Friday, August 30, 2013

The Running Survey

I recently noticed a running survey floating around the blogosphere and decided to dedicate today's post to answering the questions.Just a little Friday, pre-holiday weekend fun :)

1.  FUEL: Shot Bloks, GU, Energy Chews, Candy or Other?
GU - it's not something I consider overwhelmingly tasty, but it gets the job done and that's what counts. My favorite flavor is Strawberry Banana. 

2.  Race Length: 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, Marathon, Ultra or Other?
Many runners hate 5ks because they hurt A LOT, but it's actually my distance of choice. I love the intensity from the gun, battling through the middle miles and finally getting to kick it home in the final quarter mile. As a bonus, you can recover from a 5k race a lot faster than a longer distance like a half marathon or marathon, which means you can race more of them every year!

At Race for the Bacon - one of my favorite 5k races!

3.  Workout Bottoms: Skirts, Running Shorts, Capris, Pants or Other?
Oiselle Distance or Roga shorts are my favorites. Sometimes when racing, I'll wear buns - but only when I'm feeling extra fast ;)

4.  Sports Drink: Gatorade, Powerade, Cytomax, Water or Other?
My drink of choice is Nuun - Fruit Punch, Grape or Cherry Limeade.  

Love, love, LOVE!

5.  Running temperatures: HOT or COLD?
I'll go with hot - I hate wearing running tights and extra layers on top. Plus, being completely clumsy, I'm afraid of slipping on ice while running. 

6.  Running Shoe Brands: Saucony, Mizuno, Nike, Brooks, Asics or Other?
Brooks Defyance or Cascadia for training, Saucony Kinvaras or Type A flats for racing. 

My favorite Kinvaras!

7.  Pre-Race Meal: Oatmeal. Bagel, Banana, Eggs, Cereal or Other?
An unfrosted, whole-wheat toaster pastry and a banana. If I'm not in the mood for food, I'll drink an Ensure.

8.  Rest Days: 1x per week, 2x per week, Never or Other?
I prefer one rest day per week, but since I'm currently in the building-back-from-injury phase, I'm taking two days of rest per week. 

9. Music: Have to have it or go without it?
I never run with music - even on the treadmill! I find it's an un-needed distraction and prevents me from truly connecting with the run.

10.  #1 reason for running: stress-relief, endorphins, you love to race, so you can eat all the cupcakes you want, weight-loss, love running for social reasons or other? 
At different times, I've run for pretty much all of those reasons. But the main reason I run is a sense of accomplishment. Whether it's just getting in a little four-miler after work or racing a new PR, I always feel better after a run. Nothing is more satisfying! 

Alright friends, now it's your turn to answer the survey questions! Pick a question or two to answer in the comments or complete the survey in the blog post of your own.  

Looking forward to seeing everyone's answers!

- ST 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mexican Quinoa Salad

When I saw 90+ degree heat in the weather forecast for this week, I knew salad would be the way to go for meals. However, I'm not much of a lettuce and carrots salad type of girl - I prefer something a bit heartier. 

This Mexican Quinoa Salad is the perfect thing to beat the heat and still satisfy your appetite. It has all the flavors of an indulgent Mexican feast, but is much lighter and healthier. It's also super easy to make and keeps well in the fridge so you have it on hand for several days of meals. 

I used red quinoa in this salad, but you can also use regular if that's what you have on hand. Either way, it will be delicious!

Mexican Quinoa Salad
*Slightly adapted from Lace & Race

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small white onion, small diced
1 cup dry red quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed
3/4 cup corn (I used frozen corn that was thawed and rinsed)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 green pepper, small diced
Cilantro, washed and chopped

Add olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. 

While onion is cooking, rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Once the quinoa is rinsed and your onion is cooked, add the quinoa to the pot along with the vegetable broth, tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover pot with a lid. Allow to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes - stirring occasionally - until the liquid is absorbed and your quinoa is soft, but not soggy. 

Remove the quinoa from the heat and allow it to cool before mixing in the green pepper and chopped cilantro. Keep chilled in the fridge until ready to eat. 

If desired, you could top with a bit of avocado, but I think this is pretty tasty on its own. Serve on top of spinach for an extra veggie boost and with blueberries for dessert :)

Let's chat: What's your favorite way to prepare quinoa?

