Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hectic Holiday

I know I've been remiss in posting- blame it on the 70+ hour work weeks that December has brought! No empty promises about when regular posting will resume (but hopefully soon!), just a quick post to wish you all a very happy holiday! I hope you are staying safe and warm and enjoying quality time with friends, family and fantastically adorable pets :-)

(tell me those sweatshirts are not the cutest!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Awwww (ginger)snap!

Earlier this season I stumbled across the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I was more than intrigued. Not only would I have a reason to bake an insane amount of cookies but I'd also receive three dozen at my doorstep and donate money to a great cause. It took me about .5 seconds to decide that this was something I needed to do.
When it came to deciding what kind of cookie to bake it took me even less time! Not a week before I learned about the swap K. and I had picked up a bag of gingersnaps from our local Lucky's Market. Gingersnaps are easily in my top 5 cookies (probably battling with snickerdoodles for #1, honestly) and I was so excited to see that they were part of the weekly specials that I just snatched up a bag without double checking the label. I was horrified to discover that the cookies I was oh so excited about contained trans fat! I'm not a perfectly clean eater by any means but I do have lines drawn and trans fat is something that crosses the line. The cookies went directly into the trash and my holiday cheer was knocked down a notch. This cookie swap was the perfect opportunity for me to finally get my holiday gingersnaps.

I perused the internet for a few different recipes and decided to work with this one from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from Cook's Illustrated and assorted other sources). I made only minor changes, as a good gingersnap recipe is hard to improve upon.

I would like to note that this recipe is crazy easy and it makes an awesome amount of cookies (over 4 dozen!) at a time. You can also freeze the dough to save for later if you don't need to have 4 dozen delicious cookies in your home at once.

2 1/4 C. Whole Wheat Flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 1/4 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. ground white pepper
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temp)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. dark brown sugar
1 large egg 
3/8 C. molasses
1 t. grated fresh ginger

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate bowl (or stand mixer, food processor, etc) cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg, molasses and fresh ginger and process until well mixed. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix by hand to combine. 

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. An hour or two should be substantial. I left mine in overnight so I actually let it sit at room temperature for just a bit before working with it. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into ~1-inch balls [If you do not plan on baking all the cookies at once, I still recommend forming them into balls before freezing], place the balls on a well-greased cookie sheet at least an inch apart, as the cookies will spread. Bake 12-15 minutes depending on desired "snappiness"- I baked mine for 13 and achieved a flexible cookie with crispy edges.

When (not if) I make these again I plan to add 1/2 t. cardamom and increase the fresh ginger from 1 t. to 2 t., but even without those changes these cookies were a huge success! 

Happy baking!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little too motivated

Last night I was determined to workout this morning. I left a game night with friends early, was in bed by my too-early bedtime, stashed my clothes on my bathroom shelf and fell asleep much quicker than usual. At just about a quarter to 6 my first alarm went off and I was raring to go. As I lay in bed savoring the last few minutes of warmth I decided that I should probably check the forecast and was greeted with this: 

So I threw on an extra layer for the walk to the car (because obviously it was a gym day) and opened my front door to see a solid 3+ inches of snow and completely uncleared roads. This would have been a great time to turn around and go back to bed but I powered through. Thirty minutes later I had completed the four mile drive to my gym and saw this text from K. "It was not worth driving in this to go workout. Text me when you get there so I can go back to sleep". He was probably right, ha. I put in an hour (40 minutes on the treadmill, 20 actually doing some strength training- yay!) and then trekked my way back home. Despite the inches of snow, terrible roads and too long drive I am glad that I went because as they say the only workout you'll regret is the one you didn't do.

The biggest disappointment of my morning was starting to make breakfast and discovering I was out of eggs. Since there was literally no chance of me going BACK out to the store I settled for toast, hot pepper jelly + cottage cheese (yes, on top of the toast). Not too shabby, actually.

I'm having a hard time accepting that winter is basically here- don't even get me started on the fact that Christmas is just TWO WEEKS away. I'm not ready! We barely have decorations up and I've only made one batch of delicious Christmas cookies. So much to do, so little time.

Any winter time traditions that you are looking forward to this month? I'm trying to get over my intense hatred for cold + snow and find some fun things that can only be done in winter- send some suggestions my way!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A very orange dinner

I was feeling a little overenthusiastic when it came to making dinner last night. As I was picking up ingredients and putting together a plan in my head I didn't calculate that it would lead to three burners + the oven being used all at the same time. Oops. Just a typical Thursday meal!

On the menu:
- mashed sweet potatoes w/ sauteed kale, arugula + baby spinach
- tikka masala tofu
- roasted heirloom carrots

I also didn't realize that the resulting meal, although delicious and nutritious, would be very orange.

Eh, oh well.

Post dinner was spent decorating the tree and hanging our stockings. A little (creepy) sneak preview of our in-progress Winter Wonderland:

Today my city is freaking out about the incoming snowstorm. Schools are closed despite there not even being any snow on the ground yet! Blows my mind. Back in my day we'd have to walk to school in a foot of snow, uphill both ways. Or something like that. Hopefully this snowstorm is being blown out of proportion because I'd really prefer to kick off my long run weekends outdoors (I must not train for an entire marathon on a treadmill. I must not train for an entire marathon on a treadmill).

