Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Marathon

I wrote this post ages ago, but couldn't get up the courage and strength to post it. But now that some time has passed, I am ready and I think you should know what really fueled my marathon.

An strong sense of self empowerment develops when training for a marathon. I am strong enough to persevere; I have run a thousand miles this year; I am running a marathon. I did this. I am strong enough to do this. I am awesome.

It’s a very selfish, decidedly narcissistic journey.

Indeed, through much of my marathon training I have thought little but of myself. Too many people in my life, have heard some variation of an excuse on why I am tired, particular about plans or just plain old missing in action.

Armed with that singular sense of determination and confidence in my training, I packed my bags and headed off to Philadelphia to run my very first marathon.

But the thing that you can never know about running a marathon until you actually do, is what running a marathon is like. It’s a curious thing. But aren’t all the great moments like that? Weddings, child birth, tests, death, LIFE. You just don’t know until you do and then it’s really too late, because you are already two hours and thirteen miles away from home and the only way to dig yourself out of the mess is to just keep on going.

The marathon was hard. There is no other way to describe it. At mile nine, I thought to myself, this is it, I am running the marathon, but inside I didn’t feel like I thought I would. I didn’t feel excited nor did I hurt in any sort of serious way. I just felt like I was running and running and running and running….with no end in sight.

Around that ninth mile, I started asking myself what I was doing. Self-doubt settled in, and I thought about the impending holidays when I would have to go home and explain why I ran a marathon so slowly. The 5:30 pace group passed me and I tried to keep up with them for a minute but my legs, no my heart, was not in it, and so I fell behind.

Still I kept on going because after all via Facebook and this blog, I had told the whole world that I was running a marathon and goshdarnit, if I was going to quit, I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit the race when I wasn’t even half way done. Who does that? I had just run a half marathon in October, surely single digit miles weren’t going to break me now.

So I just kept on going, because I could. My feet were still moving. But secretly, I was hoping that I would faint or throw-up or strain a hamstring. Yes, I was wishing for my own demise. While I felt a little tired, what I really felt was disheartened about how much more was left to go and I was embarrassed about how slow I was running.

I wanted to be able to stamp on this race and its dismal showing an awesome excuse. I wanted to quit and then come home and regal everyone with stories of how I tried to run a marathon but then ended up convulsing and heaving at mile twelve and was forced to quit by the race regulators. Or I wanted a severe limp for a few weeks, that would grant me bragging rights and office chatter about my valiant attempts to run a marathon, and the vain excuse to tell the whole world, “oh yeah, I tried to run a marathon and look how hard I tried. I injured myself in the process.”

Yet, my dreams of self sabotage were not to be. After all, I did train for this thing. And for my body to give out before the half way mark, nothing short of a Christmas miracle would have had to occur. I don’t want to brag, but at this point, running thirteen miles isn’t that hard anymore.

There I go again. I’m letting my ego take over.

At mile thirteen there is a point in the race where the half marathoners and full marathoners split off. I thought seriously about splitting off to the left and taking the short way home. But I knew that my friends ,who were in Philadelphia for the sole reason to cheer me on, were waiting for me just beyond mile thirteen and when I reached the literal and figurative fork in the road I took the long road because I couldn’t make their trip to Philadelphia for nothing. If nothing else, I was going to cross that finish line because they had crossed state lines, rearranged work schedules and made the best posters ever…FOR ME.

And so I kept on running.

And running.

And walking and running and walking and running and walking and running.

Because in the craziest twist of fate ever, finishing a marathon had nothing to do with how much I had trained or how determined I was.

When I passed my friends at the halfway mark, I still struggled. I almost broke down and had a good cry. In my head, I rehearsed a speech I would give to my family at Thanksgiving about how despite my snail pace, I had still managed to achieve my goal and that there was pride in that.

