Friday, July 30, 2010

Jalapeno Juice Burns Eyes

D.C. summer, I am officially over you.

I've had enough of your wicked thunderstorms leaving me, my friends and various business establishments without power.

It happened again last night. An afternoon thunderstorm rolled through the area while I was at work, but apparently it downed power lines on the Metro tracks, making my commute home a true joy and leaving me without power for another seven or eight hours.

When you don't have power, you can't open your fridge. When you can't open your fridge you resort to eating Tositos for dinner.

True story, it was about the only thing I had in my pantry that didn't require something from the fridge. Good thing today was a rest day and I didn't need to fuel up for a run.

But earlier this week, when I had power, I made some fajitas and pico de gallo with veggies I picked up at the farmer's market.

The inspiration for the pico de gallo came when a coworker brought me a big bag full of tomatoes from her parent's garden. I'm not a big tomato fan, but I really enjoy a good pico de gallo from Baja Fresh, so I figured I'd try to make my own.


I chopped the tomatoes, an onion, and a bunch of scallions and threw them in a bowl.








The recipe I found called for two jalapenos.


I was a little nervous about handling these bad boys, but I got them chopped and de-seeded with minimal drama. At one point some juice squirted into my eye that caused me to do some painful hopping around the kitchen while I flushed it out, but in the end I was totally fine.

Once the veggies were in the bowl, I threw in some salt and pepper, garlic powder and cilantro. In the fridge it went to chill.


For the fajitas, I chopped green and purple peppers and a yellow squash.




I've never had purple peppers before, but I found them at the farmer's market and decided to give them a try.

I sauteed the veggies in a pan with some olive oil and a packet of taco seasoning.


When they were finished I warmed a tortilla, filled it with Mexican mix cheese and the veggies and had some pico de gallo on the side.


The fajita was a little bit bland so on the next go-round, I put the pico de gallo inside the tortilla shell. That solved the problem.

I love good Mexican food and I'm always looking for creative recipes to try, so please share if you know any good ones.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dream Interrupted

I was in the middle of the strangest, yet most interesting dream ever when my alarm went off this morning. I dreamed I was back at my old job at the newspaper, but I wasn't friends with any of the same people, and I worked for a different editor and was getting all sorts of weird writing assignments.

I was so tempted to shut the alarm off and go back to sleep so I could see how the dream played out, but in the end running won out.

I got up and did my pace run like a good little half marathon trainee.

And I even came pretty close to getting all my splits at the right times.

The only one I messed up was mile 2. My normal running route starts off downhill, so it's easy for me to start out way too fast and then burnout by the time I hit the big, big hills in the second mile. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that's what happened this morning.

1: 9:08
2: 9:18
3: 9:10
.5: 4:30 (an 8:57 mile)

On my pace runs, I try to keep all my miles right around 9:10. Except for that darn second mile, I did alright this morning. I didn't have high hopes because it was back to the normal hot and humid temps, but I was happy with the end result.

Maybe I'm finally starting to adapt to this hot summertime weather.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Negative Splits at Last

So that big thunderstorm that still has lots of people without power, had one positive effect. It pulled the temperatures down several degrees. It did nothing for the humidity and the dew point, but this morning the soup bowl that I'm used to running through was only lukewarm.

I'll take it.

It's better than scalding hot.

It took me a long time to get going this morning. I didn't sleep well because I had a million ideas swimming around in my head and I just couldn't turn my brain off. Work's been busy, which is awesome, and I feel like every 10 minutes a new idea for a project pops into my head. It's not a bad thing, it's just kind of annoying when I'm trying to fall asleep.

So dragging my butt out of bed this morning was a struggle.

I kept repeating over and over again that it's just an easy run. I can take it nice and slow. No need to worry about speed, just loosening up the legs. It worked and I eventually made my way outside into the soup bowl.

My four miles were pretty uneventful, but this morning was the first time in a long time I've been able to run the entire time without taking a walk break. The break in temperatures definitely made a difference in that regard.

