Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recovery Time Comes to an End

Its been a little more than a week since my marathon and I've been thoroughly enjoying my week of recovery.

I slept in on the weekends and the week days. Waking up at 6 for work instead of 4:30 to fit in my run has been awesome. And for the first time in I don't know how long I managed to sleep until 9 on the weekend! It's a recovery miracle! I'm usually naturally awake by 7 on the weekends.

I went on one run and it was an easy 3.5 mile shake out run on Thanksgiving. I went slow and stopped when my legs had enough. Since PA was graced with snow on Turkey Day it was also my first snow run of the season.

I treated myself to a massage. My massage therapist at home is amazing and she gave my legs quite the work over. Now my IT bands feel slightly more normal and she did a great job loosening up my hips.

I indulged in lots of goodies, mainly in the form of pie. I fully believe its OK to indulge and I enjoyed every bit of pumpkin pie and whipped cream without worrying about how it would affect my runs.

But recovery time is about to end. My legs are itching for some activity so it's time to enter maintenance phase. My main goal for the next month is to maintain my fitness levels and build a strong base so I'll be ready for half marathon training after Christmas.

How do you celebrate your recovery time and how long does your recovery last?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seven Great Gift Ideas for Runners

Stuck on what to get the runner in your life for Christmas this year? Here are some ideas to get you started. I recommend checking Amazon because they often have the best deals (especially today on Cyber Monday), but I've suggested a few other places you can look for some of these items.

Compression socks: These seem to be all the rage these days, and I have to admit, I wouldn't be so sad if Santa brought me a pair, preferably in hot pink. Compression socks are supposed to help keep blood from pooling in tight legs to speed recovery. (Cost: $45-$60)

Coupon for a race entry fee: Racing is one of the best part of running, but those fees add up. Offer to pay for a race of your runner's choice. This could be a really low-cost gift for something like a local 5K or 10K or it could be more expensive if you're offering to pay for a big marathon or half marathon. (Cost: $20-$120)

Offer to be race support: This is a no cost gift, other than sacrificing your time and waking up early on race day. Offer to drive your runner to the race, take pictures at the start and finish line and cheer them on while they're out on the course. (Cost: FREE!)

Reflective running gear: In the winter months, sunlight is hard to find whether your runner is a morning or evening runner so get them some reflective gear so they can be seen. There are tons of great options, like vests, or headlamps, or even reflective tape. Check Amazon for a ton of variety and for some more creative options check the RUseeN site. (Cost: $5-$20)

Road ID: Road ID makes it easy for your runner to have identification on them whenever they go out for a run. That way if they trip and roll an ankle or have a more serious accident, first responders have vital contact and health information at the tips of their fingers. I'm a big fan of the one you wear on your shoe. That way you put it on once and forget about it. If you get a new pair of shoes, you move it to the new pair. (Cost: ~$20)

iFitness belt: I'm a big fan of these fuel belts. I've used mine in two races now and on several training runs. It's the best belt I've used so far. It doesn't ride up and it's water resistant so no matter how many cups of water I dump over my head, my stuff stays dry. I'm a big fan of the model with the strings to attach your race bib, and slots to hold your gels. (Cost: $24-$28)

Garmin Forerunner: A runner's best friend. I ran for years without a Garmin, but I love all the extra data a Garmin gives me about my runs: pace, splits, a nice map of your route, heck even directions back home if you get lost. Amazon frequently offers great deal on Garmins, so I recommend checking there first. (Cost: $130-$300).

If you're still at a loss, you can't go wrong with a gift card to the local running or sports supply store, like Dick's Sporting Goods or Sports Authority.

If you're feeling extra creative, buy a bulletin board and tack up your runner's race bibs and medals and help hang it up. This is a fun way to display all the evidence of your runner's hard work.

Runners, what's the best running-related gift you've ever received?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rest Day Reading

Hope you're all resting up well after a day of shopping (or not!) and lots of eating leftovers.

Here's this weeks great reads!

Health and Fitness:
How to be a race spectator (Meghann was nice enough to let me guest post earlier this week.)

Time Management:
The Not To-Do List

More Useless Black Friday Advice (or just a good look at why/how we spend in general)

How to Deal with Comment Trolls and Flash Mobs

Have you been reading anything good this week? Leave your links in the comments.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Using Up Produce

I call this recipe the "I'm Leaving for Thanksgiving and Need to Use Up Produce Veggie Mess."

