Training Lately

Oh, running. You elusive, saucy minx. You cruel charlatan.

I’ve been running for a month now. It’s crazy to think that it has been that long! It definitely doesn’t feel like things have changed all that much in a month, although when I look back on it, I know they have. My training routine in the post back-surgery era has changed significantly from what it used to be, and it probably will continue to change going forward. Here’s where I’m at right now.

Before: Running 5 days a week, 35-40 miles/weekly

After: Running 3 days a week, whatever I can manage

One thing I knew for sure was that my running volume would have to change significantly in order to keep my back as healthy as possible. For now, that means running three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) with the possibility of working my way up to 4 eventually. I’m doing run/walk right now and likely will for my long runs for the foreseeable future. This past week, I ran 3.5 miles without stopping to walk, which was by far my longest effort since I started running again. I was so proud of myself that you would have thought I just ran an ultra. Usually, I try to increase the amount I run without walking one day a week. The other day, I do a shorter effort with a walk thrown in. On long run days, I’m currently running a mile and then walking for a couple of minutes, then running again.

I have to say, it’s been more frustrating to get back to running than I thought. I’m struggling a lot with the mental aspect -specifically, I’m constantly comparing what I can do now to what I could do before, which is obviously ridiculous. I can’t seem to help it, though. I do have a great time talking with my friends, and of course I enjoy actually being out there and running again. I guess I just thought that my fitness would come back more quickly than it has. Obviously, I thought that because I am insane, since it makes no sense. The good news is that my leg turnover has stayed decent, so I’m running somewhere between 9:00-9:30 without consciously trying. The bad news is that my cardio system isn’t quite there yet, so I mostly feel like I’m dying. I’m sure I’ll catch up to my legs soon.

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Before: Cycling when I feel like it, maybe once a week

After: Cycling 3 days per week

Oddly enough, I’m a better cyclist than I am a runner despite how much I try to avoid cycling and how much more effort I have historically put into running. Cycling has been a good way for me to work on my cardio and leg turnover without the impact from running, so I’ve made a serious effort to incorporate it into my routine. And you know what? It’s really not as bad as I thought. I’m riding my road bike, which is a more upright position, twice a week and my triathlon bike, which has the aero position (aka kind of hunched over), once a week. The most challenging thing about cycling, particularly in South Carolina, is finding places to ride where I feel safe and where the roads aren’t terrible. Also, the clothing is challenging. I look hideous in it. Those shorts are a joke, right? THE WORST.

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Before: AVOID STRENGTH TRAINING AT ALL COSTS

After: Begrudgingly attend Body Pump classes

I hate strength training. It is the worst. My ex was a personal trainer, so this was a constant source of irritation to him, but I just could never get into it. The burning muscles? The feeling like you’re about to drop hundreds of pounds onto your face? No, thank you. Not my cup of tea. I’ve always known how important strength training is, but I’ve just flat out refused to do it, unless you count yoga as strength training. Unfortunately, I don’t really have that luxury anymore. I’ve been working out in the gym with my physical therapist (to make sure I’m doing exercises that are safe for my back) but I’ve also been attending Body Pump classes at the gym here in Tulsa. While I still mostly hate it, I actually hate the spinning class that Patty does as a warm up (worst idea ever) more, so strength training seems not so bad in comparison. At least the class moves quickly and the instructors are good. I know I’m working hard and I know I’m helping my back, so that’s all that matters, and if that means I have to strength train forever, then so be it. Look for my bulging muscles, coming soon to photos on this blog.

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Before: Ab work? What ab work?

After: Barre classes and 8 minute abs

Ab work is right up there for me with clawing out my own eyeballs. I know so many people who absolutely love it, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. It should not hurt when I laugh. Sadly, it no longer matters what I think of ab work because the health of my lower back depends on some serious core strengthening. I’ve started making a concerted effort to do some type of core work each day, whether that means doing my workout at physical therapy, taking a barre class, or the best 8 minutes of my life as broadcast through YouTube each day.

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What’s that? There’s been a more modern version of 8-Minute Abs made recently? Don’t care. Have you listened to this guy? He is amazing. Even AJ cracks up. And you know what laughter is? An ab workout. Gang, if you don’t know him, get to know him. Then thank me later for your rock hard abs, chiseled by laughter.

So I guess you could say that I’ve gone from someone who hates exercising in general but loves running to someone who tolerates exercise and loves running. I’m proud of the fact that I’m actually doing the smart thing and taking care of myself for once, and it’s nice to be able to change up my routine. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get really crazy and incorporate swimming into the mix eventually? You’re right, that would be ridiculous.

