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Archive for October, 2012

As I prepare myself to race SheROX San Diego 2012 this coming Sunday, I’m looking back at my journal account of my first triathlon, SheROX San Diego 2011. Kudos to SheROX for putting on a great race for beginners and experienced athletes alike! Good luck to all the ladies out there this weekend! I’ll be the one grinning like a kid on the bike! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I didn’t have too much trouble going to sleep around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, but I did wake up around 3:30 a.m. and had trouble going back to sleep. The excitement of race day kicked in early! I got up and used the coffee maker to brew one cup of coffee and heat one cup of water for oatmeal. The coffee tasted great but the oatmeal I had to choke down. I was still pretty nervous but also thrilled that race day was finally happening!

I headed out in the car around 5 a.m. and arrived to find transition open (it wasn’t supposed to open til 5:15). I managed to snag a prized spot on the end of a rack for my wave, #8. It was strange to be out there at 5:15 in the dark, but there was a nice energy under the lights. I was all set up by 5:45 and even took my bike to the free bike service booth for the guy to pump my tires and check my gears/shifting and have him put it in the right gear for me to get started on the bike in the race. I re-racked my bike and was all set.

My SheROX volunteer mentor Megan had looked me up on Facebook and she approached me to say hello and answer any last minute questions. I had her talk me through where the Run In, Bike Out, Bike In, Run Out locations were and brainstorm how I could best get around the transition area quickly. She helped ease my mind a lot.

I hustled back to the hotel to pick up Mike and the girls. It was hard for them to get up early but they did it with the promise of food. We got back to the race area at 6:30 right before the officials closed the roads. I could have parked and walked but it was nice that we made it before we had to do that. I had gotten in my wetsuit in the hotel. It helped to wear my wetsuit for 45 minutes before the race because I got it adjusted properly and got used to it and got rid of the choking feeling it gives me.

Once I was all set up in transition and in my swim gear and at the proper place with the other athletes, I felt less anxious. Still a little nervous but just enough to be good for me for the race. The race officials went over the water course, which was a little different than the diagram that had been on the web. Thank goodness there were huge orange buoys to mark the sprint course, and yellow buoys for the super sprint.

We all stood at attention for the national anthem. Then the waves started going, starting with the two elite athletes. It helped to watch those waves go to know best how to position myself and get to the start line. It was an in-water start at Mission Bay. Go over the timing mat, down the ramp, and then swim out to the green start buoys and tread water. Some of the waves walked as far as they could instead of swimming, and that meant that when the starting horn sounded a minute or so later, they weren’t at the start line! I made sure I was out front and ready to go. It annoyed little rule-follower-me that some of the other women in my wave got 5-10 feet in front of the start line. I didn’t say anything though. This race was me vs. me and I didn’t need to worry about them.

SheROX swim

I love an in-water start as opposed to a shore start.

I knew when the announcer said, “Racers on your mark” that it would only be a few seconds until the horn blew so I was totally ready to go and was one of the first to take a stroke when the horn sounded. That helped me get out early and avoid some of the crush. I breathed every two strokes in the beginning and that helped me overcome the trouble I’d had in the past with feeling out of air on the start of an open water swim. In fact I did less breaststroke on this swim than any of my practice open water swims — I only did breaststroke to sight the buoys and that was just enough to get me some extra air. One girl bumped into me (or I bumped into her — who knows) and I veered a bit left (but on course for the first buoy) to get away from her thrashing. I was pretty free to swim until I started catching some of the stragglers from the previous waves. I ended up finishing with some yellow and green caps from the previous two waves. My swim time was excellent when you account for having to sight for the buoys and avoid the other swimmers. Once or twice I felt held back by people blocking me (not on purpose).

Swim time: 14:44
T1: 3:22

My T1 transition time stunk. Partly I chalk my time up to not having tri gear. It would have saved time to have a tri suit instead of a swim suit and bike shorts and shirt. I could have gone without my socks (but I like them for biking and running). I definitely shouldn’t have put on sunscreen because it was so overcast. I took an extra sip of Gatorade too and I should have just waited until I was on the bike.

