Monday, September 18, 2017

Losing It

Back when I did regular training for running/racing, weight was something I thought about but not something I worried about too much. I knew I had to be leaner to run faster but because of all the running and other training I did, I didn't have to diet - it was more about eating quality foods to support the work I was putting in.

But after taking the summer off from running, I've found myself needing to work at losing a few extra pounds. So I'm excited to share I joined Weight Watchers and am also doing a 12-week program called Lose It at the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

Most of you probably know what Weight Watchers is even if you don't know the exact details of the plan. All foods are assigned a point value and the goal is to stay within a certain point total every day.

Lose It is more fitness based and includes a 60-minute session with a trainer each week as well as small group training sessions throughout the week. Participants work to lose the largest percentage of body weight as well as improve body composition and overall fitness.

Originally I was only going to do the Lose It program but decided to join Weight Watchers on a whim. I think it was a smart decision as it will force me to make better food choices throughout the Lose It program and hopefully lead to more weight loss. In addition to doing the Lose It workouts, I'll also continue to do some running - I'm slowly starting to get back into it but building miles won't be my focus during the next few months - as well as do a few classes at the Downtown YMCA. By the end of the Lose It program, I want to be in position to start doing more run training. Right now, I'm mega slow!

So this week's fitness plan looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Class
Tuesday: 4 mile run + WAC Training Session
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Small Group Session
Thursday: 2 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: 4 mile run
Saturday: 30-minute walk
Sunday: Rest Day

And the diet plan looks like this:

Breakfast: Egg & Turkey Bacon Breakfast Burrito (7 points) + Banana (0 points) + Non-Fat Plain Kefir (3 points)
Snack 1: Raw Veggies (0 points) + Light String Cheese (1 point)
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Salad (6 points) + Watermelon (0 points)
Snack 2: Popcorn (2 points)
Dinner: Turkey Pepperoni Flatout Pizza (8 points) + Spinach Salad (1 point) + Apple (0 points)

I'm really excited about the next several weeks and can't wait to see how much I'm able to accomplish. As I told my trainer, Ellie, I'm all in and will do whatever it takes to maximize results. It's going to be challenging at times but I know I'm going to feel so much better as I get back to my normal self and - fingers crossed - can start running faster again :)

That's really it for now - how about you tell me a bit about what's happening in your life:
  • What's new and exciting in your life?
  • Have you ever been on a diet (Weight Watchers, Zone, Slow Carb, Whole 30, etc.)? If so, what did/didn't you like about the plan? Were you able to stick with it?

I hope you have a wonderful start to the week!

- ST

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas

I recently had a craving for enchiladas with a creamy verde sauce. So I decided to use a little creativity and make one of my favorite comfort foods a bit healthier!

During a recent shopping trip at Whole Foods I picked up a package of Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos. I had a feeling they would be a great base for a verde sauce once pureed. When combined with the plain Green yogurt, it's a deliciously creamy sauce that tastes super high-calorie/high-fat but is actually pretty healthy. 

Don't let all the steps scare you away. This one is worth a little extra prep time!

Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas
Serves 4-6

8 soft-taco size tortillas (corn or flour)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups spinach
1 package Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos*
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Salt & Pepper
1 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded
Cilantro, chopped

*Purchased at Whole Foods

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add quinoa to a medium-size pot and toast over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder and bring to a boil. Top pot with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer until quinoa is cooked through - about 15ish minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, add the tomatillos, Greek yogurt, 1 tsp cumim and 1 tsp Mexican oregano to a food processor. Process until smooth and well combined. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and black beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked quinoa and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and mixture is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1-2 Tbsp of tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Add about 2 Tbsp quinoa filling to each tortilla and roll. Place each enchilada seam side down in the casserole dish. Top with the tomatillo sauce (you will probably have extra - freeze it for another batch of enchiladas or use on leftover chicken) and sprinkle with the chihuahua cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes - or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired!

This is delicious served with a side of Mexican Street Corn Salad or with a simple avocado salad.


- ST

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Summer of (Not) Running

Hey everyone! I'm super sorry I've been MIA lately. It seems like these past few months have gone by in a blink of an eye. One moment it was the end of winter and the next moment the middle of summer. But I guess it's like the saying goes - time flies when you're having fun :)

But if I'm completely honest, I also haven't been posting because I haven't had a lot to say about running because ... I haven't been running.

It's kind of hard to explain. For the past several years, I've been all about running and I never once considered it wouldn't play one of the most major roles in my life. However ... something changed during the past few months. 

It started back in May. My body felt like it was breaking down again and I was losing motivation to train. If I really think about it, I guess I would really point back to a year and a half ago when the injuries started and never really seemed to stop. I would get injured, recover, then immediately get injured again, which meant I haven't been able to train as consistently as I did a few years ago. And once I started taking a few days off here and there, my motivation also decided to take a vacation.

