James Moffett, Author at Run for the Thrills

ironwoman feature

Here She Is, The IRONWOMAN!

Posted by | Events, Triathlon Training | 13 Comments

Let me tell you about my ironwoman wife, Janine.

If you’ve talked to her at all in the past nine months, you know that she has been training for her first full Ironman Triathlon. She’s been training a lot. Many, many early mornings, getting up at 5:00am to go swim, or bike, or run while I slept in our nice warm bed. Sometimes she’d come home from her morning workout and I hadn’t even realized that she had left.

Anyway, after a total of 443 hours of training (or 18 and a half days straight), on September 13th, at the Challenge Family Cedar Point Triathlon, she did it. She completed the IRONMAN in 11:39:27.

I was so excited for her that I wanted to write this article for her, just so I could brag for her a bit. So here’s the race-day report: this is how my beautiful wife, Janine, completed a 3.86 km swim, 180.25 km bicycle ride and 42.2 km run, all in one day, in under 12 hours.

* * *

On the Friday before the race, Janine drove down to Sandusky, Ohio, with her good friend and training partner, Karen “Nate” Natho. Nate was the one who had been waking up at 5am to train with her for many months now. In fact, it was Nate who had initially convinced Janine to sign up for the full Ironman distance; previously Janine had thought maybe she’d do a full Ironman in the future at some point, but did not really have any clear plans.

“I really wasn’t sure I’d ever do a full Ironman until I actually signed up for Cedar Point,” Janine told me. We had both heard about the Ironman race twenty years ago when we were working together at a Running Room store in Toronto. When I saw how long the race was (you have to do a FULL MARATHON after at least 8 hours of swimming and biking?!) I was slightly horrified; Janine was impressed and inspired. At that point, it was still something for super-athletes; not something she actually considered ever doing herself. In the intervening years, Janine has done 11 full marathons and more half marathons than she can count. But it took twenty years for her to get the confidence to sign up for the full Ironman.

And then she had signed up. And then done all that training. And now she was on her way.

I would be there to watch her and cheer, but we decided to travel separately so Janine could stay in a hotel with Nate while I stayed in a campsite. That way I could take care of kids and dog, and Janine would only have to take care of herself and her gear.

So Friday. The two women drive to Ohio. And the weather is terrible: it rains most of the way there. The rain is the kind that makes it scary to drive on the highway. It’s also very windy. They make it and settle into their hotel room for a good night’s sleep.

The next day (Saturday) they bring their bikes to the race course, where they are supposed to check them in. They notice that there are huge waves on Lake Erie. They learn that the Sprint distance race, which was taking place that day, has had its swim section canceled because of the roughness of the water. They are told they can’t drop off their bikes because of the wind: there is concern that bikes left in the transition area will get blown over and damaged. They were planning to do a short trial swim on the course but they aren’t allowed; they are told that their swim might in fact be cancelled.

They drive back to the hotel room.

I arrive after my harrowing drive (it’s still raining periodically). I’ve brought our dog and our son, Caleb (the other two kids opt not to come). We meet the women in their hotel room.

The hotel room is littered with triathlon gear: there are bikes and tires and clothing spread everywhere, maps are spread out on beds, helmets hang on the backs of chairs. The room is thick with all of the excitement and anticipation and nervousness that Janine and Nate feel at this point: to be here, now, after so many hundreds of hours of training and to hear that part of your race might be cancelled, the water is too rough, a boat capsized, there’s blue algae in the marina, wait no the waves broke up the algae, ok the swim isn’t cancelled just moved, yay we can swim after all.

They relay their excitement and tell me about the weather-related drama. We make arrangements of where we will watch them, then they tuck into their cozy beds and Caleb and the dog and I drive to our campsite, set up our tent in the rain, and huddle in our sleeping bags. It’s a cold night.

Race morning. It’s cold and windy.

