Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rationalizing My Irrational Fear of Injury

I'm terrified of being injured and not being able to run. Terrified. The kind of anxiety that I know isn't rational. Totally irrational. It's the same fear which grips me when my kids get sick. I'll get to that later. It's not the same fear I have of heights or of animals that have no appendages. It's the kind of fear that goes straight to the worst. And it leaves me helpless and emotionally ravaged.

I just finished my first run since the Chicago Polar Dash. Before the run I was in pain due to my glute. After the race my glute felt great. In fact the day after I felt great all over. On Monday a pain developed in lower left abdomen. I immediately thought, "Oh no, I have a hernia." I poked and prodded and felt around. In retrospect I'm pretty sure I bruised myself in the prodding. Today when I ran I realized that the tendons/muscles around my hip were stressed/stretched. I changed my gait and slowed down my pace to compensate. I see more strength training in the near future. I'm icing it right now. When the pain arrived though my mind went straight to the worst. Surgery. Bed rest. Never running again.

Unfortunately I have a pattern of this. Last year when I ran the Milwaukee Marathon I tore some tissue in my left calf (which may have precipitated the current hip/ab weakness). I kept digging around feeling the knot in my calf. Deep Vein Thrombosis. Never running again.

The cramp in my side six weeks after my appendectomy and one week after the Danskin Triathlon I asked my doctor about was just a regular runner's side stitch, not a suture. Thankfully the intern I talked with before my surgeon was a runner. He even asked me my mileage. I didn't know what a side stitch was, but I thought it was scar tissue or worse, something crippling. Never running again.

I do know people who have had hernias, (and run again) DVT (not running but can cross country ski) and have scar tissue (and can run). When I read about Dimity at another mother runner, I have great empathy, and my mind doesn't go to the worst. My rational mind kicks in. I know she's going to heal and what she's going through is a season. A horrible, scary season. But she's in the process of healing. Why doesn't my brain kick in for myself? Where does my Marsha Brady "We're not going to make it!!" come from? Good question.

I think honestly it comes from my mom, Tia. She died at the same age I am now -39- of ovarian cancer. My last memory of her before she died was her being carried out of the house in a lawn chair. She was so weak and frail. She had been sick for a long time before she was diagnosed. She also fought for almost two years after her diagnosis. That last image of mom stirs up all the feelings of helplessness. Her sickness causes all sorts of feelings of helplessness in me. When my kids get really sick, I'm practically useless. When Iona lost conciousness over a year ago in my arms, I panicked, and it tapped into a deep well of emotions. Thankfully, I believe in a God who will calm my fears, who will help me move foward, and who will heal my wounds.

When situations arise and my emotions come up, I pray, wrangle with my issues and do my best to move forward. I can say that it has gotten easier. I don't want to be paralyzed by fear. Perspective helps. My dad's first marathon when he was 68 is still faster than my best time. His health has declined in the past few years, but he's out there putting in his three miles almost daily, however long it takes. "All in good time," Dad says. All in good time.

So in terms of physical injury, I'll do what I need to do to heal.

In terms of my deep wounds, I'm still healing.

All in good time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Warm Hands, Heavy Heart and a Numb Bum - Polar Dash

It's been a hard week. The week started off with a funeral. A husband of a friend died suddenly. I watched her strength with sadness. I broke my heart to see her and her girls. I never know what to say, but there's so much to feel. My heart was heavy.

The afternoon after the funeral I went for a run with another friend. We ran the trails in the snow. There were rolling hills, and at times it didn't even feel like we were moving. However, after the run I felt it. For days. In my bum and hip. It became depressing not being able to run. Even sitting hurt, a lot. I had anti inflammatories, iced, rolled and massaged. I was miserable.

Later in the week another friend had a family crisis. I knew her life was going to change dramatically, and I felt for her and her family. My heart was heavier. The pain in my body was diminishing, but I didn't know if I'd be healthy enough for Saturday's Chicago Polar Dash half marathon. To add injury to injury, I pulled a muscle sitting cross legged doing my calculus homework. For real?!! I knew I was going to have run slow to avoid further injury.

