Monday, September 30, 2013

Marathon Training Log: Week 16

I'm running the Chicago Marathon on October 13 to support Bright Pink. I'm tracking my progress so you can follow along. The marathon is just two weeks away so I'm tapering right now. I felt like I was sick last week so week 16 was light in workouts. I felt like I had a chest cold and it wasn't going away so I finally went to the doctor on Friday. It turns out that I have mild asthma that may be triggered by allergies and changing of the seasons. So my chest was hurting because of that, not congestion. And my runny nose and sore throat was due to allergies. I got and inhaler and have been taking it periodically and it's definitely helped and I'm feeling much better now! I'm also going to get a pulmonary exam so they can figure out exactly what's going on. Asthma runs in my family, so it's not a surprise to me that I might have it.

I've reached my fundraising goal for Team Bright Pink but there's still definitely time to donate and support education women about their breast and ovarian health!

Donate here!

Wednesday PM - CrossFit Endurance WOD
WOD: (equal rest in between)
400 m run
800 m run
1200 m run
800 m run
400 m run

Thursday AM - Spinning at R3
Resting for my long run on Friday!

Saturday - 16 mile run
As you know, I didn't finish the 20-miler last week because of hitting a wall and ankle pain, so I ran a little more than scheduled (14 miles) this weekend because I wanted to make up for it. My ankle was hurting on and off but I think it will be fine for the race. My legs were feeling tired, however, so I ran pretty slow, 9:23/mile pace. It concerns me that my legs were tired because I didn't workout much all week. I just have to be sure to taper for the next two weeks so I'm ready for race day!

Sunday - Bikram Yoga
I really should have been doing yoga after long runs throughout all of training. The thing is, I'm quite inflexible and I really don't like doing yoga. I love the feeling after but I'm hating it during class, especially because Bikram is 90-minutes and HOT. After yoga and brunch with Ryan's parents, I headed to NTC Lincoln Park to do a photo shoot with the Marathon Crew (pictured below)! It was fun and hopefully we get to see some of the pics soon.

A lot of people have asked me about my homemade energy gels that I use for running, I finally posted the recipe last week! Also, be sure to enter the Vega One Starter Kit giveaway!!

What was your favorite/best workout last week?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

Favorite smoothie
Berry Explosion Smoothie with Vega One
(recipe and GIVEAWAY here!!)

Favorite cheat
Doughnut Vault in River North!

Favorite healthy find
Guayaki Greener Green Tea 

Favorite workout
Almost 20-mile run with NTC and Fleet Feet (blog post)

What were your favorites this week?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homemade chia seed energy gel for endurance running

There are countless energy gels for running and endurance sports on the market, and they all make my stomach hurt. The fake flavors are gross and the artificial ingredients do more harm than good. This chia seed energy gel recipe is easy to make, all-natural, and goes down easy. 

Chia seeds really gained popularity in the running community after being featured in the book Born to Run as the running fuel of the Tarahumara "running people" tribe in Mexico. These little seeds are extremely nutritious for their size, with lots of fatty acids, protein, calcium, iron, and other vitamins an nutrients. When placed in water, they become gel-like and thus are perfect for making energy gels for endurance sports. Their water-retaining properties are also thought to help regulate electrolytes and the absorption of sugar. So a gel with chia seeds paired with sugar and electrolytes is really the perfect running fuel.

I have been working on this gel recipe throughout my marathon training this year and I think I've perfected it, finally. The recipe is based on gel recipes found in Brendan Brazier's Thrive book (speaking of which, enter my Vega giveaway going on now!) and other recipes I found online. The recipe is quite flexible because you're just mixing a bunch of sugary items and the dates will take over the taste, so don't worry if you're missing an ingredient. The taste is sweet and quite bland so it goes down easy on the run. You can make it chocolate flavored by adding cacao powder. You can also add tart cherry juice concentrate to help reduce inflammation while running, this is good for longer runs and if you're injured. Grinding the chia seeds makes it go down easier but you don't need to grind them to get the nutritional benefits (unlike flax seeds).


