Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I'm thankful for....

The holidays are not my favorite time of year for many reasons, mostly because I associate them with family gatherings in my younger years that involved a lot of not so nice words exchanged usually from family members to me about my weight. I think a common misconception about overweight people is if you tell them they're fat they will want to diet and lose weight. On the contrary, the more my family made fun of me the more I wanted to eat. Like most plump people, I was very unhappy and my family only made me more unhappy. The only thing that made me feel good was food.

I have made many changes in my life to become happier and healthier, the first change I made was about 10 years ago, I distanced myself from the negative influences in my life (aka - my family) and instead of wallowing in everything that made me unhappy I tried to focus on what truly made me happy. It wasn't something I discovered overnight and I'm still learning, but I no longer view food as a source of happiness. Don't get me wrong, I DO really enjoy food. In fact, I enjoy it more now than I ever did when I was a 'Fatty McFatterson'. Now I view food as fuel for all the other fun stuff I REALLY enjoy doing.

I enjoy eating REAL food and cooking healthy meals that taste amazing. I take time to prepare my food and find the freshest ingredients and the yummiest recipes. I love trying new recipes and new foods that I never thought I'd like. I love exploring exotic flavors and spices and blending it all together to create culinary magic that pleases the palate and doesn't go straight to my hips.

So, this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my health and my new appreciation of food. I'm thankful for all the fabulous friends I've made over the last 10 years and especially more recently in the running world, they are my family now. I'm even thankful for my family because the difficult times I had growing up made me the strong, independent, confident, and courageous person I am today. I'm thankful that through running and my journey of a thousand miles I've reconnected with my mom and some old family friends.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am cooking for my mom, my brother, and my grandmother. The menu will include mostly vegetarian dishes with a small roasted turkey breast on the side. I've said it before and I'll say it again - when planning a meal meat should be the accessory not the main attraction and really isn't necessary at all. Here's what we will be having (be prepared to drool a little): Butternut squash and apple soup, Wild rice stuffed acorn squash, Veggie gratin (think green bean casserole only better), roasted brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms, rosemary mashed potatoes, traditional stuffing with dried cranberries, steamed green beans, homemade cranberry chutney, vegan cornbread muffins, and a small roasted turkey breast. For dessert I baked a cranberry swirl cheesecake and prepared a cran-raspberry compote to serve it with and I will also have my famous pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap pecan crust and caramel swirl. Here's what the cranberry swirl cheesecake looks like:

You may think I've been so busy planning this meal and preparing for it that I haven't had time to run, well you would be wrong. Last week after the half marathon, I did have a little trouble getting motivated early in the week to do much running, but I made up for it at the end of the week. I ran 7 miles Friday night when I got home from work. Then I got up super early Saturday morning and ran a 'sunrise special' (to borrow a term from a fellow runner) 8 miler before I headed into Boston to start my stair climb training off right with a free bootcamp at the Bunker Hill Monument.

We didn't climb the actual monument because there was a huge tour group there. Instead we climbed the 4 staircases that surround the monument multiple times and mixed in some fun body weight exercises in between. Squats, lunges, frog leaps, jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, etc. and laps around the monument up and down the stairs. I felt pretty good for the whole workout. After all, I eat hills for breakfast so a few stairs are like a snack for me.

Sunday I was suppose to run 14 miles according to my Goofy training plan, but I was also planning to run a 5K/5M race with a few friends at 10:00am so it would be tough to do both. Oh and when I woke up Sunday morning I felt every single one of those stairs that I had climbed. So, again I headed out for a 'sunrise special' and squeaked in 13 miles before heading to the race. I had planned on doing the 5 miler, but when my friend said she was only doing the 5K I was super excited and did not even try to talk her into doing more. The race was fun and it was a perfect day for it. Sunny and mid-50s with a little wind.

After the race I went back to my friend Cherie's house and her son Mitchell made us the best cup of coffee in the World! I'm not kidding, this kid really knows how to brew a good cup o' joe. He also made us chocolate chip pancakes and I had brought over some pumpkin bread that we devoured too. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.

