Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Great Lakes Expo 5k Race Recap

Usually when I line up for a race, my goals are run as fast as possible, get a PR and/or win an Age Group award. At Sunday's Great Lakes Expo 5k, my goals were don't strain my hamstring and try not to embarrass myself by running too slow.

At least I didn't strain my hamstring :)

My results:

Time: 23:31
Average Pace: 7:35
Overall Place: 103/501
Age Group Place: 8/58

The truth is, I just wasn't feeling up to doing this race either physically or mentally. My right hamstring is still tender from last weekend's race so I was concerned about running too fast and further injuring it. I also couldn't quite conjure up the mental strength I needed to push myself to run closer to my usual 5k pace. I guess you could say I was a weak runner because I couldn't handle the pain when it counted! 

I somehow managed to get an AG medal despite being a slowpoke!

On the plus side, running slower meant I noticed more during the race than I normally would. The course was pretty nice - an out and back along the Oak Leaf Trail - and I actually saw people I know during the turnaround. I waved at Mom and my friends Carrie and Katie as I ran back toward the finish line.  I also noticed quite a few cute boys - who knew there were so many participating in the series! ;)

Naturally, the urge to race/run fast kicked in today - one day late. Hopefully I can carry this feeling through to my next race in mid-February.   

Until then, I'm working on building mileage and will continue strengthening my weak hamstrings. This week's training plan calls for:

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: 4 miles easy pace; one hour boot camp class
Wednesday: 6-8 miles easy pace; core work; 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6-8 miles speedwork
Friday: 4 miles easy pace; 4-6 miles cycling
Saturday: 10-12 miles easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day

Anyhow, that's about it in my world! Nothing too exciting and a lot of business as usual :)

Your turn: How was your weekend and did you race or run any miles? What's on your training plan this week?

If you're free on Thursday, join me for some speedwork at the Pettit track!

- ST

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

These past few days have definitely tested my patience with winter. Single digit temperatures and negative wind chills make me want to hibernate in my apartment, buried under a mound of the warmest blankets I can find. 

This type of weather also makes me crave comfort food more than ever - specifically a hot, creamy, cheesy casserole - just like Mom would have made when I was growing up.

I found this recipe for Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti on the Plain Chicken blog. I really like how the recipe uses only a few ingredients (very important when you're lazy about cooking like I am) with easy instructions (very important when you have a short attention span like I do). Best of all, the finished casserole tastes great! I think Mom would approve :)

 Seconds are pretty much a given :)

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole
via Plain Chicken blog

12 oz spaghetti, slightly undercooked
1 28oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp Italian seasoning (I substituted with 1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)
1 clove garlic minced
8 oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef in a large skillet and drain off excess fat. Add spaghetti sauce and set aside. 

Add cooked spaghetti noodles, cream cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic in a large bowl and stir until cream cheese is melted and the noodles are evenly coated. 

Spread a small amount of the meat sauce in a 9x13 pan. Add spaghetti noodles, then top with meat sauce. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. 

Let's talk comfort food: What's your go-to recipe when you crave something hot, creamy, cheesy, etc.? Also, what are your favorite websites to find new recipes?

If this cold spell lasts, I'll be baking a lot more casseroles! 

- ST

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Indoor Marathon Relay Recap

First, I apologize that this post is a tad late! I wrote it a few days ago but my draft magically disappeared meaning I had to re-write it. Anyhow . . . 

Run four laps. It sounds pretty easy, right? Easy at least until your fourth, fifth and sixth round of four laps. At 6:40 min/mile pace. Suddenly, it's not so easy.

This was my third year racing the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay and always, it was a challenge. Teams are made up of 2-4 people and each team splits up the miles/laps as they want. The race is 96 laps and every four laps equals 1.12 miles. 

Switching runners

My team, M.A.S.S. Destruction (named for Melissa, Anna, Sheila and Sun), set our sights high this year. Our two goals were to win the female team division and set a new female team course record. We based our goal time on last year's winning time, 2:55, which meant we needed to average 6:40 or faster per mile. We knew it would be a challenge but I was especially hungry for a win this year as last year my team took second place!

The race went well through the halfway point. We were all feeling strong and our splits were right about where they needed to be. We knew we were behind at least one other team, but were doing our best to follow our plan, run to the best of our ability and hope for the best. 

Watching Anna - and the other runners - circle the track

The fourth and fifth rounds of laps were tough for everyone on my team and even though we pushed during the last round of laps, we couldn't make up the time we had lost. Despite running our best that day, we ended up finishing fourth. The winning team finished in 2:45, which completely shattered the old course record by 10 minutes!

Whenever the laps got tough, I reminded myself, "Wings out!"

Here are our race stats:

Time: 3:04:23
Average Pace: 7:03
Overall Place: 24/99
Gender Place: 4/22

Even though we missed our two goals, I'm still very proud of my team. We did what we could to prepare, trained hard and on race day, ran our hearts out. The one thing you can never control is competing against much faster runners :)

Post race with team mascot, Sir Chomp Chomp

After the race, we celebrated along with fellow team, Buns on the Run, at Maxie's Southern Comfort. We feasted on fried pickles, sweet potato fries, fried green tomatoes, cornbread and mac & cheese. A perfect end to a great day! 

Even today, my legs - specifically my hamstrings - are still feeling the race. Since I have another race this weekend, I'll run easy until then. 

Tell me: How do you deal with missed race goals? 

I think it makes me motivated to train harder! 

- ST

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sub 2:55:25 or Bust!

Only a few days until my first race in 2013! 

The Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay was one of the first races I completed back when I first started running and to this day is one of my favorite events. It's a bit different from typical road races in that it's held indoors and the miles are run on a track. Four laps around equals a little more than one mile.

The first year I did this race, my team's only goal was to finish. The second year, I ran with a different group of girls and our goal was to place in the top three teams in the female team division - we ended up placing second. 

Last year's team after the race with a few prizes
This year, my team is reaching even higher - we have our sights set on winning the female team division AND setting a new course record for all female teams. Provided no other teams run faster than last year's winning team, we will need to run faster than 2:55:25 to set a new CR. This translates to 6:42 min/mile pace or faster. So, no pressure at all ;)

I'm both nervous and excited about the event! I'm confident every member of my team can hit this pace during their four-lap repeats but I also know that race day tends to present a few surprises no matter how well you prepare. 

At the race, I'll be pretty easy to spot - this will be my first time racing in my Oiselle Team gear! I'm wearing my Oiselle singlet, orange shorts, white compression socks and a pair of homemade armwarmers that everyone on my team is wearing :) 

These socks will soon be transformed into crazy armwarmers! 

If you're looking for something to do on Saturday afternoon, come cheer for my team! The race starts at 1pm at the Pettit National Ice Center.

Let's talk running: Have you ever participated in a relay race? Or, have you ever raced indoors or on a track?

Best of luck to everyone racing on Saturday!

- ST

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Training Cycle and Giveaway Winner!

Hey Friends! After two months of running lower mileage (30 mpw), it's finally time to start spring race training. I think taking time to fully recover from my last big race was a smart decision because now I'm more than ready to start bumping up the intensity of my workouts and building toward my goal race in May. 

But before I start getting into this week's training plan, let me first take a moment to announce the winner (selected using random.org) of the LÄRABAR giveaway. Congratulations Laura @BackstageBalance! Please send me your email address, mailing address and phone number to pass along to my LÄRABAR contact. Thank you to everyone else who entered the giveaway - I wasn't sure how it would be received but given its popularity, I may have to do another one soon :)

 The exciting prize!

Anyhow, about that spring race training. My intention has been to use the Wisconsin Marathon as my goal race. However, because my base is not quite at the 40 mpw I had planned on at the start of training, I am considering shifting down to the half marathon event. Doing so would allow me to continue base building through January and start hitting workouts hard at the start of February. A solid three months of half marathon specific training could go a long way toward setting a big PR for the distance . . . 

I still have a week or two before I need to make my decision. In the meantime, I'll keep training as I would for the marathon. Right now, this includes 5 days of running per week, which will increase to 6 days per week after about a month. I'm hoping to get to 40 mpw by the end of January and then increase to 50-55 mpw during the peak training weeks.

Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 4 miles at steady pace; 45 minutes strength training
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork
Wednesday: 6 miles at easy pace; 45 minutes strength training
Thursday: 6-8 miles speedwork
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 12 miles at easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day

I'm still getting over what must be the worst cold/flu I've ever had, so hopefully I can get through all of these workouts!

I want your input: Do you think I should do the Wisconsin Marathon or the Half Marathon event? Also, tell me about your big race(s) this spring and how you plan on training for them!

On a final note, the forecast is showing 50 degrees for Saturday. Shorts in January in Wisconsin? I'll take it :)

- ST

Thursday, January 3, 2013

LÄRABAR Review and Giveaway!

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you run enough miles and do the right workouts, you've done all you can to prepare for a goal race. But eating right is another major component that factors into performance both during training and on race day. 

In my experience, it's a tricky balance. I need to eat enough to have enough energy to get through my workouts. However, I can't overeat because I don't want to put on extra pounds that will weigh me down on race day. This means every calorie needs to count and provide the best nutrition possible.

But for a girl who loves calorie-dense-but-low-on-nutrition desserts, this is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are ways to satisfy a sweet tooth while sticking within a proper training diet. 

Better than a candy bar, no joke!

I've regularly incorporated LÄRABARs into my diet for quite some time now and they are perfect for a small meal, pre- or post-workout snack or for dessert! My all-time favorite flavors are Peanut Butter Cookie and Coconut Cream Pie - these bars taste as good, if not better, than the actual desserts. Best of all, they are made with ingredients you can feel good about. For example, Peanut Butter Cookie has just three ingredients - peanuts, dates and salt!

LÄRABAR recently sent me some additional flavors to try. Whatever your sweet tooth craves, these bars will satisfy. Every flavor I tried was delicious and, like Peanut Butter Cookie, each contains only a short list of ingredients you can actually pronounce :)

Try serving these for dessert at your next get together :)

So now to make this post even sweeter - in addition to sending me a box of bars, LÄRABAR would like to gift one of you with a caddy of 16 mixed LÄRABAR flavors!

This prize could be yours!

To enter to win this awesome prize, you only have to visit the LÄRABAR website and then leave a comment on this post telling me which flavor you'd most like to try. It's that simple! I'll pick a winner at random on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Be sure to check back to see if you've won - I'll need the winner's contact info to pass along to LÄRABAR. 

I hope you all have a very sweet rest of the week :)

- ST

A Work in Progress

Hello Friends and happy 2013! It's the start of a new year - a fresh start, if you will - which means it's only appropriate to set some new goals.

I think of goals as works in progress with every one being measurable so I know if I'm making progress and when each has been achieved or not. Hopefully I'll be able to cross everything off my list by the end of the year, but if not, there's always 2014 - or the year after that!

Here's what's made my 2013 list, from easiest to hardest:

Log more miles in 2013 - Since I plan on increasing my weekly mileage to 60-70 during peak fall marathon training, I don't think this should be an issue. To help avoid injury while running higher mileage, I'll follow the two-easy-runs-for-every-hard-run rule. 

 I'll hit the roads in my new pair of Defyance 6 

While wearing cute running outfits from Oiselle!

Run with a friend or group 4x per month - This may not seem like a lot, but for someone who tends to run alone, it is! Running with faster people will help make me faster; running with those at my pace will help make the miles go by faster; running with those who are slower will help me run at an appropriate recovery pace.

Strength train 2x per week - As I start running more miles, strength training often takes a backseat. It's hard to make time for everything, but as I learned last year, not making time for it can lead to injury and having to take time off. 

Run a new PR in the 5k, half marathon and marathon distances - I'm always trying to get faster, so it's only natural my goals should include new PRs for my main distances.

Eat well to fuel training - I want to eat the best diet I can this year - one that helps fuel my training and helps me become the best runner I can be. Although I already eat pretty healthy, there are definitely a few areas I can improve (limiting the number of times I eat out, eating fewer sweets, etc.). I can measure results by how I feel throughout training and, of course, the number on my scale and body fat percentage! 

Foods like these taste great and help me train better!

Run a Boston Marathon Qualifying Time - This is by far the most lofty goal on my list. But what's the point of a goal if it doesn't make you at least a little nervous? In my attempt to meet this goal at next fall's Lakefront Marathon, I'll have to train harder than ever before - and that's a challenge I look forward to!  

This is a year that I'm going to push myself. It's a year for going fast, taking chances, running free and seeing just how much I can achieve. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds :)

Let's hold each other accountable: What are your goals for 2013, running or otherwise? How do you plan on achieving these goals?

I have a good feeling about 2013!

- ST