Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap

Well . . . let’s see here.  It has taken me a bit more time then I had anticipated to post this race recap.

Clearly, this finding life balance thing is still a work in progress.

So, anyway, here I am, a bit late, but still eager to report back on my 2nd year participating in the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon.  I ran this event on December 15th and it was the final race of the season for me (side note: How cool is it that I had a racing season???).

Holiday Half

In 2012, this event was remarkably cold, windy, and damp.  So it was with much joy that this year’s weather played out differently.  It was chilly, for sure, but dry and calm – nothing some strategic layering couldn’t address to keep me warm.

Mr. Move Eat Create accompanied me to the race.  With him handling logistics (such as transportation), I was free to focus on my performance.  My confidence level and thoughts heading in to the race were messy and conflicting.  On the one hand, I was feeling good about having recently noticed improvements in my pace times.  On the other hand, I had been coping with a strange foot pain that had seemingly popped up out of nowhere and I hadn’t completed any real focused or targeted training for this specific event.  Yet I was, of course, still gunning for a PR.  Go figure.

Holiday Half Bib 2013 - edited

With that in mind, here is how things shook out with this race, including the good and the bad.

Cons:

1. The first mile was frustrating.  Frustrating not because of anything I did or didn’t do, but because of the worst route congestion that I have ever experienced.  With no wave start, no corrals, no pace signs to line people up accordingly, and a large, diverse group of runners and walkers, it was a bit of a mess.  I found myself stuck and blocked in for at least a mile and finished mile one a full 1:00+ minutes slower than I had intended and was capable of.  Boo to that.

2.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Disorder.  Since going gluten-free, my symptoms have lessened significantly in frequency and severity (Yay!), however, they started raging during this day’s race (Grr!).  It was painful and distracting.

3.  In a total running blunder, I apparently had recorded two different race times for my last half-marathon, which had been my PR – leading to great confusion on my part as to what my best time actually was (huge runner fail on my part).

Holiday Half Medal 2013 - edited

Pros:

1. The route is a nice one.  I really enjoy running through old Portland neighborhoods and this had a lot of that.  Plus, the clear sky provided an exceptional view of the magnificent St. John’s Bridge.

2.  Transportation and parking for this event are both wonderful.  I love the shuttle buses that take you from the large free parking spaces to the start line.  Stress free!

3.  Plenty of space (indoor and outdoor with heaters) to meander pre-race, lots of port-a-potties, and a coffee truck on hand for warm, caffeinated beverages.  All very good things.

4.  After much confusion, followed by embarrassment about said confusion, and then initial disappointment, I did discover my true previous PR and, to my delight, I set a new one!  Setting this PR provides me with some validation that the consistent work I’ve been putting in, even if it wasn’t via a targeted training plan, is paying off.  It is always nice to see concrete, measurable improvement and growth in my running, and it was a great way to finish up the season.

My final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 1:47:24
  • Overall Finish: 359/2505
  • Age Group Finish: 31/332

Now my off-season has begun!  Slightly reduced mileage and strength training will be the focus for a few weeks while my 2014 calendar takes shape.  More on that to come!

Preparing For the Last Race of My Season

Tomorrow morning I will race for the last time in 2013 at the Holiday Half Marathon in North Portland.  I also ran this event last year and recall it being a very wet, windy and cold morning.  The extreme frigid and icy weather that we’ve been experiencing the last week or so was making very extremely nervous for the prospects of this year’s race, however, things seem to be easing up.  Thank goodness!  When I went for a training run last night, the 37 degree temperature felt like such a warm relief compared to the days prior!

Holiday Half

Heading in to this last race of the year, I’m finding myself having some mixed emotions.  I’ve been training consistently, and have noticed myself getting a bit faster, but I probably haven’t focused on specific training patterns as much as I should have in order to really deliver a peak performance.  Due to this, my confidence in delivering a PR is not super high, though I find myself still hoping that I might be able to achieve one, nonetheless.  I’ve also been having some weird pain in my left foot that I’m not super happy about.  I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it feels like it needs some tending to after tomorrow’s race is said and done.

