Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Go Krogering!

James and I just went to Kroger and bought the following items: Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Tropicana OJ, Ragu, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Oscar Mayer deli meat, two cans of Pillsbury Grands biscuits, and two boxes of Banquet turkey sausage. And we only paid $5.29 for a total savings of 83%.

What's our secret? Well, there's a few. The first is that we are avid shoppers of the Kroger circular. You can pick up a paper circular from the front of the store, get one in the mail, or check it out online. This week they're running a special that give you $3 off your entire purchase if you buy ten participating items (like General Mills cereal, Ragu, and Tropicana OJ). We had a few printable manufacturer's coupons that we got from and, we have a few Kroger eCoupons loaded on to our Kroger Plus Card, and we got a $3 off your next purchase coupon and $2 off your next purchase coupon at the register last time we went to Kroger. But here's the two best secrets: you can combine eCoupons and manufacturer's coupons; Pillsbury is offering $5 off your next purchase when you submit a recipe to their website. For details on the Pillsbury offer, click here.

For the past few weeks, I've been using as my guide to couponing. The author lays everything out for you, depending on which store you prefer to use. She also has great couponing tutorials and links to tons of printable coupons. If you're interested in saving a lot of money, I highly encourage you to check out her site. It only takes a few minutes of careful planning to save a lot of money on your weekly grocery bill. Since we've started using coupons, our overall savings has been 34%. We're working toward an average of at least 45%.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Consequences of Over-Training

As I've blogged before, I've been having some pain in my left foot ever since the 15K at the beginning of the month. As a precaution, I went to see my doctor yesterday afternoon. He took a few X-rays to rule out any stress fractures in my fourth or fifth metatarsals. Those came back clean. After a physical exam of my foot, his best guess is that I may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. He prescribed me some strong anti-inflammatories and told me to look into some stretches I could do to help ease the tension in my plantar fascia, the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot.

I'm pretty sure I know how this happened and it's my own stupid fault. One of the primary causes of plantar fasciitis is a drastic increase in mileage (oops), particularly when running downhill (double oops!). The 15K was on paved running trails. The sixth, seventh, and eighth miles were all downhill. That explains how I got it in the first place. Put on top of that the fact that I've raced three consecutive weekends to include a half-marathon and it's no surprise that I'm hurting! I have two weekends off, then a two mile race, one weekend off, a 5K, a 10K, then three weekends off. In order to keep this from becoming a chronic injury, I may skip the two miler so I can have a full month to heal before jumping back into the Grand Prix with the 5K and two 10Ks. I hate to do it, but I have to take care of my body. So I'm going to spin and possibly try swimming to keep up my cardiovascular fitness during my time off. Hopefully I'll be able to jump back into the Grand Prix and race healthily for the rest of the year.

Below is an article I found on plantar fasciitis from the Runner's World magazine website. The original article can be found here.

The Grand Prix: Half Marathon and Injury Report

Ok boys and girls, let's talk about the consequences of over-training! Well I guess we should talk about the half-marathon first. It was a rough day. James and I opted to drive on the day of the race (which was about three hours away from where we live) instead of stay in a hotel the night before. We didn't get much sleep. For some unknown reason, Hamish decided to whimper and whine constantly for about four hours during the night. He didn't need to go out, he wasn't hungry, he wasn't thirsty, and we eventually even put him on the bed with us. When he finally did go to sleep, I think it was only because he had exhausted himself from crying. Ugh! Then the alarm clock started wailing around 3:30 AM and we both felt like zombies.

I had rested my foot all week with the hope that it would alleviate the pain I've been having. I was concerned that I wouldn't make it through the race at all, particularly when the pain started talking to me at the starting line. My plan was to just take it easy. I would only run for as long as it didn't feel significantly painful. Once the pain started to increase, I would slow my pace or slow to a walk to keep it from getting increasing. Worst case scenario? I would stop at an aid station and ask them to send the trail vehicle to pick me up, essentially quitting the race. I have NEVER done that and I REALLY didn't like the idea that I might have to do so.

