Category Archives: Fitness

Lucky #13 – Laurel Highlands 70

*Wordpress is giving me issues with inserting photos, so you don’t get to see any photos of me looking gorgeous on the trails. I assure you: that was the case.

I mentioned earlier this year that I was training for the Laurel Highlands Ultra 70 Mile race. The plan was to train for it, anyway. After the wreck of the year I had last year, both personally and running-wise, I vowed to do my very best to stay healthy and train well for the Laurel 70 and Oil Creek 100 Mile races. Here’s the recap of 2015 thus far:

January – I pulled my right hamstring during the opening sequence of yoga class. My long runs for the month topped out at 10 miles.

February – The fricking winter weather made it so difficult to run on the trails that I ran on the roads . . . and fell and banged up my hip and sprained my wrist. My longest run for the month topped out at 16 miles.

March – March was okay until the last weekend when I twisted my knee during a 23 miler on a cold and freaking snowy day. After that I had a lot of knee pain and it took until early May to find out that I had tendinitis. My longest run of the year was that 23 miler . . . and it had been a jump from that 16 miler the previous month.

So during the month of April I would rest and then try to run, and then rest and try to run. It was frustrating. I did Broad Street with only a little discomfort, but then the following week was incredibly painful. On Mother’s Day weekend I could only muster up a 5 miler. By the next weekend I decided just to go for it. I went out for 13 and it was okay. Then on the 23rd I did 20. On the 30th I did 30. (And I did those 30 without my orthotics. While it felt AWESOME, it ended up giving me very pissed off Achilles tendons in both feet. I’ve had tendinitis in the left one, so I was worried.) And then I barely ran again until Laurel. It was nowhere near the training plan I wanted, nor what anyone would recommend. I should have pulled out of the race. But I didn’t.

I was signed up not only for the 70 mile race but as the first leg of the 5 person (also 70 mile) relay. My leg was 19 miles. Going into the race, the only expectation I set for myself was to finish those 19 miles. As long as I did that, my team could function as planned.

I mentally prepared myself to have my first official DNF (did not finish). It’s not that I wanted to quit the race, but I was so sure that I would be in so much pain from either my knee or Achilles. While I mentally prepared myself to be okay with quitting the race, I packed my bags as if I’d finish the 70 miles. I gave my crew all of the instructions they would need in case I made it to the end. I lined up Anne to pace me for the last 13 miles. I felt that it was all in vain.

While I assumed I wouldn’t finish, I paced myself as if I would. I took the early miles slowly and tried not to over-do it. I couldn’t help but power up the climbs and pass a whole bunch of people; it’s what I do. But it was dumb. My climbing muscles just aren’t as strong at this point as they should be. While I did well at the beginning of the race, I had no climbing game through the rest of the race. Oh – and did I mention that it was humid? I was SOAKED by mile 2. It was unbelievable. But thankfully there were storms all through the night on Friday and the temperature was much lower than it had been on Friday. Temperatures at the start of the race were in the 60s and topped out in the upper 70s. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we would have had that humidity with temps in the 80s like was originally forecasted. Those fierce storms left the trail wet, but nowhere near as muddy as expected.

I got to aid station #1 (11 miles) in great shape, though I knew I burned up a lot of energy when I decided to zip up the mountain. I saw my crew, which consisted of my husband and Little Dude, Anne and her husband, and our friend Ethan and his girlfriend. She was the only one (aside from Little Dude) who wasn’t running. What a saint she was to suffer through all of this madness for him! Little Dude was pretty groggy at this point since we got him out of bed at 4:30am, and wouldn’t give me a kiss or shake his tambourine. I didn’t take it personally, and instead got some energy from the rest of my team. I hate wasting time at aid stations, though, and was in and out in a matter of a couple of minutes with my water and a couple pieces of watermelon. I got back on the trail and headed for aid station #2 (19.3 miles). The next few miles were unremarkable, though beautiful. I can’t say that I had any issues, nor did I have any super high moments. I was just grateful that I was feeling really good.

At aid station #2 I ended my leg of the relay and tagged off to Anne. I was right on my target pace. She and John got my pack filled with water and my beloved Tailwind (my next blog post will cover this amazing stuff) while I grabbed a little more watermelon, and then she joined me on the trail. She decided to stay with me for her 13 mile section of the relay. It was so nice to have her company. She is the absolute best running partner! Staying with me helped to keep the relay team pretty close to me, making it easy for the gang to crew for me while running the relay. I was already hiking more than I would have liked, but Anne kept assuring me I was fine.

