New Beginnings

This is how I feel in spring. Just put a massive box of Kleenex in her hands.

This is how I feel in spring. Just put a massive box of Kleenex in her hands.

I love spring. Even a cold-ish, allergy filled, rainy spring like this one. Days are longer, sun is higher in the sky and every day something new pops up out of the ground. Had a CRAP week last week, but every morning I woke to daylight, birds chirping and things blooming all around. Even on tough day, it’s really hard not to feel hopeful when life is literally popping up all around you (and kicking the sh*t out of your sinuses while it does, BTW).

Like New Year’s, Spring (at least in the Northeast) is such a sign of new beginnings. It’s like a “new year” without anyone suggesting that you take stock of what you did during the last year and make resolutions for the coming one. Thank God. Even more reason to love it. A new beginning where your main focus is getting out and enjoying the world instead of reflecting on it. Yes, please!

Spring is a crazy busy time for us. Confirmations, graduations, sports schedules that require math exam type planning (If A needs to be at X field at 5 and B needs to be at Y field by 5:15, how likely is it that an SUV travelling at (somewhere in the vicinity of) the speed limit will make both drop offs, assuming no red lights?), end of schoolyear concerts, field days and assemblies. It’s a good thing that we have a winter of hibernation to gear up for the constant movement that is spring. What do people who live in warm weather climates do? Seriously – you warm weather people – WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO? Do you just run ragged all year long??? I’m tired just thinking about it. I love Spring, but I can only take one per year. And only bookended by a cozy winter and a lazy summer, thank you.

In the vein of new beginnings, I tried a new class the other night, called the MELT method. It is NOT an exercise class. It is a “self-care” class that teaches you techniques to help relieve –and prevent- pain by manipulating fascia much like you would get in a massage session. You use squishy balls (for hands and feet) and a soft foam roller (for the rest of your body). I loved it. I have had a lot of back and shoulder pain lately and cannot seem to get rid of it even with rest days, stretching, etc. and an easy running schedule.

When I began the 1-hour class, I couldn’t lay on my back in the “assessment position” without discomfort in my lower back. By the time I left, I was completely free of aches and twinges. Amazing. I really felt like I do after a massage, possibly even better. Plus, the instructor was knowledgeable and funny- my favorite combo. The goal of the class is to teach you the method so you can use it at home. They say that 10 minutes a day is all you need to stay pain-free once you get the hang of it. I’ll take that!

Discovering MELT was perfect timing, as I want to re-align myself before starting to train for my next marathon. Oh the irony – after all my bitching and moaning about training for a fall marathon last summer, I finally got into the NYC marathon on my 4th? 5th? try. I threw my name in the lottery when it opened in December (perhaps still delusional and glowing from Colby’s and my Best Day Ever at the Baystate Marathon and conveniently forgetting that I hate summer training) and promptly forgot about it until I got the confirmation in my in-box that I was IN. After the shock wore off and the dread of intervals in August subsided,  I realized that I am really excited to get a chance to run NYC. And my husband is almost as excited about getting to experience another summer with me bitching about the heat and humidity and falling asleep at dinner, though he is hiding it nicely.

After NYC, I probably have a month or so before I will start training for Boston 2017, so it really, REALLY is time to rest, assess and get my body comfortable before absolutely beating the crap out it during back to back marathon training. Thank you, MELT Method. I think you will do just that.

If you want to learn more about MELT, here is the main website. https://www.meltmethod.com/

If are in the Fairfield County, CT area, my MELT instructor, Amanda Cizek, is fabulous and is also a trained masseuse. Her website is http://www.consistentfitness.com/ and a there is link to her very cool  “Be Awesome” blog right on the homepage. She wrote a great post last week about perceptions (misperceptions?) of what self-care means to us Type A fitness types. Check it out. Food for thought for all of us. I love her “Campaign of Awesome.” Shouldn’t we all strive to Be Awesome in our Bodies?

Have you ever tried MELT? Do you have a go-to activity like yoga, pilates or massage for balancing your running? Have you ever, like me, felt so tight and out of whack that you thought you might actually snap in half? Anyone running the NYC Marathon this year?

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The Joy of Almonds. Five Fun Facts!

