Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon Race Review

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It has been nearly a year since I have run a half or full marathon.  I ran in Louisville’s race last April and the next month I injured my back.  So, 10 months later I was able to pull together some training in the midst of one of the roughest winters in recent memory and be ready in enough time for the March 29th Run the Bluegrass race in Lexington, KY.  This race was a long time coming and I honestly did not know how it would go because my training over the winter was not quite what I wanted it to be.  It ended up being an excellent race!

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I arrived in Lexington on Friday evening around dinner time and got settled in my hotel.  Once we got settled my family and I went over to the Keeneland Race grounds and it was so beautiful.  The rolling hills, the white fences, and the beautiful grounds of Keeneland made the beautiful day a wonderful opportunity to gather with other runners as we prepared for race day.  The photo above is where the expo was held and it was an outstanding expo….small, quaint, not crowded, and filled with good exhibits.  As I went to receive my bib I noticed that my name was the first name on the list and I told them that I expected that this would be the only time I would be first in this race.  We had a nice laugh and as I went throughout the expo everyone was so friendly, all the way to the race shirt table filled with young kids who greeted me.  We then went to a place called “Puccini’s Smiling Teeth” for a carb loading dinner.  Probably the best thing I did prior to the race, though, was go back to my hotel and sit in the hot tub.  It calmed my legs and back, which were a little sore.

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The picture above gives you a glimpse into the kind of day it was.  Cold, rainy, windy, and all around a blah kind of day.  I expected this because I had been keeping an eye on the weather all week.  The weather station was saying a 100% chance of rain….but, just how much rain?  Drizzle? Or a down pour?  We ended up with both.

I really only had 2 complaints about the race and they are fairly small.  We were told to get there by 8am and because of the way that the parking is set up, it took us 45 minutes to get parked from our hotel because of the traffic going into Keeneland.  It was confusing and frustrating and I worried I would not get there on time.  Thankfully, I did.  The other thing I discovered when I first arrived and was preparing to go to the starting line was that they only had maybe 15-20 port-a-potties available at the starting line.  I was surprised how few there were given that thousands of people were running, but I waited in line and was able to use the restroom and get to the starting line with about 10 minutes to spare.  I settled into my coral and the countdown took place and we were off.

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This is me just off the starting line in the first mile with a little bit of drizzle.

I was told that this particular half marathon would be hilly and they weren’t kidding.  The first mile went by quickly and wasn’t too bad in terms of hills, but after the first mile it was mile after mile of rolling hills.  I expected that at some point there would be a more level space to run and mile 3 had some straight road for a while, but other than that it was pretty much hill after hill.  Because I live in the rolling hills of northern Kentucky, I was prepared on some level for this, but I am not sure I was fully prepared for just how many hills there would be.

Honestly, though, while the hills were difficult, I found that they were all well worth it because of just how beautiful it was around us.  All of my half and full marathons have been run in urban settings and this was in the middle of farm country.  Horse farm after horse farm filled the landscape around us and it just never got old.  The grass was so green and beautiful and the white fences everywhere reminded us that, yes, we were in Kentucky.  Unlike Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon where there are thousands of spectators cheering you on, there were only a handful of people watching throughout the course.  This did not bother me in the least because I had a different crowd cheering me on this time.  As we ran on these beautiful country roads, a neighbor dog would come running alongside of us friendly as can be, horses would go prancing in their fenced in area right next to the road and it felt like they were running with us, and the beautiful trees, grass, and other landscapes reminded me that I was not alone.  Run the Bluegrass fans are amazing and offer a unique gift that most half marathons cannot…the beauty of creation.

The volunteers were outstanding and cheerful as they handed us water at each station.  I was impressed with the S.W.O.R.D. drink they offered during the race.  My first cup I got at the first fueling station was terrible blue powerade.  But, from there on out I got water and sword hydration drink.  The sword drink had ginger in it, which helped  settle the runner’s stomach and it was not overly filled with terrible sugars.  The last mile was very interesting because they offered the runners beer in addition to all the other drinks.  I did not partake of the beer….never understood why that would be good for a runner considering alcohol dehydrates.  Nevertheless, it was interesting.

