Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review

In a year that was pockmarked by family illnessesmajor life changes, new realities, and civic unrest, running remained a bright spot and a source of happiness and fulfillment.  Focused on running alone, I couldn't be more pleased with 2014.  The one goal I set for myself for the year was to run a half marathon. I tackled that in April then went one better by adding another in October.  During the training process, I learned how to fuel, recover, and cross train in order to find race day success.

2014 also brought me oodles of support from running friends near and far.  Emily and I logged TONS of miles together, racing side by side for both 13.1 adventures and all the training miles that brought us to those starting lines.  I'm soooo lucky to have such an amazing BRF who lives a mere 22 houses away :)  I also met loads of BAMRs through Strava, and I cannot even begin to express their huge role in my running success.  They keep me motivated, inspired, and entertained.  If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be in Strava-ville.  So many positive people working to better themselves and encourage others to do the same.  Love, love, love!!

My BRF, Emily, who provides miles of laughter, companionship, and motivation.
Besides tackling new distances and solidifying friendships, 2014 also brought several big PRs at a variety of distances.  In July, I set a 10k PR on a hilly course.  I surprised myself in September with a smoking 5k PR, which gave me an age group award, too.  To round out the fall, Emily and I set a half marathon PR in October, blowing our April time out of the water.  Lots of hard work and many miles went into those PRs, and I couldn't be prouder of them.

5k age group award.  I'm ridiculously proud of this little medal.
When I wasn't setting PRs, I worked to expand my running comfort zone.  Formerly a sufferer of new route phobia, I broke free of that in June during my memorable run commute.  I ran 7 miles home from work just ahead of a massive thunderstorm; badass doesn't even begin to cover how I felt at the end of that run.  I continued to enjoy running in new places by running during our family beach vacation in July.  Sunrise run with a beach view?  Yes, please!  But the most memorable runs of the year were in August during our Alaskan cruise.  Running on the cruise ship was an experience unto itself with round-and-round monotony broken up by breathtaking views and crisp fresh air - and quizzical looks from the few passengers up in the wee hours to witness my endless laps.

A beach shoe selfie - a lovely end to my week of running in paradise.
Looking ahead, I'm excited to see what 2015 will bring.  I'm training for my first marathon in April - a guaranteed PR!  I'm looking forward to the marathon journey both in training and on race day.  I have no idea what those miles will hold, but I can't wait to find out!  In the fall, Emily and I want to try for a new half marathon PR.  Solo, I'm not sure that I could do it, but I think we can work together to make it happen. 

What were your 2014 highlights? Any big goals on the horizon for 2015?

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Road to 26.2: Week 3

Whew, what a whirlwind week!  Parties, church, and Santa, then endless reading of directions, finding missing Barbie shoes, and assembling Legos.  All good things to be sure (well, except the Barbie shoes), but just a bit hectic.  Fortunately, this was a cutback week on my training plan, so my overall mileage was on the low side.  Full disclosure: one reason I picked this training plan was because of the less demanding mileage during this busy week of the year.  My week's workouts in review:

Monday (12/22):  3 mile run.
Another rainy Monday!  We changed up our favorite Christmas light route to add a few more streets.  I'm going to miss the lights when this season is over.

Running selfie with Emily along Candy Cane Lane.

Tuesday (12/23):  walk and strength work.
A rare dry and sunny day found the kids and me itching to get out of the house.  We strolled around the neighborhood, checking out our favorite Christmas decorations, taking notes (literally!) of interesting sights, and meeting friendly dogs.  I did some legs and core strength work when we got back, which amused the Little Lady to no end.
Wednesday (12/24):  5 mile run.
Continuing the Wednesday tradition, I ran the early miles with Emily and then tacked on a few solo miles.
Thursday (12/25):  walk and mini yoga.
While the kids and hubby napped, I snuck out to enjoy a peaceful, sunny walk through the neighborhood while testing out my new gadget: a TomTom Runner GPS watch.  Reluctant to leave the unseasonably warm sunshine, I did a mini yoga session on my back porch.  My neighbors probably think I'm nuts...
Friday (12/26):  3 mile run and strength work.
Heavy post-Christmas legs made for a slow run, but it felt so good to get moving after the holiday madness.  I added some legs, core, and arm work after the run.
Saturday (12/27):  6 mile run.
Ugly but over.  As a relatively short distance for a long run, I expected this to be a piece of cake.  Boy, was I wrong.  But I finished it, complained about it, and am now moving on.
Sunday (12/28):  REST!
A supremely lazy day.  I appreciated using this day to recover mentally from the frustrating run on Saturday and to make a dent in laundry mountain, which had stacked up a bit during the holiday week.

The tree, week 3, still hanging onto its leaves.
The gloomy sky matched my mood.

Considering the holiday and other unusual activities in the week, I'm satisfied with this week of training.  Still not as much yoga as I'd like and my holiday food choices were certainly not the best, but frankly, I expected things to be much worse.  As before, I would like to tackle yoga twice in the coming week and get my food intake back on track.  Must step away from the cookies ;)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Not So Sweet Six

For some reason, six mile runs are not my friend.  They feel short enough that I don't spend much time preparing for them mentally, but they are long enough that I can't really fake them.  My fueling strategies are challenged.  Miles three and four just drag on forever.  Why do they taunt me so?

Six miles has really always been my nemesis.  When I first started ramping up my mileage in 2012, I plateaued around six mile long runs for several weeks.  I just couldn't get over the hump - mentally more so than physically.  I finally broke through, but it took a concerted effort.  And six continues to taunt me today.  This very day, in fact, I found myself facing my old foe six.

It was a dreary morning, and no part of me wanted to leave my warm bed at 5:45 to get ready for my run.  I nearly convinced myself to postpone the run until tomorrow, but dreary as it was, today's weather looked more promising than tomorrow's, so I forced myself out the door.

My new AMR gear: the one bright spot in today's run.

The run started off fine enough.  I was happy to be outside and to have a few moments to myself.  I quickly discovered, however, that I was not such a fun person to be around.  I was inexplicably crabby, feeling annoyed with the weather (not quite rain but not quite not rain) and tired of dodging ankle-deep puddles.  I was listening to a fabulously upbeat and positive podcast featuring the incredible Olympian and mother runner Deena Kastor, yet I couldn't stop myself from spiraling further into a funk.

Around mile four, I challenged myself to finish with negative splits, an attempt to salvage something useful from the gloomy morning.  That idea changed my mental focus enough that I could (finally!) settle into the run.  And I did it!  I managed to finish with a strong effort and completed the run with picture-perfect negative splits.

