Sole mates

My house is cluttered right now, and I don’t even care!

That’s what running does to my brain.

The floor around my chair is littered with running shoes and smelly socks (not to mention smelly dogs). I actually am enjoying this fact right at this very moment.

Why? A couple of reasons:

  1. Insanity runs in our household (it runs outside our house, too, har har).
  2. I still have the “runner’s high” from this morning’s wog in the park.

Every Saturday that we go out there with our “girls” (the remnant from last year’s Women Can Run clinic) is a good day, but today in particular was a very good day.

I started off with a buddy, but, even though my knee started feeling funky very early on, I persisted and ended up doing about half of the course solo because I passed up my buddy and was having too good a time to slow down and let her catch up. It’s not that I’m fast – it’s just that this was her first time out on the Penguin course with us (the Penguin 10k/5k is next weekend, so I guess she figured it was time to hit the trail and get familiar with the course. We won’t mention the fact that she’s 75 years old, because that really doesn’t seem to slow her down. This awesome lady does Zumba, boot camp and any other crazy thing you can imagine!).

So, even though my knee hurt in the beginning and I imagined myself walking most of the route, I kept jogging and eventually forgot about my knee problem. And since the race is jut seven days away, I really didn’t want to walk any. So I kept up a good pace and outran my buddy by about 3 minutes. Today, running solo helped me clear my head a bit.

Running is good for the sole.

When I run/walk/jog/wog, especially solo, I can clear out some of the clutter in my brain, so much so that when I get home to a cluttered dining room it doesn’t bother me so much.

So I like running solo.

But I also like running with buddies.

(Does this make me seem schizophrenic? Haven’t we already determined that I have sanity issues?)

Bruce and I are usually giddy after a jog, but today we seemed sillier than normal (I don’t think too many people noticed). And after we got finished at the athletic store, he was even worse!

You see, he got new shoes. And he was like a little boy. (We didn’t realize just how worn his old shoes had gotten until he got a brand-new pair.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as excited about a pair of shoes as he was this morning. I’d like to bottle that smile and take it to work with me every day.

Running is good for the sole, and it’s good for the soul.

Happy feet

Because I ran the 5k route this morning and the other 5k-ers drove away soon after but I still had to wait for the 10k-ers to finish, I debated about how to pass the time. I decided to put my coat back on (shed during the run), sit on the hood of my car and pray while I watched the mighty White River rush by. (Our Saturday morning parking spot is by the dam.)

Nature brings out the praise in me.

A mighty rushing river reminds me of God’s power, His strength and His ability to control the universe. This morning I thought of how He stopped an ocean so His children could pass – and all the other things He did for those ingrates.

He is the God of the ages.

Just as He saw the Israelites through a myriad of problems (most due to their own stubborn rebellion), He sees me through my problems today (most of which are … drum roll, please … due to my own stubborn rebellion).

I’m taking a class called Perspectives, and the readings immediately began reshaping the way I think of God – and the way I pray. (I’ll save the specifics for a later post, but I’m dying to tell you about this class.) But I’m getting off topic …

Jogging has brought Bruce and me closer together in a way I hadn’t imagined it would. We enjoy being silly together most of the time, and running just jacks that up to a whole ’nother level. I’ll spare you the details. (You’re welcome.)

And wogging has brought us lots of new friends. Since I got involved in the Women Can Run/Walk clinic last year – and dragged Bruce along one day when we needed an extra coach – we have had more lady friends than we can shake a baton at!

Now, Bruce is the mother hen to several ladies who caught the running bug and didn’t want to stop when the clinic ended. He is now Coach Bruce, and it has lit him up in wonderful new ways.

We’re getting ready to launch the 2012 clinic (next week!), and both of us will be volunteers this year (my goal last year during the clinic was to become a volunteer this year, and that time is finally here!).

If you are a woman who wants to add a little workout to her schedule but feels intimidated at the thought of “running” with a bunch of super-running-chicks, please put that thought right out of your head. The women’s running clinic is composed of females of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, political and religious philosophies, incomes (the clinic is free), shoe types, aches, pains, diseases, life stages, fitness levels and speeds. No matter who or what you are, fast or slow, you will fit right in with the rest of us.

I’m not a super-running-chick. I’m just a gal who can’t say no … to the idea of being healthier (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and in all others ways that running, fellowship and camaraderie can affect a person) … and to the idea that maybe, just maybe, I can be an inspiration to someone else.