We came into aid station #3 at the Seven Springs Resort and I got super excited to see boiled potatoes and a big bowl of salt. I know that sounds disgusting, and it really is, but when I’m running long, it’s all I want. I gobbled down two baby potatoes with salt and some watermelon and then I saw it – the box of Oreos! I snatched up an Oreo so fast and crammed it in my mouth. Anne commented on how odd that was for me, but hey – those things are vegan so I was good, right? (Wrong – it made my stomach hurt for a few miles. But boy did it taste good.) Anne and I came into aid station #4 at mile 32 pretty happily. In my past two Laurel experiences I had only run sections 1 (once) and 2 (twice). My secondary goal for the day was to see all of section 3. I was very, very pleased to have finished the first 2 sections in my goal time, though I was a little worried that I might be going a little too fast.

Anne tagged off to Ethan for the relay while John got my Tailwind into my hydration pack. At this point I made the switch from watermelon to oranges. Thanks to Tailwind, I didn’t really need to eat; I just picked up whatever looked good and enjoyed a piece or two of it. It was great to approach aid stations this way, rather than scavenging for what I was craving or, worse, what my body really needed. After my oranges, Ethan and I headed out onto the trail. We stayed together for about 2 minutes and then he bounded off ahead of me.

Section 3 (miles 32 – 46) of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) is just amazing. There are sections lined with lush, vibrant green ferns, punctuated with beautiful white laurel. There was a cool rhododendron arch and several rock mazes. It was the most beautiful section of the trail! I was definitely hiking more than I had hoped at this point. As I said earlier, my uphill game was crap. I was pretty upset about that. I ran when I could and hiked the rest. I got to aid station #5 and couldn’t open my bladder. The slide was stuck on the stop of it. Thankfully my friend Don was there to be my angel and help me! Unfortunately he had to pull out of the race early, but at that point I was immensely thankful for his presence. He got my bladder filled up while I grabbed another orange segment. I was back on the trail quickly. The rest of section three was as beautiful as the first. The day was going so well. I felt great. I just felt like a shoe was going to drop.

I rolled into aid station #6 feeling great. I accomplished my goal of completing section 3 and felt good. I knew I would continue through section 4. My husband was running section 4 of the relay and John said he had only started a few minutes before I got there. He thought I could catch him. I thought about trying, so I would have some company, but I was too afraid that I would burn too much energy doing so. A big part of my strategy was energy conservation, so that wouldn’t work! As soon as I crammed a huge orange segment in my mouth a volunteer came up to me and told me I was the 10th place female. I dropped a bit of language with my child nearby, but thankfully the orange muffled it enough that only Ethan and his girlfriend Megan understood me! Telling me I was 10th was the worst thing that woman could have done at that moment! I never considered that I could do so well, and then I became obsessed with it! At that point I had to move on. I crossed the busy highway and got back on the “flat” trail, as John described it.

He lied.

The first half of section 4 was NOT flat. It’s not that it was overly hilly, but it was rolling and I hadn’t expected that. I started to lose a little momentum. I was hiking too much. Things were starting to stuck. Miles 46 – 51 just dragged on and on. It was awful. And then it started to rain. But it didn’t just rain. It POURED. It was ark-worthy. I hadn’t picked up my visor so water was getting in my eyes. I had, though, grabbed my flashlight, but it wasn’t quite dark enough to need that. During the first half of section 4 I was hiking a good bit and my knees were getting stiff. Once the rain hit, though, I was really motivated to keep moving. A guy passed me while trailing a beautiful girl with gorgeous hair. (Really, it’s unfair that she looked that good through the whole damned race. It was ridiculous.) He couldn’t keep up with her, though, and she soon bounded off, leaving both of us behind. He was running very slowly and I wanted to pass him, but whenever I started to walk up a hill, he’d push on ahead. I realized that I needed to adopt his approach. I’m sure it drove him absolutely nuts but I stayed right behind him for miles. That man pretty much saved me. Seriously. If I had kept up my hiking, my knees would have continued to stiffen up. It made the idea of running really unappealing. By keeping that very slow pace, though, I was able to get things to loosen up. I did some high-knees and some ass-kickers. The rain ended up giving me what I needed to get through that section. By the time I slogged into aid station #7 I was chafing everywhere from the wet clothes and I was fairly miserable. Everything hurt, but nothing was particularly painful. I just felt tired and wasted. I knew I was fine to continue, but the rain really sucked. If I didn’t have a pacer for section 5 I doubt I would have mustered up the guts to continue. But Anne was there waiting for me, so I didn’t have to make that decision. I grabbed my headlamp and visor and we took off. I was dead set on breaking 19 hours, so I said, “Anne. We have 4 hours to do this, okay?” Her reply? “Let’s go!” I just love her.