Anyone else covered in snow or currently living in fear of the impending doom?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good job me!

I'd just like to publicly pat myself on the back for finally making it to the gym BEFORE work. It's been a long time since that has happened. During the summer/early fall I got into a habit of running after work instead but not that it is basically pitch black when I leave the office (and I haven't yet acquired a headlamp or any reflective gear) if I hit snooze too many times I'm not able to get a run in at all. This morning I set my alarm for the comical time of 5:42a and after almost an hour of wasting time (I seriously have NO IDEA what I was doing, but I blame Charlotte for being extra cuddly this morning) I was finally out the door. As I walked to my car I realized that it was still 60 degrees and I should probably run outside but I had already mentally planned on going to the gym and I just couldn't deal with changing my plans at that point because my brain wasn't working yet. I was very sad to see that my usual Boy Meets World episodes had been replaced by That 70's Show, but I dealt with the disappointment and settled in for about 4 miles on the 'mill. I wanted to run something between easy and speed work so I did a progression run:

5 min warm-up
10 minutes easy
10 minutes increasing 1mph each minute
1 minute recover at easy pace
8 minutes increasing 1mph each minute
2 minutes increasing 1mph each 30 seconds
5 minute cool-down

I maxed out at around 8mph and that's pretty fast for me. My legs were like lead at the end.

Breakfast was 1 egg + 1 egg white, 1c. baby spinach/arugula mix, toast + hot pepper jelly

Post-run I was feeling a mix of accomplished and discouraged. Good job me for getting to the gym but the reality is that I'm still a bit out of shape and out of my normal routine. What that says to me is that I desperately need to get back to a training plan- it just works better for me.

With a potential marathon date of 5/4, a 20-week training plan would be set to begin on 12/16, which is way sooner than I even realized! That gives me a measly 11 days to continue to focus on base building, which is really no time at all. My goals for the next two weeks are just to get back into a habit of running 4 days a week and working some cross training back in. I plan on starting my weekend long run tradition this weekend with a completely unimpressive distance of 5 miles (since the first "long run" of my training plan is 7). It's crazy how fast Marathon Training: Round 2 has sneaked up on me!

And in completely unrelated news, we picked out our Christmas tree last night! This is K.'s first EVER real live Christmas tree and I was just so excited to go hunting for it. Nothing says Christmas tree shopping like a 60 degree day in December :-)

Terrible picture, no decorations yet. Still so pretty!

Seriously the best part of my morning was coming back from the gym and being overwhelmed by the scent of pine- no scented candle can recreate the actual smell of a Christmas tree!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sorry, I'm not sorry.

I would apologize for yet another extended blog-absence, but since I was spending time with family, I can't say I'm sorry.

And with a view like this how can I say I would have rather been staring at a computer screen?

Our little Thanksgiving vacation was truly perfect- a chance to disconnect from electronics and just share some quality time with my favorite people. The icing on the cake was our Thanksgiving meal- curried sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts + carrots, vegetarian stuffing, pumpkin tiramisu and so much more. I'll dedicate some future posts to a few of the recipes we made because they are definitely worth sharing.

Unfortunately our journey back to reality was a bit bumpy and I feel like I've been playing catch up with sleep and having a hard time easing back into every day life. This morning was finally a bit more normal and made even better by this:

While on a mission for some Silk Nog, my favorite seasonal beverage, I spied this little beauty. I imagined that it would be delicious on its own but would be put to even better use when steamed and mixed with espresso. And oh boy was I right!

Breakfast of champions. Eggs on toast with hot pepper jelly and a pumpkin spice soy latte. If that won't help the post-vacation blues then nothing will!

Question for the masses (because I know my reader base is HUGE): how do we feel about holiday runs? I have been debating signing up for a 5K, preferably on New Year's day. I like the idea of starting the 2014 off on the right foot, so to speak, but I find the pricing of these things to be outrageous. I know that I could very easily wake up nice and early on January 1st and run 3.1 miles on my own but something about an organized race just seems a bit more exciting. I'll also admit that part of my desire to fork over the cash is to kind of force myself to keep it in check- no overindulging on NYE and no excuses when my alarm goes off the next morning (even though this race does boast a very sleep-in friendly 11a start time) because I wouldn't want that money to go to waste. 

Is it wrong to use the external motivation or should I just run with it (bad pun intended) and do what I need to do to help guarantee a good start to 2014?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekend Happenings

It's officially that time of year where the days, weeks, and especially the weekends are just FLYING by! Thanksgiving is just days away and I feel like November just started. 

Here's just a few pictures to show how I've been spending my time.

I have been on SUCH a salad kick this week! I ate one for dinner I think every night. This one was filled with beets, green beans, goat cheese, roasted almonds, and topped with a horseradish vinaigrette (which is heavenly). My body has been screaming "I need vegetables!" lately and I've been listening- yesterday the grocery store had Naked juices on sale and I picked up a pretty delicious tomato based one (as opposed to my usual green monster). 

