Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 in Review

I totally forgot about it being the end of the month until I looked at my calendar today. Where did the time go?!

Before I start, here are a few pics of the trail that Mike and I hiked on last weekend:

Spring is definitely here! I cannot wait until I can actually get out and run on these.

Mileage Recap

A year ago - March 2011: 109.97
January 2012: 181.21
February 2012: 86.84
March 2012: 6

Despite the fact that the aforementioned number looks pathetic, it feels freaking fantastic. Onwards and upwards baby!

What went well

March was rough, but it had it's high points. I took responsibility for my own actions. I found ways to be positive about my injury. I learned what some of my weak areas were and how to fix them.

I only had two goals for March: heal and run. I'm happy to say that I've reached both of them. It took me nearly the entire month to do so, and I can't say with 100% confidence that I'm fully healed, but I am in a much better place. And, most importantly, I'm running again.

What didn't go well

I missed two races in March, and realized the rest of my spring season was not going to happen how I envisioned. As unhappy as that has made me, in the end I know I can only learn from it to make sure it doesn't happen again next time.

April 2012 goals

In my last post I sort of outlined my major goals for the next few months. April is all about getting back on the horse and working up to decent mileage again in the safest way possible.

I will continue going to PT for the next 3-4 weeks. This upcoming week I will still be running every third day, but in another week I will be able to move to every other day and then eventually every day.

I had a trail marathon scheduled for April 28th, but I am officially bailing. The night before that I have an easy 4-miler with friends. All this leads to the 10 mile Broad Street Run on May 6th. My biggest goal is getting ready for that.

Cheers to the next month being better than the last!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Next Big Thing & The Non-Plan Training Plan

The Next Big Thing

For six weeks I completely stopped looking at any and all races and training plans. Frankly it was just too depressing to think about. But as I begin to transition from injured runner to actually-running runner, I am starting to look at my race schedule again. After scrapping my plans for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler on June 2nd I'm left to look ahead to the next big thing on my calendar: The 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultra Marathon.

At last year's 20in24 Midnight Madness
This race is something that I absolutely do not want to give up for three main reasons:

1) It's a 24-hour race, so really whether I can only run 10 miles by that point or 100 (ha!), I'm still going to do some portion of the race. The registration shall not  be wasted!

2) The 8.4 mile loop course is one that I run all the time. It's flat. It's on pavement. I could run it in my sleep (and most likely will during the night portion of the race). No steep hills or rocky trails to contend with. No surprises.

3) It's in mid-July, thereby giving me an extra 1.5 months past when the 50-miler was going to be. So, I now have 3.5 months to get in gear and prepare for "the next big thing."

The Non-Plan Training Plan

15 weeks. That's what I got. I have no idea how many miles I want to try and run during the race yet and I have absolutely no intention of writing any sort of training plan. Training plans are the whole reason I'm in this mess to begin with. Hopefully I have not lost too much running endurance in the last six weeks since I've been keeping up cross training 5-ish days a week. I'm just going to take it day by day and then week by week, maybe plotting things out just 7 days in advance. Who knows, maybe I will never use a training plan again!

The point is - until I can trust myself again to make ME the number one priority and not what it says on a piece of paper, I will not be using any sort of plan.

Tell me - Do you always have a training plan in place? Or do you run by feel?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Six Week Running Injury by the Numbers

I like numbers. Here are some from the past six weeks:

Number of spin classes attended: 11

Number of trips to the pool: 10

Number of yoga classes: 5

Number of actual rest days: 13

Number of trips to the doctor: 1

Number of PT appointments: 4 (with 3-4 more weeks to come)

Number of pounds gained: 4-5 (sad, but true)

Number of dollars lost on DNS races: $250

Number of ice packs now at home in my freezer: 3

Number of times I regretted ever having run at all: zero

Number of times I regretted not backing off more on training: countless

Number of times I regretted doing the race that probably sealed the deal on my injury: zero (best day ever)

Number of new pairs of running shoes I purchased: 2 (yup, even though I couldn't use them)

Number of times I'm allowed to run during the first two weeks of recovery: every 3rd day

Number of weeks I estimate it will take me to get back to pre-injury mileage: 6-10

Monday, March 26, 2012

Forty Days Later

I knew it was coming, but I had been avoiding it all day. Finally at 6 pm I put down my book and forced myself up. I put on shorts and pull over. It was a cool spring day, slightly chillier than it had been recently. I pulled a bright blue compression sleeve up my left calf and slipped on my shoes. As I tied the laces my stomach was fluttering with nervous energy. I felt like I was going to be sick.

