Friday, September 30, 2011

Lunch Wars!

I was invited to review Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children's Healthby Amy Kalafa as part of the BlogHer Book Club.

And thanks to Ms. Kalafa's informative and eye-opening book, I now feel completely overwhelmed and waaaaay behind.

Sure, my son is only in preschool and hasn't even begun to eat any of the 3,000 school meals that the average child eats between kindergarten and 12th grade. But Kalafa paints a picture of a school food system that is so broken and so in need of parental involvement that I finished the book feeling exhausted and, yes, quite behind.

After all, since my son doesn't yet eat any meals at school, who is the lunch lady in his life? That's right: I am. Me. I'm the lunch lady. And what have I  been feeding him? Mostly healthy stuff but also some of the same crap that Kalafa rails against schools for serving. Some healthy lunch lady I am . . .

But that's me. I often feel like I'm standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain when I read about what I should be doing to maximize my kids' health and wellness.

Aside from freaking me out a bit, I found Lunch Wars to be an excellent book. It was full of interesting -- and scary -- facts. As in, "Holy crap, my kid is going to be served pet-food grade 'spent-hen meat'?" (from page 19). Um, that's gross. And not cool.

Also on the not cool list:

  • "American's spend $200 billion per year in diet-related health-care costs; twice as much per person than any other developed nation.
  • One quarter of children ages five to 10 have elevated blood cholesterol or high blood pressure -- early warning signs for heart disease.
  • Twelve percent of American children currently have type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes."
Kalafa shares tons of facts like these to bolster her case that we should be concerned about the foods served in schools. After all, we pay for part of the food (as tax payers) and then, she posits, we pay for the health problems down the road. 

Her arguments are valid but I did find the overall tone of the book a bit, perhaps, overly emotional. I don't know -- reading the book, I felt myself getting all riled up and I felt that that was the point. She wanted me to get riled up. And, OK, fair enough. The system is probably a rotten one and feeding our kids crap is a problem. So riling up moms is a good way to get things done. I just don't like feeling that I'm killing my kid if he eats some Keebler cookie or if I don't join the revolution.

Fortunately, Kalafa provides a lot of instruction on how to step into the revolution to whatever degree you are comfortable with. I appreciated her guidelines on how to get involved on a small level at your local school to taking it to Big Food and trying to make Big Changes. Her lists of things you can do, questions to ask, places to go, and people to see are all helpful and would make fighting for good food for our kids easier for anyone who wants to go for it.

So, check it out. If you liked Michael Pollan's books (like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) I think you'll like Lunch Wars.

And while you're at it, you can check out the discussion about Lunch Wars on BlogHer.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

~ Felice

Review disclosure: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Post race.

Ah, post-race let down.

Such a weird feeling and always combined with the question of "what's next?"

Three days post-race and I'm feeling fine. I went for an easy, slow run on Monday and my hamstrings definitely felt tired but that was about it. Then, yesterday, I did a half-hour Athletic Agility program on Exercise TV. That was different. Have you tried it? Hmm . . . it was a good -- but odd -- workout and I'm really feeling it in my shoulders today.

So, basically, my body feels good after having run a tough half marathon on Sunday. That, to me, means that I was well-trained to run at that pace and for that distance. OK, good. I should have been, considering I followed my training plan fairly well, except for when I missed some runs because of a little cold and the Lyme disease.

So . . . now what?

My friend Bridget was disappointed with her race on Sunday and is dying to run another half marathon -- a redemption race of sorts. I'm not sure I'm up for that right now. I am checking out other races and right now I'm toying with the idea of a 5K on 10/15 and then a 15K on 11/13. Our local running club's winter series starts in December so I'll try to run a few of those races and have already committed to the Winter Marathon Relay with Amanda and Suzy at the end of February.

Beyond that, I'm not sure. I'm contemplating another half marathon in the spring so I can go after my 1:46 again. I'm also contemplating running a full marathon, either in the spring or fall, but I'm really not sure if I have it in me. The months ahead will tell.

