Goofy Goals

My legs have finally recovered from race weekend at Disney World, so it seemed like a good time to capture some of my thoughts on the event. I had signed up for the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon on Saturday, and a full on Sunday – months ago, before I had even run my first full marathon. For some reason I thought this sounded like a good idea, but the sweet call of jingling medals has that pull on me. So I planned an epic weeklong family trip to Disney World for their marathon weekend.

We arrived in Disney World on Tuesday, January 3rd. For anyone who has planned a family trip to Disney, you probably know about the tons of prep work that goes into it. I’m a planner. And we’ve done Disneyland dozens of time… but nothing at this level, and with two toddlers. So let’s just say that there was a lot of planning that went in to this ahead of time. From hotel selection that best worked with our park plans as well as race logistics (you had to be on the monorail between 3-4am to make it to the race on time), to Fast Pass and dining selections. This day was a long time coming.

Our Tuesday arrival was pretty smooth, and once we got settled into our room, we took the time to check out the pool and then head out to Disney Springs for a casual dinner and some shopping. Disney Springs was a really cool outdoor shopping area with some very tempting and gluttonous food choices, but it was also crazy busy. We kept it to a healthy dinner (soup and salad) to off-set some of the food we’d be indulging in throughout the rest of the weekend. After that, we headed back to our hotel room to get away from the crowds and get some rest after our day of travel.

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early for breakfast with Mickey Mouse and friends. The boys were so excited when the first characters started strolling through. They were pretty star struck. And afterwards, we hopped on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom.

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Being from California, we are very familiar with Disneyland, and before we had kids, we were regular season pass holders and knew every strategy to hit up the rides in the most efficient, line-free way possible. After kids, and being in the complex park of system of Disney World, was a whole ‘nother story. I read guide books, web pages, and Facebook groups with tips to prepare for our park. Waiting in line for 2 hours with 2 toddlers is not my idea of a good time. So we went in to the park with 3 fast passes booked at the start of each day, and a loose plan of attack in between those fast passes. I knew once we had a least one day in the park, I’d have a better idea of how things would play out and it was totally true. First things first, I could see which rides my kids could actually go on from a height requirement perspective. Second, I could see which they would actually try to ride. Thankfully, my oldest was so brave and excited to try out the roller coasters that he ‘qualified’ for. He loved the Barnstormer and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. Our youngest loved Dumbo, the dark rides and It’s a Small World. And of course, they both loved the train. It was probably their favorite ride in the whole park.

We spent a full day in the Magic Kingdom for days 1, 3, and 4. We broke it up with a trip to Animal Kingdom for day 2. The boys loved the shows and the animal characters (from Jungle Book, the Lion King, etc) in AK. Overall it was a perfect plan, and perfect family trip.

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On Friday night, I had been closely monitoring the weather for the half marathon the next day. The forecast was showing lightning storms in the early AM… exactly when we’d be lining up to race. I had picked up my race packet and expo goodies declaring my participation in the Goofy challenge on Thursday night, but by Friday evening, I knew that Goofy challenge was looking questionable. Sadly, the weather wasn’t letting up, so Disney made the call to cancel the race the next morning. I was thankful that they made the decision before an early night to get ready for the 2am alarm, though I was disappointed knowing that I wouldn’t get to complete the official challenge. The lightning storm started as we were going to bed, and I knew I wouldn’t be running in that weather. I can do the treadmill for a couple of miles, maybe 4 max, but I get antsy and knew I couldn’t run 13.1 on it. We had fast passes booked starting at 10am (when I knew I would be done with the race and back with my family), and paid reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo review for 4pm on Saturday night, so I couldn’t do a run during the day or afternoon without skipping out on my family – which just didn’t seem like the right thing to do when I wouldn’t even get to say it was the official run. The original race worked out perfectly because it happened while they were sleeping or just getting up in the morning and still allowed for a whole day at the park with them. My only option to run was going to be the evening and there was no way I was going to do that and then wake up 4 hours later for a marathon. I decided to save my muscles and energy for the full marathon on Sunday. I knew that no matter what, that’s an accomplishment in itself. I’ll just have to come back to double race another day!