As the miles crept towards twenty and the fast runners passed me (after the 13th mile mark in the Philadelphia marathon it’s an out and back course where you run 6.5 miles out and run around a orange cone and come back the way you came), I questioned my will to run the marathon. It was especially tempting to just fake a stretch and then cut across to the other side and pretend that I had run the whole distance.

So why didn’t I quit? Or why didn’t I cheat? Because, I wasn’t running the marathon alone. Far from it. My friends had travelled to another city to visit me, my family stalked the website, and for every person who has ever read a post of my blog EVER, you were all with me, powering my legs, lungs, and will.

Yes, I am admitting that if I had run this marathon and told no one, I would have quit.

But I finished.

And I finished because you were there, even if you weren’t. You were, in my head and in my heart.

Maybe you have already learned this lesson, but I hadn’t. I always thought that I was smart or strong or creative enough to work my way out of any situation. But what I didn’t know was that, when times get rough, when you want to quit, when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, that we pull ourselves up from the end of earth because of someone else. I didn’t finish that marathon because I had trained so hard or because I wanted to, but because of my readers, cheerleaders, and family.

So thank you for reading my blog and most importantly, thank you for believing in me. I know you might not think that your good wishes matter but even if you didn’t say it, even if you didn’t think it, even if you didn’t come to Philly to cheer me on, I felt the weight of announcing to the whole world (ok, my whole world) that I was running a marathon, and so I ran a marathon.

And that’s all that matters. Thank you for thinking, reading, watching, hoping, wishing, and wanting for me.

Because I only ran for you.

Thanks to Lisa Torrieri for the great pictures!

Training Plan the Week of March 21st

Last week something momentous happened: I ran outside in shorts. Yes, it was a bit chilly, but wow, did it feel good. I'm looking forward to more runs in shorts.

Here's the training workout for this week:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3/4 mile at 5K pace with each 1/4 mile in between each, then 4 1/4 miles at 5K pace with 1/10th of a mile between easy, then repeat one 3/4 mile at 5K pace, strength workout
Wednesday: 3 miles at race pace
Thursday: 7 miles, easy, strength workout
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10 miles
Sunday: 4 miles, rest, spinning, etc.

Training Tip: I often train at my 5K and 10K pace intervals. How do I know what these are? If you haven't raced at these distances before or your last race at these distances was too long ago or your fitness level was dramatically different, then you are going to need to "guess" your pace. I use the Running World pace converter. I plug in my half-marathon goal time to get a projected pace I should run for a 5K or 10K. Of course, nothing is ever perfect and I might not actually run a 10K at that pace, but it's a goal to shoot for anyway.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Music on Repeat the Week of March 14th

I couldn't run without my music. It's that simple. Here's what moved me this week:

Loyalty (Featuring Lil Wayne and Tyga) by Birdman

Turn Around (5,4,3,2,1) (DJ Bam Bam Bam radio mix) by Flo Rida

All of the Lights by Kanye West

Till the World Ends by Britney Spears

Valerie by Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse

Stop Me (Kissy Sell Out Remix) by Mark Ronson and Daniel Merriweather

Got Your Number (Featuring Space Cowboy) by Nadia Oh

Hypercaine (Nero dubstep mix)by DJ Fresh

Reading List

Long before I can remember, when I was too little to know my letters from my numbers, my mom and dad would crawl into bed with me and read me a story.
To this day, I can't fall asleep unless I read something. Even now, I still read at least one page or scroll through Facebook status updates (YES! that counts as reading) on my Blackberry before finally, finally, shutting my eyes.

To that end, I thought that I would share what I've really enjoyed reading over the past few days.

Book: 'Too Big to Fail' by Andrew Ross Sorkin - trust me, it's awesome, though I might be biased since I work in this industry. But I think it is actually a great read even if you don't work in the industry because it's not really about the technical details and more about the people - which is always interesting.

Magazine: Right now, an old Newsweek and the latest Elle magazine.

News website: Always, nymag.com and nytimes.com - between these two babies I get my dose of gossip, research and current events. But this week, I spent some time on the NY Observer as well.

