Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Speeding Through Tuesdays

In life, it sometimes seems like the more you dread something in advance, the better it seems in the moment. Maybe it's because expectations are set at the lowest possible level?

Anyhow, that's kind of how I feel about speedwork. I typically do these workouts on Tuesdays and spend my day thinking about how I'd rather do an easy run or how I don't think I'll be able to make it through the workout. But it's never as tough as I imagine. I'll admit, sometimes I even enjoy the structure of it all - it's nice knowing exactly how far I'm running and what paces I need to hit. It's always a challenge and making it through is the best confidence booster.

I like to switch up my routine often so I'm constantly working different distances and paces. Here's my latest:

- One mile warm up

Do the following sequence twice, with a quarter mile recovery interval between each:

- One mile @7:30 min/mile pace
- 3/4 mile @7:13 min/mile pace
- 1/2 mile @6:57 min/mile pace
- 1/4 mile @6:39 min/mile pace

- Cool down til you hit the 9 mile mark

Note: This workout is best done on a treadmill so you can hit exact paces. Keep the treadmill at a 1.0 incline throughout the routine.

Feel free to change up the paces as needed. If you are new to speedwork, I recommend only doing the sequence once for your first session.

Tell me: Speedwork - do you love it or hate it? What's your current routine?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Training Schedule 2/27 - 3/4

Good morning!

During last night's run, I was thinking a bit about how while racing is always a thrill, the training to get there is . . . well, a bit less exciting.

These next few weeks, months really, will include a lot of the same: plenty of easy miles, speedwork, light strength training and of course, boot camp class. As the weeks go by, I hope to increase my long runs to 16-18 miles as I build up to my next half marathon. Once it gets nicer out and I don't need to worry about slipping on an icy patch, I'll also add in hill work.

But for now, here's this week's plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 7 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
8 mile speed workout

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; Guts and Butts Class

Thursday

Afternoon: Boot Camp Class; 2 mile easy run

Friday
Afternoon: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 12 mile long run

Sunday
Rest Day

What are you currently training for?

- ST

Monday, February 27, 2012

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

When I find myself lunching at certain chain restaurants in the suburbs, one of my favorite things to order are deep-fried southwestern egg rolls. It's a good thing I don't eat at these restaurants often. While this appetizer is high in taste, nutrition is lacking.

Fortunately, there are ways you can make these tasty bites healthier. Feel free to use other veggies in the "stuffing" as one of the best part about recipes like these is how versatile they are and can be adjusted to taste.

Making these lighter means I can splurge on dessert ;)

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

12 egg roll wrappers
1 can reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1 small can diced green chiles
6 oz fresh spinach, rinsed, cleaned and chopped
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

Seasoning: Taco seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper (I didn't measure any of these - just added to taste)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add black beans, corn, chiles, spinach, onion and seasonings to a large microwave safe bowl and heat for 90 seconds. Stir well to combine all ingredients.

Divide bean and corn mixture between the 12 egg roll wrappers and roll up. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seam down.

Bake for 10 minutes or until egg rolls are turning golden brown around the edges.

I served the egg rolls with a dipping sauce that I made by combining ranch dressing, salsa, taco seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper. If you want to reduce fat further, stick with just salsa for dipping.

Have you ever done a recipe makeover? If so, how did it turn out?

- ST

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Training Schedule 2/20 - 2/26

Last week, I read a quote that really resonated with me:

"The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare."
(Juma Ikangaa, marathon runner from Tanzania)

I'm going to keep that in mind as I work through this week's training plan:

Monday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run

Tuesday

Afternoon:
8 mile speed workout

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run, Guts and Butts Class

Thursday

Afternoon: Boot Camp Class; 2 mile easy run

Friday
Afternoon: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 12 mile long run

Sunday
Rest Day


What quotes inspire you to work hard?

- ST

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Big Chill 5k Race Recap

Here's a tip: Participating in a winter running series will make the season fly by and also give you extra motivation to keep training, even during the coldest months of the year.

The RACC Great Lakes Running Series Race #4, The Big Chill (I've affectionately renamed it The Big Hill), was Saturday morning. For mid-February, the weather was terrific - around 30 degrees, sunny and not very windy. I had really good feelings going into the race and felt prepared to run fast, maybe even a new PR for the 5k distance.

I'm the one in the pink jacket, trying to get past as many people as possible near the start.

Here are my race stats:

Time: 22:32
Average Mile Time: 7:16
Division Place: 2/51

Overall: 97/546

Upon seeing the results, I was pretty excited. While I was happy with how I raced, I didn't think I ran fast enough a new PR. There were points during the race when I didn't push quite as hard as I could have and a steep hill to the finish line definitely added a bit to my time.

I'm pretty sure I was overheating at this point in the race.
Note to self: Leave the jacket at home.

Now, only one race remains in the RACC series and I need to run it fast to finish in the top three in my age group for the series. Right now, I'm in first, but will probably drop a spot after this last race.

So that brings me back to the beginning of this post. Winter is going by fast. It's nearly March, which means it's nearly spring. And more than ever, I'm motivated to train hard to get what I want.

- ST

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ode to the Sweet Potato

After a hard workout, I rarely - okay, never - feel like preparing an elaborate meal. Mixing, stirring, baking, etc. are the last things I want to do. I want to eat, and I want the food ready fast. But I also don't want to resort to convenience foods that are filled with salt, fat and who knows what else.

That's why I love sweet potatoes.

So healthy. So delicious.

