Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gifts of the Season

I tend to run alone. My friends who live near me do not understand my need to run, and certainly don’t want to run with me. They will happily drop off a water bottle or two when I have a 20 miler planned, but the thought of running 5 of those miles makes their skin crawl. So in general, I only run with people at races. I always figured I wasn’t missing out on much running alone all of the time.

This week I found out I was wrong. I was lucky enough to get two running days in with two entirely different runners, both of whom gave me so much in such in the duration of a single run, I had to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) and just talk about it.

My first partner run this week was with my buddy Beth. She is a strong runner who has a marathon PR of 3:15, which she ran at Boston. For reference, my PR is 4:18. We never have run together, I honestly I thought my pace was too slow to run for her. I had a 10K run scheduled. She told me she had been taking it easy and would like to do a slower mid-distance run, so we made a plan to meet up.

Her easy pace turned out to be about a 7:30 minute mile. Go ahead and look at my marathon PR again, and you will understand how I might have been feeling. After a mile I was sure I wasn't going to make it 5 more at that pace, but I kept plodding along, nodding and gasping as she talked easily and caught me up on her life. At the turn-around, she said she wanted to go an extra mile or so and ran up the hill out of site, as I turned around. I know I slowed down after she turned around, but I am sure I was running faster than I would have at all if it wasn't for her. Beth caught me again in the last mile, and we finished the run in what would have been a big PR 10K pace for me.

I had a chance later in the week to run with a friend Danny. Danny is not your typical runner or triathlete - most who look at Dan think he couldn't run 10 feet, not to mention 10 miles. But looks are deceiving; Dan has run 2 marathons and done numerous Olympic distance triathlons. When I mentioned going for a 5 mile run the next morning, he asked if he could come along. Happy for the company, I agreed.

As we stepped out the door the next morning, our conversation turned to our 2010 goals, training, and life – the miles flew by. I mentioned that I was signed up for the Timberman Half Ironman in August. Dan was so positive and kept saying, “Holy cow, that is awesome! Good for you!” We talked about this year’s Kona, and he asked me when I was doing a full Ironman. I laughed him off, but the thought stuck in my head. After 4 miles, Danny headed home and I finished off my 5th mile with dreams of Ironman dancing around in my head.

I learned a lot in those two runs. From Beth I realized that I can push myself to run hard and fast for longer than I thought. I never would have known I could run that fast if it wasn’t for her. I realized that I can I train my body to hold a faster pace for a longer distance. New goal: sub-4 hour marathon this spring. Or as close to 4h as I can get.
My run with Danny re-lit my off-season training fire with his excitement and support of my 2010 race plan. He inadvertently reminded me to always think bigger, reach higher, and that your biggest limiter is always yourself. I came away from that run with an even stronger resolve to stick to my winter training plan.

So whether it is a faster runner pushing you harder than you thought you could go, or a positive, happy, fun person who believes in you more than you believe in yourself, running with friends is good. If only I could convince my friends to run.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sit? Really? For how long?

There are a lot of things that one could be bad at. Some folks can't throw a baseball, train a dog, or cook anything that doesn't come in a box. Me? I am a terrible sitter.

I know, this doesn't sound like a problem. But most people I know are excellent sitters. Sitting is the equivalent of relaxing to most people. (Go ahead, you can replace "most" with "normal" if you want.) In general, people like to sit and talk, or sit and watch TV, or sit at the computer...I can't sit and do anything without knitting, reading, or doing something else in another room, running in every now and then to get caught up on the action. This is all considered rude by other "sitters", who for the most part do not understand how anyone would not want to sit and "relax". Sitting still for hours with nothing to occupy my hands? Are you crazy?

Nothing about sitting is relaxing for me, which sitters can't seem to wrap their mind around. The thing is, if I run 6-12 miles, bike 25 miles, or swim 1 mile - then I can sit. For a little while. I guess I am like a dog, I need a good walk to sit still and behave, preferably twice a day. So I try to wear myself out when I know that these situations are going to arise, so I can "sit". Good girl.

My friends and family know this about me, that I don't sit well. Yet, when I get up at 5am to go for a run, or pull out the knitting needles as soon as I sit down, knowing it is going to be a while, they shake their heads. I really do try to sit but I find if my hands are empty that my mind wanders and I don't hear a thing that anyone is saying. But if I am a little tired and have something in my hands, I am listening.

