Friday, November 30, 2007

Just a Quick 5 Miles

Easy-peasy. What's five miles after work? So nice, that's what. I came home from work at 4:00 and by 4:15 I was into my running clothes and out the door. The sun was shining and everything, though it was quite cold and the headwind was a little harsh. I decided to head into the country on one of my favorite routes, the Conway-Sibley loop. I didn't have to worry about slamming out a run and getting home in time to shower and get to work. It took me about 2 miles to get warmed up and settle into a good rhythm but once I did I felt on top of the world (literally; at one point on the route I can see all of Chelsea spread out in the distance, the skyline dominated, as always, by the Chelsea Milling Company (aka Jiffy Mix) grain elevators).

When I got back into town, instead of veering away from Main St. and taking Buchanan or West North to Middle in order to skirt the downtown proper, I just ran right up the Main St. sidewalk past all the stores and restaurants. There was a time not so long ago that I refused to run through downtown and pass people on the sidewalk because I was still embarrassed by how fat and slow I was. I didn't want people to see me and think, "She's barely moving, and boy, is she overweight."

Not any more. I'm a lean mean running machine. I don't care who sees me. I want people to see me as I run proudly up Main St. Now I hope they see me and think, "She's really moving, and boy, is she in good shape!"

What a difference six months makes!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rosemary Chicken with Wild Rice

Another one of Weight Watchers' one-dish dinners that I've incorporated into my meal plans. The combination of orange marmalade, rosemary, and Dijon mustard might sound weird but it's really good.

  • 2 smallish-sized boneless/skinless chicken breasts (about 4 ounces each or a total weight of 1/2 pound), cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tbsp sugar-free or reduced-sugar orange marmalade
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • Salt & pepper
Begin cooking the rice; most wild rice takes close to an hour to fully cook so you can use this time to prep the rest of the ingredients and still have time to kick back in front of the TV, read the newspaper, do some laundry, play with the cats...

With about 15 minutes left of rice cooking time, heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and continue cooking for 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the orange marmalade, mustard, salt, and pepper; stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes. The rice should be done now; drain any excess water and add the rice to the chicken mixture. Stir to combine and serve.

Makes enough for two good-sized portions. According to my Weight Watchers cookbook, a "generous" 1 cup of the stuff is 6 WW Points.

In other news I must be doing something right because the scale this morning said 161.4. That's a full 4-plus pounds less than what it said on Tuesday. I've been very carefully tracking Points and not going over my daily allowance because I am so determined to reach Goal before the end of the year. If my scale is to be trusted I have 6 more pounds to lose.

Watch for a picture post the first day I slip under 160 pounds, territory that hasn't been visited in 11 years.

Defeated by (Almost) December

I just couldn't do it anymore. The mornings are too cold, too dark, too harsh. I've decided to start running in the afternoons. I went out yesterday after work for a "test" run. It was great! I could see where I was going! I wasn't blinded by oncoming headlights! It wasn't so bitterly cold!

Thus, after more than a year of morning runs, I am switching to the afternoons, at least until it gets too hot next spring, by which time it will be light in the mornings again. I'm still getting up at my usual time, but not running before work means I will be able to start work at 7:00, which also means I will be done at 3:30, which means I will be home and ready to roll (run?) at 4:00 or shortly thereafter. Running in the afternoon also means I will be able to go for longer runs in the middle of the week. My pre-work run length was kind of limited to what I could do in about 45 minutes, which meant really nothing longer than 5 miles.

Additionally, when I start training for the Marine Corps half marathon in February, I am going to be doing interval and tempo work, for which I would like to use the local high school track, and it's not lighted. I don't relish the thought of running around a track in the dark.

Thus, afternoons it is. And if it's crappy and raining, I can always just go to the gym. I think I'm sufficiently addicted to exercise at this point that I don't have to worry about skipping workouts because I "don't feel like it." I always feel like it these days. Once I had decided, while I was on my way home from work yesterday, to go running when I got home, I could hardly wait. I was so excited to get out there. And it felt so damn good once I did.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


First of all, let me just say thank you to the various folks who emerged from the woodwork and left comments in my previous post! I was very glad to "meet" you!

Second, this dish has become a staple in our house. It's a Weight Watchers recipe, but I've tweaked it slightly to fit my tastes.

