Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Slow is good

So I'm feeling pretty stupid today.

I think I mentioned before that I'm a slow runner.  By definition, most people refer to anyone who runs slower than 10 minute miles, or 6 miles per hour, as a slow runner.  A guy named John Bingham has capitalized on this, creating a name those of us "back of the pack" runners: penguins.

I'm proud to be a penguin!  Really, I am.

But I was hoping that someday I wouldn't be the slowest penguin out there.

This summer, with regular training and 18 months of base miles behind me, I decided to make my move.  I was going to go from the back of the back of the pack to the middle of the back of the pack.  Eventually, I would move to the front of the back of the pack.

No problem, right?  Just throw in a little speed work here and there, and start running a smidge faster.

And it worked for a couple of weeks.  I went from a 12 minute mile to an 11:45 min mile.  Then an 11:30 minute mile.  One day, on a shorter run, I pushed the whole way, and actually avereaged 10:59 minute per mile.

Oh, the joy!  I was speeding up!

And my legs were feeling it.  Did you know that going faster than you are used to, whether that means 5 min miles instead of 6 or 11:30 minute miles instead of 12, puts a lot of strain on your hamstrings?

Um, well, I didn't.  But now I know.  And I also know (now) not to run on a strained hamstring.  But I didn't know that a week ago.

So now I'm nursing an aching hammy, and am thoroughly cursing my own stupidity.  Plus, I'm in runner's high since Monday!  Not yesterday, not today, probably not tomorrow or Friday either.  I really need a fix...

But I also really need to heal this hammy.  I have a 9 mile run scheduled for Saturday, and my marathon training plan doesn't allow for a lot of wiggle room.  So I'm resting my leg now.  And going crazy.

Laughter helps - today someone shared this video.  What a riot!  Although, a couple of times, I wondered if someone had bugged my house.  Some of it hits a little close to home...

I am a runner!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Introducing Kismet Copywriting

Throughout the last few months I've been planning and studying and writing and practicing, and I'm finally ready to go public as a freelance writer.  It gives me great pleasure to introduce my new business, Kismet Copywriting!

I specialize in writing email autoresponders, blog articles, and social networking, as well as any other needs for web or print copy you may have.  My niche is the gluten free industry (of course!) and running/fitness.

Please feel free to check out my website at the link above, and contact me if you would like to discuss setting up an email campaign for your business. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Gluten-Free Travel Tips

(Part of an ongoing series)

We don't get out much anymore.  Has anyone else's travel been curtailed by being gluten free?

Back in the day, we used to travel a lot.  Friends joked that I started planning my next trip the day I got back from my last one.  They were wrong, by the way...I started planning the next trip during the last trip.

Not any more.  It's been years since I've been on an airplane, and I can't remember the last time I needed a passport.  There's also nothing big in the works right now.

Admittedly, some travel would have been curtailed just because of the economy.  When your fiscal circumstances are less than certain, you just don't go booking as many (or any!) trips around the world.  But I can't entirely blame the recession for my lack of wandering.  A lot of my staying home is due to celiac disease.

Those of us who are gluten free know that sometimes it's hard enough to get a safe meal in your own house.  When it comes to letting someone else cook for you, especially someone you've never met...and who doesn't have to live with you for the next three days if you get glutened...well, it can be downright terrifying.  Add in some other food intolerances (soy, nightshades, citrus, poultry, etc., etc.) and the thought of eating out can make you want to curl up in a fetal position in the hotel and whimper.

So does that mean those of us on restricted diets just have to stay home forever?

Of course not!  (You knew that was the answer, right?)

Over the last 5 years, even with my limited excursions, I have managed to put together some tried and true tips to get me through everything from an overnighter with relatives to a 7 day road trip.  I have also received quite a few pieces of advice from others, some of which I've been able to try out, and some that are yet untested by me.  My goal is to consolidate everything I know here, and solicit some advice from others.  After all, you may know something cool that I've never even thought of.  So please feel free to leave any suggestions, tips, or tricks in the comments section below.

Quick Gluten-Free Travel Tip:  Pack your own food.

Thank you, Captain Obvious!  I know, this one seems like a no-brainer, but seriously... How many times have you heard of someone getting glutened because they were starving and had to go to a restaurant that didn't understand gluten free?  I mean, I've had people tell me this happened to them because they got hungry while they were out running errands.  Really?  You don't carry food with you?  I always have something to munch on in my purse...

