Oh no, I forgot to taper! Shushing the pre-marathon monkey mind …

So it turns out that my mileage last week, which should’ve been the start of the tapering process for this Saturday’s Fort4Fitness marathon, wound up being exactly the same as it was for the previous week: 40.6 miles.

That wasn’t my intention, but hey, it happened. Before my Inner Nervous Nelly gets all wound up about not giving my legs enough of a break, I’m going to summon my Interior Devil’s Advocate to put that and a few other blossoming marathon anxieties in perspective. Then I’m going to dump them all in a big box and shove them in the sinkhole of forgetfulness that seems to be taking up a greater chunk of real estate in my mind.

Here’s how that conversation goes…

NN: I didn’t cut back on mileage! We are doomed!

DA: Look, 40 miles isn’t exactly high mileage for someone who’s ostensibly training for a marathon. Your body’s used to that kind of thing, and you cut out the longer runs (nothing over 10 miles this past week). It should be fine, especially if you take it a little easier these last few days.

NN: Ack! Lap three of this race is an entire half marathon all unto itself!

DA: True. But look at it this way: This race is only four laps instead of 204, like the indoor marathon  you ran in February. Besides, that 13.1-mile loop is the most scenic part of the course. One of those laps is bound to feel endless anyway. At least you know in advance which one it’s likely to be.

NN: I never got around to buying a new pair of shoes, and now it’s probably too late – I wouldn’t have time to get used to them!

DA: So get a pair of those sport shoe inserts. They’re pretty comfy and make old shoes feel like new again, or at least that’s been your experience in the past.

NN: I’m getting a blister!

DA: So break out the duct tape. Remember how effective that was during the 90in9 project?

NN: The way I’ve been eating, there’s no way I can waddle 26 miles!

DA: You have been somewhat of a pig lately. But this is no time to go on a diet. Look at it this way: you’ll be carrying plenty of built-in fuel.

NN: We were going to borrow Ben’s GPS watch for the race, but we can’t find the charger!

DA: When was the last time you actually USED a running watch? If you tried to use one now, it would probably drive you crazy anyway.

NN: Do we even have a strategy? Should we run with that fun 10:30 pace group as long as possible, then limp to the finish? Try a run-walk pattern to avoid late-race leg drain? Or just run a slow, steady pace throughout?

DA: At this point, see what feels right on race day. The main thing is, just have fun. This will be the biggest race you’ve ever been in, and the crowd support is supposed to be fantastic. This is not the Olympics. There is nothing at stake. Just try to enjoy yourself for once!

 

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Dreaming up a DIY runner’s port-a-john

Some distance runners keep their minds busy by composing music or designing houses on long runs. During last week’s 20-miler, I was dreaming up a do-it-yourself runner’s port-a-john with components that could be stashed in your trunk and assembled at a discreet location on your favorite route.

If you’re a guy, you can simply step into the nearest corn field to relieve yourself. But it’s harder for women to pull off a potty break without making the rest of a multihour run highly unpleasant.

My idea revolved around using a toddler’s practice potty as a lightweight seat/receptacle that you could perch on a small stool to achieve the desired height. (As the miles pile up, even bending down to grab a drink from a cooler can be painful.) The problem, of course, was location. I suggested the sparsely populated gravel road my sister and I happened to be running down at the time. It only has two houses with extremely long driveways, and we’ve very rarely encountered a vehicle there.

“We could have a big beach towel or something to wrap around ourselves for cover if anybody came down the road,” I suggested.

Traci, who works in a hospital, thought a bedpan would be more practical. And she suggested the first leg of our route would be superior because even though there’s often a car or two, there are more places that could provide natural cover.

“What about the cemetery?” she suggested. “You could go a few feet into the woods and be completely out of view.”

We were pretty much just fantasizing. I mean, we probably already make ourselves way too much at home in this neighborhood we’ve been running in lately. In recent weeks we’ve taken to setting coolers at opposite ends of a road that connects one segment of scenic rolling hills with a  segment of dull but joint-cushioning dirt and gravel. We grab drinks, towels and the occasional snack from one cooler and drop them off at the other.

It’s a great arrangement during hot humid weather, on a 5-mile base route that can easily grow to 10, 15 and even 20 miles with repetition. Though I’m sure the local residents are sick of our presence, they’ve never come right and said so.

