Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pre-run: Broad Street

It's the night before the Broad Street Run, and I'm finally getting excited.  You may think I should have been getting excited for the last week or so, but you see, I've been sick.  I came down with a nasty cold last Thursday, and through a weekend in Denver and a week of work, I've been coughing, sneezing, and wheezing my way through each day.  It's only been in the last few days that I've been feeling better...and only yesterday and today that I even dared think I might be able to run Broad Street on Sunday.

I went out for a "test run" today, and did 1.2 miles at an average 15:32 pace.  That's much slower than usual, but I counted my warmup/cooldown - if I only counted the running time, it would be under the 15:00 pace that's required for Broad Street - so I think I'm good to go.  Of course, 10 miles is a LOT longer than 1.2 - but I think my lungs can handle the running.

I am most worried about the heat that is forecast for tomorrow.  Although the average temp on Broad Street day is around 60, tomorrow we are supposed to get up to 90 degrees - the hour-by-hour forecast on has us going up to 83 degrees by the end of the race.  That's pretty intense, considering I rarely run in that heat.  The race website has posted this note:

"Due to the predicted forecast and the fact that most of you have not been training in these type of conditions we are urging all of you to take the proper precautions relating to this situation. We cannot make decisions for you when you are the only one who knows how you feel. We are urging you to hydrate prior to race day and on race morning. The race is making extra preparations relating to the conditions and we hope that everyone will have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Runners are advised that on the race course fire hydrants will be used as sprinklers to keep the runners cooled down. Runners are urged to use the sprinklers along the course and to drink the water provided at the water stations. It is important that the runners must understand that the amount of cups provided are for the entire field of runners. It is up to you to respect your fellow runners and only take one cup at a time at the water stations."

Fire hydrants as sprinklers?  Awesome!  It'll be kinda like playing on the Slip-n-Slide when I was little!  Hopefully it doesn't get totally gross by the time I pass the sprinklers, though - since I'm at the end, I have a feeling it could be kinda muddy.  At least we'll stay cool though!

Since I've been sick, my race intentions are much lower than I had planned.  I intended on shooting for a 13:30/mile average pace (a little faster than my 9.8-mile run a few weeks ago), but since I've missed some training, the heat is going to be ridiculous, and I'm still not 100%, my only two goals are:

- "Pie-in-the-sky" goal: Finish in 2:22 for an average pace of 14:15/mi.  I can only do this if I'm feeling INCREDIBLE (for my sick self), the downhill is helping a lot, and the heat doesn't pick up until late in the run.

- "Ambitious" goal: Finish the entire 10.0 miles without getting pushed onto the sidewalk or forced onto a shuttle bus.  This would require a 15:00/mile average pace, for a total of 2:30:00.

- "Realistic" goal: Finish the entire 10.0 miles, even if the end has to be on the sidewalk after they reopen the roads.  Even if the last few miles are just walking.

I plan on listening to my body very carefully, and making sure that I'm not pushing myself too hard.  I hope that I won't make myself more sick again, and I hope that I don't have any trouble with the heat - I am super sensitive to heat!  If anyone wants to check my final time after the race (like, at least after 11 - maybe later if it takes a while for them to update the times), my bib number is 28462.

Time to go to bed - wake-up is at 4:45 am.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

I didn't get to spend Easter with family, but I did have a lot of fun dying eggs and eating Easter candy.  Here, my Easter in pictures:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Cupcakes

Happy Easter!!

Things have been super busy around here - lots of experiments to do in lab, lots of social and family things going on, and plenty to do in the department of informal obligations.  I've been keeping up with running - 8 miles last weekend, 8 this weekend, and then I'm on to 9 and 10 miles!  The long runs have been lots of fun - I'm glad I decided to commit to the half and to Broad Street, since I am finding I really like running.

This Easter I'm far away from my family, but I did manage to make one Easter food - carrot cake cupcakes!  The recipe was from Alton Brown on the Food Network website, so you can head on over there for the directions.  These were DELICIOUS, and so easy to make.  I did leave out the walnuts, since I didn't have any, and I used reduced fat cream cheese (neufchatel), which didn't seem to have an adverse effect on the deliciousness of the frosting.

