Warriors, Indeed

Despite 95 degree heat, and squeezing in a 13 miler prior to work the day before, I had a fab time at the Warrior Dash!  I was nervous about injuring myself & trashing my marathon training, but the obstacles were all pretty easy.  Other than my brother-in-law’s toe busting a hole through  his Vibrams, we all survived in one piece.  Due to the heat and the super-slippery course, we ended up walking about 2/3 of the trail, but it was fun none the less.

The best part? Free booze! Several people left their free beer chips on their shoes, which the volunteers allowed anyone with no shame to take.  Aka, anyone willing to dig through the pile of strangers’ muddy shoes.  I was already disgusting so why not? Score.

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Rest Easy

Magnus digs a rest day.

Just over five weeks into my training for the Chicago Marathon, my body is starting to gently remind me that marathon training does, in fact, take a lot out of you.  Coming off a 5K PR (24:36!) and a relaxed, perfect half marathon, I entered the training already on a runner’s high.  I outlined my plan—a hybrid of Hal Higdon’s Novice for the long run & twice weekly ‘easy’ mileage along with Runner’s World Smart Coach for a mid week tempo or speed workout to keep me on my toes.  For the first four weeks I was nailing paces and tacking an extra mile onto the long runs just because I felt damn good running.

A day after a 12 miler that was supposed to be 11, my hip was nagging me.  A day after that, hamstrings. The following weekend, calves. And so it has gone on for the past 10 days. Each day I wake with a new, just-present-enough-to-be-annoying nagging in some part of my lower body.  Part of me thinks I’m crazy as the aches and pains vary by day. But the other smarter, more cautious side of me sees this as a wake up call—my mileage is increasing and I’m running harder & faster than ever before.  Perhaps as the mileage moves up, I need to dial back the intensity.

Luckily for me this week happened to be one of the weeks my mileage scaled back in the schedule, so I’ve taken full advantage…no tempos, no speedwork, no extra miles for “funsies.” Just easy, comfortable miles to be wrapped up by a reduced long run this weekend. I’ve even cut my time in the gym too.  Blessed with a fab gym in the office, you can typically find me there over the lunch hour working my abs, arms, and legs in rotation day after day.  Yesterday I skipped the gym all together, announcing to my workout partner-in-crime that I was enjoying a “rest day.” She snickered and asked, “But didn’t you run this morning?” Yes, I had.  Oops.

And so, five weeks in, I get it.  Marathon training is no easy feat and rest and recovery is just as important as putting in the miles.  My exercise prescription for the coming weeks—focus more on the mileage, less on the speed, and cut strength training to 3 days per week.  And rest days?  Bring ‘em on.

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This Runner Eats, vol 2

In addition to the lovely racing weather @ RTP, another huge running variable came through for me big time that day: my nutrition plan.  I will preface this by saying that I made the mother of all no-nos that day–I tried something new the morning of the race.  I know, I know, I can hear the gasps from the crowd.  However, I constantly struggle with the perfect pre-run / pre-race meal and was desperate to give something else a shot.  The virgin ingredient debuting just hours before the race? Coconut water.  See, that’s not so shocking.  Of all the nutritional curveballs I could have thrown, that one was pretty mild. Lucky for me, it all turned out alright.  Perfect even. 

A fan of protein shakes post-run, I was curious how they would serve me pre-run as well.  I have a pretty unreliable stomach when I run hard, so the idea of an easily digestible breakfast a couple hours before gun time sounded like the perfect Rx.  The problem?  I like a milk-based shake and something told me my sensitive stomach would not appreciate that 3/4 cup of dairy around mile 9.  In walks coconut water.  As neutral on my tummy as regular H20, but with serious hydrating benefits to boot.  My new secret weapon:

12 oz coconut water

1 scoop chocolate whey protein

1 frozen banana

2 oz tart cherry juice

What to do with it all?  Blend.  Enjoy.  Run your ass off.  How easy was that?

