Monday, October 31, 2011

post-half-marathon thoughts

So, sure, the race was a full two weeks ago, but I'm still going to recap all my thoughts about the race for you, because it's a running blog, and I do what I want.  Also I have more pictures to share, because me in the same outfit sweating is obviously what you were hoping to see here today.  In no particular order, I hope you enjoy the rambling below:

  • I am such a baller.  I can't believe how fast I ran.  Okay, yes, I'm bragging, but also... this was a revelation, because as you might know from prior entries, I'm generally real slow.  To know that I can run a half at a 10:11 pace suggests  I can do things I never thought imaginable.  Maybe I could run my next half in under 2:10.  One day, I might even break 2:00.  That sounds insane and amazing all at once.  ... and of course this generalizes to other (shorter) distances.  If I can run a 10:11 pace for 13.1 miles, how fast do you think I could run a 5k/5 miler/10k/15k/10 miler? Oh the possibilities!  (Time to get serious about speed work?)
  • I must do another half.  Followed by several more.  I'm currently in search of a half to run in the spring, but I'm having trouble finding one that is at a convenient time for me (read: one that I can run without having a long run the same week of my wedding).  Still pondering.  Also want to do the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler again... so with all that going on, I'm not sure when the next half will be.  But no worries: there WILL be a next half.
 mile 5, courtesy of Devin
  • Despite many people suggesting that after a half, I would want to run a full marathon, I don't.  Sorry.  Running for 2 hours and 15 minutes? Fine.  Running for 3 hours? Ummm, maybe.  Running for 4+ hours? No thanks.  It's not that I don't believe I am capable of running a marathon.  It's mostly that I don't have the time to train.  Plus, that running for that long doesn't sound fun.
  • Speaking of fun, I can finally say with confidence that I find running to be more fun than it is not fun.  Obviously not every minute of every run is fun, but I definitely think I like it more than 50% of the time.  It took somewhere between 12 and 18 months of consistent running for me to feel that way.  So, if you don't like running, try going at least 3 times per week for a year, and then let me know how you feel, haha!
somewhere between miles 9 and 11
  • I think my style with races is the bigger the better.  I like the excitement, having other people around, and having at least somewhat of a crowd.  The 2 races I have run with less than 200 participants have been my least favorite, and the 2 with ~1,800 and ~15,000 have been much more enjoyable.  This shouldn't be a shocking revelation (and I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way), but it will definitely influence what races I sign up for in the future.
  • Lastly, you might be wondering what's next for me?  Well, that was decided even BEFORE the half had ended.  I've already signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Washington, DC.  M is signed up, and so is Susan!  Actually, a ton of friends are signed up - I know at least 7 people doing the 15k (including myself) and another 7+ doing the 5k!  It's going to be a blast!  M and I have already started our training program, and I'm REALLY pumped about this race!  Hot chocolate and a chocolate fountain at the end?  WIN.
mile 11.5ish - perfecting the jazz hands

I want to give a shout out to my sorority sister Danielle who just started a running blog!  Danielle wants to run a marathon in every state.  This makes her insane, but it also makes for a fun blog I think, so go check out her blog!
 most attractive photo ever taken of me, woo!

right after M finished!

So blogland, I'm taking suggestions for half marathons to run in 2012 - sometime in April or beyond.  Preferably within driving distance of Durham.  Oh and it can't be April 21st or 28th weekends.  Or May 19th weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

baking experiments!

hello blog land!

this weekend my future mother in law is came to town and we had dinner with some other family members on saturday night.  i was asked to bring a dessert, which gave me the chance to try a recipe i've been excited about for a while: salted caramel chocolate bars!

my friend allison has made these several times, and i always (a) eat too many of them and (b) get her to let me take some home! so, it was finally time for me to attempt them.  first, the crust:

then, after that's baked for ten minutes, you just layer on chocolate chips, caramel topping, and more crust.  i found it hard to get the second crust to crumble on evenly/well - maybe i had too much melted butter and thus it wasn't crumbly enough?  or, it might just be that i didn't have enough crust overall and you need a bit more than it calls for.  at any rate, i ended up mixing up just a little bit more to make sure it was completely covered before i baked for another 20 minutes:
 before baking

 after baking! yum!

 side view - look at all the melty gooey chocolate and caramel!

