January 29, 2014

Snowpocalypse 2014 can't hold Bama down

In case you haven't heard, my part of the world is in a state of emergency because of a little bit of snow that turned our hilly city (minus any infrastructure to salt the roads) into a sheet of ice. I live on the perfect hill to step out of my door and run hill repeats, so you can guess how well driving went there.

The following accidents were all within a mile of my house, mostly just on my hill.


Our cars haven't been to our driveway since the storm started. Parking at the top of the hill became mandatory, or just smart. We were luckily able to get our own children from school (plus a friend who bunked with us), one by car and one by a hike, but because of the unexpected nature of the storm, many children and teachers were at school through the night last night. I have several runner buddies who are teachers, and they deserve mad props for making those kids feel safe and loved through what could have been a scary night. And all with little to no sleep. And kids fart a lot, so there's that too.

When the snow started, I was in the middle of teaching my preschool co-op, and we spent a lot of time staring out the window, mesmerized by seldom-seen snowflakes, which we thought would just be a light dusting. By the time I noticed the first car backslide down my hill and messaged the parents to come get their kids early, it was already too late to get down my hill.


With parents starting to pick them up at 10:30 a.m., the last kids finally made it home via car with friend/friend's car ditch because of impassable roads/hike to friend's house/parental car ditch/parental hike to friend's house/kid hike with parentals, all to walk through the door at 7:30 p.m.

You're probably thinking, why don't these people just get over having to walk somewhere. Actually not a bad point, but with unexpected cold and snow (I wasn't even sure if we had enough gloves for all the kids) and a generally pedestrian-unfriendly infrastructure (like there is no existing crosswalk for the four-lane highway that we would need to cross to pick up my son from a school that is less than a mile away), it is actually pretty dicey for pedestrians in our state. I feel like we're improving, but we are definitely not a walk-friendly community yet. 

My husband got stuck at work downtown, only about 8 miles from our house, but with the conditions of the road, driving home was not a great option. Also, hiking it out in dress shoes and a suit was another bad option. He spent the night on his office floor and then braved the icy roads to home in a friend's car this morning.

Maybe he should start driving one of these to work.

As seen on an average Alabama day.

With abandoned cars lining the sides of every road, people stuck in businesses and schools, and people walking the streets trying to get to shelter, Alabama was in chaos yesterday and most of today, but I could not be more proud of how the people of my state came together and helped each other out. Just stepping outside my own door, I witnessed person after person offering help to their neighbors and total strangers.

I was especially proud of my all my runner friends who were out making it happen. One of my schoolteacher friends reported that her ultra runner boyfriend ran over 10 miles to bring supplies to the overnight crowd at her school (which happens to be the school that my son attends). You can also read about a couple of my BUTS crew members helping each other out HERE.

Plus, many of my distance runner friends were thankful to find old pairs of shoes and socks in their trunks so that when they inevitably had to abandon their cars, they could run it out. Another reason to be thankful for the ability to run. When the world of traffic is melting down (unfortunately, not literally) around you, get your legs moving.

About to use my legs to pick up my son from school.

Also, I have to add that although my husband slept a minimal amount on his office floor, as soon as he made it home to our car with 4WD, he headed straight out to help more of his friends get home. Finally around 5 p.m. today, he walked through the door, ready to eat and conk out. He was very adamant about going back out to help people, even though I asked him a million times if he was sure that was a good idea.

And for anyone who questions stockpiling running shoes, one of my most memorable moments from the storm was when a lady was side-stepping down our icy, steep hill in her high-heeled work boots. She had abandoned her car long before and had a long way to go before she reached home, on foot. I couldn't help her get there any faster, but guess what I did have that she could use. Shoes! And she even wore the same size as me. I ran to my garage and grabbed a pair of trail Salomons for her, and I have never felt better about giving up a pair of shoes in my life. Stockpiling shoes works in emergencies! Feel free to use this example when explaining to your spouse why you need that $50 pair (or two or three) of clearance shoes.

So as you're going about the daily grind, don't pass up the opportunities to help out the people in your community. The needs aren't always as obvious as they are during an emergency, but the way helping out your brothers and sisters warms your heart will feel exactly the same.

January 24, 2014

Balancing the happy with the cruddy

You win some, you lose some. This week has been all about balancing the amazing with the questionable and cruddy.

I may be the only person on earth who was really excited about the Boston Marathon jacket for this year. Most of the reviewers (see the 2 our of 5 stars) hated the color, which I loved more than my college self loved the Beastie Boys. Extremely hard to top such love. But then I ordered this incredibly overpriced jacket, with a 15% off code for registering with adidas.com, and I too was disappointed.


