It’s National Kale Day & I’m Training for a Secret Marathon!

One of my favorite dishes: Sautéed kale and scrambled with eggs and black beans, topped with ketchup. All organic—natch!
One of my favorite dishes: Sautéed kale and scrambled eggs with black beans, topped with ketchup. All organic—natch!

What does National Kale Day have to do with marathon training? Honestly, nothing. But if you keep reading, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some clever connection.

I’ve been a lazy runner lately. My butt started acting up again this summer, so I didn’t sign up for any fall races, and recently I’ve only been running when I feel like it, usually no more than 3 miles in any given stint. This year, running just hasn’t felt as important to me. Like any relationship, the one I have with running ebbs and flows; there are times of intense passion and moments when I take the love for granted.

When I lived in New York City running was my escape from the stress of work and living with a bazillion people. The 6-mile loop in Central Park served as a refuge, a place where I could feel alone (though I never had the park all to myself—I was living with a bazillion people!). Today, my life appears to be 180-degrees different. I’m often alone. I work from home and set my own schedule, and I’ve never had so much space in my life. There are wide-open parks everywhere in the Bay Area, and Californian’s are so much more relaxed than New Yorkers—no one ever seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.

As if I need another marathon medal. OK, most of these belong to Michael K. Farrell… But still. I don’t run for the hardware, I run for the love.
As if I need another race medal. OK, most of these belong to Michael K. Farrell… But still. I don’t run for the hardware, I run for the love.

I still want to get faster, that’s always been my back-of-mind running goal, and I still tend to push myself on those easy 3-milers. But my endurance has really tanked and I want to get that back—I miss the mind space of a long run, and the feeling of accomplishment, so I’ve put myself on a marathon training program. I have my sights set on a race that I haven’t registered for yet, and I’ve decided to “decide later” on whether or not I will actually line up for the start. If I do, it will simply be to complete. I just want to have fun and go long.

Now, back to kale. Part of the reason for the lull in my running relationship has to do with my focus on food lately. After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition earlier this year, I’ve attempted to gain traction as a health coach. I’ve set up a private practice, read a bazillion books on diets, and started consulting with a start-up (so very Silicon Valley of me!) that’s teaching people how to eat better. I’m so consumed with healthy eating, there are days I forget to make myself lunch. It’s not a surprise that I forget to run, too.

My brain has turned to kale. And while kale seems to be getting more than its 15 minutes of fame, I’m still a big fan of the green stuff and I’m so happy there’s a group of people who love it as much as I do (if not more!).  I hope you all have big plans to celebrate National Kale Day! Be sure to raise a fork to me and wish me well as I train for my secret marathon.

What’s your favorite kale recipe? And what are you training for now?

Shoe Hack: Make Your TOMS More User Friendly

I cut OrthoLite Fusion Insoles to fit inside my TOMS in mere minutes—this is my kind of DIY project!
I cut OrthoLite Fusion Insoles to fit inside my TOMS in mere minutes—this is my kind of DIY project!

TOMS have become a wardrobe staple in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I couldn’t be more pleased. My injury-prone hip region prefers a cute flat to a sexy heel most days (and nights…and weekends…). But while they’re easier on the legs and lower back, TOMS aren’t so great for your arches. Like flip-flops, they don’t offer most feet enough support to accomplish a full day of commuting, running errands, walking three blocks in the wrong direction because you misread your map app, and more. Which is why I came up with this shoe hack.

Step 1: Find New Insoles There are tons of insert options on the market these days, but it’s important to find one that’s customizable. TOMS are on the narrow side, and many insoles are too wide to fit inside the foot bed. A good option: OrthoLite Fusion Insoles. Designed for athletic shoes, these inserts offer comfy padding and light arch support, and they wick away moisture and prevent odor. You can buy them online, or if you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll meet some OrthoLite reps and they’ll hand you a pair just for saying, “Hi.”

Step 2: Cut to Fit Getting your insoles to fit inside your shoes is very simple. I simply traced the bottom of my TOMS onto the OrthoLite insert with a pen, and then used some fancy orange scissors to snip away the excess padding. You might need to carefully trim away a bit more to get a perfect fit.

Commuting to San Francisco in style and comfort. (Notice the dorky backpack—that takes pressure off the lower back and hip region, too.)
Commuting to San Francisco in style and comfort. (Notice the dorky backpack—that takes pressure off the lower back and hip region, too.)

