Middlebury Maple Run

Well, hello.

It has been awhile since I’ve written. Between work becoming even busier than I ever thought possible, school finals, and training for races all while trying to stay sane, I needed to drop some things from my life to power through the days.

What’s been happening since we last talked, aside from what was mentioned above? I had a birthday, went to Acadia to relax in nature, training like crazy for upcoming races, and conquered another half marathon. Phew. That’s a lot.

I’ll be talking about all of that on the blog in the upcoming posts, but today I want to talk about my half marathon I ran yesterday. Was it hilly and windy or what! I signed up for this race thinking there were a few rolling hills, but then a flat last half. Well, I soon discovered that it was crazy hills the entire race (along with an intense headwind) so once I accepted that fact, I moved on to powering through it. I started out fast – sub 7 minute pace per mile fast and that definitely wore me down (note to self: starting out at 6:20 is not smart). I leveled out at 7:20-7:35 for the next several miles until the hills drained my energy. Then I was going anywhere from sub 7 on the downhills to a 9 minute pace on some of the uphill. I really had to dig deep throughout this entire race to stay focused and on pace.

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The things that helped me the most – my wonderful partner stationed himself at the start, halfway point, and the end. When I was struggling at mile 5, I knew he would be right up head soon. When I was struggling at mile 10, I knew it was just 3 miles and he’d be cheering me on.

Another thing that helped was not letting myself turn thoughts negative. I used to mentally shut down in races and my pace would suffer. Instead, I told myself you can do this. You ARE doing this. You ARE perfectly capable of running this pace. The hills and wind from mile 10-13 got me good though and physically and mentally my body just wanted to quit so I kept repeating something I learned from my partner’s tae kwon do class. One of the tenets of tae kwon do is perseverance. I just kept repeating “persevere” over and over and over again. It helped significantly.

I didn’t have stomach issues this time! I cut out the peanut butter on my toast before the race and added a banana about 90 minutes before the start. I had gummies with me and they never have given me a stomach ache on long runs, but I didn’t want to chance it. Instead I took in gatoraid at every aid station – mostly just a couple of sips, but it was enough to get me through.

I was 5th in my age group. The top 10 percent of female runners and top 20 percent of all runners. I finished in 1:43:34 just a few seconds shy of my PR, but given the difficulty of this course with nonstop hills and headwind, I think this was an incredibly successful race. Next one is 3 weeks out!!!

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The “Less Is More” Running Plan

Happy happy Wednesday! We’ve been finally getting warmer temperatures in Vermont and we’re loving it.

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Post race I wasn’t feeling great. My legs were alright by Tuesday morning and my appetite finally came back Tuesday afternoon. I think I may have either pushed it really hard or was a bit under the weather with something going around, but either way I’m still off to run 7 miles of hills tonight and feeling back to my normal self! The race over the weekend has left me feeling confident and ready to tackle more training, however I’m going to be taking a different approach for my upcoming races.

When it comes to running, it can be hard to get out of the mindset that more mileage is better, but sometimes less can be more when it comes to training. The key to a “less is more” training plan is having very intentional running and cross training workouts. After talking with my physical therapist for my final follow-up appointment, we tossed some ideas back and forth about how less running clearly works better for my body so I have decided to try training differently for my upcoming races.

I’ve developed a new plan with very intentional workouts, but less of the crazy high mileage weeks. I’ll be running 4 days a week (1 easy pace run, 1 hill workout, 1 speed workout, and 1 long run) and cross training 2 days a week (rowing, yoga, and strength training). 4 day running weeks seem to work best for my body so I’m going to see how it goes over my next couple races, but I have good feelings about it.

Finn on the other hand is still skeptical of the concept of running.

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A New PR! Race Recap!

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Wow! What a race. I had a lot of firsts with this race even though I’ve done countless half marathons, this one was full of surprises with the pace I was able to hold and also with how my body reacted and felt. I finished in 1:43 a new PR that I’m so happy about! With the way I was racing before some stomach issues at mile 9, I think I could have had a 1:40 finish, which gives me a lot of hope and excitement for this year’s racing season.

The race had a later start (9am) due to the chilly weather lingering here in Vermont. I took a bus to the start and arrived about 20 minutes before the start time. That gave me just enough time to get myself sorted, say hi to some friends, and mentally prep for the task ahead without too much time to overthink things.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect or what I was capable of at this point as far as time since my training really hasn’t been steady over the winter months due to snow and ice, a knee injury, and I had only done a few runs at race pace. I decided that morning though that I was going to push it as hard as I could and see what happened.

