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    I'm a 20-something, recently married, runner who recently moved to New York City. Questions? Email therunnerwife (at) gmail (dot) com!

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Book Review – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I think my book slump has finally ended! I’d heard of my latest literary conquest while browsing an old issue of Runners World and I’m so glad it came up in my book queue when it did. I was gearing up to race the R Baby Mother’s Day 4 mile race and trying to get my running groove back. I know I go through phases with running, but I struggle with all the mind games I start to play when my running shoes have been in the closet for more than a few days.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami, is truly a meditation on running. A dramatic departure from his other books, WITAWITAR is a collection of diary entries, mixed in with recaps of races he wrote for running magazines and interviews. Much of the book is a tribute to Murakami’s love of long distance running, a passion he began cultivating at the respectable age of 33. He describes, with vivid detail, some of his favorite, and most challenging runs. And he highlights the many ways in which running and writing have become inextricably connected in his life. Both require talent, focus and endurance. This is why Murakami has run and written every day. And he has run a marathon almost every year since he began running.

The commitment to the practice of his trade, and to his passion, is remarkable and humbling. When I raced in Central Park on Mother’s Day, I chuckled as I remembered Murakami’s musings on how quiet his mind becomes when he runs. “Essentially I’m not thinking of a thing…all I do is keep running in my own cozy, homemade void.” I tried to absorb every moment of the race, mulled over each signal my body was sending me. I pushed through my fatigue because “It’s precisely because of the pain,” Mr. Murakami writes, “precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive.” And what do you know, I came out the other side with a new 4-mile PR: 33:15. That’s an 8:18/mile average, folks, and boy did I feel alive after that!

I might not be signing up to run from Athens to Marathon in the middle of the summer (Murakami did this) or running a 62-mile ultramarathon anytime soon (he did this too), but I am definitely excited to hit the streets consistently, to build up my own habit and commitment to regular running. And I’m also dying to read more of Murakami’s books! In the meantime, I’m going to read and re-read this interview. Enjoy!

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Daily Om

Yoga has always been a challenge for me. Not so much in the physical sense, but more in the mental. Tell me to power through an hour long sweatfest of a run and I’ll jump at the chance and savor every salty minute. But tell me to sit crosslegged in a dimly lit room with quiet chanting and ask me to focus on my breath and quiet my mind? My mind races. As soon as my eyes close, I wonder if everyone else is looking at me. Is this all a joke and they’re all snickering at my sweaty workout clothes? I’m not like these women in their designer yoga apparel and 4 karat diamonds. I show up in running shorts and an old race tee that I have to keep tucking into my waistband.

15 seconds have passed. Now I’m thinking about the itch on my right middle toe. No, pinky toe. No, middle toe. Yup, definitely middle toe. Stupid toe. Who needs it anyway? And why, since I’ve generously allowed it to remain attached to my foot, does it insist on itching? Did I get a mosquito bite during a downward facing dog?

Instructor: Focus on your breath. In. Out. Direct your focus to your heart….

30 seconds. The dog! Do I need to pick up dog food on the way home? What should I have for dinner? It’s too hot to cook. Maybe The Huz can pick up something to throw on a salad. Do I want salad?

45 seconds. Ugh, I’m tired of this. I don’t want to be here. Would it be bad to get up and leave? How sad would that be? I couldn’t even lie and say I had an appointment to rush off too. I mean, who can’t handle 2 minutes of meditation?

Instructor: Now focus your breath on your third eye. Breathe into that space.

1 minute. Ooh, what if we all had three eyes? Would it look in the same direction as the other two? What would it mean to be cross eyed then? I’m a bad yogi. I should try to focus.

Instructor: If it helps, try a mantra. Inhale and say “Let.” Exhale and say “go.”

75 seconds. Let. Go. Let. Go. Let. Go. Hm, this isn’t so bad. Wait, I lost focus. Three breaths. That’s all I can muster? Focus, woman! Let. Go. Let. Go…

Instructor: Okay, now begin to deepen your breath. We’re going to end this meditation..