When I checked out my splits I was pleasantly surprised.

1: 10:03
2: 9:40
3: 9:35
4: 9:28

Boo-yah negative splits! Take that hills!

The weather folks are calling for more thunderstorms to tear through the DC area tonight. Fingers crossed they don't cause any more power problems.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Moving Recap

Happy Monday...errr I mean Tuesday. It's my first day in the office this week, so it sure seems like a Monday to me.

I am so glad I had yesterday off though. After a weekend full of moving in insane heat and lots of unpacking, organizing and cleaning, I needed a day to relax and run some of my errands.

Moving:

Saturday was an absolutely crazy day that had me going non-stop from 5 a.m. to about 11 p.m. I managed to fit in my eight mile run and a trip to the farmer's market before the BF and I went to pick up the keys to his new apartment at 10 a.m.

After that we picked up the U-Haul (so glad I wasn't the one driving that thing!), unloaded the storage space and then headed over to the new place to start unloading. Thanks to an absolutely wonderful moving team, it only took about 2.5 hours from the time we picked up the U-Haul to the time we dropped it back off.

I was wiped after lugging furniture and boxes from the U-Haul to the apartment. It was quite the workout, but afterward the BF's friend invited us over to his pool for swimming and BBQ-ing.

Unpacking:


Sunday was spent unpacking boxes, organizing the apartment as best we could and picking up forgotten items from the BF's old place. It was an all day affair and I didn't get back to my house until 10 p.m.

No Power:

When I got home, I found out I had no power...apparently it had gone out at 2 p.m. according to my roommates and most of the county didn't have power either. A wicked storm blew through the area majorly cooling things off, but doing some serious damage to the power lines. I was lucky and my power came back on around 10:30 p.m., but this morning there are still tons of people without power. Traffic lights are out everywhere and police are having to direct traffic. It's a pretty rotten situation.

I'm extremely grateful to have power my power back on, and I'm hoping that everyone else will have their power restored soon.

Please send good thoughts to my coworkers and friends who are still without power!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Cucumber Salad

Happy Friday!

Who's ready for the weekend? I know I am.

The BF is moving this weekend, so I'll be spending all day tomorrow hauling boxes in the heat. My plan for staying cool is drinking lots and lots of water, wearing my running stuff (because it's sweat wicking!) and cooling off in our friend's pool after we're done.

I also plan to squeeze in my long run and a quick trip to the farmer's market before moving starts! It's going to be a busy day!

Onto this week's recipe!


I've been really enjoying good fresh salads with lots of different veggies lately and I decided to try a new one this week: cucumber salad.

I used two cucumbers, two peppers and half a red onion.


After chopping all the veggies,




I threw them in a big bowl and coated them with a dressing recipe I found online.


The dressing was a mix of half water half vinegar, with a tablespoon of sugar and pepper, red pepper flakes and dill weed.

The salad was cold and fresh, but this dressing didn't really do it for me. It kind of felt like something was missing or the flavors didn't mesh right or something. It was just sort of blah.


Does anyone have any good recommendations for cucumber salad dressing?

I wouldn't mind trying this kind of salad again, but it would definitely have to be with a more tasty dressing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Three

Happy Thursday! We're sooo close to the weekend!

1. Work is insane. Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Plus meeting prep.

2. My run this morning sucked. Hot, humid, slow and lots of walking. My summer norm. Oh plus my legs felt dead the entire run. Not a good time. Need to foam roll.

3. I so can't wait until this day is over. I've been prepping for this massive meeting today almost all week (and even before that) and I just want it to be done. I'm so looking forward to going home, plopping down on my couch and watching some Big Brother. (Don't judge!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First Run Sans Garmie

This morning was my first ran sans Garmie since I got the little guy a few months ago. His battery died five minutes in. I'm usually so anal retentive about making sure it's charged, but I forgot yesterday.

So this morning I was supposed to do 1.75 out and 1.75 back for a total of 3.5....buuuut I had no idea where 1.75 was without Garmie.

