I won’t deny it. Pasta Carbonara tends to be one of my favorite dishes on the planet when I’m in the mood for comfort. And my entire family is right there with me, even on picky-eating days. It’s as indulgent as all get out and I am always able to get it on the table in a matter of minutes which is huge.
But my little unsatisfied food brain got to thinking….if Carbonara is so delicious and weeknight savvy with spaghetti pasta…why the heck couldn’t it be with spaghetti squash?
Two things I’ve been up to since my last post here! I had great plans to keep my mileage up by running 2 days a week, one short and one long run, but that has completely dropped off the radar. I started a new workout program a week after the Ragnar Relay, and it has completely kicked my butt, as all Beachbody workouts manage to do! I am 25 days into the 30 day workout and can’t wait to share my results. I should be wrapping up the day before Thanksgiving (Is that good timing or what??) and I will be sharing my results at that time.
The workout program is called Core de Force, and it absolutely has worked my core. Every. single. day. Much to my chagrin. Who in the world likes working their core??? It hurts!! I really hate it, but then I love it. It’s mixed martial arts, which means a variety of punching, a variety of kicks and then there are agility related cardio “spikes” or intervals thrown in between the martial arts aspect. It’s completely different than any workout I have done before – there are no weights, but lots of push-up variations to improve muscle strength.
As a health coach, I also love connecting with like-minded fitness individuals and companies – so today I’m excited to share with you this graphic from Elysium Health! Elysium’s mission is to solve the biggest challenges in health with science, to help people live healthier, longer. Working directly with the world’s leading scientists and clinicians, Elysium translates advances in science and technology into effective, scientifically sound health products that work — like their NAD+ supplement Basis. As a health coach who helps people live healthier lives, I love companies that are working to make people’s lives healthier too!
Check out my health tip in their company graphic below – pretty cool! Do you get four servings of vegetables every day?? Connect with me if you want some support with this – it gets easier, I promise!
Ragnar was a king and hero of early 9th century Scandinavia. He was a conqueror, a wild man, a leader, fearless and free-spirited.
And that’s exactly how you feel when you are done running a Ragnar relay race! You feel like you’ve conquered a huge challenge as a team (which you have!) and you want to go do it again! I had the chance to be a part of an Ultra Ragnar Team for the Ragnar Trail Carolinas race October 6th and 7th this year.
When our team captain Amber asked me to join the team…I was completely nervous I wasn’t going to be able to do it. A standard team for this race is 8 people, who run 16 miles each over the 2 days of the race. Our team as an ultra had 4 people, so 32 miles each. I had just ran my first marathon earlier in the year and struggled. How and why did I think I could run 32!?
I have a love/hate relationship with running. It is time consuming. Your legs always are sore (maybe that’s just me??). So, I wanted to spend the least amount of time running – so only gave myself 9 weeks for training. I don’t recommend this, 12 weeks is a much better time frame. My goal was to get up as close to 40 miles per week at my peak mileage, which was 3 weeks before the race. I was able to get up to mid 30’s for several weeks and then had a successful taper, 40 was too much for me with the amount of time I gave myself. I did have to back down at one point because of several sore spots (injuries in training) and add in extra rest days around that peak mileage time and reduce a run or two. Not worth getting the miles in if it’s going to cause an injury, so I rested and then was able to continue on training.
I would say the number one thing I did which worked REALLY well for me was running on tired legs – doing double day runs. I’d do an AM run and a PM run, and then another AM run the next day to simulate the effect of running on tired legs, which you do at the Ragnar. I recommend doing this very cautiously and not upping mileage significantly (no more than 10% overall for the week) or you will risk injury. I started around 3-5 mile range for the runs and increased up to 7-8 miles for each run. My longest consecutive run was only 13 miles, but I did around 14-15 miles a few times with the double runs.
I also practiced fueling between runs like I would at the Ragnar – lots of carbs that wouldn’t bother my stomach. I found fig bars to work really well as well as baked potatoes, PB&J sandwiches and fruit. I always thought I had a very sensitive stomach because I often had digestive issues while running in the past. After listening to some great runner’s nutrition podcasts, I’ve learned that the quality of carbohydrates does matter. Certain sugars cause the intestines to pull in additional water, which causes that emergency porta potty stop! And everyone is a bit different in what their body likes and doesn’t like.
