December 31, 2016

Top 16 of 2016

This year has been kind of odd for me. I've had no motivation to write on my blog this month, for some reason, but I've done a post on New Year's Eve every year; and I'd hate to skip one. It started with the "Top 11 of 2011", and then the "Top 12 of 2012"... and so on. Usually, I start each post wondering if I'll be able to come up with that many noteworthy events, but by the end of the post, I feel good about all the things I accomplished or experienced and had forgotten about.

This year feels the same. I haven't even started going through the pictures of the year to begin this post, so I'm not sure how I'll feel by the end of it! This year has just been so odd (for lack of a better word). So, here we go... my Top 16 of 2016.



1. I started the year at my goal weight! I felt like 2016 was off to an amazing start--I was effortlessly maintaining/losing weight, and I was training hard for a 10K in April. I felt like I was on top of the world!


2. On February 2nd, we celebrated the one year anniversary of adopting Joey. He's such an AMAZING dog, and we are grateful every day that we happened to pick him.


3. I ran a 5K PR while I was training for my 10K. It was a small race, and I actually placed second female overall! I won a gift certificate to a new local running store (that I still need to use!).


4. I got a new Jeep Renegade! Normally, I am not a "car person"--I've never been one to be impressed by cars, or even want to get a brand new one. But when Jerry had to turn in his lease, and we saw this in the showroom, I couldn't stop obsessing over it. It worked out well, and now I adore my car :)


5. Jerry and I took the kids to dinner in Detroit, followed by their first Red Wings game. It was a super fun evening! Before we left, my mom (who was going to dogsit Joey) took a quick picture of us. Is this not the corniest family photo you've ever seen?!


6. In April, I went to Portland to visit my BFF, Thomas--as well as *hopefully* run a 10K PR.


7. During my Portland trip, I hiked through a cave... something I never, EVER could have done before losing all the weight. I started the hike feeling terrified, and that I wasn't "fit enough" to do it. I got more confident the farther we went, and by the end, I was completely thrilled that I had done it!  I conquered a few fears that day.


8. Thankfully, I did hit my 10K PR on that trip--much thanks to Thomas, who paced me! I had set a near-impossible goal, I worked my ASS off for five months, and then I actually hit my goal. It was crazy! This made me feel like I could do anything.


9. From Portland, I took the train up the coast to Seattle, to visit a reader-turned-friend, Laurel. She took me on A CUPCAKE TOUR of Seattle! It was awesome. We tasted cupcakes from four different bakeries, and finished with lava cakes. Best tour ever!


10. I went on my first trail run! My brother, Nathan, his girlfriend at the time, Kendall, and I went for a five-mile run in Pinckney, Michigan. I wish the trail was closer to home, because it was amazing!


11. Jerry and I went on a road trip to Cadillac, Michigan, for an overnight trip. We accidentally discovered that place in 2014, and we wanted to return. It's such a great town!


12. We adopted Monica, a long-haired tortoiseshell kitty, from a rescue group. I went to an event that Purina had told me about, and my family just fell in love with this cat! She's been amazing. She LOVES being petted, and if you're not doing it to her liking, she will let you know ;)


13. The documentary I took part in, From Fat to Finish Line, was FINALLY released! It was SO very weird to see myself on Netflix. I still can't really believe it happened.



14. Jerry and I took the kids to Virginia Beach for vacation over the summer, and unfortunately, it was right smack in the middle of a hurricane. The hotel was under tropical storm warning, and the beach was closed. A very memorable trip, to say the least!


15. I found out I'm going to be an AUNT!! I cannot even being to describe how thrilled I am that I am going to have a nephew in March :) (Brian and Becky are having a boy)


16. I had an AMAZING visit from some very sweet readers-turned-friends! Caitlin, Andrea, and Bonnie came to visit, and the girls weekend was much-needed. I hope we'll do it again next year!


16. (Yes, I already did 16, but I can't skip this one!) I met a little bird. It was such an amazing thing! I helped this little guy who was stunned from hitting my living room window, and he let me hold him for awhile. Then, a few days later, he was waiting for me on my porch and he let me hold him again! It was the day that Trump was elected president, which was--well, just plain crazy--and that encounter with the little bird was like Hope literally flew right into my hand.


Once again, I am so glad to have found so much good in this past year! In July, I went through a very deep depression, and it's been ongoing since then. I'm having a hard time getting past it. But I feel hopeful that 2017 will be a good year. A little bird told me so ;)


Some fun facts for 2016: 

I ran 781.5 miles (a little up from 457 miles in 2015--the "year of the injury"). 
The day of the week I ran most often was Tuesday; the least often was Wednesday.
The month that I had the highest mileage was February, with 115.4 miles.
My average pace for the whole year was 10:33/mi (up from 10:31/mi in 2015).
I burned 68,181 calories from running... that's equivalent to over 19 pounds of fat (or 874 chocolate chip cookies)!
My most memorable meal was at McMenamins in Portland (same as 2015, actually)--I had Cajun Tots. So stupid, but I craved those tots for MONTHS while I was training. I told Thomas I was going to eat a pound of them for every second that I PR'ed my race. Haha! I ordered the biggest size, and ate about 2/3 of them. Totally worth it!


My current favorite breakfast has actually been coffee with hot cocoa mix. That's really terrible! I am going to change that and start having a real breakfast again.
My current favorite evening snack is actually chips--which is weird! I have always liked sweets, but for the past few months, I have had an aversion to a lot of sweets.
The thing I am most looking forward to in 2017? Hopefully, getting my motivation back--to count calories, to run my best, to write blog posts... I would really like to get back to how I felt at the beginning of 2016! But I was training so hard then; I'd definitely settle for somewhere in the middle of where I am now versus a year ago. I just want to feel healthy; not wonder if every little thing will make me gain weight; stop struggling; and just live life! Is that too much to ask? ;) Haha, I'd be happy to master just one of those things, so we'll see how it goes in 2017.  I'm going to write a post (hopefully tomorrow) about my goals for next year.

