Race Recap: The Cul-de-Sac 5k Series 

Just like the Ashland Half Marathon, this is another super hot summer race that I love to hate! And just like last year’s rebranding of the Patrick Henry Half to the Ashland Half made me sign up to run for the new swag, the promise of a pair of Goodr sunglasses was just enough temptation to  lure me in for this race series. 

This is an event that we strongly encourage our runners on our marathon training teams to participate in. It gives you not only the opportunity to get one of your 3 mile runs from the training schedule completed, but also some practice racing. This event typically attracts a few pretty talented athletes, too!

With my friend and Olympian, Maria Elena

Held on the first 3 Monday evenings in July, the Richmond Road Runners Club hosts this race series in the Wyndham neighborhood in Henrico County. As you can imagine, conditions are typically hot and humid, and may even be interrupted by thunderstorms. This year, we kind of lucked out. Conditions for the first two nights were really decent for Virginia summers! Low to mid 80’s with fairly low humidity. But the final night was brutal: 93 degrees with 50% humidity with a feels-like temperature of 102 degrees. Yikes!

Conditions at race time on the last evening as documented by my weather app!

Despite all of the challenges of this race, I managed to run all 3 nights without stopping to walk. I surprised myself! The course winds in and out 3 cul de sacs. I only see the leaders in that first loop. After that, they make so much headway, I never see them again. After navigating those, we traverse some long, gentle hills to make our way back to the start/finish at a local elementary school. 

Jeff Van Horn, one of the owners of Lucky Road Run Shop, greeting us with ice pops after the race.

At the finish, we were rewarded with fresh cut watermelon from Hanover Vegetable Farm, ice pops from Lucky Road Run Shop, cold towels, a cooling station, and Gratisfied bars. But the real reward came after running all 3 races. Those Goodr sunglasses were worth it! If you are an RRRC member, the series costs $20. The retail value of the glasses is $25! Since I have to get in a 3 mile run each of those weeks for marathon training anyway, it all worked out! Hoping next year’s swag is just as awesome!

With fellow Pink Nation coaches Chris, Dawn, and Malerie

Even with the heat and humidity, it was tons of fun hanging out with the Richmond running community! In fact, many of my friends ran the event virtually, and showed up in person to volunteer. (See… virtual races are a good thing!)

The race swag!

___________

Will I run this race series again next year? We shall see. It’s another event Richmond runners love to hate!

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

Magic Hour

Having a day off means I’m less motivated to wake up early to run in the summer. Regardless of the benefit of running early, sometimes before the sun rises, some days my body simply craves sleep. And so I listen. 

But on days that I do awaken to that pre-dawn alarm because I need to run before work or with my training team, I find that even though the temperatures are cooler, the humidity can be brutal in the summer. Something happens in the Virginia air at night to hold on to moisture; it can be so thick, every breath seems to knit a new stitch of a sweater lining your lungs. As if the air were a sponge, so saturated that you could wring out the water. The atmosphere is simply stagnant, and the only appreciable breeze is the one you create yourself.

Pausing for a selfie while running one of my favorite little trails!

Occasionally, like the other morning, I set out for a run in what seems to be the magic hour of summer. Sometime in the mid-morning, like 9:00ish, something happens. As the sun warms the air, it stirs the atmosphere, and winds finally begin to move. With temperatures still not blazing hot, the winds cut the humidity, and the cool and warm air masses start to have a conversation. 

As I seek the shade of the trails on my run, entering the woods seems to drop the temperature by at least 10 degrees. And as the conversation of the parts of the opposing air masses continue, I can feel the dance of the cold and the warm as they embrace each other, my skin being the beneficiary of this performance. It’s actually glorious. 

Despite my lack of discipline in forcing myself to wake up in the pre-dawn hours to complete my training runs, I can find the benefit of allowing a bit more sleep, finding peace in a later morning run before the heat really turns up for the day. 

If you are training for fall races, I hope it’s going well! Seeking the solace and relative cool in the shade of the trails is a great way to find a break from the heat. Happy running, friends!

__________

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? It’s most noticeable to me when I’m running on trails and in the woods. It’s such an amazing thing to take in!

With Keira D’Amato earlier this year.

I just watched the American women finish the marathon in the World Championships! Goose bumps, for sure. So excited for their 5th, 7th, and 8th place finishes! This includes Richond’s own Keira D’Amato! I had the pleasure of meeting her at our Richmond Road Runners Club banquet in May!

