Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Nostalgic Desserts

Lately, I've been on a bit of a baking kick. Over the holiday weekend, I decided to make two classics, Oatmeal Cream Pies and Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. One bite of one of these desserts and you'll be transported back to simpler times.


Much better than the ones from a box!

Oatmeal Cream Pies
*Recipe from Buns In My Oven

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups quick oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars. Add in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder and oats. Beat into the butter mixture. Once well combined, refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Drop dough in 1 Tbsp size cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Centers should be slightly underdone when you remove the cookies from the oven. Set cookies aside to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the cream filling:

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk, as needed

Cream together the shortening and marshmallow cream. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat using an electric mixer. If needed, thin with a bit of milk. The result should be thick and creamy, but easily spreadable.

Spread about 1 Tbsp filling on the bottom of one cookie and top with another cookie.


Pb and jelly - such a classic combo!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
*Slightly adapted from Health Magazine's Peanut Butter Blondies

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened + more for pan
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup raspberry preserves, seedless
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with unsalted butter.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and peanut butter. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Then add to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until a smooth dough forms.

Spread batter in the prepared 8x8 pan. Drop the raspberry preserves in small spoonfuls over the top then using a knife, cut it into the dough making a swirl pattern. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.

Bake 30-35 minutes and allow to fully cool before cutting into 16 squares.

I'm looking for suggestions: What dessert should I make next?

- ST

Monday, December 26, 2011

Training Schedule 12/26 - 1/1

My next race is this upcoming weekend, so this week's training load is a bit lighter with less speed work and more easy running to make sure my legs are fresh on Saturday morning. Unless there's a foot of snow or super icy conditions, I plan on running this one as fast as I can. I'm not expecting a new PR, but I'm pretty confident I can at least improve on my time from the last 5k race.

Here's this week's plan:

Monday

Rest Day

Tuesday

Afternoon:
5 mile speed workout, 30 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5 mile easy run, including strides; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Morning: 8 mile easy run

Friday
Morning: 5 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: Run Into the New Year 5k Race

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Anyone else racing this upcoming weekend? If so, where are you racing and what are your race goals?

- ST

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Black Bean Enchilada Lasagna

Living alone, I rarely cook casseroles because it means either eating the same thing for several days in a row or stuffing my freezer with single-serve containers of leftovers. But there are some days that can only be fixed with the type of food your mom or grandma might have made back when you were a kid. Preferably something with melted cheese - and lots of it.

This casserole is perfect on a chilly evening. Because it's incredibly rich, I recommend serving with a salad or fresh fruit.

Not my best pic, but I promise it's delicious!

Black Bean Enchilada Lasagna

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 medium red bell pepper, small diced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup canned green chiles, diced
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
12 corn tortillas, halved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add oil, onion and pepper to a medium skillet and cook until soft. Add corn and black beans and cook until heated through. If the vegetables begin to stick, add a bit of water to the pan.

Meanwhile, combine the soup, sour cream and chiles in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the two types of shredded cheese.

Put about a 1/2 cup of the cream mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 oven-safe dish and spread. Layer with a row of tortilla halves, more of the cream mixture, beans and veggies and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Add another layer using this same pattern. Your third layer of tortilla halves should only be topped with the cream mixture, followed by the remainder of the shredded cheese (2 cups).

Cover dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Note: To lighten it up, consider substituting 1 1/2 cups salsa for one of the cans of soup.

What's your go-to comfort food?

- ST

Cold Weather Running Gear

So far, Milwaukee has lucked out with a mild winter. This means outdoor running has been decent and there have even been a few days when the short shorts/legwarmers combo has made an appearance. Fingers crossed it stays this way for the next few months until spring is here!

But should freezing temps, snow and ice decide to come our way, I'm prepared. While I'll end up doing a lot of runs on the dreadmill, I plan on getting outside a few times each week. Here's the gear I'll be using to make these runs more pleasant:

Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes - No matter where you run, good shoes are a must. Although my normal shoes are fine for dry, slightly chilly weather, I know from experience they won't cut it during extremely chilly, wet runs. For these workouts, a water and wind resistant trail shoe with extra traction is the way to go.

Cute and functional!

Brooks Running Tights - A cold weather running essential. These are the ones I like best right now, but try on a few brands and see what fits you best. Make sure you find a brand that stays up!

I prefer short shorts but these are okay :)

Nike Pro Long-Sleeve T-Shirt - For most runs, a long-sleeve t-shirt is warm enough. I like that this one is a bit longer so I'm not tugging at the bottom of my shirt throughout the run.

Brooks Softshell Jacket - Really chilly, windy or wet weather requires an extra layer. This jacket is warm without being heavy and has plenty of pockets for storing your iPod, keys, tissues, etc.

So warm, yet so lightweight!

Fuel Belt - I have a love-hate relationship with my Fuel Belt. I dislike carrying anything extra on a run, but with the water fountains shut off during the winter, it's a necessity on longer runs.

A necessary evil

Extras

  • North Face Runners Gloves - These keep your hands nice and toasty
  • Saucony Headwarmer - Love that there's an opening to loop your ponytail through
  • Sugoi Neckwarmer - Perfect for warming your neck and lower face

Note: I buy pretty much everything at Performance Running Outfitters. In my opinion they have the largest - and best - selection of running shoes, apparel and gear.


What's your favorite piece of winter running gear?

- ST

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vodka Sauce

Last night a few friends and I got together for a holiday pasta dinner. Three of us made different sauces - I made a vodka sauce, Nicole made a mushroom marinara sauce, Lisa made a peanut sauce and Leah brought a salad and a delicious cheesy garlic bread. Nicole also made a caprese salad, Lisa made samosas and I bought a buche de noel cake.

About 30 minutes from start to finish

It was a lot of food for only four people and we ended up having an extra long dinner - nearly three hours by the time we finished dessert! But time tends to fly when you're catching up with great friends over a delicious meal :)

Here's the recipe for my vodka sauce:

Vodka Sauce
Serves 4
*Recipe from Cooking Light

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until tender. Add salt, crushed red pepper and garlic then saute an additional minute.

Carefully add vodka and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add broth and tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Place sauce in a food processor and process until smooth. Return mixture to pan and stir in cream and basil.

Serve with your favorite shape pasta and top with more fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Note: For best results, use a vodka you like drinking.

Time to share: If you were invited to a pasta get together, what sauce would you bring?

