2012 in Review: Running

So, as promised, here is my last year-in-review post. I saved running for last because I wanted to add to my yearly miles total with a last-minute run today, but also because I’m so proud of my accomplishments in this area. Eating right and losing weight is something to be proud of, too, but running is work. And even though I’ve been a runner for many years now, I still consider myself not much of an athlete, and I think of being fit and competitive as something I have to put a lot of effort into. So, here are the numbers and highlights:

1. By the Miles

2012 Total Miles: 757

December Total Miles: 100.3

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 6.17.45 PM

December was my first ever 100+ mile month of running. Part of that is due to training for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon next month, but part of it is because I had a lot of time off and didn’t do as much cross training as usual while the gym was closed for the holidays. I’ll start to taper over the next couple of weeks, so January 2013 will be a lighter month. Nonetheless I hope to add to my overall yearly mileage in 2013. I’d like to continue averaging 20-25 miles/week, and to avoid some of the injuries that bothered me this past year.

2. By the clock

This year was the first time that I regularly kept track of my speed in training. Especially with 10Ks and half marathons, my goal in the past was always just to train and finish. This year, I got more ambitious and thanks to my purchase of a Garmin Forerunner 210 in the spring and some careful data collection from March onward, I got some great results.

Fastest Mile: 8:39 (Nov. 15, training run)

Fastest 5K: 27:59 (Sept. 25, training run)

Fastest 10K: 59:25 (Nov. 4, training run)

Fastest Half Marathon: 2:14:XX (Oct. 6, Arizona Half Marathon)

Each of these is an all-time personal best for me, and note that each of these times have come in the last few months. I’m getting faster. I started 2012 running 10:30-11:00 miles. I am now consistently running 9:00-9:30 miles, except on my longest runs. In 2013, watch out. I may become almost competitive. LOL.

3. In pictures

I got some great medals, great schwag, and a few cool pictures of myself.

Race medal

Temecula Half Marathon/5K Medal

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal

Fast and the Furriest 10K

Fast and the Furriest 10K

photo-2

Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K

Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K

AZHalf_Web

Safe to say 2012 was my best running year ever… But I have a lot planned for next year, too. Thanks again to my blog friends and followers for your motivation, encouragement, and attention this year!

Advertisements

2012 in Review: The History of a Blog

One day of 2012 left to go! My final year-in-review report on fitness and running will come tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy some cool data about my blog. Thanks to all my readers, followers, and commenters. This was an amazing year for me, and I’m happy to have an archive of this fabulous journey. Most of all, I hope I’ve entertained and motivated some of you.

***

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 in Review: Food, Glorious Food (and Drink)

Pizza with fresh basil and black olives, with a strawberry and baby spinach salad.

Pizza with fresh basil and black olives, with a strawberry and baby spinach salad.

In my continuing series on things I did right this year, I’d like to focus on one of my favorite things: eating. I started 2012 with a week-long vegan challenge, which ended with my decision to go vegetarian again after a several year hiatus. Since then, I’ve really embraced the meat-free life. There’s such a variety of meat-free dishes from cultures all around the world, and if you’re really stuck on eating animals, the wide availability of meat substitutes can help you make the transition. My decision to go vegetarian was primarily influenced by my compassion for animals and ethical concerns, but the health benefits are also clear. I’ve lost just over 50 pounds since last Christmas, and I still get enough calories and nutrients to fuel me through 20+ mile weeks of running.

If weight loss is a goal for you in 2013, here are some tips I’d share from my experience:

  1. Give up meat, at least part of the time. If you’re not ready to make the vegetarian commitment, consider becoming a weekday vegetarian or giving up meat a few days at a time. Meat certainly can have a place in a healthy diet, but especially in the U.S. our portion sizes are out-of-control and concerns about the environment in which meat is produced cannot be ignored. If you’re concerned about a lack of variety in meat-free diets, check out my posts on vegetarian living.
  2. Cook more. This can go hand-in-hand with number one. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and was never one to eat at restaurants every day, but becoming vegetarian really forced me to become engaged in meal planning to ensure variety, proper nutrition, and because the menus at some of my favorite restaurants just didn’t have many options. By cooking at home you can prepare foods with better portion sizes, less salt/fat/preservatives, and you can also share the joy of cooking with family and friends. Cooking to me means love, and it also is a creative outlet. I look forward to every trip to the grocery store these days because of the possibility of finding something new. Some of my favorite sources of meal ideas this year have been Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run, The Pampered Chef’s The Vegetarian Table cookbook, Giada de Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian, and of course a variety of Internet sites. The more you cook, the more you’ll find that you also learn tricks to improve every recipe and make it your own.
  3. photo-16Drink less. Giving up booze was harder for me than giving up meat, but ultimately it came down to the same issue: compassion. I gave up meat because of my compassion for animals; I gave up alcohol because of my compassion for myself. Given my struggles with depression and emotional health, I finally had to acknowledge this year that I just drink too much and it makes me too emotionally volatile. Even if you consider yourself an average drinker, consider the double-whammy that alcohol does on you: Every drink is extra calories you take in, and it also slows your metabolism over time so that your other calories burn more slowly. While I haven’t been perfect on this by a long shot, I’m proud to say that I’ve only drank once in the past six months. I know there are people in my life who would never believe that I could do that, but I truly believe that anyone who has the right knowledge, a good reason, and a dedicated will can also kick the habit. If you need some baby steps, I recommend toasting 2013 with sparkling cider or grape juice. The variety pictured here is an affordable $2.99 at Trader Joe’s. A ginger ale or soda from the bar is also indistinguishable from the real thing if you’re worried about looking cool in front of your friends.
  4. Don’t skip dessert. In case I sound like some sort of foodie saint, I’m not. I may have given up alcohol and meat, but I’m a total junkie for pastries and cheese, and you can pry my Starbucks from my cold, dead hands. It’s just a matter of moderation. Make what you eat so you understand portions and calorie counts. Read every label. Share treats with friends. Exercise. If you have to, download a smartphone app (I enjoy the Livestrong calorie tracker, which has an extensive food database and syncs your mobile data with your online profile) or keep a food journal to ensure balance. As Buddha would say, the Middle Way is best. Total deprivation, just like total indulgence, is a path to failure.

I hope these tips will help some folks looking for success in 2013. In the days to come, I’ll also talk about exercise and particularly running, which has been a major part of my life this year. In the meantime, stay warm out there and enjoy some food porn–courtesy of my holiday baking frenzy.

Brown sugar cookies with white chocolate chips and almonds.

Brown sugar cookies with white chocolate chips and almonds.

Chocolate Chip Muffins, recipe from Food.com

Chocolate Chip Muffins, recipe from Food.com

photo-17

Last known photo of my Cocoa Brownies (recipe by Alton Brown) before they were scarfed up by me and my two friends. Lousy photo, delicious food.

The Hungry Ghosts

In the Buddhist cosmos, there is a thing called the realm of hungry ghosts. These are beings driven by obsession, compulsion, and craving.There are 36 types of hungry ghosts, and Buddha asked for offerings and prayers on their behalf. Today, many Buddhists think of this and other realms in metaphorical terms. I, however, think that the hungry ghosts are real, and I think they show up at my house regularly to mess with my laundry and steal my socks.

2012 in Review: Community

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 12.56.15 PMWell, yesterday was Christmas, and it’s amazing how much difference a year can make. Christmas 2011 was unofficially the date that I started to make big life changes. After spending last Christmas Eve at the bar, nursing a broken heart, I woke up on Christmas alone and disgusted with myself. I started thinking then about ways to be a better person, and the changes I’ve made since helped make this season a little brighter even though my little dog and I were still on our own. I know many others are also thinking of making life changes at this time of year, so over the next few days I’m going to highlight some of the best things I’ve done for my well-being this year.

