Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cooking with Spaghetti Squash

My daughter's favorite meal is spaghetti, so I can't completely steer clear of pasta... or can I?  I discovered the spaghetti squash about a year ago and have absolutely fell in love with it! It's one of those vegetables that my mom never cooked, so I was unfamiliar with it. After a little research online, I sought it out in the produce department.

Mature spaghetti squash is oblong in shape with a creamy yellow shell. Pick out one that is firm, free of soft spots and feels heavy for its size. One of the best things about this vegetable is you don't have to use it immediately after you buy it. The squash will keep well in a cool dry spot for several weeks.

To begin a meal, you will need to first roast the spaghetti squash. To do so, preheat your oven to 375˚. Place on a cookie sheet and roast for 50-60 minutes. Flip halfway through time. Let cool for 30 minutes.

While the squash is cooling, I use this time to prep the sauce. I like to add lots of veggies to the sauce. I dice them up small (so my kids don't examine every chunk)... everything from broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions, carrots, zucchini, basically anything in the fridge that I want to use up! Season per your taste buds; I always add garlic pepper. Once the veggies are sautéed, add the spaghetti sauce of your choice. Below I also folded in some chopped spinach. Turn the heat down and let your sauce simmer.

Now turn your attention back to the squash. Cut it in half and spoon out the seeds. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash... it will fall apart into spaghetti-like noodles. The first time I did this, my kids were in amazement. So fun! One squash will make enough "noodles" for two family dinners.

Spoon your sauce over top, sprinkle with a little mozzarella cheese and ENJOY your 100% Vegetable Spaghetti.  Note: I don't make many meatless meals, but this is one I really enjoy. Feel free to add ground turkey or other meat to your sauce.

The 100% Vegetable Spaghetti will use up only one half of that roasted squash. I usually follow up a few days later with this southwestern twist...

Prepare your squash as detailed above, but save the squash skins off to the side. Bump up your oven to broil after the squash is done roasting.

Heat a skillet with a drizzle of oil. Add chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno and other peppers of your choice. Saute several minutes. Season to use your taste... I use a dab of cumin, orgeano, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Saute another minute to let the flavors cook in.

Add one can each of black beans and corn (rinsed), a squeeze of lime juice, as well as some chopped cilantro.  Stir to combine ingredients.  Add the spaghetti squash "noodles" and give one final stir.

Load the mixture into the squash skins and top with shredded cheese (use pepper jack for extra spice!). Your oven should now be ready to broil. Stick the stuffed squash halves back into the oven on cookie sheets until the cheese melts on the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve!  Sassy and Healthy!

Have you cooked with spaghetti squash before?
Have a different recipe you'd like share? 
Link in a comment below please. I'm always looking for variations.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Race Recap: Frosty 5K

Let me just say, this is the oddest race recap I've ever written.

On Saturday, I ran in the 14th annual Frosty 5K on Peoria's riverfront.  A 5K is 3.1 miles, right?  And yet my Garmin ended up with 17... I was an over zealous runner who signed up for a race on a day that I should have been focusing on a 17 mile long run. You know, for that little thing called the Marathon. So I did the next most sensible thing and ran them together.

~Sunrise over the riverfront~
The reward for starting early...
you get views like this!
Bright and early Saturday morning (6:45ish), I parked my car at the race starting line and jogged a mile down the riverfront to the meeting spot, where I would hook up with about 10 other Sole Sisters. We all vary a bit in pace and end up breaking apart, but it's always fun to start off together. I really had no route planned for the run. Sometimes I just like to wing it (which I'll admit is much easier with a Garmin on your wrist). Someone mentioned the loop to Bass Pro, so we headed that way. It was a chilly morning at only 14 degrees. I dressed pretty comfortable, but my cheeks and nose were getting nipped by the cold. Thankfully there was no wind for a change.

After crossing the bridge twice (beautiful views but working elevation!), we looped into downtown Peoria. I wasn't 100% sure where the race was, so I wanted to check it out. Plus I was a moron and forgot to pick up my race packet the previous day (first timer?).  We saw someone dressed up in a snowman costume in the middle of the street, waving to cars. Yup, that's the place! So we all ran by and gave Frosty a high five.  My friends were nice enough to wait while I ducked inside to pick up my race bib.

KO and I with Frosty before the race
We continued our loop back to the meeting spot, where some gals called it a day.  KO and I ventured onward down the riverfront trail. Quickly, we realized that we were following the course for the race. So what the heck... we ran the whole course and made our way back to the starting line to do it again. Circling the parking lot, our warmup miles hit exactly 10. Sweet!