- ST

Monday, December 19, 2011

Training Schedule 12/19 - 12/25

By now, you've probably noticed I've fallen off the runstreak several times now. Although I'm unhappy I haven't been able to stick with it, I think it still did some good because it's helped motivate me to run more miles this month than I probably would have otherwise.

This week's modest goal is to run 30+ miles. With the exception of last week (bad mileage), it seems to be what I'm able to fit in during the busy holiday season.

So, without further rambling, here's the plan:

Monday

Rest Day

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 3 sets of 4x400m with a 400m recovery between each set, 1 mile cool down), 30 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run, including strides; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Morning: 8-10 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 5-6 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 2-4 mile easy run

Tell me: Were you able to stick with a runstreak this year? If so, what's helped you get this far?

- ST

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

Pretty much everyone likes cheesecake and cupcakes. And when you combine the two, you have a definite crowd pleaser, especially with the addition of Oreos.

Cheesecake has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to make, but these cupcakes are simple to prepare - and even easier to eat. In fact, the hardest part is waiting for them to chill after baking!

Yum!

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes
*Recipe from Handle the Heat, via Martha Stewart Cupcakes

18 Double Stuf Oreos (12 whole + 6 crushed)
2 8oz bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners. Place one Oreo cookie in each liner.

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add sugar, followed by the vanilla. Next, add in the eggs, one at a time. Once combined, beat in the sour cream and salt. Finish off by mixing in the 6 crushed Oreos by hand.

Divide the batter between the 12 cupcakes, filling each almost to the top. Bake 22-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely, before transferring to the refrigerator. The cupcakes will need to chill for at least four hours and should stay in the tin until ready to serve.

What's your favorite cheesecake or cupcake recipe?

- ST

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Planning Ahead for 2012

Earlier today, my friend Sara posted a link on my Facebook page with a race she is planning to do in 2012. The race isn't until July, but as she pointed out, we're the type of runnerds that get excited about races that far in advance.

My (tentative) race schedule
Even though it's only mid-December, I have a good portion of my 2012 racing calendar planned out. Here's how things look at this point:

  • Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay - Milwaukee, WI - Jan 21
  • Great Lakes Expo Run 5k Race - Franklin, WI - Jan 29
  • Big Chill Run 5k Race - Pewaukee, WI - Feb 18
  • Luck of the Irish 5k Race - Hartland, WI - March 17
  • Crazylegs Classic - Madison, WI - April 28
  • Block Melanoma 5k Race - Milwaukee, WI - May 20
  • Summerfest Rock 'N Sole 10k Race - Milwaukee, WI - June 23
  • Chicago Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon - Chicago, IL - July 22
  • Lakefront Marathon - Milwaukee, WI - Oct 7

My goal is to focus on building mileage and speed during the first part of the year so I'm ready for longer races during the second part of the year. I'd like to add another half marathon to the spring portion of my schedule, probably around late April, early May. Depending on how the year goes, I also may add another half marathon to the fall portion and use it as a practice run before Lakefront Marathon.

Speaking of the marathon - it kind of scares me! I'm still not 100 percent committed to doing it, but for now it's staying on my list. I think I'm ready and thinking about training for and completing a marathon is pretty exciting to me. On the other hand, I've heard plenty of horror stories that make me hesitate a bit. More on this to come in a later post.

Now it's your turn to tell me what races you're doing in 2012! Or, are there any races you did in 2011 that you'd recommend I add to my schedule?

- ST

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Run Alone

I'll admit, I have a slight addiction to Daily Mile. I love recording my training, following friends' training and connecting with other runners. It's great to feel part of a larger community and it also helps keep me motivated - and even a little more competitive.

But as much as I love socializing with other runners, I prefer running alone. There have been times when I've been tempted to join a group run or schedule a running date, but something holds me back every time.

Reasons to run with others
Sure, having a running partner can help you get out the door on days you don't feel like running. And running with someone faster than you can help improve your speed. Let's also not forget there's a certain camaraderie in a shared long run - even if you're not doing a lot of talking.

Reasons to run alone
However, it's still not enough to get me to schedule a running date any time soon. I like having the freedom to run whenever, wherever and as slow or fast as I want on any given day. I like being alone with my own thoughts for awhile - or not having to think about anything at all except for how I feel during the mile I'm running. It also helps me get ready mentally for races - a time when you need to be prepared to run alone.

Note: When running alone, you need to be especially vigilante about safety. Always let someone know where you are going and when; stick to safe, well-lit areas; and carry a phone, cash and/or debit card in case you run into trouble and need a ride back home.

This doesn't mean I'll say no if you ask me to go running together. I'll consider it a nice change of pace and be glad for the company! But the next morning or evening, I'll probably be back to hitting the roads on my own again. That's just how I run.

I want to know: Do you prefer running with others or running alone? What do you like best about each?

- ST

Monday, December 12, 2011

Training Schedule 12/12 - 12/18

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was pretty fab, but went by way too fast as always. And between a holiday party, lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, a girls night get together and a holiday bake sale, I also indulged a bit too much.

Good thing I have a full week of training ahead of me.

Here's the plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 4-5 mile easy run, including strides; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 3 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run, including strides

Saturday
Morning: 6-8 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 2 mile easy run

- ST

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011

In case you still have a few gifts left to buy, here's a quick guide with ideas for everyone on your list!

Eat
  • Lollihop gift subscription - Once a month, the recipient will receive a box full of healthy snacks. There is also a vegan snack box option.
  • Katie Lee cookbooks - I have both The Comfort Table and Everyday Occasions and the recipes use easy to find ingredients and are simple to follow. Best of all, the results are always delicious.
  • Local food tour - These can often be tailored to specific neighborhoods or type of cuisine or food. For example, with Milwaukee Food Tours, you can customize your outing to include only bakeries, pizzerias or chocolate!

Host

Pretty, right?

  • Apothecary Jar - Fill one with an old-fashioned candy (lemon drops?) for a gift that's pretty and delicious.
  • Vintage Cheese Markers - The perfect addition to a cheese plate and helps eliminate any guess work for guests.

Run
  • Sweat Ts - Adorable shirts for any gal - or guy - who loves working up a good sweat!
  • Running Jacket - I've been wearing the Utopia Embossed Softshell on my outdoor runs lately and love how it cuts the wind and is water resistant. A great layering piece for any female runner.

Motivation to run outside in cold temps

  • Race Bling - I love these necklaces from Erica Sara Designs, especially because you can get them personalized to include your recipients initials, race distance, etc.