All's well that ends well, but I hope I can improve my relationship with that number which is afraid of seven (you know the joke, right?).  I have many midweek six's on deck in this training cycle, and I certainly don't want to suffer through each of them the way I suffered through today's run.  Is there any particular distance that taunts you?  How do you power through those tough runs?

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Road to 26.2: Week 2

Hard to believe but week two of this journey is in the books!  Last week was filled with Christmas preparations, last-minute school projects, and unsuccessful shopping trips (I'm a site-to-store failure!), but I managed to complete my workouts mostly as planned.  Besides Friday's shortened cross-training, I had a successful workout week, which looked like this:

Monday (12/15):  3 mile run.
Unexpected rainfall added some extra excitement to our usual neighborhood loop, but I'll take rain over ice and snow any day.
Tuesday (12/16):  yoga and strength work.
Some peaceful early morning yoga by the Christmas tree followed by strength work for my core and arms.  A great start to a busy day!
Wednesday (12/17):  5 mile run.
As we did last week, I ran the early miles with Emily and then tacked on a few solo miles.
Thursday (12/18):  3 mile run and strength work.
Easy neighborhood miles with Emily plus legs and core strength work.
Friday (12/19):  strength work.
The workout that almost wasn't: a Thursday night baking fail found me making cookies rather than doing yoga at 5:00am.  It was a jam-packed day, but I managed to fit in some legs and core strength work in the early evening.  Not ideal but good enough.
Saturday (12/20):  9 mile run.
Running solo, I set out to explore some parks I've never run to before.  I didn't map out the route in advance (an oddity for this Type A gal) and just headed out with a loose idea of where I hoped to go.  I ended up tracing a path around 4 nearby parks, which landed me at 9.3 miles.
Sunday (12/21):  REST!
A day off from running and other workouts but not exactly a restful day.  A busy day of Christmas prep and cookie baking left me as tired as if I'd logged a double-digit run!

When I looked back over my first week of training, I noticed that yoga was absent, and I wanted to fix that this week.  Yoga does wonders to keep my body aligned and healthy and to keep me running strong.  I had hoped to do yoga twice this week, and though I had to settle for just once, I know my body is the happier for it.  I'll keep striving to make yoga a priority this training cycle.

My neighbor's tree, week 2: still clinging to the last of its leaves.

Big life lesson from this week's long run: eat even if it feels like a pain in the neck to do so!  Mentally, I know that I should fuel for any run over an hour and that I should take that first fuel after about 45 minutes or so.  I've read it a million times.  I've heard other runners talk about it.  But I get into a zone and don't want to break my stride to do it.  On Saturday, around mile 5.5, I started feeling crabby, a clear indicator that my tank was running low, but I didn't feel like stopping to eat.  By mile 6.5, I knew I wouldn't make it through the final miles without additional fuel, so I took a short walk break to ingest a few calories and then resumed my run.  Wouldn't you know it, a few minutes later, I felt like a million bucks!  I felt stronger for miles 7-9 than I had for 5-7.  Without even trying, my final miles were the fastest of the whole run.  I've done plenty of long runs in the past, so inherently, I KNOW what fueling my body needs; I just need to get better at acting upon the plan.  This week provided such a clear lesson on the benefits of fueling and the immediate improvement it provides.  Now to remember it on my next long run...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Running through the Holidays

When our social calendars fill in November and December, it seems natural that things like exercise might take a back seat.  The days become gridlocked with parties, cookie baking, Christmas card writing, and shopping.  Who has time to workout when there are so many other things on the to-do list?  Why try to fit one more thing into an already overcrowded schedule?  For me, the answer is a no-brainer: I continue to make time for my workouts to maintain my sanity and some sense of normalcy during these months that are anything but.

I'm on a training plan this holiday season, so my attention is particularly focused, but even in past, non-training plan years, I've enjoyed running during the holiday season.  Amidst the hubbub, running keeps me grounded and helps me feel balanced, something I desperately need during this season of too much sugar and too little sleep.  On my morning run, I can clear my head and return ready to tackle the wrapping, baking, and shopping.  And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that running helps me feel (less) guilty over indulging in the all-too-abundant treats hanging around my house ;)

Yoga by the Christmas tree (with one of my favorite pairs of wild socks):
a great way to find balance at this time of year.

I'm certainly not casting stones at those who choose to pause their workout plans during the holidays.  If taking a break from your fitness routine can help you return rejuvenated and refreshed in the new year, then go for it!  But for me, running and yoga are key to my holiday happiness.  I enjoy the extras and the once-a-year events, but I also crave little pieces of my humdrum normal life.  Lacing up my running shoes is that little piece of normalcy that gives me the stamina to forge through all of the extras.

Do you take a break or run through the holidays?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Road to 26.2: Week 1

One week down on my marathon training journey, and I'm feeling quite good.  The training load this week was fairly close to my maintenance routine, so it felt like an easy start to the training plan.  My first week workouts looked like this:

Monday (12/8):  Cross training and strength work.
I walked for 45 minutes at a brisk pace and did 15 minutes of body-weight strength training: squats, core, and ceremonial push-ups.  An anticlimactic but important start to the training plan.
Tuesday (12/9):  3 mile run.
Emily and I took our usual 3-mile morning run.  Though I nearly overslept, I made it just in time and counted that as a victory.
Wednesday (12/10):  5 mile run.
I ran 3 with Emily and then added a couple more on my own.  The miles felt too quiet and a bit lonely after we parted ways.  For the past year, 93% of my runs have been with my BRF, so it will take some time to get used to the solo miles.
Thursday (12/11):  Cross training and strength work.
Plagued by kid germs, I walked for an hour on our treadmill and did 15 minutes of body-weight strength training: squats, lunges, core.
Friday (12/12):  3 mile run.
Easy neighborhood route with Emily.
Saturday (12/13):  8 mile run and strength work.
Emily joined me for 6 then I added a couple extra solo miles.  Later, while the kids napped, I did 15 minutes of strength work, focusing on core and arms.
Sunday (12/14):  REST!
A much-needed day off from working out.  I'm feeling good, but my body appreciated the break.

The biggest lessons I learned this week related to food.  Around mile 4 of Wednesday's 5-miler, I remembered that I need to eat more before any run over 3 miles.  As an early morning runner, I can get away without fueling before a 3-miler, but beyond that, I need some extra calories.  I'll remember to grab a banana before this week's middle distance run.  I also made a concerted effort this week to improve my daytime eating habits.  I've gotten lax with my food choices, especially at lunch time.  Finally admitting that chocolate chips are not adequate lunch food, I'm trying to take more time to make better decisions about my mid-day meal.

