January 26, 2015

How to Survive Winter Running

There are a million and one posts on this topic floating around the internet, but after toughing it out through the snow and wind on my run yesterday, I decided I wanted to share my own tips for winter running.
1. Find a beautiful place with clear paths to run
The biggest thing that helped me transition from a fair-weather runner to an all-weather runner was finding a place where I could run year-round.  Before, once snow covered my favorite trails and bike paths leaving me with only the slushy street to run on, it was tough to find the motivation to get outside.  Last winter I joined a local arboretum where the quiet roads are kept clear.  Between the amazing scenery and the opportunity to run on a clear road with minimal cars, I'm much more pumped to get out there!
2. Invest in some good shoes and yak trax
Last year I got my first pair of YakTrax and immediately wondered what had took me so long to buy them!  They're a lifesaver on icy winter roads.
Check out my YakTrax!  #lifesaver

This winter, though, I bought a pair of trail shoes.  Oh my gosh, another awesome investment!  They are perfect for days when it's slushy or icy out, but there isn't enough snow for yaktrax.  I also love how much drier my feet stay in these compared to my regular running shoes.
Absolutely love my Brooks Pure Grits.  Perfect trail shoes for anyone who likes a lightweight feel but is still looking for serious traction.

3. Get a few high quality pieces of winter running apparel
Here's what you need: Warm fleece-lined tights, thick socks (love the Smart Wool pair I got this winter), warm base layer turtleneck, light jacket, something to keep your neck warm, and gloves or mittens.
I bought this lululemon neck warmer last winter--it's great for keeping my face warm on windy days!

4. Protect your skin
I ALWAYS carry chapstick or carmex when running in the winter because my lips get so dry.  Also, moisturizer/sunscreen is a must.  Wind can do a number on your skin in winter, and the sun can still be fierce, especially when it reflects off the snow.  On super cold/windy days, though, I go one step further--coat my face with a little bit of Vaseline.  My skin was so chapped last winter that this was the only thing that saved it!

5.  Find some all-weather running buddies!
Nothing is quiet as motivating on a cold, snowy day than knowing your friends are meeting you for your miles. :)

January 18, 2015

Race Recap: Disney Marathon

Marathon #3 is on the books!  Sunday, January 11th I finished my third 26.2 in the happiest place on Earth--and revisited the site of my very first half marathon four years ago!

Six word race recap:
Running Buddy, Humid Weather, Finished Strong.

Now the full version.  Honestly, this race recap feels hard to write!  After the surprise proposal in Disney last Friday, the race that took place two days later felt like an after thought and a blur!  I'll do my best, though!

Thursday I arrived in Florida and hit up the race expo with my Dad.  I was very impressed with the organization of the event.  Disney used two huge event spaces at the Wide World of Sports, so it didn't feel crowded ever.  I didn't even have to wait in a line to get my bib or shirt.  We browsed a little, and while I resisted buying one of the many awesome finishers shirts, I of course bought two headbands.  Naturally.
Sunday morning came with a bright  dark and early 2:30am wake up call.  YAWN.  I got dressed and ready, sunscreened up, and hopped on the first shuttle from my hotel to the start line.  If you are doing a Disney race at any point, I highly recommend staying on property.  The shuttles to the expo and to and from the race are awesome.  Once I got to the race site, I waited around for an hour and a half or so before my running buddy, Cathy, and I started the long trek to our corrals.  Cathy said we'd logged almost two miles before the race even started!  

The start of a Disney race is truly special, with fireworks instead of a starting gun.  Cathy and I stuck to our plan of running 3/1 intervals and held a pretty consistent 11:30ish pace.  We ran the five miles from just outside of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom.  Almost immediately after the start, I had to use the restroom, but the lines at the porta potties were ridiculous as they usually are at the start of a race!  Soooo...I can now say that I've peed behind a tree on Disney property.  #classact  

