Monday, April 28, 2014

Recipe: Mason Jar Overnight Oats

This past weekend was the Promise Land 50k just outside of Lynchburg, VA. If you recall, I ran this last year and has not do much of a good day. This year I gladly watched from the sidelines, serving as crew for the hubby, bro-in-law and BFF and photographer for the Ultra VT team.

Pre-Race trying to wake up & stay warm!

Camping followed by a long day on the trails can make eating healthy difficult! Planning ahead is a must, otherwise I find myself over-munching on processed sweets out of boredom and sleep deprivation. 4AM wake ups are never easy, and this year I'm glad in remembered to bring my French press to make extra strong coffee pre-race. 

The night before the race, we were running behind and I had no clue what to pack for breakfast or lunch the next day. I typically enjoy oatmeal for breakfast but was unsure whether or not I would have access to a microwave at the campground (turns out there was!) To play it safe, I went the cold option and pulled together some overnight oats (recipe below). 



While chilly, it was a beautiful day spent along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We staged ourselves at Sunset Fields since the runners pass through there twice along the course. Since there was a large gap of time between the first and second passing of said runners, my sis-in-law, friend Devon and I took a short hike down to Apple Orchard Falls and back up (~2 miles round trip). I was certainly glad to be covering that terrain at a snails pace rather than suffering through it as I did the year before!!!

At the end of the day, UltraVT swept 3 of the top ten spots for the men and the hubby placed 15th despite having run a marathon 4 days earlier (he rocks!) My BFF and bro-in-law both finished their first PL50k with a huge smile on their face and I am so dang proud of them!!

First passing of Sunset Fields with 3 UltraVT runners (hubby in maroon) running together.
Just above Apple Orchard Falls, near the 30 mile mark. The hubby was taking his time and "enjoying the scenery" at this point =)
BFF Carrie finishes gushing with happy endorphins
The bro-in-law with his typical finish leap.
Happy finishers!
Post-race we enjoyed good food and company and lingered for quite a while before heading home. It was a gorgeous day to do so! We also dragged ourselves to the stream for a short recovery soak in the chilly water. Funny enough, I have an open water swim triathlon coming up this weekend which should be QUITE interesting. You can see here that I am not too fond of cold water!!


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Mason Jar Overnight Oats


Overnight oats are oats that have soaked overnight in a moist base rather than cooked and are typically eaten cold rather than hot. It's been a while since I've made them, but I was inspired by Miss Speedy Edie's recipe here. Overnight oats are awesome because they can easily be prepped ahead in a mason jar and stored in a cooler (or fridge) for convenient breakfast on the go!


Ingredients 
1 medium sized mason jar
1/2 cup oats, raw/uncooked
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp chocolate protein powder (optional)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon

Toppings
1/2 c. Fruit of choice
1 tbsp PB or almond butter (optional)
Agave nectar or honey, to taste
Nuts, dried fruit (raisins, craisins), dark chocolate chips or coconut shavings (optional)

Directions
Combine oats, milk, chia seeds, cocoa or protein powder and vanilla extract in your jar and stir to combine. Lastly, add your fruit of choice, diced small. I used strawberries but could have also used other berries or a half banana. I chose to stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter just prior to consuming, but this can be blended in ahead of time as well! Refrigerate overnight to soak (or 2 hrs minimum), the oats and chia seeds will absorb the liquid naturally. You can see that I prefer the chocolatey variety, but if that's not your thing then start with the oats-milk-chia seed base and personalize your flavor from there.

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This mason jar breakfast worked perfectly for fueling up for a long day of crewing on the trails...but it's also great for any breakfast on the go! They say that oats "stick to the ribs" and it's true! The insoluble fibers kept me full until lunch despite it being an extra early morning, and the combo of protein + complex carbs kept sugary cravings at bay.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Boston Strong: Marathon Monday Recap


Summarizing my experience of the Boston Marathon simply can't be accomplished in a mere few paragraphs...So I won't attempt to do so. And the day was about the racers and not about me, the spectator, so I won't pretend it was. Yet there is still much to be said about experiencing the Boston Marathon, even from the sidelines, and in witnessing many people who inspire me accomplish their goals! Marathons are very much so a story of victory, struggle, overcoming and perseverance, etc. This year's marathon included extra elements of togetherness, unity, strength and the fierce desire to "take back the finish line" that was compromised through violence in 2013, making the day and weekend all the more special.

As you probably know by now, getting to the starting line of the Boston Marathon is an accomplishment in itself. There are so many factors that go into running a solid marathon, between training and race day. Pulling all the pieces together to get that BQ time is NOT easy. Also now, with the increased demand that the race has seen over the past several years, qualification standards are becoming tighter and meeting that standard does not guarantee entry (as was the situation in my case). So major kuddos the 36,000 or so runners who made it to the start!

