This one--so happy to be running barefoot in the forest. He has my heart.

When Heart Break Hill Comes Early– And How I’m Coping With It.

So sometimes the only way my body can get in attention is to make it come to a screeching halt.  That is exactly what it did a few weeks ago.  I had been running beautifully, feeling strong and lean and mean (okay–not mean–but fast!).  As I prepared to go on a long weekend trip to see my girl in Juneau, I decided I would front load my heaviest work during the week so I could enjoy some relaxed runs and hikes with my friend.  Monday–I ran 10 miles with the stroller and then did a 3 mile VO2 Max workout in the evening.  I was still tired from the previous week.  Tuesday, I ran 6.25 miles to a boot camp in a park, did a ton of sprints, and then ran the 6.25 miles home.  Wednesday, I ran again.  The whole time I was thinking, “hm, my pelvis area does not feel so hot…” but I ran on.  By Thursday I was walking.  My hamstring, gluteus, and hip flexor nagged at me all weekend (but I still got to do some hiking in beautiful AK!) and by the time I got back to Tacoma on Monday I was feeling like trying to run.  Monday–8 miles…Monday night. HELL.

I love this lady.  We met in Korea.  We've adventured on 3 continents together.  I finally got to visit her in her beautiful home.  I LOVED Juneau.

I love this lady. We met in Korea. We’ve adventured on 3 continents together. I finally got to visit her in her beautiful home. I LOVED Juneau.

Emily has celebrity status in Juneau so she was able to hook up a helicopter ride to the glacier!  HOW COOL IS THAT?  It was pretty amazing.

Emily has celebrity status in Juneau so she was able to hook up a helicopter ride to the glacier! HOW COOL IS THAT? It was pretty amazing.

I called Jannine–a bit frantic– “I’ll do anything!  Fix it, please!!!!” She speculated some tearing–probably inevitable as my body adjusts to my new post surgery stride and as I up my work load.  Rest (the hardest), stretching, heat, massage, acupuncture and PRP therapy were recommended.  This all went down 3 weeks before the beloved Wild Woman Marathon I was feeling so prime time to run.  Now, I’m just trying to get my body feeling decent to run in Cape Town.

Here’s the good news–the PRP injection in my glutes was successful.  My right ass cheek was SOOOO swollen for about 8 hours after (I looked like a one sided J-Lo).  The pain deep in my bum seems to have subsided.  Really, the only culprit now is the hamstring pain.  Its moderate or maybe moderate to severe if I push it too much. I go back and forth between completely laying off it to alternating running and walking days.  Mentally, its a real struggle.  Running keeps me sane.  Really.

The other day on one of my walks, I was listening to the Nomeatathlete podcast.  He was interviewing the founder of Altra–the incredible zero drop, foot shaped shoes I run in and love so much.  The dude is an ultra runner and has worked with a lot of athletes.  Something he said made me laugh out loud/feel better about the fact that I overtrained and ended up with an ouchie.  He said that one of the reasons runners get hurt is because we are hardwired to over train.  Runners–ecspecially ultra runners–love to run.  Most of us are probably addicted to running, in fact.  There is only so much a coach can do–work on form, muscle imbalances, making the perfect training plan, but chances are we’re going to over train because we are sick in the head–I mean constantly challenging our boundaries and looking for that sweet sweet runners high.  So there you have it– I can’t be blamed for over training.  Its just part of running.

Here’s what this little bout of injury has taught me:

1) Slow the heck down Melissa.  Leif is growing up so fast.  Lately, he does not want to stay in the stroller.  “I do! I do!” he proclaims as he wiggles out of the straps and jumps out. Today, he walked a portion of 5 mile drive and then later took off barefoot down the trail when I told him it was time to leave the playground and go home.  A quarter mile later, I convinced him we could watch Fireman Sam for a bit if we went home.  At first I was frustrated with him for disrupting my plan.  But then I was like, “MY KID WANTS TO RUN! HELL YEAH!”

Reality Check-- who the heck cares if I miss a couple miles? He was so happy.

Reality Check– who the heck cares if I miss a couple miles? He was so happy.

These two buddies.

These two buddies.

2) I get to walk with my non-running friends!  I miss walks with the neighbors and their sweet pups.

3) I’m rethinking training.  I’m in the pool using the pull bouy and getting a great upper body workout, I’ve developed a full body strength and flexibility workout that is runner specific and hits on my weak areas (ahem–glutes), I’ve committed to a pre and post run warm up, core and stretch routine.

