Blogging about food – not running

Spinach & Mushroom Baked Ziti a la Me

Ingredients

‘Cheater’ Pasta Sauce
2 – 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 – 8 oz package sliced mushrooms
12 oz frozen Baby Leaf Spinach (thawed)
1 head minced garlic (approx. 2 TBSP)
2 TBSP dried Basil Leaves
1 tsp dried Thyme leaves
1 tsp finely ground Sea Salt
1/2 tsp red or cayenne pepper

Everything Else
1 package Barilla Whole Grain Penne Pasta
1 cup sour cream
1 cup plain, Greek Style Yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese (part skim)
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Olive oil
Butter (real butter – NOT margerine!)

Directions

Sauce
In bottom of lightly heated 3 quart sauce pan drizzle approximately 2 TBSP olive oil and add 1 TBSP butter, heat , over medium heat until butter has melted.
Add garlic, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper and stir.
Add sliced mushrooms, place lid on sauce pan and cook until mushrooms are soft.
Pour in two cans of crushed tomatoes, place lid and bring to a slow boil; reduce heat and simmer.

Everything Else
Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse, mix in spinach, sour cream, yogurt, sauce, and cheeses.

Place mixture in baking dish and bake at 350 (f) for approximately 30 – 45 minutes. (Check for doneness based on how browned the cheese and pasta are on top and your personal preference.)

This is, as a carb laden dish goes, fairly healthy.

I call the sauce I made today ‘Cheater’ Pasta Sauce because normally I saute finely minced eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, and chopped fresh spinach in with garlic and fresh herbs; add blanched, peeled, pureed Roma Tomatoes; then cook all that overnight in the slow cooker. I call it “Julianne’s I-Ate-What?!” Pasta Sauce”. My grown sons know good and well there is: A) zero meat; and B) vegetables they would otherwise never eat; but they eat it and come back for seconds and thirds!

Is there a Yoga Zone?

I put up last night’s post and went to bed confident that My Plan was going to work flawlessly.  I’d ace six today, maybe even eight, and three weeks from tomorrow I would complete my first half-marathon.
Yeah.
Well.
What’s that they say about intentions and paver stones?
That.

Regardless how solid my plan was or how strong my resolve in that plan, my left knee just wasn’t up to it.  While I didn’t get all the way to six miles, I did arrive at the inescapable conclusion that I will not in fact be participating in the March 18th half-marathon we are registered for.  Rich will be running it alone.  I did get further today than I have since this whole mess started three or four weeks ago, the ping/twinge didn’t hit until 4.38 miles today as opposed to sidelining me at 3.25 or 3.5 so that was progress of a sort.

After doing a lot of online research and talking to other runners, I believe that what I am dealing with is a simple case of Runner’s Knee.  I have believed that all along.  I continue to believe that.
I have friends – wonderful, loving, concerned friends – who are calling for me to see an Orthopedic doctor.  And I will.  As soon as I have exhausted every other avenue.
I have an appointment with my chiropractor on Wednesday and at that time he’s going to take a look at the knee, give me an adjustment, recommend some exercises, and we will give my body time to heal itself.  I do have a very good chiropractor who will refer me to an ortho doc if he sees any reason to believe I’ve done damage that needs more than time and rest to resolve itself.
I won’t be running.
At most I’ll do a couple miles on an elliptical machine but only when I am able to do normal daily activities, like oh, say, walking without pain.  And yoga.  There will be yoga.  But neither of those things until after I see Dr. Jeff on Wednesday.

Between now and then it’s Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Until I can get a good knee brace the compression is taking the form of an Ace Bandage.  Which gets the job done.

Since I a most likely looking at a good month off of running I’m going to have to be extra diligent with my diet to keep from putting weight back on.  And hey, I’d been asked to write more about that aspect of things anyway.  So to keep this blog on everybody’s radar I’ll be doing that.

And I’ll be sure to let you know if/when I find The Zone in Yoga.

Wha’ ha’ happen waaaas . . .

Tonight’s post title brought to you courtesy of my sons and how they would preface things they were ‘fessing up to that they knew I was going to be mad about in an effort to soften me up with humor.

Now.
On to the topic at hand.

