Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Back On Track

This past month has been about optimizing lazy-ness on the couch...
with a cuddly pooch of course!
I'm coming up on almost 4 weeks post-50 miler and the itch to get moving again is hitting hard! Lucky me, this week I started back with organized training and I couldn't be more happy about it. Surprisingly enough, I've missed the structure... and since I now know coach will probably read this... Hey coach, I've really missed you telling me what to do! :D

The past month of down time has been a good thing: I've put exercise on the back burner and let other life priorities take over (ahem, like work). As with the exercise, nutrition has also taken a back seat and, as I often preach to my resident's at work, I've been enjoying a much more liberalized diet. It's been fun and it's an important part of the "balance" thing. I may have put on a few pounds in the last month but that's totally okay!

The amazingly delicious chocolate lava cake
my boss made me for my 1 year work-aversary!

That being said, my mind and body are feeling rejuvenated and I am motivated to start working towards my next goal, which may possibly (read: most likely) be a spring marathon. It's been over a year since my last road marathon and I need to re-qualify for Boston if I expect to enter for 2015. I was originally not too excited about training for any marathon other than Boston, but this week I realized how much I've MISS road running and I've MISS the marathon-specific workouts. Though, I do not miss running in the COLD, which it definitely has been. Looking ahead to my biggest goal for 2014 (sorry, not telling yet!), I probably won't put in an all-out effort towards marathon training, but enough of an effort to PR and hopefully be well under my BQ standard of 3:35. Then again, I'll leave those details up to coach.

I get the feeling that things won't really pick up until after the holidays and after my trip to Haiti...  which too is okay as there's a lot going on in my life between now and then! More than anything though, I am looking forward to (slowly) getting back into the weight room, rebuilding cardiovascular fitness, getting back into the routine of cooking, eating healthier and re-establishing a more regular work-life routine. That being said, I gotta run ... the gym is calling my name!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll !

Monday, November 25, 2013

Food for Fuel: Roots & Veggies

The bounty of summer may be over, and with the temperatures we've seen this week, it looks as if fall may be over too. Not to worry though, as it's still possible to successfully build a diet around seasonal produce, even through the winter months!

I'm a little late in recapping my latest Food for Fuel talk at work since it took place oh, only 3 weeks ago ;) Oh well, life's been a bit busy for a few (very fun) reasons which I (might) tell you about (later). Anyways, November's edition of Food for Fuel was focused on fall-winter produce, Roots & Veggies!

Eating seasonally is a great way to enjoy the bounty of fresh produce without breaking the bank. Even though we're past the main gardening season of summer, there's still an abundance of fall and winter vegetables to choose from and experiment with. The following tips can help you to eating seasonally even through the chillier months of the year:

1. Learn to love squash... all varieties of it!

Acorn, butternut, spaghetti, hubbard, pumpkin... the list and possibilities go on and on! The most simple way to enjoy squash is to roast it in the oven. It can also be peeled and diced and incorporated into casseroles, soups, stuffings or stews. Of course, don't forget to save the seeds, season and enjoy as a delicious snack! Step outside your comfort zone and try a variety you've never tasted or heard of.

Our collection to date.
Since I haven't been a very good cook lately (read: no cooking whatsoever), the squash from our farm share has been piling up! The nice thing? It doesn't really go bad! The manager of our farm share said they would last until spring if kept in the right conditions... so I will be slowly working on picking off this pile. 

2. Fill up on greens.

Our winter farm share has been full of greens! Bok Choy, Kale, Collard Greens, Chard, etc. These greens can be eaten fresh, or sauteed or roasted. Have you tried a delicious kale salad or kale chips yet?! I've admittedly been slacking on my greens! Time to get back on track.

3. Experiment with root vegetables.

Some root veggies are more commonly used than others such as onions, carrots, potatoes, but what about rutabaga, turnips or beets? One nice thing about our farm share was that it exposed us to root vegetables we would not commonly buy. Not sure what to do with them? Incorporate into soup or toss with a little olive oil and bake for oven roasted vegetables. Beets and sweet potatoes can be wrapped in foil and baked whole. Make chips or fries, mash or make into an au gratin dish. The point is to play around, discover what you like best!

4. Satisfy with soups. 

What could be more comforting on a chilly day? Not only are soups a great way to pack a punch with veggies, broth based soups can leave you feeling fuller, longer, without the heavy calories. Add in beans, lentils or grains such as quinoa, brown rice or barley for added fiber.

Interested in learning more about benefits of and how to cook with common root vegetables? Download this fun handout :)

Recipe: Oven Roasted Vegetables

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and since there will be no turkey for the Changs, I'll be looking to use up the massive quantities of root veggies we've been hoarding in our fridge. I made this recipe for oven roasted vegetables a few weeks back and it was delightful! Warm and comforting, perfect for the chilly nights that have now arrived. Enjoy!