Our decision to spend the full Saturday at the park was a good one. We arrived just as the lightning show was ending and the park was just opening. The weather was a little drizzly, but that only made the experience better as the park was quiet and we could practically walk on to every ride for the whole day. By the time we called it quits after dinner on Saturday night, we were all ready for an early bed time. The 2:45am alarm wake-up call was just a few hours away!

I woke up to my alarm – the fear of sleeping through it wasn’t necessary… I was ready to run! I had everything laid out for the race, so I got ready and snuck out while my family slept. I was on the first monorail out to the race meeting spot where the weather was in the chilly 30’s. This was not the 60 degree race I had packed for, so I only had shorts and a long-sleeve marathon shirt that Disney provided. Thank goodness for that shirt! I laughed when I picked it up because the weather had still been warm at that point, but now it was the warmed piece of clothing I had for the trip. Doubled up with my running sleeves kept me warm enough that I knew I’d be fine once I started moving.

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I took my pictures with various characters in the meeting area: Daisy, Chip, and Dale were on display with the marathon signs, and Goofy for his challenge. I met up with my friend Mariah and her husband, Pat, who were also both running the race. We headed to the start line together – a long way from that meeting place! She had mentioned that she walked about 10k steps the last time she did this, before the race even started, and I realized she wasn’t exaggerating. Sadly, we parted ways at the corrals as we were in two different sections, but the atmosphere was filled with excitement as we joined our groups. We were just in time for the first corral to go, and I was so excited to see that every corral had a display of fireworks lit off as they left the starting line.

The race was pretty amazing. You really do run through the four parks, and there are characters and music spots at about every mile point. You could stop and take pictures with the characters (there was a line for pretty much every single one, but it was pretty fast-moving), and it was so much fun to run through the various park side entrances and trails. Around mile 16, just when I was getting really antsy, my girlfriends came to the rescue and hit me up with texts and phone calls. Yes, I was that person on the race chatting on the phone, but with my wireless headphones that seemed to conveniently have a speaker (I’d never tested this feature before). I felt like I was hanging out with them during our long runs at Umstead and before I knew it, they had entertained me to mile 22. From that point, I knew it was time to go it alone and finish out this run!

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We entered Hollywood Studios and I had a sudden, huge desire to ride on Tower of Terror. Mariah had told me how she took a break at the 13.1 point to ride on Expedition Everest during her last Goofy experience, but sadly, it wasn’t open yet when I ran by. Tower of Terror was and I had a moment of excitement when I didn’t see a long line… only to see the stand-by wait time listed as a whopping 180 minutes. Ok, well, so much for that idea! It was for the best, I just need to get this race over with! So I plugged on through Hollywood Studios which was filled with people at that point. They cheered the whole time we ran through the streets and were almost instantly dropped off at the Swan and Dolphin hotel area. We ran through there, still surrounded by people cheering the runners on and handing out candy and sweets to keep us going.

Finally, I entered Epcot. I couldn’t see the globe, but knew that was our final stop. About a mile into it, I realized that the globe had just been to my side when I entered, thus not seeing it. So I now had to run around the entire lake (which had never felt so large before) to get to that point. It was painful, but seeing all of the runners surrounding me ploughing on gave me the final push and burst I needed to make it to the end.

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I didn’t cry at the finish line, but the relief I felt was incredible. I had been so scared to run this race alone. My first ever solo marathon. But I did it and I proved to myself that I could do it. I collected my medals and headed to the bus area to get back to the hotel and my family.

While waiting for the bus, I found out from a series of texts from friends and validation emails, that Southwest had cancelled our flight home. That definitely made the ride home a little more entertaining while I tried to coordinate our alternate plans (we ended up renting a car and driving home) with my husband who was back at the hotel. Everything worked out for the best, and we were able to make it safely home. Sitting in a car for 9 hours after a marathon probably wasn’t the best decision, so I definitely had some soreness the next couple of days, but a week out and I’m back to normal.

