You Know You’re a Runner When…

I’ve often thought about at what point I became a runner. Fellow runners might say that it was as soon as I started running. That may be true, but I don’t think that is when I knew I was a runner.

I started running for real with intent about a year ago. I didn’t know then that I was a runner. I ran three times per week with my Team. I didn’t know I was a runner. I did 1/2 mile repeats, but I didn’t think I was a runner. I ran 1 mile repeats. Still not sure I was a runner. I did hill sprints and long runs and it didn’t occur to me that I was a runner. I ran. Those to me were not the same thing.

I got a monster case of shin splints (these are my vice), and I thought, “Okay maybe I’m a runner, runners get these.” And then I had to stop running, so I most certainly couldn’t be a runner.  I went an entire season coming in last, moving slow, recovering slower. Actually, I grew to really embrace this. I knew I would never be a runner if I didn’t struggle through this part. After all, my body was not used to the schedule, the hours, the pounding. I knew though, that as long as I didn’t give up, there would come a point when it felt less like “work”. But it was hard. There were days when I cursed my shoes. And my calves. And my lungs. And my back, and my hand that went numb after an 8 mile run. I bought my foam roller shortly after I finished a round of physical therapy. I was buying runner-like things. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, right? Sometimes you just have to call a duck a duck. But I wasn’t yet willing to call myself a duck runner.

I lined up in my coral for my first half-marathon on October 20, 2013. It was dark, cold, crazy early (all of the things runners embrace about mornings). My head was ready, my body was as ready as it was going to get. And I ran. At this particular race, I ran for those who can’t. Those who will and those who won’t. I ran for those effected by blood cancer. And I ran hard. Perhaps a bit too hard because when I hit the Presidio hills I thought my legs were going to quite literally detach themselves and walk back down the other way. I most certainly am not a runner.

A funny thing happened between mile 10 and mile 12. As I was running through Golden Gate Park, I thought it was over. I must, somehow get to the finish line. The only way to be finished is to get myself to that finish line. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that at any time I could have walked off that course. I could have exited out (left, right, sat down, etc). But the thought of exiting out never, once crossed my mind. The only way this race was going to end was if I finished. And it was at that moment that I realized, that I was, in fact a runner. A runner doesn’t take the easy way out. A runner sees the finish line no matter how difficult the course. A runner goes the mile (or dozens of them) to claim that finish as their own.  A runner feels the pain, heals the pain and keeps on working. And the really funny part is that I had been doing that for months. I knew I was a runner when “FINISH”  was the only conceivable way. And now I know I am, and have been, a runner all along.

Tell me, when did you realize that you were a runner?

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K, San Francisco

Hot Chocolate 15/5K, America’s Sweetest Race. How can you not find this enticing?? I decided several months ago that I wanted to do this race for my birthday weekend. Thirty-five twenty-nine is approaching on Tuesday. It seemed not only like a reasonable distance for a mid-season (Team in Training) run, but a great birthday activity for my run-friends. I am bound and determined to make this year one full of activity, health, and accomplishing goals. I layed out my running-person with plenty of time to rest:

Great swag at this race!

Great swag at this race!

The Hot Chocolate 15/5K has awesome swag. We each got a really nice fleece-lined hooded pullover. I thought it would be sub-par, but it’s actually really nice! It’s embroidered with the race logo on the chest. The women’s one is black with purple-lined hood. The men’s is grey with blue-lined hood. This is one of my favorite warm up articles now. The gear back is nice sturdy nylon. I’ll use it for other races for sure. I took an Uber to pick up my friend and so we could get there together. When we arrived, the pre-race area was packed full of people. Oddly enough, the gear check lines weren’t that long. I was really impressed because right from the beginning this seemed like a very organized event.  We made our way to gear check, and just took it all in. I was super excited to run into Sarah, from runningandwine.com! I often hear about bloggers uniting at races, but this was a first.  So great to meet Sarah. (If you don’t already, you should follow her blog!).

We chatted a bit and then headed to the coral area. The one piece of feedback I have for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K organizers, was that they might consider changing the order of the races, or, having them start at the same time and then splitting off. It felt a little silly for there to be over an hour wait between the start of the 5K (which went first) and the start of the 15k. Plus it’s just odd to start a 15K at 8:20am. There was a lot of standing around shivering our butts compression sleeves off. But finally, it was our turn to head towards the start line.

Very eager to run (warm up).

Very eager to run (warm up).

These shoes are made for running and that's just what they'll do.

These shoes are made for running and that’s just what they’ll do.

The first 2 miles felt really easy. There were some very mild hills, but felt like a fair amount of downhill (my favorite). I noticed quickly that I was comfortable. This is a course in an area I run in frequently, so I knew what to expect. When we made our way out of Golden Gate Park I realized I should have worn a lighter shirt. I often forget that we can have wide open sunshine around here! But it was an absolutely exquisite day. The view along Ocean Beach was breathtaking. My pics just don’t do it justice.

