Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Food

15 Hours of Absurdity at Boston 2018

One of the Canadian runners staying at my inn pretty much summed it up.  “Absurd, just absurd.”

3 A.M.  Hard rain has started in earnest, pounding on the metal roof outside my Back Bay window. I  sleep off and on but finally give up.

6 A.M. I’m ready for coffee and  dress just enough to be presentable in the dining room. The inn has set out a 6 a.m. breakfast for marathoners. The speedy group assembled from Sweden, Canada and several points in the Western U.S. are enjoying bagels and yogurt before making a dash to their buses. I’m left to chat with a few early rising non  runners.

7 A.M. It’s back upstairs to get dressed for the battle with the weather. Assuming we will be running into the wind the better part of 26 miles, I tear a piece of dry cleaner bag into a rectangle, anchor one end in my running bra and the other in the waistband of my tights as an extra layer of protection on the chest. Then, I tear a small square for the crown of my head before adding my beanie and the yellow runner trucker hat that was a giveaway from Trackmaster. It turns out the hat is perfect for the weather with a bill large and wide enough to keep the rain directly off my face.

Finally, I ask myself whether a sane 70-year old woman would wrap herself in plastic to run in pelting rain for 26 miles. No one answers.

8:55 A.M. Left my inn for the short walk to meet my friend, Becky, on the Boston Common where we catch the bus to Hopkinton.

Given that it rained most of the day pre-Boston Marathon, I decided earlier to take one of the last buses out. You can get away with that when you are in the 4th Wave, 2nd Corral. I’ve been to wet Bostons in the past and could envision the condition of the Athlete’s Village.

Everyone in the bus line is ensconced in old marathon heat sheets, plastic bags, throwaway rain jackets with a few in some really solid quality rainwear. Anything that keeps the unrelenting rain off. The temperature is in the upper 30’s but feels colder with the wind and rain in our faces.

10:15 A.M. ish We arrive at the Athlete’s Village or what is left of it. Picture hours of pouring rain, a couple of large tents with shivering runners squeezed in for cover, a knoll at the edge of the field leading to the tent and portapotties that now resembles a mudslide.

Shortly after arriving, the announcer calls for the last of the 3rd Wave folks to find their way to the start, then encourages Wave 4 to begin finding our way as well.

Becky brought a change of shoes and headed down the mudslide to  the tent. I called after her “I’m not following” but I’m sure with the pelting rain she did not hear. It was a good decision to stay where I was and walk through the Village on the paved path. Wave 4 runners making their way up the knoll from the tents were slipping and sliding, some crawling to keep their balance.

I spotted a few porta-potties only steps off the pavement and joined the line. Volunteers  had devised boards and tarps to keep us out of deep mud and to protect what if anything was left of the grass and sod.

11:00:  We’re moving en masse to the start line. A man on my left runs by hurrying to his corral. His feet slip on the slick pavement and he is down. A couple of us around him try to assist, but he pulls himself up, left calf and knee bleeding and he continues on in a run. I’m sure the rain fully washed that blood away in minutes.

Near the start line, I remove my warmups and place them on a pile of clothing that would later be collected by Big Brothers and Big Sisters. My running skirt, compression socks and the thick layers of body lotion on my skin would have to do for lower body warmth.

11:20 A.M.  I’m looking for my corral and expect to be squeezed in like previous years, but no – they were releasing runners on arrival and we simply moved through the start.

Miles 1 – 3: Running more slowly than usual, getting a feel for the slickness underfoot I make my way through castoff clothing and plastic bags and try to get a feel for pace.

Mile 4: I move to the edge of the course when the rain subsides a bit and remove the throwaway warmup jacket under my rain jacket, then rebundle myself with arm hole vents open, every other zipper tightly closed. My fingers are getting cold and my gloves sopped so it is taking more time than I anticipated.