Running and walking are good, clean fun. (Most of the time.) We would love to see you at the Batesville clinic this year. The sessions are from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 8-9 a.m. Saturdays. You can register online or show up between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at White River Medical Center, Women’s Center, Conference Room B. I will be there until about 6:20, when I have to leave for class.

To register online (or to find a Women Run Arkansas clinic near your hometown), click here.

We also have a Facebook page. If you’d like to get in on the fun before the clinic starts, click here.

Come on out and meet your new sole mates.

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Holy cow! I’m in chocolate heaven!

I’ve been OD’ing on chocolate this weekend.

On Food Network, that is. I can’t say that I’ve indulged in much of the actual substance lately (yeah, chocolate is a substance for me – but not a controlled substance, if you know what I mean, so I have to be careful how much I keep around the house).

Because Valentine’s Day is just a couple of days away, my favorite TV network has been spreading it on thick. Many of my favorite Food Net stars have episodes this weekend dedicated to gooey, dark, wonderful, sweet (and even savory!) bits of chocolate perfection. And since my household recently upgraded to DVR service, I can watch these shows in less time because I can skip the commercials!

But who am I kidding? I have spent just as much time watching them without the commercials because I keep rewinding through the good parts. The many, many good and gooey parts …

Am I beginning to sound obsessed? Well … maybe just a little. (Any chocoholic should understand.)

Tonight, during Alton Brown’s special, Good Eats: Turn on the Dark, I nearly got up from my chair (where I ostensibly was working on our taxes), whipped out my stand mixer and started pulling out the butter and cocoa powder. But I didn’t.

I am trying to lose weight, after all.

That’s why I was so excited when my sweet friend – or should I say my sweets-loving friend – Betsy gave me her recipe for vegan brownies, along with all the ingredients to make them. No baking required.

Betsy had offered me one of these brownies a couple of months ago, on the drive back from Hot Springs (where she won some running awards). It was love at first bite – not only because they tasted good but because they were made with such good-for-you ingredients. So I made them last weekend and took one to work with me every day. I emailed Betsy and told her they got me through a very stressful week (big deadline at work, plus my mom was in the hospital).

I know what you’re thinking: “Vegan brownies? I don’t think so.”

That is, if you even know what vegan means. A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is a vegetarian on steroids (OK, not literally; that would defeat the purpose). A vegan not only doesn’t eat animals (or, as Mr. Rogers would say, “anything that had a mother”), he or she doesn’t eat products that come from animals – meaning no eggs or dairy. Some (all?) vegans will not wear clothing or use other products that came from animals.

I’m sure some vegan foods are not as delicious as the typical American would like for them to be, but I believe that many non-vegans (like me) would enjoy these brownies; heck, some of you may even be as enthusiastic as I am about them. Give them a try. You don’t even have to turn on your oven (but you will have to clean your food processor).

Note 1: Betsy brought me certain ingredients that I’m quite sure she bought in Little Rock; I’ve never seen pure stevia extract at a store in Batesville (you can buy the less-intense kind at just about any store here, though), and I’m thinkin’ cacao nibs would be on that list, too. But you can improvise or make a shopping list for your next trip to the big city.

Note 2: I found that these weren’t very thick in my 8×8-inch pan, so I made a second batch and spread them a little thicker. Feel free to experiment; the original thickness may be just fine for you.

Give these a chance, and let me know what you think.

Vegan Brownies

(All ingredients preferably organic, but you can substitute where necessary.)

1 cup walnuts
8 large OR 12 medium-size pitted dates (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 packet pure stevia extract (powder)
pinch salt
1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for sprinkling on top)

In food processor, grind walnuts into a “flour” (until it’s fine but grainy). Add dates and grind until mixture is relatively smooth (it will still be grainy).

Add remaining ingredients and mix in processor until well blended. Spread in ungreased 8×8-inch pan. Press cacao nibs on top.

Store in refrigerator.

If we hadn’t eaten all the brownies I were a really good photographer, I would have a great picture of this wonderful dish. But I am not, and I do not. Use your imagination. Or just make the brownies. Then you’ll know why there are none left. And if you make them and don’t like them, just drop them by the Oakley house; we’ll be happy to solve that problem for ya.

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I feel good!