LEAVE A COMMENT: How do you cross-train? Do you enjoy many forms of exercise or just one?

Real Talk

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit more quiet than usual on the blog lately. It’s not for lack of humiliating things to write about – apparently returning to running is actually, like, really hard - or lack of adventure or anything like that. As much as I don’t necessarily feel like spewing my personal problems all over the blog, since we all get sick of that, I think transparency is really important.

The truth is that I am in the middle of a really rough patch at the moment. As you know, I’ve been out in Oklahoma for the summer working on Ramblen. Natalie and I have gotten a lot accomplished since I’ve been here: we’ve added new content to the site, picked up some new clients, and gotten tremendous exposure in the Tulsa business community. Things are definitely on the upswing, which is great. The problem is that we are running out of money, and while we are bringing on new clients, it is not going to happen quickly enough for me to continue to work on the company full time. As we are trying to save money to build the second phase of our site, it could be a long time before I’ll be able to work on it full time again. So, I need to get a job – and pretty much it needs to be a full time job.

That in itself is theoretically not such a big deal, except that I don’t know where that job will be. The industry I left in Columbia is on a downswing, and there are almost no jobs there right now. There may be some coming up in the future, but there may not. In Tulsa, there is a lot more opportunity, but I own a house in South Carolina, which makes things a little more complicated. And as much as I would love to live here, that can only happen if I get a job here, because it would not make sense for AJ to leave his job and the accompanying security if I’m not financially stable. So I’m applying for jobs in Tulsa and in South Carolina, and I have no idea where I’ll be living or what I’ll be doing, if anything (dear God, let it be something) this fall.

I’ll be honest: the anxiety, the stress of not knowing, is basically killing me. I am terrified that I will end up on a jobless streak that will last months or years. I hate the idea of being a burden on AJ, as I have always provided for myself financially. Add that to the fact that I’m having a hard time coming back to running – news flash, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when you’ve been out for 6 months and it’s 100 degrees outside – and that I’ve gained weight and I’m spending the summer away from the only person who stands a chance at calming me down (AJ, the world’s most relaxed human), and you pretty much have disaster.

I’m not known for my coping mechanisms. To put it lightly, I suck at coping mechanisms. My current focus right now every day is to make it through the day without doing something insanely stupid. In the past, I haven’t really had that kind of self control, but this time, the silver lining is that I’ve learned over the past 12 years what I can and cannot handle when I’m upset or stressed out. I know that the best thing I can do for myself is basically become a hermit. This may sound counterintuitive to a lot of people since the generally accepted idea is that it helps to talk about your problems. I’m not a person who spends a whole lot of time talking about my emotions or thoughts. I think a lot about how I feel, I just don’t really talk about it. I like to work my problems out in my head and then talk about them once they are resolved. I often find that talking about things, particularly when I’m in the height of dealing with them, makes me feel much worse and much more stressed out.

As such, I’ve been talking to my friends and family as little as humanly possible. I’ve been blogging only when I feel like I have something remotely positive to say, because I don’t want this to turn into some whine-fest. At the same time, this blog is, and should be, a reflection of my life. It’s not always fun, and I think it’s important that I be honest with you all about where I am right now. And right now, I am a hermit.

LEAVE A COMMENT: How do you deal with stress?

Focusing On the Positive

Well, I got nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by my friend Michael over at Running Around the Bend (Thank you! Even if you just did this to torture me!), and although I’m pretty sure he nominated everyone he knew and I pretty much never participate in things like this, I decided to play along. I think the rules of this are that I’m supposed to write out some random facts about myself and then nominate other people to do the same, but I’m not going to do either of those things because I don’t feel like it.

I wanted a new angle, so I started out writing five things I like about myself and five things I dislike about myself, just for the sake of balance, and I noticed something: it was very challenging for me to come up with more than one thing I like about myself (and even harder to write about them), but it was very easy for me to come up with things I dislike about myself. Then, I noticed how depressed I was getting writing about the things I dislike. Although I’m happy to tell you all of those things, I don’t think it’s beneficial at this particular moment in my life, so I decided to focus on the things I like. I invite you to do the same.

