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13.1

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The sea of runners crushed around me as we were all herded towards the starting line. I thought of my friends Bertie and T, who had already begun and would surely be waiting a long time for me at the finish. Trying to calm my racing heart, I prepped my Nike+ app to record my mileage and started my 13.1 playlist. As “Thrift Shop” began pumping through my noggin’, the starting line loomed. I had to pee. Kind of. Shit, too late now. I hit start on my Polar monitor and off I went.

I was running my first half marathon.

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After jockeying my way to a clear path for what felt like an eternity, the masses finally thinned out a bit. The first two miles flew by, and so did the second two. Still comfortable territory, but I’d been warned that the hills on this course were a doozy.  My plan was to manage them cautiously – quick steps and lean forward on the way up. Long strides and breathe deeply on the way down to recover.

Instead of worrying, I focused on the people watching. I smiled and waved at the pregnant lady cheering us on, wearing a tshirt that said “FUTURE RUNNER” with a down arrow. I ran past people offering me Krispy Kreme donuts!! and stations set up with M&Ms and jelly beans. Tailgaters offered beers, which I breathlessly declined. Later, though… yes. GOD YES.

My mind was kept occupied with the lyrics playing through my earbuds, the scenery of the city around me, and with what people wore or didn’t wear. There were lots of St. Patty’s Day festive outfits with garland, Irish shirts, leprechauns, green sequined tutus. Me, I was set with my bang buster and my turtle socks.

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The skyline didn’t draw my eye when the view appeared. I was drawn to the coral-strewn sunrise on the other side of the road. Typical me. And I kept on running.

Somewhere in Piedmont park I saw someone waving a sign that said, “We don’t know you, but we’re proud of you!!”. My heart lifted and I thought about how sweet they were. And at that moment, I felt proud of me too.

The miles kept rolling on and I feel like I hit my groove. My body knew what I wanted it to do and it did it without complaint. I kept my (turtle) pace and my breathing under control and laughed inwardly at the signs that said “We’re not wearing any underwear!” or “We tailgate for ANYTHING”. The race photographers loved me – I was the cheeseballing one who pointed directly at the camera and open-mouth laughed. I might have also been the one flexing her bicep. One guy lowered his camera and laughed at/with me. Nice, Peach. 🙂

When I hit mile 10, my face lit with pride. I’d just run the farthest I ever had in my life. And I wasn’t done yet, but I was okay.

Then, it was on that next hill that I felt the first twinge in my right calf muscle. The kind that threatened a vicious cramp if I didn’t back off. So I power-walked that up hill. And the next. Dammit, why do the steepest hills have to be at the end??? Sadistic course planners, I tell you.

Miles 11-12 wound up being significantly slower than my previous pace from all the walking of the hills. I nearly got upset about it. Instead, I thought, Dammit… be proud. You’re doing this race the best that you can, and it’s okay if you walk the hills after you’ve just RUN for TEN MILES. Just keep going. You’ve got this.

And just then I saw a mom-type lady waving a sign that said “RUN, [MY NAME], RUN!!!” And I thought of my own mom’s Facebook comment that had said the exact same thing the day before. I kept running for my mom and dad. Because they can’t.

The next hill nearly did me in, but as I was cursing inwardly, “**** THIS ****ING HILL ALL TO ****ING HELL.”, I thought of my big brother. He completed his first half this fall and I felt him cheering me on in spirit, too. I kept running for him.

I cheered when the race sign appeared that said “1/2 mile left!!” and I kept running. For me. Because I could do this.

And… it sucked. That last stretch felt so long. I was tired. I wanted to be done.

Then I looked over to my right and thought, hey, who’s the really skinny guy running over there on the other side of the barriers?  And then it hit me. OH. THAT’S THE MARATHONERS. WHO ARE FINISHING A course TWICE as long as yours and IN THE SAME TIME AS YOU. Oh the humility!!! 🙂

But as the spectator crowds got bigger and I could hear the race announcer’s peppy voice, my gloom lifted. I’m no Kenyan. Never will be. I’m just Peach. Running her first half and doing a damn fine job of it.

The finish line finally appeared and I kicked it up a notch. My legs felt like they weren’t going to agree with what my brain wanted, but they did.  I crossed the line with a victorious overhead fist pump and a huge grin. I bowed my head for my medal and posed for pictures, then went off to find Bertie and T. AND FOOD. Holy crap I was hungry.

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The post-race rewards were worth every drop of sweat. I did it, y’all!