 I let them sit in the fridge for about 24 hours to make sure they congealed before cutting them up.  The verdict? They were a total hit!  The kids each ate three pieces (we cut them up pretty small, haha) and all the adults had at least two :-)  In the future, I'd say you need way more salt than the recipe calls for.  But, I'd definitely make this again!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Easy & Delicious Baked Ziti

Hope ya'll enjoyed the race recap!  I'm already gearing up for my next race and looking for a spring half marathon to sign up for!  But, today's post is about cooking :-)

Earlier this month, I made Baked Ziti for Scott and I to have for dinner.  This was a recipe from the Biggest Loser Cookbook and made 8 servings, each around 350 calories.  It was actually my first time making baked ziti, but it was really straightforward!  Step 1, cook pasta!
Step two, make the ricotta cheese filling... this one had ricotta and mozzarella...
Along with some garlic, red pepper, salt, and pepper...
Mix it all together...
Next, combine the pasta and the cheese mixture.
Now, take a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and coat the bottom with marinara sauce.  The cookbook has a recipe for marinara that is pretty healthy, but if you don't feel up to making your own you can just buy a jar from the store!
Top the marinara with half of the pasta mix,
Followed by more marinara, more pasta, and the remainder of the marinara...
 Finally, add mozzarella and parmesan cheese before baking!
So easy, and soooo delicious.  This is another great filling, savory meal that isn't too high in fat or calories - great for cool fall days when you need something really filling!
We enjoyed this for several nights - usually with a side of veggies for me!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ramblin' Rose Durham Half Marathon Race Recap

I know ya'll have been anxiously awaiting my recap of the Ramblin' Rose Durham Half Marathon (aka my FIRST HALF MARATHON!), so here it is!!! Sorry if I am rambling at some points, but I am just SO EXCITED about this race and want to share every bit!

Pre-Race/Race Prep: Getting EXCITED!
Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 6am and I got out of bed, full of anticipation.  First thing I did: put on a great playlist of music to pump me up while I got dressed and ate breakfast, which was Nature Valley Oats 'n' Honey Bars, some water, and some Gatorade.  M showed up around 6:40am and we snapped a pre-race photo:
so excited!
We got to the start line around 7:05am - PLENTY of time before the 7:30 start.  It was a little chilly, but we knew that we would warm up fast.  The weather forecast for the race was PERFECT: starting out in the upper 40s, and should still be below 60 when we finished, with almost no wind and a decent amount of sunshine.  We got a picture at the start line and said goodbye to Scott, who was planning to catch us next at mile 6.5.
We found the 10:30 pace sign and got in line a little behind it.  Standing in the crowd definitely helped us warm up!  Soon, we were listening to the national anthem (the singer was fabulous!) and crossing the start line.
Hi Scott!

Miles 1-3:  What pace are we aiming for?
Mile 1 started off strong, but slowly.  The race started on a slight uphill, but in all of the excitement I didn't notice!  The road was also packed with runners, so we just sort of moved whatever pace the people in front of us were moving.  It felt comfortable, and since we lined up by the 10:30 sign I figured we were probably right on track.  But when we got to the mile 1 sign, my watch side 11:20.  Oops!  I told M it was okay for us to speed up a little bit if it felt comfortable.  As the crowd started thinning we sped up and found ourselves some more open space to run.  After the mile 1 marker we turned onto familiar territory: two streets that we have run on several times before during our long runs.  However, we were running opposite of the direction we had gone in the past.  Turns out when you run backwards, all the nice easy downhills become annoying uphills!  Harumph!  We got to the mile 2 sign and my watch told me that we were now averaging 10:30 again.  I guess that makes our 2nd mile really fast?  Oops.  M and I are apparently AWFUL at keeping a steady pace, haha.