3-4 dried dates
1 Tb chia seeds
1 Tb coconut oil
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 Tb honey or agave nectar
1 tsp dulse flakes or 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. cacao powder (optional - to make chocolate flavored)
1 Tb. tart cherry juice concentrate (optional - to reduce inflammation and make cherry flavored)


Soak the dates in water for at least a couple of hours (overnight works too), also make sure they are pitted. Grind the chia seeds using a simple coffee grinder. If you can't grind them, they can just be left whole. Add all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Put the gel into small plastic baggies or re-usable gel containers. This recipe makes 1-2 gels, depending on how big your container is. I usually double or triple the recipe and place the extra in the freezer. The night before your run, just place the gels you will use in the fridge to thaw. They may still seem a bit hard because the coconut oil is in a solid state in the fridge. The coconut oil will melt in room temperature and the gels will be soft enough to take, especially after being on your warm body while running.

I know my picture of the gel is ugly but that's what it looks like...just a brown gel.

How do you fuel your run?

What's your favorite way to eat chia seeds?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vega One Starter Kit GIVEAWAY!!

If you read my blog, you know that I'm a huge fan of Vega products. A major staple in my diet, I've been using Vega One (formerly Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer) for over two and half years in my morning smoothie. (Wow, that's a long time!) Starting my day with a healthy smoothie has really been my key to staying healthy and fit. You are much more likely to keep eating healthy all day long if you have a healthy breakfast. Plus, smoothies are easy on your digestive system in the morning.

Just because Vega products are plant-based, doesn't mean you have to be vegan to take them. Although I eat mostly plant-based, I am not vegan, and nor am I trying to be. I just strongly believe in the value of plenty of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet (and doctors and dietitians don't disagree with me). Adding a Vega One smoothie to your daily diet will easily help you reach your recommended daily intake of fruits, veggies, and essential nutrients and vitamins.

If you're interested in trying to eat daily smoothies, starting on a plant-based diet, or simply want to try Vega One, then today is your lucky day! I'm giving away two Vega One Starter Kits to two of my readers! The starter kit includes five samples of the different Vega One flavors and recipes for smoothies. This is a great way to try the flavors before you purchase a tub. I also suggest that you try making a smoothie for 5 days straight and see how great you feel at the end of the week!

What is Vega One?

Formulated by Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and bestselling author on performance nutrition, Vega One is dairy, gluten and soy free, and contains no added sugar, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. It includes:

  • 50% daily intake of vitamins and minerals
  • 15g protein
  • 6 g fiber
  • 1.5g Omega-3
  • 3 servings of greens
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics

Berry Explosion Smoothie Recipe

I don't usually buy the berry flavor of Vega One, so I wanted to try this recipe from the starter kit, it is delicious! And looks really pretty...

1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries or raspberries
1/2 frozen banana
1 serving Vega One Berry
1 cup cold water
2-3 ice cubes
Blend until smooth!


Two of my readers will each win a Vega One Starter Kit. This includes 5 days worth of Vega One, in different flavors, smoothie recipes, and a $5 off coupon for a full-size tub. Use the Rafflecopter app below to enter. If it doesn't work, simply include that in your comment below and I will manually enter you. At a minimum to enter, you must leave a comment telling me why you want to try Vega OneYou can also get extra entries by tweeting this post and tagging me @LenkaKollar and @VegaTeam and by following Vega on Facebook and Twitter and me on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and BlogLovin.

You have until Wednesday, October 9 at midnight to enter and then I will pick two winners using the app. This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: Vega did not sponsor this post but they provided me with the Vega One Starter Kit to try and will provide the prizes for the winners. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marathon Training Log: Week 15 and the 20-miler

Instead of writing about all of my workouts for week 15, I just wanted to focus on the 20-miler. I was feeling good going into the Saturday run this past week. I ate veggie stir fry with white rice for dinner on Friday, went to sleep early, slept well, woke up on Saturday and headed to Fleet Feet Old Town. I even got a free ride from UberX because they were having a promotion this weekend! I ate my  Mark Bar and drank my usual rejuvelac blended with Vega Pre-Workout Energizer. We checked our gear and then headed to the Ben Franklin statue in Lincoln Park! The pic below is of Rhoda and I at Fleet Feet, before the run.

The first 10 miles of the run were great. I ran with the 9:00/mile group and chatted with Kate for a while. We breezed through aid stations as we ran south along the lake shore. After stopping at the aid station near Navy Pier, just before mile 10, my legs started to feel extremely heavy and tired. I eventually fell back from the group and was running more at 9:15 pace. My legs started to feel worse and worse and I literally hit a wall. I've never hit a wall this bad during a training run and I kept thinking that I easily ran 18 miles 2 weeks ago! I stopped for a while at one of the aid stations by North Ave. Beach and tried to stretch out but nothing was helping. I headed north past the finish spot and after about a mile and a half my left ankle started having piercing pain and I just couldn't go any further, so I turned back and slowly ran/walked back to the finish. I was really disappointed for not finishing the 20 miles but I just got my bag, drank my coconut water, and got some ice for my ankle.

I waited for the rest of the NTC girls to finish in the 9:00 and below pace groups (pictured above). Everyone did really well but we all were quite tired. We then walked to NTC on Armitage where Brittaney from On Your Mark was waiting to help us heal our running pains. She used this butter knife looking tool to rub out my ankle (with coconut oil). It was pretty painful in a good way. I kept icing my ankle over the weekend and it does feel better now.

I'm discouraged about failing on the 20-mile run but I still did 17 and it's ok to have a bad run. This was really my only bad run training for the marathon so it's not the end of the world. I went to Bikram yoga on Sunday and it made my body feel much, much better. My legs still hurt today so I'm going to rest but I think I can be back at it tomorrow with some crossfit! Also, thanks for everyone's encouragement on my facebook post about the disappointing run, I couldn't do it without your support!

How was your 20-miler this weekend?

How do you gain back confidence after a bad run?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marathon Training Log: Week 14

I'm running the Chicago Marathon on October 13 to support Bright Pink. I'm tracking my progress so you can follow along. I had another light week in workouts and didn't have time for a long run. I have too many excuses to list here so I'm just going to say it was a bad week for workout out and move on. My body was feeling tired and overworked anyway so I think it was good to take a break before running "the 20-miler" this upcoming weekend.

On the other hand...I had a great week fundraising! Thursday night was the fundraiser at Lottie's (and the reason I didn't do a workout Friday morning). We raised $360 and then more people donated on the page that couldn't make it to the event. So now I've surpassed my fundraising goal with $1051 total! I really didn't expect this to happen a whole month before the marathon and I am so grateful for everyone that has supported me on this journey, financially or otherwise! Of course, Bright Pink is a great organization and you should keep donating even though I've reached my fundraising goal. Every dollar will go to empowering women about their breast and ovarian health and help me successfully finish this marathon.

Donate here!

Monday - unscheduled rest day
I was supposed to meet up with friends for a fun run but due to not being able to leave work early because of a seminar and traffic, I couldn't make it in time.

Tuesday AM - CrossFit WOD
3-rep max back squat: 125 lbs. - new PR!
WOD: "Power Elizabeth"
Power cleans (55#)
Ring dips (blue band)
Time: 7:10

Wednesday AM - CrossFit WOD
Max handstand pushups: 6 (with 3 abmats)
WOD: "Wittman"
7 rounds:
15 KB swings (26#)
15 power cleans (45#)
15 box jumps (20")
Time: 24:00ish

Thursday AM - Spinning at R3
Resting for my long run on Friday!

I didn't workout the rest of the weekend because I went to Purdue for the football game! I didn't even pack my running clothes/shoes because I knew I wouldn't do anything between breakfast club and tailgating...

What was your favorite/best workout last week?

Do you have bad workout weeks?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Team Bright Pink Fundraiser at Lottie's!

My Bright Pink Fundraiser at Lottie's was a great success last night! Thanks to my friends that came out: Ryan, Grace, Gerald, Kevin, Angela, Alison, Jen, James, Neena and Ryan's Sears co-workers Dani and Matt. Also, Kevin brought four of his co-workers (Aki, Joel, Paul,  and Aaron) and donated over $100, he's awesome! Lottie's was a great bar to host this fundraiser their staff was very easy to work with. Even the waitress gave up her tip to go the fundraiser. I highly recommend them for events.

We raised $360 all together, which is more than I expected and I've also reached 97% of my fundraising goal! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures last night because I was too busy talking to people and telling them about Bright Pink, but I can assure you that it was a fun night!. The marathon is a month away and I couldn't be in a better place because my training is going well and I have all of you to support me :)

Thanks everyone! And you can still donate here if you didn't get a chance to come out last night.

I'm not even going to do Friday Favorites this week because clearly my favorite thing was the fundraiser and all of the support that I received...what were your favorites this week?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tofu Pineapple Stir Fry

I haven't made stir fry in a while so I got some veggie ingredients at the store and came up with a great recipe! The pineapple in this stir fry give it an unexpected sweetness when paired with spicy Sriracha sauce. I don't have an exact recipe for this, I just added veggies and rice to my liking. Use as much as the ingredients as you want but I like to keep an even ratio between them. You can whip this up in 10 minutes if you already have cooked rice and chopped veggies. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients!

olive oil
red pepper
shredded carrot
green onion
cooked rice
soy sauce
sea salt
lemon pepper

First, cook the rice if you haven't already (this can be done while sautéing depending on the type of rice). Then, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a large pan over medium-low heat. Add chopped tofu and cook for a minute. Then add the rest of the veggies while adding some soy and stir fry sauce and stirring. Add the pineapple last. Sauté until the veggies are soft. Finally, add the rice and stir together. Add the remaining sauces (about a Tbsp. each total) and spices. Serve immediately!

Note: I've been using white rice because I need carbs for running. However, if you are not exercising in a high volume, you can use brown rice. I've learned from my own experience that brown rice is difficult on my stomach because it's harder to digest (the bran that makes it brown isn't removed). White rice is actually easier to digest and the nutrition value between brown and white rice is not that different.

What are your favorite stir fry ingredients?

Do you eat brown or white (or other) rice?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marathon Training Log: Week 13

I'm running the Chicago Marathon on October 13 to support Bright Pink. I'm tracking my progress so you can follow along. Last week was low in the amount of workouts because of the holiday and I also had to leave town for a wedding. I still got my 18 mile long run in!

We've reached 50% of my $1000 fundraising goal! I'm asking my friends and readers to donate one dollar per mile, or $26.22, if you have the means. If you can't help financially, you can still support me and Bright Pink by posting this blog post on your facebook/twitter!

Donate here!

Monday - Holiday!
I really don't have a good excuse for not working out since my gyms were open, but we had friends staying over and I just felt like enjoying my day off. I did walk about 3 miles total shopping on Michigan Ave :)

Tuesday AM - CrossFit WOD
WOD: “Christine”
3 Rounds
500 meter Row
12 Deadlifts at bodyweight (125#)
21 Box Jumps (20")
Time: 16:40
This was my first Rx WOD in a while. Even though the deadlifts were scaled to bodyweight, I still thought they were pretty heavy.

Wednesday AM - CrossFit WOD
Max shoulder press: 57# (failed at 60)
WOD: 5 Rounds
10 Shoulder to Overhead (45#)
200 meter Run
10 Toes to Bar (knees to chest)
Time: 10:40
Good, fast workout!

Thursday AM - Rest Day
Resting for my long run on Friday!

Friday AM - Long Run
18 miles
Time: 2:42:47
Pace: 9:03/mile
I had to take the day off work because Ryan and I were leaving early to head out of town for a rehearsal/dinner and wedding. So I had to get up early (at 4 am) to complete the long run. I'm kind of a fan of this super early morning running. I felt pretty good the whole time, the last mile or two were really a struggle. I also brought only 1 gel with me and it wasn't enough. I could really use some coconut water while I'm running so I might have Ryan give me one during the marathon itself. The longest run is the 20-miler in 2 weeks and I'm doing this with NTC and Fleet Feet, so it will be more like a race and fun to run with other people. 5 weeks to go!!