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I’m only running for the pancakes.

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Please think of me on Sunday morning, when I’m hauling my sleepy ass from my cozy bed at 4am. Why would I wake up at o-dark-GIVEMECOFFEE-thirty? Oh, just to go run a half marathon. Voluntarily, mind you.

Damn, I’ve come a long way in a year.  This used to be my attitude towards running:

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And then, I had to go and get all motivated to get healthy. Silly me.

This whole running thing started when my big brother convinced me to run a 5K in April of last year. That was my first 5K since ohhhhh, 1997. I’d just started working with a trainer and was maybe 3 weeks smoke-free. Yay me, but my lungs and my body were still utterly shit a far cry from healthy.

I was SO SLOW. Hated every second of it. I was exhausted after 2 miles. At 2.5 I remember that my face was on fire and just wanted it to be OVER already. I mean, my linebacker-sized brother and my 8 year old nephew were both WAY far ahead of me if not already done. And it was starting to rain, and WHAT THE FUCK is this hill doing right before the finish line? It sucked. My time was something embarrassing… my brother finished in 32, my nephew in 34 and me? 38 something. Or more. I don’t know, I blocked it out.

But since then, I ditched the trainer and the globo-gym, started and stuck with CrossFit, kept my diet clean and healthy and Paleo-ish. I’ve put on muscle, remained a non-smoker, and have tackled a few other runs since then. They got better. I got better. So I did a few more 5Ks, a 10K in July,  a relay in a tutu!, a 15K in January, and now… a half marathon.

Yep, this weekend I’ll be tromping through Atlanta for 13.1 miles until I either a) reach the finish line or b) have to be scraped off the pavement with a pooper-scooper. Hopefully not c) both.

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My only goal. Finish.

Is this ambitious progress in under a year? Uhhhhh… I’m either the most motivated amateur runner ever or I’m just flat-out DUMB. But I really think I can do it. My body is in the best shape of my life, thanks to CrossFit, yoga and running. But my concern with the half is my endurance. I’ve never run that far or that long at once and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I thought about joining one of the free pacing groups they offer, but I think I’ll do better going at my own speed with my running playlist blasting in my ears.

I have my trusty Brooks Ghosts that I wore for the 15K, so they’re broken in. I’ll be hydrated and fueled beforehand. I’ll get enough sleep the night before. It will be warm but not hot: high 50s are the low that morning, creeping up to 70 by mid-day, so extra layers won’t be needed.

As for the run, all I can think to do is adopt my approach to the 15K – running an easy pace for 2 miles, have a few sips of water and 1-2 energy beans, then repeat until done. That plan kept my pace steady and the 9.something miles were very doable. I didn’t feel like I ran out of gas anywhere along the route. I was a little stiff for a day afterward, but it really wasn’t awful. Why wouldn’t 13.1 be as doable? At least… that’s the theory.

Hopefully I’ll run with grace and elegance, and not like this:

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But even if I finish dead last, there will be none of this.


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Because you best believe that afterward there will be piles upon piles of pancakes and pints and pints of BEER for St.Patty’s!  Pancakes make me sooooo happy.

Finally, I’m way grateful that I’ll have excellent company for the race in the lovely Bertie: a gorgeous Crossfit badass,  running inspiration, yoga buddy, brunch/coffee partner and fashion advisor.  That last one? Seriously, she should have a fashion blog. Like, yesterday. 🙂 But on race days, her self-proclaimed propensity to run like her favorite hashtag cracks me up: #wilddogontheloose.

As if keeping me motivated to run and preventing me from dressing like a homeless person wasn’t enough, Bertie gave me the coolest good luck gift for the half. My very own Lululemon Bang Buster in a gorgeous reversible minty-polka-dot/kelly green!  Check out the awesome card she gave me, too… snifffff…. she is the most thoughtful, sweetest friend ever.

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no pinching allowed!

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polka dots and shamrocks

That minty fresh baby will be worn on race day as my good luck charm, my green for St. Patty’s, and to keep my *#)&%#@*ing bangs off my face while I run. Not that I’m salty about the bangs… Wait. I am. Don’t get bangs, people. Not if you work out all the time. Better choices have been made, Peach.

But can y’all help a girl out?!

What say you,  fellow runners and athletes? Do you have any advice for me, the half-newbie? (Newbie-halfer? Newfer? Halfbie? What do you call me?)  Am I crazy? 

…don’t answer that last one.

