Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ready to Race!

Last week, I wrote about a recent bad training week. I'm happy to report that last week's training was like a complete 180. And just in time, considering this week is race week!!

Earlier this week, Coach Matt and I solidified my race plan for the Nicolet Bay 5k. This is a goal race for me and I'm planning to run it HARD. I know the course since I did the race last year and it is pretty ideal for running fast. A flat out and back - it doesn't get better than that!

After last year's race - I was the 4th female and 2nd in my AG.

This year, I have three goals:

A: Run a new 5k PR
B: Run a 20:XX time
C: Not get passed by a single female after mile 1

I'm feeling pretty confident about this race. I've done the work and now it's time to see what I can do when it counts. One thing that I think will make a difference is that I trained a lot of workouts using minutes intervals rather than distance intervals. For example, two 11-minute intervals or three 9-minute intervals. It's been a shift for me to do intervals this way - instead of thinking I only need to cover a half mile during this interval, it's changed my mindset to I have to run for X minutes - how much distance can I cover? I plan to use this practice during the race by breaking the distance up into minutes. How much distance can I cover during each X minute interval?

As always, I'm sure my favorite mantra, Pay the Price, will come into play during the race. I've been preparing myself for the inevitable 5k race pain since last week. Visualizing the moment it hits and then remembering all the moments during training that I pushed through to successfully finish a repeat or run. Knowing I did it during training gives me the confidence that I can do it during a race. 

Hugging my wrist all week as a reminder for what I need to do on Saturday!

I'm ready to race and truthfully, I can't wait for Saturday. Just a few more days ... :)

Tell me: How do you prepare the week of a goal race?

- ST

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fuel to Achieve Racing Weight

Recently, I rediscovered my Racing Weight Cookbook. In case you are not familiar with the book, it's filled with recipes that are specially formulated to help endurance athletes fuel their performances while also achieving or maintaining a healthy racing weight. The book is divided into sections based on the athlete's ability to cook.

When I first read the cookbook, I marked several recipes I wanted to try - but then never got around to making them. So I decided to pick a few and give them a try. 

Rosemary Garlic Chicken and Sour Cream & Onion Cauliflower Mash sounded like they would pair well and would be easy to prepare on a Sunday afternoon during meal prep for the week. Both were winners and I would definitely make them again! 

Rosemary Garlic Chicken
Modified from Racing Weight Cookbook
Serves 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken tenders in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Top with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, then mix to coat each piece of chicken in the seasoning. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Sour Cream and Onion Cauliflower Mash
Recipe from Racing Weight Cookbook
8 servings

1 head cauliflower, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup sour cream (I used plain non-fat Greek yogurt)
Black pepper

In a large pot, bring cauliflower and water to a boil and cook until cauliflower is very tender, then drain away the liquid. Pat the cauliflower dry with a paper towel.

Transfer cauliflower to a food processor and add salt, onion powder and sour cream. Pulse until smooth. Add black pepper to taste. 

Note: Cauliflower mash does not freeze well. I tried to freeze a portion and it ended up super watery. Best to eat this immediately or within a few days after initial preparation. 

Tell me: What is your favorite dinner to fuel your training?

- ST

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Try It: Pearls Olives to Go + Giveaway

For as long as I can remember, olives have been a favorite of mine. As a kid, I would sneak green olives out of my parents' Manhattans. And if olives of any kind were part of an appetizer tray during the holidays, I would pretty much devour them all.

As an adult, I still love to snack on olives. So when asked to review Pearls Olives to Go through a Fit Approach and Sweat Pink campaign, I immediately said yes. I love olives and I especially love olives that are easy and convenient to transport and eat on anytime, anywhere.

Pearls Olives sent me an adorable insulated lunch tote plus four types of olives: Green Pimento-Stuffed Olives, Black Olives, Sliced Black Olives and Kalamata Olives. I immediately began snacking. 

