This is kind of awkward. I know I haven’t been around much lately… in fact, I kind of disappeared on you. It’s not that I’ve forgotten about you, or that I don’t care. It’s just that I’ve been busy. I promise.
We’ve been running a lot…
That’s us, at the Montgomery Half Marathon, breaking our last PR by more than ten minutes, and beating our goal time by more than three minutes. We’ve also run (and won) a few local 5k’s, and have a few more coming up this season.
We’ve been making big plans…
Spending time with friends…
Walking like zombies (don’t ask)…
Cooking hearty fall food…
(That would be lentil shepherd’s pie with sweet potato topping…)
Baking with way too much pumpkin and apples…
(Caramelized apple muffins… recipe to come)
Just generally enjoying the fall weather, even the recent cold snap…
And grading. Lots and lots of grading.
But we’re still here, trying to be healthy and balanced in the heart of the South. Trying to plan a wedding that I just can’t seem to get started on. Trying to resist the bags and bags of Halloween candy that seem to be everywhere these days. So, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. But I’ll try to do better. And it really means a lot to me that so many people have asked me to keep writing this little blog. I’ll be back soon.
I feel a bit like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth this week. It’s not that I’m sick, or hurt, or avoiding writing; I just seem to have come down with a very peculiar form of lazy. All I’ve wanted to do this week is eat and run. And not much else. I’ve been working, of course, and getting what I need to get done, done, but otherwise this week has been a much-needed mental break. After basking in our marathon accomplishment, we’ve spent most of the week eating simple meals, watching documentaries on Netflix, and running how and when we feel like it. I was treated (by James) to my first deep-tissue massage on Friday at Salon 2940, and it was amazing. We made some pretty amazing black bean and sweet potato enchiladas yesterday, mostly from this recipe, but I was still in my lazy mode and didn’t take any pictures. But, it’s time to get back to it. And it’s time to write the race recap that I’ve been meaning to write since last Monday.
We were lucky enough to have our own cheering section and chauffeurs in my dad and his wife, Donna. They picked us up Saturday morning, and we made our way to Mississippi. We stopped for lunch in Birmingham at a place called Niki’s West. It’s a traditional “meat and three,” but it had a huge selection of vegetables, beans, and other vegetarian-friendly sides. It was rated by Jane and Micheal Stearn as one of the best “Road Food” restaurants in the country, and I can see why. I got butter beans, a zucchini-tomato stew, and steamed broccoli, and enjoyed every bite.
When we got to Tupelo, we headed straight to Trail and Treads, the local running store, to pick up our numbers and packets. I was so jealous of James’s number–he got 77, which has always been my lucky number. Unfortunately, they kind of frown on the whole trading numbers thing… no matter how cool it is. I got number 98, which I suppose isn’t too bad. It was a pretty cool little running store, with a good supply of clothes and shoes, and a 20% off sale that I just couldn’t resist. I know you’re not supposed to change anything on race day, but I’ve been running in the same tank and shorts for almost a year, so I talked myself into a new outfit. Plus, I love the bright, eighties colors that Nike has out right now, and they looked pretty cool with my shoes.
For dinner, we went for the traditional pre-race pasta dinner (since there weren’t a lot of vegetarian options in Tupelo). We ate at Vanelli’s, a local Italian and Greek restaurant, and just got small bowls of spaghetti with marinara sauce. I asked for them to add some steamed vegetables to mine, which they did with no problems, and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. After a training season plagued with stomach issues, I wanted to keep things as light and simple as I could. After dinner, we laid out all of our clothes and “equipment” for the race (shoes, garmins, waterbottles, gus, and race numbers), and headed to bed as early as we could.
Even though we went to bed early, the 3:30 alarm seemed to go off too soon. We made our peanut butter sandwiches (peanut butter and banana for me), got dressed, and had a short pump-up dance party in our hotel room (don’t laugh…). Our chauffeurs/cheering squad kindly got up and drove us over to the race start at 4:30, where we introduced them to a culture that they didn’t even know existed: the hundreds of runners willing to meet before 5 in the morning to run 26.2 miles. The weather was perfect; despite being warned that it would be “hotter than hell,” the cold front brought by Tropical Storm Lee gave us a starting temperature in the low 60′s. The sky was cloudy with the threat of rain, but, despite checking the weather dozens of times that weekend, we figured we were going to run this marathon, whether it rained or not. The race was fairly small, with only about 300 marathoners and a few hundred more 14.2-mile runners. When it got close to the starting time, we lined up at the starting line. Unlike other races, there was no gun or yell, or really anything to get us started. At 5, everyone just kind of started running.
That low-key atmosphere continued for most of the race. We started in the dark, and ran on quiet, rolling country roads, which made it feel just like my favorite kind of long run. At the time, I couldn’t really process the fact that I was running a marathon (I still can’t, really), and just tried to think of it as a fun, long run in a cool place with interesting people. There weren’t many spectators, and it was easy to just zone out and enjoy the run. It started sprinkling around mile 4 or so, and continued for the whole race, but most of it just kept us cool and comfortable.
We struggled a bit to find our pace, but for the most part, the first 13 miles flew by. We crossed the halfway point at 2:00:10 (or so), which put us a little bit behind where we wanted to be. While we knew that we shouldn’t set a time goal for our first marathon, we had a super-secret-hopeful goal of 4 hours, so we knew we had to speed up a little bit on the second half. We took our first Gus at mile 13, and we still felt good and strong, so we didn’t really think that would be a problem.
Unfortunately, it was in the second half that we started to have some problems. James hadn’t really used Gus on most of his training runs, and he started to have pain in his stomach around mile 15. He kept running, but in miles 18-on he was in some pretty severe pain. He decided to walk the water stops, which were every 2 miles, and we slowed down our pace, which had been a little faster than our goal time anyway. We decided that the most important thing was that we finish the race, no matter what our time was, and that we finish together. At this point, it also started to rain harder, so that by the end of the race we were running through a steady downpour.
At mile 20 (after climbing the biggest hill of the race at mile 19.5), we saw that we had about an hour to run the last 6 miles, so we settled into our pace, and pushed through it. While I felt pretty good, and strangely didn’t have any of the issues that I faced during almost every training run, I could see that James was in pain. The last few miles were on the side of a fairly busy road, and we pounded out the miles as the rain poured and the cars swerved around us. Despite the way we felt, as soon as the finish line was in sight, we found the energy to sprint (or at least what felt like a sprint after running 26 miles). We crossed the finish line at 3:59:36, with 24 seconds to spare, holding hands.
After the race, we had hugs all around from our cheering squad, changed clothes, and ate some of the post-race offerings. When they posted the times, I saw that I had come in as the thirteenth woman overall, and that I was second in my age group! While I’m generally not a big fan of waiting around after races, there was no way I was going to leave the state without that second-place award. Even though James had the same time, he happens to be in a really fast age group (males ages 29 and under), so he ended up finishing 6th in his.
After the ceremony and a quick shower at the hotel, we made a much-deserved trip to IHOP, where we indulged in some post-race pancakes and waffles. We then passed out in the back seat of my dad’s car as we made the trip back to the heart of Alabama in the pouring rain.
While everything didn’t go exactly as planned, it was one of the best races we’ve ever done. The small, local feeling was exactly the kind of atmosphere we like–we’re minimalists, remember? Not big fans of huge parties or big fanfares. While we’ll definitely do other races (and hopefully other marathons), we’re already planning to run Tupelo again next year. Plus, you can’t get medals much cooler than this:
Just stopping by to let you know–we’re marathoners!
Sub-four hour (just barely) marathoners, at that! We crossed the finish line at 3:59:36, with just 24 seconds to spare. Can’t say we don’t love a little drama. Oh, and I ended up being second in my age group, so I got a cool plaque, too. James was sixth in his, but he had a lot more competition. Despite the rain that we ran in for almost the whole race and some stomach issues, it was a great race. I’ll give a full, detailed update once my dad sends me the pictures he took, which will hopefully be tomorrow. And after my brain starts working again–after waking up at 3, running 26 miles, and a 3-hour car ride, an evening of couch-sitting and watching old movies is about all I can handle right now. Despite being tired, though, I don’t actually feel too bad; I kind of want to go for a short run tomorrow. I owe you a recap, but I mostly just want to say thank you to all our friends and families who wished us well, and gave us some seriously good mojo going into this race. So, thanks!
