Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Quick Look Back at 2013...

I'm going to keep this quick, and avoid all the introspective, "I learned this about myself and life and stuff" blah-blah-blah-ing. I've never liked to look back. You can't change what already happened, all you can do is change where you go from here. In keeping with this mindset, I'm going to give you a brief review, and the next post will be where I'd like to go from here.

2013 was the year I started running. January 11, 2013 to be precise. I ran my first 5k in Detroit on March 10, my first half marathon in Indianapolis on May 4, with two more half marathons, a 10k, and another 5k thrown in. After a 5 miler today, I clocked in at 603 miles for the year.

I discovered so much about my will to finish, my ability to be defeated, products I love, products that don't work, how to eat gluten-free, and more. I had 3 different jobs and a period of hopelessness that felt like it lasted forever. I had a basement flood, a water heater bust, an oven go out, and redid my kitchen.

I found an amazing running community on Twitter, faced a diagnosis of Parkinson's in a family member, and started a fundraiser. I smashed some goals, faltered on others, and set new ones.

I can't say 2013 was a good year, but all things considered, it certainly wasn't the worst. In so many ways though, the 'New Year' feels so arbitrary. Yes, we flip the page. Heck, we flip the whole calendar. But if you're like me and use the right kind of planner, you get to flip the page every single day. It's easy to break our goals into the new year, to use the changing year as motivation, but really, we are moving forward each minute and each day.

So, sayonara 2013, welcome 2014, I've got some plans for you...


Workout of the Day: 5 mile run


Song of the Day: "Dancing by Myself" - Robyn

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fuel and Long Runs...

Yesterday's long run was... interesting. In no way would I call it bad, but the first mile and the last mile were rough. I felt like they were awful, though I stayed on a very steady pace throughout my run.

It was very amusing to me that 38 degrees and sunny felt legitimately WARM. I wore my Nike tights and my new Marmot Variant jacket (more on this in a later post). The jacket is going to be fantastic when we return to the teens this week, but yesterday?  I was half unzipped, sleeves pushed up, and roasting!  I guess I really have acclimated to those cold, early morning runs!

It was the first run long in a long time long enough to bring fuel with me. This gave me a great chance to finally try out Island Boost on the go. The timing is very similar to PowerBar Gels (every 40ish minutes), but it seems to kick in a bit faster. When I would run with PB Gels, I would actually have a moment sometime after I took the Gel where I could feel the Gel hit me and kick in. With Island Boost, I felt just a continued, consistent fuel.  I did feel pretty smoked by about mile 7.25, but I'm guessing that was due more to the warmth than anything else.

If you haven't used Island Boost, I highly recommend you try it! (I DID apply to be an IB Ambassador for 2014, but right now, I'm just sharing experience with you). The flavors are decent... I hate the taste of coconut water, and Island Boost is coconut water-based. The drawback for me is that of course, every flavor is a bit tainted by this, but the benefit is that Island Boost is liquid. Yup, liquid.  You don't have to choke it down, no difficulty squeezing it out of the pouch on the run, just drink up! This also helps speed it to your muscles. I did think the Aspire flavor tasted a bit like sweaty feet, but the Renegade flavor (blueberry-pomegranate) is pretty good.

What really sold me was using it for a few runs, running out, and getting some more. I like to have some type of fuel right before I run... just to top off my energy stores. I previously used PowerBar Performance Blends, so I decided to try Island Boost the same way. The first few runs, I didn't feel like I noticed anything. I had a good energy reserve, but nothing told me it was completely from the Island Boost. The runs without though were rough. I definitely felt the lack of fuel!!  Once I got it back, I felt good again. SOLD!   They're also perfect for morning runs... a half cup of coffee, a banana and an Island Boost, and I'm good to go!

Have you tried Island Boost? What are you fueling with?  How was your weekend long run?


Workout of the Day: 8 mile run

Song of the Day:  "Burn" - Ellie Goulding

Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Update...

It just dawned on me that I promised to blog more and then vanished. I promise I have a good reason. I promise.

I got a job!!!

Hooray for me!!!

I'm also well into marathon training, and I'm sure you have a million questions. I'm sure they go a bit like this:
Is your cold weather gear advice still working? (yes. I own the winter)
How long until you bite it the first time? (trick question, I already did. In a snowstorm. Just kidding about that owning the winter thing..)
Did you survive the Paleo holidays? (Yes, I did. Those I actually owned, and even my non-Paleo in-laws were happy).
What shoes are you wearing? (Inov-8s. TrailRocs and RoadX-Tremes. I'll tell you all about those soon)
So wait, if you have a job, how are you fitting in your training? (I get up early. Wicked early. I have turned into a morning runner. And I actually don't mind. It's disgusting)
How early? (Early. Give me coffee.)
But, isn't it dark out? (Yes. See and be seen. I've got some advice about that. Flashing lights. Sweet flashing lights)
What would you do if you saw someone in front of you making random hand gestures indicating that they may be crazy? (two choices... duck into the darker neighborhood, or stay on well-lit main road and go fast. I sprinted. No abducting me, please)
What else can you tell me? (Lots. Lots. More blogging coming, I swear).

So, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!!  I had a wonderful Christmas. A very fit Christmas in fact. I have tons of new products to tell you about that I've either purchased or received like Inov-8 TrailRocs, Island Boost endurance fuel, SmartWool PhD Run Socks, Marmot Varient jacket, Amphipod gear, etc. You know I love to share what I've found, so look for reviews coming soon! I'll also be chatting about some gear I really want to get/try, like the CamelBak Marathoner vest.

I really have started running in the morning. I actually get up between 5:00 - 5:30 so I can have coffee and a little fuel and then either run or strength train. I've done amazingly well, and actually don't mind it (too much!).