Okay, maybe it's different for me because I have multiple food intolerances and therefore fewer dining options to begin with, but I must implore you - always carry your own food!  Even if you don't need it, wouldn't you rather have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won't starve?

It's pretty easy to do this.  If you are traveling by car, it's a snap.  Pack a cooler, toss in ice or some freezer packs, and stock it with your favorite goodies.  My cooler is usually loaded with bananas, grapes, yogurt, cheese sticks, rice cakes, and homemade cookies (in an airtight container).  If I'm going someplace with a microwave, I'll even pack leftovers in individual serving containers, just in case.  Don't forget utensils if you do this.  I also have a bag with non-perishables, like Larabars, Jam Frakas bars, Fritos, and some reusable water bottles.  'Cause, you know, I get thirsty...

Once you get to your destination, you either stow everything in the fridge in your room, or if you don't have one, just use the cooler with more ice from the ice machine.  Easy peasy.

Take more than you think you'll need.  Most places do have grocery stores (which you probably have researched already) so you can probably stock up if you run low on anything.  But their selection may be iffy.  It takes a lot of pressure off when you know that no matter what, you'll have something safe to eat.  And if you keep everything well iced, you'll just haul home everything you don't end up using.

So that's easy enough on a car trip.  But how about air travel?

Okay, I haven't flown much since going gluten free.  But I have flown a lot in the past, and most of those trips were after the airlines stopped feeding their passengers real food.  (Sorry, honey-roasted peanuts do not count as lunch!)  So I do feel somewhat qualified to speak about this. 

You can take all sorts of food on the plane with you, as long as it fits in your carry-on and it's not liquid.  I load up my carry-on with the above mentioned Larabars and Jam Frakas bars, and some well-packaged baked goods.  Biscotti hold up really well.  Plus cheese sticks, because they travel well and I love them.  Under no circumstances would I ever eat anything given to me on an airplane!  (This was my policy even in my gluten-eating days.)  And I would never count on an airplane having my special "gluten-free meal option" if/when they did feed the passengers.  I've heard many horror stories about people ordering their special meal, confirming it, and finding out 5 hours into an 11 hour flight that somehow, it either didn't make it onto the plane, or that it was given to someone else 12 rows back.  The longer the flight, the more food you should haul with you.

When I get to my destination, there is the obligatory trip to the grocery store.  If there's no fridge in your room, most larger grocery stores sell styrofoam coolers pretty cheap, so grab one, and stock up to your heart's content. 

One thing I've heard of, but never personally tried, is stowing well-frozen food in your checked luggage.  I've also heard that blue ice packs work well to keep things cold in your suitcase during a flight.  The last I heard, this was okay to do.  But you may want to check with the airline before you try this one, and like everything else when it comes to travel, your mileage may vary.

Okay, I think that covers the basics of bringing your own food on a trip.  Let me know if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions.  In future articles, I'll be talking about other tips, like picking safe restaurants in a strange city.  I'm also hoping to field-test a few things this fall, so I'll be reporting on how that goes.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heat is good for you

Running in the heat can suck.  But according to a recent Running Times article, getting acclimated to the heat can improve your performance by an average of 7%.  Sorry I don't have a link to the article, but it's so recent that it's not online yet.  If you want to look for it in print, or just make a note to check for it online later, it's called Hot Myths and it's in the July/August 2011 issue.

Anyhow, I really hope that's true, because it's beastly hot here.  Not Las Vegas hot, which is a dry blast furnace, but Florida hot, which is more like a jacuzzi without the bubbles.

Now a jacuzzi, even sans bubbles, is a pleasant thing.  In January.  But not in June.

I've been trying to combat the heat by getting out early to work out.  Before the sun comes up, it's only 80 degrees F, and not too awful bad yet.  Plus there's no sun beating down yet.

But I've been thwarted by true love.  Let me explain...

My husband has decided he wants to run a marathon with me this fall. 

Awww!  How sweet!

Since we're going to run together, it makes sense to train together.  After all, neither one of us is going to sprint off and leave the other in the dust.  This is a joint venture, we'll run the entire 26.2 miles together, and cross the finish line hand in hand.

Couldn't you just die of the cute?

Now, please let me be perfectly clear about something here: I love running with my husband.  Not only is he the love of my life, but he's also my best friend, and someone I want to spend as much time with as possible.  So I look forward to our runs together, and cherish every moment of them.

So what's the issue?  Well, my hubby is not, shall we say, a morning person.  Neither am I really, but he really fights having to do anything before a decent hour of, oh, say, ten o'clock in the morning.  So he's not crazy about running in the morning.  Period.  He'd rather run in the afternoon.

