“Fried” pizza rolls and workout of the week

I am completely fried. Well done. Hopefully not to the point of totally burned, but I guess that remains to be seen. Not a good state to be in two days before the Carlsbad 5000, but here we are.

The kids are a school day away from spring break and I couldn’t make another school lunch for all the money in the world.

How did I get here? Could be the 1-2 combo of racing the 1500m last weekend at the SPU Doris Heritage Distance Festival and the killer workout that I squeezed in on Wednesday to allow for some rest before Sunday’s race.

I haven’t raced a 1500m since college. This isn’t even 4 full laps on the track. On paper I should have been ready for another race that very same day. But, as often is the case with physiology, things don’t work out neatly like that. Racing a 1500m is an all-out sprint for me. It’s taking off at top speed from the sound of the gun, and doing everything to hold on for 3 3/4 laps. I eked out a 4:56.42 – not bad, but will it keep me in the top 12 by the time the Trials qualifying window closes in June? We’ll see.

I was still beat by the time Wednesday rolled around, but there was a plan. Plans need to happen. That’s the way the universe works. Wednesday’s workout was a 3-round challenge set of 800s and 400s that went like this:

800m @ stretch 5k pace (which for me was 2:45 or faster, or 17:00 5k pace)
Rest 3:00
400m @ :80-:82 (also 17:00 5k pace)
Jog 400m
Repeat 3 times

I’d love to run under 17:00 but this workout was a huge eye-opener. I was barely holding on to that pace for two laps. How do you stretch that out to 12 laps? Anyone? I’d love to know.

With all of that going on, and a flight to California early tomorrow morning, decent meals around here are falling by the wayside. The kids don’t seem to care, especially when you come up with “fried” pizza rolls.

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Baked, for when you’re fried

Make no mistake, this isn’t some earth-mother wellness meal to nourish the family inside and out. This is a knock-down, drag-out, I’ve-called-for-pizza-one-too-many-times-this-week meal. Sure, you could make it healthy, but that might be doing it wrong.

Here’s what you do. First, you take stock of your refrigerator. I had leftover spaghetti sauce (homemade, thanks to my half-Italian husband), leftover salami, and some shredded “Mexican mix” cheese (there was some sort of white cheese mixed in there – close enough). Maybe you have leftover pizza dough in the freezer from the last time you made homemade pizza dough (cue laughter), or maybe your local grocery store carries fresh, pre-made pizza dough in the deli section. Trader Joe’s even sells a whole wheat version for higher achievers.

Anyway… get yourself some pizza dough and roll it into a 3/4″-thick rectangle. Spread some sauce over the top.

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Add your cheese and desired toppings.

My crust is two-toned from a remnant scrap of whole wheat dough

My crust is two-toned from a remnant scrap of whole wheat dough

Then roll up like a jelly roll and cut into 1 1/2″ thick slices.

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I lined my baking pan with wax paper, but the rolls stuck to the paper, so I think you’re better off greasing the pan, then sprinkling cornmeal over that to keep the rolls from sticking. Line them up with enough space to account for the rising dough, but close enough that they bake together a bit.

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I baked mine at 400°F for about 40 minutes. Ovens vary (as does the patience of hungry appetites) so they’re done when they’re puffed, set, perhaps a little browned, or once your family can’t seem to wait for dinner any longer.

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An Olympic Trials lesson from an 11-year-old

If you follow running at all, you probably know that the Olympic Trials marathon took place over the weekend.

Now, I’ve never been much of a sports fan, and with the exception of watching (and loving) every second of the Olympics every four years, I don’t pay much attention to sporting events that don’t involve a member of my family. Four years ago I had no idea when or where any of the Olympic Trials were taking place. But this year, thanks to social media and the fact that I had Club Northwest teammates competing, it was very much on my radar. And NBC was broadcasting it live. I was actually excited about watching a sporting event on TV.

In the weeks leading up to the race there was such great coverage about the event on sites like FloTrack and Competitor.com, and of course Runner’s World/Running Times and it was fun following the predictions and stories of the top contenders. Then Northwest Runner published this great piece by Brooks/Club Northwest runner and Trials qualifier Drew Polley asking (and answering) why non-elites should care about the Olympic Trials. Beyond that, why should we care about any of the non-contenders in this race? NBC isn’t going to show the guy who comes in 95th. Why should we care?