The other thing with sitters. They don't understand training and are amazed that I participate in triathlons, marathons, and century rides. I like to feel strong and able, and besides, what the heck else am I going to do with this energy? Let it dissipate? Plus, if I don't feed that fire, it will burn out - like I am afraid it has with the sitters in my life.

Happy Holidays to all...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Smashing the Excuse Demon

Every now and then when I am training, this small imaginary guy pops up on my shoulder and whispers, "You don't have time for that..." or "Oh man, you have tons of time before your next race, take a day off.." Today he was whispering, "It is way to freaking cold to go for a run."

I had to admit, this little dude had a point. This morning when I got up, my thermometer read -10 and the wind was howling. Welcome to winter training in Caratunk, Maine. It isn't the coldest I have trained in by any means (last year we had 2 weeks of between -30 and -40), but last week I was running in shorts, so this change was a little shocking to say the least. Since I was working at home, I moved my morning run to my lunch hour, hoping the temperature would creep up to at least zero.

As noon approached, the excuses creeped into my head - "You have too much work to do, you really don't have time..." and "Run tomorrow (which tomorrow turns into run tomorrow...)," and "Did you see that it was -5 in the sun?" That excuse demon was trying to work his way into my head, and he isn't easy to ignore when he speaks what is logic to most people.

As I was starting to give in to the reasons why I shouldn't run, I reviewed my goals for 2010. Granted, this one 5-mile run won't make or break my 2010 season, but whether or not I do it does set a precedent for my off season training. I want a solid base going into 2010, with a spring marathon and a late summer half iron man planned as key races, and this is just a piece of the foundation. I do not need the excuse demon to squeeze into any part of my training; I want him to be a spectator who eventually fades into the crowd.

So I bundled up, laced up my sneakers, and stepped outside. My nostrils froze instantly, and the thought slipped through my head, "Most people don't even ski in this weather, no wonder your neighbors think you are a freak."

Shrugging off the easy out, the excuse that would send me running back inside diving under a blanket with a big cup of hot cocoa and a good book, I pulled my scarf up over my face, put my head down into the wind, and started running. After 5 minutes, I was comfortable. After the first mile, I was warm and enjoying the view of the icy Kennebec River flowing by, not imagining being anywhere else but right where I was, running in the freezing cold with a big smile on my face.

Mandy 1, Excuse Demon 0.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So I have been knitting...

It is so funny how as the weather cools I turn back to my knitting needles, discarded in all the excitement of spring, gardening, biking, and all things outside. The women of Caratunk have a Stitch and Bitch session every Friday night running from November - till it gets nice out. The first meeting was mostly drinking and bitching, and by the third meeting, we actually all brought our knitting needles. So basically it takes us all about a month to get our shit together.

As usual, I have 5+ projects going on right now. One is Branching Out designed by my all-time favorite knitting designer, Susan Pierce Lawrence. Check out her blog here: I Am Knitting As Fast As I Can. I knit her Forest Canopy Shawl for my grandmother last winter.

Yes, I am very proud of that shawl, my grandmother loved it, so did I.

I also have casted on a sweater - the Rogue Sweater by the Girl From Auntie. Actually, it was casted on in March 2009, but I hope to finish the project by March 2010. I am so in love with this sweater, but I am not in love with the yarn I choose for it. I might have to...gasp...RIP this out and start over with new stuff. Sucky.

Another favorite designer of mine is Grumperia , and I am working on her Mother of Pearl Scarf Who says scarfs are boring?

Well, off to the needles...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Dose of Fitness

I had a great run today - so great in fact that I swear I could have run double the distance I did today. Must be all the fresh snow on the ground that got me feeling so fluid. The run got me thinking about my race plan for 2010. I need to know that I am doing a race soon to keep me training. As usual, per Mandy, overly ambitious. I always think big.

- January - 4.5 mile Thaw, Belgrade, ME
- Ski my butt off at Sugarloaf
- End Jan-Early Feb - Baxter Park Trek (5 days, 4 nights)
- Feb - Mid-Winter 10 Mile Classic, Cape Elizabeth, ME
- Polar Bear 5K
- Ski my butt off at Sugarloaf
- March - Another Baxter Trip! That place is a wonderland in the winter
- Ski my butt off at Sugarloaf
- May - Polar Bear Tri (Sprint)
- Sugarloaf Marathon
- June - Pirate Tri (sprint)
- August - Timberman Half Ironman Triathlon (70.2)
- Sept - Lobsterman Triathlon
- Oct - MDI Marathon

I know people think I am crazy. Hell, I think I am crazy sometimes - but the thing is that I love to race longer distances. Nothing makes me feel more alive than when I am participating in an event with other like-minded (crazy) people all trudging along for the same goal. This is speaking from marathon experiance, but as I explore triathlon, I feel the same mid-packer unity I felt in marathon: Must.Get.To.The.Finish.

