Wake Up, Water!

I was excited to try this flavored water the other morning before my workout. Avitae is a 0 calorie, naturally caffeinated water; perfect for those mornings when you need a little boost- without cream, sugar, chemicals, or calories! img_4460

Avitae: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This is a great alternative to a morning cup of coffee or a pre-workout energy drink laden with sugar. I like Avitae because it is simple and the flavored varieties are subtle, but have just enough flavor to tickle your tastebuds. Plus the amount of caffeine is comparable to one cup of coffee. I finished my bottle of strawberry-guava during my workout and made it through a busy day at work without an afternoon slump. Have you tried Avitae? What is your favorite energizing beverage?

Practice Makes Pull-Ups

I have always wanted to be able to do pull-ups, so at the beginning of the year I decided that one of my New Years resolutions was to learn how to do a pull-up. I’m talking forward hand grip, unassisted pull-ups, the real deal. I got to work on this goal in February at the start of a 90-Day Challenge at Life Time Athletic. At first, I simply increased my strength training – I started to lift heavier weights and did so more often. Within a few weeks I noticed that I was definitely getting stronger but when I jumped up to the bar  and attempted a pull-up, nothing happened.

Then in April, a friend of mine sent me a pull-up program developed by a Major in the Marines. Major Misty Posey developed this program to help Marines go from 0 to 20 pull-ups in a matter of weeks. At first I was a little skeptical, but after reading the article and going over the details of the program, I was inspired and pumped up! I printed out the plan and got started the next day. I followed the workouts diligently for the next 5 weeks or so and like magic, I reached my goal of 5 pull-ups way before my mid-June deadline.

Major Misty Posey’s Pull-up Program: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! If mastering a pull-up is a fitness goal of yours – I highly recommend following this program. The workouts are relatively short and require minimal equipment – just make sure you have a good ole pull-up bar at your home or gym. She emphasizes that in order to learn how to do a pull-up, you need to spend time on the bar. If you are worried about your soft hands getting a little rough and callous-y, this program is not for you (unless you wear gloves, of course). I saw progress very quickly which helped me stay motivated. Hooray for setting goals and achieving them! What are some of your fitness goals?

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Race Recap – Philadelphia Marathon!

26.2 miles in the books! November 22nd marked the day of the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon and the culmination of months of hard work and training. It was a great day for a run and I was lucky to have my family there for support every step of the way!

FullSizeRenderThe day before: My family and I arrived in Philly on Saturday afternoon for the Expo at the convention center. We ran into some friends from home who were also running and picked up some neat freebies. I tasted the Carb BOOM! energy gels that would be out on the course and they are officially Tara Tested, Tara Approved. At this point I was really starting to get pumped up! We had the all-important pre-race dinner in Manayunk and I enjoyed pasta with grilled chicken and fresh local veggies.

Pre race: It was an early morning on Sunday, rising out of bed around 5:30 am. For breakfast I had a banana with peanut butter and a Clif bar, I tried to drink plenty of water the day before and continued to hydrate in the morning. My parents walked with me to the entrance of the starting area, which is we where we ran into the only problem I had with the race. Thousands of runners were waiting to get past the security check-points only 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the race. This debacle started to stress me out a little bit but I ended up weaseling my way through the crowd and making it to my corral in plenty of time.

The race: I felt pretty good throughout the entire race – being sure to fuel before I think I needed it. After I missed the first water stop, I tried to alternate between water and gatorade at each station that followed. I had my first Gu around mile 6, then a little taste of a apple cinnamon Carb BOOM energy gel a little after the 10 mile marker. Seeing my family around mile 14 was a huge boost! I was counting on the 1/2 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich my mom had for me, which I ate right away. I had my next Gu between miles 17-20 along with an orange slice given to me by an enthusiastic spectator. I got another endorphin boost at the turn around point in Manayunk where I saw my friend Raquel cheering me on! I cruised on and had my last Gu around mile 22-23, saving the best flavor – caramel macchiato – for last. This is where I saw my dad who had some water for me, and then further up my mom and brother ringing a cow bell and cheering. At this point I had caught up to the 4:00 hour pace group, stuck with them for a minute or two and then decided to push ahead. I gave it my all and finished in 3:57:53!

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Ouch

After: As soon as I crossed the finish line it hit me…ouch!  Boy, were my legs sore. I hobbled through the corral to accept my medal and collect water along with post-race snacks. As I made my way to the family meeting area I nibbled on some of a soft pretzel and worked on rehydrating. I put on my Oofos sandals as soon as my family found me and we celebrated the big finish!

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All smiles – photobomb included!

Philadelphia Marathon: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my first marathon. Big thanks to my family and Raquel for coming out to cheer me on! I went into the race feeling very confident thanks to my coach Gigi and her unwavering support and motivation. I can safely say that I will not be a “one and done” marathoner – I anticipate many more crazy miles in my lifetime.

Training Bites

The Philadelphia Marathon is less than 2 months away and my training is in full swing! Over the past few months I have completed a few 20+ mi runs and got to experiment with some different options for mid-run fuel. It has been fun to try new things and figure out what I will use come race day.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Gu – A classic pick-me-up I like to use around mile 16-18 of a long run. If I’m running a shorter distance (maybe 10-15 miles), one Gu is all that I will take with me. Chocolate is my default flavor choice – hello, it’s like eating brownie batter – although I have also tried Chocolate Peanut Butter and Vanilla which were good too!
  • Sports Beans by Jelly Belly – This summer was the first time I have tried these little beans and I love them! They come in a little re-sealable pouch that you can carry with you along your run, or you can just toss a few in your pocket and leave the package at home. I like to have these around mile 6-7 of a long run to give me a little boost – the fruit punch flavor is great!
  • PB&J – Peanut butter and jelly on a hot dog bun has become a marathon training staple, I know it sounds a little odd, but it works for me. During a 25k trail race in Memphis I had a quarter of a PB&J at the turn around spot and I swear it gave me new life. I used a hot dog bun for my first 20 miler because that was the only bread we had in the house on that given day – turns out it’s the perfect size to get nice and squished in my fuel belt. I make it a little heavy on the J and light on the PB so that my body isn’t overwhelmed with the task of digesting fat and protein. I love having half of this snack around mile 10 and then (maybe) finishing it around mile 14 depending on how I feel.
  • Oranges – My dad came through big time this past weekend when he met my mom and I around mile 10 of our long run with orange slices. The simple sugars from oranges provide a great burst of energy mid-run. They can get a little sticky but are easy to carry with you in a small snack bag.

Mid-run Fuel: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! Snacking periodically during long runs and races is very important to provide your body with consistent energy to ensure that you can go the distance. Most of all, it is important to experiment with different kinds of food, brands, and flavors so that you find what works best for you. Keep track of what you like so that you can be prepared for your upcoming training runs and races (after a Gu-less weekend last weekend I was sure to stock up)! What is your favorite mid-run fuel?

Races in New Places, Memphis Edition

It seemed that my mother had developed an inexplicable urge to visit Graceland, and so when she called me to suggest that we meet in Memphis over MLK weekend to do that and run a trail race called the SwampStomper, I was all in. This was not only a new race in a new place, but also a new distance for me – a 25K!

After some hiccups in my training due to a foot issue and an atypical pre-race dinner of mystery meat gyros at a minor league hockey game in Mississippi, I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go for me. The very thorough race director, James, had sent all runners a lot of information and a map of the course a week ahead of time, so we had a good idea of what to expect. An out-and-back course on a single-track trail was something I had never done, and the thought of two-way traffic with other runners was a bit of a concern.

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We got to the race about 10 miles north of Memphis at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park in plenty of time for the 8:30 am start. After several trips to the restroom at the Nature Center, chatting with locals to get the low-down on the hills, and a last-minute mother-daugther wardrobe swap, we were ready to go! About a half mile on a park road spread out the pack of runners before we headed on to the trail. The trail was pretty technical, with lots of roots and cyprus knobs to watch out for. I have to admit, I fell victim (literally) to a root and took a spill before mile 3! Shortly after that we approached the “red loop” which was a loop that jetted off from the out-and-back route. This loop had some MAJOR hills; we’re talking hiking straight up, not running. The plus side was that once you finished that loop, you were done, didn’t have to do it again on the way back (thank goodness)! After finishing that loop, it was a seemingly never-ending stretch to the turn-around point. At this time, I was starting to encounter runners on the flip-flop (some 50Kers who started an hour before us, plus some fellow/faster 25Kers), I did my best to move to the side or just stop to let someone go on by me. One thing I loved about this race was the encouragement from other runners. Every time I crossed paths with someone there was a “good job!”, “you got it!”, or “go girl” exchanged. I reached the turn around spot (~9.5 miles) and grabbed some water, gatorade, a 1/4 of a PB&J sandwich, and a handful of M&Ms. I hadn’t trained with PB&J before this race, and I know it’s frowned upon to try something new on race day, but boy did that sandwich and candy give me new life. Running into my mother (literally), shortly after the turn around certainly gave me a boost too – although she did not accept my offer of M&Ms! We exchanged a quick hug and went on our ways! I felt good on the way back, I had my PowerGel around mile 12 and separated myself from other runners which let me find my own comfortable pace. At last I reached the home stretch of the parking lot and charged to the finish as the 6th female finisher overall – longest race/run ever, complete!

