More Than Running

When you love a sport, you want to do that sport all the time. And when you’re trying to be competitive in it (whether “competitive” means against others or just yourself), it’s easy to get wrapped up in doing just that. But if there’s one thing I know as an athlete, it’s that you need to do more than just your sport in order to excel.

As a swimmer in high school and college, I understood the importance of “dryland.” I didn’t always make it a priority, but I always tried to remind myself that there was more to swimming than just swimming. When I actually hit the weight room and did things to supplement my time in the pool, I saw results. I’ll never forget the summer after a disappointing freshman year season – I made as many 6am long course practices as possible and, thanks to not really having a job (which was not so fun when I had no money sophomore year) I also did a lot of running and weight training. It paid off big time and I told myself I’d be diligent with cross-training for the rest of my swimming career.

No shame then, no shame now. See, I used to swim!

No shame then, no shame now. See, I used to swim!

Well, my swimming career ended (for now), but I didn’t keep the promise to myself to be good at cross-training when I started running. I’ve found myself being great at it when I’m injured, but as soon as I start to get into the depths of training for whatever upcoming race, my cross-training falls by the wayside. It’s a combination of things; I’m tired, I’m spending more time running and have less time for “other stuff,” and if we’re being honest, sometimes I’m just plain lazy. But with this last injury preventing me from running a fall marathon for the second year in a row, I realized it was time to get serious. Or as my mother would say, time to shit or get off the pot.

Since I’m slightly injured right now, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to explore some cross-training options that would allow me to help me reach my running goals. Not having to worry about weekend morning long runs leaves time for fitness classes that I would otherwise skip because I wouldn’t want to waste energy on a non-running activity, or be afraid I’d be too sore. I’m also much closer to a variety of fitness options that I didn’t really have before… so there’s really no excuse!

Swimmer turned runner... kind of.

Swimmer turned runner… kind of.

This past weekend I got adventurous and tried two new-to-me workouts. First up was yoga with Dori on Saturday at a local yoga studio. After finding an Amazon Local deal a few weeks ago, we decided it would be in both of our best interests to check it out. The studio, Jivamukti Yoga, offers a variety of classes throughout the day, which is convenient. Unfortunately they don’t offer any early classes, making it a weeknight and/or weekend-only kind of thing.

Since we’ve both practiced yoga before, but it’s been awhile for us (and we’re far from experts), we decided to try the Beginner Vinyasa class. The mid-afternoon class was small (there were 7 of us including myself and Dori) which allowed for personal attention and a relaxing environment. We started with some chanting which I always have to try not to smile/laugh during because I’m a child, and then we moved on to some basic poses and a few sequences. It felt good to stretch out while also getting a little bit of a workout (my back and arms were slightly sore the next day). We ended the class working on an assisted shoulder stand, but both Dori and I agreed it would have been easier with out the blanket prop. It also made me realize the importance of a shirt with an elastic or adjustable waistband! Since we purchased a 5-class package, we’ll definitely be back. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other types of classes they offer, like their spirit warrior class which is a one-hour workout styled class, as well as their aerial vinyasa.

On Sunday, I finally tried out Refine Method, which I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I have a lot of friends who love it, so now that I’m a quick PATH ride away from the city, it was the perfect time to give it a try.

As with all new things, I was a little nervous for my first class. Not because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the work, rather I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t want to look like a total newbie, and sometimes when I’m working out I don’t pay close attention to instructions which leaves me clueless. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about because Dori was with me to help, and it was all really straight forward and simple – I wasn’t confused at all! The instructor, Laura, took the time to introduce herself and set me up on their pulley system, and to tell me what weights she thought I should use. Once the class started it was go-go-go for 55 minutes (followed by core-work and a cool-down for the last 5 minutes).

I was dripping sweat by the end of the class, and knew I’d be sore on Monday. We did everything from side lunges with single leg squats, to jump-backs (burpees) and kettlebell swings. My favorite part about the class was that each exercise was done for no more than a minute at a time, and just as you were starting to feel like you couldn’t continue, it was time to switch to the next exercise! And each set included a move targeting your upper body, followed by one targeting your lower body (or vice versa). It really is a total body workout that pushes you without feeling impossible. I felt really accomplished by the end of class, and was already thinking about when to go back! I think doing workouts like this two times a week could really help with my running because a lot of the exercises are things that are part of my simple strength work now. The classes are a little expensive, but I think I can make it work if I scale back on other things (aka my online shopping habit).