Blogs: See my blog roll (the right side bar on my page) for the list of blogs I read daily. I like to follow the comments and find new blogs to read too. The blogs I read everyday are:

ChoosingRaw: If you have ever struggled with eating healthy, this is your blog. Yes, it's about a raw diet, but peppered in between articles on raw walnut cheese and collard greens wraps, are articles on encouragement and inspiration for those *trying* to live a healthier live - vegan, raw, or not.

Loves Veggies & Yoga: Averie is also a raw foodist, but she has a lot of great cooked recipes too. In fact, every single post is littered with links to recipes, all of which are pretty simple and irresistable looking.

No Meat Athlete: Again a vegetarian site about running, he has a lot of well researched articles on training and eating. I highly recommend this site for runners (or endurance athletes) and/or vegetarians.

Some of the best things I've read on the web lately:

The Pioneer Woman's Sisters Photography Contest

Gena from ChoosingRaw.com's post for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The comments are as powerful as the post.

A sad and funny story from dooce.com. This is her best one that I've read to date.

The Diet Book Junkie's post "Facebook: is it making up happier or making us feel like crap?"

Grub Street's theory on why people will wait for not-so-great food.

Now that Jersey Shore is the top five shows on TV, everyone can get understand why Manhattan might want to set traps for the B&T crowd.

No Meat Athlete's post on why failure might be a good thing.

What are you reading these days? Do you have a favorite blog or website that you have to check every day?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Running Shoes That You Will LOOOOOOOVE

Today, I’m going to tell you a love story. Nope, not the bodice ripping, jaw-dropping, heart pounding love fest you were hoping for (keep your mind out of the gutter.) This story is about feet.

Do I have your attention now?

Once upon a time, there were two feet who decided that after trying tap dancing, pointe ballet and high heels, they were going to start running.

The running started modestly with short two or three mile jaunts in a trusty old pair of sneakers that the feet had relied upon for several years. You know the type of shoes I’m talking about: They were flashy, and really cool and even the high heels were a little jealous of them. But the shoes were not very supportive and they squished the toes too.

Yep, they were that kind of shoe.

However, the feet were a tolerant bunch and so they figured that these problems were the normal sort that every couple experiences and they would work themselves out in time.

Spring turned into summer, and the feet started running longer and faster distances. But by midsummer, the honeymoon glow had dulled, and a nagging pain started up in the knees and soon spread to the bottom of the feet – before too long even walking was unbearable.

The feet, pretty sure that they were out of the running business forever, went to the doctor’s for an official confirmation.

But the doctor wasn’t ready to relegate the feet to a life of walking. The prescription: new shoes and orthotics.

Skeptical that the shoe was the source of the problems, the feet decided to take a trial break with the fancy shoes and try something else. After a nerve racking session at the running store, the feet found themselves toe to toe with the polar opposite of the old shoes.

These new shoes were sturdy and practical, and their insoles came out so that orthotics could be placed inside the. The feet were skeptical. After all the shoes were boring white, completely off-trend and not very cool.

After a few weeks of rest, the feet finally got up the courage to take a run in the new shoes. Surprisingly, the run was effortless and painless. Before long, the feet and shoes were running all over the big city, miles and miles of pain free running. The feet knew that they had found the one.

Some months later, the feet and shoes took the big plunge and ran a marathon together. And they lived happily ever after.

The End

Ok, but seriously so you want to know about how to find the perfect running shoe?

Well, I am going to give you the simplest, best advice ever. It’s the only thing you really need to know about shoes: Go to a running store and ask the sales people to pick one out for you.

Here’s what they’ll do: When you get to the store, they’ll assess your foot pronation. A good store will ask you to run to assess your gait (some might ask you to simply walk around, but you should really run in sneakers to get the right assessment).

Foot pronation refers to the way that the body weight is distributed during a step. There are three types:

Normal pronation: The distribution of weight is even throughout the entire step.

Over pronation: The foot rolls inward after making contact with the ground.

Under pronation: The foot rolls outward after making contact with the ground.

Check out this article and the videos for more information. The videos really help.

Then, the running store will do an arch test. You can assess your own by doing a test on a paper bag. (The running store clerks are usually pretty good as sizing up an arch by sight.) Get a paper bag that you aren’t going to use anymore, dip your feet in some water and then step on the paper bags. Don’t get your feet too wet, because you want to be able to see your foot prints.

Flat feet: The entire shape of your foot is imprinted on the paper.

Low arch: There is a small dry area on the inside middle portion of your foot.

Average arch: The dry area extends to the middle of the foot, to two-thirds of the way.

High arch: The dry area extends almost across the foot. A thin line connecting the ball and heel may or may not be visible.

The running clerk will recommend a shoe based upon your pronation. I wear a nuetral shoe from Brooks called Ghost 3. I have stuck with the Brooks neutral line for the last five years, only changing up the shoes to get lighter models. The running store will be able to help you find a shoe that fits your arch type and gait, but beware of these things:

(1) Pronation may change over time. I was once a severe under pronater, and now have a very neutral gait. The shoes changed my running style.

(2) Custom arch supports are necessary for every runner. You might not need orthotics like me, but do expect that you will have to buy separate insoles.

(3) Good running shoes always have removable insoles.

(4) Expect to buy running shoes 1 to 2 sizes larger than other shoes. They should be really loose when you try them on unless you have just run for several hours. Your feet swell during running so you need to have room for them to swell. (Sometimes after long, hot runs in the summer, my feet don’t fit into many of my high heels –eek!)

(5) Make sure the running store assesses your gait while running. It could be completely different than when walking.

(6) While you’re at it, get running socks, as they will help prevent blisters. A lot of blisters from running are just caused by sweaty cotton socks that are rubbing at the skin. (In fact, cotton is pretty much the enemy when running. The only mostly cotton thing I wear are men’s undershirts.)

(7) Replace shoes every 300-400 miles. You don’t need to be super diligent about this. I can usually tell when I need new ones because a whole host of aches will suddenly spring up during a run. You can just estimate your total mileage on the shoes.

(8) Run around in the store on the shoes. I don’t care if you feel dumb doing it. You will feel dumber if you take the shoes home and find out you can’t stand to run for one minute in them.

(9) Go to a running store, if at all possible. Most running stores will let you try out the shoes and actually run in them, with a full exchange policy. If you don't have a running store close by, try a sporting goods store. Try to avoid going to a department store or shoe warehouse. If you really don't have access to these places, try using this site to help you find a good shoe. (It's not the best site but should help you narrow down some models, which you can then make a list of and try on at the store. Also, note that Asics, Brooks, Mizuno or Nike are the most popular running shoe brands.)

The cardinal rule of a good running shoe is that it should feel good to run the moment you put them on. There is no break in period where you suffer through blisters or have to stretch out the shoe. They need to fit right and feel 100% awesome immediately.

So before you start whining about how running hurts all your joints in the your legs and maybe a few in your arms, make sure you’ve got the right shoes on your feet and that they still have some miles in them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire...and Training Plan the Week of March 14th

I must confess. I've been lying to you. For the past few weeks, I've been posting my workouts on the blog for my half-marathon. They are one-hundred-percent, mile-for-mile the workouts I plan to do that week.


It's much more of an aspirational plan. Because, you know, things like life, get in the way. And I really just don't have time to work out every day of the week. But I try. I really do. Don't you?

But I've been going about all of this wrong. Not one week of workouts have passed where I have followed the workout plan exactly. Something has always coming up, whether it's rain or a late night or just a lack of motivation, I have cut my workouts short or skipped some of them. It's true.

Some myths that I've been perpetuating:

* You don't have to do every single workout. Heck, you can skip a lot of workouts. It's about an 80% effort and mostly, those long runs. If you run 10 miles in your training...you will complete a half marathon.