You know how some days you just want something salty? For me, this particular craving usually strikes mid-afternoon. Olives are the perfect fix. I brought my green olives to work and the little containers disappeared within just a few days. 

Beyond snacking, these small containers of olives are just right when you want to add flavor to a salad, stew, casserole, etc. For example, the Kalamata Olives were the perfect addition to my lunch salads. And when I made chicken burritos for dinner one night, the sliced black olives added a bit of extra deliciousness. 

In case you need even more reason to snack on olives, they are a great addition to a healthy diet. Five Kalamata Olives come in at just 45 calories. And you can have three Green Olives for just 25 calories. Although admittedly, I can never stick with only three ;)

So who wants to win their very own set of Pearls Olives to Go with lunch tote? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Milwaukee readers should watch for a Pearls Olives coupon in The Journal Sentinel, The Wall Street Journal and many other Milwaukee-area newspapers on Sunday, May 3. Because life can always use a few extra olives! 

Tell me: What is your favorite type of olive? 

- ST

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Training Update: April 13-19

During every training block, there are valleys and peaks. Late last week, I was down in a valley. It was a few rough days of training but I am feeling back on track this week after watching the Boston Marathon. Did anyone else watch? I found myself itching to run as I watched the male and female elites power through the miles and then tracked my friends that ran the race. By the end, I was almost tempted to sign up for a marathon myself! 

Anyhow, back to last week. I'm giving my training a B. There were some really good things this week - my Tuesday workout comes to mind - but also some not-so-good things, such as my weekend miles. 

Monday: 5 glue miles w/strides + TRX Cardio Circuit + Strength Training
A promising start to the week. The miles felt fine and I had fun in TRX. It was good to do some extra strength training, too - focused mainly on my hips and glues - two weaker areas. But the best part of the workout was getting to test out some new Oiselle gear. My new Keyhole Tank is a keeper!

Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 10 hill repeats
This was a really strong workout. I started with a 4-mile warmup then hit my hill of choice. My plan from Coach Matt called for 10 hill repeats with every other repeat run at an all-out effort. The downhill portions were the recovery between repeats. 

I felt really good during the repeats. Since I haven't done much hillwork lately and nearly died during the hills in my last race, I wasn't expecting much. However, I surprised myself! The all-out repeats were tough but it helped to know they were only every other trip up the hill. During my cooldown run, I felt on top of the world - I conquered the hill! 

Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + TRX Cardio Circuit
Ran these miles over the lunch hour and could tell my legs were still tired from the hill workout. This was confirmed during Fuse when I couldn't run a decent fast lap. Felt like I was dragging during every one of them. 

Thursday: 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz
Planned on doing my miles during lunch so I could do Blitz after work then head home. But ... instead, I opted to go to lunch with a co-worker, eat a giant slice of pie, then do Blitz followed by my miles. Ha, I will never do this again. Felt like a giant slug during Blitz and then barely finished my miles. The pie was delicious but having it slosh around in my stomach for 6 miles was an experience I don't care to repeat. 

If you ever visit MKE, visit Honeypie for a slice of pie - just not before a run!

Friday: Rest Day
Much needed. Rested up and was excited to run long the next morning. 

Saturday: 11 miles, inc. 45-second surges  5 glue miles
This run was unexpectedly bad. My legs felt heavy from the start but even worse than that was a horrible 20+ mph headwind. I tried to battle it out but gave up after a few miles. Decided to do my 5-miler instead and save the 11-miler for Sunday morning. I was really disappointed in myself for giving up but just couldn't find the will to get through the run.

Sunday: 5 recovery miles  9 miles, inc. 45-second surges
After Saturday's long run fail, I was really anxious about Sunday's run. On the plus side, the weather was like 500 times better. There was a bit of a breeze, but nothing like the wind the day before. On the not-so-awesome side, my legs still felt crappy. It took a full six miles for them to feel even somewhat normal and even then, not 100 percent. Because I ran so slow for the first six miles, I ran out of time and had to cut my run a bit short. I was again disappointed I didn't run as well as I had hoped. Told myself I'd have to do better this upcoming week. 

