Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

In the last few years we have tried to create our own Memorial Day traditions. This year just did not work out.

Memorial Day was one of my favorite non-gift giving holidays. As a kid, we would always go to visit my Mom's and Dad's families in Port Clinton and Marblehead, OH up along Lake Erie. In my earliest memories, we would go to the parade (standing up each time an American flag went by) then cook out and play all day with our cousins. If we stayed with my Dad's parents we would fish all weekend. It was the official start to summer for me.

Later, when Port Clinton added the Walleye Festival, the town had two parades. We only went to one, but I can never remember whether it was the Walleye Parade or the Memorial Day Parade. As young adults, we would camp out at my parents' old farm house (my grandparents' house) that was on the shore of the Sandusky Bay. We had three acres to hang out on and would invite as many friends as we could to go up for the weekend. We would swim, fish, have camp fires and just have a blast. Dad always had all of the inner tubes inflated before we got there. And he always found a way to get a TV with the Indy 500 close to our beach. (I only ever watched the last 5 minutes.) We would all go to the Walleye Festival at least one evening of the weekend.

Things have changed quite a bit now that my grandparents and parents are all gone. The old farm house is gone and the new house isn't ours either. I haven't been fishing in more than 12 years.

Though in past years we have hosted a big cookout for family and friends, this year we ended up going to a high school graduation party instead.

Today while my husband is at work, I had planned to walk a 5-mile Memorial Day race. I've done it a couple of times before and it is a good race. Heavy rains and lightning kept me at home instead. (Unfortunately, over the last few years my husband has had to work all holidays that fall on a weekday.) I ended up using the free time to clean.

Cookouts, parades and 5-mile races seem insufficient to recognize the sacrifices the many men and women made and continue to make to keep us safe. We live in a great country, one of the safest in the world, and I'm thankful I have so many choices to celebrate the freedom we have -- even if I spend the time cleaning.

So, this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself, your family and our country. And don't forget why we have the freedom to make these choices.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just Because it is Pink...

Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,  I received an e-mail from a PR firm suggesting items for a "shop for a cause" feature. It's not the kind of thing we ever did in WALK! Magazine, but I thought I would take a look.

Some of the items included ear buds, an ear bud case, iPod case, an expandable "sleeve" to keep computer cables organized under your desk, a mini keyboard and an outdoor extension cord -- all PINK! I looked at the selection of pink items and had to wonder -- what on earth do any of these items have to do with Breast Cancer Awareness?

Have we gotten to the point where all you have to do is make your product pink and it suddenly supports Breast Cancer Awareness?

I responded to the e-mail stating I was concerned about the selection of products and the relevance. The PR professional defended her client reminding me that for each item sold the client was donating $1 to a nonprofit that raises funds to meet the critical needs of women living with breast cancer. It's a great cause!

Maybe I'm just cynical. There are a million products out there being promoted as supporting some type of Breast Cancer research or awareness or helping women with this horrible disease. I have to wonder how many of these are genuine and how many are just jumping on the bandwagon to make a profit.

And despite this non-profit being a good cause, I really have to question this promotion. Does having a pink extension cord in my garage really do anything to promote Breast Cancer awareness?

I don't want to publicly disparage this PR professional or her client. She is doing a good job for her client and I think the company probably has good intentions. I don't agree with the promotion, but I think they are sincere. If anyone is interested in any of the pink products I mentioned, or if you are interested in learning more about the non-profit, send me an e-mail and I will get the information to you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bad Dog! -- Edited May 26

NOTE: From the comments received I realized that I left a couple points out and made some minor edits. I had planned to underline the additions, but I no longer have that option.

There's a dog in my neighborhood that tends to "charge" at me when I go past the house. The house is on a corner, so if on that side of the street, I end up walking along two sides of the yard. The dog is a dalmatian mix -- it's pretty stocky with deformed dalmatian spots.

Usually I would walk in the street if I was close to the house. It seemed that being in the street instead of on the sidewalk was all it took to keep it from running at me. It's a minor inconvenience and usually I don't mind. Several months ago the family installed an Invisible Fence which made me very happy! Though the dog would still run at me, it couldn't reach the sidewalk. Still, if I saw the dog was outside, I would walk in the street.

