Monday, August 3, 2015

Zucchini & Chickpea Pasta Salad

Another week of hot and humid weather meant another week of cold lunches. Fortunately, I really love cold food during the summer. Veggies and hummus. Fresh fruit. Sandwiches. Salads. Yum!

Last week I couldn't get enough of Zucchini & Chickpea Pasta Salad. For an extra serving of veggies, I recommend serving on top of mixed greens. Such a great summer lunch or dinner!

Zucchini & Chickpea Pasta Salad

3 cups rotini pasta, uncooked
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
Mixed greens for serving
Pine nuts for serving

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add rotini pasta, cook until al dente, then drain off water.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add zucchini and saute until crisp tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, grape tomatoes and black olives. Add cooked pasta and zucchini. Toss with vinaigrette dressing. Refrigerate until cold.

When ready to eat, serve on top of mixed greens. Sprinkle each serving with pine nuts.

To view other Meatless Monday recipes, view the link up at Confessions of a Mother Runner or Fuel Your Future With Tina Muir!

Tell me: What are your favorite pasta salad mix-ins?

- ST

Friday, July 31, 2015

Race for the Bacon 5k Recap

Most runners have a favorite local race - one they can't wait to do every year. For me, it's Race for the Bacon and I've done the race every year since it's first running in 2012. Although it's newer to the area, it grows each year as more people discover it. 

This year's race was a tad different for me because the only goal I had was to grab and eat a piece of bacon from the midrace Bacon Station! I've never eaten anything while racing but in past years have seen other people grab bacon during the race so thought I'd give it a try!

Mile one of the race was all about a nice, controlled pace. Things felt pretty comfortable during this mile and I was mainly focused on conserving energy and not overheating too early in the race - the temp outside was 85 degrees!! During this mile, I could smell bacon - not sure if it was the approaching Bacon Station or from the bacon feast awaiting runners at the finish line. 

The Bacon Station was located about 1.5 miles in. My mouth was feeling pretty dry at this point due to the heat but I still made my way over to snatch a piece of bacon from a volunteer. As soon as I stuffed it in my mouth ... whoa. The piece of bacon immediately sucked up any remaining moisture in my mouth. I chewed it up as quickly as I could and then tried to swallow. But since my mouth and throat were so dry it wouldn't go down. So I choked and ended up having to spit out the bacon. Mega gross. Especially since I had to spit a few times to get the bacon out of my mouth. I'll definitely have to work on my bacon eating technique before next year's race!

The last mile of the race was super slow for me. I was overheated and had leftover bacon bits sliding down my throat. Bacon bits were also up my nose from choking. Fortunately this was a nice shady portion of the course and I told myself it was okay to run slower since I didn't have a time goal. Finally the finish line appeared and I was able to pick up the pace a little bit. I was ready to drink water and blow all those bacon bits out of my nose! 

Upon crossing the finish line, I was given a box of bacon!

After drinking a full bottle of water, I started back on the course to find Mom, because it's tradition to run her in to the finish line! When I found her, she looked great - it was like the heat hadn't even affected her. She was smiling and talking and was running strong. Way to go, Mom!

Mom and I after the race!

Post-race is the best running party - the Bacon Bash! All runners get to indulge in delicious bacon treats (my favorite this year was the bacon cookie!) and Sprecher beer or soda. There's also a band that was an absolute hoot. Unfortunately I had to leave before the awards ceremony this year to give Eddie his pill (he needs it at a particular time every night) but my friend Laura texted to let me know I won an AG prize! :)

My results:

Time: 22:48
Pace: 7:21 min/mile
AG Place: 3/69
Gender Place: 15/XXX

This is one of the most awesome running events in MKE. Even if you're not a runner, you can still enjoy it with the new 0.0k. Participants line up at the start line - then go right to the Bacon Bash. Haha ;)

I enjoyed seeing so many people I know through running - and was excited to see so many friends win awards and even set new PRs. A fantastic evening all around!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever done a theme race? If so, what was the theme?
  • Have you ever eaten food during a race? If yes, what was it? If no, would you if it was offered?
  • Who's already excited for next year's Race for the Bacon?? ;)

- ST

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On The Upswing!