My neighbor's tree, one of my favorites.
All in all, it was a solid week of training, and I'm happy to have the first week of the plan under my belt.  At the end of Saturday's long run, I stretched my calves on our front steps and thought about how 18 weeks feels both long and short: a long time to focus on one race, a short time in the grand scheme of life.  During my reverie, I snapped a picture of my neighbor's tree, thinking that both it and I will change remarkably over the next several months.  I hope to capture a picture of the tree each week as an external sign of the passage of time and progress towards the starting line.  Here's to hoping I can follow through on that plan ;)

Friday, December 12, 2014

By Degrees: What to Wear when the Temperatures Dip

Part of my evening ritual includes scanning the next morning's weather to see what I'll encounter on my run.  Taking the hourly forecast at face value, I pull out what I need to wear and make a tidy stack in the bathroom where I can stumble into it without further thought.  At 4:30am, I can muster enough brain cells to pile on the layers onto my body, but I can't think clearly enough to make clothing decisions.

I've joked for a while that I need to make a chart that would tell me what layers to wear based on the temperature.  Instead of wasting minutes pondering what would work best at 30*, I could just reference my chart, make the pile, and go to bed.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was actually a good idea, not just a joke, and I thought some of you might appreciate the details, too.  As a disclaimer, I am, of course, in no way qualified to give advice on cold weather running or fashion (definitely not fashion!).  But the following guidelines work for me, and if you are wondering what to wear in the cold months ahead, take a gander.

A sea of black with isolated pink: my winter running staples.

When temperatures are in the 50s:
We don't see many 50* days in winter around here, but when they show up, I like to wear:
  • capris
  • long sleeve technical shirt
  • vest
  • regular wicking running socks

When temperatures are in the 40s:
I love 40* runs!  The air feels fresh, my legs are speedy, and it doesn't take me hours to dress.  My usual layers include:
  • capris (in the upper 40s) or running tights (in the lower 40s)
  • long sleeve technical shirt
  • vest
  • wool running socks
  • gloves and ear warmers

When temperatures are in the 30s:
30* still feels pretty good to me, at least once I get going.  To stay warm at this temperature, I wear:
  • fleece-lined running tights
  • long sleeve technical shirt
  • vest
  • wool running socks
  • gloves, ear warmers, and arm warmers

When temperatures are in the 20s:
This starts to be the point at which I dislike outdoor runs: too many layers and too much cold air for my lungs.  But when I prefer frozen lungs to treadmill boredom, I keep warm(ish) with:
  • fleece-lined running tights
  • long sleeve technical shirt
  • short sleeve technical shirt
  • vest
  • wool running socks
  • gloves, ear warmers, arm warmers, and a balaclava

When temperatures are in the 10s:
These are usually the lowest temperatures we see, and fortunately, we don't usually have them for a sustained period.  When they come, however, I do my best to keep warm by wearing:
  • fleece-lined running tights
  • long sleeve technical shirt
  • short sleeve technical shirt
  • vest
  • jacket
  • wool running socks
  • gloves, ear warmers, arm warmers, and a balaclava
For me, the wool socks are a game-changer.  I wore them very regularly last winter and then couldn't find them before a 20* run in February.  Grabbing other socks, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal on a quick 3-miler.  Boy, was I wrong!  My feet were so cold throughout the run that I could hardly think of anything else.  Since then, I've been sure to have my wool socks handy for any run where the temperature hits 40* or lower; my body is much happier that way.

How do you layer for winter runs?  Do you have a go-to piece of winter running gear?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Journey Begins

This week marks the beginning of my marathon journey!  With the help of Hal Higdon's novice 2 program, I plan to toe the starting line of my first marathon on April 12th.  I've done the pre-training plan prep work: my weekly workout are all loaded into my Google calendar; a printed copy of my schedule hangs in my kitchen, full of boxes just begging to be checked off.  It's go time!

As I stand at the start of this training plan, I'm both excited and terrified, but mostly I'm just happy to be officially starting the road to 26.2.  My workout schedule for the week doesn't look much different than what I've been running in my maintenance mode: a couple three mile runs, a five miler, and an eight mile long run.  In some ways, it feels anticlimactic to have an "easy" start to the training plan, but in others, I think it means I'm in a strong position to do this thing.

Google calendar, with Hal Higdon's advice, will get me to the starting line.

Thanks to inspiration from some mother runners on Strava, I've been logging regular strength workouts this month, which couldn't be better timed with marathon training.  I know cross-training and strength training are keys to marathon success, and I'm glad that I'm beginning the program on the bandwagon; it's easier to stay on the wagon than to get on it.  With the other mother runners, I'm working on some new-to-me core exercises and revisiting some oldies-but-goodies.

I cross-trained and did strength work yesterday, so today was my first run of the training plan.  Because the universe has a sense of humor, this morning I experienced alarm clock issues for the first time in months.  Never hearing an alarm, I rolled over at 4:46, exactly 4 minutes before I was due to meet Emily.  I madly threw on my clothes and bolted out the door, sighing that this must be a bad omen to sleep late on the first day of the plan.  But by the time I had walked to her house, I'd turned my brain around.  Instead of dwelling on the negative, I spun it to the positive: I did get up in time!  It wasn't my finest effort, but I did get there just 4 minutes late (sorry, Emily!), and considering that my head was on the pillow a mere 8 minutes previously, I'll count that as a win.

This morning encapsulates how I expect this training cycle to be.  It won't always be pretty, and I won't do everything perfectly.  I'll make some mistakes, miss a workout or two, and eat some less-than-desirable foods.  And that's okay.  In spite of those errors, however, I will ultimately find a way to get it done.  I will log the miles, do the push-ups, foam roll my quads.  I'm a recovering perfectionist, so this way of thinking is a bit foreign to me, but I hope this training cycle will help me embrace it more fully.  I hope you'll join me for the journey!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rainy Run

Running in the rain feels inherently badass.  While most people go out of their way to avoid spending time in the rain, runners lace up as usual and have some fun dodging puddles.  I enjoy a nice rainy run as much as the next gal, but I have to admit that cold, rainy runs are not as pleasant as their milder spring counterpart.