Once again, I'm so glad I wrote this post! I realized just how many amazing things happened in 2016, which wasn't exactly the greatest year ever. It's time I just focus on the good, and forget the bad.

Happy New Year, Friends!! Here's to an amazing 2017! :)

December 21, 2016

Yikes! (a nine-day catch-up)

Wow, I thought maybe it had been three or four days since my last post... I just signed into see that it's actually been NINE days! I didn't intend to take such a long break; time just seems to fly by this time of year. I haven't been extraordinarily busy or anything, but it seemed that the longer I didn't write, the easier it was to wait one more day.

Anyway, I think a bullet-style post will be best for playing catch-up!

  • I signed up for an RRCA-Level 2 class that will take place in March. I'm already an RRCA-certified running coach (remember when I took that course in 2013?). That was a Level 1 certification, and they now have Level 2 certification courses. I was thrilled when I saw that there is a class in Detroit in March, so I signed up right away. I'm super excited to learn more about coaching! Since I haven't been working on my blog as much, I was thinking about possibly taking on a few running clients next year. My friend Caitlin (who was just here last month) signed up for the course in Detroit, too, so she'll be visiting again--woo hoo!

  • After the vegan challenge, I was dying to get a chocolate orange. I love them, and I get one every year at Christmastime. I bought one a few days after I ended the challenge, and then counted out my five wedges to eat. After eating a couple of them, I noticed in the third that there was something weird in the chocolate. I have no idea what it was (and the tweet to the company went without reply), but it pretty much ruined my love of chocolate oranges :( So gross.

  • I am WAY TOO EXCITED for Becky (my brother Brian's wife) to have the baby! I don't think I mentioned it here on the blog yet, but they found out that it's a boy :) I was honestly about 51% hoping for a boy, and 49% hoping for a girl--it really wouldn't have mattered, but of course I'm slightly biased toward little boys. So, I will have a nephew in a few months, and I couldn't be more excited! This baby is already spoiled beyond belief, because as I've been Christmas shopping, I keep seeing things that I want to get for the baby ;)
  • I decided to (finally) try out using Snapchat. I still just don't understand the appeal! Playing with the filters was really fun, but I haven't really gotten the point of the whole Snapchat concept yet. Instagram is my favorite social media. I don't know if I'll use Snapchat much, but if you'd like to find me, I'm "runsforcookies"--surprise surprise. I do love how pretty some of the filters make me look though! haha.

  • Noah's seventh-grade science class dissected pigs' lungs last week, and it was mandatory that the kids each have a parent there. I guess there have been several students over the years that have fainted during dissection, so the teacher wanted the kids to have someone there in case they went down. So, as a stay-at-home mom, that was my job ;) Nobody fainted, thankfully, and it was actually really interesting! When I had to dissect things in school, I was never very interested in it (who wants to dissect a CAT? That was horrible...). But I was very interested in the lung dissection. The boys at my table were, too.

  • I haven't been counting calories since I ended the vegan challenge. I've really been listening to my appetite, and I've been monitoring my weight to see what happens. My weight has stayed very stable, even though I'm eating what/when/how much I want. I will get back to counting calories after the holiday (or if my weight starts climbing). But it's been really nice to take a break from it--and to not feel guilty for it! I haven't binged, either... actually, I can't even remember the last time that I binged. It was before the vegan challenge, and before my friends were visiting, so it's been a while.
  • I've been doing really well with the no-alcohol challenge, but I did make a couple exceptions (so I guess it would be considered a limited-alcohol challenge?). Once, I went out with my friend Andrea, and Jerry was driving, so Andrea and I had a few drinks. Also, Jerry and I went out to dinner for a date night last week, and I got a martini with dinner. For situations like that, I don't mind making an exception. Interestingly, though, I haven't really had a desire to have nightly wine at home--goes to show that it was more habit than anything else. I also wonder if maybe I've been able to stay binge free because I haven't been drinking--even one drink makes me want to eat, so laying off the alcohol has probably helped.
  • As far as running goes, I was doing really well getting in a extra miles for a couple of weeks, but then we had lots of snow, ice, and a super cold front come through. It was -13 degrees on Thursday! I've noticed that the treadmill gets sluggish when it's that cold outside (the treadmill is in the garage, which isn't heated). And even though being in the garage is better than outside in these temps, it's still -13 degrees! ;) It's supposed to warm up a little to the 30's this week, so hopefully I'll get out there more. I would love for the ice on the roads to melt! I fell twice just walking from my car to the house. It's crazy slippery!

  • I caught Monica licking Joey's face on my bed, and it was SO cute that I grabbed my phone to take a video. It ended up being pretty funny at the end...


Poor Joey! He looks so sweet in this video, but he does his share of annoying the cats, too ;)
  • Today is my kids' last day of school before their Christmas break. I'm really looking forward to less chaotic mornings :) And I'm super excited to give them their Christmas gifts! Whenever I have a gift for someone that I think they'll love, it drives me crazy to have to wait to give it to them. Five more days! We did most of our shopping on Amazon this year, and it was a million times easier. Plus, who doesn't love getting package deliveries?
I will try and write more over the kids' break, but it's been kind of nice to take a break from writing, too. Hope everyone has a great holiday and safe travels if you're going out of town!

December 12, 2016

Instant Pot

I never go shopping on Black Friday, but this year, I was curious to see if Amazon had any good sales that day. I was browsing the website when I came across something called an Instant Pot, and it was on sale for $60. I thought it seemed like a good deal, and the reviews were great, so I impulsively bought one.

I don't know what I was thinking! When it arrived, I actually printed a label to return it, because I regretted the impulsive buy. However, Jerry convinced me to give it a try. I'm SO glad that I did--I love it!


An Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that can also be used as a rice cooker and slow cooker (which is awesome, because my slow cooker ceramic base cracked recently) as well as a few other appliances.

Pressure cookers have always scared me, because I imagine them exploding all over my kitchen; but the Instant Pot is pretty much fool proof and very safe. It claims to cook food in about half the normal amount of time, which was appealing to me.


The very first thing I made was actually plain old potatoes. Baking potatoes in the oven takes forever, so I wanted to see if I could make them in the Instant Pot. I cleaned six potatoes and put them on the trivet inside of the Instant Pot, then added a cup of water (the Pot needs liquid in order to pressurize and cook the food). I set the timer on manual for 20 minutes.

The Pot is very quiet when it's cooking, so I wasn't sure exactly what was happening or how well it was working. When the timer was done, I turned the knob to release the pressure (a ton of steam came shooting out of a small hole) and when the pressure was released, the lid unlocked. I was surprised (and thrilled) that the potatoes were cooked perfectly! I topped mine with black beans, corn, and avocado, and it was delicious.

The next night, I decided to cook one of my own recipes in the Instant Pot, which was a little nerve wracking because I didn't have a clue how to convert a recipe to an Instant Pot recipe. I just guessed. I was making a recipe for chicken and rice for the family (I was doing the vegan challenge, so it wasn't for me). The recipe just consists of chicken breasts, rice, French onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup (and water, of course). 

I dumped it all in the Instant Pot and set the timer. When it was done, I turned the knob to release the pressure, but nothing happened--it had never pressurized. I thought maybe the sealing ring was off or something, so I checked everything and did it again. Again, no pressure. Several more tries, and an hour and a half later, it was finally cooked even though it never pressurized. 

I was ready to return it, and then after some Google research, I realized the problem was that the liquid was too thick. When the liquid is very thick, it doesn't steam enough to create the pressure. So, I learned my lesson and kept trying.

Since then, I've made several more meals and I LOVE the Instant Pot! It's a perfect rice cooker, which is nice because we eat a lot of rice. Yesterday, I made white chili using FROZEN chicken and setting the timer for just 15 minutes...

White Chili

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. frozen chicken breasts
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white corn, drained
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3-4 cups of chicken broth (use 4 for a more soup-like chili)

First, I set the Instant Pot to "saute" and added the oil and onion. Once the onion was softened, I added the rest of the ingredients and closed the lid. I set the timer on manual for 15 minutes. When the time was up, I released the pressure and it was done! I pulled the chicken out to chop it, and then tossed it back in. Super easy and very yummy.


I was worried the beans would overcook, because they were canned, but they turned out just fine. (The Instant Pot cooks dry beans and lentils SUPER fast without having to soak them!)

Today, I even cooked pasta in the Instant Pot. I put a pound of elbow macaroni in the pot with some salt and water, and then set the timer for 4 minutes on manual. While it was cooking, I made the cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese. The pasta was cooked perfectly! I love that you don't have to babysit the food--you literally just set the timer and don't look at it until it's done. 

Anyway, this is my new favorite gadget... I've been cooking with it every day, and it still amazes me at how fast and easy it is. I just wanted to share in case you're looking for a Christmas gift for someone ;) Here is a link on Amazon (if you purchase through this link, then I get a small commission from Amazon--but I am not associated with Instant Pot in any way, and I paid for my Pot myself). The exact pot that I bought is no longer being sold, but the link above is for the newer model that also makes yogurt. 

There are a ton of recipe ideas on Pinterest for the Instant Pot, so I've made a few of those; but mostly, I've just been using it to cook my own recipes. You just need to make sure that the recipe has enough water in it to create steam. I was overwhelmed when I first started using it, but now that I see the potential, I've just been experimenting and I love it. So far, I've cooked everything on manual; but I want to start trying out the other buttons to see how that works. 

Do any of you have an Instant Pot? What do you like to cook in it? 

December 11, 2016

MAF running on the treadmill

After having the weekend to think about it, I still don't have any regrets about quitting the vegan challenge. I am disappointed that I wasn't able to stick it out for the whole five weeks, but I did what felt best for me. And to be honest, that 14 days FELT like five weeks, haha!

I don't know if it was just a coincidence or not, but I felt very energetic after I ate some meat and dairy on Thursday night. Instead of feeling very tired on my run Friday, I actually felt better than I have in weeks. I had set out to run about three miles, but once I started running, I felt so good that I decided to turn it into my long run for the week.

Lately, my MAF training pace has been in the mid- to high-11:00's; but on Friday, at the same heart rate, I was able to run four sub-11:00 miles. I hadn't done that since the very beginning of MAF training. I was feeling so energetic that I was tempted to run 10 miles, but I really don't want to wind up injured by doing too much, too soon, so I ended up running 7 miles. That was the longest run I've done in a while, and it felt so good!


Surprisingly, I did not go totally crazy with dairy (foods I was missing) after quitting the challenge. I didn't even get ice cream! I've eaten pretty well over the weekend, and a couple of meals were actually still vegan. Today, I made some Banana Cranberry Oat Bars. I tried to make them during the challenge, but after mixing the batter, I realized the walnuts I'd added were rancid, so I had to throw it out. Today, they turned out perfectly. I LOVE these bars!


They taste even better when they are cold out of the fridge, so I'm going to eat these for breakfast all week.

I had counted calories while doing the vegan challenge, and I averaged about 1650 per day--but I didn't lose any weight, which surprised me. I was eating so healthy that I thought I'd drop weight for sure! I think the biggest difference between the way I normally eat versus the vegan challenge was that I normally eat a good amount of fat; but when eating vegan, my fat intake was very low in comparison (even while eating avocados, nuts, and seeds).

It's kind of interesting just how different everybody is. My body apparently likes fat when I'm trying to lose weight. Several people asked me if I was getting less protein during the challenge, but I was actually getting about the same amount as usual. I've never been one to eat large amounts of protein though. The biggest difference, like I said, was in my fat intake (I think I get a large amount of fat from dairy, so when you take the dairy away, the fat goes too).