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

Lead artwork for this piece is my own.

Comfort Movies: Legally Blonde

Yes, I know. How ironic that a blonde would love this movie? Yet another underdog story, Elle Woods becomes the unlikely hero for underestimated women everywhere!

My friend Sarah and I can quote virtually every line from this movie, which we often did while on training runs during marathon season. They would come out of nowhere. “Oh my God! The bend and snap! Works every time!” “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” And especially pertinent right now: “And for that matter, any masturbatory excretions where the sperm was clearly not seeking an egg could be termed reckless abandonment!” It’s amazing what will entertain you on 16 mile training runs…

With my friend Sarah after running our first marathon together in 2014.

My favorite part of this movie, besides the gripping, triumphant court scene where Elle figures out the murder mystery, is the message it gives about women and what they tolerate from men. Yes, Elle initially begins law school to chase a boy, but she realizes she is worthy of more than he could give her anyway. And she is definitely worth more than her professor gave her credit for, too. 

I also love the moment when she realizes how powerful the law can be in helping those who need it. The moment she helps Paulette get her dog back? That’s when the light bulb turns on. That’s when she realizes that the law can be transforming, even if her use of the rules was somewhat questionable. 

I know that this movie seems frivolous. And on the surface, maybe it is. But beyond the fluff of a beautiful fashion diva are messages of the strength of friendship, of women helping women, and women realizing their own power. Never underestimate a “dumb” blonde. And never underestimate the power of women. 

___________

Do you love this movie, too? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

Fearless

As is tradition with my running team, the Pink Nation, we begin our weekly run with a series of announcements and then a motivational speech. Our benediction, so to speak. It is, after all, the Church of the Sunday Long Run! 

We try to include a quote from someone famous to emphasize a point, and borrow one of these words as the thing we chant together before we take off for our run. 

Yesterday, it was my turn. Given recent events in this country, I felt compelled to share a woman’s perspective on running and how this sport empowers us to do more than we ever thought possible. Here is what I said to my team: 

This is me leading the benediction last year before the Ashland Half Marathon.

Benediction 7/10/22

As the miles begin to ramp up into double digits this training cycle, the challenge may start to seem daunting, this process more difficult. 

Today, I’m drawing inspiration from the great Kathrine Switzer. She is more than just one of the first women to run the Boston Marathon. She is a pioneer in the running community, making this beloved sport accessible to women everywhere, of all abilities. 

Through her work with companies like Avon, Kathrine developed the concepts of modern races that we love so much. Things like medals just for finishing, porta-potties and water stops along race courses, and all the swag. 

But she also endured some pretty serious events in her personal life and persevered. You can read about it in her book, Marathon Woman.

I was privileged to meet her during the Marine Corps Marathon at mile 23 in 2019.

From left to right: me, Becky, Kathrine, and Patty at mile 23 of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2019.

Some famous quotes from Kathrine:

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

and

“When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying. They’re weeping for joy because running has changed their lives. They feel they can do anything.”

Kathrine still empowers women everywhere. She is, in her own words, fearless. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we can, and we will, do challenging things. 

On three. FEARLESS.

___________

If you are a runner, how have your experiences with this sport changed and empowered you? I’d love to hear about it!

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

Vegan Carrot Apple Cole Slaw

Are you looking for a more creative version of the traditional cole slaw? Something both sweet and tangy? With the crunch and sweetness of apple, the creaminess of the mayo, the bite of red onion and spicy mustard, and the acidity of apple cider vinegar, this is a tasty summer side dish and a great accompaniment to a wrap, sandwich, or jackfruit barbecue!

All ingredients prepped prior to mixing

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package shredded cabbage, preferably with red cabbage
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1 Apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt if desired

Directions:

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mayo, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and salt together to make the dressing.
  • Add all the other ingredients and mix.
  • Adjust seasonings as desired.
  • Serve immediately, or keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. 

*Note: If you can’t find the cole slaw mix that has red cabbage included, you can add shredded red cabbage to a regular mix. Trader Joe’s has the mix with red cabbage. I struggled to find this at Wegmans, but did find a regular mix plus a bag of just shredded red cabbage. 

___________

Do you love cold salads? This is a new one in my repertoire! If you make this, take a picture, post on Instagram, and tag me annecreates!

