Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Well, I did it.

13.1 miles.

My first half marathon is complete, I am still alive, and it feels awesome.

Here's a recap of the events:

With the race beginning at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, I was aiming to get to bed around 10:30 - 11 p.m. Saturday to ensure at least 7 solid hours of sleep (since I planned on waking up at 5 a.m.)

That did not happen.

My nerves were working and bed time didn't end up happening until about 1 a.m. Probably not the best idea to only get 4 hours of sleep before your first half marathon, but, oh well, that's the way it happened.

I woke up at 5 a.m., made a cup of coffee, ate a banana, checked the weather forecast, and worked on waking up.

There was a chance of rain for the time I'd be running, but it was supposed to roughly 70 degrees.

I decided to go with the purple seamless tank. I figured it was going to be a little warmer and I was going to get pretty hot and sweaty...seemed like a good choice.

Jon drove me downtown and dropped me off near the start. There were so many people...and I thought the Turkey Trot was a big deal - psshh.

 I found a spot near the 2:10 half marathon pacer and waited in the crowd to hear the start gun. All around me people talked and joked about the amount of miles they were about to run...some nervous, some enthusiastic. I tried to stay calm and focused.

Shoes tied? Check.
iPod play list queued up? Check.
Last bathroom break taken care of? Check...besides, there was no turning back now and the lines for the horrific port-o-potties were way to long.

When the gun sounded, I was off.
The route this year was a little different than years before. It took us along the waterfront and into the old industrial section of the city that I talked about in my last post. I actually ran on some of the same path that I had biked on a couple weeks ago!

For the first 7 miles, I didn't even think about running, I just listened to my music, kept pace with the pacer, and enjoyed the scenery. It was cool and partly couldy; the rain was holding up - perfect weather.

It wasn't until around the 10 mile mark that I began to feel a little uncomfortable. Up to that day, the most I had ever run was 9.5 miles (my sickness earlier in the month prevented me from completely finishing my training.) I decided to break from the pacer, begin to speed walk when I needed a break, and start stopping at the water stations for a few seconds to recooperate. It also didn't help that little hills were popping up around the 11-12 mile markers.

Every time I saw a hill approaching, I'd keep my head forward, fall back into my music and push. I just had to be sure I never got to to the point where I felt dizzy or sick. There is no point in doing something if it's going to make you feel bad pain.

It really started getting rough around mile 12. I wanted to stop so many times and walk but every time I thought about doing it, I told myself, "You can do this. keep going."

Once I saw the finish line in the distance, I found a good song in my play list and booked it. I sprinted to the finish. I figured at that point, I better go balls out.

My first half marathon finish time was 2:08:25 with an average 9:48 mile.
Not too shabby.That was right where I'd hoped I'd be.

My family and Jon were there to meet me at the finish and congratulate me. They were so proud; I was so one of my proudest moments. Months of preparation and dedication for this one moment and I did what I set out to do.

Jon took me to get a fresh vegan breakfast burrito at our co-op (which I devoured) and then he drove us which point I crashed and slept for 4 hours.

Between only getting 4 hours of sleep and then running 13.1 miles, my body needed to shut down and charge up for a bit.

Later that night, Jon took me to a new restaurant/bar that opened up in the harbor downtown called Liberty Hound.

It was a smaller place with a sort of colonial/old port feel.

Their glasses had pin-up girls on them, which i LOVED. Pin-up girls are one of my favorite things.

After a couple drinks, we took a quick look at war ships in the harbor and then headed on over to Pearl Street Grill and brewery for some celebratory food.

It was quite the day.

I'm still kind of reeling from the whole thing. The half marathon just proved to me that I was indeed capable of things I never thought I could do. Just 7 months ago, if you told me I'd be running 13.1 miles and completeing it in my goal time, I would have laughed out loud. This experience makes me want to push harder and be better than I was just 3 days ago.

Jon and my family were such a core element to my involvement in this, too. They rooted for me the whole way, always interested in my progress and giving me encouragement the whole way through. Without them behind me, I woudn't have the courage to do any of this.

We are all capable of amazing things, we just have to believe we are and then...make it happen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lessons From My First Training Experience

Tomorrow is the big day.

13.1 miles starting at 7 a.m. EST.

I signed up for the half marathon in February not really knowing how much training it would take for a marathon novice like me to get up to speed (literally - harrharr) in becoming a long distance runner. At that point in February, I thought 5 miles was a lot . . . boy, did I have a lot to learn.