Five Things I Like About Myself

1. I’m extremely self aware: AJ and I were talking the other day and we both agree that one thing many people lack, AJ included, is self-awareness. Many people are oblivious to what their true talents are, overestimate themselves in areas in which they are weak, or have no idea how they are perceived by others. From the time I was very small, I have always had a very astute sense of self. I know my strengths and my weaknesses well. I generally am aware of how I come across when speaking to other people. I think it’s a huge advantage because the more you know about yourself, the easier it is to focus on your strengths, learn how to work around your weaknesses, and control your social environment. That being said, being self aware can also be pretty torturous, because you don’t have the benefit living in la-la land where you’re good at everything and everyone likes you. Nonetheless, this is the thing I like most about myself. For better or worse, I know who I am.

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2. Integrity is of the utmost importance to me: When I was a kid, my dad owned his own business. The one thing he drilled into my head over and over was the importance of being honest in your business dealings and your personal dealings. My father is a man of tremendous personal integrity, and that is something I have strived to have, particularly in business. I would rather be a failure than be successful because I lied or cheated or wasn’t true to my morals and values along the way. That’s the reason that you don’t see a lot of sponsored posts or advertisements on this blog. Do I have a problem with people that do those things? No. I just don’t personally get a lot of offers that I genuinely feel good about passing along to you. It’s not worth the money or free stuff to me to pretend to be enthusiastic about a product or service. Personal integrity has become increasingly important to me as I’ve gotten older, and I place a high priority on it in my life. I might never be the wealthiest person on the planet, but I’m ok with that.

3. I prioritize adventure: As I mentioned in my New Year’s resolution post, my goal for this year is to make my life more interesting every day. I can say with no qualms that I have succeeded in doing that so far. I’ve always been a pretty adventurous person; it’s hard to break 12 bones during your childhood without a penchant for the slightly dangerous and interesting side of life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really focused on how to add excitement and adventure to my life, whether it’s through traveling across the world, taking chances in my career, or simply deciding to go kayaking for a couple hours instead of sitting on my couch. I really like that about myself, if for no reason other than I usually have fairly decent blog content and I’m interesting to talk to at parties.

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4. I can adapt to any social situation easily: Despite the fact that I’m a pretty serious introvert and I don’t actually feel comfortable in a lot of social situations, I’m lucky to have always been very socially intelligent. I can easily modify my personality to suit the environment, whether it’s a loud party or a business meeting. I’m capable of interacting with many different personality types, and one thing I hear frequently is that I make people feel comfortable when they’re talking to me. It’s easy for me to sense what people need or want out of a conversation and what I need to do to get to that point. That being said, I find the process exhausting. Interacting with new people has become increasingly challenging as I’ve gotten older, and taking time to be by myself and recharge is extremely important to me. While I don’t necessarily prefer to be thrown into a ton of random social situations, I like knowing that I can handle it and it’s not going to be a disaster.

5. I am not quick to anger: It takes a lot to make me angry. I can count the number of times I’ve yelled at someone on one hand. I think this comes back to the self-awareness thing, and also the fact that I have pretty good control over my emotions in general. As a child, I observed that the least emotional person in an argument almost always won the argument. It seemed that yelling or carrying on never got anyone anywhere. That resulted in me taking situations that upset me and then analyzing them so that I could formulate my thoughts and present a coherent argument as to why the other person had upset me rather than just ranting like a lunatic. Most of the time, I found that my feelings went away after a few hours and it wasn’t such a big deal after all, so I began actively forcing myself to take a few hours or days before addressing the situation to see if it was really still important to me. This has served me well on more than one occasion, and I definitely think it’s an asset.

LEAVE A COMMENT: That’s enough tooting my own horn for one day. Tell me one thing YOU like about yourself!

My Strange Running Phobias

The act of running is tough, at least for me. It’s a physical and mental battle that happens each time I step out the door, and as much as I love it, I’ll be the first to admit that it takes very little to throw me off my game. Some people are cool as a cucumber on race day, but not me – I’m pretty much on the verge of vomiting until I cross that start line, and I don’t really know why, because at this point you’d think I’ve run enough races to get over it. While running with AJ the other day, I was reminded of all the little things that have the power to totally freak me out when I’m running. Obviously, they are all ridiculous.

1. Hearing other people breathe

I know. I know how crazy this sounds. When AJ and I were running the other day, he was breathing really hard because, quite frankly, he’s out of shape. I felt great and was having no problems continuing…until I heard him breathing like that. I cannot handle hearing people gasping for breath around me. It totally freaks me out no matter how great I feel. All of a sudden, I’m thinking “La la la, I feel great! Oh my gosh, why is that guy breathing like that? I must be running faster than I thought. If he’s not fine, I’m probably not fine. Oh no, there goes my heart! I’m dying. This is what a heart attack feels like. WHERE IS THE OXYGEN?” It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. I will always either speed up or slow down to get away from that person because I cannot run under those conditions. The absolute worst is when it happens at mile 4 of a marathon. I mean, really?

