Can someone turn up the A/C, please?

Mornings like these are hard.

I’m not sure of the exact temperature, but believe me: it’s a swamp out there. Even starting these weekend runs before the sun emerges doesn’t free me from the vice grip of humidity.

Observe:

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Post-run “glow” with AT photobomb

8 miles at 7:55/mile in the books. I have tempo runs sketched out on Saturdays, aiming for between 8 – 8:30/minute mile, and I save those big, juicy long runs for Sundays. Tomorrow is a 17-miler. Ugh. Even typing that hurts. Fortunately, two treats await me for tomorrow’s trek. First, it is supposed to be cooler. Second, AJT will be joining me on the trail, cruising alongside (and likely in front of) me on his bike.

As much as I enjoy the solo aspect of running, it can get lonely on those lengthier runs. I have tried to incorporate podcasts for entertainment and learning, but my propensity to sweat makes keeping headphones in my ears nearly impossible. I have yet to find a pair that sticks (if you have recommendations, I’m all ears — ha! No seriously, I am.)

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, and I have found a few gems as of late. Between my overextended life, many meals this summer have been born from frozen vegetables, pressed tofu, and some sort of stir-fry marinade. I’m not complaining – I could eat stir-fry nearly every day. But, cranking oven the stove and frying in the wok are not pleasant when it’s 5,000F. Really. I’m not exaggerating.

Enter this:

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Hello, darling.

Almost too pretty to eat, no? No. It’s so worth eating. Served cold, this quinoa-black bean salad can be tossed over greens, thrown in a wrap, topped with seitan or baked tofu or whatever floats your boat.

Black bean, quinoa, and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette

Serves 4 – 6 

1 cup quinoa

1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans

1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced

1 tsp minced jalapeno (optional – and heck, I added the entire jalapeno! Seeded, of course)

1 scallion, finely chopped

2 tsp honey or agave nectar (I opted for the nectar)

1/2 lime

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp canola/vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)

Pinch of salt, or as needed

Directions:

1) Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Add to saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to simmer and cook, about 15-20 minute or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. (If you have a rice cooker, take advantage of using it to cook your quinoa!)

2) Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, and chopped scallion.

3) In a small jar, combine honey/agave nectar, lime juice, rice vinegar, and vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (should be a bit tart). Pour dressing on quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute dressing evenly.

4) If you are not serving right away, toss salad again before serving and adjust seasoning (dressing will absorb into the quinoa and the salad might need more moisture if it sits for awhile).

My moment of zen

In hindsight, I would not do this again. BUT, on Wednesday, I drove out and back to Asheville (7 hours in the car – what what!). During my brief stay in the beautiful mountain town, I had a chance to sit in one of my favorite places, Green Sage Cafe, enjoy a cup of coffee and a vegan peanut butter cookie while I cleaned data in a spreadsheet.

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If you have to clean data in a spreadsheet, it’s nice to have a cookie to go along with it.

 

 

Recap: Knoxville Marathon 2015

Despite another long absence from the land of blogging – extended due to falling ill with the plague – it’s time to share the joys of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon that took place on March 29, 2015.

Yes, I mean joys. Honestly, I had SO much fun during this race. Part of the happiness stemmed from my fear of hearing the wall at mile 19 again. But, a bigger part came from all the external inputs – the great crowds, the sights of a city I know very little of, hot jams from strategically placed bands, and that overwhelming sense of accomplishment bursting out of all the other runners participating.

Our entire stay in Knoxville was chilly, and race morning was no different:

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I was feeling ok. I may have been kissing on a baby that may have had croup (d’oh!) but I had my traditional pre-race breakfast (peanut butter + banana toast) and a cup of coffee + a cup of tea (this may become problematic later?). It was an easy drive from our friends’ house to the University of Tennessee. A lot of folks were huddling in the convention center for warmth, but the forecast was promising – and it delivered.

11080836_10102965434582215_945296493093939163_oWho doesn’t have time for a quick World’s Fair selfie?

