“Peanut” Satay Chicken

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Last night I had a real craving for peanut satay chicken. There are two problems with this when you are adhering to Whole 30. First, you aren’t supposed to have peanuts. Second, traditional satay has a whole lot of brown sugar in it. So, I decided to get creative. By using sunflower butter, I found the nutty flavor I was looking for, and the coconut milk added the touch of sweetness it needed without actually adding a sweetener! I’ll be honest, it’s not the perfect replica, but it was pretty darn close! I served it over fried cauliflower rice, which was the perfect compliment!

(Serves 2)

  • 1/3 cup sunflower butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teas dried minced onion
  • ½ teas garlic powder
  • ¼ – ½ teas cayenne powder
  • ¼ teas ancho chili powder
  • ½ teas lemongrass
  • ¾ teas salt
  • 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Cilantro for garnish

For the rice:

  • ½ head cauliflower, whirled in a food processor to create rice like consistency
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Slice your chicken breast across the grain into very thin slices
  2. Put your sunflower butter, coconut milk, onion, garlic, cayenne, ancho, lemongrass and salt into a medium sized sauce pot and whisk together. It may look grainy with the coconut milk, but do not fear! Heat over medium heat whisking occasionally.
  3. While your sauce is warming, melt your coconut oil in a frying / sauté pan over med high heat.
  4. Add the chicken to the coconut oil and cook just through while stirring, approximately 4 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken directly to the sauce and let it simmer while you make your cauliflower rice, or up to 45 minutes with the lid on and the head turned down low.
  6. Make your cauliflower rice by melting the coconut oil over med high heat, adding the cauliflower, salt and pepper.   Stir and flip occasionally until your rice is cooked and browned to your liking.
  7. Serve the chicken over the cauliflower and garnish with the cilantro.

10 Keys to Starting Whole 30

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I have a number of friends who like to do New Year’s Resolutions. They often involve a new exercise thing, joining a gym, going on a diet, giving up cake, starting to spend more time outdoors, or committing to reading a certain number of books in a year. One of my friends wanted to do the Whole 30, which is, in essence, a paleo cleanse. She is more or less gluten free, but she really wanted to do a “hard reset” on her diet for the new year, and she asked me for some advice since I’ve done it in the past. I offered to do the 30 days with her to support her efforts, and also because I think it’s a good form of discipline for myself. Her questions and initial apprehension in getting started made me realize that there are some easy tips to put her on the path to success.

  1. Set your mind in the right place before you even start – that means deciding from the outset that you can and will do it. If you doubt yourself, you will have a hard time. Your mind is powerful, so use it to your advantage. It also means choosing a date to start, and well, then, just start. There is always a good reason to put it off or wait or something…the fact is, making a different in your routine is hard, and that’s what you’ll be doing.
  2. Hold it lightly. What I mean is, decide that you will do this, prepare, be committed to it, but if something happens on day 10 and you have a piece of bread, don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse.
  3. Set aside one hour each Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and write down what you plan on having for each meal, list some snack ideas, and identify the prep work you need to do. For instance, note that you need to take the chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday that you are going to use on Friday.
  4. As you plan your week ahead, spread your “left overs” out across several days and don’t try to eat it all in 3 or 4 consecutive meals. Your body and mind likes variety and it will keep your food interesting. Another idea is to make your left overs into “new” food. If you make a roasted chicken for dinner one night, repurpose the left over chicken into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
  5. If you are doing this with a partner, plan your meals together. So, if you are deciding what to have for dinners, I suggest that you pick two meals and your partner picks two meals that you definitely want to have that week. The other three meals can be leftovers or “pick up meals”. Your partner’s buy-in and involvement will keep him or her invested in the effort, and will help you in the motivation department, too!
  6. Also as you are planning, take into account your “busy” days, and don’t try to do too much. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights, after work. So between getting home, taking care of the dog, changing clothes, getting to class on time and fighting rush hour, I have very little time to prep a meal. Tuesdays are a great night for me to use the slow cooker, or to have left overs, and I put that into my plan.
  7. Speaking of too much, don’t try to start lots of new things when you embark on the Whole 30. I know it’s tempting to decide that you are going to turn over a BIG new leaf and start Whole 30, a new exercise regimen and getting up 45 minutes earlier every day to take care of all those house chores first thing, all in the same week. Don’t put yourself under this kind of pressure to make so many drastic changes all at the same time. Be proud that you are making one change, and be confident that when you are ready to add more change to your life, those new changes will still be waiting for you!
  8. Don’t plan to make big decisions in the first 7 days. Your body is getting used to a new routine, and may be going through some withdrawal. It’s possible that you will be irrationally cranky.   Don’t add to the stress that you are putting on yourself by artificially adding to that, if you can avoid it.
  9. Set up your pantry and put away all the unnecessary stuff. I put all my baking supplies (sugars, flowers, chocolate chips, etc) away in a plastic bin and put it downstairs. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s amazing how this works – it’s not that I actually forget I have it, but it has been moved so it’s not as easily accessible. This means it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat that snack or bake some cookies.
  10. Lean on resources that are fun, full of ideas, and easy to use! The first time I did Whole 30, I thumbed through the Well Fed cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan almost every day. I also visited the Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl website regularly. Both of these had Whole 30 specific plans and tips that were really valuable.