Last week’s 20-miler – my last mega-mileage run before the Oct. 1 Fort4Fitness Marathon – went surprisingly well, with the only real discomfort coming from the lack of public restrooms along these rural roads.

Maybe the next time I train for a marathon, I’ll search the attic to see if we still have my kids’ old training potty and toss it in the trunk – just in case.  

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A visit to a pizza farm

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Dad checks his phone messages while waiting for our pizzas to emerge from the screened-in brick oven at Hawkins Family Farm near North Manchester, Ind.

We went to a pizza farm over the weekend. It’s basically an old fashioned family farm that on Friday nights serves up pizzas made mostly from food produced on the farm. You put your order in outside the screened-in brick oven behind the farmhouse and then spread your blanket or set up your chairs on the front lawn, overlooking the chicken and duck runs and the herb garden.

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The sausage and pepperoni are made from hogs raised on the Hawkins Family Farm, though they were so far out back behind the barn we didn’t walk out there to see them. (There was plenty to investigate on the front half of the farm, and it seemed like we’d no sooner set up our dining space than our pizzas were ready.)

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The pizzas were about the size of a dinner plate, so we got one of each so we could try them all. Luckily we got one of the Guest Chef Specials before it sold out.

There was a guest chef for this night, which was the last Pizza Friday of the season, and she served up a gourmet pie of balsamic glazed pork belly with German butterball potatoes, carmelized tomato and shallot sauce and olivade. If Ben had been back from college he probably would’ve enjoyed that one, but my mom and I were the only ones who were interested. It was a tangy combination of flavors, though I wouldn’t ordinarily want to eat something called “pork belly.” Colleen, who’s a vegetarian, liked that the cheese pizza wasn’t just called “cheese” but was named after the fresh oregano it was topped with (and that we’d seen growing in the nearby herb garden.) It actually was kind of light on the cheese but was very tasty with plenty of flavor.

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The crust was kind of plain tasting, with scorch marks from the fire in the brick oven. If we’d been sitting in a restaurant we might have said the crust was boring compared to all the flavor-explosion crust varieties at even the cheapest pizza places. But how can you not appreciate a crust made from locally grown and milled wheat that you just saw extracted from an outdoor brick oven? As my mom said several times during the evening, “it’s not so much the food but the experience.”

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I have no idea where everyone looks so glum in this photo, because everybody kept talking about what a fun experience it was to eat homemade food in a farmyard.

The stately old farmhouse behind us had two front doors side by side, which my dad said was identical to the style of home his grandparents had on their farm. At his grandparents’ place, one of those doors led directly into a bedroom while the other one was more of a public entrance. Another similarity was the outhouse, though this one was  almost certainly more stylish than the one he remembered:

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bigchickeniswatchingJeff Hawkins, who took our order, said they can’t call their farm organic because they don’t follow every regulation to the letter. But they don’t spray their veggies or give their animals antibiotics unless they’re sick. Their chickens and ducks looked extremely robust scrambling around their poultry runs. Colleen had a lot of fun taking pictures of the menacing looking roosters, which led Dad to tell her about the mean old rooster who used to chase him and his brothers when he was growing up.

 

We had a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help feeling bad that we hadn’t known about this place while Rowan was still going to Manchester University just a couple miles away in North Manchester. We were always complaining about the dearth of restaurants for a college town, little realizing that we could’ve taken her to the Hawkins Family Farm for pizza.

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This weekend was the last Pizza Friday of the season. They will start back up in May 2017.

 

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An unexpected half marathon PR

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The group that pulled me along to a half marathon PR: From left, Karen Sorg Louis, 10-year-old Taylor Louis, Joe Beier and Stacey Hartman, who turns out to be my second cousin. 

I was both nervous and excited as we lined up for Saturday’s Parlor City Trot half marathon.

I’m several pounds heavier now than the last time I ran this half,  and my recent training in the heat and humidity had been disastrous. With a break in the weather my sister and I had finally gotten in a 15-miler. Now, just three days later, I had no idea how my legs would respond to a followup 13.1.

On the plus side, I’d blundered into a running group who’d invited me to join them, though I knew it would be tough for me to keep up. I was planning to write about Fort4Fitness marathon pace team Stacey Hartman and Joe Beier, who will be aiming for a 4:40 marathon on Oct. 1. They were running Parlor City to practice their target 10:30 pace, around 90 seconds slower than they would ordinarily run. Back in 2011 I ran this half – my only half – at an average pace of 11:11 en route to a 2:26-something finish. I was fresh off my weight loss and felt like I was running on air. Since then, my fastest pace in two indoor marathons had been 12:35 a mile.

