Author Archives: amyreinink

About amyreinink

I'm an award-winning writer and middle-of-the-pack runner who moved to the Washington area as a freelance journalist in October 2008. I'm also a marathon runner who recently signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25, 2009. This blog, which I first started to chronicle my training for the National Half Marathon on March 21, 2009, is the story of my training for the MCM, and for many shorter races before it. I have run one full marathon and three half-marathons previously, and I'm looking to improve my time of 4:34 from the Nashville Country Music Marathon in April 2007. To avoid burnout and injuries, I'll be using the FIRST marathon-training method — running three hard days a week and cross-training hard two days a week. In this blog, I'll provide suggestions for running routes, training strategies, staying motivated, cross-training without boredom, injury prevention, playlists, sports nutrition and more. I live in a revamped Canada Dry bottling plant in Silver Spring, Md., that serves as a jumping-off point for running in Rock Creek Park, camping in Shenandoah National Park and skiing at Whitetail Resort, where my husband, Steve, and I are members of the Mountain Safety Team.

Copycat KIND Oats & Honey Clusters granola

I can’t say for sure when I first discovered KIND Oat and Honey Clusters, otherwise known as the most delicious granola on the face of the planet. I can tell you that my life—or at least my breakfasts—haven’t been the same since. The weird, nutty quinoa-crunch of it is the perfect complement to homemade yogurt and blueberries (is it blueberry season in Upstate New York yet? No? Darn.). oat_honey_517x681With unconventional granola ingredients such as quinoa, amaranth and millet, I somehow assumed this style of granola would be too tricky to make at home. A book called The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making and a couple of recipes on Glutenfreeonashoestring.com changed my mind.

From the book, I got the best tip ever about baking granola: That you should do so at 250 degrees in the top two-thirds of your oven for multiple hours, and that you should leave the granola in the cool oven for several more hours once it’s done cooking, so it will harden and crisp more. Cookbook author Alana Chernila is a genius for this suggestion, in addition to the inclusion of sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

From the recipes—one for peanut-butter granola and another for maple-quinoa clusters—I learned to stop worrying and love my buckwheat groats. So last weekend, I purchased those and several other grains (amaranth, millet, brown-rice flour, brown-rice cereal) from the bulk section of Healthy Living Market in Saratoga, our local natural-foods store, and got busy baking with a goal of imitating my own favorite KIND flavor, Oats & Honey Clusters with Toasted Coconut.

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First, I mixed the dry ingredients (rolled oats, quinoa, buckwheat groats, flax seeds, rice flour, almonds, cinnamon, sea salt and other stuff shown above and listed below) together in a large pot.

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I then combined the wet ingredients (vanilla, plus a surprisingly small amount of maple syrup, honey and canola or safflower oil) and mixed the whole mess together. Then, I poured the whole mess onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. That’s it for your prep work!

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I cooked my first batch at 250 degrees for an hour and a half, mixing the granola and shuffling the trays once every 30 minutes. I think I left the second batch in there for four hours without any shuffling at all, and it was just as good, if not better. In both cases, it filled the house with an amazing nutty-cinnamony-vanilla aroma, like a fancy candle. (Yankee Candle Co.: “Maple-quinoa granola” is trademark Amy Reinink 2014, got it?).

In both cases, I let the granola sit in the cool oven overnight, which I’m convinced made it extra-crispy.

This stuff is so amazing, I’ve had to make extra yogurt to keep up with my consumption.

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The details:

6 tablespoons brown rice flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup whole grain millet and/or amaranth

1/4 cup buckwheat groats

1/4 cup quinoa

1/4 cup shredded coconut

5 cups rolled oats

3 cup crispy brown rice cereal (I used Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)

1/2 cup safflower oil (KIND uses canola oil, but I had safflower on hand)

1/4 c maple syrup

1/4 c honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Follow instructions above. Devour. And be sure to let me know which variations you tried!

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First day of spring: Getting through the slush with dreams of lake swims

Saratoga Springs rang in the first day of spring today with everyone’s favorite weather: a “wintery mix,” otherwise known as wet, heavy slush.