Finally, decide you are going to have fun – yes, I know this makes 11, but this should be more of a general guiding principle of life, don’t you think? We can do pretty much anything for 30 days…make it an adventure, and you never know, you might even create a new habit!

Hiatus

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I have been on a hiatus…from writing, from training for a marathon, from pushing myself to do something impossible, from creating new recipes, from engaging….and that has not necessarily been a bad thing. Any coach will tell you that recovery is an important part of training, finding balance in one’s life is valid, and spending time preparing so that you can push yourself again is worthwhile.

One year ago, I decided that I was going to do something that I imagined would be impossible in 2014 – I wanted to have a big, hairy audacious goal, something that was so incredible, that I didn’t even know how to visualize in January. My goal was to run a half marathon. As a non-runner, this was huge for me! I had no idea where to start, and I felt completely out of my league….and then in May, I did it. I ran 13.1 miles without stopping. After I caught my breath while I was wandering around the finishing area, it occurred to me that it wasn’t even half way through 2014, and I’d already done what I’d set out to do for the whole year. My “impossible” goal was not so impossible after all. I decided I needed to step up my game and come up with something a little more challenging. So I signed up to run a full marathon.

When I crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles three months later, I was spent – physically, mentally, emotionally….I FELT like I had accomplished something impossible this time. There was nothing left to give – I’d given it everything I had. I was proud, I was humbled, I was exhausted, I was injured, and I was done. I knew in my heart that I had done something that one year before would have been impossible for me.

It was time to rest and recover. I allowed myself that time, and gave myself grace so that I could fill up my mind, my soul, and my body again. I stopped running to let my piriformis heal. I refocused my physical energy into yoga for balance. I gave myself time to read books I’d set aside. I stopped challenging myself to blog on a regular basis. I had a personal retreat in the Pacific Northwest among the trees and near the ocean to fill my soul.

In the last several months, I have reflected on “Impossible” a great deal. I don’t think “Impossible” is something that I want to tackle anymore, not because I am scared to face something, someone, or some idea, but because I have realized that if I start by thinking it’s impossible, I’m starting at a deficit. If I learned anything in the last twelve months, it was that I am capable of so much more than I can imagine right now. I want to keep living up to that potential. I want 2015 to be the year of becoming more of who I am. Because if that is my focus, anything is possible.

Goals are still good. Specific targets are good. Struggling to achieve something is good….But hiatus is over. It’s time to stop sitting on the bench. It’s time to stop just watching. It’s time to get back into the arena.

Comfort Fusion

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Occasionally, I will make a pot roast, which is a bit excessive since I live alone, but sometimes, a girl needs comfort food. Invariably, I will have left overs – a LOT of them. I like left over pot roast, but I like figuring out ways to make my left overs into brand new things even more! So when it was only 15 degrees outside tonight, and soup really sounded like the best idea, (even though I really needed to eat left over pot roast), I decided to raid my pantry to see what I could figure out. My creativity was rewarded with some of the best fusion comfort food I’ve ever had. I added a poached egg to enjoy the creamy yolk in the soup, but it is totally optional if you don’t feel like going through the trouble of poaching an egg.

