My name's Jess and I'm the writer/runner here at Jess Runs. This blog covers all aspects of running, health and fitness, including training, nutrition, motivation and making running fun. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy weekend! I'm sending lots of luck to everyone running in the Marine Corp Marathon this weekend. I'll be spectating, so if you're running look for me. I'll be the one holding the "Run Bloggers Run" sign.
Before we dive into this week's recipe, here's a look at my art project from last night. By the time I was finished with these signs, my hands were covered in blue paint.
For my bloggers running MCM
For all the runners. Thanks to everyone who gave me awesome sign ideas! This one came from Monika!
I'm pretty happy with the way these turned out. MCM runners keep your eye out for me! I'll be near miles 10.5, 15, and 19.5.
This week I wanted to try making spaghetti squash. I've read a lot about people swapping pasta noodles for the squash "noodles" and I wanted to give it a try.
Since I had no clue where to start I turned to Google and found a pretty simple way to tackle the squash.
Step 1: Pierce the squash skin with a knife so it doesn't explode in the oven. Step 2: Place squash in the oven at 375 for an hour.
Place squash on a cookie sheet.
(The rest of this will be tricky because it's hard to handle a hot squash with oven mitts, but I managed to survive without any horrible injuries.)
Step 3: Remove squash and cut in half.
Two halves of a squash
Step 4: Scoop out the seeds and gunk in the middle.
Empty center after seeds were scooped out
You can roast these seeds just like pumpkin seeds.
Step 5: Scrape at the squash with a fork and the "noodles" will begin to separate.
Empty squash shells after noodles have been scraped out.
Once I had the spaghetti squash taken care of, I set the "noodles" aside and began working on the rest of the dish.
I chopped two red peppers and added them to a jar of spaghetti sauce over medium heat.
Peppers and spaghetti sauce are really good mixed together.
Once they were warm, I topped my spaghetti squash noodles with the peppers and sauce and sprinkled it with a little bit of cheese.
I thought this dish came out really well. The squash noodles were much crunchier than I expected them to be, but I liked the crunch. The BF thought the noodles would have worked better in a creamier sauce instead of a red sauce, so I may try that variation this weekend with the leftover noodles.
1. From the minute I got up until my head hit the pillow, I felt like I was on the go yesterday. I crammed in a run in the morning, was busy at work all day, and then spent 2.5 hours in the kitchen making dinner (recipe coming tomorrow) and whipping up a huge batch of apple crisp for the tailgate this weekend. Do you know how long it takes to peel and cut a 1/2 peck of apples? Or how hot it gets in the kitchen when you have the oven on for two hours? I was ready to collapse when the day was over. I'm hoping today I'll be able to catch my breath.
2. I voted yesterday. Maryland started offering early voting this year, and I'm pretty convinced it's the best idea ever. I could vote on my schedule, when it was convenient, and there was no line. In and out in under 10 minutes. Probably my best voting experience to date.
3. I am so excited for this weekend. It's going to be insanely busy, but very awesome. I have a house-warming party on Friday, homecoming on Saturday and Marine Corp spectating and a post-marathon party on Sunday. Oh and it's Halloween! Besides all the fun things going on, the weather is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous. Hurry up Friday night!
I don't eat a lot of meat. In part it's because I just don't like it all that much, but in part it's because I can't rationalize the cost to myself. I could buy some chicken breast for $5 or $6 or I could opt for that eggplant for about $1.
Eggplant parm and chicken parm are both delicious recipes, but when it's just me, preparing food for myself, I prefer the veggie options. It's friendly on my wallet and my waist line.
I'm not a vegetarian and I definitely eat meat from time to time, but it's not a main staple of my diet.
The other day, I saw this really cool chart on the LearnVest blog. It compares the costs of several different kinds of diets by looking at sample meals.
In the end it found that eating a vegan diet could save you more than $1,200 per year.