I hope you've all enjoyed your holidays and are gearing up to start the new year strong. Much more coming soon!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Recipe: Paleo/Gluten-Free Buckwheat Bread...

Bread.

The holy grail of Paleo and Gluten-free people everywhere.

Most breads that are gluten-free, and especially those that are paleo have weird textures, can't hold up well enough for sandwiches, and well, taste like cardboard.

This bread is easy to make, tasty, and holds up! You actually need a bread knife to cut it! My husband compared it to the brown bread served at Outback Steakhouse.. though I think it would need a little tweaking to match that.  I had it with stew last night and breakfast this morning. I've topped it with butter and honey, toasted and plain. Yum!

Warning #1 with this bread. It looks brown, and it certainly falls into a grey area. It contains both buckwheat and yeast.  My understanding is that buckwheat is grossly misunderstood. It is NOT a grain. However, some still consider it a grass, and thus non-paleo. I believe, and several sources state, that it is actually a fruit.   It IS gluten-free.  As always, I urge you to make your own decisions. If you don't think buckwheat flour is OK in your definition of paleo, don't make this bread.

Warning #2 of course is the yeast.  I am going to try to replicate this bread in the future without yeast, using the baking soda/acid reaction to make it rise. However, I have not had much success with that in the past. Yeast is technically an organism. Again, debate this all you want... I think the occasional yeast is OK. If you don't, don't make this and I'll try to make it yeast-free soon.

So with all those warnings out of the way, let's get to the important stuff... the recipe!!


Buckwheat Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups lukewarm water
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (I used Red Star)
  • 1/2 Cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 Cup coconut flour
  • 1 Cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
Directions

Mix yeast and water in a medium bowl and set aside for at least 5 minutes. 

In a large bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients (coconut, tapioca, buckwheat, salt) together until completely blended.

In the medium bowl with your yeast water, add eggs, honey, vinegar and mix well. Once mixed, pour liquids into the dry ingredients.  Mix well. 

Pour batter into your greased pan. I used two 8x4 pans, but you should be able to do a full loaf pan without problems. 

Let rise at least one hour  (note in the above image, I thought yeast should rise in the fridge... which actually slows the process... oops).

Heat oven to 350.  Bake for 45-50 minutes (full loaf may take longer) or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. 

Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack. 

Add some grassfed butter and ENJOY!!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Running Cold...

Winter dropped in with a bang here in Michigan. One day it was mid-50s and sunny, the next it was below freezing, windy and raw. Our first snow wasn't pretty and fluffy, it was rain that changed over to snow, driven sideways by the wind as the temperatures plunged 20 degrees.  Not to worry though, in true Michigan fashion, it will be int he 50s again this weekend. And then the 30s by Monday.

Weather FTW...

There is a great thing on Twitter every Sunday night called RunChat. It alternates between 8pm EST and 10pm EST. Let's be honest, I usually miss the 10pm one. Girl's gotta sleep!  A cool thing happened when I found RunChat... I tapped into a community of fellow runners, and I learned that the conversation keeps going 24/7 via the hashtag #runchat.

One of the most common topics of conversation on #runchat lately is running in the cold. Specifically what to wear.  I'm still maintaining... marathon training officially kicks off in just over a week (oh, holy panic attack!). So I am out in the cold, and I know it's getting colder. Thank goodness I started my running journey in January. I actually know what to do, what works, and I'm figured it would help to share with you the gear that works for me!   I've included links to same or similar products where I can...

Let's start from the ground up, shall we?

My biggest shortfall is socks... I just use normal running socks. I'm going to try SmartWool this year, since I love them for skiing, but I do not have any amazing go-to, which is sad since my feet are ALWAYS COLD.

In temps anywhere between 40 and 10 degrees I wear Nike running tights. They might not be warm when you step outside, but they are warm as soon as you get moving. Mine are at least two years old, but this is the most similar model: Nike Thermal. Once temps drop into or below single digits, I top my tights with a pair of Under Armour pants similar to these: UnderArmour Fleece Team Pant.  Mine are a bit different... picked up in a ski shop several years ago, but they are so warm and comfy, they are my go-to post-run pant, and well-worn at this point!

For gloves, I have one brand. Swany. I don't need a tech glove... I run with a iPod shuffle, so I just press buttons. No need for touch screens.  Until it gets very, very cold, I swear by the Suprasilk Liner. Being a liner, it is obvious thin, which I love. But the material wicks sweat away while trapping your own heat inside. My hands are always cold... they'll go numb in my own house, but these often get my hands so warm I have to pull them off for a bit!  (I also always wear these under my mittens while skiing).  For those of you looking for face masks, check out Swany!

When it's a bit colder, or when I'm driving or walking to the ski slope, I use these Stretch-Tec. They are a bit thicker, a bit fleece-ier, and have grippy palms.


As far as tops, this is where I have the most wiggle room.... it all depends on the temperature and wind. When it's mild... like 40s, I have a Nike Colts Therma-Fit similar to this (mine is thinner)... 1/4 zip, thumb holes, all the good stuff, plus I show team pride!

20s and 30s, I use Nike Dri-Fit. I have hoodies similar to this and a full zip fleece Dri-Fit jacket. I've been very impressed with how warm Dri-Fit keeps me.

And once the temps really really drop, I put on an UnderArmour ColdGear Compression top under one of the previously mentioned layers. These are perfect for skiing, and almost too warm for running! They've recently come out with Cold Gear Infrared, and I hope to try it soon!

As for my head, unless it's really, really, really cold, I don't wear anything. Running with anything on my head (visor, sunglasses, hat, headband, etc.) makes me crazy, and I'm ripping it off pretty quickly, no matter how helpful it is! If it's frigid, say a blizzard, I have a SmartWool hat I will wear until I can't stand it and yank it off!

How do you deal with running in the cold and snow? What gear do you recommend?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Recipe: Paleo Pie Crust plus Apple or Pumpkin Filling...

