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Stickers, magnets and finisher medals… Hell yeah!

There are those who think we are jerks for displaying 13.1, 26.2 or another distance on our cars. Actually, some may call us worse. I’d like to address that.

I understand from where some of the venom originates. Some people may feel that we are arrogant and displaying how tough or strong we are. Worse still, we are rubbing their faces in it. This is not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

As I have written on this blog and spoken about in podcast interviews, I lost quite a lot of weight. This was not an easy journey and it took a great deal of time and effort. After I lost enough that I wasn’t in agony, I discovered that I didn’t actually hate running and grew to like it. And I started to enter races.

At first, I was prudent and entered 5Ks. I did all that I could fit in and I was doing well at them. I figured that it took me a while to work up to them and that I had found my distance and peaked. That would be about as far as I would ever run. I wasn’t superhuman and would not be doing anything truly crazy like a marathon, or even a half marathon.

But I kept seeing these 13.1 and 26.2 stickers all over the place. I honestly didn’t know what they represented at first. I think I finally figured it out when I saw them in a parking lot to a race — I’m a slow learner sometimes.

Anyway, like many things, after you first notice something and realize what it is, you start to see more instances everywhere you look. In my case, that was the grocery store, on the roads, and at races — I don’t get out much. But when I saw the people getting in and out the cars, I realized that they looked normal. This planted a seed I think.

As I kept racing, I was unable to find a 5K in the middle of the summer, so I entered an 8K figuring 5K-5 miles was an increase, but I could probably do it. I started to run a bit more to cover the needed distance in training. After I successfully finished the race, I felt confident that I could do as much as a 10K.

It didn’t take long before one day when I was out doing my long run, I decided to take it as far as I could. I would see if I could get to 11 or more miles. In the back of my head, I wondered if I could reach the amazing 13.1 distance but only promised myself 11 miles.

I ran the full distance and was elated. I couldn’t believe that I could actually run that far. It was an astounding breakthrough and I signed up for a half marathon with a course that literally crosses in front of my house. This same half marathon I watched the year before — amazed that so many people were able to do it. At the time, I had only been running for a little while and was just working my way up to run a 5K distance without stopping.

The week before this half marathon, I injured my foot by using a shovel with Crocs in the garden and my heel was frozen. It hurt to walk. Let alone run. At the race expo, there was a sports chiropractor who was doing free tapings using Rock Tape. He wrapped my foot and ankle up the best I could and I raced the next day.

It was the most painful thing that I have ever done. After the first 5K mark, I was running in front of my house and tried to fake it for my wife. She took video with the phone. While I thought I was a super stoic actor, my issues were obvious.

By mile 4, I had no idea what I was going to do. I started to play my mind games. I needed to run at least 10K before I started to walk. When I hit 10K, I decided to try to get another mile. Then, just get to 10 mile. Then, I had to just get through another 5K.

When I crossed the finish line, I even found a kick. I wanted this one so bad. But it took everything I had. I limped into the building where they were giving free massages. I talked the student into just working on my foot and it was just enough to allow me to limp across the parking lot to my car.

When I arrived at my car, what was the first thing that I did? I took the wet paper towel that I had collected from the bathroom and cleaned an area on the back of my car. I then affixed the magnet from my race bag. It was that important to me. I still display it proudly.

Onward and upward

After my incredible painful experience at the half, I thought long and hard. Rather than being a reasonable person, I figured that if I could survive that race injured, I could maybe survive a marathon healthy. So, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Shamrock Marathon.

Five months, 2 more half marathons, a 10 miler, a 14 K, a 10K, and some 5Ks later, I ran my first marathon successfully.

What did I do before I left the hotel parking lot to drive home? Yep, I affixed a new magnet to accompany the one I had from the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon.

They are called Finisher medals

Another pet peeve I have is people mocking medals from a race unless they are awards. While for some shorter distance races, I would agree that they may not be necessary, they are invaluable for half and full marathons.

Some people have a habit of calling them participation medals, like those that many children are getting now by just showing up to events.

Sorry, these are not participation medals, they are finisher medals. You do not receive one unless you cross the finish line and complete a race. That is an achievement. Anyone who completes a half marathon or marathon has accomplished a sizable amount of work and training to get there. Having the medal is something that we can look at to remind us of our capability when times get tough. We have a physical object that we can hold and feel. We did it! We will do it again!

