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My First Blog Post

Wellness

The quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.

— Merriam-Webster

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been chasing wellness most of my adult life in some way. It’s one of the reasons I chose to become a physical therapist. I wanted to also help others feel well, and it’s not always about medicine. I’ve also been some version of vegetarian my entire adult life, finally making the full jump to vegan over two years ago.

What exactly does it mean, though, to feel well? One could argue that there are many facets to wellness. It’s not just about your physical well-being, but also social, spiritual, emotional, and environmental factors. If one of these is off, you feel unsettled. And sometimes it’s challenging to figure out which one of these elements is the culprit.

We tend to focus on physical wellness, right? What’s my cholesterol? How many medications do I rely on to stay healthy? How can I better manage my chronic diseases? How can I achieve and maintain a healthy weight?  How can I keep up with my kids?

I know I asked myself these questions when I first began my own wellness journey. I was overweight after having 2 kids, dealing with persistent pain, and wearing the largest size clothes in my life. Not exactly great for my emotional wellness! Does this story sound familiar?

So I began with a goal. My goal was to lose weight. 30 lbs to be exact. I started making use of my YMCA membership and used the food and activity tracker myfitnesspal to reach my goal. It took me about a year to lose the weight, but I knew I wanted to keep working toward better fitness. I was already bored with gym equipment.

In the lobby of my local YMCA, I saw a flyer for a local 5k, the Ashland Harvest Run held every October. Running 3.1 miles seemed like a daunting, yet achievable task. The best way to reach a goal is to break it down into smaller ones. I worked toward running a mile without stopping, then 2 miles. And then it was race day. I ran/walked the entire thing, finishing in the middle of the pack! It was so exciting… the whole race experience, meeting my goal, and performing better than I expected. I officially caught the running bug that day. A friend of mine convinced me to join the Sports Backers/YMCA 10k training team, and this is where I met one of my best friends. She would convince me that I was capable of even more… the marathon. A few training teams later, we have a solid crew of running sisters… sole sisters… and my life is exponentially better because of them! So great for my social wellness! I have now completed 6 marathons. I’m currently training for number 7, the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m also now a coach with the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team with Pink Nation.  

What other crazy do I do, you ask? Well, my journey inspired my husband to find his tribe, too, and he started like me at our local YMCA. He eventually found his way to CrossFit, and he is now a level 1 trainer. I told him I would never try CrossFit unless he opened his own gym. In July of 2017, I had to eat my words, because he started a box with some business partners! He has even competed at the Masters level with some success, placing first in the Festivus games and third in the SuperFit games in 2018. We have since left this business endeavor, but Ralph is working out at a new box and focusing on being an athlete for a bit.

I enjoy the new challenges of CrossFit. Everyone is good at something in the box. Maybe you can’t do handstands, but you can lift weight! Maybe I can’t lift as much as you, but I can do pistol squats! The day I climbed that rope for the first time… well, I felt like Shalane Flannagan crossing the finish line of the NYC marathon! But the best part about CrossFit? It’s been great for our marriage.

I’m also spending some time fostering my creativity. I’ve recently launched a tie-dye shirt business, and I am dabbling in turning my favorite quotes into mixed media art. I hope to sell these at some point as well.

So, here I am. A 44 year old mother of two, married to a talented CrossFit coach, working as a physical therapist, 6 time marathoner, Vegan, artist, and sometimes CrossFit athlete. This sounds more impressive on paper than it really is. This is just me, chasing wellness.

Through this blog, I hope you find inspiration in your own journey. I plan to share with you recipes, running stories and tips, CrossFit stories, vegan tips, nutrition information, fitness clothing reviews, vegan food reviews, a bit of art, and fun features of living in Richmond! Thanks for reading!

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Vegan Greek Style Green Beans

One of the things I’ve missed this year in Richmond, the city of summer festivals, is the Greek Festival. Obviously, it was canceled due to Covid. And although there are fewer things to enjoy there now that I’m vegan, I still love the green beans! 

Since I love to try to recreate dishes I love in my own kitchen, I went to work on an adequate substitute. I’ve been making this recipe for years now, and it is a favorite simple side dish that tastes gormet!