Style
  • Bow Bracelet - I love a fun bracelet and this one will match nearly everything and look great layered with other pieces.
  • Jackie Cardigan - You really can't go wrong with a classic cardigan in a vivid hue. I love my Jackie cardigans layered over everything from casual t-shirts and pearls to dresses.
  • Leopard Print Hand Warmers - Because you really can't have enough animal print accessories!

I want to know: What are your best gift ideas?

- ST

Five Favorites for Getting Stronger

There are some runners out there who think they can skimp on strength training because of the number of miles they log every week. I'm definitely not one of those runners.

In general, I don't use weight machines because I feel I get a better total body workout by using free weights or body weight in combination with a stability ball and/or BOSU. Although I like switching up my routine on a regular basis to prevent boredom, here are a few of my all-time favorite exercises:

Plank row with dumbbells (3 sets of 10 reps each side)
With an 8-10 pound dumbbell in each hand, get into plank position. While holding the plank, do one-arm rows on alternating sides. For an extra challenge, I like adding a push up between each row.

One leg squat on BOSU (3 sets of 10 reps each side)
Position the BOSU so its flat side is facing up and carefully stand on top. Once balanced, proceed with the one leg squats.

Plank on stability ball (3 sets, 30 rotations each)
Using the stability ball, get in plank position, resting your forearms on the ball with your toes on the floor. Once in position, rotate the ball with your forearms in 30 small circles to either the left or right.

Jackknife to push up on stability ball (3 sets, 12 reps each)
Position yourself in plank position so the stability ball is beneath your feet and your hands are on the ground. Bend at the knees and pull them in toward your chest then extend back again, finishing with a push up.

BOSU hinge lunges (3 sets, 10 reps each side)
Position the BOSU so the rounded side is facing up. Place one foot on top of the BOSU and step the other leg back into a lunge. At this point, the BOSU should be in front of you. While keeping the same foot on top of the BOSU, push out of the reverse lunge and into a forward lunge. The BOSU should now be behind you. Each forward and back counts as one rep.

Time to share: What are your favorite exercises to get stronger?

- ST

Monday, December 5, 2011

Training Schedule 12/5 - 12/11

It turns out, a few weeks of slogging along at a low mileage was exactly what I needed. Last week, it felt great to run a few more miles and I finally feel like I'm finally getting back on track with training.

This week will include more of the same with the goal of just getting out there to run. Hopefully after the holidays are over, I'll be able to increase my mileage to get back to where I was pre-Haunted Hustle and then continue increasing into the spring season.

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday
Afternoon: 4-5 mile easy run, including strides; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile cool down

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run, including strides

Saturday
Morning: 6-8 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Are you training the same through the holidays? If so, how are you staying motivated to keep with it?
- ST

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peppermint Patty Brownies

While I love a good brownie pretty much any time of the year, something about the addition of peppermint makes these perfect for the holiday season. While you could save yourself a few minutes and use a mix, I recommend taking the extra time to make these from scratch. Nothing beats a homemade treat!

Perfect with a glass of cold milk!

Peppermint Patty Brownies
(from Martha Stewart's Mint-Chocolate Brownie recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
25 mini peppermint patties

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch x 8 inch square pan with foil. Grease foil with unsalted butter and set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate together in a heat-proof bowl. Stir constantly and take care not to burn the chocolate. Whisk in sugar and salt then add the eggs. Next, add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.

Spread 1/3 of the batter in the buttered pan. Add the peppermint patties in a single layer on top of the batter. Then, add the remaining batter and smooth to cover the peppermint patties.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely then remove from the pan and peel away foil. Cut into 16 squares.

What is your favorite thing to bake during the holiday season?

- ST

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Speed Workouts

Going into last weekend's Elf Run, I knew it could go two ways: It would either make me want to extend my break from running or it could motivate me to get back into training. I'm happy to say it ended up being the later of the two options.

While I'm happy with my results for that day, I know I can race a lot faster. Over the course of the next four Great Lakes Running Series races, I have every intention of getting back to running sub-23 times.

In order to meet this goal, I'm doing at least one quality speed session each week. Here are two recent favorites:

Combo Speed Workout
I got this idea from Running Times Magazine a few months ago and really like how it hits several different speeds and distances. Here's my modified version:

- One mile warm up
- Two miles at half marathon race pace (approx 8:00 mile pace)
- 2x800m at 5k goal race pace (approx 7:10 mile pace)
- 4x400 at mile race pace (approx 6:45 mile pace)
- One mile cool down

I take a small recovery break between each of the three speed sections, usually between 400-800m. If you're up for more of a challenge and have some extra time, you can add some strides between the warm up and two tempo miles or additional 400 or 800m repeats.

Death by 400m
This workout is designed to help me pick up the pace mid-race when I'm getting tired but need to pass other racers and also improve my finishing kick. Here's how it works:

- One mile warm up
- 3-4 sets of 4x400m (approx 6:39 mile pace)
- One mile cool down

I take a 400m recovery break between each set. I also usually add in 2-3 strides toward the end of my warm up mile to get my legs moving before the first repeat.

Now it's your turn: What do you do to get faster?

- ST

Monday, November 28, 2011

Training Schedule 11/28 - 12/4

So far, the Holiday Run Streak has been a bit of a bust. I'm hoping to change that this week.

Here's the plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 4 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile combo speed workout (1 mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

What's on your training agenda this week?

- ST

The Elf Run Race Recap

The day before The Elf Run, I decided I wasn't going to race. Following several days of eating too much, skimping on sleep and not running, it seemed like the best decision. After all, I was sure to run slow and my heart just wasn't in it.

But after talking it through with my mother, I changed my mind. A new 5k PR was once again likely out of reach, but that didn't mean I couldn't race. Given my lack of prep and recent laziness, I decided to aim for a sub-24 minute time. Nothing very fast but my hope was that others would be in a similar situation of having overindulged a bit too much over the weekend, slowing their times a bit as well.

Race results
I'm happy to report I made my goal! Here are my results:

Time: 23:36
Average Mile Time: 7:36
Division Place: 3/63 (Top 5 percent)
Women: 21/508 (Top 4 percent)
Overall: 113/792
(Top 14 percent)


Pesky racing pet peeves
The morning of the race was quite chilly. I think my toes froze a bit while waiting to start so I was happy to take off when the race began. There was the usual weaving in and out around people that lined up too close to the front (a top racing pet peeve) but after that it tapered out a bit and I was mostly able to just run.

