Where was I?

Well when last we left off I wasn’t feeling very well and was fighting a case of what seemed like bronchitis. I finally decided to go to the doctor when it got to the point that I couldn’t sleep, and was coughing so long and so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath. Oddly, I was fine when running, I just coughed all the time when I wasn’t. Which eventually made me so tired I didn’t want to run anyway.

What it turns out I had was some sort of virus that triggered a case of reactive airways, which is essentially like asthma without the wheezing. The doctor says that the fact I could run meant it wasn’t bronchitis and that it is typical if reactive airways to have improved breathing during exercise because the adrenaline opens the airways (when they close again, the coughing resumes).

So I didn’t get antibiotics again (which is good because I basically told the doctor that I had taken too many rounds already this year and so I didn’t want to take them anymore unless I had to), but I did get Flonase and two different kinds of inhalable steroids. They have mostly helped me keep the coughing fits under control and I seem to be on the mend, though my airways do seem to still be a little bit sensitive at night.

I’m back to running again. I ran 7.6 miles on Sunday, which felt fine, and I ran 4.5 miles today. My plan is to run a 12k race in December and possibly a half marathon at the end of January so I feel like if things keep going like they are, both of those should be manageable. Still trying to be careful and take it kind of slow as far as adding miles.

I do have another new thing I am doing on non running days: PiYo. That’s a combination of Pilates and Yoga which provides a lot of strengthening and core work, along with flexibility which I can always use more of, especially in the hips and hamstrings where I am always sort of tight. There’s also a fair amount of upper body strengthening including boy push-ups which I pretty much can’t do. I can do a ton of girlie ones with the bent knee but basically can’t do ANY with straight legs. So that is something to strive for I guess: I would like to be able to do boy style push-ups and I’m sure if I stick with this class I will eventually be able to.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

I’m fighting a case of bronchitis, as it turns out, so for the last few days I’ve had to skip running. I tried to do a long run on Friday, but had to cut it short – that’s when I knew I was actually sick. Had to stop at 5 miles and all of them sssllloooowwww.

But that’s okay, there haven’t been any food posts around here in a while so maybe we can do that while I wait to get back on the road. I have a race in 6 weeks but it is just a 12k, so as long as I get well in the next couple of days I won’t lose much fitness. Trying to not worry about it.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner now, and the new cranberry crop (grown right here in Washington state!) is in. When our family visited the Long Beach peninsula last fall (where cranberries are grown) I bought 5 pounds of cranberries. I froze them, and am finally down to my last pound or so.

I decided to put my remaining berries to good use by making and canning some cranberry sauce for thanksgiving and Christmas. Cranberry sauce is so easy to make and so much tastier and healthier when you make it yourself, I don’t know why anyone buys the canned stuff. Here’s how to do it:

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

4 – 5 cups whole cranberries (1 bag as sold in supermarkets)
1 cinnamon stick
1 satsuma or small orange, zested and juiced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

If you want to preserve the sauce, you will also need some canning jars, or freezer containers.

The recipe makes about 4 cups, so 4 half pint jars or 2 pint jars. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries.

To Prepare

Put cranberries in a pot, and put the pot on the stove.

Add the cinnamon stick and zest plus juice of the orange.

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Add sugar and water, turn stove to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

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Cranberries will begin to make squeaky noises and burst open as they cook. Continue to boil and stir occasionally until the mixture thickens – about 30 minutes.

If you plan to can your berries, put on a pot of water to boil while the cranberries are cooking, with enough water to cover your canning jars. Use this water to disinfect your jars and lids, and to can. More instructions on the canning after the next step.

Remove cranberries from heat after 30 minutes and pour into food mill, placed over a large bowl. You can skip this step if you like your cranberry sauce with whole berries. People at my house like it a little smoother, so I mill it before canning.

Cranberries before milling:

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Cranberries after milling. Love the color!

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To Preserve

While cranberries are cooking, put on a large pot of water to boil, with enough water to cover your canning jars when they are standing upright. Disinfect your empty jars and canning lids before use by placing them in the boiling water for a minute or two, laying on their sides. Remove from the water using canning tongs and place upright to dry with open end up while you finish milling the fruit. Don’t touch the insides of the jars or the underside of the lids to prevent introduction of bacteria.

After milling is complete and while sauce is still hot, pour the cranberry sauce into freezer containers, or your prepared canning jars.

If freezing, allow the sauce to cool before placing lids and putting containers in the freezer.