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

A Story about Chickens

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I used to keep chickens. I really enjoyed their company. It was partly because of my experience with them that I went vegan. 

When I first started keeping chickens, I was still eating them. My husband became heavily immersed in the CrossFit life, and he adopted a paleo diet. And since I didn’t eat red meat or pork, all we ever ate was chicken. So much chicken. And so I found myself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. Why did my backyard chickens deserve more respect, privilege, and autonomy than their cousins I purchased to cook? 

They are fascinating creatures, and the longer I had them, the more impressed I became with their level of intelligence, their personalities, how they looked out for each other, and the way they greeted me when I came home from work.

You know the labels on the egg cartons claiming that their hens were vegetarian fed? It’s a joke. I’ve never seen more organized hunting skills than that of my free ranging flock of chickens. The first time I noticed this, I had a rooster and 4 hens, and they were walking in circles, getting closer and closer together. Then I saw it: they were herding grasshoppers! I’ve also seen them fight over a green snake that they caught. And they loved it when I brought them grubs from the garden. No, chickens are definitely not vegetarians!

One of the best experiences I ever had with them was when one of my hens went broody. You see, if you have a rooster, you should assume that all of the eggs your hens produce are fertilized. In other words, they are embryos. But only when a chicken goes broody, that is, she chooses to sit on her fertilized eggs, carefully warming them and protecting them until they hatch, will these embryos become chickens. One of my girls did just this. I figured if any of my hens chose to be a mother, I’d simply let her. What a thing… to choose to be a mother.

Our baby chicks

The eggs hatched while we were on vacation, and our house sitter was amazing and wrangled them to safety, along with their mother, Francesca. She was the best mother! She taught them everything: how to eat and drink, how to preen, the joys of dust baths, and that unless I was bringing treats, they should not get near me! 

Chickens are absolutely lovely creatures; sentient beings who deserve freedom and respect. I never expected to love them as much as I did, but they taught me so much about why I shouldn’t eat their cousins. All living creatures deserve our respect. All living beings should have a say in what happens to their bodies. Otherwise, their sole existence is to serve someone else’s interests. If you don’t understand this concept, take some time to observe the creatures you take for granted. Really spend time with them. They will make you change your mind. 

Francesca with her babies.

___________

When we are thinking of Independence Day, we should consider the freedom of all creatures to live and make their own choices. 

The lead photo for this piece is of two of these baby chicks, all grown up. These were the last of my chickens, and once they passed, I did not keep any more.

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

Simple Air Fried Tofu

The air fryer is an appliance everyone should have in their kitchen. Mine is the Cuisinart that is readily available at Costco. Not only does it air fry, but it’s also a toaster, oven, and convection oven. We are on our second one. Our first lasted a few months past its third birthday. The warranty, of course, was 3 years. They just don’t make appliances to last anymore. Our quest to purchase a replacement was met with disappointment and an overwhelming number of choices. In the end, we decided to stick with what we know, with a nudge from a sale on Amazon during the height of pandemic lockdown. 

The model of air fryer I use.

Over the past year especially, as I’ve become more comfortable preparing tofu, I have finally perfected the process of air frying it. The first step is to choose extra or super firm tofu. The second step is to use a tofu press for 15 minutes or so to squeeze out excess water. The third is to cut the block into manageable chunks. I like to cut the block in half length and width wise, then in halves again until you have thin rectangles. The fourth is to coat the slices with soy sauce. 

I like soy sauce because it’s super salty and flavorful, and it easily soaks into the spongy tofu. It’s also a flavor that mixes well with other sauces. So even though you’ve created a base layer with an Asian flavor, you can layer on other flavors like BBQ sauce!

My Cuisinart air fryer/oven, tofu press, and a block of super firm tofu.

Here’s my basic recipe:

Air Fried Tofu

  • One block extra or super firm tofu
  • Soy sauce for marinating/flavoring

Method:

  • Press the block of tofu in a press if you have one. Otherwise, wrap in a paper towel, place on a plate, and weigh down with whatever you have, for 15 minutes or so. 
  • Remove from the press, and cut into rectangles. 
  • Coat with soy sauce on all sides. 
  • Spray your air fryer basket with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place your tofu slices into the basket that is nested in the oven tray. 
  • Fry at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. 
  • Serve in your favorite dish!
Finished tofu.

