Monday, December 30, 2013

Running 2013: Highs, Lows, and Everything In Between...

Miles run: 1746. I made it a point NOT to make a goal for miles this year (although I still kept track of miles run), now that I am a "marathoner" I find it kind of pointless. I follow the marathon/training plan(s)...I take time off when I need to (and yes, I actually did do that a few times this year) and run when I feel like it. With that being said, this is about 200 more miles than I've ever done in a given year since I started running.

Elliptical/Bike Miles: 95. Nothing special to report. I dislike doing both of these.

Most Miles Run in One Month (ever!): August - 180! Hello sore IT band...this explains it!

Pairs of New Sneakers Burned Through: Seven (that I remember, but it's probably more). I guess that is where all my money went this year. ;-) That includes 5 pairs of Nimbuses and 2 pairs of Brooks Ghosts.

PR's: Every distance. One of my first lessons from Bob was about how to train you anaerobic vs. aerobic systems. When I first started training with him, we learned through my lactate training that I was training my systems unevenly (too much anaerobic, not enough aerobic). By mixing in slower runs with the dreaded lactate threshold runs, I was able to even out my systems. Since I am a total number geek, I thought this was pretty cool. This year I...
-Cut approximately 1 minute off my 5k PR (21:45 to 20:49) at Moxie 5k
-2 minutes off my 10k PR (47:34 to 45:34) at B2B
-5 minutes off my half marathon PR (1:42 to 1:37:22) at Rail Trail 1/2
-10 minutes off my marathon PR (3:42 to 3:32:31) at the Hartford Marathon
Loving that pattern, but not going to try to PR every distance in 2014. This only happened this past year because I finally got myself into shape.

Trackies at Beach to Beacon. A PR for all of us on that day!

Marathons: Three (well, two plus the 50k, although I only ran to the marathon split, then walked the last 5 miles of it). This will NOT happen again. Two is my absolute max for a year from now on. My body says no more. Well, my wallet really...but my body won't mind either.

Races Run: 23! I vowed last year to cut back...I did, but only by 1 "race". Oops. Maybe I can cut a few more out this coming year? I'll work on that...However, this did include 3 events I did not race (Color Run, Ryan's Trail Run and the Canicross) and the two

#1 Favorite Race of the Year: Hartford Marathon - hands down, favorite race - A PR, a BQ, and a great weekend! The course support at this event is unmatched. The pacers were so supportive, and the mentors on the bikes were awesome. Runners up include Lake Auburn Half, Rail Trail Half and of course, the Triple Crown 5k races. They were my first races, and therefore will always be near and dear to my heart.

Hartford Marathon <3 
Best Non-"Race" Running Event: I had an ABSOLUTE blast running through the mud with Fenway at the Pineland Farms 5k canicross. I am pretty sure we came in 2nd to last (I am not a trail runner, let alone a muddy trail runner, and I had no intention on racing this event), but I had a blast. Not so sure Fenway did though..

Very mad at Mom. 

Least Favorite Race of the Year: Breakaway 5k. Not impressed. "Flat and Fast, Guaranteed PR" my ass. Now, with that being said, I didn't have an awful run - it is still one of my better 5k times...but it was HOT, unorganized, and the start was awful (I may have swore at people who lined up wrong at the beginning and almost caused a pile up - not my proudest moment). And, we had the genius idea to run this race in the middle of a 20 mile training run. Won't be doing that again...ever. And, despite my fail at the Providence Marathon this year (don't run a marathon with a flu-type bug/chest cold from hell), Breakaway still makes last for the year.

Surprising, Providence was NOT my least favorite race of the year....

But Breakaway DEFINITELY was...despite all of our wins! 

Races Volunteered: 7 - Race the Runways (FROZE my butt off working the finish line), Boston Marathon water stop mile 14 baby!, Bands on the Run 1/2 (door greeting at packet pickup = least fun race volunteer position ever...), all three Triple Crown Races, and, the most fun, the Pineland Farms 50k and 50 miler finish line in the mud. So. Much. Mud.

Race the Runways Frozen Volunteers
Maine Track Club volunteers Boston Marathon water stop mile 14! 
Dave and Bill finish at Pineland in the MUD! 

Firsts: This year I participated in my first relays. Although they were fun, I can't exactly say they were my thing. Too much logistics. When I race, I want to wake up at the very last minute I can, arrive at race, run, and recover/eat.

3rd place Female Team at Maine Marathon Relay

MDI Relay 
Also, my first trail run. I am not a trail runner. I am not fast (that is a MAJOR understatement) or sure-footed on trails. But I do love them...and this particular race, Ryan's Trail Run for Suicide Prevention, was an amazing event, for an incredibly important cause...

Audrey, Melissa, Holly and I finish together...

Sherpa of the Year Award/Race Plan FAIL: TIE - Alice/GCI and Jim/Rail Trail Half! 

1. Blah, blah, blah, blah never try something new on race day, blah, blah, blah. You would think that someone who has raced for years would know this. Nope. I decided to try out a new fuel belt for the Rail Trail half in June, a race that I REALLY wanted to PR on. I did, but only because I had an AMAZING sherpa who not only put positive thoughts in my ear for 13.1 miles AND also held my fuel belt bottles that kept falling out. THANK YOU JIM!