Mile 6: Why, oh way, didn’t I bring waterproof gloves? I find a plastic bag stuffed in my pocket, tear it in half and wrap pieces around each hand. It’s working. Not that my hands are warm, but there are degrees of cold and this was better. I see people wearing latex gloves and wondered why I hadn’t thought of this.

Mile 9: I take a moment to be thankful that I had the foresight to bring my North Face rain jacket. Not necessarily warm, but it was a nice layer against the wind and kept my upper body dry while rain ran down it.

Mile 14: Another thankful moment that my goddaughter Jess is out along the course and if I must drop (yes, it did cross my mind), she will be but a call away.

Mile 17: The strongest gale yet hits us head-on and I am lifted off my feet. I feel a hand on my back and for a moment think I am having a religious experience, but no. The hand belongs to a man running behind me. We continue to run, his hand on my shoulder blades, until the gale passes. Thank you, kind stranger.

Mile 19: Is that hale?  I try to convince myself it’s sleet but it is in fact little hale balls. It must be localized because within five or six minutes, I run out of it and back to plain, simple heavy rain and wind.

Mile 25: Turning right onto Hereford, the pavement is swathed in raincoats, plastics, everything the 22,000 runners ahead of me had used in attempts to keep warm and dry. I pick my way through the few spots of still bare street, understanding runners ridding those layers for that last drive down Boylston where they know finish line photos and dry clothing are waiting.

I ridded myself of nothing. Any sense of reasonable appearance was left behind many miles ago, and in fact was left behind as I left my room. I would not have identified myself in the finish line photo save for the yellow bill of that trucker hat.

Finish Line: My watch says 4:53:40. The shivering begins as soon as I stop running. A short and fast walk to my inn. water continues to stream off me as I enter. I reach for a hot cup of cocoa, hand still shaking.

After a long, warm shower, I cuddle into a blanket and pull out the various snacks (yeah, salty potato chips) from the finish bag, replenishing with additional snacks from home.

OK, I am done and not coming out from under this blanket.

Dinner invites declined.

Good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tending to avoid those Aging Issues

During a long drawn out January head cold that lingered into February, there was ample time to ponder issues I tend to avoid .

A recent exchange with one of my more responsible friends encouraged me to pass on some of their words of wisdom, along with my personal take.

It’s Too Powerful to Stop

If your stage of life is 60+ (I personally past that number several years ago), we are old enough to think about the finality of life. We will die eventually, but in the meantime, we have responsibilities to fulfill, challenges to face and new roads to travel (or run).

Magical Cures Can Be a Waste

I know you will try them, and I won’t say I told you so. From an early age, we have been sold on every form of fountain of youth, including magical cures, pills, potions and lotions. We’ve tried all the concoctions billed to help us run faster, ache less, recover more quickly.

If it makes you feel good, please continue to indulge. I’m ready to give it up. There is no magic. I’m thankful for every day of good health and will not waste time trying to turn back the clock. It doesn’t move in that direction.

Prepare for Aging: Financially, Physically, Socially, Emotionally and Spiritually

Any one of those five categories can seem daunting, but preparing for one of them makes taking on the next easier.

Financial Preparation

There is no day like today to look hard at your finances. Treat your money with respect. With any luck, you will need it for a while, and those race registration fees aren’t getting any cheaper.

Physical Activity

I don’t need to emphasize physical activity with most of my readers, but get that physical exam, take your doctor’s advice about exercise and diet, health-literate, ask questions. Learn what you can about any new condition that finds its way to your doorstep.

Avoid junk food – most of the time – and eat the good stuff. Those health problems will eventually come, but give them a run for their money.

Social Engagement

Be good to your friends. I expect some of you, like me, at this point in our lives have lost one or two. If a dear friend is having a bad time, plan a silly birthday outing, share joys together, go for a run or walk together, support one another at whatever ability level we find ourselves.

The Emotional Factor

Let go of the grudges, anger, would-haves, should-haves. If you still need help after venting this to a trusted friend, see a professional counselor or a spiritual guide.