I had a little trouble getting my bike shoes locked in the clipless pedals at the mount line. Partly I hadn’t anticipated the race officials yelling at me to keep pedaling. I’m not sure whether they were trying to be encouraging or telling me to get out of the way. Either way it didn’t help. But soon I was off and having a blast on the bike. The ride was so much fun.

SheROX bike

Loving the ride! Look at that smile on my face!

Best part of the race! I booked it and felt great and passed at least a hundred people. I wasn’t counting but I was constantly passing people and could tell that I was catching people from earlier waves because I could see their wave numbers on their calves. Someone in wave 9 behind me passed me and cheered me on, but then I passed her back and she cheered me some more. ๐Ÿ™‚ I never saw her again. At one point she was holding me back and I realized it and decided I shouldn’t let her pace me — I should set the pace. I kept it at 20 mph (although I had no idea at the time – I don’t have a bike computer) and really gave it my all. I knew I wouldn’t be as good as most people on the run and this was my chance to get some time on those people.

Bike: 37:55 (19.67 mph)
T2: 1:21

I did great in T2 I think and that was a very good time for me. I tried to grab water from the aid stations on the run but found it was hard to drink from a cup rather than a sports bottle. My legs felt okay and the limiting factor on the run was my lungs more than my legs. I went as fast as I could without exceeding my aerobic capacity, right up until the final stretch when I pushed it harder. I had a secret goal of finishing the 5K in under 30 minutes. When I was on the course I didn’t think I would make it. I felt tired and had no idea how fast or slow I was going.

SheROX run

Giving it my all at the finish.

It turned out though that I was running at 7 mph and scored a PR with a time of 26:38! I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and my arms raised in triumph. I heard the announcer say my name and hometown and that felt great!

I grabbed a muffin, banana, orange and a bottle of water. The girls ate most of the food (my three-year-old ate the whole banana!) but I got whatever I could tolerate eating and just basked in the glow of finishing the race and not having any major glitches. I didn’t know my times but we got in line to get a printout. I’m amazed by the technology. I knew right away that I was 22nd out of 121 in my age group and 106 out of 582 overall [those are the unofficial rankings but the official ones are close to that — all in the top 18th and 19th percentiles for finishers]. My total time was 1:23:57 and I’d blown away my secret goal of beating 1:30.

The officials only let athletes back in transition so I told Mike I’d meet him and the girls back at the car but I didn’t know where they’d parked. I was too focused on the race to even remember which lot it was. I found them easily enough though. I changed in the car and we headed back to the hotel to pack up and check out. By the time we got smoothies and pizza for lunch, I was exceptionally hungry.

I drove the 2 hours home and it was pretty funny because Mike and two of the three girls slept. I was the one who needed a nap!

At home I purposely stayed awake so a nap wouldn’t keep me up at night. By 8 p.m. I could hardly keep my eyes open and by 8:30 I was asleep.

Overall I am extremely happy with how it went. I exceeded my goals, didn’t have anything go really wrong, and learned a lot. I don’t know how I’m feeling about doing another race. On the one hand, I met my goal with this one and it went SO well. What if the next one didn’t go as well? [Spoiler: It went well too!] And I did not enjoy the nerves before the race. It would be better next time (my mentor assures me) aside from the usual race day excitement. If I do another, should I bump up to Olympic distance? [Spoiler: I did, for HITS Palm Springs 2011 and Nautica Malibu 2012.] That’s what intrigues me. But am I willing to train for that, and what would be the fallout? I don’t want to do something I won’t keep up after the race. I feel like right now I could do the 1-mile swim and the 24.8 mile bike ride. I’ve never done a 10K run and would need to train for that and of course train for doing all three distances in a row.

Fun to look back at that first race and my thoughts throughout! I’d never run a 10K, but later went on to race 8K, 10K, a half marathon, and now here I am training for my first marathon!

Have you raced SheROX? What was your first triathlon like?