When I had a run on the schedule I'd dread it for hours, wondering how it would go and if I'd be able to hit my times for the day. And when I finally did get out to run it was a chore that I just wanted to get done as fast as possible so I could cross it off my to-do list. You know all those motivational quotes that talk about pushing through day after day and never giving up? I told myself I was just going through a bad patch and in time I'd be able to push through and get back to where I wanted. I didn't want to be that girl who gave up, but I knew I was only digging myself a hole. 

So I decided the only hope I had of getting back to loving running was to take an extended break. I was really anxious about it at first because the past few years my life have revolved around running and fitness. Suddenly I didn't have a routine and all this extra time. As weird as it seemed at first, I grew to love having things less structured. A few weeks in and I found I hardly missed running.

I still went to the gym but only did a normal 4-5 workouts per week. To someone who used to force herself through 8-10 workouts every week, this seemed like nothing. I felt better rested and had more time to do other things I love like catching up with friends over drinks, going out dancing, following fashion and style, reading, etc. I also had time to try out new workouts, such as OrangeTheory Fitness.

The only thing that gave me pause was losing fitness as the weeks went by. Things that used to be easy suddenly weren't and my speed and endurance definitely took a hit. But I told myself I wasn't going to push myself to train for anything - or even follow a fitness routine - until I felt ready again.

Although I wondered at times if I was done with running, I've finally started feeling like I want to run again. It's been little things like getting excited about certain races or feeling inspired while watching the Track & Field World Championship races. And I've actually started to miss the routine of structured training and working toward a goal race.

It's going to take some time to get back into things but I think I'm ready. I'm not in the best shape right now (read: super slow) but I think if I work hard and regain the fitness I've lost, I still have plenty of fast times left in my legs. 

So that's where I'm at right now. Plugging away, slowing building up and hoping to get back to running fast again. 

It's been a long time, friends - tell me:
  • What have you been up to this summer? 
  • How is your running going? Any fall races on the calendar?
  • Have you ever taken an extended break from running? How did you know it was time to start up again?


- ST

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Carlsbad 5000 Race Weekend Recap

In the weeks leading up to my trip to Carlsbad, California, several people I know told me they couldn't believe I was traveling across the country to run a 5k.

Let's set the record straight. Carlsbad 5000 isn't your ordinary 5k race. It's the world's fastest 5k (16 world records have been set on the course!) and a must-run event if you're into shorter distances and/or just love running and racing. 

Racing Carlsbad 5000 has been on my bucket list for awhile because it's an event that's all about the 5k distance. Most races these days focus on the marathon or half marathon as the main event and the 5k is often considered a distance for newbies or walkers. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I'm just running the 5k" and I'll admit - I'm even guilty myself of saying it at times. But when you truly race a 5k, it's never "just a 5k" - in fact, it's likely one of the most painful and challenging distances you'll race!

The Midwest does not offer any large-scale 5k events (at least that I know about) so even though Carlsbad 5000 meant flying across the country, I didn't mind one bit. I couldn't wait to experience the race!

Because it's a large race, Carlsbad 5000 is divided up into heats: Masters Men, Masters Women, 29 & Under, 30-39, Elite Women, and Elite Men. I really like this format because I got to watch the other heats and it really made it seem like a festival of sorts. The only thing I didn't like was having to wait til later in the morning to race. But more on that later ...

Waiting for my race to start!

So race morning Mom ran first and it was great being able to cheer her on at the start and finish of the race. She lucked out because her race was earlier in the schedule so it was just starting to warm up - I believe temps were in the upper 50s at the start. Every race we do, Mom is always so worried she won't be able to finish. But as always she looked great at the end of the race and finished strong.

After Mom finished up, we headed over to the VIP area to sit down for a bit before my race. All Rock 'n' Roll events offer VIP access for purchase and it's well worth it. At Carlsbad 5000, we had access to an indoor space, private gear check, indoor restrooms, and pre- and post-race food and drink. It's a totally good deal and I highly recommend it.

Before my race started, I got to meet up with a group of people I know through the Rock 'n' Blog program. It was fun meeting a few people I've previously only known on social media. I also got to catch up with Nicole, my Bird Camp roommate. It was so great seeing her again and I can't thank her enough for all the great Carlsbad recommendations she made in the week's leading up to my trip!

 Thanks for the pic, Carlee!

Nicole and I lined up together at the start of the race. I was thinking we would be able to run the first mile together or maybe even the whole race but it was crowded and I lost sight of her soon after crossing the start line. My plan was to run conservatively during the first mile and I think I did a decent job of this considering how excited I was when I started running. Usually this leads to me taking off for the first half mile or so but today I kept it nice and easy. Or so I thought. 