I even managed to pipe on these cute little carrots!  Sorry the picture is so blurry, but I forgot to take one until I was at work and only had my phone with me.

Hope you all have a wonderful Easter and spend some time with family and friends :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Outside the Box Challenge: Where Does My Food Come From?

As part of the Outside the Box Challenge, I set out to research where some of my food comes from.  The challenge, sponsored by Stonyfield, is intended to inspire people to educate themselves on the sources of their food, and to think about whether their food represents their philosophy.

After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I've been pretty sensitive to this issue already, and have recently switched to grass-fed beef instead of the beef I had been buying.  Below is the information for the Wegmans Grass-Fed Beef I have been getting:


Organic Food You Feel Good About Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-Fed BeefOur grass-fed beef comes from Angus-Hereford cattle that spend their entire lives roaming open pastures of fresh, lush native grassland. This certified organic beef is raised on small family farms in Uruguay and packaged in the US. Why not buy American? Our merchants looked for the best-tasting, sustainable source of grass-fed and certified organic beef. In the US, supplies are limited and taste was not up to par— probably because during winter, cattle here are fed dried grasses (hay).


I love that instead of simply "grass fed," the label explicitly tells people that the cows spend their entire lives eating grass.  With these labels, we have to be very careful, because sometimes even "grass fed" just means that at some point the cows were given grass (often before being moved to feedlots).  This label is pretty clear, and that does make me feel pretty good!

Of course, if I'm going to think about where my food comes from, I really should be examining more how I feel about eating meat in general.  I'm still not sure how I feel, and I definitely have more thinking to do - but for now, if I'm going to eat meat, I am happy knowing that the animals were humanely treated and fed their natural diet.

Along the same lines, I have been working hard to change the way I eat produce.  I've been reading the stickers to try to buy local more often, and am making an effort to buy food when it's in season.  An easy way to do that, for me at least, is to join a CSA - so as of April, I will be a proud CSA member!

Some benefits of CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture, are (from the Local Harvest website):

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown 

The CSA I signed up for provides food exclusively from local farms that use organic farming practices, which is great - that way, it's a no-brainer for me to eat local, fresh, organic, and in-season food.  They also deliver their shares to the building I work in, making it super convenient.  I am looking forward to a new food challenge every week when I get my share - it should help me eat more veggies and be more creative in my cooking.  For more info on CSAs and to find one near you, visit Local Harvest.

This was definitely a challenge that was in line with the way I've been thinking lately - I'm happy to have a chance to really think about the way I eat, and to share with you all!

5K Results!

So, the official results are up for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, and I came somewhere between my first and second goals, with an official time of 38:45!  That's a PR by about 3 minutes - and I'm really happy about it.

The race started off slow - most of the walkers didn't seem to realize not to stand up front, so I did a lot of dodging at first.  I made a conscious effort not to go out too fast, but ended up with an 11:30 pace for the first half of the first mile.  I slowed it down a bit after that and ended up with splits of:

Mile 1 - 12:15
Mile 2 - 12:30
Mile 3 - 12:38
Last 0.14 (with all that dodging, the course was a bit long for me) - 1:24 ( a 10:19 pace!)

I wanted to post negative splits, but my heart rate would NOT slow down after the middle of the race, and knowing that I needed to run 3 more miles afterwards, I didn't want to make myself too tired or get the headache I usually get when I stay above 176 or so.

All of the challenges I faced were crowd-related: the walkers in front of me at the beginning, the giant crowd of walkers at the water station going the other way when I was running back, and all of the teams of people who seemed to have turned around at the water station instead of doing the whole course (how else would there be hundreds of walkers in front of me at mile 2.4?).  Really, a crowd of walkers next to you when you're almost finished is the least motivating thing ever - all I wanted to do was just walk, just for a second.  But I didn't - I ran the whole thing!  All in all, with all of those factors, I think I did a great job to keep it under 13:00, not get too tired, and rock the end.

After the 5K I walked and ran 3 more miles for a total of 7 (I walked a mile to get to the race).  I am really happy with my progress on my long runs and know that if I stick it out with this training, I'll have no trouble with Broad Street or the half!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First 5K of the Season - Goals

Tonight I'm getting ready for my first race of the season, the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K.