The Friday before the half it snowed. Snowed buckets - 6 to 8 inches in our area. The roads were cleared out by the morning of the race, and my company down, Bobbi Welch and Dave Christensen, was fantastic. We all knew that the race had a great potential to be sucky, since it had been rescheduled. And by the way, there were sucky parts. The lake effect snow was falling as we pulled into the parking lot. We did have the best parking, which worked out well, because we were able to put our gear in the car instead of gear check and get back to the race in time. The gear check line was around the block by the time we were ready to check it. The warming tent was fabulous. A great place to figure out what to wear. I had bought some hand warmers. Dave and I used them. They were very helpful at rewarming my hands after walk breaks and on the way home.

Dave, Bobbi and I

The half marathon was two out-and-backs in virtually the same track. Except the second time out was farther and the extra three-quarter mile out just about broke my spirit. Truly sucky. And the turn around was at the top of a hill. It didn't help that I didn't pick up water/powerade at the aide station at mile 8.5 and had to wait until 11.5. I was so thirsty by then, daydreaming of water. The first time out the wind and snow was brutal. The left side of my face froze. Icicles on my face, scarf and hat. The snow on the trail was sloppy and squashy.

My glute was tight, and when Bobbi and I took our first walk break at 5.5 it really helped. After the first turn around it got much better. The wind was kind of at our backs, and the pack thinned considerably. There were so many people at the beginning that every time we got a rhythm the trail would clog.

Okay, another sucky part. After finishing the first out-and-back we had to run through the finish line to go out again. I could have gotten double medals. And there was no course marshal to guide us on the first turn past the finish. Going through the finish and continuing running is depressing.

The weather had gotten much better on the second out-and-back. We had some spots that we got into a great pace with no interruptions. As mentioned before second half was long and thirsty. They did give whole bottles of water/powerade instead of cups. It was a good idea so that the water dumped didn't freeze on the ground, but carrying the bottles was a bit awkward. Bobbi needed a stretching break and I needed a pit stop around mile 12. We were taking it easy so it didn't matter that we had just a little left. The last mile was much more comfortable for both of us.

Sag is always following me!

I finished in 2:36:19 No shame in a slow half in January in Chicago in snow in below freezing weather. Overall it was decent. Nice bling. I was a little put out that there wasn't any hot chocolate left when we finished. I got one at Something's Brewing back home, and it was delish.

Bling, Bling & Bling

I'm feeling pretty good tonight. I hope I feel good tomorrow. Hoping for selective amnesia about the race. I just want to remember the good, and yes, I'm done complaining about the bad. First half marathon of the year is d-o-n-e!

Done and Done

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When Plans Change...

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. - Proverbs 16:9

On Thursday when I opened up my email there was a message from the Polar Dash. The first real snowfall in Chicago had fallen, and as usual it takes everybody a few days to get in the swing of things. The message said that the Polar Dash was rescheduled for the following week. Oh? The conditions were worrisome enough that the Chicago Police didn't think it was safe to run the race. At least that's what the email said. The park district was gracious enough to allow the race to run the following week. And Team Ortho who sponsors the race took the brunt of the outrage.

I've never heard of a race that has been cancelled or rescheduled before the race. The Chicago Marathon was stopped mid run due to heat a few years ago. The year I skied the Korte there was not enough snow to do the whole route. It ended up being a fun race with no time taken. Normally people have specific start times but that year you could start almost whenever you wanted. The next week the snow fell like crazy. It didn't go as planned.

Plans change. Poop happens.

I admit I have control issues. As with most people, it comes out in some things but not others. My house is a mess but be very careful with my books. Certain rules have more strength than others. Certain tasks are more important than others. So selective are the things that make me feel like I have control. The truth is that it's a false sense of control. I have three children when I only planned for two. I would not trade her for the world.

I want to be the kind of person who is flexible. Who rolls with it. Whose emotions move quickly through the spectrum to settled and okay. And I hope I'm not alone when I say that sometimes I'm good at it and sometimes I suck at it. Graceful. That's where I want to be. I have been very grace filled in terms of Team Ortho. I understand and am rolling with it. I also don't have anything next weekend so I can still run. I didn't rent a hotel room or pay a high price for my entry. I think those things would make me less graceful. I'll keep praying for grace because inevitably situations will come along that get my knickers in a bunch. I want to be able to make lemonade from lemons.

So what did I do this weekend? I ran a half marathon distance with some of the ladies of the Grayslake Running Club. Six of us running down the street. Carrie ran with me for the first 4+ mile and Bobbi ran with me for the last mile or so. In between Carrie, Maria, Bobbi, Kate, Julie and I ran together. Sometimes we ran in twos, threes or single file. These are some of my favorite people to run with. They've kept me running regularly, pushed my pace and listened to my crap. We run at a similar pace, but I'm pretty sure they could all kick my butt if we were really racing. It was cold too don't get me wrong, but the run was a tall cold glass of refreshing lemonade.