Planning big is one thing, but I know that actually getting to the start line is another. You can say all day that you want to run a marathon, or that you want to do an Ironman someday - but are you willing to do what it takes to get to that starting line ready and able to compete? That means early mornings and early nights, less bar time and more time in the saddle.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yup, I am going there

You know how sometimes you just want to be bad? That is me right now. Here is my non-organic, unhealthy, but super yummy peanut butter pie recipe. Mine is in the fridge right now...

Peanut Butter Pie
1 pkg (8oz) Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 TBS peanut butter, divided
1 cup cold milk
1 pkg (3.4 oz) Instant Vanilla Pudding mix
2 1/2 cups Cool Whip thawed, divided (this turns out to be an 8oz tub)
1 Oreo Pie crust (6oz)
3 squares Bakers semi-sweet chocolate

Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup peanut butter into submission, or at least until blended. Add milk and dry pudding mix; beat for 2 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup Cool Whip; spoon into crust. Refrigerate until you make the chocolate topping. Yeah, that's right baby. Chocolate.

Microwave remaining Cool Whip and chocolate on high for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, until chocolate is completely melted and it is well blended - stopping every minute to stir. Cool completely.

Spread chocolate mixture onto the peanut butter mixture. Yeah. Microwave the remaining peanut butter (1 Tbs) in small bowl for about 30 seconds, stir, and drizzle over pie. Refrigerate 4 hours. Eat!! Then go for a run.

Happy Birthday John! This pie is for you!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So there I was...

Completely ignoring the fact that I started a blog 3 months ago. My good friend Tam reminded me that I hadn't posted in a while and that she would like to see a post once in a while. Thanks Tam!

I finished 3 triathlons this year, my latest being the Lobsterman Triathlon which was a complete blast. But the water was freaking cold.
I really want to continue to do triathlons, I hope to do a half Ironman next summer. Finding the inspiration to train in the winter in Caratunk is no easy task, but I am up for it and committed. I am dedicating this training season to The Blazeman. Who is the Blazeman you ask?
This video tells his story much better than I can:



Yup, you got it, I am rolling across every finish line in 2010 for Jon Blais, the Blazeman. Maybe I can even raise some money for ALS research (click here to donate)

Yummy Muffins!

I can't go long without talking about food. Now that I am trying to stay in shape, I think about what I eat much more often...So I have these yummy muffins I make so when I don't have time to take time to make something healthy, I just grab one of these babies!

Flax and Apple Muffins
1/4 cup milled flax seed
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour (I find they get kind of heavy otherwise)
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1-1/2 cups chopped apples (or any fruit works)
3 tbsp pumpkin, apple sauce, or cranberry sauce (can use veg oil instead, but I try to cut on fat)
1/2 cup milk (soy milk OK)
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend the dry ingredients in one bowl. Blend egg, pumpkin (whatever you used in that step), and milk. Add dry ingredients until just blended. Fold in apples and nuts (batter will be thick). Fill well-greased (I used Pam) muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when touched. Yield 12 muffins.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Work and play...mostly play!

I know I know, I haven't posted for 2 weeks! So much has happened...I completed my first triathlon, The Pirate Triathlon, on June 7. That was so much fun, it in itself should be a blog entry...maybe for my next triathlon. I will leave it at this: I had a blast and can't wait to do my next one.

I have been working a ton, my boy Bailey as always, is my right hand man. I have been seeing a lot of interesting things in the woods - just yesterday I saw a doe and a very young fawn, a moose, a hen turkey with 5 chicks, and more rabbits (big and little) than I can count. Of course, I don't get pictures of the cool stuff that moves fast. My pictures are of a turtle that I helped across the road....and a snail. Super exciting I know....I guess I was not meant to be an action wildlife photographer...