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The hard breathers are the problem, not me.

2.  Getting my hands sticky from Gu or Gatorade

My version of hell is spilling Gatorade on myself at a water stop early on in a race and having my hands feel sticky for the next 20 miles. I have, on more than one occasion, stopped at the next water stop and poured water over my hands while scrubbing like a madwoman to get it off. Once my hands are all gross, it’s all I can think about and it really stresses me out. I also hate the feeling of most hand sanitizer, which is unfortunate, since it’s required for, you know, sanitation. This is actually kind of bizarre because I’m not a particularly finicky person about dirt or sweat or anything, but sticky hands? No. I cannot.

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#preach

3. Toenails that are too long

Another fear of mine that AJ regularly reminds me of is my fear of my toenails being too long. You know what happens when you’re a runner and your toenails are too long? They hurt really bad and then they fall off. Who wants to experience this? No one. As it just so happens, my newly minted fiance (so fun to say, by the way) has the opposite fear of me. He is afraid of his nails being too short because it hurts if you cut them too short. Just looking at his feet gives me anxiety for days. It’s a constant fight whenever I get a pedicure because I always tell the lady to trim my nails shorter and she insists they cannot be any shorter. SHORTER, I SAY!

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The crazy eyes come out when the toenails are too long.

4.  Realizing my iPod isn’t charged

Once upon a time, I always ran with music. I didn’t run with people very often, so I used music to motivate me and entertain me. The night before the San Diego marathon, I plugged my iPod in to charge. I woke up and got ready for the race. When I got to the start line, I discovered that my iPod somehow had low battery. Disaster! I knew I’d be running the race by myself and I was not used to running without music. I swore that I would never experience that pain again, so from that day forward, I stopped running with music almost completely. It was not worth the psychological torment of feeling like I couldn’t do the race without it. Now, I’m used to being in my own head and I just sing songs to myself and it’s fine. I guess this isn’t a fear anymore because I eliminated the problem, but whatever.

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Bye iPod! Bye Felicia!

5. Sleeping past the start of the race

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I never have good dreams, only nightmares. I also have recurring nightmares, one of which always happens the night before a marathon. I am terrified of sleeping through my alarm and missing the start, or setting my alarm incorrectly and missing the start, or any combination thereof. I always wake up in a cold sweat convinced that I missed the whole thing. It’s the worst whenever it gets light really early in the morning. I always set multiple alarms just in case, and I’ve never actually slept through an alarm in my life (who can do that?!) but the fear is real. Ugh, I’m getting upset just thinking about it.

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Can I get Big Ange as my alarm clock? I would definitely wake up.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What are your strange runner phobias? Am I the only person who has them? Discuss.

Guess What?!?

Ok, so June 28th was a pretty huge day for me. Three very important things happened:

  1. I did my first “long run” of marathon training! I ran/walked a total of 6 miles, which is obviously not a long run in general but is for me at the moment. The run included a warm up and cool down and 4 intervals of run 1 mile and walk 1/4 mile. I’m pleased to report that I felt great (minus my pathetic cardiovascular fitness) and my back didn’t hurt yesterday or today! Even better? I got to run with Amanda!!
  2. I found a specialty cupcake store in SC that sells gluten-free cupcakes! Shut the front door. This is the best. And I got one in celebration because…
  3. AJ AND I GOT ENGAGED!
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AJ even smiled in a picture for once! Make that 4 big things that happened yesterday.

Yes, after nearly 3 years of dealing with my constant nonsense, AJ decided that he wanted to mitigate my insanity forever. Since I never really talked about how we met or much about our relationship, I’ll get to that in a future post, but for now, I’ll tell you what you want to know: how it all went down.

Yesterday, after my run, I was admittedly pretty tired. I had a full day and long drive to and from Fitbloggin’ the day before and got very little sleep, then woke up early to run. After Amanda and I ran, I took a nap, and when I woke up, I really didn’t want to do anything other than go back to sleep or possibly watch tv. Normally, AJ would be fine with this, but he kept bugging me and asking me what I wanted to do.

AJ: “What do you want to do today, babe?”

Me: “Sleep”

AJ: “No, let’s go out and do something! Let’s go for a hike! Do you want to go kayaking? Let’s go be active!!”