The weather was also a factor.  It was a cool and, at some points, cold day.  It drizzled for the first several miles, but from mile 6 on it was pretty much a down pour or medium rain.  I was glad that I had decided to purchase a coat with a hood before the race anticipating the bad weather.  It made my entire body drenched and by mile 10 or so I could really feel it weighing me down.  But, neither the rain or the big hills stopped me from pushing onward and onward I pushed.  I did not stop once and I thoroughly enjoyed myself with all that this beautiful race had to offer.

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As I pushed towards the finish line, dozens of supporters were lined up on both sides and shouting us in.  My wife, father, and two kids were braving the elements at the finish line as I crossed and I was so glad to see them.  I finished in 2:11:36, which I didn’t think was too bad at all considering the hills and the weather.  The finisher’s medal was outstanding and I kept it on as long as I could.  By the time it was all said and done, I had run a great race and loved the course and really wanted to go inside to enjoy the after party, but it was coming down pretty hard in rain, so we decided to leave and get me some dry clothes.  All in all, this was a fantastic experience.  I could have done without the rain, but if I left that out of the equation, this race was very well done and it was by far the most beautiful terrain I have run for a half marathon.  I would do it again and recommend it to anyone who likes to run that distance.

Thank you, Run the Bluegrass!

 

Race Week: The Essentials Preparations

runthebluegrassIt is race week for me.  I am running my first half marathon since getting injured last summer.  The race I am running is the “Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon” in Lexington, Kentucky.  I am a bit anxious about it, but excited to get back out there racing again.  There is so much adrenaline the day of and so much training that brings runners to the point of a race.  But, there is something unique about race week that makes it different from other weeks of running.  For example, we are not running nearly as much as we would normally because it is a part of the taper.  We must be calculated about how much we run on race week so as to save our legs for race day.  This week I had planned to run 4 miles on Monday, 3 miles on Tuesday, and 2 miles on Wednesday….but after Tuesday’s run I was feeling a little bit sore and so I have decided to rest for the remainder of the week.  I will need my legs and can’t risk them being tired.  But, beyond just how much we choose to run the week of a race, there are a lot of essentials to making sure that the race we run is the best we can make it.

 

The Essentials

 

Weather and Clothes:  It is important that you keep an eye on the weather the week of your race.  This is important because the weather can change so quickly.  At the end of last week I was keeping an eye on what the weather channel said it would be in the city where I am running and it told me 60 degrees and sunny.  I was giddy.  When I checked the weather on Monday of this week it said 50 and rain.  It still says 50 and rain, but perhaps it will change again (please, no rain).  Even if the weather stays where it is for now, I can then prepare for that weather with what running clothes I will bring with me.  In March the weather can really be unpredictable in Kentucky so I will likely bring clothes for colder occasions and clothes for if it were 60 and sunny.  It is always best to come prepared with clothing to fit the weather, but keeping an eye on the weather is essential to helping you prepare for race day.

 

Gear:  I know it seems like a no brainer that you would bring gear, but before you are ready to travel to your city to run, it is important to organize this gear.  I have always set aside a specific bag for this.  My running gear bag was a race day gift from the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon I did back in 2012.  It has many different pockets that allow me to place all of my essential gear in.  As you get ready for your weekend, grab that bag and be sure that you include in it all the essentials: a watch, Road I.D., Ipod and Ipod arm band, sun glasses, hat/stocking cap, nip guards (this way you don’t get bloody nipples), chaffing cream, belt clip (this is so you can carry food with you), and sun block.  There is likely other gear to bring, but these are some items that I have found essential not just in training but to be prepared for having in full stock during race week.

 

Food:  This category is an important one.  Some of the best wisdom that I have heard about food during race week is to never change anything dramatically.  So, while you should be intentional in loading with food that is nutrient dense  and healthy the week of your race, it is also important that this be strategic.  I mean strategic in the sense that eating certain things during the week at certain times can help on race day, but strategic also in what you bring with you to the race.  If you are staying in a hotel you will want to ask what you will have for breakfast ahead of time so that it is consistent with your routine.  In my case, the hotel we are staying in does not have many vegan options for breakfast, so I have to be prepared to bring a toaster and to be sure the room has a refrigerator so that I can bring those things that are essential for me to have a good breakfast.  I also bring Clif bars, dates, and bananas with me to the race itself and my wife will also during some races bring some chocolate date balls that she has made for me to eat mid race.  The best strategy for race week food consumption is that each runner must take full responsibility for pulling together their own nutrition and not rely on or assume restaurants or the race itself will provide what you need to be completely fueled.  One last comment on food.  It is good to research ahead of time the various restaurants that are in the area so that you can find a good place to fuel the night before.

 

Race Research:  One of the things that I like to do on race week is to make sure that I do a decent amount of research on the race itself.  When I ran my first marathon I remember that during race week I pulled up the race map more times than I can count just to go over the route again and again.  I like to go over all the email correspondence I get from the race because there is often essential information for the race in there.  Such as, how to get your race bib and activate your race gps device.  There is also good information on the different waves or corrals that you are in based on the time you submitted.  There is info on how the pacers work and what to expect at each fueling station.  I think it is good to look at most of these things further in advance than the night before the race so that you aren’t worried about some of the details just prior to the race.  You will also want to know where you can park, where you can put your gear while racing, and where your supporters can wait or watch for you during and after the race.

 

Go Rest and Have Fun:  I read in nearly every running magazine and book just how important rest and sleep is the night before a race.  Truthfully, I am not sure how people do this.  I am sleeping in a foreign bed and with a foreign pillow (I may be bringing my pillow this weekend).  I have race nerves and thoughts running through my head all night.  The adrenaline anticipated for the morning is running through my veins.  Nevertheless, I cannot disagree that getting some rest is incredibly important.  On Friday my Louisville Cardinals will be taking on their rivals Kentucky Wildcats in the sweet sixteen of the NCAA basketball championship tournament.  They do not play until 9:45pm.  I really want to watch the game, but I know that I need to rest and get a good night’s sleep.  As much as it pains me, I must agree that going to bed at a reasonable time to get sleep is optimal.  Hopefully you will get the rest you need to have energy for the next morning and then the most important part is that you just go out there and have fun.  One of the things I have noticed about myself is that I take my running so seriously and I can fall into the competitive mode and not actually enjoy the race.  So, I have to remind myself to just have fun.  The race I am running in Lexington, Kentucky is on the grounds of the Keeneland Racing Facility and its beautiful landscapes have named this particular race “America’s prettiest half marathon.”  So, I am going to take the race seriously, but I certainly don’t want to miss stopping to enjoy the beauty around me and simply have fun while doing it.

 

As racing season begins, I wish all you runners out there Happy Racing!

A Day in my Food Life

Post by Danielle

I have recently heard from a number of people that a whole foods diet is too ‘hard’ and ‘confusing’.  I argue that it is in fact easy.  But, I can argue all I want and folks may not believe me.  So, instead I have documented a typical day of my eats to give an idea of how easy it is to eat healthy and whole.

First, a note.  A typical day in this case is not traveling (which is much harder to focus on whole foods, I will fully admit) and working from home.  But, I will try to outline how to take the same exact meals and make them portable to take to work or school.

Breakfast

Oatmel

A big bowl of hot oatmeal.  My run was COLD (ice on my eye-lashes cold) so I really was looking forward to the hot oats to warm up.  Here is how I make them: 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, 1 cup unsweetened almondmilk, 1 cup water, 1/2 banana, teaspoon of vanilla, pinch of salt, and teaspoon of ground flax seed.  All cooked up on the stove.  But, to make it portable, use the exact same ingredients, except the water, put them in a jar with a tight lid.  Shake it up and take it with you.  By the time you get to where you are going the oats would have softened.  Yes, it will be cold (though you could microwave it) but it will taste great.

Morning Snack

Tea

Green tea and an apple.

Lunch

Lunch

More Perfected Chickpea Salad from the Oh She Glows cookbook.  I put it on a whole wheat tortilla from Trader Joes on a bed of spinach and topped with half a sliced avocado.  On the side some roasted veggies and a plum for dessert.  All of this can easily be packed and then assembled on the go.

Afternoon Snacks

Scones

First up was a scone from a recipe I am testing.  It was good, but I can do much better.  Stay tuned!

Snack

The scone was good but not very filling and late in the afternoon my stomach started to rumble.  So I toasted up a piece of sprouted grain toast and smashed the other half of the avocado on it.  Sprinkled some salt and pepper and munched away.  This is my new absolute favorite snack.  I make yummy noises every time I take a bite.  I also had some plain sparkling water with a slice of lemon.  My ‘happy hour’ drink (I don’t drink alcohol).