I’m ready to start running again. I’m looking forward to cutting back on the mileage, and now concentrating on speed and injury prevention. I want to improve as a runner but also have some fun with it again. Long runs with friends for the sake of the time with them and getting in the exercise, versus being forced to run 18 miles because of another marathon in the books. You know there will be more marathons. I can only resist the allure of the medals for so long. But I’ll stick with some shorter distances for the time being. The Disney experience was incredible and I might just need to make it a point to do one of their half marathons next year… and maybe plan on a Dopey challenge in 2019?

 

 

 

Running Gear for the New Year

The New Year is a great time to evaluate your running goals for the year. Whether it be just getting started with your first 5k, or figuring out how many half or full marathons you’re going to tackle, picking races is an exciting way to set short and longer term fitness goals for yourself.

I have a few favorite items that I use regularly on my runs depending on distance, time of day, etc. By no means is any of this ‘mandatory’ to run, but when I am asked about what I use, these are the items I tend to get asked about the most:

 

 

Clockwise from Top Left:
Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes
Ultimate Night Light from Title Nine
Flip Belt
Garmin Forerunner 235
Nathan Strobe Light
Nathan Hydration Vest
Plantonic Backbeat Fit

Long and short runs both require me being able to hold my goodies. For a short run, it’s just my phone, so I go to my Flip Belt. For a long run, especially anything over 6 miles, I like to keep hydrated. I always do my long runs with my Nathan hydration vest, similar to what’s pictured. I was worried about chafing and feeling like I was lugging a a heavy load on my back, but I honestly forget that it’s there. Regardless of the version you pick though, make sure the bladder is included. It may seem like a great price, but if there’s no bladder, that could be another $30-$50 to buy one separately. Some people don’t need water for their long runs, but if anything, having the bag to carry my fuel, keys, etc. has always been a better option than weighing down my running clothes. I also carry my phone for emergency purposes, but if I’m running alone in a populated area, I will listen to music or an audio book on low. I love my wireless headset for those instances, and it works great for taking phone calls, too.

When I became more serious about my running, I invested in a Garmin Forerunner 235. There are several great Garmin watch models, but I love how this one includes heart rate monitoring without a separate strap. The data uploads straight to my phone, and the Garmin app also syncs with other apps like My Fitness Pal to log my calories earned from working out.

Running in low light conditions definitely requires some safety gear, including lighting. I am guilty of running at night without a light, but I try to wear bright, reflective clothes in those cases. The better option are the two lights (or similar) listed above, in addition to reflective gear. I have a couple of strobe lights since I always seem to misplace them, but I just got the head lamp that I can’t wait to start using on my evening runs.

Finally, recovery! I received a copy of Hit Reset for Christmas and I can’t wait to put it into practice as part of my stretching and recovery routine. I’ve battled a few injuries this year from not taking enough time after my runs to stretch my tight muscles. I know this book is going to be a great resource in my library.

Note: None of the items above are affiliate links. These are all my personal favorites and my own opinion of what has worked for me.

 

2016 Race Recap

When I first began my approach to 2016, I dubbed it the ‘year of the half marathon.’ I had registered for a half dozen at the start of the year, and had big plans of knocking a few challenges off my list. I already listed out which races I did, but in looking back at the medals that I gathered over the year, I realized that I definitely had my favorites, and some that I’ll cross off the ‘been there, done that’ list. Here are some of the highlights.