Dice and combine: 

2 sweet potatoes, 1 lb white or fingerling potatoes, 3 small eggplant (I used fairytale variety), 4-5 beets, 2-3 large carrots. Adjust quantities as desired, feel free to include whichever vegetables you like best! Toss in a few (3-4) whole garlic cloves. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, oregano. Bake @ 375 F for approximately 1 hour. Easy peasy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simple Tips for Choosing the Right Energy Bar

We are surrounded by an overwhelming number of choices each day when it comes to nutrition and choosing the right "products." While my philosophy is simple, eat and emphasize real foods, I also realize that energy bars and the like are a convenient option for the busy individual and CAN serve a positive purpose if used correctly.

I recently had a client ask me how to choose the "best" energy bar and what factors go into making that decision. Honestly, I was a bit caught off guard by the question! Simple, relevant, yet not something I commonly sit down to think about since I don't buy them too often. Here's a summary of my response and my (personal yet professionally-infused) criteria for picking a healthier energy bar:

  • For a snack, choose something that's 100-200 calories. In my book, anything 300+ would be considered more of a meal replacer (but truly depends on your overall calorie requirements and activity level).
  • Look for a combination of protein, carbs and fiber: 3-20g protein, less than 15-20g sugar and at least 2g fiber at a minimum. Be wary of bars with greater 20g protein (sorry, that's just not natural) and bars with excessive amounts of added sugars.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. Just don't go there! I don't see them a whole lot in energy bars but some brands (i.e. Special K bars) do use them.
  • The shorter the ingredient list, the better! Look for ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, rice. Avoid bars with excessively long ingredient lists, especially if you have trouble recognizing or pronouncing a few of those ingredients. 
  • Added sugars and syrups of some kind are pretty routine with these bars. Look for those ingredients to be towards the end of the ingredients list, which means that they are in lower percentages that the good stuff.
  • Don't be fooled by health claims such as "all-natural" and "healthy." Many bars state these health claims and the criterial for including them are very loose.

I'm not loyal to or a fan of promoting any one brand, but I do think KIND bars are a great example for the many of the reasons I just explained:  

There is no perfect "energy bar." Different bars serve different needs, and the only way to truly control what goes into them is to make some at home (which I totally recommend!) If you haven't already tried making these quinoa energy balls, you should give'm a whirl!

There's a lot out there to choose from and try. Aim first to rely on real foods and make educated choices otherwise. As with all things, even if it's "healthy," keep moderation in consideration... if half your diet consist of these energy bars then you may want to reconsider =)

Eat happy, choose healthy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Re-Writing My Job Description

Today, in honor of my one-year anniversary working full-time as a Registered Dietitian, I'm reflecting on the professional and personal growth that I've experienced and the thankfulness that stems from having a job I love.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. 
~ William James

I think we all have an idea of what our "dream job" would look like. We go to school, get the education we need and then enter the workforce with hopes that we can be engaged in a manner that we're passionate about. You know, the whole "do what you love and never work a day in your life" thing. For me, since early college, that dream has been to be a dietitian.

Despite being a relatively reserved and shy individual, I found myself wanting a job that was built around interaction and not a desk. And as someone who struggled with their health throughout early college, I wanted to invest in a career that promoted health and wellness rather than the opposite. The combination has been wonderful and these days, I'm finding that I thrive off my daily interactions and the opportunity to share the "good news" that is health, nutrition and wellness.

A few weeks back, I participated in a corporate health and wellness fair. No big deal right? But after spending the morning interacting with a number of new individuals, engaging in uplifting conversation on small steps to making a healthier lifestyle less intimidating and more doable, I left grinning ear to ear, my heart full with a sense of purpose. On the long drive home, I reflected on how many people need to hear those words and have hope of making positive progress, that my role as a dietitian goes well beyond the food.

With that, I'd like to rewrite my job description to simply state:
Me at a recent wellness fair. I was incredibly stoked to spend a few hours in informal conversation, meeting new people and sending them in the right direction regarding heart health nutrition (area of focus for the day)
Yes, perhaps I am "tooting my own horn" with this one, but what I'm trying to get at is that I'm truly passionate about my role as a dietitian, that I do feel I can make a difference and that I want to live out my career with a purpose. In my eyes, there's much more to being dietitian than diet manipulation, nutrition education or being the "food police." Being a dietitian means promoting health, spreading hope that a better world does exist through cherishing and treating your body with respect, helping others to realize that eating healthy can be fun and a source of enjoyment rather than a daily frustration.

As a dietitian, my main goal is to enable people to take control over their nutritional quality of life. We all make daily decisions regarding food and I believe it's possible to make choices for chronic disease management, weight control and/or performance while also maintaining a high level of satisfaction. Food is a form of nourishment and life, not the enemy, and progress is about meeting people where they are now and instilling sustainable lifestyle changes rather than setting unrealistic expectations of attaining that non-existent "perfect" diet.

