Friday, March 30, 2012

Six Things I'm Loving Right Now

Just a quick Friday roundup of six things I can't get enough of!

CEP Classic Running Compression Socks - In pink, of course. Wear them before, during and/or after running.

So many great colors to pick from!

Foam Rolling and The Stick - Yes, it hurts, but oh, it hurts so good. Follow up both with a good stretch after.

Madewell Midi Shorts - Despite this week's chillier temps, I still have summer on my mind. And that means shorts. This blue would look great with the tan I plan on sporting after a few sunny day runs.

These shorts say casual and carefree

Spontaneous Dinner Dates - Sometimes the best laid plans are only made an hour or two in advance. There's still time to make your own spontaneous plans for tonight . . .

Clif Shot Bloks Tropical Flavor - These gummy squares look like candy and taste like candy but on a long run, they count as legitimate running fuel. Love :)

I also like the Black Cherry flavor

Cadbury Eggs - Creme or caramel filled, I just can't get enough of these Easter treats. It's a good thing they're only available for a short while every year.

*Note: All images taken from company websites

What are you loving right now?

- ST

Monday, March 26, 2012

Training Schedule 3/26 - 4/1

Over the weekend, I had one of my best runs to date.

My alarm went off at 6:20am on Saturday. It was a dark and gloomy morning - the type of weather that threatened a downpour at any moment. Even so, I put on my running gear and after drinking a bottle of water and Ensure, headed out.

This definitely wasn't a fast run (at least for me) and I only averaged about 9 minute miles. It also started misting shortly after I started so I got a teensy bit wet. But despite these factors, I really enjoyed every step of every one of these miles.

Often, I focus solely on how I'm running. Am I running at the appropriate pace? Am I running with good form? How is my leg turnover? While I still thought about those things a bit on Saturday, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to run. I've stayed relatively healthy and injury free. My schedule allows me to run enough miles. I live in an area that is safe and provides countless path options. Even though the mist probably made it look like I was crying, I was smiling to myself pretty much the entire run. Although running almost always makes me happy, it's a rare run that makes me feel this in love with running and life and as though all is right with the world.

Anyhow, I won't bore you with anymore sappy sentiments :) Here's this week's training plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
9 mile speed workout

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 60 minute training session

Thursday

Afternoon: Boot Camp Class; 4 mile easy run

Friday
Afternoon: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 14 mile easy run

Sunday
Rest Day

Happy running this week!

- ST

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Easy Weeknight Salad

Spring produce includes two of my favorites: spinach and asparagus. So the other night, I thought why not combine the two in a simple salad?

Here's the result:

Fresh greens + salty olives and cheese = perfection!

Spring Salad

Spinach
Asparagus, washed and trimmed
Green olives
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put asparagus in an oven safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place spinach on serving plate. Top with roasted asparagus and desired amount of olives and Parmesan cheese. I personally don't think this salad needs a dressing but if you like, add your favorite over the top!

- ST

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Luck of the Irish Race Recap

After several months of racing 5ks, the Great Lakes Winter Run Series is over! I wanted Luck of the Irish to be my best in the series - but as sometimes happens, things didn't go exactly to plan.

First, the good news. I placed 2nd in my age group for the series, which made me happy. Going into the series, I wasn't sure I would be able to place in any of the races, but somehow earned enough points to win a series prize.

Holding my series prize after the race - and a change of clothes

As for the Luck of the Irish race - let's just say it wasn't my best. I truly believe I'm in PR shape for a 5k so that's what I was aiming for.

Here's how the race shook out:

Time: 22:57
Average Mile Time: 7:24
Division Place: 5/51

Overall: 102/737

Even though it was a challenging, hilly course, I started fast. I had passed several people by the halfway point and had my sights set on a girl who was just ahead of me. I noticed she kept walking a few paces before picking it up again. Quite unusual among the people I usually race with and I knew it meant she was really fatigued. So I held on to my pace up a large hill and ran the downhill fast, passing her on the way.

Almost immediately after, a side stitch set in.

Although I didn't reduce my speed as much as I would have during a training run, I still had to slow down a bit. This one hurt and I spent the last portion of the race running with a few fingers jammed into the affected area to help lessen the pain. The run/walk girl passed me during this time. As did a few others.

Finally, we turned toward the finish and I decided I could sprint through the pain to the end. I managed to re-pass a few people in this effort, but was definitely over my goal time.

New 5k PR, you will be mine one of these days. In the meantime, it's time to focus on training for the Rockford Half Marathon. Hopefully no side stitches make an appearance during that race!

Share Time! Has anyone else had a side stitch during a race? If so, how did you react? Also, what are your best tips for getting past one either during a race or in training?

- ST

Monday, March 19, 2012

Training Schedule 3/19 - 3/25

It's a new week and also the start of a new mini training cycle. As I wrote in a previous post, I'm dividing my Rockford Half Marathon training into four cycles. With each cycle, I'll increase mileage a bit and change up my speed sessions and long run.

This week is a bit different from the rest of this cycle (lower mileage, less strength training) because I have an evening meeting tonight that will force me to take the evening off. If I had remembered the meeting sooner than 8am this morning, I could have done a morning run. But as the saying goes, coulda, shoulda, woulda - unless my alarm goes off, I tend to sleep in :)

Here's this week's plan:

Monday
Rest Day

Tuesday

Afternoon:
9 mile speed workout

Wednesday
Afternoon: 7 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday

Morning: 6 mile easy run
Afternoon: Boot Camp

Friday
Afternoon: 4 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 14 mile easy run

Sunday
Rest Day

Anyone else running Rockford?

