Day 22 – My next challenge

This past January I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon. It was my very first marathon and it was really rough (many thanks to my friend Missy for getting me through it), but I was thrilled when I crossed that finish line. Shortly afterwards I was emboldened by my success and possessed by the notion that I could tackle an even bigger challenge in the future. And I’m not talking about the four marathons in a year that I did in 2017. No, I had something even crazier in mind. So it wasn’t long after the WDW marathon that I registered for the Dopey Challenge in January 2018. This challenge consists of running the Disney World 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon on four consecutive days. Sounds ludicrous, right? Well, it’s absolutely insane, and ten months later I’m not quite sure why I signed up in the first place. But now that January is fast approaching I’m committed to conquering these races. It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll give it everything I have.

This weekend I picked up with the Galloway training plan for the Dopey Challenge. I’m actually one week behind because I didn’t want to run too much the weekend after the Long Beach Marathon, and now I’m making up some of the mileage. This training plan is different from the one for just a marathon because it calls for many weekends of Saturday and Sunday running to build up endurance and prepare you for long distances multiple days in a row. So I ran 7 miles around my neighborhood yesterday morning, and then 17 miles this morning with a couple of my running buddies who were kind enough to get up long before the crack of dawn to accompany me. Due to the unseasonably warm weather this late in the year (it’s going to be over 100 deg at the beach for the next two days) we started our journey at 5 AM to avoid the worst of it. And luckily we succeeded. The above photo was taken mid-run when we stopped to admire the sunrise at 7 AM. It was lovely. I’m very happy to be back on track with my training for the Dopey Challenge. I know it will be incredibly demanding, but that means I’ll be even more proud when I succeed.

P.S. I’m not posting my meals again today because not only did I have two packages of Sports Beans and two 10-oz bottles of Pedialyte while running, I ate whatever sounded good after I got home. I’m almost positive that my carb-fest yesterday is the reason I didn’t feel like I was dying during my long run this morning. Despite eating sweet potatoes and plenty of fruit, I’m afraid the restrictions of Whole30 are just not providing my body enough fuel for my athletic pursuits. However, I am going to do my best to finish this 30-day diet as faithfully as I can. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Day 21 – Another cooking experiment

As I’ve mentioned before, my fridge and freezer are pretty full of food that I’ve cooked on previous weekends while watching Florida football. But there was no Gator game today due to it being a bye week for Florida so my usual built-in excuse to hang around my kitchen and living room for four hours wasn’t available. I still wanted to do some cooking, though, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary for the purpose of feeding myself this week. Before I started this Whole30-type diet I flipped through a bunch of Paleo cookbooks to see if there were any recipes there that looked appealing. One of the first ones that caught my eye was PaleOMG’s Stuffed Acorn Squash which was an intriguingly unique breakfast option. At this point I’d try anything that can free me from the endless cycle of scrambled eggs every morning. So this afternoon while watching some Halloween movies (Fun Size, Sleepy Hollow, and Addams Family) I whipped up the squash, sausage, and onion concoction. I actually used PaleOMG’s Pork Breakfast Sausage in the process as well. I did make a couple of changes – I ended up cooking the squash mixture in an 8×8″ square pan, casserole-style, and I skipped the egg on top before baking. I only tried one bite so far, but it was really delicious. I think I’m in for a breakfast treat this week.

P.S. I’m most definitely not posting my meals today. After feeling like I was going to die during my last couple of short training runs, including the one this morning, I decided I need to eat some serious carbs in preparation for my attempt at 17 miles tomorrow morning. I have indulged in many of my favorite foods today and it’s been glorious. I don’t intend to make this a habit, but if eating grains and sugar gives me the energy I need for running then I’m going to make that sacrifice!

Day 20 – #metoo (not food related)

I love going to Disneyland with my goddaughter and her family. (If you look in the background of the above photo you’ll see her sitting with her mom on bench of the California Adventure carousel, while her dad and I crowded the foreground of the picture.) I met her mom in a Craigslist forum more than a decade ago and we both just happened to live in the greater Los Angeles area. We even got married on the same day (to other people, with varying degrees of success). Then three or four years ago we all met in person (at Disneyland, of course), and we’ve been close ever since. I love my goddaughter so much that my heart could burst. And knowing how being female means the scales are already stacked against her devastates me.

This week many, many women (and men as well) have been using the hashtag #metoo on social media to bring awareness to the widespread nature of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had some negative experience in this arena. Some worse than others, but we are all affected at some point in our lives. I have been equally saddened by the massive outpouring of stories and awed by the bravery of the victim who shared their ordeals. Everyone needs to read these and think about how their daily interactions might affect others in an unintended way. Unfortunately I also read a shocking number of replies to these posts that either directly or indirectly blamed the victim for getting themselves into a compromising situation. Women are offered suggestions for how to avoid giving men the opportunity to harass us. Really? For example, a friend of mine mentioned how she was walking down the street and a man in a car drove past slowly and leered a her. Everyone would agree that this guy was a creep, right? But the feedback she got advised her to walk either with her husband or a dog in order to keep herself safe in her own neighborhood. No one said, “That guy is disgusting. He needs to leave women alone.” So men can behave that way without any consequence, but women need to avoid being alone to keep it from happening. Is that really what we want to teach our girls? As a single woman without a dog there is absolutely no reason that I should have to change either of those things in order to feel safe. Somehow women are the ones forced to shoulder the burden of avoiding situations where we might be in danger rather than stopping them with the perpetrator. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy into that misogynistic notion.

This is not the world I want my goddaughter to grow up in. Of course I’m realistic and I’ll tell her to be careful and think of her own safety first (that’s just practical), but I’m also going to fight to make things better for her in any way I can. I was definitely affected by all of the women and men who shared their #metoo stories this week, and I hope it opened the eyes of others as well.

P.S. This seems silly after such a diatribe, but here are today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Banana
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #2 – Apple with almond butter
Dinner – Grapes (nothing else sounded good after my run)

Day 19 – Surf City 10

On Sunday morning I ran the Surf City 10 race with a bunch of my running buddies. Since it was the weekend after the Long Beach Marathon I was originally only registered for the 5K, but I was convinced to upgrade to the 10-mile distance instead. Perhaps not the best choice I’ve ever made. Luckily I was feeling amazingly recovered from that train wreck of a marathon the week before, probably because I walked so much near the end of the 26.2 miles. My plan for surviving the 10 miles was to run it slow and steady in case I had any lingering issues. My short shakeout runs after the marathon had been pretty terrible, maybe due to he lower carb content of my October diet. My energy levels seem to be higher now that I’ve been on this Whole30-like plan a little longer (that first week was brutal!), but my workouts have still not been amazing. (Although there’s a host of reasons that could be the case, not least of which being that the Los Angeles summer is still in full swing. I’m so ready for fall.) My pace for the 10-mile race was indeed relatively slow, but I felt surprisingly strong and crossed the finish line without being completely drained. That result was very encouraging. I have a lot more running plans and at least one race on my calendar before these 30 days are up and I want to enjoy as many miles as possible. I picked up with my training plan for the Dopey Challenge in January and I’m supposed to run 7 miles this Saturday and the 17 miles on Sunday. That’s going to be rough, especially since it’s forecast to be 90 deg in Seal Beach over the weekend. And even hotter next week. This is insane! We may have another record-breaking Halloween this year!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple) by itself since I didn’t have time to make eggs
Snack #1 – Apple, cashews
Lunch – Turkey taco meat, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana with almond butter
Dinner – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Day 18 – Homemade taco seasoning

As a follow-up from yesterday, the turkey taco meat I made with homemade taco seasoning was delicious! I’ve always used packaged taco seasoning, but being able to mix my own version without any weird ingredients was very appealing. At some point in the past (I need to check Pinterest to remember exactly when) I tried another recipe for do-it-yourself taco seasoning and I was underwhelmed, but this one is a real winner. The only thing I changed was replacing the 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper with 1/4 tsp of black pepper. If you combine the ingredients in the amounts below it yields about 3 Tbsp of seasoning, which is perfect for 1 lb of whatever ground meat you have on hand. I used turkey because I had some in my fridge that needed to be used in relatively short order. I’ll try it with lean ground beef next time to see if it works just as well.

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Based on The Garden Grazer’s Taco Seasoning.