4)  I’m rethinking goals.  Racing is a lot of pressure.  To pay money and then hope that I’m “on” for race day is pretty anxiety provoking. Sure, racing can be fun and a great way to measure progress but I’m really not in love with it.  Solo runs and runs with a friend are where it is at for me.  Instead of having a goal race, I think I’m going to come up with some really gorgeous, challenging trails I’d like to cover.  Maybe some short ones but mostly some longer runs…maybe even some multi-day races (Although I won’t be pulling a Scott Jurek and running the Application Trail any time soon–but maybe a portion of it in the next few years?).  This allows me to do things as my body is ready and to listen and adjust accordingly.

5)  I’m focusing on nutrition.  I haven’t cut out all treats but I’m hitting the fruits and smoothies even harder than normal.  I just got my body to a place it feels strong and lean.  I don’t want to lost it after all the hard work!  Still, I’m reminding myself that I’m not going to turn to mush with a few weeks off and that I can work my way back quickly.

In other news:  My brother is getting married 10 days.  Leif and I are both in the wedding so the next week will be a whirlwind of bridesmaids brunches, nails, hair, makeup, rehearsals, and getting down with our bad selves on the dance floor.  Oh yes, and packing for Cape Town because I leave the day after the wedding.  I’m stoked. I’m scared out of my mind to leave Leif for 2 weeks.   I’m worried my body will still hurt.  But I’m mostly stoked.

When I return from South Africa, I plan to soak in the last month of summer with my family and prepare for my new venture in home schooling one of the girls I currently tutor.  We’ve already transformed our downstairs bedroom into a an adorable little classroom.

Life is good. But please, send healing thoughts to my lower limbs.  Pray the PRP therapy is successful on Friday night and that my body uses the platelets to heal.  Sometimes it feels selfish to ask for healing energy and prayers over such a minor thing. But to me it is more than just a bum leg.  Running is a huge part of my spirituality and emotional well being.


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Leaning Out

With my mileage increasing and my strength training remaining fairly consistent, I found myself frustrated last month that I seemed to be holding on to some extra fat.  I was by no means over weight but not at what I consider to be my healthiest, happiest weight/size.  As I continue to add mileage and recover from surgery, I don’t want any unnecessary weight wearing on my joints.  Also, I want to feel my sexiest.  No shame in that.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been making a very calculated effort to lean out in the healthiest way possible.  Here are some of the commitments I have made to myself Monday-Friday at 5 PM.  I relax a bit more on the weekends while still holding to most of my weight loss principals.

Melissa’s Lean Out Plan (It’s working):

  • Upon Rising– Drink a glass of  warm lemon water with a dash of cayenne pepper to stimulate my liver.
  • Follow with a vegan probiotic.
  • Next is a cup of green tea to rev up my ability to metabolize fat and provide me with a healthy dose of anti-oxidants.
  • Once I have had a cup of tea, I allow myself coffee.  Normally, when I’m cleansing, I do not. But I’m also trying to stay sane and I freaking love coffee.
  • Coffee is followed by home made green juice before my run
  • Post Run Protein and greens smoothie
  • My lunch and dinner are very similar to the norm.  There difference is
    • I’m not consuming any oil.  I’m getting my fat from whole food sources–either half an avo or a tablespoon of tahini on my salad/dinner.  I am doing water and coconut milk satees and finding that my food still taste delicious and is very satisfying–without the added fat calories.  I could see myself sticking to this no oil thing at home and allowing for it while we’re out.
    • Between lunch and dinner, I’m sticking to produce only.  I allow myself as much fruit and veg as I want but I’m not eating anything else during those hours.
    • No alcohol during the week.  I’m avoiding wine/alcohol during the week.  I was getting in the habit of having a glass every night and while I do not think this is a bad thing, it doesn’t help if you are trying to drop weight.  I do indulge in a glass Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening.
    •  No eating after 7 PM.  This is a hard one for me!  I’m not even typically hungry after dinner but often find myself eating more!  And it is usually something like chocolate. I’m trying to get in the habit of enjoying tea after dinner.

My workouts are getting stronger and I see my legs turning back into runners legs.  My last long run was 22 miles on trails at a quick 8:05/mile average.  Not going to lie–this hurt and it took a week, 2 massages and acupuncture to recover but it was fun to run with my neighbor and to see what I was capable of.  It got me thinking about running a Boston qualifier at some point in the future.  My VO2 Max workouts are getting faster as well.  I can do my repeats in 6:30-6:58 min/miles at a 6% incline and I’ve even added an extra 60 second repeat.

