The Land of Milk and Honey

I used to think my favorite food was butter.

As a small child, I vividly remember sitting in front of an open refrigerator with my hand in the Land O’ Lakes, scooping palm full after palm full into my open mouth. And you wonder how I became a husky 5th grader.

It’s true though. Sweet and salty and creamy all at once, butter was the perfect food, and I melted it onto everything from the age of two forward: cinnamon toast, air-popped popcorn, microwaved mushrooms, spoons. I was a regular Andy Dwyer.

But now that I’m a grown-up with some concept of nutrition and caloric intake, I can proudly say that my culinary tastes have evolved. Although I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart — a soft spot that it undoubtedly helped cause — butter is no longer my favorite food. (Don’t worry, folks, I’m not going to jump on the 2013 hipster bandwagon and tell you my favorite food is kale, although roasted, sea-salted kale IS freaking delicious.)

It’s honey.

I love you, honeybear.
I love you, honeybear.
I know, I know, not the nutritional powerhouse you were expecting, considering honey is at first glance little more than glorified table sugar. But it’s so much more than that. As far as sweeteners go, it’s the least processed one, and unlike white sugar, it contains trace minerals and antibiotic properties. (Take that, Domino!). More importantly for this seasonal sufferer, honey made from local bees can reportedly help fight allergies, which is one major perk of purchasing at the farmers’ market instead of the grocery store.

About 75 percent of my honey intake comes in the form of food: drizzled over yogurt or stirred into herbal tea or whisked into salad dressings, and let’s not forget honey-filled baklava, which I clearly didn’t eat enough of this month in Greece.

Take me back.
Take me back.
But many people don’t realize honey also has non-food uses. Because of those antibiotic properties, it also makes an effective on-the-spot face cream, according to a(n arguably hippy) dermatologist I saw earlier this year who suggested Manuka honey face masks for particularly problematic skin. It sounded like wacky advice, but swapping out harsh chemicals for antibiotic-rich Manuka honey (available at vitamin and specialty stories) has weirdly made a difference in my skin. Between that and the coconut oil I used to wash it off, and my face routine is the most delicious concoction out there.

You knew you were going to look in my medicine cabinet at that dinner party anyways. I've just saved you a step.
You were going to look in my medicine cabinet at that dinner party anyways. I’ve just saved you a step.
With honey such an integral part of my nutritional as well as beauty routine, it only seems right to integrate it into my running as well. So when I went to JackRabbit Sports to purchase some new mid-run nutrition last week ahead of my planned 17 miler and stumbled upon Honey Stinger sports waffles (yes, you heard me right, Leslie Knope), I leapt with joy. Instead of throwing back energy gels of corn syrup or whatever other processed sugars they must be filled with to maintain by carbohydrates during marathon training, why not swallow ounces of the golden nectar itself?

So I bought a honey waffle and brought it with me on my last long run, and while it was delicious, it wasn’t the easiest-to-consume mid-run snack I’ve ever carried. It was essentially two thin cookies held together by honey, and as I tried to throw it back halfway up the West Side Highway after having carried it for the better part of two hours, I lost at least 1/6 of my crumbled snack to the pull of gravity. Still, I like the concept, and I’m planning on going back to try some of the brand’s other honey-filled, less awkward to consume products. I’ll report back.

Until then, I’ll keep doing my part to keep the world’s bee population (and diabetes doctors) in paychecks. Thanks, honey!

What’s your favorite food? Rare steak, caesar salad and peach cobbler are also appropriate answers, since, let’s be honest, they all tie with honey for me. [But you can’t eat a steak during a marathon. Or can you? Calling Ron Swanson! P.S. I’ve been watching a lot of Parks and Rec, if you can’t tell.]


Ever So Much More Than Twenty

At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed listicle, the signs that I’m no longer in my early- or even mid-20s are frightfully abundant.

  • I get excited when people cancel plans so I can be in bed by 9:30 p.m.
  • Those rare nights I do stay out late drinking (also known as weddings), I stick to white wine and my hangovers still last two days.
  • I spend exponentially more on work and workout clothes than going out clothes.
  • I’m up at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, whether there’s a long run on my calendar or not, because my body and the sun have apparently made some kind of cruel friends-for-life pact.
  • I voluntarily add things like flax seed to my morning smoothies.
  • I drink morning smoothies.
    (And they're green.)
    (And they’re green.)

    One more sign my body isn’t as young and hardy as it used to be? For three years and counting, it wasn’t until my 18-mile long run that my immune system finally gave up and saddled me with my first fall cold of the marathon season. (Proof in 2012 and proof in 2013. Not sure if I wrote about it in 2014, but I know it to be true.)

