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La Petite Maison Verte

La Petite Maison Verte: March 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Salade Niçoise

There is nothing quite like Spring.  After a dreary, cold and gloomy winter (well, not really in Florida) to see the first signs of springtime:  daffodils, spring peepers, robins....these are some of my favorite things ("the hilllls are aliiiveee!")

With the warmer weather comes more skin showing and a heightened awareness of the coming bathing suit season.  I start to turn away from the heartier fare of the Fall and Winter and start looking forward to lighter, yet still filling salads, fresh spring vegetables and meals cooked outside on the grill.

This Spring adaptation of Salade Niçoise comes from Bon Appetit (one of the magazines I bought second hand at a thrift store for $.27) and both Brian and I thought it was fabulous.  I served it for dinner one night a few weeks ago along with slices of lightly buttered French bread, but of course.

This brought me back to the first time I had Salade Niçoise, fittingly, on my first trip to Paris in May 2005, although I think the French version contained haricot vert, tomatoes and olives, whereas this substitutes fresh spring asparagus and lightly fried capers in their place.  The addition of radishes is tres French and whenever I eat them I think of little French school children snacking on toasted baguettes with butter and sliced radishes, sprinkled with salt and pepper after school...

After serving this for dinner, I had leftover potatoes and vinaigrette.  I combined the two and it made a lovely vinaigrette potato salad that we ate for the next couple of days.  Such a fresh take on the usual mayo-laden staple of summer barbecues, I would make this again in a heartbeat.

What really made this salad special was the hardboiled eggs.  They were gifted to us by a co-worker of Brian's who has a couple of hens.  They were so fresh and amazing, really, if you can get your hands on some fresh, cage-free eggs, they truly make all the difference in the world.

Salade Niçoise
serves 2-3  
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009


2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 a small shallot, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


3/4 pound asparagus, bottoms of the stems peeled
1/2 pound small red potatoes, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup capers, drained and patted dry
6 ounces mixed greens
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
2 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
6 ounce can tuna packed in oil, drained

To serve on the side (optional)

Crusty loaf of french bread or baguette
High-quality butter, at room temperature
Fleur de sel

Make the vinaigrette

Puree the first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Gradually add the olive oil with the machine running, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill.

Make the salad

Cook asparagus in a large skillet of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Transfer asparagus to a baking dish full of ice water to cool, then drain and pat dry.  Set aside and chill until ready to assemble salad.

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Season the water generously with salt.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are just tender, 10-15 minutes.  Drain and cool for 5 minutes.  In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes very gently with about 2-3 tablespoons of the prepared vinaigrette and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Let stand at room temperature while preparing other salad components.

In a small skillet or sauce pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add capers and fry until crisp and they open like flowers, stirring often, about 1 minute.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a paper towel to drain.  Let stand at room temperature while assembling salad.

Place the asparagus into a large bowl and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette, toss gently to coat.  If the potatoes are dry, add one more tablespoon of vinaigrette and toss make sure they are evenly coated.  Toss the mixed greens and radishes in a bowl with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette to coat.  Spread the greens and radishes onto a large platter.  Arrange the potatoes, asparagus, chopped boiled eggs and tuna on top of the greens.  Sprinkle with the fried capers and serve with additional vinaigrette and some crusty french bread on the side that has been generously buttered and sprinkled with the fleur de sel.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fast Food, Slow

We don't really eat much fast food.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I went to McDonald's or Burger King.  I will occasionally make an exception for a Chick-fil-A milkshake (don't judge me, I assure you this is a once or twice a year kind of thing!).  But every time I eat a bite of a fast food hamburger or fries, I'm disappointed in the (lack of) flavor - all I taste is salt!

That being said, I really do love the taste of a good burger and fries.  It's an occasional indulgence so I don't feel too guilty about really doing it up right.  On Saturday, Brian and I caught a whiff of a neighbor's barbecue when we walked past and both got the craving for burgers so we scrapped our (healthier) meal plan for Sunday night and decided to grill up some Bison burgers and fries.

Oh man, was it ever GOOD!  I caramelized some sweet yellow onions and sliced mushrooms for a loooong time in a little butter and olive oil.  Then topped my bison burger with a little monterey jack cheese, some barbecue sauce, the mushrooms and onions and served it up with a nice juicy slice of tomato and some spring mix.  Brian grilled the fresh kaiser roll (from The Fresh Market - they have a great bakery!) which made it even more delicious.