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • One onion, cut in quarters and thinly sliced.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or use refrigerated minced garlic or frozen garlic cubes)
  • 2 cans green beans, drained
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Trader Joe’s onion salt
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • 1 T dried oregano (I like Litehouse brand)
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat until fragrant. 
  • Add the onions and garlic, cooking until translucent and beginning to brown.
  • Add the green beans and stir to combine.
  • Add the tomatoes, then add about ⅓ can of water to the empty tomato can, swishing to get the remaining tomato juice out of the container, and add to the mix.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to a simmer.
  • Allow to simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Adjust salt/seasonings as needed, and serve!

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If you try my recipe, take pictures, post to Instagram, and tag me @annecreates

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Is summer running over yet?

This is a question runners ask as official rituals of summer’s end ensue… the start of school, the end of summer vacations, the closing of your neighborhood pool… but the heat and humidity is still here. Why? (said in my best, whiny, childlike voice…)

Indeed, if you are training for a fall marathon, cooler temperatures, air that doesn’t feel so humid that it seems you are breathing in a sweater, and sun that doesn’t seem to burn you to a crisp in 10 minutes are all things we look forward to as we move out of September and into October. 

For most of us training for fall races, we are now in what we refer to as “the deep end of the pool.” That is, all of our weekend long runs are going to be 12 miles or more until taper. That’s a lot of time on your feet! It’s also during this stretch of training that we typically develop some version of imposter syndrome, asking yourself if training runs are this hard, how will I ever be able to run a marathon? I’ve now been through 7 training cycles. This is number 8. I ask myself this question multiple times every season! But, truly, it’s not you. It’s the heat and humidity.

So, what’s a runner to do? Since we can’t control the weather, let’s look at what we CAN control as we enter serious training miles:

  1. Sleep.

Are you getting enough? Sometimes it’s challenging to get enough rest before a big jump in mileage as nerves kick in the night before a training run, so concentrate on the night before that. Make sure you aren’t skimping during the week, too. 

  1. Diet

Are you eating well? Now, this looks different for everyone. You know I’m vegan, but I’m definitely not perfect. And I absolutely feel better if I’m eating enough carbs and concentrating on a cleaner diet. That means reducing junk food, sadly! And I try to listen to what my body wants, which after a run is usually salt. There’s a reason for that craving:

  1. Hydration

We sweat out a lot of water and salt when we run. Make sure you are replacing fluids and electrolytes regularly. Especially the day or two before a big run when you are expecting hot and humid conditions, drink water and electrolyte replacements like it’s your job! Hopefully you will avoid a post-run dehydration headache this way!

  1. Extra curricular exercise

AKA: Cross-training. What kind are you doing? If you want to see what heavy lifting does to your performance during your runs, check out this post. Strength training should be maintained at this point, but not shooting for all-out Rx workouts at your CrossFit box, hitting heavy olympic lifts in the gym, or trying new and strenuous workouts as we enter “hell month.” The wear and tear on your body from your long runs will be enough stress on your body. When I was doing CrossFit, I ended up injured both marathon training seasons that I did both. Need some ideas? Look at my marathon training survival guide. Also follow @dr.lisa.dpt on Instagram. She’s a local Richmond PT who posts really good info about strength and mobility training for runners.

  1. Gear

How about those shoes? Noting any increased aches and pains that can’t all be attributed to the gradual increase in miles? It may be your shoes! If you’ve been in the same ones since before this training season started, it’s likely time for new ones. I highly recommend going to a dedicated running store to be fitted for shoes, even if you fully understand the mechanics of your running gait. Shoes change every year when companies upgrade to the latest models. Good stores have good associates who understand this. And they should do a running gait analysis, as this may be much different than your walking gait pattern. 

Another gear issue that requires attention is lighting! Sometimes getting your weekday miles in requires starting or ending in the dark. It’s less likely you will have an unpleasant encounter with a car or unexpected change in your terrain if you can see and be seen. My recommendations? A headlamp so you can see your path, and a NoxGear vest so you can be seen! 

  1. Recovery

Are you #teamepsomsaltbath or #teamicebath? I personally prefer a hot epsom salt bath as part of my recovery after a run. The magnesium helps reduce cramping, and the heat helps move along the inflammatory process that helps to build muscle. That’s what the latest research tells us. Make sure a good meal is a part of your recovery within an hour or so after your run. And, yes, things like gentle stretching and foam rolling are still a good part of your recovery. But now is also the time in training to check out a yoga class. Look for one that is Yin, recovery, or restorative in nature. 