Needless to say, I’m ready to put in the work – both with my runs as well as my cross-training to make sure I stay strong, healthy, and get to the start line so I can crush my goals!

Tell me…
Do you cross train to supplement your running (if you’re a runner)? And if so, what do you do?
What’s your favorite workout?

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Marathon Pause

When I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, still high off of my spring half marathon PR, I was ready to crush training and run the race I know I’m capable of running. I had plenty of time to train, a great coach, and enough dances with the 26.2 distance to know what was required of me. My schedule was going to be a little hectic with wedding festivities almost every weekend in September and October, but I figured if that was the only hiccup I would be able to manage. A wrench was thrown in when I wound up moving – which was both exciting because I’d finally be in a location I wanted, but stressful because moving is stressful! – but I still had every intention of racing the Philly Marathon. Well, sometimes life gives you lemons and lemonade all at once.

Training was getting done, but I wasn’t running the way I wanted to. I had to skip a few long runs/cut them short due to being just straight up tired, and others were a mental battle to not only get out the door, but to actually finish the prescribed distance (though oddly enough one of my best runs was an 18 miler during a downpour). With all the weddings, moving, working, and trying to train, I think my strength work suffered. So I wasn’t shocked when I noticed the all too familiar twinge outside of my knee after a quick but easy 4 miler at the beginning of October. I took a few days off with some extra strength work and foam rolling and everything seemed to be okay – I ran 17 miles last weekend, and had an awesome fartlek workout last Tuesday. But then this past Friday during my long run (which was moved due to a bachelorette party this past weekend), the little twinge outside the knee I had felt two weeks prior slowly but surely developed into a sharp pain. Dreaded ITBS had reared its ugly head on my left side (I had an issue with it this past January on my right side). I made it to 10 miles, stopped, and spent the next mile doing a little run/walk combination in hopes it would somehow just go away. It didn’t, so after a few expletives left my mouth, I had to walk two miles home.

It was during that two mile walk home that I knew I needed to let go of my hopes to run the Philly Marathon. The thought had crept into my mind when the pain first appeared, but I was hopeful I could still salvage things. But this was the nail in the proverbial marathon training coffin. There hadn’t been enough mileage put into the bank earlier, and the last thing I wanted to do was run yet another marathon that my goal was to just finish. The next time I train for and run a marathon, I want it to be the race I know I’m capable of running. I e-mailed Jason and let him know what was going on and he confirmed what I was thinking: I will not be running the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23rd. Or the half. There isn’t any running on my schedule for the next week, but starting tomorrow I’m getting back into strength work… and then I’m going to take it from there. I joked that maybe I should swear off marathons and Jason said I can’t just yet. So when am I going to attempt my next marathon? Who knows. Maybe this spring. Or maybe not until next Fall. But I know that I can’t let my dream of a successful marathon go just yet – I have visions of myself crossing the finish line with that goal time flashing on the clock and I get butterflies thinking about it. So it’ll happen… one day.

Of course I’m bummed, but I know that in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that big of a deal. I’d much rather deal with the pain now, rather than during the race! So, onward and upward!

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Recipe: Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash

It was starting to feel like fall late last week, so I picked up an acorn squash at the Farmer’s Market on Thursday thinking I could put it to good use this week with the cooler weather. Naturally the temperatures have been in the upper 70’s all week – summer forever, please! – which doesn’t really put me in the mood for a warm fall dish… but I made one anyway. And when I shared it on Instagram and everyone was interested in the recipe, I figured I’d share it with you all!

This comes together pretty easily and it doesn’t require you to do multiple things at once which I always appreciate. I made this as my main dish, but you could easily have it as a side to something else. Acorn squash are great vehicles to stuff with pretty much anything – so get creative!

Stuffed Acorn Squash | FoodosaurusRex.com

Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Serves 2 - 

Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
3 cups kale, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 can (15oz) black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cous cous
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a cheddar blend)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Slice the squash in half, remove the seeds. Spray a baking sheet and cut side of the squash with non-stick spray and place the squash cut side down. Bake for 30-35 minutes. 
3. Meanwhile, prepare the cous cous by bringing 3/4 cup of salted water to a boil. Add the cous cous, stir, cover and remove from the heat. Fluff after  5 minutes. 
4. Heat the tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the kale, sauteing for another 5 minutes. 
5. Add the garlic, beans, spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano). Cook until beans are heated through, about 2 minutes.
6. In a large bowl, combine the kale and bean mixture with the cous cous. 
7. When the squash is done, flip them over and spoon the filling into the squash cavity (it’s okay if it’s overflowing). Top with cheese and bake another 2 minutes until the cheese is melted. 