So the good news is that running the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k seems to have been the kick in the shorts I needed to get motivated to run again! While I didn't exactly follow my plan from Coach Matt last week, it's only because I wanted to get every workout in and do a bit more. I'm definitely feeling more like my normal self :)

A few highlights from last week:

Wednesday Glue Miles
Glue miles = Miles that hold the week together. This week, they were also miles that made the week better. Although it was pretty hot for a lunch-hour run, I felt great! I ran the first mile on the slower side but was able to pick up the pace for the remainder of the run. I was so happy during these miles - the kind of run when you end up smiling the whole time like a crazy person. It totes gave me hope that things are on the upswing!

Long Run at the Pettit
Because I wanted to go to Y-Beach Camp on Saturday morning, I had to do my long run on Friday after work. Lately, it's been pretty hot in Milwaukee, so I decided to treat myself to a run at the Pettit indoor track. Although it meant running in circles for 11 miles, I didn't mind one bit. It was nice and cool and running seemed easy compared to how it felt in the heat earlier in the week. I'll likely run at the Pettit more often this summer if this heat keeps up! 

Y-Beach Camp
I didn't sign up for Y-Beach Camp this summer but Lonnie, one of the instructors, invited me to join the group on Saturday morning since they were going to the Marquette University track. How could I say no? ;)  

 Pic by Lonnie - because I forgot to take one!

It was a grueling workout in the heat but I still had loads of fun. We ran a fast mile on the track, did a bunch of hurdles, walking lunges, shuttle drills, core work and finished up with some 100m sprints. I definitely recommend this class to anyone, at any fitness level.

This week, training is set up so I can do what I want at Thursday's Race for the Bacon 5k. If I want to race it, I can. But if I also want to take it easy and use the run as a workout, that's fine, too. Right now, I'm planning to use it more as a workout, but I reserve the right to change things up as the race gets closer. 

This week's plan includes:

Monday: 4 glue miles
Tuesday: 5 mile workout, inc. 3x800m + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 4 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: Race for the Bacon 5k!
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 15 mile run
Sunday: 5 recovery miles

Total: 36+ miles

So that's the update! Hopefully I can keep last week's momentum going this week. If things get tough, I'm going to remember this page from my Oiselle Flight Manual:

"You never know when the window of opportunity will open. Be ready to fly through it."

Have a great week everyone!

My questions for you:
  • When was the last time you had a really great run? What made it special?
  • What is on your training plan this week?

- ST

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k Recap

Back in the nice, cool spring months, I made plans to use the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k as a goal race. I told myself it wouldn't be too hot or humid. I told myself even if it was on the warm side, I would accept the weather conditions as a challenge to be pushed through. 

But when race week arrived and the forecast for Sunday showed temps in the 80s with high humidity, my plan had to be adjusted. Coach Matt and I decided I would use the race as a workout and pick a different race as a goal race. 

Thankfully the storms stayed away on Sunday!

That's not to say Sunday's race wasn't difficult. Even though I knew I wasn't 'racing', I was still freaking out over the weather. I was also a bit nervous about the start area. I've run the half marathon distance the past three years and the start line area in Grant Park was fantastic - super organized, high energy, etc. But the 10k start area was about a mile away from the half marathon start and in the middle of a random intersection. I passed the area on my way to the expo on Saturday and it didn't look like much - so that added to the stress. 

I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday morning and showered, dressed and at a Picky Bar, banana and drank about 16oz of water. I also took an Endurolyte since it was already in the upper 70s with 85 percent humidity. I usually wear compression socks during races but decided to skip them for this one - I couldn't bear the thought of having on any extra layers in the heat!

Mom and I arrived at the start line area around 5:30am. It was very unlike the usual Rock 'n' Roll race starts - very low key and no music playing that I can recall. We walked around for a bit to find where the gear check was located then I decided to use a portapotty. There wasn't a line yet and plenty of open stalls. But ... I quickly discovered there was a reason for this - the first five stalls I looked in didn't have any toilet paper. It wasn't that they had run out - it was clear none had been put in them. That was when I noticed a line at the opposite end of the line of stalls. It wasn't too long at that point but when everyone is waiting for the one portapotty that has toilet paper, it takes quite awhile to get through the line. 

Finally I got through the line and quickly ran back to the gear check area to tell Mom to get in line to use the bathroom. She decided to line up at the portapotties on the opposite side of the street in hopes they had toilet paper ... but it turns out it was the same situation. Only two had toilet paper! So once again, a super slow line and at this point the race was about to start. It was a mega stressful situation. Right before Mom got to the front of the line - the portapotty ran out of toilet paper. Fortunately she had tissues with her. But the people behind her were pretty upset. 

At the half marathon start, runners are assigned corrals to ensure faster runners start at the front and slower runners at the back. At the 10k, there were three waves, but runners were allowed to start wherever they wanted. I lined up in the first wave but could tell there were people around me that were probably slower runners so I was worried about getting stuck in a traffic jam. When my wave started, I glanced over toward the portapotty areas and could see there were still dozens of runners in line. 

The plan for this race was to start at 7:30ish pace and get a bit faster every mile. I ran the first mile a bit too fast - closer to 7:20 pace. I was already feeling the heat and humidity at this point but the first 2-2.5 miles went by pretty fast because I was able to run and chat with another woman which made everything a bit easier. She told me she just graduated from Michigan where she ran the 800m. When she said this I knew I wouldn't want to be anywhere near her at the finish because she'd probably kick right past me! Haha :) 

Unfortunately she ended up dropping behind around the 2.5 mile mark and then I was on my own for the rest of the race. One thing I love about Rock 'n' Roll races is there are usually tons of people around running a similar pace so you can run with a group and it makes the race easier. This was not the case with the 10k. Occasionally there were a few runners around but the last half of the race I ended up mostly running alone with the nearest runner about 30 feet ahead of me. It was hot and lonely!

One thing I really appreciated were the number of water stops, a wet sponge station and a misting station. On a hot day, these things were greatly appreciated. Normally I wouldn't stop at water stations during a 10k, but on Sunday I walked through all but one water station and it felt good to take the small breaks!

The finish line at a Rock 'n' Roll race can't be beat. I love the wide finishing stretch that is lined with cheering spectators. 

After crossing the line, I caught my breath before collecting a beautiful finisher's medal and a bunch of post-race goodies. 

Love this year's medal!

My race results:

Time: 47:57
Pace: 7:43
AG Place: 2/224
Gender Place: 8/1,398

So definitely not a good time for me - in fact, a personal worst for the 10k distance! But considering the weather conditions, I think it was an okay race. I wasn't able to follow the race plan from Coach Matt but ran smart and did what I could with the weather and stressful pre-race conditions. 

I'm really glad Chicago Rock 'n' Roll is offering the 10k distance now but hope they make a few changes for next year. Things I would like to see include:

  • Starting the 10k with the half marathon race and have the 10k course run the first half of the half marathon course instead of the second half. I missed running the city streets!
  • More portapotties and plenty of TP stocked in each and every stall
  • Music at the start
  • A better organized start line with corrals (not runners starting wherever they want)

So what's next?? Since I didn't get to race this one as planned, Coach Matt and I have discussed using the upcoming Brewers 10k as a goal race. Given the race is at the end of September, the weather shouldn't be an issue although I hear the course is pretty challenging with a bunch of hills!

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever participated in a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
  • What's the most stressful thing you've ever faced pre-race? Did it affect your race performance?
  • What is your strategy for racing in the heat?

- ST

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In Search of Motivation

Lately, I've been missing a very important training tool: Motivation

It's been a fair-weather friend that comes and goes. Sometimes, all I want to do is crank out my miles. And other times, I have to use every trick in the book to get myself to lace up my shoes and get out the door. I've been told this is just how it is sometimes. A phase that will pass. But it's uncharted territory for me - I'm not used to this icky feeling of wanting to skip miles and workouts. I'm the girl who can't wait to crush every run. 

The normal me: Excited to run every mile

Part of it is that after Eddie's health scare, I've been wanting to spend every extra minute at home with him. I know it's a bit silly since he's back to normal and during his follow-up visit over the weekend the vet said he is doing really well. But I still worry about him whenever I'm away from home. 
My little shadow!

Showing off his hospital shaving!

Another factor is my confidence has been a bit shaky, which sometimes makes me want to not run at all. I get nervous I'll fall short during workouts or that I won't be able to complete my long runs. Some workouts have been a struggle. For example, a workout a few weeks ago during which I failed to hit the paces Coach Matt gave me because I got too tense. The irony is that once I relaxed and told myself pace didn't matter, I hit the paces. Go figure!

Sometimes, I can barely make it up the steps to my apt after a hard workout!

But at times, the worry has been completely unfounded. For example, I ran a 14-miler after work last week and it was one of my most successful runs this year. During those miles, I thought about nothing but all the things I'm grateful for in my life. And that's when I decided this season's mantra is all about gratitude. Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you can run at all.

