354. Random Thoughts Thursday

I could probably write  a separate post for everything here, and I probably should for content, but I don’t feel like it.  So instead I present you with a bunch of randomness currently on my mind.

Last weekend was quite the weekend for me.  It was full of all kinds of firsts.  I ran 16 miles for the first time (along with 14 and 15 miles along the way!) I shot a gun (multiple guns actually) for the first time ever, and I made homemade bagels for the first time. (FINALLY! I’ve only been talking about making homemade bagels for about 3 years now!) It was quite an impressive weekend really.

The boy owns guns and likes to go shoot them with his buddies. I have no interest in guns and even less interest in shooting them. Plus, I’m a disaster on my own; I don’t need to be a disaster with a deadly weapon in hand. But I know the boy likes guns, and I knew he would REALLY like it if I went shooting with him one day. So for Christmas I applied for my FOID card (Firearm Owners ID – It’s an Illinois thing. Illinois loves it some gun laws.) and gave the boy a copy of the application along with a note promising to take him shooting once I received my FOID. We finally picked a weekend and went. Honestly, I was surprised by how nervous, uncomfortable, and just plain scared I was to begin with. When we walked into the range, I would flinch or jump every time someone would fire a shot. I was on the verge of tears for at least the first 20 minutes simply because that’s how I most often react to the stress of nervousness/ being uncomfortable. Ultimately I had a good time. I would definitely go again but probably not anytime soon. Nik puts up with a lot of my ridiculousness (and my various kitchen experiments) so it was nice to do something that was really all for him.

I don’t know if I was feeling extra ballsy after my adventures with guns or if it was just fresh in my mind because I found a recipe when I was pulling recipes from old issues of Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times to add to my recipe binder, but I decided I was also going to make homemade bagels on Saturday.
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I used this recipe from the November 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I’m not sure why I waited so long to make my own bagels, but I’m glad I finally did this because these bagels were AWESOME! I stuck to the recipe pretty closely to make sure they came out right, but I did make a few minor changes:

  1. I left out the barley malt syrup because a) I didn’t have any and b) I didn’t feel like trying to track it down. The recipe says you can leave it out so I wasn’t worried.
  2. I brushed the bagels with egg yolk thinned with water. I also topped half of them with salt, minced onion, poppy seed and sesame seeds to make everything bagels.
  3. I only made 11. I had 6 that were about 3.5 oz and 5 that were about 4.5 oz. I could have cut down all the 4.5 oz bagels to make a 12th bagel, but I was too lazy.
  4. I baked for almost twice the suggested time. I cooked them until golden brown on top and hallow sounding.

I totally rocked my February Challenge, and I feel like a rock star for it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for some time now, you know how good I am at failing at my fitness challenges.  Last month, I killed.  I blew my goal of 175 activity points (which I increased about a week into the challenge from the original 150 points) out of the water clocking in at 212 activity points for the month.  I tracked 26 out of 29 complete days.  I did fall short on my fitness class goal only attending 4 out of 5 classes.  However, that was a scheduling failure rather than me blowing things off.  There are a pretty limited number of classes I can actually attend to begin with since I don’t get home until about 6 in the evening. When you account for my Weight Watchers meetings on Tuesdays, my darts league on Wednesdays, and my training runs on Mondays and Thursdays, I’m left with Friday, Saturday and Sunday for classes.  There aren’t any evening classes on Friday and I run on either Saturday or Sunday.  That leaves me one day a week to do classes and since there were only 4 weeks in February, well…getting to 5 classes wasn’t really realistic with marathon training taking top priority.  What’s important is that I didn’t fall short of the goal simply because I was being lazy.  So because I feel like my challenge was a huge success despite that, I’ve decided to go ahead and reward my successes.   I’ve deviated from my original reward plan though and ordered How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (the reward for my bonus weight loss goal) instead of the fitbook.  There is a method to my madness though kids.

The reason I went ahead and ordered the cookbook instead of the fitbook is because I’m following Michelle’s lead and going for a Meatless March.  Back in September 2010, I made the decision to stop eating animals.  I never proclaimed myself a vegetarian because I expected to eat meat again, and I have.  Lately though, I’ve been wanting to get back to a primarily meatless diet.  This seemed like a great way to do it!