Almonds

Well stuff my cheek pouches and call me Nutty! I am on a super almond kick lately. Like. Super. Now that I’m Little Miss Hansons Method and am ramping up marathon training, I find that they are the perfect snack to stash away in my purse, gym bag, car, desk, mailbox- wherever- for whenever a Serious Snack Attack strikes. Which for me lately, is practically every hour. I don’t have to tell you about Tina and nuts. Ever since that time she turned into Sherman Klump before running the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve sort of forbid her to eat any nuts near me. Which means ALL THE NUTS for Colby. Now that’s a friend. 🙂  The happy folks over at nuts.com inspired us to write a piece on almonds. I couldn’t wait to chomp right down on it..

I guess they figured we were health nuts.
*pause*
{She’ll be here all night! Tip your server!}

I slay me.

Here are 5 Fun Facts About My Favorite Powerful Little Nut, The Almond!

  1. Peaches and almonds are cousins.  Shocker, right?!?!? Who knew! The nut that we eat (in my case, by the fist full) is the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree. Think of it like a stone fruit. Cherry, plum, peach….ALMOND. Mind. Blown.
    Behold! Young almonds. Photo: Wikipedia

    Behold! Young almonds. Photo: Wikipedia

     Mature Almond. Photo: Wikipedia

    Behold! Mature Almond. Photo: Wikipedia

  2. Almonds are some of the lowest-calorie nuts around. YAHOO!  Almonds pack 160 calories, 9 grams of mono-unsaturated, heart-healthy fats, 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber per 1 ounce serving. And, they’re LOADED with the antioxidant vitamin E.  That’s E for EXCELLENT. Go Almonds! They’re about neck and neck with pistachios and cashews in the calorie department. Eat ’em in moderation folks. They’re easy to binge on. RHOBH Brandy
  3. Almonds were used as a Fertility Charm.  In ancient Rome, newlyweds were showered with ‘em. LIGHTBULB. So THAT’S why at every single Italian baby shower or bridal shower I’ve ever gone to, there are little tulle pouches of almonds- Jordan Almonds specifically!!
    5 Jazzy Almonds. Photo: Pinterest.

    5 Jazzy Almonds. Photo: Pinterest.

    Total ah-ha! moment here! Traditionally, five Jordan Almonds are wrapped in tulle and tied with a ribbon.  And usually, at least in my Italian circles, there are usually 5 in a bag.  According to my very shallow internet reseach, the 5 almonds represent happiness, health, wealth, fertility and long life. They’re given in an odd number to represent the indivisibility of the marriage bond. Why fertility? Because those little guys are egg shaped. Awww. I once chipped my tooth biting into a Jordan Almond at a bridal shower. But. I still love them.

  4. Almonds are considered BRAINFOOD. Smarty pants! I’m guessing they’re considered healthy brain food because they are rich in healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin B6 and in the anti-oxidant, vitamin E. The 3 of which are thought to improve brain health.  Raw almonds are loaded with omega-3s. Eat up. And before you know it, you’ll be doing the New York Times crossword with a pen. (One of us does already. Hint: It’s Tina, not me.)

    Photo: Nuts.com

    Photo: Nuts.com

  5. Almonds are delicious. Duh. Especially in granola. And super especially if you make your own. Which is a snap. Just ask the Barefoot Contessa. I really dig this recipe- Cherry, Almond, Coconut, Oats, Honey…..DELISH. Use tart cherries and you’ll be rocking the whole Super Food Thing. Don’t like apricots?  Ditch ‘em. It’s your Almond Granola. You do you. That’s the beauty of homemade. Yum.
Photo: Food Network

Photo: Food Network

Homemade Granola. Courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup small diced dried figs
  • 1 cup dried (tart) cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

 Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  •  Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.
  •  (Inspired by Sarah Chase’s Open House Cookbook.)

What’s your favorite nut? How often do you snack while marathon training? Do you do the crossword puzzle with a pen?

Sherman Klump Runs a Marathon. Or, How to Avoid a Severe Allergic Reaction Before Running 26.2 Miles.

keep-calm-and-grab-the-epipen

The short answer is: Stay the hell out of goddamn 7-11.

I know exactly what you’re thinking:  What in the name of anaphylaxis is going on here?!?!?  Believe me, I was thinking it too. I may have even been screaming it out loud. Or at least I was in my head. I couldn’t alarm The Patient. All I can say to the makers of Benadryl is:

Thank You.
Thank you.
And did I say, Thank you?

I would send them a singing telegram if only I could hire Mr. Peanut to tap dance, juggle EpiPens and croon my deepest thanks. Instead this post will have suffice. Oh, I’ve got a story for ya.

Tina, our dear friend Diva Cindi, and I headed to Philadelphia this past weekend to get our Rocky on and run the full (Tina) and half (Colby and Diva Cindi) Philadelphia Marathon. We had this shit all planned for months. In fact, Tina has already posted her race recap which I strongly suggest you read HERE. Tina had registered for the full and I decided, “What the hell?” and registered for the half. I peer pressured Diva Cindi into it too. Like all BRFs do. (Best Running Friends, for those not “in the know”.) Perfect.

Girls Weekend at the Ritz!
Running!
Laughing!
Celebrating!
Drinking copious amounts of beer post race!
Hair braiding and tickle fights!
YEAY ESTROGEN!

This was our 2014 race season swan song. Secretly, I had planned on running my little heart out. I had my eye on a PR. But apparently my eye was also on an Achilles injury post ultra marathon, followed by an unrelated (surprise!) surgery which put me out of commission in the weeks leading up to the half. I’ll just put it this way: I haven’t had a good run lately. That is both literal and figurative. More on what is ailing me at another time. I promise. For me, this was either going to be the race of a lifetime or an absolute shit show. Total coin flip.

Tina on the other hand was prepared. Even though she said she didn’t feel like she was, I didn’t believe her. She always is. Trained and Tapered, Tina was ready. Somewhere along the Jersey Pike she exclaimed: I am really f*cking psyched for this marathon!  I *’ed out the profanity because it’s Tina. And she’s more Lady than Pirate, but put a couple of pints in that broad and she might as well have a patch on her eye and a hook for a hand. 20141126-061130-22290438.jpgSee us at the Expo all smilely and stuff? Christ, we are buzzing with excitement. That’s why it’s blurry. We mill around. Test stuff out. Buy a new, rad Janji cap from my friend Dave, laugh our heads off and realize we haven’t eaten. I glance at Tina. She is slightly dazed and pale.

What do you need?

She says she needs Gatorade. I suggest we eat. Because we haven’t. And someone is running awfully far in the morning. For as smart as our mother’s think we are, we are fools. Hypoglycemic, amateur fools. We head out. And walk promptly into a Goddamn Wawa 7-11. {Note: I now hate Goddamn 7-11s. I do love Wawas.) Tina makes a bee line for the Gatorade and chugs 32oz like she was at frat party in the mid-90s.

She heads to the nut aisle.

It is here Dear Reader, that our story takes a precipitous turn for the worst.
I hear this, with traces of a Boston accent:

{Perturbed} Plantah’s Almonds are $2 more?!?! I’m not paying two extra goddamn dollahs for a peanut wearin’ a top hat. No sir!!!

Instead of buying the brand she has eaten before, she buys the off brand nuts.

Meanwhile, en route to the Ritz, two dollahs richer, she reads the back of the bag as a PERSON WITH SEVERE ALLERGIES DOES, decides it’s fine, rips it open and downs the pack.

We leave.

{Small voice} I feel like I swallowed a nut wrong.

WHAT?

We walk.
She trips on a curb.
We make eye contact.
She’s quiet.
I arch an eyebrow.
We’re in the room.

{Wheezes calmly.} I am having an allergic reaction.

Diva Cindi and I look up from our race swag. sherman clump

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Holy allergic reaction. She has morphed into Sherman Klump, the Nutty Professor. Her eye BALLOONS. Right before our very eyes. This is serious. Diva Cindi dives in her purse and throws two Bendryl and a packet of Equal at her. OH MY GOD TINA GRAB YOUR EPIPEN! Her response as she swallows the two Benedryl and a Claritin?

{Rasps} NO! If I use my EpiPen, I’ll have to go to the hospital and then I won’t be able to run tomorrow.