When marathon training kicks off the week of Thanksgiving, you are hosting, AND you're mostly Paleo, but strictly gluten-free, what's the one thing planted firmly at the top of your planning list? 

Pie.

Yes, pie.   What were you thinking about? Let's be honest, the majority of Thanksgiving dinner is easy to make Paleo and especially easy to make gluten-free. But the pie! Oh, the pie!

I've struggled with making quiche or pie, and trying to find an acceptable crust. The pre-made versions in store are wildly expensive, and the recipes out there just weren't cutting it. Most that were just gluten-free were.. well, weird. Rice flour, potato flour, a million eggs, etc.  And the Paleo recipes, my own included, were almond flour based. Almond flour is a lovely thing, and works for many, many recipes, but try as I might, I couldn't make a pie crust that wasn't insanely dense. And pie crusts are meant to be light!

I got to work, and made several complete failures. I forced upon my husband a quiche crust that was chewy... and only got worse when microwaved. But hey, it had like 8 eggs and 6 slices of bacon invested in it, so he was eating it! We both suffered through one that was quite salty. And then I made something that I doubted would work.. it was so wet, I didn't see how it would work. But it did! It did! I liked it! I really, really liked it!!

Sorry, having a Sally Field moment...

I tested this crust with both apple and pumpkin pie fillings (my Thanksgiving staples). I haven't tasted the Pumpkin, as I don't like Pumpkin, well, anything, but my husband swears to me that it's delicious.  The best part is that this crust is nut and egg free, which is something I know several friends are happy for. 

Without further ado, I present to you... Paleo Pie Crust!!!  (with more pictures than any previous post!)

Paleo Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot
  • 1/8 Cup (or 2 tbsp.) Tapioca starch/flour
  • 1/2 Cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 - 3/4 Cup water  (start with 1/2 cup, add until you reach the consistency pictured)
Directions

Preheat your oven to 325.

First, grease your pie round really well with either butter or coconut oil and lightly dust with coconut flour.



In a medium or large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (coconut, arrowroot, tapioca, salt) until thoroughly blended.



Use a fork to cut in and blend in the shortening. 



You will end up with something the consistency of frosting. Once you have the right consistency, spread it out a bit to make the next step easier. 



Add water and stir together slowly with a spoon until completely blended. You now have something somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough consistency (pretty wet and sticky).

Here's the hardest, most time-consuming part...

Spoon some of the mix into the pie dish, then use the spoon to spread it until it evenly covers, and is a fairly even, thin thickness.  This takes a bit of time and patience, and you will most likely need to use your hands at the end. 

Once spread, use a fork to poke holes in the dough.

Dough plopped into the prepared pie round...

Spreading the dough. I'm not kidding when I say this is thin, but sticky...

Dough spread, ready to pre-bake...

If you want lattice or a double pie, you'll need to prep a cookie sheet with parchment paper. After you prep your pie round, put the leftover dough onto the parchment paper, and spread into a rectangle of even thickness. You should have more than enough dough.

Cook the pie crust in the oven at 325 for 15 minutes. The top layer can go for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool! Time for fillings!!




Pre-baked crusts ready!!   To make lattice, use a sharp knife to slice the rectangle into slices and weave. To make a top, cut out shapes as desired. 




Paleo Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted organic butter
  • 1/2 Cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp arrowroot
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. 

Prep the apples first. Put them into the pre-baked pie crust.




In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat. 



Add the arrowroot and stir until completely smooth. Add desired amount of cinnamon (I use probably 1 TBSP...)



Add maple syrup, stir until blended. Bring just to boiling, but do not actually boil. 



While the sauce is cooking, make your lattice, or put your top on the apple pie. Sprinkle additional cinnamon on top as desired. 

Slowly pour the sauce over the lattice.



 Cover the entire pie with foil. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

Decrease heat to 350.  At this point, I recommend that you remove the pie, remove the foil, and place either a pie shield, or create one out of foil to cover the outer ring of the crust. The tippy top will burn, but the liquid will keep the lattice from getting too burnt.

Bake an additional 35 minutes at 350.  Let cool, and enjoy!!!

Sorry the picture is sideways...  you can see here how the edges will crisp up if not protected.



Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 can of pumpkin (make your own if you want... I won't judge if you don't!)
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Cup. maple syrup
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. 

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in canned pumpkin. Mix in maple syrup.  Slightly beat the eggs, and then stir in until everything is well blended.

Pour into pre-baked pie crust. Smooth out with your spoon.


Pumpkin pie ready to go!


As you can see in the finished product, I recommend that you use a pie crust shield or make one.. The exposed part of the crust will burn a bit. 

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425.   Reduce temp to 350 and bake an additional 40 minutes or until the center is set. 


My husband ate this by himself. In two days. 





Monday, October 21, 2013

Big and Scary...

This won't be a wordy post. It says it all on my fundraising page..  My Father-in-Law is an absolutely wonderful person. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. I am going to run a marathon. For him. And I am going to fundraise for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. For him. And I would appreciate any dollar you can donated. For him, and everyone else who has, or who loves someone who has, Parkinson's.

Please donate here if you are able.

I will blog a-plenty as training ramps up in late November. Together, we will fight Parkinson's!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Running in the Inov-8 Road-X-Treme 118...

I have no idea why it's taken so long to write this review. Maybe it's because, given my recent pickiness with shoes, I'm worried I'll share a review with you all and then immediately regret it. I'm not sure. 

After my nagging dissatisfaction with my New Balance Minimus Zeroes, I wanted to try another shoe. I'm desperate for that mythical 'perfect' shoe. And in the meantime, I barrel through 'absolutely not's, 'meh's, and 'just not quite it's. 

