Archive | January, 2012

Finally a dog race

22 Jan

The really cold temperatures eased enough for us to have our first sprint mushing race of the season today. The Alaska Dog Mushers Association schedules five early races as their Challenge Series, which is sponsored by Annamaet Petfoods, a.k.a the good stuff I feed my dogs and cats 🙂 These are basically preliminary races for folks to test out their dogs and gear. The race series was supposed to start in December, but we didn’t have enough snow for a race trail, so they’ve been postponed multiple times. Once we finally got enough snow, it was either too cold or there were issues at the Mushers Hall. The Challenge Series races are canceled if the temperature that morning is -25°F or colder. Championship races have no cold temperature cutoff. This morning it was only about -5°F so the race was a go. However the warm temperatures brought pretty good winds with them, so instead of straight-up being cold, we had wind chills between -20°F and -30°F. Not only was wind chill an issue, but the winds were blowing in parts of the trail.

Most folks opted not to race today, but my training partner really wanted to run the dogs so we “raced.” My team won the 6-dog class and her team won the 10-dog class. It’s easy to win when everybody else stays home 🙂 Only two other adult teams (both in the open class) and six junior musher teams raced. The wind was brutal in open areas but much of the trail was in the trees, so we had a pretty nice training run. The temperatures are supposed to drop again this week, so this might be the last run we get for a while.

Here’s what’s happened with the 100 Days Challenge:

  • Day 20: a late 30 minute treadmill workout as I predicted.
  • Day 21: Zumba with Phoebe. I really love going to these Zumba classes. Wish I had time to go to more. I heard a rumor that she’s going to add some earlier evening classes soon. That would be awesome!
  • Day 22: raced dogs then did some outdoor chores.

Pulled like taffy

19 Jan

Freshly squeezed: mammograms save lives t-shirtI had my first mammogram yesterday. I’d heard all sorts of stories about how painful a mammogram can be—they smoosh your boobs with a giant machine after all—so I was a little nervous. The technician joked that some people described the procedure as having their breasts “pulled like taffy.” Odd description, but, whatever. She was an awesome technician, especially for my first time: she explained how everything would work and thoroughly answered all my questions. She also let me see the images after she took each one. Very cool. I have to say, the whole thing really wasn’t bad at all. Sure, it was uncomfortable, but not particularly painful. The technician told me that the best way to get through the procedure was to stay relaxed and not tense up. She said that women who tense up often have the worst time with the procedure. Guess I stayed relaxed enough 🙂 Actually, the most painful part was at home later that evening. At the beginning of the procedure, the technician placed a small bandage with a bead attached across each nipple. The bead shows up on the mammogram and is used as a reference point. But later you get to rip the bandage off…ow, ow, ouch!

At the end, the technician told me that I might get called to come in for more tests since this was my first and sometimes the radiologist wants different views of the breast. She said I shouldn’t panic if I got called. If I didn’t get called by the end of Monday, it meant all was good and there was a letter in the mail telling me so. Our health care provider recently implemented a web-based system for communication with the doctors. Today I received a letter through that system that said (among other things):

No malignant calcifications or architectural distortion is suspected on this baseline examination.
IMPRESSION: No occult malignancy is suspected. Recommend annual screening mammography.

I didn’t realize breast cancer was caused by magic 😉 Seriously though, I’m glad all seems normal.

Here’s, the latest 100 Days Challenge rundown:

  • Day 18: 30 minute treadmill workout
  • Day 19: finally barely warmed up enough to run dogs so my training partner and I each took two teams out for a brief stretch

Tomorrow is going to be tricky. Work, then a quick errand, then home to get dogs to go to the holistic vet for chiropractic exams. It’s going to be late before I get a chance to do my 30 minutes. I hope I have the energy…

Currently craving: peanut butter granola

17 Jan

Specifically, I’ve been craving Erin Baker’s Peanut Butter Homestyle Granola. I can’t get enough of this stuff. I eat it with some milk for breakfast. I eat it straight out of the package as a snack. Unfortunately it’s not inexpensive and only comes in a 12 oz. bag, which doesn’t last me very long.

I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe that might satisfy my craving and was fairly easy/quick to make. I found a simple recipe for peanut butter granola by the Athlete’s Plate that looked promising. The ingredients are very similar between the two. I made some yesterday with a little modification: I added ground flax seed meal since there’s some in the Erin Baker’s variety and I had some on hand. That might have been a mistake as the flax seemed a bit more cooked than the rest of the granola. It’s good, but not Erin Baker’s good…yet. This recipe might need more peanut butter or another flavor. I also want to figure out how to end up with some clusters like the Erin Baker’s granola.

Peanut Butter Granola

My peanut butter granola.

