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Checking In!

22 Apr

I was just testing you guys to see how long you would come here to stare at an indecent plastic humanoid before you quit reading my blog all together.

Glad you guys are committed!

I have been SUPER busy lately, but I am managing to stay on track with my training.  Easter Sunday was my scheduled long run – my longest distance ever y’all.  5 miles!  The point in my training plan where shit gets real.  I still can’t believe I did it.

North-Park-Lake-Shore-Loop-Map

Shout out to Ron, the runner/2010 BM finisher/marathon coach/all-around good guy for randomly finding me and sticking with me for those 2 miles!  Despite the fact that your “easy pace” was more like a sprint to me, and despite the fact that I was super self conscious and tried to take a dozen walking breaks to scare you away, you stuck with me.  When I finished my run and got back in my car, I realized that the only reason my pace was so great was because of Ron and his ignorance of my awkwardness.  I finished strong – I felt horrible but great all at the same time!  I barely even had time to gather my thoughts or stretch because I had to high-tail it back home to get ready to drive to New Castle for Easter.  Phew!

Easter was very low key this year as we are all trying to eat cleaner.  The kids are finally old enough to enjoy Easter without the bunny.

Easter-Dinner-2014

I’m starting to feel really nervous about the relay, but I also have something big to share with you in the upcoming weeks!

Race Recap: John Thompson Memorial 5K

20 May

On Saturday, May 18th 2013 I finished my second 5K.

And y’all, it was h-a-r-d hard.

Let me start at the beginning, though, as it is a very good place to start.

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, Christina woke up to bottle feed the little fading puppy.  He was not doing well at all and he unfortunately passed away in her hands around 4:30 a.m.  We were both feeling devastated, but I forced myself back to sleep because I knew I needed to rest up.  I had intended to get up around 6 a.m. but instead we snoozed the alarms until around 7 a.m.  We were out the door by 7:15 a.m. and on the road.  The race took place an hour and 15 minutes away at my high school, Neshannock Jr/Sr High School.

It was weird pulling into that parking lot for the first time in 11 years.  We arrived about 20 minuteStartingLine2.JT5Ks prior to start time, so I hurriedly put my race bib and chip on and hit the bathroom.  Then, I found my people near the concession stand:  Christina, my mom, my sister, my brother, and my sister’s boyfriend were all huddled around talking.  I scanned the crowd, relieved that I didn’t recognize a single person.  I stretched out as we examined the race map.  The cross country trail is not something that I even knew existed when I attended school at NHS.  With the passing of one of our beloved biology teachers and cross-country coaches, Mr. Thompson (who we all lovingly called Mr. T), the school district breathed new life into the old trail.  They now host this annual 5K race in his honor.

As we lined up at the starting line, I hung near the back of the crowd with my sister and her group of friends.  My brother was lost in the crowd, hanging close to the cross country kids.

I was glad to be out of ear shot of the current cross country coach, who gave a speech to all the runners.  My mom and Christina told me afterwards that he was explaining how difficult the course was, with plenty of hills and winding, newly mulched trails.  He even said something like: “This is a difficult race, don’t expect to beat your 5K PR today.”   I’m glad I missed that reality check because I probably would’ve used it as an excuse not to push myself.

The horn blew and people st1stLoop.JT5Karted moving!  We started near the entrance to the football stadium and ran towards the high school.  Then, we made a loop around this big grassy field where the sports teams sometimes practice.  It was really surreal for me, running on the outside of windows which I used to stare out of. We looped back around to the starting line (below) and then ran past it, behind the field and entered the trail.

As soon as my feet hit the grass, I got a little worried.  Pretty different than the concrete which I’m used to.  I was relieved that the trail was entirely in the shade as it wound through the woods.  There was more winding than I thought was even possible.  I had no idea the woods were that deep!

As we entered the trail head,  I could’ve sworn that I was in the middle of a pack.  But then, as I started running I realized that I was completely alone in the woods.  I had a few minutes where I freaked out, worried that I had fallen behind significantly and hadn’t noticed.  Was I in last place?!  Calm down, you’re fine.  