It’s important to note that AJ generally does not want to do things that are active, and he never suggests that we do them. He also rarely speaks in sentences that would have exclamation points in them. Since I’m always bugging him about doing active things, I figured I couldn’t say no when he was finally showing some enthusiasm about it for once, so I begrudgingly changed and we headed out to Harbison State Forest for a hike.

The hike itself was mostly uneventful aside from the extreme sweating thanks to the South Carolina summer, and AJ wasn’t acting nervous or weird or anything. We were just talking like normal and happened to be talking about some friends of ours who had recently gotten engaged, and he grabbed my hand and said something like “Speaking of engagements…” and kissed me. All of a sudden he was down on one knee and holding out the ring and he said something like (sorry, my brain wasn’t processing that well) ” I love you and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else,” and then he just looked at me and then suddenly realized he was supposed to actually ask me something so that I could say “Yes,” and then he remembered and asked. Of course, I said yes, and although I considered doing a pause for dramatic effect, I didn’t. He was expecting me to take the ring but I actually forgot about that because I’m awkward, but eventually I remembered. Whew!

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I’ll never be a hand model, but at least the ring is pretty!

And that’s the story of how two very awkward people got engaged. We’re incredibly happy and excited! He even called my parents to ask for their blessing, which they loved. Looks like we’ve got a wedding to plan!!

Run for Another

Like many runners, I like to think of myself as a generally charitable person. I donate to pretty much every fundraising effort I come across on Facebook, and since easily half of my Facebook friends are runners, that’s quite a lot. I’ve also done Team in Training several times myself and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. At the end of the day, charity running is a great way to raise money for a cause you care about (or, let’s be honest, get you entry into that sold-out race), but often, the commitment ends when you cross the finish line.

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I was contacted last week by a company called Janji that makes running apparel. That in itself is not so interesting. However, two things caught my eye about this particular company: the clothes are much cooler looking than a lot of running stuff, and the mission behind Janji made me want to learn more. The two founders, Mike and Dave, both ran in college and realized how, as athletes, they sometimes took for granted all the water and food that they ate and drank to fuel their training. With a global water crisis and plenty of people suffering from hunger, they wanted to do something about that. They also wanted to create a way for runners to constantly help others, so they hit upon the idea of creating a line of running clothes that could be sold to fund charitable projects in the US and abroad. Currently, they’re working in the following countries:

  • Tanzania - provides drinking water through water projects with MSABI
  • Peru – provides proper nutrition to children in Peru with Kusi Warma
  • Kenya – provides enough water to meet the yearly fruit and vegetable needs of one person with Kickstart
  • Rwanda – provides 3 servings of nutritional medicine to a child in Rwanda with MANA
  • Haiti – provides 8 servings of nutritional medicine to a child in Haiti with Meds & Food for Kids
  • USA - provides meals to an American in need

Because I like free things and actually believe in this idea, I agreed to review one of their shirts and see what I thought. I was sent the Tanzania Yellow Singlet, which, when purchased for $28, provides a year of drinking water for a person in Tanzania. Pretty amazing, right? When you click on an item on the website, it tells you how purchasing the item will help someone else. Of course, that’s all well and good but isn’t that helpful if the gear itself sucked or fit weird or something.

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Me and my one true love, Rocket. Don’t worry, he’s AJ’s one true love also, so neither of us are jealous.

I tested out my gear on a very hot and humid run, and I’m pleased to report that not only did it look great, it’s also very breathable and comfortable. The material is a high-quality moisture-wicking fabric, and the fit is relaxed, so I never felt like anything was clinging to me.

Let’s face it, we all have to buy running clothes, so why not buy running clothes that do something good for someone else, look extremely cool, and actually are comfortable and high-performing? Especially if they don’t cost more than normal running clothes? Come on, everyone wins.

SO head out right now and visit Janji’s website and score some sweet new summer running gear for yourself while helping another human being. Even better? Free shipping on orders over $45 and an extra 20% off your purchase when you use the code TREX. Don’t worry, I’ve already bought myself a bunch of stuff for the purposes of testing out the code to make sure it worked. I am so giving.

It’s Time to Face the Facts

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about my little experiment with going gluten-free? Well, the results are in, and they are ugly. But first, a little back story, because what else would possibly compel you to keep reading?