Miles 4-7: Friends are Fabulous (and make you run fast)!
Right after sign for mile 3 we turned down a street where our friend S lives.  A group of about 5 friends had gathered at her house to cheer for us and drink mimosas!  It was so fun seeing them (THANKS GUYS!).  Next we ran back towards East Campus, which was also familiar territory - we run here multiple times per week!  At the end of mile 4 we knew to look out for another friend J, and were delighted to see not only her, but three other friends!  And J had signs!  Running a race in the town you live in is great - we got so much support! 
Around mile 5.5 we passed the first relay checkpoint.  After the race, I found out that at the relay points, we also ran through a sensor that tracked our time.  So, at mile 5.5 we were officially running at around a 10:02 pace.  Faster than we had planned, but feeling great! We left East Campus and started down Campus Drive towards West Campus.  It was eerily quiet!  Luckily, Scott was there to cheer us on and snap some photos:

 I fail at jazz hands, but at least we look excited!
Shortly after we saw Scott we had to tackle a familiar hill on Campus Drive.  Halfway up, M remarked "this hill sucks" to which I replied "did you forget?" since we have run up it probably a dozen times.  Luckily for us, some of the crew from mile 3 were waiting at the top of the hill to cheer us on!  It was SO appreciated after the hill and they gave us a great burst of energy post-hill.  Before we knew it, we passed mile marker 7 and I couldn't believe we were more than half done.  We also that we saw our friend Devin again - who was at mile 5 with some friends - but then rode his bike to several locations later in the race.  HUGE thank you / shout out to Devin, I'm pretty sure he made it to about 4 different spots!
The second relay checkpoint was at mile 7.5 (very random / uneven legs for the relayers!) and although I didn't realize it at the time, we FLEW from 5.5-7.5  Some quick math tells me that our overall pace at 7.5 was 9:43, meaning we ran miles 5.5-7.5 at an 8:49 pace?  THAT IS CRAZY.  It did not feel that fast at all.

Miles 7-11: The Friendly Hilly Neighborhood
Right around 7.5 we entered a neighborhood we had never been in before.  The people in this neighborhood were great.  There were random neighbors outside cheering.  Two different families were handing out water.  One of the girls handing out water cups was probably only 3 years old, and she was ADORABLE.  Some parts of the neighborhood had put up funny/encouraging signs on the side of the road.  On one particularly awful hill, the neighbors had written "keep going" and other messages in side walk chalk!  Overall, nice neighborhood.  BUT IT WAS REALLY HILLY.  I think the neighbors knew how hilly and awful it was to run through their neighborhood, so they worked extra hard to keep us going, haha.
Other things I remember about this stretch: sometime during mile 8 or 9, a girl ran up next to us and says "we are on pace to finish in 2:10!"  I looked at my watch and tried to figure out what that meant.  My first reaction was "YEAH LET'S DO THAT" but then she passed us, and I decided that attempting to keep up with her was not wise. 
Around this point, I started feeling quite confident that I could beat my "A" goal of 2:17:39 and started pondering what time I actually might be able to finish in.  I started to wonder about 2:15 or 2:14 (2:15 because it sounds cool, 2:14 because it would put me in a better seed for my next race).  Right before the mile 9 marker, we saw Scott again and he snaps a photo:
I look awkward because I had just finished my last energy chew and was throwing the empty bag at Scott so I didn't have to carry it.  But again, I look happy!  This is important because Scott told me that during the 10 Miler in April I looked miserable, and he wanted me to have fun.  I WAS having fun the whole time, but I think I tried extra hard to smile for him when we passed him, haha.  Anyway, right after we saw Scott, we saw Devin again. Hooray for support!  Meanwhile, the rolling hills continued - a nice happy downhill at the beginning of mile 10 following by an evil uphill right after.  As we get to the top of another terrible hill sometime between the mile signs 9 and 11, M tells me she can't keep up and we need to slow down.  We slowed our pace for a bit, and I tried to yell encouraging things at her as we tackled more rolling hills, but she was falling behind me.Unfortunately, right after mile marker 11 she starts walking up hill and I keep running.  I didn't see her again until the finish line.
Sidenote: While running with M, I don't usually think much about our pace.  I try to run somewhere between "comfortable" and "a little bit challenging", and I use her as a marker... if she's struggling, I slow down.  If she's pushing me to speed up, I do.  Without her, I have to really think about whether or not I'm running too fast or too slow.  So after we parted ways, I had to really to focus on running a challenging pace, but not one that I couldn't maintain for the remainder of the race.

