Goodbye Oregon, Hello California! Happy Trails…

Well, it’s official.  Mike and I gave notice to our wonderful director at work on Friday that we will be setting sail in February.  Since we both work for the same company, we decided it was only fair to give a 2 month notice in order to give them plenty of time to fill the positions.  It’s a scary thing, really, when you love a place and you’re comfortable there to find the courage to spread your wings. I was feeling that 12-21-12 was going to be the beginning of a new era, and so it is.  It just so happens to be exactly 2 months from when we are planning for our last day.

2.5 years ago, Oregon was supposed to be a temporary stop on our way to California.  This place is something special, I guess!  I said a long time ago, this city has soul, and I think it always will.  Mike and I have really grown here, both individually and as a couple.  I found a love for trail running, barefoot running, racing, and eatin’ greens.  Mike also found a love for trail running, triathloning (is that a word?) and snowboarding.  And all of the sudden, we have incredible friends and relationships that we didn’t think we’d find here.  All of the sudden, it feels like home.  And now, we’re leaving.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.

Ever since I met Mike, he’s been California dreamin’.  Mike is more at home in the water than most people, and definitely more so than anyone I’ve met.  He lives for the ocean, it gives him energy and then quiets him.  This is important, because otherwise, he has so much energy he bounces all over the house and he’s difficult to deal with.  And all this after he’s run for 10 miles, completed a Suffer Fest video on the bike trainer, and lifted weights.  I’m exhausted just watching him. The only thing that seems to wear him out is surfing, and so we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to live basically on the coast.  But, I will go crazy if I’m taken away from trails for running, so we found the seemingly perfect place: Ventura County, CA.

Ok, ok, so we haven’t been there yet.  We’ve been on a trip to Northern California and Southern California, but never anywhere Central.  In March, we are going to meet up with the family to check out Ventura County and of course, Santa Barbara for vacation.  There’s supposedly good surf there, and supposedly good trails nearby to explore.  I’ve also heard there’s mountain lions… I will crap my pants if I see a mountain lion.  Please, someone tell me they’re just a myth?  Like sharks, right?  Sharks are the main reason I don’t surf more!

So the world didn’t end Friday, but it did signify the beginning of a new era and a new adventure for us.  We can’t wait to live in a sunnier, drier place and begin to lay down some roots.  We’re looking forward to buying a house and becoming part of a new community.  That being said, we sure are going to miss Portland!  What an incredible place we chose to start our lives together.  Portland will always feel like home and I think our new friends are going to turn into old friends.  And I’m definitely going to leave my heart on the Wildwood Trail, where I found myself and my love of running.

Ventura, CA
Ventura, CA

Tears for Sandy Hook and Running in the Darkest Hour

I’ve spent the past few days fluctuating between sheer elation for the gift of life and utter despair for the premature loss of life and hope last Friday.  How can we move forward?  How do we keep our faith in humanity?  I honestly don’t know.

On Friday, my last patient of the day had a 5 year old and a 3 year old.  Two precious babies who were spared from knowing the gory details of the massacre, but who seemed somehow aware that all was not well in the world. My patient’s eyes were glassy as she held them close and tried to participate with therapy.  We both were in a different world though, as we watched her two healthy boys wriggle around, their little faces glowing with wonder.  How? Why?  Who could do this?

On Friday after work, I went for a run.  I didn’t know what else to do, and I was getting ready for the Holiday Half Marathon on Sunday.  I went for 4 miles in the darkness, and let the tears flow.  While I don’t have children of my own, I’ve felt the joys of holding little ones close as a babysitter and as a friend to mothers.  Their eyes, full of life and innocence, can never seem to open wide enough to take in all the world has to offer.  At times I felt numb, and other times so full of emotion that I had to stop, squat down and cry.  It was a healing cry, and a yearning to reach out, to do something.  A cry for help from the Earth to pick us up and put us back together.  Especially our friends in Newtown.

But it felt good to run.  It felt good to go fast and feel something so real that it was terrifying.  While everyone is dealing with this tragedy differently, I feel that it’s important to face the reality that it happened.  And it happened at an elementary school, the most horrible place I can think of for a massacre.

2012 has been a wild and crazy year for just about everyone I know.  A year of trials, a year of lessons, accidents, triumphs, and love to name a few.  On December 21st, 2012, some believe that the world will end, thanks to the Mayan calendar ending on this date.  While I’m not sure that will happen, I do think that we are entering a new era of sorts.  A time to reflect on the changes that need to be made and a time to realize what is really important to us.  So what is really important?  For me, it’s relationships.  Relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our environment.

