Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Simple Summer Salads

During the summer, salads are my go-to lunch. I love the freshness of the produce and how you can put ingredients together to create an unlimited number of combos. They're also ultra easy to throw together, especially when you prep all of your ingredients in advance. 

Here are a few of my recent favorites. Try the recipes as they are or change them up to suit your own likes/dislikes!

Chicken Taco Salad
Serves 1

2 cups mixed greens
3oz grilled chicken, diced
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup corn
2-3 Tbsp fresh pico de gallo
1 Tbsp contija chese, crumbled
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Power Salad
Serves 1

2 cups arugula/spinach blend
3oz grilled chicken, diced
1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and roasted
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 zucchini, sliced and grilled
5 spiced pecan halves
1-2 Tbsp Honey Lime Vinaigrette (1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 1/2 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil, ground cumin to taste, salt to taste)

Light & Delicious Tuna Salad
Serves 1

2 cups arugula/spinach blend
10 snap peas, chopped
1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and roasted
1 serving Tuna Chickpea Salad (recipe below)
1-2 Tbsp Italian Vinaigrette (optional)

Tuna Chickpea Salad
Serves 4

1 can light or albacore tuna in water, drained
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Serve chilled or at room temp. 

I'd love to know: What's your favorite summer salad?

- ST

Friday, June 17, 2016

Orange Juiciest Smoothie

Summertime heat requires something cold to drink. In other words, smoothie season is here! 

I usually like to keep things simple after a workout - chocolate milk is my go-to during the summer because it's quick and easy. But when the mood for something fruity strikes, a smoothie is the way to go. 

Bob's Red Mill recently sent me a box of goodies to try and in the box was a delightful bag of Vanilla Protein Powder, along with a booklet of smoothie recipes. So I decided to give one a try earlier in the week and voila - I was sipping a delicious smoothie in no time!

Orange Juiciest Smoothie
From Bob's Red Mill website

1/3 cup Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Protein Powder (or another vanilla protein powder)
1 cup orange juice
6oz vanilla yogurt 
1/2 cup ice, about 3-4 standard-size cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Relax while sipping your smoothie, knowing you're giving your body just what it needs post workout.

Tell me: What's your favorite smoothie recipe?

- ST

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bellin 10k Recap + On to the Next Race!

2016 was supposed to be The Year of the 10k. But so far I'm 0/2.

I ended up not racing last weekend's Bellin 10k. At the start of the year, I thought this race would be my time to shine and knock down my 10k PR. I run my best at large races with a competitive field so Bellin 10k seemed like an ideal opportunity to run fast.

Photo from Bellin Run's Facebook Page

But when race week rolled around, Coach Matt and I began discussing my options. With the forecast showing super hot temps, we knew I would at the very least need to run conservatively to avoid a midrace meltdown! There was also my plantar fasciitis to contend with. I felt pretty optimistic about racing on my foot earlier in the week but when pain/discomfort popped up again on Wednesday, I started to question if I should race. Coach Matt said if it was him in the situation he would not race.

But I waffled back and forth on the decision all the way up until packet pick up on Friday afternoon. Until that point, I was still planning to race, but as soon as I got to the outdoor expo I knew it wasn't going to happen. I was sweating and overheating after just walking three blocks from the car to the expo. I knew race day would be similar conditions so decided Coach Matt was right - there was no point in trying to race in miserable conditions, especially with the added stress of a foot injury.

I was super disappointed but deep down I knew it was the right decision. Over dinner, Mom and I talked things over. I knew I wasn't going to run and Mom decided she also didn't want to run because of the weather. But we were already in Green Bay so we would walk the race. I decided this way I'd still get in some exercise and also I could see the course since I now plan on racing this one next year.

I drowned my sorrows in a slice of gluten free salted caramel cheesecake ;)

On race morning, Mom and I lined up toward the back. It was cool at the start but things quickly heated up within the first mile. Throughout the race, I found myself seeking out every sprinkler and misting station I could find along the course. My feet were on fire by the end of the race - I think it was due to being in contact with the hot pavement for the nearly two hours and 20 minutes it took me to walk the course. Ouch. Fortunately no blisters. However, my injured foot scolded me for the rest of the day. 

Mom and I at the race start!

After experiencing the race, I'm excited to race Bellin 10k next year. With a proper build up and better weather conditions I know this will be a great race for me. The event seemed well organized with a competitive field, there were plenty of on-course water/aid stations, lots of downhills and fun extras like an opportunity to race with elites (Meb, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Joan Samuelson, etc.), a pre-race pasta dinner, awesome on-course bands/music, etc.

This year's finisher's medal

So what's next? Well, most important is getting my foot back to full health. I'm also working toward my next race, Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k. I'm excited about this one because it's another 10k opportunity + there's a brand-new course this year. It's also my 5th year racing a Rock 'n' Roll Chicago event so kind of a milestone of sorts. Even though the weather will likely be hot (it's hot pretty much every year) the race starts early - 6:30am - and the atmosphere helps make up for it with thousands of runners, spectators, on-course bands and an awesome post-race party. I consider this a must-race event!

This year's bling!

 On that note, let's get into the part where you tell me more about you! Today's questions:

  • Do you have any must-race events? If so, what are they and what makes them awesome?
  • Have you ever backed out of a race at the last minute? If so, what made you decide not to race?
  • Now that it's hot outside - what do you love most about summer?

I love lazy days at the park or beach, summer festivals, icy drinks and cookouts galore! 

- ST

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos

Who here loves tacos??

Tacos are one of my favorite foods - they're basically foolproof and taste great no matter how you prepare them. You can keep it simple with ground beef, traditional taco seasoning and cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Or, you can get a bit more creative with different types of meats, seasonings, cheese and toppings. 

I usually opt for soft corn tortillas but decided to give Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos a try after seeing the recipe on Pinterest. They did not disappoint! The tacos are ultra easy to prepare and serve. And they're perfect for any gathering - set out the dish of tacos along with a variety of toppings. So simple. So delicious!

These tacos are ready to be dressed up with a few toppings!
Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos
Recipe from The Cookie Rookie

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 lb cooked chicken, shredded
1 packet taco seasoning (I used 4 Tbsp Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning)
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained of all excess juice
1 4.5oz can diced green chilies
10 stand and stuff taco shells
1-1.5 cups refried beans (I used vegetarian)
2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese (I used 2 percent)

Topping Ideas:
Diced avocado
Sliced black olives
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream/Plain Greek yogurt
Sliced jalapenos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the shredded chicken, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes and diced green chilies. Simmer for 5-8 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Remove from heat.

Place taco shells in a 9x13 casserole dish. Spread 1-1.5 Tbsp beans to the bottom of each shell. This keeps the shells from getting soggy! After adding the beans, top with the chicken mixture, almost to the top of each shell. Sprinkle each shell generously with shredded cheese. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the edges of the taco shells are lightly browned. 

Remove from the oven, then add your favorite taco toppings! 

Tell me: What are your favorite taco toppings?

- ST

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bellin 10k Race Week + Fun Runs & Good Eats!

At the start of 2016, I had high hopes this would be the year for a big 10k PR. And I planned on Bellin 10k as the race I'd get it done. 

Sometimes plans change! It's Bellin 10k race week - but I have a feeling that I'll be pushing off my PR attempt til later this year. A few reasons:
I've recently struggled with minor plantar fasciitis. It's an issue that came on fast - I actually thought I had bruised foot for a few days. So I've been icing, massaging, stretching, etc. in hopes of getting things in a good enough spot to race decently on Saturday. Miles over the weekend and at the start of this week went well with minimal pain so fingers crossed ... 

My last race and workout got a two thumbs down. During both I struggled through but still couldn't hit my paces. I felt flat and sluggish which is the opposite of how I want to feel going into a goal race.  

Running slug style!

The weather forecast shows a high of 89 degrees on race day. Granted things will be a bit cooler at the start of the race but still far from ideal. I know I don't race well in the heat so this is an extra struggle to brace for in the upcoming days. 

Coach Matt has been very supportive, especially with the PF issue. His most recent instructions were to go back to a simple plan of having fun with the race. So while I would really like to race well, I'm approaching this as a fun opportunity to run faster (hopefully!) with 13,000+ people.

Here's this week's lead up to the race:

Monday: 4 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 5 mile workout, inc. 400, 1600, 400
Wednesday: 4 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 3 glue miles w/strides
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: Bellin 10k
Sunday: 5 recovery miles

Total: 30ish miles

Despite the training/race issues, last week was still a pretty awesome. A few splendid happenings:

Milwaukee Running Day - This is a new holiday in MKE and was celebrated with a 4.14 (Milwaukee's area code is 414) mile fun run. It was hosted by the Milwaukee Running Festival and Running in the USA. I met up with a few Oiselle teammates (Sheila, Bettina, Annie and Laura) and also got to hang out with my PRO teammate, Kassandra, and even chatted with Coach Matt for a bit! It was a wonderful evening for the MKE running community to come together. 

