Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheesy Cajun Pasta

Do you ever throw together dinner using whatever you have in your refrigerator and pantry and it turns out so much better than you expected? This is one of those meals. It was super delicious given how few ingredients were needed and the amount of time it took to whip it up!

In fact, it was so good that I made it again the following weekend - just to make sure I wasn't imagining how tasty it was, and also to measure the ingredients to create an actual recipe to share with you. One thing to note: I like my food a bit spicy, so if you prefer your food on the mild side, I recommend using less Cajun seasoning. 

Cheesy Cajun Pasta
Serves 4-6

8 oz spaghetti noodles (You can use any pasta shape you like)
4 Andouille chicken sausage links (I used Amylu brand)
1 can diced tomatoes w/green pepper, celery and onion
1 cup corn
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used 2 percent)

 Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, slice the Andouille chicken sausage and heat in a large pan. Add the diced tomatoes, corn and Cajun seasoning and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Next, stir in the cooked spaghetti noodles. Remove from heat and top with the cheddar cheese. Cover the pan so the cheese melts. Serve immediately. 

Share, share share: What is your favorite throw-together dinner?

- ST

Friday, December 27, 2013

Last Year, Next Year + A 2014 Race Schedule!

Hey Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Can you believe we'll be counting down to 2014 in just a few days?

With another year gone by, it's the perfect time to reflect a bit on this past year of running - and move forward by setting new goals for the New Year.

Here were my goals in 2013:
  • Log more miles
  • Run with a friend or group 4x/month
  • Strength train 2x/week
  • Run a new PR in the 5k, half marathon and marathon distances
  • Eat well to fuel training
  • Run a Boston Marathon qualifying time

I knew going in that these were ambitious goals and I'm okay with not being able to cross off everything on my list. It was a rough year with all the injuries and time off! 

But even with the setbacks, there were still a lot of great things that happened in 2013. It's always best to focus on the positive - such as, I've now been running for three years! I'm still a bit of a newbie, but with every year that passes I can tell I'm learning and becoming a better runner. Every experience is a lesson learned. 

With Mom after the Lake Country 5k - one of my favorite races in 2013

Starting with a clean slate in 2014, here are my goals for the upcoming year:
  • Log more miles
  • Run a new PR in the 5k and 10k distances
  • Run a Boston Marathon qualifying time

This year's list is much shorter than last year's, but fewer goals means being able to focus more on each one. Logging more miles is a goal I'll have every year, but especially this upcoming year. Last year, I didn't come close to running as many miles as I wanted so I'm extra set on running the type of mileage needed to achieve my other two goals. 

Lake Park - a favorite spot to log miles!

 The first half of 2014 is going to be dedicated to training for shorter speed events - the 5k and 10k. I've only run one 10k (45:53!) so I'm excited to see what I can do in that event this spring. And the 5k is my favorite distance so I can't wait for some fast races - hopefully at least one that results in a new PR!

After my goal spring races, I'll move into marathon training. I have to shave at least 8:XX off my current marathon time to run a BQ time. I think it's entirely possible - as long as I can stay healthy this year and get in more consistent training. 

After this year's Lakefront Marathon - Getting closer to a BQ time!

As for races, here's what I tentatively have on my schedule for this upcoming year: 

  • Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay
  • GLM Expo Race 5k
  • The Big Chill 5k
  • Luck of the Irish 5k
  • Door County 5k
  • Madison Twilight 10k
  • Rock n Sole 5k
  • Firecracker Four
  • Race for the Bacon 5k
  • Strider Half Marathon
  • Lake Country 5k
  • Lakefront Marathon

Although not a race, the other thing I'm mega excited for in 2014 is the Oiselle Team Camp in August. Five days of running and running-related activities with running friends? Awesome :) 

My questions for you:
  1. What are your goals for 2014 - running or otherwise?
  2. What races are you planning to do in 2014?
  3. What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a great year :)

- ST

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Treats!