But not with the color. I still stand firmly behind the awesomeness of highlighter orange. What I thought was lame was that this jacket felt like much lower quality than my other (much cheaper) running jackets. For example, there weren't as many pockets and vents, and the material wasn't as soft. The cuffs were kind of weird, like they were trying to make a cross between a warm-up suit and a running jacket. They are a totally different material from the rest of the jacket. But the part that is making me consider returning it is that the "Boston Runs as One" logo on the back collar is off center. Seriously, this really grates on my nerves. I can't even look at it without feeling irritated. 

I did have some more successful online purchases this week. This little Oiselle High 10 Shimmel number has got some very substantial removable pads. Perfect for my 13-year-old-boy chest. Even though we're in the middle of a cold front, I bought this because it went on sale, and I've been staring at it, via the internets, for some time now. If this shirt were a person, it would be feeling really weird right now because of how long I've been staring at it, possibly without blinking. 



And P.S. I love Oiselle packaging that comes with little bonus nuggets. Why can't I write nuggets without immediately thinking of bathroom humor? Help me. 


Second successful online purchase, these Pearl iZUMi Women's EM Trail N 1 from Alabama Outdoors. They were half off, and I've been itching to try them for forever, or at least since they came out. Did I need another pair of trail shoes right now? Absolutely not. Will I eventually need another pair? Absolutely yes. So I'm hoping to hang on to these for some future trail dancing. 

Fresh out of the package.

Things were hit and miss with eating this week too. First of all, we finished our two-week clean-up of our eating. Go, us! I feel more energized and am sleeping better (read: going to bed earlier) in general, which is hard for me to accomplish when I'm eating more sugar.

Here are my two favorite meals that were plan approved.

Fish tacos with homemade mango chutney. I couldn't stop eating these.


And for a super quick, delicious, and healthy meal, you cannot beat the loaded egg scrambles. Just throw every vegetable you've heard of into your eggs, and boom, loaded egg scramble. Top with avocado (optional, but only if you hate joy).


We celebrated our healthiness by turning to gluttony at our favorite Birmingham restaurant, Red Pearl. It's a hole-in-the-wall restaurant attached to an Asian grocery store. I went to the store five times before I even realized that there was a restaurant back there, so you have to really look for this place to find it. Their food tastes exactly like Chinese street vendor food, aka the best food on earth.

After so many successful attempts at ordering the most random thing we could think of (and had never heard of) and it coming out to the table amazing and delicious, we finally met our first fail.


Turns out that crispy baby fish with peanuts is just what it sounds like. Can you see the eyeballs? What's worse than a dead baby fish staring at you from your dinner plate? A million dead baby fish staring at you from your dinner plate. 


But the squid and beef with Chinese broccoli were on point.

Other fails this week?

When my son excitedly brought this book to me at the library.


Why? And just no.

Even though there were a few what-the-freak moments, this week has made me happy. We've gotten in solid workouts. 

Boxing is my new favorite cross training.

I'm back on my regular running schedule with no pain, other than the ordinary stuff. Plus my treadmill buddies dress as twins to entertain me. 


And I got a super comfy, light, and warm Salomon jacket (wearing it every day now) for winning the Southeastern Trail Series. Plus they gave us $100 gift cards to Mountain High Outfitters and an entry into the series for next year.

Champs for the long series.

The race directors for the series hosted a party at their house for the runners. Good food, some of my favorite people, and lots of running and non-running talk. All combined for a happy night.


All in Stride in the stripes. Word!

Plus they raffled off even more prizes: shoes, watches, entries to the race series.


The winners were the opposite of sad.

Happiest winners on earth.

Tell me one cruddy thing and one good thing from your week!

Would you eat crispy baby fish? For real.

What was your last online order fail/success?

Lady Gaga -- yes, no, maybe? Every once in a while she does something cool, like tell everyone that magazines photo-shopped the bejeez out of her for their cover and that that is not what she looks like when she wakes up in the morning -- all while dressed in bubbles and a warped slinky with a flowery wreath wig on top.

January 17, 2014

Xterra Monte Sano 15k & 5K (and a raffle winner)

Even though last week was the week of the janky foot (I self-diagnosed my left foot with some sort of sprain -- specific, I know), it ended on a high note. 

So to dole out some obvious advice, resting when you're hurt is a good thing. After a wonky-feeling start to my Tuesday run, I decided to cut off that run and not try any more running until my race on Saturday, if the foot felt better. And it worked. Common sense prevailed!