Until coming upon another one of my racing pet peeves: People that pass, only to slow down right in front of you and then when you pass them, they try to pass you again . . . and then slow down right in front of you. One fellow female racer did this multiple times over the 5k course and after awhile, I'd had enough. I decided my second race goal was to beat her. So I let kept her in my sights until about a quarter mile from the finish then sped up, passed her and never looked back. Lesson learned - always pass with authority and confidence!

While I'm satisfied with these race results, I know I can do better. I'm ready to get back to running sub-23 5k races and to do that, I need to get back into a training routine. No more slacking - my next race is New Year's Eve day and this time, I want to run at my strongest.

Your Turn! What are your racing pet peeves? Also, are you racing before the end of the year? If so, what races are you doing?

- ST

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Time for a Run Streak

Who wants to put on extra pounds this holiday season? Anyone?

Many people struggle to maintain their weight during the holidays, myself included. I'm definitely not one to suggest turning down a second helping of stuffing or an extra Christmas cookie or two. So what's a girl - or guy - to do during a season with so many delicious treats?

There's also the issue of staying active during one of the busiest times of the year. Sometimes it's hard to fit in training when there are parties to attend, gifts to be bought and wrapped and cookies to be made.

How it works
So this year, my solution is joining the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak. Here's how it works: Starting on Thanksgiving going through New Year's Day, I'll run at least one mile, every day. Most days I'll do more than just one mile, but the point is to be consistent with getting out there to run.

I'm really excited for a new challenge and I think this is exactly what I need to get motivated again! And being able to indulge a bit over the holidays without worrying about weight gain is just an added bonus.

Who's with me? It's only a mile a day and I'm betting most of you can do more than that!

- ST

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Race or Not to Race?

Scheduling races on back to back weekends - ambitious or just plain dumb?

I'm trying to decide if I can do another race one week after Run with the Turkeys or if I need to instead focus my energy on training for the next race at the end of December. The upcoming race in question is The Elf Run - the first in the RACC Great Lakes Running Series. During the series, racers can accumulate points, based on how they place. The best four of five races count toward series awards. While it's possible to skip this one and just do the remaining four races in the series, I would have to run hard at each and every one to have even a small shot at winning one of the series age group awards.

I don't race for fun
You're probably thinking I should just do the race for fun and see what happens. After all, it's just a 5k, right? Small confession: While I have fun racing, I don't race for fun. I race to see how far I can push myself and how fast I can go. Run to just finish the race? Never. When I race, I'm out to win - even if the only person I'm trying to beat is myself.

Risk versus reward
Based on last year's results, I'll need to run sub 22:00 to place in the top three in my division. While not impossible, I'll say it's highly improbable given my 5k PR is 22:53. Will not placing in the top three (or even top five) in my age group be too disappointing/discouraging? On the other hand, if I can pull off a great race, it will be a major confidence booster and take some of the pressure off during the remaining races in the series.

So there you have it - my running dilemma of the week. What do you think I should do? Also, have any of you ever raced back to back weekends? If so, how did you end up doing?

- ST

Monday, November 21, 2011

Run With the Turkeys Race Recap

Here's how Saturday's Run with the Turkeys 5k race went down:

Before the race
4:45 am: Alarm went off. Finally got up around 5 am and drank a large glass of water then stumbled into the shower.

5:15 am: Downed a bottle of Ensure followed by another large glass of water.

5:30 am: Took awhile getting dressed because I couldn't decide how warm/cold it was outside. Shorts or tights? A tank with arm warmers or a long sleeve shirt? Finally decided on my spandex boy shorts, a long sleeve pink shirt and black legwarmers. Packed my bag and did not include my watch or iPod.

6:10 am: Left my apartment to head to the suburbs to pick up Mom, then head to the race!

7:45 am: Arrived in Pleasant Prairie. Picked up my race packet, pinned on my race bib, then started warming up: About a mile of slow running, four strides to get my legs moving and dynamic stretching.

8:25 am: Time to line up. As I was shuffling in place waiting for the race to begin, I realized I was going to run fast. I knew I probably wasn't going to get a new PR, but I was going to race my best and hopefully finish well enough for an age group award.

During and after the race
I ended up finishing the race in 23:12, good enough for a 2nd place Age Group win.

I started the race fast - probably too fast, a definite danger that comes with starting at the front of the pack. There were three women in front of me and during the first half mile I chased down one and pulled up next to the second. I managed to stick with her for the next half mile until getting dropped. As I went around a bit of a curve I managed to sneak a peak at the racers behind me - there were several closing in. Eek.

Over the next mile and a half, I got passed by a few racers. And then I passed a few in return. I was tired and my legs were burning but I pretended I was just doing an 800m repeat. Several of them in a row. Without the 400m recovery.

When I got to the home stretch, I knew it was time to start sprinting. Passed one more person and next thing I knew, I was crossing the finish line! I'm always slightly dazed for the first few minutes after a race, so I walked around a bit while sipping the bottle of water a volunteer shoved in my hand before walking back down to the course to cheer on Mom.

Overall, this was a good day for me. There's nothing like the excitement of a race to get motivated to train hard again. Especially if you look at the results and see that the person who won your age group ran slower than your PR.

Next time, it's on!

What's your favorite moment before, during or after a race?

- ST

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adjusting Expectations, Avoiding Burnout

I'm less than 24 hours away from another 5k race. Is it bad that I keep forgetting about it?

Usually the week of a race, it's nearly all I can think about. I plan my strategy, eat more carbs and taper training as needed. This week I've hardly thought about the race, have been chowing down on red velvet cake balls and did two speed workouts. These aren't things you should do if you're chasing a top three age group finish or even just a new PR.

The last 5k race I did was in September and I ran 22:53. I'm not sure I can beat that time tomorrow morning. I'm in better shape than I was in September and I know physically I can do it. But mentally, I'm struggling a bit.

After boot camp class last night, I chatted with my friend Sara about how it's been a bit difficult to get back into training after the Haunted Hustle Half Marathon. I thought I gave myself enough of a break , but in hindsight, I probably needed an extra week off before starting another training cycle.

New expectations
I have no intentions to stop training at this point but I am going to readjust my expectations for the next few weeks. Running 35-40 mile weeks would be great, but if I end up only doing 25-30 mile weeks through the holidays, that will be okay. I'll still keep up with my boot camp classes and strength training and maybe add in some cross training, probably on the bike. By scaling back a bit now, I hope to avoid burnout and start the New Year excited to up my training again.