I spent some time on the mat last weekend. Felt so great to work on my mobility!
  1. Don’t obsess about the training schedule!

I promise that if you miss a run, your training will not fall apart. To my Sports Backers participants, your coaches can help you with questions on how to adapt if something isn’t working for you. Personally, I stick with a 3 run per week schedule, making sure I get that mid-week longer run and my weekend long run. I swap one of my runs for another cross-training day. It’s just what works for me. 

  1. Find a buddy!

If you haven’t found a running partner through your training yet, now is the time! See if you can find someone or a group to meet for your mid-week longer runs, especially as we move up into 8, 9, and 10 miles for these runs. Having a partner for accountability helps so much! For my Sports Backers participants, feel free to post in our private Facebook group to find a match!

  1. Remember your Why

That’s right. Maintaining your focus in training on WHY you are going through all of this craziness is half the battle. If you want a reminder about why we run the marathon, check out this post. The game is mental, for sure, but typically in a good way. You will feel like a stronger, tougher soul having endured this experience and seeing it through. As my friend Sarah told our friend Lisa as Lisa wanted to give up at mile 17 of her first marathon, the pain of not finishing will be far greater than the pain of the next 9 miles of the race. And in this season, we only have about 2 months left. We can do this! 

At the finish line of the 2015 Richmond Marathon. I’m hugging Lisa, who thought she wouldn’t finish the race!

Summer won’t last forever. But if you have any doubts about the effects of global warming, ask a runner! Summers seem to last longer and get hotter than ever before. Even so, the cooler, crisper fall and winter temperatures will eventually arrive. Those first runs in amazing weather will feel lighter, faster, and reassuring. I promise, if I can do this, you can, too!

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Lead photo is courtesy of my friend Bill Draper. He is an amazing photographer and an accomplished runner, and if you don’t already follow him on Instagram, you should! And if you love the RVA and the James River Park System, he has a book that he created as a fundraiser for the park. https://g.co/kgs/eYnNy4 @billdraperphotography 

Are you training for a fall marathon? Is the heat and humidity starting to wear on you? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Code D

Code D

As long as I’ve worked in a hospital setting, there has only been one time that this code was called. That day, of course, was September 11, 2001. 

It was a beautiful late summer day on the east coast that was so crisp, so bright, that you felt a bit optimistic about the arrival of fall. Walking onto my unit in the hospital, I noted how beautifully the sunlight illuminated the hallway from the windows of the east facing patient rooms.

But the day unfolded with the events as we all recall in our own significant ways. I had heard about the first airplane hitting the north tower, and we were watching the Today Show’s coverage as we also tried to concentrate on the care and needs of our patients. But when we saw the second tower hit, we knew this was not a random act. And so it went. 

The code D was called after the Pentagon was struck. The disaster code meant that our administrators were preparing us to shift roles and care for casualties that could possibly require transport to Richmond for treatment, expecting that hospitals closer to impact would receive the most severely injured and would fill to capacity. They never arrived.

Personally, I was dealing with my own life events. I was pregnant with my first child, not yet knowing if I was carrying a boy or a girl. We would find out later that week. My father, who was a civil servant for the army at the time, suddenly seemed in danger; I called my mother, who had not been watching the news, and begged her to make him come home. His base would be put on lockdown, and he would not be allowed to come home until after midnight. It was also the week of my birthday, which was celebrated with very limited fanfare that year. 

How odd that 20 years later, I find myself working in the same hospital, on the same unit, with 19 years of separation between. How ironic that as we all reflect on the collective trauma that our country endured on that day in 2001 that we are all facing yet another long trauma together in the pandemic. But this time, we are not united. We are more polarized as a nation than ever.

It’s as if in an attempt to heal from that day, some of us took uniting against a common enemy a bit too far. The rise in nationalism, especially under the guise of Christianity, is alarming. It’s in parallel to Muslim extremists who were the cause of this whole tragedy to begin with, facilitated by our own foreign policies of the past. If recent events and new laws passed haven’t alerted your internal alarms yet, they should be. 