Step 3: Slip ‘Em In and Enjoy! TOMS have a hump built into the arch of the foot bed, but it’s tiny so your new insoles will have no trouble sitting on top to give your feet even more support and cushioning.

Do you have special insoles in your running shoes? Have you ever added insoles to your casual shoes?

Disclaimer: I received a pair of OrthoLite Fusion Insoles free of charge. I was not paid to review OrthoLite, and I did not promise to include the brand in a post. All opinions are mine and unbiased.

Healthy Living Summit 2013 Recap: New Blogger Friends!

Just a few of the business cards I collected at Healthy Living Summit 2013
Just a few of the business cards I collected at Healthy Living Summit 2013 #hls13

Last weekend I was in Minneapolis, MN for Healthy Living Summit 2013. It was three days jam-packed with firsts: My first time flying on Frontier airlines (very smooth!), my first time in Minneapolis (what a friendly city!), and my first time at a bloggers summit (so fun!). I learned so much from scheduled seminars and picked up some awesome lessons hanging with fellow healthy living pushers. A few key take-aways:

Healthy living is a come-as-you-are party. Just like runners, healthy living bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, and at HLS13 they covered the spectrum—beginners who’ve recently started to eat better, women who made changes years ago and have shed some serious pounds since, and fitness gurus looking to share their knowledge with the world. That’s good news for anyone hoping to get healthy or healthier—the healthy living train picks you up at YOUR station, wherever your starting point may be.

This photo (taken by a summit sponsor) is a perfect example of the healthy living come-as-you-are party. I’m sporting fitness apparel and Ari and Nicole are decked out in dresses.
This photo (taken by a summit sponsor) is a perfect example of the come-as-you-are party. I’m sporting fitness apparel and Ari and Nicole are decked out in dresses.

Good food doesn’t need to be complicated. In her presentation, “Grow Your Own Food,” Aundra shared her love of gardening and pointed out that anyone can have a green thumb if you start small and plant what you love. And keynote speaker Brenda Langton, an award-winning chef and restaurateur, stressed the importance of using simple recipes to bring out the best in whole foods.

Sunday morning post-run snapshot in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Brittney. This woman is on her way to becoming the most-asked-for PA—she’s still in school and already has job offers!
Sunday morning post-run snapshot with Brittney. This woman is on her way to becoming the most-asked-for PA—she’s still in school and already has job offers!

Running builds relationships. This one is a no-brainer: Anytime you sweat it out with a friend, you’re bonding on a deeper level. The summit culminated with a 5K fun run/walk to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that gave us an opportunity to sightsee and chat about the weekend.

Everyone can contribute to the conversation. Healthy living is a broad category, filled with different strategies and tactics for looking and feeling your best. Here’s a sampling of the awesome bloggers who made it to the summit—check them out for recipes, fitness tips, motivation, and more.

Which healthy living blogs make your favorites list?

I Cried “Wolf!” with React Mobile (And The Response Was Awesome!)

I took this selfie on St. Joe's trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.
A selfie on St. Joe’s trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.

I recently heard about a cool new app targeted to runners called React Mobile that allows a select group of family and friends (or your entire Facebook community, if you’d like) to track your whereabouts. In an emergency situation, you can simply tap your smart phone screen and an alert message is sent out along with a map pinpointing exactly where you are.

The system sounded a little awkward to me at first. I’m supposed to pull my phone out of my waist belt, log in to my home screen, find the app, and then tap it? Precious minutes would tick by, allowing an attacker to do his damage and get away. But after playing around with it a bit, I realized it’s a very simple and effective process. You start the tracking function, “Follow Me,” at the beginning of your run, and the app is ready to go if and when you actually need it.

The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.
The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.

The first time I activated React Mobile I was sitting safely at my desk. Within seconds, my Dad called from across the country asking if he needed to book a flight, and my cousin texted from across town to let me know she was loading the babies into the minivan and coming over to help. Oops—I really should have warned them ahead of time that this was only a test. I also should have figured out how to turn the alarm signal off before activating it. (Here’s a video explaining how to do that and more.)

All in all, this app is great! I felt super safe—not to mention super loved—and I recommend it for anyone who runs unpopulated trails or paths alone. Oh, did I mention React Mobile is free? Go get it already!

Have you tried React Mobile? What helps you feel more secure when you’re running alone? 

