Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Will Not Quit...and a recipe for Couscous

Last Saturday I ran the Midsummer Night's Run 15k race. The bulk of the run takes place in Tommy Thompson Park: a peninsula that juts out into Lake Ontario just east of Toronto's downtown core. Athletes run out along the peninsula, turn around at the tip, and then run back to the shore just as the sun is setting, thus offering the most spectacular view of the city. Combine that with the fresh lake air, the forest, and my fellow runners dressed up with glitter and fairy wings, and you get my most favorite race to run.

Unfortunately, in the 10 years I've been running, it is also the worst race I have ever run. So bad, in fact, that it's been over a week and I still have no desire to check my official race time. Something I normally do the second I get home.

It' not that I wasn't physically ready for the race. I've been pretty consistent with my training and was more than ready to conquer the distance. I was well rested, hydrated, and had been eating smart all day. And it's not that I wasn't mentally ready; all day I had my usual race day happy butterflies dancing in my tummy. And it's not that I didn't have the support of my friends and family that I've come to rely on; my husband and daughter were cheering me on and I was surrounded by three good friends and fellow runners on the start line.

It was just that for some reason, at the 10k mark, my body, or more specifically my gut, just decided that it just didn't feel like running anymore. Now, normally at this point in a race, my mind has slipped into the euphoria that I call my runner's trance and no matter what my body is screaming, I just don't seem to feel it. I know there is more than one fellow runner out there who knows what I'm talking about. This...trance-like state has allowed me to run through a stress fracture in my ankle during my first half-marathon, a sever IT band injury during the New York Marathon, and freezing, driving rain during a fall race in upstate New York.

Unfortunately, unlike all of those other races, this time, my mental stamina was no match for my stomach cramps. Thus, what looked like a record-breaking personal best for the first 10k turned into a disappointing turtle-like run/walk combo for the final 5k. At one point, I even felt like flagging down a medic and walking off the course. But like karmic clockwork, Blackbird by the Beatles shuffled onto my running mix, I was reminded of my niece, Hope, and I knew I couldn't quit. Very slow and not at all steady, I finished the race.

Within 20 minutes of finishing the race, the last of my adrenalin had worn off and I was feeling beyond awful. Like "please don't make me talk and I need to sit down immediately" awful. I somehow made my way home, up to my room, and into the shower. Later in the evening, as I lay on my couch, watching TV and nibbling on saltines, I emphatically decided that I was through with running. All that training: the early mornings, the strategic eating, the hours spent running when I could be doing something else. And for what? A seemingly unavoidable crappy finale? Forget it. I'll just concentrate on speedwalking and yoga...activities that are probably more "suitable" for a woman my age.

I was so sure of my decision that when I went away a couple days later, I didn't even bother bringing my running gear with me. This might seem weird to you, but I always bring my running gear with me-whether it's for running on a treadmill in the tiny gym of a roadside motel or the cobbled streets of Pisa at sunrise.

For three days, I had such an amazing time hiking, doing treetop trekking, and so many other physical activities, that I didn't missing running for one second. I felt good about quitting. But then, on the last day, I was scrolling through Instagram, and I saw this quote:

And just like that, I started running again.

I may not ever be as fast as I want to be. I probably will get injured again. I probably will run another crap-tastic race. But I will also probably run another great race. Heck, I may even run another marathon!

As long as my mind and body will let me run, I will run.

I will not quit.

Thanks, Me. I needed that little pep talk. Now, let's go for a run!

P.S. The best part of last week's race day was my prerace meal. It's not rocket-science food, but it's super-quick, super-healthy, and darn good.

15k Couscous

1 cup Israeli couscous (I love this mix  I bought at Costco that also include quinoa and beans)
1 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, and chives
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
3 cups chopped hearty greens (I used Swiss chard but you could also use kale or spinach)
1 tbsp. olive oil
s & p to taste

1. Cook couscous according to directions on the package. I like to use vegetable stock instead of water for added flavor.
2. While the couscous is cooking, put the herbs and greens in a large bowl. Chop the tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl, juices and seeds (while a lot of recipes tell you to discard the seeds, my daughter loves their tangy flavor and I love the fact that they've got tons of vitamin C)
3. After you've fluffed the couscous (this step will become clearer once you read the instructions for cooking couscous) but before it's had a chance to cool, dump it on top of the veggies. Let sit for about 5 minutes, just enough time for the couscous to slightly cook the greens and cool off enough to add the olive oil. If you add the olive oil to steaming hot pasta, it with suck it up like a sponge and defeat it's purpose of preventing big clumps.
4. Mix well and season to taste.
5. Let rest for at least 10 minutes so the flavours can come together. It tastes even more amazing after sitting in the fridge overnight.


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