In the meantime, I plan to just run for fun for a while and enjoy the fall weather. I've been in "training mode" for several months and although the results have been positive I think that running without a plan for a bit will do me well.

How long do you take off after a big race before you start training again?

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adirondack half marathon race report.

Let's cut right to the chase: I did not meet my goal of 1:46:14  in yesterday's half marathon and I am completely, 100% OK with that.

Why? Because I set what I thought was an achievable but challenging goal and even though I didn't reach it, I went for it. I ran hard and as well as I could yesterday. With the exception of a one mile stretch where I almost let my mind get the best of me, I ran strong, in pursuit of my goal.

I fell short.

No excuses -- it just wasn't the day or the race for me to get the time I know I will ultimately run in the half.

So, how was the race? Read on . . .

The Adirondack half marathon (and marathon) is in Schroon Lake, NY, about 90 minutes north of where I live. I met up with Bridget, Janis and Amanda at 6:15 Sunday morning to ride up to the race together. We had a nice little ride and got into town with plenty of time to spare. We picked up our packets (packet pickup ended at 8:15) and then waited for the buses to take us to the start line (they began transporting people at 8:50).

It was around 9:15 or so when we got to the start area and we soon met up with Darlene. Here we are pre-race:

Darlene, Bridget, Janis, me, Amanda.
We were excited for the race because we had no idea how tough it would be. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss!

At 10:00, we took off.

The first mile felt great. I had been worried about my toe, especially because it was hurting while we were walking around prior to the race, but it didn't hurt at all for the first mile. Ten minutes into the race, however, I felt it. Yeah, it hurt. I told myself this was to be expected so I just had to ignore it and run on. And that's more or less what I did. I know that I ran a little awkwardly because the side of my foot and my shin felt strained after the race. So, I must have altered my gait while running because pushing off on my big toe hurt.

Aside from the toe, the first few miles were fine. I was on pace and feeling good.

Then we left the shade and the sun started to beat me down.

Fortunately, about a half mile after things got really sunny, we entered the Word of Life campus and that was an incredible part of the race. The residents (campers?) at Word of Life were amazing cheerers. It felt like an upstate NY version of what I imagine the Wellesley Scream Tunnel  must be like at the Boston Marathon.

Anyway, those kids lifted my spirits and helped me ignore the sun and how hot I was starting to feel. Once we turned out of the campus and on to dreary Route 9, however, I lost the lift.

The sun was hot. The hills were killers. I was pushing myself but not keeping my pace. I simply couldn't push up the hills and maintain an 8:06 pace. I didn't have it in me yesterday.

Around mile 8, I started to think I should just walk. Just walk?!?! What in the what?!?! Exactly. It was a struggle to get back into the racing mind-set during that mile but at some point I did and I picked up the pace again. I felt pretty sick to my stomach for the last 4 miles but I held on.

Once we entered the village of Schroon Lake (which is really quite cute), I knew the finish line was near and I tried to really press it. But, for some reason, I thought the finish line was right on Rt 9 -- the road we were running on -- but it wasn't. So, when I entered the village and couldn't see the finish line ahead, I freaked a little.  I thought it must have been so far out of sight and I just didn't think I had enough left in the tank to get there.

Then I saw that we had to turn on a little side road and that the finish line was right around the corner. Phew! I dug deep and sprinted (as well as I could at that point) to the finish and crossed the line in 1:48:27.

Really?? 1:48:27??

That time, my friends, is a 1:02 PR!!! I was thrilled.

It was a tough, tough race. I fell short of my overall goal. But I set a new PR and I am super happy about that!

I met up with my friends, including Elisa who ran 8 miles before the half and Andrea from Age Groups Rock, and some of us gave our achy legs a break in the cool water of Schroon Lake:

Darlene, me, Elisa, Amanda, Janis, Bridget

It was a well-organized finish area with lots of refreshments and, yes, the beautiful lake.