I kissed Mike goodbye and headed out the door. I had waited forty days for this moment, nearly six weeks. I had tried after four weeks, but that ended disastrously. No wonder I was nervous.

What if it hurts again? What if I don't make it five strides without pain? Maybe I should wait a few more days. I've waited six weeks, what's 72 more hours?

No, you don't need to wait. This is the third day you've awoken to no pain. Not walking around. Not going up and down stairs. Not jumping on one foot. None. It's time to face your fears.

As I took the first stride I held my breath, bracing myself for the pain. But it didn't come. I kept going, slow and steady. The walkers were almost passing me. No matter. It's not about speed right now. Every so often I felt like it might start hurting. Maybe it was in my head, maybe not. 

As I approached the turnaround my head was battling with itself. I felt like I wanted to run forever. Until my entire self gave out. Until I was reabsorbed into the earth. No, I'm smarter than that. I have to be smarter. Otherwise the last six weeks were for nothing.

My more intelligent self won out and I circled around at the half mile mark. Home stretch. My guard started to let down. I began to enjoy the run and stop worrying about the pain. As I rounded the last corner I didn't even get annoyed at the pedestrians that felt the need to take up the entire sidewalk walking shoulder to shoulder. Having to go around them would just mean I could run a little bit longer, even if only a few seconds. 

I finally arrived back at my front door. I let my heels sink down over the edge of the step, feeling the stretch in my calves. I walked into my apartment and hung my head down, bracing my hands against my knees. After so many tears of sorrow, tears of joy were something to be grateful for. 

One absolutely, undeniably magnificent, blissful, painfree mile. I'm back.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finding the Positive in Injury

Injuries suck. S-U-C-K. Big time. But you will only get so far sulking around the house and being sad all of the time. Charlie Brown is cool and all, but even I can't "Good Grief" all day long.

Maybe it's the amazing weather. Or maybe it's the fact that physical therapy has started and I'm feeling optimistic. Whatever it is, as of late, I'm feeling pretty positive (or at least trying to feel). So let's talk about how we can all find positivity in our injuries:

I Will Be Stronger
Cross training will make me a fiercer and more powerful runner by the time I hit the pavement again. Think of all of those muscles getting nice, even-toned, varied workouts that didn't get them before. I will be unstoppable.

I Will Be Smarter
I've learned so much already in just a month about taking better care of my body. After starting physical therapy last week and after what will be at least six more weeks of it, I will have quadrupled my knowledge of all kinds of stretches and techniques to make my body feel better. This will help me in the future to not only keep me in tip top shape, but prevent injury.

Race Day Will Be Huge
Sure, all races are big deals I guess, but for a time I was doing 1-2 a month, and the whole racing thing perhaps lost some of it's specialness. I cannot wait for that 4 am wake up call, 10 trips to the bathroom, nervous ball of omg-did-forget-anything-and-I-have-to-pee-again kind of energy. It's going to be epic.

I Will Get To Run
Versus "I have to run." I can't tell you how many times I went out for a run when I didn't really feel like it just because my training plan said I had to. It's true, you only realize you've taken things for granted once they're gone. I for one cannot wait until I get to run.

The Runner's High Will Knock My Socks Off
I'm the type of person that loves to save the good stuff for last. Sort of like tapering for a race - you don't really enjoy the taper that much, but you end it with race day! After what will likely total to months off of running, the first pain-free run I actually do will probably give me a runner's high the size of Texas. Who knows, maybe the longer I wait the better it will be!

I Will Be More Forgiving
Prior to this injury I used to hate (!!) taking days off from running. Whether it be race tapering or taking a day or two off because I was too busy or something just didn't feel right, not running ravaged my psyche. In the future I will forgive myself if I find I need to take a day or two (or three) of rest. This is not to say that I will be okay getting injured again, but maybe the first big injury is the hardest. After awhile I suppose not running can become tolerable or at least familiar and then maybe it's a little easier to deal with.