Today as I approached this house, while walking along the side yard, I didn't see anything so I stayed on the sidewalk. After I turned the corner and was about halfway down, there it was in the middle of the front yard. It saw me, stood up, the hair on its back stood up and it ran straight at me! I screamed, jumped and started to head to the street backward -- I hit the curb with the dog already on the sidewalk -- I tripped and flew into the street landing on my right hand, and somehow scraped my elbow and side of my leg! The dog had never gone onto the sidewalk before! (The Invisible Fence must not have been working!) I was terrified it would chase me into the street, but luckily it stopped at the curb.

I got up, brushed myself off and stayed in the street until I was past the house next door.

Though this dog is out of control, I feel I have to take partial responsibility here. I know that dog is crazy, I know the owners do not have control, I know if I'm in the street it won't bother me. And yet, I was on the sidewalk. Still....

Have I mentioned that I hate this dog?

The "fall" occurred about 10 min into the walk and despite this, I was able to walk the entire 30 minutes scheduled.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Walk

Unable to walk with the Buckeye Striders yesterday because of a funeral, I decided to head to Sharon Woods today. I arrived at the park at about 8:30. It was an absolutely beautiful morning! The sun was shining, there was a light breeze and tons of wild flowers were blooming everywhere. I was immediately happy I made the decision to drive to that park for this morning's walk.

Because I have been feeling burned out lately, it was nice to feel excited to be at the park.

The tiredness is back. A couple of weeks ago I was having difficulty with the first two miles of most walks. After I passed the one-mile mark, I pretty much warmed up and felt great. Today that didn't happen. I felt tired the entire four miles.

Though I thought I was pushing hard, that first mile was slower than 15:30! The second and third miles were not much better. The last mile was closer to only 15 min. My legs felt tired the entire distance.

There are two things that I think contribute to the heavy feeling and the slowness. The first is I have not been walking as much as I should. I walked just three days this week. Second, on two days instead of walking outside, I rode my antique exercise bike. Riding that bike exhausts my legs in a totally different way. It tends to make walking a few days later a little harder.

So, though I am still feeling burned out, and I wasn't very fast, I'm glad I went today. It was a beautiful morning to be outside. And I'm confident that if I keep walking when I don't feel like it, eventually it will be fun for me again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting Burned Out

Even though I walked for an hour Sunday morning and 30 min tonight, I had no enthusiasm for it. I am officially burned out.

The only logical thing to me is that doing the Indy Mini Marathon and the Arizona Distance Classic so close together must have been too much. 

I had plans to enter a couple more half marathons in the next few months, but the thought of doing 10-mile training walks is not even remotely appealing to me. I don't even care how fast I'm getting. In fact, the only reason I walked these last two times is because I know I needed the exercise and I need to burn off some calories. I am concerned about losing all of my training and endurance because mentally, I can't work my way back up to 10 miles again anytime soon.

So, for the time being I'll keep walking just because I need to. And I hope eventually I'll begin to enjoy it and look forward to doing it again. It's happened before and I worked through it -- I'm sure I will work through it again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Badge of Courage

The vast majority of people who complete marathons or half marathons end up with at least one black toenail during their racing career. Because it is longer than the rest, the second toe on my left foot is affected most often. It is currently nearly black after completing the Arizona Distance Classic last month and the Indy Mini Marathon last week. Because my shoes fit well, it isn't as black as it has been and probably will not fall off. But it is noticeably "gray." (I hate it when I lose toe nails.)

I have to admit I like having a black nail. It is my badge of courage. It is evidence that I have done something that took training, commitment and physical ability. Every time I look at my foot I think proudly, "I walked two half marathons in a month. I earned this!"

The problem is, this time of year I LOVE to wear open toed shoes! It's not just my Croc brand sandals, either. I just bought a wonderful pair of Mootsie Tootsie snake skin peep-toe shoes. The fake snake pattern is black and beige, and they look fantastic with my black suit. (Yes, I do occasionally wear things other than walking clothes and jeans.) But, my black toe peaks out, too.

