Friday, January 31, 2014

Book review "Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run"

I'm a reader. Anytime I start doing something new, I search out books on the topic to read.  So I put a bunch of books about running on my wish list and my cousin got me several for Christmas.  The first book about running I read was "Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run" by Alexandra Heminsley.  I absolutely loved this book!  It was both inspiring and hilarious at the same time.

The book is part memoir, part running guide.  The first half of the book focuses on the author and her journey.  One of my favorite aspects is the author's candid discussion about some of the hardships she faced.  This section is prevented from being overly self-indulgent by the author's ability to bring in stories that put her running journey into a larger context.  She discusses things like the history of women in distance running and the fact that they weren't even allowed to participate as late as the 1970s.  People literally thought distance running could make a woman's uterus fall out!  There is an incredible story about Kathrine Switzer who ran the Boston Marathon in 1967.  She signed up using her initials so it wasn't evident she was a woman.  When one of the race directors saw a woman running the course, he physically jumped on the course to try to stop her.  She managed to finish anyway but her time wasn't recorded.  The second part of the book is more of a practical guide to help the reader on their own journey.  

Each chapter begins with inspirational quotes.  But often the author's own words are just as inspirational as the quotes, such as the following:  "once you have taught yourself that running isn't about breaking boundaries you thought you could never smash, and realized that it is about discovering those boundaries were never there in the first place, you can apply it to anything."  

Here is another gem:  "Running is awful.  It feels unnatural, unnecessary, and painful.  It can hijack you with breathlessness, cripple you with panic, and overwhelm you with self-consciousness....It is also the pleasure of being outside on a sunny day, feeling the prickle of the sun on your skin.  It is the delight of feeling your body temperature rise despite the crisp winter breeze against your face....And, as I have learned, it is an honor, a privilege, and a gift." 

The book does a great job of talking about the emotional and mental sides of running, not just the physical.  I would recommend it for anyone new to running who wants to learn more about it as well as to experienced runners looking for funny stories and renewed inspiration.  It is written exceptionally well.  I looked up the author's background once I finished the book and learned that she was a journalist long before she was a runner, which shows in the quality of writing.  I leave you with a Youtube video of the author that I feel displays her sense of humor and the sensibility of the book.

Are there any running books you would recommend?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yum...grilled cheese!

Here is my favorite grilled cheese. For now, anyway.  I love grilled cheese sandwiches and am always on the look for new variations :)

Shelby cat clearly thinks that lying on the table might get her some of our food!

I got this idea from a restaurant we went to once.  And it is so easy to replicate at home!  It involves 1 ounce of sharp cheddar per sandwich, spicy brown mustard spread thinly on two pieces of bread, and a thinly sliced apple.  I generally use Fuji apples because it's what we happen to have on hand.  The sandwich is built as follows: bread, mustard, cheese, apple, cheese, mustard, bread.  And then I grill it on a foreman type grill.  The spicy tanginess of the mustard, the sharpness of the cheese, and the sweetness of the apple just blends into deliciousness.

We had it with cumin roasted vegetables, which was an easy side.  I started with a bag of broccoli and cauliflower florets.  I tossed them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt to taste.  I roasted the veggies in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  They were smoky and carmelized and a perfect accompaniment to the sandwich.

 The finished meal!  If you have any favorite ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ouch...strength training class

Well, I took the strength training class at my work gym today during lunchtime.  And I didn't love it, which is a shame since it would have been the perfect solution for cross training on Monday and Friday.  I am already sore and I'm worried tomorrow will be a lot worse.  The main thing I hated was that the instructor was very shout-y.  It's just not my style and I don't find that motivating, just intimidating.

I had a date with the foam roller tonight in the hope that it will help reduce soreness tomorrow.

My main concentration this year as far as physical activity is running, especially because this is the first year I'm working on increasing distance beyond 5k.  I'm doing the strength training to supplement and benefit my running.  But it won't be useful if I'm too sore tomorrow for my track run.  So i don't think I'll be taking this class again.  To be honest, if it was just the soreness I would give it a couple more tries to see if I get used to it.  But throw in the shouting and it just isn't for me.  While the beginning running group is going on, I might just be doing videos for the cross training and then go back to the yoga class once the Tuesday group runs are over.