And then . . . I ended up placing second in my age group! Here I am collecting my award -- a bottle of Adirondack maple syrup. Yum, yum!

All in all, a good but hard race. I won't run it again but I am glad I did it. Now I just need to figure out where to run my next half . . .

Here are my race stats:

Finish time: 1:48:27 (8:16 pace)
Age-group place (female 40-44): 2nd out of 37
Female place: 14th out of 311
Overall place: 50th out of 498

Hope you all had a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ready to toe the line.

I tested out my busted-up toe last night, and I am happy to report that the run went well! I ran 4.2 miles at an 8:30 pace and while my toe hurt some, it wasn't too bad. I can surely handle that level of pain for the half marathon and, really, if I don't run for the next two days it will probably hurt even less on Sunday. So, a win!

And a HUGE relief.

Now, I am ready to set some race day goals!

Normally, I give myself A, B, and C goals. This time, I'm not feeling quite as generous. I have one goal: 1:46:14 or better. 

Why? Because McMillan Running tells me I can*. And, probably more important than that, I believe that I am fully capable of running an 8:07 pace for 13.1 miles. I have a 1:46 half marathon in me. I know I do.

My workouts this training cycle haven't been stellar but my recent race times have been pretty good:

I ran 1:13:59 in the Boilermaker 15K (7:57 pace).
I ran 22:51 in the Freihofer's Run for Women 5K (7:21 pace).

I believe that I have the speed and the endurance to run a fast half marathon. On Sunday, I just need to bring the will. The will to push myself to a 3 minute PR in the half marathon.

You can be sure that I will go for it!

Will you be going for it this weekend? Good luck to everyone racing!

~ Felice

*And, yeah, if you remember from this post, that's pretty close to Sarah Palin's recent half marathon time. I said at the time, "if she can do it, so can I." I stand by that!!

PS!!! I have a giveaway going on over HERE. Through Monday. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Half marathon obsessing.

As promised, I've been obsessing about Sunday's weather.  Every time I log on to my computer, my fingers seem to automatically start typing:   w-e-a-t-h-e-r-.-c-o-m. Go figure.

The forecast looked just perfect earlier this week and now, a little less so:

Not terrible. While I'd prefer to see 0% chance of rain I'm holding on to the fact that right now there is a 70% chance that it will not rain on Sunday.

No rain for Sunday. No rain for Sunday. No rain for Sunday.

I've also been obsessing about my feet and on that topic I've got good news and no news.

First, the good news: No more blisters! That's, I guess, what happens when you don't run for days. Huh. No running = no blisters. Amazing.

And now, the no news: Nothing new on the toe! Well, that's not completely true. It is no longer hurting all of the time. So, that's good. Very good, in fact. Tonight, I will try it out on a 4 mile run and hope that it is miraculously healed and ready to carry me through 13.1 fast miles on Sunday.

No pain in the toe. No pain in the toe. No pain in the toe.

Airborne, vitamin C, vitamin D and lots of water are my friends this week. Germy kids and public spaces are not.

No illness for Sunday. No illness for Sunday. No illness for Sunday. 

Yes, it is half marathon obsession time.

Three more sleeps!

~ Felice

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Busted by Thomas the Tank Engine.

It must be race week, because I'm full of nerves and worries about setbacks.

My latest? Well, on top of the blisters, I now have a busted-up toe. Here's how it happened:

My 4-year-old loves Thomas the Tank Engine. And he loves to read books about Thomas, especially before bed. So, last Thursday he wanted to read this one:

It's a large hardcover. Conal was fooling around on the edge of his bed, holding the book in his hand, telling me he wanted me to read it. I was sitting nicely on the seat next to his bed. My foot was planted flat on the floor.