Now. There are 100s of responses to make upon hearing that nonsense, beginning with: I’ve called 911. They’re admitting you to an insane asylum after the epinephrine shot and steroids because you are being totally OUT OF YOUR EFFEN MIND. I JUST 5150’d YOUR CRAZY ASS!

Allergies are some scary stuff. They’re not funny. And believe me, if this story didn’t have a happy ending, I wouldn’t be calling her Sherman Klump. I’d be rocking in the corner, sucking my thumb, penning her eulogy and not posting this…

Because that’s what really happened. After several minutes post mega dose of Benedryl, she ASSURED us she could breathe. Her wheezing subsided. She still kind of looked like a starving puffer fish, but insisted she was feeling better. Instead, WE insisted she throw on her sunglasses for supper. For Christ sake, she was hideous. Besides, we needed to gain control of this ridiculous situation. Glasses on, Lady! We don’t care if it’s dark and you can barely see. We have an image to protect! BRFs. They RULE!

Thankfully, all ended well. After eating her height in pancakes, Chilly Willy put her swollen head on the table, and promptly nodded off in her syrup. She woke up radiant, with a killer Benedryl hangover and proceeded to run one hell of a marathon. I have to be honest. She qualified for Boston her first time running a marathon yet, I am more proud of her for running Philly. There is no one like her. And I’m honored she is my best friend.

Her allergist appointment is next week just after my cardiologist appointment and short stint in rehab to combat Xanax and alcohol addiction. She kills me that goddamn Tina.

City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Endurance

PHILLYSHIRT_crop

Our weekend in Philadelphia was so epic that it would take 10 blog posts to sum up it, but fear not – we’ll limit it to 2…or 3.  This one is going to focus on the marathon itself. And It’s long – my apologies.

It was a tough race for me. This is an understatement. Let’s just say that the wheels started to come off the bus at the Expo…

THE EXPO you ask? Yes, the freaking Expo. Nothing against the Expo itself – it was fabulous, filled with great energy and interesting products. But I think it is also where I ate something that nearly sent me into anaphylaxis. It was either there or at the 7-11 across the street (now affectionately referred to by us as the “Goddamn 7-11.” Apologies to 7-11. I know they didn’t mean it. Even bigger apologies to WaWa, since Colby kept calling it the Goddamn Wawa, and they had no involvement with the “situation.”)

I have written before that I have food allergies that prevent me from eating anything Asian or from health food joints (soy), ever entering Bubba Gump’s (shrimp) and, most devastatingly, indulging in Nutella (hazelnuts). Despite reading the label of everything I put in my mouth on Saturday, I had a pretty severe allergic reaction to something around 4 PM. We have decided to let Colby write the details of my descent into allergy hell because she got to watch it unfold and frankly, we are twisted people who found humor in it and I want her to make me laugh about it again (now that we know I am not going to die). I will say that if you ever find yourself in an urgent medical situation, you could not have better people beside you than Colby and Diva Cindi. #truth. I was so, so lucky to have them with me.

So, from 4 PM Saturday until we left for the race at 5:30 AM Sunday, I really wasn’t sure whether I would be able to race. Being fully doped up on Benadryl, I wasn’t able to focus enough to obsess over it, but I was pretty anxious and bummed.

Getting ready for the race, I decided I could do it. Much of the swelling in my face had subsided, my breathing was totally normal and the nauseated feeling I had was probably more due to mainlining Benadryl than the allergic reaction itself. OK, Girls, It’s GO Time!!

We strategically posed to block my right eye, which was still crazily swollen. The left one that is showing just looks like I broke up with my boyfriend. As a courtesy to fellow runners and spectators, I wore my sunglasses during the race.

We strategically posed to block my right eye, which was still crazily swollen. The left one that is showing just looks like I broke up with my boyfriend and was crying all night. As a courtesy to fellow runners and spectators, I wore my sunglasses during the race.

We walked over under crisp dark skies. Bag check couldn’t have been easier. Porta-potties were a different story, but through perseverance and MacGyver-like strategy, we found some that had a manageable line and made it through before corral line up. Barely.

With only minutes to spare, the elites were off. Colby and I were in the second corral, so our group started about 10 minutes later. The sun was coming up, the skyline was gorgeous, and despite my residual nausea, I decided I was going to enjoy this race.