It was a small race, but impressive turnout for how cold it was outside. Obviously, I wasn't racing this one for a time goal. Who does a 10 mile warmup, right? We had been running a leisurely pace over the morning. KO and I stuck together and ran the race course (again), but now we dialed it down to a 9:46 avg pace for the 5k. Not too shabby.
Official Chip Time - 30:18
Overall 147/245
Females 67/143
Div 10/23

We came through the finish line without even a pause. We just kept on running!  4 more miles... until 17.  It ended up being a really nice long run that went by quick. Maybe since the miles was broken up and I saw so many people I knew along the way. My overall pace wasn't too bad either... 17 miles in 3:01 (10:38 avg). The best part is that the next day, I felt great! I foam rolled, did yoga and even an hour of Spinning. I can't remember the last time I felt so good after a long mileage run. It was a stark contrast to last weekend and a pleasant surprise.

Technically, this is my first of #13in2013 -- although I plan on making that 13 races of longer distance (10K and up). We'll see how the year goes...

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Friday: Life is Good.

Is it possible a runner's high can last through the night?  I woke up giddy this morning. While training hasn't been 'perfect' this week, I'm really happy with my progress.

Yesterday, I procrastinated my tempo run all day. I love to run (I do, I really do!), but the anticipation of these tough pace runs scare me. The plan dictated a 7 mile tempo, with the middle 5 being at 9:14. That's an 'out of my comfort zone' pace. Finally, as my hubby began breathing down my neck with the "What's for dinner?" question, I was suddenly motivated to run. Escape one task with the other.

I still didn't want to tempo per say, but I told myself to start; just run. The cold air felt awesome. The wind was mild (only 8mph) for a change, so 22 degrees felt warmer than perceived. My legs were on autopilot and all just felt right. The first couple mile paces beeped off at me (9:51, 9:43). Too fast for a warmup, but I decided to try the tempo miles anyway. I took it down a notch for the next four miles (9:24, 9:19, 9:19, 9:20). Not a perfectly executed tempo, but it was exactly what I needed, both physically and mentally. One of the best runs I've had in weeks - Totally invigorating!!

I'm not quite at the level of my current training plan. The paces are totally kicking my butt and slightly out of reach, but I'm not giving up. I'm hoping that this hard work, sweat and pain will result in the comeback of some speed. It's so easy to get frustrated when I feel like I'm constantly failing. But I have experience on my side. I've done the Run Less Run Faster training before. Like the past, I'm always behind in the beginning; but halfway through, I usually catch up to the paces. Put in the work and the fruits of labor will come.

Besides a great run yesterday, I'm happy for a number of other reasons. Things are just looking UP in Jess world...

• I spent three hours at the gym yesterday and didn't break a sweat. Say what?!  Our fitness director was training myself (and my best gym buddy) to become instructors of the Powerflex class.  I'm not traditionally a huge fan of strength training. Don't get me wrong... I need it. I just usually slack on it. Now I will have to invest some time and training in order to become a good teacher. After our training, I had a great meeting to discuss a new program I'm creating for our health club (that I will also instruct). I am so freakin' excited for it... (Scream from the mountains EXCITED!) but I don't want to jinx myself - I'll share the news with you when it's final final.

• I actually felt light on my feet last night as I was running. It's such a great feeling!!  I weighed in this morning and am now down -8.6 lbs for the month of January. Just like that, I surpassed 4% goal for Round One of the Run Your A$$ Off weight loss challenge.  Now I have to maintain it until the official weigh-in on Monday. The lure of cashola has really kickstarted me in the last two weeks. As always, weight loss for me is all about not eating crap. Simple as that. Round two starts this Monday, Jan. 28... sign up here today!!

• It looks like the 3rd annual Jelly Bean virtual race will be another success. Registration started two days ago and there are nearly 500 signed up so far. It's FREE to participate, with optional finisher's medal and other goods available to enhance your race. Sign up here.

• I have a 17 mile long run on the agenda for Saturday... but due to bad planning skills and an overzealous runner's brain, I'm also registered for a 5k race. How will that work?  Well, I'm going to bookend the race with miles. By time the morning is done, my tally will be 17. That's the plan anyway.  Are you racing this weekend?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

3rd annual Jelly Bean race

Celebrate Spring by running with me in the 
3rd annual Jelly Bean virtual race!

What's a virtual race?  A virtual race is running a specified distance (timed) without being present in the actual race location.

DATE:  March 20-31, 2013 
The race begins on the First Day of Spring and ends on Easter Sunday.

LOCATION:  Pick your favorite local route or just hop on a treadmill.

EVENTS:  Choose the event that works best for your current fitness level. You may participate in more than one event. Earn 1 point for each event completed (4 max).
- Run 5K (3.1 miles)
- Run 10K  (6.2 miles)
- Run Half-Marathon (13.1 miles)
- Bike 21K (13 miles)

RESULTS:  Report your race time(s) HERE no later than Tuesday, April 2 at 12:00 noon CST.   This is a fun race; no Garmin/treadmill photo required to verify your time. 