I’m back in South Carolina for the next week and a half with a quick break on Friday for Fitbloggin. I drove the 15 hours from Oklahoma on my own instead of flying because I knew I would need a car while I was here. I actually don’t mind road trips, and I don’t mind being by myself, so it theoretically was no problem. I wasn’t sure how well I would do with sticking to a gluten-free diet while crossing the South via highway, but I wanted to give it my best shot. It was pretty tough, because as you might imagine, fast food is pretty much covered in gluten, but I managed to make do with a baked potato and salad from Wendy’s and some grilled chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-a. Unfortunately, the air conditioning in my truck died on Friday on the 9 hour final leg of my drive (I left Thursday afternoon). More unfortunately, it was 102 degrees outside.

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As you might imagine, putting your windows down when it is 102 degrees is basically the equivalent of having someone point a blow dryer at your face for 9 hours. The situation was growing desperate and I was dying to cool off, so I pulled into a Dairy Queen and got a small blizzard. Without even thinking about it (primarily because my brain was so hot that thinking was impossible), I got mint Oreos and cookie dough as the mix-ins. Before I realized that neither of those items were gluten-free, I had already driven away and was eating the thing. I figured it wasn’t such a big deal because it’s not like I was eating a plate of pasta or something and I probably wouldn’t even notice a difference.

Um, false.

My intestines hurt so bad and were so bloated by the time I made it home 4 hours later that I could barely move. So I thought about it and reasoned that it could have been the lactose, since I’m lactose-intolerant, but that usually produces different symptoms. I figured the only way to find out was to test my theory by eating ice cream (without gluten) each of the other days of the weekend and seeing what happened. I know, best experiment ever, right?

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If you’re not serious about your meals, we probably are not friends.

Yup. It was the gluten.

Dammmmmitttttttttttt.

Well, that sucks. I guess it’s good to know that I can control how I feel, at least partially, by making certain dietary choices, but WHY GLUTEN?  I have nothing left without gluten! Sweet, stretchy, doughy, delicious gluten, I will miss you more than you could ever know.Well, I’ll miss you for awhile, until I inevitably get more drunk than I intended and scream “YOLO!” while running towards a giant pizza and then eat all of it. But for now, I will continue to weep into my (surprisingly delicious) gluten-free beer and keep doing silent cheers every time I come across a restaurant with more gluten-free options than just salad.

Sorry. I just realized that this post was a little heavier on the Honey Boo Boo GIFs than I originally intended.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Share your favorite gluten-free recipe or tell me something you have to avoid eating so that we can cry about it together

I Ran!

I ran today! No, you’re not confused. It’s not June 18th. However, recognizing that I will be running 3 times a week (hopefully) for the foreseeable future, with eventually a long run on Saturdays, it seemed that a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday running plan would be the best, so it was go time at 5:30 pm.

I commissioned Sarah, who blogs over at Run Ginger Run, to accompany me on the epic adventure around LaFortune park here in Tulsa. While I was slightly nervous that someone would be present to witness what could potentially be an epic failure accompanied by a complete mental breakdown, I also needed someone to take pictures, and I like Sarah, so there you go.

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“I don’t have a go-to pose! HOW DO I POSE?” – Sarah

The plan today came from my physical therapist here in Tulsa. After discussing the recommendations of the PT in Colorado (who has not been present for my recovery during any phase) with her, she felt I would be fine with a slightly more ambitious plan. Keep in mind that pretty much anything would be more ambitious than what he gave me, so we could pretty much only go up from there. Today I was to run 1/4 mile, walk 1/4 mile, repeat 4 times. That’s it.

In preparation for the blessed event, I bought some new running gear, because obviously. I’ve known for awhile that rotating between a couple pairs of shoes makes you less prone to injury, and I figured that there is no better time to get used to new shoes than when you’re not used to any shoes, so I headed over to Tulsa Runner  and spoke with them and got fitted for some sweet new kicks. They’re kind of hard to miss. As excited as I was for this day to come, I was also surprisingly nervous when it came time to actually get in my truck and drive to meet Sarah. Not “puke into an empty cup on the drive over” nervous, but I definitely had tiny dinosaurs running around in my stomach. I guess I just wanted to get it over with and know whether or not my back was going to hurt.

You’ve got to give me an A+ for my perfectly coordinated outfit at a minimum.

Some things about running, like how it is basically impossible to breathe while you do it, felt different than I remember, but mostly I felt the same. Despite being out of the game for 6 months, it wasn’t long before I was back just chatting away with my friend, enjoying the scenery, cursing the sun, and wishing I could run faster – same as ever. It’s nice to know that some things are always the same.