* You don't need to do speed workouts. Sure, if you have a time goal in mind and have run some races before, by all means, please work on your pace. But otherwise, just get out there and get the blood flowing four days a week, and most importantly listen to some good music and think about things.

* I don't love to run all the time. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to sit on my butt all day long and eat my own pizza pie. Or I just want to sleep in. But unless I am sick or in severe pain (walking and running) then I run.

* I don't feel great during every run. Runs are like brushing your teeth. Most days you just do it because....well, who wants to have the dentist put that drill anywhere near them? But you know how once in a while, your teeth get that fuzzy feeling and your mouth just feels really dirty? And brushing your teeth then is like the best thing ever? Well, running is like that.

* I don't run fast. Actually, I'm really slow. My long run pace is 11:30 to 12 minutes per mile. On the treadmill, easy is 4.8, decent pace is 5.2, hard is 6.0 and really hard is 6.3. If I get past that, I'm running for my life. (Literally...do you want to know what it's like to fly off the treadmill because you can't keep up? Me neither.)

I am sorry that I lied to you.

I wasn't trying to lead you on. I just want the best for you. But I can't expect more from you than myself.

So give yourself a break. If you want to run a half marathon, don't pay attention to what I'm doing.

All you got to do is run a few times a week, and get in those long runs no matter how slow they are.

Now here's my workout plan for the week - which I have every intention of doing in it's exact specifications - but will probably make a few tweaks to along the way.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4 miles & Pilates
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 4 miles at race pace
Friday: Spinning
Saturday: 14 miles
Sunday: Rest & Pilates

Now go and enjoy the rest of the week.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Warning: This Might Make You Want to Dance

Somethings are better the second time around. Here's a flashback to junior high: "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Neon Hitch, plus the download.

And here's another goodie: Favorite Colour (Punches Remix) by Tokyo Police Club.

Now I'm off to run twelve miles.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Music on Repeat the Week of March 7th

I know that I should learn to run without my iPod. There are safety concerns: I need to use my ears to hear cars, the crazy cyclists, and other runners. There are performance issues: the music distracts me from running and my pace becomes inconsistent.

But I don't think I could run without my iPod. New music especially gets me going which is why I like to share my weekly picks.

I run to all of these songs.

Here's the latest batch and plus one free download. Enjoy!

Love is Blind by Eve

Cinema (Extended Mix) by Benny Benassi

Just Can't Get Enough by The Black Eyed Peas

Written in the Stars (Featuring Eric Turner) by Tinie Tempah

And finally, here's a free download by my old spinning teacher. Enjoy!

Let Me Show U (featuring Kym Perfetto)by Fake Money

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm Going Vegan...for 40 days

By now you’ve probably figured out that my daily meals don’t include a lot of animal products. My reasons for this are detailed and personal and range from the desire to lower my cholesterol and lose weight to protest over factory farming’s use of antibiotics and even animal cruelty concerns. Nonetheless, I still indulge on occasion and I don’t stress about following a vegan diet – particularly when I’m dining out.

If I’m going to plunk down some cold hard cash for a meal, it might as well be something delicious right?

Well, that’s all going to change now. I’ve been wanting to become a full-time vegan for a while, but I’ve been scared off from it because sometimes it’s really difficult. I didn’t want to be that girl. You know the one. The one that the chef had to whip up a special meal for or the one that the chef’s feelings were hurt because I didn’t want to try her extra special pot roast.

Wait a minute…whose life are we talking about here? The chef or mine?

If I want to eat vegan and my only major reason for not committing is because I’m afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings, than I haven’t got a leg to stand on anymore. So for this Lent, I decided that I would give up meat and dairy and test out the real vegan lifestyle for 40 days.

By now, I’m sure you’re imagining that I’m going to munch on granola, tofu and broccoli for the next couple of weeks. Hardly. There might be some interesting items on the menu that aren't part of a typical diet, but for the most part it will be an international menu full of flavor and nutrition.