Strength training remains the biggest challenge for me.  It just isn’t as much fun and I can’t do it while pushing a stroller.  I’m finding times to sneak away and when I feel like quitting I think of the woman that told me in January to “rethink my goals” and “stick to half marathons”.  Want to motivate me?  Tell me I can’t do something.

What drives you?  What helps you stay on track with eating and training?


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Baltimore on my Mind.

When Josh and I were looking to buy a home, we knew we wanted to be on Hilltop. We love that it is diverse, lively, and ever changing. Hilltop is an area of Tacoma that was known for gang violence and drugs in the 80’s and 90’s.  It was pretty brutal for a while there.  Crips ran the show.  Shoot outs were common and white kids like me from the burbs were not allowed to pass through.  While visiting St. Joseph’s hospital to see a friend in high school, I was instructed to “just roll through the lights after dark, don’t stop.”

We now own a home within a stones throw from the hospital (okay, you’d have to have a really good arm).  I can see the window of the room I birthed Leif in from our front porch.  We have the most incredible block of neighbors I could have ever dreamed of.  We are diverse in color, socio-economics, religion, and interests.  We are made up of African Americans, Native Kenyans, Asians, Native Americans, Caucasians and Latino. We are artists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, runners, mountain climbers, gardeners, dog lovers, cat lovers….  We take care of each other and celebrate each other.

There are several “mixed race” families on my block.  There is a white woman who is raising 4 compassionate, intelligent, and gorgeous children with her black husband.  Every time I see these kids, I’m inspired. They are seriously some of the sweetest kids I have ever met.  There are 3 boys and 1 girl.  All of them are a delight to be around…I’m counting the days until they are old enough to babysit!  Their parents are incredible.  This is why they are such wonderful kids, I am sure.  I’ve been watching closely as their mom responds to the recent events in Baltimore.  I’ve been trying to empathize with what it means to raise black children…black boys in particular, in a country where black people continue to be systematically discriminated against, targeted by police and murdered at their hands.  Its hard to grasp.  In addition to all my anxieties about Leif’s future– his physical and emotional well being– she, along with other mothers raising black children, must also worry that they will treated poorly…or even killed… at the hands of the system.

I have mostly stayed quiet about the killing of black people at the hands of the police.  Sure, I’ve talked about it with close friends and family,trying to work through the mess in my mind.  But the murder of Freddie Gray has left me with a gut wrenching feeling and the need to speak out more publicly about my thoughts.  You see, it is the same “oh my god I’m going to vomit” feeling I had when studying in South Africa and learning about police brutality under the Apartheid Regime.  It was so easy to be critical of the South African government and the lack of action from every day white South Africans.  Yet in my own country, I find it so much harder to speak out.  I do not know anyone within my circle of contacts that would justify the Apartheid governments brutality.  But its happening in our own country.  In our own cities.  And it leaves me feeling disgusted.  We can and MUST do better, America.

We see images in the media of the riots in Baltimore–the looting, the destruction of property.  Officials call for “peace”.  And while I do not condone the looting and violent rioting, I see the hypocrisy in calling for “peace” when a community member has just had their spine severed by police.  I also understand how there are some who might not know how to express their anger, grief, fear in a less violent way.  But let’s be honest–smashing a window is not the same as smashing a spine.  If we want to talk about peace–let’s start by talking about how to put an end to systematic violence by our police.  Let’s also look at the 10s of thousands people who are protesting peacefully and the gang members themselves who are “united as black men” as one put it to help keep the peace and also seek justice for Freddie Gray. You do not have to be a cop hater to hate the fact that people are being murdered at their hands and no one is holding them accountable–Although, I just heard today that the 6 officers are being charged.

It was a difficult week indeed.  And I’m white! I can’t imagine what this week would have been like if I was black or raising a black child.  I have the privilege of being of European dissent.  When a police officer speaks disrespectfully to be and I tell him there is no need to be sarcastic (this happened last year when I was pulled over for not having my lights on) -I get a shocked look and then politely told to remember to keep my lights on.  I don’t get put in a choke hold or my spine snapped.  I don’t worry about Leif being illegally arrested (I also heard today that Freddie Gray’s arrest has been proven illegal) and killed by police.  I don’t have to beat Leif over the head with my purse and chase him away from a riot in fear that he will be killed by police (because let’s be real, that viral video of the woman chasing her son from the riot was not a “go home” message as so many people portrayed but rather a mother’s fear–she’d do anything to keep her baby out of the hands of police…because so many black men have died in those hands).

