When the run just finally feels right…

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My unassuming running trail…

Of course it would finally happen while I was out of town. I run with my peeps because I need the accountability. When I lost my long-time running partner a year ago, I was left like a boat adrift on the high seas. My running suffered because I just couldn’t bring myself to get out there. But new running partners came into my life and kept me out there for those group runs, thank goodness. I can’t say I have ever actually felt good on a solo run. My demons would always come along for the ride, reminding me that my shoelaces were a little too snug or that sports bra was chafing my shoulder. They would imagegive me an out, telling me it’s ok to turn back early and only get a few miles in, despite my training schedule requesting a 90 minute run.

But last night I was out of town and couldn’t find a group that I felt comfortable joining. What I did find was a popular running trail about six miles from my hotel. I’m not ashamed to say I totally ubered to the trail. The sun beat down and the humidity was a real treat. I saw a couple coming off the trail and asked them about the trail – very few water fountains, but it goes 14 miles, they said. Sounded perfect – so I set off with the intention of just getting maybe three miles in.

imageHalf a mile into the run, the sounds of the city were completely gone and all I heard were the squirrels rustling in the woods and a babbling brook. Who knew that little streams of water actually made the babbling sound?? By a mile, I saw two beautiful deer off to my left enjoying some foraging. I kid you not, they were no more than five feet from me. I just kept going, hoping to see something new and wonderful. No demons came to join me. I didn’t ever look at my watch to check my pace. I would occasionally come across a cyclist or another runner, but it was truly a peaceful run. I finally decided to turn around after just under three miles, mostly because I still wanted to get a swim in and knew that the sun would be setting soon enough, but I felt like I could have gone far longer.

I found myself sweaty and spent and so full of energy after my run. Exactly as it was meant to be. I may even try another solo run back home soon. Maybe – I like my running tribe…

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A new year…

Tap, tap, tap… Is this thing on?

Hey! Long time, no chat!

I stepped away for a bit from blogging to focus on some goals last fall. I had a sort of abysmal spring last year as far as racing was concerned. I struggled to meet any of my goals, but not because I wasn’t fit enough. I think it was all between the ears. So, I really buckled down, got a trainer for some strength training and began to work on the mental side of distance running. I took the pressure off of myself a little bit and didn’t train for a specific finish time at the marathon. Instead, my goals were a little more success driven.

  • Push my wall. The last marathon I literally sat on the curb at mile 19 ½ and cried. I almost DNF’d. I hated every stupid step of the last 6 plus miles I walked to finally make it to the finish line. I didn’t feel empowered when I crossed the finish line. I felt like I needed a do-over. So many things went wrong with that race, it was just a joke. The only positive I can take from my 2014 marathon was that I didn’t quit. I figure, if I can make my wall show up anywhere in the 20’s, I would automatically PR because I would shave 10 minutes off from the “sit on a curb and cry” pace.
  • Don’t go out too fast. I am notorious for this foolishness. I get so caught up in the start line frenzy, I don’t show any sort of discipline. I think that if I start off fast and bank time, it will be a good thing. Not really, what happens is the whole race falls apart! My new goal was to show discipline and ignore those around me going faster than me and just run my race.
  • Don’t give up. I have given up on so many things in life and I was tired of it. I shorted workouts if it was too hot, too humid, wasn’t feeling it, it was hard, if a friend wasn’t feeling it. NO MORE. I would do all the workouts and prove to myself that I was tough. That way, when it got tough in the race, I could dig from that experience.

So, how did it go? It was miles different and learned a lot about myself in the process. I had a great time at the Dallas Marathon this past year and I met all of my goals. In the process, I even managed a PR. I am contemplating a race recap, since I’ve had about a month to digest it all, but I am back and will dust this poor little blog off in an attempt to keep my mind off my oldest son getting ready to graduate high school and head to college in the fall. There may be a lot of running involved. 😉

Planning Ahead: Staying fed while training

imageCoaches will tell you that a big factor to success in marathon and half-marathon training is fuel. While the fuel we consume during the run is important, the more important fuel is what we eat when we aren’t running. It can certainly be daunting to plan out all of your meals, but the alternative is grabbing something from a drive-thru or skipping your run because your kids are screaming that they are hungry and you have to run to the grocery store. I was asked recently how I make training work with my full-time job and kids and all of the other crazy I have going on in my life, so I am outlining my meal-planning process for you.

Meal planning begins every Sunday afternoon when we have the most down-time. My favorite tool is this weekly planning calendar from Post-It that I got from the local office supply store and includes post-it notes that fit in the box and stick completely on the page.

imageThe process begins with writing out any events for the family that might be a factor in meals, such as run nights or school events, down on the bottom of the calendar. Next, I make up post-its for meals I won’t have to cook, including Sunday dinners with parents or eating out at our favorite taco joint for post-run tacos with our running groups. From there, I begin planning out breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. For the most part, we have a handful of recipes that are fast, easy and family favorites, so we stick with those and add in new recipes to try. Most of the process is just using the stickers I had on the previous week’s menu. My lunches usually are left overs of dinner the previous evening and I always include two or three different small snacks because I love to graze literally all day long.

There are a handful of benefits to planning out an entire week at a time:

  1. I can make sure I eat enough protein or increase my calorie intake on days in which I have a hard workout planned.
  2. I can look at an entire week and make sure I have a varied diet that includes different proteins and carbohydrates to keep me interested.
  3. It’s an opportunity to see if I am including lots of different colors in my menu on a daily basis, rather than just relying on green beans!

imageI love that this process lets us go to the grocery store once a week, which saves at least a few hours every week by staying out of the store throughout the week. It also saves a significant amount of money on a weekly basis (can we say “race fees”???) and, most important, I’m not feeling the pressure at 6pm when the kids are asking what is for dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for dinner.  There are many requirements I have:

  • One portion of the entire meal has to be less than 450 calories, what I’ve typically got left by dinner time
  • It should feel like I got a good-sized portion – none of this two bites and I’m done with dinner foolishness
  • I’d like the cost to be low (I have race fees to pay for, gotta save some bucks! LOL)
  • The kids have to be willing to eat it
  • My husband has to be willing to prepare it.  Have I mentioned I can’t boil water?!?