Running is the glue that brings all these relationships together.  Running strengthens us physically and ignites within us the inner glow we need to move forward.  Running with others captures the moments that are most raw, when we’re not afraid to be ourselves and seek help from our friends.  And running with the Earth beneath us provides the healing energy needed to keep our faith in humanity.  Running in the darkest hour, like I did on December 14, 2012, can provide us with an inner peace and courage to go towards the light.

While I hope that the world doesn’t end on December 21st, I do hope that we can all continue on our journey, one foot in front of the other. Hopefully, stumbling towards the light.

A QUESTION FOR YOU:  WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE GOING INTO 2013?

Sandy Hook Parents
Sandy Hook Parents

Final Thoughts on Vivobarefoot Achilles and a Sad Farewell

Well, my toes are officially abnormal.  I was so excited about the Vivobarefoot Achilles, but sadly I had to put them back in the cute little bag they came in and send them home.  Away from my crazy middle toe that cannot be tamed.  My overall impression was good other than my toe issue.  But unfortunately, because of my whacky anatomy, I really couldn’t run over a mile in these little cutie pies.  Take home message for these shoes: Try them on before you buy!

 

Pros: Ground feel, appearance, easy peasy strapping system (somewhat uncommon in running sandals!), zero drop, 3.5 mm stack height, high quality materials, 4.2 oz weight, vegan.  Love the furry friends!  Split toe design provides good stability, no slippage when running.

Cons: Split toe design is not for everyone.  Case in point, check out my misbehavin’ toe below.  Split toe design will take some getting used to for all you folks with a smaller space between big toe and middle toe and will require a period of breaking in.  Blisters could result during the break in time.

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE SPLIT TOE/CAGE DESIGN?  I’D LOVE TO HEAR!  PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH WHACKY FEET…

 

Bad toe!
Bad toe!

Holiday Half Marathon Preview and Energy Bits?

There comes a time in training for an event that you think to yourself, “Wow, I can never run that mileage that I’m supposed to run during training!”  Then, there’s that pivotal moment when you realize that not only have you done the training, but you’re faster and stronger than before.  That’s the beautiful thing about running.  You only get out of it what you put into it.  So when that moment comes that you realize you’re a BAMF, (I just learned what BAMF means) celebrate your strength and say, “Hey Jack! Hey, you’re gonna do this race boys.”  On a side note, I’ve been watching WAY too much “Duck Dynasty.”  Have y’all ever watched that show?  I think I’m slowly turning into Uncle Si.

This coming weekend, Mike and I are doing the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon in downtown Portland.  I am still putting my costume together.  I’m thinking tacky Christmas underwear over my tights with a Christmas turtleneck.  At the very least, anyway. Now usually, I am content to have a goal of just finishing the race, but for some reason Mike and I both decided to actually go for a PR.  My goal time is 1:45 or around an 8:00 min/mile pace, and Mike’s is 1:30 which is about a 6:45 min/mile pace. Yes, he’s fast!

My husband was hit by a car in April of this year, and ever since then, he has had a zest for life that is difficult to keep up with.  Ok, I’m totally exhausted. He has always been athletic, but I’ve never seen someone so determined to recover from an injury.  He was obsessive about his rehab and has carried that over to his training for the Portland Triathlon in October, (hit by a car and 6 months later racing again) Run Like Hell 10K, and the upcoming Holiday Half Marathon on Dec. 16.  Needless to say, his energy is contagious and I decided to actually try to run faster too.

We found a half marathon training program that was labelled intermediate, but if you ask me, it’s harder than that.  I still have this ingrained fear of running more than 2 days in a row due to my history of injuries over the last 15 years give or take.  I now realize that I can run more than two days in a row, or even three or four, without getting injured due to my barefoot running and veggie fuel.  And I’m a BAMF.  So I’ve been running 30+ miles per week for the last several weeks, which is more mileage than I’ve ever logged during back to back weeks consistently.  That may not sound like much to some, but to me, it’s still not even real.

