Wednesday, May 18, 2011

10 a.m.

10 a.m. at the gym.  Anyone who frequents the gym knows what this golden hour brings.

Immodesty, flirtation, and....oldies. 

The group exercise room is packed full for the Silver Sneakers class and the pool is jamming out the tunes at decibels that I can hear even though my ears are filled with water and covered with a silicone swim cap.  The locker rooms transform into this place of complete nudity.  There is no use for a towel when you are 70+ years old.  This skin needs to air dry now.  It's a way of saying to me, "Enjoy it while you're young.  One day your body will droop and sag in ways that you can't even imagine."  Conversations about how ornery your husband is for not taking himself to the doctor or the news on the latest hip replacement float around the room.  All the while sitting naked on the benches, not even a towel to shield you from any microorganism that might be resting on that very used surface.  There must be an age at which modesty is not even taken into consideration.  I hope I never reach it.

The fashion at this hour is yet another thing to behold.  How long ago did you actually purchase that bathing suit?  You know that they can rot through and become mostly see-through?  Just checking. 

The hot tub is full of hunkered over men with hair that hasn't seen a color other than gray in a few decades.  The water aerobics class in full swing takes up the majority of the pool.  The teacher stands on deck making water exercise motions and everyone in the pool, some being held up with water flotation devices, are mimicking her the best that they can.  Arthritis overtakes some of them, angina for the others. 

Life has been long for most of them.  Each one of them having a story.  Each one of them used to be my age once.  Now here they are.  Possibly widowed.  One man putting his arm around two of the ladies and shouting out to his friend in the hot tub how he is the luckiest guy to be in the pool with two beautiful ladies.  Possibly still married.  Married so long that silence has become a form of communication. 

Here they are.  Making the best of what's left in life.  Meeting up with their friends at the gym every morning at 10 a.m.  Doing what they can to take care of their aging bodies. 

I silently swim in the one lane left open during water aerobics.  The waves of 30 people moving in time with music that was popular years before I was born splash over me.  I really like 10 a.m.  There is so much I can learn from them.  So many stories they have to tell.  So much life I have yet to know.  I put my head back in the water and keep swimming.  My stroke seems to keep time with "....sugar pie honey know I love you..."  I smile. 

See you tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recipe: Chana Dal with Hidden Spinach

Spinach.  One of the most delicious leafy greens on this planet.  Unfortunately for me my family does not agree with this statement.  I love it.  My family...well, they don't love it. 

On my last trip to Costco I splurged and bought an entire Costco-sized container of spinach knowing full well that I would be eating it all by myself.  That was until I invented a secret recipe weapon that hides the spinach so that no one knows it's in there.  Genius.  I know. 

My grandma bought me the Bob's Red Mill cookbook for Christmas and it is full of all sorts of unique and healthy recipes that seem fairly easy to make.  The last time I was at Bob's I bought a package of Chana Dal.  If you are anything like me then you might have seen these words on a menu in some Indian restaurant before, but not really known what it is.  Essentially it is a bean that looks like a split pea, but acts more like a garbanzo.  A great thing about this food is that it is low on the glycemic index which translates to keeping your blood sugar at more of an even level so you don't get the hunger spikes throughout the day. 

So I set out making the Bob's recipe.  Here is the original recipe. 

Chana Dal with Spinach

1 tsp veg oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped
1/2 cup dried chana dal soaked in water for one hr and drained
1/4 tsp tumeric
salt to taste
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp coconut
1 bunch of spinach chopped
1 TB freshly squeezed lime juice

For a few reasons, I deviated from the recipe.  A) I have trouble following any recipe without improvising.  B)  I didn't have tumeric C) When I got done putting it all together it was not as saucy as I wanted it to be to go over rice.  So here is my modification of Bob's recipe. 

Chana Dal with HIDDEN spinach

1 tsp veg oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried mustard
1 onion chopped
2 cans of green chilies
1 cup dried chana dal soaked for an hour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 quart of tomatoes
2-4 TB of dried curry
A whole bunch of spinach chopped up as tiny as possible with my hand blender

I fried up the onions until brown and added the chilies in for a few min.  Then I added everything else in the pan and simmered for about 10 min.  Then I had to leave to take my daughter to gymnastics so I quickly threw it in the crock pot on high and left it for about an hour and 20 min.  When we got home it smelled delicious. 

To put on top, I made a dip that also had spinach in it.  I used a small amount of Vegenaise (dairy-free mayo) and blended up one medium sized tomato with another large bunch of spinach until it was like a dip.  I also used a little bit of vegetable salt and pepper.  Then with sliced lime to squeeze over top, sliced avocado, and rice to go underneath, dinner was ready. 

I waited until my family was eating and told me how good it was to let them on the secret of the spinach.  Even my daughter didn't cringe when I told her and she might have even taken seconds.  I would call that a success if I've ever had one.  Surprisingly it did taste very good, much better than I expected.  You never know when you make something up or try something new, but this one is good for a repeat I think. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tacoma City Marathon 2011

My husband signed up for the Tacoma City Marathon.  Not wanting to be left out, I signed up for it too.  I like running marathons.  It's 26.2 miles of  fun and challenge at the same time.  The most challenging part for me is trying to get in the long runs with two small people to take care of at home.  There's only a few days where I can escape for two or three hours at a time to run 12-18 miles, but I do my best and just try to have fun with it.  I know that the chances of me winning a marathon any time soon are very slim, so I may as well enjoy what I can do right? 

My pre-race drink I never drank.  It was chunky yogurt when I opened it.  Gross.
Race day is where all of the fun kicks in.  Not that I don't enjoy a good run by myself out in the middle of nowhere, but there is nothing like running with a diverse group of people to watch.  Now that is fun. 

