Archive for January, 2013

You know that moment when the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you just know something is wrong with the situation you’re in? It happened to me on a recent long run. I had no reason to believe I was running at an unsafe hour or location. But I had a simple flash of fear, a recognition of the possibility of being in danger. The moment passed and I ran on in safety, but I’ve taken the incident to heart as a sobering reminder that personal safety needs to be the top priority on every run.

Warning bells were going off in my head. Photo credit: Michael & Christa Richert

Warning bells were going off in my head. Photo credit: Michael & Christa Richert

The Signs of Danger, as I Observed Them

1. The van cruised the street near me at 10 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
2. The nondescript white van had no business markings on it, meaning that the driver had no “business” in the area.
3. The van had no side windows, except for the driver’s window.
4. The driver’s window was rolled down in spite of the fact that the outside temperature was in the 40s.
5. The driver was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up.
6. The van paused too long at the stop sign as I ran by on the other side of the street.
7. The van slowly continued down the street next to me.
8. The van lingered at the next intersection as if the driver was waiting to see which way I would go (I was planning on going straight and made no indication that I wanted to cross the street. There was no stop sign at that intersection. There was no reason for the driver to slow).

In that instant, my Spidey-sense was on high alert. I looked at the driver so that he knew that I saw him, I picked up my pace, and I made a sudden turn to the left, preparing myself to run to the nearest home and ring the doorbell if the man in the van followed me. At that point, the man appeared to make a decision and he turned away in the other direction.

I don’t care whether anyone thinks I was being overly dramatic or paranoid. My only concern is for my personal safety. That man was not looking for a street address. That man was not looking for a lost dog. That man was looking for trouble.

I was prepared to scream at him to go away. I was prepared to pound on doors and ring doorbells. I was prepared to call 9-1-1 on my cell phone. If I hadn’t been concerned for my immediate safety, I would have stopped and used to my phone to take a picture of the man and the vehicle. I would have had no qualms about calling the local police and asking them to drive by in search of the van. Instead though, I ensured my safety, and the whole “incident” was over in seconds.

It’s a sad reminder to us all. Keep your wits about you. Look alert. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to take evasive action. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to stay safe.

The good news is that I finished my run safely on a busy street and a public track. And in spite of that unsettling incident, I put in 11.5 glorious miles at a 9:43 pace and it was the best run I’ve had in two months.

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Just a quick Saturday shopping shout-out to Sheila, a/k/a Striding Mom, to thank her for telling me and all her other grateful readers to run not walk to our local Costco to grab one of these Kirkland Signature athletic jackets for $24.99:

No I do not run in my best pair of designer jeans (Hudson) and yes I do wear my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 to shop at Costco.

No I do not run in my best pair of designer jeans (Hudson) and yes I do wear my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 to shop at Costco.

I chose the lovely indigo color but it comes in black, pink, and a lighter blue if I remember correctly. It’s 87% Nylon and 13% Spandex, machine wash cold and tumble dry low. It’s got reflective trim on the back and cuffs for night visibility, zippered front pockets plus a “zippered arm pocket with media cord management” (not that I have a media player to put in there although maybe now Mike will let me borrow his iPod since I have a secure place to carry it), and best of all, it’s got extra-long sleeves with thumb holes and, wait for it, hand cuffs that flip out to make handcover “mittens.”

Watch out cold, I'm coming for you.

Watch out cold, I’m coming for you.

I totally wish I had had this last weekend when the forecast said the temperature was in the high 40s but the frost on the clovers told a different story:

Frost on the clovers

I froze for eight frosty miles, cursing my lack of running gloves the whole way. I’d say $24.99 plus outrageous California sales tax is worth every penny to have “mittens” at the ready on winter long runs. Happy Saturday everyone! I hope your Costco carries this little gem and you are as happy as I am to find it.

P.S. This marks my 100th post here on Fit Fun Mom! Thank you for sharing in my excitement and love of running and all things fitness-related!

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Monday meant back to school for my kiddos and that meant back to “work” for me. Three or four weeks per year I bring the snack for the preschool class. What compelled me to be on the list for the week after winter break I don’t know. Thank goodness I put it on my calendar and remembered! I even researched a healthy, fun snack that was inexpensive and easy to prepare. It turned out so cute I’m thinking of serving it for the next kids’ book club meeting for my 2nd and 5th grader and the rest of the moms.

