Monday, February 28, 2011

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

Okay, okay. That might be a little bit dramatic. There was, after all, no blood. How about this:

Snow. Wind. Sweat. Tears. Blisters. Blinding stomach pain.

Let me back up. On Saturday Pat and I drove down to Hyannis. We went to the race expo, and I got to meet Jack Fultz, who won the Boston Marathon in 1976 and placed a couple other times.

We also came across some North Face jackets and I found a red one for Pat that matches my yellow one! I insisted that he get it so that we can be huge dorks and wear them together. I love it!

Pat wanted to take me to a nice dinner, but all I wanted was some pasta, and its hard to enjoy a nice meal out when you're trying to mentally prepare for a race the next morning. So instead we were lazy and ordered in (I'd packed some pasta and tofu just in case) and watched movies and ate candy all night. I was actually good and only had 2 Reese's cups and some mango sorbet - eating too much candy the night before a race is never a good idea.

On Sunday morning I woke up with terrible stomach cramps. I don't know what was wrong but it felt like I was being stabbed by several knives. Not how you want to feel when you're about to set out for a 13.1 mile run. But I pulled myself together, had some tea and a banana, and went to the starting corral. It was snowing like mad, but as usual I'd overdressed, so the snow was actually refreshing (until the wind kicked in). Luckily I felt a little bit better when I started running and my stomach pain eased up. I was still uncomfortable, but at least I could move. I've never not finished a race, and the thought of a big fat DNF was totally unappealing. I'm a pretty stubborn person, so I think that helped me get through it. I just kept thinking:

Pain is only temporary.
Pain is weakness leaving the body. 
This isn't supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Over and over and over. I walked for one minute at mile 8, and again at mile 11. I told myself that walking is not for wimps, but I also didn't want to stop, I just wanted to run it and be done.

At mile 13 I saw Pat waving and cheering for me. As I sprinted up to finish, he was sprinting to meet me there. It was such a good feeling to be done and know that I'd pushed through, when all I'd wanted to do was curl up in a ball. I'm so happy that I did it because I know I would have regretted it if I hadn't. If I'd had an injury, I certainly wouldn't have run, but I knew that I could make it through this and I'm glad I did.

My Garmin watch gave me a finishing time of 1:54:47. My official nettime was 1:54:35, with an average pace of 8:45/minute. This was right in the middle of the finishing times I had for the two half marathons I ran in November, so I was happy with this time.

Pat and me after I finished:

Pat asked me to pose. This was about the nicest pose I could muster:

After downing a mango protein drink, half a bagel with peanut butter and banana, and a small cup of minestrone soup, Pat and I went back to the hotel. They gave late check-out to everyone who ran the race, which was so nice. I took my first ice bath ever - ice baths are good for reducing muscle pain and soreness after intense training sessions and may help you recover faster.

Do I really want to get in there!?

This is not fun...

Maybe if I pout you'll feel sorry for me?

It was really cold but I had a large 50/50 (half black coffee/half hot chocolate) to warm me up a bit.

Finally we got on the road to go home, and after a quick stop at Trader Joe's (essentials!) we were back. I was so tired and sore that I could barely even think straight. I made myself a random picnic of food (mashed potatoes, squash soup, cashews and lemonade - followed up by some peanut butter m&ms) and stretched my exhausted body out on the couch to watch the Oscars. Relaxing ending to the weekend!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Carbs and the Cape

Tomorrow is the Hyannis Half Marathon!

This is my fourth year running Hyannis, and I'm excited to go back to the beautiful course that runs along the beaches of the cape. I'm a little bit less excited for the weather forecast - we're expecting another 5 inches of snow and temps in the upper 20s. But I guess you can't expect much better in February in New England.

I'm not running this race for a PR, nor do I think I'll get a great time. I signed up about 6 weeks ago (which is not the amount of time I usually give myself to train) and aside from the past week, all of my running has been indoors. I'm still pumped for the race, but don't have high expectations for myself, I'm just going to do the best I can. I have 2 more half marathons coming up this spring, and those I'm going to really step up the training for.

