2 weeks, 2 surgeries: On the fringes of cervical cancerland

If you’re going to get cervical cancer, this is the way to do it. Non-invasive, cervical pre-cancer, stage 0. As far as a trip to cancerland goes, I’m really only in the exurbs. Cancer patient with an asterisk, like the best kind of wind-aided PR. The luckiest of the unlucky.

I used to feel like a total badass if I did a distance double at a track meet. A 5,000m race followed up by a 3,000m a few hours later and I’d feel like a hero. Who knew that was just the set-up for the ultimate double? Two surgeries in two weeks: I feel like I’m owed some sort of frequent flyer status at Swedish Hospital.

Surgery #2 happened last week, a simple hysterectomy with a 12-week recovery estimate. “Badass” is not exactly how I would describe my feelings at the moment. Barely-able-to-string-together-two-coherent-sentences would be a much more accurate description. Movement right now takes the form of a precarious shuffle. Though my surgeon said I could do simple day-to-day tasks, I think he’s on crack. Either that or he’s NEVER ONCE IN HIS LIFE DONE THE GROCERY SHOPPING.

Yet despite all that, we’re doing just fine. As long as the pathology comes back the way they think it will, this is it for treatment. I have never felt as lucky as I do right now. Our friends have rallied around us in a way that I do not deserve. Words cannot express how much I appreciate the notes, texts, calls, flowers and food we have received.

Cancerland flowers

Above all else, I hope everyone takes this as a reminder to get your routine screenings. 20 years of normal results can turn on a dime. And if you do find yourself in the precarious world of cancerland, know that there can be unforeseen bright spots that might surprise you.

Searching for my #runhappy: 3 days in the life

Three days into my quest to find my #runhappy and right the proverbial overtraining ship, and I think I’m performing at a solid “B” level. Given the Type-A behavior that got me here, maybe less-than-perfect isn’t such a bad thing.

Last Wednesday I skipped a hill workout. Friday I bailed on intervals, and Saturday I set out to make some changes. It may be too soon to celebrate.

6:30 a.m. Eight hours of sleep and I’m raring to go. An off-day with a leisurely morning until the kids’ sports start at 10:00, I have plenty of time to make a smoothie and eat a good breakfast. Things are looking good.

10:15 a.m. Arrival at the Bainbridge soccer field for Alexa’s game. Mike and Colin are on the ferry to Seattle for Colin’s lacrosse game. My cousin Dave is with me and we’ll meet Mike and Colin in Seattle after soccer.

11:20 a.m. Game started at 11. Looking at my watch and wondering if our coach who is doubling as referee has decided to skip halftime. Damn. We’re only 20 minutes into the game.

11:30 a.m. Halftime. Starting to shiver and getting psyched to consume something warm.

12:30 p.m. Freezing cold, but survived the game. Picking up lunch and a latte on the way to the ferry. Making some solid protein choices at the salad and hot food bar. We’re headed to Pike Place Market anyway, so there will be plenty of snacking opportunities ahead.

Pike Place Market #runhappy

3:45 p.m. Fun afternoon showing Dave our favorite Pike Place Market haunts and getting him with the monk fish prank at Pike Place Fish. Just missed the ferry so it’s on to Uwajimaya to pick up food for dinner.

7:30 p.m. Said goodbye to Dave who visited briefly on his way to ski at Whistler (poor guy). Feeling good about my day of spectating and eating. I think my overtraining is a thing of the past.

6 a.m. Up a little earlier than I need to be to meet my Sunday morning group run. But that’s okay, more time for my warm-up routine.

9:15 a.m. 10 1/2 miles done, yet I haven’t really consumed anything so far today. I’m about to remedy that with a protein smoothie.

10:00 a.m. Grazing on carrots and hummus, cheese and other odds and ends in the refrigerator. This whole multiple breakfast thing is hard when you’re starting this late in the morning.

11:45 a.m. Need to get some things done so decide to skip Breakfast 2 since lunch is right around the corner. Trying to balance the checkbook but my brain is addled and it takes me 25 minutes to realize I was still counting a cleared transaction. I think it’s time for lunch.