Though I somewhat agree with the unwritten rule that if your toes are showing, they need to have polish, right now I can't do that. I cannot cover up my toe nail. And I hope someone will look at my great shoes, notice my nail and ask about it. I have a reason to brag right now.

So, for a little while I will keep my black toe visible. Maybe in a week or so after I've had a chance to really show it off in my new peep-toe shoes I'll cover it up with a great pink.


I would have posted a photo of my toe, but I lent my digital camera to my sister for the weekend. Maybe when she returns in a couple of days.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Nutrition" and Food Articles on Yahoo (Rant)

As many of you know, I read a lot about health, fitness and nutrition. Since I am actively trying to lose a little weight, I've been focusing more on nutrition lately. I keep thinking there might be something new out there that I can learn.

The other day I read an article on Yahoo about Joy Bauer's list of the best and worst frozen foods.The first "worst" item on the list was a creamy frozen chicken pot pie. OK, that makes sense. So what is the best frozen pot pie? Not another pot pie, but a Mexican veggie dish. Really? Did I need someone to tell me that a low-fat veggie dish is better for me than a pot pie?

Further down the list, she slams a green bean and spaetzle dish and recommends frozen butternut squash. Huh? How about green beans not in a butter sauce? I don't know anyone who would fix butternut squash if they really wanted green beans. (I don't even like butternut squash.)

She then lambastes Eggo brand waffles and recommends De Wafelbakkers A+ Cinnamon Sweet Potato Waffles. The funny thing here is there are De Wafelbakkers A+ Cinnamon Whole Grain Spelt Sweet Potato PANCAKES, but no waffles!

From the comments posted by others who read the article, I was not alone in my poor opinion of it. One person posted, "Why oh why do I bother reading this crap..." Several said something like: This would only make sense if the products that were better were the same type as the worst (i.e. pot pie for pot pie). There were a lot of comments about comparing apples to apples.

It would also be nice if the replacement product actually existed.

The next article I read on Yahoo was "Time-Saving Foods to Keep in Your Kitchen" -- reprinted from Real Simple Magazine. I should have been prepared for this since the typical Real Simple reader is in a much higher income bracket than I am. The list included brand name pie crusts, puff pastry, fresh pre-chopped veggies, focaccia bread mix, frozen spinach appetizers, portobella mushroom tapenade, organic canned beans, frozen cinnamon apples and frozen cooked shrimp among others.

There were a few things I agreed with such as jarred spaghetti sauce.

At the end, I had to laugh. The article read like a list of advertisers in Real Simple. It can't be just ANY brand of organic canned beans, it has to be Eden brand organic canned beans. Heaven forbid they not be organic. It has to be Belgium Chef frozen waffles and Buitoni focaccia. (I wonder if both of these are organic? If organic is important to you, why is only one item on this list organic?)

The point of this blog posting is that both of these articles were a waste of my time to read. And from the comments posted, most of the readers agree with me.

I used to subscribe to Joy Bauer's e-mail newsletter, but most of the information she provided was about as helpful as the article cited, so I unsubscribed. And I quit reading Real Simple because a lot of the things they recommend as simplifying life are either things I would never use, or they are great, but I'm not willing to spend that much money on it.

So to help save you time, money and calories when deciding what to eat, here are some of Cindi's suggestions:
  • Buy vegetables that are not in any sauce whatsoever. If you cannot eat them plain, add a tiny bit of butter or a little bit of cheese. I prefer fresh veggies steamed, especially broccoli.
  • Buy fresh fruits or canned fruits that have no added sugar. 
  • Instead of preparing something like Hamburger Helper, make your own. Cook a pound of quality hamburger, drain it. Toss in onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, whole grain cooked noodles or pre-cooked brown rice... anything you might find in the prepackaged food and spice it your own way. It will certainly taste better and probably will not take any more time.
  • If you like spaetzle and butter sauce in your green beans, do it once in a while, but it doesn't have to be every night.
  • Keep frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts on hand. They thaw quickly and you can do tons of things with them from broiling, simmering in a sauce of your own making, chopping and adding to soups or casseroles, etc.
  • Cook a big pot of brown rice (the kind that takes an hour). After it cools, spread the rice on a cookie sheet,  freeze it, break it up and store in a plastic freezer bag or plastic container. Any time you want brown rice you can measure some out, thaw it in the microwave or toss some frozen rice into soups or casseroles.
  • Baby carrots go bad too quickly for me. It really does not take much time to peel and cut up carrots. Put them in a bowl of water in the refrigerator. I chop them and add them to everything from spaghetti sauce to stuffed peppers or salads.
  • If you think you don't like something, try a different kind. I thought I didn't like apples because I hate red delicious. (They are bland and tasteless.) But I discovered I really like honeycrisp, cameo and the occasional granny smith.
  • If you think you hate a vegetable because your parents always bought canned or frozen, try buying some fresh and steaming it, or sautéeing it. Fresh spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic is great! Fresh Brussels sprouts will surprise a lot of people.
  • Read packages. Know what a serving size is. Know the calorie count of what you are consuming.
  • Wheat bread is different from 100 percent "whole" wheat bread.
  • Try new things.
And I got all of this without an advanced degree in nutrition! OK Yahoo, when do I get my column?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recovery Walk -- Calorie Burn

Because of a little bit of stiffness today, I decided to go for an easy walk around the neighborhood. Also, somehow I ended up gaining 5 lbs over the weekend even though I did a half marathon on Saturday. (I must have pigged out more than I thought I had!) I decided that if I walked at least an hour, even slow, it would burn a few calories.

I went down the street to what we call the "big block" to do a few laps. I could really feel my thighs and glutes -- more than I had expected since I thought I was well trained for the Mini Marathon. (I could especially feel my glutes!)

I ended up doing three full laps and ended up with two laps around the cul-de-sac across the street. Though I probably could not have walked faster if I wanted to, I was tired toward the end of the hour. Still, it felt really good to move.

Hmmm. Slow walking with tired muscles for an hour -- I wonder how many calories I burned?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Indy Mini Marathon Report

I completed the Indy Mini Marathon today, though at the start I was deciding whether I should just go back to the hotel and skip it. Somehow I didn't bring the right clothes and had to wear shorts. Though I also brought my favorite jacket and a throwaway sweatshirt, I didn't dress with enough layers when we left the hotel and I was freezing. Not sure why I didn't just go back to the room and add layers, but I didn't. Maybe I thought I would eventually warm up.

Regardless, the weather reports said it was 47 degrees with 30 mph winds.

We got to our corrals before 7, got into the corrals at 7. The sound system was fantastic! We heard every announcement, the national anthem and the start. They had a DJ-type person making frequent announcements and playing requests sort of like Casey Kasem. (Though a little cheesy, it was fun.) The half marathon started at 7:38 and it took more than 30 minutes to get to the starting line. The bad thing about corrals is that a LOT of people ahead of us lied. There is no way that these people we passed would ever finish faster than 3:45, let alone before 3:15, where we were lined up.

The wind was brutal! In downtown Indy, it blew down the streets like a wind tunnel. Standing in the middle of an intersection with additional winds from the cross streets was even worse!

The one thing I do not like about this race is that it is really hard to get around slower people at the start. In the first mile we just could NOT pick up any speed! I bet by the time we got to the 1-mile marker we had already walked 1.5 miles because of trying to get around people. The wind continued to blow hard and I was still cold. After eyeing tons of shirts and jackets lying on the side of the road, I made the decision to grab a huge Notre Dame hoodie and put it on. Wow! Instant relief. I was going to wear the hood, too, but it felt a little bit crunchy and I was afraid of what might be in there.

As we progressed, the crowds barely thinned with lots of slower people ahead of us. We ended up still having to zoom around people. Early on, Barbara and I had to make a pit stop. This was not a "want," it was a "need." We skipped several stops because of the lines, but around mile 5 we just could not wait any longer and ended up having to wait in line over 9 minutes! Argh! The good news is I was not going to PR anyway, so what was 9 minutes compared to my comfort.