Being involved in my community has been one of those positive changes. When I was at my most depressed, my family and my therapist always recommended volunteering as a way to get myself out of the house, interact with others, and feel better about myself. But I resisted because of anxiety and because I just felt useless, like my contributions couldn’t matter to anyone. In fact, it was only about halfway through the year that I found the energy to make a real difference. In May I was offered the opportunity to teach at a summer leadership program for young women. I enjoyed it so much that I started looking for other ways to help young people, eventually getting involved as an assistant coach in a running program this fall. Coaching became something I looked forward to every week, and seeing my young runners gain confidence helped me feel more worthwhile in return.

Christmas Day at the park near the animal shelter.

Christmas Day at the park near the animal shelter.

Aside from that, I also got involved in other causes. In October I helped at a local diabetes walk, and this holiday season I gave to a local toy drive and spent part of my Christmas Day walking dogs at a local animal shelter. In 2013, I hope to be able to coach again (though I’m still waiting to hear on the schedule), and I’m already planning to spend time with the dogs again on New Year’s. Most exciting, I’m planning to go with a group of students in March to Honduras where we will assist with a health clinic and provide basic health education to rural populations.

Honduras: Courtesy of the U.S. State Department

If you want to become more involved in your community but feel you are held back, I understand. Depression and anxiety can make it hard to motivate yourself. You may find you need to start taking care of yourself before you feel “worthy” of taking care of others, but once you do it the rewards are great. And the opportunities are out there: Start with a one-time event if you’re timid, or look for activities focusing on animals or where there is less direct interaction if you are shy. If you feel like you can’t contribute, think about what you’re good at. I don’t think a soup kitchen will ever be the place for me, but I’m good at teaching and running and that was enough to get me started. I still get a little bit nervous when I go out to do something new, but consider this as well: An activity is only “new” the first time you do it. After that it only gets easier.

10.4 Miles and a Running Date

Well, with all this time on my hands lately I’ve been getting back up to speed on my running–literally and figuratively. On Friday night I had a great 10.4-mile run at Reid Park. The only downside to this run is that my Garmin quit just over 8 miles in. Turns out you have to charge it even if you don’t use it for a while. Blah. At any rate, I know the distance well enough to be sure of how far I went, but I’m not quite sure how fast. I think (hope) I was holding a sub-10 pace despite a couple of walk breaks after my Garmin quit.

A lovely picture of the path at Reid Park, which I’ve stolen from http://tucsonliving.blogspot.com.

Today I went back to the park for a shorter run with a date. Yes, indeed. I had my first date since roughly May, and it was not bad at all. That’s all I’ll say for now… but maybe something to blog more about in the future.

Movie Review: Chasing Ice

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch Chasing Ice, a new documentary that follows the work of the Extreme Ice Survey. The EIS was founded by noted photographer James Balog in 2007 with the goal of investigating climate change through the automated photography of glaciers in a variety of polar sites.

As a feature film, I think the movie is actually a bit thin. Running 75 minutes, only the final act of the film is really concerned with showing us the payoff–Balog’s pictures and video that clearly illustrate the retreat of glaciers worldwide. These pictures are no doubt striking… but after paying $8 to see the film in theaters I kind of wanted to see them all, not just the few glaciers that are profiled. Call me greedy, but the photos are really where it’s at here.

Aside from the glaciers, Balog and his team also produced amazing photos of meltwater pooling on glaciers, Swiss-cheese holes boring into the glacier as a result of collected pools of dust and soot, and almost otherworldly ice-scapes that may never be seen again. Frankly, a 75-minute slideshow of these amazing photographs with commentary would have made me a happy camper, but given the film’s length I felt it went a little overboard by focusing on Balog himself as a human interest story. I don’t want to sell him short at all because Balog’s project is ambitious and remarkable… but more than anything he came off to me like a perfectionist who places himself and his assistants in some really dangerous situations. A visionary, but maybe not the kind of person you’d want to have for a boss.

In all Chasing Ice is worth watching, but probably not in theaters. The film was produced in part by National Geographic and I imagine it will air on their cable channel in the future. Otherwise, get it on DVD and watch it on the best-quality TV you can find.