Thursday, June 14, 2012

St. George Marathon 2011

This is a compilation of some of my previous writings and leads into my thoughts about my 2011 St. George Marathon experience.

“So when is your baby due?”

“I’m not pregnant” I replied.

I almost went along with it but I couldn’t do the math fast enough to come up with a reasonable due date. The question was totally fair—no doubt, I looked pregnant.

It’s not as though I wasn’t aware of my physically unfit situation. I had just recently been to the Doctor. The skinny mini little assistant entered the room with her handy dandy Body Mass Index (BMI) chart and informed me that I was “obese” and that my cholesterol was much too high at 240, and should be under 200.

“Wait there just a minute, can I see that chart you have?” I already knew I was overweight but obese?

“I really thought I was in the ‘overweight’ range.” Attempting to defend my X-BMI title as "overweight," I only embarrassed myself even more. Did it even matter what the BMI chart said? Forget that I crossed the line from “overweight” into “obese,” I had crossed the line from “careless” into “hypocrite.” What kind of person with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition Science becomes “obese?” By continuing on my current path, it wouldn’t be long before I would become “morbidly obese.” Thinking about that was painful enough; I didn’t need to try it out and experience that pain too.

The Dr. prescribed me some cholesterol lowering medication which I decided not to take. I wanted to at least try to practice what I learned to preach. My Dad told me, “As long as you’re a Mugar, you’ll never be under 200…unless you take medication.”

“Okay, we’ll see about that.” I said. Was that a challenge because I took it as one?

I wasn’t tall enough to be over 200 pounds—I’m only 5’4”. I had no excuses; I was just a very good example of how the Law of Thermodynamics works. When you eat too much and don’t move enough, you gain weight, it’s not rocket science.

Not long after being asked when my baby was due, and getting news from my doctor that I was going bald, officially obese and my cholesterol was dangerously high, I got news from my kids pediatrician that two of my girls weight to height ratio was not heading in the right direction, this was a nice way of saying that they’re getting chubby--like mother, like daughter. How could I possibly expect my kids to live this healthy lifestyle I imagined when I was a classic “before”--without an “after”--picture? The only way my kids were EVER going to care about their health is if I cared about mine.

I knew I couldn’t change my addiction to food, that was too much to ask of myself yet, but I knew I could balance out my food addiction with an addiction to some sort of exercise.

It was the beginning of June 2009, and some of my friends signed up to run a 4th of July 5k. They would start training the very next morning. “I’m in!” I begged…and that was it, I was in.

I ran two miles and I almost died, my legs were like Jell-O and I didn’t even know if I could drive myself home let alone ever walk again. I HATED every second of it. Why do people run? I thought. This has to be the world’s stupidest sport! It’s not like you’re trying to get a ball in a goal. I remembered this quote I read with a picture of a runner next to it: “My sport is your sports punishment”—I completely understood. 

How could I get addicted to something so miserable? I had been noticing all the runners on the streets in my town—they were all skinny. In fact, all the runners I knew were definitely addicted by my standards and very fit. I started hanging out with them and trying to keep up with them.

I found that running for a reason was the only thing that would keep me going. That first 5k short term goal was just enough to keep me running until the 5k--so I thought.  But something changed…Could I beat my own time? I thought. I suddenly got competitive with myself; not such a bad thing right?
My first 5K with Amber and Chandice to my left

Right…But I didn’t have one ounce of motivation at the crack of dawn, to jump up out of my warm, cozy bed—in fact I was a bit zombie like and could hardly walk when first waking up. I was listening to a Dr. Laura radio show and something she said rang true for me: “It takes obligation NOT motivation to succeed on an exercise program.” So I began to obligate myself to someone almost every morning. They were depending on me just as I was depending on them, to follow through. I was a good enough friend to know that you don’t commit a friend to meet you for a run-- before the sun comes up—and then stand em’ up—not cool. I began to obligate myself even more by “pulling” people from all different walks of life into “my” new running group; veteran runners, family members, my church friends, my bishop, his wife, friends I grew up with, my podiatrist, other moms from my kid's school, moms from my daughter's dance class, new neighbors and old ones, other runners I found on the streets running at the crack of dawn, random strangers at the local yogurt shop, and even a cop who pulled me over once--actually twice.
Me, Lisa, and my sister Heidi.

Six months into my new running addiction, I averaged running 4-5 days a week, and was now down 25 lbs. My amazing veteran mentors had my long run up to 13 miles now, which I would have never done alone. I was finally starting to be able to keep up with them on occasion, especially while they were recovering from the St. George Marathon.

The network of friendships I began to develop through this common thing we all had in running was amazing. The support and therapy we provided for each other was something that I couldn’t live without. But something happened in my family life that changed everything in the snap of a finger. My husband suddenly became ill with a rare disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome and within 3 days he was in the ICU, completely paralyzed. 

My running came to an immediate halt and so did our travel plans. We were supposed to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with our friends, Rod and Lori (AKA, our Bishop and his wife). This was my husbands dream trip and we had been planning it for over a year. This trip was another huge part of my decision to start running. How could I even THINK about my need to run and socialize with my friends, when my husband could not even walk nor talk? He couldn't move, eat, pee, poop, shower, brush his teeth, and could barely breathe on his own. With four children under the age of 9 and a very sick husband, running was the last thing on my mind; although I can’t think of a time I’ve ever needed it more.