Now granted that chart just offers a snapshot of a few meals in a day. Over the course of a week or even a month things might even out more. And I know vegan is something I couldn't ever do. I eat, and thoroughly enjoy, dairy products.
But in general, beans and grains tend to be much cheaper per pound than meat, and if you're building meals around beans/grains and fruits and veggies, I think you will save more in the long haul than if you're splurging on meat all the time.
What do you think? Do you think you save by eating less meat, or do you think it all evens out in the end?
This Sunday is the 35th running of the Marine Corp Marathon in D.C., and I think the only way I could be more excited is if I were actually running the race myself.
Instead, I will be out on the course cheering on a good real-life friend and tons of blends (blog-friends) who are running the race. It will be my first time spectating a race.
Since it's my friend's first marathon, it warrants a big cheering section at multiple spots on the course.
I went into serious Type-A planner mode last night and designed a plan for the day that will let us see our friend at miles 10.5, 15, 19.75 and 26.2. I put it in a document, with some general spectators tips, tips for getting through the day, a break down of what our friend will be racing in so we can find him, and a reunion plan at the finish line.
The last part of my plan is to whip up some awesome signs, but I'm really struggling with what to write on them.
I know I'm going to make one for my blends that says "Run Bloggers Run!" Blends, I will be on the look out for you!
But I need some tips on what else I should put on the others. I know some of the classics:
"Your feet hurt because you're kicking so much butt"
"All walls have doors"
"Chafe now, brag forever"
....but I feel like I can probably do better than that.
So please share your sign ideas.
I want to make sure the MCM runners have something fun to read on the course.
Bloggers running MCM: I'd love to catch up with you at the finish line. I'll be in the Family Reunion area near the giant "P" after my friend finishes. He's hoping to finish in under 5 hours. Please come say "Hi!"
This past weekend was my 20 miler -- my longest run of marathon training.
I treated it like it was a race. I ate a delicious pasta dinner the night before, laid out everything I would need, crawled into bed at a normal time and was ready to go when my alarm went off.
After eating my usual pre-long run PBJ, I hit the road.
The plan was to run two miles to a park near the BF's house, run the next 18 miles on the path in that park and then call the BF to come pick me up so we could go to the grocery store for chocolate milk and post-run food.
I started slow and just took it easy. The first couple miles were tough, I think mainly because I was pretty cold, but I settled into a nice groove somewhere between mile six and seven.
The next six miles flew by. I was eating my Gus at regular intervals and my legs were feeling good.
When I got to mile 12, I hit a mini-wall. My legs were tired and mentally I was struggling to keep going. Eventually I was able to regroup and push through to mile 17.
It was at this point that i started to get frustrated. With only three miles to go, my legs were still doing OK, but the path was taken over by a ton of people for some sponsored walk. They were walking four or five wide across the path, not leaving any room for the many other people out there walking or running.
I tried to be polite, saying "Excuse me" or "On your left" when I needed to pass. But very few people shifted over.
It was frustrating having to weave in and out of people or run in the high grass and roots next to the path. At that point my legs were so spent, the extra energy to move side to side was killer.
I kept trucking though and when I got back to the parking lot I was surprised and so happy to see the BF already there, waiting for me with chocolate milk and ice packs. He's the best.
So a successful 20 miles in the books in 3:21:52 for an average pace of 10:05. That's two seconds faster than the average pace for the 17-miler I ran two weeks ago.
It's rare that I have a true moment of brilliance in the kitchen. Most of my dishes come out pretty good or mediocre, but this butternut squash soup was just off the charts.
All last week I was looking around for a good butternut squash soup recipe, but I couldn't find one that really sounded great, so I sort of invented my own.
I pulled my favorite parts from a couple different recipes on Allrecipes.com and then went to town.
Pepper to taste
As always, start by chopping all the veggies.
Except for the butternut squash. After an incident in college were I almost severed a finger trying to cut a butternut squash, I buy the pre-cut kind. It's more expensive, but having all my fingers attached is worth the extra $1.
Take your chopped veggies and toss them in a frying pan with a little bit of butter for about five to 10 minutes until they start to brown around the edges.
Then transfer the veggies into a larger pot and pour in the vegetable broth until it just covers the veggies. I ended up using about a can and a half of broth.
At this point, add garlic. I buy minced garlic from a jar and used about three small scoops.
Bring everything to a boil, add some pepper to taste and then reduce the heat and let veggies simmer for about 40 minutes until they are nice and soft.
Check out my lid that definitely doesn't go with that pot...
Once your veggies are soft, gently mash them with a fork and transfer the ingredients from the pot to a blender.
Blend on a medium-high setting until there aren't anymore chunks of vegetable left.
Return soup to the pot, add more pepper to taste.
Then scoop some soup into a bowl and top it with a little dollop of plain Greek yogurt. The Greek yogurt is key, it makes the soup so deliciously creamy.
Honestly, this is probably the best dish I have ever made. The best part was I had a decent amount of leftovers so I've been enjoying it this week.
Next time I make this I will probably double the batch so I have some soup to freeze.
I eat breakfast and then two hours later my stomach is growling so I have a small snack and then thank goodness it's lunch time because my stomach is growling again. Then, surprise, surprise, two hours later I'm hungry again, so I eat another snack.
I feel like I'm constantly trying to tame the hunger beast, so I'm constantly eating. But, I know I'm not running enough to need that much food.
As if I needed supporting evidence, the scale has started to creep up too. Nothing major, just a handful of extra pounds, but I know if I don't figure out a good running/fueling balance, it will end up being more than a few extra pounds that I'm carrying on race day.
More pounds means slower running times. The statistic is something like for every extra pound over your ideal race weight, you run two seconds per mile slower. Over 26.2 miles, that's a lot of time lost.
I'm really not sure the best way to tackle this problem. How do I eat enough to fuel my runs and not feel hungry all the time, but not grossly over eat? What works for you guys? Any tips, tricks or advice is all appreciated.
One of the things I knew was important when I started training for the Philadelphia Marathon was leaving room for flexibility in my training plan.
After a rigid summer training for the Philly RnR Half, I knew there was no way I was going to be successful with that kind of training program for the marathon.
October was a busy month, there were lots of things I was already committed too and I wanted to be able to fit running around my regular life, not sacrifice my life for the sake of running.
So far the flexibility has been working well for me. When I was sick a few weeks ago, I had to skip my 17 miler. It wasn't a big deal I just moved it to the following weekend, and it turned out to be a great run.
This coming weekend I originally had 18 miles penciled in on my schedule and 20 miles the weekend after.
But that 20 miler fell on the weekend of homecoming, a day that will start ridiculously early with tailgating and friends, and the Marine Corp Marathon, where I'll be cheering on all my friends running.
To solve that problem, I'm implementing my flexibility plan.
I'll be running the 20 miles this weekend and try to fit in a shorter run next weekend before the tailgate madness starts.
It might not be the perfect solution and it's probably not what the marathon pros would do, but for me it works.
Do you ever bend your training plans to fit around your life or do you stick pretty closely to what your plan says?
All summer long I run in the mornings, mainly out of a necessity to avoid the brutal heat.
Come fall, I don't have to run in the morning, in fact, sometimes I'll mix it up with a few afternoon runs, but the mornings are still my favorite.
There's just something about being out there in the crisp fall air while most of the world is still asleep.
The D.C. streets are fairly quiet in the early morning hours. Instead of the honking horns I hear in the afternoon, in the mornings I only hear the sound of my feet hitting the pavement or the crunch of leaves as I run over them.
Although it's dark, the street lights make it seem oddly bright. In the summer, I'll pass a lot of people out running, but in the fall, it's just me and Garmin.
In the afternoon, I have to pump the music to keep me motivated, but for some reason, in the morning I have no need for that. The sounds of nature work just fine as my background music.
At heart I'll always be a morning runner, and I'm embracing that fact that in the fall running in the morning is a choice, not a necessity.
Remember how I said I wanted to just take it easy during the Baltimore half? Go slow and enjoy the race?
Apparently when I try to go slow and enjoy the race I finish an extremely hilly course just 10 seconds slower than the PR I practically killed myself to set in Philly.
Now while Philly was flat, it was hot.
Baltimore was hilly, but the perfect temperature for running. I guess for me the temperature has more of an effect on my running than the hills.
Squinting into the sun
Hiding out in the shade
Somehow I ended up at the front of my corral. Can you spot me?
And we're off!
The first three miles of the race were painful. Starting straight uphill and then continuing to climb with a few dips didn't really allow me to get into a nice rhythm. My plan was to walk as much as necessary to keep my legs fresh so I could recover from the race quickly. So walk I did.
Somewhere around mile four or five I sort of hit my groove. Sure the hills were still killer, but I was having so much fun. I wasn't going fast, but I wasn't really going slow. Those miles flew by.
Next thing I know, I'm climbing one of the hills I so distinctly remember absolutely crushing me in the full marathon four years ago. The climb to get to mile 19 (mile 6 in the half) and the climb to push past that to mile 20 is just brutal. Even though I had far fewer miles on my legs by the time I got to that point this year, it was like I time warped back to four years ago. Man did I struggle up those hills.
But then it was time to run the one and only flat part of this course around Lake Montebello. From here on out everything felt easy. I passed mile 10, cruised past mile 11 and while my legs were tired at the end, I picked it up and pushed hard to the finish.
Up until this point, everything about the race was awesome. I thought there was good crowd support, the aid stations were well stocked, there were plenty of police officers blocking off the streets and lots of photographers on the course. Exactly what I expected after a great experience four years ago.
After crossing the finish line everything went to hell in a hand basket. There were way too many finishers and not enough room or volunteers to keep people moving through the finish area. I managed to get my medal and a bottle of water, but food was in a separate area, with a separate line that wrapped around the finish area. It would have taken me 20+ minutes of waiting to get food.
I said screw it and tried to get out of the finisher's area so I could watch my mom finish the race. The bottleneck near the exit was ridiculous. People were standing around because there was no where to go. My legs were tired, I didn't want to just stop and wait in line to get to the celebration village. I wanted to keep moving, find a place to stretch and then go find the BF and watch my mom.
In total I think it took me 20 minutes from the time I crossed the finish line until I was able to get out of the finishers area sans food. No other big race that I have ever run has been so disorganized at the finish.
I was sorely disappointed. This was a horrible let down after doing this race four years ago and having none of those finish line problems. The race was smaller then and probably much more manageable.
Word of advice to the Baltimore organizers: If you're going to let your event continue to grow in size, make sure you have necessary room and volunteers in place to keep it all running smoothly. Runners who just finished 13.1 or 26.2 miles do not want to come to an abrupt stop immediately after crossing the finish line.
Despite our frustrations with the finish area, my mom and I both had a good day. She finished in 2:33, about 11 minutes slower 1:30 slower than her Philly time (RGRMom corrected me. She finished Philly in 2:32, not 2:22 like I originally thought). Not too shabby considering she'd been having hamstring problems ever since Philly.
The BF got a new book last week called "Cooking For Geeks." It's a book all about different scientific and random facts that make cooking what it is. There's one chapter that breaks down how our taste buds work and other chapters on tricks to make things in the kitchen easier.
Besides being a kind of interesting book, it's also peppered with a bunch of different recipes and that's where we got our inspiration for this week's challenge.
Lemon Shrimp with Quinoa
The BF and I did all the prep work first. Chopping the onion and garlic. Juicing the lemon. Snapping the asparagus.
Then it was time to start cooking.
The onion went in the pan first to soften.
It was followed by the quinoa and water.
After simmering the quinoa for 10-15 minutes, we threw the asparagus on top, took the whole pan off heat for about 15 minutes and let the asparagus steam while the quinoa absorbed the rest of the water.
This mixture served as the base for the dish. Once it was finished we placed it in a warm oven so it wouldn't cool off while we worked on the shrimp and the sauce.
To save time, we bought pre-cooked shrimp, but you could definitely buy raw and cook them yourself.
After pulling off all their little tails, we set out making the sauce.
We mixed garlic with melted butter and added white wine.
We tossed the shrimp in the pan this point to warm them up.
After sprinkling them with parsley and lemon juice and zest, they were done.
We scooped some of the quinoa mix on to a plate and topped with the shrimp.
Then it was time to dig in.
We were a little disappointed in how over-powering the lemon flavor was. We decided if we ever make this recipe again we will nix the lemon zest and use a fraction of the lemon juice. The garlic, wine butter sauce probably would have been great if it hadn't been for the lemon.
The leftovers were so potently lemon flavored that we could barely choke them down and we ended up wasting a lot of food, which neither of us were happy about.
I can't believe another race weekend is practically here. It kind of seems like it was just the other day that I was prepping for the Philly RnR Half, but that was almost a month ago now.
I'm looking forward to the Baltimore Half for a few reasons.
1. Baltimore is a great city and they always put on a great race.
2. Baltimore is the place I ran my first marathon, so it has a special place in my heart.
3. My mom is coming down to run too.
4. The finish through Camden Yards is awesome.
5. The Gummi Bear Guy near near mile 23 of the full/10 of the half
I'm not however, looking forward to Baltimore's hills. There are lots of them and they aren't small.
I'm running this race purely for fun. It's a cutback week in my training plan, so the distance is perfect for my long run. I won't be pushing it too hard because I want to recover quickly to bounce back in my marathon training.
So my goals for this race are pretty simple:
2. Have fun.
3. Finish feeling strong.
I can't wait for Saturday morning when I'll be standing at another start line! I love racing!
With running, I'm always amazed how a weekend long run can feel so great and then a super short weekday run can be such torture.
My 17 miles on Saturday were awesome. It was smooth sailing for most of the run.
Last night's five miler was terrible. So terrible, in fact, that I cut it down to a 3 miler because my legs were killing me. I thought a nice slow run would help shake things out. I couldn't have been more wrong.
When I felt my left calf seizing up and my right IT band starting to pull on my knee, I knew it was time to call it quits.
Running can be humbling like that. Just when you think you're on top of the world and are totally ready to tackle whatever challenge you throw at yourself, a short crappy run will knock you down a few pegs and keep your ego in check.
I don't think that's a bad thing. We all need to be reminded every once in a while that we're only human. We're not Superman.
To get back in the game, I'll be spending lots of time this week stretching and foam rolling to get my legs loosened up. I'll probably try something short again tonight. Yesterday was just a building block in the whole marathon training process.
With the Baltimore Half Marathon on Saturday, this week is another mini-taper week, or cutback week, in my training schedule.
I have two short and easy runs scheduled to help shake out the last bits of tightness from Saturday's 17 miler and get my legs ready to go for the race.
I've talked all about the benefits of cutback weeks before, but I just can't say enough how much weeks like this are totally mentally refreshing.
During weeks like these, I feel like I don't have to plan my life around running. I can spend time doing and thinking about other things because I don't have to stress about where I'll find the time to fit in a super long run. It's easy to find enough time for a 4 or 5 miler.
It's great to have a nice easy week of running before things ramp back up and I push through the toughest couple of weeks of marathon training.
The story of Saturday's long run actually starts on Friday afternoon when I had a mini panic attack about running a marathon. It was the same old stuff that usually crops up:
Don't want to spend so much time running
Want to be able to have fun at friends' birthday party the night before
Realizing just how far 17 miles is
When I was out super late on Friday night for the birthday party, I figured there was no way the 17 miles was going to happen in the morning and that I'd have to push it to Sunday.
But, I set my alarm anyway.
And when it went off, I dragged myself out of bed and went through the motions of getting ready for a run.
