Tuesday, September 25, 2012

100 Days of Running

On September 4th, I ran for the 100th straight day in a row. And then on September 5th, I stopped. It wasn’t that I was injured or even really wanted a rest day, but it was a good time and a nice even-numbered day for the streak to end.

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It started with another one of those Runner’s World run streaks. The summer goal was to run at least a mile every day between Memorial Day and July 4th. Unlike the last time I streaked, I got into a groove. Of course, the groove mostly involved waking up insanely early so that I could run a) before work and b) before it got ridiculously hot. June was a particularly bad month heat-wise, but I ran through it. I ran through long weekend trips to Virginia for my grandma’s 90th birthday party and Memphis for Abby’s engagement party. I ran to Memorial Cross in Sewanee. July 4th came, and I badly bombed a local 5K. But the streak rolled on.

2012-07-14 09.13.17

My mom and I did a lovely 10-mile run with the Badgerland Striders while we were in Milwaukee for my cousin’s wedding. If the sun came up that morning, I ran. Normally, I averaged 23-25 miles/week, and suddenly, I was easily averaging 25-30. With the start of training for Marine Corps, I regularly hit 30 miles per week without struggling. My body adjusted, and most of the time, I felt pretty strong. I ran through the end of CPE and final evaluations and good-byes. I ran through my Florida vacation (even though I barely squeaked out a mile most days) and through my first day at a new church. Some days it was 17 miles and some days it was 1 or 2 miles. When it was all said and done, 100 days of running netted me 418.9 miles, or an average of about 4.2 miles a day.

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If there’s one thing that the streak taught me, it’s that motivation is overrated. People are always waiting for motivation to exercise or eat healthy foods or start a spiritual practice, but Nike was right when they said, “Just do it.” Running every day was just something I did. Roll out of bed, brush my teeth, throw on clothes, tie shoes, out the door and start running. There was no question, no back and forth, no “I’ll just do it tomorrow.” I ran because I’m a runner. I didn’t always want to, and there were days when a 4 or 5 mile run became a 2 or 3 mile run. Habit will trump motivation every time whether it’s exercise or reading the Bible.

Even nearly a month after ending the streak, taking a true rest day feels weird, like something isn’t quite right with my day. Over those 100 days, I grew to really depend on running for self-care, for my “me” time when it was just the road and me and God, as an outlet for my anger and grief and happiness and celebration. I thought it was going to be a physical challenge, but it became a spiritual practice as well.

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Physically, the most I struggled with were some grumpy calves for a few days. I still did cross-training like spin class and weight-lifting, but I would run a mile or two before or after. I learned to really listen to my body in order to figure out what was real fatigue that was telling me to back off a little and what was just a little sluggishness that I could push through.

I don’t know if or when I’ll streak again, but running 100 days in a row changed me as an athlete and a person. I also did a lot of laundry and ate a lot of food!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Take a Solo Vacation

After finishing my year as a CPE Resident, I was exhausted, but fortunately, had scheduled a week in between finishing one thing and starting the next. The issue was what to do with that week. I knew what I needed to do – get away, do some mental, spiritual, and emotional debriefing, and just relax. Maybe, if I felt up to it, start doing some brainstorming and planning for the church. I don’t know about you, but I am utterly incapable of doing those things at home. Instead of the space I needed, I would fill my time with errands, bumming around the house, and feeling guilty about how little I accomplished. No, I needed a vacation, really a retreat of sorts. But there was no way, no how the husband was going to be able to go anywhere with me. After hemming and hawing about it for a while, I made the decision. I would go on vacation by myself.


It felt like self-indulgence. Spending the money on airfare and a rental car just for me? Not to mention meals, gas, entertainment, etc. Fortunately, lodging was covered since I used my aunt’s condo in Florida. She did warn me that there was the potential for hurricanes and tropical storms in late August, but I scoffed. Then Tropical Storm Isaac decided to make himself known. I decided to keep my plans in place, particularly when the course of the storm started drifting further and further west. Besides, if I had to spend a day or two drinking wine and reading my Kindle in the dark, I could manage.


Tip #1: Go for the upgrade
Naturally, I had opted for the economy rental car when I got a (rather good) deal on Priceline, but when I got to the counter, the clerk offered me a red Camaro for an extra $10/day. I balked and he cut it down to $5/day. Doing the math in my head, I decided it was totally worth an extra $25 to drive along the beach in a red Camaro. And after spending the whole year trying to cultivate my rebellious feisty side, the red Camaro seemed particularly apt.