But even the wonderful moments sprinkled in, I'm still faced with not knowing sure what to expect during most runs. Being only two weeks away from my next race that makes me nervous. Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k is supposed to be a goal race - one where I get to chase my PR - but I find myself wondering if I can do it. All I can do is remind myself to believe - take things a day at a time and know that the tides will turn for the better again. Eventually I'll find my usual fire and motivation again. 

Until then, there's this fantastic quote from Alysia MontaƱo:

"You don't have to be 100 percent but you can still give 110 percent."

So that's the goal right now. Take things a day at a time. Run with gratitude. Give 110 percent.

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever experienced a running slump? If so, how did you pull yourself out of it?
  • Do you believe there's such a thing as a perfect race buildup?
  • What are you grateful for right now?

I'm grateful for my family, friends and good health!

- ST

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Weekend Miracle

Warning: A long post follows!

If you follow me on Instagram (storke103), you probably already know these last few days have been a complete rollercoaster.

Most of you have 'met' my adorable kitty, Eddie, in previous posts. He's my little darling and I absolutely love him to pieces. We've been best buddies for 10 years now. Eddie was a stray kitten that kept coming around my parents' house so I ended up adopting him. In a way it's kind of like he found me - there was an instant attachment and since the beginning he's been my baby. And he's been with me since I lived at home to when I moved to my first grown-up apartment to where I live now. 

Besties, always and forever

Eddie throughout the years

Even though it's been 10 years, it doesn't seem like it's been that long because Eddie still acts like the kitten he was when I first adopted him. He still small, does daily sprints around my apartment, loves to play fetch with his favorite toys and purrs like crazy when I give him a good belly rub. He's always there to greet me when I get home from work or the gym and I look forward to coming home to the little guy. 

Eddie's happy dance when Mom comes home

Last Thursday, I took Eddie to the vet for an annual checkup and to get treatment for some recent over-grooming of the belly area. The appointment went really well - the vet said Eddie is in excellent health and prescribed some medication for the belly licking. It was super routine. Eddie had even been on the medication once before in his life for the same issue. So we went home and I gave him his first dose. 

It was life as usual until Saturday morning. I woke up and immediately noticed Eddie's breathing was shallow and rapid. I called the vet and she said it might just be a benign side effect to the medication but I could bring him in for peace of mind. So I did. When we got to the office, the vet was immediately concerned and said his breathing was definitely not normal and whisked him away to take a few x-rays. When she came back she showed me the results - Eddie had a lot of fluid build up in his lungs and needed further medical care than the office could provide. She said he needed to go to the hospital and recommended Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists. They provide 24-7 care and have many specialists that can address critical medical issues. 

At that point I still thought it was something that could be easily addressed and that Eddie and I would go back home that afternoon. I was in for a rude awakening when I got to the hospital. They took Eddie back immediately and had me wait in a room to speak to a critical care doc. When the doc came in, he was very serious and said Eddie was in an oxygen chamber and they were still trying to stabilize him. Then he mentioned ... congestive heart failure. 

I nearly had a heart attack. Eddie had just been to the vet a few days ago and was given a clean bill of health. I couldn't understand how his health had deteriorated so quickly. The vet said they were still evaluating but it seemed like the likely cause for the lung and breathing issues. He also said Eddie's heart was enlarged - a sign of heart disease. It was clear they were doing what they could to stabilize Eddie but they might not be able to in time. The vet also said if it is indeed congestive heart failure Eddie would need to be on meds the rest of his life - and that his life expectancy would be a year at most. 

I was crying away by that point and could barely sign the papers for the recommended treatment plan. For the rest of the day, I continued to get updates on Eddie's status - the same - and went back to visit him a few times. Each time I saw him was so hard - he was in the oxygen chamber but still couldn't breathe. My heart was breaking for him - no one likes to see their baby in pain. 

Before leaving to go home in the evening, the critical care doc told me another vet was on the way to administer an echocardiogram to get more information about Eddie's heart and lungs. He said once they had those results they would be better equipped to move forward with a diagnosis and treatment. So there was nothing left to do but wait.

Around 9:30pm, the vet that did the echocardiogram called. I braced myself for the worst but ... she had good news! She said based on Eddie's health history, his recent physical exam, and the echocardiogram results, she believed he had a rare reaction to the medication he was prescribed for his belly licking. She explained in some cats that type of medication can cause a rapid fluid buildup in the lungs causing congestive heart failure symptoms. What's more, this reaction can happen even if the cat has taken the medication before with no reaction. She said he was on a diuretic and believed his symptoms would ease through the night after going to the bathroom a few more times to get rid of excess fluid.

