Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blessings and Trials

BLESSING: It reached 60 degrees here in Illinois today... on January 31. This weather is freakin' unbelievable.  Who knew if I decorated my blog with seasonal snowflakes, it would be the mildest winter in history?!
TRIAL:  The wind just won't ease up.  I live near the airport, so we feel every ounce of the windy blasts as they pick up speed across the flat runways.  Our street is like a wind tunnel.

BLESSING: I ran today! 5.6 miles. I never ever take this for granted.
TRIAL:  Did I mention the wind?  Yeah, I can handle that.  But my hamstring muscles were still sore this morning. It took me 14 minutes to complete my first mile.  No joke.  Once I started running, I felt a popping sensation, particularly in my right hamstring.  So I stopped, stretched, and walked it out. I debated turning around... and then it gradually grew numb loosened up.  I iced the hammies as soon as I finished my run. It's feeling much better this afternoon, so maybe the run helped?

BLESSING:  I can feel the quickness of weight loss.  With 15 lbs off my frame since Jan. 9, I'm running at a quicker pace (without dying).  It feels good... and that makes my runs happy.
TRIAL:  I'm still fighting to eat the right foods.  It's a double edge sword: eating to fuel my workouts AND to lose weight.  You gotta know when to eat 'em (CARBS!) and know when to walk away...

BLESSING: I got mail!!  I arrived back from my run just in time to meet my UPS man.  He had a Saucony box for me.  I'm so nervous getting new shoes - especially when I switch brands.  I've run exclusively in Asics for over a year now - but these Saucony ProGrid 5's fit like a glove!  Review to come once I give them a test run...
TRIAL: Hmmm, how to explain to my husband that I NEEDED another pair of running shoes.

Little Girl and I went shopping today to get my -15 lb Reward... TaDa!
Guess what I'll be doing during Biggest Loser tonight?

Monday, January 30, 2012

January Challenges Recap

Like most people, I set myself lofty goals as the calendar flipped to January.  Make no mistake - I love blogger fitness challenges and virtual races, but I need to evaluate and select wisely.  Does this help me stay on track to reach my 2012 Goals?  Keeping focused on own personal goals is tough for me as I tend to get caught up in the excitement/persuasion of others.  During the month of January, I decided to participate in the following two challenges...

hosted by (Just) Trying is for Little Girls

This challenge is a simple nudge outside my comfort zone of running... and try one new cross training activity each month of the year.  I am all about new experiences!  It keeps fitness fresh for me.  I find the more I cross train, the more I enjoy running days AND the less I get injured from overtraining. Total WIN all the way around.  Since one of my 2012 Goals is to complete my first triathlon, the selection of my first "new to me" cross train was easy... SWIMMING!

I wasted no time taking the plunge with my first pool date on January 2.  My goal was to swim at least two times each week as part of a brick-style workout (coupled with biking or running). During the last month, I completed 10 pool workouts.
Here's what I've learned...
  • Swimming is hard!  Unlike running, there is much more coordination needed amongst the body parts - arm strokes, hip position, kicking and then breathing. Oh-the breathing!! The basic movements of running are natural for humans, right?  It was quite clear with swimming that I was not a natural-born fish.
  • I had to think back to the beginning days of my running.  I didn't run a 5K overnight (took me months to work up to that!). The same holds true with swimming. I started with one simple lap of freestyle strokes.  I alternated with a lap of water jogging for recovery (I was literally panting after one lap of swimming!). The second week, I built up to a 2-1 ratio.  Now in my fourth week, I'm doing 3 laps of freestyle to 1 lap of board kicking where I practice proper breathing technique.  I can now easily finish 1500 yds in 40 minutes.
  • Swim caps are not only awesome, but much needed when you have long hair.  I tied my long locks back in a tight bun to swim, but it still came loose. I can't tell you how difficult it is to detangle swim hair!  Finally I bought myself a swim cap and the hair problem is solved.
  • Swimmers are not nearly as friendly as runners.  Just sayin'... it was a frigid welcome to the pool by the other regular swimmers.  Even after a month, only one guy has warmed up enough to say hello. Weird.
  • Swimming rocks the side muscles of your core!  I felt it instantly after the first workout. I will continue swimming in my regular fitness routine because I think it's made a huge difference in my cardiovascular ability and overall toning of my "non-running" muscles.

hosted by Run to the Finish

Another one of my 2012 Goals is to lose weight, specifically 30 pounds before summer.  If you've been following me for even a little while, you know my failure is not in the exercise arena.  My weakness is food.  This Food Journal Challenge was just what I needed to start the year. Luckily the challenge perimeters were pretty flexible, because I fumbled around before finally finding what worked for me...