Last Saturday was my first run post hamstring strain/Runner’s Knee Incident.
I felt good.
I was excited.
And it showed!
It showed in our first three minute run interval timing out at about 10:36 minutes per mile (our normal pace is right at a 12:00 mile). And continued for the next three or four running intervals when my HCRP kept having to tell me “Pull it back! Pull it back!” when me being several paces ahead of him (which never happens!) didn’t send the signal.

Oh, those first three miles felt AH-MAZ-ING!
Everything was working grrrrreat!
Lungs – check!
Legs – check!
Lungs and legs – check, check, and double-check!
Right up to the 3.5 mile mark when it stopped feeling amazing, great, and working.
Yep!
That would be My Left Knee.
The same My Left Knee that gained its fame in my February 9th Post.
The one I had been dutifully treating with R.I.C.E., hating that ‘R’ part most of all.

And the fact is that the failure wasn’t my knee. The failure was all mine.
I got ahead of myself.
Instead of getting back to running on the more forgiving surface of a treadmill, I hit a road run!
Instead of setting out on a three mile road run – I set out to do six straight off the couch (stretching and some light yoga notwithstanding). And, in fact got so far ahead of myself that we were “going for seven”!
Instead of wearing the compression sleeve I had credited with the speedy recovery/rehab of my Runner’s Knee – I ‘bare-kneed’ it and ran sans-support.
Big.
Freakin’.
Mistake(s)!
I ended up hobbling from the 3.5 mile turn-around mark of our run back to where a cross-street met the trail and sitting there waiting for Rich to finish his (our) run, get the car, and drive back to pick me up.


I didn’t post about this last weekend because . . . well . . . wha’ ha’ happen waaaas . . . we had dinner plans with friends and even coming home and showering quickly we got there twenty minutes late.

Then, well, on Sunday we had church and then we got home and I had to make Sunday dinner, and really needed to spend time with Rich (HCRP), and hey! The Amazing Race was on!

Monday I was actually on the couch – when I wasn’t in the bathroom – all day with some sort of ‘intestinal disfortitude’ (read: stomach bug/something I ate).

Tuesday – in addition to being My 47th Birthday! – I was doing laundry and cleaning the house in preparation for our trip to Columbia, South Carolina to attend my oldest (step)son’s Army Boot Camp Graduation. So, really, there was No Time To Write.
Right?
Of course right?

Wednesday and Thursday, well those were All About The Benjamin.
And his wife and their baby.
So really, again, No Time To Write.

Lies!
All of it LIES!!
I just didn’t want to write because – as we Southerners are wont to say – I’m askeered.
I’m afraid to even try running again because I know the minute I feel that twinge it means my run is O-V-E-R.
I’m afraid that if that twinge comes One-Too-Many Times my running days are O-V-E-R before they have even got going good.

I want – like I haven’t wanted anything since I wanted to give birth to a healthy baby in 1988 – to finish this half-marathon we have coming up on March 18th.
I wanted to run 80% of it doing the run 4:walk 1 intervals we’ve been training with.
I wanted to finish the race in less than three hours. Maybe not much less, but less nonetheless.
I wanted to finish the race hand-in-hand (literally, actually holding hands) with my HCRP.

Well.
Some of that isn’t going to happen.
Oh, rest and read assured, that I will participate in and finish this race.
I won’t run 80% of it.
I won’t finish in less than three hours.
And I won’t finish it hand-in-hand with my HCRP.
But I have a plan.

I’ll be running the race using our accustomed 4:1/Run:walk intervals; however, I’ll be running two miles then walking one throughout the duration of the race. I sincerely hope that makes sense.
But.
If it doesn’t, and because this is my running blog, allow me to elaborate.
Miles 1 & 2 – Run 4 minutes:Walk 1 minute.
Mile 3 – Walk.
Miles 4 & 5 – Run 4 minutes:Walk 1 minute.
Mile 6 – Walk.
Miles 7 & 8 – Run 4 minutes:Walk 1 minute.
Mile 9 – Walk.
Miles 10 & 11 – Run 4 minutes:Walk 1 minute.
Mile 12 – Walk.
Mile 13 to Finish – Run 4 minutes:Walk 1 minute.
And I will finish that .1 r-u-n-n-i-n-g!

But for tomorrow’s run, I’ll be doing that on a treadmill setting out to do four miles with the option to do six using the aforementioned half-marathon running plan.
I miss running.
I miss running more than 3.5 miles.
I want to run ten miles again.
And.
I.
Will.

