Wednesday, February 27, 2008


As much as I dislike running indoors, I must say that using a treadmill for my interval workouts is excellent at forcing me to maintain a specific pace. Yesterday I did four half-mile repeats on the treadmill at my gym. I did each one at a 7:30/mile pace with a quarter-mile rest interval in between at a 12:00/mile pace. Once I jacked the treadmill up to 8.0 mph, I had to keep up or I was going to get into a nasty accident. No chance for slacking! Running at that speed was difficult but not exhausting. Before I knew it the workout was over and it was time for...

...WEIGHT WATCHERS. After last week (and the week before) I was ready to see something different on the scale (or there was going to be A Scene at the meeting). I was rewarded with a one-pound loss. That is not as much as I wanted but at least I went down and not up.

I am back on track for my first mini-goal, which is to get back above 60 lbs lost (2 more lbs to go). Second mini-goal is to weigh 155 lbs (63 lbs lost). Third, 65 lbs lost. Followed by weighing 150 lbs (68 lbs lost). A couple more mini-goals and I will finally be at my final goal of 75 lbs lost, weighing in at 143 lbs. I have to think of it this way, as a series of small steps that accumulate into one big step. Otherwise I get disgruntled, discouraged, unmotivated. "It's too much, I'll never get there! I might as well just eat an entire pizza!"

No. One tiny increment at a time. That's how I got to where I am now in the first place. I haven't lost 58 pounds...I lost one pound 58 times.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


First of all, I don't know what the hell I was thinking, going to run my speed workout on the high school track. What a disaster. There were only about 50 meters that were completely free of ice or snow. Nevertheless, I had run the mile there from home, so I was stuck, and my Weight Watchers meeting started in 45 minutes at the nearby building. Just get it over with, I thought.

My "fast" laps were barely any faster than my recovery laps. I averaged 2:15 per 400 which is a 9:04/mile pace. My recovery laps averaged 11:55. If I wasn't mincing across windswept ice and trying not to fall on my ass or my face I was clomping awkwardly through crusted-over snowdrifts and trying not to turn my ankle by stepping into one of my previous sets of footprints. I couldn't even see where the edge of the track was and found myself running on the football field one time. My feet kept slipping and flinging out behind me, which bothers my knees like nothing else. I grimly ticked off each lap, thinking that all the scene needed was a soundtrack: the theme song from Rocky, playing as our hero(ine) slogs onward through frigid gales (it was quite windy out there), alone on a snow- and ice-covered track, stumbling, fumbling, but never. giving. up!

Yeah, whatever. The best part about this particular workout was when it was over.

Oh, and as if I haven't already said this, I AM SO SICK OF WINTERRRRRRRRR!!!

Secondly, if I wasn't already irritated with my run today, I had even more grim news at Weight Watchers. I gained for the second week in a row, which, combined with last week's debacle, has put me 5.4 lbs over where I was 2 weeks ago. Goddammit all to hell. I was doing so well. I don't know what the fuck happened. I tracked my Points all week, didn't overeat, had my usual foods for breakfast and lunch, and made sensible dinners from my WW cookbooks. I even made a smart choice when I went out to lunch at Panera Bread on Saturday. Instead of my faaaaaavorite sandwiches, both of which are hugely Points-heavy (one is 16 and the other 23 Points), I chose to get the low-fat black bean soup (2.5 Points) and half of the smoked turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat bread (4.5 Points). For a restaurant meal, 7 Points is outstanding. I even had water instead of soda.

Doing the right thing does not appear to have made a whit of difference. I still gained 2.4 lbs.

Sigh. I really need to refocus. I am DETERMINED (just like it says on the back of my Marine Corps Historic Half shirt) to lose 75 lbs. Absolutely determined. It's going to happen. It WILL happen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Something New and Delicious

Last week I read something in a book that immediately made me sit up and take notice. Una buona forchetta, I read. "A good fork." A person who loves food. A person who loves to cook and eat. Despite what you may have read on this blog, I still love to eat. I love cooking. I love taking a disparate collection of ingredients and creating something wonderful from them with my hands. Thus it is I have started another blog, a blog devoted to cooking and food. Accordingly, I have dubbed it Una Buona Forchetta. I don't know how often I shall update it, but I cook from scratch almost every night. Not every meal is a masterpiece, however. I confess I do my share of "just cut this up and throw it in a pot" cooking. Either way, if you're a foodie, please visit my food blog!