When my alarm sounded this morning, I saw that a cold, rainy run was in my immediate future.  Miles with my BRF - even frosty, soggy ones - trump miles on my lonely basement treadmill, so we headed out to run amid the raindrops.  We cruised through our run and paused to stretch outside her house, as is our usual routine.  As her husband left for work, he shook his head at us and said, "You two are really hardcore."  I'll take that as a compliment :)

Once finished with the soggy run, however, I wanted nothing more than to be warm and dry.  My badass feeling quickly morphed into a chilled-to-the-bone feeling.  I endured a hot shower (no more water, please!) and piled on layers of clothes.  I glanced at the clock and saw that I had 10 minutes before I had to wake my kids for school.  I could do laundry.  Or empty the dishwasher.  Or pick up misplaced toys.  Or snuggle under a blanket with a cup of coffee.

Warm at last!

I stand by my choice ;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cross Training: DoYogaWithMe.com

Continuing my pursuit for high-quality, free cross training, I've recently focused my search on yoga options.  I've found some duds, but I've also found some keepers, including my current favorite: DoYogaWithMe.com.  This site offers an enormous quantity of yoga videos: detailed explanations of individual poses, guided meditations, explanations of proper breathing and posture, and full-length classes for all ability levels.  And it doesn't cost a dime.  Be still, my frugal heart!

Though the site offers an abundance of choices, many of which are available on YouTube as well, I am a creature of habit and keep returning to the same two classes.  My tried-and-true options focus on releasing tension in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back, classic trouble zones for runners.  When I'm in a time crunch, I opt for the 28-minute version, but my body is so thankful when I spend 48 minutes on the full version.

The classes are taught by David Procyshyn, founder of DoYogaWithMe.com.  His pace is slow, giving beginners time to find their way into the poses and allowing more experienced participants an opportunity to really settle in and feel the poses' effects.  He provides highly detailed explanations and moves fluidly from one pose to the next.  I appreciate that he spends equal time on each side of the body; it seems that some instructors shortchange the second side, but David does not fall into this trap.  And the poses included in these videos target all of the hot spots in my body!  Every overworked running muscle finally relaxes when I follow these sequences.

Both videos can be done without any specialized yoga equipment.  A mat, block, and strap are useful, but you can easily substitute for them.  I use an old tie in place of a strap and a diaper wipe container instead of a block.  (I wasn't kidding when I called myself stingy!)  I do have an actual yoga mat, which I highly recommend if you can spring for one.  Its cushiony surface is gentle on the joints, and its standard size helps me locate my body in the proper position and better emulate the instructor.

If you're considering adding yoga to your running routine, I highly recommend browsing this site.  Report back if you find other videos there that you enjoy!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nightmares and Mental Toughness

With marathon training beginning in one week, I experienced my first marathon stress dream last night.  Buckle up for a crazy recap of an even crazier dream.  The dream race began at 10:00 (totally normal, right?!), and I absurdly decided to run the half marathon, which had an earlier start time, as a warm-up for the full.  I had a bit of downtime between the end of the half and the start of the full, but I never stopped my watch.  Therefore, when I finally started my 26.2, the numbers on my watch were totally meaningless.  Yet somehow that didn't seem overly stressful to my dream self.  I ended up stopping by my house several times during the race (though it is, of course, nowhere near the course), lollygagging about looking for another shirt and different socks.  I considered taking a shower, too, but fortunately, had the presence of mind to jump back into the race instead.  Though the dream seemed to last forever, I woke up before crossing the finish line, which only made things all the more frustrating.

The dream left me feeling defeated.  Why did I lack such focus during the race?  Why did I make such terrible decisions on race day?  And I couldn't even stay on the course throughout the race?!  Is my psyche trying to tell me that I can't do this?

With memories of the faux race still in my head, I laced up for a rare daylight run.  The weather was picture-perfect with sunny blue skies.  Despite the lovely the weather, however, I couldn't get out of my head and escape the defeated feeling of the dream.  The entire run felt like a mental battle, and I was tempted to call it a day after just two miles.  But I refused to accept defeat.  I forced myself to finish the distance I had planned, and I even managed to squeak out negative splits.

It was definitely a day for building mental toughness.  I know I will hit low points such as this again during training and most likely on race day, too.  Because I battled through this run, however, I will be better equipped to handle those future lows.  My psyche is wrong: I CAN do it!  And I will.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful Things

Before this all-too-short season of thankfulness closes and we launch headlong into the season of excessive consumerism, I wanted to take a chance to remind myself of all the reasons I have to be thankful.  I need to remind myself that joy is a choice, and gratitude is a lifestyle.  Especially now, when events in our community are unstable and uncertain, I want to ground myself in the tangible reminders that life is good.

These little faces provide infinite reasons to be grateful.
In no particular order, I am thankful for:
  • my body that powers me through long runs and hill workouts as well as the daily grind of motherhood.
  • my husband, who appreciates what I do for our family and reminds me to laugh.
  • my kids, who teach me the full range of human emotion.  From rapturous joy to unending frustration, they show me that life is meant to be lived to its fullest.
  • my friends, both those in real life and those BAMRs I only know virtually through Strava.  They keep me honest, motivated, and accountable.
  • the delay brew feature on my coffee pot.  The promise of coffee keeps my feet moving on cold, early morning winter runs.
  • running and blogging.  Both provide outlets for me to relieve stress and enable me to focus on myself for just a little bit.
Just a few of the friends and family who help pull me through the daily grind of life.

 What are your tangible reminders that life is good?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Five Miles for Ferguson

As the entire world knows, my beloved hometown is wrought with tension, anger, and unrest today.  I understand the anguish over a lost human life.  I understand the desire for justice.  I understand the frustration with inequality.  But I don't understand violence, hatred, and vandalism.  Peaceful protests take a stand and push for change; violence simply creates more violence.

With all of these thoughts weighing heavily on my heart, I woke up this morning and prepared for a solo run.  I scanned news headlines and #ferguson on Twitter to learn that cooler heads had not prevailed during the (too few) hours that my head was on the pillow.  I laced up and headed towards the door with apprehension and unease.  What would I hear when I opened it?  Would I see smoke on the horizon?  My neighborhood is 15 miles from the Ferguson rioters and 5 from the Shaw demonstrations.  Rationally, I knew there was no chaos in my immediate vicinity, but I couldn't help feeling queasy as I set out.