So onto the race – I went down Thursday night and set up camp with Amber and we camped out there Thursday night. All of the teams started at various times during the day on Friday, depending on their projected run times – everyone needed to be completed by 6pm on Saturday. The first runners were off at 9am with several start times later during the day. My team started at 11am on Friday and we ended up finishing around 2:30pm on Saturday. I was runner #2, so I was ready to go when Amber finished up her first leg around 12:30pm!
There were 3 trail loops – green, yellow and red. The loops are always run in stoplight order, and you wear a snap bracelet with the loop color you are running (this was definitely needed for the night runs when you were a bit sleepy and prone to forget what loop you were doing!)
My next loop was around 10:30pm, after runner 3-Jillian, 4-Michelle and 1-Amber went again. Headlamp on and ready to – 12.7 miles! I did trip once on a root but thankfully just a very minor bruise and scrape, I fell in dirt, ha! The first loop (yellow) I passed quite a few people walking and it was very enjoyable. The second loop (red) was quite lonely and felt a bit eerie. I barely passed anyone, I got passed a few times but I think I saw a total of one person per mile. It was good motivation to run faster! I started cramping around mile 16, which was right before I went through transition area to do my second loop of the leg. There was a product being promoted and given out for free called Hot Shot, which was supposed to help with cramps. I would have drank pretty much anything to help with cramps at that point. I texted my teammate who was up next because I knew she’d be awake to grab me a hot shot for the transition area. I drank it going through transition and it was AMAZING. It tasted like cayenne pepper mixed with cinnamon and burned my throat for 5 minutes after drinking it, but it completely took away my cramps for the rest of the run. MIRACULOUS! I’m hooked. I drank one before my third leg too to prevent cramps and had no issues.
I have no idea what time I finished, but I vegged out a bit, had some smores at the Village campfire and refueled with some food before going to bed. I had brought some full size “shower wipes” at REI, and they worked amazing. I wiped my entire body off and felt pretty clean after each run! I rested/slept in my tent until my next leg around 7am.
Amber, runner 1, texted me when she was going out for her last 3 mile loop so I had time to get myself dressed and ready. The last leg was my slowest, but I still felt pretty good running it! But yeah, I was pretty glad to be done. The last mile or so was a lot of hills (the finish to every loop was up a long, sloping grassy hill, ugh).
After finishing I was able to relax, have a beer and wait for my teammates to finish up! It started raining about an hour or two after I finished, drizzle turned to steady so our last runner had to run in the rain. Most of the trails were covered with the tree canopy but there were some open spots through meadows and crossing swinging bridges. Michelle finished up the last leg around 2:30pm and we crossed the finish line with her, and our prom dresses!
Did I forget to mention that team themes are strongly encouraged? There were so many hilarious team names. We went with a prom theme and for our first legs, started running in prom dresses and then discarded them (off like a prom dress!) after the initial start. It was a lot of fun and we decorated our tent site with a disco ball, lights, and had everyone vote for prom queen based on signs we made. Amber won, I think the election was rigged! Haha just kidding Amber.
Overall, Ragnar Trail runs are pretty awesome. To say I loved it would be an understatement. I am trying to plan one for my family to do closer to PA and I am planning on putting together a team for next year’s Carolina Ragnar, but with a team of 8 instead of 4. Less running, more fun! I’d love to hear about your Ragnar experience, have you run one? Would you?
In January 2016 I decided to try a crazy thing and follow a specific workout program and nutrition plan. Because what could it hurt?? I ended up loving the nutrition plan and workouts, I found them both sustainable for long term – I lost 20 lbs in four months and have kept it off for over a year and a half now. With my new found fitness regime, it gave me the confidence to do something I never would have attempted to do before but always wanted to – run a marathon.
I ran several half marathons in the past but always got EXTREMELY burnt out running and usually gained weight afterwards because I didn’t want to run for a period of time afterwards. And honestly, in the last 10 years or so, running was always the best way to lose weight that I knew of so I kept going back to it. Now I didn’t need to do it to lose weight; and I had a fallback workout regime for when I needed a break from running. So I ran my first marathon in March 2017!