Back in my laces again

Both my hamstring and knee have “been pain free” for three days now both with and without compression support.  Therefore, It’s time to get back on the road.  Or treadmill.  The jury’s still out on where exactly it is that I’m going to test the rehabbedness of my leg.

The recently discovered Treadmill Hater in me is jumping up and down chanting “Hit The Road!  Hit The Road!”  The part of me who still remembers the agony of limping along for-what-seemed-like-ever a week ago Thursday night keeps raising her hand from the back of the classroom saying “Ummm…  What if ‘It’ happens again and you’re miles away from the car and have to do that limping/wincing/stabbing pain thing again?!  Huh?  What about that Miss Road Hitter?”  What we have heayuh is a failyuh to reach a decision.

So.
I’m doing what any intelligent, level-headed, human being would do: I’m letting the weather be my guide!
If it’s cold and rainy that’s my “sign” that tomorrow afternoon’s six miles (with the possibility of expanding to eight) will take place on the (dreaded) treadmill.  Thank God for Audiobooks!
If it’s only cold, but not rainy, we’ll be hitting our favorite local running/biking trail.
I think that’s a perfectly reasonable ‘coin toss’.

I’m both excited and a little nervous about this whole thing.
I WANT to be running again, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid of feeling that “twinge” at the back of my knee again.  I’m at T-minus 29 days and counting to my first Half Marathon and I really want to run more of it than I walk.

It’s going to be just fine Julianne.
That’s what I keep telling myself.

Walk. Run. Bike. Nod. Wave.

Just because I’m out of commission running-wise doesn’t mean I don’t still have running related thoughts in my brain that I simply must share here!

One thing I’m learning the more I run, and especially longer distances outdoors, is the etiquette of the trail, the rules of the road. Whether it’s a designated, cleared ‘trail’ or just an area of town that lends itself to cardio fitness pursuits because of sidewalks or ‘bike’ lanes there is a hierarchy and an etiquette to ‘crossing paths’ and acknowledging one another’s existences.

Before going any further, I want to clarify one thing: There is absolutely zero judgment or malice in this post. I am an habitual People Watcher, and I can’t help but extend that to my running. I cracked my husband up on our ten mile run when we encountered a couple people twice on our run and I had ‘names’ for them in my head.
Glove Guy – because he was wearing the same white, cotton knit gloves I was.
Bra Chickie – because heaven help her she needed a good one! It took all I had not to stop  on our second encounter and recommend she look into a Moving Comfort Juno.
And finally “Hello! Hello!” – the (obviously a) Marathoner who was pushing a slightly younger man in what I call a running wheelchair. The young man in the chair appeared to have CP (my guess is based on knowing a number of people with this condition throughout my lifetime), and as they went along (at a darn quick pace!) he shouted “Hello! Hello!” to everyone they encountered. We heard them coming up behind us, moved over, slowed down, returned his greeting, and were rewarded with a smile of pure joy. It was then, witnessing one of the greatest displays of love I’ve seen in a long time, that I learned running and crying are mutually exclusive.

The “Rules of The Road” (as I understand them) are as follows:
Walkers
I’ve been a walker, and honestly I was always envious of runners. My (past) personal issue.
It has been my observation that, with rare exception, walkers don’t acknowledge runners, not even if the runner nods/waves first. I hate to admit it but I’ve stopped nodding and/or waving ‘first’, reserving my nodding/waving energies for other runners.  But if a walker
And the occasional biker (more on them later).

Runners
Runners acknowledge other runners with a nod or a quick wave/salute of the ‘outside’ hand.
Runners generally acknowledge bikers when they see them coming.
Runners may or may not acknowledge walkers.
Marathoners – and you know them when you see them – rule the road and deference is paid to them.  They don’t have to ask.  At least they don’t have to ask me.  I’m in awe of them!
If a Marathoner doesn’t acknowledge a ‘lesser’ (Read: Newbie like me) runner there is no offense taken.  At least not by me – I’m too busy being in awe/envious.
If a Marathoner does acknowledge a ‘lesser’ runner You. Have. Freakin’. Arrived. Baybee!
A couple weeks ago when we were running eight miles and I was struggling to make it up a fairly aggressive hill there was a Marathoner coming the opposite direction. We happened to pass one another in the very instant I gasped out “This is a b*tch!” I heard him snicker a little bit as he made his way past me like a Gazelle on the Serengeti Plains – effortless and beautiful. Later we passed each other again and he waved and called out “I see you made it up that hill!” as he Gazelled along his way. I think I took a good ten seconds off that particular mile’s pace after that.
In Memphis there is a particular respect paid to runners wearing their St. Jude Heroes singlets. I learned this on a recent run when I wore mine and runners passing us shouted out “St. Jude Hero!  Way to go!”. Honestly, it’s a great feeling to “run for a reason” and be acknowledged for it.

It has been my observation that there is a bit of a gender component to the nod/wave thing as well.
Men nod/wave to each other.
A man will nod/wave to a mixed-gender couple, particularly if the man ‘takes the lead’ when making space on the trail. If the woman is in the lead he will nod at her, but the eye contact is generally reserved for the other guy.
A woman running alone or a pair of women running generally will not wave/nod at a man or men. They may, or may not, wave/nod at a mixed-gender couple.
I’ve made these observations on runs when the distance between Rich and I stretched out enough that we might not have necessarily been “together”. 

Bikers
There are two basic classes of bikers: Courteous and Not Courteous (I’m being nice).
When coming up behind runners Courteous Bikers will, when coming up behind runners, say “Behind you!” or “On your left”. Or they have those cute little bells they ding-ding. I like them.
Not Courteous Bikers go whizzing past without a sound, often startling the crap out of less experienced runners (like me) who are focusing on things like “Inhale/Exhale”, “Left Foot/Right Foot”, and “Don’t pee down your leg!” I am notsomuch a fan of this particular genre of biker.

When encountering runners ‘head on’ Courteous Bikers will nod. Some even smile depending on head vs tail wind and the number of bugs in the air.
Not Courteous Bikers just give a look that makes it clear they that consider runners obstacles at best.

I’m not even going to delve into the Teenage Dirt Bike Riders.


But here’s my take on this whole thing: At least we’re all out there doing something!
Even the TDBRs.
And for that reason alone I think we can at least give each other a little wink every now and again.
Oh, and don’t forget the all important “On your left!” when passing anybody going slower for any reason!
Thanks!

What to do? What to do?

There’s knitting.
However, much to the chagrin of my maternal grandmother I’ve not ever been able to get the knack of that.  And really, how much cardio elevation does one get from knitting?

No, I’m talking about what to do exercise-wise while my knee rehabs.  (Which knee, by the way, is feeling better today.  No more stabbing pain.  Thankfully.)  I have a number of things I’ll be implementing to get back into running form and stay that way.

  1. R.I.C.E.  Rest.  Ice.  Compression.  Elevation.  The Rest will be the hardest part.
  2. On the advice of my friend Tonia, who is also a fellow (and far more experienced) runner, and a certified trainer, I’m getting a foam roller.  I’ve found a website that offers not only good advice on use of said roller, but also some other exercises that will help.
  3. Yoga.  I play at Yoga, but don’t really practice it regularly.  It’s time to correct that.  I have no small number of Yoga DVDs so I’ll be making Yoga a part of my nightly, pre-bedtime routine.
  4. As much as they bore me to tears, I’ll be using the recumbent bikes at the gym to stay in some semblance of cardio conditioning.  I find it difficult to consider any exercise one can read while doing actual exercise . . .
  5. Cross/Weight Training.  I understand the value of cross training, in particular weight training, for running.  Before taking up running last summer the last actual exercise I did and enjoyed was weight training.  True story.  I’ve been putting off adding weight training to my current regimen for a couple reasons: I wanted to get really and truly vested in running; and I was a little hesitant to add it for fear of injury.  I think we all see how that worked out!

So, I have a plan.

I’ve also had a suggestion/request for ‘content’ here.  Back on this post I got the following comment: Considering your other topics, how about more on your nutritional intake around race time, and daily life? I would like to see how you balance diet and exercise- picking the right calories for maximum energy. A comparison of home-created meals vs. packaged foods would be a bonus.  Which I think is a brilliant ‘use of space’ given that with taking up running I’ve also revamped and ‘customized’ my diet to both “fuel the machine” and drop some of those excess pounds and ounces.