In preparation for my upcoming half marathon, and for running the Broad Street Run, I wanted to sign up for another smaller, shorter race to kick off the race season.  It seems to be very well run - they have a pre-race packet pickup, a nice tech tee, and D-chip tags - I might be able to actually look up my pictures and official time!  I know some places have running communities that are always this organized - but the two events I've been to so far have been lacking in the preparation department.

My running schedule has 7 miles planned for tomorrow, so I will be doing a 1-mile warmup, then the 5K, then 3 more miles.  I really want to do my best at the 5K, though, so if I need to walk quite a bit after the race before I finish up, I'm ok with that.  Here are my goals for the 5K:

1. Reach-for-the-Stars Goal:  37:30 -- this is a tiny bit over a 12:00/mile pace, and is probably not going to happen.  I'd need to run the whole thing at a decent pace (for me), so I'd really need to be feeling good!  If I don't make this this time, it will be my 5K goal for the fall - I should be a bit faster by then.

2. Reasonable Goal: 40:30 -- this would still be a PR (my last two race times were 41:30 and 42:00), and would be slightly over a 13:00/mile pace.  This would either be a slow run for the whole race, or a good pace with a few walk breaks.  Unless I'm overly tired or something, I should be able to do this.

3. No Matter What: Finish, have fun, and have the energy to do the rest of my 7-mile training for the day!

Now, I did manage a 2-mile run at a 12:01 pace last week, but I was wiped out afterward - so I'm not sure if I can do the same for 3.1 miles.  Hopefully the adrenaline of the race will help a bit!  The best part is, after the 5K I should be able to grab a snack and drink, refresh a bit, then finish up the 7 miles for the day.

Wish me luck!

Outside the Box Challenge: Corned Beef and Cabbage in Pictures

This week's Outside the Box Challenge required us to make a make-ahead meal, and mine was Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Here, the meal in pictures:


And later, Corned Beef Tacos:

Mega yum :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi(e) Day!

There are so many food-related "National ___ Days" out there that it's hard to keep recent memory I've celebrated National Bundt Day and National Peanut Butter Day, but I just couldn't let Pi Day go unnoticed.  I know, I'm a nerd - but Pi Day is a favorite of many a student, and perhaps it's due to the commemorative pie more than the love of the number.

Pi Day is always held on March 14, as the date version of the number 3.14, which is a rounded-down version of the infinite number pi.  Things you may or may not already know about pi, some from The Pi Day Website:

- Pi represents the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference
- Probably the most common equation used that contains pi is (Area) = (pi)(radius^2), for the area of a circle
- Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating - it has been calculated to over a trillion digits by computer, but will go on forever (so why bother calculating it?)

Pie is a particularly cool thing to use to celebrate Pi Day, because in addition to a similar name, it's also (typically) a circle.

This mini pie was made from a recipe on Novel Eats.  I used a pre-made crust since I'm both lazy and currently in need of more time in the day to get what I need to do done (after the time change, aren't we all?).  The pie, which was particularly nerdy since it has the pi symbol on top, was absolutely delicious.

So happy Pi Day, everyone - and hope you get some rest tonight to make up for the lost Daylight Savings hour!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Outside the Box....and back into my skinny jeans?

As part of the Outside the Box Challenge this week, I decided to do the Two Hundred Situps Challenge.  I really wanted to do something more ambitious (and interesting), like hot yoga or spinning, but this week has been so busy that I haven't even had time to find a class.  As a side note: I'm thinking of joining a local gym on a trial membership, so that I can start spinning and swimming again :)

I did the initial test for the situps challenge earlier this week, and could only do 25 "good form" situps before I was too tired/sore to finish.  That's pathetic, I know, but that's exactly why I want to do the challenge - my ab strength is absolute crap, and I'm going to need to get better core strength to continue doing my long runs for training.

Today I finished Day 1 of the challenge, which is 15, 18, 10, and 10 situps with breaks in between.  I could definitely feel it, but in a good way!  This challenge is here to stay - I am ready to have better abs, and willing to do the work to get there.

