Category Archives: Get Fit

Natalie Merchant + My Maniacs

Trying to warm up pre-race

This weekend I ran the inaugural Mountain to Fountain 15k with a team of friends, aptly named “Natalie Merchant and the 15k Maniacs.”  The race started in the McDowell Mountain State Park and finished at the giant fountain in Fountain Hills. While it was a “net” downhill run, there are several considerable hills and it was one heck of a run.


Adam + the fountain

I had more fun with this race than I’d have had running in a long time. It renewed my love for the sport; I can’t wait to get through a cortisone shot this week in my heel so I can get back to distance running. (Add that to the list of sentences I never thought I’d say.) Everything about this race reminded me why I like distance running: the variety of participants, the glorious scenery, the repetitive one foot after another, the battle of your mind vs. the pain, the powerful surge for the last half mile showing you can run farther and faster than you ever thought you could. There is nothing as sweet as being stronger — both mentally and physically — than you thought.

Donk Runs

Donk Runs

Donk Runs

I finished smiling knowing I couldn’t have run it one bit faster or smarter than I did. That in itself was a complete victory.

And who doesn’t need the occasional win?

The Maniacs!

Thanks to my compadres, the Maniacs: Juliann, Adam, Dave and Octavio. And the mystery member of our team who signed herself up obviously because of the rad name. Whomever you are, we salute you — random Maniac. Also, many thanks to Kilimadog for photographing and driving.


Finny came to the finish

P.S. Lookie who surprised me at the finish — Finny! Such a good supportive friend of crazy athletic endeavors she is.






Juliann and I ran the Women’s Half Marathon together this morning. The course was hilly by Arizona standards, but also quite lovely. We started in south Scottsdale, wound around the Papago Mountains, over the Mill Avenue Bridge and around Tempe Town Lake to finish at the park. While my time was far from a personal best, it was a great dive back into the pool of running.



I’m now looking for a couple more halves this winter. Even though today was slow, it felt great. In so many ways, it filled my sails. I can’t wait to get back out there and race again!


My Pants Don’t Fit


I’ve had a sinking feeling for the last few months that I was going to have to wave the white flag of defeat and by bigger jeans. I’ve always crammed into my jeans as soon as I could on the weekends. Paired with flip-flops and a t-shirt, they are my comfort clothing. But, not surprisingly after having canceled my gym membership about a year ago, they aren’t fitting so comfortably today.

My friend Adam tells me regularly I’m good with accountability and discipline. My waistline these days says otherwise. I’m by no means fat, or even technically overweight. But I am not happy. I have an entire section of my closet that I’d really like to wear without sucking in, shimmying and having a stomach ache all day from the tightness. I could perhaps get a waist trainer – I have another friend who got one from and it helped them – but I think I need another option personally.

Veggies for roasting

I haven’t become sedentary; in fact, I think the extra cush is in part because of being more social. I’ve spent much less time in the last six months cooking for myself, or just being at home. The after-work happy hours, weekends with bowling and bar food and that taco festival? Well. You can do the math.

I weighed myself yesterday for the first time in a few months and I am about the same as I was 10 years ago when I left for the Peace Corps. Granted, prior to leaving, I spent the better part of a couple months curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a Cold Stone Creamery, mainlining mint chocolate chip. I was worried I’d never see anything cold in Africa. I was not worried about my jiggle.


Today is another story. So, I have a plan! Rather than waiting until January with all the other lemmings, I’m taking this pants vs. my waist circumference challenge by the horns today. And because I tackle few projects without waxing poetic, I figured I’d share the details and progress. You know. Just in case anyone else may have a few extra pounds to lose?