This week is a short work week and then it's a 4 day weekend! My running plans for the weekend include a 5K turkey trot, perhaps a short fun run on black Friday, then more Goofy training Saturday and Sunday with a 10 miler followed by a 16 miler. This will be my first 16 miler since Chicago. After the half marathon and my long run last weekend I can say without a doubt that my body is ready for long distances again. I am loving the cooler temeratures and quiet mornings in the backroads of New England. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How did it get to be mid-November already?

I guess time really does fly when life is good. I think I kinda sorta found my motivation again, but still need to get back into a routine that includes crosstraining and strength training. I've been looking into joining a gym near work so that maybe I can add cross and strength back in after work on days that I'm not running. I really need to do something. My running is going well, but it could be a lot better.

It's been a wicked busy first half of November. My job is still awesome. I'm busy and learning a ton of new things and making progress on the big project I'm working on. Last week someone totally made my day, really my year. I was meeting with one of the directors to review a document he had written to remediate to one of the standards we're implementing - basically a local procedure to be inline with a corporate procedure. As we worked through the document line by line, he stopped and said, he was skeptical at first that an additional resource would be able to help much on the impossible project we have to tackle, but he said it has been a pleasure having me on the team. That kind of appreciation means so much to me after working at my previous job for so long being treated like a worthless drone. I was smiling so much for the rest of the day my cheeks got sore.

Outside of work I've been working really hard to recruit people for the Race Up Boston Place stair climb event in Boston to benefit American Lung Association. It's unlike any other race and it has a firefighter competition too - the firefighters climb in full gear. So, I'm on the race committee and doing what I can to help recruit more fire departments. I run past 2 of the Lowell Fire stations all the time and keep harassing them to register. On my longer runs on the weekends I have been running to other town fire departments. I've got Tewksbury and Dracut so far. I still need to get Andover and Chelmsford. I'll be really disappointed if Lowell Fire doesn't bring a team. I've recruited them every chance I get. I even gave a group of them flyers at the grocery store one day.

I need to get more of my friends to register for the event too. So far my team only has two members including me. I plan to climb with at least one other team too and possible two other teams. I'd LOVE to climb in firefighter gear just for shits and giggles and to see if I can do it. I'm working on that too. So, anyway, if you're one of my friends and from the greater Boston area and you're reading this - PLEASE sign up for the climb already. What are you waiting for? What do I have to do to motivate people? I'm going to bring cookies to the race. I could even be persuaded to bake a cheesecake or cupcakes. Go to the following link, click on more info, then join a team, and search for "Infinite Awesomeness"

In addition to work and recruiting for the climb, I have started to ramp up my training for the Goofy Challenge. Since Chicago I have gone from 10 miles total the week following the marathon, to two weeks at 25 miles total, and now two weeks at 40 miles total. I've done back to back long runs two weeks in a row now. First was 9 and 12 and this weekend I did 8 and 13.1, next weekend I plan to do 8 and 14. This past weekend I ran the Chilly Half marathon in Newton, MA. It runs part of the marathon course and mostly through the neighborhoods around heartbreak hill, so as you can imagine the overall elevation of the course was pretty challenging.

The half marathon was really nice. It was perfect weather, 50s and partly sunny. It was a little windy at some points. The hills were not as bad as I expected them to be. I love the Newton Hills so I LOVED this course. The race organization was pretty good. They had tons of volunteers along the course and they were all very enthusiastic and cheerful. The only part that sort of sucked was one of the busier intersections, the cops actually stopped the runners to let traffic go through! Seriously? I mean I know I was in the back of the pack, but those 30 seconds meant the difference between being under 2:05 and being over 2:05. Could have been a PR for some people, I'd be pissed if it was for me. After the finish they had a ton of vendors and freebies at the high school. And the medal is really nice too. Overall, I'd run it again.

Not much on deck for the rest of the year. Mostly focusing on Goofy training and starting to try and work in some stair climb training and recruiting more people to join. I can't believe next week is Thanksgiving. I'm planning a mostly vegetarian meal for my family and a small turkey breast because they'd kill me if I didn't have it. I'm going to try a new cheesecake recipe and a few other yummy treats. Before I know it the holidays will be here and I'll be making sugar cookies and candy wreaths. Then it will be time to fly to Florida for Goofy - which reminds me I should probably book my flights.