No matter—I’m thinking about a time in the near future when all that slush will melt into cool, clear lake water.

For the record: I wouldn't complain if we could fast-forward to the part of the year when I swim in this.

For the record: I wouldn’t complain if we could fast-forward to the part of the year when I swim in Moreau Lake every Thursday evening.

I’m not the only swimmer dreaming of summer. I got an email alert this week letting me know that I can now register for one of my favorite events, the Lake George Open Water Swim,  held on Aug. 23 this year.

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Other swim news this week includes registration opening for the 2-Mile Cable Open Water National Championship in Lake Placid on Aug. 16. I’ve been dreaming about swimming in Mirror Lake again ever since my brief visit there last August.

I'm coming back for you, Mirror Lake.

I’m coming back for you, Mirror Lake.

Knowing these swims are on the docket doesn’t make the slush any less wet or cold. But having them on my calendar does give me an extra boost to ignore the slush and head to the pool, with thoughts of calming, refreshing lake swims dancing in my head.

Which open-water swims are on your calendar for this summer?

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Quotes for a healthy, happy life: from Fabrice Calmels, Donna Deegan, Tiffani Thiessen

Every once in a while, I’m lucky to get to interview someone who excites and inspires me, and who makes me want to live a better, healthier life by virtue of the way they live theirs. Recently, I’ve gotten to profile several such people, and I wanted to share some of their words of wisdom here.

I wrote a profile of Fabrice Calmels, a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet who is a recreational runner, for the April issue of Runner’s World. I believe the comparison he offered between running and dancing applies to most things in life that require determination and mental strength:

“The physicality of “running” is similar to some parts of the ballet. There’s a part in Othello where I’m nearly upside down. I’m dehydrated, exhausted, but something mental makes you do it. A long race is similar. It becomes a decision, “I’m just going to keep going through this struggle.””

I also recently got to write a Women’s Running profile about Donna Deegan, founder of 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville, Fla., which has raised more than $3.5 million to help women with breast cancer cope financially while they go through treatments. Deegan, who has beaten three cancer diagnoses herself, offered the following thoughts about training for a marathon through cancer treatments:

“It’s very empowering to keep running while you’re going through cancer treatments. Marathoning is a great analogy for treatment, and for every kind of struggle. There’s a point in every marathon where you want to sit in the road and cry. But if you push through those struggles, you get to a really good place.”

Photo of Donna Deegan courtesy of Women's Running.

Photo of Donna Deegan courtesy of Women’s Running.

I was perhaps most inspired by talking to Boston Marathon bombing victim Nicole Gross for another Women’s Running profile. Gross, a triathlon coach and personal trainer, said the following about getting back to training following her injuries:

“I’m fortunate to have experienced athletic success. Now, it’s like I’m laying a new foundation with a brand-new body. I’ll start thinking about a half Ironman, or a half marathon, but I’ll pump my own brakes and think, ‘No, just walking a 5K is going to be an amazing accomplishment.’”

Photo courtesy of Women's Running.

Photo of Nicole Gross courtesy of Women’s Running.

Oh—and did I mention that I got to interview Tiffani Thiessen for Women’s Running, too? (Yeah—THAT Tiffani Thiessen!). Turns out, Thiessen took up running and cycling in her post-Saved By The Bell years. I was impressed that her perspective on racing and training was as grounded and down-to-earth as that of any other recreational athlete:

“I love the training, and I really love race day. For me, it’s not about the competition or what I can do, but about the energy of being part of a crowd.”

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Photo of Tiffani Thiessen courtesy of Women’s Running.

I hope these incredible runners—and humans—inspire you as much as they inspired me.

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Third Annual 100K Vertical Challenge

What a magnificent day we had at the Third Annual 100K Vertical Challenge on Monday!

The skies were blue and the temperatures were cold—perfect conditions for an endurance ski event. Buzz about the event had been building all week, and as participants filed in on Monday morning, the excitement in the air was palpable.

