Friday, August 31, 2012

Try It: The Foodie Penpals Program

Good morning and happy Friday! I'm so ready for this week to be over and for the long weekend to begin. First up on Saturday - the Lake Country Half Marathon. Eek. It's going to be an early morning - 3:30am wake up call! - but I'm excited to race. 

Anyhow, this post is NOT about running. Shocking, I know :) Instead, I'm going to tell you about my first experience with the Foodie Penpals program! 

The program was started in 2011 by Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean. Every month, bloggers/blog readers/foodies/etc are matched up via email. Participants then send their penpal a box of fun foodie treats, including favorite foods, local goods and even homemade items. Boxes also need to include something written, such as a note explaining the items in the box or a recipe. I should also note that the person sending you a box, is not the same person you send a box to. 

This month, I received a wonderful, thoughtful box from Janna at Try It You Might Like It

I had help opening the box

Janna explained that she buys local whenever possible and all the items she included are things she's tried and loves. Here's what was in the box:

  • Marshmallow Fluff - Made in Lynn, MA
  • Equal Exchange Baking Cocoa - Made in W. Bridgewater, MA
  • Ocean Spray Craisins 
  • Laurel Hill Multigrain Tortilla Chips - Made in Mansfield, MA
  • Woodstock Organic Turbinado Sugar 
  • Lambs & Thyme Popping Cob - From Northfield, MA
  • Ginger Powder - From Atlantic Spice Company in Cape Cod
  • Wilton Baking Cups
  • Tiny Soccer Balls - For Eddie!

She also included two recipes that use some of the box items - one for whoopie pies and another for molasses-rye snaps. 

I love every item that was in the box and can't wait to try both of the recipes. As you can tell from the pic above, Eddie also had a fun time with the Foodie Penpals program this month. I think the soccer balls are his new favorite toys and he's been chasing them around my apartment ever since!

Ready to pounce!

Getting a fun package in the mail made it seem like Christmas in August, and I highly recommend giving the program a try! If you want to participate in this next month's program, don't delay - sign up here today.

Have you ever participated in the Foodie Penpals program? If so, what did you think? Or, did you have a penpal growing up? I had one in England but sadly we lost touch during our teen years. 

Enjoy the long weekend!

- ST

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Runs Well With Others

Awhile back, I wrote a post about why I prefer running alone. At that point, I hadn't even tried running with others - I just assumed I wouldn't like it. I told myself it would distract from my training. It would force me to go slower or faster than I might want to run. The truth is, I was also secretly afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up. 

Today, I'm going to have to revise my original stance. While I still love the solitude of having nothing but the road for company, running with someone else is a welcome break from the everyday grind.

I've since done several runs with the Lululemon Run Club. It's a pretty casual group - no need to sign up, and we usually decide how far to run depending on what people are in the mood for. The pace tends to be slow, which is perfect for recovery runs. It also means everyone can chat easily, so you get to know others in the group. I make an effort to go whenever my schedule allows and it's an easy way to get in 9+ miles for the day (I run 3-4 on my own before or after the group run). 

With the girls before a run. Already sweaty and my eyes are closed.

There's something about a first 20-miler that's so intimidating. I was lucky enough to have my friend Chris along for the miles. I thought the run would seem endless, but surprisingly the miles flew by. It was such a positive experience that since then I've actually looked forward to 20-mile runs!

Remember that fear of not being able to keep up? I was forced to confront it head on when I ran with my fast friends, Sheila and Melissa. We ran at a pace I can maintain, but one I need to work at. Still, it was good to get out of my comfort zone, and I know making myself keep up with these girls will help me get faster. 

I'll still run most miles on my own. But every now and then, I'll look to share the road with a friendly face or two. It makes the miles go by faster and reminds me that there are others out there sharing the same journey, one step at a time.

Do you prefer to run alone or with others? Also, have you attended any of the local run meet ups? If so, what did you think?

Let me know if you want to run together :)

- ST

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Speed Workout: A Road/Track Combo

One of my greatest running thrills is seeing how hard I can push myself. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush that comes with surviving a difficult workout. Whether it's a long tempo run, 400m repeats, a ladder workout or Yasso 800s, there's often a moment - sometimes several - when I wonder if I can finish the workout and that makes getting it done even more satisfying.

Running here is always a challenge I enjoy

I spend a lot of time reading up on different types of workouts in my favorite running magazines and on websites and running blogs. A workout that recently caught my eye was one that my running hero Kara Goucher did while training for the London Olympics Marathon. Her workout (marathon race pace and faster) included: 

  • Five mile tempo on the road
  • 5 x 1 mile on the track
  • Five mile tempo on the road

A 15 mile+ speed workout is a bit aggressive for me, but I really like the idea of combining road and track running. Here's how I modified the workout:

  • 1 mile warm up
  • Two mile tempo on the road (half marathon race pace)
  • 3 x 1 mile on the track (about 5k race pace)
  • Two mile tempo on the road (half marathon race pace)
  • 1 mile cool down

Originally I was going to run the track miles closer to 7:30 min/mile pace, but the handy McMillan calculator told me that I need to run my mile repeats faster. 

A little reminder to get out of the comfort zone!

Overall, a great workout that left my legs feeling like rubber. I definitely recommend this one for anyone in search of a challenge. Try my modified version or if you're tough like Kara, do the full workout! 

Remember, it's workouts like these that prepare you for race day both physically and mentally. During the inevitable rough patches during a race, remind yourself of how hard you pushed yourself during your workouts - and how you made it out alive. And just like you survived training, you'll make it through the race and finish strong!

What's the most challenging workout you've done recently? Or, can anyone recommend a new workout for me to try? 

Let's make a pact to get out of our comfort zones this week :)

- ST

Monday, August 20, 2012

Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest Race Recap

After falling into a racing funk earlier this season, I was beginning to think I'd never make my way out. I'm happy to say, I think I'm finally back on track. 

This race was a new 5k PR! The icing on the cake was winning 3rd in my Age Group and getting a shiny new medal to add to my collection.  

I love the green and white ribbon

In addition to marking my return to better running, this race was special to me for a few other reasons:
  • I was on the race planning committee so it was very exciting to see how months of work came together for a successful event. 
  • My company 5k team, The O'Zizzos, made its debut.
  • My mom, brother and niece also participated in the race. 

It was a beautiful morning, especially given it's August and the race didn't start until 10:30am. I met up with my fellow team members before the start and before I knew it, it was time to line up. 

Before the race with teammates Banh and James
Just like the Brewers 5k, I lined up a bit further back to avoid starting out too fast. This time, it may have been a bit of a misstep as I found myself weaving in and out to get around slower runners. 

Earlier in the week, I ran the course so I would be familiar with it on race day. I kept a pretty even pace throughout and didn't start my kick until I hit the three mile mark. Miles one and two felt decent although I was working hard to maintain pace. Mile three was a struggle and I kept reminding myself that I didn't run as hard as I did for the first two miles only to give up. This is where knowing the course really came in handy, as I could picture exactly what landmarks were ahead and could estimate how much further I had to run. 

It doesn't matter how fast I run - it always looks like I'm bunny hopping in pics!

Here are my results:

Time: 22:12
Average Mile Time: 7:09
Division Place: 3/119
Gender Place: 9 /725
Overall: 64/1,293
After I crossed the finish line, I stood on the sidelines with my coworker James to watch other O'Zizzos finish the race. Then, I ran back on the course to find my mom, brother and niece to cheer them on as they made their way to the finish line. 
Running with my niece, Kyley
It was a really fun morning and served as a reminder to me that the next great race is always just around the corner. I still have a goal time to hit this year (21:XX) and after this race, I'm more confident than ever that I'll get there. I won't let 13 seconds stand in my way!

Did anyone else race this weekend? Or, do you have any running or fitness goals you're working toward this year? 

Tell me all about it :)

- ST

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beating a Mid-Summer Slump

While it's true running won't tuck you in at the end of a long day, it sure can keep you up at night. It's a tad ironic - this week I've run exactly zero miles, yet all I can think about is getting back to the road, track, treadmill - basically anyplace with a surface that allows me to get my run on. It's time for my summer cold to say goodbye so I can get back to doing what I love best. 

Anyhow, sorry it's been awhile since my last post! It's been a busy summer and unfortunately, one of the things that gets pushed to the bottom of my list sometimes is blogging. I promise I will be better about this in the future. In the meantime, let's get caught up :)

Here's what's new with me:
  • I ran my third 20-mile run last weekend and it went extremely well. I made my goal of finishing in less than three hours! I ran the first half slower than the second half and by the end felt like I still had enough energy to keep going awhile longer. My hydration and fueling plan (Hammer Endurolytes Fizz + Hammer Perpetuem Solids + Gu) must be working!
Thanks for the GU, Chris!
  • I'm about five pounds away from my goal marathon racing weight. I've been lucky - I haven't had to do much to lose, although you know what they say about the last five pounds. I'm hoping just upping my mileage again will be enough. Note: Racing weight is strictly about performance, not fitting a certain image or size. To learn more, read Racing Weight, an excellent book about the subject. 
  • I need to up my training. It's time for the final training push before the marathon and I need to get out of the mid-summer slump I've been sitting in recently. I need to be hitting between 55-60 miles per week and within those miles include more workouts. Lately, I've been running a lot of long, slow miles and you know what happens when you do too much of that - you become a long, slow distance runner. It's time to get a bit uncomfortable and start doing more repeats, intervals and tempo running. Here's a workout I have planned for next week:
    • 1 mile warm up
    • 2 miles @ half marathon race pace
    • 3 x 1600m @ 10k race pace
    • 2 miles @ half marathon race pace
    • 1 mile cool down

It's time to get back on track, literally!

  • All the little things need to again become a bigger part of my training. This means it's time to start hitting the weights again, increase core work and do more stretching and foam rolling. And let's not forget about getting enough sleep. Eight hours a night needs to become the norm again, rather than six or seven. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Jesica at rUnladylike, recently did a post about top lessons learned from the 2012 Olympic Games. One of them is about how achieving big goals requires big commitment and hard work. It's not enough to say you want to run further or faster - you actually have to do the work needed to make these goals a reality. As she wrote, "Now is the time to refocus, recommit and to do what you say you want to do." Well said. 

That's a whole lot of me and not nearly enough of you. What's new in your life? Anyone else trying to get past a summer training slump? What have you been doing to stay on track to hit your fall race goals? Or, does anyone have anything awesome and exciting going on in their life that must be shared? 

Hit me up with the latest :)

- ST

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I recently received a tweet letting me know that my good friend Alysha nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award. The award is meant to be given to a blog that is a favorite of yours, particularly ones that are up and coming with a smaller following. Those nominated need to answer 11 questions posed by the person nominating, include 11 random facts, create 11 new questions and nominate 11 blogs.

As most of you who read this blog already know, Alysha writes at She's on the Run and recently did a guest post on my blog featuring a healthy salmon recipe. Alysha's blog is one of my go-to sources for delicious recipes and I love reading about her culinary adventures. 

Here are Alysha's questions for me:
  1. What does your exercise routine look like? I train 6 days/week, including 50-55 miles running, strength training and boot camp classes.
  2. What’s your biggest fitness goal? I have several! I want to have a great first marathon experience in October and run a sub-22 minute 5k and sub-1:40 half marathon. Ultimately, I'd like to qualify for Boston.
  3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Work hard today to get what you want tomorrow.
  4. What’s your dream job? Since I'm obsessed with running, it would be something that allows me to be around it all the time. I hear Nike employees get a paid hour to workout during the day - that sounds pretty sweet to me!
  5. Describe your perfect meal. This is a hard one given how much I love eating. I love Mexican food so guacamole and tacos are a must. Since I have a major sweet tooth, a rich dessert would also need to be included.
  6. What is your favorite quality/trait about yourself? If I want something, I won't give up until I get it.
  7. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? I would like to be more patient. I dislike waiting and tend to want things right away.
  8. Are there any words you just hate? Maybe the word "nice". I use it myself but it has a certain blandness that's annoying.
  9. Is there a piece of clothing/accessory you can’t live without? A favorite pair of worn-in, faded jeans and a chunky gold chain link bracelet from my grandmother.
  10. What’s your biggest pet peeve? Slow/passive drivers - ugh :(
  11. When was the last time your cried? I didn't actually cry, but definitely teared up at the end of the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. It was a tough race that left me exhausted, but I was so happy for my mother, who finished her first half marathon!
Here are 11 random facts about me:
  • My name is really hard to pronounce - It's pronounced Soon Tor-key. Not, Sun Tork or Sun Tork-a or Sun Tor-que.
  • My mom is my best friend - I see her at least once a week.
At the Rockford race finish line. Yes, we wore matching mother/daughter outfits.
  • I don't like running an odd amount of miles. I'll run 6, 8 or even 20, but not 5, 7 or 19 unless it's an accident.
  • I can't whistle - try as I may, it's not ever going to happen! 
  • Eating McDonalds is one of my guilty pleasures. I know it's terrible and loaded with calories, fat, sodium and other bad stuff but I have fond memories of eating double cheeseburgers with my friend Debbie!
  • I've probably watched more hours of TV with the Olympics than I have the rest of the year combined. 
  • I prefer Twitter to Facebook.
  • I sometimes enjoy awkward moments. I love watching how people react. 
  • I work best under deadline - if I have too much time to work on projects I tend to procrastinate.
  • I always drink at least eight, 8oz glasses of water every day. 
  • I actually really like a good ice bath after a hard run!
Here are my questions:
  1. Why did you decide to start blogging?
  2. How did you decide on your blog's name?
  3. What are your top five favorite foods?
  4. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  5. What's the best gift you ever received?
  6. Are there any current style trends that make you cringe?
  7. Why do you workout and what's your current routine?
  8. Who is your role model?
  9. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  10. If you could participate in any Olympic sport, which would you pick?
  11. Where would you like to travel next?
Here are the people I'm nominating for the award:

Debbie @ Le Food Snob
Ariana @ Ariana Hilborn
Sheila @ SMW RoadRunner
Jesica @ RunLadyLike
Erin @ Goldiluxe
Nicole @ On My Table
Lori @ LVMKE
Sarah, Maggie and Molly @ Mag-Pies & More

Here are the guidelines should you choose to accept:
  • Link back to the person who gave it to you…they deserve the love!
  • Post the award on your blog for all to see!
  • Give the award to 11 of your favorite bloggers … ideally with approximately 200 followers or less.
  • Leave a comment on your chosen blogs to let them know that they have been given the Liebster award.
Finally, have fun with it and I look forward to seeing your award posts!

- ST