Wednesday, August 28, 2013

South Side Stride: Trial Run & Giveaway

A new race is coming to the Greater Peoria area this October... the South Side Stride 5K.  I had the privilege to guest-speak at one of their training groups earlier this summer, and am excited to run this fall race. In my opinion, October is simply the best month of the year to run. And an interesting twist on this race... it's in the afternoon!

Today I drove up to the village of Dunlap to give the course a "trial run." This course was designed to provide a nice tour of the village. I believe the only place of importance it doesn't pass by is the ice cream shop and the bar. Oddly enough, those are the only two places I was familiar with...

So I grabbed my course map and set out on a very sunny muggy morning...

The starting line of the South Side Stride 5K is at North Park. I knew I was in the right place when I saw the big banners announcing the upcoming event.

The course immediately heads south through neighborhoods and enters a small downtown area... the bank, the post office, the village hall and a variety of store fronts. There is a gradual incline in the first 1/4 mile, which will help keep one honestly paced from the start.  Once through downtown, I hit a pretty park area by the Methodist Church and took a left (and then a right) towards the Rock Island Trail (RIT). This area was familiar to me as I've run the RIT so many times before, just never on the actual road.

The race course passes by the grade school and library. This is the best flat straightaway on the course to pick up speed. While I was roasting in the hot summer sun, I couldn't help but daydream about how nice this stretch would be on an autumn afternoon.

As I crossed over Rt. 91, my legs started to tire. It's a decent incline to climb along Legion Hall Rd. But then the course turns left and I see a nice downhill to reward my uphill efforts. Whee!

I'm now halfway through the 3.1 mile course, in the midst of a nice new neighborhood. I am completely jealous of the playground, park and smooth sidewalks they have in this neighborhood! This would make a great cheer stop for your spouse/children. This will also be a water station stop on race day.

The course makes a nice rolling loop through the neighborhood and recrosses Rt 91 to trace my steps back to the start/finish line. I ran both my Garmin watch and MapMyRun app during today's run, and the course seems to be dead-on accurate for distance.

Interactive map can be accessed HERE
Oh, the elevation...

What do you say... 
Wanna run this course with me?
Sunday, October 6
Start Time: 2:00 pm
North Park, Dunlap, IL

Runners and walkers alike can register HERE. The cost is $25, which includes a timing device, race bib, cotton t-shirt, goodie bag, marked course and traffic control, 3 live bands (2 on course, 1 at finish) and one water stop. Word has it the JFL cheerleaders will be out cheering along the course.

Proceeds from this race benefit the South Side Mission. The South Side Mission serves to love, feed, house, clothe and teach all people whom the Good Lord sends their way... with a laser focus on Peoria's most destitute zip code 61605. They focus their prayers and resources on the struggling people in that zip code... Peoria's South Side. Think of the difference we can make in our poorest neighborhoods... Reduced crime. Teaching the importance of marriage and family. Reduced alcoholism and drug use. Dwindle gang membership. Restoring HOPE to a depressed area... and making our community safer for all of us!

Hmmm, what could make this better...
How about a FREE RACE ENTRY?
 Enter the giveaway contest via Rafflecopter below before Sept. 5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 26, 2013

Long Run Monday

Big Girl's Birthday
Cheerleader cake by yours truly
I didn't get my long run done this past weekend. I used to fret over these schedule mishaps, but I've learned to let it roll off my shoulder. This running thing is suppose to be fun and release stress, not add it. So I run when I can and do the best I can with what I got.

My Big Girl turned 7 years old this weekend. As you can imagine, this momma had more important things on deck than squeezing in a run. Instead, I spent my mornings sitting on the front porch, sipping coffee, visiting with my parents who were in town for a visit, and watching my little girls zoom around on their new bikes. These moments in life are fleeting by too fast for me.

So after a restful weekend (I did sneak in one Spin class), I was determined to get out for a long run this morning. These days, anything in double digits is the definition of long for me. Midwest temps have been soaring and another hot one was on the forecast. I decided to head into town to run somewhere different for a change. I've been running a lot of solo runs from my doorstep lately. And while I like the ease of those close-to-home routes, it can make for a draining long run. I mapped out the best route I could think of that would offer both shade and new scenery. Those are two keys for making long miles tick by quickly.