  1. I’ve downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone. Every bit of research I’ve read lately says writing down what you eat makes you more accountable and keeps things in check. You see what you are really doing to yourself with those after work nachos and margaritas. (Oh, those calorie numbers hurt.)
  2. I joined a gym. As much as I hate the gym rat routine anymore, it is just too dark outside this time of year for the hours I have available to work out alone. Someone recently told me that dressing the part might help us get in the mood to exercise, therefore I’m on the lookout for a good quality men’s or womens tracksuits. Anyway, a gorgeous trainer named Natalie is scheduled to start shaping up my flab tomorrow afternoon.
  3. I’m cooking. It is a lot harder for me to be disciplined about this than ever before because my work schedule is nuts. Yet the sodium content on a lot of the foods I’ve been eating — both brought back to life from the depths of the frozen food section and “healthy” eating out — is off the charts. My heart needs a break.
  4. Specifically, I am cooking with more vegetables. I’m also going to try to eat less meat. I know the hype with protein is “eat more! lose weight!” but in my mind, that more often than not translates to “have sausage on your morning bagel! the meat will be good for you!” Wrong.
  5. And, of course, I’m going to be a lot more selective about what I’m drinking. Far more water, far less wine. I’m unwilling to cut it out entirely. But for the time being, there will be fewer cocktail parties and more Netflix and knitting.

The goal is 30 pounds by April 1. Yes, it is a lot of weight. Yes it is completely possible. Yes, I can do this.

Each week, look for a new recipe, new weight loss tool and weight update. There is nothing as motivating as public shame.

Blog, keep me accountable.


A Bit of Focus

A wee bit focused

I do my best with a firm plan in place, which is why once upon a time, I created a similar chart for my 1/2 Ironman. That chart got me through thousands of miles of training (okay, maybe 1 thousand miles) on my own and saw me through the best race of my life. I’m hoping this chart sees me through a summer of running and yoga and to a couple personal best times in the 10K and 1/2 marathon. I’m also participating in the 100 Pushup Challenge.

The truth is, I’m not a natural athlete*. I’m not particularly good at any single sport I’ve ever tried to master. But I am stubborn, which comes in handy when trying to finish a novel, a 60-day-yoga challenge, manage three jobs, or any of the other crazy challenges I’ve pushed myself through. So, I may not be running any races at an Ethiopian pace, but I can promise you I’ll finish and give it all I’ve got.

I’m looking forward to a summer of long and short runs through the desert, around Tempe Town Lake, with friends, alone, with dogs, with music and with my two legs that I know will see me to success.

What are your goals this summer?


* And yet? This doesn’t stop me from making bold statements at dinner parties, challenging friends and friends’ husbands to tennis matches, golf, bowling, etc. I wish my athletic ability could actually keep up with my cocky confident blabber mouth for once.

Mud Run


Juliann talked Adam, Matty and I into running a 6 mile mud run with her this weekend; it was one of the silliest things I’ve done, and so worth it. Not only did it provide an opportunity to swim, crawl and jump in mud pits, but I got to do so with some of my closest friends and a gazillion strangers too. The shrieks from a bunch of adults jumping in mud — our collective inner child returned happily and had such a great time.



Matt and Adam, logically, pre-gamed with some breakfast beer. (And gravel guards.)

Mud Run

Next year I am going to wear a two-piece Speedo, old running shoes and a bandana. Wardrobe malfunctions were plentiful at this race. If you can imagine, I was left to run more than 5 miles with yoga pants full of mud in the mid-section — if you get my drift.   It wasn’t pleasant. It was actually a bit rashy and abrasive. I had also foolishly worn hiking shoes. My legs and shoes were weighed down with so much mud, it was like running with kettle bells attached to my ankles. But we sucked it up and made the most of it, mainly by walking most of the race and thoroughly having fun when mud obstacles came into play. (It was also very helpful to have Juliann at my side. She is remarkably encouraging. Adam just made me giggle. Matty met us at the finish line, clean and dry — long having finished. Whatev.)

Thankfully, it did remind me of my love of running and my inherent competitive spirit. It has been far too long since I’ve run regularly or raced for anything. Time to get back into the routine and pick out a new goal.

Just an average Saturday morning!


1 + 1 = 6?

