Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflection: 2011

Wow, here I am, 7 years have passed since the day I began this blog. I don’t know if I ever thought this blog would be alive after all of this time. There have been points in time when it has laid low, when it has licked its wounds; there have been points when it has been flying high, with the world by it’s tail.

That’s life in a nutshell, isn’t it.

2011 has been  a year like none I have had since I began posting here.  I went into 2011 wondering if I had ovarian cancer.  A complete, radical hysterectomy in January showed that I didn’t thank goodness. I slammed into menopause. I began 7 weeks of recovery, began to run again, half marathons, marathons, 50Ks and then the dreaded herniated discs arrived and yet another recovery.

The hysterectomy recovery turned out to be uneventful. Seven weeks of laying low, walking, flat on my back most of the time. I later learned that the time on my back with my chin pointed toward my chest as I was watching TV or iPhoning probably herniated two of my discs.  My gynecologic surgeon and neurosurgeon both came to this conclusion. As I look back it now makes sense.

I’ve received many questions via email, FB, etc. relating to the herniated discs and the recovery process. It was horrible. I’ll go into detail here to answer many of the questions.

When I came back to work in March, after 7 weeks of medical leave, I noticed that I felt pain in my left elbow when answering the phone. I hadn’t yet started to run or lift at this point.  I rearranged my work desk so that I would be answering my telephone with my right arm.  A few days later I commented that my left index finger felt numb and my hand tingly. I couldn’t figure this out.

I began to run and noticed that when I did I had a ‘falling asleep’ feeling from my elbow down to my fingers .. this continued for weeks.  I didn’t know why and didn’t make any medical appointments. I think I was ‘all doctored out’. 

I remember running the Minneapolis Marathon in May, so happy that I was again running, so thrilled that the hysterectomy hadn’t taken me down and hadn’t shown cancer. I also remember having to pass my water bottle hand to hand because the left one kept falling asleep. I kept trying to shake it out, it wouldn’t shake out.

In July I ran the Afton 50K and felt the same symptoms of the herniated discs but didn’t know what it was. I was beginning to worry I had MS or something.  I took the race slow, but finished the crazy Afton Alps course, I was happy to have made it but the pain in my arm worried me.

Finally by the end of July I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too badly. The bouncing motion made my rhomboid area scream in pain. I thought maybe I strained my rhomboid. The pain at this point was horrific.

The first Dr. I saw was a General Practitioner. It was he who thought I could have herniated discs. I was stunned. I was scheduled for physical therapy in two weeks. He gave me some exercises to complete daily, a prescription for muscle relaxants and suggested an MRI.

The MRI confirmed herniated discs and the doctor I saw this time spoke of surgery. I was resistant to this option. I decided to get an appointment at Mayo with a neurosurgeon. Why wouldn’t one go to the best of the best, you know?  I had my hysterectomy at Mayo and had as good of an experience as one could under the circumstances.

In the meantime I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I heard Topaz stuck under my bed. Now I realize I was dreaming. He can’t even fit under my bed. I have a Select Comfort and there isn’t room for him under there. 

I popped out of bed (OUCH!) began to pull on Topaz as he was sleeping on the floor next to my bed. As I pulled him I felt intense pain. I couldn’t move.

Eventually I made my way to the kitchen and just stood there. I couldn’t cry, I would scare Troy, I couldn’t scream, what good would that do? I stood there wondering if I should get on the floor in fetal position. It didn’t help. I hurt so badly and  I didn’t know what to do. I was going to go out of my mind. I had all of the Oxycodone left from my hysterectomy. I hadn’t taken any. I wondered if I should now?

I had Steve take me to the ER at Princeton.  The Dr. there told me I had probably suffered a muscle strain. Ah, no, I had an MRI and have herniated discs. Oh, well, I don’t think so, I think you have a muscle strain. I see you have on a race shirt, you run, well, take some Percocet, some of the Oxycodone some Aleve and you can run. Are you for real?  I don’t need to run, I need to be able to get through this hour without pain.  We left. I wasn’t feeling much better but the Percocet he gave me as I walked through the door was taking the edge off.

I decided to try a chiropractor. Bad idea. I saw one in Big Lake and he was a joke. I could barely walk into his office. He told me I had sprained my neck and asked me to take my shirt off, then to flex my biceps as he stood there watching me. Are you kidding me?  I left and didn’t go back. I should probably report him to the Better Business Bureau or something.  What the fuck?

My appointment at Mayo finally arrived. I saw a wonderful neurosurgeon who told me that only 10% of his patients who have herniated discs are candidates for surgery. He showed me how to take care of my spine, how to get through my day, what exercises to complete. He told me I would run again. He told me my pain would lessen. It could be 3 months, it could be 6 months, it could be a year.  He told me to keep my appointments with the physical therapist and that he would contact me each week. He did. He was awesome.

The physical therapy went well. Traction was my new best friend and the healing began.  It was slow. Here I am, 9 months since this all began, and finally feeling good.

That was a long report on the whole herniated disc saga, I hope it answered some of the questions. It has had a big impact on 2011 and what I want to do in 2012.

Now, when I run, I remember the pain. I remember how I didn’t know if I would be able to run again. I remember how I told myself I was OK with that. I just wanted the pain to be gone. If I was able to run again, that would be icing on the cake.

I am enjoying the icing on the cake!

I am running and I have missed it so very much. I am humbled and I am so very grateful for every step I am now taking out in the woods.

This week Topaz and I ran our longest run since I ran Afton 50K.  We ran 20 miles!  I had no pain, no numbness. I was laughing, crying, yahooing the whole time. It was fabulous. It is fabulous.

As I turn 47 years old tomorrow I am thankful that I am looking at 2012 as a healthy person. I am not going into the New Year as I did last year: a hysterectomy scheduled and hoping to hear I am cancer free.  I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for  my family, for my health. 

I won't be running my birthday years in miles as I normally do each birthday, but hey, at least I can run..right?  I will reach my highest mileage this week in a long time. It will be 47 miles. Tomorrow we are celebrating my birthday at Pittsburgh Blue. I'm looking forward to it.

I have many plans to reach my goals for 2012. I’ll keep most of my goals private except for my running plans. That is where this blog began.

For so many years my daily calendar has been Tyler and Troy. I gave up the plush corporate office to stay at home for years and then began to work at the public school so that I could have the same hours as my boys. The daily calendar is letting me lose. With Tyler out of the nest and doing so well at college, with Troy not far behind, I find that I am craving more structure for myself. I find that I am having difficulty filling my day. My routine for so long has been my children, my purpose has been their care, their nurturing. I’ve done well. They have wings with which to fly. They soar.

For 2012 I’m ready to go big running wise.   I have had plenty of time to think about what I want to accomplish while running in 2012.  I have a final goal and am creating the detailed plans to get to the outcome I desire. I am pulling out my calendar and putting together my plan.  Once I have it set in stone, I’ll let you in.

Training began a few weeks ago. I love training, and oh, how I have missed it!  The only difference between running and training is a written plan. I have written the plan, I am putting in the miles. With training comes discipline, scheduling, a sense of achievement, where I find joy.  I find that while I am training everything else falls into place.

Cheers to 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Sourdough Starter Bread

 Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

I began to bake bread quite frequently after I purchased The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. It's a fabulous bread baking book. I use it every month, at least, but have never used sourdough starters. They kind of grossed me out. I mean, really, flour and water fermenting for days..or get a rise out of bread? Kind of ishy, I thought.

To get a sourdough to ferment I needed a warm space, which is difficult in December in Minnesota. 86F is ideal. My house is never 86F, even in August.  I mixed up 1/3 cup of rye flour and 3 T of water to begin this science project and placed the tupperware container in Troy's bathroom, near the vent. Troy's bathroom doesn't have any window, no drafts so it is about the warmest place in the house during the winter months.

Each morning I added 1/3 c of rye flour + 3T of water and mixed, watching for life. Eventually I did find a few bubbles and my mixture smelled yeasty.  Tyler arrived home for the Christmas Holiday and asked what in the world was that bubbly smelly stuff in his bathroom? I knew it was finally ready!

It just seemed so strange to me that I wasn't using yeast in this bread. The sourdough starter creates it's own yeast from the bacteria floating around my house, apparently.  Interesting.

I wasn't completely into this experiment until I watched my bread rise in the oven today. Yeah, the bakers are correct, sourdough does create it's own yeast. What a concept, hu? I didn't use all of the starter so now the remainder just hangs out until I decide to make another sourdough bread, which will probably be next week!

Here is my creation! Not too bad for a first time, if I do say so myself. Doesn't it look light, for a rye flour?  I thought it would be a dark bread, like a pumpernickel. I was wrong.  I really do love to bake breads. Thank you to Jessica to giving me the nudge I needed to try a sourdough. I no longer this of it as a gross science project :)

Be sure to visit Jessica for the complete recipe and details.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Listen. Do You Hear That?

Yes, two posts in one week. Woohoo! Something must be happening  with me, right? 

Yes. Something is. It is improvement. Improvement that I am able to see, to feel, to celebrate!

For the first time since July I have been able to string together FIVE, yes FIVE running days in a row. That is BIG in this world of mine. I don't feel any pain!!  Just a tiny bit of numbness in my index finger.

Yesterday after work Topaz and I headed off to my old running grounds. I wanted to try running on gravel road, just to see how I would hold up.  In the past I have run miles upon miles on this gravel road as there are many dirt trails that are offshoots and easy to access.  I ran hundreds of miles here while training for Lean Horse where I ran my 100 mile PR of 21 hours.
Yesterday’s run was awesome!  I was able to run fartleks for the first time in a long time! I ran a full 90 minutes upon the gravel without any pain. 

At every trail intersection where Topaz and I have turned onto in the past he stopped and looked at me, waiting for the direction.  He remembered.

As we finished up our run, walking a cool down,  I said “Topaz. Do you hear that? It is my soul. It is singing. “

Monday, December 12, 2011


No, I don't have a cold, I am blowing the dust off of my blog.  It's been far too long since I've visited you, dear blog, so sorry. I have been updating via FaceBook, the new kid in town.

I've received numerous email and messages from my dear blog readers, and I thank you for each and every one!  I began this blog 8 years ago as a tool to share with others the awesome fact I had uncovered:  Yes, you CAN run if you WANT to!  Yes, you can run a marathon, a 100 miles, a 5K IF you want to!  It was news to me, really! I wanted to spread the word.

Well, with all of the recovery going on this past year I didn't have all that much running going on in my life and didn't want to bore with the other details of my life.

I can not believe how this year took me right off of the trail. Wow. The hysterectomy wasn't so bad as I made the choice to have the surgery and would do so again in a minute. It was a good decision. I was able to plan for my recovery, knowing full well that I was going to lay low for 6 weeks and would slowly ramp my running back up over time. I entered the Team Ortho series and that kept me on track.

I'm very happy that I was able to run a few halfs, marathons, 50Ks and even tried my first few tri's. Awesome!

Then the dreaded occured. The herniated discs. Ugh. The unknown recovery, pain and turmoil that took place within me was something I have never experienced before.  The numerous Dr's, quacks, chiros, PTs are too numerous to count.. but I am now on the other side.  Thankfully.

As I look upon this past year it is with mixed emotions. I feel pain and sadness but I also feel gratitude and joy. Gratitude and Joy win!

On the bright side, I am not dying from an illness, I am otherwise healthy. My discs are healing!  Last Sunday I caught a glimpse of my former self. I ran 10 miles with Dear Topaz, I lifted weights, working shoulders for 45 minutes AND I headed off to CorePower Yoga and was able to complete the full 90 minute heated beginner class. JOY.  I drove home with tears rolling down my cheeks and a smile upon my face, telling Steve and Troy all about it. Gratitude.

I am slowly building my running miles. Today is the 4th day in a row that I have been able to run. Small victories!  I'm stringing together the good days just as when I first began to run 12 years ago. I'm thankful for each day.

Of course I'm disappointed that I won't be pulling a sled for Tuscobia 75 this next weekend but I am planning out my 2012 season. I mailed off an entry for a race in January. I am taking the calendar out and making my list.  I've missed the planning, the anticipation and oh how I have missed the training. Training. What a sweet word. It brings such great memories, feelings of strength, power, agony. Love Training.

Yesterday I suffered my first BONK in ages. While I've been recovering I've cut my calories so I wouldn't have weight to lose on top of everything else. Yesterday was a big huge reminder as to how important nutrition is. As if I didn't know this. My body isn't the same as it was before this past year. I can no longer run 20  miles on water. Nor can I run 20 miles (soon!). My body needs to learn to use fat again for energy.  I had a cup of coffee and headed out, knowing I was going to run 11 miles. I made it 6 miles before that carb crash feeling reared its ugly head. I was stunned. Seriously? 6 miles. Yes, 6 miles, this is an untrained body, remember, give yourself a break was the talk going through my head.  OK, I brought along 1 gel and was bummed that it was a Montana Huckleberry and not an Espresso. I didn't look, I just grabbed it from the glove box where a full box has resided for the past 6 months. I was lucky I had the 1.  I was still bonky but at least my legs were doing their thing, even if my brain wasn't. I suppose I used most of my glucose for my brain in my legs. Oops.

Today Topaz and I headed out for another long (in this world of mine) run. Today I had berries and cream, coffee prior to running. I carried water and Vespa with a few gels. I was good to my body and it rewarded me with a great run. Nice.

I'm getting better..and I'm liking this. Training. Training!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Pumping Iron and Running Trail

Each day that passes brings me closer to a full recovery of these herniated discs.  I very seldom feel any pain from my spine these days. I only feel nerve pain going down my arm into my fingers a few times a day, usually while driving.  I no longer have a numb hand.  Thank goodness!

Two weeks ago schools were closed for MEA.  Being the goal setter that I have become these past 10 years, I decided I wanted to run 4 consecutive days. I was off Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Why not try to run each day, right?  Thursday and Friday went great. I ran 5 miles each day with Topaz at Lake Maria State Park and it was fabulous. Saturday came along and after about a mile I began to have quite a bit of tingling and numbness. I stopped running immediately and began walking, the nerve pain went away. Thankfully.  I was fine the remainder of the day, no additional pain.  Sunday came along and I was able to run another 5 miles, no problem.  I'll take it!  If I am able to run two days in a row without pain and need to take a day off before I run again, I am fine with that. I truly am thankful just to be out in the woods, able to run whenever I can, and will walk when I must.

I began going back to Gold's two weeks ago as well.  It was a big moment for me. I recalled vividly the last time I was there. Troy warned me not to go and lift. He could see that I was in pain, but I told him "I'm only going to lift legs" ... famous last words. That was 3 months ago and I hadn't been back in the gym since. I was in so much pain.

I started by working full body-light weight, high reps. I had minimal nerve pain, it really wasn't too bad. It was there though and let me know when to stop. I found that I could use the elliptical machine without much pain but oh how boring is that?  Staring at myself in the mirror while on that machine drove me insane. No thanks.

The next visit to the gym was a repeat, full body, light high reps. Minimal nerve pain. I was just happy to be back, but at the same time, I was upset at my level of fitness, it had really declined.

Last week was better. I broke my lifting into 2 body parts and began with bi/tri.  My right arm is as strong as it was, but oh boy, my left arm has a case of  muscle atrophy. I don't know how the muscle and nerve is all connected but it has certainly done a number on my strength. It can't ONLY be because I didn't use my left arm for a while, it's not like I had it in a sling for 12 weeks but boy, by the loss of strength, one would think it had been casted for 12 weeks.

Bi's went OK, I can DB curl 30-35 lbs with my right arm, then for left...10 pounds!  10 and it was shaking like a frickin' leaf.  I was on one hand, devastated by my loss of strength, but on the other hand, happy that I was able to at least be in the gym, working toward a higher level of fitness. It felt good to be back.

Tri's were something else. Right arm, no problem, no loss of strength, I maintained it. So glad I continued to eat all of the protein and take the BCAAs :) Left arm, sad.  Skull crushers:  lay back on bench, right hand, 20 pounds, I grabbed a 10 for my left. Big mistake. As I began the motion toward my head, bending my elbow, the weight totally took over my strength, pulling my arm past my ear, my hand dropped the dumb bell and hit my face, crashing to the floor. Thankfully it only nicked the side of my face, along my hairline. I couldn't believe it. I sat up, looked at myself in the mirror (the whole wall is a mirror and I was facing it) and just watched the tears roll down my face. I felt SO sad, angry and weak. I felt like a failure for some time, then collected myself and walked to the rack, taking a 5 pounder. I was just glad it wasn't a pink dumbbell. I was able to complete the movement with the 5 pounder.  As I was working my tricep I felt it cramp, like a charlie horse. I had to massage it out. I completed a few other tri exercises, mostly went through the motions with light weights and reminded myself about the last time I lifted and how much pain I was in. I reminded myself that I was no longer in pain, I was here at Gold's, working my muscles, I was taking the first steps to becoming strong. I checked my tears, my sadness and began to smile. It really was good to be back!

Since then I've noticed that my muscle memory is coming back. My shoulders and arms are beginning to look strong, to be strong. My pushups are better, I don't have to have all of my weight on the right side. My workout today was chest and although I struggle with the left arm strength I know it will come back. If this was easy I wouldn't want any part of it.

After a good hard chest workout I came home to pick up Topaz. We headed out to Lake Maria for a run. What a beautiful afternoon!  Wind blowing around the autumn leaves, a high of 60 degrees, just fabulous!  We ran 7 miles without a twinge of pain. Tomorrow I'll try it again.

So yeah, pumping iron and running trails..less than before, more than last month. I'm truly grateful to be able to lift and run again.  Man, how I have missed both. I'm looking forward to beginning a Crossfit class next.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers: Povitica

 The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I was excited to learn how to make Potica, which is what we have always called this bread dessert. My mom and dad have made it for a few years and my grandmother before that. We usually serve it during the holidays.

Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few. Family recipes, and the secrets on how to roll the bread so thin, was passed down through generations of families. 

My dough wasn't rolled thin enough. I thought it was, but in looking at others, wow, theres is really super thin looks so cool. 

I completely forgot that I froze two loaves to take out tomorrow as my parents are here before they head out for South Texas tomorrow for the winter. Here I made Oreo Brownies and Spider Cupcakes, too. I guess we can never have enough dessert!

Be sure to visit Jenni at to see the recipe and her Povitica.

We all thought this was delicious!

Friday, October 07, 2011

I Feel Good

Whoa-oa-oa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good,  la la la …

Yes indeed. I feel so much better than I have in the past 10 weeks. I can’t believe it has been that long since I ran. Or lifted. Or swam. Or biked. Yikes. I’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle since this herniated disc business.

I often ask myself what in the hell do people do all day long if they aren’t being active, training for something, participating in sport? Other than family, work, etc.

I have WAY too much time on my hands. Over the years I’ve become quite a great scheduler. I’ve become very organized and have never had the problem of not having enough time to do all that I want to. I have the same 24 hours as others do, I fit all that I want to into them. I never feel stressed out or rushed for time.

By not training 20+ hours a week recently I have had an excess of time on my hands.  I have enjoyed attending ALL of Troy’s football games, I’ve even worked the sidelines as part of the chain gang. He plays three games a week, it’s been a blast. He’s also playing fall baseball so I’ve been able to attend all of the Sunday double headers as I haven’t traveled to any races. I’ve loved it!  This Sunday is the last of fall ball. Boo!

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to start quilting again. I have purchased all of the material and have cut it all out. I’ll begin to sew it this weekend.

Happily, I finally ran last Saturday. Yup, a full 5 miles. I didn’t have any pain, I didn’t hurt afterwards, it was awesome.  Although I had entered Twin Cities Marathon I didn’t run it on Sunday. See, I’m being smart. I didn’t go from 5 miles to 26 in a day. I am also entered in the Team Ortho Half Marathon the end of the month, I don’t know whether I’ll be attending or now. Slow but sure. I’m not pushing anything this time around. I really pushed after my hysterectomy recovery to run the ½  a few weeks after my first run. Not this time.

Tomorrow I’ll head over to Gold’s. I haven’t lifted in 10 weeks. I’ll lift full body and light light light. I won’t rush right into the 90 lb DB shoulder shrugs or the 500 lb leg press. Slow and sure and smart, right.

I still feel a bit of tingling and numbness in my arm and hand but it is only off and on during the day, it isn’t constant and it doesn’t bring me to my knees.

During the past few weeks I’ve tested grains and my inflammation theory and it proves my theory every time. I imagine once I am fully healed I won’t notice the inflammation as much, but I do now.  I’m sticking to a paleo diet, the past 30 days has been a breeze and it makes me feel good, so good, like I knew that I would now….

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Interesting Experiment

During the past couple weeks I’ve become very aware as to how my diet accelerates or minimizes my pain. I’m not having nearly as much pain as I was having in the earlier weeks. I would categorize the pain level at a 4, which is a huge improvement as I had been at a pain level 8 for far too long.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found that when I eat grains-good whole grains-such as steel cut oats, brown rice or nice fresh corn on the cob, I begin to feel more pressure in my spine which in turn leads to more nerve pain descending down my arm and into my hand.

One evening we met Tyler and Amanda for dinner at Granite City . I had a slice of bread, well, maybe two, with my salad and I couldn’t believe the inflammation I suffered from the next day. At first I thought it could have been from the sodium that was probably in the grilled chicken, and in part could have been. In my notes (yes, I journal everything) I jotted down how miserable the pain was and wondered why it had accelerated. I continued to jot down how I was progressing, activity, diet, etc. In looking at my notes I finally realized that when eating grains I was indeed suffering more pain the next day.

I consume essential fats and take EFAs which reduce inflammation. I have since researched grains and the effect they have on inflammation. It’s too bad that my PT or Dr or someone had shared this information with me when I first injured my back. Maybe they didn’t know, maybe it is a farce, maybe I am making it up in my head. No.

Of course, in correct doses inflammation is a boon, necessary for healing and protection of germs and other foreign invaders. As my discs heal, I probably won’t be so sensitive to grains. Time will tell.

Because I’m not running 100 miles a week at this time whole grains aren’t at the top of my list of foods to be consuming so they aren’t that hard to limit or cut out. I’m eating meats, vegetables, fats, fruits and nuts. I know, right! Where's the raw, the vegan? Still whole, organic, healthy foods. I added meat back in a while ago. I’ve gone off the Splenda (again) and I’m feeling really well. I’ve even begun the Challenge to give me something to focus on besides healing. Lord knows I’m not focusing on running or lifting or yoga or CrossFit right now, sad but true. It will come, it will come!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not Feeling So Superior

Sadly I am not at the Superior Trail Races this weekend. I still feel quite a bit of pain in my back as well as nerve pain going down my arm. I'm not sure which is worse. Both are especially horrible when I drive. The drive to Lutsen was just too much for me. I forgot that I hadn't updated this blog in quite some time, I guess I update Facebook much more often. I have had four sessions with my Physical Therapist. Traction is my new favorite activity. Friday I had 30 minutes and it was awesome. As the device pulls my head from my neck, the spaces between my discs is lengthened, removing the pressure from my nerves. Ah, relief! After Fridays session I didn't feel pain for an hour, a great improvement! I progress every day. Last week I was still devouring Advil first thing in the morning with an ice pack to my neck. I was taking pain reliever every four hours. I haven't had any today ;) Topaz and I have been able to get back out to Lake Maria for walks. I don't know when I'll be running again. Eventually. I find myself missing my active self so very much. My day began with an easy run with Topaz, lifting at the gym, maybe a hard run in the PM, some, yoga at CorePower. I REALLY miss CorePower! More so than Gold's. I can't wait to get back to CorePowers vinyassa hot yoga. My body is craving that stretching and my mind needs the focused intent. I may try the beginning vinyassa next week. It's been difficult, that is for certain. I put away the idea of racing this weekend but I surely thought I'd go up to Lutsen, spend the weekend aiding the runners, rooming with Alicia, Bill and Matt again. Not so. Chin up, could be worse!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Canelake's Candy

In appreciation of homemade candy and Steve's comment I had to post a photo of Canelake Candy in Virginia MN. Cheers to homemade candies!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Daring Bakers: Candylicious Candyland!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Be sure to check out the link for Lisa above as she shows step by step how to make Hot Air (sponge candy) and how hers turned out and mine did not. It's interesting to see the differences.

I was so excited to find out that we were going to be making candy! We needed to create two forms of candy and one had to involve the tempering of chocolate. I have experience tempering as I make chocolate peanut butter buck eyes each Christmas that this family goes crazy over.

As a rather snobbish chocolate consumer I have only found a few truffles that I care for. I always claimed Godiva was my favorite, and yes, I still like Godiva, but with shopping over the internet I can find truffles all over the world and Godiva is no longer my number one.

I have never created a truffle so I was very excited to give it a whirl. Troy likes white chocolate (gag me). Each Valentines Day or Easter I buy a few pounds of Godiva White for him. He doesn't have to worry about me snatching any pieces from his stash!

I decided to try a combination of three different truffles: a white chocolate truffle using white ganache with white chocolate tempered coating, white chocolate ganache with milk chocolate tempered coating and semi sweet chocolate ganache with a dark chocolate tempered covering. Oh yeah.