Running with the Bride, Adirondack-Style!

A quick selfie with the glowing bride before pounding the pavement.
A quick selfie with the glowing bride before pounding the pavement.

Last week I took a break from my regular California routine to attend a wedding and visit family on the east coast. This wasn’t your typical white-gown-boozy-toasts-rubbery-chicken affair (although, there was quite a bit of booze!). From the pre-ceremony shots of rum and the steel drum player during cocktail hour, to the backyard-style barbecue reception with lawn games (ladder ball, anyone?), my Aunt Kathi and her new husband Will put on the most relaxed shindig Upstate New York has ever seen—and I loved every minute of it!

I’ve been proud of my Aunt Kathi for a long time now, but running with her on Saturday morning before the major festivities got under way filled me with a new appreciation for her tenacious spirit.

After a sad divorce several years ago, Aunt Kathi was faced with a broken heart and an unhealthy lifestyle. But she relied on one of our family mottos to help her pick up the pieces: “Every day is a good day.” With that positive attitude she hit the dating scene and joined a gym. Since then, she’s lost over 180 pounds thanks to healthier eating and fitness habits (she wakes up at 5:00 am most days to sweat it out with her friends at Core in Glens Falls, NY!) and she met the new love of her life, Will. (Aunt Kathi enacted another family motto when she took up residence with him: “Daly’s don’t dust; we move.”)

Who says life doesn't give second chances?
Aunt Kathi and Uncle Will share a moment overlooking Lake George. Who says life doesn’t give second chances?

Aunt Kathi and I tackled three miles on a rolling street in the Adirondacks and chatted the entire time about love, life, and making healthy choices. She apologized for her slow speed, but running faster would have meant missing out on a chance to connect and reflect. (Huffing and puffing at a tougher pace has its place, but this wasn’t it.)

There’s a popular saying, “Life doesn’t give you second chances,” and I think it’s a misleading mantra. We are surrounded by shining examples of people who, like my Aunt Kathi, render the statement untrue every single day.

Every day is a good day. Every day you get to wake up and decide how you are going to live your life. Will you choose a loving, supportive relationship? Will you opt for a plate full of veggies? Will you lace up your sneakers and go for that run? Every day is your second chance. Take it!

Where did you run last weekend? Who inspired you to have a good day?

How To Get Great Race Photos—Guaranteed!

Always Smile for the CameraMost runners can point to a photo or two of themselves in a race in which they look absolutely horrible—they’re making a weird face, arms are flailing, feet glued to the ground, etc. (Online slideshows and Tumblr sites devoted to such images abound. I think most people are being too hard on themselves—those are some badass moments captured on film! But I digress…)

I tend to look great in my photos, and I feel pretty darn lucky about that. The cameras usually snap at just the right moment, capturing me either smiling or looking serene. And even the “bad” photos—ones where I’m looking off at something else, or my hair is a wild mess—offer a glimpse of me having a good time. My secret: I really am having a good time. (I love running, people!) Still, I’m not afraid to admit that I ham it up for the cameras, and I fully support you doing it, too. I think it’s worth the two seconds of not focusing on your pace to get a great shot. Here’s how to guarantee you’ll love your next race photo:

Step 1: Find the cameras. Be aware of your surroundings when you’re out there on the course. When you spot a photographer, get into a good position with a clear sightline (make sure you’re not directly behind another runner), and play up your form. Run “perfectly” until you’re past him.

Step 2: Make eye contact. Look directly at the camera—even if you’re not sure if the photographer is focusing on you. Those guys are usually snapping constantly, so they’re bound to get at least one shot of you in that set.

Step 3: Smile. Smile. And then, keep smiling! Because everyone looks better when they’re smiling. Plus, making your mouth turn up for those brief seconds gives takes your mind to a happy place, away from the chore your legs are currently involved in. Even a forced smile allows the good-mood endorphins to start flowing. (Fake it till you make it, right?)

What are your tricks for getting great race pics?

This Isn’t Your Practice Life. (Stop Eating Like It Is!)

This meal took time to prepare (15 whole minutes), but investing in my life makes me smile.
This meal took time to prepare (15 whole minutes), but investing in my life makes me smile.

This isn’t your practice life. I stole that line from a friend’s Facebook status update. She heard an acquaintance say it. He picked it up from a former coworker. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d seen it or heard it somewhere, too. Good advice, packaged nicely into a single-sentence sound-byte, travels fast. But how many of us are actually living this advice?