My plan was to stick with their group for as long as I could, conduct a little on-the-run mini interview, then jog the rest of the way.

An amusing side note in all this is that Stacey, whom the marathon PR folks had given me as an interview subject, turns out to be my second cousin. I didn’t really know her, given that she’s quite a bit younger than I am and part of the “Fort Wayne” contingent on my mom’s side, while I grew up in rural Bluffton. But I know her grandma pretty well. In May I wrote a newspaper story about Doris’ Alley Kats dance group. Then 90, she’d been a member for something like 34 years and was in fantastic shape. But she’s run into some health problems lately, and so I got the details on those in the early going of the race.

The pace was actually pretty comfortable, despite the fact that Joe kept announcing we were clocking 10:20 a mile rather than 10:30. My sister Traci and I had been doing quite a bit of speed work lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I was able to talk comfortably at this pace. But I doubted I could keep it up for more than a few miles.

Also in our group was a 2:00 half marathoner who was running with her 10-year-old daughter. Both Karen and Taylor run like gazelles. Though Taylor’s previous longest run was 7 miles, she was happy and confidant (and, I might add, consistently at the front of our little group).

The only thing I could add to our ensemble was familiarity with the course, and so from time to time I played tour guide. As we approached Ouabache State Park, I described how last year a long line of Amish buggies decked out in balloons had entered the park the same time I did. I was running the 10K then, and reminded myself that I did that in just under 10 minutes per mile. Since we were going about 20 seconds per mile slower, maybe I could stay with these guys most of the way through the park. If I had to struggle after that, so be it.

Stacey and Joe did a good job of keeping the conversation going, whether it was recounting tales of favorite races or just the occasional silly remark from Joe. They see that as their most important job next to staying on pace – keeping people’s minds off dwelling on distance or hardship. It was fun hearing about Stacey’s “triple crown” in last year’s Fort4Fitness, when she ran the 4-mile, 10K and half marathon one right after the other. She’d agreed to meet her mom and other family members for a Colts game afterward, and riding for so long after running 23 total miles proved problematic. “It took me half an hour to get out of the car,” she joked.

Coming off the lake we were caught by a runner Joe and Stacey knew who turned out to have an incredible tale of being rescued after a serious injury in the woods. (It’s too long to go into here, but you can read about Phil Amburgey’s saga at runnersworld.com.) Needless to say, that kept me going despite the fact that we were now 8 miles in and I was starting to struggle.

I held on as we wound back through the park, but at the water station by the Gatehouse, with three miles to go, I began to drop back a few yards. Stacey, who’d stopped for a potty break, encouraged me to keep up as she rejoined the group.

“I’ll keep you guys in sight,” I said, “but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hobbled in from this point.”

Could I have kept up with them if I’d really tried, if I hadn’t been so familiar with the course that I felt comfortable heading in alone? Hard to say. Once I fell back, I immediately began to perceive the struggle that I was able to ignore as part of the group. I did keep them in sight, but as we crossed the White Bridge and entered the Greenway for the final two miles, I slowed up more and more, finally joining forces with another woman runner who was struggling as well. I finished nearly 2 minutes behind Stacey and Joe’s group at 2:16:54, but still managed to shave nearly 10 minutes off my 2011 time.

And there was this consolation: At 10:27 per mile, I actually finished ahead of Stacey and Joe’s target pace. They’d come in a bit “hot,” as Joe put it, perhaps because of 10-year-old Taylor’s enthusiasm. She won a plaque for second place in the women’s 19-and-under division, just the first of a zillion more likely headed her way. What a natural! Afterward, she was all smiles and barely looked like she’d broken a sweat.

I was a sweaty mess, but deliriously happy. I’d been pulled along to a time I never dreamed I could do, and had a great time getting to know a bunch of cool people in the process.

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How Rowan lost 40 pounds this summer

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Even from 700 miles away, I can see my oldest daughter shrinking before my very eyes. The evidence is there on the workout pics she posts on Facebook.

