Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strong and Smart Girls on the Run

This past Tuesday we had our Girls on the Run Practice 5K.  This was the girl's opportunity to run the distance with a running buddy.  (A running buddy is there to encourage their runner to do the best she can.)  Unfortunately one of team mates hurt her ankle a week ago and can no longer participate in the race.  That didn't stop her from coming and cheering on the rest of the girls though.  She's bummed she can't run with us this season, but she is still going to participate in some of our non-running activities.  In fact, she came to cheer on the rest of the girls in their practice run last week.  She definitely has a Girls on the Run spirit! 
It was a crazy hot, humid afternoon, like 92 degrees.  The heat made for a tough run, but luckily our course was shaded.  I ran with one of the girls and we started off strong.  As the run went on the heat got to us and we were taking more walking breaks.  I decided to make small running goals for us by choosing a landmark to run to which seemed to help.   I kept reminding her she could finish this.  I also tried to distract her from the side cramp she was experiencing by talking about her favorite music, school, and the thought of cold water at the finish.  All of the girls finished the strong and got to break a finish line.  I am so proud of all of them!  They all did a great job and I know come race day they will be fabulous.  

Yesterday's GOTR practice was another good one.  We talked about advertising: how sometimes they don't give us all the information we need, that they can be misleading, and they might not send us the right messages.  We had a great discussion in which everyone contributed thoughtful responses.  
For our workout the ladies did intervals - they ran one whole lap and then took a two minute rest break.  During the break however they had to write down an adjective that described a strong girl or woman.  All of the girls really pushed themselves today and were very impressive today.  It was another hot afternoon, but they really dug deep and ran some great laps with smiles on their faces.  

We are one of ten schools in our area participating in GOTR and race day is going to be full of fun.  There is a little less than two weeks until our final 5K celebration on May 7th and we are getting excited!  

I know Caitlin made a call for Running Buddies last week, but this is just some more friendly encouragement to try and volunteer with a GOTR council near you.  This program is amazing and being able to run with a girl during her 5K will not only bring a smile to her face, but one to yours as well.    

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coconut Deliciousness

I have been on a super coconut kick lately.  I am big fan of coconut, mostly in desserts (go figure) and after receiving a sample of Kelapo Coconut Oil (thanks Kelapo!) a few weeks ago I have been enjoying it in a couple of new recipes.

Honestly, I had never heard of coconut oil before, but it is a healthy butter or oil alternative that can be used in a variety of ways (breads, smoothies, cakes, brownies, veggies etc).  Kelapo is also organic and certified Fair Trade.  I really enjoyed their product so I wanted to share a few recipes with you.   

It took me awhile to figure out exactly what I wanted to make but after wandering the internet I found mention of a coconut lime cake.  I made the version I saw and it ended up not being so great.  I loved the idea of lime and coconut together though, they seem like a good spring/summer flavor combo.  (Doesn't it remind you of that "Put the Lime in the Coconut" song?)  So I decided to come up with my own coconut lime cake recipe.  This cake has a nice coconut flavor and is super tasty.  And you can't forget about the tart, lime glaze - perfect!  
Coconut Lime Pound Cake
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup Kelapo coconut oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (I used vanilla Chobani)
1 tsp lime zest
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Tart Lime Glaze
3/4 - 1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp lime zest

1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Prepare 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" X 2 1/2" loaf pan with baking spray.  
2. In medium bowl beat butter and coconut oil until creamy.  Then beat in sugar at medium 
speed until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, using a scraper to clean edges of bowl.   
3. In a seperate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, & baking soda.  Gradually add some of the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Alternate adding the yogurt and flour, making sure to scrape the sides of bowl along the way.  Beat at a low speed until blended.  
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients (zest, extract, flakes).  Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
5. Bake between 1 hour -1 hour 15 minutes.  Cake should be light golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean.*
6. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  
7. Make glaze by mixing powdered sugar, lime juice, milk, and zest in a small bowl.  Adding more milk or sugar for desired taste and consistency.
8. Remove cake from pan onto wire rack and poke small holes in top of cake with toothpick. While cake is still warm brush Tart Lime Glaze over top and sides.
*(Baking time is probably closer to an hour depending on your oven.  Mine could have baked a little less.)  