I, of course, started out too fast like I always do and was doing 7 minute miles which I gradually increased to 7:15-7:30. Since the first few miles were in neighborhoods, there was a lot of crowd support and my race excitement fueled a faster pace. By mile 4 though I knew I needed to be careful with the energy I was expending in the first miles and slowed it down between 7:30-7:40.

My biggest struggles were with miles 4.5-6.5 and then 9-11. Generally mile 9 or 10 is my rough point in races, but this time it wasn’t because I was running on empty. It was because my stomach started hurting. It was bothering me starting around mile 7, but I could work through it. Right past the mile 9 marker I couldn’t push through it anymore – I thought I was going to be sick my stomach hurt so bad. So I had to stop on the side of the bike path and lost a couple of minutes of time. I was crushed because I was on pace to hit a 1:40 until that point. I practiced deep breathing and soon felt okay enough to push through. Mentally I refused to let it get me down. Sure, a 1:40 would have been awesome, but I wanted to get under 1:45 which was still a very real possibility. My next mile was slower, but then I picked up the pace again around mile 10.5-11. I knew that it was all or nothing at this point and decided to go for it.

Mile 12 had a couple of hills that are a struggle at the end of a race! Once I saw the mile 12 marker though I just pushed it as hard as I possibly could knowing that I can handle anything for one mile no matter how much it hurts. As soon as I turned the corner and saw the finish I bolted as fast as I could. When I saw the race clock was almost at 1:43, pure happiness and excitement filled me. I think I had the biggest goofiest smile on my face and just felt all this hard work I’ve been doing for over a year to break 1:45 had finally paid off. It’s a pretty incredible feeling. There’s nothing  like the feeling of accomplishing something you’ve been putting so much work in for. That’s probably one of the reasons I love running races – it let’s me push myself to extremes and gives me so much confidence.

I will say though that even though it was well worth it, every mile of this race hurt. I didn’t have one moment where I thought I had extra energy to spare and it makes the finish that much more worth it. I tried to distract myself with the “well…what doesn’t currently hurt” game, but all I could think of was my fingers so that quickly ended that game. Instead, my method to mentally get through was just accepting that it was uncomfortable and that’s okay!

Sunday left me feeling less than stellar as my body was just feeling a little worse for the wear between sore muscles and my stomach not feeling great. I’ve actually never had a race where I’ve encountered so many stomach issues the day of and after so I’m trying to pinpoint what’s going on with that so there’s not a repeat of that in the future.

I am so excited though and ready to dive back into training with sunshine and warmer temps predicted as spring makes an appearance here. The next half marathon is in a month! I have my eyes set on a certain time, but I’m going to keep that to myself for now and see how training goes for the next month!

And with all this being said, here’s my training plan for the week!

Weekly Fitness Plan

Taper Week!

It is taper week! Crazy. Wasn’t it just yesterday that my race was 7 weeks away?! I’m feeling nervous and excited about the race. I haven’t run a race since August as a knee injury took me down pretty hard in the fall so it has been a little while – yesterday I had a lot of nervous energy all day. I had a decent 9 mile run yesterday at a faster pace than I expected and I felt like I had energy left to spare so hopefully Saturday will go smoothly!

During taper week I try to focus more on the things I probably should be doing regularly, but let’s be real… busy schedules get in the way. So this week my focus will be on:

1.) Hydration, hydration, and more hydration. I perform better when I’m hydrated and feel better too. Even if I get busy, I will be trying my hardest to remember to stay hydrated throughout the day.

2.) Getting enough sleep. This is easier said than done with a 4am wake-up call and a lot of travel for work this week. Even if it means I put other stuff aside this week and have to be in bed by 8, I will be trying to be well rested.

3.) Eating enough calories. Getting proper nutrition is so important for racing well so I will be focusing on not only eating enough, but making sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need too.

4.) Picking up my packet early. This isn’t always possible, but for this race I’ll be able to pick up my race bib on Thursday so that will make race day go a little more smoothly.

5.) Allowing myself to be nervous, but know that I can’t control the weather or how I will feel on race day. I know I’m capable of running the distance so I will be going into race day feeling confident that my body can do it.

6.) Confidence is key. I’ve had mental blocks in the past with racing, but I’m learning how to push through them. I am more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable during races. The pain and difficulty of running fast races is temporary and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable for that short amount of time! Accepting that has helped me tremendously.

As for this week, here’s the running plan!

Sunday: 9 miles (unintended, but I ran close to race pace)

Monday: 4-6 miles easy

Tuesday: 4 miles

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 5 miles

Friday: Rest

Saturday: RACE DAY! HALF MARATHON!