My family, and likely a few of my friends, call me “The Food Nazi”.  I am constantly expounding the virtues of whole grains, lean proteins, carbs from fruits and veggies, and my predilection for referring to artificial sweeteners as “Rat Poison” has actually become a running joke with my co-workers.  (Just today one of the girls made reference to getting her “Rat Poison Coffee” after procuring a packet of sweetener that isn’t found in nature.)  I don’t buy or use margarine, and with a very few, carefully chosen exceptions we eat almost no pre-prepared/packaged foods (much to the chagrin of certain under-30 members of our household).  Of course it helps that I love to cook!

So I’ve decided to use this ‘running down time’ to “restructure” this blog a bit and start sharing the other elements of this whole venture here as well.  Starting with the fuel that keeps the machine running when all the wheels are rolling right!

After all, but “most read” post to date wasn’t about any of my runs – not my first 5K as a runner, not my first ten mile run – no that “most read” post was my product review of bras.
Go figure!
Let’s see what some posts about food and eating habits do for the place!

Head and Shoulders, Knees . . .

Let’s just stop at knees, shall we?
That seemed to work for my run tonight.
What was supposed to be a six mile run turned into a 3.5 mile run, a dull ache behind my left knee that eventually became full-bore pain all around said knee and me unable to do more than limp along at a slow walk.  Since we were a little more than half-way through our six mile run the only solution was for Rich to continue running, get the car, and come back to pick me up however far I managed to limp along before meeting up with him.

I (very unwisely) tried running a couple times while making my way on my own.  After all, the pain had subsided so surely I could run NOW!  Eight steps.  Tops.  And the pain came back with its good friend ‘excruciating’.  So I hobbled along.  By the time Rich got back to where I was I was leaning against a light post because walking – even 1.0 mph – was no longer an option.

On the way home I was p-i-s-s-e-d o-f-f!  I felt robbed, betrayed, and generally hurt and angry.  As I had told my knee early in my hobbling along: I have done everything right!
I have trained progressively.
I stretch before and after my runs.
I have invested in good, professionally fitted running shoes.
I have given up wearing heels for cripes’ sakes!  I’m talkin’ Bando-freakin’-lino pumps here people!  Bandolinos!
I deserve better out of my joints and muscles than all this!

What probably got me more than anything else was this: I was looking FORWARD to this run!  The six mile course we were running tonight was the same one that was my first six mile run.  It is comprised of the first and last three miles of the course of the half-marathon we’re training for next month.  There’s a fairly long, challenging incline at about mile 2.5; and the end of the course is also a fairly steep, short incline.  And when we first ran this six miles it kicked my butt!
I was actually in tears on the long incline, and even though I made it to the top I was certain I would never be able to do the Half.  And that final, ending uphill bit?  I couldn’t even finish that.  Now granted, I did run that whole thing last Thursday at the end of our 4.5 mile run but that was without The Long Hard Hill.
Tonight I was R-E-A-D-Y!  And from Step One I felt good.  Despite the fact that it was 43° when we started and with the sun going down wasn’t getting any warmer as we went.  I felt great cardio-wise, leg-wise, mind-wise, every-wise.
Right up to the point that the back of my left knee started twinging between 3.00 and 3.25.  We actually stopped running earlier than our four minute mark so I could stretch – hoping that would take care of it.  I tried running again from 3.25 to 3.5 and it was clear that I was done running for the night.
I think what made me the most angry was how much I had been looking forward to not just finishing, but enjoying a run that had previously been such a challenge.  And the fact that I really had felt so good from the very start of tonight’s run. 

So we get home – after spending the ride alternately cussing (I know, I gave it up for the new year, sue me) and crying, texting my BFF in a near state of panic, and texting another good friend who is also a runner and a Trainer – and I get about the business of rehabbing what I am now certain is Runner’s Knee.
I have a Sports Injury!
Which was just a little bit exciting for about half a minute.
Based on what I’ve read other muscle stresses/strains can contribute to this, so I have a feeling last Sunday’s hamstring strain was a contributing factor to this. 

I’ve also ordered a Tommie Copper Knee Compression Sleeve.  Which should arrive by about Wednesday of next week when I intend to be ready to have a short, slow, easy paced run on the treadmill.
Until it arrives I have a wide Ace bandage I’ll be wrapping the knee with.
I’ve rehabbed a sprained groin muscle, I can rehab this.

AND keep running!
Just not tomorrow.