Earlier this week, my produce bin was overflowing with veggies that I needed to use up before I headed back to PA for Thanksgiving.

I decided I was in the mood for some hearty, roasted veggies and quinoa smothered in BBQ sauce.

This recipe couldn't have been an easier.

I chopped my butternut squash, onion and asparagus and spread them on a cookie sheet.

Chopped veggies on cookie sheet

I sprinkled them with one of my favorite seasonings, a delicious mesquite blend.

Veggies all spiced up

I roasted the veggies for about 10 minutes at 350. Then pulled them out, gave them a stir, and popped them back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

While the veggies were roasting, I whipped up the quinoa. All it takes is one part grain to two parts water. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Quinoa grains

Quinoa on the stove

When everything was finished, I piled the veggies on top of the quinoa and then covered everything with BBQ sauce.

Quinoa and veggies

This was delicious, filling and a super easy way to use up produce that otherwise would have gone bad.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks To My Race Support Crew

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year. Good health, wonderful friends and family, a job I enjoy with coworkers who are fun to be around.

But what I'm most thankful for this year is my one-man race support crew: Matt (aka the BF).

Matt and Jess Pool Party

You see, Matt's not a morning person. In fact, he hates the mornings so much that he takes full advantage of his office's flex time policy and doesn't start work until 9:30 or 10 most mornings.

But on the weekends that I have races, Matt drags himself out of bed at the crack of dawn to come support me.

He pried himself out of bed at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday for the Philadelphia Marathon.

He woke up at that same time and drove me about an hour to the Frederick Half Marathon back in May.

He's willing to travel with me to races in new places and doesn't mind if we plan a vacation around a race.

Virginia Beach Half Marathon

He sacrifices a lot of his weekends so that I can do something I love.

He's come to countless other races when it's been either really hot or freezing cold. He's stood in the rain and the sleet waiting for me to finish.

Matt and Jess after National Half Marathon

For my marathons and half marathons, he waits around for hours. On Sunday he waited in the cold for almost five hours for me to finish the race.

He's my biggest supporter.

He waits with me in the porta-potty lines and assures me I'll have a strong race when I start to get nervous.

He's perfected capturing a finish line picture on my finicky camera, and he remembers to take lots of pictures before and after the race so I plenty of options for my race recaps.

Finish line photo

Finish line photo 2

And on training days when my motivation is lacking, he's the first one to kick me out of bed and encourage me to go run.

So this year I'm thankful for Matt and all he does to support me in this crazy sport I love.

Don't forget to thank your own race support crews this Thanksgiving. Without them, our race day experiences just wouldn't be the same.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Runner's Guide to Black Friday Shopping

Runners have an advantage when it comes to the holidays, especially when it comes to holiday shopping and the madness that is Black Friday. Runners are speedy, full of endurance and are pros at following a plan.

Jingle Bell Run(Source)

Use all that to your advantage on Friday and you'll be in and out of stores and done with all your holiday shopping in no time.

1. Leverage the mornings. 4 a.m. wake up call? Sounds like a race morning to me. Grab your pre-shopping fuel (bagel, coffee, maybe some Gatorade) and hit the road. You'll be bright eyed at the store, waiting in line for the doors to open, while everyone else is slowly dragging themselves out of bed.

2. Use those speedy legs. We do track workouts for a reason. What, you thought it was to improve your race times? Nope. Speed work is all to prep you for Black Friday shopping madness. List in hand you can sprint from aisle to aisle grabbing what you need and heading for the finish line check out line before everyone else even finds their first item.

3. Weave like a pro. Crowds are nothing to runners. We're used to being bunched into starting corrals and weaving in and out of the mob during the first mile of a race. Use your ability to weave to pick your way through those ahead of you. If you're lucky, you may eventually find some open space to hit your stride.

4. Plan your fuel. Just like race day, you need the proper fuel to keep your energy levels up through a marathon day of shopping. Bring your water bottle and several easy-to-carry snacks. Stash them in your purse or pockets to eat on the go.

5. Pace yourself. Remember Black Friday is a marathon, not a sprint, and as a runner you know all about pacing yourself during a race. Start out strong, but don't go out too fast. Stay steady and you won't crash and burn by your second store like all the inexperienced shoppers.

Being a runner does so much more than keep you in shape. It also prepares you for events like stressful holiday shopping. So use your running strengths to your advantage this holiday season.