To answer the obvious question, no, my back didn’t hurt while I was running. And no, it also doesn’t hurt now. Hopefully it won’t hurt tomorrow, either! To celebrate my good fortune, I made the delicious cheesy greek-style quinoa from last week and enjoyed a gluten-free beer recommended to me by one of you lovely readers!

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Yes, I’m aware that I used the words “delicious” and “gluten-free” to describe the same item.

On a serious note, I can’t thank all of you enough for sticking by me through this injury and being a constant source of comfort and encouragement. I’m sure there’s a long road ahead and I know there will be good days and bad days, but today was undeniably a very good day. You guys are the best.

 

My Triumphant Return to Racing

It’s been awhile since I participated in a race, so when Patty suggested that we head to Inola, Oklahoma (Hay Capital of the World, in case you didn’t know) to participate in a local 8k, I was pumped. Patty has a stress fracture in her heel, so she’s not running either, and she had a very important piece of information – this event had a race walking division. We would actually be able to compete! Despite the fact that I’m not particularly competitive (fine, competitive at all) when it comes to running, I really got into the idea of race walking. I guess I figured that if we were going to go after race walking trophies, we might as well go big, so Patty and I got matching outfits for the event. It made sense at the time.

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Just look at all those TROPHIES

Some important things you should know about race walking – the main rule is that you have to have one foot on the ground at all times and therefore cannot run at all. This will become important later. So we went and registered with the cute elderly people and signed up for the race walking division and got our numbers and a surprisingly badass neon yellow shirt. Patty’s friend Cathy had decided to come along to participate in her first ever race, and a bunch of the Dom-N-8rz (the running group Patty leads) had shown up in hopes of bringing home the gold. Of course, there were enough trophies for about 100 people – 3 deep in each age group – and there looked to be no more than 50 in attendance, so we felt good about our chances. You know, because it was obviously super important that I emerge victorious in my first ever race walking effort.

The start gun (which I’m pretty sure was a real gun) went off and the three of us set off, arms pumping. We were quickly passed by everyone except one lady, who also appeared to be race walking, since everyone else was running, and of course you remember the cardinal rule of race walking. This made it easy to size up our competition, so as long as we kept ahead of this one lady, we were golden (literally). Patty had done the race the year before and noticed that it seemed everyone else ahead of us was turning, but when we got to the turning point, we were told to go straight. There were still some people ahead of us, so we just kept walking and didn’t think much of it. The course went briefly through a residential neighborhood and then out to a straight road through fields of (what else?) hay.

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Patty and Cathy on the road to victory

We had a great time walking along and chatting while maintaining a pace of under 15 minutes per mile, which is a little over 4 mph, aka pretty damn fast walking. I gave myself the responsibility of making sure that the other potential race walker wasn’t approaching, and when I turned back to look, I noticed that there were quite a few people running up behind us – people that should have been in front of us on the out and back course. As it turns out, the course hadn’t been properly marked and most of the people at the front of the pack had been taken more than a mile off course! I was feeling pretty pumped to be slow at that point because they had figured it out by the time we got to the turn and had made sure we went the right way. It sucks for everyone else though because their 8k turned into a 10k! Oops.

We cheered for everyone as they came running towards us while headed back to the finish, which always makes the time go by faster. It was funny to see some of the slower spouses actually ahead of their much faster partners, who had been turned in the wrong direction and now had to make up the distance. It was a rare opportunity to beat the faster runners, which of course is always important, so we cheered extra hard in those cases. Although we were out there for quite awhile, the time seemed to fly by and it was just nice to have number pinned on my shirt again and feel like I was part of something. It also didn’t hurt that we were still ahead of the race walker and Cathy was signed up for the run, so it seemed that Patty and I were a lock for the two race walking trophies, since they gave out first and second place. Shortly after we passed the turn around, the woman behind us ran past and then started walking about 10 steps ahead of us.

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Run all you want, lady, but remember, we know the rules of race walking. And you have now run, which means you are no longer a walker, and we will take you down if you try and claim those trophies that so rightfully belong to us on account of no one else actually being a walker. Patty and I were all “Oh hell no” and Cathy was all “You guys know you’re race walking an 8k in Inola, Oklahoma right?” Whatever. Apparently we take race walking about a thousand times more seriously than we take running. We made peace with the situation after she ran a few more times past other witnesses, although then we realized that the other witnesses were the firefighters in the truck with its lights flashing right behind us because we were now in last. Oh well. We crossed the finish line in a blaze of glory and everyone cheered, mostly because it meant that they could finally get on with the awards ceremony.