He dropped the book. And the bottom edge landed square on the joint of my right big toe:

If you've been with me for a while, you'll know that that particular joint of that particular toe is trouble. I have a bunion (as you can see in the pic) and arthritis in the joint (from the bunion, according to the foot doc) leading to limited mobility in that toe. Add in the minor plantar fasciitis that I have in that foot and my running health is a very delicate balance

One little thing and that balance can be thrown off so completely and then it's all doomsday, all the time.

Which is what is going on right now. 

I didn't run for 3 days after Thomas the Tank Engine busted my toe. On Sunday, I had to try it out for what was a planned 7-miler. I ran 7.72 miles at a 9 min/mile pace and the toe hurt the whole time. I was able to more-or-less ignore the pain and tell myself that it was really too bad that someone's foot was hurting -- good thing it wasn't mine!

Post-run? Pain. I iced and elevated. Monday, I iced. Today, I'll ice. I wish I could elevate but with two kids that's not easy. It's hard enough to work in the icing time.

Please, please, please let this toe heal before Sunday! 

My plan right now is to test it out on Thursday, after the toe has had a good bit of time to heal. Then, we'll see. I have no plans to sit out the race, because I've run through pain before and I know I can do it. So, I will just have to see how much pain I'll have to run through this time.

Until then, I'll worry. And ice. And try to distract myself by obsessively checking Sunday's weather.

Have you ever had a bad injury right before a race only to run well on race day? 
Let me know -- I need some confidence boosting!

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Oh, blister!

Confession time: Whenever some otherwise tough major league ball player would be sidelined by a blister, I would scoff. So-and-so has a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand and will miss his next start. Yeah, that would be me, scoffing. What a wimp! Missing a start because of a little blister???

I take it all back.

And then some.

Blisters. Man, they suck. And I had no idea how much until now.

Sure, I've had a blister here and there over the years. But never, ever, ever have I had any blisters that have come even remotely close to being as painful as the one that is only slowly healing on my poor second toe on my right foot.

Holy cow.

Who knew a blister could hurt so much? OK, maybe a lot of people knew but I sure didn't. But, wow, yikes. It's a lot of pain. At this point in my half-marathon training, the last thing I need is an injury. The highly annoying blister forced me to take two days off. It caused me to alter my normal walking gait. And it is threatening to drive me crazy for real.

The blister surrounds the nail on my second toe. Yes, it is slowly getting better but that is only after a week of pain. I've tried everything that I can think of -- and that I was able to read about on Dr. Google -- and this thing is just hanging on and on.

On Monday, I was cursing it like nobody's business, wishing it was practical to cut the whole toe off because it was so painful. I couldn't run and felt like I could hardly walk. Unfortunately, I know that I changed the way I walked on Monday and Tuesday so my stupid blister ended up causing some secondary knee pain. Great. 

Yesterday, I tried it out on a short run and it felt OK but after the run the blister was huge.

Sigh. I really hope I'm not battling the blister for the whole fall. And I really, really, really hope it doesn't interfere with my half marathon.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips for dealing with blisters? 

Thanks in advance.

And now I'll leave you with this article about an inspiring runner:

Have a great day! Hope your runs are blister-free.

~ Felice

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Long Island long run.

We spent the weekend on Long Island, visiting family, celebrating both an engagement and a first birthday. It was a fun time and in the midst of the fun I squeezed in a run.

It's just two weeks (less now!) until race day so I had 10 miles on my schedule for Sunday. I got up early-ish (not a problem with early-waking kids) and headed out to just run. I knew I was going to run to the state park near my mother-in-law's house but, other than that, I wasn't sure where I'd end up.

It was about a mile to the park and then I hit the trails:

One of the trails I ran on in Hempstead Lake State Park
(I'm still a little shaky with the camera when I run!).