She gets a lot of exercise on her new job as a mental health tech at a facility for troubled kids, but there’s more to it than that. She’s really embracing this opportunity to get in shape and has changed her diet as well. The other day she called to say how things she used to enjoy – a Reese cup, or boxed mac n’ cheese, or Mountain Dew – just don’t taste good anymore.

Rowan doesn’t have a scale at her apartment in suburban Charleston, S.C., but she reports that the last time she had a chance to weigh herself she was down nearly 40 pounds. Naturally, everybody in the family is wondering how she’s doing it. Here’s what she had to say:

Mom: So you said you’re eating chicken, turkey, cheese, spinach and fruit? What made you decide to go with those foods? Did you set out to go on a diet where this was what you ate, or did it evolve into this?

Rowan: While I didn’t decide on any explicit diet plan per se, I decided to go with those foods because they’re things I can generally eat for a long period of time without getting tired of them, and I am aiming to cut out highly processed foods. However, when my current supply of cheese runs out I am not buying more — I’m cutting that out.

M: What about eggs?

R: I haven’t been eating many eggs just because I haven’t been to the store recently but in general yes they are part of my diet.

M: So what would your meals/snacks look like on a typical day? And when would you typically eat them? And how do you keep from getting bored with such a limited selection?

R: I generally eat one meal in the morning when I’m home from work (she works third shift), one meal around 2-3p, and two snacks throughout my shift at work. My meals consist of some combination of protein + plant, and as far as my snacks go, it just depends on what I can easily grab and take to work. I have been using a wide variety of seasonings to keep from getting bored — and worst case, I’m pretty content with anything smothered in hot sauce.

M: What about alcohol?

R: I very, very rarely drink these days. I’ve had maybe two drinks since I’ve moved here.

M: Good for you – assuming you’re not just telling your mother what she’d like to hear! But I believe you, especially because you couldn’t be dropping all that weight if you were drinking much. Now, what about exercise – how much of that is working out and how much is all the steps you’re getting on your job?

R: I would say it’s probably 70-30. I have never gotten less than 10,000 steps at work, and often it’s more like 17,000. On top of that, I get exercise from restraining people, pulling them off each other, etc. However, I still try to work in at least an hour of exercise in addition to that.

M: Do you typically exercise after work? How do you get yourself to do that day after day – aren’t you exhausted after your shift?

R: It just depends on how the shift went. If the patients were acting up a lot and I’m extremely tired and stressed I go to bed right away, then work out later when I’m refreshed. If the shift wasn’t too crazy and I still have some energy, I get it out of the way in the morning.

M: What about walking Loki? (Loki is Rowan’s dog, a young husky).

R: Yes, I do get exercise from walking Loki every day. We also make a point of visiting our new downstairs neighbors — they have a little girl who loves petting the “snow dog”.

M: Which came first, the diet or the exercise?

R: The exercise came first, but my diet was initially not very good and I wasn’t fueling my body enough. So I picked natural, unprocessed foods that would give me the nutrients I needed.

M: So what about this new women-only gym you said you joined? Sounds interesting!

R: It’s called Ladies Choice. There’s several in the area but I don’t know if there are any outside of South Carolina. The equipment is a little outdated, but the staff is great and the services they offer are pretty cool: Sauna, dry heat sauna, aromatherapy room, personal training, fitness assessments, and a bunch of different classes. I worked out today (Friday) and enjoyed it for the most part.

M: Some people might look at what you’ve done and say, “Yes but that’s unique to her situation — she has a job where she gets a lot of steps,” or “She’s single and doesn’t have to cook for others, so she can just buy what she wants to eat,” or whatever. So what would you say that people reading about your experience should take away as the lessons they could incorporate, regardless of their situation?

R: People could definitely say that I have a situation that easily facilitates weight loss, but it’s not really that simple. I could go home and sit on the couch all day after work. I could go to McDonald’s instead of taking time to make meals. No matter what your circumstances are, it’s up to you to make healthy choices. If you really want it — I mean, REALLY want it — you will make it work, regardless of what it takes.

M: Well, it’s really awesome what you’re doing and we’re really proud of you. Anything else you want to add?

R: Can you please post a link or mention of my Instagram because I post a lot of progress/motivational/fitness stuff there? My username is rowankiller.

 

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Rowan and Loki on the balcony of her apartment in Summerville, S.C., when we visited her back in July.

