Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Caught the Roanoke Banana Thief! And...

In reviewing some of my race photos, I believe I may have caught the Roanoke Banana Thief in action!!

(click on the picture to make it bigger)

I mean really, why does this guy need 6+ bananas?

In other news, and completely unrelated to my banana-thief-catching skills, I found out yesterday that I got a promotion at work. My new position will be a Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR for short, since that's quite a mouthful). It was a great way to start a five day weekend.

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving eating delicious food with the ones you love!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Star City Half Marathon

When I would tell people that I was training for a half marathon, the reactions I received were usually along the lines of, "Oh, I didn't know you were a runner!" to which I usually replied, "Well, I'm not really a runner, but it's something I've been doing lately." I don't know why I was afraid to consider myself a runner. Maybe it's the fact that I used to really hate running. In middle and high school, I dreaded when we had to run "the mile" in gym class because I was so awful at it; I could hardly run a lap without becoming winded. Even though I played tennis in high school and college, it thankfully never involved much running. Running was just a boring punishment for me. Until recently.

I really don't know why I suddenly decided to start running. Maybe I was bored with going to the gym for no reason. Maybe I needed a new hobby. Maybe I had more stress than normal built up from work. Maybe I just wanted to be able to put the 13.1 sticker on my car. Maybe I just wanted to be like Forrest Gump. Whatever the reason, I started running. And now I feel skilled enough at putting one foot in front of the other to call myself a runner.

So yesterday I did something that I never ever thought I'd be able to do. I ran a half marathon. And I enjoyed it!

I signed up for the Star City Half Marathon about a month and a half ago. I wasn't sure that I'd be ready in time, but I decided to go for it anyways. Sometimes signing up for a race is all the motivation you need. With a little help from a few books and my brother, my training went great and I felt ready for race day. Sure, I was nervous. Just ask Andrew; I told him how nervous I was only about 1,000 times leading up to the race.

I was nervous right up until they shot the gun. My nerves were compounded by the fact that the start was delayed by about 30 minutes. The rumors in the back of the pack were that the truck putting out the cones had broken down. Not only did we not start on time, but I felt like I had to pee about 15 minutes prior to the start, and the mile-long portable toilet line was too much for me. As we were waiting for the start, I seriously considered peeing in my pants if I had to. Thankfully it didn't come down to that. I saw a few other people jolting into the hotel about 50 yards away to use their facilities and I followed. I decided I'd rather risk the gun going off while I was inside and being a few minutes behind than running 13.1 miles with a full bladder.

I will now remember to follow the advice from one of the books I read:
It's always important to get to the race start site early. It's especially important at a big race. And this next sentence is the most important sentence in the entire book: When you get to the race site, immediately get into a portable toilet line. I'm not kidding. Do not stop to talk. Do not look around for friends. Make a direct line for the portable toilets. I don't care how often you go to the bathroom before you leave the hotel; you are going to need to go again before the race starts. Don't take any chances. Get in line. When you've gotten to the front of the line, then gotten in and out of the portable toilet, get back in line again. Trust me on this one. Stay in the portable toilet line until you have to line up for the race.
So true.

So really, it worked out best that the race started 30 minutes late. I started near the back of the pack and kept the same pace as everyone around me. We started to spread out by mile 3, and I stayed around the same people for the majority of the race.

Miles 1 through 8 really seemed pretty easy. I was probably too nervous and excited to really even think about it. I tried to remember not to go too fast, which I think I successfully accomplished. I ran from one water station to the next, grabbing 1 or 2 cups of water at each station. I walked with my water until I was done drinking, then chucked my cup and kept on running.

At about mile 9, I really had to start giving it all I had while still trying to save some energy to make it to the finish. I was jealous of the people running towards me because I knew they were already on mile 12. At mile 11, the race took a turn up the "Jesus Saves Hill" (named for the church at the top of the hill with a neon "Jesus Saves" sign on top of it). Let's just say I was wishing Jesus would have saved me from that hill in that moment. I took my time walking up this hill, as did many others. Once at the top, it was all down hill and flat from there to the finish. It was such a relief to turn the corner and see the finish line at the end of the block. I had done it! I had run my first half marathon and made it to the finish line gracefully.

My official time was 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 49 seconds, which was a 10:13/mile pace. I was more than happy with that for my first half marathon. I was expecting to finish in about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I met my goal but I still have plenty of room for improvement in the future.