5:00 p.m. Early dinner at Bella Luna/Scratch Kitchen for Colin’s birthday. Order chicken on my salad to go with the “Little Piggy” pizza. I hope I’m making up for this morning’s breakfast lapse.

9:15 p.m. Still full from dinner, decide to skip a pre-bed snack.

11:00 p.m. Still awake. Grab a snack of nuts, an orange and some pita chips. Now regretting that skipped second breakfast.

6:20 a.m. 7 hours of sleep doesn’t feel terrible. In the next 2 hours I have a kid to get to the school bus, dogs to walk and a breakfast/school bag shuttle for the other kid who is currently at early morning swim practice. I shovel some nuts into my mouth.

8:30 a.m. I have a kid on the bus, breakfast and swim gear exchanged, and dogs that are walked. Given that Mondays are early release school days (thanks for that, Bainbridge Island School District), I have less time to run and grocery shop before the kids return home. But my coach scheduled a much shorter run for today. A mere 5 miles is less than half of the 12-miler I ran last Monday. Does this even count as running? I’m tempted to add, but what’s the point of a coach if you don’t listen to him? At least I should have plenty of time to complete everything by lunchtime.

8:35 a.m. Realize I haven’t really eaten breakfast. On the way out the door I microwave a quesadilla. 2 corn tortillas, shredded cheese, 30 seconds. I got this recipe from Colin. Perhaps I’m not really nailing it yet today.

10:00 a.m. 5 miles (*might* have been closer to 6 if anyone was really clocking it) done and I’m not as exhausted as a typical Monday. In and out of the shower quickly; I’m at least 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

12:55 p.m. Somewhere along the way I lost a whole lot of time. Running into one of my favorite friends at the store set me back a bit. But shooting the sh*t with her was so much more entertaining than whatever else I needed to be doing. And now my other friend has just brought me Girl Scout Cookies. I spend the time I need to catch up with her too. My groceries are melting on the kitchen counter. I won’t make it to the bus stop today. I think everyone/thing will survive.

1:45 p.m. The thing that unfortunately did not survive was my lunch hour. This is typical for me: I get busy, the time for a meal blows by and I either skip it and try to catch up at the next one, or graze as I go. Fortunately, I have leftover salad from last night. But I definitely couldn’t say that I’m three good meals into the day.

The day isn’t over but I feel Saturday night’s cockiness slipping away. Perhaps this performance rates closer to a C+. Finding my #runhappy might take more than one good day. But I’m working on it.

Race planning and mom guilt

When our kids were babies, Mike worked a lot. Beyond the long hours each day, he also traveled out of town for work multiple days each month. With the birth of our eldest I went from 10-hour workdays in a hectic hotel kitchen, to endless hours of solitude punctuated by regular intervals of desperately bouncing and rocking a crying baby. At a certain point I became someone I didn’t recognize: someone who spent the day watching the clock waiting for her husband to return home. Was this 1950 or 2005?

I started running with a jogging stroller as a way to fill time, picking up the sport I had largely abandoned during my working years. Yes, even in those years I still ran a few days each week, but that was more out of vanity than anything else. I didn’t like the way I felt or looked when completely sedentary.

But the baby jogger was a way out of the house. An escape in the days when the walls threatened to close in on me. It was also a way to find a little piece of myself again, when every other part seemed to belong to someone else.

Within a few years Mike was lucky enough to find a business partner who helped him stop the insanity. Who shared the same work-life philosophies and helped create a business that enabled him to get off the road and out of the office. We moved out of the city. The kids grew and started school. And I kept running.

In the years in high school when I fought to get into a good college, then fought through college to achieve anything academically and athletically, I always felt that I was working toward something. A respectable college, a good job, financial security. I never realized this was all achievement for achievement’s sake. That there is never an end until you say there is.

I never went back to a serious full time job. But once both kids spent a majority of the day in school, I needed to justify my time. A reason to exist, something to achieve. For the last few years running has given me this, and more.

At first it was a way to organize my day. Then it was a way to connect with my friends who continued to work. Something to talk about beyond the platitudes about how great it is to be a stay-at-home mom.