If canning, leave about 1/2 inch of headspace between top of sauce and the top of the jar to allow for steam expansion while canning in the water bath. This is what forces the air out of the jar and creates a good seal. Carefully place the canning lids and rings so that there is a seal that will still allow air to escape.

Place the covered jars into the boiling water. Water should cover the jars up to their “necks” but should not completely cover the jars – air has to escape and you don’t want water to get in.

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Keep the jars in the boiling water to process for 15 minutes. Listen for the Ping sound that indicates the jars have sealed. The number of pings should be equal to the number of jars. If you don’t hear the ping, pull the jars out of the water at 15 minutes anyway and set aside to cool. Listen to any unsealed jars as they cool – they may yet ping to indicate a seal. When jars are cool, test for a seal by poking the top of the jar – if there is no bubble, then you probably have a good seal.

If the jars don’t seal, you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce. They will still keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks but won’t be shelf stable.

If properly canned and sealed, the sauce should keep for up to a year unopened. After opening, the sauce will have a shelf life similar to any opened, canned jam if kept refrigerated.

Caveat – this recipe gives canning times for canning at sea level (which it is, where I live). If you live at altitude, or if you have never canned before, I highly recommend reading up here before you start. I have done my best to ensure this recipe is safe, but with any type of canning it is best to ensure you thoroughly understand what you are doing before you get started, to ensure food safety.

Because I can never just be happy

Because I can never just be happy when I have accomplished something big (like running an entire 10k at a 9:02 pace, when I seriously didn’t even think I was capable of that, for instance) I have decided that my goal pace for my next race is going to be 8:45.

So on Wednesday, I did 4x800s with the following paces:

1 mile progressive warm up (400 @ 12:00, 400 @ 11:15, 400 @ 10:30, 400 @ 9:45)
1 x 400 jog 11:45 pace
1 x 800 9:30
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 9:00
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 9:15
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 8:45
1 x 400 walk

That’s 4.25 miles, and right now it is some hard effort, yo. It was pretty much my only hard effort this week, what with Halloween and half days at Max’s school and all. I also have a pretty bad cold that I am trying to overcome (I first started feeling it on Sunday morning but it apparently didn’t slow me down by much).

So next week I hope it will be back to normal and healthy again for a few weeks and I can get back to more running, weightlifting, etc.

Because I Like It?

Why DO I do this, anyway?

Running is kind of a weird sport, because it really seems to bring out strong reactions in other people. Tell somebody you’re a runner, and prepare for the onslaught of reasons why that person doesn’t run, or a spate of questions about why you do.

Other sports don’t seem to have this effect. Tell someone you like to play softball, and they are likely to say, “good for you,” “that’s cool,” or possibly, “I was thinking about doing that. Where do you play?”

But running seems to bring out a need in people to explain why they don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that literally everyone can do it but most choose not to. At any rate, among the population at large, people who LIKE to run are a minority.

Non-runners think that those of us who do it must be genetically gifted but from what I have seen, that’s not the case. Go to a running event and you will see all types there, from the truly athletic Boston qualifiers to those who normally only run for beer.

I enjoy running, I work at it, but I also accept that on some level I will always be working with my own particular limitations. I’m a middle of the pack runner, and with a lot of hard work I can probably move forward to the front end of the middle of the pack, and maybe even place top 5 in my age group – perhaps better in an uncompetitive field. This may not sound exciting to anyone else, but to me it’s a goal that inspires me to get out 4 or 5 days a week and see what I can do. What’s the best I can do, working with what I have – to wit: knock knees, fallen arches, and a sort of paddling gait?

That’s the question I want to answer.

I don’t do it because I want to win races. I don’t do it because I want to have a perfect body. I do it because it feels good to move my body and be the fittest me I can be. I do it because every day I get a chance to measure myself and try to be just a little better than I was yesterday. Even on bad days, I can look back and see that I’ve come a long way in just 9 months. Who knows how far I might go in another year?

So that is why this blog is not so much about running or food, it’s really about feeling good, enjoying life, and moving forward – which I think is is achievable for everybody.

Maybe I’ll never run an 8 minute mile again. Maybe I’ll never place 1st in my age group in a race. Then again, maybe I will. Who knows?

That’s one of the things I think is great about running – you never know what you might achieve if you work hard enough. Doing the work is actually the fun part.

So the answer is, I do it because I like to. I do it because I can.