 

 

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A formerly fat person’s guide to avoiding long-run weight gain

You might think that training for a marathon means built-in weight loss. But I’ve learned that if anything, I have to watch what I eat MORE closely on a long-run day. My tendency is to overeat, thinking I’ve earned a splurge. It’s ridiculously easy to eat more calories than you burn on a long run, or at least it is for someone who likes to eat as much as I do.

Here’s what I’ve learned this time around that’s helping me dial down that impulse, or at least channel it in a way that helps me avoid the maddening (yet all too familiar) feeling of weighing MORE the day after a 15-miler:

*Hydrating is huge, especially as humid as the weather’s been here lately. As a reformed Diet Coke addict I try to not keep a stash of soda of any kind around the house, and as a former fat person, I haven’t drunk juice in years. But if I don’t have something appealing to drink besides water in the hours after a 10+ mile run, I’m much more likely to go into binge mode. Being able to indulge in a couple of Powerade Zeros or a sparkling water feels like a treat that gives my body what it’s really hungry for: moisture.

fruitpizza*Laying in a stock of fruit helps immensely. When I was following the Weight Watchers Points Plus diet a few years ago, fruit was considered a “free” food that you didn’t have to count. Sometimes I’ll revert back to that method on long-run day and allow myself as much fruit as I want in the hours after a long run, provided I control my intake otherwise. A big bowl of fresh berries with a couple of fat-free Greek yogurts and a couple of bananas are a hugely satisfying postrun feast that helps me “win the day” at the scale.

*If I really must eat something ridiculous, I’ve found that I can get away with consuming half a carton of Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom ice cream – but ONLY if I follow a specific dietary  regimen otherwise. This is a nutritionist’s nightmare, but one menu template that I follow every once in awhile when I’m feeling a junk-food impulse on long run day is to have a pre-run PBJ with banana made with Healthy Goodness bead, one serving of Combos during the run, half a carton of the aforementioned low-cal/low-fat ice cream afterward (Bunny Tracks is my favorite, but even vanilla will do the trick), then two bags of 94 percent fat free microwave popcorn with as much Powerade Zero or sparkling water as I want the rest of the day.

heyerly's*One of my favorite long run routes is an out-and-back with the turnaround point at Heyerly’s, a local small-town bakery. At 13.6 miles (going the long way), it’s just a tad over half-marathon distance. I’ve found that I can get a Gatorade and one doughnut (almost always the fried cinnamon, aka a caramel roll) without consequence – and even weigh slightly less the next day – provided I hold myself to 1,200 calories otherwise. Because I’m so hungry on long run days, this means filling up on veggies and lean proteins. There is no room for any other junk, or I inevitably pay a penalty at the scale the next day.

*When my long run doesn’t take place until the afternoon or evening, the challenge becomes how to stay fueled without overloading. (I once took off on a 15-miler with the remains of half a dozen bakery-style cookies in my gut, and suffered enormously for it. You’d think I’d know better – and I do – but a delayed run can make me anxious and when I’m anxious I’ve got to battle the impulse to eat.) The best way around this problem for me is to limit myself to 25 carbs every three hours. In the hours leading up to the run, I might have something like 1 T of peanut butter with lettuce on 2 slices of Healthy Goodness 35-calorie bread, a fat-free Greek yogurt with 1 T of dry rolled oats or an egg and 1 oz of cheese on 2 slices of Healthy Goodness toast. After the run, if I have two more 3-hour segments left in the day before bedtime, I load up on a big salad with lots of lean protein in the first segment and then allow myself one 25-carb treat in the second segment (for example, one slice of the garlic toast I really wanted earlier). Another option: 1 McDonald’s vanilla cone (24 carbs) and 1-2 plain hamburgers with no bun or carby toppings.

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Donut run disappointment leads to Keg Bike 1 discovery

With no breakfast bar in our hotel, and not wanting to grab a boring pack of peanut butter crackers from the car, I decided to take a dollar bill along on a recent run in Wabash, Ind., thinking I’d make a pit stop at a donut shop I’d seen marked on a local tourism map.

We’d been on an old-fashioned meandering “Sunday drive” of a road trip,  ostensibly scouting out material for a regional travel feature I write periodically. Bob was amused contemplating the oddball stuff you come across in small towns – a giant fiberglass Indian standing guard over a defunct business, a collection of vintage  riding lawn mowers lined up in some old fart’s yard – but I was having trouble staying in the moment, fretting about how, without smartphones, we were driving blind, possibly missing much more interesting things that we didn’t know existed.

