Monthly Archives: September 2012

Untethered

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Normally the first week after a marathon, I walk around the house like Frankenstein, and I have to descend the stairs backwards. The honor of carrying laundry baskets to the basement falls to the strongest of the Wellman offspring, or whomever happens to be in sight, which is why I don’t wear shoes in the house (it makes it easier to sneak up on them).

Historically, it takes a solid month before I can pick up the adjective ‘runner’ and apply it to myself.

Maybe I was still riding the ‘high’ of my fabulous 26.2 mile jaunt around the Fränkisches Seenland, but the day after the marathon, I found myself up bright and early and out the door to escort the kids to the kletterwald.

The last time I had chaperoned a trip to the high ropes course, I had a broken finger, so all I could do was sit below and snap pictures one-handed while balancing a cup of coffee on my knees. The kids had a blast, but frankly, it was less than fun for me (though the coffee was surprisingly good).

So this year, Frankenstein though I be, I was determined to join the fun at the high ropes. I was surprised to find I could scurry over rock walls, maneuver across spidery nets, zipline from tree to tree, and go up AND down ladders without too much trouble.

The fun was only increased by the fact that my buddy (another AWESOME homeschooling mom:) was harnessed up too.

But to be totally honest, I was in pain the next day, with my legs more zombie-like than before.

However, it only took two days before I felt good again, which considering my history, is nothing short of a miracle.

I have been running since the marathon, but I feel untethered not having a race in site. My calendar is frighteningly blank, and it scares me.

I fear that I’m going to fall off the training wagon and end up undoing the months of hard work. This sounds extremely shallow, but I fear gaining weight again–and I still have some to lose: not because of body image, but for the sake of my knees and feet, I want to lose at least 15 more pounds.

Well, okay, that’s not entirely true–I would like to have a flat stomach and for once in my life have thighs that don’t need their own zip codes. I simply feel better in my own skin when there is less of it flopping over my waistband.

Not having a plan scares the jeepers out of me because I know how utterly lazy and easily distracted I am. I’m like the kid who will happily do anything you ask, as long as it’s written out on a chart, and with the possibility of getting a gold star. But if there’s no chart and no promise of a sticker, the kid will sit there staring at the wall while twirling her pigtails, lost in her own daydreams.

So where is the gold star when there’s no race? I write philosophically about the joy of running, how it relieves stress, centers me and makes me a better wife and mother, but when I don’t have a race in mind, those dreamy notions easily get shoved aside until everyone in the house is begging, “Please, Mama–go for a run!”

Did I tell you? I tend to get cranky when I haven’t been running.

So, you find me a little lost today; and I think the only remedy is to make some new goals and to start filling up my calendar.

Does anyone else feel this way after meeting a big goal?

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Pumpkin Perfectly Punctuated

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Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Perfection

I stole this recipe from the fall edition of Cooking Fresh magazine, but since I did not have all the ingredients (what exactly is turmeric?) and because I added pumpkin, subtracted the cauliflower, and tweaked the portions to meet the needs of a family of six, this recipe is now my own.

It all began when my husband discovered not only can you EAT pumpkins, but they are extremely good for you. Subsequently, he has been subtly encouraging me to cook with pumpkin by doing things like touting the health benefits of pumpkin, running pumpkin through the juicer (which I can’t recommend), and leaving small pumpkins on the table in the hall, where they taunt me daily.

But pumpkin? How does one go about cooking pumpkin? It seems so exotic!

I knew from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books that pumpkins could be cooked, but since Mma Ramotswe doesn’t give an exact recipe in the stories, I wrote on my chore list “google pumpkin recipes,” which I promptly forgot to do.

So, you can imagine my joy as I flipped through the Cooking Fresh magazine at the store and saw an entire spread on gourds, and my mind immediately turned to the forlorn little pumpkins waiting for me at home.

It turns out, pumpkins are not simply vessels upon which you carve scary faces. You CAN eat them! And edible pumpkin isn’t just something you scrape from a can into your bread mix. There are lovely, gorgeous gourds you can take home and (with some wrangling) slap on your plate.

The pumpkins my husband brought home were small, a deep orange color, and very round. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific as to what particular TYPE they were, but just make sure when you buy one, you get one that is for cooking.

I don’t usually eat pumpkin without adding multiple cups of sugar and/or three packages of cream cheese, so this endeavor was rather exciting for me.

This healthiced recipe has a spicy yet sweet flavor that has become a new fall family favorite.