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies. There are a few that I always enjoy - for example, Coconut Snowballs (recipe to come) and Peanut Butter Balls. But every year, I also like to try a few new recipes. 

Here are two recipes that I recently made for an office treat - the first is a new one and the second, an old favorite. I definitely recommend making both :)

Holiday Blondies 
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

One stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup holiday-theme sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter with sugars. Next, stir in the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Then, stir in the sprinkles. 

Add the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before removing blondies from the pan and cutting into squares.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Recipe by Katie Lee

Two sticks unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and peanut butter. Stir in the vanilla, then remove from heat. Carefully mix in confectioners sugar until a stiff dough forms. While still warm, shape the dough into small balls - about the size of a ping pong ball. Place balls on the prepared baking sheet. 

Add the chopped chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and melt in 25 second increments. Be sure to stir after each increment to ensure the chocolate does not burn. 

Spoon a bit of melted chocolate on top of each of the peanut butter balls. Then, place the tray in a refrigerator and allow to chill until set - about one hour. 

My questions for you:
  1. Did you do any holiday baking this year? If so, what did you make?
  2. What is your all-time favorite holiday cookie/treat?

I hope you are all having a delicious week :)

- ST

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis the Season for Maintenance

Since I started running three years ago, I've always had high expectations for myself come December. This year, my goals included building my weekly mileage to 40 miles per week, getting in a few monster speedwork sessions and the big one, racing a new 5k PR.

Yesterday, reality kicked in. I'm still sick (although getting better!). I still need to buy several Christmas presents. Holiday baking hasn't happened yet. And my apartment? It's a disaster. With all of these other obligations, the time has come to ease up a bit on training. I'm still trying to get over feeling like a slacker, but am telling myself that this time of year, it's a win to just maintain fitness.

So, here's this week's training plan:

Monday: Rest Day - aka Shopping for Christmas Presents//Writing Cards/All the Holiday Stuff
Tuesday: 6 mile run; 60 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 6 mile run (Runch?)
Thursday: 4 mile run
Friday: 4 mile run; 30 minutes core work
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day - aka Holiday Brunch/Humane Society Donation

Total: 30 miles

Given this week's frigid temps, snow and ice, I just may have to try runching for the first time ever. Things must be at least a few degrees warmer mid-day, right? :)

As for diet. I'm going to eat healthy for the most part but will not freak out about Christmas cookies, holiday treats, etc. I saw this Tweet from Oiselle teammate Lauren Fleshman the other day and totally laughed at my desk. It's so true!

My questions for you:
  1. How do you train during the holidays? Is it business as usual or do you cut back?
  2. What are your best tips to make time for fitness?
  3. And, just for fun, what is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Both sweet and savory :)

I think the classic treats will always be my favorite!

- ST

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Update: Recovering From a Nasty Cold

Last week's Turkey Trot? Sadly it didn't happen. The nasty cold that has been going around got the best of me and I spent most of last week coughing up my lungs. It was a sad week with absolutely no running or exercise . . . but, I'm finally getting better, which means I get to run again! 

My first run back on Monday was pretty gross - literally - waves of nausea and a bloody nose midrun! But yesterday's miles were spectacular. I absolutely adore running in the rain and the temperature was perfect, especially given it's already December. 

I've scaled back on training this week since I'm still recovering but if everything goes well, I should be back on track by next week. Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 4 miles @easy pace
Tuesday: 4 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 4 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Thursday: 6 miles @easy pace
Friday: 8 miles @easy pace
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day/Crosstraining

Total: 26 miles

A 5k PR before the end of the year might be a bit of a reach at this point, but I'm going stay optimistic. After all, anything is possible if you're willing to work for it!

Today's questions:

  1. What goals are you trying to meet before the end of the year?
  2. Do you run/exercise when sick? 
  3. What steps are you taking to avoid getting sick this winter?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful - and healthy - start to the week!

- ST

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Elf Run 5k Race Recap

Some races just don't go the way you want. Sunday's Elf Run was one of those races.

