Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Digest of Amazing Stuff You Should Try

This week is the week! The big race is on Sunday! Since I'm tapering my workouts, my brainpower also seems to be in taper-mode. Therefore you get a digest of cool stuff to read/eat/run. After the race and a week in Yosemite with my husband-of-soon-to-be-five years, I will blog about the San Francisco experience. AND I will make another major running-related announcement. But you'll have to wait until August 7th!

So until then, enjoy some reading, some recipes, and some workouts!

What you should read:

The op-ed by Vanessa Cullins on the shocking reality that birth control is not covered by many women's insurance: Make Birth Control Affordable

The op-ed by Mark Bittman on why junk food should be taxed and healthy food made cheaper: Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables

What you should make to eat (no cooking involved!)

chickpea, cherry, ginger, and orange salad
This is quite possibly the best cold salad I have ever made and ever eaten. It is fantastic! And easy! And so good for you! I got the recipe from Runner's World "Don't Cook Now" (the crab and lentil with greek yogurt is tasty too!):

Chickpea, Cherry, and Ginger Salad
Tart cherries are teeming with nutrients that aid in recovery by reducing muscle damage. Chickpeas supply a trio of carbs, protein, and iron, "a mineral needed to carry oxygen to muscles," says sports dietitian Tara Gidus, R.D. A study from two Georgia universities found compounds in ginger can reduce muscle pain postexercise by decreasing inflammation.

ASSEMBLE: Combine 2 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, 1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, half a red onion (diced), 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 2/3 cup each chopped pecans and dried tart cherries, 1 minced jalapeno, 1 cup chopped parsley, and 4 ounces feta. Whisk together 2 tablespoons each apple-cider vinegar and olive oil; add salt and pepper. Pour over chickpea salad and mix well.

And finally, What you should do: Here are a couple of workouts to run this week or file away to do the week before your next race. I got these from the October 2010 Runner's World article Get Sharp! I love the marathon "tune-up"! It feels so great because it feels so easy. Even with a dewpoint of 78 at 7 a.m. (I did my track workout today instead of Monday).

Monday: Run a mile at 10-K pace. Recover for five minutes, then run 1200 meters at two seconds faster per 400 than 10-K pace. Recover for four minutes, then run 800 meters at four seconds per 400 faster than 10-K pace. Recover for three minutes, then run 400 meters at six seconds faster than 10-K pace per 400.

Wednesday: Two-mile marathon-pace run

Check back August 7th for the post-race run-down and where Heartland's Harrier is going from here!

I'm on a cold salad kick! Two more that are tasty and easy to make:
Summer Farmer's Market Quinoa Vegetable Salad
Mix together:
~2 c. cooked quinoa
1 can sliced black olives
1.5 c. blanched broccoli florets
3/4-1 c. blanched green beans, chopped
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3-1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese (I used bleu parm from Acoustic Farms)
1 tbs olive oil
1-2 tbs salad vinegar
salt and pepper

pretty much everything except the quinoa and dressing came from the farmer's market!

Quinoa Cranberry Pecan Salad
Mix together:
2 c. cooked quinoa
2 sticks celery, washed and chopped
3/4 c. pecans, chopped
1 c. dried cranberries
3 tbs raspberry vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
feta or goat cheese if you have it!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Real Women Don't Fake It

I was struck this week by two news items concerning women's sports. These were hidden among the reports of squabbles broadcast from Washington and the ethically dubious and illegal activities undertaken by Rupert Murdoch's employees to garner paying audiences for his t.v. and newspaper empire. Entertainment under the auspices of "reportage" is in fact the premise of my book Early Modern Dutch Prints of Africa, but that's another story (four-hundred years old, no less). With all these, money is the bottom line (pun intended).
 The Women's World Cup is top of mind for many Americans. Certainly, the fact that the U.S. team will be playing against Japan in the championship match has increased the ink spilt on this under-reported sport in the U.S. It was of course, a similar situation in 1999--the U.S. women's team beat China in a shoot-out, culminating in the iconic photo most older than 25 probably still remember:

Chastain's euphoric reaction upon kicking the winning shot past China's goalie showed the world not only the physical strength of women athletes, but the emotional release after the grueling mental strength required to compete at that level. Despite the U.S. Women's victory in 1999 and the 2011 team's ascent to at least second place, not much has changed in the realm of women's professional sports. This disinterest by Americans in women's athletics extends to collegiate sports, where money is the elephant in the room. Even while colleges are legally obligated to create level playing fields for men and women (pardon the pun), The New York Times reported today that many community colleges across the nation are in violation of Title IX, ostensibly because of being cash-strapped. The Times reported that women make up more than two-thirds of students at Los Angeles Southwest community college  but less than a quarter of its athletes. Their only option to play is on the basketball team. Most shocking is that while the college’s athletic director acknowledged that his program is most likely violating federal law by failing to offer enough roster spots to women, he suggested that the reason there are so few female players was because "many of the female students are also juggling jobs and child care, and do not have time to play sports." 
This is quite possibly true. But that doesn't relieve these colleges of the obligation to provide equal athletic opportunities. Indeed, if I were juggling job, school, and babies, I'd relish an opportunity (and excuse) to get away in a physical activity just for me. If creating equal opportunity means providing daycare--so be it! Another athletic director at a community college in the Bronx makes this plain: “People who say they can’t find students who are interested or they can’t recruit, it sounds very much like what I heard 30 years ago, 40 years ago in the 1970s. . .That’s the reason for Title IX, so there can’t be an excuse to not give opportunities.”
Still money--or lack of it--definitely separates mens and women's athletics at all levels. Despite the U.S. soccer team's dominance, they and their players remain mostly anonymous (I can't name one!) at the same time that men's professional football and basketball players are bitterly negotiating for the share of the profits they think they deserve. I honestly have not been following the lockout at all (because I don't care), but I do think it worth mentioning so to put in high relief the accomplishments of the women soccer players. As of yet, their sport remains mostly uncorrupted by the money and ego that seems to pervade men's professional athletics (and politics). It was very interesting to read in the Times the other day that  there is a definite gendered tack to dramatics on the pitch. Men flop. Women "simulate" injury half as much. The researcher suggested that one reason the men flop may be because of the "greater visibility and higher financial stakes in men's soccer" (don't forget in other countries, men's soccer is the most popular sport). The other reason he suggested was the greater speed and forceful contact men bring to the game. It is hard for me buy (ha! third pun! Look at how our language reflects the cultural importance of the dollar too!) the second explanation if women like Chastain are playing equally fit elite women athletes. 
I do not think this needs to be a male/female issue. What irks me is that it has become one because of the ego and greed in which we, as fans/constituents are complicit. We have set up and perpetuate an athletic (and political)  system that rewards ego and showmanship, even if the "entertainment" factor is not ethically role-model worthy. Still, the U.S. women's love of the game is refreshing. Perhaps a U.S. victory over Japan is just what this country needs during these increasingly polarized political times. Indeed, both teams competing tomorrow provide exempla of women's ability to persevere over adversity. As the current debate between the President and members of congress frustrate and divide our nation, Japan's earthquake and tsunami required their citizens to unite to help each other. Would that our elected politicians played as a team with a common goal, rather than holding out for their own benefit. 
I'm looking forward to watching tomorrow's game, and celebrating women's athletics, whichever team wins the match.

ADDENDUM Sunday, July 17:
Holy cow, great game Japan wins in penalty kicks. And even more interesting--and scary-- is the Times article about the High-Roller FIFA men

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Orb of Death or Swamp of Despair? Hazards of Summer Running

Yesterday, my brother, with whom I will be running the San Francisco marathon, emailed to tell me he successfully finished his 22 miler, but that "the Death Orb made the last 3 miles or so pretty unpleasant."

He is training in Sacramento, where the "Death Orb" does indeed, create a running hazard during the summer if one is not careful to avoid its violent rays. In the midwest, the hazard is double: the glowing fireball heats up air saturated with moisture to create swampy conditions that on long runs lead to Inferno-like despair. My long run on Friday ended inside on the treadmill. I sweat buckets, even though when I began at 5:20 a.m., it was 70 degrees. I made it 12 miles outside, but had to do the last six inside with the a/c. 

The conditions have been like this all weekend. I am a weather freak when it comes to training, constantly checking the radar and watching the forecast. I do so in order to plan long runs for the least horrible conditions (or: best conditions possible). Friday was supposed to be the cooler of the three weekend days, but clearly temperature doesn't matter. What matters when the conditions are so poor is mental distraction from physical discomfort. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating ignoring signs of serious conditions like heat stroke or dehydration. Not at all! Rather, I'm reveling in the ways we can use sociability to better our mental state. Today I ran 10 hilly miles in Minneapolis with some of the wonderful women from the USATF team Mississippi River Road Runners. It was 79 degrees and sunny by the end, and throughout it was like running through a cloud: sometimes misty, sometimes the sun shining, all the time the air thick, our clothes, visors, and hair saturated. 

But the run today was so much better than my 18 miles alone! It was wonderfully distracting to run with an old friend from Carleton and two new friends from the team. I am a member in-absentia, but I am excited to continue racing this fall in the City of Lakes 25K and TC 10 mile with the MRRR team. It was great to hear about other folk's lives, careers, interests, racing stories, and running tips over the hour and half we ran together. 

Even if the weather outside is frightful, it's possible to adjust. Sometimes you put mind over matter and get out there, or go inside to just get it done, but sometimes you can call on a friend and find support simply in knowing you're sharing the unpleasantness together--be it virtually from across the country, or in real time. Either way, the paradox is that the shared battle is what makes it fun in the end.

ps--Shout out to those who donated to Planned Parenthood last week! I heard from a good friend and craazzzzy runner (Boston time: 3:03:34) from High School who donated an incredibly generous $100. Great reason to catch up! Hope to hear from some more of you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Unplanned Parenthood--kitten edition

We have now entered the month of the San Francisco marathon! The whole reason I started this blog! And of course, my hope was (and still is!) that folks who support my running and like my writing will donate to my cause: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Because we're entering the final stretch, I am renewing my call for donations with a blog about unplanned parenthood in our household. But before reading--or just after--please please please click on the link above and give-- $5, $10, $20 whatever you can afford. Every little bit counts.

We really didn't plan on this. I wasn't sure I wanted anymore kids. I'm so busy with work, and of course, marathon training takes time--I mean, I got up at 4:30 a.m. this past Wednesday to get in 22 miles before I taught at 9:50. So I've been telling everyone this was all my husband's idea. Which it was...except I guess it takes two. My husband had been talking about more kids (to play with our current pariah-child, Thea) for the last couple of weeks. He'd been searching around and making me look at pictures online, catching me when I said "oooh, so cute!" In the end, I saw the baby that needed a foster home. What the hey, I thought. We can do this. It's a trial run, just fostering. So I went to the shelter to pick up "Willa" (now known in our home as Skidmark). And of course I came home with two babies. In addition to Skidmark, the 4-week old baby, they gave me another 5-week old kitten who needed socializing (Oh sorry. Yes, we're talking cats and dogs here).
Grey Baby

Apparently Skidmark had come into the shelter with 18 other kittens who were so unhealthy and pathetic that they were put down. Skidmark alone was deemed "adoptable" because of her markings and personality. Grey Baby also was a lucky save. She came in as a stray, and because of her looks, she too was allowed to live and given the opportunity to become a socialized human companion.

This kind of favoritism is nothing new. Black dogs are less likely to get adopted than yellow labs or golden retrievers. Older cats are less likely to find homes than kittens. Special needs animals are even less likely to be adopted. And the same holds true for human young. Bob Barker always ended the Price is Right with a plea to spay and neuter pets. It's the responsible thing to do to keep pet populations down, and in the end, save animal lives. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that four million cats and dogs are put down every year. That is one fuzzy every eight seconds. The majority of these are offspring of humans' pets. Humans of course, have the mental faculties to choose whether or not and when to reproduce. But not every human being has the financial or educational resources to actualize their choice. Planned Parenthood doesn't tell people to not have kids or permanently sterilize anyone.  People aren't pets. But PP does provide the resources to help potential parents (ie: any fertile human being) make decisions that may keep unwanted babies from being made in the first place.

Grey Baby plays
Thus, last Monday Skidmark and Grey Baby entered our mostly quiet home. In the past week it has been so enriching to watch them learn and gain confidence. We've watched them learn to play by mimicking our actions. While Skidmark just wants a mom--she is constantly climbing all over whoever is around--Grey Baby hid for the first two days. Both babies came to us super hungry, which we put to our advantage. We fed them 3-4 times a day, and for Grey Baby, we would hold a fork with food on it and pet her while she ate. She began to play with us, but she was still wary of being touched. Skids on the other hand...she still can't get enough love.

Yesterday we went out of town for an overnight. When we came back, both babies were a little sick from some preventative antibiotics they have been taking. Skidmark earned her name doubly, and little Grey Baby had had explosive diarrhea around the bathroom where they are sequestered. We both felt like "real" parents when we arrived home to that scene around 11 pm and stayed up another two hours to clean them and comfort them after some serious baths and scrubbing. I cradled Grey Baby after she had been force-fed her meds and had her behind wiped. But when Grey Baby looked up at me with her big grey eyes, her total need and total trust was clear. She made no effort to leave my arms. And all day today, she, like Skidmark, has wanted to be with mommy. Maybe we'll end up being their "real" parents, maybe not. But I feel good knowing that we are helping them learn to trust and love people again.


Did you donate yet? If so, THANK YOU! If not, why not? Thanks!