What do you think, am I missing anything?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's All in the Hips

So I've been to physical therapy three times now. The PT concured with the doctor that yes, it probably is just shin splints. I won't lie, I was slightly disappointed. Not that I want a stress fracture or anything, but at least a fractured bone has a healing time, a sort of expiration date if you will. Shin splints are just there until they aren't anymore. That is that.

During the first session last week I had an evaluation. After explaining my left shin woes and my recent, mentally debilitating setback, the PT checked to see where exactly all my strong a weak parts were. She watched how I walked. She watched how I stepped up and down from a platform. She did strength tests such as "I'm going to push here. Don't let me push." Major revelation learned from this? My hips are weak as shit!

As a result of this revelation I have been prescribed all sorts of hip strength-building exercises. According to the PT, their lack of ability to support any sort of stress may have inadvertantly caused more stress on the lower extremeties, eventually leaving my legs susceptible to shin splints. But, whether my weak hips have directly or indirectly resulted in my shin splints or not, it can't hurt to have stronger hips. It's clearly an area I've been neglecting.

At the end of my first session I point blank asked her: "Will this fix me? Will PT fix everything?" To which she responded: "Yes...if it is done and if it is done correctly." I didn't really get what she meant by that, but I quickly understood during the next few evenings as I found myself taking up 40 minutes of time doing the exercises she gave me. I can see how some people might skip out on a rep here and there or abandon a whole night altogether. So far I haven't done any of that though. I will gladly give up 40 minutes or an hour or two hours every night if it will make me better! My shins have definitely been feeling better in the last week. Whether that is because of PT or just because of more rest I will never know.

At the end of this day I'm actually starting to think that this injury was a really good thing. I was grinding myself to the bone, not taking care of my body. I'm lucky I didn't end up with something worse. Now I feel like I'm started to re-build myself from the bottom up. I've been given a do-over and I'm sure as hell not going to waste it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Part Deux

Though I was not planning to post on this theme again right away, after reading something this weekend, I decided I just had to write this follow up to my last post.

I recently started reading Running the Edge by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano and last night I came across this passage which, I think, really sums up exactly "what it is about running":

"'Pretend I am a person who can only see the world in black-and-white. Now imagine you need to explain to me what the color blue looks like. How would you do it?...'Being a runner is like being able to see the color blue' feels natural and easy. Your legs feel powerful and strong. Your breath, heartbeat, and muscles have found a rhythm and harmony working together in perfect balance. You get a sense that this is what all humans were meant to do, and you feel a connection to your primitive ancestors, as if you have discovered what you were always meant to unlocked the secret to a new understanding, just as the person who has never seen in color opens her eyes to the see the color blue."

Pretty perfect, right?

Have you read "Running the Edge?" Did you like it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

What is It About Running?

For over a month now I've been trying every other sweat-inducing workout to try and replace running. Yes, they've caused me to sweat, feel a burn and even some soreness the next day, but I haven't fully been able to find the same satisfaction in any of these activities as I do when I run.

It seems every other day someone is asking me "Well, Kristin, why don't you try something else? You can still workout you know. Why is it any different?" And then I sort of draw a blank and have nothing to say back because whatever I feel about running I just can't seem to sum up in words. I wish I could just beam them into my consciousness for a minute and maybe then they'd understand.

The thing is lots of people, mostly you dear readers, understand exactly what I'm talking about. I'm not the first person who has mourned not being able to run. There is something special about running, but it can be difficult to pinpoint.

So, all that said, here is what I have come up with to answer the age old "what is it about running that you love so much" question:

I love that I am the only piece of necessary equipment
No bikes or helmets. No yoga mats. No swim caps or goggles. Just me, myself, and I. Even shoes are optional.

Heck you don't even need actual workout clothes
I love that I can step outside my door and do it
Between work and grad school and wedding planning, running can always be squeezed in somewhere, whether it's at 5 am or 8 pm or even during lunch. I can literally step outside my door and get going. But now I have to think about my commute time to the gym, when the pool will be open, what time the spin class starts and how early I have to get there to get a spot, and whether there is a convenient yoga class lined up for this evening. So much extra planning, so much extra non-workout time.

