Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 2014 Run Recap + Up Next

Where does the time go? It really seems like only yesterday I was writing about my plans and goals for 2014. And now here we are, wrapping up another year!

In my mind, 2014 was a success. Although there were several "wins" in my mind, the following really made the year special:

Working with Coach Matt - It was great working with an expert and doing new workouts specially tailored to my racing goals. I'm sure it was Coach Matt's guidance that led to the next item on the list!

New 5k, 10k and Half Marathon PRs - Awards are great, but PRs are better! 

Wearing buns = Running a PR!

Bird Camp!!! - I loved meeting my wonderful Oiselle teammates and visiting the incredibly beautiful Bend, OR. It was so fun dedicating five full days to running, learning about running, talking about running, meeting other runners, etc. And we still managed to do plenty of non-running activities, too! 

Look at that sea of beautiful Oiselle singlets!

New friends!

The best roommates :)

Joining the YMCA - I had the unique opportunity to partner with the YMCA Milwaukee to do a series of blog posts. Over several months, I went to the Downtown Y location and quickly fell in love. The best part is the wonderful class selection with Y-Blitz, Y-Fuse and Y-Kettle Bell Intervals being just a few of my favorites!

So what's next in 2015? Well, some of you may be surprised to hear that I'm not going to run a marathon. Instead, my focus will be on improving my times in shorter distances, mostly 5ks (my favorite!!) with a few 10ks and half marathons sprinkled in.

While I love marathon training, I think taking a year off to get stronger will be key to racing a faster marathon in 2016. But don't think I'll be slacking on mileage or workouts - I plan on getting back to 50 miles per week this winter and building from there throughout spring, summer and fall!

My questions for you:
  • What 2014 accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What's on your list of goals for 2015?

Looking forward to another fantastic year of running! 

- ST

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lentil Spinach Curry

When I went to Bird Camp in August, I met some of the best people, one of them, my roommate, Nicole. I've been following her blog, Fitness Fatale, and over the weekend decided to try one of her recipes. 

I adore Indian food - eating a delicious curry is just the thing to warm up during a Wisconsin winter. To get my fix, I usually hit a local Indian restaurant but Nicole's recipe looked so simple that I decided to try making it for once. And it turned out great! I definitely recommend making this simple, vegan curry - it's the perfect lunch or dinner to chase away the chill!

Lentil Spinach Curry
From Fitness Fatale

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-4 tsp curry powder (Originally recipe calls for 2 tsp but I added closer to 4 tsp. Season to taste.)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
1 tsp salt
1 14oz can light coconut milk
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 3/4 cup water
1/3 cup cashews
3 cups fresh spinach
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

For serving:
Basmati rice
Cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until soft and translucent. Then add mustard seeds, curry powder, turmeric and lentils. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add additional oil if necessary.

Mix in the salt, coconut milk, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils have cooked through and the mixture has thickened.

Stir in the spinach, cashews and cilantro and cook until heated through. Serve on top of basmati rice topped with extra cashews and cilantro. 

Tell me: What is your favorite food to eat to warm up during winter?

- ST

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Gift to Myself

I recently looked back in my training log and noticed last year in December I only logged a total of 66 miles. That's it. The flu knocked me down hard that month and times when I felt okay enough to run I lacked motivation. It was a bad month for training.

This year - knock on wood - is a completely different story. I'm feeling stronger and my motivation to get fit couldn't be higher. All I want to do is run faster times again and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

So when I got my most recent block of training from Coach Matt, I was excited to see weekly mileage back at 40 with long runs gradually getting longer. Coupled with classes at the Y and a bit of extra strength training on my own, I'm confident I'm way ahead of where I was last December! 

Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 6 mile run + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals + Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 400m intervals
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 6 mile run + Y-Blitz + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 12 mile run
Sunday: 5 mile run

Total: 40 miles

Starting 2015 with better running fitness - it's my gift to myself this year ;)

My questions for you: 
  • How do you stay in shape or improve fitness over the holiday season?
  • What are you gifting yourself this year?

- ST

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Weekend Races

With chilly temps, cloudy skies and arctic winds, this weekend marked an official welcome to winter racing. I raced two 5ks - the Town Bank Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day and The Big Chill on Sunday.

My major takeaway from the two races: I'm out of shape for racing 5ks!

Here's how the two races went down:

Town Bank Turkey Trot
This was a cold, cloudy morning to race. I wore an old pair of Oiselle Lesley Knickers, a Wazelle Long Sleeve and topped it off with Oiselle Feather Trials Hoodie. I was a tad worried about overheating during the race but ended up wishing I had also added a scarf or neckwarmer to the ensemble. The wind was brutal!

Anyhow, the race ended up being pretty slow for me. There were a few slick spots (bridges, wooded trails, etc.) and I decided to slow down to avoid falling. I also just wasn't feeling a crazy fast race. Despite the chill, I enjoyed running through such a pretty area. Toward the end of the race, I became aware of two ladies that were running near me. They both passed me in the third mile but I was able to pretty easily latch on and then kick past them in the stretch to the finish. 

My race stats:

Time: 22:49
Pace: 7:22 min/mile
Age Group Place: 2/XX
Gender Place: 9/XXX

My AG prize

Despite the slow time, I was okay with the result. The goal was to run at medium-hard effort and I felt I achieved that with the race!

The Big Chill
Earlier in the week, the forecast showed a nice sunny day with temps in the low 40s for this race. But by the time Sunday arrived, it was a cloudy, windy day with temps in the low 30s with a real feel in the low 20s. Brrr. So another day of bundling up in capris and a sweatshirt. 

I'll admit, I was kind of dreading this race all week. I'm not a fan of the course (it winds through an industrial park) and remember the building runners wait in before and after the race as being unheated. I was at least wrong about the building part - it was a warm and pleasant place to wait before the race. The course though ... just as boring as I remembered. And a stiff headwind made stretches of the race really tough. 

I really wanted to run this one faster since it is part of the Winter Run Series and counts toward the series points, but my legs just wouldn't have any of it. So it was slow going. I should have been smarter about tucking into a group to make the race a bit easier but ended up running alone for the most part. There were a few other people around me but no one close enough to share the wind burden with!

Here are my race results:

Time: 22:28
Pace: 7:15 min/mile
Age Group Place: 2/43
Gender Place: 10/XXX

Mom and I after the race with our AG medals!

So faster than Thanksgiving but not by much and not as fast as I wanted. But after chatting with Coach Matt, I do feel a bit better about the races. He pointed out that we haven't worked on 5k speed in a long time so it's going to take some work before it returns. As fitness improves, speed will improve as well.

Since Lakefront Marathon, I've pretty much been running without any specific goals. But now, my goal is clear - regain speed! Ha, if for no reason other than getting out of the cold faster at these winter races ;)

My questions for you:
  • What are your running goals for the winter season?
  • What workouts do you do to help regain speed?
  • What is your favorite holiday indulgence?

I can't stay away from Christmas cookies when they're within sight. So mine go straight into the freezer so I can control my portions by taking out only a few at a time :)

- ST