Friday, September 26, 2014

Long Run 18 Miles

There are many things we love about living in our small town of Huxley with one of them being that it doesn’t take long to get anywhere. While this is great for most everything, it does tend to make it a bit tricky to get higher mileage in. Because I’m training for a trail run, I hit the dirt roads and the forest preserve and bike trail for almost every day. I use mapmyrun.com to lay out a route so that I don’t have to figure where to go next when I’m out. 

My race is a loop meaning I will run the same course three times. I decided that I would turn my 18 miles into a loop run of six miles each. For one, I didn’t want to spend time figuring out how to weave in and out of Huxley. Secondly, I wanted to see how I would respond to doing the same course three times in a row. Lastly, every time I thought about running these 18 miles, I got a little nauseous. I think because I’m now entering "most mileage in a single run" territory. Cutting it into three runs helped me keep breakfast down.


Loop 1: On my way out, I stashed a water bottle in the ditch near a friend’s house. I could have carried it with me the entire time in my pack but I really didn’t want the extra weight. I had a podcast queued up (one ear bud only) and took it easy. Even though I had run this route many, many times, I felt this was my longest loop mentally. I wondered how I would do it two more times but tried to focus on the loop I was on. I was trying something new nutritionally and I think that may have had something to do with it because I did not feel that way after I took a gel. I was pleased that my loop planning had worked out well. 


Loop 2: I popped out my earbud because I was at the end of my current podcast and needed to give my ears and mind a rest. I also wanted to pay attention to what might happen to me physically and mentally during this go around. I did find this loop to be easier than the first. I’m guessing because of the fuel but also because of the familiarity of the route. I was quite conscientious in keeping my heart rate where it needed to be but often got caught up in the running. What surprised me was that I felt like running at the pace I was. I’ve heard a saying that goes along the lines of “Run when the trail gives it to you”  so I let myself enjoy those moments while keeping a reign on the momentum. There was still six more miles to go.



Loop 3: Before I started this loop, I stopped to refill my water bottles with Tailwind and water from the stashed bottle. This was an absolute pain. Each of the bottles on my pack only holds ten ounces. The neck of the bottle is angled which is supposed to make it easier for consuming on the run but is terrible for filling. I love a lot about this hydration vest but this is not one of them. I’ll be experimenting some more in my upcoming runs. Once I got that out of the way and wrangled my headphone cords into submission (Why, why, why must they tangle themselves so quickly? I don’t need answers, I need solutions!) and listened to another podcast. Even though I was still feeling pretty good, I was starting to feel it. It as in everything. My feet especially have been hurting and I don’t really know why other than they have to get stronger as well. This, in turn, caused me to wonder how in the world I would get to 31 miles. These long runs are not only for my physical strength, they are for my mental strength as well. They say the mind is the weakest part and now I was testing that. As much as I wanted to trick my brain into thinking I was really supposed to run twenty and just happened to cut it short at eighteen, I was a terrible convincer. I came to the corner where two other times I turned right to loop it again and this time I got to turn left and head back home. Suddenly I was so done. I was hungry. I was tired. I was thirsty. Thirsty for water. “Hey, look! A water bottle on the side of the road! Can I drink it? The seal is still intact. I’m going to drink this water right now. This label missing, road scuffed, lukewarm water.” It tasted so good. 

I made it home, glugged down a smoothie, threw some ice into already cold bath water, took the chilly plunge for fifteen minutes, before finally taking a warm shower. I don’t even know how long I was out there nor what my average pace or mile splits were. I was done.

Well, it seems like those 18 miles just flew right by didn't they? 

Next week’s run: 20 miles  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When a Boy Wins a Fish

This past weekend Luke won two goldfish from our church's carnival. He named them Apricot and Shiny. 



Apricot and Shiny lived in their plastic baggie until Monday afternoon when I frantically remembered that I needed to get them into something bigger. I emptied a glass jar that contained seashells, ironically. 

Here they lived and swam and enjoyed the hubbub of life with a family. 

That is until Wednesday mid-morning when I noticed Shiny was lying awfully still at the bottom while Apricot seemed to sort of gasp for breath at the top of bowl. 

I wasn't sure how Luke would respond once he was home from school. It took him a bit to say anything but, surprisingly, he didn't break into huge tears like I was anticipating. We decided we would see if anyone had a tank and aerator for sale and if so, we would get it for Apricot.