Though Cooking Fresh calls this ‘South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry,’ my version is called ‘Pumpkin Perfection!‘ (The exclamation mark is ABSOLUTELY necessary, as alliterated P’s must always be emphasized).

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 medium cloves garlic, pressed

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp coriander seeds, ground

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1 small can tomato paste (6 oz)

1 large can organic diced tomatoes (with juice, 28 oz or 6-8 fresh tomatoes, chopped)

1 cup vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)

1 sweet potato (peeled and cubed)

4 carrots (peeled and sliced into bite-sized hunks)

2-3 small white potatoes (peeled and cubed)

2 small pumpkins (peeled, seeded and cubed) *Peel & cube the same way you do a butternut squash–cut in halves, scoop out seeds, slice in wedges and trim the rind with a sharp knife*

1 can chickpeas

4 cups of fresh baby spinach

1 whole lime from which you will need: 1 tsp grated lime zest & 2 Tbsp juice

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

The Method

In your Dutch oven, water sauté the onion on medium-high heat until brown (5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger, stir for one minute to blend the flavors. Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne, stir for half a minute then add tomato paste, stirring for one minute more.

Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon and bring to a boil. Don’t worry if the liquid appears brown, it will turn a lovely orange after you add the veggies! 

Reduce heat and add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes. Add more liquid if necessary (tomato juice, water or broth), until the veggies are just covered. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and spinach. Turn off heat, and let cook until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes).

Ladle into your Polish Pottery soup bowls and get ready for an onslaught of Vitamin A, potassium, and enough compliments to know all the trouble preparing those little pumpkins for the pot was worth it!

Guten Appetit!

My Secret Marathon

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I ran a marathon on Sunday.

Noah, Libby & I at the starting line

This wouldn’t be too interesting, except for the fact that I had just run a marathon eight weeks ago, and this time around, I kept it a secret.

When I finished the Königsschlösser Romantik Marathon in July, with my knees and foot hurting and at a disappointing 4:40 finish, I knew I made a LOT of mistakes.

Because I already had months of training behind me, why not run a second marathon this year?

The doctor who told me to cut back my mileage might’ve given me a few reasons not to run again, but because it was a ‘secret’ marathon, I didn’t feel obligated to divulge my diabolical plot.

I signed up for the Fränkisches Seenland Marathon a few days after getting home from Füssen.

Not only did I want to correct the mistakes I had made at Füssen, but I also wanted to run a marathon for the pure joy of it.

Joy and marathons are NOT paradoxical ideals.

In my view, if I didn’t broadcast the marathon, then I would avoid the trap of pride (which constantly plagues me) and it would allow me to run without any kind of pressure or expectations (which are always self-imposed but made stronger when I think people are watching).

How’d it go?

I ended up not only with a Personal Record on a course that blatantly states you should not expect a PR (because of some elevation), but  I also came away with the best marathon experience thus far.

Why?

The people were insanely friendly. Maybe it was the fine weather (sunny and temps ranging from a brisk 50 in the am to low 70s by noon) or maybe because this was a small, family-oriented marathon, but whatever the reasons, everywhere I went, I was met with jovial attitudes and kindness.

One example of this was the pacemaker. I had not planned on following a pacemaker, but I happened to fall in with her pack after about the first three miles. At first, all I could see of her was two french braids bobbing between a group of brightly-colored t-shirts, but as more of the pack fell away, I moved up a little. Her pace (4:30) felt comfortable, so I kept with her.

I didn’t say much at first because my German is terrible–especially when running. Sadly, at the halfway point I lost sight of the pacemaker and her little group after my detour to the bathroom.

But in my mind, it was okay, because (as I reminded myself) this race was for fun–not for numbers.

As I crossed the dam on the far side of the lake, I became lost in the crowd of half-marathoners, who had just caught up to us, and I felt that I would never see the self-proclaimed Pippi Langstrumpf pacemaker again (she DID tell me that is what the guys call her).

So, I relaxed, focused on my form, enjoyed the sight of the sailboats on the lake, and before we reached the end of the dam, I suddenly came upon the 4:30 group.

Normally the sight of a pacemaker makes me feel pressured, but this time it made me happy–like seeing old friends in a crowd of strangers.

At the 23 kilometer water station, one of the old German guys announced (for all to hear) that I should win the prize for the schönste hübsche Kleidung,(or something like that–I’m sure I just got that wrong!) But it did made me laugh (thank you, Athleta…you should give me a commission or at least some of your beautiful sportswear for free!)