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Swamp Stomper 25K: Tara Tested, Mother-Daughter Approved! My mom and I both really enjoyed this race – the weather was perfect (sunny and blue skies, near 55 degrees by the end of the race), the course was beautiful and in great condition, aid stations were loaded with all sorts of runner-friendly food and supportive volunteers and spectators. One aid station was even decorated in a Hawaiian theme with party decorations hanging from the trees, and the post-race spread was an ample supply of cheeseburgers, burritos, salad, and pasta. A big thanks to the race director, James, for getting us both into the race when it was near capacity (and outfitting us with some cool keepsake medals)! I loved the atmosphere surrounding this race and the friendly, supportive runners and volunteers. If you ever find yourself in or around Memphis, TN, running “The SwampStomper” should be on your agenda, or at least taking a hike along the challenging “red loop” at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park!

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Personal Best Bass Pro (Birthday) Half Marathon!

My 24th birthday is this tomorrow and when I look back one year ago, it has been a whirlwind!

If you had asked me 365 days ago to predict the next 365, I wouldn’t even have come close! I wouldn’t have told you that I’d have my heart broken, that I’d move in with two of the most amazing brunettes I know (3G network shout out!), that I’d have dinner with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that I’d endure devastating disappointment followed by extreme elation in a mere 48-hour period over potential internships, that I’d almost follow a band down to Savannah, Georgia, that I’d have Tinder success story to thank for an amazing summer, and then that I’d move across the country to complete my dietetic internship at Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield.

Despite all of the craziness that has gone in this 23rd year of my life, one thing has remained constant: my running. I ran through the highs, I ran through the lows. It seems too fitting that I’ve closed out year 23 with another half marathon (my 5th) – and absolutely rocked it, I might add!

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This race was the Bass Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival’s Cohick Half Marathon in Springfield. I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time to train enough during my internship and was reluctant to sign up but I’m so glad I did! I trained diligently and working out in the gym definitely helped to relieve some stress from the internship and a very busy schedule. Hard work paid off and I finished the race with a new PR… 1:45:16 (2nd place in my age group)! Nothing meant more to me than seeing my fellow interns, aka my family here in MO, cheering me on at the finish line. 😀

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Both the expo and the race were very organized and well run. The race started right on time at 7:00 am (there was a full marathon and a 5k as well). Other than the windy conditions, you couldn’t have asked for better race weather, perfectly chilly and crisp. There were plenty of aid stations (even a beer stop at Mother’s Brewery if you were so inclined) and volunteers along the course steering you in the right direction. The course was mostly residential, with a little detour through downtown Springfield. As you can see from the map, the route was a big loop with lots of turns to keep you on your toes! Bonus – this race has a slight downhill finish! Runners had their choice of bagels, chocolate milk, granola bars, bananas, pizza, Qdoba, and beer after crossing the finish line.

Now, I am a healthy person and am careful to eat healthy foods, but I celebrated this race (and my birthday) with a hard-earned Mudpie Mojo from Coldstone Creamery. 24 is going to bring big things (a full marathon for sure), and although I can’t predict where I will be a year from now, wherever it is, I’ll be running!

Bass Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival Cohick Half Marathon: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I am beyond ecstatic with my results in this race! It seems like I’ve been chasing 1:45 for a while and it feels great to have reached that goal. This is a great race, and if you ever find yourself in Springfield, MO in early November, I recommend you register!

Frank Shorter was at the race!

Surprise! Frank Shorter was at the race!

 

 

 

Post-Kickboxing Smoothie

I had the day off from work today (yay!) which meant that I was able to get to my gym for the 8:30 am kickboxing cardio class. The class kicked butt! I know that I will feel it in my arms, shoulders, and back tomorrow. I decided to challenge myself a little bit and hold weights (2.5 lbs) during the class –  this definitely amped up the burn. I loved this upbeat class; jumping around, jabbing and punching my imaginary enemies. It’s a great stress reliever and a fun way to sweat!

After I got home I made a bee-line for the blender. I decided to get creative with what I had on hand and make a (get ready it’s a mouthful…literally) Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Oat Smoothie for breakfast! It hit the spot after a good workout and kept me full for the rest of the morning.

Smoothie

Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Oat Smoothie

  • 1 banana, chopped into pieces and frozen
  • 3 strawberries
  • 1 cup almond milk (I had vanilla almond milk, but you can use plain almond milk or even regular skim milk)
  • 1/4 cup oats (I used the regular old fashioned quick oats)
  • 1 tsbp peanut butter
  • a few ice cubes

Blend together until smooth! All of this filled a regular pint glass right to the top. 😀 I got a little fancy and garnished the smoothie with few slices of strawberry. I used the MyFitnessPal app to enter in the recipe, and this turns out to be about 394 calories for the whole blender-full!

Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Oat Smoothie: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This smoothie was delicious and filling. I don’t make smoothies that often, but knew that I had a banana in the freezer that I wanted to use up. Freezing bananas are a great way to avoid wasting them when they get over-ripe and turn super brown. My roommate and I are still trying to master banana consumption so they’re gone before going brown! There are unlimited variations to this recipe, so have fun with your smoothie creations! I almost left out the peanut butter (what?!), but lets be real, when do I ever leave out peanut butter…?