Bishop Rod, one of the most thoughtful, genuine people I have ever known, convinced me that I needed to take time for myself during this ordeal. Among a million other things he and his wife did for our family, one was that he arranged babysitting for me at 5:30 in the morning a couple times a week so that I could continue to run. I tried not to accept the gift because I felt it was over the top and self-indulgent, but they would not take “no” for an answer. I think he fully understood my dependency on the stress relieving and happiness benefits running provided.

Within a few months, my husband had a miraculous recovery and learned to walk and function independently again.  He was even able to go back to work. Things were getting back to “normal” in my family life and the group convinced me to sign up for St. George with them. They all got in, but I didn’t. I couldn’t have felt more relieved; I honestly didn’t think I could get through a marathon training program. A marathon was something I had NEVER dreamed of doing--NOT on my bucket list at all. I piggybacked the veterans through their entire training and by the time they were ready for their marathon, I was too. They demanded that I choose a fall marathon, so I picked something close by and convenient, Santa Barbara (2010). My goal was to simply finish the race and I did, in 4 hours and 29 minutes.
Last 1/4 mile of Santa Barbara Marathon 2010. Me on the Rt. and my friend Lisa on the left.

I continued with my running and weight loss efforts; the weight was still coming off, but very slowly. We all signed up for the 2011 St. George Marathon and got in this time—Woo Hoo! Signing up for this race mentally committed me and began changing me from the inside out. My relationship with food changed dramatically when I started training for this marathon. I began eating strictly for the purposes of fueling my workouts, and recovering from my workouts, not for pleasure or comfort. My taste buds changed and my acquired taste to salt and sugar was noticeably different. I only ate foods that had nutritional value. My thought processes in my brain changed too; Instead of running so that I could eat, I was eating so that I could run.

I did the full training plan with the big dogs this time, even the speed work on the track once a week. It was much more difficult than the beginner training I did the year previously. I was not able to keep up very well with these veterans, but I continued each week to do this speed training, or “barf workout” as I called it. I was running with my podiatrist who is also a 20-year Boston Marathoner so I knew I had to be doing something right.

I found that misery really does love company and that although the track workout gave me anxiety just thinking about it the night before, I continued to go and fulfill my obligation to my friends. We have the best camaraderie. We strengthen each other’s faith and often share our faith with others in the group. We open up about the challenges we face and have learned so much from each other. Sometimes we get a little personal; I have been known to get emotional while discussing my personal challenges. I have also learned quite a bit about what “TMI” is. I guess I am a complete provider of Too Much Information. We have this little saying, “what comes to our runs, stays at our runs,” and we all respect that. We share a special bond I think, and we are even known by the strong character traits we have. I have been introduced to a new runner like this, “oh and this is Kelly, she has no filter.” I like to think my running buddies don’t mind it so much that I lack a filter. Sometimes we’ll start off a run in silence and they’ll all look to me for a story, which I almost always have a few in my queue; “what do ya got for us today Kelly?” They’ve even been known to time my stories while running and when I stop talking Jeff will simply say, “44 minutes, she just talked for 44 minutes straight.” Even my bishop will keep me in check, keeping track of how many times in one run I say something borderline inappropriate and then he gives me a score at the end of the run. Like in golf, the lower the better. I have most definitely become a better person because of the friends I run with.

While packing all my stuff and preparing for St. George, my sweet--clueless about running--husband stopped me and asked, “So, are you gunna qualify for Boston this weekend?”

“Was that supposed to be funny?....Are you mocking me?....WHAT ARE YOU SAYING!?!?!?!? …..You’re kidding right?……. Why would you say that?”

I had never even dreamed of running a marathon, let alone qualifying for the Boston Marathon! I didn’t even have a clue what it would take for me to qualify, why would I? I never dreamed this. Mine was fairly simple; fat girl dreams of becoming skinny girl.

My husband had served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints in Boston--20 years earlier—and apparently it was HIS dream to go back to Boston.

Now I suddenly felt some pressure, uninvited pressure I guess you could call it. I couldn’t help that I wanted to make him proud of me. I thought about all he had been through with his physical health and the commitment he made to our 4 children while I trained every Saturday morning during my long runs. Now I felt like I owed it to him.
My husband, Richard and I with our four kids

I secretly checked the Boston Marathon website for the qualifying times. It was out of my league. Not only that, but they had just dropped 5 minutes off all the age groups qualifying times. They had to weed out all the "slow" runners as the race had become too popular. I would have to run the St. George Marathon in 3:39:59. That’s almost an entire hour faster than my first marathon—impossible!

I had planned on running this marathon with my friend, Bishop Rod; our training paces are the closest in our running group. I knew his goal was to break 4 hours and that seemed like a reasonable goal for me too. I trusted him, he had run St. George 8 times. He has always been much faster than me, in training and in races; however, I did stand a chance at keeping up with him under St. George Marathon circumstances. For him, heat combined with long distance are like water to the Wicked Witch of the West. Bishop had printed me a copy of his weighted pace band for our “break 4 hours” goal of 3:59, but now I needed to see what a 3:39 would look like (but without anyone knowing.) I went on the internet and found a weighted pace band specific to the St. George course from a man named Scott Zimmerman. He had done quite a bit of research on different runners and their split times to come up with a mile per mile pace formula specific to the St. George course. I punched “3:39” into his excel spreadsheet pace band and the average pace calculated out at 8 minute 21 second miles. I thought my “3:59” goal was lofty, but at 3:39, sprinting 26.2 miles made my “lofty” 3:59 goal seem like a walk in the park. I taped my new secret 3:39 goal to the backside of the 3:59 band, then laminated with packaging tape. I made sure that NOBODY could see it, including myself…LOL. I was embarrassed that I even printed it.

