Urban Foraging: The Delicious Serviceberry

On my long run a couple days ago, I noticed the serviceberry trees in town were loaded with ripe fruit.  I stopped and snacked on a handful (okay a few handfuls!) and plotted out my return to come harvest as many as possible.

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I had never heard of serviceberry before coming to Asheville.  Apparently, not many people know what they are since the trees around town are mostly ignored by people walking by.  If you’ve never had one before, they taste like a cross between a nectarine and a blueberry and grow on short, easy-to-harvest trees.  Also called juneberry, wild plum, sugarplum, and shadblow, the trees are in the rose family and are related to peaches, plums, and cherries. No wonder they’re so good!

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So yesterday, I packed up  the kids with a few bags in our packs and walked down to the roundabout down the road from us.  The kids had never tasted a serviceberry before and I promised it would be worth the walk in the hot sun.  “Mama, you were right!” (Best words ever spoken.)  “Can we eat as many as we want?”

We got to work picking, eating, climbing, and filling our bags.  There are about 6 trees in this spot and we maybe got 20% of two trees before we had a gallon of berries.

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People walking by looked at us in curiosity and we just smiled like we were in on this big secret.  Sure, there are a lot of plants with red berries that are poisonous, and I imagined people were thinking I was a crazy lady picking poison berries with my kids. One group of tourists looked at us as they walked by and only one guy of the four was brave enough to ask what in the world we were doing.  I told him how great they were and he took a taste and exclaimed, “they taste like nectarines!”  He picked an handful and brought them over to his clearly suspicious friends.

Once we brought our bounty home, making serviceberry ice cream was the top priority.  This is definitely a treat with a good bit of sugar, but so worth the indulgence!

Serves 1/2 cup

Serviceberry Ice Cream
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Ingredients

  • 2 cans coconut milk (full fat will be richer than lite, but both work fine)
  • 1 cup serviceberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. It's best if your coconut milk has been refrigerated. If not, room temperature will work, but you will have to wait longer for the ice cream to harden.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth and add to your ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions. Blend for 20-25 minutes, and transfer to a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm.
  3. If you don't have an ice cream maker, this recipe makes amazing popsicles!
Cuisine: Vegan Ice Cream |

Notes

Adapted from The Full Helping

7.6.5
3
http://theplantedrunner.com/urban-foraging-the-delicious-serviceberry/

Shut Up, Nancy!

I’m skipping track this week.  My schedule called for my speed work to be done today on a Monday and for Tuesday to be easy in preparation for the 5K race on Saturday.  I knew if I went to track it would be a lot of shorter, faster segments and at this point, I need to be as race-specific as possible.  I decided to go to the park instead.

The workout was 3 miles of warm up, 2 x 1 mile at 5K pace (6:10-6:20) with 4 minutes of rest in between, then 2 x 400 meters (a quarter mile is close enough) 10 seconds faster than 5K pace (6:00-6:10), then 2 mile cool down.

I took the long way to the park and got there right at 3 miles.  I stopped to get a drink and do some dynamic stretching, which is moving through a stretch rather than holding a stretch (static stretching).  The loop I chose for the mile repeats is somewhere between .4 and .5 of a mile and I know from experience that GPS is a little wonky in that section, but it’s flat and shaded and has a bathroom with a water fountain.  I figured two laps around was better than 4 laps on a hot track.

I began the first mile and quickly started breathing very hard.  I glanced at my watch and it said I was going 7:30 pace, which could not possibly be true.  A few seconds later, it said 5:55 pace, which also wasn’t true.  Sometimes GPS tries to correct itself when it makes a mistake, so I just focused on running hard and getting through it.  Halfway around the first lap, my quads started burning and the negative voice in my head starting telling me it would be fine if I stopped and caught my breath.  I knew I could do it despite how hard it was starting to feel, but each time I looked down at my liar of a watch, I lost a little bit of confidence and almost felt a sense of panic.  I was running as fast as I could manage and it was telling me I was going marathon pace!  I knew it couldn’t be true, but what if it was?  Had I really lost that much fitness?  Yes, I’ve gained 6-8 pounds since Boston, but was marathon pace (6:50) really a wind-sucking effort now?

As I finished the second lap, my watch told me I still hadn’t made a mile so I kept going.  When it buzzed, my split read 6:51. Ugh.

After my rest break, I decided to run the second mile in the opposite direction.  Maybe counterclockwise was better luck?  Turns out it was.  I ran the second mile with the same effort–maybe even less–and I clocked a 6:21.  That was better.  I concentrated on relaxing and not letting the panic creep in. And I had validation that GPS was off since the mile alarm went off just before I completed two laps.