Determined to have a more structured exploration on Day Two, I got on my laptop and found a 4-mile mapmyrun route that took me along the Wabash River. Conveniently, I’d pass the local donut shop twice, heading out and coming back. But with only a single dollar bill in my possession, I knew I couldn’t go overboard.

I was curious how this Wabash River Greenway would compare to the one I usually run along the same river 40 miles east in Bluffton. I was also anticipating that donut. But before long I found myself at the river without ever having spotted the donut shop. Hmm. Maybe it wasn’t quite where I thought it was. Oh well, I’d just track it down on the way back. If I had to run a bit out of my way to find it, that would just make for a better run.

This section of rivergreenway was in a more industrial part of town, opposite the city water treatment plant. But the river itself was wider and more interesting than what I was used to. I was curious to see what the bridge on this route looked like. The answer was: a hilly one. Not only did the bridge cross the river at an upward angle, but the road on the other side climbed a much steeper, longer hill than any on our “hill training route” back home. I made myself jog all the way up, remembering to lean forward and take short steps.

I wasn’t entirely sure of the route on the other side of the river, so here’s where I allowed myself to explore. There wasn’t anything terribly exciting, just some neighborhoods that had seen better days. But it’s always nice to give your eyeballs something new to see, even if it’s not necessarily scenic.

Finally I swung around and headed back, glad this time to be hitting the bridge on the downhill. I wondered if I should take the same streets back, presuming I simply overlooked the donut shop, or take a different street, in case I misjudged which road it was on. In the end, I did both. But the donut shop was nowhere to be found. Disappointed,  I headed back to the hotel, where I later learned the donut shop had gone out of business.

In the long run, missing breakfast that morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I’d just been talking with a local dietitian for a “travel diet tips” column about how important it is to plan your eating schedule when you’re on vacation. But Bob and I hadn’t yet discussed our dining plans; he was still asleep when I headed out for my run. If I’d gotten an unscheduled donut, that would’ve used up my “fun” calories for the day.

Instead, we wound up having lunch at a funky cajun place in the neighboring town of Peru. When I asked the bartender if had anything “halfway local” on tap, it turned out that he’d just received a delivery of a new regional brew – via bicycle.

 

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Riders representing Goshen Brewing Company on their 170-mile journey to Indy. 

 

He told us what he knew of the expedition of Keg Bike 1, a customized cargo bike with a built-in bar that stopped by during a 170-mile journey to an Indianapolis craft brew festival. Then when we got back home I tracked down the owner of the Goshen Brewing Company who instigated the trip, as well as the guy at Winona Bike Works who dreamed up that beast of a vehicle. It was quite the adventure tale, which you can read about here in today’s Adventures in Food and Fitness column. They also made a short video which you can check out here.

And I never would’ve heard any of it, or met a bunch of interesting people along the way, if I’d had that donut.

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Marathon-level mental toughness: Not there yet

With eight weeks to go before my first outdoor marathon, the inaugural Fort4Fitness race Oct. 1 in Fort Wayne,  my sister and I headed out for a 10-miler yesterday. It turned out to be good training for a marathon, but not in the way I imagined.

Because we’d be running during the hottest part of the afternoon, we originally planned to run 15 laps at the relatively shady local 4-H park, where we could grab drinks from a cooler in the car as needed. When there turned out to be a huge crowd at the park for some kind of outdoor event, we decided to run along the River Greenway out through the State Park instead. But how would we stay hydrated? I spent the first two miles on my cell phone, trying to find somebody at home who could stash some water someway along the way.

After finally making those arrangements, a new problem developed: I’d forgotten to wear compression shorts and now my legs were chafing, badly. I got back on the phone and asked if Ben and Colleen could grab me a pair and drop those off with the water.

There was nothing to do now but run – with frequent adjustments to pull down my shorts in a fruitless effort to protect my increasingly raw skin.

I was angry with myself for such a stupid oversight that was getting in the way of what felt like might otherwise be a pretty motivating run. We hadn’t done a 10-miler in months, and Traci, at least, was feeling pretty good. I decided that the best possible spin to put on my situation was to work on mental toughness. You never know what unanticipated source of pain or discomfort might develop during a marathon, and when that happens, it doesn’t really matter if the damage is self-inflicted stupidity or just rotten luck. Either way, you’ve got to deal with it.