I did find what was needed and had arranged to pick the supplies up later in the evening. Luke was gone for supper but the other two were here when Ben noticed Apricot swimming sideways and sinking to the bottom. Apricot would swim desperately around the bowl then float listlessly to the bottom. Essentially, the kids were watching the fish die.
  

 So many thoughts ran through my head today about this whole situation.

  • Winning goldfish from a carnival is like a classic childhood dream come true. 
  • Seeing Luke love his fish and care for them- making sure they didn't get jostled at the carnival, making sure their water didn't spill while he had to play a soccer game before we got home, insisting that I move them into a container while he was at school- was making it worth the hassle.
  • Even though I waited quite a while to find the proper equipment for them, I was still concerned for how he might respond when he found out one was dead.
  • Unfortunately, I found it funny watching Audrey and Ben watching Apricot die. Maybe I should have talked it out with them a bit more? Nah. If the 8 year old gets it, so can the 16 and 12 year olds.
  • I was sort of happy that I wouldn't have to spend any money on our free fish. Free carnival prize? Hah! I was totally going to deduct the cost of set-up from our fundraising pledge. (just kidding)
But here's the main thing I thought of all day long. Years ago at a women's retreat, our pastor's sister shared some things about their mother. One of the things she said their mother did was let them have all kinds of pets. From how she described it, it sounded like they had a multitude of pets and wild and crazy ones at that. I'm sure it came at no small cost to their family and her personally to house and care for them. Marie did it because she wanted her children to learn about God's creation and caring for them. About the cycle of life and death. That story has always stuck with me. Now here was that story happening to us. It caused me to readjust my heart in the matter. 

Not enough, however, that I'm going to go out and buy replacement fish. (The person who was selling me the tank was very understandable to the situation.) 

P.S. Never underestimate the entertainment factor of flushing fish down the toilet. I bet Marie had that in mind, as well.   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homecoming, Soccer, and a Bigger Bike

This past weekend was Ballard's Homecoming. The football game was Friday night and the dance was Saturday night. Having a dance on Saturday night instead of Friday night like it was when I was in high school was nice because I didn't possess the skills to turn cheerleader hair into dance hair very well or quickly. But this isn't about me.

Bill and I met up with Audrey and her boyfriend and another couple for pictures late Saturday afternoon. First we took the good standard group and couples pictures. 




And then we took the artistic pictures. The girls found the ideas (Pinterest) and brought the props and assumed that their parents are professional photographers and restrain their abilities during the rest of the year only to pull them out for Homecoming and prom and such other momentous occasions. 

To get this shot required going all manual on the camera. I had to hand it over to the guy who took photography in 4-H as a kid for this. 


Then there were the soccer ball shots. Audrey's friend's mom took these (lucky her). Literally the hardest part was the girls balancing on the ball. 


It was a good thing the boys had brought the soccer balls because they could mess around with them while the girls played with glitter. Again, Bill took these shots.


We need more glitter.

Even more glitter!

*cough, cough* That's enough glitter.


Oh my word, Pinterest. Stop!! (Just ignore my own photography board, okay?)

Ben and Luke are both in club soccer this Fall. Ben plays for the U12 team and Luke for the U10. They are up against some tougher competition this year and are learning how much ball control, field position, and team work means. Its good for all of us.





Wait a second! I recognize that ref out there. Why it's my niece, Cora! She did a great job keeping the game in line. 




I don't have many pictures of Luke playing yet. Although this is his first year playing, he's getting in there and proving he might be a good little defender. 

Another new thing for Luke is getting on a bigger bike. He loves his Yamaha TTR 50 but its time to move up. 



Bill pulls out the 65 and explains the clutch and how this bike is going to feel compared to the TTR. The bike looks big and scary and Luke is not excited. It takes quite a bit of convincing that he can do this.






He is not all smiles about this bigger bike yet Luke is showing some determination in wanting to do it all himself. Each times he rides, he admits he likes it a little bit more than before. Time to celebrate with his own number plates. Any guesses as to what his number will be?



Friday, September 19, 2014

Long Run 11 Miles

This week I was all set to do only 11 miles for my long run. It was a drop back week meaning I had built about three weeks in a row of increasing mileage and now I had a week of lower mileage to rest and recover. After being torn down from the stress of the previous weeks' efforts, the muscles now repair and rebuild in a stronger manner. I was to continue maintaing the 150 heart rate effort even with the shorter distance.

I had spent the evening before sitting in my van for nearly four hours waiting for runners to come by. They were a part of the Rival Game Relay which was having its inaugural run that evening. The relay teams started in Ames and would end near Iowa City. It was all in conjunction with the Iowa State/Iowa football game. I knew two runners that would be on two different relay teams and was very excited that the relay would come through Huxley. I'll cut the whole 8:30 pm-12:30 am down to a few soundbites.