After the race, I grabbed a bagel and some Gatorade, and decided not to stick around for the post-race festivities (I was 100% sure I didn't win the race). I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and sleeping, and enjoyed the most satisfying Outback Special for dinner (Andrew was gracious enough to go out and pick it up because I wasn't really feeling up to going out).

My biggest thanks goes out to my wonderful husband, family, and friends who fully supported me before, during, and after the race. I probably wouldn't have even signed up if it weren't for everyone's support.

If anyone else is thinking about running, here are two of the books I read. Marathoning for Mortals helped me to learn the basics of running and was a very encouraging and motivating book. Jeff Galloway's Marathon went into a little more detail and opened my eyes to the use of walking breaks during long runs. I'd definitely recommend both of these books, especially Marathoning for Mortals.

Happy Running!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Make Your Own "PowerBars"

Ever since I started increasing my amount of running and exercising in preparation for my half marathon, I've learned how important it is to eat healthy yet satisfying snacks in between meals in order to keep my metabolism and energy levels consistent.

One of my favorite snacks has become my homemade no-bake "PowerBars". I thought I would share the recipe with everyone in case you were interested in making them as well. I prefer making these bars to buying something because I know exactly what's going in them, and in the long run it's substantially cheaper. They make for a great snack that you can take with you on the go.

4 scoops chocolate protein powder
1 cup water
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
4 cups oatmeal

A note on the protein powder: the kind I bought was EAS Chocolate 100% Whey protein powder, only because making these bars was an experiment and that was the smallest yet cheapest tub of it ($10 for 12.5 ounces at Kroger). $10 might seem like a lot, but this tub will make about 4 batches (64 bars), reducing the cost to $2.50 a batch. In the future, I'll probably get a bigger tub that will last me a little longer and will be cheaper per ounce (I think I saw a tub 2x bigger for $15 at Wal-Mart). Also, I don't claim to know anything about which brands of protein powder or which type of protein powder is best...I just picked something and went with it.

To make:
Mix 4 scoops protein powder with 1 cup water in a large bowl

Place 1 cup peanut butter and 2 tablespoons honey in a smaller bowl. Microwave for 2 10-15 second intervals, stirring in between to mix the peanut butter and honey (note: try to resist eating all of the peanut butter and makes a delicious combination).

Add the peanut butter and honey mixture to the large bowl and mix with the liquid.

Add 4 cups of oatmeal and mix well. You might want to use your hands.

Prepare a baking dish with wax paper

Place the mixture into the dish and press firmly to compact it well (note: you might want to use another piece of wax paper to help you press down the mixture evenly - but be warned, don't leave the wax paper firmly attached to the top while freezing/refrigerating because it has a tendency to leave a waxy residue on top of the bars...for some reason I've never had a problem with it sticking to the bottom though).

Place the dish in the freezer for about 2 hours (or refrigerate overnight) or until the bars harden to a point that you can cut them without having them fall apart.

Remove from the dish and cut into bars.

I prefer to individually wrap mine so they are easy to grab and go. You could also use baggies, but the bars can be really soft and chewy, so I'd recommend the plastic wrap to help them keep their shape.

I would also highly recommend storing them in the refrigerator so that they stay firm. For some reason, this batch was a little softer than normal, so you may want to consider reducing the water to 3/4 cup or increasing the amount of oats (obviously I haven't quite perfected this recipe).

This recipe will make about 16 bars, depending on how small or large you cut them. If you divide this recipe into 16 bars, I've calculated that each bar contains 210 calories, 12.75 grams of protein, 20.625 carbs, 4.25 grams of sugar, and 9.875 grams of fat. Compare this to a Chocolate Peanut Butter PowerBar, which has 240 calories, 9 grams of protein, 44 carbs, 26 grams of sugar, and 3.5 grams of fat.

My bars have a few less calories, considerably less sugar and carbs, more protein, and a little more fat (the majority of the fat comes from the peanut butter; each bar has about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter in it).

Enjoy your bars, and let me know if you have any questions about the recipe!

It's now less than a week away from my half marathon and the forecast is looking good; Sunny with a high of 61 and a low of 39...perfect running weather! I'm nervous about it, but I know I'm ready. Sure, I could be more ready, but this is my first one so I'll have plenty of room for improvement in the future. I'm worried because I know I have a competitive nature and I will want to go fast, but doing that will only hurt me because I will overexert myself and not have enough juice to make it to the finish line gracefully. So my game plan is to go slower than I think I should go (I know that will be A LOT harder than it sounds), take it mile by mile, and not worry about how long it takes me. I am going to walk through the water stations for mini walking breaks and so that I won't spill water ALL over myself. And most important of all, I'm going to have fun! Now, if I could just decide what I'm going to wear...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shootin' and Soup

Today we went back to Potts Slope Shooting Range with my parents. It was a little chilly towards the end, but still a fun time!