Meal Planning: Step 1

It’s Friday! I hope everyone here has a fun weekend! Things around here will be pretty low-key with running, schoolwork, certification work, and of course Sunday Funday. It’s supposed to be gloomy and rainy so I’m not sure hiking will be the adventure of the week, but I sure hope it is. I need to soak in some a good dose of nature.

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Among my health coaching clients, one of the most popular goals I hear is that they want to get better about meal planning and having healthy meals throughout the week. They also tell me it’s one of the most intimidating goals, but one that could make the most impact on leading a healthy lifestyle.

What a difference having a meal plan can make! When I don’t have a meal plan, my already chaotic week feels nearly impossible to manage. Being a long distance runner and ridiculously hungry when I finally get home at 7:30 pm, the last thing I want is to look in the fridge and have no idea what to eat. There may have been some “I’m hangry” melt downs in my past before I discovered the importance of meal planning.

Because meal planning can seem overwhelming. It’s best to break it down into steps instead of just diving in all at once. So I’ll do a series of blog posts with some steps you can take to incorporate healthy meal planning into your own life.

Step 1 is to look at your week ahead. Be realistic with what kind of meals you can tackle. How much time do you really have to spend on preparing food? Another 1st step is to look in your cabinets and fridge to see what you already have on hand. Maybe you’ll even get a few meal ideas based off of ingredients you already have at home. The last part to this is to think about what meals sound good to you! If a meal doesn’t sound good to you when you’re planning it, it probably won’t sound good the night you’re supposed to eat it either.

This brings me to a step 1 tip. Start building a recipe book of go-to recipes. These are your recipes that are healthy, taste great, and you don’t feel overwhelmed by the thought of making them. If you don’t have these recipes now, don’t worry – you eventually will! The more you try new recipes and cook, the easier it is to realize what these go-to meals are. Read health and food blogs, check out recipe websites, and go through some of those cookbooks you have on hand. This will help you start compiling some easy go-to recipes for those weeks that are just too crazy to even think about cooking and elaborate new meal.

And that’s the first step. Not too overwhelming, right? I’ll be talking about the next steps next week. For now, just work on step one!

Healthy Maple Granola

This granola makes for a great snack or breakfast. Sprinkle some on top of yogurt for an added crunch, replace your cereal for a serving of this and some almond milk, or sprinkle some on top of an apple slice with peanut butter (yum!).

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raw nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit (I used cranberries, raisins, and chopped dates)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or raw honey (or a combination of both)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add everything together in a bowl and mix until well combined.
  3. Spread out the mixture on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 20-24 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to stir about halfway through.
  4. Let the granola cool completely and store in an airtight container.
  5. For an added treat you can add a few dark chocolate chips to this!

Enjoy!

 

Sunday Funday

Oh my goodness, is there anything nature can’t cure? Sunday funday was absolutely the best.

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We spent half the day on a winter hike with the sun shining on us and spectacular views.

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Finn bounced around, wagging his cute little nub of a tail, and having a blast listening to all the sounds in nature.

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One thing I know I can count on when I’m sad or stressed is the fact that nature makes me feel like me again. It brings me back to a calm, centered, and mindful state. This Sunday wasn’t necessarily a “No Phone Sunday” which we’ve done in the past, but it was a Sunday Funday for sure – only thinking happy good thoughts and staying in the moment instead of focusing on work, school, and everything else.

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It’s the last few weeks before my first race of the year. As you may know my training has been all over the place with the winter weather and long work days, but I’m going into it to have fun and get back into my groove with racing. I’m officially signed up for 2 other races after this, but that will likely turn to 3..maybe 4 or 5… You know how it goes if you’re a runner! Here’s the training plan for this week!

Fitness Plan

Now that Spring is officially here and it’s lighter in the evenings, it feels a little easier to have running goals in mind. Sunshine is a magical thing, is it not?

 

 

Sub-8’s

This weather has been brutal. As a Vermonter, I know that we are not truly past winter until the end of April. However as a runner that’s kind of over the icy, snowy, negative temperatures, I’m disappointed every time I look at the weather forecast. It hasn’t been pretty lately… Okay so maybe it has been visually pretty, but really unappealing for running.

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We had a tease of 50-70 degree days and then it went back to snowstorms, ice, and negative temperatures. So, it has been a matter of accepting it and just trying to work around what winter is throwing at me. I try to run 5 days a week and sometimes only get in 3-4, but I make sure those runs count. I include speed work, a long run, interval/hill training, and 1 easy pace day on the weeks I can’t make it outside 5 times.

I’m happy to say though the speed is finally coming back. I finally did two entire runs this last week at a sub-8 minute pace. One was a 10 miler and the other was an 8 miler. The 8 miler I got closer to an average of 7:30 while the 10 miler was closer to 7:55.

