Unite In Pink!

Since I decided to not run the Philly Marathon this year, I’ve tried to put more cross-training into my workout routine.  It’s been going great and my knees and psyche feel like a million dollars.  When my friend Lauren asked me to join her at a breast cancer awareness event at her gym, Unite, I couldn’t pass it up.  Lauren is in amazing shape and claims it’s mostly due to this gym.  After last night’s workout, I’m inclined to believe her.

First of all, everyone is super friendly…instructors especially.  Maybe they do it so you won’t hate them when you’re running at 6.5mph on a 10 incline (yes, that happened…no, I didn’t die).  We started out with 30 minutes of cardio in their cardio room.  You get to pick between treadmills, spin bikes, and rowers.  I obviously went with the running….while I wasn’t super confident in my ability to finish the strength training portion of the class, I knew I could handle a treadmill!  Ann Marie led us through a very intense, yet very awesome, interval session.  Like most sane people, I don’t put much of an incline on my treadmill while I’m running.  I don’t know if I’m scared I’ll fall off (totally uncoordinated right here) or if I don’t feel like working that hard, but thanks to Ann Marie’s pushing, I won’t be so scared to do it on my own next time!

At this point, I was insanely sweaty and we still had 30 minutes of dreading lifting yet to go!  I am a cardio girl, not a strength training girl.  If I hit up the free weights for 20 minutes twice a week, I think I’m halfway to being a professional athlete.  Strangely, this portion was actually a lot of fun.  Juliet led us through a bunch of exercises using dumbbells, resistance bands, a step and our own body weight.  Maybe it’s because it was done in timed segments rather than number of reps, but time FLEW by.  Her cheerful attitude definitely helped and I didn’t even hate my life when we did lateral raises.  I’d consider that a smashing success.

I’m taking a regular class there on Monday, but I have a feeling I’ll be getting some sort of membership or class pack soon.  It was too great of a workout to not do it.  I wonder if they’ll get me to do a real pull-up….I still have nightmares about pull-ups from middle school gym.

 

Unite
Borrowed from Unite’s Facebook page…I haven’t seen that much pink since Victoria’s Secret redid their color scheme.

Taco Peppers

I was feeling a little cranky by the time I left work last night, but luckily I had some excellent plans: hit up the Loft 50% off sale (THE ENTIRE STORE WAS 50% OFF!!!!) before meeting Erica in America at Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries for our delicious dinner.

PSA: I love, love, LOVE the Modern Skinny jeans at Loft.  I ended up buying two more pairs (black and gray) before picking up a black top and trying to walk to the counter with tunnel vision.  It worked and my credit card left the store feeling slightly violated, but still ok.

Erica and I decided to have a dinner date to catch up.  We both LURVE nachos and tacos, but are trying to be a bit healthier….so why not stuff some bell peppers with all of the taco goodness?  Automatic portion control plus less carbs.  We got 4 peppers so we’d have leftovers for lunch or dinner today.

It was seriously simple and delicious…just make everything you would for regular tacos and layer it in the peppers then bake.  My dad recommended baking them covered in some water so that the pepper would soften up before the cheese got burnt.  Unfortunately, he told me AFTER the fact so Erica and I were left eating slightly too-crunchy peppers.

tacopeppers
Please ignore my messy stove and the piles of burnt cheese on the cookie sheet…I’m not a very neat chef.

Tonight I’m heading to Unite Fitness with my friend Lauren for their Unite In Pink workout.  It’s all women and if it’s anything like the last free class I tried at Unite, my ass will be sufficiently kicked.  I’m trying out one of their regular classes next Monday….I’ll definitely let you know how that goes!

Race Recap: The Blue-Gray Half-Marathon

As I crazily declared a month or two ago, my new running goal is to do one half-marathon a month for a year.  Last Sunday, I checked number two of 12 off of my list by doing the Blue-Gray Half Marathon in Gettysburg, PA.