Miles 12-13.1: Flying Solo
Before I hit the mile 12 marker I saw Devin again and tell him I lost M.  Soon after, I saw the mile 12 marker and decided it was time to start pushing myself a little harder: only 2.1 to go!  Around 12.5ish, I saw Scott for the last time, and he told me to enjoy the upcoming downhill, but not to go too fast because the race ends on a slight uphill so I need to save a little bit for that and really power through.  He also informed me that I was ahead of my pace prediction and that he's proud of me.  This gives me a HUGE boost of energy.  I was feeling FAB as you can see in this picture:
About 2 seconds after seeing him I got to enjoy that downhill.  I started to pass people, but kept myself from speeding up TOO much.  Instead, I focus on picking out people I think I can beat and try to pass them one by one.  As the seconds tick by I tried to push myself just a liiiiiiiiiitle bit harder.  As I turned onto the last street I really began to push myself, knowing that I couldn't be far form the mile 13 sign. Finally I hit the 13 mile marker and I started to sprint. 
I'm a TERRIBLE sprinter, by the way.  I really have to focus every amount of my energy on reminding myself to keep running fast.  At this point, my thighs were BURNING, and I felt like my legs might possibly buckle beneath me, but I could see the finish line and keep telling myself I can do anything for 60ish second.  As I crossed the finish line, the official timer read 2:14:01 - but I knew I crossed the starting line late, so I can't figure out what my actual time was.  Of course in my excitement I forget to press "stop" on my watch and didn't get to look at it, haha.  I heard my name read over the loudspeaker as I finish (SO COOL) and was handed a water bottle and a medal.  The women (Duke basketball players I think?) handing me these things kept saying "Congratulations Sara you did awesome!" which was fun - our names were on our bibs, so they knew my name!

Official time: 2:13:14 - an overall pace of 10:11 min/mile!!!!
Right after the race I remember that my legs were SHAKING, to the point where I wasn't sure if I could stay standing.  I also remember feeling like I might cry, but definitely tears of joy/happiness/sense of accomplishment.  (For the record, I didn't cry).  After about 20 seconds of that, I decide to go back to the finish line and watch for M, who finished about 3 minutes after me.
Devin appeared at the finish line to congratulate us, and I also ran into blog friend Sarah before M and I headed to the finishers area for post race snacks and to check our time.  I had more gatorade, some orange, and a bagel before we go check our times on the computer.  I finished in 2:13:14.  SO RIDICULOUS.
After that we walked over to to a grassy field so we could meet up with Scott, stretch, and take post-race photos:

Do I look like I feel like a rock star?  Because I felt like a freakin' ROCK STAR.  After stretching, I of course had to get a a photo of me showing off my medal with our photographer/cheerleader:
I think I will do a whole separate post about post-race reflections sometime later this week.  THANK YOU so much to all of my friends who supported me - by cheering in person or commenting on Facebook/etc.  I am so grateful for all of the encouragement!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October and Fall Food

With the cool weather rolling in, I definitely started to look forward to some great fall food.  This month's issue of Women's Health had an entire article on various recipes you could make with pumpkin.  I've never made anything pumpkin flavored before, but pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie are definitely some of my favorite fall foods!  So last week I decided to give one of the recipes a try: Pumpkin and Shiitake Risotto with Crispy Sage.  Here are all the ingredients I started with:
I modified this recipe slightly: I had plain canned mushrooms on hand so I used them instead of shiitake mushrooms.  I also used dried sage leaves to add flavor rather than frying up my own.  So, I skipped steps 1 and 2 and started my risotto:
Making risotto is a time-intensive process because you have to continually stir the risotto to avoid it sticking.  You also have to add the liquid slowly to allow it to absorb and cook correctly.  But, risotto is also one of my favorite foods, so I ALWAYS find the time and effort it takes to be worthwhile!
After the risotto was cooked it was time to add the pumpkin, cheese, salt, and pepper.
This might sound silly, but recently I had forgotten how much salt and pepper can bring out the flavors in a dish.  Although lots of different flavors added to the deliciousness here, I'm pretty sure that it would not have been the same without the salt and pepper!
This recipe made about 4 servings which I had throughout last week for lunch.  The flavors were amazing - pumpkin, cheese, risotto, yum!  It's also a very creamy, savory dish, so every day I felt really satisfied and full afterward eating lunch.  I highly recommend trying this at home - it wasn't very difficult at all!
Happy Fall, everyone!  What are some of your favorite fall foods?

