Taco Tuesday!

I’m really bad at meal planning. I try so hard to get ideas together for the week. But I do have at least one guarantee: Every Tuesday we have Tacos.

How could you not love delicious, healthy, spicy things wrapped in the perfect tortilla vessel.

So tonight, you get my Taco “recipe.” And yes, that’s “recipe” in quotes, because it’s very general, and I tend to just throw things together. Sorry I don’t have any fancy pictures to go along with it. But I think you all know what this stuff looks like. So, here goes.

– 1 can black beans (I’m vegetarian, so this is what I use for protein,  you can also use ground turkey or beef).
– spices: cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, paprika, coriander, oregano, cayenne (if desired)
– Lettuce, Tomato, avocado, Cheese of choice (Cheddar and Colby Jack are our favorites)
– Salsa!
– Tortillas (We like Tortilla Land tortillas. They come uncooked, and have fewer chemical ingredients than most other packaged tortillas).

Really simple things make great meals. I always drain and rinse the beans. And then add the spices. About 1 tbsp cumin and chili powder, and 1 tsp of everything else – but there’s really no strict amount. You like the flavor of coriander a lot? Use more! The spices are the most important part. They’re what gives the entire taco their flavor.
I cover the beans/spices with water, stir, and set on the stove to simmer. They can simmer for as long as you’d like. The longer they go, the more flavor they have.

Assembling tacos is pretty self explanatory – hopefully you’ve got your tomatoes, lettuce and avocado chopped. I hope that’s a given. I feel like everyone has their own order for building. So have at it and enjoy!

Mind Games

Tonight, I struggled to even want to get a mile in. It was a long (but good) day between entertaining, work, and more friend time this evening. It was tempting to just crawl in to bed.

But then I began thinking about it. It’s Monday night, which means it’s basically Tuesday, which means that it’s almost Wednesday, which means that we’re just about half way through this week. And Run Streak ends after Saturday, which means that I will  be really disappointed if I give up this close to the end.

Mind Games. Did you notice that?

Mind games can come in handy when you’re trying to convince yourself to keep going during a race. I play them with myself all the time, especially during long races. I think that our runner brains have ways of dealing with the illogical feat of running such long distances, of dealing with the pain, of continuing to just move forward. Sometimes we require convincing. It all comes down to the brain.

I often find myself breaking distances and times down into smaller bits, such as the example above where I thoroughly convinced my poor runner brain that Monday is almost like being half way through the week.

Runner Logic. It is a grand and interesting thing.

So, happy hump day friends, from the mind of a runner.

What do you do to get yourself through a long race, or a difficult stretch of miles? Do you play the same games?

10 Running Related Personal Questions

So I’ve begun to think about how I would interview someone about their running life. I’d like to do so while on the run, but I realize that might bit a bit difficult. I think I’m going to try it. It’s going to be a Saturday thing.

I was thinking about this as I was vacuuming at work the other day. We have so many incredible people in our running community, and so many inspiring stories. I’d be honored to share even just a few. I hope to begin this process this coming Saturday.

As I was thinking, I began to wonder what questions to ask. And I thought of a few of my own, but also decided that I might try to Google search for some more ideas, and that’s when I found this: 10 Running Related Questions Personal Questions from Another Mother Runner.

And I thought it’d be fun to answer them myself. So here it goes:

1. Best run ever: I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve had a lot of good runs, but I think I can qualify the best run ever as one that took place in Marquette, Michigan. My husband and I were up there visiting friends and I was training for my first half-marathon and 25k with the training group. I was set to do 9 that weekend. I thought it would be awesome to run along the lake shore in February. So I set out on a cool, brisk day (the temperature was -2 before windchill), and ran one of the most epic runs I have ever had. The span of path that I followed runs right along Lake Superior, which was appropriately frozen that time of year. I ran around Presque Isle (and stopped in a public restroom to thaw out a bit). I just remember being so struck by the beauty of my surroundings. I still miss that path.

2. Three words that describe my running: Joyful, Fun, Corgi-like

3. My go-to running outfit is: A pair of CW-X 3/4 length compression tights, Smartwool Socks, and whatever INKnBURN top fits my mood that day.

4. Quirky habit while running: This is something I was just discussing on Saturday. We all have our own quirky little things. Mine happen to be turn around points. There’s a route from my house that is just over a mile, and when I run it, I have to touch the red part of the sidewalk before I can turn around. There are other points like this as well on other routes that I run often.

5. Morning, midday, evening: Evening. I’m not a morning person. I go Midday when I can, but I usually prefer evening (especially if I can run while the sun is setting).

6. I won’t run outside when it’s: There’s almost no time that I won’t run outside. Lightening storms are one time when I typically won’t go out, but almost nothing else deters me. Rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor ice.

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: I’ve only been running for 3 years, and I’ve yet to have an injury that has taken me out completely (knock on wood). As of right now, the inner part of my right knee hurting for no apparent reason has been the worst thing to happen.

8. I felt most like a badass runner when: I finished the Wisconsin Marathon, and turned around and ran the Kalamazoo Marathon the next day – and finished it in under 5 hours.

9. Next race is: Lake Shore Miracle Run on July 11. The toughest race you’ll ever love. A trail run, a beach run, and a run up a sand dune all in one. What more could a girl ask for?

10. Potential running goal for 2016: That’s a long time away. I think a good goal for me is just sticking to two marathons a year, and trying to get faster for them. I’m doing better at that this year, but I’ll still have 3 under my belt by the end of it. I want to improve. I’m still chasing that elusive (to me) sub 4 hour time. If I don’t get it this year, next year will be the year to do it.

I’m hoping to ask my fellow runners some of these questions, as well as having some organic conversation with them. I hope it will be as fun for them and for you as it is for me.

Why Running With a Group Rocks!

When I started running just over 3 years ago now, I was alone. I remember shuffling up and down the lake shore in Marquette, headphones firmly planted in my ears, head down, and huffing and puffing all by myself. I didn’t have anyone but myself to push me. And that’s not a bad thing – but there’s another way. A better way, in my humble opinion – and that is to run with others.

There wasn’t, so far as I knew a group available to beginners in Marquette. There may have been groups who met to run, but they were not made public knowledge, at least not to my limited circle. I had no friends interested in joining me, so I did what I had to do.

And then I moved back to lower Michigan, just six months after beginning my running journey. I had 2 5k races under my belt. I felt pretty awesome, and I really wanted to keep going.

I don’t even remember how I stumbled on it. I think I was browsing gazellesports.com (my awesome local running shop) one day, and happened to see or click on a link that led me to a page about 25k training. “I’ve run a 5k,” I thought to myself. “I can do more!” So I asked, for Christmas, to be signed up for Run Camp, a gift graciously granted to me by my parents.

I had no idea what I was in for. That first season was rough, mostly because I had never ever run in the winter before. I had no idea about shoes or gear or anything else. But I kept going. Why? Because I had a network now – a support group. There were team leaders who were so very encouraging that it was hard not to show up (even after one of them almost made me puke after running so hard up a hill on the first day).

It was also a way to meet people with a similar interest. Not only did the Team Leaders expect and hope for you to show up, but the others in the group depended on you as well. You notice when faces are missing – and when you don’t see someone for a run, you badger them a bit to see where they’ve been. We support each other, and thus we are strong.

Not only have I met some awesome people, but hearing their stories continues to inspire me. Runners really are some amazing and encouraging folks. Everyone has a different why, and different goals, and different reasons for being there – and yet we are all able to work together toward a common goal: getting to the end of that race. Certainly some have time goals, some have goals of completing a new distance, and some are in it for the social aspect – but in the end we are all there to do one thing, and that is to run.

In the grand scheme of things, I would not be where I am today if I had not found this group. I’d probably be lost. Sunk. I most likely would not have continued. It’s because of them that I am still running. It’s because of the encouragement I get from others, and the encouragement I’m able to give to others – A two way street, if you will.

So the top three reasons why you should create or join a running group:

1) Encouragement – Those around you working toward the same goals are there for you.

2) Accountability – We hold each other accountable for showing up and sticking to the workout

3) Different Levels, Different Experiences, Different Stories – You can learn a lot from those around you, especially those who have run a number of races. Mistakes can be avoided. But even those who are new to the sport have something to add, weather they know it or not. Knowledge is valuable.

There are a myriad of other reasons why running with a group rocks. But most of all I love the positive energy. It’s what pulls me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to go get a long run done. I love the stories, I love the encouragement. If I am ever in doubt of what I can do, all I have to do is look around. These people show me what is possible every single time I go out with them.

If you ever want to join us here in West Michigan and see what we’re all about, you can find the information about the program online at  http://gazellesports.com/wp/training-programs/

I love my Gazelles.

For the Love of my Running Shoes

It’s almost time to retire my trusty pair of New Balance Borocay. I’ve had them since March, and they’ve got around 350 road miles on them. The lined purple upper is starting to tear. The white of the sole is no longer pearly. The sole just doesn’t support my foot the same any longer.

I spend all day convincing people that it’s time to replace their shoes. And it’s not a lie. I know better. I know when it’s time. I can feel the aches and pains in my feet starting. I can feel the fact that they just aren’t the same any longer. The still have some little life left in them, but for the sake of my body, it’s nearly time for them to go.

They’ve been through so much with me. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt such affinity for a shoe. This is the longest I’ve run in one pair – a testament to how much I’ve enjoyed them. They ran me through some of my marathon training, and consequently through two marathons in a row. Yes, I wore the same shoes both days. They ran me through the puddles a River Bank this year, they have run me through any training I’ve done since.

They still have some of their sparkle, some of their sheen, I still love the lines and contours, blue N that fades to green, the teal color of the lining, the purple of the upper.

It’s not that I don’t love new running shoes. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of slipping on a new pair of sneakers. The swish as your foot slips in, the soft, cushioned feel. They joy of the first run in something new. It’s only then that you realize the true need to replace.

But I’ve always gotten attached to good pairs of shoes. I used to be one of the kids that would wear huge holes in shoes and refuse to throw them away because they had been such faithful friends. I still feel the same.

If these shoes could talk, the’d say so much. They’d tell of sloshing through spring puddles, and dodging worms. They’d tell of sunshine and flowers, of birds and fireflies, of sunrises and sunsets.

If their tongues could talk they’d share some secrets, pour out some of the words that I poured in to them while running solo. They could speak of stories told by others, wise words of wisdom shared while running long.

They could tell of the pain and pressure of marathon running, and the endless hours spent training. They could share the misery of cold, and the joy of the first nice days of spring and summer.

The splish splash of puddles run through River Bank 25k, and the squelch of mud. There may have even been an incident during that race where I kicked a mole (or rat according to some) that scurried under foot and then off in to the grass.

They could tell of triumphs, and defeat – and of getting back up and trying again, and again, and again.

So here’s to you, running shoe. Thank you for faithfully supporting me for the last 3.5 months.  Thank you for always being there for me, my constant support, my friends.

My fingers crossed that the next to come along will be as magnificent as you were.

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Out of Gas

Do you ever have those days where you wake up and feel like your tank is already on or near empty? The days where the thought of sleeping just 5 more minutes (10 more minutes, 15 more minutes, 20 more minutes) and skipping breakfast and certain parts of your daily routine is tempting?

I was there this morning. Up and running on E, coasting on fumes. Breakfast didn’t help, coffee didn’t help (you may collectively gasp on that one). It’s hard to get up and face life the day after returning from a fabulous vacation. I love my job, and my house (most of the time) and many aspects of daily life, but the break was fantastic.

So what do I do to refill? To energize when nothing else works?

I focus on the good things, on other people, and I exercise.

This morning I had several awesome interactions with customers, and got to hear their stories and their goals. There was one in particular that stood out, though it wasn’t my interaction and I don’t have permission to share – we will leave it at this man was completely inspiring.

And of course I got to get back to some sort of routine in my workouts tonight. Boot Camp both kicked my butt and made me smile. I have a sick and twisted sense of fun sometimes (which is why I’m a distance runner).

We also had some completely fantastic tacos for dinner. Of course they may have just been that awesome because I was so hungry by the time I got back from the gym and then my run that I was about ready to chew my own arm off.

And tonight I will try to go to sleepy early. Get a good night’s rest. And hopefully feel refreshed tomorrow morning. Getting back in to a routine after time away is hard, but both mandatory and worth it.

What do you do when you feel low on energy? What helps you dig yourself out of the hole?

A Return to the Norm

The sun has set on another beautiful day. And alas, we are home. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The remainder of the time we spent in Traverse was absolutely gorgeous. We wandered downtown, ate some good food, and shopped a little.

There was joy in sitting in the sunshine eating Moomer’s Ice cream and watching people as they passed, carrying bags of cherry goods, or clothing, or chachkies.

And while a small portion of our lives is still packed in bags currently sitting on the floor, it’s good to be home. Our dog is glad to have us back, and the cat, well he’s tolerating us again.

After sitting in the car all day, I was glad to get out for a run this evening after unloading everything from the back of our vehicle.

The sun was just setting and the sky was a brilliant golden color. My feet flew down the familiar route. It’s nice to be able to focus on pace instead of path when you know a place. Instead of having to think about every single turn, it just comes naturally. It’s familiar. It’s home.

The sky faded to orange, and then a luminous pink. And then the best part – thousands of fireflies lit the way for me. They are finally everywhere. I first noticed them in the woods by the spot where I turn around, just a few faint glimmerings. And then as I ran back, I noticed them on lawns, in fields, drifting over the roads. I love that they are back and out in force. I was glad to be running through their twinkling lights in the setting sun.

So am I glad to be home? Yes and no. But, there is beauty here, just as there was up there. And I will take what I can get.

Tomorrow it is back to work, and back to real life. And I think that I am ready.