 

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Reflections: Internet Friends

A few weeks ago I attended a conference for work (put on by my company). Being a software development company and trying to stay on-trend with social media, the event had a hashtag and participants were encouraged to Tweet and Instagram throughout the week using the conference hashtag. Being the good employee that I am, at one point I Instagrammed a picture of cupcakes that were served during one of the session breaks. Later than evening while talking with a few partners, one stopped, looked at me and said; “You posted a picture of cupcakes earlier, right? And you’re a swimmer turned runner? Sorry, this sounds creepy.” I couldn’t help but laugh, and it actually didn’t creep me out. I mean, I put it out on the Internet, didn’t I?

At one point during the conversation (where he went on to say how he doesn’t like things like Facebook to post his own stuff, but likes reading about others… okay), I told him how I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really great people through the Internet. And it got me thinking… I’ve been really lucky! I remember not too long ago talking to “strangers” on the Internet was dangerous. AOL chat rooms? Better hide the screen when your parents walk by! Meeting someone from the Internet? Forget about it! Yet now in my late twenties (when did that happen?) I’ve been fortunate enough to forge some really special bonds and create real friendships… thanks to the good ‘ole Internets.

I have a few great examples of how fortunate I’ve been with people I’ve met online and how those online relationships have become true friendships. One of my very first Internet-turned-real-life friends was Krissy. We connected over a love for running and Disney, and when we finally met IN Disney (of course) in 2012, it felt like we had been friends forever. She’s always so positive and enthusiastic, and runs full marathons like it ain’t no thang.

Runnin' with Krissy & Ashley at the Nike Women's Half in 2013!

Runnin’ with Krissy & Ashley at the Nike Women’s Half in 2013!

Another great example of this was yesterday. Ashley, who I first connected with on Twitter based on our love of running and New Jersey, quickly became a close friend. We hang out (which usually involves food), run together, complain to each other about work on g-chat, and yesterday I had the pleasure of attending her wedding! If you had asked me just a few years ago if I’d be attending the wedding of someone I met on the Internet, I would have looked at you funny. But I did and it was wonderful (of course)! And Dori, who I also connected with via Twitter because we were both running Richmond last year… now lives two doors down from me! And she introduced me to two other awesome ladies who love to run, eat, drink, and snark (some of my favorite things!). Talk about fate.

Ashley & Dori!

Ashley & Dori!

And there’s my favorite diner date, Hollie, who I can text any time with random thoughts and will likely reply that she was thinking the same thing. Her name isn’t FueledByLOLZ for nothing – she always knows how to make me laugh, and can provide invaluable running advice whenever I need it.

Just hangin' out in the subway

Just hangin’ out in the subway

I’d be remiss not to mention all of the wonderful women I’ve met through the Oiselle Team, and while I can’t name them all, I’m thankful for the bond I’ve formed with so many great women across the country.  Not to mention my birthday twin Allie!

My favorite birthday twin

My favorite birthday twin

Even though the Internet has been around for quite some time and social media isn’t anything new, it still blows my mind that you can have these connections with complete strangers, who turn out to be some of your very best friends. I can go from sharing a few 140 character interactions with someone to talking on g-chat (cough, Leticia, cough), to texting and hanging out, to attending their wedding! Maybe this is a sappy post because I’m coming down from a love-fest high of weddings three weekends in a row and I’m just so thankful to have a close friend living mere steps away, but this whole social media thing has connected me with so many great people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The Internet is a funny place… and I’m grateful for it.

Tell me…
What’s your favorite way to connect with people online? (mine is obviously Twitter!)

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Omron Electrotherapy Review & Giveaway!

*UPDATE*: The giveaway winner has been chosen! And thanks to random.org, it was commenter #6 – Hollie!
[Hollie, I will e-mail you to get your info!]

Disclaimer: The Omron Elctrotherapy unit was provided at no cost to me. All views and opinions are my own.