Anyway, I was a little worried I'd binge on all sorts of non-vegan foods when I ended the challenge, but that wasn't the case. I'm continuing to count calories, but I'm listening to my body about what foods I choose to eat. That worked so well for me last year, and it's about as simple as it gets. I'm not as focused on weight loss right now, though--it feels nice not to think about it all the time! Of course, I'd like to get back to goal eventually; but for the first time in my life, I don't feel like I'm in a huge hurry. It's pretty liberating.

It's a good thing I did my long run on Friday, because we got lots of snow last night (and it's still snowing today). The roads were so bad this morning that my parents' church was actually canceled! I'd never heard of church being canceled for weather. Jerry said he saw some accidents on his way home from work, too.

I was thinking I'd go to the rec center and run on the indoor track, but I didn't want to drive (even though it's only a few miles away). Instead, I dusted off the treadmill (seriously, the last time I used the treadmill was in the spring, I think--March?). The kids were playing outside in the snow, so I went out to the treadmill in the garage, and opened up the large garage door. The cold air felt really good, but I didn't have to run on the slippery ground, so it was a nice compromise. I just hoped that the treadmill would still work!

Thankfully, it actually started right up. It's probably going to die any day now, but I'm hoping it'll last through the winter at least. I was curious to see what my MAF pace would be on the treadmill. The only goal for MAF training is to keep my heart rate under 146 bpm, so my pace varies for a number of reasons. I started out at 5.5 mph, which is 11:00/mile--I figured that would feel similar to my outdoor MAF pace.

After a few minutes, my heart rate was only in the 120's! So, I bumped up the speed to 6.0 mph (10:00/mile). My heart rate rose to the high 130's, so I increased the speed to 6.2 mph and my heart rate settled around 143. I couldn't believe it. The incline was set to 0%, so it was naturally easier than outside anyway; but I wasn't expecting such a huge difference. It was actually really cool to be able to move my legs faster than outside, but to keep my heart rate where it should be for MAF training.

My Garmin was showing a pace that was much faster than the treadmill showed, so you can ignore that. My pace for the whole run was right around 10:00/mile according to the treadmill.


At an average heart rate of 140, that's pretty great. This doesn't translate to running outdoors very well, so I'm not going to compare it to my outdoor pace. If I continue to use the treadmill through the winter frequently, I'll just compare the pace separately from my outdoor pace comparison.

I get questions pretty frequently about treadmill running; most often, people want to know if they can effectively train for a race on a treadmill. The answer is yes! While it's good to get in some outdoor running so you can get the feel for it before a race, you can get good workouts on the treadmill. The run I did today is a good example--I was able to run at a faster pace while not exceeding my MAF heart rate, because I find the treadmill to feel easier than outdoor running. My leg turnover was faster, so it's kind of like doing speed work (on a smaller scale). In this way, you're able to work your legs harder without feeling like it's harder, if that makes sense.

This weekend has gone by so quickly! I'm working on a project (it's a gift for someone, so I can't post about it just yet) and I spent a lot of time working on it this weekend. I feel like I just blinked and the weekend is over already. I hope everyone has a great week ahead!

December 8, 2016

14 Days on the Vegan Challenge

Well, Friends... I lasted 14 days on the vegan challenge.

Going into this challenge, I really didn't think it was going to be very difficult for me--I'm not a huge meat person, and certainly I could go five weeks without dairy or eggs, right? All I can really say is that the experience has been very humbling!

I had good days and bad days over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, I felt like the challenge was going to be easy; but more often than not, I really struggled.

Today, I was feeling super nauseous, and the only thing that sounded good to me was meat--which is VERY odd, because I never crave meat! I started doubting everything, including my ability to stick to the challenge and see it through to the end.

And ultimately, I decided to quit the challenge today, on Day 14.

I feel kind of like a loser, since I only managed to get through 14 days; but on the other hand, I don't really regret quitting, either. I did my best, and I now have a whole new respect for vegans. I never realized how big a role dairy played in my diet until doing this challenge! A vegan challenge is something I'd been wanting to try for several years, so I'm glad I finally did it. I wish I'd been able to stick to it for the entire five weeks, but at least I tried.

I'm still sticking to the no alcohol challenge with Bonnie, though. She challenged herself to give up bread, so I don't want to let her down ;)

I've been doing well this week with getting in some miles. I ran Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and today. I plan to run tomorrow, too. For a long time, I was running every day except for Wednesdays and Saturdays, and I liked that schedule. I'd like to try and get back to doing that.

It's been COLD here the past couple of days! This morning, it was super cold and windy (with a "real feel" temp of 9 degrees). I don't mind the cold, but when it's cold and windy, I'm out. After I dropped the kids off at school, I went to the rec center to run on the indoor track.

Running on the track is going to make it more difficult to analyze the MAF heart rate and pace data, because I don't know how accurate my Garmin is in measuring distance without satellites. The sign posted at the track says that 12 laps = 1 mile; but whenever I've used my foot pod in there, it's more like 12.5 laps. Also, I don't know which lane they were measuring when they got 12 laps per mile.

Today, I didn't wear my foot pod because the last time I used just the Garmin with the satellites turned off, the distance seemed to be pretty accurate. I started in the inner lane, and when I hit 12 laps, the distance on my watch said 0.94 miles. I tried the outer lane for six laps, and it read that I'd run more than half a mile. Finally, I tried the middle lane, and 12 laps showed as 1 mile on my Garmin. (Not that it really matters; I was just curious.)

I ran about three miles (39 laps). My average heart rate ended up being 144, with a pace of 11:44 per mile. I'm guessing that's pretty accurate, considering my heart rate and pace lately with the MAF training. We're supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow this weekend, so I'll probably be at the track for a few days at least!