This past weekend I completed the Trek Across Maine, a 3-day, 170 mile bike ride across the state of Maine - from Sunday River Ski Resort to Belfast. The weather was wet, to say the least, especially on the first day. But the riding was good, the volunteers amazing, the friends awesome, and the cause very worthy. I even got to meet the Oakhurst Acorn, Oakie. My friend Beth was kind enough to pick me up, and brought Bailey to greet me. We even made the local paper.


On to the garden! I know you are all dying to hear what is happening out there! My globemasters have finally bloomed! They are my favorites. These are softball sized blooms that the honey bees love. My peonys are also in bloom, and they are gorgeous. They are here for such a short time, and it seems that no one is here but John and I when they are at their peak.

What is especially exciting for me is that my columbines are finally taking off. I have been nurturing them for 3 years, and all that hard work is finally paying off in having some native Maine Columbines naturalizing around my garden and out back. Thank you Fedco for the fabulous root stock, I cannot believe these things survived my fumblings. They are definitely well-established now, and I hope they thrive.


My garlic is happy happy happy - I cannot believe how well these guys are doing. I get to have my first scapes - I think I am going to make scape infused hamburgers on the grill tonight with some freshly picked lettuce salad...Yum! OH, what is a scape, you ask? They are garlic lovers nirvana...They kind of look like a cross between a tentacle and a plant...Scapes are the curly-cue tops of the garlic plant that appear in early July. If left to mature, they will straighten up and form heads of from twelve to twenty chickpea-sized mini-bulbs called bulbils. These bulbils may be used as is like miniature garlic cloves, or may be saved to plant in the fall.

Scapes may be cut off as soon as they form to use as garlic scallions while you are waiting for your garlic bulbs to mature. These are available only a few weeks of the year, and they are good! You can cut them up and freeze them for later use if you are not able to eat them all as they come.

Peas are here! YEAH! It is not even July yet! So exciting. I planted on April 19th, and had my first harvest of sugar snap peas today, June 25. The ones you see at right are in my belly right now! I always wonder why I don't plant more of these things. Truth be told, I ate a few on the 19th of June, but they were not really ready. The yellow peas are a little behind my sugar snap peas. I think John's family is coming up next weekend, with luck these yellow peas will taste as good as they look and the kids will get some enjoyment out of them.


Well, that is all for now, I will try to update the blog more frequently, my goal is to update it every week. I have a new bread recipe I am going to try out, if it works, I will post it here. I will end with a big, fat bumble bee picture I took out by my columbines. This big fat girl was so funny on the delicate columbine, I am surprised she did not rip the flower off of the stem while she was hanging on collecting pollen...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quinoa Salad Anyone?

My man John looked at me funny the first time I made quinoa. "What's that stuff?" he asks poking at it tentatively, not sure what these alien grains were. I encouraged him by telling him it is like rice, just a little different. "Huh" he says and takes a tiny bite. Immediately, his head shoots up, "That's good stuff."

Yeah, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is pretty darn good stuff. It was one of the most important foods to the Inca's. Recently it has become more popular and thus more readily available in most supermarkets. I always made it in place of rice. I never thought of making a quinoa salad until I visited my friend Tam. She made this quinoa salad that had for dinner one night while camping. It was awesome - what a great idea for summer barbecue instead of pasta or potato salad. And it is a total protein, all good stuff there.

Cooking Quinoa
Heat water or broth to boiling, add quinoa. Let boil for 5 minutes, cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Done. No kidding, it works.

Quinoa Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 red bell pepper
1 tbs minced red onion
1 small cucumber diced
1 can of black beans, washed and drained
1/2-3/4 cup fresh cilantro (you can use parsley also, but I love the refreshing taste cilantro gives to this)
1/4 cup Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing (or make your own, I didn't have time)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pepper (to taste)

Mix everything together. Yeah, really, just like that. Add more dressing if you want, I like mine lightly dressed. Eat. Yum!



Friday, May 22, 2009

Breakfast

Breakfast is always a challenge for me. The easy thing to do is grab a breakfast sandwich from some general store...or McDonald's - depending on which way I am heading. Of course, that leads to my butt growing by unbelievable proportions...that, and I am really making an effort to eat non-processed stuff without synthetic crap in it....Which, by the way is not easy, because processed food with high fructose corn syrup and unpronouceables is so darn easy and convenient....So, what to do? My friend Tam came up with this awesome breakfast that is so yummy. You can mix and match this one around and add nuts, fresh or dried fruit (I always use organic when I can find it, living in Caratunk makes that no small feat).