Also in queue as part of the challenge is the Ab Ripper X from P90X - I'm going to try that tomorrow.  I think it may be too tough for me right now, but I'm going to try!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things to Try: Mushroom Pasta & Chocolate Spread

I'm having a super-busy week, so I apologize for not posting more, but here are two things I tried this week that are awesome:

Whole Wheat Rotini with Mushrooms and Cannelini Beans

(picture from cookthink)

I made this for dinner last night and it was AMAZING.  Modifications: Barilla Piccolini wheel pasta instead of whole wheat rotini (love this stuff - the wheels remind me of being a kid!), no green onions (didn't have any), no jalapeno, and diced tomato instead of the paste or the crushed tomato.  I also added some garlic powder, and didn't add any parmesan - it tasted rich and delicious, so I didn't think it needed the cheese.


Love Street Living Foods Chocolate Coconut Spread

(picture from Love Street)

 I got this as a free sample with an order a few weeks ago, and just ordered a jar this week.  This stuff is really, really delicious - you would definitely have no idea that it's raw and vegan.  This morning I had some with my oat bran (along with bananas and coconut), and it was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a while.

There you have it!  These should keep you busy until I come back from work hell this weekend.  I plan on writing a post on running gear, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Outside the Box Challenge: Frontier Girl Test

So far, this year has been all about trying new things and working hard at the things that I feel passionate about.  So when I saw the Outside the Box Challenge, created by Shedding It and Getting It and Nutritionista, I knew this was the perfect challenge for me.

This week's challenge is the Frontier Girl Test, and the goal was to create something from scratch that you would usually just buy pre-made from the store.  I chose to make hot fudge sauce - because let's face it, on a busy week like this week has been, a girl just needs some chocolate.

I found this recipe online, and went with it, with only one modification: I added about half a teaspoon of coconut butter to give a unique flavor.  The sauce was super easy to make, and so much more delicious than regular chocolate sauce.  Yet another food that I'm not sure why I ever bought in the store!  My favorite food to make from scratch is frosting - so I guess this is pretty similar.

Here it is bubbling away on the stove:

And here's the finished product, served over some Starbucks Caramel Macchiato ice cream:

Yum!!  Definitely making this one again.

Quick running update:  I ran a full 3.1 miles (5K) outside without stopping today!  It's the first time I've ever done that - and I honestly didn't think I would be in the shape to pull that off for quite a while still.  What I really love about running is that when you put in the hard work, you see the results pretty fast - easy runs are easier, long runs aren't painful, and I'm getting faster all the time.  This weekend is a 5-miler up at the boyfriend's, and then I have a long run scheduled for next Tuesday - let's hope the 7 miles go as smoothly as the 3 today!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pancake Roll-Ups

In honor of Chocolate Covered Katie and her Artisana Coconut Butter giveaway, I created my own version of Pancake Roll-Ups.  What are Pancake Roll-Ups, you ask?  Why, they're pancakes - rolled up!  A pancake taco, if you will :)

My pancakes were made from Hodgson Mill buttermilk mix - love the stuff!  I mostly followed the directions on the box, but added some extra flavor - cocoa powder, vanilla, and (unpictured) almond extract.

Some Amazing Grass may have also made it into the mix!  I am not usually a huge fan of "greens" supplements, but their chocolate mix is pretty spectacular.

The pancakes cooked on the electric griddle, and when they were done, I had some rich, chewy chocolate pancakes.  To the pancakes I added:

Coconut, chocolate chips, Artisana coconut butter (the end of my sample - now I REALLY need to win the contest!), Dark Chocolate Dreams PB (from PB and Co), and Love Street Living Foods dark chocolate coconut spread (this stuff is amazing!).

When I was done adding random combinations of toppings, I had three unique and delicious Pancake Roll-Ups!

All in all, a delicious way to start off a Sunday!


Running Recap

So, it's been a few weeks, and there's been a lot more running - in a lot more snow!

Other than the HUGE snowstorm in mid-Feb, we didn't get any more major snowfalls, but for Philly in February, it's awfully snowy.  Usually it's a bit warmer, and the entire city is full of cold rain for the whole month.  I may prefer snow instead, but at this rate, I'm not sure the snow will ever melt!

