Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Summary

Happy End of October! Yes, I know it's Halloween.

This year, though we don't have kids, my husband and I have been talking a great deal about Halloween, and what exactly Christians should do with the holiday. I dislike the gory, grotesque imagery it's become steeped in recently. (I say recently, could it be I just didn't notice this stuff as a kid?) A house in my neighborhood has severed heads on its lawn. But I do like costumes, and it could be so fun for kids, minus the scariness.

In the course of our conversation, we've read several articles about the topic. This one is a good place to start. It gives the history of the holiday and discusses Christian options. I like to hear thoughts on this, so if your family has a cool Halloween celebration or alternative, let me know in the comments! As for us, we participated in a Trunk-or-Treat last week and tonight we're helping at our church's fall festival.
The least-scary car of them all: we decorated as a Texas A&M tailgate party.

Anyway, on to the summary!

October Running Things

1. About 80 miles. I cut my running mileage and did some cross-training (pool and weights) to let my foot rest and heal. Which brings us to...

2. The foot is feeling a little better. That is, when I take care of it. When I forget to ice and stretch, it lets me know.

3. I bought my first pair of ankle-length tights in, well, ever. Yes, I had been braving winter runs in leftover high-school tights--you know, the extremely shiny ones that are impossible to get your foot out of. It was time.

October Non-Running Things

1. Suddenly, new readers! In October, my blog views more than tripled. So if you're a new reader, welcome! And thanks for reading!

2. Nine books. I kind of went through a reading slump, which might have had something to do with reading Tolkien's The Book of Lost Tales: Part 1 of The History of Middle Earth. It was dense. I finished, but I don't recommend it unless you're really, really into Tolkien.
Looking for Alaska by John Green. This summer, John Green broke my heart in The Fault in Our Stars. (If you haven't read it, do it! But only if you want to cry). Looking for Alaska was his first novel, and I loved it.
Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz. Though this was not what I was expecting (I expected more strategies for surviving things like earthquakes, asteroids, and the zombiepocalypse, and it's actually about how the human race will survive), it was still an interesting read.

3. I discovered baked apples. At a corn maze and rib cook-off in Las Cruces, we sampled about eighteen different ribs (that's too many ribs, in case you were wondering), and where I traded both of my dessert tickets for this deliciousness:
Don't let the rib distract you from the amazingness of this apple.
I think baked apples just sounded dry and not desserty enough in the past. Oh, how wrong I was. I'm going to try to replicate it in my kitchen sometime.

 4. And finally, my favorite image from fall so far:
Hiking in Cloudcroft, NM

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guess What Time It Is!

It's that time of year again, folks! What time of year? When it's annoyingly dark late into the morning and early into the evening? Well, that too, but I'm talking about NaNoWriMo. In case you weren't aware, November is National Novel Writing Month.

Besides running, one of my other passions is writing (and reading!) I've participated in NaNoWriMo before, and found it to be just the kick-start I needed.

I'm not saying you can't write a novel any other time of the year. But NaNoWriMo is fun. The website has helpful writing tools, weekly pep talks from published authors, and, best of all, motivation. There is no better motivation than telling people you are participating in NaNoWriMo. When November ends, you won't want to tell them you dropped out and didn't write your 50,000 words. So, if you think you might have a novel, memoir, or book of non-fiction in you, there's no time like now to give it a go!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Five: Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

Not all of these are brand-new or coming out soon, but they're all new to me!

1) Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath
This came out October 8th, and I just got on the waiting list for it at the library. It's a look at how eating, moving, and sleeping affect our health, along with practical, research-based ideas for maximizing the ways we benefit from them.

If you're a runner, there's a good chance you've heard of George Sheehan. A past medical editor of Runner's World magazine and the author of several books on running, he has no doubt had a profound impact on the sport. This new collection of his best running articles comes out October 29th.

3) The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein 
Out since August, this is one I'm really excited about! It's a discussion of genetics and sports performance and the questions we have all wondered about as athletes: What makes someone great at their sport? How much of an athlete's ability is nature, and how much nurture? Why can two athletes complete the same training and respond differently?

4) Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
Pollan's new book came out in April, but I hadn't heard of it until yesterday. Having enjoyed his earlier books on food, I'm interested in his take on cooking. In Cooked, he writes of his experiences learning from masters of a wide variety of culinary techniques, and comments on our modern removal from food preparation by relying on the food industry to do much of it for us.