Look closely and you'll see Jim carrying my stupid bottles through the finish!

2. Who else would be crazy enough to accompany me on a 3 hour drive + 20 minute ferry ride across the ocean to run back and forth 7.5 times on an island, and "accidentally" run the marathon distance in the process? Love ya Alice!

Waiting for the Ferry

GCI also gets best race plan fail because somehow, I ended up STARVING by mile 16. I may have thought that I've experienced RUNGER before, but until then, I had not. I was so hungry, I stopped after the marathon split (I figured at that point, I was ok with running a sub 4 hour marathon and would walk away with that positive and screw the 50k time), got my wallet from camp, and went to the island store to get ice cream. Clearly, it was a good choice. Alice walked the last 5 miles with me (as I ate ice cream, pretzels, more crap that I can't remember) and then we headed back to the store for dinner. 

Milk was a GOOD choice...


Ice cream and Chips...the eats of really successful ultra-marathoners...or not...

Highlight of the Year: Getting that hard-earned Boston Qualifying time at Hartford. I cried the whole way through the chute and cried while hugging and thanking the 3:30 pacer profusely. I wasn't able to stay with him in the last 2 miles, but his words rang in my ears for those two miles when I was really struggling to hang on to anything that resembled a run. 

Hartford <3

Favorite Photo of the Year: Or maybe just the most ridiculous photo of the year. Tie between...

1. Color Run...

This is what happens as a result of getting to an event 10 minutes
after the gun starts and being driven on a ATV backwards on the course
to meet the "colorful" Bride-to-be! 
2. Pre-race Hartford...

And this is what happens when race day jitters meet the most
ridiculous group of people ever...

Honorable mentions also go to the photo of Alice and I explaining to the camera how the Providence Marathon really went earlier in this post and my favorite photos below that pretty much sum of 2013 in a nutshell...

Providence Training Partners

Moose Pond Sole Sister <3

Trackie Peeps
Tuesday Night Trackies at Lake Auburn Half 

Here's to a 2013 that was full of memories, PR's and pushing the limits, and a 2014 of new adventures! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How Have I NOT Tried This Before!

Ok, so I am most likely a day late and a few dollars short here, but I have been meaning to try spaghetti squash for a while now. I had some big doubts, but a friend (Thanks Lauren!) kept sending me some pretty amazing looking recipes on Pinterest that she swore by, so I decided to give it a try. I shared the recipes with Nate, and he was not buying it, so I decided to do some experimenting at lunch today and leave Nate some left overs from last night's holiday get together.

This experiment did not start out well. Apparently, we do not own a knife that can cut a spaghetti squash in half, so after some maneuvering and almost losing a few fingers, I managed to get the darn thing cut in half...well...kind of.

Not cut in half...oh well...

I was pretty grossed out by the smell and having to clean out the inside seeds/goop. Icky. Not so much a fan...this experiment was not going well...this was already strike two and the darn thing wasn't even in the oven yet.

I put the squash in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, and after about 20 minutes a pretty yummy smelling aroma came from the kitchen. Ok, things are looking up. When I took it out, I was very curious to see how much "spaghetti" a single squash would yield. I started raking away at it. Now, I am pretty easily amused, but this was rather fun. And I couldn't believe that half the squash filled up a bowl this much!

1/2 a Spaghetti Squash! Wow!

I decided to leave the other half for later and added some garlic (I LOVE my new pampered chef garlic press), butter and grated cheese to my bowl. As I was doing this, Nate came in from his workout and began asking questions about my experiment. Without any coercing (yay!) he decided he wanted in, and claimed the other half of the squash as his. He had his with garlic, tomato sauce and cheese.

Even the boy can do it!

We both woofed down our bowls. This was super filling and yummy. I began pulling up some other recipes to try with them, and Nate is totally on board with giving them a try. So, there we have it. I am way late on this one, but now we have another pasta substitute!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Flour-less, Dairy Free and no sugar added "Cookies"

When I first made my "pretend cookies" over a year ago, I stuck to a pretty plain recipe - 2 bananas, 2 cups of oats and some craisins - mix em together and pop them in the over for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They were pretty good, but certainly did not taste like a real cookie, and certainly did not have the consistency of a real cookie.

As I was putting groceries away today, I found 3 extremely old bananas in the pantry. Seeing as I HATE throwing out food, I decided to give the cookies a try again, but play around with the recipe. I took the basic recipe, but this time added in cinnamon, and some PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter with Chocolate.  I also cooked them for 25 minutes (and on my brand new pampered chef stoneware!!) to help the middles firm up a bit.

These were WAY better with the PB2 and the cinnamon, and had a much firmer consistency with the additional 5 minutes of cook time. They could just actually pass as a cookie now! I was also very pleased to find some use for my PB2 with chocolate. I accidentally bought the chocolate kind and was very disappointed when I sat down to eat my nightly apple + peanut butter last week. It just was not the same with the chocolate, but I figured I could find some recipes to throw it in! Voila!