Ocean Beach

I realized that I was plowing through my previous times. I just did a 2 mile time trial in track practice last week and I blew that away by a full minute. So I thought maybe I could beat my 5K time. BAM! -3.0mins. What the heck, let’s try to beat my 10K time. Bearing in mind, that my times are slow. I’ve only really been running for a year, so I don’t anticipate pulling improvements like this often. When I was about 5.4 or so miles in I realized I had a ridiculous amount of time to go to tie my previous best 10K time. I ended up clearing it by almost 6.0 mins. AWESOME.  I was so elated that I was able to clear these times that I’ve been stuck on that I stopped to actually enjoy a minute of fresh ocean air and a feeling of accomplishment.

YES! Personal Best, 2mi, 5K, 10K!

YES! Personal Best, 2mi, 5K, 10K!

For the past year as I have been trying to train my body to be able to take on running distances, something has always ached, pinched, cramped, etc. Most recently and right before the holidays it was a raging case of shin splints that I was beginning to worry about. I took two weeks over the holiday time to rest and ice like it was my job. This past week when I re-started, I had no pain. This particular day I felt awesome. I made a conscious decision to go slow and walk some for the last 2 miles though. I didn’t care so much about my overall time given the other accomplishments. I’m still really happy with my outcome (and ended up about on par with my Nike/Big Sur Half Marathon times.

Obligatory finisher selfie.

Obligatory finisher selfie.

The part that I find the most amusing is that when I finished, I really wanted nothing to do with the chocolate!  The finisher’s mug was pretty sweet (get it??). It had 3 wells: one with chocolate fondue, one with a mug of hot chocolate and one that had dippers (marshmallow, pretzels, krispy treat, wafer cookie and a banana). I ate the banana and a couple of pretzels but I really just wanted water. It was beautiful here in San Francisco, so I just parked on a bench and rested before heading to pick up my bag. Sidebar, I realized that I checked my bag in the 5,000s not the 50,000 like I was supposed to. The volunteer took the time to check every single box and still managed to find it. Super awesome.

So all in all, this was a great day. And a great race that I would definitely recommend trying if you get the chance. I’ll surely do it again at some point.  If you want additional information, head on over to the event’s website for all of the details and to find out when it will come to a city near you!!

Until next time,

Brie

Happy New Year! (And 2013 in Review)

2013 was one of the most trying and most amazing years for me so far.  In January 2013 I had no idea what kind of year I was in for. Let’s review.

January: Still going between Seattle and San Francisco and still trying to figure out if we would stay or go. My guy went, but it wasn’t a definite stay. Limbo continues. Better than bi-coastal by FAR.

BB Seattle

February: Same. I was going to work, going to the gym, and going to Seattle. But incidentally, B was starting to spend a great deal of time back in San Francisco when he was able.

March: After spotting a billboard that showed an ad for Team in Training registration for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon I said to B, “Oh they do a half here? Maybe someday I will do that….” (I had no idea just what that statement would mean later). Annnnnd…..I became an auntie again to a beautiful little baby nephew!

April: Co-worker emails me asking if I would consider signing up for Team in Training Fall for Nike Women’s. (Seriously). It’s a sign, of course I said yes.  2 weeks later while celebrating Marathon Monday from the West Coast (if you’re from New England, this is a holiday wherever you may now be), I watched terror unfold on the computer from my office. The next few weeks were a horrible blur.  Life-changing, sad, scary, unbelievable blur. Officially signed up for TNT and thus began an amazing journey.

 

Copley 2Spot

LeheyCopley

May: Lost a very dear friend, far too soon in a terrible accident back East. Heartbroken. Learned that she died trying to save a friend that had fallen into the ocean on the coast of Rockport, MA. Both, unfortunately were lost. Evelyn Howe was one of those amazing people that you are blessed to get to know. Was a big sister to me when we lived in the same building in Newton. I think about she and her son, a 20 y/o college student, every single day.

June: Back to Boston for a weekend for the Promising Pals end of year breakfast. I have volunteered in this program for 5 years through my grad school, Simmons College, in partnership with the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, MA. Mentoring and pen-paling with a middle-school student for the year. This event is AWESOME.  You can read about it by Clicking Here. Training with The Team also began in June. (Holy crap, I’m actually doing this!)

Boston 2013

July: GREAT friends back east got married! YAY P&K! We also spent a glorious few days in Boston disconnected on our first actual vaca in 4 years. And then I came back and got strep throat. Totally worth it.

August: Continuing to raise money to cure cancer. 2 months til NWHM and I haven’t given up yet!  B, officially moves back to San Francisco!!! After 4.5 years, three moves, three states and almost 5,000 miles apart, we AGAIN are in the same state.  LOVE.