Sadly this is where my short-lived fan-girl story comes to an end. I wouldn’t end up seeing the drama-filled profiles NBC would undoubtedly air before the start of the race. I wouldn’t see the tension-filled line-up and watch the starting gun go off. And when I first realized that this was how my first Olympic Trials Saturday would be, I have to admit to being a bit put out.

I serve on the board of a non-profit running program for girls on Bainbridge Island called Go Run. It is a sweet program for 4th through 6th grade girls that focuses not just on running, but the social and emotional development of their lives as well.

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This season Go Run is in its 10th year, and is fielding the largest team ever with a total of 44 girls. We run two seasons per year, each season culminating in a final race, when each girl is paired with a high school-aged mentor coach or adult partner and gets to run her own race at an actual Seattle-area road race. This season’s race was the Magnuson Series 5k in Seattle’s Magnuson Park at 10 a.m. Saturday. Trials Saturday. The large numbers of girls meant that they were short on running partners. They needed me to run.

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How can anything take precedence over that?

So I went and ran and found an answer to the question. Why should we care? Because we’re all out there running our own version of the Trials. We are out there training and working and whether we’re 40-something masters athletes, elite professionals, or 11-year-old neophytes, we are putting ourselves on the line to see what we can achieve. I had the best morning and was so inspired and not a single person there had a sponsor or a TV camera or a post-race interview. My Go Run buddy ran 2.5 minutes faster than her previous 5k time. You don’t need a televised event to find exciting sport.

Trials Saturday at Magnuson Park

In the end, I was able to get back in time to see the tail end of the men’s race and the last few miles of the women’s finish. It was great to watch and OMG how do you not love Amy Cragg? But I wished they would show everyone’s finish. Because everyone is working their hardest and fighting their own demons and their races matter as much as those at the top. Just like those at a race in a park in Seattle on a random Saturday in February.

Protein and the refueling window

There’s something satisfying about shocking someone. Even when it’s shocking in a bad way, deep down someone like predictable, reliable me takes a certain amount of glee in saying something surprising.

I think I shocked my trainer this morning. Not in a good way.

It started innocuously enough. I’m thinking about trading in my usual post-workout recovery beverage – coffee – with something a little more, uh, nutritious. Of the areas of my training that could use improvement (and there are many, I’m sure), this one seems like the one with the most potential for growth. Because, from a performance standpoint, I pay exactly zero attention to it.

How do I refuel after a workout? Coffee… definitely. Food… eventually, though not always in that 30-90 minute window. And if I’ve scheduled something right after a run, you’d better believe a good shower and makeup are going to take precedence over food.

I’ve always assumed that I’ve got the nutrition piece down. I cook whole foods, choose organic produce and grass-fed meats, and eschew processed food. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, try to get daily servings of dairy, lean meats, whole grains… what else is there?

Apparently, a lot. Bethanee started rattling off terms like branched-chain amino acids and calculations like this one to determine how much protein you need in a day:

Grams of protein = 1.2g/kg of body weight

In other words, if you weigh 110 pounds, your daily protein intake if you are an endurance athlete should be around 70 grams.

Whaa? How is that possible? To my novice ears, that sounds like a shit ton. I believe my current coffee recovery drink has exactly none.

A quick perusal through the Google and my refrigerator concurs. A 1 cup serving of skim milk has 9 grams of protein. A 4 oz. chicken breast has 27 grams. 1/2 cup of cottage cheese has 13 grams. How can I maintain my cracker consumption when there’s all that protein to consume?

No protein in sight

As I return to running after a break and injury I realize that I really need to work on the nutrition side of things too. Sometimes I get hung up on the *noise* surrounding nutrition that I hear, well, everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat this time of year without seeing something about how you should and shouldn’t eat: Don’t eat at night, no snacking between meals, CARBS ARE POISON! – and I forget that I’m eating for a different cause. Those muscles aren’t growing themselves (especially at my age), and apparently I’m not doing a whole lot to help them. It’s time to start.

XC Club Nationals team champions: it takes a village

Apparently 6 weeks of taper is not enough to be a disaster. Team gold and individual silver tell that tale.

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Club nationals is in the books, and all I can say is that I love my team(s). All of them. It took a lot of people to get me here and none of this could have happened without them.

Part of me still can’t believe it: We won.