Cucumber Cups with Ranch Dressing and Carrots for Dipping

Ingredients for 30 cucumber cups, 2 each for 15 people:
5 large organic cucumbers (you want to leave the skins on)
1 large bag of at least 60 organic baby carrots (you could use regular, peeled and cut carrot sticks)
1 bottle of organic or homemade ranch dressing

melon baller or similar scooper

Prep time:
20 minutes

Rinse and scrub the cucumbers. Slice off the ends of the cucumbers. Cut them into 2-inch sections, about 6 sections per cucumber depending on the size. Use a melon baller to scoop out the center of each section, creating a “cup” for the ranch dressing. Reserve the scooped-out cucumber to use in a salad or cucumber soup.

Step one: cut a two-inch section of cucumber and scoop out the center, leaving a cucumber "cup."

Step one: cut a two-inch section of cucumber and scoop out the center, leaving a cucumber “cup.”

Into each cucumber “cup,” pour a small amount of ranch dressing and add two baby carrots or carrot sticks.

These fun dipping cups end up looking like rabbit ears or sushi.

These fun dipping cups ended up looking like rabbit ears or sushi.

I knew I had a hit on my hands when my 8- and 10-year-olds wanted to help me make — and EAT — these before school. The preschool kids loved them too. When I asked my 4-year-old if the class liked them, she said they loved them. “Everyone ate 2, or 3, or 4, or 5! I had the most!”

If you’re looking for other healthy snack ideas, check out:

Ants on a Log
Four Fun Pirate-Themed Snacks

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If you have a long run of 60 minutes or more coming up on your schedule, make sure you plan ahead for it! Failure to plan the night before a long run can result in a miserable run or even a missed workout. I find it takes at least 30 minutes to gather everything I need for a long run, and I’m far more likely to have a successful workout if I take those 30 minutes the night before to get ready. Here’s what you can do to ensure your long run goes as well as possible. (You might only need a fraction of the items listed. I’ve tried to cover all the bases).

Long Run Planning Checklist

Click here for a free printable version of this long run checklist

_____ Gather and charge any electronic devices:
_____ Cell phone
_____ GPS watch and/or heart rate monitor
_____ iPod or other music source
_____ Headphones
_____ Also load any music or audiobooks onto your device
_____ Digital metronome or app on smartphone

_____ Plan your route

_____ Set your wake-up alarm

_____ Fill your car with gas to get to your route (or ready your bike, bus pass, etc.)

_____ Organize your fuel:
_____ Pre-run food and coffee?
_____ Fuel belt
_____ Sports bottles or hydration pack
_____ Filled with water and/or sports drink
_____ Gels, chews, beans, any food for consumption on the run
_____ Post-run snacks and recovery drinks

_____ Set out your running clothes and other gear:
_____ Shoes
_____ Socks (Compression socks? Calf sleeves?)
_____ Underwear
_____ Running tights, pants, shorts, skirt or any combination of those
_____ Sports bra
_____ Shirt, tank top (plus arm sleeves? Jacket? Vest?)
_____ Gloves, sweatbands, Handana
_____ Sunglasses
_____ Headband, hairbands, bandana, bobby pins
_____ Cap, visor, or cold weather hat
_____ Toiletries and post-run clothes (Toilet paper? Feminine products? Towel? Shampoo? Face wipes? Medications or special needs?)

_____ Gather any sun and body protection you use:
_____ Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
_____ Body Glide or other product to prevent chafing
_____ Bandaids
_____ Blister protection – 2nd Skin or Moleskin etc.

_____ Groom yourself:
_____ Trim your toenails (not too short! No cutting calluses!)
_____ Shave legs, armpits, anywhere you shave

_____ Think safety:
_____ Tell someone when and where you are going, and when you expect to be back
_____ Consider a reflective gear, knuckle lights and a headlamp
_____ Pack pepper spray or the like

Do you pack anything else for a long run? Have you ever forgotten a key item on your list? When I had to get up at 6 a.m. to leave at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. half marathon training class, I got very good at planning for a long run. When that class ended though, I sometimes forgot to plan ahead. The worst thing I’ve forgotten so far is sunglasses. For me, planning ahead the night before is less about not forgetting something and more about getting out the door right away for an early morning run. One time it took me nearly an hour to get ready in the morning, and by that time my family had started to wake up and “need” me (if I’m out the door before they’re awake, Mike and the kids manage just fine. But if my youngest sees me before I get out the door, I’m toast! That early morning run might become a midday run in the heat or worse yet, might not happen at all.)

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Recently we played Name That Fruit. Now it’s time for Name That Vegetable:


I’ve started a new game with my husband. When he goes to the grocery store for me, I challenge him to buy me an interesting new fruit or vegetable. This one stumped me for sure. Thankfully it came with a Melissa’s brand tag that explained:

Malanga is a tropical tuber used in Latin and African cooking. This starchy tuber has a nutty flavor. It can be prepared like a potato: sliced, diced or mashed. It is a great complement to spicy sauces or served with meat.