Today was another crazy day where I ended up not getting my 30+ minute workout in until late. I took Piper back to the vet to check on her mouth; she still hasn’t seemed better since her surgery. Turns out she has dry socket. Yuck and ouch. I can empathize since that happened to me when I had my wisdom teeth out. So more antibiotics, twice-daily rinsing, another follow-up in 10 days, then another surgery to remove two more teeth. Poor Piper. She’s been amazing through all this. I just want her to feel better and happier again. I’m sure it doesn’t help that it’s still 40 below or so outside.

Here are the updates on my 100 Days Challenge:

  • Day 16: 30 minute treadmill workout
  • Day 17: still too cold to run dogs! Did the “Balance Ball Express” workout which was supposed to be three, 10-minute segments but was really four segments for a total of 38 minutes

Yes, those are minus signs

16 Jan

It’s been a cold, busy week that’s kept me from posting. But I have lots to catch up on 🙂

First a brief rundown of my 100 Days Challenge workouts:

  • Day 10: Ran dogs. Got to run two teams even!
  • Day 11: 30 easy minutes on the treadmill. So much going on that day that I didn’t get onto the treadmill until 7 PM (which is WAY late for me). But I got that 30 minutes in.
  • Day 12: Ran dogs. Good thing we ran today too—the temperatures dropped again that evening and have been too cold to run ever since.
  • Day 13: 30 minute treadmill workout.
  • Day 14: Sled dog race canceled because it was too cold (officially -44°F at the airport). Used the “free” time as an opportunity to finally try the full balance ball workout that came on a DVD with my stability ball. The “Total Body Balance Ball Workout” has 3, 20-minute segments (upper body, abs and core, and lower body)  that could probably be done separately if time crunched, but that’s supposedly what the express workout is for.
  • Day 15: back to Zumba with Phoebe. Almost didn’t go because it was -49°F at my house and vehicles would prefer not to run at those temperatures, but I really wanted some Zumba. It was a great class and I’m glad I went. Plus it was a little warmer in town.

It’s nice to hunker down at home when it’s really cold like it’s been. We’ve made a couple more recipes from our new Mark Bittman book. The White Bean Stew was awesome and super-easy. Crisp Tofu and Asian Greens in Peanut Sauce was okay, but seemed to me like it needed another flavor. Chris thought it was too peanut butter-y.

I’ve been experimenting with my smoothie recipe too. Here’s my current recipe:

  • 7 oz. package Fage Total 2% or 0% greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c. Silk Light Plain Soymilk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 c. frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 c. frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 c. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • generous sprinkle of cinnamon

I picked up some unsweetened vanilla almond milk to try instead of soymilk and we found a new frozen fruit mix, so those will be in my next iterations.

Now to get on the treadmill so I can report on day 16 in my next post 🙂

Options are good

9 Jan

Day 9 of the 100 Days Challenge: made myself do a 30 minute treadmill workout. I was tired this afternoon and the thought of skipping a workout today crossed my mind. But I’m determined to lose some weight and get myself in better shape, so I did it.

Today I had my first of six Individualized Health Planning sessions (IHPs) that I can do through work. This first session is where you set your goals and plans for attaining them. My main goals are to 1) improve my overall health and fitness, and 2) lose weight. My wellness consultant loved the idea of the 100 Days Challenge. When we talked about my plans for exercise, I realized that I now have lots of options: treadmill or other running, stability ball workout (with or without resistance or weights), running dogs, learning to skate ski and eventually skijoring with a dog, and Zumba. My next IHP session is in two weeks and we’ll assess how things are going with my exercise plan. I hope to report that I’m on Day 23 of the 100 Days Challenge 🙂

My diet is another aspect of my life that I’m working on: eating less, eating healthier, and eating better food. We recently purchased Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less at the recommendation of Chris’ brother. We like Mark Bittman‘s simple, healthy, quality recipes plus he’s a runner and contributor to Runner’s World.  I purchased many of his recommended pantry items over the weekend and tonight Chris made the first recipe: Potato Cumin Curry. It’s just potatoes, onion, curry powder, cumin, coconut milk, and chickpeas. It was quite easy and tasty. Looking forward to making more from this book.

Finally, thanks to the FitFluential twitter feed I discovered a new blog to check out with more healthy smoothie instructions and recipes. Woo hoo! More things to try!

Running dogs is exercise for me too

8 Jan

Oops. I missed a couple of days of posting. Did you miss me? 😉

I have not, however, missed my daily 30 minutes for the 100 Days Challenge 🙂

  • Day 6: It finally warmed up enough to run dogs, so that was my exercise for the day.
  • Day 7: More Zumba with Phoebe! Wish I could fit in more of these classes. They’re fun and a great workout.
  • Day 8: Ran dogs again. We were supposed to race, but the race got cancelled.