I also decided to downgrade my Xterra Monte Sano 15K to 5K because using common sense is sometimes contagious. 

The morning of the race, I got up around 4 a.m. to the sound of sheets of rain beating my roof like a stampede of 100 bazillion horses with iron feet. This was making my decision to only run the 5K even more solid because I knew the course would be swamped, just like last year

Coach Alex, me, Mary, and Greg. My Alabama Outdoors teammies.

The course did not disappoint us in that regard. Because it had rained so much that morning, it was like the trails turned into creek beds. We had lots and lots of splashing through muddy water and some sludgy mud.

For real, it was muddy.

At one point, I stepped into what I thought was a shallow puddle but ended up being a deep puddle, and water was up to my shorts. Excuse me, insta swimming pool on the trail, I need my leg back now.

The most impressive thing about this race was this little lady in the center below who kicked butt in the 5K and is eight months pregnant. These are her home trails, so she was confident about safely running them. Can I just say, she wins all the prizes for kick-butt-ness.

Military ladies rocking Monte Sano.

Also impressive: the quantity of bananas they provided at this race. And all at optimum ripeness. Why can't we even get the three bananas at our house to do this simultaneously?


As far as my performance, I finished the slippery course in 27:37 and won first place for women and eighth place overall.


My husband was really excited that I won a North Face backpack. Turns out that he likes running when I bring home prizes to him.

Race director and me.

Some things that I learned on this day:

* Don't bring toe socks to put on after a cold, wet race. Toes with no feeling have a hard time navigating specific paths.

Toe sock fail.

* My coach has the best bag for running gear. The bottom zips open for a waterproof pouch for your wet clothes, and the side zips open to hold your muddy shoes. Endurance Bags makes this one.


* If you want to be able to dance all night at the annual Birmingham Track Club party, running only 5K that morning is optimal.

Trail runners unite at the track club party.
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And thank you so much to everyone who has donated to Mitchell's Place so far! Just to note: all donations are tax deductible. We had a small pool for the raffle, and I wish I had a gift card for all of you. 


No. 3, Cat Ramsden, is the winner. Email me at yomommaruns(at)gmail.com with your address, so I can mail it out right away. 

January 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Quinoa Chili Recipe

*Today (1/15/14) is the last day to donate to Mitchell's Place (for children with autism) and win a $50 gift card to Road Runner Sports online store. So far, you only have one competitor for this drawing, so your chances of winning are really great! You can donate any amount to be entered to win. GO HERE to check out my fundraising page.

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We are coming up on the final days of our Healthy You! two-week challenge. I am definitely feeling more unaddicted to sugar, so if I saw a pack of Joe Joes on my counter right now, I wouldn't break your arm fighting you for them, at least initially.

Healthy foods are also starting to taste a little bit better to me. Larabars are my usual healthy palate litmus test. If Larabars taste delicious to me, I know that I'm losing my sugar addiction. If they taste like something I scraped off of my shoe, then I know that I've been on the sugar express.

Trips to the grocery store are pretty straight forward on this plan too. You can see that we're stocking up for school lunches with the sandwich bread and Fruitables (my kids aren't on the plan with us). For the other stuff, the key is very simple ingredients and no added sugar if it's a prepackaged food. The whole sugar thing eliminates a ton of packaged foods. Did you know that tons of salad dressings and marinara sauces (or any sauce) have sugar in them? And salsas?! What the heck? There are so many things that I never thought about having added sugar before paying attention. I was supposed to cut out all processed foods, but I fudged that rule a little, mainly for tortilla chips.


This week, I tried a new crockpot recipe that I loved because it had quinoa and was so filling because of that. I adapted whatever recipe I found online, so I'll share my version here.

Slow Cooker Chicken Quinoa Chili


2 15-oz cans of black beans
1 15-oz can of corn, drained
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
3 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tsp of cumin
2 tsp of chili powder
1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
2 chicken breasts

Avocado and tortilla chips to garnish when serving (optional)

Mix the beans, corn, tomatoes, stock, onion, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and quinoa in the slow cooker. Then add two chicken breasts, submerging them in the other ingredients. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. When ready to serve, remove chicken breasts, shred them (I just use two forks to pull the meat apart), and mix back into the chili. Garnish with avocado and tortilla chips (or whatever else you can think of).

This recipe is so easy, and our whole family inhaled it (not literally, because that would be dangerous). Plus I just got a new 6-quart crockpot, and I'm pretty much going to try and use it every day for eternity. It is so much better than the hand-me-down brown and tan floral version from the 70s that we had until just recently. Like unto this one (that someone is randomly selling on ebay). Sort of.


