Author Archives: Heather

{September} 30-Day Plank Challenge

We’re fans of monthly challenges, and it started with the “300 Burpees!” challenge in July, which I miserably failed. And I’m okay with that, because they’re BURPEES. And man, they are no fun. I may have made it to 150 or so before just being like, NO MORE. Nope.

August flew by and when September neared, he suggested we join his CrossFit gym’s 30-day plank challenge.

Planks! Yes! I love those. I’m in.

2014-09-03 17.11.41

The ‘rules’ are simple: 30 days – 100 minutes of plank holds

You could do side-planks, forearm and/or regular. Do it at home, the gym, the beach, or wherever suits you.

According to ACE  (not to be confused with the hardware store or education council), this is on the list of Top 10 Exercises for ab and back strength + endurance. It can also help build strength for push-ups, as it’s the same form and activates the same muscles. They’re easy to incorporate to any fitness routine because this exercise requires no equipment – just drop, get your form right, and HOLD.

    1. Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
    2. Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows.
    3. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels.
    4. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle.

Source: http://exercise.about.com/od/abs/ss/abexercises_10.htm

Start with 20-30 seconds and see how it feels. Make sure your lower back isn’t sinking; suck in your abs and extend your legs all the way through your heels. Work up to 60 seconds, and then see where that goes!

Kate, in her infinite competitive spirit, posted a plank picture to me and very nonchalantly commented that it was a 4-minute hold. In the spirit of the challenge, I obviously had to give that a try…and then some…

2014-09-08 09.09.59

This just about killed my arms, shoulders, abs, back, legs….but now I know I can hold it for more than 4 minutes!

She countered with 6:03 and a smile on her face. THAT GIRL.

——

If you want in, just say so and hop to it! Use the #30daysofplank hash-tag, and tag me if you want to be held accountable ( @heatherdcRD – Instagram). Get up to 100 minutes however you choose to; start day 1 anytime; record your progress wherever you want. The point is just to challenge yourself, and see what you can do.

So far we have: Alex (@alexandramph), Kate, this guy and me.
You up to it, too?

3 Comments

Filed under challenges, new things!, strength train too!

Trail Hog Half-Marathon: Comin’ Round to the Mountains

After completing two 10Ks on the trails in the past two months, and a little nudge from the coach to look up a half-marathon for September, we decided to step it up a notch. His race-searching skills are not to be messed with..

Of course my naive logic assumed that since that I’m trained beyond what I need for 13.1 miles, this should be no big thang! The plan was to race, not just run. Yep, I can do that, too!  The elevation chart didn’t look too bad, I mean, as far as trail races go….

2014-09-06 07.55.01 trailhoghalf_mikestart

trailhog half elevation garmin

As you can see, things started off really well! And by well, I mean quickly going from a run to a walk, to an uphill crawl, to sweet relief that at least the worst incline was already done.

trailhoghalf_M1 trailhoghalf_H3

Once we finally got through the first few miles, and my ego was dust-covered but not yet destroyed, it was pretty smooth sailing. The first aid station greeted us right after mile 2. Usually I stick with my own water, but this day was already proving to be a no-messing-around adventure, so I happily took a big cup of icy H2O.

There was a 4.5 mile gap between this and the next life elixir.

2014-09-06 08.27.37

The half-marathon runners started 15 minutes before the 10k and 30 minutes before the 5K, but our loops mixed with theirs at one point. This is the biggest trail race we’ve run in California so far, which meant I finally got to enjoy the company and competition of fellow runners for most of the course (vs. just the beginning and/or end)!

We passed mile marker 5 / 12 and then 6 / 13, and I thought well at least I know exactly how the last 1.5 miles look! Then we split. As everyone else headed toward the Finish line, we turned to complete the next 6+ miles

trailhoghalf_H4

I spent most of the last half chasing, passing and then getting passed by the same handful of athletes. We all had different strengths on the course, and likely a few different goals (as it goes), but a similar stamina. I took advantage of every aid station, rationing my water and opting for the “Sports Mix!” for a little boost of electrolytes and flavor.

The hills throughout this last loop threw me off. ‘Scuse me, sirs, but according to that chart you should be shorter and less abrasive!  I assure you no hill feels short or friendly at this point, and I repeatedly tried to run up, only to stop, walk, and conserve the little energy + heart-capacity left. As the incline begins to soften and you can see it flatten out, that’s when I make the legs run again. There is no wasting a flat section, or adding any more time than is absolutely necessary between me and brunch!

trailhoghalf_H_13mi

What I kept telling myself: the stretch between miles 12 – 13 isn’t too bad, you’ve already run it, you know what to expect!

What was actually true: by the time we actually hit those miles, and ran that stretch again, it all seemed different. The slight incline felt like a hill. The mile felt like two. The finish line couldn’t possible be close if my legs won’t move any faster than this.

That last picture is a shuffle up and around a corner; the mental battle script would read “move, food, brunch, water, move, food, MOVE”. The only reason I cared that I walked in the last half-mile is because once I slowed my momentum to get up the tiny inclines, it felt harder to walk than to run. So tricky, these trails!

2014-09-06 11.03.03

SWEET, SWEET, Finish Line. You never disappoint.

trailhoghalf_finishH

13.4 miles – 2:08:43 – avg. 9:33 min/mile
2nd – F25-29

40th / 178 overall

There are a lot of great things about racing the trails vs. the roads, and high on that list is the food spread you see afterward. These athletes certainly know how to put the calories right back in with a buffet of sweet, salty and refreshing options – if you happen to leave a trail race hungry, that’s on you.

2014-09-06 10.57.58 2014-09-06 10.37.48
2014-09-06 10.27.06

Medals all around! Dan took 1st in his AG for his first trail 10K, and Mike snatched up 3rd in M30-35 along with 13th place overall. Fast dudes, unite!

As always, a huge thanks to the organizers and volunteers! Brazen Racing seems well-known in this ‘hood and put on a great event. We’ll be back!

5 Comments

Filed under about me

{Paleo} Vegan Eggplant Pizzas

In my continued quest to befriend the eggplant, we went down a road that never fails a single taste-bud test: the pizza. We don’t cook according to any labels, but this recipe happens to be gluten-free, vegan- and Paleo-friendly.

Yes, even a  bacon-loving, 1/4-a-cow-in-the-freezer* dude eats “vegan” meals every once in a while. Veggies hold a high power in this house!

The trick with using an eggplant “crust” is this vegetable’s affinity for moisture. To avoid total mush, start by slicing your eggplant, placing the rounds (~1 inch thick) on a paper towel and salting. Let this sit for about 20-30 minutes. If you’re impatient and cook on a time budget like me, even 10-15 minutes will help.

Then, turn your oven on and hop to it!

Vegan Eggplant Pizzas

1 medium eggplant, sliced (1-inch thick rounds)
~3 Tbsp olive oil

Toppings:
Vegetables of choice!
We went with sautéed yellow squash and red onions.

Sauce:
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I usually go with Muir Glen)
Salt/Pepper, Thyme, Oregano – to taste
2 leaves fresh basil
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375*. Drizzle olive oil over the eggplant slices; roast for 15 minutes. During this time, prep and/or sauté your vegetables (if you like them cooked first – skip this step if you want them crispy). Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor, or high-power blender, and blend/pulse until smooth.

Remove the eggplant slices and top with sauce + veggies. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. 

2014-09-04 18.36.20

As you can see, we got a bit distracted by the guac-master’s other creation of the night. So, that also happened.

——-

As with any pizza, the options are endless and totally up to the season’s harvest, your taste and/or dietary preferences. But as mentioned above, this was a meat-free dinner for the meat-lover in our house, and I heard no complaints! You could even cut these into fourths and make them a party-pleasing appetizer. Either way, the eggplant wins, yet again.

Leave a Comment

Filed under dinners, gluten free, Nutrition, recipes, vegetarian

Convert Confessions: Why I Train+Coach by Heart Rate

If I could talk some sense into 24-year-old me, who gave the “heart-rate training” a try but promptly dropped it because ‘why the heck would I run SO SLOWLY?!’, I’d do it. In a heart beat.

I confess: I’ve been converted. I’ve become dependent on twice the gear and technology that you would have found me wearing as early as two years ago. I’m that runner who checks my watch, quite frequently. I’m the gal who you’re probably passing on the trails, but won’t let it bother me. I’ve become a slave to the training plan, the slow and easy runs, the long hours on the road and the philosophy that “less is more”.

Because it works.

——————–

Dictionary:

HR: Heart rate.
HRM: Heart rate monitor.
MAF: Maximum Aerobic Function (Threshold).

——————–

Polar-HRM_running
((My gear: Polar RC3GPS watch and HRM))

I started this year off on a totally different path, wanting a Coach to guide me and teach me something new about the sport of running. I reached out to a friend, curious about how this might work, and promptly answered “okay, I’m in!” when she said, “Work with me!”.

Trickster: she said it would just start out with some HR, a little bit of running by time vs. mileage, and we’ll just see how it goes.

What actually happened: I trained for the Charlottesville marathon solely by HR, MAF and a lot of TrainingPeaks logging. You’re smooth, Coach. Really smooth.

cvillemarathon_done.coach

Was it my fastest marathon? Holy geeze, not even close. Was it my best executed? No. Doubt. Whatsoever. Would I have done my training differently? Yep, and it would have done more harm than good.

I learned what it means to build your aerobic base, prioritize training needs, minimize stress, listen to the body, and train my legs to run no matter how ridiculously fatigued they felt. And that meant that in mile 24, as we climbed another ridiculous hill and, mentally, I wanted it to be over 10 miles ago, I was passing people.

While I wasn’t thrilled with my time, I had faith in what brought me there. Left to my own devices, that race would have destroyed me even more than it did.

2014-07-28 15.36.13

What’s all this HR, HRM, MAF stuff about, anyway?

For endurance athletes in any sport, training your aerobic system is more important than anything (aside from managing and minimizing stress). Monitoring your heart rate allows you to objectively measure individual runs and your progress throughout training. Shutting pace out of your head for 90% of your training runs, and basing everything on effort, allows your body to do what it’s capable of on that day and in that moment.

Running at or below your Max Aerobic Function/Threshold allows you to develop your aerobic muscles and systems. The more time you spend doing this, the better. (Don’t worry, there’s some speed, hill and interval work thrown in there when you’re ready!) Your aerobic system functions primarily off of fat for fuel, meaning it’s got juice for days! Your anaerobic system relies on sugar, meaning you tap out quickly. When you give your aerobic system just enough stress, through training, you build its efficiency, therefore, your speed.

There ya go!

Uh, why would I run slow to go fast?

I had a come-to-your-freaking-senses moment in March, about one month out from my Spring marathon and far from any shred of sanity related to this HR crap. Coach gave me a 3-hour long run on Saturday with some GMP-work mixed in and it was one of my favorite runs. I felt exhausted at the end and thought, “OMG FINALLY.”

Then, the next day, I had an 8K race (which Coach knew about, of course). My instructions were simply, “warm-up for 20 minutes, STORM THE CASTLE, then cool-down and do a shake-out jog for 10 minutes”. And my brain was all like, “This chick is crazy.”

I ran 30 seconds off my 8K PR, which was set while chasing Kate two years ago and seemed almost untouchable to me on that day. Until it wasn’t.

I had been running so So SO slowly, and yet I could still run fast.
OH, GOT IT.

————-

Fast-forward to June: I had thoroughly recovered from Charlottesville, raced a trail 5K, a road 10K and started packing up for a cross-country move. I also found out I got into the Marine Corps Marathon Lottery. Time for another rodeo!

This time around? I honor it. I trust it. I know how my body will respond, when to listen to it, when to shut the tantrum up and when to just give a little and leave the watch at home. I know how to be truly disciplined, discovering more and more things about a sport that I love unconditionally.

I put in the work, walk when I have to and mentally talk myself out of the days when it just doesn’t click. Something, some system, is trying to say I’M TIRED or THAT ROAD TRIP WAS TOO LONG or I DIDN’T ASK FOR THAT FROYO and because these are all my actions and it’s okay, I will listen.

2014-08-09 10.22.06

————-

To solidify my convert status, I’ve taken my RRCA Running Coach certification and added in MAF/HR-based training. I’m coaching my first few athletes this way and having a small internal party every time I see progress for them. Go, go, go! It just makes sense. So far I have my favorite dude training for a Boston Qualification, and winning local trail races in the meantime.

This type of training requires a lot of you, the athlete: patience, discipline, and perhaps most importantly, faith. It means you have to bury your ego, until it’s ready to toe the starting line (and then let it get all of that pent up energy out!). It means you have to be ready to see what else your sport has to teach you. And then let that work some sciencey-magic!

————-

It’s not easy, but why should it be?
What will challenge you, will change you.

3 Comments

Filed under learning, marathon, new things!, running, training

One-Dish Meal: Spicy Thai Basil Eggplant Recipe

If there’s one thing I’m confident with in the kitchen, it’s a one-dish meal. I’m all for efficiency, simplicity and easy clean-up! While I love home-cooked meals, and don’t mind cooking them myself, I steer clear of complicating things.

2014-08-10 19.04.52-1

Here’s the deal: I do not love eggplant. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, it can be very tough on the jaw, and it dries out very quickly.

But every vegetable deserves a fair chance in this world! I DO love ordering the eggplant dish at Thai restaurants, and that just flat-out baffles me. How do they do it?! It’s always soft, and edible, and flavorful (read: spicy!), and delicious. I order it without reserve; I know they’ll nail it and I’ll want another plateful for leftovers (because no, there are no leftovers).

I’m growing basil plant #5 in the backyard and it was begging for an excuse to be harvested. I picked up an eggplant at Trader Joe’s and thought, “Okay, let’s do-si-do one more time…”

Spicy Thai Basil Eggplant
Makes ~4 servings, or 2 big ones

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 eggplant, chopped into cubes
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Basil, to taste (~3/4 cup fresh leaves, chopped)
1 can(15 oz)  fire-roasted tomatoes
2-3 cups fresh greens: arugula, spinach OR kale (optional)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (if you really like that spice!)
Optional: top with sunflower, sesame and/or pumpkin seeds

Heat the coconut oil over medium in a large sauté pan (or wok). Add garlic, stirring for 1 minute. Add red onions; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add eggplant, tomatoes, sesame oil and seasonings (cayenne). Continue cooking this mix until the eggplant softens (8-10 minutes); add 1/8 – 1/4 cup water if it looks dry. Stir in the basil and greens; cook until softened.

Top with seeds for extra crunch, flavor and healthy fats!

2014-08-10 19.07.22Suggested summer pairing: Water + Watermelon Ale (not mixed together), to quench the spice and your thirst.

Eggplant, you’ve redeemed yourself! I think you have basil, spices and tomato juice to thank. But we’ll take it.

——

What’s your favorite one-dish meal?

1 Comment

Filed under dinners, food, Nutrition, recipes