It’s no secret that marathon training hurts. Usually it’s that “good kind of hurt” where you wake up in the morning, take those first few steps, and immediately remember the long run or hard workout from the day before. I always joke about it, but sometimes I really do feel like an old lady first thing in the morning! Of course this isn’t the case every day, but as runs get longer and workouts get harder, there’s no denying the residual soreness. I foam roll, ice, and spend plenty of time with my legs up the wall, but sometimes you just need a little something extra. So when I was given the opportunity to try an Omron Electrotherapy Unit, I couldn’t say no. Especially when they offered to provide my readers one as well!

Omron Electrotherapy Unit

The idea behind the electrotherapy unit is that it can provide nerve stimulation through electrical pulses, aka TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Depending on the problem area and the level of discomfort you’re experiencing, you can customize each session to fit your needs. The machine itself is small and very easy to use; it’s just like a remote control! And since it comes with two pads that can be placed almost anywhere, the uses are endless. Sore back? No problem. Cranky calf? Give it a zap!

I won’t pretend I wasn’t skeptical at first. I mean, could this little machine really make my muscles feel better? Well my quads were conveniently very sore a week ago, so I put it to the test. It was kind of fun to sit there and watch my my muscles involuntarily twitch (which is why I took a video of it, obviously). With each contraction and release I could feel my muscles relaxing. Now don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make my legs feel brand-new, but it definitely helped speed up the recovery process. I definitely think it’s a nice addition to any runner’s arsenal of recovery tools… or anyone who has lots of aches and pains!

Lucky for you guys, I have one to give away to a reader! All you have to do is leave a comment below and let me know your favorite recovery tool. You have until Wednesday (10/8/14) at 9pm EST to enter!

 

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Friday Favorites

How about a little Friday Favorites to kick off the first official weekend of Fall? As usual there is no particular theme… just what I’m currently loving!

Free People Convertible Crossbody Bag

A few months ago I decided I needed a new crossbody bag; specifically one that had a fold-over top. I’m the kind of person that once I get something in my head that I want, I search and search until I find it. It took me a few days, but eventually I found a bag that was cute, functional, and wouldn’t break the bank. Enter this Free People purse!

bag

I love this bag for a few reasons. First, it’s vegan, so I don’t have to feel badly about carrying it around. And it’s already worn-in so it has that soft leather feel. It’s also convertible! I can leave the fold-over flap out, or I can fold it into the bag and zip it closed that way. It has a long strap that can be worn as a crossbody or shoulder bag, but it also has handles in case I just want to grab it or throw it on my arm.

 

Vous Vitamins

When I was asked if I’d be interested in sampling some customized vitamins by Vous Vitamins, I jumped at the offer. When I lived in Brooklyn, I remember taking Flinstone’s Vitamins and loving them. But, when we moved to New Jersey, my mom started giving me prescription vitamins. I was always mad that I couldn’t have any of the “cool” vitamins, and by the time I was in high school I stopped taking them all together. Now as an adult I try to take them, but I’m admittedly not very good at remembering.

vous

I absolutely love the idea of customized vitamins. All you have to do is take their quick questionnaire online which asks questions about your dietary and exercise habits, where you live, your age, and how you generally feel. You then get your vitamins, and they suggest taking two with a large glass of water after a meal. Of course, if you prefer, you can take one in the morning and one in the evening. While I don’t feel remarkably different (which I wouldn’t expect just from some vitamins) I do like knowing that I’m making sure my body is getting all the nutrients it needs – especially during marathon training!

 

Oiselle Portman Pants

I fell in love with the moto trend a little late last year, so I didn’t really have the opportunity to capitalize on it for fear that it wouldn’t still be a trend this fall. Lucky for me it is, so I’ve been snatching up plenty of moto inspired pieces over the last few weeks. A few months ago Oiselle shared a sneak-peek picture of a pair of moto inspired leggings, and I knew as soon as I saw them I’d have to have them (mind you, this was without seeing the entire pant).

Hello, moto

Hello, moto

So after patiently waiting, I scooped up the Portman Pant as soon as they hit the website. I got them last Friday, and I’ve already worn them twice. It hasn’t been cool enough for me to run in them, but they were perfect travel pants when I went to visit my sister in Rochester last weekend. They’re super soft like my beloved flow tights, but the detail makes you feel like you’re wearing more than “just” leggings. I have no doubt in my mind that these are going to be a staple for me this fall and winter on those days where I want to be comfy and cozy, but also look like I’m wearing more than just running clothes or lounge pants.

