Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the run: Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon 2012

Sunday was my first race of the season and I didn't start out with some piddly little 10k this year to ease into things.  I hadn't been training so why would I?  I'd had been getting more and more nervous as race day approached.  All signs were pointing toward a crappy race day experience.  Aside from my lack of training, a lingering respiratory thing that had been plaguing me for days still hadn't gone away.  Then on Thursday, my grandmother passed away, which was obviously heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting.  

I was going on limited sleep and was pretty drained, mentally and physically, when the alarm went off at 4 a.m. Sunday morning.  Some people thought I was crazy to run the race with everything going on but I knew I needed to do it for my mental well-being so I got myself up and dressed and off we went to Grosse Ile.  We were there way too early but it gave us plenty of time to park at the high school (which would make for a quick exit after the race), pick up my bib and shirt, and do some people-watching.  LOTS of people-watching!  (Brian's ready to start his own blog just about the spectator sport of being at a race!)  It helped take my mind off my nervousness a little bit.  And boy, was I nervous!

When it was just about time, Brian walked over with me to start line.  It was almost 50 degrees but it dark and foggy and a light drizzle was just starting to fall so I was chilled.  Great, I thought.  13.1 miles of this?  Amazingly enough, however, by the time I was about a quarter mile in, the rain stopped and that was the end of it.  Although the sun didn't come out until later in the day, the fog lifted and I quickly warmed up.  I was glad I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt and would have felt over-dressed with anything more.  (I couldn't believe all the people in hats, gloves, running tights, fleeces...  I'd have died!)

Before the race...
From the get-go, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd be running 9-minute miles.  That's what all my recent runs have been and those have been 4 miles on average.  Certainly this couldn't be much better.  I wasn't happy about it but I figured it was how it was going to be.  I knew I started out slow.  I didn't check my pace but I could just tell.  I felt tired and hungry, my mind wasn't in the game, and it seemed like everyone was passing me.  

Somewhere around mile 4, however, something changed.  I can't remember what song came on (The Ting Tings?) but I got a sudden boost.  I slowly started to gain on, and then pass, one runner after the next.  With each mile I expected to slow down or hit my wall but I kept feeling strong.  I still didn't know what my pace was until I got to mile 8.  Around the 8-mile marker was a clock that showed it was just past 60 minutes into the race.  I had 5 miles left.  If I ran 8-minute miles for the rest of the race I could finish in 1:40.  (I had told Brian I'd be happy to finish under 2:00.)  Suddenly I felt a determination that I haven't felt in a long time during a race because I rocked it out for the last 5 miles and finished the race in 1:40:14 - a new personal best!  (Last year's race was my PR at 1:41:04.)

The finisher's medals were pretty sweet this year.

We didn't stick around after the race - just long enough for me to grab some water, a banana, and a Panera bagel.  This year they did have blueberry.  yay!  

Once again, I was majorly impressed with the organization of this race.  The course is well-marked with signs and cones at every turn.  There were a lot of volunteers and supporters along the course cheering the runners along.  Plus it was easy on and off the island.  Well done, Rock CF Foundation and Grosse Ile!

If you want to see my official race photos, check out PBC Race Photos.  My bib # is 308. 



Vanilla Almond Luna Bar, banana

Rolling In The Deep / Adele
How You Like Me Now? / The Heavy
Lisztomania / Phoenix
Tightrope (ft. Big Boi) / Janelle Monae
LDN / Lily Allen
Howlin' For You / The Black Keys
Holiday / Vampire Weekend
Don't Shut 'Em Down / Flogging Molly
Keep Your Head / The Ting Tings
Mine Smell Like Honey / R.E.M.
Song Away / Hockey
Magic / B.o.B. (feat. Rivers Cuomo)
Under Cover Of Darkness / The Strokes
Shut Up And Drive / Rihanna
1983 / Neon Trees
Sweet Child O' Mine / Guns N’ Roses
Kids / MGMT
Bad Romance / Lady Gaga
Kick Drum Heart / The Avett Brothers
Second Chance / Peter Bjorn and John
Discipline / Nine Inch Nails
American Slang / The Gaslight Anthem
Fell in Love With a Girl / The White Stripes
Selfish Man / Flogging Molly
Bodysnatchers / Radiohead
Run This Town (Ft.Rihanna and Kanye West) / Jay-Z
Chop And Change / The Black Keys
Fighter / Christina Aguilera

*Due to a glitch in the last version of iTunes (that we've since updated), I wasn't able to get a new playlist onto my Nano so I used the same one from last year's race.  But thankfully it did the trick.  To quote my friend Brian - "Old playlist for the win!"

Next race: Martian Invasion of Races, Half Marathon - April 14th


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1st Day of . . . Spring?

Happy 1st Day of Spring!  At least that's what the calendar says.  It is only March 20th, right?  It was a little hard to believe it when I parked my car at the trail for my run today and the temperature read 82 degrees.  In Michigan.  After our strange winter (or lack there-of), I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise.  But still.  82 degrees in March?!?

Anyway, today was my "Last Chance Run" before the big Rock CF Rivers 1/2 Marathon on Sunday.  Coincidentally, it was also my first long run of the season.  And by long run I mean it was half the distance of the upcoming race.  I already have blisters.

I'll be able to run the 13.1 miles but it's not gonna be pretty.  sigh.  I'll live but I may never learn.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

bd's Mongolian Grill

bd's Mongolian Grill used to be a favorite place for Brian and me to go to eat before I became vegetarian.  Even after, it wasn't so bad because they have tofu and they would cook my food on a separate part of the grill, away from the meat.  I wasn't too concerned about cross-contamination so that was fine with me.  Since becoming vegan, however, simply moving over on the grill wasn't going to cut it for me so I've steered clear of bd's for almost 4 years.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Jen and I got together for her long-overdue birthday dinner.  I said she could pick the place and she wanted to go to bd's, saying she thought they had a separate grill for people with allergies, so it would be perfect for me.  We went to the one in Canton.  I don't know if they all have this but sure enough, there it was . . . The Allergy Zone!

It's a totally separate grill from the main grill.  I made up my bowl of veggies and tofu, added the sauce (after thoroughly checking the ingredients which are listed on the wall), and took it over to the Allergy Zone.  A very friendly Mongolian griller asked me what I am allergic to and when I told him I'm vegan and started to explain, he knew exactly what it meant and got right to work cleaning off his grilling utensils.  I was highly impressed!

The food was pretty good but in the end, it was a stir-fry.  To me a stir-fry is always something that I can make at home so to be really impressive in a restaurant, it has to be pretty darn amazing.  Some of the veggies were clearly either canned or frozen, so that's unfortunate.  For what you pay it should all be fresh!  I had the mandarin orange sauce, which I liked, but next time would spice it up a little bit with some red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic.

Veggies w/tofu and mandarin orange sauce

What's great about discovering the Allergy Zone at bd's is that now there's another place I can go to eat with non-vegans.  (Brian was especially excited to hear the news!)  I don't know if all bd's have it but I assume they would.  I hear the Dearborn one has it!  

I might not recommend bd's Mongolian Grill to people with serious allergies because of all the opportunities for cross-contamination in the salad bar approach to creating your bowl, but for vegans looking for another dining option in this crazy meat-filled world, this one isn't half bad.

Have you been to bd's Mongolian Grill?  What do you think?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Road Running Again

As of late, my road running has been so sporadic that I've contemplated changing my blog name to "Vegan Cross Trainer".  I've been exercising regularly but the cardio portion of my workouts has been more boot camp, cycle, elliptical, and Stair Master than running. 

Now, if you me personally or you've read this post, you're probably wondering what the big deal is.  It isn't like me to train anyway or freak out about a race.  It's just that this year has been stressful in so many ways and my body has been through the ringer, mentally and physically.  So although I've been working out, I've sort of been on auto-pilot and haven't been giving it my all.  (Sometimes I barely break a sweat at the gym - it's been that bad.)  As a result, I've gained weight, which has left me feeling sluggish, tired, depressed, and quite honestly, NOT in the mood to run. 

Considering that, the prospect of two upcoming 1/2 marathons in the next five weeks is a little daunting.  I realized the other day that I'm not in as good as pre-race shape as I usually am.  So this week I ran two times - 4 miles and 5.75 miles.  Neither run was speedy but both of them felt great.  And although it was only two runs I've felt more energetic and happier than I have in months.  Even my gym workouts have improved!  It's amazing how much of a boost a good workout can be for my mood.  If I can keep up this pace of a couple runs a week and more intense cross-training, I'll definitely be in much better shape for my spring races.  Will I set any new PRs?  Nope.  Am I okay with that?  Yep.  I'm just coming out of hibernation.  There's a whole season ahead of me and I'll just be getting warmed up!

Finally trying out my new kicks on the road - aren't these babies sweet?

Upcoming Races:

What races are you running this spring?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Curried Lentils and Rice

The other night I made one of my favorite veg recipes of all time, one that I've been making for over 10 years - Curried Lentils and Rice.

Since going vegan and becoming all-around more health-conscious, however, I began to make this dish less and less often.  It's not that it's an unhealthy dish by any means but it uses white rice and white rice isn't exactly the nutritional powerhouse that brown rice is.  (I joked to Brian that if we were going to eat it with white rice we might as well be eating "Curried Lentils and Candy".  Slight exaggeration?  Perhaps.)  I had never made the switch because I wasn't sure about the amount of liquid to use to allow for a longer cooking time.  Finally I decided to just experiment with it and see what happened.  

Amazingly, the texture turned out perfectly and the brown rice dish made the even better than the original!  I think the longer cooking time really allowed the flavors to meld together better.  I used brown basmati but any type of brown rice would work well.   

Served with a side of Smokey Sauteed Collards (sauteed in water, not oil, for slightly healthier version)

Curried Lentils and Rice
(printable recipe)


1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 cup green lentils
1 cup brown rice (any variety)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water

Fresh lemon juice


1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add green pepper, onion, and garlic; cook until softened but not brown.  

2. Add salt, curry powder, lentils, and rice.  Stir and cook 1 minute.

3. Add vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes, or until rice and lentils are tender and liquid has been absorbed.  (No need to stir; do not lift the lid until you are nearing the end - just let it cook!)

4. Season to taste with lemon juice.

Makes 4-5 servings.

What healthy recipe have you made even healthier?