The stage was beginning to set. Runners milled at the starting line, filled with nerves, caffine, and relief that the day was finally here.

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And then, it was time.

14979_10102965433943495_8705945705637753727_nI can do this…?!?!

I had a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. Originally, I intended to find the 4 hour pace group and hang out, but the first mile was a bit of a cluster. We were assigned to different corrals, and I’m going to venture a guess that some people were not as honest in their finish time predictions as others. Oh well – the first mile was my slowest, and then I begin to find a groove.

About eight miles in, I had to make a critical choice: hold the bladder for 18 more miles, or concede and make a pit stop. I do not regret my decision one bit. It may have been a 30-45 second difference on my time. But, I could then allow my mind to be free to focus on everything but finding a port-a-john.

When the marathon split away from the half-marathon, it became a bit quieter. No, not just a bit: it was like we were running in isolation. This is when we hit old town Knoxville – the grittier sights and sounds of a city. Still, the neighborhoods came out in support. I kept my smile on from this point forward through the:

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The result?

marathon finish3:53:34

Woo! I actually passed the 4 hour pacer in the last 3/4 mile. He noted that he was about five minutes ahead of the pace. I turned on the engine and cranked it in.

10995856_10102965432421545_4456085235924401843_nWoot woot!

The course was definitely challenging (hills a plenty), but I thought it was fair. We got to run over not ONE but TWO bridges! And, finishing in Neyland Stadium was incredible. I must give major props to my sherpa, Aaron J, for sharing his former home and university with me, for inspiring me to try 26.2 once again, and for traversing Knoxville on foot to ensure I had all the goo and water one girl could need.

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So now…oh yes, I want to run another marathon. New goal: 3:45. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks about Chicago. Until then, my focus is on getting better. In just one week, I went from crushing hills with ease to finding myself out of breath reaching the top of our stairs. And, the pollen explosion here has not helped matters. I’m just taking it one day at a time and giving myself the space to restore…because as my yoga instructor said yesterday: “When did the idea of self love become radical?”

The next running adventure in the works?

With just over two weeks left until tackling my second marathon, this happened:

Chi marathon_application
After an initial burst of interest in entering the Chicago Marathon lottery, I began to have second thoughts. If I was selected to register, did I want to undertake another 3+ months of marathon training in the summer? With a mid-October race date, this means some high mileage runs in August and September. In North Carolina. August in North Carolina is not pleasant. You can make a case for pleasant training in September, but not August. It’s one of those months where if I could sit in a pool surrounded by fans and drinking agua frescas delivered to me, I would be ok with that. It’s the month of stache sweat and the unyielding sensation of wanting to shower.

As I was mulling over my decision with my friend Jen during our lunch date last week, she said: “Look, enter the lottery. If you get picked, then you’ll know you were meant to run it.” Jen’s reliance on fate argument won be over.

Back in current pursuits, I completed by LAST long run one week ago:

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Today is only a 12 miler (only!) and the mileage continues to spiral down. I’m actually REALLY excited about this race. Not only does it involve visiting and experiencing two incredible cities (Asheville and Knoxville) but I genuinely want to tackle these 26.2 miles with abandon. I want to re-engineer the memories of have after the 2012 marathon. Bad thoughts of a rainy race day have begun to creep into my mind – but since I have on control over the weather (this is a huge admission here, folks), as we like to say:

“It is what it is.”

I really dislike that phrase. OF COURSE IT IS.

What will I do with my Sundays back, for at least a few months? The possibilities are endless!

Likely one of these things:

computerLet’s be real: this is likely taking the lead.

booksSo many books to read. So little time,

thewireSo close to finishing Season 4!

Question for you: When you have free time, what do you find yourself doing? Is it what you want to be doing?

Snow over it

From beautiful distraction to the bane of existence, the winter weather of the last two weeks has taken us – literally – by storm.

11000604_10103668719169272_3682778691255327476_nSo pretty. So…much…snow.