Let's just do the math:

If I want to run for one hour I will workout for one hour. 
Total workout time = 60 minutes. 
Total time dedicated to workout = 60 minutes. 


If I want to go to a one hour spin class then I have to bike 15 minutes to the gym, arrive 15 minutes before class starts and then bike home 15 minutes afterwards. 
Total workout time = 60 minutes. 
Total time dedicated to workout = 105 minutes. 

Now that's just crappy.

I love that I can let my mind wander
Rigorous tempo or speed workouts aside, most of the time I can let my thoughts roam free when I run. It's just a constant, repetitive motion. One foot in front of the other. My legs do the work, my mind takes a break. It's my "me" time.

I love that I can connect
If I'm running in a group I connect with the group. We share a common passion. I love the running community. I've never met a bunch of more positive, genuinely nice people.

If I'm running solo I connect with myself. I connect with the earth. I find that running can be very spiritual. To me it is the ultimate form of therapy. I always feel physically and mentally refreshed after a good run.

A quiet trail run takes the edge off
I love that it makes the world feel bigger and smaller at the same time
At some point in my running career I ran far enough that suddenly nothing seemed inaccessible. I felt like I could run anywhere in my city. No need for a bike or the bus. I've got my feet! And then I started running trails and I realized how big and far reaching everything was, but it still seemed attainable. Maybe that's why I like ultras. It's big and small at the same time. 

Running can take you Amish Country for instance
I love that it packs a big calorie burning punch
This is of course one of the biggest reasons people love to run. Whether you're running fast or slow, running for just 10 minutes can burn 100+ calories. Now that is math that I like!

A marathon is definitely a big calorie burning punch
So tell me - what is it about running for you? Why do you miss running when you can't do it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

30 Day Vegan Challenge: Weeks 1 & 2

Since I started the challenge a few days before the first of the month, this post marks the first and second weeks of completion. Here are some highlights!

Mi Lah Vegetarian

Two Fridays ago we went to Mi Lah Vegetarian, a 100% vegan restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. Everything on the menu is absolutely excellent and brunch is especially delicious!

I'm a sucker for tofu pad thai, especially when it comes with crunchy bean sprouts and drops of Sriracha on the plate.

For dessert at Mi Lah I tried their vegan cheesecake. I was so excited about it that I forgot to take a picture before I grabbed a bite. I then also realized that they made it look like a face and I had accidentally eaten the happy upturned mouth. It was a little thicker than normal cheesecake, but still super yummy!

Snack Time

I'm all about making it easy, so anytime I see something healthy, tasty, ready-to-eat, and small enough to fit into my backpack I grab it up! TJ's ready-to-eat edamame satisfied my mid-afternoon snack craving perfectly.

And, in terms of the not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delicious kind of snacks, one awesome web link I found this week was PETA's list of Accidentally Vegan foods. Now I don't want to be vegan and just eat a lot of crap because that's really not the point, is it? That said, I like my snacks and desserts every night now and then and I was extremely happy to see Sour Patch Kids on the list!

Burger & "Fries"

Sunday night I really didn't feel like cooking, so I made a quick meal using Amy's California Veggie Burgers.

I don't really like fake meats, so I tend to avoid the faux chicken nuggets, etc. This burger was packed with veggies and grains, which I could actually taste when I bit into it.

I toasted two pieces of whole wheat bread and spread TJ's Chipotle Pepper Hummus on one side.

I finished the burger by putting some red cabbage on top. In lieu of fries I cooked up some brussels sprouts in a pan with olive oil, lemon, and a dash of salt. A much healthier option!

Speaking of brussels sprouts, I have had a long standing love affair with them that only grows more and more each month. I recently found this quick recipe for brussels sprout chips that I am definitely going to try!

Pasta & (Lots of) Greens

This is one of my go-to easy meals during the week. Heat up a pot of water. Pasta of your choice.* Add massive amounts of your favorite green veggie. Pour olive oil, spices, and sauce (optional) on top, and enjoy!