But now that it’s gotten more serious, it has circled back around. Now, instead of running to justify my time, I find myself chasing achievement to justify my running. To alleviate the mom guilt I feel for the mental space I dedicate to running and cross training. For traveling to out-of-town races and missing swim meets and soccer tournaments. For sticking Mike with the parenting responsibilities made easier by the presence of two people.

I find myself striving to earn my running. To achieve higher heights to justify its existence. To make it cost as little as possible in both time and money. And as I look ahead to 2017 races, and back at those of 2016, I’m realizing the fallacy in this. That all the victories in the world will not fill that hole. That no amount of free gear, prize money, or recognition will make me an elite runner or bring about the end of the achievement wheel. Or release me from the mom guilt.

Pre-race mom guilt

May 2017 be the year that I release myself.

An accidental foray into vegan, gluten-free cooking

This week I’ve gone the full hippie: vegan, gluten-free. I accidentally-on-purpose impulse bought this cookbook.

Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows Every Day spun out of her popular blog, Oh She Glows. Which, I now know, specializes in vegan, gluten-free recipes.

At the time of purchase, however, I didn’t realize this. Alexa and I were enjoying a pre-Christmas girls’ day of shopping downtown and I had just completed a long-winded lecture about Christmas shopping being for other people. While I waited for her to choose a present for her brother, I flipped through the pages of this book. I saw beautiful photography and lots of vegetables. So, I bought it for myself. In hopes of enticing the kids with the pictures and adding some new and healthy dinner standards to the rotation.

Then I got it home and actually read it. Plant-based sounded great. But vegan, gluten-free? Apparently not all impulse purchases pan out.

But the book got me with the pictures. And some innocuous-sounding recipes. Apple Pie Overnight Oats? I can get behind that.

Vegan, gluten-free overnight oats

You’ll need to get the book to get the actual recipe, but the blog has a Vegan Overnight Oats recipe that is pretty close. This was a wading-in of sorts for me. Since we are neither vegan, nor gluten-free, I used our regular oats and full dairy milk, but everything else followed the recipe. And it was good! The kids loved it. I decided to go a little deeper.

One of my favorite things about this book is the simplicity. Yes, you’ll need to get some new ingredients. You might find yourself in an unfamiliar aisle at the grocery store. Those weird Bob’s Red Mill products you usually blow right past? You’ll need some of those.

But the recipes come together quickly and easily. Next up, I tried the Chocolate-Almond Espresso Cookies. You pretty much just dump the ingredients together and stir. No special equipment or technique required.

The verdict? Pillowy, chewy, chocolatey goodness. The kids didn’t miss the gluten or eggs. But that was child’s play. Anyone can throw together chocolate, sugar and almond butter and make it taste good. What about dinner?

Vegan nachos would really test the limits of these crazy recipes. The foundation of this dish is the All-Purpose Cheese Sauce recipe from the book. It gets layered with a bean and vegetable based chili, then topped with tortilla chips. A close cousin to the cheese sauce recipe from the book can be found on the blog here (scroll down the link to find the cheese sauce recipe).

vegan, gluten-free nachos and cheese sauce

Though Alexa complained that there wasn’t enough meat in the dish (apparently I’m not the only one not understanding the whole vegan thing), she went back for seconds and Colin took the leftovers to school for lunch.

Shepherd’s Pie prompted the same lamentation over the lack of meat, but the kids ate it all the same. And these seven-ingredient Endurance Crackers have steadily disappeared throughout the week.

This book is really great and the recipes could not be easier. And, more importantly, they’re actually pretty good. Believe me, no one is more surprised by this than I am. Though I wouldn’t consciously choose to go vegan, gluten-free, I wholeheartedly suggest trying this cookbook.

As a result of this week of recipe testing, Mike even suggested a meat-free month of February. That, however, is taking things too far. We’re having steak tonight. Because, you know, balance.

Paris adventures in the offseason


Paris cafe breakfast

And this.

Paris metro

And them.

It was exactly what I needed to kick off the offseason. Yes, it was a hectic few days to get there. But Paris. Whatever you need to do to get there will always be worth it.

We rented this VRBO in the 6th arrondissement, right in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It was a one bedroom apartment on the first floor of a lovely building on the left bank.