PRIZES:  When the Jelly Bean results window closes, prizes are randomly drawn from finishers who reported results. Winners will be announced by 4/5/13.  Special thank you the sponsors below for making events like this possible. Please give their website a visit and patronize when possible... Click HERE for a detailed listing of the great prizes!!

SwimBikeMom   |   Nuun   |   Racer Frames   |   Gone For A Run

Follow me for race updates...

  • Complete the race registration form now to receive continued communication with the Jelly Bean E-Newsletter. You can only sign up ONCE per email address, but don't worry, you will be able to print more than one race bib and report results separately (for your kids, spouse, etc...)
  • Order the optional race medal(s) and organize a group to run the Jelly Bean together. This makes a great family event to get the kids active!
  • On race week, PRINT A RACE BIB for each person participating.  If you ordered one of the Team options, your race bibs will arrive inside your package.
  • Run and/or bike the Jelly Bean... Have fun! Take pictures and please share them on my Facebook wall.
  • REPORT RACE RESULTS for each participant. You will earn one entry into the prize drawing for each event that you finish. Each event may only be completed once. For example, a 5K only counts as one entry, regardless of how many times you run it. Maximum of 4 entries per person.
Newsletter #1 {here}... FAQ answered!
Newsletter #2 {here}... Race Week!
Prize Announcement here

to be added onto the #JellyBean e-newsletter list

Sorry, order window is now CLOSED for Jelly Bean finisher's medals
(as of 10:00pm on 2/22/13)
You can still participate in the race, but medals and team packs are sold out.

Check out the JELLY BEAN SHOP on CafePress
for fun items to add to your race experience!
Shirts, hats, water bottles, yard signs...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

15: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Saturday morning, I ran 15 miles. It was good, bad and ugly... all at the same time.

•  The miles are done... in the training log and on the legs.
•  We have once again had a warm spell in the middle of winter. It was high 30's when I left the house, and hit nearly 50 degrees by time we were done. My favorite temperatures to run in!
•  The sunshine was bright, which sets the happy tone for the whole day.
•  Because of the nice weather on Saturday (and a cold forecast for Sunday), there were runners everywhere on the trails. We exchanged cheers and high fives with lots of fellow Sole Sisters on the run.
•  My target pace (per the Run Less Run Faster training plan) was 10:29 min/miles. We ended with an average of 10:37. Considering my head cold, I'm not going to be disappointed with that.
•  My good friend KO ran the full distance with me. Always great to have a partner to carry you along and chat you up.
You'll be seeing more of KO in my posts...
She's training for her first marathon in May and runs my pace.

•  I'm still suffering from a head cold, making it difficult to breathe.  KO kept the conversation rolling, and I had to apologize for being so short on words.
•  The wind was nasty. Weatherman said 20mph. I kept thinking we'd eventually have "wind at our back" for an easy stretch, but it seems to be swirling and never a clear direction. Thankfully, a couple spots had some tree protection.
•  My right knee was hurting again as we got into the double digits. It's been a discomfort that has come and gone the last six months... but really flared up with this week's treadmill runs.
•  Mentally, I was not "in" this run. Without KO, I might have quit early. As we ran past 10 miles, I started the mental breakdown countdown to 15. Doubt reared its ugly head. But then KO would start a new topic and conversation took my mind off the task at hand.

I felt horrible at the end.  It's been a long time since I felt the "gonna throw up" sensation after a run. Yet as I drove away, my head spun and I concentrated on taking deep breaths. My sweaty clothes had me shivering cold now, and my stomach was turning. First opportunity, I pulled into a gas station to get a hot chocolate and a protein bar. (Not my norm... usually I reach for hot coffee, but I was worried what extra caffeine would do to me at this point.)  I felt if I could just get something in my stomach to calm me, I might be able to resist the bathroom stop. I made it to the hot shower at home and took several naps throughout the afternoon. By evening, I was back to par... and now starving for a big comfort meal.  This whole day was rather abnormal for me, after only 15 miles. It has me a bit freaked - Little Rock 26.2 in just 6 weeks.

We live and learn on every run...

Friday, January 18, 2013

That Run was SICK

I woke yesterday with a head cold. AGAIN. I can't tell you how irritating this winter has been already... sick three times in December (only one the flu), and now it's back again.  I'm blaming it on the swim. These sinus infections find a way to suck the life out of me... My eyes become painfully dry and tired. My head and ears feel like I've been up in a plane. Oh-yeah, and there's this nice drizzle flowing from my nose. Help! We're running out of Kleenex...