Monday, October 10, 2011

last long run & goals for the half.

i'm finally blogging in october ABOUT octobter - go me!  so today's post is about my last two long runs before my half marathon!

sunday, october 2nd: 12 miles on the docket.  the weather forecast, pretty much amazing:
Oh hello FALL WEATHER!  Love it.  Pretty soon it's going to be time to pull out the cooler weather running clothes!  But not today.  I have finally found the absolutely perfect thing to wear on long runs, and I now refuse to change it up.  It consists of an American Apparel v-neck t-shirt and cotton shorts from Victoria Secrets.  M had on slightly warmer gear when she met me at our usual spot at 9am, but after a few miles she agreed that shorts and a tshirt were perfectly find for the low 50s.
We ran a new route for the 12 miler, one that I had been itching to try every since my friend A told me about a local trail I had never run on.  It winds through a few parks and changes name twice, but it's about 5 miles 
long, so we started about 1 mile away and decided to do an out-and-back route.

Have you ever had a run where everything just seems to go perfectly?  It's effortless, comfortable, enjoyable, even euphoric?  That is how I felt about this run.  I didn't look at my watch for the first time until 36 minutes in!  We found a water fountain with a bathroom on the way.  I was never too hot or too cold and I was energized the entire time!  Oh, and we found a dinosaur:

This was also the first run I decided to try some sort of energy chew/gu/gel on the way.  Per Susan's suggestion, I went with Power Bar Energy Blast Gel Filled Chews.  Unfortunately, I read the label incorrectly and thought that a serving size was 1 chew, for 190 calories.  So I took one chew with me (they are the size of maybe 2 fruit snacks) and had it 45 minutes in.  I did feel great and energized the whole time, but when I got home I realized that the entire package of chews (9 chews total) was 1 serving for 190 calories.  Energy fueling FAIL.  Ah well, the raspberry  flavor was delicious and I look forward to having them during the half!
The last mile of the run was a little rough, but we powered through and our time was 2:03:20 - which is a 10:17 pace overall.  RIDICULOUSLY fast for us on any day, and ESPECIALLY to keep that pace for so long.  Feel pretty spectacular!!! I can't believe we finished 12.0 miles only 6 minutes slower than we did 10.2 a few weeks ago.  Not sure if it's the cooler weather, us getting in better shape, or both (okay it's probably both), but I'm liking it!
Anyway, 12 miles was the max distance we had planned to run before the race - which is actually a little on the high side for a beginning half training program - but I think it was perfect for us!  I'm feeling very confident knowing that I only have to conquer an additional 1.1 on race day.

Fast forward a week to Saturday, October 8th: we are tapering!!!!  I had originally planned to do 10 miles but Susan suggested 6-8 would be better.  Since she has run 9 marathons I figure she knows what she's talking about, so M and I searched USA Track & Field's website for a good 8 miler.  We found a good one around campus and set out around 9am.  It was around 50 degrees and mostly sunny with very light wind - awesome!  The run started out great and the first 3 miles zipped on by.  Somewhere around mile 4 I started to hate whoever made this route - it was hilly!  There aren't many hills in Durham so I'm not sure how the author of this route managed to find SO. MANY. HILLS.  Even so, at mile 6 I remember saying to M "this time last week we were only half done - but now we only have 2 miles to go!" and a few minutes later "it doesn't feel like we've been running very long but it's been over an hour!".  Unfortunately M wasn't feeling quite as perky as I was and around mile 7 she started feeling less than fabulous :-(  Since this is my blog and now her's I won't give you all the details - the important part is we both finished 8 miles :-)  And, just like it was a sick joke, the last quarter of a mile was a very steep uphill for about .10 miles followed by a less steep but steady up hill for the last .15.  Not cool!  Either way, I finished strong in 1:23:33 for a 10:26 pace.  VERY pleased with these long run paces staying around/under 10:30.

So, we ran this morning (our usual 3.4 miles) and we'll run again Wednesday... and Wednesday will be our LAST run before the half on SUNDAY.  Crazy.  I think it's time to make my goals public and official, as Susan often does.