After that, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with the pacemaker, and I began to speak in my mangled German. But she was so gracious and friendly, I found that I could understand most of what she said and could reply decently, as long as she didn’t ask me questions that required in-depth answers.

Around km 25, people started dropping back. The pacemaker’s husband had caught up to us at this point, and he would go back with those who had fallen behind to run with them, and to make sure they were doing okay. I had never seen such genuine concern for other runners, and I knew at that point, that as long as I stayed with her, she would get me through the marathon.

I ran well, and I ran strong, thankfully without any knee pain (though I brought BOTH knee braces) and with no foot pain (after the first mile). It was miraculous.

I did not feel the marathon really began until we emerged from the woods around km 34, and the sun shone fully on us.

I felt like I was starting to wear down. All I could think about was stopping at km 36 to refuel. But at km 36, the pacemaker kept going, while I poured more coconut water into my handheld hydration pack as fast as I could, and then I ran to catch up with her. I knew that if I left her, I would not finish well.

The hotter the sun got, the harder it was for me. I wanted to stop and call the kids at km 40, but there was no stopping. As long as we stayed at that pace, she assured me, we would finish in a perfect 4:30.

Now you are going to remind me of my point that this marathon was not about the numbers, which is true. But the fact of the matter was that I knew the last portion of the marathon was going to be hard, no matter how fast or slow I went, and I felt that because I wasn’t in any pain, my ‘idea’ of stopping was simply in my mind–that physically I COULD see this through as long as I stuck to the pacemaker.

When the wind kicked up, she and her husband ran in front of me, and he said he was my ‘wind stopper.’ Then the pacemaker warned me that there was one last hill before the long descent to the finish.

That hill nearly killed me. I slowed, and nearly stopped to walk. But the pacemaker and her husband were ascending without missing a beat, while calling to me “You can do it, Keri!” “Come with us!” and (to my chagrin) “Auf Geht’s!”

Somehow, I dug in and gave every ounce that I had for that last hill.

Soon, I had made it to the top, and was flying downhill with the pacemaker.

Somewhere along the way, I also managed to hit ‘send’ on the pre-typed text message, to alert my husband and kids. Of course, technology struck again, and while my text message DID get through, my iPod began to play Mozart for everyone to enjoy during the last mile.

It was absolutely glorious, running through the cool woods, with pines soaring overhead, knowing that soon I would be at the finish line, in the arms of my family.

I finished at 4:30–perfect timing, and my best marathon thus far, in more ways than just the numbers.

The kids and I at the finish, with the pacemaker on the left

But wait, it gets better!

As I was receiving my medal, I heard the pacemaker’s voice over the loudspeaker, and I heard “Keri Wellman, from Alaska.” (Yes, I still consider Alaska my ‘home’ state).

Before I knew what was happening, this extremely jovial guy stuck a microphone in my face. After hours of thinking and speaking in German, and that little thing called ‘running a marathon,’ my brain had turned to mush, and I had no idea what he was saying.

My disastrous yet humorous interview

I told everyone in the crowd, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you” or something like that, and then I began to laugh. Fortunately, he was laughing too, and asked me a couple questions. And it was such a blur, I can’t remember if we were speaking English or German or that lovely brand of “Germlisch” I so often slip into.

My husband said that even after I had walked away, the guy was talking about “Keri Wellman, aus Alaska.” Fortunately my poor German skills keep me humble.

What did I learn?

Marathons can be fun, and addictive. I want to run more of them, and I really want to run mountain marathons. Being in nature gives me a sense of peacefulness that I simply cannot put into words.

I learned that a marathon truly is a mental challenge. The race is made or broken, depending on your state of mind. My marathon didn’t begin until km 34, and it was only because of the fabulous pacemaker that I kept going.

I also learned that while running is a solo event (for the most part) it is all about people. From the spectators to the volunteers at the water stand, to the pacemakers and the other runners, for me, it is about being a good and decent person, regardless of how fast or slow I am. For me, the goal of a marathon should not be about myself, but about how I can encourage others along the way.

My Pippi Laungstrumpf pacemaker was a great example of this.

When asked (over the loudspeaker) if I would run this marathon again, my answer was an immediate ‘Ja!’ And when asked if I could describe the marathon, I said it was awesome, because it really was, and I nearly cried.