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Hard to believe it’s been just over a year since my first triathlon, SheROX San Diego 2011. I learned a tremendous amount in that race and since, not the least of which is that each race will teach you something about the sport or about yourself. Here are the ten things I learned when I first tackled a sprint triathlon.

The night before the race I dutifully laid out everything I would need on race day. I set my alarm on my phone and drifted off to sleep at 9:30 p.m. with surprisingly little trouble. I woke at 3:30 a.m. and could not get back to sleep, even though I had until 4:30 a.m. before I needed to get up. I rested in bed until I finally checked the time again and realized that my phone was not working and the alarm would not have gone off had I needed it!

Lesson #1: Set a back-up alarm. Use a watch, use your phone, use an alarm clock, or arrange for a wake-up call, but whatever you do, have a back-up!

I had practiced my pre-race nutrition and knew a bowl of oatmeal would sit well with me on race day. Unfortunately I had not planned ahead to bring oatmeal with me, and the hotel cafe would not open in time for me to eat three hours before the race start. My husband had to run to the store the night before to buy some instant oatmeal that could be made with hot water from the hotel coffee maker.

Lesson #2: If you’re traveling overnight to the race, pack your own pre-race nutrition and make sure there will be a way to prepare your food.

I made it to transition to set up in plenty of time to snag a prime spot at the end of the bike rack, but then had to remove my bike to get the tires pumped up by the bike support staff. Fortunately that did not take long, but I could have been in trouble had I been running late or there had been more of a line.

Lesson #3: Bring a bike pump (and anything else you might need “just in case” — if you don’t use it, someone will thank you for that extra gel or spare tampon).

Once I got my gear set up in transition, I drove back to the hotel to pick up my husband and girls. I had to make a concerted effort to ensure I had all of the swim gear I would need if I didn’t make it back to transition in time before it closed to the athletes before the race.

Lesson #4: Pack your swim gear — tri kit or swimsuit, goggles, spare goggles, anti-fog spray, swim cap, wetsuit and timing chip — separately from the gear that will remain in T1. Of course, if T2 is separate from T1, pack your run gear separately too.

During the time between when transition set-up closed and my race wave started, I realized I desperately needed some more nutrition. It had been nearly three hours since I’d had any solid food, and I could have used a re-fuel with either a gel or a cup of electrolyte drink.

Lesson #5: Keep an extra gel (and water to consume with it) or electrolyte drink to fuel yourself as you wait for the race to start.

After a strong swim, I rushed into transition and floundered a bit. I took a sip of Gatorade and later realized I should have saved that for when I was already moving on the bike. I slapped on some sunscreen (a must for me for sunny races) but realized later it was still so overcast I could have skipped that step.

Lesson #6: Practice transitions and streamline them. Go through step by step what you will do. As you exit the water, review your game plan.

On the bike, I hydrated well. By the time I got to the run, I did not really need any water. When I slowed to grab a cup and tried to drink it, I hardly got anything and regretted that wasted time.

Lesson #7: Practice your fueling strategy for the run. Do you really need anything to drink if it’s “just” a 5K? Will you wear a fuel belt? Will you walk through the aid stations while you drink, or have you mastered drinking from a cup?

After the race I wandered in a daze as I tried to find where my husband and children had parked the car after they dropped me off. Things looked a lot different in the dark of the early morning before the race!

Lesson #8: Coordinate where to meet up with your cheering squad or racing buddies if any. Designate a spot by the finish line, in the post-race expo, or out in the parking lot.

After the race, once I met up with my family, I realized there was nothing more I wanted than a smoothie and a change of clothes. The post-race food offered by the organizers was great but not enough, and I needed to get out of my sweaty clothes, get my gear from transition, and get some more food. I wasn’t hungry for solid food right away, but in half an hour I was ravenous!

Lesson #9: Plan your post-race strategy. Keep in mind that only athletes are allowed back into transition to pack up their gear. You might want to meet your family or friends, get a snack or drink and a change of clothes, then work out how to get from transition to your car with all your gear.