I had a blast with these ladies!

Downtown Dining Week - This is one of my favorite weeks during the year and it's a great time to try someplace new - or visit an old favorite! How it works is several restaurants around the Downtown Milwaukee area have special three-course lunch and dinner menus. Some of the menus feature items normally on the restaurant menu but some include things that are only offered for Downtown Dining Week. So far, I have Brown Bottle, Kil@wat, Onesto and Hinterland on my list. 

A delicious lunch at Kil@wat!

New Oiselle Graphic T-shirts - Five years ago, when I first discovered Oiselle, one of my first purchases was a graphic t-shirt. Over the years the shirts have evolved and the newest ones are some of the best yet. I absolutely love the new tri-blend material and the fit is spot on. These t-shirts are perfect for one the run or relaxing after a run!

One of my recent purchases!

A fantastic vet visit for Eddie! At his Tuesday appointment, his vet told me that he is looking great, his kidney levels are good and he has gained nearly a half pound - this is major for a kitty who was around 7.5 pounds. The heart condition is chronic and can't be cured but I was so happy to hear he's doing well right now. I'll continue to do whatever he needs to stay as healthy as possible. 

Such a pretty boy :)

That's my update for the week! Time for you to tell me about your week :)

My questions for you:
  • Do you race well in the heat? What's the hottest you've raced in?
  • Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? If so, how did you treat it?
  • If you're in MKE - where are you eating during Downtown Dining Week?
  • What are a few things that made you happy last week?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chocoholic 5k Recap

Sometimes even if you feel reasonably fit going into a race, you can end up with a total stinker. That's pretty much how I'd sum up Sunday's Chocoholic 5k.

I'll admit part of the problem was my attitude toward the race. I was maybe a bit too relaxed leading up to race day. While it was great to not be worried or stressed out, there is a bit of an advantage to having some nervous energy on race day - I think it's actually pretty important for tapping into the adrenaline that's necessary for racing hard.

I woke up around 5am on race morning - 4.5 hours before the race start. When I checked my weather app it showed low 70s, 95 percent humidity. Yuck. At that point I knew it would be a total sweat fest from start to finish. So I pulled on a pair of Oiselle Distance Shorts and an older Oiselle mesh tank, crossing my fingers the lightweight top would help me stay a bit cooler during the race. 

This race was my second time running in Burlington. The first time was at a Turkey Trot organized by my friend, Chris. Since the start of the Chocoholic race was in a similar location, I had it in my head it would be the same course. This turned out to be completely wrong. 

I was pleasantly surprised when we started out on a dirt path. The area was pretty shaded and was nice and green. The path was kind of narrow but it didn't really seem to get in the way of running. I was running in the 3rd female position at about 7:15 pace. Kind of slow but I was okay with it given the weather conditions, and I had every intention of dropping the pace during the 2nd and 3rd miles of the race. 

The thing about the dirt path is that all the rain from the day before had created some larger mud/water pits and since the path was narrower, there really wasn't a way to get around them. The only option was plowing through the middle. Needless to say, I ended up with soaked shoes and mud streaked up both legs. The course was an out and back and the first time going through wasn't too bad but on the way back the muddy areas were extra muddy. Ew. 

At least the mud was a bit of a distraction. My plan to pick up the pace went out the window after the first mile. I could feel it just wasn't my day and to be honest the last two miles were a ride on the struggle bus even though I was running slower than I ever run during a 5k race. My third mile ended up being at 7:41 pace. I couldn't help thinking this was close to the pace I ran during a half marathon in the middle of marathon training two years ago. So looking at it that way ... pretty atrocious.  

I was so relieved when I finally saw the finish line. Although I had no kick - I jogged it in just glad to be done. 

The good news is that it's done. The bad news is that I'm questioning my fitness. I thought I was doing well and improving each week but now ... ??? My hope is that the race was just a fluke - kind of like those bad workouts we all have now and then. And now that it's over and done I can move on to better races and better times. 

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever had a race turn out unexpectedly bad? If so, what did you do after to get back on track?
  • Do you think there's such a thing as being too relaxed about a race? 
  • What is your favorite chocolate treat?

Being the Chocoholic 5k, there were plenty of chocolate treats after the race. I drowned my sorrows in a few mini Crunch bars ;)

- ST