We made the 6-hour drive to St. George as a group, many of us carpooling. I was riding with Joan who had run the St. George Marathon several times in her life, and had also once qualified for Boston there. We chatted about running and just about anything and everything. There were some people in our running group with outspoken plans of qualifying for Boston this weekend. Joan told me about the time she qualified for Boston in St. George. I felt openly inspired and secretly ridiculous at the same time. I couldn’t tell her about the pace band I had printed; for once in my life I kept my big mouth shut and my little ears open. “Everyone always had the ‘best advice’,” Joan told me, “The classic advice for a distance runner--‘don’t go out too fast,’ but the year that I qualified for Boston, I just went for it! I gave it my all from the very beginning. I took my chances on hitting the wall but I qualified for Boston. I left nothing on the course. Nothing at the beginning, middle or end.” she told me. I just took it all in and didn't say anything about my secret race plans, I didn’t want to jinx myself.

The morning of the race, we were all together eating breakfast in Whitney's condo. My friend Dennis was asking everyone for their ETA to the finish line, so he could calculate approximately when and where he would go on the course to cheer for us and take our pictures. I kept ignoring him, hoping he would forget about my ETA, but finally he asked me point blank, “What’s your pace going to be Kelly?” I shrugged my shoulders while one of my running buddies finally answered for me, “She’ll be doing 10 minute miles.” I just went along with it, for all I knew, I would be.

While waiting at the top for the race to start, we used the port-a-potties of course. The first time around was fine and much to my surprise, they didn’t even smell really. I was regretting not eating my typical whole grain carbohydrate diet while carb loading. The switch over to all that white refined stuff and the sweet carbs over the last two days did not help me “move.” I had to get back in line again, hoping that by the time I got to the front of the line I’d be ready to “move.” Oh gosh, the port-a potties smelled so bad now, I started dry heaving. I could feel the barf coming up, and I was about to rocket launch all the breakfast fuel that I needed for the race. I pulled my spandex up as fast as I possibly could, bolting out of that bathroom for the deepest breath of fresh air I have ever consumed. I gave up, all my friends were headed toward the chute and I didn’t want to loose anyone. Right before the final countdown, when they were just about to blow the horn, I told my friend Rod, “Shoot, I gotta go to the bathroom."

“WHAT?!!!?!?” he blows a gasket. “I’ve run this race for the last 8 years, and I have NEVER had anyone to run with! For the first time ever, I actually have someone to run with and she has to go the BATHROOM!?!?!? You’ve had over an hour! HURRY UP!” He was a little pissed off, to say the least, but trying to cover it in a nice guy, funny sort of way.

“Gosh, never mind, I’ll just wait.” (this is gunna be a LOOOOOOONG race I thought)

There were quite a few of us from our running group in the chute, but we all got a little separated. Our “elite” runners, Jeff and Kim, went way up front as they were aiming for 3:30 times and we weren’t (-; We started off pretty fast at around 8:16’s and held a pretty steady pace. I had a pretty solid race plan based on Jeff’s/Dr. Katz’s advice—to ditch my water belt, drink at all the water stations, take a gel about every 45 minutes, and RUN THE TANGENTS! Between the dynamic duo, Jeff and Joan, I think I got some pretty great marathon advice. I added some advice for myself also--to pour cold water down my back and neck at each water station.

When Bishop and I got to the Veo Volcano hill at Mile 7, the sun came up and the volcano must have been a rolling boil inside, because it immediately began to take it’s toll on Rod. I poured cold water down his back and mine. It worked for me, but not for him )-: I had heard all these horrible things about Veo from all the people I knew who had run St. George, but the anticipation of it was so much worse than the reality for me. Maybe it was the adrenaline, or maybe it’s because I live in Anaheim HILLS and all we ever do are hills. My weighted pace band was allowing me an 11-minute pace for Veo but I didn’t need it and Rod knew it too. He told me to go ahead. I didn’t. He told me to go ahead. I didn’t. He yelled at me to go ahead, all mad like. I did and I didn’t look back. Call me selfish, I know.

I came up on my friend Kelly and ran with him for a while, but then he stopped to stretch a hamstring injury and I never saw him again. Then I came up on Adam, another runner in our group. We ran for a little while but then he started complaining of plantar fasciitis problems, saying, “I should’ve paid a visit to Dr. Katz." Jeff Katz is the veteran runner in our group, he's also our podiatrist, it's kinda nice to have a running foot doctor in the group. Anyway, Adam slowed waaaaay down, so I kept going.

With regard to running, I am strongest on the down hills. I know what people are thinking when I say that...well duh, gravity sort of does that to you. But this is more than just the gravity. The difference between my uphill pace and my downhill pace far surpasses anyone else I know. It’s odd actually.

When I got to snow canyon, it was shady, and very steep downhill. For some reason I have no fear of going fast down hill and seem to just fall fast. I think it might have something to do with my childhood training in downhill skiing; my parents put me in private ski racing lessons as a teenager. Snow Canyon didn’t have any snow, but it sure felt like it; I was passing people like I was on skis and I felt great. I knew I had to be going really fast! When I got through Snow Canyon, I looked down at my Garmin and I had been running a 5:15! I needed all the insurance I could buy on that downhill and I definitely had saved up enough for my mental confidence to take on the heat and the flat the last few miles would give me. I was now on pace to take my 3:39 race, and after Snow Canyon I had just enough confidence to turn my secret pace band over.