I’ve been a bit tired lately and am looking forward to finishing the season strong, and then allowing myself some more relaxed running and cross-training for a month or so to rest and recuperate from this past year.  During this time I will also work on planning out my major 2014 racing events – so I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that soon.  I’m excited to think about what the coming year will bring for my running.

If you’re up and about Sunday morning and think of it, please feel free to send some good running vibes my way!  I’ll, of course, report back about how it goes next week.

Anyone else preparing for their final races of the year?

Anatomy of a Long Run

My alarm beeps at 5am on Saturday mornings, just like it has all week long, but instead of snoozing for another half an hour, I generally get right up.  On Saturdays, when so many others are sleeping in, resting from their work weeks, I pop out of bed and begin a well-practiced routine.

Saturdays are my long run days.  Some runners love long runs, others loathe them.  I pretty much consider them sacred.

I shuffle into my kitchen, where a glass of water and a Picky Bar await.  Snack consumed, I make my way back to my bathroom for teeth-brushing, contact-inserting, and, well, using the bathroom, of course.

Then . . . I wait.

Street Crossing - croppedNeeding to pass some time for my pre-run snack to settle a bit, I crawl back into bed, pop myself up against the wall, and crack open a book.  I avoid the news, the internet, or anything else that would shock me into the events of the real world before I’m ready.  30 minutes fly by and it’s time to change.

Running clothes are donned, shoes laced, cap pulled on over my messy hair and out I go.  Pausing only at the edge of the sidewalk to give my Garmin time to lock on to a trusty satellite, I am off.

Most of the year, it’s still dark.  The streets are calm and quiet.  I pass by dim storefronts and glance inside, peeking at the goods which line the shelves and wait to find a home.  My eyes wander across the lawns and porches of houses that tease me with glimpses of cozy kitchen tables and warm fireplaces.  Stop lights tell me “Don’t Walk”, but after glancing in all directions, I generally see that it’s all clear and run right on through.

Early risers creep their cars through the drive-in coffee windows and the sun starts to rise.  Depending on the time of year, it may be warm or frigid, dry or wet – all of it telling.  It is on these runs when I watch the seasons change.  I notice that what was once 30 minutes spent in darkness turns to 45 as the winter inches in.  I watch ducks usher in the summer mornings with their quacks and squirrels gather up their food stores as the warm weather fades.  I notice the very first of the leaves fall and the precocious flower buds of early spring.

My first loop – just over 8 miles – eases me into my day.  It’s a loop that I’ve run many times and is by now comfortably familiar to me.  I traverse it with gut recognition and instinct, providing me the time to fully wake up and warm up.  My mind drifts, not thinking per se, but just letting random thoughts pass through.  Some are meaningless and others seem genius at the time, though I can never remember them later.  Mostly, I am just completely present in my thoughts, in my body, and in my city.

By the time I sprint up the stairs to my apartment for a quick pit stop, I’m totally engaged.  I spend no more than five minutes inside.  Bathroom.  Water.  Snack.  Back out I go.

My second lap varies.  The distance and route bend to my particular goals and feelings on any given day.  By this time of the morning, though, the sun has risen and the day’s mood is making itself known.  Have the clear skies brought the other runners, leaves on wet road - croppedcyclists, and rowdy kids playing in the streets?  Or, are the grey skies rushing people from one shelter to another?  Either way, I run on with thoughts of breakfast starting to enter my mind.  My day’s task list begins to take over head space, too, and my body begins to yearn for coffee.

Regardless of the specifics of that morning’s second loop, I tend to run a path that leads me down some fun hills, spitting me out into one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in my town.  Those last few miles, momentum building and spirits lifting, are the best.  This is where the calmness of the morning turns into energy for the day.  It’s also where the negative split takes hold.  And, for those of you who are runners, too, you know how much we love a negative split.

