Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Birthday Reflection

I try to keep my posts fairly substantive, but I wanted to acknowledge something a little more personal in this post.

Today's my birthday. Another year in the bank. I have a lot to be thankful for. My life, my husband, family and friends. My health.

I'm reminded today of a conversation I had with some friends as we ran the Lakefront Discovery Run this fall. We were talking about the pain that comes during a race, and one of my friends said that he didn't think the pain ever got any easier to deal with. I came back with the usual response that you've all come to expect from me: that you have to push through and above the pain. That the pain of running or racing is part of the experience and something to be appreciated.

"But sometimes I think that the pain isn't worth the effort." he responded, "I'm not running to lose weight. I'm certainly not gaining muscle. I'm never going to win a big race. So why am I doing this?"

The first answer that came to me, and one I'm reflecting on a lot today is: "We do it because we can. At this point in our lives, we're healthy enough and strong enough to be able to compete in this race, and so we should give it everything we have - even if it's painful."

Sure, running feeds my competitive spirit and it keeps me in shape. But it's also a gift that my body has given me over the years - one I shouldn't take for granted.

We don't know what's going to happen to us today, tomorrow, or in the years to come. Today I'm grateful for my body and my mind and the rich life they've allowed me to have so far.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poor Cinderella

Today. Oh, today. A different kind of "stress test" for sure. A synopsis:

Today was my third opening shift in a row. We had a busy weekend at the store and that, in addition to waking up at 4am were definitely taking their toll. I was tired, but I had a plan. Immediately after work today, I was going to jet out of the parking lot, and head to the Y for my favorite boot camp and abs class lunchtime combo. This morning, I stumbled around the house stuffing workout items in my gym bag and ran out of the house at 4:23am, with work and gym bags in tow and a few minutes to spare.

I got through this morning thanks to continuous coffee refills. I worked through my lunch in order to leave on time. I left, I drove, I parked, got scanned in, got my key, opened my locker, looked in my bag - and saw that I had forgotten my shoes. Doing pushups, jumping jacks, and sprints in Danskos was not a viable option either, so home I went. And here I am.

Am I pissed? Hell yeah. I knew there was a reason my bag felt so light. But after thinking about my mistake for a few minutes, I realized that I wouldn't have made those mistakes had I not been so tired.

Just as I stress the importance of listening to your body during training, listening to your mind is just as crucial. Had I been mentally rested, I would have remembered my shoes. Heck, I would have packed my bag the night before. Being forgetful or distracted is a sign that the mind is fatigued. And, since a large portion of running involves mental focus, it's important to listen to your mind when it tells you that a break is needed.

The best performances come from physical and mental balance, so keep that in mind (ha, ha) the next time you're feeling forgetful during training.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Almost Race Time

It's been a quiet few weeks here at "TSL." There are some reasons I could give you for why:
  1. The NBA playoffs
  2. The NFL draft
  3. Laziness and inertia (my personal favorite)
All these factors definitely play a part in TSL's recent silence, but I think the biggest reason is that my first serious race of the season is happening next weekend.

I've never had children, so I don't presume to know the nervousness and anticipation of a mother-to-be as she waits for the arrival of a child, but the first big race, (really any big race) gives me a similar kind of stress. I don't talk about it. I don't write about it. But there it sits on my shoulders. I carry its weight with me.

So let's talk about it, shall we?

What To Do The Week Before a Race

The week before a competition is known as "taper week." It's a time to rest the body and prepare the mind for the challenge that is to come. Your milage drops, your bedtime is earlier, the gummy bears get hidden on the top shelf in the back of the pantry.

Seems simple, right? A lot of resting, relaxing, and waiting.

Except, it's not. Not for me. Not for a lot of the type-A people that I know who need to fill the hours of their day with some kind of activity. And if my activity is taken away, then mental anxiety starts to fill that empty space.