I didn't realize how many teams would be out there. 

It turns out only eleven. 

The teams had different start times based on the pace they figured they would be able to average over the course of the run. This meant some started at 6 pm and others started at 2 am. With only 11 teams or more realistically 11 runners on the course at a time, it wasn't like there were a wave of people coming through Huxley.

I saw four runners in that time span.

I bought and brought enough gummy bears for 100 hundred runners.

96 runners missed out on some fine tasting gummy bears.

I know this for a fact.

I shooshed a cat away from the gummy bears.

I scared a neighbor who came out to check on the van parked near the trail behind his house. He had a baseball bat in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Poor guy. I should have offered him some gummy bears. 

I caught up on all my social media.

I organized all my Pinterest boards.

I made glow in the dark necklaces for 12 runners. Only one runner took one.

I saw an incredible moonrise from my side view mirror. Then it went up into the clouds and the runners probably never saw it.

I had a chatty conversation with a guy on a bike named Sean who was with the relay and was out to help the runners. He started in Cambridge. He thought he was headed towards Baxter. I informed him that he was in Huxley and that Baxter was east of Cambridge. 

The cows who usually stare at me when I run passed were lowing all evening long. If I were out running in that area in the dark for the first time and heard a cow low, well, I would probably leave a chip myself.

I crawled into bed by 1:00 am. 

After dropping the kids off for school the next morning, I fell back in bed. I knew I would have better effort with a bit more sleep. For the merits of rest and recovery see above.

I woke up at noon.

I was out the door by 12:45 and now hoped to get in all 11 miles and not be late picking up kids.

I made it with time for chocolate milk.

And that's my 11 mile long run.

For the next three weeks my mileage increases for my long runs and for the week overall. I'll be starting at 36 miles for total weekly mileage and 18 miles for the long run. Go ahead and say some prayers for me.   

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shopping, Dodgeball, Canning, and Water

Here are some things. That's right- some things.

Homecoming- formal or informal/Prom dress shopping freaks me out. Last Friday night I took Audrey and Luke to Des Moines to look for an outfit for Homecoming. Ballard's is informal but nonetheless as soon as Audrey was in the changing room, I started texting both my sister and a friend. Why do I do this alone? Why can't I arrange a group shopping event? We found a couple cute dresses and a necklace. For shoes, I suggested she wear cowboy boots with the dress because I think it would be darling. She thinks not. As far as I know she might be going barefoot. Apparently I've upped my stamina and can shop for about eighty percent of the outfit in one day now. We find the clothes and either the jewelry or the shoes but not the entire thing. I've got two more years to get it down. 

Luke had to come with us because Bill and Ben had a youth group party. Luke is a good shopping participant because he generally gets special treats like his own bottle of pop, maybe a toy and gets to play the iPad while Audrey is in the dressing room. He's a very good sport until the last half hour. Then his goal is to get us out of the store as fast as possible. This is usually motivated by the fact that he hasn't gotten his toy yet and Target closes at ten but I'd rather take him than Ben any day. 

Back to Bill and Ben. The youth group event involved pizza and dodgeball. This is the text conversation Bill sent us while we were shopping.



Bill came home with athletic tape wrapped around one fingertip. Ben was fine. 

Speaking of stamina, I have two days a year of canning in me. Maybe three tops. Last week I canned 6 half pints of candied jalapeƱos, 12 pints of red salsa, 4 pints of green tomato salsa, and 2 1/2 pints of green tomato pickles. The jalapeƱos were one day and the rest were another day. I'm so proud of my efforts. I listen for each melodic pop as the jars cool and seal and then later cradle the jars as if I'm some sort of preserving champion. Then, just like that, I'm done with canning. As in so done that I can't get rid of the fruit flies, giant pots and pans, canning paraphernalia, and dirty towels fast enough. And I have air conditioning! Serious kudos to all the women who canned quarts upon quarts of everything without air conditioning.

In other accomplishments, I flooded our laundry room earlier this week. I had turned on the water in the laundry room sink to soak the boys' riding clothes and walked away because it takes a while to fill up. As duly noted, it does not take an hour plus to fill the sink unless you want to count how many towels you have and see if the basement storage room is water-tight. It's not.