I had the idea in my mind that, for training, I'd run 5 miles 2 times a week, and then Saturday would be my long run for the week, adding a half mile each Saturday. I had worked it out so that by the time I reached the actual race, I'd be totally up to pace with 13 miles . . .until the sickness hit.

I'll save you the hideous details that were the head cold, the sore throat, the coughing, the ear infection, and then big stickler - the pulled muscle (from so much coughing) going from under the shoulder blade in my back all the way to the front to my right pectoral muscle. That one was the big daddy of them all - I couldn't laugh, sneeze, sit/lay certain ways, or run. It killed me not to train knowing the race was just about a few weeks away.

Jon and I went to RiteAid and picked up this baby . . .

Best idea ever.

Starting this past Monday, I've been icing my side for about an hour to help reduce any swelling, and then I'd use the heating pad to help increase blood flow to the area and speed up the recovery process.

As I sit here now, I can tell you I'm almost at 100%.

During my training, I also learned the importance of comfortable clothing and proper foot wear.

When I first began training, I was running in train shoes. Big mistake.
I began getting sharp pains and muscle spasms in the arches of my feet...that is, until I finally bought myself a proper pair of running shoes.

I also found that some of the workout wear I used for 5 mile runs could NOT be worn for 9 mile runs - like short sleeve shirts. The constant back and forth movement of my arms against the fabric of my happy, bright (read: cheap) Target workout tee chaffed the heck out of the soft part of my underarm.

So I went to Dick's and purchased some ridiculously overly-priced seamless running tops.

Although they were both on sale, I ended up paying a little over $50 for both of them. I'm sorry, but if all I'm going to do is sweat in them, I do not want to drop that kind of money...but I suckered out and gave in. Hopefully they'll be what I need.

Oh, and that little gadget in the middle?

That's a little surprise gift Jon gave to me to help me the day of the race - a distance/calorie/activity monitor. It's going to help tremendously during my run. I'll be able to watch my miles and keep the same pace I've been training with. What a guy - he knows I'd rather have a good luck distance monitor over good luck flowers any 'ol day.

Alright, last little bit about my training.

I've discovered figs. Yes, figs...the fruit.

I never had a dried fig until last weekend.

I was originally going to get a Cliff bar for the long bike along the Outer Harbor last weekend, until I stumbled upon these little nuggets of joy.

They're organic, fat free, and provide the natural carbs and sugars to keep one sustained when planning to do rigorous activity. I've been having 2 a day before my workouts and they've been fueling me perfectly - I haven't been feeling sluggish in the afternoon and I find I don't get famished after my workouts. They're a great source of, besides looking like a science experiment and being able to freak out your friends while you eat them, they're super tasty.

I've also learned to listen to my body; to understand how I can supply it with what it needs to produce the results I want/need and then recover. I've learned that it's not getting to the finish line that counts, but the process and the journey that makes all the difference (a big, collective "Awww" here). 

Well, I'm off to pick up my race packet and scope out the race route for tomorrow.
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Growth...Buffalo Style

This past weekend in Buffalo, NY set some record temperatures
The stats for May 20th (according to weather underground) are:Temp. (°F) high avg low
 May 20th    89    74    59

The high on Sunday was 89 degrees, so we broke the existing record and set a new one!
People were out and about. I saw countless kayaks strapped atop car roofs, people were riding their bikes like there was no tomorrow, and I even saw some pools being opened for the season (before Memorial day!)
Jon and I decided to get outside and play, too. We went to Buffalo's Outer Harbor and took our bikes.

This part of town used to be extremely busy and productive in its true hay day (roughly the late 1800s - early 1900s.) The Outer Harbor was a series of slips where boats and ships would dock to unload their goods, to then be loaded onto rail cars that waited near the shore. The trains would then take these goods all across the country.

There were factories and mills set up all along the water to take in the raw materials as soon as they came off the boats.


The Canadian Pool Elevator (pictured above) was a factory that took in grains from ships, sorted and transported it by rail to all parts of the country.
According to, the Canadian Pool Elevator "was constructed by a co-operative of Canadian farmers whose goal was the achieve fair prices for their grain." This factory did very well - "in May 1926 it set a record by unloading 372,000 bushels in eleven hours while simultaneously loading 164,000 bushels into rail cars (the 4 tracks seen above)."