The last storm that rolled through Wednesday night was the doozie. Our walk through the neighborhood on Thursday morning was eerie. It had a post-apocalyptic feel [minus zombie sightings]. We also learned (and were quickly grateful) that our section of the neighborhood was on a different power grid as we passed by many dark, quiet homes (minus the two likely Yankee homes that had generators on full blast).

Even better (or worse?): our Internet was out for the entire day Thursday. Work from home? Not so easily. We made the best of it with our neighbors: impromptu sledding down the back hill. Sadly, zero kids were out playing. ZERO! Get off your iPads, generation jelly. Build a snowperson, an ice fort, throw a snowball or two.

11012754_10103668722612372_1992479225457152388_nYes, that is a beer snowman

11001781_10103668715466692_8965242498668517207_nTree struggles.

10998253_10103668722013572_4171058845840179764_oSnowfie!

Outside of throwing off daily routines left and right, this weather has made marathon training even more taxing. Last Sunday was the first of two scheduled 20 mile runs. The last time I ran 20 miles was during the Rock N’ Roll Marathon back in January 2012. I elected to hit the American Tobacco Trail for this endeavor…

only to find it a sheet of ice. Literally – it was a solid block of ice and snow for the vast majority of the trail despite the almost 50F outside. Treading lightly with my NPR friends, I traversed the landscape, knocking the training out of the park with zero falls or injuries:

run2015It will be warmer in March. It will be warmer in March. It will be over in March.

We’re just shy of 30 days out from the Knoxville Marathon, and I’m still feeling great, which is a relief from the battles I faced in 2011. On the schedule for this weekend: 8 mile pace run today with a 15 mile long run tomorrow. I will force myself to run in a hillier section of the Triangle to prepare myself for the rolling landscape of Knoxville. I did give into some treadmill running the previous weekend, and boy – that was rough. I tip my hat to those who can spend quality time on those machines. It could also have been the fact that the Y was blasting the heat, so my own cooling system was unable to perform its own cleansing duty. Suffocating.

But, today is the LAST day of February! Is it time for spring? I sure hope so. Looking forward to getting away to some warmer climate next week. All I have to say to the snow that remains: it’s you, not me. Come back at Christmas, but that’s about it. Thanks.

Runners, how do you train during the winter months?

Hark! I hear the call of the finish line

After an outward (and quite vocal) objection to ever running another marathon, I’m less than five months out from taking on another 26.2 mile journey.

Now that I have recovered from the initial race (over three years and counting), I feel that I’m in a better place emotionally and physically to run a second. With all transparency, I also feel that I have something to prove – to myself, mainly.

Looking back, I am so different from the person who ran the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in Arizona (in some ways – the good ones, hopefully!). With a couple of years added to my age bracket registrations, an entirely different eating lifestyle, and a deeper and more in-tuned understanding of my body, I think this will be a healthy challenge that I plan to enjoy.

mizouno

I even bought some new kicks for the journey. The Brooks Ghost 7 series have been wonderful for me, but I did pick up a deeply discounted pair of Mizuno Wave Runner’s (pictured above) to serve as the yin to the yang of my well-worn Brooks.

Time. For me, it’s one of the biggest burdens of signing up for any major race. The sheer willingness to devote hours upon hours, logging miles on trails, streets, in the rain, in the dark, and up hills. In the past, I have trained predominantly in Durham, specifically on the American Tobacco Trail. However, the hilly course of Knoxville requires me to take the training to a similar landscape.

Hello, Raleigh.

I’ll be gleaning insight from some of Raleigh’s top runners (in my humble opinion) on best trails to build endurance for the cascading waves I shall face in March.

While training “officially” starts on November 30, I’m spending this month building my base. That means Pilates, yoga, and core work: oh my. I picked up another Groupon for Arrichion hot yoga classes. If I could afford a monthly subscription, I would purchase one in a heartbeat. I absolutely love these classes: 45 minutes of demands, depending on the class.

Plus. when it’s 40 degrees outside and dark, the ability to sweat in a tanktop and shorts sounds pretty blissful. No, really.

Marathon Recap: January 16, 2012

Phoenix or Bust: Rock n’ Roll Marathon 2012

After setting my alarm for 3:58am Friday morning, the marathon took on another form: it became more real. Until we touched down into Phoenix, the event still seemed so distant, so ephemeral. To maximize time in the Valley of the Sun, Aaron and I left on our separate flights at 6:15am and 6am, respectively.

We had stopped for layovers on our journey. Aaron ended up beating me into Phoenix by 20 minutes and waited patiently as I hopped on the bus to meet him at his terminal. My dad picked us up and it was pre-race go time.

First: eat at Marleje’s. No, this didn’t have anything to do with the race. Aaron grew up a huge Dan Marleje fan, so we ate lunch at the downtown venue prior to getting our race packets. It was a surprisingly good lunch (especially the shoestring French fries). After getting our fill and checking out some great sports memorabilia, we walked over to the Arizona Civic Center where the running expo was housed. Here, we picked up our race numbers (6162!), our t-shirts, and our official “swag bag”. Very cleverly, they shuffled us through a merchandise area before we could get to the rest of the expo. Who needs a $45 t-shirt letting the world know they ran a marathon? Some people do. I opted to keep my wallet unused.

The rest of the expo was typical: vendors flashing their wares to the runners looking for the edge. From sunglasses to energy drinks, jelly beans (excuse me – energy jelly beans) and headphones that they guarantee will NEVER fall out of your eyes, we wandered through the sea of commercialism, picking up a free sample or two along the way.

Friday night was carbo-loading night one: pancakes. I ended up eating more of the gooey egg dish and turkey sausage than pancakes (protein still important). Laura came over and joined us, which was great getting to spend quality time with her. Aaron and I fought against the Mountain Time Zone and managed to stay up until 9pm Friday night.

Luckily, sleep came easy and we woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed. We started our morning meeting up with Rhonda and Michelle, my dad’s co-worker and her daughter, who were also running the marathon. Michelle ran the marathon last year, so we considered her our veteran leader. I had decided after a discussion with Laura that I was going to invest in some KT Tape to help my plantar fasciitis during the run. I was really worried about my feet during the run.

So, we met up with Rhonda and Michelle at a running store where I picked up some blue KT Tape (hot). Then, we drifted over to Starbucks to discuss strategies, review the race course, and share our goals. Michelle was going to stick with her mom during the run, as Rhonda had some challenges with her knees. I was going for a 4:30 finish and my dad was aiming for 5 hours.

Aaron was recruited as our assistant in all of these projects. From carrying clothes to driving the car to the lightrail, my family kept him busy throughout the weekend.
Saturday afternoon: I took my first run in two weeks and my first ever run with the KT Tape. I felt pretty good although a bit stiff during the 2 mile loop. My dad and I ran an 11:23 pace, which worried me. I struggled a bit on that run. I projected that a 4:30 finish was not within my reach after missing so much training. The good news: the KT Tape did help my feet. It worked to make my hips and thighs work harder instead of my tendons.

Saturday night: Carbo-loading #2. Other family members came over and joined in chowing down pasta, homemade meatballs, salad, and Rosemary & Olive Oil bread. This was it. Tomorrow morning was the big day. I split a White Chocolate Ale from Sonoran Brewing Company with Aaron (I really enjoyed it!)

I pinned my number on my shirt. Aaron and I packed the backpack with needed supplies and clothes. The alarm now set for 4:30am. Three hours before race.

Sunday: The Race Day

I woke up during the night and thought it was time for the race. Well, it was only 2:45am, but my nerves were in overdrive. I was able to fall back asleep until 4:30am. I got up, ate my peanut butter/banana/honey toast, drank one cup of coffee, and three glasses of water. I did not want to drink any more liquid after 5:30am in order to avoid having to use the restroom during the marathon.