I’m supposed to be doing my homework (more on my awesome class in a future post), but I had to stop and write a few words about this:

I was actually able to leave work at quitting time today (been working lots of overtime lately), so Bruce and I got to jog together this evening before it got dark. I ran more than walked (unusual for me), and it felt soooo good.

So tonight, doing my homework, I am in a really great state of mind.

Exercise will do that for ya. If you have been sedentary and thinking about taking up some form of physical activity, let me encourage you to go ahead and get started.

It will be good for your body and your spirit.

Amen.

P.S. I forgot to post my weight Friday (Feb. 3). It was 183.5.

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Only half the BS, but twice the fun!

One of my favorite things about being married to Bruce is that we laugh a lot. We laugh at our dogs, at each other, at life – at pretty much everything. We’re pretty silly people, and we love to laugh.

Laughter is healing. Just two weeks ago, we attended the memorial service of a dear friend … and we laughed. The chaplain and the loved one’s son – both of them spoke at the service and told funny stories of the person who had just died. In the car on the way to and from the service (a six-hour round trip), Bruce and I, along with my mother, reminisced about our friend … and laughed. Barney would have liked that.

While Bruce and I are similar in many ways (both analytical, pragmatic, left-brained types, both trained journalists [it’s how we met], both lovers of words and books), we are also very different in some ways (the key difference being our approach to matters of faith; I’m a born-again Christian, and he’s an atheist).

And while we have similar senses of humor, there are some differences: He’s more into things like Monty Python than I am. I’m more into a toned-down version of MP; give me Food Network’s Alton Brown any day (he’s the best comedy writer on TV, in my opinion). Bruce likes AB, too, but I am more likely to watch a Good Eats marathon, while he is more likely to watch all of the Monty Python movies or TV episodes without moving from his spot on the couch – while I do a few loads of laundry, pay some bills, balance the checkbook, bake something, paint my fingernails, write a blog post, check my email and catch a few episodes of Law & Order on the other TV. (But the division of household labor is for another post … which, in the interests of marital unity, probably will never get written.)

Bruce and I are both “writers.” At the art and craft of writing, he is the more elegant. When we were copy editors at the same newspaper, he could write me under the table when it came to headlines – still can. He has a way with words, both written and spoken, that I don’t possess. I plod along, hoping to make someone think, or do, or laugh (and a combination of the three wouldn’t hurt); my writing kind of disappears into its pedestrian nature. (The same could be said of our running styles. He is efficient, light on his feet, can finish a workout in no time flat, and I’m there plodding along, just trying to get enough oxygen to my lungs so that I don’t collapse before the finish. I wear shoes marketed to “heavy runners.”)

Sometimes he and I follow the rules, and sometimes we break them, but usually not the same ones at the same time. I’m more likely to be rigid and legalistic in how things should be done, and more likely to be frustrated with him for not following said rules … until it’s the other way around. Sometimes he chooses to be the good boy, standing in contrast to my rebellious streak.

And a lot of the ways we communicate, with others and with one another, are different. That can be frustrating at times (he’s sanguine on some topics that I think are important and worth some effort, and I try to put a positive spin on things sometimes when he tends to be negative; we both can get defensive and a little testy when we’re tired or stressed, but usually it’s not at the same time – there again, we tend to balance each other out).

With the “positive spin,” you never know which pole one of us will be sitting on. OK, sometimes you know. For instance, when our merry band of runners (I’m talking about the remnants from the women’s running clinic, not the local, official running club we belong to) gets together on a new course for the first time, the ladies always ask Coach Bruce the route. “Are there a lot of hills?” is one of the first questions.

I quickly figured out – and I try to spread this gospel – that when you need information about hills, you don’t ask Bruce. Talk to Suzy.

Bruce has been running for three-quarters of his 52 years. He refers to hills as “bumps.” Suzy will give you the straight talk. She is a newbie like you, overweight and overstressed, physical ailments, job pressures, crunchy knees, whiny attitudes and all. Coach Bruce is not trying to put a “positive spin” on hills; he actually believes they are MERELY BUMPS. We have established in previous posts that he is insane (I believe he was brainwashed in running school), so we know that when you want to talk hills – unless you’re in a gas-powered vehicle – talk to Suzy.

So when we were wogging (walking/jogging) this morning, I by myself because my surgically “repaired” knee was feeling funky, I got to thinking about hills, and the different ways that Bruce and I approach them (not so much physically but philosophically).