I was planning to do it once and never again, but before the pain in my legs even subsided I signed up for the same marathon for next year. Because I knew the first one wasn’t my best effort. I felt I had a lot to learn and could do it better and run it stronger; and I wanted to feel good finishing (not sure that’s possible for a marathon, but I’m going to try!!).
This time around, I’m doing things differently. I really struggled for a lot of my long runs marathon training – fatigue, low energy, dead legs. A number of things contributed to this for me, with incorrect fueling before and during running chalking up as numero uno. I read the book recently called The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald, which talks about the diet of elite athletes – which coincidentally is the same across all continents. They all eat well and eat a diet heavy in carbohydrates. Obviously I am not an elite athlete, I am in the recreational category – but he lays a persuasive argument for the benefits of such a diet and why recreational runners can benefit as well. I’m not going to outline it here, but his research is substantial and definitely convinced me that carb heavy was the way to go. Not just any carbs – think clean eating/whole foods/whole grains/fruit/ oatmeal/potatoes, not sugary cereals or desserts. He outlines the specific food types and many examples of things different athletes eat in his book.
I have further proof of this diet working – coincidentally, I followed it in high school. I did fairly well running cross country in high school, and my best year was my freshman year (26th in the Pennsylvania State Championship) where I followed a very strict diet of my own choosing. I don’t know how I came up with this, but I pretty much ate exactly the same high carb foods every day with little variation: a low sugar cereal for breakfast with milk. For lunch: juice, bagel with cream cheese, fruit and pretzels (hello carbs). Dinner was usually a protein, carb, and vegetable. I abstained from the majority of desserts and ate more fruit if I was hungry. After my freshman year, for whatever reason I lightened up on my diet and began including some unhealthier carbs; and in looking back I think diet was a contributing factor to my performance dropping. I still did well but not at the same level as that first year.
Matt Fitzgerald also talks about training in his book; and how most elite athletes do 80-90% of their training at a low intensity and only a small amount at a high to moderate intensity. Which was very surprising, but again – my high school cross country years came back to support. All I did for training during that time was consistently run 3-6 miles at a comfortable pace. Yes, during the season my coach incorporated speed and hill work, but my foundation during the summer was set with low intensity runs. And it worked.
Back to the present day – I attempted to follow my regular workout nutrition plan for marathon training with some higher carb cycle days, and looking back it was a colossal fail. It DID work for up to a half marathon distance, however. I had a PR for the half marathon distance December 2016 with a 1:38 time. But once I started running distances greater than 15 miles I really started struggling. I ended up with a minor foot injury 4 weeks out from the race so my training was cut short early in order for it to heal to run in the race, but I was really struggling on long runs and maintaining the paces that my training plan outlined.
Fitzgerald also mentions how too much protein can actually decrease your endurance performance. Honestly, I forget the scientific explanation, but you can read his book for it or just trust me that I’m not making it up to throw you off. And guess what my workout diet had plenty of? Protein. My meal plan wasn’t extreme like Atkins or anything, but it does lean heavy on veggies and protein and lighter on carbs and fats. Protein is necessary for endurance runners on a daily basis, but not at the frequency I was used to following.
So unknowingly, I was sabotaging my results with my diet last time around. So this time I’m trying to eat smarter. I am working on a balance of healthy carbs, fruits, veggies, protein and fats that are conducive to endurance running as I train for a Ragnar Ultra, which is 31 miles, but the training is very similar to that of a marathon. I’m already seeing the results, which is eye-opening!! I have SO much more energy on long runs. Although my legs do get tired, I still feel like I can push and keep going. Carb-centric is the way to go! I’m still working on finding that perfect balance, and honestly I love protein and had such a good routine with it so it’s hard to cut it out at times. I find myself thinking about carbs so much that sometimes I don’t realize I am not eating enough veggies, either, which are very important to a balanced endurance diet as well.
It’s a work in progress! If you are struggling with your endurance training – I highly recommend you read The Endurance Diet. I don’t know Matt Fitzgerald, I am not receiving commission off sales of his book (I borrowed it from my local library to read) – but it was a really, really good and informative read and I’d say a must for any long distance runner! Happy running ya’ll!
The past two weeks I’ve had both kids start school; one in kindergarten and one in preschool. I now have 3 times a week I am ALONE for 3.5 hours. What have I been doing with all of this lovely free time? Running. Yes. Almost every time. Here’s why!
I am running in a Ragnar Relay Ultra Team in 4 weeks! What is a Ragnar? It’s a relay race that you run with a team, taking turns running until you are all done the set course. There are trail ones, there are road ones, there is even a new crossfit division. Check their website, there is probably one in your state if not near you!
The Ragnar I am participating in is a trail run so we will not have to have the whole van situation of driving around as is common for the road race series. We will be camping out in a set location with three different trail loops that all start and finish in the same location. Typically for this race, there is a team of 8 people. Since my team is doing it as an Ultra (more mileage) – we have a team of 4 lovely ladies.
And what kind of mileage are we talking here? See my legs and mileage below. I am runner #2, so I will start my legs whenever our first teammates finishes hers; and each leg going forward is dependent on when my teammates finish theirs, etc.
Leg 1: will start approximately 2pm on Friday – approximately 11 miles
Leg 2: will start at approximately 10:30pm on Friday – approximately 13 miles (nothing like running a half marathon in the dark! Gotta get a headlamp soon!)
Leg 3: will start at approximately 7am on Saturday – approximately 7 miles. Hallelujah! Then I’m done.
I am loving the times I was assigned to, as I will be able to get a hopefully restful night’s sleep at our campsite for most of the night. I am excited for the night running. I hope I don’t let my team down as I imagine it will be a little bit slower running at night. I’m a bit worried about the overall mileage.
Thus my need to run every single chance I get! I have been doing a lot of trail running to get used to the conditions and have been loving every second of it. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I’ve been doubling up some days to try to get used to running on tired legs; but my mileage is still not as high as I’d like it to be – there is a fine balance with increasing mileage as not to risk injury. I probably should have started training a few weeks earlier than I did, but nothing I can do about it now besides work hard and get as close to where I need to be as possible! 2 more weeks of pushing hard and then I will be reducing mileage to rest and recover my body for the actual event. Here’s a shot from one of my trail runs! Have you ever done an ultra trail race or Ragnar?
Top three reasons to visit the Schiele Museum of Natural History: Pirate Ship playroom, Planetarium show and lots of room for kids to run around! I’ve been seeing Schiele Museum pop up on Charlotte Parent calendars for YEARS. And then I see it’s in Gastonia and in my head I seriously think it’s on another continent. “Gastonia is SO far away, let’s just stay home and drive each other bonkers.” (Reality: it’s 43 miles from Matthews, 22 miles from Charlotte and about the same in minutes because it’s straight highway).
I’ve been going a little nuts with the kids (5 and 3 year old!) being done summer camp and home every day; and school is still 2 weeks out. So I decided it was worth the drive and we’d check it out! We arrived around 11am, meeting up with some friends. We purchased our tickets, including tickets for a 1pm Planetarium Show. Prices for the museum and planetarium shows are separate but are quite reasonable, see the full list here (varies for resident/non and age of children).
First we went to explore the outdoor areas before it got too hot. There is a .7 mile trail that winds through the woods and it’s a beautiful area with several different exhibits. Unfortunately, most of them were not open when we visited. We could still walk around but the buildings were locked up, same with the Catawba Indian Village, which looked awesome from the outside! According to museum pamphlets, they only run certain hours and they finished up for the summer on 8/5. But that didn’t stop the kids from running around to check every building, and running down all the trails. (Parental supervision required for little ones, the bridges have very wide railings easy for little ones to slip through and also the pond has no fence!) We checked out the Stone Age Heritage Site and ended up at the outdoor playscape and pond, which was a big hit. Turtles sunning themselves on the rocks plus some cool houses to play in and rocks to jump off of. We also found a painted Gastonia rock (which was our hidden treasure for the day!).
After exhausting the kids on the hike, we grabbed our coolers and ate at a shady picnic table at the edge of the parking lot near the hiking trail. After lunch we went inside to cool off.