For the 400s, my goal was to just run a touch faster than the miles.  Since it was hard to tell exactly where a quarter mile was, I ran hard for 90 seconds instead and used my lap button.  Those two came in a 6:13 pace.  Good enough for today.

I am getting better at controlling the negative voice in my head during hard effort.  Perhaps I need to give that voice a name.  Give it a personality so whenever she talks, I can just say, “Oh, that’s just Negative Nancy trying to sabotage you.  SHUT UP, NANCY!”

The other lesson learned?  Always run counterclockwise!

 

DIY Running Belt

I have a hard time spending money on things that I can make easily myself. Making my own running belt is one of the easiest sewing and most satisfying sewing project I’ve done so far.

I almost always carry my phone with me when I run but finding a great way to bring it with me was a challenge. I started out with an armbelt, but those are awkward, ugly, and uncomfortable, especially as phones get bigger.  Then I switched to a Fuel Belt and while that worked, it was also bulky and bouncy. So I decided to sew my own, loosely based off of the stretchy Fitbelt.

There are no buckles on this type of belt.  It’s simply a length of stretchy fabric folded in half to create a pocket, then sewn into a loop that you step into.  Your phone, gels, and whatever else you need to carry gets tucked inside and it all stays put with zero bounce since it’s stretched tight across your waist or hips. So simple!

The fabric needs to be twice as wide as the width of your phone after allowing for hemming the two long ends. The length of the fabric should be a little smaller than the measurement of where you want to put it.  It needs to be nice and snug to keep everything from bouncing.

After cutting your fabric, hem the two long ends.  I like a nice thick hem of one inch.  Then fold the fabric in half long ways and sew the two short ends together, creating a loop.  Step into it and try it on, tucking your phone inside.  If it bounces, sew it to make the loop a little smaller.  Once you are happy with the fit, that’s it!

I personally like the black belt since it just disappears and you can barely tell I have a belt on.  But I’ve also gotten some fun new fabrics lately that would work too.  Would a leopard-print running belt be too much?

“I’m Too Slow” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

I’m a member of several local running social media groups where people often post upcoming running adventures looking for others to join in.  Pace is almost always mentioned in the post or in the comments, typically with one or two respondents adding that they’d love to join, but they’re too slow.  Most often these comments come from women.

I get that it can be fun to run with someone who is a similar pace.  You don’t have to wait for slower people or struggle keeping up with faster ones.  If you’re on an easy run, you can talk.  If you are running a workout or climbing a tough trail, a similarly-paced partner can keep you accountable.

But when someone says “I’m too slow,” it somehow feels like “I’m not good enough.”

Unless you make your living from running fast, pace matters to no one except yourself. There will always be people slower than me and there will always be people faster than me.  Don’t get me wrong, my ego loves it when people tell me I’m fast.  But I’m a solid mid-packer at my Tuesday track practice and barely on the same planet as the pros.  I want to become faster, no question about it, but my ability to get there is only important to me.  My friends and family don’t care if I can run a sub-20 (or 19?) 5K.  They are proud of me when I reach my goals, but ultimately my speed matters very little to anyone else.

So why the guilt and sheepishness around pace, especially from women?  Perhaps it stems from a culture where we are taught to downplay our strengths and apologize for just about anything that could be construed as weakness.  I think that apologizing for our pace is similar to being afraid to show your runner’s belly when it’s hot out:  we don’t want others to think we’re not good enough.

So here’s the real truth. We are all runners.  Speed is relative.  Marathons are hard for everyone.  Racing doesn’t get easier; you just get better at it.  By all means, organize your group runs by pace if you prefer, but please don’t apologize for it.

Pacing the Girls on the Run 5K

Well that was fun!  Today I was the rabbit for the Girls on the Run 5K at UNC Asheville.  I had reached out to volunteer in some capacity a few weeks ago and Robin had the perfect job for me. The course was 3.75 laps around campus so my job was to make sure that the girls got the laps counted right and peeled off to the finish line at the right time.

I brought my kids with me so they could be a part of the action, even though they are too young to race.  They volunteered by picking up the beaded necklaces that the girls wore to count laps.  Every time the runners lapped the “Aim for the Stars” station, they would toss one of their three necklaces at the star sign and the volunteers would scoop them up.  Tess loves everything girly and was covered in bling when I came to get her!

