Half-Marathon Recap!

Hi friends! I’m excited to share with you a big item I checked off my bucket list – we ran our first half marathon! Our weekend kicked off Friday afternoon when Derek picked me up from work and we made the drive to Orlando, where our half marathon was taking place the next morning. Since the race began at 7 a.m., we agreed it was a good idea to stay in a nearby hotel the night before so we wouldn’t have to worry about making the drive early Saturday morning. The Embassy Suites in downtown Orlando was 2 blocks from the race start – talk about convenient!

After checking in at our hotel and enjoying a complimentary happy hour…

photo 1 (6)

…we ventured over to 310 Lakeside to take in some serious carbs. We shared a zucchini flat bread and each got the Chicken Piccata pasta. It was the perfect ore-race meal.

After dinner, we took a walk around Lake Eola, and enjoyed the Christmas celebration that was taking place , before calling it a night.
Our alarm went off around 5:30 Saturday morning. I get a little anxious when it comes to things like races, flights etc. and feel the need to get up a little earlier than necessary. We both had some cereal, coffee and a Gu energy gel and left our room for the race around 6:35.

As soon as I lined up at the starting line, I immediately got the jitters. I’ve wanted to run a half marathon since the day I began running, and we’d trained so long for this race that I couldn’t believe it was finally time to actually get the job done.

photo 3 (9)

[Full of jitters when Derek snapped this pic]

Our goal for the race was to finish in “around” 2 hours, and my gut feeling was that we would come in a couple minutes over the 2 hour mark. As this was our first half-marathon, our training really was focused on just getting the miles in, and we were never too concerned with tracking our time or splits during our training runs. Because of this, I knew I couldn’t put too much pressure on myself to maintain a 9-minute mile to come in under 2 hours.

We ran each mile somewhere between 8:40 and 9:20ish, and fueled with Gu at mile 7 and mile 11. Derek also grabbed a beer that was passed out by spectators around mile 9, and he insists it’s what got him through the race (I’d most likely throw up if I drank a beer during a run). Around mile 10 we realized that we were on pace to complete the half-marathon in under 2 hours, and that all we needed to do was maintain a 10 minute per mile pace for the next 3 miles.

route

I was mildly annoyed when we came across several hills during the last few miles, but was surprised when I found that the hills made my sore knees and ankles feel a little better.

We rounded the corner and saw the finish line in the distance, with about 2 minutes until the 2 hour mark. I definitely can’t say that I sprinted to the end, but a light jog took us through the finish line at 1:59:22! I was so excited to be done with the race, and stuff my face with muffins, bananas, and H20 as Derek chugged chocolate milk after chocolate milk.

half marathon

Soreness set in immediately, and we made sure to stretch as soon as we got some food and water in our bodies. The soreness lasted through Monday night, and we took our first post-race run first thing Tuesday morning. It felt good to shake things out, and I’m already looking forward to running another half in the spring!

How to Fuel for a Half Marathon

As you guys may know from my recent posts, I’m completing my first half marathon this weekend. I tend to over-anticipate and work myself up over all races, even 5Ks, so you can imagine that I’m feeling anxious/excited for this big race. In addition to putting in the proper training, it’s just as crucial to fuel your body properly for longer races, and that’s what I’m focusing on doing this week. I found the following article really helpful, and thought you guys may too!

“How to Fuel for a Half-Marathon

Three great tips on carb-loading and fueling so you don’t hit the wall during your next 13.1.

Generic Blurry Race Shot

Dear Fuel School, I’m getting ready to run a half-marathon this weekend. If I need to carb-load, what should I consume before the start of the race, and how do I fuel to avoid hitting the wall mid-race?

Great questions! I too am gearing up for a half-marathon this weekend and the Runner’s World Half-Marathon Festival next month, so I’ve been busy planning my carb-load and pre-race breakfast. (When you’re a nutrition nerd, you tend to sleep, eat, and breathe race fueling.)
So first things first—the carb-load. You might be wondering if it’s as necessary for 13.1 as it is for 26.2. Honestly, I think it can’t hurt. A carb-load prior to a half-marathon needn’t last as long or be as intense, but it is still important and will have a positive impact on your race performance. Technically speaking, carb-loading really comes into play any time you are out on the road for more than 90 minutes. Carb-loading tends to lead to a bit of stiffness (because your muscles are fully stocked with glycogen) and weight gain (water retention), so for shorter events it’s really not recommended.
Since most of us take longer than 90 minutes to complete a half-marathon, my recommendation is that you carb-load in the days prior to the race. You can carb-load in as little as one day, but to prevent carb fatigue and the worry of “Am I taking in enough?” aim to start two to three days before the half-marathon. You don’t necessarily need to increase your calories—just make sure the majority of those calories come from carbs, especially at lunch and dinner the day before race day. Given time, your body can digest, absorb, and store the nutrients, and you’ll be able to rely on those fuel stores on the next day’s run. The day before race day, have your main meal at midday and a smaller meal for dinner so you have plenty of time to digest.
The pre-race meal is also very important, as you want to toe the starting line with a tank that’s primed but neither empty nor overflowing. For more ideas on what to consume pre-race, check out this past lesson on how to fuel for an early morning run (since most races are held in the early a.m. hours).
Now that we’ve covered carb-loading and what to eat before the race, it’s time to tackle your final question: “How do I avoid running on empty in those last few miles of the race?” As you may have noticed during your training, when you’re on the road for fewer than 75 minutes, you can usually rely on water, sports drinks, and your body’s own glycogen stores to carry you along. Any longer, and you begin to deplete those stores. Your muscles run out of fuel, and your body — not to mention your attitude — starts to drag. Consuming carbs mid-run can keep your blood sugar steady, so you don’t crash and burn.
Instead of recommending something new on race day, here are some common techniques for fueling which should help you blow by that late-race wall. Since every runner is different, you may want to try one or more of the following tips during training. Maybe all of them will work, and you’ll have plenty of options to thwart the feelings of weakness in those last few miles!
Tip #1: Make sure to take in adequate fuel the day before your long run. While you are at rest, your body will have adequate time and energy to absorb and store those nutrients you ate, and then you’ll be able to rely on this fuel for the following day. And don’t forget to eat a carb-rich, low-fiber, easy-to-digest, familiar breakfast the morning of the race!
Tip #2: Fuel at regular intervals and before you need to. Wait until you’re out of gas, and you won’t be able to recover from feeling hungry or weak. Your muscles will be forced to play catch-up, and you won’t be able to bounce back and finish the run feeling strong. If you’ve ever had a long run that started strong and then got slower and slower, it may be time to consider what you did during the first few miles of the long runs that you didn’t do during the last few miles. Many runners head out the door with a full tank but, feeling great, they neglect to re-fuel over the next few miles. If you don’t start fueling within that first hour, it’s likely that your empty-tank will catch up with you, and you’ll bonk. Not only will you hit the wall, but once your muscle glycogen stores are depleted, it can be very difficult to adequately recover during your run (and you may have to walk or crawl the last few miles). My advice to avoid this whole mess? Aim for 30-60 grams of carb per hour (and start using your chews, gels, or sports drinks early and often).
#3: Don’t be afraid of fuel. Maybe you’ve tried a product in the past and didn’t care for it or it didn’t sit well with you. If that’s the case, know that there are always new products coming out. Try a variety of products and brands. For ideas on the many different fuel options available, check out this post on energy gels and this post on alternatives to energy gels. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a few different products and see what works for you. Whatever concentrated form of fuel you are taking in, remember to dilute it with adequate water (or else it won’t be absorbed, and you will get nauseous). Lastly, find out what gel/product your race will be handing out. If you can tolerate or like the brand that the race is handing out, you’ll know that you won’t need to pack your own on race day. But if their chosen brand doesn’t work for you, you’ll need to plan ahead. In addition, you might try to find out at what miles the race will be handing out product and mimic that in your training to practice for race day.
Best of luck this weekend! I’ll be thinking of you and other readers as I tackle my own 13.1-mile challenge!”

Turkey Trottin’ and Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa

Hi friends! How are you all doing?! I spent my whole vacation on cloud 9 –  I spent 2 straight days with my family, enjoyed the latter half  of my break in Atlanta with Derek’s family.

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving that began with the Turkey Trot 5K that I mentioned earlier in the week. After waking up in the 6 o’clock hour and enjoying a pre-race cup of coffee, my dad, Derek and I ventured out into the 37 degree Florida weather for our Turkey Trot in Fishhawk, a neighborhood near our home.

photo 1

We went back and forth on whether or not we should keep our jackets on while we ran. That’s how I know it’s really cold – when Derek and my dad run in long sleeves. In the end, we all decided to be wimps and run with the layers. The run never seemed to warm me up so I’m sure glad I kept my jacket on.

We ran with my dad for about 1.5 miles , and then all met up at the finish line. I didn’t pay much attention to my Garmin, and instead just enjoyed running with Derek and my dad beside me. We are all usually focused on trying to do well in our age group, so this was a nice change to run together.

photo 4

We ran mile 1 in 8:48, mile 2 in 8:07 and the last 1.1 mile in 7:54.

It was such a fun race and the turnout was great –  I’d guess about 2,000+ came out! I love seeing races grow from year to year!

After our run, we made our traditional Starbucks stop, and I realized it was my first Starbucks red cup of the holiday season. I’m pretty sure this is pitiful, since this means I haven’t had Starbucks in about a month. What was I thinking???!!!

photo 5

We rounded out the morning by decorating the Christmas tree, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, preparing my contribution for Thanksgiving dinner, and attempting to take a successful Christmas card photo.

cc4

My family always celebrates Thanksgiving at my Aunt Suzanne and Tio Frankie’s home, and since they have the Thanksgiving meal perfected, I was asked to bring just an appetizer. I knew I wanted it to be something in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but couldn’t think of a dish for the life of me. That’s where Martha Stewart and Real Simple came into play. I found this recipe on their list of easy Thanksgiving appetizers, and it was definitely a hit at the get together (as much of a hit as an appetizer can be – we all know what we were really there for!)

Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa

1.5 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small

1 large red onion, diced

1 ½ tbsp. olive oil

2 tomatoes, diced

2 avocados, diced

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

Lime juice from 1 lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 . Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, and roast diced sweet and onions tossed in olive oil for 20-25 minutes, or until sweet potato is lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely.

sppppp

Once roasted veggies have cooled, add in tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve with pita chips or toasted baguette.

spp

I hope you all had as lovely as a Thanksgiving break as I did, and I hope your week is just as great!

Veggie Packed Chicken Soup Because I’m Freezing Cold

Hi friends! How goes life? I am just cruising along this week, working and counting down the minutes until the holiday season officially begins! I’m so ready to begin Thanksgiving day with a Turkey Trot 5K Race with my dad and Derek. We all decided to run together this Thanksgiving, instead of trying to set PRs. None of us have been training for speed lately (Derek and I have been preparing for our upcoming half marathon), so we thought it would be nice to run together this turkey trot!

Dad

I’m so excited that the weather in Tampa will be chilly this Thanksgiving. Who wants 80+ degree weather during the holidays? Not this girl! As you can see from my picture from last year’s turkey trot, I was sufficiently freezing (don’t let my dad’s outfit fool you – it was in the 40s and that’s cold for us down here!).

Speaking of chilly weather…. As the temperature outside starts to get a little cooler ( in the 60s here in Tampa, and that’s cold for us), I always start to crave soup more than any other time of the year. What warms your heart more than a large bowl of homemade soup? Nothing, that’s what.

Last weekend, I was really longing for some homemade soup, and we had tons of veggies and chicken on hand that I put to use to create this vegetable packed chicken soup! Here’s the recipe, I hope you all enjoy!

Veggie +  Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces chicken tenders, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 28 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons orzo (or another tiny pasta)
  • 3  cups packed baby spinach

 veggie soup

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add chicken to pan, and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. In a large pot, add zucchini, onion, oregano, and salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, white wine, and orzo, and cook on high heat until the soup begins to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes. Add in spinach and chicken and cook for 2 more minutes.

This soup is the perfect meal for freezing and re-heating on chilly nights or as a special lunch treat at work. I enjoyed the soup 3x this past week and it didn’t grow old once!

veggie soup 4

Buon Appetito! And enjoy your Turkey Day-Week 🙂

A Hungry Girl’s Favorite Week + Photo Share 11/25

Hi strangers! I have missed you all so much the past few days! How has everyone been? I am SO excited that Thanksgiving is almost here – I can barely control myself! Does it get any better than an entire day filled with food, family, and a little bit of football? The special traditions every family has during the holidays is probably my favorite part of it all. My dad and I always run a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and then go home and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with my mom. It’s one of my favorite mornings of the year, and I’m excited Derek will be spending it with us this year!

This weekend was a wonderful kick-off to the holidays, and I’m grateful to have spent so much time with family and friends the past few days. 

As usual, I’m going to share my weekend with you guys in my favorite fashion – through pictures, of course!

Friday evening after work, Derek and I kicked off the weekend with a short 3 mile run. Derek has been crazy busy working the past few weeks, and our runs have been a great time for us to catch up and have some time to do nothing but talk to each other. One of my favorite parts of running is the time I get to spend with the people I’m running with – whether it is Derek, my dad, or a friend, it’s always great to share that special time with someone!

After our run, when we were having the typical “I don’t care – you pick where we go to dinner” conversations, our indecisive struggle was put to an end when we got a call from Derek’s mom inviting us over for Mexican Soup! I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I love her cooking and could never turn it down. We quickly cleaned up and headed over to spend the evening over there.

aa

Dinner was DEEELISH as usual, and I spent the rest of the night cuddling on Sam…
aaa

And enjoying way too much Yogurtology. Is that even a thing? Too much Yogurtology? Probably not. aaaa

We also had fun watching Ben watch the Season 2 finale of Homeland (the best show in the history of television). If you’ve never watched Homeland, I cannot recommend that show enough. Please, do yourself a favor, get Showtime, and go watch it!! aaaaaa

After a 30 minute elliptical sesh (I really don’t love that thing), and a CXWorx class, I spent the day with my parents and Louie on Saturday! I helped them decorate the house for Christmas, and they returned the favor by helping me at Derek’s house! I’m feeling super thankful for my parents this week (and every week, for that matter)!
aaaaaaaa

bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

We spent Saturday evening with Derek’s parents and neighborhood friends at a neighborhood shrimp boil! This was only my second shrimp boil (remember my first?) and it really made me wonder why we don’t do shrimp boils more often. We had such a fun night eating too much shrimp + cornbread muffins and drinking way too much wine.
RRR

Speaking of wine.. I was pretty worried that I shouldn’t have had those few glasses of wine the night before the longest run of my life so far. But, surprisingly, our 12 mile training run on Sunday was my most enjoyable long run yet. I’m amazed at what a real training plan can do for you. Each week my body feels more and more comfortable with longer distances – I never thought I would be someone to run 12 miles and enjoy it, but I’m really glad it’s developed that way! Our half marathon is in 12 days, and I’m so excited for the day to finally get here.
aaaaaaaaaaaa

Don’t worry, Louie only came with me the last 1/2 mile – which probably was the most distracting half mile of my life.

I was so excited on Sunday when I got an invite to come to a “Friendsgiving” at our friends’ Gabby and Maggie’s house. The party was a hit, and it was such a lovely way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving. We all love spending the holidays with family, but I’m so happy the “Friendsgiving” tradition has started, because I love that I get to celebrate being thankful for all my awesome friends!bb

The food. was. so. good. I’m going to need a couple of recovery days for my stomach to shrink back to normal size from all the delicious appetizers, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, mac n cheese, delicious salad and corn casserole we ate. Oh and then came dessert. It was really a hungry girl’s dream come true.food food2

I brought a new-to-me dish to the party – pimento cheese balls rolled in toasted pecans. I can’t wait to share the recipe with you guys! bbbbbbbbb

And one of my favorite parts of the party was the “what I’m thankful for” props to take pictures with. Please note: Will Ferrell, Natty Lite, Jameis Winston, Chick Fil A… Not pictured: DVR, Publix BOGO (THE GREATEST). These girls hit the nail on the head with what I’m grateful for!bbb

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! I hope you all have a blessed week with your families, eat plenty of food, and take some time to consider all the wonderful things we can all be thankful for this year and every year!freeendz

Happy Hump Day! And… Skinny Pumpkin Granola!

Hi friends! Happy Hump Day!! How are all your weeks going? Mine is shaping up nicely after getting off to a rough start. Remember how I told y’all a while back  how I got no sleep at all one night? Well a repeat of that incident happened Sunday evening, and I got a whopping 2 hours of sleep from 5am-7am. Luckily, the only thing the lack of sleep affected was my plans for power yoga Monday night, which turned out for the best, as I spent a great night with my parents and Louie relaxing at home.

unnamed

I don’t know what is going on with my sleep patterns, but I plan to get this mess figured out ASAP! Anywho, I caught up with sleep completely on Monday night, and felt like a new person come Tuesday morning! I made sure things got back to normal on Tuesday and drove straight to the gym after work. While my original plan was to join in on a Mat Pilates class, I opted for a four mile run and a 20 minute stretching session. As our half marathon gets closer and closer (our last long run is this weekend!), I’m getting nervous that I haven’t been putting in enough miles into my preparation . I felt a little better about the situation after a fast 4 miles Tuesday evening, and an easy 3 miles this morning before work!

Another fun part about my week has been the constant availability of pumpkin granola after making a batch this week. As you can tell in my many pumpkin recipes (pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins), I’m really enjoying the flavor of the season and trying to cook with it as much as I can through the end of November. Here is my recipe for skinny pumpkin granola, which I’ve been enjoying atop yogurt, oatmeal, and by the handful 🙂

Skinny Pumpkin Granola Recipe

4 cups rolled oats

½ cup sugar free maple syrup

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chopped nuts (I used ½ pecans and ½ almonds)

3 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine oats, nuts, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix together completely. Pour vegetable oil, syrup, and vanilla extract into a measuring cup, and slowly pour over dry oat mixture, stirring to combine. Finally, stir in pumpkin puree and make sure all ingredients are mixed together.

gr3

Prepare 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, and divide and spread mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes, removing pans from oven and spreading granola around every 20 minutes, to ensure all pieces are evenly baked.

gr1Hope y’all enjoy this recipe if you give it a try! Have a happy and healthy Wednesday! Keep Smiling!

Sweet Home Alabama + Photo Share 11/18

Hey guys, happy Monday! It feels nice to wake up in Tampa this morning for the first time in a while! We spent our weekend in Dothan, Alabama, where Derek was a groomsman in one of his best friends’ weddings! Spencer and Derek met on their football recruiting visit to Auburn when they were seniors in highschool, and lived together through Derek’s whole Auburn career.  It was such an honor to be with Spencer and Amanda as they officially started their life together, and we can’t wait to see this beautiful couple again soon!

wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhh

lololol

qweretre

tytyt

As you can tell, the evening was picture perfect and the ideal southern affair. I was taken aback with the décor and all the beautiful little southern touches. But the decorations weren’t nearly as beautiful as the couple of the night!

The food went perfectly with the scene – some good ole’ comfort food that included fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried okra and corn bread. It hit the spot and made me wish  all weddings included this kind of eatin’.

yuyyyy

And the cakes were a delicious yellow cake with buttercream icing, staged perfectly on a rustic blue dresser

cake

Rewinding a little earlier in the day – Derek and I found a running trail surrounding a park in Dothan, and got a good 7.5 miles in before 9 a.m. Although our training plan called for a 10 mile run, we made sure to get that distance in last week since we weren’t sure we’d find a 10 mile route in Dothan. Next week we have a 12 miler in store, and it’s our last long run before our half marathon on December 7th! I can’t pinpoint whether I’m more nervous or more excited – anyone else feel this way for their first half marathon??

gggg

fff

This was my first long run sans iPod and Garmin watch (I noticed both were dead as soon as I got dressed for the run). It was much easier than I thought it would be, and enjoyed running with no gadgets and a clear head!

Still rewinding backwards – on our way up to Dothan Friday night, I was so excited when the dinner hour rolled around about the same time that we were passing through Tallahassee. We hopped off the interstate and grabbed dinner at one of my favorite spots – Po’ Boys – all of our mouths were on fire with the Cajun seasonings that Po’ Boys uses, but we left feeling happy and full!

po boys

Before we hit the road on Friday, I made a little time for a fast paced and quick 25 minute HIIT running session, which included the following treadmill intervals:

nov 17

I really loved this interval run because it kept me busy and made the time fly by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to hop off and call it a day.

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I also had a little time to whip up a batch of some pumpkin granola, which I promise to share a recipe shortly!

gr2

I hope you guys have a lovely week ahead! I plan to begin my week with some night time Power Yoga. This will be my first time at the class, and I can’t wait to give it a go!