Monday, February 25, 2013

CORE Foods Product Review

Good morning! Did everyone have a good weekend? Mine was pretty chill - the main excitement involved meeting friends for brunch at Simple Cafe's new East Side location. If you live in the Milwaukee area, or ever come for a visit, be sure to check out this restaurant. The menu features mostly seasonal and local foods, creatively prepared into dishes such as Pumpkin Pancakes, Mashed Potato Omelet and Chorizo Sweet Potato Sope Benedict. Soooo delicious!

Anyhow, I was recently asked to do a product review for CORE Foods, a non-profit company that creates portable meals. These meals offer the convenience of packaged food, but are made from fresh, raw, locally-grown, organic ingredients. Each package contains four hours of energy and is the equivalent of one full bowl of oatmeal.

I tried three of the Defender Meals, which are high-fiber, vegan meals specifically formulated for toning and weight management. There are three varieties: Raw Almond Raisin, Raw Cashew Cacao, and Raw Walnut Banana.

My thoughts on the product:
  • These are truly meals - each bar packs about 400 calories, so they are not really for casual snacking during the day. 
  • The bars have a really dense consistency. However, I liked this because it made them seem more satisfying and more like actual food.
  • The bars are not sweet. Although I was expecting a dessert-like flavor, the lack of sweetness grew on me. Again, it made them seem more like real food.

Would I recommend the product? Absolutely! For anyone who eats a lot of meals on the go, these bars are a great option for a satisfying and nutritious meal.

If you're interested in trying these meals, CORE Foods is currently offering $5 off any order and hosting a giveaway to win a free case of meals worth $40. All you have to do is "Like" them on Facebook!

What are your strategies for eating healthy on the go?

- ST

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Training and Eating . . .

I don't know what it is about Thursdays, but whenever this day of the week rolls around I can tell simply by how my legs feel - tired and heavy! 

Normally, I wouldn't be as excited about the evening's workout, except this morning, I found a package on my desk that changed everything. 

You know what those birds mean - Oiselle goodies!

Inside was a very exciting mix of the new Oiselle Diamond Rogas, Winona tank, Fastk8 Fan T-shirt and Armwarmers! Obviously I need to try out the new gear stat ;)

Anyhow, I meant to post this week's training schedule and diet snapshot yesterday but it would have made my already long Big Chill Race Recap even longer. So here it is, just a tad late :)

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: 6 mile run @easy pace, 30 minutes strength training, 8 miles speedwork, 4-6 miles cycling
Wednesday: 8 miles speedwork, 6 mile run @easy pace, 30 minutes strength training, 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6 mile run @easy pace, 30 minutes strength training, 4-6 miles cycling
Friday: 4 mile run @easy pace, 4-6 miles cycling
Saturday: 12 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day

And . . . here's a typical day of eating this week:

Breakfast: 1/2 whole-grain blueberry bagel with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
Snack: Raw almonds and raw vegetables
Lunch: Tuna salad (tuna, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped onion, dill, black pepper) on a whole-grain wrap, cup of organic roasted red pepper and tomato soup, banana
Snack: Whole-grain pretzels
Dinner: Vegetarian tortilla soup (sub avocado for cheese), steamed spinach and broccoli, pear

Go easy on the chips!

Let's compare notes: How are you training/eating this week?

- ST

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Big Chill 5k Race Recap

I can finally cross a 21:XX time off my list - My official chip time for The Big Chill 5k: 21:51!

I knew I was going to go for a PR, so my race week prep included running conservatively, eating well (with the exception of the bloody mary and burger after Thursday's run), getting plenty of sleep and maybe most importantly, rehearsing the race mentally. I had a rough idea of the course, so I took time every day to review my strategy and how I would push through difficult parts of the race.

Of course, there's always some unplanned element that pops up - in this case, the weather. Single-digit temps (the race directors said 2 degrees at the start!) are not my cup of tea, because I find it hard to run fast when bundled up in multiple layers. I wore tights, shorts, two long-sleeve tops, my Oiselle singlet, a neck warmer, headwarmer, mittens and SmartWool socks. I felt like a fat snowwoman, however I didn't feel chilled and surprisingly didn't overheat during the race.