The race started. There were only about 400 other runners so I didn't have to fight the beginning-of-a-race-crowding that usually drives me so nuts at bigger half-marathons and marathons. My foot felt okay and I felt strong and well-rested (weird!). I missed the first mile marker because I wasn't paying attention, so I didn't split my watch. As a result, I had no idea what my pace might be. But I decided that it didn't really matter today. I wasn't going for any pace goal. I just wanted to make it to the end without hurting myself.

I felt pretty good for most of the race. My foot started to bother me between miles eight and nine, so I dialed back my pace a little bit. I had taken a gel just before the start and then again at the six mile mark, but around mile 10 I was really feeling fatigued. I slowed my pace a little more. What I really wanted to do was walk, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to start running again if I did. So I just kept on going.

I had forgotten how serenely peaceful it is to be alone in my own head on long runs like this. When I was training for my first marathon in 2006, I used my long training runs as a sort of meditative time. The rhythmic timing of my feet on the pavement and my coordinated breathing put me in a very relaxed mental state where I can think clearly without the distraction of the constant chatter in my head. It's one of the reasons I love long-distance running alone. Don't get me wrong, I love going on runs with James. But it's a very different experience when I can do it all by myself.

James finished ahead of me and walked up the course to meet me and run me in around mile 12 (I think - I was actually feeling quite delirious by then). I'm not going to lie, the last 3/4 mile or so was really tough on me. I was getting tired, my foot was hurting, and I was running into a head wind. But I made it. Officially, my finish time was 2:21:57 (10:50 pace). Not a PR (which would have to be faster than 2:14:58) but I was quite proud of myself for it. I ran the entire race and didn't walk, which is a big deal for me. My goal at the marathon in November is to do the same thing... which I've never done before.

I finished 89th out of 140 women, no break down for age divisions. I earned 12 more Grand Prix points, pushing me up to 5th place in my division. The woman leading my division has enough points that she's competing for the overall prize, which means that if the Grand Prix ended today I would actually be in 4th place out of 12. 

As for the injury report, I'm going to write a separate blog about that because there's just too much to talk about to include here. Check back soon!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Help Me Pick My Next Vera Bradley

So I'm thinking about getting a new Vera Bradley tote to use when I start nursing school in June. I know which bag I want, but I haven't decided on a color. I have a whole collection of Hope Garden bags for my travel gear (large duffel, small duffel, Miller bag, travel cosmetic, flat iron cover, etc etc etc....). I want to get a new pattern and I've narrowed it down to two. The first is called "Totally Turq." It's not an old pattern, but it's been around for two or three years and is rumored to be going into retirement sometime this year. I've been eyeing it for some time now, but just haven't gotten around to buying one. The second pattern is called "Folkloric." It's brand new, one of the four new spring colors, and very popular. I expect that it'll be around for a while. If I don't get it now, I could probably get it for something else later.

So I have put together a little poll to see what YOU think. Should I get my new Pleated Tote in Totally Turq or should I get it in Folkloric?

**Update** The HTML coding for the poll was screwing up the HTML coding for my home page. Thus far the results were 5 votes for Folkloric and 4 votes for Totally Turq.

Totally Turq


And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Grand Prix: 5K Race and Injury Report

Yesterday I ran the third race in the Grand Prix series, a 5K. I was a little wary of doing this event because our area got hammered with about six inches of snow on Wednesday and the race was supposed to take place on wooded trails. It was cold yesterday morning, but mercifully the race wasn't scheduled to start until 11:30. By the time I got to the course, it was hovering right around 40 degrees.

Most of the running trails had been shoveled clear, but there were still many slick spots so we had to be very mindful of our footing. My left foot has been hurting since I did the 15K last weekend. I haven't quite figured out what's wrong with it, though. It is most likely a deep bruise on my instep or a small blood vessel that burst. In any case, I stayed off of it as much as I could last week and it's definitely feeling much better.