I've had some great runs this month.  The last few weeks, I've built up to 6 miles on my long-run days, and my total weekly mileage has been 12-13 miles.  I've managed to keep the total pace on the long runs below 14:00/mi (yesterday's 6-miler was 13:25), which is my goal as I increase the mileage.  I feel stronger and faster when I run, and my legs would like to go faster - but my asthma is just now getting used to running at 12:00/mi, so I'll wait a while to speed up.

Overall, with two months until Broad Street, I feel great.  I would really like to see some increase in strength and leanness, and so I'm going to add a lot more strength training and cross-training as time goes on.

Hope you are all enjoying the last day of February - stay warm out there!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Playing in the Snow

I would really like to thank the city of Philadelphia for not being as terrible as they used to be at cleaning up after a major snowfall!  Sure, some parts of the city are still snow-covered, but the major streets are clean, the highways are pristine, and - the best part - the Schuylkill River path is shoveled!!

The whole path as far as I went was beautifully clean (a few icy spots under bridges, but whatever) - which is a major feat when you consider the 28 inches of snow we got the day before!
Along my way, I found a LOT of people out taking pictures of the snow - hopefully, it was for photography class or something, not because they were so fascinated by snow?  There were also a lot of people sledding, which you can see by the tracks down the hill by the art museum.

I was so thankful for the clear path to run on - I'm pretty clumsy, so even a little bit of ice can be treacherous for me.  It was a nice, if chilly run - and I just told myself I was playing in the snow, not suffering through a long run in sub-freezing temps :)

This shot shows just how deep the snow was - it came all the way up to the bottom of the benches along the trail.  Drifts got up to three feet in some places - perfect for the little kids who got time to play outside with their parents this weekend!
I resisted the urge to jump in the snow, but I did have a very nice 4-mile run outside.  My average pace was 13:45, a vast improvement over my long runs last year.  I was finishing up C25K, so I was doing walk 10/run 3/walk 10/etc - I think I will try to run a little more and walk a little less for my future long runs, but I might end up trying to do something like 15/2/15 or 20/2/20 as my distance increases, if it's hard to keep running that long.  I know I may end up walking some during Broad Street and the half, but I think that if I keep my walks to a minimum, I'll finish with no problem!

Off to work - it's a long day full of lab and TAing.  Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Couch to 5K....Complete!

It's official - I've finished the C25K running plan!  Now, of course it hasn't been 8 weeks - but I've made it through the run/walk parts, to Week 6 Day 3, which calls for running 25 minutes straight.  After that, it's just a matter of slowly increasing the amount of minutes to run - 25, to 28, to 30, etc.  Last week I made it through the 20-minute run, so I think I can take it from here! 

It was much, MUCH easier this time around - but it was also my second (or third?) time trying to complete the program.  For anyone stuck in the middle of the C25K plan and getting frustrated, I would say to repeat weeks often - like, maybe for three weeks instead of one.  If you're starting completely from scratch with running, even if you're fit in other ways, it can be a slow beginning as you get your muscles and your lungs ready to run.  Sure, it's frustrating, but if you throw in a few races in there - just as a way to test yourself and see what a 5K is like, before trying to run the whole thing - it'll be a lot more interesting and motivating.

Last week, I was at Disney, and I only sort of met my running goals.  I did manage to do one early-morning run, on Monday morning - 1.63 miles instead of 2, since I got tired pretty quickly.  I didn't do another run later in the week, though - we were walking 5-7 miles a day, and my feet were EXHAUSTED by the end of the week.  Even though I didn't get in two runs, I think I got enough of a workout - and my runs when I came back were certainly not sluggish!  In addition to the workout(s), there was plenty of this:


It really was an amazing week, and we had a lot of fun.  It was the first time Brendan and I have gotten to spend a full week together (even though we've been together 6 years, we've always lived apart).  It was nice to be together, and even though the long days were a bit stressful we had a great time.

In the week I've been back, I've caught up on running - 9 miles last week, and I'm feeling good.  The schedule is going to increase by a few miles a week now, so it's good that I still feel ok!

