Monday, March 30, 2015

Eat the Cookie!

This post is inspired by a Remy's World column published in the January 2013 issue of Runner's World entitled: Resolved: Eat the Damn Cookie.  Remy's World is a humor, tongue-in-cheek column and Mark Remy in this column pokes fun of runners who hem and haw over eating a cookie. His point  is that as runners we can eat the cookie or other treats on occasion. It's not a big deal.

Here's the thing: There probably is butter in that cookie, probably a lot of it, and those are chocolate chunks, and it is relatively high in calories. (And no, cavemen did not eat cookies. You know why? Because no one ever offered them one. Trust me – if you could travel back to the Paleolithic era with a plate of warm Toll House, they'd be gone faster than you could say, "Eat clean." You'd probably also be killed, but that's neither here nor there.)
In the grand scheme of things? In the truly big picture? None of those "red flags" make one whit of difference. Not one. And all the agonizing is a sorry waste of time and energy. Eat the Damn Cookie.
I bake and eat cookies (and cake and pie) all the damn time. My overall diet is a B+, meaning I eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein. I'm pretty consistent in my day to day diet.  Yet, I still treat myself --but here's the caveat. It's gotta be worth it. Quality ingredients, most likely not store bought, tastes great and definitely not healthified (that should be a word). No fake substitutions. No banana (unless it's real banana bread!), no applesauce for the butter, no fake sugar. I love food and I love eating. I know how and what I need to eat to fuel my body for my activity level. I know what works for me. 

Wendy's Go-to Cookie Recipe

I make these cookies all the time. I freeze cookie dough balls to have on hand for cookie emergencies. I play with the add-ins, depending on what I have on hand or what I'm in the mood for--left over Halloween candy, nuts, dried fruit, different types of chocolate, Smarties. A white chocolate chip, dried cranberry, almond cookie is always good. Add a tsp of cinnamon. Be creative! (or frugal--use what you have). Even if you plan on baking the whole batch, freezing the cookie dough balls bakes a better cookie. 
  • 12 ounces bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 8 ounces of brown sugar
  • 2 ounces of sugar
  • 1 ounce of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 10 ounces of chocolate chips (or other add-ins)
  1. In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. Melt butter in small saucepan over med-low heat. Cool.
  3. In large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix sugars with the melted butter on medium speed for approximately one minute.
  4. Add milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to sugar/butter mixture until combined. Scrape bowl as necessary.
  5. Mix in flour mixture (low speed) until *just* combined (don't over mix--you should still see some flour. It will all get mixed in when you add the chips).
  6. Mix in chocolate chips.
  7. Transfer cookie dough to small bowl used for flour (re-use dishes=less dish washing!), cover and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.
  8. Form cookie dough balls using a disher (or ice scream scoops) or a spoon. I like using dishers because then each ball is the same size. I use various sizes depending on the situation. If I'm making cookies for home use, I go bigger (#40). For a potluck, smaller (#60). I've made giant cookies and teensy tiny cookies.
  9. Freeze cookie dough balls. You can skip this step, but as I stated--they bake better when frozen. If anything, place in freezer while oven is pre-heating.
  10. Pre-heat oven to 375F. 
  11. Use parchment paper or a silpat to line a cookie sheet. Place 6 to 8 cookie dough balls evenly spaced on sheet.
  12. Bake 10-12 minutes, depending on size adjust time. I prefer cookies slightly underbaked, so less is more. Remove to rack to cool. Eat and Enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 Los Angeles Marathon - Part 2

Yes, the heat was bad. Earlier in the week, the LA Marathon organizers changed the start time from 7:25 am to 6:55 am. They reported that there would be water and Gatorade at every mile, that there would be cooling buses, cold sponges, ice.

I was seeded in the open corral because I hadn't run a qualifying marathon in 4 years. This was a bit chaotic because most of the 21,000+ runners are seeded in this corral. Faster runners should be in the front and slower runners in the back. As any experienced racer can tell you, this doesn't work. Because of the crowds and the self-placement mess, I was hoping the crowd would help me pace myself. I'm usually "RACE!!!" right from the start.

One week earlier, I ran a 5K race using Lauren Fleshman's How to Run the Perfect 5K advice. Not only did I PR, I felt awesome and not tortured like I usually do for 5Ks. My plan was to do something similar for the marathon, but longer. I would run the first 8-10 miles at a comfortable pace, a pace that felt like something I could maintain. The next 8-10 miles I was going to focus on form: my stride, posture, etc. The final 6 miles; Go for it--with a kick at the last mile. Not only would I finish in sub 4:00, I would finish close to my BQ time of 3:45. Ha ha ha ha! ROTFL. 

