Sunday, November 8, 2009

Run Janine, Run

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So on October 25th, 2009 I ran my first marathon. For me this was a big deal as it is something that I've always wanted to do and after a failed year last season I was able to realize my goal this year. The experience was so amazing for me, and not just the race. The practice and training leading up to it was just as good as race day. Anyway, a friend of mine had asked me a bunch of questions about it the next day. So I wanted to post the questions and my responses here to share my experience with others. And for any of you who might be considering running one and wanted to know what it was like, perhaps my thoughts will help answer some questions you might have.

spetros wrote: What did you eat the day before?

Day before I was carb-ing up. For the week prior I was focusing on carbs that were lower in refined sugar / low in Glycemic Index (see this article: So I was eating oatmeal, yogurts, apples etc....

The day before I had oatmeal with protein powder for breakfast, an egg sandwich for lunch, apples, protein bars, and dinner was my favorite, ravioli and meatballs & salad. :)

I have to say that the last few days before the race I was not myself. I was very antsy...I wasn't running and was eating all these carbs and my body was craving to run...isn't that weird? I was quite irritable because I wasn't able to get my runs in. The last thing I did was go for a long bike ride on Thursday just to stretch my legs and hips a bit. But it's not the same for me. I was pacing back and forth the night before because I had all this energy to burn literally -- a very weird feeling.

spetros wrote: were there stands you could run by to grab a snack or a drink?

There were water/poweraid stations about every 2 miles throughout the entire course. There were 3 food stations as well. I knew this ahead of time as the maps had this noted as well as the types of food stations and where they were. So the first food station had oranges at mile 9. There was a sea of orange peels on the ground for about 1/4 mile. It was all sticky too. The next food station was at mile 13 which had Clif Shots (power gel). First of all, I had my own supply of Clif Shots with me because I knew one would not be enough. Second, I was glad that I had because all they had left at mile 13 was Mocha flavor. I didn't want any caffeine as my heart races enough. I was walking up to the marines asking...what flavor do you have? I was a bit annoyed at this that they ran out of all the other flavors. (Vanilla, Chocolate and Raspberry). I prefer vanilla so I had my own that I carried with me. Thing is, you need to time when you are going to have them because you should drink water after having one. So I carried a little "cheat sheet" in my fuel belt with the exact water station locations. So I would know when to rip open a Shot and then have water. I made a point to have a few sips of poweraid and water at each station to keep me going, even if I didn't feel I needed it. The last thing you want to happen is to feel like you "need" a drink or "need" some energy, because by that time, it's too late and your body is going into start using your muscle store. If that happens, -- that's known as hitting the "Wall" and you DON'T want that to happen as your body and mind just takes over. Mile 20 is when this typically happens. As your fat stores will become spent after about 20 miles (as they can only hold a specified amount of energy) when they are depleted, it will start to burn muscle to get it's energy. That's why you have to think of yourself as this machine that needs sugar throughout. It will burn that sugar first before it goes to the reserves in your body and that's EXACTLY what you want when you are doing endurance running. Last food stop was at mile 19 which had Sport Beans. I didn't care much for them -- I grabbed a couple bags to give to the boys next time I saw them. So my rule of thumb was to have my first gel at 75 minutes in, then every 1hr thereafter. I have to say by the end I couldn't stand another gel. They were making me sick -- the consistency blech! At the finish line they provided the runners with a bag of food. Snack box of cheerios (the BEST box of cereal I've had in my life ;)). Banana, bagels, pretzels, granola bars, raisins, water, poweraid...a welcome site for me to have solid food after 5 hrs of having nothing but cake icing.

spetros wrote: How did you feel when you started?

I felt nervous, but excited and ready to RUN. The start line was a ZOO! They had you line up in corals based on your expected finish time, so faster runners up front, slower runner towards the back. I was in the 4:30 - 5:00 hr finish group. I had to wait about 15 minutes after the gun went off to even start moving. And then the first 1/4 mile was walking until it thinned out. One thing I learned not to do is do not talk to other runners about how they trained right before the start. It gets your mind start worrying about picking apart how you trained. And I was already doubting myself. Seriously, I didn't really know what to expect of myself. I was preparing myself for the reality of not finishing, but still encouraging can do this, run your run -- don't rush. Focus on your heart rate, keep it low or you'll burn out too fast. And enjoy the beautiful day presented to you.

spetros wrote: Did people blow by you or did you pretty much keep the pace?

