Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bacon Hashbrown Casserole

Truth: I didn't plan on posting my Bacon Hashbrown Casserole recipe. 

I made it last weekend for a brunch get together with girlfriends and no one was counting calories that morning. Which is a good thing, because let's be honest - there isn't anything remotely healthy about this one.

But, after a few requests for the recipe, I decided to share the love. Because who am I to deny others the delicious, fatty, cheesiness of this dish? ;) 

Bacon Hashbrown Casserole

1 32oz bag frozen hashbrowns, cubed or shredded
1 cup onion, diced
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
8oz sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup crushed chips, crackers or cornflakes
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the hashbrowns, onion, soup, yogurt, cheese, cooked bacon crumbles, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the crushed chips/crackers/cornflakes and melted butter.

Add the hashbrown mixture to a 9x13 casserole dish. Top with the chips/crackers/cornflakes. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Tell me: What is your favorite breakfast/brunch food?

- ST

Monday, January 26, 2015

Indoor Marathon Relay Race Recap

Back when I started running, the Indoor Marathon Relay was my first real race. My team, made up of two coworkers and a friend from the gym, had no idea how to train for the event or what to expect on race day. Looking back, I have to laugh thinking about my 'training' that consisted of running one mile as fast as I could on the treadmill. At the time, my pace for one mile was around 8:00. And on race day, it was much slower considering I had to run 6.55 miles, not just one. 

But despite a slow, painful race, I remember having so much fun. I loved the energy and working together with other people as a team. It made me excited to actually train for another race and so started my love affair with running :)

And now, five years after that first event, my team won the female team division! This year's teammates are fellow Oiselle birds - Sheila, Kim and Kristine. Our plan was to run two laps at a time (about 900m) throughout the race. This would enable us to run pretty fast, while also minimizing down time between turns on the track. 

It turned out to be a pretty good strategy. The race felt like an extended workout - but easier in some ways because there was music and extra long recoveries between repeats! As always, things felt tough around the 7th, 8th and 9th repeats - as it would during a regular workout - but wanting to run well for my teammates and also seeing so many familiar faces around the track helped me through those rough patches. 

 Photo by David Wiskowski

As we neared the end - we were so ready for the race to be over. Kristine flew so fast during the final lap and we were all so excited to greet her at the finish line. After a few 2nd place finishes and a 4th place finish, I finally had my 1st place finish!

Our results:

Time: 2:46:20
Pace: 6:21 min/mile
Gender Place: 1/XX?
Overall Place: 14/81

The win made the day pretty awesome! But also contributing to the fun was having another Oiselle team race with us. Megan, Allison, Nicole and Annie are all members of The Flock and had their own team at this year's relay. It was a blast seeing these ladies and watching all the Oiselle singlets fly around the track! 

And both Oiselle teams have to give a big thank you to Sara, who managed both teams at the event. She kept track of our laps, oversaw the run order, did the chip bracelet exchanges, etc. Basically, she was the true rockstar of the day!

After the race, we celebrated with a delicious feast at Maxie's Southern. A delicious meal to cap off the most wonderful day. I know I'm not the only one thinking we need to do this race again next year!

My questions for you:
  • What was your first race? How did it go?
  • What makes a race fun for you?
  • What song pumps you up pre-race or during a race?

Right now, I'm loving We Are So Alive Tonight (Wild Future).

- ST

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Balancing Act

Getting to the next level in running often means getting a little uncomfortable. To improve, you need to push yourself harder so you can reach peak fitness. Pay the price during tough workouts and you'll reap the rewards on race day.

But you also have to be careful to avoid overpaying - aka overtraining. Based on my training journal entries for the past few weeks, I can tell I am skating a fine line. Not so much with running - fortunately I have Coach Matt who tells me how long and how fast I need to run - but with balancing running and additional workouts. 

I have a tendency to get a little too ambitious and last week I paid the price. Without getting into it too much, I'll just say a near blackout Wednesday morning led me to the conclusion that days I've been considering "easy" have actually been too hard. 

 These delicious Honey Stinger chews saved me Wednesday morning!

Coach Matt lays everything out for me - easy run days, challenge workout days, long run days, recovery run days. Everything is balanced so I can nail my hard workouts, recover properly and still run enough miles every week. But in addition to running, I sneak in my own extra workouts - mainly classes at the Y and strength training. This wouldn't be a bad thing except I tend to work too hard during these sessions. The result is the easy days in my plan are no longer easy and I'm left feeling more fatigued than I should.