Gain running time by prepping food

I was just interviewed for an upcoming episode of Tips of the Scale — a really inspirational podcast about people who have lost copious amounts of weight and seized control of their lives. One of the topics we discussed were food choices and how to fit in food preparation with otherwise busy lifestyles. I shared one of the tricks that my wife came up with. This has helped us immensely for eating food that is both delicious and healthy.

One of the most important things we do is buy in bulk and prep several meals at once. I will use chicken as a example because it makes up the majority of our pre-prepped meals. I buy a flat or two of boneless, skinless thighs from our big box store (BJs in my case).

Notice that I did say thighs. The principles can be used for breasts as well, but I prefer thighs. Chicken breasts dry out very easily on the grill and are harder to work with. Thighs on the other hand are juicier and can withstand grilling much better. Also, the calorie count etc is not that different between them especially with the skin removed. The article The Nutrition of Chicken Breasts Vs. Thighs explains some of this. They often are less expensive as well.

After I bring the chicken thighs home, we divide up the chicken into heavy duty resealable freezer bags. My wife Leslie will have several sauces and marinades prepared. She mixes the chicken with the marinade in the freezer bag and makes sure that it will lie flat and any extra air is released. We then stack the bags in the freezer. Clean-up is very easy because it is all being done at one time and a lot of the mixing can be done in the bags.

When we want to have a meal, we pull the bag out the night before and place it in a plastic container in case it leaks. Trust me on this. I have cleaned the refrigerator a half dozen times now. Freezer bags don’t always hold up perfectly.

After the chicken thaws over the day, I will grill it for dinner and it is delicious.

The magic of the process is in the freezing and unfreezing. When we get the chicken, it is not frozen, so it can absorb the marinade. While it is freezing, it is doing just that. Then when it is thawing again, it is absorbing more. But since there is a freezing and thawing involved, it is not becoming over saturated. This gives a nice balanced texture and flavor.

By cooking the chicken on the grill, the fire is also burning off any excess marinade and sauce and helping keep the calories down while sealing in the flavor. And the chicken only takes 10-15 minutes to cook, so it’s very convenient. Add a salad and we have a nice healthy dinner.

Here are some of the recipes that we use for our meal prep:

White Barbecue Sauce (Southern Living AUGUST 2005)
Yield: Makes 2 cups
Prep time:5 Minutes
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Preparation
Whisk together all ingredients until blended. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.  Prepare all in a large bowl, (reserve some for dipping) add 9-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, toss & place in freezer bag.  Thaw & grill.

Lemon and Rosemary Marinade Chicken

  • 2 large lemons
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano, optional
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme, optional
  • 1/4 cup of olive or salad oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken thighs

Slice lemons, place in ziploc bag, and squeeze out some of the juice. Throw in the remaining ingredients. Mix together well. Add the chicken and mix well. Marinate for at least 4 hours.  Freeze.  Excellent grilled.

Leslie’s take on Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce Recipe

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard (drop to 1/4 & add spicy brown & smoked mustards)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper (optional) – Leslie hates black pepper, but if you are a fan add it
  • (Added 4 drops liquid smoke and some low sodium soy sauce)

Great for prepping chicken thighs, freezing, & grilling.

Coco-Thai Chicken (My Favorite)

1 can Coco Lopez or other sweet coconut drink base

Thai seasoning blend (to taste) recipe below*

Place both items in large bowl, mix thoroughly.  Add boneless, skinless chicken thighs; stir to coat.  Bag, freeze, thaw, & grill.  Awesome!

*Homemade Thai Seasoning Blend Recipe

This spice blend can be used to impart Thai flavor to meat and seafood, or veggies or grains. You can also use it as a dry rub. To make an easy Thai marinade, toss a generous scoop of this seasoning mixture into creamy coconut milk.
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbsp dried cumin
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground dried hot Thai chilies, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp dried lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp dried lime zest
  • 2 tbsp  garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp dried ginger
  • 2 tbsp dried mint
  • 2 tbsp toasted unsweetened coconut, ground

Instructions: Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Other non-chicken recipes

Here are some other recipes that we enjoy using the same prepping ahead principle and the grill.

This first recipe is one that tastes better over time. It is like chili and tastes better over time as the flavors meld.