And I came up with this handy formula that pretty much fits the way we approach most matters of communication:

(B + S) / 2 = A

In words: Take what Bruce says, add what Suzy says, divide by two, and there’s your Answer, somewhere in the middle.

So if you just remember that simple formula, you’ll get only half the BS but twice the fun. And you’ll be A-OK.

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Running on full

This morning, seven of us (Bruce, me and five of our merry little band of running women) tackled the racecourse of the upcoming Penguin 10k/5k for Special Olympics in Batesville.

This was our second time out this year, all of us together. We had a bigger group last week, but those of us who weren’t out of town or ill today got our behinds out of our warm beds and braved the 36-degree weather (sunny but cold) to gather our courage, our winter apparel and our timing devices to walk/jog/wog the course at 8 a.m. (The photo below is from last week – it was too cold today to get my camera phone out of my pocket!)

Catina, Lisa and Shannon (tiny dots) on the White River bridge, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012.

I got an iPhone for my birthday a few weeks ago, and I downloaded an app called RunKeeper. It tracks my mileage, time, pace and other things that help me know how I’m doing.

Last week it tracked our run pretty accurately. We did a tiny bit more than 10 kilometers, which would be 6.2 miles. I recorded 6.5 on my app.

Today, about halfway through our workout, RunKeeper stopped “keeping” so well. We seemed to be on pace at 3.2 miles, just before we got to the golf course. But once on the course, we suddenly jumped up to 6.5 miles. By the time it was over, it had us at 16.02 miles, but in reality we had gone just 4.5, according to my buddy Phyllis’ device. (We all decided not to do the entire course – some of us had to leave to meet friends, and the rest of us decided we’d trained enough today; after all, it was only our second time at this distance for most of us after being in hibernation mode for several weeks.)

Long story short (I know: too late!), none of this really matters to me.

I am not, and never will be, an elite runner, and no matter what RunKeeper or any other wacky device tells me, I will never run a 4-minute mile.

That’s okay. I like where I am. My life is full. I have enough.

Since Bruce and I moved to Batesville in 2010, we have been happier than we have a right to be. We love our little community, we love our friends – old and new – and we love running together, whether just the two of us or with a group.

I have embarked on a journey to fitness, and it has had hills and valleys that have made me stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

I forgot to blog yesterday about my weight, but it was 3 pounds more than last Friday. Ouch.

That’s partly because I knew I was going to start tracking my food intake, and I was strongly leaning toward rejoining Weight Watchers Online because I really like Weight Watchers and I now had the capability of using the mobile app. (I had tried to find a calorie and activity tracker that I liked, but none compared to WW.)

I sort of had Jan. 14 in mind to rejoin because that’s the date I joined last year. 🙂 So I was eating like there was no tomorrow. But when the scale indicated 3 pounds heavier in just one week (188 pounds), I knew I couldn’t wait another day. I joined Friday, Jan. 13.

I’m still 18 pounds slimmer than I was a year ago, but gaining back 10 of the 28 pounds I had lost is disheartening. It makes me kinda mad at myself. I don’t want to make excuses, so I won’t mention the holidays (you can enjoy the holidays without going overboard, and I did go overboard) or my knee surgery as excuses. Those can be deterrents to weight loss, but I could have found other exercises while my knee recovered; I didn’t.

I’ve learned a lot of things in the years that I’ve been overweight, and some of them I’ve had to learn, relearn and learn again.

And that brings me to my point (you knew I had a point, didn’t you?).

I’ve been overweight for about 20 of my 49 years. In those years, I’ve read lots and lots of articles and a few books about how to lose weight. I’m glad to say I’ve never tried any of the crazy, dangerous ways. My method has always been to eat less and move more. But even the eating-less part can be unhealthy sometimes, when it’s the wrong type of food. I’m gradually learning to get rid of the stuff that isn’t so healthy and substitute good, healthy, fresh, whole foods.

But it has taken baby steps.

I have lost weight and gained it back. I have gone through periods of eating good, whole foods and periods of nasty, fattening junk foods (thank you, God, that You’ve allowed me to survive this despite my efforts to kill myself with fat and sugar).

It is a journey.

I have a couple of goals now. Previously a weight-loss/fitness goal for me was just that: all for me (and maybe my husband). Now I not only want to get healthy for me, I want to do it in a way that I learn good lessons to help others.