I also spent the weekend watching football, hoping the house would clean itself and being sore. I look forward to next week. We have a ton on the calendar as well as my class starting. I'm retaking calculus, and my class starts next week. Overall, the week will be full. And there's a race next weekend!

'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' - Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gluten Free Protein Pumpkin Bars and the Green Smoothie

Over the holidays we gave gluten free living a try. Yes, I am a scientist and sometimes I must experiment with our family. With the massive amounts of info coming out about gluten sensitivities I wanted to see if any of us showed any signs. It was actually very good for us for the holidays because it cut down on the number of cookies, sweets and junk we ate. I think it is why my husband and I both lost some weight.

After a couple of weeks of gluten free living, I unthinkingly took a half a bagel I was offered after a run. It was great, and there were no repercussions. None of our family members had any reactions when put back on gluten. In fact while being gluten free I had heartburn for the first time since I was pregnant, and my colon was not happy with the situation either. I substituted with white rice, brown rice and soy flour. I used potato and tapioca starch. I must give a thumbs up to Jules gluten free flour, which we still use because it's great. It does substitute right in for many recipes as my friend Chris says and raves about.

We did eat a lot more Southeast Asian foods. I made Pad Thai, which needs some tweaking. And I made Pho Ga, which my husband says I can make everyday. It was very good. These have been added to my Asian recipes. My husband and I took a Chinese cooking class before we were married, and we still use the recipes a dozen years later.

Overall, we will have reduced the gluten from our diet but not excluded it. We are kind of doing the same thing with meat. Moderation you know. Those fresh fruits and veggies, we love them. I have made a green smoothie almost every day for a month. I've had to make double now since the girlios love them. Our favorite is about three cups of baby spinach blended with the juice of one orange. Then add a banana and a cup of frozen strawberries. Blend smooth. It's really good. REALLY. It is bright green, but that hasn't stopped us. I'd put in a picture of today's but it already gone. Boom - 5 servings of fruits and veggies down in a sitting.

I digress. During this time I need to find a way to get some protein in my diet too. I found this recipe and have made it a couple of times. I knew that it passed the test when I put them out for a snack because it was all I had, and they were consumed greedily. And filling. The girlios didn't want lunch.
I used Jullian Michael's Vanilla Protein Powder. Overall I have not found a vanilla protein powder I like. Blaaach. Chocolate covers the whey flavor much better. I'm still on the hunt for good tasting protein powder. Her chocolate is palatable. The original recipe does not include chocolate chips. Of course I added it. I also didn't have maple extract so I added a bit of maple syrup. Tweaking again. The original recipe does have almond slivers that are pressed on top. I don't do that.

Pumpkin Protein Bars  (These were adapted from
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (I had rice bran)
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 6 tsp stevia
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (I used number of eggs equivalent)
  • 3 scoops of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (not in original recipe)
  • almonds to sprinkle on top (press them in a little)
1. Spray a 8x8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix everything in bowl. I put in chocolate chips last.
3. Spread in pan and bake for 20 -25 min. Middle will look a little underdone.
(I overcooked the first batch. The top looked done but the bottom was charred. Still, didn't stop us from eating them.)
4. Remove from pan when cooled. Cut eat and enjoy.

150 cal and 14 g of protein for two squares

I still have one more favorite to post. I hope they all work as well for you as they have for me. Let me know how it goes. Pass them on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cooking Up Fuel: Homemade Granola Bars

I love food. And I love to cook. Growing up, my father, a chemist, said, "Good chemists are good cooks." The science is strong in my family tree. My dad and my brother are chemists that have 'food' at the end of their names - Phd. There were dinner conversations I just didn't understand. In turn, it gave me a greater opportunity to savor the food. I thought I was going to pave a new path getting my degree in biology teaching. I've never taught biology as a job. I was hired to teach chemistry and loved teaching it. Consequently, I married a chemistry teacher. Our poor children.

My husband and I have a deal. The first time I try a recipe I have to follow the directions. I'm a tweaker. Or an adapter. I have a hard time not substituting. I sub for taste, health, fat, eggs, even dairy. So our rule is the first time is by the book. After that, I have license. The deal does have some flex of course.