My first race, a sprint, took place on a Sunday. That’s unusual for shorter distance races (usually the half ironman and ironman distances are on Sunday and sprint or Olympic distances are on Saturday). If I’d had the luxury of staying at the hotel an extra night, I would have. Instead I had to drive home 2.5 hours (while my husband and kids slept in the car no less!)

Lesson #10: After an initial-post race high, you’ll likely have the urge to rest up for remainder of the day. Limit any napping or prolonged resting or sitting in the car. You’ll want to keep moving to lessen the soreness and stiffness from the race. It’s fine to sit on the couch to watch a movie, but get up every hour or so to move around. Your legs will thank you!

What are your best tips for race planning and race day? I learn something new with each race. The best lesson I’ve found is to smile through the nervousness, look around and enjoy the day!

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After Saturday’s sluggish 13 miles of running, I did some water running on Sunday (boring but a good workout and a break for my plantar fasciitis plagued feet) and then hit the trail for 20 redeeming miles on the bike on Monday. That ride felt amazing! Of all three triathlon disciplines, I love biking the best. To me it’s the most kid-like and joyous activity. While I’m not quite fearless on the bike, I feel free and powerful and just so darn happy to be out on the trail. Monday happened to be an absolutely gorgeous day to be out. With the breeze and the fresh air from recent rains, I could almost ignore the fact that it was 91 degrees (33 C) in mid-October. In fact I tried really hard to ignore the fact that it will also be in the 90s when I attempt to run 20 miles later this week. How insane is that, that I biked 20 miles in 73 minutes and in a few days I will run 20 miles in about 200 minutes? No wonder I like biking the best! ๐Ÿ˜‰

To amuse myself on the trail, I finally named my bike. First, I decided it’s an “it” not a “she” or a “he.” Don’t get me wrong, I did debate awhile about whether or not it should be a “he” so I could name it Matthew and pretend I was riding Matthew McConaughey.

Matthew McConaughey at Nautica Malibu 2008

Matthew McConaughey and I could totally be triathlon buddies. Here he is at Nautica Malibu in 2008. Photo by Denise Cross. THANK YOU Denise. I think it’s safe to say we all thank you.

Sorry Matthew, my heart belongs to my other long-haired love, my husband Mike.

My husband Mike

My long-haired husband Mike, who I sometimes lovingly refer to as Fabio, for obvious reasons.

My second love is this, my Trek 2.3 WSD (Women’s Specific Design) road bike:

Trek 2.3 Women's Specific Design

Meet Bullet, my Trek 2.3 WSD (Women’s Specific Design) Road Bike

I’ve named it Bullet, as in, faster than a speeding Bullet, silver Bullet (the obvious color reference), and Bullet train. Let me explain. When I race, one of my mantras is “locomotion,” which I say as “lo-co-mo-tion” to the cadence of pedaling on my bike or the pounding of my feet on the run. I pretend I’m a freight train, barreling forward to the beat of the mantra. My core is solid while my legs are pistons, powering me along the route.

If you have a bike, have you given it a name?

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Marathon training continues apace (ha ha) with less than a month to go before the big day! The plantar fasciitis seems to be getting better (I say while whispering and knocking on wood and crossing all available appendages) but I’ve suffered a groin injury on my right side, much like the groin injury I had on the left before my first half marathon. Must. Work. On. Flexibility.

With the passing of my father-in-law, workouts have been hit and miss, squeezed in around more important time spent with family and friends for the viewing, funeral, and actual burial on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively. I have to say it’s not easy when your stress coping mechanism — exercise — is disrupted by the life stress itself.

After the 18-miler on Sunday, I ran 10 miles on Wednesday, swam a mile on Friday, and ran 13 miles on Saturday. Make that 13 of the slowest, most sluggish miles I have “run” in a long time. That is messing with my head, people. I have to remind myself that good training plans lay out a series of high-intensity weeks and recovery weeks, and it’s a continual process of straining the body and recovering to become even stronger. While I might feel slow and sluggish this week, when taper starts in another week, I’ll gain back some pep in my step, so to speak. I should cut myself a break, and give myself a virtual pat on the back for doing what I can, when I can, the best I can do it.

