Illinois Half-Marathon: Completed (again!)

Hey everyone!

Yesterday, my friends and I completed the Illinois Half-Marathon!  It was scheduled to be below 40 degrees, windy, thunderstorm, and downright miserable.  Thankfully, only the 40-degree-temperature-part came true! 🙂  It was a beautifully overcast and cool day AKA perfect running weather!

Elise and I after the half- we did it!

Many of my my friends PR-ed…but that was also because it was their first race 😉  Either way, it counts!  I also PR-ed yesterday, and am extremely excited about it.  My 2011 score was 2:06:01, and this year it was 1:44:53!  I am ecstatic.  My dream goal was to run at 8:12 pace (which I had thought was probably unattainable for the full 13.1 miles), and I ended up going around 8:00 min pace!

I’d like to give a special shout-out to Mother Nature (for cooperating), John Mayer (for singing to me the whole race), and Uncle Jim & my mom (for texting me) 🙂

It was such a great day and I cannot wait to run it again next year.  I learned some valuable tips post-race, too, that’d I’d like to share:

1) Although you burned a lot of calories, don’t stuff yourself.  Case in point: I ate a couple of bananas and two slices of pizza post-race.  I was feeling good for a few hours until I was starving.  What’s best for a hungry stomach?  Well, Chipotle sounded good.  Huge and delicious servings?  I’m in.  However, eating an entire burrito bol with some chips was not the best idea.  I had asked for 1/2 chicken and 1/2 steak, but ended up getting almost 3/4 serving chicken and 3/4 serving steak.  Although I got way more than my money’s worth, I went from full to uncomfortable throughout the evening.  Definitely try to avoid this for yourself by eating smaller meals.  This doesn’t mean to eat one small meal and call it quits; rather it means to eat a few small meals throughout the night.

2) Learn from #1.  I decided to cross-train during my usual lunchtime, so I was starvingggg post-workout.  We have a million Subways on campus, so it seemed like a perfect quick-and-healthy meal.  After eating that (+2 cookies 😉 ) extremely quickly, the stomach ache settled in.  Will I ever learn? Haha 🙂

Even with the crazy weather forecasts and tummy aches, this was one of the best weekends of the year!  Time with friends (and a new PR) always outweighs any negatives 🙂

Hopefully the next post will come with a delicious recipe- I’m experimenting tonight!  Cross your fingers for me 😉

“So, it’s race day…now what?”

Hello again!

Two posts in one day?!  Yep, things are getting crazy over here. 😉

My bus is leaving around noon tomorrow to head to Champaign and I am so excited! 🙂  Before I leave, however, I want to share tips on what to do on race day because…you’ve been working so hard for this day to come!  Now that it’s finally (almost) here, you’ll want to know all the tips and tricks to make it run as easily as possible 😉 (yes… pun intended).  So, here we go, I’m going to starting at the beginning of my race day and go up until the gun goes off!

Waking Up
“I wake up, in the middle of the night…” (okay, so these aren’t the exact words sung by Cyndi Lauper, but if you can start off your morning singing…you know it’s going to be a good day.  Anyways, because most races are early in the morning, you will most likely have to wake up early.  We’re talking earlyyyy, people.  Even though I’m a morning person, it still seems a little odd waking up in the pitch black “night” and hearing silence.  No birds singing…because even they’re still sleeping!  Set your alarm as early as possible, but also be sure to let yourself get as much sleep as you can too.  It’s hard running 13.1 miles or 26.2…and it’s even harder with no sleep.  Trust me, I’ve run a half-marathon on 4 hours of sleep.  It’s completely do-able, but do you really want to do that?  Didn’t think so.  If you’re staying at a hotel near the race, I’d recommend waking up about 3-4 hours before the race.  If you’re driving that morning, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to drive there.  Also, give yourself time to get lost.  Sometimes streets are closed around the race route and you’ll be forced to go down random streets.  This all takes time, so wake up early!

Eating
It’s important to eat a solid breakfast a few hours before the race.  But it’s really important to know how your body handles food.  You should eat how you always do before long runs.  For most people, it’s helpful to eat 2 hours (or more) before a race to allow your body the time it needs for proper digestion.  You should also eat foods your body is used to.  Is today the time to try that frozen Chinese dinner for breakfast?  Uh no.  (Save that for after the race!)  Instead, focus on foods that your stomach can easily handle.  I usually like to eat a peanut butter sandwich and a small banana.  I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches almost every day of my life, and they’re almost always my pre-run meal.  However, this does NOT mean you should make this your pre-run meal on race day.  Are you used to eating plain bagels?  Stick with it!  Protein smoothies?  Stick with it.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from foods that have an excessive amount of fiber.  Certain fruits, veggies, and other tasty things may cause you to get cramps and run to the bathroom if you eat them before a race.   It’s probably your best option to avoid them if you can.

Another misconception is the belief that you need to eat everything and anything to help keep you fueled up during the run.  If you do this, you can say HELLOOOO to cramping, bathroom breaks, and general discomfort.  Eat a normal sized amount of food.  You’re going on a run, and you’ll fuel on the run with GU, so you’ll be a-ok with your normal pre-run meal.  Think back about your other long runs…you survived it!  You ate a normal-sized meal and were able to successfully complete your run.  Today is just another long run day…except that there are more people watching you succeed.

Drinking
Start drinking that H2O as soon as you wake up.  I’ve heard that it’s good to stop drinking about an hour before the race and then to drink a small glass right before you start running.  This strategy will hopefully prevent bathroom breaks, so feel free to use it if you think it will help your race day performance.  It’s important that you are hydrated, so listen to your body.  If you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty- drink up!

Clothes
Wear comfy running clothes!  You’re going to be running for a while, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible.  This is also when you should use your Body Glide to help prevent any chaffing.

But wait, what if the weather is weird?  Maybe it’s windier than usual.  Or it’s raining.  Here’s a helpful website, made by Runners World, to help you decide what to wear on race day.

Bathroom
Use it before you leave your hotel.  Use it when you get to the race day location.  Use it before you get to the starting line.  If you don’t, you’ll regret it.

Flashback: At the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I decided I didn’t want to wait in line to use the porta-potties before starting the race.  What if they start the race while I’m in the extremely long line?  News flash: You probably won’t miss the start.  And, if for some reason you do, at least you won’t feel the need to go to the bathroom… for the first 7 miles…until you finally decide to give in.

Warm-up/Stretch
Some runners find it helpful to do a warm-up run and stretch before the big race.  I have never done a warm-up run, and instead take a fast walk around.  This is how I always warm-up before my training runs; I do a five-minute speed walk and follow it with stretching.  Remember: do what you always do.

Shoe Laces
Extremely important: make sure your laces are tied tight enough/loose enough.  It’s always terrible when you start a run and then have to stop to fix your laces.  Re-doing your laces while running a race would be even worse.  I like to do a couple second jog to “test out” my laces before game time.

Fix your hair
As your walking toward the starting line (before the gun goes off) or as you’re standing near the line with your friends, now is the time to make sure your hair is exactly how you want it.  Fixing a ponytail when running?  Forgetaboutit.  Only do this if you have to, don’t rely on it.

Get pumped
Hello, it’s RACE DAY! 🙂 Get out there and get going!

Those are my pre-race tips!  🙂

However, once there are a couple of words of advice I’d like to give for what happens after the gun goes off…

1) Races are crowded.  Watch out, or you may be run over.  Or you may run over someone else.  Look around and behind you before running diagonally.  This is especially important to remember when running to the water cups.

2) It’s okay to walk when drinking water.  If you walk while drinking, it allows you to drink it easier, faster, and…drink more of it!  This is the part of the race where I allow myself to (speed) walk and hydrate.

There’s much more I could say, but that’s enough for tonight! 🙂

Questions for you:
1. What are your pre-race rituals?
2. What do you like to eat before a race?

Running Dictionary

Hey friends!

In preparation for the half-marathon on Saturday, I’m trying to post as many half-marathon tips and tricks as possible!  It’s the first half-marathon most of my friends are running (and it was my first race last year!).  As it always goes when trying something new, there are definitely things you wish you had known beforehand (like, uh, everything)…so I’m going to attempt to spill everything and anything.  This post is  going to focus on some words runners through around.  It’s not exactly easy to google when you’re without a computer/iPhone and a random runner starts talking to you while in line in the bathroom (warning: lines will be LONG).  So, in order to avoid some awkward moments, here are some “foreign” running words I heard:

1) “bib”/”bib number”: okay, okay, this isn’t necessarily an extremely difficult concept to grasp.  But, it still seemed strange the first time I heard it.  I’m twenty-two years old, I don’t wear bibs.  Except when I’m in races, because a bib/bib number is the paper with your race number that you pin to your shirt.  Sorry the picture below is blurry, I guess I was just too excited to stay still enough for a picture 😉

Excited to hold my bib!

2) “PR”: Personal record.  It is extremely likely you will overhear runners saying, “Yeah, I’m trying to PR” (translation: I’m trying to get my fastest time, ever.)

3) “BQ”: Boston Qualifier.  The Boston Marathon is one of the, if not the, most elite marathons.  To qualify for Boston is an ultimate measure of running talent and ability.  The Illinois Marathon is a Boston Qualifying race (meaning, if you can run as fast as they specify, you can qualify for Boston).

4) “Barefoot running”: This could mean legitimately running barefoot,  running in Vibrams, or running in other shoes with little arch support.  Some runners believe this is harmful for the foot because there is little support.  Others argue that it allows your foot to be as natural as possible and thus it’s utilizing the muscles in your feet more effeciently.  Moral of the story: they probably mean toe shoes.

5) “Expo”: This is where you pick up your bib number and race packet.  There are usually a lot of vendors there selling awesome running stuff.  (AKA: be prepared to spend too much money.  To say I spent too much at the 2011 Chicago Marathon  Expo is an understatement… 0:)

6) “Throw away clothes”: This is literally what it sounds like.  Sometimes race day conditions are a little cold/rainy and you feel like you’d want to wear a jacket, but don’t want to run the whole time in it.  Well…you wear throw away clothes (make sure they are clothes you don’t like!), and then just take them off and throw them on the ground when you no longer want to wear them.  Warning: you probably won’t get them back.

7) “GU”: This is something I mentioned in my long-run essentials post.  It’s energy gel that helps keep you goin’ on runs lasting over an hour.  Check out the back of a GU packet, or their website, for specific directions.  IMPORTANT: do NOT eat GU and drink Gatorade!  This will be harmful to your body.  If you’re eating GU, you must only drink water during the race…and it’s important you drink some as soon as possible after GU consumption.  This will help with proper absorption and prevent uncomfortable side effects.

8) “Glide” or “Body Glide”: This is something I also mentioned in my long-run essentials post.  This helps to prevent chaffing, and is extremely helpful for runs (and especially helpful on rainy days!)

Hopefully my little running dictionary will help you understand what runners are saying!  If not…well…there are a lot of runners, you probably won’t see them again anyways. 😉

Questions for you:
What “runner” words confused you in the past?
Are there any words that you still don’t know?

‘Twas the Day Before The Half…

Hey guys!

Hope you all are having a great week.  I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday!  This week has been extremely busy, starting with my birthday celebration and followed by numerous group meetings, running, and eating.  Lots and lots of eating. When I am training, I feel like I’m always hungry…so I’m constantly bringing snacks with me everywhere I go! 🙂

Speaking of being hungry/always eating, a few of the girls I am running the Illinois Half-Marathon with have been asking what to eat the night before race day.  Although I am not an expert, I do have some tricks and tips I’ve learned first-hand from running a half and full marathon in the past.

Day before a half marathon:

  • Eat pasta for dinner.  I would recommend eating it with a mild sauce, and one that is not creamy.  You really want to avoid anything that can be hard on your stomach.  Extremely spicy sauces and creamy sauces may give you tummy troubles the next day, so avoid them to (hopefully) bypass these problems.  Also, do not over-eat.  Before my first race, I thought it was necessary to eat as much pasta as humanly possible to “help” me with the race.  Thankfully, my stomach didn’t kill me (I’d like to give out a shout-out to my Italian genes here and say THANK YOU!), but I have found from talking to people and doing some research that it is not necessary to overload yourself with carbs the night before a race by over-eating.  (Note: although you will eat more carbs before a full marathon than before a half, you should never over-eat).  Over-eating can cause extreme discomfort and unnecessary trips to the bathroom during the race, so only eat until you are full.
  • Avoid anything overly spicy or a “new” food.  Why risk eating something that could possibly mess with your stomach?  Just avoid it!
  • Avoid eating whole nuts, corn, and anything that has a lot of fiber.  This is something I’ve learned from a fellow runner, Rem, and it definitely makes sense.  You don’t want to eat anything that can cause you to run to  the bathroom when you should be concentrating on the finish line.  Note: smooth peanut butter is A-OK, because it’s not a “whole” nut…but don’t use crunchy peanut butter!
  • Drink lots and lots of water.  It’s important that your body is nice and hydrated.  Bring a water bottle with you everywhere and anywhere (you should always be doing this though! 🙂 ).
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, and anything that can dehydrate you.  This is something that I personally think is important, but others may disagree.  I have heard in the past that it is good to avoid alcohol before a marathon and I am assuming it is also helpful to avoid it before a half.  The coffee part is my own idea; I am in love with coffee (but not coffee-flavored GU) and also feel that it is best to avoid it the day before race day.  I find it to be very dehydrating so I replace it with water whenever it is around race time.

Hopefully you find my list helpful!  Please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to address them 🙂

Happy running!

Questions for you:
What do you like to eat the day before a race?
Do you avoid coffee around races?

Here are a couple of websites related to fueling that you may find helpful:
What to Do the Day Before Running a Marathon or Half Marathon
What Should I Eat Before and During My First Half-Marathon?

Birthday Celebrations!

I’m officially 22!   How exciting!  Now I can do…everything I’ve been able to do up to this point.

Although it seemed like this would be the first boring birthday, the day proved otherwise.  I had a great day being productive in the morning, and enjoying time with my friends and boyfriend in the evening.

My lifelong friend, Elise, came in from a nearby school and it was such a treat to see her on a Monday! 🙂

Elise and I at Destihl

After checking out the menu online, I had decided to go to Destihl for dinner.  The menu is huge (which I love for group dinners) and always filled with delicious options.  I ordered the watermelon and feta salad as a “small plate” and loved it.  Thankfully, my friend Nicole reminded me to take a picture of it just before I took the last bite.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

This “salad” was incredibly light and fresh.  I will definitely be making this at home, as it consisted of: watermelon, feta cheese, kalamata olives, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  The greens they included were hardly necessary, in my opinion.

For dinner, Elise and I split a huge jalapeno-bacon cheeseburger.  It came with potato wedges that tasted fantastic dipped into the chipotle-espresso-barbeque sauce.

Hello, delicious.

Dinner tasted fantastic, and it was so fun being surrounded by friends.  I guess turning 22 isn’t so bad after all.

Nicole and I

Shanny, Me, and Linds

Birthday Girl and Joe

Sorry for all the pictures today! 🙂 I’m too excited not to share them.  Anyways, today’s not really a fantastic food advice/running advice post!

But maybe you’re looking for some advice from the birthday girl?  She is another year older, and thus wiser, after all… 😉 If so, here are some tips!

“Enjoy each day- even the ones you think won’t be especially exciting.”

“Splurging is okay sometimes.” – I usually try to split things (like the burger), order things that taste great but that are on the healthy side (watermelon salad), and just enjoy small amounts of other things (like the ice cream I had after dinner at Coldstone, and the cocktail I had at dinner).”

Cool & Refreshing

Cheers!

Questions for you:
What’s your favorite cocktail?
What do you like to do to celebrate your birthday?

Dining Hall Remix

Hey there!  Hope you all had a great weekend!

This past weekend, I went home to attend a wedding, but had other fun throughout the weekend too!  Some of the highlights include:
– going to a new restaurant with the fam (they serve cavatelli- one of my favorite types of pasta!)
– successfully completing my 18-mile run
– attending the wedding!
– sleeping in

All weekends must come to an end, so I headed back to school today ready to attend my group project meetings.  And, as always, I headed back with a lot of food.  I will never turn down an offer for food.  Never.

Anyways, my mom gave me some sliced ham from The Honey Baked Ham Company.  If you haven’t had it, it’s delicious.  Sweet + Salty = YUM.  I haven’t gone grocery shopping for a while, so I decided to head over to a dining hall to “shop” for my sides. Unfortunately, they had run out of baked potatoes and baked sweet potatoes by the time I had gotten there.  With my starch ideas being gone, I had to look for a new side.  Rice with ham?  Nah.  Waffle fries with ham?  No.  Pasta with red sauce?  Nope (I’ve had pasta with red sauce the past four or five days).   I realized that in order to get a side dish filled with the carbs I wanted, I needed to start getting creative.  After a walk around of all the sections (Mexican, Asian, Healthy Options, Grill, Salad Station, Deli, and Pasta Bar), I decided to make my own pasta side.

Instead of using the pasta sauces given, I decided to make my own “mac & cheese” with: plain corkscrew pasta noodles, Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder.  Ingenious?  Not really.  A traditional option at the pasta bar? No.  Here’s my final dinner plate including: my “mac & cheese”, steamed broccoli (also from the dining hall), tomatoes (thanks again, dining hall), and my sliced ham from home.

"mac & cheese"

I’ve found that at dining halls, you really need to start getting creative.  No matter how many options your dining hall has, you will probably get tired of some meals and learn to avoid others.

Not sure of how to “re-mix” some dining hall options?  Here are some of my favorite ideas:

Refreshing Wrap:
-1 Spinach Wrap, 2 Slices Turkey, 3 Slices Cucumber, Small Handful of Fresh Spinach, 3 Slices Tomatoes, 2 TB Guacamole, 2 TB Ranch Dressing.
Spread guacamole on the wrap.  Then add turkey, cucumbers, spinach, and tomatoes.  Finally, drizzle ranch dressing and then wrap it up!  If you have a panini press, press it down until it’s nice and heated 🙂

Buffalo Wrap
-1 Spinach Wrap, 1 Chicken Breast, 1/4 Cup Lettuce, 3 Slices Tomatoes, 3 Slices Pickles, Hot Sauce , Ranch Dressing (optional).
Dice the chicken breast, then put that and all other ingredients into wrap, add hot sauce (make it as spicy as you want!) and dip it into ranch dressing.

Chili Cheese Dog
– Pretty self explanatory. Combine chili, shredded cheese, and a hot dog.  But, what if your dining hall already has this?
Add: Jalapenos, fresh tomatoes, and substitute Pepper-jack Cheese for cheddar cheese.

Ham & Pineapple Sandwich– similar to a sandwich I had while in Germany, so tasty!
– 2 Slices Wheat Bread, Slices of Pineapple, 3 Slices of Ham, Provolone Cheese.
-Place Provolone Cheese on one slice of bread, followed by the pineapple, and finally by the ham and other slice of bread.  (Avoid putting the pineapple directly on the bread, as this will make it soggy.)  Then, put it in a panini press and enjoy!

PB Waffle– I made this for breakfast the other day, and I’ll be having something similar to this tomorrow for my birthday breakfast!
-Belgian Waffle (we have waffle stations- so if you have this too, make it there! Otherwise, you can use whatever waffles they may be serving, or use french toast or pancakes instead), 2 TB Peanut Butter, 1 Banana
-Slice the banana.  Spread the peanut butter on the waffle/pancake/french toast and then add the banana on top.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Garlic & Oil Pasta
– Whole wheat pasta, 10 Cherry tomatoes, Garlic Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Olive Oil
-Super easy! Add the cherry tomatoes to the pasta, drizzle with olive oil (until the pasta has received a good drizzle-but it shouldn’t be floating!), and then finish with garlic powder and red pepper flakes to taste.  If you like cheese, add some Parmesan cheese as well!

Hope some of these recipes help you to change-up your normal dining hall meals!  (Or, give you ideas to make at home!)

Questions for you:
-How do you change your normal recipes to make them “new” again?

Wise Words from Kid Rock

Yesterday was a great day!  I decided to sleep in (9 glorious hours of sleep!) and go on a hunt to find the perfect muffin.  After checking out 4 places, I finally settled on a delicious Raisin Bran muffin.  It was pretty much the size of a grapefruit.  Read: YUMMM.

I made the rest of the day healthy until after my boyfriend Joe and I attended a painting class together.

Art + The Artists

We went to a place called “Merlot and a Masterpiece” and had a great time drinking some wine, painting, and laughing.  The theme of the night was “The Dancer”, and we were supposed to copy the artist’s painting.  When I paint, I have to do my own thing… so I didn’t really follow the rules 😉 but, I kept it abstract (which I never do) so that’s gotta count for something…right?

Anyways, after that I felt like a bear coming out of hibernation. I needed food and I needed it NOW.  Of course, the fact that I had already eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner didn’t matter.  It was time for dinner number two… and I was going to indulge.

We went to a Mexican restaurant and ate a million too many chips (with salsa) and delicious burritos covered in queso.   See, I really wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to indulge!  Did I mention we I grabbed a baby ice cream cone from McDonald’s after, too?  Sorry I’m not sorry.

Of course, the reality of that delicious treat really hits you the next day.  Today’s goal has been healthy foods, healthy foods, oh! and more healthy foods.

I began with a banana smoothie, snacked on some cereal, and then had this health-packed lunch:

Get into my bellayyyy

Steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots made up my “sides”.

The main part of the meal was my sandwich thin + roasted red pepper hummus + marinated kalamata olives.  Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Olives = ❤

Basically, today’s lunch rocked.  It’s great to be home and have any kind of veggie at your fingertips.  It’s lunches like that make me feel better about last night’s treats.

As Kid Rock said on a recent episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Hope you enjoy your day (and have a few sweet treats in there too)! 🙂

Question for you:

What’s your favorite thing to eat on a “splurge” night? (I think mine is Mexican food!)