All those layers were topped off with a customized race bib :)

The one thing I didn't wear is my Garmin. My strategy was to run at maximum effort without worrying about a pace on my watch. Also, I had a time in my head - 21:57 - and I wanted to see how close I would come to running it without assistance.

As for the race itself? It was both challenging and exhilarating. During the first mile, I focused on how happy I was to race and even though it was cold, the sun was shining and there was no wind. During the second mile, I focused on passing as many people as I could. This is a great confidence booster and makes the difficult second mile by go a lot faster. 

Mile three is where the struggle really began. I wanted to slow down but told myself to keep pushing and that every second counts when trying for a new PR. I had a line from a Pink song stuck in my head, "Just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die," which pretty much sums up how I felt! My stomach started cramping in the last half mile or so and I couldn't wait to see the finish line. Finally it came into view and I kicked it in the best I could. 

After crossing the line, I resisted collapsing on the nearest pile of snow. Instead I chose to walk it off and after a few minutes, I had caught my breath and my stomach felt back to normal. Since I'm usually so focused on finishing the race, I rarely look at the clock by the finish line. As a result, I had no idea what my time was since I didn't wear a watch. It felt like an extra long wait until I was able to look up my results online.

Here's what I found:

Time: 21:51
Average Pace: 7:03
Overall Place: 83/490
Age Group Place: 7/52

I was so excited when I saw these results! It's so satisfying to have my training pay off and to have pretty accurately guessed my finishing time - 21:51 isn't too far off from 21:57. My inner perfectionist was content with this new PR for an entire 24 hours - before asking how much faster I can run in upcoming races :)

So it's time to set the bar even higher - to a 20:XX time. This will definitely take a lot of training, but I'm confident that in time, I'll be able to cross this goal off my list, too. While it certainly is a bit scary to think about running that fast, what's the point of setting a goal that isn't intimidating? It's like my favorite Oiselle t-shirt says, "Go fast. Take chances." 

This year's motto

 I'm curious: Do you race with a watch or without one? Do you check out your time as you cross the finish line? What are your current race goals (any distance)? Also, who wants to volunteer to be my personal race photographer at an upcoming race? ;)

Sorry about the lack of pics in this post - I was waiting to see if I would get any from the race, but looks like there was not a race photographer! 

- ST

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guest Post: Moore Family Food

Hey Everyone! Today, I have a special treat for you - a guest post from my friend, Melissa!

I met Melissa through running – she is one of those crazy fast girls and I would love to someday post marathon times like hers! We recently ran on the same relay team, M.A.S.S. Destruction, for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon RelayRace. It was a ton of fun and hopefully we can do another relay together at some point.

Today, Melissa is going to share some of her best winter running tips. Thanks so much!

Hi guys, I’m Melissa and I spend my days blogging about food over at Moore Family Food. Most people who read my blog might not know it BUT I love to run. After spending most of my life in the sunny South, my crazy husband and I packed up our lives and moved to snowy Midwest. I hate, hate, triple hate the treadmill and therefore I run outside as much as possible. I am proud to report that I have only spent two days running inside this winter! People seem to be amazed that I drag myself out of bed at 6am when it’s below freezing but with the RIGHT gear and knowledge, it is not only POSSIBLE most of the time, it is even ENJOYABLE.  

This can look pretty intimidating without the right gear and preparation!

The Rules of Winter Running

1. Dress in layers - When the weather app on your phone is reading negative temps you might be tempted to just run in your ski jacket but don’t! Big and heavy clothes will weigh you down and cause you to sweat thus actually making you COLDER. It’s best to dress  in warm but light layers. Consider a wicking base layer under a jacket or fleece. 

2. Take it easy - I try not to have too many expectations about runs, especially when the snow is deep.  Running in snow is a lot like running in sand. Take it easy, watch for ice, and enjoy the scenery! 

3. Consider a pair of YakTrax - What in the world is a YakTrax? It’s a traction device made to fit onto your running shoes. They are perfect for running when there is a layer of ice or snow on the ground. I have the PRO version because I often run in the early morning when the sidewalks have yet to be plowed. They do have a running version with a variety of removable features so you can tailor them to your environment.   