As for tomorrow's race? For a change, I'm not going to over think things. Instead, I'll focus on each mile I'm in when I get there.

And if that fails, I'll just think about eating pancakes after the race :)

Do you ever have trouble staying motivated? If so, how did you get back into training?

- ST

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet Team Fatties

This is just a quick post to encourage you to visit Fit Milwaukee and meet my team for the upcoming Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay Race!

Hope to see you at the Pettit in January!

The Best Laid Plans

For those of you that know me, it probably comes as no surprise when I say I'm a planner. I like being prepared and knowing what's on my work and social schedule in the upcoming days and weeks.

It's no different when it comes to training. I like knowing when I'm doing my workouts, what type I'm doing and how they'll help me achieve my goals of getting stronger and faster.

Case in point: I have my training planned out through March. Every day of every week.

But some days and weeks require flexibility. This is definitely the case with this week's training. Monday night's easy six turned into a tempo workout. Last night's speed workout turned into dinner and drinks with coworkers. Wednesday's easy six is now speed intervals on the treadmill.

I'd be lying if I said these last minute changes don't throw me off a bit. Of course I feel guilty about not training at all on Tuesday. And I'm worried too about doing another speed session so close to Saturday's race.

But I'm also confident that by listening to my body, I'm doing exactly what I need to do to achieve my goals. So maybe I ran a bit faster than planned on Monday. Physically, I felt great! As for last night, I just couldn't face doing even an easy six. It wouldn't have been the best run either physically or mentally so instead I rested up and am starting today with fresh legs and a renewed positive attitude.

As for the rest of this week? I'll be back on track with my regularly scheduled training.

I want to know: Do you plan on your workouts in advance? How flexible are you with your schedule?

- ST

Monday, November 14, 2011

Training Schedule 11/14 - 11/20

Another weekend is done and over and the madness of the work week has begun!

I'll never fail to find it ironic that I do the most scrambling during the day and it's while running that I can truly relax. Cranking out multiple articles and television scripts at work? Minor panic mode. Cranking out multiple 400m repeats on a Tuesday night? Piece of cake.

Here's my training schedule this week:

Monday

Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
7-8 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 6-8 x 400m, half mile recovery, 6-8 x 400m, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 3-4 mile easy run

Friday
Rest

Saturday
Morning: Run With the Turkeys 5k Race

Sunday
Morning: 6 mile easy run

Do you view your workouts as "work" or "play"?

- ST

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Won't Give Up

How are you today?

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that there were a few flakes of snow drifting about as I walked into work this morning. Mother Nature - isn't early November a bit too soon for this type of weather?

So during last night's combo speed workout, I was thinking about how there are times in running when you can choose to stop or keep going. There were definitely some moments last night when I wanted to stop or at least slow down. Between my 800m and 400m repeats, I seriously considered throwing in the towel. My legs were burning and I'm pretty sure it's not natural to sweat so much. Gross.

But in the end, I finished out my planned repeats. Even though I wasn't sure I could do it, it sure felt good when I did!

So the lesson learned is even if you think you can't do something, chances are high you probably can. A bit of discomfort is temporary so don't be afraid to push yourself a little harder.

And when you're approaching the final half mile during your next race, you'll be glad you did. You might feel like your legs are ready to give out, but you'll know you can keep your pace and finish strong - just like you did during training.

How do you overcome moments when you want to give up during training or in a race?

- ST

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Training Schedule 11/7 - 11/13

After taking a week off, I feel refreshed, recharged and ready to begin training for my upcoming events. Since these races are shorter distances, I'm less focused on building endurance through long runs and more focused fine tuning speed through tempos, intervals and hills.

This week's agenda:

Monday
Rest


Tuesday

Afternoon:
6 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon:
8-9 mile combo run (1 mile warm up, 2 miles @ half marathon race pace, 2-4 x 800 meters, 4-8 x 400 meters, 1 mile cool down)

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 3 mile easy run

Friday
Morning: 5 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 9-10 mile track workout (1 mile warm up, strides, 6 x 1600m, 1 mile cool down)

Sunday
Rest


What's on your training agenda this week?

- ST

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Getting off the Beaten Path

Just as there are many life paths you can choose, there are many running routes you an take. However, I've noticed I tend to pick variations of the same two or three again and again. These routes have become so familiar, I'm pretty convinced I could run them in my sleep.

I consider it a form of "comfort running" meaning a run that I know almost exactly what to expect, every time. I like knowing where the best drinking fountains are, anticipating familiar uphills and downhills, running faster along my favorite stretches and counting down the street names toward the end of a run. Take the same route often enough and you'll even recognize the regulars.

But there's also the thrill of discovering a new place to run. A portion of last weekend's Haunted Hustle Half Marathon wound through Middleton's Conservancy Lands and it was love at first run. The path went through the woods and eventually opened up into a tall grass prairie area that was so much different from what I'm used to running. The race is over, but I'd take a trip back to Middleton just to run those areas again.

So while there's nothing wrong with comfort running, every now and then I think it's important to step off the beaten path and see what else is out there. There's a whole world filled with great running routes - and I can't wait to start finding new ones to add to my list of favorites.

I want to know: Do you consider yourself a comfort runner? Also, what are your favorite running routes?

- ST

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Winter Training Plan

Just as long runs, tempo runs and speed workouts are all necessary components in any training schedule, so is the occasional rest week. Brief time outs are necessary to give your body - and mind - a break from the rigors of training.

Since I just raced the Haunted Hustle half marathon, the timing is right for a mini break. This week, I'm limiting myself to two 4-6 mile easy runs, one strength training session and boot camp class.

Crossing the finish line at last weekend's half marathon

Winter training plan
During this bit of downtime, I'm writing my training plan for the upcoming months. This plan includes:

Running 40 miles/week - I want to get used to running 40 miles per week this winter so once spring hits, I can increase to 45 and eventually 50 miles/week. Every fourth week I'll cut mileage by 20 percent to 32 miles/week.

One rest day/week - Up until now I've taken two rest days/week. Decreasing to one is mainly an attempt to avoid double workout days during the winter months.

Track workouts - When the weather is freezing and icy and a treadmill workout less than appealing, an indoor track workout is a great option. Also, the indoor marathon relay I'm doing in January is at the Pettit National Ice Center so I want to get used to running on that track.