That last section was very muddy in parts – the kind of mud that can suck your shoes right off your feet. We managed to keep our shoes on, which can be surprisingly tricky at times!  Anne and I passed the time by chatting like we always do. I’ve talked to her probably more than I have talked to most human beings on this planet but yet we still find things to talk about. It always amazes me. We ran when I could and hiked everything else. I was intent on finishing as quickly as possible, so I hiked faster than I hiked in the early sections. At least I think I did. Maybe I was moving as slow as molasses. At any rate, I kept on moving. We got to aid station #8 which was on a very long section of dirt road. This was the most interesting aid station yet. It seemed unremarkable at first; it looked like all the others. When they offered me a grilled cheese, I politely declined. Anne told them that I was a vegan and didn’t eat gluten and the one guy said, “We have stuff for that!” It was an odd response, for sure. It turns out that the whole group of volunteers was vegetarian! They offered me a Tofurkey sandwich, but since I can’t really eat while running, I declined. It’s too bad I didn’t have a baggie on me. I would have taken it to go! I was absolutely stunned by that aid station, and it left me giggling on the way out.

The final 8 miles were long – very long. That last aid station came too early in the section, so it made those final miles drag on. With about 5 miles to go Anne told me it was all downhill to the finish. She lied. It must run in the family! We kept trudging on UP and down hills. I’ve been through this stage in an ultra several times now but it’s still hard. You feel like you will never get to the finish, but obviously you will. You simply must keep moving. When you put a dumb goal in front of yourself it’s, well, dumb and it makes things a little extra hard.

Finally, with about 1.5 miles to go, we really seemed to be descending. I told Anne that if we had to go up again I was quitting right then and there. I’m not sure how I thought I’d get home, but that didn’t matter at the time. We continued to descend and started to see the signs welcoming hikers to the Laurel Highlands. Anne said that once we saw “the big sign” we were all but home. Before we even saw it, though, I said, “Screw it. I’m RUNNING!” I picked up the pace and then found that big sign. I continued to run towards the finish line. Thankfully I was paying close attention to my feet because just before the finish line there was a big step with a log along the edge. (Could you imagine falling at that point? That would suck.) I was so glad to be done, but of course I had to find out if I beat my goal. I received my trophy and then asked the race director for the time. He looked at me and knew exactly what I wanted to know. He said, “You did it. You beat 19 hours.” I was so happy.

I was happy and felt great. I couldn’t believe how well I felt after 70 miles and after the training season I had. That feeling lasted about 2 minutes. My crew hadn’t expected me so early, so they quickly dispersed to get my stuff. I was left holding my hydration pack and my trophy with Little Dude sitting there in a camp chair. I knew I needed to walk around for a few minutes and get some liquids, but I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t leave him alone. By the time they got back I had to sit down. Then it was all over. I started feeling weird. I didn’t feel like I would vomit or anything, but standing seemed out of the question. I asked for a bowl of salted rice, but when John returned with it, it was if he gave me a bowl of . . . meat or something equally gross. The thought of food on on the whole was revolting, but during my 19 hours of movement I consumed: 1,600 calories from Tailwind, 6 wedges of watermelon, 4 orange slices, 3 baby potatoes (the small canned kind), 5 blue corn chips, the equivalent of probably a half of a sweet potato Anne had roasted for me, one date and one Oreo cookie. According to My Fitness Pal I probably burned about 5,500 calories, so I was certainly in a real deficit. I tried to get my protein shake (mixed with chocolate almond milk) down, but it was hard. It took a while. I told Anne I had to go to the bathroom and she walked there with me. Thank God she did. All of a sudden everything went black. She helped me to sit on the parking lot until that passed. After I was done at the bathroom, she helped me back to my chair. Then I realized I had to go to the bathroom again. What a freaking ordeal that was. I just felt miserable. I was so dizzy. When I got back to my chair again Anne and John urged me to change out of my wet clothes. I really wanted to but didn’t feel up to it. MISTAKE. Within a few minutes my lips were blue and I was shivering terribly. I was wrapped in two towels and a blanket and was still freezing. Finally Anne grabbed some baby wipes and started cleaning off my legs. Once that was done, I decided to get up and get changed. The simple act of getting out of those clothes changed the whole ballgame. I instantly felt better. I managed to walk over to the tent and get some vegan chili. I ate most of that, said goodbye and thank you to everyone, and then climbed in the car.