I'm not sure what the solution is - I won't give up my favorite classes anytime soon and strength training is necessary for running strong. But I need to find a way to scale back somehow. It might be as simple as running slower for the lap portions during certain classes. All I know is that I need to do something or else I'll end up having paid too high a price - with nothing to show for it.

So this week I'm scaling back on the additional workouts just a bit (no Y-Blitz, no additional strength training), mainly because I'm racing this weekend. Finally, the relay race is less than one week away! Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 5 mile run w/strides + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Tuesday: 7 mile workout
Wednesday: 5 mile recovery run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 6 mile run w/strides + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: Fleet Feet Sports Marathon Relay!
Sunday: 5 mile recovery run

Total: 38 miles

Ha, it's pretty funny when you look at a race week as a recovery week. But that's what I'm doing. This week's goals: Train smart, avoid excessive fatigue and have fun at the marathon relay :)

Tell me: How do you balance running with other types of exercise?

- ST

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Some diet articles will have you believe that Mexican food is a calorie and fat bomb and best avoided when trying to eat healthy. But I don't really believe that to be true. I think you can eat everything as part of a healthy diet - just a matter of finding a way to fit it in. 

I eat Mexican food all the time so have found several ways to make it a bit healthier without skimping on flavor. This is one of those recipes. 

Before you complain about the serving size being one enchilada, I should say that these are extra large enchiladas. More like burritos. So one is definitely enough ;)

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
Serves 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
12 oz enchilada sauce (I used Trader Joe's)
8 nine-inch, whole wheat tortillas (I used La Tortilla Factory low-carb, whole wheat)
1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese (I used 2 percent)
Cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno and cook until softened. Add chicken, black beans and corn and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and lime juice. Cook until heated through.

Spread 2-3 Tbsp enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Divide the chicken and black bean mixture between the 8 tortillas. Roll up each tortilla and place seam side down in the casserole dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with extra cilantro, Mexican hot sauce, chopped avocado, etc.

Tell me: What are you making for dinner tonight?

- ST

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Looking Ahead to the Marathon Relay + This Week's Training Plan

I have the itch to race.

It's been building for awhile now. I thought I would get some relief at Run Into the New Year but the weather didn't cooperate and I decided not to race. Initially I felt a little bad about skipping out because of the weather but Coach Matt said it was a great call to pass on this one. And if Coach Matt says it was a good decision, I'm okay with it.

But that means I haven't raced since Thanksgiving! For a girl that thrives on competition, this feels like an eternity. Fortunately, I have a race in less than two weeks - the Fleet Feet Sports Marathon Relay. This race is held at the Pettit National Ice Center indoor track and I'll be racing with a few fellow Oiselle teammates, Kim, Kristine and Sheila. 

Last year's relay team - we took 2nd Female Team!

While this race is definitely more about team camaraderie and having fun, I still intend on getting in some fast laps. I can tell I've lost some speed over the last few months but an all-out effort, no matter what the actual pace, will help satisfy my need to race!

Anyhow, things on the training front are going decently. I ended up taking a mini-step back between Christmas and New Year's with a few skipped runs but am now back where I was and hope to build from here during the remainder of winter. 

This week's plan includes:

Monday: 5 mile run w/strides + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals + Strength Training
Tuesday: 8 mile workout + Core Work
Wednesday: 4 mile recovery run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 6 mile run w/strides + Y-Blitz + Y-Kettle Bell Intervals
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 11 mile run w/60 second surges
Sunday: 5 mile recovery run

Total: 39 miles

My questions for you:
  • It's been wicked cold in WI lately - how do you stay motivated to run during periods of bad weather?
  • What weather conditions keep you from racing? Or, will you race through anything?
  • Have you ever participated in a relay race? If so, what was your experience?
  • What are you most looking forward to this week?

I'm looking forward to trying this recipe for Coconut Chicken Chili - and making a few tweaks to lighten it up!

- ST

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Questions, Questions and More Questions!

About a week ago, my blogger friend, Cecelia from Mommies Run, tagged me in a questionnaire-style post. So just for fun, I'm answering her questions - and also tagging a few of my favorite bloggers so I can learn their answers, too!

Let's get started ... 

Four names that people call me:
1. Sun - with the correct pronunciation, Soon
2. Sun - mispronounced as "Son"
3. Sunie - childhood nickname
4. Fatty - because I can't stay away from cookies and other fatty treats!