Combo workouts - If you must hit the treadmill, a challenging combo workout can make time fly. My current workout includes a one mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles at half marathon race pace, half mile recovery, 2-4 800m repeats at 7:00 mile pace, 4-8 400m repeats at 6:30 mile pace, one mile cool down. This workout can also be varied a bit by swapping in hill intervals for either the 800m or 400m repeats.

Long runs - I won't do another longer race until spring, but I want to keep my fitness up. Long runs this winter will cap out around 10 miles.

Tempo runs - Every four weeks, I'm planning to add an extra mile to my tempo runs.

So now that you know what I'm planning to do this winter, I want to know: What will your winter training plan include?

- ST

Monday, October 31, 2011

Haunted Hustle Race Recap

Going into last weekend's half marathon, I knew how I wanted to race - smart, confident and fast. Overall, I think I was pretty successful and the past few months of training paid off.

This time around, I think it really helped to up my weekly mileage, run overdistance, add weekly tempo runs and incorporate a fast finish into easy runs. But it was especially beneficial to focus a lot on hill training. There were several hills throughout the course and I took advantage of every one, especially the downhills. This helped me able gain time and pass several people during these portions.

How did I do?
Here are my race results:

Time: 1:46:16
Average Mile Time: 8:07
Division Place: 27/347 (Top 8 percent)
Women: 72/1009 (Top 7 percent)
Overall: 236/1568
(Top 15 percent)

What's next?
While I'm planning to take this week off, don't think I'm slacking off this winter. Here are my upcoming races:

Are you racing this winter? If so, what are you training for?

- ST


Friday, October 28, 2011

Less Than 24 Hours Away

For the past several days, people have been asking me if I feel ready for this weekend's race. While I think it's only natural to feel a bit nervous, overall, I'm feeling pretty confident about this one. After weeks - months - of prep, I'm ready to toe the start line and finish with the time I want.

Although it's too late to make any fitness gains, here are some last minute steps I'm taking to help me race my best:

Today
  • Reminding myself of everything I've done to prepare (upping mileage, three overdistance training runs, countless speed workouts, etc.)
  • Reviewing my race strategy and visualizing how I want to run this race (going progressively faster through these three distances: 5 miles, 5 miles, 5k)
  • Drinking extra water throughout the day
  • Eating pasta for lunch and dinner

Tomorrow Morning
  • Drinking 16 oz water + 10 oz sports drink
  • Drinking a can of Ensure (my standard pre-race or long run meal)
  • Pre-race warm up: one mile slow running, 4-6 strides, dynamic stretching
In addition to these steps, I also skipped this morning's shake out run. It was a tough decision to make since I hate missing scheduled workouts, but I think it was the right decision to make in light of a bit of soreness around my left knee. Nothing major though and it should be fine by Saturday morning after a day of rest.

How do you prepare yourself for a race both physically and mentally?

- ST

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Haunted Hustle Playlist

Although I leave my iPod at home for 5k races, I think a bit of music is in order for this weekend's half marathon. So unless it's raining or super windy, here are a few songs I plan to include on my Haunted Hustle playlist. Warning: It includes A LOT of pop music!

  • Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
  • Lighters - Bad Meets Evil
  • Run This Town - Jay Z
  • You Make Me Feel - Cobra Starship
  • Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5
  • I Wanna Go - Britney Spears
  • Give Me Everything - Pitbull
  • Can't Be Tamed - Miley Cyrus
  • S&M - Rihanna
  • The Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga
  • Born This Way - Lady Gaga
  • Blow - Ke$ha
  • Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO
  • Take Over Control - Afrojack
  • Mr. Saxobeat - Alexandra Stan
  • I Like That - Richard Vission & Static Revenger

What are your favorite songs for running/racing?

- ST

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Confession: I have a minor addiction to butterscotch chips. While you can't go wrong with a few straight from the bag, when baked in a cookie they are perfection. Try these oatmeal butterscotch cookies tonight. They are easy to make - and even easier to eat!

Warning: It's impossible to eat just one.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quick oats
6 oz butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and then combine with the other ingredients. After blending thoroughly, add in oats and butterscotch chips.

Drop tablespoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.

What's your favorite way to eat butterscotch chips?

- ST

Monday, October 24, 2011

Navigating Through Taper Week: Training Schedule 10/24 - 10/30

It's taper time! Although it's exciting to not have any double workout days and only short runs, this is by no means a week to slack off. There's still plenty of race prep that can be done before Saturday.

In addition to eating a carb-rich diet and staying hydrated, here are a few non-running things I'm doing to prepare this week:
  • Getting 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Waking up at the time I need to get up on race day
  • Limiting weight lifting/strength training
  • Cutting out alcohol, soda, artificially sweetened fruit juices, etc.
  • Eliminating fried, processed, fatty foods from my diet
As for running, my goal is to keep it light and easy, allowing my body to rest and recover before the race. The easy runs will keep my legs moving and the speedwork allows a bit of mid-week sharpening.

Here's the complete agenda:

Monday

Morning: Off
Afternoon:
4 mile easy run

Tuesday

Morning: Off
Afternoon: Cross Training


Wednesday
Morning: Off
Afternoon: Speed workout (1 mile warm up, 1 x 800m, 2 x 400m, 1 mile cool down)

Thursday

Morning: Off
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class

Friday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Haunted Hustle Half Marathon!

Sunday
Rest

What's your favorite/least favorite part of the taper period before a race?

- ST

Sweet Potato Curry

I love Indian food, especially this time of year when the temperatures begin to drop. However, I've always been too intimidated to make it at home because of the exotic ingredients and seemingly complicated cooking methods.

Although not traditional by any means, this sweet potato curry captures the Indian flavors I love, without a lot of prep or cleanup. The ingredients are basic and one pot cooking is about as easy as it gets!

Just the right amount of spice for a chilly evening!

Sweet Potato Curry

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1 can light coconut milk
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add all ingredients in order to a large dutch oven pot (or other oven safe dish with a lid). Bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through.

I served the curry over brown rice, but it would also be good with bread or Indian naan.

- ST

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Perfect Fall Dessert For One

After last night's workout, I was craving something sweet but didn't want to eat something heavy, like a cupcake. This baked apple with ricotta cheese hit the spot, providing the perfect blend of tart, creamy and sweet. The ideal dessert for a chilly fall evening!

This only took about 5 minutes to prepare. Maybe less.

