Oakland Half Marathon Training: Week 4

It was a pretty good training week.  My plan called for 31 miles this week, but since I’m only running 5 days a week instead of 6, I’m feeling pretty good about this week’s 29 miles.  Though I’m tempted to run out the door and cram in 2 more miles, I’m trying to respect the rest days.  I’ve basically just cut the weekend 3 miler off the Cool Running schedule in favor of an extra rest day

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This week was a little bit of a cut back week, but had a quality 6 miles workout on Monday.  I don’t really like fartleks as speed workouts.  I prefer intervals because they’re easier to compare across time.  You can’t really compare last month’s fartlek with this month’s.  That said, I managed 6 miles at a 9:07 pace, which is my goal half marathon pace, so that felt great.  I’d definitely describe this workout as “comfortably hard.”

Last week in summary:

  • Monday: (scheduled 5 mile fartlek) 6 mile fartlek
  • Tuesday: (scheduled 3 miles) 3 miles
  • Wednesday: (scheduled 6 miles) 4 miles with Run Club
  • Thursday: (scheduled 6 miles) 6 miles
  • Friday: (scheduled rest) rest!
  • Saturday: (scheduled 8 miles) 10 miles
  • Sunday: (scheduled rest) rest! 

I also managed to get to yoga every day Monday – Friday, and even fit in three strength training sessions.  Holy cross training!

Next week’s plan:

  • Monday: 4-5 long hills at 5k pace
  • Tuesday: 4 miles
  • Wednesday: 6 miles
  • Thursday: 6 miles
  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 11 miles
  • Sunday: rest

Amusingly, the hardest run of that set will probably be Tuesday’s.  I run in the morning on Tuesday instead of after work, and it’s just hard for me to get going in the morning.  I can wake up and get out the door just fine, but my body seems to rebel against the idea of running first thing in the morning.  I’ve noticed the same thing with my weekend long runs.  The first mile or two is always extra slow until my legs seem to wake up and realize what’s going on.

 

Are you a morning runner?

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Chocolate Chip Pretzel Granola Bars

I usually keep a box of granola bars at my desk at work.  They’re the perfect 3:00 snack before my afternoon run.  I’ve just run through a whole box of Clif Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif bars, and before that it was a box of Coconut Cream Larabars.  I appreciate the convenience of picking up a box of granola bars, but I knew they had to be pretty easy  make at home myself.

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I’d picked up the new Peanut Honey Pretzel Luna bar last weekend, and I liked it a lot, but decided to adapt it with some of my favorite flavors.  I’d made a double batch of Ashley’s maple almond butter last weekend and wanted to use it in these bars.

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Granola Bar

The maple almond butter is definitely a more subtle flavor than peanut butter.  You can easily swap in peanut butter for the almond butter and honey for the maple syrup to make a closer match for the new Luna Bar flavor.  This recipe makes 16 bars, and freezes well.

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut (flaked)
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup maple almond butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup crushed pretzels
  • butter to grease the pan
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Spread the oats and coconut on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until the coconut is golden.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas and then mix in the maple almond butter and maple syrup until smooth.
  3. Mix the oats, coconut, puffed rice and pretzels into the bananas mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased 8×12” baking pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
  6. When the granola bars have cooled, press the chocolate chips into the top of the bars.  Wait until they’re completely cool before you cut the bars.

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Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Cookies

After a long run last weekend, we celebrated Aron’s birthday with a Coffee Heath Bar ice cream cake.  It was a delicious way to refuel after 10 miles.  Later that week during one of my regular runs, I had a brainstorm.  Coffee heath bar cookies!  You can’t really have ice cream cake on hand at all times, but cookies?  Those are fair game. 

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Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch is actually my favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor, but Coffee Heath Bar is a close second.  Plus I loved the idea of coffee flavor in the cookies.  Perhaps these are a better before run snack, full of lots of carbs and a little kick of caffeine.