The park was deserted, except for a dog-walker here and there. I ran about 4 miles in the park and then looped out to run through the streets. Since I hadn't mapped out a good route, I ran where it seemed like a good idea but ended up not too far from my mother-in-law's house right around 7.5 miles into the run. For whatever reason I didn't want to run back over streets that I had already run on, so I made my way to the middle school and ran on the track for 1.5 miles and then ran back to the house.

All told, 10.5 miles at 9:31 pace. The run felt easy, which I attribute to both my comfortable pace and the perfect running weather that morning. My fingers are crossed for such weather on race day!

Now I'm having that weird feeling that comes with finishing your last long run of a training cycle. I'm almost positive that I am going to want to run 10 this weekend but I only have 7 on the schedule. That will have to do!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you all had a good weekend!

~ Felice

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enough with the rain. And an August recap.

I can hardly keep track of all the tropical storms swirling about -- Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate -- I just know that they are dropping way too much rain on some already water-logged communities in upstate New York. Actually, they're causing problems from the Gulf of Mexico on up to Maine. Enough already!

Locally, towns very close to where I live have been evacuated several times over the past 10 or so days and there is flooding all around. Fortunately, we haven't had any flooding at my house and I hope we don't. My brother has had some water in his basement and I saw pictures of my sister-in-law's house in Mississippi with a completely flooded backyard.

Enough with the rain!

I'm requesting lots of sun for the rest of September to dry things out. We'll see what kind of pull I have with Mother Nature.

*     *     *

Now, a week late, I have my August recap. It was my highest mileage month all year! Actually, it was probably my highest mileage month in two years, considering I was pregnant for most of 2010.

August stats:

Running: 110.3 miles
Racing: 1 race, a 10-miler where I finished first female
Out of town runs: 2 runs in New Jersey
Cross training: 4 sessions with Jillian Micheals

I missed a few planned workouts, including two of my speed sessions, but I also ran a wicked fast mile (6:12.25) when I timed myself for the first time since early 2008 (when I ran right around 7 min). The one major downer of the month was being diagnosed with Lyme disease and starting treatment. The first week of treatment was really tough and I felt horrible but I am doing much better now.

Wow, as I finished this post, the sun came out. Woo hoo!  Maybe I need to request sunshine more often :-)

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Palin's half marathon.

Like her or dislike her, I don't really care (and, since this is not a political blog, let's not go in that direction at all). The fact of the matter is, the woman can RUN.

Who? Well, let my post title be your guide: Sarah Palin.

Seriously, the woman can run and run well. I knew that she had run a sub-4 hour marathon back in 2005, when she was 41. But then over this past weekend, she ran a half marathon in Iowa and finished in 1:46:10. That's a nice 8:03 pace. And, to me, somewhat more impressive than the 3:59:36 marathon.

Why? Well, for starters, she's six years older than she was when she ran the marathon and I love it when runners refuse to let aging slow them down. She also had another baby in the ensuing years and you can be sure that I love it when running mamas run well. And, the last thing: She just squeaked in under 4 hours for her marathon. But in that half? Well, she didn't squeak in under anything. She ran way under 2 hours and well under the 1:50 line. Nope, no squeaking there.

So that's got me thinking: What the heck am I doing? I ran my first and only half marathon back in April and totally just squeaked in under 1:50, finishing in 1:49:29. If you're keeping score, that was a full three minutes slower than Palin's time. And Palin is 47 -- a full six years older than me.

The former governor has a good mixture of speed and endurance. Good for her. Really, I'm impressed and a little envious. And I plan to use her.

Use her?

You read me right: I'm going to use Palin's great time as motivation over the last 2.5 weeks of my half marathon training. See, her time -- 1:46-:10 -- is almost exactly the time that I feel I can run. I believe with full confidence that I have a 1:46 half marathon in me. I'd like to go a bit faster than that, sure, but I will be very pleased with 1:46. So, if a busy Sarah Palin -- age 47, mother of 5 kids -- can run 1:46, there is no reason I can't, too.