Since we were grouped based on times, I was pretty much on par with the other runners around me. At times people pass you and you pass other people. But that didn't phase me at all. I've been training to run at a pace that I can hold a conversation with others, so I as able to talk to people while I was running. People were all very jazzed up, throwing around comments and making others laugh. Some people had on costumes, some people carried flags, some had pictures of loved ones on their clothes. Some had statements like "I'm running for my mom" or "In memory of my dad" etc. I saw two guys running in their bare feet!?! Nuts! Oh, and Mike and the boys saw a guy running in a Halo Master Chief costume. I couldn't imagine doing that.

spetros wrote: Did you notice any other interesting scenery?

Like the guys peeing off in the bushes? :) Seriously...for the first 4-5 miles there were tons of guys (and girls) peeing. No humility here! I admit that I did not have to relieve myself during the race, but if I had to, you bet I would have done my business. There were port-o-potties througout the course, but there was no way I was going to stop and wait on line to pee. If I had to pee, I would have just squatted right there. I brought some tissues with me just for that purpose. :) But aside from that, the MCM is coined as one of the most scenic of marathons because of where you are. We ran through Georgetown. (which was the first 8 miles was hilly) ugh! The best parts for me were running across the bridge of the tidal basin and seeing the Washington Monument to the left of me and the Jefferson memorial to the right of me. Clear, sparkling water, beautiful blue sky. It was awesome. The next cool part was running down the mall and in front of the WHite house. THere was a band playing and I felt proud to be there. THere were live band throughout the course which was awesome. It was so motivating. The fans were a trip too. They had such creative signs and were really encouraging you on. Having them there was key in being able to finish. THe presidential Helicopter kept flying by too which was very cool. Also, having marines cheer you on and they manned all the food and water stations. I was gracious to them when they gave me a drink.

spetros wrote: Did you have any kind of running buddy for a few miles?

No, not really. Small talk with a few, but I kept to myself. I wanted to be that way too. No my run.

spetros wrote: Was there a time where you thought you wouldnt make it?

YES! Mile 22-24 It was right after going over the 14th street bridge (which we had to beat by a specified time because they were going to re-open traffic for the bridge -- if you missed the time, there was a bus there to pick you much would that suck!?). Anyway, over the bridge and it dumped you into the "Crystal City" area and it was extremely crowded and windy and shady (because off all the buildings) and it just SUCKED. I didn't think I was gonna be able to finish it. There were too many things that were messing with my head. It was windy, I was cold, my hands were freezing (and swollen for some reason), I hated the street were were on, I was feeling all sorts of different pains in my legs. The crowds were too intense and in your face at that point. (There were some giving out shots of beer to the runners -- and some of the runners were taking them too!) I was getting very agetated and beginning to think I wasn't going to get past this part. So I put on my headset and zoned out and just to that corner...ok, run to that to that to the top of this road...that's all I could do at that point. I have to say, I've never been in a situation like this where you put your body under so much stress that you sort of go into a survival mode. The only other time that was anywhere close to feeling this was was when I gave birth to the boys. THing was...I couldn't stop running. If i did, I knew I wouldn't be able to start again. So I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

spetros wrote: Was there a point where you knew you _were_ going to make it?

There were two points. One was at mile 19. I was so scared of how I was going to feel at 18 miles because I hadn't run further than that during my training. And the surroundings at mile 19 pushed me through. I was by the Smithsonian, there was good music. The spectators were awesome at that spot and because I broke through that 18mile mental block and was still moving I regained a boost of confidence. Then I saw Mike and the boys at mile 20 and that also enspired me to keep on...Mike said...only 6 more miles to go! I was stoked and I felt like a machine...just keep on running. After my 22-24 mile troubles. The last 2 miles were the longest 2 miles of my life. It was on the highway right by the pentagon and the last 1/4 mile had a hill in it. :( But the fans were so encouraging there too (oh, and the marines had major crowd control at the last couple miles at the finish which I was soooo grateful for) Not too many, not too little, but they were awesome and encouraging. WHen I saw those Finish Line Arches, I just started crying! My heart swelled with emotion and I just the tears came down. I couldn't' believe that I was at the end and that I had done it! So many months and years of desire and many miles of running. and I was at my goal! It was an amazing feeling. Once we crossed the line, we lined up to receive our medals and being awarded a metal by a marine made me feel so proud and thankful. THen we got mylar blankets to keep us from cooling off too fast. Got our food bag and got pictures taken. I just lay on the ground thankful for being off my feet. Just laid there for a bit feeling the warm sun. Unfortunately, Mike and the boys didnt' see me finish because as I said they were controlling the number of people at the finish. So I wandered out of the finish section and started to look for Mike. It was an absolute zoo! They have a family reunion area, but I was able to find Mike anyway because he had made a big lime green flag. So that was awesome througout the race because I was able to pin-point him pretty darn easily throughout as no one else had a lime green flag with bunnies drawn on it. :)

spetros wrote: How do you wind down after a marathon?

