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Healthy on a budget

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A few months ago, I was very ill and hospitalized for about two weeks in the ICU. Before and after I had to take time off of work because I was fighting extreme headaches and fevers. Needless to say, it did a number on my savings and I am having a really hard time catching back up. Not to mention the bill collectors from the doctors who want their money because my insurance sucks.

So here I am trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle for me and my family on a budget. There are many complications I am running into and I am stuck in trying to figure out alternatives.

1. Groceries: I have always been a relatively healthy person. I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years and have learned to find protein and balance healthy meat alternatives with whole grains and vegetables. We have recently added fish to our diets because my hemoglobin dropped dangerously low when I was sick and I am having trouble getting it back to where it should be. I don't know if the fish is helping, but at least it increases my protein intake. Unfortunately, it is very expensive. I have always shopped at Whole Foods and Coops. I steer clear of Cub and Rainbow because the majority of their vegetables are sprayed down with pesticides and preservatives. The small organic section they do have seems to keep the wilted and old vegetables that most shoppers pass over because they are more expensive. When I do try to shop there and spend literally hours reading labels as I try to find the healthier options, I end up spending just as much because they are considered premium items. I know Trader Joe's has some stuff, but not all and to be honest it just never seems to taste very good. So I easily spend $3-400 per week feeding a family of four.

2. Eating out: There's a reason McDonalds has a $1 menu - because the food is crap! Sometimes it seems that by the time I buy all my healthy organic groceries, I am spending just as much as if we went to a decent restaurant. So, while I know to quit eating out is probably the best way to save money on food, we do it occasionally, but we are trying to cut down. Again I run into the issue of the healthier the food is, the more expensive it is.

3. Activities: My son is in a lot of extracurricular activities and most of them aren't cheap. He has offered to cut down on some of them, but it breaks my heart to take him out of things that he has worked so hard getting good at. Plus he's a little on the shy side so he has trouble making friends outside of these activities. This is the last place I want to cut into.

4. Exercise, gear and races: My gym membership costs money but probably holds my sanity together. Races are usually my biggest form of motivation to keep running and training, but when I can't afford the entry fees, I can feel myself starting to slack off. In the past if I am not training for something, I find it hard to get up and run for no end. Gear is another problem because even new running shoes are expensive let alone a new bike.

I actually have a very good job and up until now has afforded me the healthy lifestyle I have become accustomed to. I am trying to find a second job to get back on my feet, but in this economy, that isn't easy. For now, I need a way to cut corners and budget more effectively without compromising our health.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

OSANII 8/24/2012 11:54AM

    Thanks everyone. I will definitely look into options at the gym. That is a good idea. I already only use my cell and don't have cable except for internet though.

I was just feeling extra sorry for myself yesterday. I'll figure it out and get back on track eventually :)

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OPTIMIST1948 8/24/2012 9:07AM

    Echo HealthyOtter: I know someone who became a lifeguard at her gym so that she could use the facilities without cost.

Food: Research "Dirty Dozen" there are some fruits and veggies that are heavily sprayed so its worth buying organic (strawberries come to mind). There are others that you can easily sub conventional grown without loss of quality. Also, dont forget frozen. Not as nice as fresh, but cheaper, and frequently equivalent to fresh in nutritional value.

Tough love: clearly something has to give. I think the easiest place is groceries, but there's always something else. Ditch the cable subscription? Knock out the housephone for cells? Yes, these are hard choices for hard times. I understand #4 the most and next year I am going to limit myself to once per month. That way there is always something to work for.

Big hug!

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FATBASTICH 8/24/2012 9:01AM

    It's tough to do - but sounds like you are taking good steps to do it. Good luck.

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HEALTHYOTTER 8/23/2012 6:33PM

    Would there be any job options at your gym? Getting the healthy food and cooking at home is probably cheaper than eating at a nicer restaurant, esp when you factor in tips, etc. Plus, you know what you're putting into your body. I feel for you. Money stress is such an energy drain! Anything around the household expenses that can be cut back? Drying clothes outside instead of the dryer, maybe? Other electricity savers?

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2012 Ragnar Great River Relay Race Report

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ragnar Great River is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 12 individuals who each run 3 legs. When each runner finishes, the next one begins over the course of 198 miles. The length of each leg varies from 3-10 miles and varies in elevation difficulty. We ride in two vans of 6 runners each. For example, the first runner in the first van starts at 7:30am and runs 5 miles, when they finish, they hand the baton (slap bracelet) to runner 2 and they run 7 miles and so on until the 6th runner runs and hands it the 7th runner in van 2; after the 12th runner runs, they hand the baton back to the 1st runner in the 1st van. This relay happens 3 times while the runners who aren't running cheer on the runner who is running. We all get very little sleep, eat sporadically, and smell horrible. It kind of reminds me of a reality TV show.. what happens when we put 6 strangers in a van for 24-36 hours of running, sweating, and cheering? The line is "Run. Rest? Repeat."