This week, a familiar emotion came over me.  It was shame.  The first time I went to South Africa, I was so ashamed of my white skin. Now, just as I did then, I must figure out what it means for me to respond to this feeling of shame in a productive way because shame is not productive.

Longing for my country to be truly free.


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Immune Boosting Popsicles

Love that he loves to help me in the kitchen.

Love that he loves to help me in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago I was making my way through Marlene’s Natural Food Market when I stumbled upon some “natural” immune boosting otter pop like thingys.  I was intrigued.  Leif has had a constant goopy nose (thankfully no infections) this year and I am trying to get as many immune boosting herbs and foods into him as possible.  I wasn’t 100% sold on the ingredients as they did have a few “extras” but I bought them anyway to let Leif try and also to inspire myself.  The next week, I ordered some Zoku Classic Pop Molds and some Sunsella Might Pops Silicone Molds (think re-useable otter pop style).  I’ve been playing around with different recipes and so far Leif is digging it big time. He loves the whole process–from blending it up in the vitamin to pouring, to waiting…okay, maybe not the waiting to so much…to taking the popsicles in and out of the covers and of course eating them.  I don’t mind him eating them for breakfast…lunch… or heck, even dinner as they are loaded with good for you goodies such as bananas, berries, pineapple, greens, cucumber, spirulina, hemp protein, echinacea, golden root, and Oregon grape root.

Just blend ingredients and pour into molds and freeze!

Here are a couple combos Leif has really been enjoying:

“Mucus Breakup Antibiotic” Pineapple Berry Delight

1 banana

2 cups chopped pineapple

2 cups blue berries

2 large handfuls greens

a few dashes cinnamon

1 tsp spirulina

1 dropper of Oregon Grape Root (Herbs for Kids is a good brand) per popsicle mold (I don’t blend this but add it to each mold and stir after I fill the mold)

1 dropper of Echinacea/Golden Root Combo (same as Oregon Grape Root for mixing)

Just enough water to make a smooth but easy to pour consistency (about 1 cup)

Chocolate Almond Butter Protein 

2 bananas

2-3 Tablespoons Almond butter or nut butter of choice

3 Tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder

1/4 cup raw Cocoa powder

3 dates

Cinnamon

1 dropper of Oregon Grape Root (Herbs for Kids is a good brand) per popsicle mold (I don’t blend this but add it to each mold and stir after I fill the mold)

1 dropper of Echinacea/Golden Root Combo (same as Oregon Grape Root for mixing)

water or nut based milk to blend

He likes to take a few licks of all of them and then start over... soo if you're at our house and I offer you a popsicle...know that Leif may have tested it for you.

He likes to take a few licks of all of them and then start over… soo if you’re at our house and I offer you a popsicle…know that Leif may have tested it for you.


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Shitake and Brussel Sprout Tacos

I don’t even know what to say about these.  They were quite possibly one of my favorite dinners I have ever made!  And I did it without the flavor enhancing help of oil making these bad boys 100% whole food.  I originally set out to make nut tacos but things got a little carried away and I ended up using the nut “meat” as more of a topping than the main filling.  I do apologize to those who like to follow recipes to a T because all of the spices in this yumminess are “to taste”.  Leif dug this and I even got our exchange student to eat his first round without Siracha–which is quite frankly a miracle since he puts it on EVERYTHING (including oatmeal and peanut better sandwiches).

Shitake and Brussel Sprout Tacos

Ingredients:

  • water for sauté
  • 2-4 cloves diced garlic
  • 8 oz Shikate mushrooms sliced
  • 2 cups sliced brussel sprouts
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper

For Walnut “meat”

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne
  • chili powder

Other:

  • guacamole
  • cabbage for “shells”
  • grain of choice–we had a wild rice and quinoa mix
  • shredded greens of choice

Directions:

  1. Heat water in a large skillet and add garlic when the water begins to simmer
  2. once garlic is slightly browned, add brussel sprouts and sauté for a few minutes
  3. Add mushrooms and spices and sauté until soft
  4. While mushrooms and sprouts are cooking, Put walnuts and spices in food processor and pulse until crumbled, set aside
  5. Mix up some guacamole–I just mashed some avo with lemon juice and garlic salt but make it however you like!
  6. Peel cabbage leafs to make “shells”
  7. To assemble, place bussel sprout and mushroom sauté in cabbage shell, add toppings–walnut meat, gauc, grains, and shredded greens.
  8. ENJOY!