I traced a familiar route, and the emotions I'd been quashing came bubbling up to the surface:  Anger over the senseless violence.  Heartbreak for the businesses and residents of Ferguson.  Disappointment that our city couldn't maintain peaceful protests while in the international spotlight.  Uncertainty about how I would explain to my children why their school is closed today.  Guilt that I could spend an hour running alone through a beautiful neighborhood while just a few miles away families don't have that luxury.  Further guilt that I can tell my children that this is a grown-up problem and they are safe while my counterparts in Ferguson cannot do the same; for too many children, the violence and hatred is an unavoidable reality.  Overwhelming grief and sadness that no one wins in this situation.  We all lose.

At the end of my run, I desperately wanted to witness a beautiful sunrise,
as a promise that darkness does not last forever, that hope springs from defeat.
 Instead, I found this cloudy sky whose gloom matched that of my heart.
I pounded through the miles, letting my thoughts wander and tears flow.  I forced myself to use the time to process so I could answer my kids' questions and survive this emotionally exhausting day.  At the end of the run, I had not resolved any of my questions nor had I reconciled my thoughts and feelings.  But I was five miles stronger, five miles more balanced, five miles closer to accepting that I will never understand the complexity of humankind.  It's not much, but it's a start.

This shirt was a must today: because I decompressed on the run,
I can handle (almost) whatever this day throws at me.

We - the collective we - have many more miles to log before we can settle the unrest and heal the hurt.  I pray that we can find peace in our city and muster energy to rebuild the massive destruction of our hearts, businesses, and communities.  If you're the praying sort, please pray for peace in St. Louis and throughout our nation.  If not, carry Ferguson in your heart; offer your miles for those who cannot safely log their own today.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

By the Numbers

Running is rife with numbers, so I thought I'd take an opportunity to glance through a few of mine infographic style:

What are some of your favorite running numbers?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maintenance Mode

I'm 93% sure that I've settled on using an 18-week plan for my spring marathon, which means I have about two weeks before my training cycle begins.  Though the lack of structure is refreshing, I'm not totally sure what to do with the downtime at the moment.  Part of me wants to cut back a bit and enjoy a few weeks of extra sleep, more chocolate, and zero push-ups.  But then I feel guilty, worrying that I'll lose my fitness, and I certainly don't want to start marathon training in a deficit.  So I waffle.  I have a few lazy, eat-all-the-food days and then switch back to moderation and my typical workout plans.

This weekend's unseasonable snowfall, which did nothing to improve my motivation.
I've been a bit surprised by my unevenness during this period.  I've never trained for more than two races per year, so much of my time is spent in between training plans.  I'm disciplined and can remain committed to my fitness regime even without an immediate goal on the horizon.  So what's different right now?!

I think it's the sheer magnitude of 26.2.  I know I can follow the plan and do the prescribed workouts.  I know I'm dedicated and determined.  I know I will give my full effort and do the best that I can in training and on race day.  But there's plenty that I don't know.  I don't know if I can rack up the mileage and remain injury-free.  I don't know if the rest of life's worries will sidetrack me from my training.  I don't know how I will handle the mental and physical low in the late miles of the race.  I don't know what it will feel like to keep pushing past the point of exhaustion.

But even in my moments of dwelling on the "don't knows", I'm really just antsy to begin the challenge.  The road will be long and full of unknowns, but the reward will be worth the trials.  I can't wait to change all of those "don't knows" into "knows".  Come on, December 8th!!  I'm ready for you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welcome back, winter!

It appears that we've skipped late fall here in St. Louis and headed straight for winter.  Temperatures plummeted last week with overnight lows in the low 20s.  Welcome back, winter, and your accompanying layers (and layers and layers) required for us early morning runners.

As I started dressing for Friday's 23* run, I forgot how long it takes to don all the requisite winter apparel.  I pulled on my wool socks, fleece-lined tights, two shirts, and a vest.  I checked the time as I dug in the pile for my gloves, hat, balaclava, and reflective wear: 4:55, or exactly the time I should be outside meeting Emily.  I threw the last pieces on quickly and vowed to set my alarm earlier next time.  An extra two minutes should do it...

Bundled to the hilt to stay warm on these frosty mornings.

I love the freshness of the crisp, cold air, and I'm weirdly excited over the return of winter runs.  My paces are faster in the cold weather, and running in frigid temps is inherently badass ;)  But there is one significant downside to winter running (besides the extra time it takes to get dressed): laundry!  So.much.laundry.  As a family of five, I'm accustomed to the incredible beast which is the laundry pile at our house.  Adding the winter running layers, however, tips the balance from massive undertaking to insurmountable burden.

Just a portion of the laundry generated by Saturday's long run.

Admittedly, a little extra laundry is a small price to pay for the many ways in which running improves my life.  But if laundry gnomes mysteriously invaded my basement and tackled the pile, I wouldn't complain!

How do you feel about winter running?  What's your go-to piece of winter running gear?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Achy, Breaky Glutes

I've noticed a little bit of twinginess (that's a word, right?) in my right knee since my half marathon last month.  A slight bark when I've been sitting in one position for too long.  A whisper for the first mile of a run.  A whimper when climbing stairs.  I was sure that it was just overuse from the recent training cycle, so I increased my foam rolling and stretching regimens but otherwise just ignored it.  Good things always happen when you ignore warning signs, right?

My dear foam roller and Stick.
While good and loyal friends, they can't solve all problems.

On Monday, I finally admitted that it wasn't getting any better.  With marathon training dawning in less than a month, the last thing I need right now is an injury.  I reluctantly consulted Dr. Google and was surprised to see that my symptoms matched up with those of runner's knee.  But that often stems from weak glutes, I told myself.  How could I have weak glutes?!  I'm a squatting machine!

Or rather, I was a squatting machine.  You know, five or so months ago...  It turns out, all that glute strength disappears when you fall off the squatting bandwagon.  Who knew?

My ego bruised, I set out to do some clamshells, fire hydrants, and side-lying leg lifts to rebuild my former glute strength.  And was I ever humbled!  By the end of my "easy" sets of 15 on each side, my glutes were burning.  Clearly, my glute strength these days leaves much to be desired.  On the up side, my right knee has been silent since last night.  Two days of renewed commitment to glute strengthening, and my knee is happier than it's been in a month.  Now my achy glutes, on the other hand, are another story...

