The countdown is on, running and racing, plus some fantastic food finds

It’s time to get serious…the countdown to the Fargo Half-Marathon is on.

There is a countdown timer on the website and I have to admit, it kind of freaked me out.

32 days. THIRTY-TWO DAYS! How the heck did that happen? I’m not ready. At least I don’t think so. Or maybe I don’t feel as ready as I was for the San Jose Half-Marathon last October. The half that I actually followed a training schedule. This time? Not so much.

Why? Three words. 1. Winter. 2. Snow. 3. Cold.

I know one thing is for sure, I don’t think I will ever sign up for a spring half-marathon again. At least not while I am living in the winters-from-hell state of MinneSNOWta! Seriously, between all the dumb snowstorms and the bitterly cold temperatures, there wasn’t much running/training happening. I did actually run some on the DREADmill at the YMCA, but seriously, I don’t think I ever ran more than three and half miles on it. I. Am. Not. A. Fan. of the dreaded treadmill, hence the DREADmill name!

There was one day where it was snow storming and I was just pissy, so I said, “Screw it!” and went out for a run anyway. I only ran four miles, but it was four miles I didn’t have to do on the treadmill!

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten in a few runs, more than I thought I would and that makes me happy. I did get in a couple of long runs, too. I did an eight-mile and on Sunday, April 6, I did a 10-mile.

I think the temps were actually in the 50′s, which was SO NICE! When I got back, my hubby was sitting on the deck, so I decided to hang with him for a bit. It felt so good just to crash and lay on the deck with my feet up – on the table and straight up in the air! The run felt awesome and I actually shaved off about three minutes from the last time I ran a 10-miler, which was at the Monster Dash in October!

Training will continue as best it can for the next 32 days. I guess, maybe, just maybe, I might be more ready than I think for the upcoming half-marathon. I guess we’ll see how this weekend’s 10-mile race goes.

Speaking of which, if you are a runner who lives in, around or near the Twin Cities area, you really should check out this Saturday’s race – the Fred Kurz 10-mile! According to the race website – click here – “Starting times are handicapped by the “world-renowned” Lanin Guessimetric Method, with the slowest runners starting first and, ideally, all runners finishing at about the same time.” How cool is that? Additionally, the race is easy on the pocketbook – it’s only $15 to enter – or $8 if you are a member of the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA). Seriously, check it out!

WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN HAPPENING?

We’ve had a couple of races since my last posting. And, I have had some awesome food finds. The rest of my post will be done in pictures. Enjoy!

This is from the Get Lucky 7K race in the Twin Cities on March 15.

I finished the 7K in 43:28. I was pumped because I was shooting for around 45 minutes. I was honestly ecstatic about my time!

Al did awesome, as well! Seriously, he kicked some major butt!

This is from the iRock Run in Cold Spring, MN, which benefits the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It was a nice day, although a little windy. My hubby, Al, finished in 24:45. I finished in 29:33, which is a PR for this year. And my friend, Tonya, finished in 27:28. It was a great race and hopefully, we can do it again next year.

After the race was done, the three of us grabbed some lunch at Mongo’s Grill in St. Cloud and then Al and I had some errands to run. We had a few things to get at the mall and I forgot my extra clothes to change into, so I got to walk around the mall in my running gear, which included these crazy pants, which are SO comfortable and I love them. Yes, even though they are a bit bright! OMG! I have never, EVER in my life received so many strange looks and stares from people. The hubster, who was always dressed in his running gear, which include running tights with a pair of shorts over them and a very bright, neon green shirt, also received LOTS of looks. There were even a few people who glared/gave dirty looks. It was comical. Seriously, I kind of wanted to keep walking around just to watch peoples’ reaction to how we were dressed. It was entertaining, yet kind of pathetic.

FOOD FINDS!

The other day, my husband made chicken burgers (pictured later) and we really wanted some fries to go with them. My husband found these in the grocery store and thought we would give them a whirl. (Yes, I know we could have just made our own, but we didn’t feel like it!). For my Weight Watchers friends out there, these are definitely worth it. You can have 21 fries for only 4 PointsPlus Values. And they are nice-sized fries. Not little ones. They were fantastic and we will definitely have these again.

OMG! These are by far the BEST “healthy puffs” I have ever had. I have tried the baked Cheetos brand and other brands, but I will never buy anything else but these. Seriously, they had the BEST flavor. They actually tasted like real puffs only better. I am not kidding. Best part? You can have 52 of these things for only 4 PointsPlus Values. These will now be a staple in our house. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them! They are made by Green Giant, check out the link here.

My husband had bought some very lean ground chicken. If I remember right, I think he said it was actually 100 percent fat-free. Anyway, we thought he should try something different with them and make actual burgers. He took the chicken and mixed it with half an egg, a crushed up bag of Weight Watchers Cheddar Twists, a little BBQ sauce, a little liquid smoke, salt, pepper and some Lowry’s seasoning. Each burger was only 3 PointsPlus Values. And the BEST part? They tasted fantastic. They were NOT dry. They were juicy and full of flavor. We will definitely make these again.

I know I have talked about my smoothie pancakes before, but if you haven’t tried them yet, give them a try. I started adding 2 tablespoons of PB2, which is a powdered peanut butter to the mix. It not only adds additional protein, it adds flavor. I use 3/4 cup of the liquid egg whites, mix in one Weight Watchers smoothie packet (you can use any flavor you want) and then the PB2. Beat together and then cook in a pan sprayed with cooking spray until they are done. I don’t time anything, so I can’t tell you long. The pancake is a total of 4 PointsPlus Values – 2 for the smoothie mix, 1 for the 3/4 cup of egg whites and 1 for the PB2. I don’t put anything on mine, but a lot of times, I eat it with a banana. VERY FILLING!

These are necessarily a new food find, but lately, I have been obsessed with blackberries. I am not sure this is even the season for them, but OMG! they have been so good lately. I eat at least one container a day. They are so tasty, juicy, sweet, kind of crunchy. Just YUM!

MISC PICS

I just have to include a pic of my new iPhone 5C case I designed at MyCustomCase.com. I know it is “just a case,” but I am probably the most picky person when it comes to phone cases – just ask my husband! Anyway, I found the website somehow and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my new case. There are literally hundreds of cases to choose from and then you can pick the color and “write” whatever you want on it. Some have just monogrammed letters, others, like mine have words that can run along the bottom or along the side. Seriously, check them out. They have cases for all kinds of phones. It is definitely worth your time!

And lastly, I have to include a picture – or two or three or four – of my son, Brandon, and his absolutely stunningly beautiful girlfriend, Kenzie. They attended her junior prom. Aren’t they both just adorable. I am so happy for them!

As always, remember, you can find me on Facebook here or here and you can also find me on Instagram, here. If you want, you can also send me an email to confessionsofaformerfatgirl at gmail dot com (confessionsofaformerfatgirl@gmail.com).

Lots to talk about! (Meaning, it’s a LONG post!)

Warning: This post is going to be filled with LOTS of pictures!

First things first…I RAN!

It was slow, but I didn’t even care. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

This was my first run since January 28 – nearly one month ago! Because we have been having such stupid weather (bitterly cold temps, snow and lots of wind), I opted to run on the dreadmill (yes, this is what I call it!) at the YMCA and on the track. I ran two miles on the ‘mill and one mile around the track. Even though it was slow, it felt amazingly awesome to be able to run again. I haven’t been running because of my neck issue and because I have been sick. By the way, after two rounds of antibiotics (zithromax and augmentin) and one round of prednisone, along with heavy duty cough meds, I am almost back to feeling 100 percent normal. Well, as normal as I can be, that is! :-)

With our first half-marathon of the year coming up on May 10, I think it is high-time I start training! Yes, I am going to take it easy, but my physical therapist indicated it would be okay if I started running. After the injection I had and the physical therapy I’ve been doing, my arm pain is nearly gone. Yes, there is still some pain, every now and then, but it is not nearly as bad as it was. I can actually sleep on my right side – for awhile anyway!

The physical therapy is going well. I am doing traction on my neck with a machine. I have one more session left and then I get to do it at home with an over-the-door contraption. That should be interesting!

I have a check-up with my doctor in early April. I think he’ll be happy with how things are going. Although, I will admit, he may not be real happy with how much I’ve been wearing the neck brace. For some reason, it makes me feel really nauseous. I am going to make an effort to wear it more. In fact, I am wearing right it now as I type this blog! Yeah, me!

BACK ON TRACK – with my weight and eating!

This winter, I have been struggling as far as my weight and my eating habits are concerned. I gained about eight pounds and my eating was out of control. Something finally snapped a couple of weeks ago and I feel like I am finally back on track. I lost most of the weight I gained and am now back to feeling like I am in control. My weight is now hovering around the 142 mark and I am happy with that…for now. I would like it to be closer to between 138 and 140, which is doable, especially now that I am back to working out – running and biking. I am also back to logging my food again, as in tracking using the Weight Watchers PointsPlus system. As many of you know, I lost my weight (about 55 pounds) with Weight Watchers and now work full-time for the company. In fact, I just celebrated my four-year anniversary of working for Weight Watchers on Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, check out the present I got from my husband.

Isn’t he the sweetest. Flowers AND fruit! I LOVED IT! I am so VERY thankful he is supportive of me and my healthy living journey. Actually, I should say OUR healthy living journey. We are both trying to live a healthier style and I am so grateful for that.

I am also extremely grateful – actually, I can’t really put into words how appreciative I am – that my husband does 99.9 percent of the cooking and 99.9 percent of the grocery shopping. I am beyond blessed that he loves to cook AND grocery shop. AND, he likes to cook healthy meals. He loves to research recipes online and then he will tweak them so they are even healthier. Here’s a small teeny-tiny glimpse into some of the food we have had over the course of the past few weeks:

Turkey breast marinated in an orange-spiced brandy sauce and roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic and a little bit of asiago cheese. (7 PointsPlus Values)

Chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce and queso fresco cheese. (13 PointsPlus Values for two of them.)

Stuffed bell peppers made with ground turkey. That is not marshmallows on top, it is queso fresco cheese! (9 PointsPlus Values for three of them!)

This is a grilled pizza with whole-wheat crust (Al made this from scratch) with fresh tomato pizza sauce (Al makes this), shredded chicken breast with garlic and fresh basil, diced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, toasted pine nuts and kale. (11 PointsPlus Values for two pieces.)

This is a grilled pizza (again with homemade whole-wheat crust) with garlic-infused olive oil as the base and then diced tomatoes, fresh basil, artichokes, kalamata olives, fat-free feta cheese and a little shredded asiago cheese. (9 PointsPlus Values for two pieces.)

I ACTUALLY COOKED THIS! It is chicken breast dipped in egg and then rolled in crushed up Weight Watchers Cheddar Twists. The side was roasted sweet potatoes. (10 PointsPlus values for the whole meal.)

Al and I made this meal together. It was lobster mac and cheese with roasted asparagus drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a little bit of asiago cheese. (13 PointsPlus Values per serving for the lobster mac and cheese.) See recipe below.

Here is a comparison of PointsPlus Values for the recipe we used for the lobster and mac and cheese and a couple of other recipes. It’s amazing how different they can be! And I will tell you that the recipe we used was beyond delicious. The lobster mac and cheese was creamy, cheesy, decadent, rich and seriously GOOD!

RUNNING RACES

So, Al and I spent last weekend signing up for races. Here is a list of what we have on the agenda so far for this year:

March 8 – 100% Irish for a Day 5K

March 15 – Get Lucky 7K

April 18 – Earth Day 5K

April 26 – Get in Gear 10K

May 10 – Fargo Half-Marathon

June 7 – Lake Region Half-Marathon Relay

June 21 – Color Vibe 5K (this is just me as I am walking this with my sister, niece, nephew, niece-in-law and several others)

August 2 – Dirty Girl Mud Run 5K obstacle course – (I am doing this with a bunch of my friends. We did it last year for the first time and had so much fun, we decided to do it again. Our group is called the Dirty Girl Boob Troupe.)

August 30 – Women Rock 10K (Again, this is just me as this is an all-women race.)

September 6 – Graniteman 10K

We have several others we are thinking about, but these are just the ones we have already signed up for.

TWO LAST PICTURES

I will leave you with two more pics – one of the gorgeous sun dogs that were out Friday, February 21 and a pic of the hubster and I on Valentine’s Day. ENJOY!

Remember, you can always find me on Facebook here and here, and also, you can follow me on Instagram here.

10-miler, medical tent, misc stuff and LOTS of food!

Last weekend, the hubs and I participated in Team Ortho’s Monster Dash 10-mile run. We ran this race last year as a training run leading up to our first half-marathon. This year, we ran it AFTER our half-marathon. For tons of pictures, take the time to check out the Monster Dash Facebook page…it really gives a good perspective as to how many people participated in this race and what kinds of costumes there were. As you can see, my hubby and I were “real” creative.

For the most part the race went really well. Better than I expected. I felt good the first couple of miles and then I had to pull off to the side and fix my running pants…they weren’t tied tight enough and felt like they were falling down. I really didn’t want to stop and fix them, but I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t stop thinking about them. So, I took a few seconds to pull off to the side of the course and tie them tighter, along with adjust my iPhone, which I have clipped to my pants. Side note: I can’t stand having my phone in an armband on my arm, so I found this clip thing that I just clip it to my pants and it works great…at least for me it does. Other people may not like it. Anyway, my pace was “pretty even” for the first six miles, well, except for mile three when I had to stop. You can tell by my splits that I got tired starting at about mile 7-8. I do have to say, though, that for the most part, I felt good. For the most part. Here’s a look at my splits:

As I was nearing mile 9, I started feeling the same way I did toward the end of the half-marathon a couple of weeks ago. WARNING TO ANY MEN READING THIS….you may want to skip the next bit…I talk about female parts!

To all the women reading this, if you have any advice or thoughts, PLEASE SHARE! Okay, so, as I was nearing the end of the race, again, I got this weird feeling, you know, “down below.” The only way I can describe it is this: it completely felt like my uterus was going to fall out. It wasn’t necessarily painful in that it hurt really bad because a muscle was pulled or I was bloated or it was cramping. It was “painful” because it was uncomfortable and it felt like there was a lot of pressure and that something was literally going to fall out of my crotch area! Seriously, it is the weirdest feeling. Regardless of what kind of “pain” it was, it just wasn’t any fun at all. I just wanted to be done. And to not feel like anything was going to fall out of me that shouldn’t be! :-)

OKAY MEN, YOU CAN CONTINUE READING FROM HERE ON OUT!

Again, it was so awesome to have Al waiting there for me at the finish line. As much as I wanted him to be back in our hotel room where it was nice and toasty warm instead of having him stand in the cold in his sweaty running clothes, I am always happy to see him at the finish line. And, it is always awesome to be able to give him a big hug and kiss when I am done. But this time at the finish line, Al wasn’t the only one waiting. So was a medical volunteer. At almost every big race we have participated in, there are medical volunteers at the end to assist those in need.

And apparently, the grimacing look on my face and the peculiar way I was walking, made the medical volunteer think I was one of those “in need” of medical attention. The woman swiftly and assertively led me, along with Al, to the medical tent. I kind of didn’t have a choice. But to honest, I was kind of okay with it…except I was still worried about Al and how cold he must of been. He not only had to wait “forever” for me to finish the race, he now had to wait – in his wet running clothes with the fierce wind blowing on him – while the medical person attended to me. She asked me several questions about where it hurt and so forth and then applied a ice pack to the area, which truly was kind of weird, but oddly felt good. She also checked my pulse and my blood pressure, which were both surprisingly good, despite the fact that I just ran 10 miles. Oh, besides the “pain” I was in, I also felt extremely nauseous and did everything in my power not to yak on the side of the cot I was laying on. I succeeded in not throwing up. Yeah for me…and everyone else around me. So, after just a couple minutes in the medical tent, which I truly DID NOT expect to ever be in, I, along with my near-frozen husband, were on our way. But not without some advice from the awesome medical volunteer, “GO talk to your doctor!”

I will….if it happens again!

Oh, by the way, if you’re curious how I actually did in the race. Well, according to my phone app, LogYourRun Pro, I completed 10.12 miles in 1:48:39…nearly six minutes faster than last year’s race! My app last year showed that I ran 10.13 miles in 1:54:11. NOTE: I have to go by my time because there was a technical glitch with the timing of this year’s race for some runners. I was “lucky” enough to be one of those runners. Shit happens.

Us, after the race, with our awesome medals! Thanks again to Team Ortho for a fantastic race. Team Ortho knows how to do races!

MISC STUFF AND LOTS OF FOOD!

Because I have blathered on and on enough already, I will finish this post in pictures. Hope you enjoy!

The weather has been perfect for this recipe – hearty chicken stew with butternut squash and quinoa.

The recipe, which I heard about from my awesome friend, erin, can be found here, Cookin’ Canuck.

I was so not happy when the flakes starting flying on October 20! I am not a lover of winter at all.

I prefer to run when it looks like this outside!

A new food find that I absolutely LOVE! And, for my Weight Watchers friends out there, it is only 1 PointsPlus Value per 2 tbsp. Or, only 7 PPV’s if you eat the whole container!

Another awesome food find…and this one also has only 1 PPV’s per 2 tbsp. Best part…it tasted so good!

And yet another awesome food find. This one I didn’t find on my own. A friend posted it on Instagram (by the way, you can follow me on Instagram if you would like to!) I typically don’t eat “boxed” meals like this because of the sodium content, but this one just looked so good and it only has 7 PPV’s for the whole thing. AND…….it was DELICIOUS! Worth every single PPV.

On Sunday morning, before taking off for home, Al and I went to this awesome little restaurant for breakfast, Blackbird Cafe. We have eaten there one other time so we knew the food was good. I had the whole grain cakes, which are described as “dense and chewy,” and come with sesame honey butter and real maple syrup. Seriously, the best pancakes I have EVER had. And definitely not your typical pancakes….they have wild rice in them. DELISH! I also had the sweet potato biscuit – well, okay, I had two – that come with honey butter. The. Best. Biscuits. EVER! Don’t ask me the PPV’s on either of these items because I have no idea and I have no care in the world. They are both worth whatever they are.

These photos just don’t do this food any justice, but I tried. If you ever find yourself near the corner of 38th Street and Nicollet Avenue, make a stop at Blackbird.

Pancakes!

Biscuits!

Alright, I know this post is WAY TOO LONG, but I have to share one more picture………

After we finished our brunch at Blackbird, we headed to the Mall of America so we could walk off some of our food. (Secretly, I wanted to go there because of one particular store…CUPCAKE!) As you can see, we found it!

Week 9 – no races, long run, feeling GOOD!

Three weeks from yesterday (Sunday, September 15), Al and I will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose half-marathon! I cannot believe it is almost here. What’s weirder is that I kind of feel ready…kind of!

This past week wasn’t that exciting. Well, okay, it was kind of exciting, but not too exciting because we had no races this week. And, we don’t have any races this coming weekend either – STRANGE!

Here’s a look at my week: Monday – ran 5.11 miles; Tuesday – ran 6.11 miles; Wednesday – went to the YMCA and biked 7.5 miles; Thursday – ran 6.18 miles; Friday – rest day; Saturday – ran 12.01 miles; and Sunday – biked 7.06 miles.

This past Saturday, I ran my longest training run – 12 miles – since I began my training program for this half-marathon. And to be real honest, it was actually the first time I have run that many miles at one time. Yes, I completed a half-marathon last December. BUT…I didn’t RUN the whole thing. I have yet, since I began running three years ago, to actually RUN that far without a little bit of walking. It felt good. It felt exhausting. It felt exciting. It felt scary.

This is what I did when I got back from my run and after I walked in the house, drank some water, took a couple of breaths and unloaded my gear:

I really wanted to lay on my couch or bed, but I was drenched in sweat. So, I decided that the blanket would be easy to wash and I just plopped it down on the floor and laid my tired body down. It felt so good – well, after the ceiling quit spinning! :-)

Here’s a look at my splits, which weren’t too bad, I guess:

And, here is a look at the map, which shows my route and my elevation, from my LogYourRun app I use on my iPhone (I did run some hills during this training run, which made me feel good for some reason):

I did have a goal in mind when I set out for this run – I wanted to finish in no more than two and a half hours. I was thrilled with my time when I got back – two hours, 24 minutes and 33 seconds. This made me feel good about my time for the upcoming half. I have a goal in mind – to finish AT LEAST 10 minutes faster than last year. If I keep the pace as I did this past Saturday, which I know is on the slow side, I will be able to reach my goal. I also have a goal to just finish, have fun and take it all in – the sights and the sounds and all the other runners and people!

As far as food and nutrition went this past week, I have to say I felt pretty good. I have tried a couple of new things – coconut water and Kombucha. And even though they both have Weight Watchers PointsPlus values to them, I loved them both and am very willing to spend the 2-3 PPVs on them. I have tried a couple of brands of the coconut water and have loved all of them. There hasn’t been one stand out one yet. They were all good. I have only tried the GT’S brand of Kombucha. I loved both flavors I tried – cosmic cranberry and gingerade. I can see the Kombucha becoming a part of my regular diet. YUM!

Another food item I have become addicted to is gelato, specifically the Talenti sea salt caramel. O. M. G. this is some amazing stuff! Seriously, it is the creamiest, yummiest, deliciousness you will ever eat. I can’t believe I am going to say this, but it is better – WAY BETTER – than my favorite treat at Cold Stone Creamery! It does have a lot – A LOT – of PointsPlus values – 14 PPVs per 1 cup. BUT…..it is beyond worth it. Seriously.

I will admit, I have sworn it off though, until after the half-marathon! I will eat some – probably an entire pint – after the race. At least that is my plan for now!

I have also been addicted to something a little bit healthier than gelato – mock mashed potatoes. I think I may have blogged about them before, but seriously, they are SO good. All you use is cauliflower (I used a whole head of it), fat-free cream cheese (I used two wedges of the light regular flavored Laughing Cow cheese), fat-free sour cream (I used 1/8 cup), shredded parmesan cheese (I used 1/8 cup), some salt and some garlic powder. The whole batch was a total of 3 PointsPlus values. After you cook the cauliflower (I roasted mine in the oven for a little bit and then steamed it in the microwave for a little bit more), you throw everything together in a food processor and process until smooth – or a little lumpy like I like mine! Serious goodness – healthy AND filling! Check it out:

Looks like real mashed potatoes, doesn’t it?

So, here is a look at the rest of my week in pictures:

Make it a great week everyone and thanks for taking the time to read about my blog. I appreciate each and every one of you!

A simple, but delicious date night dinner

My husband and I discovered that we really love tuna steaks – ahi tuna, albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna – you name it, we love it. However, unlike much of the world, we don’t like tuna tar-tar, which is pretty much raw tuna. We love it grilled – all the way through. When cooked all the way, tuna really can be compared to eating a pork chop – or at least that’s what we think!

Last night (Saturday, April 21), we dined on a wonderfully simple recipe my husband found on the Internet called Grilled Mediterranean Ahi Tuna. Although it didn’t have very many ingredients, it had a lot of flavor. We paired it with a Weight Watchers recipe, roasted asparagus and red peppers. Again, simple, but oh-so-flavorful!

Below are pictures of our meal and the recipes. Enjoy!

The meal!

Close up of the tuna

Close up of the veggies

The tuna recipe

The veggie recipe