We were only 2 hours from home but by then it was 2 am and we had been up since 4am. My husband had snagged a short nap during the afternoon and said he was okay to head out. We stopped at a Sheetz for some fuel – not for the car but for us. My husband got a Red Bull, one of those sugary cappuccinos and fried cheese curds. (If that isn’t one of the most disgusting combinations of food, I’m not sure what is. I supposed there could have been bacon involved.) I had him order me some tater tots. I ate most of them and they were delightful. I chugged lots of water and then took a quick nap. I woke up in time to realize his Red Bull was wearing off, so I stayed awake to chat with him the rest of the way home.

This blog is already way too long, so I’ll spare all of the rest of the details. I’ll say that I was stiff and sore on Sunday but really wasn’t in any pain. I was mostly just tired. Generally after long runs I’ll retain 3-4 pounds for about 3 days. That didn’t happen this time. Sometimes I’l have swelling in my legs. That didn’t happen either. It was really a good experience all around with the exception of the rain and that period of time after I finished when I was all loopy. I’m super happy with how the whole day went. I did finish as the 10th place female, which was pretty cool. There were 25 females at the start and only 16 of them finished. When you think of it that way, 10th place doesn’t sound all that impressive, but if I don’t give the race statistics, no one knows!

Oh yeah – do you want to know the weirdest part of the race? It was before the start, at the bathrooms. The line for the men’s room was ridiculously long but there wasn’t one for the ladies room. How often do you see that? Not very often! On Sunday I looked at the race statistics. There were 98 men and 25 women. That’s a pretty huge disparity, don’t you think? I can’t figure out why there are so few women in this race.

The best part of the whole weekend was Little Dude. He was a champ and hung out with our team all day with a smile on his face. He’s been talking about the “adventure” ever since. Since it was hazy and rainy the whole time, he started calling it “Misty Island”, after a Thomas the Train episode. It was all “Misty Island” this and “Misty Island” that. Today he told me that when he’s bigger he’d like to go running on Misty Island too and he wants all the grown-ups to cheer and clap for him. Later when we were on a walk in our neighborhood, he looked at the mountain I train on and said, “Mama…..when I’m bigger….. you and I can go running on the mountain together.”

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Aliens . . . that’s the only explanation

In running years, I’m young. I only started running in 2005, so that makes me 9. In those 9 years, though, I’ve experienced a lot of injuries. The list includes: plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka, Runner’s Knee), achilles tendonitis, a hamstring strain, Morton’s neuroma, issues with my piriformis (this was the most painful of all of them – hands down), nasty issues with my IT band, a stress fracture in a metatarsal, a stress reaction in a metatarsal, a super-duper inflamed teeny-tiny little adductor, and, most recently, chondromalacia patella. Whew. Basically, you name it, I’ve injured it. Oh – and I have a minor spinal defect that rarely causes me issues, but when it does, I’m pretty much not moving.

Logic would tell a person that if she experiences this many injuries, she should quit doing whatever it is that’s causing it. Logic is so . . . logical. But the thing about logic is that it doesn’t take anything else into consideration. Logic doesn’t care about the enjoyment you get out of doing something. It doesn’t care that you actually aren’t half bad at what you’re doing. And it certainly doesn’t care that what you’re doing is just plain addictive. Logic just says quit.

Screw you, logic.

Some of those injuries actually were not running related, but I had to include them because I can’t say that running didn’t contribute to them in some way or another. And some of those injuries wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t had a desk job. Sitting for 8-10 hours per day is the worst. It’s the absolute worst. Several of those injuries would have healed faster if I hadn’t been sitting so darned much.

Bouncing back after an injury can be tough. You don’t want to screw up and end back up on the couch. You don’t want to baby whatever it is that’s bothering you and end up hurting something else. You don’t want to overthink it and do something dumb. Sometimes that bounce-back can be slow, and you might be slower or have less endurance than you previously did. And sometimes it’s the opposite.

I’ve hardly been running since early August. I would rest for a string of days and then try a 3 or 5 mile run to see how things went. I’d realize I still needed more recovery. This continued until the first week of October. I had a good weekend of a 7 mile run and a 9 mile one and was feeling good. Then something snapped in my knee at the gym. I was worried it was my meniscus. While I paced Anne at Oil Creek, we really didn’t run. We walked and hike more than 95% of the 31 miles, so I was fine.