I found myself in a quandary yesterday. I didn't want to run. I didn't want to do anything but plant myself on the couch and wallow in pity. But I had already put off my tempo run a day. It had to be done Thursday to allow myself enough rest before Saturday's long run.  Damn, it's only week two of training and I feel like I'm hanging on for dear life already. 

So after procrastinating most of the day, I hauled my butt down to the basement treadmill shortly after 5:00 pm. Thankfully, I had rented a new movie, so the kids were occupied nicely. Grudingly, I started up the treadmill. How can I hate something that I spent so much money on last winter?  More importantly, how was I going to bang out 7 miles on this hamster wheel?  

I started off with music blasting, quickly bored after the warmup mile. Then I remembered the built-in internet in this bad boy. I pulled up and found the last episode of The Good Wife that I missed. I tried to fall into a groove at the 6.2mph setting on the treadmill. My tempo run dictated the 5 middle miles to be at a 9:44 pace. It proved harder than normal. My head was still throbbing. I had to blow my nose every 1/4 mile. And I couldn't turn the fan on because it blew right in my face (not cool when you're already sick). I was so hot that I stripped off my tank top to use as a sweat towel. Thank goodness I'm solo in my basement, falling apart like this.

Around 5.5 miles, it started to get difficult. I clicked Julia Margulies off and turned up Kelly Clarkson to bring this run home. Whenever I'm training for a specific event, I practice visualizing the finish line. As I struggled to hold pace in the last 1/2 mile, I imagined entering Hayward Field, rounding the track and finally crossing the Eugene finish. I might have even cried... but no one can confirm that.  

7 mile tempo done.

If you feel lousy, you should probably rest. A day off is not going to kill your training. Now, if you're a Type A personality like myself, you'll probably run anyway.  The general rule is to do the Neck Check Test

If your symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, congestion, etc), an easy run probably won't do you any harm. In fact, it may even help clear some junk out. Exercise releases adrenaline, also called epinephrine, a natural decongestant. This explains why a run often times seems to clear nasal passages. Snot rockets while you run, anyone? You should keep the run easy and light. Pushing a tempo run like I just did is not recommended.

If your symptoms are below the neck (fever, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats, swollen glands or a hacking cough), this typically indicates the presence of a virus.  Running under these conditions increases dehydration and can lead to more serious problems. Take a day or two off. Rest and nurse yourself back to health. When you return to running, you may need to adjust your training and ease back into it. 

•  •  • 

The lucky winner of my Blog-o-versary Giveaway is...
Congratulations SarahJeanne, please email your shipping address to me at

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Things Thursday

If you've followed my training for any length of time, you know how much I despise the treadmill. Every step feels harder than outdoors... and the miles tick by so very slowly. Even with the music pumping through my fancy built-in speakers, it's still just boring.  With that being said, my last two runs have been on the treadmill, probably my first in over six months. I'm currently writing this blog post purely to procrastinate my afternoon run, which again will be forced onto the 'mill.  {sigh}  My hubby returns from his work trip tomorrow. I'll try not to look so eager to run out the door the minute he steps inside...

My Blog-o-versary Giveaway winner will be announced tomorrow morning, so if you didn't enter yet... DO IT NOW!  A pile of my favorite things is on the line and one winner takes it all.  Your comments have all been so kind and helpful to give me direction.

One thing that I've repeatedly been asked for is healthy recipes. So you will be delighted to see I've created a Recipes page on the blog. I will try to post at least one new recipe each week and will link them on the Recipes page. Bon Appetit!

There are 11 days left in the first round of the Run Your A$$ Off weight loss challenge. The pot is over $7000 and I've got 2 lbs left to lose.  If you missed out on the first round, don't worry... the second round starts Monday, January 28. Just $10 to get in... Four weeks to lose 4%. Winners split the pot. Easy, right?  More details and sign up HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buck Up for Week 2

Week One of marathon training was full of ups and downs. I can't say I'm 100% pleased. My self-appointed grade for the week is a C+.  I completed the "three key runs" as outlined in the Run Less Run Faster plan; however, I missed the goal paces.

Weight Loss - Goal -2.0 lbs. • Lost -0.8. I was doing well until our Packer party on Sat...
Week Miles - Goal 31 miles. • Actual 30 done.
Nutrition - Plan healthy meals and track calories. • Fail. I never found time to plan meals and grocery shop accordingly. Tracking calories was hit and miss. I start the day well and then got sloppy in the afternoon.
Challenges - #plankaday #wallsit #pushups #squatathon. Completed all challenges daily except for the wallsit. I had some sore quad muscles and chose to skip that several days to give my quads time to repair.