Running and racing require mental toughness as well as physical toughness — the mental toughness to go for a run when you really don’t feel like it, to pick the training plan back up after you’ve missed a couple of days and it feels like all is lost. (That might sound overly dramatic, but I know plenty of people for whom a day or two off becomes three, then four, then weeks.) Sometimes when I go for a run when I don’t want to, or I complete a run in spite of the fact that my legs feel like lead, I deserve extra credit. I proved that I have the toughness to overcome some of the mental barriers to exercise.

At the same time, I give myself credit (I am generous that way) for listening to my body and not pushing too hard. An injury, a bad night’s sleep, the rare glass of wine too many, an illness, overtraining — all those things should make the athlete reconsider the wisdom of pushing hard for a given workout. Let’s just go all clichรฉ up in here and remember that sometimes LESS IS MORE. It’s okay, it’s necessary, to let the body recover in order to become stronger. The wise athlete does not let that affect her mental game. She simply resolves to build that strength of body and mind, and meet the next workout with renewed energy and spirit.

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Recently my family had the opportunity to visit “our” CSA farm, Tanaka Farms in Irvine.

Tanaka Farms

Sunflowers, corn, and thousands of pumpkins!

Our first stop was the wagon ride, which took us to see the pumpkin cannon. Yes, that cannon really fired a small white pumpkin cannonball over the fields and onto the empty hillside beyond.

Pumpkin cannon

The pumpkin cannon. If you click on the photo you can see the bananas growing in the grove!

Next up was the watermelon patch. Only in Orange County would you see this:

watermelon patch

Golfers on the driving range behind the watermelon patch

After the ride we stopped at the CSA table for a snack prepared especially for CSA members: kale and apple salad in agave dressing, squash and onion stir fry, and watermelon slices. Thus refueled, we walked through the corn maze and out to the u-pick vegetable patch.

picking radishes

That’s either a leg or an arm, picking radishes. I’m going with arm.

The crops in the u-pick vegetable patch included radishes, carrots, onions and green beans for $2.99 a pound. With the three girls helping, we managed to pick six pounds!

picking onions

I should have worn some farming overalls to pick onions

Don’t worry, we also picked pumpkins, three for $7.75 each. That’s a pretty good price considering I paid $7 for the pumpkin I bought at the grocery store to make pumpkin curry soup and whole wheat pumpkin muffins, although I saw jack-o-lantern pumpkins at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 today — a much better deal than Vons!

Have you ever been to a u-pick farm? We’ve been to so many over the years I can hardly name all the things we’ve picked — blueberries, strawberries (organic at our old CSA, South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano), cherries, apples (organic at Apple Starr Orchards in Julian), raspberries, tomatoes, and now all kinds of vegetables at Tanaka Farms.

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Do you run the same route over and over or do you like to explore new places? I don’t mind running the same route now and again but if I had a choice, I would be happiest to explore a new route nearly every day. The only thing that stops me is wanting a route that’s safe and relatively free of cars and road crossings. That and I don’t want to drive far to run. Just typing “drive far to run” makes it sound ridiculous.

Last week I happened to be in a new area and decided to get my six miles in there rather than go to the gym or head near home. I thought I’d simply run out and back along a recreational path through a new housing development. When that path came to an end, though, I crossed the street to explore an older neighborhood. That’s when I stumbled upon the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail in Brea.

The sign explained that Olinda was a boom town in the early 1900s. The town of 3,000 residents grew up around the oil industry there. Over 250 oil wells covered the hills and pumped out an incredible 2,775,000 barrels of oil per year from an area just over two square miles. In 1949, the Brea-Olinda oilfield still held so much oil that it ranked number 18 in the nation for oil capacity. A handful of wells continue to operate there today, including Olinda Oil Well #1, which has been pumping since 1897 — 115 years!

I followed the trail up into the hills to check out some of the old oil wells still in operation, including this beast:

Oil well

I found it fascinating to learn more about the oil industry, check out the functioning oil wells, enjoy the view from the hills, and explore a new running route!

Have you happened upon anything interesting on a rambling run?