It was the one that used to have my mom's name on it in black ink, and I sharpied over her name to make my name. But instead of magic erasing her name off, I just adapted her letters into our letters, like changing an a into an o and a into an h. Just classing things up a notch. Being vintage, it was awesome, but with lots of experimentation, I've found that even though kitchen appliances from the 70s look cool, they work cruddy compared to today's versions. Also, in case you were wondering, don't test whether or not the stoneware pot can be used on the stove top. No, no, it can't, which is why we had to get a new one. Pretty sure that is taught in Crock Pot 101.

This is the one that I have now, and the locking lids are the best thing invented.


Also sadly learned that from experience as well. Taco soup does not appear as tasty spread out across the back floorboard of your car.

Another new thing I'm trying is valerian for help with sleeping at night. I like to occasionally take something to help sleep on the nights before an early-morning long run, so that I can fall asleep earlier and easier. Usually that something is melatonin pills, but I want to be able to mix it up and get more herb-y. My sister recommended the Herb Pharm brand with no alcohol, so I ordered some from Amazon. They were out whenever I checked at our local stores (the one below from Whole Foods has alcohol).


Do you ever take anything to help you sleep? I try hard not to so that I don't become dependent on it, but before races and big running days, I will to make sure I get solid sleep that I desperately need. 

Crock Pot -- fan or hater? If you love it, what's your favorite recipe? 

Have you ever purchased or acquired vintage kitchen appliances? My mom bought me the coolest looking avocado green blender from the 60s when I first got married 13 years ago. Problem was that that thing could barely crush ice. Blender fail.

January 9, 2014

Running injury blah-iness

This week has blah-ed past. It all started with me ignoring one of my new year's goals of staying injury free by not doing obviously stupid stuff. When I went a little off schedule with my speed work, running it Friday instead of Thursday, I was sure it was fine to do a long run on Saturday. Seriously, I just posted about this a few days ago.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I barely scraped myself off of my mattress to get up and run with my brother. Then we perfected making our ugliest faces for selfies. 

Heeeeeeeyyy.

Score for weirdest selfie face, but maybe that zip tie art installation will distract you. 

Zip tie art.

My body just really can't handle this two-hard-days-of-running-in-a-row stuff, and the reason I know that is because I've experimented with that many times, thinking, oh, I'll just squeeze in my week of training into three days, no problem. Newsflash to myself: that never works out. Unless I'm running trails, and then I think it is just a case of the trails slowing my runs down enough that I'm not as likely to get hurt. 

So I was like this. 

The hat didn't work.

Cry, my left foot hurts enough that it makes me limp-run (definition: when you unconsciously avoid putting pressure on one foot because it hurts), and for sure a limpy run will injure my other side. So I stopped. 

Plus there's an Xterra race at Monte Sano in Huntsville, AL, this weekend, that I was shooting for. It is only 15K, but now that my foot is hurting, I'm going to shoot for the 5K with the caveat that I can always drop if I need to. Which, knowing myself, means that I will push through to the end of the 5K no matter what. Maybe not smart, but I took almost the whole week off from running. So somewhere in there, all the smart vs. ridiculous decisions balance out, right?!

And if you're looking at runners from the outside, almost all of our decisions look ridiculous. My friend posted this outsider perspective of runners on the Facebooks recently. 



Yes, I'm glad you noticed that really rad smudging of names to protect the innocent. But for serious, we look insane to the rest of the world. 

Marketers sometimes try (maybe unsuccessfully) to take advantage of that, like by labeling products with the word "marathon." I found this marathon fresh body spray on the clearance aisle the other day. So anyone who has ever run a marathon knows that there is nothing fresh about Gatorade/drool streaks on your tank top and a little bit of unintentional soiling of your built-in runner briefs. Not at all surprised that this is now on the clearance aisle. If they're following that same line of logic, maybe next time they could try something like outhouse fresh or my brother didn't flush fresh. 



Moving on to happier times, my husband and I are trying to clean up our diet by following the Healthy You two-week plan that I posted about here. It usually takes me about two weeks to get over sugar cravings (currently eating no processed sugar), so I'm almost there. Six more days to go before I stop twitching every time I see a dessert. I did go ahead and order some Girl Scout cookies from a friend just to give hope to the dessert reflex in my brain.

What's something that your friends and family think you are crazy for doing? I floss my teeth with my hair sometimes. Wait, is that just gross or crazy?