Quality time with this old frenemy. It's been over 7 months since I've stepped foot on a treadmill (and nearly as many since I've actually gone to the gym to do a workout, whoops) but I just wasn't feeling the cold on Sunday. I ran a 10K at what used to be an easy pace and realized again that I'm still a bit out of shape (did I really run that +20 just a month ago???). It was still a good workout for me- I kept the pace even for first 35 minutes and then threw in some speed work for the last 20. It definitely got my legs moving + my heart rate up. I don't want to rely on the treadmill as much this winter as I have in the past, but if it comes down to running on a treadmill or NOT running, I definitely need to hit the 'mill. (oh and don't worry- I took this picture while walking for my cool down at a crazy slow pace. No one was endangered during this moment).

Quality kitty time! When I sat on the couch to eat my breakfast Dora just climbed right up on my chest and curled up. It was so precious! Despite having a to-do list a mile long I couldn't disturb her so we had a nice little break together.

Cookie dough! I had just enough time to whip up some gingersnap dough yesterday (but not enough time to actually bake the cookies). I'm so excited to taste the final product though. I don't bake cookies too often (more of a cupcake girl) but I think I'll be baking a few batches of holiday cookies throughout the next few weeks.

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

So, what's next?

I'll be the first to admit that I've suffered from post-race depression. It's one of the reasons that I always like to have something else on the horizon- something to look forward to so I don't let myself stumble off track. When I went into marathon training I knew this would be a big one for me- it would be time consuming, it might make me hate running and it may even end up in injury- so I kept my post-race calendar wide open. What a mistake! That past few weeks have not been pretty. First I gave myself two weeks to recover physically (because I had some not-so-pleasant foot pains immediately after my race) and to enjoy life a bit more again. So I stayed out late, went to some Halloween parties, ordered in dinner a few too many times and skipped a whole lot of workouts. Suddenly two weeks turned into three and now here I am one month post marathon and what have I been doing? Nothing! (including not blogging- whoops!)

Well it's time to change that.

I've been looking into a few local triathlon clubs to try to dip my toes into something new but more importantly I've been looking at spring races so I can hurry up and get my something on my calendar! For now I've got a 20-miler and a May marathon on my wish list. Yes, another marathon. It just feels right.

As for short term goals: more cooking, more blogging and more running for fun. Until I'm committed to a race (and a training plan!) I'm just kind of rediscovering my innate love of the sport. It's been fun to set out with no plans and just kind of run. I did my first "quality workout" this weekend though and it was clear that I am already pretty out of shape (my poor quads STILL hurt!). I'm going to use the last few weeks of 2013 to rebuild my base, revisit my time with Jillian and bond with my yoga mat. All good things.

I promise that I will be returning to regularly scheduled blogging- I have just honestly felt a little lost post-marathon and it was hard to sit down and write. Every time I started a post it turned into me whining about not being on track- no more of that! I'm coming back strong.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun with pattypans!

Last weekend we made a stop at Lynd Fruit Farm to pick up a few autumn essentials. The prices were crazy good- I swear almost everything was less than $1 per pound. I wanted to stock up on squash but wasn't pleased with the butternuts they had so after grabbing more than a few acorn squash I decided to branch out and try something new. Enter the pattypan! I had never even HEARD of a pattypan prior to this moment (does that make me a bad semi-foodie??)!

After a bit of googling (for inspiration and basic cooking suggestions) I decided I wanted to stuff these little guys, as they were the perfect size. I preheated the oven to 350 and started boiling the squash (and set a timer for 8 minutes) while I got to work on a filling.

For the filling:
1/2 c. dry quinoa 
1 c. water
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
3-4 green onions
1 c. chickpeas, cooked
parmesan cheese

I combined the quinoa, water and diced garlic in a small saucepan and brought it to a boil. I then turned the flame down, covered the pan and let it simmer for ~10 minutes. Meanwhile I sauteed the onions and seasoned to taste with cumin, salt & pepper. Once the squash we done I sliced off the tops and scooped out their insides. I added the insides to the onions and let them cook for a few moments. I finally tossed in the chickpeas and cooked quinoa and stirred to combine.

I stuffed the little pattypans to the brim with this filling, topped it off with a sprinkle of parmesan and put the tops (or their hats, as I began calling them).

I let them bake for ~25 minutes or so, turning the oven up to 375 towards the end, and then served them with some steamed fresh green beans (seasoned with lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes).

We really enjoyed the pattypans! They are perfect for stuffing because you can eat the skin too. I think I'd rank them as my 4th favorite squash (below butternut, acorn and spaghetti) and I would recommend that everyone give them a try.

Can't wait to dive into the pounds of peppers we bought for even more kitchen experiments!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Seed Adventures!

In all my adult life I have never roasted pumpkin seeds. And to be honest, I don't know if I have ever actually eaten a roasted pumpkin seed on its own. I decided to change that. I read somewhere that pumpkin seeds are a natural antidepressant, who knows if that's true, but they are definitely a great source of iron (among many other things). 