Peaceful Morning

I was reading the other day how you shouldn’t trust the calorie counters on cardio machines at the gym; they can be misleading, even if you enter your accurate weight and regularly have it keep up with your heart rate. I conducted a bit of an experiment this morning and wore my heart rate monitor while I worked out on the treadmill. After 42 minutes, the machine said I’d burned a whopping 540 calories. Woo!

But not so fast. My heart rate monitor says I burned 384. Which one is correct? I have to go with the lower number, but considering they are using the same information, it does make me wonder. What’s the equation and which one is correct?

Also, do I need a new heart rate monitor? Because if I had the extra $400, plus $80 a month for the subscription fee, I’d be fueling my obsessive compulsive nutrition and exercise hobbies with that fabulous Bodybugg thing The Biggest Loser participants wear. Have you seen those? Wow. (You think I’m crazy now. I’d be super nuts with one of those.)

Alas, it is just simple math for me: calories in vs. calories spent. I’m not sure I’ve got the math down perfectly, (still having a hard time figuring out what I burn on an average day without wearing the stupid monitor all day long) but I am learning more everyday from my trainer, the nutrition blogs I pour over and spending time with friends with similar interests. I am also pushing myself just about as hard as I can go in the gym and loving every second of it. Also? Learning how to eat every 3.5 hours with diligence. It speeds up my metabolism and also helps with portion control. I’m eating fewer calories than the typical 3 meals a day and don’t deal with the blood sugar highs and lows of eating large meals.

I’d love to hear your experiences with nutrition and what’s working for you.


A New Balance?

Happy runner

Why the goofy smile?

Ready for a good hard run

Because yesterday was “new running shoes day!,” one of my favorites. I get new sneaks every 500 miles or so and was in great need. I can always tell when it is time to trade in a pair because my arches ache after a couple miles. (And sometimes you can feel a pebble or two through your sole if you’ve really worn them too long.)

New Running Shoe Day

Thanks to Santa, I had a generous Foot Locker gift certificate to use toward these fabulous New Balance babies.

eager runner

They made getting out for an afternoon run yesterday that much more fun!

Happy Friday friends,


P.S. Sticking with those resolutions, I signed up for Ultimate Spring Season today. Let’s hope this time around it goes much better than last.

In With the New

Sweet Roscoe

2008 was a banner year. While I didn’t buy that house (thanks economy!) or get the dog, I did create a garden, feed friends regularly at community dinners and flew past my goal of reading 40 books. I’m not necessarily any more financially secure this year than I was last, but I did manage to get a great new job and a sweet new ride. Plus, there were several a splash and dash, a couple triathlons and those five weeks in sweet Africa. I also found a great new church, saw myself published in newspapers and secured a ghost-writing deal. There was Mexico, Nicaragua, Steamboat, Portland, San Antonio, Denver and even a jaunt to our Capitol. While I could join the chorus of moaning, I’d rather not look at my 401K. Instead, I’ll just be thankful for what a great year this has been otherwise. I’m healthy and happy. There is a family moving into the White House who I admire and am proud of. My own family is doing great. Last year treated me very well.


I’m hoping in 2009 to see:

  • The novel published.
  • A new sew-along with Finny.
  • More than a dozen meals cooked from those new cookbooks.
  • 60 books read.
  • 1500 miles on the bike. Chris rides 500 a month. My friend JT rode 2400 last year. I can do this!
  • Less TV watching. (This is actually a pretty easy one since my TVs soon won’t work.)
  • More time being social.
  • Giving Ultimate another shot.
  • Giving dating another shot.
  • Taking yoga and pilates regularly.
  • Resisting buying new and instead rocking what I already have.
  • Learning to sew a dress.
  • Learning to hand quilt.
  • Learning to knit a pair of socks.
  • Scheduling and running a couple more 1/2 marathons.
  • Giving my trainer and his new eating plan a fair shot.
  • Having my blog redesigned and expanded.

I’m going to post where I’m at with each of these monthly, including a weight/health/strength update. If 2009 had a theme, it would be accountability.


What are you hoping for in the New Year?

Wishing us all the very best,


P.S. Roscoe is growing up and some how keeps getting cuter!