Note: I browned the turkey in a skillet, added the seasoning when the turkey was done and cooked for a couple of minutes, and then poured in an 8 oz can of tomato sauce. This yielded the perfect taco meat. If only I could eat it with a tortilla and some shredded cheese!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Apple
Lunch – Turkey taco meat, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana
Dinner – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Day 17 – A lazy day

I intended to go for a run after work today, but on the way home I made the command decision to skip it. It’s been really hot this week (fall is MIA in Los Angeles, which has started to become an October tradition) so I wasn’t excited about running in the lingering summer weather tonight. And besides that, there was the fact that I hadn’t made much progress on my chores over the last several days so my house was a mess and my meals weren’t all prepared. I had a to do list a mile long so I figured skipping my run would give me a chance to catch up on all of these things. I have to admit that I was excited to catch up on some television as well! Over the weekend I binge watched 6 of the 8 episodes of the first season of “Stranger Things” and I absolutely loved it. I have no idea why I didn’t watch it a year ago. So when I got home this evening I fired up Netflix and finished off the series while cooking, washing dishes, and paying bills. The show was perfect even if the housework was super boring. In order to avoid having carnitas for lunch every day this week I whipped up a batch of turkey taco meat using this recipe for homemade taco seasoning. It sure smelled good while I was making it, but I’ll have to let you know how it tastes tomorrow. When the turkey was done I was able to put together my lunches for the rest of the week. After I was finished with “Stranger Things” I turned on last week’s episode of “Once Upon A Time” as I completed my chores. It’s still my favorite TV show even after basically completely rebooting itself this season. I like the new direction so far, but we’ll see where the rest of the season goes. Now it’s late and I should have gone to bed an hour ago. With all of this food preparation and dish washing afterwards I haven’t gotten enough sleep since September!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios)
Lunch – Carnitas, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Apple with almond butter
Dinner – Salad with red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Day 16 – More than halfway there

Yesterday was a very busy day. I was exhausted when I got home from Disneyland at close to 11 PM, but there were still several things I needed to do before bedtime. The most important item on the list was assembling my lunch for Monday. Mornings are hectic enough without having to make breakfast AND lunch, so even though I was tired I dragged myself into the kitchen to put together a tupperware of carnitas, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. I slow cooked the carnitas over a week ago (it’s been in the freezer since then), but this was actually going to be my first opportunity to sample it. Similarly, as I was rushing to get ready for work this morning I had my first helping of the Autumn Breakfast Skillet that I cooked on Saturday. Based on the recipe’s relatively short list of ingredients I wasn’t sure how much flavor the finished product would have. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised when I heated some up this morning and found out that it was delicious! I was running late for a meeting or I’d have scrambled a couple of eggs to go with the hash. Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow. And then at lunchtime I was happy to discover that the carnitas was really tasty too, especially when paired with roasted sweet potatoes. All of my meals today were winners! That certainly makes sticking to an eating plan easier.

As a side note, I took the remaining pumpkin bread (enough to fill two tupperwares) to work with me today. It sat on my desk looking absolutely scrumptious until 2 PM when I gave away every last piece at our weekly staff meeting. When I took the lid off the tupperware the pumpkin spice smell was intoxicating, but I didn’t eat a single bite. Another Whole30 (or whatever you want to call my version of this diet) win!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Banana
Lunch – Carnitas, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana with almond butter
Dinner – Pumpkin chili, cashews

Day 15, briefly

I’ve had a busy day, and now it’s insanely late and I’m exhausted. You’ll have to wait until at least tomorrow to read about my crazy day. For now, here’s my not even close to healthy menu for the day. Between the Surf City 10 race this morning and Disneyland this afternoon/evening my usual routine was completely thrown off. I have some regrets, but not too many. If I obsess about every bite that goes into my mouth I’ll go crazy, and that’s no way to solidify new eating habits. At least not for me. More tomorrow!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast #1 – Banana (before running)
Breakfast #2 – Sausage Egg McMuffin (after running)
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #1 – Apple
Dinner – Vegetable frittata (might have included cheese), rice pilaf, salad
Snack #2 – Mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios), sweet potato chips (I was weak!)

P.S. I’m not including the energy gummies and 10 oz of Pedialyte that I had during the Surf City 10 this morning. As far as I’m concerned race fuel doesn’t really count. I burned over 900 calories while running so I figure it was sugar well ingested.

