The countdown is on, running and racing, plus some fantastic food finds

It’s time to get serious…the countdown to the Fargo Half-Marathon is on.

There is a countdown timer on the website and I have to admit, it kind of freaked me out.

32 days. THIRTY-TWO DAYS! How the heck did that happen? I’m not ready. At least I don’t think so. Or maybe I don’t feel as ready as I was for the San Jose Half-Marathon last October. The half that I actually followed a training schedule. This time? Not so much.

Why? Three words. 1. Winter. 2. Snow. 3. Cold.

I know one thing is for sure, I don’t think I will ever sign up for a spring half-marathon again. At least not while I am living in the winters-from-hell state of MinneSNOWta! Seriously, between all the dumb snowstorms and the bitterly cold temperatures, there wasn’t much running/training happening. I did actually run some on the DREADmill at the YMCA, but seriously, I don’t think I ever ran more than three and half miles on it. I. Am. Not. A. Fan. of the dreaded treadmill, hence the DREADmill name!

There was one day where it was snow storming and I was just pissy, so I said, “Screw it!” and went out for a run anyway. I only ran four miles, but it was four miles I didn’t have to do on the treadmill!

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten in a few runs, more than I thought I would and that makes me happy. I did get in a couple of long runs, too. I did an eight-mile and on Sunday, April 6, I did a 10-mile.

I think the temps were actually in the 50′s, which was SO NICE! When I got back, my hubby was sitting on the deck, so I decided to hang with him for a bit. It felt so good just to crash and lay on the deck with my feet up – on the table and straight up in the air! The run felt awesome and I actually shaved off about three minutes from the last time I ran a 10-miler, which was at the Monster Dash in October!

Training will continue as best it can for the next 32 days. I guess, maybe, just maybe, I might be more ready than I think for the upcoming half-marathon. I guess we’ll see how this weekend’s 10-mile race goes.

Speaking of which, if you are a runner who lives in, around or near the Twin Cities area, you really should check out this Saturday’s race – the Fred Kurz 10-mile! According to the race website – click here – “Starting times are handicapped by the “world-renowned” Lanin Guessimetric Method, with the slowest runners starting first and, ideally, all runners finishing at about the same time.” How cool is that? Additionally, the race is easy on the pocketbook – it’s only $15 to enter – or $8 if you are a member of the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA). Seriously, check it out!

WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN HAPPENING?

We’ve had a couple of races since my last posting. And, I have had some awesome food finds. The rest of my post will be done in pictures. Enjoy!

This is from the Get Lucky 7K race in the Twin Cities on March 15.

I finished the 7K in 43:28. I was pumped because I was shooting for around 45 minutes. I was honestly ecstatic about my time!

Al did awesome, as well! Seriously, he kicked some major butt!

This is from the iRock Run in Cold Spring, MN, which benefits the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It was a nice day, although a little windy. My hubby, Al, finished in 24:45. I finished in 29:33, which is a PR for this year. And my friend, Tonya, finished in 27:28. It was a great race and hopefully, we can do it again next year.

After the race was done, the three of us grabbed some lunch at Mongo’s Grill in St. Cloud and then Al and I had some errands to run. We had a few things to get at the mall and I forgot my extra clothes to change into, so I got to walk around the mall in my running gear, which included these crazy pants, which are SO comfortable and I love them. Yes, even though they are a bit bright! OMG! I have never, EVER in my life received so many strange looks and stares from people. The hubster, who was always dressed in his running gear, which include running tights with a pair of shorts over them and a very bright, neon green shirt, also received LOTS of looks. There were even a few people who glared/gave dirty looks. It was comical. Seriously, I kind of wanted to keep walking around just to watch peoples’ reaction to how we were dressed. It was entertaining, yet kind of pathetic.

FOOD FINDS!

The other day, my husband made chicken burgers (pictured later) and we really wanted some fries to go with them. My husband found these in the grocery store and thought we would give them a whirl. (Yes, I know we could have just made our own, but we didn’t feel like it!). For my Weight Watchers friends out there, these are definitely worth it. You can have 21 fries for only 4 PointsPlus Values. And they are nice-sized fries. Not little ones. They were fantastic and we will definitely have these again.

OMG! These are by far the BEST “healthy puffs” I have ever had. I have tried the baked Cheetos brand and other brands, but I will never buy anything else but these. Seriously, they had the BEST flavor. They actually tasted like real puffs only better. I am not kidding. Best part? You can have 52 of these things for only 4 PointsPlus Values. These will now be a staple in our house. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them! They are made by Green Giant, check out the link here.

My husband had bought some very lean ground chicken. If I remember right, I think he said it was actually 100 percent fat-free. Anyway, we thought he should try something different with them and make actual burgers. He took the chicken and mixed it with half an egg, a crushed up bag of Weight Watchers Cheddar Twists, a little BBQ sauce, a little liquid smoke, salt, pepper and some Lowry’s seasoning. Each burger was only 3 PointsPlus Values. And the BEST part? They tasted fantastic. They were NOT dry. They were juicy and full of flavor. We will definitely make these again.

I know I have talked about my smoothie pancakes before, but if you haven’t tried them yet, give them a try. I started adding 2 tablespoons of PB2, which is a powdered peanut butter to the mix. It not only adds additional protein, it adds flavor. I use 3/4 cup of the liquid egg whites, mix in one Weight Watchers smoothie packet (you can use any flavor you want) and then the PB2. Beat together and then cook in a pan sprayed with cooking spray until they are done. I don’t time anything, so I can’t tell you long. The pancake is a total of 4 PointsPlus Values – 2 for the smoothie mix, 1 for the 3/4 cup of egg whites and 1 for the PB2. I don’t put anything on mine, but a lot of times, I eat it with a banana. VERY FILLING!

These are necessarily a new food find, but lately, I have been obsessed with blackberries. I am not sure this is even the season for them, but OMG! they have been so good lately. I eat at least one container a day. They are so tasty, juicy, sweet, kind of crunchy. Just YUM!

MISC PICS

I just have to include a pic of my new iPhone 5C case I designed at MyCustomCase.com. I know it is “just a case,” but I am probably the most picky person when it comes to phone cases – just ask my husband! Anyway, I found the website somehow and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my new case. There are literally hundreds of cases to choose from and then you can pick the color and “write” whatever you want on it. Some have just monogrammed letters, others, like mine have words that can run along the bottom or along the side. Seriously, check them out. They have cases for all kinds of phones. It is definitely worth your time!

And lastly, I have to include a picture – or two or three or four – of my son, Brandon, and his absolutely stunningly beautiful girlfriend, Kenzie. They attended her junior prom. Aren’t they both just adorable. I am so happy for them!

As always, remember, you can find me on Facebook here or here and you can also find me on Instagram, here. If you want, you can also send me an email to confessionsofaformerfatgirl at gmail dot com (confessionsofaformerfatgirl@gmail.com).

Sharing my experience…again

Scared speechless? Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. I know, it’s hard to believe for most of those who know me. But I really am if, or when, I have to stand up in front of a group of people and talk or give a speech. I sweat. I stutter, kind of. My voice quivers and yes, sometimes, I even clam up and nothing comes out. I know, once again, hard to believe, right?

Well, I decided to take a class at Alexandria Technical and Community College called, “Scared Speechless – How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking.” The class was taught by Robin Johnson, who I have to say, was fantastic…and I am not just saying that because she will probably be reading this. She was very calming, professional, funny and down to Earth. She made us feel at ease. Like we were normal and not the scaredy-cats we all believed we were. She believed in us, which in turn, made us believe in us. (If that made sense!) The class was great and I am happy I took it. Despite the fact that last night, all the students in the class (there were only a handful of us) had to each give an eight-minute speech.

I really didn’t know what the heck I was going to talk about for eight minutes. EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES. That in itself was scary. But then, it happened. I had to write a column for the newspaper and when I finished it, I immediately thought, “OMG, I just wrote my speech!” Awesome.

Well, my column (I wrote about my 10K running experience), which you can read here, didn’t last eight minutes when I read it out loud, so I had to include more information…an intro at the beginning and a longer ending. When I read it at home, it was five seconds short of eight minutes. Whew! I made it. I even practiced it a few times.

Well, last night, when I read it in class, some how, some way, I ended up stretching it out even longer and it turned into a 10-minute speech. Yep, TEN WHOLE MINUTES! I stood up, in front of a group of people and spoke for 10 minutes. And I don’t think my voice was as shaky as I expected it to be.

I want to thank Robin for giving me the encouragement and the skills needed to start my journey of getting over the fear of public speaking. I have to admit that afterward, I was pretty pumped up. Although, if anyone was standing close to me, they would have seen all the sweat beads formed over my upper lip!

I just hope that next time, it goes as smoothly as I felt it went last night!

Remember, you can find me on Facebook, just click here and if you want to chat or have a question, feel free to send me an email. Keep in mind, however, that I may not respond immediately, but I promise I will respond. Email me at confessionsofaformerfatgirl@gmail.com.

Emotional ride

It’s amazing what a little inspiration, a positive attitude and a simple, but amazing, chat with another runner can do for a person.

Today, my husband and I completed our first 10K…a 6.2 mile run in Fargo, North Dakota. It was amazing. All my self doubt about not being able to complete the run went out the door this morning when I decided to face this run with an upbeat, positive attitude and no more self pity.