One of my unspoken goals for this year was to run more races outside of Philly, so this race also fit the bill for that.  Since I was already going home for a bridal shower, I decided a great way to get the most out of my weekend home (other than chillin with my grandpa) would be to throw in a race.  The Hershey Half and this race were both the same weekend, but I went with Gettysburg because I had heard good things and it’s a beautiful landscape if nothing else.

Grandpa
Maxin and relaxin at 95.

Since I was busy the day before, I was glad they offered race day packet pickup from 7:30-8:30am.  Of course my mom and I got there super early, so there was plenty of time to pick up my packet (no lines and pretty well organized) and sit under the pavilion shivering….when did it get so cold?!  I’m used to bigger races with plenty to do and look at before the start, but they just had a small tent for packet pickup and some porta potties.  Luckily I told my mom to pack herself some coffee!

It was also a great time to FINALLY meet Lindsay!  We have been emailing back and forth for so long now that I was thrilled when she came up to me before the start.  She was there to cheer on her sister during her first half, and I know she rocked it!

The race started promptly at 9am with a starting gun, which was kind of fun.  They did offer chip timing, so I wasn’t too worried about getting an accurate read on my time, so I just cranked up my Spotify and followed the crowd.  What I was worried about was the hills.

As most of you probably know, Philly has zero hills.  If you want to train on them, you have to search them out and since running on hills isn’t fun, why would I do that? This race was a total crapshoot for me.

In all honesty, the hills on the course weren’t that bad.  I guess you could consider them “gentle rolling hills” but by the end they seemed to be constantly rolling and more mountain-shaped than anything else.  The course was beautiful and there were lots of animals along the way (horses, cows, and even a cat) so between my music and the views I was set.  My legs got seriously tight around mile 9 and I slowed to a walk for a little which was a HUGE mistake.  It was really hard to get going again, but whatever….I’ll chalk it up to the different terrain.

As for the on course support, I thought it was great, especially for a smaller race.  The water stations were mostly manned by high school students, and they were so funny and encouraging.  My bib number was 1 (they did it in alphabetical order) so I got a lot of “You’re ACTUALLY number one! You can do it!”  The course was also well marked, even if they didn’t completely shut down the roads during some parts (they warn you about that on the website).  For safety’s sake, I took out one earbud during those portions.  My only complaint about the setup was that the water stations weren’t quite where they said they were in the packet (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11.5) so you often thought you were further along until you finally saw a mile marker.  All in all, not a big deal.

I had a pretty strong finish and felt great.  The race was about 5 minutes off of my PR, which I was happy with considering the hills and the fact I ran my PR during marathon training when I was running much higher mileage.  And since I picked the North when I signed up and so did everyone else (who in their right mind picked the South? Seriously.) I got a free coffee mug!  Swag is the most important part of any race.  Just kidding.  Sorta.

Me
I’m really #1! I’m really #1!

I’d definitely consider doing this race again next year and I’m thinking about doing the North-South race in the spring.  You get to run on the battlefield, which sounds like a much better way to see it than the 400 field trips I did in elementary and middle school.

Prepping for an out-of-town race.

The other day, Monica over at Run, Eat, Repeat (aka my life motto) did a post on 10 things a runner should do before a race.  They’re all very important tasks that most experienced racers do without thinking, but it’s worth a mention to someone new to the racing world.

Since I run 99% of my races in Philadelphia, I do these things automatically when I’m at my apartment, but as I was packing to go home for this weekend’s Blue Gray Half in Gettysburg, PA, I noticed that I wasn’t as organized as I hoped.  It never occured to me how you need to put more effort into prepping to run somewhere out of your comfort zone.

1. Check, and double check, the weather.  

You can’t change it, but at least you’ll know what to expect and you’ll have a chance to pick up some extras (sunscreen, salt tablets, throwaway gloves) to help you get acclimated to the changes.

