Friday, September 26, 2014

Italian Vegetable Soup

When the temperature starts to drop, one of the things I love best is a bowl of warm, comforting soup. So in anticipation of the many chilly fall nights to come, I created a healthy but tasty vegetable soup.

The recipe may look like it requires a lot of ingredients but most are things you might already have at home. Regarding the seasonings, you can follow what I used or sub in your own favorites. 

One of the best things about soup is that you can customize it to your tastes so it's exactly the way you like it. Comfort in a bowl, no matter how you season it :)

Italian Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 yellow squash, halved and sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
3/4 cup dry macaroni pasta, cooked and drained
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle
1 tbsp dry parsley
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 handfuls spinach
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat then add onion, garlic, carrots, celery zucchini and yellow squash. Cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and cooked pasta and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add stock and seasonings and bring to a light boil before reducing heat to low. Allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

While the soup is cooking, you can prepare Brie and Herb Crostini to top each bowl of soup. 

For the crostini:
8 1/4 inch thick slices of baguette
2 Tbsp macadamia nut oil (you can also use olive oil)
1 tsp dry herbs of choice (I used basil)
8 pats of brie cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine oil with herbs and brush baguette slices with the mixture. Top each slice with brie. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until brie is melted and bread is crisp.

Tell me: What is your favorite fall soup?

- ST

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Enough With the Excuses!

It should be an easy question - What's your goal for the race? But lately, I've noticed that runners, including myself, are hesitant to give a straight answer. Instead of stating a goal, there's a lot of hemming and hawing. "Well ... I'd like to run X:XX but, you know, I've had some knee problems lately/training wasn't perfect/the weather hasn't cooperated/etc. so who knows what will happen ..."

It's one thing to have an injury and accept that it will likely change your race plan and goal. It's also perfectly acceptable to not want to share your race goal. But the thing I take issue with is all the excuses!

I completely get it. It's scary to put a goal out there. To say exactly what you want to achieve because there's always that chance you'll fall short. Sometimes it's easier to just play it off like it's no big deal. If you don't put yourself on the line, you can't fail - but you'll also never realize your full potential. Like Shalane Flanagan once said:

By allowing excuses before a race even begins, we set ourselves up for failure. Believe a tight calf  is going to affect your ability to achieve your goal time and midway through the race when you're getting tired, you'll let that excuse creep in. Today's not the day. My calf is tight. I'm not going to get my time. I can let up just a bit and coast to the finish.

But to sell yourself short is to disrespect all the training you put into the race. You worked hard for your goal so why would you start making excuses when you're so close to realizing it? Instead, grit your teeth and acknowledge achieving any goal requires hard work. And with running, it's likely going to hurt. Accept this without excuses.

And at worst, if you miss your goal ... so what? True, there's disappointment in working hard and not getting what you want. But it's not the end all, say all. It's not failing. You just need to brush yourself off and try again.

So be fearless. Put your goal out there. No qualifiers. No excuses.

My goal for Lakefront Marathon is a BQ time.

Tell me: what is your current race goal?

- ST

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Best Salad Ever

Normally, I'm not much for salads. I like them as a side with lunch or dinner but as a main dish I usually find they're not filling enough. 

Until I discovered this salad, which I am calling The Best Salad Ever. Seriously, this salad will keep runger away for hours. It's a perfect lunch before an evening workout or just the thing to eat for a post-workout meal. It's also super portable - just pack the ingredients in a container and you have a delicious lunch to enjoy at work or wherever life takes you! 

To make this salad, we need to start with a little prep work. I typically make the following three recipes on Sunday evening and then just use as needed throughout the week.

Tuna & Chickpea Salad

1 can chunk light or yellowfin tuna in olive oil, drained
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 small onion, minced
2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp dried dill weed
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. This salad tastes best if it's allowed to sit overnight for the flavors to combine.

Roasted Zucchini & Summer Squash

1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 summer squash, halved and sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Placed vegetables on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil (easy cleanup!). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Apricot Almond Couscous

1 cup dried whole wheat couscous
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried mint
1 Tbsp dried parsley
12 dried apricots, diced
1/8 cup sliced almonds

Combine broth, olive oil, onion, garlic powder, mint and parsley in a medium pot. Bring contents to a boil, then add couscous. Cover and remove from heat. After liquid has been absorbed - about 5-7 minutes - fluff with a fork. Mix in apricots and almonds.

And ... we're now ready to assemble the salad!

The Best Salad Ever
Makes 4-5 servings 

4-8 cups of raw greens (kale, spinach, a lettuce blend - pick your favorite!)
1 batch Apricot Almond Couscous
1 batch Roasted Zucchini and Summer Squash
1 batch Tuna and Chickpea Salad

For each serving, start with 1-2 cups of raw greens. Top with couscous, followed by roasted vegetables and finally the tuna chickpea mixture. 

I find I don't need dressing for this salad given all the flavors in each component but if you really want to add something, you could try a lemon-based vinaigrette. 