    This year, it only took 17 miles. That’s it, folks. The end is nigh.

    While moderate running and exercise are great defenses against cold and flu season, as soon as I start logging [very] long runs in the final weeks of pre-taper training, my body simply gives up the will to live. An hour of running is fine, but run for three straight hours as the marathon approaches and like clockwork my throat goes raw, my sinuses fill and boyfriend finds any excuse he can to move to the downstairs couch. In other words, I catch a nasty mid-September cold.

    And it’s not just me. According to this Runner’s World article, “long, slow runs (90 minutes or more) use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which feed on simple sugars, the same fuel as the immune system,” said Michael Ross, M.D., medical director of The Performance Lab in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “It sets up a resource battle between the exercising muscles and the immune system, with the immune system losing out,” he told the magazine.

    While that’s always been the case — long runs inhibit your ability to ward off colds — it only used to happen for me at 18 miles, not 17. To me, that shortened timeline is a sign that my body is just a little less willing to cooperate this time around than in past marathon training cycles. It’s a sign I’m getting older and less resilient.  It’s a sign that my last marathon of my 20s should maybe be my last marathon of my life.

    Or maybe it’s just a sign I took an international fight last week with a lot of coughing passengers. That’s the price you pay to spend a week lounging beachside here:

    Photo credit: Ben
    Photo cred: Ben

    Either way, it’s a soup and tea and dialed back training week for me as I wait for this rhinovirus to work its way out of my blood stream. Guess that means I’ll be doing the one thing 29-year-olds hate most: Going to bed at 9 p.m. tonight as I work toward recovery. Darn.

    How is your immune system holding up as your fall race comes into focus?


Greece Is the Word, Is the Word That You Heard

Ask any marathon training coach and she’ll tell you the same thing: running is just one part of the preparation equation. Diet, cross training and rest also play a crucial role in the 20 weeks leading up to the big race, and in true Captain Planet style, only by their powers combined is a marathoner made ready.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as justification for going an entire six days last week without so much as unpacking my running shoes, even though the NYC marathon is just eight weeks away.

Call me undisciplined, uncommitted, or unfocused if you want, but I’m going to choose another word to describe myself during my restful and relaxing past week along the Aegean Sea: tan.

photo 1 (81)
(Also in need of a better arm workout.)

My trip to Greece may not have been the most training-focused vacation I’ve ever mustered, seeing as I only logged a single beachside run during my entire week in Nea Moudania, but to be fair, I pretty much nailed the other parts of marathon training: diet, cross training and rest.

  • Diet: I started each day with a protein-rich European breakfast of full-fat Greek yogurt, watermelon and honey (fine, and Nutella by the jarful), which kept me satiated until a late, late afternoon lunch. At around 4 p.m. each day, we’d dry ourselves off and gather at a waterside table for course after course of the freshest, cleanest food you can imagine: tomato and feta salads, grilled octopus, steamed mussels, and enough tzatziki to feed a small army. We’d then eat and eat for hours on end, but with almost none of the food processed or fried, we never left the table feeling too full to function. Given Greece’s seafood-, good fat- and veggie-rich diet, it’s no wonder they won all the ancient Olympic Games.
"Keep the head on and, uh, find out if it had a nickname." - Jim Gaffigan
“Keep the head on and, uh, find out if it had a nickname.” – Jim Gaffigan
  • Cross training: This one is a bit more of a stretch, considering 45 percent of each day was spent prone in a beach chair, but I did manage to work a few muscles besides my chewing ones. For example, one day I sidestroked my way to this very far away rock, then elementary backstroked my way home. Did I work up a sweat? Maybe, maybe not. But I certainly stretched out some muscles that had laid dormant as I’ve been busy logging 40 miles a week.
That rock is very far away.
Thank god I didn’t see any yellow and purple Greek jellyfish until the following day or I might still be living on that rock.
  • Rest: Sleep til 10, nap on the beach, sleep on a floating raft in the crystal clear water, sit for a 3-hour meal overlooking the sea and then polish the night off with a few glasses of delicious Greek wine? Yeah, I got the rest part of it down to a science.
photo 4 (51)
You’d be amazed at how many courses they can fit on a table this size.

So what if I spent a week in Greece and only have one 8-mile run to show for it? I am now well fed, well rested and, well, ready to dive back into my training full force. As proof, I logged a quick 3 miles during a layover in Vienna, and yesterday, I put my jetlag to good use and ran 8 humid Central Park miles before work. Today’s jetlag, which had me up at 4 a.m., has resulted in this blog post and soon, 5 more sweaty miles.

I may still be on Greece time, but for all intents and purposes, I’m back, folks. Let the marathon countdown begin.