So I was the 3rd runner in the 1st van which happened to be the easiest leg because I was filling in for another runner who had to drop out and I hadn't really been training for this. Also, it turns out that I was the slowest runner in my van. I ran 5.6 miles on my first leg, 3.5 on my second leg, and 3.1 on my third leg.

We drove down to Winona, MN together on Thursday night and stayed in a hotel room because we had to be at the start at 6:30 am for the safety meeting and 7:30 am race start. Since that was about 3 hour drive from where we lived and where the finish is, we wanted to maximize pre race sleeping.

My first leg started at about 9:30 am and I was really nervous. It adds a bit of stress to have 12 other runners depending on your outcome. Luckily my tri training has increased my run time considerably this summer and I managed to run the first 5.6 miles in 47 minutes. When you pass another runner, you call them roadkill and you count up all your roadkill at the end of each leg. I passed 9 runners and no one passed me, so that was encouraging. Mind you, this was the easiest leg, so other runners doing this same leg were also most likely the weakest link in their group as well. My van finished the first 6 legs at about 12:30pm.

While van 2 ran we were able to get some lunch and wipe off with baby wipes to prepare for our next bout. Then we headed to the next exchange point and tried to rest a bit. Our first runner was off at about 5pm.

At about 8pm, I started my second leg. After 7:15pm, the runners need to wear nighttime safety gear, so I had my head lamp, safety vest, and blinking tail light. This one was only 3.5 miles and it was almost all downhill. The bottoms of my feet were burning from hitting the pavement so hard. I got passed by one guy who was tearing down, but then passed him back when the ground evened out. I passed another 4 people and finished in about 28 minutes.

It was nearly 11pm when our last runner finished and handed off the baton to van 2. We drive to the next major exchange where there was a high school that allowed us to use the locker rooms to clean up in. The water in the shower was ice cold, but I did my best to rinse off. Then we went to Perkins for some late night diner food. Then headed back to the exchange for some bit of sleep. I apparently got the short straw or just wasn't quick enough to claim my space, so I got the driver's seat to curl up in to sleep. I may have gotten a broken 2 hours between limbs cramping up. At 3:30am, our first runner was off again.

My third leg started at about 4:30am and it was pitch black. My route was through the woods on a paved trail which was nice because I didn't have to deal with the occasional car swerving at me, but freaked me out as my head ran away with me. I could only see about 2 feet in front of me so I was worried about taking a nose dive. I kept telling myself it was only 3.1 miles and ran through the pains in my calves to get to the finish as fast as I could. I think it took me about 29 minutes so it was my slowest run, but I was so glad to be done.

We finished leg three at about 10am, then drove to the finish line to await the rest of our team from van 2. They had a slight mishap with one of their runners that accidentally missed an exchange and ran an extra leg. They then had to be escorted back to the exchange and the rightful person had to redo the leg, so that lost us an hour. At about 1pm, we all ran across the finish line and were given our medals (which doubles as a bottle opener - how handy) and then were given our free beer and pizza. We hung out as long as we could stand it and then dispersed to go home and pass out.

We finished 141st out of 312 teams with a time of 29:18:20.

It was long and grueling, but fun and I hope to do it again next year.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

OPTIMIST1948 8/24/2012 9:10AM

    1) Sounds fun
2) You are a FAST runner!


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SLEEPYDEAN 8/21/2012 6:35PM

    Very cool! Glad to hear you had a good time overall. I am looking forward to another Ragnar after doing Ragnar So Cal earlier this year. We got to "sleep" on a golf course and our "showers" were ice cold outdoor showers. Our van (2) was very slow (extreme heat didn't help) and I didn't cross the finish line until close to 8 at night. I hear being in Van 1 is a very different experience.

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OSANII 8/21/2012 11:05AM

    Did you see any of the chaos of the race? People started as early as 6am, I think, but the super fast runners started as late as 4pm. The start time was based on the groups estimated finish time, so the faster the team, the later they start.

At first, I was like no way would I do this again, but there is something about the camraderie and craziness of it that makes me want to do it again. I just need to get faster!

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BECKYANNE1 8/21/2012 7:44AM

    You started n my town. I wish I would've known about it ahead of time, but I didn't. Would you do it again?