Saturday & Sunday - Rest Days
I'm really bad about working out when I travel. We were at a wedding in Noblesville, IN, for the weekend and stayed out late both Friday and Saturday so it was hard for me to get up early and work out (plus I felt really accomplished from my 18 miles). I'll be back at it this week! Although I'm going out of town again this weekend.

What was your favorite/best workout last week?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Old Town Oil and Spice House

Last Wednesday I went to a really cool event called "Olive Oil, Spices and Wine, Oh My!" hosted by Brooke Schantz of Bitchin' Nutrition. She is a registered dietician and president of the Chicago Dietetic Association, so she puts on events like this to provide networking for dietitians, bloggers, and foodies. I actually heard about Brooke from Linda Samuels, the sports nutritionist that spoke at the NTC LP marathon crew team huddle at Centered Chef (blog post).

We started of the evening at Old Town Oil. I was late because of work/commuting so I missed their presentation but I still had a chance to try some of their infused olive oils and vinegars. You can just go around the store and taste everything they make. I really liked the chocolate balsamic vinegar but ended up choosing the oregano olive oil for my complimentary gift to take home (the entire event was $40).

We then moved on to Spice House right next door on Wells St. The couple that owns the store gave us a presentation and I loved how they had a map to show us where the spices were from. We learned a lot about different types of pepper, cinnamon, and salt, and the role of the spice trade in history. It was a really interesting presentation! I seriously just want to go in there again to learn more about spices.

The owners also talked about the health benefit of some spices. Dr. Oz is really big into recommending spices for different remedies and weight loss solutions. Spice House said that they sometimes have an abnormal amount of people asking for a certain spice and then figure out that it was featured on Dr. Oz. I believe in any natural remedy so I do use a lot of good spices in my cinnamon in my morning smoothie to control blood sugar or turmeric for anti-aging.

We also got to taste lots of different spices. The most interesting one was Sansho Pepper. It was like nothing I've ever tasted and left my mouth tingling for a few minutes. I'm really curious as to how they use it in recipes.

Then, we got to pick out a free spice and a got a discount on the whole store. So, I picked out the three above. The Sunny Spain is a salt-free lemon pepper that has quite a kick to it. Taco seasoning always comes in handy, and I go the BBQ seasoning for Ryan. I'm definitely going back to Spice House again to learn more about spices and get some interesting blends.

The group then went to O'Brien's to chat and drink wine. I met some wonderful women in the health industry and some bloggers. I can't wait to go to more events like this and thanks to Brook for hosting!

What is your favorite spice?

Do you buy expensive high-quality olive oil and vinegar?

Friday Favorites

Favorite Labor Day weekend activity
Spending the day at the beach with friends!

Favorite Meal
Thai spring rolls from my work cafeteria
(they're finally making the food better and healthier!)

Favorite WalkCrossing the Michigan Ave. bridge to go shopping

Favorite Workout
My 18-mile run this morning!

What were your favorites this week?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goddess Find: The Wet Brush

I haven't written a beauty ("goddess") post in a while because I've been so focused on marathon training, but I have to share this amazing beauty find with you because it's changed my life (I'm only being a little sarcastic).

My hair is quite long and quite a hassle to brush after showering. I'm very minimal and like to only use shampoo (no conditioner or 2-in-1) so my hair isn't weighed down and so I can take fast showers. I tried a few different detangle and leave-in conditioner sprays but they barely helped and left my hair feeling icky. I then looked to my favorite beauty blog, 312 Beauty, and searched for "detangle." A post about the Wet Brush was the first result and I hadn't even considered that a brush would be the answer to my detangle problems.

I was intrigued and purchased The Wet Brush on Amazon. My first time using the brush after a shower, I was so amazed that I had to run out the bathroom and show Ryan how the brush was seamlessly separating my hair. It works like magic. The brush doesn't pull on your hair and gets all the knots out in less than a minute. See the before and after images below.