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We Rocked the Parkway

Meg, me, and mum: rocking the parkway

Six months ago my sister Meghan announced she would like to run a 10K.  Knowing she could do more, I challenged her to join me on the next 13.1…and told her I’d buy her a new pair of running capris if she agreed.  Best $50 I’ve ever spent. 

So earlier this month, with hundreds of training miles behind us, Meg & I found ourselves at the start of the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon in KC.  (Special shoutout to our mom who rocked the 10k)! Whoever ordered the dream racing weather–mid 40s throughout–I thank you.  Dearly.  With the fantastic weather and good tunes in our ears, we set out.

I had mapped out a pace plan that had us starting slow–around 10:20 per mile–and shaving a bit off every mile after that.  Around mile 2 we spotted our families at McGonigle’s, headed to the curb for some high fives, and pushed on.  Through miles 4 & 5 our pace had jumped to 8:55.  Somewhere in there I stopped for a snack (newfound love Hammer Gel Espresso) and was feeling good. 

Just at the start of mile 6, I checked in with Meg.  She asked to slow the pace a bit and I gladly obliged.  If I’ve learned anything in going 13.1, it’s that if it feels too fast halfway through, it is.  Seven miles leaves a hell of a lot of distance to cover, so I switched gears to our plan “B” goal–get in under 2:10. 

As I had been following a sub 2:00 training plan, the new conservative pace felt amazing.  With regular chirps from my Garmin, the miles were ticking by with ease.  Around mile 10, I could tell Meg was letting her head get to her.  She was pulling back a bit and had a grimace on her face that she could have stolen from me in my first Half. I offered a few encouraging words, but I knew all-too-well what was going through her mind.  Running your first 13.1 is tough.  You get caught up in the excitement and somewhere around mile 10 you are cruelly reminded that running this distance is actually a lot of work. 

Our fams appeared again at mile 11 and offered another round of much-needed high fives.  I turned to Meg, pointed to my watch, and shouted “we can still hit 2:10, but we have to keep this pace.” It was all she needed.  With an easy, downhill finish, we pushed through the final stretch and crossed the line side by side.  Or so I thought.  My time? 2:09:50:9.  Hers? 2:09:50:8.  Damn her. Can I pretend I let her win?  😉

While not a PR for me, it was my greatest race experience yet.  Sharing those miles with my sister is worth more than minutes or seconds on the clock.

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Hit a weight loss plateau?

Trying to shake those last few pounds is frustrating business.  No other way to put it. This week, I am honored to be featured as a guest blogger (woot woot!) on Diets in Review.com and to share my experience with hitting the weight-loss wall.  Head on over to check out my tips or browse through their many resources to find a plan that will work for you! Using Nutrition to Bust Through Weight Loss Plateaus

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Running Down a Dream

Until yesterday, I had never brought an iPod along on a race.  I know there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, but I’m of the thinking that it’s personal preference.  Tune in or tune out, I don’t care.  Whatever gets you across the finish line.  In the midst of suffering through a particularly grueling couple of miles in the KC Half last October, all I could think about was how I could use a little Full Moon Fever to get me through.  At that moment I vowed to bring my trusty Nano Smalls along on the next race (if the rules allow of course!).

So in the week leading up to yesterday’s Rock the Parkway (full race report coming soon), I confessed to my sister who would be running with me that I would like to bring tunes along.  Though this would be her first Half, she agreed the perfect playlist would be a great way to, as she put it, “get out of her head,” during the rough spots.

With appearances from .38 Special, Garth, Too Short, and MJ, my own perfect playlist was a spectacular mix of tunes holding meaning from various moments in my life.  I present the five tracks that made this 13.1 even more memorable:

Running Down a Dream, Tom Petty: Before you scream “cliche!,” hear me out–I looooove me some Tom Petty.  As in, I own every album, have seen him 7 times in concert and will never ever tire of the sound of his voice.  Ironically, this is one of my least favorite songs of his.  However, when going for a race playlist, how could I not include?  This kicked in around mile 7 through the beautiful Loose Park area.  Running down a dream indeed.

