Thursday, October 6, 2016

Try It: StrideBox

Subscription boxes have been all the rage for the past few years. There are beauty boxes, food boxes, clothing boxes, pet boxes - pretty much every niche you can imagine has a subscription box. This even includes running!

I was recently sent a StrideBox, which includes nutrition, accessories, gear and motivation items specially selected for runners. There is a nice mix of items from both well-established companies as well as smaller companies that you may not have already heard about. 

The box I received contained the following:
  • Protes Protein Chips
  • Lightload Towels
  • Glukos Sports Drink Mix
  • Prince of Peace Ginger Chews
  • Nature Nate's Honey Packet
  • Zippered Waist Pack 

All of the items except the Glukos drink mix were new to me. I was especially excited about the Protes Protein Chips (who doesn't crave salt after a long run??) and the Lightload Towels, which I have stashed away in my desk for use after extra sweaty runches. 

To get a StrideBox, you sign up for a subscription that auto renews every month. It's $15 each month and you cancel at any time. The boxes can also be gifted so keep it in mind as a fun holiday gift option for the runners in your life!

It was really fun to try a few running items that I might not have otherwise discovered or bought on my own. Give StrideBox a try if you're interested in spicing up your next run with something new! 

Tell me: Have you tried StrideBox? If so, what did you think? Or, have you tried another type of subscription box? 

- ST

*Full Disclosure: I received a free StrideBox to review, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Classic Lasagna

Last week I was hit with a sudden - but strong - craving for lasagna. A full-fat, regular-noodle, meat-filled and cheese-smothered lasagna. Exactly like the type my mom made when I was growing up.

I thought I could maybe get my fix with something ready made at the grocery store. But after wandering around the prepared foods section and then the frozen food section, I realized only homemade would do. 

So I piled lasagna ingredients into my basket and when I got to leave work in the early afternoon on Friday, I knew exactly how I was spending my time off. 

This one took a bit of time to make but from the first bite I knew it was well worth it. Lasagna craving satisfied :)

Classic Lasagna
Serves 9-12

1lb ground sirloin
1/2 cup yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups marinara sauce (I used Hunt's No Sugar Added)
5oz raw spinach
16oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp dried parsley
12 lasagna noodles, slightly undercooked
8oz whole-milk mozarella cheese, shredded (I recommend shredding your own)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, cook the ground sirloin, onion and garlic over medium heat. Crumble the meat as it cooks. After the meat is cooked through, drain off excess fat then stir in the marinara sauce. Simmer the sauce over low heat for five minutes then remove from heat and set aside. 

While the sauce is simmering, steam the raw spinach. Allow to cool then squeeze off the excess liquid. Add the spinach to a medium bowl and stir in the ricotta cheese, egg and parsley. 

In a 9x13 casserole dish, add a thin layer of the meat sauce to the bottom. Top with three lasagna noodles, then top with a layer of the ricotta cheese and a layer of the meat sauce. Then, it's lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, meat sauce. Lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, meat sauce. Lasagna noodles, meat sauce ... and finished off with the freshly shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. After removing from the oven, re-cover the lasagna with the foil and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

For serving, top each slice with a fresh basil leaf. This one is great paired with a salad of baby kale, cucumber, red pepper and balsamic vinaigrette + garlic bread!

Tell me: What have you been craving lately?

- ST

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shifting Focus

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that my training and diet lately have not been too awesome. I'm hoping to work on both in the upcoming weeks. But given the setbacks, I don't see myself racing a half marathon this fall after all. Instead, I'm switching my focus from PRs to regaining confidence and loving running again. 

It feels super weird to not have a goal race on the calendar but I know it's the right decision. I'm not at a place where I feel I can put all my eggs in one basket and hope the race goes my way. With my inconsistent training these past few weeks, I've lost fitness and with it the confidence it takes to chase down a PR. 

If I'm completely honest, running has been a bit of a chore lately. Instead of being something I get to do - something I'm lucky to do - I feel like it's another thing on my to-do list for the day that I have to do. And that is absolutely not how I want to feel about a sport that has brought so much joy into my life. I feel like I'm in a bit of a rut. But if I'm smart about it I'll be able to pull myself out of it and get back to loving all the miles. 