Green Chile Hominy Casserole with Chorizo

  • 2 poblano chiles or 1 can of green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • 1/2 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from casing and crumbled (frozen & chopped)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 15-ounce cans of hominy, drained
  • 8 ounces low fat sour cream & half Greek yogurt blended in equal parts
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (smoked cheddar, cubed)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Method: Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler or on grill until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chile steam for 20 minutes. Take the chile out of the bag and rub off the skin. Remove stem and seeds and cut dice chiles. Preheat the oven to 350. On medium-low heat, heat the vegetable oil and then cook the crumbled chorizo while occasionally stirring in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet until brown, about 8-10 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove the chorizo and drain any excess grease from the skillet, leaving 1 teaspoon. Add to the skillet the diced onions and jalapeños while occasionally stirring, cook on medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the diced poblano chile, chorizo, hominy, sour cream greek yogurt blend, lime juice and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined, taste and add salt and black pepper and adjust seasonings. Top with remaining the cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Yield: 4-6 servings

Stout Marinated Steak Tips  (Leslie & Eric’s Favorite)

Recipe courtesy Chef Wolf, Lobster Shanty, Salem, MA

Cook Time: 5 min Serves:  10 to 12 servings

Trim silver skin and icky fatty parts from your flap meat and cut them into 3 or 4-ounce chunks, or whatever size you like. Put them into a container with a tight fitting lid; don’t forget to leave extra space for the marinade.  (Put marinade in bowl, add meat, divide into freezer bags; any left over marinade is good with chicken, but best with beef. Make sure your bags don’t leak, this can create a very sticky mess!)

In a large bowl whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, molasses, brown sugar, pepper, pepper flakes, and garlic. Add the stout- careful, it will foam a bit. There is really no need to add salt; the soy and Worcestershire are plenty salty.

Pour the marinade over the tips and gently stir to coat evenly, if you don’t use all the marinade it will keep for 2 weeks, refrigerated in an airtight container. Refrigerate the meat for 8 hours or overnight. (Will keep, refrigerated for 4 or 5 days) and then cook as desired.

Greek Lamb Burgers (6 servings) – (Cooking Light)

  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 pound lean ground lamb
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey breast
  • Optional: add cooked & well squeezed & chopped spinach to mixture.

Form into patties and grill.  Serve open faced on pitas and drizzle with feta/yogurt sauce.

Sauce:  Greek yogurt, feta, squeeze lemon juice, green onion, oregano, garlic salt.

3 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, cut in half

Amount per serving – burgers only  (Cooking Light)

Calories: 275

Calories from fat: 34%

Fat: 10.3g

Saturated fat: 4.4g

Monounsaturated fat: 3.6g

Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g

Protein: 25.9g

Carbohydrate: 19.1g

Fiber: 0.8g

Cholesterol: 62mg

Iron: 1.9mg

Sodium: 576mg

Calcium: 78mg

Shepherdess’s Pie

mashed sweet potatoes over browned ground turkey, onion, carrot, spinach, & seasoning.  May want to tweak this with cinnamon and curry, adobo seasoning, evaporated milk, 2 wedges of laughing cow veggie cheese, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup wine, dash celery seed, salt.  Bake in 13×9 pan, cool, cut into pieces & freeze.  Nuke on high 3.5 min or so.

 

There are many possible options available when prepping food ahead of time. Definitely explore and experiment. You may come up with your own creations to share with me.

Small Chunks and Little Victories

They can only mess with you so much before lunch

As I was out running this morning, I got a call. After I got through the discombobulation of my podcast being interrupted and a disembodied voice on my bluetooth headphones, I finally was able to identify with whom I was speaking. It was a young man who was our neighbor until recently. He just graduated high school this spring and had joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

He was calling to tell me that he was shipping out today and wanted to say goodbye. I am not known for hold in my opinion back and offered him one piece of advice, “Just remember one thing, they can only mess with you so much before lunch.”

When I was in basic training for the army (so long ago I hate to think about it), I remember that I was counting every minute until it finally ended. But it seemed so far off. I was literally counting the days and weeks. I sat there miserably thinking, “I have to deal with this for another 6 weeks, 5 days and 3 hours. Ugh.”

That’s when another soldier introduced me to his philosophy. He said, “I just figure they can only mess with me so much until lunch. It’s a lot easier that way.”

That really hit home. It changed everything for me both there and in life. I realized that he was right. In basic training, they can only deal out some much stress in a couple hours and I could survive that. I changed my focus and thought only about the next thing, breakfast, lunch, dinner (meals were the highlight of basic training, we were always hungry) and lights out. Usually when I was under the most stress, I was within an hour or two of one of these events.

After I changed my focus, time flew by. Before I knew it, it was graduation week and we were looking back at everything with nostalgia (but not willing to do it again). Which brings me to this morning.