My relay teammate shredding the gnar under bluebird skies.

My relay teammate shredding the gnar under bluebird skies.

I had a moment of zen as we lined up on top of the mountain for our group photo. The first year, there were two dozen of us attempting the challenge, which aims to raise funds for and awareness of Two Top Adaptive Sports Foundation. This year, there were more than 70 people, thanks to the addition of relay teams for the first time.

I took the second leg of my relay, so once the event officially started, I set up shop at the support table, cheering and ringing a cowbell. I can’t recall a time when I had more fun on snow—and I wasn’t even skiing!

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The most amazing part was watching the adaptive skiers glide down the course, skiing as well as, if not better than, the rest of the participants.

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When I did start skiing about 30 runs into my team’s 107, I felt overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude—that I was lucky enough to be out skiing on a beautiful day, that I had the privilege to be involved in this amazing event, and that we live in a world that allows amputees and other disabled athletes to enjoy the same exhilaration and freedom I do on the slopes.

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By the end of the day, all 10 relay teams and 28 individuals finished the entire 100K distance.

Thanks to your support (also thanks to our tutus?), my relay team raised more than $2,400 for Two Top.

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Altogether, the event raised nearly $70,000 for Two Top—more than double what the 100K raised last year, and almost six times what it raised in its inaugural year.

To learn more about this year’s event and the athletes it benefits, check out this report from WUSA 9, which beautifully captures the spirit of the day:

http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/2014/02/10/vertical-challenge-wounded-warriors-whitetail/5369511/”>http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/2014/02/10/vertical-challenge-wounded-warriors-whitetail/5369511/

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Preview: 3rd Annual 100K Vertical Challenge at Whitetail Resort

For the past two years, a couple dozen skiers and snowboarders set out to accomplish an incredible — some may say absurd — goal: to descend 100,000 vertical feet in one day, or 107 runs at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn. Fueled by Gatorade, pizza and hot dogs, they did just that. Longtime readers know (and new readers will likely not be surprised) to know that I was among them.

Participants in the inaugural 100K Vertical Challenge in 2012 at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn.

Participants in the inaugural 100K Vertical Challenge in 2012 at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn.

There was a mission behind our madness: Our 12-plus hour adventure raised more than $12,000 in 2012 and $25,000 in 2013 to benefit Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization based at Whitetail that provides adaptive ski and snowboard lessons to disabled athletes. Two-thirds of those lessons go to wounded veterans receiving treatment at nearby Walter Reed, who never pay a dime for their lessons. (Read about my 12-hour adventure in 2012 here.)

This year, Steve and I are part of a small group that is setting out to accomplish the event’s most audacious goal yet in its third annual iteration on Feb. 10: to raise $50,000 for Two Top.

For the first time, we’re allowing relay teams to participate in the event. I’ll be part of a team of fellow ski patrollers (Team DYD).  My personal fund-raising goal is at least $600, which could provide a whole weekend of skiing, lodging, meals and lessons for two disabled athletes. To accomplish that, I need your help.

Homecoming

Participating in the 100K Vertical Challenge at Whitetail helps me pay forward my gratitude for happy homecomings like this one.

First, I’d like to share a few thoughts about why the event and the nonprofit it benefits are so important to me. As most of you know, Steve left active-duty service in the U.S. Navy this year for his first civilian job. I’m grateful every day for the multiple acts of grace it took to get him out of three Persian Gulf deployments unscathed. Supporting an organization like Two Top is the best way I know to pay that grace forward in some small way.

Also, participating in the event the past two years has left me impressed beyond words at what a small, volunteer-run organization can accomplish. This YouTube video of Todd Love, a Marine who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, taking his second lesson with Two Top a few years ago gives you a small idea. If you can watch it (and read the comment from his mom below the video) without getting a little weepy, you may want to check your pulse.

For more information about the 100K Vertical Challenge, or about Two Top, please visit the event’s website at https://ssl.dhweb.com/twotop (where you can donate to my campaign by clicking on “Team DYD”). If you’re in a position to give, please consider donating to this incredible organization, knowing that your contributions will help Two Top meet its goal of enabling everyone to enjoy the freedom and peace of skiing and snowboarding. I truly appreciate any assistance you can offer.