Coach Matt said one thing we can do is work on removing pressure because I have a tendency to get super wound up before a hard workout, long run or race. Maybe that means running by feel/effort instead of time. Or maybe that means really focusing on a slower, comfortable start. I tried it out during a 10-miler last week and it seemed to work. I left my watch at home and even though I knew I was running slow during the first few miles I didn't worry about it. I told myself I had all the time in the world to finish the run so why not enjoy it. And after a few miles of taking it easy, my body naturally woke up and I was able to pick up the pace during the final 2/3 of the run.

Another thing I'm doing is racing a lot of 5ks in the upcoming few weeks. Part of it is rebuilding fitness - races are great workouts! - but a major part of it is rebuilding confidence. The first few races will likely be slower but it's okay. Hopefully by the time I hit the 5ks in November I'll be fitter and faster. If I can get a bit faster with each race, that's all I can ask for!

As for this week, here's the plan. I might swap Thursday and Friday but it depends on how quickly my legs recover from the Tuesday workout. I usually recover pretty fast so I think it should be okay.

Monday: 5 glue miles w/strides
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 3-min intervals
Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 12 mile run
Friday: 6 glue miles w/strides + Yoga
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Lakefront Marathon 5k

Total: 42 miles

I'm also slowly getting back into the swing of things with meal planning/prepping. This week, I prepped chili for dinners but am still resorting to frozen dinners for lunch. In the next week or two I hope to get back to all homemade meals.

Breakfast: Protein Oatmeal (1/3 cup old fashioned oats, 2/3 plain, unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, dash of cinnamon)
Snack: Greek Yogurt + Raw Veggies
Lunch: Amy's Organic Frozen Meal
Snack: 3 cups popcorn
Dinner: Fall Chili Bowl + Honeycrisp Apple

To end this post on a fun note, I recently went shopping at my favorite running store, Performance Running Outfitters, and walked away with some new winter running clothes. I'm seriously in love with the Saucony tights, top and headband, and I know I'll get a ton of use out of the New Balance half zip

Although I hope temps stay in the 50s/60s for quite some time, I now have a reason to get excited for winter running!

My questions for you:
  • How is your fall training going? Are you on track to hit your goals or have your shifted focus?
  • Have you already started buying winter running gear? 
  • Random: Did you know not all cheese is vegetarian?

I recently had dinner with my friend Julie and she explained certain cheese contain rennet, which is sourced from newly born calves. So some cheeses, such as Parmesan, Gruyere, Manchego, etc., at not considered vegetarian. Yet another reason why I will never be able to go vegetarian! ;)

- ST

Friday, September 23, 2016

Discover Whitewater 5k Recap

With Eddie's passing at the beginning of last week, I was not thinking about running. At least until a Performance Running Outfitters team member gave me a race entry to the Discover Whitewater 5k. At first I thought there's no way I can do a race this weekend. But then I thought it might be a good way to work through some of the stress. There is nothing like a good run to make things feel better. 

But I knew it would be extra tough since I had spent the week crying and not eating or sleeping. I felt like a zombie during the day - physically there but mentally somewhere else. I had to do something to snap out of it and ultimately that's what made me decide to sign up for the race. I would run for Eddie.

I was still grieving hard on race morning and went into it resolved to make it hurt as much as possible. I knew I didn't have the fitness to back up a fast 5k time but I also didn't really care. My intention was to start fast and hold on as best I could to the finish. I wanted to physically hurt as much as I was emotionally hurting. 

As I lined up at the start, I felt surprisingly calm even though I knew I was about to take a ride on the pain train. I met a fellow PRO teammate, Susie, who is extremely speedy. I knew she would likely win the race (spoiler alert: she won!) so I lined up behind her. 

As we got going, I went out too fast for my current fitness. As we crested the only hill on the course I was already feeling it, oddly enough in my shoulders and arms. The smart thing to do would have been to back off the pace a bit but since I was only interested in making it hurt, I kept pushing forward. 

It was about halfway through the race that I broke down. All the sadness, loneliness, stress, guilt, disappointment and feelings of being so undeserving fueled me through the first part of the course. But those feelings had burnt out and I had nothing.

I started walking and thought about sitting down on the curb to cry and wait for Mom, who was also running. I was so low at that moment I didn't know if I could even finish the race. It seemed I had failed myself and Eddie in this attempt. 

But then I started thinking about how Eddie would never have viewed it as a failure. If you've ever had a pet, you know what I mean when I say that they are always accepting of us, even when we are not at our best. I also realized that racing to hurt was not racing to celebrate Eddie. Our relationship was about love, not pain. So I found the will to start moving again and I reset my focus to running on love. 

I ended up walking five more times during the race, but I understood on that day it was the best I could do. Even though I ended up with terrible time, I could accept it because I know Eddie would have accepted it. And as Mom and I drove home, I felt a little more at peace. 

As for the race itself, I have nothing but good things to say. The organization was fantastic and the course was great. One thing I really liked is that it finished with a loop around Whitewater High School's track. For those of you who are into medals, there are finisher medals for both the half marathon and 5k distances. And if you're extra speedy, the half marathon offers prize money for the top three men and women!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever raced while going through a tough time? How did it turn out?
  • Have you ever finished a race on a track?

I hope I get to race this one again next year. I plan on cranking it around that track instead of plodding along like a turtle!

- ST

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Letter To My Darling Kitty

Note: Many of you already know my sweet kitty Eddie suddenly passed away on Monday, September 12. This post is dedicated to him.

Dear Eddie,

It's been a week now since you crossed into Heaven, and not a second has gone by that I haven't missed you and your sweet personality. You were such a small kitty but your presence was huge in our home and in my life. I will always remember you and treasure all of the moments we shared and memories made.

Earlier this month you turned 12 years old. I couldn't believe it because to me you seemed just as young and active as you were when you were a kitten. It always put a smile on my face to see you sprint and jump around, using our furniture as your own little jungle gym. You loved playing with your toys, especially ones that dangled on strings or had feathers to chew on. Your absolute favorite - the silver glitter ball on a string - is now safely tucked away in a dresser drawer.

It's your companionship that I miss most and home does not feel like home without you here. Earlier this week, I thought I saw you running in the shadows as I walked in the door. Because that was always part of our routine in the evening. I'd get home from the gym, you'd run into the hall to say hi and then you'd paw through all of my gym bags, work bags, etc. Some evenings you'd run over to a chair to do your version of a happy dance.


You were a lap kitty from day one and you always wanted to be right next to me. I even remember as a kitten there were times when I'd put you down for a moment and even if I was standing up you would try to jump back into my arms. Whenever you found us separated, you'd let loose one of your loud ME-OWs to let me know to find you. I'm still listening for one of those ME-OWs.

There were plenty of naughty tricks over the years. Case in point: the blueberry muffins I baked for work. You were still a baby kitty and couldn't resist the muffins that were cooling on the table. By the time I came back in the kitchen, the muffins were all over the floor and you had taken a small bite out of each one. I was mad at you - but only for about three seconds. You looked so pitiful with your bloated belly full of muffin bites. And you learned your lesson - you never attacked my baked goods again!

Another naughty trick - jumping up to 'ring' the medals!

However, you never lost your sweet tooth. It seems almost ridiculous to say a kitty has a sweet tooth but while most kitties beg for meat, you begged for cookies. And cheese. You loved it so much that I sometimes called you Mouse. I hope they are feeding you plenty your favorites - sharp cheddar and gouda - in Heaven.  

I picture you now with your old puppy buddy, Scrappy, who you loved to visit and play with as a kitten. Scrappy wasn't a fan of most people or animals but he took an instant liking to you. It was always like that - you won everyone over just by being you. And I know Scrappy is now protecting you and showing you the ropes in Heaven.

These days without you have been some of the hardest I've known but I do take comfort in knowing you lived a full, wonderful life and are in a place where you are safe, happy and loved. My dear sweet boy - I know we will see each other again. Until then, even if I can't see or hear you, I know you are still with me in all the love we shared. That's something that will never die or fade.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lake Country 5k Recap

As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I planned on using last weekend's Lake Country Half Marathon as a tune-up race - a bit of practice with the distance before letting it rip at November's Milwaukee Running Festival Half Marathon. But that plan went out the window after coming down with a terrible migraine in the 24 hours leading up to the race. I've had very few migraines in my life and can say without a doubt they are absolutely awful. I sprawled on my bed, unable to move and every time I closed my eyes, the room felt like it was spinning.

On race day, my alarm went off at 3am. But I was already awake since Eddie decided 2:30am was a perfect time to play and pounce around my bed trying to bite any exposed flesh. I sat up in bed, half expecting the room to spin again, but it didn't so I got up, showered and got dressed for the race. As I drove over to my parents' house (Mom and I usually drive to races together), I still thought I would attempt the half marathon. But after talking it over with my parents, I decided to switch down to the 5k distance. I was exhausted from the migraine and was feeling a bit off. It would be a very long walk to the finish line if I had to drop from the half marathon race at the halfway point. I honestly didn't even know if I could race a 5k - I was that exhausted!

As disappointed as I was to have to switch down to the 5k, I decided to make the best of it. I told myself the weather was ideal for racing a 5k and this race was a bonus opportunity to run faster. Since I haven't been training for the 5k distance, I knew my speed wouldn't be up to par, but I do love a good 5k and hoped that the adrenaline from the race would carry me through.

I started the race a few rows back and going up the bigger hill in the race, I was in the 6th female spot. Over the next mile, I chased down a few ladies and was the 3rd female by the turnaround. Unfortunately, I ended up losing a spot in the last mile when I took a walk break. I know - who takes a walk break during a 5k???? Apparently I do when racing on a not-quite-full tank. Getting passed was the kick in the shorts I needed, and I was able to start running again. I thought I might be able to catch the woman who passed me but I ran out of distance and was too gassed to muster up a decent kick.

I finished 4th female and 1st AG with a time of 21:28. At first, I was really disappointed with this result since I took 4th, got passed during the last mile and had to take a walk break. Also, I didn't get to race the distance I wanted. But after thinking about it a bit more, I decided it wasn't that bad. Sure, I could have done better - but I also know I WILL do better when I race feeling closer to 100 percent. Also, the 5k is not my focus this fall - so I can instead re-frame this as a good workout effort in the middle of a half marathon training block. Coach Matt said all things considered it was a total victory. So that's how I'm going to think of it as well! I'll take my lemonade extra chilled with a spoonful of sugar and a sprig of mint ;)

As always, I ran back on the course to find Mom and run her into the finish line. She is a total inspiration. She won her age group AND was the oldest woman to finish the 5k distance. So amazing - I hope I'm still running and winning trophies when I'm in my 60s!

So what's next? Well, since I didn't get to do my tune-up half marathon, I'd love to find another race of that distance sometime within the next few weeks. If I can't find a half marathon, a 10k or 15k would also work. If anyone knows of any races, let me know! 

My questions for you:
  • Before a goal race, do you run a tune-up race? How far out do you race your tune-up?
  • Have you ever had to switch down in distance at a race?
  • When a race doesn't go your way, how do you move on?

- ST

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One-Pot Artichoke, Kale & Lemon Linguine

Let's be real: Is there anyone who doesn't love a good bowl of pasta? My all-time favorite way to eat it is smothered with meat sauce but there are so many ways to prepare pasta it's impossible to get tired of it. 

I recently came upon this recipe for Artichoke, Kale and Lemon Linguine in my Twitter feed (thanks for Tweeting, Katie!). I thought the flavors would taste amazing together and also loved the one-pot aspect of the recipe. Anything to cut down on the number of dishes to be done after cooking!

I made a few slight modifications to the recipe - I cut down on the amount of pasta because it seemed like too much for the amount of liquid. I also added extra garlic for flavor and more kale ... well, just because! 

I definitely recommend giving this one a try - it's simple, hearty and delicious. Going back for seconds is pretty much a given ;)

Served with grilled ciabatta

One-Pot Artichoke, Kale & Lemon Linguine
Recipe from A Cozy Kitchen 
Serves 6

12oz dried linguine (I used De Cecco)
3 cups water
1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
1 shallot, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1.5 cups artichoke quarters (I used canned)
2 cups kale, cleaned, stems removed and chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 2 percent)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large Dutch oven, add the dried linguine, water, chicken broth, shallot, garlic, artichoke quarters, kale, salt and crushed red pepper. Cook uncovered over high heat. When the water starts to boil, use a pair of tongs and begin stirring frequently to help the pasta cook evenly. After 7-10 minutes, or when your pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt, butter and lemon juice/zest. Cover your pasta and allow it to sit for 3-5 minutes to soak up any excess liquid. 

For serving, place pasta on plates or in bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. 

Tell me: Have you tried making one-pot pasta? If so, what did you think of the cooking method? Any one-pot recipes I should try next?

- ST