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom...these didn't last long! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cook Quinoa, Chicken and Lentil Chili

It seems that I've been on a roll with experimenting in the kitchen, so I figure this might just become a weekly segment. I dug up a half a dozen recipes that I'm dying to try, so I have decided to give one a try each week.

This week's winner (and it was a winner!) was Quinoa and Chicken Chili (and then I decided to add lentils to thicken it up a bit) in the slow cooker. Monday's are my long day at work, and then I hit the gym, so I tasked Nate with giving the chili a few stirs when he got home from work. When I walked in EXHAUSTED at 7:00 tonight the first thing he said to me was "I've been taking licks from the spoon, and this is really, really good." Woohoo! I win! Of all the new recipes I've tried, the hubby said this was his favorite, and he has already requested that it be made again as our Marathon Monday meal.

I kinda borrowed from 3 different chili recipes to put this together...but this is what I did...

2 cans diced tomatos
1 can black beans
1 cup of salsa
1 cup of quinoa
1 cup lentils
1 chicken breast cut up into little pieces (may do it without this next time and make it a meatless Monday meal)
Chili powder and Cumin to taste

Dump in all into the slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low.

Thank God for the slow cooker that automatically switches to "heat" when it's done...this meal was sitting in there for 11 hours today before we actually got to eat it.

Just another one of my recipes that looks like mush, but is actually delicious!

On another note, Hanson's Marathon plan starts in 15 days! I'm beginning to get a little bit nervous about running six days a week given that there is already a foot of snow on the road and it's super icy! I've resolved to just see what happens with training this winter and give this plan the best I can give it under the circumstances, knowing that it lends itself to my summer schedule more so than winter. Time shall tell! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pasta-less "Mac and Cheese"

When I started my clean(er) eating adventures in August 2012, I knew that dinner was going to be my biggest challenge. First of all, I hate(d) to cook. It was easy enough to substitute cereal for egg bake at breakfast, salad for lunch everyday, and fruits and veggies for snacks. But dinner...I was not ready to conquer. I had a bit of a transition phase last spring where I attempted some new recipes, but nothing really stuck.

However,  in August, I quit eating pasta (a staple of our dinner once or twice a week), and the need for dinner recipes arose. We got by for a month or two on our old staples (grilled pizza, paninis, chicken meals), but after noticing how much better I felt without pasta in my diet, I decided to give cutting back on bread/wraps a try at the end of October. Now I was really stuck...what the heck do we do for dinner.

Hence the obsession with quinoa and cauliflower this last month. The recipes you can make with these two ingredients are endless. I am sure you are all tired of hearing about my cauliflower pizza crust (yumm...I want some just thinking about it) and the quinoa bean salad (already made and in the fridge for tomorrow's late night dinner), so I've decided to do a little experiment over the next few weeks (well..let's be realistic, months) and try a new recipe every other week or so.

This weeks adventure - Cheesy Quinoa and Cauliflower, otherwise known as Pasta-less Mac and Cheese.

When I told Nate last night at the grocery store we would be having Cauliflower and Quinoa Mac and Cheese his response was "NO" with a disgusted face. His claim was that you can't mess with a classic. Understood, but we were trying it anyway. I told him if he didn't like it, we could go out and grab a bite, my treat.

And the verdict...DELICIOUS. Even Nate liked loved it (although he said MORE CHEESE for next time). This was seriously tasted (and smelled) like mac and cheese, minus the consistency. This is definitely going into our meal rotation. And this recipe gets big time bonus points for how easy it is. It took 20 minutes to cook and only required dumping the quinoa, chicken broth and cauliflower into a pot and leaving it until it was done. Add cheese and viola! I am thinking for next week I am going to cut the recipe in half and add in some chicken! Enjoy!

This may look like a bowl of mush, but I assure you it is delicious! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust Revisited

A few weeks ago, I tried out a new recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust. We both ended up loving it and have had it every Sunday night for dinner since. While I love eating it, I do not love making it. It is a lot of work (which is why it has become our Sunday night dinner - only night with time to make it). I had shared the recipe on a long run with a friend, and she tried it out and came back with a few tips for speeding up the process.  The result - MUCH easier to do AND more crust! (yum, more pizza for me!).

Here is what we changed...

Instead of chopping of the cauliflower and putting it into my teeny tiny food processor, I boiled it for about 15 minutes, strained it, and then mashed it up in a mixing bowl. Same result (riced cauliflower) - a lot less work. From there on out, I followed the rest of the original recipe doubled (used 2 eggs, 1 cup of cheese, and upped the amount of basil and red pepper - I don't measure spices, I just throw them in).

If you decide to try the recipe and boil the cauliflower instead of putting it in the food processor, I have some tips (learned from mistakes made- oops!) - you are going to need to strain/squeeze the water out of it like CRAZY as it retains way more water when you boil it. Also, you may want to cook it for 3-4 minutes longer if you boil the cauliflower.

Revamped and doubled the recipe = a LOT of pizza...yum!