I told you about my most recent (and final) visit to the local running/tri store that resulted in the disastrously squishy Altras. So I decided to try out Optimal Run's personal footwear recommendation service. You fill out a fairly detailed form. They return a video recommendation for you based on your wants/needs/goals/problems/etc. Even my vague "I don't like them, but I don't exactly know why" form elicited a detailed recommendation. (Seriously, check them out here).  They suggested I try the Merrell Road Glove Dash 2 or the Inov-8 Road X Treme 118.  I found a store where I could try on the Merrell. There was just a bit too much underfoot for my tastes... though they may be ideal for a marathon. I'd love to try them sometime, but I ultimately pulled the trigger on the Inov-8s. 

Inov-8 Road-X-Treme 118 (product page)


The first, immediate drawback to Inov-8 is the lack of color choices. In the Road-X-Treme, there are no options. At all. Each model comes in one color. Luckily, these are fun, and not black. I can't do boring shoes. 

At 4.2 oz, with a mesh liner and breathable uppers, these shoes are light. They feature the fold-over style tongue, giving you a one-piece upper. The soles have good flexibility, especially toward the front of the foot. They also feature high-grip rubber in certain spots. The toe box is wide though not squared off. The heel box is snug but not narrow.

Immediate impressions were that these shoes are light, no-fuss no-muss putting them on, and great groundfeel. 


So, time to run! I have now taken my 118s through long runs, short runs, a bit of crosstraining, a half marathon, dry conditions, sand, gravel, and wet leaves. They are light and responsive. The connection to the ground is perhaps a teeny bit less than the Minimus Zero, but nothing that would cause complaint. You still have fantastic groundfeel. I can feel and am aware of both my footstrike and what my foot is striking. I haven't had any problem with the laces coming undone once double-knotted, which is fantastic! The Zero required that I tuck my laces into themselves or else they would slowly come undone. 

The toe box is plenty roomy. My middle toe is actually the longest toe on my foot.. makes peep-toe heels ugly and running shoes problematic. I've had no problems in the 118s. No epic blister emerged after my most recent Half. I do occasionally feel that my toes are starting to go numb. I chalk this up to the lacing and tongue system. I would love to try a shoe like the Skora where the laces are offset to the side. The tops of my feet are quite high, and I do feel that it can be tricky to lace the 118s without feeling and being aware of the laces pressing into the top of my foot. I'm hoping a new lacing pattern will fix this issue. The good news is the toe box is plenty wide enough to wiggle my toes and get the numb feeling to go away without having to stop.  The heel is not super snug, but I have never felt any slippage. 

When I first saw this shoe, I was extremely concerned about grip. I run in rain and snow, never the treadmill. I run on leaves, sand, gravel, whatever the sidewalk may throw at me. The Minimus Zero had done well in weather, but would have poor traction in sand or gravel on the sidewalk. I have not yet had the opportunity to try the 118s in weather, but have run on wet leaves, sand and gravel on a sidewalk, and even a brief portion of dirt trail in my last Half. Don't let the soles deceive you... these shoes did not slip! I feel much more secure in the 118s than I ever did in the Zero. I hope to try them in rain soon, though I suspect I may need to find a better shoe for snow/icy conditions.























Overall, I am highly impressed with the Road-X-Treme 118. Light, zero-drop, responsive, roomy toe box, secure laces. I've comfortably run everything from a fast mile to a half marathon in them. I wear a 7.5 in regular shoes/heels/etc. and wear an 8.5 in the 118.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Recipe: Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fall makes me want to bake. Well, it makes me want to bake even more than usual. I looooooove baking. I am that girl who randomly brings baked goods into the office (well, I was when I had an office) just because I had the urge to bake. 

Going gluten free and paleo really seemed to take the joy of baking away from me. 'Gluten-free All-purpose' flour is not really a good thing.. It replaces wheat flour with all kinds of rice starch, potato starch... still going to spike the heck out of your blood sugar (of course it is, it's going into baked goods), and leaves you with a weird grainy texture.

In my hunt for baking recipes, it was hard to find 'traditional' things...  sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, etc. Ok, Elena's Pantry has a great brownie recipe. But there was no simple, classic, GOOD chocolate chip recipe. Everything out there was 'hazelnut chocolate chip', or 'maple bacon chocolate chip'. They sound good, but they aren't what I want. And the few plain chocolate chip cookie recipes I could find weren't quite..   right.

So last night, I was feeling a bit blue, and I decided to bake. I had modified a recipe earlier that got me very, very close to what I wanted, and I decided to give it one more try. When I tested the final product, I declared to my husband that, "I win paleo chocolate chip cookies." He agreed, and also declared these 'dangerous'. And the best part of all? They really aren't that complicated!!

I did grind my own almond flour using a NutriBullet my mom got me (we don't have the dry blade for our Vitamix). This yielded a finer flour than Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour - and at half the cost! - but you should be fine using whatever almond flour you prefer.  


Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ingredients


  • 2 1/2 C. almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 C. grassfed butter, softened
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C. dark chocolate chips
Directions

Preheat oven to 350. 

Put almond flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Use a fork to mix until well blended. 
Add vanilla, honey, and butter. Use a hand mixer on low to blend all ingredients together. Dough will be very wet.

Scoop dough by rounded teaspoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. (Leave room, these cookies will spread!) I did 9 per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  

Be sure to let them cool either on the pan, or lift the parchment paper onto a cooling rack!  At 8 minutes, these will be soft, but much more crumbly when handled. At 10 minutes, they had a tiny bit of crunch and did not fall apart (my perfect cookie).  

Yields roughly 20 cookies... try not to eat them all at once!






Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Race Recap: Capital City River Run Half Marathon...

Last Sunday, I ran my third Half Marathon of the year. The race itself was chosen for me by a friend who wanted to run her first Half. Surprise, surprise, I registered, her life got super crazy, I ran alone. The good news is that I didn't regret it.