I started on the familiar Rock Island Trail and ran south into Peoria - making sure that the cool dark tunnel (that goes underneath the interstate) was a part of my route. The first two miles were fairly shaded, but the humidity already had me drenched.

I took the Kellar Branch trail into the city, but veered off before the wide open (SUN!) stretch. I darted into some well-established areas and made my way to the High Point neighborhood. Nice homes equal fancy landscaping to admire... and big trees.

Unfortunately, it was garbage day. So I had to dart around constant garbage cans and play leapfrog with several different garbage trucks while I ran. Man, those things put off a lot of heat... and stink!

I even got a little history lesson on my run. One of the things I've always liked about running is finding hidden treasures that you'd normally just whiz by in the car.

My first time through the neighborhoods, I circled around and down every dead-end street. At one point, the road began to drop... and drop... and drop. The road zig-zagged down a 1/2 mile in distance, but over 250 feet in elevation. Like a fool, I ran down it, which meant only one thing... I had to go back up. Ugh! The biggest hill climb of my life! My hamstrings were begging to stop. Once I hit the top of the hill, I quit playing tourist and headed straight back. It was starting to heat up and my breathing was getting difficult, and I had a good 4 miles to go to reach the car.

It's been awhile since I ran this area and they put up new trail signs - which seemed like the perfect reason to stop, rest and regain my breathing...

In short, I managed the mileage back to the car. I racked up 11.36 miles in total with a fairly consistent pace around the 10 min/mile mark. The long run in heat and humidity was good practice for what looks to be a tough one in Minnesota this coming weekend. It's been a couple months since I've run a half-marathon and I was getting excited for Women Rock MN... until a friend posted the forecast! High of 98 on race day. Ugh! Not fun at all. My goals have changed for this race. Now I'm taking away any concern for time and just checking off state #15 AND having a GOOD TIME with friends. I'm excited to reunite my run buddy Patty, who moved away from me a couple months ago. I get to see bloggers Kim, Lisa and Lindsay! Plus there are several other Sole Sisters coming up from Peoria. We're gonna ROCK Minnesooooota!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cooking summer veggies

I have a small garden, but next year, it will be bigger. I really enjoy the fresh produce in summer... without requiring a trip to the store. It goes without saying that I am looking forward to my parents' visit this weekend. My mom is the ultimate gardener! We were raised working the garden. Childhood punishments were many times a trip to the mosquito patch garden to pick beans. Even though it's just the two of them at home now, they still continue to cultivate a big garden. When I see them in the summertime, it is a blessing! Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, squash, asparagus, you name it!

I just used up the last batch of donated veggies this week, mainly zucchini. It comes fast and furious this time of summer, but at least it has lasting time in the fridge. I used to make zucchini bread in the past, but have steered away from sweet bakery items now. My kids aren't necessarily fond of plain zucchini, so many times I chop it up small and cook it into a meal - like last night's spaghetti. Cook it down in the sauce and it's hardly noticeable.

I borrowed an idea from Kim last week and made a Roasted Vegetable Medley... zucchini, broccoli, red peppers and mushrooms. It turned out absolutely perfect! Even my mother-in-law asked me how I made it... Success! After posting on Instagram, I had several requests for the recipe. It's really quite simple: Chop up the veggies and toss in olive oil, seasoned with GrillMates Roasted Garlic & Herb. Pop it in the oven at 425˚ and I'm really not sure on time. I just kept a watch and tested the broccoli with the fork. Overcook and you get mush... so I cook by feel. I like my veggies with a smidge of firmness yet.

One of my hubby's favorite meals is Stuffed Green Peppers. I remember having this frequently as a child, but for some reason don't make it very often anymore. They are kind of fun to make, but do require prep time (my downfall).

Again, I'm not very good about "following recipes" but will give you the gist of how it came together. These babies were the best I've ever made!

Cook 1 cup of rice (I used brown rice). While that is simmering, clean and empty out the peppers to make a nice cup out of each one. Don't throw away all the pepper scraps. Instead, chop 'em up, along with an onion, to brown with 1 lb of ground meat (I used venison). I also tossed in some chopped zucchini. Once the meat, pepper, onion and zucchini are nicely browned, add a 1/2 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu Sweet Sausage flavor). Season by taste - I most likely added garlic salt/pepper. Cover and simmer.

Next, I blanch the pepper cups to soften the shell (and speed up baking time in the oven). Once the rice is ready, add to the simmering spaghetti mix. Place pepper cups in a small cake pan and scoop the meat/rice mixture heaping at the top of the peppers. Pour the remaining 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce over top the peppers. It should spill over to fill the bottom of the cake pan. Bake in the oven at 350˚ for 25 minutes. Five minutes before you remove from oven sprinkle shredded cheese of your choice over the top.

How are you cooking up your summer veggies? Have a recipe to share? 
Leave a comment below with a link please.  I'm always looking for new ideas!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Things Thursday

I've been experiencing some discomfort in my feet lately. I haven't vocalized it out loud since I'm still trying to dismiss it. Every morning when I step out of bed, the muscles in my foot (arch area) are sore and tight... like I can barely walk. I massage them with muscle rub and do heel raises. The soreness works itself out eventually. I'm able to walk and run again, but it's still nagging and reappears every darn morning.
Have you ever experienced this before?
Any ideas on what is going on? 

In less than a month, I'm taking the AFAA Primary Group Exercise certification test. Sigh. I haven't even begun to study yet and am getting a little sick thinking about the homework that lies ahead. Next week, when the girls head back to school, so will I... hours each day reading and studying to pass this mother test!  The expense of the certification alone makes it a must-pass situation for me.
Are you AFAA certified?
Any tips for me on the test?

Just in case you missed it, I announced my next virtual event earlier this week... a Virtual Ride for breast cancer. #RideOutCancer  Even if you don't have a bike, you can hit the stationary bike at your gym or take a few Spinning classes. Hey runners, this is great cross-training! There are participation prizes, finisher's medals, tank tops, headbands and more! I greatly appreciate your participation and support in the fight against breast cancer... Details HERE.

Have a great Thursday, my runner friends!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tour de Parks

It's the last week of summer before the kiddos return to school. They haven't even left yet and I'm already missing them. So I decided to make the final week of summer break a really FUN one. We decided to do a Park Tour. It's free and easy. Every day we visit a different park in the area (must have a trail/path of some sort). The kids bike; I run. We relax with a self-packed picnic lunch, and then the kids play on the playground.

This has all been made possible by Little Girl finally ditching her training wheels last Sunday. Previously, she was about a 10 min/mile pace on her bike, way-too-frequent stops and not able to go past 2 miles. Now... She's a little speed demon! Several times, I would sprint to keep up with her, and the Garmin held at a 7:45 min/mile. Her endurance is still a little short, but with proper planning, I can get in 3-4 miles on the run.


I have a hard time keeping up
with my running buddy!
On Monday, we visited Riverfront Park in Pekin. I personally enjoy running this trail, but never realized how many cross roads and stop signs there are... until you've got two little ones on bikes. In hindsight, it was good for Little Girl to practice her start/stop without the training wheels. We only did 2.2 miles that day, but it was a hard run for me. Since little one was so new on the bike, I stayed with her most of the time - which meant it was a constant sprint between stop signs. I was never so happy to see a car coming!

After our bike/run, the girls played at the big ship playground and I laid on a blanket under a big oak tree. The afternoon warmed up, so we ran through the sprinklers in the park. We were soaked to the bone by time we piled back into the car.


Yesterday, we hit the Peoria Riverfront near the Riverplex in downtown Peoria, completing 4+ miles. This is one of my favorites with the kids. There are two different playgrounds we can hit... one at the start/finish and another at the turnaround. Best of all, the turnaround is a big loop so I can keep running circles and picking up mileage while the girls take a mid-ride play break. The scenery is so pretty along the riverfront, and the lunch crowd walkers are quite receptive to my girls' chatter. Little Girls kept yelling to everyone, "Look - No training wheels!"
Can you believe we had this huge playground to ourselves?!?
Our lunches are simple: sandwiches, fruit, veggies and water for all.

Today, we crossed the bridge to the opposite side of the river in East Peoria. This section of paved trail is just as pretty and the kids get a kick out of the animal footprints imprinted along the Bass Pro section. There are parts however that can be tricky footing for a runner... the mass of geese in that area always crap all over the trail!

And such a great view of the downtown from the east side of the Illinois River...
Yup, we ran along this today... I was in heaven!

We haven't been to this particular playground since the girls were little toddlers. So it was "new" and they were entertained for quite some time playing pirate ship and pretend house. I sat in my sweaty run clothes for a good hour, chatting with another mom, before we finished the afternoon with ice cream.

The weather has been unseasonable cool - which is perfect in my book! I haven't gotten much work done, but we have enjoyed the week so far. Two more parks to run/bike on Thurs and Friday to complete our Tour de Parks! I can't remember when the girls have slept so good or I've had so much FUN running!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

VIRTUAL RIDE for breast cancer

I'm so excited to announce my next virtual event... a ride to fight breast cancer! Whether you're a runner, cyclist or an all-around athlete, this event is for everyone!!  Runners, this is a great way to commit to your cross-training!  October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what a great way to show support than ROCKin' October on a bike!

To participate in the virtual ride, you pedal anytime during the month of October at the location of your choice... on your road bike, mountain bike, stationary bike or in a Spinning class. No registration necessary, but it may help if you like my Facebook page for weekly updates and reminders, or bookmark this page. The ride is NO CHARGE to participate, but there are add-ons (below) to make the ride "an event" for you. Proceeds from these items are donated to help fight breast cancer.

The ride length is 50k, which is the equivalent of 31 miles. That's ONE mile each day dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. You choose how to complete this event during the 31 days of October... 
• Ride the 31 miles all in one shot
• Ride 7.75 miles once a week
• Ride 1 mile each day in Oct
• Take 2 Spinning classes in Oct

Once your 50K is complete, come back and CLICK HERE (starting Oct. 1) to report back your finish. You will receive one entry into the PRIZE DRAWING, held after October. Final prize winners can be viewed here.

Take pictures of your ride and post them to my Facebook wall. I will be making/sharing photo collages throughout October to demonstrate our strength in this important cause. I'd love to include you too!

Ride to support a current fighter. Ride to honor a survivor.  Ride in memory of a special one who lost the breast cancer battle. Dedication bibs available here to download and print.

So dust off those wheels & recruit your friends to complete this challenge!
Commit to this virtual ride by leaving a comment below... and please share!

Thank you for your participation!
Final recap can be viewed HERE.

* * * EXTRAS * * *
Please consider making your virtual ride extra special with one of the items below. Proceeds are donated to 1.) Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Peoria Memorial whom I run for on Oct. 20 and 2.) my neighbor Amanda, a young mom of two who is currently fighting breast cancer and medical bills. 

Sorry, FINISHER MEDALS are Sold Out.
$500 was donated to Komen for the Cure from the sale of these medals. Thank You!!

Sorry, SHIRTS are Sold Out.
From the sale of these shirts, $300 was donated to my neighbor, who is currently fighting breast cancer. Thank You!!

Please share this event via your favorite social medium... Thank You!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Race Recap: Brimfield Old Settlers 5K

I was a last minute entry for this local race. As I've mentioned before, we have greatly scaled back the number of 5K's we're running this year. Mainly due to cost... entry prices have gone up substantially in our area, and our income has gone down this summer (thank you furlough). I participate in charity 5K's mainly for fun, to mingle with local runners, and get my hubby involved. I prefer the longer distance races and traveling new places, so that's where I spend most of my "race allowance".

When I found the Old Settlers 5K in Brimfield, IL for only $15.00 (+$2 for online registration), I quickly signed up both the hubby and I. The event also had a free kids run and a free kids bicycle race. So for under $35, we had an entire morning of fun and fitness for the whole family. Can I just say how much I love small towns...

We drove out to Brimfield Thursday evening to pickup our race packets... bib, shoe chip and a cotton tee. The course records for the race were posted up on a big wall. After 22 years of running, there were some speedy fast times on this well-advertised flat course. The race is part of the town's annual Old Settlers Day celebration, which began that Thurs evening. We grabbed some food and let the kiddos enjoy a few carnival rides.

Sole Sisters before the race!
Race morning was more hectic than usual, having to get all four of us ready to race. Definitely much easier to get out the door when it's just me running! We arrived in Brimfield with plenty of time to find parking in a good "getaway" spot. I laugh now at how much we strategized over this, thinking we'd be dealing with crowds or traffic after the run. Yeah, you get neither on a Saturday morning in Brimfield, population 869.

I chatted with a few friends before the race and then the call to lineup came quickly. My Garmin wasn't cooperating and still searching at the start. No biggie, somewhere in the first mile she found satellite, but I waited for the first mile marker to start her up so my splits would be consistent with the mile markers. A guy at the first mile marker called out times and I was delighted with where I was at...
Mile 1 - 8:24

The course circled the small community. Morning temps were cool and comfortable, but the sun was coming on strong. The few times we hit shade, I found myself slowing to linger there longer. My legs have been super sluggish lately, so I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to push sub-9 pace. As it turns out, mile two popped off even faster...
Mile 2 - 8:14

Throughout the race, I had been going back and forth with a guy pushing a wheelchair-type stroller. He was an incredible runner. The only reason I could catch him was because he stopped at the water stations while I whizzed through. In our last miles, I caught him for the last time as we pushed up a minor incline. He yelled out to me, "You're having a good run!" I replied, "So are you! Geesh, I don't know how you do it." I used to push my little babies in a stroller, but can't imagine running this pace while pushing an adult.

As I came down the last long stretch, I saw a few friends up ahead and had the fleeting thought of trying to catch them. Nope, no go. Exhaustion was setting in. I don't run this pace very often and it was certainly taking its toll.
Mile 3 - 8:27

I tried to give a little sprint down the finish and thought I squeaked in under 26 minutes. Official time later said not. Dang it! But regardless of my time, I was happy with this run. It didn't exactly feel good to go fast again, but it is nice to know I haven't completely lost my speed - due to lack of training this summer.

Official Chip Time 26:01
8:23 avg pace
F35-39 #6 out of 26

After the 5K was done, it was the kids time!
Big Girl running the 1/4 mile dash and Little Girl ready for her first bike race!

We are all different, and running means different things to different people. I know many love the excitement of big races... but I personally adore these small town events. Afforadable, no hassle driving in and out of town, easy to bring the family along, easy to run without congestion, and there always seem to be "extras" afterward. We stopped by the pancake breakfast to refuel and wandered the flea market. There was also a parade, but we didn't stick around for that.  I'd run the Old Settlers 5K again in a heartbeat.

The best part was when this lil man asked to have his picture taken with me! He reads my blog and told his mom, "It's kinda like meeting a celebrity!" Haha, thanks buddy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mommy Marathoner

Marathon Training as a Busy Mom Seems Like Craziness
Guest Post by Becky Reese, Sexy Mom's Running Club

When most people think of being a mom, they don’t normally think of marathon running. After all, who has the time with taking care of kids?  Less than one percent of the population is running a marathon, so mixing in children and busy schedules on top of that seems downright impossible.  I’m here to show you some ways that you can be a great mom and achieve your goal of running a marathon.

First, I suggest looking for a four-day training calendar.  Quality (not quantity) running is what counts.  While I agree that it is important to get running in, too many people only concentrate on running and forget about weight training, biking, or even playing with your kids.  Don’t count out Xbox Dance Central Three!  When you incorporate your kids into the training, it just doesn’t seem like training anymore - more like fun playtime.

Here’s an example of what a four-day training schedule looks like:
MON:  kid workout day
TUES:  speed workout (i.e. 3-4x 1-mile repeats at tempo with 2:1 work rest ratio)
WED:  easy run (i.e. 5-10 miles aerobic)
THUR:  kid workout day
FRI:  intervals or hill workout (5-10x steep 1-2 minute hill repeats with walk or jog down)
SAT:  rest
SUN:  long run (10-20 miles that include race pace intervals and fast finishes)

Make sure to concentrate on your long run.  The most common mistake people make is not getting up to 20 miles.  The long run is crucial to increasing the storage of glycogen in your muscles and conditioning the body to the pounding of running, according to Robert Chapman, Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Indiana.  The main problem people encounter with the long run is the time.  Pick one day a week where you have someone who can watch the kids.  Remember, you will be building up to 20 miles, which could take four hours or longer.  Here’s a great tip someone gave me: if possible, try and keep that long run starting time around the same time as the start of the race.  For example, the Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas race starts in the evening, so make sure some of those training runs are at night so that your body is adjusted.  If you are only running at night, and your race is in the morning, you need those morning runs so that your body can function!

Additionally, you need to work your abs.  When you are struggling in the end, that core workout will help you get through.  To incorporate your kids, have them count the time on a stopwatch while doing planks or sit on your feet while you do sit-ups.  You can even get them to do sit ups with you!

Regardless of whether this is your first marathon or if it is your tenth, make sure you check the race route.  If your race route has lots of hills, highway running, or any condition that is different that what you are currently running in, it is important to incorporate those into your training.  Running on cement is a lot different than black top - the pounding is much harder on the body.  Likewise, if you only practice on a few hills and your race is very hilly (like the Nashville Rock ‘N Roll marathon), then you will struggle as the miles get higher.

Remember, marathon training should be fun.  Life is crazy busy and if training is not fun, you won’t complete it and you will not be ready.  Enjoy it - and celebrate crossing that finish line! 

About Becky Reese: Armed with a mission to empower moms across the country to feel beautiful no matter what their size, mother-of-five Becky Reece founded Sexy Mom's Running Club to help busy women make themselves a priority again, while still balancing career and family.

Enter via Rafflecopter below for a chance to win
the Mommy Marathon Prize Pack
from Sexy Mom's Running Club
• An item of your choice from the Becky Reese apparel line
• The Fresh 20 Cookbook by Melissa Lanz
• $50 gift card for any paid content on Sexy Moms Running Club 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Holy cow, it's August! I'll spare you the full monthly recap for July. I ran in one 5K, one 10K and had an epic 64 mile bike ride - all which seems acceptable, right? Unfortunately all those events distracted me from the half marathon training that I was suppose to start in July. My run miles for the month were only 77, continuing my summer lull that began in June (71). Admittedly though, I'm not completely brokenhearted over my training (or lack thereof). My #1 goal this summer was to enjoy my kids before my "baby" entered Kindergarten. I think we've been doing a pretty good job at that. Once August 19th arrives and the babes climb on that big yellow bus, I'll have plenty of time to kick my own butt. Not giving up yet...

Summer cookouts, life on the go, and cold beer have added some unwanted pounds to my run. I thought I was going to die this morning as I wrapped up 7 miles. So I've challenged myself to get back to my racing weight (155 seems to be my strong healthy spot) before my Oct birthday. It averages out to roughly two pounds a week. I seem to have the best luck when I  journal my food intake with photos (I just can't keep up with writing it down or logging it in the computer). That means taking a picture of every nugget I put in my mouth. Want to join me for the month of August? Here's how...
• Snap a picture of everything you eat. Yeah, it'll make you think twice before popping it in...
• At the end of the day, assemble a collage via one of the nifty photo apps (I use InstaFrame).
• Share your daily photo collage via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. The objective is to hold yourself accountable for what you are eating on a daily basis... whether you're fighting the scale or not. Hashtag it #PhotoMyFood
Commit to the challenge by leaving a comment below. Good Luck!

October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is growing closer... and I've got some prizes in-hand for my breast cancer fundraiser. First winner announced when I hit the $150 mark. Check it out here and THANK YOU for your support!