With vacation over, I need to buckle down at work - I've got a pretty aggressive goal for when to start writing my next paper, and I'm not exactly sure how it will all get done.  And on top of that, I've got TA-ing through May, and my running schedule is going to keep getting tougher too.  It will be a busy spring - but I'm ready to be busy for a while!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Running update

Quick running update:

I have been sticking with the Couch to 5K plan, and it's been great! 

I told you about Week 4, and it's been going well.  I have been trying to add a little bit of incline or speed up for a while just to get some variety in, but right now I'm just happy that the current runs feel totally manageable.  I've done two of the three runs so far, and the next one is tomorrow morning.

Next week will be Week 5, and I'll be at Disney for two of the runs.  I'll be trying to get them in outside - gotta enjoy the nice weather while I can!  The plan is:

W5D1: warmup, run 5 min, walk 3 min, run 5 min, walk 3 min, run 5 min, cooldown
W5D2: warmup, run 8 min, walk 5 min, run 8 min
  (note - I may try doing 8/4/9 instead of 8/5/8, since this is where I tend to get tripped up a bit)
W5D3: warmup, run 20 min straight (!) - this one will be in Philly, and probably on the treadmill

Week 6 goes back to run/walk intervals for the first two days, which I think is a great idea - I need to ease into this whole "running a 5K without walking" thing :)

The two runs at Disney will be my first two of the plan running outside - hopefully that will be refreshing and not too hard.  More updates to come as my training progresses!

Working out on vacation

Typically, when I think of vacations I think of indulging.  Vacations are a time for good food, time in the sun, and relaxing - not diets and the gym, right?  In the last few years, though, as I've begun to live a healthier lifestyle I have also started to think of vacations as times to be more active.  Most of us - myself included - don't get enough time during the work week to really be active in ways that are fun.  Lately, when I go home for holidays or get a chance to go somewhere else for vacation, I've made sure to spend some time being more active and doing things I don't have time for normally.

On Saturday, I'm headed out for a week vacation at Walt Disney World.  I haven't been there since I was 16, and I'm super excited!  My boyfriend's never even been there, so I'm all the more psyched about the trip since I get to show him all of my favorite things to do and see.  Plus, it's my first "real" vacation (not counting weekends away or trips home) since college, and I couldn't be more happy to take some time off and just think about nothing.


Of course, we'll be hitting up the usual - all of the Disney parks, most of them multiple days, and Universal Studios for a day or two.  We'll be walking a LOT, so we should definitely be getting in some activity that way, even if we are balancing it out with eating lots of greasy delicious food.  But I plan to add in a bit more, too - with my training for the half marathon, and maybe for Broad Street even earlier, I need to get a few runs in, and I'd like to do a couple fun things too.

Here's where the hotel comes in.  We will be staying at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, and I think it was a great choice:


The hotel has a pretty big layout, with multiple buildings spread out over a complex around a lagoon.  This makes for the perfect workout situation - the path around the lagoon is 1.4 miles total, and with a bridge right through the middle of the lagoon, I can do right around 2 miles (the distance on both of my training days while I'm there) with no problem.  They also have several pools, which means I can do laps in one of the more secluded pools or burn off calories playing in the big pool.  And with volleyball and watersports like peddle boats, sail boats, and jet skis in the lagoon area, I should have no problem finding something fun AND athletic to do.

The biggest problem for the whole plan is going to be finding time.  The boyfriend doesn't love the pool like I do, so talking him into swimming may be a bit difficult.  Running should be the easiest - I just need to wake up early a few days and head out for a quick run before he wakes up, and I'll have the run under my belt before we even start the day together.  Since the runs are the most important things I need to do exercise-wise, I think I'll be ok!

Of course, the plan only makes sense if I try to keep some control over what I eat, too.  I have no intention of being so restrictive that I don't enjoy myself - but if I can buy a few healthy snacks at the grocery store to bring along instead of buying french fries every time I'm hungry,  I'll be headed in the right direction.  We have a few big dinners planned, and there are several places I really want to eat at while we're there, but beyond that I'll be sticking to healthier options and bringing things along to snack on.