I signed up for my fifth half marathon yesterday.  The Rock n Roll race series was offering a Leap Day discount of $29 off any race.  I’m usually able to pass up a deal, but that’s a really great discount.  I decided to snap it up and registered for the Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon on July 22nd.  I was hesitant to sign up since I hate running in the heat.  (Really, I just hate the heat.)  But it was hard to pass up such a deal, especially when it would be an encore performance, and a chance to kick ass, of my very first half marathon.

Last week I decided to impulse buy a cast iron skillet, a cast iron grill pan and The New Rules of Lifting for Women off Amazon.  I haven’t used the skillet yet, but I’m a fan of the other two items thus far.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Have a happy Thursday!

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344. Marathon Monday: Week 4

As I mentioned on Friday I decided, after much deliberation, I was going to go ahead and run the F^3 Half this past Saturday.  Let me tell you, I could not be happier that I went through with this race.  It was and absolutely awesome experience all around.

I had little to no expectations for myself other than to not hurt myself or relapse into sickness.  I’m happy to report I was extremely successful on both fronts.  In addition to not hurting myself, I actually had a REALLY great race, and I made a new friend!  I ended running with a girl who I happened to meet while standing in the starting corral.  We ran together and chatted for the entire 13.1 miles, and she was an awesome running buddy.  We even exchanged info so we can meet for lunch or coffee or runs in the future.  Running with someone > Running alone.  Always.  My official finish time was 2:43 which is not only better than I was hoping for (I expected to be right around the 3:00 mark.) but also just about the pace I hope to average for the marathon.

More important than my better than expected time though was the huge confidence boost I got when it comes to training for my marathon.  After Saturday’s race, I really feel physically and mentally ready to start training for 26.2.  I was definitely tired when I finished the race on Saturday, but I didn’t want to die.  I was starting to get sore, but I could have run another mile or two if I absolutely had to.  My new running friend was a great help too.  She was incredibly encouraging and helped instill more confidence in myself.

I honestly haven’t thought of the last two or three weeks as marathon training.  I also didn’t spend much time running the last two or three weeks.  Yes, I was sick for a good chunk of time this past month, but deep down I know I also milked that for all it was worth.  In my mind, the F^3 race was really the starting point of my marathon training.  I’d been training (if you could even call it that) for this half, and I had to get through that before I really started marathon training.  It was a way of letting fear, or lack of confidence, or whatever, take hold and mentally tricking myself.  I was delaying accepting the inevitable.

That feeling is gone now though, and for the first time since I signed up for the Wisconsin Marathon, I feel ready to take it on.  I feel like this is something that is actually doable, and I actually want to do it.  I’m excited for training rather than dreading it.  Someone remind me of this post in 5 weeks when I hate myself for thinking 26.2 was a good idea. 😉

Total Weekly Milage: 16.06
Total Monthly Milage: 24.06
Total Training Milage: 24.06

343. Oh Hai!

Hey there friends!  Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little absent these days.  I have my reasons.  A big of them is that about this time last week, I was actively trying to not die of some horrible strep/ cold/ flu/ sinus infection/ Ebola/ virus of doom.  (And yes, I am one of those people that is more than a bit dramatic when I am sick.)   The sickness pretty much sidelined all my effort to run or work out, and I felt so horrible last Tuesday night I didn’t even weigh in.

This week I’m feeling much better.  I actually didn’t have a Weight Watchers (yet) meeting this week.  My usual meeting is at the church my mom attends.  This week is the parish retreat so everything that’s usually held at the church during the week (Weight Watchers, scouts, etc.) was cancelled.  My usual leader does a meeting a couple blocks from my office at noon on Fridays so I am planning to attend her meeting tomorrow.

I also ran this evening for the first time in 10 days.  It was a short and easy paced run.  I was trying to determine if I could/ should go ahead and run the half marathon I never actually told you all I’m signed up for on Saturday.  I was already doing the bare minimum as far as training goes, and combined that with the fact that I’ve been sick at least half of this month, I wasn’t entirely confident in my abilities.  I was also concerned about over-doing it and undoing all of this week’s recovery.  There was also that pesky 3 hour time limit that had me worrying.

After much deliberation this afternoon, I decided that the 3 hours time limit and under training aren’t good enough excuses.  I finished my first half in 3 hours, and despite my barely adequate training for this race, I’m still in better shape than I was going into that first 13.1.  As far as the making myself sicker goes, I’m feeling almost 100% again.  I decided I would run tonight and as long as I was okay, I would race.  I didn’t want to die so it’s on.  I’m also pretty sure it’s going to be on via 5 minute/ 1 minute run/ walk intervals.  Since I am under trained, I think this may be my best approach for a reasonable time and not injury myself or overdoing it.