But I know that there might still be a lot of questions about what vegan eating really means, so here’s a Vegan primer. Aside from animal products, it also eschews products derived from animals like beef or chicken broths and gelatin. Although, many vegans do choose to allow a few exceptions.

Vegan Foods

Most breads
Vegetable-broth based soups
Stir-fries (beware: restaurants may use fish sauce or a meat-based broth)
Non-egg pasta
Seeds - seasame, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.
Most condiments
Nut butters
Spaghetti sauces
Coffee, tea, sodas, (most) beers, wine
Fruits & vegetables

Non-Vegan Foods

Ice Cream
Most Baked goods – like cookies and cakes
Cream based soups and sauces
Some forms of gelatin - included in many candies - particularly gummy and non-chocolate candies

Common Vegan Substitutes:

Milk: Almond, Soy, Rice or Coconut Milk (not the canned type, but another type that is sold in the dairy section of your grocery store). I prefer soy milk because it has more protein than the others.
Butter: In cooking, margarine and coconut oil work. As a topping for things like toast, nut butters, hummus, honey, avocado spreads all work well too.
Ice Cream: Besides imitation products, there are sorbets and frozen fruit purees, plus banana ice cream (post to come on this delicious invention).
Cheese: Nut cheeses, nutritional yeast, hummus, avocado mayo plus fake cheese substitutes, like Tofutti. (Warning: many fake cheese contain whey or casein and are not vegan.)
Eggs: Tofu scramble, chia seed gel, or egg replacements
Meat: See this link for a more detailed list, but tofu, seitan, and texturized vegetable protein are all primarily protein sources and can serve as imitation meat. But I prefer to eat lots of foods with moderate protein levels to satisfy my needs: quinoa, bulgur wheat, kamut, wheat berries, legumes, nuts, whole wheat pastas, hemp seeds, nut butters, vegetables, and soy milk for example.

There are a lot of great fake meat and dairy products out there that taste just like the real thing but are vegan. Those items like veggie burgers and chickenless nuggets are a great way to start out but they are processed foods and as I have gotten more comfortable and creative with my meals, I turn to those items less and less. They are now occasional treats.

So if you participate in Lent, what are you giving up?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Was Born...Beautiful

Cause I'm crazy for Lady Gaga and also, Operation Beautiful is a very cool grassroots organization!

Training Plan the Week of March 7th

Often times, I do a really BAD job of living in New York City. I do things like cook dinner at home and watch movies on netflix and go shopping at Banana Republic. Things that I could do in any city in the country - and probably a good number of cities outside the country too.

But every once in a while, I do my zip code proud. This past weekend was one such weekend. I went to Pommes Frites, McSorley's and saw Bon Jovi at the Garden in one of the luxury suites. Heck, I even went shopping in SoHo and had brunch.

This past weekend it also rained all day Sunday and so I never got to make my long run. I know that I am supposed to run in any and all conditions because "you never know what race day will be like." But I just couldn't convince myself to do it. It didn't hurt that I had Bon Jovi tickets which were going to keep me up late and afternoon plans on Sunday, making the window for running very narrow.

Do I feel guilty? No. But I have to make up for this missed long run somehow.

The point of the long runs is to practice running for a prolonged period. It's about being on your feet, more than speed or mileage - especially for novice runners. So this week, I'm just going to increase my weekly mileage by the missed mileage, and I'll keep my long run at the same length as last weeks long run.

Here's this weeks training plan:

Monday: 7 miles, pilates or yoga
Tuesday: 4 x 1200 (3/4 mile) at 10K pace, with 1/4 mile cool-down between each, 6 x 200 (1/8th mile) at 5K pace
Wednesday: 5 miles and strength
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: Spinning or rest
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: 6 miles or spinning or elliptical

What do you do when you miss a run? Do you miss runs for rain or bad weather?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Make a Good salad

If the were one staple in my diet, it would be the salad (ok,you got me on this...and coffee). I eat a salad almost everyday for lunch, and sometimes for dinner too.