Spirituality

Speaking of the spiritual, you may feel a need for a deeper spiritual experience, to spend time in prayer or meditation. Doing so may help make sense of your journey and offer a world of inner exploration.

Prepare for the End of Your Life

If we don’t do this, others will have to handle our assets and our end-of-life decisions. While we’re at it, let’s clean up what we no longer need or use. How about those worn out tights you keep around because you wore them that day in 1980 when you PR’d? Again, if we don’t purge it, someone else must – and really, isn’t that our responsibility?

Manage Life on Your Own When You Can, Accept Help Graciously When You Must

Even if it’s for a brief, temporary period, be willing to ask a trusted professional, friend or relative for their thoughts when difficult decisions must be made. Be willing to accept or reach out if it will help you through a tough period.

Having done the above, what’s left?

Live an Enjoyable, Active and Fulfilling Life

Finish strong. You’ve made the tough decisions, prepared this stage of your life in every way you can. You’ve done all the responsible things, now go do what your heart yearns to do.

You may want to explore literature in a deeper way – I’m looking at Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey. You may want to do some form of volunteer work in a field you always wanted to tackle, but didn’t.

You could help build something, literally or figuratively that will be there when you are not. You may want to just go have fun – dance, play, run, travel, laugh with friends and family. Go. Do it. You deserve it.

I can’t say I’ve conquered any of my suggestions, but I have nibbled around the edges and know this too is a continuing journey.

How many of the above categories to you tend to avoid? 

 

7 GIFT IDEAS FOR SENIOR FITNESS FANATICS

B-B Mistletoe KissDo you have a few blank spaces next to the names of friends and relatives who continue – or have begun – to pursue exercise or athletic endeavors in their senior years?

My suggestions here focus on gifts for runners, primarily women, but the same gift selection thought process and some of the items can be applied to men and to almost any other sport or activity.

In past years, I’ve done a gift list post or two on my blog and most of those manufacturers and categories still hold true.

In addition to my earlier finds, there is an array of items out there, from the economical and practical to the snazzy or cutting edge. So, let’s get started. Perhaps you will find just the thing for your senior runner or other athlete.

When it comes to gourmet gifts, here are some suggestions to consider:

Healthy Foods and Ingredients

By choosing healthy foods and ingredients you can pick up an economical gift for your runner/athlete host or hostess. They will make a nice addition to the healthy array of foods likely already in the athlete’s cupboard.

Organic food stores carry a number of packaged items and ingredients that can sometimes be difficult to find. Here is a list of organic food stores from across the geographic spectrum.

Organic Restaurants

Eating out can be a challenge for athletes who prefer healthy food, so here is a gift card opportunity. Spec out an organic or generally health-conscious restaurant that your friend or family member has not yet found – or one she particularly likes.

Cookbooks

On my personal wish list this year is Run Fast East Slow developed by Shalane Flanagan, recent winner of the New York City Marathon, along with chef, nutrition coach, friend and college track teammate, Elyse Kopecky.

The cookbook has been around for a year or two, and I have enjoyed some of the recipes prepared by friends who were among the first to purchase it.

Moving on to clothing choices, here are some interesting items that I would definitely consider:

Tights

When hiking, running, doing strength work or cycling, tights are almost essential. Although we all keep that one pair of black tights that can morph from the trail to looking quite nice under a dress or long sweater, the wild splashy colors and prints in tights are far more fun.

Don’t let age stop you from making these a gift purchase for your senior athlete. Join in this trend and go wild. Stop into any athletic store or browse around online, and you will find them.

Socks/Gloves/Hand Warmers

Does your favorite athlete have a favorite brand for socks, gloves and hand warmers? Then stick with that. Most people have worked out what fits best in their running and cycling shoes and what level of warmth is needed.

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Your fitness fanatic may appreciate compression socks. They’re a good gift choice – useful for long runs or when traveling soon after an endurance event.