I felt like my training leading up to the race was decent and enough to get a new 5k PR. My last race was about one month ago and I ran just six seconds off my PR - and this was the 2nd of back-to-back races! So my thinking was this time should be a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. This week served as a perfect example for how you can put in the work yet find your efforts thwarted by unforeseen circumstances. I fell on Monday, got bit by a dog on Tuesday and was sick by Wednesday. I clung to the hope things would improve by Sunday and for a few days it seemed like it would be okay. But by Saturday evening, I knew the best I could hope for was to finish the race.

Race day weather included single-digit temps and a headwind. My plan to wear shorts went out the window. Tights and a jacket it was, and yuck - I really can't stand wearing running tights!

I stayed inside until the last possible minute, which of course meant I had to line up further back than I would have liked. The start was so congested that I had to walk leading up to the start line and could only jog after crossing. Luckily it became more spaced out within the first half mile.

Ha, I look like I'm flying!

Honestly, I felt pretty awful during these miles - the cold air and wind really took their toll and I was coughing away. The only thing that kept me going was focusing on runners in front of me and working on picking them off one by one. Just before the last turn to the finish line, I passed one more woman and at that point knew it was time to kick. Not my best finishing sprint but I was so thankful the race was over!

This pic accurately sums up how I felt during this race: Miserable!

I somehow managed to win another medal.

Definitely not my best race - but given the events leading up to the race and having to run while being so sick, I was happy I made it through the race. It wasn't my day, but it makes me more determined than ever to PR before the end of the year.

However, it may not happen til the very end of the year. After the race, I ended up even more sick and am having a hard time believing I'll be able to race well tomorrow at the Talmer Turkey Trot. I'll do my best, but am also being realistic. The next opportunity to PR may not be until Run Into the New Year.

Still, I am thankful for every opportunity I have to run. There is no greater sport and I feel so fortunate I'm able to do what I love.

Tell me: What are you thankful for?

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

- ST

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Friday Favorites + A Cute Kitty Pic!

TGIF everyone! This week, I was especially counting down the days til the end of the work week. The days flew by but they were a little too drama filled for my taste. But, the only way to deal with a bad hand is to focus on the positive. So this post is filled with the things that have made me smile lately. 

Bee-Nut Butter Bliss - This stuff is the best. Think all-natural peanut butter, mixed with honey and crunchy sea salt. Divine! My friend Julie sent me a jar earlier this week and I've been eating it with my usual half Natural Ovens blueberry bagel breakfast or with a sliced apple. I haven't resorted to eating it straight out of the jar . . .  yet ;)

Oiselle Randies - I know what you're thinking - who spends that much on underwear?? But seriously, these are worth every penny. A great fit, fun colors, cheeky sayings across the rear - these are the perfect thing to wear during a long run or race. Also, because they are made with a wicking material, you won't end up with soggy, sweat-soaked underwear at the end of your run. 

Petzl Tikka 2 Headlamp - It took me a few tries to finally find a headlamp I like. This one is perfect for city running and provides just enough light so I can see the sidewalk in front of me. The key is a light that can be moved up or down so the beam illuminates the area you want. If the light is stationary, it won't illuminate anything because the light will get too dispersed into the night sky. 

Warm Scarves - Winter seems to have arrived a bit early in MKE this year making warm scarves a must. I tend to wear the same couple of scarves despite having about 30 of them stuffed away in my closet. The French Fleece Runfinity from Oiselle is my newest one and current favorite. 

Picky Bars - These are delicious and satisfying and very portable for a perfect pre-run snack. While all of the flavors are good, my favorite is Runner's High. 

And because nothing really makes me happier than seeing a cat in a ridiculous costume, I leave you with a picture of Eddie in his new Christmas tree coat!

Tell me: What have you been loving lately?

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

- ST

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's Race Week!

Yesterday, I took a potentially nasty spill. One minute, I was skipping down the hall at work. The next, I was face down on the floor in the lobby area. Mega embarrassing, especially since I was wearing a dress. I really am the queen of clumsiness :)

Anyhow, the incident served as a reminder that I need to be more careful since it's race week. And not just any race week - I'm aiming for a PR. Now is definitely not the time to get injured in some type of freak fall or accident!

I'm super excited to race this weekend. During last week's speedwork, I felt like I could keep hitting my paces all night long so I know a PR is within reach. It's a matter of remaining calm and collected before the race, getting to the start line on time, pushing hard during every single mile (no slacking during the second mile), and embracing the pain and going all out during the last quarter of a mile. Easy, right? ;)

The race day forecast is a balmy 21 degrees. However, no PR attempt is complete without a speedy looking outfit. This means shorts, not tights - although I will probably add a Flyte Long Sleeve for an extra layer under my singlet. Here's my race day outfit:

 Oiselle Team Singlet

Sparkly Soul Wide Rainbow Headband - for good luck! 

And, leading up to the race, here's how I'm training:

Monday: 60 minute training session
Tuesday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 6 mile workout, including 8x400m @goal 5k pace w/quick recoveries; 30 minutes strength training
Thursday: 6 miles @easy pace
Friday: 4 miles @ easy pace
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: The Elf Run 5k race

Total: 25 miles

Although it makes me sad to see only 25 miles for the week, I'm reminding myself that my goal is a 5k PR, not racking up as many miles as I can possibly run, especially since I don't have any longer distance races on the calendar right now!

My questions for you:
  1. Are you racing this weekend? If so, what are your goals for the race?
  2. How does your race week mileage differ from your usual training mileage?
  3. Do you have any key workouts that you do to help gauge your race readiness?
  4. At what point do you put your shorts away and start wearing tights/pants?

If you're doing The Elf Run this weekend, I'll see you at the start/finish line :)

- ST

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cheddar Bay Biscuits

For the most part, I can pass on the seafood served at Red Lobster. The biscuits, however, are another story. Buttery, cheesy and flaky, these biscuits are hands down the best part of the meal. 

And now, I can make them at home. A few months ago, I came across a recipe for knock-off Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Brown Eyed Baker. I instantly knew I must make them to see if they live up to the original version. 

I'm happy to report these biscuits are fantastic and just as tasty as the ones served at the restaurant. I definitely recommend making these this weekend. Serve them alongside homemade soup. They would even make a wonderful addition to the bread basket at Thanksgiving!

So easy to make and even easier to eat ;)

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled for 5 minutes

For the Topping:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp minced fresh parsley (or ¼ teaspoon dried)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, garlic powder and cayenne. Next, stir in the cheddar cheese, then set aside.
In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk and melted butter until the butter forms small clumps. Then, add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix gently until dough forms and no dry ingredients remain. Add 1/4 cup scoops of dough to the prepared baking sheet, leaving a little more than an inch between biscuits.

Bake about 12 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. While the biscuits are in the oven, stir together the 2 Tbsp melted butter, garlic powder and parsley. After removing the biscuits from the oven, immediately brush with the topping mixture. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Tell me: Do you have any restaurant knock-off recipes that you love? 

Share away in the comments!

- ST

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why You Might Want to Carry Pepper Spray on Your Next Run + This Week's Training Plan

I'm going to start this post with a little cautionary tale:

Last week, I ran a sweet little six miler after work. It was dark outside but I wore reflective gear and my new headlamp. It was just me, the lakefront and the waves crashing up against the shore during these miles and it was so peaceful. After my run, I walked for a bit across the street from my apartment building and stopped to stretch by a park bench under a street light.

This turned out to be a big mistake. One moment I was stretching my quads and the next, I looked up and there was a man directly in front of me. I instantly felt uncomfortable so turned around and started walking away. He yelled at me to come back and that he had to ask me a question. Umm, no thanks. I kept walking. He yelled at me again and said the same thing. 

At this point, I was creeped out and began jogging away. He then started chasing me. I ran out into the street but couldn't cross because of all the cars coming and he caught up with me, got right in my face and kept trying to engage. Finally, the cars stopped for a moment and I was able to run away. Since I didn't want him to see where I live, I ran around the block before running up the steps to my apartment and deadbolting the door. 

I spent the rest of the evening wondering if maybe I overreacted. But when I shared the incident with a few friends, each reminded me that a normal person wouldn't have chased another person and would have backed off when it was clear the other person wasn't interested in talking. 

Fortunately, the incident happened in a pretty populated area and I felt I would have been able to call for help if the situation had escalated. But what if this had happened in a less populated area? For the most part, I am a cautious runner. I stick to lit paths. I wear reflective gear. I never run with music. But, I don't run with any type of protection, such as pepper spray. I think the time has come to buy a bottle and I urge all of you to consider carrying some type of protection during your runs. Even close to home, you just never know what might happen and it's better to be safe than sorry. 

 Creepers beware!

So, that's that. The incident has been on my mind this week as I run my miles but hasn't kept me from running on my favorite paths. Here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 4 miles @easy pace (AM); 6 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training (PM)
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork, including 4x800m and 8x400m; 30 minutes strength training
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace + 60 minutes strength training
Thursday: 4 miles @easy pace
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day/Cross Training

Total: 38 miles + 2.5 hours strength training

This sums it up!

Depending on how things feel later this week, I might make Thursday a cross training day instead. Jumping from last week's 29 miles to 38 miles this week seems a tad ambitious and perhaps a recipe for an injury of the too much, too soon variety. I'll take it a day at a time. 

My questions for you:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation while running (or exercising outside) that made you feel uncomfortable/unsafe? What happened and what did you do to get out of the situation?
  2. Do you carry protection when you run or exercise outside? If so, what do you use?
  3. For the non-runners (and runners!), what was the best moment of your weekend?

My favorite was strolling around Cedarburg with a hot autumn chai tea from Fiddleheads!

- ST

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Oh, running lately. Even though I've raced three times since Lakefront Marathon, I'm still getting back into the swing of things. I've run hardly any miles (for me) these past few weeks and it's felt good to take a break. 

But, that break is now over. So, less of this . . . 

And a whole lot more of this . . . 

A few people have asked me about my plans for the rest of the year. It's pretty straightforward: 

  • Build back to a modest base of 40 mpw
  • PR at the 5k distance

I'm not too worried about getting back to 40 mpw. Running this amount does not require any doubles and I can even keep my longest runs to 10-14 miles - which is perfect for 5k training. It's important to build to this weekly mileage because it's key to setting myself up to build to 50 mpw during the first few months of next year and then to 60 mpw over the summer months. 

Shorter days mean miles will be logged with a headlamp. Gotta stay safe!

As for that 5k PR - I will do everything in my power to make it happen. I have three chances: The Elf Run (Nov. 24), the Talmer Turkey Trot (Nov. 28) and Run Into the New Year (Dec. 31). I may sneak another 5k race in that line up, depending on how my legs feel and how ready I feel to race.

Here's how this week's training will go down:

Monday: Rest Day (traveling)
Tuesday: 6 7 miles @easy pace w/strides + 1 hour strength training workout
Wednesday: 2 sets of (1600, 800, 400) + w/u & c/d + 1 hour strength training workout
Thursday: 6 miles @easy pace
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day/Cross training

Total: 28-30 miles + 2 hours strength training

It will be so nice when I start seeing fewer rest days in the mix :) 

With that being said, let's start the Q&A portion of this post. That is, me asking the questions and you telling me your answers ;)
  1. How do you get back into a routine after a big race?
  2. What are your training goals for the reminder of the year?
  3. How are you staying safe during dark morning and evening runs?
  4. If you're not into running (or even if you are a runner!), what do you love most about fall?

Fall is my favorite season and I love it all - apples from the orchard, homemade chili, hot coffee drinks, warm sweaters, scarves, colorful leaves, crisp temps for hiking, etc. etc. etc!

- ST

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Recently, my friend Laura asked me what my favorite go-to dinner is during the week. I said salmon with vegetables. While I do love salmon, it's more of a last-minute-I-didn't-plan-ahead type of meal. My real favorite is homemade soup. The kind that involves chopping vegetables, roasting meat and slow simmering everything to perfection. Yum!

We all know I love Mexican and southwest flavors, so when I saw this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup, I knew I had to give it a try. Although you end up with soup that tastes like it was slowly cooked all day, it actually doesn't take too long to prepare and was simple enough that even a kitchen klutz like me could handle it ;)

Best of all, this soup tastes even better leftover. I definitely recommend making a pot of this soup this weekend!

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Recipe slightly modified from Fabtastic Eats

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 15oz can Rotel
1 4.5 oz can green chiles, diced
1 1/2 cups corn (I used frozen)
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
2 cups milk, divided (I used 1 percent)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

Add olive oil to a large soup pan and heat over medium heat. Add diced onion, red pepper and garlic and cook until tender. Then pour in the Rotel, green chiles, corn, black beans and shredded chicken. Next, add the enchilada sauce and 1 1/2 cups milk. 

In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once fully melted, add the flour and whisk until thick. Add 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup chicken broth and a few cracks of salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until combined and thickened - this will take about 4-6 minutes. Once thickened, pour into the soup. 

Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and Monterey Jack cheese. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the soup from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

Serve topped with additional cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream and/or cilantro!

Tell me: What is your go-to fall and winter soup recipe?

- ST

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Big 5k Race Weekend Recap

It's no secret that I love racing the 5k distance, but this weekend was the first time I've attempted two events in one weekend with just a tad more than 12 hours recovery between races.

To sum it up, it was an experience! I wasn't quite sure how to approach the races. Should I go hard during the first one and take it easy during the second? Run slower during the first race and save it all for the second? Or, race them both?

Of course, who am I kidding?? I decided to race them both and hope for the best. Here's how it all went down:

Race 1: Haunted Hustle 5k
I tend to run well at evening races so I had high hopes for this one. My legs were feeling pretty good and the weather conditions were near perfect - just a bit of wind but nothing too major.

Since most people around me were wearing costumes or pushing gigantic strollers (read: did not look very competitive), I decided to line up near the front by a woman who looked like she was there to race. My plan was to stick with her as long as possible.

This turned out to be a bad decision. This woman went out at a fast-for-me pace and since I don't use a watch when I race, it didn't really hit me how fast we were going til I felt like death around mile 1. Yikes! I had to hit the brakes at that point and slowed considerably.

Several women passed me during the next mile, which was pretty demoralizing. I HATE getting passed, but all I could do was keep plodding along. Toward the end of the race, I somehow ended up all alone. Like no one at all in front of me that I could see. It was lonely and made it difficult to hold my pace during the final mile. I couldn't wait for the race to be over and thankfully there was just another quarter mile or so after I made one final turn.

So relieved the race was over!!

Here are my results:

Time: 23:13
Pace: 7:29
AG Place: 2/52
Gender Place: 5/297
Overall Place: 11/458


Ugh, I was really unhappy when I saw my time and pace. Going out fast for this one proved to be a mistake. My big takeaway: I need to stick with my usual race strategy of lining up a bit further back - further back than I actually need to go - because my best races happen when I go out slower and speed up throughout the race. 

Mom and I after the race with our 'medals'

But, no regrets - every race is a lesson learned :) As for the woman I tried to follow - she ended up averaging around 6:30 pace! My legs can't handle that pace yet for a 5k but someday . . . ;)

Race #2: The Pumpkin Run 5k Out of the two races this weekend, this is the one that I really wanted to do well at since it is the first in a six-race series. Points are awarded at every race to runners who place high enough, and at the end of the series, additional series prizes are awarded to overall series winners.


After the disastrous race the night before, I wasn't too excited about having to race another 5k just a few hours later. However, I know I can race a lot better than a 23-minute 5k and this was my chance to redeem myself. Plus, a new 5k PR has been calling my name, which means giving nothing less than my best effort. 

This time, I was much smarter and lined up near a few runners who I know run closer to 25 minutes for the 5k distance. I know this sounds like I lined up too far back, but it's actually perfect for me - as the race started, I felt comfortable and confident. 

Now, the only thing with starting further back is you do hit bottlenecks at times. One of these happened within the first half mile and one girl went down hard. She was right next to me one moment and the next had tripped and was sprawled on the pavement. So terrible. It made me nervous, which provided an extra adrenaline boost that made me run a bit faster.

I've raced this course two times before, which is such an advantage because I knew what to expect. A slight incline into a turnaround, then another 1.5 miles back to the finish line. I felt like I was flying through the 2 mile mark . . . and then it started feeling harder. I resorted to using my old count to 100 trick for the next mile. And then using the runners in front of me to pull me along. Although it's tough summoning a kick at the end of a race, I managed to sprint the last bit into the finish line - my favorite way to end a race :)

After the race, a guy came over to me to tell me he paced off me the entire race then sprinted past me at the end. Ha! I will watch for him at future races - and be ready to kick hard when the time comes :)

Although I probably won't race two 5ks in the same weekend again anytime soon, it was a fun and challenging experience. I'm happy with the way things turned out and am already looking forward to my next 5k race in a few weeks!

My questions for you:
  1. Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?
  2. Where do you usually line up when you race? 
  3. What is your race strategy? Go out hard and hope to hang on? Start slow and speed up throughout? Run even splits? 
  4. For the non-runners - what was the best Halloween costume you saw this weekend? 
Since I didn't get to party this weekend, I'll have to live vicariously through the rest of you ;)

- ST

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wisconsin Fiesta Cheese Dip

Last night, I attended an Olallie MKE foodie event. This one's theme was Made in Wisconsin - all foods featured included at least two locally made ingredients.

I decided to bring a recipe I've had earmarked for awhile - Wisconsin Fiesta Cheese Dip. I remember seeing this recipe posted on Twitter by the Wisconsin Cheese awhile back and thought it looked absolutely delicious. Turns out, it was even tastier than expected - if that's even possible :)

Forgot to take a pic before everyone dug in so this was the only corner left intact!

Obviously there's plenty of cheese in this recipe but it's made slightly healthier with the addition of chopped tomatoes and spinach. And, like all of my favorite recipes, this one is simple and cooks up fast. Perfect for a football party or any type of get together!

Wisconsin Cheese Fiesta Dip
*Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats and

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup yellow onion, minced (Local)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (Local)
1 Tbsp green chiles, diced
1 10oz package chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (Local)
1 can sliced black olives, drained
Tortilla chips (Local)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Add olive oil to a medium skillet and saute onions for five minutes - or until tender. Add tomatoes and chiles and cook for two additional minutes. Remove skillet from heat and allow mixture to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, cream cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. Stir in the olives and tomato mixture.

Transfer to the dip to the prepared dish and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

My questions for you:
  • What is your favorite dip or spread?
  • How do you incorporate local ingredients into your everyday eating?

I hope you're having a delicious week!

- ST

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monster Run Race Recap

Between Lakefront Marathon and this past weekend's Monster Run, I logged a grand total of . . . 5 miles. Naturally, I was a tad concerned going into the race. 

Race bib and a super cute medal!

Fortunately, right from the start, I could tell my legs were turning over well and a faster 5k race was possible. I passed several people within the first half mile and hit the Mile 1 marker right around 7 minutes. Soon enough, I hit the turnaround point, when I counted four women in front of me. But I still wasn't quite sure how many were in front of me for the 5k race since the Quarter Marathon turn off wasn't for another half mile or so. 

The grassy areas of the park started to look quite appealing about midway through. I was definitely feeling the pace and the fact that I had done hardly any miles in the past two weeks. Huffing and puffing were the theme throughout the second mile. 

It was during the third mile that I made a bit of a miscalculation - I somehow managed to forget that the other race was a quarter marathon, not a 10k. When I saw the Mile 6 marker for the quarter marathon, I thought there was only 0.2 left in the race and started my kick to the finish line. Except the finish line was still more than half a mile away. Oops. Needless to say, I was frantically looking for the finish line and ended up fading - just couldn't maintain the pace.

As I got to the finish line, I was in for a fun surprise - the announcer said I was the 2nd female! Now, I'll admit, this was a slower race - my time would maybe get an Age Group prize at most in the majority of local races - but it was still quite exciting. I've been wanting to crack the top three overall for awhile!

After the race, trying not to collapse in the grass on the side

On a side note, I did this race with my mom and niece, Kyley. The kids raced before mom and I lined up so we got to watch Kyley run. She was so nervous before the start, which was just adorable, but I totally understood how she felt since I get the same way before most races! It was so cute to see how excited she was when she got a medal at the finish line. Perhaps she'll end up coming to more races with us in the upcoming year!

Three race finishers!

I'd like to know:
  • How soon do you race again after a marathon?
  • What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

I saw some great costumes at the Monster Run - made me wish I was more creative when it comes to that kind of thing :)

- ST

Friday, October 18, 2013

Last Year Vs. This Year

It's been nearly two weeks since Lakefront Marathon - just enough time to have properly reflected on the race. Naturally, I couldn't help but start drawing comparisons between last year and this year. 

Obviously no two training cycles are going to be the same but there were a few major differences between last year and this year. To be honest, I'm still scratching my head as to how this year's training somehow led to such a great race. 

Last Year: Peak mileage weeks at 60-65 mpw
This Year: Peak mileage weeks at 40-45 mpw
I prefer to run higher mileage, but unfortunately a series of injuries kept me at low mileage this time around. 

Lake Park is one of my favorite MKE spots to log miles

Last Year: Five 20-22 mile runs within the marathon training cycle
This Year: Three 20-22 mile runs within the marathon training cycle
Three 20-22 mile runs is sufficient but my confidence is higher when I can log more long runs.

Last Year: Weekly speedwork
This Year: No speedwork til the month before the race
I love speedwork but I tend to peak quickly so too much early on in a cycle is a recipe for burnout. It's too hard to maintain peak fitness for an entire marathon training cycle. 

As much as I love the track, I have to run on it sparingly during marathon training

Last Year: Two full-effort half marathons in September
This Year: No races in September
This one is just common sense. Don't get greedy the month before the big event. Or you will risk ending up with an injury that will ruin your race plans.

Last Year: Cut back on strength training to fit in miles
This Year: 2-3 strength training sessions weekly
Cutting back on strength training meant losing strength. A key factor in getting injured during last year's second September half marathon.  

Dumbbells are my friend

Last Year: 10 pounds lighter
This Year: Umm ... 10 pounds heavier
No one likes to be put on a diet, but weight is something that is 100 percent controllable. I once read every 10 pounds lost equals a savings of 20 seconds per mile. Over a 5k, that's about one minute, a 10k about two minutes, and so on. 

My takeaways for the next marathon training cycle:
Increase mileage again to 60-65 mpw but keep doing strength training. No racing the month before the marathon. Fast track repeats should be saved til the end of the training cycle to avoid peaking too early. Lose 10 pounds. 

This should be easy, right? ;)

Because I like asking questions:
  1. What are a few differences you've noticed in your own training between cycles?
  2. What is your ideal weekly mileage?
  3. Speedwork - Do you do it throughout a training cycle or just use it to sharpen at the end?
  4. Would you or have you lost weight specifically for running performance?

Tell me everything and more!

- ST