If this sounds like punishment, then you have been going about the salad all wrong. Salads don't have to feel like rabbit food. In fact, a salad can be downright unhealthy if laden with cheese, creamy dressing, fried protein options, or even if you skip the obvious culprits and load up on avocado, beans, corn, and nuts.

To make a delicous salad and keep it healthy too, there are a few simple components too keep in mind.

The Base

The base of a salad will typically be a leafy green of some type, but don't feel obligated to pick a lettuce, as cucumbers, beets, beans, grains, and just about any neutral tasting vegetable can work. Head lettuce is not the go to lettuce either. Romaine makes a nice substitute, but I prefer some of the more exotic lettuces such as arugula and mache.

Don't use the same lettuce everyday for your salad or you will get bored. I try to use two bases a week. This week, it's kale and spinach.

Crunchy Ingredients

I'm not sure you can call something a salad if it doesn't crunch. Carrots, radishes, roasted nuts, cucumbers, jicama, peppers, cabbage, and apples have major crunch factor plus lots of nutrition. The crunch doesn't have to come from produce. Asian noodles, crunched up tortilla chips, or even a crispy protein option could work, but be aware that those options can pack extra calories and should be balanced out with lighter dressings and healthier creamy options.

Creamy Ingredients

Creamy doesn't mean cream-based; it means melty, smooth options which add substance and depth to the salad. My go to options are avocado, beets and white or red beans. Sometimes, the creaminess comes from the salad dressing such as when I make a tahini-based salad dressing.

If the creamy option is a dairy product, that's perfectly fine too, as long as the portion is reasonable and it's balanced out with the other ingredients. As a rule, it might be good to allow only one salad "fun" ingredient is allowed per day. "Fun" foods might be fried onions, croutons, cheese, extra nuts, or ranch dressing for example.


Grilled chicken, if you are a lover of grilled chicken, is the death of a many a healthy salad. Look it's perfectly healthy and a good source of protein. I'm not saying you shouldn't eat grilled chicken anymore. But cold grilled chicken on a bed of cold vegetables is just not appetizing to me.

Protein in the salad can come from so many sources: beans, tofu, nuts, chopped up veggie burgers, diced cold cuts, tuna, and the aforementioned chicken, just to name a few.

Salad Dressing

The salad dressing brings everything together. In my opinion, it's the missing link. I experiment with my dressings almost daily and when I hit upon a great combination, I look forward to the salad all day long.

The best salad dressings are homemade, but there are a lots of amazing store brands out there too. My favorite salad dressing is a combination of vinegar and oil. I use more vinegar than oil, but most people prefer equal amounts. Try adding a pinch of sugar or a little water if the vinegar taste is too strong.

Set a Theme

The best salads work because all the ingredients compliment each other. Not sure what vegetable compliments which nut? Me too. Instead, I look to other food combinations to come up with my salads.

Do you like pizza? How about spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, caramelized onions, croutons, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a basil vinaigrette?

Or do you like Mexican food? Then put your favorite taco fillings in a salad, forget the sour cream and cheese and make a vinegar and oil dressing but use lime juice in place of vinegar.

Finally, if you are still don't think you can put together a yummy salad, keep these rules in mind:

Make the salad colorful. The richer the colors, the more chock full of nutrients the salad will be. Plus, food that looks good, tastes better.

Dress the salad right before eating. The acid in vinegar breaks down vegetables and will cause a salad to wilt and lose it's crunch factor by the time you get around to eating it. So carry the salad dressing in a separate container if you are bringing it for lunch.

If you are using a really fibrous vegetable, dress the salad a few hours before eating. I know I just said to wait until right before eating, but ingredients like kale and broccoli are just too tough to eat raw. However if they marinate for a few hours, they will end up the perfect texture.