Do you know what kind of gear your friend needs? Let’s look at the choices:

Reflective Gear

Reflective gear is always a nice addition and can be a stocking stuffer. It can be anything, from a reflective strip with a velcro back that can attach to any clothing item to something offering more coverage.

My very favorite gift received last year was the Tracer360. I can be seen in the dark, coming sideways,front or back.

Activity Timing/Tracking

Activity timing gadgets are very personal. I enjoy Garmin products for timing and pacing information on runs, hikes and swims. I also like to look back through the data over time. Seeing the maps of trails trodden in the past can bring wonderful memories, much like photos.

However, there are many technical products, and you will want to know your athlete very well, and perhaps get her input, before making this purchase.

Happy shopping!

If you are 60 or over, what is on your fitness fanatic gift list? If you are the new or experienced athlete, do friends and family encourage your activity with gifts, large or small? 

This article was previously published in early December on Sixtyandme.com

 

B-B Mistletoe Kiss 

 

Walking in Solothurn – Day 5 and Farewell

Our final day hiking began with a train from Solothurn to Deitingen where we walked through a lush forest to the lake of Inkwil.

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The pilings in this lake area are a Unesco world heritage site, originally houses on stilts now primarily underwater due to changes in environment over the thousands of years since the houses were built.

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After another hour of walking we came to a clearing in the forest where two Friendship Force of Solothurn volunteers Susan and Martin surprised us with a forest luncheon.

 

We learned how to properly score a sausage prior to placing over the fire.

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Jürg demonstrated the proper technique to score a sausage to achieve the desired appearance.

Bidding goodbye to Susan and Martin, we continued out of the forest and were again on open trail where we came upon the Lake of Aeschi, a lovely tourist stop suitable for swimming and having a beverage on the lawn that banks to the lake.

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A beautiful afternoon of sun and water followed by a farewell dinner with many thank you and good-byes, and of course music of the region. 

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Tomorrow, we leave this wonderful hive of hikers to cast ourselves to various destinations. Some will continue to travel in Europe, others like myself will be returning to our homes.

I will miss the door-to-door public transport that Switzerland offers. Among the first departures in the morning, I catch the earliest bus at our stop. The bus drops me at the Solothurn train station where I then board the train for arrival at the station in the Zurich Airport, finishing my morning commute with  a walk through security and on to my airline’s gate.

Many thanks, Friendship Force of Solothurn for a hospitable and healthy journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Solothurn – Day Four atop Weissenstein

On the fourth and perhaps my favorite day of our walk, we board the train from Solothurn to Oberdorf. There we hop on the gondola and ride to the middle station at Nesselboden for this beautiful mountain in the Juras chain, Weissenstein.

 

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We did well, needing only one rest break on our way to the top.

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The cattle grazing along the mountainside are responsible for the wonderful cheese and other dairy products we are enjoying during our stay.

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Although rain was predicted, we don’t see any until we reach the summit where a fresh mist was coming down.

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We watch a hand glider preparing to take flight

From the top of Weissenstein, Lucie leads us on a path that dips down several hundred feet to the Sennhaus restaurant.  There we enjoyed a well-earned lunch of sausages and potatoes. 

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With our wonderful guide Lucie, dark clouds overhead at the top of Weissenstein.

Our trip down was shorter and steeper, and soon we were back to the gondola for a quick trip to the base of the mountain.

 

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On our return to Solothurn, we joined in at the Cheese Market. We made our way through animals, hay bales, vegetables and an array of Swiss cheeses and chocolates to sample and buy.

After a long day, we hike back to the hotel to prepare for our final day of walking and hiking. 

Thank you for a splendid day, Lucie, Karin, Urs and Jurg, our Swiss friends.

Walking in Solothurn – Day Three along the River Aare

 

Today, before our walk along the River Aare, we spend a bit of time with a historic walk through this lovely baroque town. There are three remaining gates to the city and we also see portions of remaining Roman wall jutting from the corner of a trendy shop.