They aren't beautiful, they aren't even perfectly round..I used a melon baller to scoop the ganache when firm, then rolled into the tempered chocolate to cover. In my next batch I'll add vanilla, maybe hazelnut praline, cinnamon. I used Guittard chocolate and it worked quite well. It doesn't hold a candle to the Belgian chocolate I can order, however.

For my second candy I tried what Canelakes of Virginia, MN (where I grew up) calls Hot Air. This is a boiling mass of sugar, corn syrup and water. After boiling for 10 minutes I removed it from the burner and added vinegar and baking soda for a volcanic effect! The mass created huge air bubbles which I poured into a baking sheet. After it hardened I broke it up to serve. This wasn't so great. It wasn't 'airy' enough and it was very crunchy. We ended up crushing it and using it for an ice cream dessert topping.

I really enjoyed this challenge. I will be making truffles quite frequently now. The combination of chocolates and additional flavorings is just endless. I have some chocolate in transit and can't wait to use it! Steve thought I should try a key lime ganache with bittersweet covering. I just might do it :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Still Sidelined

Last week I felt like I was coming along pretty well. Saturday I even walked a few miles of my running trails out at Lake Maria State Park. Topaz and I didn't have to fight a deer fly or mosquito. I spent a pretty sweet couple of hours out there.

I enjoyed the sunshine upon my face, the nice breeze, the beautiful scents of summer..but I wasn't grateful .

I took a few running steps but my back hurt so I continued walking.

I broke down in tears a few times whining to Topaz "why is this taking so long, why can't I be running..the Dr. told me I could take the prednisone, Aleve and RUN..whining and crying.."

I arrived home that Saturday and just felt down, sad, depressed that I wasn't running. I wasn't in pain. I was walking quite well, some nerve irritation from elbow to finger tip but I was feeling OK. I was disappointed in myself that I probably wouldn't be able to run Superior or the Minneapolis Duathalon.

Sunday I couldn't get out of bed. During the middle of the night Topaz had somehow wedged himself under the bed. I could hear him trying to remove himself, kind of 'paddling' with his front legs but not getting anywhere. I popped out of bed, too quickly I now assume, crawled onto the floor, stretched my arms around his back end and pulled him out. Oh the pain I felt.

I crawled back into bed and realized I was really in pain. Was it the pulling of Topaz? Shit. I couldn't move. I lay there until 5 AM and finally skooched from my bed with horrible nerve pain zinging all over my left chest, elbow to hand and fingers. Ugh. This hurt. My back was throbbing.

Eventually Steve brought me to the ER. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe without pain. The ER Dr. told me that in addition to ruptured discs I probably had a strained or tore rhomboid muscle which is what I originally thought my problem was. I think I may have ripped it while weight training. You know, the 50+ pound DB shoulder shrugs might have been a bit much...

Dr. told me I should take the Oxycodone I had from my hysterectomy every 4 hours and with Oxy, Aleve, muscle relaxant I should try running because movement is good for me. I looked at him like he had two heads. Run, really? I couldn't walk much less run. Forget running. I want to walk and feel human again. Sheesh. Forget the Oxy. I'm an alcoholic, I don't need to become addicted to something else.

He discharged me after x rays, making sure that there were no bone splinters or whatever else it was that he was looking for. I couldn't believe a torn rhomboid could hurt so much.

Monday I decided to try a chiropractor. It hurt. He told me my neck was probably sprained. Good grief. My neck was stiff because I was over compensating with my neck for my sore back. Tuesday I was too sore to even go into work. Carol, bless her heart, gave me another massage that made me feel human again. Back to chiro yesterday for another adjustment but I noticed after that adjustment and today that the chiro just irritates the muscle. The nerve pain is out of this world. I hold my arm across my stomach, this settles the nerves some. I can't stand it.

I begin PT on Tuesday. I'm hoping the PT will give me a thorough examination and find out what is really going on here. I imagine it is both ripped rhomboid and herniated discs. I guess it doesn't matter how it happened, just that I heal.

I feel foolish for not enjoying my walk through the woods that beautiful Saturday last week. I feel like my whole world had changed since then. The pain, the frustration, the lack of activity, it is something that is foreign to me.

I am trying to forgive myself for not being grateful for enjoying the little things in life. Walking, the woods, being pain free. You would have thought I would be super grateful for every painfree step I had since my hysterectomy was only 7 months ago. Funny how quickly I forgot. I guess I needed a reminder.

I remember.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Herniated Discs

Today I received confirmation that I have two herniated discs. Disc 5/6 and 6/7 which are located on the upper spine, near the neck.

I've had pain since March, really. I first noticed pain when I went back to work after my hysterectomy. I noticed my elbow hurt when answering the phone. I ignored it, felt my elbow needed to get back into shape. It probably did!

While running Minneapolis Marathon in May I noticed that my hand had prickly, electric probe like feelings while holding my water bottle. I realized my fingertips had been tingling for a while.

By the time Afton 50K rolled along my arm was beginning to have these electric jolts going from elbow to fingertips. I had to hold my arm to my body at many times during the race to alleviate the pain. I realized about this time that I should be seen by a Dr.

It seemed that the pain radiated from my rhomboid area. I wasn't having any problem lifting, so continued to do so.

A few weeks ago I was in quite a bit of pain. I couldn't lift or run without pain. I noticed that the up and down motion while running was very painful in the left rhomboid/down my lats area. The zinging from my elbow to finger tips was crazy and constant, my index finger now numb.

Today I learned that I have two herniated discs, no wonder I hurt! I will begin physical therapy and a dosage of steroids. I am hopeful to be on the road to recovery soon!

Razzyroo Giveaway!

My goodness, I apologize for not posting the Razzyroo winners on August 1. I did notify my winners: Carol and Michelle and they did already receive their awesome headbands. I just failed to post it here.

Congratulations to Carol and Michelle. Let us know how you enjoy those headbands!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Fresh Frasiers

Another month passes and another challenge with the Daring Bakers.

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I had intended on using fresh strawberries but when I was ready to create this challenge the berries were not yet ready to pick. Summer in Minnesota was a month late. This put our berry season back as well so I purchased cherries instead.

On the day that I decided to make this it was 103 degrees with a dew point of 81. Although I had the air going the inside air was still heavy. This may be part of the reason that my gelatin didn't 'gel' and my cream is more of a wet whip. I'm not really sure why I had a flop. Sometimes it just happens.

Troy and Steve both enjoyed this dessert. I am not into fruit and whip. If I'm going to have a dessert it will be heavy, dense, moist and chocolate :)

Here is my photo:

I almost tried this a second time and thought I'd add cocoa to the light cake layers with the strawberries that were eventually ready. Before I knew it the strawberries were eaten and the challenge date arrived!

Be sure to head over to Jana's blog to see how beautiful some of the fraisers turned out. If you are looking for a light fruity dessert this could be the one for you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

RazzyRoo Headband Review and Giveaway!

Cheryl at RazzyRoo Headbands contacted me to see if I was interested in conducting a test, review and giveaway of her Razzy Roo headbands. Well, hell yeah! I wear headbands all summer long. I wear them with my hair loose and long and wear them while I also wear a pony tail-they keep the stray sweaty wet hairs from sticking to my eyes.

I don't think a day has passed this summer that I haven't had a headband on for some part of the day. The past few years they have become so pretty: I love pink.

I tried both the Pink Diva Glitter 7/8" band (of course) and the Funky Runner Shazam headband.

Pink Diva Glitter: Awesome! Not only is it pretty and glittery but it has a velvet black inside that helps to stay put. The velvet is soft and really keeps the band in place. I wore Pink Diva all day at the Minnesota Zoo and it didn't give me a headache as some of the other band do; they are just too tight. I wore Pink Diva multiple times to lift at the gym, then to run on the treadmill and I didn't have any stray wet sweaty hairs getting it my face. Perfect!

Shazam Funky Runner is a wider band, light and stretchy material with a tapered back where it is placed at the back of the neck. I found I used it to keep sweat off of my face, it caught my bug spray and sunscreen while running. Awesome! I washed it with my swimming suits on gentle in the machine and line dried it. It is just as bright as it was when I first received it.

I get compliments on these bands every single time that I wear them. The Funky Runner is only $5! You can't go wrong. The Glitter band is $12, a great buy for a perfect strip of glittery prettiness. Oh yeah, I like.

I will have TWO winners of TWO headbands. Here is how to become a winner:

Become a follower of my blog, if not already one + 1 entry
"LIKE" RazzyRoo Headbands on facebook HERE and let them know that Julie Berg Run On sent you + 1 entry
Leave comment here + 1 entry
Leave comment on my Facebook page +1 entry

Two winners will randomly be picked on 8/1/11. You will LOVE your RazzyRoo Headband! (i hope i did this correctly...)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Wow, another BETA post! I would have never believed that the wonderful BETA weekend would have taken such a hold. 6 years so far, awesome. Thank you Scott Wagner for starting this 6 years ago. You'll have to go back to the other BETA posts for a history of what BETA is.

We were a group of 10 this year, heading up to our BETA house in Tofte, along the North Shore.

Check in is at 4 PM, I wanted to pick up the keys and have the house opened for the first arrivals near 5 PM.

I decided to run from Caribou Highlands on Friday. Some friends of mine were spending a few nights at Caribou Highlands so I was able to visit and borrow a shower! Good planning.

I ran from Caribou Highlands, to Oberg and back, 14.8 miles per the GPS. This route is along the 50K/25K/50M/100M Superior races so I know it like the back of my hand. It didn't disappoint. Such a beautiful trail. I spotted huge mushrooms, blueberries and raspberries. While picking berries I heard a thrashing in the woods and was afraid I'd find myself sharing the bush with Mr. Bear. Nope, Mr. Bear was Mr. Chipmunk! Ha!

The day was very humid and hot, a rarity for the North Shore, even in July. I was dripping wet and was struggling while climbing Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain. My body is not the same as pre hysterectomy. I'm hot and sweaty all of the time and my heart rate is elevated while climbing. It is what it is, nothing I can do to change it. Just enjoy the surroundings around me and WALK. That's what I did.

I covered nearly 15 miles in 4 hours, took a cold shower and headed to the house. Maria, Doug and Bill arrived after I unpacked my gear and settled in. Nancy, Tom, Alicia and Jeffrey arrived next, then Guy and Jenny later in the evening.

For our run on Saturday, Nancy, Tom, Alicia and Jeffrey were headed to one end of the trail and the rest of us were headed for another. Doug was going to venture for a run on the trail with us instead of crewing which was a first. It was so great to have Doug running with us! When Doug mentioned he was going to run 11 miles instead of the 26 Maria, Bill, Guy and Jenny were going to tackle I quickly stated that I was in for 11 as well. I was feeling the Afton 50K two weeks prior and Friday's 4 hour run in my legs. 11 was perfect, I thought.

We dropped water and cars along the route and then began our run in Silver Bay. I love this section. Well, I guess I love all of the sections! Silver Bay to Tettegouche includes the Bean and Bear Lake overlook. So awesome and so many great memories of past races and past BETA's. We spoke of Pierre and John's crash here during BETA 1. Pierre stating "I'm Bonking!" John wishing for Red Bull! Good stuff.

By the time we reached 7 miles I was totally soaked and huffing and a puffing. My breathing was heavy, my heart rate was high and I was really having a hard time. I was sweating so heavily, as was everyone. It was hot and so so humid. Our bodies couldn't evaporate and cool in this humidity.

Bill lead the group and was quickly out of sight. Maria stopped to allow us to catch up atop a huge rock outcrop. I reached the top and just laid down flat on my back to catch my breath. Ugh. I stated that if we had a car right here I would stop and head back to the house. We were all going to be running out of water, it was so warm we were drinking more than planned.

I followed at the end of our train, winding up the trail. Eventually I told Doug to just keep on, I was going to take a walk break. I had to catch my breath. I couldn't run and breath correctly. I walked through a few shady areas, just taking in all of the beauty of the trail. I wasn't pissed off at all that I couldn't run through this, I was fine with walking along. This is just such a turn around for me. I have always loved running in the heat and humidity. My PR 100 Mile Race was at Lean Horse, at near 100 degrees. I found myself thinking deeply about many many things as I walked along. Eventually I began to zone out and wonder if I was on the correct route. I had better pay attention!

With the State Parks closed due to MN Government Budget disagreement, there weren't many people out on the trails near Tettegouche Park. I knew I was nearing the finish for me as signage posted the state park. Guy's car and water supply was at mile 11. I was so thankful to have made it this far! As I was coming down the end of the trail, Jenny was climbing back up to me, with a bottle of water in hand. Ahhh, I quickly drank the water she offered and called her my trail angel. As I came into the lot Doug poured me another bottle of water. Ah, refreshing! They had been resting 15 minutes before I arrived. Guy and Jenny decided to end the day at 11 miles too so we all took off and headed back to the house for more water and cold showers!

Doug, Guy and Jenny went back to pick up Bill and Maria. I believe Bill ran 18 and Maria 26. Lots of miles on a horrific humid day.

I hung out on the deck, reading, then walked along the rocks at our backyard, Lake Superior. It really was nice to be able to enjoy the house and landscape, not running all day into night. Nancy, Tom, Jeffrey and Alicia arrived with Tom and Alicia running 23 miles. Great work!

We had an incredible dinner, lots of fun conversation and made new friendships. Another BETA weekend, more memories and fun running. Next year: BETA VII!

*More photos posted on Facebook.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Graniteman Clearlake Triathlon

Well, I never imagined that this triathlon would be so much fun! It truly was. I really thought that all of the fussiness would take away from the fun in moving. It didn't.

I completed my first and only 'open swim' up at the cabin over the holiday earlier this week. My sister Laurie and I, along with a cabin neighbor who swims the bay every day, Gabbi, swam the bay together. It was quite nice. Gabbi's husband followed along in the pontoon incase we needed help. This took away any panic I might feel.

No panic was necessary. We glided across Wolf Bay on Lake Vermilion effortlessly. It was great fun.

I've felt a bit dehydrated from the Afton 50K I completed last Saturday. I felt like I was coming around just in time for this race. Good thing.

This morning I loaded up all of my gear-so much stuff: bike, helmet, gels, HEED, iPod, run shoes, flip flops, swim cap, goggles. Man alive. I decided to complete the whole tri in the same clothing: run shorts, run top. Easy peasy. I'd bike in my running shoes and run in them. Double duty.

My first impression was that I was impressed and that I was wrong with the stereotype I have of triathlon races. This was VERY laid back. The race was full so I thought it would be crowded. It wasn't.

I was directed to a perfect parking place under a tree, near the lake and then wandered up to the visitor center to check in. I learned that I was in Heat 1. This couldn't be! Heat 1 was for the Elites, I had read this online. OK, I went to get my shirt, bag, number, visor, towel, cap, all this stuff and to be marked. They marked me in Heat 1.

I went back to my car and looked at my iPhone. Yup, Heat 1 is for the Elite. Not me. Back I went explaining that I am not Elite and that I think I should be in Heat 10. OK, back to marking and please add a ZERO to the ONE you marked upon my leg thank you very much :)

I packed two bags. 1 with bike stuff, 1 with run stuff. I hauled both bags, bike and helmet to the transition area. I saw a bunch of bikes and asked someone if I could just make any place my home. Sure thing. I put my bike upon the rack, laid out a towel to place my bags. Bike bag: run shoes, socks, bottle with 3xHeed, gel, helmet. Run bag: 2xHeed, gel, iPod, sunglasses.

OK, I'm ok with this. Feeling good, not rushed, not the cluster f+ck I imagined a triathlon would be. Yay!

I see my friend Susan! She is uber triathlete. It was cool to see her here. I wander down to the lake area in my flip flops. There is a good .5 mile walk to the beach where we start. I realize I am the only one with my race number pinned to my shorts. I realize I am the only one wearing running shorts. Oh well. I am a runner.

I ask someone near me if we should have numbers on at this point. Nope, it causes drag in the water. OK. I unpin myself and tuck my number into my gel alley of my cleavage in my top. Good storage area.

Continue walking on to the beach area. I removed my flip flops and place in Bin 10, for heat 10. So glad I have the correct heat number upon my engorged calf as I lifted calves and back yesterday.

OK, here is the deal: Heat 1 goes first in the water, they start, then we wait three minutes and Heat 2 goes. AWESOME! Plenty of spacing between us. I'm liking this.

I hear two women in back of me speaking of Brook who is training for IM WI. I have to ask "Brook Wheeler" OMG, yes! So cool. We chat for a while and become friends. They are in my heat 10, too. Heat 10 is women 40-49 I believe.

OK, so the heats are taking off and 10 is up. Into the water I go. It is warm!! GO! We are off swimming. I'm doing my tri, baby! I swim along, just as happy as a damn clam. Nobody is near me, I can clearly see the big pink banner on the other side of the lake .52 miles away that I am aiming for me. Piece of cake. Really.

18 minutes.