Single Ladies, Beyonce: Confession–I can’t stand Beyonce.  I’m sure she’s a nice gal, I’m just not a fan of her music.  Or I wasn’t until I listened to my then 2 year old singing along to Single Ladies at the top of her lungs from the backseat of my Jeep.   On the list it went, bringing a smile to my face around mile 11 and making me think of my Ellie girl jumping around on her bed, shaking her hand, and shouting “put a ring on it” over and over.

Talk Dirty to Me, Poison: Full reveal here, this was my favorite song…in 2nd grade.  No, I had no idea what the lyrics meant, but I loved singing along, thought CC Deville was cute (was I crazy?!), and to this day think of my fabulous childhood every time I hear it. Making its debut in the early miles, I couldn’t help but think of the fact that 8-year-old me probably never thought I’d be running 13.1 along with CC and the gang.

Hypnotize, The Notorious B.I.G: If Biggie doesn’t pump you it, I don’t know what will.  During my KU days this was on frequent rotation in the Mass St apartment I shared with three other gals.  We’d listen to this as we got ready to hit the town.  Ten+ years later it was the perfect song to help me run the town.

Hash Pipe, Weezer: This is just a great tune. Good beat, fun lyrics, and who doesn’t like Weezer? It gets a special shout out for kicking in just as I approached the finish line, forever taking up a spot in memory as the final tune in my favorite race to date.

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This Runner Eats

I love playing around with nutrition to find just the right thing to fuel my run.  Here are a couple of my  faves:

The night before: My current obsession?  Quinoa.  Or, as my sister’s family calls it, Keen-Wow.  Wow indeed. As if a super grain packed with protein isn’t enough to convince you to give this quirky little superfood a shot, let me add that it’s also ready in 15 minutes.  Yes, 15 minutes. All those hours lost waiting for brown rice to cook are behind me–I have my new go-to grain.  While it’s great on its own with minimal seasoning, I’m working my way through an endless bag from Costco, so I’ve had to get a little creative in an effort to keep things exciting.  Inspired by this recipe on Sparkpeople.com, I present a quinoa-packed version of one of my favorite dishes–quiche.

Ingredients

1/2 c dry quinoa

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tsp minced garlic

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

1 cup skim milk

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup Asiago cheese

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

4 large eggs or equal substitute (I use 3 eggs & 1/4 c Egg Beaters egg whites

What to do with it all?
Preheat oven to 350* Add quinoa & 1 cup water to 1 qt sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer until water is absorbed (approx 15 minutes).  Heat olive oil in skillet and saute onions.  Add garlic and spinach and mix until spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat.  In a separate bowl, whisk milk, eggs, and cayenne pepper.  Add milk mixture and cooked quinoa to the spinach mixture and stir until combined.  Pour entire mixture into greased (I use olive oil cooking spray) pie plate, and top with cheese.  Cover with foil (also coated with cooking spray) and bake for 35 minutes.

Post run recovery: I didn’t think anything could beat my tradition of a tall glass of  chocolate milk minutes after returning from a long Saturday morning run.  Then I got a Magic Bullet.  Then I tried protein powder.  My life has never been the same.  Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I present my favorite protein shake.  So basic, so delicious:

Ingredients

3/4 c skim milk

1/4 c old fashioned oats

1 scoop chocolate whey protein

1/4 c banana or frozen cherries (Don’t make me choose a favorite, I don’t think I could)

1/4 c ice

What to do with it all?

Add ingredients to blending appliance of choice.  Blend.  Drink.  Enjoy.  Have fun with the ingredients to make it your own.  Add peanut butter, remove the oats (some people might not like the nutty, gritty flavor they add), try different fruits, etc…

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