For fueling runs, I typically use Clif Shot Gels, which have never done me wrong.  But, they may not be as right as I’d like them to be. I’m getting picky now!  All gels in general are pretty sugary, and so even the ones without caffeine can leave me feeling a little jittery at times.  I’ve already known some about the benefits of adding super foods to the diet including spirulina and chlorella, two forms of algae, as I already use Catie’s Greens. Anyway, I was snooping around the Twitter, and I kept seeing posts about bits and Energy Bits and #PoweredByBits.  I was curious, so I checked out their website.  I will go into much greater detail on a later post, but the Energy Bits are basically pure, compacted spirulina. Obviously, an all natural, plant protein superfood magical tablet. Sold.  I talked with one of their ambassadors, Ray Jackson @RayRunsLong who is an ultra runner, and was convinced when he told me they could fuel his long runs.  So long story short, I ordered a bag and off I went.  I will officially review Energy Bits later when I’ve logged more miles with them, but these things are great so far.

So that pivotal moment, the one when I realized that I am going to meet my goal time this weekend, was last night when I ran 8 miles after eating 20 or so Energy Bits.  After skiing 3 hours in the morning. Man, I felt good! So I think I will use the Bits this weekend when I fuel up before the race vs. my usual Clif Gel.  It’s a little scary, but I’m going to take the risk based on how I’ve been feeling while using them.  Just a pure, happy energy during running.

In the meantime, a QUESTION FOR YOU!  WHAT DO YOU USE FOR FUEL, and WOULD YOU EVER TRY ENERGY BITS?

Recipe: Mike’s Vegan Lentil Quinoa Bowl

Reason #176 why I’m a vegetarian: The food is heaven.  Opening the mind to new possibilities, new ingredients, and discovering the palate are just some of the side effects of vegetarianism.  This recipe does not have pictures because of course, I devoured everything before I thought to take one.  I’m still new at the blogging thing, so I don’t think about these things right away!  Anyway, this is one of the best tasting things ever.  EVER.  So it’s worth a shot even if you can’t see what it looks like 🙂  I just had to write it down for everyone!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/8 cup of chopped green pepper
  • nutritional yeast (we love the stuff so we usually toss in a bunch)
  • smoke seasoning (we get this at Trader Joe’s, any smoky flavor seasoning would work)
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (we use low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella “cheese”
  • 1/4 cup lentils
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 tbsp Sriracha Chili Sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional sun flower seeds for extra flava

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the lentils and quinoa, simmer until all the water is gone, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toss a little bit of olive oil in a pan, heat it up.  Toss in the onions, cook until translucent, then add the garlic and green pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat.

3. Once the lentils, quinoa, garlic, green pepper and onion are cooked, toss them in a large bowl with the other remaining ingredients. Mix well.

The original plan was to make burgers out of this recipe by forming them into patties and cooking on the stove top on our griddle.  The problem was, it was SO good, that we couldn’t even wait to do that.  Instead, we just put the stuff in bowls and mowed it down.  Another option would be to bake the patties in the oven at 400 degrees until it firms up a bit.  If making patties, I would suggest adding a flax seed egg as a binder.

I’m obviously not a food blogger, so forgive my amateur recipe writing skills, but this was simply too good not to share.  This recipe probably would serve 3-4 people easily, but of course Mike and I ate all of it, just the two of us.  Things never change, this girl likes to eat.  Now, I just eat the good stuff!  This recipe is packed with complete protein thanks to the quinoa and nutritional yeast, tons of fiber via the lentils, and a whole lot of love thanks to Mike’s killer cooking.

 

nutritious lentils
nutritious lentils

http://healingfeast.com/SteamedLentils.cfm

Jingle Bell Run Review and Portland Monsoon Season

This time of year in Portland, OR is infamous for forcing one to question their own sanity for choosing to live in this place.  This place where it rains ALL THE TIME.  When the interstates are flooded and cars are stalling out due to high water in a place like this, you KNOW it’s seriously pouring outside.  Apparently, the Pineapple Express from Hawaii is here, and it’s also wreaking havoc in Northern Cali.  The Pineapple Express might sound like a happy little train with pineapples and tropical joy, but it’s actually the monsoon that’s beating on my windows and convincing my two little dogs that they should stay inside instead of ducking their head into the wind and rain to go out and poop.

meh... too much rain señorita
meh… too much rain señorita
Mom, it's raining out
Mom, it’s raining out

Unfortunately, the ugly Pineapple also wreaked havoc on some big races in California over the weekend.  The California International Marathon in Sacramento looked like a scene from the movie 2012, and the North Face Endurance Challenge was cancelled on Sunday after Saturday’s 50 milers got pummeled by the storm. http://instagram.com/p/Sv_wFIl8oY/

Miraculously, on Sunday morning in Portland, the clouds lifted and the sun shined brightly on all of us Jingle Bell Runners.  It was predicted that we were going to be destroyed by heavy rains, but instead it was quite the opposite.  The big orange ball in the sky was nearly alien as it pushed its head through the clouds and we all stared at it bewildered and blinded as we tried to find our place in the lineup.  Dumb and blinking like crazy, I asked someone, “Where in the heck do the runners go?”