I found this recipe in Clean Eating’s July/August 2014 issue.

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

Serves 4; Hands-on Time: 30 minutes; Total Time: 30 minutes

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about 2/3 of a head)
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 1/2 tsp juice, divided
  • 4 4-oz chicken breasts, each cut crosswise into 2 thin pieces
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted bell peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp white whole-wheat flour, divided
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a medium saucepot with 1 inch water and bring to a boil on high.  Fit with a steamer basket and add cauliflower to the basket; cover and steam until very tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, adding 1/4 cup hot water from the pot, 1 Tbsp butter, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, line up chicken on a cutting board and spread ricotta evenly over one side of each piece of chicken.  Sprinkle peppers evenly over the ricotta.  Roll up and secure each piece with toothpicks.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 tsp salt evenly over chicken. Transfer 2 Tbsp flour to a medium sized shallow bowl and dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Mist a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add chicken and cook for about 6 minutes, turning over halfway, until golden brown on both sides. Mist a large baking sheet with cooking pray and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Note: Internal temperature should register 165 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.  Carefully remove toothpicks and slice crosswise into rounds.
  3. Meanwhile, to a small heavy saucepot, add stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tsp flour and 2 tsp lemon juice until smooth.  Add to the stock along with the remaining 1 Tbsp butter.  Simmer for 2 minutes, until smooth and thickened.  Divide cauliflower and chicken among serving plates and top the chicken with the sauce.

Nutrition per serving (2 roulades, 1/2 cup cauliflower, 1/4 of the sauce):

280 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 4 g mono-unsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 10.5 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 29.5 g protein, 390 mg sodium, 94 mg cholesterol

Verdict

The family loved it!  I was hesitant of the pureed cauliflower strictly because that’s such a “diet-y” thing to do.  Why is the potato such an evil little thing?  Rather than using jarred roasted red-bell peppers, my husband took a bell pepper out to the grill and roasted a fresh one from the garden.  So much tastier!  It was filling and flavorful and I would definitely put this in the rotation for the future ask Sean to keep making this.  One thing to note, though – man, there were a lot of dirty dishes! What time we saved in the preparation we gave back in all those darn pots and pans!  Also, hubby the chef said that the recipe wasn’t the easiest to follow and is definitely not for the novice cook because the process of rolling chicken can get messy. The calorie count was good enough that I am able to still enjoy four Biscoff cookies with my evening tea. 😉

 

December PRs are made today

I won’t lie. I don’t run more than three times a week.  I sit in awe of those in my training program that can slog out mile after mile, day after day.  I just can’t do it.  I tried last season and my body revolted in the form of a torn calf muscle and a tibial stress fracture that reminded me that I’m not as young as I like to think I am.  And my past sins of being significantly overweight and sedentary will always be a factor in my training.  Bottom line is I am a slower finisher at the marathon distance.

But I’m totally going to PR this December! 😉

But just because I don’t run every day doesn’t mean that I don’t get my hiney up and moving every single day.  My plan is to be a bit more well rounded this season and see if it makes a significant difference in my finish time.  I run three days a week, do yoga once a week, elliptical, spin bike and strength training.  I would like to think that it’s helping because my run last night actually felt easier than usual.  Last night, however, was an anomaly.  The easy base-pace run started off

We were drenched!  Nothing like the solid "ker-thunk" of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

We were drenched! Nothing like the solid “ker-thunk” of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

as usual with temps in the high 90s and humidity at a solid 120% (just kidding, but man, it was humid!).  A mile in to the run, we felt the blessed raindrop.  Then another.  It was just enough to make the steam visibly rise off of the pavement.  Kind of cool to watch, not very fun to be in.  I *may* have looked up at the sky and challenged Mother Nature with a “that all you got?? bring it!”  Hindsight, it was maybe not a smart move to taunt her.  The sky opened up and it didn’t so much rain, but pour enormous buckets of water down.  Not even a visor or hat kept you from needing little windshield wipers on your eyeballs.  We were a solid 40 minutes from the clubhouse when the lightning struck and we were stuck at the lake with nowhere to take cover.  We bounced around a bit, took a short cut, did a hill or two and generally decided that a tempo run was what was on our impromptu plan.  There were many a phone that gave it a good fight but likely lost in the end.  Thank goodness the phone 6 will be out soon, huh??  But I was really impressed that I was able to run at race pace so early in the season and not be sucking wind.  I’m not sore this morning and I generally feel great about it.  Maybe there is something to this well-rounded plan of mine.

Now we are back into the temperatures and humidity levels that we are used to seeing and I know so many people that just don’t want to train in imperfect weather.  Yes, it’s hot. But slaying the summer will allow us to rule the fall.  If we can run in the heat, we will be so much faster when the temperature finally starts to back off.  Our December PRs will only be made with the consistent training in every kind of weather.  It makes sense – we are supposed to practice with our fuel to train our bodies to accept little foil packets of gel for countless hours and we are supposed to wear the same clothes to know where to apply the body glide in the future… 😉 And running in the rain is just part of it.  If you wait for the perfect moment to run, you will likely never train and it won’t prepare you for whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw at you on race day.  Many a marathon has been run in less than ideal conditions, so you might as well suck it up today and get out there.  Besides, how else will you recognize a perfect day?