She chose the Capital City River Run Half Marathon in Lansing, MI. It was billed as a flat, fast course through the Michigan State Campus and "featuring paved trails, parks, and scenic treks along rivers and through beautiful wooded areas" including the Lansing River Trail.  It did not disappoint.

Lansing is about an hour and fifteen minutes from home. After driving to Ann Arbor for packet pickup and a teeny-tiny 'expo' the day before that Half, driving back home, driving to the race, driving back home all in about 36 hours, I didn't really want to drive to Lansing just for packet pickup, and it wasn't far enough away to justify a hotel stay (especially with a dog at home and an 8:30 start time). Luckily, they offered packet pickup race morning.

Sunday morning dawned bright and early. Actually, at 5 a.m., when I got up, it hadn't quite 'dawned' yet. In standard race morning fashion, I couldn't really eat a thing. I had coffee to get thing moving, and a nuun to get hydrated. We hit the road and by the time we got to Lansing, the sun was up. We found parking and headed toward the Lansing Center for packet pickup.

I was impressed and grateful for the use of the Lansing Center. It was a chilly morning, but with an entry list of maybe 2,000 for both the Half Marathon and the 5k, there was room for everyone to stay warm, hydrate, de-hydrate, and re-hydrate inside the Center. (In Indianapolis, this is probably an option, but I found myself on the wrong side of the corrals to enter the Convention Center.)

I grabbed my bib and shirt and snagged a corner of floor to get ready.

Pre-race munchies! Gatorade and Bonk Breaker bar! (Plus a PowerBar Performance Blend)

Luckily, my husband is willing to tote around a bag full of pre- and post- race possibilities, so I changed from sweats into my shorts and t-shirt, laced up my Inov-8s, grabbed some munchies and Gatorade, stretched and headed out to line up. 

The start line was a bit funny in that the 5k and Half Marathon started at the same spot, but rather than having a staggered start, the Half would head off to the East, while the 5k would head off to the West. Thankfully, the race announcer did a good job reminding everyone which was to face. 

I lined up right after the National Anthem. This was the first time I've been to a Half with pacers, so I placed myself in an ambitious position in hopes that I could use the pacers to push my time a bit. They had a start line photo drone, which prompted more than a few NSA jokes, and then off we went!

Due to an inability to agree with Michigan State, the course had changed at the last minute, but that probably was a good thing. I think this ultimately shortened the first, most boring portion of the race, and kept us on paved trails a bit longer. 

The course was pretty! I would describe it as more rolling than flat. No hill was challenging, but there were frequent ups and downs. There were also several sections that were on boardwalks, they were fun, but I did notice that the give and bounce of the boards may have added a tiny bit of leg fatigue. 

I was super impressed by the volunteers and residents. Quite a few people had come out to cheer family or friends and made sure to cheer for the rest of us too. Definitely a big help! There was one section where the course made a loop and then crossed back on itself, causing two-way traffic. The first time I ran this, only a few people reacted to each other. On the second, I decided to high-five and cheer for anyone passing me who would accept it. Probably my favorite moment. People went from faces of agony to smiles, and I felt a new burst of energy to go with it. 

The finish reminded me of the Mini Marathon, but on a 2k participant scale instead of 35k. We crossed over a bridge and descended down into the park where the finish line party was happening. People were cheering, music playing, etc. I saw my husband, who had found a great spot to watch me finish, gave a last burst of energy across the line, grabbed my medal and headed off to celebrate #3!


Finishing with a lovely "I'm tired and running downhill" heelstrike!

My overall impression of the race was good. Things were well-organized, the course was pretty, and not too crowded. The pacers all wore costumes, which made them easy to spot. I would've loved to see a few more water stations. I think there were maybe 6 total... it seemed like they were every 2-3 miles. It was 55*, but I'm a sweater and I like running hands-free. Otherwise, I had no real complaints about the race itself. 

My performance is another story...  I had the pre-race need-to-pee (I hate my body. I can pee 10 times, and still will 'need' to pee right before go time), but the line at the final port-a-pot was way too long. I figured I'd peed enough and it would go away. It did not. For the first time ever in a race, I had to stop and pee. I'd had a very good pace prior to this, staying in sight of the 10:00 pacers. When I came back out, I was behind the 10:30 pacers, and would never manage to pass them. 

This race hurt. It was a struggle. I've been insanely beyond stressed lately with our normal life conditions, the job loss and subsequent financial worries, and my FIL's Parkinson's diagnosis and trying to properly be there for my husband. I've hated running in the summer heat, fallen short on several training runs, and overall felt like I was accumulating too much fatigue. I could feel it race day. I wanted to quit several times. But didn't. I did walk at the last two water stations simply because I got tired of getting water up my nose (seriously, 3 Half Marathons and I can't not get it up my nose).  At one point, I started losing the mental game big time. A dirty voice in my head kept telling me, "You're not going to PR, you're so far behind pace, you're tired, just give up. It doesn't mater. Just walk. You won't PR."

I honestly thought back to this amazing comic from The Oatmeal and thought, 'Fuck you, blergh'. I felt much more drained by this race than my last two, and yet there's a partially insane side of me that wants to find another one in October and run, run, run.  I'm also considering running my first full marathon in April, so part of me says back off the training, take it easy until mid-November, when marathon training would commence. There's a big part of me that thinks if I could just get a job and thus an income, I'd be happier with all of this, less stressed, and I could do both! 

Regardless of fatigue, stress, and drama, I finished in 2:21. Yeah...  Right smack in between my Mini time of 2:20 and my Ann Arbor time of 2:25. I guess if nothing else, I am consistent. So overall, I didn't quit, I didn't listen to the Blergh, and my time wasn't too bad. I'd call that a win.  




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recipe: Paleo/Primal Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers...