Last Friday I saw an orthopaedist who confirmed that I have chondromalacia patella. He told me what to do (some strengthening exercises) what not to do (squats, lunges and hills – all my favorites) and sent me on my way to get back to running. I tested things out with a pair of runs last weekend and they went well. I felt great afterwards too, so I decided to try some runs during the week. Due to our schedule, my only options during the week are road runs before my husband leaves for work on Monday and Wednesday, treadmill stuff, or pushing my son in his stroller if the weather is nice.

I hit the dreadmill on Monday night at the gym. I said I would go easy. I meant it. And I swear I did so. But “easy” meant something new. “Easy” was not 6.5 mph. It was not 7mph. WTH? I increased my speed with each mile very conservatively, but still ended up with a quick run – quick for me. It was only 70 seconds off my 5K PR. (I’m someone who actually runs faster on the road than the treadmill, so maybe it would have been even a few seconds faster outside.) I was astonished when I finished and looked at my average time. This former 9:30/mile girl was an 8:20/mile girl.

I assumed that was an anomoly. I ran 5K outside with my son in the stroller on Tuesday night. We ran to the grocery store and back, so I know it wasn’t fast. BUT I was pushing somewhere in the ballpark of 65-70 lbs, so it was a workout. Then, just 12 hours later, I ran another 5K before my husband left for work. My watch died during the run (charge it after every run, you dummy), but the time on the oven clock wasn’t anywhere near where I thought it should be.

THEN Anne and I went out for a trail run this morning. We’ve decided that Saturday mornings will be days we focus on trail speed. We have a relatively flat, smooth section of the AT near us that is perfect for that. Last week we did 8 miles at 10:49/mile. We cross several roads on this route and had to wait for traffic at most of them, AND there was about 1/2 mile of road involved. I knew we could do better. Today we went out for 11 miles. I did NOT count the road section this time, which would make our time slower, and I was shocked again. We dropped 42 seconds per mile off even though we added 3 miles.

It seems that I’ve acquired some speed somewhere. I certainly haven’t been doing any speed training. I have barely been running. I’ve been doing yoga and lifting, but I’ve barely been doing any stuff for my legs because of the injuries. I haven’t lost any of the weight I’ve gained in the last year. I haven’t changed my diet and am not getting better quality of sleep. Yet, today I felt light on my feet and strong as ox.

The only explanation is aliens. I’m heading out to look for crop circles now. Get your tinfoil hats on, everybody!

Oh – as an aside . . . we encountered a baby opossum on our run today. He was sitting on the side of the trail. He was cute, in an ugly sort of way. We stopped several feet short of him and eyed him up. I told him he shouldn’t be out and about right now. His response was a cross between a hiss and a pant. We got off the trail for a few feet to give him lots of space in case he was rabid. He was probably just scared, but we couldn’t be too careful. It was quite odd.

Central PA is surprisingly cool

When we were in Hawaii, I told Kasey-Dee about all of the “fun” things we could do if she came to visit. Everything seemed like an awesome idea at the time. I must have really made it sound fun, because she decided to spend the holiday weekend with us. I sat down on Thursday night to decide exactly what we were going to do, and it was at that point that I had this thought: We are so lame.

All of my awesome ideas sounded dumb. She lives and works just outside of Washington DC and travels the world. How did I think she could possibly have fun in Podunk, PA? (For the record, we Pennsylvanians truly refer to our state by its abbreviation: P-A. Also, there really isn’t a town called Podunk, but there is a Camp Podunk. Leave it to PA.)

I decided to stick to my guns because, well, there weren’t really any other options. I drew up a list of things to do and cleaned the house. She arrived on Friday afternoon and we hit the ground running. Our first stop was to my friends’ farm. They are out of the country for several weeks, but I stop by often to feed their animals. I hate to waste anything, so I save all of my food waste (peels, cores, stems, uneaten food from my toddler’s plate) in gallon bags in the freezer. Every week or so I take all of the bags over for the goats, sheep and cow. They love it. Kasey-Dee is a vegetarian and huge animal lover, so I thought this would be fun. She was so excited. It was awesome.

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After that, we all went to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Chocolate World is awesome. It’s beside the amusement park, but it’s totally free. There is a huge store where you can buy all things chocolate, but there is also a “ride” that you can take to learn about how chocolate is made. There are 3 singing cows throughout the ride that sing a ridiculously catchy song. We’ve taken Little Dude to this more times than I can count and he loves it. Since it was a holiday, the park was packed. We couldn’t get into the Chocolate World lot, so we had to park further away and take a tram. Little Dude was so, so excited to ride the tram. I think it was the most fun he had all day! Kasey-Dee loved it, and just had to get her picture taken with the Hershey Kiss!