Do you ever suffer from denial regarding your body's strengths - and weaknesses?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Seeking Balance and Setting Boundaries

This morning's run was everything I needed it to be.  The air was a crisp 35* as I set out, which felt clean and refreshing.  Real cold weather is just now returning to St. Louis, so this was one of my first truly cold runs, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  [Talk to me again in February, and I'm sure I'll have a different opinion of cold weather runs.  But for today, I'll take it ;) ]

Since it is Sunday, I had the luxury of sleeping in (until 6:15) and running in the daylight!  I nearly forgot how nice it is to run under sunlight rather than streetlights.  On our usual morning runs, the sun doesn't rise until after I've run, showered, and fixed my kids' school lunches.  But today, with the sun shining and the brisk air all around me, I felt lighthearted, without a care in the world.

I intended to use the run as a chance to run down my long to-do list for the week.  To make mental notes about the phone calls and e-mails I need to send.  To organize the minutiae of the busy days ahead.  I accomplished none of those tasks, and surprisingly, I'm okay with that.

One of my favorite trees every fall.
Its leaves hit every shade of fall splendor and never fail to amaze me.

In my new-found life as a SAHM and volunteer, I've found it difficult to outline my boundaries, determining where my obligations to the organizations I serve begin and end.  I'm still finding my way, and since I don't have a clue what I'm doing, I've donated the bulk of my time, energy, and attention to my volunteer work.  When I worked a paying job, I had set hours, I clocked in and out, and though I did some work from home, the bulk of my work happened at my desk in the office.  Now that I'm staying home and volunteering for church and school, my hours are anything but standard and the work happens wherever and whenever it can, which lately seems to be everywhere all the time.  I've logged countless hours organizing communications and formulating strategic plans for them while my own house has suffered from disorganization.  And that isn't going to work for me.

So I'm reclaiming some of my time for myself and my family.  I'm setting boundaries, and today's run served as a perfect example of that.  Instead of perfecting the agenda for Wednesday's PTA meeting, I got lost in a podcast.  I focused on my form and my breathing rather than volunteer lists and upcoming events.  Not preoccupied with other tasks, I marveled at the few trees still clinging to their fall foliage.  Just for fun, I challenged myself to run negative splits, a goal that seemed unreachable when I blew through a surprisingly speedy fourth mile.  But somehow I hung on and logged two even faster miles to finish a nice 10k with picture-perfect splits.

I finished the run feeling more balanced than I have in a couple months.  I plan to cling to my resolve to do good work as a volunteer without sacrificing the needs of my family or myself.  How do you balance all of the competing demands on your time?  Any tips for striking the right balance?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Taking the Leap

I'm an extreme planner.  I like to think things through, analyze possible outcomes, weigh pros and cons.  Such endless considering and researching, however, can lead to a bit of indecision.  Just as I hemmed and hawed over choosing a training plan for our fall half marathon, I've been obsessing over carefully considering my options for a spring race.  Namely, I've been agonizing over the possibility of tackling 26.2 for the first time.

I've examined countless training schedules and loaded potential training plans and race dates into a Google calendar.  I've considered travel logistics and family commitments.  I've polled friends, both online and in real life.  I've read dozens of articles and blog posts trying to determine if I'm ready to make the leap.  And I've nearly driven myself insane.  But I've finally made my decision: I'm going to do it!  The GO! St. Louis marathon on April 12, 2015 will be my first 26.2 :)

Forever the cheapskate, I found an early bird discount for the race, and I pulled the trigger.  I originally hoped to run an out-of-town marathon, but the more I considered the logistics of travel, housing, kids, etc., a hometown race sounded much simpler.  There will be enough other sources of stress on race weekend; it will be nice to sleep in my own bed and eat my favorite homemade pizza the night before the race.

I think I've settled on using Hal Higdon's Novice 2 plan for this race, though I reserve the right to change my mind again (and again and again...) over the next few weeks.  Somehow the thought of training for and running a marathon is equally exhilarating and terrifying.  Looking at the long calendar of training runs seems a bit daunting, but at the same time, I'm excited to push myself to try something new and tackle a major challenge.  Assuming I go with that 18 week plan, training starts on December 8th!

Have you set any spring race goals?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saved by the Run

Since training for my October half ended, I've been a bit relaxed in my weekend runs.  I've gotten them in, but they've happened in the late afternoon rather than the early morning, which is beyond odd for me.  Because I'm not operating under the strict rigidity of a training plan, I'm less motivated to wake up in the early morning hours on a weekend.  But by mid-day, I'm jonesing for a run, needing the endorphins to keep me humming along through the demands of family life.

Yesterday, I planned to get up early because my husband was going to be gone at a day-long training session.  Knowing that underslept and over-sugared post-Halloween kids would test my patience, it would have been wise for me to crank out some miles before he left for the day.  But I'm not always wise.  My alarm sounded; I silenced it without moving an inch off my pillow.  And I regretted that decision for hours...

We survived our day, but we all probably would have been happier had I gone for my run that morning.  They were predictably excitable; I was inexcusably irritable; we were all tired.  By the time my husband got home, I was desperate for the solitude of a run.  "Go ahead with dinner if they get hungry," I told him as I bolted for the door.  "I hope to be gone for a while."

The setting sun on a beautiful fall afternoon.
A much-needed reminder that life is good.
I started out at an easy pace with no clear destination in mind.  Listening to my favorite podcast and breathing the fresh autumn air, I was relaxed and peaceful for the first time all day.  My legs felt strong from the outset, and I tried to push the pace each mile.  As I cruised through the surrounding neighborhoods - at an impressive speed considering that I was largely fueled by Halloween candy - I felt alive and free.  The little things that were stressful and overwhelming earlier in the day melted away until they became utterly meaningless.

Six miles later, I returned home feeling like a new person.  All the same stresses, frustrations, and imperfections were still waiting for me, but I could tackle them with renewed energy.  The run helped put everything back into perspective and remind me that life is good.  Not perfect but good.

Do your workouts ever help turn your day around?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why I Run: For my Kids

I run for these sweet faces.
Trust me, under the skeleton mask is a sweet little guy ;)

I run for these little people.  For their sweet, smiling faces.  For the joy they find in life.  For the simple pleasures that bring them such great joy.  For the ways they can drive me to the brink of insanity one minute and absolutely melt my heart the next.

I run to show them what it means to be strong, fit, and healthy.  To care for oneself so that you can care for others.  To push your boundaries and discover new limits.  To accept disappointment in stride and celebrate victory in the small moments.

I run so that I can be here with them for many years to come.  Watching them grow into charming young people.  Cheering for them as they work towards their goals.  Delighting in discovering who they are in this world.

I run for them.

Why do you run?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Post-Race Mania

With training for my fall half marathon completed, I feel like I'm bursting with extra mental and physical energy.  I'm still running four days per week, but the runs are relatively aimless.  I'm lacing up for fun - and a chance to chat with my BRF - which completely relaxes the mental aspect of running.