Shortly before we hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway I warmed up quite a bit and was able to toss the Notre Dame sweatshirt. Walking in the Motor Speedway is very cool! This year we did an entire lap. I think the last time we did this race we did about 3/4 of a lap. The wind did not lessen in there, which surprised me. There were several really enthusiastic cheerleading groups that were fun!

Though there were a lot more bands and dance groups than at any other race I've ever entered, there were about half as many as the last time I did this race. We had about 10 minutes total of silence and the last time there was NO silence. Not a big deal, just a little different.

Toward the end of the race, the water stops were a little closer together which is great when the weather is hot. It was not needed this year, but it is very nice!

At mile 12 I picked up my pace a tiny bit and left Deb and Barbara. Between mile 12 and 13, there were several signs telling how far there was to go. First 3/4 of a mile, then 1/2 mile, then 1/4 mile, then the 13-mile marker. Very cute idea!

Before actually going through the finish corral, I waited for Deb and Barbara. (They were just a couple of minutes behind me.) The finish is very well organized! You are funneled through to get water, then a medal. Volunteers handed each of us a plastic grocery bag to pick up our food, however, the food was slim, so it really was not necessary. We received a cookie, apple, banana and a bag of chips. I would have liked something a little more substantial than one cookie.

From there we encountered a ton of photographers for after-race photos. Deb, Barbara and I did a group shot. We left the fenced in area (with lots of exit doorways) and went to the family reunion area where we agreed to meet at letter A. All of our friends who finished before us were waiting and our final friend found us without any difficulty.

Overall, this is a really good race -- nicely organized, reasonable costs, lots of bands, nice expo, tons of water stops, lots of volunteers, lots of people on the street cheering you on! The shirts are pretty nice -- though mens' sizes, the small technical shirt is small enough to actually fit me. We also got a hat in our goodie bag! The medal is just OK. The one I had from a previous year was much nicer.

The things I didn't like about this race this year: there are so many people, it takes more than a mile to get around enough of them to pick up speed; the food at the end was disappointing; the medal is just OK; there could have been more port-a-johns on the course (a long line at every single one of them); this year's timing chip was built into the bib, meaning we had to make sure our numbers showed when we crossed each computer pad -- lots of layers made that tough.

The good things totally outweigh the dings! I really enjoy this race and would be thrilled to be able to do it every year!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Heading to Indy Mini This Weekend

I'm very excited about doing the Indy Mini Marathon this weekend! It's a great race!

It's relatively flat (meaning I don't remember any hills), there are tons of bands, lots of walkers... it's fun.

My goal is to finish sub 3:07. That would not be a PR for me, but I'm not quite ready for a PR yet. Maybe later this year.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to a good race and with luck no rain.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Feeling Strong Despite Lack of Sleep

This is my taper week before the Indy Mini Marathon, so I should not be walking fast or hard. Today, I just could not help it -- I walked hard and strong for about 50 min. It felt great! All this after I have not slept well in two nights. (I hate when I don't sleep.)

Part of the reason it felt so great to walk tonight is that I've been fighting a fatigue for a couple of weeks. The first few miles of my training walks have been really hard! But tonight I had none of that -- I felt great from the first step!

It's odd that after days of not sleeping, this is when I feel great walking!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Postponed Walk to Miss Rain

This morning it was raining, so I decided to skip walking until later in the day. I got busy and never had the chance to fit in the walk until nearly 7. And at that point, you guessed it, it was raining!

So, I put on walking clothes, grabbed a water-resistant jacket and head out the door. The problem is, the temps are in the 70s, so it is really too warm to wear a jacket. I just was not in the mood to get soaked. After about 20 min the rain stopped and I was able to remove the jacket.

I walked for only 55 min instead of the 6 miles scheduled. I know I'll be OK for next week's Indy Mini Marathon, but I would have liked to burn the extra calories.

The good news is I felt fine the entire walk. Whatever had been causing me to feel tied the first couple miles of every walk is now officially over.