Before we knew it, we were in the Magic Kingdom!  This is definitely the best part of any Disney race.  I still remember the elation I felt running down Main Street during my first half marathon, the 2011 Princess Half, and the novelty certainly hasn't worn off!  When you're running and catch your first glimpse of the castle, it feels pretty amazing.  Some highlights of the Magic Kingdom: Seeing my brand new fiance cheering for me on Main Street, running through Cinderella's castle, and running past the spot where I'd gotten engaged two days before.  Loved it!
The race temporarily loses a little spark after the Magic Kingdom because it's a fairly long trek to park #2, Animal Kingdom.  However, during that time we got to run along the track of the Disney Speedway which was pretty cool!  They had brought out a bunch of race cars and classic cars, and Cathy and I welcomed the distraction.  After that, our next stop was Animal Kingdom!  While we didn't hop off the course to ride the Everest ride (many runners actually do, believe it or not!!), this park was great to run through.  I love all of the unique decorative touches in Animal Kingdom that make you feel like you're in Nepal or Africa depending on which corner you turn around.  

On our way out, I spotted my family!  I ran off the course to get a quick kiss from my niece which I swear gave me a little energy boost. :)
After Animal Kingdom, we ran a several mile stretch before arriving in the Wide World of Sports.  This was the meat and potatoes of the marathon for Cathy and me, and the humidity that'd been plaguing us all morning turned to rain.  I don't usually mind running in rain, but in the latter miles of a marathon, I can't say I welcomed the wet shoes!!  Cathy and I stuck together up until mile 19 when she encouraged me to go ahead.  I picked up my pace a little bit and continued on with my mind focused on just getting to Hollywood Studios, the next park.
Running through Hollywood Studios was pretty darn cool.  I loved running though the area the Back Lot Tour ride travels through, running by the giant Sorcerer's Apprentice hat, and running down the New York City mock movie set.  Sometime around this point I stopped taking my walk breaks, and instead only walked when I took water.  That was definitely challenging, but I knew that I'd run the first 19 miles conservatively and had plenty of energy left in the tank for a strong finish.  

After Hollywood Studios, it was only a few short miles to Epcot and the race finish.  By this point I was really wanting to see my fiance and family.  My energy was definitely getting low, although my legs still felt good!  (No one is more shocked by this fact than me.)  I absolutely loved the run through Epcot, especially the world showcase.  Running by the Eiffel Tower, Mayan pyramid, and other famous sites from around the world was pretty darn cool.  And in the last mile from the finish line, there were my fans!  Seeing them gave me the extra boost I needed to dig deep and finish strong.
 I gave it everything I had and crossed the finish line with tears and a smile, as always. :)
Final finish time: 5:04:57
I felt great about this time considering I took it easy the first 19 miles and my training wasn't what it should have been.  However, my Garmin clocked 26.7 miles--an extra half mile!!  If I'd finished at 26.2 on the dot, I definitely would have come in under 5 hours!  Note to self: run the tangents.
After the marathon, I decided to forego a nap/recovery in favor of maximizing my Disney time.  We hit up Hollywood Studios and ended the night in Epcot, toasting our engagement in "Paris." 
Sporting compression sleeves, my medal, and my "Just Engaged!" button.  :) 
All in all, it was another great race and the perfect end to a perfect weekend.  I came to Florida with my eye on this amazing Mickey Medal, and left with the medal + something sparkly for my ring finger.  Not bad. :)  

And now, since it's the first time since last February that I'm not actively training for a race, I need a break!!!

January 16, 2015

Went to Florida for a medal...Came home with a ring!

Hey friends!  I had a very exciting weekend last week, and I can't wait to tell you all about it!  In a nutshell: Flew-to-Florida-for-Disney-Marathon-boyfriend-surprised-me-I-said-yes!  Phew!
Ready for the real story?  Telling it never gets old. :)
I escaped the bitter Chicago cold last Thursday morning on a plane headed for Florida.  Even though training through the winter did a number on me, I'd been looking forward to running the Disney Marathon (My third 26.2) since I registered in April.  I also couldn't wait to spend the weekend with my parents who were also coming down, as well as my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids who call the Sunshine State home.  I'd invited my boyfriend to come along for the weekend, but he told me that it was a busy time after the holidays and would be kind of a long trip to watch a marathon.  No worries!  I said goodbye to him at the airport Thursday morning, and he promised he'd be at my next race.  I hopped on a plane in -8 degree Chicago weather, more than ready for some family time, running, sunshine, and Disney magic!
Riding the rocket ships in Tomorrowland with Dad!