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Eggplant, Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Asparagus Enchilladas

I have been working on developing some recipes that are oil free and and free of refined grains.  When I was thinking about enchiladas, I wanted to make something that didn’t require tortillas.  My friend made something with egg plant a couple weeks ago that inspired me to try this.  So, here it is–an oil free, refined grain free enchilada that will leave you feeling satisfied (okay–I was overly full as I just couldn’t stop myself from round 2).

Eggplant Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants, spliced longways
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped sweet potato
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1-2 cups chopped asparagus
  • Cayenne
  • chilli
  • coriander
  • cumin

For Sauce:

  • 3 TBLS water
  • 2 TBLS flour (I used buckwheat)
  • 16 oz can organic tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • chilli powder
  • cayenne
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees F
  • Saute the garlic in water for a couple minutes
  • Add in Sweet potato and sauté until it begins to soften
  • Add in Asparagus.. add water if it has evaporated.  Cook until tender
  • In the meantime, heat 3 tablespoons water in a sauce pan and then add flour.
  • Mix until a paste forms and add remaining ingredients and simmer over med-low heat
  • Mix black beans with sweet potato and asparagus and mix in spice
  • To assemble: Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom of a casserole dish.
  • Layer eggplant, sweet potato and asparagus, sauce until you run out! Make sure the top layer of eggplant has some nice juice sauce on it!
  • Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes–until eggplant is tender
  • Enjoy with fresh guacamole and cilantro!

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Easter Reflections and Yolo Balls

In our kitchen we have a photo of Josh, Leif and I from our first Easter as a family of three.  He was just 4 weeks old.  My body was very much still recovering from delivering a baby and we were oh so exhausted (that part hasn’t changed).  Two years later, Leif is joyfully collecting colorful plastic eggs filled with Equal Exchange dark chocolates and lightly sweetened coconut treats.  He’s gleefully opening each type of yummy vegan energy bar (they are our candy bars–quite a treat around here) and taking a few bites of each one.  It is so much fun to celebrate with a two year old.

Easter, like Christmas, is full of both spiritual, religious, and consumer qualities.  Look on Facebook or other social media and you’ll see an onslaught of Easter Bunny photos as well as a healthy amount of inspirational sunrise photos with bible versus or cute sayings.  Or in some cases, graphic photos of Jesus on the Cross.

People close to me have wondered where I stand on all of this.  For a while, I was an avid church attender–very involved in the youth and then college group as well as a Sunday school teacher.  I’m obviously none of those things anymore and have written before about the transformation of my spiritual life after Payton’s passing and our night lost in the African wilderness.  Not that I care too much, but I would have to guess that my feelings and beliefs about Easter, Christmas and God and Jesus probably do not satisfy either camp.  On the one hand, I wonder if my church going Christian friends think I’ve gone off the deep end into some new-agey feel good spiritual path. But then, I wonder if my belief in God, miracles, and even the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, piss off my friends who think its all a load of crap.

I’m fine with where I’m at.  I’m more fine than I’ve ever been actually.  On Saturday morning, I ran 18 glorious miles watching the sun rise as I ran along Tacoma’s Ruston Way, talking openly with friends as I made my way through old growth forests in Point Defiance…watching a doe and her twins scamper through the woods.  On Sunday morning, I made a healthy and delicious breakfast for my family, giddily hid eggs for Leif and then hunted for them with him, and watered my garden one watering can at a time from our rain barrels.  My friend (also my doctor) came over with flowers and checked Leif’s ears for signs of infection.  We sat together and made an herbal attack plan to help Leif get over this gunk.

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This, to me, is what Life is made of.  Glory to the Creator for these wonderful gifts.  Thank you for the Sunrise, Full Moons, Puget Sound, Geese, Forest, Deer, Gardens, Nourishment, Friends, and Family.  Thank you for miracles and speaking to me through horribly painful and terrifying experiences.  Thank you for holding me over the edge and telling me it’s going to all be okay.  Thank you for meeting me in the forest, my garden, the breakfast table…

I made these Saturday Evening and forgot to take them to my folks house–oops.  They are so yummy.

Yolo Balls– Inspired by Oh She Glows

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Ingredients:

1 cup dates

2 Tablespoons Cashew Butter or other nut butter

2 Tablespoons Coconut oil

1/4 cup Raw Cocoa powder

1/4 cup maple syrup

Directions:

Carmel Center:

Process dates in food processor until dough forms

add in nut butter

Coating:

In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil

Remove from heat and stir in cocoa and maple syrup

To assemble:  form small balls with the date/nut butter mix and roll them in chocolate sauce with a fork.

Place on parchment lined container and freeze for about 20 minutes before serving.  Store the leftovers in freezer! YUM!