Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Couch-to-15k in 31 days?

Hello, friends. How's your Hump Day going?

I am working tonight, we've got GAYNGS at one of the venues - they are an indie supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, The Rosebuds and a bunch of other bands. I am not exactly clear on just how many band members will be taking the stage tonight, but I do know to expect white leisure suits, balloons and beards. Should make for an interesting night on the job!

I have no food photos for you, as today I have consumed absolutely nothing worth sharing with the world. I am pretty sure every item I ate so far has been made of at least 75% 'bad' carbohydrates. But that's okay! I will start fresh tomorrow, or perhaps when I finally get home I'll prepare another pumpkin monster smoothie.

So, you're probably thinking, quit rambling and share what your "Couch-to-15k in 31 days?" subject means? Well, after completing the Pikes Peak Challenge it was just a matter of time before I identified another event to train for. My sister just completed her first 15k (goooooo Annie!), and asked me if I'd be interested in running another with her when she visits at the end of October. At first I hesitated... then I thought, "Why the heck not?"

Thus, I need to find a great Couch-to-15k training program, and fast! I realize that this is an ambitious goal, and think I'll be fine no matter what (we won't be running for speed), however after climbing Pikes Peak I feel that this will be attainable. 

Now, the "Couch" word was selected because I haven't done much cardio since returning from Colorado 3 weeks ago. Instead, I've been spending a lot of time glued to my desk chair or, yes, my couch. However, as part of my training for the hike I did do a lot of running and long distance run / walks. I just need to get back in the groove. I plan on following the final 4 weeks of Hal Higdon's 15k 'Novice' training guide, with the longest run being 8 miles. Piece of cake, right?

I plan to lean heavily on my boyfriend as a training companion (and possibly team companion for the Oct. 30th race!). He is very fast, but has an open offer to run with me if I don't take too many walking breaks. In the past, my walking breaks have been prohibitive to our shared workouts. This is one hurdle I hope that I can finally get over.

Alas, the training plan - Hal's notes in bold, mine underneath, with work notes thrown in for fun. Now you can see why it's so tricky to balance my schedule!

Week 4 (I plan to start my weeks on Sundays)

Sunday 10/03
50 min. Cross-training
Ahh... walking? I think that would be nice. Plus, horseback riding.
Broken Social Scene concert. Cool show, but may have to miss this one in favor of rest after a crazy weekend.

Monday 10/04
Stretch & Strengthen
Yoga and a weight-training session?

Tuesday 10/05
3 mi. Run
Sure! Will plan bring trainer Zak
Jimmy Eat World concert. Does dancing count as cross-training? (YES!)

Wednesday 10/06
45 min. Cross-training
High on Fire, aka ridiculous metal concert at work. Can't. Miss!

Thursday 10/07
3 mi. Run + Strength
May have to finally try out a lunchtime workout. My gym is one block away... 
Nick Lowe concert. Oh yeah, a singer-songwriting legend. Can't wait to hear "Cruel to be Kind" live.

Friday 10/08
Huh? I may have to flip this to one of the nights I'm working... or just enjoy a night at home with Zak!

Saturday 10/09
4 mi. Run
This seems light for a weekend run. However, some friends are getting married and I may not have time for a long run. Will plan for the 4 miles, plus at least 60 min. of dancing at their reception!

As you can see, my main goal for this first week of training will be to finally fit in a workout over my lunch hour, which I somehow have never done before. Wish me luck!

I am off to the GAYNGS show. Have a great night!

Question - What event or race are you currently training for? And, any tips for how to squeeze in workouts during the workday? Paige, if you're reading this I could definitely use your personal trainer tips :-D

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gimme nutrients

Today was busy, but productive at work. Blah! When I finally made it home, I wanted to focus on getting nutrients into my body, asap.

Lentil soup and some I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter-y whole grain bread. Relatively healthy, but lacking in color.

A little later, I decided to attempt being trendy by incorporating canned pumpkin into my go-to 'green monster' spinach smoothie combination. This "pumpkin monster" variation has been gaining popularity all over the foodie blogosphere, and it sounded tasty enough for me to give it a go.

In the mix:
Three large handfuls of spinach
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 frozen banana, cut into pieces for ease of blending
One combined, I added:
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
A few generous shakes of pumpkin pie spice
Whirred together, this made a thick and delicious smoothie, with plenty of great pumpkin pie flavor. And check out that neon green color!

Tomorrow morning, I am hitting up the 6AM class at Milwaukee Bikram Yoga. Cheers!

Question of the Day - Have you tried a 'pumpkin monster' yet? What is your favorite combo of ingredients for 'green monster' smoothies?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Granola featuring Nature's Pride Bread

A recipe post! Hold onto your hats!

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, and in promotion of the upcoming blogger festival, I received an email about a recipe contest with Nature's Pride Bread. 
I wanted to think 'outside the box' and find a way to uniquely feature this wholesome bread. Brainstorming beyond sandwiches, French toast and bread pudding recipes, one idea began to develop... a granola made from bread.

You see, I love finding new ways to use leftover foods. My world was rocked with blogosphere favorites such as frozen banana soft-serve (using bananas that would otherwise get tossed) and oats in a jar (using the last of a jar of peanut butter as a vehicle for hot oatmeal). Finally, a recipe to help use those leftover slices / end pieces of bread! 

Of course, this recipe was made using fresh Nature's Pride Nutty Oat bread :-)

Influenced by Autumn flavors, I researched different recipes for pumpkin granola and came up with this one. Using coarse bread crumbs made from Nature's Pride Nutty Oat bread, adding hearty rolled oats and focusing on pumpkin, honey and maple syrup for great Fall flavors, then slow roasted in a warm oven, this recipe turned out deliciously good. The finished product has the perfect amount of light crunch, pumpkin spice flavor and just a hint of sweetness. 