“Left!” he said, looking to the right.  Finally, I think we got lined up in the correct spot, where other runners were waiting for the gun.

The Jingle Bell Run is a nationwide event that benefits the Arthritis Foundation and is a wonderful fundraiser.  At our event, there was even a costume contest before the race which Mike and I of course, took very seriously.  I raided the thrift stores and found the perfect Mrs. Claus and Santa outfits.  Mike and I decided not to race this one, but instead run with friends, which made our costumes even more fun to parade around in.  We were also able to meet up with the Portland Barefoot Runners before the race, and they were hysterical as always.  The chapter president’s husband was wearing women’s red lingerie with jingle bells on his ta tas, making him the unofficial winner of the BEST costume at the entire event.

Also, our wonderful co-worker Becky was there with her husband Shane and their cute little elf, Bella.  Bella won the cutest elf award, that’s for sure.  Becky had on a killer christmas sweater, and Shane was Buddy the Elf.  I LOVE BUDDY THE ELF!  They are great runners, and Bella is surely going to be a runner herself!  She loves to be in the stroller in the fresh air, and apparently sings along as Shane and Becky run.  CUTE!

Mrs. Claus and Santa
Mrs. Claus and Santa

Our friends Ellen and Nate decided to run, and it was Ellen’s first race.  It was very exciting to be able to run with them for Ellen’s first 5K!  Nate and Ellen made it clear that they were not planning on running with Mike and I and that we could go on ahead, but we had other plans.  We decided to force them to run with us, even though we were embarrassing as Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Ellen’s goal was primarily to run the entire race and secondly to come in under 35 minutes, a great goal for her first race.  I had my Garmin watch and knew that if we kept at least an 11 minute/mi pace we would come in under 35 minutes.

Before the gun, I took off my Xero Shoes/huaraches and prepared for my very first totally barefoot race.  The ground was pretty cold, so I tried to dance around in place and ignore all the open mouthed stares.  Surely, they must have just been admiring my green and red painted toe nails.  They were sparkly.

Sparkly toenails
Sparkly toenails

The gun went off and slowly we started to ease forward toward the starting line where we got held for the second wave.  Finally, we crossed the timing mat and off we went through the streets of Portland, the alien sun pressing on our shoulders.  The streets of Portland are ROUGH!  It took me about a half a mile to really get used to the feeling of the chewed up asphalt streets.  We started out just a little slower than our goal pace, so after getting the ok from Ellen, we quickened our steps and quickly got down to 11 minutes.  The race was out and back, so it wasn’t too long before we started seeing the speedsters heading back towards the finish line.  It was really exhilarating to see everyone go by!  I got to see a couple of the barefooters flying by, light and nimble.

Finally, we started the ascent up the bridge to the turnaround spot.  Halfway already!! And Ellen was looking great with Nate by her side.  While the hill on the bridge didn’t bother me, the bridge surface was really rough!  That was the main area where I noticed my feet.  Ouch, my feet were a little tender at that point.  I found some relief however, when I began running on the white lines of the road.  We turned around and headed back down the bridge, breathing a sigh of relief that we were halfway done.  I was secretly hoping that Ellen wasn’t paying attention to the Negative Nancy next to us complaining about how we were only halfway and she’d never make it to the finish.  Our glasses were half full, whereas hers was apparently half empty.

On our way back to the finish line, we had the chance to see all the walkers who were more dressed up in costume than the runners.  They were so entertaining!  To top it all off, Mike was literally yelling “HO HO HO!!!” the entire way back with Mrs. Claus at his side cracking up, asking the childrens what they wanted for Christmas.  I had a lot of pointing and staring at my feet too!  All of the sudden, we rounded the corner onto the riverfront, and we were about a half a mile from the finish line.  As the finish line loomed into view, I saw Ellen put her head down and get ready to dig in for the finish.  She looked determined.