 

Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters

On my first trip this past July to visit my sister in Rochester, NY we stopped to get coffee from one of her favorite local coffee places, Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters. She works in the medical center at The University of Rochester which is attached to the city’s main hospital, and they have a FLR coffee shop there as well as a bunch of stores in the area. I had high hopes for when I finally made it to the store since she’d been texting me about all the fun coffee flavors she’d been having for months. Naturally when I got to the store I was like a kid in a (coffee) candy shop.

FLR

When I went the first time I decided to bring back one bag of coffee, coconut. We left the bag in the car as we went to do other errands, and by the time we got back my sister’s entire car smelled like coconut coffee… yum! It tasted as good as it smelled, and I finished it within a week! On my most recent trip I decided to try two new flavors: salted caramel and streusel cake. I haven’t had the streusel cake yet, but so far I’m loving the salted caramel. I’ve had plenty of flavored coffees that have beans that smell amazing, but when you actually brew it there isn’t much flavor. Well, not Finger Lakes Roasters. This coffee tastes as good as it smells! It also made my luggage on the trip home smell amazing.

 

Wedding Season!

Yup, it’s that time of year again… wedding season! Mine kicked off a little later this year with the first on September 6th. I have one this weekend, as well as the next two weekends (till mid-October)! While having to get up at 5am to do my long runs before the fun starts isn’t my favorite, I love the chance to get dressed up and hang out with some of my very best friends. Who doesn’t like a little love in the air?!

Mustaches of some sort are a requirement at weddings with me... sorry?

Mustaches of some sort are a requirement at weddings with me… sorry?

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Race Recap: Greta’s Run 5k

I remember September 11th, 2002 just as clearly as I remember September 11th, 2001. The days were eerily similar – beautiful blue skies, light winds, and a perfect late summer/early fall day… and tragic. After a moment of silence outside on our high school’s front lawn for the first anniversary of September 11th, I went off to lunch. Our high school offered four lunch periods, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th… and I was lucky enough to have 5th (yes, I was hungry by 10:54am for lunch). After that I can’t remember what class I had, but I remember being in math class 7th period. That’s when our principal came over the loud speaker to let us know there had been an accident in the front of the school, and that everyone needed to stay put. Naturally we all began to panic. My classroom was towards the back of the school near some fields, and we just watched as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances went racing by. It seemed like hours passed… and they did. Our teacher would get a phone call every so often with information, but she wouldn’t share much. Eventually though, we saw a helicopter land on the field out back, and a few stretchers go racing by.

I’d later learn that during 7th period, as students were sitting out front eating lunch, a gust of wind came along that was strong enough to knock a very large (dead) tree branch from it’s trunk. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been an issue, as students wouldn’t have been in the front of the school at that time. However, construction prevented them from sitting in the courtyard, so the tables had been moved to the front. Unfortunately the giant tree branch fell on a group of students (mostly freshmen) eating lunch. Everyone recovered, except for Greta. Her injuries were too severe, and three days later she passed away. Our school was rocked to the core by this tragedy – how could a student, simply sitting outside eating her lunch during the first week of school, be killed? It just didn’t make sense. I had known the family from YMCA swimming, and was completely heartbroken for them. There were vigils, wakes, and the funeral that almost the entire student body attended. I know that I will vividly remember those days for the rest of my life.

But as it happens so often, out of tragedy comes something positive. Last year, one of my friends (and former CCD students) organized a 5k run in Westfield to raise funds for a program to serve adults with special needs, who typically age-out of programs as they get older. So while I wasn’t able to run last year, I made sure to mark it on my calendar early and register right away for this year. I knew that regardless of the outcome of my actual race that it was a cause I wanted to help support! But onto the actual race report…

The race didn’t start until 11am, so I had plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep and have my pre-race breakfast. My mom came with me to the race, and we were there with plenty of time to spare. I went for a quick warm-up, and lined myself up towards the front of the race. I started chatting with a fellow runner, who it turns out knows quite a few people I went to high school with! After some songs from the choir (that’s right, choir), it was time to run. Per the usual, I nearly tripped over a little boy who started in front of me and decided to stop about 50 yards past the start. Thankfully I didn’t fall (and I don’t think he did either). The first mile came relatively quickly (6:38) and I felt decent. I knew that if I could hold on to that pace, I’d PR. Of course by 1.5 miles I wanted to quit, but I knew I had to keep going. By the time I was halfway, I had picked off quite a few runners, including a handful of females. No one was saying anything, but based on what I could see ahead of me I knew I was either second or third. I slowed down a little during the second mile (6:45), but this portion also had the most “rolling hills.”