Well, it took a long time to get back to the hotel because of the crowds. Had to wait on line for 1hr to get on the metro. That really sucked. I was pretty cold and Mike had some clothes for me to put on to keep me warm until we got back to teh hotel. When we got back to the hotel. LONG HOT shower and Mike gave me a massage (we brought our massage table). Then we had to checkout. So we went to dinner and I had chicken and pasta. The 2-1/2 hr drive home sucked because I was so sore having to sit still for the drive home. As for now, I'm just taking it easy. I need to walk a bit to keep the circulation moving in my legs. I took the day off work yesterday because I didn't want to have to sit at my desk all day. I went to my sports trainer/therapist yesterday for another massage. I probably won't do any running for the next couple weeks. But I will probably go to yoga later in the week to stretch a bit. I would also love to go for a swim right now.

Sorry for the dissertation. If you got this far in reading it, I appreciate it. :) This was a significant experience for me in my life. Many people run and complete marathons and it means different things for different people. This was a unique and major accomplishment for me. I'm a physical and active person by nature and if I'm not moving, it really affects me. Running a marathon is something I've dreamed of doing for many years and I was finally able to do it. I'm proud of myself and I'm living on a high now :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making the gravy

So although this was back in August, I wanted to share my prize here. My reason for getting into gardening so much was my love for fresh garden tomatoes! After all who can argue that the taste of a fresh tomato doesn't compare to those flavorless red spheres you purchase at the grocery store that are called a tomato.

Anyway, I planted 6 or 8 (can't remember) different varieties of tomato plants this past growing season. I found that the bigger ones produce the best sauce. Next season I'm going to have to keep track of the different varieties -- my bad. I like the Rome tomatoes for salads, I like the bigger ones for sandwiches and for sauce making.

My yield was about 20 jars of sauce (or as Italians say .. "gravy") this season. Not bad for starting out poorly with the blight and blossom end rot I dealt with.

Making my sauce is a long process. I try to break it up in phases so as not to get too harried by it. After's supposed to be relaxing, right?

I collect and collect and collect tomatoes. Once I have a good amount:

I start to produce the gravy. I get a large sauce pot and first sauté garlic and onions in olive oil. While that is sautéing, I start to chop up the tomatoes. I keep them in largish chunks seeds, skin and all and proceed to toss them in the pot. Once the pot is pretty full I'll add some fresh basil and oregano -- a good bit too. Ground pepper, and salt and stir. I cover the lid and let it simmer for a good bit. After a while the tomatoes will break down and start to look "saucy". Depending on the consistency I'll throw in a can of tomoato paste. But the one thing I love about fresh sauce is how light it is! This is something that I especially appreciate in the middle of winter. Popping open a jar of fresh tomato sauce in February brings back memories of the warm summer and me tending to my lovely tomatoes and working in my garden. Anyway, I'll add tomatoe paste, and some red wine...and maybe sprinkle in a bit of sugar. Then I'll just let it simmer. After a while, I'll turn off the heat and let it cool down a bit before proceeding to the next phase of sauce making.

Phase two is the pureeing of the sauce. Once the sauce cools down a bit, I will blend up what's in the pot. This is a messy and bit of a pain as you're producing lots of dirty pots. Bit by bit I'll take cup fulls of my sauce and put it in the blender and blend it up so it's a sauce consistency. Again, I just do seeds, skin and all. Once this is all done I start the canning proccess.

While I was doing the blending, I have a large canning pot on the stove heating up to a rapid boil. I then put my sauce into canning jars and in each jar I put 2 TBSP of lemon juice. I seal up the jars and then transfer them into the pot of boiling water. Let them boil for about 45 minutes. From there I turn off the water and let them sit for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I then take them out of the pot and as they cool you can hear them seal shut...air tight! Once they cool down I check to make all the seals of the jars are securely on. I date them and volia! homemade garden tomato sauce.

In our house...these jars are like liquid gold. I always remind myself while I'm laboring through the process how much our family appreciates it in winter.