In the meantime, please follow the 100K’s Twitter feed and “like” its Facebook page—and encourage your friends to do the same!

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Full calendar, full soul: 3rd Annual 100K Vertical Challenge

Is there a smooth way to post something out of the blue after a month of radio silence? No? Then perhaps I can offer you a couple of excuses—erm, explanations—for my absence.

In addition to all the normal, expected stuff—the holidays and family visits and post-holiday deadlines—there are two big things keeping me swamped and away from the blog. They also happen to be two things that fill my soul to the brim.
The first is the OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care, the 120-hour ski-patrol first-aid) course we’re teaching. I first trained to become an instructor in order to improve my own skills, with a side benefit of passing on the knowledge my instructors tirelessly and generously passed on to me. A few years later, all my energy is focused on the goals of others—the 10 students who are counting on us to teach them how to be competent ski patrollers themselves. It is exhausting. It is frustrating. I literally lose sleep thinking through difficult situations we’re experiencing in the class, wondering if I’m doing right by these students. It is more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined.
Participants in the inaugural 100K Vertical Challenge in 2012 at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn.

Participants in the inaugural 100K Vertical Challenge in 2012 at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn.

The other thing keeping me busy is the 100K Vertical Challenge, in which skiers and snowboarders attempt to descend 100,000 vertical feet in a single day (107 runs at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Penn.). Steve and I have participated in the event for the past two years (read about my 12-hour adventure in 2012 here for background). As was the case with OEC instruction, I first decided to take part in the event for selfish reasons—it sounded like an incredible challenge, and a great excuse to spend a work day making turns on one of my favorite cruisers in the universe, Snowdancer at Whitetail.

Now, in the event’s third year, we are taking a more active role to raise funds for and awareness of Two Top Adaptive Sports Foundation, a nonprofit that provides adaptive ski and snowboard lessons to wounded veterans and other disabled athletes. I’m manning the event’s Twitter feed and Facebook page—give us a follow and a “like” when you get a chance!

Stay tuned for a full description of the event (and my plea for help in spreading the word and raising some funds via Team DYD to help Two Top continue its incredible work). For now, happy 2014. I hope your calendars and your souls are as full as mine are.

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Happy 2013-2014 ski season!

Guess what, guess what, guess what? The 2013-2014 ski season is here!

For me, it started the day after Thanksgiving, with my first ski-patrol shift at Gore Mountain in North Creek, N.Y., where I spent the day trying to wrap my brain around new trail names, new equipment and lots of new names and faces.GORE2

I spent an equal amount of time rejoicing that my favorite parts of skiing and ski patrolling are the same everywhere: The joy of getting first tracks before anyone else is on the mountain; the freedom borne of setting the edge of your ski into the snow and riding it into the wind; the instantaneous sense of family found even on Day 1 with a new patrol, the beauty of sunset creating alpenglow at the day’s end.Gore1

We had so much fun on Friday, we went back for more on Sunday. And thanks to my leaving my cell phone at the mountain on Sunday, I got a few more runs in on Tuesday (what, you think I’m going to drive an hour to a ski resort to get a phone and NOT go skiing?).

Having the first few ski days of the season under my (patrol) belt is especially notable this year because of the fear I carried onto the slopes with me after suffering random, season-ending injuries the past few winters.

Thankfully, that all fell away when I made my first turn. It was just me and the mountain—pure motion and peace, with no thoughts or fears or hang-ups holding me back.

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Running goals (not racing goals)

I was flipping through the latest issue of Runner’s World before I fell asleep last night when I came upon a question that captured my curiosity. The question, in Jeff Galloway’s “Starting Line” column: “I want a running-related goal that isn’t tied to racing. Suggestions?”

Yeah,” I said out loud to no one in particular. (Steve was traveling, and I don’t have a pet. Don’t judge me.)

