Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Healthy snacking with Popchips!

I swear, I'm not turning this into a food blog. Yes, I've been writing a lot about food but I guess that's because I'm really getting into this whole making real food/eating better to do well in the marathon/hoping better food choices will improve my whole family's immunity.

And I'm doing it. I'm baking bread, making my own cheez-its, cooking up vitamin-packed soups. I've turned my kids into kale chip addicts and I've replaced many, many, many packaged and processed foods with homemade ones.

But, let's just get real for one minute.

I'm one person. I've got plenty going on. Yes, feeding my family well is one of my chief concerns. But, again, I'm one person. If I spend all my time making all our food from scratch, when the heck am I going to find time to anything else? 

It's just not realistic to make all of our food from scratch but I absolutely, 100% will strive to make a good portion of it.

Fortunately, I've found a new healthy option to add to the non-homemade rotation: Popchips!

I was invited to check out the new sweet potato Popchips -- a healthy snacking option. Right up my alley, you might say! 

First, the chips arrived packaged in the cutest box, all gussied-up for Valentine's Day. So cute! I decided not to wait to try them out, considering they arrived right around snack time. Which, in this house, is known as "afternoon." Oh, and, "late morning."

Yes, we snack.

Anyway . . . the boys and I ripped into the chips and they were great! My 1-year old loved them. My 4-year old wasn't totally convinced but he seemed to like them well enough. I wished I could have opened another bag just for myself by I knew I'd have to share.

Popchips earned a thumbs-up here at Chez Happy Runner! They are a relatively healthy snack -- one snack-size bag of the sweet potato chips is 100 calories, 3g of fat, 95mg sodium, 2g sugar, 1g protein. The chips are all natural and don't contain and preservatives, artificial flavors or colors. They are also gluten free and vegan.

My only complaint -- and when you read it you'll think I'm a total quibbler -- is that the bags were really difficult to open. I ended up having to cut them with scissors each time. That was a bit of a pain but just a minor complaint.

The Popchips folks also sent me some tips from Jillian Michaels to share with all of you. Jillian says . . . 

  • avoid fried foods at all costs.
  • eat three balanced meals a day every four hours with a snack in between lunch and dinner.  
  • eat no more than 6-8 teaspoons of fats and vegetable oil per day.  choose oils that are mostly unsaturated such as olive oil.
  • opt for cooking methods that use little or no fat such as steaming, grilling, baking, popping, broiling or roasting.
  • purchase healthier alternatives when given a choice (popchips vs. fried chips, grilled chicken vs. fried  chicken).
  • curb salty cravings with tasty snacks such as popchips, almonds or dried cranberries.
So, yay for Popchips, a great snack for when we need something salty and crunchy and I just don't have it in me to whip up something homemade.

You can read more about Popchips on their web site HERE. 

Have you tried Popchips? What do you think of them?

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Review disclosure: I was sent samples of Popchips to review. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Big Run.

In all the excitement about my homemade cheez-its, I failed to mention my Big Run.

People, I ran an awesome, difficult, and overall super-solid 18-miler on Saturday! It was awesome because I did it. Period. It was difficult because the wind was whipping and my running partner, Melissa, and I found ourselves running into the wind for many of the miles. It was super-solid because I finished faster than I started. Give it up for negative splits!

Speaking of splits, here they are:

Mile 1: 9:34
Mile 2: 9:39
Mile 3: 9:46
Mile 4: 9:21
Mile 5: 9:10
Mile 6: 9:10
Mile 7: 9:17
Mile 8: 9:23
Mile 9: 9:36
Mile 10: 9:35
Mile 11: 10:20
Mile 12: 9:42
Mile 13: 9:41
Mile 14: 9:47
Mile 15: 10:04
Mile 16: 8:52
Mile 17: 8:36
Mile 18: 8:52

Total: 2:50:22, average pace: 9:28


I was proud of this run. Melissa and I were talking at the beginning about how we have been feeling sorta cheated -- this winter has been perfect for marathon training (no snow! warm temps!) and yet almost every time we have an important long run, we've experienced either a) temps that are lower (hello, 14 degrees!) than they've been in months or b) wind gusts so strong that the wind advisories don't even do them justice.

On Saturday, we were stuck with b. It was really windy but, fortunately, not too cold. Win! We started our run heading right into the wind for a little over 3 miles and then it was at our backs and sides for the next 8 or so miles until we turned. I think it was right around mile 11 when we had to run back into the wind. Honestly, that was tough. We're apparently tougher than the wind, though, because we pressed on and got it done.

I felt really, really good about this run. My legs felt fine the whole time, I was able to fight through a side cramp around mile 13, and then I picked it up at the end.

It was a Big Run. And I owned it.

Yesterday was a recovery 4-miler and today is REST! I can take that, for sure!

Did you own your weekend runs? How'd they go?

Have a great week, everyone!

~ Felice

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homemade cheez-its style crackers.