After I finished my run, my neighbor was waiting on our block and ran up beside me. He had his spiffy new haircut and was meeting his recruiter in front of his old house. Since often the new person in a young man’s life is held in higher esteem as far as wisdom, I took the opportunity to confirm my advice with the young staff sergeant (is everyone young?). He agreed what I was saying and added, “yes, take things in little chunks and have small victories.”

I was taken aback. I realized immediately that I apply this principle to much of my life but didn’t really tie it back to the lunch concept.

There are times that things are tough. They can be nearly unbearable. As runners and athletes, we see this manifest itself directly in both the physical and mental — we workout, it hurts and we are tired.

How do we get through it? We may be less than halfway on a 10 mile run. If we are already exhausted, how do we get to the end? We break it into smaller chunks.

Depending on how knackered we are, we can determine the chunk. If we are 4 miles into a 10 miler, we have about a 10K left. We can focus on the next 5K. When we finish that, we notch up a victory and go for another 5K — another victory.

When we are really hurting, we can reach deep within ourselves and say, “need to at least get halfway done. Then I can stop if I absolutely have to.” Or, “I will run to the next corner, or the next telephone pole.” Any smaller objective will work. Then when we get there, if we still have energy (we most likely will), we pick the next target and repeat this process all the way until we have finished.

This is a major victory, and I for one never feel worse after completing a run than when I started (other than virtuous fatigue).

By breaking things up and focusing on a nearer, more achievable goal, you will very likely be able to achieve more than you ever expected. Just keep striving. There may be some science tied into this concept. Consider the Tim Noakes Central Governor theory that the brain will regulate exercise to keep the body safe. This was discussed in his Endurance Planet podcast appearance – EP’s Most Popular Show of 2013: Dr. Timothy Noakes on Nutrition, Central Governor Theory and More.

When you choose a nearer target, you give the brain a reason to release the energy necessary to complete the task on hand, much the same way you may get a burst of energy once a finish line is within sight. Of course, you will be doing it again, but that’s between you and your brain — my brain and I are often at odds.

We all have the ability to overcome great obstacles and succeed. Just consider the General Creighton Abrams‘ quotation; When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.

Failure is Your Friend

Not many people know it, but George Washington lost more battles than he won in his military career. Yet, the United States became an independent nation and later a superpower. This is because he was able to embrace and then learn from failure. His failure inspired creativity.

Failure is your friend. It doesn’t feel like it at the time. It can be excruciating and humiliating, but after a while, the sharp edges dull. Then you can begin to feel more philosophical and learn from it. In actuality, you can learn more from failure than success – something that is studied in the business world as shown in the article You Can Learn More From Failure Than Success.

The concept absolutely should not be limited to the business world and applies very much to running and fitness. When doing calisthenics in the US Army, we were encouraged to work to muscle failure. This forces the muscles to rebuild even stronger.

Now, I would not recommend running to muscle failure — that is likely to be a recipe for disaster — or at least injury. However, I do propose setting goals that are currently too high or difficult to reach. Then start reaching. Over time you will get closer. If a goal is easily reachable, it’s a bad goal.

Failure defines your limitations. Allows you to adapt and overcome. If you don’t overreach, you will never know what is actually within your grasp.

Think about it. If you set an easy goal and achieve it with little effort, you may feel some mild satisfaction. But what have you really learned? You already knew what you needed to do to succeed and likely didn’t have to work very hard. This means that you had no real obstacles to overcome or work around. We often do this so we don’t feel embarrassed. But why be embarrassed?

I like to set goals that are unreasonable. I usually don’t meet them, but I get close. Much closer than I or anyone would expect. And I usually am farther ahead than the more prudent goal. A good example is my first marathon. I decided that I would try to Boston Qualify my first time out. No surprise, I didn’t. In fact, I was 29 seconds off the required pace. But I was delighted.

Why? I knew that it was unlikely that I would be able to achieve the goal, but I got closer than I thought I would. If I were more “realistic,” I would have shot for a 3:45:00 marathon instead of a BW time of 3:15:00. I wound up at 3:27:35. There is no way I would have ran faster than a 3:30:00 if I wasn’t trying for something faster. And I still have my initial goal. I can just keep working towards it.

Whenever you try to accomplish the impossible, you have to keep working at it and it might just become possible. Sometimes looking at things a different way can point the way to success. Consider the drug Viagra. It was developed to treat Angina and Hypertension. It was not very good for it, but it had a certain side effect. I’m quite sure Pfizer is very happy with the initial failure of the drug.