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2012 YWCA Women's Triathlon Race Report

Monday, August 13, 2012

Overall 1:36:16
Swim (500 yards): 12:32 (Pace - 2:33/ 100yd)
Trn1 2:33
Bike (15.5 miles): 52:13 (Pace - 17.8 mph)
Trn2 1:47
Run (3.1 miles): Time - 27:13 (Pace - 8:47/mile)

What a great race! My boyfriend actually drove me to the venue and stayed to cheer me on. Unfortunately my son was at a camping trip, otherwise he probably would have come too.

My nerves got the best of me the night before and I didn't sleep much, so I was a little groggy when I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am to eat a hearty breakfast with enough time to digest. My pre workout meal is always a 1/2 cup of oatmeal mixed with two scrambled eggs and generously salted because I have low sodium levels causing some electrolyte imbalances when I do a lot of endurance. This breakfast seems to do the trick with a balance of carbs and protein.

Made it to the race by 6:45 am to set up my transition area, pick up my timing chip, and get drawn all over. They marked my arms and hands with my bib number and put my age and wave on the backs of my calves. Then we stood around and waited until the pre race safety announcements at 7:45 am. I swam around in the water which happened to by warmer than the air that morning. Then at 8 am the first wave took off in the water. I was wave 6 six and the waves were every 3 minutes, so I had 15 minutes to stand and freeze.

emoticonThe swim: at 8:15 am I ran into the water. I started in the back and hung back for a bit before diving in, then stayed to the outer most edge to avoid the people. I managed to only get my foot touched one time. With so much on my mind and the bike and run ahead of me, the swim was over before I knew it. I didn't panic or breathe in half the lake. I managed to swim the crawl and not worry about others running me over. At 8:27 it was over and I was running to the bike transition area.

emoticonThe bike: after wriggling in my Vibram five fingers shoes and jogging my bike to the start line, I was off on the course at 8:30 am. I borrowed the bike from a coworker, which was incredibly nice and I am extremely grateful. It had cages on the pedals which I had a hard time getting my feet into, but finally managed. She is a little shorter than me so I had to be mindful around corners so I didn't scrape the pedals. It was so much faster than my mountain bike! I averaged about 17-18 mph, but was up to 26 mph at one point on a downhill. I think the bike was actually the most important; with it being the longest distance and the greatest speed, you could easily make up time lost in the swim or the run. Biking is not my strong suit, but I think I managed OK. The waves were set out by age, so older women blew past me and all I could think was that I could only hope to be in that great of shape at that age. I passed women in my wave and earlier waves, so I was feeling pretty good.

emoticonThe run: with legs that felt like jelly, I waddled onto the running course at 9:24 am. Running is my strong suit. Not that I am especially good at it, but I have been running for years. I have done many 5 and 10Ks, a half dozen half marathons, and three marathons. I ran past people running and walking and was only passed by maybe two other runners. I skipped the water stops since I don't generally need water in such a short distance. I didn't feel like I was going that fast, but when I saw the finish line, I booked it. I felt great and ran full out! I managed to run a sub 9 min pace and finished in probably the best 5K time I have had since I was 25.

I ran across the finish line at 9:51 am feeling like I could do it all again! I was starving though since I didn't break to eat or drink at all. This had to be the best post race food I had ever seen. There were wraps of meat, cheeses and veggies, but they were too heavy for me at that time, so I went for the buffet of different types of trail mix and nuts. I scarfed down a cup of soy nut mix and some m&ms. Then went in search of the coffee.

Overall it was a fantastic race and I am happy with my time. I would love to do another, but with my current bike situation, I want to wait until I can afford a decent bike to train and race with. For now, I will stick with running. I want to do this race again next year and beat this year's time!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DRB13_1 8/15/2012 10:00AM

    This is FANTASTIC! You will have wonderful memories always, and like you said, a new goal for next year. I am so impressed!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MPLSKEN 8/14/2012 2:43PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

Very inspiring!!! Thanks for sharing, you did awesome!!!


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OPTIMIST1948 8/13/2012 8:10PM

    Welcome to Crazytown! We have lots of fun doing the swim-bike-run!

As for the bike, keep your eye on Craigslist. As we are coming into the end of the season, there might be a few deals. I spent $200 for mine and its decent, abet not perfect. But it will get me thru for a few years, better than a mountain!

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ONEKIDSMOM 8/13/2012 7:27PM

    Congrats on a great first outing. Enjoy those endorphins... I found mine lasted at least a week!