2011 Ramblin' Rose Women's Half Marathon Goals:
  • Goal A: 2:17:39.  This would be a 10:30 pace.  I would feel like a freaking rock star.
  • Goal B: 2:24:12.  This would be an 11:00 pace and would make me feel like a respectable runner.
  • Goal C: 2:27:00.  This would be an 11:14 pace and would qualify me for a Corral for my next race!
  • Goal D: 2:37:19.  This would be a 12:00 pace and would be a slight improvement over my pace from the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April.
  • Goal E: Finish and HAVE FUN! (and not get kicked off the course, which you will if you fall below 15:00 miles).

The race is only 6 days away... and advice for first half marathons?!?!?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

September cooking, part 2!

The second new recipe I tried during September was chopped pepper steak.  This was also a biggest loser cookbook recipe.  Fairly simply - it involved making "steaks" out of ground beef, rice, and some other ingredients.  We had been eating a LOT of chicken in our house recently so I was grateful to find a new non-chicken recipe to try.
First, I made the mixture:
Looks awesome right?  Okay no, raw ground beef never looks appetizing.  Oh well.  Anyway, next I shaped it into steak patties to cook:
They look like nicely shaped hamburgers in that picture, right?  Siigh, if only they had stayed together that nicely.  The ended up more like this:
This is actually a consistent problem with me trying to make any sort of hamburger, meatball, etc.  If I'm supposed to shape meat to stay together, it WILL fall apart.  I think it's probably a lack of practice.. I've probably made hamburgers/this type of thing less than ten times in my life.  I will say that despite being a complete and total crumbly mess, the flavor was great!  I served this with a side of rice and a mix of cooked peppers/onions.

So, there you have it - I managed to make two new recipes in September!  I also ran really consistently.  I use the running AHEAD Training Log on Facebook to track my runs (good to know when it's time for new shoes), and a looking back I can say:
  • I ran a total of 69.7 miles
  • I had three long runs: 9.3 miles. 10.2 miles, and 7.8 miles
  • I ran 16 times overall - which is basically every other day on average!
  • My pace varied from 9:08 on a 2.7 mile run to 11:29 on my 10.2 mile run
  • That being said, on most of my runs my pace was in the 10:20-10:40 range, which means I am getting faster over time (this summer it was more consistently around 11:00).
Well, it's 6 days into October, so perhaps I'll start posting about my October cooking and running soon :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

September cooking, part 1

I'm a terrible blogger.  But, while I had a free moment, I did want to share with you some of the recipes I tried in September!  The first new recipe I tried was BBQ Bacon Meatloaf from the Biggest Loser Cookbook.  First step, cook some chopped onions and turkey bacon:

 Next, mix some oats and milk and whatnot:
Then, basically combine the oats with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ground turkey, and the bacon/onion mix.  Put the mixture into a loaf pan, spread BBQ sauce on top, and bake!

The night I made this I wanted asparagus, but something beyond my normal (and fairly plain) steamed asparagus.  So I used two of my favorite new websites to look for a recipe: GoJee and Pintrest.  If you haven't seen GoJee, you basically type in an ingredient you are craving or that you have, and it will suggest recipes.  It also allows you to input ingredients you don't have/don't want/are allergic to.  It looks like their long term plan is to hook up with various grocery stores so that if you use your savings card and link it to Gojee, Gojee will know what's in your kitchen.  Pretty cool idea, although it doesn't have my grocery store yet.  Pintrest is basically a way to save pictures/links of things you like on a virtual pin board, and lots of people have "favorite recipes"/"recipes to try" as a board.
Anyway, GoJee helped me find a new asparagus recipe which I modified based on what I had an laziness and I ended up with delicious asparagus lightly coated in bread crumbs:
With a small side of (fake, out of the box, yet delicious) mashed potatoes, dinner is served:

The meatloaf was good, but I think it needed more Worcestershire sauce and more garlic in the base - the overwhelming flavor was the BBQ sauce on top.  I like BBQ sauce, but it kind of left the middle parts of the meatloaf lacking taste.

I managed to try two new recipes during the month of September, so hopefully I will be able to post the second one soon!