But as I mentioned previously, it's bloody hot here right now.

So we worked out a truce where we run together in the morning. However, during the week, we get out of the house as late as possible, in order to get a run in before he has to be at work.  Which is about 7:15am.  And that means the sun has been up for almost an hour, and has had a chance to start toasting things.  I haven't pushed too hard to get out earlier, because I realize I'm lucky that we're going when it's only 82 degrees and not 94 degrees or higher.

The weekends are different.  For our longer runs (which, since they are longer distances, also keep us out in the sun for a longer amount of time), he would prefer to start running around, oh, 8:30 or 9:00am.  Or later.

Holy $%^&!

I've reasoned, and explained, and cajoled, and just about begged, but I haven't been able to convince him that running from 6:30 to 8:30am will be much more comfortable than running from 9:00 to 11:00am.  It just hasn't worked.

The only hope I have is that he is starting to lose his heat tolerance while running, just like I did last summer. Long sweaty runs will do that to you.  Last weekend, we had a 90 minute run, and got out of the house around 7:30.  Which was better than usual, but I suspected it was going to be brutal.  And it was.  And for the first time ever, my hubby said maybe we should head out earlier for our long Saturday runs.


Monday, June 20, 2011

The new schedule

In May, when I participated in the Word Count Blogathon, I wrote articles for Simply Nooner every day. I thought it would end up being a chore, but it wasn't. It was actually pretty fun. So I'm going to keep it up.

Starting this week, I'll be publishing articles three days a week on Simply Nooner. Mondays will be about writing or other creative endeavors; Wednesdays will showcase running or fitness topics, and Fridays will be about gluten-free life.  If you'd like to see more gluten-free articles, feel free to hop on over to Li Loves David, where there will be new articles published every Tuesday and Thursday.

Today, I've been thinking about knitting.  I know I haven't mentioned it much, but I'm a knitter.  A chick with sticks.  I knit so I don't kill people...ooops, did I say that out loud?  Anyhow, I really enjoy knitting.  And I haven't picked up a pair of needles in six months.

Wait, what?  Has it really been that long?

Yes, it has.  And I know why. 

We adopted two rambunctious kittens about nine months ago.  They were adorable, and into everything.  So I put away the needles and the yarn until they calmed down.  Because you know how cats are with yarn.  And then something happened....

They didn't calm down. 


Sigh.  They are still rambunctious.  And older.  And bigger.  And smarter.  And better able to get into things.

So I guess I just need to watch my yarn like a hawk, and make sure it's safely locked away when I'm not actually knitting.  And maybe stay away from wool for a while.

Time to look at patterns...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why do it at all?

I am a slow runner.  Very slow.  Extremely slow.  Tortoise slow.  Slow.

Really, I'm slow.

I am a back of the pack runner.  When I line up for a race, I go to my assigned corral, which is based on your expected finish time, and I go to the back of it.  If there are any corrals behind me, those people will pass me as we cross the start line.

But I'll pass them again around the halfway point.

What I lack in speed, I make up for in endurance and sheer determination.  I love my long runs.  So far my person record for distance is 14 miles, and it was a great experience.  I can't wait to get into the 20 mile (and longer) runs in my marathon training.

But, like I said earlier, I'm slow.  It's not so much a race for me, as a test of will.

Will I last the distance?  Will I be able to finish?  Will I be able to walk after?

I know I'm never going to win anything other than a finisher's medal.  And that's fine with me.  As long as I beat the closing of the course, I'm good.

My goal each time I toe the line at a race is to beat myself.  If I've never done that distance before, then I want to finish.  If I have, I'm running to set a new personal record (PR) in that distance. 

Since I'm relatively new to running and races, the PRs will be happening for a while.  It's only natural that I'll continue to get stronger and (relatively) faster for a while.  Well, we can hope, anyhow...

But no matter what, I'm going to continue to run and race.  Because to not do it would be the ultimate defeat.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My summer reading list...continued

The summer has gotten off to a great start, and I've had the opportunity to catch up on some reading.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.  The final book of the Millennium series.  This one picks up immediately after the previous book ends, and ties up the loose ends from the previous two books.

Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss
Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss by Dean Karnazes.  A quick read, lots of fun, and at times inspirational , whether you run or not.