My primary goal for the race was to get to the end without wiping out on any icy patches. Beyond that, I really wanted to run a sub-30 minute 5K. My all-time PR (personal record) for the 5K is 27:09. I knew I wouldn't be quite that fast because I still haven't had much of an opportunity to train. But I did manage to reach both race goals and came in at an unofficial finish time of 29:31 (9:32/mile pace).

What's even better is that my split times got gradually faster and faster. My first mile was 9:51, my second was 9:44, and my third was 9:11. The last 0.1 miles took me about 43 seconds... I have no idea what that means.

I'm still waiting on the Grand Prix point results. Officially my finish time was 29:30.7 (9:31/mile pace). I was 44th out of 103 women. Not sure about my division.

My foot hurts more today than it did yesterday, but less than it did the day after the 15K. I'm worried that this might keep me from running the half-marathon next weekend. OR if I still run the half-marathon, I'm worried that it will start to hurt worse during the race and I'll have to walk a significant portion of the course. If I rest this week and then can make it through the run next weekend, I'll have two weeks off from the Grand Prix before a 2 mile race and then two more weeks off. I hope I'm not setting myself up for a year of over-training injuries!

UPDATE - I got 5th out of the 6 Grand Prix competitors in my age group for 12 points! Yeah! Overall, I'm now 8th out of 12 women in my Grand Prix age group. 

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Transcending Brokenness

The following sermon was written by the Reverend Kate Alexander of Christ Episcopal Church and is published here with her permission. 

There is a man in LA doing something extraordinary. A Jesuit priest named Gregory Doyle is in the ex-gang member rehabilitation business. Affectionately known as Father G, G-Dogg, or simply “G”, Doyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation program in the country. For 21 years, the organization has helped thousands of gang members remove their tattoos, get counseling, find jobs and move away from violence. Participants in the program work for a time in the Homeboy bakery, the silk-screening business, or the gourmet Homegirl CafĂ©, all the while learning how to live a normal life. One graduate of the program said that with Father G’s help, he realized that he loved his kids more than retaliation and decided to leave the life of crime and street warfare to be a dad. “The gift that Father G has given us is he sees the best in all of us,” said a former member of the Crips gang. And the testimonies continue. “He loves you. He tells you that he loves you. He tells you that he’s proud of you. This dude is a remarkable human being.”

In interviews, Doyle is quick to mention that his ministry has not always been successful or well-received. When it first started, his office received countless threats by phone and graffiti. He jokes that at one time, he suggested that his staff should answer the phone in this way: “Thank you for your call. Your bomb threat is very important to us…” He sees the threats as symbolic of just how powerful the cycles of violence and crime are for young gang members. Any threat to the system, any chance to see things in a different way, was very threatening to those powers that be. The bomb threats have subsided now, as decades have passed and the ministry is well-established as a lifeline to men and women who desperately want a different life. Doyle has said that on one level, he’s in the trenches telling young men and women to go home before shoot outs begin. But on a deeper level, his role is to offer them a different way of seeing their lives altogether. Lives that are worth more than these kids can imagine and so much more than they’ve ever been told. He offers them a glimpse of lives lived in peace, with healing and wholeness and the opportunity to contribute something of themselves to the world.

How to Flourish

The following sermon was written by the Reverend Scott Walters of Christ Episcopal Church and is published here with his permission.

Most Friday afternoons I can be found puttering around on some project at our house, listening to a radio program called “Science Friday.” As I typed out that vivid snapshot of my exciting life, I suddenly realized why I don’t spend much time fending off paparazzi.

Oh, well. Anyway, I was doing my usual puttering and listening one Friday when the topic was Science and Morality. The springboard for the conversation was bestselling atheist Sam Harris’s new book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. And about half way through the show I put down my tools and started dialing 1-800-989-TALK. I dialed and redialed over and over again, but each call was answered with a busy signal, a sound of rejection that felt more personal each time I called. But I kept on dialing, certain that one of my calls would slip in between some biology teacher in Atlanta and the retired mail carrier from Dubuque.