The New Tri: Eat, Sleep, Read?

Remember when I competed in triathlons? Yeah. I barely do too. I am not sure what took away my competitive spirit, but it very well may have been too many races this Spring. I haven’t done a thing competitively since May and I’m not really in need of another race t-shirt or bib. I’ve just been sticking to my normal exercise routine of swimming occasionally, biking and running. I love the spin class at my YMCA and I’ve been trying to lift weights here and there.

Little did I realize I was really not lifting weights, so much as pretending to. How do I know this? Well, my fingers are pretty much the only thing I can use this week that don’t ache. About a month ago, I got a lead (via Twitter no less) that a local gym-owner was interested in hiring a ghost writer to help with a fitness book. With a complete lack of being able to control my priority or responsibility list, I jumped at the opportunity. H and I have been meeting regularly since.

He is exactly what you’d imagine. He’s a former professional bodybuilder, literally built like the Hulk and yet very kind. His gym is for women only and his speciality is making women feel really, really good about their accomplishments by having trainers regularly compliment you on the smallest of improvements. How do I know this? Because I fenagled training as part of my payment and am now on week two of torture.

And sheer torture it is. Three times a week I go to his gym to be bullied into an hour’s worth of weights. I swear to you, I have never been this sore. Not after a marathon. Not after a 1/2 Ironman. Not after hiking through the African bush for a couple days. I’ve woken up in screaming pain in the night this week because I rolled over and some muscle cramped in the process.

But, you know what? I feel pretty darn good. Another part of this training is to keep a food journal this week to show them my normal eating habits. Having to write down every morsel for a stranger to judge has made me really take a closer look at what is going in my body. I’m being much more mindful of my diet and in combination with the new torturous routine, I’m seeing a new me.

To be honest, I’ve always had this athletic chip on my shoulder. My dad, a natural athlete, has never had a problem maintaining his physique. He’s fit and as a result has always looked considerably younger than he is. My brother, also a natural, can look at a new sport from afar, jump in half-assed and be pretty good at it from the get-go. Me? I am more like my mom. I have to work really, really hard at something to make it stick. But I have a fierce determination that my brother doesn’t. He’s the sprinter. I run distance. While he could probably still beat me silly at a 100m sprint, he’d be done. I could keep going for another 5 miles or so.

My point is that I’ve never felt like I could be the athlete. (It is really ridiculous to feel this way, I recognize. I’ve been swimming regularly (minus 5 months in Cameroon sans pool) steadily since I was 4 or so.)  It is fun to surprise yourself, to change habits, to see yourself in a new way. And if this all happens right before you slide into your red dress before the lengthy list of holiday parties? Even better.

Have you ever surprised yourself with a new way of living? What did you do? How did it make you feel?



P.S. There is a considerable lack of photos this week because I’m working on holiday projects. This will change pronto! Tonight — community dinner with gobs of food porn opportunities.

Fly By Weekend

Weekend Joys

Weekend Joys

Weekend Joys

Weekend Joys

Christmas card making

Weekend Joys

Weekend joys

More Portuguese sweet bread baking (although this time I ditched the raisins and instead added lemon zest. It was fantastic! I made the muffins for a potluck this afternoon and as a dry-run for Thanksgiving.)

Weekend Joys

Weekend Joys

A bit of sewing too. Market bags and new fabric (bunkeys!) for a Christmas project.

What I didn’t manage to photograph was the 7-mile run Saturday morning that left me lame most of the weekend. It was the brutal reminder I needed to: get off the treadmill and back outside for longer runs, clean up my diet and get out of my exercise rut. I’ve got my workout clothes ready for a 5-miler tomorrow and hope to start increasing my mileage to 20-25 a week. When I’m running that much I find my mind is more focused, I’m more emotionally even and I am much happier with the way my jeans fit. With turkey day around the corner, my new found enthusiasm for my Nikes is perfectly timed.

Hope your weekend was also fabulous, but that it moved considerably slower than mine.