My family spent Friday at the Magic Kingdom where I had a blast playing with my niece and nephew and catching up with my brother and sister-in-law.  I will always love Disney, but it is even more fun when you're there with a little kid!  We took a brief stop back at the hotel in the afternoon to layer on more clothes (it was chilly!) and give the kids (and me...) a little nap break before heading back to the Magic Kingdom around 4.  Heading for the Haunted Mansion ride, we walked through the entrance to the park and over the bridge next to Cinderella's castle when I heard my name.  I looked up and saw my boyfriend walking towards me!  Honestly, according to him he had to call my name several times because I looked right past him!  I certainly wasn't expecting to see him there!  It took me a few seconds of staring at him for it to sink in that he was really here in Florida, and I must have asked him what he was doing there 5 times.  
Crying like a baby just from seeing him

I started crying almost immediately as he told me that he was here to see my race, and would never miss it.  "Of course I came.  I told you I'd be at your next race.  I'll always be there for you," he told me--or something like that, my emotional memory is a little fuzzy!  I couldn't believe he'd flown to Florida to surprise me in Disney World the weekend of my marathon.  I have never been so surprised in my life!
Can I just say that it's probably perfect that I'm wearing running shoes and a running jacket?  

As shocked as I was to see him there, never in a million years did I expect there to be more to the surprise--but there was!  Superstitious marathon runners that the two of us are, he said, "I know it's bad luck to wear anything new for a race, but I'm hoping you'll make an exception."  And in that second as he reached into his pocket, it finally clicked.  He pulled out a ring, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him in front of my family, Cinderella's castle, and a crowd of random strangers.  I about lost my mind crying, shaking, and saying, "YES!  OF COURSE!!"    

  We spent the rest of the day wandering around Disney, then headed to Downtown Disney in the evening to celebrate with some champagne.  The perfect end to a perfect day.
After that, running the marathon Sunday seemed like such an afterthought!  I still cannot believe that this all happened.  It truly felt like a Disney fairytale!
 Disney Magic :) 

December 31, 2014

2014 Reflection, 2015 Goals

2014 treated me pretty well.  No need to go month-by-month with a reflection, but I'd say some highlights are definitely in order.  (If only because I like to go back and reread them later on.) :)

In 2014, I took a trip to Texas, two trips to Florida, and a ridiculous amount of trips to Wisconsin.  
Trail Running in Austin, TX
I finished my 5th year teaching and kicked off my 6th. 
All packed up on the last day of school--5 years down!
I managed to get a little bit faster and set a whole bunch of PRs--5K, 8K, Half Marathon, Sprint Triathlon, and of course Marathon.  Phew.  
Just yards away from PRing at the Chi Town Half Marathon
 I raced my first Olympic Triathlon, and while I didn't love the bike leg, I still loved the distance.

I closed out the year having run 12 races and a total of over 1,000 miles which is definitely a new record for me.  2014 for the win!
I set a few goals for 2014 this time last year--let's see how I did!

Goal 1: Continue learning sign language
Outcome: Pass! I had a great time continuing to work on improving my signing this year.  I worked with interpreter friends, signed with my Deaf and hard of hearing students daily, and took a community college class in ASL this summer.  I've truly loved the experience, and I can't wait to continue learning in 2015!
Goal 2: Finish my second marathon and set a PR
Outcome: Pass!  Running the Milwaukee Marathon in October and setting a 50 minute PR was definitely one of the highlights of my year.
Goal 3: Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon
Outcome: Pass!  I completed the Pleasant Prairie Olympic Triathlon back in July and had a great race despite the less than ideal weather conditions throughout the first two legs!

Goal 4: Incorporate EdModo and/or Blogging into my classroom
Outcome: Partial Pass  I did use EdModo in place of my reading response journals throughout the second half of last year, but I got frustrated that I kept losing our laptop computers every time we completed school wide testing.  This year I never implemented EdModo because of the same situation.  I liked it, but it felt like it wasn't worth the trouble and inconsistency.  If I had more consistent computer access, I would definitely try it again.