Dinner

Dinner

Another recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook: veggie enchiladas with a cilantro-avocado ‘cream’ on top.  So super good!  On the side a big salad with mixed greens, green olives, and beets (I went to Costco last weekend and bulk bought beets and avocados!).

I drink probably 6 bottles of water a day as well.

So, you can see just how easy it is to maintain a healthy and whole foods diet, whether you are home or on the go!

The Oh She Glows Cookbook Review

Post by Danielle

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One of my go-to blogs/websites for great vegan food is Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.  Great recipes, stories, and information.  I highly, highly recommend it.  So you can imagine my excitement when she published her first vegan cookbook full of amazing recipes!  I went out and immediately bought it and have been cooking up a storm ever since.

There is a huge variety of recipes in the book.  The chapters are: Breakfast, Smoothies/Juice/Tea, Appetizers, Salads, Soup, Entrees, Sides, Power Snacks, Desserts, Homemade Staples.  There are also chapters about basic cooking information, pantry staples, and kitchen equipment.  As you can see it covers a wide spectrum of information.

Not only are the recipes all very delicious and easy to follow, but the pictures are stunning and the stories about the recipes fun to read.  The whole book is very approachable for vegans and non-vegans.  The recipes are mainly whole foods and have options for gluten free.  Just about an diet can be found in the book.

I highly recommend this cookbook for yourself or your favorite eater.  Trust me, not just vegans will love it!

Here are a few of the dishes I have made so far:

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Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich

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Out-the-Door Chia Power Doughnuts (I made muffins)

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Crispy Almondbutter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Peanutbutter Cookie Dough Bites

3 Books Every Health Conscious Eater Should Have

There comes a crucial moment when someone decides that it is important to pay attention to what they are eating and putting in their bodies.  When nutrition and food analysis becomes a crossroads for people, it is inevitable that people will go looking for resources to help them along the journey.  Whether it be food blogs, Facebook groups, or magazines, many of these resources can equip someone just getting started with a lot of helpful material.

Lately, as I have journeyed with my wife and family into a health conscious way of eating, I have found 3 resources in particular to be not just helpful but absolutely essential to my well being.  Obviously, these are not the only 3 out there and neither are they the most comprehensive.  I don’t suggest these three because they are for everyone, but because of the way it has impacted our life as a family.  The most important thread that goes through all three of these books is the notion of eating “real food” and not processed junk.  It connects us to whole foods, real recipes with ingredients that are recognizable, and realistic plans for eating healthy.  Check these books out of the library or buy them on Amazon and I promise they will not disappoint you if you are a person looking to eat more of a whole foods and healthy diet.

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Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

This particular book has been a strong book for our family because it connects us to nutrient dense foods with recipes that make sense.  Dr. Fuhrman is one of the key doctors in some of the plant based movements around the country and played a role in documentaries like “Forks Over Knives” and “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.”  One of the strong points about this particular book is that it has a leaning towards and highly suggests that persons go towards a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet for all the health reasons one can imagine, but he leaves room for those who are not ready or may never be ready for that step.  I like this because he recognizes that this diet is not necessarily for everyone and he doesn’t scare people off with another “vegan book.”  However, he understands how particular recipes work towards healing the body and his approach to nutrient dense foods allows those reading the book to reap the benefits of a very strong program towards optimal health.

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The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save Your Lie Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds by Rip Esselstyn.

This particular book comes off of the heels of the successful documentary “Forks Over Knives.”  In that particular documentary we get to witness the story of how the Engine 2 firehouse in Austin, Texas takes on the challenge of trying to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure by taking on a whole foods plant based diet.  The overwhelming majority of those who took on the plan were successful in changing their eating habits and their health concerns regarding their heart.  Rip’s father Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has been instrumental in the field of heart disease and diet and Rip is following in his footsteps heroically.  This book is a telling of that story of Engine 2 and then a laying out of a 28 day plan towards a whole foods plant based diet.  I really enjoy this story because it is such a real life story that is about the transformation of lives.  The exciting thing for me about this book is that the recipes we use from his plan are so rich and filling.  Sometimes I can find myself being extra hungry as an athlete needing more calories, but his book seems to really provide a strong set of recipes for those of us that are more active.  I highly recommend this book.