I was officially in high gear, with my pace band switched, coming into mile 20. Still running through every water stop and making a point to stay hydrated, I started to feel slightly mentally compromised. I began talking to myself, convincing myself that it was all worth it and the pain was only temporary. I thought about my husband and all he had suffered while paralyzed and I began dedicating those last 6 miles to him. Every time I felt pain that seemed too difficult to endure, I thought about Richard. Every time I started to slow down to a pace that would compromise my goal, I thought about Richard. Several times, I thought to myself…at least I can choose to endure this pain, he didn’t have that choice. Those were six of the most emotionally draining miles I have ever endured. When I came up on mile 25, I went straight for the water stop, as I took the water I looked up and there I was, face to face, with one of my dearest friends and running partner Kim. I was facing toward the finish line and she was facing toward the starting line. I put my arm around her in an effort to get her turned around and moving with me; “Come on Kim, let’s go!” as my arm slowly dragged away, Kim stayed, appearing a little confused. She was getting a drink, a little delirious, but keeping it together enough to realize she needed water. I looked back to see if she was coming but then I turned the corner and lost sight of her. Kim was dehydrated, she barely even knew who I was. I felt bad about leaving her, but she was at an aid station, the best place she could be on the course, only 1 mile from the finish line, and the lady serving her the water was clearly aware of her needs. As I continued on to my final mile, I looked at my Garmin. I was pushing the limits! This was going to be so close that I had to sprint to the finish line if I wanted to seal this deal. I picked up the pace and it was painful. I immediately started telling myself negative thoughts--forget it, it’s over, you can't do it,--but then counteracted telling myself: You have run 25 miles of a Boston qualifying marathon. Then I began chewing myself out: IF YOU SLOW DOWN NOW, YOU HAVE WASTED 25 MILES AT A PAINFULLY FAST PACE FOR NO REASON! THERE IS NO WAY YOU ARE GIVING UP OVER 1 STUPID MILE! These were the final words I repeated in my head to keep myself sprinting, and it worked. I crossed the finish line in 3:39:39, with 21 seconds to spare.

That had to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I entered the grass area and partook of the most wonderful Blue Bunny Popsicle ever known to man and the most delicious--and my all time favorite, Great Harvest--bread on the earth. I never drink soda, I actually don't like soda, especially Sprite, but their ice cold soda was amazing, best I've ever had! Joan came up to congratulate her husband Jeff, and when she saw me standing there with him, realizing I had already finished the race, her jaw dropped, “KELLY?!?!?! Oh my gosh!...AMAZING! I am just Amazed!...WOW!”

“She qualified for Boston.” Jeff said.

“You qualified for BOSTON?!?!?!?!?” she exclaimed!

“Yeah, I think so.”

I hadn't seen the official results, so I was hesitant to say, 21 seconds was not enough to be sure. I found out later that my Garmin is very accurate and that my time was exact. I ran the tangents PERFECT, thank you Jeff, as the mileage on my Garmin read exactly 26.2.

Joan didn’t expect me to qualify for Boston, nobody in our group expected me to do that.

“Thanks for the great advice Joan” I said, “I did exactly what you told me you did the year you qualified for Boston.”

As everyone started coming in, we set up camp behind the gazebo at the park, and made a place for our fans and all of our friends to hang out on the grass together. By this time, Kim, Rod and Lisa had all finished the race. Kim only came in a couple minutes after me, and Rod and Lisa a little bit after that.
Kim and I after the race.

Kim told me to check my division to see if I placed. I sort of snickered at the thought. “No, really,” she firmly stated, “you need to check and see if you placed, you very well could have.” I ignored it at first, but about an hour later, while waiting for others to finish the race; I thought about what she said and nonchalantly walked over to check the standings, sort of embarrassed to even tell anyone where I was going, I just went by myself. I had to go straight to the gazebo to ask the volunteers to look it up because they were having technical difficulties with posting the results. The lady comes back with a 5th place plaque and hands it over to me, I looked at the paper to confirm and it was real. I actually placed in my division. It felt a little bit self indulgent and out of touch with reality to make any kind of big deal about a silly 5th place plaque, but it represented so much more than what it appeared to on the outside.
Running buddies: From Left to Right: Lisa, Heidi, Me, Kristen, and Whitney
I redeemed my cell phone so I could call Richard; it was a long painful walk to the bag pick up, but the volunteers knew that. They watched as finishers walked toward them, getting their bib numbers off their shirts. They spotted this limping whimp from a distance and when I got there they were holding my bag out for me...waiting--that was pretty amazing. I went straight over to the bathroom and changed my sopping wet spandex, then I called Richard. I never thought I would get so emotional, but I started crying. Everything we had been through together from the very beginning of my running journey came to fruition in full emotion. I thought about Richard's illness and how far he had come. I thought about his incredible recovery and then how he conquered the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu one year later.

Richard and I with Bishop Rod and Lori...oh, and our guide Eric
I thought about all the goals I had accomplished along the way: getting my cholesterol down to 185 (as a Mugar, 100% naturally with diet and exercise, thank you daddy for the challenge), crossing the BMI line from "obese" into "overweight" and now into "normal," then adding this to all of that was so exhilarating. I was living the dream life and Richard was so proud and excited. He went and proclaimed my "victory" from the roof tops. I guess he texted all my friends, his friends, and our families and told them what I had done. I began getting an abundance of encouraging text and FB messages from everyone I loved.