Four jobs I've had:
1. Gap sales associate
2. TV news intern
3. Newspaper reporter
4. Marketing copywriter

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. Love Actually
2. Mean Girls
3. Breakfast at Tiffany's
4. Clueless

Four books I'd recommend:
1. Run or Die
2. Racing Weight
3. The Lola Papers
4. The entire Harry Potter series

Four places I've lived:
1. Milwaukee suburb where I grew up
2. Madison, WI for college (UW-Madison)
3. Milwaukee, WI (current)
4. This space is TBD for now!

Four places I've been:
1. Bend, OR (Bird Camp!)
2. Chicago, IL
3. South Korea (trip for adoptees)
4. Boston, MA

Loved last summer's trip to Bend!

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Bend, OR
2. Portland, OR
3. Huntington Beach, CA - visiting my bestie, Debbie!
4. Madrid, Spain - my favorite of the European cities I've visited!

This pic's in MKE - I've yet to visit Debbie's new digs in CA!

Four things I don't eat:
1. Mushrooms
2. Tofu
3. Chocolate covered strawberries - or any type of chocolate & fruit combo
4. Black licorice

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Pizza
2. Guacamole
3. Chili 
4. Cookies

I could eat guac all day, every day

Four TV shows I watch(ed):
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. One Tree Hill
3. Gossip Girl
4. Revenge

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
1. Running new PRs!
2. My first destination race
3. Racing the 1-mile distance
4. Spring/Summer/Fall weather - because I'm already over winter ;)

Four things I'm saying:
1. Brrr!!!
2. Only X hours til I can hit the gym!
3. How many miles do I get to run today?
4. I wish cookies had negative calories.

Four people I'm tagging to do this next:
1. Hailey at Striding Strong
2. Tracey at Robot Lady Runner
3. Alicia at In Healthy Habits We Trust
4. Jen at Jen Chooses Joy

Join the conversation: What are four facts about you?

- ST

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Race Schedule

In a previous post, I mentioned I'm not running a marathon in 2015. Instead, I'm going to focus my training on the shorter distances that I love - 5k and 10k - and work on improving my time in the half marathon - a distance that my relationship with can best be described as love/hate. 

Below is my tentative race schedule. I highlighted my goal races although I'm still working with Coach Matt to determine goal times!

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay - I'm running this one with Oiselle teammates Sheila, Kim and Kristine. The main goal is to improve on last year's time while still having tons of fun in the process!

Kim, Sheila and I at last year's race!

Snowball Shootout 5k - This race is part of the Winter Run Series. Since winter running is not really a strength of mine, I'm more using these races as workouts than all-out efforts.

Cupid Shuffle 5k - See Snowball Shootout

Luck of the Irish 5k - See Snowball Shootout

Door County 5k - I was under the weather when I ran this race last year. So this year I hope to run healthy and crush last year's time!

After last year's DC race - looking forward to doing this one again!

Rock n Sole Quarter Marathon - This will be an automatic PR for me as I've never raced a quarter marathon. In fact, I've always kind of believed it to be a 'fake' distance, if that makes sense, so have avoided doing one. But this year, the race works well with my schedule so I'm going to take a stab at it!

Chicago Rock N Roll Half Marathon - The weather is always a major factor for this race - will it be hot? Humid? Both? As such, I set my expectations pretty low and while I'd love to run faster than last year, I'll see what the day holds. 

The race to the finish line at last year's #RNRCHI

Race for the Bacon 5k - This is one of my absolute favorite races. While I enjoy running in Sheridan Park, I'm more in it for the bacon at the end of the race ;)

Hurry, there's bacon at the finish!

Lake Country Half Marathon - I'm already a bit nervous about this race. I've raced it before so know the course and think it plays to my strengths. Just a matter of getting in a solid block of training before the big day and then seeing what I can do when it's time to go!

Milwaukee Running Festival 1 Mile - Another automatic PR! Believe it or not, I've never raced a mile so I'm really looking forward to this one. Should be a leg-burning, awesome time.

Milwaukee Running Festival 5k - As practice for the San Antonio races later in the year, I'm going to race back-to-back days. Plus, I want to be in on all the action and excitement at the first Milwaukee Running Festival!

San Antonio Rock N Roll 10k - This will be my first true destination race and I think it will be a lot of fun! Since I was selected as a Rock N Blog team member (more on this to come), I knew I'd want to race additional Rock N Roll races this year. So San Antonio it is!

San Antonio Rock N Roll 5k - If I'm traveling to San Antonio for a race, I figure ... why not do two races? ;)

Tell me: What's on your 2015 race schedule? 

If we're doing any of the same races, let's meet up! :)

- ST