In the end I did about 1.9 out and back for a total of 3.8 miles.

More than what was on the schedule, but I slogged through it.

D.C. humidity, please feel free to go away any time soon.

Garmie's back on his charger and he should be all charged up and ready to go for tomorrow. I missed having my splits and total time this morning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seven Training Observations

I'm just about a quarter of the through my training plan for the Rock N Roll Philly Half Marathon and I wanted to share my observations so far.

1. Getting up at 5 a.m. gets easier and easier. It's definitely darker at 5 a.m. now than it was earlier this summer, but I've still managed to pry myself out of bed despite that.

2. Waking up at 5 a.m. requires me to go to bed really early. Usually that's by 10 p.m. at the latest, but I shoot for 9:30 or 9:45. Some nights, like last night, I'll accidentally fall asleep at 7 p.m. while I'm reading in bed. It happens.

3. I've managed to not skip a run yet. That's something I'm really proud of. I should easily be able to keep that up through July, but I know in August things might get tricky.

4. Because of heat and humidity, I'm having a really, really hard time hitting my training paces during tempo and pace runs. I can still manage to get my intervals done at the right times though, so that's a small victory.

5. Walk breaks are so necessary this summer. I hate taking them, but it's one of the only ways I can get my heart rate down and start to cool off just a bit. I'm trying to embrace them.

6. I haven't cross-trained once this training cycle. Granted I only have true cross training days once a week, but I just can't motivate myself to do anything other than run. Sometimes I consider my 1.5 mile walking commute to be my cross training. This is not good.

7. I am constantly hungry, but I'm trying to get more and more of my fuel from fruits and veggies. The farmer's market is definitely helping with that.

It's been a solid training cycle so far and I'm optimistic that by September the weather will be more favorable and I will be able to rock my half.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot Run and Farmers Market Goodies

Happy Monday!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was a good mix of relaxing and productive and like always, it was over far too fast.

Despite going out with friends on Friday (something I haven't done in ages because of all my summer travel) I managed to pry myself out of bed around 6 a.m. for my seven mile run Saturday morning.

It was a scorcher, but I took it slow and steady and my legs felt pretty good when I finished. The rest of my body however, felt like hell. I was so uncomfortably hot. The sun was super strong and even though I wore a hat to keep it off my face, it was just miserable out. The humidity didn't help matters. I just felt like I couldn't ever cool down. Cue freezing cold shower post run.

The run was peppered with several walk breaks, but sometimes in the summer, that's just the way things go.

Splits:

1: 10:05
2: 9:55
3: 9:54
4: 10:26
5: 10:54
6: 10:02
7: 9:11

Except for miles four and five, the rest of the run was solid.

After my nice cold shower and a quick nap, the BF and I headed out to the farmer's market, again something I've hardly had a chance to do this summer because I'm always out of town. I picked up some of the best peaches I have ever tasted. Seriously they are out of this world and I know next week I will be buying a ton more. I also picked up some baby squash and fresh green beans. No clue what I'm going to do with any of it yet, but I'll figure something out. I scored my haul for a whopping $7. Love Farmer's Markets.

The rest of the weekend was split between curling up with a good book and helping the BF pack for his move next weekend.

Now it's time to dive into another week of work and half marathon training. Here we go.

Friday, July 16, 2010

D.C. Earthquake!

An earthquake woke me up this morning. It was close to 5 a.m. and I was kind of jolted out of bed by this sort of grinding, sliding, hey my whole house is rockin' kind of feeling. It was weird. The USGS is reporting it was a 3.6, so it was fairly mild and the center was in Germantown/Gaithersburg, a couple miles up the road from my house.

Can't say I've ever experienced an earthquake before this morning. The shaking seemed to stop after a few minutes, but it was very weird.

I'm glad it was a rest day or else I would have been outside about to start my run. Now that would have been weird...running through an earthquake. Guess we'll save that experience for another day.

Onto this week's cooking challenge.

It's rare that I pull recipes from cookbooks. They usually have far too many weird ingredients that I don't have in my house and cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store. But I was running low on inspiration this week and pulled out an old cookbook I was sent to review back in my intern days at the paper.

I found this recipe for a Chickpea and Grain salad that used really simple ingredients and decided to give it a try.

All you need:
Can of chickpeas
2 cups of chicken (cut into chunks)
Spinach
Red Onion
Couscous/bulgur/pilaf (I used a wheat bulgur mix)

Follow the directions on your grain box to prepare that. Mine required boiling the grains and then letting them simmer for 20 minutes. (If you use couscous that will take five minutes).

While your grains are cooking, chop your red onion (I used about half of mine) and your spinach.





Throw them in a bowl and add the chickpeas and the chicken. (I cheated and used the precooked, packaged chicken to save time.)



When the grains are finished, throw them in the bowl and mix everything well.



Then top with a dressing of 3 tablespoons lemon juice and one tablespoon olive oil with some crushed red pepper.

Chill.

I actually really loved this salad and it made such a big batch, it's carried me through almost the whole week. The lemon juice did wonders in keeping everything fresh. I think my only slip up was not adding quite enough crushed red pepper.

Alright, I'm off to go find out who else felt this earthquake. Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday Three

1. I think my internal clock is starting to adapt to my 5 a.m. mornings. Most mornings I'm less tired when my alarm goes off and I seem to have more energy. This morning I actually woke up at 4:40 ready to go. I went back to sleep until 5 though. No need to be up quite that early.

2. Yesterday's easy run kicked my butt and left me exhausted. I was practically falling asleep by the time I went to watch the BF's volleyball game last night. The game was at 5 p.m. Hardly late. I crawled into bed a little earlier last night in hopes of getting some extra Zzz.

3. Humidity was a tiny bit lower this morning on my run so I pushed a little bit harder. I think I went out too fast though because my first split was 8:51 and everything after that was over 9. Plus I had to take a bunch of walk breaks toward the end.

That's all for today! Only one more day until the weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Staying Cool

Easy was the name of the game today, but thanks to my good friend DC humidity, nothing about this run felt easy.

I was slightly hopeful last night when a wicked thunderstorm rolled through, thinking maybe it would cool things off, but no luck. It was so humid out this morning the water from last night's rain hadn't evaporated.

Weather stats:
5 a.m.
73 degrees
96% humidity
Dewpoint 72

I slogged through my 3.5 miles and at times it felt like I wasn't moving anywhere. I still managed negative splits though.

1: 10:01
2: 10:00
3: 9:25 (no clue where that came from, lots of downhills though)
.5: 5:30

Although the weather wasn't fun and today's easy run was still hard, it felt better going slower. I didn't feel quite like I wanted to collapse and die at the end of it, but boy did it feel good to step into my air-conditioned house once I finished.

As I was running, I was shaking some tree branches to knock off the water so I'd get a quick cool me down shower. It actually felt pretty good. On long runs, when I have my water bottle I tend to dump water over my head, but I don't take it on these short runs, so the left over rain worked as a nice substitute.

Do you have any good stay-cool tips I should try? I could certainly use them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Six Miles in the Rain

I'm happy to report that three weeks into training for the Rock N Roll Philly Half marathon, things seem to be going well. Sure I've had a couple of tough runs, and I've been dealing with some nasty weather, but all in all, I can't complain.

So far, I haven't missed a single run, nor have had I to rearrange my schedule to fit runs in (although in a few weeks I think I'll be doing some shuffling). I've been injury free, only dealing with some muscle tightness here and there.

Saturday's long run was six miles, and it should have been easy. The course I was running was really flat for the most part and I was looking forward to running with some music for once.

But it was raining . Very, very steadily. I knew my iPod wouldn't survive that. Heck I didn't know if I would survive that. I contemplated crawling back into bed, but decided I was awake, dressed and outside. Time to suck it up.

And suck it up I did. For six long, slow miles.

My clothes were soaked and heavy. My legs felt like bricks. I walked a lot.

It was not a cool rain. It was steamy and muggy and gross.

I think the only positive to this run was that despite my clothes being soaked and clinging to me, I somehow didn't chafe. I rewarded my self with a nice cool shower and a two hour nap.

When I woke up at 11 a.m. I felt pretty refreshed and ready to start my weekend of relaxation.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Overnight Oats

All week long I've been craving cold dinner foods because of how hot it's been, and I've been intrigued by Angela's overnight oats.

The idea behind overnight oats is to prepare traditional oatmeal the night before you plan to eat it and then put it in the fridge to chill. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about eating uncooked oats, but I thought I'd give it a try.

The night before I combine:

1/2 c. oats
3/4 c. milk
Generous sprinkle of coco powder
Splash of vanilla

I mixed it all up and put it in the fridge over night.

The next day, when I got home from work I made the last part of my overnight oats parfait: Strawberry banana soft serve, another idea I borrowed from Angela.


When you throw a frozen banana in the blender and run it for a few minutes, you end up with a soft serve similar to frozen yogurt. You can add all different thing to the banana for flavor. For example, one time I tried with strawberries, another time I used peanut butter.

For the record, I hate bananas, the taste and texture is gross, but I figured I could mask all that with the other flavors. After all, I like strawberry banana yogurt.



After blending the soft serve and giving the over night oats a good stir, I layered them in a tall glass sprinkling in some extra coco powder for a little sweetness.


In the end I loved the strawberry banana soft serve, but the texture of the overnight oats grossed me out. I barely ate half the first layer before passing the whole thing off to my roommate, who thought it was really good.

It was a fun experiment to try, and I think I'll keep playing with flavors for the banana soft serve, but I will not be going back to the overnight oats. They were just a little too weird for me.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Humidity = running fail

This weather needs to break immediately. Seriously, real feel temps of 90 degrees at 5 a.m. are destroying my runs.

This morning's run was supposed to be 3 miles at pace. Epic failure.

Mile 1: 8:56. Rock on, this humidity can't get me down!
Mile 2: 9:20 Ugh these hills are evil.
Mile 3: 9:42 Oh yes this heat can, in fact, get me down and force me to take many walk breaks. Also, hills are evil.

Is the opposite of negative splits positive splits? Because if it is, man did I rock those positive splits this morning.

Hot summer running turns me into a crazy weather stalker. Seriously the number of times I check the Accuweather website for updates on when this heat wave might break is a little bit ridiculous.

It looks like we're supposed to get a little break this weekend, with highs only in the very high 80s. Still humid though.

For the next three weeks that Accuweather has data it doesn't look to be any better. Mid to high 90s all month long.

Guess I better just get used to the idea of a hot and muggy summer. Time to buckle down and get it done.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tempo Run Help

I struggle with tempo runs.

I can never figure how fast I'm supposed to go.

I don't know how long I should warm up before I start.

And I stink at maintaining an even pace.

So yesterday when I set out to do my first tempo run of this training cycle, I pretty much just winged it. I decided that tempo runs should be faster than my pace runs (should they?) and that I would shoot for maintaining 8:30ish per mile (I'm training to do my pace runs at 9:10, so is 8:30 reasonable?)

My schedule called for a 30 minute tempo run. I decided I'd do five minutes of that warming up, and then use five minutes at the end to cool it down and push hard for the 20 minutes in the middle. Is that the way you're supposed to handle these things?

Now I made all my decisions about the tempo run with no regard for the weather. I figured I could tough it out no matter what.

Wrong.

My splits ended up looking like this:

Mile 1: 8:56
Mile 2: 9:07
Mile 3: 8:32
.41: 4:42 (that was cool down time)

Not anywhere close at all.

But then look at this morning's splits. It was my easy day. My sole focus was to take it nice and easy and loosen up my legs.

