Recipes are Hard!

Turns out that this recipe needed baking soda and salt. Also pumpkin. Pretty sure those are crucial ingredients in a pumpkin muffin.

Oh well. Hopefully nobody followed it the way I originally wrote it but if you did, a) I apologize, and b) I’m curious from a scientific point of view to know what happened. I suppose it would be sort of an unleavened spice cake. So either really good, or really gross.

Probably the latter.  Kind of like the time I made cookies without flour.

Anyway, thanks Barbara for catching my mistake!

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The First Mile

As I was logging my miles on the treadmill today, I was thinking that I completely understand people who say they hate running. Even though I have personally come to love it, if all I had to judge by was how I feel when I first started out, back when just running a mile was a struggle, I would hate it too. One of the things I am grateful for in my life is my time in the Air Force, many years ago, when I discovered running longer distances could actually be enjoyable (I ran cross country in junior high, but never enjoyed it).

Since leaving the Air Force, running (and cycling to a lesser degree) has always been my go-to sport, due to the fact you can do it anywhere and don’t need special equipment. During the period earlier this year when I started back to running, I at least knew that if I put in the miles, eventually things would get easier and I would hopefully enjoy it as much as I used to. So that helped me stick with it when things sucked. There was the hope that the suckage would give way to enjoyment, and the memory of it having happened in the past. So I stuck with it and sure enough it got better.

But even now, the first mile of any run is always a bear. During that first mile is when my body likes to weigh in and let my brain know how unhappy it is to once again be doing this running thing. It does its best during that first mile to convince me to quit, usually with a little pain here and there. Today it was my shins complaining first, then a twinge in the hip, then a little ache in the foot.

Then miraculously after the first mile, the pain went away and things got easier. As I knew it would.

My typical strategy for dealing with the first mile is just to go as slow as I need to until things loosen up. I find this is particularly true on the treadmill since I do not have the distraction of scenery to keep my mind off any discomfort I may be experiencing. Once I am warmed up, I can pick up the pace and go. But I need to give myself plenty of leeway during the first mile to get both brain and body in gear.

What do you do to overcome that little voice that tells you to give up or quit?

Today’s workout

TREADMILL 5 min. warmup walking, 3 miles running, 5 min. cool down.

TOTAL Distance: 3.54mi, time: 43:08, pace: 12:11min/mi, speed: 4.92mi/hr

Strength Training: Legs, hips, back

Cat From Hell

Today I had to take my cat to the vet, and one of my kids to the doctor. The kid just has a persistent cough (post nasal drip seems to be the culprit). The cat was peeing blood in what seems to be a long-term recurring battle with urinary tract infections. The vet trip was the more stressful of the doctor visits given that peeing blood is usually not a good thing and he is an old cat. Plus we have sort of a policy on cats which is if they need more than $1,000 in veterinary repairs, they are totalled.

Let’s step back in time to twelve years ago, when I acquired a cat by the name of Asher. He was howling away inside of a box at Starbucks, where he was being given away by a young mom who couldn’t keep him because apparently, he kept attacking her kids. Being a single-ish (dating but not married) over-30 lady, and not having any kids at the time, I saw no problems with this behavior. All I saw was a cute, grey, über-fluffy cat about a year old, and in need of a home. I had a home in need of a cat. What could go wrong?

Well, the first thing that went wrong was that my boyfriend (later to become my husband) didn’t like cats. I didn’t consider this a problem and figured his dislike of cats could be overcome simply by spending more time with one, petting it and smelling its soft, warm fur. Which sounds good in theory unless a) the person in question dislikes and is also allergic to cats and b) the cat in question is the kind that bites when you pet him or try to put your face near his body. Both of which turned out to be the case. The cat didn’t help matters by being the sort that specializes in sneak attacks and stalking and pouncing on passing legs like they are some wily prey.

Over time, the husband and the cat came to an uneasy truce, but the balance of power is still a fragile thing. Violence occasionally erupts when the cat decides you’ve petted him too long, or you’ve invaded into an area that he has determined to be his territory (such as sleeping in the linen closet on top of the towels). As a long time cat owner, I just naturally know how to deal with these situations (keep petting sessions brief, distract the cat with the left hand while grabbing towels with the right). But these things are harder to explain to husbands and small children who lack a natural affinity for dealing with felines. My older son and I are both pretty good readers of the cat’s mood. Little brother and my husband are not. Which leads me to the conclusion that some people are just “cat people,” and others not – just as some cats are “people cats.” Mine, again, is not.

That all said, the cat has come up in our family’s estimation in recent years given how well he has handled the transition from a household without children, to one with 2 active, rambunctious and grabby little boys. Well, one of the boys is grabby – the other as I said is just naturally a better reader of the cat and handles him better. The cat has taught the other one to have respect and give a wide berth because if he doesn’t the cat bops him. He’s never hurt him, just “gotten his attention” with a swift paw to the face.

We always refer to Asher as the “worlds most expensive free cat,” because he is prone to UTIs, and various other veterinary ailments. The veterinarian refers to him as the cat from hell because he hates the vet office and everyone in it, and when they handle him he has to be handled in the same protective gear they wear when dealing with vicious dogs. So after dropping off the cat to be checked out, the first call I receive is to ask if they can sedate him. Of course, knowing how he is, I said yes.

Ultimately, I got the call that Asher would be okay, and that he just needs to be on more expensive food to help prevent further UTIs (of course). But even though he is how he is, we realized how much we would miss him if he were gone…so maybe we should rethink our limit in cat repairs. Even the husband realized that the cat adds something to our family – and not just hair balls and vet bills.

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Welcome Fall!