Relief. Total relief. I was still worried since I knew his breathing wasn't better yet but the vet was hopeful and said she felt positive about the situation. 

The next morning, I got a call at 7:30am. The vet that cared for him through the night had more good news. Eddie was out of the oxygen chamber, breathing normally on his own and had even started eating again! The vet said she expected he would be ready to go home that afternoon as long as he continued to remain stable with no fluid buildup. 

I visited him in the morning and was finally able to pick him up late afternoon to take him home. He was pretty skittish that evening - I think the medications were still wearing off - and he couldn't relax or sit still. But by morning he was curled up and asleep on my bed. 

At home, at last!

These next few days I'm monitoring and logging Eddie's breathing every few hours and he has a follow-up appointment on Friday to review the log and also to get another echocardiogram to make sure there is no long-term heart damage. 

For now, things are looking good and I'm so grateful my baby's life was spared. I consider it a complete miracle. Eddie's breathing has been normal so far and he has been all purrs. He even started to play a bit this morning and bit my hand! I'm still afraid to leave him alone for very long but I know as the days go by he is getting stronger again. And will hopefully be at 100 percent again soon!

Eddie spent last night curled up in my arms

Tell me: How was your weekend and have you ever experienced a pet emergency?

- ST

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Countdown to Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k!

Over the weekend, Coach Matt emailed me to confirm the date for my next goal race, the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k. When I looked at my calendar to check when the race is I realized ... it's only one month away! It's crazy how fast this summer is going.

So these next few weeks, my focus is 100 percent on the Chicago race. I want a new PR so bad I can taste it. And I know I have a really good chance of achieving one, too, provided the next few weeks of training go well and weather conditions cooperate on race day. The Chicago course and big-race atmosphere play to my strengths so now's as good a time as any to take a chance and run as hard as my legs will allow. 

This week, however, is a down week in training - two rest days!! But even though I'm running fewer miles, I think the quality is still there with my Tuesday workout and Saturday long run. Here's the plan:

Monday: 4 glue miles + TRX + Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. 5 repeats of 4 min @6:40 pace + 1 min @6:30 pace. No standing rest, all continuous work.
Wednesday: 3 recovery miles + Y-Fuse?
Thursday: 4 glue miles + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 14 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 32 miles

Along with putting more focus on running, I'm also being more careful about nutrition. Here's a sample day of meals for this week:

Breakfast: 1 Ozery Breakfast Round + 1 Tbsp PB + 1 serving plain low-fat kefir
Snack 1: 1 serving plain non-fat yogurt + 1/8 cup Bear Naked Fit Granola
Snack 2: 2 cups raw vegetables
Lunch: 2 cups Earthbound Farms Herb Mix + Tuna Rice Salad*+ Banana
Snack 3: Picky Bar
Dinner: Chicken Sausage Zucchini Pasta** + Steamed Spinach + 1 cup blueberries

My new favorite breakfast - one of these delicious rounds topped with PB!

I'm actually pretty excited about all the nutritious eats! I know I need to be as careful as possible most of the week since I'm going to a Brewers game and tailgate on Wednesday and Summerfest on Friday and it's likely I'll stray a bit from my plan on those evenings. But like I always say, everything in moderation!

My questions for you:
  • What are you currently training for? Are you doing anything different during this round of training?
  • What's on your meal plan this week? 
  • When you attend social activities (sporting events, music festivals, going out, etc.) do you stick with your eating plan or do you allow yourself a bit of leeway?

A final note - If you're interested in running a Rock 'n' Roll marathon or half marathon race this year, you can use the code RUNWITHSUN to save $15 off a domestic race or £3 off an international race. Hope to see you at a race this year!

- ST

*1 1/3 cup cooked rice + 5 oz tuna + 1.5 cups cannellini beans, rinsed and drained + 4 Tbsp favorite viniagrette dressing = 4 servings

**2 cups dry rotini pasta, cooked and drained + 5 chicken sausage links (look for ones that are 100 calories per link) + 2 zucchini chopped and diced + 2.5 cups marinara sauce (use one with no sugar added) + 1 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese. Cook chicken sausage and zucchini in a large pot. Add marinara sauce. Stir in cooked pasta. Add mixture to casserole dish and top with mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Yields 8 servings.