Target has these chocolate graham knock off Zone Bars that are delish! I love to eat them before a long run. They are yummy and don't irritate my tummy. However, a few of things became a problem. One, my mileage went up a lot last year and 'long' could mean 4 miles up to 14 miles. Two, they are pricey. It's four dollars for five bars. I was going through a box a week. Three, I don't go to Target very often, not often enough to sustain my consumption.

I could make my own. I've been doing that a lot more lately. We try something and I say, "I bet I could make that." We now make our own potstickers, sushi and a variety of dishes from around the world. I don't deep fry and avoid recipes with lots of butter. I'll eat it if somebody else makes it. I'd rather not know how oily it is.

I was going to put my three favorite recipes in one post but looking at it now, it would be too long. This is the most popular recipe at the house. The girls love it too as you will see.

Jo-Ann's Power Bars on

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat and barley nugget cereal (e.g. Grape-Nuts™)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 (7 ounce) bag chopped dried mixed fruit


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line a 9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, cereal, and cinnamon. Add the egg, applesauce, honey, brown sugar, and oil. Mix well. Stir in the sunflower seeds, walnuts, and dried fruit. Spread mixture evenly in the prepared pan.
  3. Bake 30 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool. Use the foil to lift from the pan. Cut into bars or squares, and store in the refrigerator.               

Today I didn't have applesauce so I substituted pumpkim.

It goes easily in the toaster oven.

First piece - pumpkin, chocolate, raisin, sunflower seed & walnuts

Perfect size for little hands

This recipe begs to be tweaked. I've made it gluten free, sugar free and definitely included chocolate. I've added protein powder. Combos of cranberries and white chocolate or raisins and dark chocolate. It's quick, yummy and easy. Smear some peanut butter on it. Add more sunflower seeds instead of walnuts.


Oh the problem of sharing! Must make more :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking Forward & Looking Back

So it's January 2nd and there's finally a dusting of snow on the ground here in Chicago. It's supposed to get warmer in a few days and all melt away. I'm okay with that. In fact, I think this was the best winter I could have picked to do a half marathon in January. Twelve days to go and I've done my 12 miler. I'm as ready as I could be.

Today we are taking down the Christmas tree and doing some overall needed cleaning. My husband found the silver tea set my grandmother who has since passed gave us for our wedding 11 years ago and is putting it in our hutch. It's the time of year for reflection, memories, and planning.

I stink at resolutions.

I love to plan. It can keep me up at night, for good and bad. The racing year is planned out already. Even I'm surprised. The Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon in January. The Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May. I had originally resolved that I would only do one marathon this year. I think that resolution has already been broken. I was easily talked into another when details came together. My husband who has only been able to see my first marathon, the inaugural Fox Valley Marathon, said that he'd like to be able to go too. He was working during last year's Pittsburgh Marathon and took the girls to a birthday party during the Milwaukee Marathon.

My husband and his girl boots

Did I mention he's awesome? He is. He's so supportive and encouraging. I began looking for marathons during his time off when he's not coaching. He coaches both cross country and track, during prime running/racing season. Grandma's Marathon, which I'll sign up for this week, in Duluth Mn in June and the Philadelphia Marathon in November are on the docket right now. Things change. It is only January 2nd!

Those are the big races for the year. There will probably be shorter runs, a turkey trot and hopefully a trail race. I had a great time on the trail races this year. My quads may disagree, but I loved it.

I've set a mileage goal for the year. 1000 miles. I'm fairly sure I ran that far this past year, but I didn't keep track. I'm on day two of the year with a mileage of zero. I've still got 363 days to go. I've made some cloudier resolutions to do weight training and yoga more regularly. I'd like my eating to be better too. I have a feeling those will ebb and flow. I don't feel I can make a commitment because I'll be sad that I didn't follow through.

This past running year has been amazing. I ran the two marathons, two half marathons, two 10 Ks and two 5Ks. I think. I am blessed to have very little injuries. I did injure myself in the Milwaukee Marathon using the portapotty, but that's another story. I find my happy pace and listen to my body. When I'm cranky because I'm tired, I rest. When I'm cranky because I haven't run, my husband boots my booty out the door to run. I've enjoyed so much finding people at my pace in my running club, Grayslake Running Club. My underlying goal is always to enjoy the run. This past year has been filled with running joy. I can only pray that 2012 is filled with more of the same.

Blessings, peace, health and joy to you this year!

Me, Thing 1 and Thing 2