After hitting the halfway point, the sun and heat really started to get to my Wisconsin girl self that is used to running in a cloudy 30-40 degrees. I could tell the wheels were coming off and I was slowing big time but I desperately tried to hang on. I remember looking over to my left and seeing the beautiful coastline and all I wanted to do was run across the beach and dive in the ocean! Nicole passed me with about a mile to go and I was toast soon after. It was a very slow slog to the finish line and I ended up with a pretty bad time for me.

At first I felt bad about flying across the country to run such a bad time but then I started feeling better when I realized how hot it was at race start - 70 degrees and sunny. If I do this race again I will definitely incorporate some heat training into my routine so I'm better prepared. I also hope I'm in better shape since I know lack of running fitness also played a role. 

After my race finished up, it was time to spectate the elite races. Mom and I stood near the finish line and it was amazing to see all the tiny elite men and women fly across the finish line. They were all so gracious after and some even ran back to high five spectators and pose for pics. Afterwards, Mom and I headed back to the VIP area to get our gear check bags and many of the elites were there as well. I noticed none of them were indulging in dessert! ;)

 Shannon Rowbury (1500 & 5000 American Record Holder)

Paul Chelimo - 2016 5000 Silver Medalist

I didn't hit the Beer Garden area after but it's worth noting there was one with a large concert, beer and pizza. It looked like a super fun time - more like a street festival than your typical post-race party. 

This race is definitely worth a trip. Rock 'n' Roll races are among my favorite and I love the series even more for offering an event like Carlsbad 5000. The organization was top notch and the atmosphere was unlike anything you'll find at other 5k races. I liked it so much, I'm already signed up for next year's race!

The race was the main reason for the trip but Mom and I also did plenty of walking along the beach, shopping and, of course, eating! We stayed at the cutest resort - Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort - and it was the most perfect location - right in the heart of the village and across from the beach. It had the cutest cafe on site and Mom and I ate breakfast there every day. We also visited the ice cream shop on site every evening. We were on vacation! 

When you're deciding where to race in 2018 I hope Carlsbad 5000 makes your list. If it does, I'll see you there!

My questions for you:
  • What's the furthest you've traveled for a race? Why did you decide to race there?
  • How do you prepare for warm weather races during the winter months?
  • Do you race 5ks? What do you love/hate about them?

Missed Carlsbad 5000 but still want to run a Rock 'n' Roll race this year? Use code RnB15 to save $15 off marathon and half marathon races at many U.S. and Canada tour stop locations!

- ST

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Latest in Training and Life

I woke up this morning and realized something awesome: Carlsbad 5000 is only one month away!!!

Billed as the World's Fastest 5k, this race has been on my bucket list for awhile now. And in just a few weeks I'll get to test my speed on the course.

Based on where my training is at a PR is pretty unlikely. However, it will still be good to get out there and race. Of course, a tiny part of me is holding out hope that I'll be able to latch on to some faster runners and get towed to a better time with a group. You never know ;)

Anyhow, my focus the next few weeks is just getting in the miles and workouts to keep building fitness. This week's plan from Coach Matt includes:

Monday: 6 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 1200s & 400s
Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 5-6 glue miles w/strides + WAC Training Group
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 8 glue miles w/pickups
Sunday: Rest Day

Nutritionally, I've been in a bit of a rut lately so this week I'm switching things up a bit. I'm loving Bear Naked's new cereal (I like the Honey Nut flavor) and the Lentil Salad is super filling and delicious.

Breakfast: Bear Naked Cereal w/Whole Milk
Snack: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Lentil Salad (arugula, lentils, farro, roasted butternut squash) + Banana
Snack: Popcorn and/or Honey Stinger Gluten-Free Organic Wildflower Honey Waffle
Dinner: Lightened-Up Spaghetti Casserole

To wrap things up today, here are a few exciting things that happened recently:

Rock 'n' Blog 2017 - I found out on Wednesday that I'll be on the team again for this upcoming year. I seriously love this group because of its infectious enthusiasm for running and racing. Plus, I love running Rock 'n' Roll races and could talk your ear off on why you should run one this year :) If you decide to sign up for a race, use RnB15 to save $15 off domestic marathons and half marathons. 

New Running Shoes - A pair of New Balance Zante Breathe shoes arrived in the mail on Wednesday and I have a pair of the new Saucony Kinvara 8's on hold at my favorite local running store, Performance Running Outfitters. I can't wait to start wearing both during training and racing!