It was pretty comfortable temperature-wise when I started, but as the morning wore on it was getting warmer. I made some changes to my planned route and ran the whole 17 miles on a lakefront path that has lots of shade, lots of people and a water fountain to refill my water bottle, which really came in handy.
For the most part, I felt pretty strong during the run. Miles 15 and 16 were a struggle, both mentally and physically. My legs were getting tired and I just wanted to be done, but I kept pushing through. When Garmin beeped at mile 17 I was in a park about 1.5 miles away from home.
I toyed with the idea of walking back, but my legs were having none of it. Instead I stretched out in the park and called the BF to come pick me up. What a life-saver!
After stopping at the grocery store for some necessities (chocolate milk and a huge pasta salad for lunch), I came home, stretched out and enjoyed a nice Epsom salt bath. My legs were tired, but OK. I had a massive blister on the bottom of my foot, but other than that, I wasn't in such bad shape.
And I was really proud of myself for getting the run done. Nothing tops the sense of accomplishment I feel after running longer than I have in almost four years and feeling pretty good the entire time.
I spent the rest of the day curled up on the sofa. It was wonderful.
In total: 17 miles with an average of 10:05 per mile.
I only have two more long, long runs before the marathon. I'm hoping they go just as well as this 17 did.
Before we get to this week's awesome links, I want to send out a good luck message to all those racing this weekend. Sending good wishes to everyone running the Chicago Marathon and to Amber running her first marathon ever!!!
Lately I have been obsessed with the honey crisp apples from my farmers market. They are so delicious, the perfect mix of sweet with a little bit of tart and just the right amount of crunch.
Because of their extreme deliciousness, I went a little overboard at the farmer's market last week and picked up way more than I planned to eat as snacks.
I was inspired by Abby's apple crisp recipe to find something fun to do with all the extra apples. I looked at recipes for muffins, cobblers, tarts, but finally settled on simple and delicious apple crisp.
After three solid months of waking up at 4:45 a.m. for my training runs for the RnR half, I'm starting to crave a change of pace. I was so rigid with that training plan, that I need to re-introduce some flexibility to my running.
While I will always be a morning runner at heart, lately I've been wanting to mix things up a bit with some afternoon runs. Since the temperatures have been more runner-friendly lately, it's also not a necessity for me to get up before the heat of the day to finish my workout.
I did my first after-work run yesterday -- an easy five miles -- and I plan to do another after-work run today.
My biggest struggle with afternoon runs is getting out the door and getting it done. The metro makes me drowsy in the afternoon, so by the time I get home, my motivation is gone.
But running in the afternoon gives me the chance to explore neighborhoods I can't explore in the mornings because of their lack of street lights. Plus running just makes me feel good. So I'm fairly confident I'll be able to beat the post-metro blahs and get out there today.
What motivates you to get out of the door a long day?
It's also a great time of year for running. Here's just a few reasons why.
Race season starts.
Look at a list of local races. I bet you could find something to run every weekend if you wanted to. 5Ks abound around this time of the year and headliner big races steal the show. Cooler temps mean faster running times.
It's easier to push yourself harder when it's not 90+ degrees with 90% humidity. Since your perceived level of exertion is lower, you can work harder without noticing.
No more shorts.
Unlike running shorts, capris and tights don't ride up or bunch. Plus they majorly cut down on the amount of chafing going on. More uncomfortable and way more stylish.
You can sleep in.
Since the temperatures aren't sweltering you don't have to get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings to do your long runs. You can enjoy a few extra hours of sleep because it will still be perfectly comfortable at 9 a.m.
As for drawbacks to fall running, I've only managed to think of two: the short days mean a lot more running in the dark and the cold weather makes my nose run like crazy. Since I can't master the art of the snot rocket, it gets kind of hard to breath after a while.
Oevrall, the pros outweigh the cons, making fall the best season for running. What do you think? Do you love fall running or do you prefer a different season?