All I can say about the first half is that it was awesome. We wound through the city streets, past gorgeous buildings, supportive crowds, rollicking energy and even a few frat houses. My stomach did not feel great, but my mind felt happy and my running felt strong. It was sheer joy and exactly why I run.

Just before mile 13, Colby, Diva Cindi and the rest of the half marathoners split off to the right toward the finish and we marathoners headed left for a jaunt along the Schuylkill River. Shortly after the split, my stomach really started to give me trouble. I’m not the type to share details, so suffice it to say that I had to visit 4 separate porta-potties between mile 14 and mile 24. I was not happy. And being the true sicko runner that I am, I was less bothered that I was sick than by the fact that I was wasting time –serious time– waiting in line for porta-potties. During a marathon. Ugh. But when it comes down to it, what can you do but cover up your Garmin and move on? Which is exactly what I did.

Around mile 18, I realized that I was no longer going to be able to eat or drink during this journey, and that anything – including water – would just come back up on me, so thus concluded the fuel and hydration portion of my race. In case anyone was wondering, Benadryl is not a performance enhancer and you should make every effort to avoid having to dope yourself with it before an endurance event. My system was in chaos. I did stop at every water stop to wash my mouth out with Gatorade and water, but didn’t dare swallow anything.

The silver lining is that my stomach is my weak spot. Always. Knock wood, I never have problems with my muscles. I happily don’t even know where my IT band is. I walked around in 4 inch heels at work yesterday -2 days after a marathon – with nary a twinge in my calves or hamstrings. I am blessed with resilient muscles. But I also have an Irish stomach, so I know stomach problems. Quite well. And it is the rare training run that doesn’t leave me with some stomach problem or other, so I know I can power through it. Will I need a potty break? Yes. Will it slow me down? Yes. But it need not stop me, and my training has taught me this. So the fact that I was going to have to run 8 more miles with no gels or water and probably a visit or three to a porta-potty didn’t panic me as much as it might. It mostly just bummed me out because I knew I had to throw all hope of getting a great time out the window. And with all of my splits through mile 14 in the low to mid-8’s with even a high 7 thrown in, I had been pretty excited about seeing how fast I could cross the finish. Bummer.

But it wasn’t all misery. There were some great cheer sections and awesome bands. The Manayunk neighborhood was rocking and people were handing out beers (I declined, natch). The run along the river was pretty, and I was running the race, which was in question a mere 12 hours before. So I really was grateful, despite the difficulties.

By Mile 22, I was really feeling the effects of no fuel or hydration, so I went into autopilot. Not finishing was not an option. And I knew I could do it, even if it wouldn’t be pretty and it certainly wouldn’t be a PR. I set my mp3 to “repeat” and for each of the last 4 miles, I chose one song and played it over and over until the next mile. I recommend trying that if you find yourself in a tough spot. It really helped me to zone out and keep to a rhythm. At mile 26, headphones came off and I ran toward the finish line like it was my job. I did it! I freaking did it. I really felt like I earned that medal.

Done and Done! For some reason, I'm holding up my orange juice cup instead of my medal. Possibly because I was hypo-glycemic.

Done and Done! For some reason, I’m holding up my orange juice cup instead of my medal. Possibly because I was hypo-glycemic.

This was my second marathon, and although I’m happier with my time from the Marine Corps Marathon last year, I think I’m prouder of my performance in this one. I didn’t give up. Not before the race and not during the race. I always want to think of myself as someone who doesn’t give up, and I feel like I proved it. And for that, I feel really, really proud.

I also can’t help but think back about how important training is. You think you’re just training for endurance, but you’re not. By running all sorts of distances in all sorts of conditions for months before a marathon, you’re also training to deal with all of the adversities that may befall you on race day – bad weather, twingy calves, tight hamstrings or an upset stomach. Dealing with your own weaknesses in training gives you the confidence to deal with them if they happen on raceday. Training sometimes feels like a chore, but really, it’s a gift.

So, Philly is in the books! Loved the city, loved the people and really enjoyed the course. So glad I did it.  And with that, I’m off to call my allergist to figure out which food I need to add to my no-no list.

Oh, and JUST WAIT until Colby posts her recap. Be prepared to spit your coffee out.