I am competitive, but competitive with myself. It just doesn’t make sense to compare apples with oranges, so I would rather not. My goals include getting my God given body to the most physically fit place I possibly can so that it performs at it’s highest possible efficiency. I am not there yet, and may not ever be, but I will die trying. In my efforts, if I am able to inspire somebody, anybody, to change their life to take just a little better care of the wonderful gift of a body that our Heavenly Father has given us, then in my mind, I have succeeded. That's just one more thing to add to the list, of things I have found make my life more enjoyable to live. I’m not gunna lie, I had even loftier goals for St. George 2012. With the 15 more pounds of weight I will be loosing, I was going to try taking something higher than 5th, 1st would be fun, but 4th will even do. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut. My friends who I train with got in on the lottery, but I didn’t this year.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Latest from Benny

My mom told me that if she had written down all the crazy things I said and did during my childhood, she could’ve written a book and made a fortune. I am not planning on making a fortune, but I will learn from her mistake and write as much as I can.

My 4-year-old, Benny, is hilarious. We were sitting around eating chicken soup on Sunday night, Emily to my left and Benjamin to my right. Suddenly Benny disappears while I’m chatting with Emily. Then Katie puts her foot up on his chair just to spread out and get comfortable, “EEEEEEW GROSS, WHAT IS THAT WET STUFF?” she screeches.

“I don’t know, it looks like water maybe?” as I scan the kitchen for a rag.

A few minutes later Benny walks in the kitchen naked.

“Benny, what are you doing in here naked?” I asked, when it dawned on me….He peed his pants on the chair, left a puddle there, was embarrassed and wet and that’s why he left the table….Duh!

“Benny what’s that wet stuff on your chair?” I asked.

“I don’t know” he said.

“Are you sure? Maybe it’s soup; did you spill some of your soup?” I asked.

He shrugs his shoulders.

“Did you wet your pants Benny?” I asked.

“NO!” he assured me.

“Gosh, I wonder what that wet stuff is, I think you spilled soup, I think I’ll taste it, I’ll just lick the chair here and taste it, then I’ll find out what the wet stuff is.”

DON’T DO IT MOM!” Katie shouts.

“You’re gross mom, you shouldn’t do it,” my pre-teen, Emily calmly states.

I bend down and pretend as though I’m about to lick the “liquid wet stuff” on the chair and when my mouth gets about two inches from the chair, Benny thrushes his “stop”--in the name of love--hand between my mouth and his urine and yells “NO!!!! DON’T DO IT MOM!”

Yes, my 4-year-old had the gall to stop me. He does love me and he passed the character test today.

Emily and Katie go on to tell me how gross I am that I was about to taste Benny’s pee. I guess I’m more convincing than I thought.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aunt Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but in my extended family, Thanksgiving is all about the food; or should I say, it’s significantly more about the food than it is about family togetherness. We’re all always together 24/7; we all work together in the family business so we eat lunch together, eat dinner together, go to church together, go to baseball games, hockey games and concerts together and by the end of each work day we are probably a little sick of each other. There’s one think we never get sick of on Thanksgiving though, and that is my Aunt Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish.

My late Aunt Pam created this recipe many years ago. She would often create recipes and send them into magazines--like Better Homes and Gardens--winning competitions and earning prize money. This recipe has been a huge hit since the day I tried it. Every time I make it, several people want the recipe. It is definitely a family favorite, and it is ALWAYS on the table at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We eat it every which way we can and make a ton extra on Thanksgiving eve to last us for the entire following week. I eat it for breakfast, and lunch, and snacks, with turkey, in a turkey sandwich, with salad, with our pies, with cool whip, or whipping cream, on top of cheesecake, with yogurt, and/or cottage cheese or just all by itself.

If I know my Aunt Pam like I think I do, this recipe was developed around the pomegranates. My grandfather had a pomegranate tree in his backyard and they flourished in early November. Aunt Pam was one of the most frugal, resourceful, and creative individuals I have ever known. I have a feeling she wanted to make good use of the pomegranates.

One thing I REALLY love about this recipe is that it sort of tricks your mouth. I am not particularly fond of the hard part of the seed inside the pomegranate aril, nor the seeds inside of the raspberries, but they are masked by the nuts when chopped up really small. Your mouth gets confused and thinks you are eating the little minced nuts.

Try NOT to do this recipe without the nuts. I know some people have nut allergies, but just bring your epi pen, it's worth it...j/k but seriously if anaphylactic shock is not a result from eating nuts then this is the recipe worth eating nuts for. My brother-in-law always comes to Thanksgiving prepared to indulge in this dish. He will rinse his mouth out with baking soda to get the nut allergy itches out of his throat after eating it. I actually started making him a special one with Almonds instead of the walnuts or pecans. He's not as allergic to Almonds for some reason.

There are two versions. One is my Aunt Pam's original version, then following that is my tripled version. The tripled version isn't even enough for my family of pigs. We practically have to triple it twice; plus everyone always wants their own little take-home-dish after; It's sort of like the party favor at the end of Thanksgiving.

My dad’s late cousin Vicki started this tradition. She would always call me the day before Thanksgiving to remind me to make extra relish so she could have her own little container to take home. Then everyone would get all jealous and want their own too. I buy those little glad ware containers and stack them full in the fridge on Thanksgiving eve.

Be prepared to have ugly yellow stained hands for a week from peeling pomegranate seeds. I actually suggest if you’ve had a manicure recently and you don’t want to ruin it, you have a man peel out the pomegranate seeds, unless you want an excuse to go get a manicure. Or if you do it underwater they won’t stain your hands as much. It’s sort of our family tradition that my husband Richard peels all the pomegranate seeds. He sits at the table and does it while watching T.V., it's the one time of year he scores points with me while watching football. Some say to peel the pomegranates under water, and some say to buy them already peeled, but when you have friends with pomegranate trees, it makes sense to use them--not the friends, the pomegranates.