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

I told myself just to hang on the best I could for the third mile, and it was here that I heard someone yell “alright! Second female!” I had no idea how close the third place woman was, so I tried my hardest not to slow down. The course had a lot of turns but I think I managed to cut them all really well (Garmin actually read 3.1!). Once I turned by the middle school I knew we were almost done, so I tried my best to kick it up to “puke pace” … which turned out to be the same pace I ran the first mile in – go figure (6:38). I crossed the finish and saw that the girl I had been chatting with earlier, Erin, was the overall female winner! We grabbed some water and decided to do a cool-down together before heading back over the the finish area for the awards. It didn’t hit me until after I had finished that I ran a 20:35, which is actually just over a minute faster than the PR I set in July. Icing on the cake was my 2nd place female finish!

Kennedy approves of the medal

Kennedy approves of the medal

After the race my mom and I got Starbucks and a sandwich from my favorite bagel shop, and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s before heading home. It was really great to run a race that supported an important cause and was in honor of a really great girl. It was also fun to see a lot of familiar hometown faces and catch up with some people! This is definitely a race I’m going to keep on my calendar for every year.

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Marathon Training: Fun Times Ahead!

Today marks the official start of my marathon training! In just 16.5 weeks I’ll be toeing the line at the Philadelphia Marathon and I can’t wait. I thought I’d do something different this training cycle and do weekly recaps to highlight how things are going. In the past I’ve been a little more hush-hush about my training, only posting it on DailyMile and a few Tweets here and there. I always assumed no one was really that interested in my training, but I always enjoy reading other people’s weekly recaps. So considering the work I know I’m going to be putting in, I thought it would be fun to share the journey with you!

Whenever someone talks about a big race, the next logical thing to think about are goals. So you’re probably wondering, what are my goals, exactly? Well, I’m not entirely sure… yet. Based on my half marathon PR from this past April, McMillan and similar race calculators suggest I can run a sub-3:30. Which, if we’re being completely honest, is terrifying. If you’re a regular reader, you know that my current marathon PR is much slower than that. I’m talking nearly an hour slower. While it’s true that PR was done on little training and is nearly two years old, it’s still scary to think I’m capable of running an hour faster. I mean, an HOUR? At a pace that not too long ago was a struggle during a half marathon? Yikes.

Regardless of what the online calculators say, I know I’m capable of a big PR, I’m just not sure how big. After my last marathon, my goal was to get in under 4 hours. Realistically, that’s still my number one goal. Without having any official marathon training and longer workouts under my belt yet, it’s difficult for me to say what my time goal(s) are beyond that. I have a great base, but I know that 20 mile long runs are a different beast from the 16 mile long run workouts I was doing for my half marathon this past spring. Would I like to BQ? Sure! But considering my initial goal was to just get under 4-hours, I’m not nearly as consumed with it as most people are… which I actually think is a good thing.

Since I’m yet to have a successful marathon training cycle, I’m actually looking forward to this one. We’ll see if I feel that way when I’m doing 18 mile workouts, ha! I know that right now I’m the strongest I’ve ever been as a runner and am confident that strength is only going to grow. Coincidence that my coach’s website is called Strength Running? I suppose not! Despite feeling strong, I know I have a ways to go. This training cycle is going to include a lot more strength work – core, hips, glutes, and making sure my always problematic feet and shins stay happy. I know it’s going to be time consuming, tiring, and I’m probably going to spend a lot of time being sore. Jason said he has some “fun” in store for me, but uses the term loosely… we’ll see how fun I think it is in a month! My ultimate goal is to follow my training plan 100%. This has always been my downfall when training, especially for a marathon. This past winter and spring was the first time – I think since I trained for my first half marathon –  I didn’t take any shortcuts or make a ton of modifications to my plan… which obviously paid off. Either way, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for an intense training cycle that will hopefully yield some big rewards!

Tell me…
Are you currently training for a marathon? Which one?

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Race Recap: Downtown Westfield Pizza 5k

Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.

Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.

Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…

After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.

The second mile has a  lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.

As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.

After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!

PIZZA!