Join the conversation: What's in your favorite salad?

- ST

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Right Now

Three weeks. Well, actually less than three weeks. That's the amount of time that stands between me and this year's Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. And right now, things are feeling very real. 

Sunday night, I got my tentative race plan from Coach Matt. It got me super excited for the next three week's of training and taper. I want so badly to execute the plan perfectly. Which means until the race, I'll be doing everything I can to set myself up to get to the start line healthy and ready to run!

For starters, here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 5 mile run + strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Tuesday: 11 mile workout
Wednesday: 5 mile run; Absolution + Strength Training
Thursday: Salus Corporate Challenge 5k + wu & cd miles
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 4 mile run
Sunday: 14 mile run, inc. goal marathon pace miles

Total: 44-46 miles

The plan, of course, is assuming my not-quite-fully-healed-from-the-fall knees will cooperate and allow me to train. My right knee is on the road to a full recovery. The left one is still struggling at times but getting there (I hope). 

The recovery process is beyond my control so I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. Because there are things I actually can control - such as nutrition and rest. The sleep part is not a problem - lately, I feel like I could sleep 10 hours a night due to the dark and gloomy weather. So I'm good there! 

As for nutrition, I'm a firm believer in keeping it simple. A few things I've been eating lately:

Garden Farro

The Best Salad Ever - recipe to come!

Quinoa Spinach Salad + Peaches!

Roasted vegetables!

Naturally, there have also been some less healthy eats in the mix as well - ahem, chips and salsa for dinner one night! - but for the most part, I'm trying to keep in mind that food = fuel. And I'd rather fuel with nutritious fare that's going to help me achieve my goals!

My questions for you:
  • What is your goal fall race?
  • What things do you do to make it to the start line of a race as healthy and rested as possible? 
  • What have you been eating lately? 
  • When do you cut out alcohol before a big race?

Happy Tuesday!

- ST

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Greek Layer Dip

At any get together, one of the first snacks to disappear is the dip - taco dip, spinach artichoke dip, french onion dip ... they're all party favorites. The only thing is they tend to be not so great for your health.

So recently, I discovered a different type of layered dip - one that doesn't include loads of cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon, etc. Greek Layer Dip is a party treat you can indulge in, guilt free. Plus it can be made in about 10 minutes flat. What's not to love about that??

Greek Layer Dip

1 7oz container hummus (I used Sabra Classic)
1 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, diced
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Pita chips and/or vegetables for serving

Spread hummus in the bottom of an 8x8 pan or 9 inch pie pan. Top with olives, followed by cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese. Serve with pita chips and vegetables!

And that's it - the easiest recipe ever.

Tell me: What's your go-to snack to bring to a party?

- ST

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Fall

Last week, I had some of my best runs of the summer. Fantastic morning miles, lunch  miles, after work miles ... I loved them all and was feeling on top of the world. Naturally this could only mean I was due for a fall.  

And fall I did - on Lake Drive, landing hard on both knees. In the moments before the fall, I was watching two people that were hiding behind some bushes and taking pics of one of the mansions lining the street. I was distracted and not paying the best attention to the pavement in front of me. And the next thing I knew, my toe caught on an uneven patch of cement and I flew forward.  

My first instinct was to jump up as quickly as possible and keep running. I was super embarrassed! I was in a bit of shock and couldn't let myself look down at my knees to assess the damage. I knew it wouldn't be good. When I reached the Lake Park bathroom, I finally stopped. It was gross. Blood. Dripping. Swelling. I decided I had no choice but to pick up the pace a bit to get home faster so I could bandage my knees. Also, I knew there was a chance my knees were going to lock up at some point and it would be better if I was at home when this happened.  

So I made it home, showered, and bandaged my knees the best I could. I had high hopes they were just a bit banged up but would be fine the next day.

Every accident-prone girl has a full arsenal of bandages at her disposal!
Wrong. My knees wouldn't stop bleeding and as I suspected, they locked up. But ... I thought if I took care of them, I could still get in my very important marathon simulation run the next morning. I had really been looking forward to this run - a final long, hard effort before Lakefront Marathon. So I tried to stay optimistic. I would be cured in time to have an awesome 20-miler.  

So I woke up Saturday morning, had my usual long run breakfast, got dressed in the outfit I plan to wear at Lakefront, stashed my gels in my FlipBelt, and headed out the door. I chose to ignore the stiff feeling in my knees and covered them up with some extra strong, extra large, waterproof bandages.  

Within one block, pain kicked in. I thought I could shake it so kept running. Because sometimes a run feels bad for a few blocks but then things resolve themselves and everything feels fine. I held out hope but every stride continued to hurt. I couldn't bend my knees. I was afraid of falling again. I made it one mile - at a very slow-for-me pace of 10:53. I called it a day.  

Sunday was a rest day. Coach Matt said I can try running again this afternoon/evening. If things feel okay, I can try the marathon simulation again on Tuesday. If not, more days off may be necessary.  