Tip #2: Bring lots of books
I love my little $79 Kindle. I toted a whole freaking library to Florida with me. I wasn’t entirely sure if I would have internet access in the condo (though I did!), and I planned to spend a lot of time reading fun, interesting-to-me books. I finished a collection of Margaret Atwood short pieces, the second Harry Potter book, and made a good dent on Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor.


Tip #3: Don’t let the bad weather get you down
All I really wanted to do was go to the beach, absorb the sun, and be lulled into a semi-catatonic state by the waves and the seagulls. Unfortunately, Isaac had other plans. So I went shopping (something I rarely do at home). I ate raw oysters and drank beer before hunkering down in the condo with Breaking Bad on my laptop. And the next day, even though it was windy as all get out and I couldn’t even walk on the Fort Myers pier, I went to the beach anyway. It was kind of miserable being pelted with tiny particles of sand at 20 mph, so I ended up doing what I wanted to anyway – driving up and down the beach in that red Camaro. Take that tropical storm!

Tip #4: Sit at the bar
The weirdest and most uncomfortable part of vacationing solo was eating out since it can be a little awkward. I had the most success with sitting at a two-top table inside the bar area. There I could order, watch whatever was on the television, pretend to read my book while really just eavesdropping on other tables’ conversations, or play with my iPhone. I even went out to a bar that specialized in beer and had no problem at all.


Tip #4: Be smart
I finally got my time on the beach even though the water was all churned up, and as much as I like walking up and down the beach, I never ventured far enough that I couldn’t see my things, though I locked my wallet in the trunk of the car. Most people probably wouldn’t even have done that. And before leaving, I made a point of not advertising that I was traveling on my own on my various social media networks, just to be safe. I kept in contact with my parents and husband back at home, letting them know when I was going out for a run, which beaches I was going to, etc. That way if I disappeared for whatever reason, they would at least have some idea of where I was. All the usual things apply as well – being aware of surroundings, locking doors, not displaying valuables, etc. The closest I got to being assaulted was when I was out on a run and surprised an older lady from behind while she was out on her walk. She was not very happy with me.

Even for an extrovert, having solo vacation time was very important for my well-being and pressing the “restart” button before starting a new ministry. I also had fun doing what I wanted to, when I wanted to. I went to bed early some nights and late others. I ate normal meals some days but not every day. I spent some quality time with myself and God and the seagulls. I cried about things I didn’t realize that I still needed to cry about, and I put the windows down and sang along loudly to the Pop2K XM station when I wanted. So I highly recommend the solo vacation. I came back recharged and ready to start a new call.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lentil Fritter Pitas with Red Cabbage Slaw

Did summer fly by for anyone else? There are about 18 million summer things that I never got around to. Farmers’ Markets that went unvisited, rivers that did not get kayaked, nights that we did not sit out on the patio talking, meals that did not get grilled (in part because our grill was confiscated by the fire marshal). June was a haze. Nothing happened in July since Joe was working nights and was either at the hospital or asleep. August was finishing CPE, and now it’s September with fall just around the corner.

Football has started, and there are cans of pumpkin in my pantry that never were used last year. But it’s still 90-something degrees and unbearably humid. I’m not ready for fall because I didn’t really get a summer, even though I love fall. It’s the best running season This is a great summer meal: colorful, light flavors like cilantro and lemon. So if you want to cling to summer for a few weeks longer, or if you’re forced to by the weather, go ahead and sneak this one under the line. Before chunky sweaters and boots, before tailgating, before apples and pumpkin and butternut squash and chili, have some red cabbage and lentils and parsley.

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Lentil Fritter Pitas with Red Cabbage Slaw
adapted from Real Simple
Yields 4 servings


3 cups cooked lentils
1/2  cup  fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
1/2  cup  fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1  clove garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs
1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
1/2  cup  bread crumbs
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4  head red cabbage, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
3  tablespoons  olive oil
1/2  cup  low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4  teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more for serving
4  pocketless pitas, warmed


  1. In a food processor, puree half of the lentils with the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and cumin until nearly smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the bread crumbs, the remaining lentils, the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Form into sixteen ½-inch-thick patties.
  2. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, lightly mash the cabbage with the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, crushed red pepper, and a splash of water. Adjust consistency to preference. 
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the patties until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, adding the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet for the second batch.
  4. Dividing evenly, top each pita with the patties, cabbage mixture, yogurt sauce, and the additional cilantro and crushed red pepper.