I like to think I look at the total package, taking one's overall lifestyle, emotions and relationship with food into context rather than simply stating "eat these foods and your world will be better." Because let's acknowledge reality: food is much more than just nutrition, it is a way of life. And if you're not enjoying what you eat, you're not truly living.
Whether it be blueberries or chocolate, it all "fits" in the big picture =)
As I mentioned, today marks my one-year anniversary at my first full-time job as the dietitian for Warm Hearth Village! I am blessed to say without a doubt that I love what I do and I love "my people." I have been entrusted with a role that goes way beyond the food in terms of building relationships with the residents, gaining their trust, earnestly listening to their needs and feedback and doing what I can to make their world a better place. Some days, a five minute conversation about life and a warm smile can be more beneficial than any dietary intervention I send their way.

The ability to make a difference is a gift we've all been entrusted with and it's with that very mindset that I am preparing for our medical mission trip to Haiti in January. While I hope to put my education and nutritional expertise to work for the greater good of the community down there, I know that my role in the mission and their daily struggles extend well beyond the food they eat.

Final thoughts, since November is all about thankfulness:

  • I am thankful for a wonderful family, to have a roof over my head, a kitchen to cook in and a source of daily nourishment.
  • I am thankful to be living out my dream job and that I can share my passion for food and nutrition while also spreading hope and happiness. 
  • I am thankful for the challenges and experiences that have given me such a deep appreciation for the gift that is health, and to understand the meaning of living life purposefully.
  • I am thankful for those whom I've had the opportunity to work with over the past year, that have made a difference in my life whether they realize it or not. 
  • And I am thankful for those who read this blog! I appreciate you listening to my random, happy musings about food, nutrition, wellness and whatever else I decide to write about =)

For me, this is just the beginning of a lifelong journey that is building a career and I can't wait to see where the years take me!

In Health,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Burn N' Learn: Real Food Approaches to Fueling Workouts

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of contributing to an unique event at The Weight Club that was a fun combination of exercise (burn), delicious food and sports nutrition (learn):

The exercise classes provided the opportunity to try something new, get in a great workout with the guidance of an instructor and camaraderie of a group setting all while jamming to great music. This was only my second real workout since MMTR, so I really enjoyed the motivation to get moving!

The evening started with a 30 minute session of B.A.S.I.C., a class based around functional fitness exercises of agility and stability drills, plyometrics, body weight exercises, interval conditioning, etc. I really enjoyed the combination of cardio and strength this class provided and the fast pace made for a lot of fun!

Finishing out B.A.S.I.C. with a superset of push-ups.
After a quick break, we moved into a 30 minute session of Bodypump,  a choreographed strength class that provides a full-body workout through the combination of weighted exercises at high reps. I choose to put the lightest weight on my bar as its been a while since I've lifted anything. Nonetheless, this class rocked my upper body (in a good way) and I could definitely tell the next day that I had worked my body well!

Getting ready for a set of overhead barbell presses.
Some back and shoulder work.
Yes, more push-ups. No wonder my upper body was so sore!
After everyone was sufficiently worn out, dinner catered by my favorite restaurant, Gillies, arrived! We were served a fresh array of salmon fish tacos, tofu stir fry, quinoa and brown rice... probably the best meal I've had in a while (probably because I didn't have to cook it too!) We ate, changed, chatted it up and I met a few new people in the process.

I apparently worked up an appetite because this plate was gone pretty quickly!
Once everyone was fed, full and ready to sit still, I took the "stage" and gave a 30 minute sports nutrition talk on Real Food Approaches to Fueling Workouts. Okay, I'll admit I was really nervous as it was my first time talking in this sort of setting, I had no slide show to rely on for visuals and people asked some tricky questions! Overall though, I tried to set the tone that it's important to rely on simple meals and whole foods over processed protein powders and bars, that sports nutrition is not an exact science (though much is evidence based) and that there are no miracle "superfoods" or pills to success, only functional foods.

Handout + Recipe + Snackage = a simple but successful setup.

Here's a bit of what I discussed:

Aim for a snack with simple carbohydrates for energy and moderate protein and fat to promote satiety
  • Apple Almond Snack Wrap
  • PB Banana Toast
  • Avocado Toast
  • Fruit Smoothie
  • Cereal with milk and berries
  • PB stuffed dates
  • Quinoa Energy Balls

Aim for a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates and lean protein to restock muscle glycogen stores and build muscle. Where possible, incorporate veggies to provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are also important in the rebuild process!
  • Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry served over Quinoa
  • Chicken Wrap w/ Veggies
  • Cherry Dark Chocolate Smoothie
  • Chili served over Brown Rice
  • Greek Yogurt, PB & Blueberry Parfait
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Watermelon and Tart Cherries
  • Greens

First and foremost, honor the fuel window: Your muscles are best equipped to receive fuel immediately following workouts. Eating a post-workout snack or meal with 15-60 minutes will optimize your body's ability to receive those nutrients.