Pretty soon I am to the shore. Out of the water, run! To the bike area. Heats 1-9 are already out of here and there are only 11 heats. It's pretty empty. I go to my bike, wipe off my muddy feet, towel off, put on socks and run shoes, chug a LOT of my 3x Heed (3 scoops-super strong), eat a gel, place the helmet upon my head and walk my bike out to the OUT BIKE sign. I'm off to bike! This is really cool. I am just one big smile.

4 minutes.

I pedal along, it's windy. Real windy. I pass a few people, know that I have 15 miles so take it easy. I don't want to tire out. IT's really hilly. It is SUPER windy! Up some hills, an overpass over 94 in St Cloud, buzzing around, me and my bike. So fun. I love it, totally love it.

I chug off my HEED and see I'm at Mile 10 already. Wow. That was fun. A few more miles and it's time to run baby.

15 miles biking.

1 hour, 2 minutes.

I walk my bike back to it's home in the transition area and don't have to do too much. Take off the helmet, chug my HEED, eat a gel, feet are great, grab iPod. I'm outa here! Run baby run!

1 minute, 17 seconds

We run up a huge hill, past a few farms and guess what I see? A TOPAZ in horse form! A pinto with black ears, brown over the eye, white face and yes, merle eyes. I couldn't believe it! I went back to get a photo but Topaz Horsey was gone. Boo. Soo cool.

We run off the pavement and hit some gravel. Water at the turnaround and do it again. So awesome.

Alright, here is the finish line: "Julie Berg from Big Lake and she is smiling" darn right, that was a blast!

29 minutes.

I see the two women I met at the swim, they congratulate me and say they saw me on the course and comment that I was smiling the whole way. Oh yeah, that was great fun.

Final finish: 1:54

Julie Berg 239th/331entrants Group: 22/30 109/147 Swim: 18:07 T1: 4:03
Bike: 1:02:30 T2: 1:17 Run: 29:00 Final Time: 1:54:00

Yup, total blast. Graniteman Big Lake is August 6, then the Olympic distance at Lake Marian Oly Triathlon.

Next up is BETA VI!! It's BETA time again up on the Superior Hiking Trail :)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Afton 50K Race Report: Reroute: BRUTAL

Oh man, what a day!

Because of the State of Minnesota shutdown (government couldn't pass a budget)the non essential areas of government are closed. This includes the State Parks. Afton State Park is the location of the Afton 50K.

John Storkamp, our incredible RD, could have just canceled the race. We would have expected it. Instead he chose to go through more planning and headache and was granted permission to hold the Afton 50K at the Afton Alps, just next door to the Afton State Park. SWEET!

This meant yes, that the race would be held upon the ski hills and mountain bike trails. Would it be more difficult that Afton 50K or easier. I knew it would be more difficult. In the past I have spent many a day getting in ski hill repeats-ouch, but never along with a 50K run. Lordy.

Parking was fabulous. When Bill P guided me into a spot I had to ask "Bill, is this a Team Ortho race?" It was awesome!

Afton Alps gave the race the chalet and all of the fixings for the day. Amazing.

I looked at the beginning of the course and saw the flags going right up the frickin' first ski hill. Really?

Yeah, really.

After mingling a short while we were ready to get this party started. I walked to the back of the line-yup, dead last. I didn't care if I was DFL today (deaf effing last) it was better than a DNF (did not finish) and that was my mantra going into and while running the race.

It was hot. I was already sweating buckets. I reminded myself to take SCaps today at the aid stations, which I normally don't do. My body is different after the hysterectomy a few months back. It sweats more among other things!

I found myself with Les Martisko, a runner in his 60s who I began my ultrarunning with. I always used to run with Les in my early races, then I moved toward the front, now I was enjoying company with him upon the trail again. We had great conversations during the first half of the first loop.

Pretty soon I was running with Tom Andrews and Pat Gorman. We finished out the loop together, I really enjoyed running with them. I was quite worried about the race after finishing this first loop in 156. Climbing the ski hills at the end was crazy bad. It was hot-at 830 in the morning-I was sweating and gasping for air. Shitpie.

Into the start finish to crazy loud cheering "JULIE" it was so awesome! All of my friends, what a great experience! My bottle was filled, I grabbed Scaps and Hammergels and was out of there. I needed to keep this pace. I had heard 9 hours was the cut off so off I went.

Pretty soon Tom caught up to me. He explained we should run the flats and downhills, walk the ups of course and that way we would get in under 9. He was right on. I climbed the switchbacks, ski hills and ran the flats-which were few-as was shade-and ran the downhills. Hot hot hot. Wet wet wet. I don't know if I've ever sweat so much.

2nd loop was 200 again. OK, good deal. I can do this. I was happy to be 1/2 through. Again a chorus of "ICE BERG" "GO JULIE" it was fabulous fun. I took a bow and made everyone laugh. Or was that the 3rd loop? Who knows.

3rd loop I was on my own. I didn't really see anyone but sure was happy to get into the aid stations! Doug Barton was at AS1 and I was so happy to tell him "next time I see you I'll be on my 4th loop"! He filled my bottle and gave me ice and I was off. I was really enjoying this.

During the 3rd loop Duke Rembleski came upon me! I love Duke! I hadn't seen him in forever and was thankful that this was a 4 loop course so that I could walk and talk with him. He was on his 4th loop. It was so great to visit.

At 4.4 miles Helen Lavin and Maria Barton and crew were manning the station. It was great to come in each time and chat with happy smiling people! After a cooling off of ice water and sponges I felt revitalized! Off to get loop 3 finished.

At about 1 mile to the start/finish I heard JULIE! Oh my goodness, Eve Rembleski! Yahhoo I love Eve too! She was running strong in back of me, I waited for her to catch up and pass so I could run after her a yell out a few words! Eve took 1st woman/7th overall. So great to see you!

The 3rd loop came to an end, another loud chorus of HERE COMES JULIE and I could only laugh! I had the worse chaffing ever. My shorts and top were so soaked and rubbing on me, completely rubbed me raw. Cheri brought me over a big canister of Vaseline that really helped. Nancy washed me off with ice water oh, so wonderful. Holly filled my hat with ice, I grabbed watermelon and proceeded to drop it upon Eves toes! Nancy did the bending down for me to pick it up.

3rd lap was 2:11 OK, let's get this party moving.

The 4th lap I was just so darn grateful that I was going to finish this beast! It was truly a beast. I had chafing from hell but that was the only complaint. My legs weren't tired (why??), no blisters-Foot Potion-and I was truly happy to be out on the course.

As the 4th lap came to an end I surprised myself by tearing up. Pretty soon I was sobbing. On one hand I tend to think I should be able to run as fast and as hard as pre hysterectomy and on the other, more sane hand, I am just so grateful to be running again. I was crying because I am so thankful to be able run again. This felt like my McNaughton 100 wins. Really.

I finished the race in 830, in good form. I was able to run my fastest as I ran over the finish line.

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers, Cheri and John, all of you out there. It was an incredible day and I'm just so thankful that I was able to experience it.

Now I must pack up my food and head up to the Lake. Happy 4th of July :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Daring Bakers: Baklava!

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Two challenges in one! Not only creating the lovely Baklava but also creating the phyllo dough from which to make the Baklava.

I, honestly, had not even made Baklava before so I was really looking forward to this one.

It was fabulous and not so difficult, either. My phyllo dough wanted to stick to my counter top so I began to roll it out on a pie guide thing. It's a soft plastic form which really works well for pie crusts and proved to work very well for rolling out phyllo, too.

Neither Troy nor Steve had ever tasted Baklava before. I explained it to them but all they heard was 'nut pie'. I guess it was a good enough description.

They both loved the Baklava. Steve liked the spices, Troy liked the honey. What a great combination.

I didn't have any walnuts on hand so used pistachio, almonds and pecans. I don't have a food processor-really-the horror-so used my super coffee bean grinder instead. Worked like a charm.

The most shocking thing to me while putting the Baklava together was the large amount of liquid (honey,water, sugar, spices) to pour onto the already baked Baklava. Sure enough, the Baklava soaked in all of the honey. The Baklava became sweeter with better texture on the 2nd day. After that, it was all gone :)

If you'd like to create your own Baklava here is a link.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Training Time

Here it is, summer vacation, wide open calendar, healed up from hysterectomy and lots of time on my hands!

With Tyler out of the nest and Troy busy with baseball, strength and speed and lifting classes I have more spare time than ever. I don't do well with spare time. I do well with structured days, with each hour appointed to a task. Running boys here and there, coaching, etc.

Luckily I am training for the Monster Series, Graniteman Series and a BQ at TCM to occupy my time. Throw in lifting and I have filled some of my hours. Volunteer work, training clients, watching Troys baseball games, getting him to his training, the day is eventually full. I still have time to sit around with Steve and Troy to watch the Twins play .

