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Friday, November 30, 2012

Foody Friday: Homemade peppermint patties

Lasst Christmas my food gift boxes were a hit, so I'm repeating the gift this year. The box for 2012 includes homemade peppermint patties. It's an easy enough recipe that I'd thought I'd share it.
Making the patties was the easy part.
You just combine three ingredients, roll it out, and cut circles. I used a shot glass to cut the patties. I learned that leaving the patties to dry out a little makes a crisper patty and makes dipping easier, too.
You can easily dip the patties on a fork. I let mine dry on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Once they were fully set, we wrapped them in foil wrappers I bought from Wilton.
I see him chewing, little snitch.

David would only help if I plied him with wine.

Dark and milk chocolate on the left; white chocolate on the right. 
I tasted some, too! 
The recipe:
Mix a can of sweetened condensed milk with 5 cups powdered sugar and 1 TBS peppermint extract (or about 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint oil). Mix to form dough, adding an additional 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar as you go. Roll out and cut out patties. Let them dry out for a day for best results. Then dip in melted chocolate. To melt chocolate, you can just put chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Then add a tablespoon of crisco to thin the chocolate before you dip.
Place dipped candies on a lightly greased sheet to dry; when completely set wrap in foil candy wrappers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Walmart running leggings

A few years ago I bought a pair of running tights from, of all places, Wal--mart online.
They were perfect.
They were thick, but not too hot. They were long enough. They had a key pocket. They fit like leggings, but were the material and feel of pants. They were $12.00.

I should have stocked up, but I didn't, and now Wal-mart doesn't make these tights anymore. But they do make running leggings.
Also available in gray.

They're also a steal at $12, but there are a couple of changes from the tights.

1. These are actually leggings, so the material is thinner. And they look like leggings. I wear mine without shorts or skirt over them, but then, I have no shame. I can see some people thinking they need a little more coverage, but you can't actually see through the fabric, so I think it's ok.
(The good thing about the fabric is that it is fake polyester stuff - no cotton-y feel like fashion leggings. I have a pair of running leggings with more cotton, and that does NOT work: the leggings get sweaty and stick to you and bunch up. Terrible. These don't do that.)
2. They aren't quite as warm (which is good for me, since I don't have that many freezing days here). If you get too hot in running tights you might try these.
3. No key pocket. Worst thing ever. But they have a doubled waist band, so I will sew a key pocket into mine.
4. Not flattering. What I mean by this is, these aren't "suck-your-rolls-in" tights like Lululemon or something. The fabric's thin, so they aren't sucking anything in. When you wear them, it looks like you wearing leggings. Period. Not you after lipo and 4 years of Body Pump and spin class daily wearing leggings.

So, there are a few drawbacks to these guys compared to true running tights. But I still really like them, and it's nice to have a lighter weight option. And for that price, it's hard to go wrong!
(PS - For sizing purposes: a few reviews say to size up on these leggings. I would not do that. They fit true to size on me. I have a super pear-shape so if I say they fit true to size, they fit true to size!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Random things of interest

1. This. I love and adore that we cannot break the brave Brits code all these years later. Britain, you rock for saving the free world back in the '40s. In case I forgot to thank you earlier.
2. My little brother Joey is back in the USA! He was in Afghanistan for 9 months. He'll get some leave near Christmas. So glad he's home safe!
3. I'm seriously off running because I'm seriously injured. I ran the Turkey Day Race (poorly) as planned. Racing on one limping leg caused an imbalance that, I believe, strained my other hamstring. And now I can't even walk without pain. I feel a million years old. No more running for me. Catch you in late 2013, races.
4. Buying a pre-lit tree is a terrible idea. Once large sections of lights start dying you have to get all up in there with wire cutters and remove all 500 of them.

5. I love Christmas, but I hate the temporary mess. Dear boxes: please go mail yourselves. Dear ornaments: please go climb the tree and nestle amongst branches. Try to space yourselves out a little.
6. Football this year is giving me stomach ulcers.
7. I found a wine called Tisdale on sale for 3/$10 and it was actually good! So I drank three bottles.
8. I got my Ellimpic medal in the mail this week. It was awesome. Touch-screen gloves, knee socks, water bottle, fuel - great stuff. But no picture because I took it apart and wore/used/ate it already :) Thanks XLMIC!
9. I found some precious miniature pears at the grocery store last week. Popped into wine glasses they made a great mantle decoration!