- ST

Monday, August 26, 2013

Strider Half Marathon Recap

Some races require months of preparation. But other races ... a few days - or even just a few hours - will do.

And that pretty much sums up my Strider Half Marathon race on Saturday. Much like July's Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon, I used this one as a training run. No taper and no warm up before the race since I planned to use the first mile or so to get into a groove. 

I accidentally lined up a bit too far back from the start line and since there were about 2x as many racers as expected at the race, my first mile ended up being really slow - right around 9:05 pace. But I suppose since I skipped my warm up it wasn't a bad thing :) 

A pokey first mile - I'm the girl in the orange shorts :)
My goal was steady pace throughout. To keep things interesting, I decided to do a little surge at every hill. It broke the distance up a bit and gave me something to look forward to during the miles. It's a good thing I've been doing a lot of strength training because I definitely felt the last one in my glutes :)

I didn't start picking up the pace until the final half mile or so and waited until seeing the Mile 13 marker to launch a short kick. After crossing the finish line. I felt pretty good - no wanting to collapse on the grass after this one!

I was happy with my time since the effort felt reasonably easy throughout and definitely feel I could have run longer at that pace. So training continues to move in the right direction!

I don't think half marathons will ever be my favorite distance but I'm beginning to tolerate them again this year. Who knows - maybe next year I'll even get back to racing them ;) 

My questions for you:

  • Did you do the Strider Half this weekend? If so, how did you do and what are your thoughts on the race? 
  • Do you like racing half marathons? If so, what do you like about the distance?
  • Or, what is your favorite distance to race and why?

Despite the Strider Half having many more participants than anticipated, I think the Badgerland Striders did a great job with the race - it was well organized and a fun time for all!

- ST

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

What's not to love about mac & cheese? It's simple, covered in cheese and basically the ultimate comfort food.

Last night, Olallie MKE hosted a 5-Ingredient Healthy Recipe meet-up so I decided to slightly tweak my favorite mac & cheese recipe to make it a tad healthier. This version has more than five ingredients but is so simple to make that an extra item or two doesn't really make a difference. This recipe is perfect for a weeknight meal or side as it requires very little prep - no having to cook any pasta or vegetables in advance!

Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese
*Serves 8-10

1/2 stick salted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups macaroni pasta, uncooked
1 can artichokes, drained, rinsed and chopped
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cayenne pepper
1 quart 2-percent milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add melted butter to a 9x13 casserole dish. Top with an even layer of the uncooked macaroni. On top, add even layers of the chopped artichokes, spinach and shredded cheese. Sprinkle with the garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Pour the milk on top.

Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

I'd love to know - what's your favorite 5-ingredient recipe? Share in the comments below!

- ST

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest Race Recap

One of the best parts about racing with friends? It takes some of the pressure off and makes it a lot more fun!

I did Saturday's Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest 5k with Team Olallie* - specifically Michelle, Sheila, Laura and Kat.  

Thanks for the photos, Kat!

Now, normally before a race begins, I am a ball of nerves. I try to stay positive and tell myself it's going to be a great race. But . . . usually a bit of self-doubt creeps in and I start thinking I better line up with the walkers in the back! 

But having friends at the race really helped. We chatted and snapped some pics before the race started. Although I ended up lining up by myself, I was still feeling pretty positive about the race and knew that having the other ladies on the course would help me run better. 

Of course, make no mistake - it still felt tough! As always, I felt like collapsing in the grass after crossing the finish line, although I did feel better than I did at the Bacon Race. My legs were moving a bit better and the effort wasn't quite as hard. 

Here are my results:

Time: 22:22
Pace: 7:14
Age Group Place: 4/130
Gender Place: 10/427
Overall Place: 84/851

So about that 4th place AG - it turns out the girl who took 3rd beat me by only 4 seconds. I was definitely not very happy when I saw that because if I'm completely honest with myself, I could have run a few seconds faster. Just shows that those moments when you allow yourself to let up the pace for just a little bit can really end up costing you in the end! 

Overall though, Team Olallie did excellent and I am so proud of my teammates. Michelle ended up winning overall female and Sheila won 2nd place in the 30-39 age group. Kat and Laura both ran strong as well. 