PIZZA!

After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner.  While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.

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Filed under Pizza, Running

Smorgasburg: A Little Bit of This & That

When I first heard about Smorgasburg, I couldn’t help but think of Fat Templeton from Charlotte’s Web. It might sound odd (and troubling) that a rat from one of my favorite childhood novels was what I thought of when I heard about a food festival, but I have a reason! At the fair where Wilbur and Charlotte are, Templeton realizes that once the fair is closed for the night there is trash everywhere. He refers to the trash-filled fair grounds as a rat’s smorgasbord.

So after hearing about it from pretty much everyone, I finally made the trip to Williamsburg on Saturday to check it out. It was a beautiful day and when I arrived at around 3pm there were plenty of people getting their eat on. I had asked a few friends for suggestions, but decided to take a lap around to (try to) see all the vendors before making any decisions. I only had so much stomach real estate and I wanted to make every bite worth it! They have pretty much everything you can think of: Thai street food, Vietnamese, burgers, lobster rolls, tacos, mac ‘n cheese, ice cream, ice pops, doughnuts, fried chicken and waffles, BBQ… the list goes on and on.

My first stop was at the Chickpea + Olive stand, where they were slinging beet burgers and sliders. I wanted one of everything, but eventually settled on their Calexico; a beet slider topped with jalapeño, pickled red onion, avocado, tomato, daiya cheddar cheese, and a chipotle aioli. The beet burger (made with beets, lentils, brown rice, and mushrooms) had a nice char to it and the toppings were awesome. The pickled red onions and chipotle aioli were plentiful and really made the slider next level. It was absolutely delicious and I was so sad when it was gone… but since it wasn’t a full-sized burger (which they do have), it was the perfect size for my quest to try a bunch of different things. I also got an iced coconut black tea which was equally delicious and refreshing.

Next up was a stop at Oaxaca Taqueria for a taco. I mean, you didn’t really think I’d go somewhere that had tacos and not have one, right?! I settled on the Papas y Rajas, which included roasted potato and poblano peppers, pickled red onions, salsa roja, avocado salsa, cojita, and cilantro. The tacos were listed as $4 for one, $7 for two, etc.,  but I decided to just get one since I wanted to be able to try other things. The taco was literally two bites, but it was two delicious bites. It was super fresh and vibrant thanks to the salsas, and it really was a great bite sized snack. If you aren’t planning to try a bunch of different things, I would definitely suggest ordering a few – one just isn’t enough. This was my second dish of the day with pickled onions, and again they were a great addition to the taco. I guess I need to start adding pickled onions to more things!

After the taco, it was time for frites! My love affair with frites hit an all time high when I was in Brussels, Belgium in January, so I was thrilled to see Home Frite there. While waiting in line, I weighed my menu options and eventually decided on the “Dutch” (I mean, might as well go all in), which included curry ketchup, garlic aioli, and chopped onions. It was super messy to eat, but absolutely worth it. The fries were piping hot and crispy, and the curry ketchup and garlic aioli added a nice creamy element. While I was bummed this particular version of their frites didn’t come in a paper cone, the fact that they were delicious helped make up for that.

frites

To end my tour of deliciousness, I made a stop at Kelvin’s for a slush to wash it all down. I don’t think I’ve had a slush drink in quite some time, but growing up I was a huge 7-11 Slurpee fan (how could I not be?!). So I was thrilled to see a grown-up version of a childhood favorite. The line was long and while we were waiting they had to give the machines a few minutes to re-freeze, but it was worth the wait. They had either Arnold Palmer or Ginger slushes with a few different flavor add-ins (white peach, pear, guava, etc.). I decided to go with the Arnold Palmer with the white peach add-in, and it was amazingly refreshing.

kelvin.jpg

By the time I left, I was happily satiated and wishing I could get my Smorgasburg on every weekend. I mean, what a fantastic idea! It provides people who don’t necessarily have the funds (yet) to have a storefront or food truck to showcase their delicious treats, and also those that have found success and have storefronts to reach another audience in a laid-back and fun environment. Plus, it provides people like me who love to eat and to try new things the opportunity to do that in one space, and without breaking the bank. Everyone wins if you ask me!

Tell me…
Have you been to Smorgasburg? What were your favorites?
If you don’t live in the NYC area, have you been to any similar food events?

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Filed under Food Blogging, Food Review, Restaurant