  • First I bought a little notebook, eager to jot down everything I ate and journal my "food feelings" for the day.  I did well with that the first week and then it slowly fizzled (lost in the pile of homework, bills and mail on the kitchen counter).
  • As I struggled to keep up the notebook, I started taking photographs of my meals.  Initially, the photos were just a visual reminder of what I ate... so that I could catch-up on my journal.  What I learned quickly was that I had a really hard time taking a picture of a pile of chocolate chips (the only chocolate I could find in the house!) or a greasy plate of pizza. I also couldn't take seconds... I mean seriously, two pictures for one meal!?!?  Then I began sharing my photos in a Facebook album {here}.  Now I felt an urge to make the plates "look pretty and colorful".  It also held me a bit more accountable.
  • Lastly, I logged back into My Fitness Pal.  I used this website (and now iPhone app) several years back when I started my weight loss journey. It's so easy to use (and free!) to track your daily intake and calories.  It forces me to measure out my food portions.  Like so many Americans, my portions were too big.  In fact, I quit using the 11" dinner plates (except for salads).  My dinners are now served on the smaller 8" plates.

Do these monthly challenges make a difference?  I'll let you decide. This morning was my official Week 3 Weigh-In for the 55-Day Weight Loss Challenge at my health club.  So excited with my results this week...
-5.1 lbs this week!
Brings my total to -15.1 lbs for the three week period.
My team in general is doing very well.  The five of us Sole Sisters have lost 51.8 lbs as a group!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Long Run Sunday

I wish I could say my long run today was all awesomeness, but it didn't quite fill the bill.  The morning started off fun with a large group of Sole Sisters (and one Mister Sister) showing up to begin the run.  As soon as I stepped out of the car, I realized it was much windier than I had thought.  I later checked... 17mph winds out of the northwest. We got a little relief from some tree cover, but it was a tough run for me to enjoy today.

We received a couple inches of snow yesterday, so the trail conditions were questionable. We found a real mixture on the run - some places were completely clear, other spots of black ice and crusty snow.  Normally this doesn't bother me too much, but I made a bad rest-day decision yesterday.  I pulled out a new DVD Saturday afternoon. It was a core workout, so that shouldn't mess with my legs, right?  Ummm, yeah, I got two words for you... Weighted Deadlifts.  OMG!  My hamstrings were so sore getting out of bed this morning!  And on the run, I found out quickly how much one uses hamstring muscles (a lot!) for balance on snow and slippery spots.  No matter how much I warmed up and stretched, there was no pleasing my sore hammies.  As I type away now, I have them resting on ice packs.  Mistake I won't make again... I know better.

The last four miles (with the wind at our back) was the best part.  I had questioned myself the whole run and now we were on the home stretch.  I was so lucky to have my friend Patty with me for the long haul. Otherwise, I'm not sure if I would have pushed myself through the full mileage.  Today was my longest run of the year so far, putting me at 36 miles for the week!

Today's run stats
15.27 miles in 2:43

Once I picked up the kids, I was freezing and anxious to jump in a hot shower.  I haven't been able to talk myself into a post-run ice bath this time of year... yet.  Instead, I'll foam roll and do a 20 minutes of yoga this evening.  For now, I get to relax and warm up with a hot beverage with my two biggest cheerleaders...

Happy Sunday y'all!  Hope it's a great day!

Friday, January 27, 2012

No Excuses Mommy!

My Fit Fluential supporters tell me VLOG (video instead of writing) is the new craze.  So here is my first stab at a vlog...
Today's Topic
No Excuses: Run Mommy Run!
~ how to run with your kids in tow ~

I'd really love your feedback.
Do you enjoy VLOGs or do you prefer reading?
I of course find it slightly annoying to listen to myself talk... Is that normal?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tread This!

I just found out yesterday that our health club had a new offering called Treading.  Offered four times a week, there is a maximum of only 4 people per session.  One personal trainer + four bodies + four treadmills = Treading.  I was told it was like Spinning but on a treadmill... you know, hills and intervals.  Hmmm, sounds like something right up my alley. So I signed myself right up!

By evening, I was a little anxious just thinking about it. It's hard enough for me to do intervals and hills on my own... could I survive someone else's direction?  I envisioned a trainer hanging overtop of my treadmill, pushing the buttons faster... and faster... and higher... and faster.  I've always dreamed of a training session Jillian Michaels style, but now I was starting to make myself nervous.

 Stop touching the treadmill buttons Jillian!

Run Faster Jess!

As Little Girl and I drove to the gym this morning, I still had some butterflies in my stomach - more out of the unknown, not knowing what to expect from this new Treading class.  Aw-man, it felt like race morning or something!  Geesh!  I just hoped there would be someone slower than me in the group.  As soon as we walked in the door, I saw Trainer Amy.  She greeted me with, "Good, you're here. It's just you and me today."  Oh-great... now she could focus solely on me.  I tried to quickly turn this around in my head... I'm getting an hour of personal training - on running intervals, where I need it the most.  Did I mention this was FREE?

She started me off with a slow walk to warmup.  We chatted away... Trainer Amy had just run her first half marathon last fall.  Slowly, we picked up the pace to a fast walk.  Then added in hills... built up to a 15% incline and then backdown (several times), but never dipping below 3%.  My calves were working hard on the hills, but I was still comfortable.  She asked how I was feeling, to which I always responded "Just fine!"  She laughed and said, "Yeah, I haven't had anyone quite this talkative, smiling and laughing during these workouts... We better amp this up."  And then Trainer Amy pulled out the big guns.  When I wasn't climbing a monster hill, she had me running fast.  Yeah, she totally pulled a Jillian - reaching over, pushing the buttons, saying I can go faster... and of course, I obliged.

We did a full 50 minutes before Trainer Amy led me into a cooldown and stretching.  I was sweating and felt it was a good workout.  Although to be honest, I could have gone longer.  Shorter warmup and more of the meat in the middle would have been ideal.  She knew that too.  Amy's parting words were "Next time, I can go harder on you."  

My legs were feeling pretty good yet, so I jumped back on the treadmill and did a little 2-mile progression run.  After running all those hills with Amy, a 0% incline felt easy... So I started at a 9:30 pace and kept adding speed every 1/4 mile.  It's what I like to call my "Dream Run"... envisioning my next finish line (Myrtle Beach!!) and race to beat the clock.  Finally... I was exhausted.

Have you ever done a trainer-led treadmill session?
Or any kind of workout with a personal trainer?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

11 Random Things

So this little "11" game has been going around the blogosphere and I've been tagged (twice) so I better get at it!


  1. Post these rules.
  2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions set for you in the post you were tagged in.
  4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
  5. Go to their blog,  FB page, or wherever you can grab their attention and inform them of their obligation to the blogosphere.


  1.  I love the water. Running around a lake, beside a river, down a beach = Heaven!  And yet I'm convinced my death will be from drowning since I have nightmares about it all the time.
  2. My favorite color is yellow.
  3. I'm sexy and I know it.
  4. I used to work for a beer company.
  5. I got paid to sit around and think up crazy promotions for minor league baseball games.
  6. I played clarinet through middle and high school.
  7. I have awesome toes - all the perfect length - but my feet are so extremely dry!
  8. My favorite cupcake is butter pecan with maple frosting.
  9. I've always wanted to be a housewife... and yet I hate to cook, iron, and do laundry.  I do like mild cleaning though.
  10. I'm a middle child and only girl.  Always wanted a sister...
  11. In the last 25 days, I've only had 1 Diet Coke.  Some kind of record!

QUESTIONS ASKED FROM: Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman

  1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?  What do you want to be now that you have grown up?  I wanted to be President!  Seriously, held onto that for awhile through college (Political Science major here) until I realized how nasty the political world is.
  2. If you came into a large fortune all of a sudden and were set for life, what is the first thing you would do?  Pay off all the bills!  Tell the hubby to turn in the pink slip and we're off to the beach!
  3. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?  Rocky Road
  4. Of all the places you've been - vacation, work, or any other reason - which was your favorite and why?  My college semester abroad in Poland.  Life seemed so simple there and a slower pace.
  5. What is your favorite time of day to exercise?  Morning - especially early dawn in the summer.  It's like getting a jump on the day before anyone else is even out of bed.
  6. Everyone has an innate fear.  What are you naturally afraid of?  Heights!  I totally freaked out on the big ferris wheel on Old Navy Pier in Chicago.  Petrified!  My kids were like, "What's wrong with Mom?"
  7. Which holiday is your favorite?, and why?  Halloween!  I love costumes!
  8. It's Friday night and you have the whole weekend ahead of you, what do you do?  What?  No plans?  Friday night movie with the hubby, Saturday morning run followed by a day putzing around the house.  We never have down-time, so I really enjoy it when we do.
  9. What was the very last meal you ate? tuna and veggies
  10. What is your big race this year?, and what is your goal for that race?  My big race is marathon #2 (May 5, hoping to finish in under 4:30) and the Chicago Ragnar Relay. And at some point this year, I'd like to nail that sub-2 Half. 
  11. What is the toughest aspect of training for you?  How do you overcome it?  Time is always difficult.  I do what I can with what I got and go from there.

QUESTIONS ASKED FROM: Karen @ Working It Out
  1. What was your favorite vacation of all time?  Camping.  I love just relaxing in the great outdoors and watching my kids explore.
  2. Snacks: Sweet or Salty?  Definitely sweet.  Chocolate is my fix.
  3. What were you doing around this time ten years ago?  Probably drinking in a bar!
  4. Hit play on your Ipod. What is the first song to come up?  More by Usher
  5. What was your favorite memory of 2011?  Definitely my first marathon!
  6. Google “(Your first name) needs”. What comes up?  Jess, the Rule Engine for the Java Platform!
  7.  What is your favorite running or triathlon related product?  BondiBand headbands.
  8. If you could only do one race, which one would it be?  Rome or Paris Marathon
  9. Do you prefer to train alone or in groups? A like a good mixture of the two.
  10. What is the one race you wouldn’t mind doing over and over again?  Peoria Race for the Cure - good cause & challenging hilly course.
  11. What accomplishment makes you the most proud?  My kids!  I think I'm a pretty good mom!

  1. I know you're a runner - but have you ever watched/cheered at a race?
  2. Where's your favorite place to run?
  3. Would you rather be able to run fast OR far?
  4. Name one bad habit that you want to break:
  5. If you could trade lives with anyone for just 1 day, who would it be?
  6. Your ideal workout would consist of....
  7. Name 1 food item that you'd like to magically make "healthy":
  8. What's your favorite distance to run, and why?
  9. What's the one thing about running that you DON'T like?
  10. What's your favorite cross-training exercise?
  11. What sports did you play in high school?

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    More Peanut Butter please!

    Peanut Butter Smoothie
    Ready to drink!
    When I read today's news, I was delighted to see... it's National Peanut Butter Day!  Peanut butter is one of the top power foods for runners.  It's a highly condensed source of protein, which runners need to build and repair muscles in training, especially after hard workout sessions.  After strenuous long runs, I usually have protein waiting in the car for me to inhale, usually in the form of a protein drink since I'm thirsty.

    Peanut butter is also a good source of fiber, which makes you feel fuller longer.  That's why I often top my pre-run waffle/bagel with peanut butter.  It provides that extra punch of protein and fiber to make my body satisfied during long races.  Of course, peanut butter is also high in calories, so be careful not to overdo it.  Taken at the right times, peanut butter can be a great source of power for runners and a nutritious filler for those on a diet.

    In honor of today's holiday, I made a new recipe and it was YUMMY!  This breakfast will power me through a tough tempo run today.

    1 frozen banana (cut up in chunks)
    1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter
    1/2 c. almond milk
    drizzle of honey
    5 ice cubes
    Blend it all up and enjoy!
    360 calories   |   10g protein   |   26g calcium   |   6g fiber

    In the blender

    Of course, the other "magic" food in this recipe is banana!  A good source of carbs, bananas also contain potassium, which runners lose through sweating and help regulate muscle contraction and prevent cramping.  Bananas are also considered safe pre-run food because they're unlikely to cause GI issues.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Back up to Speed

    Holy smokes, I haven't blogged in a nearly a week!  I wish I could say that I was off running an ultra or something amazing like that...  Instead I was earning "Wife of the Week" award.

    The majority of my daily focus goes towards raising children, work and my running. My supportive hubby often gets the shaft, my leftover time.  Not last week... My hubby turned the big 40 on Friday and I threw a big ole party.  I spent most of my time Wed/Thurs/Fri running errands and prepping for the party.  Confession - I missed a workout or two... or three.

    I made over 100 cupcakes for the party (and didn't eat a one!)

    I made his favorite blueberry muffins (Again, not one went in my mouth!)

    However, I did have a couple pieces of pizza at the party... and a zillion Miller Lite beers.  Yeah, I let loose, but it was totally worth it.  My hubby was on cloud nine and we had a blast with friends and family - many who we haven't seen in ages.

    Sunday rolled around and I had to get back to business... 15 miles on the schedule.  The temps were average (33 degrees) but it was gloomy, misty and windy.  Thankfully, I was meeting a running partner so there was no bailing.  After a couple days off running, my legs felt like lead and my pace was so sluggish.  But 15 miles went down in the books... that had to burn off a couple beers, right?
    A rare moment... NOT excited to run!

    This morning, I haphazardly rolled out of bed.  Draggin' big time... but I got the kids off to school and woke myself up at the gym.  After a 4 mile run and a 40 minute swim, I was exhausted.  I feared the worst for my week two weigh-in.  Skipped workouts plus drunken indulgences can't be good for weight loss!

    Official weigh-in: -1.5 lbs for the week
    Heck-Yeah!  I'll take that!  
    It puts me -10 lbs in the past two weeks.

    My goal for next week is -4 lbs.  To get it done, here's my blueprint for the week...

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Tough Chik - Proven

    This morning I woke up {ready or not} to get the kiddos off to school and then myself out for a run.  Mother Nature was messing up my plan.  It was dark, drizzly and WINDY.  It was literally howling around my house... The girls thought there was a werewolf in our yard (where did that come from?).  I pretty much succumbed to the fact that it would be a treadmill kind of morning. <ugh>

    And then Amanda (my Ragnar team buddy!) posted this on Facebook...

    Aw, crap!  It's like she was speaking right to me.

    So I went out and stood on my deck.  Temperature was hovering around 32-33 degrees, so it wasn't terribly cold... but that damn wind!  Oh, what the heck... I got dressed and headed out.

    On the agenda today was a 6 mile Tempo run.  I started off the first two miles at a comfortable pace (10:30ish).  These was a slight drizzle in the air that later changed to flurries.  At the mile 2 mark, I cranked it up to "comfortably hard" if there is such a thing.  My mile 3-4-5 splits were nothing to brag about (all around 9:20ish).  I was working much harder than indicated by my stopwatch.  My neighborhood is a little hilly, nothing extreme, but just a constant rolling up and down.  And the wind gave good resistance. Several times a big wind gust made me nearly stop in my tracks. It was one of those runs where you know you're building something...

    When I finished this torturous tempo, my cooldown mile felt great, like a victory lap.  I did it!  No doubt about it today, I'm a TOUGH CHIK.

    And the WINNER of my Blogiversary Giveaway
    chosen randomly here...
    ...is BETH S!!

    Email me {here} with your mailing address to claim your prize.
    Thank you everyone for making it a great Blogiversary!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Fuel the Fire

    Running has enabled me to better deal with life in general... to roll with the punches, to deal with bad situations and celebrate the good.  When things/people annoy me (I'm an opinionated person, it happens), I'm able to internalize it... and then let it all out as my Asics breeze the pavement.  With each step, my worry and stress wash away. I'm not saying everything is peaches afterward, but I usually finish the run with a better perspective.

    The things that tick me off are the very things that fuel my run.  It's one of the reasons I like solo runs.  I fall deep into thought about situations happening in my life.  And typically the more upsetting they are, the harder I run.  On my long run yesterday, I choose a hilly 6 mile loop to do twice. I thought a lot about SUAR's cousin Sherry... and Miss Zippy's recent post about "not giving up, not letting evil win." It pushed me up those hills and got me through 12.5 miles in the cold. (It also reminded me to put my pepper spray and pocketknife in my pocket before heading out.)

    In general, it's pretty easy to emotionally fuel my RUNS.  Now when it comes to weight loss, that motivation has to burn 24 hours a day for months on end to keep me away from the chocolate and pizza! A bit more difficult to stay focused.  A week before the Weight Loss Challenge started at my local gym, a friend backed off my team to create her own.  I was a little hurt... and kinda ticked when she said, "But Jess, you don't have enough to lose... and I want to win."  She probably meant this as a compliment, but I didn't take it that way.  I read into it as...
    You Can't lose enough to be an asset.
    You Can't produce results.
    You Can't win.

    Thoughts like this stimulate me beyond measure.  I get fired up.  I take challenges seriously, and whether she realizes it or not, one was just laid down with that comment.  So in week 1 of our Weight Loss Challenge, it was my fuel, my fire. 

    Each time a run got hard, I made myself think about the You Can't.  
    Oh-yes, I CAN! And I picked up the pace.

    When I craved a snack, the You Can't sign on my fridge convinced me to grab a handful of carrots instead of my normal afternoon chocolate.  I CAN make the right decisions.

    After nailing sub-9 paces on my tempo run this week, I thought about my upcoming Half Marathon in February.  PR?  Just maybe... I CAN!

    While on vacation this past weekend, weigh-in results from my team began to roll in. I started to doubt myself. Would I be able to stack up?  Well I'm here to prove... I CAN!  My official weigh-in was -8.5 lbs for week one.  That's a weight loss of 4.7%.  I was beyond pleased.  I'm not jumping on any fad diet or starving myself.  I'm making whole meals for my family to eat together each night... just selecting the right foods to support my vigorous training.  (See my Photo Food Journal on FB here.)  Here's what I got done last week Jan. 9-15...
    Run 33 miles
    Bike 44 miles + 1 Spinning class
    Swam 1500yds + 1 water workout
    Yoga DVD twice
    Boxing workout once
    Strength Training twice
    Ab/Core workout four times
    Hell-Yeah, that's one good week!

    And I plan to do it again. Here's this week's blueprint...

    My point of all this is not to toot my own horn. As we all know from watching The Biggest Loser, week one of weight loss is always big - week two is the true test. My point is that whatever chip is on your shoulder, whatever person is bugging the crap out of you... USE IT!  Use that emotion to fuel your workouts. Even if you have to exaggerate it a bit, the emotional power can bring your workouts to incredible heights.

    Now someone please piss me off this week and be my fuel!  Hahaha!


    Don't forget to enter my Blogiversary Giveaway here - ends tomorrow!

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Snow Run * YakTrax Review

    Our winter has officially started... on Jan. 12.  I can't remember a winter that has been this mild.  While I was enjoying the mild --almost springlike-- temperatures, it was also exciting to have a snow day.  The kiddos were at the window this morning with a twinkle in their eye.  The school kids were giddy and playful when they stepped off the afternoon bus.  And I was waiting at the door the minute hubby returned from work... dressed to kill run.

    It was 19 degrees, windy, still snowing... but I was headed out to play. My husband looked at me like I was crazy.  In fact, I think he actually said it.  With a wave, I was off down the road.  Neighbors were out snowblowing and shoveling.  Cars inched along in appropriate "first snow of the year" style.  I ran my airport loop, that I knew was low traffic.  The roads weren't plowed very well, so it was pretty fun "breaking trail," just like we used to do on snowmobiles back in Wisconsin.  Once I started running, it didn't feel very cold at all, but the wind did hurt.  I was thankful for my new Under Armour pullover with a built-in baklava to keep my face protected.

    Three miles in the snow (with hills) felt more like five.  With snow, you have to pick your feet up a bit more.  No shufflin' here!  I trudged along pretty well, keeping my average pace around 10:30 even with a couple photo stops.  Absolutely Exhilarating!

    Santa left me YakTrax Pro in my stocking and I was pretty excited to give them a test run today.  Following package size chart, I have a size small.  It took some muscle to stretch them over my size 9 Asics.  The fit was snug, but also no worry that they were going to slip off.

    YakTrax Pro boasts the ability to run on slick surfaces with the same stability as dry surfaces.  The frame that wraps around your shoe is made with heavy duty natural rubber with abrasion resistant 1.4mm steel coils that criss-cross on the underside of your shoe.  During my snow run, I never felt a moment of slickness.  In fact, I had no fear of falling whatsoever.  I'm curious how they will feel on actual ice.  The snow we had today was pretty "packy."

    Remember that left ankle/foot I twisted back at Thanksgiving?  Halfway through my snow run, I felt that still-healing muscle across the top of my foot.  The YakTrax coils on the bottom were right down the center of the shoe... almost encouraging my foot to slant towards the outside (I'm a natural over-pronators anyway). It didn't bother my right foot, but my already-injured left foot didn't like it.  With that in mind, I'm not sure how many miles I could actually run in these while still nursing that injury.

    All in all, I was happy with the YakTrax Pro function.  They're easy to put on and take off my shoe.  And they certainly gave me a sense of security as I ran through the snow.  For the $20 retail tag, they are definitely worth the purchase! There's nothing like having the sense of freedom that you can run - regardless of the white ground cover.  Old Man Winter, you will not slow me down!

    3 Things Thursday

    The Olympic Marathon Trails are this Saturday (Jan. 14) and I'm pretty darn excited.  I'm secretly arranging our family plans so that I can be in front of the TV from 3-5pm.  (True sign of runner addiction? Probably.)   The committee made the event pretty monumental by hosting both the women's and men's Olympic Marathon Trails on the same day, at the same place.  What I wouldn't give to be in Houston this Saturday and watch the magic in-person.  So thank you NBC for making the most of your sponsorship and actually airing it nation-wide.  It won't be live, but at least we get 2 hours of coverage.

    Why is the 2012 U.S. Trials so exciting?  We have some of the most exciting athletes toeing the line this year as one big bunch.  It's anyone's game.  In the women's field, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Deena Kastor and the newest marathon darling Desiree Davila, who ran a 2:22 at Boston this year (Yeah, that's good...).  If you don't subscribe to Runner's World (what?!), they had a great feature in last issue on Desiree here. I'm personally pulling for Kara.  Something about her I just really like.  She's a young mom with so much emotion on the track. The connection between Kara and her husband Adam is undeniable.  He's always there going ape when she runs, kissing and hugging her... and I just like that.  I've read both Kara and Adam Goucher's books, which I guess makes me feel closer to them.  You know, like family.  Recent interview with Kara here.

    In the men's field, Ryan HallMeb Keflezighi, and Dathan Ritzenhein will make it an amazing race to the finish line.  Ryan ran a 2:04 this past year at Boston (reality check - that's under 5 min miles!) and is just down right amazing to watch.  I think the race is his to lose.  Meb is coming off injury (and getting old at 36, yes?), but still a threat.  Curious to see if Dathan can give Hall a run for the money?

    Yesterday I had an unbelievable workout day.  In the morning, I swam for 40 minutes, then Spinning class for 45 minutes (I pushed hard!).  In the evening, I had a nice 3 mile run with the Sole Sisters.  Once home, I was about to send in my summary for KDUB's 70.3 Birthday Challenge and realized... I was 7 miles short on the bike.  Ugh.  My husband laughed as I crawled up on the bike to finish it at 9:30pm.  The worst part?  I was baking a cake at the time.  Do you know how hard it is to workout with the smell of freshly baked cake wafting through the air?

    The 70.3 Challenge was to SWIM 1.2 miles (2100 yds), BIKE 56 miles, and RUN 13.1 miles during the first eleven days of January.  The challenge motivated me to get in the pool first thing this year and start TRI-training.  I'm finding out that I really love swimming.  Not good at it, but the workout is productive and refreshing.
    My final stats in KDUB's 70.3 Birthday Challenge...
    SWIM - 3000 yds
    BIKE - 56 miles
    RUN - 48 miles

    We are finally getting snow here in Illinois... first of the winter season.  I can't wait for hubby to come home from work this afternoon!!  While he snowblows, I'll be taking out my YakTrax Pro for a test run.  Good thing today has an "easy run" on the schedule.  Snow running means slowing down the pace, being more cautious of drivers and just enjoying the white beauty ahead.

    My backyard at lunch time.
    Can't wait to try out my YakTrax!

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    What I Ate Wednesday

    First of all, THANK YOU for all the love yesterday on my blogiversary!!  Wowza - You know how to make a girl feel good!  I truly appreciate all your kind words and feedback.  If you missed it, head over to be entered into my Blogiversary Giveaway (ends Jan. 17).

    • • • • •

    Part of January's Food Journal Challenge is taking pictures of the food you eat. I've found this really helpful in eating healthy.  Do I really want to take a picture of THAT?  Easy solution, don't eat it.  Find something you're proud to take a picture of.  I've done super well on food this week because of the photographs.

    Here's a sample of my day yesterday...
    Whole-grain waffle topped with peanut butter and banana
    Good fuel for my morning workout!

    Salad loaded with veggies!

    Apples with peanut butter & raisins

    And then for dinner, I tried this new recipe.  Dinners are tough because they have to be family-friendly.  I'm sharing the recipe because this one was a winner.  Healthy, great tasting, easy to make and family-approved!!  Give it a try.

    Italian Herb Chicken
    Thawed chicken - assorted pieces or breast
    Fresh mushrooms
    McCormick Seasoning mix - Italian Herb Chicken
    Can of Italian diced tomatoes
    Can of tomato paste
    Fresh or Frozen vegetables of your choice

    Spray the inside of your crock pot lightly with olive oil. Place chicken on the bottom. Slice your mushrooms in halves or quarters and sprinkle on top. In separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, paste and seasoning mix.  Pour mixture overtop the chicken and mushrooms.  No need to mix. Turn crock pot on Low (for 8 hrs) or High (for 3-4 hrs).

    About halfway through cooking, I added a couple healthy handfuls of frozen vegetables to the top.  (I recently found a huge bag of Normandy mix at Wal-Mart that has a great variety of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, squash and zucchini.)  Don't mix the veggies in.  They'll cook fine on top without getting mushy from mixing.  Every once in a while, I scraped down the sides, but other than that, left it untouched the entire length of cooking.

    The dinner looked nice on the plate.  Chicken was super tender, almost falling apart. The Italian seasoning gave both the chicken and veggies a nice flavor without being overpowering. Even my hubby, who doesn't really care for chicken, said the flavor was great - plus it disguised the cauliflower, a veggie that the rest of the family normally won't eat.

    Italian Herb Chicken is hubby & kid approved!
    I can make it again.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    My Blogiversary!

    Happy Blogiversary to me!
    (And yes, blogiversary IS a word, listed in the urban dictionary here.) 

    I started writing this blog exactly one year ago today. And what an awesome hobby it has become!  When I hit those first buttons to create Run with Jess, I had several intentions...

    My family may have grown up,
    but I've slimmed down!
    I was on a roll in my weight loss and running was a big part of that.  The blog was a way to hold myself accountable to my planned workouts.  I've always had great intentions but the follow-through is not stellar when it comes to me, myself and I.  My fitness had fallen to the back burner once I got married and had children. I struggled to find my way back. Like numerous others, my hurdle was 'time'.  For several years, my New Year's resolution was "just say no" to other people's favors and to stop volunteering my time.  This sounds harsh and selfish, but when I maxed out at 225lbs, something had to give.  I had to focus on me... not only for my happiness, but the well-being of my new little family.  So last January, I finally found myself back in a good place.  I had lost 45lbs and was starting to feel alive again.  I had to keep this going...

    Along with a lighter load, I had a new love in my life - running!  When I wasn't pounding the pavement, I was scouring the web for information on how to get faster, stronger, go longer.  I could talk "running" forever with whomever would listen.  And let's face it, a blog is just that...
    a place to talk about your passion.
    Definitely the highlight of my year!
    Quad Cities Marathon

    26.2 baby!

    I felt a deep gratitude towards running and how it was turning around my life.  I wanted to tell the world about this great endorphin high I was on... It was free and legal (!) and they could have it too!  My hope was to share my story - my success, my struggles, my failures - with a desire that others would be motivated to take their first steps into running.

    With two years of regular running under my belt, I was ready for bigger challenges.  Although I wasn't sure exactly what that was at the time last January, I knew I wanted to keep a diary of the journey. I enjoy reading my own thoughts back from time to time.  It's motivating for me to read back on where I was ... and how far I've come.  Who knew I would be a marathoner less than a year later?!?!  So glad to have that journey documented here.

    What I didn't know when I started writing Run with Jess was the wealth of friendships that would come my way.  Even if they are "imaginary" as Kim would say, I feel like I know many of you quite well through our conversations and training together on DM.  It's a true community here in bloggyland and I'm happy to be a part of it. You all inspire me. Thank you for all your advice and encouragement over the first year of Run with Jess.

    So after all that, you better believe I'll be hanging around for a while longer... and getting better with age!  A friend once told me that on her wedding anniversary each year, she "checks in" with her husband... How are we doing?  Do we need to make adjustments?  What can I do better?  Brave, yes!  The answers could be scary, but that's the time for growth.  So today, I ask the same of you - my readers!  Tell me in a comment below...

    What do you like best about Run with Jess
    What would you like to see more of?
    Fitness Tips... Giveaways... Running Stories... Motivational Quotes
    Product Reviews... Virtual Races... Current News, etc...

    Answer in a comment below and you'll be entered into my 
    Blogiversary Giveaway
    a collection of my favorite things!
    One entry per person.  Must be a follower of my blog via Google Friend Connect or on Facebook (See the top right sidebar to get connected on both.)  Winner will be drawn one week from today on January 17.

    BondiBand headband
    Sexy Mom's Running Club water bottle
    Hot Sweaty Mamas book
    nuun hydration tablets
    Gone Running magnetic sign
    velcro wrist pouch
    assortment of five GU gel flavors
    $10 iTunes gift card (not pictured)


    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Blueprint Monday

    Week two of the new year... Are you on pace?

    I set myself some lofty 2012 Goals and set up a training plan with rewards to make it a reality. I wasn't terribly strict with myself last week (since our 55 Day Weight Loss Challenge didn't start until Saturday).  I looked at last week as a "weaning" week.  Slowly slip the junk food out of the diet (aka empty the fridge!), build up my workouts and introduce myself to swimming.  I managed to have one of the best weeks in months!  I logged 30 run miles, 2 Spinning classes, 1 Yoga session, 3 Swim and 3 Ab workouts.  Not too shabby.

    Today begins strict discipline to the plan.  I woke up early, got the kiddos off to school and headed out for a run to start my week.  I ran with one of my Sole Sisters for 4 miles along the Peoria Riverfront, and then added on some fartleks for speed training.  I hate them, but was actually in the mood today.  My legs felt fresh from yesterday's rest day.  As soon as I got home, I hopped on the bike and got in 7 miles (25 min) before I had to scurry off to pickup the little one from preschool.

    Each week, I'll map out my schedule to meet the weekly workout goals.  The mix of running and cross training will keep things fresh, ward off injury, and hopefully make me more well-rounded on fitness.  Plus I find that the more cross-training I add to my routine, the more I look forward to the RUN!

    Tomorrow is my 
    In true blogger style, I'll have a giveaway... so stop back tomorrow to enter.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Long Run & Weigh-In

    When the alarm went off at 6am on Saturday morning, I snoozed and snoozed.

    Did. Not. Want. To. Get. Up.

    I certainly picked the right
    headband for my attitude today.
    As I slowly started to wake up, the thought of maybe one cup of coffee (in silence before the kids awoke) got my legs to swing off the bed.  I had 12 miles on the agenda this morning.  Let's be honest, there are times when you're just not "feeling the run" and today was one of those mornings.  But there was no other option.  It was now or never.  Hubby was working all weekend.  Babysitter lined up.  Perfect weather.  Run group waiting.  Go!

    I made myself a whole-grain waffle topped with peanut butter and banana for a good pre-run fueling. Slammed a cup of coffee. Filled my handheld bottle and dropped in a nuun tablet.  Picked out a Peanut Butter GU gel for mid-run. Packed my cooler with a banana, Gotein powder mix, and five water bottles (Yes five! Keep reading to know why...).  Packed my gym bag with fresh clothes.  Changed outfit for the second time.  Dressed the kids.  Strapped on my watch, BondiBand, ipod and finally out the door we went...

    After dropping off the kids, I was finally on my way to the Rock Island Trail.  When I pulled in, I was delighted to see over 20 women gathered in the parking lot.  The Sole Sisters started just 6 months ago and every once in a while, I am drawn back at what an awesome group it has become.  Trotting down the trail, all different paces, different backgrounds, these women have come together to support each other in their run journeys.

    The first couple miles, I bounced around groups.  Today's conversation was universal - upcoming races, especially the rumor of a new local half-marathon this spring (in Peoria Heights). Eventually, I settled in next to Karyn, who planned to go the distance with me. We went out to the 5 mile marker, made a quick stop for a GU and started the return trip.

    We had chatted along the whole run, but by mile 7, we both settled in for the final miles. I hadn't felt 100% all morning.  In fact, I was a little sore from Friday's swim & spin session. It got me thinking that I really need to prioritize a 'rest day' before my long runs.  We kept a steady pace on the way home, but my breathing was labored.  I finally turned on my music to give me the extra push that I seemed to need in the final miles.

    I dropped Karyn off at the trail head - and reluctantly turned back for 2 more miles.  I was tired and there was nothing I wanted more than to call it done. But these are the moments when you become a STRONG RUNNER, the kind that can push through to meet the wildest of dreams.  Running with friends is great and has it's perks.  For me, it helps me maintain a good pace.  However, I believe solo running also has great benefits. It makes you dig deep to empty the tank... all on your own.  It trains your mind for the final miles of a race when you got nothing left but a PR waiting up ahead.

    12 miles done.  2:03 (10:15 pace)

    Now back to all those bottles of water... So today was the first weigh-in for the 55 Day Weight Loss Challenge at my gym.  After picking up the kids, we headed to the gym for my first weigh-in.  I've had a pretty darn good week of workouts and food and (accidently) lost a couple pounds in the process. Crap!  That won't help the contest, huh?!  So on the way to the gym, I ate my regular post-run banana, mixed up my protein recovery drink and drank 5 bottles of water! Aw, nothing like post-run refueling, huh?!  I weighed in almost exactly what I was earlier in the week. (ha!) Perfect.

    Here's my team for the 55 Day Weight Loss Challenge...
    We call ourselves the
     Sassy Slimming Sole Sisters
    and we're gonna look amazing when this is done!
    Laura, Renee, me, Kelli and Michelle