Saturday, July 23, 2011

10k ready: Day 1 success!

Just a quickie to note today's running. I woke up with my mind set on a rest day with a long run tomorrow, then realized that we've plans upon plans for most of Sunday.

So I readjusted my mindset and schedule today and hopped on the  treadmill around noon. The  SmartCoach plan sets Saturdays as long run days. Today was logged for 4 miles.

I took a 6min run, 2min walk tactic to ensure success for my first 4 miler of the year. After 52 mins I finished the 4, ending  after cooldown at 4.3 miles in 55mins total.

Lesson: A goal & thoughtful tactics & a smile along the way = success!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Savoring Summer: Plum Island and BHH Movies by Moonlight

New England offers countless delights for locals and visitors in the summertime. This summer, Heather and I have planned alternating weekends home (Boston) and away (Maine) so as to maximize the summertime fun. As we're seeing and doing new things, we've committed to writing a travel diary (old school notebook style) with photos, directions, highlights and hints so that we can add and reflect back in later years.

As part of that endeavor, I'm personally committing to sharing these experiences through A big lass weighs in... While this blog is mostly about my commitments to and challenges with weight, health and fitness, I've slowly realized that maintaining a balance of work and play is essential for my mental, emotional, social and physical well-being. So, each week for the rest of the summer you can expect to see a "Savoring Summer" post highlighting one or two of our recent fair weather enjoyments.

Week 1: Plum Island and Movies by Moonlight

Plum Island
Heather and I laced up last week for a trip to Plum Island near Newburyport, MA. The purpose of the trip was three-fold: 1- Enjoy a shoreline cycle, 2- Enjoy the beach, and 3- Get out of town! We were successful on all of the above; although learned some tips for a next visit!

Our good friend Ruth, an avid Plum Island visitor, advised us to park in the neighborhoods just north of Newburyport town center. This both ensures free parking (always a plus) but also lengthens the short ride between Newburyport and Plus Island (another plus).

The cycling through Newburyport and out to Plum Island is delightful. The views are lovely and the roads are gentle- I only wished there was more distance! Round-trip to the island + toodling around the island we biked a total of 13miles or so.

Once on Plum Island we explored a little and snapped a couple of photos of the island fixer-uppers (most of the homes are in very good shape) before heading to the beach. The water and beach were lovely. Pointers we learned: 1- Bring bug spray as the sand flies are vicious, 2- Pack snacks. There are few places to pick anything up. 3- Wear bathing suit under shorts and bike out ready to go. Otherwise you risk having to change in a porta-potty. From my experience I can attest that it's not fun. 4- Did I mention to bring snacks? We went around lunchtime sans lunch so our capacity to enjoy the beach for an extended period was limited by grumbling tummies. 5- Oh, and don't drop the bike lock in the sand. Sand will clog up the lock and you'll have to walk your bikes onto the beach without getting sand in the chains. Tricky.

On the way back to the car we stopped by Bob Lobster (yup, Bob Lobster not Bob's Lobster) for some clam chowda (for Heather) and french fries (shared). We sad next to a family visiting from Portugal who were originally disappointed to find out that Bob Lobster doesn't serve alcohol. However, after being reassured that they could bring their own, the father of the family popped away to the local liquor store and returned with red wine and a corkscrew. After a toast and a photo they settled into mussels, chowda, and lobsters. Success!

We headed straight back to the car thereafter so we could get into Boston pre-traffic. Next time, I'd wander the shops in Newburyport and/or sit and people watch in the square. It's a quaint little town.

Here are a few photos from our trip. Overall, our Plum Island experience = two thumbs up!

So, due to being married to a New Englander and working in a non-profit, I've learned to look out for the freebie Boston experiences. In summer there's a glut of free outdoor summer activities thanks our the 3 months of consistent good weather we get all year. Movies by Moonlight at the Boston Harbor Hotel is one of the gems of free Boston enjoyments. Part of their Summer Series, Movies by Moonlight showcases classic films, a harbor view and popcorn. :) Last year we enjoyed viewing The Maltese Falcon and Field of Dreams. Last Friday, we headed out for The Pink Panther and plan to see An Affair to Remember at summer's end.

There are two options for movie goers:

For those flush Bostonians among us you can sit at harborside tables set up by the Boston Harbor Hotel's restaurant. Heather and I did this one year (you have to show up early- like by 6pm for an 8pm movie). Diners can sit at their tables through the length of the film. Heather and I did this our first year- it was delightful and expensive. Between drinks, dinner and dessert we were looking at far over $100 for two people. But, it's a fun splurge.