Over the weekend we carved our pumpkins (pictures to follow- I forgot to buy candles!) and these babies were BIG. After spending what felt like hours sorting through the pumpkin innards I walked away with over 6 cups of nothing but seeds- crazy!

After checking the internet for a basic outline of how to roast seeds (temperature, time, etc.) I was ready to dive in. Given that there were so many seeds I knew I wanted to make a few different batches, I settled on some classic categories: salty, sweet, & spicy.

I preheated the oven to about 325 degrees and sorted my (already washed!) seeds into 2 cup batches. A few of the recipes I came across suggesting soaking the seeds in salt water to make them easier to eat/digest/something like that but honestly I was just too lazy to do that so I didn't (maybe I should have?). For each batch I added all the ingredients into the bowls of seeds and tossed well to coat. I then spread the seeds into a thin layer on a cookie sheet and baked them for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently.

My variations (rough estimations of ingredients, I started with measurements and then just added more to taste):

~1 tsp olive oil
~1 heaping tsp of chili powder
~1/4 tsp cayenne
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp sriracha
~1 T brown sugar

~1/2 tsp olive oil
~1 tsp agave
~2 T brown sugar
~1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
~1/2 tsp salt

~1 tsp olive oil
~1 1/2 tsp salt
~1 tsp pepper
~1 1/2 tsp paprika
~1 tsp cumin

The sweet were DEFINITELY my favorite. The spicy were good, but they were my very first batch and I think I could have been more heavy handed with the seasoning. Keeping that in mind I added a lot more to the salty and I was pleased with those as well. Overall I'm very pleased with my first attempt at pumpkin seed roasting- I just don't really know what we are going to do with SIX cups of seeds! I already plan to add the sweet into some granola/yogurt, but any suggestions for the savory?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Columbus Marathon Recap (this is a long one!)

I know I didn't make it a secret that going into this race I was NERVOUS. I revised my goals many times and per the suggestion of all focused on just finishing, but in my heart I knew that I had one other big goal: running the entire thing. No walking, no stopping, no excuses. That kind of became my mantra.

With a few delays along our way we made it (close) to the starting line. K. dropped us off and shouted a few motivational phrases at me as he drove away.  KT & I tried to find our way to the corrals. The starting area was pretty hectic and honestly kind of poorly marked. Although there seemed to be volunteers everywhere no one was particularly helpful at the time. KT had a bag to check but there was very little indicating where we were supposed to do that so we just followed everyone else carrying bags. We finally found the gear check, dropped her bag off and got in line for the porta-a-potties. It was getting pretty close to 7a (when corrals supposedly closed) so we rushed through, said our goodbyes and good lucks and found our respective corrals. The Columbus Marathon went from 6 corrals last year to 4 this year and I'm not sure why. I found my corral to be WAY overcrowded and very hard to get into- there was one small entrance (so that bibs could be monitored) and the back up to get in was crazy! Tons of people were just jumping the fences and bypassing the bib checkers which was frustrating to me, a follower of rules, but I just blocked it out and tried to get into my own zone. I had a weird sense of calm washing over me. I'm generally almost afraid to be confident, I'm more the kind of person who lowers expectations so as to avoid disappointment, but I was feeling really good and that was terrifying. I knew that today was my day and I really tried to go with that feeling. Despite the freezing temperatures and lack of personal space, the 30 minute wait between corral close + first corral release flew by. I ditched my sweats and my windbreaker, popped a Shot Blok in my mouth and got ready to run. As corral B moved up to the start line I soaked it all in: I was going to run a marathon!

I was very focused on keeping my first miles in check, I refused to go out too fast and ruin my race (as I have done during every.single.half-marathon) so my key phrase was "hold back". Despite the crowds I had quickly settled into a pace that I knew was too fast, so I just kept repeating "hold back" and finally found a happy place around 10:30. My goal was to keep my miles between 10:00-11:30, slow but steady. The first few miles honestly flew by, I knew I'd be seeing K. just past mile 1 so that was my first little burst of energy. I kept my eyes out for him, which was good because I think he would have missed me if I didn't start screaming his name! After I saw him I turned up my music and just stayed focused on slowing my pace down and enjoying my surroundings, as I knew I wouldn't see my cheering crew again for another 7 or so miles. Per the suggestion of Carolina John, I was taking a small sip of water during every song change (which ended up being the perfect hydration strategy!) and then sticking with my tried-and-tested nutrition of one Shot Blok every three miles. That little routine made the whole marathon seem more manageable- it basically broke the race up into little three mile sections for me. Although I still felt very strong and comfortable it was around mile 3 that I realized two things: 1. these shoes are dead. They may have JUST died. Either way I'm never wearing them again and 2. I am pretty sure I have some level of a stress fracture in my foot. I hadn't really had many doubts, I still felt strong and great, but the thought of an actual injury ironically made me commit even more to my goal of running the entire thing- because I imagined I may be sidelined for a bit post-race I might as well make it worth it, right?

First 10K splits:

mile 1: 10:37
mile 2: 10:26
mile 3: 10:34
mile 4: 10:34
mile 5: 10:30
mile 6: 10:38

10K : 1:05:35

Right on pace.