So, this triathlon thing. My first tri is on July 9; a sprint. The Graniteman Clear Lake is a .50 swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run. I took it quite easy, treated myself as I would a client, created a spreadsheet with a beginning tri plan interspersed with Hal Higdons' BQ marathon plan for the running portion.

The second tri is Graniteman Big Lake, another sprint and number three is Lake Marian, an Olympic distance.

The swim was the first hurdle to cross. I don't (didn't) like cold water. I got over that. I now think of it as refreshing. I began with a 28 minute swim the first session and over three weeks am up to 54 minutes. No problem. Of course, this is at Gold's Gym in a perfectly calm pool with lanes to keep me swimming in a straight line. My first open swim will be at the cabin when we are at Lake Vermilion where I will freeze my butt. Oh well. It is a necessary evil.

Biking is fine. I did buy a pair of diaper shorts yesterday. My butt was getting sore at 25+ miles. I did complete my first brick this week. 15 mile bike, 5 mile run. I forgot my helmet at home .. I know, right? Bad Julie. I ended up with a flat back tire at mile 13 and couldn't bear to think I'd have to walk the bike home. I rode faster and pretended it wasn't flat. Probably another Bad Julie. Oh well.
Upon returning home I put the bike in the garage and yelled for Topaz. We ran around the neighborhood for 5 miles. It felt strange at first, but eventually my calves stopped cramping and I was able to run. Not easy. I'll have to do this a few more times!

Running is coming along. I'm focusing on speed now and that is really really bad right now. Oh man, I am slow. I have totally lost my speed. The endurance came back much quicker post hysterectomy than the speed. I ran a track workout yesterday. 8x800 and totally sucked it up.

Today was a better day. Lifted arms - oh how I missed lifting! That's another story. I lifted arms for 50 minutes and still had an hour before having to pick up Troy from strength and speed so hopped on the treadmill and ran 4 miles at 745 pace. That's fast for me. It felt good. I caught a glimpse of me. I'm coming back.

Oh yes, lifting. I just really love it. I love the way I can feel the contraction, the stretch; I love the changes I can see and feel daily. You know I'll prepare for another comp, it is just in there waiting for me to try it. I figure I'll get these three triathlons done, my running season and then continue building during the winter for maybe Gopher in April. We'll see. I now know the process, what to expect, I have the suits, the music, the routine and the determination to make it happen. I won't have ovaries getting in my way this round either.

In the meantime I've entered Afton 50K for July 2. I wasn't going to as I thought we'd be at the lake. Tyler is going up the 3rd so I may wait until then. That left the 2nd open. I almost entered the 25K because I was worried about being embarrassed with my finishing time. So I had to ask myself :are you really going to let embarrassment take over and run the 25K instead when the 25K really doesn't interest you at all? Um, well, no, I really want to run the 50K. BUT people that I normally run faster will be running faster than me and I 'll be running the pace that I did when I first began running 50K's 8 years ago! Do you really care what they will think? Well, yeah, kindof. Is it worth not running 50K when you really do want to run 50K? ... and so I entered. I'm glad I did. I'm looking to beat 8 hours.

I have also rejoined the Daring Bakers. Yay!! I've missed their difficult and creative recipes. I've just completed this months project and will post it when notified. Fun!

So that's what is happening here. A bit of training and whatnot.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Minneapolis Marathon

This past Sunday I ran the Minneapolis Marathon as part of the Team Ortho Monster Series that I entered. Last year I ran a few of the Ortho races and really enjoyed them. I entered the series this past January as an alternative to the Ultra Gnarly Bandit Series incase I had a hysterectomy, which I did, and the series has been a lot of fun.

Minneapolis Marathon was race III out of V.

Summer arrived in the Midwest this past weekend. Most of us from the area haven’t had any heat training yet this summer as the past five weekends have been in the 50s with rain. Friday arrived with summer! 86 Friday, 85 Saturday and Sunday, it is 94 today!

What a way to acclimate, on race day.

I normally love to run in the heat but I have to admit, the heat helped to brutalize the Minneapolis Marathon for me!

I had a few goals for the marathon. One, I wanted to run the first half faster than the Get Lucky Half Marathon in March and two, I wanted to feel good at the half. That would show me any progress I’ve made on endurance these past weeks. If you read the race report for the half you will remember that I felt like death during that half marathon. I couldn’t breathe, I was dizzy, I was a mess. Of course it was only 7 weeks or so post op.

As all Team Ortho races, parking was a treat. $3 parking in a lot less than a block away to the start/finish, hand directed to my spot. So amazing!

This was the second year for the Minneapolis Marathon and I hadn’t run it before. There were 4800 registered for either the relay, half marathon or marathon.

I liked the 7 AM start, for me earlier is better. We were able to use the facilities at The Depot Hotel, using nice clean toilets, hot water..what a treat! I walked over to the start and lined up near the 10 minute mile pacers. It was already 65F and felt nice, no sleeves necessary. I was trying a new sunscreen for racing, Skinceuticals, which my friend Alicia recommended. I am beginning to show sun spots and certainly don’t need anymore sun damage. This sunscreen is a physical block that is also water/sweat proof. I had been wearing the brand under my make up but hadn’t had the opportunity to try out on a sunny hot day.

The start was at the Depot Hotel, running through the Warehouse District, down Plymouth Avenue, to the Stone Arch Bridge. I had never walked down in that area and it was so pretty. Cobblestone roads – which weren’t so great to run on – but didn’t last very long. We ran through beautiful neighborhoods that I hadn’t seen before. It was a 6 mile loop over and back across the river and then we headed back near our starting place before heading out on the out and back marathon run. It really was a pretty loop and most of it was nicely shaded.

There was a relay taking place within the race which was a new event to me. Every 6 miles or so there would be a big RELAY sign with cones directing the participants to their hand off area. It was fun to see new fresh runners with lots of speed burning up the course for a few miles.

The stretch along West River Road was mostly shaded with a few long sunny spots. Whew, those spots warmed me up quickly. I felt like it was 90F already and really it was about 75F at this time.

I have never stood under any of the sprinklers at the summer marathons, but yesterday, I soaked myself under each one. I was that hot! After a cool soaking I felt new life in my body as I continued to run along the course.

Along West River Road was the half marathon turnaround and once the half marathoners left the course, wow, did it thin out! All of a sudden the course was wide and clear with a few runners here and there. Less than 900 finished the marathon.

I was able to reach both of my goals: at the half marathon I felt good, just hot, and I was 12 minutes faster than I was at Lucky 7 half marathon. Good enough!

I continued on and really began to get hot on this exposed section. I was carrying a 24 oz water bottle that I was filling at the aid stations and gulping down a couple little glasses of power aid or whatever the available energy drink was. I was taking a Hammergel every 35 to 40 minutes, I didn’t take any S or ECAPS. I was wondering if I should have brought some along with all of the heat.

We made a u turn and then entered the Fort Snelling State Park. Wow, I didn’t even know this existed. We ran downhill on a shaded path deep in the woods for over a mile, then hit a sandy trail through the park that was still shaded. 6 nice wooded shaded miles through the park. I liked it, although it was quite hilly. This was an out and back so it did get a little crowded in areas. I noticed that many of the runners coming back were looking pretty tough. The heat was taking it’s toll. I finally reached the turn around and headed back out of the park. As we exited the park we took a sharp left and the trail went straight up a huge hill! I could only laugh at it. I began to walk up the hill, sweat falling into my eyes when I realized the sunblock was working very well. It didn’t sting my eyes and it wasn’t wearing off. Good deal. I also noticed that it felt good to walk up this hill, using other muscles after the downhill running earlier.

I was just looking forward to hitting the 20 mile marker. I was hot and tired. I wasn’t sore at all, I wasn’t out of breath or dizzy, I was trying to be happy that I felt pretty good and that I have the endurance back. Speed is another thing.

Eventually mile 20 came and went, I just looked for the next mile. At mile 23 I filled up my water bottle and then noticed the 430 pace group coming up the way. I walked out of the aid station, waiting to run the last three miles with the group.

I came into the finish line at 4:34, I felt nauseous by now and had a bad stitch in my side. I thought about my friends running FANS and Kettle 100 and was just glad that I only had a marathon for today!

I had only a short walk to my car where I had a cooler holding a recovery shake and quinoa salad. I could stomach the shake but ate the salad later in the day when I was famished!

No pain or stiffness today, no bleeding or cramping during the race, all is good. The next race in the Monster Series is the Minneapolis Duathlon. Something new for me! I’m looking forward to it.