One year I made a mistake and tripled the recipe but didn’t realize that I only had enough raspberries to double the recipe. It was too late though; I had already dissolved the Jello in all the hot water and didn’t want to waste. I figured I could use whatever kind of fruit I felt like using to replace the missing raspberries. I filled in with canned mandarin orange segments. That was the year I shared the relish with my friend Lori. Now, Lori forever prefers this recipe with the oranges. However, that was also the year that my sister-in-law Hope realized she liked it done correctly, the first way she had experienced it, without the oranges. I still get a kick out of that. I’ll eat practically anything so either way is fine with me.

Last year I gave this recipe to a friend of mine. She was a little confused about how to make it and couldn't get a hold of me in time. She thought she needed to follow the instructions on the Jello package for the amount of water it says, plus the water from this recipe. NOOOOOOOO! Don't do that please. Just follow Aunt Pam's recipe.

Pam’s Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

• 6 oz. package raspberry, orange or cran-raspberry Jello
• ¼ cup sugar
• Dissolve above in 2 cups of boiling water
• Add: two 12 oz. packages of sweetened frozen raspberries and stir until thawed
• Add: 1 bag fresh cranberries finely chopped--prepare this ahead, food processor makes this easy
• 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds--prepare ahead of time
• Seeds from 1 (large) pomegranate, or 2 small pomegranates--prepare ahead of time

Mix well; refrigerate overnight or several hours in Jello molds. To get the relish out of the Jello molds, still looking pretty, dip the Jello mold in a hot water bath for about 5 - 10 seconds, then flip the whole thing over and let the relish fall out on to the plate. I prefer to use the plastic flexible Jello molds that you can sort of squeeze the suction out of a little to get it to all fall out nicely. This little process makes it easy to travel with, and then you can flip it for the presentation when you get to your location. Also, if you are traveling with it un-refrigerated for some time, you may want to skip the hot water part.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Black Quinoa Soup with Shrimp

I love making use of all the good food, let nothing go to waste. One of the best ways to make a great soup stock is by boiling rotisserie chicken "bones" (ones that still have some meat left on them). We buy the hot, cooked chicken at our local grocery store when we need a quick dinner, then use the bones to make soup sometime in the next couple days.

• 4 quarts of water with the
• bones of a rotisserie chicken (cooked)

• 2 tbsp of Knoor’s Chicken Powde
• 5 carrots chopped
• 1 ½ stocks of celery chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic chopped

Boil the above and simmer for about an hour or until the chicken is falling off the bones. Turn off the heat, wash your hands, and add about:

• 4 cups of ice cubes to the water, then use a serving spoon to scoop soup and pull out all the chicken bones

• 1 cup red lentils and bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then add
• 1 cup of black quinoa and boil for another 10 minutes, then add
• 1 bunch of fresh chives chopped (it’s what I had, parsley would be good too, also a diced onion and bay leaves at the beginning would have been good but I didn’t have any)

When serving hot soup, use frozen shrimp to cool the soup down, while the soup defrosts the shrimp. I add the shrimp as I serve each bowl, I don’t put the shrimp into the pot. The soup keeps longer in the fridge for a couple of days minus the shrimp. So…

• about 5 frozen cooked, tail off shrimp to the bowl and pour soup over the top of the shrimp
• Fresh lemon juice on top and
• Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Monday, May 9, 2011

Roasted Eggplant and Sweet Bell Pepper Dip

I made this today, it was super delicious! Today I also started my friend Lisa's "Body Back" program. The diet portion of the program is not very different from what I am used to doing already so I plan to have some fun with it and create some yummy snacks from the vegetables that will be growing in my garden this summer.

There's something about roasting vegetables that makes them super sweet and delicious. The sweetness from the vegetables balances very nicely with the tartness of the non fat plain yogurt in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spray roasting pan with olive oil Pam spray

Put the following vegetables in the roasting pan and cover tight with tin foil, bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes:

  • 2 eggplants diced into approx. 1 inch cubes
  • 4 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers cut into about 1-2 inch pieces
  • drizzle with about ¼ cup olive oil. (Don’t worry, this recipe makes about 10 servings, so the oil will amount to about 1 ½ tsp. per serving) and remember, you are dipping vegetables and whole grains, into vegetables so you will need a little fat in order to absorb the fat soluble nutrients—A,D,E,and K—from the food.

Take the foil off and continue baking for 15 – 20 minutes longer until somewhat gold browned and soft. Let cool for a little while.

Pulse roasted vegetables in a food processor with about
  • 1 – 2 tsp of crushed garlic, (I buy the Trader Joe’s brand garlic in the jar for convenience, but you can also roast your own garlic with the vegetables, just be careful not to burn, I think they cook a little faster than the eggplant and peppers)
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with:
  • greek style not fat plain yogurt,

1/2 dip and ½ yogurt,. You can pre mix it or serve it side by side.

Garnish with:
  • parsley

Dip with:
  • raw vegetables,
  • pita bread
  • Sangak bread

*I like the mini Persian cucumbers at Wholesome Choice, they’re only .50 / lb.  and the Whole grain sourdough Sangak bread from their bakery is great too.
*You could also add some fresh parsley or chives right into the food processor with the vegetabels.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The "Tooth Fairy Forgot" poem

Okay, so my poor sweet Grace lost a tooth on Thursday and the tooth fairy somehow didn't make it...oops. Here's the redemption letter, of course there was $6.00 included:

I know what you’re thinking, you’re tooth fairy’s a flake
She didn’t show up, was it some kind of mistake?

Was my tooth not enough? Was there a cavity?
We know tooth fairy’s fly and can defy gravity.

It breaks my heart to know that I caused you such sadness
It’s not like I needed a map to your house or your address

I know where you live; I’ve been to your place
But please forgive me; it’s been a busy week Grace?

You see? When I plan each night I save
The kids that are kind and don’t misbehave

They’re last on my list because you know the phrase
“Save the best for last”…but I encountered some delays

I leave you tonight with hopes you’ll forgive me
I could never be truly happy not knowing you still love me

You’re such a good girl Grace and you make me so proud
To be your tooth fairy living up in the clouds.

I love you Grace!

Love, Your Tooth Fairy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Journey to be thin…and it’s a long distance journey, literally

What’s worse: being asked, “when is your baby due?” when you are not pregnant or asking a woman “when is your baby due?” when she is not pregnant?

When I was asked, I almost went along with it and made up a due date but because I am mathematically challenged I could not think fast enough to be convincing enough. I only considered this because I adore the person who asked and did not want to embarrass her any more than she had already embarrassed herself, especially since the question was 100% fair—no doubt, I looked pregnant.

It’s not as though I wasn’t aware of my physically unfit situation. I had recently been to several different doctors. At my OBGYN appointment, my doctor’s skinny little assistant entered the room with her handy dandy Body Mass Index (BMI) chart and informed me that I was “obese.”

“Wait there just a minute, can I see that chart you have?” I thought I was “overweight”--the section that comes immediately after “normal,”--but not “obese.” I thought wrong; I was two sections away from normal now. It was official; I had crossed over to the next column and was now labeled “obese” and knew I was not getting any closer to “normal” on my current “see food” diet and lack of exercise plan.

Shortly after my hair began falling out in chunks, I started to acquire some bald spots on my head about the size of a quarter. Until then I seemed to be coping fine with being a fat woman; but a fat, bald woman? That is where I drew the line—that could not be good for my sex life.
After a full panel blood test, I received a very large envelope in the mail from Kaiser; they weren’t happy with my 240 cholesterol level. It was a packet of information, on how to lower cholesterol through diet and exercise, written by a dietitian. Wow! I actually have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and I am the targeted recipient of a cholesterol lowering informational packet written by a dietitian. How pathetically embarrassing is that. I’m thinking of the plumber whose toilets don’t work, the psychologist who’s slightly psychotic, and I’m the dietitian who’s obese—nice, real nice! Being officially labeled as an obese dietitian seems like an oxymoron, if nothing else, just plain hypocritical.

I was not tall enough to be pushing 200 pounds—I’m only 5’4”. I had no excuses; I was just a very good example of how the law of thermodynamics works. When you eat too much and don’t move enough, you gain weight, it’s not rocket science.

Here's me in front at my heaviest
 Not long after being asked when my baby was due--and getting news from my doctor that I was going bald, officially obese and my cholesterol was dangerously high--I got news from the pediatrician that two of my four children’s weight-to-height ratio was bordering on unhealthy. This was a nice way of saying that they’re getting chubby--like mother, like daughter. How could I possibly explain to my kids that the doctor suggested they loose a little weight when their mother was the classic before--without an after--picture? The only way my kids were going to care about their health is if I cared about mine.

At our ward anniversary dinner, I was chatting with some of my girl friends. They were talking about running a 4th of July 5k run, and they were going to start training the very next morning. For some strange reason I committed to go.

So the next morning I ran my first--post childbirth--run with the ladies for two miles on the Santa Ana river trail. I seriously thought I was going to die, my legs were like Jell-O and I didn’t even know if I could drive myself home let alone ever walk again. I HATED every second of it. Why do people run? I thought. This has to be the world’s stupidest sport! It’s not like we’re trying to get a ball in a goal. I remembered this quote I read with a picture of a runner on it: “My sport is your sports punishment”—I completely understood. The only problem is that I was stuck, I had committed to my friends to do this 5k and the only reason I had any desire to follow through is because I was obligated and would be the biggest looser (and not weight loss looser like the reality show) if I quit. I was running on all obligation and zero motivation.

I decided that whatever I was going to do to get this weight off, I had to like. If not it would never last. I had an epiphany and realized that I needed to replace my addiction for food with an addiction for some sort of exercise. That’s the only way I could think to reverse this…but how do you get addicted to something so miserable? I had no desire to waste money to join a sweaty, germ infested gym, where meat heads go to show off their muscles and hot chicks wear sports bras with their big fake boobs hanging out—that just sounded depressing. I had been noticing all the runners around me—I didn’t know of any fat runners. In fact, I knew some runners who I thought were a little bit Nazi about running and definitely addicted by my standards. I started hanging out with them and trying to keep up with them.

1st 5K, Me on the far right, maybe 5 lbs. down
 I found that running for a reason was the only thing that would keep me going. I had always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon into Havasupai. That first 5k short term goal was one baby step toward my dream of hiking the Grand Canyon. I didn’t think I would be motivated to keep running after the 5k but then I wondered if I could beat my own time. That was it! I got the itch. I started getting competitive with myself and it was not such a bad thing. I felt great and I started loosing weight, the weight loss became addictive in and of itself. A runner’s high is a beautiful thing, but to a fat girl, more so is a daily shrinking number on the scale.

I asked our friends, Rod and Lori Parker, to come to Havasupai with us. They reversed the invitation and invited us to do a 30 mile, 5 day hike in Machu Picchu, Peru--Richard’s dream vacation for as long as I’ve known him. For this I had to get fit and running became the most convenient and cheapest way. Along the way I continued making short term goals and continued to loose weight, by this time I was down about 20 lbs. weighing around 175.

About 5 months into my journey I met Lisa, Lisa was a new mom at my kid’s school and I immediately noticed her lean running physique and tight calves. I asked her: “Are you new to the school?”

“Yes” she said with a very inviting smile.

“Are you a runner?” I asked.

“Yes” she said with another very inviting smile.

“Well, you look like a runner” I said.

Lisa was slender but muscular, not too tall, not too short; she appeared to be very healthy and had the perfect figure in my opinion. She had short brown hair and a fading summer tan. Her humble sweet smile could welcome the shyest individual. Thanks to my excellent probing skills, or as others might call it, my busy body-ness: sure enough, she was another one of those crazy marathon runners.

Lisa was flattered by my interest in her. I invited her to run with us the very next morning. I was flattered by her acceptance of my invitation. I’m not sure I would go with me. It was our Saturday long run. I told her “I’m one of the slow ones but I’ll introduce you to the fast people that you can run with,” but she ran slower for me and inspired me to do my first 9 mile run ever. Before this day I had never run more than six miles in one day. I could hardly walk for 2 days, but hey I did it! Lisa felt guilty and tried to take the blame for my aching feet saying that she was irresponsible for pushing me and that as certified running coach, she should know better. Whatever, she was wrong, humble, but wrong. What she forgot is that she didn’t PUSH me, she inspired me, not once ever suggesting that I extend myself beyond 6 miles, only setting the way by an example that I chose to follow. What I didn’t know then that I do know now is that increasing your mileage with aches and pains is a normal part of the adjustment that our bodies make to accommodate to our new lifestyle. I wasn’t physically injured, I was only responding as one would in my overweight situation.

Besides, it didn’t help that my costume for the Halloween party that night required me to wear heels, and then church the next morning—heels again. Just remember: runners, heels, bad.

Every Saturday and the weekdays in between, Lisa always stuck with me and I could always depend on her to wake up at the crack of dawn and run slow with me. I can’t remember a time when I suggested we run the following morning and Lisa wasn’t there. I was so spoiled it was unbelievable. Lisa would run to my house and pick me up in the mornings and run me back home after our run, then run home herself. It really doesn’t get any better than that. I could always count on her.

By now, I was very slowly loosing weight, but still loosing. I started running longer on Saturdays and occasionally ran with the faster people when they were having a slow day. This was real distance running. I could have NEVER done this without Lisa. I would have never even attempted or desired to extend myself this much.

Running became a social thing for me too. Lisa always showed interest in what was going on in my life, never giving up on me, always encouraging me to press forward and do my best.

Then something crazy happened that brought my weekday runs to a halt. My husband became severely ill. He was paralyzed from head to toe and was in the hospital for two months. My focus became my husband and my kids, and my running took a backseat. Morning runs were out of the question as Richard wasn’t home to stay with the kids anymore. My new running route was a lonely one; it started at our home and ended at the hospital four miles away.

Lisa stuck by me through thick and thin. She made herself available to me to do my Christmas shopping among other things. It was a busy time of year for everyone, her husband had lost his job and they were suffering their own problems, but she always made me feel like I was number one on her list.

I know this sounds elementary, but Lisa inspires me to be the best I can be. Running with such a committed and caring individual makes running fun. Lisa has great knowledge in all areas of running from shoes, to Gu; but most of all great training plans. She never pushes her opinions on us new clueless runners, but gives us food for thought and helps us decide what is best for us.

Lisa inspired me to try my best to become as physically fit as my body will allow; I may never get there, but I will die trying.

Fast forward exactly 1 year from my first 2-mile run on the riverbed. It’s June 5th, 2010 and I’m in Fontana with my friends where I just finished my first half-marathon race. My running mentor, Lisa, she calls it my “runniversary.” I can’t call her my coach because I can’t afford to pay her for her services, but that’s really what she is. I ran it in 2:05 and was already thinking about the next half marathon race where I would break two hours.

“So Kelly, we’re doing a full marathon this fall, I’ll email you your running plan.” Lisa said after the half. “That’s okay, I’ll pass on the marathon.” I said.

Lisa and my sister Heidi had conspired behind my back that I would be running a marathon with them. I wasn’t feeling the excitement they were: “No, I won’t be running a marathon, that’s just crazy!” I said, “I have no desire to run a marathon, don’t marathoners get hurt?” I thought, “I’ve heard nightmare stories about bloody nipples; it’s like lactating blood instead of milk, and don’t their toe nails turn black and fall off and then their toes look like little nubs?” That’s not cute with sandals, I was thinking, and it didn’t seem healthy either.

I knew as I wasn’t even close to my full potential yet. Still overweight and fighting a plateau, I have this inner desire to conquer my weaknesses, increase my speed, loose more weight, and attempt to be as physically fit as my body will allow. It may never happen, but I will never stop trying. I went ahead and ran the marathon…with Lisa of course. Or should I say…Lisa ran the Marathon with Me. Yep, she did. She coached me through the whole 4 hours and 29 minutes, only three weeks after running her own Fall Marathon, almost fully recovered. Talk about committed, yes she is. Talk about spoiled, yes I am.
To be continued… Marathon Race Report