We stood side by side at the starting line, but when the gun went off, I started running one direction…more to the right…and my husband started running a different direction…more to the left. Not once did I look where he was at or worry about how far in front of me he was. For the first time during a race, I focused on me, myself and I. Not a single other person. No one.

I cranked up my music, which were new running tunes I had recently downloaded. No lyrics, just awesome upbeat, up-tempo music that helped me set my pace. I concentrated on my breathing and my running. I concentrated on me.

I also had little pep talks with myself…as weird as that may sound. I kept repeating over and over, “You’ve got this. You can do it. You are running a 10K. How many other people can say they can run a 10K. You’ve got this.” (So, okay, there were tons of other people running a 10K, but at that point, it didn’t matter to me. I mattered to me.)

“Hey, are you the blog lady?”

OMG! Somebody recognized me. Which, okay, probably helped that I had my T-shirt on with my logo on it. But still, someone recognized me from my blog.

“Yes, yes I am.” I replied back, after taking my headphones out so I could actually hear her. She told me “way to go” or something like that, complimented me on my shirt and then said, “You can do it!” Or something like that.

Goosebumps ran up through my entire body and I don’t think I could have had a bigger smile on my face. It may have been simple to her, but to me, it was exactly what I needed to keep going, not give up and finish strong.

So, thanks to the runner, who happened to be a member of the team, Miles for Mark. You have no idea what you did for me. Thank you.

As I crossed the finish line, my arms flew up in that, “Yes, I did it!” motion. It is hard to describe the feeling. Truly it is. My husband was there waiting for me and I think we high-fived, hugged and kissed. Then, as I put the medal around my neck, for some reason, the dam broke and the tears came. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I did it. I completed my first 10K and the coolest part, I ran the whole thing. I didn’t walk once. And…I got under the time I had set for myself. I wanted to finish it in one hour and ten minutes and I did it in one hour and nine minutes. I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, and another really, really cool part of the day…I got to meet a fellow runner, Weight Watchers member and blogger, Jim Lindlauf. It was awesome to meet him in person. Jim recently finished his second marathon and today, ran the half marathon. He is an inspiration!

Thanks to everyone who encourage me and had the faith in me to complete this race! It was an awesome way for my husband and I to celebrate our 2nd anniversary!

Me at the finish line!

Al and I at the finish line.

Me giving my medal a big ol' kiss!

Our times according to our watches. My official time was 01:09:33 and Al's official time was 01:01:22.

Us...again!

Our medal...yes, we actually received a medal!

A "Miles for Mark" sign near the finish line.


A change of heart?

So, okay, I have been doing some thinking. Long and hard thinking. Which by the way, I do from time to time. Surprising, isn’t it? That I do, indeed, think.

Anyway, in my last post, I said I was going to give up running. When I wrote that blog entry, I was not in a good place – mentally, not literally.

I felt defeated…for more than one reason. After the race in St. Cloud, I really did struggle to breathe; my lungs ached and I coughed and wheezed more than any other race I’ve participated in.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I am always expecting more.

But see, the thing is, it was cold and damp that morning, plus the run included at least four hills (or what I consider hills because I am a novice runner). Sometimes, I don’t take everything into consideration. I focus too much on my time – not on my breathing – and I think I have finally realized I need to let go of that – my time, not my breathing. I know I have to breathe while running!

And speaking of time, I was really shooting for 30 minutes or at least 31 minutes and I ran it in 32 minutes and 19 seconds. I know…learn to let go, right? Yes. I have since let go.

And since I wrote my whining blog about wanting to quit, I have received plenty of feedback. Surprisingly, more people have told me to go ahead and quit and that it is okay to do so. I’m not sure why, but I was surprised by that.

I think in the back of my mind, when I wrote it, I was looking for some encouragement. I was looking for a hint of glimmer or that little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, I was making the wrong the decision and that I shouldn’t give up. At least not without checking with my doctor first.

I was looking for what I believe I provide to others on a regular basis – inspiration.

I was down and I needed just a little pick-me-up. Don’t we all need that sometime?

Well, I got my inspiration, but not in a post or comment on my blog site (athough there were a couple of inspiring ones!). I got my biggest inspiration from a former co-worker and friend of mine who sent me an email, an email I wanted to receive from her.

She is and has been an inspiration to me through most of my journey. She doesn’t really know it, but she is my positive reinforcement when things aren’t going the right direction or when I need a little pick-me-up. She always seems to know when I need a little something, a little nudge. Not sure how, but she always sends me a message when I need it the most. So, thanks to the running, yoga and biking queen who rules the roads now in St. Paul/Minneapolis.

Erin, you truly inspire me.

Thanks for your words of wisdom…and encouragement.