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I am so proud of myself and these ladies. We all arrived in San Francisco in varying states of injury and illness. Personally I had been WAAAY stressed out about the state of things in the weeks leading up to this race. But something happened when I met up with my Club Northwest team at SeaTac. I could let it all go. I was there to do a job for the team, we would do our best and that’s all we could do. Upwards of 50 of us from Club Northwest traveled to the Bay Area for the race.

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We went straight from the airport to preview the course at Golden Gate Park. After days of pouring rain in Seattle, the sunny skies and warm temperatures only added to the relief I felt that this weekend had finally arrived.

It was a fairly flat, wide open course that included two loops around a 1/2 mile (ish) track. This set me at ease going into the race, though in the end the lack of hills did not really play to my strengths. But it was a great venue, in a fantastic city, and San Francisco set us up with a really fabulous weekend.

Our hotel, in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, gave us a variety of dining and shopping options. The group decided on lunch right around the corner.

Because, you know, nothing bad is happening at Chipotle these days

But without a little adventure, life would be boring.

If you squint you can see the Golden Gate Bridge

If you squint you can see the Golden Gate Bridge

Race day dawned with blue skies and perfect weather.

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My fears of a disastrous race went unfounded. Though I got outkicked in the last 400m, it was by Sonja Friend-Uhl, current American record holder in the masters women’s 1500m. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t beating myself up over this a little bit, but given how I thought the race could go, I really can’t complain.

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I can’t say enough about my teammates. It was such a fun weekend hanging out with them. And I can’t say enough about how much a team adds to the running experience. It takes something that can feel solitary and (sometimes) stressful, and makes it about more than just you. Most cities and even small towns have club teams. In the women’s masters race alone there were 28 teams from all around the country. The men’s open “A” race was probably double that. Find a group, it makes a difference.

I also can’t say enough about the team that got me here. I owe a lot to Luke Preble at New Motion Physical Therapy for fitting me into his schedule in these last weeks when things started heading downhill. And to my coaches Jim Lilly and Bethanee Randles, for keeping the running and strength programs on track. And especially to Mike, who not only held down the fort while I was away, but deals with the ups and downs of training year-round.

And finally, YES! I’m on a break. No running for two, possibly three weeks. It’s time to take advantage of all the things I don’t get to do when training is in full swing. I mean, let’s face it: I’m a masters runner. This hair doesn’t color itself. Peace out friends!

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The great CrossFit experiment of 2015

How do you talk about a running injury without sounding like an annoying narcissistic whiner? It’s impossible, just ask Mike. So I will sum up the current state of things by saying that the foot is still unhappy, I’m missing so much training that it seems impossible to salvage any semblance of fitness for Club Nationals (less than two weeks, but who’s counting?), and the stages of injury grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) are more like a soupy fog than orderly feelings that you can check off a list.

But that’s just depressing.

Let’s talk about CrossFit. Because that always goes hand-in-hand with running.

Outcome

This is where I’ve been spending my early mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays since July. It started as a matter of necessity when my regular trainer went out of town for a few weeks. I knew I couldn’t keep up the strength training on my own (because I WILL.NOT.DO.IT.), and a trainer at Bainbridge CrossFit Outcome (Bethanee Randles… holla!) had some time to get me through those weeks. I really only intended it to be a short-lived stint, but a session or two convinced me to make the switch.

I’ve always had that runner’s skepticism about building muscles. When I look around a starting line, it’s always the tall, lanky people who intimidate me. They *look* like they must run a lot, and therefore must be fast. How can you run fast if you’re laden down with bulky muscles?

Take that misguided perception and add it to the rep for bulk that CrossFit seems to have, and you’ve got a place that definitely did not seem to be up my alley.

But having little other choice, I tried it. The first couple sessions were pathetic. I couldn’t do a real push-up, my burpees were abysmal, and I wasn’t sure that I could make it through the workout. And I HAD been working on strength. Clearly, there was a hole there that needed to be filled.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional enough about my abilities to claim that what I do is ACTUALLY CrossFit. It’s more like CrossFit lite, but it’s probably more than your typical runner’s circuit.

But I am here to attest that it has helped this year. I think I’m moving better, and was able to navigate the muddy mess of the PNTF Champs course more easily than in the past. And now it’s my final fall-back position for this last race of the year. The speed and endurance have been on a steady decline since early November but I’ve been able to keep up the gym work. Hopefully the strength piece will compensate for the things that are lacking. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me from oozing into a sloppy puddle of doubt.