Mon - Interval Run, Spinning  • Unable to hit dictated paces of Intervals, but workouts complete.
Tues - Yoga, BoxMania, Spinning, Core  Everything complete except Yoga.
Wed - Tempo Run, Easy Run with Sole Sisters  • I woke exhausted and with sore muscles from the triple cross-train on Tues. I decided to delay my Tempo Run a day, but completed the easy evening run. 
Thurs - Swim  • Fail. Still sore muscles, I took a complete rest day.
Fri - Yoga, Spinning  • Instead of Yoga in the am, I knocked out that Tempo Run. It was difficult but I was pleased with the result. Skipped Spinning in the evening to rest up for the Long Run.
Sat - Long Run  • Best workout of the week. Great weather and great friends to run 13.1 miles. Only 5 seconds off the goal pace.
Sun - Easy Run, Spinning  • Started off the morning instructing Spin class and hoped on the treadmill afterward for an easy 2 miles.
I knew this plan would be challenging for me. Trying to do weight loss along with it, even tougher. But I am determined to make it work. Sunday afternoon, I sat down to plan out Week Two. Taking into consideration the things I learned last week, I adjusted and tweeked the weekly goals.

Biggest lesson after last week was to change the cross training. While I enjoyed the BoxMania class last week, it was an impact workout on my legs. The roundhouse kicks made my hips hurt for days and my quads were jarred and sore from hitting the targets. I was expecting the class to be more of an arm workout rather than legs. Nope! So I've decided to replace that class with an less impact activity like swimming. I signed up for two swim sessions this week, and will take my boxing back to my home bag to focus on arms. I need my legs to be rested and ready for the "three key runs". Those remain the most important workouts of the week.

I also went grocery shopping and have made out a plan for healthy dinners this week based off the food I have in the house. No excuses. Round One of the Run Your Ass Off Challenge ends in two weeks and I have almost 4 pounds to eliminate yet to get a share of the $7460 pot. THAT is incentive to get serious.

How was your training and diet last week? Got a plan ready for this week?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tempo and a Winner!

My Early Morning Tempo Run
This morning I got up early (4:45am alarm) to complete my weekly tempo run... you know, the tempo that I was suppose to do Wednesday and then Thursday. {sigh} Week 1 of training has not gone as planned. However, I feel slightly better after logging the tempo in the books this morning.

As I headed out the door into the warm darkness (it was 54 degrees in IL this morning!!), I was eager for a run but not necessarily a tempo. Thankfully, I had two warmup miles to convince myself otherwise. The roads were wet and full of puddles from last night's rain, so I did a lot of jumping around to avoid wet feet (fail). Warmup miles: 10:27, 10:33.

The plan next called for two miles at an 8:44 pace. That's the tempo portion if you're not familiar with the term. I let out a big sigh and convinced myself to give it a try. My neighborhoods aren't exactly flat. They have some gentle rolling hills which normally I like for variety... except when I'm trying to bust out speed.  I didn't quite make my goal pace, but came close. It's painfully clear how much speed was lost during a fall focused only on distance. Tempo miles: 9:03, 8:47

I was thrilled to back it down for the cooldown miles. Thankfully, I was two miles from home or else I may have been tempted to cut it short. After a mile of cooldown, I felt back to normal and really enjoyed the final mile of this morning's run. Cooldown miles: 10:35, 10:21

It was a great start to a Friday, although not strategically placed in the week with my long run tomorrow morning. I need to sit down and review this past week... what worked, what didn't, and adjust my plan for week two of Eugene training.

I loved reading all the entries for the "Inspire A Friend" contest. All of them were so touching and made my heart sing. If you're looking for a little motivation today, click here and read the comments at the bottom. So inspiring!! I wanted to award every single entry, but sorry, I don't have enough prizes or funds for that.  I called in support from my two best sounding boards (Mom & Kelli) to help me pick a winner...
I'm a sucker for inspiring an ENTIRE FAMILY into fitness!
Keep it up Damary and Papi!

WINNER is Papi Extraordinaire
Please email me at your mailing address and I'll get your new NYCM shirt shipped out to you. Many happy runs to you and your wife!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Thank you all so much for the love expressed on my Blog-o-versary Giveaway post yesterday. I literally teared up reading your comments this morning. Words can't express. I need to do a giveaway like that more often! Ha!

As a newbie three years ago, I printed out a 16 week training plan and began running towards my first half marathon. I was scared to deviate or miss a run (like that would somehow stop me from reaching the finish line.)  Now as I've gone through numerous training cycles, I keep a 'big picture plan' but take training week-by-week. This week has served as reason why...

After Monday's interval butt kickin' and a triple dose of cross training on Tuesday, my body was begging for rest on Wednesday. I have learned through the years to listen to my body when its upset. There is nothing I fear more than getting hurt.  I did a little swap on my weekly schedule. Instead of a Wed morning tempo, I foam rolled and called it good. In the evening, I joined my Sole Sisters for our group run, however instead of darting along with the 10 min pace group, I took it easy and ran with the 11 minute group. Slow, easy and gentle on my sore quad muscles. It felt good and helped to work the soreness out.  Feeling better today, I'll facing that tough tempo this afternoon... 2 miles easy, 2 miles @8:44 and a 2 mile cooldown. Man, I get exhausted thinking about it...

I came home from my run last night... and my hubby had picked up my new car!!  We had looked around for several weeks at the ultra cool Durangos and Explorers... but I just kept looking at the backends thinking, "How on earth will I fit a bike in there?"  My kiddos and I like to hit the local bike trails in the spring, summer and fall. As they get older, I see this happening even more.  I knew the easier it was to toss all 3 bikes in the car, the more it would happen.  Ultimately, my vehicle decision was made based on the healthy lifestyle I want for our family.  Once you go mini van, you just can't go back.  I'm so happy driving it around today. And I still feel kinda "cool" since the inside is loaded with features, including a sun roof, which I really really wanted.

Do you ever flex or edit your training schedule?
What kind of vehicle do you drive? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2nd Blog-o-versary Giveaway

January 9, 2011
The day Run With Jess was born!
The day I took my runs, my opinions and training into the blog world!

I thought for weeks on what to call my running blog. Without anything creative (so unlike me), I settled on Run With Jess.  As a young mother who had found running once again, I was eager to connect with other women like me. Plus I loved entering blog giveaways (hey, like this one!).  I really had no idea how many people would read. As I enter my third year of blogging, I'm thrilled with how many friendships I've made throughout the country.

I try my best to keep it real here... an honest account of my running adventures and weight struggles. The victories with the disappointments as I try to be the best version of me. Blogging has been fun... I get to write about running when I'm not running! Does it get any better?

I like trying new products, but also feel a responsibility in keeping true to myself. I get a lot of offers to review products or to be an ambassador for this brand or that. However, if it's not something that "fits" my lifestyle or fitness objectives, I decline. My blog won't be overwritten with product ads and endorsements. Nor am I defined by numbers.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don't have to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to get sucked up into that game. Run With Jess is mine and the content will always be what I envision. Having said that, you should know that the products I do mention, it's because I use them. I endorse them because it works for me, not because I'm getting paid to give a plug. (More power to you if your blog is an income generator; it's just not what I write for.)

I hope you continue to follow my run journey in 2013. Whether my words motivate you or just entertain you, thank you so much for reading and your daily encouragement. I promise to keep it real and hopefully exciting... RuN HaPpY my friends!

~ Blog-o-versary Giveaway ~
Enter below to win MY FAVORITE THINGS!

Canister of CLICK - I love this espresso protein drink. It tastes great in both chocolate and vanilla flavors. I use it mainly as a breakfast replacement, post-workout refueling or a treat in the afternoon to control my chocolate cravings!  Use discount code RWJ to receive 10% off a canister + free shipping at

Box of ShowerPill - I squeeze in workouts and runs whenever I can. Often it's just a two hour window while my baby girl is at preschool. I maximize every single minute of that free time... just one more mile. These athletic body wipes come in extremely handy so that I'm not the stinky one in line at the preschool pickup. Seriously, I keep a box of ShowerPill in my car at all times. Who has TIME for a shower??

Pair of pink LOCKLACES - I love these elastic shoelaces. Slowly, I've been installing them in all my shoes. With Spinning as my favorite cross train, I'm constantly slipping in and out of my shoes at the gym. I can't imagine my gym shoes without these bad boys. If you're a triathlete, these are an absolute must. My "best find" of 2012.

Injinji toe socks - These socks surprised me. When I broke my toe last fall, I honestly think these socks helped me on my comeback (or else that was just mental). I love the comfort and support in these cozy socks.

GU Energy  - Winner will receive a collection of energy gels, chomps and electrolyte tabs. GU has been my go-to brand since the very beginning. It's worked so well, why change?

BondiBand - If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know I love headbands! BondiBand is my favorite for their moisture-wicking material... and the fact that they stay on my head. I have over 50 BondiBands in my collection. That should speak margins of what I think of the brand.

I Run For Cupcakes decal - I love the fun creations available at They will also make a custom decals. This past year, RunnerDecals personalized a Run With Jess decal for the back of my van... and made some neat personalized tumblers for a few of my friends that ran their first marathon. Cool stuff.

13.1 sticker - I love stickers and the Half is by far my favorite distance to run. This custom sticker came from Family Fan Club - who made my Ragnar team some snazzy matching shirts for our relay race this past year.

Luna nutrition bar - These are my favorite nutrition bars. Many times it's all I eat before an early morning run. Vanilla Almond and Chocolate Peppermint are my favorite flavors.

Lastly, I threw in a couple of my Run With Jess RUN HAPPY bracelets. One for you and one for a friend!

HOW TO WIN - It's So Easy!
Leave a comment below telling me how great I am what you'd like to see more of in Year Three.  Get an extra bonus entry if you share Run With Jess with your friends on Facebook and/or Twitter. (Leave a comment for each please)

Good Luck!  Winner announced on Friday, January 18.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Training Kickoff

And so it begins... training cycle for my fourth marathon. I'm anxious. I'm excited. I'm freakin' nervous!

I have a big goal for the Eugene Marathon (April 28)... to come under 4:15, which is a 9:44 pace... for 26.2 miles. It seems pretty lofty right now, but I did finish under 4:19 last May at Wisconsin. Why not go for the PR? Is there any other way to train?

I chose to follow the Run Less Run Faster training once again. {see my review of this book here}  The plan worked well for me in the past - good endurance prep for the marathon, but also pushes my speed and allows flexibility in cross-training.

My training program begins with the the RLRF version for Women 55-59 (BQ4:15).  I will follow their three key runs each week, trying my best to hit the dictated paces. The three key runs are my 'must-do' runs of the week. I add in a couple more easy runs for pure enjoyment. If I find myself needing a break, the easy runs are what I skip.

The book recommends two days of cross-training. It shouldn't surprise you that I add in more... Spinning, swimming, boxing and yoga are the culprits. The cross-training burns extra calories to lose weight (without added stress on my run muscles) and helps me get triathlon-ready in the process.
This week's plan. Download/print this training template here.

Today was Day 1. Just looking at the task for a Monday scared me... but at least the hardest part is done for the week.

20 min warmup
3x1600 @ 8:11 pace (1 min RI)
10 min cooldown
Run 2 miles slow warmup. 
Sprint a mile (1600meters) at a 8:11 pace or 7.3 mph
Take a 1 minute rest interval (jog, walk, gasp for air...)
Repeat sprint and rest two more times.
Run 1 mile slow to cooldown.

I've done intervals many times before... but it's been a long time since I've taken the sprint seriously. An 8:11 mile is real serious in my world.  I'm disappointed to admit that I couldn't do it. Not yet anyway. The 1600's ended up being an assortment of 400's and 800's... but I didn't give up on the pace. I kept the sprints at the 7.3mph setting on the treadmill, but just couldn't hold them long enough. I can't tell you how frustrated I was with myself. There were many f-bombs landing in my basement. Upside... I have room to grow.
Ending Stats... 6 miles in 57:51

On a happy note, my little girls and I painted our toes RAINBOW last night. Every girl needs a new paint job to start a training plan, right?!

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Inspire A Friend" Shirt Giveaway

As a seasoned runner, I get excited this time of year. Not only is it the start of new goals and new dreams for me, but there is always an influx of new runners into the community.  From resolutioners to spring flingers, they see the excitement of our races, the shiny bling and the change in our mental and physical state... Eventually it lures them in to give running a try (or try again). Welcome Newbies!

Running changed my life, so I'm always eager to bring that same joy into others' lives as well. So today I have a unique giveaway. It's a marathon shirt. Not just any marathon shirt, but one from the New York City Marathon... the grand-daddy of all races!

You can not win this for yourself. 
Instead, nominate someone who is in the beginning stages of their run journey. A friend, a family member, someone you just met at the gym. Maybe someday they'll run a marathon, maybe not. My hope is that this shirt will encourage them that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE when you start running... to DREAM BIG!  (If you are a beginner and really want this shirt, then talk someone else into coming here to nominate you.)

Think of this as an opportunity for YOU to inspire another beginner.
Aspire to Inspire!

1.  In a comment below, tell me about your friend who is starting (or returning) to the sport of running. Why you think they'll succeed and some words of encouragement.

2.  Newbies... please comment below with a question you may have about running... anything at all and I'll do my best to answer.  I will be following up this giveaway with a feature on all the Beginner Questions.

3.  Be sure to tell your new runner friend to check out and like me on Facebook for daily encouragement.

Giveaway winner announced Friday, January 11. Winner will be picked at the discretion of Jess, so tell me your best story. The winner receives an Asics technical long-sleeve shirt, unisex size XL.
GOOD LUCK in the giveaway & on your run journey!

Peace, Love and Happy Runs!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Last 40+ Miles

I ran 1502 miles in 2012.  After all those glorious runs and amazing races, today I am only thinking about the last 42 miles of my year.

After being sick three times in the month of December (an injury in Sept didn't help either), I found myself seriously strapped for miles to hit my year-end goal of 1500.  I pulled up my big girl panties and said, "I can do this."

It wasn't the way I had envisioned ending the year. I wanted a no pressure December to rest up both physically and mentally before I began serious training for my spring marathon. (Training schedule starts next Monday!)  I knew I could do the miles, but wondered if I'd be sacrificing a good start to January.