Anyway, regardless if I'm running fast or slow, one thing is for sure. Carbo-loading is a must! You're supposed to increase your carb intake starting about a week before long races, and pasta dinners are encouraged for the day(s) preceding the race.

Last night I had a big bowl of whole wheat linguine topped with steamed broccoli, roasted mushrooms, baked tofu, my favorite marinara sauce, and some fresh mozzarella medallions.

This is my favorite marinara. Its from Trader Joe's - its really inexpensive and so good.

For dessert, I had some soft serve with gummy bears and peeps. Candy has carbs, too!

This morning I finished off the baked oatmeal - heated with skim milk, almond slivers, coconut flakes and flax seeds.

And for the ride down to the cape, I made some soft pretzels. Instead of using all white flour as the recipe calls for, I used half white flour and half whole wheat flour (whole wheat takes longer to digest so its a better carb to fuel with). I thought these shapes were appropriate for the weekend's activities.

And now Pat and I are heading down to the cape! We're going to go to the race expo today (which I think is half the fun of races - there are so many stations with great exercise gear and fun race foods) and out to a pasta dinner, and then I'm running at 10am tomorrow!

Let's cross our fingers for some sunshine tomorrow!

Friday, February 25, 2011

How Do You Eat Your Baked Oatmeal?

In my house, oatmeal is always enjoyed (most especially by me!)...but when baked oatmeal enters the equation, things get even more exciting...

(if you're not a fellow oatmeal enthusiast you may want to skip this post)

Ways to Enjoy Baked Oatmeal:

Eaten straight from the pan. (Don't mind if I do!)

Eaten for breakfast with a side of fresh fruit.

Packed lovingly by your girlfriend to enjoy as a mid-morning snack.

I also think this would be wonderful for a Saturday or Sunday morning brunch, served with some fluffy scrambled eggs and fresh berries or cantaloupe. Or in a bowl with some warm milk and additional dried fruit and nuts on top! This baked oatmeal is very quick and easy to make, only takes a few minutes to throw together the ingredients, and about 25 minutes to bake. Chances are that you already have all of the fixings in your kitchen, so a trip to the grocery store is unnecessary!

Kathryn sent me this recipe the other day. I imagined it to come out like the oatmeal squares I made for Chrissy and Callie in December, but perhaps if I'd read the title I wouldn't have been confused? This really is baked oatmeal, so its better served hot on a plate, and would not be as good wrapped up as a square and eaten cold. But don't let that deter you, because this really is delicious!

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Serves 4-6

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, applesauce, butter, eggs whites, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Stir in diced apples.

Pour oatmeal mixture into prepared pan. Add any extra toppings you'd like (I used almond slivers on half and dried cranberries all over) and gently press in with your fingers so they stick.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until oatmeal is golden brown and set. Remove from oven and serve warm. 

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced (I used a gala)
Optional Toppings (can be added to oatmeal prior to baking and/or added after baking)

  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Extra cinnamon and/or brown sugar
  • Flax/chia seeds (for a healthy boost!)


Food Matters

Last night after work I went to the gym to bike for 45 minutes. The Hyannis Half Marathon is this Sunday, so I'm officially tapering now (rested Monday and Tuesday, 5 mile run on Wednesday, 45 minute bike ride on Thursday, and either an easy jog or walk today). I don't know why but I still have a lot of soreness in my legs and I have barely done anything this week!

For dinner I tried something new - fish tacos. I decided to make them because I realized that I had all of the ingredients, and it would be quick and healthful. I used another Joseph's tortilla and stuffed it with baby spinach, avocado, trout (simmered for a few minutes in water in a skillet over medium heat) and spicy salsa. 

On the side I had an orange and some lentils. Trader Joe's carries cooked lentils that are so delicious - I like them hot and cold, either on their own or thrown into a salad.

How beautiful is that?! Since we're all friends here, I need to be honest with you. I realized that I'm not a fan of fish tacos. I'm not sure why, because I like all of the ingredients separately, but it just wasn't very appealing to me.  I gave it a chance and had a few bites, but it just wasn't working out, so I disassembled my wrap and ate the fish and salsa on its own and had a spinach and avocado wrap (which was very good).