Day 14 – Breakfast of champions

After the last couple of weekends my refrigerator and freezer are full of food that I’ve cooked while watching Florida football games. I used to keep myself busy during Gator games by baking cookies, but a few years ago I realized that wasn’t the healthiest option. It might have made my co-workers happy, but it made my pants size larger! Also, those four hours every Saturday are the perfect time for me to get a lot of food prep done for the coming week. Finding time to cook or even portion out food into meal-sized containers during the week is next to impossible so the more I get done on the weekends, the better. Currently my fridge and freezer already have several different kinds of meat and vegetables ready for lunches, as well as plenty of leftover tomato soup and pumpkin chili for dinners. I probably have two week’s worth of midday and evening meals ready and waiting. So that means I could just relax during the Texas A&M vs. Florida football game today, right? Of course not! In order to avoid being a total couch potato I tackled one of the Whole30-approved breakfast recipes that I’ve been collecting. It’s called Autumn Breakfast Skillet and my friend Natalie got it from one of the Against All Grain cookbooks, but it’s not in the one I own (and I couldn’t find it online). It’s basically a combination of homemade pork breakfast sausage, onion, butternut squash, spinach, and apple. As you can tell from the picture, my execution wasn’t exactly pretty. The butternut squash started to get mushy and fall apart near the end, but that’s OK. I’ll have to let you know how it tastes tomorrow after I try some. Assuming it isn’t terrible, I’ll have some pre-made grab-and-go breakfasts to save a little time this week. No more scrambling eggs at 7 AM! On the other hand, after discovering how delicious eggs with sliced hot dogs are I might make the sacrifice anyway!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast #1 – Banana (before running)
Breakfast #2 – Egg casserole, grapes, orange juice (after running)
Snack #1 – Pumpkin bread (I need an intervention)
Lunch – Turkey taco meat (with tomato sauce and taco seasoning), roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced potato and sweet potato
Snack #2 – Apple, cashews
Dinner – Pumpkin chili

P.S. The egg casserole that I had at my Galloway running group’s breakfast this morning did have a little cheese in it. I ate some anyway because I was hungry, and also because my only other option was to fill up on grapes! (I still ate a whole bunch of grapes, but at least I got a little protein from the eggs.) And given that I gave in to my craving for pumpkin bread again today, that little bit of cheese is the least of my problems.

Day 13 – Pumpkin three ways

Over the years I’ve shared at least three different pumpkin bread recipes on my blog. (Maybe more, but I can only locate three.) Based on a brief search I found Spiced Pumpkin Bread from September 2014, Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread from October 2015, and the first pumpkin bread recipe I ever tried, Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread, that I finally posted in September 2016. It’s one of my favorite seasonal treats, and most years I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of September so I can crack open my first can of pumpkin of the fall. Of course, this year is a little different. Until today I hadn’t done any holiday baking due to being on whatever you want to call this diet, and with as much as I love the holidays it’s been a real struggle. But when I found out that my Galloway running group was having an end of the season breakfast tomorrow morning I saw a golden opportunity. I could have the enjoyable experience of baking pumpkin bread without eating it! Genius!

I took the day off from work today for a few reasons, one of which being that I didn’t want to stay up late tonight making the pumpkin bread for tomorrow. Even with almost the whole day to work with, the process still look twice as long as it should have due to an error on my part. I was watching a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie while I was baking and I guess I got a little distracted because I completely forgot to grease the bundt pan before pouring in the pumpkin bread batter! I realized this omission when the cake didn’t easily release from the pan after it was done baking. I tried to salvage it, but the poor thing looked like it had exploded. Boy did I feel stupid. While the bundt pan was soaking in the sink to remove all of crumbs that were stuck to it like glue, I wallowed a little by cramming several small pieces of the destroyed cake into my mouth. Not a diet-approved snack, but it was so delicious. Luckily I had enough time and extra ingredients to make a second batch of pumpkin bread, this time liberally greasing the pan before baking. And as you can see in the above picture, the second time was the charm. My running group is going to eat well tomorrow!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with hot dog slices (again!)
Snack #1 – Apple, mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios)
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, yellow bell pepper, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #2 – A little pumpkin bread, I admit it
Dinner – Pumpkin chili (a healthier pumpkin alternative), strawberries