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Forks Over Knives The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant Based Eating All Through the Year by Del Sroufe.

This book is obvious less theory of nutrition and plant based diets as it is a simple cookbook.  As the subtitle states, it is for eating throughout all the year and this makes the book very thorough and covers all areas of life.  When I first saw the documentary with the same title my initial reaction was, “Wow, this is powerful.  How do I get a sense of what to eat and how much?”  Thankfully, they did some follow up to the film with books like these so that those of us seeking to eat more healthy can have a sense of how to plan our meals.  When my wife and I meal plan for the week, we almost inevitably turn to this book as a resource for deciding what to eat.  It provides smoothie recipes, filling breakfast options (Which is a difficult one for me), salad dressings made from scratch, and everything from amazing soups to extremely good dinner entrees.  Even if you are not someone who is plant based exclusively, this book is an essential to anyone who seeks to live a whole foods diet.  And, if you have yet to do so, definitely check out the film “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix.

Fitbit Flex Review

Post by Danielle

 

 

 

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If you recall, I had the immense privilege and pleasure of living in AZ for the month of February.  It was simply perfect.  I was outside as much as possible.  I ran through the desert and took my dog on long walks.  I hiked through both easy and difficult terrain.  I loved every minute of it and miss it terribly.

And, it became increasingly clear now that I am back in cold, ice-covered Minnesota, I need to do something to keep myself moving.  Besides my run, I spend my days sitting at my desk working.  I can’t walk the dog very far because it is too cold and absolutely treacherous for both of us with all of the ice and compacted snow.  But, those are just excuses and proof I needed some sort of motivation to get focused.  I had heard about the new craze of fitness monitors and decided I wanted in on the action.  So, I purchased the Fitbit Flex, pictured above.  I have only had it for a few days but already I love it.

The Fitbit Flex is not the top of the line model (that is the Fitbit Force) but it is just one step down.  The Flex tracks your steps, estimates your calories burned, helps to keep track of your calories taken in, records your active minutes, and monitors your sleep patterns.  For people who like data on their health, the Fitbit is great.

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The above two pictures are my dashboards.  The first is the online dashboard that gets set up when you activate your Fitbit.  The second is the app on my iPhone, which is free.  You can also monitor your progress by tapping on the Flex and looking at the light indicators (see first picture – if you can make it out, there are four lights fully illuminated and the fifth is not quite bright yet.   When I have met my goal for the day when all five lights are lit).

I check my iPhone dashboard multiple times throughout the day to see how I am doing on my progress.  I have also started to track my food and water intake through that app, which is really easy.

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You can set different goals than the ones that come standard.  The goals already set are: 10,000 steps a day, 30 active minutes a day, and 5 miles a day.  You can change them to whatever you want.  For example, I have no problem (on the days I exercise anyway) of taking 10,000 steps and moving at least 5 miles.  However, I have decided to be more focused on being active throughout the day.  I have changed my goal to 60 active minutes per day and set it as the primary goal I monitor via the lights on the wrist-band.  60 minutes does not seem like much, but if I am not running very long and spending my day working, it is hard to get there.

You can add activities that might not be picked up by the Fitbit (activities that don’t have you moving your feet enough for the vibration to be felt).  For example, a good workout on a bike or elliptical may not be  recorded as activity on the Fitbit, but you can search for it and manually input it.

Once you reach your goal, the Fitbit vibrates and the lights do a little dance for you.  The first time I hit my goal for the day it was a great little reward!

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Monitoring my sleep pattern has become really interesting for me.  You turn on sleep mode on the Fitbit by rapidly tapping on it until it vibrates and the lights go out.  That way the Fitbit is keeping track of how much you are moving around in the night.  You turn off sleep mode the same way when you are ready to get out of bed.  As you can see, Saturday night I was laying in bed for 7 hours and 45 minutes.  I woke up once for 4 minutes (the red line) and was restless 7 times for a total of 13 minutes.  It may not seem all that bad, but I am a rock-star sleeper.  Saturday night was day-light savings.  I went to bed early and got up early.  Normally, I sleep over 8 hours, don’t wake up, and am only restless first thing for a few minutes and right before I get up.  I am really curious to see how (badly) I sleep when traveling.  I don’t rest well in hotels.

The Fitbit is comfortable and water-proof.  I don’t even notice it.  I can even wear my watch on the same wrist.  The battery is charged by plugging it into a computer but a charge lasts five days.  I am charging it now because I am sitting still at my desk and have my computer on.

A couple of glitches I have noticed: when I clap my hands (like I did at the opera on Sunday) it kept turning on and off the sleep mode.  That was irritating.  Even though it is water-proof I have noticed some condensation building up in the wrist-band and that concerns me.  I do travel a lot and will find out on Wednesday whether it can go through airport security without causing any trouble.

All in all, I highly recommend it.  As this miserable winter drags on it can be hard to find the motivation to keep moving.  The type of reward I feel when all five lights flash and I get green throughout my dashboard may not work for everyone, but it works for me.  I park farther away from the door and have even found myself marching in place to get my feet moving.

You can create a community to keep yourself accountable through Fitbit’s website.  So if any of you out there have one let me know and we can keep one another motivated!

A bean, a green, and a grain

Post by Danielle

Power bowls have become all the rage lately in the media.  Restaurants are adding them to their menus.  You can even find them at some ‘faster food’ joints.  But, as with all new trends, it has actually been around for a while.  Power bowls are a common meal for folks who pay close attention to what they put in their bodies.  Done right, a power bowl can be a nutritional powerhouse.

There is a simple equation for putting together a good power bowl: a bean, a green, and a grain

Start with the green.  A lettuce base usually works well as something to fill up the bowl.  But don’t stop there.  Eat the rainbow is my motto.  That means lots of different veggies, and whole color variety.

Next a grain.  I personally enjoy a serving of quinoa.  But any whole grain will do (well, oatmeal may be weird).  Find one you like or mix it up.

Finally a bean.  I usually go for either black beans or garbonzo beans.  Garbonzo beans are full of protein so a really good addition for non-meat eaters.

There you have, the simple ingredients for a power bowl.  Here is the strategy for making it the easiest meal you make everyday: one day a week, cook up the grain of choice, and prep the veggies.  This time of year I am all about the roasted veggies.  They keep well in the refrigerator for a week.  As for the beans, canned (once drained and well rinsed) work perfectly.  But soaking them overnight and cooking them works just as well and is not at all labor-intensive.

A few hours of prep once a week and five minutes of put together right before you are ready to eat and you will be set for some healthy and tasty meals!

Spiraling into Wholeness

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I don’t know about you but I am a person who loves rituals.  I am not talking about the empty rituals so many talk about that cause people to leave worshiping communities in droves.  I am talking about unique, expressive, creative, and dynamic rituals that can help me and others heal and be whole.  This blog has largely been about running and food, as these are some of the primary ways that Danielle and I both express what it means to be whole and healthy.  However, I think there is a deep need in our culture for rituals that can bring together the healing of psyche and spirit.

This past week I spent some time in San Francisco with the non-profit Veriditas to become a trained facilitator in labyrinth walks.  I have found labyrinths to offer a creative and unique connection to both of the worlds of psyche and spirit, a connection that can be part of the way in which we live healthy lives.  Here are some of the ways in which a labyrinth can be healthy and helpful:

*Relieves Stress

*Brings awareness to the needs of the body and the spirit

*Offers psychological healing

*Brings mindfulness into practice

*Connects us to others on the path

*Helps us to see our lives as a journey

*Brings focus and attention

*Can help us find answers to the questions we are asking in life

*Is an act of meditation and prayer

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The image of a labyrinth is that of a spiraling circle.  It is not to be confused with a maze.  A maze has many different entrances and exits.  Plus, mazes are designed to challenge or confuse those who walk its many paths.  Labyrinths are a single path and are designed to connect a person with their inner path.  There is a rather helpful soundbite distinguishing the two that I find helpful.  “Mazes are meant for people to lose their way and Labyrinths are meant for people to find their way.”  In the end, the spiraling and circular nature of labyrinths are symbols of unity and wholeness, which is something we strive for at One Whole Step.  Whether you are someone who is looking for stress relief, or someone who is seeking an answer to a question about your life’s vocation, or perhaps you are someone on a spiritual journey seeking healing from your past, the labyrinth is a tool of wholeness and healing.

If you would like to find a labyrinth near you go to http://www.veriditas.org and find the world wide labyrinth locator and enter in your location.  If you would like to see more about my journey to San Francisco and the labyrinth facilitator training you can go to http://www.chadrabbott.tumblr.com.