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There were a few fast girls and one named Evan stuck with me the whole way.  She never stopped for water, only slowed slightly up the big hill, and raced me into the finish line at 24:32!  She did an amazing job!  She’s the one in the blue headband behind me.

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Last lap to go!

It was inspiring to see thousands of people out there running for such a great organization. I definitely plan to be a part of this again and can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to join in!

Gingerbread Truffles

I wish I could say I loved dates.  They are simple, portable, perfect ratio of carbs for endurance running, and have lots of potassium, an electrolyte that needs to be replaced after long runs.  Unfortunately, snacking on them on their own is just not enjoyable to me.  But an amazing thing happens when medjool dates (the big squishy ones) are mixed with other ingredients.  Dates transform themselves into caramel, fudge, and even gingerbread when paired with the right flavors.

So when my daughter asked to make gingerbread cookies after school (even though it’s May!), we created these raw, vegan gingerbread truffles.

The best part about vegan cookies is that you can eat the dough!
The best part about vegan cookies is that you can eat the dough!
Tess rolling the dough in cocoa
Tess rolling the dough in cocoa

Adding blackstrap molasses adds iron and calcuim, two more important minerals for runners. They are the perfect trail food, pre-workout bite, and post-run snack .

Serves 2 truffles

Gingerbread Truffles

10 minPrep Time

10 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almond meal or ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup cashew meal or ground cashews
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter or peanut flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon black strap molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-4 tablespoons water (as needed)
  • cocoa or cacao powder for rolling

Instructions

  1. If you already have almond and/or cashew meal (Trader Joe's sells them), add all ingredients except the water and cocoa to a food processor and blend until you achieve a cookie dough consistency, adding water one tablespoon at a time if needed to make dough (if you use peanut flour--I like PB Fit--you will need to add a couple tablespoons or more of water). If you are starting from whole nuts, grind those first into a fine meal before adding the other ingredients, being careful not to over-process into nut butter.
  2. Once you have a sticky dough, dust your clean hands and a plate with cocoa powder. Roll the dough into bite-size truffles coated with cocoa.
  3. These keep best in the fridge, but should be fine without refrigeration for several hours on the trail.
Cuisine: Sports Nutrition | Recipe Type: Energy Bites
7.6.5
2
http://theplantedrunner.com/gingerbread-truffles/

The Belly is the Real Window to the Soul

If you are a runner with kids and are looking for inspiration, check out Stephanie Bruce.  She is an elite distance runner who has had two kids in less than two years and ran the Olympic standard in the 10K six months after giving birth.  That alone is an awe-worthy feat, but what has forever endeared her to me is this photo.  In a world of carefully curated Instagram pics, Bruce decided to bare her post-baby belly and a bit of her soul.  “The postpartum body is a complicated and hot mess,” she wrote, “but also one that brought life into this world…it’s the most natural part of existence.”  Bruce feels most comfortable training and racing without a top over her sports bra so she does, no matter what anyone thinks.  It says a lot about our society that simply baring her natural body is an act of bravery, but it is.

A couple months after Bruce’s post, I downloaded my race photos from Boston.  It was a hot day and I raced in a sports bra and shorts for the first time ever.  Some photos looked fantastic.  At a few points during the race I noticed the camera and purposefully smiled, opened up my stride, and raised my arms triumphantly in the air.  Those are the ones I’m going to love when I’m 90. But other photos showed the extra skin on my stomach from my pregnancies strangely twisting across my middle like ropes of floppy bread dough. What was that?  Is that really me?  I think I look pretty good (and not just “good for my age,” but good period) and those photos said something else to me. “Is that how the world sees me?” I wondered.

So I started editing the worst offenders.  I smoothed out the striped shadows across my stomach and blurred my belly lines away.  That was much better!  It was magical how the retouch button created the illusion of the perfectly toned tummy. I worked so hard to run that race and I wanted my pictures to show the lean, strong, badass woman that I am.  I don’t want people to think that I look “great for a mom.”  I want people to think I simply look great.  Doesn’t everyone? I smoothed and blended and blurred the images until all signs that I carried two children in my body were eliminated.

Then I thought about Stephanie Bruce.

I started to feel guilty.  And inauthentic.  A bit of a fraud.

I am lucky enough to have been spared some of the harsher physical side effects of pregnancy and I am generally happy with the way I look.  Standing up. Sucking in.  Flexing my abs.  If I lean over or God forbid do a downward dog in a crop top, the lie that I’m a childless twenty-something exposes itself.  Even though I’m fit and thin and have 15% body fat, I have inches of extra skin on my middle, my arms, my legs, and probably even my earlobes.  My thighs gap, then meet, then gap, then meet like a pair of passionate tango dancers.  That is simply who I am right now.  With time and training and life, my body will change to reflect my journey. My choice is either to wish that weren’t the case or to let go and embrace it.