They get up at 4:15, bring their bikes to the course, drop off their transition bags. It’s still dark. They want to be early because the swim now has a staggered start: every five seconds they will let two swimmers go, first come first served, with the first two swimmers starting at 7:00. Athletes are milling around in their wetsuits in the cold grey morning.

At 6:40 the race directors open the swim course allowing athletes to do a swim warmup in the water. The air is cold but Janine finds the water quite pleasant. She splashes around a bit, and then it’s time to line up for the start. The sun still hasn’t quite risen.

Finally, they’re off, starting on their ironman journey by swimming out of the marina. Janine isn’t quite sure where she’s going, as they haven’t been able to swim the modified course ahead of time, so she just follows the swim cap in front of her. The water in the marina is sheltered, and she’s having a great swim. Then they go through the marina entrance and swim around the lighthouse, making their way back on the other side of the breakwater. Suddenly the waves are much bigger. Janine can see the swim cap ahead on the crest of each wave, but when she’s in the dip of each wave, she can only see the water around her. The waves push her towards the rocks of the breakwater, and she scrapes her hand on the bottom a few times, but she doesn’t care. She’s excited: she’s doing it, her first ironman. She feels great. The swim course is a double loop, so she goes back into the sheltered marina, then back around the lighthouse. This time the waves are even bigger.

Afterwards, she recalls to me how she felt: “The waves were huge… but I actually found it fun! I heard a lot of people saying how hard it was, and it was hard, but for me the overwhelming emotion was how fun it was!”

So. Swim section finished. One down, two to go.

Volunteers help Janine strip off her wetsuit (they’re called “Strippers”! haha) and she has to run almost a kilometer to the transition area, because the swim had been moved. Her hands are cold, and she has a hard time getting her compression socks on. In fact, she spends ten minutes in the transition between the swim and the bike.

Finally she is ready. She jumps on her bike and starts the long ride. She has a fancy racing helmet that a training partner had given her: he had bought it on Kijiji but it didn’t fit his head. It fits her perfectly and makes her feel even faster. The course is a double loop. She and Nate had driven the course the day before, so she recognizes landmarks, thinks of the conversations she had with Nate. She’s feeling strong and fast.

She knows that Caleb and I are waiting in the city square of a small town called Milan that the course passes through. We’re waiting there with friends: Erv and Betty Krause have made the trip to Ohio just to watch Janine’s triathlon. They are new church friends that we haven’t even known for a year yet. Janine feels incredibly blessed that they have made the effort to come for their first triathlon spectating experience. She looks forward to seeing all of us.

Before coming into the town of Milan, there is a short steep hill just around the corner from where we set up our chairs. When we see the first cyclists coming though, we see them huffing and puffing, often taking a drink or eating something. Most of them are going pretty slow after the exertion of the hill. We see the lead men breeze through, then a slow trickle after the lead pack. We cheer for all of them. There’s a small gaggle of girls cheering with us, dressed in costumes as clowns and bumblebees and ballerinas. They are shouting themselves hoarse and ringing cowbells. We sit and wait.

Then I see the pink compression socks that took Janine so long to put on: here she comes! She looks fast and strong. She gives us a wide grin and a wave, even shouts at us. I’m thrilled: she’s doing well. I’ve watched her breeze by me at many races where she barely made eye contact, especially if she was in pain. But today she doesn’t look in pain. She looks like a happy pink blur.

Erv and Betty and Caleb and I twitter together about how happy she looks, and how she waved at us, and how she’s only got two women ahead of her. Then we settle in to wait for the two hours it will take her to come around again. We’re cold unless we sit right in the sun. I wonder how Janine is feeling on the bike with the wind, and if she is as cold as I am.

She is, in fact, feeling a bit cold. She hikes up the pink arm-warmers she is wearing to try to cover her shoulders. It helps a bit. As she comes around to do the loop a second time, she gives a whoop and a cheer. Three hours in: she’s half done the bike! It’s a long time to ride on your own. Triathlons have strict no-drafting rules, so you can’t ever ride close enough to anyone else to be able to talk to them. Janine prays to help pass the time: she even prays out loud sometimes. She prays through each member of our family as she pedals and dodges potholes.

