Wednesday, September 25, 2013

No One Said It Would Be Easy


To say things haven't been going my way lately is an understatement. Truthfully, the past 5-6 weeks have been a constant struggle to stay positive, stay on track with my goals and some days, not throw in the towel. Rough patches are inevitable, but I've managed to remain relatively optimistic through it all and think I've worked through the worst of it.

Anyways, this past week I finally started to see my energy levels bounce back and it's been a huge sigh of relief to feel more like my normal self again. The fall air definitely helps! On Monday, September 16th I finally had the opportunity to register for the Boston Marathon, cue major mood boost and excitement!! It's something I've been waiting many years to do, but even more so after FINALLY qualifying at last year's Richmond Marathon. The registration form was quick to fill out, so a bit anti-climatic, but I eagerly gave up my credit card info... I don't think I've ever been more excited to throw down the $175 it costs to register.

Fast forward 10 days: that's how long it took to find out whether or not my application had been accepted. In summary, roughly 8,000 runners submitted an application for 5,000 remaining spots in the 2nd week of registration. All of us applicants where ranked based on how far under the qualification standard we were and the top 5,000 get in (here's the link for more info on their final press release). The process takes time, I get it, and it was a huge test of patience waiting to hear any sort of news. There was no instant gratification in this process! Finally, earlier this afternoon I opened up my email to this:

Maybe I should frame this next to the door as motivation for next time.

Words can't even begin to describe my disappointment.

I was so heartbreakingly close: 6 seconds in a marathon! The overall cut-off was 1:38 below the BQ standard and my time was 1:32 below BQ. Even more so, my dad and husband were both confirmed as entrants last week and it was my idea for us to all run it together. To be clear, it's been my dream since I was young and watched my dad first run at Boston to get up there and run with him. Thanks dad for the sweet words of encouragement:

Sorry Kristen, so close but yet so far. I was pulling for you to get in this next year but whatever year that you do go, I will go with you.

Love,

Dad

There is no sense in wondering "what if?!" These things happen, and I've known since interest in the race peaked after last year's bombings that getting in would be a tough feat. My rejection sucks (a lot), but there will be future years and that doesn't change that I'm still super proud and excited for those who WILL be racing!

There are definite silver linings to not getting in. That doesn't mean this doesn't hurt, but I am stronger and more resilient than I know and my spirit will rebound. In the past year I've learned a lot about myself, how I handle adversity and areas where I need to grow. I've learned that joy, optimism and happiness are all choices we make and don't have to be dictated by circumstances or achievements. Real commitment is judged by how we work through the rougher moments and while this may be a detour for me, it's not the end of the road. I'm continually reminding myself that God's plans are bigger than my own and I do truly believe everything happens for a reason. I will tell you on any day, good or bad, I am very blessed.

I do have other goals and inevitably priorities for the 2014 may change a bit. I'm certain there will be more marathons in my future and hopefully I'll be standing at the starting line of Boston sooner rather than later. For now, there's little time to pout, I have another big goal coming up quick (5 weeks!) and I need to be focusing my energy on the final stages of prep!


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. *2 Corinthians 4:16-18*

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Recipe: Tempeh Tacos

I haven't had the opportunity to say much about the random triathlon addition to my racing schedule that took place last weekend. It was SO much fun... I had a blast and really enjoyed being out there again! Since I probably won't write a full report on it, here's a quick recap: the swim went better than expected, the bike was chaotic/crazy but a blast and the run tough/fast/much too short! I placed 2nd in my age group against a pretty competitive field and won a wine glass and bottle of Williamsburg Winery white wine. I got to see a ton of people I've missed this year and hang out with my family...Not a bad day! 

A few of my favorite race day pics... I was all smiles!
Shortly after finishing.
The next 7 weeks will be spent in final prep for my 50 miler! That means a lot of long runs and even maybe double long runs on the weekend. With the cooler fall temperatures finally rolling in, I'm really looking forward to them! Running in the fall... in Blacksburg... it really doesn't get much better than that :)

This past week has been spent catching up with work and since we were out of town on the weekend, I didn't have the chance to prep food ahead of time. Busy weeks means cooking gets a whole lot simpler in our household. I stick to the basics and recipes that are quick to throw together, versatile and make for easy leftovers. This is definitely one such recipe! It's a regular in our house and I've been meaning to share for a while now, so here you go!



Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages tempeh
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 -15oz can or 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes 
  • 1 jalapeƱo, seeds removed and diced
  • 1/4 c. Bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • 6-8 hard or soft taco shells

In a large bowl, crumble or use a knife to cut your tempeh into small pieces (aim for the same consistency as any ground meat). Add the remainder of your ingredients and spices and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight to allow the flavors to combine.

Prepare a large skillet over medium heat with olive oil cooking spray. Add your tempeh mix and saute up to 10 minutes, until browned. Suggested toppings include: mixed greens, cheese of choice, avocado or guacamole, steamed corn, salsa, hot sauce, cilantro, black olives and lime wedges!

This dish is great for dinner guests because everyone can prepare their tacos according to their own individual liking (our friends know this!) I always throw the leftover together in the form of a taco salad! For the salad, I like to pair the cooked marinated tempeh with mixed greens, quinoa, guacamole, salsa and a sprinkle of vegan cheese and tortilla chips on the side!

Taco salad anyone?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Recipe: Beet & Citrus Salad

Lazy Saturday mornings in the 'burg... they can't be beet! (get it? haha) More so when the crisp cool air of fall is on the horizon and it's game day! This morning I had the rare opportunity to sleep in, slowly enjoy breakfast followed by coffee and a leisurely walk to our farmer's market. Talk about a slice of heaven! Fall veggies are starting to make their way into the produce bins and downtown was busier than normal with the additional game day crowd. I love just sitting on a bench and people watching. Game day visitors are always so friendly and kind!


One root veggie we've been getting a lot of lately in our farm share is beets, and up until this week I just didn't know what to do with them. The greens can be easily chopped up and added into stir fry or sometimes I'll put them in my green smoothie, but the beets themselves take a little more work. The other night while baking a lasagna I finally remembered to pop a few in the oven and an hour later I had a handful of roasted beets at my disposal. Some I chopped up and ate as is, the rest went into this salad:

Beet & Citrus Salad

Serves 1

1 large oven-roasted beet, diced 
1 orange, skin removed and sectioned
1 cup salad mix of choice 
1/2 cup fresh edamame
1/4 avocado, diced

Optional toppings: pumpkin seeds, feta cheese

To roast the beets: chop off the greens/stem and rinse well. Rub lightly with olive oil and place in an oven-safe baking dish or baking sheet. Roast at 375 F for approximately 1 hour. You be the judge depending on how soft you want them!

For the salad: Mix together the beets, orange sections, edamame and avocado over the bed of greens (bonus points if you use the beet greens!) Reserve one section of orange and squeeze the juice over your salad. Add a drizzle of olive oil as desired. Ta da! That's it.

This can be lunch or a light dinner or even a side, your choice. I love the bright colors, especially since they're somewhat orange and maroon! :)

More orange and maroon veggies from the farmer's market :)
Next week I'll post my tempeh taco recipe... I know a few people have been waiting for it and it's perfect for football season! Speaking of which, did I mention it's game day? Go Hokies!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Home is Where the (Hokie) Heart Is

People joke about the loyalty of Tech's fans and how Hokies bleed orange and maroon. I certainly believe school spirit runs in our blood!

This weekend we celebrate one year of living in Blacksburg. We're officially "townies" and are proud to be so!! Blacksburg is our home, Virginia Tech is our obsession of choice and, like many others among us, we live in a happy world of all things orange and maroon :)

With the return of students for the fall semester comes a new buzz of excitement throughout the town. Summer was sleepy, quiet and relaxing, but with the start of the fall semester the town has come alive with school spirit. Students come and students go, with some chasing career and life dreams that take them across the country and the globe, but a select few are lucky enough to stay or return and call it home. While we both had great job offers in other locations, we decided that returning to Blacksburg was a top priority and that the rest would have to figure itself out.


I'm not sure what my expectations were when we returned, but this year has certainly far surpassed them. Every day feels like a huge blessing and some days I still think I'm dreaming! We returned to a strong community base, including a church we LOVE, and have made plenty of new friends too. We've both settled into jobs that we love and take advantage of the beautiful southwest Virginia mountains as often as possible. Campus provides it's share of beauty and adventure too, I still love going for walks on University Mall, sitting and overlooking the drillfield from War Memorial Chapel or people watching by the duck pond. Bonus points for Hokie Bird sightings. Mom, try not to be jealous :)



Of course, school spirit infuses all areas of our life, from our Hokie guest bedroom to our cars, slippers, athletic gear, etc. Luckily we fit in well... Hokie gear is the norm and not the exception in this town!


The beauty of this town runs deep. I love the farmland scenes along the Huckleberry Trail, the famous sunsets overlooking the mountains, the snow covered trails of Pandapas and the breathtaking countryside when riding through the valley. Really, I feel spoiled!!


Every now and then we still get the question of "how long are you in town?" The answer is always the same: God willing, for the indefinite future. This town has captured our hearts and it's where we choose to call home. Thanks Blacksburg for a wonderful year and cheers to many more to come! Let's Go Hokies!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Race Report: Iron Mountain 30

Getting to the starting line of any ultra is a major accomplishment. Finishing, even better. What happens in between is unique for each runner but, good or bad, generally provides for an experience worth learning and growing from.

The week leading up to this race was far less than stellar for me. Despite my optimism that my body would "shape up" in time to race, Friday I took a half sick day from work and napped until the hubby returned from work. Not a great sign. Instead of packing the car, we sat on the couch discussing the options and he decided it was best if we both just stayed home. Call me obstinate, but as soon as he said that I quickly decided for better or worse I was going to start this race. I guess you learn how much you want something if given the option to bail you decide otherwise, I had been looking forward to being out on the trails and even if it meant dropping down to the 16 mile option I wanted to give it a fair chance.

Come race morning, despite sharing a twin bed (better than the floor!) I had slept well and was feeling somewhat better. I only ate half my breakfast but the coffee was good! We hit the road for the starting line and blasted some good tunes along the way, which immediately put me in a better mood. An hour later my camelback was packed and we were off. This race has 3 distances: 16, 30, 50 miles and everyone starts together so it's hard to know who's in what race. I opted to run with my hubby and the awesomely large group of VT Ultra runners for the first 5 miles which was a pretty delightful way to start the day. It was definitely a little faster than I needed to start given the slight uphill grade, but we joked and laughed and it was the perfect distraction to get me going. After 5 miles of easy rail trail, we hit the technical trails and the real race had begun...

Pre-race shoe shot with our new matching trail gaiters :)
My goal for this event was never to be competitive or give an all out effort, it was meant to be a long, supported training run. Personally, I wanted it to be as relaxing as possible! I was't sure where my energy levels would fall given how I had been feeling and the race quickly became about "relentless forward progress" as my husband likes to say. Granted, I didn't want to be out there forever, but I joked that my ambitious goal was to beat him to the finish line (he was racing the 50 miler, so 8-9 hours).

Early in the race I enjoyed some good conversation with a few runners but by mile 10 I found myself secluded on the foggy and dark mountain. I was in no way my normal energetic chipper self and a few hours of solitude on the trails seemed like the perfect remedy. After almost 3 hours I finally started to catch a good groove and enjoy myself (probably because we were finally moving downhill) and shortly thereafter I reached the turnaround point.

This is where I have to give a huge shout out to the awesome volunteers! I've heard reports on the stellar aid provided at this race and at this particular aid station I was approached by a lady with a big smile that immediately brightened my day. We made small talk as I dug through my drop bag. I dumped some hammer perpetuem into my camelback and we laughed because only half actually made it into the pouch. "I'm just not going to worry about that" I said, then she hurried off to refill the pack with water as I chatted with a few runners by the food table. It was SO NICE to not be in a hurry for once. Not much on the table looked appealing, but I forced myself to eat a quarter of PBJ sandwich, salted potato and packed a few mini Reeses cups to go before wandering my way back onto the trail. At that point I was the 4th female and 3rd was not far ahead. Half of me wanted to push forward and be competitive, but I decided to run my own race and let the placing fall accordingly. My husband will testify that I don't like to be rushed, and today I was definitely not in the mindset to hurry!

I took the second half of the race one mile at a time. Some miles seemed to crawl by and despite my efforts to push fluids and electrolytes, the humidity caused me to cramp pretty badly. I was also falling asleep, which I've learned is a sign that I'm not eating enough, so I pushed the calories a little more and risked my stomach feeling upset. At a certain point, your fueling plan goes out the window and you eat whatever is most appealing and tolerable. When I made it to the last aid station, mountain dew, watermelon and chocolate never tasted better! Once again, the volunteers were stellar (thanks Tammy!) and did whatever they could to provide comfort, encouragement and prepare us for the final stretch of trail ahead.
Photo by Mary Shannon Johnston
Maybe it was the mix of my expresso gel and the mountain dew (probably), but a few miles later (about mile 24) I finally reached the point where I was feeling great. I still wasn't moving overly fast, but for the first time in the race I was feeling my normal "running is amazing!" self. The high point of my day was reaching mile 26 and feeling accomplished to have run my first marathon in many months. How had I forgotten that running a marathon was part of this experience?! Anyway, I was running downhill feeling awesome and could hear cracks of thunder from above. I love thunderstorms and a big one was definitely brewing. I prayed hard that a downpour would quickly follow. Even though it would definitely make the technical downhill a little more dangerous, trail running in the rain makes me very happy! But nonetheless, the rain held off until after I finished...

Eventually I reached a paved road and knew I would shortly be back in Damascus and at the finish line. With my moon shoes it felt so great to be back on the pavement and I was ready to bounce my way to the finish line. Still, I took my time, running strong and steady. Part of me wasn't ready to be done!
Finished, elated, feeling much better than when I started.
This race has what they call an "ironman" and "ironwoman" competition at the finish line, which involves completing as many push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups as possible within 5 minute of crossing the line. I laugh because though I had no care to be competitive regarding the actual race, I decided well ahead of time that I wanted to win this mini competition (and I did, walking away with an ab wheel as my prize, yay). Speaking of prizes, thanks to the race director for these awesome finisher's goods:

I love functional and delicious finishers awards!
Shortly after I finished, I laid in the chilly creek for a bit of a recovery ice bath and then the rain finally came pouring down. I felt bad for those still out on the course, especially since it was the first of many severe storms to roll through that afternoon. My husband later reported that he was on the top of a mountain when one storm hit and was almost forced to stop and take cover due to the severity.

Rain is only fun if you're running in it.

I'm certain there's a lot about this race that I could worry about but I've opted not overanalyze. My overall pace was much slower than normal but is more so a reflection of my intentions for the race and generally not feeling great than my current fitness. Even so, there was also a lot of things that went well that I'm proud of. Nutrition-wise, I'm very happy that I brought along multiple options and rolled with what worked best given the conditions. Though I generally prefer solids, fluid calories ended up being my saving grace and I'm glad I was prepared to make that adjustment on the fly (note: I ate only a few bites out of my plan A goods). And even with the many points throughout that I was feeling bad, at no point did quitting cross my mind and I made the conscious decision to be optimistic and press on. It was a tough day but in the end my patience was rewarded with a happy finish. I maintained my position as 4th female and the hubby ran well in his race, placing 5th in a competitive men's field with a 32 minute PR for 50 miles. We both finished with a smile, had fun with the team and enjoyed sharing the beautiful trails (God's creation!) with fellow trail runners. In the end, that's what matters most!
The hubby finishing with a new PR!
A bit of post-race R & R!

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