I spent my last trail run mulling this over. It’s so easy in our work-a-day world to get bogged down with the daily stress of life, to forget about being passionate, and to simply go through the motions. I see clients do it all the time—and I’ve noticed it’s being fed by their eating habits.

They are bypassing the produce department in the grocery store, filling their carts with 300-calorie boxed meals, and thinking they’re making the healthy choice, one that will make their lives easier (and, therefore, happier). But instead of filling up on bliss, they’re feeding into a dull, drab existence. That box—loaded with sodium, colorants, flavorings, and artificial preservatives—isn’t nourishing a bright, positive life, because the ingredients inside are merely pretending to be food.

Many of us sit around and think the world is happening to us. In reality, we are creating our own existence. If you want joy, if you want passion, you need to nourish your body with the most vibrant foods you can buy (I’m talking about vegetables, people!), and create a happy existence from the inside out.

Despite what all those clever marketers want you to believe, there aren’t nearly as many nutrients in packaged, processed items as there are in fresh, whole foods. And there certainly isn’t any joy in nuking your dinner. Just imagine how depressing Thanksgiving would be if the family simply waited 3 minutes for the turkey dinner and then scurried off to the next conference call.

Whole foods take time to prepare. But I believe what you spend in the kitchen will multiply in your soul. You are sending a message to your body that you deserve to be cared for; you deserve to be well fed. In order to go out and do great things, you need to feel great—and that feeling begins by fueling your body with the most nourishing foods possible. This isn’t a practice life, so why are you eating like it is.

How will you nourish your life today?

Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K Recap: The Best Porta Potties I’ve Ever Seen

I was all smiles in the first 1/2 mile of the Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K. (The girl about to pass me is wearing the cutest skirt!)
I was all smiles in the first 1/2 mile of the Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K. (The girl about to pass me is wearing the cutest skirt!)

There are so many reasons why I enjoyed the Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K last Thursday. The course was a flat, out-and-back that almost guaranteed a speedy time, the pre- and post-race market and giveaways were phenomenal (they had healthy sandwiches and champagne at the finish!), the race shirts are actually wearable (in public, even), and the sound system pumped out killer tunes all night. No detail was left to chance—even the porta potties were impeccable.

Clearly, Esprit de She throws a good party! It didn’t hurt that everyone who toed the start line was in a good mood. (Apparently, free mini-massages and manicures are great for calming pre-race nerves.) Even fellow  blogger Paulette from Just Keep Running was sporting a fantastic smile for this after-work, mid-week event when I bumped into her at the registration tent.

It also didn’t hurt that I managed to finish with a terrific time—23:58. Yay!

Fresh as a daisy (literally!) inside the porta potties at Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K! (I’ve seen some horrible ones in my day—I was at Woodstock 1999. Enough said.)
Fresh as a daisy (literally!) inside the porta potties at Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K! (I’ve seen some horrible ones in my day—I was at Woodstock 1999. Enough said.)

I was rested and hydrated going into the race, I had visualized finishing strong, and I ran an easy warm-up mile beforehand to keep my legs loose. But I’ve done all of this leading up to other races too, without such a stellar result. There must have been something special about this experience that allowed everything to line up just right for me. In my head, I keep going back to those porta potties.

Striding into the finish and still smiling. What can I say? I'm a happy runner!
Striding into the finish and still smiling. What can I say? I’m a happy runner!

It’s the little things that make a big difference at races. Having a clean place to use the bathroom before heading to the start corral is just one of them. Instead of feeling icky and worrying about accidentally touching a dirty seat, I was able to stay focused on the race itself. And honestly, even if the stars hadn’t lined up and provided the opportunity for me to race well, I’d probably still be thinking about those potties—they were that impressive!

Well done, Esprit de She!

Think you’ll sign up for an Esprit de She event now? What are the little things that make a race great for you? 

Should I Say “I Do” To Running In Jewelry?

They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I don't think they've ever met my Garmin...
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but I don’t think they’ve ever met my Garmin…

Michael K. Farrell recently asked me with a sparkling question and I couldn’t say no. (He put a ring on it, people!) Now I’ve got this gorgeous thing on my left hand, and I can’t decide if I should be wearing it when I’m working up a sweat.