To end the post on a happier note, here's a photo of our cat, Perry.  He's been adorable with his new napping style :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Week in review

I had an up and down running week.  Tuesday was supposed to be meeting at the track with the running group.  But we got hit with snow and therefore the group meeting was cancelled.  I also worked from home, so no running on the treadmill at work.  Instead, I used the elliptical in our basement for 45 minutes and pushed hard.

Thursday was still cold but I was back in the office so I was able to run on the treadmill after work.  It was not a good run, unfortunately.  I felt like I hardly had any energy and I had to walk during 2 of my run intervals.  I finished the 40 minutes but it wasn't pretty.  The only thing I can think of is that I forgot to eat my afternoon snack due to being busy at work. My breakfast and lunch had been kind of light so maybe I just didn't have enough fuel to run on?

Saturday was the first non-track run I did with the running group.  This was the first time I had run without headphones but that was ok since there were people to talk to.  It was only 25 degrees out when we started but I somehow stumbled on exactly the right amount of layering.  I was cold until we started but felt good while we were running.  We did 4/1 intervals Instead of the 4/2 I had been doing.  I thought I would struggle because of the interval change and because of the colds weather, but this run went great!  No wheezing or coughing, when the coaches called for walking intervals, I felt like I could have kept running, and I was always able to start running again when it was time.  My phone unfortunately died during the run so runkeeper didn't record the work out but it was 2 miles in 30 minutes according to the girl I ran with.  And that included the 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down.

View at the start of our run.

I unfortunately didn't get any cross training in last week but I hope to change that this week.  The plan is running on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Monday and Friday will be strength training.  Sunday is the Penguin Pace 5k which I'm really looking forward to.

I hope your week goes well!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Five

So here are five things I'm excited about on this cold Friday :)

1. It will finally be above freezing again tomorrow! It might not be much above freezing but every little degree counts.

Bundled up to face the cold

2. I'm going to have my first non-track run with the MCRRC beginner running group tomorrow. I'm definitely excited about getting out there with them and see how running with a group goes.

3. Since the group track runs are on Tuesday, I'm going to switch my running days to Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  That means no more yoga classes at work as they're only on those days. Instead, I'm going to try out the weight classes that are at lunch time on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'll miss yoga but I'm looking forward to trying something new.

4. We've paid off the last of my husband's student loans. We had a decadent dinner and trip to see the Hobbit to celebrate.

5. Lunch plans for tomorrow include making my favorite grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!  I'll be blogging about it soon :)

What are you guys excited about today?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Races planned for 2014

I've been reading a lot of race reviews and trying to plan out my 14 races in 2014.  I figured I better start getting some specifics down since it seems like races can fill up early.  So here is my current list, which is of course subject to change.

MCRRC = Montgomery County Road Runners Club

January 1 MCRRC New Year's Day 5k (review)
February 2 Penguin Pace 5k (review)
March80s Retro Run 5k  (review)
March 8 volunteering at the MCRRC Seneca Creek Trail Marathon (review)
March 30 MCRRC Piece of Cake 5k (review)
AprilBen's Run 5k (review)
April 27 volunteering at the Nike Women's Half Marathon (review)
May 3 MCRRC Capital For a Day 5k
May 10 Semper Fi 5k (review)
June 14 Lawyer's Have Heart 10k (this seemed appropriate since I'm a lawyer and have a heart :) It will be my first race with a greater distance than 5k) (review)
July 19 Rockville Twilight 8k (Review)
August 9 Glo Run 5k (Review)
September Dash into the 80s 5k (Review)
October Disney World Tower of Terror 10 miler (Review)
November 14 Richmond Half Marathon (Review)
November MCRRC Run Under the Lights 5k Hurt foot
December MCRRC Jingle Bell Jog Flu
December Pacer's Jingle All the Way 5k (Review)

View from my window yesterday.  Hopefully none of the races will look like this!

So that's 11 races listed plus 2 where I'll be volunteering.  I might have to throw in a couple virtual races in the middle of the year to make it to 14.  (I signed up for the Nerd Herd Running's virtual race series so that's 3 virtual races for the year.) Here's to a great year of running!

Any races you're particularly excited about this year?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week in review

I had a decent week for running.  Tuesday was the first meeting with the Montgomery County Road Runners' beginning running group.  It started out with a meeting inside a local high school to talk about how the group would work, running in Winter, introductions, etc.  There are more than 75 people in the group so it's a lot of people!  I'll be writing about the group more in a future post once I have a few more runs in with them.  On this first day, we did get out to the track for a short run after the meeting.  I forgot to turn on my runkeeper app so I'm not sure of how far or pace.

I went to Ohio for the long weekend to visit my parents and brother.  It was freezing but thankfully my brother can take guests to his gym.  It was a super swanky gym with a pool, an indoor track, and even a movie theater you can work out in!  

The track running past a bank of windows
The track running past treadmills

Saturday, I ran on the treadmill while listening to podcasts about the recent marathon weekend at Disney World.  Around 2.4 miles in 40 minutes.

We went back to the gym on Sunday and I ran on the indoor track.  It was pretty cool because it ran around the other workout areas and you could see the machines, the pool, and the basketball court at various points.  I turned on runkeeper but it think it was having some GPS issues since I generally run much slower than this.

I also did some weights for my upper body and planks while at the gym on Sunday since I was too busy at work this past week for yoga.  Here's a photo of my brother working on his own weight lifting.

For this week coming up, I'm planning to run with the group on Tuesday and Saturday.  I'm a bit worried about Tuesday since it's supposed to be super cold again.  Thursday will be running on my own on the treadmill at the gym at work.  Wednesday and Sunday will be some sort of you tube or video workout.

I had a great time visiting family but I'm happy to be at home with purring kitties.  I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dal (lentils) and rice

Dal is a fairly traditional Indian lentil dish.  And it's something I make often for dinner.  It's tasty, economical, and healthy.  There are a lot of different variety of lentils and a lot of different ways to make dal.  I have to admit that I make it so often that I don't really follow a recipe anymore.  Here's a recipe that looks similar to the way I make it.  

I generally use red or green lentils and find it doesn't take as long to cook as indicated in the recipe, but you probably want to follow the recipe closely the first time making it.  I don't soak the lentils but just cook 1 cup of red lentils with half an onion in 2 cups of waters for 20 to 30 minutes.  I stir a couple times during the cooking and add more water if it looks like it's getting too dry.

About 5 minutes before the lentils are done I make up a flavored oil (or vagaar as my mom calls it).  I cook 1 tablespoon of oil with half a teaspoon of all of the following: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and smoked paprika.  I also add in a cinnamon stick and red chili flakes.  Once the seeds start sizzling and popping, I pour the oil and all the seasonings into the pot of lentils.  Be careful here because the oil is hot.  I love the sizzling sound the oil makes when it hits the lentils :)  Add in salt to taste and it's done!  It makes 4 servings.

I serve it over rice and top with raita, which is a yogurt sauce.  I use half a cup of Greek yogurt, grate in a quarter of a peeled cucumber, and add salt to taste.  Voila!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Playlist link up

Mar had a great idea for a linkup to talk about favorites on our playlist.  I definitely enjoy modern pop music like Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, etc. but I'm going to list some songs below that are a little older and still give me extra pep in my step :)

1.  Guns N' Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
2.  Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With Somebody
3. Wale - Chillin' 
4.  Shakira and Wyclef -  Hips Don't Lie
5.  Starship - We Built This City
6.  Prince - 1999
7.  M.I.A - Paper Planes
8.  Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
9.  The Guild - I'm the one That's Cool
10.  Michael Jackson - Bad

Talk about pep in my step!  Any favorites on your playlist I should check out?  I basically just have one long playlist that I always play on random.  It's different for each run but it might be time for a refresh.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Community and Volunteering

One of the things that attracted me to blogging as a way to record my running journey is the sense of community I saw in many of the blogs I was reading.  It seemed like a good way to contribute to the community instead of just reading what other people put out there.  The blog lets me share information about myself as well and engage in a dialogue.