In addition to Erin’s email, I received some inspiration from a couple of conversations I had and from a personal message on my personal Facebook page.

Thanks to all of you who gave me what I needed.

And, I also have to give a HUGE thanks to my husband. I kind of shot him down in my last blog post and that wasn’t very fair. He encourages and inspires all the time and I thank him for it. Sometimes, I think he doesn’t understand, but then we talk and I realize just how much he truly does understand me and gets where I am coming from. Thanks, Al, for always being there for me…listening, encouraging and loving me for me.

I am gearing up for this Saturday’s 10K in Fargo and I truly am looking forward to it. And I have already made up my mind that I don’t care what my time is. I care only that I finish….without walking any of it!

My husband’s take on the 5K

As you all know, my husband and I ran the in the Fargo 5K on May 21. He decided to write about it for a column that runs in the newspaper we both work for, the Echo Press.

The column, which runs each Friday, is called "It’s Our Turn," and it rotates among members of the editorial staff. It was his turn and he thought he would share his thoughts on the 5K. And now, I thought I would share the column with you, my readers.

It’s a great perspective…plus, he’s an awesome writer. Seriously.

You can check out his column in our newspaper by clicking on the link, www.echopress.com/event/article/id/75283/group/Opinion/  or you can read it below. Enjoy!

The title was, "Ten lessons learned from running a 5K."

I ran in a 5K race in Fargo last weekend.

Notice I said “ran” instead of “competed” because that’s a more accurate description of what took place.

Actually “ran” isn’t quite the right word either. “Jogged” is more fitting.

But even though my time – just over 37 minutes to complete 3.1 miles – wasn’t the speediest, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I’m not a seasoned runner. This was only the second 5K I’ve participated in. But I do like to jog every now and then to burn off some stress, enjoy the outdoors and to take a break from sitting on the couch. I also enjoy going out for a run with my wife. It’s one of those shared activities that gives you a good sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We both participated in the 5K, running each step practically side by side, except when the maddening crowd – more than 5,100 runners and walkers – made it impossible to do.

Along the way, I learned some lessons about competing in a 5K:

1. Get in line early. We arrived at the race registration headquarters, the FargoDome, hours ahead of time but we didn’t know when or where runners would start lining up until we discovered several thousand people were already ahead of us in the staging area. When the starting gun started, we were way back in the pack.

2. Be prepared for chaos. When we finally crossed the starting line eight minutes after the race had started, there were thick clusters of runners, walkers, baby strollers and little kids all over the place. We tried our best to zig-zag around them and followed other runners’ strategy by veering off into people’s yards and sidewalks. It was crazy and hectic – but kind of fun.

3. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. There is no definitive description of a 5K runner. We saw people in their 70s and children barely out of diapers. There were runners short and tall, those skinny-as-a-rail to those who looked like permanent couch potatoes. Their experience, varied too – from seasoned pros (they had enough “gear” to open a sports store) to greenhorns in their first race. The fact that we were all bonding together toward a common goal – the finish line – made all those differences irrelevant.

4. Running doesn’t take months of training or mountains of work. You just have to want to do it and make the effort.

5. Runners are generally pretty cool people. Despite the huge field of runners, there was no pushing, yelling or rude behavior. People were friendly, smiling and encouraging.

6. People like runners. Along the route, dozens of people sat outside in their lawn chairs, cheering the runners on. They held signs. They clapped. Some sprayed water on the over-heated runners who wanted cooling off. They shouted, “You can do it! Keep going! Almost there!” Exactly why they did all this was a mystery to me. All we were doing was moving our feet. But the support was a great boost.

7. A welcoming touch really does matter. The whole town of Fargo got behind this racing event, which also included a 10K, a half-marathon and a marathon. Signs were everywhere welcoming the runners. The media coverage was extensive. It was all they were talking about on TV, radio and in the newspaper. The buzz and excitement helped. It was like an added level of support and an extra shot of adrenaline.

8. Don’t be ashamed to say “it was just a 5K.” At first, when people in Fargo asked which race I was competing in, I felt a little sheepish telling them it was the 5K. But everyone I told it to was still impressed. After awhile, I accepted the fact that although my race was nowhere near a 26.2-mile marathon, it was still a personal challenge worth completing.

9. Set your sights high. The 5K was fun, memorable and rewarding. So much so that I want to take it to another level. Next year, I’m going to run in the 10K. Well, maybe not “run” but you get the idea.

10. A “fast” time isn’t as important as finishing. It was humbling to see the 5K top runner finish the race in less than half the time it took me. But then I realized how much training, time and dedication that runner must have put into his regimen. He and the other top runners deserved their fast times. My main goal was just to finish the race. In the end, we were all winners.