Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Meals to Please Everyone

Since I am not eating meat, dinner time poses the challenge of cooking meals that work for a meat eater and a non meat eater. While cooking two separate meals isn’t the end of the world, we have been trying to make meals this week that can be easily adjusted to fit both our needs.  So far we have been successful, so I wanted to share some meal ideas that can accommodate vegetarian and meat eaters.

Tacos: All the fixings are the same, other than the addition of animal protein. Aaron had fish, and I had sauteed mushrooms, zucchini and roasted corn. We both were able to enjoy the cheese, sour cream, avocado and cilantro. I was a huge fan of the veggie tacos and will be repeated these!

Paninis: Similar to tacos, DIY meals like paninis are perfect for different dietary needs.  Everyone can pick and choose their toppings.  We did this once before when I was participating in Meat Free Monday.

Stir Fry: Cook meat or shrimp separate and add it to the rice and veggies for the meat eater in the family. The vegetarian can just have the rice and veggies.

Burgers: Keeping both veggie burgers and turkey burgers in the freezer is going to be essential for this period. They are quick, go-to meals we can easily make without any extra work.

Enchiladas: Similar to tacos, fill half the pan of enchiladas with veggies, corn, black beans and the other half with ground turkey, shredded chicken or beef.  Everyone gets to enjoy the sauce and cheese!

What are your favorite vegetarian dishes?  I need ideas!!


The Number One Reason to do Speed Work

There are many reasons to do speed work:

– Improved fitness
– It makes your runs fly by (especially on the treadmill)
– You burn more calories
– You become a faster runner

But the #1 reason to do speed work?


If all you ever do is run at your comfortable LSD pace, you will never know if your body can handle more. Speed work makes you realize it is okay to push your speed and that a little discomfort isn’t all that bad.

If I hadn’t been doing speed work at the gym the last few weeks, I never would have push the 2.5 miles of my 7 mile run this morning. I decided at mile 4.5 I was going to pick up the pace. I challenged myself to stay below a 9:30 pace for the remainder of my run. It was tough, but it felt great.

Sometimes I think my body actually prefers a faster pace but my mind has a harder time accepting speed.

I finished the 7 miles in 1:08 which included three .05 mile walking breaks.

3 weeks and counting until half marathon number 5!

Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

This morning I set out to finished the rest of my shopping list. I had 5 people and 3 stops to make – including the MALL! I crossed my fingers and set out. The results? Success! While I was watching all the crazy people out, I started thinking about tips to survive holiday shopping – especially as it gets close to Christmas.

  • Stay calm. Don’t hope that the mall won’t be crowded – it will! Just know it will take awhile and you will get a lot less stressed.
  • Embrace the holiday spirit. Nothing makes me more mad than people who are out shopping for Christmas presents and are total assholes. That just doesn’t seem right. Remember that it is the holiday season and be kind. Put money in the Salvation Army bucket, give up a parking spot for someone else and SMILE! You will be surprised how much more enjoyable the experience is.
  • The internet is your friend. Obviously doing all our shopping online will save you from all the craziness, but even if you don’t buy your gifts online, use the internet for research. It always helps me so much to know what I am looking for and where I might be able to find it. Walking around aimlessly looking for “something for grampa” is much more daunting than knowing I am looking for pants and a sweater for grampa.
  • Don’t try to park in the front row. I always laugh when I see people in a line of cars looking for the closest parking spot. I park far away and walk. It winds up actually saving time, my sanity and walking is good for you!

If you are prepared for the crowds, it really isn’t that bad. I have been making good progress on my to do list for the weekend:

  • Laundry
  • Clean the office
  • Organize my room (mostly just put away all the clothes in piles on the floor and in the closet)
  • Finish XMAS shopping. Still have 4 people to shop for
  • Ship gifts
  • Set up my bike trainer in the office
  • Use said bike trainer
  • Catch up on Girls on the Run stuff
  • Grocery shopping

Taper Frustrations

I heard rumors of “phantom pains” during the taper period of marathon training. I pretty much brushed it off thinking it was an urban legend or only for really intense marathon runners. Now I think I believe it. I have definitely started to feel the itch – the urge to get it over with, the fear that by cutting back I will be out of shape and not ready on race day.

And on yesterday’s 12 mile run, everything hurt. It may have been because I ran hard on Thursday and didn’t recover properly, or that I ran more mileage this week than last week. Or maybe I was stiff from sitting out in the cold and rain Saturday at the football game. Or maybe my head was just playing tricks on me. Either way, I ran slow and my legs hurt. It is frustrating because being just a week away from race day, I want to feel rested and have my legs feel fresh.

I guess it is time to really get serious about rest and following my plan.I also looked up some tips and tricks for how to deal with “Taper Traps” on Runner’s World and thought I would share some that I have been plagued with:

Trap: The Impulse to Cram

Symptoms: The sudden, irrational urge to “cram” in extra miles and more long runs, speedwork, and other quality marathon training during your taper, especially early on when your body is feeling primed for peak performance.

Cause: “Runners tend to be focused and goal-driven,” says Kate Hays, Ph.D., the director of the Toronto Marathon Psyching Team, which offers peak-performance strategies to marathoners. “When they enter a stressful situation, such as the last weeks before a marathon, they rely on actions that have been proven to get results–like the cramming we all did before tests when we were in school.” But while all that extra, last-minute studying may have helped you ace a college exam, additional training during your taper will only leave you feeling exhausted come race day.

Solution: “Rational thinking helps,” says Hays. Realize that extra mileage and harder training at this point will hurt your marathon, not help it. Research has shown that those who taper properly perform better than those who train right up until race day. To convince yourself that you’ve done all the work necessary to run a good race, review your training log thoroughly, noting all the weeks of high mileage, long runs, and tough workouts. And no matter how short and easy your runs get during the taper, keep recording your workouts in your log to reinforce the feeling that you are studiously sticking to the plan.

Trap: Pressure to Perform

Symptoms: The overwhelming fear that the time goal you’ve set and trained for diligently is now somehow much too ambitious (what were you thinking?).

Cause: Once your peak training is over, it gets harder to feel confident in your abilities to maintain your goal pace. Many marathoners obsess on the five- or 10-minute gap between their goal time and the time they “fear” they might actually run–for example, crossing the line in 4:10, not 4:00, which would somehow make the marathon a failure.

Solution: Insert a couple marathon-pace miles in the middle of some runs during your taper (say two to three miles at marathon pace part-way through a couple of eight-milers) to reinforce confidence in your ability to hold that pace. You should also develop an alternative time goal that you can live with that’s five or 10 minutes slower than your ideal goal in case the weather on race day–or your body–just doesn’t cooperate.

Trap: Phantom Pains

Symptoms: A totally new pain in the foot, knee, hip, back, or insert-any-body-part here that strikes for no apparent reason.

Cause: Twinges and passing aches are all part of the body’s rejuvenation process. “During a taper, tissue repair on the microscopic level causes muscle twitches and sometimes muscle cramps as the body adapts,” says Dr. Smurawa. Also, when we run less, and worry more about our marathon, everyday aches and pains-which would normally be ignored–get exaggerated to the point of lunacy.

Solution: Think of each phantom pain as a signal that the body is healing itself and preparing you for the marathon. Since your workouts are now shorter, spend some extra time on your favorite stretches to help relax your body. And if you like whirlpools or long baths, indulge. Also, if you’ve had massages during other parts of your training, get one this week. It will further aid the healing process.

Trap: Heavy Legs

Symptoms: A tired, heavy feeling centered in the legs, but affecting your whole body, that you get late in a taper.

Cause: “Tissue repair in the legs during recovery, coupled with the fact that you are storing more carbohydrate and water late in the taper, will make you feel like you do after eating a big meal,” says Dr. Smurawa. In other words, you feel like a slug.

Solution: Remember you’re not the only one feeling this way. “Just knowing that this is how tapering marathoners are supposed to feel can help curb your anxiety,” says Robert Udewitz, Ph.D., a sports psychologist and the director of Behavior Therapy of New York. Also, try a few strides (100-meter sprints) after some of your easy runs. Strides can help knock off the rust, leaving you feeling fresh and ready without overdoing it.

Tips for Marathon Spectators

One of the things I am most nervous about for the marathon is race day weather. It is the one thing I cannot control. In the past, CIM has been notoriously cold. Last year it was 31 degrees at the start (and that’s 2 hours after the bus picks you up to take you to the start).  I remember being at home during last year’s race and so happy I hadn’t signed up to do the relay. It was SO cold and we had a nice fire roaring and I was tucked under a fuzzy blanket.

Not such luck this year. One of the main reasons I am worried about the weather? My cheerleaders.  If the weather is nice I am more likely to have a good amount of spectator support (the main reason I chose to run CIM as my first marathon). If the weather is cold and rainy, people may be less likely to show up. And I will feel bad for those that still do show up and have to wait 4+ hours in the cold for me to shuffle my way to the finish line.

I found this article with tips for marathon spectators and thought I would share.  Some are common sense and others are pretty useful:

Make Signs

Runners love to read signs along the race course to help break the monotony. Try some of these phrases for signs : “You’re all Kenyans.”; “There’s beer at the finish line.”; “All walls have doors” (good one if you’re cheering around mile 20 or beyond). If you’re supporting a family member or friend, make a sign with his name that will encourage your runner but also help them to easily identify you.

Be Prepared
The water stops and food stations are for race participants, so you should be prepared with your own supplies. Pack some bottled water and snacks. Make sure you also have a reliable watch, a course map, cash, a camera, and cell phone. If rain is in the forecast, bring an umbrella, rain jacket, and extra socks. If it’s sunny, don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses. You’re most likely going to be standing still for a while. So it’s always good to have extra layers in case you get cold. And, most importantly, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.
Respect the Course
Don’t stand or walk on any part of the course. It’s not fair to runners if you make the race course even more crowded or become an obstacle that they have to run around. If you can’t see the runners from where you’re standing because it’s too crowded, move to a different viewing location.
Pick an Encouraging Phrase
Rather than just clapping as runners go by, pick a phrase or two to yell. Some good ones include: “Way to run;” “You can do it;” “Looking strong;” “Nice job;” “You’re flying;” or “Looking good.” Many marathon runners display their first names on their shirts or race bibs. So if you see someone’s name, you can always add that to the end of your catch phrase.
But Don’t Say This…
Unless you’re right next to the finish line, don’t yell, “Almost there” or “Not far to go.” Trust me, marathon runners don’t want to hear that phrase unless they are about to cross the finish line. It’s also not a good idea to yell out a specific distance such as, “Two miles to go,” unless you’re 100% certain that the number is the correct distance to the finish line (if you happen to be standing next to a mile marker, for instance). Too many spectators give out wrong information, which can be frustrating, confusing, and disappointing for runners.
Use Technology
Many large marathons have a variety of great services to help spectators follow their runners. See if the race’s web site has a sign-up for a runner tracking system, which can send alerts to cell phones, pagers, or wireless handheld devices as your runner moves across the chip timing mats throughout the course. Some races also offer Internet stations throughout the course and at the finish line, where spectators can check their runners’ progress online.
Timing Is Everything
If you’re looking for a family member of friend, find out his or her projected pace per mile ahead of time. This will help you figure out where and when they should reach certain points in the course. But keep in mind for big marathons that it could take a runner as much as 20 minutes to cross the starting line because of the crowds. So don’t base the predicted viewing times on the start time. You can adjust your projected viewing times after your first sighting of your runner.
Find Your Runner
Make sure you know exactly what your runner will be wearing, from head to toe. In crowded races, it’s easier to spot a purple shirt, for instance, rather than looking at everyone’s faces. Let your runner know what you’ll be wearing and where you think you’ll be standing, so he or she knows to look for you. If the race and cheering sections are really crowded, it’s helpful for the runner to know what side of the street you’ll be standing on. Some spectators even carry balloons so their runners can easily spot them from a distance.