Happy unofficial start of Fall! I looooooove Fall. Sweater weather, fire pits, hard ciders, regular ciders, crunchy leaves, mums, everything. Lucky for us, we were rewarded with cooler weather starting on Labor Day. Obviously helpful for running, this was also a big help since we needed to have our windows open. Why?

We built a table!

Yup. I finally have a dining table. And it's basically my dream table. Except it cost me about $150 at Home Depot instead of costing $1700 at Crate and Barrel like I always believed it would. We followed the instructions found at ana-white.com, here.

It was definitely a two-day project, in part because some of the glued and stained portions took a while to dry, and in part because we had to make a few trips to HD, but it was much easier than I thought. And now, I have a dining table!! The husband and I can actually sit and enjoy a meal and conversation rather than eating on the couch, ignoring each other, while the dog stares and begs.

Our table ready to host its first meal!

So, what better to do with a new table? A new meal! I took some rough inspiration and came up with this (very easy) recipe for Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers. If you're a cheese eater, use cheese. If not, don't. 



Paleo Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 2 Green bell peppers
  • 2 Cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Cup hot sauce (I use Chalula)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 Cup almond milk
  • 1/2 Cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Put chicken breast in crockpot. Pour broth over, and add water as needed until chicken is just covered. Add a few dashes of garlic powder. Chop onion into large chunks and add to crockpot. Cook chicken for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

After cooked, pour out broth and use two forks to shred chicken. 

Preheat oven to 350.

In pot over low heat, melt butter, add hot sauce and milk. Stir until melted and well blended. Add chicken and onions to pot, stir to coat. (1/2 Cup hot sauce will make a mild-to-medium spice. Adjust accordingly when making buffalo sauce.)

Remove core and seeds from green peppers, slice in half and lay halves in a casserole dish. Scoop buffalo coated chicken into each pepper half. Fill until slightly mounded. 

If adding cheese, remove peppers after 25 minutes, cover with cheese and bake and additional 5. If you're not using cheese, just bake for 30 minutes. 

Let cool, enjoy.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recipe: Grapefruit Sangria! (Paleo-ish)



I have not solved the mysterious failure-to-run bug. In fact, I spent the last two days laying on my couch with some sort of head cold. Which obviously doesn't help the situation at all. 

Ah well, let's focus on fun stuff. Monday night was girls' night. We hopped on match.com, updated a friend's profile, and sent lots of winks on her behalf. Yes, we are wild.  The food for the evening? Well, as host, I can tell you it wasn't wild, but it was delicious! We enjoyed my Paleo Sausage Mushroom balls (recipe here), a yummy tomato, mozzarella, basil, red onion and balsamic salad (am I the only person who can NEVER spell mozzarella properly??), and, my new creation, Grapefruit Sangria! (promptly pronounced delicious and blogable by my friends).

I call it Paleo-ish because of course, alcohol goes in the grey area. And it contains vodka, which is grey as well... but! you can find vodka that is not grain-distilled, AND, you have to enjoy life, right?? What is good about this... NO simple syrup, NO sugar. So whatevs... leave out the vodka. I don't care if  you miss out. 


Grapefruit Sangria

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups grapefruit juice 
  • 1 Cup vodka
  • 1 bottle Riesling (use one that isn't super-sweet)
  • 1/2 Grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 1 peach
Mix liquid ingredients together. Chop fruits to desired size and add to pitcher. Let rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours so the flavors blend together. Enjoy!



Monday, August 26, 2013

Running On Empty...

"Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels...
Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind...
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find
Running into the sun but I'm running behind"



Running on empty. In life. On the road. 3 weeks until Lansing. Yikes.

Road running. I don't know what is wrong lately. I'm tired, I'm slow, I don't want to go run. I feel dissatisfied with my New Balance Minimus Zero shoes, but nothing else tops them. Some things straight up fail miserably. A little over a week ago, I knocked out a 9 miler. It was slowed, and I was spent, but it got done. Since then, every run has been torture. In fact, I've quit. I've cut every one short.

Is it the heat? The new pair of shoes, bought the day after the 9 miler? I'm not sure. I hope it's the shoes. I'll be trying my Zeroes again and hopefully can complete my next training run.

As for the shoes I tried... I don't like to bash equipment. I believe that every product is the ideal product for someone. After experiencing my old friend, pain in the balls of my feet, I thought maybe I need a bit more cushioning. I visited a local sports store (which I will not visit again) and purchased a pair of Altra Intuition 1.5s. By the way, if anyone wants them, I'd be happy to sell them. The pros to Altras: they are true zero drop, the toe box is awesome...  SO much room! It's big and boxy without feeling like a saucer (how I felt when I tried Brooks Pure Grit). Your toes can spread naturally with no problems. The cons: way too much shoe for me. After several runs, I haven't adjusted. The cushion is too much, the outer portion is too much, the tongue is too much. My feet were roasty hot and my toes kept going numb. I believe the shoes altered my form as well..  after an aborted 4 mile run, I was SORE the next day. I haven't been that sore after a run in ages... even my hilly half marathon. After today's aborted 6 miles... I ran 4 miles and walked 2.. I was in pain. I hurt from the hips down.

I hope it's the shoes, the heat, and maybe a need for more healthy fats in my diet (my husband's answer), but I am grumpy, discouraged, worried about my next half marathon. The fun is draining out of running, and that scares me. I need the escape.

My life is running on empty. I look back sometimes and wonder how the heck I got to 29 like this. I feel like I was supposed to accomplish so much more. Be established and advancing. Not laid off. Again. Job hunting. Again. Feeling like I'm unqualified. Again.

I know I sell myself short. I know the scattered resume isn't my fault. I was laid off, knew my husband had orders to move, got sent to a state with a depressed economy, got laid off again. Despite what anyone says, this recession is NOT over. I know this. But living the results of it still hurts.