Baked Chicken and Rice

This is one of my favorite one-dish dinners. This version is perfect for 2 (I halved it from the original Real Simple recipe).

  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I prefer no-salt-added brands)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
Heat oven to 400° F.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, tomatoes and their juices, broth, orange juice, parsley, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Transfer mixture to a square glass baking dish. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Nestle the chicken pieces among the rice mixture. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon the rice and chicken into individual bowls.

CALORIES 140(2% from fat); FAT 23g (sat 0g); SUGAR 4g; PROTEIN 4g; CHOLESTEROL 0mg; SODIUM 763mg; FIBER 2g; CARBOHYDRATE 28g (approximate Weight Watchers Points per serving: 4)

Once again, I like to use brown rice in place of white rice whenever possible. For this recipe I get a pot of brown rice going while I prep everything else; then, when the brown rice has precooked for about 20-25 minutes, I drain it and add it to the tomato-onion mixture and proceed as written. I also flip the chicken breasts over about halfway through baking and give the rice mixture a stir to ensure even cooking.

NASCAR Takes a Back Seat to Running

The last time my love of both running and NASCAR collided it was not such a good day for NASCAR (the August race was rain-postponed and we didn't even go) but a very good day for running. Yesterday afternoon my worlds collided again.

Sunday morning I awoke to pouring rain. This did not bode well for my scheduled 6-mile run. I decided to put it off until the afternoon, or, failing that, Monday. Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of whole-wheat pancakes, bacon, and coffee, followed by one of my biweekly megashopping trips to the grocery store. I do not have to step foot in the grocery store for two weeks at least. We got sandwiches from Mike's Deli, put some beer in the kitchen fridge for easy access, and settled in to watch the 50th Daytona 500. For the not-NASCAR-savvy, that's the first race of the NASCAR season, and unlike every other sport imaginable, it's this race-- the first event of the season and not the last-- that is the biggest and most prestigious, the one every driver yearns to win. It's been a long three months since the 2007 season ended (and Jimmie Johnson won his second consecutive Nextel (now Sprint) Cup Championship!) and both John and I were ready for our normal Sunday afternoons of NASCAR and beer to resume.

Around 4:00 I noticed that the intermittent sprinkling had stopped and the clouds were breaking up. Soon, actual sunlight was glaring off of the TV screen. I finally said, "I think I'm going for a run."

John said: "In the middle of NASCAR? Are you crazy?"

"The weather is the nicest it's been in weeks and the sun is shining and I'm sitting here doing nothing! I have to get out there and take advantage of it."

So I did. I donned my running clothes, strapped on my Garmin, tucked my iPod into my back pocket, and hit the road. It was a near-balmy 40 degrees and the sun (the sun!) was shining. I decided to do this loop for a change in scenery as I have been confined to the residential areas of Chelsea for weeks. Cavanaugh Lake Rd was very pleasant. Conway Rd, not so much. Several storms' worth of snow had accumulated and been packed down into ice which covered the entire road surface. After slipping along the margin of the road for a while I decided I had had quite enough and I found a tiny mostly ice-free zone in the middle of the road and that's where I ran. Right down the middle of the road. I checked over my shoulder every so often to make sure a car wasn't coming up behind me. Fortunately, no cars passed me for the entire mile I was on that road. Once I hit Bush Rd, which is paved, I was very glad. Now I had something else to worry about: more rain. An ominous cloud had drifted over the sun and as I worked my way east on Bush Rd the first raindrops started to fall. Unsure of how serious this rainfall was going to be, I quickened my pace, hoping that if I couldn't outrun the slow-moving cloud, I could at least get home faster and spend less time being rained on. By the time I hit Sibley Rd, the final push back into town, I was flying. I was also getting very wet. I had pulled my sleeve over my Garmin to protect it but the rest of me was rapidly getting soaked. When I reached Main St and was forced back onto the semi-cleared sidewalks, the cloud had mostly moved on and the rain had tapered off. I backed off on my pace and concentrated on mincing my way around ice patches and puddles. (Not well enough, though; I stepped squarely into a large, deep puddle and promptly got two soaking-wet, icy cold feet as mt reward.) I was in the homestretch now anyway; I could use the remaining distance as a cooldown. This plan worked until I was around 5.5 miles and I felt that uncomfortable yet familiar rumble in my gut. There went my nice, easy cooldown. However, I was determined not to cut my run short; I was going to make the 6 miles, runner's trots or not. I made it to 6 miles and even more (though I was scurrying quite fast for the final quarter-mile!). Final stats: 6.3 miles, 58:36, 9:18/mile average pace.

My Garmin reported that after three leisurely miles at 9:30, 9:41, and 10:19 (that was icy Conway Rd), I ran mile 4 in 8:49 and mile 5 in 8:19. 8:19! I knew I had been moving fast but that was a surprise. I definitely had not felt as if I was running a sub-8:30 pace. I had felt superb, actually. Breathing under control, stride steady, arms loose, everything working as it should. It was a nice feeling.

I had been gone for just under an hour, and the race was still on when I got home. I changed into clean clothes and watched the final 50 laps of the race, which Ryan Newman won by slipping past Tony Stewart on the last lap. I kind of wish Tony had won because then he would have cut his heinously long hair. He's rocking a mullet that rivals Billy Ray Cyrus's in his heyday.

Of course more snow is forecast for this week, which means I will most likely be driven indoors again. I can't take much more of this winter shit. For one glorious slightly damp hour yesterday I experienced running as it should be: outdoors, on the open road, with the sun on my face. The promise of more days like that will have to propel me through the last grim weeks of winter.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Knew It!

The 5K I recently ran, the one I whined about here, was in fact longer than 5K! I was out last night with the Wednesday evening group, and I was wearing the hat I won at the Super 5K. Victor (a Running Fit employee and organizer of the Wednesday group runs) asked me what I thought of the race. I said, "Well, I think it was too long." He said, "It was too long."

AHA! I knew there was something to the fact that my Garmin 305 had measured the race distance as 3.21 miles. My Garmin may not be pinpoint accurate to the foot, but an extra .11 mile is a heck of an error.

I also mentioned how I thought it was odd that the race was chip-timed but there was a timing mat at the finish only. Victor agreed.

I feel somewhat vindicated.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tackle the Tower Stairclimb

This weekend I am visiting my parents in my hometown near Cleveland, Ohio, in order to attend my sister-in-law's baby shower. Being the Obsessed Runner that I am, I always check a race calendar to see if there is anything going on in the area every time I come down here. At Thanksgiving I ran a Turkey Trot race with my dad. This time, however, there were no road races going on. I did see this "Tackle the Tower" thing that sounded interesting, so I registered. It took place at the Galleria at Erieview high-rise in downtown Cleveland. 37 flights of stairs for 646 total steps.

I drove downtown by myself; my parents live only 25 miles away from Cleveland. I stood around for a while until it was time to line up; participants were staggered 10 seconds apart and were ordered numerically. My start time was just after 10:13 am. I was #380. At the bottom of the stairs, a race volunteer with a stopwatch stayed me until it was time for me to head up; with a simple "!" he lifted his hand from my shoulder and I was off. I went up the first five or so flights with a perky spring in my step. Then my thighs started aching. My heart rate shot up. I started breathing extremely hard and fast. By the eighth floor I was plodding. I couldn't believe how fast I had deteriorated. And I still had 29 flights to go!

I trudged onward. Eventually I started trotting up the steps again. My heart rate wasn't coming down at all and I was breathing just as hard when I walked as when I trotted, so I figured, why not just trot? It will make this torture end sooner. The flights were laid out in three segments: a stretch of seven steps, a small landing, a second stretch of three steps, another small landing, and a final stretch of seven steps to the next floor. I would trot up the initial stretch, take a walk break on the second, and trot up the steps to the next floor. In this manner I grindingly continued upward. I eventually passed three people who had started just before me. I was passed near the end by someone who had started behind me. I was done. Utterly spent. I trotted the final flight to the 37th floor where someone ripped the tag from my race number and I staggered through the stairwell door onto the top floor of the building. I grabbed a bottle of water and sank down against the wall. I thought running was hard. This was by far harder than almost any physical exercise I have ever done.

Results were posted this afternoon and I finished 14th out of 42 women in my age group with a time of 7:21. Longest, hardest 7 minutes and 21 seconds of my life.

Anyone who wants to really test their mettle should do a stairclimb.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Super Bowl 5K Pictures

Since John was not with me at the race on Sunday, I was completely dependent on the race photographer to capture me in pictures during the race. After sifting through hundreds of photos (I really wish they would hire someone who would sort pictures by name and/or bib number) I found a couple of good ones of me. (I'm in the black and red jacket.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I had a real rip-roaring workout this afternoon. I ran to the Chelsea track (thankfully deserted and snow-free) and did four 800 meter repeats at a pace which, for me, can only be described as "blazing." I am now more in awe than ever of people who can sustain such fast paces for long distances. Like marathons.

I did my 800m splits in 3:38, 3:38, 3:44, and 3:43 for an average pace of 7:23/mile. My Garmin claims my maximum speed of 9.0 mph was reached during the third repeat. 9.0 mph is a pace of 6:37/mile. There's no way I could keep that up for more than a brief moment. I've never run that fast of a mile in my entire life (my mile PR is 6:59).

I haven't pushed myself so hard since high school. Man, today's workout was tough. Tough but satisfying. Even though I felt like I was going to fall over at the completion of each interval, when I got done and walked over to my Weight Watchers meeting (conveniently located mere meters away!) I thought, That sure sucked while I was doing it but I feel pretty darn good about myself and my capabilities right now. Then I thought, Oh dear...eventually I will have to do, like, 8 of these...I'd only be half done at this point. Ugh.

Oh well. I do what I must in the name of running a sub-two hour half marathon, right?

In other news, I dropped another 1.4 pounds at WW and am now sitting on 62.2 lbs lost. Yeah! The quest for 75 lbs is still on!

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Couple of Things

Since I sounded like a grumpy whiner in my post from yesterday, here's something with a more positive spin.

One: I finally took my wedding ring to the jewelry store to get resized. I went from a ring size of 8.5 down to a 6, which, in Jewelry World, is apparently a lot. I had been wearing my ring for months with a makeshift temporary spacer thing that was starting to feel more like "permanent" than "temporary." I decided it was time to take the big plunge and get it resized.

Two: This past Saturday marked the one-year-anniversary of the Day My Life Changed (For The Better) Forever. Here's to one full year of health and happiness!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Race Report: Super Bowl 5K

I should be pleased as punch, right? I finished fifth in my age group (out of 45) and won an official event hat. I got two pint glasses. I got a bunch of great stuff for 50% off at the Running Fit store right after the race.

No. NO! I'm pissed as hell. This was supposed to be the race for me, the one where I busted the 25:00 barrier for the first time since I was a senior in high school. I was feeling so fine this morning. I was so ready.

OK. First of all, HOW CAN YOU HAVE A CHIP-TIMED EVENT WITH ONLY ONE TIMING MAT??? I just DON'T GET IT. The only people who are going to have an accurate time are the ones who were standing with their toes on the starting line when the horn sounded. The rest of the pack, shuffling slowly forward, crossed the starting line well after the front-of-the-pack sprinters, adding seconds if not minutes to our times. I shouldn't have put myself so far back in the pack; I spent forever zooming past people in the early stages of the race.

Secondly, and I know this depends on how accurate my Garmin 305 is (and it has shown itself to be pretty darn accurate in the past), THE COURSE WAS NOT A 5K. My Garmin showed the distance to be 3.21 miles.

To give you a sense of how inaccurate it all was, my Garmin showed my first mile split as 8:07, but when I got the "official" time from the race volunteer with a stopwatch he called out 9:00. My second mile split according to my Garmin was 7:42! Third mile split, 8:03. (And never mind that the difference in distance between when my Garmin chirped to signal the completion of another mile and the "official" mile marker kept increasing with each successive mile). I stopped my watch as I crossed the finish line at 25:28. My "official time" for the race was 26:06. HUH? After I ran a 7:42 mile? How is this possible?

So let's see. Splits of 8:07, 7:42, and 8:03 equals 23:52 for three miles. For the remaining distance I was running at a 7:39/mile pace according to my Garmin. One tenth of a mile at that pace would have taken me 45 seconds to complete. 23:52 plus 45 seconds is 24:37. Twenty-FOUR minutes and 37 seconds. Not twenty-SIX minutes, my "official" time, or even the twenty-five minutes my Garmin showed.

Oh, and? Strip mall parking lots? NOT GOOD FOR RACING! This was the screwiest race course I've ever run. All these loops and twists and double-backs and everyone jammed in between rows of cars. It was ridiculous.

Running Fit did such a great job with the Big House Big Heart 5K in September. Chip-timed (with TWO timing mats), dead-on accurate 5K, nice wide open race course. Maybe it was the race management outfit. I don't know. I'm just highly peeved. I ran a 5K in under 25 minutes but it's not official. I can't point to my time in the race results and say, "See! I did it!"

There's a St. Patrick's Day "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" 5K next month in Ann Arbor. Maybe I can redeem myself then.