So, here's what I do. I slow down, but I don't stop completely. First of all, if you've been training hard for an event, the taper week should feel much-needed. But that doesn't mean that you should sequester yourself in a room until race day.

Rest your body for the first few days. Do some light jogging. Do some water jogging in the pool. Get together with friends you haven't seen during your training. Enjoy your down time.

Think of yourself as a lake in the spring. The more rest you get, the more your muscles relax and grow strong. The ice melts, the strength flows back into you. By the time race day arrives, your reservoir of capability should be full-to bursting. When the starting whistle sounds, the dam breaks, and you can let all of your pent-up energy out.
But it starts with rest.

I'll be around this week, hopefully more active than before. Have a good week, everyone, and good luck in whatever you're individually preparing for.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This is All Kinds of Disgusting

For a few years, now, rumors have been circulating about a new "sandwich" that KFC was test marketing called the "Double Down." This sandwich supposedly defied the logic of traditional sandwich construction by featuring two breaded chicken breasts as the "bun" of the sandwich, encasing a mix of cheeses as the sandwich filling. The sandwich had popped up in places like Omaha, Nebraska and Providence, Rhode Island, but no official information was available as to whether or not KFC would choose to unleash this monstrosity upon America.

Well, guard your arteries, because starting on April 12th, the Double Down is coming to your town. KFC advertises the Double Down on their website with a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until its release. They also have a television commercial you can view on the site.

KFC describes the sandwich as a:
"One-of-a-kind sandwich" that, "features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce."
To their credit, KFC also lists some nutritional information for both the breaded and grilled versions. The breaded version has 520 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium. If you're watching your figure and choose to go grilled, you'll be putting away a skinny 460 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 1430 mg of sodium. Should you pair the Double Down the way KFC recommends - with a large soda and potato wedges - the calorie, fat, and sodium content goes up dramatically, however.

Several writers have tried the Double Down and chronicled the experience for your reading pleasure. The best article I've found actually comes from the A.V. section of "The Onion," which is why, when I initially read the headline, I thought it was another Onion joke. The writer describes his experience thusly: "
The Double Down did to my gastrointestinal system what Sherman did to the South, leaving a scorched-earth trail of destruction in its wake. After the initial flavor burst of herbs and spices faded, I was left with a series of stomach-turning pairings, the most horrifying being really bad pepper-jack cheese—school-lunch cheap and school-lunch nasty—and odious bacon."
The article really is worth a read in its entirety - though I don't recommend perusing before meal-time.

Don't get me wrong - I like junk food. I support eating freely and decadently and unhealthily every once in a while. But this? If you're going to eat something unhealthy, at least make it something that contains real food that's prepared with care. Not processed cheese and low quality meat. Not something you scarf down in the car or in a molded plastic KFC booth.

And if your idea of an amazing meal really is two breaded chicken breasts sandwiching a mix of cheeses and bacon? At least make it yourself with better ingredients. I guarantee you, it will be at least marginally more healthy than KFC's sodium and fat bomb.

It seems America's unhealthy chickens truly have come home to roost.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Open Letter to Commissioner Goodell

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

My name is Laura Hogensen, and I’m a female NFL fan.

It shouldn’t surprise you that your league has females who follow it just as avidly as males. If you’ve been studying the recent viewer and fan trends of the league that you govern, you are hopefully aware that females comprise 58 million of the 138 million NFL fans in this country. The number of women who tune into the Super Bowl has climbed 8% over the past decade. Over 40 million of us watched the Super Bowl this year, up from a record-setting 38.3 million for the 2009 Super Bowl. Female viewership influences the television spots and even the products of the companies that sponsor your teams and purchase ads during your games. And this fan base only stands to grow larger.

So, as a loyal female fan, as someone that’s purchased tickets to your games, followed your players, bought your products, and never fails to tune in each Thursday, Monday, and especially Sunday, I need you to do something for me – for us.