At the recommendation of Callie, I borrowed the movie Food Matters from the library.
Its a really interesting documentary that discusses the great impact food has on us and our well-being (you are what you eat) and talks about a variety of different studies about the effects of vitamin supplements on general health and on treating disease. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in eating clean and improving their health (without the use of prescription medications). Lately I've been overwhelmed by the amount of prescribed drugs that "heal" all of these conditions (Food Matters refers to it as "a pill for every ill") and I do believe that eating right, exercising and getting the right supplements will strengthen your immune system and give you the ability to fight off sickness without a trip to the pharmacy.

Some interesting points of discussion from the movie:

  • The ideal diet consists of mostly plant-based, organic, and raw foods.
  • Heating food causes it to act as a toxin in our body; every meal we eat should be at least 51% raw.
  • To flush toxins out of your body you should drink 1-2 liters of water first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else.
  • High levels of Niacin have been proven to treat depression.
  • High levels of Vitamin C (given through IV) have been shown to arrest and reverse cancers and other diseases.
  • Less than 1% of medical doctors have training in nutrition, and 26% of patients leave hospitals more malnourished then when they were admitted.
This really got me thinking and makes me want to learn more about the research behind their claims. For more information about this movie and related health resources, visit their website.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grilled Banana and Veggie Wrap

A few weeks ago I saw a post about grilled bananas on Chelsey's blog and I've been thinking about them ever since. I went for a five mile run on my lunch break today and when I got back I decided it was finally time to give these grilled bananas a try. I remember the veggie wrap with plantains I got a few weeks ago and thought I'd give it a healthier makeover. 

Grilled bananas are easy to make and would be delicious on anything (peanut butter and toast, vanilla ice cream, and oatmeal all come to mind as great options) and were certainly the key to making this wrap special. Here's my step-by-step for making one for yourself!

Grilled Banana and Veggie Wrap
(this makes 2 wraps)

  • whole wheat wraps
  • 1 banana, very ripe, cut into quadrants
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • baby spinach
  • watercress (optional but so good for you)
  • 1/2 small summer squash and 1/2 small zucchini, sliced
  • balsamic vinegar
  • cinnamon
  • cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Slice your zucchini and summer squash lengthwise into thin strips, then slice into sticks.


Put half of the pieces into your sprayed loaf pan and reserve the other half for another meal (or eat as a snack while preparing your wraps!). Pour some balsamic vinegar on zucchini and summer squash (I used a few teaspoons). Toss with hands to coat.

Put in oven and roast for about 15 minutes, flipping vegetables halfway through.

As the zucchini and summer squash roast, prepare the rest of the wrap ingredients. I used Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas. I've bought these a lot because they're really good - very soft and fresh - and are also very good for you. They  have a lot of fiber and protein and are a great source of omega-3.

Start with your wrap...

Add baby spinach for the first layer.

I then added a layer of watercress. I used this in a salad I made in the fall, and bought it again because of the great nutritional stats (its a super food and thought to be a cancer fighter and preventer). For more information on watercress, look here.

Next I added some carrot. First I peeled and discarded the outside layer, then I continued to peel so I could add carrot shavings to the wrap. Eat whatever is leftover after peeling!

Now its finally time to grill the banana! Heat a small skillet over medium and spray with cooking spray. Peel your banana and slice in half lengthwise and then in half again.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and place cinnamon-side down on skillet.

Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add cinnamon and flip. Cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.

Remove banana from heat. When summer squash and zucchini are done cooking, remove from oven and place strips on the wrap.

Add 1/2 grilled banana to the wrap.

Roll, then enjoy!

Just to give you an indication of how much I liked this - I tried a bite of it in the kitchen before bringing it out to the living room to eat. I never did make it to the living room before it was finished. The warm, sweet banana was so good that this wrap doesn't need any dressing. I'm sure it would be great with a variety of different wrap fillings...I plan to try many more!

Also, here's an interesting Cooking Light article I came across about the 10 Best Foods and Drinks for Exercising.

Happy Wednesday!