Paris Saint-Germain-des-Pres

Interior courtyard of the building; below left: street view of building; storied Cafe de Flore just down the street

It wasn’t particularly big or fancy, but comfortably fit the four of us. And oh, the location. It could not have been more perfect. If you’re traveling in Paris with kids, I highly recommend renting an apartment over staying in a hotel. We had more space than a hotel room, and the kitchen enabled us to take advantage of the best neighborhood bakeries and food purveyors. Being in a neighborhood meant access to better pâtisseries, boulangeries, and restaurants than the more touristy areas around the hotels, and at $194/night, it was money-saving to boot.

Because of our central location, we walked just about everywhere. The Eiffel Tower and Rodin Museum.

The Louvre.

Rue Mouffetard.

Paris Rue Mouffetard

Mouffetard is one of my favorite streets in Paris. A cobblestone street lined with butchers, cheese shops, bakeries, restaurants, and a huge farmers market: it’s the holy grail of food.

Now this is where a normal person, with normal vacationing behavior would have more to say about another museum visited, a tour taken. Instead, we just ate.

From the traditionally French,

Paris Poilane bakery

to incredible ramen. Ippudo in the 6th arrondissement was an awesome find.

Veggie tamago ramen with housemade noodles

And then there were the pastries. You can’t leave Paris without a visit (or two) to Fauchon.

The kids had to sample the macarons everywhere we went. Luckily for them, you can’t go a block without finding one that was better than the last.

For me, it’s all about the bread. Unbelievably the cost of a baguette hasn’t changed much since I studied abroad there in 1995. 1.20€ (around $1.25) buys you a loaf of crusty perfection. Paired with a slab of rich European butter and a smear of homemade jam, I’m pretty sure nothing better exists in this world.

All too soon our time was up. It was our first international trip with the kids and Paris proved itself an easy and amazing family vacation destination. À bientôt Paris!

Paris Eiffel Tower

Trying not to suck at summer

I suck at summer. I like structure and have somehow managed to raise structure-loving kids. They would prefer to be in school. I would prefer for them to be in school. Instead, half of us spend our days struggling to stay busy (them), while I sacrifice my getting-shit-done time trying to keep them that way. Every year when August rolls around, I marvel at the fact that we might actually make it through.

It’s not all bad. We benefit from a very sunny garden and through no skill on our part, somehow manage to grow all sorts of good food in the summer. It’s magical. When I can tear myself away from brokering peace in the living room, it’s fun to experiment with different ways to use our fruits and vegetables.

Summer foods

Fig bruschetta and peach-rhubarb crisp

Fun, that is, until it becomes overwhelming keeping up with everything that decides to ripen at exactly the same time. Thank god for neighbors who don’t mind the produce dump on their doorstep.

There’s also nothing better than showing off the beautiful Pacific Northwest to visitors in the summer. We were lucky enough to have family from the East Coast in town for a few days last week, and made the most of their stay touring Pike Place Market and enjoying the benefits of life on Bainbridge Island. Cousins totally rock.

Summer 2016

And every so often we manage to carve out some moments of peace. Two weeks ago the stars aligned and we spent a lovely afternoon in West Seattle, taking the water taxi across Elliott Bay and walking along the water to Alki Beach. A casual lunch at Blue Moon Burgers provided the perfect summertime fuel for the walk back to the boat.

Summer break fun

But then there’s regular life. I’m mystified by those who don’t want summer to end. What are they doing that I’m not? When I run into friends and acquaintances who bemoan the passing of their summer break, I smile and nod like I totally know what they’re talking about. But I’m lying. I’m at my wits’ end mediating fights between bored children. I can’t form a coherent thought in my head about any of my own concerns, and waffle between my commitment to benign neglect and cruise director-type planning to mitigate the whining and bickering of an unfilled day.

And then there’s the weather. Obviously sunny skies trump the rain of the fall, winter and spring seasons around here. But it’s freaking hot out there. My ideal running temperature range falls between 35°F and 55°F. To me, 70°F heat is scalding and only adds to the misery of an already hard workout. Aren’t mile repeats bad enough as it is? Clearly, I suck at summer.

So the next time you see me and I say some sort of socially acceptable pleasantry about the summer break, call me out. I don’t mean it. What I’m really doing is desperately counting down the minutes until the start of school. Yes, I’m making every effort to have as much fun as everyone around me seems to be having, but let’s call a spade a spade. Bring on the fall.

A race, a break, and a knock-out racing flat, part 1

We’ve just returned from a long weekend on the East Coast, visiting family and partaking of the sodden debauchery that is the Princeton University reunion. Of course, this being the 20th reunion, the “sodden” part (for us) came from the incredibly humid 92 degree weather, while the kids debauched on the bribes that flowed freely to ensure their continued cooperation. After this last stretch of training and racing, it also made for a nice 5 day break from any sort of working out.

We started at the Jersey shore…

A break on the Jersey shore

…visiting the best aunt in the world. Really. She is. I am an aunt, so you know I’m not handing out that title lightly.


We then made our way inland to Mike’s alma mater.

Let the indoctrination begin.

Let the indoctrination begin.

Colin curiously chose his West Point t-shirt for P-rade day.

Princeton P-rade

I wonder what he’s trying to say here?

And if you’ve spent any time on the Princeton campus, you’ll know this was the most important stop of the trip.

Princeton Hoagie Haven

Breakfast of champions

Because who doesn’t want to eat a 18″ cheesesteak for breakfast?

Then it was on to the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia City Hall

And an awesome couple of days with our cousins.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

I didn’t exactly win the family lottery, so fun trips like this one with the family I married into mean a lot to me. I don’t enjoy running while on vacation, especially not when traveling into the grips of an east coast heat wave. I use the time to take a break from the normal routine and take advantage of what the local culture has to offer.

Bagel break

Jersey bagels, baby!

And then, just like that, it’s back to the hamster wheel. This morning dawned with a nine mile shake-out run, kids to shuttle to school, and dogs to pick up. It was a great break after a great race, which will be covered in another post…

Eat fat and you won’t be fat

There is a generation of people for whom that idea is completely counterintuitive.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

I was a teenager in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and as any dutiful teenage girl did, I read magazines. Lots of them. And they all said essentially the same thing: eat fat and you’ll get fat.

It was the age of the low-fat diet, and it fit with the way I preferred to eat anyway: carbs, carbs, and more carbs. I could eat all the bread and pasta I wanted. It was great. Cereal and frozen yogurt for breakfast? No fat in that! Sure, I was hungry all the time, and I can’t imagine how much muscle mass I sacrificed during my college running years eating that way, but those were the times. Magazines wouldn’t print things that aren’t one hundred percent true.

Of course in the intervening years that philosophy has been completely flipped on its head. And if the Atkins craze of the 2000s and Paleo diet of today have taught me anything, it’s that diets are a big load of crap.

These days I’m all about everything in moderation. Real food with limited processed stuff. Yes, crackers are still their own food group around here, but I’ve increased my  healthy fats, dairy and am working on the protein part. Good fats fill you up. And you know what? I’m no fatter than I was in the low-fat years.

So what’s for dinner tonight? Salmon cakes and kale slaw with curried almond dressing.

Healthy fat

The recipe for the salmon cakes can be found on The Kitchn here. It’s an easy recipe and makes for a pretty quick weeknight meal. I bought a 2 lb. wild salmon fillet on sale and cooked it last night while I had the oven on for something else. That streamlined the prep even more for today. I also doubled the recipe since I had extra salmon, and froze the extra patties for an even easier meal down the road.

The recipe for the kale slaw came from Plant-Powered Kitchen and can be found here. It does happen to be wheat-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free, but I made it despite those distinctions. The nut-based dressing gives the slaw great body and flavor and if you don’t love kale, a reason to eat your hearty greens.

Toast up some crusty bread and you’ve got a meal packed with good fats and protein that’s kid-friendly too. There was nothing left at the end of the evening at my house.

Warm weather training, Florida style

I have just recently become acquainted with the concept of warm weather training. All the elites are doing it; Tina Muir writes about it here.

When I first heard the term, I had to give a double-take. I mean, isn’t the point of training at a competitive, dare I say, “elite” level to maximize your suffering? To be better at it than everyone else? I know that when I’m running on these cold, dark and soaking wet mornings in the Pacific Northwest I’m suffering. And more than a little part of me has been hoping that’s making me a little tougher. What’s with this namby-pamby warm-weather stuff?

But who am I to question the pros? Turns out, I was about to be on the forefront of a newfangled training philosophy. We took advantage of a short school break last weekend to visit my father-in-law who is spending a couple months this winter on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The overnight flight to save a school/work/conference day seemed like a much better idea in theory than it felt in practice.

But the lack of sleep quickly paid off. I would have flown anywhere to get this picture.

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

How else would the kids know what to do when they encounter wild animals?

Believe it or not, there are actual wild armadillos just hanging out by the side of the road at Canaveral National Seashore.

And then there were these wild animals, who despite the rain on our first day, frolicked on the beach.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

I love this shot I got of three generations searching for shells.

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

From a running perspective it was great to get out on a bright, sunny morning in a t-shirt and shorts. Haven’t done that since last fall. I had to replace a 5 x 800m track workout with a 5 x 3:00 tempo run and the straight, flat road that ran along the beach made the swap a piece of cake.

Yes, the sun was nice and I can see how the warm weather would make the drudgery of winter running more palatable. But I’m not sure that those of use stuck in northern climes are missing all that much. We’re suffering more! Surely that’s giving us some sort of leg up, no?

Florida beaches

Of course, this is nice too.

After a sunny day on the beach we headed south to Kennedy Space Center.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

What a cool place. The exhibits were so well done and even though we only had a few hours to spend there, it was well worth the trip. It hadn’t occurred to me how little the kids know about the space shuttle program. The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit was a fantastic presentation that used a movie, a full-scale replica of the shuttle stack, and even a launch simulator to tell the story. Even the uninterested 8-year-old had no choice but to come around on this one.

Finally we wrapped up the trip with a day at Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, primarily to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Mike and I are not huge amusement park fans, but they really did a bang-up job with the Harry Potter stuff.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando, Florida

It was just like being in the books or movies, down to the smallest detail. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were meticulously recreated, with all things Potter available for purchase: wands from Ollivander’s, chocolate frogs from Honeyduke’s, food from the Leaky Cauldron. High on my list of things to try: the butterbeer. Go for the blended frozen option, it’s really good.

Butterbeer, Universal Orlando, Florida

The rides were cool too, they just made me feel old. I don’t know when my inner ear crapped out on me, but it doesn’t take much these days to put me over the edge. And it will forever remain a mystery to me, in the vein of socks in the dryer, why my forever carsick kid can spend an entire day riding the giant crazy rides without once complaining about nausea. I’m starting to think I’m being played.

And then it was Monday and time to get back to reality. As I sit here back home listening to the rain falling outside and getting my headlamp and reflector vest ready for tomorrow’s run, I can’t help but wish for the sun and beach. But without the suffering can you really appreciate the coming of spring? That first run when you can bare your arms and legs and feel the sun on your face? (For us in Seattle that’s like, what, May?) It’s just not as victorious when you’ve had it all along all winter. I’ll keep the dark and rain, and keep pretending that there’s strength in the suffering.

Airing the clean (or is it dirty, who can tell?) laundry

You guys, I need some help. This is probably patently obvious to anyone who spends any amount of time in the McDevitt vicinity. We have a problem with technical fabrics. We just can’t get the STANK out.

What ever happened to good old-fashioned cotton? When I ran in college everything was made of cotton. We managed to train in these with no ill effects.

Seriously, that’s what I wore all winter. Things were so simple back then. You wore your clothes, did the wash, and everything emerged from the dryer clean, fresh, and smelling like whatever detergent you could pop out of the machine with your $1.25 in quarters.

These days, while I no longer look like Nanook of the North going out for a run, I also no longer know what clean, fresh laundry smells like. When I open the dryer I am greeted with the not-so-faint whiff of my last run. I can’t take it anymore.

I’d be willing to go back to cotton, were it not completely impossible to find. So, I need some laundry advice. At first I was using standard detergent and adding a laundry boost. I’ve tried Nikwax Tech Wash, Atsko Sport Wash, and am now trying a combination of Penguin Sport Wash and distilled vinegar. Nothing seems to make a difference.

Someone must know what to do. Help me. If not for me, do it for those around me.