Capital City River Run Half Marathon

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When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I was given a school assignment in which we had to choose three words to describe ourselves. Apparently I found this task a bit difficult, because I remember asking my dad for help. And after asking him for a word, he  simply replied, “You are relentless. You never give up.” I thought for a second and asked “Is that a good thing?”  He looked up at me and said “Yes. It is a very good thing.” This simple conversation came to mind when I was running the Capital City River Run Half Marathon last weekend. I’ve always been a runner, but I didn’t get into long distance running until a few years ago. After my first race, I was hooked. And I started to plan my fall season around the training plan for whichever races I wanted to run that year.

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But this year, my training cycle wasn’t quite as invigorating and exciting. To be honest, it was a bit brutal. I’ve been battling the same stomach issues I started having before our wedding, which has made training less than enjoyable. Instead of feeling strong and confident each week as I added an extra mile onto my Saturday long run, I was left feeling weak and run down. Dealing with stomach pain and nausea while you are running 9,10, 11 miles is no easy task. Running has always been something I loved. Something that I considered to be part of me.  But suddenly my health issues were sucking the fun out of running, because at the end of each long run I just felt sick and weak. However, just as my dad told me years ago, I never gave up. I completed those training runs week after week, no matter how sick I felt. And when race day came, rather than telling myself to just relax and enjoy the race, I decided I wanted to achieve a PR. (#typicalColleen) Looking back, I realize this was stupid. I ran the first 10 miles hard. And for the most part I enjoyed it. The scenery on the Lansing river trail was beautiful, and I loved the chance to run on MSU’s campus. But at about mile 10 1/2, my mind and my body kind of gave up. I hit that dreaded “wall” that runners always talk about, and it was far from fun. But instead of pushing through, I gave myself a break. I walked, I jogged and I stopped caring about how fast I ran. I gave up the idea of a PR and just focused on finishing the race in one piece. Those last 3 miles were rough, but I crossed that finish line, practically crying tears of joy. And the funniest thing about it? I achieved that PR that I gave up on at mile 10. Running has taught me a lot of things over the years. It has taught me to love my body. Not for the way it looks, but for what it can do. It has taught me to appreciate the stillness and beauty of the world during all of my 5am runs. And during this race, it taught me that it’s ok to give myself a break. Because sometimes, when you stop being so hard on yourself, you can achieve great things.

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was filled with my four favorite things: family, friends, food and running. My cousins and I kicked off the long weekend by making our Thanksgiving themed costumes for Detroit’s Turkey Trot. The Turkey Trot is held every Thanksgiving morning before the Thanksgiving Day Parade and many of the runners run the 5k or 10k decked out in a holiday costume. I’ve run it several times before but had not yet joined the costume club. But this year, I ran the race decked out in a Thanksgiving tutu and turkey headband.

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We had a huge group running different races on Thursday morning. Kristen and I ran the 10k “Turkey Trot”, Lauren and her boyfriend Alex ran the 5K Stuffing Strut” and my aunt, uncle, Meghan and Eric walked the “Mashed Potato Mile.”

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In true Michigan fashion, we found ourselves running smack dab in the middle of a blizzard. And though it was a bit slippery, it was SO much fun. I even managed to somehow run my fastest 10k yet! I think that had a lot to do with how speedy my cousin Kristen is!

Later on, Eric and I went to his family’s Thanksgiving lunch where we enjoyed honeybaked ham and turkey, corn casserole, fruit, stuffing and mashed potatoes. And we of course enjoyed the company of his hilarious family. They are such a fun group and I am so excited that I get to officially join the Jones clan in less than 5 months! Around 4 oclock we made our way to my parents house for the Berendt Thanksgiving dinner. I usually eat pretty light at Eric’s party to save room for my family celebration, while he goes all out at his family’s, and eats a bit lighter at my family party. It’s all about prior planning, folks. At the Berendt festivities, we enjoyed turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was completely stuffed. But hey, that is what Thanksgiving is for. We then continued our family tradition of watching Home Alone after dinner. And with that, the Christmas season officially began! The next morning I was up early once again to run the Jingle Bell 5k with my friend Annie and our favorite grade school teacher, Mrs. Leblanc.

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It was another chilly, snowy race, but we had a great time catching up. Later on, Eric and I visited Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham for a fun date night sampling some delicious brews. My favorite was their Screamin Pumpkin. So so good.

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The next day was my 25th birthday and we kicked off the day with a delicious brunch at the Dearborn Inn, a beautiful hotel right down the road from Greenfield Village. It was all decorated for Christmas, which obviously made me incredibly excited. The breakfast and the company were pretty great too.

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Later that night my family and LT’s family went out for dinner to celebrate mine and Lauren’s birthday. And to cap off an incredibly fun and busy weekend, Eric and I attended the Festival of Trees at the Ford Performing Arts Center.

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Different companies contribute beautiful Christmas trees, all decorated with a unique theme and much of the proceeds from the event go to charity. I loved the classic red and green trees, while Eric was a fan of the Detroit Tigers themed tree.

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All in all it was a fantastic weekend, and I was left feeling incredibly blessed and pretty darn pooped. I think tonight will include a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and an early bedtime. What are you all up to?

Detroit Half Marathon

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Well, I did it! Last Sunday I finished the Detroit Half Marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes and pretty much loved every second of it. To be honest, my last couple of long training runs were pretty rough so going into the race I only had one goal: to finish in one piece. But the excitement of the crowd and the awesome course kept me feeling great for all 13.1 miles. The race starts in Downtown Detroit at 7am.  It was about 45 degrees and windy and my hands and feet were numb for a good 2 miles into the race.  I just kept thinking “My mom is going to be furious that I didn’t wear gloves”. (I told her this later and she totally was.) Around mile 2, I finally started to warm up and we made our way to the Ambassador Bridge. It was amazing to be crossing the bridge as the sun rose over Detroit and Windsor. I met a woman on the course who had run this race a number of times before. We chatted a bit and she helped me pace myself for the first 6 miles. We ran a lot slower than I was used to, but apparently this was a good thing because it kept my stamina up throughout the entire race and I actually finished 10 minutes faster than my goal time. I didn’t realize that through all my training I was just running way too fast. Who woulda thought? Once we approached mile 7 we entered the Windsor Tunnel. I had heard that this is one of the rougher parts of the course because not only does the tunnel go uphill for a bit, but it is also really hot and stuffy. It was ridiculously hot in the tunnel, but I kept telling myself that after a mile I would be greeted by a burst of 50 degree air. God bless Michigan weather. As we ran out of the tunnel we approached Cobo Center and I knew Eric would be somewhere in the crowd. Sure enough I found my race buddy, and he snapped a few “action shots.”

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Next up was a stroll through Corktown and Mexicantown but I was still feeling really good. I took a few Clif Shot Blocks at Mile 9 and 11 and water at every water station. I usually stop and walk a little at the water stations, but for this race I didn’t want to lose any momentum….which resulted in me attempting to drink tiny cups of water while running. Let’s just say most of it ended up splashed on my shirt. No wonder I came down with a massive head cold the day after race. Before I knew it we were entering Downtown again and I was passing the 12 mile marker. At this point my legs were getting a little tired but I was so excited that I was about to complete my first half marathon. I caught a glimpse of my parents at mile 13 and sprinted to the finish line. When I crossed the finish line I was so happy and a little dilerious. I collected my finisher metal and found my family to celebrate.

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Before the race I told Eric I just wanted to run a half marathon once and would probably never do it again. He knew better though and said I would most likely get hooked and want to do another one. As usual, Eric was right and I can’t wait to pick out my next half marathon.

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I spent the rest of the day nursing my aching muscles by laying on the couch and eating candy. A girl’s gotta refuel somehow, my friends. I’ve taken a full week off from running, (which may be the longest break I’ve taken in 5 years) but now I’m rested up and ready for the next race on my schedule- The Turkey Trot! I cannot wait to run through Downtown Detroit again with my cousins while wearing our “Thanksgiving best.” My aunt, uncle, dad and Eric will be walking the mashed potato mile, so it will truly be a family affair. Food, running and family? It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

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When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind.  So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling.  In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon.  I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
  2. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
  5. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
  7. In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
  8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

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Martian Meteor 10K Race Recap

Although we haven’t quite had consistent spring weather here in Michigan, race season has officially begun. Yesterday I ran in the Martian Meteor 10K marking my first race of the year and my personal record for a 10K. I ran this race in Dearborn, Michigan last year and I’ll be honest…it was terrible. I woke up feeling great, but only 2 miles into last year’s race I felt exhausted, achey, and I could not wait for the 6 miles to be over with. It was this race last year that made me chicken out from training for my first half marathon. So this year I wanted to come back with vengeance and kick this race’s butt. So I was beyond excited that not only did    I enjoy this year’s race a million times more…but I actually set a PR by running my fastest 10K to date!

Friday night, Eric and I went to the Race Expo to pick up my race bib and Martian T-shirt. (I gotta say, one of the best parts of running races is the fantastic under armor t-shirts you get with registration) The expo was filled with fun running related vendors and sign ups for some other races being held in the area this year. And it was also filled with inflatable aliens. Who were almost taller than me. Whatever, we’re buds.

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The next morning I woke up bright and early at 6:00am with a splitting headache and a weather forecast of 30 degree temperatures and snow. Not an ideal start to race day, but I was still determined to make this a great 10k. Luckily the snow and rain held up and my headache went away by the time we reached the starting line at 8:00. I had my Iphone set with the Nike Running app and a perfectly crafted running playlist. And in my opinion, the perfect running list absolutely has to include one song in particular: Bruce Springstein’s “Born to Run.” It was playing at the start of my first Turkey Trot in Downtown Detroit, and has made it onto every race playlist since. And I knew I was going to need a little help from Bruce, because this race is tough and consists of mostly hills and steep inclines.

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The start of this race  is definitely no picnic, as you run the first quarter mile completely uphill. But I just kept telling myself to run fast up the hills and I could slow down a bit once I got over the hump. This method seemed to help a lot and it made me realize how much of running is mental. Last year, every time I saw one of the monster hills I got scared and ended up walking because I thought it would help my legs in the long run. But this year I had it in my head that walking breaks weren’t an option, and it turned out that those hills weren’t quite as bad as they looked. I was feeling really energized throughout the race, and as the miles went on I realized I was getting faster with every mile. By mile four I had a feeling that this was a race I could PR. And then I reached the toughest part of the course. The part of the race last year that completely pooped me out. Around mile 5 you run over a draw bridge that bounces up and down a bit as all the runners cross it. This part was killer on my knees and after I crossed it I was greeted by yet another steep incline. But I just turned up my tunes and ran up the hill. Before I knew it the finish line was in sight and I was within 2 minutes of my fastest time. So I just starting sprinting. I saw Eric and his dad, my trusty race buddies, on the sidelines right before I crossed, and seeing their faces definitely helped me push through the finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line with another fellow racer, we exchanged high fives and went straight for the water. And cookies.

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Before the race, I told Eric that even though I wasn’t feeling my best, I knew I would run fast because this race has free cookies at the finish line. How’s that for motivation? This race was such a fun experience and it felt so good to get back into racing season. I’ve got a few fun races in my sights this year including the Turkey Trot with my cousins, and possibly a Zombie themed race with my brother. But my biggest race will be my very first half marathon in October. And this fantastic 10K has me pretty darn excited for  training…13.1 here I come!

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