Team September            Team Bridge

September: Running, running, and more running. NWHM is a month away. What the heck am I going to do when this is over? Also, my honoree, Maggie, got her bone marrow transplant! YAY! #cancersucks I also realized that I, for better or worse, am a runner. Sure, why not do the Big Sur Half Marathon in November. #crazygirl

September 2           September 3

October: NWHM month! I actually started this journey in April. I actually finished it. On 10/21 I got up with the birds, met in Union Square with thousands of other runners and I ran SF. I just did it. I finished my first half-marathon. Dang. I finished. Emotional crash. I drank the purple cool-aid. I also raised almost $3K for blood cancer research.

Finish Line TNT NWHMTeam FinishNecklace

November: Same co-worker and I decide to apply to come back to Team in Training as Mentors for the Spring Season. #GOTEAM!  I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon. By run, I mean run-hobble or runble. Mile 9 my plantar fasciitis really started to bother me and I just couldn’t run. I could barely walk.  Cursing my foot. But I finished! It’s now my Keri Strug race.

FootSleepBig Sur Selfie

 

December: Training for the Spring Season of Team in Training begins! San Luis Obispo Half Marathon here I come.  Getting ready for the Hot Chocolate 15K in January. Putting together my 2014 race calendar. Oh and have a raging case of shin splints. Holiday season means fewer work days which means plenty of time to #RICE. I also had the honor of spending a patient’s last hours with him. This changed my life. I hope to live a more authentic, meaningful, positive, charitable, kind life. In those hours he asked me what I do outside of work and we talked about running and half-marathons. He wrote me a note that said, “Half? Go all the way!”

In the spirit of living all the way, I welcome 2014. I will raise the bar and challenge myself. Live as authentically as I can, worry less and run more.  How will you  live all the way this year?

Happy New Year Friends!!

Happy Thanksgiving My Favorite Tips!

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for several reasons. But this year is extra nice for us because we don’t have to travel. We had a lovely day, just the two of us, on what I have now coined, “Schedule-Free Thursday”. It’s rare, I think, for most of us to have a day where we are not bound by schedules, expectations, deadlines, etc. We’ve both been extra busy with work, so it was as needed as it was enjoyed. I’ve been making Thanksgiving Dinner for all of my adult life. My first true Thanksgiving that I cooked for was when I was 23. I’ve cooked almost every year since (except 2012 because of a California/Washington debacle. Sidebar, we had an awesome dinner in Seattle last year. If you’ve never been to Local 360, you should go.).  I wanted to share some of my tried and true Thanksgiving tips but had a hard time figuring out which to go with. So here was our menu.

Breakfast:

Pumpkin French Toast and Mimosas

(Featuring JCB No. 9 Wine)

Dinner:

Bourbon Roasted Turkey Breast

Smashed White Sweet Potatoes

Stuffing

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin French Toast (2/3 loaf day-old French bread, thickly sliced)

The pumpkin french toast is possibly the easiest non-fancy thing to make. You simply add about 1/2 C pumpkin puree to your regular french toast egg-mixture. For mine, I bought a loaf of french bread on Monday. We used some of it for dinner just to trim the end off. We kept it in the paper wrapper it came in to dry out a bit. (Slightly stale bread is perfect for french toast.)

4 Large Eggs

1/4-1/2 C Pumpkin Puree

1/2 C Milk

1 TBS Granulated Sugar

1 TSP Ground Cinnamon (More or less to your taste)

Confectioner’s Sugar (to sprinkle)

Slice french bread into about 2″ slices and set aside. Combine all ingredients for your custard mixture . Dip your slices in and get them evenly coated. Then cook on hot griddle (350 degrees) until each side is brown. About 6 minutes.  Top with powdered sugar and cinnamon, butter and some maple syrup. It should look something like this:

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Mmmm Delicious.

We rested for a couple of hours before even thinking about making dinner. Because it was just the two of us, I went with just a bone-in turkey breast that I picked up from or local organic grocery store. You don’t need anything fancy, this works with any turkey. Mine was 6.5 lbs.

Bourbon-Roasted Turkey

1 Turkey, either whole, or breast only. Whichever you prefer.

I tend to dry-rub first with salt and pepper and Bell’s Turkey Seasoning. You can do this the night before too. Fresh herbs work wonderfully. I didn’t this year but have in the past. Herb de Provence is also a good addition.

Bourbon Whiskey

You can use any of the many varieties. I’ve used Jim Beam in the past. This time I used my favorite, Knob Creek. *Don’t use an expensive bourbon on your turkey. You will be very upset when it’s gone!* Add about a 1/2 (6 lb turkey)over the top of your already seasoned turkey (more for a larger bird).  For a large bird, you may use up to a full bottle, but watch and see how it juices as it cooks.