Here's the same building as I saw it on May 20, 2012:

This building has long been out of commission, but the history behind it is amazing. It basically became obsolete once the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened for commercial transport. Products could be taken to their direct locations instead of having to be brought to Buffalo . . . and that was the beginning of our demise. Soon after companies stopped shipping to Buffalo, factories and mills struggled, people lost their jobs, and times got tough.

Nowadays, however, the city has been working to restore and preserve these historic treasures and the areas where they were placed.

They're making bike paths, nature preserves, they're cleaning up the beaches and making it a clean, safe place to take your family or a date for a nice walk by the water side.

I can see the Outer Harbor becoming really popular once word gets out. It's just minutes away from the heart of the city.

There is even a little restaurant on the water - Dug's Dive.

Dug's Dive

It was a pretty modest place with a few creepy nautical decorations...

I got their house-made veggie burger, Jon got the Fresh Haddock sandwich, and we both got a side-order of their sweet potato fries. The portions were plentiful and we went home stuffed (sorry, no pictures, we were famished and completely forgot.)

I'm looking forward to spending more time down here this summer...if you're in the area, I recommend you check it out, too!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Monster From The Deep? Nah, Just Breakfast.

Mostly everyone who reads food blogs has stumbled upon a post/recipe/discussion about overnight oats. This dish is usually prepared the night before you plan to enjoy it because the ingredients need hours to settle, combine, and work their magic before being eaten.

The pictures that accompany these kind of recipes, are kind of monster-from-the-deep looking (i.e., gooey, chunky, kind of scary), however, I have seen some lovely (vegan) overnight oat displays from Angela over at Oh She Glows (see below.)

I've tried to make overnight oats a la vegan, but the consistency never really jived with my tastes. I could very well have been making it wrong, but even though I'd follow the recipe, my oats would turn out too liquidey and be more like sweet oat soup.

After some thinking and playing around with ingredients, I think I stumbled on a gem.

Ultra Creamy, Super Easy Overnight (or in a few hours) Oats
(Makes roughly a one 1 cup serving)
You'll need:
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1/3 C quick oats
2 T Jelly or fruit preserves
1 T chia seeds
(optional: 1 - 2 T honey)
1/4 + 1T plain unsweetened almond milk

To make:
1. In a medium-sized dish, combine the yogurt, oats, jelly, chia, and optional honey (if you'd like your oats to be on the sweeter side). Mix until thoroughly combined.
2. Add almond milk and stir gently until mixture is mixed through.
3. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours before enjoying.

This dish is awesome because, in the summer time, it's a sneaky way to get your protein, calcium, and healthy breakfast carbs, and still stay cool. This recipe produces a cool, thick, creamy oatmeal that is sweetened/flavored by the jelly (and optional honey). The 1 cup serving may not seem like it would keep you feeling full and energized, but the combination of protein from the yogurt and carbs from the oats processes slowly in the body and produces a steady, slow releasing stream of energy.

Please forgive the utter grossness harshness of this photo - it was hastily taken at work. Half my co-workers already think I'm a nut for eating things like this...I can't even imagine what they'd think if they saw me taking pictures of my food at my desk. Haha.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Good Day, Bad Cake.

My little sister graduated yesterday from The University at Buffalo with a double major in English and Environmental Sciences.

Her graduation was on Mother's Day, just like mine was 4 years ago...from the same place, with the same major! (Well...just English...she went the extra mile and tacked on Environmental Science.)

The ceremony was about 2.5 hours long. There were a lot of kids to get through; and this was only the College of Arts and Sciences!

Their speaker was New York Senator Charles Schumer. He gave a nice, short, sweet speech that I actually think was very similar to the one he gave at my graduation 4 years ago. He talked about growing up, taking risks, reaching higher, and "going for it."

Kay and Me

Our family

Kay and her boyfriend

The graduate!

So, I mentioned in a past post that I bought a Wilton cake decoration kit. I wanted to make a cake to celebrate Kayla's graduation, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to break it out and give it a go.

I made two 8'' round cakes the night before. I took the recipe from the same book that I used to make my chocolate cake with coffee butter cream frosting, however, the recipe called for all-purpose flour...all I had was Bob's Red Mill stone-ground whole wheat flour.