I would like to think that this is not the legacy of this tragedy that should endure. I miss the America of 9/12/2001. We need love. We need equality. We need separation of church and state. We need a functional government that is not bought by corporations and special interests. We need science. We need the truth. We need healing. 

Instead, we find ourselves in the midst of an epidemic of misinformation and cognitive dissonance. One only has to look at open commentary time at your local school board meetings to witness this. To quote Carl Sagan, it’s a “celebration of ignorance,” which he predicted in 1995:

“The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

– Carl Sagan, from The Demon- Haunted World, 1995

So 20 years later, I find myself feeling sullen. As far as the Middle East is concerned, we are right back to the beginning, and I wonder what the loss of lives in Afghanistan was for, both civilians and military. I’m holding on to a sliver of hope that we can get our acts together and save our democracy. Because if we don’t, terrorists, both foreign and domestic, have won. 

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I know. Another political post. I’m sorry. Even now, 20 years later, I still feel slightly unsettled stepping out into a bright, crisp morning. Where were you on 9/11/2001? Can you identify with any of these feelings? I waited to post this purposefully, as 9/11 itself is a sacred day of reflection. As a nation, I think we are still suffering from the enduring trauma of that day. If you are worried about the direction of our country, use your voice, and vote. 

The picture featured is of the NYC skyline in 1997 as I saw it as I flew into the Newark airport. I may have been mocked by fellow passengers as the “tourist” taking photos from the plane, but it was the closest I’d ever been to NYC. I also got to visit in 2003 and saw Ground Zero myself. I’m still glad I took the photo.

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

A Seed of Progress in a Time of Regression

“Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy.”

– Mayor Levar Stoney

The deed is done, folks. Richmond once had a deep history of pride in its Confederate roots, despite the Confederate army setting our city on fire. We even have museums about our city’s role in the Confederacy. But one thing we no longer have: statues of their leaders on Monument Avenue. 

Yesterday morning, the last statue standing, that of Robert E. Lee, which sits in the middle of what is now called Marcus-David Peters Circle, was dismantled from its pedestal to cheers from onlookers and the Mayor himself. After massive protests on our streets in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and multiple others of color, all of the other Confederate monments under city control were taken down earlier this year. Lee was under state control, and with our state Supreme Court ruling on September 2nd that it could finally be removed, action was swift. 

The Lee Monument last year.

It’s been amazing to witness the evolution of this site over the past year or so. The pedestal has become a work of art, with graffiti and memorials now covering what once held up the leader of the Confederacy. I loved running past on my many training runs through the Fan. There was always something new to see. The energy here was palpable. 

Close up of graffiti on the pedestal.

Even in my extremely conservative county of Hanover, just outside of Richmond, we managed to convince the school board that it was time to remove the Confederate names of our Mechanicsville schools. More relics of an expired era gone. There has been much backlash, including the ousting of some school board members, and multiple protestors at meetings arguing against teaching critical race theory, and even upset with teachers who declare that their classrooms are inclusive and safe spaces for children who are not straight and white. It’s a three steps forward, two steps back kind of thing. It’s pretty disturbing, but not unlike what’s happening elsewhere in our country. We clearly still have work to do.

I apologize for devoting so many blog posts lately to current events, but the fact is that all of these issues are stressful for many, and truly affect our overall wellness. The continued pandemic, the realization of how unjust our world is, the chipping away at voting rights and reproductive freedoms… It’s exhausting. Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one feeling this way. But with this symbol of white supremacy gone, we can take a moment to rejoice. It’s time for Richmond to be known for something better.

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I never thought that change like this could happen, but it did. I know these are mere symbols, and that the real work for social justice must continue. But symbols are indeed significant, and their disappearance from our city’s landscape absolutely means something. This is not erasing history. It’s demonstrating that as a community, we will no longer honor a government that wanted to preserve slavery. 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.  

Panic

TW: sexual assault

Thursday started with a panic attack as I scrolled the news. It was a visceral response that seemingly came out of nowhere, but in reality, it’s been simmering since I was 9. 