Thrifty movie goers can cop a seat on the BHH's steps. The hotel provides foam cushions on a first-come first-served basis (though after sitting on concrete for a few hours, it's helpful to have additional tush-cushioning!). Stair-watchers usually start to arrive around 7:00pm - it does fill quickly. Heather and I have reverted to this option for all of our other movie outings. We arrive around 6:30pm, bring Chinese food, a covert bottle of red wine, lots of water and popcorn.

It's a great experience- from watching the harbor happenings pre-movie, to enjoying the water sunset, and sharing a group film experience. I'd highly recommend trying this summer experience. We snapped a few photos last week to share. Enjoy!

A double-run day and 2 miles in the heat

Running is my success this summer. Even when I'm tired, cranky, overwhelmed, under-resourced, or in pain I've committed to my runs for the past 3 months.

I started off with the Couch to 5k App, which I followed through week 7 (at that point the directions become warm up for 5 mins- run for 25 mins- cool down for 3 mins; warm up for 5 mins- run for 27 mins- cool down for 3 mins; warm up for 5 mins-run for 30 mins- cool down for 3 mins... you get the idea). Since then I've been trying to log between 2-3.5 miles per run at least 4 times per week.

Thanks to my CardioTrainer App, I'm able to really see an appreciate my progress. My weeks begin on Sundays. This week I've run 5 times for a total of 13.6miles. Now normally, I would've only done 3 or 4 runs by now, but I logged an extra run on Sunday while down Maine and tackled a double-run day on Wednesday.

For those that are unfamiliar with double-run days, it's simple. A day where a runner chooses to run twice in one day- usually spaced at least 4 hours apart. I first learned the concept through a Runner's World article (thanks to my mum-in-law I'm a subscriber now!). On the way home from work this Wednesday all I could this was, "This is a double-run day". So, after playing with the dog I laced up and hit the treadmill for just over 2 miles.

It was harder than I expected.

I'm not sure if it was the heat, the end of day, or the lightweight running shoes (a new pair of Nike's given to me by my friend Kimmie), bit I had to work for those 2 miles. And I did. I calmed my stride (the shoes kept me on the balls of my feet so I kept the pace slowed down to take care of my calves), I calmed my breathing, and then I reveled in my first double-run day of the year. That run was the best thing for me on Wednesday. I realized as I was running that I needed a double-run to give me something to accomplish. My day had been "blah" until I decided to run that evening. I'd had no projects or challenges at work that day. Despite my a.m. run, my general motivation and happiness had lowered as my work day progressed. I needed a double-run to make me feel successful. And while it wasn't fast and it wasn't long, it was successful. And so was I.

As I determine where to go from here, I'm considering a running plan that was created for me through the Runner's World Smart Coach program (a free program for Runner's World online members). It's for working up to a 10k race in a 12-week period and, while I'm not planning for a 10k, it would give me some structure to plan my runs around. I want to be careful as I'm still building up my knee post-injury last year, so I'll need to be more mindful as I take this new challenge on. While the plan below is a static plan, my experience this week underscores that I'll need to keep it dynamic. I may need some days where I need to skip a run and I may have others where I need to add one in.

Either way, it's about feeling successful- in running, and health, and healing.

WEEK 1: 4 Mi
Sat Jul 23 Long Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:41

WEEK 2: 11 Mi
Mon Jul 25 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:42
Wed Jul 27 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:42
Sat Jul 30 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:42

WEEK 3: 12 Mi
Mon Aug 1 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:41
Wed Aug 3 Tempo Run Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 2 Mi @ 11:55; Cool
Sat Aug 6 Long Run Dist: 5 Mi @13:41

WEEK 4: 10 Mi
Mon Aug 8 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:38
Wed Aug 10 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:38
Sat Aug 13 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:38

WEEK 5: 13 Mi
Mon Aug 15 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:38
Wed Aug 17 Tempo Run Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 2 Mi @ 11:52; Cool
Sat Aug 20 Long Run Dist: 5 Mi @13:38

WEEK 6: 14 Mi
Mon Aug 22 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @13:35
Wed Aug 24 Speedwork Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 3x800 in 5:21 w/400 jogs; Cool
Sat Aug 27 Long Run Dist: 6 Mi @13:35

WEEK 7: 15 Mi
Mon Aug 29 Easy Run Dist: 5 Mi @13:32
Wed Aug 31 Tempo Run Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 2 Mi @ 11:46; Cool
Sat Sep 3 Long Run Dist: 6 Mi @13:32

