Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Fever

Yup. This is how I'm feeling:

Give me one warm run -tank top, shorts, no gloves, a ray of hope that summer is on the way, and it simply just kills my enthusiasm to run once the weather turns cold again. And since I live in the mountains, the temperatures inevitably sway back and forth before becoming warm for good. After all, it's not that uncommon to have snow here in southwest Virginia in early April.

Lucky for me, the weather at Terrapin Mtn was PERFECT. I have no complaints. In the days before the race, it snowed. There were still some residual patches of snow/ice on the course. The day after the race, it snowed A LOT. Race day, perfectly chilly but not too cold. The sun was shining over the mountains and it gave me hope that spring is just around the corner.

Yup, this was my yard one day post-50k. Glad we missed out on running through this!!
Pic courtesy of my hubby.
So yea, this is just my post to say "warm weather please hurry up!!" Though I am loving the longer days. It's so nice to have more time after work to get in my run, and more natural light to take pics of my food :)

Speaking of which, I've been trying to "trick" my body into thinking the weather is warm with some "spring-like" foods:

Asian Slaw by Once Upon a Chef

(this was amazing... I made a huge container of it and literally had to take it away from the hubby before he ate it all in one sitting)

Mini Fruit Pizza: Naan bread topped with hazelnut cream cheese, strawberries and walnuts. This made for a great quick dinner for the hubby when I didn't feel like cooking.

These are from a tea party we had with my residents! They LOVE their tea and cookies. 
And the colors are so happy and cheery!

For everyone with spring fever, hang in there!! It's almost (fully) here!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Race Report: Terrapin Mountain 50k

In the two weeks leading up to this race, I was feeling pretty horrible. Life + training had caught up to me and wiped me out. I hit a wall and each day all I wanted to do was sleep. My runs were a struggle much more so than usual – I was short of breath and my pace much slower. Needless to say, I was not feeling too confident about running 31 miles including 7,500ft of elevation gain, much more than I’ve ever run or trained on. The good news is, I went into this race very well rested. My fatigue caused me to taper much more than normal, probably a blessing in disguise. Regardless, I opted to run this one “for fun”- to not worry about my pace or placement and enjoy the course and views (which I had heard were stellar).

We arrived Friday night and picked up our packet, pitched a tent, chatted for a while before hitting the sack early. Thanks to daylight savings, it was really nice to arrive and do all this with the sun still shining. We were in bed by 8:30 as all I really wanted to do was sleep! I joked to Jordan that the next day I would just sleep while he ran and see him at the finish .

I'll take a sweet mug like this over an extra t-shirt any day!
Our numbers: I was seeded 5th for women and Jordan 7th for men
(5 & 7 happen to be my lucky numbers!)
Race morning we were up by 5AM. I slept well and it made a HUGE difference getting a full 8 hours. At least I was much less grumpy than normal, ha! We did the normal pre-race stuff and I hit the bathroom 3 times (yea, nerves will do that to you). The nice thing about the girls room and ultras is there’s rarely a line!
Obligatory pre-race coffee sitting in our tent.
10 minutes before the race and I was still deciding what to wear (typical). I debated on a long-sleeve shirt but opted for a tank top with arm warmers and shorts. It worked perfect too so I’m happy with the choice.

To start the race the director hit a “gong” which I thought was pretty unique. We were off and I ran with Jordan for the first ½ mile before he took off ahead. Both the ½ marathon and 50k runners started together so there was really no point in trying to figure out positioning. I just focused on taking it out EASY. We started the first climb a mile in and I ran it based on feel. Per usual my calves cramped up pretty badly but it didn’t seem to affect my pace.  I walked at times but tried to keep moving, if anything shuffling up the mountain. At about half way up the mtn David Horton was sitting on a rock at yelled at me “loooooookin pretty Chaaaaaaang.” Thanks, lol.

Beautiful mountains.
After making a “lollipop” loop we popped back out on the gravel road I flew down earlier (~12 miles into the race). At that point a race volunteer told me I was in 3rd! This really took me by surprise because someone previously said there were 4-5 girls ahead of me and I wasn’t really pushing the pace.  I sort of shrugged it off though, because it was still very early in the race and after all, I do have a history of going out too fast. The climb back to the top of the mountain was about 3.5 miles and for someone who used avoid hills at all cost, I feel like I took it in stride. I was in my happy place, enjoying every moment of the experience. I chatted with one of the guys who was also kind enough to remind me “it’s ok to walk some, you know.” About halfway up I moved into the 2nd place position and that too motivated me to kept moving forward. At the top I was feeling pretty good about the race – I was halfway and well ahead of my goal time yet still feeling very relaxed. Rudy of VT Ultra was kind enough to refill my camelback and I was on my way.

Next was another 6 mile lollipop loop. Rudy said “you’ll climb to the top of the mountain and then fly back down.” The peak was mile 21 and though I was still had plenty of life left in my legs, I could definitely feel the starting effects of a bonk. I quickly pushed the calories and soon felt better.

Elevation profile according to my personal Garmin.
I passed Camping Gap once again (main aid station you hit 3 times total), and then immediately we started up a very steep incline of about ¾ mile to climb the actual Terrapin Mountain. I knew it was coming but it definitely was much worse than I expected! At this point in the race it REALLY hurt. At points like these I now have a better understanding of why ultra running has a huge mental component. Nonetheless, I kept pressing forward and at the top was a quick out and back of maybe 100 yrds where we went to the cliff overhanging and punched our bibs. Nice view and all but to be honest I was terrified (of the heights) and thanks a ton to the runner who kindly punched my bib for me. Next was a long, technical downhill. My quads were still feeling great but the decline was steep and rocky which was pretty tough even for a downhill lovin’ chica like me. The most interesting point of the race, called “fat man’s misery,” was during this section (around mile 23-24). It featured a very narrow and downhill passage way wedged between two rocks. It was pretty much an “are you KIDDING ME?” type moment.
Here's a pic of "Fat Man's Misery" borrowed from here.
6 miles to go and I knew at least a few of them were downhill. I was feeling great until we hit a short uphill of about ¼ mile. Enough to wipe me out and I’m certain I was running low on calories. I finished off two half-eaten gels but in retrospect should have eaten more. It wasn’t until about 2.5 miles to go that the next two girls passed me. I tried to respond and run with them but my legs no longer had that “oomph.” I flew down the final downhill in their pursuit, but then again I’m certain they did as well.

That's the mountain we ran up/down in the background.
Almost done... MUST. KEEP. RUNNING!
The last mile was pretty excruciating! My legs were certainly done for, but finally I turned the final corner and received a very enthusiastic greeting by the crowd. It was so wonderful to take that final step and very rewarding knowing I had run a strong and smart race. My second half was less than 5 minutes slower than the first (whereas at Holiday Lake it was a full 40 minutes slower). And regardless of my finish time and place (4th female, 5:22), I accomplished my main goals of “running happy” and enjoying the experience.
Post-race with the hubby.
And of course, David Horton.
Thanks to Clark Zealand (race director), David Horton (always a pleasure), the VT Ultra Team (which produced a lot of stellar performances!) and especially to my wonderful hubby!! He continued to encourage me while dealing with my crabbiness for 2 weeks leading up to this race (and definitely deserves some sort of award for doing so).

Lessons learned:
  • PACING: It’s so important to take it out easy (especially with an uphill start) to preserve carbohydrate stores as much as possible. Bonking is not fun and I’m glad I didn’t have to face it again at this race. 
  • NUTRITION: My camelback worked out so much better than the hand bottle I normally use. My hands were freed up and I definitely drank a lot more, while more easily carrying and accessing my fuel. I still need to learn to eat more later in the race. I tend to forget more when fatigue set or as I approach the finish line think "I've eaten enough to get by." Also: a little bit of Tums and Advil are wonderful!
  • ATTITUDE: This race shows once again that I race MUCH better when I take the “just for fun" attitude and don’t stress. I tend to run smarter and I can’t imagine how much more energy I usually burn worrying about pace or placement. 
  • I CAN run up mountains and it CAN be fun! (I need to keep reminding myself of this)
  • I can be a perfectionist yet I know "perfect" races are very hard to come by. At the end of the day it’s easy for me to say “I could have done this better or run a little faster” but I'm reminding myself of the importance of being happy with the outcome as is and not over thinking it (except in instances when really did not run smart like I did at Holiday Lake).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celebrating St. Patty's Day: My Favorite Green Foods

In honor of St. Patty's Day, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite green foods:


Green Beans



Green Smoothies

More of a combination of green foods :)




Seaweed Snacks

These have been a new addition to our snacks and we both love them!

Others favorite include: Baby bok choy, golden delicious apples, honeydew melon, green tea and basil!   I didn't realize until today how long this list was!

And also to celebrate St. Patty's Day, I enjoyed this yummy smoothie for breakfast:

Key Lime Green Smoothie


Juice of 1 lime
8oz vanilla soy or almond milk
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
Zest of 1/2 lime
Graham cracker crumbs (optional)
whipping cream (optional)

Combine spinach and soy milk and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except the graham cracker crumbs and blend again. Top with graham cracker crumbs and whipping cream (optional).

What are some of your favorite green foods??

Friday, March 15, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Spinach

"Spinacia Oleracea"... It's bright, leafy, full of color and nutrients... what's not to love?? While green may not be my favorite color to wear, it's most definitely my favorite to eat! In honor of St. Patrick's Day this weekend, I wanted to dedicate this week's food focus friday on my favorite leafy green: Spinach.

The peak season for spinach is March through May and September to October. Here are some shopping tips to get the most nutrients out of your spinach selection:
  • Fresh > Frozen > Canned (be weary of creamed spinach which is not as healthy)
  • Store spinach unwashed in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days. Wash immediately before consumption as exposure to water will cause it to spoil faster.
  • There are a few variety to choose from: Baby spinach is considered best for salads.
Here's the nutritional breakdown for 1 cup cooked (or ~6 cups fresh) spinach:

42 calories
6g carbohydrate
6g fiber
6g protein
No fat

1000+% Vitamin K
377% daily value of Vitamin A
66% daily value of folate
84% daily value of manganese
39% daily value of magnesium
36% daily value of iron
30% daily value Vitamin C
24% daily value B2, Calcium and Potassium

Pretty impressive, huh??

And the list goes on! Spinach is also a rich source of fiber, Vitamin E, Zinc, Choline and Omega-3 fatty acids while contributing very few calories to your overall daily allowance. All these nutrients are why spinach is known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, prevent cardiovascular disease, bone issues and cancer.

Much of the anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach can be attributed to the fact that it contains a wide variety of phytonutrients (including carotenoids and flavonoids). These anti-inflammatory benefits are going to play a large role in the prevention or progression of cancer, reducing risk of heart disease and helping athletes in recovery. Finally, Vitamin K, Calcium and Magnesium in spinach all contribute towards bone health.

While spinach is more commonly consumed in the form of a salad or in addition to sandwiches, let's take a look at some other creative uses!

Spinach & Artichoke Quiche

This was my first take at vegan quiche and I used vegan shredded cheese instead of normal cheese. The response? "Hey darling, this is sorta kinda amazing. Can you make some more like RIGHT now??" I made it last night and it's just about gone already.

Recipe from

Simple Sauteed Spinach

Those "beef medallions" are soy based and were delicious! Sure bet you were fooled.

Recipe from Eating Well

Spring Berry Salad

Because what better way to celebrate spring than a bright salad filled with fresh berries?!
Fresh baby spinach, sliced strawberries, delicious blueberries and walnuts provide a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. I would suggest pairing this with lemon poppyseed dressing or simply a squeeze of lemon!

Other suggested toppings include: Feta cheese, avocado slices, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, mandarin oranges or other fruit of your choice and edamame.

The Green Smoothie

Need a powerhouse breakfast on the run? Blend up a healthy dose of greens first thing in the morning. I've been making these regularly now and love the morning veggie boost.

8oz soy or almond milk (vanilla)
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 scoop wheatgrass powder (optional)

Start by blending your milk and spinach until smooth. Then add the rest of your ingredients and blend well. A few ice cubes will make this more frothy and increase the volume as well. Enjoy!!

Other suggested recipes:

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms by The Rebel Chick

Spinach "Burgers" by The Village Cook

Spinach Pesto by Miss In the Kitchen

These recipes barely scratch the surface in terms of possibilities. I've even seen spinach pancakes, spinach muffins, spinach muffins and spinach soup! Do you have any other favorite use for spinach?? Please share!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

National Potato Chip Day

I'm for certain there's a different holiday for each day if the year. Today happens to be National Potato Chip Day as well as Pi Day (3.14...etc etc). In honor of Potato Chip Day, I made my favorite chip alternative last night (a little convoluted, right?) and wanted to pop by and share this very easy process!!

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale (fresh, non-bagged is better)
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt

Rinse and dry the kale before cutting into 1-2" pieces (depending on how big you desire your chips to be). Sprinkle with olive oil and use your hands to mix thoroughly. It's tempting to add extra oil, but you really don't need it and doing to will result in soggy chips! Spread on a baking pan and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Bake @ 400 F for 8-10 minutes until crispy, some edges will start to brown.

Of course, you could also make these Sweet Potato Chips as featured here.

Want to experiment with other types of homemade chips (or fries)? Check out this awesome reference guide.

Now go have some fun in the kitchen and use today as an excuse to make the DIY (Do It Yourself) version!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Today is National Registered Dietitian Day!!

What a wonderful Wednesday it is indeed, because today is a day that celebrates registered dietitians across the United States!!

Since I have not had the chance to do so yet, I wanted to take this opportunity to share what I am currently doing as a registered dietitian and why I love my job so much. To me, being a dietitian is more than sharing my knowledge of food and nutrition, but also spreading hope of a better life that is to be found by treating your body with love and respect through quality foods. I have been able to do this in a variety of ways:

Clinical Dietitian

As a clinical dietitian at a local long term care facility, I interact daily with a number of individuals in all stages of the aging process, including many who have numerous health co-morbidities and mental illnesses such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Dementia. My role as clinical dietitian is to monitor their weight, food and fluid intake and adjust their diets to best meet their nutritional needs while overcoming a variety of feeding obstacles. Many residents need special therapeutic diets or modified consistency diets, adaptive equipment at meals, nutritional supplements or assistance with eating to optimize their nutritional intake.

More so than encouraging adequate food and fluid intake, I am an integral part of an interdisciplinary medical team that works to not only optimize the health and well-being of these residents, makes it a priority to interact with these residents on a daily basis, helping them to feel loved, cared for and special. In a time in their life when many have lost most of their loved ones, we step in and serve as their adopted family. Needless to say, I love each of them!

Weight Management Counselor

As a weight management counselor for a fitness center in West Virginia, I meet with clients who are participating in a state-funded weight management interventional program. Each session we talk about a client's nutritional strengths and weaknesses, interventions for improvement, nutritional tips and strategies and set intermediary "baby steps" towards meeting their long term goals. I definitely enjoy the one on one interactions with each of my clients, the satisfaction of knowing I'm making a difference in their life and that they are becoming more empowered by each session to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Wellness Dietitian & Blogger

I partake in various other "consulting" jobs 'that have included speaking/presenting at wellness fairs, health screenings and other educational sessions designed towards building healthier workplaces, individual nutrition consultations and writing this blog!

More recently, presenting on heart healthy foods for Valentines Day 2013.

During a recent workplace wellness fair near Lynchburg, VA.
Partaking in the Valley Health Wellness Festival in Winchester, VA.

Dietitians across America have the opportunity to play a number of different "roles" throughout their career -- really the opportunities are endless -- which is one of the biggest factors that attracted me to becoming a dietitian from the get go. It suits my need for variety quite well!! My hope for my career is that I may continue to reach out to others in a way that inspires and empowers them to take the reins of their health, make sustainable lifestyle changes and live a more invigorated life.

Of course, I cannot forget to mention the most important/ fun role I play as a dietitian... feeding my husband!! Keeping this guy fed is almost a full-time job in itself.

Happy National Registered Dietitian Day to all the RD's out there!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Some Much Needed R & R

There's no doubt I've been burning my candle from both ends for a while now, and it has definitely caught up with me. For most people, working one full time job is often enough... I've been doing that plus managing a household, adhering to a vigorous training schedule, working numerous side jobs, etc. When this past weekend rolled around, no doubt I was in need of some serious R&R.

Planned breaks are always a good thing, whether it be in your workout regime or from life in general. This past weekend I was especially thankful for a quiet retreat to the Shenandoah mountains where my husband and I enjoyed some fellowship with a few other married couples.

Going into the weekend, I initially wanted to take advantage of the surroundings and put in some high running miles. We arrived on Friday and my legs felt pretty good on our 6 mile run:
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is the importance of making running fun.
The next morning, however,  I woke up feeling groggy, not wanting to run or get out of bed. I did it anyways and my body was not happy. I was running much slower than normal and struggling still. I knew my legs needed a break, so finally I granted myself permission to rest. Later in the afternoon we went for a short hike to Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park. I took my time and let go of the need to push the pace. I focused more on the beauty of the experience than how much farther it was to the top. I am so thankful for this simple reminder to step back and reflect. There's a time and place for putting your head down and pushing through rough moments and tough challenges, but you must take the time also to step back and reflect on why you do what you do and how far you've come. Also, it was a great reminder to me that there really is more to life than running (gasp! I know!)

Family Pic :)
The hubby and I at the top of the mountain: Mary's Rock. Look at that view!!

And of course, what would be a post without some food pics?

Crepes with Nutella and fresh fruit. A bit of an indulgence but worth it :)
Lime and salt popcorn to snack on.
My sister in law came up with the idea of make your own mini pizzas. Perfect!
Mexican wraps (or in my case a salad)
Veggie Quinoa Burgers... always a favorite.
And of course, hot chocolate! P.s. aren't they the cutest?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Chia Seeds

Should we take diet tips from the Aztecs?

Chia seeds suspended in water.

Maybe so when it comes to chia seeds. These tiny specks of nutritional goodness are being touted as the next "superfood" among many. While I'm not in favor of putting any particular food up on a pedestal, I do believe chia seeds have a lot to offer when it comes to nutritional bang-for-buck.

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