Chicken Stock

I added about a cup to the pan. I like extra juice. I use it for my stuffing as well as the gravy.

Roast on 325 until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I baste every 45 minutes, but you do not have to do this. Keep the turkey covered for the first portion of the cooking. Today mine took about 2.5 hours. I took the foil off for the last 45 minutes. You should baste more with it uncovered so the skin doesn’t dry out.  It will become a beautiful golden brown on it’s own. If the juice gets low, or your turkey isn’t producing much, you can always add more stock. And, I really like bourbon gravy, so I add a bit more mid-way through cooking.

We missed the finished product. Forgot the pic before carving!

Everyone always asks about pumpkin pie. What’s the best way to do it? Is it hard? I’ve had many. I (clearly) could survive on pumpkin alone. The tried and true recipe that has been used in my family forever is the LIBBY’S Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe. I’ve never found one I like as much. This year, I adapted it slightly as I forgot to buy ground ginger. I have ginger paste on-hand so I used that (doubled).

pie collage

Okay, I have a confession to make. I cheat when cooking. Often. I’ve got decades to perfect homemade pie crust. It doesn’t bother me in the least that I buy roll-out crust!

Thanksgiving is a day to make your own traditions. My favorite so far has been the one spent at home, keeping it simple. I hope you had a safe, happy and healthy holiday!

Feel free to email me or comment for other Thanksgiving tips!

The Mighty Ouch

Sunday I completed the Big Sur Half Marathon. And I use the word “completed” loosely. Yes I finished. I now refer to this as my “Keri Strug Race”. I’m babying my left foot in all of my pictures (or walking) due to an unfortunate flare up of plantar faciitis. If you have had this before you know it’s miserable. I’ve dealt with it in the past and it generally is a little bothersome in the morning but when I get moving it feels much better. I do my foot exercises (*Go see your doctor if you think you need them*) and I tape it with some KT Tape to run or do any strenuous activity which helps. Sunday it did not help. 

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Please note the untouched banana and pretzels. I just. Wanted. Ice.

 

You should know this: I am not a risk taker. I have had enough injuries and illnesses in my life to know the difference between a growing pain and an injury. I don’t need to touch a hot stove to know it’s going to burn if I touch it! Injuries are a very real part of any sport, running is certainly no exception. Some are more common than others, more treatable than others, more detrimental than others. All athletes (and non-athletes) are probably guilty at some point of pushing through something that in hindsight they should have listened to. 

My question is this: what makes you (us) do this? Is it the race itself, the worry of a lost PR or qualifier? Is it that we really don’t think the injury is a real injury? Is it that “we know our bodies and what they can handle? (Which confuses me because if that were true, we wouldn’t have an injury to begin with, right?). What is it that helps us to determine when to push through and when not to? Is it really worth it? (PS, I ask because I genuinely don’t know.)

When I realized that the pain in my foot was getting worse and different (and I was getting nauseous because of it), I made the active decision to stop running. I told myself I would walk unless it got worse in which case I was prepared to do the “unthinkable”—STOP. Heaven forbid! Regardless of the turnout, I still woke up the next day, the world was still spinning, my work email was still collecting. There will be other races. I realize that this is easy to say for a novice runner. This isn’t my livelihood. Disappointing, absolutely.

At work I use the airplane analogy frequently. You must take care of yourself first. The Mighty Ouch can easily go from bad to worse if you don’t use good self-care. 

What keeps you from stopping when you’re hurting? What have the results been? What advice would you give someone who is struggling with that decision?

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The Beginning of the…..Beginning!

This is a place where I hope to chronicle  my journey to becoming a better self. But it’s helpful to start with some history. Six months ago I embarked on a journey that changed my life. I joined Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My goal? To help eradicate blood cancer and to run a half-marathon. Not only did I meet all of my goals (raise funds, awareness, make friends, run a flippin half-marathon…), but I emerged somehow a bit different. Perspective is awesome like that. Not only did I find a little slice of “home” in Team, but I found I actually really like running! I’ve tried on my own many times. I’d done a few local races. But each time, I just didn’t hold on for the long haul. Well, now in the past six months, I’ve trained, I’ve learned about running and how to run smart. In the past month I’ve run TWO half marathons (say, WHAAAA????).

In my other life, I work hard as a clinical social worker in health care. An important professional value I hold close is that of good self-care. For me that is a balance of knowing when to work hard and knowing when to let go. I enjoy being outside, but I also enjoy some quality reality TV. I enjoy spending time with good friends and a “better half” that has been by my side through thick and thin. I am a transplant from Boston to San Francisco, which I’m so lucky to now call home.  I LOVE love love love love to cook and share cooking with others. Pulling all of this together, I’m finding, has become a nice big adventure.

It is possible to do all of this beginning in your thirties. All it takes is some motivation, good support, and a sense of humor.

This is runfunfood.

 

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