There you have it, folks. I've successfully managed to make Sarah Palin's good showing in a half marathon about me.

Hey, I take my motivation where I can get it!

So, that's what's next for me: The half marathon in 2.5 weeks, hopefully finishing in 1:46 or better. What's next for Palin? Well, I'd like to see her qualify for Boston, personally. McMillan says she has it in her . . .

Your thoughts? Let me know. Just, please, no hate mail -- or love letters, for that matter -- for writing about Sarah Palin. I'm only concerned with running here.

Have a good day!

~ Felice

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vega Breakfast Challenge.

Have you read Thrive by Brendan Brazier? I read it a while ago and picked up several good tips and suggestions for dietary changes. Some of them I've made, some of them I haven't but I did find Brazier's story -- how his performance (he's an Ironman) improved after he became a vegan and eating whole foods -- quite interesting.

I try to eat whole foods as much as possible and in the past year or so I've tried to cut down on meat and increase my fruits and veggies. I've been eating a lot of chia seeds, ground flax meal and chlorella, all with the hope that they will support my overall health as well as my running performance.

So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, I was recently invited to try the Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer, which is part of the Vega product line that Brendan Brazier founded. I was sent some samples of the supplement and information about and a link to the Vega Breakfast Challenge.

On the Breakfast Challenge page, you can compare your current breakfast with the nutritional profile of the Whole Food Health Optimizer.

Yeah, I guess my breakfast isn't quite as healthful as I thought.

It's not bad but it pales in comparison to the Whole Food Health Optimizer. Which is a bummer because I really thought my breakfast was healthy. Pretty much every day I have a smoothie made from plain organic yogurt, unsweetened frozen strawberries, unsweetened frozen blueberries, a banana and either some flaxmeal, chia seeds or chlorella. Take a look at how my breakfast stacks up against the Vega WFHO:

I have to say that think that some of the levels might be a little off -- my flaxmeal claims to contain 2400mg of Omega-3, for example, and the calculator puts my breakfast at zero. Also, I wasn't able to put in an amount less than one cup for my banana and I usually use about a half cup.

Regardless, the calculator shows how many more nutrients I could be getting if I used the Vega WFHO. And I'm all about getting more nutrients. So, maybe Vega will be my new friend. We'll see!

You can check out your breakfast by visiting the Vega Breakfast Challenge page HERE. It's pretty cool to look at the comparison. You can also learn more about Vega and Brendan Brazier at the main Vega site HERE and follow Vega on Twitter HERE. Even if you are not planning to become a vegan or adopt the total Vega way of eating, there are tons of resources on the Vega site. And one last thing: If you "like" Vega on Facebook (HERE) you can enter to win a trip to Hollywood to meet Brendan later this month! How awesome would that be? Very awesome, no doubt.

So, good luck and have fun with the calculator!

*     *     *

After a T-O-U-G-H run of 9 miles yesterday I'm hoping for a more comfortable run this evening. Fingers crossed.

Have a good day!

~ Felice

Review disclaimer: I was sent four samples of the Vega WFHO to sample. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Long time, no post.

Yeah, huh. It's been over a week since I last wrote and lots has happened since then! In the past 10 days, I . .  .

  • ran a 6:12.25 mile (yay!);
  • had my vacation delayed by ol' Hurricane Irene;
  • ran my longest run of this training cycle (13.5 miles);
  • hosted some hurricane evacuees -- my sister-in-law and her three kids came up from Long Island to avoid Irene. Unfortunately, Irene caused major flooding up here, too. Fortunately, Conal and Niall had a blast playing with their cousins for three days:
Happy baby!
  •  was diagnosed with Lyme disease (boo!);
  • finally made it to lovely Stone Harbor, NJ for an abbreviated week at the beach;
  • had a super time on vacation with my little family:

  • and some great friends:

Now, it's catch-up and back-to-the-routine time! 

Thanks for stopping by -- have a great week!

~ Felice

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