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Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Cookies

Rolling the dough into even balls allows these cookies to spread out into a perfect circle.  These are a flatter, crunchier cookie, and they are delicious dipped in a cup of coffee.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hot water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup mini, 1/2 cup regular)
  • 3/4 cup toffee pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and the white and brown sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  4. Stir in the flour, espresso powder and salt.
  5. In a small, separate bowl, mix together the hot water and baking soda.  Add this mixture to the dough and mix.
  6. Mix in the chocolate chips and toffee pieces until  they are well distributed throughout the dough.
  7. Roll the dough into 1” balls and bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

The cookies are crunchy, and the toffee melted into thin chewy rivers running through the cookie.  I think they’d fuel you through a fantastic run.

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Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

While reading Cate’s blog last week, I saw her link to Branny’s Souper Bowl and knew I had to participate.  For every entry Branny gets, she’s donating to the ASPCA, which is a cause dear to my heart.  All of our pets, both from my childhood and the crazy fuzzies who keep us company today have been rescues of some sort. 

baby abby

This little munchkin didn’t even weigh 2 pounds yet when we brought her home from the shelter.  I almost named her 15 instead of Abby because she weighed just 1lb 15 oz.  I love all our cats, but this post is dedicated to my parents’ new rescue dog, Rory.

Rory_and_dad

Rory was rescued from an abusive situation and taken great care of by a foster mom before she came to live with my parents.  She is still skittish with new people, but she loves my parents and positively adores my dad.  He’s her person (if you couldn’t tell from the photo), and she follows him all around, wagging her tail.  Her little ears always perk up when he comes into the room, and it’s like you can hear her saying “That’s my dad! He rescued me!  He’s the BEST!”  She is eight years old and just a sweetheart.  It is beyond my understanding how anyone could be cruel to an animal, but I’m so grateful for the organizations that rescue animals and work to place them in loving homes.

Rory’s wearing her Christmas scarf in the picture above, but she has an orange bandana for every day, and an orange leash to match my dad’s orange hat.  Orange is my dad’s favorite color, so it only seemed fitting to make an orange soup for this post.

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Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped (peel on)
  • 4 cups roasted vegetable broth or veggie broth of your choice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika for garnish
  1. Start by dicing the onion and garlic, then peel and chop the butternut squash.
  2. When that’s prepared, put the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.
  3. While the onion and garlic are cooking, peel and chop the carrot and chop the potato.  You can peel the potato if you like, but the soup will be pureed at the and and won’t notice the peel.
  4. When the onion is translucent, add the squash, carrot and potato to the pan.  Let this cook for 5 minutes (you want the vegetables to just start browning)
  5. Then add the vegetable broth and simmer until all the vegetables are very tender.  Taste the broth and add salt and pepper.
  6. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully (allow me to emphasize “carefully”) transfer the soup to a normal blender in batches and puree until smooth.
  7. Taste again and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  8. Before serving, sprinkle just a little paprika on top of each bowl.

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Go here to participate in Branny’s Souper Bowl, too!

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Oakland Half Marathon Training

I just finished Week 3 of my training plan for the Oakland Half Marathon.  The first two weeks were a little abbreviated because I strained something in my left foot.  Luckily, I seem to have put that to rest, and week 3 was terrific.  image

(You can follow me on DailyMile here)

I’m loosely following this Cool Running intermediate half marathon training plan.  I used their beginner plan with great success for my first half marathon.  I’m running 5 days a week instead of 6, but doing slightly more mileage for my long run.

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This week’s long run was meant to be 13 miles, but I can never resist adding the extra 0.1 to a 13 mile run.  My legs took a few miles to get warmed up, but then I hit a great stride (thanks in part to some new music on my iPod, I’m guessing).  I took a Roctane at mile 5.5 and then a Tri-berry Gu at mile 9.5.  At mile 9.5 I also realized that it was #TwitterRoadRace day.  I decided to make the last 5k of my 13.1 miles count towards the #TwitterRoadRace.  It gave me just the incentive I needed to pick up the pace, and I finished the last 5k in 27:44.

I had my Garmin set to the lap pace screen, so I was blown away to switch back over and see that I’d run the 13.1 miles in 2:06:29.  My PR (from 2010) is 2:04:17, and I ran Oakland last year in 2:19:50. 

I can usually get to this point in a training plan where everything seems to click and my long runs are going great, and my average pace is getting faster.  Unfortunately, historically, that’s right when I get injured.  So I’ve been using my foam roller and The Stick like it’s my job, and taking ice baths after long runs.  I’m also focusing on a 20 minute strength training routine and going to yoga regularly. 

Hopefully all of this will get me to the start line at Oakland in March injury-free and ready to run sub-2hours!

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Simple, Customizable Granola Recipe

I love granola.  For breakfast, for snack, and with enough chocolate chips, even for dessert.  But I change my mind a lot when it comes to granola.  Sometimes I want it extra chocolate-y, sometimes I want it full of fruit and nuts.  Sometimes I like a kick of ginger to my granola, and that just doesn’t mix well with peanut butter chips.  So I needed a granola recipe that I could easily customize depending on my mood and chocolate cravings.

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I decided to just make a very simple base granola recipe and add mix-ins later based on whatever I felt like.  This bowl has craisins and cacao nibs mixed into the base granola.

granola_mixins

Other possible mix-ins I rustled up in my kitchen include dark chocolate wafers, peanut butter chips, and crystallized ginger.  But get creative!  Any dried fruit or nut is pretty much fair game, and I think some dark chocolate or coconut M&Ms would make for a sweet and colorful twist.

Simple, Customizable Granola Recipe

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped nuts (I used a mix of almonds and walnuts)
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp shelled hemp seed (or any other type of seed you want to substitute)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp safflower oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the nuts, oats, seeds, and coconut. 
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, safflower oil and sea salt.
  4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix together.
  5. Pour the granola onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-25 min.
  6. After 10 min of baking, stir the mixture to allow it to brown evenly.
  7. When the granola is golden and smells delicious (really, your nose will know), pull it out of the oven and allow to cool. 
  8. At this point you can stir in mix-ins for the whole batch, or you can store the granola and add different mix-ins every time you eat it.

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What flavors do you like in your granola?

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Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

My company has lunch on-site every day.  Nothing fancy, mostly just soup, a salad bar, and occasionally a sandwich bar.  Still the convenience is great, and I love having warm soup for lunch.  Unfortunately, the vegetarian soups lean heavily on lentils.  French lentil soup, vegetarian lentil soup, curried lentil soup, etc… 

I like lentils as much as the next girl, but when the non-vegetarian soups range from wild mushroom bisque to black bean soup, I have some serious soup envy.  Especially since many of those soups could be easily made vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

black_bean_soup_closeup

So I decided to make a simple, vegetarian black bean soup this weekend.  You need the better part of an afternoon to make this because you start with dried beans, no soaking required.  The beans cook as the soup simmers.  I added some taco seasoning for extra spice and nutritional yeast for extra protein, but you could leave those both out and still have a basic but hearty soup.

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

This soup is cozy and comforting and super filling.  It’s not missing a single bit of flavor for having vegetable broth instead of chicken broth either.  Makes four servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, deseeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cup dried black beans
  • 6 cups roasted vegetable stock or another veggie broth
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tsp homemade taco seasoning (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste (season as you go)
  1. Chop the onion, dice the garlic, and deseed and dice the jalapeno.  You can leave in some of the seeds if you prefer the extra spice.
  2. Add the olive oil to the bottom of a large Dutch oven over medium heat. 
  3. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno to the Dutch oven and cook until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the dried black beans and the vegetable broth to the pot.  Cook at a simmer for several hours, stirring and tasting periodically.  Adjust the salt and pepper when you taste.
  5. When the beans are soft, stir in the nutritional yeast and taco seasoning.  Simmer for another 15-20 minutes before serving.  You’re trying to strike a careful balance between having the beans be soft enough and still having enough broth so it’s a soup and not just a tasty pot of beans.

black_bean_soup

I garnish my soup with some Greek yogurt and chives, but there are many options here.  Tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, goat cheese, scallions, sour cream, lime juice, they’d all make great additions to the soup.

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