*Some pasta has egg in it. Be sure to read the ingredients beforehand if you are trying to do a vegan dish. Usually I go for whole wheat pastas, but I noticed that the particular brand I had at home (Barilla I think?) was made with egg whites, so I opted for this tri-color TJ's pasta instead.

Tofu Tacos

Last weekend Mike had the awesome idea to make Tofu Tacos. I cooked up tofu, red and green pepper, and onions in a pan with sweet chili sauce, black pepper, and chia seeds.

Instead of cooking up black beans we settled for black bean salsa both as a taco topping and for the tortilla chips on the side.

We added the tofu stir fry mix and black bean salsa into whole wheat tortillas with brown rice.

And you can't have tacos without a Corona. All that was missing was the beach!

Tell me - have you tried anything fancy in the kitchen lately??

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Good and The Bad

The Good

In my fourth week of injury I finally hit my cross training stride. In fact I might even be enjoying cross training (the horror!). Well, at least my muscles are enjoying it.

Monday: 60 min pool running

Tuesday: 45 min spin class

Wednesday: 75 min hot vinyasa (with Mike)

Thursday: 3 mile walk

Friday AM: 45 min spin + 15 min abs
Friday PM: 45 min pool running

Saturday: 1.5 mile walk, 1.5 mile run*

Sunday: 11 mile bike ride

All in all I'm pretty proud of myself this week. It certainly helped that it's spring break so I didn't have to worry about silly classes and homework, but considering how much I'm not a fan of cross training, I think I knocked it out of the park.

My mood has also been great this week, probably the best since I've been injured. As Elle Woods once said: "Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy!"

The Bad*

All that said, my good mood sort of came crashing down Saturday afternoon. My legs were feeling really good, so I decided to attempt a run to see where they were at.

I walked a half mile to the bike path, ran .75 miles, walked a half mile, ran .75 miles, and walked the half mile home. I'd love to tell you that the run felt great, but it didn't. The pain was immediate, constant, ranging from dull to sharp. There was not a single moment when I didn't feel discomfort or pain. I came home and cried my eyes out, iced the crap out of my leg and hit the hay.

Sunday morning I woke up to intense, throbbing pain in my shin. I emailed the doctor right away, who told me last Monday that he would order an MRI if running was painful. I cried for about an hour, completely distraught and feeling hopeless. How could this possibly just be shin splints? How could it possibly have hurt that much to run after almost ONE MONTH of rest!?

As I sit here writing this post with my legs up on the couch, the leg isn't hurting, but I know the problem is there. I can feel it, like a disease, clawing into my bone and muscle. When will this goddamn nightmare end?

Looking forward, at least we have a good week of weather to look forward to, which make me both happy (see you later winter!) and incredibly sad (because I can't run in it). Perhaps the leg will feel good enough for me to at least take some nice long walks.

Have you ever had an injury that just wouldn't go away? How did you deal?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Taking the Pressure Off

Yesterday it was 70 degrees out for the first time in months. The perfect, perfect day for a run. I wanted to run oh so badly, but I practiced self-disciplined. I didn't run.

Instead I went home after work, threw on shorts and my favorite Nike pullover, the one I would instinctively reach for in the dark for early morning runs, stepped out of my apartment building and walked 3 miles. In some ways I consider yesterday's walk to be more of an accomplishment than running the marathon. It required far more self-discipline. But you do have to walk before you can run I suppose.

I walked to the bike path, the same path I've cursed so many times for being so boring. Except this time it wasn't boring. It was fantastic. I've missed it so much.

I walked slowly and cautiously. Previous to yesterday the only walking I have really been doing for the past 3+ weeks has been from my living room to my bedroom or my office desk to the mail room. I have been trying not to put any pressure on my shins. The walk was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I experienced no pain other than a few minor blimps here and there at the beginning. I could feel my legs getting stonger with each step. Progress!

I also began to break in my new Kinvara 2s. They feel as good as they look.

But on to the main point of this post - taking the pressure off.

Really, taking the pressure off of myself. If there is one thing about myself that I am certain, it's that if it's on my calendar or on my training plan it may as well be etched in stone. I will do practically anything to hit my goal.