So what's a mother runner to do with all of her newly available mental energy?  Completely reorganize her house, of course!  While in training, I find that household tasks move into a holding pattern.  I keep up with all of the mandatory aspects of running a five-member household, but major organization doesn't happen.  Closets slowly become cluttered, bookshelves grow disheveled, and dog hair mounds behind the couch (Don't judge!).  I see that these things need attention, but I just don't have the mental space to really tackle them.

We have this closet in our house, which we affectionately call the closet of doom.
While training, I close my eyes and pretend it doesn't exist...

A few days post-race, however, I go on a cleaning and decluttering frenzy!  If you peeked into my house last week, you would have seen me scrubbing kitchen counters with a toothbrush, rearranging the furniture in several rooms, and purging, purging, purging.  When I resume training for a spring race, I know I will not have interest in such projects, so I'm taking advantage of this boundless energy - and the extra hours in the week that I previously spent running - to cross some things off the to-do list.

Does anyone else exhibit unique post-race behaviors?  And if you need a closet overhaul, hit me up!  I'm available for hire, for another few weeks anyway ;)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Yoga in the Woods

At the last minute, we decided to pack up the kids and head to my parents' cabin at Innsbrook to enjoy this fabulous fall day in the woods. What an excellent decision! We've spent a lovely day of carefree playing, the highlight of which was the dinosaur dig carefully organized by Mr. D.

While the paleontologists-in-training worked at their dig site, I enjoyed a peaceful yoga break on the back deck. Outdoor barefoot yoga in October?! Yes, please!

Life is good :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prehab: Yoga and the Chiropractor

I've always been a big believer in post-run stretching, but over the last 8 months, I've done more non-running activities to support my runs. I'm going to call these things pre-hab: I do them in hopes of preventing injuries from happening. So far so good, so I thought I'd share a few of my typical pre-hab options:

Squats and planks. I've fallen off the squat bandwagon a bit since completing my squat challenge at the beginning of the summer, but I know squats are a terrific addition to my running regime. Stronger glutes, low abs, and quads make me a stronger runner. In an ideal world, I like to do 50 squats on non-running days.

Yoga for runners. I aim to do yoga 1 or 2 times per week, and I look for options geared towards runners or towards stretching my overused quads/glutes/calves/low back.  Always the cheapskate, I find all of my yoga classes via YouTube.  Some have been duds, but I've been impressed at the bounty of free, high-quality yoga available online.  I've posted some reviews of the ones I enjoy, and I have more reviews to come.

Regular visits to the chiropractor. My chiropractor has been invaluable in keeping me logging pain-free miles.  I first visited her last spring, when I finally admitted injury following my April half marathon.  She got me back on the road quickly, and I've maintained regular visits with her to keep my bones where they belong.  When not training, I check in every 3 months, but during this training cycle, I've gone monthly.  She keeps me tuned up, which keeps me running strong, which is definitely worth the co-pay.

Do you have any non-running activities that allow you to keep up your mileage?  Anyone else as indebted to their chiropractor as me?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: Rock 'n Roll St. Louis

Sunrise in downtown St. Louis as we wait to start the race.
I couldn't have asked for anything more at Rock 'n Roll St. Louis on Sunday.  Delightful weather, upbeat crowds, good bands, terrific volunteers.  Oh yeah, and a smoking new PR :)

Emily and I arrived downtown just before 6:00am and found rock star parking near the starting line.  We took our time stretching, visiting the porta-potties (so many available!  Kudos to the race organizers), and eating one last bit of banana.  Nerves mounted as we waited around in our corral, but overall we were just excited about our day.

Nervous smiles as we hang around in our corral.

We wanted to beat Emily's half marathon PR of 2:08.  To do so, we planned to run the early miles at a 9:45 pace, kicking it up to 9:15-9:30 around mile 8, and drawing closer to 9:00 for miles 11 to the finish.  A thick crowd and an early restroom stop threatened our plan at the outset, but we weren't rattled.  We hit the 5k checkpoint at 30:29, which was certainly slower than we anticipated.  At that point, however, the crowd had thinned a bit, and we could make our way through the field with less weaving.  The slow early pace didn't bother me, as I hoped we were conserving energy and would have more left in the tank for the later miles.

Feeling strong at mile 8.

We faced an unexpectedly long climb at mile 4.5 (with the early morning sun in our eyes), but we cranked that mile in 9:30.  Entering mile 6, our energy flagged a bit, and we embarked on the part of the course that did not have live entertainment.  (Citing respect for the neighborhoods, race organizers informed us that there would be no bands from miles 6-9, an unfortunate point in the course to be lacking distraction.)  We kept a good pace, however, and hit the 10k checkpoint at 58:58.  Mile 8 brought us to a familiar park where our families were waiting for us.  Seeing their happy faces and stopping for a quick hug gave us an extra spring in our step.  We logged the next two miles at about 9:20 each, and we agreed to try to hang at that pace until the mile 12 marker.

My sweet cheering section :)

While miles 1-6 were rather urban, starting in downtown and then traversing some industrial areas, miles 7-12 took us through beautiful neighborhoods and along well-maintained parks, and many of the residents came out to cheer us on.  As we were kicking up the intensity of our effort, I was grateful for the distraction of lovely houses and cheering fans.  The band at mile 11 was my favorite of the course, for no other reason than their rendition of "Run Around Sue" made my heart happy and gave my tired legs a little extra pep.

As we planned, I pushed the pace as soon as we passed the mile 12 sign.  Emily stayed a step behind me but promised that she was ok.  Mile 12 took us across an overpass into downtown, and the view of downtown and the other runners in the field was fabulous.  Pushing uphill at the end of that mile, however, I could tell that my energy was waning.  We saw my parents right at the 13-mile mark, and I mustered a smile and a wave for them.  As we neared the why-does-it-still-seem-so-faraway finish line, Emily stepped ahead and took the lead.  "Let's go," she said.  "Let's get it!"  I didn't know I had any gas left in the tank, but I found just enough to turn in a strong finish alongside her.  We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the official time: 2:03:58!  More than 4 minutes faster than her previous record, and 8:21 faster than our April race.

This giant street marking totally messed with my carb-starved brain.
This faux finish was at the 13-mile mark, and that final .1 seemed endless...