I don't have a photo for this post, so I'll just share this screen shot from a Buzzfeed article I read this morning. I was lying in bed at 5:30 today when I read it, and I just laughed and laughed...

Barcode animals. Hahahaha! I love reading funny tweets--some people are just so clever!

December 4, 2016

One month MAF update

Now that I'm finally settled in to doing this vegan challenge, I can concentrate more on running and the MAF experiment. I had initially said that I was going to do 12 weeks at ONLY my MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate--no speed work at all, just the easy running--and follow my base building plan. Well, I've done the MAF heart rate part, but I haven't been running nearly as much as I should be to experiment with MAF training.

I had friends here for five days a couple of weeks ago, and then I was pretty sick, so I didn't run much the last few weeks. I'm feeling better now, so I'm going to try and run 4-5 times per week (at my MAF heart rate). Here is my running calendar from November:


The green shows the days that I went for a run. It was probably the least running I've done in six years, aside from when I was injured!

I ran five miles yesterday, and my pace was super slow, even for MAF training. My heart rate was constantly getting over 146, but I felt like I was running as slow as I could. In the end, my average heart rate ended up being 147--and it's never supposed to get over 146 for MAF training. I also had a couple of 12:00+ miles in there.

I was feeling energetic this morning, so I decided to go for a run at the state park. Joey was giving me "the look", which I'm a sucker for, and I ended up bringing him with me. He loves running with me! I just hoped that I'd be able to keep my heart rate down while wrangling an excited dog through the park.

Despite all of my training attempts, Joey still pulls on the leash during walks/runs. I didn't put his anti-pull harness on today, because the last time he wore it, it chafed his chest a little bit. I almost gave up and went home during the first mile, but I just hoped he'd settle down once we got into a good rhythm. Still, my heart rate and pace were up and down like crazy. I tried to just focus on my heart rate and keep it under 146.

I tried to get Joey to look at the camera, but he was way too
interested in the geese nearby.

A few miles in, I was about to pass a couple who was walking the same direction that I was running, so I said "Good morning!" as I passed by. A second later, I heard, "Katie?" So I turned around, and was surprised to see Christi, an old co-worker of mine that I hadn't seen in about 11 years! We used to work at Curves together, and I left when I was pregnant with Eli.

It was funny, because I was literally just talking about her to Jerry a couple of days ago. I slowed to a walk and walked along with her and her husband for about half a mile to see how she's been and what she's been up to. Facebook wasn't even really a thing until after I quit working at Curves, so I didn't keep in touch with the women I worked with. Anyway, it was great to run into her, and we mentioned getting together for lunch or something soon.

Shortly after I started running again, there was a man running toward me. I grabbed Joey's leash to keep him close to me, and as the man passed by, he said, "It's great to see you out running again!" The whole interaction was very quick, and I was distracted by Joey, so I didn't get a good look at him and I have no idea who it was. But hearing what he said to me made me kind of miss running as much as I used to. If the man was who I think it may have been, he was probably referring to when I was injured with the stress fracture in 2015. I used to walk Joey at the park pretty often when I was injured (instead of my usual running). A few people asked me why I wasn't running, so I explained to them that I was injured. I think that's what he meant by it being good to see me out running again.

I was kind of surprised to realize that someone actually noticed. People notice when I run and when I don't. I never really thought of that! But I get used to seeing the same people running (either at the park or near my house) so if they suddenly disappeared and I didn't see them for a long time, I would wonder what happened.

Actually, there is a man that runs circles around my neighborhood in the afternoons, and he started doing it a couple of years ago. He would go past my house every day, so I got used to seeing him. I watched as he got thinner, and I was in awe that he never seemed to miss a day of running. Then one day, I saw him run/walking. And then another day he stopped to stretch his knee. And after that, he was wearing knee supports on his runs.

I didn't realize it until I was typing this post just now, but I haven't seen him in a long time. It was probably during the summer that I last saw him, and he was wearing the knee supports. Like me, he probably has no idea that someone notices that he runs!

Anyway, I have no idea where I was going with that. When I realized someone noticed, I just found it motivating to want to continue running. Today, I had only planned to do the five-mile loop; but since I walked half a mile with Christi (and I'd turned off my Garmin for that part), I decided to run the small loop (1.5 miles) after the five-mile loop, to total roughly six miles of running when I was done. And honestly, if I didn't have Joey with me, I probably would have run 8-10 miles--that's how good I was feeling!


My average heart rate ended up being right on the MAF target of 146 bpm, and my pace was faster than yesterday (although not by much). I was hoping that there would be a nice progression (or even regression) in my pace over time, but it has been SO inconsistent.



I don't even want to attempt to make any conclusions yet, because I clearly haven't been running the mileage I would need in order to see progress. For December, I'm going to try and get in 60+ miles, and hopefully that will help the MAF numbers be more consistent for a better analysis.

I know several of you were looking forward to seeing how this MAF experiment goes; so, I'm sorry that I'm off to a bad start, but hopefully this month will be better!

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December 2, 2016

Settling in

We're heading to an ugly Christmas sweater party in a little while, so I'm going to try and squeeze in a quick post...

Things are going much more smoothly with the vegan challenge now that I bought some food from Trader Joe's. I'm actually kind of enjoying it! I tried one of the veggie burgers from Trader Joe's yesterday, and I was VERY skeptical that I would like it. The frozen patty was green from the veggies that are in it, and it just looked gross. But, I'd already bought them, so I figured I might as well give them a try.


Instead of eating the patty on a bun, I decided to chop it up and eat it with rice. I was truly shocked when I tasted the veggie burger, because it was amazing! The flavor reminds me of an egg roll. The patties are only 120 calories, too--I'm going to have to stock up on these the next time I go to Trader Joe's.


I liked it so much that I ate it again today. I will continue to eat these after the vegan challenge is over--they're that good!

I really don't miss meat at all. I do miss dairy, but it's getting easier each day. I've even been having a nightly dessert--Oreos :) Next week, I'll probably start getting a little more adventurous in cooking or baking, but this week was all about getting used to eating vegan.

I've been logging my food, and I was surprised just how much fiber I've been getting every day--probably double what I usually get! My protein has stayed about the same as usual. My carbs are higher, and fat is lower, though. It's been interesting to see the changes in nutrition.

The hardest part has actually had nothing to do with the vegan challenge, but the little deal I made with Bonnie--no alcohol until 2017. I didn't think I'd miss it, but I do! I'd gotten used to having wine almost every night. I actually feel a lot better, though. It's been almost two weeks, and I've been sleeping better and my skin looks better. (I wasn't drinking a ton before, but even one glass of wine affects my sleep and how I feel the next day.) Anyway, I miss my wine, but I think it's good for me to go without for a little while.

Today, Jerry and I went Christmas shopping while the kids were in school. We drove down to Toledo to the mall. Normally, we don't like doing mall shopping, but I happened to have a coupon for free panties at Victoria's Secret, so I wanted to get those. I got a tea from Teavana, and then Jerry and I saw the massage chairs in the middle of the mall. It was $1 for 3 minutes, so I decided to try it. Ahhhh, it was amazing! I want one of those chairs for my house.


I could have sat there all day, but we had to finish our shopping so we could get home for the kids. We got most of our shopping done, so that feels good :)

Now, I've got to go put on an ugly Christmas sweater for the party. Have a great weekend, everyone!

November 29, 2016

Trader Joe's haul

Well, I'm still physically sick with a cold, but I feel a lot better about the vegan challenge, so I'm in a more positive place mentally (and not as crabby!).

Jerry was off work yesterday, and after we took the kids to school, we decided to go to Trader Joe's. I really wanted to get some of their black bean and corn enchiladas. I bought some the last time I went, and loved them! They also happen to be vegan. I had been feeling so frustrated about not having anything quick and easy to eat, so I just wanted to get some convenience items. I know that prepared foods aren't exactly the healthiest choices, but if I'm going to stick to this challenge through the end of December, I need the convenient option once in a while.

Here are the vegan items I picked up at Trader Joe's:


Last year for Christmas, I made an amazing apple cinnamon roll bake for breakfast, and it uses canned cinnamon rolls. I was thrilled to see that I can try making a vegan version of it this year, because Trader Joe's has vegan cinnamon rolls. The other stuff is just to give me some options throughout the month when I need something easy and convenient, so that I don't get frustrated with the whole challenge.

After Trader Joe's, we went to REI. Neither of us had ever been to one before, but I knew it was some sort of sporting good store, so I was curious to check it out. Holy cow, it is such a great store!! There are SO many things for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, which made me wish I was a hiker. But there were also things for runners that I'd never seen in a store before (like a Camelbak--I'd only ever seen those online). I didn't buy anything, but my mental wish list is about a mile long now ;)

As I said on my last post, I headed out for a run when I finished writing it. It didn't go very well! My cold made it feel hard to breathe, and my energy was still zapped, so I ended up just running a lone mile that day. Yesterday, I rested. Today, I'm still feeling sick, but my energy is coming back.

Since I've been resting so much lately, I decided to try running again today. I couldn't believe how nice the weather was!


For being the end of November, I'm shocked that it's been so warm here. I took it very easy on the run (keeping my heart rate under 146 bpm) and my pace was extra slow today, but I was able to do three miles and I felt like I probably could do three more. It felt really good to get some exercise!

I haven't been doing a very good job with the whole MAF experiment. All of my running has been at my MAF heart rate, but I know I'm not doing enough mileage to make a difference. I'm going to try and pick it up now that my energy is getting back to normal.


My friend Dean (a blog reader and Ragnar SoCal teammate) is an ambassador for the Glass City Marathon/Half Marathon/Relay, and he's giving away two free entries to the races. Dean is running the full marathon, and I'm running the relay. It's an awesome race! Anyway, here is the link to Dean's giveaway post if you want to enter to win one of the entries.


Finally, I got an email from a blog reader named Lisa a couple of days ago that totally made my day! I asked her permission to share it. She wrote:
"Hi Katie - I just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing information about Dogs on Deployment. Thanks to you, I am now taking care of a sweet dog for a naval reserve soldier who is in training and will deploy in February, returning in September.  I cannot imagine how stressful training and deployment is on its own, let alone the worry of leaving family, children and pets behind, so it is my pleasure to be able to take one thing off the list of concerns for someone serving our country."
Things like this make me so happy to learn about the good people in the world :)

November 27, 2016

First few days of the vegan challenge

Today marks day three of the vegan challenge. Let's just say it's not going how I'd wished! ;)

If you missed it, I decided to try challenging myself to eat vegan from November 25th through December 31st. (In addition to not eating any animal products, I also chose to give up alcohol--that was an impulsive decision I'm kind of regretting, haha, but still sticking to it).

I'm hoping after a few more days, I'll find it easier to do; but right now, I'm basically just struggling through it in frustration.

In theory, it sounded great--I was looking though vegan recipes, thinking about all the things I could try, and looking forward to it. I'm not even a big meat eater, so I thought that it would be a fairly easy challenge for me. It's the dairy/eggs/honey that are making it difficult, though.

In reality, this challenge requires a TON of planning and preparation. I'm infamous for buying vegetables only to find them rotten in the fridge later because I forgot to use them or I changed my mind about what to cook. So, I like to buy just what I'm going to use that day or the next day. Basically, what I should be doing, is planning out each morning what I'm going to eat for the day, and then stick to that plan. Go buy the ingredients just for the day, and repeat.

Also, I've been sick with a cold (I'm pissed--I JUST got over a cold about a month ago, and now I'm sick again! Usually, I go years between colds). This cold has knocked me on my ass. I've had absolutely NO energy (not because of what I'm eating--I've actually been eating much healthier than normal--but because of the cold itself).