Friends, behold... Pumpkin Spice Granola featuring Nature's Pride Bread!

Pumpkin Spice Granola featuring Nature's Pride Bread

  • 2 cups Nature's Pride Honey Oat bread (about 4 slices), coarsely processed and packed firmly in measuring cups
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (100% pure)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Wisconsin honey
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup - Wisconsin Grade A, Dark Amber
  • 2 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds (whole)

  • Materials
Baking pan with raised sides (like a jelly roll pan)
Food processor
Measuring cups 
Measuring spoons

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Coat baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Process the Nature's Pride bread slices in a food processor, pulsing the processor until bread is in small, coarse crumbs.
3. In a large bowl, combine the Nature's Pride bread crumbs with rolled oats. Pour onto baking sheet and put into preheated oven for 7 minutes.
4. In food processor, combine the canned pumpkin, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Process until smooth, adding up to 1/3 cup canola oil (depending on desired amount).
5. Remove the Nature's pride bread crumbs and rolled oats mixture from oven and put back into the large mixing bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture, and stir to combine.
6. Add the dried currants, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and flax seeds; stir to combine.
7. Re-spray the baking pan. Pour the mixture onto the pan, spreading out into a thin layer so the entire surface of the pan is evenly covered.
8. Bake in preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy, about 1 hour or a little longer,  until desired level of toastiness / crunch is reached.
9. Remove from oven; cool to room temperature. Enjoy :-)
10. Store in an airtight container. 
11. Cross your fingers that this recipe will be selected as a winner for the 2010  Foodbuzz blogger festival and make me a Nature's Pride Bread Ambassador :-D

Disclaimer - I was told via Foodbuzz that I would receive a coupon for a free loaf of Nature's Pride Bread, however haven't yet received it. The product was purchased with my own money, and the opinions expressed about the recipe are my own. 

I am very pleased with the end results! And apparently so is Zak, who made more than half of the batch of granola disappear by the time I got up the next morning. I guess I will have to whip up some more this weekend?


Question of the Day: What's your favorite recipe for using up leftover food? 
Since discovering the frozen banana soft-serve recipe, I have not wasted a single 'nana. It's that good!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pikes Peak Challenge Recap: Part 2

Where did we leave off? Ah yes, the trailhead of the Barr Trail.
Shortly after taking this photo, we scanned in our race bibs at 5:18AM. I was at a slight advantage, being from Milwaukee and thus having my internal clock set at Central Standard Time, aka it felt like 6:18AM to me :-)
It was ridiculously dark outside!
We scurried up the trail and it was INTENSE. Though I had on my headlamp, the trail was completely dark...
This would be me, stumbling up the trail.
... and I quickly became aware that this hike was not going to be any walk in the park.
The Barr Trail is no joke... steep switchbacks, seemingly endless, and all before sunrise! I did fine, but immediately felt the effects of the altitude and was instantly winded. I didn't do much whining (it was all in my head), but remember mentioning "I think my lungs are bleeding. I taste blood" to my teammates.
Adding to my anxiety, several parts of the trail did not have a railing installed. I was kinda nervous about the steep dropoffs and narrow passages, and annoyed by the jerky hikers who insisted on passing others there instead of waiting until a wider section of the trail. Not cool.
See, it was intense. I made sure to keep swigging water from my Camelbak, and had a couple Shot Bloks. We took a few breaks. Oh, and kept up morale with goofy photos every few minutes.
Before I knew it, we had completed nearly 3 miles. Hooray! At about the same time, the sun started to rise, providing us with a gorgeous view.
One of the things that was great about our group, was that we took every opportunity to take photographs. What else would one be compelled to do when hiking through such beautiful terrain?
The views just kept getting better and better. HA.
Soon, we caught our first glimpse of the summit!
So close, yet so freakin' far away.
At that point, the view was breathtaking. Both in its beauty, but also in the fact that I couldn't believe that within the same day, we'd make it to the top! The concept made my lungs burn.
We continued up the trail, which was getting rockier (bouldery-er?) and trickier. Morale was high and we were having a great time, moving at a decent pace.
The first trail marker! Just 7.8 miles to the Pikes Peak Summit...
About halfway up, we finally made it to Barr Camp!
After waiting like 20 minutes in line for this...
...we filled up our Camelbaks and water bottles, and hit the trail for the final 6.5 miles.
The sun was out and the steepness picked up, so we quickly shed our outer layers.
Every now and then, we'd catch another peek of the Peak, which was starting to feel a closer in range.As we started to approach the timberline (about 3,000 feet below the summit), we passed through remains of the Dismal Forest. The eerie-looking trees had burned in a massive forest fire around 1910. The scenery, along with the ever-increasing altitude, made for a surreal feeling.
And finally... Timberline!!!
Here, I was feeling crappy (lightheaded, kinda headachy, lethargic) enough to ask for 'just a hit' of oxygen. The doc took my pulse, and told me I was doing great. I opted for a snack break instead.
A vermin friend tried to give us the bubonic plague... we said 'nah, not today.' As we took our break, I tried not to look up... a daunting view if I've ever seen one!
Just 3 miles to the summit. A piece of cake, right?
We got started again and thought the trail was super different, with loose gravel and a super steep grade...
... and after about 100 feet of that, we realized that we had lost the trail. Duh!
We did laugh at the situation and take a moment to soak in the view.
Then, onward and upward... literally.