If you are cheesy like me, there is no denying the power of the almighty Cheez-It. They are crunchy, cheesy, not-so-good-for-you, yumminess. Their power draws me down the snack aisle at the grocery store and it takes a good bit of willpower to not grab 8 boxes of the things and start the eat them before even getting to the check-out line.

No lie.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I found a recipe for homemade cheez-its that are actually really delicious. Even better, in my humble opinion, than the original!

I'm not the only one who thinks so; the toddler loves them, too!

Really, they are GOOD!

And easy. So easy, I'm ready to share. Here's my recipe, people. Enjoy!

(I modified the recipe from the New Nostalgia blog.)

1 cup flour (total: 1/8th whole wheat, 7/8ths white)
4 tbs cold butter, cut in pieces
1/2 lb (8oz) orange cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 tbs cold water

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Through the pour spout, add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to form. You may need a little less water, you may need a little more. Once you have a ball of dough in the processor, take it out, wrap it in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Place dough on a large cookie sheet covered with a silpat liner (if you don't have a silpat, roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper). Place a sheet of waxed or parchment paper on top of dough and roll until the dough is very thin. The dough should cover most of the cookie sheet.

** You want to make the dough as thin as possible.**

Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into small squares (about 1 inch), leaving it all in place when you are done. Using a toothpick, prick each square in the center (to allow air to escape while baking -- this will stop the squares from puffing up too much).

Sprinkle sea salt on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes and removing any squares from the outside that appear done. Cool on a cookie rack.

Then, go to town and enjoy your homemade cheez-its!

Cheesy, crispy, flaky goodness!
Do you make your own crackers? Have a favorite recipe? Leave me a comment so I can check it out!

~ Felice

The Rules of Inheritance (review).

When you get teary-eyed and have to set a book aside by page three, you know you're in for it. But, sometimes, being in for it is OK. Sometimes, the story and writing are so moving, so touching that you can handle it -- that "it" that you've known you were in for.

So, yeah. I knew I was in for it when I started reading the memoir, The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith. And I truly was.

It's a tragic story, really. Claire Bidwell Smith shares the story of her life, telling it through the stages of grief. Her grief is real and heavy -- when she was just 14 both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer. Her mother dies first and then her father and, through it all, Claire struggles.

She makes terrible decisions, decisions made in grief. But decisions made in grief are still decisions made; they are still real. And that's the thing about this book. Her story -- it is a memoir, after all -- is real. You read it and feel as if you are there with her; watching her experience the sadness of life, her grief, her bad decisions, and, finally, her coming to terms with her situation.

The Rules of Inheritance is a well-written, well-told story. It is sad (at times, overwhelmingly so). But, it is also a story full of hope. I often have a hard time recommending books that are difficult to read, simply because they were difficult for me. This book is worth the difficulty.

Have you read The Rules of Inheritance? What did you think? Are you a fan of memoirs?

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the review. You can read more about the book and the author on the BlogHer Book Club.

~ Felice

Disclosure: This was a paid review as part of the BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Five things Friday.

1. I've gotten a lot of questions along the way about running while pregnant. No, I am not pregnant now, I just ran through my last pregnancy. So, I decided to put together a page of information on my experience. You can find that page by clicking on the Pregnant Running link in my header, or HERE.

I would love your feedback on this page! I think that sharing information is helpful for those moms and moms-to-be who want to continue to run while pregnant!

2. Thanks for all of your comments on my running tights post! Man, you all love the Under Armour. And Target.

3. I'm giving away cereal over HERE.

4. This week's runs haven't been the best. My recovery run after the marathon relay was fine but my next two runs kinda rotted. I felt flat and was never able to find my groove. I'm not going to let it get me down but I'd be a liar if I said it didn't bother me a little. Easy 5-milers shouldn't be so tough!

5. Fortunately, today is a rest day in advance of tomorrow's 18-miler. 18 miles?!?! Yup, 18 miles. I'm meeting my pal, Melissa, for this Big Run. The weather is supposed to be much better than it was when I ran my 17-miler two weeks ago so I figure the 18 miles should go well. Melissa and I run well together so I'm looking forward to the almost 3 hours of her company!

So, that's the big plan for the weekend: 18 miles tomorrow morning. After that, who knows? Maybe a nap? Only if I'm lucky . . .

Have a great weekend, everyone!

~ Felice

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leg muscles (and review).

I'm going to start by stating the obvious: You need leg muscles to power you through your runs. Yeah, I know, you need leg muscles to walk, sit and, well, to do pretty much anything. So I guess the thing to say is that to run you need strong, well-functioning leg muscles. Even more important if you want to run well and achieve your goals.

In an effort to make sure I reach my marathon goal this May, I've been doing lots of running (obviously), some cross-training (hello, squats!), and plenty of rehab to keep my hamstring/knee/calf injury at bay (so far, so good). Even with all the precautions I take and diligent effort I put into developing those strong, well-functioning muscles, I sometimes end up with a bit of pain.