 

The Solothurn Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Ursus, an early martyr of the church), was originally built in the early middle ages with changes over the centuries including a rebuild in the 1700’s. 

 

 

The detailed history and design is worthy of a guided tour when you make your visit to Solothurn. As is the Church of the Jesuits, a relative newcomer built in the late 1600’s with a stunningly breathtaking interior.

 

 

We don’t leave the town center before seeing some of the many clocks, including one representing the cycle of life/renewal and death, a musical clock, and an 11-hour clock (the number 11 having a special designation in Solothurn – 11 steps to the cathedral, 11 of almost everything with a historical significance).

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Leaving town, we follow the River Aare, passing cattle in pasture meadows, fields of crops as well as some industrial buildings along this lane.

 

The stork settlement at Altreu was a delight. In September, many of the young storks had already flown south. Those too old to make the trip stay to winter here.

 

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Having hiked just over six miles from Solothurn, we boarded a boat  on the River Aare for our return and to meet our dinner hosts.

Our day ended with small group dinners hosted by local Friendship Force members. My good fortune was to be included in a dinner in the neighboring city of Bern where we dined at the home of Urs and Ursula. We were treated to wonderful food, including dishes incorporating grapes, figs and apples from their garden. After enjoyable conversation and cuisine, we returned to Solothurn by auto. (Urs had rented an auto by the hour, a common practice when several people are traveling or large items must be transported. Otherwise, the order of the day is convenient bus/train combinations to get from town to town.)

Many thanks to our dinner hosts as well as day hosts Tamara, Kurt, Lucie and Jürg. Sleep tight and prepare for Day 4 – hiking up Weissenstein.

Paw Paw Foraging

It all started with a church auction item – an opportunity to paw paw forage with an experienced forager. I had no idea what I would be foraging for, but it sounded like an interesting experience.

These many months later, the season for paw paw foraging had arrived. Instructions were to meet and come prepared with boots, bug spray and drinking water.

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I had, since my successful auction bid, done enough research to know that the paw paw is a fruit that grows as an understory plant in several states from the Atlantic through Ohio. As it turns out, Native Americans harvested the fruit, as did explorers following suit, craving the sweet juicy fruit in their diet. According to many sources including Kentucky State University, the paw paw is rich in nutrients.

Our foraging began in a forest section of the Susquehannock State Park. After walking down several trails and into the brush, our leader, Laura, identified the paw paw tree.

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The paw paw has large exotic-looking leaves unlike most trees in east coast forests. We spotted our first fruit overhead. 

When the paw paw is ripe enough, it can be ever so gently plucked from the branch. For fruit that is out of reach, a gentle shaking of the tree’s trunk will release the fruit that falls to the ground with a thump, or – if you are quick enough – into the bag you are holding. If you are not quick enough, you may get a surprise bop on the head (don’t ask how I know).

The taste of the paw paw was everything I had heard described. We gently peeled our first paw paws then stood enjoying the flavor of the pulp, somewhere between the sweetness of a banana and the wildness of a guava.

IMG_5522 (1).jpgThe kidney bean-sized seeds were spit out.

I also understood why the fruit is not cultivated to any great extent, as very few paw paws appear on a single tree and they are a delicate fruit, ripening in a short time window. I’m told you may find some farmer’s markets where a stand may have them available for short periods of time and at a very dear price.

Paw paws tend to grow in colonies, the largest reaching to the sky peaking out of the forest’s canopy, with less mature trees sheltering underneath and a myriad of newer growth along the forest floor.

After filling our bags and leaving a generous amount of paw paws for other foragers, we did some initial sorting and talked potential use. There are  recipes for everything from quick bread to beer.

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As for me, my paw paw cache will be frozen in small amounts to be used in smoothies along with some frozen slices of rhubarb. Those exotic summery tasting fruits will be perfect for adding nutrients and a sweet and sour taste to the post-run smoothie on chilled winter mornings.

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Do you have experience foraging in the forest? Have you used paw paws in cooking, baking – or brewing?