Setting time goals for races just hasn’t turned me on for a while. Still, running without any sort of goal has left me feeling a little bit moorless.

Galloway suggests setting frequency-based goals (15 days a month), or long-term goals such as running in a National Park in each state. Others lengthen their longest weekly run.

The latter appealed to me, but mostly because the running group I joined immediately upon moving to Saratoga Springs now runs 7 miles every Wednesday night (a lot for a weeknight, no?). So this is my new goal: If I run the whole distance on Wednesday nights, I can treat myself to a post-run treat at Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., where the run starts and ends.

I already run three days a week on a pretty regular basis, so I’m coming up short on other non-racing-based goals. Ideas? I’m all ears!

 

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Believe in the power of girls

Whew!

Sorry I’ve gone missing in the past few weeks. In addition to some new work projects that have kept me busy in the 9-to-5 sense, I am now serving as the head instructor for an OEC (ski-patrol medical) class in our area—a task that is equal parts inspiring and exhausting. So rather than writing about all the cool and interesting experiences I’ve been having on the trails and on the slopes (no snow yet, but it won’t be long!), I’ve been putting together slide presentations and skill sessions for that class. Like I said: Inspiring and exhausting.

Now that I’ve managed to carve out a few extra minutes, I want to share an experience I had at the ski-patrol refresher at Gore, where we will be patrolling this winter.

Everyone at the day-long training session was warm and welcoming. But I felt a special sense of inclusion from the other women patrollers, most of whom made a special point of introducing themselves and welcoming me to the mountain. In one instance, a brief introduction led to a long, impassioned discussion about how giving young girls the opportunity to play outside can change the world.

It left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling, and the sense that we may be approaching a sort of tipping point in the world of women’s participation in outdoor and adventure sports. Sure, we’re still a minority. But all over the place, I see signs of progress. At a screening of this year’s Warren Miller movie, Ticket to Ride, last Saturday, I was thrilled to see multiple scenes featuring only female skiers—not just scenes with a token girl skiing in a sea of dudes. There are big-mountain ski camps geared exclusively toward women, such as the one pro skier Ingrid Backstrom holds in Chile every summer (anyone wanna sponsor my attendance there?).

Organizations such as She Jumps are encouraging women and girls to get outside and play. And then there’s She Jumps founder Lynsey Dyer’s all-female ski movie. I’m inspired every time I watch the trailer, which is set to a song whose lyrics ask: “Have I ever really helped/anybody but myself/to believe in the power of songs/to believe in the power of girls?”

That new OEC class I’m teaching has several girls and young women in it. Who knows—maybe simply by believing in their power, I can help push us closer to that tipping point.

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Motivation Monday: The ‘healthy fear’ edition

“If something looked inspiring or exciting, I would take note of that. And right behind that, the fear would come. And I would let it come. … Then, I would look back up at the mountain. If that even hint of excitement was still there, I would go and do it. And that has served me well.” — Professional freeskier Lynsey Dyer, during her wonderful TEDX talk about ‘extreme’ skiing

The screams from the stairwell were chilling, like a haunted house set up a couple of weeks before Halloween. Low and guttural, if you told me they came from a zombie staggering out of the grave, I would have believed you.

In actuality, they came from a practice patient in an advanced OEC (ski-patrol medical) clinic I took last weekend. The “patient,” another student’s husband, was told to pretend he had a broken femur, and it was my job to safely extricate him from the stairwell.

It was the first of many scenarios that day. It was also the first of several times that day that my brain went into overdrive, trying to find an answer amid a chorus of panicked expletives from my invisible terrible someone.

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It was terrible, and humbling. It was also the best thing I could have done, and it made me a better patroller. Maybe even a better person, in that it reminded me that when you do things that force you to cut through the chatter and panic and other B.S. in your head, you sometimes find a calm confidence you didn’t even know you had.

If you’re curious about the outcome of the femur: The extrication didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. But I got through it, and when I see that injury in real life, I know I’ll be able to handle it—maybe even with a quiet confidence I didn’t have before.

Have you done anything lately that scared you? How did it go?

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