My favorite tips for keeping active on vacation are:

- Schedule it in.  Whenever you make plans for vacation, consider your goals for exercise and activity.  For example, I know I want to go on two training runs while I'm there, so I scheduled my runs into the morning for two of the days.  That way I know ahead of time that I need to wake up early and get my run in, so there's less time for excuses and deciding I'm too tired.

- Make it fun.  There'll be time for the treadmill, or the weight machines, when you return from vacation - make it all about enjoying the resources you have at your disposal.  Go on a walk or run to see some nice scenery or enjoy the weather, and do anything unique that you can't do at home (like watersports, skiing, whatever).  Unless you're staying at a hotel with a spectacular gym or the weather or schedule don't permit you to go outside, skip the broken-down '70s treadmill in the dark hotel basement.

- Consider the rest of the vacation your "reward."  If you have trouble finding the motivation to work out, consider that you're spending the rest of your time relaxing, doing fun things, and eating yummy food.  If you would usually let yourself have a cookie after the gym when you aren't feeling like workout out, put on your workout clothes and think of the rest of the day as your reward for working out hard.

Hopefully I can remember these tips when I'm in Orlando!  Can't wait for vacation :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bake Sale for Haiti

The Chic Life is hosting an online bake sale for Haiti - all proceeds go to the Red Cross Relief Fund for Haiti.

I went back and forth a bit on what to donate, but finally decided on:

- Milk Chocolate Walnut Fudge (1 pound) - donated by my mom, from her Etsy shop

- Margarita bars - made by me, recipe to come when I make them for the sale!  They're like lemon bars, but made with margarita mix - super yummy!

The sale will be held on January 27 - see The Chic Life for details!

Treadmill Time!

Most people, even committed runners, dislike the treadmill.  It's tedious, for sure, and the fact that you're running to nowhere is less than motivating.  When it comes to running on the treadmill, though, I take a different tack: I really enjoy it.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm a total nerd, and I really like being able to see my distance, pace, and calories burned.  Maybe it's the ability to control my pace precisely, since as a beginner I still have a hard time sticking to a pace outdoors.  Maybe it's the ability to stay out of the rain and watch TV while I run.  Whatever it is, the treadmill and I are good buddies.

I hit up the treadmill today for my first Couch to 5K Week 4 run.

The plan:
Walk 3 min warmup
Run 3 min (5.0mph)
Walk 90 sec (3.3)
Run 5 min
Walk 2.5 min
Run 3 min (1% incline)
Walk 90 sec (1% incline)
Run 5 min (no incline)
Walk 2.5 min cooldown

The stats:

Distance: 1.92 miles
Time: 27:00
Pace: 14:03/mi

It felt great - I wanted to keep going forever!  I stuck to the plan, though, since I know that overtraining at the beginning is how a lot of new runners get injured.  I finished up my workout with strength training for legs from the Fitnessista - which totally made my legs feel like jelly!

The boredom of the treadmill hasn't quite set in yet - I'm still rocking out to my favorite songs, trying not to pay too much attention to how long I'm running.  The TV helped today - watching the Vikings play helped me totally forget what I was doing and just enjoy moving.  Music, TV, and magazines definitely help with treadmill boredom!  Pretty soon, though, I'll be tackling longer runs and will either have to hit the streets or find new ways to keep myself busy (hill intervals, anyone?)

I'm off to finish watching the Vikings, and try out my new foam roller - hopefully it won't hurt too much and will loosen up my aching legs!

Update: Go Vikings!!  Awesome game :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Carrot-Covered Muffins!

One of my favorite bloggers, Chocolate-Covered Katie, is hosting a Vita-Mix giveaway!  To qualify for extra entries for the giveaway, you have to make a recipe from her archive - which isn't too difficult, since she has so many delicious ones!

I flipped through her recipes and found one that sounded especially delicious - 24-Carrot Cake Muffins.  This one was especially good since I'm leaving for vacation in less than a week and I had half a bag of carrots left in the fridge.  The recipe can be found on her blog - I only made a few substitutions, since as a non-vegan I don't have egg substitute or non-dairy milk.  I would have liked to stay true to the vegan-ness of the recipe, but I just didn't have time to go pick up the ingredients.