I’m not sure if everyone would, but I’m counting running dogs as exercise for me as well as the dogs. Yes, the dogs are the true athletes, and amazing athletes at that. But anyone who has ever driven a dogsled knows that you’re not just standing on the runners; you’re driving that sled. Driving means steering around corners, twists and turns, obstacles, and dips in the trail. It means controlling (or attempting to control) the speed of the team. It also sometimes means stopping the team and jumping off the sled if a dog gets tangled on a line or needs to be moved around in the team. I will admit that us sprint mushers have easier sled driving than distance mushers, but that’s for another time 🙂

Piper in the cab of the truck at the Tok races.

Not all dogs get to ride in the cab. Those are the dog boxes behind the cab. Note the sled on top of the dog boxes.

When I say I’m running dogs on a day, it’s more than just jumping on the back of a sled and taking off. It’s loading dogs into their boxes on my truck, driving to where we’ll train or race, then letting the dogs out of their boxes. Some days they go back into their boxes to wait until it’s their turn to run. Some days I have to load and unload the sled on the top of the truck too. Often we’ll work up a sweat just harnessing and walking dogs up to get hooked into the team. After the run the dogs get unhooked from the team and returned to the truck (or their houses) for their post-run hydration. Finally all gets loaded back up onto or into the truck and we go home.

Calorie-counting apps and the like will calculate how many calories you burn doing a particular exercise. For an hour of Zumba, it’s pretty straightforward. But how do you estimate how many calories you burn running dogs? I haven’t figured that out yet, but I am convinced it is physical exercise and I burn calories doing it.

Extracting time

5 Jan

Day 5: Almost blew the 100 Days Challenge today, but was able to eek out 30 minutes of movement with a combination of outdoor chores and two short workouts with my new workout toys, er, tools.

I recently purchased a Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball kit. I had been wanted to get a stability ball to use for core work and other strengthening exercises, like the ones Coach Jenny described in her recent post about simple strength training for runners. This kit seemed like a decent deal and included a resistance band and DVD with two workout programs. One of the workout programs is actually several shorter workouts that you can do separately.

Today was a bit tricky time-wise as I worked into the early afternoon, but had to go pick up my dog from the veterinarian late in the afternoon. I ran home for a while, cleaned the dog yard and filled the bird feeders which gave me about 15 minutes of movement. Then I changed clothes and tried a couple of the short balance ball workouts. This was my first time using a balance ball, and I wasn’t sure how much space I’d need. Space to work out to a DVD or (other video source) is yet another challenge in my house. I cleared some space and did the best I could. Between space limitations and this being the first time using the ball, I think the workouts went pretty well. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.


Not related to my health and fitness, but since I mentioned it above, I thought I’d add a bit about today’s trips to the vet.

Piper on a new bed

Piper enjoying a new bed (Nov. 2010).

It’s been a rough past 12 months for our dog Piper. I won’t go into all the details here, but the short version is that we almost lost her in January 2011. Between our and the vet’s willingness to go the extra mile for her and Piper’s determination to survive, she’s still here and mostly doing well. For the past couple of months Piper has seemed depressed and not herself. We thought the cold was getting to her (because her fur hasn’t fully grown back from her ordeal last winter), but she’s been getting worse. We (us and a couple of veterinarians) hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong, but something kept telling me it was related to her bad teeth. Her teeth didn’t appear to be infected or anything, but today she went for dental radiography. Sure enough, EIGHT teeth (or remaining parts of teeth) needed to come out. My poor, tough girl. Tonight she’s home recovering from a long day of surgery, and is still a bit wobbly and dysphoric. I’m sure she’ll feel better tomorrow (or maybe the next day).

Going for it

4 Jan

I’ve decided to make an attempt at the 100 Days Challenge. I think 30 minutes of intentional movement every day is a good idea. Perhaps this blog will help keep me motivated by feeling like I need to report my progress and do a quick post each day (or every few days) with what I did for the 100 Days Challenge. Today was day 4. The high temperature at our house was around -28°F so I stayed inside and did a 30 minute treadmill workout.

Up to the challenge?

3 Jan

John “the Penguin” Bingham has started his 2012 100 Days Challenge. His challenge is to “Choose to move, intentionally, for 30 minutes every day for the first 100 days of 2012. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it ON PURPOSE.” And it doesn’t even have to be 30 consecutive minutes, so shorter bouts of movement can add up.

I was intrigued when the Penguin started this challenge in 2011, more so when he continued his streak for 365 days. I love the idea and have wondered if I could rise to the challenge. It doesn’t mean I have to RUN every day like other challenges ask you to. “Moving intentionally” could include what I do when running dogs or whatever. In theory, now that we have a treadmill, I could always just hop on it for 30 minutes if it was too cold or nasty to want to go outside.