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Fall is my favorite season. Correction: fall in the midwest is my favorite season. In California, winter is my favorite season. Why? Because the first week in October, we had “fall” temperatures topping 100 degrees. Just makes you want to turn the oven on to bake some pumpkin muffins and turn on the stovetop to simmer some pumpkin soup, right? Seriously, though, I couldn’t wait any longer for the temperatures to drop. Regardless of the temperature outside, this happened. This:

got smashed into this:

Pumpkin guts

which then got scooped out and baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, peeled and blended into this:

Pumpkin puree

Ten cups of that, to be exact. Yes, I magically turned a $7 jack o’lantern pumpkin into $10 worth of pumpkin puree. (Tip: don’t be like me. Buy the more flavorful, less watery sugar or pie pumpkin instead of the jack o’lantern pumpkin meant for carving. The puree will taste better and certainly be more suitable if you plan to bake a pumpkin pie.) I also turned this (plus two tablespoons of butter and some salt):

Raw pumpkin seeds

into one cup of yummy

Roasted pumpkin seeds

after just 40 minutes on 300 degrees F (toss/stir after 20 minutes).

With the pumpkin puree, I made this amazing pumpkin curry soup from According to Kelly and these dessert-like whole wheat pumpkin muffins from Shut Up and Run. Both were a hit with my family. Only the four-year-old didn’t eat the pumpkin curry soup “because it was too ficy [spicy].” The 7- and 10-year-olds ate their entire bowls and thanked me for making it, so you know it’s a good recipe! In fact I foresee making more soup and muffins ASAP with the seven remaining cups of pumpkin puree I now have waiting for me in the freezer.

What’s your favorite fall recipe? Feel free to leave a link in the comments.

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When I woke up at 6 a.m. on Saturday for my scheduled 18-miler, I was surprised to find my husband Mike awake as well. Sadly, he had gotten the call, the call we knew would come someday. It was time for Mike to head to the hospital to say goodbye to his father. Howard had been in a coma for nearly five years after suffering a stroke. We were all sad to lose him, and yet comforted knowing that he would now be at peace, and thankful that Mike could be at his side when he passed.

Howard was a kind, generous man who always saw the best in other people. He was a good father to Mike and a loving grandfather to my girls. For a few months before his stroke, we had the privilege of living with him before we found a house in California, and he absolutely delighted in getting to see his grandkids all the time.

After a final goodbye and a long day at the hospital for Mike, we crashed into bed at 11 p.m. Even then, Mike encouraged me to get up in the morning to go for that 18-miler. So, bright and not-so-early the next morning, I paused at the trailhead to think of Howard and dedicate that run to him.

It turned out to be a magical run. At one point past the halfway mark, I saw about 20 beautiful white pelicans flying overhead. (Fact of the day: a group of pelicans is called a pod). On the ground below I saw a group of humans (let’s call them a crowd) staring at the Santa Ana River. Then I saw this:

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans on the Santa Ana River

That’s just a fraction of the 100+ American White Pelicans that swam in two pods on the river. All the people who had stopped along the trail were grinning with excitement. We kept looking at each other as if to say, “Can you believe it? How lucky are we?!”

I tore myself away and restarted my Garmin and my book on CD. For the 3-hour run I listened to the first three discs of Shockaholic, read by the author Carrie Fisher (yes, Princess Leia herself). Due to the crass nature of her storytelling, I can’t exactly recommend the book, but I can share with you something amazing she read toward the end of disc three, as she talked about holding vigil at the bedside of a dying loved one:

One stays until the other can’t anymore, and the one who won’t be able to stick around is much more important than the one who can. And I find relief in the understanding and acceptance of the unspoken urgency in this arrangement…. You love them until they can’t feel loved anymore, then you keep on loving them, as if they were still there, as if there’s been a reprieve at the last moment, and fate has reversed itself. It all turned out to be a bad dream that you both had and now get to wake from…. After death takes someone from you, it gives you something back…. It’s as though you’re living for two now. Their memory lives inside you and you feed it. You live for them now that they can’t anymore.