I'm trying to remember that not every week can be perfect. Hopefully since last week was a valley, I'll climb this week and then peak next week - just in time for my next race!

My questions for you:
  • How do you deal with a disappointing training week?
  • Have you ever cut a run short? 
  • What's the worst thing you've ever eaten before running?

Happy Tuesday!

- ST

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cheeseburger Casserole

Recently, I was browsing through recipes at Skinny Taste when I came across one for Cheeseburger Casserole. Immediately I thought to myself, this doesn't seem skinny at all - but it sure sounds delicious!

Somehow, this casserole comes in at fewer than 300 calories per serving. However, all of the deliciousness you'd expect from a good cheeseburger is there. Add to that an extremely simple prep. This one's a winner!

Cheeseburger Casserole
Recipe from Skinny Taste

2 cups uncooked rotini pasta (I used Creamette 150 to further reduce calories and increase fiber)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1lb lean ground beef
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
28 oz diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese (I only used 1.5 cups - I found you don't need it all)
Dill pickle slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet, then add the diced onion. Cook until softened before adding the garlic, followed by the ground beef. Cook until beef is no longer pink then drain excess oil. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and Dijon mustard. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Toss the meat mixture with the cooked pasta and spread in a 9x13 casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheddar and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and top with pickle slices. Serve with ketchup and mustard.

Tell me: What are your favorite burger toppings?

- ST

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Snooze, You Win

You know that old saying, you snooze, you lose? When it comes to running that's not really how it works. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite! So lately, I've been all about getting more zzz's.

I recently read an article in Running Times about elite Kenyan runner, Betsy Saina. The article discusses how sleep is key to her success. She logs 9-10 hours per night plus 3-hour naps daily! It seems like a lot of sleep, but the benefits of getting that kind of rest were further confirmed when I read an old Competitor article about the correlation between getting 10-hours of sleep per night and an improved athletic performance.

While sleeping, your body is able to absorb and recover from training so you can run strong and avoid injury during your waking hours. However, just like nutrition, the amount of sleep everyone needs is different. The key is getting enough for your body.

I tend to need at least 8 hours to feel my best - and 9 hours is even better. For awhile, I was kind of slacking in this area and trying to get by on 6.5 or 7 hours of sleep. I found myself staying up later - but still having to get up at the same time in the morning. And paying the price with low energy levels and sluggish legs during runs. 

So these past few weeks, I've put a stop to this and have been turning out the lights at 10pm. And then, it's just a matter of getting quality rest. Here are a few things I do to sleep better:

Keep the temperature down. I find I sleep best in a cool room. Hot, stuffy rooms lead to a night of tossing and turning.

Invest in a good pillow and sheets. A higher thread count and comfortable pillow make a difference! I was recently sent a Tempur-Pedic pillow* and absolutely love it. The pillow provides great support while conforming to my head and neck. And after each use, it bounces back to its original shape!

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. My exception to this is a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar before my Tuesday workouts. 

Silence your phone. Your phone likely has a Do Not Disturb setting. I have mine set so my phone doesn't ring or vibrate between the hours of 10pm and 7am except for family members. This helps avoid waking up every time a new text or call or social media notification arrives. Because let's be honest - the vast majority of that stuff can wait to be addressed until the next day!

Hopefully the extra rest will pay off at my next race. I believe it's already making a difference in my training not to mention my mood and energy levels! 

My questions for you:
  • How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Is it too little or enough?
  • What tips do you have to get better quality rest?

Wishing you all a week of fantastic sleep!

- ST

*I was provided with a free Tempur-Pedic pillow but was not asked to write or compensated for a review. All views and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fun With Kale!

Recently, I've been eating more kale. Spinach will always be my favorite dark, leafy green, but kale is a nice alternative - it's a bit heartier and has a different flavor and texture. I've found it's perfect for adding to homemade soup as well as using to make salads in advance. While spinach can sometimes get mushy, kale tends to hold up well!