I haven’t been able to do that since my knee injury in October, but I’ve been signing up for races and training, so it was time to get out there and get closer to the pace that I want to race at. Despite the fact my training has been allllll over the place for this first race, I’m feeling like I’ll run a decent time. Maybe not a PR, but we’ll see on race day! It’s less than 4 weeks out so I’m trying to make the next 2.5 weeks count before tapering.

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Here’s the plan for this week! We’re supposed to get hit hard Tuesday/Wednesday with a snowstorm, but I’m hoping to get out early in the morning on Tuesday and then late in the evening on Wednesday. Then we’re supposed to get more snow Saturday and Sunday (winter please stoooooop…please). I need to get that 14 miler in though so hopefully it’s not too brutal.

Dear Vermont, Finn would like it to be summer already too. How can you say no to that face?

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Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Back over the summer, I had quinoa cakes with a roasted red pepper sauce at a restaurant and knew I wanted to recreate them. It took me awhile to get around to it, but I made these last weekend and they were a big hit at our house! I made an avocado salsa on the side in addition to sautéed spinach.

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Ingredients:

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 2 Red Bell Peppers
  • 1 cup almond milk (I bet this would be great with coconut milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 Scallions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

Quinoa Cakes:

  • 1 cup quinoa cooked
  • 1/2 zucchini shredded
  • 1/2 carrot shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup almond flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Avocado Salsa:

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  1. Preheat oven to 500.
  2. Cook red peppers whole for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and wrap in foil for 10 minutes to soften.
  3. While the red peppers are cooking, saute the shallots and garlic together until golden brown. Add to a blender.
  4. Remove the skin and seeds from the red peppers and add to blender with the shallots and garlic. Add in 1 cup of almond milk, corn starch, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Then pour into a sauce pan and heat until thickened.

For the Quinoa Cakes:

  1. Add together all the ingredients (cooked quinoa, zucchini, carrot, parsley, eggs, almond flour, garlic, and salt and pepper) into a bowl and stir until everything is well mixed.
  2. Heat up oil in a large frying pan. There should be enough oil in the pan to fry the quinoa cakes.
  3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out the mixture and drop it into the frying pan. Cook about 5 minutes on each side.

For the Avocado Salsa

  1. Mix together the avocado, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro.

 

To serve, spoon the roasted red pepper sauce on top of the quinoa cakes and add the avocado salsa on the side. I added sautéed spinach to my meal for added veggies!

Enjoy!

To Work or Play

Can we all just agree that adulting is a little ridiculous sometimes…most of the time? I’m constantly in go-go-go mode so it’s really hard to break free from that. I accept that because of all the extra things I’ve taken on in my life, I will be busy more often than not, but that doesn’t mean I can’t and shouldn’t designate time for fun.

So when Tuesday was a holiday off from work, I knew that it needed to be fun day despite the rainy gloominess. I started off with a relaxing morning drinking coffee in my pajamas before taking Finn pup for a looooooooooong walk. He had a blast running around and wore himself out – so proud of this pup for working on his off-leash skills. We weren’t sure he’d ever get to this point when we first rescued him, but as always – he surprised us with his mad skillz.

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He also has mad napping skillz.

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Then after stopping quickly at my friend’s apartment to take care of her plants, I did a long yoga session.  I generally just have time for 10 minutes of yoga here and there, but it felt so good to take an hour and a half to really stretch out and then do some meditation on top of that.

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After spending some time signing up for two of three certifications I’m working toward this year, it was time for a run in the rain. It actually was kind of nice despite the crazy wind and rain along the lake.

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After that, Finn pup was up and ready for another walk so we headed out again for a second hike. I’m so lucky to live in such an incredibly beautiful place.

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I decided to relax a little under an electric blanket while I ate a chocolate peanut butter smoothie bowl with homemade granola on top and worked on school work.

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And then after a couple hours, I made dinner (Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai).

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Unfortunately on Tuesdays, I don’t see Damir until 9 at night so I put his dinner in the fridge, packed my breakfast/lunch/snacks for tomorrow, and cuddled up on the couch with the pup while doing some more school work. Then when Damir got home we all cuddled up together until I crashed into bed. The perfect way to end an active, relaxing, and fun day.

It’s so easy to get caught up in everything we “have” to do. Both my work and home to-do lists are miles long and never-ending, but that makes it even more important to take time to yourself. Sunday is designated as fun day in our house and sometimes no-phone Sunday which is incredible. Then when I have a random holiday or day off from work, I often just work through it, but taking the time to just enjoy the day was the right call. I highly recommend it!

Happy Wednesday!