Best laid plans...

Mistakes I made:

  1. Weather--I thought I was stronger than the weather or that I do okay in heat. Maybe I do, but I didn't on that Sunday. Even though I felt like I was running at a comfortable pace at the start of the marathon, I probably know I should have deliberately run much slower. 
  2. Taper--I tapered like I do for half-marathons. It works for halfs, maybe not for fulls. If I'm running a marathon, I need to taper marathon-style. 
  3. Training--I've been following a training plan to run a half-marathon in sub 1:45. That's been my primary focus. Of course I also completed my long marathon training runs, but all my speed & track work outs were geared to the half-marathon. I don't know if this made a difference or not. The next time I'm running a marathon, I'm specifically training for a marathon. 
  4. Sleep--I did not sleep at all the night before. Not a toss & turn all night kinda sleep. It was I'm-so-amped-up-I-finished-my-two-books no sleep. We stayed in Downtown LA--at the Millennium Biltmore--and it was noisy. Plus my brother (who I was rooming with) snores. The combo of heat + no sleep did me in. 
Me at Mile 18. 

What worked:

  1. Nutrition--My nutrition was spot-on. I can tell at the start of a race or a run  if my nutrition is off. If I didn't eat enough the day before or if I timed my pre-race meal too late/early. My go-to meal for long runs or races is a whole-wheat bagel (only ones from Stater Bros) with nut butter (peanut, almond or cashew) & a banana (sometimes an apple). When I'm racing, it's always a banana. Also, sometime in the middle of the night (see no sleep, above) I ate a Picky Bar & an apple. I planned on consuming 4 gels during the race. I used five. 
  2. Perseverance/determination--I'm very goal-oriented and perseverance is one of my strengths. I was tested. This race tested me. It tested my determination as I've never been tested. I had to dig deep. I cried. I struggled. I finished. 
  3. Spectators/Support--The spectators were awesome. The signs, the snacks (hot dogs at Mile 4!), the hoses & water. Especially poignant was the support from fellow members of the Oiselle Flock--Laura at Mile 18 (& photag of the picture above) and Kimberly at Mile 23.  
  4. The Last Mile--Oh, man. I kicked it for the last mile. My music ran out on my playlist(!)(I made the playlist longer than I thought it would take me to finish) and I saw that if I pushed it, I could make it to the finish faster than my previous PR. I ran hard. It was a 9:30+ min/mile pace, but I kicked and it worked and I ran across the finish line. 

Moving forward: 

As I was finishing the race, my thoughts went like this--Why the hell am I doing this? People aren't meant to run marathons. I'm never running a marathon again. Half-marathons are my go-to distance. Why don't I just stick to halfs? Never again. This sucks, etc. 

By the time I was on the shuttle from the finish line back to the hotel, I was already planning my next marathon and starting to incorporate lessons learned from this marathon. My plan is to train for and run the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA on December 6th of this year. I will run a stronger and more strategic race. See you at the finish line!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 Los Angeles Marathon - Part 1

"If you don't occasionally fail, you are not setting your goals high enough".

I bonked. Bonked hard. The 2015 Los Angeles Marathon was my first marathon in 4 years. My first since breaking my knee. I had goals for this race. My BHAG: run it in sub 3:45 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. My more realistic goal: run it in sub 4:00. As I struggled to the end, my goal became: Finish. 

It took me a long time to finally decide to run a marathon again. Once decided, it took a long time to actually register for it. Half-marathons are my go-to distance. It's the distance and the race that enjoy and have progressively run stronger and improved my times through my training. I enjoy training for a marathon (I trained with my group last year, but didn't race 26.2). I love my Sunday long runs. I'm not too keen on racing a full.

 Three weeks before the race, I ran my longest distance in this training cycle: 21 miles. It was a great run and I felt prepared and ready for the marathon.

So what happened?

Heat. Heat happened. As race week approached, predicted temperatures for marathon day were creeping towards 90F. I started to get nervous because I had heard horror stories from my running group about last year's race where temps reached 81F at the finish line. 

I can't blame the heat. Lots of runners that day ran strong, albait slower. I received plenty of advice to throw time goals out, race slow, drink plenty of water, pay attention to your body. 

I naively stupidly thought that I could handle the heat, that although it would be uncomfortable I could push through it and meet my time goals. I worked hard to train for the race, I completed all my training runs, I hit the track, I ran in the dark. I didn't want to run the race slow. The reason it took me so long to decide to run a marathon was that I wanted to be able to run it fast {for me}. It might not be pretty, but I could do it. Ha!

I made plenty of other mistakes. 

To be continued in Part 2...