This is my prep method to use in ramen, for Asian stir fry, or to add to salads or assembled. bowls. Change the flavor by adding other sauces! BBQ and buffalo (vegan, of course!) work well!

Leftovers keep for up to a week refrigerated. I add the prepped tofu to salads cold, as bonus protein for rice or grits bowls warmed, or thrown into ramen toward the end of boiling the noodles!

Air fried tofu added to stir fry veggies and rice.

___________

For the record, I’m still upset with the state of my country.

Have you ever air fried tofu? I’d love to hear your method! If you try this, take a photo and tag me on Instagram @annecreates!

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

Burn the White Flag

Waking up to day 3 in a post-Roe America is surreal. I had another piece on this topic prepared for today, but it didn’t seem very cohesive, so I started again. Since Friday, I have felt so many different emotions: humiliation, panic, rage, numbness, complete and utter sorrow, and reliving my childhood assault once again. I knew this decision was coming, but I still wasn’t prepared for how I would feel. 

I’ve had some time and miles on my feet to think about all of this. I’ve had multiple conversations with my girlfriends. Collectively, we are not OK. 

You may think that day to day life for women won’t change; that nothing has changed. But events from this weekend reveal otherwise. I have been running with my marathon training team for 9 years. Routes are made to allow runners to see every part of the Richmond Marathon course. Never have I heard of our runners being heckled or harassed while out with the group. This weekend, there were several instances of this happening. Not just one. 

I helped one of our runners recover from her panic when this happened to her. If you have never been the victim of someone threatening to hurt you, do things to you that you didn’t consent to, try to follow you, you are lucky. The vulnerability you feel is supremely humbling and terrifying. You will never get a sense of safety back. 

Is it a coincidence that these instances of harassment toward some of our female runners happened this weekend, the very weekend after women’s rights to bodily autonomy were revoked? Maybe it’s just a construct of my own creation, but I really don’t think I’m overreacting here. It makes me feel as though some men feel entitled to our bodies now that the court revoked this right. I feel like I have a target on me. I feel like my daughters do, too. If this is our new life, I don’t want it. 

I’m having thoughts about wanting to make myself as small and as undesirable as possible. Maybe this is my reaction as a survivor of sexual assault, even though I was merely a child when this happened. But I’m contemplating giving up on wearing makeup, doing my hair, wearing anything that remotely clings to my body, or even shaving. These are among my plans to protect myself today. 

Another thought: What kind of protection do I need? I have pepper spray, but it’s a few years old. So I Googled “does pepper spray expire?” Yes, it does. So that will have to be updated. I’ll have to look into other means of distracting an attacker, because I’m not at all interested in carrying a gun. 

The thing is, violating our rights to privacy and bodily autonomy begins with overturning Roe vs. Wade. Begins. Keep in mind that the government has the right to access your medical records without consent. The next decisions based on the 14th amendment to be “reconsidered” will be: Griswold vs. Connecticut, which decided that married couples should have access to birth control. Loving vs. Virginia, which protects the rights of interracial couples to marry. Obergefell vs. Hodges, which protects the rights of gay couples to marry (this was a part of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, which also decided that separate but equal was not fair in Brown. Vs. Board of Education.) Well, women are no longer equal to men, and we no longer have rights to the most private part of our lives: our bodies. If SCOTUS can reverse this, everything else is on the table, too.

I made this piece when Kavanaugh was confirmed. Angry that an accused rapist was allowed such a precious seat of power in our country, this was the result. A woman, with the colors of opposing parties on either side, silenced. A flag stripped of color; shades of grey. A quote from one of my favorite songs.

If you think that the loss of these rights doesn’t affect you, maybe when SCOTUS starts to dismantle social programs like Medicare and Social Security, this will get your attention. These programs are not charity. They are entitlements we pay into. This is another pet project of conservative lawmakers. 

My mind continues to swirl down the rabbit hole of what comes next. I’m absolutely terrified for my young adult daughters. This is not the America I had envisioned for them. 

If you see things the way I do, I have no words to console you. I have no idea how to fix this. They say vote, but those in power are doing their best to dilute the influence of our voices. They say peacefully protest, but we’ve all seen the videos of peaceful protestors being thrown to the ground, violently attacked, and tear gassed. They say call your lawmakers, but the ones who most need to hear our thoughts and opinions are deaf to our concerns and fears. But I do know that we can’t give up. Apathy must die. And we cannot simply sit back as a passive observer to the fall of our democracy. America was never meant to be a theocracy, and that is where we are headed. We must act, and we must do it now. 