Next is Coconut Granola.  I was inspired after seeing Julie's recipe the other week and decided to put my own spin on it.  I added flax seed, simply because I didn't have chia seeds, and mini chocolate chips, because really, who doesn't like chocolate?  This recipe is super easy and makes for some tasty granola!  I have probably made it four times in the past two weeks.  I have eaten it just plain, on yogurt, on ice cream, and with milk, like cereal - all are delicious!  

Coconut Chocolate Granola

adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers
3 Tbsp Kelapo coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp coconut extract

2 cups old fashioned oats
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
3 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 315°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl mix together coconut oil, coconut extract, honey, and brown sugar.
3. Add oats and flaxseed mixing until everything has been coated.  Mix in the chocolate chips.
4. Spread granola mixture evenly on baking sheet.  Bake for 14 minutes, turning granola halfway through.  
5.  Let cool 5-10 minutes.  


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Half Marathon Recovery

Thank you everyone for the nice comments on my Iron Girl Race Recap!  It was a tough race, but that makes me even more proud that I got a new PR (personal record) while running it!  

Now it is recovery time.  Running a longer distance certainly takes a toll on your body and taking time to slow down some is important.  I think having a plan after a big race is important because sometimes you can get into a bit of funk.  Slowly getting back into a comfortable running/exercise groove can help keep that away.  I am following the post-race plan from the Marathoning for Mortals book (because it is chock full of wonderful information).  It is the same thing I did after the Disney half, so I know it worked out well for me before.  
Down Dog (Yoga Journal)
Pigeon (Gaiam Life)
Those bridges did a number on my thighs and they have been a bit sore, so the days following the race have consisted of lots of yoga poses, stretching, and foam rolling.    Some of my favorite poses and stretches for sore muscles are simple forward bends, heel holds, downward- facing dog, pigeons pose, hamstring stretches, etc.  It always kind of amazes me how something as easy as stretching makes you feel better. Runner's World has a great yoga sequence that I like to use post run.   

IT Band (Runner's World)
Altus Athletic 6-Inch by 24-Inch Foam Roller
I also love to foam roll after EVERY run.  Well, maybe I don't love it, because it can hurt sometimes, but it is a good hurt, because my muscles feel so much better after using it.  I started using a foam roller because I was having some IT band issues and since there have been no major problems.  It pretty much massages your tight muscles, which makes it perfect for use post run.  They are pretty affordable, around $15-$30 depending on the size and density.  We got ours at a Sports Authority, but they are sold at WalMart, Target, and online as well.  I believe most foam rollers come with diagrams of how to use it.  I use the IT band one all the time, but once again, Runner's World has some good videos demonstrating some other ones that might be of interest.

After a day of rest and stretching I got back to cross training and running.  The first week is about 30-40 minutes each day and then I slowly build back up my long runs over the next three weeks. For cross training I am going to start with some easy bike rides and then get back into some light strength training later this week.  This morning was an easy two mile run.  I got up not really feeling like going out, but after it was over I felt great.  I think it was just what I needed!  My long runs for the next three weeks go from three to five miles.  I would like to be able to keep up my half marathon fitness level or at least close to it, so I am still trying to figure out what a maintenance schedule will look like.   

Although I got a better time than my first half, I was SO close (19 seconds) to being under three hours, so another half marathon is certainly in the future!  I like having a training plan and a goal to work towards.  The half marathon distance is just long enough to need to train well for and it is a good challenge for me.  I haven't decided on my next half yet, but I will let you know when I find it!  

In the mean time, I am going to take some time to do some shorter distance races and try some different things, maybe a 30 day challenge or something.  The next, and only, race on my calendar (for now) is at the beginning of May.  For our Girls on the Run final celebration we are participating in the I-Drive 5K Run at Pointe Orlando.  Our girls are pretty speedy so I know they will push me to do well and it is sure to be a fun event!  

How do you recover after a big race?  What does your running schedule look like when not training for a big race, but just trying to maintain your fitness level?  Are you training for anything right now? 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I am an Iron Girl! Race Recap: Iron Girl Half Marathon

I did it!  I did it!  I have completed my second half marathon and got a new PR to go with it!  It was humid, hot day, with a pretty although at times crazy course (three big bridges!).  
But let's go back a bit...
My mom, step dad, and I left midday Saturday and drove over to Clearwater.  We were hungry after the two hour drive and stopped at a deli to get some lunch.  Honestly, most of the food we had in Clearwater was not that great, just kind of blah so not much to share on that part.  Maybe we just went to the wrong places?  I don't know.  

