Thursday, August 21, 2014

Marathon Memories

For this throw back Thursday I decided to toss it back to my very first marathon.  I would like to say this is where I began my love for running but in truth that happened about 4 years earlier. 
Sometimes it’s the pure naive belief that we can and will accomplish whatever we set our mind to that makes us better people.  I was not a lifelong runner,  I was not a great runner, and I had never run more than 3 miles in my life prior to agreeing to train for a marathon. 
I simply started running in college to avoid the freshman 15 and happened to be sitting at a work dinner where a manager mentioned he was thinking about running the Cleveland Marathon.  So here is where being young, hungry, ambitious and naive all work together…. I jumped at the chance to train and run a marathon in an effort to show dedication and put my name out there at work.   Given this same opportunity today… (Assuming I didn’t run) I would probably groan say good luck and send him a text race day morning wishing him well.  Nope my younger self decided this was a great opportunity. Did I mention I also have exercise induced asthma?
Step one…. How do you train? Again knowing NOTHING about running every run, was a training event. I was handed a spreadsheet that had my longest run at 18 miles. Looking back at all of my training mistakes I laugh! How did I ever complete this thing?!  In the end the manager dropped out of training.  However, I had it stuck in my head I was going to finish this event if it meant crawling on my hands and knees through the parks of Cleveland.
Race day morning came around.  It was the ultimate worst start to a marathon you could think of! The weather began with 22 mile an hour winds, freezing rain and hail.  I found a trash bag cut a hole in it and ran my first 3 miles wrapped like a California raison. FINALLY, the hail stopped leaving us with light rain and strong winds.  Eventually, it just became the strong winds.  To give you an image one of the GIANT timing mile markers blew over in front of me and into the river.
Around mile 12 I finally felt as though I hit a groove. No rain, suns out and I felt great.  Until…… BAMM! I tripped over a pot hole landing HARD on the concrete.  The medical bike attendant rode over to me discovering I had two bloody knees and scrapped palms. UGH! Ok. At this moment I had to dig deep.  I had overcome 3 months of training in snow, a hail storm, tornado like winds and now I had cuts and blood running down my legs….but hey I was running a marathon and I was almost half way there! How fun! <- Yes, really that is what I thought. 
Along with the medical bike one runner stopped to help me.  I couldn’t tell you his name today but for the next 14.2 miles he became my BFF.  The runner had been pacing close behind me and after the spill our pace group was long gone.  We ran side by side talking pushing each other through the last 6.2 where we both wanted to just walk. Thank god for great people willing to stop and help.  We both just need a running buddy and a friend to make this day into something we could call a win and an accomplishment.
We finished 15 seconds apart for a whopping finish time of 4:45. 
Crossing that finish line I felt like I had the power to lift a car or compete in the Olympics.  I often look back to that day and think what would I do today given the same obstacles?  Most likely? I would panic that my time wouldn’t be optimal, that my race photos wouldn’t be flattering….
Sometimes we need to step back and realize it’s about the journey. I can look back to that day and hands down say my WORST marathon is also my BIGGEST running accomplishment. I wouldn’t take that day back for the world and I learned more about myself and my limits than any other run.
What is your proudest moment of accomplishment?
(Picture from 2007 Second marathon. I couldn't find 2006!!)
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five Must Have Apps for Runners

Apps Apps and More Apps 

These days almost everything can be replaced by a simple app on your phone.  Before the the world of smart phones there were, personal trainers...yes actual humans that you met with two to three times weekly in a gym, nutrition coaches, wellness coaches, group fitness classes... no really the ones were groups of humans meet in person. 

Today most of this has been replaced by an app.  You can join an online fitness community, challenge group or take a full class with a virtual room right over Skype. To tell you the truth.... I'm all in.  Who has time to fit in 6 meetings on top of your work and family schedule? My work day is hectic.  

What I do know is that at 5pm I can open my car trunk and find a ready packed bag of running clothes and dumb bells, and with the touch of a button find new workout moves to make a bench workout from my phone.  There is always a road to run and always a park bench to train on. 

Personally I have 5 apps I just can not live without.

Map My Run:

Map my run is a free app that uses satellite to track your run or walk.  The app ties directly into your music app and playlist.  During your run a voiceover chimes in for each mile giving you your distance, split time and average pace. Once your run is complete you can save the session to your profile.