Baked Apple with Ricotta Cheese*

1 apple (I used a red delicious apple)
1/2 cup water
Dash of cinnamon
1/8 cup part skim ricotta cheese
Drizzle of honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core the apple, dice into bite size pieces and place in an oven safe dish. Add water and dash of cinnamon on top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After baking, strain off liquid and add apple pieces to a serving dish. Top with ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey.

*I didn't measure the cinnamon and honey

What's your favorite apple recipe?

- ST

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Year In and I'm Still Running

It was about one year ago today that I started running. Up until that point, I went to the gym pretty regularly but spent most of my time trying out classes, doing the elliptical and on occasion, cycling. I also worked with a trainer, Anna, and we focused a lot on strength training, specifically targeting my "weak" arms and "fat" knees.

How it all started
Around this time, my boss asked a few coworkers and I if we would be interested in signing up for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay. It seemed like a fun team building activity and running one mile at a time for a total of about 7 miles seemed pretty manageable.

When I told Anna, the first thing she asked me was had I ever run before. Sure, I had dabbled with short jogs on the treadmill or outside, but it was always for the purpose of burning extra calories, not for the purpose of actually running. After learning what a novice I was, Anna wrote me a training plan to get in shape for running the relay in January.

And that's how my love of running started! It's been rough at times (minor injuries, time conflicts, etc.) but during this past year, I've learned a lot and progressed more than I ever thought possible. I still remember my first 5k race last November and how I just wanted to finish in less than 30 minutes. I finished in 29:09, 32/92 in my age group. At my last 5k race, I finished in 22:53, 4/30 in my age group.

I knew I was a runner when . . .
It's been over these months, I've realized, I'm a runner! And believe me, no one is more surprised by this than me, the girl who once claimed to hate exercise. Here's how I knew:
  • I don't feel guilty about eating large amounts of bagels, pasta, etc. Carbs = energy.
  • Running shoes, clothes and accessories have taken over my apartment.
  • Over the summer, I found myself discussing performance nutrition and pre-race fueling on a date with a fellow endurance athlete. Sexy? Hardly. But I still found it pretty interesting!
  • I get a little too excited when a new Runner's World or Running Times is in my mailbox.
  • I wear flats more often now to save my feet for hard running workouts.
  • I find myself telling people things like "I'm only running seven or eight miles tonight."
  • My favorite websites include running calculators and running blogs.
  • These days, people actually ask me for running and workout advice.
Setting new goals
So, what's next? I want to keep improving my race times and running stronger at every distance. In 2012, I'd like to achieve the following:
  • A 6:20 mile time
  • A sub 21 minute 5K time
  • A sub 1:45 half marathon time
When and why did you start running? When did you consider yourself a runner? And, what running - or other workout - goals do you hope to achieve in 2012?

- ST

Monday, October 17, 2011

Training Schedule 10/17 - 10/23

My next half marathon is quickly approaching . . . and I can tell that I'm getting sick.

While not ideal, it does leave me with enough time to recover if I tweak my training a bit. Instead of the 38 miles I originally planned for this week, I'll dial back to 25 miles and not do any doubles. While it sucks having to go off plan, I know it's the right thing to do if I want to race my best.

Here's what this week's training includes:

Monday

Morning: Off
Afternoon:
5 mile easy run + Strides

Tuesday

Morning: Off
Afternoon: 7 mile combo run (1 mile warm up, 2 miles @ half marathon tempo pace, 2x800 meters, 4x400 meters, 1 mile cool down)


Wednesday
Morning: Off
Afternoon: 3 mile fun run @ Performance Running Outfitters

Thursday

Morning: Off
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 3 mile run including hill repeats

Friday
Rest

Saturday
Rest

Sunday
Morning: 7 mile tempo run

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do Your Race Times Make the Grade?

Ever wonder how your race times compare with runners at different ages? Or how they stack up to the standard for your age and gender? You can find out with this handy age grading calculator from Runner's World.

Warning: This is a tad addictive, especially if you start calculating what times you need to achieve the next level of competitive racing.

For example, to move up to the regional level, I need to increase my age-graded score by five percentage points and race a 5k in 21:09 (6:49 per mile pace). Is this doable? Certainly not overnight, but in time I think it is, especially with an increase in mileage and more speedwork.

On that note, I have 15 miles to run tomorrow morning. What are your weekend running or other workout plans?

- ST

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What I Eat, Part 1

My friend and fellow runner, Sara, recently asked me to do a post about what I eat during the day. Although it's kind of embarrassing to admit how much I eat (it's a lot), I know every calorie goes toward getting the most out my workouts. This amount might be too much or too little for some people - but it's what works for me.

Note: I'm not a nutritionist - the information in this post reflects my personal experience. If you need nutrition advice, consult a professional.

A typical day
Breakfast: 1/2 bagel with peanut butter and apple jelly

Mid-morning snack: String cheese, 1 oz pistachios, raw veggies

Lunch: 1 cup tomato soup, bean burrito*, banana

Mid-afternoon snack: Granola bar, 1/2 of a 100 calorie pack pita chips, handful of gummy candies

Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce, steamed broccoli, Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries

*1 Smart and Delicious tortilla, 1/2 cup vegetarian refried beans, 1/4 avocado sliced, 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, salsa

I should note that what I eat and when I eat it varies if I'm doubling (morning and afternoon workout) or if I'm racing. More on this to come in future posts.

In the meantime, what do you eat during a typical day?

- ST

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Get Motivated!

Sometimes, I'd love to bag my workout. I think about how nice it would be to lounge around all evening watching television, catching up on the stack of magazines in my living room and maybe baking up a batch of my new favorite dessert, Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies.

But then I think about how these things won't help me achieve my goals and could actually end up setting me back. At times like these, I find the best way to get motivated and back on track is checking 0ut my favorite websites, blogs and online articles.

Here are a few that currently inspire me:
  • Ask Lauren Fleshman - Have a running question? Lauren has the answer.
  • Great Lakes Running Series - After I'm done with my next half marathon, I'll be training hard for this series.
  • Combo Track Workouts - These workouts from Running Times Magazine are bound to hurt - but also yield great results over time.
  • Daily Mile - I'm hooked! If you run, bike, swim or just workout for fun, you should join this website.
  • RW Daily - Tidbits related to running, including tips, interviews and sometimes truly bizarre stories.
  • Performance Running Outfitters - My favorite running store. I can't wait for cooler temps to try out the Mizuno arm sleeves I bought last weekend.
  • Fit Milwaukee - A great local resource dedicated to a healthy lifestyle.
  • ESPN's Bodies We Want - If this doesn't inspire you to run that last interval, I don't know what will.
What websites do you read for an extra shot of motivation?

- ST

Monday, October 10, 2011

Training Schedule 10/10 - 10/16

Week two at 38 miles! I'm looking to my tempo run as the most challenging workout with the 14-15 mile run a close second.

Here's what else this week's training includes:

Monday

Morning: Off
Afternoon:
6 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday
Morning: Off
Afternoon: 7 mile tempo run


Wednesday
Morning: 5 mile easy run
Afternoon: 1 hour strength training, including Tabata Protocol

Thursday

Morning: 6 mile hill run

Afternoon: Off

Friday
Rest

Saturday
Morning: 14-15 mile easy run

Sunday
Rest

What's your most challenging workout this week?

- ST

Adventures With Tater Tots

Earlier this year, I participated in a tater tot eating contest with my friends Jess and Tierney. The contest worked like this: Participants were seated at a long table and were given a few one pound baskets of tots. We then had six minutes to eat as many as possible. The winner ended up eating more than three pounds. I ate . . . less than one pound. It was kind of embarrassing to not even finish one basket but I think if it wasn't timed I would have done a lot better. I've always been a slower eater.

Anyhow, after the contest, I had to go on a bit
of a tater tot hiatus. The thought of eating more was rather sickening. But that all changed after my friend Alysha from She's on the Run introduced me to Tater Tot Casserole. After just one bite, I knew I had to have the recipe, which combines tater tots with a cream sauce, cheese and fried onions.

Pass the tots, please!

I've prepared this simple casserole a few times now, and it makes a great vegetarian main or side dish. Try serving it with a green or fruit salad.

Tater Tot Casserole

1 32 oz package tater tots
1 16 oz container light sour cream (I recommend Daisy brand)
1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 6 oz can French fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Arrange tater tots in the prepared baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine sour cream, cheese and soup. Pour this mixture over the tater tots. Sprinkle onions over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

Have you ever participated in an eating contest? If so, how did you fare?

- ST

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Do You Run?

Not too long ago, someone asked me why I run and train as much as I do if I don't stand a chance at ever participating in a major race, say the Olympics. My first thought was, if I were training for the Olympics I'd have to more than triple my current amount. My second thought was, who's to judge a right or wrong reason to run?

Most of us will never be Olympic contenders. Many of us might not even get an age group win at a local race. But should that ever prevent us from training as hard as we want? It may be time consuming, but it's a choice we make on how to spend our extra hours.

Whether it's 12 miles on an early Saturday morning, multiple 400m or 800m speed repeats on a Monday afternoon or even that extra set of core exercises, I enjoy nearly every challenging training session. Naturally, I want to get faster so I can compete better at local-level races, but making any podium would just be an added bonus for doing something I love.

So my response to that person's question is, I love the run. And in my opinion, there's no better reason.

Do people ever question the way you train? If so, how do you respond?

- ST

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

The only thing better than eating a chocolate chip or Oreo cookie? Eating an Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie.

Cross section of my new favorite cookie

Although they look complicated, these cookies are actually quite simple to make. Especially when you use prepared dough (i.e. Toll House slice n bake). So, give this recipe a try this weekend, or better yet, tonight - 30 minutes from start to finish is all you need for delicious, home-baked cookies!

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 Oreo Double-Stuffed Cookies
32 oz Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place Oreos on two cookies sheets, leaving plenty of space between each. Divide chocolate chip cookie dough into 24 balls. One by one, sandwich each Oreo between two balls of dough until they are completely encased. Bake for 9-13 minutes.

Do you have any simple cookie or dessert recipes I should try?

- ST

Training Schedule 10/3 - 10/9

While I enjoyed my recovery week, I'm ready to get back to full training. For the next month leading up to the Haunted Hustle Half Marathon, this means running 38-mile weeks.

Mini confession: While I like sticking with my training plan as closely as possible, there are some days I end up doing more or less - sometimes an extra mile or two or taking things slower than planned. I'm definitely not one to advocate being lazy or skimping on workouts - but sometimes adjustments are necessary. Trust your body - it knows what it needs!

That being said, here's this week's training plan:

Monday

Morning: Off
Afternoon:
Speed workout (1 mile warm up, 4 x 800m with 400m recoveries, 1 mile cool down); 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday
Morning: 5 mile easy run
Afternoon: 3 mile easy run
; 45 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Morning: 6 mile easy run
Afternoon: Shock Treatment Class (boot camp style class)

Thursday
Morning: 7 mile tempo run
(1 mile warm up, 5 miles @half marathon pace, 1 mile cool down)
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class

Friday
Rest

Saturday
Morning: 12 mile easy run

Sunday
Rest

How many of you write training plans? Do you follow your plan exactly or end up making changes as the days/weeks go by?

- ST

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Mile at a Time

Over the next few months I plan to increase my weekly mileage to 50+ miles per week. This extra15 miles each week will provide a stronger base to work from when training for spring and summer races. Ultimately, I hope it will help me run faster at every distance.

Slow and steady
Increasing mileage can help nearly any runner improve performance. The key is to increase it slowly to avoid burnout and injury. Most experts suggest increasing no more than 10 percent each week and every fourth week decreasing mileage by 20 percent to allow for recovery.

In my own training, I prefer to doing three weeks at a new mileage, followed by one recovery week, and then increasing the mileage for another three weeks.


For example:
  • Week one: 35 miles
  • Week two: 35 miles
  • Week three: 35 miles
  • Week four: 28 miles
  • Week five: 38 miles
  • Week six: 38 miles
  • Week seven: 38 miles
  • Week eight: 30 miles

How a 50 mile week looks

Wondering what a week of training looks like at 50+ miles? Here's what I anticipate:

Monday
Morning: 4 mile easy run
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run

Tuesday
Morning: Off
Afternoon: 6 miles speedwork; strength training

Wednesday
Morning: 6 mile easy run
Afternoon: Shock Treatment (boot camp style class)

Thursday
Morning: 4 mile easy run
Afternoon: 8 mile tempo run

Friday
Morning: 6 mile easy run
Afternoon: Off

Saturday
Morning: 10 mile easy run
Afternoon: Off

Sunday
Rest

What's your weekly mileage and how do you find time to fit it in?

- ST