Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Five: Favorite Fall Activities

Happy Autumn! A fun link up for me today with Cynthia- YouSignedUpforWhat
     Autumn is most likely my favorite season of the year.  While many people spend days longing for hot, sunny, summer days; I anxiously await for the return of autumn.  The arrival of autumn always conjures up happy childhood memories of beautiful coastal Maine and the Mid Hudson Valley in Upstate New York.  These two places, where divided my childhood, always offered up gorgeous autumn foliage and fun family activities.  Autumn is gorgeous with its trees stained beautiful hues of orange, red, and gold.  The weather is perfect for outdoor activities! 

     My favorite time of year to train and run races is during the autumn months!  The weather is cool and air is drier.  Many races occur during peak foliage in the area.  The weekend of October 4th/5th I drive up to Maine to run the Maine marathon.  Along the drive I'm sure to see stunning autumn colors! 

There are so many wonderful autumn activities to enjoy!  

1. I love traveling to various apple orchards throughout the Northeast region.  Apple orchards abound with cider, doughnuts and beautiful views while picking apples. Fresh picked apples are juicy and crisp with the flavors of autumn. 

2. Autumn festivals, including state and county fairs.  Growing up in Maine, I remember going to the Acton county fair.  The smell of fried dough, sausages and candied apples filled the air.  These were opportunities to have sweet treats that just don't taste as yummy any other time of year!  Another great activity at fairs is the opportunity observe and learn note about local agriculture and farm animals! 

3. Pumpkin patch and hayride tours!  Family fun awaits at local pumpkin patches!  Many pumpkin patches offer "pick your own" pumpkins and hayrides through the patch!  

4. Strolling the beaches!  I spent many autumns as a child, strolling the beaches of Maine with my parents and friends.  The beaches in Maine at this time of year aren't crowded, the summer tourists have long departed.  Sunny afternoons with a light sweater or jacket were all we needed while we enjoyed the ocean views and searched for shells.  My favorite moments on the beach were with a light sweater and my toes in the soft, cool sand. 

5.  Autumn baking!  Okay, I consider baking at this time of year a very important activity!  Those picked apples and pumpkins are just waiting to be baked into breads, muffins, cobblers and pies! The smells of cinnamon and nutmeg, laced with sweet honey and brown sugar, fill the house! After a long hot summer and not wanting to turn on a hot oven; autumn arrives and is celebrated with yummy baked treats bursting with autumn flavor!  

     I live for mild autumns days and chilly nights!! A good cup of hot coffee scented with hazelnut and a pumpkin scone sound good!! 

Happy autumn Friday!! Next weekend, it's the Maine marathon for me!! Most likely this will be my final autumn race this season!! 

What's your favorite autumn race (road or trail)? 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Meal Planning

It was a beautiful Sunday! 

     As I have mentioned and outlined in previous blog posts, I plan ahead and shop for groceries once a month.  I use a printable wincalendar monthly template to plan out dinner meals for the month.  Most meals that I plan can be eaten for two to three days at a time.  My husband and daughter don't mind leftovers for two or three nights! The meals I prepare are made with local, organic and seasonal produce.  All my other grocery needs come from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in Annapolis.  When I drive up to Annapolis once a month to grocery shop, I bring reusable cooler bags and then purchase bags of ice to pack the groceries for the trip home.  I spend a couple hours each Sunday, while multi-tasking with laundry and lesson plans, to prep and cook two or three meals for the week! 

     This Sunday I used one whole chicken for two different meals! I try to prepare meals that are one-pot sensations!! I really try to stretch the addition of chicken because I like to buy high quality, pasture raised chicken. 

Meal One: Three Nights! 

Chicken Enchiladas: My Pantry Version! (Ingredients I had available)

I packaged up the chicken broth and the other half of the whole chicken. The liquid from simmering the whole chicken will be used for the Chicken, Corn and Potato Chowder

Ingredients and Meal Preparation:

1 Whole Chicken White Oaks Pasture Raised Natural Chicken Rating of 5/5
- slice whole chicken down the middle and brown on both sides in Dutch oven with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic ( 3 large cloves) and one whole scallion.
- add 2 cups water and place lid on chicken. Cook on medium low for an hour. 
- remove whole chicken and let cool, before removing skin and picking off meat
- Save the liquid/broth for the next recipe! 

2 cups cooked Brown Basamatti Rice

1 Jar Stonewall Kitchen Black Bean Salsa

1 Jar Trader Joe's Chunky Garlic Salsa

1 Package Trader Joe's Handmade Flour Tortillas ( substitute Udis Gluten Free Tortillas)

1 Package Shredded Cheddar Cheese

- Use half of the cooked chicken to shredd into the cooked brown rice. Save the other half of the chicken for another use. Use a large baking dish and drizzle olive oil all over the pan to coat. Add a layer of tortillas the spread the chicken and rice mixture, top with some Corn and Black Bean Salsa, shredded cheddar cheese and then add the top layer of tortillas. Drizzle olive oil over top layer of tortillas and then spread the jar of chunky Garlic Salsa on top, the sprinkle more shredded cheddar cheese.  Place in 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. This meal is two or three nights depending on size of portions cut and size of family.  

Meal Two: Chicken, Corn and Potato Chowder! dairy and gluten free! 

Meal Prep! 

- I sautéed three large garlic cloves, one whole shallot and the chicken skin, bones from the half of carcass I used in the enchiladas, in olive oil on medium low heat. After 30 minutes I removed the chicken skin and bones/ carcass. I added the liquid/broth from the night before and the package of Frontier Soup Chowder mix. I simmered this soup for about 30 minutes, then added 6 peeled and cubed russet potatoes. I also added pink Himalayan sea salt and paprika to taste.  I omitted any flour or dairy. The potatoes add a starchy thickness to the soup. The soup simmered for another hour and then I shredded in the other half of the whole chicken from the other night!! This meal will last three nights with 1 cup servings and some crusty French bread! My husband usually gets 2 cup servings! 

     During the school week, dinner is just portioned out, reheated and served!! The kitchen is clean until Thursday or Friday. Towards the end of the week we have light sandwiches, eggs with hash browns or baked potatoes with veggies! This saves money and time during the work week! No money spent on unhealthy take-out!! 

What's on your meal plan for the week! How do you stay healthy and plan meals on a budget? 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Running for the Dogs: My Love for Dogs and Running

My own sweet four-legged companion, Airiel! 

     For many years now, service dog organizations have been a cause very dear to my heart.  As a teacher I prefer that my students donate to a service dog organization in lieu of any "end of year" teacher gifts.  I fully admire and support service dogs and their ability as loving, loyal and intuitive canines to support and comfort so many humans.  Service dogs change lives for so many people, including military veterans and children dealing with disabilities.  

     My own golden retriever is always a great source of comfort.  Dogs give so much of themselves and  heal people, emotionally, in ways that nothing else can. Recently, through Kara Goucher's Facebook page, I learned of an opportunity to support a service dog organization through running! I googled the website, and learned that RuntheEdge is a virtual race series that host a different race each month for a selected charity. The first charity in the Run for a Cause series is Guardian Angel Medical Service dogs. On the website, RuntheEdge, you can register to run a virtual 5k, 10k, or 13.1!! 

     Running has opened so many doors for me.  It has given me opportunities to reach out to organizations and running groups.  Now, I'm excited to take my love of running and allow it to help me support a service dog organization! I hope to find more opportunities to support service dog organizations through running in the future!

(Link above to register for virtual race- copy/paste) 

     As a runner, which charities or organizations have you supported through running?  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back-to-School , Training Update and The Dream


Maine Marathon 2014

      Working and training does not come easy.  No matter what the job or hours, when you are trying to balance family, home, work and running; there comes a breaking point.   There is never an equal balance.  Something always "takes a back seat."

     I started back to teaching for the school year on August 13th and since then, my days and weeks have been filled with lesson planning, team leader obligations, fitting in my weekly runs (increased mileage) and keeping up with house and family stuff. 

     Training for my very first marathon has had its ups and downs.  There have been weeks during this training cycle where I've hit my goal paces and mileage.  Then, there have been weeks where I second guess myself and wonder why I want this marathon so badly.  So many weeks of running, working and family stuff.  I have followed Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training plan. 

     Today, September 12th, 2014, I am looking back over the last 15 weeks of training.  This coming Sunday, if my right heel/achilles and my left shin feel good, I will run my longest training run and longest run of my life-20 miles.  I have reached out to my local running group and some amazing running/friends over the last several weeks to motivate and pull me through these last several weeks.  The last several Saturdays I have pulled through long runs of 12, 14, 16 and 18.  Each week I felt stronger and faster.  Fast forward to this week and my calves are feeling tight and my right heel/achilles is slightly sore.

No, matter what, I can honestly sit here typing and say, "I am so amazed and proud of the mileage and paces I have accomplished."   I never thought I'd be running a marathon 3 weeks from now. 

     This week, the fear and uncertainty have set in for me.  I want to run this marathon and finish.  I want to see this journey through to the end.  The end for me is really just adding another chapter to my storied love affair with a state, MAINE,  that I will always call home. I want to see 26.2 on my watch.

This is just a quick update to do a blog post.  I haven't really posted since my Beach2Beacon Race Recap.  I have been afraid to post training updates and other stuff, simply because I didn't want to jinx my training.  Have you ever wanted something, dreamed of accomplishing something so great. . . that you are so afraid to even voice it?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saving the Best for Last. . . For Now: Beach2Beacon Race Recap

     The views of Portland Headlight, off the rocky coast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine are always stunningly breathtaking! This lighthouse is one reason for the name of my blog.  Portland Headlight epitomizes my love for Maine.  I feel my heart wrapped around every nook and crevice of this lighthouse that sits perched on the edge of big rocks, overlooking Casco Bay, which leads out to the vast Atlantic Ocean. 

     For the third year in a row I have been lucky enough to get through registration for Beach2Beacon.  Beach2Beacon is in its 17th year as one of the world's most prestiges road races.  This link to the Beach2Beacon website has a great description of the road race and the story behind its organizer, Joan Benoit Samuelson-  The registration for this 10k race takes place online in March.  The first day of registration is reserved for Cape Elizabeth residents. The second day of registration opens up to the world at 7:00am Eastern standard time. I wait at my keyboard with fingers poised and credit card ready!  Registration is a "race" in and of itself! Within mere seconds of registration opening, it fills to capacity in less than 5 minutes! 

     My training leading up to this year's Beach2Beacon was a struggle. I'd been plagued with plantar fasciitis for all of March and April.  May through July, I was training and even running races, but still dealing with lingering stiffness in my right foot/achilles and heel.  Leading into August, I truly debated driving up to Maine for the third time this summer and running this race.  I love the scenic Beach2Beacon course, but it is challenging. There are some rolling hills and then an incline in mile 5 leading to the finish line.  In the end, my heart won and I made my final summer trip up to Maine for the summer to run this race. I was also excited and thankful to be running this race again with my great running friend Lisa, from

     On Friday I drove up to Maine from Maryland with my faithful and sweet golden retriever, Airiel.  She was my buddy for this quick weekend trip. Hours before packet pick up at Cape Elizabeth high school, we hung out Portland Headlight.  Airiel and I soaked up the warm sun, salty ocean air and gorgeous views. 

     Despite a line at 2:15pm at Cape high school, for the packet pick up which started at 2:30pm on Friday afternoon, the line went smoothly once the doors opened. While waiting in line for my race packet and bib, I spotted and met Jennifer from It's so much fun to meet up with fellow bloggers! 

     The night before the race Airiel and I headed back to the hotel to get a good night's rest.  Beach2 Beacon has an 8:10am start time for the point to point race. However, with nearly 6,000 runners, it's imperative to get parking and then the school bus shuttles to the start line in route 77 in Cape Elizabeth. I prepared for my morning breakfast and hydration that night.  

I really love the BeetElite crystallized beet shot powder that you mix into your water bottle! It's a great boost of long lasting energy

     Running Beach2Beacon is a "Coming Home" race for me.  It's a race that has me running roads and scenic coastline that I grew up in and around for a good part of my life.  

     On race morning I arrived early, 6:00am early, at Cape Elizabeth high school to park my truck. I texted Lisa to see where she was parking.  I was also lucky enough to be catching up with one of my dearest childhood friends who was running his first 10k! Surprisingly, race morning was chilly, slightly misty and overcast.  I hung out in my truck with the heat on in Maine on August 2nd! I eventually caught up with Lisa and we sat in her car until deciding to catch the shuttle over to the start around 6:40am. 

Lisa and I hanging out on route 77 with approximately 6,000 other runners! There were plenty of porta potties lining the start area! Beach2Beacon volunteers were also stationed at tables giving out coffee and bagels

Me and my dear childhood friend! We've kept in touch for a long time! Many summers were spent hanging out in Old Orchard Beach! 

     The race didn't start until 8:10am.  Lisa, Aaron and I got to chat and warm up a little before the race.  We eventually made our way to the self seed section of the 8:00 minute to 9:00 minute pace section.  During this time and during the introduction of race directors and elite runners such as Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi and race founder Joan Benoit, I should have started my Garmin  GPS!  I didn't realize that the significant cloud cover would give me issues! Lisa and I are good at pacing each other and we were shooting for an average pace of 8:21.  

     Each year, I forget to get a picture of the Beach2Beacon start line that is painted in color across route 77.  As the gun goes off and thousands of runners are moving, it's barely noticeable under quickly moving feet. It's unfortunate though, because great care and detail go into painting the start line for the race. 

     So, just as the gun goes off at 8:10am, I realize that my Garmin GPS watch is not working! Thankfully I'm running side-by-side with Lisa and keeping pace with her.  My own watch didn't kick in until half way into mile 1, just passed the entrance to Crescent Beach state park.  My watch was .5 off the entire rest of the race.  Lisa and I paced each other until 3.5 miles.  Then, I went on ahead of her and during this time, I decided to turn in my ru keeper app on my phone.  I turned on the app at the mile 4 marker.  I wanted the last 2.2 miles to be accurate. It was during this time that I also thought it would be fun to take a few pictures! I am not usually a runner who takes pictures during races.  Of course, miles 4,5, and 6.2 are the hilliest, but most scenic part of the race! The views of the ocean along mile 5 are stunning! 

Cape Elizabeth residents really come out out cheer on and encourage runners! I also love the partnership of police from the surrounding Maine Towns! The Cape Elizabeth fire department hangs the America flag overhead of runners. Such beautiful patriotic pride! 

Coastal scenes from mile 5 going into mile 6.2 

More stunning views on mile 5, before a hilly road that leads into the entrance of Fort William Park and Portland Headlight. Runners should save some heart and leg power for about the last 1.5 miles.  It's a hilly climb to the finish! 

I captured this picture of my favorite lighthouse as I ran up to the hilly, grassy finish line!  The skies were overcast and a light rain was falling, but this view never gets old.  

For the 3rd year in a row, at the age of 39, I ran with my heart and my legs followed.  My heart lies here, at this lighthouse, off this rocky perch high above the ocean.  Even now, as I type these words, I can faintly here the call of the fog horn.  No other race matters more to me than this race.  Beach2Beacon with its sense of community, the largest, most epic road race in Maine, symbolizes all that I love about Maine.  Each year this race captures my heart.  

      To read more technical details about Beach2Beacon, go to this website 

  In October, hopefully, I return to Maine, to run my very first 26.2 miles marathon.  

Tell me about your most memorable, favorite race that captures your heart! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Marathon Training: Reflections from Weeks 8 and 9

     Loving this quote: "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Andre Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

-Running encourages one to take a risk in discovering a certain strength and courage that sometimes may lay buried deep within our souls. As a runner, we sometimes must dig deep to find what pushes and motivates us through the next mile.

-Failure is merely another stone to overturn, failure pushes us to overcome.  It challenges us to go further and seek success and achievement. 

     As I look back over weeks 8 and 9, there have been challenges to overcome.  Moments where I failed to reach a certain level of mileage according to a training plan. However, every mile ran is still one step closer to success and achievement, than no miles run at all. As I start week 10 of marathon training, I see my success, rather than my failures. 

             Week 8

 Saturday July 26th- 6 mile speed workout

Sunday July 27th- 4 easy miles

Tuesday July 29th- 7.5 miles

Wednesday through Friday- traveling to New Jersey and then on to Maine

Total miles: 17.5 miles

KTTape and Compression sleeves as I continue to work through some heel/achilles tenderness. 

          Week 9

Saturday August 2nd Run Beach2Beacon 10k (Race Recap Soon)

Rest heel/achilles Sunday through Monday

Tuesday August 5th -Cross Training 3.3 miles of Spinning

Wednesday August 6th-Cross Training 5 miles of Spinning

Thursday August 7th-Running 7 miles

Friday August 8th-Rest

Saturday August 9th-Running Long 12.08 miles

Totally Running Mileage: 25.58

     Going into week 10, I feel confident that I'll be back on schedule with my training and hitting my mileage.  I'll continue my journey towards 26.2.  The ocean waves may get rough, but I have to paddle through, in order to uncover the courage and strength I know exist. 

Do you have a quote that relates to running and life? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Check-In: My Journey Towards 26.2

     Any journey worth traveling is filled with unexpected twists and turns.  The journey isn't always about the end destination, but how you traveled along the way.  This journey I've undertaken towards running my very first 26.2 miles has been about finding a renewed strength and determination within myself.  

     The most challenging aspect of training for 26.2 miles is the mental endurance.  At times, I've questioned myself and my reasons for wanting to run 26.2 miles for several hours, out on roads in Maine with thousands of other runners.  I'm a mother and teacher, always pushing for my daughter and students to create goals for themselves.  I hear myself saying, " Setting goals is about your individual dreams that only you can own." Running 26.2 miles, for myself, is about owning my dreams and believing in myself.  One has to have the strength to believe in themselves, then goals will be accomplished and dreams fulfilled. Everyone is in charge of their own journey, which will then shape and reveal the final destination. 

     The last 7 weeks of marathon training have been filled with some twists, turns and hilly challenges.  I'm sure that Lewis and Clark faced challenges and uncertainty on their journey west.  Apparently, my Achilles' tendon and heel of my right foot have not gotten the message about sticking with the itinerary for the journey towards 26.2.  So, over the last several weeks, I've had to reevaluate how I approach my weekly runs.  In order to get in my weekly running, I've been focusing more on maintaining a steady, even pace for each run.  Not pushing my speed has greatly reduced the irritation in my achilles and heel. At this point, I'm going into week 8 and then onto 9.  I'm determined to see this journey through to its final destination. 

Reflecting on and jotting down my marathon training by weeks.  I'm pretty much following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 plan! 

     All journeys require some good tools and accessories!  Here is what I've been loving throughout my training lately! 

 I knew going into marathon training that I'd be increasing my mileage and training intensity.  I was concerned about finding and sticking with the right nutrition to include in my natural, organic and vegetarian diet.  On a recommendation from (MsFitrunner's Instagram) I chose the Pure Edge line of products from GNC.  I bought the complete package for before, during and after running. I love the chocolaty protein shake! Beets are an important part of my diet as well, so I've been eating this slightly tart beet yogurt by Blue Hill.  During this marathon training journey I've also been using the KTTape application for achilles tendinitis and my favorite Zensah compression calf/shin sleeves. I love Zensah because of the silky soft cool fabric.  

 Sue, from ThisMamaRunsForCupcakes, recommended the R8 Roll Recovery for calves and glutes. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS paired with the pink Superfeet inserts give me the cushion and support I need for my over pronation! 

Whenever I'm running longer than 10 miles, I wear this snug, Hydration Quiver pack from TheOrangeMud company.  Even though I'm tiny- only 5 feet tall and 96 pounds, this hydration pack fits me snug and isn't heavy.  

While in Annapolis this week, visiting the Charm City Run store, I grabbed these "new-to-me" bars!  I was totally amazed by the soft, chewy, decadent taste of these bars!  I loved that these bars didn't taste thick, dense and dry like so many other gluten free bars! These bars were filling, but easy to digest in your stomach.  I could see eating one of these for breakfast or for fueling before a long run!  I'm definitely stashing more of these in my lunches when I start teaching again in August! Here is the website!

My big splurge! Not a neccessity for marathon training, but a great bag for being a mother, runner and teacher! Great inside pockets and liner, along with a mesh pocket inside the bag for a water bottle! 

Yup! I love my new Lululemon Happy Hatha Hour bag!! 

     So, there here it is, an update on my journey towards 26.2 on October 5, 2014 in Portland, Maine!  

So! Who's training?  Starting a journey? What are you loving lately?