Recipe Share: Clean Eats Galore

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As explained in my FoodWars post, I’ve decided to take a more relaxed approach in my diet because trying and failing to be strict Paleo was driving me batshit crazy. I’ve been way happier in my new plan these past three weeks with some good old common sense clean eating. I’m still figuring out the balance, but I can tell you that my body knows the difference. I am already leaner. I feel better. And that rocks.

Here’s a sneak peek into my clean eats…

Breakfast:

French toast scramble – courtesy of CarrotsNCake, I was skeptical about the banana/egg combo, but found I enjoy it on the mornings I want something sweet. One mashed banana, 1 whole egg, a few egg whites, cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. Scramble it up in a bit of coconut oil and top with a scoop of almond butter or PB2. Full till lunch.

Everyday Paleo Egg Cupcakes – not a fan of this name. Let’s call them Veggie and Sausage Mini Crust-less Quiches, mmkay? These lil nuggets are easy and portable, they let me play with my new destroyer of food processor, and they are delish. Make em the night before and you’re set for more than a few days for breakfast. The recipe states specific veggies to use, but bollucks to that. Throw in whatever you want. These had: zucchini, squash, carrots, onion and spinach plus low fat breakfast sausage. But word to the wise. Too much spinach and they WILL turn out quite St. Patty’s Day-inspired. You’ve been warned.

1st batch = WHOASPINACH. 2nd batch = better.

1st batch = WHOASPINACH. 2nd batch = better.

Snacks:

Greek yogurt and fruit – if I need a quick pick-me-up I’ll just cut up an apple and dip it in 0% fat plain greek yogurt that I’ve mixed with a splash of almond milk and a scoop of PB2. <– If you haven’t tried this, you must.

You can also spend an extra 5 minutes and make Coconut Cinnamon Apples to go with your yogurt/PB2 combo. Here’s how easy: Take your choice of apple, slice it up, saute it for a few minutes in a teaspoon of coconut oil and sprinkle with cinnamon at the end. HEAVEN, I SAY.

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Cereal w/ Almond Milk – I have a confession. I love cereal after dinner/before bedtime. Um. I may or may not have gone through a whole box of Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios in five days. Wee bit obsessed? Nah.

Lunches/Dinners:

Let’s face it, when you cook at home 90% of the time, you will get bored and some nights you’re just not feeling very Domestic Goddess-y.  When that happens, I’ll treat myself to a Chipotle salad or some other healthy eat-out option.

But here are a few of my no-fail at-home standards.

Peach’s Go-To Veggie Saute

  • Heat 1T coconut oil (or olive oil or bacon grease) in large, shallow skillet. (not a stock pot – potatoes become mushy if they don’t have air while cooking.)
  • Add to oil: 1 sweet potato, cut into 1in cubes. Cook potato until it becomes browned but not yet soft.
  • Add 1 sliced onion and 1 sliced red bell pepper. Cook together until onions and bell peppers are softened, but still firm.
  • Add 1 medium yellow squash and 1 medium zucchini, cut into quarter or half moons
  • Cook all together until potatoes are done and squash/zucchini are slightly softened but not mush.

I use this veggie saute for everything: breakfast scrambles, omelets, frittata (frittatii?), as a base for pot roast, shredded pork, or in my Spaghetti Squash Bake. I even throw it into salads.  I’d be lost without it!

Everyday Paleo’s Salmon Cakes were super easy and turned out wonderfully, minus one thing.

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HOW THE HELL AM I GONNA EAT ALL THESE?

The freezer was my friend. Next time half the recipe, Peach!

PaleOMG’s Italian Meatloaf? Whoa, momma.  It was so good it was gone before I could take any pictures. But then again, when are pictures of meatloaf ever sexy? Regardless, this is definitely a keeper in the recipe arsenal!

Hands down, saved the best for last.

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Peach’s Crockpot Curry Chicken  (adapted from PaleOMG’s Brazilian Curry Chicken)

  • 1.25-1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken boobies.
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 chunks each.
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 4 TBS yellow curry powder
  • 1 TBS ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine the coconut milk, broth and spices in the crock pot.
  2. Add the chicken boobies and sweet potato chunks. Make sure chicken is submerged in liquid.
  3. Cook for 3 hrs on medium, then flip the chicken boobies over.
  4. Cook another 3 hrs, or until the chicken boobies fall apart when you fork them. (Where is my brain today?!?!)
  5. Once here, I removed the chicken/potatoes from the liquid and set aside. Then I strained the liquid, because the coconut milk had gone kinda separated/weird on me. (Does this happen to anyone else?)
  6. Once liquid is strained and back in the crockpot, shred the chicken boobs with two forks and put the chicken into to the liquid to cook on low for another hour. This lets all the little chicken boobie-bits soak up all the yummy curry liquid. I left the sweet potatoes out of the crock pot at this point because they were plenty cooked and about to disintegrate.
  7. Serve it up with the sweet potatoes, a veggie saute and some avocados.
  8. Devour.