I survived a summer of grooming, molestation, and the big event of attempted rape the summer before I turned 10. My neighbor’s grandson, who was 14, took advantage of shy, insecure, hopelessly skinny and powerless me. I was assured that I would get into trouble if I told my parents what was happening. And when he trapped me in my brother’s bedroom, held me down, and told me he was going to rape me, I somehow knew to kick him in the nuts. That’s how I got away. I didn’t know at the time what the word rape meant, but I knew from the tone of his voice, like the voice of Satan himself, that this was bad. The scars from this summer remain, with multiple facets to the enduring trauma, and I’m almost 50 now. 

I think my inner child spoke Thursday morning. She’s had enough. And this is why I’m sharing. 

I’ve thought a lot about the ruling in Texas. My heart aches for girls and women who are raped, and yes, this includes those who are coerced into having sex. Those who endure this trauma and end up pregnant and under this law will experience continued trauma upon trauma at the hands of the State of Texas, as there are no exceptions to the new law for cases of rape or incest. 

Then my mind goes back to 9 year old me. I’ve often pondered the what ifs of my situation, even before this law was passed. What if I had been on the cusp of starting my period? (Which, by the way, I didn’t know what that was at that age. I do know that some of the girls I went to church with had already started by that age, and this is only because I figured out much later why they wouldn’t go swimming at church camp.) What if I hadn’t known to kick him where it counts? What if he was able to penetrate me and get me pregnant? What would I have done? I wouldn’t have even known what to look for or that the act could have impregnated me. That’s how naive I was. 

What if 9 year old me lived in Texas, in 2021? And all of these previously mentioned what ifs actually occurred? Would my tiny body be forced to carry out a full term pregnancy and give birth? A process that I didn’t even fully understand? I mean, pregnancy at 27 and 30 was challenging enough, and I truly love and wanted my children. But I can’t imagine going through it as a child. I can’t imagine carrying the spawn of a rapist. I can’t imagine the hatred, the rage, the disgust I would feel wearing the badge of his triumph over me in my belly, for everyone to see and shame me for. How trapped I would feel in a situation completely beyond my control When it comes down to it, society will never shame the rapist. They always shame the victim. Even a child. 

What if this happened, and my family figured it out in time, and then decided to take me across state lines to get an abortion, to spare my body from the physical and emotional trauma of carrying out the pregnancy of my rapist? Would vigilantes be able to bankrupt my family because they helped save my life? 

This law will spread like a malignant tumor among conservative states. Similar laws are already being drafted in Florida. If politicians can circumvent law this way, what will be on the agenda next? So much for the separation of church and state. And there are credible claims that men are already trying to figure out how to get women pregnant and profit from their situation. I fear for the rights of my teenage girls. I’m so sad that this is the world in which they are coming of age. 

Please help me understand why any of this is ok. Because my 9 year old inner child is petrified. 

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One of every six females in the United States has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. For the referenced claim about men profiting from the new law, see @tizzyent on Instagram. Pandora’s Box has been opened in Texas. It’s time to speak up. Write to your senators and congressmen. The perspective I shared about this ruling is just one reason why I oppose this law. And there’s so much more that SHOULD be done if we want to reduce abortion rates that is NOT being done, like restoring mandatory insurance coverage for birth control and providing comprehensive sex education, to name just two. This law isn’t about saving lives. It’s about controlling women and girls. 

If you are anti-choice, I hope you will at least hear the fears of my 9 year old inner child. Try to imagine what her life would have been like if all of the what ifs had played out, and ask yourself if you think it’s fair. Ask yourself if you would allow that to happen to your own little girl. Ask yourself how the child of a rapist would feel if they discovered their truth. Ask yourself if that seems like a good life, to know that yours began as a violent act against a girl. Despite what some evangelical scholars preach, it’s not a sin to feel empathy. It’s human. 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Easy BBQ Jackfruit

Do you love BBQ? It’s a favorite for my family. But since I’m the lone vegan, I make my own. I even make my own coleslaw, and then we have shared sides. Jackfruit itself is an intimidating item, but buying it canned really simplifies this dish. It took me a couple of tries to get this right, but adding the sliced onions really boosts the flavor. Simmering the jackfruit long enough to break it down makes a big difference in the texture, giving it a stringy, chewy, yet tender bite similar to, well, slow cooked BBQ!