I've come really close to chopping my hair off because of the brushing hassle and this brush saved the day! Now if only I can figure out how to effectively keep my hair out of my face when I'm working out/running...

Do you have long or short hair?

How do you secure your hair while working out? (Guys have it so easy...)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Marathon Training Log: Week 12

I'm running the Chicago Marathon on October 13 to support Bright Pink. I'm tracking my progress so you can follow along. This week I ran 17 miles for my long run...which is my longest run to date besides the marathon I did in 2010.

My goal was to get 25% of my $1000 fundraising goal by the end of August and we did it! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, it keeps me going forward with training.

Donate here!

Monday AM - CrossFit WOD
Pre-WOD: 1 Rep Max Thruster - 85 lbs. - new PR!
WOD: 5 Rounds
1 Frog Complex (40#)
10 Pull-Ups (blue band)
200 meter run
Time: 15:15
The Frog Complex is a movement I haven't done before: 5 rounds (unbroken) of squat clean to thruster to back thruster. I did a really light weight so I could do the whole movement was still difficult anyway! My arms were still sore from Rx pull-ups last week so I scaled those too. 

Monday PM - Run with Team Bright Pink
The run tonight was 7 miles but I cut it short at 5.5 miles because it was really hot and I was really hungry. I ran into Grace on the lakeshore path so we ran together for a bit. It helped take my mind off of the heat!

Tuesday PM - NTC Lincoln Park
First, we did a 45-minute NTC class with Kate and then has out marathon crew team huddle. We talked about mental motivation with a sports phsycologist. It was pretty interesting and I'll write a post about it.

Wednesday AM - CrossFit WOD
Pre-WOD: Max Clean and Jerk - 90 lbs.
WOD: 3 Rounds
15 Power Cleans (65#)
400 meter Run
Time: 10:59

Thursday AM - Spinning at R3
45-minute spin class with Katy! Great active recovery.

Friday AM - Rest Day
I was going to do a crossfit endurance track WOD but my legs were feeling tired and sore, so I took a rest day and layed at the pool instead to get ready for the run on Saturday.

Saturday - Long Run
17.2 miles
Time: 2:38:50
Pace: 9:14/mile
I was going to run with either the Bright Pink or NTC group this morning but I couldn't sleep. I've been having middle of the night insomnia, where I wake up after my first 4-hour sleep cycle and I'm wide awake and can't fall back asleep. This usually happens due to stress, but I'm not that stressed out so I don't know what's going on. Anyway, I couldn't fall asleep so I got out of bed around 3:45 am and decided to just go ahead and do my run! I ate a Mark Bar and drank my usual rejuvelac blended with Vega Pre-Workout Energizer and got out the door just after 4:30 am. This is called "predawn" running and some crazy runners, like my blogger friend Declan, do it all the time. It seems that the runners part of this crazy crew are usually ones with kids. So they get up and do their run before everyone else in the household wakes up. I must admit, it was pretty cool being out on the lakeshore path before dawn. I ran through River North/Michigan Ave. to get to Oak Street Beach. There were still some stray drunk groups leaving clubs and getting in cabs, looking at me funny. Then, I did actually see runners on the path. Chicago is well lit at night so I never felt unsafe and actually think it was safer as a runner because of the lack of traffic. I ran north just past Fullerton and then ran south for a while, turned around and went back along the river walk to Wacker and then back to River West. I felt pretty good until the last 5 miles. My legs were just tired. I was also really wet from the intermittent rain and really just tired of running. But I made it back home and got my long run in! I was tired for the rest of the day but finally got some good sleep Sunday night.

Unfortunately my iPod somehow ended the workout early so this doesn't show my last 2 miles. This happens sometimes and then I don't have the proper mileage logged in Nike+! I think I need new headphones because they disconnect from the iPod too easily. 

Sunday - Rest Day
I thought about doing yoga today but I woke up late, which is ok because I needed to catch up on sleep.

What was your favorite/best workout last week?

How are you spending your Labor Day weekend?