I had told my family to expect for me to hit that halfway point just around 2:20:00 and I knew that I was doing a good job of staying on track for that. I kept my eyes out for my cheering section around mile 8 but I nearly missed them! A big thanks to the non-headphone wearing runner next to me who got my attention :-). I told K. I didn't need more fuel, said my goodbyes and continued on. I didn't expect to see anyone again until mile 20ish, so I knew that I had to make sure I was keeping the positive thoughts going strong. As I was running through mile 9 I thought about how terrible I felt at that point during the Columbus half last year and even Cap City back in May- I had started walking there in both races- but not today. Today I felt SO STRONG, which was extra great considering I still had 17 miles to go, haha. The next few miles were pretty uneventful. They felt easy and I was just preparing myself to get through the low of watching all the half marathoners turn toward the finish line. An important part of the Columbus Marathon is that it supports Nationwide Children's Hospital. Each mile is dedicated towards a current or former patient and throughout the mile you see facts and photos of the patients and, for those who are well enough to be there, you see the patient themselves. Which is certainly motivational. Mile 12 is the Angel Mile, dedicated to the kids who lost their battles. Last year at that point I was in the homestretch and pretty much only thinking about collapsing but this year I was trying to hold back (all the half marathoners were picking up their paces at this point) so I had a chance to really have a moment for those children. I got to see their friends and family members holding signs dedicated to them and it was very touching. As I hit mile 13 (and watched hundreds of happy half marathoners finish up their races) I felt exhilarated- I was doing this. I was running a marathon and there was no turning back!

mile 7: 10:44
mile 8: 10:36
mile 9: 10:32
mile 10: 10:35
mile 11: 10:42
mile 12: 10:48
mile 13: 10:27

Half Marathon: 2:19:29 (perfect!)

I knew what was coming next- a very desolate stretch. This race is notorious for a serious drop in spectators from about mile 13-18. To make matters worse I wasn't expecting to see K. again until somewhere near mile 20. And on top of all that, we had a slow gradual incline to run up for at least 3 miles. It was not a good time. Despite all of that- I felt strong and confident. I just kept saying "wow, you are really going to do this!". I was easily maintaining my hydration + nutrition strategies and I felt perfectly fueled- not sloshy or thirsty, not hungry or sugar-highed- just perfect. I already started telling myself how this was my smartest race and how I had nailed nutrition. I didn't want to get TOO cocky at this point- I was still fearing the dreaded wall- but I really tried to keep all negative thoughts out of my head. As I was strolling along High street and enjoying my race PDR I was extremely shocked to see K. (conveniently standing right in front of my work) yelling for me! I took out my headphones and I just screamed back "I haven't walked yet! I haven't walked yet!". I told him I was good on fuel and I'd see him again at 20. That was such a pleasant surprise! As the course took a turn onto Lane avenue I was relieved because I knew we had a bit of a downhill in front of us. I started having new landmarks in my mind: 16.3 miles because less than double-digits left, 17 miles because that was my longest continuous run prior to this, 20 miles to make up for my failed 20-miler/see K., 23.1 miles because only a 5K left. Little things like that were pulling me through. At around 17/18 we went into the famed Ohio State Stadium (the 'shoe) and while I'm sure other people found this super exciting, I found it kind of dumb. We had to run down a sudden, steep downhill (really hard after 17.5 miles of running), take ~20 steps in the actual stadium and then a sudden, steep uphill! It felt like a cruel joke. What I DID like about this part was that it was a turnaround, so I had seen the people in front of me and now I was seeing the ones behind. During the entire race I NEVER looked back (because why would I?) and kind of had it in my head that no one was running as "slow" as me- which is crazy, I realize. But I somehow found comfort in knowing there were thousands of people in every direction. After the stadium the next 2 miles felt like a mountain- and looking at my Garmin data it was the highest climb of the entire race, which is just mean! I'm proud to say that mile 19 was the first time my pace crept over 11 minutes (and a bit sadder to say that it would never go back down- whoops!). These miles were a bit less rosy- my back and my hips were starting to hurt- but I truly feel like I never really hit "the wall". I definitely slowed a bit, but I still felt strong and almost more confident than ever. As soon as I hit mile 20 I knew that I only had a measly little 10K left and I had redeemed myself from my failed training run.

mile 14: 10:38
mile 15: 10:40
mile 16: 10:41
mile 17: 10:55
mile 18: 10:59
mile 19: 11:17
mile 20 : 11:39 (slowest mile of the marathon, so kind of my "wall")