On the side, I made some oven-baked crispy fries.

Hit. The. Spot.

Speaking of the fries, they were amazing, simple and fairly quick.  The perfect side for your burger.  And WAY better than fast-food.

Oven-Baked French Fries
adapted from Anja's Food 4 Thought
serves 2-4

2 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

other seasonings (optional):  grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, garlic, truffle salt, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment and set aside.

Peel potatoes, if desired (I didn't).  Slice potatoes lengthwise into 1/4'' slices, and from there slice into 1/4'' matchsticks.  Place the potatoes in a single layer onto a paper-towel lined microwave-safe plate and microwave for 1 minute (you will have to do this step in batches).

Then place the par-cooked fries into a large bowl and drizzle on 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the fries with the oil, salt and pepper using your hands to insure each piece is thoroughly coated, you may need up to one additional tablespoon of olive oil to coat the fries depending on the size of the potatoes used, if the fries seem like they need a little more oil, add it now.

Spread fries onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and evenly spread out, ideally not touching each other.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until evenly golden brown and crispy, stirring once halfway through cooking in order to turn the fries.  Season with additional salt, pepper or optional seasonings and serve hot.


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Monday, March 26, 2012


It feels so good to get into a normal routine again!

After a couple of weeks of having company and getting used to my new work schedule (and neglecting my poor blog) I finally feel like things are settling into a comfortable routine.

I've been cooking and baking up a storm the last couple of weeks but you wouldn't know it if you've been following me on Twitter, Facebook or this blog - I've just been too busy to post about it!  Even with all of the craziness around here I still managed to take some pictures.  Now I just have to get around to writing about it...

First up - BREAKFAST!  My favorite meal of the day (obviously!)

On Sunday, I made my High Protein Oatmeal Pancakes for breakfast and had a chance to take some better (at least I think) photos.  This time, I had mine with sliced bananas and a dollop of Artisana Cacao Bliss on top.  Oh my God - Cacao Bliss is pure HEAVEN!

The lovely folks at Artisana sent me some samples to try (a full review of their products and GIVEAWAY is coming SOON) and I had just been waiting for the right time to try the Cacao Bliss.  Wow - just wow.  It's a creamy, chocolatey coconut spread that kind of reminded me of Nutella only not quite as sweet, and it has a definite coconut taste to it (YUM!)  Oh, AND it's 100% organic, vegan and raw!

On the side - I had a little plain Fage Total 2% greek yogurt with a sprinkling of Nature's Path Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red Berries.

This was the kind of breakfast that fills you up yet somehow doesn't weigh you down.  I don't know how these pancakes do it, they're just magic.

Please promise me you'll try them.  In return, I'll promise not to take such a long hiatus from posting.  OK, now go make some breakfast!

Click here for my previous post on my High-Protein Oatmeal Pancakes for the recipe.

And these pancakes can be refrigerated or frozen for super easy, quick weekday breakfasts.  Just thaw for a few seconds in the microwave (if frozen, if refrigerated skip the microwave), then pop into the toaster on a low-medium setting and toast until thawed and warmed through.  SO GOOD!

Also, a note:  these pancakes are gluten-free - just MAKE SURE to use certified gluten-free oats (Bob's Red Mill makes some) if you are sensitive to gluten, or keeping gluten-free.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Coming Soon

Having visitors is no easy feat.  It's been wonderful having my Mom and Dad visiting in Tampa for the last week.  But that plus starting a new job has meant that my free time has been almost non-existant.  And when I do have a spare minute, I'm usually passed out on the couch, exhausted after a (fun) filled day.

We've had a such a great time this week:  spending time at the beach, exploring Tampa by boat, walking Hudson all around the neighborhood, dining on gourmet meals and hitting our favorite local Fro-Yo spot.  I haven't cooked as much as I usually do because we've been eating out a lot.  It will be good to get back to our normal routine, but I will really miss my parents too.  They fly back to Maryland tonight and then we're having more company come this weekend.

I hope to get a few posts up before then because I know things will be busy with more guests at the house. Here's a little sneak peak of a fresh, springtime salad I know you'll love....

Is it Springtime where you are?!


Saturday, March 17, 2012


I've been MIA because my Mom and Dad are in town!

Oh, and I started a new job!

So between working a new schedule and showing Mom and Dad around town, my free time has been limited to brief moments of rest in between all of the fun times :-)

Yesterday we were able to attend a Yankees spring training game at Steinbrenner Field.  The Yankees beat the Washington Nationals 4-3.  It was a great game!