2. Overpack

You don’t have to tell me twice.  My motto for packing for out of town races is “When in doubt, throw it in.”  In addition to essentials such as your shoes and sports bras, make sure you pack for any possible weather issues.  Granted, if you’re running a race in California in August, you probably won’t need to pack your long running tights, but with the East Coast weather as unpredictable as it often is, you don’t want to wake up on race day wishing you had packed your favorite New Balance tank or a long-sleeve pullover.  Yes, you can buy a new one, but it’s always nice to be used to your clothing before you get to the start.

3. Print out directions.

I’m kind of old school, get over it.  If you’ve never been to the race start before, you won’t know where you’re going or how to get there.  And what if you’re in Pennsyltucky and they don’t even know what 4G means?  Siri can’t help you now.  But if you print out directions from your website of choice, you know that you’ll have easy access to a clear route to get there.

4. Pack a race bag.

Post finish, you’ll be sweaty.  Do everyone a favor and pack some clean clothes.  I have a tendency to get VERY cold after I run (probably from dehydration and sweaty clothes) so I packed a full change of clothes to make the 45 minute drive back to my parents as comfortable as possible.  My personal favorite item is my Lululemon Scuba Hoodie.  You’ll NEVER be cold.

5. Don’t forget snacks.

I recommend bringing your race fuel from home, such as GUs or Honey Stingers.  If it’s what you’ve trained with, continue it through the race.  It’s not the time to try something new or hope that you can pick up a few at the expo.  For your post race meal, bring some snacks such as a banana, half-bagel, water/Gatorade.  You don’t know what the finish line will be like or what (if anything) they’ll have available. Throw in something delicious for your mom if you’re making her hold the race bag like I am.

Bunny
Totally unrelated, but this little guy was named the fluffiest bunny in the world.  (Source)

I love rock and roll…and rap, and showtunes…

I am the type of person who insists on paying for music, which means I end up spending $10-15 each time I make a new race playlist.  With my current half-marathon goal in full swing (I’ll be doing the Blue Gray Half in Gettysburg this coming weekend) and my ever changing music tastes, I was not looking forward to running to the same music every time but I also don’t want to pay money every time I want a new song.

Cue my new addiction: Spotify Premium.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get into this, but there’s no turning back now.  For $10/month, I can listen to ANY SONG I WANT ANYTIME I WANT IT.  Insanity.

So far, it’s been well worth it.  I was able to listen to all the songs from Glee from The Quarterback so I could easily cry myself to sleep after watching it (if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it alone….if you don’t, you will be judged for sobbing) and it was clutch during Saturday’s 10 mile run.  Nothing makes me move quite as fast as Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Speaking of, the 10 miler didn’t completely suck.  While I’m still nervous about the half this weekend because of the hills, I’m 99.7% sure I won’t die.

As always, my race goals are as follows:

1. Don’t die.

2. Don’t finish last.

 

Pictures from the week!

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I try to be a contributing office member and I get mocked. The fridge lost, obviously.

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We’ve been keeping the hallway windows open in my building because of the freakishly warm weather and this little guy decided to take refuge inside and drive my cat crazy.

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A Howl at the Moon just opened in Philly…so much fun!

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Just started Sarah’s Key…it’s a good sign when a new book quotes one of your favorites.

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Spent the weekend visiting Nana in WV.

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A very cool chandelier made out of wine glasses at a great little place in Bridgeport, WV called Provence Market.

People actually study this stuff? (And other important news.)

  • The Philadelphia Marathon posted a short little blurb about me in their “Why I Love The Philadelphia Marathon” series on the blog!  Even though I’m no longer doing the full this year, all of my statements still ring true and I can’t wait to hit the start this year!
  • A story about true love.
  • Pandas and Pumpkins?  Sign me up.
  • There’s always one asshole in the crowd.

 

Getting Back Into XTing

I went out for my run on Monday after work and felt a sharp pain in my knee.  I’m sure it was just a misstep in my running form and it only lasted for a split second, but it made me think about how much pounding my knees have taken over the years, especially in the last few months.

With my tragically flat feet, it is important that I take care of my joints, especially my knees.  I have perfected the shoe (Asics Kayano, in case you’re wondering) but I have really let XTing fall to the wayside the past few months.  I know we’re all busy, and fitting in training is tough, let alone extra activity, but it’s just as important in my book.  And boy, have I been letting it slide.