Dirty Harriet (Harlequin Next)Dirty Harriet by Miriam Auerbach.  The debut novel by a local author.  The story was a little loose, but I really enjoyed the local references.  The description of the typical "Boca Babe" was spot on.

That brings me up to a total of 20 so far this year.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Being Gluten Free

I don't eat gluten.  Ever.  No, I don't cheat.  Not even a little bit.

Does that surprise anyone?  That's often one of the first questions I get when someone finds out I'm gluten free.

The other thing people always say - always - is, "Oh, I could never give up bread/pasta/insert gluten filled food item here."

I don't know, maybe they couldn't.  Frankly, for me, the choice between a slice of Wonder Bread and a slow, painful, agonizing death from cancer is pretty easy.

You can keep your bread, thank you!  I'm fine.

Evidently not eating gluten is the latest "fad" diet out there.  A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon, giving up gluten here and there, because they've heard it's good for you.

I actually tried it once, many years before I found out I had celiac disease, a genetic gluten intolerance.

That time, I didn't notice any change in my health, and abandoned the diet after a few weeks.  After all, it's a pain in the ass, and it wasn't helping, anyway.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I hadn't eliminated gluten.  Not at all.

Oh, I thought I had.  I stopped buying bread and didn't eat any pasta.  I had it covered.

I didn't realize that the stuff is in everything.  Really.  Look at your container of soy sauce, bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, and package of Twix candy bars.

Then look at your spice cabinet.

And all those prepackaged foods in your freezer.

And pretty much every box and container on your pantry shelves.

Yeah, I was about as gluten free as a kid in a pie eating contest.  No wonder I didn't feel any better.

Once I was diagnosed with celiac disease, though, it all changed.  I went through the kitchen with a fine toothed comb.  No gluten escaped the purge.  Okay, I kept a few things that my husband eats, but when he finished them, they weren't replaced.

About three days after I eliminated gluten completely from my diet, something happened. 

I felt better.  I felt human.  For the first time in years.

From that day on, I haven't willingly touched anything with gluten in it. 

And I haven't missed the damn Wonder Bread one bit.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National Running Day

Running changed my life.

I took up runnign during a time that nothing seemed to be going right.  It was something I could do where I was the one in control, and not something or someone else.  In spite of myriad chronic health issue that will plague me for the rest of my life, I could still run.

I had never liked running before, but that didn't matter.  I was going to conquer this.

My goal at first was a 5K.  3.1 miles.  That was all I wanted to do.  I did notice that I felt good on the days that I ran.  Better than I had in a long, long time.  But I was going to stop at 5K.  Anything else was excessive, right?

Then I started visiting online running forums.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forums...

I started reading about people running 10K (6.2 mile) races.  And half marathons - 13.1 miles.  And (gasp!) marathons!  26.2 miles, all at once!  Were they freaking nuts?

But I thought about it, and something clicked for me.  Even as I wondered about my new found cyber friends' sanity, I began to think about longer distances.  I can't pinpoint exactly when I came over to the dark side, but I think it was right around the time I became hopelessly, irrevocably addicted to the endorphins I was producing, otherwise known as runner's high.

Maybe I would do a 10K sometime.  Maybe...someday...after years of running...a half marathon.  Maybe...

Okay, now I'm freaking nuts.

Well, long story short:  6 months after I started running, I ran my first 5K.  Just before my 1 year running anniversary, I ran my first half marathon.  I'm planning to run my first marathon this November, less than 2 years into my running career.  And I'm looking forward to more endurance challenges, like ultra marathons (anything longer than 26.2 miles) and Disney's Goofy Challenge (a half marathon one day and a marathon the next day, sounds like fun!!).

And one of the best things about all of this is that my beloved has taken up running, too.  He ran the 5K by my side.  He couldn't do the half marathon because of shoulder surgery, but cheered me from the sidelines.  And we are now training together for our first marathon.  Now, that's true love!

To celebrate National Running Day, I went out for a quick run this morning.  My beloved and I normally run together on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so this was just a little symbolic, celebratory jaunt.  I went to a park close by our house, where there's a short looping path.  I often walk there, and so do many other people.  Today, one of the walkers flagged me down.  Being the courteous type, I stopped, to see what I could do for her.

She gave me a look that I think of as "grandmotherly."  You've seen it, that smug, condescending, "you're far too stupid to figure this out on your own, so I have to spell it out for you" look.  Like a grandmother looks.

"You know," she said, "it's better for your joints to walk briskly than to run."

Ha!  That made me laugh so hard, I could barely finish my run...

Happy National Running Day!