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil 
  • 1 onion, peeled, cut in half, then thinly sliced
  • 1 can Trader Joe’s jackfruit in brine, drained
  • Your favorite vegan BBQ sauce (I like Stubbs spicy)
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. 
  • Add in the sliced onion, salt to taste, and saute until they start to brown. 
  • Add drained jackfruit, stirring to combine with onions.
  • Pour ½-¾ cup of BBQ sauce over the mixture, stirring to combine.
  • Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Uncover, stirring to break up pieces of jackfruit. 
  • Serve on a bun with vegan coleslaw! (recipe follows)
Cooking he onions
After adding the jackfruit and BBQ sauce
After breaking down the jackfruit

Vegan Coleslaw:

I don’t really follow a recipe for this, but generally I divide a pack of pre-cut coleslaw cabbage into 2 portions, ⅔ for regular slaw for my family, and ⅓ to make vegan slaw for me. To the cabbage I’ve reserved for my vegan slaw, I mix in 1T spicy mustard (dijon or brown work equally well), 2T apple cider vinegar, a healthy dash of seasoned salt, and enough vegan mayo to make it the desired consistency, usually about ⅓ cup, give or take. 

Leftovers are easy to store in the fridge for up to a week and reheat later!

Have you ever tried making BBQ jackfruit? If you try my recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Post pics and tag me @annecreates on Instagram! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Ashland Half Marathon Race Recap

Formerly the Patrick Henry Half Marathon, this annual event hosted jointly by Sports Backers and the Richmond Road Runners Club is notorious for the brutal weather conditions that are August in Virginia. One year, they ran as the outer bands of Hurricane Irene struck Richmond!

As its name indicates, this race is run in Ashland, Virginia, through many streets I either run on or drive frequently. It’s a fairly small race, and begins and ends on the campus of Randolph-Macon, winding through quaint streets of the town and into the farmland of Hanover County. There’s even a stretch that bikers love since they can practice hills (also mile 11 on the course). 

The last time I ran this race was in 2016, when conditions were so poor weather wise, I swore I’d never run it again. Naturally, each year since, we seemed to get an unusually cool day for August for this race. This year, I broke my word. Peer pressure is a dangerous thing, people! Most of my fellow Pink Nation coaches were running, and admittedly, I was tempted because of the new rebranding! So it seemed that half marathon 11 would be the inaugural running of the Ashland Half. 

Race morning, I woke up at 3:38am. My alarm was set for 4! So be it. It was time to get up and ready. Getting to the race early was important because the coaches set up canopies for our tailgate after the race! And, as luck would have it, it was my turn to give the benediction before the race (this is what we call our motivational speech pre-run, that is a Pink Nation tradition!)

Photo courtesy of Maria Quintas-Herron

Here’s what I said:

“As promised, since I signed up to run this race with you, we are in for a day that’s sure to be as hot as the surface of the sun. You’re welcome. 

Seriously, though, I’m sure you all are feeling a mix of different emotions today! BECAUSE IT’S RACE DAY!!!

BREATHE. RELAX. We can do this!

If you are feeling nervous, this is good. It means that you care. Use this energy to fuel your race today. We will face the excitement of this challenge together. 

I’m quoting Alexi Pappas, professional runner and Olympian, from her book Bravey today. If you haven’t read this yet, you really must. It’s my new favorite book about running and life!

About nerves, Alexi says:

“Nerves are cousin to excitement and excitement is cousin to gratitude. Pay attention to your nerves: If you feel nervous, it’s a sign that a Very Big Thing is unfolding. Be nervous for how good that thing can be.”

Alexi Pappas, Bravey

About the pain of racing, Alexi offers this advice:

“Racing is about understanding that pain is a sensation but not necessarily a threat, and if you continue to put one foot in front of the other you will break through your rough patch.”

Alexi Pappas, Bravey

And about persistence, Alexi says:

“Grit is what’s left over when nothing’s left.”

Alexi Pappas, Bravey

So let’s take some quick lessons from Alexi. Nerves are good. When the race gets painful, just concentrate on one foot in front of the other. And when you feel depleted as this race, heat, and humidity unfold, remember that you have grit. Remember your why. You are trained, and you are ready. Be brave. We can do this!

ALL GO! NO QUIT! COWBOY UP!!!