10. My technician has jury duty and was selected for a jury. Lord help me. I can't function without her. I hope I tell her how awesome she is all the time, because she rocks. I was a pharmacy tech for 10 years before I was a pharmacist and I know it's a hard job - and I appreciate a good tech!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Paris: San Chapelle

It's hard to believe that the intricate glass work and soaring architecture of San Chapelle dates to the 15th century, but it does. In fact an original mural from the 1440's is still visible inside. While the church is beautiful, it is also small and is so often under work that not all the stained glass is visible. So if you are scrimping (it costs 9 Euros to enter) go to Notre Dame for free instead.
The motif for the church is very like a New Orleans motif!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taking off

I'm taking time off of running.
There are three excellent reasons for this:
1. I mentioned a calf strain earlier. It's not going away and it HURTS. I can run through osteitis pubis because it isn't an impact injury, but a little old calf strain is killing me and needs rest.
2. I didn't go into detail because it's gross runner TMI, but when I was sick Saturday after the race I had some pretty serious GI bleeding. I bleed very easily (chronic nosebleeds, wounds that won't close, etc) which is related to hormone levels. It's not a big deal, but I felt very weak and faint that weekend. I'm still out of breath a lot - just stairs challenge me - so I need a real break to build blood volume.
3. I'm definitely doing the overtraining thing. This seems impossible to me: I'm not doing a ton of speedwork and my mileage is low to mid 60's per week, yet I guess for me this is too much. I have been feeling very tired and weak and simply cannot get any speed up at all. I tried to do the track workout on Monday, and I fell behind in the warm-up! And my races have me working hard for what used to be a training pace.

I jumped into this marathon plan after injury, and even though I built up to mileage in the 40's before starting, the increase was too much. And I've made several classic mistakes:
- Apparently my easy runs are too fast! I actually don't wear a Garmin or a watch for my easy runs, so it's hard to tell for sure, but that seems to be the consensus (My long runs, on the other hand, are not meant to be slow in this plan - however, they are slower than my long runs last year. Proof I'm slowing down). 
- I do too many hard workouts. When I do track with the Varsity Sports group on Mondays, I am skipping the plan's Monday speedwork. Sometimes I read the plan and like the workout so much I will run it on what should be an easy day. That's probably a bad idea.
- I tried to start at my prior fitness level. I got my paces off the McMillan calculator based on my marathon PR - pre-injury and many months ago. I'm just not there yet. A few weeks ago I ran a 15k race at a slower pace than my half-marathon! 

After Saturday's race and tummy disaster, I took a very easy day Sunday and off entirely Monday after dropping out of the track warm-up two miles in. Tuesday I did Bob Harper's hardest workout ever, which does not live up to its name, and today I am wondering if I should do yoga for runners (boo), nothing (yay!), or a short run (meh). Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am already registered for the Turkey Day 5 mile race in its 105th year of running so I can't miss that, come hell or high ankle sprain.

When I return to marathon training, it will be:
- Without a goal except to run a strong race, hopefully 3:10 to 3:30 range, and ease back into distance running/training. I looked at how close the race is (January 20th) and I can't see myself recovering, building a base back up, getting faster, and PRing just like that.
- At lower mileage. I know I need the higher mileage, but since I'm going goalless anyway, I could really use a little extra free time to get my insane work-life in order.
- At lower intensity. One hard session a week will have to do for now. Kris Lawrence gave me some great advice - adding marathon pace miles to the end of a long run - that I will also incorporate. That will get me some race pace stuff with little extra stress.

After this race I will honestly assess my fitness and ability and set a real goal for the Rock n Roll New Orleans race in February!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skinny bashing

This Sunday I went to the baby shower of a friend from pharmacy school.
(This baby shower, by the way, had me in frantic crochet mode. I put off starting her baby's sweater until this week, so the whole drive to Manchac and back I was speed-crocheting to get it done).

Baby showers don't generally rock my socks off, just because I find it very hard to feign interest in baby gifts. How many "awwww"s do I have to generate for decorative bottles and onesies with ponies on them? At least at bridal showers I can steal decorating ideas.
But it was good to see some pharmacy school friends I hadn't seen in awhile, especially as there was some super juicy gossip about one of our associates.

This gal...
- Got married to an ex-boyfriend and got pregnant while in pharmacy school.
- While pregnant, had an affair with her also-married boss. 
- Which caused bosses' wife to commit suicide
- Gal did not yet divorce husband, but
- Gal is now pregnant with bosses' child.