The goodie bag contents with the cute race shirt!
After lunch we headed to Coachman Park for the expo and picked up our race bibs and goodie bags.  It was a small expo, but we walked around checking out the tents.  They had some very cute IronGirl gear, but I decided it was probably best to save my money for Chicago.  I also entered a few drawings, so maybe I will win something cool.  *fingers crossed!*  While there I stopped at the Athleta tent to say hello to Sarah Frey who is the Iron Girl Athlete Services and Marketing Coordinator.  We have been communicating a bit on Twitter and it was so nice to meet her in person.  She is super friendly, positive, and encouraging.  (Katy did a post on her blog about Sarah you should check out!)  
On the Hotel Balcony
We then headed over to the beach.  It is still Spring Break for some people, so it was crazy busy and touristy with lots of traffic, which was a bit of a bummer.  Not really my scene, I like a more quiet, relaxed kind of beach experience.  I have to say however, that the beach was quite beautiful - white sand and clear blue water!  

Later after another disappointing meal, we headed out to the beach again to sit, read, and watch the sunset, which was pretty awesome.  

After an OK night of sleep, considering I was in a bed not my own, we got up to get ready to run!  Luckily we were literally a block from start line, so we got to sleep in a little.  I had a bottle of water and Clif bar and got all of my gear together.  As we were leaving the room though I realized I was missing something, my knee straps!!  I went back in the room and quickly grabbed them so we could make it to the start.  Thank goodness I remembered it could have been a pretty painful run, if I had forgotten them!
My mom and I made our ways into the starting area and wished each other luck as we separated (she is a faster runner than I am so she went up further).  The race had only 1640 runners which was small compared to the 27,000 I shared the road with in the Disney Half (the recaps are here and here.)  Unfortunately there were no corrals, which would have been nice pacing wise.  But before I knew it the race had begun.  I started my Garmin a bit too soon, but other than that the race started well.  I was keeping a pretty good pace, in fact maybe a bit too fast to start off with.  I knew I would need the energy near the end of the race, so I tried to slow it down a bit.  The energy of the race got to me though and I was still going a little fast than usual. 
After the first mile the first big bridge was in sight.  I tried to run up it some, but decided to walk to the top and run all the way down.  I put in my headphones and listened to my playlist as I enjoyed the view climbing the bridge.  I felt really good for probably the first six mile of the race, my pace was on time for a new PR, and the course itself was nice as we ran by the water, a golf course, and pretty houses.  There were a few spectators along the course who cheered on us Iron Girl runners.  I was determined this time around to not stop to go to the bathroom or stretch unless I felt like I really needed too.  I know that was part of the reason the Disney half took some time to complete.  

I ate my Honey Stingers at miles three, six, nine, and twelve.  I tried to keep my run/walk ratio around 4/1 but it varied throughout the race depending on how I was feeling.  Some run segments were a little longer or faster.  I walked through every water station as well.  

As I was walking up the second big bridge some of the women around me, said, "Oh no!" and began to run and I as I turned my head to look back I saw the three hour pacer on our tails.  I decided to pick it up a bit and found a comfortable pace to run up the bridge.  I knew my pace had slowed some, but I was still on track for three hours.  The pacer, Ben, said he was a bit ahead of pace, so I continued forward.  I ended up chatting and running with him for awhile.  He was a nice guy and encouraged me to keep it up.  He eventually passed me, but I knew I was still OK for getting in around three.  (He had to stop twice to get back on pace again as well - I knew he was going too fast!)  
Miles 11-12 were kind of rough I was definitely feeling the time and distance in my legs.  I made an effort to focus on my music and said to myself that I could do this.  The last bridge   may have been the shortest, but I think it was the steepest and hardest.  I ended up walking to top, but pushed myself to get a good run down it.  The last mile was upon me and I made sure to run as much as I could for the last bit.  After one last walk break to prepare my for the finish line I gave it my all and ran through the finish.  I heard my mom and step dad cheering me on and I crossed the line with a smile on my face!  I slowed down to catch my breath, grabbed some water and had my medal put around my neck.  I looked at my Garmin and although it was off a bit because of the start I thought I may have finished very close to three hours.  
Sprinting to the finish!