I wear a sports bra without a top when it’s hot.  Not because I want to show off.  It’s because it’s hot!  Will I still try to flex when someone takes my picture or cringe a little when I see the extra skin happily waving to the camera?  Of course.  My self-confidence is not always perfect and neither am I.  But I’m not going to hide who I am out of fear of judgment that is probably more from myself than from others.

And I’m not going to Photoshop either.

The Newton

The Newton is the one workout of the year that we love to hate.  It sounds pretty simple: 20 repeats of 200 meters or halfway around the track (that’s a total of about 2.5 miles).  But it gets really hard, really quick because the rest in between each intervals gets shorter with every 5 reps.  In between the first five intervals, there is a leisurely minute to recover and fully catch your breath.  For the next five, it drops down to 45 seconds, which still feels pretty good.  The break for the third set of  five is only 30 seconds, which is not enough to slow your heart rate down much at all.  Finally, the last set allows a miserly 15 seconds which is just barely enough time to stop your watch and line up again.  The goal is to keep your pace even the whole time as it gets harder and harder.

The turnout at the track was big, about 45 people.  Norm split us up into groups and we each had an assigned timer who would run diagonally through the infield letting us know when to start each interval.  Out of the five groups, I was a little surprised to find myself solidly in the fourth, but it was definitely where I needed to be.  That just shows how fast the Jus’ Running Maggots are! I did the Newton workout last year and I thought I ran about 42 seconds for each 200 so I joined the 40-44 second group.

Set 1, 60 second recoveries:  40, 44, 41, 41, 41  The trick to the Newtons is to basically sandbag the first set of five.  You need to run slower than you are able because you will inevitably slow much more as the workout progresses if you don’t.  I thought running solid 40s would be pretty good, but I just picked that number out of the air without knowing what it would feel like.  Not sure what happened in the second interval (watch mistake?), but I felt good and comfortable with the first set, as I should.

Set 2, 45 second recoveries:  42, 41, 41, 40, 41  I was pleased with the consistency of this set.  Yes, it was feeling harder, but I was getting enough of a breather to feel solid in my effort.  Some of the people in my group were starting to slow, but I was feeling pretty strong.  As I made my way around each curve, I concentrated on letting my leg rise a bit higher than normal towards my butt to allow that leg an extra second of recovery before bringing it forward.  It seemed to work.

Set 3, 30 second recoveries:  41, 43, 43, 44, 43  And now the workout really began.  Starting out of breath each time was taking its toll.  The finish line of each interval seemed to be getting farther away.  Megan, who was sharing lane 5 with me, began passing me before the straight away and crossing the line ahead of me even though she started further back.  Should I skip an interval? I thought. No, if they can finish this, so can I.  I can do this, I argued, even if it’s ugly.

Set 4, 15 second recoveries:  43, 46, 47, 46, 45  Having a dedicated timer for this workout is essential, because your mind stops thinking clearly.  I thought we still had one more to go when we finished for some reason and I usually like to hammer the last one, but well, that was not to be. I was happy to be done with this one.  The one great thing about the Newton is that it’s short and the pain is over quickly.

Almost any time I run anything, I usually tell myself that I can do better.  Not in a self-disparaging way, but I usually think that I can improve next time if I try a little harder.  Reflecting on this one, I obviously slowed more than I should have, which means that I either need to get stronger or set the bar a little lower. It’s probably a little of both.  I have room for improvement but I also want to be realistic in my expectations of myself.

Me photobombing Mindy and Maura's leg shot!
Me photobombing Mindy and Maura’s leg shot!

I went back this morning and looked up my splits from the Newton last May.  I actually ran it much better, staying way more consistent with 40 and 41 seconds for the first 3 sets and only slowing to 43 (with one 46 outlier) the last set.  I wonder what the difference was.  Yesterday I felt a bit sore in my legs from going heavy in my strength class, so I hope I can just chalk it up to that.

We will repeat the Newton in August, so we can compare our effort after a summer of speed work.  Hopefully, there will be a lot of improvement.

 

A Tasty New Obsession: Sourdough

During my last marathon taper, I knew I needed something new to keep me from going crazy.  I don’t watch much TV, but one night, I decided to watch Michael Pollen’s Cooked documentary on Netflix.  The episode I saw was all about fermentation of foods.  Pollen claimed that sourdough was the only proper way to make bread using wild yeast that lived naturally in the air.  With only water, salt,  flour, and a lot of patience, one could make incredible artisan bread.  Perfect for loading up on carbs before the race, I thought.  As soon as the show was over, I went to the kitchen to make my starter.