Mile 1: 9:39
Mile 2: 9:40
Mile 3: 9:20

Those splits are much more evenly paced. There were some nice downhills in the last mile that sped things up. (Side note: It was already 77 degrees at 5 a.m. with 79% humidity and a dew point of 71. I pretty much wanted to die while running this morning)

I really need to figure this tempo run thing out. How hard to push, how fast to go and how to better keep my pace even.

Please share your running wisdom with me. Am I going about these runs all wrong? Where can I improve?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

4th of July in PA

What is it about holiday weekends that makes them fly by so quickly? I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July. I know I certainly did.

The BF and I headed home to PA on Friday night to enjoy a weekend of picnics, food, family and friends. For a holiday weekend, traffic actually wasn't so bad and we didn't get home too late.

That set me up for a great five mile run on Saturday morning. The weather was pretty pleasant. Comfortable temperature and not much humidity, but man, the PA hills kill me every time. I used to be such a champ at those hills, but now that I'm used to running on DC "hills" the real hills kick my butt.

Still decent splits:
1: 9:30
2: 9:19
3: 9:10
4: 8:49
5: 8:50

Soooo close to negative splits!
Evil hill at the end of the last mile did me in.

That afternoon we went up to my aunt's house for our first picnic. My camera battery was dead, so I have no pictures from the entire weekend. Sunday we had two more picnics. There was so much food that by the second day, I was shunning burgers and dogs and just going for the desserts. Hellllo sugar high.

It was an awesome weekend and I was so sad it ended so quickly. Now I'm back in DC looking at a week of training with temperatures in the high 90's/low 100's all week and humidity through the roof.

I'm crossing my fingers and toes and hoping we get a thunderstorm rolling through earlier than expected or else it's going to be a rough week.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Breakfast for Dinner 2

I know I mentioned in another cooking challenge post, that breakfast for dinner is one of my favorite things.

This week I was really in the mood to make pancakes. I ran out to the store to pick up a Bisquick mix.



Mixed in the eggs and milk.


And then got to work making the pancakes.


I'm the world's worst pancake flipper. I end up throwing pancakes on top of each other, not flipping them all the way, or just in general not cooking them enough. I leave the pancake flipping to the BF.

The BF also had the great idea to put the finished pancakes in the oven to keep them warm while we cooked the rest. As we finished cooking them we tossed them on a pizza tray in the oven.


And when we were all finished, I topped mine with some butter and drizzled them with maple syrup.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

DC Life and a Fast Run

Fact of life in DC: Sometimes the Secret Service will have to detonate suspicious packages outside your office building.

Perk of my job: I was teleworking yesterday and missed all the drama.

Turns out there was a suitcase on the corner of the street my office is on containing what appeared to be a pipe bomb. In the end there wasn't one, thank goodness. I'm pretty glad I was at home, I probably would have jumped out of my skin if I heard them detonating that package.

In less life threatening news...


The weather continues to be amazing in DC. The temps are cooler in the mornings, there's virtually no humidity. It's perfect for running.

And it's also the perfect time to push the speed a little bit.

I set off on this morning's three miler hoping to maintain a 9:10 pace. Nothing too crazy, but I wanted to push myself a little bit more than normal.

I was doing OK, but my pace was kind of all over the place. I would be on a downhill and absolutely flying (faster than 8 minutes per mile) and then I'd hit an uphill and my pace would drop drastically. I found Garmin to be really valuable on this run because if I noticed my pace dropping too much I could kick it up a notch and get the speed to back up before I settled into that slower pace.

I was absolutely spent after this run. My legs were screaming, my lungs were heaving, but man did I feel great.

I plugged Garmin in to check my splits and my jaw practically hit the floor:

Mile 1: 8:47
Mile 2: 8:43
Mile 3: 8:32

Uhhh not only did I run way faster than I expected, but I managed negative splits too. Craziness.

I've got to thank the perfect weather for helping with those splits. I highly doubt I would have been able to do that well if it was hot and humid.

Here's hoping that as my training progresses I'll be able to extend those fast times to longer runs.