Rest in peace, Howard.

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As I navigate the treacherous waters of plantar fasciitis, I try different remedies to see what helps and doesn’t help. It seems to me that plantar fasciitis is a slippery little sucker, and what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Strassburg sock? Helps. Icing? Helps with pain relief but does not seem to help overall recovery (seems to me that ice tightens up the foot and is counterproductive to all the stretching if you try to walk on it again without warming up and then stretching a little more). Stretching? Helps, especially before I get out of bed in the morning, but if I get too aggressive with the stretching, doing the one everyone seems to recommend (standing on the edge of the stairs and lowering one or both heels), it sets me back. Foam roller for my calves? Helps. Rolling my foot on a tennis ball? Helps. Doing exercises like tracing the alphabet with my toes, or picking up marbles or other small objects? Helps my foot but nearly kills my will to recover. I can barely stand to do those exercises. They’re not painful, they’re just extremely boring and tiring. It’s a little like Kegels (you know what I mean ladies).

KT Tape Pro is the latest remedy I’ve tried. I put it on Tuesday morning and have been wearing it for three full days.

KT Tape

My right foot as KT Tape art sculpture

In that time I did two runs, a speed workout and a tempo run. I must have been delusional, hoping the KT Tape would be a miraculous cure-all. In retrospect the speed workout was a bad idea. The tempo run was fine — a mile easy and five miles at marathon pace. (Side note: when I told my husband about my tempo run at marathon pace, he thought I said, “marathon face.” He thought I was going a little overboard with the marathon obsession if I felt the need to perfect a marathon face. I’m not sure what that would even look like – smiling, grimacing?!) At this point the jury is still out on KT Tape. Let’s see how I feel after the big 18-miler on Saturday.

In the meantime, I continue to distract myself with thoughts of what I should wear for the marathon WHEN I RUN IT. Might as well think positively. For today’s run, I gave in to all the commenters who said it’s no big deal to wear a prior race shirt to run a different race, especially since no one but you cares what you’re wearing. I tried out my beloved OC Half Marathon tee, which is very nearly the perfect technical shirt.

Fitted but not too clingy, light colored, flattering design

I concluded it would be perfect if it just had a v-neck instead of a scoop neck. Ever since my thyroid pooped out on me (Graves’ Disease, burn out, hypothyroidism, long story I’ll tell you sometime), I cannot stand to have anything touch my throat. If you ever see me in a turtleneck, run for the hills because my body will be possessed by alien forces. In fact, be on your best behavior and put on your own turtleneck just in case because hell will surely be freezing over.

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Ahoy mateys! In order to make snack time fun for Pirate Week at my daughter’s preschool, I created four different pirate-themed snacks:

They were super easy to do and a big hit with the four-year-olds and their teachers.

Pirate Ships

First off, the snack that was the most fun and nutritious, and happened to be peanut-free to boot (my daughter’s class is not nut-free but it was last year so I pay attention to these things!) I made pirate ships from apple slices, mild cheddar cheese and white cheddar cheese. Supplies for 14 servings (28 ships, two ships per person):

– 7 medium or large apples (any variety, preferably organic!), cored and cut into fourths
– 1 block of mild cheddar cheese, cut into 28 thin 1-inch long slices
– 1 block of white cheddar cheese (or swiss or monterey jack), cut into 28 thin 1-inch long slices
– lemon juice (optional, to sprinkle on the apples to keep them from browning – I skipped that)
– toothpicks
– stiff white paper, markers, and glue for the pirate flags

Lucky for me my mom was in town and she helped me prepare the pirate flags the night before I needed them. She made a simple flag shape template and traced and cut out all the flags. She used glue to adhere them to the tops of the toothpick “masts.” On the morning of school, I cut all the apples and cheese slices, and my kids volunteered to assemble the ships: one apple slice stacked with one cheddar and one white cheddar, all speared with the toothpick mast. We had a blast working together and it was very satisfying to see our fleet of pirate ships!

Fleet of pirate ships

These pirate ships would soon be sunk by a mob of hungry preschoolers.