I found a way to maintain recovery AND nail the miles...
I unplugged.

No music. No watch.
No timing of any sort.
I just ran.
42 miles of sweet freedom over the course of seven days.

So many times I hear friends say, "I've lost my running mojo. I'm just not in it lately." My advice is always the same... unplug.  Honestly, it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.  Let your mind and body fall in love with the run again... without any kind of expectation for "results". Run by feel.

Every runner begs for a Garmin, but if you're not careful, it can actually ruin your run mojo. I've been a Garmin holdout for years. In fact, I just broke down and purchased a Garmin Forerunner 110 a couple months ago. Yes, I ran for nearly 4 years without a GPS watch. Believe me when I say, it is not a necessity for running. A nice training tool, yes, but one that can become as addictive as crack.

So there I stood last Wednesday at the end of my first naked run in months (Naked is a slang term meaning no gadgets).  I had no idea how many miles I had just run. I didn't have a clue on my time. I stood in my driveway, staring at my wrist... looking for something to tell me it was a "good run".

In a second, I started laughing. Why do I need a watch to tell me it was a good run?  My heart was pumping well, my hair matted in sweat under my hat, and I was thirsty as hell. I felt as if I could fly! Yes indeed, it was a great run. And I didn't need any time, pace or distance report to tell me that.

Right then and there, I decided to finish off 2012 with that exuberant feeling (runner's high!) at the end of every single run. Talk about a glorious finish! Not only did I hit my mileage goal, but I did it happily without burnout. As the calendar flipped to January 1st, I thought I might be in need of a break... but instead, I couldn't wait to log the year's first miles... unplugged of course.

Do you ever run without your Garmin or a timing device?
My goal this year is to run naked at least once a week... even more in recovery weeks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: Stay The Course!

Resolutions are for people who want to change... which is where I'm stumped right now. I'm pretty happy inside. This past year, I feel like I've finally arrived at where I want to be. Working out, running, Spinning, cycling, sweating is no longer something I force myself to do for some resolution I made on January 1. It's what I want to do. It's become a way of life for me. I literally plan my day around when can I run. Sometimes I even feel guilty because it is always on my mind. I may be sitting at the kitchen table doing crafts with my kiddos, but I'm gazing out the door longing to run.  I may be nearing addiction... but hey, it makes me smile and it's healthy, right?!

On the outside, I'm still struggling with weight and appearance. That's been ongoing since I've been like 12 years old, so I'm not expecting 2013 to magically give me any peace there. Nevertheless, I continue the battle in the Run Your A$$ Off weight loss challenge. The goal is to lose 4% each month January through March. That would put me in great shape for my spring races. Weight loss right now signifies faster race times and less stress on my body with each run. That is what drives me the most to keep pushing the weight loss.  But I refuse to call this a "resolution," because then I'd be repeating the same resolution for nearly 20 years and that just sounds like failure.

Last year, I had a lot of fitness goals. For 2013, it's pretty simple... few in numbers, but large in the amount of work that it will take to attain them.

1. PR at Eugene Marathon... beating a 4:18, ideally coming closer to the 4 hour mark. This won't be easy; marathons never are. This is my #1 driving goal for the next four months. Everything I do for the next 118 days will lead me here.

2. Complete a Century Ride. I really fell in love with cycling last year, and would like to explore this sport more. (The only downfall is that it cuts into my running time... but I enjoy the mix.)  A 100-mile ride is a big feat for any cyclist, comparable to a runner's marathon I would assume.  I've got my eye on the Door County Century Ride (Sept). I haven't been to that area of Wisconsin since I was a little kid, but remember the pretty scenery well. A camping/cycling weekend there sounds just dreamy to me.

3. Step up the TRI to the olympic distance. Last year, I finished my first sprint triathlon. In 2013, I'd like to challenge myself with the olympic distance. Essentially that forces me to spend more time in the pool. Swimming is such a great cross-train, and I found it really helped to widdle my middle. I enjoy it when I force myself to do it. So much room to grow...

In general, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing...
• Maintain weekly run mileage around 30 miles or 120 per month. Hit 1500 again for the year.
• Always be half-marathon ready. A long run (10+ miles) every weekend unless I'm recovering.
• Train smart. Do whatever it takes to stay healthy.
• Race 8 more states in my goal to Race All 50.

Outside of my fitness world, I have work to do in other areas of my life. Call them resolutions if need be, but I highly doubt they will ever be a one-year kind of goal...
• Spend less time on the computer and more time being in the moment with my kids. Sigh, they are growing up so fast...
• Go to church more and grow my faith. Busy family schedules have really disrupted this for me.
• Give my husband more. More gratitude. More time. More patience. More hugs. More attention. More forgiveness. And that will all add up to more love.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2013?
And what's your PLAN to get there?