Good gosh. I'm speechless.
Anyway, back to the shower. Like many social events in Louisiana, this one had it's fair share of overweight and obese attendees. As in, most of them. Louisiana isn't doing so well as far as health and weight and diet go.
And something occurred that I've observed a lot at these events. As the cake was being cut, one guest - slender - declined cake. She was instantly showered with abuse. Actually, the verbal assaults started before she declined: When asking her if she wanted cake, the mother of the honoree called out, "Hey skinny! I know you could use some cake!"
When the girl said she didn't want any, all I could hear was sarcasm and insults.

What? Are you trying to lose weight?
Good grief, you need to eat some cake!
Oh brother, make us all look fat, go ahead!
You can eat it just this once, geeze, it won't kill you!
Yeah, you look like you never tasted cake in your life! 
Pfft, she probably just wants to lick the knife after you're done serving.

I don't know when this nonsense became acceptable, but it's downright commonplace in public. The poor girl was like, um, I just don't like white cake. Not only is it ok for her to pass up cake, it's ok to be skinny! It's not a crime! Yet it isn't just showers where I see this. Online forums claim that "All REAL women have cellulite" and praise companies who use overweight models, saying they are REAL women. When celebrities lose weight they're criticized, even if they are still a healthy weight. Choosing healthy options over sugary snacks is praised if it's done by someone trying to lose weight, but if you're already thin and skip the cake you get snide remarks.
When did we start condoning skinny bashing? Imagine if the situation at the shower was reversed. I can just see the reaction if an overweight guest accepted cake and everyone condemned her for it. If people told her, "You're already fat, have an apple for once!" or muttered, "Watch, she probably wants the piece with the most icing" - well, we'd be appalled. But we can do the exact same thing to our thin friends.
What gives?
Have you seen this? Have you responded?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Middendorf's Manchac 10 mile race

Welp, the slowness hasn't gone away. 1:08:32 I think for 10 miles.
In a bid for speed, I put on a Swift brand bandaid this morning.

Since I was turning this race into a long run, I came with a lot of fuel. And I don't know how a baggie of olives got into my stash of gels and gu. The only thing I took was the Gatorade prime.

I love this race - even though it's 50 miles away, we always try to run it, mostly for the catfish dinner served afterwards. We drove up early so David and I could get some miles in before the race. I did almost 5 before we started; he did four.
Thursday I developed a calf strain that was tender when I landed on it, so I smeared it with NSAID drops before leaving the house. It still hurt, but I know it will do away.
 I wormed up to the line before the start, but I could NOT get close and started pretty far back. That was my first mistake. My second was forgetting to clear my Garmin from the warm-up! I didn't know what time I had when I started running, so even though I finally had the presence of mind to hit lap at mile 2 I didn't know my total time at all.
It turns out it was plenty slower than I thought - between starting so far from the front and then dodging runners for a whole mile, I estimate based on my Garmin data that my first mile was a 7:48. Ouch.
For some reason this was a small field doing the 10 mile today (plenty in the 5k, though); I worked to try to keep my fast friend Celeste in my sight but never even got a glance at the lead female - Rachel Booth, of Disney half marathon fame. She's the top-ranked runner in the state and the only fastie who showed up today for the ladies.
I did see her at the turn-around, of course, light years in front. Celeste was #2, I was #3. Once we settled down after the 5k turn around I'd picked a few people off who looked like they were over-exerting themselves. By mile 5 I'd also passed one lady who worried me; she's the local professional triathlete who on a good day smokes me.
The last 5 miles were straight into the wind, and even though I though I was picking up pace I wasn't. Actually my splits are pretty even, minus the first mile. The wind was loud in my ears and I couldn't hear if anyone was behind me. I finally glanced back and couldn't even see another female! Then I relaxed. I was anxious to place because there was prize money, and yep, I'm greedy like that.
I wasn't thrilled to death to see a 1:08 on the clock when I finished. I'm not sure how to shake this slowness. I did a few more miles after finishing - I ran back along the course, found David, and ran back with him. He impressed me! He had a great run, 8:20 average pace, and his last 2 miles were both under 8.
I ended up with close to 19 for the day and David did 16.
Prizes! Glass, plaque, and check!
Then my day was ruined. I was thrilled to enjoy the beautiful weather and delicious catfish with friends and was ready for a nice Saturday, when my stomach decided it didn't like catfish, beer, and Gatorade Pro 01 Prime (a gel-like drink I took before the race since I'd added miles to my day). I spent the rest of the day in stomachache agony wishing I was dead.

