Archive for January, 2013

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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My last workout of 2012 consisted of several hours of deep cleaning my house in preparation for our second annual New Year’s Eve party. The party started at 7 p.m. with a potluck dinner for which each of my friends generously brought a dish and drinks to share with the 11 kids and 11 adults in attendance. After dinner there was a concert put on by the kids, who told jokes, danced, played music or sang a song. My favorite joke:

Five-year-old: “Why can’t Cinderella play soccer? Because she always runs away from a ball!”

After the talent show we forced everyone to watch a slideshow of pictures from the last year. I’d asked for photo submissions and put together a mix that included everyone — or rather, poked gentle fun at everyone.

photo bomb

Then it was time for the highlight of the night, the Minute to Win It games.

Scoreboard poster made by my 10-year-old

Scoreboard poster made by my 10-year-old

I’d never watched the NBC game show Minute to Win It, but after my husband played some of the games as an ice breaker at a work mixer, we went online and learned how to play some of the Minute to Win It games at home. You guys, it was an absolute riot!

Here’s my husband playing “Penny Hose” (retrieve two pennies from the legs of pantyhose without touching your hands together):

Penny Hose game

Me and Mike “Hangin’ Low” (tie a banana to a string and use it to knock two oranges into a hula hoop on the floor):

Hangin' Low Minute to Win It

I distinctly recall one of the guys proclaiming, “I don’t need no stinkin’ banana!” 😉

We also played “A Bit Dicey” (stack six dice on top of a popsicle stick hanging from your mouth), “Flip Your Lid” (set a red Solo cup on the edge of a table and use one finger to flip it through the air onto a beer bottle), “Office Tennis” (two people use clipboards to bat a crumpled paper ball into a wastepaper basket), and “Nut Stacker” (the men feared this one but it involved the harmless use of a candy cane to stack seven metal nuts in a tower).

My team, Material Girls (named for our cone party hats used in inappropriate ways a la Madonna), tied for first place but lost in the tie-breaker “Gangnam Style” dance-off (I link to the YouTube video for my parents, who might possibly be the only ones not to have seen that video yet).

You know it’s a successful party when the guests stay until 2:30 a.m. and TWO sleeping little kids somehow manage to pee on THREE different beds. I finally tumbled into bed at 4 a.m. I cannot remember the last time I stayed up that late. Still, I must not have partied too hard because I was up at 7 a.m. and managed to crank out that 2-hour bike ride on New Year’s Day.

Have you ever played Minute to Win It games? What’s your favorite party game?

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26.2 on the Garmin

Here it is January 1st and I’ve already gotten in my first 26.2 of the year . . . on the bike. Mike and I took advantage of holiday babysitting by Grandma and we got out on the section of the Santa Ana River Trail that runs through Riverside County in California. Fun fact: Riverside County is so massive that it rivals the state of New Jersey in total area.

We started out at the trailhead located at the Hidden Valley Nature Center entrance in Riverside. There’s a fee to park inside the wildlife area so we chose the free parking outside the entrance, right next to the bright yellow sign that warned not to leave your car unattended due to a rash of recent break-ins. Several other cars risked parking there too, their drivers probably hoping any local delinquents were too hungover from New Year’s Eve celebrations to be out vandalizing cars.

At the trailhead we stopped to admire the view of snow on the San Bernardino Mountains.

Riverside County Regional Trail

Winter is the perfect time to ride in Riverside County. The desert area magically turns lush and green from the winter rains, the Santa Ana River actually has water running in it, the air is relatively clear, and you can’t beat the views. It’s a little chilly (50s, SoCal chilly) and windy but that drives away the crowds.

Hardly anyone was out on the trail. Imagine our surprise, then, when we came along the caravan of homeless people led by a man wielding a hatchet. I KID YOU NOT. Thank goodness I had not chosen to ride the trail alone as originally planned (when I was the only one awake at 7 a.m. and a certain someone slept in until 10:30). Luckily we sped right past Hatchet Man without incident and he was gone by the time we returned back there an hour later.

In spite of the hazards (and the smell from the sewage treatment plant and the view of the garbage dump, I KID YOU NOT), I would totally return to that section of the Santa Ana River Trail. I love a dedicated bikeway and this one offered a lot of beautiful views of the river, the mountains, and the surrounding horse country.

Now I’m safely back at home and I’ve resumed my work as Chief Bed Lump. I got about three hours of sleep last night (I KID YOU NOT) — party details to follow. Combine lack of sleep with a 2-hour bike ride and you’ve got a girl who wanted to fall asleep tonight at 6 p.m. Lucky for you I’ve stayed awake long enough to hit Publish on this post. Happy New Year everyone!

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