In less than 48 hours, we will be lining up in the dark in Tupelo, Mississippi, to run our first marathon. I have trouble wrapping my head around that sentence. In the past year and a half, I’ve gone from not being able to run 90 seconds without getting out of breath, to being able to run for 3 and a half hours and feel great afterwards. I’ve gone from an obese BMI to a healthy one, lost 80 pounds, and developed a pretty impressive set of muscles. I’ve gone from using food to deal with my emotions, to using it as fuel to do some pretty cool things. Instead of sleeping in until noon on the weekends and whenever I could, I now wake up around 5 to go run, almost every day. And on Sunday, I’m going to run 26.2 miles.
The past few weeks haven’t exactly been stress-free. This week, we’ve both developed minor colds. And we’ve had plenty of the kind of surprises that involve getting bit on the behind by life over the past month. But when I think about the race, I feel strangely calm. I feel strong, confident, and as ready as I’ll be. No matter what happens Sunday, I know that I’ve worked hard and done almost everything right to be prepared. Still, when I look at the numbers, it’s a little overwhelming. While we’ve really been preparing for a marathon since last November, before my injury set us back, we’ve been “officially” training for this race since May. Over the past 14 weeks, the numbers are:
Total miles run: 727
Longest run: 23 miles
Number of 20 (or more) mile runs: 4
Hottest temperature: 95 degrees
Fastest run: 4 x 1600 at 7:10 pace
Pairs of shoes (each): 2
New Garmins: 2 (James bought one when mine died)
Gus consumed: about 28
Toenails lost: 1
Rocks to the knee: 1
Days slept in past 5 am: Maybe 2?
Pounds of fruit consumed: Oh, millions
While the last few are kind of silly, the rest is kind of impressive. The truth is, no matter what happens on Sunday, I’m pretty proud of us. Even if the tropical storm that’s forecasted causes it to pour rain, or I trip and break my leg and have to crawl through the finish line, we’ve already accomplished a lot. I’m looking forward to the race as a celebration at the end of our training, and trying not to worry too much about goal times, pace, or any of the other nagging fears that want to sneak in. I’m crossing that finish line, no matter how long it takes me, or how hard it is. Because that skull-and-crossbones medal is pretty cool. And I want that 26.2 bumper sticker.
We are at T minus one week until the marathon. After 16 weeks of training, hundreds of miles run, weeks and weekends of sleeping no later than 5, we just have to make it through this one week. One week of resting, light running, and letting our bodies heal and get ready to conquer those 26.2 miles next Sunday. And I’m not sure I can do it.
I’m excited, anxious, and nervous (but mostly excited). When I feel like that, I just want to run. All the time. And it’s the one thing I’m not supposed to do. We ran 12 miles on Saturday (four miles more than our plan called four…), and I felt strong, happy, and in the best running shape I’ve been in. It was great. And then we got a stern talking-to from one of our more experienced running friends about not respecting the taper. Grr. I understand the logic behind letting my body rest, but I don’t like not running. Especially if someone (or something) else is telling me what to do. We’ve already established that I’m stubborn; if I don’t want to do it, I fight it with every bit of logic (or denial) I can dig up. If the plan calls for a 10-mile speedwork session, I’ll make myself do it, even at 4 in the morning. But not run? Or only run 4 miles, instead of 8? It can’t be that important, right?
As much as I have been working for and training for this marathon, there’s a part of me that just wants to get it over with and get back to normal running. I look forward to our long runs on Sundays, our early morning runs, the slow, steady feeling of letting the miles pass by and my mind wander. I know (or hope!) that next Sunday will be a great experience, no matter what happens. I’ve worked for it, and I feel ready. But I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas–just hurry up and get here already!
Ever since we watched the Charleston episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, I’ve been craving some traditional southern food. Actually, since we started tapering, I’ve been craving everything like crazy. How does that work? Anyway, last week’s barbeque baked beans, collards, and cornbread did a good job of satisfying my vegan Southern hankering, but there were two Southern staples that I was curious about. It has recently come to my attention that, despite living in the South for 3 years, I have never tried two of the staples of Southern cuisine: okra and grits. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Well, other than that I’ve heard that okra is slimy, and I have a Northerner’s snobby preference for oatmeal over grits. But I decided to get over that.
This morning at (the last of the season!) farmer’s market, we picked up some okra and stone-ground grits. While I’ve heard the best way to have okra is deep fried, I try to avoid fried food as much as possible. I’ve kind of lost my taste for fried food. That’s a lie. But it’s best for all involved if I avoid it. So I decided to try another Southern “classic” that I’ve never tried: Gumbo.