My biggest goal for 2016 was to get the Rock N Roll Marathon series Southern Charm medal. Last year, it was in the shape of a jar of moonshine and was so flippin’ cute. The rocking chair for this year was initially met with some disappointment on my part (I didn’t realize the shape would change every year), but now that I have that heavy, shiny, medal in my possession, I love it. Add to it that it also means I earned the Double and Triple Beat medals (still waiting for my Triple Beat in the mail so it’s not pictured), made it even more worth it, but to then top it off with Savannah, the third race I needed to complete to qualify for it also happened to be my first full marathon? Well, it’ll be hard to top this collection of medals going forward. But I will say that my next favorite is easily…

Destination Races Virginia Wine Country Half medal. It’s a wine coaster. How cool is that? It can even detach from the ribbon. I’m excited to run in the Destination Races series again this year in the Napa to Sonoma race, though I’m debating doing another one just because they’re so fun. If you want to run for wine, you can get $10 off your registration by using the code ‘DRAMBNEWTON’ on any destination half marathon except for Napa to Sonoma, which is sold out, or the 10k.

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Wine Coaster medal from DR Virginia Half Marathon

I also love our local Tir Na Nog 5 mile race series and how their medals this year linked together. If you completed both the St. Patrick’s Day run and the Oktoberfest run, the two pieces are magnets and connect in the center.

The race that never happened? Apparently there always has to be one. Last year it was the dreaded Color Run. #neveragain This year it was Esprit de She which was cancelled due to weather. Last year the race had similar issues and they ended up dropping the 10k option and just making it a 5k. This year, they told us at the start line that it wasn’t happening. Totally frustrating and it was absolute chaos leaving, but we were able to get our medals from the volunteers. My girlfriend and I promptly went straight to the Y and ran our 5k on the treadmills. We then passed our medals to each other and ran out to the car in the rain. Crisis averted, but sadly after having been burned by that series two times now, we won’t be registering for it again in 2017.

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My collection of medals from 2016

As you can see, there were so many other medals and other memorable experiences, as well as races that didn’t pass them out so they’re not pictured. But I’m looking forward to some new races next year. I’m doing some different distances and challenges including…

The Krispy Kreme 5 mile challenge. Run 2.5 miles, eat a dozen donuts, then run back. All in under an hour. Totally doable, right? Ok, I’m nervous about the donuts… and the vomit that so many people have told me about. Just look up and inhale with your mouth…

The Tar Heel 10 miler. This is another first for me but I’m excited by one of my favorite distances. Usually in a half, by the time I pass ten miles, I’m itching for the finish line. But 10 miles? I’m just getting warmed up. Ha! Well, we’ll see, but I’m also an ambassador for that series. Use ‘TH10CHRISTINE’ for $5 off the registration for either the 4 or 10 mile race.

And of course, let’s not forget that I’m about to do the Disney Goofy Challenge next weekend. This might be my craziest goal yet, but I’m excited to cross it off the bucket list… and then never do it again. 😉

Here’s an overview of my fastest race times in 2016:
5k: Gigi’s Cupcakes 27:16
Half Marathon: Bull City Race Fest 2:09:41
Full Marathon (ok, only): Rock N Roll Savannah 4:46:02

Now to work on my next PR times for 2017!

 

 

Focus for 2017

We’re just a couple of days away from Christmas and then the looming New Year. I’ve been thinking more and more about 2017. How can I go into it with a more positive outlook? 2016 had ups and downs, and I learnt a lot about myself and what I could handle. I know I need to reprioritize a few things and change some areas of concentration. I stretched myself thin this year and definitely started to feel the strain of it all in the last couple of months.

First things first: my family.

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Training for so many races meant that I was away for large chunks of my Sunday mornings. Part of my plan to fix that is running less intense races. The half marathon has been looking really good since finishing up this second round of marathon training. I’m focusing on quality instead of quantity, so I’m limited the races I’m doing. So far I have planned:

Races:
Disney Goofy (Half and Full) Challenge (in just two weeks!!)
Krispy Kreme Challenge
Tar Heel 10 Miler
Run Like A Mother 5k
Destination Races Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon
Gigi’s Cupcake Run 5k
City of Oaks Full Marathon??

Only having about half a dozen races, two of which are just 5ks, should really cut back on long trainings. I also want to ease back on my kids activities. At one point, Big Fig was doing gymnastics, swimming, AND soccer, all within a 3 hour period on Saturday mornings. While I love that he has the chance to try so many things, I don’t want him to burn out too. Not doing so much also gives us more time as a family and with our friends.