Lessons learned today: Get closer to the front. Fight the headwind harder. Race the race, don't save energy for the miles after. Recover better - I do think I'm not sufficiently recovering; my legs felt sore close to mile 9. And biggest lesson? No Gatorade Pro 01 Prime. It was the only new thing I tried and I haven't felt this sick in years.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm slow

I can no longer ignore the fact that since starting my marathon training plan, I have slowed noticeably. What the heck, Brad Hudson? I thought your book was called, "Run Faster". As the weeks have passed my long runs have gotten slower, my workouts have gotten harder, and my overall quality has plummeted.
Here's what I'm seeing:
1. My "easy runs" are taking me longer and longer.
2. My regular effort (for warm-ups or easy running - or basically if I run without paying attention to pace) used to hover around 7:30 pace. Now it's 7:40 and climbing. In fact it takes concentration to get it under 7:30.
3. I used to sometimes run sub-7 min miles during a run without meaning to or noticing - it just happened. Never any more. Now it takes a lot of effort.
4. And speaking of effort, all my running seems like it requires more effort.

So what do I do?! I assume I bit off more than I can chew. Should I drop some miles? Drop the number of hard workouts? Taking a day off doesn't help.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paris: Cath├ędrale Notre Dame de Paris

We loved Notre Dame so much we made two trips: one to be obnoxious tourists, and one to attend mass and worship in a beautiful, calm, and solemn environment. We attended mass the morning of All Saints Day, so I think that gets my Catholic husband a gold star or something. Maybe his own planet.

Detail of external decoration

View from the back
Notre Dame was awe-inspiring: the sheer size was breath-taking; the worksmanship from so long ago truly unbelievable. I do suggest attending a mass - either a holiday or a Sunday so you get the real organ - but if you just go to sight-see, it is still free of charge.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where are all the races?

Hanging out with running friends after The Wall 30k last year

If you read my blog last year, you're probably wondering where are my races went. Last year by now I'd run quite a few fall races...

Clarence Demar Marathon
Gulf Coast HalfMiddendorf's Manchac ten miler
Jazz Half
Turkey Day five miler
Gulf Coast marathon

And I still had my winter races coming up:

Baton Rouge Beach marathon
Ol' man River half
The Louisiana Marathon
The Wall 30k

That's all between October and January. Throw in Spring and you'd have to add:
RnR New Orleans marathon
Publix Marathon
St Charles Ave Road Race 10k
The Boston Marathon

By the way, those races in Spring were all within 6 weeks!

But this year I had to back off. There were a few reasons for that. 
1. Thanks to injury I was not in shape to race early this fall. I was still building a base.
2. Since I'm actually still dealing with this injury. I want to reduce unnecessary hard efforts and save it for races that matter.
3. Recovery time cuts into training time for people who are not in shape (me).

So this year, all I've run is the Lakefront Classic 15k, which I didn't do so well in. And on my schedule for the rest of the season?

Middendorf's Manchac ten miler
Turkey Day five miler

Ol' Man River half

The Louisiana Marathon
Maybe The Wall 30k

RnR New Orleans Marathon

That's half the races I did last year! I certainly miss the fun of racing, but I feel like I need to play it safe since I'm still in pain when I run far or fast. Next week, though, you'll be getting a race report from me! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Paris: The Louvre

  The Louvre is the most value for your money in Paris. It's just 11 Euros, and you are surrounded by the best artwork in the world. David and I went on Monday (which is supposed to be the most crowded day) and had no lines at all. We showed up shortly after opening and entered through the mall entrance on Rue Rivoli.

You can do the entire museum in a day, you just have to pick and choose where to spend the most time. I was the tour guide, and we immediately made a beeline for the Denon wing, housing some of my favorite artists. We spent the entire morning there, broke for lunch, and spent less time in the remaining two wings.

If you eat in the Louvre, the little cafe is not bad food at all, and is faster and more affordable than the restaurant.

My take-home tip for the Louvre: Enjoy the architecture of the building as much as the art. The Louvre itself is one of the exhibits.

One of my favorites by El Greco - and much better in person; photography tends to make the contrasts look lurid.

There were only a dozen or so people in front of some of the most famous works, probably because we were in an off-season.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Running pays off

Look what I found on the levee! (Not the key - that's my key - it was just also  the contents of my pocket)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Running in Paris

I had big plans to run while on vacation.
Big flop.
I left New Orleans Saturday right after an 18 mile run which I crammed in that morning to make sure I got one last long run in. It capped off a pretty solid week for me: I had a very poor race on Sunday, but Monday I had a strong speed workout with the track group and Thursday I did what I think was my first tempo run ever - and it went quite well. Then the 18 miler wasn't bad, either. I saw many friends running the Jazz half marathon while I was in the park. I love that race, but I didn't want to run it and risk missing my flight if something went wrong. This miles I ran going against oncoming race traffic were slow - I was being careful to stay out of the way and off the course, and it was difficult. I did manage to throw some faster miles on at the end, though, and the run really felt effortless.
Twelve hours in a plane later, I wasn't really feeling up to running. I skipped Sunday. When the jet lag wore off Monday, I tried to head out of our hotel and do 8 or 10 miles, but we ran into a major problem. David had packed the wrong USB cable to charge my Garmin, and it was dead after my run Saturday. Without it, I was limited as to where I could run. I was as annoyed as you can be while on vacation in Paris, which isn't much.
There was a second problem, though. David didn't love the idea of my running off by myself with no way to contact him and no way to speak the language in an emergency. He made me drag him along.
Misery. I love that man, but he is so. annoying. to. run. with.
David loves to charge out of the house at break-neck speed, then begin complaining and barely jogging 2 miles in. Then I have to drag his sorry rear around after me for the rest of the run. I swear, this guy does it to me every time. Oh, and he acts like running is a punishment and often flatly refuses to do it.
And it was cold.
So the truth is that we only went running 3 times, for about 16 miles total all week. Like I said, big flop.
View from our hotel window: just run up the street to the Eiffel Tower

But when we did run, it was beautiful. We ended up just running around the park that surrounds the Eiffel Tower since we were familiar with the area and it was close to the hotel. There were other runners there, but most of them were Americans. We did see some adorable French old ladies running in jeans, though!
We ran around the tower at night but didn't do the Seine - too bad, look at that nice running path! 

I tried to jump right back in to my schedule when we got home from Paris and back to New Orleans, and that didn't go so well either. I had a long run on the books, and it just about sucked as much as a run can. I did an easy 1-hour warmup, except my heart rate was through the roof by the end of it. Perhaps a function of the jet lag, no sleep, and long flights and delays the day before? It had been raining steadily since I started running. When I switched to the speed portion, the rain became a downpour. I was soaked through, cars were splashing me, my shoes weighed 15 pounds, and I could not keep my speed up while dodging puddles. When I started chaffing raw I stopped and assessed. I was miserable! And tired and hungry! So I went home.
My shoes still haven't dried, and my running still hasn't come all the way around, but we're getting there.

What's your favorite place to run when traveling? I personally like runs in Atlanta, so I can get some hills in!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A letter to NYC and the northeast

Dear fellow- hurricaners:
I feel for you. I really do. When I say I empathize, I'm not just throwing the word around. I know how frustrating it is to have no transportation, no way to control the climate, no fresh foods, no way of knowing when basic services will be back. I know how unfair it seems that some people or neighborhoods are fine, and some are totally destroyed. I know how helpless you feel that people just a few miles away have food and water, but they can't get it to you. I know the way your heart sinks when you pick your way through closed streets, downed power lines, residual flooding, and blocked highways to a grocery store - only to find it boarded up. I've wryly put on my last clean pair of socks, too. I've stood in line for over an hour to buy whatever food I could scrounge. I've comforted friends and cried for no reason. Oh yeah, I feel for you. It's frustrating because we can't control the weather, but we wish we could control the outcomes.
With every storm we learn a little.
For now I hope your friends, neighbors, and complete strangers come together to help and comfort. Politicians promise, agencies rally, but the real assistance is from each other. So offer help and accept it. Give what you have and take what you need. And no matter where you go from now on, you'll meet someone from your home town, and the conversation will veer toward Sandy and shared experiences.

And New York Marathon? Right call, wrong timing. I feel terrible for runners who trained and flew in and made plans,  but I know the city needs streets open right now and could use its resources better than by hosting a race. So all you New York runners out there, go schedule another race, run your hearts out, and get a PR! I'm thinking of all of you!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Home from Paris!

Thank you for all of your Paris tips - great ideas! We got back in on a delayed flight last night. We weren't home until 12:30 midnight after being awake for over 24 hours, so I'm a little droopy today, but still kind of dreamy about the whole vacation. All the Paris cliches are true: it's romantic, it's beautiful, it's historical, it's awe-inspiring. The only cliche that failed was the "rude Parisian" one - the people were especially polite and attentive.
For today, I'll just do pictures, but I will also post my "What to do" and "What to avoid" lists myself later.
The courtyard of the Louvre

We were blessed with beautiful weather for most of the trip and some amazing sunsets!  David got some great pictures and I acted as his art director. I set up the shot; he sets up the camera!

At the top of the Arc de Triomphe (freezing).

Outside the Arc, watching insane traffic (we saw an accident shortly after this!)

David behind Notre Dame
Outside Versailles

Versailles Gardens

The Grand Palais