20M 3:36:26

Shortly past 20 I saw K. again and I started screaming "NO WALKING! I'M DOING THIS!!!!!" kind of like a maniac, pretty sure I freaked out the runners around me, but I was just so excited! Any remaining fears I had were completely gone- there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish this without walking. Mile 20 through 23 were again, uneventful, I was just so ready to get to the final 5K. I actually saw the 4:30 pace group around 20 or 21 (they had started a corral behind me, so it was probably more like 4:35-4:38 for me) and thought about booking it and finishing with them but the not-so-great pain in my foot told me that was a bad idea. I once again made peace with the fact that this wasn't a time goal race for me and I just kept doing my own thing. At mile 23 we were greeted with a Kroger sponsored food stop, full of cookies, candy, fruit and soda. I ate my last planned Shot Blok @ 21 so an orange wedge sounded perfect to get me through these last few miles. It tasted like heaven, really. When I hit mile 25 I started welling up for the first time, I knew only one more mile marker stood between me and finishing this thing. By this point I had turned off shuffle on my iPod and started putting on my power songs ("Roar" by Katy Perry, "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore  & Ryan Lewis and "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machines) over and over. The crowds got REALLY thick right near the "1/2 mile to go!" sign and it was all so overwhelming. I had the BIGGEST smile on my face but I was also basically crying. As we took a turn toward the finish line I was just completely in awe- of the people cheering for me, of the people in front of and behind me, and of myself. I ripped my headphones out of my ears and ran as fast as I could towards the finish line. After 26 miles of running I felt like I was flying but after watching the video that was not quite the case, haha, but either way. I gave it everything I had left and crossed the finish line with my hands in the air. I had actually done it.

mile 21: 11:06
mile 22: 11:10
mile 23: 11:08
mile 24: 11:12
mile 25: 11:16
mile 26: 11:09
.2 (well, .46 because I failed at running the tangents): 9:15 pace

TOTAL TIME: 4:45:40

I thanked every volunteer who would listen and proudly posed for a finish line photo (something I've skipped in other races). The second I stopped running I was acutely aware of all the aches and pains in my lower legs but at that point it really didn't matter. The first thing I said to K. when I finally got to hug him was: "I ran the whole thing. I didn't really I think I could do that, but you did. And I did it!".

I can say without a doubt this was the smartest race I've ever run. I knew I was in no shape to actually "race" my first marathon so I held back and focused on what I could do. I stayed true to my hydration/nutrition plan and it worked flawlessly- I didn't even feel famished when I crossed the finish. Another thing that really paid off for me was the heart rate training- my average heart rate was 165 for the marathon, which is GREAT for what was technically race day. I peaked at 179 during my sprint to the finish but mostly stayed in the 160s. I was very pleased to see that.

Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect first marathon. And as everyone had warned it only took me a few hours to decide that yes, I will definitely be going back for more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pre-Marathon Prep

I figure I can drag the marathon talk out for another two posts before I need to accept that it is over (sad!) and time to move on to future goals (exciting!). So today we'll cover the day before and morning of the marathon.

My anxiety was sky high on Saturday. I was so thankful that I had a really messy house to deal with and visitors arriving to distract me from freaking out. I let myself wake up without an alarm, as I assumed I wouldn't be getting the best night's sleep on Saturday I wanted to get at least a solid 8 hours on Friday, and that was pretty glorious. Another thing I wanted to do was enjoy a leisurely breakfast so I decided to try a new play on my oh-so-favorite Greek yogurt pancakes. I had 3/4 of a container of 0% plain Chobani in my fridge so I felt like the possibilities were endless!

My inspiration was my pre-run snack from Friday:

PB&Co. courtesy of a box of goodies I won from Chelsea of Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen. So delicious!

I mixed up my usual GY pancake batter (3 oz. Greek yogurt, 1 egg white, 1/4 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda) and then I added in:
 1/2T. of the Dark Chocolate Dreams
 1/2T sweetened shredded coconut (since I was using plain yogurt)
 1/2t. vanilla extract
~7 slices of banana, broken up

I dolloped my batter in the pan and added some extra banana slices while they cooked. For my dipping sauce I mixed together the remaining Greek yogurt and a bit more of the dark chocolate dreams PB. I also sliced up the rest of the banana on the side.

Breakfast is served!

I'm glad I fit in my relaxing breakfast because as soon as I finished eating I was cleaning like a mad woman! I spent the next four hours doing laundry, vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub, doing dishes, dusting, etc. before I knew it I only had ~20 minutes to shower and be ready for the arrival of my first visitor! 

Once my friend KT arrived (who was running her very first half marathon), we hit up the expo (which was super crowded and nothing to write home about) and the grocery store and came home to start making a big pasta dinner. My wonderful cousin and aunt had driven down to come cheer me on so they joined us and K. for dinner. I stuffed myself with pasta and then we all sat down to look at the course map, determine where they could see me and work on my playlist. By 10p I was in bed and I felt like a kid on Christmas eve!

When my alarm went off at 4:47a I was ready to go! It was a bit colder than I was hoping (probably should have turned on the heat) but I still managed to pop out of bed and get right into my race morning routine. As soon as I got downstairs I realized that I felt good- no aches, no pains, no stomach issues. I was cautiously optimistic at this point. I toasted up two pieces of whole wheat bread and smothered them with PB + blackberry jam, I ate almost all of that (a larger pre-run breakfast than usual, but since nutrition has been an issue I wanted to make sure I was FULL). I washed it down with a 20oz of half Vitamin Water Revive/half water. At about 5:45 I started to get dressed. For my race outfit I wanted removable layers- I've really come to prefer running in shorts + a tank so that was my base layer, but when we left the house I was wearing:

Moving Comfort Juno sports bra
Moving Comfort Flex tank
Moving Comfort Momentum shorts (I'm just now realizing that I was head to toe MC, they do make some of the best running clothes!)
Pro Compression Arm Sleeves
Pro Compression Calf Sleeves
Mizuno Wave Inspire 9s (which are officially retired from my rotation now)
C9 Cold weather headband
throwaway sweatpants
throwaway zip down hoodie
throwaway wind breaker

It was the perfect amount of clothes for the ~35 degree morning we were having!

I loaded my pockets with a variety of fuel- I didn't want to end up having my body reject one flavor of Shot Bloks (it's been known to happen to me in race) and be left with nothing, so I took half a package of black cherry, half a package of fruit punch and half a package of pomegranate Honey Stinger energy chews. I put the remaining halves into another baggy for K. to have in case I wanted to grab them from him on the course. I filled up a water bottle with plain water, grabbed my Garmin + HRM, iPod and sunglasses and we headed out the door. 

To Be Continued...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marathon success!

I did it!! 26.2 miles of nothing but running. I'm going to need some serious rest and recovery time but I'm already working on my race recap (while the memories are still fresh) and can't wait to share it!

Friday, October 18, 2013

This week has been a blur of battling sickness and work, work, work. I'm trying to get ahead so I can happily enjoy having post-marathon Monday off to recuperate and it's made for a pretty hectic week.

Despite the busy-ness of work, I squeezed in a really nice run the other day. After reading basically every article about the marathon taper I could find on the internet (I like to do my research!) I felt like I had a pretty good plan in place, a few easy runs and then coasting until the big day. Many of the articles (sorry, no links because they are bookmarked on my other computer, but I know they were from Runner's World) highlighted the fact that even though you are decreasing mileage you don't need to decrease intensity (you also shouldn't INCREASE it though, very important). As is typical for me during a training period, I've been feeling a little over running. I'm tired of watching my heart rate, of doing painfully slow long runs, of HAVING to run. So I decided to take a break from all that. I ditched the heart rate monitor, set my Garmin for 30 minutes and just RAN. It felt great! I remembered what it was to get my legs moving again, to feel free and happy on the roads. It was comforting to see that I hadn't lost all my speed and that it could feel good again. I still have a shake out run or two left in me- 20 minutes today and maybe tomorrow, nothing hard- but I consider that to be my last "real" training run and it was the perfect one to end on.

Last night I was craving comfort food to help shake this sickness so I settled on a chili recipe that I stumbled across not too long ago. I can't remember what blogger had linked to this but as soon as I saw the name I knew I had to make it (and that my sister would want to as well): Peanut Butter Vegetarian Chili! I followed the recipe exactly and it was amazing! You can't really taste the peanut butter but it does make the chili a bit more substantial- which can be hard with a vegetarian chili. In the name of easing into carb loading I served mine in a sourdough bread bowl with a dollop of 0% plain Chobani.

It was exactly what I was craving and we have tons of leftovers.

We enjoyed our chili while watching half of the Eddie Izzard Marathon Man docu-series. Have you ever checked that out? It's totally insane- with zero running background he set out to run 43 marathons in 51 days. And while he wasn't setting any speed records it was still incredibly motivational. Really highlights the importance of mental toughness. It was super motivational.

Big plans for tonight: playlist making (I want to have at least 5 hours of music ready), house cleaning (visitors arrive tomorrow!) and another good night of sleep (probably my last chance for that).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking to calm the nerves

I've been pretty open about the fact that I'm relatively terrified about this upcoming marathon. And while I've been trying to keep my nerves in check and do what's best for me body, I feel like it's all kind of coming to a head. Now that we are less than a week away from the big day I feel like the only thing I can think about is this race. It's all consuming! In an attempt to temporarily clear my mind (and continue to properly fuel my body) I've finally been spending more time in the kitchen- and it's felt good!

This weekend I decided to embrace fall and eat my first spaghetti squash of the season. I was craving vegetables but wanted a meal that also felt hardy.

Like 99% of the meals I cook, I started by sauteeing an onion.

To increase the richness I threw in a tablespoon of butter, instead of using olive oil. While the onion was cooking I chopped up some fresh sage and garlic. I feel that any autumn squash + sage = perfection. 

I added in the sage and garlic, a bit of fresh ground pepper, some baby bella mushrooms and probably 3 cups of fresh spinach (I love mt greens) and allowed it all to cook down.

As all of this was taking place on the stove top, I had an entire (GIANT) spaghetti squash roasting in the oven. I generally just coat a baking sheet in olive oil, cut the squash in half and roast it face down until a butter knife can cut into it.

This baby was over 5 lbs of deliciousness so I only shredded half and added it into the saute pan.

Finally I topped this all off with some of my sweet curry tofu and had a well balanced meal. This dinner tasted like fall and was extremely filling. I look forward to many more squash adventures this season!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Not the best time to get sick.. or is it?