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Love moments like these!

 

I also want to really focus on my career. I want to continue to build my knowledge of my day to day role, as I’m in a field that’s constantly changing and evolving with technology. But I’d also like to get in some additional trainings and certifications that will help me to be a better category manager and have a better understanding of the field that I’ve been in for over a decade now. I don’t think I fully realized the value of certifications until I saw my husband get his project management certification, and then I went through my own fitness professional certifications. The latter really increased my confidence, as well as provided opportunities to be more efficient in my teaching. To be able to translate that into my day to day career sounds pretty exciting.

For fitness teaching, I plan to continue doing Piyo and water aerobics. They’ve worked really well with my current schedule and I like that both give me a good workout when I’d regularly be working out anyways. I also want to look into Barre Above, which I had tried at DCAC this past August and loved. All of those things are also excellent cross training with my runs, and have really helped me with my injury prevention.

My own fitness plan? I’m just going to keep up my runs, take some PiYo/barre, and then squeeze in something additional when I can, hopefully once a week… ideally some strength training or other cardio like cycle or Zumba.

From a nutrition perspective, I’m not changing much. Continuing to focus on eating out less (we currently only do it about 1-2x a week if you count lunch), for both healthy choice options and to cut back on costs. I currently stockpile foods like I’m preparing for an apocalypse, but I’ve been working hard to constantly cycle through what we already have in the pantry or freezer, combined with fresh produce. It helps me stay on top of my meal planning, watch our overall household costs, and just be more efficient with our time. The main thing I need to do is get back to less sweets and to my controlled portions of said goodies. Preparation and planning has been the biggest winning strategy to this healthy lifestyle, so I need to keep it up and keep focused in the New Year.

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Last, and certainly not least, I want to continue to focus on my friendships that have meant so much to our family this past year. Unfortunately, through all of this, I found there were friends who weren’t there, or who just kept taking and then manipulated situations behind my back. But, I also had friends that were there through thick and thin. They made the time to hang out, or understood when life was just crazy for all of us, but that we would all find the time when we could. It was an emotional year and while I blog about certain aspects of my life, or spend time on Facebook or Instagram sharing happy moments, I also try to keep the harder times closer to the vest or only share with those who are actually ‘there’ for me. Just because I don’t post those things online doesn’t mean I’m not dealing with them or coping in my own way. It really did help me to put some of those relationships into perspective, and I’m so thankful for my husband for also being there as my rock through it all.

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I’m excited for 2017. I hope that our nation can get it together, but I’m trying to have a positive outlook on the future. Here’s to family, friends, and a joyous new year!

Reflecting on 2016

2016 was a pretty crazy year. It had its share of ups and downs. Huge accomplishments, some disappointments (don’t get me started about November), and a whole lot of reflection and learning lessons. Long runs give you a lot of time on the reflection front.

I have run over 1000 miles (and counting as I train for my first race of 2017, the Disney Goofy challenge the second weekend of January), and approximately 13 races. At least, I have medals for 13, but I’m pretty sure there were one or two that didn’t give out medals that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Of the races that I could remember, they stacked out to equal:

5 – 5ks
2 – 5 mile races
5 – half marathons
1 – full marathon

Charleston Half Marathon
Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon
Tir Na Nog St. Patrick’s Day 5 mile race
Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon
Run Like A Mother 5k
Ramblin Rose Sprint Triathlon
Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon in Virginia
Esprit de She 5k (race was cancelled due to weather while we waited at the starting line but still ran the 5k on the treadmill while it stormed outside)
Gigi’s Cupcake Run 5k
Oktoberfest 5 mile race
Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon
Rock N Roll Savannah Full Marathon
Rock N Roll Savannah 5k
Girls on the Run Reindeer Romp 5k

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When I started the year, I never anticipated that I would even consider running a full marathon. By around June, my running buddy, Rachel, was campaigning hard to convince me that I was capable of it. I wasn’t entirely certain, but I knew that at some point I would be tempted by the Disney races. Ultimately, I decided that not only would I run Savannah as a full (as long as she promised to run it with me… I was convinced that there was no way I could do 26.2 on my own!), but that I would go ahead and sign up for the DisneyWorld Goofy challenge, too.

Through all of this, I spent the first half of the year working towards reaching my ultimate weight loss goal which was 110lbs down. I didn’t know if I wanted to stay at that weight, but as I got closer to my goal and knew that I could reach it, I figured I would let my body help guide me in what worked for it. I was able to reach my goal weight by around April and have since worked on keeping a form of maintenance. The pounds fluctuate, but I don’t feel limited in what I eat, though I always need to make sure I balance the good with the bad. It can be easy to fall into old habits, but my enjoyment of exercise definitely helps so that I don’t feel too guilty when I do over-indulge.

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Around the same time, I realized that I really did like this exercise thing. And hey, maybe I’d want to teach it, too! So I started studying for my AFAA certification and as extra incentive to give me a target date, I signed up for PiYo Live and Schwinn Cycle certifications to supplement. The catch was that in order to have them count towards my AFAA credits, I had to take them after I passed the test. I haven’t taken a proctored exam since college so to say I was stressed was an understatement. But I studied, even while on a race road trip with friends, to get that passing grade.

A little over a month later, with lots of practice and friends that were willing to be guinea pigs, I was hired by my local Y to teach PiYo, water aerobics, and cycle. This involved completely stepping outside of my comfort zone – public speaking terrifies me! But I have gotten so much more comfortable in front of these groups and my classes and have gained so much confidence from the experience. Some classes still make me nervous (cycle) but it’s mainly because I don’t have the chance to practice teaching them as much to get familiar with it.

On top of all of this, I was balancing my family and work life! Two little toddlers running around and growing up so fast! My husband has been so incredibly supportive through it all. He has also been working hard to lose weight and exercise and has found a love for a local cycle studio that opened up by us. They know him by name and are so excited when he’s in class.

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And as I mentioned there were a lot of learning lessons. Training for a marathon is hard. Not just the toll on your body, but it takes up SO much time. Long runs can be hours away from family and my energy isn’t always at the highest level afterwards. I’ve definitely come to learn that less is more – I’m becoming a big fan of the half marathon but with that, I know I don’t need to sign up for every race under the sun. Race days can also eat up a lot of time and I hate to make my family wait around for me at a busy finish line where parking and downtown traffic navigation can be rough thanks to closed streets. So I’m becoming a lot pickier about which races I do want to take part in and how long those distances should be. The chances that I’ll run another marathon after Disney are high, but it won’t be for a while.

I was also a coach for a local Girls on the Run team. It is such an incredible organization and experience that I couldn’t pass it up, and my company encourages volunteerism. I wish I had a program like GotR when I was in elementary and middle school. It was incredible watching the girls learn how to deal with so many situations that I still encounter as an adult. It’s a powerful tool to have those lessons and the awareness of those situations in your arsenal. I’m going to miss them in the Spring semester, but as part of my learning lessons, I know when I need to pull back and right now I know I want to focus on my family and my career as I kickstart 2017.

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So with that, we are quickly approaching the holidays. Work has been so busy as our company gets ready to shut down for the last week of the year, and on top of that, our weekends are packed with activities with friends and family. I’m getting in some of my last training runs for Disney, but then I’m looking forward to a little time off from long runs. Not too much, of course, but runs that constantly reach the double digits will be on the back burner for a while. I’ve been thinking about my 2017 goals – because I always like to have targets to reach in my mind – but I’m also taking the time to slow down a little bit and enjoy the last of the year.

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I am thankful for so many wonderful things in my life and in the life of my friends and family. I am blessed to have met so many wonderful ladies to call  “my crew” though this fitness and motherhood journey. Ladies I can laugh and cry with. Ladies who help push me at 6am when I don’t want to get out of bed, ladies who can help me see perspective in things that are getting me down – you really get to know people when you have long runs with them weekend after weekend. I am thankful for my handsome boys and husband. I don’t want to jinx anything or tempt fate, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long while and I hope that I can channel this positive and healthy lifecycle to inspire others to find their balance and achieve their goals. Thank you for reading, I look forward to sharing more with you in 2017!

Recipe: Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe, but this one is a favorite in our house. It’s meatless, but that doesn’t stop any of us from devouring it. Even the kids aren’t deterred by the high veggie content as it gets mixed into a blend of sauce and cheesiness that’s incredible. It’s easy to make but can be a little time consuming, so I usually double the recipe and freeze a couple. It’s perfect for meal trains or just to have in your freezer ready to go for a ready to cook dinner night. This recipe makes 1 rectangular baking dish worth, but if you double the recipe, you can make 3 – 8″ or 9″ dishes and it freezes beautifully. We just keep a bunch of aluminum foil pans on hand so that when the mood strikes me to make this, I can do it in bulk. It takes just as much time as doing one serving.

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Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups
Modified from Southern Living Magazine

Ingredients:
10 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
Handful of spinach, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 24oz jar tomato and basil pasta sauce
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 oz neufchâtel or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 14oz can baby artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 large egg white
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package for al dente. Add a little olive oil to the water so the noodles don’t stick together. Drain pasta and separate.

2. Saute onion in hot oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until caramelized (approx. 7-10 mins). Add mushrooms, spinach, and garlic, stirring constantly, until mushrooms have softened slightly (approx 2 mins). Stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, and red pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 5 mins. Remove from heat.

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3. Stir ricotta and cream cheese until smooth. Add the artichoke hearts, egg white, basil, and parmesan. Spread a spoonful of the mixture on each noodle.

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Spread over the length of the noodle, and roll up firmly. Place seam side down on a greased casserole dish. Repeat until all noodles and cheese are assembled.

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Spoon sauce over rolls.

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4. Bake, covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until heated. Let cool slightly before serving.

If freezing, don’t bake. Cover with foil and freeze. I thaw the night before and bake as above, but if you can’t thaw, you’ll just have to increase your cooking time.

Doubling note: If doubling your batch to make 2-3 trays, make more than just 20 rolls. I can fit 9 rolls per 8″ pan, so you might want to make 27 noodles (or less if you only want 8 per pan) to your desired final amount. You would just fill with a little less of the cheese mixture to spread it out, but it will still be delicious.

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This is what you came for

One week post marathon, and I finally have a moment to sit down and reflect on it. So much has happened since then… but ultimately it just came down to being completely swamped with life as the holidays approach, weekends get busier, and the workweek is hectic, especially after taking a couple of days off for the long weekend in Savannah. So, before I dive in to the marathon weekend, here’s how the end of my training played out:

Week 17
Total miles 25.1
Long run miles 12 throughout my neighborhood
Cross training included teaching PiYo Live and Water Aerobics, but mostly, I was running.

Week 18
Total miles 25.76
Long run miles 8 for my final taper!
Cross training included the usual PiYo Live and Water Aerobics.

Week 19
Total miles 36.49
Long run miles 26.2 at Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah!

On Friday, I headed out with Rachel, Stephanie, and Heather, and we made our way to Savannah by car. It’s just 5 hours away from us in Raleigh, so we each put together a collection of songs that my husband collected from us and then put onto a Spotify playlist. We titled it: Shrimp Skewers and Beer. The theme of the weekend. We then had a great time on the drive as we tried to guess who submitted each song. We have a very eclectic mix of music but seemed to know each other pretty well and had some good laughs along the way.

We drove into Savannah and went straight to the Expo. Stephanie had to pick up about a dozen bibs because in addition to the half, she had signed up for the 5k and 1 mile challenge the following day. We then took our bags of goodies back and got settled into our hotel while we figured out our game plan for the rest of the weekend. My family recommended a few places to eat, so we went straight over to the Public House for our carb-loading dinner. We enjoyed our first of many shrimp and grit meals, some drinks, and then called an early night for our early wake-up call the following day.

Saturday morning, we were all up early and ready to go. We had a fiasco with room service not showing up, but thankfully our hotel quickly got us access to the buffet that was already setup. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and made our way to the start line that was just a few minutes from our hotel.

rnrsavpre

We stuck together at corral 10 – in between the 4:30 and 4:45 pacers. When the starting buzzer went off, we took off together and tried to stay close. Excitement had me running faster than I knew I could maintain and my legs felt heavy, so I tried to slow it down. Eventually, Heather took off and I ran with Stephanie and Rachel. We ran at various points all together or with one at at time, until around mile 5. Then Rachel and I pretty much fell into our rhythm and began the steady pace to finish. When the 10 mile course split happened, I so desperately wanted to take the route to go towards the half marathon finish line. But we turned off onto the Truman Parkway and plodded along in the full sun for the next 16 miles.

There were many challenging moments. So. Very. Many. Seeing the fastest runner pass us when we were just about 12 miles in… and he was on his 24th. That was both inspiring and so disheartening when I knew I’d still have about two hours to go. Miles 17-18 was the turnaround to head back from the split back to the finish. That was a mind game. Miles 21-24 were particularly hard – it felt like I was moving backwards at points and everything was starting to hurt. But by the time we left the Truman and made our way to the finish, I was so excited and ready to be DONE.

Rachel got a call from her family around mile 25 and it took everything in me not to get teary. I knew if I started crying that I wouldn’t be able to breathe, thereby making running that much harder (and really, it couldn’t get any harder at that point). Once we were in the finishing chute, all bets were off. The second my foot hit that timing strip, I was a sobbing mess. Stephanie and Heather were waiting for us, as was my dad who I wasn’t sure would be able to make it due to Savannah traffic from the race. I was so thankful to be done running and to have made it through the whole 26.2 miles… a feat that even a year before I would have told you would never have happened. The whole time I was running, I was questioning my decision and if I would be able to finish it, so to make it over the finish line was so exhilarating.

rnrsavfinishers

After the race, we gathered our medals and picked up our marathon jackets. We took some time to stretch and soak up the sun. Sadly, we’re not fast enough to have enjoyed the headliner, Old Crow Medicine Show. Eventually, we trudged back to our hotel, grabbing a some lunch to enjoy back in our room while we rested for the afternoon while binge watching HGTV. That night we went to the Crystal Beer Parlor for some more shrimp and then we were crazy enough to consider a walking ghost tour of Savannah. We were exhausted but it felt good to walk our our legs through the historic city.

On Sunday, we had a slow morning, then headed over to our next set of races. It was really just going to be Stephanie running but I decided to join her for the 5k as I didn’t feel too sore and I’m easily swayed by the promise of bling. They had on-site registration so I was able to join in the fun and reap the benefits of two additional medals for doing the Remix challenge. We didn’t run to break any speed goals, but it was a fun tour of some beautiful Savannah neighborhoods. I think the short run helped with my soreness because by the end of the weekend, aside from a few blisters, I felt great. Our last night was spend at Treylor Park where we, of course, enjoyed some more amazing food and drinks and a quick tour of River Street.

rnrsav5k

Monday morning, we met up with my family for breakfast at B. Matthews which makes incredible food and provided our last bit of shrimp and grits before we left town. Then we headed back home to get back to our normal routines, with a lot less running for the rest of the week.

Overall, it was an incredible weekend. I’m so proud of everything we accomplished. I didn’t beat the time that I had set for myself in my head, but it was my first marathon. I can’t say that the marathon distance is my favorite, but I am ready to do more, just to prove that I can beat my previous times, and to see if it will get easier. At one point, I hated the half marathon and now I love that distance… who knows if it will be the same? 26.2 miles is a long way to run! But I did it, and I’m so proud of my accomplishments from that weekend. We already have a few more races planned for the next couple of years, so we’ll see where that takes us next!