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We put our hands up about as early as we would have for a marathon, forgetting that we were walking and it therefore took about twice as long to reach the finish line, so that was a little awkward.

The awards ceremony got started, and imagine my surprise when my name was called as the winner of the 25-29 age group in the run category! Of course, apparently no other women in my age group had entered the race, which is how I won, but still – I should have been in the race walking group, so I told them that. Oh, they also announced that I was from Elgin, Oklahoma instead of Elgin, South Carolina despite the fact that I hand wrote my address. This is the second time this has happened to me so I think at this point I’m just going to go with it to avoid confusion. The volunteers said they would get my race walker status sorted out later, and I figured there was no need to complain since I did have a giant trophy anyway.

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I mean, it’s a pretty serious trophy right?

Patty got second in her age group, as did Cathy, and then they announced the winners of the race walking division – 2 teenage girls who had run almost the entire way! The scandal! The outrage! Do they not know the rules of race walking? What is this sorcery? Cathy shot Patty and I a stern look that said “Don’t you even think about saying anything!” so we just thought about the injustice of it all. Apparently I do actually have a competitive streak at something besides trivia. Who knew that thing would be race walking? Perhaps I’m in the wrong sport. Of course, none of this really matters so we eventually mostly got over it.

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The Dom-N-8rz (plus me and Cathy) and our hardware!

From now on, you may refer to me as T-Rex Runner, 8k age group champion. No need to mention my winning time of 1:13:39.

 

Is gluten-free the way to be? We’ll see!

People, I have done something completely out of character. Something I swore I would never do. I have gone gluten-free. Wait, hear me out. This is not entirely just because I want to be as trendy as everyone else. Reasons for this little experiment of mine include the following:

  1. Boredom (ok, not entirely)
  2. My stomach has not been thrilled about my antics lately.
  3. Michael from Running Around the Bend wrote an insightful guest post that I actually read (add my general refusal to read guest posts to the list of reasons why I’m a bad blogger) that made me think that some of the things I’ve been experiencing lately might be related to gluten.
  4. Beer has a lot of gluten; I drink too much beer. Ergo, giving up gluten will force me to cut down on beer. Until I find gluten-free beer, but you know what I mean.
  5. I eat a lot of processed food because it is delicious and I can’t stop myself. However, lots of processed foods are full of yummy gluten, so if I don’t eat gluten, I’ll eat less processed food.
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Take a moment to be as impressed by my logic as I am. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Honestly, giving up gluten is probably the last thing I ever thought I would do, primarily because my favorite food basically is gluten. Beer, pizza, soft pretzels, sandwiches, GET IN MY BELLY. However, reading Michael’s post reminded me of something Amanda used to always say to me about trying to figure out her food intolerances, which was basically that knowledge is power. If I determine that I feel better not eating gluten, I have the power to make that choice. Obviously I’m not allergic to it, so if I want to have it, I can, but knowing how I feel with it in my diet or not gives me the power to make that decision.

Also, Tulsa is much more health-oriented than where I live in South Carolina, so there are a lot of choices here. For example, I met Natalie at a bagel place the other day and they had gluten-free bagels! Granted, I now know that gluten-free bagels are terrible, but at least the option exists. Lots of the restaurants here have gluten-free options too, so it really isn’t so bad yet. And of course, since I can’t go more than 4 hours without baked goods (hey, I said I would cut down processed foods, not eliminate them), I even made some gluten-free brownies that were absolutely delicious – and you’re talking to someone with extremely high brownie standards.

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Delicious, gluteny cookies

So what’s the verdict so far? Well, none. I maybe feel a little less bloated, but this could also be due to the fact that I haven’t had beer since Sunday, so who knows. I have to say that this is a lot easier than I thought and I’ve found myself not really feeling deprived at all. That may not be the story when I go back to South Carolina, but I’m committed to sticking to it for at least the next week or so just to see the results. Either way, I’ve learned that I actually do like plenty of foods that are naturally gluten-free, so I’ve been whipping up some new recipes.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever on this blog, I present to you a recipe. Not one that I made up, of course, but that’s neither here nor there. This is Cheesy Greek-Style Baked Quinoa and it is me and Patty’s new favorite food. It is seriously the best, and it’s healthy, and of course, gluten-free!

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I did not take this picture. Credit to Cooking With Cakes

Now go forth and make this delicious recipe! Your life will change forever.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you have any food intolerances? Have you ever tried going gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc?