10957392_906798229363411_1253313537_n

23 days until Sugarloaf. That’s 3 more long runs. 3 weeks of training. Guys, I don’t know how to feel about this! One second I’m extremely excited – feeling like I’ll go into it and crush my goals. The next, I’ll start feeling daunted by the whole process.

Most of all – I’m not entirely sure that I want this journey to end. It’ll be great for my social life but what on Earth did I used to do with all of that free time? I’m not kidding – that is a real question. Sometimes, when I have a particularly short workout planned for the evening – or if I manage to fit it in before work or during my lunch break – my evenings just feel so long. I’m so used to getting home at 7:30 where my schedule fits perfectly: cook, eat, shower, read, bed at 9:30. My evening ritual has been simplified so much and tuned to be so extremely efficient that a night off feels like so much time.

Did anyone else watch the Boston Marathon? I had the live video on the side of my screen at work. What an inspirational race. It’s hard to not be totally touched by the performance of over 30,000 athletes. I know that I want to run Boston someday. I hope that someday is next year – but I know that a 3:35 time is a huge accomplishment for my first marathon.

So how has this training been going? I know – I haven’t been sharing much about that lately. I’ve thrown myself into it 100% which has left little room for much else! I’ll share a little bit of what my training has been looking like.

I start each week with some cross training. I’ve been taking coach Kelsey’s spin classes and those have been killer workouts. Sometimes, depending on what my training looked like the week before, she’ll have me use the spin class as an active recovery – which means that I participate only to a certain predetermined level of effort. One class, I was allowed only to exert myself to 70%. The spin class after a really tough week and a noticeable bump in long run distance, I was to give only 30-40% effort. Normally, I’m a “go big or go home” kind of person, but I really like that Kelsey reels me in. A big part of her training is injury prevention and I’m so thankful that my body has been responding to the training. I don’t think that this injury-free training is luck-based at all.

Each week I also do a strength session. I look forward to these training days because they really switch up the pace of the week. They also tend to fall on days when my legs are just spent and could use an extra day off from running. Though I think it’s a combination of multiple factors of my training – I’m a total believer in building upper body strength to become a faster runner. These strength sessions are mostly calisthenics (and they tend to fall on the same day as the swim – see below) that involve pushups, planks, wall sits, the hardest ab move I’ve ever had to do, and a lot of dynamic moves for about an hour. Let me just say that before starting this training, I could do maybe 10 pushups. We now end every spin class with 50 pushups!

Kelsey knows that I’ll be participating in the Tri for a Cure again this year, so she’s been strategically placing some swim workouts in my training to get me started. I’m lucky to live 10 minutes away from a community pool that opens at 6am for adult lap swims. So you can bet I’m there bright and early flopping around in a lane. It took me a few weeks to really get the hang of swimming (let alone, first thing in the morning!) but I’m becoming more comfortable with pool etiquette (sharing a lane was an odd fear/insecurity that I had). I had always preferred open water swims, and I probably always will, but I’m getting really comfortable in the pool. I even did flip turns on Wednesday – and swam my first mile in 2015!

yassos

Once or twice a week, Kelsey has me doing speedwork. The type of speedwork varies, but what remains constant is that it’s hard and I always feel that those workouts give me such a confidence boost. For the first month and a half of training, some of these speed workouts were replaced with “treadmill mountains.” These workouts (perfect, since we were going through the worst winter in a few years!) consisted of cranking the incline on the treadmill and walking for 2, sometimes 5 minutes at a time. I recall one treadmill mountain workout where I had to run the mountain! (Perfect for Sugarloaf training.) Kelsey has had me doing Yassos, running with striders, and running at pace. Half way through training, I did a check-in run – where I ran 8 miles at marathon pace as a test, surrounded by a 2 mile warmup/2 mile cooldown. (At the time, I was up to ~15 miles on my longest run, so though the distance was shorter, the pace was definitely harder.)

Sometimes an easy run will be thrown into the mix. Easy runs usually occur the day before my long run or in the middle of the week as an extra “recovery” day. The goal: just enjoy yourself, love running, find gratitude. Funny enough – these runs are usually my least favorite. My expectations going into an easy run is that it’ll be quick (they rarely exceed an hour) and easy. The funny thing is that my legs are usually so tired on these days – and when you go into a run expecting it to be quick…it never is!

Of course, you can’t forget the rest day. I get Fridays completely off from training. Kelsey sometimes has me participate in assignments (one | two) on these days. They’re fun and thought-provoking exercises that have definitely improved my opinion of myself and my relationship with others.

The long run. The long run has actually consistently been my favorite part of marathon training. I didn’t expect it to be. At all. But each of these runs has been incredibly therapeutic and exciting. Because the sole purpose of the Sunday long run is endurance (not speed), I get to go out at 8am, run, explore new places, eat shot bloks and honey waffles, and return just in time for brunch. Really, it is the best.

11142943_1569237843349605_1391054625_n

I ran my first 20-miler two weeks ago and though it was quite painful at times, I was on top of the world. That 20-mile run is significant in the world of marathon training. It’s symbolic, in a way. Though I will be running close to 21 miles (maybe 22?) on Sunday, that 20-miler was the first time my watch (and my legs!!) had seen a 2 in front of another digit in terms of miles!

This has been an incredible journey. I have learned so much about my abilities as a runner, about running nutrition, about recovery. I’ve learned how to pace myself. I’ve learned how to run through pain and tired legs. I’ve learned how to find happiness and optimism in the most difficult of times. I’m so proud of myself for sticking to this. I haven’t missed a single training run. I’ve completed them all to the best of my ability. I want to run this marathon knowing that if something goes wrong, it’s not because I didn’t train as hard and smart as I possibly could.

10986310_1565820080363630_47140905_n

It hasn’t all been fireworks, though. I’ve had my tough runs. I’ve had heavy legs that made me feel inadequate. I’ve had GI distress that destroyed my enthusiasm. I’ve felt fatigue that had me in bed by 7pm. I’ve had knee tightness that slowed my long run pace by more than 1:00 per mile. Runs that made me dread the next workout. I can’t help but feel that these tough times have humbled me quite a bit – have helped me prepare for any challenges that may arise on race day. Marathon training hasn’t been easy and I never expected it to be. Running my first marathon is going to feel like that much more of an accomplishment.

However, there have been some fantastic moments and accomplishments during this training. I’ve adopted a no excuses mentality – I learned to run in the worst conditions: snow, freezing rain, terrible wind – and I’ve come out a stronger athlete! I’ve learned how to properly foam roll and to actually do it regularly! I’ve improved upon my pre-race routine – heck, I get to practice every Sunday! I’ve PR’d my half marathon time (and in doing so, PR’d my 10k and 10 mile time too!). I have a new appreciation for slowing down, taking a walk, and going to bed early. I’ve made myself proud.

A quick glimpse into training since Feb. 1:
94 hours 33 minutes spent training (that’s almost 4 days!)
396.58 miles run
3.52 miles swum
1530 pushups
11 treadmill runs
11 rest days

This race has a reputation for being windy and rainy. For whatever reason, the weather never seems to cooperate on the day of this race. (Even as a precaution, all runners received an email a few days before about the dangers of hypothermia. Yikes!)

(more…)

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dicehealthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

I’m a huge fan of brunch. It’s actually starting to become a regular Sunday thing among my friends. I love returning from my long run, taking a hot shower, and then emerging to a scene of friends, delicious food smells and the sheer joy of creating something special together.

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

We go all out during brunch. Everyone contributes something – whether it’s pancakes, home fries, sausage, a fruit salad, or mimosas. One of my favorite breakfasts of all time would have to be a homemade parfait. I often will set out the fixings – I brought them to share at work once as well – but they usually go untouched: no one quite knows what to make of an assortment of yogurt, fruit and granola sitting out on a table. Sure, separately, they’re great. But together, they’re wonderful.

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

For Easter this year, I’m going to be bringing mini pre-made parfaits to the table with homemade granola. You can’t really go wrong when you bring something healthy and delicious to Easter brunch.

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola | spice & dice

healthy brunch mini parfaits + maple coconut granola


yields: 10 mini parfaits

Ingredients:

Granola

  • 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. maple extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Parfaits

  • 10 8-ounce mason jars
  • 1 quart of your favorite greek yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 24 oz. frozen mixed berries
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate

Directions:

Granola

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor or blender, add 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup pecans. Pulse until roughly ground. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the remaining almonds and pecans into smaller pieces. Combine them with the ground nuts.
  3. Microwave the honey and coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds, or until melted. Pour liquid into the bowl of nuts.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, removing once after 6 minutes to stir. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and use within 3-4 weeks.

Parfaits

  1. Spoon a small layer of greek yogurt into the bottom of each of your jars.
  2. Next, add some frozen berries onto the layer of greek yogurt. Spoon another layer of greek yogurt into the jars, followed by a second layer of berries. End with a final layer of greek yogurt, making sure to leave room on top for granola.
  3. Chop the dark chocolate into tiny pieces. Top each parfait with a little bit of the dark chocolate. If eating right away, top with a few scoops of granola as well.

Granola recipe adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen.