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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Looking Ahead in 2017

Starting a new year means wiping the slate clean - and then filling it up will all the running and racing plans for the next 12 months!

Since 2016 was a pretty crummy year for me as far as running and racing, I've decided 2017 will be extra awesome to make up for it. Even though I'm feeling super motivated and enthusiastic about running right now, one thing I'm being careful about is not doing too much too soon. With races approaching, it's all too tempting to try to crank up mileage, run workouts too fast, or get carried away with gym work. That's why I'm back working with Coach Matt and ThunderDome Running. I know the training he creates for me will help lead me to success throughout the year. Being race ready doesn't happen overnight or in a week or even a month. It's about consistency week after week and month after month. I know Coach Matt will help me get there one small step at a time.

Once again I've decided to focus on shorter distance events: 5k and 10k. These are my favorite events to race so why not stick with what's enjoyable? :)  Here's what is on my schedule right now - although I will likely add more races as the year goes on.

Icebreaker Indoor 5k
Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay
Luck of the Irish 5k
Carlsbad 5000
Door County 5k
Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k
Race for the Bacon 5k
Lake Country 5k
Milwaukee Running Festival 10k

My goal race this spring is Carlsbad 5000. It's billed as the fastest 5k in the world so I figure there must be potential for running a fast time. The weather should be great since it's in California - I've heard temps in the 70s. And I really look forward to the wonderful coast and beach views. Although let's be honest - I typically don't remember a thing about course scenery when I race hard! My only concern is getting fit enough in time since it's only 11ish weeks away but if it doesn't happen in time, I'll still have Door County to run fast.

This fall, my goal race will be the Milwaukee Running Festival 10k. I'm super excited the race added the 10k distance to its lineup that already includes a marathon, half marathon, 5k and 1-mile races. This one falls at a perfect time of year - mid-October. Temps should be brisk and ripe for a fast time!

Last year's 5k race

To run fast this year, I'm going back to the basics. Run the workout paces Coach Matt gives me, run the easy runs easy, stretch daily, foam roll regularly, get 8 hours of sleep every day, eat food that fuels training. It sounds easy enough but I can't tell you how difficult following these basic rules is at times. Last year I was guilty of running too fast during workouts, especially those that included 400s that I love to rip. I also let stretching and foam rolling take a back burner when I was crunched for time. And let's just say one too many cookies made its way onto my plate. 

2017 = Fewer cookies

While perfection is not a realistic goal, I think doing most things right on most days will get me where I want - running strong and fast and without injury. 

Tell me: What are your goals in 2017? Where are you racing this upcoming year?

- ST

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Meet Charlie!

After losing Eddie a few months ago, I wasn't sure I'd ever have another kitty. Eddie was so special - I knew I could never replace him and I still miss him so much every day.

But these past few weeks I started thinking I might be ready to open my heart to another kitty. This kitty turned out to be Charlie. 

I adopted him from the Wisconsin Humane Society last Friday. I got there just in time - literally seconds after I said he was the one I wanted someone else tried to get him!

WHS had Charlie classified as a Hidden Treasure, which meant staff observed him to be very shy and undersocialized. When I met him, my adoption counselor explained he might never be interested in interacting with humans and may always be the type who hides and shies away from attention. But as I looked at his sweet little face, I had a good feeling he would come out of his shell once safe and comfortable in his new home.

These past few days have been so rewarding. Charlie quickly became comfortable in his new home and has already become attached to me. He wants constant attention and loves being held - so much so that he has taken to climbing up my leg and/or jumping into my arms if he feels I'm not giving him enough attention! He has the sweetest personality and I love watching him play with all of his toys - yes, he's already spoiled rotten! 

Being a kitten (3 months old, 4 pounds), he's full of mischief. But even when he does naughty tricks, I can't help but laugh. He's the most playful, adventurous kitty who loves sprinting, jumping and pouncing but after playtime he gets so sleepy and curls up into a tiny ball of cuteness.

He is such a pretty kitten with beautiful grey stripes on most of his body and the softest, fluffiest belly that is covered with dark grey spots. He has longer legs so I believe he may grow into a largest kitty - although I always thought Eddie would become plump and that never happened. 

Charlie will never take Eddie's place in my heart, but he is quickly filling a different spot with lightness, joy and hope. I already love this little guy so much look forward to seeing where the next several years take us. 

- ST

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Gift Picks for Runners

While visions of sugar plums dance in the heads of some, runners are a different bunch. Our dreams are more likely to include visions of shoes, spandex, GU and PRs.

In case you need a last-minute gift for a runner on your list, here are a few ideas for items that are sure to make the holiday even brighter.

Saucony Endorphin Racer - These shoes are built for speed. Super lightweight, they easily go from the track to the roads. Plus, the color is fantastic. When it comes to racing, I truly believe the brighter the shoes, the faster you run ;) 

Rock 'n' Roll TourPass - Know a runner who likes to run all the races and earn all the bling? A Rock 'n' Roll TourPass is the perfect gift! There are two types: TourPass 3-Pack is good for three Rock 'n' Roll races in 2017. TourPass Global is good for an unlimited number of Rock 'n' Roll race in 2017. Both offer participant perks beyond what is normally offered at the races. 

Lululemon Rest Less 1/4 Zip - I absolutely love the subtle print on this 1/4 zip - it looks like one you'd find on a cute winter sweater. It's a perfect piece for layering - add a tank or long sleeve top underneath and/or a jacket on top - and you're ready for pretty much any type of weather winter throws your way. 

Legend Compression Sleeves - These sleeves are so versatile - you can wear them during workouts and races or slip them on after to help your legs recover faster. They're also great to wear when traveling. I especially love compression sleeves because you can wear them with whatever type of running socks you prefer. So there's never a concern about them getting in the way of wearing your favorite racing flats!

Roll Recovery R8 - I bought one of these a few years ago at a race expo and it works magic - truly wonderful for getting rid of all the kinks and tight spots. Plus, it's super portable and easy to take with you to the office, gym or to a race!  

Momentum Jewelry Motivate Wrap - I have several of these wraps and they are the best for providing a little reminder to keep at it even when the going gets tough. There are many motivating phrases to choose from or you can create a wrap with your recipient's favorite race mantra!  

I hope you're all enjoying the holiday season and everything it has to offer!

My question for you: What's on your wish list? 

- ST

Friday, December 2, 2016

Mocha Brownies

When it comes to brownies, I'm a bit picky. I like them dense, fudgy and rich - no cakey brownies and don't even get me started on ones made from a box mix. The only way to go is homemade. 

Like with many classics, finding just the right recipe takes some trial and error. These brownies are close to perfect. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, which are included in the recipe below - baking the brownies in two smaller pans for a denser texture, adding more cocoa powder to the icing, etc. 

I recommend trying these brownies this holiday season. They make a great gift but you may have a hard time not keeping them for yourself! ;)

Mocha Brownies
Recipe from Food Network
Makes 32 brownies

For the Brownies
4oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 sticks butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Icing
1 stick butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Penzey's Dutch Process High Fat Cocoa)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 -1/3 cups brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 8x8 pans with parchment paper (leave a slight overhang of paper so the brownies are easy to remove) and lightly butter.

Add the 4oz chopped chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave in 25-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs, followed by the chocolate, vanilla and flour. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the center is no longer soft. Allow the brownies to cool completely before icing.

To prepare the frosting, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined, then add the 1/4 cup of coffee. Whip until the frosting is light and fluffy. If your frosting is too thick, add a bit more coffee until the desired consistency is reached.

Divide the frosting between the two cooled pans of brownies and spread it evenly over the top of each pan. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm, then remove the brownies from the pan and cut into small squares.


Tell me: What's your all-time favorite brownie recipe?

- ST

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dealing With Morton's Neuroma

I think I jinxed myself. 

After publishing my last post about getting back into all things running and fitness I ended up sidelined again, this time with what I believed to be a stress reaction or fracture in my left foot. I had the classic top-of-foot pain, and the more I read about the injury, the more worried I got. The thought of not being able to run for 6+ weeks was too depressing to think about so I shut down training for the next several days to see if things would improve. When it didn't I made an appointment with a foot & ankle doc. 

Like my sandal tanline? ;)

I went to that appointment feeling like I was about to receive a death sentence. But I ended up getting good news - It turns out I don't have a stress reaction or fracture! Instead I have a condition called Morton's Neuroma - a benign nerve tissue tumor that causes foot pain, typically in the ball of the foot area. I was pretty surprised with the diagnosis since I don't have any ball of foot pain (knock on wood!). However, it seems pretty straightforward to treat - the doctor gave me a cortisone injection during the office visit, and I'll have a follow up appointment to get fitted for a custom orthotic. And best of all, I can continue running and training through it all!

So the week's plan looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 4 mile run + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 3 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 5 mile run w/pickups + Y-Blitz
Friday: 4 mile run + Core Work
Saturday: 6 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 26 miles

After a long weekend of indulging, my body is craving nutritious food. I decided it was the perfect time to get back into Sunday meal prep. After a few hours of washing, dicing and roasting, I have everything I need to eat healthy this week. Here is a sample day of food:

Breakfast: Egg & Spinach Wrap (Angelic Bakehouse Wrap + 1 Large Egg + Spinach + 1/4 Avocado)
Snack: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Roast Pork Tenderloin + Cherry Almond Couscous + Spinach Salad

Today's favorites are all about comfort and joy. Comfortable clothing and the joy of the holiday season!

Lululemon Align Pant II - These pants are a new favorite. I love them so much that after wearing them once I immediately went back to Lululemon and bought another pair. The fabric is super smooth with just the right amount of hug. And the length is perfect - they hit just above the ankle, which is ideal for pairing with flats, loafers and boots. 

Target Brushed Cowl Neck Top - This is the perfect top to pair with the Lululemon pants. I'm obsessed with how soft these tops are and own it in every color. Lululemon Align Pant II + Target top = My new uniform

Christmas Trees - It's not quite yet December and I've already put up three Christmas trees - two at work and one at home. The three trees are all different and I've had a lot of fun with each. The one at home is gorgeously girly decorated in gold & shades of pink featuring macaron and donut ornaments. The trees at work are opposites - one is a very traditional tree with gold and red accents and the other is wonderfully modern and uses a ladder as the tree! 

My girly tree

The modern tree

That's all I've got for today! Let's talk about you:
  • Have you had Morton's Neuroma? If so, what was your experience?
  • Do you have any current style obsessions?
  • Do you put up a Christmas tree? If so, tell me about it!

Less than a month til Christmas!

- ST

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And That's a Wrap - My 2016 Racing Season is Over & Done!

Even though I really wanted to cap off the fall season with a few faster races, it just wasn't in the cards this year. My season came to a forced halt at the end of September when I suffered an abductor muscle injury.

Like many runners tend to be with injuries, I was in denial for awhile and would try to struggle bus through my miles. But I started feeling the pain earlier and earlier during runs til I couldn't make it more than a few steps without mega pain shooting across my right leg. It was time to see the PT.

Three weeks of PT at the amazing Body Mechanics helped my leg tremendously. Once again, dry needling was key to my recovery. Although it was pretty unpleasant having needles stuck into my inner thigh, it was worth it to feel so much better. After just a few appointments, I was able to start running every other day with my miles capped at 3-4 miles per run. 

I'm still working on rebuilding. There have been a few minor setbacks along the way - knee issues and, most recently, a mild ankle sprain - all the same same problem leg. I guess that side of me is falling apart! But sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can get back up and that's where I'm at right now. As of now, I'm up to running 5 days a week, 25ish mpw. It's low mileage for me but I'm being super cautious as I get back into things since the last thing I want to do is re-injure anything or injure something new!

So the training plan this week looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 6 mile run w/pickups
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: 5 mile run + Core Work
Friday: 4 mile run + Y-Core
Saturday: 6 mile run + Core Work
Sunday: Rest Day

So ... nutrition. Instead of my usual listing of a sample day of eating, I thought I'd talk a bit about a meal delivery service I've been loving lately. My friend Maggie recently started her own business called The Real Good Life (if you live in the Milwaukee area, give it a try!) and I've placed an order pretty much every week, which means every Wednesday afternoon I get a delivery of delicious meals. One thing I really like about The Real Good Life is Maggie makes an effort to keep the meals healthy and often incorporates local and organic products into her recipes. For example, the apples that are included as a side with the lunch items are handpicked from the apple tree in her backyard. It really doesn't get much more local than that!

A few of my favorites include Beef Fajitas, Eggplant Parmagiana, BBQ Pork w/Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Veggie Chili Con Carne, Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, Apple & Cranberry Pork Loin, BBQ Chicken Salad, Vegan African Peanut Stew, Butternut Squash Lasagna ... I'm making myself hungry as I write this list!

Beef Fajitas with Mexican Street Corn Salad

Eggplant Parmagiana

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Let's finish things off today by switching gears over to style for a bit. My friend Alysha and I went to a Divine Consign event earlier this week and both found several cute items. Divine Consign is a giant consignment event that is is held two times per year in three locations around Milwaukee. Last spring was the first time I attended one and was instantly hooked. Although I normally have zero patience for looking through racks of clothing, I look at these sales as treasure hunts, which makes it fun! A few of my finds from this week's sale:

Stella McCartney for Adidas Jacket + Kate Spade Wallet

 Coach Leather Loafers

 Kate Spade Bracelet

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever had an abductor injury? If so, how did you get back into the swing of things? 
  • Have you ever tried a meal delivery service? If so, what was your experience? If not, why/why wouldn't you like to try one?
  • Consignment shopping - love it or hate it? Also, what's your most exciting shopping find recently? 

Take care!

- ST