WEEK 8: 12 Mi
Mon Sep 5 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:29
Wed Sep 7 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:29
Thu Sep 8 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:29
Sat Sep 10 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @13:29

WEEK 9: 16 Mi
Mon Sep 12 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:29
Wed Sep 14 Tempo Run Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 2 Mi @ 11:43; Cool
Thu Sep 15 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:29
Sat Sep 17 Long Run Dist: 8 Mi @13:29

WEEK 10: 16 Mi
Mon Sep 19 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:26
Wed Sep 21 Speedwork Dist: 4 Mi, inc Warm; 3x800 in 5:17 w/400 jogs; Cool
Thu Sep 22 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:26
Sat Sep 24 Long Run Dist: 8 Mi @13:26

WEEK 11: 17 Mi
Mon Sep 26 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:23
Wed Sep 28 Tempo Run Dist: 5 Mi, inc Warm; 3 Mi @ 11:44; Cool
Thu Sep 29 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:23
Sat Oct 1 Long Run Dist: 8 Mi @13:23

WEEK 12: 11 Mi
Mon Oct 3 Easy Run Dist: 2 Mi @13:20
Wed Oct 5 Speedwork Dist: 3 Mi, inc Warm; 2x800 in 5:14 w/400 jogs; Cool
Sat Oct 8 10K Race Day 10K @11:25 Time: 1:10:55

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Days are passing...

My little cuz just posted recently on her Facebook that she'd successfully gone shopping for her "21st outfit". I remember when she was brought home form the hospital and my brother and cousins (her elder brother and sister) bathed her in the tub. She was so small - now she's studying to become a solicitor in Scotland.

How time passes.

I've just over 9 months until I reach my 30th year. At this juncture I realize how much I've changed. I've identified pieces of my life I'd like to take back, wounds I'd like to lay to rest, heels I wished I'd dug in more, paths I wished I explored further, challenges I could've pushed for and moments I wish I'd revelled in.

I think it's often easier to identify the negatives. The "I wishes" and "I shoulds" rather than then "I dids" and the "I am proud ofs". In general, I'm still learning to appreciate those "I did it and I'm proud of it" moments in my history - especially the moments that were difficult decisions, those that led to changes in career paths and friendships and old patterns.

What I'm learning in these months as I approach my new decade is that I've got to appreciate each passing day. I must sit in the daily decisions I make- the decisions to go to sleep early or to rise late, to get up and run or to sip tea slowly, to reach out to family far away or to hug the ones close to me, to position myself toward new goals or to focus in on those at hand. In all of it, I'm learning to be authentic, even when it hurts, and to trust that the Universe will give as much as she takes, even when that hurts. I'm learning to be a role model, to nurture my nieces and nephews, to love my family even more deeply, to develop a marital relationship that is healthy, to prioritize balance in work and play, and to seek those things that make me feel full- spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

And, I can only do these things day by day. I hope that I'm making the most of time, as it passes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Biking to work: Highlights and lessons learned through a 20-mile round-trip journey

Yesterday I tackled and completed my first bike ride of the year- 10 miles to and from home to work. I can't say that I loved every moment (the two hills within the last mile of coming home were killer in 89 degree heat), but I found the overall experience exhilarating. While my wife is not totally surprised that I loved biking to work (she does so twice a week- 16 mile round-trip), I'm a little taken aback at my immediate love for road-biking. Since purchasing my road bike from a friend last year (note: she used to ride the bike to work regularly to so it's seen a few miles!) I've only cycled on paved bike trails and local neighborhood roads, so yesterday's endeavor was do-or-die in the realm of my experience.

When I came home last night, I quickly jotted down highlights and lessons learned in my diary to commemorate the experience. Here they are- enjoy!

1. Making it up all the hills without stopping- including the long slow one up Commonwealth Ave from Newton Center to Hammond Pond Parkway, the medium slow one by Chestnut Hill Mall, and the steep b@st@rd beside the Arboretum in Roslindale!

2. Not being afraid to take on the three rotary challenges in pre- 9am traffic... (I didn't run into any problems until rotary #3 when I was nearly run over... see Lessons Learned # 1)

3. Feeling the breeze as I raced/coasted downhill with legs straightened to stretch out my knees and my head hunkered down- glorious!!! (Though to the cars traveling behind me to whom I was subjecting my derriere for viewing I imagined the word as"Glory-@ss"... it helped get me laughing up the uphills!)