Sequins to Nikes

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A New Year’s Eve unlike 2012. That was my only requirement. I couldn’t bear another colossal stroke-of-midnight letdown this year.

I remember that the ballroom was filled to capacity and the cover band was screaming Prince’s “1999”. I was booty-shaking away, thanks to the horrifically bad bottom-shelf vodka/crans that also made me ignorant of the fact that my stilettos were shredding the skin off the top of my pinky toes. It had been a great evening so far, with pre-gaming in the hotel rooms upstairs and the ever-female three hour ritual of group beautification. A forgotten strapless bra panic had been remedied by hacking off the straps of a push-up bra. Price tags were ripped violently off flashy new garments. We crammed ourselves into the bathroom and expertly applied eyeliner and falsies. And me, I couldn’t believe I’d let my friend talk me into wearing this strapless sequined tube of a dress. I didn’t have the boobs she did, but prayed it would miraculously stay put.

There were 15 of us in total, with myself as the lone East coast-er, the only one with real boobs, and one of the two single people in the bunch. Relationship status didn’t matter in the hours leading up to midnight – we were just a group of friends ringing in the New Year. But when the night reached its frenzied peak as the countdown began, I looked around for the other single girlfriend.

10…..9…..

She had disappeared.

8…..7…..

All the couples around me were arm in arm, shouting the backward numbers, blissfully ignorant of my crisis.

6…..5…..4…..

Some creepy guy standing next to me grabbed my waist. I shoved his hands off me and flung my steely “just try that again” look at him. He didn’t.

3….2….1….

I stood alone, on a crowded dance floor.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

There’s something magical but heartbreaking about the moment a new year begins.  The elation of the digit-flip, the cheering, the falling confetti, and the slow descent from frenzy into Auld Lang Syne are all very intoxicating. Time pauses while you enjoy the soft caress of lips with your companion. You bless the wonderful memories of the past year and wish good riddance to the ugly ones. And in these first few seconds, the new year is pristine. It is untouched and unblemished. It is perfect, yet still so easily shattered as you realize that the same feeling of despair and loneliness that existed at 11:59:59 on 2011 was not only still present, but magnified tenfold at 12:00:01 on 2012.

Because I stood alone, on a crowded dance floor.

The romantic embraces all around me seemed to defy time. I was about to leave the dance floor when suddenly I caught sight of my sequined-dress-pusher of a best friend running at me, arms outstretched. Before I could blink she had planted a loud, smacking kiss on my lips and was screaming ‘Happy New Year, Peach!!!’ over the din.  We laughed and hugged and then of course went back to more blister-inducing dancing, almost as if that moment of darkness had never occurred.  Hell, I doubt anyone even sensed it, other than me.

This year when given the chance to come to New York, I was hellbent on NOT having an emotional fuckery repeat during the ball drop of 2013.  Single-hood be damned, I’ve had too great of a year to spend even one iota of a second feeling sorry for myself at the stroke of midnight.

During 2012 I got healthy and got happy. I reveled in the proximity to family after so many years away. I was lovingly embraced by friends old and new. I dated a few men, and have those shitshow stories to thank for starting this blog. I made a Life List and started a journey of living my life for me, to the fullest and to the fore. I recognized my deep-down passions and started to go after them, without letting fear of judgment control my ambitions.

I’m so glad that I chose “different” over “usual” this year for New Year’s Eve.  I swapped the dress and stilettos for a compression shirt, race bib, running tights and my trusty Nikes. Instead of battling a sweaty dance floor packed with obnoxious handsy drunks, I battled the cold and my newly-strong body all the way to a sweaty finish line.footWM

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Running those 3.14 miles through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park couldn’t have been more perfect. There were no expectations, and no silly build-up leading to a monumental emotional hangover. The only drunks I saw were teenagers teetering along the park’s path with their party hats and smuggled bottles of champagne.  I listened to my steady breath inhaling and exhaling the chilly air in a solid rhythm. My thigh muscles bunched and released with every stride and I remember grinning at the thought that there’d be no way in hell my rockin’ new booty would fit into that sequined strapless number from last year.  I laughed as I was passed by a girl who ran the race with her torso wrapped in Christmas lights.  I challenged myself to pass a few folks, just to see if I could do it. And when we crossed the finish line just before midnight, we celebrated with steaming cups of Swiss Miss hot chocolate.  The few hundred of us counted down to 2013 underneath the barren trees, exhilarated and alive as we watched the fireworks start. I hugged Might-E and her friend, and that was it. No muss, no fuss.

At 12:00:01 of 2013, there were no residual feelings of loneliness or despair. There was only peace and happiness.  Because I knew that I didn’t need a clock or confetti or a ball drop to tell me how amazing this year will be. My goals were already in motion and I knew that even bigger, better things were in store for me.

When I closed my eyes that night, curled under a blanket in the heart of Brooklyn, I thanked the universe for everything that was 2012. The struggles and the joys changed me for the better and I’m steady, solid and happy for the first time in as long as I can remember. I drifted into my first sleep of 2013 with a smile in my heart.

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Linking up with the fantastic crew over at YeahWrite.

8 Week Challenge #7: Reboot complete.

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Last week, I was really flogging a dead horse struggling with my weight gain in relation to exercise and doing Paleo “Faileo”. The conclusions I came to, with my fellow Pish Posh Challengers is this: you can’t pick and choose your diet choices, thinking that it’s okay to cheat every now and then. Not if you expect to see any results.

Good things about this week:

I gave myself a break. While on vacation, I left Faileo in the dust and enjoyed myself. I did not exercise. I may or may not have eaten my way through Vegas. And I don’t regret it one bit.  Here’s an example.

Post-dinner cappuccino with a Chambord-filled chocolate dipper.

Bad things about this week:

I must say, I’m okay with this week.  I needed the break from life, from the diet, from the gym, and from the emotional mess I’ve been for a few weeks. It did me good to get away and just let go. It’s made coming back and refocusing that much better, easier and meaningful. Reboot, successful!

Exercise summary:

Did CrossFit 4 days out of the last 9 (last post). Twice prior to vacation, twice since I’ve been back. Highlights in non-CF terminology:

  • Deadlift day – after working up in weight gradually, I managed to deadlift a 195lb barbell 5 times. Yes, I lifted a grown man. Then the coaches made us do some crazy do-5pullups-do-10burpees-but-jump-over-a-barbell-sideways-after-each-one-do-15MORE-DEADLIFTS over and over for 10 minutes. And then I died. Not really. But I wanted to. For the next 3 days.

  • More lifts – I did well with what are called Push Presses – it’s basically pushing a barbell overhead until your elbows are straight, with only the help of a slight bend of the knee and driving your arms upward. Got up to 85lbs with those, at 3 reps. Then today consisted of doing 30 reps of a combination lift – it combined 5 different olympic lifts into one round, and we had to do 30 combos. Timed. With heavy weight. Eeesh.
  • My saving grace of the above? Not having any serious metabolic conditioning/cardio workouts these 1st two days back from Sin City. But if I’m not mistaken, it’s waiting for me tomorrow… rumor has it our workout has rope climbs, not one, but TWO 1-mile runs, and lifting. Shit.

Diet goals for this week (MONTH):

Now that I’ve consumed all of the foods and drinks of Vegas, my focus is back.  The last two days I’ve been excellent with my diet (strict Paleo) and the weight I gained on the trip all but 1/2lb gone.  I read through the Whole30 and found it’s essentially following Paleo, strictly, with no cheating, for 30 days. (correct me if I’m wrong!) I’m going for it. It’s essentially what I wanted to do, anyway. My biggest speedtraps will be: booze and sugar. I know it and I know I need to be strong as hell to resist. Halloween is going to suck in this regard.

Why is it so hard to avoid the scale!?? I need someone to come take my bathroom scale hostage. And maybe torture it a little for the way it beckons to me every morning, mocking me with the temptation of seeing that fucking number go lower. I’ve got to remove it from my bathroom. That’s it. It’s going in the garage. Or my back porch. Let the asshole get rained on. There.

The shopping list is printed and stuck at face-height on my fridge. And speaking of fridge, there are no cartons of Haagen Dazs in there. I went shopping and have a ton of veggies and good proteins to work with. Let’s do this.

Um.

Commence freakout…. 3 -2 -1 … NOW.