“Loved the bike course,” Janine said to me afterwards. “Loved it!” We can tell. We’re thrilled when we see her’s pink socks and arm-warmers blur past us again in Milan’s town square. This time we’re really ready for her. We cheer and call her name and take pictures and video, and she breezes through and in about 10 seconds flat she is gone again. She looks lean and mean, all grit and focus.

We gather our chairs. We have about three hours until we see her on the run course.

Janine’s transition from bike to run is much better than her transition from swim to bike. Just over two and a half minutes to get her running shoes on, and away she goes.

Bike section finished. Two down, one left.

Running is usually Janine’s strong suit, but she feels nervous about this marathon. She injured her hamstring in May, and wasn’t able to get in nearly as much mileage as she would have liked. Her longest run in training was only 32km; in the other two sports she had surpassed the distance that the ironman required. For the run she had gone 10km short of the fill distance.

Never mind. She knows how to run. Just put one foot in front of the other. Off she goes.

Meanwhile Erv and Betty and Caleb and I have gone for lunch, then come back. We find a strategic point on the run course where the athletes will pass us three times, then another three times on the second loop. We’ll get to see Janine six times. Hope she’ll be glad to see our faces.

We sit and wait. The half-ironman runners are passing – their bibs are red with white numbers. We watch for the black full-ironman bibs. It’s actually getting hot in the sun.

We notice that MANY MANY athletes are walking. Caleb sees the first place female run by. Then we see her a second time, and a third time to go off and finish her first loop. Still no Janine. We see the second place female. We wait some more. I am getting thirsty. I feel like it’s a marathon sport even being a spectator at one of these events.

Finally we see Janine’s bobbing pink socks. She runs up to us, and we hoot and holler. I run with her for a few hundred meters, just to talk a bit and encourage her. Her gait is a bit off: she seems to be limping a bit. I’ve never seen her run so slow. Her face looks pained. “I’m just trying to keep going,” she says. “I’m not fast, but I’m keeping going. Just keep going.” I can almost hear the words she is repeating to herself in her head, keep going, keep going, keep going, with every footfall, keep going, keep going.

She runs off. I don’t tell her that I’m a bit concerned for her. She’s only a third through her run. Still, she’s held on to her third place position, and she’s still running.

Nate runs by with a big grin on her face. We cheer for her. “I’m so happy,” she says.

We see Janine come by again, then a third time as she heads off to finish her first loop. She hasn’t slowed. I’m feeling better for her. She runs past us and gets to the loop point where she gets a “special needs back” of items she has packed previously. She has a fruit juice and a small bag of salt and vinegar chips. The juice is like nectar on her tongue. She wonders why she didn’t get a larger bottle. She walks for a bit while she munches on the chips, because she doesn’t want to choke on them. The walking feels good.

Maybe I can just powerwalk, she thinks. Maybe I can walk almost as fast as I can run. She starts walking. She can tell pretty quickly that she can’t walk anywhere near as quickly as she can run. She doesn’t want to start running again, but she does. Keep going, keep going, keep going.

We see her pink socks bobbing back down the road. This time she looks rough. The pain is clear on her face. This time, Caleb runs with her. He tells her to take a break at the water station just past us, and to refuel properly. She does: she decides to try to drink some Coke (they offer water, gatorade and Coke(!) at the stations). The Coke seems to hit the spot: she feels invigorated.

When we see her the second time she is looking better, and actually smiles at us as we hold up our “Go Janine Go” sign. We send her off after seeing her the third time, and hop in the car to the finish line.

The finish line is right in the Cedar Point Theme Park, with roller coasters rumbling overhead. We wait. This race lets family members run across the finish line with the athlete (how cool is that?!) so Caleb and I get ready when we see Janine coming. We jump up and follow her, cheering and yelling. I can keep up with her! Caleb is pulling our little dog along with him, and the four of us cross the finish line together.