Then, just like that, I’m home.  I kick my way through the parking lot, stop at the door, click stop on my trusty Garmin, and begin the rest of my day.  Shower.  Coffee.  Food.  Compression socks.

Contentment.

May I Have Your Vote?

This past Saturday, I participated for the second time in the Virtual Vegan Potluck.  Annie at An Unrefined Vegan was once our host and organizer and did an amazing job at it!  It truly is a fun and exciting feeling to be connected to so many bloggers from so many different places.  Plus, my meal-making inspiration is now overflowing with ideas from all the other delicious looking dishes that were shared!

Close Up - glaze and sliced into - edited

Now, I don’t do much self-promotion, but I am here today to ask you for your vote.  You see, for the potluck, I made and virtually brought this Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple Caramel Glaze.  Remember it?  I’ve been wishing I had some more of it myself!  While it may be long gone (for now), it is time to honor those potluckers who made everyone’s favorite dishes.  If you liked my cake, you can vote for me here under the desserts category.  If you are also inclined, head on over to the Virtual Vegan Potluck’s featured ingredient page and re-pin my cake.  The dish featuring the secret ingredient with the most re-pins is also a winner.

Thank you for your vote (or for just reading this far) and for joining me in another blogging adventure!

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple-Caramel Glaze

One of my favorite things to do these days is to spend an afternoon home alone baking, feed the finished product to Mr. Move Eat Create when he returns, and then ask, “Do you know what was in that???”

Whole on cake stand from above - edited

Of course, I know that its unlikely he’ll guess correctly, but I wait and anticipate his answer.  Then, I excitedly share what the secret ingredient actually was, basking in my sneakiness and healthy baking subterfuge.

I first discovered the odd fun of this little game when I made zucchini brownies.  I reached new levels of enjoyment with it after sharing my batch of Chocolate Covered Katie’s black bean brownies, and totally had a blast with it after making this creation here.

Close Up - glaze and sliced into - edited

This cake was a perfect opportunity for me to:  a) practice my gluten free baking skills, b) use nutritious ingredients (like vegetables) to make something traditionally lacking in health promoting properties, and c) eat chocolate.

As an added bonus, I was already in the process of fine-tuning this recipe when the Virtual Vegan Potluck sign-up and announcement came out, indicating they’d be featuring a key ingredient this time around and that the key ingredient was beets!

Perfect!  I had clearly earned some good food blogging karma somewhere.

slice on plate - edited

For this final version I added a maple-caramel frosting which was so good that I may have scooped up and eaten much of the excess drizzle with my fingertips.  And it may have made me so happy and weak in the knees that I had to sit down.

If all that extra sweet drizzle isn’t you’re thing, I also made a version that was topped with a simple dusting of vegan powdered sugar.  It, too, was wonderful.

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Double Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Maple Caramel Glaze

Makes one bundt cake

A Move Eat Create original recipe

(but inspired by various recipes throughout the Internet)
                                                      Sliced into on cake stand - edited

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 medium beets, diced
  • 2 ¼ cups gluten free all purpose flour (I like Pure Pantry for baking)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • 1 ½ tspn baking powder
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ cup vanilla (or plain) coconut milk
  • 1 tblspn apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 small very ripe mashed bananas
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life)

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup vegan brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Earth Balance
  • 2 tblspns coconut milk
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract
  • ½ tspn maple extract (optional: If you don’t want the maple flavor, sub additional vanilla extract)
  • ½ cup vegan powdered sugar

Directions:

To make the cake:

  1. Place diced beets in a pot and fill with enough water to cover by an extra inch or two.  Bring to a boil.  Let beets boil for approximately 7-8 minutes to soften.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or oil your bundt pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare dry ingredients.  Place flour, cocoa powder, flax seed, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together and set aside.
  4. Place boiled, drained beets in a food processor or good blender.  Add coconut milk and apple cider vinegar.  Puree until smooth.
  5. Pour beet mixture into a medium bowl.  Stir in vanilla extract, turbinado sugar, and mashed bananas.  Mix well to combine.
  6. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients in.  Mix well by hand to combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Pour in your chocolate chips and stir a couple more times to distribute them throughout the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

To make the frosting:

  1. Melt brown sugar, Earth Balance, and coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk/stir frequently during this process.  Once they melt, the mixture should turn a nice shade of brown.  This should only take 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and maple extract.  Let sit to cool for a few minutes.
  2. After the sauce has cooled for about 5 minutes, stir in the powdered sugar.  This will thicken the sauce, making it a more substantial frosting/glaze.  Stir/whisk well until all powdered sugar has been incorporated into the sauce.  Let cool completely before drizzling over cake.

And now, please check out other dishes in the potluck!

To visit the dish presented before mine click this link:  go_bck-300x257

To visit the dish next in the line up click through here:  go_forward-300x243

 

** I am also submitting this recipe to Healthy Vegan Friday, hosted over at The Veggie Nook.  A wonderful weekly gathering of delicious vegan recipes!

Recipe: Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash

I can’t believe that it’s the middle of November and I haven’t waxed poetic about fall yet.  I haven’t even extolled the beauty of Portland this time of year or praised the glorious weather we’ve been having, because we absolutely have been having the most glorious season.

Filled Squash Half on plate with broccolini

We’re known for our rain and gray skies, of course, but they’ve been few and far between the last couple of months.  It’s been perfect.  Perfect for running and strolling.  Perfect for sightseeing and adventuring.  Perfect for autumnal baking and for hard apple ciders enjoyed while firing up the oven for a good meal.

As cheesy as it may sound, I frequently find myself being struck by the beauty of the nature that lies right outside my door.  Very often these last few weeks, I have been out on a seemingly ordinary run only to turn a street corner or look up from making sure I don’t trip over fallen branches and I have felt taken aback by just how gorgeous it all is.  And, let me tell you, there’s nothing like a breathtaking view to rejuvenate tired legs.

Whole Squash

I know that it’s common for many people to think of spring as a season of rejuvenation and hope, but I think differently.  For me, it’s that magical time between mid-September and December, when cooler temperatures refresh me and warm foods nourish me.  It is this time of year when I feel the most in touch with my own sense of optimism, accomplishment, hope, and gratitude.  I hope this dish conveys even a bit of that to you.

Stuffed squash recipes abound, but what makes this one a bit different for me is its straightforward savory nature.  Rather than playing up the sweetness of the squash with fruit or similar ingredients, I’ve countered it with a bit of spice and bundles of warm, comforting flavors.  It is a meal best enjoyed with a view of the leaves and the laughter of others.  A crackling fire and a bottle of wine wouldn’t hurt, either.

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Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash Filled Squash Halves

Serves 4

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 1 cup uncooked brown wild rice mix
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tblspn olive oil + extra for brushing squash
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup diced parsnips (or other root vegetable)
  • ½ tspn each salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn each dried oregano and basil
  • Cayenne pepper (optional for those that like a little bit of heat)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place squash (cut side down) on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray or oil and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Place rice in a small pot with the water.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and continue cooking, covered and undisturbed, for approximately 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed.  When water is absorbed, turn off heat and let rice sit for 10-15 minutes before uncovering and fluffing with a fork.
  3. Warm ½ tblspn olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion and leek.  Saute for 5-7 minutes, until they are translucent.
  4. Add garlic, bell peppers, parsnips, herbs, and spices to the pan.  Stir well and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, until all vegetables have softened.
  5. Turn off heat.  Stir cooked rice into the vegetable mixture and toss to combine well.  Taste for seasoning.
  6. After the squash halves have cooked for 30 minutes, flip them over on the baking sheet.  Brush the flesh lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, if using.  Spoon prepared rice and vegetable filling into the squash generously.  Return filled squash to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.