Today we set out on a lunch cruise on the Hillsborough River to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  I stayed away from the green beer but couldn't avoid the GREEN river!  The channel was died green to celebrate today.  I can't say I agree with it on the basis of the potential ecological effects (?) of dying the river, but it sure was interesting to see.

We're going to try to stay cool for the rest of the afternoon and hit the beach tomorrow before grilling out for dinner tomorrow night.

I think Mom, Dad and I are going to head up to Tarpon Springs on Monday to explore.

Happy St. Patty's Day to you!



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Twelve Pounds of Strawberries

We went to the Florida Strawberry Festival this weekend and came home with a full flat of fresh, ripe strawberries.  That's 12 pints, or about 12 pounds of berries (according to wikipedia).

I've already used about half of the berries for strawberry jam and just for eating for breakfast on top of waffles and oatmeal.  Oh, and then there were those brownies with whipped cream and strawberries on top too.

My question to you is:  What should I do with the rest of the strawberries?!  Ideas, suggestions, recipes are all welcome!

Mom and Dad are in town visiting too, it's a good thing they love strawberries as much as I do!


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Monday, March 12, 2012

Cauliflower-Spinach Puree

Without a doubt, one of the best thrift store finds I have come across recently has been a collection of old issues of Gourmet, Cooks Illustrated and Bon Appetit magazines from 2-3 years ago.  Each magazine was being sold for $.27 and they were all in perfect condition - no pages torn out, no weird mildew smell, etc.  I narrowed it down to 10  (from at least 30) but I really wanted to take them all home.    

Since I don't subscribe to these magazines, it was a great buy as they are all full of awesome recipes, beautiful photography and cool kitchen tips and tricks.  Full of inspiration!

This side dish stood out immediately, as it was super healthy and quick to put together.  And I had all of the ingredients already so it didn't take long for me to put it down on our weekly menu.

I usually serve my Pesto Salmon with garlic mashed potatoes but we were really happy with this swap.  Served up with some nice tender asparagus on the side, this was an awesome meal, definitely worthy of company but easy enough for any old weeknight.

This really could have been plated much more attractively:  next time I would put the Cauliflower-Spinach puree on the bottom, then place the asparagus on top of that and stack the salmon on top.

Cauliflower-Spinach Puree
makes about 2 cups
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine (April 2009)

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-2'' florets
1 large shallot, peeled and halved
1-2 small garlic cloves, optional
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I omitted)

Cook cauliflower, shallots and garlic cloves (if using) in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain well.  Complete the following steps in two batches if necessary (depending on the size of your food processor bowl): transfer the cooked vegetables and the baby spinach leaves into a food processor and add the olive oil.  Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a medium bowl and season with the lemon juice, if using.  Serve hot.

Went back for seconds (and thirds) on the Cauliflower-Spinach Puree!
What is your favorite way to eat cauliflower?

Mine would either be this version or oven-roasted cauliflower that has been tossed in olive oil and dusted with garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper and chili powder.  I can't decide, they're both so good!


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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Grilled Pizza

After our first successful attempt at grilled pizza we couldn't wait long before trying it again.

It's just so convenient to use the grill and I prefer to avoid heating up our entire house by turning the oven up to 500 degrees.  I love our gas stove but hot damn if it doesn't turn the house into a sauna any time I use it.

We used a ball of refrigerated Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough that Brian rolled out and cut into two half-moons so we could each top our own as we liked.  Why he didn't just cut it first, then roll it into two round pizzas, I'll never understand (Love you, Brian!)

His was similar to our last grilled pizza:  spread with pesto and topped with cooked chicken and mozzarella cheese.  This time he left off the sliced tomatoes and added some sliced red onions and chopped baby spinach.  I had a bite, it was delicious!

I decided to go vegetarian with mine so I roasted some cubed butternut squash in the oven at 425 degrees with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until it was caramelized and fully cooked.  I also caramelized about 1/3 of a sweet yellow onion in a little olive oil and let it cook on medium for a good 30 minutes until soft and brown, then I added about a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and just let the onions pick up all that flavor.

I also topped mine with a few handfuls of sauteed kale that I wilted down in a little garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil, about 1-2 ounces of goat cheese and a small sprinkling of shredded fresh mozzarella cheese.  

Toppings, clockwise from top left:  goat cheese, wilted kale, roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions, garlic-infused olive oil.
It was amazing.  Even my meat-lover husband thought it was phenomenal.

A few helpful pointers:

Make sure you brush the crust with olive oil so it doesn't stick to the grill grates!  Brush the first side, then place that side DOWN on the grill.  Once it's cooking on the first side, brush the second side with olive oil.  Flip the crust over onto the second side, and then top your pizza.

If my description is confusing, check The Kitchn's helpful guide to grilling pizza.

Brush the olive oil onto the second side while the first side grills.

Once the pizzas are topped, then close the lid so the cheese gets nice and melty.

Serve it up with a nice side salad and a glass of Pinot Noir.

Or Chardonnay, that would also be lovely.

Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash, Kale and Goat Cheese Grilled Pizza
makes 1 large pizza, enough to serve 4

2 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (1'' cubes)
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 cups kale, chopped
1 lb pizza dough
3 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil, divided
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Prepare the roasted squash:  Toss squash pieces with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until cooked and edges are caramelized.  Set aside until ready to assemble pizza. 

Prepare the caramelized onions:  Melt 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the sliced onions and cook 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized.  Season onions with a little salt and pepper, then add the thyme and the balsamic vinegar and stir, cook 2-3 more minutes, then remove from heat and set aside until ready to assemble the pizza.

Prepare the kale:  Place chopped kale into a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon of the garlic-infused olive oil over medium heat, toss well to coat.  Cover pot with the lid and wilt the kale for about 5-7 minutes, removing the lid to stir occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside until ready to assemble pizza.   

Preheat grill to 500-600 degrees or as hot as your grill allows, allow about 20-30 minutes for the grill to heat up.  Meanwhile, prepare pizza toppings as described above and allow pizza dough to sit at room temperature about 20-30 minutes before attempting to work with it.  

Roll or press out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick and shape as you wish (round, square, etc.).  Brush the surface of a rimless baking sheet with about 1- 1/2 tablespoons of the garlic-infused olive oil.  Transfer the pizza dough onto the oiled baking sheet (this is to coat one side of the pizza dough with oil).  

Once the grill is pre-heated, slide the pizza dough off of the rimless baking sheet directly onto the grill grates (the oiled side should be in contact with the grill grates).  With the lid of the grill open, allow the bottom side of the pizza dough to cook approximately 3 minutes, checking after 2 minutes to make sure it's not burning.  Meanwhile, brush the top side of the pizza dough with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil.  

Once the bottom of the pizza is grilled, flip the pizza onto the other side.  For this step you can use tongs, a spatula or slide the pizza onto the rimless baking sheet in order to flip it over.  Immediately and quickly add your pizza toppings, distributing them evenly across the surface of the pizza.  Close the grill lid and allow pizza to cook 5-8 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to brown, making sure not to allow the bottom of the pizza to burn.  Serve pizza hot.  


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gasparilla Recap: Part 3: My Gear

I hope you guys are enjoying reading about my first race!  If you missed my earlier posts, you can check out Part 1:  The Race and Part 2:  Preparation here.

In this post, I wanted to talk about the all-important topic of What I Wore on race day.

Accuweather was calling for temperatures in the 50's or 60's with 40 mph wind gusts so I was pretty sure I wanted to wear something that would keep me warm while we waited at the starting line.  I bought a cheap sweatshirt at a local thrift shop (it had a skull and crossbones on it to go with the Pirate theme!) that I wouldn't feel bad about leaving behind when I warmed up.  My plan was to just toss it into a trash bin or leave it on the ground so it could be collected and donated to charity after the race.

Underneath my throw-away layer, I had on a dry-fit long sleeved t-shirt (Brian's from one of his Marine Corps Marathons that he ran, I wore it for good luck!) and over that was a short-sleeved t-shirt.  I wore some running capri-length tights and my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11's with blue Superfeet orthotics inside.  Luckily, I ended up really happy with the outfit I had chosen, it provided just enough warmth until I got warmed up enough but it also allowed my sweat to dry quickly.  

I also wore my new iFitness belt which held my cellphone (so I could take some pre, post and during-race photos) and our car keys.  I had bought the belt the day prior at the Expo after comparing it to the SPIbelt.  Honestly, I think I would have been happy with either brand but the SPIbelt folks at the Expo were sold out of their water-proof all-black belt, so I went with iFitness and I'm happy with it (and it was a few dollars cheaper).  It didn't bounce or ride up at all and it fit my iPhone and my car key fob perfectly, I completely forgot I had it on because it was really quite comfortable.  I'm excited that I bought it because I can wear it on my long walks with Hudson and have somewhere to hold the house key and my phone and still have both hands free.

At the race expo, I picked up a cute pirate Chica Band to wear during the race.  This was more cosmetic than functional but it stayed in place perfectly during the race due to the velvet backing on it.  The shop had lots of cute colors and patterns but I decided on the pirate band because after all, it was Gasparilla!

I also wore my cheap Target watch and sunglasses.  I used the stopwatch feature to keep track of my splits at the mile markers to make sure I was on target with my pace.  

I did NOT wear my Gasparilla race t-shirt because I don't know about you, but I just didn't feel right wearing it before having completed the race!  Brian didn't have any problem with it so he wore his.  So did a lot of other runners, I guess just didn't want to jinx myself (?!)

You can kinda see my iFitness belt in this photo.  Brian didn't feel weird about wearing his race shirt to the race!
I also didn't run with my iPod this time.  Brian and I were running together so I didn't think I would need the distraction for the race.  I didn't miss it, but usually when I'm running alone I have my iPod nano that I wear on an armband, it works pretty well for me.

I wore my race t-shirt on Monday, AFTER I had already completed the race.  And I love my iFitness belt for walking Hudson - I just put my iPhone in there and I can listen to music, podcasts, talk on the phone, whatever!

Well, I think that's about it.  I'm sure as I run more I will get more and more gear but for now, this stuff does the trick.  First on my wish list is a Garmin GPS watch!  But they're pretty expensive so I think I may be waiting for a while :-/

Stay tuned for my last post on the Gasparilla 8K!  I'm going to talk about recovery from the race, what I learned from the experience and my final reflections!

What is your must-have running gear?  What do you have to run with?  What gear or gadgets do you recommend?


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Good Morning!

Sometimes simple things are the best things, don't you agree?

- coffee and the Sunday paper in your pajamas
- a bouquet of tulips
- finding the perfect seashell on the beach
- the cool side of the pillow
- a handwritten note
- the smell of old books
- a parking meter with time still left on it
- hitting all green lights
- the way your dog greets you like he hasn't seen you in hours even though it has only been 10 minutes

...I wanted to go simple this morning for breakfast:

1/2 cup Nature's Path Blueberry Cinnamon cereal (I'm all out!  Must get more ASAP)
1/4 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal
Trader Joe's unsweetened vanilla almond milk
sliced Florida strawberries
dollop Trader Joe's roasted creamy almond butter

Plus one hard boiled cage-free egg (with a little s + p) and Kona coffee.

I had my first day at my new job yesterday!  Things went well and my commute isn't bad at all.  I even have a co-worker, Jess, who is into running :-)  She and I decided to register for the Iron Girl 5K taking place in Clearwater this April.  

Today, I'm going to try to find a minute to write Part 3 of my Gasparilla Recap: What I Wore/My Gear.  If you are interested, make sure to check out Part 1:  The Race and Part 2:  Preparation.

I've also got a couple of recipes in the works that I want to share.  They're GOOD ones too, so make sure you check back!

Happy (almost) weekend!

What are your favorite simple things?  



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gasparilla Recap: Part 2: Preparation

I hope you enjoyed my full recap of the race experience I posted about on Monday.  As promised, I am writing a mini-series of posts about the entire experience, from how I started running to the actual running of my first race.

My posts are going to be a little out of order, since I really wanted to talk about the race itself first.  Today, I'm going to talk about the training and preparation that goes into getting ready to run a race.  I know everybody will have a different starting point and a different goal in mind when they sign up for a race, this is just my experience. 

I was never a runner.  I can not remember a time in my life that I have run more than one mile at a time.  Growing up with asthma, I always had a hard time participating in sports or keeping up with my peers in Phys Ed.  It didn't help, also, that I was 30 pounds overweight.  That made me deeply unhappy.  I wanted to be able to run more than a few minutes without having to stop because I was out of breath.  And not just to be able to run, but to enjoy it.

I started to go running with Brian last November.  Back then, I would run for as long as I could, then stop and walk until I regained enough breath to run again.  Eventually, I was able to run 1 mile, then 1 1/2, then 2.  Slowly but steadily, I increased my distance until finally, I ran 3 miles without stopping.  On that day, I realized that I could run a 5K!  Me! 