Knowing this, for now, in order to protect myself, I need to remove the goal. This means that I will not be running the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler in DC on June 2nd. While I have mourned the loss of this over the past week or two as it began to sink in, at this point I am past it. Because the thing is that life doesn't end on June 2nd. There will be a June 3rd, and a June 4th, and then it will be July and August, and then the fall, and then 2013. Life goes on and so will I.

For now the June 2nd race is a "North Face Endurance Challenge Distance TBD." They have a marathon and 50k and I hope to be able to participate in one of those distances. Yes, a marathon is still a reasonably difficult distance, but it's half as much as I originally planned to do, so I think I could be okay.

I also emailed the race director for the Trail Triple Marathon at the end of April to see if I could switch to the half. I even held myself back from registering from Marine Corps this week (thank god it sold out in two hours to remove the temptation), which would be a problem if I did happen to get into NYCM. Some day I'd love to run two marathons in two weekends, but this year is not the year.

For now, the only goal is to get back to running. Races or no races, it doesn't matter. There is always the future.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An Apology Letter to My Left Shin

Dear Left Shin,

I'm sorry for running you ragged without any rest.

I'm sorry for not icing.

I'm sorry for not stretching.

I'm sorry for not doing other activities that would give you a break.

I'm sorry for not building the other muscles around you to take some of the weight off your shoulders.

I'm sorry for beating you up with my fists when you weren't cooperating and making you hurt even more.

I'm sorry for being grumpy and negative when you probably needed positive reinforcement.

I'm sorry for calling you "shitty" and yelling other curse words in your general direction.

I'm sorry for not appreciating you when you helped me do amazing things.

I'm sorry for getting mad at you when I should have been mad at myself.

I'm sorry for not taking care of you every day.

I'm sorry for expecting so much out of you without helping out.

You can run 10 miles. You can run 30. And some day you will run 50 and 100.

I can be better. I will be better.

Love, Kristin

Monday, March 5, 2012

Injury Update

Today marks my 21st day without running. Just writing that makes my cringe, but the good news is that I'm in an upswing!

I woke up Sunday morning feeling like crap. My entire body was sore from hot yoga the day before. Everything hurt. Well, everything, that is, except my shin! In fact, my shin didn't hurt at all on Sunday and it didn't hurt at all this mornig when I woke up. I have been limping around on it to try and keep off as much weight as possible to aid the healing process.

This morning I hobbled over to my doctor for my long-awaited appointment. Long story short, he does think it's just shin splints, especially considering that I showed up to the appointment with practically no pain. He had me do the hop test on my bad leg and I had mild pain, but a week ago when I did it on my own I had terribly intense pain, so I'm obviously healing.

He scheduled me for PT twice a week starting next Wednesday. I've been given the all-clear to start running agani as soon as I can hop pain-free, which will hopefully be sometime this week based on my progress!

He also recommended that I take a calcium supplement on top of my multi-vitamin because I'm probably not getting what I need out of my (personal) vegan diet.

For now I'm going to continue to keep as much weight off as possible and continue the cross training plan I had set up for this week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sweat Or Die: DC Edition

The beginning of this week was really tough on me. I didn't work out for four days and felt like absolute crap. After avoiding a phone call with my mom for over two weeks because I didn't want to burst into tears, I finally called her and, well, I burst into tears anyway, but she always makes me feel better! I realized I needed to see her ASAP and decided to make an impromptu trip down to DC this weekend.

I gotta say, after we made the decision to go the rest of my week was so much better because I was looking forward to it. It also helped that I got my butt back in gear and went to spin three days in a row.

Saturday morning in DC I headed to a hot Vinyasa class. I haven't done yoga in a really long time, at least a year or more. There was a time when I would go four or five days a week, but that was pre-running. I don't care for it much anymore, but I knew it would be good for me and my shitty shin, so I sucked it up!

The class was filled wall-to-wall. I felt nauseous a couple of times, but the instructor ensured me that that was normal (umm sure). I have not sweat buckets like that in a seriously long time. I don't think I even sweat that much running in the 100 degree heat last summer. The cool breeze felt fantastic on the walk home.

The shirt was light grey when before class
After yoga my Mom and I spent the afternoon shopping and picked up some goodies from Lulu. I also finally got my hands on some KT Tape.

There are tons of You Tube videos about how to tape up shin splints. I followed the method that the instruction booklet that came with the box told me. So far it feels really good and I'm not having as much pain with the tape on.

For dinner we picked up SweetGreen, an absolute must when I'm down in DC. 

I'm so glad we made the trip down. I feel much better after some quality mommy-daughter time and my doctor's appointment is tomorrow! Finally!

Friday, March 2, 2012

30 Day Vegan Challenge

This week I started The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, hosted by Amanda at Run to the Finish. I participated in her Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge over the holidays and really enjoyed it. She puts on a new 30 day challenge every month, so if you are interested in participating in any of them visit her blog for details.

There was a time around 2008-2009ish that I was vegan for probably a whole year and a half. I stopped when we moved up to Philly from DC. While DC seemed very vegan-accesible, I found it much more difficult to stay vegan easily while in Philly. Since I stopped in 2009 I have been trying to go back to being vegan every so often, usually without much success.

I have been vegetarian since New Year's, give or take a piece of fish. After two months, I'm pretty used to it and I think I'm ready to tackle veganism again. I figured this challenge was a good opportunity to do so since there are a whole community of other bloggers behind it for support! Though the challenge started Thursday on the first of the month, I started on Monday to coincide with my food shopping. Plus that also gave me a few days to ease into it before the challenge officially started.

For me, the biggest challenge in moving from vegetarian to vegan is lunch. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning: a cup of green tea, a granola bar, and a banana. Dinner is usually a veggie/tofu stir fry with some kind of grain or whole grain pasta with veggies. For lunch, however, I usually eat some kind of cheese sandwich, so this is where the replacements would really come in.

Here are some highlights from this week's meals:

Hummus & Quinoa Salad Sandwich

I started with some TJ's Tricolor Quinoa. Quick and easy to make.

 While the quinoa was cooking I chopped up a yellow pepper, half a cucumber, half a red onion, a tomato, and opened up a can of black beans. Once the quinoa had cooled I mixed them all together along with some dried cranberries. I love colorful meals!

This week I chose Tomato & Basil Hummus Dip. I imagine I'll be eating a lot of hummus over the next 30 days, so I'll probably sample a different flavor every week. 

I sliced a whole wheat pita in half, lathered the inside with the hummus, and filled each pocket with the quinoa salad. It was delicious! I had lots of the quinoa salad leftover so I had it a few times over the week. 

Walnut Pear Spinach Salad

Lately I've really been loving salads with fruit in it (must be a spring thing!) so I decided to make it happen this week for lunch.

I was super happy when I found these candied walnuts at TJs. I had to stop myself from eating them all straight from the bag.

For a quick salad I threw together baby spinach, diced pears, candied walnuts, and dried cranberries.

I bought this champagne caper vinaigrette to put on top.

Good thing I've got my Salad Blaster Bowl from the Container Store to make packing salad for lunch super easy!

Tofu Veggie Stir Fry

Mike and I usually make a veggie stir fry at least three nights a week, sometimes with tofu, sometimes without.

Let's start with the grain. TJs sells these pre-packaged double servings of rice. I usually don't like buying frozen food, but these are quick, easy, and one less thing to worry about. If we don't pair our stir fry with one of these we usually cook up some quinoa or whole wheat cous cous.

Next up comes to tofu. Lately we've really loved this sprouted tofu, again from TJs. The packaging is great because each side is separately wrapped and sealed so you can just use one at a time.

And, lastly, it's time for the veggies! Lots of color just like I like. This dish included broccoli, brussel sprouts, red and yellow peppers, and a pinch of red cabbage on top. All cooked up in a pan with olive oil and some spices and then tossed over the grain. And don't forget the Sriracha chili sauce!

I also usually add a generous handful of chia seeds to my stir fry for good measure!

Vegan Chili

This week Mike decided to make vegan chili in our slow cooker.

Made of corn, black beans, chick peas, red and yellow onion, celery, tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, black bean soup with a dash of oregano and chili flakes. Set timer to 3 hours and pour over brown rice.

So far I'd say week one being vegan is going really well! I look forward to playing around with more recipes over the next month!

Are you vegan or vegetarian? What are your favorite go-to recipes for lunch and dinner?