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After we got all sugared up on samples of Brookside Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds (seriousy, if Brookside wants to send me stuff to eat, er….review, I am totally game), we hopped over to our amazing local brewery: Troegs.

Troegs is, in a word, awesome. They have very solid year round beers, and some awesome seasonal stuff. They also have their “scratch series”. They love to experiment with small batches, and number their scratch series sequentially. I think they are up to #152 or so right now. It’s fantastic. Their tasting room is huge, and their food is simply amazing. If you are ever in the Hershey area, you simply must check them out.

When we went to order our beer, Kasey-Dee boldly proclaimed that she didn’t like dark beer. The bartender took that as a challenge, and offered her a taste of Rugged Trail. While Rugged Trail isn’t a dark-dark beer, it’s darker than most of the lighter beers. (Brilliant statement,  I know. ) Kasey-Dee was a convert from that moment. (By Saturday night, I had her drinking Impending Descent – a Russian Imperial Stout. Yet another convert!)

2014070495193320We ordered their chickpea fritters with tomato chutney. It was absolutely amazing. I can’t even put it into words. The fritters were sort of reminiscent of falafel, but had a much different texture to them. There was also a good kick to them, which I loved. We ate everything. Yum!

Saturday morning began with a run on the Appalachian Trail, beginning at the Scott Farm Work Center in Carlisle. This was Kasey-Dee’s first experience on the AT. If you have never run the AT, you need to put it on your list of things to do. It’s awesome. It is just beautiful. That is a particularly nice section, too. We turned around at route 850 in Marysville, for a total of 12 miles.

photo 2(1)After the run, we returned to my house for lunch, but on the way home, we saw signs for “Hamfest”. I’m vegan and she’s vegetarian so neither of us eat ham, but we were intrigued. We followed the signs, but didn’t find out what Hamfest was. Apparently it was on the campus of the local community college, but it wasn’t big enough for us to see from the road. Maybe that’s a bummer, or maybe that’s luck.

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I made a kick-ass lunch. I busted out the panini press and grilled a panini for her. (I had a similar meal but without the bread). I call it my “Eggplant Pesto Stack”. First I made some garlic scape pesto. Then I caramelized some ononion.  I then roasted some eggplant slices brushed with olive oil and lightly salted at 350 for about 20 minutes (varies based on thickness). Finally, I put it all together and ate it. It was divine. (The recipe is at the end of the blog, but here’s the non-panini photo).

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Saturday afternoon was spent traipsing around Lancaster County to gawk at Amish folks and to buy PA Dutch foods. We saw tons of buggies and roadside stands. We stopped a farmers’ market and a little village shopping center in Intercourse. That’s right – the town’s name is Intercourse.

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There is also a small village somewhere in the area named Fertility, but we didn’t find it. Other towns in the area are Bird-In-Hand, Blue Ball, Ronks and Paradise. Huh?

After Intercourse (hehehe) we stumbled upon the Rumspringa Brewery and Mount Hope Estate Winery Tasting Room. S and I had been there before, so I suggested we stop and do some tastings. The wines are just ok, but pretty decent for PA wines. (Honestly our state’s wines aren’t usually that great. They are just too sweet.) The beer isn’t great, but it’s decent. Mostly it’s just fun to stop for a drink after Intercourse. (Seriously, that’s just fun to say.)

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We returned home and Kasey-Dee and I made dinner. She doesn’t cook, but that doesn’t matter. I put her to work peeling and cutting sweet potatoes so we could grill them up. I massaged some kale and made some kale chips. We threw some burgers (veggie for us, chicken for S and Little Dude) out to S and he grilled them. It was an easy, quick and healthy meal. After dinner, we headed down to the riverfront to watch the Harrisburg fireworks.

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On Sunday morning I took Kasey-Dee for a run up “my” mountain. I took her on my normal 7 mile run. The weather was perfect – 60 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. It was perfect. We followed that up with church. And then she was gone!

I was honestly surprised at how many things I had planned that we didn’t do. I tend to get kinda bored with the Harrisburg area and think that we need to move, but then I find a reason to really evaluate what this area has to offer, and I realize that it’s pretty awesome. It’s not fancy, but it has a lot to offer to many folks. You can find all sorts of things to do within an hour drive. This weekend made me really appreciate what we have here.

Eggplant Pesto Stack

For the pesto

1/4 c pine nuts
3/4 c chopped garlic scapes
1/4 c fresh basil
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 t salt
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

Process all ingredients in a food processor. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

For the eggplant
1 eggplant
2 T olive oil
1 t salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ slices. Shake on some salt and put in a colandar to drain. Place slices on a greased cookie sheet; brush them with olive oil and lightly salt. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes,  flipping once.