But, you see, I'm a lucky runner and at the start of my training cycle, I was sent a stash of BENGAY to review. This stuff could not have come at a better time.

Here's the thing. My legs are, for the most part, feeling fine. I don't have too much residual pain from the hamstring/knee/calf injury. But, on occasion, that area acts up. Not usually on the run (fortunately) but at odd times. When I'm playing with the boys. Or sitting at the dinner table. Or standing at my computer typing a blog post.

So, I turned to the BENGAY and, let me tell you, it works. My pain isn't terrible but it is the type of pain that would have me turning to ibuprofen more than I'd like, mostly because I don't want the pain in my leg to cause me to overcompensate and start standing/walking/sitting in some strange way that would then cause some whole other sort of pain. Know what I mean?

Yeah. Anyway, I've used BENGAY on my injured area and it does give me relief. What I like the most, though, is that the "vanishing scent" BENGAY that I was sent to review doesn't stink like BENGAY of old. So, now people don't have to hold their noses when I'm walking through the aisles at the grocery store. The lack of a strong smell definitely makes me more apt to use the BENGAY. I don't feel self-conscious about it at all. So, good move, BENGAY !

You can learn more about  BENGAY  at their web site.

Do you use BENGAY for sore muscles? Do you have another favorite muscle pain reliever?

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Felice

Disclaimer: I was sent product samples for this review. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Running tights intervention.

Let's call it like it is: My running tights are horrendous.

Like, really awful.

Clearly, I have needed an intervention. Someone to tell me that, no, I should not head out to race looking like this:

Finishing the Winter Marathon Relay . . . wearing  droopy drawers.

Ignore, if you will, that I overdressed for the race and ended up having to tie my jacket around my waist. It's a bad look, I know. Instead, please focus in on the tights. Those tired, old, horribly stretched-out, ill-fitting tights. Baggy where they are supposed to be huggy.

They are a scary sight.

But, honestly? I had no idea how lousy they looked until I saw this photo. Thanks, Suzy!

Um, I'm an grown woman, people. I should know how to put together a running outfit. I should know that wearing stretched-out Target tights (circa 2004) is probably not the best idea I've ever had. I should know that if I have to hike them up mere minutes after putting them on, they are going to need much hiking over the course of a 90 minute race. Yes, I should know all this. And yet! There I was on Sunday, sportin' the tights. The lousy tights.

So . . . what? Well, the what here is that I need to throw those bad boys out. But, in order to do so, I need a replacement pair. And that, my friends, is where you come in.

What is your favorite pair of running tights? I don't need anything too fancy (read: I'm not about to spend $100 on running tights -- I save the big splurge for my running shoes), I just need tights that fit, will keep me somewhat warm on cold days, and will look sharp. Or, at least, a little sharper than I looked on Sunday.

That last one shouldn't be too hard to accomplish . . .

Lay it on me: Tell me your favorite pair. Please! Share some links. Whatever! Just help a happy runner out, won't you?

The Running Fashion Police will be forever grateful.

Thank you, thank you!

~ Felice

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Marathon Relay race report.

For the third year in a row, I ran the HMRRC Winter Marathon Relay with my friends Amanda and Suzy. For the first time, the weather was actually decent. Last year, we froze. The year before, we froze and endured wind gusts of 40 mph. This year, we enjoyed a sunny day with the temperature in the high 30s.

It was a great race! There is something special about a relay -- you're not out there alone, you're part of a team. And when you've run with the same team for 3 years, the race becomes even more special. It is definitely a race I look forward to every year.

So, the race. Amanda ran the first leg (about 9.7 miles), Suzy ran the second (5.5 miles) and I ran the third (11 miles). Amanda wanted to run her leg between a 10:30 and 11:30 pace, and Suzy was shooting for a 10 minute pace. I'm happy to say they both nailed it! This meant that I was able to start right around when I expected to, about 12:45-ish. Of course, I'm paranoid about missing the hand-off, so I was out waiting for Suzy a good 20 minutes early. (Just like she was out waiting for Amanda 20 minutes early! Birds of a feather. . . )

Now, before I tell you about how I did in the race, let me go off on a tangent and tell you about an awesome runner I know: Elisa. This woman rocks. She showed up at the relay not to run with a team (her teammates from last year couldn't run yesterday) but to run with Amanda and keep her company during her leg. Can you imagine giving up your Sunday morning to do that for someone? Well, it gets better, because earlier in the week, Elisa took a half day off from work to run with our friend, Janis, so Janis would not have to run her scheduled 16-miler alone.

Elisa rocks! She pretty much defines the word generous. Anyway, here she is with Amanda, just before the start of the race:

And, while I'm sharing photos (thanks, Suzy!) here are the two relay teams of Strong Running Mamas:

Amanda, Melissa, Karen, Tami, me, Suzy
OK, so how was my portion of the race, you may ask? Well, in keeping with the theme of the day, it was great! I wasn't sure exactly what pace I'd be able to hold for the 11 miles. I was, after all, going to start around 12:45pm, just a little later than I started the Hangover Half Marathon on January 1st, and that race was a tough one for me. I couldn't quite get the eating part right and I ended up with a major cramp, finishing the race at an 8:50 per mile pace.