I’ve already learned lots of lessons – some good, some bad, although I suppose you could say that any lesson that makes you wiser is a good lesson.

If it takes me another two years to get down to a healthy weight, so what? If in that two years my journey can help someone else be wiser, gain courage and motivation and get healthy, it will be well worth it. We will learn from and gain encouragement from each other.

I don’t think I’ll ever have it all figured out. But I do believe this to be true: God intended us for community. If we can fellowship together, learn from one another and build each other up, that will make me really happy. And healthy.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV).

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3 cheers for Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

I found another great recipe a few days ago, you guys, and finally had time to bake it this evening. It’s delish, and you’d never know it’s “healthy.” (I tried to take a picture, but I don’t do so well with the lighting in my kitchen.)

If you like pasta – especially cheesy pasta, you’ll love this. If you want to get your kids to eat spinach, serve them this. Even though I love spinach in salads, I’m not a fan of the cooked variety, but with this dish, I eats me spinach (to quote a famous sailor man).

As usual, I modified the recipe a bit, but mostly just in portion sizes; this time I kept all the ingredients the same except that I added a bit of dried oregano and did not omit the salt when I cooked the pasta). It calls for an 8-inch-square pan, but I added extra everything and made more servings. (I’m giving you the recipe as I found it, plus the oregano; add to it as you like.) Also, now that I have a convection oven, I’ll be adding a note about baking temperatures to the recipes I post (you’re supposed to cut the temp 25 degrees because convection baking is more efficient).

Because I made extra, I’m going to freeze one of the cooked casseroles so that when life gets busier (as it will in a couple of weeks when my class starts), I can have a hearty dinner reheated in a flash. If you want to make ahead and freeze some of it, I’m sure you could do all but the baking step and put the frozen casserole in the oven straight from the freezer. The chicken is cooked on the stove before the baking takes place.

I also bought some whole-wheat hoagie buns (Kroger didn’t have whole-wheat dinner rolls), sliced them and added garlic butter and Parmesan before baking those garlicly wonderful pieces of heaven. (OK, so that part’s not as healthy, except to my psyche.)

Don’t  forget that I have a Recipes tab at the top of my blog now; this one’s going there. I haven’t posted a lot of recipes there yet, but this one will join them!

Dig in, friends.

Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

1½  cups (12 ounces) multigrain penne pasta, uncooked
9-ounce package fresh spinach leaves
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
½ teaspoon dried oregano
14.5-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 ounces (1/4 of 8-ounce package) Neufchatel cheese
1 cup shredded 2-percent-milk mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. (For a convection oven, heat to 350 degrees.)

Cook pasta as directed on package, omitting salt and adding spinach to the boiling water the last minute.

Cook and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 minutes. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in Neufchatel.

Drain pasta mixture; return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Spoon into 2-quart casserole or 8-inch-square baking dish.

Bake 20 minutes; top with remaining cheeses. Bake 3 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.

Makes 4 servings, 460 calories each.

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185 pounds

I forgot to tell you in the last post that my weight was 186 (that’s 8 pounds gained since my knee surgery and subsequent down-hill slide into indulgence).

Since I wrote that post Wednesday night (I had weighed that morning), I’ve lost a pound. Friday is my official weigh-in day, so I’ll try to remember to post each Friday. My blog-every-day plan kind of hit the skids when school started in September. It was a loooong semester.

Now that I have an iPhone (a birthday present in late November), I’m looking for a good calorie-counting app. I’m trying one out but not sure I like it. If any of you can suggest a good one, please leave a comment.

Today will be a bit of a challenge, because we’ll probably be eating at a restaurant in Memphis and I’ll have less control over the food prep. Bruce, Mom and I will be going to Southaven, Miss., for the memorial service of a dear friend, Barney Sellers, who died Monday. He was featured on the front page of Tuesday’s Batesville Guard, but you have to have a paid subscription to view more than a few paragraphs online. Here’s a link to the article in the Memphis paper, The Commercial Appeal, which is free (you have to register only if you want to post a comment).

I will write more about Barney in a future post. He was one of a kind.