For the onions
3 red onions
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 T Tablespoon olive oi

Cut the onions in half and then into thin slices. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium. Add oil to the pan and shake until its coated. Add the onions and sugar to the pan and coat well. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Lower the beat and continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes or until they look all delicious and caramel-y.

To assemble:
Place an eggplant slice on a plate. Smear pesto on top. Add a slice of vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Teese brand) and some caramelized onion. Delicious

The good kind of ‘hurt’

I am making good on some of my ides-of-March resolutions this week. I know it’s only Thursday, but I’m doing it, and I need to keep myself motivated by sharing publicly. I don’t want to be perceived as bragging about what I can do; it’s more of an accountability thing. I have hit the gym 3 out of 3 days, got in a good run on Tuesday (with another scheduled for tonight), and am eating way cleaner. That trio of improvements has led me to feel way better already. I dropped 4.5 lbs (of bloat) in 3 days without any crazy cleanse or meds. It just amazes me how my body reacts when I put certain foods into it. By cutting them out, I can change out I look in a matter of days. (I’ll touch more on this in an upcoming blog.)

I am so happy to be back to the gym more frequently. While it’s a big chain, I love my gym. I see the same folks there all the time, and we all give each other a wave or head nod. The “meat-heads” that some people might complain about are all super nice, and don’t mind the fact that the crazy girl with the weird workouts invades their space. We have really great equipment, and lots of it, so there is rarely a time when I have to wait for what I need.

This week I’ve completed 3 pretty cool workouts. I have mentioned before that I follow GPP Fitness, and Neil (the guy behind GPP) is the source for these workouts. He has upped the cardio elements of our workouts this week since we (well, they) have been focusing on strength for so long this winter. I love these cardio-heavy workouts, and I love the feeling I have in my legs right now. They are sore and tired, but not overly so. They feel like they are being used and developed. It’s fabulous. Here’s what I did Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, of this week.

Three Bars of Death

AMRAP in 20 min of:

5 deadlifts 95/135
5 power cleans 45/95
5 push press 45/95

How can you go wrong with a workout called Three Bars of Death? I haven’t done deads in a few months, so I backed the weight down to 65#. The only problem with doing this workout at my gym without a partner is that I lost a lot of time taking the plates on and off the bar.

Arms & 400s

Complete 3 rounds before moving on.

5 strict chin-ups
20 BB biceps curls 45/65
400 m run

then, complete 3 rounds of:

10 BB skull crushers 45/65
20 chair dips
400 m run

I haven’t been doing chin-ups in months either. When I was doing them regularly, I could get 2 good ones out and then muscled through most of a 3rd before falling. I did these with the assist machine, with a lower assist than I thought I would need. I also backed down just a few pounds on the weights. I love 400m repeats.

Row/KB – Run/KB

3 rounds for time:

500m row
25 KB swings 25/35
400m run
25 KB swings 25/35

I hate rowing. I hate rowing beside someone who is wearing weird headphone earbud/cellphone earpiece thingys. I hate hearing her talk to her whomever about his job promotion. Ugh. But I got it done. This is a fun workout and it makes the time fly by.

With all of that, plus a good 6 mile run on Tuesday night, I feel good. I feel like my muscles are rebuilding right this moment. That is such a good feeling.

Hellth Week

I follow GPP Fitness for my strength training workouts. The programming is awesome – for me. For others, it might not work, and that’s okay. I love it because we do so many different exercises from week to week. It is definitely not boring. Sometimes the workouts are super fun, and other times they make me want to vomit. As of the writing of this blog, I have not actually vomited from any of the workouts, but I came close last week.

Last week was what the gym calls Hellth week. It’s a week of grueling workouts and challenges. I decided to participate in it this time around, which meant committing to the 6 posted workouts and to a no sugar challenge. It sounded like a great way to begin the new year, and it was.

The 6 workouts were crazy:

Monday we were challenged to do as many rounds of this workout as possible in 40 minutes:
4 ten meter high knee sprints
20 lunge switches (R+L=1)
20 OH DB presses 15/20 ea.
20 DB biceps curls 15/20 ea.
20 OH triceps ext 15/20

I finished 5 rounds, which was super lame. BUT I did use the right weights and didn’t miss a rep. Ordinarily I would drop to 10# when the going got rough, but I didn’t. Also, I didn’t know how far 10m was on our turf track, so I sprinted the length of it and then jogged the rest of the way around it. That took up valuable time. PLUS I was suuuuuper self-conscious about the high knee sprints, so it took a lot for me to do that in public. It was totally NBD.