Pre-race pics: Hubby, Dad (L); friends Chrissy & Cameron (R)

As the athletes staged themselves in the athlete village to start, the rest of my family and I met up with friends in Newton to stage ourselves near the firehouse just past the 17th mile marker. When we arrived, it was definitely NOT what I'm used to seeing in marathon: there were tents, food vendors, bullhorns, tons of signs, security and staffing and orange gates to line the streets and keep spectators off the course. People brought their children, chairs and lunches and settled in for an all day affair. This year the crowd of spectators was thought to be ONE MILLION strong, so yea, you can say the runners definitely got the royal treatment when it came to having huge crowd support! 

Monday was a day of great victory for many, a day of defeat for others, but regardless ALL came and gave their BEST. This is exemplified well through the elite race and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the awesome athleticism of these elites as they pursued victory along the course: Shortly after 11AM, Shalane Flanagan (USA) led the pack of elite women through Newton. I've long been a fan of Shalane, since the Beijing Olympics when we were lucky enough to bump into and have a lengthy chat with her mother. Having been born and raised in Boston, she went into the race with the fierce desire to give 110% to win for her city. Though she fell short, finishing 7th overall, she set a major personal marathon PR on a difficult course with a time that would have won the Boston Marathon every other year but three. WOW! Her stride was incredibly powerful and efficient and it was really quite neat to witness her confident domination of the pack at that point of the course. 

Shalane Flanagan was still dominating the lead pack at this point with Jeptoo, women's winner, pictured to the far right.
Then there is Meb Keflezighi (USA), who past by us in Newton well ahead of the chase pack of elite men. I didn't think much of it at the moment, but how amazing that Meb ran a strategically saavy race and fought hard to the finish. The chase pack doubted his ability to maintain his pace/lead, but he ran a gutsy and confident race and walked away the victor. He has overcome numerous injuries in the past several years as well as being previously dropped by all of his sponsors who thought he was "on the decline." Yet on Monday, he defied the odds, poured his heart out on the course and was the first American since 1983 (over 30 years!) to claim victory at the Boston Marathon. Go Meb Go!!!

Meb Keflezighi, well ahead of the chase pack just past mile 17. 
The men's chase pack with no Meb to be seen ahead!
Shortly after the elites, the upper end amateurs started to appear...among them was friend Graham Peck of Baltimore, whom I interviewed earlier this year. Despite some training setbacks this spring and finishing just shy of his PR, he ran a strong race and finished in the top 50 for the males in approximately 2:26. Great race Graham!

Friend Graham Peck and his teammate. Graham went on to finish 59th overall (48th male) in a time of 2:26:36.!!
A few minutes later, the 'floodgates' were opened and soon the course was swarmed with runners left and right. To try and find a specific person out of the crowd was quite tiresome and definitely NOT easy! The mass parade had arrived!

Here come the masses
#BostonStrong
I am thankful to have spotted the hubby, who promptly cut across the course traffic to wave hello and offer up high-fives to his fan club. Here he is looking strong with a huge smile. Focused and confident, yet he still took the time to say hello.

The hubby looking great with less than 9 miles to go!
Another friend, Devon, came by shortly thereafter and took a quick pitstop to give his wifey a kiss and refuel! Devon completed his first Boston Marathon on Monday, great job buddy!!

What could be better than a mid-marathon kiss from your wife?
Then there's dad, let's not forget about him! In seeing dad at mile 17, I could already tell he was not having a great race. His pace had considerably slowed since the half, likely because of the warmer temperatures, which can really slow down many marathoners, especially after a long winter of training and no time to adjust. Regardless, he looked happy and I knew he would stick out the conditions and give it his best. He came by for a quick kiss before moving on to greet mom a quarter mile later and then set off the tackle the remaining miles.

Here's Dad around the 17 mile marker. Luckily he heard/saw me and we exchanged a mid-race hug! 
Dad run's off to cover the remainder of the course.
After sighting dad, I battled the busy metro to make the long trek downtown and find the hubby at the family meet up area (he was well beyond finished by the time I made it there). We worked our way to Boylston Street to catch my dad and take in the finish line excitement. It was a surreal experience to be standing just about a 100 yards from that sacred line, people swarming and screaming everywhere, racers passing by with huge smiles. 

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

Nothing says 'Merica more than a runner dressed as a Patriot running the Boston Marathon!
The masses make their way to the finish.
American Glory!
Certainly the biggest finish line set-up I've ever seen.
What says #BostonStrong more than a man in a tutu?
Dad finally arrived, well past his predicted time but still moving nonetheless. We tried calling for him, but our shouts were quickly lost within the crowds of yelling spectators.
What makes the Boston Marathon so special is the history behind it, the course, the stellar production and crowd support, but above all the people who are there to cross that finish line to achieve their personal goals. Amongst the struggle that comes to getting to any marathon finish, I saw mostly smiles parading down Boylston Street into that finish line. What an amazing gathering of runners from across the country, each with their own personal stories of why they are there and the obstacles they maybe had to overcome in the process. I am thankful for the opportunity to be Boston this year and watch this symbolic parade of victory and triumph in taking back that finish line, but above all to see the two people who inspire me most finish the Boston Marathon. 

PROUD daughter!
Dad overcome an injury that sidelined him for 3 weeks in February to get to that starting line. This June he will be 65 years old, and it's harder for someone his age to overcome such setbacks and the warmer temperatures that many runners battled later in the day. Regardless, he refused to give up and crossed that line in just over 5:30. Had it not been the Boston Marathon, he said he may have quit, but I'm glad he didn't! Even though he is not nearly as fast as he used to be, he is 65 and continues to thrive off of running with full intentions to continue for years to come. This fall, he is set to run the Richmond Marathon with my sister (her first marathon!) We are blessed daughters for certain!


The husband had a stellar day, setting a new PR by 7 minutes to run just under 2:48. What can I say, he is amazing! His time is impressive as is, but what it doesn't fully capture is all the struggle, hard work and dedication than went into achieving it. The husband is dedicated to his work, his patients and to helping others more so than anyone I've ever met, and this spring he trained consistently despite working overtime at his clinic. In his free time, he is often found assisting members of the Ultra VT team to work through their injuries so they too can perform at their best, or out crewing fellow teammates to help them achieve their goals, or out volunteering at various races. Tomorrow he will toe the line at the Promise Land 50k near Lynchburg, VA, just 5 short days after running Boston. Incredible he is! 

Without a doubt my favorite picture from the day: Me and my guys! I am beyond blessed!
Boston, thank you for being good to me and my guys! I am pumped and excited to hopefully return next year, this time as an official racer and not just a spectator!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Mantra: We Run Together

Today is THE Boston Marathon and I could not be more stoked to be here in the city, cheering on a few of my MOST favorite people. The air of excitement is just infectious, the energy uplifting, motivating and a bit breathtaking. I am surrounded by positivity and soaking it in. People come here to fulfill a dream, to be surrounded by other runners and to soak in the experience that comes with packed crowds of cheering spectators for miles on end. It's like runner's heaven.

Standing amongst the flurry of activity at the Boston Marathon finish line pre-race. 

The prevailing motto for this year's event has been "We Run Together," which I absolutely love and feel is appropriate. This year's marathon more so than others is symbolic of triumph over evil and of the unity of the people of Boston and runners worldwide and occurred after last year's bombings. It reminds me a of similar celebration triumph that we Hokies have been celebrating around this time for the past 7 years...

Just a few days ago the town of Blacksburg and local Hokies gathered together for a 3.2 Run For Remembrance some nine thousand people strong. They gathered to run together, celebrate life, vitality and triumph over the evil that injured our spirit but certainly did not kill it. It was an incredible display of the power of community and strength in numbers and I could not be more proud to be a Hokie.

We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.

Unity. 3.2 Run for Remembrance 2014. Photo by Virginia Tech.
How can you not feed uplifted by this photo? The start of the 3.2 Run for Remembrance 2013. Photo by Jim Stroup.

Similarly, today the town of Boston will gather together along with 36,000 plus marathon runners to celebrate another story of triumph. Yes, today runners will dig within themselves to conquer the obstacles they face and achieve personal athletic victories, but each runner that crosses the finish line will also serve as a demonstration of triumph over evil and a celebration those whose who are unable to participate. We Run Together is not only symbolic of the powerful bond that unites runners everywhere, but also of the power of unity in making a difference, turning a negative event into an overwhelmingly positive display of love, compassion, perseverance and togetherness. We run together for those who no longer can.

Celebrating and remembering 4 people whose lives were cut short, and countless others who were injured.
Hokies Runners United!
I have my sign ready to be put to work out on the course!
I've enjoyed this trip thus far and all of the excitement that surrounds the event, but to be honest, last night also included a few tears of sadness as my dad and husband made their final race preparations. It's bittersweet to be here and NOT be racing knowing how hard I've worked to earn a spot on that starting line, knowing that the plan was to come so that WE could RUN TOGETHER and how close I was to gaining entry :'( But there are lessons to be learned in everything and President Obama said it best with his memorial speech after last year's Boston Marathon:

And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us -- to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on.

We Finish the Race.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boston Marathon: Pre-Race Events & Excitement!