So here are two recent recipes featuring kale. Both take no time at all to assemble and are great for food prep since they keep pretty well for a few days in the fridge!

Chicken Sausage & Kale Soup
Serves 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced*
1 stalk celery, diced*
1 carrot, diced*
5 chicken sausage links (I used Trader Joe's Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry quinoa - rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle seasoning (or use a blend of basil, oregano, thyme and garlic powder)
1 Tbsp dried parsley
6 cups kale, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
Salt & Pepper to taste

Drizzle olive oil in a large soup pot and warm over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken sausage and cook an additional 3-5 minutes before adding the garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes, quinoa, chicken stock, water, Pasta Sprinkle and parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-35 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Laddle soup into bowls and top each serving with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Fruit & Nut Kale Salad
Serves 4

4 cups kale, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
1.5 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced into quarters

In a large bowl, massage olive oil into the kale leaves. Let sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature. Add almonds, cranberries and dried apricots. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

Tell Me: What's your favorite way to use kale?

- ST

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Training Update: March 30 - April 5

Over the weekend, I realized ... my next goal race - Nicolet Bay 5k - is less than a month away! Although I'm sure race nerves will hit as the date gets even closer, I'm mostly feeling excited about spring racing - it's time to see results from winter training.

Last week's training went really well - I give it an A-. It would have earned an A, except I missed Y-Fuse, aka my plyo work for the week. But overall, really solid miles!

Monday: 5 glue miles w/stides + TRX Cardio Circuit + Strength Training  
The Monday usual. Nothing too special about these miles. I ran them a tad faster than planned, mainly because I wasn't really feeling the track and just wanted to be done.
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 3 x 9-minute intervals  
Another challenging workout from Coach Matt. I've noticed that running distance intervals - i.e. 400m or 800m - is so much easier than time intervals. I think it's because when running a time interval, it's more about how far I can get so I always end up pushing harder. The last 9-minute interval was particularly hard - I was running out of gas and had to dig deep to finish strong. Perfect race practice!
Wednesday: 5 7 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + TRX Cardio Circuit
I intended to run during lunch but ended up getting scheduled for a meeting. So instead, I ran after work, which meant I had to skip Fuse. To make up for skipping the class, I did a 7-miler. The weather was perfect outside and the miles went by pretty fast even though I ran a slow recovery pace.
Thursday: 7 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz  
I ran during lunch and my phone app said 100 percent chance of rain. I don't think work would appreciate me coming back from a run looking like a drowned rat so I decided to run to the Y, do a few miles on the track and then run back to work. Of course, it ended up not raining so I could have run all of the miles outside. Boo :(

Blitz was all about kettle bells - super exciting since I've been missing this type of workout lately!

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 10 mile run, inc. hills 
Coach Matt said to go out of my way to include some hills during these miles so that's what I did! Additionally, he said to break the run up into 2.5 mile segments and aim to run each one 10 seconds faster than the last. Although I started the run feeling kind of slow and sluggish, after about a mile I perked up and had a really nice Saturday run. 

My reward was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and then watching the Badger Final Four game! 

Sunday: 6 5 recovery miles
I cut this one a mile short for time but didn't feel bad about it since I still hit my goal for the week. I kept the pace super slow for recovery and enjoyed every minute!

After the run, Mom and I went to brunch for Easter then I did a bit of food prep for the week. I chopped a bunch of veggies for snacks, made a chicken, black bean and cilantro mixture for burritos and salads and even tried a new recipe - Skinny Taste's Cheeseburger Casserole. I also made a delicious kale salad for dinner. 

All in all, a pretty great week! This week is a recovery week to absorb all of the training from the past few weeks. Then, the final push before Door County!

My questions for you:
  • What was your most successful run or workout last week?
  • Did you do any food prep over the weekend? If so, what did you make?
  • Did you do anything fun for Easter?

- ST