The Happiest Place on Earth…To RUN!!!

Post by Danielle

This past weekend I ran my first half marathon in over a year.  And I did it in style!  I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disney World.  If you have never done a Disney race, save up and do it.  They are the best races I have ever done!

2013 was all about injuries for me, so I have not run long distance much at all in just about year.  While I had trained for this race, I was nervous going in.  I knew I could do the distance but I wanted to do it well.  I was not aiming for a PR or anything, but I was aiming for a run to be proud of.  But most of all, I wanted to focus on having fun.  And I accomplished that!

I didn’t have time to take off of work because of a big project coming up at the end of this week, so it was a couple of night flights and a really quick weekend in Orlando.  But that is okay because my best of the best friend lives in Orlando AND works for Disney, so everything was really easy.

The expo was big and fun.  It was located at ESPN’s World Wide Sports Complex and was incredibly well organized.  In fact, one of the best parts of a Disney race is how well organized they are.  It was easy to pick up our race bibs and gear packs.  There were lots of vendors at the expo and we spent about an hour walking around and doing a bit of shopping.

After the expo we checked into our resort on the Disney campus.  If you plan to do a Disney race I highly recommend staying at a Disney resort.  They provide complimentary transportation to and from the race, which is just wonderful.

We spent Saturday walking around Magic Kingdom, which was a blast.  My first Disney experience was as a young adult so I have never experienced it as a child, but as an adult it is just as fun!  We had a great time but when we made our way back to the resort for the night I realized how much my legs and right hip hurt after walking around and standing in lines all day.  If I had been totally smart, or only focused on a PR, I would have stayed in all day to rest up.  But I wanted to soak in a full weekend of Disney.  My right hip (or groin, or some ligament/muscle connecting the two, I am not sure) has been bothering me from all of the hills I have been running and hiking on in Arizona.  I was nervous about what it would mean for my race, so I took the week off before I left for Orlando.

Our alarm went off at 3am to head to the bus to the start line about 4am.  I took a couple of Advil, ate a packet of peanut butter, a banana, and mini Luna bar for a bit of fuel.  My first Disney race (the Wine and Dine in November 2012) was marred by digestive issues.  That race started at 10pm and I learned then that I cannot run with any food in my stomach.  So, I was really cautious for this race and actually pleased about the super early start time.

outfit

At a Disney race, if you are not dressed up you look ridiculous.  For this race we wore home made tutus and sparkly Mickey ears.  Both were surprisingly comfortable and I didn’t even notice them while running!

The bus dropped us off at Epcot for the start.  There were 24,000 (!) runners, so lots of people.  But all of the volunteers were simply amazing and everything was easy.  There was fantastic entertainment at the start and lots of energy to get pumped up.

We were in corral L – so pretty far back, but that makes sense with the number of runners.  The start was officially at 5:30am but we didn’t cross the start line until 6:30am.  What I love about Disney is that they shoot off fireworks for each corral start, so it always feels special.

The course took us along the highway between Epcot and Magic Kingdom.  You run through Magic Kingdom and head back to Epcot.  Of course the highway was closed for the race, but that also means there is a hard time limit so they can get the highways back open.  You have 3 1/2 hours to complete and if you don’t make the time cut-off at mile 8 you are picked up by a bus.  At least a thousand runners don’t make the cut-off.

There was a gatorade/water stop at every mile, which I walked through.  I had water at every stop and a few sips of gatorade starting at mile 4.  There was energy gels at mile 8.5, which I also had.  I knew I needed to take it easy, so I made sure it run slowly and steadily and walk when needed.

Another great thing about Disney races is they have entertainment all along the course.  There was a high school marching band, professional kite flyers, a drumming group, two bands, a gospel choir, and lots and lots of Disney characters for you to stop and take a picture with.  It was great motivation.  Running through Magic Kingdom was a blast.  There were lots of spectators cheering us on.  We got to run through the Castle and just as I was approaching the two trumpeters that do that fun trumpet announcement song ushered me into the and through the castle.  Running along the highway would have been boring if not for all of the people and energy in the crowd and entertainment along the way.