I also wanted to share a really good soup recipe that I tried out last night. I started with a recipe from Kraft Foods, but changed it around a little bit.


  • 5-6 slices bacon ("real" or turkey)
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 cans cream of potato soup
  • 6 cups skim milk
  • 1 32 oz. bag frozen southern style hash browns (the cubed kind)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (plus extra for topping)
  • pepper
  • green onion (optional)

To make:
  • Chop up carrot, celery, and onion into small pieces
  • Cook bacon in a large pot (the one you'll be making the soup in)
  • Remove bacon and crumble into small pieces
  • Cook carrot, celery, onion, and minced garlic until veggies are tender (note: I chose not to drain the bacon drippings and cooked my veggies in it...I think it adds a nice flavor, but it's up to you!)
  • Add potato soup, milk, potatoes, and corn
  • Bring to a boil on medium-high heat
  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon
  • Add pepper to taste
  • Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook for another 10 minutes
  • Top with green onions and extra cheese

MMM. Definitely a good "comfort food" soup.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


We've got our first fire of the season going right now...yay!

To catch you up...

Do you ever just have those brief, or maybe even extended, periods in your life where you feel like you are always going, going, going, and don't have a minute to breathe? Let's just say I've felt like that for about the past month. As such, I apologize to anyone who reads our blog and thought that we'd gone off the grid. We're back. For now, anyways.

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to sign up for my first ever half marathon. It's now exactly two weeks away, so I've been running a lot recently. Last weekend I ran farther than I ever thought I could at 14 miles, and it went pretty well. Today I ran 10 miles but felt pretty tired. I just have to remind myself that it's okay to have a sub-par running day every now and then, and it doesn't mean that I won't be able to do it come race day. I'm just hoping for one of my good running days to land on November 20th, as well as record warm temperatures and no rain/snow.

In the last month, I have also applied for a promotion at work. So when I wasn't working, running, eating, or sleeping, I was working on my job application. I feel fairly confident about it because they have opened up a lot of positions and were basically begging people to apply, but keep your fingers crossed for me anyways. I should find out by the end of November or early December.

Believe it or not, we have managed to squeeze in a little fun this month.

A few weekends ago, Andrew's family came in town. On Friday night we went to Patrick Henry's homecoming game. It was freezing and they lost horribly, but we still had fun.

On Saturday we decided it would be a great idea to drive to Mabry Mill and take in all of the fall colors and eat our fill of buckwheat pancakes. Apparently everybody else on the East Coast thought it would be a great idea to eat there, too. When we heard there would be a THREE HOUR wait, we decided we could live without our pancakes. Before heading on our way, we did walk around and enjoy the most photographed location on the Blue Ridge Parkway (apparently it is also one of the most photographed places in the US)'s easy to see why!

After Mabry Mill, we headed to Floyd and walked around downtown for a while to check out all of the shops. If you've never been there, I highly recommend it. If you go, be sure to check out the Floyd Country Store. After we'd worked up and appetite, we met my parents at the Pine Tavern Restaurant, which is another great place you should check out while in Floyd. Just think Homeplace, but better (I know, I bet you thought it wasn't possible).

The following weekend we finally got to go to our first NASCAR race where they actually raced. In case you don't remember, we attempted to go back in March but the race ended up getting delayed until Monday due to rain and we couldn't go back. Here's this pitiful picture to remind you in case you forgot:

There was no such sadness this time around. It was a perfect day for racing; not to hot, not too cold, and a bright sunny day.

Before the race we walked around and stood behind the people on TV.

We also saw THE Joe Gibbs!

This was the great view we had from our seats

We had a really great time watching the race (and all of the people!) and experiencing the rumble of the cars as they zoomed by.

Of course, we could not go without the famous Martinsville Speedway Hotdogs, complete with chili, coleslaw, mustard, and onions...mmm (we see why they call this the Tums Fast Relief 500).

We had a really great time at the race and we hope to be able to go back to some more, and maybe visit a few other tracks nearby.

So, that's what we've been up to recently. Hopefully things will calm down a little bit, but seeing as how Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it, I doubt it will. Oh well...I guess I'll just learn to enjoy the madness!