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Prediction Run winner, 2 years running

 

I don’t like to brag, but please indulge me today as I do so. I rarely get the opportunity. 🙂

If you’ve read Suzy & Spice for at least a year, you know that last New Year’s Day I brought home the trophy in the women’s division of the New Year’s Day Resolution/Prediction Less than 4 Mile Fun Run/Walk. It means I predicted, closer than any other female in the event, the time it would take me to finish. (I predicted 50 minutes and finished in 50:17.3.)

What’s funny is that I hadn’t gone there to participate – I was there for Bruce. I saw some friends there, and they talked me into signing up at the last possible minute (I had just gotten back into walking/running a few weeks earlier, after being lazy for 10 years). I merely ball-parked a number to put on the registration sheet. You’ll have to read my 1/1/11 post – “How to win a race without really trying” – for the full irony. (I hope it makes you laugh.)

Leading to this year’s run, many of us had been complaining on Facebook that participating would keep us from going to church – or at least keep us from going to church on time, or going to church smelling good. (After all, people have to sit next to you …)

I debated and debated, and finally – late Saturday, after an incredibly great run along the course with my sweetie – that I would enter, would go to church sweaty and stinky and would just have to warn people not to get too close. I would have to miss the post-run awards ceremony, but since it’s a “fun run” it wouldn’t be a big deal, right? (Saturday evening, I had forgotten the sweatiness factor and foolishly made plans to have lunch with Mom after church, so that forced me to go home and shower; I couldn’t embarrass my mom by sitting at a restaurant sweaty and stinky. And I was only 10 minutes late for church.)

Saturday’s run was only my third time out since my Aug. 11 knee surgery. The surgeon wouldn’t let me walk or run for “three or four months,” so I had gotten lazy (and gained back some of the weight I had lost). I had done one walk in November (my knee hurt a lot), one 30-minute jog on the hotel’s treadmill on Christmas morning in Oklahoma (my knee didn’t hurt at all) and then Saturday’s Prediction Run course with Bruce (my knee hurt some, but so little that I silently said to myself, “I’m back!”).

So I entered, and again I predicted 50 minutes. After all, I had been off most of the past 4 1/2 months, so I knew my time wouldn’t have increased much, if any. (Plus we timed our run Saturday and had some idea how fast I could do it.)

Ringleader and timing master Ken must have been reading our Facebook posts, because once the last two people (a dad and daughter who – yes! – were slower than I was) crossed the finish line, the awards “ceremony” began.

And, once again, somehow I managed to take home the women’s trophy. My 50-minute prediction was off by about 18 seconds, only this year I was 18 seconds faster than my predicted time! Woohoo!

Do you realize than an 18-seconds-faster finish means I took more than half a minute off my time (remember, I was 17 seconds slower than predicted last year)? That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I hadn’t entered a race/run since my May 7 emergency-room visit for plantar fasciitis. (Yeah, you can read about that, too, by clicking here.) Granted, it was a flatter course this year, but I’ll take what I can get.

So please enjoy this moment with me, because I am not likely to have another one for 366 days (remember, 2012 is a leap year).

Some parting thoughts:

  • The prediction run is the only time I ever have or ever will beat my sweet – and really fast – friend Betsy Tucker in a running competition (sorry, Bets), because speed is not the issue; predicting your speed is. Bruce and I have been there to cheer her on as she has taken home awards and broken state records this past year. Today she and her husband cheered for me!
  • Thanks go to Cindy for helping me win this morning. She talked about not being competitive, so I took advantage of that (sorry, Cindy). I asked what she had predicted, and when she said 48 minutes, my competitive spirit kicked in. She just wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the sweetness of being out there (we talked about how richly God had blessed us with the gorgeous scenery along the river and with the good health to be out enjoying it). I, on the other hand, shared that I didn’t start out to run competitively but that it sure was nice to win the trophy last year. So when she said 48 minutes, and I knew my prediction was 50 minutes, my goal was to be sure I was never more than 1 minute 59 seconds behind her. (It takes only one person and one fraction of a second to beat you, and there were no age divisions – just one male and one female winner.) I admit it, friends: I’m competitive.
  • Last year I received a “real” trophy, but, as you can see from the photo, this year’s trophy was a bit goofy and whimsical. I absolutely love it! Ken and Michelle, keep up the good work! (More on them in a future post.)

See you back in this space one year from today. I hope I have a goofy trophy to show you.

