Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Motivation: 5k on the Horizon!

Today's Monday Motivation isn't a tasty treat waiting for me post-run, but a 5k race in the near future. My Sunday school class is putting together another team (we won the trophy for biggest team at a 5k in June!) for the 5K for Life on September 14. Proceeds from the race benefit El Paso's House of Hope, a pro-life pregnancy resource center.
While I'm in good long-run shape, I need to add some speedwork if I want to beat my most recent 5k time of 23:13. Here's to upcoming fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Five: Running Things I Love that I Didn't Know I'd Need A Few Years Ago

Long title, but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it. I ran my first marathon in 2008, and realized that since then, I've somehow become more pro-gear.

1. Hydration Pack. For hiking? Yes. Biking? It could be handy. But running? Honestly, just a few years ago, I would have laughed at the runner who purchased a pack just for running. Gear snob, I would have scoffed, feeling smug in my running-purist status. But then, I signed up for a marathon. And found myself trying to line up water stops on my long runs--a manageable feat in College Station, where I lived at the time. I could hit parks with water fountains and campus buildings that I knew would be open on the weekends or early in the mornings. After a while though, the same routes got old, and I resorted to a hand-me-down Camelback that slid and slapped around on my back. When I got myself a Nathan hydration pack designed for runners last year, I learned what I had been missing. It's perfect for long trail runs and non-runner-friendly cities. And I even carry it on shorter runs sometimes because it's perfect for carrying my...

2. iPhone. One thing I always said I would never run with is headphones. And strictly speaking, I still do not run with headphones. For one thing, I think they can be dangerous whether you run on trails or on the road. But because the iPhone plays things aloud, sans headphones, and because my Nathan has a nifty little pocket perfectly sized for the iPhone, I can take the tunes or a book along and still be able to hear my surroundings. Carrying it also makes me feel safer on solitary runs in isolated places.

3. Gels and chews. Same as the hydration pack--until I was doing long enough runs, I thought they were just an expensive gimmick. I still think they're overpriced, and, using some recipes I've found online, I'm going to experiment with making my own for those times I just can't stomach whole foods on a run. More to come on this later!

4. Expensive socks. This has more to do with being cheap thrifty than anything, but I buy my socks in packs at places like Walmart and wear them until they are visibly done. I currently own and wear socks purchased at least five years ago. But...last year, Runner's World sent me a pair of Thorlo Experia socks to try out (if you sign up to take their surveys, occasionally Runner's World will mail you things to test). I loved them. When I went to buy some more, I found out they cost fifteen dollars! Who pays that much for socks?? Many runners, apparently. I have two pairs for long runs, races, or blister control, because they're great, but for shorter runs I stick to my cheap socks.

5. Running hat. Possibly, this is more of an El Paso thing than a running thing, because I happily ran for many years without a hat. Without sunglasses most of the time, too. But the sun seems to be 8 million percent brighter here, and most of the time there is no shade. Now I wear the hat no matter where I'm running, unless it's going to be dark the whole time.

There are probably some other things that make my running life easier that I didn't know about a few years ago. I love improvements in running technology and trying out new gear, but often it's fun to leave it all behind and run without even a watch.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua in the middle of July, and I've been meaning to write this post pretty much since I got back. It doesn't have much to do with running, but that's okay. In fact, I'll get the running-related points out of the way first:

1. We saw three people running in Nicaragua! I love seeing other people run--it makes me want to start running too--and in a foreign country it's even more exciting.
2. I didn't run at all during the week we spent there.
3. I ran an awesome set of quarters with my dad's awesome running group when we got back to the states, but...
4. It was kind of slow getting back into consistent running when I got back to El Paso. Part of this was probably because I expected El Paso to be cool and dry compared to Nicaragua and where my parents live, and it wasn't. I got back smack in the middle of our "rainy" season ("rainy" is a bit of an exaggeration), and it's continued to be humid.

Throwback!  Here's me and my dad in 2008.

Anyway, Nicaragua. My dad goes every year, visiting various ministries and doing whatever kind of work needs doing. I went in 2008 and had been wanting to go again ever since.

 There were four of us on the trip, and we stayed just outside the city of Masatepe, where we painted the home of a missionary, Shirley, who both teaches a sewing ministry and houses girls who need a place to live, sharing the gospel with them and helping them get a Christian education. We finished painting the whole house in just one day and used our remaining paint to paint the library, concessions stand, and computer room at the local church school Shirley's girls attend. It was so much fun! Paint colors in Nicaragua are fun and bright--we used blue, green, pink, and purple, and mixed several colors at the end to make a great teal for one of the bathrooms.

The house we stayed in.

Kitchen before...

...and after.

The outside of the school. We also attended church here Sunday night.

Coconuts grow everywhere, along with mangoes, starfruit, and so much more.

 After we painted, we traveled around the area visiting other ministries, including Rancho Ebenezer, where we stayed the first time I visited. We also visited the city of Granada, the oldest city in Nicaragua, and toured the historic attractions in a horse carriage. While in Managua one day, we visited a McDonald's (which I never never never eat in the United States!) for the purpose of obtaining cheese pies, a delicacy not found in the US. They were delicious--just like the fried fruit pies many fast food restaurants offer, only filled with cream cheese.

I could go on and on about food in general in Nicaragua--Shirley hired Martha, the school's cook, to make dinner for us every night. It was always delicious! Fried plantain chips are one of my favorite things, although I'm not going to attempt to make my own, ever, because I know they wouldn't compare with the ones I ate there. One night we ate them with a big bowl of guacamole, made from avocados three times the size of those we buy here. Also, gallo pinto, the national dish of Nicaragua, is another of my new favorite things. Rice and a type of small black bean, but indescribably tasty.