So ladies, lift those weights. Strength = confidence.

PNTF Cross Country Championships

Let’s get down to the real reason to run a race at Woodland Park, or anywhere in the general Greenlake vicinity. Three words: Blue Star Cafe.

Bloody Mary

Yes, there’s the personal satisfaction of pushing yourself to the limits, the thrill of competition, blah, blah, blah. But really, it’s about the bacon. And the killer Bloody Mary (get the Farmer’s, it’s piled high with awesome pickled vegetables). And then there are the cinnamon rolls the size of your head. This is THE place to go for post-race brunch. It will please any palate. And if you’ve dragged any less-than-enthusiastic little people to hang out at a race all morning, this is the bribe of all bribes. Trust me. It was the perfect cap to what ended up being a fantastic morning.

USATF Pacific Northwest Open & Masters Cross Country Championships (“PNTF Champs”) took place yesterday at “Upper” Lower Woodland Park in Seattle. The series of races began with a 2 or 4k community run, which 10-year-old Colin ran.

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I love the way that kids are so in-the-moment when they run, with little concern for their future discomfort. Colin jumped ahead at the start, and held on for a 2nd place 4k finish of 20:25.

You may remember that I was less than bullish on the prospect of racing well the morning after Halloween. Even the warm-up felt lousy. But then my coach and his family came. And my friend Elisa, who is one of the most enthusiastic runners, and supporter of runners I have ever known, and of course, Mike and the kids. And after running on my own in New York, it was really great to have my teammates with me on the starting line. As the rain fell, I couldn’t help but get into the swing of things.

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It was a true Seattle cross country kind of day, with bouts of rain, gusting wind and a muddy course at Upper Woodland Park.

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I chose to run in flats, as opposed to spikes, as the course has a fair amount of gravel and concrete on it and I find it difficult to find purchase in spikes when they scrape the hard surfaces. But it meant that the muddy areas would be more slippery.

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After a year of high school cross country, four years of college and almost two years of masters cross country running, I’m finally feeling confident enough to make decisions like that without worrying about what everyone else is doing. It has taken this long to start to understand how to run cross country. I’m not saying that I’ve figured it all out, but at least now I can do things that go against the grain.

On a blustery day with rough conditions I was able to come away with the women’s masters championship win, and a 27 second improvement over last year’s time. As a team it was Club Northwest all day for the masters and open races. I’ll take that and try to keep the training rolling through USATF club nationals in December.

Halloween Pre-race

This is some of the worst race prep I’ve ever done. When I started running more seriously a couple of years ago, I swore that it wouldn’t interfere with family time. That I would do it in my own time when the kids were at school. Today is Halloween. The Mother of kid holidays. It doesn’t get more *family time* than this.

Scary internet guy and fierce Scarlett O'Hara

Scary internet guy and fierce Scarlett O’Hara

Bainbridge is an island full of charming country roads and cool properties on acreage. When we traded our slightly-too-small urban dwelling in Seattle for the community and small-town lifestyle of Bainbridge we figured we’d find a Craftsman in the woods with a gravel driveway and deer roaming the yard. Instead, we live in a subdivision. Charming country roads, I came to realize, also meant precarious running routes with no sidewalk or shoulder. Acreage meant possible isolation in a place where I knew no one. So we live in town and in one of the few traditional “neighborhoods” around here. For most of the year this means convenience to schools and activities and a wealth of various running options. On Halloween, it means you’d better be ready.

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Our first year we were warned to have a minimum of SIX Costco-sized bags of candy on hand for the trick-or-treaters. In reality, since we live at the end of the neighborhood, it’s more like two or three. This is one of my favorite days of the year living here. I’ve never been one for dressing up on Halloween. For the 30th-ish year in a row I’m going as Janet McDevitt. But I love opening up the house to our friends and their families and enjoying a night of passing out candy and watching the kids work the neighborhood. So it’s on. Race tomorrow be damned.

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National champion.

You guys. This kind of thing doesn’t happen for someone like me. Someone like me psyches herself out before a big race even starts. Or gets weak when the going gets tough. I cannot believe I got to break the tape.