Another way I'm hoping to be able to give back to this community is through volunteering at races.  Part of the training program through the Montgomery County Road Runners Club is that participants have to volunteer for at least one race.  I'm hoping to volunteer with several of their races this year.

I've also signed up to volunteer at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC.  If anyone is interested in volunteering for that race, the link is here.  If you're running the race, I hope to see you there!  I'll be at the post race water station.

And just for fun, here are some gratuitous kitty photos :)

This is Shelby, our independent lady.
And this is Perry, our loving boy.

If anyone has experience volunteering at a race, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week in review

Running was a mixed bag this week.  It was super cold the beginning of the week so I pushed my running of toward the end of the week.  Monday was a rest day and Tuesday was a yoga class during my lunch hour.  Wednesday was a rest day again.

Thursday was going to be my first run of the week.  It was still cold so I was planning on running on the treadmill at the gym at work.  But all the treadmills were taken.  In fact, I got the last elliptical.  This has never happened in the last 7 months I've been running.  I guess it's because it's January and everyone has resolutions.  I might have to try to get out of the office a few minutes early if I'm going to use the treadmill in Januray.

You can see that it was a gloomy day on Friday and that there were still some snow obstacles in the way.  I'm glad I had started the blog because I really didn't want to go out running since it was in the 30s.  But then I knew had to admit it in this post, so thanks for keeping me accountable!  Sadly, the cold air really did a number on me.  I kept breaking out into coughing fits.  I was  able to run the first interval but wasn't able to fully run any of the rest.  I ended up walking most of it, though I did get myself together to run up the last hill before my house.  I only ended up running 1.7 miles and an average pace of around 17 minutes per mile.

Saturday I tried a new YouTube workout, barre3.  It was great!  The movements were all really small but  repeated so much that I definitely felt it the next day.

Sunday, I had a great run!  The temperature was in the 50s and that made things go much better.  I went running on a trail near my house and it was beautiful with enough people to not feel isolated but not busy at all.  I ran all the intervals I was supposed to run.  And the last one, which was supposed to be 4 minutes running and 2 minutes walking, I ran the whole 6 minutes.  It ended up being 2.5 miles with an average pace of 14 minutes 7 seconds per mile.  I really enjoyed my run today, which is great because I want to enjoy my training as well as the races.

The plan for this week is the first meeting of my running group on Tuesday, and running on my own Friday and Sunday.  I'm missing the Saturday run with the group since I'll be in Ohio visiting family.  Yoga on Wednesday and Thursday.  I hope everyone had a great weekend and a great week ahead! Any big plans for the week or fun from the weekend?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

MCRRC New Years Day 5k

This is my review of my first race in 2014.   It was the Montgomery County Road Runners' New Years Day 5k.

I hadn't run for 10 days before the race because I was sick with allergies the whole time i was in Atlanta for Christmas. But I was still looking forward to this race to start off the year right. It was at Seneca Creek State Park and I was doing it with 2 friends. We had a great time.  We decided to walk the whole thing for multiple reasons, not the least of which was my lingering allergies.  I didn't want to break into a coughing fit and not be able to finish. 

(Photo from one of the official MCRRC photographers.  I'm on the right in the red jacket.  We had a great time so I don't know why we look so serious.)

The race was organized really well!  We got there and there was a volunteer to direct us to the parking area.  There were volunteers directing the parking.  We then walked (uphill) to get to the building for registration.  There were a lot of people but registering still went pretty quickly.  I was thinking it would only be around 50 people but it was several hundred.  I think an email sent after the race indicated it was over 400 people.  It was cold (mid to upper 30s) but we had layered up pretty well.  The race started just a few minutes late.  We let everyone else go first since we were walking.   I was a little worried that people would look down on us for walking but everyone was really nice, and we got a lot of encouraging comments, though we were literally the last people to finish.  Our pace ended up being around 17 minutes per mile.  