Pot Roast Ramen

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 servings of dry ramen noodles (you can get them at the Asian market, or use packaged ramen without the flavor seasonings)
  • approximately 6 oz of left over pot roast meat (2 small fists worth), shredded
  • 4 cups stock or broth (I used chicken because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms sliced paper thin
  • 4 baby carrots sliced paper thin
  • 1 scallion sliced
  • 2 Tbls vinegar (for the poached egg)
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

  1. The soup will come together very quickly, so start by prepping your vegetables and shredding your meat.
  2. Pour boiling water over the noodles and soak for 4-5 minutes while making the rest of the soup.
  3. Heat your stock and meat on med high in a sauce pot. Add all the vegetables.
  4. In a separate pot, boil water and set to simmer. Add the vinegar. Use a spoon to swirl the water around to create a funnel or vortex in the middle and crack the two eggs into the water. Allow them to cook for approximately 2 1/2 minutes for a soft poached egg.
  5. Season your soup with salt and pepper and continue to heat.
  6. Drain your noodles and put into 2 bowls
  7. When the soup has started to simmer and the meat is heated through, ladle the soup into the bowls over the noodles.
  8. Use a slotted spoon to put one egg one the top of each bowl of soup.
  9. I sprinkled some rosemary sea salt over the top to finish it. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary if you’d like.

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My Banh Mi

My Banh Mi

I have discovered, that in my mind, there is always one classic dish or drink that defines a country or region for me. For Mexico, it’s street tacos. For Italy, it’s limoncello, espresso and gnocchi. For San Francisco, it’s sour dough bread. For Vietnam, it’s a banh mi sandwich. Invariably, there are a million ways to make that dish and every restaurant has their own “way” of doing it.

I dream of going to Vietnam someday, mostly for the food. I would eat my way across the country, taking cooking classes from the locals as I go. The banh mi sandwich was originally very simple, peasant food, really, just pate smeared on a baguette. Today, the traditional banh mi sandwich is usually pickled vegetables, chilies, sauce and a protein on a baguette. (For a much fuller history of the banh mi sandwich, I recommend visiting Andrea Nguyen’s site here.) Someday, I will get to Vietnam, and I will eat a hundred different versions of a banh mi sandwich while I’m there, but until then, I made up my own, which is not particularly authentic at all, (whoever heard of putting a brie like cheese on a banh mi sandwich?)  But I figure there is room for interpretation – it is a sandwich after all. And at the end of the day, it sure is tasty.

(Note: if you are making the baba ganouch, grilled chicken, and pickled cucumbers in order to specifically make the sandwich, it is a fair amount of time and effort to make your meal. However, if you’ve made these things previously, and your sandwich is really just “leftovers”, it will come together in a snap.)

 

Sandwich Ingredients:

  • Baguette
  • Baba ganouch (recipe below)
  • Pickled Cucumbers (recipe below)
  • Grilled chicken breast – sliced
  • Tomme Crayeuse (a cheese similar to brie)
  • Fresh cilantro

 

Baba Ganoush

Part of the beauty of baba ganoush is the flavor of grilled char that comes from cooking the eggplant on a grill. Do not underestimate the importance of grilling your eggplant – you won’t be disappointed. Also, traditionally, baba ganoush is made only with tahini, but one particular day, when I simply had to have baba ganoush, and I didn’t realize I was almost out of tahini, I substituted additional sunflower seed butter at the last moment – it turned out divine. I don’t actually measure the tahini or sunflower seed butter – since eggplants are never a consistent size either, the measurements below are “guidelines”. The point is that I used about the same amount of tahini and sunflower seed butter, but if I erred, it was on the side of adding a touch more sunflower seed butter. Don’t worry, this is a very forgiving recipe.