Each night after dinner, we had Bible study with Shirley and the girls, and even though I don't speak much Spanish, I tried so hard to follow along. I learned so much Spanish that week, just by listening and by trying to communicate! On Sunday, we got to go to church twice. In the morning, we worshiped with the International Christian Fellowship in Managua, a community of English-speaking Christians. It was such a neat service! Missionaries take turns preaching, even though not all of the missionaries are necessarily preachers by trade. In the evening, we attended church at the Christian school in Masatepe where we had done some painting earlier in the week. The songs and service were entirely in Spanish, and though I could only catch a few words here and there, I still felt completely immersed in the worship.

I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua and see some of what God is doing there! If you've made it all the way to the end of this long post, I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you'll keep Shirley and her ministries in Nicaragua in your prayers!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Introducing: Monday Motivation

Friday before last, when I kicked off the Friday Five, I said there would be a couple of weekly features. As in, more than one. So here is the second. Monday Motivations aren't reasons I run--I run because I like to run. But it never hurts to have a little incentive!

Monday Motivation: Lemon Yogurt Muffins!

The picture doesn't do these muffins justice.

I made these for the husband to take to work, so he doesn't have to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. But he didn't take them all, and I couldn't help but think of them waiting in the kitchen during my run this morning. Despite the words "yogurt" and "muffin" in the title, they are really more dessert than breakfast. I mean, they have a glaze! And it is delicious.
I used the recipe here. Note: if you use plain yogurt, like I did, instead of lemon yogurt, you might need to add a little more sugar.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Five: Favorite Running Books

I love running. And I love reading. So reading about running--yes, please! Sometimes a good running book is just what I need to boost my motivation.

1. Once A Runner (and Again to Carthage) by John L. Parker, Jr.

The only fiction on this list (why don't we have more fiction about running?), Once a Runner and its sequel chronicle the adventures of Quenton Cassidy, a college miler and later an Olympic marathon hopeful. I picked up a copy at a used book store after reading about the author in Runner's World. It sat on my bookshelf for a few years, until I discovered the new sequel, purchased it, and determined to read them both. The fictional Cassidy's dedication is so inspiring that for a few weeks after reading the books, I tried to run two-a-days.

 2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Part adventure story, part scientific query, Born to Run began as the author's quest to run without pain, a journey that took him to the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. It's a fascinating read, and taught me more about running than I've ever learned from a single book.

3. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore

I tend to buy books and let them sit on my shelf indefinitely, and this was one of those. When I finally picked it up, I couldn't believe I'd waited so long. It's lengthy, but worth it--Bill Bowerman's story deserves this many words. From his coaching career to his revolutionary running shoe creation, there are no dull moments. It made me miss track, running fast, and having a coach and a team.

4. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

The Japanese novelist Murakami started running when he started writing full-time, and here he recounts highlights from his running life and muses about the intersection of running and writing in his life. So many running memoirs are written by the best-of-the-best, front-of-the-packers, and, while inspiring, aren't very relatable. This is a refreshing change, written by a runner who runs not to win, but to enjoy running.

5. Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

There are a lot of elite-runner-memoirs out there, and I've read several and liked a few. This is the only one I liked enough to put on this list. One reason is that while Jurek is decidedly elite, he also comes across as real. As in, he's honest about the work he puts in and how hard it is, and that maybe he doesn't enjoy every excruciating bit of what it takes to be a standout ultrarunner, but that, to quote him, "Sometimes you just do things." Another reason is that he's vegan, and while I'm not vegan or even vegetarian, veganism fascinates me, and I've lately been trying to eat fewer animal products. So I like that there are recipes in this book--his chili recipe is the only one I use anymore!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Introducing: The Friday Five

Let’s face it: I’m not the greatest at keeping up with this blog. There is a large pile of reasons for that, but I won’t go into them all now. Instead, I decided to add a couple of weekly features that will give me something to write about consistently. And in between, I’ll try to get back to regular posting!

The first of these features is The Friday Five. I love lists! How hard is making a list? So every Friday, look for a new list—running-related or not, they will always be fun!

Top Five Races on my “Running Bucket List”

1. Leadville 100: My husband and I got engaged on top of a mountain, Huron Peak, elevation 14,003 feet. It was awesome. (As he would say, "Go big or go home.") It was our first trip to Colorado together. Upon arriving at our campsite in the dark, we encountered an extremely friendly runner who had just spent the entire day running in preparation for the Leadville 100. On that trip, we also visited the city of Leadville, the highest city in the United States, which has a certain gritty charm.
Me, almost exactly four years ago.
Look at those mountains. I want to live here!
These encounters, along with everything I have since read about the race, in books like Born to Run and in race reports online, has only made me more eager to someday toe the starting line at Leadville.

2. Hardrock 100: I didn't know how much I loved southwestern Colorado's San Juan range until a camping trip with my friends took me there last summer. It's truly beautiful. The Hardrock course starts and finishes in Silverton, gaining and losing over 33,000 feet in elevation, and topping out at the 14,048 foot summit of Handies Peak. It sounds brutal.

3. Palo Duro Canyon Ultra: One of my favorite Texas State Parks, Palo Duro Canyon was a stop on many family camping trips growing up. I can't wait to run here again.

4. The Boston Marathon: Even though I've concluded I enjoy trail running more than road racing, I would race a road marathon again if it meant qualifying for Boston. I don't love huge, crowded races, but this is one I want to run once in my life.

5. Western States 100: For someone who has never run 100 miles, I feel like I have a lot of 100-milers in my top five. Aiming high, I guess! Western States is the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race, started in 1974 in California, and has a reputation for being one of the toughest.

What's on your running bucket list? Share in the comments!