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My very active starter, affectionately named Seymour

Fourteen days later, I had a loaf of bread.  Clearly, patience is the most important ingredient.

When searching for recipes online, I found King Arthur’s Flour‘s site to be extremely helpful.  Not only did they have good instructions for making the starter, but they had several good recipes for what do do with your discarded starter.  If you’ve never done it before, like me, you learn every day, twice a day, you have to feed your starter some flour and water after throwing away half of what you already have in your jar.  It feels very wasteful to throw out a cup of floury mix everyday, but that’s what helps the starter culture grow and get strong.  But the cool thing is that there are lots of recipes that use the discarded starter for flavor.  It won’t be active enough to actually rise the dough like mature starter will, but it still adds the tang of sourdough to crackers, pizza dough, pancakes, and my favorite: English muffins.

Homemade sourdough English Muffins
Homemade sourdough English Muffins

Can we stop here on the English muffins?  Learning to make my own whole wheat English muffins was life changing!  I don’t think I will ever go back to store bought again.  For around $1.48 and two hours or so, I can make 24 gorgeous, delicious muffins that we keep in the freezer.  We have a giant cast iron griddle that fits over our stove so I can make them all in one batch.  Who knew English Muffins were made on the stove?!  I had never even thought about it before.

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English muffin dough ready to be cooked

Once the first side has cooked for a few minutes, you place a cookie sheet on top to prevent them from doming into dinner rolls.

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Nooks and crannies!

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Fork split is the only way to open English Muffins

Now that my marathon was over a month ago, I probably shouldn’t be eating bread with every single meal any more, but I still like to make a loaf once or twice a week.  We will still buy bread from the store occasionally, but it is so worth the effort to be able to have good, simple bread made from scratch.

Earth Fare 5K Race Report: New PR!

I signed up for the Earth Fare 5K since it’s one of the few flat courses in town.  I’m still coming off marathon training and haven’t done much speed work at all so this gives me a baseline for the 5K for this year. And judging from the top times last year, I figured I could get third or at least first place Master’s (I love being a Master’s!).

It was a gorgeous, sunny and cool day in the upper 40s-low 50s.  I had thought I would run to the race as my warm up since it’s only 1.25 miles from home, but at the last minute decided to drive so I would have a place to stash my long sleeves.  It turned out to be a very good plan since they checked IDs at bib pick up and because I had so much swag to carry home after the race.  It’s a very good thing when a grocery store is the main sponsor!

I really have no idea how to run a 5K as far as strategy goes.  My plan was to start fast, keep going fast, and finish fast.  I got the first part right at least.  My first mile felt good, but certainly a little hard.  I was pleased to see my split at 6:06.  If I could hang on to that pace, I’d not only break 20 minutes, but I could break 19!

I was in third place for most of the first mile, trading spots with my teammate Megan.  We run track together and are pretty evenly matched.  Sometimes I’m faster; sometimes she is.  Of course I would love to beat her, but my goal was just to stick with her and we did that until about halfway.  A cheerful brunette in a Crossfit shirt bounced by us easily, cheering us on, “keep it up, girls!” I thought she must not be running hard enough if she could have the energy to not only pass us but encourage us!  Were we slowing down?  Mile two was the turn around point and my watch clicked a disappointing 6:38.  Wow.  Thirty-two seconds slower?  That is an eternity in such a short race.

Megan had fallen back enough that I could no longer hear her breathing.  At this point, I knew I had fourth place and therefore 1st Master’s, so I just did what I could so stay there.  I would not say that the pace was painful, but it’s definitely something that I was ready to stop doing.  On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it an 8.  I slowed much less the last mile, coming in at 6:41.  My chip time was 19:54, an average pace of 6:25.  Megan crossed the line 15 seconds behind me for fifth.

I wonder if I would have been more pleased if I had started at a 6:25 pace and held it the whole time.  Pacing is a skill that I am a long way from mastering.  The winner, my teammate Kate, had less than a 6 second spread between her mile paces.  I know my first mile cost me time at the end, so would starting at perhaps a 6:20 pace leave me enough reserves to stay stronger through the end?  I’m not sure, but probably.  I’m sure that I need a lot more work at this.

Tomorrow is track with the infamous Newton workout.  Lots of 200s and perhaps even some puking.  Yay.