 Post-race and totally spent!

Watch for Team Olallie at upcoming local races - I have the feeling we're going to be present at a lot more events :)

My questions for you:

  • Did you race this weekend? If so, how did you do?
  • Have you ever missed out on an AG or Overall prize by just a few seconds?

Let me know if you're interested in learning more about Olallie MKE - in addition to participating in races, we also have food, fitness and other wellness-related events!

- ST

*Note: Team Olallie is different from Oiselle Team - although, to make things extra confusing, Michelle, Sheila and I also run for Oiselle :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Purple Pesto Pasta

Is there anything more fabulous than the taste of fresh-picked basil in the summer? I love it and fortunately for me, my parents planted way too much in their backyard garden. I, of course, offered to help take some off their hands ;)

This year, in addition to the traditional green basil, my parents also planted purple basil. It's amazing! I can't really taste a difference between the green and purple basil but I love the rich, vibrant color of the purple leaves. 

I recently picked a ton of basil and decided to whip up a batch of pesto. My recipe is from a French cooking class I took a few years back and it never fails. Try this today for a delicious summer treat!

Green leaves for garnish!

Purple Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh-picked purple basil (can substitute with green basil)
3-4 medium cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

Add basil and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse to combine. Slowly add olive oil to the mixture while continuing to pulse. Finally, add the cheese (and salt if desired) and mix to desired consistency. 

I like serving pesto on top of pasta but you can also use it to top meat, soup, salad, as a sandwich spread or sauce for pizza. My favorite combo: Pasta + Pesto + Roasted Tomatoes + Sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese

I got a bit lazy and didn't make roasted tomatoes this time, but they are super easy - just add a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes to a baking dish and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. And that's it!

Since the basil I picked made only a small dent in my parents' crop, tell me:

  • What is your favorite way to use basil?
  • Am I forgetting any ways to eat pesto?

I hope you're all having a delicious start to the week :)

- ST

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Slowest Girl on the Track

Earlier this week, I attended a group track workout. Now, if you've ever done speedwork, you know it's pretty intimidating. The pressure's on to hit certain splits, and running at an uncomfortably fast pace is not really what most people consider enjoyable. In fact, if you're enjoying the workout, you're probably not running fast enough :)

So there was that stress going into the workout, plus my own nagging insecurity. It doesn't matter how many miles I run, races I finish or medals I win; I still worry about being the slowest girl on the track.  

Da da dum - the track strikes fear in the heart of many runners!

Since this was my first workout with the group, I had no idea what paces the other runners would run. I warmed up with three slow miles. Now granted I have a tendency to run warmups extremely slow, but I was getting passed left and right! Not exactly a confidence booster!

The evening's workout included two reps this series:

  • 800m
  • 400m recovery
  • 400m
  • 400m recovery
  • 200m
  • 600m recovery

For those of you not into track, 1 lap = 400m on a standard outdoor track. 

As we lined up for the first 800m, I thought surely I was about to be outrun by everyone else in the group. As such, I lined up further back because I didn't want to be that annoying girl who everyone has to run around because she lined up too close to the front. 

As we ran around the first curve, I began to realize most of the other ladies (and some of the men) were not running as fast as I needed to run. Soon enough, there were only four ladies in front of me. Then there were two. Then there was one. Then, I was the one in front! And once in front, there was no way I was going to let anyone pass me.

There were three guys in front of me during each of the intervals but I couldn't catch any of them. Believe me, I tried! I thought I might catch one on the final 200m but just couldn't quite do it. I suppose that means I have something to aim for next time!

As I ran my cooldown and drove home from the track, I thought about what a great workout it had turned out to be - I definitely ran faster than I would have had I done the workout alone. And even if next time it turns out I'm the slowest girl on the track, what's the worst that will happen? It will only be motivation to work extra hard :) 
So the moral of the story? Believe in yourself! Believe that you are fast enough and don't ever let your fears keep you from running the way you are able to or get in the way of improvement. 

Share your thoughts:

  • Do you worry about being the slowest person in the group/on the track/in the race? 
  • What else intimidates you when it comes to running?
  • How do you outrun self doubt?

- ST

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Running Lately + A Giveaway Winner!

It's Tuesday! And you know what that means - it's time to announce the winner of my SLS3 Marathon Compression Sock giveaway! 