In fact, not only is our storage closet not water tight, neither is the rest of the basement. In a separate incident but still within the same 24 hours, Audrey commented to me (on her way out the door in the early am because once again, eleventh grade is busy) that the carpet in her hallway was squishy and that she could see her footprint in it. This prompted Ben to comment the same thing about the carpet by his bedroom door. Bill bolted out of bed and discovered that the sump pump and the battery back up pump both failed and we now had a water sensory play area covering portions of our basement.

In a matter of hours my sister and Valor and a friend were over helping me as Bill managed the sump pump situation. People, my husband is a pro at this kind of stuff. He really shines at analyzing a problem, coming up with the solution and executing it all without emotional breakdown. Beth and Jenn boxed our basement belongings swiftly while Valor held open doors, rode the plastic tractor in the garage, and carried in some lunch groceries. 

To the boys, having the basement void of any obstructions, otherwise known as furniture, is basically the best thing ever. Too bad three dehumidifiers and many fans were floating and drying out the carpet. I daresay if you are going to be building soon and have the necessary means, leave one large room free of anything other than carpet. Your kids would be more than entertained. It's been one of Ben's biggest complaints about our house- it has furniture. Also entertaining for them is the fact that the boys are sleeping in the camper until we can be back into the basement. Audrey has commandeered Luke's room.

I would like to say that I handled the whole ordeal gracefully and with a cheery smile but really I was buffeted around most of the day. I've still got a heaping helping of pride that my friends knocked right through. I don't give myself enough grace when it comes to handling my now noticed shortfalls. On my run this morning, I was about to lament all this  over again to God when He grabbed my heart and said "So what? I know all this and I still love you. You are always in relationship with me even when you don't feel like you have been. I am still here. I am always faithful. That is who I am."  

My sister called today to see how things were going and I said I hadn't flooded anything today so it was looking good.

There ya go, friends. Have a good and, hopefully, dry day.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

Long Run 16 Miles

This week 16 mile long run was done naked.

Excuse me?!!

Hang with me. Let me explain. Running naked is lingo for running without any devices such as music, watch, heart rate monitor and so on that today's technologies afford us.

Phew! Because the bouncing, the itchiness is too much to bare bear.

My first trail race of the year, the Zumbro 17 miler was run near Theilman, Minnesota around the Zumbro Bottoms State Park. The trails are reserved normally for hiking and horseback riding. Besides this and the trail race, twice a year the trails are opened for motorcycles to ride on. You can read about the family's past riding experiences here and here. We were headed up there to ride again this weekend.

Ever since the Zumbro race, I've had an itch to get back there and try the trails again. In planning out my training schedule, I told my coach when we would be going there and that I planned on running the trails. She scheduled sixteen miles. Awesome!

Earlier in the week with maps and race routes in hand, Bill and I discussed where and when I should run. We decided the best choice was to leave Friday morning and then he would go out with me that afternoon. I wouldn't be able to run the exact course as the race since some of the course was marked especially for the race and not always on the main trails but I could run a good majority of the same trails if I wanted to.

On Friday morning it took forever for us to leave. We were prepared but there are always last minute things that eat up time. I became anxious that we would get there later and therefore out on the trails later and might end up fighting for daylight on the trails and I hadn't brought an extra light source. Then I realized I forgot to pack my Garmin watch which would give me time, distance, pace and heart race readings. I had the HR strap but not the watch. It was still plugged in and charging in our closet. This made me more anxious. How would I know how many miles I had gone? We weren't even five miles north of Ames, forty-five minutes late at that, and I was tense, breathing shallowly and a ball of stress.

There was nothing I could do except choose to not worry. I would have to or I wouldn't enjoy this run. It was a crucial moment. I told Bill about my worry and said I had decided to not worry about it. I shut it off and we talked about other stuff as we drove the four hours northeast.

Once at the campground it was a flurry of activity unloading the bikes and gear, settling the boys, and gearing up for the run. The boys had snacks, new movies, games, homework and the campground to explore and play around while we were gone. We had a map, hydration (two in my front vest and a full 2 liter bladder on my back plus Bill's pack), fuel and a sense of adventure. And to be honest, a little bit of anxiousness on my part still.

One thing my coach had strongly advised me on was to not let Bill push the pace on me. I wasn't too concerned about that because you see, I have run farther than Bill ever has. He's still faster than me but I've gone farther and run harder stuff and so I win!! It was good advice though and it was more of a mindset for me to take the lead in doing what I needed to do instead of going with the crowd, never mind the crowd being one other person. We took a gravel road out of the campground at a slow pace. It climbs out of the bottoms and so I slowed us to a walk. We wrapped around and as we turned a corner came upon two on horseback. A little further up the trail we started to hear the roar of bikes thoroughly enjoying the downhill. We pulled off to let them pass and were glad we were on foot and not on a horse with the bikes coming up so fast.