Tuesday was rough. This workout is known as Specter, and man was it hard. Again, I was painfully slow but I did every. damned. rep. My squats were all at or below parallel. I almost puked. It took me 60:54 with lots of pauses and deep, not-so-cleansing breaths. (I got lots of weird looks from the dudes on this one.)

20 power squat cleans 45/65
burpee
19 power squat cleans 45/65
2 burpees
18 power squat cleans 45/65
3 burpees
17 power squat cleans 45/65
4 burpees
16 power squat cleans 45/65
5 burpees
Keep repeating while subtracting a PSC and adding a burpee so the last round is 1 PSC and 20 burpees.

Wednesday was kettlebell fun. This was actually a fun workout, and I only smacked myself in the head 3 times during the halos. Otherwise it was wholly uneventful. (I’ll admit to only using 20# KBs since our gym didn’t have a 25# one. And I used 15# for the juggles since I’m always afraid I’ll drop those.)

10 rounds for time
10 KB side step swings 25/35 (R+L=1)
10 KB juggles 25/35
10 KB reverse woodchoppers 25/35 (R+L=1)
10 KB pushups 25/35
10 KB halos 25/35 (R+L=1)

Thursday was so hard on the heels of Tuesday’s Specter. I ended up tweaking a hamstring part way through, so I dropped the weight from 65# to 45# on the second round of 19, and went from lunge switches to step-back lunges on the second round of 18. I came home and promptly sat in an ice bath. (By Sunday my hammy was fine.) This took me 43:53 with looooots of stretching for that poor hammy.
15-16-17-18-19-20-19-18-17-16-15 reps per round of:
back squats 65/95
box jumps
lunge switches (R+L= 1)

Friday was thankfully something I could complete at home, since Little Dude wasn’t well enough to attend the gym daycare and Daddy was away for the day. I plopped LD on the couch with some blankets and put on “Planes” and started my workout.

Every minute on the minute for 25 minutes perform
7 burpees
5 pushups (strict)

I hit every rep. This was super hard after the other workouts we’d done during the earlier parts of the week. I was amazed that every set took me right around 40 seconds. I was amazingly consistent, even when I felt like I was slower than molasses. Little Dude shouted encouraging remarks like, “Mama, you can’t reach the ceiling!” (This was when I was jumping at the top of the burpee.) During one of my recovery periods, he looks and me and said, “Mama! Get on it!” I guess he didn’t approve of me resting.

Saturday‘s workout was the only one I didn’t complete. I just plain didn’t have the time. Plus our gym was having its Winterfest so there was a slew of people and the equipment was all over the place. I got through 2 full rounds of this before I had to jet.

4 rounds for time
200 rope jumps (All the jump ropes were in use or missing so I ran 400m)
25 tick tocks R 35/54
25 tick tocks L 35/54
25 donkey kicks (I didn’t think they’d approve of me kicking their walls so I did mountain climbers)
25 swipers 15/20 (R+L+1)
200m row
25 stability rev back extensions
25 V-up ball transfers (I can’t even do V ups so I did a modified V up, no ball.)

So all of that was great fun. I took the week off from running due to a hip “injury”, so it was great timing. I think something would have suffered if I would have tried to keep up the running as well.

During all of this, I was on board with the “no added sugar” challenge. I was amazed to find out that there were sugar in my salty rice crackers and the salsa I use on my salads. It was definitely an eye opener. I did eat fruit, including dates and dried fruit that wasn’t dried with sugar. It wasn’t as hard as I thought, craving wise, but it did make meal planning a little tricky. I made some dinner recipes that called for a bit of sugar (like collard greens) so I chopped up apples for those. It all worked out.

I will definitely be keeping up with the reduced sugar change. I felt a lot better. This encompasses all sugary substances like:

agave nectar, brown sugar, cane crystals, sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup

Sugar substitutes were also a no-no, but that was okay because I generally avoid them too. That list included: Aspartame (Nutrasweet), Saccharin, Sucralose (Splenda), Stevia, and Mogrosides (Nectresse).

Sticking to a vegan, low gluten and no-added-sugar diet was interesting. I don’t eat a ton of packaged foods to start with, but this basically meant they were all off limits.

If you are looking for some workouts to get you out of a rut, check out GPP. I can’t say enough good things about the program. I started following it last spring and by adding in the workouts, I trimmed time off of every distance I ran. I did zero speedwork, but got stronger and it showed.