I told Amanda and Suzy I was hoping to run between 8:10 and 8:20 miles (which, based on my marathon goal time, is my steady-state run pace). Ideally, I wanted to finish in 90 minutes.

So, when Suzy finished up her leg I headed out. I was running by myself but saw a pair of runners not too far ahead of me. I wanted to catch them so I could run somewhat near them for my leg, rather than run alone. By the end of the first mile, I caught them. Around the same time, two guys -- UAlbany students -- who had started shortly after I did, caught me. They were running faster than I was and I foolishly picked up my pace and ran with them. What happened to "Run Your Own Race," Happy Runner? Who knows! It wasn't with me for those two miles when I let my pace be dictated by two guys -- guys! -- about 20 -- 20! -- years younger than me.

What was I thinking?

Dunno. But, after 2 miles in 7:44 and 7:52, I snapped out of it and settled in to run my own race for the next 8 miles.

It worked. I found my rhythm, kept my pace in the low 8s, and felt wonderful. Yes, I had some of the regular race discomfort but I never felt like I needed to stop. I never felt like I was pushing too hard. I never felt bedraggled.

Instead, I felt like the race sorta sped by and, had I needed to run a few more miles, I could have easily done so while holding my pace.

What a good feeling.

I crossed the line in just under 90 minutes -- GOAL MET! Our team completed the marathon relay in 4:11:06, which was almost exactly what we had predicted. Go, team!

Unfortunately, we were one of the last teams (53 out of 57), which meant that there was no soup (there is always yummy soup after the races during the winter series) and slim refreshment pickings. No matter, I had a delicious salmon dinner ahead at my parents' house. I didn't need the soup!

Overall, another fun relay!

Here I am pre-race, laughing after Amanda accidentally sprayed me with her sports drink. 

My mile splits:

Mile 1: 8:12
Mile 2: 7:44
Mile 3: 7:52
Mile 4: 8:00
Mile 5: 8:13
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 8:12
Mile 8: 8:04
Mile 9: 8:28
Mile 10: 8:06
Mile 11: 8:11
Extra on the Garmin: 23 seconds

Finish time: 1:29:40 ~ 8:10 pace according the official distance; 8:06 pace according to the Garmin. I'll go with the official, but I have to admit I liked seeing that 8:06 :-)

My recovery run today was a nice-and-easy 4-miler at a 9:30-ish pace. My legs felt a wee bit tired on the hills, but there was really nothing to complain about. All is good.

And now, back to marathon training! Hope you all had a nice weekend -- and have a good week ahead! Thanks for reading.

~ Felice

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning from my first marathon.

I ran my first and only marathon waaaaay back in 2004. Things were different then and I know more about running and how to train well now than I did then. Since I've gotten some questions recently about marathoning and some of my friends are training for their first marathons, I thought I'd share some thoughts about my first marathon, what I've learned, and what I'm doing differently this time around.

My First Marathon -- 2004 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon


When I trained for my first marathon, I did not have much of a running base. I was an on-and-off runner up until that point and, prior to beginning training, my longest run ever was a 15K race (9.3 miles). That's it! I had run that distance in November 2003, then taken much of the winter off, and was maybe running 12 miles a week before starting the marathon training.

Weekly Runs

My training maxed-out at 33 miles, with most of my weekly mileage hovering around 20-23 miles (holy cow!!). I ran 3-4 times a week, a long run on the weekend and mostly 3-5 milers during the week. My longest run of the training cycle was 20.3 miles (which I ran once) and I ran that 3 weeks before the marathon.

Every run during my marathon training was a solo run. I never ran with others. I just didn't know many runners back then!


Yup, I got injured. Two weeks before the marathon, I went out for a long run in (what was I thinking?) new running shoes. Something went wrong 8 miles in to the run and I hobbled for 2 miles back to my car. My foot felt like it was broken. I had to take most of the following week off and my remaining runs before the marathon were only short, very easy runs.

You can be sure I will never make the new shoes mistake again!



The Marathon

I ran the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in Albany, NY. My goal was to finish in 4:20, which would have been 10-minute miles. I finished in 4:12 and felt like a rock star. The last 5 miles or so were as tough as anything I'd ever done and I seriously felt like walking off the course. But I didn't. I finished.

And was proud.

My Upcoming Marathon -- 2012 New Jersey Marathon


In the past 10 months, I've run 3 half-marathons, so I started with a much stronger base this time. I'd kept my mileage up even when not training for a race so I've been able to quickly ramp-up my mileage to around 35 miles a week (it was 37 last week) at this point.

Weekly Runs

This time, I'm running 5 times a week. I have a long run on the weekend, followed by a recovery run the next day. I also do some sort of speed work each week (some races, some pick-ups, some tempo runs, some mile repeats), at least one hilly run, and one or two easy runs. My training plan has me running mostly 35-40 miles a week, with 4 weeks above 40 miles (maxing out at 45). My longest training run will be 20 miles and I will run that distance twice.