But I just couldn’t get through. And oh how I wanted to set Sam Harris straight. Nothing seemed to help. Not even pacing from the kitchen to the front door and back 12 or 13 times while I dialed. Finally, the show ended, my hopes were dashed, and the blood began to return to the knuckles of my left hand as I slowly loosened its death grip on the phone. My heart rate returned to normal, abdominal muscles unclenched, and I went back to my project, which wasn’t any more likely to be completed than the one I’d started the Friday before, but it did help with the relaxation process.

What frustrated me about the conversation on the radio wasn’t Mr. Harris’s main point, which was that people can conceive a moral framework without being religious. He insists that people don’t need religion to agree on what contributes to something he called “human flourishing”, and their actions can be judged as moral or immoral accordingly. I kind of think he’s right.

But what got my blood boiling is that he never really addressed why it is that people’s blood gets to boiling and what to do about it. Put another way, Sam Harris didn’t acknowledge that there’s a difference between knowing what flourishing is and actually flourishing. And as I stormed around in frustration and disgust, I wasn’t flourishing. But I wasn’t thrown into this state of non flourishment by mistakenly thinking that an unshaven 43 year old, stomping through the house on his day off with caulking on his hands, cursing into his phone is the perfect image of a flourishing human being. It’s just that in wanting to set Sam Harris straight, I was the one who couldn’t manage to flourish just then.

Knowing what flourishing looks like and actually flourishing in one’s life aren’t the same thing. And the real question is “What’s a person to do about it? How do we actually change? How do our lives actually come to flourish?”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Grand Prix: 15K Race

Well I think today might count as one of the coldest runs I've done in a loooong time. And only the second or maybe third time ever that I've run in the snow. We had a snow storm come through here yesterday. It snowed and then it sleeted and then it snowed some more. Oddly enough, we didn't have very much accumulation.. maybe 2-3 inches? 

Anyway, the race was supposed to take place at 9 this morning, but was postponed to noon instead. And thank God for that! Even though we had clear skies and full sun, it was only 30 degrees when we got to the race. Brrr!!

So my primary goal for the race was to just run the entire distance without walking. It's been over a year since I've run that far (I think.. I'm actually not really sure). My secondary goal was to run the entire race at an average pace of 11:15/mile or less. I marked the time on my watch at each split so I could keep track of how well I was pacing. My first couple of miles were all faster than my goal pace, so I kept track of how much time I was "banking" each time. 

I only ran at my goal pace for one of my mile splits. For every other mile, I actually ran much faster. I took a power gel around mile 6 and briefly ran without my jacket for about a mile (thinking that I was going to overheat). But once the wind started blowing (and it really picked up toward the end) I put my jacket back on and stayed bundled up. 

James finished way ahead of me (as always) and came back up the course to help me run the last mile or so in. By the time he caught up with my, both my hips and my left knee were really starting to ache and feel stiff. I really wish I'd taken some ibuprofen before the run, but we didn't pack any in our running bag. 

So anyway, my official finish time for the 15K (roughly 9.3 miles) was 1:42:43 (11:02/mile pace). I finished 127th out of 177 women and 20th out of 27 in my age group. I'm still waiting on Grand Prix results to find out how many points I earned. I don't know how many of the runners in my age group are also competing in the Grand Prix (all but one from the One Hour Track Run were there). If there were no new Grand Prix competitors in my division, then I'll end up with 15 points (woo hoo!). It'll be a few more days before I know that, though. 

Here are some pictures:

This is around mile 8.5 or so, right before James joined me
I may not look that bundled up, but I'm wearing TWO pairs of socks, TWO pairs of running tights, a tank top, an Under Armor cold gear mock-turtleneck, a technical tee, a jacket, gloves, and a hat.

James likes to pretend he's tired, but he's not.

My sweet DH

Yeah. We're pretty darn cute.

Update - Well the Grand Prix results are up and there were a few more participants that ran the 15K than had been at the One Hour Track Run, so I only ended up earning 3 points (BOO!!). But that's okay. I know that I ran a really good race for me and I'm satisfied with that. Like I said at the beginning of all this, my goal is not to be the fastest and to earn the most points at the events. My goal is to run every event and to earn my points for being determined and consistent. Two down, 18 to go!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.