It's actually hard to tell what things are happening because of my cold versus what are happening because of the vegan challenge. For example, my appetite has been very low, and I hardly ever feel hunger. Not sure yet if it's the cold or the challenge causing that. Hopefully it's the challenge! Once this cold goes away, I'll figure it out.

This cold has been making me super crabby, so it's hard to see the positive right now. But I will, as soon as I'm better. Let's hope so, anyway! ;) Tomorrow, the kids go back to school after their Thanksgiving break, so I'm going to hopefully get into a nice routine with this challenge. I can stop at the store after I drop them off to school in the mornings and pick up ingredients for dinner. I started a Pinterest board with recipes that I think will be pretty easy without having to buy a bunch of unusual ingredients.

On Friday, the first day of the challenge, Nathan (my younger brother) invited us out to dinner at Anson's, our favorite pizza place. One of his friends that he was stationed with while in the Army (Nick) was visiting, along with his family, and Nathan wanted everyone to get together for dinner. I didn't want to skip dinner with the family just because of the challenge, so I decided to go with them and order a veggie pizza with no cheese.


It actually wasn't too bad! I would have liked to eat the Reuben pizza (my favorite), of course, but the veggie one was good.

Earlier that day, Nathan wanted to show Nick and his family around Detroit. I'm more familiar with Detroit than Nathan is, so he asked if I'd go with them. Since they were bringing their kids (two boys who are about the same age as Noah and Eli), I took my kids and we all headed up there for the afternoon. We took the People Mover to Joe Louis Arena, and then walked the Riverwalk, crossed to Campus Martius to check out the Christmas tree, and then walked back to the casino, where we'd parked.

Noah and Eli
It was a fun afternoon! I always like going to Detroit.

Yesterday and today, I have done absolutely nothing. I've been resting because I have no energy and I'm hoping this cold will just pack up and go away. Jerry's sick, too, but thankfully the kids aren't! I watched the new Gilmore Girls four-part series yesterday, and I was left wanting SO much more. I'm sad that it's over. I wish I'd turned it off just two minutes before it actually ended, though. I won't spoil it, but if you watched it, then you may feel the same way.

I do have a little more energy today, so after I finish this post, I'm going to head out for a run. If it feels awful, I won't stay out long; but I feel SO lazy after not doing anything all day yesterday or today, and I think a run will make me feel better. Since I'm going MAF training, it'll be an easy run anyway.

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

November 24, 2016

A cozy Thanksgiving

Today felt like such a nice, cozy day for Thanksgiving. The weather was perfect for fall--about 40 degrees and overcast. I got up early, at around 5:00, and went out in the living room to curl under my blanket and play solitaire on my iPad.

Recently, Jerry and I were looking for a new entertainment center (the one we had wasn't even an entertainment center--just cheap shelves). I looked at thrift stores for a long time, but just couldn't find what I had in mind. I would have loved to get one of the entertainment centers with an LED fireplace, but they were expensive, so I hadn't even been considering them.

When I mentioned it to my mom, she offered to give Jerry and me Christmas gift money early so that we could use it toward one of the fireplace entertainment centers. With her gift, we decided to go ahead and get one.

We bought one at Lowe's, and I LOVE it! I've always liked the light given off by a fire; the LED one obviously don't look as good as a real fire, but it's much more convenient, and it actually does look pretty good (in my opinion).


Anyway, this morning was spent cuddled on the couch in the light of the fireplace, playing solitaire, in a silent house (everyone was still asleep). It makes me feel so excited for the colder weather!

My mom asked me to make a pecan pie to take to her house for dessert, so I baked that this morning. Then I decided to head out for a run with Joey.

I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to stick to my low heart rate training while running with Joey, but I really wanted him to come with me. I decided I would just run at a slow pace, even if he pulled hard to get me to move faster. I love the hands-free leash, because it makes it easier to keep my heart rate down (when I had to hold the leash, my heart rate spiked all the time from pulling Joey in all sorts of directions).

We just did a short three-mile route, and it was pretty uneventful. Joey was trying to get me to move faster, but I was stubborn and just held him back to keep my heart rate down. The run felt really easy today, for some reason, and when I was done, I realized why: my pace was in the 12:00's!




I've been sticking with my plan to keep my heart rate at my MAF training zone (under 146 bpm). I think I just might not be running enough mileage to make a difference, though. My pace has been SO inconsistent since I started this training! I had been planning to plot out all of my runs into a line graph, but the inconsistency will make it difficult to see any progress. Instead, I think I'll run the same route once a week (not with Joey!) and compare that run each week. It'll be easier if I'm just comparing one run per week instead of all the runs together, if that makes sense. I'll get in one more week of training, and then write an update on how it's going so far.

I'm actually really looking forward to starting my vegan challenge tomorrow! This morning, I went through my recipes blog to see what meals I have that are already vegan--and there were actually quite a few! (Here is where you can see the recipes)

Lentil and Black Bean Chili
Guacamole
Chick Pea Curry
Taco Soup (omit the chicken)
Cookie Dough Hummus
Crispy Potato Halves
Vegetarian Fajitas
General Tso's Cauliflower (my chicken recipe, just with cauliflower instead of chicken)
Green Monster Smoothie
Granola
Hot Cinnamon Apples
Indian Lentil Soup
Hummus
Lemon Lentil Soup
Mexican Lentils & Rice
Quick Bean Soup
Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Roasted Tomato & Garlic Soup with Barley
Spicy Peanut Noodle Bowls
Beans and Rice
Sweet Potato Wheels
Vegetarian Fried Rice
Pizza Crust
Whole Wheat Tortillas

These are all the recipes on my recipes blog that are already vegan. Bonnie sent me a ton of recipes yesterday as well. It's actually kind of overwhelming! I need to sit down and make a meal plan so I don't get frustrated.