Baba Ganoush Ingredients:

  • 2 Eggplant (med to large sized)
  • 1/8 cup of tahini (found in Mediterranean markets or most health food stores)
  • 1/8 – 1/6 cup of sunflower seed butter (you can find at most health food stores)
  • 4 Tbls lemon juice
  • ½ – ¾ teas cumin powder
  • ¼ teas cayenne
  • 1 teas salt
  • ½ teas ancho chili powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, very roughly chopped

Baba Ganoush Directions:

Heat your grill on high for 5-10 minutes – it should be about 550 degrees. Once the grill is hot, make sure you’ve oiled the grate. Cut each eggplant in half vertically and use your knife to cut 3-4 slits in the white meat of the vegetable. Do not salt or oil the eggplant, but place the eggplant face down over direct heat, closing the lid of the grill for 5-7 minutes. Turn the eggplant over so that it is sitting on the purple skin, close the lid and let it continue to cook for an additional 10-12 minutes. If you use tongs, the eggplant should be fairly soft at this point. Take the eggplant off the grill and allow it to cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh out of the skin, or conversely, peel the skin off the flesh, and discard the skin. Place all the eggplant in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and whirl on high until fully pureed, approximately 45-60 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. This will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for one week.

 

Pickled Cucumbers:

Pickling is making resurgence, and you can pickle just about anything. This recipe is for a quick pickle, but one that will also keep in your fridge for several days.

Pickled Cucumber Ingredients:

  • Cucumber
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • 1 ½ Tbls sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Pickled Cucumber Directions:

You can peel or not peel the cucumber as you like. I actually half peel mine, meaning I peel stripes of skin off, leaving some of the dark green skin on. In addition to keeping some great nutrients found in the skin, I just think it’s prettier. Slice the cucumber into coins and set aside.

Whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl and taste – it should be tangy with just a hint of sweetness. Add additional salt if needed. Add the cucumber coins to the bowl – the pickling liquid should nearly cover the cucumber. Let it sit for at least ten minutes, before using. The cucumbers will keep in their pickling liquid in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

Sandwich Construction:

Tear off the amount of bread you want for your sandwich. Of course, you can use a knife to neatly cut the right amount, but I love the rustic look. (True confession, I did use a knife to slice the baguette in half, the top from the bottom.) Smear a healthy amount of baba ganouch over both top and bottom pieces of bread. Building from the bottom, add your layer of sliced grilled chicken breast, the cheese, pickled cucumbers and cilantro before adding the top of the baguette.  Enjoy!

What’s Next?

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The day I signed up to do my first big race, a friend said to me, “You signed up to run a Half Mary? Oooo, you are going to LOVE it. If you do at Half, I guarantee you will want to do a Full. And once you do a Full, you may or may not want to do an Ultra.”

“You are cray cray,” I responded.

She might not be as crazy as I thought. When I was starting to taper my training for my half, I started thinking about what was next for me? This was, after all, only May. So I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t do anything drastic (like commit to a new race or event) for at least two weeks after my Half. Besides….recovery is just as important a part of training as the weeks leading up to the race.

By day 4 after the race, I was itching to put my shoes back on and get out there. I didn’t want to “lose” something I’d gained. I talked to one of my coaches who said he can’t keep me from doing something I am bound to do, but he’ really prefer it if I would give it a little more time. He reminded me that my body had done more than it had ever done before, and if I was going to try to do this again, and do it well, I would serve myself better by waiting. I waited. Impatiently. And I grumbled. And I waited some more. And I looked up new races.

Just shy of two weeks after my half marathon, I signed up to run a full marathon in August.

I believe it’s really important to have plans and goals to reach for in life, things that stretch you, challenge you in mind and body, things that might seem impossible on the surface, but really offer you the opportunity to accomplish something great. Running a full marathon falls into that category for me.

However, as I am training for this event, my mind is in a very different place than it was for my half marathon. I am beginning to realize that it’s not just about “what’s next?”, but it’s about the process of running, of becoming a runner, of making running a part of my identity. As I train this time, I am listening to my body, paying attention to the potential injuries, both pushing myself when I can, and allowing myself rest and recover when I need that, too.