I hope that someday I will be at such a great level of fitness that I could be a pacemaker and encourage others in their quests to achieve their goals, like my Pippi Langstrumpf, who, in her mid-forties, still has braids to go with her incredible stamina.

What’s next?

It’s obvious to me that I need a running buddy–someone who can challenge me, but who also loves running in the outdoors, regardless of speed.

Mountain marathons are also in my brain, but you’ll have to wait and see about that one.

I may or may not let you know;)

Happy running, friends!

Because Every Field Needs Good Internet

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I can safely say that Deutsche Telekom does not discriminate. Regardless of species, whether corn, sugar beet, or stubble where wheat used to be, the farm fields are now getting internet.

I know, it’s about time.

I have lived in this lovely house in Franconia for 6 1/2 years, and for all but the past six months, I have been able to call our location, “The Technological Black Hole of Germany.”

While we have had dial-up (for which we had to pay someone twice–once for basic installation–and a second time in cash to do it right), it was that particular brand of internet that had many unconventional services speedier internet providers did not offer, such as coffee and laundry.

All you had to do was click to connect, then go and brew a pot of coffee, throw in a load of wash, come back with your fresh mug of coffee, sit down and pray that nobody had turned on the printer, which would naturally make your computer freeze up,thereby forcing you to start the process over.

The only bright side of the re-start was that it would give you time for a shower.

About six months ago someone at Vodaphone had the brilliant idea to offer wireless internet to rural areas (a desperate market). And I didn’t even have to offer my firstborn son in exchange. We paid a small fee (at the Vodaphone store, not to the guy who came to our door selling WiFi boxes out of the back of his van), plugged in our box and voila! our house was wired.

I can now do things like upload AND download videos without visibly aging.

I used to laugh when people asked if we had Skype; now my kids have video conferences with classmates and friends around the world.

With all of this post-traumatic stress from years of dial-up, you can imagine my chagrin when on a beautiful sunrise run, I happened upon Deutsche Telekom’s yellow KABEL tape strewn alongside and empty field.

I am sure the rabbits and deer will be Tweeting about this as they upload videos of crazy runners to youtube.

Technological Black Hole of Germany, no more!

A Runner Rides a Bike

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Some of you may remember a couple weeks ago, the doctor told me to take it easy, regarding my running, in order to give my foot time to heal from alleged plantar fasciitis.

Some of you also may remember that I balked at his advice. But still, he was right–regardless of the diagnosis, my body was telling me to lower my mileage and add some cross-training.

Day one: I went to the beach, where the only exercises were tapping my Kindle screen with my forefinger and occasionally lolling on my raft in the lake.

Day two: I did the elliptical in the basement, which seemed like a good workout, but when I was done, I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything other than watching an hour of TV.

Day three: I got up before dawn, strapped on my helmet and Katie’s old knee, elbow and wrist guards; dug my mountain bike out of the garage; and rode along my running trail. Naturally, this would be a piece of cake, so in order to make it challenging, I did my 12 mile hilly route (okay, so most of my routes are hilly around here).

Here’s what I learned:

1) Just because I can run does not mean biking is easy (except downhill).

2) Balance matters.

3) I can ascend a hill faster on my own feet than I can on a bike.

4) Going downhill requires a bit of courage.

5) Balance really matters. Really.

6) My brakes are squeaky.

7) Biking is loud.

8) I’d rather be running.

Now, bike riding is fun, and honestly, I’ve never felt my heart rate shoot up so high as when I was tackling those steep hills, my legs incessantly spinning; and I enjoyed a nice shot of adrenaline when my back tire slid on a gravely, steep descent; but for mediation time, prayer time, just sanity time, biking isn’t my thing.

So…

Day Four: I laced up my running shoes.

I am happy to report, that I had very minimal pain, as long as I didn’t run too quickly. I decreased my mileage and went to a four-day running schedule, rather than a five-day schedule, which seems to suit my 39 year-old body more. And now, three weeks after the doctor told me to take it easy, I have little to no pain at all. The only time I notice a ‘twinge’ in my arch is when I begin a run, but by six miles, it’s gone away.

I’ve done three runs of 18 miles and one run of 20 miles. So far, without anything hurting.

Overall, I’m sure cross-training has a valuable part to play in becoming a better runner. And while I will keep my ancient bike with the faded ‘squirrel’ bell maintained, I’m not likely to enter cycling races any time soon.

My Squirrel Bell, which has been around longer than any of my children

I may not be fast, nor am I in perfect condition, but a good, long run soothes my soul.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.