Sometimes the hardest part of training for a race is working through times like this. Tell me to run XX miles and I will run XX miles. Tell me that I can't run and need to take a few days off ... And I will have a mini meltdown.  

So right now, it's not about building endurance or testing my speed. It's about working on my ability to stay positive when the times get tough. To recall the training and workouts I've already done. To believe in myself and my potential. And to have faith that the tide will turn and things will get better.  

I got knocked down but I'm not out. Just like a rough patch during a race, I'll ride it out - and then kick it up to get to the finish line, faster and stronger than ever.

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever taken a fall during a run or race? 
  • What is your weirdest running-related injury?
  • Sidenote: What are you most looking forward to this week?

I am looking forward to Briggs and Al's on Saturday. I'm doing the walk and will stroll along while sipping a large iced pumpkin spice latte :)

- ST

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Try It: FlipBelt

When I run, I don't want to be weighed down by anything - I want to fly! Less is more so I do whatever I can to limit the number of things I bring on a run - I usually plan my route around drinking fountains so I don't have to carry water and don't bring my phone or iPod because extra weight and cords! I often even go without a watch for easy runs because I don't even like having something around my wrist!

But when my runs get longer, there are certain things I can't do without - packets of GU, paper towels to mop sweat, cash, keys, etc. I've tried stuffing everything in my shorts pockets but this has led to comments about extra 'junk in the trunk'.

In the past, I've tried things like a Fuel Belt (too bulky plus it bounced as I ran) and a belt-like thing with a pocket (slipped over my hips and also bounced). For my first marathon, I had the brilliant idea that I'd safety pin my GUs to my shorts - only to stab myself with a pin during the race! 

Fortunately those problems are a thing of the past. I've since discovered FlipBelt - the lightest, easiest belt/pouch for carrying items during a run or race. 

Wearing a FlipBelt at last year's Lakefront Marathon!

The belt comes in several colors and sizes and reminds me of the wide band at the top of a pair of yoga pants - it's also just as comfortable as wearing a pair of yoga pants. In fact, I often forget I'm wearing my FlipBelt while running!

There are a few slits within the belt to stash whatever items you may need. And unlike other belt products that have zippers, etc. it's super easy to remove items from the FlipBelt - just reach in one of the slits and pull out whatever you need! Perfect for grabbing a GU mid-race when you can't slow down for even a few seconds. 

Stashing a Gu is easy with FlipBelt!

Here's a little demo about how FlipBelt works:

If you're interested in getting a FlipBelt of your own, they are currently offering 10 percent off orders with the code Sweat33 through Sept. 7. Try it out - you won't regret it!

Tell me: How do you carry your fuel, keys, cash, etc. during a run?

- ST

*I was provided with a FlipBelt for review as part of my Sweat Pink Ambassadorship. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lake Country 5k Recap

Lake Country is one of the races I look forward to every year. To me, it signals the start of fall racing, which in my mind means the potential for faster times! It's also been a race where I have PR'd twice before. My first year of running, I shaved more than a minute off my PR and then last year, ran another PR. I have fond memories of both of these races being killer efforts - hard the entire time, but so worth it in the end when I saw my time. So my hopes were set on the same type of race for this year. I was ready to run fast and accept whatever pain may come!

Every race is an opportunity!

Before the race, Coach Matt and I worked out a plan that basically boiled down to racing my fellow runners and using that momentum to get to the finish line as fast as possible. I liked this plan a lot - mainly because it would allow me to be free of my watch and keep my focus on effort and pushing myself to the limit the entire race. There's nothing I dislike more than having to monitor my splits each mile to see if I'm going too fast or too slow. Often - at least for me - the best pace is the one that feels right in the moment, no matter what the watch says!

So I lined up near the front and told myself this is going to be fun :) And then we started to run! As expected, pretty much every moment of this race felt incredibly hard. I actually don't remember much that happened except that I started much faster than I normally do, managed to chase down one girl around the mile 1 marker and from that point was just trying to catch the 2nd female who was not too far ahead of me. But the pain. I couldn't catch my breath and my legs were on fire, but I wouldn't let myself slow down or let up because I really thought I could catch up. She got away in the end but I was still pleased with how I did and thought I followed the plan from Coach Matt pretty well!

I couldn't believe it when I saw my time. And in all honesty, I still can't really comprehend it. I've even been going around looking for 'evidence' that the course was short because my mind just won't process it. But I haven't found anything and have had a few people tell me I need to stop it and just believe in the result. So ... I guess it's time to have a little more confidence in myself! And just to prove it wasn't a one-time fluke, you better believe my 5k goal for next year will be to run that time again. Or maybe even beat it ;)

My questions for you:

  • Have you ever run a PR that you didn't think you deserved?
  • Have you ever raced a short course? What were your thoughts if you ran a PR that day?
  • A non-running question - What do you love most about fall?

I'm looking forward to apples. Fresh, delicious apples that are perfect in apple crisp or for eating plain - with a side of peanut butter ;)

- ST