Voices closing in from all sides

Warning all the ways to die.

They say “you’d better give up. You’d better give up!”

I say, “I’ll never give up. I’ll never give up.”

I’ll be an army. No you’re

Not gonna stop me gettin’ through, ooh

I’ll sing a marching song and

Storm through the halls louder than you, ooh

I could surrender,

But I’d just be pretending. No, I’d

Rather be dead than live a lie.

Burn the white flag.

White Flag- Joseph

___________

Women are not OK. I hate to be put into the position to ask men for help, but we need your help. Since we are no longer equal citizens, we will need the help of our partners and friends who are to help us. It’s just the way it is. 

It isn’t lost on me that many American citizens have lived this existence of not truly having equal rights their entire lives. The heaviness of this new injustice is overwhelming. And I realize that what I feel is a tiny fraction of the burden that people of color or the disabled endure; that I will never really understand the full burden of inequality.

If you are of the camp of “if you don’t like it here, leave,” let me tell you the story of how my ancestors arrived in these United States. My people settled in what is now Richmond, VA, in the community of Manchester, in 1610. My family was among the original colonists. There’s a whole other layer of reconciling what they may have done to the true owners of this land, our Native Americans, but I will never know that story. But you can’t tell me that my roots don’t run deep enough to “belong” here. If you are not a Native American, you are an immigrant in the United States. Period. That’s right. This is NOT a white, Christian nation. The colonists stole it. 

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

Sometimes it’s the little things…

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been working a lot of hours in a different department at my hospital. I’m normally in inpatient rehab, but I’ve been spending a lot of time in acute care. It’s a great change of pace, and the crew in that department is super helpful and so friendly!

The other day, the manager of that department bought cupcakes for a birthday celebration for the whole office. I’m normally left out of these celebrations, even for my own birthday, because I’m vegan. But today was different. 

I walked into the office after finishing patient care so I could document, and there were a few boxes from Frostings, a local bake shop in Short Pump. The acute care manager told me she bought a special cupcake just for me! I nearly cried. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I was so grateful!

Maybe a cupcake isn’t a really big deal, but when you hardly ever have anything special provided for you during office celebrations, it really does mean something. My manager might have made my week. 

Sometimes joy in life really is about the small things. 

___________

Has anyone unexpectedly gone out of their way to do something small, but significant for you? I’d love to hear about it!

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

Vegan Overnight Oats

Now that summer is here, it might be nice to have some cold breakfast meals that don’t include cereal that comes from a box! As a vegetarian, I used to make overnight oats frequently in the warmer months, and so I decided to veganize my basic recipe, with a few add ins!

The new additions? Chia seeds, which boost both protein and omega-3’s, and hemp hearts, which are also a great source of omega-3’s. Both add texture and help improve the creaminess of this dish.

Now that I’ve had these a few times and with a few different versions, I’m ready to share my recipe!

Ingredients for overnight oats.

Vegan Overnight Oats

Prepare in 2 cup containers or a mason jar with a lid:

⅓ cup rolled or quick oats

1 T chia seeds

1 T hemp hearts (optional)

¼ cup (2-3 T) vegan yogurt (I like Trader Joe’s cashew yogurt or Kite Hill)

⅓ cup plant based milk (I like Silk 10g protein milk to boost the protein content)

Toppings of your choice.

Great topping options?

  • Fruit compote (I often have leftovers if I make pancakes)
    • This is simply a mix of frozen or fresh berries, juice of a lemon, and sugar (brown or white), cooked on the stovetop until thickened. Kind of like a quick, syrupy jam!
  • 1 T peanut butter and a generous drizzle of vegan chocolate syrup (Hershey’s Simply 5 is vegan). Add sliced banana just before serving if desired!
  • 1 T jam with fresh or frozen fruit (frozen actually works well for this!)
  • 1 T brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 T maple syrup. Add raisins, too, if desired!

Mix, cover, and store overnight or up to 5 days for a ready to eat breakfast that is healthy and filling!

Chocolate peanut butter!

___________

Have you ever tried overnight oats? If you try my recipe, take a photo, post on Instagram, and tag me @annecreates!

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