Talk to Ben Roethlisberger. Schedule the meeting with him that you promised you would. Because frankly, Commissioner? It’s starting to look like violence against women isn’t all that important to you.

During your time as NFL commissioner, you’ve maintained that player misconduct is intolerable. You made it a policy to meet with players accused of misconduct before a police investigation was even concluded. You’ve taken a hard-line stance against players who choose to flout the rules and code of the National Football League, often suspending them before they’ve even been convicted in a court of law.

You took this stance with Adam “Pacman” Jones three years ago, suspending him for a season after allegations of his involvement in a shooting at a Las Vegas strip club surfaced. You sat down with Pacman immediately, and suspended him within a week of that meeting. And all of this action took place two months before Vegas police officially charged Pacman with any wrongdoing.

That same year, you also suspended the late Chris Henry for eight games after multiple violations of the NFL conduct policy. In a statement about your decision to suspend both players, you said:

"We must protect the integrity of the NFL. The highest standards of conduct must be met by everyone in the NFL because it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right. These players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis."

In the 2009 case of Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a New York nightclub, then tried to lie about his identity at the hospital he was taken to, you suspended him indefinitely before his case was concluded in court. You did this because the case, which was brought forth in July, had been delayed until September, and you felt it was necessary for the league to take action before this time.

Though you waited for the justice system to deliver a final verdict before suspending NFL quarterback, Michael Vick, you barred him from training camp while the investigation was in progress.

You wrote Vick a letter, telling him: "While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy."

Commissioner, I want you to pay attention to this list of disciplinary action not because you got it wrong, but because you got it right. You should have suspended each of these players as soon as you received sufficient evidence that they had committed wrongdoing. Your actions with Jones, Henry, Burress, and Vick were a statement that the NFL does not tolerate guns, violence, or misbehavior of any kind. You stated that it is your “responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League” to discipline players when their “conduct, even if not criminal … violate[s] league policies.” You’ve been so vocal and so responsive in the past that now, your silence on the Roethlisberger case has become deafening.

You’ve done nothing; you’ve released nothing since you stated on March 23 that you planned to meet with Roethlisberger. You can’t hide behind the fact that the investigation hasn’t been completed yet. You met with other players immediately following the mere whiff of allegations of wrongdoing. You can’t say that Roethlisberger hasn’t damaged the “integrity of the NFL.” He’s been accused of sexual assault twice in the past year.

You’ve taken no real action up to this point concerning Roethlisberger, himself. And you’ve refused to acknowledge this case in the media for over two weeks. Is it because you don’t consider this case to be as serious as the others you’ve passed judgment on? Is the alleged assault of a 20-year-old woman in the bathroom of a nightclub not a graver situation than a self-inflicted gunshot wound? Is Michael Vick’s attempted cover-up of his involvement in dog fighting more heinous to you than Roethlisberger and his entourage’s attempts to obfuscate what happened in that Georgia nightclub?

Did you know that the accuser’s friend tried to remove her drunken companion from the bathroom where Roethlisberger allegedly committed the assault? Were you aware that Roethlisberger’s entourage prevented the friend from seeing the accuser, even though she stated repeatedly that the accuser was drunk? Have you noticed that Roethlisberger has refused to cooperate with Georgia police by giving a second interview?

Tread very carefully, here, Commissioner. Your actions or lack thereof will define not only your views on Roethlisberger’s conduct, but the NFL’s views on women as a whole. These are not charges that should be dismissed by you, even if they end up being dismissed by the law. The NFL should not be tolerant of abuse or misconduct against women, and action should be taken against players who make this kind of behavior a pattern – even an alleged one.

The disciplinary action that Roethlisberger deserves is up to you. This is your league, and your judgment. But the first step, the step that’s long overdue, is a face-to-face meeting with Roethlisberger. You’re not just representing the male members and fans of this league; you’re also representing the NFL’s female fans - all 58 million of us.

Do the right thing.


Laura Hogensen