The label said a single 3-ounce serving of malanga has 91 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

“My” malanga came all the way from Ecuador. I felt a little bad about that — it’s not exactly shopping locally — but I felt good about trying something new. I baked it like a potato and ate the insides. The tag was right about the nutty flavor. Later in the week I ate some roasted chestnuts and the chestnut meat reminded me exactly of the flavor and consistency of the malanga insides. It’s more dense and flavorful than a potato. I have a feeling I’d love it if I hadn’t grown up on white potatoes. As it is I thought it was interesting, if not delicious.

“Malanga” is the Spanish-speaking name for this tropical vegetable, but some cultures call it eddoe or Chinese eddoe. In the Urdu and Hindi languages of South Asia, it’s called arvi.

Have you ever tried a malanga? What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten lately?

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Part of what I love about getting a weekly box of organic produce from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm is that it forces me to cook with vegetables that are in season, meaning that they are grown locally, taste better and are fresher than those in the grocery store.

The fennel bulb, lounging by the pool

The fennel bulb, lounging by the pool.

The fennel bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds are all edible. If you don’t have access to a CSA or farmers market, you can buy fennel in the grocery store for around $2.00-$2.50 a bulb (in California expensive prices — yours might be cheaper!) depending on the size, and it’s readily available in autumn through early spring.

When I got fennel in my weekly farm share haul, I wasn’t sure what to do with the licorice-scented bulb. Fortunately I had also recently come across this book at the library used bookstore for $3.

Vegetarian Planet

It’s Vegetarian Planet: 350 Big-Flavor Recipes for Out-Of-This-World Food Every Day by chef Didi Emmons, and even as a non-vegetarian I love it! I spent one evening by the fire marking all the recipes I want to try and I flagged much of the book! (On a fennel note though, I do feel the need to disclose that the Carrot Fennel Soup recipe in the book was not a hit — it had nice orange color and was flavorful but the strong fennel taste was not a favorite in my family. I found I enjoyed the leftover soup served cold better than hot.)

Quick Vegetable Stock Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

2 carrots
1 tomato
1 fennel bulb
1 large onion
8 garlic cloves
10 cups water

Roughly chop the carrots, tomato, fennel bulb (if you wish you can chop the whole thing — bulb, stalks and leaves) and onion. Crush or mince the garlic. Put the vegetables in a stock pot with the water, bring it all to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the vegetables out and you should have about 8 cups of vegetable stock. Vegetable stock freezes well. What I don’t use right away I like to store in portions of 2 cups each in the freezer. I find that fresh vegetable stock is easy to make and less expensive than store-bought (especially this quick version — Vegetarian Planet also has a recipe for Basic Vegetable Stock that takes a little longer and requires more ingredients).

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By “Whittier Greenway Trail Run” I mean a regular run on the Whittier Greenway Trail, not a dirt trail run. I put in my first 10-miler since running the marathon in November, and it felt great. Mostly great. The good news is that I outran the hail and lightning. The bad news is that I did not outrun the pelting, cold rain. It was 46 degrees out and let’s just say I felt like a “serious” runner out there. Tip: use the trail’s Dog Waste Bags to protect your BlackBerry and Garmin from rain!

It all started out just fine at the trailhead at Mills and Lambert. The trail is beautifully landscaped and features all kinds of interesting sculptures:

Whittier Greenway Trailhead

Another nice feature of the trail is that it is divided into two paved bike lanes and a pedestrian/runner lane that is sometimes paved, sometimes hard-packed dirt and gravel.

Lanes on Whittier Greenway

It has mile markers every tenth of a mile, which is either very helpful or very annoying depending on my temperament at any given moment. There are frequent road crossings which make it less suitable for long bike rides but okay for walking, running, skateboards and scooters, or a family bike ride.

By the time I reached the bridge, the grey clouds threatened rain.

Bridge on the Whittier Greenway Trail

The trail is 4.7 miles from one end to the other. I tacked on an extra 0.3 to get my full 10 miles in. On the return trip I stopped in at the restrooms at Palm Park and found a drinking fountain to refill my water bottle. The last photo I took with my phone before it started to rain is of the exercise equipment that can be found at various points along the trail:

exercise equipment at Palm Park

Right after that photo was taken it started to rain and I had four miles to go. My husband called me twice to make sure I wasn’t getting hailed on and to offer to pick me up. I really wanted to finish out the full 10 miles so I kept an eye out for places to shelter me from hail and I picked up the pace as best I could. Nothing like seeing lightning in the distance to motivate me to run faster!

In the end I did 10 miles in 1:40, an easy 10-minute pace. I felt great afterward and looked forward to a nice hot shower. No way I was going for an ice bath when my feet were already numb from the cold!

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