My one complaint was that the route was very narrow for most of the race and there were a number of times that I had to really slow down or even walk because of the crush of runners.  But that was okay, I was always focused on just having fun.

Another ‘problem’ that I had was at about mile 6 I got incredibly hungry.  In fact I was so hungry, I was eyeing a granola bar sticking out of the back of another runner’s fuel belt and scheming about how I could steal it.  Don’t worry, I didn’t, and in fact put on a burst of speed to pass her to get it out of my mind!

medal

I gave Goofy a high five as I crossed the finish line and was immediately given my finisher’s medal.  Disney does medals up right.  They are high quality medals that are fun and beautiful.  I grabbed a bottle of water and a food box – which I immediately dug into and ate just about everything in it.

I hurt.  Like really hurt.  At about mile 10 my legs turned to lead and I had to do some walking.  The last mile was through Epcot, and even though it was incredibly painful, there were huge crowds cheering runners on that carried me through.

It was an emotional race for me.  2013 was hard because of all the injuries and there were points leading up to the race that I was concerned I would not finish.  But I did, did it in fairly decent time, and finished with a smile on my face.  A few tears were shed as the medal was placed around my neck.  I was proud, worked really hard, and EARNED that medal!

After a quick bus ride back to our resort, a shower and a stretch, we headed to Hollywood Studios to walk around and ride some rides.  Disney encourages you to wear your medal around the parks so I did and was given lots of ‘congratulations’ by strangers.  And the Disney Castmembers would say “Congratulations Princess” every time they saw you.  It was great!

I highly recommend a Disney race.  They are pricey, but totally worth it!

Being Vegan at the Airport

I was absolutely thrilled this week when I was going to get the opportunity to fly to San Francisco for a training.  It is more than just being excited about being on the west coast with warmer weather or even the outstanding course I will be going through.  Yes, I am talking about food…..vegan food.  You know, when most people think of where you can find good vegan food in the U.S., they think of places like New York City, L.A., or San Francisco.  In the course of my research about places I should eat while there, I came across a restaurant named “The Plant” that was located in the airport……YES, the airport.  I knew that I would have a few hours before my ride came to get me so I was thrilled when I knew I would be arriving around lunch time and could sit down at this overly vegan friendly restaurant and read and eat to my hearts delight.

Let’s face it folks, most of us walk into an airport, vegan or not, and there is rarely a good place to eat that would be remotely healthy.  I spent my whole flight excited about what I would eat.  Only, when I arrived in San Francisco I was dismayed to find out that my flight dropped me off in terminal 1 and that the restaurant I really wanted to eat at was in terminal 2.  So, if I wanted to eat there I would actually have to buy a ticket and walk through security to get there.  Of course, I am not spending hundreds of dollars just so I could eat at a vegan friendly restaurant in an airport.  I was so disappointed and hungry.  So, I went looking for a place where I could eat and one would think that because it is San Francisco that it would be much easier to find vegan and vegetarian fare.  Nope, not so much.  I finally ended up eating at a place called “Willow Creek Grill” because they had a veggie sandwich and a veggie burger.  It wasn’t exactly what I was wanting, but it was food and I was hungry after 6 hours of flying.  So, here are 2 tips for being vegan at the airport.

1)  You will have to compromise.  I know this seems obvious, especially given my experience, but if you are confined to an airport then it is what it is and you will have to eat somewhere and something that is less than ideal.  There will be places where you can find a “burger” and fries or a salad or some veggies and potatoes.  Is it fresh and organic and a whole foods diet?  No, not likely….in fact, I would be willing to bet a good size of money that it will not be those things….and I am not a betting man.  So, expect that you will have to compromise if you are in an airport and need to find a place to eat.  As one of the airport employees said to me, “Well, there is always Subway.”  Of course, come to find out that Subway was in a totally different terminal also.  Now, you know I am not spending hundreds to get to a Subway.

2)  Come prepared with your own food.  I think that this might actually be one of the smarter things a vegan could do.  I did bring some bananas and Clif bars with me for snacks and breakfast.  But, I found myself wishing I had packed a hummus wrap or a fresh salad.  Once you are in the airport there is not much you can control with the food.  However, in bringing your own food, that is something you can absolutely control.  Next time I am in such a situation, I will not be assuming that I will be able to find the greatest and most welcoming restaurants available to those of us that are vegan.  Instead, I will come prepared.

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