While I cooked with that flour a few times before, it was mostly for pancakes and biscuit-type cookies - not cake. But, it was all I had and I needed to make the cakes the night before to ensure they had proper time to cool before frosting. So, I used the stone-ground whole wheat flour.

I will never, ever do that again.

I first knew something was wrong when it came out of the oven. The cakes smelled dough-y. Yeah...not good. Nonetheless, I let them cool and planned on using them for the cake.

I woke up Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. to prepare the frosting and the piping tubes. This was my first time playing with frosting tips and bags, so I wanted to be sure I had some wiggle room before I had to start getting ready to head out for the graduation.

I stacked up the two cakes with a layer of frosting in the middle and went to town on the decorating.

I only used two tips (a star tip and a #3) to keep it simple for my first try. I was pretty happy with how it turned out, given it was my very first time. After decorating, I packed up the cake and headed off to watch the ceremony.

When it finally came time to eat the cake, Kayla cut into it and as soon as we removed the first slice, it smelled like dough.

We put slices on the plates, took our first bites, and it tasted like dough.

Well, shoot.
That didn't work out as well as I hoped it would.
The only good thing about the whole darn cake was the frosting. The stone-ground whole wheat flour was DEFINITELY not made for cakes.
I will never be making that mistake again.


Kayla was a champ, though. She pretended to like it.

It's okay, we're getting together next weekend for dinner and I promised I would redeem myself with a TASTY treat.

So, no recipe, but I thought you'd get a kick out of my little story. Hey, you can't win them all.

Have you ever had a baking/cooking disaster and had no choice but to serve it? Did it turn out horrible, or is it something you laugh about today?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring-Fresh Veggie And Bocca Stir-Fry

Things around here lately have been very spring-like.

The sun has been shining bright and Jon and I have been taking advantage of the warm weather. We visited Buffalo's Delaware park and also, Williamsville's Glenn Falls Park this past weekend.

Paging through National Geographic, people watching, picture taking, and cat naps are a great way to waste away time on a lazy weekend afternoon. We saw a wedding party taking photos, people fishing and riding ATVs in the park (and then getting kicked out), screaming children, and lot and lots of people walking dogs (*sigh* someday I'll have my own dog).

I've also been getting better and I'm slowly making my way back to normal health. Yesterday, I ran 5 miles in 44 minutes before work, and then went to a concert that night!

Jon and I went to see one of my favorite bands, Beats Antique.

They're a funky band that originated making mostly tribal (yet melodic) instrumental belly dance music. More recently, though, they've been delving into the world of electronic music and mixing their traditional sound with synthesized tones and beats.

I still love them just the same, even though their music not as raw and traditional as it was when they first started. In fact, I really dig this new direction in which they're headed.  If a band doesn't experiment with their style/sound, I can't see how they would grow and continue to be inspiring.

The thing that really drew me to this band was Zoe Jakes.

She is one of the best tribal belly dancers I've ever seen. Her style is earthy and gritty...not polished and flashy like traditional belly dance. She moves LIKE music, not WITH the music (if that makes sense; I just got poetic about it). It's been a while since I last belly danced, but I aspire to move like her someday.

Maybe with a healthy stir-fry dinner I can find some energy to train for my half marathon AND practice my long-missed belly dance hobby. . .

Spring-Fresh Veggie And Bocca Stir-Fry
You'll need:
1 C dry whole wheat quinoa
2 C water
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
dash of salt and pepper

1 yellow bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 C mukimame
1/2 C sugar snap peas
1/2 C mushrooms
1 roma tomato (chopped)
3 T chopped sweet onion
2 bocca burgers (optional)
1-2 T olive oil
1-2 T teriyaki sauce

To make:
1. In a sauce pan, combine water with spices. Stir in quinoa.
2. Bring water/quinoa mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook (covered) for about 12-18 minutes. When finished, water will be gone and quinoa will be light and fluffy. Set aside.
3. In a high-sided pan (I use a mock wok-type pan), heat olive oil and saute onion on medium heat.
4. Add all veggies and saute to desired texture (still slightly crunchy, cooked until soft, or basically mush)
5. Cook 2 bocca burgers in the microwave for 2 minutes. Chop into bite-sized bits and add to veggies.
6. Add the teriyaki sauce and stir to combine.
7. Scoop quinoa into a bowl and add the stir-fry on top.

This is a super easy, super fast week night dish. It's light, yet filling and combines a lot of great flavors.