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Dear Nike

Dear Nike,

I don’t know how to break this to you gently, so I’m just going to be blunt:

Our 10-year love affair has hit a bump. I’m sorry to tell you this, but my feet have cheated on you. I have cheatin’ feet.

It started innocently enough. I needed new shoes to help with my plantar fasciitis problem and my crunchy knee. I went to the Runner’s World website, clicked on the Running Shoe Finder and took the quiz (apparently women’s magazines aren’t the only ones with compatibility quizzes).

After submitting my answers to several questions (Are you male or female? How high are your arches? What are your motion mechanics?), I got a list of suggestions, including the news that I needed stability, which you had not been providing enough of over the years. This was a bit of a surprise, but not entirely: I had been leaning a bit in the wrong direction (overpronating) for several months, possibly even years. It was inevitable that I would get hurt.

I don’t blame you entirely. It was a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t been in tune with my true needs. I was surprised to discover recently that I have high arches. I had always believed I was “normal” in that area, so I had never tried to deal with my issues. Turns out I needed better, more rigid arch support. I thought all I needed was a soft place to land (extra cushioning) with minimal support, and this is what you had given me all these years. I can’t exactly blame you for not providing what I didn’t know I needed.

Second, some of my needs have changed. When I began looking for you 10 years ago, the store clerk (or, as I prefer to call him, “the matchmaker”) suggested I try your women’s Air Pegasus model, which was for “heavier runners” (or, as I prefer to call us, “full-figured gals”). I felt the love immediately. As you gently caressed my feet, I knew this was a match made in Runners Heaven. And you weren’t bad on the eyes, either; the physical attraction was undeniable. White and black with a red swoosh. Ooh, baby!

But that was then. This is now.

I’m more mature now, and lighter. The extra cushioning is nice, but I need more from a shoe.

And there was my husband to think about. You might assume that he urged me to be faithful, but he did not. I had tried on a few models in a local store – brands I did not even want to look at, much less allow to touch my feet – but I kept longing for you. Nevertheless, he wanted me to keep an open mind, to be sure I had exhausted all local options.

I had already found a better, younger version of you online – one that offered cushioning and support. And even though the Running Shoe Finder helped me narrow my choices to one or two, that was a virtual store. I needed to try on a few real pairs before deciding, especially since this was such a big decision for my physical (and, yes, emotional) well-being, not to mention our checkbook.

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that the one I had ultimately chosen online was … you again. A cushiony, more supportive version of the shoe you used to be. I had even virtual-chatted with a guy at the Road Runner Sports website. (Those guys are like the Dr. Ruth of athletic gear. They help you find true compatibility. True love to last a lifetime – or at least a few months, until the shoes wear out.)

I asked him the difference between the model he suggested, the Nike Zoom Equalon+ 4, and a similar model in another brand that I had been looking at, albeit reluctantly. I didn’t really want to stray from you, the one I had loved for more than a decade, but my husband/coach sometimes has to talk sense into me. I couldn’t try on the Equalon, and I had tried on some other brands that seemed to fit my needs.

But Dr. Ruth-guy had me sold on the Equalon; he said it was equivalent to the other model except that the Equalon had more cushioning. Support and extra cushioning! The total package!

But, alas, there was the third thing: a sale at the local store.

My husband, who’s also my coach (and my real true love), went with me and watched me run each time I tried a new pair. Because the store didn’t have my chosen shoe (you), he watched as the other brands corrected my overpronation. Nevertheless, he said I should think about it some more. He even urged me to ask the clerk to order last year’s model of the one that seemed to be the best fit (the older model was $40 cheaper, and I was under no obligation to buy it). A few days later, the store clerk called. My order had arrived.

I tried on the shoe. It felt good, it offered stability and … it was good looking.

I can’t say it looked better than you in every way – I’ve grown to love your happy little swoosh over the years – but it was narrower. It made my wide boats look like … well, normal girl feet. And it has stabilized my gait. Not that the online version of you wouldn’t have done the same thing. But I couldn’t be sure of that. A relationship that begins online is risky.

So, Nike, I have cheated. I’m sorry I’ve strayed. But I have a feeling our love affair isn’t over – if you’ll take me back someday. Because someday money won’t be such an issue. I will still be frugal, but I’ll be better able to make the choices I want to make when it comes to my feet. I know you will offer me a soft place to land again (and again). And the stability I need.

Thanks for the memories, but don’t think it’s over for good.

I’ll be back.

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