28 April 2012

that's all, folks.

Well, turns out that I injured myself. I seem to have strained my soleus on the left leg. My foot still hurts, too. Unfortunately, this means Pittsburgh is out, which I'm pretty bummed (har har) about because I really thought I could do well. My hope is that my leg will heal in a few weeks and I might be able to salvage the Sunburst half. I'll cycle and do yoga (when it's okay to stretch again) in the meantime.

Why did this happen? I have a few reasons.

- I probably should have given myself a solid six months of just running before training for anything more than a 5k.

- Maybe the yoga isn't enough and I should find a way to work with weights.

- I should stretch more.

- Perhaps I should be wearing a more cushioned shoe, especially one for slight pronation problems.

I'm sure I can think of more reasons why I failed. But, I'm not too upset because it could have been worse. I can still bear weight on my leg and walk normally. Sometimes when I press too hard on my forefoot pain shoots up my leg, so depending on how it feels that day I don't flex my foot completely when walking. Currently, I'm icing, and wearing a compression sleeve for a few hours a day.

So, that's about all. I'm still going to Pittsburgh because the room and everything is already set up, though it's going to pain me not to be able to run it. A part of me thinks I still can, but I know that's dumb.

18 April 2012

Week 7 - Training Recap

My foot didn't feel too bad this week. It still flared up a bit, but on Monday's run it was barely noticeable. Perhaps all the icing and exercises have helped, though it's nowhere near healed.

Because my foot held up, I had a decent week of running.

Monday -
6 miles. This was the run where my foot felt pretty good. Usually, it takes about a mile for my foot to feel okay, but it felt fine from the first step here. I figured it was either healing, or trolling me.

Wednesday -
6 miles, 4 at tempo. For the last two weeks, I haven't successfully been able to complete a tempo. I ended up cutting all of them short, or just ending the run. Apparently it took me two weeks to recover from the 10k. Granted, I did get sick, so it's probably a combination of the two, and the cold delayed my recovery.


8:56.64 - w/u
7:47.19 - T
7:43.31 - T
7:34.23 - T
7:39.47 - T
8:57.72 - c/d
3.44.88 - c/d

I didn't feel too bad at the end, either, so that gives me more confidence maintaining an 8:18 pace for the half.

Thursday -
7 miles. I ran this a little too fast. My overall pace was 8:49, but I did that for a reason. I would be flying to Jersey on Friday and figured my long run would suffer because of the heat and tiredness. That meant an actual long, slow run instead of a progression, right?

Saturday -
10 miles at 8:40. Oops, wrong. But, I did get a taste of running in the heat. I got out around 8:00-8:30 am, though it was quickly warming up despite the cool breeze. I ran 4 miles before stopping for a water and GU break - boy did I need it. During the final 6 mile out-and-back, I could feel the air shift, sort of how Frodo and Sam must have felt the closer they got to Mordor. Okay, not that bad. I did feel tired still. However, on race day I will be waking up a few hours earlier to eat a full breakfast, topping off my energy stores. I'll also take an energy shot and eat some Honey Stingers shortly before the race, so I'll have more energy.

Total - 29.64

Not a bad week at all. This week will be the beginning of a cutback week, though really I'm just going to shorten the long run. Next week will be semi-easy, then the final week before the half will be a coasting week. I'll just run easy, do strides on Thursday, then a short run on Saturday and do my thing on Sunday. That's the plan for now. I'm hoping the weather cooperates; if not, I'll put up with it.

On another note, I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi Women's Split Infinity shorts from Running Warehouse. I had been eying them for a while, but at $38 I put them on the back burner. You see, I normally buy a pair of Nike Tempos from the girl's section (size large). They're just so hideous that the women's sizing fits terribly. They're relatively inexpensive that I put up with it, and if you roll the waistband down it cinches the excess material.


The Izumis from Running Warehouse were on sale for $22! No way was I passing that opportunity up, so I ordered a pair. They fit wonderfully, are semi-form fitting if you buy true to size, and feel so lightweight that you won't notice you're wearing shorts. They're shorter in length than the tempos, but that's okay for me. The design is pretty sweet, as well. As with all Izumi wear, the pocket is on the back. That's okay for keys and things you don't need until you're done running, but for GUs or anything like that it's a bit awkward. I've been told that it's a cycling thing. Oh well.

I just checked RW again and saw that they're marked down even more, if you're interested. I bought another pair because it's a deal I just can't pass up. (Is anyone else spoiled by RW's free shipping? I wish more companies offered this for every purchase, not just when you spend more than $75.)

Anyway, I just thought I'd talk about this because I've been having trouble finding new running shorts. I end up stalking race pictures to find women built similarly to myself to see what they wear, and even then I have questions. I know I'm not the only one who has trouble finding different styles of gear, so I hope this helps.

12 April 2012

Mashed Parsnips with Country Crock Spread

This post is sponsored by Country Crock. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Mashed Parsnips

Let's talk about mashed potatoes. I make them all the time and I'm pretty damn good at it. The only problem is that I don't particularly like eating them all that much, but I make it because others do. I've seen recipes for mashed cauliflower and other root vegetables floating around, though I've never bothered to try any until now.

The requirement for this promotion was to make a vegetable dish from the Clare Crespo cookbook, which is a collection of family-friendly vegetable dishes made with Country Crock spread. The recipes are on the whimsical side, and since I have no reason to play with my food I didn't follow those steps. If you like to engage your kids in what they're eating, though, this is the e-book for you. There are a few other recipes from the e-book that I'd like to try, like the zucchini boats.

Mashed Parsnips

Cooking with Country Crock is a good alternative to butter. The flavor might be a little different, but I've always liked the taste of spreads (I know...) and it works well with vegetables. This spread is free from hydrogenated oils and trans fat and there is a selection of spreads from which to choose, like the calcium+vitamin D spread I am using today. One aspect of this spread that I like is that it's spreadable straight from the fridge.

Mashed Parsnips

As for the recipe, all you have to do is boil the parsnips with onions until tender, which takes about ten to fifteen minutes. Near the end, stir in some frozen peas.

Mashed Parsnips

I changed the recipe a little since I don't have to worry about picky eaters. The additions and substitutions I made were to add a little parsley and fresh garlic, and replacing the heavy cream with Greek yogurt.

The mixture is pureed until smooth in the food processor along with two tablespoons of Country Crock spread. It comes together quickly and would be perfect for a busy weekend night.

However, and this is my personal opinion, I don't think this would make a good recipe for picky kids. The parsnips on their own have a rather sweet taste and might not be suitable for the palate of a small kid. I also felt that this recipe was a little bland, even with the changes I made. I guess more salt would have helped. Roasting parsnips would probably be better if you're introducing parsnips to your children for the first time.

Other than that, I liked it. It was different from mashed potatoes, but I liked the lighter consistency. I have to admit that even I was not used to the sweetness, so I would make sure to pair it with the right entree. (I served it with fish and rice pilaf.)

Recipe after jump.

Are you looking for quick and simple tips and recipes to make serving veggies more fun? Download the free Clare Crespo Cookbook here for fun and whimsical recipes your family is sure to love!

Pureed Parsnips with Parsley and Peas
Recipe adapted from the Clare Crespo Cookbook by Christina Provo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients -

4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup lightly packed parsley, rinsed
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Country Crock spread
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions -
  1. Place parsnips and onion in a medium pot with enough water to just cover the parsnips. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to maintain a rolling simmer and cook until parsnips are just tender, 10-15 minutes. Add frozen peas once parsnips are barely tender and cook another 3-5 minutes.

  2. Reserve 1/2 cup liquid; drain the parsnips and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, adding tablespoons of reserved water if needed if the puree is to thick.


11 April 2012

Fresh Black Bean and Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce

One of my favorite salads (or side dish, rather) is this fresh black bean and corn salad. There are many different versions out there and this one is mine. It pairs well with fish, chicken, steak, or solo and I have yet to meet the person who does not like it (not that I would be friends with the person who refuses to see how great this dish is).

Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce

I said "fresh", though you'll notice I have a bag of frozen corn. I normally slice corn off the cob, and I feel the milkiness of the fresh corn adds a lot to this recipe, though I had tons of bags of frozen corn in the freezer and it saved me from buying an additional ingredient. Besides, frozen vegetables are actually fresher than their canned counterparts, so the texture wasn't much different compared to corn on the cob.

Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce
Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce

Aside from the corn, the other ingredients are canned black beans, mini peppers, jalapenos, red onion, and the cilantro vinaigrette.

Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce

Usually, I just toss everything with fresh lime juice, olive oil, chopped cilantro, minced garlic, and a little salt, but this time I created this versatile vinaigrette. I have no doubt that this recipe can be used like a chimichurri sauce (which contains parsley) on meat, fish, or on salads. It's pretty good, and tasted better the longer it rested.

Fresh Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Sauce

In the vinaigrette was cilantro, half the jalapenos, garlic, fresh lime juice, and olive oil, blended until the everything emulsified into a smooth green sauce. I thinned it out with a little water, then poured it over the salad.

The only downside to this recipe is that once you make it, you will have to keep making it forever. I hope you can live with that.

Easter Eats

Print this recipe

Fresh Black Bean and Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
Recipe by Christina Provo

Ingredients -

2 16 ounce cans black beans, rinsed
2 cups fresh or frozen corn (if using frozen, rinse under cool water until thawed)
1 cup finely chopped multi-colored mini peppers, seeded
3 jalapeno halves, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 1/2 jalapenos, deveined and finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons water

Directions -
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the black beans, corn, peppers, jalapenos, and red onion.
  2. Place the cilantro, garlic, jalapenos, olive oil, lime juice, and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth, adding tablespoons of water if needed. If the vinaigrette is too thick, thin it out with more of the water, aiming for a thick, pourable consistency.
  3. Pour vinaigrette over black beans, tossing to coat. Refrigerate an hour or more prior to serving. Serve chilled.


10 April 2012

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Here is the strawberry pretzel dessert I mentioned yesterday. I followed a recipe from Allrecipes.com, but I changed the proportions a little. We usually make either a coconut cake or fruit-based dessert for Easter, with a key lime pie being the norm. I wanted to make a new dessert this time, albeit not one we haven't tried before (it's good practice never to attempt a new recipe for a holiday or event -- I've learned that lesson). It's still fruity, though this dessert has more textures and flavors.

Easter Eats

Such as the pretzel crust. It's comparable to a graham cracker crust in method, only I think it tastes much better and gives a salty-sweet element to the dessert that I really enjoy.

It comes together by grinding pretzels in a food processor. The pretzels don't have to be ground entirely to a floury consistency, but you want it to be finely ground enough so that it can form a crust that can be sliced without falling apart.

After the pretzels are ground, they're mixed with sugar and melted butter. Many versions use a 13x9-inch baking dish. I wanted a more elegant presentation, so I used a springform pan, pressing the pretzel crust up the sides just like a tart.

Easter Eats
Easter Eats

The bottom layer consists of sugar, softened cream cheese, and cool whip. It's sort of a light, airy cheesecake layer and a pleasant contrast to the salty pretzel crust and strawberry jello layer.

It's important to chill this layer before pouring the jello on top, otherwise the red jello will seep into and stain the cream cheese.

Easter Eats

Finally, the strawberry jello layer! Unlike the cream cheese layer, which I cut in half, I doubled the amount of jello but used less liquid called for in the original recipe. I did this for flavor and so that the jello layer wouldn't be too soft.

Instead of using frozen recipes, I sliced a 16-ounce container of fresh strawberries, sprinkled them with 3-4 tablespoons of sugar, and let them stand for an hour or two while the jello partially set. This helps draw out the flavor of the strawberries, which is especially important if the strawberries are tart. It also adds more flavor to the finished dessert.

I read in a few recipes that the strawberries fell to the bottom when mixed immediately into the hot jello mixture, so I let the jello chill enough so that had a chance to partially set before adding the strawberries and any accumulated juice. Since it is partially set, it's easier to pour onto the chilled cream cheese layer and the liquid won't seep into the cream cheese and crust.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

The dessert was a success and tasted really refreshing. I had some trouble slicing the layers because the strawberry slices wouldn't cut, causing the jello to slide over the cream cheese. Next time, I might finely dice the strawberries, though I think it looks prettier with slices.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Print this recipe

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com by Christina Provo

Yields 8-16 servings

Ingredients -

2 1/2 cups finely crushed pretzels
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces Neufch√Ętel cram cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulate sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or lemon extract
4 ounces (half a container) Cool Whip, at room temperature
1 16 ounce container of fresh strawberries
3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 packages of strawberry jello
2 cups boiling water

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the crushed pretzels with the sugar and butter. Press mixture on the bottom and about 1 - 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. A small glass can help press the crust into the creases and sides, if needed. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and let cool completely.

  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar until combined. Beat in lemon juice or extract. Stir in one third of the cool whip to lighten the mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining cool whip. Pour into the prepared crust. Refrigerate while you prepare the strawberries and jello.

  3. Hull and slice the package of strawberries. Place in a bowl and toss with sugar. If the strawberries are very tart, use the full amount.

  4. Pour the contents of the jello packets into a heat-proof plastic container; stir in the boiling water until powder is dissolved. Refrigerate until mixture has cooled and is partially set.

  5. When jello is of proper consistency, stir in the sliced strawberries and any accumulated juice. Pour on top of cream cheese layer, smoothing the top if necessary. Refrigerate overnight.

  6. To cleanly slice, dip a serrated knife into hot water and wipe off with a paper towel. Repeat process before each new slice.


09 April 2012

Easter Weekend Eats

I hope you guys had a good Easter weekend! I kicked things off on Saturday by preparing Joy the Baker's Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls before my long run.

Easter Eats

The dry ingredients were prepped the night before and chilled in the fridge overnight. I also mixed the sugars and cinnamon with softened butter and left it out, covered, overnight. This cut down on prep the next morning so that all I had to do was form the dough with the wet ingredients, roll it out, spread it with the cinnamon butter, and bake the biscuits. I spread a thin glaze on the biscuits right after they came out of the oven.

The biscuits are baked just long enough to brown the tops, leaving the centers soft and moist without being doughy. Even so, these are best compared to scones, not to cinnamon rolls. It did fix my craving, though.

Easter Eats

Next on the agenda was the strawberry pretzel dessert for Sunday. I had a hair appointment later in the day, so I wanted to finish part one and two of this dessert before I left. That meant preparing the simple pretzel crust, baking it, and letting it cool.

Part two is the the cream cheese filling. I really like this filling because the cream cheese is lightened by folding in Cool-Whip (alternatively, you could whip heavy cream, if you prefer). I poured the filling into the cooled crust and placed it in the fridge to set.

Later in the day, I finished part three by making the strawberry jello layer, which involves two boxes of jello and macerated strawberries. It's pretty simple and tastes great.

Easter Eats
Easter Eats

My family and I baked hot cross buns late on Saturday. We make them every year for breakfast. The buns are split in half, toasted, and spread with butter and homemade strawberry jam. Delicious start to the day!

Easter Eats

Dinner included fresh black bean and corn salad with a cilantro-jalapeno vinaigrette.

Easter Eats

Potato salad with homemade mayonnaise.

Easter Eats

And fish tacos with smelt, marinated jicama slices, avocado, and cilantro.

Not pictured was the finished potato salad and the absolutely incredible grilled salmon that my mom made. She spread an herb mustard on top and let it set for a while, then grilled it over charcoal. It was incredible and I should have eaten more of it.

Unfortunately, there are no leftovers. But I do have discount Easter candy!

Anyway, I plan to post the recipes for the strawberry pretzel dessert and the fresh black bean and corn salad (as if you haven't seen that recipe a hundred times) later this week. Stay tuned.

Week 6 - Training Recap

This will be short and sweet because I only ran three times last week! Unfortunately, I'll be marking my spreadsheet with red blocks because I failed on two of my runs, one of which I didn't even bother doing.

Monday -
6 miles at 9:20 pace. I remember this being a little stiff. It wasn't horrible by any means, but I was very glad when I finished.

Wednesday -
4.44 miles at 9:07. This was going to be my first tempo run since the 10k, but unfortunately it didn't go as planned. The goal was to slow my pace to 8:00-10 and add an extra mile. All I could manage to hit was 8:20, and it felt disgusting. I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up, so I decided to slow down to my slow pace and jog the remaining miles. Only, I wasn't even able to do that. I walked 1.5 miles home. The shame.

Thursday -
I usually run on Thursday. After feeling so disgusting after yesterday, I didn't bother trying. Instead, I cycled 15 miles and found out that my favorite running route was open again. There was construction on a hill that closed the road down for a while last year and I never checked back to see if it was open. I don't drive that way so I didn't notice the "closed to through traffic" sign had been removed. Little things.

Saturday -
10 miles at 8:41 pace. I was expecting to fail, and I sort of did. Don't you like it when things work out like you planned? I ran along the previously closed route, which included more hills than I usually run. I also overdressed, felt thirsty, and was dealing with my sucky foot. The foot didn't bother me in that my stride changed, but it felt bad. (It felt like a dull, numb ache for the rest of the day.) So, I didn't run a proper progression run because I couldn't hold on to race pace. That discouraged me quite a bit. After the ninth mile, I walked a little to calm myself down before running the last mile.

Total - 20

That was the lowest week of the training cycle. I'm tempted to just run three days per week for the rest of the cycle, but I'll be in Jersey up until Pittsburgh and don't feel comfortable cycling there. I can manage a short, three mile jog, so that will probably replace my six/seven mile recovery run.

Ugh. I hate running so little after I worked hard to get myself up to the mid-twenties. I know I'm only decreasing my mileage by a little bit, though I already subbed my 12 miler for Saturday's 10 mile run because of my foot. It's not just the upcoming half that I'm worried about, it's the Sunburst half marathon that I am registered for, and the 5k a week and a half after that.

This sucks.

01 April 2012

Week 5 - Training Report

Yeah, I skipped week four. There wasn't much to say other than I took the week easy in preparation for the 10k I ran last Saturday.

This week was tough, not because I had difficult workouts but because I got a cold. Though it was at its worst around Wednesday and Thursday and didn't start to improve until yesterday, I made it through my runs. I usually get pretty fatigued when I'm sick, so I'm glad that didn't happen this time.

Tuesday -
6 miles, easy. After some consulting, it was decided that my two quality runs would be tempos and long progression runs. That meant I needed to be diligent about taking my easy runs easy. It feels like I'm going a lot slower, but I kind of like just being able to settle into a groove without worrying about pace. I kept this run around a 9:23 average.

Wednesday -
5 miles with strides. My foot has been causing me trouble since last week, and especially during the race. It doesn't affect my running in the sense that I have to hobble, but it could progress to that point. Because of that, I decided not to run a tempo and replaced it with strides. Just trying to take it easy.

Thursday -
6 miles, easy. I almost didn't run this one. My head was pretty foggy and I had trouble breathing due to my cold. But I finished it with an average pace of 9:27.

Saturday -
11 miles, progression. I expected to fail miserably out there, so I was pleased that it went so well. My chest felt a little stuffed, but the miles ticked by at a rather fast clip and I felt pretty good despite the cold symptoms. My splits:

11.03 mi 01:35 08:36 pace


My half marathon pace will be 8:18, so I wanted to hit that pace the last four miles. It felt alright, though I was more tired than expected (which I don't think was from the run itself).

Total - 28

Now about that foot. I located the pain to the left side of my right foot. If I press hard, the bone hurts. I looked up anatomical foot pictures, Googled pain associated with names of the part of the foot that seemed to be where my pain is, and came up with accessory navicular syndrome. To sum it up, "the accessory navicular is an extra bone or piece of cartilage located on the inner side of the foot or just above the arch." The symptoms of accessory navicular is a visible bony prominence on the midfoot, located redness and swelling, and vague pain or throbbing, usually occurring during or after periods of activity. It doesn't look to me like I have a bony prominence, but I feel a bump when I rub the side of my foot, and it hurts when pressed.

Internet diagnosing aside, the real cause of my foot pain is my foot strike. After looking at my stride, I see that my knee rotates inward, causing me to strike on the inside of my foot. That would hurt, extra bony protrusion or not. My plan is to add walking lunges and squats after runs to strengthen my hip and knee in hopes that it realigns my leg and helps me land on my feet properly. I am also doing foot strengthening exercises as well as massaging my foot myself, which hurts really, really bad.

Already, if I land further back on my foot instead of forefoot, it feels much better. I also try not to flex my forefoot on the push off because that causes me much pain. I'm hoping the strengthening and stretching will help solve the problem.

So that's that. Next week, I'll be running a tempo again, only I'm slowing it down to an 8:00-8:10 average pace and increasing the tempo distance by a mile. I'm also running my longest run of the training plan, which will be twelve miles. See you then.
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