At the top of the trail we stopped to look at the map and two more riders, both a part of the club that puts on the trail ride, came up and talked with us. Bill told me riders did this all the time. They pull over to chat with others or help someone out. The fact that they stopped for us what pretty amazing to me. Call me a sap at this gesture but when they pulled away and we headed up to the overlook, I teared up a bit. I was definitely more anxious than I thought and this loosened me up. 




The overlooks always get me. It was fun to take it all in, take a breather, send a quick text to Audrey back home all without fear of being struck by lightning. Really the entire trail looked and acted differently than a few months prior when there was a stream coursing down the middle of it and mud in all the rest of the places. I would point out to Bill "There was a stream here." or "This was one giant mud pit." He would point out to me which trails they did or didn't ride. He enjoyed himself immensely as we ran along because for the first time he got to see the trails from a slower pace. In fact, he was the most talkative he'd been in a while. 




The part I most wanted to run was Ant Hill. This was the section where I had to walk the downhill because of my knee. I had a score to settle with this little stretch of trail. It was as before: technical. The rocks, large and small, are scattered all about and nothing was a sure footing. I wasn't very fast but I ran it. I won't be encountering anything in October near the degree of difficulty this entire trail system has but it does wonders for keeping the brain fresh and adrenaline pumping.




One section of the trail is wide and has gravel. It was fun to run down and had these little build ups that you could launch off of. I had Bill capture a still of me but the shutter speed on his phone isn't that fast. After I tried that about four or five times, I had him take a video of me. The video doesn't do any justice to exactly how I felt. I felt like I was flying. Instead it looks like I barely got my butt off the ground. Ha! 

Ah, no video because I never had a chance to get it from Bill's phone. Believe me, it is epically underwhelming.

As we approached the campground, we determined that we had done a little over twelve miles out there. If I ran the gravel road out of the campground and back I could get in the rest to get to sixteen. Bill stayed at the camper and I headed out for the last miles. Let me say here that those were the longest miles of the day. I was getting tired and my feet were hurting. I made the mistake of looking back toward the campground and just like a barn-sour horse, I was done being out there and headed back. 

After passing the second overlook, I realized if I had my watch and HR strap with me, I would have been slave to it and not enjoyed the run. Missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. It reminded me of when I taught piano. Eventually we have to give ourselves freedom to turn off the metronome and play by feel and with feeling. It was a good lesson to be reminded of. It had been a great naked run. 




 Next week- 11 miles 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Were you wondering how long it would take for me to write about food again? Wonder no more, friends. Today we talk sun-dried tomatoes. Except the tomatoes aren't dried in the sun. Today we talk candied tomatoes. Yet again, they aren't candied exactly.

Today we talk about tomatoes that are oven roasted and preserved in the fridge/freezer with a covering of olive oil.

Well, I'm making a mess of this whole thing.

Here ya go. Head to Anastasia's blog and read about how to make your own sun-dried tomatoes

I made a batch a couple weeks ago and it really can't be easier. Easier than writing this post, at least. I froze most of the tomatoes and left a jar in the fridge to use right away.

Last night I made Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil sauce for supper. Bill commented that it was a nice, lighter version of chicken alfredo. While technically not true, he was right in essence. It is a lighter sauce with bright flavors. I would maybe add a pinch of salt to pop the flavor a bit more. 

Here's the thing. I sort of got to the point in the last couple of years where I felt like sun-dried tomato had been over-used. Every thing I tried didn't end up tasting nearly as spectacular as my taste buds were prepared to receive. After munching a few plain one right off the pan and then in the chicken dish, I'm ready to give them a try again.

I rounded up a few recipes I thought I might try out in the future.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Mozzarella Quinoa Burgers
If my family caught me trying to pass this off as an actual burger, I would be hanged. I will call them patties, instead. Also, I will use two eggs and not one and a half and leave out the chives.

Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and Whipped Feta Crostini
I think you just drooled a little bit there. Bill and I have had some sort of tomato jam/compote at our favorite restaurant, The Cafe, and now I'm think I pretty much must make this for us. Only change I can see with this one is skipping the fat-free part, unless it comes naturally fat-free.

What would you toss these tomatoes into? Pile them on a sandwich? Blend them with mayo and fold into a kitchen sink kind of pasta salad? 

Enjoy!