Archive for February, 2013

February has passed in a blur of marathon training, skiing, and life-with-three-kids. Let’s check in on my goals for February:

Eat less cake. – Done. Not necessarily less sugar, but less cake.

Run the Brea 8K and earn a PR at that distance. – Done! Big fat PR at the Brea 8K!

Start training for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. Week 3 of marathon training is done and week 4 finishes off on Saturday with a planned 20-miler!

Do not injure myself (a perennial goal). I feel good. My adductor magnus continues to speak up a little bit post-run, but I feel great while I’m running and my stride is not affected.

February Miles

Swim: 0.67 miles in 25 minutes in 1 workout. <— Seriously? Must hit the pool this Friday.

Bike: 79.74 miles in 4.79 hours in 4 workouts. <— Is that right? I'm shocked I only rode the bike four times. I guess it makes sense though because I substituted skiing for some cross-training days.

Run: 95.17 miles in 16.07 hours in 11 workouts. <— Makes me want to run another 4.83 miles today to hit 100. Not gonna do it though. Today's a much-needed rest day.

Strength training: 2.67 hours in 6 workouts. <— Interesting — the exact same amount of time as January but in 5 fewer workouts!)

Skiing: 11.5 hours in 3 workouts.

Random Photo for February

I took this photo on a 7-mile tempo run. Can you spot the hawk resting on the top right side of the old silo?

It seems like there's a philosophical, evolutionary statement in there somewhere. Industrialization meets nature reclamation with hawk perched on the rusting, graffiti-covered water silo behind the chain link fence.

It seems like there’s a philosophical, evolutionary statement in there somewhere. Industrialization meets nature reclamation with a hawk perched on the rusting, graffiti-covered silo behind the chain link fence.

Goals for March

Resist racing the La Habra 10K. I ran this race last year and would love to do it again this year, but after all the work it took to juggle the marathon training long run with the Brea 8K last week, I do not want to put myself through that stress again, even for an inexpensive local race.

Heal my darn adductor magnus/groin strain once and for all. I think this takes time, strength training, tennis ball massages, and hot baths.

Do two 20-mile long runs, two 18-milers, and one 13-miler. This advanced marathon training plan is aggressive but so far I feel up to it!

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As much as I love running, cycling for cross-training provides me a ton of joy. There’s something about the speed on the bike and the power to cover long distances that thrills me. That said, road biking terrifies me.

Attention drivers: Watch for cyclists! Treat them like any other vehicle on the road! They have just as much right to be there as you do!

Given that I do not trust drivers to act like rational people who actually give a hoot about my safety, I seek out dedicated bikeways whenever possible (Santa Ana River Trail (SART) in Orange County, Bear Creek Path in La Quinta, Riverside County Regional Trail, SR-56 Bike Path in Poway, and Whittier Greenway Trail). So when my husband proposed that we hire a babysitter so we could go on a Sunday morning date recently, I convinced him to check out the Rio Hondo Bike Path in Los Angeles County with me.

Happy girl and Bullet at the Rio Hondo trailhead

Happy girl and Bullet the bike at the Rio Hondo trailhead at the Peck Road Water Conservation Park

Rio Hondo trail head: Technically the northernmost trailhead is located off Live Oak Avenue in Arcadia, California, just west of the Live Oak Garden at 4030 East Live Oak Avenue. However, it is much easier to park at the Peck Road Water Conservation Park at 5401 Peck Road in Arcadia, and start at the trailhead there. Don’t blink as you drive along Peck Road between Lower Azusa Road and Live Oak Avenue or you’ll miss the tiny entrance to the park on the west side of the street.

One of the prettier sections of the trail, past the El Monte Airport as you near Rosemead. Photo by Cromagnom under Wikimedia Commons.

One of the prettier sections of the trail, past the El Monte Airport as you near Rosemead. Photo by Cromagnom at Wikimedia Commons.

Trail end: The trail ends when it converges with the Los Angeles River Trail in South Gate. At that point you could continue down the L.A. River Trail a/k/a Lario/LaRio/LARio all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach, or bike up the L.A. River Trail all the way to Los Angeles.

Total distance: approximately 17 miles one way, 34 miles out-and-back. For longer distances you can easily hook up with either the San Gabriel River Trail (see “Tip” below) or go to the end of the Rio Hondo and continue on the L.A. River Trail.

Tip for easiest trail navigation: When the Rio Hondo trail hits the intersection of Rosemead Boulevard (the 19) and San Gabriel Boulevard, do not cross Rosemead. Instead, ride on San Gabriel Boulevard northwest (backtracking a bit) until you turn left on E. Lincoln Ave. The trail continues immediately on the left after you turn onto Lincoln. Note that if you want to hook up to the San Gabriel River Trail, then at the intersection of Rosemead and San Gabriel you can cross both streets and take a small side branch of the Rio Hondo (you will see the trail at the corner of Rosemead and Durfee Ave and it runs along Durfee Avenue for a bit until it continues along Siphon Road). I think that’s the prettiest section of the whole trail. After about a mile you hit the San Gabriel River Trail. At that point, if you change your mind and you want to hook back up to the Rio Hondo you can do so by following a side trail to the Whittier Narrows Dam (I suggest you search on Google Maps for “Whittier Narrows Dam” to see how the various trails branch off in this area to the east of the dam).

The bike trail aside the Rio Hondo "creek" north of where it converges with the L.A. River. Photo by Cromganom at Wikimedia Commons.

The bike trail aside the Rio Hondo (“deep river”) north of where it converges with the L.A. River. Photo by Cromagnom at Wikimedia Commons.

Bikeway conditions: The pavement on the trail is in good condition and has been recently redone in a few places. For one small section as you re-enter the trail off Lincoln Ave., the trail is a little rough. My favorite feature of the trail was the chain link fence “tunnel” that protects bikers from getting hit by the remote control airplanes launched from a trailside park.

Restrooms: There are restrooms at the park trailhead. Several parks along the way offer bathrooms and drinking fountains.

Trail safety: This trail is best traveled in pairs or larger groups. I cannot say the trail was unsafe exactly but as a woman I wouldn’t want to ride it alone and even my husband was skeptical, and that was mid-morning on a Sunday.

With an unintended detour at that confusing intersection at Rosemead Boulevard, Mike and I ended up riding for 36 miles in 2 hours 21 minutes. It was chilly and windy and my legs were burned from running 13 miles the day before, but we had a blast!

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My body finished racing the Brea 8K about four hours ago but my mind is still racing LOL! To sum up: gorgeous race weather (51 degrees, light wind), well-organized race, slightly hilly course, user error when I didn’t quite manage to hit “start” on my Garmin but that trusty GPS watch still paced me to a PR! In spite of my pre-race jitters and Garmin snafu, everything came together for a wonderful race.

I didn’t sleep well last night (although when I did sleep, I dreamt I was eating donuts and dreams just do not get better than that!) I don’t know whether it was the race jitters, the salt I had with the Goldfish I ate while I watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for family movie night, or that little nap I took earlier in the day, but the night was not exactly restful. I should have added to the post on dealing with pre-race jitters: Do not panic if you cannot sleep well the night before the race. It’s the sleep you get two nights before the race that carries you through the event. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

I got out of bed at 5:15 a.m. and made plain oatmeal and coffee with almond milk. I drank about 20 ounces of water two hours before the race. I headed out the door at 6:50 and arrived at the race at 7:10 (gotta love a local race!) There were no lines at the porta potties (I call that a personal victory already) and by 7:15 I was chatting up my half-marathon running coach Stephanie and my classmate Tina. It helped to calm my nerves to talk with them, and it certainly didn’t hurt to hear about Tina’s 10-minute PR at the recent Tinkerbell half! Super impressive to cut off nearly a minute per mile!

Half an hour before the 8 a.m. race start, Stephanie and I did a warm-up jog around the first little loop of the race course. I like to do a dynamic warm up before all races but I do not necessarily warm up with a jog as well before longer distance races like a half marathon or full marathon. For an 8K, it helps me to jog so that when that starting horn goes off, my muscles are warmed up enough to tolerate a fast start.

In light of last year’s crowding at the start, I positioned myself closer to the front this year, right at the front of the 7-minute mile pack. Those were some dang serious (and nervous) runners and we all took off at a 6-something pace. I quickly realized that was too fast for me to sustain (as if!) and I dialed it back into the 7-minute range. My goal was to keep my pace between 7:39 and 8:00, aiming for an overall time under 40 minutes, and if not under 40 at least under my 41:35 time from 2012. As I said, I goofed at the starting line and did not manage to hit “start” on my Garmin Forerunner 110, but it still showed me my pace and I did eventually start it properly.

The course has some hills, nothing terrible, and I used the downhills to my advantage by keeping my feet quick and light, then powered up the hills at a steady pace, paying attention to keeping my effort level steady rather than pushing to keep up the pace up the hills. Just about halfway through the race there is a hill fondly named “Heartrate Hill” and that steady slow climb challenged me but I knew it would payoff with another downhill after that and we’d be over halfway done. With two miles to go I concentrated on keeping the pace steady in the 7s with only a few dips into the 8-minute mile range. With one mile to go, I pushed hard, and with half a mile to go I gave it my all. There wasn’t a whole lot left in the tank at that point, and I was super happy to round that last bend in the mall parking lot and see the balloon arch over the finish. I could see the clock said 38:30-something and I sprinted to see if I could get in under 39 minutes. I crossed the finish line and celebrated being done and frankly, not throwing up. Hooray for leaving it all out on the course (but not literally all, if you know what I mean)!

I’ve hit “refresh” on the race results about a million times today and finally my official results came up at about 6:20 p.m.:

Chip time: 38:42 (a big fat PR over last year’s time of 41:35)
Clock time: 38:52
Overall place: 431 of 2726
Women’s rank: 95 of 1466
Females 40-44 division: 5 of 180 <— Do you have any idea how happy this makes me?! Happy tears, that's how happy.
Pace: 7:46 minutes/mile = 7.7 mph

"SoCal's Finest Finish" lived up to its claim again this year. The expo boasted the typical water, oranges and bananas, but the main attractions came in the form of Slater's 50/50 hamburgers, Chilled Swiss Oatmeal (a European muesli made with low fat yogurt, rolled oats, green apples, bananas, currants, dried cranberries, and skim milk) from Corner Bakery, pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, Rubio's, Jamba Juice smoothies, and Farrell's ice cream to name a few. The expo offered something to please everyone. If chili doesn't appeal to you after a race, you can grab a chocolate chip cookie. Looking for something healthier? Try a whole organic apple from the local market. The only limiting factor for me was how much I could carry in my hands!

After more chatting with Stephanie and others from A Snail’s Pace running shop, I saw Mike and my girls looking for me. What a nice surprise! We got a quick family photo and headed out for brunch as a treat for everyone. TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea puts out an amazing brunch buffet. At $35.99 for adults, it cost more than the Brea 8K entry fee, but gosh darn it, the pecan cinnamon rolls alone made it all worth it. And the mimosas. And the cocktail shrimp.

All in all a great race day! I leave you with my favorite race sign from today: “That’s not sweat, those are tears from your fat cells crying.”

Did you race or run this weekend? Tell me about it!

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The Brea 8K is tomorrow. It’s not my “A” race (that is the M2B Marathon in May) but I look at it as an important gauge of how my training is going. I want to beat my time from last year’s 8K race, and I want to hit a pace that shows that my desired marathon pace is achievable (not that a 4.97-mile race is the best predictor of a 26.2-mile time, but still).

The problem is that I’ve got all these pre-race jitters. Can I really run a good race on Sunday when I squeezed my marathon training 17-mile long run in on Thursday morning? Can I run fast when I’m training for long? Will I get to the race on time? Will I dress right for the weather? Will I injure myself and set back my marathon training?

I know that jitters are normal and everyone has them. Even Kelly Ripa had them before the Empire State Building Run-Up earlier this month. Faced with running up 86 flights of stairs, she joked:

I am horrified. I am just doing a countdown until I have to run to the top of the Empire State Building. And nothing has gone the way I envisioned it. I thought for sure by now they would have canceled this [indoor] event due to weather….

Co-host Michael Strahan asked her, “What are you most nervous about?”

Well, failure, death, vertigo, humiliation, pain, suffering, soiling myself, not finishing, hurting something. You know, I just have those basic fears that everybody else has.

Of course none of those things happened and she had a great race, coming in at 18:16 for 6th place of 31 in the media heat, second female in that division. Congrats, Kelly! And thank you for reminding me that everyone gets these irrational fears before a race.

So, what are some techniques to combat these pre-race jitters?

10 Tips for Dealing with Race Jitters

1. Trust your training. Now is not the time to think that you should have thrown in some more speedwork or hill training. Don’t do anything unusual in the days before a race. That’s just asking for trouble.

2. Study the course map. Generally a course map is available online. To ease my race fears I take it one step further and drive the race course if possible. For a triathlon, I often bike part of the run and/or bike course as my bike tune-up the day before a race.

3. Visualize the race. The night before a race, close your eyes and visualize yourself at the start. See yourself racing strong from start to finish. You’ve got to believe it to achieve it!

4. Focus your nervous energy on setting out your race gear and double-checking the race start time and the driving directions to get to the race. Going over every detail before the race will help address any fears about getting to the race on time, with all your necessary gear in hand. This is especially important for a triathlon — go through everything you’ll need for the swim, bike and run portions, and set aside what will stay in transition and what you will keep on you for the start of the race.

5. Set multiple wake-up alarms. One of the things that keeps me awake (or keeps me from falling back asleep the night before a race) is worrying that I will miss my wake-up time. Set an alarm clock, cell phone alarm, friend or partner’s cell phone alarm, hotel wake-up call — any combination thereof.

6. On race day, stick to the plan. Eat what you normally eat before a race or long run. Warm up the same way. Do not look around you at what others are doing and think you should change up what works for you.

7. Do not let the nervousness of others get to you! For as nervous as I am in the days leading up to a race, I actually feel pretty good on race day itself. If I’ve done all I can do to prepare and I make it to the race on time, I am ready and raring to go. I put a smile on my face and block out the anxious faces around me.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

8. Use the nerves you have to your advantage. Race jitters send nervous racers running for the porta potties. That’s a good thing. Use your race nerves to clean out your system before the race. Warm drinks (like coffee) help with that too.

9. Remind yourself that no one cares about your finish time but you. If you don’t have your best race, no one is going to say, “I can’t believe you didn’t PR!” or “Really, you were that slow?!” You would never say that to a friend, and a friend would never say that to you. Even if your worst fears come true (for me, injury or a big fat DNF: Did Not Finish), you will learn something from the race.

10. Remember that race jitters mean that you care. You wouldn’t be nervous if this wasn’t something important to you. You’ve probably invested a lot of preparation and time into this race. Half the success of the race is showing up trained and ready to go! Pat yourself on the back for committing to the race, to the training, and to showing up at the start line in spite of your fears!

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I checked off week three on my 16-week marathon training plan and I have 13 weeks to go. Training is going so well that I have to make a conscious effort to rein myself in and not overdo it. I have found that it’s when I’m feeling my best that I get injured (see: groin strain before my first half marathon, plantar fasciitis 10 weeks into the 20-week training plan for my first full marathon). This time around I am doing several new things to prevent injury: (1) in addition to a dynamic warm-up (as opposed to static stretches), I walk for at least five minutes before a speed workout or tempo run to ease my body into it and not strain something, (2) I walk for 5-10 minutes after every run to cool down, (3) I do not mix hill work and speed work — if I’m running a hilly route, I dial back the pace a little, (4) I incorporate strength training at least three days a week, and (5) I stretch my calves religiously and use the foam roller after every run. It’s all a bit of guesswork and figuring out what works best for me. For good measure, I throw in making wishes on dandelion blowballs (yes, that is the technical name for them, so says Wikipedia) and making wishes when I drive under an overpass with a moving train on it: Please please let me make it to May 26, 2013 uninjured and ready to have a fantastic race!

The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon will be my second full marathon. The first time around I followed a beginner training plan from Run Less, Run Faster, and this time I am following an advanced plan from that book. Both the beginner and advanced plans call for three runs per week: a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run at a prescribed pace that is generally 30-45 seconds slower than marathon pace. With warm-up and cool down, a typical speed workout is six miles, a tempo run is 7-12 miles, and a long run is 13-20 miles. For the first few weeks of the plan, that has translated to about 27 miles per week. Some people might panic at the thought of running such low overall mileage when training for a marathon, but I find it works a lot better for me personally to run three days per week rather than five. My running muscles get a break and my mind gets a break. I do not get bored. I cross-train two or three other days with cycling and swimming to build aerobic endurance. I work a broad range of muscles and that keeps my body in balance.

Take week 1 of marathon training for example. Here’s what my actual workouts ended up being:

Sunday: 40 minutes of strength training
Monday: Speed workout: 10-20 minute warmup, 3 x 1600m (mile repeats) at 7:11 (8.4 mph) with a 400m rest interval in between, and a 10 minute cooldown = 6 miles on the treadmill.
Tuesday: Bike 13.5 miles in 45 minutes, plus 10 minutes of strength training
Wednesday: Tempo run: 2 miles easy/increasing, 2 miles at 7:44 (7.8 mph), 2 miles easy = 6.5 with warmup and cooldown
Thursday: REST
Friday: Swim 0.64 miles (cut short when the pool was closed due to lightning!), plus 30 minutes strength training
Saturday: 13 miles at 9:05 plus a 10-minute walk = 14.4 miles with warmup and cooldown –> This was the Virtual Run for Sherry.

Mixing up the workouts that way makes me look forward to each day on the schedule. I’m happy when it calls for a speed workout (which I find killer but very satisfying), and I’m happy when it calls for a bike ride. Tempo runs are not my favorite because they are tough for me but I know those are just what I need to work on pacing and on toughing it out when race day comes. Long runs I find very meditative and I love the sense of accomplishment when I’m done. Swimming works out all the kinks in my body and just makes me feel good overall, like someone’s oiled up my joints. And I even enjoy the rest day, where I do the “rest” of the things I need to do, like laundry and house cleaning!

What about you? Are you a fan of cross-training? How many days per week do you run?

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More Google Fun

One of the things I love about blogging is the dialogue that can happen between the blogger and readers. Unfortunately for me though, sometimes people drive by my blog in their Google cars and deposit one-sided evidence that they’ve been here, leaving me wanting a chance to holler back after them. Now’s my chance to talk back to people who’ve reached the blog through the power of Google.

1. all we do is run santa barbara — Man, I’m jealous! I want to run Santa Barbara again! I am totally ready to move there as soon as someone sets me up with a mansion and a trust fund. The fresh air, the amazing vistas, the nice people, the yummy food, the overly-regulated-city-buildings-that-look-so-nice-and-uniform-and-soothing.

2. ran my first half marathon race report – I indeed have one of those first half marathon race reports! And my first full marathon too! And my first sprint triathlon! And my first Olympic tri.

3. shark poop. I’m sure shark do. Shark do doo-doo.

4. cubital fossa sweat. Now students, do you remember when we learned what your cubital fossa is? That’s right, cubital fossa sweat is sexy, sexy elbow pit sweat!

5. does stand up spinning worsen plantar fasciitis? YES. I wish I had known that would be the case for me. I do not have indoor spin bike shoes, which might help with that problem. Here’s how I managed to recover from plantar fasciitis.

6. is kt tape slippery? No, I’ve never found it so.

7. rash between legs. Um, you might want to see a doctor about that. If the rash is caused by running, though, I recommend Bodyglide Original Anti-Chafe Balm.

8. pantyhose head. Oh dear, are you planning on robbing a bank, or do you just find this Minute to Win It game funny?

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On Valentine’s Day I expressed my love for running. It should come as no surprise however, that I have a love-hate relationship with running. Sometimes the things (or people) you love the most are the ones that have the power to aggravate you the most. So here’s today’s list:

10 Things I Hate about Running

1. Injury. ‘Nuf said.

2. Pit stops. That sudden urge to “go” when there’s no bathroom in sight. (Oh dear, did I really make this Number 2 on the list? That’s not punny.)

3. A slogfest run. It happens to everyone (right?!) — the occasional run where you can’t seem to get out of first gear. Recently I ran for two hours and simply did not have many miles to show for my time. Let’s just say never again will I schedule a late day long run shortly after a meal of carnitas tacos. That lump of food felt like a ball of lead weighing down my belly and keeping me from running anywhere near a decent long run pace.

4. The Dreadmill. I’m pretty sure that treadmills without music, audiobooks or televisions are reserved for the people doomed to the sixth circle of Hell. The Heretics in Dante’s Inferno are trapped in flaming tombs in the sixth circle of Hell. When I’m sweating on the indoor treadmill without anything to entertain me, I imagine that’s what a flaming tomb feels like.

Spray paint on the sidewalk in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Tony Walker.

Spray paint on the sidewalk in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Tony Walker.

5. Pulling a sweaty shirt over my head after a run. The only thing worse is pulling a sweaty running bra over my head.

6. Speaking of sweaty…. Laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Sweaty workout clothes nearly double my weekly laundry loads. As my sister once noted, laundry is a Sisyphean task. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the cruel king of Corinth who was punished in Hades by being condemned to forever roll a large stone up a hill, only to have it roll back down over and over again as the stone neared the top.

7. Not to beat the sweat issue to death, but…. I cannot stand that transition at the end of a run where you go from sweating profusely in your running clothes to absolutely freezing when you stop running and the sweat evaporates in your own little scientific cooling experiment.

8. Ice baths. While an ice bath might sound like a great idea when I’m roasting in that sixth circle of Hell on the treadmill or running in the hot summer sun, I will never, ever get used to that first breath-taking moment when I dip my legs into a post-run ice bath.

9. $$$$. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for running gear. I’m not a shopper in general but running clothes and accessories? Sign me up! I just don’t enjoy plunking down the money for them. I justify the cost by reminding myself that any money I spend on exercise is “free” money that is “saving” me the money I would otherwise have to spend on anti-depressants and other health-related bills.

10. People who do not follow proper race etiquette. People who do not line up with the appropriate pace group should be required to take over for Sisyphus for a while. People who do not pull over to the right to walk or tie shoelaces should be condemned to that sixth circle of Hell.

What’s your running pet peeve?

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Happy Love Day everyone! To celebrate I’ve come up with 10 things I love about running.

Photo credit: sierrafit

Photo credit: sierrafit

1. I love that it’s me against me. As someone who started running at age 39, I’m never going to win a race but I can always challenge myself and improve.

2. I am constantly learning something new about myself and the sport.

3. I love the fact that I start out a run feeling one way (good, bad or ugly) and no matter what I end up happier and more satisfied with my day.

4. Running reminds me that my body is powerful and strong. After experiencing infertility and Graves’ Disease (an overactive thyroid), I felt betrayed by my body. Running restores some of my lost confidence. (Conversely, any running injury chips away at that confidence, but let’s not dwell on that!)

5. I’ll be honest — I love the weight loss. I was never overweight but running brought me right down to the middle of the weight range for a normal Body Mass Index for my height.

6. I love coming home to a quiet house and checking off a long run before my family has even woken up for the day.

7. I love how running is all about me. It’s the one “selfish” thing I do, and yet I don’t even consider it selfish because making physical activity a priority sets a good example for my children.

8. It’s a very tangible way of measuring accomplishments: (1) check off a training workout, (2) achieve a split on a speed workout, (3) complete a new personal distance record, or (4) earn a PR at a race. That type of accomplishment does not even compare to the everyday things like: (1) do some of the never-ending loads of laundry, or (2) remind children who do not chew with their mouths closed no matter how many times I nag them about it.

9. I love love love when I enter a workout into MapMyRun.com, and when I enter the amount of time I ran it says I burned 453 calories, and then when I enter the distance I ran in that time, it says I actually burned 566 calories. That little bump up in calories makes me so proud of how far I’m come in my running over the last two years. I’m a little bit speedy! Sometimes I run a little bit faster than the MapMyRun average based on time!

10. I love that running is a healthy activity I can share with my husband, my kids, and friends. Runners are my people. Our common passion for the sport bonds us no matter how different we are in the rest of our lives.

What do you love about running?

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With my refrigerator practically bursting with winter greens from my CSA farm shares, I decided to use up a bunch of kale by making kale chips. My kids and I devoured these so quickly I wished we had even more kale! Try these as an alternative to potato chips.

Baked Kale Chips with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

one bunch of curly kale
one tablespoon of olive oil (I used Extra Virgin Garlic-infused Organic Olive Oil from Trader Joe’s)
salt to taste (I used sea salt)
parchment paper if you have it

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and dry the kale thoroughly. Remove the center rib from each kale leaf with a kitchen knife, scissors, or by tearing. Tear or cut each leaf into bite-sized pieces.

Raw kale, ready for a sprinkle of olive oil.

Raw kale, ready for a sprinkle of olive oil and salt.

Toss the kale with the olive oil and salt (tip: it’s best to add the least amount of olive oil necessary to coat the kale — any more than that and the kale leaves will remain soggy rather than become crispy). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (if available) and spread the kale evenly over the sheet.

Glistening with garlic-infused olive oil and salt.

Glistening with garlic-infused olive oil and salt.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully in the last minutes to remove the chips as soon as they are just browning at the edges. You can use tongs to toss the kale chips halfway through cooking. If you remove the chips as they begin to brown, they will be crispy but not crumbly.

Goodbye beautiful baked kale chips. Prepare to be gobbled up in seconds!

Goodbye beautiful baked kale chips. Prepare to be gobbled up in seconds!

Have fun with this recipe and experiment with the flavorings. Some people use seasoned salt. Others like to coat the kale with soy sauce or vinegar instead of olive oil. Have you ever made baked kale chips? What’s your favorite way to season them?

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Brea 8K 2013 logoAre you racing the Brea 8K this year on February 24, 2013? I highly recommend the Brea 8K. It’s a well-organized race with a fun finish line expo that features tons of free food from many well-known vendors. The 8K (4.97 miles) distance is unusual and makes for a nice challenge — not so fast-paced as a 5K but not such a big commitment as a 10K or half marathon. The 2013 race will be the 22nd annual running of the race.

Race Fee: The fee for 2013 is $30 for adults and $25 for minors (there’s a $5 price increase after February 20). The kids’ 1K fun run is $12 and includes entry to the finish line food expo. I’d say this is a fair price for a well-organized race with a fantastic finish line expo. Plus, you can feel good about supporting this local race that benefits the arts and academic programs at Brea Olinda High School.

Packet Pick-up: You have two options for packet pick-up — on Friday evening at Brea Olinda High School or on race morning at Brea Mall at 6:30 before the 8 a.m. race.

Race Parking: Parking is free and could not be any easier at the Brea Mall and Brea Marketplace (near the Target across from the mall). I arrived half an hour before the race start and had no trouble finding a parking place within easy walking distance of the start.

Pre-race: You’ll find typical long lines at the porta potties but the facilities were adequate and close to the race start.

The course: The course has a few slight hills but I would not call it challenging. You can check out the exact route here. There are three water stations on the course. I carried my own water though so I cannot speak to how well they were managed. I can say that February makes for nice racing weather in Brea — not too chilly but not warm either. Bring a throw-away jacket for before the race and ditch it before the start.

Bling: Unless you make it on the podium there’s no medal for the race but I have to say that does not bother me at all. You do get a cotton t-shirt with race registration and there are some vendor freebies at the finish line expo in addition to the goody bag from packet pick-up.

Finish line expo: The Brea 8K boasts “SoCal’s Finest Finish Line” and I have to agree with that statement! There were all sorts of free food treats available in the massive finish line expo at the Brea Mall parking lot. Last year’s food sponsors included Panera Bread, Jamba Juice, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, ChickPita, Corner Bakery Cafe, Mother’s Market & Kitchen, Ralphs, The Melting Pot, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, Olive Garden, Hot Dog on a Stick, California Pizza Kitchen, Pinkberry, Tacos & More, Rubios, BJ’s and Sprouts. Just note that to enter the food expo, you have to have a race bib (so that means no family and friends unless they’ve registered for the race or the kids’ fun run).

Things You Should Know: Dogs are allowed to participate in the race if their owners keep them on a leash and clean up after them (although dogs are not allowed in the finish line food court). Strollers are also permitted (although for the child to enter the finish line expo she or he must be wearing a race bib as well).

Ways to improve the race: The only thing that bothered me was that I lined up with the 7- to 8-minute starting sign and there were a ton of people who were slower than that in that area. I ran the race at a pace of 8:21 and I should have started a couple people back from the starting line. I ended up dodging people, even some people walking from the start, for the first two miles of the race. Without setting up corrals I’m not sure how this could be improved, but it’s at least something to pay attention to as a participant.

Best part about the race: You’ve gotta love a well-done, community-supported race. I’ve never been to a better finish line food expo.

Would I do it again? You betcha! I’ll see you there this year!

For more on the Brea 8K you can read my race recap from the 2012 Brea 8K.

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