I'm pretty sure that everyone in my general area has been fighting off the same bug, or at least that's my scientific assumption based off all the data I've been gathering (i.e. reading whiny facebook statuses and watching my employees and co-workers drop like flies). Of course my instant reaction to anyone who mentioned being sick was to shoo them away and tell them that my precious pre-marathon body wanted nothing to do with their nasty sickness. I was feeling optimistic as I started the week with no signs of sickness and then the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and naturally all the little symptoms started showing up (and yes, I know that cold does not make people sick but drastic temperature changes ALWAYS make ME sick). 

So, I spent a day feeling run down and whiny and tried to go through my normal routine and of course I woke up the next day feeling 1000x worse. After a sick day, too many episodes of Gilmore Girls, two cans of soup and 13+ hours of sleep (thanks NyQuil) I was certain that I'd beat the bug and was ready for action. Yesterday I worked almost a whole day and attempted a 30 minute run, I thought "what can go wrong in 30 minutes?". Well, that answer is a lot. About a mile in I felt tired so I slowed down a bit, which was practically a shuffle because I was already moving pretty slow, and sure enough my shuffling feet caught an uneven curb and WHAM before I even realized what was happening I was rolling into the middle of street. I got up, shocked, and noticed my bloody hand + elbow and honestly couldn't help but laugh. Luckily I hadn't seriously injured myself but obviously I was not in the state to be running. I was already half way into my out-and-back run so I just turned around and shuffled home (being sure to pick up my feet along the way). Once I got home I realized the burning sensation coming from my shoulder was due to a nice large section of road rash and that my hip was already bruising from my roll. Oh Ashley, you are too clumsy to do ANYTHING when you aren't feeling 100%!

Just like the three nights prior, I settled into the couch for a big bowl of soup and healthy serving of Netflix.

I realize now that looks like a big bowl of broccoli & cheese, which would be delicious, but it's actually butternut squash soup (and TONS of broccoli).

Today I do honestly feel better, which I am relieved to say, and hope that since I've already succumbed to the mystery illness of mid-Ohio that I can make it to race day with no further sickness. I may try to redeem myself with another nice & easy run tonight, preferably without the fall. Tomorrow is my last remotely "long" run (6 miles) and then it's nothing but 30 minute jaunts from here on out. I'm getting excited/nervous/anxious/terrified/etc. and already beginning to obsess about every ache and pain I'm feeling. I'm also reading any marathon advice I can get my hands out- what to eat & drink throughout this week, how much exercise to do other than running (I hope to squeeze in some yoga and core work, but probably not much else) and I'm asking every runner I know for wise words. I can't believe I'm into single digits on my countdown!

So- weigh in! I love the advice I've received from you all so far and would appreciate more. What kind of things should I pay attention to this week? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Last long run = DONE

This weekend I tackled my last double digit run until the marathon and I'm so glad that it's behind me! I know that people tend to complain about the taper but I'm welcoming it with open arms- I'm mostly looking at 30-45 minute runs and one six miler over the next two weeks and that sounds glorious right about now.

Per the advice of all, I stuck to my training plan and set out for an easy 10-miler. I ate a pretty large-for-me pre-run breakfast (two pieces of whole wheat toast w/ PB + jam) so I could see how my stomach felt being a little fuller. To be honest I'm typically pretty lucky in that department- outside of the one stupid time that I ate hummus + popcorn pre-run, my stomach never gives me any issues. And Saturday was no exception to that, I felt well fueled. I normally wouldn't take any fuel other than water for a 10 miler but I knew this would be my last real chance to toy with nutrition. I traded out my usual Shot Bloks for some pomegranate honey stingers just to see if I noticed a difference. For an early October day the weather was crazy hot. It was almost 80 degrees when I left my house and I was glad that there were some scattered showers coming my way. The run itself was pretty uneventful, I watched my heart rate closely and just tried to keep it super low. I ignored my pace (but I know it was SLOW) and just tried to enjoy my last long run. The next time I gear up and head out for long run it will be marathon morning! I felt good about fueling but still not so great about hydration, I think I need to work on drinking more on a daily basis so I'm at a better starting point (it also didn't help that I had had a glass of wine the night before and not drank more water before bed, rookie mistake!).

I needed this run to go well because my head has just been full of doubts. Thankfully I made it through all 10 miles pretty easily- no walking breaks, no mental breakdowns and only a few curse words (my heart rate monitor kind of went on the fritz and my patience was low). I'm well aware that being able to run 10 miles does not at all imply that I will breeze through a marathon but it feels better just reminding myself how far I've come. Now that I'm entering the homestretch I'm really trying to work on my mental toughness. Looking back at my May half marathon I know that those 5 seconds were due to giving up mentally, not physically. Obviously this race will be different, as I won't be fighting for a certain time, but I do want to be fighting for a strong run. As much as I want to enjoy the ride and soak in every moment of it, I always want to push myself both physically and mentally (not to the point of injury though!). I don't want to give up when it starts to get uncomfortable and start walking. One of my big goals was to run the whole race and I'd love to be able to accomplish that one- even if it's a slow shuffle- I want to give it everything I've got. 

13 days to toughen myself up a bit. K. has found some documentaries for me to watch and I'm re-reading a few of my favorite running books. Any suggestions for other things to watch/read?