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1 turkey kielbasa link, sliced (I don't know the exact weight but it's one link from a package of two Oscar Mayer brand turkey polska kielbasa)
Get the brown rice going while preparing the rest of the dish. The rice will go into the pot with the rest of the stuff after a while. My brown rice (Lundberg long-grain) takes about 50 minutes to cook fully, so factor the cooking time of your rice into the recipe. I set my timer for the rice cooking time and use that as the basis for the rest of the dish.

Heat the canola oil in a soup pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, scallion, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomato, chicken broth, spices, and bay leaf. Salt to taste, stir to combine, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the brown rice has about 20 minutes left to cook, add it to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Cover and continue cooking. With about five minutes left on the rice cooking time, add the kielbasa slices and shrimp and simmer uncovered for the remainder of the time.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Comment, Please

I have this nifty little application installed in the code for this blog. It's called Statcounter and it tells me everything I could ever want to know about anyone who reads this thing. Along with the handful of people I actually know IRL or from other places on the Internet who are semi-loyal readers (I have your static IP addresses labeled so I know it's you) there are a few of y'all who keep coming back...yet I have no idea who you are. Lakewood, Ohio, I'm talking to you. I know you're not my friend Ellen 'cause she moved to North Carolina. And who's that from the U of M Medical Center who keeps coming back? What about you, Jacksonville, Florida? I don't know anyone there. How did you find me? So don't be shy, comment! I love comments! I like knowing who's reading beyond the four to six people I'm absolutely sure about.

In other news: Tomorrow afternoon we have an all-company rah-rah meeting at the Sheraton across the street. Refreshments and snacks are being provided. This would all be well and good except Tuesday is my Weight Watchers weigh-in day and I don't eat anything but breakfast all day to increase my chances of a happy result at weigh-in, and tomorrow has the potential to be really good (55 pounds lost total!) or very irritating (gain for the week including Thanksgiving) cookies. Lots and lots of free cookies. Sigh. What's a girl to do?

Must. Stay. Focused. Maybe I'll have one cookie.

Aurora Turkey Trot and Shocking Development

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) was the Eastside Turkey Trot in Aurora, Ohio, about 30 minutes from my hometown of Chesterland. My dad and I ran the race together. I had registered some weeks before after scouting out potential Thanksgiving holiday races in northeast Ohio. We were coming to the area for the holiday, and these days I like to do a quick online reconnaissance of road races in places I will be visiting. I never know when there might be a 5K I could do.

It was a miserable morning, cold, drizzly, and generally the kind of morning which should be spent indoors drinking hot coffee, bundled in pajamas, and looking out at the world, not spent outdoors bundled in many layers of special fabrics contemplating the fact that one has to run four miles. However, we and several hundred other nutjobs showed up for this race which started and ended at the Aurora Farms Premium Outlets Megaplex and if that's not a statement about the American love of consumerism I don't know what is. Maybe they wanted us to come back on Friday and go shopping?

Besides, I love running in bad weather. The crappier, the better! Frigid? Drizzle? Wind? No problem! All three at once? Awesome!

As far as races go, it was fine. Four miles isn't a distance with which I have much strategic racing experience, my preferred distance being the 5K. In true scatterbrain style I failed to activate the Garmin at the start line so all of my distance and pace data is off. Moron. I still averaged about 8:18/mile, and finished the race in 33:15 or so. Update: official race results were finally posted, although not broken down by age group, and I finished in 33:16, and appear to be fifth in my age group and 122/299 overall.

The race course doubled back on itself so at one point we middle-of-the-packers were passed by the front-runners heading in the opposite direction. I rarely if ever get a chance to see race leaders so it was very interesting. There was one hardcore guy (dressed only in shorts and wispy tank top) who was up with the top male runners who must have been in his mid- to late sixties. I just thought, "Rock on, old dude."

I liked the course; it was broad, gently sloped, well-tended and marked, and not overly difficult. Aurora Police were on hand to halt traffic, which was nice, considering I have run road races where traffic was allowed to continue going past.

I hope the race returns next year. Or whatever year it is that we return to Chesterland for Thanksgiving.