“I did it, I did it,” Janine says, over and over. She is close to collapsing in my arms, and tears are in her eyes. I guide her over to a chair and she sits down. “I did it.”

She did it.

We’re so proud. We all surround her and hug her through the tinfoil blanket she is wrapped in. She’s the third female in spite of a very difficult run. I pull her close and kiss her forehead. She tastes salty.

chicken pomegranate

Chicken Pomegranate Salad

Posted by | Fit Food | No Comments

Pomegranate is widely available this time of year, and it’s super healthy! This Chicken Pomegranate salad is easy to make ahead for when you’re making something for dinner for your wife who’s going to drive straight from work, pick up your kid at their massage appointment, and then take them directly to their swimming practice. (Not speaking from personal experience or anything).


3 chicken breasts
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
4 cups mixed salad greens
1 avocado
1 pomegranate

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup frozen raspberries (thawed)
salt, pepper


1. Put chicken in a large stock pot and cover with water. Add bouillon cube. Heat to a low simmer for 10-14 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken breast.) As the chicken cooks, skim the broth if you intend to save it.

2. Slice the cooked chicken into batonnets (large julienne); divide into 4 and arrange on plates.

3. Divide the salad greens and arrange on plates.

4. Cube the avocado; divide into 4 and arrange on plates.

5. Split the pomegranate into quarters. Careful: pomegranate juice really stains. I get at the seeds by just slicing through the skin then pulling the fruit into quarters with my hands. When you then flip the quarters inside out, the seeds are easy to dislodge. Divide the seeds into 4 and add to salad.

6. Blend dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.


This thing is gonna happen! (My Fit By Forty update)

Posted by | Fit by Forty | 2 Comments

Yep, I’m still lumbering forward with my ‘Fit by Forty’ goal, and it’s going pretty well, all things considered. I’m not ‘fit’ yet, but I’m not forty yet, so it’s all good!

Celebrating my 39th birthday two days ago highlighted how little time I have left to reach my goal, and helped me clarify a few things.


How will I know if I made my goal? At what point is a person considered ‘fit’? Is it when your old pants fit? When your wife says, ‘hey baby, you are looking fit!‘? When you don’t gasp for air after climbing the stairs from the basement to jump into bed, lying there in the dark, listening to your heart pounding, wheezing, considering your own mortality in the dark, thinking of that book you read where the guy died of a heart attack after carrying his groceries up flight of stairs to his apartment and then just laid there on the couch and watched his ice cream melt and died? Or maybe he didn’t die, you can’t quite remember, but you do know that you’ve got to get in better shape because it’s hard to wheeze quietly here in bed in the dark so you don’t wake up your wife?

Well, instead of making the fitness goal something ambiguous that I worry about late at night, I’ve decided that if I were to run a half-marathon, most people would agree that I would have reached a moderately adequate level of fitness. So that’s my goal- a half-marathon before next November 9th.


I’ve been encouraged in my decision to use running as my primary method of achieving said moderately adequate level of fitness.

Running certainly gives you the most bang for your buck – I go out the door and I’m immediately burning calories. I don’t have to drive anywhere or meet anyone else, I just start walking really fast and next thing I know I’m running. Easy as that.

I’ve kept at it too! My knee has been bothering me a bit, but I haven’t let it stop me, which I think is a good sign. I’ve actually run consistently since we got back from our hike in August, with my longest run up to 7 km, and my pace improving steadily.

And, what do you know, I actually like running about 50% of the time. Today I ran on the path near our house (as I usually do) and the sun was shining and the birds were singing and I wasn’t huffing too hard yet, and I just had to pause and take a picture of the path because it was so lovely. (The picture at the top of this post.)