The session stats show you a map of where you ran, the distance time and the elevation.  Here is why this matters.... You can also search your area for previously run routes other users have saved.  For example I wanted to run a 4 mile loop near Greensburg, PA. I put a quick search in and was able to view routes from other runners.  I chose the flatest  listed course:) 

My Fitness Pal: 

I have tested quite a few nutrition and calorie tracking apps.  My Fitness Pal is by far the easiest and has the most comprehensive food list for tracking.  The app allows each user to identify not only their daily target calorie goal but also the macros for each Protein, Carbs ad Fat to makeup the calorie goal.  

Charity Miles: 

Want to volunteer every single day without changing anything about your routine? Yeah really. Charity is an online startup from kickstarter.  The app allows you to choose your activity and your charity from a list.  For every mile you complete a designated amount will be donated to the charity of your choice.  If you aren't using this app you should be!


The competitive game lover in me loves this app:)  This app allows you to log your workouts and earn points towards the next level.  You can also log smaller amounts of activity like 6 sit-ups, toward your daily goal.  There are badges to work towards (run 1000 miles), groups to join, and friends to give you virtual fit pumps:) Overall a well run app.  You can also search workout ideas for a 10 minute bootcamp etc. 

Instagram: Obviously! 

I love to use this account as my workout log and inspiration from others.  Following other runners, triathletes and fit girls gives me the motivation to get out the door every day.  I have new goals, new ideas and an online running support group to keep me going and recognize when I run a 20 second PR.  

****With everything there is guidance. I would consult a nutritionist or trainer if you are new to working out.  They will help you identify what your eating and fitness goals should be based on your current weight and levels. ***** 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Stuffed Skinny Peppers

Stuffed No Salt Low Fat Peppers
Well if that title doesn’t make your mouth water I’m not sure what would! (Insert Extreme Sarcasm) I have to admit you probably aren’t going to win any cooking shows with this one but they were pretty good.  After all, I was able to workout while these were baking, get two nights worth of meals out of it AND my husband ate it without any complaints.  Anytime I can do all that and it’s still healthy well it just makes me feel like I hacked the code to life.
Below is a link to the original recipe.   I made a few alterations to both the ingredients and overall   recipe. 

Ingredient Swaps and Adds:  
For the meat I used 96% fat free extra lean ground beef.  (You can use turkey as well.  I would recommend the lean over extra lean due to dryness.) For the chicken broth I used the no salt added chicken broth.  This is not the low sodium this is the no salt added and is pretty much salt free from a broth standpoint.  I also picked up a carton of Hunts no salt added tomato sauce and salt free Italian spice.  Finally, I subbed the brown rice for the listed white. 
The recipe as it stands comes out a bit dry.  To make it better I poured the no salt added tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers before baking and topped each with a few shakes of Italian seasoning.  Ten minutes before they are done sprinkle low fat Mozzarella on each pepper. 
All in this took me about an hour AND I did a workout video while they baked.  I got home at 5:30 and had my workout and dinner on the table by 7:00 without using something from a box. BAM take that life! 
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chicago Michelob Ultra 13.1

3:35 the buzzing started.  Slow at first then louder.  Waking up grabbing my phone ready to smash it off the wall I remembered... Wait *I* set that alarm.  I did this to myself.... for fun.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that has this happen EVERY race day morning.  I wake up ready to smash my phone off the nearest wall when I suddenly remember I voluntarily set that alarm, so I could wake myself up to run 13.1 mile because I find this form of torture the most fun I could possibly have.It's true once I realized I was in Chicago, my race weekend was finally here I snapped on the light and immediately began eating my pre planned power bar and chugging energizing NUUN.  

Getting to the race from downtown was a breeze. The shuttles were lined up near Millennium park (about 2 blocks from our hotel).  Once a shuttle filled up it immediately drove off to the race site. 

The early shuttle time dropped us off on the South Shore of Chicago right as the sun began to rise.  Beautiful! Looking to the left the light reflected off the city for a breathtaking view.  This is a view not many residents nor visitors have a chance to see being that you need to be on the south side of chicago at 5AM. It was gorgeous and a great way to set your mind in positive mode for race day. 

The Race Recap:)  


The race weaved through a mix of lake front trail and tree covered park pathways.  The mix kept it fresh with shade from the trees and a great view of the lake with early morning sun splashed in there kept it interesting. Overall a flat fast course with a few (maybe 4-5) rolling hills. I personally enjoy rolling hills because for the short spurt up you can enjoy a relaxing downhill:) Is lazy running possible?!  

My husband was waiting to cheer me on at mile 3 and even jumped in and ran with me to mile 4! (Yes I realize I'm  married to THE BEST guy ever. Getting up at 3:30AM to go to South Chicago without coffee and jump in and run a mile with me for company:) He's just awesome!) 

Aid Stations: 
Aid stations were plentiful stocked with Gatorade and chilled water, two of which were also stocked with Cliff gel shots (I take my own but a nice touch just incase something happens).

Finish Line and Party: 
Given a 10 week break for injury that didn't allow me to start running AT ALL until April.... I was exstatic to finish with a 2:12 and still feel great! The metals were awesome.  I felt like I had won't he olympic gold with the weight around my neck.  Also, it has a bottle opener on it which is just kinda badass. Thanks! The beer tent after was a great time.  Band playing shaded trees and a nice beer card with a free you guessed it Michelob Ultra. 


Sorry but this race had a few negatives.  

On course entertainment.  
From what I could tell five(ish) stations were planned for entertainment.  The first a group of bagpipers.  Who doesn't get fired up with Irish bagpipes! I was psyched given I'm a loud 90% Irish girl! Of course they just stood there.  Ok, maybe they are on a break I thought.  Coming back through the last half of the race.... again just standing there.  My husband said he also walked by them waiting for me and ..... yup just standing there.  So summary of entertainment stop one:  Stare at old men dressed in skirts with white legs.   I guess that counts right?  I then came up to speakers.  Great! Fun DJ party at mile X.....ugh no.  There was a turn table sitting on a picnic table with one guy resting in a van....really? Ok headphone back on. 

I do have to admit there were two drum lines and a great entertainer at the turn around.  THANK YOU!!!!!!!  Yes, this really does help us pass the time and push through the pain. 

I believe it was the chosen race location (far from most city residents) that gave to a minimal crowd.  The spectators were all family or supporters of other runners.  Thank goodness for team challenge! I found a few of their runners and of course they have great supporting crowds along the route.  Otherwise, it was really just me and my headphones for most of the race.  Not that I mind at all I love my peaceful runs... but on race day you are pushing just a little harder and need some fire! (Thank you Linkin Park, Eminem and Ariana Grande) 

Finish Line: 

Great Finish line! I passed the last water station in an attempt to make the best possible time.  Anything under a 2:15 was what I really really wanted. Crossing the finish line parched I collapsed on the volunteer handing me........a warm gatorade bottle, a warm water bottle and a fruit pack. WTF! I actually walked around TRYING to find chilled anything and there was nothing.  So I drank the warm stuff and really really thought about walking up a mile to the last aid station just for something cold. 

Overall I would say this was a fun half marathon.  The race was a cross between a large event and a hometown race.  I personally enjoyed having enough runners to keep it fun without grossly overcrowding and the gorgeous views of early morning chicago.  A fast course and perfect weather never hurt either! 
Monday, May 12, 2014

Pittsburgh 10 Mile Training Run

Training for any major distance event brings about the 10 mile anxiety run.  My 10 mile training schedule fell right on a busy, rainy, mothers day weekend.  I checked the rain schedule....ok I stalked the rain.  I checked every weather outlet for 48 hours working to identify a 2 hour time window with less than a 40% chance of rain.  They all seem to point to early Saturday morning.  So by 7:30 AM I was standing at the foot of one of my favorite training places in Pittsburgh.

My route took me from my familiar weekend running spot the Eliza Furnace Trail (parking at swineburg street).  Once I hit downtown I headed over the smithfield street bridge doing a few laps around station square and back over the bridge linking into downtown.  If you are not familiar, the Smithfield Street Bridge is one of the prettiest, most photographic bridges in Pittsburgh.  Running back across watching the sun wakeup the city is truly an amazing inspirational moment.  

From there I took a trip through Point Park running through the mist of the fountain and finding my new BFF hank the english bulldog.  

Running out of Point State Park traveling the edge of the city past the convention center to a Pittsburgh Saturday morning favorite, the Pittsburgh Strip District.  One of my favorite things about early morning runs are the locals I meet along the way.  The Strip did not disappoint.  I hit this stretch just as the shops were rolling the awnings down to open.  Further along Penn Ave I passed the local fire house using the nice weather to wash the fleet.  Everyone I passed gave a friendly wave making me feel like I was running an actual half marathon. 