Without even trying, I’ve moved intentionally for 30 minutes every day this year so far:

  • Jan. 1: 30 minute treadmill workout
  • Jan 2: 20 minutes walking through the snow and on the frozen creek to and from the neighbor’s house, then cleaning the dog yard and other outdoor chores
  • Jan 3: 20 minutes walking to and from the neighbor’s house again, then 20 minutes on the treadmill

Anybody else taking the 100 Days Challenge? Three days down…only 97 to go…

Currently craving: Zumba and smoothies

2 Jan

A friend and coworker has been going to Zumba® classes for quite a while now. Before the holiday break she sent an email to the office offering to treat anyone who wanted to join her for a Zumba class. I finally couldn’t resist and had the time free, so I joined her for Zumba with Phoebe last Tuesday evening. Zumba is advertised as a way to “party yourself into shape” with Latin-inspired dance-fitness moves and high-energy music. It’s supposed to be fun and burn a ton of calories.

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or follow the moves, or worse: look stupid doing them. I worried that I would travel in the wrong direction and run into someone. I was worried I’d be the fattest, most unfit person in the room. Turned out I had none of those things to worry about. Well, I might have looked stupid, but everybody else in the room was focused on following the moves themselves to notice if I looked stupid or not. I didn’t knock anybody over by going the wrong way or flailing my arms too wildly. There were easy ways to modify the moves if I got a little tired, but mostly I kept up just fine. And the couple of moves I couldn’t follow? Neither could a lot of other people. Phoebe, the instructor, was awesome and so welcoming. Her instruction when we were introduced was, “if you get lost, just keep moving and smile.” I can do that 🙂 I had such fun at that class, I went back for more on Saturday morning!

Unfortunately the holiday break from work is nearly over and things will be getting busier again. Many of the Zumba classes are offered at challenging times for me to go. If they’re during the lunch hour, how do I get cleaned up and go back to work? I sweat … a lot. We at least try to go to bed on the early side (9-9:30 PM) so if I go to a class that starts at 7 PM or later, I won’t get home until close to bedtime. When do you eat dinner? And what about a shower? The Tuesday 6 PM class I went to was a decent time, but normally we train dogs Tuesday afternoons, so I wouldn’t have time to get home, feed dogs, change clothes, and get back into town for a class. That just leaves weekend classes, which might be doable on non-race days if we can get our errands done at other times. So that’s what I’ll try to do: a Saturday or Sunday Zumba class and Tuesdays when possible. At least I’ll get a little Zumba fix.

I wasn’t sure how or what to eat before Tuesday evening’s Zumba class. We normally eat dinner between 6-7 PM, which was the time of the class. I knew I needed some energy to get through the workout.

I got an immersion blender about a year ago with the intention of using it for making creamy soups and smoothies. That didn’t happen. I had the excuses: what a hassle to prepare the fruit; I don’t know what I should put in them and in what proportions. So I never made smoothies; soups either for that matter. Chris recently decided he wanted to try making smoothies and I convinced him the immersion blender was the tool to use. He eats lots of yogurt, so we had that around, and one of his colleagues told him where we could find frozen fruit. I know, every grocery store has frozen fruit, but it’s amazing hard it is to find frozen fruit that is just fruit and doesn’t have other stuff added, and even harder to find organic frozen fruit. So far we’ve found strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, a mix of pineapple+peach+strawberries+mango, a berry mix, and cranberries. I love bananas, and don’t mind fresh for smoothies, but I can only eat organic bananas (non-organic ones make my tongue and throat itch) and finding ones that aren’t bright green is a big challenge. Chris is MUCH less picky than me, so he’s been making smoothies with whatever we find. They’re okay, but not something I would crave. I’ve made a few of my own with low-fat yogurt (regular or Greek), a banana, a bit of light soymilk, and frozen strawberries, peaches, and blueberries. I’m guessing on proportions, so they’re kind of soup-like, but they seem to work and I enjoy drinking them. Now I’m looking at what else I could add to smoothies to make them even healthier. I will try switching to fat-free Greek yogurt and keep experimenting with different fruits. I’ve seen some recipes with cocoa powder, peanut butter, and orange juice (not all at the same time) that seem promising. Maybe I should try Chia seeds? Add veggies like carrots or spinach? Possibly.

Here are a few smoothie recipes I’ve found that look promising but I haven’t tried yet:

And I’ll keep looking for other smoothie recipes and ideas for tasty things to put in them. I’m also looking for suggestions on how to take smoothies to work with me for later in the day. Maybe a small thermos? Chris uses a jelly jar. Please leave me a comment if you have suggestions.

%d bloggers like this: