Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in review

2013 has been a year full of changes, most of them recent. I left my full-time job as a government researcher and now do blogging and consulting with my new venture, Nuclear Undone. I'm working from home and have gone through a love-hate relationship with crossfit and running. My workout routine is changing and I'm not sure quite yet what it will be come 2014, but I know it will involve running. I ran the most races I've ever run in a year (besides high school) in 2013. AND 5 out of 7 were new personal records! Granted, some were also distances I've never raced before. I'm getting faster at shorter races but still can't beat my high school half marathon time.

42:07 (8:25/mile)

1:16:17 (8:11/mile)

4:34:26 (11:00/mile)

51:45 (8:20/mile)

2:00:59 (9:14/mile)

32:50 (8:13/mile)

2:08:33 (9:48/mile)

The Chicago Marathon was of course the biggest running highlight of 2013. I made wonderful friends training with NTC Lincoln Park and fundraising for Bright Pink. I also beat my 2010 time but I still wasn't able to run the whole thing. I discovered pre-dawn running on the lakeshore and can say that I've seen the most beautiful sunrises in Chicago. 

20-miler with the NTC gals

Nike 4 by 1-mile Relay

Meeting Shawn Johnson at NTC Lincoln Park
NTC WinterFit

Morning runs along the lakeshore

Leading NTC Run Club on Friday mornings

My diet also changed a bit this year. I did Karyn's Raw Detox in March and have now incorporated many more raw foods into my diet, including spirulina, chlorella, rejuvelac, sprouts, etc. I've also decided not to be strict vegan and to enjoy non-vegan food once in a while, like cake or bacon. I still eat almost 100% vegan at home, but I'm more lenient at restaurants and parties so I don't feel like I'm missing out. I strongly believe that you can reap the benefits of a healthy plant-based whole-foods diet without being strict vegan all the time. 

CrossFit Monterrey with Grace

Lenka's Look at NTC Lincoln Park

6 am ladies at River North CrossFit

It was a great year for blogging, as well. I joined the Chicago Blogger Network and Chicago Running Bloggers earlier this year and made lots of online blogging friends that I've even met in person! More recently, I also joined the new Chicago Food Bloggers, Second City Food Wine + Social Club, and Windy City Blogger Collective. I've partnered with great companies to bring you awesome reviews, discounts, and giveaways. I started blogging exactly two years ago and I'm so happy with what this blog has turned out to be. Not only can I share my health and fitness journey with all of you, but I've also formed and online community, made "real-life" friends, and gotten a few perks from companies and races. Blogging also gave me the courage to start blogging professionally with Nuclear Undone. Thank you to all of my readers, followers, and fellow bloggers for your support!

Reviewing Ellie athleticwear

Windy City Bloggers social with Engineering In Style

Wine 101 with The Garden Apartment

What were your favorite moments of 2013?

What are your goals for 2014?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

Favorite Race
Marco Island 5 Mile Hill Run with my high school buddies!

Favorite Moment
Spending the day with my family on Christmas!

Favorite Breakfast
Green smoothie with Vega One

Favorite View
Sun and clouds at the beach

What where your favorites this week?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers, followers, and bloggers!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Race Recap: Marco Island 5 Mile Hill Run

I'm home for the holidays in Naples, FL, and decided to get together with some of my high school friends to run a race. (Yes, I'm a Florida transplant to Chicago.) Saturday morning we drove to the southernmost part of Florida's west coast, Marco Island. I met up with my friend and old high school cross country running buddy, Jessica (below), and we got our bibs and warmed up. I was already sweating and hot after the warm up and dreading running 5 miles. After running in bitter cold, snowy Chicago for a couple months, 80 and humid was a shock to my system!

The first 3 miles went well and I was keeping a pace between 8:15 and 8:30 (I think - I didn't have anything besides my Nike Fuel Band with a watch on me). Then, the fourth mile was the hilliest. Who knew an island in Florida has hills? Apparently they are formed by shell mounds and we had to do the steepest hill twice. Florida (and Chicago) people are not used to running on hills and everyone was struggling on mile 4. I was also feeling very, very hot and pounced on the water when I saw the aid station. Mile 5 was flatter and I picked my pace back up once I saw the finish line ahead!

Jess and I also met up with Sam, another high school friend who just picked up running a year and a half ago. Her next big goal is a half! Jess did awesome (as always) and got 2nd in our age group with a time of 39:00. I did much better than I expected given the hills and heat and finished in 42:07. That's 8:25 pace! It probably would have been closer to 8:15 pace had it not been for that 4th mile that took me over 9 minutes. Anyway, a fun race and I'll do it again next year if I'm in town!

There's Jessica getting her 2nd place prize from Mark McGarity! He's the Lely High School (in Naples)  Cross Country coach and has one of the best teams in the district and state, also creator of this hilly course! With some online research I actually learned that this hill run is the oldest race in the Naples area (Collier Country). This was the 32nd running of it and it is also known as the "Toughest Course in Southwest Florida," and I believe it! The race is organized and sponsored by Gulf Coast Runners which is an amazing group very involved in the local community that holds many races throughout the year. They even give scholarships to young athletes and I got one of them in high school before attending Purdue!

Are you running any races this holiday season?

What's the toughest (not longest) course you're ever run?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Favorites

Favorite Workout
NTC Chicago WinterFit

Favorite Cat
Our new kitty!!

Favorite Run
Monday night Flash Run with NTC Lincoln Park

What were your favorites this week?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Favorites

Favorite Decor
Real Christmas tree at home!

Favorite Fruit
Pineapple that I made into popsciles!

Favorite Run
Friday morning with NTC Lincoln Park!
Favorite view
Chicago at sunrise (from above run)

Congrats to Amy S. of Maryland for winning the SportHooks Giveaway!

What were your favorites this week?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Running

It's that time of the year in Chicago (and the rest of northern North America) where people forget about outdoor activities and head to the indoor gym. Treadmills and other cardio machines are packed. I don't blame you, the gross snowy slush and bone-chilling wind are a major turn-off. It took me a long time after moving to the Midwest several years ago to finally start running outside in the winter. It actually helped to live in Washington, DC, for a winter because it wasn't as bad as Chicago and I signed up for a spring race and had to run through the mild winter. Since then, I've been running through the winter but avoiding snow. This year, my goal is to run through all of the weather!

Reasons why outdoor winter running is good for you

1. Cold weather is ideal running weather. After that first bitter cold mile, your body is warmed up but cooling off quickly. Warm weather running places much more heat stress on your body. You're able to run longer distances more easily than in summer. For me, a 5-mile run in winter seems like a 3-mile run in summer.

2. Boost your immune system. Getting used to the cold and challenging your body boosts your immune system so you're less likely to get a cold.

3. Battle SAD. If you're like me, then being indoors all day and barely 8 hours of daylight really makes the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) kick in. Running outside, especially in the middle of the day when it's warmest and the sun might be out, is a great way to kick the winter blues.

How to run outside the winter

1. Gear. The key to being able to run outside is the proper clothing and number of layers. The number of layers that you're comfortable with comes with practice but generally dress for 20 F degrees warmer. I personally love all of the Nike winter running gear. It's an investment but cheaper than joining a gym with treadmills for the winter. Plus, it will last year after year. You should also always wear a headband or hat and gloves. Wear a scarf to cover your neck and mouth when it's below 20 F. Finally, make sure you're wearing something reflective if you're running in the morning or evening.

2. Shoes. Yes, there is such a thing as winter running shoes, especially if there's snow on the ground. The last thing you want is wet feet in the winter. Be sure to find shoes that are not mesh and are water resistant. Reflective parts also helps. I have the Nike Free Shield and they are the perfect balance of protection agains the elements and flexibility for natural running form. Plus, they have a cool reflective print (see below)!

3. Warm up inside. Do some burpees, jumping jacks, or whatever to get your hear rate going before you step outside. If you're doing some body weight or lifting work with your workout, do it before the run.

4. Sign up for a spring race. There's nothing like a looming half-marathon in April or May to keep you motivated. Running 10 miles on a treadmill won't prepare you for race day.

5. Join a running group. Running buddies can also keep you motivated to get outside! The run club at NTC Lincoln Park is free and I lead on Friday mornings at 6:30 am! Some of us ladies from last week below.

Do you plan to run outside this winter?

Don't forget to enter my SportHooks GIVEAWAY!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Favorites

Favorite Happy Hour 
Meetup with the Windy City Bloggers
Here I am with the ladies of Engineering in Style!

Favorite Decor
SportHook medal hanger
Enter my GIVEAWAY to win one!

Favorite Accessory
New Nike+ Fuel Band

Favorite Workout
Friday morning run club at NTC Lincoln Park

What were your favorites this week?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sport Hooks Review and GIVEAWAY!

When I was at the Chicago Marathon expo in October, I ran into the owner of Heavy Medalz. We had a great chat about running and owning a business and decided to work together for a review and giveaway! Heavy Medalz makes awesome SportHooks that you can hang your race medals on. Formerly my race medals were hanging from a bookshelf but they are much more organized now. I also love the Chicago-skyline design. There's plenty of other designs to choose from, including different races (Disney, Boston), different distances (13.1, 26.2), and even sayings, like "Eat, Pray, Run."

I actually moved into a new house/apartment last week and now have an office room, which is great because I work from home now. I want to make my office inspirational so hanging the medal display in there is perfect! I'll be sure to post more pics when my office is finished. Do you have any suggestions for making my office inspirational?


The wonderful people at Heavy Medalz are giving away a SportHook of choice to one of my readers! To enter, check out the SportHook options on the website and comment below telling me which one is your favorite. Even if you don't run, it would make a perfect gift for one of your running friends or family members! 

In the Rafflecopter app below, tell me that you commented as a minimum to enter. For extra entries, follow SportHooks on Facebook and Twitter. You can also tweet about the giveaway by sharing this post and tagging @SportHooks and @lenkakollar. Finally, get even more entries by following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and BlogLovin. If the Rafflecopter app doesn't work, say so in your comment and I will add you manually.

The contest is open to residents of the United States only (must have a U.S. shipping address). Enter by midnight on Thursday, December 12. The winner will be announced on Friday the 13th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Vegan Recipe: Cranberry and Pecan Rice Pilaf

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday! I spent it in Indiana with my boyfriend's family and was requested to bring a vegetarian dish because there would be two others besides me not eating turkey. I wanted to make something everyone would like so I searched online and found this rice recipe on Oh She Glows. It turns out that my dish was the only thing vegan on the table because even all of the other sides had cheese or milk. In fact, the mashed potato recipe called for SIX packages of cream cheese. Of course, it was all delicious but my stomach hurt for days (because I also kept eating the yummy leftovers).

Cranberry and Pecan Rice Pilaf

3/4 cup pecans
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups dry brown/wild rice mix
4 cups vegetable broth (or dilute with water)
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste

If pecans are not bought toasted, bake them in your oven at 350F for 8-10 minutes, until brown. Heat skillet with some olive oil on low heat and add onion and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 1.5 cups of the celery (leaving 1/2 a cup raw) to the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes. Slowly add the rice and vegetable broth. Use water if you don't have enough broth. Also add the bay leaf. Cover the pan and reduce to low heat. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, check on the dish to see if the broth/water has dissolved. Keep cooking until it has and the mixture can be moist when you're done. Take out the bay leaf and mix in the cranberries, pecans, remaining raw celery, and salt and pepper. Now you have a delicious rice dish that everyone will enjoy!

What was your favorite food at the Thanksgiving table?

Did you or your host have to cater to any special diets?