I continued my ridiculous pattern of adjusting my shorts every few strides and tried not to talk about the increasing pain. Traci picked up the lull in conversation and steered us onto topics that had nothing to do with running. I really wanted to make it to the 7-mile mark, where we’d presumably find the water and compression shorts I’d ordered up. But at mile 6, I suddenly found myself walking without actually making a conscious decision to do so.

“I’m sorry,” I told my sister. “Go on.”

But she didn’t. The heat was getting to her. We decided to walk to the water drop.

Though the kids had dropped off a welcome supply of both water and Powerade, somebody had grabbed a pair of swim bottoms instead of my compression shorts. We jogged a couple more stretches, then settled into a fast walk the rest of the way with brisk, long strides that seemed to reduce my chafing.

I was disappointed I didn’t tough it out the whole way, but in retrospect it was probably a smart call.  I might have felt like I’d won a mental battle if I could’ve endured the pain a few more miles, but tearing up the skin on my thighs would’ve messed up my runs for several days. Luckily, I’ll have many opportunities over the next eight weeks to work on my mental toughness.

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A kid’s point of view: Shattering my PR at Swiss Days 5K

By Colleen, age 13

I have a love/hate relationship with the annual Berne Swiss Days Race. On the one hand, it is part of my heritage as something my grandfather helped start 40-odd years ago. However, this race has always made me feel stressed out and pressured. I had only done the mile-long kids’ fun run for a few years, but even then I dreaded it. Last year, which would have been my first time doing the 5K version, a softball tournament conflicted and prevented my participation.

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For some reason we didn’t get any photos taken at the race. Here I am during my recent school trip to NYC. It was amazing!

I signed up this year after much consideration. Based on past 5K attempts, I expected a subpar time of mid-50 minutes. However, at the start of the summer I began using a running app called Running For Weight Loss. It guides you through a run walk program that progresses gradually. Instead of fretting about my race strategy (like Mom and Aunt Traci were doing before the race, because they hadn’t done much training), I decided to just start another day of the workout and let my time sort itself out.

 

My result? I blew away my previous PR by ten minutes with a time of 45 minutes! I was ecstatic! For the first time in all my running endeavors, I truly felt I had gotten results and gotten faster! Maybe next month I’ll do another 5K and see if I can shatter my record again.

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The paradox that helped make me fat

So it turns out I really hate dietary clutter. For someone who used to eat all day long, who once couldn’t imagine being able to possibly keep track of every little thing that went in my mouth on any given day, this is an astonishing discovery.

But after 6 ½ years of tracking my eating and trying all kinds of dietary experiments, I can definitely say that I feel much more calm after a day when I can easily visualize what I’ve had to eat rather than consult a written document.

Specifically, what this means is that I prefer to eat fewer types of food OR fewer times during any given day. And what seems to work best is if I mix up that pattern. Sometimes I like eating two or three satisfying meals that form an appealing picture in my memory banks, unsullied by a bunch of random bites of even healthy food.

Other days, if I’m feeling like I want to EAT but am less concerned about quality, I’ll let myself eat when and as much as I like, but only from a very limited menu. Potato day, leftover from my experiments with the Martian Potato Diet, is really useful in this regard. I may eat frequently, or eat more quantity, but at the end of the day when I think about what I’ve had to eat, it’s simple: a pile of potatoes.

Tracking is still useful and important, because as I learned during my recent no-snacking vacation experiment, just because I’m eating only at mealtime doesn’t mean I’m not consuming too many calories. But those days when I’d proudly see how much I could eat for the fewest amount of Weight Watchers points, when a daily entry in my food notebook would be almost illegible because of all the scribbles? That no longer feels like a good thing. It makes me feel crowded.

And here’s the really weird thing: I kind of suspect that in the old days, even on a day during which I’d eaten a lot – which was probably like every single day – if at the end of the day I couldn’t easily visualize what I’d consumed, if it was just a hazy, blurry picture of random consumption, then maybe my mind didn’t register it as being a satisfactory experience, and therefore I was left feeling needy and dissatisfied. And in those days, especially, those were feelings I equated with hunger.

This isn’t to say I’ve suddenly gotten better at eating, or that I’ve finally taken off a few pounds I’ve been trying to lose for what feels like months now. It’s more of a psychological discovery, a pattern that should prove useful now that I can perceive it.

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