- ST

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tunnel Vision

As any competitive runner knows, a certain amount of dedication is needed to race well. What I've discovered, is that dedication can easily morph into tunnel vision.

Lately, nearly every aspect of my life revolves around running. I live the run. I'm obsessed. I even spend time when I'm not running on . . . running. In addition to my regular training, little things related to running have begun to add up. Whether it's reading about running; eating the proper foods before, during and after a run; foam rolling, stretching, icing and massaging; getting enough rest; shopping for running gear; and so on - these things are time consuming and it's easy to get sucked into the mindset that if you could just do a bit more, you could run a bit faster.

As a result, I've been overly tired and saying no to my friends a lot more than yes. So this past weekend I decided enough is enough and gave myself a little break.

First up: My friend Lisa asked if I wanted to see The Vagina Monologues Friday evening. Normally I would say no because my inner run nerd wants to carb load and go to bed early. Turns out, I was able to carb load over dinner with a friend, see The Vagina Monologues and go to bed early. It was really nice catching up with Lisa and also going to a play I've been wanting to see for awhile. Win!

The Shindig: After a long run Saturday morning, my energy was zapped. I ended up battling strong winds throughout, which made the miles grueling both mentally and physically. Normally, this would lead to taking it easy for the rest of the day, but not this Saturday! Instead, I participated in the Shamrock Shindig bar crawl on Water Street. Several hours of bar hopping, cocktail drinking and bar top dancing. Definitely not the type of thing responsible runners participate in, but it sure was fun!

Weird face time!

Jess winding up for a pretend punch.

Something new: My favorite running store, Performance Running Outfitters, sponsored a 4-mile St. Patty's Day theme fun run on Sunday morning, so my mom and I decided to give it a try. This was my first group run and now I definitely understand why people like them so much! I ran at my mom's pace and toward the back of the pack, which was probably a wise choice given the previous night's activities!

After the run, wearing plenty of green.

This weekend reminded me how important it is to maintain a healthy balance. Although I need to buckle down these next few weeks in prep for the Rockford Half Marathon, I'm going remind myself that saying "yes" doesn't mean I'll wreck my training. In fact, it just may give me a boost on race day.

Tell me: How do you balance running with other things in life? Do you ever find yourself in a "tunnel vision" mindset?

- ST

Monday, March 12, 2012

Training Schedule 3/12 - 3/18

After three 40-mile weeks, it's time for a cutback week before increasing mileage a bit for the next four-week cycle. It's also a race week so fewer miles and lighter strength training is necessary to run a faster 5k time.

Here's this week's training plan:

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

Tuesday

Afternoon:
8 mile easy run

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

Thursday

Morning: 4 mile easy run

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
Morning: Luck of the Irish 5k Race

Sunday
Rest Day

Anyone else racing this week?

- ST

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eat Hard, Run . . . Slow

Here's the sad truth: My recently purchased Bondi Band tells a lie.

Maybe for some people, but not me

Eat hard, run hard? Umm, not so much. More like eat hard, run slow. It may work for some people, but for me, eating hard before a run results in a sluggish, chubby, yucky feeling.

Case in point: Last Friday, I met my friend Melissa for lunch at a local Middle Eastern restaurant that features a vegetarian lunch buffet. I should have known this would not end well. I ate too much and as a result, my "easy" four miles that afternoon were torture. A pace that is usually effortless was a struggle to maintain.

Does this mean it's time to give up eating out? Definitely not, but it does mean I have to make smarter choices. I need to think about portion sizes and the type of food I eat. Fueling up with a bowl of spaghetti and marinara sauce is a good idea. Fueling up with multiple plates of spicy Ethiopian food is not. And just like any other type of treat, eating out needs to be on a limited basis, preferably only after a tough race or Saturday morning long run when I've truly earned it. The rest of the time, it's best to stick with healthier, home-cooked fare.

So maybe that Bondi Band had it partially right, just in the wrong order. Run hard, eat hard. That's something I can stick with.

What's your take: Do you run okay after eating a large or unhealthy meal? Do you try to limit treats to long run or race days?

- ST

Monday, March 5, 2012

Training Schedule 3/5 - 3/11

Last week's training = Success!

Running felt so good that I ended up adding a few extra miles (Monday and Wednesday easy runs became 7 miles each and Tuesday's speed session was nine miles). I'm hoping this week feels as good but if not, I'll be happy just getting in my planned mileage and workouts.

From now until the Rockford Half Marathon, I'm going train in four week blocks. Within each block, I'll run the same mileage, long run and speed session for three weeks and then cut back during the fourth week. Each new block will bring small mileage increases, longer long runs and new speed sessions.

My life til May 20

This is my third week within the first block so this week's training is more or less the exact same as the past two weeks:

Monday

Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 45 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

Do you write your own training schedules or do you follow one from a website, book, coach, etc.?

- ST

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

My friend Alysha had a few girlfriends over to "watch" the Oscars last Sunday. Really all we do during these get-togethers is eat and gossip :)

Anyhow, the morning of, I decided to try a new recipe for the party, Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, The Runner's Kitchen. I should warn you: It's impossible to eat just one of these cookies. I munched on these treats all day long and throughout the party. Needless to say, they were gone by Monday.

My new favorite cookies

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
via The Runner's Kitchen

1 stick salted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
12 Oreos (crush 8 of the cookies into a small crumb in a Ziploc bag; reserve 4 whole)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour and the four whole Oreo cookies. Mix until incorporated.

Form the cookies into ping pong sized balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs. Place cookies on the prepared sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are just starting to turn golden brown.

Enjoy!

- ST