The Sandhill Cranes Are Back

I took the kids on a bird watching expedition this afternoon to see the sandhill cranes that migrate through here every year. I look forward to these birds every spring. Their call sounds almost prehistoric; I always imagine that a pterodactyl would sound similar.

I was a little late getting out this year, so we didn’t get to see as many as we have in previous years.

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There are a few more photos on my flickr stream if you are interested. I might go out again this weekend and see if I can catch a few more photos of them before they head north.

Race Report: YMCA 5K

Yesterday I ran my first race of the season. And it just happened to fall on the day after my “runiversary”. It was on March 22, 2012, when I logged my first “official” run on Runkeeper in training for my first 5K that I ran with my son. I remember that run. I remember it being incredibly hard. I remember collapsing on my dining room floor afterwards while my cats and dog stared at me slightly confused. I especially remember it being a warm, sunny day.

Yesterday was cold and bitter. At least it was sunny though. I have to say, the beginning of this training season has been a bit of a mental challenge for me. All the running I’ve been doing in this unseasonably, bitter cold weather has been discouraging. I’ve been slow, sore, and just plain tired the last couple of weeks. I felt like my running has been stagnant and I haven’t been making much progress. As a result, I entered into this race with a bit of a bad attitude. Thankfully, the night before the 5K I read this article about the impact cold weather has on running. It planted enough of a seed in my head that I managed to buckle down and PR yesterday. My final time was 33:25. I placed 91st out of 220 and 4th in my age group – only seconds off the 3rd place finisher, which was frustrating. I’m very competitive and hate losing by such a small margin. I feel like I should have pushed a little harder, but I gave as much as I could in the cold yesterday. My leg muscles and lungs were on fire at the end. And I know that is not a very fast time for a 5K, but it was my fastest time yet.

The course was pretty, but I wasn’t fully prepared for it. The first half was all uphill and shaded. I’ve been trying to work some hills into my training runs, but I haven’t run a course with such a long, steady incline. During the back half of the course, we ran along a scenic lake, but the wind coming off the lake was bitter cold. It was tough, but the adrenaline, and my competitive nature, helped push me through. The biggest mistake I made was leaving my gloves in my jacket pocket, which I left with my husband at the starting line. I don’t know what I was thinking. My hands were so sore and chaffed by the time I got to the finish line.

And my husband is great at some things, but he’s horrible at photography. I’ve tried teaching him, but he just doesn’t get it. So this is the best photo I have of the day.

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All in all, yesterday’s 5K was the kick in the pants I needed. I finally saw some progress and results for all my hard work. And I’m imagining how much faster I’ll be when it’s finally warm outside.

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Half Marathon Training Week 5

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: 4 easy miles + core workout
  • Tuesday: Yoga
  • Wednesday: 3 cold and very windy miles + core workout
  • Thursday: 2.5 easy miles
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 3.1 miles at race pace

Wind, Mud, Hills, and Amazing Grace

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

– Carl Sandburg

The above quote came to mind this morning because it applies to the past week in both a figurative and somewhat literal sense. Literally speaking, I actually got to watch 2 bald eagles soaring on a trail run and found myself covered in mud on 2 separate runs. Figuratively speaking, I’ve felt ready to spread my wings and soar, but I also really enjoy wallowing sometimes – not in negativity or self-pity, but rather in laziness.

I started the running week off with a wet and muddy run on Monday.  The grayness made me want to wallow. And the run started to go south quickly when some mo-moes in an over-sized pick-up truck purposely drove through a puddle as they passed me. This brought them uncomfortably close to me and covered me in mud. I really don’t understand their behavior, since they could have seriously injured me, but I’m not on this planet to figure out stupid people. I’m just thankful I only got muddy. Ironically, I chose to run on the road vs. the trail on Monday because I didn’t want to get muddy….

I don’t know what it is about Wednesday’s here lately, but Wednesday is when the snow seems to arrive. This Wednesday the snow came with 25 mph wind gusts. Running in wind is challenging on both a physical and mental plane.  It took a lot my energy just to punch down the negative self-talk during the first half of the run that kept telling me to go home and knit. It was tough, but it was a good tough. I liked the challenge in the end and I felt very invigorated when I got home.

Swan at Potato Creek

If you look closely, you can see the swan on the lake. It’s the best I could do with my phone.

On Friday, still in wallowing mode, I decided to lace up my trail shoes this time and set out on my favorite trail. I was still wallowing early in the run when I was startled back to reality by a large splash as I ran past the lake. I stopped to see what made the splash and saw a bald eagle flying into a nearby tree. It must have been feasting on a fish when it heard me coming. It dropped it’s fish in the lake and flew out to a “safer” tree. They are magnificent birds – and big. I’ve never seen one so close in the wild. It’s times like these when the photographer in me wishes there was a way I could carry my DSLR camera and all my lenses with me on my runs.

At first I was upset by the distraction and halt in my running. But after I stopped for a few minutes to take in the scenery and admire the eagle until it flew away, I noticed all the birds on the lake – swans, geese, a few ducks – and the noise was a beautiful cacophony of bird calls. I finally got out of my head and gave myself permission to make this a fun run, which turned into a fun muddy hill run; and much more of a workout than I imagined when I first set out. I also got to see a second eagle soaring over a swamp. And this time I came home covered in mud because I wanted to be muddy.