It was around the time that I first ran 3 miles that I decided I would run a 10K this year.  I knew I could already run a 5K, it might not be fast and I might not look pretty doing it but I could get the job done.  Brian agreed to help me train, even though he was overqualified for the job, having completed three marathons himself.  But he was up for the challenge, and some days it was a major challenge, as Brian had to convince me that I could run farther, I could run faster, I could run longer.

At the end of January, I registered for the Gasparilla 8K.  It wasn't the 10K I was hoping for but I knew I would have another chance for that later (Gasparilla had a 5K and a 15K in addition to a half marathon and 8K)  I just wanted a real goal I could work towards and achieve.  The 5K didn't appeal to me because I knew I could already do it.  The 8K (4.9 miles) was a distance I had never run in my life, but one that I thought I could achieve in the 9 weeks that remained until the race.

Brian came up with a program that also incorporated resistance training in the gym, since I had told him I also wanted to work on strength while tackling running as well.  It looked like this:

Week     Sunday     Monday     Tuesday     Wednesday     Thursday        Friday             Saturday

   1          Rest            Gym        3 m run          Gym              Gym         3 m run RP      4x400 (8:00)
   2          Rest            Gym       3.5 m run        Gym              Gym         3 m run RP      6x400 (8:00)
   3          Rest            Gym         4 m run         Gym              Gym        3.5 m run RP    4x600 (8:00)
   4          Rest            Rest            Rest             Rest              Rest               Rest                  Rest
   5          Rest            Gym        4.5 m run       Gym              Gym          4 m run RP      4x400 (7:30)
   6          Rest            Gym         5 m run         Gym              Gym          4 m run RP      6x400 (7:30)
   7          Rest            Gym         6 m run         Gym              Gym          4 m run RP      4x400 (7:00)
   8          Rest            Gym         7 m run         Gym              Gym          4 m run RP      6x400 (7:00)
   9          Rest            Gym            Rest           Gym              Gym          3 m run RP        6x400 (RP)

On "Gym" days, I did strength workouts from Jamie Eason's LiveFit Trainer or BodyRock workouts. "RP" days on Friday refers to "Race Pace" so I would run the designated distance at around a 9:00 min/mile pace.  Saturdays were my speed work (Interval) days and Sundays were glorious rest days.

Unfortunately, with my left ankle tendonitis and right foot pain from my bunion that occurred around Week 4, the so-carefully crafted plan had to change.  I completely cut out BodyRock since I was unsure if that had contributed to the pain (I started getting pain during one of those workouts) and I had to completely STOP running for THREE weeks.  That was THREE weeks of torture - I desperately wanted to get back to running because I had already registered for the race and I felt like all my hard work was just dissolving away.  I was so worried that I would lose the endurance and speed I had worked so hard on.

But I did rest.  I started using ice and NSAIDs that my doctor prescribed, stretching my calves and legs and getting calf massages from my own personal massage therapist/trainer/husband (Brian).  Once my pain resolved, I wasted no time getting back into running but I cut out the speed work days - at that point, with less than 3 weeks until the race, I didn't care how fast I ran, I just wanted to run the entire 5 mile course without stopping.

Up until the race, I had NEVER actually run 5 miles.  My longest training run had been 4 miles so I didn't know if I would be able to do it on race day.  All along I kept telling myself "It's only your first race.  If you have to walk at the end, it's OK.  There will be more races in the future."  But deep down inside I knew that I would push myself to the very limit of my physical ability on race day because I had set a goal.  And once I set a goal, I stick to it.

Two days before the race I went for my last training run:  an easy 3 mile run around my neighborhood. I didn't have any foot pain and I was able to keep a consistent 9 min/mile pace.  I made sure to stretch really well afterwards and again the following day.  At the same time, I made sure to get carbohydrates, protein and fat at every meal for the week leading up to the race.  That is the way I eat all the time, regardless of training for a race, but I just made sure to be vigilant about my intake of good sources of carbohydrates especially.  I also made sure to hydrate really, really well Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.

On the morning of the race, I got up at 6 am  so I could have breakfast and coffee, as that is my usual routine.  I started hydrating with water first thing when I got up and made oatmeal for breakfast, which I ate out of an almost-empty peanut butter jar (SO GOOD!).

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup water
1/3 cup egg whites
1/2 ripe banana
peanut butter
small handful cinnamon-sugar roasted pecans

Plus 1 1/2 cups of coffee and three cups of water.

Let me know if you have any specific questions about my training or preparation for the race.  

Stay tuned for my next installment in the series, Part 3:  My Gear/What I Wore!


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