Never be afraid to strive. Never be afraid to fail. Failure points out what you need to improve. These lessens test your mettle and forge you into a stronger athlete for the next round.

UPDATE

I may have been inadvertently influenced on my title. There is an episode of Freakonomics Radio with the same name Failure is your Friend. Please give it a listen. Always a great show.

Re-Tweeting Blog Posts… Sensible or Spam?

I am relatively new to Twitter and writing a blog. I have had a Twitter account for some years, but seldom used it. I am just learning the nuance of how things are done on Twitter.

A great example is #FollowFriday or #FF. I learned of this from Brian Burk (@cledawgs) in his article – Can You Really Make Friends Via Social Media? And he was kind enough to include me in a #FF tweet.

Another thing I noticed was that some tweets seemed to keep repeating themselves. They were referencing posts that I had seen earlier in the day. I was only following a handful of people, so this was very apparent. I thought it was odd behavior, but just ignored it.

Then as I begin to follow more people, I noticed that the stream started to get pretty thick and I could barely keep up. I began to feel somewhat thankful for the repeated tweets. I might have missed the posts otherwise. This got me thinking about the use of scheduling and repeating posts.

Some pieces that I have written took me a bit of time and effort and I would like to get as much exposure as I can with them. Changing Gait and Heartrate Training & Head Spinning are two examples. Plus, as I gain new followers on Twitter, I would like if they had an opportunity to view this content as well. This would make retweeting the content an extremely sensible choice.

However, I don’t want to spam people. I am extremely sensitive to burying people with undesired content. Since I don’t have a lot built up yet, I risk becoming a serious offender.

This is my conundrum – at what frequency should content be reposted? When is it sensible, and when is it spam?

I would like to really explore this issue and write a follow-up with feedback I receive from readers. Please comment, tweet, and share your views. What methods do you use and appreciate? What tools do you choose? I am just learning about Twitter and its etiquette and I’m sure it can help many.

The Five Stages of Running

First – I hated it. 

It hurt. Every mile was drudgery. I had to bargain with myself every step of the way. “If I get to the next telephone pole, I can quit then.” After arriving, I would have to find the next target. It was a matter of survival versus achievement.

Second – I tolerated it. 

Okay, it sucks. I just have to get through the miles and it ends. My calories are being burned I guess. There are worse things in life.

Third – I accepted it.

Well, this appears to be a pattern. It’s just a routine like my alarm in the morning. I at least feel okay when I am done. I never feel worse after running than I did before.

Fourth – I loved it.

I really am getting some miles in. This is actually kind of cool. I can’t believe that I am able to accomplish what I have. It is so neat to see the world from this perspective. I have seen these sites while driving, but now I get to see them up close and personal. I really feel a part of things.

Fifth – I need it and it consumes me.

When is there a race? There has got to be something this weekend. What do you mean I have to work late?! That will interrupt my run. Is my latest Runner’s World out? Well, I can check my Twitter feed. Did you see that Brooks and Saucony have new shoes out? How many rest days do I really need? Maybe I can be a triathlete… If I am cross training, it won’t have to count as a rest day, right?!

Walk… Jog… Ugh!

Well, it appears that my heart rate really does not want to go down. I keep trying to change my pace and slow down to get it down, no dice. I have finally decided that I will use the whole Maffetone principle. If my hr gets above a certain point, I start walking. Once it drops far enough, I start jogging (to call it running would be an exaggeration).

Today’s slogfest – http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/513985686

I am currently at 45-75 seconds at a jogging pace and 65-120 seconds for walking. Please jump in. Anyone suffering an injury and recovery? Misery loves company. I would love to hear from you.

Detrained

After a week break and severe cutbacks in training, I went out for a jog. It sucked. Super-hot and I couldn’t keep my heart-rate down. It makes for hard decisions. I am trying to run with a lower heart-rate, but at the same time I have to maintain form.

So do I stop and walk during the workout? Or do I just run with an escalated heart-rate? Decisions…

Weak

Strength training sucks. I have a co-worker who gets annoyed when he has to run. He says “Running still stinks. We lift heavy stuff, put back down.”

I feel the same way, but about strength training. It is maddening. I know that I need it, but it really does me in.

I mean I am really pathetic. I can do 6-10 simple squats, and I hurt for 2-3 days. Even though I don’t feel them at the time. Planks have me quivering in seconds. Really, I fell like I need to build my strength, but yet when I start my running is degraded. Completely frustrating.

I got some great advice from @ConsciousRunner that I hope to put into effect when I start running tomorrow.