Wait, we’re done already? Where did the last 45 seconds go?

Instructor: …by chanting “Om” three times.

Om…igod I can’t believe I meditated for 45 seconds. Om…y darlin’ Oh my darlin’. Om….yword. I think I need to keep practicing this whole meditation thing.

Have you ever meditated? Do you use mantras to focus?

Recipe – Spicy Chipotle Guacamole

As I mentioned yesterday, having Diana over for dinner this weekend was a blast. However, it made me realize we’re still only about 85% moved into our apartment. We’ve been here for over a year now, but the corners we cut when we moved are starting to get on my nerves. For example, our bedside tables are still plastic rolling carts from Target, and we are using a large bookshelf as a dresser. We also have a terrible mish mash of lamps and I’m using a magnifying mirror as my bedside lamp. FYI, waking up and seeing yourself magnified 20x as soon as you open your eyes is NOT the best way to start your day. I’ve been shopping around online and trying to find some new apartment pieces and I think we might order some track lighting to install over the dining table and we’re eyeing a few more items from CSN Stores too. I actually have several reasons for wanting to work with CSN to finish our apartment. One of them is that I’m going to be reviewing a couple of products that will be showing up the blog soon. And these products may or may not be helpful next time I make this awesome guacamole!

Several weeks ago I tweeted that I was having a Gena-inspired dinner: a tub of guac with a side of guac. Without even realizing it, the tub I grabbed from Whole Foods on a class break was smoked chipotle guacamole and, I can’t lie, it blew my regular guac out of the water. Not to be outdone by a store-made version, I vowed to recreate it and take it up a notch.

Spicy Chipotle Guacamole (serves 3 hungry guac lovers, or 4-6 normal people)

3 ripe avocados
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
3/4 large vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 ripe lemon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Finely chop the onion and add lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Finely chop chilies and add to onion and lemon. (The chilies are pretty soft, so “chop” is all relative)

3. Add cayenne, Frank’s and garlic powder, stirring to coat.

4. Slice and score avocados, saving pits, and add to onion. Mash and mix everything together.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with cilantro, if desired. (I’m not a big fan of cilantro, so I used a small handful as garnish only, but you could chop a larger bunch and mix into the guac.)

6. Serve immediately, or bury pits in guacamole, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.

Would you like one? Just make sure you follow it up with a slice of Diana’s no-bake, vegan pecan pie!

Book Review – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Hello world! Happy Thursday! I had a fab weekend packed with class, dinner with Diana, and lots of relaxing. In addition to plenty of Dexter (season 2 is in the bank!), I just finished another book and realized I’m way behind on my book reviews. After I read Ellen Foster, I was still feeling a mild case of book blues so I knew another short book was in order. Up next was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I remember The Huz’s cousin, Jessica, reading this several years ago and her remarking on the beautiful language with which this memoir was written. And now I can’t remember why I didn’t pick it up earlier. She was right. The book was impeccably written, a fact made even more impressive given the way the words found their voice.

Bauby, a former French Elle editor, suffered a brain stem stroke and was diagnosed with “locked in” syndrome when he awoke from a coma. The only functioning parts of his body were his brain and his left eye. As he described in his memoir, Bauby communicated the text by blinking his left eyelid to designate words, letter by letter, to an assistant who recited to him a special alphabet.

If the memoir had been full of self pity and rage against the world, I would have understood completely. Bauby’s life had been stolen from him and he was forced to witness it strictly as a spectator. Instead of descending into a pit of inconsolable misery, Bauby seized the beautiful power of his imagination, which “takes flight like a butterfly….You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court,” and he tells stories with humor, a dry wit and an unmatched elegance.

As if the stroke and resulting locked in syndrome weren’t bad enough, Bauby died of heart failure just two days after the book was originally published in France. Since its initial printing in 1997, Bauby’s memoir has become an international bestseller and was adapted into a feature film in 2007. I hadn’t seen the movie prior to reading the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing the adaptation and hope it does the author’s story justice.

“Real” Bread!