We arrived safely in Boston Friday afternoon and have been enjoying the energy of the event since! After being picked up at the airport by my parents, we headed straight to Haynes Convention Center to retrieve race numbers for the dad and hubby and take a brief tour of the expo vendors. Let me just say that the expo is pure chaos, especially if you're a shorty like me and cannot see over the sea of people. We found it easiest to divide and conquer rather than trying to keep track of a large group.

The Boston Marathon Expo



The hubby and dad!

With dad at the expo entrance. He is excited to run Boston for the 3rd time...
a full 14 years after his last run here!

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Saturday morning we made our way back into downtown, this time via the T. We are staying a full hour outside of downtown Boston, closest to the start in Hopkinton than anything else, so we drove into Newton and hopped on the T there. We have friends who live in Newton only ONE block from the course at mile 17...score! So race morning we will likely be stationing ourselves there to cheer on runners before heading to the finish line. 

The hubby with friend and fellow Hokie, Devon!

I had one goal for the expo on Saturday which was to meet some lovely (and fast!) elite runner ladies. Kara Goucher & Lauren Fleshmen were signing autographs with Oiselle, so we went there first. However, once we finally found the back of the line we were told it was "closed" and had closed only 2 minutes prior. BOO! So we opted to stand near the autograph table and steal a few pics of them as they signed for others. The hubby, being the ingenious guy he is, walked behind their booth for a classic discrete photo bomb. Gotta love him, lol.


My BFF Carrie & I moved on to stand in line to see US Marathon Record holder Deena Kastor. We had to wait about a half hour and the line which also just so happened to be right near the Oiselle area. This is where I'll say that Kristen can be mischievous in getting what she wants... I could not let go of the opportunity to meet and snag a picture with Kara and Lauren! Since I am the queen of 'oblivious' anyway, I decided to live up to my expectations by 'wandering' back to their line and worked my way into the line as if I didn't know any better. YES, I am bad, I know, but Carrie was thankful and no one else seemed to care ;) Mission Accomplished!

Carrie and I with Lauren Fleshmen (L) and Kara Goucher (R). Kara was SO blown away by Carrie when she heard she's running a 50k next weekend. GO Carrie!
And of course, we jumped back into line to see Deena Kastor, who is super sweet! Hey, we almost look like twins!

With Deena Kastor
With Hal Higdon, major Runner's World Magazine author and runner! I own many of his books!
After catching up with all the "famous" peeps (my husband being most famous of all, says he), we wandered around to enjoy the rest of the expo vendors. Here are a few highlights.
Demoing the new Addidas Boost shoes on the human running wheel. It was SO fun!!
Stonyfield Yogurt, official yogurt of the Boston Marathon, was giving away full sized yogurt parfaits.
Thanks Stonyfield for lunch!
I spent a good amount of time chatting with the folks over at EnergyBits. If you're at the expo today, be sure to check them out and grab a sample or otherwise visit them online at EnergyBits.com. I've been using spirulina in my shakes for a while now and EnergyBits provides a quality, reputable product if you're a spirulina/algae fan also. Feel free to use the code "Marathon" for a awesome discount OR leave a comment on this post for the opportunity to win a free grab bag! I enjoyed chatting with the company CEO in regards to why she is passionate about the health benefits of spirulina and chorella and her mission in providing the public with a quality, reputable product. I plan to do a formal review SOON, until then, feel free to read up on them online. I am thankful for the samples they provided me before my afternoon run as they definitely gave me the energy boost I needed after an exhausting few hours at the expo. 

A few members of the EnergyBits team. Expo booth #1934.


We Run Together


On the training schedule for Saturday was an hour run and knew exactly where I wanted to go! In driving from the airport, we passed this amazing running path along a beautiful river. Turns out it was only a few blocks from the expo downtown. So the hubby and I and our two friends set off in the afternoon to run along the river. To get there, we toured downtown down this awesome paved trail, around Boston Commons, etc. Just another reason why I love running: it serves as an amazing way to explore new places... and even better with great friends!

Running towards Boston Commons #WeRunTogether #HokiesUnited
Sailboats along the Charles River. They were preparing to race.

The hubby and I with the river and city in the background. This view is looking towards the MIT campus.
How could you NOT love this?!!!
The run was so amazingly perfect. Between the air of excitement with the marathon, the beautiful spring weather and the breathtaking view of the river and city, I was on cloud 9!! #RunHappy!

Today we are catching lunch with a bunch of Hokie friends and doing some final rounds of the expo. Otherwise, we plan to keep it low key... after all, we have runners who NEED to REST for their race TOMORROW! Woot woot!

Don't forget to leave a comment (What does "We Run Together" mean to you?!) below for the chance to win some EnergyBit samples!

Cheers from Boston! Have a wonderful Easter everyone!


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