Full of pride and finish line adrenaline, we walked to the car discussing possibilities for our next race.  One good finish line deserves another, right?  We will plot our spring race soon enough, but for now, I'm going to bottle up the excitement of this finish and savor the sweetness of hard-earned victory.

Elated at the finish line!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's Go Time: Rock 'n Roll St. Louis

The hay is in the barn.  The seeds have been sown.  The work is done.  Now it's time to go out and show what I can do.  The Rock 'n Roll St. Louis half marathon dawns early tomorrow morning.

I'd be lying if I denied my pre-race jitters, but I certainly feel more confident than I did on the eve of the GO! St. Louis race in April, my first half marathon.  I know that my body can cover the distance.  I am strong, injury-free, and mentally prepared to face the challenge of mile 11.  I don't have a specific time goal (at least not one that I'm willing to verbalize), but I definitely hope to beat my spring time of 2:12:19.  Considering how much I labored for each step of that race, I am optimistic that I can shave a few minutes off that time.

I'm working to focus on the excitement of the day: running in a new part of the city, hearing local bands, spending the morning with my BRF, and seeing the joy on my kids' faces as they oogle my finisher's medal.  I've logged the miles and finished the training.  Now it's time for some fun :)

Ready to rock, roll, and sparkle!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Inspiration from a BQ'er

I love that running gives me a chance to draw inspiration from others.  I love to watch other runners work hard, push their boundaries, and strive relentlessly towards a goal.  I become deeply invested in their training and seeing their successes feels almost as thrilling as accomplishing my own goal.  I thrive on the team spirit and sense of camaraderie we share as we constantly work to better ourselves one mile at a time.  While watching their efforts (through blogs, Strava, and Twitter), I am inspired to set my own big, scary goals and set out to accomplish them. 

Because of SBS and other strong women, I have the courage to dream big.

One of my favorite running bloggers, Sarah Bowen Shea of Another Mother Runner, set out on Sunday to run a Boston-qualifying time at the Victoria Marathon.  She shared her training with us through various media, and as a result, an enormous tribe of mother runners sat glued to their devices cheering for her as she pushed herself 26.2 miles through beautiful British Columbia.  When I saw that she had nailed her qualifying time, my excitement was off the charts.  I cried happy tears - for a woman I know virtually but not "in real life" - and that feels perfectly normal to me.  After all, I cried when her partner in crime, Dimity McDowell, finished her IronMan race in 2013.  Those mother runners inspired me to first lace up my shoes, which means that I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.  Doubtless, I'll never be able to do for them what they've done for me, but I can cheer like a crazy woman at their victories and cry happy tears in celebration.

Congrats, SBS, on your hard-earned victory, and thank you for allowing us to share in your journey.  You've inspired me - and countless others - to dream big, aim high, and work tirelessly to make the dream a reality.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hungry Runner: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Admission is the first step towards recovery, right?  Well, here goes.  My name is Kate, and I am addicted to muffins, especially of the miniature variety.  Ever since finding two mini muffin tins at a recent garage sale, I've been cultivating all sorts of miniature masterpieces.  Mini muffins are a bit high maintenance, but I've discovered that my kids will eat almost anything when delivered in the shape of a mini muffin.  And I can't say that I blame them.  Wee-sized food is just too cute not to eat!

Last week, thanks to our CSA share, I had butternut and acorn squash on hand, a muffin craving, and a quest to combine them.  When I discovered this pumpkin chocolate chip mini muffin recipe from the Minimalist Baker, I knew that I'd found a winner.  I decided that my squash could easily replace the pumpkin and gave the recipe a try.

Before I could make my muffins, I had to roast my squash in the oven.  To do so, I cut them in half, removed the seeds, and placed them face down on a greased pan.  I baked them at 350* for about 45 minutes.  After they cooled, I scooped the flesh out of the skins and used my stand mixer to puree them.  My squash roasted, cooled, and pureed, I was ready to tackle the muffins.  I tweaked the original recipe based on my pantry stock and my baking preferences, so my recipe looked like this:

1 egg
1/2 cup roasted squash puree (I used a combination of butternut and acorn squash)
1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chips are a must for mini muffins!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 375* and grease muffin tins.
2.  Combine egg, squash, milk, brown sugar, agave, oil, and vanilla.  Once combined, add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and stir until uniformly mixed.
3.  Slowly add flours to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
4.  Add chocolate chips and mix just until the chips are evenly distributed.
5.  Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling them almost to the top.  Add an extra mini chocolate chip or two to the top for presentation.
6.  Bake for 18-20 minutes for mini muffins or 22-26 minutes for full sized muffins.
7.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

I am not any sort of a photographer, so don't judge this muffin by its looks.
It is moist, chewy, and amazing, I promise.

I'm pleased to say that they turned out beautifully, as evidenced by the fact that my double batch barely lasted three days.  These muffins made a great and quick post-run snack.  They are a wonderful fall treat and a fun way to use some of our winter squash.  Do you have any favorite ways to prepare winter squash?  Do you have a snack obsession on par with my mini muffin addiction?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rock 'n Roll St. Louis training update #2

Race day dawns in 11 days, and most days, I don't even remember that I'm training for a race.  Sure, I'm logging the miles.  Yes, I've contemplated my attire.  Absolutely, I can't wait until tomorrow when I can first see race day on the 10-day forecast.  But whereas my first 13.1 absorbed much of my mental focus for weeks, this race is down near the bottom of my mental totem pole.  In some ways, this is a good thing.  Running half marathon mileage has become a way of life for me, so the difference between "training" and regular life are minimal.  I'm a bit lot more obsessive about logging the exact number of prescribed miles when a race is on the horizon, but the routine of 3 weekday runs plus a weekend long run is just normal at this point.  I've also been so preoccupied with major life happenings that I don't have much mental space leftover for thinking about the race.

When I do take time to contemplate it, however, I see that training is going well.  We ran 11 miles on Sunday, which was our longest run of this training cycle.  Throughout the run, I felt strong and pain-free, and the miles passed almost effortlessly.  We planned a route with lots of late hills to prepare for the hills at the end of the course, and we kept a good pace even through the inclines.  This weekend's long run will only be 7 (I love this point of a training plan when 7 miles feels like a short distance), and then we head into taper week.

The training plan with weathered edges and very few unchecked boxes:
race day must be near!

During this training cycle, I've been a strength training slacker, but I'd otherwise applaud my efforts.  I've logged all the miles, maintained a consistent post-run stretching regimen, visited my chiropractor monthly, done yoga a couple times a week, and haven't lost my sanity.  At the end of the day, I call that a win.