I strained my piriformis muscle last week, and was told no running by my coach to let it have a chance to heal. It is hard to rest, to see my running shoes in the corner, and know that I have at least 4 more days before I get to try an “easy” run. I want to get back out there. But I have realized that resting now means I will be able to run later. Resting now means I have a fighting chance to finish a marathon in August. More importantly, resting now means investing in my future.

You see, what I have realized is that I am in this for the long haul – this is not training for one event that happens in August, this is training for life. It is training so that I can keep running next year and the year after that. I don’t want to end up with hips that hurt to get out of bed and knees that are trashed. I want to train smart so that I can keep doing this thing called running for as long as it continues to make me happy. This is not a sprint event….it’s a marathon. And this marathon is called Life.

What’s next? Life is next. No matter which event I’ve signed up for, I train for myself, for my future, for the ability to keep running on beautiful trails, early mornings and late afternoons…and to be able to enjoy every step of the way.

 

 

I Am A Survivor

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I am a survivor.  Six years ago today, I suffered a stroke.

For a long time, I didn’t tell most people because I was ashamed; I thought of it as a weakness on my part, and that somehow, having a stroke in the first place, was my fault.  I am ready to tell my story now because I realize that I have overcome some great obstacles, more than some and far less than others, but the journey is worth telling.  And perhaps in some small way, sharing my journey can encourage someone else in his or her journey.

People have asked me what the experience was like….It started when I woke up.  I was alone in my house, and I noticed that my entire left side was prickly, like when you have been laying on your hand wrong and it is just starting to fall asleep, only, it was the whole left side of my body.  I went outside to let the dog out and fill up his water bowl, and I noticed that my hearing was incredibly acute.  I could hear the dog barking 8 blocks away, I heard insects flying near me, only they were across the patio, I could hear the blood going through the veins inside my head; it seemed very surreal.  I picked up the water bowl with my right hand and when I wanted to go inside, I remember telling my left hand to open the door, but it wouldn’t move.  I used my right hand and told myself to “wake up!”

I should have known something was wrong at this point, but it didn’t occur to me because I was young, I was healthy, and symptoms of a stroke are very serious and only affect older people….little did I know.

When I tried to brush my teeth, I couldn’t swish water around in my mouth, and I realized couldn’t make a smile in the mirror.  That’s when I got scared….so I called my parents, only, I couldn’t make the right words come out.  I knew what I wanted to say, but the words weren’t there.  I finally made my dad understand that I didn’t want an ambulance, but I thought something was wrong…please come.  When he got to the house, I was feeling fine again, so I felt bad for getting him out of bed early.  Thankfully, he and my mom had the sense to make me go to the ER to get checked out.  What I didn’t know is that I was having a series of small TIAs (trans ischemic attacks), sort of like mini-strokes.  While I was in the hospital getting checked out, I had an actual stroke where a blood clot hit my right frontal lobe, and I lost movement in my left side, from my cheek bone to about my knee, which lasted for several days.

After I got out of the hospital, I had to learn how to do many things all over again, and it was frustrating.  Driving, writing, talking, picking up small things, holding a fork and knife, thinking….  I learned that the best way for a person to heal from a brain injury is to sleep, so I had to sleep 10-12 hours each night.  I struggled with missing words and not being able to express myself, I struggled to remember things, I struggled with physical weakness on my left side, I struggled with clumsiness, I struggled with becoming very tired without warning.  I often wondered if I would ever get back to “normal” again.

Having had a stroke does not define who I am, but it has certainly changed the way I see and live life.  It has changed certain priorities for me, it has challenged me to learn who I am, and honor that in myself.  I still have to pay attention to myself when I get very tired.  I laugh at myself when I forget things that I know.  I have to be more conscientious when I get a bad headache and determine if I am dehydrated, or am I tired, is it just a headache, or is it more serious?  I have had to learn how to give myself more grace.  And in the midst of all that, I have chosen to live.

I took culinary classes at the Art Institute, and I wore a mesh glove so that I wouldn’t chop my fingers off.  I learned how to ski.  I started working with a personal trainer, and we spend a lot of time on balance exercises and strengthening my left side.  I auditioned for a play and figured out how to memorize all my lines.  I competed in a Sprint Triathlon at altitude.  I trained for and ran a Half Marathon.  I’m currently training for a full marathon.  I started writing a blog.  I bought a motorcycle.  I passed the Level 1 certification towards becoming a sommelier.  I decided that the only person that can truly put limits on me, is me.  I go on vacation, and take pictures, and make memories, and love the people around me.

Some days, I still struggle with finding the right words, and I get frustrated that it’s not as “easy” as it once was.  Sometime I hit the wall and stop functioning, and I’m pretty sure that my left side will always be a little bit weaker than my right side.  But I am a survivor.

In six years, I have learned so much about myself, about living, about loving, about not taking things for granted, about courage, about what it means to “show up”.  Today, I celebrate life, recovery, hard work, and hope.  Today, I celebrate the people that have surrounded me with love and support and encouragement.  Today, and every day, I live life a little bit differently….because it can all change in a moment.  Take the time to tell the people around you that you love them.  Be nice.  Take risks.  Live out loud.  Own your choices.  Be courageous.  Laugh.  Say you’re sorry.  Listen.  Be present.  Celebrate the life you live.

It Takes A Village

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It’s easy to think that you just train, you put in miles, you get up, you tell yourself you don’t hurt as much as you do, and then you do it again. But it is so much more than that. It is the entire community of people around me that has gotten me to where I am today. When I stop to think about all the people that have influenced me, encouraged me, kicked me, and prodded me, I am overwhelmed.

I had people cook for me, give me tools, give me gear, help me set up my Garmin watch, set up the Garmin connect on my computer, set up the tracking device. I had people email me asking when the race was, and encourage me, literally every step of the way. I had, and still have, individuals who inspired me to keep going, and in turn, I was told that I inspire others. It is a beautiful cycle.

I had a team of people that have kept my body in tip top shape – massaging muscles, making sure my spine was in alignment, showing me specific running stretches, stretching with me, reminding me when I need to rest, and giving me advice to keep me from injuring myself.

Even though I didn’t have a coach, and I made up my own training plan based on some pretty good guesses and something I read in a book, I had a whole team of trainers working with me. They challenged me to do the long runs, and then the longer runs. They explained the importance of speed and strength work. They told me not to skimp on core work and keep up with my plan. They reviewed my chart, my progress and told me where I was trying to do too much and when I needed to push harder. They affirmed my plan, and gave me options. They told me about different ways to approach running from the “run/walk” method to heart monitor training. At the end of the day, no one method is perfect, but part of my joy has been to try many things and see what works for me.

 

And then it was the day of the race. There were moments that I vividly remember….

I remember hitting the 1-mile marker and thinking simultaneously, “I wish these people would all get out of my way, they are slowing me down! And wow, I just have 12 more to go.” At the 4-mile marker, I realized I was almost a third of the way done. When I hit 5 miles, my hip started to hurt and I thought, “meh…give it two more miles and see how it feels.” At somewhere around mile 7, they were handing out gels and I had some because I knew I needed it, but oh, it was gross. Just before mile 8, I ran through a fire department and under two great flags – the Colorado state flag and Old Glory…. I jumped up to try to touch the flag, but missed by at least a foot. Somewhere around mile 11, another fire department was out in their fire fighting pants and boots (no shirts), giving us high fives. Upon reflection, it seems that I might have preferred them back at mile 4 when I might have been able to remember what they all looked like!

And I was humbled, oh so very humbled at the end.  I was somewhere around mile 12.5, and it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of another.  I kept seeing these people pass me, young people with their pony tails bobbing, still looking perky and talking to their friends, and older people with silver hair and skinny chicken legs…and all I could think of was that I hoped I could grow up to be that old person someday.  It was inspiring.

I remember crossing the 13 mile mark and thinking to myself, I’m almost there – I couldn’t quite see the finish line yet because it was around a curve, but somehow I was able to pull out the last of my reserves and I picked up my pace one more time…I was determined to finish strong, with a smile on my face and my arms up in the air.  And then I was over the line, and I realized I’d done it – that thing I’d set out to do, it was done.  My legs felt like rubber, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted something to drink or to just fall over.  But it was humbling to realize that I am part of an elite group now – I can never say that I’m not a runner again, and that is humbling in and of itself.

You learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself beyond your comfort zone and then push yourself even harder. In January, this seemed like an impossible thing to attempt. I did it, but I didn’t do it alone…it took a village.

Cramming For The Exam

Final Exam

There are a lot of things you can cram for – that driver’s written test when you’re sixteen.  That history exam that covers 400 years and is worth 60% of the grade.  A speech you’re supposed to give to a hundred people.  Packing your suitcase 20 minutes before you have to leave for the airport.  I’m not saying that cramming is necessarily the most effective way to accomplish any of these things; I’m just suggesting that it’s possible.

 

It is not possible to cram for a Half Marathon.

 

You have either put in the time, the miles, the stretching, the effort or you haven’t.  It’s hard to believe that my race is a week from tomorrow.  When I think back to the day I signed up to run, I couldn’t visualize getting to where I am now.  Now that I’m here, I realize that it was the culmination of all the time and energy I put in to the process.  I ran when it was cold, rainy, windy, hot, or snowy.  I ran when I hadn’t had enough to eat and times when I’d been paying attention and was raring to go.  I ran because I had a goal, I ran because I liked it, I ran on days when I was pumped up, and I ran sometimes when I didn’t feel like it.

I have tried new foods and fuel and gone back to what I know works for me.  I have gotten up early, missed parties, said no to happy hours, rearranged my schedule, chosen running over other things…  I have massaged sore muscles and asked for advice from seasoned runners.  I have read articles, bought gear, talked about running, written about running, bought more gear, dreamed about running, and then got out there and ran again.

I have had moments of doubt and I have had moments of sheer exhilaration when I thought I could conquer anything.  It is strange and exciting, and I’m still a little nervous, but in my heart, I know I’m ready.  I still have one week of tapering left, but if my race was tomorrow, I’d be ok.  I don’t have to cram for the exam – I have put in the time, one foot after another, mile after mile, minute over minute, day after day.  It’s time.

Opportunity

Shoes2

Either you ran today or you didn’t.

This phrase shows up on t-shirts and posters or tagged in an inspirational post on Facebook, and while some might see a challenge to get out there, or shame in the fact that they didn’t, I see “opportunity”.

Every day is made up of a thousand choices. Some are mundane like deciding what to have for breakfast and whether to wear the blue shirt or the brown shirt and which route to take to work. Some choices matter a lot more, possibly because they have the potential to impact other people, perhaps because they define how one interacts with the world, and there is even the chance that a seemingly arbitrary choice can even change the course of a life. You may never know the ripples that your choices make.

There have been abnormal weather patterns around the country this week, and in Denver it manifested itself in 35 mile per hour winds, which I think, is crazy to battle while running.   This being the case, I chose not to run this week for four days in a row. It would have been easy to convince myself after getting home from work that I might as well just finish out the week in style and blow off tonight, too.

Opportunity. There is power and responsibility wrapped up in that word, because what it really means is also having the courage to own the choices you make. This afternoon, I had a moment of wavering indecision, choosing between a delightfully sunny patio and a pair of beat up Saucony’s. Truly, I was coming down on the side of the patio when I started to think about the rest of the week, when I didn’t have the same opportunity – it was gorgeous today!

Either you ran today or you didn’t…today I ran. That doesn’t mean I run every day. I don’t actually think it’s good for a body to run every day….but today I had the opportunity, and I took it. I own it. I had a great run.

The piece of my whole experience that really hit home for me today, though, was when the song “If Today Was Your Last Day” by Nickleback filtered through my playlist. While I was running, I listened, really listened to the words, and that’s when I realized that this song was talking about exactly the same thing.

Either you ran today, or you didn’t.

Either you made a difference today, or you didn’t.

 

I assume I’m going to wake up tomorrow, but what if today was my last day…did I live like it matters? Did I make the world a better place? Was I kind? Was I generous? Did I give it my best? Opportunity comes in many forms…. And I just thought I was going out to do four miles.