We all charged across the finish line at what turned out to be about 34:55, 5 seconds to spare for her 35 minute goal.  We were all so excited! I had such a good time running that race with Nate and Ellen, because I loved seeing the pure grit and strength from Ellen as she powered through the race.  Afterward, she looked like pure joy as she told the barefooters her time and that she was able to run the WHOLE RACE!  She was so proud, and it was delightful to see her glowing face after she crossed the finish for the first time.  Mike and I could have tried for a new PR, but I truly think we had a much better time seeing the results of Ellen’s hard work after completing the Couch to 5K program.  So while the costumes were fun, the highlight of the race was seeing a new runner spread her wings, so to speak.  So Ellen, welcome to health, welcome to your new-found strength, and welcome to your new status.  You’re a runner!

Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen
Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen

IMG_0629Running this race barefoot was also significant for me and my cause to promote barefoot running.  I was told in my early twenties that I had decreased space in my right hip as seen on XRAY, possibly indicating early onset osteoarthritis.  This, I was told, may lead to the need for a hip replacement at a young age.  Afterall, I had a leg length discrepancy, the right leg was just going to take more stress and that’s it and that’s all.  At the time, of course, I was trying to run in the most supportive shoes on the market, leading to higher impact on the ground with my right heel as my foot searched for the hard surface, leading to more hip pain and inflammation.  My light, low impact barefoot running style has eradicated any trace of hip pain, knee pain, etc.  Welcome to a stronger body and a peaceful mind, as the foot just barely kisses the ground while traveling forward.  Along with healthy, plant based eating, barefoot running may just be the key to maintaining a healthy weight and building lower extremity strength, thereby reducing stress on joints.  Reducing the stress will decrease inflammation and deterioration of the joint space, greatly reducing the number of osteoarthritis cases.  So for me, the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation was my chance to demonstrate to others that they have other options besides the most expensive shoes on the market and custom orthotics.  I know that if I had seen other folks running races barefoot back when I was arthritic, I would have done my homework sooner.  Luckily, we had a great turnout from the Portland Barefoot Runners, so there were several examples of healthy, barefoot runners.

Next race will be Portland Holiday Half Marathon!! Stay tuned for more holiday costume madness.  Hopefully the Portland Monsoon will take a hiatus again for the Holiday Half and our orange, spherical alien friend will come back to join us. For an hour or two anyway.

First Impression Vivobarefoot Achilles for Women

Yesterday I got my new Vivobarefoot Achilles in the mail, and I was so excited to run in them for the first time today.  I went skiing all day at Mt. Hood, so I knew I would only go a short distance, but couldn’t resist taking them out for a test drive.  By the way, Mt. Hood Meadows was off the hook!   Great new snow today, had a great time with Mike and Kyle.

The Achilles are a little odd looking 🙂  But that’s never stopped me before, so I took them out for a short 1 mile run because my legs were a little sore from skiing.  I think their appearance is already growing on me and I really like the strapping system. IMG_0613

I will do a full review on the Achilles after I put some more mileage, but here are my initial thoughts:  My left foot took issue with the plastic betwixt (I love the word betwixt and will use it at any opportunity) the toes, and I might have even developed a little blister on my left middle toe if I’d gone further.  This was an issue for some other reviewers as well.  I do think one could get used to this if devoted to running in them.  Other than that, my left foot was so happy and free in the Achilles!

My right foot had an entirely different issue.  My right foot has questionable anatomy, possibly even a little abnormal.  Yes, I will admit I’m abnormal.  I have an extremely large space between my big toe and my middle toe.  Seriously, I could fit another big toe in that space.  When I was in high school, my friend’s mom was convinced that I’d lost a toe, and she had to resort to slowly counting my toes to be sure that I had all my appendages.  Anyway, the result of this deformity is that my right middle toe was like a misbehaving child in my new Achilles.  My middle toe kept jumping out of its little plastic cage and trying to wander away.  This was really a problem, especially at the beginning of the run, but seemed to get better somehow. Time will tell if this is really a problem for me, my wild ass middle toe.  I wonder if it was because I had my foot crammed in a ski boot the entire day and the toe couldn’t be restrained any longer? Run free middle toe.  Other than this issue, I know that running in them would have been pure bliss.

Bad toe!
Bad toe!
abnormal toes
abnormal toes