I’ve really got to improve my eating habits. This is gonna be the hardest part, since I really do like to eat, especially things that aren’t good for me, like a dozen donuts in one sitting, or four bowls of ice cream, one after the other. (Just joking! I haven’t eaten that much unhealthy food in a LONG time! It’s been at least a week.)

So, yeah. That’s the state of things for me. Feeling positive. And excited. And hungry. But mostly positive.

pumpkin spice smoothie

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Posted by | Fit Food | No Comments

Fall is here, which means the Pumpkin Spice Lattes have appeared again at Starbucks.

If you like your pumpkin spice but want a (slightly) healthier version, look no further! Here is a great breakfast smoothie for fall.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Pureed Pumpkin – canned (1/2 cup)
Oats (1/2 cup)
Cream Cheese (2 tbsp)
Milk (1 cup)
Pumpkin Pie Spice (2 tsp)
Brown Sugar (2 tbsp)

1. Blend the pumpkin, oats and cream cheese with the milk. Adjust the amount of milk based on how thick you like your smoothie.
2. Add Pumpkin Pie Spice. If, like me, you’re sure you bought pumpkin pie spice but you can’t seem to find it in the cupboard even though you took everything out, you can substitute: 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch nutmeg, pinch cloves, big pinch ginger.
3. Add sugar and taste. If you like it sweeter, add a bit more sugar.
4. Let it sit for a good 5 minutes. This helps soften the oats.

Serves 1.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

open road

Take One Step, Then Another, Then Another: How a Big Decision is Made by a Thousand Small Decisions

Posted by | Fit by Forty | 2 Comments

It’s almost my 39th birthday: 45 more days.

Which means it’s almost my 40th birthday: 410 more days.

Which means my ‘Fit by Forty’ goal has to kick into high gear. Or higher gear at least.

When I started my ‘Fit by Forty’ plan last year, I pictured a slow and steady progression towards better health: every day I imagined I would look at myself in the mirror and smile and nod approvingly, watching my figure getting steadily slimmer, filled with inspiration to continue on my fitness quest. I imagined I would look back over all my runs with a twinkle in my eye, laughing at how I used to barely be able to run 5km, while I planned my next marathon.

I did not picture that, one year down the road, I would have made only a little progress. I think I’ve lost maybe 5 pounds, which works out to something like 1.8% of my body weight. Hm.

Still, I haven’t given up yet. On the contrary: as it has dawned on me how little progress I’ve made, I have actually strengthened my resolve. It’s made me realize that the goal was a bit more ambitious than I had previously imagined, and that I’m going to work a lot harder than I thought I was going to. I thought it would be a bit of a walk in the park to get fit over a period of two years: that after a bit of initial sweating, it would get easier and easier. Turns out, it’s going to involve a lot of sweating, and huffing and puffing, and generally feeling uncomfortable and outside my happy cozy squishy comfort zone.

The good news is that I am running again, after a bit of a hiatus. I’m back to running three times a week, without any skipping or excuses. My daughter, Zara, has run with me many times (she has a goal of increasing her cardio, which will help her dancing, so she wants to run as well) and that has been very fun and enjoyable and special. She is a lot like me in many respects: we can run 20 minutes together without saying a word, just huffing and puffing, but both of us are very happy with that. Of course, she’s fitter than me, so she has pushed the pace, and I’m very grateful to be challenged.

I’m also extremely pleased to have found that my consistent running is starting to make a difference. Not in my waistline yet – I look exactly the same – but in how fast and far I can run. Running hurts just as much as it always has, but I can actually go faster and further than I could before. So that’s nice.


I read a quote yesterday from Annie Dillard: ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ It really resonated with me. The big ambitions and goals are rarely accomplished in a flash of inspiration and zeal and passion; rather, they are accomplished over and over, incrementally, in each small step that precedes the next one. A big decision is really the result of the culmination of countless other smaller decisions.

Each run I go on takes about 3,000 steps (give or take). That seems like a lot to count, one-by-one. And that’s just a short run, compared to what my beautiful wife does! I’m happy to take each step, because each step gets me closer.

I have about 150 runs to accomplish my ‘Fit by Forty’ goal. I can’t skip any: I’m going to need each one if I’m going to make it.

pina colada smoothie

Pina Colada Smoothie

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For the past few weeks I’ve been making Janine a smoothie every day when she gets home from work.

Here’s the next smoothie: The Pina Colada Smoothie. Refreshing, clean, and tropical, every sip is a mini-vacation to the Caribbean!

Pina Colada Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Fresh Pineapple (about 1/2)
Coconut Cream (about 1/2 cup)
Coconut Water (1 cup)
Frozen Banana
Ice (a few cubes)
Fancy Garnish with a little umbrella (this part is important)

1. Chop up the pineapple. Add coconut cream and coconut water. (If you’ve never had coconut water, you must try it! It comes in individual cans, like canned soft drinks, and it is so refreshingly delicious!)
2. Microwave frozen banana for 20 seconds or so until it is soft enough to squeeze out of the skin.
3. Blend. Add Ice as desired.
4. Garnish.
Serves 2.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

aloha sun smoothie

Aloha Sun Smoothie

Posted by | Fit Food | One Comment

For the past few weeks I’ve been making Janine a smoothie every day when she gets home from work.

Here’s yesterday’s smoothie: The Aloha Sun Smoothie. This beautiful smoothie gets mellowness from melon, tangy sweetness from orange juice, and a final kick from pineapple. Lots of pulp in this one.

Aloha Sun Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Fresh Pineapple (about 1/4)
Cantaloupe (about 1/8)
Orange Juice (1 cup or so)
Ice (a few cubes)

Chop up the pineapple and cantaloupe. Add enough orange juice to reach your desired consistency. Blend. Add a few ice cubes. Blend some more.
The fresh pineapple will make this smoothie quite frothy: keep the froth if you’re a fan (I am) or skim off if you don’t like it.
Serves 2.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

bento lunch

Bento Box Lunch #1

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In my never-ending quest to find tasty food that won’t make me (that much) fatter, I’ve become a fan of the bento box trend.

A Japanese invention, bento boxes are single-person meals in a box, either as take-out from a restaurant or packed from home. Traditionally they held rice, fish, and vegetables; today bento boxes can hold whatever food you like.

My bento box lunch held the following things:

Chicken Wraps & Olives
-sliced chicken & mayo on a tortilla, rolled up & sliced
Celery and Tomatoes
-celery with smoked salmon cream cheese; cherry tomatoes
Beansprouts & Scrambled Egg
-beansprouts; 2 beaten eggs cooked until firm and sliced; diced avocado; hot sauce
Sweets Stuff
-yogurt dipped pretzels; dried papaya, strawberry

Very yummy stuff! And looking very cool in my Laptop Lunches lunchbox.



After Workout Snack Ideas: Skewers

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After a workout, it’s great to have a tasty satisfying snack. I mean, it’s great to have a tasty snack before too, but let’s not get distracted.

Easy after workout snack ideas: skewers. For some reason, impaling your food on a sharpened stick makes it extra tasty. Makes it look fancy too. I mean, I could toss my cheese cubes and grape tomatoes into a container to roll around, and it would taste just as good, but somehow it wouldn’t be the same. So: tiny bit of prep to cut things into bite size pieces; tiny bit of violence to jam a stick through the middle, and voila! all fancied up.

Idea #1a: the aforementioned Cheese Cubes and Grape Tomatoes. Easy. Gets you something soft with something that explodes in your mouth. Some cheesy goodness and a nice burst of tomato juiciness. Who doesn’t like that?

Idea #1b: Cantaloupe with Ham Slices. This is a traditional Italian pairing (well, probably prosciutto if I’m completely honest, but I’m not really feeling “prosciutto”-fancy today). The sweet juiciness of the cantaloupe goes surprisingly well with the saltiness of the ham. Bit of protein, bit of sweetness. Yes, please!