The photo is from MCRRC's website of a night race they did in December at the same location.

The course was hilly but beautiful. The park was lovely and their Christmas lights were still up.  You couldn't see the actual lights since it was daylight but you could see the framework for all the cool light shapes.  There was one water stop at the halfway mark.  There was oranges, bananas, muffins and juice for the runners afterward.  This was a great experience and a wonderful way to start 2014.  I became a member of the club and a lot of their races are free for members so I'm looking forward to more of their races this year.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Homemade granola

So I've been working on losing weight and it's been a slow but steady journey with Weight Watchers.  I'm ok with slow because I'm hoping that means it will be sustainable in the long term.  I've used several Weight Watchers recipes to try to find a healthy way to make something that I used to eat.

I've always had a weakness for cereal and especially granola.  I looked at the calorie count on one of those single serving boxes of granola once and decided it wasn't too bad.  It was only after I ate the whole thing that I noticed it said that there were 2 servings in that little box!  Needless to say, it cannot be a normal part of my diet anymore.  However, I found a Weight Watchers recipe to make my own granola and it works pretty well.

The recipe can be found here.  It's essentially mixing the oats and rice krispies and letting them bake.  While that's happening, you mix the oil, honey, apple juice, vanilla and cinnamon.  Take out the oats/rice krispies, add in the apple juice mixture and almonds, and put back in the oven to bake some more.  It's very easy.  The recipe calls for adding some dried fruit but I opted out of that in order to be able to add my own fresh or frozen fruit.

My breakfasts for the week have been 1/3 cup of the granola, 1 1/2 teaspoons of chia seeds, 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of almond milk just to thin it out, and top with whatever fruit and flavorings I want.  Apple and cinnamon is great at this time of year.  I've loved strawberry and vanilla in the summer.  I've had pineapple and coconut before when I've been in the mood for something tropical.  Sometimes I add splenda but if the fruit is sweet enough, the extra sweetener isn't even needed.

I'm always looking for more healthy breakfast ideas so feel free to share any of your favorites!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Races from 2013

I did two 5k fun runs in 2013, so I thought I'd do a quick review of both.

The first was the Color in Motion run. It was at R.F.K. Stadium in DC and was much more fun than I thought it would be. I did the run with two friends. I hadn't finished my couch to 5k program at that point and one of my friends was having problems with her knees so we decided to just walk the entire time. And it turned out that there were a lot of walkers during that event, so we certainly didn't feel self conscious about it. One of my friends lived close to the stadium so we drove in and just parked at her house. By the time we got to the start, it was maybe 20 minutes before the listed start time.

There was tons of energy at the start line and everyone seemed there to have a good time.  Everyone had packets of colored corn starch so there were clouds of colored powder in the air even before the run started.  Everyone was dancing, singing, and playing around with the colors.  It was really festive but the one downside is that accidental inhalation of the powder did not feel good!

I'm not sure how many people were released at one time but the timed release worked out pretty well.  The course never felt too crowded (except at the very beginning when we went past the starting line) but it never felt too empty either.  During the race, there were various points where the race volunteers were throwing color straight at you, and it was really concentrated in those sections.  The course itself was nothing to write home about because it was just through the stadium parking lot.

At the finish, we were handed bottles of water and there was another dance party with a D.J.  Again, the energy was great and everyone was having a lot of fun.  There were also multiple food trucks selling yummy looking food, and they seemed to be doing a brisk business given the length of the lines!  I would definitely do this run again.  If anyone is thinking about it, I got a discounted ticket through Groupon so definitely something to watch out for.

My second race of 2013 was the Living Social 5k Dance Party.  I was planning to do this with a friend who is a runner, and my husband and another friend who were planning to walk it.  Sadly, that friend wasn't able to do it at the last minute and we didn't want to leave Mike walking by himself so we all walked this one as well.  See a theme starting here?