Pirate’s Booty

While this snack was one of the least nutritious, I think the kids enjoyed it the most! My nutrition motto is “everything in moderation” and that includes Pirate’s Booty, the puffed rice and corn treats. I chose the aged white cheddar variety. Good news on the allergy front: Pirate Brands’ products are produced in a nut-free facility and thus are peanut and tree-nut free.

While certainly you could serve this in cups or on plates, we went one step further and prepared individual serving bags of Pirate’s Booty. Supplies for 14 bags:

– 2 10-ounce (extra large) bags of Pirate’s Booty (buy extra if you’re worried as this was just right)
– 14 bags (I used brown paper bags but if you could find wax paper bags that would be better due to the grease on the puffs)
– white or beige paper for pirate treasure map labels (download my free printable template here)
– glue
– twine (optional to tie the bag tops like bags of loot — I just folded the top)

Again, my mom helped me print and glue the labels on the bags in advance. All I had to do on the morning of school was scoop the servings into each bag and fold down the top.

Pirate's Booty

A crossbones X marks the spot for Pirate’s Booty

Melon Cannonballs

This pirate snack wins the award for most beautiful.

Melon balls

Cannonballs packed with melon nutrition

It’s also a gold medalist in “messiest snack due to the likelihood the preparation will drip fruit juice all over your counter and down to the floor, guaranteeing your shoes will stick until you find the time to mop.”

If you have the time, energy and skill to go over the top with the pirate theme, you could carve the watermelon into a pirate ship (Google “pirate ship watermelon” and you’ll see some incredible examples). I stuck to the basics and just served the melon cannonballs in cups.

Supplies for 14+ servings:

– 1 large watermelon
– 1 cantaloupe
– 1 honeydew melon
– 1 melon baller
– cups and forks for serving

Again my children eagerly volunteered to help in the preparation of this snack. They took turns handling the melon baller while I prepped each piece of fruit for maximum scooping potential. (Tip: halve the watermelon. Scoop out a layer of balls. Then cut vertical slices down the short width of each half and scoop more balls out of each side of the vertical slices.)

My preschooler reported that these cannonballs achieved a direct hit. She did say that “some kids only liked one color [watermelon] but some kids liked all the colors [cantaloupe and honeydew too!].” Thank goodness I’d erred on the side of including more watermelon than the other melons.

Pirate Mix

The last snack is arguably the least creative but most guaranteed to please. Note though, that it is NOT peanut-free. In the “Pirate Mix” I offered pirate pegleg pretzel sticks, Gorilla Munch cannonballs, and “gold” “fish” whole grain Goldfish crackers. Supplies:

– 1 bag of pretzel sticks (I buy Snyder’s of Hanover because the pretzel sticks are free of corn syrup)
– 1 box of Gorilla Munch (yes, I know that just because it’s organic it’s not exactly the most nutritious)
– 1 box of Goldfish (I chose the cheddar made with whole grains)
– serving cups

By the fourth day of making pirate snacks for 14 people, I was happy to just open the above containers, mix everything together, and parcel it out into cups.

Pirate mix

Pirate peglegs, cannonballs and “gold” fish

Easy-peasy. A little sweet, a little salty, something to please everyone.

Other Pirate Snack Ideas

Two other cute ideas I saw on the web involved pirates walking the plank. The first was ants on a log — take a slice of celery, fill it will peanut butter and top it with raisins (one of my favorite snacks although I decided the preschoolers might not like it the best and I didn’t want to send peanut butter to school. You could substitute SunButter for a peanut-free alternative). Another cute idea was making a plank out of a long cookie topped with a Teddy Grahams teddy bear with an eye patch painted on it in chocolate icing.

One Final Snack Reminder

Note that the applicable child care laws in California require that preschool snacks include servings from at least two different food groups. Any snack that didn’t include two food groups was served with organic milk instead of water. Yes, I am a rule follower.

Do you have any pirate-themed snack ideas to share? How do you make snack-time fun? I think getting the kids involved in choosing and/or making whatever you plan to serve is the best way to ensure they’ll eat it.

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