4. Invest in quality gear - When it’s below zero, not any old article of clothing will do. Some clothes are specifically made for the snow and while it may be hard to stomach the higher price tag, it WILL be worth it. Plus you won’t be wearing them too often so they should last you for at least a few winters. Check out your local running store and ask the staff for recommendations. I personally love my gear from Craft and Sugoi.

  Warm mittens are a must during winter runs

Thanks again Melissa, for sharing all these great winter running tips! 

Fellow runners: Do you run outside during the winter months or hit the treadmill?

I'll admit, I'm a wimp when it comes to the cold, wind and ice and log many miles on the treadmill/dreadmill/sweatmill!

- ST

Monday, February 11, 2013

A New Workout + This Week's Training Plan

Hey Friends! Did everyone have a good weekend? Mine was pretty low-key and involved trying new recipes and watching back-to-back episodes of Gossip Girl: Season Five.

My guilty pleasure - I can't wait to see what happens next!

I was also riding the high of getting in a great week of training. It was the first week on my Wisconsin Half Marathon training plan and I survived! My favorite workout last week was one I recently read about in Runner's World. It's called 15-10-10-5 and I used it as my speedwork for the week. Here's how it works:

  • Set your treadmill to a 1.0 incline and begin your warmup (I did a two mile warmup)
  • After you warmup, set your treadmill to comfortably hard speed - a pace you can hold for an hour - and maintain for 15 minutes (I did 8 min/mile pace)
  • Increase pace and maintain for 10 minutes (I used my goal spring half marathon pace of 7:47 min/mile)
  • Increase pace again and maintain for 10 minutes (I used my goal fall half marathon pace of 7:30 min/mile)
  • Increase pace one more time to kick in the final 5 minutes (I set at 6:53 min/mile)
  • Slow pace for a cooldown

Note: Between each interval, take a one minute active recovery.

It's a great workout for building strength since you get to practice the different paces you'd use during a tempo run. However, it's easier mentally than a normal tempo run since you only have to hold the different paces for a short period of time and you get recovery intervals. Perfect for the start of a training cycle! 

My training this week is a tad different since I'm racing another 5k this weekend. Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Tuesday: 8 miles @ easy pace
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6 miles speedwork (quarters with the Milwaukee Running Group)
Friday: 8 miles @easy pace
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: The Big Chill 5k Race

I really want a good time at this upcoming race and I'm excited for the opportunity to run fast and compete! Fingers crossed the weather behaves on Sunday :)

Hopefully this year's Big Chill Race will be a bit warmer

That's enough from me. Is anyone else racing this weekend? How do you adjust your training during a race week?

If I'm not tapering for an A Goal race, I usually keep most miles easy and lift lighter weights.

- ST

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hit the Road (and Track) in Style!

Let's talk style today. As in #RunStyle.

First, let's get one thing straight: I absolutely believe function has to come first when it comes to training and racing attire. I'm not one to wear something just because it's cute if it doesn't perform. However, that being said, there are plenty of stylish options that allow you to work hard.

Although I love a pair of flashy racing flats, I'm going to focus this post on apparel. Here are a few of my favorite training, racing and post-racing looks, courtesy of my favorite running brand, Oiselle:

While training at the gym, this look will do the trick: Diamond Roga Short + Mesh Tank

While training outside during winter, wear this: Lesley Running Tight + Ribbon Lux Layer + Clearly Jacket

While racing, this look might make you run faster: Black Stride Short + Poppy Winona Tank + Black Arm Warmers + Wings Out Necklace

Post-race, take it easy in this outfit: Time Out Sweats + Poppy Stripey Long Sleeve Scoopneck

And if you'd really like to push it and wear Oiselle to work, I suggest: Straight Leg Run Pant + Charcoal Lux Layer + Runfinity Scarf

Note: All images were taken from the Oiselle website

Let's exchange tips and tricks: How do you incorporate style into your running (or other workout) apparel?

If anyone wants to try Oiselle, hit me up - I have discount cards to share with all of you!

- ST

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Not Racing a Spring Marathon

As some of you already know - or perhaps even guessed based on my training these past few weeks - I'm not doing a spring marathon as previously planned.

The original plan was to race the Wisconsin Marathon in May. Instead, I'm going to do the half marathon event at the same race as my "A Goal" this spring.

A few people have tried to convince me that I still have enough time to get ready to run the marathon. I'm sure this is true. 26.2 miles is a long way to go, but I'm confident that I could be ready to run that distance by May 4. Race it though? Eh . . . not so much. I haven't been running enough miles to build a strong base and since I've been struggling with hamstring issues on and off, it just doesn't seem like a smart decision.

And that's ultimately what's made up my mind to move down to the half marathon this spring. I recently wrote a new training plan, which starts this week. 

A tad dark, but hopefully you get the general idea!

I like to write my own training plans based on what I know works best for my body. Here are a few highlights:

  • Peak training at 56 miles/week
  • Long runs ranging from 12-18 miles
  • First half of the plan includes one speedwork session/week focused mainly on improving strength. Second half of the plan includes two speedwork sessions/week - one interval session and another focused on improving strength.  
  • 2-3 strength training sessions/week
  • 4-8 miles cycling, 2-3 times/week (to increase hamstring strength)
  • Plenty of foam rolling and stretching after every run

Here's how this week's training looks:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace; 30 minutes strength training; 4-6 miles cycling
Thursday: 6 miles @steady pace
Friday: Yoga class
Saturday: 12 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest day

I'm also reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald, which is giving me lots of good motivation to clean up my diet during this round of training. I'll write more about this book after I finish it, but I can already tell it's going to be a favorite of mine.

A great read for all runners!

Here's how a typical day of eating will look this week:

Breakfast: 1/2 whole-grain bagel w/1 Tbsp peanut butter; 1 serving plain, low-fat Kefir
Snack: Raw almonds; raw veggies (carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices)
Lunch: 1 whole-grain tortilla topped w/ 2 eggs scrambled, black beans, salsa and sprinkle of low-fat cheddar cheese; 1 banana or pear
Snack: Whole-grain pretzel sticks + a few gummy bears pre-workout for a quick energy hit
Dinner: Steamed spinach and beets topped with low-fat cottage cheese; organic split pea soup; blueberries

If everything works out, I should be able to race last year's goal time of 1:42:XX. Getting this done in May would be a big confidence booster going into marathon training this summer and would set me up for getting a sub 1:40 time at a fall half marathon race.

As always, it makes me nervous to think about these times and all the work ahead, but it's also really exciting. You never know what you're capable of unless you go for it and this time, I'm all in :)

Your turn! What goal(s) are you trying to accomplish? What steps are you taking to get there?

Let's find out what we're capable of this spring :)

- ST

Friday, February 1, 2013

Taco Stuffed Shells

Last night, I was forced to take an unplanned rest day. My right hamstring has been super tight and cramping ever since the relay race and I made the call to take a night off in hopes it will ease up enough that I can do my long run this weekend. 

I always feel kind of weird when I go home right after work - what am I going to do all evening? Last night, the answer was to make another one of Plain Chicken's casseroles. 

Taco Stuffed Shells is my kind of recipe - simple ingredients with easy-to-follow instructions. It was also extremely tasty and satisfying on a cold winter night. Although I liked the recipe with the ground beef, next time I'm going to try halving the amount and adding black beans, corn and zucchini to make the dish a bit healthier. 

I ate at least one too many of these stuffed shells

Taco Stuffed Shells
via Plain Chicken Blog

1 lb lean ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup water
1 cup cottage cheese (I used 1 percent)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used 1.5 cups)
21 jumbo shells
12 oz enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare jumbo shells according to package and set aside. 

Brown ground beef in a large skillet and drain off the excess fat. Add taco seasoning, salsa, water and cottage cheese, along with half of the shredded cheddar cheese. Simmer for five minutes. 

Stuff each shell with the taco meat mixture and place in a 9x13 casserole dish. Top with enchilada sauce and the remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

How do you spend your rest days, either planned or unplanned?

- ST