I've eaten one of these pretty much every night this week and I'm still not tired of them. Sweet potatoes provide many health benefits and there are so many ways you can prepare them.

Because I'm usually too impatient to wait for potatoes to bake in the oven, I usually "bake" them in the microwave. After baking, here are my favorite toppings:

The Basic Maple
1 tsp pure maple syrup
Sprinkle of cinnamon

The Southwest Potato
Black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn
1/4 avocado, chopped
Salsa
Sprinkle of low-fat pepper jack cheese

The Cajun Style Potato
3/4 - 1 cup jambalaya

Note: Try this recipe and sub in brown rice and lean turkey sausage to up the nutrition.

I want to know: What's your go-to dinner when you want something easy and fast? Also, anyone have any sweet potato recipes to share?

- ST

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nutella Brownies

Happy Valentine's Day!

Whether you love the holiday or hate it, I recommend you make these Nutella brownies stat. They are a delicious treat, especially when still warm from the oven and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

If you've never made homemade brownies before, trust me when I say these are super simple and about 1,000 times more delicious than the box stuff. Once you've tasted them, you'll never go back!

I heart Nutella!

Nutella Brownies
(Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Super-Fudgy Brownies)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of the two)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch pan with butter and line with parchment paper.

In a large microwave safe bowl, add chocolate and butter. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each round, until chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar, followed by the eggs. Add in flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Stir until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Add mixture to prepared pan and smooth top. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the top and then using a knife, "cut" the Nutella into the brownie mixture, creating a swirl pattern.

Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Enjoy!

- ST

Monday, February 13, 2012

Training Schedule 2/13 - 2/19

By now, you're probably well aware that I like planning things in life, usually well in advance and down to the details. That carries over to my training and racing.

For months now, the Lake Geneva Half Marathon has been on my list. But recent slightly-less-than-favorable reviews of the race led me to check out other spring half marathon options in the area.

Enter the Rockford Half Marathon. After spending some time on the race website, it looks like a great option so I'm seriously considering doing it instead. The only downside is the course looks to be mostly along residential streets and roads, so it's significantly less scenic than Lake Geneva. However, I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of scenery for a better organized event. I have a goal time in mind and I want to do the race that gives me the best opportunity to meet it.

I wish I could run sub-7 minute miles throughout my next half marathon!

Both races are mid-May, so no matter which I end up doing, I need to stick with my training plan. Here's this week's schedule:

Monday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
8 mile speed workout (One mile warm up, four tempo miles @half marathon goal race pace, 4x400m, one-two cool down miles)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run, including strides

Thursday

Afternoon: Boot Camp Class; 2 mile easy run

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
The Big Chill 5k Race

Sunday
Rest Day


I need feedback! Has anyone run either the Lake Geneva or Rockford Half Marathons? If so, what are your thoughts? What did you think of the organization and courses?

- ST

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reading and Munching

Happy Thursday!

Lately, I've been experiencing a bit of writer's block. My days have been pretty routine and there's not a lot that's inspired me. Training? Pretty same old, same old at the moment. Upcoming trips? Not til end of March. New recipes? I'll write about those later.

But last night, I got thinking that I've read/tried a few new things recently. Here are a few worth mentioning:

Read: Racing Weight
This book came recommended by several people and I'm really glad I read it. Lots of great information about finding and achieving your best racing weight. It made me realize that I need to get leaner - not for appearance, but to race a bit faster. This is such an interesting topic to me that I'll write more about it in a later post!

An easy read, especially for runnerds like myself!

Note: Racing weight is not held throughout a training period - it is a lower weight that is held just for a key race. For me, those races will be early May, late July and early October.

Tried: Picky Bars
I'm a big fan of Lauren Fleshman and have been wanting to try Picky Bars for awhile since she is one of the company founders. Unfortunately they are not available in any stores in the area so I ended up ordering a variety pack online.

Try these bars - they are delicious!

The bars are dairy and gluten free and 100 percent delicious! As an added bonus, they are a perfect 4:1 carb to protein ratio. I definitely recommend trying these, especially the All in Almond, which is my new favorite.

Tried: Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
Mid-December, I won a Lollihop box and it arrived on my doorstep late January. It was stuffed with so many delicious, healthy treats that I'm still working on finishing them all. One of my favorites so far is a bag of peanut butter filled pretzels.

A perfect post-run snack!

How I've gone through life without trying these until now is beyond me. I ate some after my "long" run last weekend and the were perfect. Salty, sweet, crunchy and again, that perfect 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Yum!

Have you tried/read/done anything new or different lately? If so, tell me all about it!

- ST

Monday, February 6, 2012

Training Schedule 2/6 - 2/12

First week of half marathon training? Check!

I give last week's training a solid B. Everything went according to plan, except for skipping Friday's workout. I felt flat throughout the day and decided to take it easy that evening so I could run better on Saturday. It was a good decision, but I still felt guilty about the missed miles.

I realize when writing a training plan, I won't always be able to stick to it exactly. In fact, I usually end up changing the pace, mileage or type of run I planned at least once a week. However, I definitely don't plan on making skipped workouts a regular thing!

Here's the plan for week two:

Monday

Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
8 mile speed workout (One mile warm up, four tempo miles @half marathon goal race pace, 4x400m, one-two cool down miles)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run, including strides; Guts and Butts Class

Thursday

Afternoon: Boot Camp Class; 2 mile easy run

Friday
Afternoon: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 10-12 mile easy run

Sunday
Rest Day

Tell me: Do you ever skip planned workouts? If so, how do you feel when you do? Relieved? Guilty?

- ST