My long runs have almost all been with others, including some of these lovely ladies:

From the 2011 13.1 NYC


Prior to starting this training cycle, I messed up my left leg -- my whole hamstring/knee/calf area. I took a little time off in December and I did some at-home rehab. It is mostly healed but I do feel it every now and then so  I try to be careful with that leg and I've been keeping up with the rehab. Other than that . . . so far, so good!


Yup! At least once a week I do some sort of cross-training -- I've been on a kettlebells kick recently and I love it.

The Marathon

I'm running the New Jersey Marathon in May. Stay tuned to see how I do!

*     *     *

I learned a lot from my first marathon and from all of the running I've done in the years since then. I've also read a ton about running, training, and racing.

I believe that the quality of the miles I run is important so I'm making sure to run hills and run speed so my form and economy will be better. I also know more about properly fueling for the run. As I've written about before, I'm trying to eat better, more wholesome foods. That makes a difference. But, I'm sticking mostly to gels on the run because that's about all my body can handle. I can't chew on the run so anything that requires doing so is out.

I'm also very good about rest. When my plan calls for it, that's what I do. I do not want to get injured so I will do everything in my power to make sure I don't.

Will my race go better than last time? We'll see. I had a great first marathon. I crossed the line faster than I expected -- who can complain about that? But, when I look back at my training . . . sheesh . . . what was I thinking? You could file that cycle under "How to run as little as possible and still finish a marathon" and it would not be out of place.

It will be interesting to see how the differences in my training this time around affect my marathon experience and my finish time. I have big goals for this marathon so my hope is that my running smarts will help me to achieve them!

Do you have any lessons learned 
from your first marathon, first race, 
or from when you first started running? 
Hit us up!

~ Felice

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crafty Valentine-ers.

We've been on a crafting and cooking roll here at Chez Happy Runner. Bread, biscuits, soup. Collages, heart chains, sun-catchers. All lot of doing. And my boys love it. They enjoy the doing, the working together. 

Over the past week or so, it's been all hearts, all the time. At one point, my son asked if we could make a Valentine's Day wreath. Well, sure! I didn't know exactly how we'd go about it but then I put my thinking cap on, called up all the creativity I have (not much) and planned out a cute, easy-to-make wreath.

So, for you procrastinators out there who still want to do a little Valentine's day decorating, I give you this: 

  • Start with a thin wire clothes hanger.

  • Clip the hook end off with a wire cutter, and twist the remaining ends together (be careful if they are sharp at all).

  • Shape the hanger into a heart shape -- with a thin hanger, the shaping is easy. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get the general shape of a heart.

  • Next, find an old RED t-shirt, top, sweatpants, socks, towel, whatever to cut into strips. I used an old polo-style top that was stained and ready to be tossed out. 

  • Cut the shirt (or whatever you are using) into strips, about 1 inch wide and 4-6 inches long:

  • Again, they don't need to be perfect. As you can see, my strips were all different lengths. In my opinion, that adds to the charm of the wreath :-)

  • Cut about 50 strips.

Now you're prepped and ready to go!
  • Take the heart-shaped hanger and start tying your strips of material on it, in a simple knot. Nothing fancy. Tie as many as you need to cover the entire hanger.

Viola! Easy Valentine's Day wreath! This is what is now hanging on our front door:

To hang the wreath on the door, I used an extra strip to make a loop that I then tied on to one of the tied strips on the wreath. 

It looks cute and, best of all,  my son loves it!

*     *     *

Yesterday was a rest day after my cold, long run on Sunday. Today I have 6 on the schedule; 1 mile warm-up, 4 miles of pick-ups at 5K pace, 1 mile cool-down. It is one of my favorite workouts so I'm looking forward to it!

I'm also looking forward to a little baking, Valentine's Day style. The boys are, too.

Have a great day, everyone!

~ Felice

Monday, February 13, 2012

The long, cold run.

When you wake up early on a Sunday morning, 17 miles on your running schedule, and the thermometer reads 12 degrees . . . what do you do?

Go back to bed? Well, that might be the sane thing to do. But it is not, apparently, the Happy Runner thing to do.

The Happy Runner crazy marathon training thing to do is get up. Get dressed. Chug some coffee, down a PureFit bar, and take off to run. And feel pretty flippin' hardcore afterward.

Yup, that's what happened.

I was meeting my friend, Melissa, for a long run at 8:00. She planned to run 15 miles, I planned to run 17. Before I left, the thermometer read 12 degrees. As I drove to meet her, the temperature crept up to 14, which is about what it was when we set off to run.

It was tough. The first 3+ miles were directly into the wind. Our noses were running faster than we were. My hands were freezing. My cheeks were burning from the cold. But we kept going. I took a Clif Shot gel at mile 4 and it was pretty cold and thick. Fortunately, not frozen.

We kept going. We were chatting and chatting and before I knew it, we were almost at mile 9, which was when I had planned to take another gel. I couldn't believe how quickly those first 9 miles went by! The bad thing was that, by this point, the water in my water bottle was starting to freeze. I had to run with the spout in my mouth for a while to thaw it before I could take a sip. It was less than ideal.

We reached a turn-around point at mile 11 and the wind was back at it. Trying to beat us down. We didn't give in. I will admit that at about 13.5 miles into the run, I started to sag a little. But, soon enough we were almost back to the parking lot and I knew I could quickly grab a replacement bottle of water and another gel before leaving Melissa and turning back out for two more miles.

So, we finished the 15 miles and that's what I did. My hands were super cold so I had a little bit of a hard time with my gel but I got it eventually.

Once I set out for those last two miles, I started to question my sanity. Why are you running these miles? Why didn't you just stop at 15? The answer, of course, is that if you always stop short of your goal on your training runs, what's to stop that from happening on race day?

I want no part of stopping short on race day. So, two more miles it was!

And, boy-howdy, were they tough. I was incredibly cold. My hands hurt. My cheeks and chin hurt. I wanted the run over so I pushed the pace and finished mile 16 in 9:19 and mile 17 in 8:44.

Rock ON, Happy Runner!

Yes, I did indeed feel pretty hardcore. I can't deny it.

Overall, I ran 17 miles in 2:42, a 9:35 pace. It was a great run in tough conditions. Cold, cold, cold.

What's the coldest temp you've ever run in? Do you bag your runs under a certain temperature? Or do you always tough it out?

Have a great week, everyone!

~ Felice

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Weird Sisters (review)

Man, I liked this book. I mean, really.

And I don't say that lightly. I don't like every book I read -- far from it. If you've read many of my reviews, you know that I can be disappointed by books. So when I say I really like a book, I mean it.

True: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown was a solid, enjoyable read and I just plain liked it. The story -- three very different sisters who neither understand each other nor get along particularly well, are called home when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer -- was almost secondary to the beauty of Brown's writing. You'll probably think I am an exaggerator extraordinaire but, honestly, I haven't read such lovely prose in . . . well, I can't recall when that last happened.

Clearly, I had never read anything from Eleanor Brown before. If I had, I would have known how well she can turn a phrase, capture a moment, create a story and characters that draw her readers in and make them never want to leave. She does it all well.

Confession time: I frequently skim the duller passages and pages in books. Sometimes the wordiness of authors is simply too . . . wordy. I can't read them all. Just can't.

But, The Weird Sisters? I couldn't skim. If I started to, I had to go back and read again, Brown's writing is just that good.

What else should I say about the book?

The three sisters -- named Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia (after Shakespeare's characters of the same names) by their Shakespearean scholar father  -- carry the burdens not only of their names and birth order, but also of the secrets they keep from each other. They are, in essence, sorta messed up. It takes their mother's cancer to bring them together and help them sort out their lives and their relationships to each other and the family as a whole.

I won't say too much more, because I don't want to ruin the book for those who want to read it. Instead, I'll close with this: The Weird Sisters is an enjoyable, easy read (unless you can't stand Shakespeare -- many of his lines are sprinkled throughout the book, as the sisters and their father quote ol' Will almost as frequently as they speak their own words). I recommend it. So, go, add it to your summer reading list, or check it out right now. I think you'll like it!

Have you read The Weird Sisters? Did you like it? 

Enjoy your weekend!

~ Felice

Review disclaimer: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

PureFit nutrition bars (review).

Marathon training means long runs and long runs mean fueling on the run. Through trial and error I've found that I can handle orange Gatorade, chocolate Clif Shot gels and, sometimes, Starburst jelly beans. I have a pretty tough time chewing on the run so I usually keep the jelly beans for pre-run, post-run, or breaks.

But, you know, I'm into the whole real food thing these days so Gatorade? Jelly beans? Not so real. And probably not what I should be consuming.

Well, lucky, lucky me! I was invited to try out PureFit bars recently and I was happy to do so because PureFit bars are all-natural, gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, (that's a lot of free!) vegan, high in protein, and they don't contain artificial sweeteners.  They aren't made with a lot of junk so I felt like they could be a good option for me.

I gave them a good test on a 5-mile run and then a 16-miler. First, I ate half a bar before my 5-miler. I normally have to eat 1.5-2 hours before my runs but on this particular day I ate the bar about 45 minutes before seizing my opportunity to get my run in. I ate the Peanut Butter Crunch and it worked out well for me. It was tasty and didn't give me a single stomach issue.

The real test, though, was the 16-miler. About half-way through my run I broke out a Chocolate Brownie bar and although I had a bit of a tough time chewing (my issue, not the bar's), I liked it. Again, no stomach issues. The bar was easily digested and -- here's a big benefit -- the bar wasn't messy at all. It didn't even make my fingers all that sticky. At least, not that I could tell.

Overall, I give PureFit bars a thumbs-up. Anything that doesn't bother my stomach, and that also happens to be relatively healthy, is good in my book! I can't risk having stomach issues cramp (har, har) my training runs so these bars are a good option for me.

If you want to try them out, you can order them directly from the PureFit web site HERE ($34.35 for a box of 15 bars) or from Amazon($25.04 for a box of 15 bars).

Have you tried PureFit bars? Do you like them?

Have a great day, everyone!

~ Felice

Review disclaimer: I was sent several bars to sample but was not otherwise compensated for this review and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. For more information on my reviews, please visit my Disclosure page

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

'Mill miles, sandwich winner.

First things first . . .

I mentioned before that I am behind and, yeah, it's still true. I meant to post the Subway gift card winner a while ago and I completely forgot. But, we do have a winner and it is . . .

Jess from Run with Jess!

Congratulations, Jess! Shoot me an email at felicehalf at yahoo dot com so you can enjoy your Subway!

*     *     *

Second things second . . .

We've had unbelievable weather this year, with very, very little snow and warm-ish temps. It's been great for my marathon training long runs. Unfortunately, it hasn't made all that much difference for my regular, during-the-week runs because my schedule is such that I can't get outside for many of those runs. No matter. The nice weather just makes life easier and it certainly makes the weekend longs runs way better.

Yesterday was pretty warm and pleasant but I had to hit the treadmill for my run. The kids were super and entertained themselves in the basement while I ran 7.5 miles, mostly at an easy pace but finishing with 1.5 miles at slightly faster than marathon goal pace. Loved it!

Another 'mill run on the schedule today. My fingers are crossed for well behaved boys today, too!

 Happy Wednesday, everyone!

~ Felice

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Real Food: Baking Bread.

I've turned a corner, my friends. Not just on the doubt issue (but thank you all so much for your great comments!), a different corner. A cooking corner: I've turned a corner in the kitchen.

Yup, I've become a real food addict. Not to be confused with a real food addict. Nope, I'm addicted to making, baking, creating, and serving real food to my family. Might not sound like a big deal; after all, I've long advocated the benefits of eating real food but I'd become a bit of a slacker in recent months. I started to take more and more advantage of convenience foods. Nothing major -- I was still cooking decent dinners and such -- but I was buying and serving more foods that made me cringe just a little each time I served them.

So, just like with the smoothies and the chia, I am now back on the real food track. More whole foods. More organic foods. Less of the processed stuff. I'm not swearing off all conveniences -- I'll still buy my butter (although I did find a good, seemingly easy, recipe for making your own . . . ), and many other things -- but I am striving to be better about the quality of what I feed the family.

And first up: Bread. I've gone crazy bread-baking style!

Um, why didn't I remember how easy it is to bake bread? And how satisfying? Because it is. Easy. Satisfying. And better. Oh, so much better.

Last week I made three loaves of bread, using a recipe adapted from my favorite cooking dude, Mark Bittman.  I first made one loaf and we ate it with a veggie-heavy soup that I made for dinner. It was hearty and good. The next day, the bread made excellent toast:

Mmmm . . . toast!

The second day, I went for two loaves, a regular one and a cinnamon swirl:

That's the cinnamon swirl loaf in the front.

Seriously, bread is not hard to make and I plan to keep baking.

Give it up for homemade bread!

Then, on Friday, I made homemade pizza with -- you guessed it -- dough from scratch. Again, super, super easy! 

Want to hop on the bread-baking train? Here's the simple recipe I used (again, modified a little using Bittman's recipe).

Sandwich Bread

3 cups of white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
1-1/3 cups milk

Put the flour in a food processor fitted w/a steel blade. Add salt and yeast and process for a few seconds. Keep machine running and pour in sugar, butter, and milk (through the feed tube). Process for about 30 seconds, until the dough forms a bit of a ball. It shouldn't be too sticky. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about a minute.

Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough ball in it, cover with a damp towel, and let the dough rise for about 2 hours. It should double in size (about). Then, deflate the dough, reshape into a ball, and let it rise for 15 more minutes.

Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Shape your bread, put it in the pan, and let it rise one last time, for about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After final rise, bake the bread for 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. 

Slice. Enjoy!

You can play with the ratio of whole wheat and white flour, or add flax meal, ground oatmeal, whatever you like. I'll be experimenting this week!

What's your favorite bread recipe? 

Have a great day!

~ Felice

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doubt comes to visit.

You've probably read this before:

I like it. Liked it the first time I read it, probably even had a little, "That's right!" action going on after reading it. Doubt, schmout. She can't keep up with me! Ha, ha! Doubt -- I kick Doubt's butt! 

Yeah, a little of that.

But, if I'm honest with you, sometimes Doubt can keep up. And, man, it ticks me off when that happens.

Like on Friday. I had 16 miles on the schedule for Saturday morning. I was excited. And nervous. I'd been really sick earlier in the week. I'd missed two runs. I didn't want my long run -- the cornerstone of my marathon training plan -- to go anything other than very well.

So, I was nervous. Worried. In other words, Doubt had sidled-up beside me on Friday evening. And she was working her Black Magic.

I started questioning why I was even trying to run 16 miles. And that led to questioning why I was even training for a marathon. Who are you? How are you going to run 26 point freaking two miles? And what makes you think that even if you can run those 26.2 miles, that you can run them as fast as you've decided you want to? What gives Happy Runner? What. Gives.

15.12 miles. 2300+ ascent. 10:16 pace. Awesome run. That's what gives.

As I drove to meet friends for the run Saturday morning, Doubt was still right beside me. I doubted that I had slept well enough. I doubted that I had eaten enough, doubted that I drank enough. Doubted that I had it in me. Period.

You've got this. You've come too far to give up now. You've got this. 

I had it. The hills were steep and they were long. But I had it. I had the run. I was running with friends and in the span of two minutes I had re-convinced myself that I could do it, and I kicked Doubt to the curb.

It was a fun, fun, fun run. At mile 13 or so, my friend Tami told me how much we had run so far and I was shocked. The miles had flown by.

Sure, the run wasn't a full 16 miles but that's where we were when we got back to our cars so that's where it ended. What's a mile in the grand scheme of marathon training anyway?

The more important thing was shaking off Doubt. I don't like running with her. Heck, I don't like hanging out with her. At all. I'm sure she'll try to worm her way back again between now and May 6th and I'd like to think that I'll be able to shake her a little quicker next time but that may or may not happen. We'll just have to see. Take it as it comes. Keep some strong mantras in my pocket, to pull out any time I see wicked Doubt coming my way.

And expect that I can -- and will -- run strong enough that Doubt won't be able keep up. Once and for all.

Ever run with Doubt? Tell me I'm not the only one . . .

~ Felice

Friday, February 3, 2012

Running motivation 5.

Just in time for the weekend . . . another of my favorite quotes!

(Stop over HERE for a little more running motivation.)

I'll be off having a "life most fully lived" tomorrow morning, running 16 miles.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Enjoy!

~ Felice

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New territory. And January recap.

Before I got sick, I made a big step in my marathon training. On Sunday, I ran my longest run in over seven years. Let me say that again:

On Sunday, I ran my longest run in over seven years. Seven. Years.

Seven years ago, I was childless. Seven years ago I was seven years younger. Seven years ago I had little idea what I was doing with my running.

Now, I'm a wiser runner and, I hope, a better one. Sunday's run would certainly help me to believe that. It was great. I ran at a 9:30-ish pace, starting a little slower and finishing up with a few miles at my marathon goal pace (8:30). I was pleased with how I felt during the run, and after. I ate an English muffin with a little peanut butter prior to my run and took two gels on the run -- a vanilla Clif Shot and a chocolate one. The gels were easy on my belly and kept me energized. I'm more-or-less convinced that the Clif Shot gels are for me so now I just need to bite the bullet and order up a case. Or two. Probably two.

The next day? Well, that's when I was as sick as a cat. And the next, too. So, I haven't exactly run since the 16-miler but I am looking forward to today's run!

*     *     *

Now, about the recap. Marathon training kicked off this month and my mileage reflects that. It was a little lower than planned, because of my own illness (missed a 5-miler) and my son's illness last week (missed a 6-miler). But, that's no big deal in the grand scheme of marathon training. Overall, I'm happy with how my running went this month.

January stats:

Running (miles): 129.7
Racing: 2 -- half marathon and a 15K (both the local Winter Series)
Cross training: 9

Not bad. In addition to the running, I've gotten serious about my smoothies and have been making them almost every day again, experimenting with new and different ingredients and just generally enjoying them. I've also gotten back to having chia every day and I've been creating new healthy recipes. And, I went crazy with the running motivation

In other words, February has a lot to live up to.

Yup. Sure does.

Enjoy the rest of the day!

~ Felice

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Who's the winner?

Not me, that's for sure. See, I've been as sick as a cat lately. ("Sick as a cat?" You think it's "sick as a dog," right? Well, I don't know about dogs. I do know about cats and I know that they -- or, at least, my cat -- get sick Every. Single. Day. so I'm going with "sick as a cat.")

Yup, sick as a cat. It's just been awful. So, I'm behind. Behind on everything. I've had to scramble to finish some freelance work, I've missed my scheduled runs, my house is a mess, and I haven't blogged. Well, that's what happens, I guess.

At least now I'm getting to the blog.

And good thing, because I have a Bob Harper Kettlebell DVD winner to announce! Yay!

Using, I chose a winner from all of your entries (you guys really wanted to win this one!) and the winner is . . .

Catey from Losing It 

Congratulations, Catey! Send me an email at felicehalf at yahoo dot com so you can get going with the kettlebells!

Now, I've got to get back to doing something about those piles of laundry and dishes and the toys that are everywhere. So, have a good day, everyone. I hope to be back with more running stuff tomorrow!

~ Felice

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