The Twin Cities Marathon is in 4 months. I’d like to run another Boston Qualifier. I have the endurance down, now the speed workouts begin.

Today is swimming and biking in preparation for the Graniteman Tri in 8 weeks. Another first!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Triatha what? Triathlon!

The town in which I live, Big Lake, is hosting a triathlon! Finally! It is a great location as the City has built a pathway around the lake that is perfect for running and biking. Except that it is concrete but who needs to complain, right?

In looking up information for this triathlon I learned that it is a part of a series, the Graniteman Series. This will consist of the Graniteman Clearwater Triathlon and Graniteman Half Marathon, Sauk Rapids, in addition to Graniteman Big Lake. Of course I decided to enter the series, what the hell, right?

You may recall that in 2006 I was going to try the sport of triathlon, before I chose to focus on 100 mile ultramarathons. I learned that I didn’t care for the swim portion of the sport. I trained for a while during the winter and then once the trails cleared it was back to ultrarunning!

Graniteman Clearwater is held July 9, Graniteman Big Lake is August 9. Both of these are ‘sprint’ triathlons-the shortest of tri’s, including a .46 mile swim across the lake, a 15 mile bike and finishing off with a 5K run. Woohoo! No prob, right?

After entering these I became excited about trying something new and entered Lake Marian Triathlon, which offered a sprint and Olympic distance. Well, I figured I might as well go for the Olympic as I’d have two sprints under my belt. Weeee!

The Olympic distance is a bit longer including a 1.5 K swim (.93 mile), 40K bike (24.8 mile) and a 10K run (6.2 miles). The swim will intimidate me here but I’ll get her done.

If I love this I’ll progress forward to a ½ Iron and Ironman; why not, right? I am going to volunteer at Ironman Wisconsin in September so that I can secure an entry in 2012. I’m at bike aid station 2. My friend Brook is an entrant so it will be awesome to see her upon the course.

I’m thankful that I entered the Team Ortho Monster Series early this year as a back up plan to the Ultra Gnarly Bandit Series incase of hysterectomy. My surgeon has firmly suggested that I do not run Bighorn 100 Mile Trail Run. The distance between aid stations and the remoteness of the race location were important reasons for his suggestion in addition of course to the rigor of a 100 mile mountain race.

I could just ignore his suggestion but I know that for me to finish a 100 my mind has to be firmly sound in finishing the distance. One bit of indecision at finishing the distance and my mind will convince my body to stop. As much as I love the distance and state how much I enjoy it, at about mile 70-80 I do entertain thoughts of quitting. A strong mind not allowing any of these thoughts to take place it was gets me to the finish line.

The Minneapolis Marathon is part III of the Monster Series. The Marathon is this Sunday and it looks to be a perfect day! High of 83 with a low of 60, oh yeah, summer is arriving. I have no time goal for the marathon, just a morning run in the sun. It will be a good indication as to where my fitness is right now. I’m going to train to run another Boston qualifier at Twin Cities Marathon this October. I’ve created a 4 month training plan which includes the triathlon training and TCM.

So far I’ve swum up to 24 laps and biked up to 35 miles. Plenty of fun ☺

Summer vacation is approaching just in time, I’ll have many many hours to put in toward training. Oh yeah, summer is here… love it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Farmers Market!

The farmers markets are just bursting with spring numminess this time of the year. A few weeks ago two local markets opened up for the season but they are only open one day a week and there is no comparison to the Minneapolis Farmers Market on Lyndale.

I visited the Minneapolis Farmers Market last week and oh, man, spring o’ plenty veggies! I came home with leeks, ramps, numerous different lettuces, asparagus, spinach, parsnips, onions, rhubarb, herbs, ramps, and bean sprouts. Many vendors had flowers, meats and cheeses too.

I could not wait to get home to prepare a few things! One recipe I have wanted to try is from Amy Lyons; her Spring Allium Chevre Filo Rolls. I didn’t want to use the chevre or parmesan cheeses so skipped it, making it vegan, but used everything else.


Here is the recipe as Amy directs. They are super good without the dairy as I made them:

Spring Allium Chevre Filo Rolls
Makes 10

1 cup leeks, thinly sliced
1cup ramps, leaves and bottom part, thinly sliced
1cup shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp lemon zest
16 oz chevre (soft goat cheese)
2 oz shredded pecorino romano cheese
about 3/4 cup olive oil (for brushing
10 sheets filo dough
sea salt

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, and add leeks, ramps, and shallots. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes, then add garlic and saute about a minute more until fragrant. Let cool slightly, then add to a bowl with sea salt, pepper, lemon zest, chevre and pecorino romano. Mix until well combined. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil. Lay out sheets of filo dough, and cover with plastic wrap (so it doesn't dry out, since you will be using a sheet at a time. Place olive oil in a bowl. Lay out one sheet of filo, and brush it with olive oil. fold in half like a book. Brush with olive oil and place 2 Tbsp filling about 1 inch from the bottom, in the shape of a log about 3 inches wide. Fold in each side over the filling, and brush the top with olive oil. Roll up egg roll style, and brush with olive oil. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 9 rolls. Sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and heated through. Keep a close eye because they brown quickly! Let cool slightly before serving.

I increased the leeks, ramps, shallots by 1 cup (using 2) and added 2 whole onions. I didn’t use the chevre or romano and was so thrilled with the result.

Troy even ate one! I will definitely make these again.

Almost every day I eat some sort of salad, maybe even two. Lately I’ve been roasting veggies to add to the mix. I really like the flavor. I’ve found that tossing a bit of maple syrup in a pile of pecans and roasting adds an awesome crunch to the salad. I usually add a bean or pea for protein. Here is one from yesterday:

Roasted beets
Roasted carrots
Roasted onion
Garbanzo beans
Olive oil/Dijon mustard blended for dressing


If you don’t have a garden of your own (or it isn’t growing yet, like mine) you really ought to visit your farmers market. You just can’t get better produce!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


For the past seven weeks I have been coaching the Beginning Women’s Running Program for the Minnesota Distance Running Association. We have a group of 31 women participate each week. I’ve been coaching with MDRA for 4 years now and I just love it!

Last night we had Margot Albensoeder-Madsen scheduled to speak to our group before our 40 minute run. I hadn’t met Margot before; I only knew that her presentation was entitled “Running Through the Years.” At the end of her presentation I felt like I had known Margot for many years and she had a place in my heart.

Margot was born in Germany and came to America in 1962 with her husband, Gunther. They had 4 children after they arrived to America and lived in Wayzata. Gunther passed away from a sudden heart attack in 1982, leaving his wife and 4 children behind.

When Margot spoke to us about her husband Gunther she began to cry softly. It was heart wrenching. After all of these years those feelings for him came right to the surface. She apologized and took a few seconds to herself, then stated “Gunther told me that he is here and to get it together”. I wasn’t the only one in the room crying along with her.

She went on to say that her co-workers put their money together to offer her a gift of money to show their sympathy as well as a membership to The Marsh. The Marsh is a Wellness Center in Minnetonka, still owned by Ruth Strickler as it was when Margot became a member.

Margot recalled to us how she first began to run. She was walking on the treadmill at The Marsh when Diane, a trainer who is still at The Marsh, came up to her and told her that she had a ‘runners physique’ and that she should try to run. Margot was intimidated and immediately said that she didn’t know how to run. Diane took her outside and they ran one block, then two, then three and over time she was running a mile. She loved it.

Margot began to run at 50 years of age. She then began to race, winning her age group at most races. She won the MDRA Grand Prix. She qualified for the Boston Marathon while running her first marathon at Twin Cities Marathon in 1990 with a time of 3:58, at age 52! Rockin’ hu?

Margot is now 73 years of age. 73! She continues to run, having finished 8 marathons, numerous half marathons and even triathlons. She now lives in Fairmont with her second husband of 17 years. She helps out with the Fairmont Triathlon and Fairmont 5 Mile Race. I am planning on entering one or both of these, just to meet with Margot again!

At the conclusion of Margot’s presentation I felt like she was a best friend of mine. I don’t know that I have ever been so moved by another woman before at a first meeting. I could feel the warmth and compassion come from her and felt her love for running. I tell you, she really inspired me.

We were fortunate to have Margot stay with us to take part in our running after her presentation. I led the group for a 40 minute run, then finished up with stretching.

Margot had a few more stories to tell us before we called it a night. I was just thrilled to hear her stories, I stood next to her, just beaming. I suggested to her that she write her stories down. Her stories were not only about running and racing but also about her life in Germany and her move to America.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to meet Margot Albensoeder-Madsen .