I continued to walk and headed over to the medical tent to get some ice for my knees.  Then mom and I got our free breakfast bag.  I looked for the other bloggers who had run the race, but had no luck spotting them although I did chat with Sarah again.  We didn't hang out long after the race, because our check out was at 11AM.  I stretched when I got back to the room and after a shower we were back on the road home.  We stopped and got some Einstein's bagels for the trip as well.  I pulled on my compression socks and napped for most the way home.  

Once we got home I checked the race results online and found that I finished the race with a time of 3:00:18!  That is a new PR for me, which is pretty crazy considering the insane bridges on the course.  That is about 14 minutes faster than my first half time.  It kind of stinks that I was 18 seconds away from an even three, but I think I can beat that on my next half, because I have a feeling there will be another!  I am not nearly as sore as I was last time, but I do have a slight headache.  I am drinking lots of water and hopefully some food will help it.  Now that we are home my plan is to relax and catch up with shows on the DVR.  
I am an Iron Girl!
Congrats to all the other Iron Girl racers today!  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Final Days of Iron Girl Half Marathon Training

Well the time has come.  Ten weeks of training for the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Clearwater, FL is wrapping up and I am getting ready to complete my second half marathon this Sunday.  I am excited about this event!  It is an all women's race and you get to run next to the water.  This is my first race that I am traveling too (although it is only two hours away).  I have never been to Clearwater before so that will be an fun adventure in itself as well. 
With my first half training every week was a new challenge, and although this plan has had its own challenges, I have felt more comfortable and at ease this time around.  

The last time I gave a real update was week four.  I have mentioned some highs and lows but for those that are curious here is the outline of what the final six weeks of my training have looked like:
40 mins Bike ride
Easy 3 mi
Easy 3 mi
35 mins Six Pack Abs
Long 9 mi
Easy 2 mi
40 mins Yoga Meltdown
Tempo Workout 5 mi 3 mi @ tempo
35 mins Six Pack Abs
Long 6 mi
Easy 3.14 mi
30 mins Shred It w/ Weights
Tempo Workout 5 mi only 1mi @ tempo (bad run)
30 mins Yoga Meltdown
Long 12 mi
Easy 2 mi
Walking around Chicago
Tempo Workout 6.17 mi 5 mi @ tempo (great/speedy run)
Long 8 mi
Easy 3 mi
30 mins Six Pack Abs
Tempo Workout 4.16 mi 3 mi @ tempo
30 mins Shred It w/ Weights
Long 6 mi
Easy 3 mi
30 mins Six Pack Abs
XT 30 mins
20 min run
IronGirl 13.1 mi

I made up this plan myself and it is a combination of the Marathoning for Mortals plan and the Runner's World Smart Coach plan.  I took the things I liked from each and made it fit my schedule.  
I like the ratio I have of three quality running days and two cross training days each week.  Each run has a specific purpose to help prepare me for the race.  I have found cross training to be an essential part of my routine.  It gives me a chance to try some different workouts, give my running muscles a break, work on different muscles that will benefit my running, and it helps me prevent injury by not overworking any muscles.  Cross training is your friend!  

I have really enjoyed the addition of a tempo workouts to my schedule as well.  In my first training plan I just did stride drills, which were good, but the tempo workouts allow me to keep a faster pace for a longer time; a kind of test of my speed.  Plus they add some variety to my workout!  I think they have helped improve my pace as well, which is the main reason I added them to my plan this time around.    

My new shoes, (I switched from Saucony to Asics), which are now three weeks old, have been good.  The toe box has not been an issue in the runs following the 12 miler, so I am thinking they may have just needed some breaking in.  I finally got some new knee straps too (I was in desperate need).  They are bit different that my old ones, but have worked out well.  

This last week is pretty easy going as I prepare for the race this weekend.  We will be off to Clearwater Saturday to check out the expo!  I am on Twitter, so I will try and keep updating the adventures of the weekend there.  

Have you ever traveled for a race before?  What does your training plan look like the week of a big race?  Do you have a lucky race outfit?