The results - they were not only gorgeous, they were delicious!  Sweet and very cake-like, and you could never tell that they're made with all whole-wheat flour, applesauce, and carrots.  They're much more nutritious than they taste :)

I made a dozen of these and froze them, so I'm looking forward to having these around for quite a while!

I'm Back! Plus an announcement

After quite an extended break, I'm back!  Life just got the best of me over the holidays - with my projects in lab, TAing, Christmas presents and visiting family, there simply wasn't time for anything extra.  I have a sneaking suspension that life will get crazy again....but for now, I'm going to try to keep up and we'll see how it goes :)

With that, the announcement:
I'm running a half marathon!

Finally, I got up the nerve to do what I've been wanting to do for a while.  Last year, I played around with the idea of running the Broad Street Run (10M) or a half, but I didn't feel comfortable enough with running to do it.  After all, I'd just started running seriously in February of that year, and I ran my first 5K in April - I didn't know if I could do longer distances.

Since I started running last year, I've run or walked 210 miles, and I have gotten much stronger at running.  I've gotten faster, too - my average running speed used to be about 12:45/mi, and now 11:45 is a comfortable pace, and 11:15-11:30 is ok on good days.  I know I'm still not fast - but I probably won't ever be running 7-minute miles.  I hope to shave a little more time off my average pace - maybe down to 11:00/mi by half-marathon time.  I know my pace will probably be a little slower for the race - that type of distance usually calls for running a little slower - but if my shorter training runs have me running 11:00/mi by the end, I'll be happy!

I signed up for the "13.1 Marathon" race series half marathon in Boston, on June 27.  There are a few reasons for this choice.  First and foremost, the race benefits the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, a cause which is close to my heart since my friend, Megan, and her mother both struggle with Crohn's Disease.  I would like to raise some money for the cause, and I can't think of a better way to keep me motivated to stick to my training.  Second, the race has a limit of 6,000 entries, which is small - the Boston Marathon, by contrast, has around 20,000.  It's meant to be a good race for first-timers, and advertises itself as walker-friendly - the course closes 3 1/2 hours after the race starts, which is a minimum 16:00/mile time, or a brisk walk.  If I try to run the whole thing, but need to walk sometimes, I should have no trouble keeping that pace.

That said, this training will certainly not be easy.  The longest distance I've done a training run is 5 miles, last May, and that one tired me out a LOT.  I've struggled with plantar fasciitis, I have asthma, and I tend to get headaches when I run a long distance out in the sun.  I don't know for sure that I can run 13.1 miles without stopping - but I'm certainly going to try!

My main goals for this half are:
- Finish!
- Get faster during training - from 11:45/mi to 11:00/mi, at least
- Minimize the amount of time I need to walk during training runs and the race
- Lose some weight and get stronger during training (no specific goal, since I don't know how the training will affect my body!)

I've taken measurements as a starting point, and I'll be comparing back to those measurements every month or so to see how things are going fitness-wise.  I'm not sharing them now, but I promise to share them later - it's so much easier to share those things when you can do it from a "look how much healthier I am now!" perspective.

So far, the plan is to follow the "Couch to 5K" workout, something that's worked for me in the past, for the first few weeks.  I started with week 3 last week - running 90 seconds, walking 90 seconds, running 3 minutes, walking 3 minutes.  I'm hoping that by starting off slow, I'll build up my ability to run constantly without walking, before working on speed.  The next few weeks will be walk/run, and then I'll (hopefully!) be running for 20-30 minutes straight.  Once I get to that point, I'm going to start serious training - I plan to follow the Runner's World training plan.  They have a nifty little tool that lets you input a past 5K time, a goal distance, and a time frame, and it spits out a plan for you.  I actually set up the training plan using Broad Street as a goal - if I'm coming along in the first few weeks of that plan, I'll sign up for the race.  If I can get in shape in time for Broad Street, it's just a matter of maintenance for the half!

With that, I'm off - I've got a vacation coming up next weekend, and it's time to get everything in order so that I can maintain my sanity during the week!