Best flavor of Girl Scout cookies? Or no thanks to them? Samoas!

Any current injuries? Misery loves company.

January 6, 2014

The vacation matrix is ending

Vacation ends tomorrow. Well supposedly. Right now the rain covered roads are supposed to be turning into ice covered roads with the temperature drops, and school, which has already been delayed two hours, has the possibility of being canceled. So fingers crossed that we get one more day to spend together.

If not, I feel like we had some awesome quality time together, making lots of great new memories, minus the lice incident.

Update: we heard rosemary helps detract lice, so we bought out the Suave rosemary mint shampoo. So if you are out looking for some, just go home because we already bought it all. Some people are out purchasing bread and milk in a panic (that's what happens when it gets below 30 in Alabama), but we were just cleaning out the shampoo section in a panic.


In an effort not to let that overshadow our school vacation time, I'm going to take a look at the good things for a minute. 

Kentucky sunsets are one, especially when combined with a bunch of friendly horses. 

At my in-laws' farm.

The kids were too busy with their own fun to really notice much of the sunset.


My family reunion this year was in Evansville, IN, which has some pretty great sunrises to compete with Kentucky's sunsets.


Plus, as you see above, we had a decent sized running crew at our family reunion this year. Last year, Emma (in the blue sweats above) ran with Jimmy and I at the reunion, but this year, we doubled our running numbers. Pretty good improvement for a year! Obviously my nephew in the army shirt is in the army for a reason, like that he is way tougher than us. We are all practically bundled up in down comforters to run, while he's out in shorts like it's a spring day.

These family reunion runs in Evansville also reminded that running is a great way to tour a new town. Churches, government buildings, restaurants, cute neighborhoods, casinos, the nearest Bargain Hunt: you can find all of that on a four-mile run, at least we did that day.


My snow-deprived kids also got to see an old pile of dirty snow in Indiana. One of the twins ran up and grabbed a chunk and got a horrified look on his face. He dropped it and said, "This is just really cold ice." Wow. Some things are not obvious to kids who are only around snow twice a decade. 

Is that kid in the snow matrix?

One of my personal favorites from Evansville was the local pizza joint Turoni's. If you're ever visiting, this is a must.


We tried, almost successfully, to fill the place up. And this was minus seven family members who were still en route to the reunion.


They had a lot of creative topping combinations to try, and we ordered the meatball pizza, which was made with homemade meatballs. I imagined a little Italian grandma in the back hand rolling them, so if that is not the case, I don't even want to know.

About to set fire to someone's intestines. 

We even studied a little history while we were there by visiting the LST 325, the last fully operational  WWII landing ship tank. It's worth a visit and a tour, although there was that one awkward moment when the tour guide asked all the women to come stand by him to see something special to them. He then proceeded to open the door to the laundry facility. Um, no. That's when I wished that I had worn a Rosie the Riveter shirt to rip off my jacket and reveal it, like Superman with his lab coat.


The educational tour was followed by an equally entertaining night of games and watching disgusting youtube videos. Sometimes someone (maybe me, maybe not me) lets out a random, late-night confession that they occasionally watch zit popping videos on youtube for fun. Then that turns into everyone sharing/googling even more of said videos, until you find the worst one ever and decide not to eat cottage cheese ever again. That's what happened when we watched this one. Do not even have food near you if you click that link. 

Fun or horrific?

And while we're on gross food, when was the last time you went to Golden Corral? The place where all your grossest food concoction dreams can come true. Made by a four-year-old twin: taco salad shell minus the salad but plus beans, a giant piece of steak, and extra chips.

I'd like a taco salad shell with my sirloin, please.

And in other disappointing food news, what the heck, Taco Bell? Is it just me, or is this the lamest fast-food taco you've ever seen? They were out of lettuce, so instead of making up for it with more of other ingredients, they just gave me an almost-empty taco shell.


So in summary, yes to local pizza joints, learning about history, running with family, and Kentucky in general. Maybe to zit videos on youtube. No to Taco Bell, Golden Corral, and sexism. 

What are your go-to restaurants for when you're on the road?

When was the last time you saw snow? Had a snowball fight? We learned that a snowball fight with a really dirty pile of snow makes you, um, dirty. Bring a change of clothes if you try that at home.

Best thing you've seen lately on a run? Evansville was flooding when we were there, so we saw a lot of interesting things floating in the river. I kept expecting a body any minute (too much 48 Hours on the brain).

What was the last youtube video watching streak that sucked you in? 

*Check out the Road Runner Sports gift card charity raffle HERE if you haven't already!