So there you have it.  Saturday morning I will be running the Fucking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon.  (And if we’re being perfectly honest here, my decision was at least 57.4% influenced by the fact that I want that finishers medal.  Seriously, click the link and check it out.)

271. 2011 WI Half Marathon or How I Absolutely Positively Did PR.

Remember when I signed up for the WI Half Marathon simply because the finisher’s medal was shaped like a block of Swiss cheese?  Well, as it turns out, that was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my racing life.  Why’s that you ask?  Well my friends, it’s because I PRed in a major way.  This wasn’t a kinda-sorta- technical PR like the Ravenswood Run.  This was a holy-crap!-I-just-blew-my-old-PR-right-out-of-the-frickin’-water PR!  This was a probably-the-best-race-of-my-life PR!

Back in November, my friend Sarah told me about the race, and we both signed up.  A couple weeks before the race, I was starting to regret signing up.  It was starting to feel like far more hassle than it was worth.  See Kenosha, WI is close to home, but really, it’s not that close.  It’s about a 2 hour drive from my house.  Not a big deal, but with a 7:00am start time, that 2 hours meant a 4am wake-up call.  It also meant potentially being quite stiff at the start of the race.  Sarah and I tossed around the idea of getting a hotel room, but it seemed like an unnecessary expense since Kenosha wasn’t really that far. 

Packet pick-up was also turning into a bit of a nightmare.  There were two Chicago area packet pick-ups neither of which was particularly convenient for me.  The Wednesday night pick-up wasn’t an option since there was no way I could get home from work and out to the northwest suburbs before pick-up was over.  I could get to the Saturday afternoon pick-up, but it would screw up the plans to work on the bathroom.  Plus, pick-up couldn’t have been in a less convenient location.  The location was a straight-shot north of my house, but there’s no direct route there.  Ugh.  

Ultimately, Sarah was kind enough to pick up my packet since it was much closer to her place than mine.  We decided about a week before we would get a hotel room after all and drive up Friday night.  We were able to get a room at the Pleasant Prairie Super 8 about 15 minutes from the start/ finish area.  (Oh yeah, and a shout-out to the awesome morning staff for opening up the breakfast bar early to accommodate all the racers there!)

The odds still didn’t seem to be in our favor though.  The weather forecast was unpredictable at best: mid- 40s to 50s with chances of rain increasing throughout the day.  It was chilly when we left the hotel wearing capris and long sleeves, but we couldn’t have asked for better race weather.  It was cool, but sunny.   I would guess somewhere around the low 50s.  As someone who heats up (and sweats) a lot, it was definitely my ideal running temps.  I was warm enough that I ended up taking off my jacket around mile 3 and running in just capris and my Girls on the Run Solemates (PS You can still donate to Girls on the Run until June 7th) t-shirt.

The event was incredibly small – at least by Chicago standards – with less than 4,000 runners between the marathon and half marathon.  It took us less than 2 minutes to cross the starting line from the back of the starting chute.  The majority of the course was plenty big for the number of runners, as most of it was on the street, and the views were absolutely spectacular.  We ran along the lakefront, through downtown Kenosha, and through a neighborhood full of gorgeous (and huge!) houses.  Somewhere around Mile 1, it occurred to me that brining my camera along would have been a great idea.  Oh well, c’est la vie.  The course was full of beautiful scenery, but it was also full of curves and hills.  It was definitely not the “very flat” course with “a few rolling hills” that I had in mind.  Of course, I live in Chicago; my idea of a giant hill is running up a viaduct.  Maybe it was very flat by WI standards.

Girl Can Do WI Half Marathon (brightroom photography)

Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if there's such a thing as a "flattering" race photo.

Based on our individual trainings, Sarah and I decided to run together doing run/ walk intervals of 5 to 1 aiming to average a 12 minute mile pace.  This was a wonderful plan of attack.  I felt strong, confident, and just great over all.  Things started to get rough around mile 12.  However, that was a marked improvement over the mile 7 breakdown at the Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon.  Even though things started getting rough at mile 12 I still had my head in the game.  My primary issue was the sudden need to poop.  (Yeah, it happens.)  There was a porta-potty and the final turn around, but we were doing so awesome I could not justify stopping!  Despite the muscle fatigue, waning energy levels, and increasingly urgent need to use the bathroom, I managed to finish as strong as I’d run the rest of the race.  Sarah and I even raced to the finish line to collect our awesome finisher’s medals!

Oh, and I suppose you want to know my time huh?  Sarah and I finished with an official time of 2:34:51.  This is just over 25 minutes off my previous half marathon time!  I guess that just goes to show that adequate (I wouldn’t go as far as to call it solid) training and perfect conditions really pay off! And that even things that seem pretty bleak can turn out fabulous.

Oh yeah, and I can cross another item of my Mission 101 list.  Sub 2:45 half marathon: done and done!

263. Girls on the Run: From the Coach’s Perspective

As might remember, when I signed up for the WI Half Marathon, I also signed up to raise money for Girls on the Run Chicago as part of their SoleMates Program.  Today I have a wonderful guest post from fellow Chicago blogger Val over at Vegan by Valerie.  Val is a GOTR coach and has been kind enough to share her experiences with us.  If you would like to donate to Girl on the Run, please visit my fundraising page.  My minimum goal is $250, but I would love to be able to double that!  I feel very strongly about the value of the GOTR program, and hope one day I’ll be able to post about my own coaching experiences!

Girls on the Run Vegan by Valerie guest post

When Stina asked me to write a guest post about my experience as a Girls on the Run Coach, I jumped at the chance!  I’m so excited for her to be running the upcoming Wisconsin Half Marathon as a Solemate, raising money for this AMAZING organization.

This spring is my second time coaching Girls on the Run, although this is my first year doing so as a head coach.  For anyone interested in starting a Girls on the Run chapter at your school, the hardest part is getting started.  You need to apply to be a Girls on the Run site at least one season before you hope to start – i.e., apply in September to start by the following spring.  Once your school is visited and approved, you will need to attend a 6 hour coaches training and a 5 hour first aid/CPR training – and then you are good to go! 

After putting in the initial prep work, coaching Girls on the Run is nothing but a blast.  The lessons are laid out in a very specific, detailed way.  I’m a social worker, and not a teacher, for a reason, because lesson plans aren’t my forte – but I promise these are idiot-proof!

Each twice-a-week after-school practice begins with a lesson, which centers around topics such as healthy eating, the importance of relaxation and meditation, friendship, values and being true to yourself, and negative and positive self-talk.  After the lesson, we do a warm-up activity and then finish by walking/run-walking/running/skipping some laps, all in the name of preparing for the culminating (non-compettive) 5K race at the end of the season.

[Note from Stina: I ran in the Fall 5K in 2009, and this event is what made me so passionate about actively helping the GOTR cause!]

Girls on the Run Vegan by Valerie guest post

This year my girls are only three weeks into the season, but already I have seen positive changes occurring within each student.  I’ve frequently overheard the girls talking in the hallway to their friends about the things they have learned during the lessons.  One of the girls recently wrote an essay about how Girls on the Run has taught her to be fearless, and gave an example of how one day she came to practice sad but after talking through her feelings to her coach (that would be me!) she felt better and ready to conquer the world.  

I only wish Girls on the Run had been around when I was growing up.  Every student that goes through the Girls on the Run program comes out a more confident person with a greater sense of identity and pride in herself, and it’s so exciting to see this outstanding organization growing to more and more schools each year. 

The only downfall is that at my school, only 15 lucky girls are able to participate at one time.  Thankfully,you can do your part to help Girls on the Run reach out to more and more girls by becoming a Solemate or by volunteering your time as as coach.  I promise you won’t regret it!

Girls on the Run Vegan by Valerie Guest Post

262. Sometimes…

Sometimes you have a migraine so you decide to put off your training run until the next day.

Sometimes that next day rolls around and when you look out the window at lunch you discover it’s raining.

Sometimes you check your Weather Channel app and find out there’s about a 40% chance of rain in the forecast for the rest of the day.

Sometimes you guilt yourself into decide to play the odds and go for your run anyway.

Sometimes you decide to kill two birds with one stone by running to the library to pick up the books you requested.

Sometimes you realize (for the second time in as many weeks) you only own one weather resistant jacket – and it’s your winter running jacket.

Sometimes you suck it up and don your winter running jacket with only your sports bra underneath.

Sometimes you create a contingency plan in which you take cover and have your boyfriend pick you up on his way home from work should the rain get too bad.

Sometimes you forget to check the library’s hours before leaving the house. (Do you see where this is going?)

Sometimes it starts drizzling half a mile from your house.  You consider turning around, but solider on remembering said contingency plan.

Sometimes you get half way between your house and your destination and realize you need to poop. (TMI? Maybe.  Truth? Yes.  Fellow runners you know what’s up.)  You could turn around and go home or you could continue on knowing the library has a bathroom? 

Sometimes you continue on.  Sometimes you make mistakes.

Sometimes you wonder how 2.5 miles can feel so incredibly long.

Sometimes you get to the library after 2.5 of the more brutal miles you’ve run in your life at 6:18pm only to discover they closed 78 minutes earlier.

Sometimes you pretend you’re not defeated even though you totally are.

Sometimes you distract yourself from the GI cramps by thinking about how you’re going to turn this horrific event into something blog worthy.

Sometimes you find yourself thinking about how you would kill for a port-a-potty right now.  Seriously.  It happened.

Sometimes you’ve never been so grateful for a gas station bathroom.

Sometimes gas stations in the middle of the suburbs don’t have public bathrooms.

Sometimes you REALLY wonder how 2.5 miles can feel so incredibly long.

Sometimes you wonder how 2.5 blocks can feel so incredibly long.

Sometimes you wonder why it couldn’t have just fucking rained.

251. A Cheesy Half Marathon Training Plan: Revised

A week ago, I had the terrifying realization that my half marathon was a mere nine weeks away and my “official” training scheduled should have started three weeks prior.

Panic set in immediately.  I started freaking out that I wouldn’t be prepared.  I was worried I wouldn’t get enough training in and that I would end up walking a large portion of this half marathon too!  I freaked out for a little while before remembered my half marathon is in nine weeks not next week.  Yes, I was starting my training a few weeks later than ideal, but I really didn’t need to be panicking like I was.

I talked to my friend (and running partner in crime) Sarah.  She talked me down off my metaphoric ledge and reminded me that the half marathon training group she was pacing had just started this past week so I would be fine.  She even offered to send me a copy of one of the training schedule for the group she was volunteering with.  She mentioned various training schedules that use run-walk intervals.  I thought that would be a good way to get myself back in the groove.

I immediately vowed to hit the road Saturday for a 3.5 mile run, and I did.  But it was hard.  When you go months with only a sporadic run here and there running that easy go-to 3 miles gets hard.  I did run-walk intervals of about .5 miles running to .1 mile walking.  My Garmin died half a mile into my run so I had to estimate.  Thankfully Chicago streets (especially the south burbs) are set-up using a rockin grid system that makes measuring distance pretty easy.  

I also immediately hit Amazon and ordered Jeff Galloway’s book Half Marathon: You Can Do It.  Jeff Galloway’s whole method of running is based on run-walk-run intervals.  He suggests that all runners use these intervals, varying the length of each interval according to the runner’s pace.  (For example, I average about a 10-minute mile; for that pace, he suggests a 3 minute run: 1 minute walk ratio.)  The theory behind the use of run-walk-run intervals is to allow the body active recovery during the run which helps prevent fatigue and speed up recovery.  I’ve found the run-walk-run intervals to be really helpful in getting back into my training so I’ve decided to stick with it for the remainder of my training and see how things play out.

Another thing Galloway suggests in his book (which I’ve skimmed cover to cover*) is that you really only need two 30-minute runs during the week in addition to your weekend long run.  This tracks with the less-is-more theory Megan talks about in this post.  Since I have limited time during the week to get my runs in, I absolutely love the idea of only having to do 30 minute runs during the week.  It’s much easier to squeeze in 30 minutes than it is 3 – 5 miles which could take me up to an hour to do (not including changing, getting out the door, stretching, showering and changing again!)  I definitely foresee myself blowing off fewer runs because “I don’t have time much less” and having runs of a much higher quality.

So in light of all this, I’ve revised my training schedule.  I’ve included three days of CoreFusion – Sunday I’ll do the Energy Flow Yoga, Monday is thighs and glutes and Wednesday is upper body/ arms.  

 Here’s what March looks like:

So there you have it.  I’ll be updating my Training Page (for real!) as well as tracking my workouts over on The DailyMile.  Feel free to friend me over there!

*I’ll be doing a full book review once I’ve actually read the whole thing cover to cover.