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Training Week 8

Monday, August 06, 2012

Technically week 8 was supposed to be my last week of training, but the timing didn't quite work out so I'll have one more week before my triathlon. I did take it easy this week, but that was because I had a 5K obstacle mud run up a local ski hill on Saturday. On Tuesday I got a ride to work and only road my bike home rather than both ways. I did increase my run though. My legs really feel like they are getting used to the transition which I hopes comes in handy during the race. Wednesday I only did strength training and skipped my run. Thursday I ran with my boyfriend since he was doing the race with me on Saturday. Apparently he finally decide he should train. So with him and my dog we set out on a 3 mile run. We returned something like 40 minutes later. I didn't even bother timing it. Friday I rested.

Saturday was the race. It was almost all up hill with some switch backs on the trails. There were about 10 obstacles that ranged in difficulty. Like climbing over hay bails to running up a hill with a log to climbing over flat 10 foot wooden walls (3 in a row). We also had to do some stretched out ladder climbing; both horizontal and vertical. Then finally had to run up a ramp, kind of like a skateboard ramp and climb over the ledge at the top. Then jump from about 15 feet into a pool of water 12 feet deep. I don't know what our time was, but we completed it and it was fun. I was sore and bruised, but happy.

Sunday I had a swim preview for my triathlon next Sunday. They basically set out buoys approximately like the course will be and we swim in a group while asking questions and getting tips from the coach. There was some accidental kicking in the face and foot touching, but we were all overly polite about it. I struggled with getting so much water in my mouth when someone was right next to me. Even though this distance is much shorter than I have been practicing, it felt like it went on and on. Swimming out was ok and horizontal was ok, but back to the beach against the current was tough. I think I swallowed half the lake. The coach also mentioned the no kicking again, but I found myself frantically trying to get through it that I had to kick. I imagine it will be worse during the actual triathlon. I am actually glad I didn't jump right into an olympic distance and was grateful for the girly sprint. There are certain things I feel better about for doing, but there are some things I have to remember are just not worth it. I biked there and swam for about an hour in and around the course, then biked home and decided to go for a quick run just to get the full effect of biking and running in my wet tri shorts. It wasn't so bad.

Week 8's Training:
M-rest/ Tu biked 55 ran 35/ W-strength 60 (missed 30 min run)/ Th ran 35 (missed 30 min swim)/ F-rest/ Sa-ran 5K obstacle mud run/ Su-swam 30 biked 30 ran 10


Training Week 7

Monday, August 06, 2012

A week late, but I'll try to enter my trials and tribulations from my 7th week of training as best I can. It was a bit of a rough week to say the least...

I started the week on track and even did a bit extra on Tuesday to make up for some missed workouts last week. Thursday I went to a Triathlon Swim Clinic and they gave us a lot of tips for the swim portion of the triathlon. One thing that stuck with me was that they said not to kick. What?! I feel like I'm barely moving when I don't kick and start sinking too! Well, she explained that obviously we want to save our legs for the bike and the run, but more importantly that the body should be more streamlined and using the propelling motion to glide forward. Only using one kick or hip twitch to keep on beat per stroke. She said if one arm is in front of you at all times, you will stay afloat without kicking. The problem lies in that most people have a windmill stroke and drop the arm in front before the other arm is even out of the water. So I have been working on that and I think I am getting better at it, but it still makes me slower. Maybe it will be worth it in the bike and run portion though.

On Friday we were supposed to go camping. I brought all my running gear and I was going to make sure I went on my runs to wear out the dog. Only my car broke down on the way there. The engine complete seized and cracked the head. So the entire engine had to be replaced. I get home to a letter from my student loans saying they need to collect more from me and will start garnishing my wages. Not to mention the stack of medical bills from being hospitalized for two weeks in April that I haven't even begun to pay. So after many tears, I organized all my finances, updated my resume and began searching for a second job. A nagging thought was that if I work two jobs, I won't be able to work out very much. I know that is a minor thing, so I am stuffing it in the back of my mind and will see what I can do when I get there. That is probably the least of my worries about it. So that was how I spent most of Saturday and didn't get out for my long run.

I tried to make up for it on Sunday and ran a long run after my swim (60 instead of 30). I managed to keep my speed at about a 9ish minute mile the whole time, which was faster than usual. I went to a different gym location and the scale said I finally broke past my steady weight to 138.8!

I think I celebrated with ice cream emoticon

Week 7's Training:
M-rest/ Tu-Swam 30 Biked 30 Ran 30/ W-strength 60 ran 30/Th- swam 30 ran 30/ F-strength 60/ Sa-(missed 60 min run)/ Su-Swam 30 ran 60


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