I started this latest job hunt feeling positive. Knowing that God has a plan for me, and His plan is good, so I shouldn't worry. But worry and doubt is creeping in. I'm starting to glance around at the storm, down at the waves, instead of trusting God and keeping my eyes on him. I know that I have plenty to offer the right company. I know I will be highly successful in the right role. I just need to find that role. I just have to trust that the job is out there and keep trying to find it.

A Facebook friend posted this verse today:  "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That's why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

So perhaps it isn't bad to tell you that I'm running on empty. To admit that I am weak. To know that my strength comes from God. My strength to run. To find a job. To stay positive. To focus on Him in the storm. I am weak Lord, but your grace is enough.

So today, I will do what I can. Clean my house. Host a couple friends. Hopefully develop an awesome grapefruit sangria recipe to share with you. Job hunt. And tomorrow, I will try to find what works on the road. Because I can do all of this. Because if I am running on empty, I know two things. His grace is sufficient; He loves me regardless. And if I am empty, if I am weak, there is room for his perfect power to work in me.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Have a Problem...

I have a motivation problem.

There, I said it. If admitting a problem is the first step toward the solution, it should get all better now, right?

I doubt it.

I'm 5 weeks from my next half marathon, and I feel like I have to force myself into every run, every workout. Once I get going, some are decent, but most leave me with no runner's high, cajoling myself into every step, falling short fairly often.

I think (I hope) every runner has funks, but this has lasted at least 3 weeks already.

I'd love to point to external causes...   like, oh, guess what? I got laid off. Again. Yup.   Oh, and 6 days after becoming unemployed, we found out my father-in-law, who I love and who is my husband's hero, has Parkinson's. Yeah. F*ck you, Parkinson's.

But these things occurred after I started feeling so unmotivated and fatigued. The layoff may have overlapped a bit, but when I first got that news, I felt remarkably positive about it. For at least a week, I wasn't worried, fully trusting that God had a plan for me, and I'm just not supposed to be at that job.

I still believe that. My life is in God's hands, and he has promised us both suffering and wonderful things. It's rough though. When my most recent boss hired me, he gave me the honest assessment of my resume that, at first glance, he would question my loyalty. (Sorry. I really DID want to get laid off and then move to Detroit. I planned it, I swear.)  And now, he was forced to lay me off after 6 months. THAT should make my resume look very appealing. I just hope people will understand, given the economy and job market.

But I digress. Fatigue. No motivation. Struggling through 4 milers. Going to lift weights and feeling that I am simply... not strong. No strength.  I can see how the stress in my life could make this worse, but how did it start?  How do I fix it in time for my next Half?  Seems like I don't have enough time off to just take a break. Which doesn't seem smart anyway. How do I de-funk?

I'm going to try baking Paleo Blueberry Muffins from Elena's Pantry (recipe). And then I'm going to slather them in grassfed butter.

But, I have to run 5 miles today, and I don't wanna.

I have a problem...

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Need yurbuds...

How do you run? What keeps you moving? Music? Audio books? Nothing but the sound of nature and your own feet on the trail or pavement?

I am 100% dependent on music and not ashamed to admit it. I've had my iPod die during a difficult run, and while I didn't quit, I wanted to. I do not need to hear myself gasping for air, but more importantly, I like the beat. If you ever watched me run, you would absolutely see moments where I'm pawing frantically at my iPod's controls, trying to find a song with a better beat or one I haven't heard recently. And it's not abnormal to catch me dancing along to a song during a particularly good run.

So, if you have a well-loaded iPod, and you remembered to charge it, what could go wrong? Yup. Headphones. Slipping. Falling out. Needing constant readjustment. Every runner has experienced slippery earbuds. You're constantly fidgeting, and your groove is lost somewhere in the constant effort to catch a fallen earbud and get it back in your ear.

As I prepped for my first half marathon, I made one of many stops in my local New Balance store. I saw a package of headphones hanging on the wall. I admit it, I was drawn in because they were pink. I asked what the staff thought. One person had hated them. One swore they were great. I have tiny ears. Really tiny ears. Which often presents a challenge. And these come with two sizes of enhancers... So I took a chance. 

Good move Stacey, good move. 

Yurbuds. Inspire for women. 

It took about two runs before I truly figured out how to get these earbuds properly in place. They have instructions, I just didn't take the time to read them. You actually twist these into your ear, and then give a tug to ensure they are secure. And then you go. Go, go, go. Because your yurbuds aren't going anywhere. 

My first pink pair took me through some brutal winter runs. I mean 5 degree days, windy days, freak snow squalls. They didn't budge.  They came with me through the spring runs.. the days when 45 degrees felt warm, the rainy days, the very, very windy days. 

They took me through two half marathons. In the Indy Mini Marathon, I wore one earbud, and tucked the other into my sports bra. This allowed me to chat with my friend and maintain awareness without sacrificing my music. Even with the imbalance of having a single earbud in, it did not budge. 

I finally sacrificed my pink pair to the Ann Arbor Half Marathon. Somewhere along the way I learned that where the earbuds don't budge, if you tuck one into your sports bra, the enhancer just might budge. 

The enhancer is the colorful portion that actually goes into your ear. This is clearly the genius of yurbuds. Not only is this the innovation that keeps these babies in your ear, the design allows for some awesome sound, even while putting the earbuds through the ringer.  I got caught in a torrential downpour. I mean Torrential with a capital T. The earbuds did NOT slide, and the sound was NOT compromised.   

The material is germ resistant as well, so you don't feel gross using them. There are earbuds that definitely can not say this. I received a pair of Klipsch sport earbuds from a contest. I couldn't keep them in my ear, and I started feeling grossed out trying to stick them into my ear over and over. Klipsch... good sound, miserable fit, no groove. The day I tried Klipsch, I cut my run short because I was CONSTANTLY adjusting the earbuds. 