Second, choose easy to digest foods: If your body needs to pull blood away from your muscles to digest a complex meal, that's less blood to aid in the rebuilding process.

Third, keep it simple: Post-workout is meant for recovery, not laboring in the kitchen. An extensive meal is great, but if possible, have something that's quick to throw together (wrap or smoothie) or planned leftovers.

With instructors DeWayne and Laurie ! (They make me look so short!)
Thanks to The Weight Club for sponsoring this event and letting me contribute, to Gillies for the amazing (as always) dinner and to all those who came out and participated! 
See you next time!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Athlete Spotlight! Graham Peck

For my second Athlete Spotlight, I want to highlight an endurance runner who's recent accolades include a 48th overall finish at the 2012 Chicago Marathon (2:25:40 PR), a 51st overall finish against a elite field at the 2013 NYC Marathon (2:32:08) and a 14th overall finish at the competitive 2012 JFK 50 (6:18). Graham Peck is an average runner turned triathlete, who later picked up the longer running distances and is currently crushing everything from the 5k to 50 mile. Graham is a great example of how training smart and dedication can result in improving by leaps and bounds, and how even the busiest of individuals can balance training, nutrition and life.

1. When and why did you decide to make the transition into racing marathons?

It wasn't until my fifth marathon attempt at Chicago that I truly 'raced' a marathon. My first marathon was at 18 years old and I successfully achieved my goal of breaking 3 hrs. My second was more of a late season addition (2:51), after which I injured my knee and opted to cross train via triathlons for a while. After those first marathons, I felt as if running sub-2:40 was NOT an unattainable goal. However, returning to road racing with a 1:13 half marathon at the 2011 Martinsville Half gave me inspiration to train harder and see what I could actually accomplish! My next marathon, the Wine Glass Marathon that following fall, was a 2:33.

2. Tell us about your experience at the 2013 New York City Marathon, how it went and your thoughts afterwards?

I enjoyed the race with my family though the logistics of navigating NYC during such an event were a bit insane. After seeing the pre-race forecast (cloudy, cold, very windy), I dropped my initial time goal and decided to just raced with the competition. I got sick and faded some around mile 15, at which point I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on catching on other runners. Most notable about racing the NYC marathon, however, was whole experience of being at the race and interacting with elites such as Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi (who signed his bib) and getting a picture with the 2012 Olympic Marathon Gold winner, Stephen Kiprotich (pictured below).

The port-o-potty background is only appropriate :)

3. Tell me about your training leading up to the NYCM and a little about how you fuel for longer workouts?

I averaged 90 miles/week for the first time over an extensive building period of 3 months (a first for me). As a taller male, I went through a lot of food during that time! Oatmeal, PB, banana and coffee are my main staples for breakfast and pre-long run. I don't like starting a long run on a full stomach so I time my pre-workout meal appropriately. Typically, I use 1 gel max for longer runs and 2-3 gels for the actual marathon. Half of a PB honey sandwich is another go-to fuel (but not during races).

4. You've improved quite dramatically over the past several years. What do you attribute your success to?

Being a little older helps, having a more mature muscle structure and attitude towards the sport. A year-long season of triathlon taught me to put into the hours, drop the excuses and develop the mental toughness it takes to make that improvement. Weather doesn't affect me anymore and off days are rare. But most notably, a solid year of a lot of triathlon work really build a solid endurance base and left me stronger, leaner and more mentally tough.

5. Big goals for you in Spring 2014 include the Holiday Lake 50k (mid-Feb) and the Boston Marathon (April). What do you think you might change in your training and/or diet b/w now and then to optimize your performance?

Preparing for Holiday Lake will serve as a build-up, base training period and I'll pick up with marathon specific workouts afterwards. I would like to incorporate more hill workouts and drill-form exercises in this next training cycle. Diet-wise, I could eat a better diet, but I'm unwilling to give up my love of beer (it's a quality of life thing!) 

Graham during his triathlon days with the VT Triathlon Team.
6. What's the toughest obstacle you've ever had to overcome to achieve your goals?

Balancing life (work, long distance relationship, maintaining a social life) and a high level of training is often the biggest challenge. Most weeks I work 45-50 hours and some leisure time is essential for me and important for long-term sustainability as well. 

Downtime is important for even the busiest of athletes!
7. Who inspires you as an athlete?

The guys that work full time, train 120 miles a week and run a 2:10 marathon in the process. This includes Bill Rogers, Yuki Kawauchi (a Japanese marathoner with a 2:08 personal best) and Mike Wardian (has worked a full time job while putting up world class 50k - 50 mile times for the past 15 years). It's a huge balancing act for these individuals and admirable to see what the everyday working individual can accomplish athletically.

8. How do you fuel on a day to day basis to support your training? What are some of your favorite foods?

I tend to eat a standard lunch but during peak training periods, I will add on an extra half or full sandwich. I can't recall any significant dietary changes, but instead, I rely on small tweaks to make up for the calorie difference. Snacking throughout the day at work on baggies of veggies, etc keeps me satisfied and post-workout I especially like to eat kale and spinach. Sunflower seeds are probably my favorite food. And if people think you can't get full on sunflower seeds, you should see the pile of shells I leave at my seat at Oriole games. I'm a machine. 

9. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

One go to recipe that my girlfriend and I make often is a quesadilla with blacks beans, sweet potato, chicken and mozzarella. Simple, fast fuels are key to time management and I try to cook large batches of foods at once to make things easier. 

10. Any other thoughts, tips or words of wisdom ?

First, people generally try way too hard on days that are supposed to be easy. Most runners get their hard days and easy days muddled up which results in every day being close to the same effort. I'm not perfect by any means but on my easy days, I'll run anywhere between 6:45/mile and 7:30/mile. These are often un-timed. At the end of a hard long run, I might be under 6:00/mile, considerably faster than my easy trots. Many African elite runners will run 7:00/mile on their easy morning runs and they are capable of running 13.1 miles well under 5:00/mile. That's more than 50% slower! Whether your 4 or 5 easy days/week are 90 minutes easy with strides or just walking a few miles, keep it easy.

Second, working on getting a more efficient stride is much more time efficient than doing tough workouts. It takes A LOT of work on the track to gain 15 seconds/mile on your racing times. Bettering your running economy through drills and/or strides might only take 2- 15 minute sessions every week and many of us never take the time to do this. You're more likely to get injured slamming out 400m repeats on the track, too. There's a time and a place for doing timed workouts but I really only do timed workouts for 4 months out of 12. And that's assuming I'm healthy.

I'll leave you with this final picture, Graham on the front of the NY Times just a few weeks ago! 
Great job buddy!

Can you pick him out? Orange jersey front and center.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

4 Things I'm Looking Forward To ...

During the "OFF SEASON" that is!

I'm not a fan of transitions, nor have I ever had a structured "off season." Life without a structured training regime has been different... It sort of turns my world upside down! Yet the lack of structure, rest and downtime all serve a good purpose, and I accept and honor it's importance. I took the picture below the day after the MMTR 50 and it made me think of how the off-season is quite comparable to the cycle of trees. In the fall, leaves reach their peak, turn bright colors and then fall to the ground. The tree which lies dormant through the winter is not dead, but instead is rebuilding internally, preparing for new growth and to come back stronger in the spring.

Anyway, to help me along in this transitionary period, I've brainstormed a few things I'm looking forward to doing with my extra time:

Stretching, Healing & Strengthening

My body got tight in the past few months and needs to loosen up ... like woah! Additionally, I've been slacking in the weight room and look forward to getting back on track with that. I consider some form of strength training to be essential as my body needs it to keep balanced and injury free. Once I get back in the weight room, I hope to work on building a strong base for 2014, balancing out strength discrepancies and addressing some current hot spots.

Organizing & Planning

You know, that thing that doesn't happen when you have little spare time. We hope to move again sometime in 2014, so now seems like a good time to initiate the process of donating unused items, clearing out the attic, organizing what we do have, etc. Also including in this will be nailing down a rough schedule for 2014: between my set of races, the hubby's race schedule, life activities and training, I'd like to have a better idea of what lies ahead!


I'm looking forward to having more time to spend with and invest in others. Whether it be by volunteering at our church, engaging in partner workouts at the gym, continuing to mentor students at work or our upcoming mission trip to Haiti ... I'm SO blessed and thankful that the off-season will allow for extra time and opportunities to give back. You better believe this will include some quality friend, family, hubby and puppy time too!

Reflecting & Regrouping

2013 been a successful year for sure, but there are always areas of growth! I suspect next year will be another long, tough season with its fair share of challenges. Now is a good time to sit back and reflect what went well in the past year, what did not, and how I can continue to grow both as a person and an athlete. This will include some personal reflection on being a better wife, friend, employee, etc, because it all goes hand in hand :)

Do you have any special plans for the off-season?!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stepping Forward, Giving Back

Most athletes can identify with the fact that post-race let down can be a very difficult thing, especially if one has been working towards a particular goal for quite some time. It's always something I've struggled with, but I accept it as it is, work through it and move on.

One thing I find particularly helpful is to have a new goal identified as something to look forward to. Having a vision of where you're going next is an important step in the process of rest, recovery and reflection! Well, I'm really excited to tell you about an awesome non-athletic opportunity I'll be partaking in, alongside my husband, come early January!
In collaboration with the Community Coalition for Haiti and Shenandoah University Physical Therapy, the hubby and I will be traveling to Haiti in January to lead a medical mission trip!

A few weeks ago we were approached by SU (his alma mater for PT school) as there was already a group of doctoral students ready and willing to serve in Haiti, including plane tickets bought, but they had no clinician to help lead their endeavor. We've been pondering and praying over the desire to use our professions to give back in the form of a medical missions trip for a while now, and it's as if God just stepped in and said "Hey... here's your chance!" The door was opened and with a leap of faith we've decided to jump through it.

So from January 2-10, 2014 we will lead a group of six SU physical therapy students to Jacmel, Haiti. While there, we will be offering medical support in an outpatient clinic, travel into the community to help those unable to leave their homes and provide assistance at an orphanage. I personally will be contributing in ways related to my profession as a dietitian, mainly through wellness outreach and education.
We are very passionate about this mission and are blessed to be in a place where we can step aside from our personal lives for even a short timeframe and use our professional gifts to invest in the growth and health of others. We greatly look forward to both mentoring the SU students and providing much needed medical assistance and education to the people of Haiti! For the trip, we have a fundraising goal of $1800 to cover expenses of airfare, lodging, food, etc. If you are interested in helping to sponsor us in this endeavor or just want more information, please check out our donation page. Prayers of support or advice for traveling to Haiti (if you've been before) would certainly be welcomed as well!

Thank you!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween '13 & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last year Halloween came and went and I barely acknowledged it. This year was quite different. I dressed up spirit of a halloween rodeo we were having at work (much to the amusement of our residents) and also brought along my cutie pie pup in her banana split costume. She was such a trooper in her outfit and incredibly sweet, gentle and calm throughout the day. The residents ADORED her. How could you not?

A few scenes from work... yes I'm attracted to ALL cute animals.
Another pic of my "banana split."
A fabulously fun photo booth pic from our church halloween party. Pic courtesy of

For Halloween I made a batch of the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies that my grandmother had brought me the previous weekend. I'm going to share the recipe (because it's amazing) with two disclaimers: (A) I can't take credit for the recipe and I don't know the original source (B) These cookies are the best I've ever tasted, soft and sweet with melt in your mouth chocolates, and I did nothing to make this recipe 'healthier!' Count these as a treat, because those are important too when it comes to long term sustainability of an overall healthy lifestyle. I promise I'll get back to posting my normal healthier recipes after passing this one along :)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
About 15 oz. of canned pure pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl and set aside. Let butter come to room temperature and mix in bowl with brown and white sugar. Once this is well combined, add in the pumpkin, the vanilla and the egg. Beat until it's all incorporated. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop and place in rounded spoonfuls on baking sheet. You can put them closer together than you think because they barely spread. Bake for 12- 15 minutes. Let them cool about 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to let them cool completely.

Indulge & Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Cry Because It's Over

In my pre-race post regarding the 50, I mentioned "tears of joy" that I expected might overcome me at the finish of such a huge accomplishment and after such a long day. But the MMTR was all smiles, laughter, hugs and celebration... there were definitely no tears to be found!

So needless to say, I was a little caught off guard when I woke up in the middle of the night Tuesday with tears streaming down my face. They weren't directed towards the race itself, but of all things, I found myself missing dad and crying tears of joy having shared this past weekend with him.

Dad has been there through it all: my first race as a child, all my middle/high school meets, we ran my first marathon and 50k trail race together, and then this past weekend he was there patiently waiting throughout the day as I ran my first 50 miler. And you better believe his calendar is already marked for my next big endeavor ;)

After the race, he joked with me: "Now do you feel ready to tackle 100 miles?"

My response: "Are YOU ready to crew me for that long?!"

Luckily we both agreed with a resounding NO THANKS! Maybe some day ... maybe.

Hanging out pre-race 
A goofy picture of me but dad's smile is priceless!
I am so thankful that I took Friday and Monday off around the race, not because of the race itself, but because of the extra time I was able to spend hanging out with this guy! Quality dad time > finishing a 50 miler (or any event for that matter) any day. Though, I'm certain he must think I'm crazy with how bubbly and bouncy I was only one day post-race:

"Dad ... watch me skip!!!"

"C'mon on dad, you mean you couldn't do this after your fifty miler?!"

Monday we took a recovery walk to campus to take in the fall leaves and play 'imaginary fetch' with the pup (poor dog, she fell for it every. single. time). We chatted about Boston and I confessed my fears in making another qualification attempt this coming spring. He promised me that he would re-qualify for 2015 and when (not if) I qualified, he would pay my entry into Boston. Oh dad, I so hope you're right!

So this one's for you dad. Thanks for all your unconditional love and support this past weekend, for sharing in the experience and being there every step of the way. Hearing you say "I'm proud of you" makes the effort worthwhile any day.

Don't cry because it's over... smile because it happened =D

Monday, November 4, 2013

Race Report: Mountain Masochist 50 Miler

Where to start?! How about with WHAT AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!

Before getting to race day, I'll throw out this quick backstory. Saturday was my third time out on the Mountain Masochist (MMTR) course. The first being in 2006, when I had the wonderful opportunity to crew/pace a friend. We ran the last 10 miles together which was my first 'true' trail running experience, and at the end I earned an unexpected kiss on the cheek! Welp, if you haven't already guessed, that guy is now my hubby Jordan, who is also the one guilty of convincing me to run this crazy race. I'm so thankful he did!


In the days leading up to the race, I was definitely unusually calm. My normal nerves were missing and I felt at peace, genuinely excited for what was to come! I took to the taper quite well and was MUCH more organized regarding all my gear, fuel, etc. Friday I took off from work and relaxed, had some quality dad time and slowly went through last minute preparations.

An organized fueling strategy was definitely a priority!
I rode up to Lynchburg with a fellow VT ultra member, my dad, and two freshmen girls who were crewing. It was so nice to sit back and even sleep in the car! We arrived for the pre-race dinner, picked up packets (including some awesome swag) and enjoyed the standard pre-race pasta dinner. There must've been 15 of us VT ultra folks crammed around one table, which was pretty fun. Everyone was happy and buzzing with excitement.

Pre-race shenanigans and the crew making some last minute preparations.
Race morning, after a 4am wake-up, we stopped at Sheetz for some obligatory pre-race coffee. The clerk caught us off guard by giving it to us on the house! He said, "If you're running 50 miles, you deserve free coffee." Geeez, how nice!

Just prior to the start was a bit surreal. It still hadn't hit me what I was about to endure. Again, I felt very much at peace, taking in the flurry of activity around me as well as the picturesque night sky. It was crystal clear with stars abound! Just before 6:30am, the hubby came running up wondering why I was not on the starting line. He said "you've been preparing all week and you're still going to be late!" Lol. So true of me. Of course my response was, "Let's take a picture!" No worries... We made it to the start with two minutes to spare and with the sound of the horn, we were off!

Into the darkness shown many lights...

First Half

The race itself was quite a blur! I remember feeling pretty 'meh' the first 20 miles. I wasn't awake yet and my left leg was aching from my foot to my hip (residual injury type flare ups). I kept backing off the pace to keep from going out too fast, which was hard for me, because I was being passed by a lot of people. It was the smart thing to do though. I could have easily blasted through the first 20 much faster, and I'm glad I didn't. Instead, I took in the scenery, chatted with a few familiar faces, kept my pace in check and took one mile at a time. The sunrise reflecting over the mountains, as I had hoped, was breathtaking to watch through the trees.

About 11 miles in was the 2nd aid station. As I approached I heard Horton yell "first asian lady!" (much to the confusion of the crowd I might add). He said I was looking good, which is always very encouraging. I grabbed some salted potatoes and kept moving. I first met up with my crew team, Dad and Kelly, 15 miles into the race and by that point was more than ready to see them! Having a crew team was such a blessing: it broke up the race by giving me something to look forward to along the way and they took such great care of me by offering encouragement, making me eat, and giving me race updates on the hubby.

After mile 20 was a wonderful 3-4 mile downhill which I loved! I know it sounds crazy, but it took until then for me to really feel "warmed up" and awake. By that point, I was having a ball! I took the descent cautiously, making sure I didn't waste too much energy, because next up I knew was that dreadful looking 10 mile climb (yikes!)

The climb ended up not being so bad. I mean, it was difficult, but I really feel like I took it in stride, alternating running and quick hiking. I was passing people along the way too. I reached the approximate halfway mark, Long Mtn Wayside, in good shape, a little ahead of goal pace which I expected. The 2nd half is definitely the more difficult of the two and I knew that I would slow some. Again, I met up with my wonderful crew, switched out fuel and with a slap on the tush was on my way up the mountain for the remainder of the climb!

Approaching the "halfway" aid station (26-27 miles). You can see what a beautiful day we had!

2nd Half

After leaving Long Mtn Wayside, I started to have periods of high's and lows, which is not uncommon in such a long event. However, even the rougher periods weren't that bad and I stayed pretty optimistic throughout. While I may not have been feeling great, I was still doing what I love, and by this point I knew I was going to finish. From there on out, it was about staying positive and making steady forward progress.

At mile 33 I arrived at the infamous "loop," which ascends to a beautiful overlook at the peak of Mt. Pleasant. I was feeling less than stellar due to my stomach being in knots for various reasons. But, once again, my stellar crew whipped me into shape and sent me off with a smile. As I entered the loop, fellow racer Megan passed by and with a wave of optimism said "let's run this together!" I picked up the pace but she was just a little too strong for me and I quickly lost her. Regardless though, I really appreciated the camaraderie and encouragement!

The summit of Mt. Pleasant. We ascended to this overlook and punched our bibs. Pic is from the MMTR training run.
Looking back at the data, the loop was really my downfall in the race where I lost the most time to competitors. It's a little more technical on the uphills and combined with my stomach issues, my pace really slowed. Halfway through is a mile long out and back to the summit, during which time I realized there were 6 girls within my reach. That meant if I could pull off a strong finish I would still be in top 10 contention. With a wave off excitement, my spirit rebounded (though my legs did not) and took off in an effort to run the last portion of the loop strong. Nonetheless, they were all looking very solid and had already put a considerable lead on me by the time I reached the next aid station. 

Not a worry, with some more uplifting words from my crew, I was feeling much better than the hour prior and my happy self set off for the final leg of the race. My legs were definitely fatigued, yet still had plenty of miles left in them, if that makes any sense. In fact, I remember thinking "I can't believe there's only 10 miles left of this!" I made the conscious decision to not stress about placement, run my own race and make the most of the remaining miles. As I stated previously, above all things my goal was to enjoy this first 50 miler.

The Finish

As I approached the final aid station (3 miles to go) I was quite surprised to see a familiar face... it was my husband! My natural thought was that he had finished and ran back up the mountain for me. But then he said he had not finished yet, which left me confused, asking him, "Is something wrong?!" Nope, he was just fine. Basically, his race wasn't turning out to be anything stellar and "his priority was to make sure I finished," so he waited about an hour at that final aid station for me so that we could run the final miles together (seriously, he's a keeper!) What an amazing feeling it was to see him. And really, it was the only appropriate conclusion to this race... It had been our initial plan last year to run this together but we more recently opted not to for various reasons. Furthermore, he's the only reason I would consider running a 50 miler in the first place.

We flew down the hill, smiling and chatting about the race, reminiscing about what a fun season it had been. Finally, we approached the finish with plenty of cheers from spectators and the VT ultra crew! We crossed in just over 9 hrs 51 minutes. I am elated just to have finished strong and under 10 hours for my first 50 mile race!!

We attempted to "jump" at the finish, but I didn't exactly catch much air. Can't imagine why?!
Obligatory finish line shots: (L) with Clark Zealand (race director) and David Horton; (R) With my hubby, Dad and Kelly!
With Winchester running friend Emily, who rocked out this year placing first overall in the Lynchburg Ultra Series!
Just across the finish line awaited a bench press set for those athletes wishing to take part in the "Ironman" or "Iron Horse" competition (whatever it is called). I had been looking forward to this aspect of the race for months, and soon after finishing I found myself on the bench ready to see how many times I could press 65 lbs (female weight). 22 reps later, I can truly say I left everything out there at the finish line in Montebello! This too was the highlight of my day (there were many great moments, can you tell?!)

Oh yes, we are trouble! Smile says it all :)


Later than evening was the post-race dinner and awards ceremony. I will say I really enjoyed this because the work of the day was over... it was all about sharing stories of the trail and runner camaraderie, with smiles and delicious food abound! My final race placement was lucky number #13, so I missed out on a top 10 female award, but that's A-ok! I did walk away with a sweet Patagonia sweater jacket for completing the Lynchburg Ultra Series, something I never really thought I would do! Additionally, I ended up winning the Ironman competition, winning a pretty sweet, legit and heavy sword!

Female finishers of the Lynchburg Ultra Series in our awesome jackets.
Me with my sword! Best award ever!!

WHAT. A. DAY! I truly am amazed at the fact that I ran 50 miles, and felt great, AND had fun in the process. The race seemingly flew by and never once was I bored or ready to be done. More so, it just felt like an entire day doing what I love, surrounded by nature and the priceless companionship of other runners. There are many positives about this race and few negatives: energy was great, legs held up nicely, I rolled with the challenges of fueling for the distance and stayed optimistic throughout. I am a happy camper.

I am so blessed and thankful for the support I've received along the way. Thanks to my husband first an foremost, for always believing in me to do great things and seeing me through the ups and downs. To my awesome crew team, dad and Kelly for dedicating their entire Saturday to support my endeavor, to all the friends out there sending me positive race vibes, and to Coach Jim, for both his coaching expertise and perspective in making this a very positive, successful experience. And of course, thanks to race director Clark Zealand for putting on such a quality event, and the oh so huggable David Horton, whom it is always a pleasure to see!

I'll leave you with the following verse from my sword:

"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?" 
Jeremiah 12:5

And for more post-race musings, feel free to read this post too.

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