It’s not unusual to see pro runners sporting bling on the track. Take a look at this photo of Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards Ross that I snagged from Vanity Fair—swap the chic sports bra and shorts for a little black dress and she’s ready for a night on the town! Even BFF marathoners Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan have been seen racing in their wedding bands, earrings, and more.

This woman is all about the gold... and the silver, and the diamonds...
Sanya Richards Ross is all about the gold… and the silver, and the diamonds… (Photo Credit: Hussein Malla/A.P. Photo)

I don’t wear a lot of jewelry to begin with, so running in a special bracelet or lucky necklace has never occurred to me. My biggest concerns with keeping my engagement ring on is that it might slip off (impossible now that I’ve had it resized to perfectly fit my skinny digit) or that my sweat will ruin the gem.

“That’s not something you should worry about,” says Alfonso de Tagle, fifteen-time marathoner and owner of De Tagle Jewelers in San Jose, CA. (Of course I happened to find a jeweler who runs!) “Running in your ring is perfectly fine, but lifting weights isn’t. The band will rub against the bar and wear down the precious metal.” Good to know. But I’m still on the fence.

Do you wear your posh pieces when you run?

Pretty Muddy 5K Sacramento, CA Recap: Holy Hotness!

Sporting a Fellow Flowers t-shirt for the Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, CA. I was there to have a good time and finish—No Excuses!
Sporting a Fellow Flowers t-shirt for the Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, CA. I was there to have a good time—No Excuses!

I’m not going to sugar coat anything about this race experience—it was a scorching hot day and I was cranky. Who knew the heat would turn out to be my biggest obstacle in a Pretty Muddy 5K?

Michael K. Farrell and I woke up early for the drive to the start line at Granite Park in Sacramento, CA. (Thanks to Michael K. Farrell’s lead foot, we covered those 127 miles in just under 2 hours. Whoa there, speedy!) I had signed up for an 11:00am wave, thinking it would be a good idea to have extra time to get there (just in case we hit traffic, took a wrong turn, got a flat—none of those scenarios happened, but I like to be prepared).

Once there, I checked in at the registration tent and got the lay of the land. It was 9:00am and racers and their families were already jockeying for position in what little shade they could find as they waited for their waves. (Clearly, I didn’t consider the heat of the season when I registered for this shindig back in February.)

Those jumping jacks helped ease the pre-race jitters that I always get. I should do them before every race!
Those jumping jacks helped ease the pre-race jitters that I always get. I should do them before every race!

I volunteered to participate in an Old Navy fashion show, so I quickly changed out of my clothes into a cute pair of shorts, sports bra, and tank. (I can’t say, “No,” to the spotlight—or a free outfit.) I hammed it up with a few squats and jumping jacks, and then put my own race duds back on.

My solo start at the Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, CA.
My solo start at the Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, CA.

Pretty Muddy is designed to be a fun run. There are no clocks on the course, and women come out with their girlfriends for a day of running, challenging obstacles, and mud. Everyone was super friendly, but I was insecure about not having a partner. I didn’t have a BFF by my side when I lined up at the start that morning, and I felt a little left out.

Instead of relaxing and having a good time, I started to obsess about getting the whole thing over with and going home. I pushed myself to run between every obstacle and up every hill—even though the 94-degree heat was demanding that I slow down. I just kept looking at my watch and moving on.

The blazing sun and all that mud made it impossible to read my watch.
The blazing sun and all that mud made it impossible to read my watch.

Then something magical happened: My watch got “pretty muddy” while crawling through one of the pits, and I wasn’t able to read the numbers anymore. No matter how many times I tried to wipe it away, the dirt remained. There I was a mile from the finish without a friend, without a clear watch, overheating. I realized I had two choices: I could keep scowling and slog my way to the finish, or I could accept the situation, stop worrying about splits, and try to make some friends out there. I decided to smile.

All mud and smiles at the finish!
All mud and smiles at the finish!

I gave out high-fives, thanked the volunteers, and cheered on my fellow runners during that last mile. Michael K. Farrell got the biggest smile of all as I came across the field toward the finish arch. He deserved a hug for being my BFF and cheerleader on such a hot day—but he refused my embrace until I’d hosed off.

All in all, this Pretty Muddy was a pretty awesome experience. Getting dirty while running a 5K is oddly satisfying, and it’s a great way to break up your standard training routine. Will I do it again? Yes, but next time I’ll recruit some friends and pick a cooler time of year.

Have you ever done a Pretty Muddy? What’s your biggest obstacle on hot days?