Store your skewers in a bento lunch box and you’re good to go.

Bonus benefit: after your snack is done you can use the skewer to pick your teeth, or (even better) to poke your children.

me + kids

How to find a Running Partner: the DIY strategy

Posted by | Fit by Forty | No Comments

As I press forward with my running goals (maybe ‘stumble forward’ would be a more accurate phrase) I’ve been thinking that I need a running partner.

My sweet wife Janine has had a wide variety of running partners over the years. Bright and early on any given Sunday morning, she will head out the door while the rest of us are still sleeping, and meet them, and run for an hour or two with them. They push each other, they encourage each other, they talk to help the time and the miles pass faster.

So I was thinking I should get me one of them ‘running partners’ too. I sure would appreciate something to help the miles pass faster. Even if it is only a single mile sometimes. Which it is. But I still would like it to go faster.

It’s hard to have the courage to ask someone to come running with you when you yourself feel like your running is humiliatingly bad and slow. And I really didn’t know who I was going to ask. I mean, I had no idea how to find a running partner who would be slow enough for me.

So I asked my kids, because I can force them to run with me even if they say no. Besides, why else did I have kids but to have them at my beck and call?

First I went out on a run with my 14 year old daughter, Zara. Zara goes to several dance classes a week, and is a very flexible dancer. For the last few months Janine and I have encouraged her to run twice a week to help counteract the drop in physical activity that occurs with many young teen girls. Zara has been running, but quite reluctantly, and never any longer than her bare minimum run (also known as a bamiru). I figured that she could be a good match, so off we went.
Well, her first comment was how slow I was. Then she said she may as well have been walking since I was going so slow. Then she did walk. I told her to run ahead, but she didn’t want to do that. Instead she had the nerve to remark to me (while I am sweating and spitting and huffing beside her) that her legs were a teensy bit sore from dance the day before, and that she might not be able to run the whole distance.

After a few minutes of struggling to maintain a pace that she might consider half-decent, I was exhausted, and I decided to take a short walking break. Zara was only too happy to join me walking and suggested that the short walking break didn’t have to be too short. In fact, she wouldn’t mind if it were a long walking break.

It occurred to me that the two of us were really too similar to be good partners: neither one of us REALLY wanted to be there; we both wanted to lie down and take a nap; we wondered if it was all worth it; and we complained to each other about how uncomfortable the whole thing was.

We must have looked like a couple of grumpy old ladies.

We finished the run. I really appreciated the quality time with my daughter, but I could hardly call the run a success.

* * * * *

The next week I took my 12 year old son, Caleb, along on my run.

Caleb has started swimming with a club and is really enjoying pushing himself. He was always a bit of a pudgy kid, but his swimming has made him slim right down. Also, having watched him swim, I knew he would be far faster than me at running, so I assumed he would leave me in his dust. I was wrong.

Firstly, although the boy is sleek and fit and graceful in the water, he runs sort of like a camel. I was happy to give him a few pointers on his running form.

Then, he was determined to stick with me. He was remarkably encouraging, telling me to keep it up, chatting away happily while I ground away at the miles. He told me about the kinds of things his swimming coaches say to keep them motivated; he talked about how he wants to do a triathlon some day. We had a really great time, him talking and me huffing and puffing.

Finally, he started having trouble with his asthma, and had forgotten to bring his puffer along. He had to walk for quite a few long stretches, while I kept on running. In the end, he was wheezing badly enough that I ran back to the house to get the car to pick him up. He was fine as soon as he got his puffer, but imagine how great I felt: digging deep to put on every last bit of speed I had, racing home to save my son. I ran like a hero that day.

My advice, so far, on how to find a running partner? Find a kind-hearted, encouraging person who does another sport but is bad at running. Best if it’s your own child, for convenience. Choose a child that doesn’t share your weaknesses. Bonus if he has mild asthma attacks to give you extra motivation at the very end of the run.