Running League WI - Thanks to my gym friend, Ana, I got to meet an awesome group of runners at one of their meetups at the Pettit National Ice Center track. I wasn't sure what to expect going in - I knew it was a relay race and that everyone had to run 6 laps total (a little more than 1.5 miles). It turns out we were randomly divided into groups of three people and everyone took turns running 1 lap at a time until the group's 18 laps were completed. Since we only ran 1 lap at a time it turned out to be a faster pace than I planned on running but since I love speedwork it was fine with me! It was a super fun evening and I met a lot of really great people. I look forward to attending more of their meetups!

That's it for today - at least from me. Now it's your turn to spill. My questions for you:
  • How is your training going this year? Are you on track to meet your spring race goals?
  • Tell me about your favorite running shoes - what do you like about them?
  • What is your favorite salad combo?

I heart salads for lunch but need some new combos to keep things fresh :)

- ST

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Breakfast Hash

Back in my early 20s, I was the type of person who frequently skipped breakfast. I didn't know what I was missing out on ;)

Today, I wouldn't dream of starting my day without a nourishing meal. My go-to is usually oatmeal but sometimes it's fun to prepare something special. 
Although there are a few steps to follow in making this Breakfast Hash, it's worth the effort. Perfect for a weekend brunch or on a day you have extra time in the morning. 

Breakfast Hash
Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes, cleaned and diced
12 mini chicken sausage links, sliced (I used AmyLu Apple & Maple Mini Links)
4 eggs
1 cup raw spinach
1/2 small yellow onion, small diced
1 avocado, sliced
3 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add diced sweet potato to a sheet pan and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper & roast for 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are browned. Remove from oven and set aside. 

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until soft. Add sliced chicken sausage and saute until cooked through. Add roasted potatoes and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and the mixture is heated through. 

In a separate skillet, lightly fry the eggs in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until cooked through.

Divide the sweet potato & chicken sausage mixture between four plates. Top each with a fried egg and avocado slices. 

Tell me: What's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

- ST

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Icebreaker Indoor Race Weekend Recap

Why start the year with one race when you can start with two? After the Icebreaker indoor races, I think it's safe to say 2017 is off to a fine running start!

I originally planned on only running the 5k distance on Friday evening. But when a friend from the gym asked if I'd be interested in doing the marathon relay on Saturday, I couldn't say no. I've always loved the relay because of the camaraderie between teams and high-energy atmosphere.

With my off-and-on foot issues, Coach Matt and I weren't quite sure how the races would pan out. I set my expectations pretty low figuring the races would serve as a rust buster. I'm still working on building fitness, but the races - especially the 5k - could serve as a training benchmark.

The 5k Race
This was my first time doing a 5k on a track, and I was super excited to give it a try. Before the race started I looked at a pace chart to see the lap splits I needed to hit to get within range of my goal time. Without any hills, uneven roads, wind, etc. to get in the way of racing, this would be a great race to make a PR attempt.

However, in my current state I would not be making a PR attempt so I lined up midpack to avoid the temptation of starting too fast. I was fortunate to find my groove within the first lap or two of the race, and knowing it was only 11 laps was somewhat comforting - I knew all I needed to do was keep running.

One thing that made the race really fun was being able to see all - or at least most - of the runners during the race at some point. Coach Matt lapped me several times and it was exciting knowing he was leading the race. I also got to see Mom several times during the race and was happy to cheer her on during those laps.

Since I wanted to save my legs for the relay the next day, I didn't kick and only did a small surge the last half lap of the race. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed when I saw my time but recognize it was the first race of the year. I also realize I need to learn how to hurt again during a race!

The Marathon Relay Race
This race is always a favorite of mine. It was my 6th year doing the race but my 1st time running as a member of a mixed team (two guys, two girls). Our team name was The Y-Blitzers - named after a class we all take at the Downtown YMCA

When running this race in the past, it's usually been for a fast time and podium finish. This year was different in that my team was just looking to finish without focusing on a particular time or place. So instead of short two-lap intervals like I usually run at this race, we decided to split up the distance so we all ran three intervals: 12 laps, 8 laps and 4 laps. In a way it ended up being kind of like racing a 5k, 2-mile and 1-mile all in one afternoon!

I was a little concerned the 12-lap segment would feel terrible after running the 5k the night before but it turned out I had nothing to worry about. Shockingly, I actually ended up running faster than I did at the 5k race. I guess it just shows I definitely could have fun that 5k harder! 

The 8-lap segment ended up being the toughest. My legs were super stiff and heavy for the first 4 laps and I never got to the point where I felt like I was cruising. I was sure glad when I was done with that one - and even happier when I was done with my final 4-lap segment!

Overall, I think it was a great weekend of running. If it was a test of how things are going so far this year, I think I definitely passed. Although I still have work to do in terms of speed, I'm making progress. And that's a fantastic feeling :)

Tell me: How is your running/racing going this year? Do you feel you're on track with your running or other fitness goals?

- ST