And the winner is . . . April from Food n Focus! Congrats - I'll send you an email and we can figure out the mailing address details.

Alright, on to the running portion of this post. Lately, it's been all about logging consistent miles - most of them at easy pace with maybe a few strides or a fast finish thrown in for a bit of variety. It's been pretty boring, but necessary for rebuilding mileage and strength. I've even taken to running my Saturday morning long runs at a slower-than-I've-ever-run pace for a quicker recovery. 

Of course, now it's time to step it up a (modest) notch. Here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace; strength training (Lower + Core)
Tuesday: 8 miles speedwork (inc. 1.5 mile warmup and 1.5 mile cooldown); strength training (Upper)
Wednesday: 6 miles @easy pace; strength training (Lower + Core)
Thursday: 6 miles @easy pace
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 20 miles (8 @goal marathon pace)
Sunday: Rest day

Total: 46 miles + 2.5 hours strength training

In other running-related news, you all know that I run for Oiselle and now two of my friends have joined the team as well! I'm excited that Michelle and Sheila will both wear the Oiselle singlet at upcoming races :)

 Isn't it a beauty?

If you're not already familiar with Oiselle, check it out stat! The company makes the best apparel for lady runners - both quality and style are exceptional. Here are a few of my current faves:

I especially love the Flyte tank - I'm pretty sure I will soon own it in all three colors because it really is that great. A perfect, flattering fit and zero chafing!

Well, that's it for now. But wait - before we say goodbye, you need to tell me . . .

  • What are you currently training for and how is your training going?
  • How are you staying motivated to keep up your training?

Obviously, I use cute clothes to keep at it ;)

- ST

Friday, August 2, 2013

Race for the Bacon Recap

One of the things I love best about any training cycle is that feeling you get when you're making progress. When you start to feel stronger and faster and like all of the miles and workouts are coming together to help you run better. 

I started feeling good about my running at the recent Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon and last night's Race for the Bacon 5k helped build even more confidence in my training. 

With my AG award

 Here are my results:

Time: 22:45
Pace: 7:20 min/mile
Overall Place: 54/655
Age Group Place: 2/76

When I woke up Thursday morning, I felt pretty good about this one. I knew it would be challenging but I was really looking forward to running fast. I still haven't done much speedwork since my calf injury in June but my legs are feeling faster and turning over better these days. 

As usual, I lined up further back than I probably should. I don't especially like tripping over people at the beginning, but I do love the confidence boost of passing people throughout the race. It's almost like a little game to me. Pick a person in front of me, keep pushing my pace until I pass, then pick a new person in front of me to chase. 

About midway through, I noticed one of the people in front of me was my friend Tracey. She had a decent lead on me so I wasn't really too concerned with passing her, but it was super helpful to have someone to focus on when I really started feeling the race. She was running at a good pace so I just followed along behind - it was a no brainer!

Toward the end of the race, all I could think about was being done. Before the race started, I had planned to kick about a quarter of a mile from the finish line. I did manage to pick up the pace a bit, but couldn't execute the kick I've been practicing (6:40ish pace for the first 0.15 and finishing the last 0.1 at 5:48ish pace). I was just too wiped! On the plus side, I knew I had given it my all so I couldn't be too disappointed about it :)

Probably praying my legs don't give out before I cross the finish line

Tracey finished just ahead of me and collapsed on the curb and I did the same after I crossed the line. There's no question it was my best effort for that night so I consider it a good race. Just another stepping stone on my path to becoming a stronger, faster runner!

It's kind of amazing to me to think that earlier this year I ran a sub-22 minute time and set my sights on running 20:XX as my next 5k goal. I'm still aiming for that time - I've been logging consistent miles at a training level that's appropriate for my current fitness. I know if I can stick with it and stay patient, I'll get back to where I was and then push past that point.

Yesterday, I saw this quote from pro runner Kara Goucher and it pretty much sums up how I've been feeling about running:

"Erase from your mind that your preparation must be perfect. Hard work + dedication = a shot at your dreams. Keep believing."

Yes, keep believing - anything is possible if you're willing to work for it :)

Discuss: What signs do you watch for that let you know your training is coming together?

That's it for now - I hope you all have a great weekend!

- ST