4. Making it to work and home in 50 minutes each way. The Google Maps said it should've taken me 59 minutes...woot!

5. The beauty of the road and woods by Allandale Farms in Roslindale. Lovely. (And the shade was well received in the hot afternoon)

6. Meeting a goal I made to start biking to work once a week during the summer. Now I have to keep it up!

Lessons Learned
1. Drivers only know the rules of the road as it applies to them. They do not realize that pedestrians and cyclists have right of way. Specifically, Brookline drivers don't realize that if a cyclist is going through a rotary they are acting like a car. Aka- if you don't see a cyclist signaling to get off the rotary at an exit, then expect that they're going around it just like everyone else. If you don't learn this rule, you're going to run over a cyclist. Like me. And that's going to make lots of people sad- including me.

2. Most drivers are jealous of cyclists. 1- Cyclists aren't paying $4.85/gallon to get to work and back. 2- Cyclists are burning off fabulous amounts of calories and building amazing muscle. Jealousy must be one reason why drivers try to run cyclists off the road.

3. Cars with JP (Jamaica Plain) bumper stickers are awesome- after making a left turn on a divided highway they'll slow down to let you cross over the road to the right shoulder (they do this in Roslindale too). In contrast, cars in Newton just run you over - whether you're crossing to the shoulder or just toodling merrily on your way.

4. Never bike on the road behind Newton North High School. The city may have paid millions to construct a new building, parking lot, green space and renovate the road in front of the school, but they didn't extend that cash to the back end. It's a maze of potholes, cracks and narrow, trashed lanes.

5. After 20 miles to and from work things hurt. I've tight shoulders from my backpack, achey quads from the hills, calloused hands from tightly gripping those handlebars while avoiding aggressive SUVs. And if anyone has recommendations for padded bike shorts, I'll take those asap. This is a habit I'd like to continue- with minimal discomfort if possible!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Redemption by way of a summer meal

Tonight I arrived home with an upset tummy and a frustrated brain. Despite the heat, I followed through on my commitment to run (after playing with my panting puppy, Bryce). And, after a grueling 3.4 miles of trying to rally my brain and my legs to work together, I finished satisfied with my efforts yet not unwound.

I was, however, ravenous.

Now the single revelation that came to me today through my sweaty slogging was "chickpeas". That's it- chickpeas. Miraculously, in stretching out my legs my brain also stretched out and I imagined chickpeas with artichokes, in some light summer dressing with a little arugula tossed in for good measure and color.

A quick search on the trusty Android later and I had a Vegetarian Times recipe in hand. Not having all of the ingredients I made my own modifications and beefed it up a little to my tastes (and appetite). Behold, I present to you, Citrus Chickpea Salad.

1 1/2 cups chickpeas
32 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes
3 cups artichoke hearts (can use frozen or canned in water)

Citrus dressing:
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped

1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place in large serving bowl (preferable something pretty)
2. Drain tomatoes and discard juice. Roughly chop tomatoes. Add to chickpeas.
3. Defrost (if necessary) OR drain and rinse (if necessary) artichoke hearts. Add to bowl.
4. In a small dish mix ingredients for dressing. Once mixed, pour over chickpea blend.
5. Toss dressing with chickpea blend.
6. Serve 1 cup of Citrus Chickpea Salad atop 1 cup arugula and top with 2oz cooked rigatoni.
7. Enjoy :)

For Weight Watchers folks, 1 cup of chickpea mixture is 7 PointsPlus. With the arugula and rigatoni, the meal is 9 PointsPlus and very filling. Lots of protein.

Now, it was 8:30pm before I when I started prepping this meal. And, as I had to defrost the artichokes and didn't think to start heating the water for rigatoni (a Jo-inspired addition) until after the salad was created, I didn't sit down to eat until 9:15pm. But, amazingly, throughout that time my mind quieted and my body relaxed. And while I'm sure my run, post-run shower, and chat with my mum all aided to that effect, I'm convinced that this salad is redemptive. The velvety, freshly picked basil mixed with the sharp, tangy garlic smells undid all the knots in my brain and settled my heart. And, you can believe that I enjoyed every last bite.

I enjoyed my dinner and the process creating it so much, that I was also satisfied with a mere sensation of dessert- 1/4 cup strawberry ice-cream with a little spray cream. A 2 PointsPlus delight made richer by the ability to simply enjoy it with my being instead of eating it to calm my mind. For those of you who know me intimately, you understand that dessert is rarely something I enjoy in small portions and is often something I use to cope with stress.

I wonder if the undoing of eating disorders is to be found in the cooking of inspired meals because, tonight, I feel redeemed.