We went through the dinosaur exhibit rather quickly (not very interactive, just dinosaurs to look at, which is only fun for so long and then your kids want to climb over the exhibit walls and try to touch the dinosaurs). Yeah, the dinosaur exhibit did not impress. The Pirate Ship room was a different story!! There is a huge pirate ship playground the kids can climb up into, pretend to shoot cannons, climb into a crow’s nest, go down the slide, climb into the bottom of the boat and up the rope ladder and then repeat, repeat, repeat. All the while shouting Aye Matey and Aarrrrgh! We went back to this room 3 times in the almost 4 hours we were at the museum. Yes, that long! We had to drag the kids out of there to go to the Planetarium Show at 1pm!
After a short wait in line for the show, we went inside and grabbed some very comfortable reclining seats. The show was Totality, which explained the upcoming solar eclipse in a fairly kid friendly way. I lost focus around the Albert Einstein part and may have dozed a little bit at some point, but that was more so the dark room/momlife/reclined chair effect than a reflection of the show. Both my 3 year old and 5 year old sat still for the entire 30 minute show without asking ONCE for a snack. This is a feat in itself. I would say the Planetarium is a must see when you go. It was really a cool experience; I want to go see another one.
After the show, we explored the rest of the museum. It just kept going! We dug for dinosaur fossils, moved a robotic dinosaur egg arm, pet some turtles (statues but Shea loved them, mommy turtle and baby turtle); saw a live skunk, possum, turtles, snakes and groundhogs. My kids enjoyed the Indian exhibit mainly for the telephone like recorded information stations at various exhibits. Button pushing is fun, even if you don’t listen to what comes out! We explored the everglades and the animals found there. The fish tanks provided a bit of entertainment as well.
The green roof was recommended, but somehow we missed seeing it, I am totally bummed but we will make a point to see it next time! I thought we explored everything before we ended up in the Pirate Ship room (again). The kids also enjoyed the huge T-Rex standing fossil in the entry way – they really wanted to climb it, but settled for running circles around it’s feet instead every time we passed it.
We finally headed home around 3pm, and I got a nap out of my 3 year old!!! Ya’ll, the things that happened today just don’t happen every day. Which leads me to conclude this was worth driving to another continent to explore. You can follow the museum on Facebook at the Schiele Museum of Natural History for upcoming events or on Instagram @SchieleMuseum for up to date happenings.
Playing at Mecklenburg County Sportsplex for the first time, from out of town or just not familiar with the area?? Read on – learn what you need to bring, pack and what to do in the area.
You can read a general overview of the Sportsplex here on the Mecklenburg County page, which tells you the basics about it and you can apply for reservations for conference rooms, fields, tournaments, etc. Here’s on overview map below showing the fields and areas. But here’s what you really need to know:
Shade is scarce. This is a brand new complex – and while the landscaping has some small trees, it’s not something you can sit under. Bring a chair with an overhead shade thing, or better yet bring a tent canopy for the team. It gets HOT especially on the turf. There are several covered picnic areas (two at area A, one at area B) which have a substantial amount of picnic tables, but if you there during a tournament and need somewhere to relax between games and athletes want to lay down and chill – BYOS (bring your own shade!)
There are no bleachers or seating for watching the games aside from the main stadium – so bring your own chair!!
There is no concession stand or food sold on site currently and area A doesn’t have vending machines. Area B MIGHT have a drink vending machine, I will update the next time I am there. So – BYOS (bring your own snacks and plenty of drinks!!).
Walkability – there are approximately 2 miles of paved trails/sidewalks that go around the perimeter of the fields and connect areas A & B. It’s great if you want to get some exercise between games and it’s very handicap/stroller friendly.
The playgrounds are great for kids of all ages – there is a smaller, toddler playground at each one along with a larger one and some great features, like the racing ziplines in area A. See pics below! Each playground is conveniently located next to the restrooms, which are very LARGE (tons of stalls!) and have been immaculate every time I’ve been there.
Large Playground Area A
3 Ziplines at the Area A playground
Smaller Toddler Playset at Area A
When the Sportsplex was in the planning phase, I read in the local paper that originally a landfill was discussed for the land. WOW. Pretty happy that got changed!! I play in the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League and this is one of the locations we play at in the area. The soccer fields tend to be on the wide side in my opinion, FYI!
There are a TON of food options (as in, anything you could possibly want) and lodging accommodations in the Matthews area, all within a few miles of the Sportsplex. I’ll be adding my local recommendations soon, with the best local food and drink joints. Check back soon and follow my page for local updates!