(The last bit we say together as a team!)

With the Ashland Half starting 30 minutes earlier with 3 ½ hours to run the race, I felt a bit of relief as we set off from the start line. My last half was 3:20. Granted, this was the Blue Ridge Half Marathon, which climbed 2 mountains, but I was still sort of concerned. 

The first half of the race was pretty smooth. We ran around the town of Ashland, which is fairly flat. Then we made our way to the hilly, country roads. I had prepared myself mentally for the worst part of the race for me, which is running down Yowell: a very hilly farm road with no shade. I’ve definitely struggled here before! But this time, it didn’t seem so bad. 

Proof that this road exists…

The race changes when we turn onto route 666, affectionately referred to as the “devil’s road.” Yet another twisty, turvy country road, which leads to even more twisty turvy country roads… and suddenly you are at mile 10, approaching the long hill that is mile 11 of the course. I was thrilled to see Lisa and Kelly, the only two Pink coaches not running the race. What a welcome sight to see their smiling faces and hear their words of encouragement!

And then, just like that, we were up the 3 hills of mile 11, and there was only 1 mile left of the race. It was so brutally hot and relentlessly sunny at this point. I was grateful that mile 11 was mostly shaded. I had already taken quite a few walk breaks by this stage of the race, as had most of the runners in my company. But I was pleasantly surprised to look down at my watch as I made my turn back to the campus of Randolph-Macon and realized that not only would I finish in less than 3 hours, I would finish in less than 2:50!

Yeah, I did strip down to my sports bra. It was so hot, I didn’t care!

Our Pink Nation coaches ran in the final participant to finish together. Another tradition. 

Would I run this race again? I don’t know. If I don’t sign up, we will have one of those special, unusually cool August days with clouds and a nice breeze! I am beginning to think that my participation curses the weather for this race!

Bad things about this race? The weather, of course. And midway through the run, my Nathan hydration belt pocket split in 2 places at the seam. I spent a fair bit of energy worrying that I would drop my sport beans or my phone!

My hydration belt pouch split at the seam.

Good things about the day? It was a race. In person. It was very well organized, as both Sports Backers and the Richmond Road Runners are pros. The race was just a few miles from my house on roads I run frequently. Hearing the sound of runners striking the pavement at the beginning of the race before everyone spread out was amazing, and a sound I didn’t realize I missed. Seeing friends on the course was equally amazing, as one part is an out and back. Other friends were course marshaling. Having the support of coaches who weren’t running this race was so nice. Seeing their happy faces and hearing their cheers was definitely refreshing as we headed into the series of hills at mile 11! And having the coveted bling and swag of the inaugural Ashland Half!

Some of our team who ran Saturday. Photo courtesy of Emily James.

Do you like running smaller races? Have you run any in person races this year? Do you have any recommendations for hydration packs or belts, since it looks like I’ll need to replace mine? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Here we go again…

Well, I knew it was coming. I just really wish it hadn’t. As I predicted, we are back to wearing N95 masks all day in patient care areas in my hospital. Sigh. The main difference this time is that we actually have adequate PPE to protect everyone. Gone are the days of recycling N95 masks, thankfully. 

The particular kind of mask we wear to protect everyone from the spread of the new Delta and other potential variants of Covid is a KN95, a non-fit tested N95 mask. Also known as a “duck bill” mask, due to its appearance. I had issues last time wearing these because they kill my nose, especially when doubled with goggles. We now have lighter weight, disposable goggles that help, but it still hurts. It’s been 6 days, and I’ve already got a bruise on the bridge of my nose. The straps are tight, and will often cause a headache. But this is life now. 

In a KN95 mask with new goggles with built in bifocal readers.

My alternative? I can wear a fit tested N95 instead. It’s the next level after the KN95. This one is more comfortable in some ways, less in others. I have less room under this mask, since it kind of fits like a suction cup. My problem last time with these is that the corners of my mouth actually broke down, cracked, and bled from the deep wounds created over time. With little relief, I kind of had to put up with it. Eating became a chore. It simply hurt to do so. The marks from the straps of these last for hours. 