I’ve never really liked shrimp or sausage, so I’ve never had an authentic gumbo. We found a recipe for bean gumbo in the Moosewood Low-Fat Cooking book, and decided to give it a try. A quick google search revealed that most gumbo recipes start with a roux, but the Moosewood version avoided the 1/2 cup of butter and flour, and skipped the roux altogether. Since I’ve never tasted real gumbo, I figured I wouldn’t be missing the flavor, and there was plenty of other flavor from the jalepeno, green peppers, okra, tomatoes, paprika, fresh thyme, and liquid smoke. It also had two kinds of beans: white beans and black-eyed peas.
Now, I know you’re supposed to serve gumbo with rice. But if you can tell from the rest of this post, we weren’t really in a traditional mood this evening. I really wanted to try the stone-ground grits, so we decided to serve the gumbo over that. James, who grew up in Charleston, took full control of the grits.
We served the gumbo over the grits, and mixed it up. And… it was great! I didn’t expect to like the sliminess of the okra, but it thickened the stew and blended in with the other flavors. The jalepeno added a little bit of heat, without being overwhelming. It didn’t taste like anything I’ve had, and I definitely will be making it again. I have no idea if it tastes like “real” gumbo–it’s probably not even close, but it’s healthy, filling, and comforting. And if you haven’t noticed, that’s exactly what I like. The grits, though, were what made the meal. They were yellow, stone-ground grits from Oakview Granary in Wetumpka, prepared with water, salt and pepper, olive oil, and a little tabasco. I want to have them again for breakfast tomorrow. Which I guess is what I’m supposed to do.
Although it certainly wasn’t authentic, this meal satisfied both my Southern food craving and curiosity. I feel like I got a little closer to fitting in as a Southerner with this meal. But I’m not changing my accent. And let’s not talk about chitlins or pig’s feet, OK?
Usually, I’m a pretty simple person. This blog is called Montgomery Minimalist for a reason. We make simple, healthy meals, avoid buying anything new when we can make due with what we have, spend our free time outdoors and at free community events, spend our date nights cooking together, and participate in a sport that is about as basic as it gets. However, there are a few material things I’ve managed to become dependent on, no matter how hard I resisted. My laptop, for example. My car. As hard as it is to admit, my iPhone. And the one that brings me the most guilt–my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch.
Running is supposed to be basic. All you need is the road and your shoes (although those aren’t quite so simple either). However, I have an A-student mentality. I like numbers, and feedback, and knowing how well I did. I like my gold stars. And my Garmin tells me how far I’ve run, how fast I ran it, and gives me the ability to rate and compare my runs to each other. When I track my training, I write down not just how far I ran, but how fast I ran it. It’s made me a better runner, a more conscientious runner, and a faster runner. But it gets a little out of control sometimes. Like when I get disappointed that I ran a few seconds slower than I did the day before. Or when I insist on running an extra half mile just to make the mile marker beep. Instead of listening to my body, I often find myself trying to make certain numbers come up on the screen.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been forced to face my addiction by going cold turkey. My Garmin died during our 23-mile run last weekend, and developed some kind of Toerette’s syndrome that led to it beeping randomly, turning itself on and off, and becoming completely unresponsive. After trying just about everything to fix it myself, I had to bite the bullet and send it in. Which leaves me without my trusty number generator. Which is, I’ve discovered, not actually so bad.
Over the past week or so, I’ve had to actually listen to my body. I know the length and mile markers of our normal morning runs, so there’s not a lot of guesswork there. I can wear a watch so I know how long the whole run takes, but I can’t look down and say,”We’re running too fast.” I’ve had to run by what feels good; on tempo runs, I’ve had to push myself to the limit of fast, but sustainable. On our long runs, I’ve had to figure out what’s not too slow, but won’t wear me out. On our normal runs, I’ve had to try to figure out what’s “just right”–not too fast or slow. There are no numbers, just me (and James). And while I won’t be Garmin-less for long (let’s face it, I can’t just give it up), I might try to wean myself from using it all the time. I think I’ll find that I actually push myself more, and run better, if I don’t use it for every run. But then again, I like my gold stars.
It’s been a good first week of school. My students and I are figuring each other out, getting into a routine, and getting to know one another. I’m slowly learning names and personalities. Although, this year is going to be tough with names–in my first period, I have two Caleb M.’s, second has two Tyler B.’s and two Hannahs, and sixth period has two Damiens and four MacKenzies (spelled four different ways). I’m either going to have to come up with some nicknames or give all my students serial numbers. Although that probably wouldn’t go over too well.
However, it’s also been a busy week. A very busy week. And I’m tired. Keeping up with marathon training (although we’re tapering now) and all of the administrative extra work we have to start the school year, plus open house and other time commitments, is pretty much all I could handle this week. The dishes have piled up, the laundry pile is starting to smell bad, my budget is sadly out of date, and I haven’t posted here since… Tuesday. Our meals have been some variation on beans and rice or chili, and I haven’t tried a new recipe in a few weeks. When I look at my two to-do lists (one for school, one for home), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and two steps behind everything. But, as I’ve learned in the past few years, things will settle down. The first week back is all about surviving and keeping your head above water, getting the things that need to be done, done, and getting to everything else as soon as you can. Again, it’s all about finding that harmony, although it takes a little time to adjust. So, if you read this, please be patient with me as I re-tune my timing and routine, and check things off that list, one at a time.
This meal is not pretty. It is not drool-worthy. It is not the kind of meal that you rush out to the store to buy the ingredients for, or that you spend the evening cooking in anticipation of eating it. But it is good. And cheap, easy, healthy, and comforting. Which is why it has become our go-to Sunday meal. After an early morning long run, a day of grocery shopping, running errands, and doing chores, and an evening spent getting ready for an early Monday, this is exactly what we need.
This recipe has evolved over the years, and changes a little every time. The measurements are relative, and adaptable, depending on what we have on hand, and what flavors we’re craving. And it makes a lot. It probably could last us for 3 or 4 meals, although we always just have it for dinner and lunch the next day (and eat a lot).
Kitchen Sink Lentil Soup
1 T olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup green lentils
1 cup barley
3 T soy sauce
1 t mustard
ground pepper to taste
6 cups water (more if necessary)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add lentils, barley, water, soy sauce, mustard, and bouillon cube, and bring to a boil. Let cook for about 20 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and cabbage, and cook for about 10 more minutes. Really, it’s done when everything’s soft enough for your taste.
It’s that simple. And really, we don’t stick to this exactly. Add, subtract, multiply, or divide to your heart’s content. And enjoy!
Today was my first day of school. As it seems to go each year as I get more comfortable, this was the best first day of my career.
The day started out with a beautiful, easy 4 mile run. We weren’t really supposed to run today, but I needed it, to mentally prepare for the day. It was 70 degrees, with a breeze, and a full moon. My legs didn’t hurt at all, despite our tough 23-mile run on Saturday (although my feet did, a bit). We could see every star out, and it felt like October in New England, instead of mid-August in the south. As we turned around to head home, I caught a shooting star out of the corner of my eye. Perfect way to start the year.
I know that my students will be challenging this year, and the first day tells me nothing about how the year will go, but still, it was a good day.
It has also been a long day. And it was a long, busy weekend. In which I completely forgot to take pictures (except for one of my blistered, swollen feet, which I don’t think you want to see). So, in the interest of brevity and sleep, here’s a quick recap of my weekend. Starting with Saturday morning, I:
1. Ran 23 miles. At least, really close to 23 miles. I can’t tell you for sure because my Garmin started freaking out 7 miles into the run, and we had to run it naked. We just ran the exact same 20 mile route we ran last weekend, and added a loop that was about 3 more. We started late, and the heat index when we finished was about 98 degrees. I’m just going to say, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I did it. And now, we just have to stay healthy and sane until the marathon (in three weeks!)
2. Went to a wedding. It was in a beautiful church, with a short, sweet, simple ceremony. And a reception with a big bowl of fruit. That I ate about half of.
3. Dog sat for my Dad’s two golden retrievers, who are two of the sweetest (and hairiest) dogs ever.
4. Ate Chinese food and frozen yogurt.
5. Collapsed into bed.
6. Ran a 6-miles recovery run on Sunday, which felt surprisingly good (except for the feet). Garmin still doesn’t work.
7. Made a meal plan, and went grocery shopping.
8. Did all of the laundry in our house.
9. Spent 3 hours in my classroom getting ready.
10. Made a simple, healthy soup for dinner, and tried to get everything ready for the morning.
11. Collapsed into bed.
Let’s see if I can make it through the rest of the week!