Sadly, I didn't enjoy this one as much.  The race was at the exact same location, R.F.K. Stadium.  Again, the course was just through the parking lot so nothing to write home about.  I think the main reason I didn't enjoy it as much was that the energy just wasn't there for this one.  I'm not sure if there were fewer people than expected or it just wasn't planned out right, but there were parts where it felt almost empty.  Also, I think the description oversold it.  It talked about music on the whole course, tons of light, a party-like atmosphere, etc.  There were some light tunnels and music in those sections, but that was about it.

There was also a dance party after the race at the armory.  Again, it was a bit of a let down.  The D.J. was playing a weird mix of music, the venue was too big for the number of people there, and the food smells were unappetizing after the race.  Overall, the experience was ok and I had fun, but I wouldn't do this one again.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Weekly running recap

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I had a bit of a tough week for running. I was sick over Christmas and that continued into this past week. So my first run of the new year was the New Year's Day 5k I had signed up to do with friends. I was still getting over being sick, and it was a first race for one of my friends, so we just decided to walk the whole thing.  So it didn't end up being a run at all.

Thursday, it started snowing in the afternoon.  So I went to the gym at work and ran on the treadmill. I ran about 2.7 miles according to the treadmill at a 1% incline.  I'm currently running intervals of 4 minutes running and 2 minutes walking.  My third interval I only ended up running three minutes.  But I was feeling pretty good on the last interval so ended up running 5 minutes for that one!  Overall, I was happy with the evening's run.

Sunday, I went out thinking to run.  I knew this week was going to be pretty cold so I wanted to try to get a run in outdoors while the temperature was above freezing.  But the ground still had icy patches and I decided it would be safer to just work out inside.  I don't have a treadmill at home but we do have an elliptical machine.  I know it's not the same but it seemed to be the safest option.

I had a pretty good workout on the elliptical.  And since it wasn't actually a run and I didn't have to worry about making it back home, I pushed myself on the intensity.  Since my main goal for this Winter is to improve my conditioning, I think it contributed to that goal.

I also managed to get in a yoga workout on Friday.  The plan for this week is running on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday as well as yoga on Tuesday and Thursday.  I hope everyone has a great running week!

Sunday, January 5, 2014


It's the start of a new year and a time that a lot of people think about resolutions. I like to think about it in terms of goals instead and I use My 50 to track and document my goals.  It allows you to set individual deadlines for goals as well as keep track of finished goals (with a photo if you want).

Here's a photo of us accomplishing one of our goals (though I'm not sure why we don't look happier!).

My running goals for the year include doing 14 races in 2014 and gradually increase my distance.  I'm planning on a 10k in June, a 10 miler in October (at Disney World!), and a half marathon by the end of the year.  I'm planning on using the Winter to improve my conditioning and I've joined a beginning running group to help with that.  The group starts in mid-January and I'm definitely excited!  It's through the Montgomery County Road Runners and I'll be sure to update everyone on how it goes!

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's a beginning

I started my running journey around the middle of last year. Now that I've gotten a little further into it, I figure a blog would be a great way to start documenting this journey. I have several purposes I'd like to achieve with this blog. The first is to simply keep a record of my running, hopefully my progress, races, thing that work or don't work, etc. shadows at the national mall A journey begins...

The second reason I'm doing this as a blog is community. After all, I could just keep a journal in a notebook otherwise. I've learned so much from reading other people's running blogs and they've been so helpful! I also love the sense of community that I've seen and experienced through these blogs and the comments. Everyone is so supportive! Is want to contribute more to this community than just comments. And I am still at the beginning of my journey so hopefully I can help out other people that might be at a similar stage :)

A little about me... I'm 36 years old and live in a suburb of Washington, DC. I started running as part of a quest to improve my health. I'd gained 20 pounds since my wedding and just tested high for cholesterol. This was not acceptable! In addition to running, I joined weight watchers since we had meetings at work and I've lost 13 pounds with them so far. One more pound and I'll have lost 10% of my starting weight. I've been a vegetarian my while life but a diet of pizza and pasta is definitely not a healthy one!

I've done three 5k races since I started running. I'm a pretty slow runner but I'm working on distance and endurance now, speed later. I'll have another post soon about my goals for races this year.