I’m really excited about this post, but I’m even more excited to wish my sister, Sarah, a very happy 26th birthday!!! She’s far away in Portland, OR, but I know my other sister and her friends will take good care of her and make sure she has the awesome birthday she deserves. And perhaps I’ll sneak in some time for a cocktail with her when I’m in town in August!! Happy Birthday, Sarah! I LOVE YOU!!

I don’t know what it is about baking that I find so soothing. Maybe I’m comforted by the exactness of the measurements. Maybe I just love having an excuse to relax with a good book while something is in the oven. I love making cupcakes, muffins, granola bars, and so much more. Goat cheese frosting? Yes please! Vegan banana bread? You bet! Plain old whole wheat bread? Panic! I have no idea why I’m so intimidated by regular bread recipes, but I’d never made regular bread until I stumbled upon this whole wheat flax bread recipe. Suddenly, the itchy nervous feeling I usually get when faced with long rise times and doctor appointments vanished. The pictures were lovely, the prose was friendly, and the recipe seemed manageable.

Whole-Wheat Flax Bread [makes 2 loaves]

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups very warm water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (wildflower) honey
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry active yeast
  • 6-7 c. whole wheat flour (I used 6 cups, plus enough to dust the kneading surface)
  • 1/2 c. golden flax meal

Directions

1. Place the oil, honey, and molasses in the mixer bowl. Add the salt, water and the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes, until it looks like this.

2. Add two cups of the flour and the flaxmeal, mixing until well combined.

3. Gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Dough should be sticky, so don’t add too much flour. I used 6 cups total.  Avoid overmixing.

4. Cover the mixer bowl and let it rise for 30-60 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen. It may not double, but it should be puffy. Mine more than doubled in 35 minutes, but it was a very warm day.

5. Spray two bread pans with non-stick spray.

6. Restart mixer to reduce dough size for several seconds.

7. Drop the dough on a floured counter or other surface. Divide the dough in half and form each one into a loaf shape. Do not use a rolling pin; folded with hands to create smooth top and sides.

8. Place the loaves in your bread pans and let them rise until almost doubled.

9 Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 32-35 minutes, until the tops are golden and if you tap the bottom of the loaves, they sound hollow.

10. Remove from the pans and cool the loaves on a rack. Allow loaves to cool completely before slicing.

The bread should last about a week so you can either freeze one loaf, or make lots of PB&J sammies and devour two loaves in 8 days…not that I’ve done that, of course.

Thank you so much, Teri, for coming up with such a healthy, easy bread recipe and curing me of my “regular bread making” fears!!

Plyometrics and Motivation

Hope you’re having a wonderful Thursday! Today has started off wonderfully and I have high hopes for the rest of the day. Last night, The Huz and I celebrated our date-a-versary with a Cinco de Mayo- themed meal:

corn chips, salsa, homemade guacamole, homemade “refried” black beans, taco meat, labne and Tacate beer

We made the beans by just heating a can of black beans in a sauce pot and stirring occasionally. We added a few sprinkles of garlic powder and splashes of hot sauce too, but kept it simple. The meat was a pound of organic ground beef sauteed and seasoned with chili powder, garlic, Tobasco and cumin. We devoured everything while watching two awesome episodes of Dexter (season 1). I’m addicted to that show!

This morning, I took Bodhi for a mile-long walk and enjoyed another tasty breakfast. Very similar to yesterday’s breakfast, but I added a spoonful of mixed berry jam. Yum!

After letting everything digest a bit (and shopping for school clothes online), I did my day 2 Insanity workout. Ugh, this was so hard! So much jumping and so many explosive movements. I was seeing stars 2/3 of the way through this video. It was really tough to keep myself from getting discouraged. Since the videos are only 35-45 minutes long, when I have to stop to recover I feel like I’m cheating myself out of the workout. I swear to you, though, I needed those breaks! I’m just going to keep repeating “it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy from the start!” I’m actually thinking of doing another DVD this afternoon since I’ll have friends in town this weekend and a race on Sunday. I must truly be insane!

Do you prefer traditional strength training or plyometrics?