Oats and Nuts ~ Trust me guys, it is better than it sounds...
I never measure, but I will try...Now the oats - I keep a batch of roasted oats on hand in a Ball Jar, but also use the raw ones once in a while...either is really yummy. Next time I roast them I will post on it and take a pictures..(it is easy, throw the oats on a cookie sheet, mix with maple syrup, bake at 350 until golden...20 minutes or so)

But, here is my favorite breakfast (right now)

1/2 cup oats (raw or toasted)
1/2 cup...I use nuts, seeds, dry fruit, chopped apple or pear, banana...but mix and match as you see fit.
~ I add a few shakes of cinnamon, and some flax seeds
Vanilla soy milk, or regular milk

Throw the oats in the bowl, throw the fruit/nuts on top, add cinnamon/flax seed if you wish, and then add milk. Eat...yummm

Heathlier Breakfast Sandwich ~ to Go!
So I also love breakfast sandwiches, but they are like a 500 calorie bomb that heads straight to my butt. How do you lighten it up? WELL, this is quick and easy, and you can be out the door quickly.

Whole Wheat English Muffin
Spray oil
2 eggs (1 whole egg, one egg white)
Sliced low-fat cheese (you pick the flavor)
I like it meatless, but you can add your favorite cooked breakfast meat to this list
Aluminum foil

Pull a small piece of aluminum foil (like 6-8 inches), tear and set aside. Put English Muffin in the toaster. Crack and separate eggs (get rid of one yolk), then beat them. Spray a small bowl with spray oil, put eggs in and put in microwave (covered with a paper towel). Cook for 1 minute, check to see if it is done, cook another 30 seconds until done. If you are using meat, put it on the cooked egg, then cheese on top. Take one half of the toasted English on top, holding it, turn the bowl over and remove, then put the other half of the English muffin on top to make a sandwich. Wrap in foil, and run out the door...Eat...yummmm

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nut Butter Banana Smoothie ~ Bliss

I am thinking about food...
I have been trying to get all the processed/chemical/etc crap out of my diet, which is no small feat. This has been an evolving process, and I now find that there are more and more people who want to know what is in what they eat. I have a few recipes that I really love, I thought I would post them here to share and as a way to start my first blog.

Sorry no pictures of my finished recipes yet, I will add them when I get my camera working again, or when I buy a new one...With all of the recipes I post, I use organic ingredients when available.

Nut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 tbs nut butter (I like almond, but any nut butter works)
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (Use what you like, I love Stonyfield Farms, it is organic and made close to Maine. I choose plain to keep the sugar down, but vanilla works well too)
1 cup milk (soy or almond milk OK)
1 banana cut into large chunks (OHH yeah, even better, frozen banana...)
Cinnamon to taste

Blend all ingredients together. Eat. Yum.

I have an immersion blender that I love, just make sure you unplug it before you clean it out with your finger...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

IIIIImmmm Baaack!

A lot has happened in the 9 months since I have posted here. First, my camera broke, so for now, I have no pictures, I hope I can add them into this blog later.

Sooo...What's New With Mandy?

I started knitting - I am so happy to have started, and I plan on doing a section on knitting. And I also gained about 10 lbs, my usual winter treat - so I plan on adding a section on fitness and my training. As far as my garden goes, my garlic is coming along super well, my peas need more support, and my tomatoes are dying to get in the ground...BUT all seeds are from seeds I saved! So that is great news. And my sweet Bailey boy is doing great, 8 years old and going strong!!

My Plan

My plan is to get into shape, have a fabulous garden, make all homemade gifts from now on, and to take great care of Bailey. Let's break this down...

Let's Get Into Shape!

My getting into shape plan includes creating and posting recipies and my weekly workout post to show if I have been keeping up with my plan. I have signed up for a triathlon, 2 bike rides (one is 180 miles, the other 100), and a marathon. That should keep me busy.

Fabulous Garden!

Yeah, I know I can do it, wait until I post pictures! I have broccoli, cauliflower, beans, beans, beans, corn, potatoes, peas, carrots, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, basil, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, zucchini, lettuce, beets, parsnips, turnups, and who knows what else out there.

Knitting

I am currently knitting 2 new scarfs. I have to quit giving things away so I have something to give away at Christmas/birthdays...I hope to have a stash of stuff by year end. My proudest work is Susan Pierce Lawrence's Forest Canopy Shawl

Bailey
Well, my boy is doing great. I hug and walk him daily. Don't have much to report here!