But, here we are. I’m certainly not going to avoid wearing these since my risk of exposure to the virus is fairly high, even when I’m not on a Covid unit. For now, most of my work has been with patients without active cases of Covid, but you never know if or when the next outbreak will strike. This is our best protection.

Since goggles aren’t going anywhere either, and because Covid can infect you through your eyes, I finally broke down and ordered a pair of my own with flexible temple bars and built in bifocal readers. It’s been challenging doubling up goggles and reading glasses!

I’m just sending this out into the world so that those who don’t work in the healthcare environment can realize just how annoying the things we do to protect our patients and each other can be, even if you aren’t on a Covid unit. These measures go way beyond what is traditional in healthcare. I truly don’t blame colleagues who have left the hospital setting. It’s just tough. Really tough. Because on top of the daily personal struggles of doing my job with extra PPE, even in non-Covid areas, we continue to deal with patients who don’t think masks work and believe in conspiracy theories. And then we go into the real world, and it’s a struggle not to confront every senseless person you encounter. It’s wild. 

However, I will keep doing all the things to protect myself and others. I love my job. I love my patients. And I will be there for you, even if you don’t trust science and end up with Covid. I just might see you in inpatient rehab to help you get your life back. 

In other news, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the FDA. I hope that people on the fence about getting the vaccine will reconsider. I’m looking forward to getting a booster dose of this next month, as I have lost count of my friends and colleagues who have fallen ill with Covid who are fully vaccinated. I’m staying masked in public, indoor spaces, and will continue to do so even after the booster. It’s the right thing to do. 

Currently in the state of Virginia, we have a 9.9% positivity rate. My hospital is out of Covid beds. Our ICU is also full. It’s like we are back to square one. 

Your healthcare providers are so over this virus. Please, please, please, do what you can to keep you, your family, and your neighbors safe. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Shoe Review: The Hoka One One Clifton 8!

It’s that time in fall marathon training season already that I need new shoes! To be fair, I bought my last pair of Clifton 7’s before both of my spring half marathons. So, I had already reached almost 300 miles on them! My body and feet were beginning to complain with every run. That’s when you know that it’s time for an upgrade.

Thankfully, the new version of my favorite shoe is out. I’ve been in the Hoka Clifton since the 2’s debuted! The Clifton has certainly gone through an evolutionary process over the years. Just look at this picture of the 6, 7, and 8 side by side. The tongues get thicker, and the pull tabs get longer. I think the 8 is the best version yet!

From left to right: the Clifton 6, 7, and 8

I’ve now run in these twice: once on the treadmill, and once on the road. First impression? Very responsive and well cushioned! I love the upgrade to the uppers, especially the extra cushioning on the tongue. Sometimes I will have pain on the top of my foot from my shoes, and this will definitely help that problem.

Per the Hoka website, the upgrades from the Clifton 7 include: 

  • – Breathable mesh upper
  • – Gusseted tongue
  • – EVA foam
  • – Early stage Meta-Rocker
  • – Extended pull tab
  • – Upgraded midsole

I can tell you that my feet were very happy on my 10 mile training run last weekend! If you’re a Hoka fan, I highly recommend these shoes! If you’re looking for a change or a different model of shoe to mix into your regular rotation, give these a try. And, in case you needed more of a reason to try these, there’s quite a Hoka fan club in the hospital where I work. There’s a reason for that! They make outstanding work shoes if you spend lots of time on your feet like we do in healthcare.

Paired with my favorite Balega socks.

Have you ever run in Hokas? What’s your usual shoe brand if not? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

I’m Published!

A few months ago, the editor of Miles and Minutes, the quarterly magazine of the Richmond Road Runners Club, reached out to their members for content. They were specifically looking for race recaps, etc. to wax nostalgic about what running a race in person was like. I volunteered my blog post about my last in person race, the Marine Corps Marathon in 2019. They published this in their spring edition!

Talking to the editor, she shared her ideas about a summer edition themed around training plans, etc., and was interested in hearing my perspective as a vegan runner. I was excited to work on a piece about this, and now I can share the results with you!

I’m so happy that many of my vegan running friends were able to contribute as well as a friend who is a newly registered dietician! I sent my out of town friends copies!

If you want to read my article, the link is here. There is a typo: there is a part which mentions protein intake in mg. That should be grams. Oh, well…

Thanks for reading. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.