Goal 5: Try 12 new recipes
Outcome: Partial Pass  Almost every year I set a cooking related goal, and almost every year I abandon it.  I didn't keep track of all my new recipes this year, but I did try at least a handful of new things.  Mostly soups and chilis. :)  Oh well!
I did cook a few times this year...does that count?
Goal 6: Run a trail race
Outcome: Pass!  I ran the Frozen Gnome 10K trail race last January, my 4th trail race.  During the race I learned both the importance of trail shoes and that I never need to do another winter trail race again.  (The other trail race I did, Cross Country Challenge a few years back, was also in Winter.  What is wrong with me?)  I had a great time, though, and it made for some good memories!
Goal 7: Try clipless pedals on my bike
Outcome: Pass!  I got my new pedals and shoes in April, and I love them!  I didn't even fall once getting used to them.  (Although I did have a few close calls!) 

Goal 8: Persevere!
Outcome: Definite Pass. :)

I really only have one goal for 2015, and it's a big one.  Are you ready for it????

I am simultaneously ridiculously excited and scared out of my mind.  

Good bye, 2014!  2015--BRING IT ON!

Happy New Year :)

December 9, 2014

Year of Running 2014

Because I'm a sucker for a good "reflect on the year" post, I'm linking up with Miss Zippy to share my Year of Running 2014 recap.
Best Race Experience: So easy--the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon.  Not only did I crush my time from my first marathon and set a huge PR, but I had one of the most perfect race days I can remember.  I felt so much love for running during this race!  Beautiful course and just an amazing race experience overall.
Best Run: I'm tempted to say Milwaukee again, but I'm going to pick the run portion of the Pleasant Prairie Tri back in June.  This race was tough overall because of a foggy swim and a windy, rainy bike leg, but everything fell into place during the run.  The sun came out, the scenery was beautiful, and I felt awesome.  
Best new piece of gear:  This is an easy one!  I ADORE the two new Swirlgear tops I bought this year.  They are hands down the best running tops I've ever owned.  Light, functional, and just plain pretty.  I was so bummed to find out Swirlgear will no longer be produced, though!  :(  Fingers crossed that this great company finds a way to get its feet back on the ground someday in the future!
Best piece of running advice you received: Hmmm...I'm not sure about a specific advice, but an overall theme of the year for my running and racing has been to just go for it!  I'm lucky to have so many runners who always support me and encourage me to take on my next challenge--don't be shy and go for the PR, take on a new tri distance, just go for it!  

Most inspirational runner: Again, I'm lucky to have so many great runners in my life, but the girls in my running group this summer just plain have so much heart.  They inspire me every day to get out there do it!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? This one I'm stealing from Miss Zippy!  I don't need a couple of words; one is more than enough!  Joyful. :)

What word(s) would you use to sum up your year of running?

November 7, 2014

I Cooked!!

After attending a blogger cooking class at Whole Foods the other Sunday, I was inspired to do a little cooking at home.  For those of you who know me IRL, you are probably picking your jaws up off the floor.  It's true though, I voluntarily spend my Saturday evening cooking!  After loving the vegetable marinara sauce we made at Whole Foods, I decided to try making it at home.

One change I made to the sauce was to add a small zucchini and a small yellow squash.  Since I subscribe to the "the more veggies the better!" philosophy, I loved this addition.  I just diced the squash and zucchini and added them to the sauce when I added the other veggies.

Other than the additions, I followed the recipe that we used at the cooking class (see below).  This included a whole bunch of fresh, diced tomatoes.  They were yummy, but cutting them was a lot of work!  The next time I make this sauce, I will most likely used canned tomatoes or at the very least a mix of fresh and canned. 
The sauce turned out great, and the extra veggies were a great addition.  I did think that it could have used a little bit of heat, though.  Who doesn't love a spicy marinara sauce?  I will try adding some crushed red pepper next time too.  And there will definitely be a next time! 
And now for the full recipe, courtesy of Chef Sarah Kurysz and Whole Foods Market Northbrook:
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 handful spinach, chopped
  • 8 tomatoes, diced including all juices
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 1 T oregano, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place diced onion with olive oil in a medium sauce pan.  Saute until translucent and turning brown.  Add diced garlic and continue to saute until dark brown and very soft.  If it gets too dry, add water to keep everything moist.

Add all remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper, and 1 cup water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Cook on high until carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.

Remove cover and allow sauce to cook down and thicken.  Taste, and add salt and pepepr as necessary.

Serve as is, with vegetable chunks, or puree using a blender.

Thanks again, Chef Sarah, for hosting our cooking class and for allowing me to share this tasty recipe!
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