I have to admit that the end of summer and the coming of the Fall season makes me feel a little melancholy, since living here in the Seattle area means that the rainy, cloudy season will soon be upon us. No more days at the beach with the kids, no more need for sunscreen when I run, and pretty soon we’ll have to turn on the heat. I’ll even have to keep my jacket on when I run.

But there are some bright spots – one is the tastes of Fall. When it comes to autumn flavors, the ones I like best come in the form of pumpkin and spice. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and muffins – anything but that nasty Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Seriously, that stuff is gross.

So to welcome Fall and keep looking on the bright side, I made pumpkin muffins today.

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My recipe is a slightly healthier variation on the recipe from the Libby’s website. You could healthy it up even more by substituting some applesauce for the oil but I never like how things turn out when you do that. So mine is a full fat, full sugar, slightly more fiber version.

Welcome Fall Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Ingredients
4 eggs
15 oz. can pumpkin purée (NOT pie filling)
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup apple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or paper line two large baking tins (24 medium muffins). In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer), blend together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light yellow, then mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix with a hand or stand mixer on low until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Scoop about 1/3 cup of muffin batter into each muffin tin, about 2/3 or 3/4 full. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the tins to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with coffee or Market Spice Tea, and think happy autumnal thoughts. Be sure to allow someone you love to lick the beater.

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My Foam Rolling Injury

Seriously – who injures themselves with a foam roller?

Apparently, I do. So as a public service I thought I’d give my two cents on the latest cure-all panacea to hit the fitness world – the foam roller.

I had heard great things about how it can help relieve sore muscles and loosen tight IT bands. Many people seemed to love it, so as a birthday present I gave one to my husband. I figured he could use it after his sometime runs, to loosen up his chronically tight hamstrings.

Of course, after he opened it and before he ever used it, I thought I should give it a “roll,” so as to be able to give advice. Seemed pretty straightforward and I’d seen them used plenty of times at the gym. What could go wrong?

So I rolled away. Up and down and back and forth across my calves and hamstrings and IT band and everywhere that was stiff and tight. Then I rolled it over my lower back.

Apparently, you should use the foam roller only on soft tissue. You should avoid bony protuberances, such as the sacrum and tailbone area. I discovered this for myself when I felt a sudden pain rolling over that area. Not sure what went wrong exactly but I can tell you that it immediately began to feel bad, and over the course of the next few days, went from bad to worse.

I asked around and the only thing I could figure out as to what happened was that maybe I had a bulging disk that I inadvertently rolled over and aggravated it. It’s odd, because I don’t typically get a lot of lower back pain but this was pretty doggone uncomfortable – every morning for about 2 weeks I woke up bent over and it would take 15 minutes and an ibuprofen for the discomfort to die down enough to go about my business. It hurt bad enough I had to back off running just as I was starting to get back to it after hurting my hip. But then it resolved and I was back to normal (whatever that is when you’re 40-some years old).

So that is my experience with the foam roller. I still use it occasionally but I’m definitely more careful with it now and would recommend doing what I didn’t do – read the instructions or have someone knowledgeable show you the best way to use it.

Stupid Runner Tricks

When I started back to running last spring I didn’t want to admit to myself how out of shape I really was, and made the mistake many first time or returning runners make of piling on too many miles too soon. The way it seems to work is that you get away with this for a while, but somewhere along the line it catches up with you.

I got away with it long enough to run in the St. Patricks Day Dash, the Capitol City 10k in Sacramento, and a local 10k in my hometown called the Inspiring Hope in May.

It caught up with me two days after Inspiring Hope on a 4 mile trail run.  At the time I was trying to incorporate running on different types of terrain to prepare for the Beach to Chowder 10k run on the Long Beach Peninsula, which is run mostly on sand. That part sounds like I was trying to be smart but the fact that I’d not done a trail run in over 20 years and decided to kick it off with 4 miles of muddy trail was perhaps not so bright.

Keep in mind also that I went from running zero miles a week in February to running about 20 miles a week by May, without doing much strength work or stretching. I did spin class and then started running on the treadmill at the beginning of February. that was pretty much all I did, and I thought I was doing great because the distance didn’t bother me.  And I was getting faster each week, which made me feel like I must be pretty awesome.

So when I confidently went to hop over a mud puddle sideways I didn’t realize my hips didn’t yet have the strength to stabilize me, and something snapped. Suddenly it felt very painful to lift my leg, and I had to walk home. By the following morning, even walking was painful.

I had been looking forward to the race all season and didn’t want to give up without a fight, so I kept trying to exercise, but the hip only grew more painful.

Desperate for some reason to do this ridiculous race, I searched the Internet for information on hip injuries. From the sound of my symptoms I determined that I either had tendinitis, a strained iliopsoas muscle, or possibly a stress fracture. The only answer for either was rest of either 6 or 12 weeks. Even with the best case scenario, I knew I would miss the race.

Given that I’d miss the race anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying out some self massage techniques I found on the Internet.  Turns out all I had to lose was the ability to walk.  Did you know that if you don’t know what you are doing, you can hurt yourself by digging your hand around in your body?

Yeah, turns out you can. Lesson learned.

So finally, having completely immobilized myself, I was forced to actually rest. And I did, until the week after Beach to Chowder. Miraculously at the 6 week mark my hip felt completely back to normal, so I gingerly started to run again, slowly and carefully.  And this time I decided to incorporate strength work and stretching so that hopefully I can remain injury free.

So far, so good. I’m still slower than I was before the injury, and running less mileage than I was before I hurt myself. But hopefully my stupid runner tricks have finally taught me to take it slow and listen to my body.