We left the house around 6:30am and made it downtown by 7:00am. After using the restroom one last time, we met up with Rhonda and Michelle. We all four started in the same corral. Unfortunately, the race did not start at 7:30am as planned. It ended up starting at 7:58am, which may have impacted future events. But, we remained positive and upbeat, dancing around and staying energized. The weather was perfect. The wind had dissipated. The impending rain stayed away. The temperature was a bit cool but would feel great. AND, it was overcast – aka no beating sun cooking us from Phoenix to Tempe.

And we’re off!

So, what can you say about running a marathon? I actually felt great for the first half. I loved seeing people cheering on the sides of the road. That served as a strong motivator for me. I ran with my dad until about the 6 mile mark. I met up with my family and friends at the 6.5 mile marker. I had been looking forwarding to seeing them since the start. Laura, Vo, and Aaron met me at the 13 and 19 mile markers as well. Having people staggered out to cheer for you throughout the race was a big plus.

Miles 18-19 were my worst physically and mentally. Because of the delayed start, I believe I became too dehydrated (plus the normal dry Phoenix air does not help). My legs cramped up badly during those two miles. When I reached Aaron at 19, I had to stop and stretch. I also took in some additional Gatorade at that time. That was the low point for me during the marathon. I had not completed a training run past 17 miles, so this was new territory for me.

I wore a watch to keep my pace, and I was clocking in just over a 10 minute pace for the first half, which was fabulous. I felt so good during the first half of the run. Some other runners shared that miles 19-21 may mess with my head. I did do a little mental workout while in the first few miles after 20, but nothing more than playing a quick game of “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring…”.

Right after the mile 24 post, we had to climb a hill, which was very unwelcomed at that point of the run. But, the anticipation was growing. Only 2.2 miles left! Then, we crossed the bridge over Tempe Town Lake. I think I grinned during this entire portion of the run.
When I was nearing the 26 mile marker, I made eye contact with a blonde woman in glasses. I felt on some level that I knew this woman, but I could not connect with who it was. Well, snap back to reality, Katie. It was my family! They were calling my name, but I was in such a zone that I failed to hear them. I never even heard my poor mom hollering my name further down near the end. I picked up my speed and forced my body to finish.

And then it was over. I smiled for the cameras, wrapped in my tinfoil coat, donning a shiny new medal. I could barely walk. Some people looked so natural. How could they do this after 26.2? Not me. I reconnected with my mom, Aaron, and my friends while the B-52s rocked on. It took me about 30 minutes to have the courage to sit down.

Damage: three blisters, one exceptionally sweet. Intense aching in the hamstrings, calves, and quads.

Was it worth it? Yes, to be able to say I ran a marathon. But more so, to say that I saw my dad complete a marathon at the age of 60. That I had been able to train with him and even run the first quarter of the marathon with him. I am so proud of me, but I am more proud of my dad.

11 Days: Holy Crap! I’m Running a Marathon in 11 Days

I know myself so well in the fact that keeping a blog updated for me is like keeping my apartment clean. I maintain lofty goals but the reality of life often prevents me from getting it done.

So what’s happened in the last 40+ days? I firmly concluded that I do have plantar fasciitis. Yuck! Fairly common for long-distance runners (apparently Eli Manning also suffered from this) but nothing something you want to experience one month out from running 26.2 miles.

I rested my foot for a full week, icing/heating, stretching, and doing what cardio I could. I have run intermittently over the last three weeks, a few 2 mile, 3 mile, and 4 mile routes. But, nothing consistent as it seemed my foot would flare up after the run, put me out for a day, and then be okay on day three.

This past week I opted to not stress out about trying to get in a run. My dream was to run another 10 mile route before the marathon. I am comfortable with the idea that this is not going to happen. I am maintaining my cardio through spin classes, working out on the elliptical and upright bikes, and taking group classes. I’m also focusing on increasing my strength, especially in my legs, and increasing flexibility via yoga.

I’ve received a lot of helpful advice from other runners who have experience injuries prior to major races. I’m not competing for a PR. This is to honor a promise to my dad and to challenge my own beliefs in what I can do. I will go into the race with that in mind and just enjoy the day (as much as one can enjoy running for 4+ hours).