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Races

Hitting Pause (Hitting Paws?)

There are some beautiful words in other languages that capture a sentiment we can’t quite put our finger on in English. The Danish Hygge — or a feeling of pleasant, charming coziness — has been the buzzword of 2017, but there are so many more that manage to express in a single beat things us Anglophones need an entire sentence to explain.

Some of my favorites:

  • Kummerspeck (German): Weight gain from emotional eating
  • Zeg (Georgian): The day after tomorrow
  • Tartle (Scottish): The stuttering hesitation that comes when you introduce someone whose name you can’t quite recall

But the word I wish existed is one the captures the bittersweet feeling of fond nostalgia for something that isn’t yet over, but clearly nearing its end. You know: that feeling you got those final days of the school year. Or taking a nice vacation with someone you know you won’t date forever. Or starting the final season of a Netflix show realizing, in 10 short hours, you’ll be out of episodes to stream.

Or, for me, running the New York City half marathon last Sunday with the near certainty that it might be my last road race in a very long time.

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No, I’m not dying. But I do feel like my relationship with running is on life support. I’ve been running for about seven years, and I’ve had ups and downs with the sport before, but never has my dedication been so tested as it has been these last few months. My work schedule has become too unpredictable to train after work. My sleep’s too precious to log miles before sun-up. My four-legged running partner’s the slowest pacer I know.

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My 40 pound mixed breed can do 2.5 miles at a 12:30 pace.

Add those things together, and an activity I used to love has begun to feel like a chore. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I arrived at the New York City half marathon starting line last weekend untrained, unexcited, and unbelievably surprised I didn’t hit the snooze button and sleep through the 7:30 a.m. starting gun like I’d been tempted to do. As I froze my buns off for 30 minutes in my ice-cold corral, I grumbled to myself: “I don’t want to be here.”

And then something extraordinary happened: the race began, and I suddenly remembered why I once loved this sport. I love rounding a corner to find a big cheering squad. I love pointing to a volunteer at a water station to tell him I’m coming for the cup in his hand. I love feeling the strength in my quads as I power up a hill, love doing some quick math and realizing I’m going to cross my 12th (!) half-marathon finish line in under 2 hours, love wearing my medal and heat sheet on the subway ride home and confusing tourists who think I’m a crazy person dressed as a super hero.

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Canines in this photo are smaller than they appear.

But I also love my sanity, and that’s why — despite the ear-to-ear grin I had across my face all race day long — I’m sticking to my guns and putting racing on hiatus for the time being. Last Sunday’s event was the perfect reminder of why racing was once my all-time favorite pastime, but it was also a reminder that favorite pastimes can change, and it’s OK to take some time off. Training doesn’t quite fit into my life right now, and maybe by the time it does again, I’ll be ready for it.

I’ll see you again some day, finish line.

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Raisin D’être

My sister and I have disagreed about many important things in life.

  • Peanut butter: creamy or crunchy? (My sister: “Of course creamy. Butter doesn’t come with chunks of cow in it.” Me: “Mmm but it should.”)
  • Empire Records’ emo heart-throb A.J. or lovable goofball Mark? (Let’s just say I married an Ethan Embry lookalike on purpose.)
  • Best ninja turtle to walk down the aisle with: Leonardo or Michelangelo? (Adult realization: We were both wrong. Turns out nerd-boy Donatello and his Silicon Valley-aspirations made him the real catch.)

But this past week, a startling new difference between sisters became shockingly apparent: I think raisins are healthy, and she vehemently disagrees.

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The goods.

Raisins — the dried version of grapes and also a California-based musical act — have become my go-to afternoon snack when I need a sweet little pick-me-up. They’re delicious, they’re portion-controlled, they pack a lot of fiber and they’re undoubtedly better for me than the bulk-food candy offerings my company wheels out every day at 2 p.m. to wreak havoc on my blood sugar levels.

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I’m only human!

I eat them straight, or I mix them into oatmeal, or I sprinkle them on celery stalks slathered in nut butter — heck, I’ve even carried them as natural fuel on some 15-mile long runs — but no matter how I’m imbibing, I’m probably eating raisins at least 6 out of 7 days a week. And I thought that was a good thing.

After all, they’re nature’s candy!

I told my sister about my increased raisin consumption as I tried to wean myself off my daily chocolate habit, and she — while supportive — was pretty convinced I was just trading one sugar fix for another.

And maybe she has good reason. Dried fruit is notoriously high in calories but low in the hydrating water content that helps give other fruit a reprieve. And raisins don’t start as some super-food produce either — they’re made from grapes, the one fruit Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist who runs a weight management clinic for children and families at the University of California, told the NYTimes he suggests his patients avoid.

“Grapes are just little bags of sugar,” he said in an interview that, let’s be honest, broke my grape-loving heart.

It didn’t, however, break my grape-loving habit, and I’m still eating grapes, raisins and — fine, wine — with abandon.

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Because what’s March without soda muffins?!

So who’s right, here? Are raisins essentially sugar bombs in disguise, or did I make a smart swap replacing my afternoon candy binge with that sun-made goodness?