Now, the Shocking Development. Friday I braved the insanity and went to Beachwood Mall with my mom. We ended up at Ann Taylor (again) and I found some cute stuff on sale. To my EXTREME SHOCK (and delight) I am now wearing SIZE SIX pants from Ann Taylor. I know their sizing runs bigger than other stores so I might not necessarily be able to squeeze into a size six from, say, J Crew or whatever. But. The label on my pants, pants I am wearing right now says "6." This is totally unprecedented. I haven't worn a size 6 since I was in high school when I was 15 or 16 years old.

Tomorrow I will see if I suffered any collateral damage from all the feasting last week. I hope my exercise efforts offset the increased consumption. I ran four miles on Thursday, two on Friday (plus weightlifting), and six on Saturday. I am so close to my Weight Watchers goal weight that any setback will make me very disappointed. I really, really want to reach my goal before the end of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Y'all. Listen to this.

I was going to keep quiet about this but I can't help myself any more. This afternoon a photographer from the Ann Arbor News is meeting me in Chelsea to take my picture, dressed in full running gear, for the Thanksgiving edition front page feature story.

So what in the world is going on? Well, on Saturday I saw a tiny little blurb buried at the bottom of the News in Brief page that asked for personal stories from people who are especially grateful for something this Thanksgiving. I thought, man, if there was ever a year for which I am thankful, it has to be this one, and it's all due to the wonderful woman who performed my surgery back in February. I sent an email to the woman who is writing the story, an email which included:
The surgery was a complete success and after my recovery period was over I flung myself with everything I had into my new life, a life I had almost lost sight of before surgery. I lost 30 pounds, started running, and in October I completed the Detroit Half Marathon. I feel more vibrant and energetic than I ever have in my entire life, and next month I will be 34.
She wrote back, we talked about running and such, and lo, this afternoon I will be standing in the cemetery in Chelsea (my favorite place to run) in my running outfit, which includes a free shirt from Running Fit. I went there yesterday ostensibly to pick up a pair of nice warm gloves (check) and nice warm hat (check) but also to casually mention that I was going to be photographed for the paper in my running clothes and I really wanted to wear something from RF with their name on it...since it's my favorite store and publicity...hence, free shirt. Thank you, Victor!

Thursday, Ann Arbor News, front page. Me. Holy crap!

(By the way, my face is in a state of extreme pimpliness the likes of which I haven't seen in years. I don't know what happened but I am leaving work at 3:00 today to go home and plaster on as much foundation as my skin can handle. Stupid zits. You'd think they would go away by the time you hit your thirties. Bah humbug!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

French Green Lentil Soup

I haven't posted many recipes here which was one of the things I intended to do with this blog so here's one.

(from Bon Appetit magazine, December 2006)

1 1/4 cups French green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups diced white onion
1 cup sliced celery stalk
1 cup sliced carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, lentils, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Transfer 2 cups of soup (mostly solids) to a blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar (if desired).

This is sort of the basic recipe; many things can be added to it according to one's individual tastes or desires. For example, last night I browned ~1/2 pound of turkey breakfast sausage links in a separate frying pan, cut them into chunks, and added them into the soup after the pureƩ step.

I think the next time I make this I want to experiment with some other seasonings. S&P are all well and good but I think it needs something a little more zesty.

And lastly, why French green lentils (specialty) and not just plain old green or brown lentils one can find at any grocery store? It's worth seeking them out because their flavor is more intense and earthy than other lentils. The recipe is timed to accommodate the longer cooking time and more robust structural integrity of French green lentils so I can't vouch for what might happen if one used another kind of lentil. Lentil mush, maybe? I buy my French green lentils in bulk at the Ann Arbor Whole Foods store. However, I see that Bob's Red Mill has packaged French green lentils (I love Bob's Red Mill! I put his ground flaxseed meal into all kinds of things).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Race Report: Ann Arbor Turkey Trot

This morning was the Tortoise & Hare Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. It was my kind of running weather: cold and dismal. I've always done better in bad weather, reaching all the way back to my freshman year and first season of high school cross country. That year (1988, practically prehistoric times) at our District meet I ran a 24:13 (my PR for the season) in abysmal weather conditions, even worse than today's. My preferences were set for life.

We were issued timing chips, but there was no timing mat at the start of the race, just the finish. I don't know how this could be considered completely accurate. Especially since I was so close to breaking 25:00. I was timed in 25:01. If there had been a timing mat at the start, would my time have been different? Especially since according to my Garmin I finished in 24:52? I guess I will have to look forward to breaking 25:00 in my next 5K , whenever that may be.

I had a good race; my mile splits were 7:48, 8:02, and 8:06. I finished 11/31 in my age group. I averaged 8:03 over the full distance. There was no one at the mile splits announcing times but I glanced at the Garmin. I shouldn't have done so as my immediate reaction to the first-mile 7:48 was to think, "That's much too fast! I can't sustain that pace!" And sure enough, I didn't. I should have just left well enough alone and not peeked at the Garmin. Maybe I could have maintained the faster pace for just a little longer and busted past that 25:00 barrier.

Nevertheless, what a difference a year makes. One year ago I ran this race in 32:58 and my goal was just to manage to get/stagger across the finish line. I had been on Weight Watchers for a little over 2 months and had been running for about a month. This was me then:

And here is me, one year, 35 pounds, and 7:57 less later:

Stand up and stop SLOUCHING!:

Why do I always look like a TOTAL GOOBER? (oh, and get a load of the nice spit trail up and over my right shoulder):

One year ago today is also a Big Deal date for me because it was on this day, after coming home from the race, that I noticed my period had started unexpectedly. I had no way of knowing at the time that it would be my last one ever, and that it would last 83 days, until I had surgery on February 2, 2007, putting a permanent end to that nightmare.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Then vs. Now

In March of 2005, shortly after joining the Wellness Center here in Chelsea, I underwent a baseline fitness evaluation. On Wednesday of this past week I had myself retested out of curiosity about how much I have changed myself since I began losing weight and running. I knew that I had lost a considerable amount of weight, but what about all the other things that aren't as easy for me to measure? Thus my fitness re-assessment.

Thursday I picked up my results:

Parameter March 2005 November 2007
Weight (pounds) 220 166
Body Fat Percent 37.3 24.6
Fat Weight (lbs) 82 41
Lean Weight (lbs) 138 125
BMI 33.4 24.9
Resting Heart Rate (bpm) 72 64
Ebbeling Treadmill VO2 Max (mkm) 42 40.7
Curl-Ups (1 min) 54 62
Push-Ups 13 31
Sit-Reach Hip Flex (inches) 21.25 24.25

Obviously, a huge improvement in many areas, especially my weight (loss of 54 pounds), body fat percentage (change of -12.7%), and body mass index (change of -8.5 from "obese" to "normal").

One of the statistics I found most interesting (and kind of gross) was that of the 54 pounds I have lost, 41 of them were of fat. 41 pounds of fat is a LOT of fat. I tried to picture a big quivering heap of 41 pounds of fat, glistening and sickly yellow, and all I did was make myself queasy.

I'm a bit mystified as to how my estimated VO2 max could have decreased despite my greatly improved physical conditioning. I'm suspicious of that number. Still, a VO2 max of 40.7 for a female my age is considered "superior."

I tried to calm myself enough to get my resting heart rate to go below 60, but it didn't. I've measured my RHR in a state of extreme relaxation as low as 52.

My arms are still like wet noodles, though. I didn't put my submax bench press or leg press results on the chart because the Wellness Center changed the testing method for both and the results don't compare. I could only bench press 10 reps of 53 pounds and that was a gigantic struggle. I'm "well below average" in the arm strength category. I don't really care; I'm not out for the bulging bicep look.

In other news, tomorrow is the Tortoise & Hare Turkey Trot in Dexter. One year ago, I ran that race when I was still in the nascent stages of my weight loss and running efforts. I am totally pumped for the "one year later" version. I went for a short, slow jog this morning to keep myself in prime condition. I want to better my time from the Big House Big Heart race (25:28). If I break 25:00 I would be thrilled.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


All of my teeth-gnashing over the fact that I posted substantial gains two weeks in a row was for naught because I lost 7.2 pounds in one week, which wiped away the 5.4 I gained plus put me down another 1.8 for a grand total of 53 pounds. I'm now at 165.2, which, for my height, puts my BMI at 24.9, which is considered "normal." I'm also just barely above the weight range for my height that Weight Watchers considers "normal."

There are many ways in which I could be considered not normal, but for the first time in 10 years my weight is not one of them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


If my home scale is to be believed, I weighed 163 pounds this morning. This is important because my highest recorded weight (doctor's office visit, maybe late 2005) was 223. Which means that I have lost 60 pounds. 60 pounds!! Of course, by the end of the day, the scale at Weight Watchers may say something different (it always does). Oh, whatever...I'm back on track again after those two annoying weeks of gains.

I don't even want to start thinking about dropping into the 150s. I haven't been below 160 pounds since...uh...??? I know it was in college sometime, so at least 10 years ago. I don't want to get prematurely worked up about the one-fives (but when I see "159" on the scale for the first time...oh man).

With the time change I actually have a bit of morning light to run by. I know it won't last long so I will try to take advantage of it. This morning, along with the (somewhat gloomy, overcast) sunrise, I also encountered...snow. That's right folks, it be snowin' here in southeast Michigan. Well, not any more, but it was earlier. Now, for those of you who don't know, I absolutely HATE HATE HATE HATE cold and winter. I was born and raised in northern California where if the one inch of water in the birdbath iced over once all winter it was a major event. We moved to Cleveland when I was 13 and despite now having spent well over half my life in the Midwest I still hate winter. I've gotten used to winter, but I don't like it. Not at all.

Therefore, the fact that I went running outside this morning WHILE IT WAS SNOWING is grounds for me to ponder whether or not I've totally gone insane.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A New Challenge: Beat Dad

I wrote to my mom and told her that I had registered for next spring's Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon and that I intended to invade my aunt's (her sister's) house in northern Virginia for the duration of the race weekend. Well, apparently this got my dad all fired up and now he too is registered for the race. I guess it has become a family affair.

My dad will be 63 on race day...can't let him beat me...can't let him beat me...!

My dad ran a bunch of San Francisco Marathons back in the early-to-mid 1980s and at the time he was a decent competitor with a personal best marathon time of 3:20 (or something close to that, I can't remember what he said exactly even though it was just last night...I must be getting forgetful in my old age). He's been running longer than I've been alive. Recently, however, he's gotten more into road biking for its low-impact quality.

I ran a 5.25-mile race with him in May of this year in which I managed to beat him but that was only because he succumbed to muscle cramps. He was well in front of me for most of the race and I only passed him because he had pulled off to the side to stretch. That was a long time and many miles of training ago, however. I have no doubt that I will totally be able to smoke him at the MCHH race. Especially since my goal is to run a sub-2:00 half. He estimated he'd finish in 2:10.

I'm going to train my butt off come February. Can't let the old man show the young whippersnapper how things are done.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A New Goal!

I waited a full 20 minutes beyond the official opening of registration (noon today) to register for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon, taking place in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in May 2008. I've been waiting for this for months. At last I have a new goal. I won't start training for the race right now, obviously, but when the time comes (February) I plan on stepping things up a notch and using Hal Higdon's Intermediate Half training program. Now that I know I can do a half marathon, I want to improve my half marathon. I calculated that in order to run a sub-2:00 half, I need to average 9:09 a mile. I believe that is entirely within my reach. Heck, I averaged 9:09/mile on my ten-mile training run before the Detroit race.

In other news, I was a bit disgruntled this week at Weight Watchers because for the second week in a row I posted a substantial gain. I know I shouldn't dwell on it too much but it's all my fault. I overate, ate poor-quality food, and didn't exercise as much. I hate getting set back because then I have to re-lose weight I already lost. Now I'm back to where I was at the beginning of September. Thus, I've recommitted myself to tracking my points and making Weight Watchers recipes for dinner. Dinner is most often my downfall. I can control what I eat for breakfast and lunch extremely well but dinnertime can be hazardous. Plenty of times we're sitting around watching TV or something and I look at the clock, it's 8:00, and we haven't had dinner, and I say, "I don't want to cook...let's just go out/order pizza."

On a more positive note, I was able to get out this morning for an easy 5K run. I think the days I spent babying my back this week helped and I completed the run without any pain and I feel fine now. I was so antsy from not running for three days. It was driving me crazy. I managed to do some low-impact cardio at the gym, but my body was like, "I NEED TO RUN!" There is something about the act of running, the sensations I experience while running, that just aren't there when I do other forms of cardio. Thus, this morning's run felt so good.