If you're drawing a blank on good gift ideas, check back on Cyber Monday (next Monday) for a list of great gift ideas for runners.

Are you a Black Friday shopper or do you avoid the mall like the plague?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's Next?

The Philadelphia Marathon was the last race on my calendar for the year. So with no race in my immediate future, I'm trying to figure out what's next.

[22.365] sphere-itize me, captain(Source)

Since my legs are still pretty sore, this week I'm focusing on walking and lots of yoga to loosen things up.

Once my legs are recovered, my plan is to take the time between now and Christmas to focus on cross-training. A few weeks ago, I purchased a $20 pass to a local gym that gives me access to 20 fitness classes. It was a special deal they were offering and I thought it would be a great, low-cost way to get back into spinning, yoga and strength training.

Ideally, I'd like to make it to the gym two or three times each week and then alternate running on my non-gym days.

I'm running the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans in February so I can't let my running slide completely, but it will be nice to change focus for a few weeks.

Do you like to change focus after a big race or do you jump right back into running?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

I did it and I didn't die in the process!

Pre-race: Normal routine for Philly races. Wake up ridiculously early, get dressed, make a PBJ for in the car and then hit the road so we can find parking. On my way to find the porta-potties, I bumped into a friend of mine from grade school/high school. She is a super fast runner, but wasn't running yesterday. She was going to be working one of the aid stations. We chatted for a bit and then I was off to warm up and use the porta-potties some more.

In front of the art museum
Thumbs up in front of the art museum

Start: I got placed in the second to last corral so I had a pretty long time to wait before I actually crossed the start line. It was chilly and I spent a lot of time trying to keep my fingers warm. About 25 minutes after the race started, our corral took off.

In my corral
I was cold, but it was perfect running weather

Start line
Finally starting

Miles 1-8: I was having a blast. These miles were beautiful and fun and I was feeling good. Plus, there was decent crowd support. Highlights include hilarious signs around mile four including one that said "It doesn't have to be fun to be fun," running down South Street and seeing all the Christmas decorations already out, and the frat guys cheering and handing out beer in University City.

Mile 9: Hill o' death.

Miles 10-12: Uh oh something in my legs wasn't happy. I had to stop and stretch somewhere around mile 11 because my calves were tight and things were started to feel out of whack. I've never had to stop and stretch in a race before. I also seriously started to wonder if it would be smarter for me to cut the race short at the half.

Mile 13: Ran past my parents and Matt. Seeing them gave me a little bit of a boost going into the second half of the race which was a long out and back on Kelly Drive.

Half way point
Working hard

Mile 13.5: Passed my friend from high school working the aid station. She told me I was looking good and at this point I caught a little bit of a second wind.

Miles 14-15: My legs were tired, but I was feeling OK. I was holding a decent pace and taking walk breaks when necessary. There wasn't a lot of crowd support on Kelly Drive, but one girl yelled out just keep rolling. So that's what I did, I zoned out and listened to my music.

Mile 17: Where everything went to hell. My right leg was screaming at me. My IT band was having none of this race. My hip was aching and my knee was starting to nag. I pulled over to stretch again and I must have a looked bad because some guy asked me if I was OK. I told him I was fine, just needed a minute to stretch and then I kept going.

Mile 18-19: These miles were boring and memorable only because of how dull they were.

Mile 20-21: Manayunk was fun. There were lots of people out cheering and bands playing. There was a good vibe going. Plus at some point on the out and back, I saw another friend from high school who was running the race. He was looking really strong. We high fived and kept going.

Mile 22-25: By this time the pain in my knee was sharp, but walking was making my hip flexors ache. So my plan was to run about three or four minutes, until my knee started to nag and then walk for two or three minutes until my hip flexors started to hurt. I was fighting back tears the whole time because I was so frustrated. Besides my stupid knee, I felt great. I wasn't hitting a wall, my legs were tired, but not overly so. I knew if it weren't for my knee I could have been running stronger.

Mile 26: There was an uphill here before the downhill. I ran some and walked some. I passed my Dad and then a little farther down my mom and Matt. The picture says it all. You can see the pain written all over my face.

Coming in to the finish
All downhill from here

Pushing through the pain
Ouch this hurts

Almost finished
Trying not to cry

Finish: I crossed the finish line and must have been looking like death because the medical people grabbed me and asked if I was OK. (My finish line picture will be awful) I told them I really just needed some ice for my knee. So they had me sit down for a minute (man did that feel good) then directed me to the medical tent. On the way there I grabbed my medal and space blanket.

At medical, a very nice lady wrapped my knee and the ice felt amazing. I sat down, stretched, and eventually was rewarded with a Philly pretzel. It was the only thing I could stomach and man it was so good.

Calf stretches
Ahhh feels so good

This ice wrap is awesome

Post race pretzel
Happy finisher

Aftermath: I'm left with mixed emotions after this race. I'm so happy that I finished and set a brand new PR: 4:43:58 (according to the tracking message my mom got, officially results should be posted later today). But I'm frustrated with my knee. During training I never had any knee problems so to all of a sudden have them crop up during the race, well that just sucked. And because I had to change my stride so much to accommodate my knee, I ended up with a monster blister on the bottom of my foot.

Monster blister
This blister is nasty

Blister close up
Close up

One day post-race: I'm still sore, but for the most part it's just tight muscles. My knee's a little achy, but nothing some ice and rest won't fix. Although I drained the blister, the area is still so tender, my foot won't fit in anything other than sneakers.

I can't say enough good things about this race though. The course was beautiful and mostly flat and I'm about 90% sure I'll be registering for the half next year. The crowd support in some places was just awesome. I thought everything was pretty well organized. Aid stations were well stocked, the volunteers were friendly and happy. It was a great atmosphere. My one criticism is that there didn't seem to be enough porta-potties at the start.

As for when I'll be running another marathon, that's TBD. I still love the half more than anything, and that's where I'll be focusing for a while now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rest Day Reading

It's marathon weekend! Yay!

Before we get to this week's links I want to give a quick shout out to Wes who is tackling IronMan AZ this weekend! Good luck Wes!!

Health and Fitness:


Friday, November 19, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Veggie Burgers

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and encouragement for the marathon on Sunday. For those of you who asked, my bib number is 9750. The marathon website says it should be updated with results as the race progresses. I couldn't find a link, but hopefully it will be clear on race day where you go to track runners.

And now, to cooking.

This week I convinced Matt to make veggie burgers. Matt is a meat-loving kind of guy, so this was kind of a big deal for him.

We used Mama Pea's recipe for inspiration and got to work.

This recipe was super simple with a small ingredient list.

We started by steaming two potatoes.

Steaming potatoes

In the meantime, we chopped the basil.

Chopping basil

Then we rinsed out a can of white beans.

Rinsed white beans

I thought it would be fun to add some peppers to the mix.

Smiley face peppers

Once the potatoes were soft, we combine the beans, potatoes, two cloves of garlic, a little bit of flour, a splash of lemon juice and some salt and pepper in a bowl. We mashed the mix with a fork until it started to form a paste.

Potatoes and beans in a bowl

Mashing the potatoes and beans

Then we dumped in the basil and the peppers.

Adding basil and peppers to the mix

Once everything was mixed, we formed the burger patties and cooked them for about five minutes on each side.

Cooking the burgers

Flipped burgers

I thought these tasted great on their own or dipped in a little bit of BBQ sauce, but Matt wasn't a huge fan of the burgers. I think the lack of meat is what did them in in his book.

Patty on a bun

Burger with BBQ sauce

I would make these again in a heart beat. They were tasty and filling and didn't take all that long to whip up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Big Marathon Goals Post

I've written and re-written this post in my head at least once a week since I started training for the Philadelphia Marathon.

26.2 miles is a long way to run and I've been trying to figure out what goals are realistic for me.

The course has a few big hills in the first half, but is mostly flat for the last half. That works in my favor.

The weather is looking pretty good for Sunday. It will be chilly at the start, in the mid-30's, but should warm up to the high 40's by the end of the race. And it will be sunny. That's fairly ideal running weather.

I've trained well, but I'm still insanely nervous. Was it enough? Should I have done another 20-miler at some point? Am I really ready?

With half marathons, I'm always confident I will finish the race. I know I can run the distance. But the marathon is a whole different beast. Sure I've run the distance once, four years ago when I was a newbie. I'm a better runner now than I was back then, so I'm assuming I can do it again.

But still the nerves are there.

My success on race day will depend on a few things:

First, am I able to reign in my nerves?

Second, running my own race. Taking it at my pace, following my plan and not getting swept up in the moment.

And third, overcoming some big mental hurdles. I know at mile 13.1 when the half marathoners finish and the marathoners have to keep going, I will struggle mentally. It's going to be hard being that close to the finish line, but not crossing it myself. I need to be mentally tough at that point and be able to regroup and keep pushing.

I will also need huge amounts of mental strength to push through the last 10K.

I feel like if I can do those three things, I'll have a pretty good race.

Now on to the goals:

Goal #1: Finish on my own two feet, regardless of time. Have fun.
Goal #2: Break 4:45.
Goal #3: Break 4:30. (This is the goal I am most hoping to accomplish)
Goal #4: Break 4:26. (This means that I will have shaved an entire hour off my previous marathon time.)

With only three days until the race, it's time to carb-load, hydrate well and get plenty of rest.

It's time to get it done.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beating a Pre-Race Cold

It's four days until marathon day. I'm nervous, and excited....but mostly nervous.

I know I'm ready to run. I've put in the time and the miles. I'll cross the finish line on Sunday feeling very proud.

Unless of course this cold gets the best of me.

Yesterday afternoon I had a tickle in the back of my throat. No matter how much water I chugged, the tickle wouldn't go away.

My supervisor very nicely gave me some Zicam to get me through until I got home.

I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home, picked up some sick kid supplies and went home and put on my PJs.

I made soup for dinner, curled up in bed and read, and then went to bed at 9:15.

This morning the tickle was still there, but it's still just a tickle. I swung by Starbucks for some hot tea and honey to get me through the morning. I'm hoping tea + soup + extra rest will be all I need to keep this cold at bay. I will most likely continue to baby myself until race day.

Now is not the time to get sick.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When It's OK To Split Up a Long Run

I did something over the weekend that I've never done in training before. I split my long run in to two different runs: Five miles in the morning and then my 5K race, for a total of 8 miles.

When it comes to the issue of splitting up a long run, people tend to feel very strongly about if/when it's OK.

The purpose of long runs is to get you used to being on your feet for a long period of time and to simulate race conditions. In a race you don't get to run 10 miles, then go do something else for several hours, and then go run the rest of the race.

So for your really important long runs, you should do them in one session. Runs like your first 10 miler for a half marathon or your first 20 miler for marathon training qualify as those important runs.

However, I'm a big believer in flexibility in training plans, so I think it's OK to split up long runs in certain situations:

If it's a cut back week
and you have a schedule conflict, I'd say it's OK to split up your run.

If you want to race a distance shorter than what your training plan calls for, it's OK to race and then add on the extra miles.

If you're in taper
, and either a schedule conflict or a race comes up, go ahead and split up your run.

The idea here is that you don't want to make splitting up runs the norm. You should only split up runs on rare occasions, when you're really in a bind. And if you're training to win a race, win an age group award, or are in general very hardcore about your running, I recommend not splitting up your runs ever. If you're a more casual runner, who likes to race for fun, then allow for some flexibility from time to time.

When do you think it's OK to split up a long run?

Monday, November 15, 2010

NFL Fit For Life 5K Recap

The 5K I ran this weekend was probably one of the most low key races I've ever done. The registration was $5. You picked up your bib on the day of the race. It wasn't timed. There was no line for the porta-potties.

My friend Tracy mentioned the NFL Fit For Life 5K to me a few weeks ago and wanted to know if it would work in my marathon training plan.

Saturday I had 8 miles on the schedule, so I woke up early, ran five and made it to the race in plenty of time.

I went into this race just wanting to have a good time. I wasn't planning on breaking any records. I knew there would be lots of families with kids, plus it was a week before my marathon. I wasn't going to do anything stupid.

The race didn't start until 10:15, a strange time, but it left for plenty of time for pictures before it started. The race was sponsored by the NFL and the Redskins. Tracy and Marianne are both Redskins fans...I obviously am not. (In fact, I'm pretty sure the Eagles will beat the Redskins on MNF tonight)

Thumbs down for the Redskins
Thumbs down for the Redskins

Girls before the start
Before the start

Unfortunately, because this was a first time event, it was horribly unorganized. No one could find the start line until a general mass of people headed off in one direction. We followed and ended up in a mass crowd.

Big crowd
No one knows where to go

Apparently someone was making an announcement for the runners to stay left and the walkers to stay right, but no one could hear a thing.

We eventually squeezed through the crowds and found a spot where we could finally see the start line.

Start line in the distance
You can sort of see the start line way in the distance

Start line
Start line

A horn blew and we were off.

The course started off on nicely paved roads at the National Harbor, but then it turned on to a running path that followed the water. This is where the race went straight to hell.

The path was horribly narrow and full of tire tracks, so the footing was very uneven. Add to the poor conditions that people were running with dogs on leashes and their two-seater baby joggers, and you can probably imagine just how much of a mess things were.

I tried to be careful on the running path, passing when I could, but more just watching my footing so I didn't get hurt.

I was so happy when we were off the path and back on pavement. I picked up a lot of speed and was starting to really enjoy the race until the lead runner passed me, followed by several others and I realized the course was an out and back and we'd have to run on that path again.

I tried not to worry about it and instead focused on picking up lost time on solid ground. I passed a lot of people and just coasted down a long hill watching Garmin and seeing my pace drop lower and lower. At one point it was hovering around 7:30.

When I got back to the path, it was even worse than the first time because the walkers had started. There were tons of them and the runners were forced to go single file over very, very unstable areas.

At one point some walker with a stroller decided she didn't want to do the whole race and pushed her stroller right in front of the little girl in front of me. The girl stopped, I barely stopped, and the lady with the stroller got an earful. Both the little kid and I almost bit it.

Eventually things started to thin out and we were backed on paved ground again. I'm not sure if it was my rage over having almost suffered injury because of a mom with a stroller or if I just wanted to finish and get off this god-forsaken course, but I ran the last mile in 8:22.

Finishing the race
Determined to pass the lady in pink

Passing the lady in pink

According to Garmin, my average pace for the whole race was 8:54. I kicked butt.

So did Tracy and Marianne.

Marianne's final kick
Marianne's final kick

Tracy about to finish
Tracy about to finish

This could have been a really great, fun race. I'm disappointed that it was overshadowed by such horrible conditions. The course was really unsafe. There's no way I would run this race again unless the race director made some major changes.

Things that need to change:

  • New course that doesn't include that path
  • Ban strollers and dogs
  • More powerful bull horn so people can hear directions
  • Don't make the course an out and back unless it's wide enough to accommodate runners and walkers

As always, thanks to Matt for coming along and taking awesome pictures.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rest Day Reading

Welcome to another weekend. Here's this week's list of great reads.

Health and Fitness:

Getting back on the training wagon (And how that applies in other areas of life)
Abby's list of her dream races
Kelly's look at the differences between her first and second marathon.

Are you a paper planner person? Check out Amber's giveaway.

Katy had a ton of great posts this week, feel free to check them all out, but I specifically loved these on analytics and writing great posts in 15 minutes.

What have you been reading this week? Share your links in the comments.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Stuffed Butternut Squash

One of the things I love about the transition from summer to fall is the emergence of fall squash: acorn, spaghetti, butternut. They are all so versatile and lend themselves to so many great recipes.

I picked up a nice butternut squash at the store last week, not sure what to do with it, but knowing the end result would be delicious.

I decided to make a stuffed butternut squash with some of the things I had lying around my kitchen.

My plan was to bake the squash whole, making it easier to cut, rather than trying to cut it in half first.

I pierced the skin of the squash with a knife, then placed it on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 50 minutes.

Piercing skin of squash

When it came out it was piping out and super easy to cut in half.

Halved butternut squash

After scooping out the insides, I set the squash aside while I prepared the filling.

Squash with middle cleaned out

This mix of whole grain rice and quinoa was the star of the show. It came in one of those 90-second microwavable pouches, and couldn't have been easier to prepare.

Quinoa and rice mix

Prep directions for rice mix

I have yet to find this in a grocery store in Maryland, so next time I'm home in PA, I plan to stock up.

While the rice was cooking, I went digging through my veggie drawer for an onion and a pepper, but it turns out my veggie drawer was pretty much empty. Guess I'll be restocking this week.

That also meant I had nothing good to mix in with the rice.

With the lack of veggies for extra flavor, I decided I'd spice things up with some cumin, after reading about Erin's butternut squash chili.

I generously sprinkled cumin in the rice and along the neck of the squash.

Squash sprinkled with cumin

Then I filled the squash bowl with the rice mix and dug in.

stuffed butternut squash

This cumin added a nice kick. The dish was slightly spicy and very yummy. Next time I'll make sure I have more veggies on hand to include in the filling.