This week I learned the importance of variation and quieting my chattering mind. I still need to work on the quieting part. I’m making progress though. My mind is still chattering, but with positive, good thoughts now. The wind and the hills worked muscles that have been forgotten about on my recent, fairly flat road runs, which in turn made yesterday’s 2-mile shake-out on a fairly flat road much more enjoyable. The recovery seems better this week too. I think the new challenges woke up my tired leg muscles. I guess they need variety too. It’s easy to stay with familiar routines. It’s comfortable and not threatening or challenging. But because they aren’t threatening or challenging, it’s easy to get stuck and not move forward. And that applies both to training and real life.

I did decide to give into the my wallowing instinct just a little this week by giving myself an extra rest day instead of cross-training. I think it was good call. Wallowing isn’t necessarily bad if the intention is valid and good. And while self-discipline and sticking to the training schedule is important, so is listening to our bodies. It’s easy to get caught up in schedules and what the calendar says we need to do, when what we really need to do is slow down, take in the scenery, and not miss out on the life that is happening all around us.

And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll leave you with the Dropkick Murphy’s singing Amazing Grace. I love this song. It’s one of my favorite running songs right now.  Since today is not only a rest day, but also a cheat day, the Irish part of me will be celebrating with some Irish whiskey, because we all know “what butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Half Marathon Training Week 4

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 3 easy miles
  • Tuesday: strength and yoga
  • Wednesday: 4 windy miles and core workout
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: 4 miles with hills and core workout
  • Saturday: 2 easy miles

Quick and Easy Pizza and Garbanzo Beans

pizza and garbanzo beans

This house is full of pizza lovers. We each have our own favorite toppings, so trying to get everyone to agree on a pizza for takeout can be an ordeal. That’s why we’ve taken to making our own. That way everyone get’s their own piece of the pie (ha, ha).  And my kids go nuts over fried Garbanzo beans. They are a quick, easy and healthy snack while you are waiting for the pizza to cook up.

pizza

Quick and Easy Pizza

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I think bread flour works best, but all-purpose works too)
  • 2 1/2 tsp fast-rise yeast (or one envelope)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • cornmeal for dusting

Sauce

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP Olive oil

Toppings

  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Veggies, Sausage, Chicken, Pepperoni, etc….whatever you want to put on top.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and sugar together. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until it gets creamy.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and vegetable oil to the bowl and mix. (I usually start mixing with a fork and end with my hands when it gets tough to stir.) Shape it into a ball and let it rest in the bowl for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. While you are waiting for the dough to finish resting, heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onions. Cook until onions are soft.
  5. Add the garlic and other herbs and spices, cook until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste. Once tomato paste is blended in with the spices, add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer until the dough is ready.
  6. Sprinkle a pizza stone or cookie sheet with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Roll, stretch, and press dough to desired size and thickness and place on pizza stone or cookie sheet.
  7. Cover the pizza dough with the sauce to within about 1 inch from edge.
  8. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  9. Top with your choice of toppings.
  10. Place in oven and bake about 15-20 minutes – until cheese browns and is bubbly.

For a crispier crust, preheat the pizza stone in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I have 2 pizza stones, so I usually preheat one and use the other to assemble the pizza. Then I use a large spatula to transfer the pizza from the cold stone to the preheated one.

I also like to brush the crust with garlic butter before I cook it. And I brush it once again right when I take it out of the oven. It make the crust crispy and garlicky – yum!

garbanzo beans

Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz. can of garbanzo beans
  • pizza seasoning from above recipe (or seasoned salt)
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. You need enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan evenly.
  2. Cook the beans in the heated oil until the skins start to pop and they get a little brown.
  3. Add the seasoning just at the end of cooking.
  4. Drain on a paper towel.

My favorite pizza toppings are chicken, mushrooms, spinach, and red onions. I also have a weakness for a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza from time-to-time. What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Rest Day

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Chuck napping after our run.

I knew as soon as I posted about the “good weather ahead” last time, I would jinx myself.  But other than a large snowstorm mid-week, which once again threw a wrench in my training schedule, it was a pretty uneventful week here. I ran. I read. I knit. We built a snowman in the backyard. Nothing terribly exciting. I did cook some yummy food while stuck inside this week so I have recipes to share soon.

I made it almost all the way through my first magic loop sock. It was fairly easy to learn thanks to verypinkknits videos. I’ve always hated knitting with double-pointed needles, so I was happy that the Magic Loop Method worked so well.

knit sock

I frogged the cape I was working on. It was getting too tedious and the loose stitches between the color changes was driving my perfectionist mind nuts. I decided to quit before I got too far ahead – or behind, however you want to look at it. Maybe later I’ll try the cape again (with the proper yarn this time), but I’m setting it aside for now. In the meantime, I’ve found another pattern to knit after I’ve finished my socks.

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Half Marathon Training Week 3

Week 3 didn’t go as well as I had hoped thanks to Old Man Winter paying us what is hopefully his final visit this year. I did get creative and stick to the plan for the most part though. (And I’m seriously considering saving up for a treadmill.)

  • Sunday: 2 easy miles
  • Monday: 3 easy miles + core work
  • Tuesday: Yoga
  • Wednesday: Strength training circuit
  • Thursday: 30 minutes running circles in my basement with my Wii Fit while watching the mid-day news. I played some of the games for another 15 minutes. According to my son’s science fair experiment this counts as legitimate exercise. Besides, I was snowed in and this was my only option.
  • Friday: 3 miles at race pace
  • Saturday: 3 easy miles