Now here's a Kale Salad I put together for lunch this week:

3 cups Kale chopped into bit size pieces
6 baby carrots
5 radishes
1/2 cup white beans
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 an Italian sweet pepper, sliced

1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs water
1 tbs olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
Sprinkle (one or two shakes from the container) of garlic powder

Chop up the carrots and radishes in the food processor.

Mix everything together and enjoy! Because this salad is full of kale, add the dressing immediately and then wait to eat. I made this in the morning before work and ate it for lunch, so it marinated for about four hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Short but Meaningful Life of the Marathoner's Sneaker

It started out as a little ache in my right foot and became a dull pain in my hamstring, before finally stopping me in my tracks when my left knee started throbbing.

Had the running finally gotten to me?

Was this half-marathon training schedule too intense?

Nope. All I needed was a new pair of running shoes.

The latest pair were bought about six weeks before the marathon and I ran two 20 milers on them, plus all the other workouts in between. Running shoes only last about 300-400 miles, and for me it's closer to the 300 mile mark.

So, that night I left work at six o'clock on the dot and headed to the running store.

"One of these, please," I said to the store clerk waving my favorite running shoe in the air.

"Would you like to try them on?"

"No thanks. I have five pairs of them already," and with that I got my sixth pair of running shoes in a year.

So what exactly happens to all those sneakers? Well, they start off looking all clean and fluffy.

Then put them on your feet, run all over Manhattan, and Brooklyn too, just for fun.

Don't forget to jump in the puddles when running around the reservoir.

Check out how much the entire rubber sole has been compressed and worn down.

They started out looking like this.

Stick sweaty feet inside them every day. (The ones on top are the new ones, with the old orthodics in them.)

Download the best running songs...

Check all the stress and worries at the door...

And just run.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Music on Repeat & Training Plan the Week of February 28

Good Morning!

Here's my training plan and some new music to start off your week.

This week's goal is to keep my IT bands healthy while still maintaining my training schedule. If your IT Band is inflamed or you think it might be, please consult a doctor. I have no professional right to diagnose or treat injuries, and I'm just sharing my experience.

So you've never heard of an Iliotibial Band?

It's a band of fibrous tissue that connects the butt muscles to the knee and runs along the outside portion of your upper thigh. It stabilizes the knee joint and can end up getting inflamed during training as the major muscles - such as your butt, and top and bottom thigh muslcles - in the leg are strengthened as part of training. If the IT band's strength does not keep pace with the other muscles, than the stronger muscles put a strain on it. The end result could be IT Band Syndrome.

It manifests as knee pain (a tugging pain on the front of the knee) and for me, as a very sharp pain on the side of my hip. Tina of Carrots 'n' Cake posted an article recently on her blog about how to deal with IT Band Syndrome. She has some great advice and information on ITBS, but the Running World article that she sourced also has a lot of details about other injuries as well.

Now, back to business. Here's the training schedule.

Monday: Pilates
Tuesday: Treadmill workout - Repeat two times, walking 7-8 minutes between: run 400 at 5K pace, cool down 100, run 1200 at 10K pace. Run 1.5 miles at race pace, lots of stretching and foam rolling afterwards
Wednesday: Run 4 miles easy or spinning
Thursday: 6 mile run: Warm-up & cool-down 1 mile, then for the middle 4 miles, alternate 5 lamposts (1/4 mile, 5 city blocks) at 10k pace, and 2 lamposts (1/10th of a mile, 2 blocks) at easy pace
Friday: Spinning or rest (depends on the IT Bands), strength
Saturday: Spinning or elliptical or easy 4 mile run or rest.
Sunday: 13 miles, with last mile faster than first mile

Depending on how tender the IT Band is, Wednesday, Friday and/or Saturday could be rest days.

And here's the new music for the week.

This week, after all the remixes and club music, I've been downloading I felt a little more mellow this week.

Made for Us by Mackintosh Braun

Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons

This Must Be It by Royksopp

Gone Too Far by Dragonette

Bang Bang Bang (Count & Sinden Remix) by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl

Enjoy the music and may your IT Bands never bother you!