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USATF masters 5k cross country championships

It was one of the hardest-fought races I’ve run. These ladies were tough. Only 13 seconds separated places 1-5, 3 seconds between me and Renee Tolan, who had me running scared the entire last mile. One of the most impressive performances of the day came from third place Marisa Sutera Stran, who at 52 ran 17:54, for an age-graded performance (don’t ask me to explain that, I still don’t get it, read about it here) of 94.38. Incredible.

The very best thing about this was that my peeps were able to be there with me.

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They don’t normally travel with me to non-local races, so it was all the more special that they were there for this. At a certain point in the home stretch, when I was trying to keep it all together, I was running so that Mike wouldn’t have to see me lose it in the end. I guess it worked.

Saratoga Springs treated us to a real cross country kind of day. Temperatures remained in the 30s and the fall colors stunned.

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It even snowed during warm-ups.

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I couldn’t have asked for more out of the day. Thank you for all of your support, cheering and well-wishes. It means so much to me.

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Playing the hand you’re dealt

Where in the world do you get bagels the size of your head?

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Yes, that is a giant stack of lox on Colin’s bagel. Impressed the heck out of the lady at the bagel store.

New Jersey, baby! We’re on the east coast to see family and for the USATF Masters 5k Cross Country Championships in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’d love to say that I’m super ready for this, but training went a little sideways two weeks ago when our whole household went down with a cold. But the show must go on.

I’ve had a race in between to work out the kinks. Do you run when you’re sick? I go back and forth on this and I suppose it really all depends on what’s ailing you. I spent the first week training through it, but ground to a halt for a few days in the second week, which was right before last weekend’s WWU Invitational Cross Country Classic at Lake Padden Park in Bellingham. The race actually went fairly decently: I started fast with the leaders to avoid getting caught up in the main pack, then tried to hang on. It worked, but boy did it hurt. I’d be lying if I said that part wasn’t haunting me for tomorrow.

While the rest of the family played today at Six Flags Great Escape near Lake George (we’ve made our way to upstate New York), I previewed tomorrow’s course at Saratoga Spa State Park. Let me tell you, it does not get any more quintessentially cross country than this.

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Perhaps I’m biased after spending my college cross country years in the northeast, but this IS what cross country is.

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The fall colors are at their peak and I was lucky enough to get to the course while a series of high school races were going on today. To me Saratoga Springs has always been a hotbed of high school distance running, so it was really cool to be there for those races.

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As an added bonus, it meant that my directionally challenged self actually ran the correct course.

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The race even crosses over a bridge with a creek. I mean, come on.

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I’m not going to lie. With two big hills this course scares me a bit. And it’s supposed to be in the 30s tomorrow. I haven’t run in those temperatures since last winter. But none of that’s changing, and there’s no point in stewing over it. As I tell the kids, you get what you get and you don’t complain. Bring it on.

Want to race well? Don’t do what I do.

The list of dumb things I do when I’m racing could fill a book. Starting a race without looking at a course map? Check. Inadequately warming up? Yep. Track spikes on a cross country course? Is there a difference? (That answer, by the way, is yes).

But I kind of took the cake this past weekend at the Sundodger Invitational. The reason it was so egregious is that I knew better. Or, I should say, was inspired to know better by this great post by elite runner Tina Muir on body/self image and whether or not one believes they look like a runner. Read it, it’s great. I read it the day before Sundodger.

So what happened? I got to the starting line and decided that there were people who looked faster than I do. Seriously. This is the crap that goes through my head. Women who were more ripped, longer-legged, and just looked faster. And therefore I lined up behind them in the starting box. Why? Because I’d hate to hold someone back. Or slow someone down. You know, because I don’t LOOK as fast as they do.

And then the gun went off, and I got caught behind them. They didn’t go out as fast as I wanted to. This is by no means an indictment of anyone aside from me and my lack of confidence. The pack closed in around me, 200+ people with a quarter mile to get to a path that narrows to 5-6 people wide. 

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I ended up finishing the race in 11th place out of 218 finishers. I don’t even think I’m in 11th place on my team in this picture. I dug myself a big hole and had to expend a lot of energy to fight (literally) my way back to the front. And all because I doubted myself, my ability, and whether or not I deserved to be on the front line.

It’s one thing to have a bad race. They happen. But it’s another thing to doubt yourself out of a good one. Don’t do it, it’s a waste of your training. Yes, I eked out a 6k PR of 21:48. But could it have been faster had I not had to sprint the better part of a mile to get back into fighting position? I’ll never know.