My top two cross-training workouts are swimming and yoga.  Both have minimal, if any, pounding on the joints and it gives me a chance to stretch out and loosen up my muscles, especially in piegon pose…we need to open up those tight runners hips!!!

Amazingly, I managed to do both this week!  The stars aligned (aka I got over my FOMO and did other stuff) and swam on Tuesday morning and did yoga Wednesday evening.  The combination of those two activites is probably why my arms are killing me today, but my legs and hips feel like a million bucks.  I know I keep saying this, but I WILL make this a regular part of my routine!

Fitness goals for October:

1. Take time to swim and go to yoga at least once per week.

2. Start working in hill work to my regular running routine.

Let me leave you with this little gem…

What are your fitness goals for October?  How do you cross train?

My Meatless Monday: Spaghetti Squash Edition

Things I love about fall: running in the crisp air, pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, walking to work without sweating, and making fall foods (aka using pumpkin and squash as much as possible).

One of my favorite squashes to use is spaghetti squash.  It’s easy to make and it almost tastes like you’re eating real spaghetti, which is one of my favorite foods.

I picked up this recipe from my friend Anne who found it on a great website called SkinnyTaste.  It offers a lot of healthy, yet delicious, recipes and includes the nutritional information as well as the Weight Watchers points.  It leaves very little guesswork to exactly how many calories you’re putting into your body, which is extremely helpful if you’re counting.

I decided to change the recipe a teeny bit to use things I had in my fridge and it ended up being a Cheesey Spaghetti Squash Italiano instead of the Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese that SkinnyTaste posted.  Keep in mind that if you use my additions, the calories will be different than what is posted on the original recipe.

The hardest part of this recipe is cutting the squash in half.  Am I the only weakling who finds this insanely difficult?  I ended up cutting it in my sink to get more leverage on the knife, but I was two seconds away from taking it to the boys who moved in downstairs with a beer and asking them for help.  But alas, I perservered and no appendages were lost in the making of this meal.

Squash Halves
An arm workout and a meal, all in one.

Bake the squash in the oven for about an hour at 375.  SkinnyTaste’s recipe clearly states to maintain the oven temperature, but if you’re like me, don’t do it and make the recipe take longer.  Either way, once the squash is soft, start scraping it out with a fork.  I put it in a metal bowl to the side so I could work on the sauce.  My kitchen doesn’t allow me to do multiple things at once, so I had to put the bowl on top of the microwave.

Bowl o' Squash
Yum.

In a sauce pan, cook the onions, oil and butter for a few minutes before gradually stirring in the flour (she has an almond meal option to make the recipe GF).  After that cooks for a few more minutes, I added in the milk and the chicken broth. I used almond mlik since it’s what I had in my fridge and I had some leftover sundried tomatoes from the Laughing Cow alfredo sauce so I threw those in there as well.

Sauce
Please ignore my messy stovetop. I swear it doesn’t always look like that.

Since my pans and my counters aren’t that big, I ended up pouring the sauce in the bowl with the squash and adding mozzerella cheese (I wanted to use it before the expiration date) instead of cheddar.  I then put everything in the baking dish and added the spinach.  MIx it all up and generously sprinkle the parmesean cheese on top.  I added the word “generously.”  More cheese = more fun.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes at the 375 degree temp you allegedly maintained and BOOM.

Voila
I love when food looks colorful.

This would be good with some lightly breaded chicken mixed in, but since it’s a Meatless Monday recipe and not a Chicken Tuesday recipe, I left it like that.  In my opinion, it gets two thumbs up.  I might add some fresh garlic next time, but TBD.  An excellent side dish that’s 1. cheap and 2. easy to make.  Warning: it makes A LOT, so be ready to eat it for the week and/or pass it out to your friends.  In conclusion, SkinnyTaste is a genius and I’m only going to make things from her website from now on.  I just won’t follow the directions completely, as usual.