Play at Your Own Risk

I’ve written about this before, but most of my life I thought I could not be a runner. Once I hit puberty, running induced unbearable abdominal cramps. Later, as a college freshman, I tore my meniscus and running hurt my knee. Sports never floated my boat, so I had no reason to run. I was the indoorsy type, content with introspection while walking/hiking when the outdoors required my attention.

Until last spring, when I had a sudden impulse to run in the rain. And it didn’t hurt. And, surprisingly, I had fun. I kept it up, increasing the frequency and length of my runs.

Until I developed allergy-induced breathing issues. Six weeks of labored breathing and an inhaler later, I got back to running.

Until I sprained my ankle on a late-July run. Three weeks of limping, and a doctor told me to start walking on it. The harder I walked, I noticed, the better my ankle felt at night. So I began running on the treadmill at the gym, “safe” terrain to build up my stamina while my ankle healed.

I’m not a good runner. I don’t far or fast but, as my only competition, I have noticed improvement. I don’t think I’m losing weight either, but that wasn’t necessarily the point. I feel stronger, more confident in my own skin. Having made way on a path that once felt impenetrable, I have gained confidence to tackle other areas of life.

Over the last few weeks, I’m finally back on the road and varying my route. Today the dog tugged in the opposite direction of my “usual” run, or even the alternate route I took yesterday, so I followed her lead.

Until about half-way through when my toe hit an uneven stretch of sidewalk and I took a spectacular fall, one that felt like flying though probably looked like something on America’s Funniest Videos. My left (bad) knee hit first. My hands slid along the ground, thankfully keeping my face off the pavement. I landed flat out on my stomach, arms fully extended above my head. Thankfully I let go of the leash and the dog had the good sense to get out of my way.hands-ouch

Already winded, I knocked away any breath left in my lungs. I stayed flat out for a minute and then, slowly, curled to sit on my rear, knee bent before me. I took inventory: road rashed hands; I didn’t tear my yoga pants; knee with bright red individual pebble gravel indentations. But I’m okay.

A bicyclist didn’t stop, but asked if I was okay. I offered, “I think so.” He smiled understandingly; he’s probably taken a spill or two himself.

A neighbor pulled his truck over and got out. He grabbed the dog’s leash, and waited as I got to my feet. He offered a ride home. I considered but said, no, I needed to walk the stiff out. He said, “Good, good for you. Walk it off, as they say.”

Right. Walk it off. They do say that.

I did my best to laugh. “Before I fell, I was just realizing that I’ve been running for almost six months…”

He laughed, too. “Great! Keep running for six more. Maybe just take a different route.” The irony… This was the different route…

Before I fell, I had planned to keep going straight, to take the long loop back home. Instead I turned at the corner to take the more direct route. My knee throbbed, and I had to think about holding the leash so it wouldn’t touch the pools of blood forming on my palms.

I walked until I came to a side-street that loops around–I turned left and ran it. It took a little more effort, but I was okay. I walked a little and ran a little. I added an extra loop to the right as well, running and walking. I kept going. I didn’t give up.

Breathing issues didn’t stop me; I take a deep breath on an inhaler before I run. A sprained ankle didn’t stop me; I wrap my ankle before exercise (and occasionally take ibuprofen after). A fall won’t stop me, either.

As I type I’m sitting in a recliner with my feet up, an ice pack on my knee and bandages on my hands. It may be a good idea to take tomorrow off. And still, I’m proud of myself. Six months ago I couldn’t have imagined running regularly. Six months ago one or another of the obstacles I’ve faced would have derailed me. Six months ago, I would have accepted the ride home, giving up.

If you want to play, you might get hurt. Play at your own risk, right? I’ve gotten hurt, and I’ve gotten back up. So far, the risk has proven worth it.

Meatless Monday

Fall plays hide and seek with the Bay Area. Mostly, Fall hides. Oh, we catch glimpses of her as the mornings flash an early chill, a playful breeze kicks up, and the days gradually shorten. If we’re lucky, we might wake up to damp ground, evidence of a light rain or at least a heavy dew.

But afternoons can be hot and blue as summer. The calendar announces that Halloween is right around the corner, and we chuckle and shake our heads as child-like Fall has already donned her costume: Summer!

Last night while I brushed my teeth, Guy decided it really had to be time by now to switch to our warmer duvet. Too warm, neither of us slept well.

Even while the farmers’ market continues to sell flavor-bursting vine-ripened tomatoes, we residents of this mild-seasoned state begin to long for comfort food – soups and stews and roasts (all veggie in this household, mind you). And so last week, when given the opportunity to bring a meal to friends facing hardship, I made minestrone soup. It’s one of our family favorites, full of veggie goodness. Easy to make and even better as leftovers, it also makes enough to share. Add a simple green salad and crusty bread for dunking and you’ve got a hearty, satisfying meal.

Minestrone Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped
3 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
½ large onion, diced
1 c green beans, cut bite-size
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can each kidney and garbanzo beans, drained/rinsed
1 can chopped tomatoes, undrained
6 c veggie broth
Pepper/Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute/basil – to taste
1 c red wine
1 c dried small pasta, cooked separately
3 c spinach

Saute zucchini, celery, carrots, onion, green beans, and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add wine, pasta and spinach and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Notes: If you’re reheating the next day, you might want to add an extra 1-2 cups of veggie broth. My always-on-hand veggie broth staple: Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. Simply mix 1 tsp with 1 c hot water and you’ve got a cup of broth. Cup for cup, I think it’s both less expensive and way more convenient that storing cans/cartons of veggie broth. Besides soup, I use it in cooking beans, grains, even sauteing veggies sans oil, everywhere you’d use whatever other veggie broth you’re using.

And if you haven’t discovered Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, you’re missing out. It’s a no-salt veggie/herb seasoning blend. I call it “21 Gun” and use it everywhere, for example, in salad dressings, and it rocks on steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Finally, don’t skip the red wine in the soup! Use whatever inexpensive but still tasty brand you can find – I’ve used shiraz and merlot/malbec. The wine gives the broth a depth of flavor you won’t get without it. I’ve tried a lot of minestrone recipes, but it’s the wine at the end that really kicks this up a notch.

So here’s the irony: I took a break from writing to walk the dog and, as I stepped outside, it began to rain!