It's clear I love yurbuds, but there is a small, pink enhancer somewhere in Ann Arbor. I contacted yurbuds to inquire about replacements. I received a prompt answer letting me know that I could easily get replacement enhancers. But... after pondering for a little bit, I decided to just get a new pair!   Let's face it, I am a girl, and I enjoy pretty, colorful things. (check here for options: yurbuds)  I won't be getting rid of my old pair. Most likely, I will at some point put the green enhancers on the pink cord.

In with the old, in with the new.


Ready to roll.

I hope I've convinced you.. and if not... here's a video!  Yes, a video... big step for me. Apologies for the meowing, but I guess my cat likes yurbuds too!

video


There you go... enjoy your run!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Running in the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez...

You are what you consistently do, right? So I seem to be a runner...  maybe I should start blogging more about that instead of just the occasional, not-very-consistent recipe post.

In some ways, I feel a little lost, a bit adrift right now. My next race isn't until September, when I will do the Capital City River Run Half Marathon in Lansing, MI. I'm looking forward to it. It's supposed to be a nice flat course, but I won't be PR-ing because I will be running alongside my friend as she attempts her first ever half marathon. Her current pace is about a minute per mile slower than mine, so I'll be out there encouraging her.

Having no race planned for a while, I feel a bit in limbo. Although, let's be honest, I'm not sure I want to be racing in the heat of the summer. WOW. Give me the 5 degree days of winter back instead of the 90 degree, humid days. I've been trying to get out the door by 6 a.m. for my runs to beat the heat, but my body isn't quite used to going that early yet.

In the meantime, I've been trying to work on my speed and my strength without losing my endurance. My current plan is to repeat a two-week schedule until it's time to ramp back up to double-digit runs.


Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
1 mile max speed, strength
Run 4 miles
8 sprint intervals, strength
Run 4 miles
Rest/stretch
Run 6 miles
Rest
1 mile max speed, strength
Run 4 miles
8 sprint intervals, strength
Run 5 miles
Rest
Run 8 miles
Rest


As for gear... first, I owe New Balance an apology. After ranting and raving about the seam on the Minimus Zero, I worked with them and they decided my shoes must've been defective. They took them back, even with a ton of miles and sent me store credit. In the interim, I tried other shoes. I went to New Balance and tried on other models, but found nothing else in a zero drop that fit quite as well. If I went outside of a zero drop, I felt it, and it was immediately odd. Yes, even a 4mm drop felt strange. 

I tried a pair of Brooks from the Pure Project line. The first time I went out, they felt awesome. Every time after that... I could feel the padding, and I felt like I had a dinner plate strapped to my feet. If you're looking to get into minimal shoes, but want some padding still, they are a great shoe, and I would recommend them. They definitely weren't the shoe for me though. 

So with one pair on it's way back to NB, and one pair making me crazy with every step...  Problem. I had another Half rapidly approaching, and had no shoes. So... I went back to the Minimus Zero. Ahhhh.... like sliding into your favorite pair of jeans. I ran the Ann Arbor Half Marathon in a new pair of Minimus Zero, plus compression socks instead of sleeves. I got an EPIC blister from slamming into the front of the toe box as I went down Ann Arbor's lovely hills (can you feel the sarcasm?), but did not have problems with the seam. It is still there, so I may need some padding on my socks for long runs, but they are definitely the shoe for me. 

Now I owned a new pair of Minimus Zero AND had store credit to New Balance. After reading a few reviews, I decided to try the Minimus Hi-Rez. I wore them for my sprint workout yesterday and figured I'd give you all some feedback. 


New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez.

First, look at these. Weird, right? This is NOT the shoe to get if you are just transitioning to minimal shoes. I moved to these from the Minimus Zero. I wouldn't even recommend moving to these from the "minimal" Brooks shoes. These are next to barefoot. Putting them on feels like putting on a sock with laces. 

Bet you can't do this with your running shoe.

These shoes are extremely flexible. The soles look funny, but work to give you much, much more connection with the ground and what your foot is doing. Each individual piece truly lets your foot move freely.   As I said, I used these for my sprint workout. I jogged to the park at the end of our block (roughly two-tenths of a mile) and then did 8 intervals of 30 second sprints with a minute and a half of walking recovery, and jogged back home. 

The Minimus Zero is my go-to.. you know what's going on, you're connected, you're minimal. But wow.. when I jogged off in these... I could feel running. If you've ever questioned your footstrike, you will know it in these. I've gone for runs, sworn up and down that I have a midfoot strike, had the husband video me and yup, heelstriking like a champ. Ok, not that strongly, but you know what I'm saying..   in the Hi-Rez, I could feel every footstrike and adjust on the fly. 

Sprinting in these shoes was a blast! I was up on the balls of my feet and could feel it. It was actually... fun. Even the walking recovery was fun, feeling each foot land and truly feeling connected.  I did run entirely on sidewalk, which was still damp from rain. I stepped on a wet leaf at one point while sprinting, and felt slippage, but was gone too fast for it to effect me. Taking these out on a long run, I'm not sure how they would react to terrain, but I'll test that eventually. 

The one drawback I noticed was that I came home with a blister on the top of my pinky toe, and a teeny blister atop my foot where my big toe connects. It was my first time out though, and I did not wear a sock. It could be materials that need to break in a little, could be that I need a very thin sock. It did not feel like a sizing issue, so I'll play with that a bit. 

Overall, if you're a barefoot runner who wants just a little protection, or a Minimus Zero devotee that wants to try the next step closer to barefoot, try the Hi-Rez. I won't promise they'll replace your every day shoe, but you will feel the fun in running again. 

Note: This post was in no way sponsored or compensated. I purchased this shoe and wanted to share with you my thoughts on the gear I use.