Turning around I ran Penn Ave to Grant Street straight back to the trail head and traveled the Eliza furnace back to my car.   

I have said it many times but running through the city neighborhoods before 9AM is one of the most ZEN runs I can think of.  The city is just waking up with you, quiet streets, friendly locals and really shows you why it's a Pittsburgh neighborhood vs. a giant city. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Breaking Up with Salt

 In every epic breakup we as girls sulk, think about going back and finally realize we are better stronger versions of ourselves without whatever his name was! Salt is no different.

Runners often hear the opposite of salt elimination and hoard salt in our pre race pasta dinners, sports drinks, recovery drinks you name it.  Sure we need long run prep but that does not give us the right to put what is equivalent to a salt lick next our bed and have at it.  We need to fuel right, fuel for the workout we are about to have.

Three months ago I spoke to a friend on improving my diet.  I eat lean protein, low fat, whole wheat but I was still open to improvement.  Like a great friend telling you your college bad boy boyfriend is dragging you down, she sat me down and told me I needed to end my relationship with salt. Ugh!

This she promised  would be my ticket to a flatter stomach. Deep down I knew she was right and set out to end it!

What I didn't know is that my ex was stalking me.  After getting rid of the obviouse salt shaker, low sodium chicken broth I thought I was on the straight and narrow.  Until I actually LOOKED at the side of my containers.  Have you peaked at the sodium content in your pre race marinara sauce?! That sneaky bastard!

Here are a few of my breakup secrets.  No salt added products and Mrs. Dash Salt Free.  You can still make your favorite easy weeknight meals using canned tomatoes, sauces and broth.  DelMonte, Giant Eagle and Hunts make some great versions of their products in no salt versions. A few of my favorite low carb, low fat, low salt hight protein recipes are: Microwave Chicken Fajitas, Stuffed Pepper Soup, Stuffed Peppers and Chicken Rice and Mushroom soup.  Stay tuned for the details in future posts!

Now my relationship with sugar...well it's complicated. We are seeing other people (Stevia) but haven't completely called it quits.
Monday, April 28, 2014

PTBA 5K Race Review

So this is Kelly pictured on the right.   Want to know why Kelly is so awesome? Kelly just started running in December on the treadmill and placed in her age group at the PBTA 5K on Saturday! Also, she was pretty awesome to talk to. One of the many reasons why I love the running community.  Shout out to my age group were Stephanie Kravetz took 1st and I took 3rd! (Yes I looked it up and there were more than three people in our age group:)) 

Although racing conditions were not ideal if your a runner they were actually enjoyable (45 degrees and overcast).  The rain held off juuuust long enough for us to cross the finish line and move to the post race party located in the church gym.  Great planning on the committees part!

Race Review for PBTA 5K: 


A small deviation in the beginning through a single neighborhood road but otherwise out and back straight course. The terrain was paved for the entire route with rolling hills. I say rolling but I would categorize this as medium to hard.  The hills were consistant  with  only one large hill on the return trip.  


The nice part about a community 5k that runs by houses is the crowd! There were families, kids and even the sweet smell of farm country lining the route.  The road closing was organized by the fire department and police department which means they were also lining the route.  It was a nice family oriented energy. 

Water Stops: 

One water stop was organized at mile 2.  Given this was an out and back course you hit the stop twice.  For a 5k there was no chance of getting dehydrated they had you covered! The water stop was stocked with both sports drink and water for whatever your preference.  I have to say it was by first 5k that had two water drops and a choice of either electrolytes or water.  A welcomed touch by all the runners! 


I have to say I wasn't excepting much for a community 5k.  You know the basic race pamphlets and T-Shirt.  Well I can say I was very wrong.  The T-Shirt was a nice yellow and green (PT colors), accompanied by a reusable swag bag filled with first aid kits, water bottles and other goodies.  I have to say my FAVORITE was the local made organic granola.  I actually asked the bakery what they put in it because I didn't believe it was healthy! is.  They use brown rice syrup and almond butter.  (Grandma's Country Oven Bake Shoppe) Yum. 


The awards get 5 stars.  Honestly the best looking medals (see picture below) for a community 5K I have seen. Trophies were given to overall male/female finishers and medals were given to the top 3 per age group. 


Overall it was a well planned event.  The community business, fire department and police department all came out in support along with 100+ runners and walkers.  The post race awards celebration was flowing in a gymnasium with music, water, coffee and food.  A well organized fun event I would definitely run again.