Anyway, we are heading to my parents' house now. Happy Thanksgiving!


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RECIPE: Homemade Taco Seasoning

Ever since I discovered how easy it is to make my own taco seasoning, I no long buy stuff in packets. I've tried several different recipes for it, and it's all very similar; but my favorite is from Emily Bites' Spicy Taco Gnocchi Skillet recipe. I just use the seasonings from that recipe to make my own taco seasoning for other uses as well (with a couple of modifications to my family's taste). I've posted the seasoning recipe here for convenience.

Taco Seasoning

1 Tbsp. chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together in a little bowl or a ziplock baggie. One recipe is the perfect amount for one pound of meat.

RECIPE: Spicy Taco Gnocchi

This has become one of my very favorite recipes! I thought the gnocchi sounded so odd with taco seasoning, but I'm glad I tried it. This is a modified version of a recipe by Emily Bites. The portion size on this looks tiny (a scant cup!) but it is surprisingly very filling. I'm always satisfied after eating it. I have also made this with pasta instead of the gnocchi, and it tastes just as good. Just cook the pasta separately, and add it to the rest of the dish afterward.


Spicy Taco Gnocchi Skillet

One recipe of taco seasoning:
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. butter
1 package (16 oz) of gnocchi
1 pound of lean ground turkey (93/7)
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 oz can of Rotel tomatoes (or salsa)
1 cup beef broth
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
4 oz. full-fat cheddar cheese

Prepare taco seasoning by mixing all ingredients in a small dish. Set aside.

Heat skillet over medium high heat and melt butter in skillet. Add the gnocchi, and cook for a couple of minutes until gnocchi starts to brown a little. Set gnocchi aside in a bowl.

Add the onions to the skillet, and cook for a couple of minutes until they soften. Add the ground turkey to the skillet, and break it up as it browns. Add the seasoning mix, salsa, broth, and corn, as well as the reserved gnocchi. Bring just to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Add the sour cream and cheese, and stir. Portion into six bowls (about 1 cup each).

RECIPE: Lentil and Black Bean Chili

This is a Weight Watchers recipe, and my whole family actually really loved it. I cut back on the spices a little because of my kids. We topped it with a little cheese and sour cream.

Lentil & Black Bean Chili

1-1/2 cups dry lentils (preferably French variety, but regular green lentils will work too)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
29 oz. can of diced tomatoes (fire roasted with chiles)
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook lentils by placing in a pot and cover with water (a couple of inches above the level of the lentils). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat at simmer until lentils are tender, but not too soft (about 12 minutes).

While lentils are cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Cook the onions, bell pepper, and garlic in the oil until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and cover the skillet. Let simmer 5-10 minutes, and then add the lentils. Stir and divide into 6 portions to serve.

November 23, 2016

A holiday challenge

I've been thinking about this and thinking about this, having been totally unsure if I wanted to move forward with it. I know that if I make it public, then I'll be committed to finishing it, which is probably why I haven't mentioned it. I just wanted to be 100% sure I want to do it.

I used to do monthly challenges for myself, and somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit of doing them. Right now, I haven't really been focused on anything. Last year, I was hardcore into getting down to my racing weight and then training for my 10K; this year, I'm loosely counting calories, trying to lose the summer weight, but not really putting much effort into it.

And to be honest, I like it this way. I look "normal" at this size, and I don't have to watch very closely what or how much I'm eating. I haven't gained anything this fall. Maybe I'll feel like working harder at it again in a few months, but right now, I am pretty content, even with the extra pounds.

Anyways, back to the challenge. I've always liked challenges that are from 2-6 weeks long. Any longer, and I tend to lose interest before it's over. When my friends were here over the weekend, Bonnie and I each agreed to give up a vice of ours for the rest of the year. She chose bread, and I chose alcohol. This challenge wasn't too difficult to agree to. I like alcohol, of course, but I will survive month without it ;)

The REAL challenge is something I'd been thinking about trying for a long time: eating vegan for a month!

As I mentioned, Bonnie is vegan; she shared a lot of her favorite foods and meal ideas with us, and they sounded really good. I have no interest in becoming vegan permanently, but to try it for a month will be kind of fun (and definitely challenging)!

The hardest part for me is not giving up meat, but giving up dairy! I love cream--ice cream and cream-based sauces. Also, even though I'm not a huge cheese person (I don't just sit down and each cheese by itself), I do like pizza, macaroni and cheese, and scrambled eggs with cheese, etc.

Instead of focusing on the things that vegans don't eat, I'm going to try to just think about all the foods that vegans do eat. When I was at Bonnie's house on Labor Day weekend, she made a mock-tuna salad that I was very skeptical would taste good. I do love to taste new things, though, so I was open minded and gave it a try. I was shocked at how good it was! Chick peas take the place of the tuna, and she used some kelp powder (I think that's what she said it was) that gives it a mild tuna taste. I would eat that whether I was vegan or not--it was that good!

I've had this vegan cookbook called Thug Kitchen in my pantry for a while, and I've never used it, so I'm going to dust it off and try some recipes. I've heard really great things about this cookbook.



Since I'm going to be trying lots of new things, it'll also give me something fun to blog about. I thought the idea of doing the challenge between Thanksgiving and the New Year sounded better than just for December; so, it'll be a little over a month, but the plan is to do it from November 25th-December 31st (36 days). I don't have any plans going on for the rest of the year (other than a couple of family things) so now is the perfect time to try this challenge.

I'm not really sure what I'm hoping to get out of doing this. I like doing challenges because it gives me a focus and something to work toward. Also, it tests my discipline; and it feels good to complete something difficult. In the end, I hope that I will enjoy vegetables more, and maybe branch out my meal rotation a bit. It'll be a fun experiment, if nothing else.

Well, I hope that everyone has a nice Thanksgiving! My mom is cooking dinner, so we are going to her house. My brothers are going to be there, too. Should be fun! :)