5) David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
I always learn something when I read Malcolm Gladwell, and I expect his new book to be no exception. His exploration of the history and science of underdogs was published October 1.

Bonus: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations by Ree Drummond
I didn't include this in the five, because it's a cookbook and not technically a book you read (though I have been known to actually read my cookbooks). If you don't read The Pioneer Woman, you really should. Her writing is hilarious, her recipes are delicious, and her photos are gorgeous. I'm sure her new holiday cookbook will be more of the same! Look for it October 29.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dealing with Disappointment

This past Saturday, October 19, I had hoped and planned to run a 50k at Palo Duro Canyon. But I didn't. Because of my foot injury.

On an injury-healing level, I am okay with this. It's probably not smart to run 31 miles on a foot that doesn't feel great at less than half that distance. But on a competitive, race-loving level, I am pretty disappointed, to say the least.
Here! Here is where I wanted to run! Image from: TPWD

And so, since I am a list person, a list of things that are helping me be less disappointed.

1. God has a plan. You know the saying, "When one door closes, another door opens?" This is one way God works. When what I wanted isn't working out, chances are it's because He has something different in mind. His plan is always perfect--He is the God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
image from:
And I know this. My head knows this, at least. But it's hard to believe on a deeper level sometimes, because it doesn't always translate to immediate, tangible results. I can rarely say right away, "I see! This happened because you had this in store for me, Lord!" I just have to trust that His plan is perfect whether I ever see His reasons.

2. If I'd tried, it could have gone badly. I am very much a "what-if?" person, and I hate the thought of dropping out almost as much as not starting (this iRunFar article on dropping pretty much sums up how I'd feel about it, although I don't have sponsors). I could have had to drop out because of my foot, or I could have finished the race and done significant damage, further postponing my return to running. What-ifs don't usually keep me from doing things, but in this case, the risk was probably greater than the benefit.

3. There will be other races. Not right away. The El Paso area has a dearth of ultras and is far from pretty much everywhere that has an abundance of ultras, so I don't know for sure when my next long race will be. But I am confident that I didn't just miss my last chance to run a 50k ever. And that is comforting. In the bigger picture of my long-term running career, this one race is just that: one race.

4. I can just run. Because I'm no longer training for anything in particular, I can just run how I feel and enjoy it, and give thanks for every run I have on which my foot feels decent. And maybe that's what I need right now.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Munching: Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars

It's Monday.

I hope your Monday face doesn't look like the grumpy cat's, who, by the way, is my favorite cat on the internet. She doesn't have anything to do with this post; I just really love the grumpy cat.

I've been meaning to share this recipe for a while, mostly because it has revolutionized breakfast, and mornings in general, at my house. I spend much of my Pinterest time (when I'm not looking at grumpy cat pictures) looking for healthy recipes. Healthy lunch and dinners are easier, but healthy breakfasts were another story. We eat a lot of smoothies, but you can only eat smoothies every day for so long before it starts to get old. And if I'm heading out on a long run and want to eat first, I don't exactly want to take the time to make one. I had been seeing tons of pins for homemade larabars, so I decided to try them out. (I'm calling mine fruit and nut bars because I think Larabars is actually a brand name). I started out with the recipe here, but I changed it up so much I'm going to share my own.

Fruit and Nut Bars
1+ cups pitted dates 
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds, or other seeds or nuts
1 cup dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, or a mixture
pinch of salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons honey
optional: shredded dried coconut, a dash of vanilla, lemon or lime juice, cinnamon, etc.

In a food processor, pulse almonds and seeds until finely chopped. Pour into a bowl. Add all other ingredients to food processor, and process until mashed and mixed together. If it forms a ball, stop and break it up. Then add nuts again and process until mixed. Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch square pan and chill before cutting into bars. You can leave them in the pan and cut as needed (what I do), or remove them all and package separately for convenience.

I eat these before long runs and have even taken them with me to eat on the run. They digest pretty easily, and you can change the proportion of fruit to nuts if it doesn't work for you. There are endless possible variations, so I don't feel like I'm eating the same thing every morning. And a pretty short prep time leaves me with enough bars for about a week! Perfect.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Do ALL the Things!

I have this problem where I want to read ALL the books! The ones that have waited quietly on my shelves for years. The ones I bought last week at the thrift store because they were two dollars. The pile I checked out at the library because I was in the neighborhood and couldn't resist. And the ones I don't own but I keep hearing are really good.

But my problem is multifaceted. I also want to run ALL the miles! When I drive by where I do my long runs, I want to go for a long run. When I see a track, I want to do speedwork and race the 5k again (what is wrong with me?). When I see my running shoes in the closet, or wherever I happen to have left them, I want to go for any kind of run.

I also want to write ALL the blog posts, short stories, and novels. I want to do ALL the Bible studies. I want to watch ALL the TV shows and movies--ones I haven't seen yet or Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings for the 10828th time. I want to cook ALL the recipes and make ALL the crafts and finally use the sewing machine I bought two years ago and left in its box.

Obviously, I can't do ALL the things at once.

Running is one of the easy ones: I wake up early to run, and I leave the house and run until I'm finished. But studying the Bible, reading, writing, even watching movies, well, those activities suffer from what I used to think was a short attention span. I start something with every intention of finishing, or at least making good progress, but halfway through, or even a few minutes in, I get bored and do something else. And then the day ends and I haven't made much real progress on anything in particular, and I get really frustrated and vow to do better the next day. And then I don't.

But blaming my "short attention span" is kind of a cop-out, huh? It's an excuse, something I pretend or even believe is fixed and unchangeable in my personality. As far as I know, this is not true. I can train myself to focus. It's called discipline. And that is my goal.

Here are some steps I'm taking to reach it:

1. Cutting Internet time. I added an extension called Leechblock to my Firefox browser. (If you use Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari, I'm sure there is something like this for you as well). This will block certain websites (I chose Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) during certain hours of the day, and will cut me off after 20 consecutive minutes during other hours of the day. Because Internet time is, for the most part, unproductive time for me.

2. Planning ahead. Meal planning is the main thing here, because sometimes five o'clock rolls around and I have no idea what I'm going to cook because I was too busy jumping from activity to activity that day, so I get frustrated and give up, and we eat chips or order pizza for dinner. But I'm also going to start keeping a calendar to help with my planning ahead, so that, for example, I don't have to spend an entire day doing piled-up laundry because I need a particular outfit for a social event that night, and manage to get nothing else done that day.

3. Scheduling. I will probably never be the sort of person who runs my life on a to-the-minute schedule. But I am also apparently the kind of person who doesn't function well without a schedule. So I am going to start setting aside chunks of time to do the things I need and want to do. And then I'm going to hold myself to those times. For example: I would like to write at least three blog posts a week. I might set aside time to blog everyday, and even though I won't publish a post each day, I will get something done, like work on a future post or come up with new ideas.

If you know me in real life, feel free to hold me accountable. I'll welcome it! If you've conquered "a short attention span" in the past (or if you're a professional time-manager who is gagging at my amateur scheduling skillz) and you have tips, leave them in the comments!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Five: #TrailRunnerProblems

Writing this post made me aware of just how much the Internet needs a sarcasm font, or an I'm-just-joking, this-is-not-completely-serious font. Because: you can't hear my tone of voice over the Internet. AND this is not a whiny post. If that font existed, you wouldn't be reading this long pre-explanation.
This is a list of things I catch myself complaining about instead of counting my blessings. Blessings like the fact that I can afford trail shoes. And that I'm running on a trail in the beautiful outdoors. And the basic fact that I can run. So these are "problems" that, from this point of view, aren't really problems at all, but indicators that life is good.

1. "I want to look at the scenery, but I have to look at the ground or I'll trip."
2. "My trail shoes are my favorite shoes, but I don't want to wear them on the road because they're for trails."
3. "The sun is too bright and I can't tell what song is playing on my iPhone."
4. "This trail isn't wide enough to run side-by-side, so I have to run behind my friend and we can't have a conversation."
5. "Too many races are measured in kilometers instead of miles, and anything higher than 10k means I have to do math."

(And I don't usually hashtag. That hashtag in the title is probably the only one you'll ever see on this blog. Except for the ones in this paragraph. (This is a hashtag in case you weren't sure: #). I'm on Twitter, something I, at one point, probably said I would never join. And as of now, I don't tweet--I signed up to watch iRunFar live-tweet Leadville. Rambling. Anyway, if you search #TrailRunnerProblems on Twitter, the posts are entertaining).