During mile 1, I just decided to relax and enjoy my solo run through the woods.  There were a decent amount of hills during the first mile.  I ran up the hills in short quick steps and cheered myself on down every hill, catching short glimpses of runners brightly colored shirts in the distance.  I was thankful that no one caught up to me!

When I got to the aid station, I was worried.  It felt like I had been running a heck of a lot longer than I actually was.  I actually tried to run through the aid station, which was a first for me.  I think a few tablespoons made it into my mouth, but the rest was down the front of my shirt.  It cooled me down, so no complaints!

After the first aid station, the course sort of flattened out.  While I was thankful for the flatness, this was about the time I started feeling really strained from the newly mulched trail I was running on.  At one point right before the mile 2 marker, I started walking.  It felt like I was sinking into the ground, not quite as much as walking on sand.  I decided I would exert less energy if I just kept jogging because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as much.  So that’s what I did.

Right after I passed the mile 2 trail marker, I passed up a slow moving cross country boy.  That made me feel awesome!  Then, around mile 2.5 I passed up 2 more!  Booyahhhhh.  The course looped back around and then you hit the same water station, but from the opposite side.  This time, I slowed down and drank all the water.  Exactly what I needed!

When I emerged from the trail, I could see Christina and my mom waiting for a glimpse of me.  I knew I was almost to the finish line.  Now, I had to run parallel to the football field, around the end zone and into the fence.  To get to the finish line, you had to run 3/4 lap around the track.

Of course, my little race buddy was waiting for me!

FinishLine1.JT5K

FinishLine2.JT5K

At one point he said to me: “Let’s sprint it out!” and I thought “Um, little dude, I am going as fast as my legs can carry me!”  I finished in 39:13, about 3 minutes shy of my current PR.  I remember glancing up at the race clock as I neared it and feeling disappointed.  I ran more than I had in the Ole 5K and damn it if I hadn’t pushed myself harder.  I mean, I felt exhausted.

Then, Christina and my mom came up and gave me a hug and told me how good I did.  I didn’t beat my previous time, I told them.  Then, Christina told me what the coach said at the starting line.  The difficulty level of this course was much higher than the one I had run in May!  When I heard that, I felt really great about my time.  I may not have set a new PR, but I was pretty darn close to at least matching it!

Not too shabby for my first trail RUN, let alone trail RACE.

After the race, I grabbed a banana and a blueberry Nutrigrain bar and collapsed in the grass.  Once I felt like I had recovered a little, I forced my family to take pictures with me because guess what:  it is also the day I graduated with my masters!  I skipped the commencement ceremony to run the race, so we had to get a few choice pics.

GradHat1.JT5K

Sibbies.JT5K

I promise, they actually do love me.

Then, we packed up and headed back to Pittsburgh.  About 15 minutes later, my mom called me.

“Guess what I just did?” she laughed.  “Um, just picked up your third place medal!”

I could tell by the tone in her voice that she wasn’t joking, but I didn’t understand.  She told me that I placed third in my age group!!

Medal.JT5K

Not in a million years did I even expect that. To the point that I was all ready on the interstate by the time they announced my name!  That made not setting a new PR feel like no big.  I’ll take it!!  My very first medal ever. In my life.  In 29 years of living without a trophy or medal or athletic accomplishment.  Ironically in the place where I would’ve won a trophy had I been involved with anything.  Its funny how life works, huh?

Here are some of my final thoughts on the details of the John Thompson Memorial 5K:

PRICE:  $20 which benefitted the NHS cross country team.  In addition to a really nice shirt (as far as race shirts go), we got swag bags with random goodies.  I don’t know how I would’ve lived without the Giant Eagle jar opener or the Avon bubble bath or the sweet Noga Ambulance water bottle.  But, stuff is stuff and it was free!

PARKING:  Parking was in the stadium parking lot, obviously free and plentiful.

PRE-RACE/POST-RACE GRUB:  The concession stand at the football field was jam-packed with goodies:  Dunkin Donuts bagels and donut holes, bananas, apples, oranges, NutriGrain bars, and candy galore.  I grabbed another NutriGrain bar for the road. 🙂

TIMING:  The race was chip timed by SmileyMiles.com and the results were posted within a day or two.

WEATHER:  Gorgeous.  It was mild, in the late 70s.  Since the race was primarily in the shade, I wasn’t effected at all by the heat.  The blue skies sure didn’t hurt, though!

Giving ♥ Thanks

25 Nov

I hope your Thanksgiving was amazing!  Mine pretty much was.  We had a lot of running around to do, but it’s so worth it when you get to see ALL the people you care about.

I try to bring at least a dish to every holiday dinner we attend, so I’m sharing the recipe of my go-to holiday dish.  In fact, last year I made this Food Network Magazine dish for Easter.  This year, I made this mac & cheese to my parents house, where my brother turned sous chef assisted me!  He was my master cheese grater – which was what I was most thankful for during this meal.  I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder and I don’t think I would have been able to grate 3 bricks of cheese.

While your brother gives himself carpel tunnel grating cheese, this is a great opportunity to dive into the antipasto tray your mom has prepared.

YUM.

What You Need:
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt, & pepper
  • 1 3/4 c. muenster cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 c. medium shells

    Directions:

    In a large stockpot full of salted water, cook cauliflower florets until tender.  Remove from water to cool.

    1 lg. head of cauliflower

    Add medium shells to the water in the stockpot, and cook until al dente.  Drain, but reserve 1/4 c. water.

    Whisk together evaporated milk & egg, along with a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne pepper, & a pinch of both salt & pepper.

    In a saucepan, combine milk mixture and cheeses over medium heat.  Stir frequently, until cheese melts and sauce becomes thick.

    Add cauliflower to cheese mixture and combine.

    Transfer the cauliflower & cheese mix to food processor, using 1/4 c. reserved cauliflower water.  Puree until smooth.

    Mix the puree into the shells.

    Move to a baking dish, top with remaining cheese and broil until crispy & brown.

 

Easter Endurance

8 Apr

Well the morning starting in a frenzy.  I had slept in longer than planned (I wanted to jog this morning so I could spend Easter a little more guilt-free.)

We were off to my parents (an hour away) by 9:30!

Well, hello Easter!

And (as predicted), plenty of beautifully dyed eggs…

Almost immediately, jelly bean boredom started to set in over the kitchen…

It was clearly time to start getting some appetizers made so that we could munch on healthier stuff!

If you’re from New Castle, Pennsylvania then you know what Mary’s Restaurant is.  And you know how excited I was to find out my mom had saved some of her hummus from the night before…

Chic plating, I know.  Be impressed with our domesticity.

Oh, the eggs.  How darling are these…

Easy enough to make, just cut 1/3 of the egg off instead of halving it (like you normally would to make deviled eggs).

Keep the caps to use as hats, and then just add some olive and carrot to make faces.  Every other part of making deviled eggs is the same!

I mean, how adorable are these eggs?  How have I lived 28 years and NOT thought to do this?  No idea…

Don’t you hate waiting?

The food was finished relatively early, with of course my dad having to take over mashing the potatoes.  For whatever reason, my mom is incapable of making mashed potatoes without lumps.  Its the one thing I can always remember my dad handling in the kitchen.

Yummmmmmmmm!  Best!!!!

Everything turned out really well, especially the ham…

I made my famous three-cheese macaroni with cauliflower…

And overall, everything was amazing!!

Easter Part 1 was pretty good, but we had to get back to Pittsburgh because we had another dinner to get ready for…

Lordy, lordy.  Thankfully we didn’t eat Easter “dinner” until around 6, because I was stuffed.

As usual, things at her♥ mom’s were amazing in general…

I could burst.

I even let my mac & cheese broil differently, and I believe it turned out better the second time:

We even got some Easter baskets at the end of the day from the MIL♥

She’s pretty much adorable…

I’m exhausted, full of ham and regretting giving all my candy to DR♥ because I am really craving some candy and that damn bunny didn’t bring me a thing!

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