The day started out early at 5:15 a.m. and foggy.  I quickly showered and put on my lucky spandex.  (How could spandex not be lucky?  Such a fun material.)  We ate quietly so as not to wake the children and then got out the door for our one hour drive.  (Don't worry, they had a babysitter)  It isn't very often that my husband and I get to run the same marathon.  Usually one of us is running and the other is cheering with the kids.  I like running with Kevin.  Well, let's be honest, I like running behind Kevin.  He's speedy.  But for the few minutes I get to spend with him waiting in the starting chute or seeing him cheer for me as I run through the finishers chute are fun. 

We got to the starting chute and nobody was there.  Uh-oh.  Cue nervousness.  Not nobody, but very few people were mingling about looking fit and athletic.  The smaller the marathon, the more nervous I get simply because I don't want to be last.  I don't want to get there when they are taking down the finish line because everyone else has already come through.  Yes, it makes me nervous.  I was hoping that wouldn't happen for me on this day. 

After multiple trips to the porta-potties for both of us (I have a nervous bladder) 7:30 approached and people started lining up close to the start.  A highschool version of the Star Spangled Banner was sung and with a countdown from 5 we were off and running. 

Kevin ran the first 0.25 with me and then took off to find his pace group.  I just focused on pacing myself and getting to the finish.  I didn't have high hopes knowing that I had only been able to put in two long runs beforehand.  I viewed this race more of a fitness test than anything and to peak out my running for my Ironman training.  The combination of a sunny clear day with Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains in full sight definitely gave me something to smile about.  That and the man running in the tiny little bright yellow shorts in front of me gave me motivation to run faster.  (Runners seriously wear the most obscene clothing.) 

I had seen the profile of the course and knew that it was going to be hilly.  Around the 5K mark (and running uphill for a bit) a guy in front of me turns around and yells out, "Well, that's the first hill done!  The second one isn't as bad."  This led me to think that there were only two major hills to run.  Must be easier than I had first thought.


The next hill that I hit I thought, "Well, this must be the second hill."  Then the next one would be a little bit steeper and I thought, "Maybe this is the one that he was talking about."  That guy must have mistaken this race for something else, because there were definitely more hills that just two. 

The race itself wound about the city for awhile, back and forth on the streets, through alleys, through a park, most of the time I was incredibly confused where I was.  Then we finally headed out on the highway that lead out to Point Defiance which I knew would be a fun section.  On the highway out there running felt awesome.  I kept passing people on the hills when they would slow down or start walking.  I would motor past and yell out a "Good job!" (Yes, I'm always trying to motivate and encourage.)  Even though they were probably resenting me at that moment.  It's hard to dislike someone who is friendly so I tried my best to be friendly. 

I told myself at the beginning that I would not look at my Garmin except when it would alarm me at every mile with my pace alert.  By the 13.1 point I was averaging 8:40 and felt great.  Better than I ever had.  Out at Point Defiance there were some hills.  It was up and down, up and down and by mile 18 or 19 it was starting to wear on me.  That combined with watching people not following the course and instead cutting corners was a little bit discouraging, but I'm technical like that.  I like to know that I didn't cut through some parking lot to make it shorter for myself regardless of what other people do.  I came around the top of a hill and saw a steep descent followed by what appeared to be a San Francisco hill-like climb immediately afterward.  I inwardly groaned....and then was passed by a 70-year-old lady.  So I kept running.  I wanted to keep her in my sights.  My goal had been to run up all the hills and I had achieved that until towards the top of this hill in sight.  I walked.  Just for a minute.  I ate some jelly beans, took an endurolyte or two and then forced myself to keep chasing this lady. 

After about two miles I started feeling perky again and was able to pick things up again without the inward groaning.  For the rest of the race I had no idea where I was.  I am not familiar with Tacoma at all so I just followed the people in front of me and hoped I was going the right way.  The marathon was so small that there were times that I was running by myself and wondering if I was still on the course.  About mile 24 I had the privilege of running with Kobe Bryant.  Yes, the Kobe Bryant.  Well, he at least had the jersey and the Laker gloves and purple basketball shorts with black tights on underneath.  He was sweating like crazy.  I can't imagine running in that much clothing when it's 60 degrees out.  We chatted for a bit and then I wished him a good run and headed for the finish.  To keep myself positive, everyone that I passed that was cheering for me(since we were so spread out now they were literally cheering for each individual person) I would wave back and say "Thank you!" and to all of the police officers who were out there stopping traffic I would do the same.  I can appreciate a good spectator/volunteer.  It's a hard job to stand out there all day for no reason.  I've done it and know that it requires some serious snacks and race day planning.  Really.  If you need a spectator/crew, I make an awesome one.  I can send you references. 
Pretty sure he hates posed photos. :)

Finally, a man watching yelled out from his lawn chair "Just a mile and a half and it's all downhill!"  Yay.  I was ready  for some downhill.  He wasn't kidding about it either.  Probably the best finish to a marathon ever.  It was all downhill right into the chute.  I ran all by myself into the chute, waved at my husband who was already eating and resting his feet, and finished.

It was a lot of fun.  I would definitely do this race again.  I was able to come in 6th in my division and had a PR finishing time of 4:00:52 so I was happy with that.  There might be a little part of me that thinks there was possibly a way to knock off 53 seconds in the process to get a sub 4, but that's okay.  Spending the time to chit chat with Kobe as we ran was worth it I suppose. 

Definitely will do this one again.  It was small enough to not have to bump elbows with people the whole time and the price was cheaper than others in the area.  I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was and how beautiful the course was.  I loved it.