like candy didn’t hurt either).

In fact, the shinsplints have nearly disappeared. I think the massage helped (and I think my muscles, tendons and connective tissues finally just started getting used to the increased training demands). But the primary reason I suspect they’re going away is that I’ve been losing weight. I’ve lost close to 10 pounds in the last six or so weeks. With each pound I lose, the shins become less and less of a problem.

So, the past two weeks or so have been the first time I’ve run relatively pain free since November. And I’ve been reminded of how pleasurable running is when you’re not in pain! I’m also running faster on my easy and long runs than I was in training, so I’m feeling more confident about my chances in the upcoming More Marathon (13 days away). Last week started my taper, so now I’m just trying to get used to not running 45+ miles a week.

I was training for a 3:50:00 marathon, but since the training didn’t go well due to the shin problems, I lowered my expectations to feeling lucky if I can do it under 4:00:00. Now that I’m running normally again (and carrying less weight), I’m trying to gauge my chances for hitting my original goal time. I’ll probably split the difference: go out conservatively and see how I feel after the first 6-10 miles, then pick it up if I can. The course in Central Park isn’t exactly flat (big hills at the northern end of the park — but only for the first half of the race), but it’s also not horrible. I guess I’ll just see how it goes on race day.